Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just keep swimming!

I keep hearing Dory's voice in my head...yes, I do realize that hearing a fish voice in my head could be a sign that I've officially lost my mind, but at least the voice is speaking positive words, right? ;-). "Just keep swimming...just keep swimming...just keep swimming." 

In the summertime, I swim. No, not in a pool (although I do that some too)...I swim through life...sometimes with my head down, coming up every now and then for a deep breath, then head down for a few more laps...sometimes I just doggy paddle. Sometimes I even get to lay on my back and float for a few days (those days are rare but so very nice). :-) I've been swimming, swimming, swimming and am finally beginning to see an end to the laps....or tunnel...or, whatever - no more metaphors. 

Last year, I began feeling a very strong calling placed on my heart. A calling to work with children. I know, I know...I was in the midst of homeschooling so that "calling" may seem a bit odd to some seeing as how I was working with children every day! But, I was feeling a very specific burning in my heart to work with children who need extra help...kids who learn in special ways...kids who upon opening a book see a jumble of letters rather than a series of words. I've always loved to read and over the years have begun to recognize that I also love teaching children how to read. It's been a blessing teaching my own kids and there have been a few littles in our community who I've had the pleasure of working with as well. All that to say, THIS is what I want to do and this is something I know I can do with passion and joy. So, beginning in September, I will begin my Masters program for K-21 Special Education, with the long term goal of getting a Reading Specialist License. 

Mid-year, Chad and I sat the kids down and discussed this with them. Their eyes got big and they seemed amazed at the idea of their mother going back to school! But what struck me was their enthusiasm and encouragement for me pursuing this...Rauly told me "mom, you need to do this...you can help kids who need it." So, alrighty then! We're doing this!

We'll all be swimming, swimming, swimming our way towards our goals. Shep and Rauly, 4th and 2nd grade - Lils in VPK. Me in my Masters. Chad, continually building the business. Our family, continually growing and leaning on one another to support and encourage dreams and hopes and a bright future. It's a beautiful thing!

Summer time...and the livin' is easy.

4 months?!?! Has it really been that long?!?!

Well, considering summer is officially over and the school year has begun (at least in our neck of the woods), this will be a quick recap. 

Let's start with this crazy mama adorable toddler.
Omiword, don't even know where to start with our lil' firecracker...she makes us laugh and makes us crazy, all at the same time. A mess with a capital -M-! She's turning four in 2 weeks and is starting VPK this month...and yes, I'm sure to be a total blubbery mess on the day she starts school. I won't think about that today though....

 It's rare for any of the kids to get "one-on-one" time with any of our family, so when it does happen, it's special! This summer, Dennis took Lil's on her first fishing adventure...the fish must've heard her coming from a mile away because they didn't catch any! But, boy did she have fun! :-)

 Swim team was a success and both kids are already saying they can't wait for next season. We were most proud of the award Shep received: The Coaches Award. We've honestly never seen him work so hard...this summer he dug deep and was very invested which made it that much more fun to watch!

And another awesome summer of basketball with the Tiger Sharks - they had an undefeated season! Whoop-whoop! No pics from the season... fail. 

 Another "first" this year....Florida Bible Camp!! This was a very big deal in our family...Chad grew up attending this camp, so in a way we felt like we were carrying on a tradition. But more than that, it was just a huuuuge deal to send our kiddo away for a full week without us. Thankfully one of his best friends, Jackson, wanted to participate in the week too, so Shep had a buddy. I signed up to be a cook for the first half, which I think gave both the little guys some peace of mind and certainly made it easier on Jenn and I. :-)

Rauly-girl travelled to stay with Gigi for a week (Shep went last summer so this summer it was her turn)...they went to Louisiana and Arkansas, and between all the places we traveled through, she wound up seeing 5 different states in the course of 7 days. Very cool. :-) She also lost 2 teeth...should make for some adorable fall pics! 

Chad and I were both road warriors...he due to our business (summer is "crunch time" and he's typically gone each week, all summer long), and me due to traveling to Alabama twice.

