Thursday, April 21, 2011

Because I'm sure you've missed reading them...
a few "Scout Stories"


We are full-throttle into softball season right now, and Sydney is having an awesome time at the bat (just this past week, she hit two home runs in one game) and in the field (she plays the "circle" position and has become a pro at throwing girls out at first base). Gary is her head coach, of course, and he absolutely loves working with girls at this age (and they love him too!).

As we were getting ready to head out to the ballpark early this week for a game, we were battling the rush-rush of almost game time (getting our hair up into a ponytail, finding our cleats, etc.) and Sydney made the comment, "Sometimes it's hard having your dad as the head coach."

I just had to laugh, because it is somewhat true. Dads are always tougher on their daughters than other players; and Gary likes to have everything work out "just right" (getting to the ballpark early, keeping track of everything). So, yeah, it can be hard sometimes.

But it can also be extremely sweet and gratifying. You should see the way she cuddles up with Gary after a long night at the ballpark; and the way she beams when he brags on how great she's playing.

And, when it comes down to it, I'm just so thrilled and proud to have a husband who is also just an awesome father.


I've also been full-throttle lately into cooking. For some reason, I have just become committed (obsessed) to trying new foods and new dishes for Gary and the girls. (It could have something to do with the fact that I have the Food Network on in the background all the time; or that I've been wearing out my Pioneer Woman cookbook; or that my trip to Paula Deen's restaurant in Savannah over Spring Break got me all fired up.)

In the past month or so, I've made such yummy dishes as Butter & Lime Tilapia, Steaks with Brandy Cream Sauce, Apple Pork Chops, and Creamy Corn & Smoked Sausage Bisque.

Sydney is usually pretty good at trying new things, but she also likes to stick to her overworn favorites.

A few nights ago, I went back to a tried-and-true pasta favorite, and Sydney made it pretty clear how she felt about it.

"If I could pick someting to eat every time, I'd say fettucini, fettucini, fettucini." (Yeah, she loves my homemade fettucini alfredo.)


As we headed out last night for church (on Wednesday nights, the youth and children both have activities), we turned on the radio and were greeted by Ke$ha's "Blow." Being one of those addictive, I-can't-keep-from-singing-along sort of songs, Delaney and I both instinctively reached to the radio and turned it on up. We were jamming right along to the music, when Sydney piped up from the backseat.

"Reallllly?" (I'm sure you can imagine that voice.) "I'm trying to read the Bible back here."

I guess it's good to know someone has her priorities straight.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Just Add Purple (Or...How to host a super-fun Justin Bieber party for your 7-year-old!) To celebrate Sydney's birthday last week, I tapped into the heart and psyche of a seven-year-old to discover what really makes them beat. And I discovered that the answer was "Justin Bieber." Sydney loves her some JB, so what better party could I possibly give to her and her friends? The party was a big hit, and included all sorts of special touches to make it work so well...lots of purple (JB's favorite color), lots of yummy treats, lots of family members and sweet friends, lots of sunshine (thank goodnes!), and lots of smiles. But, don't just take my word for it. How about some picture-proof of the big day? I love to set up party tables and displays... Sydney and I came up with titles for the food based on Justin Bieber songs. For example, there's a song called "One Less Lonely Girl." For the party, we had "One Less Lonely Cupcakes"... and "Baby, Baby Oh-reos"... We had to have party drinks, of course, and I was thrilled with my latest find... I also filled the table with lots of purple-themed treats like Purple and White Tortilla Chips and Salsa (which was actually just blue corn and regular tortilla chips, but it totally worked)... and purple (dark chocolate) kisses for Justin...
I also had assorted purple candies (pixie sticks, laffy taffys, mike and ikes) and lots of purple party ware and decorations. And, of course, the appearance of the "real" Justin Bieber behind the party table just topped everything off...

When it came to party time, the girls had fabulous fun with lots of different activities. McKenna and Delaney were party assistants, and helped give all the girls Justin Bieber tattoos...

We played our own version of hot potato, except with purple blow-up microphones and Bieber music as the background. The girls really seemed to enjoy it a lot...

and enjoyed watching their friends play it...

