Imagination Station

One of the many things I didn't realize about being a parent was just how much I would enjoy watching them learn new skills and concepts.  Watching Mackenzie grasp the concept of potty training and overcome that huge step has just been amazing.  I can see the excitement in her face each time she has success, and it's easy to see how proud of herself she feels.  (And for the record, after more than two weeks with no accidents, I am counting her as POTTY TRAINED!  One down, one to go!)

Another thing that is fun to watch is the development of the girls' imaginations, which are in full swing right now.

Not long after school started back in August, the girls started talking about someone named either "Caleb" or "Kayla"...it's hard to tell exactly how they're saying it.  (Most of the time it comes out sounding like "K-love"-- a playground rapper, perhaps?)  Upon checking with their teachers, we ascertained that there was no Caleb or Kayla in their class or any of the classes they come into contact with.  After many instances of overhearing the girls boss "K-love" around, tell him (her?) to take a nap, buckle his car seat, and eat his lunch, we decided that Addison & Mackenzie may just have their first imaginary friend.

Having had two imaginary friends of my own as a child, I think it's pretty darn cute.  (No, I won't reveal my childhood friends' names or exactly how long I carried on conversations with them!) 

The pretend games have only increased since then, in both animation and complexity.  The latest game involves the girls pretending to be one of their teachers, with Mrs. Pam, their Sunday school teacher being the primary character of the moment.  Addison is particularly serious in her role, often completely ignoring me saying her name until she finally gives me an exasperated look and says, "I'm Mrs. Pam!".  Some days it's hard to keep track of just who I am supposed to be talking to!  Addison will open any one of her books and say, "This is my Bible and I'm going to read you a story.  You sit down and listen." 

Who can refuse such a cute demand?  : )


Thanksgiving Quick Takes

  • I seriously forget that Thanksgiving is an American holiday, but I fully support the idea of a holiday that revolves almost entirely around food.  It may not be good for my pants size, but it sure is good for the soul.
  • We spent our Thanksgiving at my church, as we have for the past five (?) years or so now.  We serve a Thanksgiving meal for our community.  It started out as sort of a service to those who needed somewhere to go, but now, it's open to absolutely anyone who wants to come be a part of it:  those who need a place for a wholesome meal, people who might live alone and not want to cook, those who can't be near their family, and even families who just don't feel like cooking themselves.  It has turned into an awesome ministry, and we enjoy serving and eating our meal along with our friends and church family.  Our church provided over 850 meals for the community this year.
  • Thursday night we went to Jeremy's parents' house for round two.  It was delicious, and the girls really warmed up to the houseful of friends and relatives better than I expected.  We all had a great time, and the girls were very well-behaved despite being out past their bedtime.
  • Out of curiosity, we drove past Wal-Mart when we got back into town around 10:00 on Thanksgiving night, and it was insane.  The parking lot was covered, all the spaces in nearby businesses were full, and cars were even parked on the grass.  CRAZY, I'm telling you...you couldn't pay me to get in that madness.
  • In general, Addison & Mackenzie were awesome during the entire holiday weekend.  I have memories of whiny, clingy, over-stimulated children from this time last year, and I am so thankful we had none of that happening this time.  They still didn't eat a lot--most of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes are not their favorites--but they behaved so well, I didn't even care!  (They did fill up on macaroni n' cheese, rolls, and dessert...not the healthiest of days, but we were all happy.)
  • My sister got into town on Tuesday night and stayed until Sunday, so we had lots of family time together.  There were shopping trips, crafting projects (more on those later!), late-night movies, and hot chocolate involved in our holiday weekend, and it was all wonderful.
  • There was a little football game on Saturday that we were all looking forward to watching.  And yes, I'm being sarcastic when I call it a "little football game"...the entire state of Alabama stands still on Iron Bowl day, and that is not much of an exaggeration.  A & M spent Friday night with Jeremy's parents, so he went over there to watch the game and bring them home.  Laura Jo and I were left to watch the game at my house free of any comments from the Auburn fan in the family.  We worked on projects during the game, and by the time it was over, my tree was complete, and we were two happy Bama fans.

The girls and Jeremy arrived home, and we were (mostly) able to put aside our differences and enjoy the rest of the evening.  It was easier for some of us than for others (Roll Tide!!), but J handled it pretty well.  : )

Consoling Addison after she heard Auburn lost...  : )

We do have so much to be thankful for, and family is right at the top of my list.  It was a great holiday weekend, filled with so many of our favorite things.  