 4th of July was celebrated with friends in Cocoa Beach - we wound up staying two days and looking back, I realized this was our only "family vaca" this summer. Thankful to have spent it with the Euler family and in such a beautiful place! They rented a beach house right on the ocean and let me tell ya', if you ever want to experience fireworks done right, go to Cape Canaveral! The displays were gorgeous...we were surrounded by beauty in every direction. It was a truly memorable 4th!

 In a moment of insanity After several days of talking and thinking, we decided to bring these two cuties home with us. Let me introduce: Ringo (yellow) and Shadow (black). Truly, they have been the sweetest most tender additions! They seem to adore the kids and actually seek them out throughout the house...no they are not your typical skittish/snobbish cats that hide when company comes along, which is GOOD because that would not work for our family. 

 Another "first" (there seems to be a theme of firsts in this post) - a Jags game! Ok...so the highlight was a night with friends (as you can see below, Chad was underwhelmed by the score)...but the game was fun and glad we got to experience it with Jeff and Jennifer!

 Overall, it was a summer filled with sports, fun and friends! And I can.not. believe. it's. over.

 Sweet baby Mary Graston - Rauly's (and my) new lil' love! Isn't she beautiful??
 Lils with her besties, Aubs and Caroline...yes, Publix deli rocks - they basically fed those three girls an entire meal of meat and cheese...Aubs would just bat her baby blues and they'd offer all the kids more. Fabulous....and Shan, I've decided I'd like to bring Aubrey with me every time I grocery shop. She's got mad skillz. ;-)
 Sleepover with Grant!

 Beach with Melis, KK and B!

Day of back-to-school shopping...(sigh)...next post will be about Orientation and 1st Day of School....can't believe I now have a 4th, 2nd grader and VPK'er!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Spring Fever

It's Spring time...despite the weather turning cooler again, in typical ever-changing-Florida fashion. Last week though it was beautiful - the sun and flowers all seemed to know it was time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ - beauty abounded. 

My mom flew in to visit (ie: lavish the grand-kids with her attention and her love) and the sun smiled down on us as she landed. And when the sun is out in Florida...you do as Floridians do...you go to the beach. :) So we headed to Little Talbot Island and soaked in the rays - it was gorgeous! This is one of my favorite places in northern Florida - each time we go we find the coolest things...this trip we discovered Sand Dollars and a Sea Turtle...last time we found a Clam that was alive and saw a pod of dolphins. If you haven't visited Little Talbot - GO!

Me and my lil' loves....

  Chad and Shepherd were the only two crazy brave enough to dive in - despite the sunshine and beautiful weather, the water was frigid...I'm talkin' GLACIER kinda cold! My feet were numb after stepping in the water for a few minutes - not sure how they handled it but they did with a smile on their faces and loved every second!

Easter Sunday 2013

Linda hosted Easter lunch this year and it was wonderful, as always! I feel so repetitive when blogging about our gatherings at her home, but it's consistently beautiful and the food is consistently healthy and delicious. She's such a gracious hostess and we're always so grateful for the love she pours in to our family. She always adds little extra touches to holidays that somehow make each special occasion feel that much more special. 

 This picture cracked us all up...Linda kept trying to show Lillie where a particular Easter egg was hidden and Lils' was clueless...it took Linda physically grabbing LA's head and turning her directly to the egg for her to find it. If it'd been a snake... ;-)
 Sweet sweet Chase...