(And, seriously, how awesome is that picture? Lots of smile on little girls's faces. Best. thing. ever.)

Of course, a highlight of the party was posing and taking pictures with the life-size Justin Bieber (and, yes, even the "big kids" got into the action)...

After presents (Sydney was so excited about the American Girl doll she got!), it was time to sing "Happy Birthday" and blow out some candles (and, yes, for some inexplicable reason my child had to wear purple shutter shades while doing so!)...

All in all, it was a fantastic day to celebrate my wonderful, one-of-a-kind, precious seven-year-old. What a joy to get to celebrate with her yet again, and to make her day so special...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Surprise Birthdays Just yesterday, Sydney and I were at the local post office buying a stamp to affix to an invitation for her party this coming weekend. (Yes, the party's on Sunday,and I was doing this on Wednesday. Good thing that people expect things like that from me!) When the lady behind the counter handed me a stamp that said "Celebrate!" with a bunch of birthday candles on it, I exclaimed to Sydney that it was perfect to put on her envelope. This led to a conversation, of course, between Sydney and the postal worker. (Because Sydney has in-depth conversations with people everywhere she goes.) Sydney: "It's perfect because it's for an invitation to my birthday party." P.O. Worker: "It is?" S: "Yep, because tomorrow is my birthday and I'm turning 7. And today is my sister's birthday. Hers is March 30th, and mine is March 31st." Worker: "How old is your sister?" S: "She's 19 today." Worker: "Wow," (and she sorta looked up at me and laughed a little bit under her breath), "Your sister was born, and then a lot of years later you came along." S: "Yeah. She's in college and I'm just in first grade. She's my big sister." I laughed back with the lady and had a nice conversation with her in which I said things like, "Yeah, she was a bit of a surprise," and "It's different having a child when you're really young, like I did with my first child," and "Sydney keeps us young, that's for sure." And it all sorta made me think a little bit. About plans. About surprises. About how things that you don't expect become, surprisingly, some of the best things in your life. McKenna and Sydney were both surprises (Delaney was the only child who came along when we were really wanting her to). I wouldn't have planned either one of them, really. With McKenna, I was only recently out of college and only two years into my first marriage. I had never even really thought about being a Mom (I wasn't the sort of child to play with baby dolls; books and Barbies were more my style), and the concept was one of those "some day I might do it" sort of things. When I became pregnant, I of course became excited very quickly. But, at 23 (23!!), I certainly didn't know what to expect; I was terrified of childbirth, and bringing a child into this world, and random things like peas-up-the-nose and saving-for-college. As things often go, though, things moved right along and I learned that the old adage is true, "You just do what comes naturally." Fast forward 12 years and our little family was in pretty good shape. McKenna was verging on her teenage years and Delaney was a smart and sassy 8-year-old. Looking back, I would have probably had a third child a year or two after Delaney was born; but, for whatever reason, we always thought two kids were just right. We soon learned, however, that three is a lot better. I'll never forget the morning I finally admitted to Gary that I sure had been feeling sick to my stomach lately, and maybe I should go get a pregnancy test. He was surprised, but I could tell immediately that the possibility of being a Poppy all over again made him excited (he has always loved babies!; in fact, whenever someone at church hands him a newborn, I just shake my head vigorously and remind him that, at our age, we would be pushing her around on top of our walker). Becoming a Mom again at 35 (and Gary at almost 39) changed my life both in every way possible (another family member! a family of 5!)...and also in just a lot of naturally easy ways (we always called Sydney our "go baby" because we'd just pack her up and she'd go with us wherever we had to go with the other girls' activities). Sure, we had to deal with the concept that we'd have an "only" child once Delaney was off to college (in just three and a half years) and that we would be much older parents than most. But, just as it happened with McKenna, it all just came back naturally and we realized that another child just increased our capacity for love and joy in exponential ways. And also that youth is wasted on the young; you are as young as you think; and she, indeed, keeps us young! Life can certainly throw you some curveballs. There are days when you truly know what's going to happen and, when you lay your head down at the pillow at night, you wonder how in the world your life changed so much so quickly. I've learned that those curveballs, those unexpected things, those surprises...even the tragedies and the unexpected heartaches...can develop into something incredibly beautiful. If you expect life to go according to a particular plan, you better be ready for a rude awakening. If you realize it won't go according to plan and then plan accordingly, you will certainly find that the detour you're being taken on can develop into some amazing experiences. And that you'll be blessed with the most amazing baby, and two-year-old, and seven-year-old (today!), and nineteen-year-old (yesterday!), and family. ----------------------------------------------- [Here I am with McKenna. Look at how young we both look... And my sweet Sydney... And McKenna loving on her new baby sister...

