Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Coffee Talk Confessions - November 2017

Hey yall! I've got a few more confessions comin' at ya this afternoon!

//I've been listening to Christmas music on Pandora since November 1.

//It took a good 3 and a half days to get the Christmas decorations up. My OCD is in full swing when decorating for Christmas, especially the tree. (Anyone else have this problem?)

//A little over a month ago I started getting up early around 5:30-6:00, which wasn't easy for someone who likes their sleep. I found that I really enjoy that early morning quiet time to myself and I think that it has made a huge difference in my mood in the mornings. I try to get things done in the morning, but not every morning is productive. Sometimes I lay on the couch and watch TV. Sometimes I sit outside with a cup of coffee and read a book or study the Bible or sometimes just scroll through my phone as I watch the sun come up. The best part about it is that by the time the girls start waking up around 7:30-8:00 I've already had a cup (or two) of coffee and I'm wide awake and more ready to take care of their needs. I also tend to be more patient and less on edge. 
Before, I would let my kids be my alarm clock and I wasn't always in the best mood when I woke up.  I often felt rushed and I would find myself becoming short and snappy with them. I did not like starting the day like this. Just this one little change has made such a huge difference in my entire attitude. 
*Thank you to Erica from Whimsical September for sharing your new daily routine and encouraging me to change mine! 

//Unless it's like super cold in the house, I always have to sleep with one foot uncovered. But it can't be falling off the bed. I have a weird fear that something is going to grab my foot if it's hanging off the bed. 

//Speaking of weird fears, when I was little I was scared of Injun Joe from the movie Tom and Huck. I would turn my light off then run and jump in my bed. I would surround myself with stuffed animals so if Injun Joe came through my window he wouldn't see me. Sound logic right there.

//My messy bun always looks the best when I throw my hair on top of my head right before I take a bath. But whenever I try to recreate the look to go out in public, I end up spending 15 minutes trying to make it look right...why?!?

//I was going through and sort of cleaning up the blog the other day and while going through old posts I was reminded of why I love doing this so much. I found this post about sweet little things that Raley used to do and it had me tearing up. Because honestly, I had forgotten she used to do those things! I love that David and I are able to look back at our lives and be reminded of the little things that made our world go 'round.

Thank you for reading - you are the reason I keep doing this. I make zero money off of this blog.  I do it because I enjoy it and in hopes that my writing will touch others in some way. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!

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For more confessions, visit the Coffee Talk Confessions Archive

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Friday, November 17, 2017

A Christ and Family Centered Christmas

Phew! These past few months have been go-go-go-go-go! With the cruise, then traveling to Atlanta and Halloween activities, then visiting family in Illinois...next week we will be going to Birmingham then to Murray, Kentucky to spend Thanksgiving with family. Don't get me wrong - I looove this time spent with family and we are so grateful to be able to make all these trips and share this time together. However, because we've been so busy, we have decided to slow waaaay down in December!

When I think about this time of year, I always remember how quickly it seemed to fly by and how we were always going and doing something throughout the entire month of December. Last year I remember making cookies and building a gingerbread house with Raley like 3 days before Christmas, thinking where has the month gone?! I was a little bummed that we were just now getting to do these family activities that we love so much and that the month was basically gone.

This year I realized that it's ok to not attend every single party. It's ok to miss out on events going on in your town. The most important thing at this time of year is Jesus and family and we've decided this year to focus our minds on these.

Of course there are a couple of things on our December to-do list such as Santa's Village, which is a favorite, and our tacky sweater party with our connect group at church. But other than a couple of nights out, we plan to be taking it easy and just being together this holiday season. Actually, this weekend we are planning on walking the Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Garden and Raley and I are going to see The Dance Company's performance of The Nutcracker on Saturday. These are two holiday favorites that we are excited to enjoy before December even hits!

I really just want to take this time of year to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, which is something I don't think we've done enough of in the past. While Christ may not have actually been born on Christmas Day, it is still a wonderful opportunity to not only celebrate his birth and his sacrifice, but to meditate on it and truly think about what it means for us.

I've come up with a list of some simple, fun activities that the entire family can enjoy. Some are Christ-centered activities that will help your kids understand the meaning of Christmas and ways to serve/bring joy to others. Some are simply activities that get you in the holiday spirit and promote togetherness.

