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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Backyard Camping, Haircuts, and Costco

Talk about a random post! I just wanted to check in with some fun pictures to catch up on some recent events around here. ("Fun" being a relative term!)

Plus, I've apparently abandoned my camera. Seriously, I've been taking practically zero pictures lately. Here are a few that I've managed to snap.

Pre-campmeeting tent trial. Avery and Matt had a camp out in the yard while Landon and I enjoyed the air conditioning inside. Not sleeping in the tent until we're in the mountains and it's below 70 degrees... (although at this point I'd take below 85)

Pre-haircut entertainment. Matt sure comes in handy!

Landon is seriously reconsidering this haircut business. The mullet was getting a little too pronounced, so it was time.

Matt to the rescue (again) with a little creative diversion

We love Miss Cindy! Avery needed a little trim, too.

These cuties love each other to pieces. They were just cruising through Costco hugging each other. I really love these moments because they make the crappy ones a little more bearable. :)

Summer is going by way too quickly. So boo to that, but we are totally taking advantage of every minute of what's left!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Five

1. Matt and I ran into one of my coaching friends at the library the other day. He also has a girl and a boy, and I was joking about how different it's been watching Landon because he is the exact opposite of Avery in so many ways. I know that all kids have their own individual personalities, but so many of the differences seem to be typical of boys vs. girls. Anyway, he recommended that I read Bringing Up Boys. I just so happened to have a borrowed copy of it in my ever-growing "to read if I ever get a chance" stack of books, so I started reading it last night. I'm only a few chapters in, but it's super interesting already. I know Dobson's controversial or whatever, but I'm really excited about it. Have any of you boy moms read it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

2. Speaking of controversy, Holy Hateful Social Media, Batman. Y'all. I am just over the Chick-fil-a debates. One side cries "hate" because they spoke out against gay marriage. The other side is on a rampage to make sure everyone knows that they support Chick-fil-a. You know what I think? Chick-fil-a serves really good chicken.

Nobody's going to win a Facebook war over a fast food joint. And nobody's going to win a debate about gay marriage via computer screen. And don't even get me started on the politically charged posts that pop up every single day. Is it November yet? I know I'm being completely idealistic here, but I just really wish that people would have these conversations in real life and not by cowardly hiding behind their computers. They're great conversations to have, but somehow all decency goes out the window when you forget that you're talking to a human being and should still treat them with respect, whether you agree with them or not. My friend April wrote a great post about it that is worded much more eloquently than my little mini-rant. You can check it out here.

3. We finally painted our bathroom this week! And when I say "we," I mostly mean "Matt." We bought paint for our kids/guest bathroom over a year ago with the intention of also painting our bathroom the same robin's egg blue. We painted the small bathroom right away, but then Landon was born, life happened, and we just never got around to ours. But it's done now, so yay! We ran out of paint, so one wall is the dark khaki of our living room, but it coordinates perfectly and I absolutely love it.

4. I am SO excited that the Olympics (officially) start today! I will obviously be watching the U.S. Women's Soccer team, but I also love the gymnastics competitions. Those are some crazy athletes! Shoot, they all are, otherwise they wouldn't be in the Olympics. I love watching athletes compete for pride, both their own and their country's (especially the underdogs. I'm a sucker for underdogs.). And hey, maybe I'll get inspired to get back in shape. Or not. But go Team USA!

5. We've had a pretty relaxed week just getting caught up around the house. I've been sewing up a storm, Matt's been painting and working on the manly home maintenance items on the to-do list, and the kids are loving tearing up the house playing with every toy they can find. We're camping out in the backyard tonight as a test run for campmeeting next week, and then tomorrow we're helping Kendra and Carlos move (just across town, whew!).

Happy Friday, everybody!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God Provides. Always.

I can be what many may call a pessimist. I like to describe myself as a realist, but the semantics are irrelevant I suppose.

I've never doubted that God could provide for us, but I frequently question why he would. Really, who are we? We live in an extremely affluent country and would be considered incredibly wealthy by the majority of the world. Why should I be anything but grateful? And I am.

Quitting my well-paying job to stay home and raise our kids was still a step of faith for this over-controlling planner. Well, I say it was a step of faith. We had a whole lot of money saved for back-up funds to cover any shortages, and in the back of my mind I figured I'd just go back to work if/when we ran out of money.

