Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Vacation, Chapter 2

So many pictures, so much fun stuff crammed into 4 days where to begin? I suppose I should start with Christmas morning. We were up until after 1am wrapping presents because we just didn't have time before we left. I'd purchased funky colored bows- orange, turquoise, purple...- to go with our wrapping paper...but I didn't bring our wrapping paper...or the package of white bows I bought. I like lots of bows. We were going to buy some but Shane insisted that they had enough paper for all of us so we borrowed their traditional colored Christmas paper. It was late and we were tired so there were presents with red and green paper and orange bows...we found it very funny that late at night. And while Shane and Angie had plenty of paper, they only had one pair of scissors so they had to wait for us to finish wrapping before they could finish wrapping but they were good sports about it all. I know what I'm getting them next Christmas ;)

The next morning the kiddos got up about 9:30 (I am sooo thankful my kids sleep in) and we commenced with the Christmas story, stockings and Christmas presents. After that we all lounged around a bit and ate the most delicious french toast casserole ever to cross my lips. Angie made it the night before while we were wrapping presents, it was amazing! And that was my favorite part of Christmas. The calm after the gifts and sitting around with family having coffee and breakfast and just enjoying being together. Then there were showers and packing up and heading to my brother's house.

He text messaged me *and* called me to see when we were going to get there so I knew he was excited. And when we drove up he was outside waiting for us. When I got out of the car he gave me the biggest bear hug I think he's ever given me. And I realized at that moment that my brother is huge and I am very small. It sounds funny but he's my little brother that I used to beat up on a daily basis. I regret those days now. Anyway, when we walked into his house my parents jaws dropped. I'd told them all the reasons that we couldn't make it but everything changed and Jon and I just decided to keep it a secret and surprise them. None of his kids knew either and it was really fun to be able to do that. I can't even really put into words how important I think this trip was. My brother has changed so much (without his big sister interfering) and I just really miss being around him.

This trip was also different in that we were able to meet up with some friends too. Which is really astounding since we are usually there for more than twice as many days and don't have time to meet anybody. But I got in touch with Christy, who I know from Lakeland a little but have really kept up with her blog for the last year and a half or so. I've actually known her husband for a long time now because we had freshman English Comp. together. It's so weird the place I was in then and the place I'm in now. I was going through a divorce that semester (at 19) and I couldn't have been more different than the other fresh faced, excited to be away from mommy and daddy for the first time kiddos around me. Well, except Chris. He was nice but quiet and though I didn't get to know him very well, I have a sneaking suspicion that he was born an adult. I met Christy at my then best friends house (coincidentally also named Christy) at her wedding shower (best friend Christy not this Christy, she was already married. confusing, no?). I knew who she was from school but hadn't met her. And she was bubbly and outgoing and had this energy that made you want to be her friend. I thought she was really cool. So fast forward about, um, 12 years? 13, maybe? And I've been reading her blog which I found through Mary. We'd e-mailed each other a few months ago and said we wish we could have gotten together while we were in town and maybe next time. So I got in touch with her and she said she'd love to get together. We decided to stop by her house (because I really wanted to see her sweet little historic cottage) and I could tell that Travis was excited (did I forget to mentiont that they'd been friends since Trav was a teenager? Because they've known each other forever) to see her because her put the van in park and ran to the porch to give her a hug. I felt like a dork because I was still putting away the laptop that had been somewhat navigating us. But I finally got the girls out of the car and saw Christy and Chris and admired her amazing front porch. And beautiful floors, and built-ins, and creative use of space. And Christy had a little gift of handmade whipped beeswax and raw honey lotion. I'd seen that she was making it but I didn't think I'd be on the receiving end of it. But I'm very glad I was, I love that stuff.

Next was a trip with the two families to Hollis Garden and Barnett Park and the Lake Mirror Promenade. There was much gabbing, and laughing-as though we'd known each other forever. I'd also had a sneaking suspicion that Chloe and Emma would be very good friends, and I was right. The two of them were joined at the hip from the moment they met. And Andrew just sort of hung out and listened and added a witty comment or a zinger when it was appropriate. You gotta love it when there's a tween hanging out with you that acts like he wants to be there. He didn't really want to pose for pictures though. And Amanda found out that Christy's brother is in one of her favorite bands. She was very excited. Two hours flew by (in 85 degree weather) and we invited them to join us for lunch at our favorite BBQ joint- Sonny's. Which apparently Chris isn't too fond of, but he was kind enough to say yes. On the way over, Christy called me and said they were going to be a few minutes behind us because she'd stopped by her brothers and had gotten something for Amanda. An autographed tour pass! Amanda was so excited and it was so sweet of Christy to think of that. Lunch was fun and there was more catching up and story telling and we finally bid adieu to our new/old friends.