Chad fell asleep in this position...seriously wish I could look so stylish while sleeping. ;-)

It was a week of fun...lots of board games and card games, lots of laughter. Feeling grateful today for the special memories made!! I'll end with this picture - it pretty much sums up the whole week and makes me smile each time I see it. :-) The day mom left, the sun went away and the rain clouds brought a cold front...Shepherd said "Gigi took the sun and the fun right back to Arkansas." We miss you already, Gigi!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Hello, old friend. And how are you?? This sweet, cherished blog of mine has been sadly neglected...so many thoughts and memories I've wanted to jot down...but I find myself completely consumed and swallowed whole by my kitchen these days. And this kitchen of mine that has sucked me in has unfortunately taken my creative mojo,...I've laughed a few times as I've sat in front of this blog of mine with a blank stare, till finally I shrugged my shoulders, patted my computer and promised I'd return another day. I have such little brain matter left for anything else it seems...so much energy spent on not poisoning my 3 year old....so much energy trying to give our older two kids a "normal kitchen" so they don't wind up in counseling one day with nightmares of grain-free meals and resentments of their weird mom who regularly placed strange food in front of them. ;-)

This kitchen of mine that sucked me in does occasionally spit me out throughout the day...long enough for me to ricochet back-n-forth between homeschooling, being a room-mom for Lillie Anna's preschool class, managing the security desk at church and getting the kids to their extra-curricular activities (dance, piano, CBS, and our current sport of choice: soccer....soon to be followed up with football, volleyball and my all-time fave, swim team). My house is a wreck most of the time. End of story.

Chad is still running our business full-time and is seeing it continue to expand...he's a very busy guy but somehow manages to coach and/or assistant coach nearly every sport our kids play. I'm honestly not sure how he does it??...but boy am I grateful!! His presence at practice allows me much needed time at home to...lol...you guessed it...cook.

Our family had a small window of opportunity to travel to Disney a few weeks ago and grabbed it. We're not a crazy spontaneous family...at. all. We can't be! It usually takes me days to pack and prep for a trip due to having to shop, prepare safe snacks and meals for Lils and research safe restaurants along the way that we can stop at if need be. But I knew Disney/Orlando would have plenty of options, plus we're very familiar with the Whole Foods there,...so we packed up our car and headed out. The trip was lovely...we made sweet memories curled up on the couch laughing, and had such a fun time at Magic Kingdom...probably the best Disney trip we've ever made (and I say that with a heart FULL of gratitude!!). Amidst all the fun though, gluten still managed to rear it's ugly head...despite our careful planning and precautions. We ordered a pizza from a local restaurant we had eaten at before that had a delicious gluten-free menu. The last time we ate there, their gluten-free pizza only contained rice flour, so without asking questions, we ordered it and served it to her. Within 20 minutes, she became so violently ill that she couldn't even make it to the toilet. We were cleaning her up for several hours while she clutched her stomach groaning. We contacted the restaurant immediately and were told that their gluten-free menu had changed and that they now use corn starch, whereas before, they did not. It was OUR fault...not theirs...as her parents, it is OUR job to be those "crazy weird annoying assertive, well-informed parents" who ask every single time we call what their food ingredients are. I can't tell you how many times I stroked her hair from her face that evening, looked her in the eyes and told her how sorry I was....we had accidentally and unintentionally poisoned our daughter and she was suffering. Ugly.

It's moments like that where I want to cry, but I don't. Good grief, someone has to be strong for this kid! Someone has to put a smile on her face and tell her it's going to be ok!...someone has to rub her back and look on her with compassion when she can't eat the cupcake her friends are eating...or the birthday cake at the party...or the Easter candy hidden inside each egg...or the snacks at church... This girl is stoic and strong, but I've seen her silently processing her sadness at not being able to eat the treats at school and recently witnessed her push her chair back from a table to crawl in my lap and lay her head on my chest when her peers were chowin' down on yummy b-day cake that she couldn't eat. All I can do is look her in the eyes and tell her it's ok...that I understand and love her more than life itself.