Now...bring on Christmas!!


Potty Mouth

No, not that kind of potty mouth...just lots of talking about the potty and bodily functions.

Since the last time I talked about my potty training frustrations, I pretty much dropped the subject.  Occasionally my mom or Jeremy's mom would ask the girls about sitting on the potty, but I didn't really mention it at all.

Imagine my surprise then, when my mom called last Tuesday to tell me that both Addison and Mackenzie had worn panties to school!  Their teachers have been telling us that it's fine to send them in panties whenever we are ready, so when they both agreed to wear them on Tuesday morning, off they went.  I think they had gone without diapers most of Monday as well, but honestly, I can't quite remember.

On Tuesday, neither one of the girls had an accident at school.  I could hardly believe it.  Even better, they had both used the potty at school.  (Remember, my girls must have amazingly huge bladders--they can hold it for hours--and they have still never pooped at school.)

Tuesday was a major milestone for our little family!

Addison had an accident at school on Wednesday, but she wore her panties again on Thursday and did just fine at school.  Since then, though, she has kind of regressed and flat-out begged for diapers.  After a bit of disagreement on Friday, Jeremy and I decided not to push her on it right now.  Addison has not been interested in the potty as long as Mackenzie has, so I feel good about giving her a little more time and focusing on M right now.

As for Mackenzie...she has been in panties full-time since last Tuesday and has not had a single accident.  AND she used the potty at our friends' house during a birthday party on Saturday!  Woo-hoo!!!

I should clarify that she has consistently peed in the potty; we still have a little way to go on the poop stuff.  (Sorry if this is all a little gross...we say "pee-pee" and "poo-poo" in our house...what kind of terms do you use with your kids?  There is no good way to say it, is there??)

For the first few days, M would request a diaper when she needed to poop (I'm pretty thankful for the bodily function control that allows her to wait while I get a diaper!), and I was okay dealing with that.  Thursday night, out of the blue, Mackenzie agreed when I suggested she try to poop on the potty.  And she did!  Well, a little at least.  I knew it wasn't, well...enough...but hey, it's a start!  She has since done it a couple more times, getting more comfortable each time. 

Maybe a little too comfortable, judging by her declaration in this video...
(Yes, she will want to kill me for this someday, so I am making a mental note to remove it before she gets old enough to be embarrassed by it.  In fact, this entire post should probably be made private at some point in the future...)

I am SO incredibly proud of my big girl.  I am also very proud of my Addison, who has handled all the extra attention directed at M with very little drama.  I know she will be ready before too long, and she will get her turn with the attention and praise.

While we can't throw out the diapers just yet, diapering only one child (plus honoring the occasional request for a diaper from Mackenzie) is already much easier on the wallet and on this mama and daddy.  These are exciting days in our house!


Book Review: Kisses from Katie

I have been reading ARCs (advance reader copies) through NetGalley for a couple of months now, and so far, I am loving it.  I have found some great books that I might otherwise have never read, plus I get the fun added advantage of reading them before they even hit the store shelves.

Kisses from Katie is one of the first books that I heard about before I even saw it listed on NetGalley, so I was very excited to get started on it. 

Katie Davis, from a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, traveled to Uganda during Christmas break of her senior year of high school.  She was captivated by the people and the country, and knew she would ultimately return one day.  Upon her high school graduation, Katie did return to Uganda, and ended up making a home there.  Over the last few years, she has adopted fourteen (yes, fourteen!) young girls and has helped countless others get the food, medical care, and schooling they so desperately need.

Kisses from Katie is the inspirational story of Katie's deep and abiding love--her love for the people, especially the children, of Uganda, and for her God.  Katie's love is evident in every page of her book.  What else but love could motivate such a young girl to give up the life she's known and move to the other side of the world to live in the midst of poverty, sickness, and strife? 

While I find Katie and her story nothing short of incredible, the book itself fell a little short at times.  Not unexpectedly, the text is full of scripture references and passages describing the ways God has provided in the midst of the overwhelming need, and the saccharine tone felt a little overdone at times.  It is obvious though, that Katie's words are absolutely sincere; I can imagine that the way she writes is the way she goes about her life.  There are a few cliche phrases thrown about at times, such as "adoption is God's heart", that sound meaningful but don't really carry much weight.  These things bothered me more in the beginning of the book than the later parts, almost as if Katie found more of a rhythm in her writing toward the end.