Then we met my whole family at Carter Road park to jump off of some sand hills, then we all took my nephew Ashton to Lake Morton. I love Lake Morton. At one point around the lake (which is about a mile around) we came across a drowned cat. Well, Chloe was very upset and was crying as you can imagine how horrible that was. But by that time it was dark and the Christmas tree's lights had come on (in Lakeland, they put Christmas trees in the middle of the smaller lakes around town). I squatted down next to her and showed her the tree and there was a breeze coming off the lake and I told her to take a deep breath. If you're not from there you wouldn't understand but there is something about the cool, humid air that is soul cleansing. And she calmed down....until she was approached by some crazy looking storks. There's lotsa wildlife at that lake.

Yes, it was as full a day as it sounds. I was dead tired by the time we got back to my brother's house and an air mattress never, ever felt so good.

So here's my picture tour....

The Sorosis club on Lake Mirror. It was built as a women's sorority in the '20's, I'm not sure what they do now but I love the Italianate style of the building. You'll see lots of mediterranean and contemporary styles but this is the only building I know of like this in Lakeland.


Amanda and Ashton at Lake Morton. My nephew is becoming very handsome.


I think this is a crane. I got lots of pictures of this guy but I won't bore you with them all.


This is the mandatory shot of Amanda wrestling the alligator at Barnett Park.

This is at the Promenade at Lake Mirror. Amanda thought she could squeeze through a hole at the top of the gate but no dice.



And this is what she was trying to get to. These gates have been locked for decades but my parents told me there used to be underground shops in there.

I was in the middle of a conversation with Chris when I spotted this awesome butterfly. I think I interrupted him with something intelligent like "ooh, butterfly" and ran off. Thankfully he wasn't offended. Apparently Lakeland has added butterflies to it's collection of swans around the city.


All of my girls with little miss Emma, who was more than willing to do any posing asked of her.

Amanda and Halle at Lake Mirror where all of this cool stuff is.




Chloe and Emma...fast friends with lots in common.


Halle on a picture perfect Florida day. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Florida sky and you won't see anything like it anywhere else. It is absolutely breath taking. And Halle's scrunchy face isn't bad either.



All of our girls and Emma....



Cameron kept sneaking into the room we were opening our presents in to show us what he got. He was finally warming up to us...just before we left :(
The girlies opening stockings on Christmas day.
And that's a wrap. I have another day to share but it's hard to fit all this stuff in. I think I've said it already but it was a great trip. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Vacation, Chapter 1

I think I told Tisra about a week before Christmas that I was looking forward to a quiet little Christmas with just us. I thought about leisurely sitting around in PJ's, watching the Christmas parade and having a simple dinner. Then it happened. Amanda's last day at Starbuck's was supposed to be on Dec. 27th but they only scheduled her until the 21st. And Travis asked for Tuesday through Friday of Christmas week off at the last minute and got it. So all day Friday I had this nagging feeling in my gut that we weren't staying here for Christmas. Actually, I'd had that feeling all along but since Amanda started working at Starbuck's, I thought I must be wrong. Anyway, when Travis got home on Friday I shared my hair-brained scheme with him (I get lots of those, and he almost always tries to talk me out of it). He was reluctant at first but the thought of seeing his family for Christmas was too much to resist. We hadn't done very much Christmas shopping though and wouldn't have time to do it once we got there so Sunday was spent at the mall. And Chloe had a fever. And I was wondering what in the world I'd been thinking. I'm really good at ideas but the follow through leaves me breathless and wishing for sleep. Thankfully, we got it all together and were on the road by 5am Tuesday. We got to Shane and Angie's house at 8pm on the dot. The girls were great on the drive down though and thankfully those years of car trips with screaming infants is over.


When Shane answered the front door Landon was there and said "Hello, I'm Landon Johnson" and we all cracked up. We spent the next few hours catching up and unpacking the car. It had been 20 degrees in TN when we packed up the car the night before so unpacking in 69 degrees seemed heavenly.

