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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Grandmother

I've been working on this post for two months now, and I still don't know how to begin.  The pastor who officiated Grandmother's memorial service asked us grandchildren to send him a special memory of her or story about her that he would share with everyone.  For the life of me, I couldn't do it.  I write stories on this here little blog all the time, but I couldn't write a little story about my Grandmother.  I finally figured out why.  How do you put nearly 40 years worth of memories and stories into words and onto paper?  How do you talk about a lady who was such a huge part of your life for all those years in a way that truly honors her and who she was and the impact she had on your life?  But as I've continued over the past couple of months to think about her and all we shared together, all that we shared as a family, it all comes rushing back now.  I didn't realize until lately just how profoundly she has shaped my life.

This is my Grandmother.
This photo was taken in the mid-80s, but this is how I will ALWAYS remember her.  The only thing "wrong" with this picture is that she's sitting in Pa's chair and not her own.  I don't know why.  I think it's because she'd just finished handing out our Christmas gifts, and his chair was closest to the tree.  She loved to "dress."  She always wore a blouse with either pants or a skirt.  Usually she wore Etienne Agner heels, but as soon as those came off, she'd put those house slippers on.  She always wore those slippers.  I used to love it on the off chance that she wasn't wearing those shoes when I showed up at her house because I'd run to her closet and put them on myself.  I just loved those shoes. 

She is my grandmother, my daddy's mama.  She's also Grandmother.  That's what she insisted her "grandma name" be.  Grandmother.  She definitely has the longest "grandma name" I know, but it suits her perfectly, I tell you.  And I've always thought it a very good thing that Pa was just Pa.  One syllable.  Grandmother and Pa. 
I was the third grandchild out of eight but the eldest granddaughter.  It'd be three more years before Jennifer came along.  So I have to think she doted over me just a little bit.
I have a treasure trove of memories of just the two of us, conversations we had or special times we shared.  There are two things in particular that I will never forget as long as I live.  I wish I had pictures, but I don't.  I combed Mama's photo albums three times, and I'm just convinced there's an album missing.  Because there used to be pictures.  I just don't know where they are.  I even went to Grandmother house's and looked through all of the boxes under the stairs (that's where she kept all the cards and letters and artwork and things we made for her), but I couldn't find anything.

Anyway.  Grandmother and Pa lived in a huge, old two-story farmhouse.  The "back of the house" was where all the living went on.  The front of the house was the formal living room (which we never used), Aunt Lynne's bedroom, the formal dining room (that seated 12) and the huge foyer.  The upstairs had four bedrooms and another living area in the middle.  But there was plenty of room downstairs for plenty of folks.  And she loved having people over and entertaining.  

In the late 80s, she hosted some kind of meet-and-greet for Grace Hartley, the long-time food editor for the Atlanta Journal.  Mrs. Harley had just recently published a new book.  Grandmother pulled out all the best china and flatware (which wasn't at all unusual).  She put together a delicious little menu of fancy finger foods.  She covered her tables in starched linen tablecloths.  And she asked me to come help her serve the guests!  I was thrilled!  I was also very nervous.  I can remember wearing one of my Sunday dresses for the occasion.  Honestly, I had no idea who Grace Hartley even was, and I certainly didn't know any of the folks who came.  But it didn't matter.  All I cared about was that Grandmother thought enough of me to ask me to come.  She later gave me her copy of Mrs. Hartley's cookbook.  I pulled it off the shelf to look at it, and I'm glad I did because I'd forgotten the note she left for me in it.

On the day of my wedding, Grandmother hosted a brunch at her house for Seth's family and our wedding party.  I didn't get to go to that because I was getting my hair and make-up done, and Seth and I didn't see each other before the wedding ceremony.  I remember going with her to the Hallmark store to pick out the invitations.  They had hydrangeas on them.  I wasn't there, but I'm sure she was the hostess with the mostest at that one, too, and I'm sure she probably used the fine china and even place cards.

There was also the time Grandmother took me to the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta to see the musical Show Boat starring Gavin MacLeod in August 1992.  (And that's something else, too . . . the TV was always on at Grandmother's house.  She watched 11 Alive news.  We always watched channel 2.  I was always so fascinated to see 11 Alive.  She loved Falcon Crest, Dynasty and Dallas.  Yes, indeed.  I didn't watch those shows at my house.  So I loved to be at her house when they were on, especially Dallas.  She also loved watching The Love Boat.  Gavin MacLeod starred at Captain Stubbing in that one.)  ANYWAY.  I'd never been to the iconic theater before.  Prior to that, I'd never even really been in downtown DOWNTOWN Atlanta before.  But we went, just the two of us.  Grandmother wore a red suit.  And I wore my favorite (at the time) Sunday dress.  We went to a matinee performance.  I can remember standing in the lobby and being absolutely in awe at the opulence of the theater.  And then we took our seats, and I looked up into the "night sky."  I was captivated.  

Most of my memories with Grandmother include all seven of my cousins.  The only thing I don't like about this picture is that Brian isn't in it.  He wasn't born until the following October.  I tried to find one of Grandmother and Pa with all of us grandchildren, but I couldn't.
I love this picture.  And you can see behind us the wedding pictures there on the bottom shelf of the built-in.  She kept wedding pictures of all four of her children right there on that shelf.  