- Read books about Jesus' birth. Or read aloud from the Bible (Luke 2:1-21) and have your children follow along in their own books or kids' Bible
- Listen to Christmas music. There are some beautiful and powerful lyrics out there - talk about their meaning with your children. One of my favorite verses that hits me in the feels every time is from Hark! The Harold Angels Sing - "Mild he laid His glory by. Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth. Born to give them second birth."
- Pick out toys to donate - take the kids with you to drop them off and talk about why we do this.
- Shop for canned goods for a local food bank
- Play with a nativity
- Shop for an angel together. (Raley and I did this last year and she had so much fun picking out things that a little girl her age would enjoy.)
- Bake cookies
- Build a gingerbread house
- Make salt dough ornaments
- Talk about the story of the candy cane
- Decorate the tree
- Watch Polar Express and drink Polar Express hot chocolate
- Make popcorn garland
- Wrap gifts
- Turn out all the lights, except the tree, and just be together. Snuggle under a blanket in your PJs, watch Christmas movies, eat Christmas goodies and drink egg nog. This is what I picture when I think of the perfect Christmas evening. Do whatever makes your family happy!

I hope this list sparks a few ideas for this holiday season. There are several things on this list that are favorites that I look forward to every year and there are a few new things we've never done before. I'm beyond excited for this holiday season and I'm praying it doesn't fly by as quickly as it typically does.

Have a wonderful weekend and a happy holiday season!

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Ten Thousand Years and Then Forevermore

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Grandpa's 80th Birthday - A Weekend Trip to Illinois

This past weekend we had the opportunity to travel to Galesburg, Illinois and celebrate David's Grandpa's 80th birthday with family. I can't tell you how happy I am we were able to make this trip. In the 13 years that David and I have been together, this is only the second time I have been to Galesburg, the first of which was when Raley was 10 months old. This was Raley's second time seeing Grandpa and Audrey's first.

We left Thursday evening after David got off work and drove 4 hours to Paducah, Kentucky to spend the night. Our plan was to get up, quietly get ready, put the girls in the car while still sleeping and leave at 6:00 am. The girls had other plans. Audrey woke up shortly after we did and wouldn't go back to sleep. She has NO volume control so we were a little on edge about how loud she was being in the hotel at 5:30 in the morning.  I got her ready and sat her down with the iPad to watch a movie  and she was doing pretty well until Raley got up, then they were fighting over who would hold the tablet and being SO LOUD! It was a frustrating morning, but we got everyone ready, to the car and went ahead and ate a good breakfast at Cracker Barrell in Paducah before hitting the road.
The best road snack - macarons from La Rue French Macarons

We learned from our car ride to Mobile for the cruise that the girls ride SO much better when they are separate, so we split them up for this trip too - one in our car and one in David's parents' car. They were both great! As long as we have plenty of movies to watch in the car, they tend to do pretty well.

We arrived in Galesburg around 3:00 on Friday afternoon and went straight to Grandpa's house to visit for a while. We were able to snap these pictures of Grandpa with the girls and I can't help but have the biggest smile on my face every time I look at them. His smile says it all!

I think I speak for the entire family when I say that we are overjoyed at how well Grandpa is doing. He has Parkinson's and the symptoms had started to take a toll a few years back. He was having a hard time getting around, needed assistance with eating and simple household chores.

However, a little over a year ago he was able to have a procedure done that would help with his Parkinsons' symptoms and allow him to be more independent and improve his quality of life. The treatment is called Duopa, which is a suspension that is delivered continuously, by pump, through a PEG tube into the stomach. This way he is getting an around the clock dose of medication instead of taking a pill a couple times a day.

It is absolutely incredible how much he has improved since the procedure.  He does his own grocery shopping, cooks, cuts his grass with a riding lawn mower, and he drives himself to the YMCA to work out. He has lost quite a bit of weight because he is able to get up and move around so much better.

This is a fairly new procedure and not many doctors are performing it yet, but if you have a loved one who has Parkinson's, it is definitely worth mentioning to their doctor. It has absolutely been life changing (I would even say life prolonging) for him. [Read more]

Anyway! For his birthday he wanted to spend the day with family, watching football, eating pizza and peanut butter pie. We stayed at David's Uncle JC and Aunt Jane's house, which is where we spent most of the weekend. Everyone gathered at their house Saturday night to enjoy some delicious pizza from Italian Village in Monmouth, Illinois, watch football and just enjoy each others' company. (Roll Tide BTW. My stomach is still in knots from that one.)
Raley loved JC. She called him "best friend" all weekend
On Sunday Gigi and I took the girls to Discover Depot Children's Museum. They had so many cute exhibits for kids to play with and learn from. There was a farm, a plow simulator, lots of different community areas like a bank, grocery store, vet/pet boarding area with stuffed cats and dogs, and a pizzeria.

