Friday, December 28, 2007

A Family Tradition?

This year was the year of family traditions. I can be a little too legalistic about them sometimes, wanting to make something a tradition if you do it once and really like it. Saying that it should be a "tradition and do it every year". I think that some traditions are kind of hokey, and a little overdone, but then some are very fun. Now that our little girl is 3, it seems like we should be setting the traditions in place, being consistent from year to year, to make sure that we have them set. (see what i mean about the legalism?)

The first one we made was to get our Christmas tree on the first Friday of December. (Who knows if we'll really be able to keep that up)

Then, I got a gingerbread house that we decorated on Christmas Eve. We thought it would be fun to always do a Gingerbread house together - since none of us had ever done one before, and it was a fun family activity. You know, we could get better at it every year, and do more elaborate ones each year. I have these ridiculous visions of our kids being in their teens and twenties and still loving the Gingerbread house tradition. (yeah right)

Growing up, usually I got to open one present on Christmas Eve, so after taking a lengthy vote and trying to get the baby to nod his head in our favor, we decided to continue that tradition and all open one gift. He liked sitting on the present better, and tearing it open of course.

The regular things like stockings,

and birthday streamers and cake for Jesus on Christmas morning.

Watching Christmas movies and baking pies, reading Christmas stories, decorating, fun times opening presents on Christmas morning.

But you know, it gets to be a lot of stuff. Even the good stuff, gets to be a lot. And the more traditions you have, the more you do. And so, I think that what I want to make sure of, is being able to do fun things with our family, and if it's different every year, that's fine. I'd hate to be one of those people who make the family do the Gingerbread house every year, even though no one really wants to do it, but because it's "always" done, we have to do it. I'd much rather be flexible enough to just enjoy doing whatever it is that we all want to do.

My mom loved the much that many times we would go over the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, you get the picture. So Christmas at the beach is really great to me. I was very excited because this year, my husbands family decided to be all together at the beach. Something I love about their family is that they play games. And not just like Go Fish. Real games like Capture the Flag, beach miniature golf, relays, horseshoes, ping pong, Pit, Balderdash, Bocce, etc. One game that they always do at Christmas time is the gag gift game. It was my daughters first time playing, and she definitely enjoyed it. But that's why it's fun to do traditions. Not because it's the same thing every year, but because you all get to partake in a fun, out of the ordinary thing. And it's never about winning with them, or the competition. We will sometimes even do silly things like create such outlandish games that you totally mess them up, and then laugh until your sides ache. From the youngest to the oldest, we all will play, and just enjoy being together. It's those types of traditions that really create memories, and end of being the kind of valuable experiences that make you love getting together with family. I love that my kids get to be a part of such a fun family. Hopefully, we'll pass that on to them.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Something About a Boy

Lately I've been thinking about my little boy, and how he's such a boy! I mean, I used to hate the phrase, "He's all boy!" Like, some boys aren't "all boy" and some are - I mean, if they're a boy, they're a boy; they might like music and art instead of sports and fishing, but they're still "all boy". But more recently I've come to understand a little more why people use that phrase when describing their boy. Here's a little bit about my boy.

He's always on the move!

He has taken quite well to terrorizing his older sister. She gives him just the reaction he's hoping for!

He doesn't just grab something. He grabs it, and usually throws it, or breaks it, or both. Ok, just for the record, I don't think River ever broke anything, and Asher breaks stuff all the time. Pulls it apart, bashes it on the floor, throws it across the room, etc.

He chases after what he wants with all his might.

He snuggles up close when he needs his down time.

He's happiest when he's eating.

He is a reckless explorer.

He's already almost stronger than me.

He doesn't give up easily...rather, he puts up quite a fight.

He's such a love! And he loves so much!

The other night, I was holding him before I laid him in his bed, and I had the thought that I wish he could stay my baby for longer than he is. Not that I don't want him to grow up, but just how fast it happens, sometimes, feels as if time is being taken from you. And all you can do is let it pass.

Tonight, as I was listening to one of my favorite Christmas songs (what other kind of music can you listen to the week before Christmas?!) about Mary and Joseph coming to know Jesus as their baby, but also as the Messiah, I listened again to the chorus I love so much.

