Tuesday, December 23, 2008

If I Wasn't in the Christmas Spirit, I am Now.

What an amazing evening.

The Ryman Auditorium is one of those places where there really isn't a bad seat. But, we were lucky enough to be towards the front of the balcony which seems closer to the stage than the floor.

Vince Gill and Amy Grant came out and began the evening with a lot of traditional, upbeat seasonal songs like "Winter Wonderland," "Santa Clause is Comin' to Town," "Let It Snow" and so on... the stage set was beautifully and the tunes were relaxed--jazzy even. Vince joked that he should be smokin' a cigarette and wearing shades because it really had the feel of a bluesy nightclub. It was a nice way to unwind.

Then, Vince shared a story and a song that I will never forget.

He told us about his brother and how he had been in an accident in his early 20's. He was not supposed to recover but he did; unfortunately not enough to ever really be the same. He couldn't hold down a job and his life started to spiral. Vince talked about the nights his Mom and he would drive around looking for his brother at various homeless missions, etc. He got a little choked up talking about the charity that the proceeds of the evening would go to...a charity that benefits missions--much like those that his brother relied upon during the last years of his life.

He then sang the song "Bread and Water" which we had never heard. Let me tell you. There was not a dry eye in the house and he received a FIVE MINUTE standing ovation. Do you know how long 5 minutes is? Vince broke down in tears on stage in the face of such a warm response. It was extremely moving. The song talks about the bread and water served to a homeless man at a mission and how that's all he needed...and how Jesus is our bread and water...and that's really all we need. It added such a meaningful touch to the evening...kinda brought into focus what we were really there to celebrate.

Whew. The other really touching moment came when we all stood and sang Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night a capella. Tears streamed down my cheeks to look around at everyone in the Ryman with their arms around each other and singing in beautiful harmony.

The evening was fun. and touching. and meaningful. and moving.....a perfect lead-in to a holiday that sometimes comes and goes too quickly. It has for me this year and tonight made me realize that.

Instead of stressing about cleaning or wrapping tonight, I think I'll lay here and listen to the raindrops outside and count my blessings. I don't want it to pass me by this year......

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Basketball, My Boys and a Warm December Breeze

This was one of those moments.

Daniel had been asking me to shoot hoops with him in the driveway all afternoon. I knew the sun would soon be setting so I took Jacob out and let him toddle around as Daniel and I began a rousing game of basketball. The air was only slightly cool and a nice breeze was blowing. Between shots, I would glance out over the horizon and count my blessings. Here I was, in the midst of the busiest time of the year and I was goofing around with two of the most important people in my life. The sun was beginning to set and a pink glow started to rise just above the hills in the distance.

Jacob took great delight in walking around as Daniel and I tried our best to get the ball away from one another. Whenever one of us would make a basket and cheer, Jacob would smile and start clapping his hands. It really was a lot of fun.

We took a quick break to walk down to the end of the driveway to check the mail. The drive is long and steep so I carried Jacob and Daniel dribbled the ball as our golden retriever Cassie chased after. On the way back up, Daniel ran ahead and a strong breeze blew in making Jacob blink his eyes as he giggled in delight.

I looked off to the southwest and the sky was filled with swirling grey clouds mingling with bright pink ones. I looked around and realized that I was completely happy at that moment.

I journeyed back up the driveway and back into a game I would eventually lose 40 - 36. But as I walked, I was grateful beyond words. I was grateful for little boys and basketballs and warm December breezes. I was thankful for giggles and little hands clapping and for health and for family. But, most of all, I was thankful for the feeling of contentment that washed over me today.

I want for nothing.

Keith's Shopping Dilemma Solved

My hubby has been begging me to tell him what I want for Christmas.

My response is usually, "I don't neeeeed anything." He then exhales loudly and mumbles under his breath as he walks off.

Well, our one year old has solved Keith's shopping dilemma once and for all! I just walked into the laundry room and found my iPod......floating in the dog's water bowl.