There was an ambulance and firetruck, which the girls loved. Raley put a huge stuffed dog on the stretcher in the ambulance and was taking care of him. I think I see a future nurse in her.
How cute is this?!
There were several children at the museum who, as far as I could tell, did not know each other, but they were all playing fireman together. They would run from the firetruck, up the stairs to the "pet boarding" area where there were several stuffed dogs in cages. They'd say "Fire! Save the dogs! Save the dogs!" and each of them would grab a dog and run back down the stairs. It was insanely adorable and refreshing to see nice, cooperative play between children who don't know each other.
Audrey enjoyed climbing up and down the firetruck "ladder"

We got up before the sun and pulled out of JC and Jane's driveway around 4:15 Monday morning. We got the girls out of bed and put them right in their car seats. Luckily they both fell right back to sleep and we made it about two hours down the road before stopping for breakfast. We finally made it home, exhausted from the drive, at 5:15 Monday evening. I'm definitely glad we got to spend and extra day and come back Monday instead of Sunday.

I've said it already and I'll say it again - we are so so so happy we were able to make this trip. It meant so much to us to spend time with family we hardly ever get to see, and I know it meant a lot to them too, especially Grandpa. I haven't had the pleasure of knowing him all my life like David and Lindsey have, but I am happy to have known him for the past 13 years. He is an incredible person and, as a school teacher and coach, has touched the lives of so many in his community. In the future we hope to get to make this trip more than once every 3 years!
How sweet is this bye-bye hug?
Happy Birthday, Grandpa! We love you to the moon!

You may also like:
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Life Lately - October 2017

Last week while I was doing a little clean up on the blog, I realized I haven't been very good about keeping up with these "Life Lately" posts. I originally hoped to post one every month to keep my readers updated on what's going on around here. I also write these for me. I like to be able to look back at old posts years later and remember what was going on at that particular point in our lives. My last Life Lately post was in July, which is an indication of how busy it's been around here! I won't post everything that's been going on since July, because that would just take way too long, but I will talk about what's happened in the last couple weeks!

The day before we left for our cruise we made a trip up to Taft, TN for our annual visit to the pumpkin patch. I've stated before that in the past we have always gone to Tate Farms, but we had heard great things about Lyon Family Farms as well, so we wanted to give it a try. One review I read on Facebook stated that their family spent all day there from the time they opened in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. I thought to myself there's no way we'll be there that long. Well, I was wrong! We got there around 10:30 and didn't leave until 3:00. And there were still things we hadn't done yet plus a few the girls wanted to do again! I am so glad we were able to make time for a favorite fall tradition. I would have been pretty bummed if we had to wait another year for the fun!

This place is humongous and there is SO much to do. There's a hay ride out to the pumpkin patch, a petting zoo where you can feed/pet animals such as donkeys, horses, pigs, cows, goats, sheep, and more. They have super cute pig races several times throughout the day. There is a train ride, that we ended up not having time to do, several huges slides that my girls loved, bounce houses, a zip line (Raley rode it by herself and looked like such a big girl!), a few different playgrounds, a huge corn maze, corn pits, and so much  more! They also have Pumpkin slushies, which are so good!

 Audrey was hilarious when we were trying to pick out a pumpkin. She kept walking up to them and petting them saying "punkin soft." It was cracking us up!
I think their favorite thing this year was the big slides. They also loved strolling around the corn maze. Raley liked to lead us through and decide which way to go.
Talking to this piece of corn 
We were able to purchase a huge cup of animal food (I think for like $2). Audrey kept taking a handful and just dropping in the pens instead of letting them eat it out of her hand, but there was still plenty to go around! These animals were beautiful.

This was David's first year to get to go to the pumpkin patch and we are so glad he got to join us! I think he had almost as much fun as they did.
How we got a photo of everyone still and smiling is a miracle
Raley's orange "sock monkey" goes everywhere with us. She wanted to take a picture with him hanging from the corn
After making it home from the cruise we spent the next couple of days trying to take it easy and catch up on some sleep. We spent a lot of time like this:

However, I was scheduled for surgery that week. My IUD had shifted out of place so they had to put me to sleep and laparoscopically remove it. I was admittedly a little bit nervous about anesthesia because of all the horror stories you hear about people having a reaction and not waking up. But God was with us, as he always is, and everything went fine.

My parents kept the girls for 3 nights so that I could rest. Plus I wasn't supposed to lift over 20 pounds and with a strong-willed 1.5 year old that's an impossible order to follow. I was very thankful for my family's and David's help in the days and weeks following the surgery because I ended up being much more sore than I thought I would be.
I love when I get pictures of them having fun when we're away from them!
My sister and her husband were home on fall break so they were excited to spend time with them too

Besides sleeping, here's a glimpse into what the parents did without kids in the house. I think we need to make grandparent sleepovers a more regular thing.