The next day we did sit around leisurely for a while catching up while the kiddos played in the backyard. Landon let the girls ride in his big jeep and jumped around excitedly. It was so nice to see him excited about them playing with his toys. They played in the sandbox and on the swings and had fun in the sun. It was really nice since the girls haven't seen the sun much lately.

Later that same day we met a married couple that are Trav's friends. Travis actually lived with Carl for a while when he was in high school. It's a long story but Travis wanted to go to a private school in Lakeland while his parents lived in Tampa so until they moved, he lived with Carl. We met them in Ybor City. I took a few pictures because everything was very cool- and urban, so watch your purse and your kids.


Here's some graffiti....



And a manhole cover. Yes, I realize it's the storm sewer but the cover is really cool and I love the brick paved streets.Here's the cable car...And an open air-indoor-cuban-esque restaurant....And a raised sidewalk...


The obligatory shot of the girls...And Trav's friend Carl...I took lots of pictures because there were so many interesting things to see but we spent just over an hour there. I think that I'd like to go shopping there and get a good Cuban sandwich *but* I wouldn't go by myself.


Later that night was the Christmas Eve party for the Santisteban side of the family (Trav's Mom). It was great to see everyone again, some we hadn't seen in 8 years.


We took about 7 photos before we got one that neither of us hated...girls-sheesh!


Trav and his brothers with little Cameron...Chloe with Kyleigh...she loved being a little mommy....And this is the most beautiful baby I think I've ever seen (my kiddos excluded, of course)...We had a great time with great food and stayed way too late. We were supposed to open stockings and PJ presents for our new tradition of getting new PJ's and sleeping in them on Christmas Eve but Halle didn't quite make it. See?



All in all it was a great night and was nice to see family again. There's more to come...stay tuned...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Did I Forget Something?

In all the hullabaloo that was Christmas, I inadvertently forgot to post about my little sweetie's 4th birthday. Actually the hullabaloo involved a very last minute trip to Florida but we did have a party for Halle. She's never been high maintenance about the whole birthday thing. She gets very excited and asked for cake, hot dogs and presents but that was the extent of it. She hasn't ever seemed to want a big party which has worked out nicely so far since her birthday is December 20th. I think next year I'll try to celebrate it earlier and have an actual party with friends and such.
We picked a perfectly girlie cake....With hats and noise blowers, of course...

I'm not really sure why Chloe was blocking the drinking process....And Halle is now in her Strawberry Shortcake phase. Chloe had a SS phase when she was about the same age. I have lots of other updating that I should do about our trip. I'll say for now that it was completely amazing. I have lots of photos to show you too- maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catch-Up

This season is a whirlwind whether or not you intend to do anything. Seriously, busy. Last weekend was the worship arts concert that I was in. The choir didn't really sing much but we were on stage the whole time since it takes a long time to get a choir in place. And even though we didn't sing much it was really nice to be part of the whole thing. I was really impressed with the quality of music from the band and the amazing stuff that the dancers did. There were back flips and front flips and breakdance-looking-gymnastic-type-stuff. Overall it was really cool- I'm sad Travis missed it.
We had snow on Thursday! Which is where I got the new blog header. The girls and I had so much fun and it was that really wet, packing snow that is perfect for snowballs and snowmen. Chloe and Halle made me laugh because they'd make a snowball and throw it at each other but never hit the intended target. Chloe finally just pressed the snowball on Halle's back. Here are some pictures of the snow. Yes, my Thanksgiving pumpkin is still on my front step. I didn't get any pictures of the kiddos because the batteries died but you can see how much we got. I wish I'd had a sled. I did see deer tracks all over our backyard- super cool. Since I don't do any heavy duty gardening, I'm thinking of feeding them.

Travis has been sick for a week and we found out yesterday it's walking pneumonia. I had a temporary freak out feeling when he told me but it's called walking pneumonia for a reason. I'm not sure if I've ever seen Travis this sick for this long. He will have missed a week of work and with the week he took off for my grandma's funeral, I'm wondering if there will be any vacations this year.

