Friday Favorites No. 2

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Sienna ran a 5k with her running club last Saturday in Charlotte, and David did it with her.  She loves running and really enjoys the accomplishment of finishing a race.  It was an unexpected surprise when her coach called later that morning to say she had won 1st place for girls in her age group!  She was so excited and pleased that her hard work had won her a gold medal!  Henry was completely transfixed by the live music on the main stage.  It was a COLD morning!  It was the first time we all pulled our heavy winter coats out!

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Charlie’s soccer club had their tournament weekend last week as well, and after some ups and downs during the season, they ended up winning all three of their games!  Charlie has made a lot of improvement over the season, and again, he felt so good to get a gold medal for all of his hard work!  I could only be there for the second game (it was a busy weekend!), but watching Charlie’s team play is so much more interesting to me than any sports games on TV!  I could care less about the pros, but I’m completely engrossed in watching these first graders!

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Sienna went on her first church retreat last weekend with the other fourth and fifth graders.  It was held at a camp in the area, which was beautiful.  (Of course I forgot to take a picture of her there!)  She played games, went ziplining, stayed up late, sang songs, and hopefully grew closer to God.  🙂  She had an amazing time!

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We had fun at our neighborhood block party on Saturday. It was nice to meet some neighbors we didn’t know and chat with those we do.  Plus fire pits + roasting giant marshmallows = joy!

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I met my friend Kathryn again for coffee this week, and the coffee stirrers proved to be more fun for Henry to play with than the toys he brought.  It was fun checking out all the Christmas stuff at Target with him afterwards!

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I just finished reading this book with a small mentoring group that I’m in.  It said a lot of things that I know are true, but are always good to be reminded of, about how chasing perfection is damaging to our self-image, relationships with friends, and relationships with our husbands and children.  She presents a great, simple “antidote” to what she calls the “perfection infection,” which includes choosing to replace specific negative emotions with positive ones, and letting go off expectations.  It was easy to read and a great reminder to me to let go of striving for an unrealistic ideal that doesn’t exist.  Most times I do this without even realizing it, so this helped me remember to be more aware as well!
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I went to have lunch with Charlie again on Thursday, followed by a fun presentation in his classroom.  Each student read out facts about Thanksgiving, and then they all sang some Thanksgiving songs.  It was really sweet!  They had cookies and drinks, which each student served to their parent first, before going back in line and waiting to get some for themselves.  Their teacher had them do this because the Pilgrim children would always serve their parents food and then wait and eat after the adults were finished!  Hearing facts about the lifestyle of the Pilgrims made me really thankful for the way we live now, with all of our modern conveniences!  Even if it means that my children are not serving me food every day.  🙂

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Autumn leaves!  They’re fun to play with, but I like them best on the tree and full of color.  I saw some gorgeous fall colors this morning on a walk I took with Henry, which brings me to…

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I enjoyed a really pretty walk this morning with Henry!  The air was very brisk, and the sunlight still had that early morning glow, which highlighted the autumn leaves so beautifully.  It was a perfect fall morning.

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No view can compare with this face though!

I hope you had a great week too!

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A Weekend in Savannah – Part 1

As I mentioned last week, two weekends ago we visited Savannah for the first time.  David had been training for months to run his second marathon with our friend Jonathan, so our two families decided to stay together to turn the marathon trip into a mini getaway!  Jonathan and Judith’s children are older than ours, so they just had their youngest son, Isaac, (who is 13) with them on this trip.  I felt a little bad for him because my boys were clamoring for his attention, but he was so patient and kind with them!  Our friends had already been to Savannah before and stayed on Tybee Island, so we did the same.  It worked out really well.  It’s an easy drive into Savannah from the island and takes 30 minutes at the most.  It is so scenic, and downtown Savannah is quaint and beautiful.  I can’t get over the TREES!  All of that moss hanging from the twisting oak branches is stunning.  As soon as we arrived in Savannah, we went to the race expo so David could pick up his running bib.

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It was the Rock n Roll Marathon, so Henry loved seeing guitars everywhere!!
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Then we met our friends for lunch and a stroll through Savannah.

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This is Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah.  I heard it’s standard Southern fare, but I liked the worn brick exterior!dsc_0283

The city is filled with small, pedestrian squares with seating areas and monuments in each one.  And more of those gorgeous trees!  It’s definitely a pedestrian friendly city.  I was surprised by how few traffic lights we came across, but most of the drivers showed Southern hospitality and graciously stopped for pedestrians.  (How many times can I use the word “pedestrian” in a paragraph? 🙂 )

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Henry was sweeping the ground with a tree branch.