"Have you cursed at the wind? Have you cried to the heavens? Have you fought with this mercy you don't understand?"

I think sometimes it's so easy to forget that as Mary and Joseph came to love this beautiful baby boy, and watch him grow and learn, and play and laugh, they also had to let go of him. And be willing to give Him over to the "death that would bring us new life." What an incredible hardship. To know your child, and to love them, and to know that He is God's Son, but to still know what he would have to go through. And for you, his parent. That his death would bring your life.

Knowing how much I love my own son, I appreciate so much more, the gift that was given to us at Christmas. From our Father, giving up his Son. And realizing how hard it must have been for Mary and Joseph. Knowing now, how much I love to hold my son, and how I cherish those moments of him being a sweet baby, and being so close to him, having him need me so much. I'm so thankful that Jesus was so willing to pay the price for us all. That he came knowing what lay ahead, and yet, he still chose to come.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Consider it Joy

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. ~ James 1:2

I know that for me, I do not naturally rejoice when I face trials.  Rather, I inwardly shake my head at them, despise them, and try everything I can to get rid of them.  Being a parent has had it's fair share of struggles, but none so hard as to watch my own child(ren) begin to struggle with the same things that I have struggled through in this world.  Even though she's only 3, she's already learning about persevering through trials.  Now, these are not life changing tragedies, or suffering as many children in this world may know. But, still, they are trials that my little girl is beginning to face.
Just a few months ago, my daughter began dance.  She absolutely loved it, and as you can see, has even taken to being in dance clothes all the time; pretending she is in dance, or on her way to dance, or changing into dance clothes at school getting ready for dance, etc. etc. 
One day while we were talking, I mentioned excitedly that dance was that day.  And it was the first time I saw sadness about it.  She looked up at me, and then kind of slouched down, sighed, and then threw her head in her hands and said, "But, Mom, I can't do the HIP!"  and I knew what she meant.  She meant she couldn't skip, or hop.  Combined, it comes out as "hip".  My heart sank, as I realized that she had realized that she wasn't doing what the other children were able to do, and that she was really trying to do it, but just couldn't get it.  So, we tried to work on it, and every week, she went to dance, and every week, she galloped, and did not skip.  And, I cheered every week when she came out, even though I knew that she knew, and she knew that I knew, that she hadn't skipped.  But she had tried.

Last week, I had to go somewhere, and when I came back to pick her up, her dance teacher came out with her, and said really loud, "She skipped!"  I could tell that River was beaming, and as proud as she could be.  Of course, I hated myself for not being there, and seeing the result of so much determination and effort.  But I knew there would be another chance.  

And there was.

This week was parent observation week.  It was really fun to go in and be there up close, and be able to see her being excited about dance class, and all that she's doing.  It came time for the across the floor stuff, and she lined up, where she knew she was to be...first.  I think because she's the smallest, and they go smallest to tallest.  Ms. Suzanne stood at one end of the room, and the girls lined up on the other side, ready to skip all the way to her, and then jump up and hit the drum when they reached her.  When Ms. Suzanne had said that she had skipped, I just pictured in my head a normal paced skip, slow, but steady, around the room.  Well, my little one, wasn't quite that fast.  She was precious.  

She took one step, and then held that leg up, and hopped.  Then the other foot, step, up, hop.  The other, step, up hop, step, up hop, step, up, hop.  Slowly, mind you, very slowly, she made her way, all the way to Ms. Suzanne.
Without fear, without insecurity, just knowing, she put her mind to it, and however long it would take, she would make it.

And she did.

My eyes were wet with tears, and I knew that she had been able to have joy in the midst of the struggle.  She had persevered through, and come out on the other side. 

This is when I had first started taking dance.
I had to find this pic when I had taken the one of her in the same pose.  The only difference is my wonder woman band aid on my forehead.   