Chloe had her school Christmas program last night. This is the first school that has had a Christmas program. I didn't take the video camera thinking that it would be hard to find a good spot to film. But as it turns out Amanda took a message from Chloe's school and mixed it up in such a way that we were 50 minutes early for the show- so we got a front row seat. Travis couldn't go and I was bummed but I remembered that my camera has a video feature and we purchased a 4 gig CF card for it this past weekend so I was able to record some of it- in 30 second intervals. Which you'll find below. It's pretty pixelized but hopefully Travis can pick Chloe out of the crowd. You can see her head right between the Asian girl and Indian boy on the front row. She was very excited about the whole thing and proved it by posing for the camera.

video





Ah, we're in the silly picture taking days- I'm so excited!


In other news we were able to refinance our house and signed the papers on that this past Monday. I have to admit that I've wondered if we really made a good choice buying this house. When we were buying it and expressed doubt, people would say "its in Franklin" as though that's the end all in buying destinations. I know in Middle TN there's the attitude that everything in Franklin is made with gold- but you've seen my house. Anyway, it did appraise and we're actually able to take some equity out (we had equity? who knew?) and put in new windows and some other yet to be determined improvements. I'm writing a check to the window guy tomorrow for 7 energy efficient windows! That's the whole house. They should be done by the middle of January, although I think rain could push it back to the beginning of February. I hope it's sooner though because I'm cold. I promised pictures of the house in my last post but I've only got this one.

See anything missing? Does this ring a bell?

I thought I'd taken more pictures of the window with the shutters so you'd probably only notice if you've been to my house. When I was painting the wood around the window, I couldn't leave the shutters unpainted because they'd be a different color. But have you ever tried to paint shutters? I finally decided that I didn't have the time and really needed a sprayer so I took them down. In the whole house there were only a couple of things that I liked and the shutters were one of those things. But in the end I think I like the look of the curtain better. It's a little less convenient but it's cute.

And lastly, we've decorated a bit around here. Amanda is crazy-excited this year and started decorating before I had a chance to. My mom gave us her Christmas village that Amanda has very fond memories of. She set that and the nativity up when we got back in town after Thanksgiving. I haven't taken pictures of the whole thing but here's a shot of my little sweeties putting the star on the top.

And that's a wrap. I'm not sure if I'll check in again before Christmas but I hope you all have a merry one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Telling a Little Bit More

OK, I've got about 5 minutes but I thought I'd let you all know that I finally was able to have the blood work done that I needed and I met with my Dr. yesterday. The test confirmed her suspicion that I am insulin resistant. And I'm OK. Actually, I'm relieved. First of all, there is nothing that is *seriously* wrong with me. And secondly, all of my symptoms aren't just in my head. And I'm grateful to have been led to a Dr. that looks for this kind of thing. According to her, we've caught it 15-20 years before I'd develop diabetes and I don't *have* to get it. You can retrain your body to use insulin properly and to produce the right amount. It also explains some things that have driven me crazy for years. For instance, why can I work out for two hours a day 5 days a week and not lose one-single-pound. It really was frustrating and I'd get upset with myself thinking, 'if I only worked harder I'd be able to do this'. And I'm not tooting my own horn but when I work out, I typically work out pretty hard. But my Dr. said that when insulin is being overproduced it makes your body hold on to every ounce and the only way to lose weight is to starve yourself or take some other drastic measures. Insulin resistance causes a whole lot of other things like irritability and depression, things you might associate with just being a girl along with scary stuff like high blood pressure and heart disease. So with the combo of medicine that she gave me, chromium piccolinate, along with diet and exercise I should get everything under control.

So, the only better news than that would be that there's nothing wrong with me at all. And now I have to go but I promise that I'll show you a couple of pictures of some things we did around the house soon. The new baseboards are so pretty!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

So Much to Tell...

I really have tons to write about today but I'm not sure I have the time to do it all justice. Travis would be none too pleased to find out that I'm writing instead of cleaning the house right now. Ooh, that made him sound like an ogre, didn't it? Actually my husband is very patient with my lack of cleaning skills ways. *But* we're having our house appraised tomorrow to refinance it and, well, it just seems like your house should be clean for that. And it should have baseboards in all the rooms. And no holes in the walls. And the trim should be painted one color instead of having painting mistakes all over them. And well, all of that is done. Except the holes in the walls- those will be done by tonight. See, I said that we were completely totally done for the year and everything was just going to stay as it was. And it was, except for the refinancing thing. So I have shiny, new baseboards and new curtains in the kitchen and things look mostly nice- but less clean than I'm going for. So we'll be putting away all the heavy equipment and making all the beds and mopping and doing all the general stuff to make the house look nice. There is still stuff to do, like finishing the floor in the closet and getting all the transition pieces down. Travis has done the one betweent he kitchen and living room but has 3 more doorways and a closet. Hopefully that will be enough for the appraisal. And I'm praying that all the blood, sweat and tears we've put into the house in the last two years will be worth it.