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And sweeping all of the benches.  There must be a way I can capitalize on that in our house!

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Forsyth Park is right in the middle of Savannah and was really pretty.  It contains a fountain that is famous for being featured in the film, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  Have you ever seen that? Do you recognize the fountain?  I’ve never seen the movie, but would like to now, if it’s set in Savannah!dsc_0304

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After our walk and time in the park, we headed to our holiday house on Tybee Island and ate a big dinner!  I participated in a lot of carb-loading, despite the fact that I wasn’t running.  I liken it to husbands gaining sympathy weight during their wife’s pregnancy.  It’s like my duty as a wife, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

Saturday was RACE DAY!  It was really cold in the morning!  I’m still getting used to Southern fall weather, which can be frigid in the morning and t-shirt weather in the afternoon.  The first marathon David ran was the New York City marathon, which was MUCH more crowded and stressful for spectators.  However, I went with just my sister so we were able to dash around and hop on Subways to watch David at a few different spots.  Because of the layout of the course in Savannah, plus the fact that we had three young children with us, we just cheered for the guys right around 8 1/2 miles and then at the finish line.

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They were looking great at this point!  We didn’t find out until later that David had hurt his calf somehow around three miles in and seriously thought he might not finish the race.  I am so thankful for Jonathan, who stayed with him and prayed with him, despite the face that David kept telling him to keep going without him.  They stuck together the entire race and crossed the finish line together.dsc_0396

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Our friend Shane was also running in the race and it was fun to see him and cheer him on too!

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 The kids worked on these posters to encourage our runners, but we realized that we didn’t have one for Shane!  So Isaac had the idea to add a little addendum to the poster on the left.  Can you see it?img_3806

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Shane loved it! 🙂

You may be wondering what we did with the kids for the long period of time between mile 8 and mile 26.  We strolled over to Forsyth Park, where the race was ending, and played in the playground!  On the way we stopped to see the Candler Oak tree next to the park, which is estimated to be about 300 years old.

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Henry’s trying for peace signs.  He got one and a half!

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They had live music and some other fun things set up after the race, but we just headed back to our cars, after taking a few pictures, of course!

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We took a few family group pictures (like you do when you have kids) – and I just had to put up the progression of Henry’s facial expressions.  I couldn’t stop laughing!

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Haha!  I don’t even know where that bottom expression came from!

Ok, that’s enough for today!  I’ll put up the rest of the pictures soon!

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Friday Favorites No. 1

1-img_3794-2Last week, Sienna went on a field trip and brought some of her own spending money for the gift shop.  She came back having not only bought herself something, but also surprised us by getting an arrowhead for David and the boys and a pair of earrings for me!  It was really sweet to see her generous spirit in action!  I’m wearing the earrings she bought me in the picture above.  I love the turquoise color!

2-dsc_0310 We spent a beautiful weekend in Savannah with friends, because David and our friend Jonathan ran the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon down there.  We stayed on Tybee Island, which has a gorgeous beach, and also had time to stroll downtown Savannah.  It was our first time visiting that city, but it won’t be our last!  I’m writing a separate post about our trip, but here’s a little peek:

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3-dsc_0337I’m always proud when I see David run at an event, and this was no exception.  There is also a great attitude of encouragement among the spectators of a big race, and I love the energy in the air!  Without fail, every time the thought runs through my mind that maybe I should attempt a half, just to feel the rush of crossing the finish line with all of that encouragement!  Then I come to my senses!

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I love the colors of fall.  And beautiful autumn sunsets.  God is the best artist in the world.

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I had a great morning on Wednesday meeting up with my friend Kathryn and her daughter.  We grabbed fancy drinks at Starbucks (I tried a salted caramel mocha with half syrup for the first time and it was AMAZING), then walked to Chick-fil-a to get some food for the little guys and let them play in the inside playspace.  Well, it was being deep cleaned and sanitized, so the poor kids had to entertain themselves for an hour while waiting for the workers to be finished.  I’m sure the playground has never been that clean before when they’ve been in it!  At least, until another kid in there decided to spit chewed up food onto the steps of the playset.  Fortunately, that was right about when we needed to leave anyway so I could be mystery reader in Charlie’s class.  I love when I can surprise the kids by doing something in their classrooms.  It doesn’t happen very much now that Sienna is older, but I still get to sign up for things in Charlie’s class sometimes.  I stayed and had lunch with him.  He was so excited!!