My only other issues with the book come from the fact that I wanted more of the story in some places.  Katie had a longtime boyfriend when she left for Uganda, and we realize early on that they are no longer together, but don't get much of that story.  There are a few vague paragraphs devoted to the fact that she sacrificed that relationship, but I would have liked to hear more about that dynamic.  How do you tell your boyfriend who is currently thousands of miles away that you are adopting a child?  That you don't think you'll be coming back to Tennessee? 

In retrospect, I feel I know a lot about Katie's ministry, but not a lot about Katie herself.  That may very well have been an intentional move, but I also think Katie missed an opportunity to develop a more intimate connection with her readers by sharing more about other parts of her life.  It is often through shared struggle that bonds are formed, so I think the story might have resonated on a deeper level if Katie had shared some of the personal details many of her readers would relate to--the hard days of motherhood, the heartache of losing a first love--rather than just repeating the mantra that God provides abundantly (which, he does, of course...you'll find no argument from me there!).

I may sound critical of the book, but really, I very much enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone needing an example of the good that can be done when we respond to the Bible's challenge to truly love our neighbors--all of them.  Katie is a fascinating, inspiring young lady, and I look forward to seeing what amazing things she will accomplish in the next decade of her life.  I would love to read a follow-up a few years down the road.

**ARC received from NetGalley for review.  Kisses from Katie is available now.


Holiday Bucket List

I say it approximately one million times every year, but I absolutely love the holiday season.  I love the anticipation of it all.  Thanksgiving, with all the food and family, is a quiet time to just reflect on our many blessings and enjoy time with family.   And of course, I love everything about Christmas...the bustle of stores and the challenge of finding the perfect gifts; the Christmas music; the quiet glow of candles and brightly lit trees in nearly every house; and the peaceful magic of the Christmas Eve celebration at church.

I just can't get enough, and my love for the season has only grown since Addison and Mackenzie came along.  Last year was the most fun yet, watching them experience so many new things, and I can already tell this year is going to be even better.

To ensure we make the most of these few magical weeks, I am declaring a Holiday Bucket List for our family....all things to accomplished between now and the end of the year.

What I've got so far (including some very basic things because I like to cross items off a list!):
  1. Serve Thanksgiving dinner for our community at church.
  2. Stuff ourselves again on Thanksgiving night with Jeremy's family.
  3. Analyze the mountain of Black Friday sale papers with family on Thanksgiving evening...then go to bed instead of going shopping.  : )
  4. Watch Love, Actually with my sister (holiday tradition!).
  5. Watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Santa Clause with A & M...likely many times over.
  6. Stay up far too late each night of Thanksgiving week, talking, cooking, eating, and watching movies with family (including Laura Jo, who will be home most of the week!).
  7. See a movie in the theater (a rare treat) with my mom and sister...we have done this the past couple of years, so it's kind of becoming tradition for us.
  8. Ride through our favorite neighborhoods to see Christmas lights.
  9. Take a walk around our own neighborhood to check out all the lights and decorations... we kind of started this last night by walking down the street to see a neighbor's tree through the window!
  10. Get a picture with Santa (if the girls don't flip out, that is).
  11. Make these fun little trees with the girls.
  12. Go to holiday lights at the Chattanooga Zoo (thanks to a good deal on Groupon).
  13. Bake and decorate Christmas cookies with the girls.
  14. Stay up late wrapping gifts and finalizing the Christmas-morning setup with Jeremy, who is thankfully off work on Christmas Eve this year!
  15. Read the Christmas story together as a family on Christmas Eve...we have a great book I am looking forward to introducing to Addison & Mackenzie.
  16. Host a holiday get-together for some of our close friends.
  17. Attend the Christmas Eve candlelight service with our family.
  18. And in general, enjoy every moment of watching our girls experience all that the season has to offer.
One of my favorite pictures from last year, largely because Addison spent so much time gazing up at the tree like that; as if she was just in awe of it.
 Your turn...What's on your holiday bucket list??  What am I forgetting?