My surgery was on Wednesday and Friday was the girls' Harvest Celebration at MMO. They were still staying with my parents so my mom brought them to MMO with her that morning and I met them there for the party (I'm not sure if I've mentioned before, but Audrey is in my mom's toddler class at MMO, which is so great!) I love how their costumes turned out this year! Last year for Christmas Raley got this adorable Alice in Wonderland costume from the Disney Store and it was decided then that she would wear it for Halloween. 
 I LOVE family costumes so Audrey had to be the white rabbit. I wanted her to look cute and girly so I put together this idea. She's wearing a red shirt under one of Raley's dance leotards with a tutu. My Granny made the white piece with the heart and the blue collar. I think she looks perfect. Although those ears came off quickly.
The girls got to walk around and trick or treat with the church staff and then go upstairs and play games. 
I love Audrey's little tale. And she insisted on dragging this bag around even though it was half as big as she was.
 I love seeing Raley with all her little friends!

As soon as the Harvest Celebration was over we all hopped in the car and took off for Atlanta to celebrate my niece, Payton's birthday. That night we went to an event at Kennesaw State called Owl-O-Ween, and the girls got to dress up again. There were hot air balloons, bouncy houses, people handing out treats, several vendors, stages with performers, and more. There were a ton of people there! More than we expected, so it made it a little difficult to get around, but we had alot of fun in the kids' area. The girls had a blast!
There were little photo booths set up that you could take pictures in front of.

The next day was Payton's Beauty and the Beast birthday party. Shannon did a great job with everything! It looked so cute.
Payton is not a big fan of getting her picture taken. Audrey kept standing up on this block and throwing herself off of it onto the floor and had Payton belly laughing! I was excited we got such a cute picture of the birthday girl.
Our attempt at a picture with all four girls proved unsuccessful.
*Raley is holding a baby doll, not a real baby. 
I am so glad that we were able to make this trip to Atlanta and spend time with family for the weekend.
These girls can fight like sisters but they adore each other
Addy is getting so big! She's so close to crawling.
Sunday afternoon we made our way home just in time for evening church service and the Trail of Treats afterward. This is one of my favorite events because we all get to dress up and walk around and visit with people from church. It ended up getting pretty chilly that night, but the kids didn't seem to mind! Raley played on the big blow up slide for probably 30 minutes and had a blast.
Like I said, I love family costumes, so it was only fitting that I be the Queen of Hearts and David the Mad Hatter! I ordered my costume off of Amazon. I ordered a standard size and it fit well except for the length. It ended up being about 5 inches too long so I had to pin it up at the bottom. I actually found the crown on clearance at Party City.
I put David's costume together with items I found at various thrift stores. His scarf was made out of a yard of fabric from Hobby Lobby that I tied in a bow. I ordered the Mad Hatter hat with the wig attached from Amazon. We ended up paying $16.95 for it, which I thought was a pretty good deal - they were selling the exact same hat at a local Halloween store for $30.
Notice Audrey's ears on the ground!

On Halloween Tuesday I dropped Audrey off at MMO and took Raley to Dunkin Donuts to get a Halloween donut before dance class. She was pretty excited about it, and so was I - they were delicious and adorable!
That evening my mom and both of David's parents came over to trick or treat with the girls. I had made some Cream Cheese Chicken Chili (one of our favorite and easiest meals) in the crockpot for all of us for dinner. Then we got dressed up and went out to trick or treat. Luckily we have a ton of kids that live in our neighborhood so there were a lot of people out. I love when there is a neighborhood of kids out trick or treating. It makes me feel nostalgic!

We all had a ton of fun, adults included. It is just so fulfilling to see your kids having such pure, genuine fun. 
However, Audrey wasn't quite getting the whole concept. She kept trying to walk into peoples' houses when they opened the door. She didn't understand that you should only go to houses that have porch lights on (how could she, she's not even 2?) but she would get upset when we would steer her in a different direction....but she didn't want to be picked up and carried either. The poor girl wanted to carry her basket but it was throwing her off balance and she kept falling down. Several times she laid down on the ground crying because we wouldn't let her go where she wanted to go. She is SO strong-willed and independent, which are good things to be in some ways, but boy does it make a parents job harder! She was still super adorable saying "trick or treat" and she would always say "thank you" without being prompted. And watching her trying to carry that big bag by herself was cute too. 

Raley looked like such a big girl walking up to houses on her own and ringing doorbells. She didn't need us right by her side every time. 

We had such a fun time and I'm glad the grandparents could share in the fun! I had hot apple cider waiting in the crock pot when we got home. The temps dropped very quickly so that warm cider hit the spot!

I always get a little bit sad when Halloween is over. I love the decorations and I love dressing up! The month of November is going to be a busy one with a good bit of traveling, but we're hoping that we can slow down a bit in December and just take in the joy of the holiday season. 

I'd love to hear from you! What are your favorite things to do in the fall?

For photos from Halloween the past two years and other similar posts, visit the Life Lately Archive!
If you're in the Madison/Huntsville area and would like some information on events going during the holidays, check out this post.

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