6- stranger-thingsSTRANGER THINGS – David and I took a little over a week to watch this show (we didn’t watch every night, but doubled up some nights!) and I was completely addicted! It’s a Netflix original and at just 8 episodes it has almost instant gratification.  I normally don’t like sci-fi that much and I hate horror, but I loved this.  It has some great characters (I love the little gang of outcast middle school boys), great acting, extreme suspense, laughs, major conspiracies, and the entire thing feels like a show birthed in my childhood, because it’s set in the 80’s and pays homage to all of the popular films of the same genre from that time period.  Although I had to watch more than a few scenes through my fingers (you just KNOW something is going to jump out at you!) the scares don’t stick with you once the episode is over. What does remain are the questions that are raised, and although the ending of season 1 was satisfying, I’m excited that they are already working on season 2!  I would highly recommend this show for adults who like suspense and don’t mind some scary bits, occasional bad language, and poor judgment on the part of teenagers (that can be extremely frustrating to watch)! (Image from netflix.com)

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Starbucks is having a Buy One Get One Free holiday drink sale through Monday!!  I am going to use this opportunity to meet Kathryn for another fancy coffee drink and try the Caramel Brulee Latte!!  I just started drinking coffee a couple of months ago and can finally understand how people spend a fortune at Starbucks.  I need to limit my exposure to Starbucks, or I might find myself spending way too much money there (and gaining ten pounds in the process!)  (Image from momsbyheart.net)

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Halloween Weekend in Pictures

Ok, get ready for picture overload!  This post is probably best for the grandparents, family, and my dearest friends.  (Friends: if I ask you a question about something in this post and you don’t know the answer then I’ll know where our relationship stands).  😉  We had a great weekend and a fun Halloween night!  We kicked it off by (finally) carving our Jack-o-lanterns on Friday night.dsc_0265-1

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The kids made designs on paper first, then drew them onto the pumpkins.

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I took this picture just to show that the kids disappeared rather quickly once they were done drawing on the pumpkins!  Henry said he wanted his pumpkin to say “hi” so this is what we came up with!

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Charlie’s was rather detailed.  He was actually disappointed when I said I couldn’t carve out the words, “BOO BOO.”  Haha!

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On Saturday, we went to a fall festival at a local park.  The kids were a ninja, an Odd Squad agent, and a witch.

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You can see our sweet friend Carol’s foot there next to the pile of toilet paper – after Henry’s fifth unsuccessful attempt to knock them down, she gave him a little helpful nudge!

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Watch out, Batgirl!  There’s a ninja behind you!  It was fun to run into some friends!

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Saturday night we went to a friend’s fall party/bonfire night.  The big kids had fun shooting a bb gun for the first time!

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Actually, Charlie had fun…once was enough for Sienna!

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I love spending time with girlfriends.  It’s a bonus when our kids like to play together too!

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Tonight was beautiful weather to be out trick or treating!

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Sienna was a “witch cat” and the rest of us were members of the Odd Squad, a show that the kids like.

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Here’s a side by side comparison!  The kids changed costume ideas about ten times, so I was glad when the boys settled on something that David and I could do with them! (I love family group costumes!)

 

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“You look pensive.”

“Man, I was going for thoughtful.”

(I know the quote is not completely accurate, but who can guess the movie reference?  Hint: it probably helps if you were in high school or college at the end of the 20th century!  I watched this movie approximately 5 million times as a teenager.)

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Sienna and her sweet friend from down the street.  She actually carried a fake tree with her as part of her costume!  She won for best “trending news” costume haha!  We had a fun weekend and great night tonight.  But I’m excited to be moving into the Thanksgiving season!  From now until New Year’s is my favorite time of the year!!!  I hope you had a great weekend and got to dress up and be goofy.  Any other grown ups don a costume this year?

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A Trip to Wise Acres Farm

If you live in the Charlotte area and have young kids, Wise Acres Farm is a great annual fall activity to add into your schedule!  This was our second trip to the organic, family-owned farm in Indian Trail, and already it has grown a lot in two years.  There is plenty to do, delicious food offerings, and a cute pumpkin patch as well.  It is completely free to park and play on the play areas that are set up, one of which is primarily made of recycled items.dsc_0297

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dsc_0296I love the quaint red barn in the background!  In that barn is where you can purchase admission to the hay ride, barrel train, giant corn pit (a huge sandbox filled with corn kernels!), as well as organic cotton candy and slushies.  We had the apple cider slushie and it was REALLY good!  There’s a little gift shop as well with locally sourced gifts and treats.dsc_0265

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My goofy boy.