And I know I said that I wasn't doing a thing this season except for the choir but the children's pastor at church asked us to be in the kids program. He said it was a super small part and wouldn't be a big deal. It was a super small part- we each had one line- but even with one line you have to be at *all* of the rehearsals- three last week- plus two performances on Sunday. I have to say though, that I was really happy to be part of it. I really felt like I was supposed to be doing that. And since I wasn't stressed out thinking about all the other stuff I had to do, I really had a good time. It's funny, but when you shove a bunch of people together that don't know each other and make them talk because they have to for the scene, somehow you end up with new friends. Overall, it was a really good experience and I hope that we can be part of more things like that.

Now I have to run and pick up Chloe from school.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Back From the Edge

I'm feeling better today. My emotions are less raw and I'm OK. My grandma passed away the Friday before Thanksgiving so we were able to go to Birmingham this past week. Her death hit me harder than I thought it would. And I'm going to refrain from doing my usual 'but that's OK because she's better off'... or something like that. Death sucks and I miss my grandma. I miss my grandpa too and my maternal grandma that died when I was 16. I've done a lot of soul searching lately and I've come to a few conclusions. During worship this past Sunday, while I was crying about my grandma again, it hit me- I don't have anything to prove. I don't have to be the bestest mom in the whole world (even though I want to be) or the best wife or the most amazing singer or a gourmet chef or anything else that I've taken up. I can just be Amy and do things the way I do them and just be.

The second conclusion came during my shower yesterday. About two months ago I was praying and during that prayer time I was asking the Lord about some things and not really liking the answer I was getting. Then I heard the Lord say very clearly "run it out, finish strong". I was talking to him about our circumstances and he was telling me to finish strong. I was very excited. But in finishing this, in running it out I've realized that I don't have the strength to do it. I'm a strong person, I don't think anyone that knows me would debate that. But what if finishing strong is admitting that you're weak? That you're too weak to keep running and you just can't do it? Yesterday I did admit that I just couldn't do it, that I'm not strong enough and then I saw a picture of Jesus taking me on his back and running the rest of the way for me. Maybe finishing strong is finally letting go and letting Christ be strength for me.

The third conclusion is that I need to rest. I don't mean sleep, I get plenty of that, I mean rest from trials. Will that happen? Yes. I know it will because God has promised a season of rest to my family and I believe Him. Until then I'm doing my best to rest in Him, Matt. 11:28-29 "Come to me, all you who are weary an dburdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." That's the rest I'm talking about and that's what my whole family needs. I can't change my circumstances but I can rest in Him and trust that he's taking care of everything and that every single thing that He's promised to us will come to pass.

The last thing is that I am so very thankful for the amazing people that God has placed in my life. After my first marriage debacle, I begged God to not let me screw up again. It meant 4 straight years of singleness (because some people just shouldn't date) but God gave me the most amazing, wonderful husband that I could ever hope to have. He is my calm head in the storm. He has talked me down from many a ledge and I would not be who I am without him. I have 3 beautiful, amazing, loving daughters. I never could have imagined the joy that they would bring to me or that I could have a wonderful relationship with 3 spunky, fiesty, passionate girls, but I do and I wouldn't trade for anything in this world. I have friends that have been there for me and for us for forever and when I completely lose my cool and need to take a step back they're there for me- even if I don't feel like talking. Yes, I'm talking about you guys. Even if I only know you in bloggy land, I'm still thankful. I'm thankful for my parents and long walks in the woods on Thanksgiving day and for my brother who drove 10 hours each way just to see me and the girls (he didn't say Trav but I'm sure he meant Trav too). Death has been a constant companion in the last year and a half for he and his family so he didn't want to deal with another funeral but he came to Birmingham to be there for us. I'm thankful for my family by marriage that love us so much. And I'm thankful to be in the spot that I am today, tears and all. I'm not the same person that I was when I came here and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

And now I'm going to go make some chocolate milk for my incredibly patient 3 year old. That is what my life is about today and I'm happy with that.