Friday Night Five

1.   Well, I'm a NaBloPoMo flunkee.  I posted on each of the first nine days of November, which was a record for me, I'm sure.  But some days I just don't feel like blogging, or I am not inspired, and that doesn't make for good reading does it?

Many months ago, I basically stopped using the computer at home on the weekends, and quite honestly?  I like it that way.  The weekends are family time, and when the girls go to bed, Jeremy and I are left with some of the very few hours we get alone each week.  I don't need my "requirement" to post a blog to get in the way of that.  (If I were all organized and efficient like some other bloggers I know, I would have posts pre-written and set to post automatically.  Alas, that will never be me...I write about whatever is on my mind at the time.)

I do think maybe I can get in the habit of posting more often during the week, which was my original goal anyway.  So...win?

2.   I left work early yesterday and Jeremy and I were able to have lunch and do some shopping together.  I had my first peppermint mocha of the season, so it feels like the holidays are officially here!  I got the girls some black boots, which they are in LOVE with already, and a new outfit for our family pictures this weekend.  We picked up a present or two and just enjoyed wandering around for awhile, and it was very, very enjoyable.

3.   I had an unpleasant experience with a chain bookstore that still has me a little irritated.   I had a 25% off coupon, so I was going to break my own rule (don't buy anything for yourself that you have already put on your Christmas wishlist!) and buy the Harry Potter box set.  I knew the average online price was around $50, so when the clerk helping me pulled up the price of $86 and some change, I quickly declined.  While taking a coffee break, I searched for the online listing and quickly found the set on the store's OWN website for $52.15, with a little button that said "click here to pick-up in your local store".  Sounds like a workable deal, right?  I reserve it at the online price, then "pick it up" at the store.

I'm sure you can see this coming, but it didn't happen.  No, apparently when you reserve online, you have to pay the store's price at pickup if there's a difference.  Do you know how extremely upset I would have been if I had traveled to the store to pick those up?  It would not have been my best moment, I feel sure.

Though I didn't really want to give them my money after that, I saw a book I knew A & M would flip over, so I used my coupon to get it for them.  We have another Llama, llama book, and they request it multiple times a day sometimes.

4.   I think the girls are back on schedule from the time change last weekend.  It wasn't particularly hard on us, but for the past couple of weeks they had been waking up a little earlier than usual so I was worried about the possibilities for a wrecked sleep-schedule.  They stayed up super-late one day last weekend, so it might have even helped that they were a little off schedule to begin with.  A & M are pretty much back on track, though they are still waking up earlier than they were for awhile, but I'm thinking the months of sleeping until 8:30 or 9:00 must have just been a fluke.  Regardless, I can't complain about 7:15 when they are also taking marathon afternoon naps, like the three-hour one from this afternoon.  (It was glorious!)

5.   Not to be deliberately vague (because I haaaaate that, really), but I have a possible change coming up, and it would be freakin' fantastic.  So, just send good wishes and/or prayers my way, okay?  I will certainly share if it happens.  It's a big maybe right now, but still...


Phone Photo Dump

I'm really tired tonight, but I have blogged eight days in a row so far...I'm not quitting now!

Here are some Instagram pictures from my phone over the last few weeks:

October sky
Fall trees around the courthouse square.  Love seeing these trees when I come to work every day.

Mackenzie at dinner a few weeks ago

Addison painting pumpkins

Mackenzie and her pumpkin

Movie night!
Movie night with my two favorite girls!  The Wizard of Oz, of course.

Mackenzie at the library Saturday morning.

I hope to use this picture again after the Alabama/Auburn game!  : )
One of my current favorite pictures.

Jeremy is taking the day off tomorrow and he promised the girls a breakfast date before he takes them to school.  They went to bed really excited about it.  : )  

I am taking the afternoon off and J and I are going to lunch and to do a little shopping.  Combined with the holiday on Friday, it should be a great long weekend.  Hopefully a relaxing one as well...we could use it!


Wishlist Wednesday

With the Christmas season quickly approaching, my thoughts are turning to shopping a little more often than usual.  I love picking out gifts for friends and family, and browsing and list-making is a big part of the fun for me.  I already have a few gifts in mind this year, including a few homemade items (more on those soon!).