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Henry was not so sure about being up on the pallet swing!

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Sometimes I wish my baby would stay like this forever!

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This is a whole second play area further back on the grounds.  There was a much bigger zip line here, as well as a few other play areas, including a small train that Henry loved!dsc_0314

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The barrel train rode around the perimeter of this play area.  We didn’t buy tickets for this attraction, but it looked cute!dsc_0321

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The kids went on the tractor hay ride on their own.  Side note: I was a little panicked about letting them go without one of us, but that is why David is the perfect husband for me.  I would prefer my kids to wear helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads (and mouth guards) before they leave the house, and he is basically the opposite.  So we balance each other out really well!  He encouraged me that the bigger kids could take care of Henry on the ride, and that they would all be fine.  He also reminded me that at Sienna’s age he used to take a public bus to school by himself, but that’s another story.  (“When I was your age….” statements are coming out of David’s and my mouth more and more frequently now!  Which means that basically, we are getting old!)

The kids loved the hay ride, and I think the older two felt really proud about doing a good job taking care of their little brother too!  If my memory serves me correctly, the tractor ride was $3 each.

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If you do plan a weekend trip to Wise Acres Farm, I highly recommend the brick oven pizza that they offer!  We got the cheese pie and it was soooooo good!  They also locally source some of the ingredients, including the mozzarella cheese, pesto, and whole wheat flour.  Check out more info. here.  The crust was nice and doughy, giving it a delicious chewy texture.  Combine that with the slightly charred flavor you get from the brick oven, the fresh toppings, and…mmmmmmm it was so good!

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If you go in the fall, you have to visit the pumpkin patch!  We ended up letting each of the kids pick out a smaller pumpkin, and getting one big pumpkin to carve.  Although we paid a little more than we would have at the supermarket, our Wise Acres pumpkins are still in pristine condition weeks later, and I have had to throw away a supermarket pumpkin already because it started rotting badly!

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They have a row of wagons you can use to cart your pumpkins around.

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I would highly recommend that you visit Wise Acres Farm!  They also have strawberry picking in the spring time, so I know I’m marking my calendar to go this spring.  It’s all organic, and my friend who went this past spring said that the prices are better than organic strawberries at our local supermarket!

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Our Weekend in (Mostly) Pictures

We had such a fun, full weekend!  It started on Friday night when Sienna and Charlie planned a little surprise for the rest of us.  They love sending us to one room so they can turn the rest of the house into a “hotel.”  They have made signs before for the “lego hotel” and this time they created “The Little Sea Turtle Hotel.”   It started with this card that they left for us that included “tickets” to the hotel!img_3489

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We followed our instructions and found ourselves at the “check-in desk.”

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We received our room keys and were shown to our room.
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I love the chocolates left on the pillows!  And I love it when the kids want to plan little projects and surprises like this independently.  Speaking of which, Sienna started making special desserts on her own for us over the summer, that would usually include ingredients from the pantry combined with melted chocolate and/or peanut butter to look like a certain object or place.  Here’s an example – this one was a campsite (use your imagination!)img_2926.  Friday night, Charlie asked if he could make one on his own, so he created a candy old-fashioned house.

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My favorite part was the upside down lollipop (a butter churner).  My favorite part to eat was the melted chocolate that coated the entire plate!  Mmmmmm.  It was really fun to see him concentrating so carefully when he was putting this together for us.

On Saturday I had the great privilege of bringing Sienna and Charlie to serve at a meal packing event held at our church.  This was completed in collaboration with the organization Feed the Hunger, which is a Christian organization that brings food and the gospel to needy people in the United States and across the world.  Over 250 people came out to help in the session we attended.  At each of 12 stations, teams filled small bags with dehydrated vegetables, beans, a vitamin/nutrient mix, and rice.  They were weighed for accuracy and then heat sealed and boxed.  It was a well organized, efficient assembly line method that allowed our group of volunteers and the group of about 300 that came in the afternoon to fill over 16,600 bags total.  Each bag contains enough food to feed 6 children a meal, and we packed over 100,000 meals!   Originally, all of the meals were going to be sent to Jamaica, but because of the devastation in Haiti caused by Hurricane Matthew, half of the meals are going to be sent to Haiti to help in areas that have been hit the hardest.  It was a great opportunity to serve with the kids and provided the launch point for a lot of good conversations with them about poverty and serving others.  Sienna and I were able to participate last year as well —

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You gotta love the hairnets, right?  She looks so much younger!  This year Sienna was meeting two of her friends there and it brought me a lot of joy to watch those girls working hard together to bring good to hurting people in the world!