Honey...ask me ONE MORE TIME what I might like for Christmas.........

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jacob's First GOTCHA Day!

Today is a very special day in our household...it's the one-year anniversary of the day we brought Jacob home--or, as we like to refer to it--GOTCHA Day!

After we put the boys to bed this evening (Jacob with a raging double ear infection unfortunately), Keith and I watched the video of us meeting him for the first time. Unbelievable. His tiny little hands and fingers reaching up to us from the white wicker bassinet...melts. the. heart.

It's hard to believe that a year has flown by...like sands through an hour glass...THESE are the days of our lives. (Sorry to insert cheesy soap opera tag line) In an instant, those little fragile, 20 day old fingers have transformed into little mischievous boy hands. Hands that love to pull toilet paper off the roll, play "let's flush Mommy's cell phone" and think it's fun to feed food to the dog by dropping it off the side of the high chair. Those same little hands that were so new to me then, now delight my soul as they clap when he's happy, try to figure out how to fit a puzzle piece together or grasp my nose as we're enjoying some morning snuggle time.

In his first year, Jacob has met numerous friends and family, seen the mountains, the ocean, had three different home addresses, grown 5 teeth with a sixth on the way, learned to crawl, learned to walk and learned to say Dada and Mommmmmm-aaa very well.



You have no idea how your presence has impacted this family for the better. You gave your Momma and Daddy a chance to see that their hearts could expand to love another child with the same passion that we love our first. And, you gave your brother more than a back seat mate. You gave him an adoring shadow and, most of all, a reason to be patient and protective (not to mention a future partner-in-crime!).

You are a determined and stubborn child when you are on a "mission." Although it can be frustrating as I try to steer you from objects or situations that could be harmful, I know that someday your tenacious spirit could benefit you, too. You are curious, energetic and pretty adaptable considering the roller coaster ride we've been on this year.

I celebrate the first year we had with you. You are a delight to be around (ear infection-induced whininess or not) and we could not be more lucky that God chose us to be your parents. You are a wonderful fit for your family and your toofy, drooly grin brings sunshine to my every day.

I love you more than you'll ever know.


I'll Just Take the 13 Glazed Donuts Instead, Thanks.

I was reading on MSN about the Worst Mall Foods to eat. I was shocked at the calorie and fat content of some of these common foods (many of which I've eaten without thinking a thing about it). Check this out:

Panda Express
Orange Chicken
500 calories
27 g fat (5.5 g saturated, 1 g trans)
42 g carbs
810 mg sodium
FAT EQUIVALENT: 9 strips of Oscar Mayer Bacon!

Compared to other traditional Chinese meals (think multi-serving takeout boxes of carb-loaded lo mein), 500 calories doesn’t seem so bad. But consider the source—one small serving of Panda Express orange chicken usually comes with a second entrĂ©e (add another 300-400 calories) and a side of rice (add 450 calories if you choose the fried variety, 380 for the steamed). Make it a double serving of orange chicken and a side of fried rice and you’ve just consumed 75 percent of your day’s calories in one moment of weakness.

Eat This Instead:
Broccoli Beef
150 calories
7 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
510 mg sodium
11 g carbs

Auntie Anne’s
Glazin’ Raisin Pretzel
510 calories
107 g carbs
4 g fat (2 g saturated)
480 mg sodium

CALORIC EQUIVALENT: 2 slices of Pizza Hut cheese pizza!

It’s hard to consider this meal. Not all of Auntie Anne’s options are this heavy, though. The jalapeno pretzel (without butter) is a reasonable-sized snack that can give you the energy boost you need to make it through your shopping spree, without loading you down and threatening your waistline.

Eat This Instead:
Jalapeno Pretzel, no butter
270 calories
58 g carbs
1 g fat (0 g saturated)
780 mg sodium

SbarroStuffed Pepperoni Pizza, 1 slice
890 calories

CALORIC EQUIVALENT: 3 Snickers bars!