This picture was taken probably ten or so years ago.  Pa was already gone.  Grandmother hadn't yet slipped away from us and into the world of alzheimer's.  But it wasn't too long after this.
She loved family.  She really did.  I think she lived for all the holidays when we would all get together at her house . . . the after-church Easter picnic of fried chicken, ham, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans (and a separate pan for Jennifer without onions) and desserts on the back patio followed by the egg hunt . . . the 4th of July homemade peach ice cream and swimming and huddling together on the front porch while Pa and my uncles shot fireworks . . . Thanksgiving turkey and dressing (again a separate pan for Jennifer without onions) and every vegetable imaginable lined up across the kitchen island buffet style and followed by fruit cake, pound cake and ambrosia . . . Christmas Eve and all the gifts.  Those were the "big" ones.  Those were some good days, good times.  There were lots of in between times, too.  We spent days out of the summer swimming at her house.  She had the biggest pool I knew of.  And I got off the bus at her house during my early elementary years.  So we were there often.  She lived just through the pasture, over the hill and past the two ponds from my house.

If I had to choose Grandmother's favorite, I think it just might be Thanksgiving.  We ate the exact same meal year after year.  Grandmother would start cooking the dressing several days in advance.  She'd pull the corn and green beans out of the freezer she'd canned earlier in the summer.  There was never a question about who would bring what.  My mama and my aunts brought the exact same thing to eat every year.  So you're already thinking we're weird. Well, we just get weirder. We always sat in the same place year after year after year!  When the eight of us grandkids grew up and started getting married, we were displaced from the kitchen table that sat only eight to tables in the foyer and formal living room that would accommodate all of us.  But we always knew exactly who was sitting exactly where around that big table in the formal dining room. I just love that table!  Now, just in case anyone forgot, we'd have place cards at each seat with our names on them. Yes, place cards. Year after year after year. I really thought all families used place cards. Imagine my utter shock and dismay when I was in 1st grade and found out that my friends' families didn't use place cards! I mean, really, that was a BIG deal. I even saved the place card with Mason's name on it from his first Thanksgiving for his scrapbook!  When the grandgirls got old enough to have neat handwriting, Grandmother would let us write the place cards.  That was a big deal, y'all.  Anytime I think of Grandmother, I ALWAYS think of place cards.  Even though nobody needed them because we KNEW where to sit!  

And I've told the story before.  Every Christmas we'd have a birthday cake for Jesus.  The kids would be invited into the formal dining room where the adults ate (we ate at the kids' table in the kitchen), and Grandmother would go around and ask each one of us grandkids what we were going to give Jesus for Christmas.  Not one to be shy (and one with all the answers, too), I'd be the first to tell her exactly what I knew she was looking for.  My heart.  And then all the others would follow right along in my footsteps (Jennifer gagging all the way, I might add) and proclaim they were giving Jesus their hearts, too.  We did this year after year after year.  We just kept on giving Jesus our heart all over again.
I guess Ashley and Brian are on the other side of the table.  Adam is definitely a little over-zealous with the candle blowing out.  And I think Denise is just over the whole thing!  (Look closely, and you can see some of the place cards scattered about.)
I can't talk Christmas without mentioning Christmas lane!  Of all the days, I think that's the day I most looked forward to every year.  All the grandkids would go to Grandmothers for a quick supper and then we'd load up in the station wagon and head out to Christmas lane.  I really think they bought that old station wagon just for Christmas lane.  I used to love riding in the back of that thing.  That was before you had to wear seat belts and such so we'd all just pile into the back and find a spot wherever.  Christmas lane.  I don't even know how to describe it . . . it's just something you had to experience.  It was the 80s . . . so it really was a big deal at the time.  I mean, these were the days before the lights at Callaway Gardens and Lake Lanier and Stone Mountain and the Botanical Gardens.  Christmas Lane was where it was at.  There was a street, a subdivision maybe, in which all of the houses were decorated with outdoor lights.  Some of them even played music so you had to ride with the windows down.  It was just a homegrown lights display that was the bee's knees to a kid who loves outdoor lights.  You know what though?  I think Pa got more of a kick out of that than Grandmother did.  But she made sure it happened every year. 

I also can't talk Christmas without mentioning the ornaments.  Not just any old ornaments.  THE ornaments.  GRANDMOTHER'S ornaments.  Grandmother's Christmas tree was always, and always will be, my favorite.  It was decorated with nothing but ornaments made by she and her mother.  They would get those styrofoam balls that were wrapped in tiny satin threads and then decorate them with all kinds of beads and ribbons and trim and stickers and such.  Not a one was the same.  All I ever wanted as a child was to have a tree with ornaments just like hers.  Over the years she made some for each of our families.  I remember the year she gave each family (there were four sets because she had four children) Christmas ornaments for everyone that had our birthdays inscribed on a charm hanging from the bottom.  Mama still has all of those ornaments and has quite a little collection now of Grandmother's ornaments.  When Seth and I got married, Grandmother gave us four of them.

I'm looking forward to the day when my tree is full of her ornaments.  Those ornaments.  A long time ago, Pa converted one side of one of his barns into a craft room for her.  Grandmother loved to sew.  As a matter of fact, one summer she took each grand girl to the fabric store and let us pick out our own fabric.  She then made each of us a jumper to wear out of the fabric we picked out.  But she didn't just make mine.  She had me sit with her because she wanted to teach me how to do it.  By the way, I still remember what fabric I picked out.  It was hunter green and cream checked with red hearts in some of the little squares.  Anyway, she had all kinds of stuff in that sewing room, and that's where all the beads and balls for the Christmas decorations were.  The beads were organized in those little glass Gerber baby food jars.  One summer Grandmother had all eight of us grandkids over to spend the night.  She wanted us to make our own ornaments.  She had tables and chairs set up for us so that's what we did.  I made four.  They were all pastel colors - pink, blue, yellow and green.  Rob made a royal blue one decorated with red and green beads.