The girls today have a special bond...

And we all have a wonderful time together...

Happy Birthday to my wonderful surprises!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's a Family Tradition
Case in Point #1

Gary got them when he was in fourth grade (he thinks so, at least; when you get his age, it's a little hard to remember these things).

I got mine when I was in seventh grade (although I resisted wearing them, until it pretty much became a necessity).

McKenna got hers when she was in second grade.

Delaney got hers in first grade.

And now, Sydney has hers.

It started again with Sydney when she came home and told me she was having trouble seeing the promethium board (yes, glasses! and no, it's not trouble with blackboards or "chalk"boards anymore).

I told her she might need to get glasses like the rest of us and soon was vascillating between not wanting them ("I'll look like a geek!"; I reassured her that geeks are some of the best people in the world), to thinking they might be okay (especially after trying on a million pairs at the eye doctor and deciding that they're pretty "cool"), to desperately wanting them (one night while I was out grocery shopping at ten p.m. she called me to say that she "Needs my glasses right now. My eyes are getting blurrier and blurrier by the minute." I just smiled at ever my near-sided drama queen).

Now that she has glasses like the rest of us (and is part of the proverbial "Blind as a Bat Wray Club"), she's getting used to them. She still forgets to wear them all the time, but is also amazed at how clear things (tree branches! a softball coming at her!) look when she does.

And she definitely does not look geeky in them. Of if she does, she is just joining the cute geek club. And continuing along in a family tradition.

Case in Point #2

It was the summer of 1984 and it marks the one and only time I've ever yelled at my mother.

Back in the 80s (think back real hard now!), most of our cars had something called a clutch and these things called gear shifts. My parents had a cute little 1978 Mustang for me to drive; as I approached my 16th birthday, I had to learn how to drive a stick shift if I wanted to be the proud owner of that little red car.

I had high hopes for my first driving lesson...until we approached the first stop sign on a hill in the very hilly neighborhood where I grew up. I tried to push on the accelerator at the same time I relased the clutch; I began to roll backwards; my Mom began to pant; I began to yell.

We somehow got home safely, and I promptly announced that I would not get back in the car with Mom ever, ever again. Dad intervened, and the rest of my learning-to-drive experience was much smoother than it started out (he took me to a very large parking lot at a nearby softball field and we drove and drove and drove until I eventually "got" it).

Fast forward to 2011 and we have another daughter getting ready to drive (I know, I know, it was just yesterday that McKenna got her driver's license, but you know that thing about time flying...). Actually, Delaney is just approaching 15, but for a while now she's been telling us that she wants a Volkswagon Bug more than anything. Thinking that it might take four or five months to find a good used one that we could afford, we were giving ourselves plenty of time. Lo and behold, though, if we didn't find one right away. Only thing is....the car is a stick shift.

Delaney, however, was simply blinded by the fact that the car is a cute Bug and she swore that she'd learn how to drive a stick shift.

(Thank goodness we have over a year to do so.)

Following another well-traveled family tradition, I assigned Gary the task of teaching Delaney to drive the car (I briefly tried teaching McKenna four years ago, until I had flashbacks of my experience with Mom and quickly handed the keys over to Gary), and she has been wanting to practice non-stop ever since.
She sure looks awfully cute in the car (as does McKenna, who is also learning to drive it; as do I, who remembers how fun it is to drive a stick).

And so goes time, and traditions.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

March is a Very Good Month


Hard to believe it's already March (and that I haven't posted anything here for weeks. I say "I'm sorry," as I sheepishly lower my head).

Although it got here a little too quickly, I'm certainly glad that the month of March is here. Put quite simply, it is one of my very favorite of the year.

Why, you ask?

Let me count out the many, many reasons.