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Charlie was really excited to be able to go this year.  I was so proud of how hard he worked lining up the bags filled with food and helping to pack them into boxes.  img_3521

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It felt so good to run into lots of friends who were serving as well.  We are so blessed by the community we are a part of through our church! And haha- I just realized I wore the same shirt both times!  David stayed home with Henry, since he wasn’t old enough to come to the event.  They had a great time playing with cars, listening to Chris Tomlin music (Henry’s favorite) and playing guitar together.  Henry used to carry his guitar around constantly, but hasn’t been interested in it for a while.  David’s played his guitar with him more in the last few days, and now Henry is back into playing his guitar!  Yay!  He’s actually playing it and singing right now.  🙂

After the Feed the Hunger event, our family headed to a friend’s house to celebrate their youngest, Hudson, turning one!

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Look at how gorgeous my friend Julie is, surrounded by her three sweet kids!

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Sienna was so sweet and gentle with Hudson.  img_3580

She asked me to braid her hair while we were hanging out at the party.  I tried!

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Henry clutched his balloon the entire drive home.  He kept saying, “I’m not going to let it float away!”

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The kids came home to a package from my mom with some new clothes!  They modeled them so I could send a picture to my mom.  Henry didn’t have anything in the package (he has plenty of hand me downs from Charlie) so I pulled out some of Charlie’s old car PJs for Henry to get to open and he was so excited!  He’s in a big cars and trains stage.  🙂

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Charlie dressed himself before church on Sunday and came down wearing this.  It’s the suit he wore for my brother-in-law’s wedding in England this summer!  I love it.  Especially the mismatched buttons on the shirt.  He ended up wearing it without the jacket, but he was still the best dressed boy at church that morning!  It’s great being at the stage where my kids can dress themselves and it’s always fun to see what they come up with.  We had a relaxed day at home, and then a sitter came over so David and I could attend our church small group.  Once again, I felt really blessed to have made such wonderful friends through our church.  Those were some highlights from our weekend.  How was your weekend?

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ENGLAND: Days 3&4 – From Barnsley to Bristol

I better start posting more regularly if I’m going to write about our whole trip!  I love looking through our photos and reliving each day.  To me, each represents a special moment or beautiful place that I’ve experienced.  I think that’s one reason why I am known (and teased by some) for taking SO MANY PICTURES!  I don’t care if I’m ridiculed for it – I blame it on the fact that I’m half Japanese.  🙂

Anyway, on our last full day in Barnsley, we started by splitting up.  David took Charlie to the Barnsley football (soccer) stadium so they could watch the professional team practice.  David used to play for their youth team as a teenager, and he is still an avid supporter of the Barnsley football club, so I think this was just as much fun for David as for Charlie!

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The next day we all went to the club shop and bought some official Barnsley tops for the kids which was really fun!  Their English cousins have some too so later in the trip they all wore their Barnsley kits (uniforms) and it was so cute!

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But back to Barnsley: while David and Charlie were at the football club, I took Sienna and Henry to the town centre to walk through the open market and visit a toy store in the mall.  Wow, it felt so different walking through the town!  I loved that there were stalls set up on streets that were closed to all car traffic.  However, I couldn’t believe how much cigarette smoke we were exposed to!  David and I noticed that both here and in the center of London, we encountered more people smoking than we have for a long time.  I don’t know exactly why this is, but it was not pleasant.  I still loved being in the midst of a foreign town with such a different feel to it though.  As we walked through the streets we were surrounded by buildings much older than those in a typical American town, built in a different style, and lining winding roads that were probably designed for horses and carriages rather than automobiles.   In the air around us were voices speaking in a thick, Yorkshire accent that can be a little tricky to understand even without the numerous phrases singular to that area.

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Speaking about the Yorkshire dialect reminds me of a funny incident from that morning in our hotel.  As we entered the lobby, some women working there greeted us and one saw that Henry held a little toy car in his hand.  She said she liked his car and remarked, “That car wants mekin’ bigger, that!  So me and Lynn can go for a ride in’t town!”  Henry stared up at her with a blank expression!  🙂  Even after being married to David for almost 13 years and visiting England about ten times, I still need a translation sometimes!!