It’s probably no surprise that a pizza labeled “stuffed” would pack a caloric punch—but 890 calories for a single slice? You’d have to eat 3 Snickers bars, or 20 Chicken McNuggets, or 15 KFC Hot Wings to match that load. And that’s not even taking into account what are surely stratospheric fat and sodium counts. (Sbarro’s doesn’t release full nutritional information for their menu items. Check out what other dirty little secrets your favorite restaurants are hiding in this eye-popping expose!)

Eat This Instead!
New York Style Thin Crust Cheese, 1 slice
460 calories

Steak Escape
Ranch and Bacon Fries
1,044 calories
71 g fat
1,398 mg sodium
84 g carbs

CALORIC EQUIVALENT: 23 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets!

Consuming half your day’s allowance of calories in one meal is bad enough—but in one side dish? Claiming innocence will never hold up in a Food Court of Law, though—not when a flood of ranch, a flurry of bacon, and a mountain of fried potatoes are involved. Until some nutritionally savvy company starts baking their fries in the oven, you’ll need to seek out alternative treatments to get your spud fix.

Eat This Instead:
Smashed Potatoes
246 calories
0 g fat
43 mg sodium
53 g carbs

Smoothie King
Grape Expectations II (40 oz)
1,096 calories0 g fat (0 g saturated)
266 g carbs
250 g sugars

SUGAR EQUIVALENT: 13 Dunkin’ Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donuts!

Smoothie King calls this a way to “snack right”; we call it one of the quickest ways to pack on extra pounds. Even if most of the sugar comes from some form of fruit or fruit juice (in this case, ultra-sweet grape juice), the resulting blood-sugar surge (and inevitable energy crash) from this much sweetness may leave you struggling to find that last gift for Aunt Elma.

Drink This Instead:
Slim-N-Trim Orange-Vanilla 20 oz
250 calories1 g fat (0 g saturated)
46 g carbs
38 g sugars

Regular Caramel Pecan bun
1,100 calories
56 g fat (10 g saturated, 5 g trans)
141 g carbs
47 g sugars

CALORIC EQUIVALENT: 8 White Castle hamburgers

Cinnabon and malls are inseparable. This dangerously bloated bun—among these Fattiest Foods in America—contains nearly an entire day’s worth of fat and more than half of your daily allotment of calories. Reconsider your breakfast or snack options, but if you absolutely must eat something, make it Stix.

Eat This Instead:
Cinnabon Stix
379 calories
21 g fat (6 g saturated, 4 g trans)
41 g carbs
14 g sugars

Au Bon Pain
Large Macaroni and Cheese Stew with Bread Bowl
1,120 calories
42 g fat (19 g saturated, 1 g trans)
3,070 mg sodium
157 g carbs

SODIUM EQUIVALENT: 22 small orders of McDonald’s French Fries!

Whether it’s made from a giant fried tortilla or a massive hunk of sourdough, if you’re serving vessel is edible, you’re asking for trouble. In this case, the bread bowl adds a belly-building 600 calories to what is already one of America’s most decadent, over-the-top spoonables. If soup’s your thing, you’ll have a hard time keeping the sodium down no matter which bowl you order; good, old-fashioned tomato soup is as good as you’ll do at Au Bon Pain.

Eat This Instead:
Medium Old Fashioned Tomato Soup
200 calories
7 g fat (3 g saturated)
1,150 mg sodium
27 g carbs

Large Tuna Melt Club with cheese and dressing
1,820 calories
147 g fat (27 g saturated, 1.5 g trans)
2,020 mg sodium
85 g carbs

CALORIC EQUIVALENT: 12 Taco Bell Fresco Style Beef Tacos!

Tuna off the grill or straight from the can is perfectly healthy; tuna drowning in mayonnaise, blanketed in melted cheese, and slicked with oily dressing is decidedly not. Not only does this sandwich carry with it nearly an entire day’s worth of calories and sodium, it also contains as much fat as 49 strips of bacon. In fact, it’s so bad that it will replace Quizno’s Classic Italian in our list of the 20 Worst Foods in America when we update it for 2009.