On occasion, I'd go to the grocery store with Grandmother.  I loved that!  She went to the Kroger.  Mama always went to the Piggly Wiggly.  I really loved that Kroger, the old one on Taylor Street before they moved to the new shopping center on 1941.  I thought it was a real treat to go with Grandmother to Kroger.  I loved riding in her car because she always had a half eaten roll of certs or some other mint in the crook of the seat.  I could usually find a cert on the desk in her bedroom, too.  We didn't have those at my house either.

Grandmother loved her family.  She loved her home.  She loved home-making.  She loved sewing and canning and cooking.  She was born in Florida.  Her grandparents lived in Hollonville (Georgia) so she'd come visit every summer.  That's how she met my Pa.  After they were married, she moved to Hollonville and made it her forever home.  She'd visit her parents and her sisters and brother in Orlando often.  I remember those trips.  But I do think she loved Hollonville.  You know, you think of all the things you want to ask somebody after you can no longer ask them.  I'd love to ask her about that, about leaving her family and her friend and everything she knew as "home" to marry Pa and make a new home in a new place far away.  That's what I'd really love to talk to her about.  She had a beautiful oil painting done of her wedding portrait that hung in her bedroom.  I took a picture of it last time I was there.

Grandmother was always very involved in church and church life.  She taught Sunday School.  She played the piano and the organ.  Not at the same time though.  She's the only person I've ever known who had both a piano AND an organ in her home.  Grandmother loved her Lord.  And she knew her Bible.  She had pages and pages of it memorized.  I don't know how she did it.  That's something else I sure would like to ask her.  I remember one time in particular when I was little.  There was a knock at the door.  There was a couple who wanted to share with her a "word" from their church.  They quoted a Bible verse or two.  She looked at them and said, "Now let me FINISH quoting the verse you just did because you left off the whole last part of it."  Needless to say, they left.  Grandmother was a King James kind of girl.  I was an NIV kind of girl back in my younger days.  I was in college at the time.  I'd make a point to go visit her when I came home.  By this time, my Pa had died.  I think a little bit of her died that day, too.  Things never were quite the same after that.  So I was visiting with her during one of my weekends home, and we were talking about the Bible.  I quoted a verse.  In the NIV.  I don't even remember now which one it was.  She just as quick looked at me and said, "Don't you be messing up the King's English."  And then she quoted the verse to me in the KJV.  She wasn't being rude or mean.  I just chuckled a little bit.  But she was serious.  She was serious about knowing her Bible.

I can also remember the day I told her I was pregnant and was having a girl.  I told her we were naming the baby Hannah Katherine and that she would be called Hannah Kate.  I went through the whole spill about the double name and insisted that she would, indeed, be called Hannah Kate.  Grandmother looked at me and said, "Well, I don't know why you want to do that."  I thought she was talking about the whole double name thing.  Then she said, "You could at least name her Kathleen."  Well, that's not exactly what I was expecting.  But then it hit me.  Kathleen was Grandmother's middle name.  So she was suggesting Kathleen instead of Katherine.

Vivian Kathleen.  Or was it . . .

Grandmother was all of the good, loving, kind, gentle Grandmotherly things.  She was a Southern belle from head to toe.  But.  She could be spunky.  And I mean, spunky.  She could get fired up.  If you know what I mean.  Fired. up.  So she had a little sass about her.

When I went home for her funeral, Daddy, Mama and I went to her house one last time.  I wanted to look around, walk through the house one last time.  That's when I went looking underneath the staircase for pictures and such.  I found an old scrapbook she'd made.  It looked to be from her latter years in high school.  At the end of the scrapbook was a clipping of her wedding announcement from the Orlando newspaper.  I read through it, and I immediately saw it.  Kathleene.  Kathleene was spelled with an "e" at the end.  I'd never seen it spelled that way.  I always thought it was Kathleen without an "e" at the end.  So I showed it to Mama and asked her about it.  We both agreed it must've been a misprint.  Although, I honestly find it hard to believe Grandmother didn't make them do a re-print with the correct spelling!  That would be her.

Last fall I'd decided to do some genealogy research.  After Grandmother died, I knew I wanted to start with her family first.  I got what I could from my mama and Aunt Lynne.  It wasn't much.  But I didn't know where to begin.  My BFF did an extensive genealogy research project for her family a few years ago so I reached out to her and asked her for advice and just exactly how and where to get started.  Long story short, she'd been working on a little surprise for me.  She knew Grandmother, too.  She put together a binder for me to walk me through the steps of effective research and even used Grandmother as my example.  It was supposed to be a surprise, but I sort of ruined it a bit.  She emailed me some pages she found in Grandmother's old yearbooks.  There was a page in her senior yearbook with Grandmother's picture, a quote and a list of her clubs and accomplishments.  But the very first thing I saw was her name.  Vivian Kathleene Scott.  KATHLEEN WITH AN "E!"  IN HER SENIOR YEARBOOK.