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pics from the Trip

you might be thinking, oh it's not as big i as i thought...
but this is only a side view.

the front entrance
"just" a window

happy after having a delicious brunch

one of the outer porticos

or was it mr. green in the conservatory with a rope

this was the first thing we saw when we walked into the inn...
merry christmas!
a close up of the fun presents - don't you want them to be yours?!

relaxing, and thinking how yummy those cookies look

one last look

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Get-Away to Remember

I have the luxury of blogging by a ginormous fire, with no children interrupting, and no distractions pulling my attention away. My husbands generous parents blessed us with a much needed get-away to the Biltmore Estate for Christmas. It has been so fun! Truly amazing, this place!! We hadn't been away together in over a year, so it has been great! However, as always in my life, there have been plenty of little adventures to accompany our trip, and make it more...let's say, interesting! So, I'll warn you ahead of time, this will be a long-winded entry and an unedited entry with some embarrassing moments.

Before we even left home, we had a pretty busy week with lots going on. You know, sleepless nights, busy days, sick child, work, play, Christmas decorating, laundry, etc. So, on Friday, since we hadn't gotten it yet, my daughter and I decided that it would be really fun to make a new tradition, and get our Christmas tree on the first Friday of December. I'm never ahead of the game enough to get decorations out right after Thanksgiving, and I like leaving the tree up until after my birthday in January, so, I figure it's the perfect time to get it. So, instead of taking time Friday night to pack and get ready for our trip, I spent it with the family, getting our tree, and then hot chocolate and hot Krispy Kreme donuts (you can't start a tradition without including something yummy to go with it - and let me just say CHOCOLATETIME! Even being a dessert snob, these are delicious little delicacies!) All that to say, I didn't pack until late Friday night, when my mind was very tired.

We start out, and are having a great time, chatting and laughing, and then I realize that we don't have any Christmas music on. And, I mean, I'm wanting to hear Christmas music the whole time, because it's our Christmas get-away, and our Christmas present, and you know, you HAVE to have Christmas music. So, I reach down to get the cd case with all the Christmas music, and I realize, I didn't grab it off the foyer table. So I say to Randy, "Did you grab the cd case?" Even though I knew that he hadn't because I remember seeing it out of the corner of my eye shortly before leaving. The "No" came as blow, feeling so mad that I didn't have the perfect music that I had so desperately wanted. So, I frantically fumble through all of my cds in the car, and finally breathe again when I see my favorite Christmas cd, and shout "YES!" happily feeling rescued, even though I know how ridiculous it is that it would spoil the drive for me. I put it on, and start relaxing... again.

We continue on, again, having a gay old time, when suddenly CRACK!! POP!!! CRACK!!! And the windshield is hit hard, and cracked in 3 places by an oversized truck riding the shoulder. Now, Randy was driving and was back at least 100 ft., so it wasn't like I was driving and tailing the guy. So, I spend the next 20 minutes on the phone with the insurance company figuring out how we're going to get it taken care of. But, pretty easily it's dealt with, and then back to our fun.

So as we continue to Asheville, I say to Randy, did you get the camera? (Knowing I don't remember seeing it packed.) He chuckles as he says how even yesterday a friend reminded him to get the camera, but still we forgot it. So we decided to make our first stop on our vacation, a stop in at Best Buy (romantic, huh?) and finally buy a digital camera. But it was fun to shop without kids, and actually be able to go together to pick it out. So on our way, again.

We get downtown Asheville, and love it! We went through a street market, and then grabbed lunch at a great little cafe called True Confections where they make everything there, and everything from scratch, and even enjoyed sitting outside in the wonderful warm fall day. It was all delicious.

As we drove out of Asheville and onto the Biltmore, we look at a map, and it looks like we take 40 W a little bit farther, and then exit for the estate. So, we get back on the interstate, and drive a little, and a little bit more...and a little bit Biltmore signs. I decide I'll call just to check and make sure we're going the right way. Turns out, we weren't. We were at about exit 15, and the exit for Biltmore is exit 50. We turn around, and decide that we just got to enjoy more of the western part of the state. When do we actually get to just drive around in the mountains? But, we did have to get over the initial 45 min. detour.

We arrive at the Estate at check in time, and are welcomed in by all we see. They were all so nice! We had a good time getting settle into our room, and just enjoyed getting ready for our evening slowly. I took time to pluck my eyebrows in one of those gigantic mirrors that they sometimes have at nice hotels. That was awesome. And you know, just kind of spent time doing all the things that I don't usually do when I get ready. Put eye shadow on and not just mascara in a rush.