Eat This Instead:
Small Tuna Melt, no cheese, no dressing
500 calories
33 g fat (5 g saturated)
630 mg sodium
37 g carbs

That'll sure make me think twice about what I order at some of those restaurants!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

Whoda thunk I'd be iced in....in LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS? Perhaps if I was doing a site visit in, say, Montreal? or Vancouver? But as I packed my Mommy Mobile and headed west...I can assure you I wasn't thinking I'd be heading into this.

I did check the weather forecast and, hopefully, it will be safe for me to head back tomorrow.

I look out my hotel window and this is what I see:

Little Rock or New York City?
City streets coated in ice
Heavy white plumes of steam
Escaping from manhole covers
A river slowly creeping by
Too cold to ripple or flow
Brave motorists
Cautiously making their way

A non-existent sky
Once blue and endless
Now obscured by fog and 
a drizzly, sleety mist
Pedestrians amble by
Huddled and bundled
No relaxed chit chat
As they go to and fro

Winter has settled here
If only briefly
Making a grand entrance
I am perfectly content
Surveying the scene from here
From the warmth of my perch
in Room 1623...


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

That's What I Call Wanting Some Guacamole

The rain was pouring down. I mean POURING. It wasn't as cold as it has been the past few days but the weather was not what you would consider...ideal. I was headed home from Target and I had my mind set on one thing:  GUACAMOLE. 

There are many who may not have a full appreciation of the green stuff like I do. But, when I get my mind set on Mexican for a meal...folks, there's no turning back. So, I whipped into La Hacienda because not only do they have good guacamole, but they have a BUFFET at lunch. And, there is guacamole on the buffet. HEAVENLY!

Now, let me remind you that my counterpart, my little one-year old sidekick, had been perfect all morning. But, it was soon approaching nap time so I knew I had to make it snappy. I put the car in park, throw my hood on, jump out, run around the other side of the car, jump in the back seat and--because it was raining--shut the door. 


I could not get out. And, with Jacob's big-honkin' seat in the way, I honestly thought I'd be stuck there in the back seat of the car, in the rain....with no guacamole. Hey, a girl's gotta have her priorities.

So, I got all gymnastic-like and finagled my way over his seat, through the front two seats, over the console and plopped down in the passenger seat. Whew.  I got out, got him into the restaurant and slid into the booth after securing him in the high chair. I was within a couple feet of my beloved guac when he started whining. I hop up, he lets out a mild screech and I grab some pears in a little bowl and some refried beans. The child ate the pears like he had been starved on an island for a year. Then, he ate the beans. But, upon discovering an empty bowl where the pears used to be, my child...my love heart...rared back and let out a blood-curdling screech that lasted approximately 4.9 minutes. Well, may be not that long but it was a good 20 seconds. And, in a small Mexican restaurant, that is the equivalent of "cinco" years, my friends.

I wanted to crawl under the booth. With my guacamole, of course.

He then proceeded to take the bowl and chunk it on the floor whereupon it made a loud, KA-Ling! ka-lingggggggg...at this point, I had consumed a chip and a half and was working on a taco. I sat there cursing my poor decision to attempt a buffet alone with a whiny nap-needing child. 

The server brought over a few packs of crackers that seemed to appease my youngest until I could down my taco and a few chips and then it was time to go.

The aftermath:  a pear-juice-smeared table, 3 crushed packs of semi-open crackers on the floor, two bowls that used to contain pears on the floor, a high chair filled with crumbs and........a plate with wayyy too much leftover guacamole.

I'm pretty sure Weight Watchers and God were in on this one together. Next time: a can of soup at home while the boy naps. Sigh....

Friday, December 05, 2008


I sit here
turtleneck pulled extra high
searching for warmth
and wisdom
my mind
bare as the tree branches
outside the window
a million miles away

sorting out my thoughts
miles of backroads
with unpruned branches
intertwining and obscuring
patches of sunlight
peeking through
I proceed cautiously
staying between the lines

I turn the music louder.....