One thing I have trouble with at Christmas is answering the question, "What would you like this year?"  In my family, it's not a big deal...they have known me my entire life, after all, so they have a pretty good idea what I would like.  Plus, my sister and I each help our mom to shop for the other, and we have similar taste (sometimes we inadvertently pick out matching gifts for each other!).  In Jeremy's family, things are a little different.  When someone asks for a list of things you would like, they mean it. If you put an item on a wishlist for his mom, you're pretty much guaranteed to get it (nice, right??).

Since it is very hard for me to come up with ideas on the spot, I have tried to make a list of things to suggest this year.  You know, the extras that I would like to have, but haven't gotten around to buying for myself.

A few items I have come up with so far...

Source: walmart.com via Deanna on Pinterest

I have a yard-sale sewing machine in the closet, but it's several years old and does not have a manual with it.  I'm pretty sure a manual is a necessity for me, so if I have any hope of learning to sew, I think I'm going to have to start with something easy to use.  This machine has great reviews, and at $130.00, it's not a huge investment.  (Jeremy, this suggestion is for you!  Hint, hint...)

Source: toms.com via Deanna on Pinterest

I have wanted a pair of Toms for quite awhile, but just never got around to buying them.  Perfect gift idea, though!

I have come to the conclusion that I don't have enough hooded sweatshirts in my life.  This Atlanta Braves hoodie would make a great addition to my weekend wardrobe.

I haven't seen the last two (or three, maybe?) Harry Potter movies, but I did get swept up in the Potter-mania that surrounded the recent release of the final movie.  I have found myself with an overwhelming desire to start over and read the series again from the beginning.  I have owned a few of the books at some point, but who knows where they might have wandered off to in the years since I've read them.  Now that all the books are available in paperback, I would love to own the complete set.  I can't wait to watch my girls experience the Harry Potter story one day!

A few months ago, I got hooked on Veronica Mars on Netflix.  I knew it was supposed to be a great show (HOW did it only last three seasons??), but I just never got around to watching it before that time.  Sadly, when I was about six episodes into season one, Netflix took it off their streaming list.  There are often good deals for the DVDs on half.com, so I'm hoping someone might snag a copy for me.  I can't wait to watch the rest of the series, though I'm sure I will be sad all over again when it ends too quickly (only THREE seasons?!).

And that concludes my personal holiday gift guide so far this season...always subject to revision, of course. 

What's on your wishlist holiday season?  Do you have trouble giving others an idea of what you want? 


Countdown to Christmas

**Disclosure:  I received free photo cards from Shutterfly in exchange for posting about their holiday cards.  However, all opinions expressed are my own.  I have used Shutterfly for years and have had nothing but pleasant experiences!

48 days until Christmas...can you believe it??

This year has absolutely flown by, but I have to admit, I am really excited for the holidays.  I feel like Addison and Mackenzie are at a perfect age to begin enjoying some of the magical holiday experiences I love so much.  I will be talking a lot more about that stuff later, but one thing I feel like I need to get a start on is the planning of our Christmas cards. 

We have family pictures scheduled for Saturday morning, and I am so hoping that we get some great card-worthy shots.  I will be using Shutterfly for our cards, as I have for the past several years, so I've already started browsing to see which cards catch my eye this year.

I will undoubtedly spend a couple of hours inserting my favorite photos into different cards, to see which combination produces the result I'm going for.  In the meantime, these are some of my favorites at first glance:

I like the cut-out style of the writing...but I would have to use specific photos to fit the design.

I like the simplicity of this one, and the idea of one family photo is appealing.

I'm a sucker for a monogram!

Love the classic simplicity of this one.

And I love the retro feel of this design!  This might be a top choice, with the right photograph.

Monogram again--and it's a bit different from the standard designs.

Classic; very fitting for a great family picture.

In addition to cards of all kinds, Shutterfly also carries products that make great gifts.  I like to browse the photo calendars, which are currently on sale, making it a great time to order.  I made desk calendars for several family members last year, and everyone absolutely loved them!  I will probably order more this year...how often can you order the same gift for seven different people and please them all equally? (I need to get on this project quickly, because $10.79 is a pretty great price, actually!)  There are several other gift ideas that grandparents and other family members would treasure, I am sure.

Be sure to visit Shutterfly for cards, calendars, photo books, and more!

So tell me...have you picked out your holiday cards this year (if you are sending cards, that is)?  Any photo gifts on your list?  Do you have pictures made near the holidays, or just wield the camera and hope for the best?