Our dinner reservations aren't until 8, and so we figure, we can ride the shuttle over to the house, and walk around a little bit in the house, and then catch the shuttle over to the Bistro a few minutes before our reservation. These are clearly the thoughts of someone who has never been to the Biltmore. When we got downstairs, we realized we had just missed the 6:15 shuttle, but there would be another one at 6:30. So, we think, ok, we'll just wait a few minutes, but we'll still have about an hour at the house before we need to get to dinner. We get on the shuttle, and Ralph, the driver begins our commute. He lets us know we'll be making a few stops before getting to the house, and we'll probably arrive at the house around 7:10. WHAT? It takes 40 minutes? We ended up riding the shuttle all the way to the house, but after talking more with Ralph about our itinerary, we decide it will be best to stay on the shuttle, and go back to the Bistro then. So we get to the Bistro about 7:30, and actually have time to have a tour of the Winery and a tasting of the estate wines. Perfect! Also, the hour shuttle tour, gave us an hour with Ralph, who knew all types of Biltmore trivia that we couldn't have read or heard anywhere else. As one of the other shuttle passengers said later, "He was like 100 years old, I mean, he knew what he was talking about." You'll hear about him later.

Ok, this is where, if you're a man, you may not want to read. If "feminine" subjects make you get uncomfortable, just stop reading.

As we're walking through the winery, I get a little distracted, because I realize I'm starting my period. And did I take my purse - NO! I thought it would be just a little walk down to the house, or back up to the inn. Not a 40 min. shuttle ride. Do we have any cash? Of course not. Everything's paid for. What do I have in my pocket? Lip gloss. That's it. No quarters, no supplies, no nothing. And, I'm wearing a skirt, too. Nice, huh. So, I go to the restroom and they do have the machines where you can get tampons and things, but you know, no one's in there for me to ask if they have a quarter. And not to mention it's 8 o'clock, and we're about to be late for our reservation. And our candlelight tour is at 9:30, which means we have to be on the shuttle by 9:00 - not a lot of time to take the shuttle back to the inn, and then back to the house.

So we go on up to the restaurant, and I don't know what to do. I mean, if we go back to the inn, we miss our dinner, and we hadn't eaten since 1:00, and we wouldn't have another chance. But if we went after dinner, we'd miss our tour. The whole reason for going. So, we're sitting at our table, and trying to figure things out. Randy's plan is to go down to the gift shop and buy something (one of the yummy bottles of wine) and then get cash back, if that's an option. Our waitress comes up and she's super nice. Everyone there is sooo nice! And she's a really good waitress, too, with really good descriptions, and lots of helpful opinions, etc. So, she leaves and we begin to problem solve again, mind you, REALLY needing to make a decision. So she comes up again, and I just know, I have to ask our poor waitress for a quarter. I have to take some of her tips to go get myself a stupid tampon. I tell you, pretty humiliating. So, I say, "I have to ask you a really random, and pretty awkward question. I just started my period, and I don't have any supplies, and I don't have any cash. Can I borrow a quarter so I can go down and get something in the bathroom?" And she's so sweet. She says, "Of course! Oh my gosh, yes, and don't even worry about it." I told her we would compensate her in her tip. That makes me laugh really hard. It was so bad.

Ok, so that being said, the evening began to get more relaxed. We had a fabulous dinner, and every time the waitress came to the table, I felt like she kind of gave me the "Are you ok?" smile, but never mentioned it again. We did not get dessert, which was very sad, but we were already at our max for time.

We get back on the shuttle, and there are a couple of couples already on there that are about our age. So I think, "Oh good, the later evening younger crowd." So on we go. This driver is not quite as informative as Ralph, but he likes to tell more of the rumored ghost stories of the Biltmore, rather than the interesting facts, but it's really funny to hear. And especially the guy who keeps talking about the Gators. How the Gators rock, and "Whooo-Whoo! GATORS!" I'm not kidding. Someone would be talking about something else, and somehow him being a Gator fan got brought into the subject. I lean over and start talking about the Pirates with Randy, and the bowl game they're going to. I almost Arrggghhed at him, but I withheld.