There's the beginning of softball season once again.

And the arrival in the stores of lots of Easter treats.

And the snow is gone (whew!), with Spring on its way. (The daffodils in my yard are making me happy.)

Then there are my favorite sports weeks of the year...that thing we lovingly call March Madness.

There's Spring Break. (Boy, will we be ready for it this year.)

And, at the end of the month comes the birthdays of two of my four favorite people in the world. McKenna turns 19 on the 30th, and then Sydney turns 6 the day after.

So, you see, there are lots and lots and LOTS of good things this month.

I can't wait to enjoy each and every one of them.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

I Love...
(or 10 Random, "lovely" Facts About me)

Several blogging buddies (Pam, Phats, and others) have posted "random facts" about themselves recently and challenged me to do the same thing. With Valentine's Day rapidly approaching (a mere four days away!), I thought I'd take a different approach and create instead a post about "10 Things I Love."
These certainly are not earth-shattering or incredibly insightful facts. Most of the items on the list are, in fact, inspired by what's going on with my life right now. Like the fact that, as I type this, I am lying on my bed in my pajamas and cozily watching college basketball on ESPN. Hence, the first thing on my list is...
1. I love basketball. I think all of you know how crazy I am about all sports (and specifically, most recently, for college football), but I also love college basketball and we are quickly approaching one of my favorite parts of the sports year...March Madness. I am lying in my bed right now watching the North Carolina-Duke matchup, but my favorite team is (of course!) the Alabama Crimson Tide. After a disastrous beginning of the season, we have recently rebounded and are currently leading the SEC with a 7-1 record. I am crossing my fingers (and toes, and arms, and elbows) that we make it into the NCAA tournament.

2. I love snow...but in small doses. We have had the snowiest season I can EVER remember in Alabama (we have gone several years in a row without getting any snowfall, and we've already had about four small-grade storms this season). It is actually snowing outside right now and the girls' school day tomorrow has already been postponed to start at 10 am. I am just about tired of Winter and I have had enough snow. (Personally, I'm ready for flip flops and shorts and 80 degrees!)

3. I love my collegiate daughter. McKenna has adjusted so beautifully to college life and she is evolving into this really cool adult (she'll be 19 next month, which I absolutely cannot even begin to comprehend); even though I miss her everyday, I've adjusted more smoothly than I thought to her being away at school. I think it's because I know she's happy.

4. I love my other daughters too, of course! Delaney is just an absolute joy; a teenager (almost 14!) who is well-adjusted and filled with integrity and makes me proud to be her Mom. Scout is as clever and energetic as ever; I especially love hearing her read (she's amazing!) and anticipate every day seeing what I will learn from her.

5. I love Krispy Kreme donuts. I gave in yesterday morning to my hot-now craving and was thrilled to find that my original glazed donut came in the shape of a heart. So fun!

6. I love "Glee" and "Fringe" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." My current favorite shows couldn't be more different, but Glee and Fringe make me so happy every week. And, now that we have a Netflix account, I have discovered Buffy...which, for some reason, I just didn't latch onto when it first came out (my internal nerd finds it especially hard to believe). Now I totally understand why many people list it in "Top Show Ever" lists.

7. I love cooking. I have been on such a cooking kick lately, and have discovered some amazing recipes. In just the last two weeks, I've made my first-ever Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce (how I've never made it before, I'll never know); a delicious Sausage and Corn Bisque; a beatiful and yummy Fresh Strawberry Cake; and a crazy-good Shrimp with Garlic Cream Sauce. (Heavy cream seems to be a recurring theme.)

8. I love church camp. This upcoming weekend is our annual family retreat at Camp Sumatanga, one of the true pieces of "heaven on earth"--and we CAN'T WAIT to get there. We get to have fun times with so many of our closest friends, enjoy some really cool spiritual time, get away from the computer and cell phone and pretty much any connectivity, and get to reconnect with nature (via streams and lakes and mountains and paths).

9. I love thrift stores. In the last month, I have bought some awesome pairs of shoes and some giant piles of books. And when the shoes cost $2 and the books 39 cents, I'm especially happy about it!