Good food can heal a lot of hurts

Well, the game didn't exactly turn out the way we Alabama fans had hoped, but we had a pretty good night hanging out at home.  We watched the first half of the game together before the girls went to bed, and they had fun getting excited and yelling at the tv with me.  : )

A couple of weeks ago, I made crockpot buffalo chicken, and we really liked it.  Jeremy mentioned that the sauce would be really good on wings.  Inspired by MandyE's email about game food, I decided to attempt wings for the first time ever. 

To my surprise, they turned out pretty well!  Jeremy liked them as well, and he mentioned that he would definitely appreciate a repeat.  I loosely followed this recipe (I left out the cayenne pepper and didn't really measure the garlic powder, etc.), with the modifications mentioned in the first few comments (bake them without sauce first, then add the sauce and broil for just a few minutes until the wings get slightly crispy).  I also used some dry ranch mix in my buffalo sauce, from the pinterest link above.

Anyway, despite Bama's disappointing loss, we had good food and quality family time, so I'll call the night a success.

Addison says "Roll Tide!" anyway...

Roll Tide!!


This bookcase may have changed my life

Last Saturday, while Addison & Mackenzie spent the day with Jeremy's parents, I took the opportunity to move a bookcase from the kitchen to the living room, in hopes of corralling the toy explosion. 


Five days later, I am just about ready to declare that this shelf has changed my life. 

Before we started using the bookcase, there was a large plastic bin in the corner for loose toys, and the books were stacked haphazardly underneath an end table.  I felt like none of the toys in the bin were ever really played with, the books always ended up all over the place, and the little odd-n-end toys were driving me up the wall.

With the shelf in place, there is plenty of room for the books we keep in the living room and the smaller toys fit perfectly into the four smaller bins on the lower shelves.  One bin is solely for blocks, while the others are slightly more catch-all spots.  Since the girls play in the living room most of the time (at least until I get the spare room/playroom set up the way I want it), most of their dolls and stuffed animals are in here also.  Those are now in the large plastic bin for easy access, along with a few throw blankets and pillows. 

So far, it's working well.  The girls have designated spots to put toys away, making clean-up easier for them to do and easier for me to enforce.  And on the occasions that I do it myself (because yes, there are many times I just don't have the patience to guide them through the process), it's so much easier to just toss the toys in bins than to try and find a place for everything.  A & M can get the toys they want on their own, and they are playing with stuff they had otherwise forgotten.  They can see their books more clearly, and it makes my book-loving heart swell to see them reaching for them just as often as most of their toys.

This small change has made it easier to keep the living room more organized and less cluttered, and that makes me one very happy mama.

Now I just have to find a piece of furniture to fill the hole left by the bookcase in the kitchen...but that could actually be fun.  I have big dreams of a refurbished dresser or buffet to store my china in.  We'll see how it turns out!


Friday Night Five

1.  I decided to take the plunge and participate in NaBloPoMo this year.  Yep, that's the reason for my dashing out a quick post at 11:00 on Friday night!  I want to increase my post frequency to at least 3-4 per week on a regular basis, so I figure posting every day for a month is a good way to get in the habit.  Are you (officially or unofficially) participating?

2.  Jeremy and I went on a spur-of-the-moment and much-needed date tonight.  We got home around 10:40 and guess who was waiting up for us?  This is officially the latest my children have ever been up...I am hoping we can sleep til 9 or later in the morning!  At least our dinner was good.  Except for the couple at our table (it was a hibachi place, so we shared the table with other couples) who seemed to be incredibly strung out on something...that was interesting.

3.  If you live anywhere that has a football team in the SEC, you might have heard that there's this little game tomorrow...well, it's kind of a big deal.  Alabama (#2) is playing LSU (#1), and it's pretty much all the Bama fans around here have talked about for weeks.  You know we love our college football here in the South, and it's serious business.  I love this article from an LSU sports writer that explains a little about the history and tradition of Alabama Crimson Tide football.  Sample quote:  Alabama is an easy team to hate for one simple reason: they win.  They've won a lot, and it seems like they will continue to win.  Hopefully, that will include a win tomorrow night...but either way, it should be an exciting game.

4.  Still on the football topic, this article about an Alabama player who came from absolute poverty to be a star on this year's team and who will likely go on to play in the NFL next year.  I read it this afternoon at work and I couldn't stop the tears.  It's just....well, even if you don't care about football one little bit, you should read it.  I dare you not to cry.