After our morning in Barnsley, we drove a little outside of town to meet David’s great Aunt and Uncle for lunch.  It was so nice to see them again after four years, and they really loved getting to see how much the children have grown and to meet Henry for the first time!

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Meeting Henry was very special for Uncle Howard, because his actual first name is Henry too.  He was named after a family member, but always referred to by his middle name, Howard.  So our little Henry is carrying on an old family name.  🙂

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Sienna and Charlie were old enough this visit to appreciate some of the remarkable talents of Uncle Howard in gardening and marquetry.  He has won awards for growing orchids and has even created his own unique types.  He still does all of his own gardening in their yard and greenhouse, and both are immaculate!  In addition, he used to create beautiful pieces of artwork using the technique called marquetry, which involves fitting pieces of wood together to form a picture.  It is much more complicated and detailed than that of course.  I love admiring the pieces he has created when we go to their house, and this time the children appreciated them as well!  Here you can see one that is flanked by some of the orchids he has grown.

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This one with the birds is my favorite:

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This is Uncle Howard’s favorite piece:

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David and his siblings always loved this one as kids.  Here is the beautiful princess….

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But she looks quite different upside down!!

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After spending some time with David’s great Aunt and Uncle, we drove over to his cousin Catherine’s house, where we were able to see Catherine, her husband, and their two kids, along with David’s Aunt and Uncle.  It was so nice to catch up with them all, as we have not seen most of them for four years!  Catherine’s daughter, Charlotte, did come and stay with us three years ago, so we had seen her more recently, but as she is now 18 she has changed so much in a few short years!  Catherine’s sister Joanne and her family couldn’t make it, but we got to see them the next week in the days around his brother’s wedding!

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Henry with Catherine’s husband, Phil.  Henry has a unique camera smile at the moment!

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Beautiful Charlotte and her mum, Catherine.  I love these two girls!

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Catherine’s son, Joseph, was so sweet with Charlie.  He played football with him for nearly the entire time and gave him so much attention!

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All in all, our trip to Barnsley was fantastic!  Each night David was also able to meet some old childhood friends to catch up with, which was so special.  He didn’t take any pictures though, much to my chagrin!  On Saturday morning we drove down a few hours to David’s parents’ house in Bristol.  His sister, Ruth came by soon after with our three nephews, and there was a joyful reunion between the cousins!!  It was the first time David’s parents have had all six of their grandchildren all together!!  Ruth’s family came to visit us in 2014, so over two years had passed since we had seen them, but the kids picked right up where they left off.  Skype really is amazing for keeping in touch!

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The youngest boys in the tent, or as Peter called it, his “spaceship.”

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Our littlest nephew, Peter, is so entertaining.  He is always telling creative stories with so much enthusiasm and plays in such an imaginative way!  Right here he has taken the sprayer from a toy fire truck but I believe he was using it as something to cure hurt feet.  Hahaha!  I miss hearing his sweet little voice!  In fact, I miss all of my sweet nephews and wish I could give them a squeeze right now!

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New Yorkers in Charlotte

DSC_0193This summer has been flying by!  The last time I posted, it was the end of June and I was still working my way through a summer routine.  Now we are more than a week into July, and the days have been so busy and fun!  We have gone to a few great parks and museums, which I want to post about later, but today I’m writing about the fun we had this week with friends who were visiting from New York!

For anyone who doesn’t know, we relocated from Long Island, New York, to the Charlotte area in August 2014.  I had lived my whole life on Long Island and was nervous about adjusting to living in a different place, with different people, and a completely different culture.  Thankfully, we were blessed to find that we felt at home very quickly and now have many wonderful friendships, a great church, and love where we live!  We do miss my family members, who still live in New York, and our friends, though.  Which is why we were so excited when we found out some of our friends from New York were coming for three nights to visit!  They have three little ones and their oldest is Charlie’s best buddy from NY.

We enjoyed going to a local splash pad, a friend’s pool, and just laying low and hanging out at our house.  A highlight, though, was going into the city one morning and walking around.  Having lived 30-45 minutes from New York City most of my life, Charlotte initially felt like a tiny little city.  But now that I’ve been in a few times, I really appreciate its size and how accessible it is.  You can walk the streets and feel the energy of a city, but it is not costly nor overwhelming in the least.  Something really fun about our visit was that I ran into two friends.  One was visiting uptown with her kids and another was on her lunch break in the park.  It made me feel like a real Charlottean!  Our NY friends were joking that uptown is like the Penn Station of Charlotte – because New Yorkers know that you seem to always run into someone you know at Penn Station!