Sweet Dreams

This morning Daniel awakened and confided in Keith:

"Daddy. I had the best dreams all night. I dreamed Auburn and Tennessee lost all of their football games and then... I dreamed about Hannah Montana!"

Gotta love that kid.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Birthdays and Football and Plenty of Things to Be Thankful For...

It has been a week, folks.

Between the trip to Georgia last week and our Thanksgiving travels, I'll be happy to not even see the inside of my car for quite some time. In fact, I think I'll hole up like a hermit for a few weeks and just see what life is like at this house we're paying for each month. I could also walk to the other house we're paying for each month...but it's empty and it keeps me up nights so it's probably best that I just hang here!

Wednesday morning we loaded up the ol' Family Truckster and headed due south to the inlaws. Loaded down like we were gonna set up base camp for a strategic military operation, we slowly made our way there and even got to intersect with Keith's brother and his family to grab lunch along the way. Between Keith and his brother Jay, there are 6 offspring. So, Keith's poor parents didn't know what hit them when the 10 of us came barreling into town. The next morning we added his older brother plus wife and child, later that afternoon his younger sister, her hubby and two kiddos and then an aunt and grandma. Altogether there were 21 of us.

I kid you not, if Valium were an over the counter option...................

But, I will tell you this. Yes, it was crowded and yes there were probably times when Keith's folks were simultaneously glad to have us all there and wondering if it was time for us to go yet...with kids bickering over whose turn it was to throw the football or twenty of us all in the kitchen trying to get a drink at the same time... but we were there. together. A family that is spread across the Southeast and we were all converged on this small southern town at one time.
It was a miracle to say the least.

We sat out in the chairs and swings under the arbor covered with its intertwining rose vines and caught up with each other's lives. WE talked about jobs and kids and school. We played a few rousing games of touch football (WHY can I not throw a football correctly???) and we laughed. Alot. And, as crazy as it was trying to grab a spot in the shower line or screaming as the shower water turned icy cold as someone washed the dishes, I loved every minute of it.

Yes, really.

Because in my everyday hectic life, there are phone calls to return and appointments and busses to catch and homework to do and laundry to finish and...and....there was none of that. It was just a group of people related by blood or marriage spending time together. For that, and for each and every one of them, I am thankful.

While we were at the inlaws, we celebrated Jacob's FIRST birthday! How is that even possible? Wasn't it yesterday that I was sitting in my living room watching Deal or No Deal and the phone rings...."you're having a baby in three weeks...and it's a boy!" From that moment (Nov. 9) on, life has certainly been a whirlwind.

Our brother and sister-in-law had a little girl just 4 days after Jacob was born so we did a joint 1st Birthday party for them Friday evening. Two babies, lots of family, gifts and, of course, the birthday cake for each...it was so much fun. I'm finishing a post about Jacob's first year and will get that up this week,

And then, we loaded up the truck and headed to Tuscaloosa in a driving rainstorm for the 2008 Iron Bowl. Luckily, just a light mist made itself home on us all day and we never dealt with a hard rain after we arrived at our tailgating site.

We had a great time hanging out with our tailgating crew for the last time this year [insert sad face here!] and then we walked over the the stadium. I could not have been more nervous. Playing our arch rival who has NOTHING to lose when we are the number one team in the country trying to make it to a National Championship game.

But, as it turned out, we had nothing to worry about. With a final score of 36 to NOTHIN. Zip. Zero. Zilch...it could not have been a better game. I was hoping to win by a point and we ended up shutting them out. It was beautiful. The stadium was electric and not a single Bama fan left. We ended a six game losing streak in an intense rivalry and had a great time doing so!

Now we're back. And, we're decorating for Christmas and getting back into a groove here at home. It snowed like crazy here today but didn't stick. Oh well...it sure was pretty coming down!

Wishing you a good post-Turkey Day week!