10. I love Valentine's Day. I love heart peeps; and childrens valentine cards to exchange with classmates; and date night with my husband; and chocolate covered strawberries; and mushy messages of love; and hugs and kisses.

I hope that all of you are having a fabulous February so far, and I love All of YOU very much as well. (And, oh yeah...if you want to take my challenge, either post random facts about yourself or a "things you love" post on your own blog. I'd love to read your post and learn more about you!)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

On this first day of February

Can you believe it's February already? I absolutely cannot. It's crazy how time is just zooming past so quickly. (It will be Summer before we know it. And, now that I think about it, warm weather...and the beach, and flip flops, and sleeping late.. sure does sound nice right about now.)

But I'm getting ahead of my self. It's February, like it or not. And I prefer to like it.

February is all about love which We will be celebrating love this month with our sweeties, and with good stuff, and with celebrations, and with chocolate (which, really? Isn't that about the best thing you can show love with?).

And so, on this first day of the Month of Love, I thought I'd just share three quick pictures of my three girls.

Sydney, Delaney, and McKenna mean more to me than life itself. And they continue to amaze me with their awesomeness.

I love them oh. so. VERY. much.

(And aren't they just too pretty?)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reading Last Year, Reading This Year

Those pictures above just make me happy. Like tingly happy.

Since the beginning of the new year, I have bought more books than just about anything (well, I have bought some groceries; but, books have come in a good second place). And, thank goodness, my girls get just as much joy out of buying books as I do (hence, the pictures of them surrounded by piles and piles and PILES of books).

My favorite place to buy books has always been thrift stores (not that I don't enjoy a good Barnes and Noble. I certainly do. I just enjoy being able to buy books for $1.48), but we've recently been blessed with a new bookstore called 2nd & Charles. It's this wonderful used bookstore that literally towers above you, and around you, and inside of you. (The first time we visited, Scout and I went in with no idea of what to expect. Three hours later, we walked out still reeling. And with our arms overflowing with books.)

So, I have a ton of books on my metaphorical bedside table (because the really don't all reside there; they're all over the place) that I have bought from this new store, and from B &N, and from the thrift store (just had a productive shopping visit there today). I can't wait to experience each and every one of these books.

With that thought, I wanted to share a few recollections of my favorite books from the last year and some insights into what I'm planning on reading this year.

And, since I could go on and on and on about these books, I think I'll just provide you with a few short lists instead.

Favorite books I read last year--

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. (I jumped on the HG bandwagon a little late, but the hoopla was true. This young adult thriller--and the rest of the trilogy? Excellent!)

2. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. (Lamott inspires me like no other writer. Her "radical" thoughts on Christianity get me going every time!)

3. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. (It's always good to revisit a classic--especially if you never read it in the first place. All the references to Alice on "Lost" made me go check it out a little late.)

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. (It's also always good to revisit Harry, as I did this year in anticipation of the latest movie. The re-reading reminded me of why this is my favorite Harry book of them all, and in my Top 10 books of all time.)

5. Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton. (I love discovering a new mystery series and author and this was my 2010 discovery. I love, love, love this character and this series.)

6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. (This was my token can't-put-it-down and I-stayed-up-all-night-until-I-finished-reading-it addition to this year's list. Gothic and atmospheric, and oh so good!)

7. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner. (Sydney and I read Skippyjon Jones and all the ensuing books in the Skippyjon Jones series more times than I can even think of counting. These books about a siamese cat who thinks he's a chihauhua is fantastic, and an extra benefit is that you get to read them in your best Spanish accent.)

Favorite books I've read since 2011 started two weeks ago--

1. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. (Young adult, paranormal, picked as Amazon's best YA book of the year. Just plain fun, and I can't wait to get the sequel.)

2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. (I'm not sure why I've never actually read this book before now, since people have raved and recommended it to me so many times. Labeled as "nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality," this is right up my alley. And the writing is beautiful.)

3. The Lost Encyclopedia by various editors. (The tv show "Lost" was and will always remain my greatest obsession, so I've been sucking in all the minutia in this huge tome. And I have loved it!)

Books I can't wait to read this year--

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. (As I do each year, I will re-read my favorite all over again.)