It could be worse, but I tearfully vented to Chad last night that this thing called gluten has consumed every single part of our lives and I hate it. The stress has affected our marriage and caused fights between the two of us that I never thought possible...it's exhausted us and drained us and caused us to worry over things we never in a million years would've imagined we'd worry about. The past few years we've found ourselves snapping at each other over unimportant things, slamming doors and turning our backs on issues that we just didn't have the energy to address. Honestly, we can only handle so much and isn't it in our human nature to try to do it in our own strength?!?! So many times I forget to cry out to God and hand my cares and concerns of this world to Him. I can just imagine Him waiting patiently with his hand outstretched...so ready for us to lift our head and recognize that He is the only One capable of giving us peace that surpasses our understanding. It's like I get sucked in to this vortex and round and round I go...a crazy train that I forget I can get off...all I have to do is drop to my knees and whisper "Jesus...TAKE this.". After 7 years of King Nebuchadnezzar living like an animal in the wilderness, all it took was Him lifting his eyes to the Heavens and acknowledging/understanding who God was, for his crazy train (literally) to come to an abrupt ending and to find restoration in his life and in his kingdom. Thank you God that our crazy train didn't last 7 years!!! Chad and I are out of the vortex...and let me just say -gosh I love this man and his unwillingness to give up...he loves me through and through and has proven that in more ways than I could or would ever share on such a public forum. God heard my soft quiet whispers for grace and instantly...I mean - INSTANTLY He began fortifying our marriage with His strength.

All that to say, gluten has tested us and tried us in so many ways...this goes far beyond a mere allergy. It's affected us all mentally and spiritually and emotionally...it's not just a physical "thing". But God in His continual goodness has not left us stranded or alone. He's given us this online community of families through whom I find encouragement. Fellow grain-free families who candidly share their lives via their blogs...they don't worry over people finding their random "ventings" melo-dramatic or ridiculous...they don't care if people not walking in their shoes simply can't relate or lack compassion. These blogs IMO are like a ministry...they encourage and motivate and build me up. When I read these random ramblings, I'm no longer standing outside a window holding my daughters hand wishing to be included...but rather, I feel I'm sitting at the table of a woman who first of all, has a plethora of food my daughter can eat ;-), and who "gets it"...and I told Chad when and if I get a chance to meet one of these blessings, I'm gonna kiss her right smack on the cheek! ;-)

So this is my life now...my beautiful, crazy, chaotic and...did I mention crazy?...life. I'm overwhelmed on a regular basis but I've learned an invaluable lesson that all I have to do is lift my eyes to God and He will take it....whatever "it" may be. Doesn't mean the allergy disappears...but the guilt and the stress and the angst...poof...be gone. :-) I love my husband, I love my children and I'm continually accepting and learning to love our new way of life. For those of you who are tired of hearing about gluten, I get it...I am too! lol! But in accepting our life, I am finding the courage to speak out on what it looks like. The good, the bad and the ugly. This is me...take it or leave it. :)

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
-Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve with the Easons

The Eason's have a tradition of spending Christmas Eve at Callaway Garden's in Georgia, but this year we decided to stay home for the holidays. We knew we wanted to continue our tradition of being together as a family, so for Christmas Eve, we went to Chad's parents house. I'm soooooo on a roll with my camera the past few days ;-p, so I snapped a few pics before we headed out the door. 

Shep putting his photography skills to practice again ;-)

The girls gravitate to Jenny and spend every moment practically attached to her hip...they're so blessed to have her in their life!!  

The part of the evening our kids were itchin' for...the presents. 

Linda's house is always cozy and charming, but at Christmas time, it makes me sigh...it's so magical! Every room has a loving touch added to it with Christmas quilts, cinnamon candles and a country/cottage charm that Linda does beautifully. I absolutely love her style...

Linda gave each of the girls an apron to wear while they assisted her with dinner preparations...they kept them on all evening. And dinner??...oh my. It was a feast fit for a King! 5 hours later and I'm still stuffed.

Linda had prepared a special activity for her and the grand kids. She took them outside for a while and when it was dark, the kids called us outside to walk down the windy driveway which was lit with beautiful candle luminaries. 

We ended the evening with a Charlie Brown Christmas and waved goodbye to prepare cookies for Santa...the kids are all snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug and are fast asleep. Shep has already told us he's setting his alarm clock so as to not sleep in tomorrow morning...as if that's necessary. ;-) 

Thank you again, Dennis and Linda for planning such a special evening for our family! We love y'all!

Merry Christmas Eve, from our hearts to yours!