5.  Speaking of tears, here's one more good link for weekend reading:  On Parenthood, written by tech blogger Jeff Atwood.  Sample quote:  The highs are so incredibly high that you'll get vertigo and wonder if you can ever reach that feeling again. But you peak ever higher and higher, with dizzying regularity. Being a new parent is both terrifying and exhilarating, a constant rollercoaster of extreme highs and lows. Isn't that the absolute truth?  And twin parents, I think you'll feel a bit of particular kinship for the guy when you see the bottom of his post. 

Happy weekend, and ROLL TIDE!  I'll be back to post something-or-other tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day (I hope!). 


So there was this one time I went to London...

For as long as I can remember, I've had a thing for London, and all things British.  There was a time when I would have said that my plans for college included a year abroad, living and working in London.  While I didn't quite accomplish that dream, I did get the chance to go to London, and it was everything I imagined it would be.

Toward the end of my senior year in high school, my cousin Lindsey found out that a friend, A, would be traveling to London for two weeks to do some work for the U.S. Navy Reserves.  A wanted her daughter to come for a week of the trip, but her daughter was only about 14ish, a bit young for traveling alone internationally.  Enter-- Lindsey and me.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime:  All we had to do was pay for our airfare and travel with A's daughter and her friend, and we would have a week in London.  Who could pass that up?!  This was in June of the year 2000, so the price of airfare had not skyrocketed yet; I'm thinking our tickets were around $500-600, round-trip.  It was my high school graduation present from my mom...best gift EVER!

From the moment we landed, England lived up to my every dream.  I remember just listening to everyone around me, hoping they would keep talking, so I could take in more of those fabulous accents.  The man who stamped my passport noted that we were from the States, and he asked if we were visiting on "holiday"...it took me a few seconds to realize that was the British way of saying "vacation". 

We stayed in an apartment ("flat"!) in the heart of the city, within walking distance of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  I can't remember much about the apartment, other than the sloping ceilings, claw-foot tub, and the doorman, but it was just perfect.  I really need to pull out some pictures to jog my memory, but I think they are in a closet somewhere at my mom's house.

We spent our week in London taking in all the sights and history the city has to offer.  The highlights I can remember most clearly are:  Buckingham Palace (where we also saw the changing of the guard, which was really cool), the Tower of London (possibly my very favorite spot), Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden (where I bought my first legal beer--at age 18!), Bond Street, and the original Hard Rock Cafe

For this small-town Alabama girl, just wandering the streets and people-watching was great entertainment.  And the Underground...I remember how extremely proud I was that we navigated the Underground without getting lost!  I had never been on a subway before, so that was quite the experience in and of itself. 

Tower of London (image credit:  http://www.londonpass.com) 
Westminster Abbey (image credit:  http://static.westminster-abbey.org)
Buckingham Palace (http://www.wikipedia.org)
image credit:  www.wikipedia.org
Other notable memories about London:
-- Many people were just as curious to hear our accents as we were theirs.  We kept having to explain that we were from the South, and no, we don't talk exactly like most Americans!
-- A lady in the market called us "love"...it seemed so quintessentially British, and I adored it.
-- Despite the reputation of being cool and rainy, it was actually quite warm the week we were there...and the lack of air conditioning in many areas came as a bit of a shock to us (everyone in the South has central heat and air...it's nearly a fact of life).
-- We southerners also like our drinks cold...and with ice, which proved a little difficult to obtain in London.  When we requested ice in our drinks, it was usually only two or three cubes, not the glassful we are accustomed to!
-- The soft drinks looked the same (same labels and packaging), but they definitely had a different taste to them.  One of the first things we did when landed in the States was get a "real" American Dr. Pepper.  (That was truly the only complaint I remember, food-wise...we enjoyed everything else!)
-- Again, this was my first trip to a truly huge city (except Washington DC, if that counts, but those were school trips, so quite different), but I was surprised to find that I never felt afraid.  I know London has its problems, and I probably romanticized it a bit, but the city felt very civilized and safe to me.  I did not hesitate to walk a few blocks by myself, which was a pretty big feat for me in a strange city (remember:  I had just turned 18).