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. (I recently realized--after I found a gorgeous hardback copy at the used bookstore--that the last time I read this classic was when I was in the fourth grade. I think it's time to read it again.)

3. A bunch more young adult books. (For some reason, young adult literature really strikes me lately as some of the best written stuff out there.)

4. The Bible by You Know Who. (As always, I'm gonna do my best and read it more than I did the year before.)

5. All those books in the above pictures. And a lot more than that.

And now you know the drill...

I would LOVE to know what books you read and loved last year. And I'd love to know what's on your to-read list for this next year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Words for this New Year

I have a thing for words.

And it makes sense that I do. I’m a writer by trade, and an avid reader by choice. Words, then, are part of what I do and what I am.

Words soothe me, speak to me, and make me sigh. They transport, transfix, and transcend. I, for a lack of better words (yeah, I meant to do that), have a thing for them.

Lately, I’ve expanded my love for words from the page and moved it to the walls and shelves of my home. I’ve decided that my interior design of choice revolves not around a certain color, or really awesome pillows, or a preponderance of chickens (which, in the South, is actually considered normal, even “cool”), but around words.

I’ve become a bit of an amateur collector of signs and paintings and knick-knacks with words on them.

There is the standing “Amore” on my fireplace mantel that reminds me of the sweet husband who often sits with me in front of that roaring fire on chilly, winter evenings.

There is the hanging that used to decorate my bathroom wall until the steaming showers buckled the back and destroyed its hanging abilities. I couldn’t throw it away and it now rests on a window sill where its word—“Story”—is now available for everyone (and not just bathroom visitors) to enjoy. It reminds me that we all (each and every one of us) has a story.

There is the “W” which hangs on my den wall. Okay, it’s not actually a word, but the letter is a pretty powerful one for our family; it unites all of us and reminds us that we are The Ws (even my oldest daughter by my first marriage shares a W for her last name).

There is the tin “PRAY” (my best “word” deal of all; $1.49 at my local Hobby Lobby) that hangs behind a sitting chair in my living room. Whenever I sit in that chair, or in any other spot in that room, I see the short word and it reminds me that prayer is available to me right there at that moment, in whatever circumstances I find myself.

There are the three individual white block letters, “J,” “O,” and “Y” that I painted one Christmas years ago to use as a prop for a holiday family photograph. The picture turned out just like I wanted to, but instead of packing up the letters once Christmas was over, I kept them out throughout the next year. I love seeing the word “Joy” on my bookshelf everyday; it reminds me of what I continue to learn as I grow older every day: Joy—in the big, in the small; in the grand, in the simple—is really key to living fully.

Other words pop up throughout the house—“Dream” and “Wine” and “Sydney” and “Roll Tide,” and “Live, Laugh, Love,” and “Welcome”—in prominent places, on display so that I can be reminded of what’s really important (see how I got in college football as a priority?).

With the new year upon us, I’ve heard of many people doing a little twist on the resolution-thing. Instead of resolving to take certain actions or stop a bad habit, they are instead selecting a word for their upcoming year—a word that epitomizes what they aspire to be, how they want to improve, what they yearn for in the next 365 days.

I love that idea (of course I would), but I’m having a hard time nailing down what word I would want to claim as my own for 2011.

There are many that would be worthy.

Words like Improve. There are so many areas I’d like to improve on in the new year…don’t eat so many donuts, be a more patient mother, be a better pray-er, watch less Netflix at 1 in the morning, don’t judge quite so harshly…that it would be an excellent word to choose.

Or how about Commit? A new year is all about committing to do something (or things) you have fallen behind on doing in the past. In this year, I want to commit to walking two miles a day, avoiding fast food, serving more in my church, querying an editor each day, learning to use coupons. In this year, I want to commit to being a better mother, wife, friend, writer, cook, Christian, human.

Or Learn. I’ve always believed that a key to living a long life is committing yourself to a life of learning. I want, this year (as always), to learn more about stuff…small things (how to drink the right wine with the right cheese), big stuff (what’s really going on out there in the universe), inconsequential things (who sang that song?), vastly important things (how God speaks to me). I want to read more books, learn more words, gather more knowledge, understand more truths.