When we drove in to the city we easily found street parking and then headed over to the Wells Fargo History Museum.  This small, free, exhibit is located on the main floor of the Wells Fargo building and is a great spot to take young kids.  There is a little stagecoach they can ride in that has a screen along one side so it looks as if you are riding through the countryside.

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They also have a ride on horse & buggy (which I believe is supposed to move around, but was not working that day.)  It didn’t really seem to bother the kids though!

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By the way – Henry has never worn his hat backwards before.  He deliberately asked to put it on backwards after he saw the older boys wearing theirs backwards.  🙂

They had some fun interactive areas as well.  There was an old-fashioned car that you could pretend to drive and it was right next to a little teller window that another person could stand behind so you could have an imaginary transaction.

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To the left of Sienna in the above photo is a little capsule like the ones they used to have in drive-up banking before ATMs took over.  I remember as a kid thinking it was so cool when my Mom would put something inside the container and then it would go shooting up the tube into the bank, get processed, and then come back through.  In the Wells Fargo museum, you could push a button next to the capsule and it would be sent up a tube to another spot in the museum.  From there, someone could push the button to send it back.  The kids loved pushing the button and sending it back and forth to each other! –On a sidenote, see the large TV with rabbit ears in the background? It looks exactly like the TV I had in my den growing up.  And now it’s in a museum that displays old, outdated technology and methods of communication.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  🙂

There were two old-fashioned telephones they could talk to each other on.  It’s amazing how much technology has progressed!

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Another cute station was a photo booth where they could have their photo taken and printed on a fake 50 cent bill.  They loved seeing their faces on money!  They also had an actual stagecoach on display and set up a camera to take a photo for you standing in front of the coach.  This is a really nice feature, since everyone from your party can be in one photo together.  It only prints in black and white, though.

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After spending a little bit of time in the museum, we walked a few blocks over to Romare Bearden Park.  I really should have taken some photos of the park itself, which is very pretty, but I didn’t!  I found this one I had taken on my phone the winter after we moved.Late 2014 phone 897

And I also came across this picture from the Wells Fargo Museum when my parents, sister, and brother-in-law were in town in December 2014!  The kids look so much younger!

Late 2014 phone 885 Anyway, back to Romare Bearden Park.  They have a really fun waterfall/splash pad feature that was perfect for this hot day.  The kids loved sneaking behind the waterfalls and standing right in the downpour too!  For most of the time that we were there, we were the only ones.  I love that there are little fun spots like this in the city.

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After the kids were all played out, we got them changed into dry clothes and ate lunch at Mellow Mushroom, which is right across the street.  I had never been to this chain before, but it was really yummy!  I love the garlic seasoning they put on the pizza crust.  Our friend Nick said that his Jerk Chicken sandwich was one of the best sandwiches he’s ever had.  Which led to the kids asking why his sandwich had a bad word in it. Hahaha!

Have you been having a good summer?  Do you have any fun tips for keeping the kids cool and entertained?  Did the talk about old television sets and bank telling bring back memories for anyone else?  For my fellow Charlotteans: What are your favorite spots uptown?  Where do you like to go with and without the kids?  I love finding new places to visit!

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My “Inadequate” Summer Routine

If you’re anything like me, you start to get a little nervous as the school year winds down.  Although I love the idea of carefree, relaxed days of summer break, too often the end of the day comes and I feel like it was a parade of chaos, followed by mess, followed by unproductivity, which leads to late dinners, missed naps, and exhaustion!  There is a lot of fun to be had along the way (mostly by the kids), but waking up every morning and resolving to simply “go with the flow” each day does not work well for me!  So this year, I decided to go into summer break with a better plan: a rough guideline for each day so that we get to experience a lot of fun activities, but still maintain a little structure.  Then I’ll let you know how our days have really been going!

So first, we made our summer bucket list.  Yes, I know, everyone’s doing that all over pinterest and they are beautiful, filled with coordinating designs and check boxes.