So I immediately messaged mama and Aunt Lynne.  I just figured I'd had it wrong all these years.  But I was shocked when Aunt Lynne said she never knew it to have an "e" on the end.  She went through some more documents for me.  Grandmother's birth certificate does not have the "e" on the end.  It was spelled Kathleene with an "e" on the wedding invitation and her marriage certificate.  So, at this point, we have no idea, no explanation for the mystery of the "e."  That would be something else I'd ask Grandmother if I could talk to her again.  I think, from a legal standpoint, her middle name is Kathleen without the "e" since that's the way it's spelled on her birth certificate.  But.  Here's my theory.

My middle name is Lynne after my Aunt Lynne.  I've known several Lynn's in my life, but I don't know any Lynne's with an "e" besides my aunt and me.  I even questioned Grandmother about the spelling of our names years ago.  I asked her why she put an "e" on the end of it.  And do you know what she told me?  She said it's spelled with an "e" because that's the way the French do it!  Well.  We are not in France.  And, as far as I know, my family is not from France.  I haven't had time to really look into this whole French spelling thing to know if that's really true or not.  Spanish was the only foreign language offered when I was in high school so I know not one thing about France and the French except that I sure would love to visit Paris one day.  But she was so serious, y'all.  And, at the time, I totally believed her!  So I think she was trying to do the same thing to Kathleen.  Make it French.  With an "e."  Either that, or her favorite letter was "e!"  I mean, somewhere, somehow along the way, she was trying to change the spelling of her middle name.

Gosh.  There are SO MANY things I remember.  When I visited her on my weekends home from college, she often times had a bowl of soup for me.  Broccoli or chicken noodle.  Her chicken noodle soup was a little different though.  But I loved it.  Every once in awhile she'd take the grandgirls to eat at the Bulloch House.  She loved that restaurant.  She always had a glass of tea on the table beside her chair.  For awhile she was really into making sun tea.  I didn't care for it all that much.  I still remember that big jug of tea sitting out on the back steps.

About seven or so years ago, Grandmother was diagnosed with alzheimer's.  I knew what was coming.  I saw it everyday during my years working at a retirement community.  I just never imagined it would be MY grandmother sitting there staring off in the distance with not a clue who I even was.  And, of course, because I could go home only twice or so a year, it wasn't long before she didn't know who I was.  I'd always go visit her, always take the children.  She loved the children.  She didn't know who they were.  But she loved them and played with them.  They'd hide behind her chair and try to sneak up on her.  She'd act like she wasn't paying attention, like she didn't even see them.  And then all of a sudden she'd look their way and go, "Boo!"  She had them rolling.  Here she is with Hannah Kate in September 2010.
Grandmother knew that she was supposed to know me.  And she did a pretty good job with it, too.  We'd still talk and have conversations together.  But then it got to the point where it was nearly impossible to have a conversation with her anymore because I just didn't have a clue what she was talking about.  And then the day came Thanksgiving a year ago when she just looked straight through me.  Like I wasn't even there.  Grandmother was called to her eternal heavenly home on November 26, 2016.  But she left us a long time ago.

I had not planned to visit at all, but the Lord so graciously allowed me to see her and talk to her just three days before she went home.  I talked to her, but she didn't even acknowledge the sound of my voice, didn't even turn my way.  I held her hand, but she didn't even acknowledge my touch.  Nothing.  I always said it would be such a relief, such a joy when the Lord did call her home because she'd finally be made well and whole again.  She'd be more alive than I've ever been here on this earth.  But, man.  November 26 was a sad day.  So sad.  I thought that because I'd already been mourning her loss for what seemed like too many years already, the years that alzheimer's ravaged, I wouldn't mourn anymore.  Or maybe that it would somehow be easier.  It wasn't.  It really wasn't.

On the day of her memorial service, we were all together again.  Her sons and daughter.  The grandchildren.  Some of the great-grands.  Her nieces and nephews that we hadn't seen IN YEARS.  As a matter of fact, I was trying to remember the last time all of my cousins and I were together.  I'm the only one who moved away.  I think it's been eight or so years.  But we were all together on that day.
And, because I'm the oldest, bossy girl cousin . . . I hope each and every one of you know just how special you were to her, how much you meant to her and just how proud of you she was.  Every last one of you!  I know that because she told me so.  I wish she could see us now.  I wish Pa could see us now!  And all the great-grands.

Scott, she was so proud of your military service.  And then you followed in Pa's footsteps and opened that old tire store.  And the John Deere place.  Adam, she was so proud that you gave her the very first great-grand.  She'd be so proud of your new home now and your family.  Rob, she loved how you'd come up there and visit with her after Pa died.  She was proud of you for working hard and building that house.  Your three boys would remind her of her three boys.  Jennifer, I wish she could see you now, could know that you ran 1,000 miles (literally) or something crazy like that last year, could see your family of seven (because who would've ever thought?!).  Denise, she would be so proud of you, Teacher of the Year. She would be so proud of the way you and Lamar are a forever family for your three boys.  Ashley, I know she always loved visiting with you and your girls, and I know Wyatt would just tickle her to death as much as he loves tractors and the farm.  She'd be so proud of you for getting your real estate license.  Brian, I told you this already, but she'd have your campaign sign proudly displayed in her yard even though she doesn't live in District 111.  Oh, how I wish she could know that her grandson serves in the Georgia State House.  I just can't imagine what she'd say about that, but I know it would be real good.

I'm sure she'd be the first to tell you that she wasn't perfect.  She wasn't the perfect wife or the perfect mother or even the perfect grandmother.  But you know what?  She was the BEST Grandmother!