Or…and I love the way this word rolls off my tongue…Revel. I love people who revel in life. You know those people, right? They can find joy in the small things; a smile is on their face much of the time; they just look like they’re supremely enjoying their walk through this life. I want to be that kind of person, so I think revel is a great word for 2011. I want to revel in the birds, and the snow (you wouldn’t believe how much we’ve gotten in the last week here in Alabama!), and friends, and cake, and family, and books, and music, and church, and trees, and art, and jokes, and places, and people.

So, I’m not sure which word I want to claim as my own this year. Maybe all of those together would work well.

Or maybe I should just choose the word Live.

I once heard a quote that went something like this (I can’t remember the exact wording, and Google didn’t help me find it): “Life is like a canvas. We should throw all the paint on it we can.”

In the grand scheme of things (and in the little scheme of things as well), this what it’s really all about. I want to truly Live. I want to experience this life with meaning and joy. I want to truly live (not just breathe in, breathe out; not just get up and go through the motions; not just sleepwalk; not just manage) every, single day.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Our Christmas Celebrations...via Some Favorite Photos

As we venture into 2011 (Happy New Year to all of you. I hope this next year is your best ever!), I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures from our Christmas celebrations over the past month.

Christmas starts off with decorating the house. Nutcrackers are my favorite holiday collectible, so I decided to do something different this year and put them on my mantle. I really liked how that turned out!

And then I LOVE my white tree. Especially with its disco ball ornament.

(By the way, my Christmas decorations are still up and intact. I take mine down on January 6, which marks the official end of the Christmas season on the church calendar. Besides, that way I can enjoy them all a little bit longer and not have the stress of bringing them all down.)

We also listened to a lot of good music during the holiday season. Our CD of choice was the Glee Christmas CD.

Christmas, of course, is incomplete without a visit with Santa. The second picture gives evidence that he and Sydney were having quite a conversation.

The children's Christmas play at our church is a highlight of the season and many people say that it really kicks it all off (after the play, you're in the spirit whether you're ready or not!). This year, Sydney had a big speaking role and a solo. She did quite fabulously!

One of the highlights of the season for me is the party we have at church for underprivileged children in our community. My good friend, Ryan, serves as Santa Claus; this year, Sydney helped out in costume; and we provided presents for a bunch of kids. It's always a humbling and meaningful experience.

We always try and enjoy some Christmas "culture" (yes, even in Alabama we have it!), so we ventured as a family to see the Alabama Ballet performance of "The Nutcracker." As we left, however, it began to we stopped to take a couple of pictures as it began to flurry.

And then, at the performance, a picture of Gary and I all bundled up.

We decided to take a family portrait of the grandkids for Gary's parents. After a few failed (and humorous) attempts, we got a couple that we really liked.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is our favorite Christmas movie of them all and it's especially wonderful when you see it at the beautiful, vintage Alabama Theatre.

I decided to have a little girls-night-out Christmas party, and it turned out to be quite a blast. I decorated a red-and-white dessert table, had martinis, and invited some of my sweetest gal friends (McKenna's boyfriend also showed up, which was a treat as well).

The first family celebration is a Christmas Eve Brunch at my parents' house, where I got these cute picture of the girls (and one showing their silly side).

We then venture to Gary's parents' house for Christmas Eve dinner. This year, we bucked tradition and had an Italian menu for the dinner. It was quite delicious and a great idea! I also got another cute picture of McKenna and Delaney while we were there.

And Sydney and I enjoyed the beginning of snow flurries. (And, yes, believe it or not...we had a semi-White Christmas in Alabama! We had flurries pretty much all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day long, even though it didn't stick for long. But we're still considering that White!)

Back at our house, the girls eagerly anticipated opening presents from Gary and I, and also from each other.

Sydney wrote a special note for Santa Claus. (And as it is quite obvious, this note was just from HER.)

Santa apparently liked her letter because he (aka Gary) brought me all sorts of fantastic presents (two of which really fed the Nerd in me!) and brought Sydney the Rapunzel castle she wanted so badly!

I pray that you all had a wonderful, wonderful Christmas season and that you are anticipating all sorts of good things for 2011.

Thank you for spending another year with me here on my blog. I love you all!!!!