So, then the two couples start bickering about who owns the Biltmore estate. One guy thinks that the government took it over years ago, but the Gator guy's wife knew the history of it still being in the family, but how the other guys dad, blah blah blah. OMG who cares?! I'm just kidding, I really did care, but the arguing? Come on. So we get to the house, and the line is so long, but we show our tickets, and since we're there a little after our ticket time, they escort us right up to the house. And in we go. However, so do the Gator pack. AND THEY'RE STILL BICKERING! So, I tell Randy I can't handle being beside them for the entire tour through the house. Loud Gator guy being all "whoo-whoo" and all. So we ditch them and try to get up ahead and squeeze into the group without being too suspicious.

So we're in the tour, and I look back and see the couples in the room behind us, STILL ARGUING about who owns the house! But, I don't mind because we're in the next room. So I start to really take in the house, and am getting into all the fixtures, walls, fabrics, stonework, when I hear the guy behind me go to the guy next to him, "Hey man, did you ever see the "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode where Ray's mom Marie makes the statue of, you know, (ok, unfortunately, i've seen the episode, so i of course know exactly what he's referencing). But she can't see what it looks like. But everyone else can? Yea, it's really funny. Kinda reminds me of this."

Let me just say, that I am soooo glad that I married the man I married. And that I have a greater appreciation for the men out there that talk about more things than sports and tv. Because apparently, they're aren't that many. All night, we were hearing things. It was really funny. We laughed so much. We also really, really enjoyed seeing the amazing home of George W. Vanderbilt. It's truly unbelievable how vast and intricate it is. And being Christmas, it was decorated beautifully.

I think what I love about how we do things, is that we never have it so planned out that there isn't room for adventure. I mean, sure in the midst of it, I'm thinking "Why didn't we call and ask ahead of time?" or "Why wasn't I thinking!" But at the same time, if every time something bad or inconvenient happened it ruined your time, that would make for a pretty frustrating existence. Not that I'm a pro at just letting things go, but at the same time, this weekend was definitely a time that I could practice.

This morning, amazingly enough, we had a great time of drinking coffee and reading in the Word, and praying by our huge windows that looked out onto the vast expanse of land.
And it was truly wonderful.

As we packed up and were getting ready to leave the room, Randy says, "Where's the valet ticket?" And here we go again.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

13 going on 30

my baby is already one, my little girl dresses herself and asks if she can borrow my watch, my smart and talented husband has began a business doing exactly what he loves, and i am able to be a full time stay at home mom, with a great (couple of) jobs on the side.   i feel like my life is passing so quickly, and i really am growing up.   not just getting older, but really seeing my life develop into the life that i've had waiting for me. 

the life that i didn't know was waiting for me at the young age of 13, as i dreamed of being a wife and a mother (you know, the supermodel looking mom, that all the other kids want as their mom because of how cool and awesome she is), an architect (because i liked to build card houses), a designer (i loved drawing out room designs- especially of my beach house, with the aquarium lined hallway and huge bay window over the kitchen sink that looked straight out at the ocean because, you know, it was an oceanfront house, of course), a teacher (i love kids, and have always known i would work with them - a teacher seemed to fit), a marine biologist...(that dream lasted a few years, but then i realized all i really wanted with that was to scuba dive and spend time at the beach.   so instead, i got certified to scuba dive, and went to the beach more.   much more achievable, without so many lab hours.)

point is, i'm approaching my 30th birthday and cannot believe that i am going to be in the same age range of how old my parents were when i remember asking them how old they were for the first time, and their answer being 33, or 34, or even 38.   i mean, it's in the same's JUST AROUND THE CORNER!

so i'm choosing to believe that "30 is the new 20", which i have no idea where i first heard, but i love and am going to claim it as my new slogan.   i think i am going to have it put on a T-shirt.

one of my best friend's birthdays is tomorrow, which means that mine is only a month away, and the big 3-0 will be here.   so happy birthday, friend, and thanks for paving the way.   i'm right there behind you.    and i'm pretty excited.   even though my house looks very different than the one i designed when i was 13, and my days are a lot crazier than i expected them to be, i wouldn't want to be anywhere else doing anything else.    i like being able to see who this grown up 13 year old is becoming.