But most months we withdraw money from our ever-dwindling savings account just to cover bills, and most months I stress out over when we're ever going to finish paying off Landon's hospital bills from his birth. Yes, that was almost 14 months ago.

Please don't think I'm complaining or saying we're poor. We're not. We have very little debt (mortgage and student loans), a nice home, eat nutritious food, and wear clean clothes.

But when those unexpected expenses come up, I always manage to freak out. Again.

Here's why I shouldn't.
  • When Landon outgrew his car seat and we needed to buy a new one for Avery so we could pass hers down, we received a surprise financial gift from my ladies' Bible study group. It covered the entire cost.
  • Because I need time to work at church, we're sending both kids to Mother's Day Out this year, which doubles that expense. But the entire expense has been covered. All of it.
  • We got a certified letter in the mail a couple of months ago from our mortgage company that informed us that our payment history qualified us for a government refinancing program that required no money from us at all. We'll save $150 each month on our house payment.
  • Right before we left for our Tennessee trip, the you-know-what hit the fan with both of our cars. Both were due for inspections and oil changes, and the minivan needed two new tires and new brakes. The very day that I was going to withdraw money from our savings account to pay for that madness, I found an envelope in my mailbox at church with an anonymous check written out to us for $500, the exact amount I was about to withdraw. I cried tears of gratitude for hours afterward. I'm just glad I was the only one there that afternoon. I'm an ugly crier.
  • Our families have been such a blessing to us as well. Both of our moms have an uncanny ability to buy super cute clothes for our kids, usually just as they're outgrowing their current ones. My parents frequently invite us over for meals, and Matt's parents paid for the majority of our Tennessee trip.  
I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude and in awe of God's totally undeserved grace. We have done absolutely nothing at all to merit such good gifts, but I wanted to document them here so in the future I can look back at His faithfulness.

I know that in those times when He doesn't provide surprise checks and breaks from bills, God will still be faithful to sustain us. But today, I'm thankful for the blessings.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back again.

We got back from our trip to Tennessee and had two days to recover from vacation before Matt and I took 12 preteens to church camp and Avery and Landon went to my parents' for the week.

It was a great week at camp, but I was so emotionally/mentally/physically drained from it that I'm just now feeling like myself again. Preteens are a different beast! I totally get high schoolers. I'm figuring out preschoolers. But to this point, preteens are pretty much uncharted territory for me.

Ready for Nerd Prom!

Our little nerds were ready to party!

They were so sweet though, and we had so many good conversations about what it really means to follow Christ and make their faith their own. And they are SILLY. It really was a lot of fun.

Since we've been back our kids have decided that sleeping through the night is overrated. Yes, I said kids. Avery's been sneaking into our bed every night, and I'm sure Landon would be doing the same thing if he wasn't incarcerated in his. So he just cries until we get him.

So in my perpetual state of sleepiness I've been working like crazy on Etsy stuff. I've actually had quite a few orders recently from friends, but I'm almost caught up on those and ready to build inventory to open my shop in September. I'm really excited about it! Nervous, but excited.

With all this sewing, traveling, and general hanging out with Matt and the kids, I feel so disconnected from most of my friends. I have SO many people that I'm really wanting to get together with. Hopefully I still have some friends left once school starts back up!

I've got lots of blog posts ready to leave my brain and find the keyboard, so hopefully you'll hear from me again soon. Until then, there's a chocolate chip cake, the Bachelorette finale on Hulu, and more fabric cutting calling my name.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Family Vacation: Gatlinburg, TN

The blog's been extra quiet lately because we were ROAD TRIPPIN' to Tennessee!

We took a week-long family trip to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge with Matt's parents, his sister, and his brother and sister-in-law (plus their 15 month old daughter, Josie). Since Matt's brother lives in Connecticut, his parents and sister live in Houston, and we live in DFW, we're never in the same place at the same time, so we've started a new tradition that instead of going all out on gifts for Christmas, we're going to take a family trip each year. We were SO excited to finally spend some time with everybody!

We headed east early last Saturday morning, and the kids were so great in the car. We only had a few cranky moments because they were completely entertained by books, toys, sleep, music, and the occasional DVD.