As we were driving up to the cemetery, I remember thinking I just couldn't believe we were doing that, we were going there.  It was a very sweet, very intimate service.  There's a nursing home ministry at my uncle's church, and they visited Grandmother each month.  The gentleman who spent the most time with her spoke to us at her memorial service.  He knew her only during those years of memory loss.  He said the way he got to know her was by taking his CD player and playing and singing hymns with her.  She had no clue who he was, no clue who her own family was, but she could sing every. single. word. to those old hymns!  He said she'd sing even the ones he didn't know.  One such hymn was Little Brown Church in the Vale (or Church in the Wildwood).  He said she'd get to singing real loud sometimes.  Now, this is definitely a lesser-known hymn.  But not to her.  And then he proceeded to share with us the last verse of this hymn because it reminded him so of her:

Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.
From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.  

I miss her right now.  But.  She's wearing her crown.  And she's in her mansion.  She always had a preference for the "finer" things in life.  And now she has her CROWN.  I have no doubt she's wearing it well.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give to me on that day."  ~2 Timothy 4:7-8


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What's Up Wednesday: January Edition

How is it already the last Wednesday in January?!

WHAT WE'RE EATING THIS WEEK
This wasn't "this week" exactly, but a couple of weeks ago I shared on my IG feed a chicken Milanese and four cheese penne.  I thought it was an absolutely lovely meal.
 It was fancy without being fancy.  And you know what?  My people did not like it.  At all.  I mean, I didn't even put the salad on their plates, much less on top of their chicken!

Another of my favorites this month was soup.  We had all of two (yes, TWO . . . I am so not even exaggerating on this one) cold days this month, and I took full advantage of it.  I couldn't decide which soup to make so I made all three:  baked potato because I knew everyone would eat it, and it's Hannah Kate's favorite, broccoli cheddar because I had a beautiful head of broccoli a friend gave us from his garden and chicken noodle because I just wanted chicken noodle, and I wanted an excuse to roast a whole chicken so my house would smell good!

Sometimes I cook a meal that just "takes me back."  You know what I mean.  It just takes me back to my Mama's kitchen and my childhood days.  Kinda like the song . . . country roads take me home to the place where I belong . . . But, I digress.  

Anyway, this was one of those.  It wasn't for us, but I sure enjoyed cooking it on Monday.  My Mama put a roast in the oven every Sunday before church, and it was already ready when we got home.  This squash casserole is my all-time favorite and reminds me of my Grandmother.  I'd much rather mashed potatoes than rice any day of the week.  My favorite way to eat green beans is sautéed in olive oil until they are just crisp tender and seasoned with sea salt and lemon pepper.  But smothered in bacon isn't too bad either.

But this week we had lasagna on Monday night, teriyaki chicken bowls with broccoli and pineapple last night (no worries . . . I set aside a couple of the chicken breasts to oven "fry" for the kids and served that with macaroni and cheese) and my crockpot is full of chili for tonight.  Tomorrow night we're having mini ground turkey meat loaves with mashed potatoes and butter beans.  I'm not sure about the weekend yet, but it will probably involve steak and French onion soup.

WHAT I'M REMINISCING ABOUT
Honestly, I haven't been thinking back a whole lot.  I've spent most of my time either living in the moment or looking forward.  That's a really good place to be right now. 

WHAT I'M LOVING
I got a new pair of glasses a couple of weeks ago, and I absolutely love them!  Yes, I know.

I also really enjoy spending my Sunday mornings with these kids.  We are very small in number, but it is such a privilege to lead them in Bible study.  I never ever imagined myself teaching the youth class, but the Lord had other plans.

WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO
It's really just everyday life over here.  We did go to both of LSU's home gym meets and a boys' basketball game.  I have to admit I'm getting into the gymnastics thing.  Ellie is, too.  I'm afraid she's about to trade in her ballet and tap shoes for the balance beam and trampoline.  Actually, I'm MORE afraid that she's going to ask to do BOTH.  I can't even think about that right now.  All I can say is that she's rather captivated when watching gymnastics.  This was taken at the gymnastics meet last Friday night.

WHAT I'M DREADING
Nothing really.  I mean, dance costume pictures are going to be a little crazy this year from a logistical standpoint, but probably doesn't even count (see below for what I'm looking forward to next month!).

WHAT I'M WORKING ON
I'm getting ready to teach Ellie how to read.  She seems to have a good handle on phonics now, and she so wants to be able to read.  She carries books around with her all the time and "pretends" like she's reading.  I know it's still early yet.  So we'll see how it goes.

I also need to get serious about teaching Hannah Kate how to play the piano.  I think she's going to pick it up really quickly.  I just need to be more disciplined in our lesson time.

Mason wants to learn how to play the violin.  I have no idea why.  I mean, he heard me say a couple of years or so ago that I wanted to learn to play the violin.  So maybe that's where it came from?  He's constantly beating on things so it makes more sense to me that he'd want to play the drums.  Not that I'm at all open to that.  Or the guitar.  Why not the guitar?  So I started thinking that maybe we could take lessons together.  Violin lessons, that is.  I'm just not sure yet how to make that happen.  

WHAT I'M EXCITED ABOUT
There's a little something I've been thinking on for several years now.  It's one of those things that I'm not sure yet how it will come to be.  Or even if it will come to be.  Maybe it falls into the category of dreams perhaps.  But God has graciously opened (or rather cracked) the door.  For the first time in six years, I'm not participating in Bible Study Fellowship this year.  It just didn't work with our homeschool schedule, and I knew the Lord was calling me to fully commit to homeschooling.  That meant I had to leave BSF.  It was hard.  It was harder than hard!  But I'm hopeful that opportunity will come around again.  So that just means I've been doing something different for my own personal Bible study.  A few weeks ago, I decided to do Kelly Minter's All Things New Bible study.  I bought the student book and just planned to do it on my own.  It's really designed to be done in community with other ladies.  The Lord ultimately burdened my heart to see if there were any ladies who wanted to join me.  I wasn't expecting much, but I put it out there.  Next Monday my living room will be filled with ten or so ladies who are joining me for Bible study!  How exciting is that?!

WHAT I'M WATCHING / READING
I'm almost finished reading my fourth book of the month.  Yes.  Four books!  In one month!  I absolutely love to read, always have.  That's my happy place.  I decided I wanted more of that in my life this year so I made it happen.  The first book I read was Natchez Burning.  And, oh my!  This book captivated my attention from start to finish (except for the fact that the last few chapters were rather unbelievable - literally - in a plot that otherwise was).  Even though there were a few things I didn't like about this book, I'm definitely reading the next one in the series!  Really and truly, mysteries are my favorite!  I then read Karen Kingsbury's Shades of Blue.  I used to read a lot of her books.  The Redemption series will always be my favorite of hers.  I read The Legacy.  It was okay.  My favorite part of that book was the setting - England!  And now I'm almost finished with The Ashford Affair.  Again, England.  Next on my list is The Secret Life of Bees.  I've heard so much about this one, and it was actually Natchez Burning that finally led me here.

So, instead of watching anything, I read.  Football season is now over.  Except for one last game.  Normally, I'd care less about the game itself and more about the food and the commercials.  But this year?  RISE UP!

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO
The birdies and the frogs and the crickets.  And I hear the pounding of a basketball on concrete and the laughter of a child.  Seriously.  I'm currently sitting in the truck with my windows rolled down while Hannah Kate is at dance.  I have another two hours and fifteen minutes left.

WHAT I'M DOING THIS WEEKEND
For the first time in a very long time, I have absolutely nothing written in pen in my planner for the weekend.  That doesn't mean I won't be doing anything.  That just means I'm not planning to do anything.  I'm hoping it will stay that way.

WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT MONTH
February is not my favorite month.  But it does get us to March.  So that's what I'm looking forward to.  But, if it has to involve February, the thing I'm most looking forward to, I guess, is the girls' dance pictures.  I just can't believe it's that time already!  We absolutely love their costumes this year, especially for ballet.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW
I forgot to mention this last time, but Ellie is riding her bike without training wheels now! She actually learned how right after Thanksgiving.  Mason and Hannah Kate were ultimately responsible for teaching her how.  And she's so proud of herself.  She's the cutest thing flying through the yard on her bike.

Monday, January 23, 2017

According to Ellie: the inauguration

THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST.

Last Friday I watched the new president take the oath of office.  There were several prayers during the inauguration, one in which the pastor asked God to bless the NATION or something of that effect.  Ellie was coming down the stairs right then and busted out with:

"NATIONWIDE is on your side!"

And I'll just leave that right there for you.

The only other thing I have to say about the inauguration is this.  I nearly freaked out (so much so that all three children came running downstairs asking me what was going on) when this image popped up on my television:
That handsome guy smiling right there on the left is my cousin Brian.  He was just re-elected to a third term in Georgia's State House representing District 111.  And that beautiful lady in the hot pink is his wife Lindsay.  I mean, I knew they were there.  But I was so . . . shocked . . . to see them so up close and so personal on NATIONAL NEWS at THE INAUGURATION that I couldn't even do anything.  The camera stayed on them for what seemed like forever, but it still wasn't enough time for me to grab my phone and take a picture.  Not to mention, I was so distracted that I never even though about rewinding my DVR to catch it again (until that bright idea hit me two hours later, but I rewound as far as I could only to find I missed them by three minutes!).  So I had to steal this picture from my aunt!

Back to Ellie . . . she came up with another one today.

On the way home from Sequitur, we were talking about my nephew's birthday.  Judd is five years old today.  So one thing led to another, and the kids began talking about other birthdays as well.  By this time I'd sort of checked out of the conversation.  But I checked back in just in time to hear Ellie say:

"I'd rather walk like a chicken than tell him happy birthday!"

(Please note she's not talking about Judd here.)

Walk like a chicken.

Walk like a chicken?!

WALK LIKE A CHICKEN?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Field Trip: Louisiana Governor's Mansion

Last week we "toured" the Louisiana Governor's Mansion with our homeschool group.  I use the word lightly.  There are approximately 45 rooms in the mansion, including 12 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms.  We got to see the foyer, drawing room, one of the dining rooms (there are two) and rotunda.  And that was it.  I was really hoping to see one of the kitchens.  But it really was a fascinating tour none-the-less. 
The mansion itself is beautiful.  I always admire it when traveling down the interstate.  I'd forgotten until we drove up that I'd actually been there before.  Several years ago, the then Governor's wife sponsored a school supply fundraiser for children whose schools had been destroyed by one of the hurricanes.  I delivered a bunch of supplies after our VBS that year.  
The very first thing I noticed when we walked in was that it was still decorated for Christmas!  I wasn't expecting that the second week in January.  But the trees were really pretty.  These were in the drawing room and decorated with a Louisiana theme.  Many of the decorations had been sent to area school children who colored them and then sent them back for the trees.  They were done in blue and gold because those are Louisiana's state colors.  
The drawing room was quite big with very beautiful furnishings.  Our docent was so very good!  She was a retired school teacher, and she kept us entertained the whole time.  We learned a lot, too.  Many symbols and things unique to the state are in the furnishings.  There are 64 fleurs-de-li in the design of the area rug that represent Louisiana's 64 parishes (counties).  There are 18 stars around the edge of the rug that represent Louisiana being the 18th state added to the Union.
Of course, the Steinway tucked away in the corner of the room caught my eye.
Across the foyer from the drawing room is one of the dining rooms.  The Governor had just had a meeting in here before our tour began.  I couldn't help but think of Grandmother's dining room as I stood at the end of this table.
The Louisiana state seal graces the floor of the rotunda.  There are 2,500 pieces of marble assembled together here!
Louisiana's First Family resides on the second floor of the mansion.  Portraits of Louisiana's former governors line the staircase.
The foyer is quite a work of art.  There is a beautiful mural painted on all four walls.  It is very colorful, very bright and also includes special touches relating to past governors and their families.  The dog you see here was Governor Blanco's dog.  The stack of books behind the poinsettia represent Governor Jindal because he was a Rhodes Scholar.  The bat you see to the right of the deer was actually painted by Governor Jindal's son.  So there are lots of neat little things going on here.  
The mansion sits across the lake and in the shadow of the state capital building.  Mason said he would love to live here.  When I asked him why, he said because he can learn a lot about the state and the government.  Of course, the chocolate chip cookies they gave us on the way out probably had a lot to do with it, too!    


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

According to Ellie

Everyone needs an Ellie in their lives!  She's a turkey, a mess and something else all wrapped up in a fiery little four-year old package.  She's already sent me for some loops that her older brother and sister never did at her age, but the Lord knew that she was the perfect addition to our family, the perfect fit for us.  Her personality is a rather big one.  And you just never know what you're going to get.  But, one thing is definitely for sure.  She makes me laugh.  A lot.
All three of my children have had their share of funny moments, funny anecdotes that I thought I'd always remember, never forget.  But the more time goes on, the more I "forget."  I actually started writing down some of the funny things Ellie says.  Because I don't want to forget.  I used to write down things Mason said.  And, when I look back at what I wrote, I never would've remembered some of those things had I not written them down!  I just wish I would've done more writing.

Here are a few recent conversations with Ellie.  Ellie-isms, as I've called them before.

Ellie loves her Sunday School class.  She "moved up" last fall to the pre-k class.  They use the sweetest curriculum.  Each week she brings home a page that we can go over together to reinforce the Bible story they learned.  She loves these pages so much that we keep them organized in a special binder for her.  Several times during the week, she pulls out her binder and reads her lesson again.  They studied the book of Genesis during the fall months.  So she had about four or so lesson pages about the life of Abraham.  One day in particular she wanted to read through all the stories of Abraham's life.  So we did.  After I finished reading to her, we talked for a minute about Abraham and his family, specifically his son Isaac.  Ellie looked at me and said, "Yeah, mom, he's just like Abraham Lincoln."

Well.  Not really.  But I wasn't going to tell her that.  That's what you get when you're a homeschooling family, and your 3rd grader studied the life of Abraham Lincoln last year with then three-year old Ellie sitting beside her.


Another day the children and I were eating lunch together.  Mason and Hannah Kate were talking about Mrs. Tracy's new dog.  It went something like this:

Hannah Kate:  Mrs. Tracy's dog is going to grow up to be really big.  She showed me a picture.

Mason:  Yeah, he's gonna grow up to be a Great Dane.

(Before I could add some clarification here, Ellie joined in the conversation.)

Ellie:  Well, I'm gonna grow up to be a fairy.

She was dead serious.  And we all just died laughing.


And then there was the time I was in the kitchen washing dishes after supper.  Ellie came running into the kitchen.

Ellie:  Mama, Hannah Kate has GUTS all over her!

Me (kind of sort of maybe not paying too much attention yet):  Hhmmmm?

Ellie:  Hannah Kate has GUTS all over her!

Me:  What?  What are you talking about?  

Ellie:  GUTS!  HANNAH KATE HAS GUTS ALL OVER HER!

She's getting rather irritated because I don't know what she's talking about.

Me:  Ellie, Hannah Kate just took a bath.  She should be clean.  She shouldn't have anything on her.  What are you talking about?!

Ellie:  Uuggghhh.  Hannah Kate has GUTS ON HER!  You know, ladybugs!

And then she walked off.  Apparently, Hannah Kate caught one of the gazillion ladybugs that live in our house, and it got that yellow stuff on her hand.  Guts.


Not too long ago, Ellie and Mason were having a rather spirited conversation.  I don't even remember now what in the world it was about, but each of them was trying to prove their point.  Before I had a chance to intervene and shut it down, Ellie "made her point" again and followed it up with, "So BOOOOMMMMMM!"  I mean, seriously.  I died.  I don't know where she got that.  Surely she heard that somewhere and didn't make it up herself.  But I just don't know.


To be continued . . .
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Monday, January 09, 2017

Hello 2017

We're nine days in.  And 2017 has been absolutely delightful!  Last year, particularly the last few months, lent a lot of perspective that has me really looking forward to this new year.

As usual, the new year began with black-eyed pea cakes topped with cranberry roasted red pepper relish.  I always look forward to making these.  My plate was rounded out with cabbage and cornbread.  That's the new year's meal of champions!
The older kids headed back to Sequitur last Monday.  It seemed rather sudden to return to our homeschool schedule on January 2, but Mason and Hannah Kate were ready and excited to go.  I found myself, yet again, being so grateful for this journey with them.  They also asked me last week if they would be returning to Sequitur next school year.  Registration opens this Thursday so they knew we'd be making our decision soon.  They were both glad when I told them that's the direction the Lord continues to lead us in.  

Next year will, once again, bring some changes to our schedule.  Mason will attend classes at Sequitur Monday through Thursday since he'll be moving up to 7th grade, and the subject blocks change at that point.  There will be some big changes in grammar school so Hannah Kate will also being attending classes at Sequitur Monday through Thursday.  She told me several months back that her only complaint was that she goes to Sequitur only two days a week because she would rather go everyday.  Yet again I chuckle at the way God works.  We are already used to commuting to Sequitur four days a week now so I'm glad that's out of the way.  But, for the first time, in two years, Ellie and I will have some "alone" time four mornings of the week.  This is a huge gift because Ellie will officially begin kindergarten, and I will be teaching her how to read.  I've never taught a child how to read from the very beginning so I've been a little nervous about that.  But now that she and I will have some time daily without the older ones, I'm not so nervous anymore.  Our schedule change next year is actually an answer to a pretty big prayer I'd been praying.  Only, my idea of the answer was drastically different, and I never imagined that it would be answered in this way instead.  I actually didn't know how it was going to be answered because it seemed kind of impossible to me.  It's so exciting when God's ways and His plans are beyond even the scope of my imagination.  It's exciting when prayers are answered in ways that you just never even thought of.

I was reminded again today what a tremendous opportunity this has been for my children and our family.  Mason has been studying the Civil War.  I remember studying the Civil War several times throughout my own schooling career.  But I learned two things today that I didn't know, and I'm so glad my children are able to dig a little deeper into the stories and lives and character of people who have shaped the course of history (because you know I love people's stories).  

Upon reading about the Battle of Gettysburg, we learned this about Abraham Lincoln, something that has really changed the way I look at him, something that I know we'll always remember:

Before his death, Lincoln was asked by a clergyman if he loved Jesus.  This was his response:  "When I left Springfield, I asked the people to pray for me.  I was not a Christian.  When I buried my son, the secrets trial of my life, I was not a Christian.  But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.  Yes, I do love Jesus."

I also didn't realize what strong witnesses for Christ Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were.  Not only were they brilliant military leaders, they were spiritual leaders as well, and many of the soldiers who served under them came to know Christ as their Lord and Savior as a result of the witness of these two men.  I never knew that.  In the midst of the horror that was the Civil War, there was a spiritual revival going on.  Think about that . . .

Last Tuesday I finally saw my eye doctor and got new contacts and glasses.  Afterwards I met a dear sister in the Lord for lunch.  I enjoyed her company so very much.  We don't often have a chance to see each other, and I hadn't seen her since August.  I sure am thankful for her!

Last Friday night Seth and I went to LSU's first gymnastics meet of the season.  We went a couple of times last year and really enjoyed it.  They hosted the Georgia gym dogs so I was definitely a little more invested in this one.  LSU was very impressive, and they set several records on Friday night.  I do look forward to watching them again this season.  But I'm always a Dawg fan first! 
So, in case you missed it, winter supposedly came to Louisiana this past weekend.  There were several comical memes circulating social media, such as "Attention residents.  Winter will be held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday ONLY." and "Brace yourselves.  Winter is coming.  All at once.  In one weekend."  Basically, winter in Louisiana means it gets really cold, and it rains.  And get really cold it finally did.  We (okay, so mostly not "we" but most definitely I) enjoyed temps below 40 degrees for 48 hours or so.  But, as usual, we'll be back up in the 70s as soon as . . . tomorrow.  I took advantage of it as much as I possibly could.  Meaning I sat on the couch covered in a blanket reading a book.  And I made soup.  Three pots.    
I could decide which to make so I just made all three.  A friend shared some beautiful broccoli crowns from his garden so I made my favorite broccoli cheese soup.  My people aren't big soup eaters at all (because gumbo "isn't" a soup, but don't even get me started on that) so the next pot was baked potato soup because that's something they would all eat with minimal complaining.  That's also Hannah Kate's favorite soup.  I love cooking for her because she enjoys my food!  The final pot was homemade chicken noodle.  I don't even know why.  Well, I do.  First of all, I've been craving chicken noodle soup for a long time.  Second of all, I wanted an excuse to roast a whole chicken because it makes the house smell so good.  And third of all, I had a new recipe I wanted to try.  I couldn't choose just one.
Most people in these parts don't like cold weather.  But I sure do!  And I was reminded this morning of yet another reason why.  I love the bare naked trees.  I love the gray winter sky.  And I love the sunrise!  This morning was a clear, crisp morning.  As I sat on the couch reading my Bible before the children woke up, this was my view.
A winter sunrise.  But you know what?  Were it not for the winter cold that chases the leaves away for a little while, I'd have missed it.  Once these trees are covered in leaves, I can't see the sunrise in my back yard because it's hidden.  Oh, it's still there.  I just can't see it.  But, during winter time, I can.

Really and truly, there's been nothing extraordinary about the first nine days of 2017.  They've been rather ordinary.  But there's a novel titled The Magic of Ordinary Days.  I've never read it.  But I love the title.  Because these ordinary days . . . well, to me, there's just something really special about them.