Exhibit A (from DIY Home Sweet Home):

Exhibit B (from Love Bakes Good Cakes):

{FREE} Summer Bucket List Printable

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE these printables; I really do.  I highly recommend that you click on the links and print them off if they will be helpful to you.  They are beautifully designed and have lots of great ideas for summer activities.  Plus, how gorgeous is the second one with all the fun fonts and colors?

However

When confronted with such a perfect list that promises a summer of fun family bonding, I am flooded with feelings of pressure, inadequacy, and guilt. I feel like there is NO WAY I can check all of those boxes, but I still feel like I should be because that’s what so-and-so is doing, and look at how much fun they’re having in their facebook/instagram/pinterest posts, and I’m that lame Mom who can only handle one big activity with the kids each day (which may be simply a trip to the local playground) and then likes to stay in the house the rest of the day – but not doing fun, interactive crafts or educational experiments, but just telling my kids to go play so I can get some stuff done!!!!  There’s a nice window into my thoughts for you – I probably should have warned you first.  Can anybody else identify with those feelings?  I just need to keep reminding myself that even if my life isn’t pinterest-worthy, it’s still meaningful and perfect for us!

So back to that bucket list – our family sat down together and threw out ideas of fun things we would like to do this summer.  Some things we couldn’t even consider, (one of the kids said “Disney World,”) but we were able to make a solid wish list of things we would like to do.  These included the zoo, aquarium, museums, parks, pools, splash pads, movie nights, picnics, a lemonade stand, walking around the Disney store, doing Mad Libs, going to the Lego store, going fishing, taking a trip to the beach for the day, and going on a hike.  From there, I did a little research on prices and distance and we narrowed the list further.

Then I had to turn my attention to our daily routine.  There are certain non-negotiables that must be done every morning.  These are the things that, if neglected, will make us starve, smell, and get rotten teeth.  I had grand plans for involving the kids in morning chores too but am still working on that.  It seems like it’s all I can do just to get them to clean up their clothes and toys from the various places they have been scattered around the house!  They do help water the garden, and the older kids love dusting, so that’s a start.

I envisioned that we would leave the house by 9, (with snacks, water, and lunches packed), for a park, pool, museum, or other activity.  Then we would spend all morning out having an adventure, coming home between 1 and 2 so Henry could have a nap.  While Henry napped, the kids could spend 30 minute increments doing different activities like their Summer Bridge Workbooks, Lego, computer time, playing quietly, reading, or watching TV.  Then they could help me prepare dinner (more family bonding!!), David would get home, and we would sit all together and discuss the highlights of our day while eating a nutritious meal.

That sounded great to me – not quite a fancy summer routine, and not very detailed, but it has a nice balance of activity and rest.  So the big question – has it worked?? Well, sort of.  As I said, I’m still working at getting the kids involved with chores (it seems like more work for me at first), and they have not helped me make dinner once (my choice, not theirs), but we have done some really fun things together.  We have been swimming with friends, gone to a splash pad, visited the nature museum, and played at a few parks.  We have also spent a lot of unstructured time in the house. BUT – I sometimes feel a lot of guilt over this, because that time feels SO unproductive!  And then I feel like a bad Mom for not having planned great activities for them.  Then I remember this blog post (“What Would My Mom Do? Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside”) that I read last year by Jen Hatmaker, and I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER.  She is hilarious, by the way, and one of those women who voices what we are all thinking but don’t want to say out loud!

As Jen says, making sure my kids know that they are loved by God and by me is my top priority.  They don’t need a pristine house to feel loved.  They don’t need alphabetized, color coded daily learning activities to feel loved.  They don’t need an intricate craft (that is also educational) to feel loved.  They don’t need me to be engaged with them every second to feel loved!  Aaaaaaah, reminding myself of those things makes me feel so much better.  I know I love my children SO MUCH and I don’t need to show them my love the same way other moms do.  I have so much respect and admiration for the moms that do all of those amazing things with their children!!  But I need to remember that not every mom sits for hours with their kids reassembling broken Lego sets like I did last week.  Or snuggle and read together on a regular basis.  Or pray every night before bed with their kids to thank God for the amazing day.  Or raise a tadpole with them because they really, really, really, really, wanted to!  It’s easy for me to overlook the things I do that show my children my love because it’s not what someone else does.  We’ve all heard the phrase:

Comparison is the thief of joy

I’m working on reminding myself of that every day.

How about you?  Do you find yourself getting stuck in a rut of comparing your average days with the perfection on pinterest?  Have you made any kind of summer bucket list or routine?  I would love to hear about it!

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