But holy cow, we made a kajillion stops along the way. Our first one was to our alma mater, ETBU! We couldn't drive through Marshall without showing the kiddos where our love story began (cue sappy music here), and we were in awe of all the changes they've made on campus since we graduated! I loved ETBU and thought it was a beautiful campus when I went there, but it is even more gorgeous now! There's a new student commons, and they completely renovated the old cafeteria and bookstore. Sigh, I have so many great memories there and we had fun reminiscing. Too bad we were there too early to grab some Chateau Snow on our way out. Best snow cones ever!

All those upgrades and they still haven't done anything about the dinky fountain...

We continued our trek down I-20 by stopping at pretty much every state welcome center because we're dorks like that. We even found a Chick-fil-a for lunch, not that anyone should be surprised.

We met up with NeNe, Pop Pop, and Carrie in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for dinner at the worst Cracker Barrel I've ever been to (because how can you go on a road trip and NOT eat at a Cracker Barrel?) and to stop for the night. We even ran into one of my former (and Matt's current) co-workers at our hotel. How random is that?!?

Justin, Miriam, and Josie beat us to the cabin, but we all made it to Tennessee by Sunday afternoon. And who wants to cook after two days of driving? No one, that's who. So we went to the Mellow Mushroom for dinner. I'm officially a fan. That is some yummy pizza, and there's one about 30 minutes from our house! Seriously, you should try it, and when you do, you should get the Red Skin Potato Pie and your life will never be the same. I might be being a tad dramatic, but it's pretty good. Promise.

Landon loves lemons

Sour face!

We spent the rest of the evening unpacking and exploring the amazing cabin that would be our home for the week. It was gorgeous! And it was way too cold, but I guess you can't have it all.

Monday took us to Ober Gatlinburg. Have I mentioned yet that it rained pretty much the entire time we were in Tennessee? Because it rained pretty much the entire time we were in Tennessee. Fortunately it dried up long enough for us to go down the Alpine Slide, but then it rained again. So we had a fun (albeit wet) day anyway.

Photo courtesy of Avery

On Tuesday we went to an indoor water park. The kids had a BLAST, and okay, we had fun too. :) We spent the day going between the lazy river (which Avery loved because it was the perfect height for her to walk in), the big water slides, and the kiddie area. The best part? No sunscreen required. (I'm easy to please.)

Wednesday was supposed to be our awesome hiking day through Smoky Mountain National Park. Instead it was our drive-forever-to-see-nothing-because-of-the-fog-and-rain day. We didn't get to hike or picnic or anything. Bleh. The only redeeming element was the black bear that walked right in front of our car while we were at Cades Cove. You don't see that every day! We played lots of games that afternoon/evening.

On Thursday we went to downtown Gatlinburg to check out the tourist traps shops and eat dinner. One of the nice things about being in a cabin was that we were able to cook our own meals, but it was also fun to go out to eat on our last night in town. Upon hearing rave reviews and multiple recommendations, we chose The Peddler for dinner, and it did not disappoint! They cut your steak right at your table, the rolls were amazing, and the salad bar was incredible.

After dinner, half of our crew decided to go back to the cabin, but we wanted to spend some more time looking around and hanging out. We were finally able to ride the Ober Gatlinburg aerial tramway, and we even bought some delicious fudge to take home. We ended our evening with a splurge at Ben and Jerry's for some seriously-overpriced-but-completely-worth-it cups of ice cream. (For the record, if you're ever in a scoop shop, you have to try Coconut Seven Layer Bar. And Matt said the Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz was pretty dang good. Don't be like Avery and just get vanilla. Although to her credit, she did get sprinkles.)

We began our looooong journey home early on Friday morning. We left at 6 am (central time) and didn't get home until 2 am. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to drive straight back with two young kids. We did make one completely worthwhile stop in Nashville though. Thanks to the power of Facebook via text message, we were told about the Loveless Cafe. It was completely out of the way, but those biscuits and homemade jam were worth every extra minute.

So that's where we've been! We had such a great time, and we can't wait for our next family trip!

And now Matt and I leave again tomorrow. We're taking 12 preteens to camp this week while Avery and Landon go to Camp Grandma and Grandaddy. Pray for us!