So, that's the story of my trip of a lifetime.  I don't know when I will get the chance to go back, but it's on my life list for sure.  I hope to be able to stay a little longer next time and travel outside the city.  (Jeremy?  Start planning now for our 10th anniversary?)  We did get to take the Chunnel train over to Paris for the day, but other than that we stayed in London.  (The day in Paris is quite a story in itself, so I'll save it for another time.  I wouldn't turn down a trip back to Paris, but there are definitely other places higher on the list!)

Do you share my London love?  Where is your dream travel destination?  Have you crossed any destinations off your "life list"?

This post was inspired by Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.  Be sure to check out her post for lots of awesome links!


Recent Craftiness

This is the bow holder I made for the girls' room back during the summer.  It was really easy... I wrapped a rectangular canvas in fabric, then hot-glued on the H and circle I had cut from contrasting fabrics (I used fray-check on the edges after I cut them out--I love that stuff!).  I had picked up the two wooden decorations at a craft store sometime or other, and I just used hot glue to attach them also.  I finished it off with four ribbons along the bottom to keep all the hairbows organized.  I was pretty pleased for the first attempt, and it has held up well so far!

My dry-erase calendar was an adaptation of something I saw on Pinterest, naturally.  I made a few mistakes on this first one, and I'm planning to redo it soon.  It has served its purpose well though, and I enjoy having an easily-accessible calendar in the kitchen.

This little picture started out to be a redo of the dry-erase calendar.  I intended to take out the mat and use this frame to make a small calendar for work.  I messed up the lines, though, and since I really liked this paper (it coordinates with some of my fall decorations), I decided to write this verse and put it up through the Thanksgiving holiday.  I actually like where it hangs, so I may just keep a different seasonal phrase/verse up there all the time.

Before our vacation in September, I put together several new activities to occupy the girls in the car.  Inspired by Marcia's notebooks, I made a "doodle book" for each of them to use in the car, restaurants, etc.  (The notebooks are just composition books covered in mod podge and scrapbook paper, with the circle cut from an alternating print and glued on.)  So far, they have been a hit!  I am thinking of attaching a pen on a string so there will be no more lost pens in the car.

What have you been crafting lately?  Is Pinterest inspiring any new projects in your home?  Be sure to check out Marcia's virtual craft link-up for more crafty ideas!


Dorothy Ballerinas

When we first started talking about Halloween costumes this year, Addison & Mackenzie expressed a lot of interest in dressing up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.  Annie was also mentioned, but I downplayed that one, as I do not have the energy/creativity to create an Orphan Annie outfit, and the only things available to buy were downright hideous!

So I started looking for Dorothy costumes.  I found a passable one on Amazon, then found a really cute handmade one on Etsy that was reasonably priced.  Alas, I procrastinated and when I went back to order, the Etsy shop was sold out.  By that point, the price on the Amazon costume had gone up as well, so I started doing some fast talking to convince the girls that ballerinas with ruby slippers would be so much better than a regular old Dorothy costume anyway.  Luckily, it was a pretty easy sell.  They got the red "Dorothy shoes" they wanted at Wal Mart, which was what they were most excited about anyway.

See, the thing is, I am nothing short of CHEAP when it comes to Halloween.  It was never a very big deal in our house growing up, and many of my costumes were made out of things we had around the house.  I just can't justify spending $30-$50 (times two!) for a crappy, cheaply made costume that the girls will wear for approximately four hours.  But that's just me.  : )

My sweet friend Melanie made tutus for the girls last year, so we added a shirt, some tights, and the Dorothy ballerina shoes...and ended up with some pretty cute ballerinas:

Can you see the pumpkins the girls painted a few weeks ago?

Jeremy had to work, so my cousin Lindsey and I took the girls to trick or treat at a few family members' homes.  They had practiced saying "Trick or Treat!", so they were really excited to put the practice into action...and reap the rewards!

Checking out the loot at Paw Paw's house

We came home early to hand out candy at our house, which I knew the girls would enjoy just as much.  We have a TON of trick or treaters in the neighborhood, and they had fun handing out candy, seeing the costumes, and scanning the street for the next group of kids.   I had fun eating the potato soup I put in the crock pot earlier in the day...and maybe sneaking a Reese's cup before bed.

Here's a short video of the girls saying Happy Halloween...note Addison's response the first time I ask what you say when you want candy: