Sunday, October 31, 2010

A SOUPer Spooky Sunday!

What a great weekend!  I'm on a Halloween high from all the holiday festivities.

Noah and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday, preparing for the weekend's events.  We made two new desserts, soon to be familiar favorites for our family.  Noah's favorite combination is peanut butter and chocolate so I'm not sure how we'd never made peanut butter balls before.  (We quickly learned that one batch is not enough and will triple the recipe next time!)  My favoritest cake is red velvet and I tried the recipe on the side of the box for red velvet crinkle cookies.  It was a little piece of Heaven in your hands!...and again, one batch - not enough.

Yesterday was filled with candy and tons of trick-or-treat fun.  Noah knocked on doors all the way to the fire station, where we stopped for our annual potluck.  Tim enjoyed seeing all his guys out with their families and sharing some delicious food.  We had everything from dumplins to frog legs and ate way too much.  Learning from previous years, we drove two vehicles so Noah and I could sneak home after we chatted with the crew and got our bellies.  We jumped into our jammies and poured the buckets of goodies onto the coffee table for our yearly inspection.  What pieces didn't end up in our mouths were sorted into our two bowls...one for the chocolate and one for anything else.  A scary movie ended our evening, snuggled by the fire.

Noah spooked out the living room this morning eagerly awaiting the family's arrival for lunch.  Soups simmered in crockpots, ghosts floated from the ceiling fan, and caution tape secured every doorway.  The crew arrived and we stuffed ourselves with a selection of chili, veggie, or potato soup...well, in most cases it was "and" not "or"!  We feasted on desserts and settled in for a scary movie marathon.  Three creepy movies, several empty containers and two bags of popcorn later, we said our good nights & goodbyes.  It was a perfectly lazy afternoon filled with spooked jumps and giggles, sweets and snacks galore.  We had such a good time I'm hoping to make "Souper Spooky Sunday" a tradition, whether the calendar says Halloween or not!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloweenpalooza

Halloween is, by far, one of my very favorite holidays.  Scarecrows and pumpkins....mini chocolate bars...scary movies...cooler weather...falling leaves....so many things I love that happen during this time!

Today starts the Halloween extravaganza, as the entire weekend is filled with fun activities.  Tonight will be the fall festival at Noah's school.  It's chaotic and packed, kids running everywhere...there will be chili and hot dogs, games galore, a costume contest and a Haunted House.

I still have such fond memories of fall festivals at my school.  What stands out the most is the spooky, creepy tables and rooms the teachers would do.  I remember sticking my hands in gooey eyeballs and visiting the scary fortune teller.  I'm so happy that Noah has a great school filled with staff who really care about the students.  The teachers are fun and they work hard to make their years memorable and fun.

We normally participate in the school costume contest.  Being a big fan of the arts, costumes are right up my alley.  I enjoy putting my creative thinking cap on and coming up with fun costumes for the boys.  (And both of them have winning records at the contests they've been in.)  This year's costume for Noah involves Patch, our dog, so he'll have to wait until Trick-or-Treating to reveal it. ...stay tuned!

For now, I'll close with some memorable costumes through the years....

These two are among my favorites.  Noah can be so dramatic anyway so he had a lot of fun with this one.  (He was a man in a wind storm)  I wonder if his mouth got sore that year from the constant "O" shape he made!
And I loved the laundry basket year too...he was still little enough that he didn't mind to wear boxers on his head (hey, they were clean!).  He was very proud of this costume, as it won him first place at the bank's contest, because the prize included MONEY!

Last year, Noah was tickled that his Dad dressed up with him.  This was quite a step for Tim, as he only dresses in costume as an act of love for us, not because he enjoys it.  (Actually, somewhere I have a couple of interesting photos of Tim I'll have to dig out sometime!)  Anyway, he and his dad were Mario & Luigi from the game Super Mario Bros.  Noah even hid his cell phone in his overall pocket and had the theme song on repeat.  They were too cute, and even though they didn't place, Noah felt like a winner because his dad was there.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Proud Momma!

My morning began with a boost of happiness in seeing my little guy receive a great handful of awards this morning at school.  Noah's always been a good student and he's done especially well this year as a big 5th grader.  Today he received awards for honor roll and CATS testing and an assortment of others, in which he scored high marks.  He was especially proud of his Distinguished scores in reading and math.

Math was no big surprise to me, as that is his favorite subject; however, I was a very proud Mom to hear of his reading scores.  This is the area we've worked the most with him on.  As a boy, in a world filled with technology, instilling a love for reading, from an actual turn the pages book, isn't an easy task.  Thankfully, he has a wonderful teacher who was able to give us great feedback and ideas this year and we've seen huge growth in just a few short weeks.

When I was a kid, reading was just natural.  I spent my free time reading and was happy to do so.  That love, which I give credit to my mother for instilling, has carried with me throughout my life.  It's nothing to find a book I'm reading in every room of my house.  It's a past time I enjoy and one that I've tried to pass down to Noah as well.

I read to both my boys from the beginning.  I remember sitting in my Grandmother's rocking chair, which she gave me on my first pregnancy, and reading to my belly.  I could tell a difference in how both boys reacted as I read and we continued story time throughout their childhood.  When Noah began to learn to read, we enjoyed the series of books, "you read to me, I read to you," which rewrote popular fairy tales in two different colors so that the parents could read a few verses and then hear from the child.  Hearing each sentence come out of his little mouth was such a joy to me. Now, reading to Noah is a treat he gets after reading a few chapters on his own.  He catches me up on the story, which lets me know he's retaining the information, and I'll reward him by reading a chapter to him.  My reward of course, is having him snuggled in beside me as I read.

 
While I was very proud of his awards today, what brought a smile to my face was his expression and in knowing that he shared that pride.  He's at such an important age to boost self confidence and I'm glad he got a mega dose today.  As hard as he's worked, he certainly deserves all that recognition.

His sweet smile and proud little pose was the greatest joy I could imagine today! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hallowed Fun Night!

You know how some people say..."it isn't Thanksgiving without the turkey and dressing"...or "it doesn't feel like Christmas unless it snows"?  Well, I say, "It doesn't feel like Halloween until Hallowed Fun Night at our church!

I'm pre-posting my joyful moment today for the happiness I know I'll feel tonight.  Because it will be late by the time we get home, and this girl needs all the beauty sleep she can get, I'm writing early.  I look forward to Hallowed Fun Night as soon as the leaves begin to change.  It combines so many of my favorite things about fall and just sets the mood for the rest of the Halloween holiday festivities to come.

From the hayrides... to the cake walk... to the cookie decorating station... to the bonfire (sigh)... to the popcorn, pie, and other goodies... to the photo booth... to the giant inflatables.  There's something for everyone....and it's FREE!  I (sighed) on the bonfire because of course, even with the rain we've received the past two days, our county is still under burn ban.  I'll settle for a grilled hot dog this year but it won't quite be the same.  The part I love the most, it's an evening with family and friends.

Noah will run around like crazy most of the night; last year he was tailed by two little girls, which was a big sign to me how quickly he's growing.  We'll stop him long enough for a hot dog, to put candy corn on a sugar cookie, and a hug on the hayride.  Tim and I will walk hand in hand under the tall oak trees, the crunch of freshly fallen leaves with each step, and enjoy the night.  Our extended family will take up half the spots on the cake walk, and if luck continues, we'll make it home with some yummy treat.  This year, I'll get to experience the excitement with my youngest niece and nephew and I can't wait to see their faces among all the wonder. 

By the end of the night, my feet will be tired and nose cold from the night air, but we'll settle in and relax at home with a warm cup of coffee and a slice of whatever we won.  My happiness tank will be filled to the brim, along with another year of memories of fall fun... enough to tide me over until the next year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You had to be there...

Our office had a rare lunch all together today.  It's rare because with our schedules, we're hardly ever all around and free to eat at the same time.  It would've been even nicer if we'd just happened upon the outing but I have to admit it was planned.  We were saying good-byes and thank you to a volunteer, and part-time staff person, as her event had ended...and with much success i might add.

It's always funny what a group of women will find humorous when all together.  The afternoon was spent with quite a few laughs but the rib-cracking moment came at the end of our lunch.  The service was slow and while waiting for our tickets, someone pulled out their IPhone.  There is a cute little app that talks back to you, by a cat in a sweet and squeaky voice, and is known as "Talking Tom".  I was tickled at just seeing grown women gather around such silliness and find it funny.  (The app is cute but I only know about and have it on my phone because of my ten year old.  I don't think I've ever used it on my own though!)

Anyway, half the table was in a conversation and the other half were watching the furry little cat on the phone.  Just as the waiter went to hand change to the lady sitting farthest from him she bent down, mouth next to the phone, and yelled, "WOOF!" 

Now, I know I can't write this and do it justice but that alone was pretty darn funny.  For one, she was making a cat bark....for another, it was kind of out of character for her and unexpected to see a random woman barking into a phone in a sit-down restaurant non-the-less.  Add to it the surprised and shocked look on the waiter's face, mixed with the embarrassment of the woofing girl who just realized he caught her, and our table was rolling in laughter. 

Several minutes in, the "other half" of the table admitted they really didn't even know why were laughing, which made all of us laugh even more, and then enabled me to act it all out again.  We spent the rest our time there in joyful tears and used the "woof" line at any appropriate (and not) moment the rest of the afternoon.  Maybe you had to be there but it was the biggest laugh I had all day...and maybe in quite some time.  I'll never quite look at that app the same again...or that restaurant...or for that matter, my kooky funny co-worker!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Spirit of a Survivor

One of the biggest blessings of my job is the interaction I get with cancer survivors.  Each one of them has an amazing story of hope and inspiration to share.  Some of them stand out because of their strength, attitude and faith.  Over the past two days I've had the opportunity to meet a few standout survivors.

Sunday, Noah & I spent the afternoon at the first ever Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Western Kentucky.  You never know what to expect with a first year event, especially when the weather held an iffy forecast.  We left for Owensboro right after church and arrived fairly early but were shocked to see the already growing crowd.  As the hour drew nearer to the start of the event, a sea of supporters and survivors covered the front lawn of the campus of Kentucky Wesleyan.  It was an amazing sight!

I staffed the "information table" with the plan of providing program and service information for survivors.  For the most part, the afternoon was spent being a logistical information giver..."restrooms there, registration here" but for the few women who paused long enough to talk, I was honored to share with them. 

This day, their survivorship was obvious, as each were draped with a white sash with the word SURVIVOR running across their chest.  I was thankful for the chance to provide them hope and encouragement and a list of services ACS could support them with.  What I enjoyed most, was hearing their stories and seeing the bravery on their faces.  Even for those I didn't speak with, their smiles and spirits were obvious...whether they were surrounded by loved ones or head to toe in pink boas and poms poms.

Some women stopped at the table to fill out a memory sticker too.  As their tears fell on the table and they wrote the names of someone they loved and lost, I said a silent prayer for them.  They were survivors of another form...a survivor of loss, and I know too well the painful journey that can be.

Today, I traveled to Henderson to help with one of my favorite ACS programs, Look Good...Feel Better.  It is a program for women in treatment and helps them cope with the physical side effects of cancer.  A licensed cosmetologist leads the class and teaches women tips and tricks to help them look good, and thus feel better while fighting cancer.  While four women had pre-registered, only one showed up and I have to admit, I was a little disappointed at first. 

We don't have LGFB regularly in Henderson so this was the last chance for 2010 for the local residents to take part.  I understand why it happens though - we're targeting women in treatment and so every day is undecided.  They may pre-register but then end up in the hospital or wake up feeling very ill and just cannot attend.  One patient was better than no patients though and I was grateful to be able to provide help and support for her today. 

As the program involves make-up, you never know how women will react.  Some of them are excited, opening their kits like it Christmas morning and others standoffish, not knowing if this is really for them.  What I love about LGFB is that by the end, there is transformation, as each woman is renewed, happier, and ready to face whatever the day brings.  It's amazing what a tube of lipstick can do!

Today's lady was something special.  She was in her 60s and had a no-nonsense attitude.  While she admitted she hadn't thought of putting on make-up since her diagnosis, I became tickled at her reactions to each new product.  She was eager to try the mascara, surprised at the difference the blush made in her complexion and went on and on about the lotion.  What touched me most though was her positive attitude, strength and willpower to beat this disease.  Through the course of the program, we learned she was undergoing both chemo and radiation, and had in fact, just finished a treatment before coming to the class.  Her hair was thinning and you could tell from the darkness in her eyes that she was tired but she was not stopping.  She drives herself to treatment and believes that being active is what is keeping her going.

Towards the end, she said, "You just gotta shake it off.  It is what I was dealt and if at 63 I can beat this, I have nothing to complain about."  As I smiled back at her, nodding, I said, "It's just a season in your life."  Her spirit and outlook carried me through the rest of the afternoon and had me smiling at each leaf that floated by and added a bounce to my step.  It's always amazing to me how in seeing someone's reaction to how they're dealing with a difficult moment can inspire and lift others.  It is why survivors are applauded and recognized at so many events and programs throughout the world.

The important thing to remember though is that we are all survivors, in some form or another.  Maybe you are a survivor of addiction and you've overcome the odds.  ...a survivor from abuse and you've realized you are stronger and deserve more... a survivor from loss and you are facing each day, while reminded of the void, with a sense of hope and strength.  Everyone is facing some kind of battle.  And that is why we should all strive to treat each other with love and kindness.  You never know what your story - or your smile - can do for someone else in need.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joy in the Message

Our church began Revival this week.  It will only last three short days but the purpose is meant to revive and re-energize our spirits.  This is isn't something typical of our church and something I was glad to see planned.  The idea of revival excited me and had me looking forward to Sunday service, which if I'm being honest, I haven't been in quite awhile.

I grew up going to church, as my grandpa was a preacher.  There are so many fond memories I have spending time with him at the church, while he prepared for the sermon, and of listening to him in the pulpit.  I didn't think anyone could ever take the place of him as my pastor, and as a newly married couple, we struggled to find our church home.  When Noah was born, we happened upon our current church and quickly felt comfort and connection there. 

My boys grew up in the church and I grew to love and admire our dear preacher.  He was with us through every dark and difficult journey of our life.  His prayers have always been a comfort to me and every sermon I'd ever heard from him touched me and made an impact.  Even though he'd retired from our church when we lost Austin, we found him there beside us that night in the ER.  I remember him coming to the funeral home and briefly coming up, just to let me know he'd be in the back and praying for us.  That knowledge, and his prayers, are surely what helped me get through that service.

Upon his retirement, I've felt as if our church has been paused.  We found a new pastor, for a brief moment, before he decided to move on and since have been searching.  It was very bad timing for our family, as in losing Austin, we desperately needed a constant.  That lack of a continued sense of leadership, along with my own spiritual struggles, along the paths of grief one faces in losing a child, has led our personal attendance to fall.  As such, I've felt as we've been drifting...waiting...hoping.

Today's message was such an inspiration and a sign to me of all the things I've been missing.  I've made excuses, and even shopped around, but nothing "fit" right.  The guest preacher today even spoke about how so many of us today "date" churches, we shop from church to church getting bits and pieces of what we think we need from each.  What we need though is the constant, regardless of who is standing in the pulpit.  It isn't always just about us.  We need to do our part too and connect.  His biggest message though was about what kind of legacy we want to leave...what should our dash mean and how can we best represent God?

That, mixed with the devotion I read on Friday, was very powerful to me...."Sometimes we forget that our true home is with God in Heaven. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world. We are ambassadors of God's grace and of our true home in Heaven."  And then it asked, "What kind of ambassador are you?"

It was very much a strong reminder of Austin and the life he led, in just his fourteen short years on this Earth.  While I miss him, I am so very proud of the legacy he left.  And that is what inspires me daily to do my best...to leave my mark, for him and for God.

The icing on today's spiritual cupcake was later in the truck with Noah, on our way to a fundraising event for my job.  I had asked him earlier in the week, and even this morning, if he wanted to attend.  Up to walking into church, he hadn't made up his mind.  As we walked out, he said he wanted to leave with me.  On the drive over, I thanked him for coming.  He smiled, with that sweet little smile he has and shrugged, "It's my dash."  I looked over at him..."You know, like the preacher said today, Mom, it's what I should do.  I just felt like God told me to help today."  I drove the rest of the way with tear-soaked eyes.....and I was so thankful for both of us hearing that message today.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just Ordinary

Yesterday was uneventful.  Nothing especially noteworthy occurred and I struggled with what to post...so I didn't.  I felt bad in doing so and upon going to bed recalled a lesson from Sunday school several years back.  We discussed as a group the peaks and valleys of life and how we should try to learn from both.

I certainly feel our family has had more than our share of valleys.  At times, I've felt as if they were huge canyons deep as the eye could see.  It made the peaks that much more of a blessing and I think that attitude, in trying to look and focus on the positive, is what led me to writing this blog.  But life isn't always a high or a low...sometimes it's flat, like a plateau, and that is ok too.

Webster defines a plateau as a "stable phase" and those two little words say a lot to me.  While there wasn't anything exciting yesterday, I find comfort in the ordinary.  There were still blessings in the routines.  I spent the day working, in a job that I love for an organization I'm passionate about with volunteers who inspire me daily.  My mom called me for a lunch date so I got to spend an unplanned hour with a woman who is special to me.  Noah came home from school, happy and proud, announcing his Distinguished status in several subjects at school.  And Tim and I rounded out the night, snuggled in blankets, relaxing and watching tv.

I couldn't stretch any of those alone into several paragraphs for a post and even rolled together, they are forgetful.  It was just an average, ordinary day but I can find joy in that.  I can appreciate the plateau in my life and hold onto those moments for what they are.  On this journey, we never know what's next...whether a mountain or a valley, or miles of flat, we must learn to value each one.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not just a T-shirt

Our t-shirts arrived this week for the next fundraiser to support the Austin's Legacy Scholarship Fund.  I had mixed emotions when they arrived.  Working on this fund is a reminder of what we've lost but also a way for us to keep Austin's memory alive. 

As I opened the cardboard boxes and pulled out the bright green shirts, it was a bit of a goose bump moment.  To see his logo, which I created to honor him, in print and tangible was a little surreal.  When we formed this scholarship fund, I knew I needed and wanted a logo but I struggled with how to capture the essence of Austin in a small frame.  The idea just came to me one day and within moments I drew it out.  To see it in physical form on these shirts was just a special moment because I could just feel the presence of Austin and knew he was proud of what we had accomplished.

Our pre-sales were a blessing and the amount collected was a strong indication of not only the success of this fundraiser but also the impact Austin made on so many lives.  Being a cautious fundraiser, I even took a calculated risk and used part of the profits to buy stock.  I'm happy to report that three days in, we've already sold a large portion. 

In thanking my family for their help with the sales, I mentioned that with every shirt someone buys, it feels like a hug for my heart.  For someone to take the time and effort to make the purchase, bring the money, and arrange for delivery, tells me they care...and that Austin meant something to them as well.  The reaction when they receive it, surprises me at times.  People are so excited and proud to get to wear it, eager to share the story of our son with others. 

In addition, I've been touched by the stories from some friends, and even strangers, who have wanted a shirt.  They'll fill my heart with joy by telling me of how they knew Austin, how he impacted their life and made a difference, or how the shirt blessed them in some way.  I heard from a sweet friend today, who shared not just her memories of Austin but how the shirt really ministered to her in a time of need.  As she let the worries of the world fill her mind, picking up the shirt and thinking about our son, reminded her of how short life is and what is really important the brief time we're here.  She commented on how Austin lived his life for Jesus and served others and how much that touched her. 

It reminded me to realize and remember how special these shirts really are.  They are not just a t-shirt...they are a way to raise funds to help others who give....they are a way to honor an amazing young man who was an example of service and love...and they are a way to share not only his story but the message of God's love and what wonderful things can happen when you selflessly give.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Giving Heart

Who would've thought a small orange box would bring me so much joy today?  Noah's been talking about Unicef for a couple days now.  He's had his box on the counter and has been making plans to go "trick-or-treating" to collect for them.  This afternoon, he was reading all these facts to me about where the money goes when you give to their organization.

He was ready to go door to door right then, but I had to halt him for another day, as we were headed out to my nephew's birthday party and already running late.  I offered that he could bring it with us and see what he could collect from family.  This continued our conversation to the truck about the program and the people they help.

After practicing with me for a few minutes on his speech, he paused, really concentrating on the different levels.  One of the highest levels provides a water pump for a whole community.  This really bothered him, and we discussed how differently some people live in the world and how so many do without the things we often take for granted.  He noticed two logos on the box and wondered how much they gave to be on there.  It thrilled him when I said they probably gave enough for many, many water pumps.

The sweetest part of our conversation came at the end.  He mentioned how he really wanted to fill his box and he was nearly half way there.  His goal was to be able to ask his teacher for a second one and he told about some other kids that already done that.  He looked at me and said, "Mom, doesn't that just fill your heart, with joy?  ...to know that with just a box of change you can help someone?"

With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I agreed.  My heart was already filled with joy in seeing him process this knowledge and learn such a great life lesson from it.  I'm blessed beyond measure to know that both my boys had and have a heart of gold and a yearning to help others in need.

It is one of my favorite parts of being a parent - and one of the scariest - to know that the future is in our hands.  How we raise our children, and the lessons we take the time to teach, mold them into the people they'll grow to be.  We can change the world, one child at a time.  I can't wait to see the positive changes Noah will help to provide.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Grandma's Place

Today was one of my crazy busy, early morning, meeting kind of days.  I left my house while it was still dark outside and strained my eyes the entire drive to Owensboro on the search for runaway deer.  Back to back meetings and catching up on emails and phone calls from vacation, found me hours later hungry and well past lunchtime.  I left the office with errands to run and nearly skipped lunch all together, deciding it would just be easier to have an early dinner and call it day. 

Something told me though to call my Grandma and see if she'd eaten yet.  I expected to her laugh and say, "well yes, hours ago" as she's a bit of a predictable lady.  In the summer, you can tell it's a Thursday, as you'll see her mowing her grass.  If it rains, it throws her week all out of whack!  So, I was surprised to hear her say no.  I decided to take my earned lunch hour, grabbed something at the nearest drive-thru, and drove the couple blocks from my office to her house. 

I realized how much I'd missed her, as I settled in to my saved seat at her kitchen table.  It didn't take us long to catch up on the family gossip and other worldly news.  Having lunch at Grandma's, even if from a brown paper bag, is so much better than eating in the car or at my desk! The familiar comfort of being with her was such a welcome and needed break in my day and I'm so glad I took the time to stop and see her.

There was a time when "Lunch at Grandma's" was a daily occurrence.  When I was attending college, I would often stop in to have lunch or dinner, or both, with Grandma and Grandpa.  Once I started working at the college, I continued my lunchtime visits at Grandma's and looked forward to the daily special.  My colleagues would often ask, "what did you have for lunch?" or "where did you go?" and the yummy descriptions I gave had them asking, "Where is this restaurant, it sounds great!"  We still chuckle that they thought it was an actual diner, not my actual Grandmother's house.

When I changed jobs to ACS, my lunch schedule became unpredictable, as I never knew what county I would be in from day to day.  Our regular visits for lunch became less and less.  We still try to get together every other month or so, sometimes at her house and sometimes I'll treat her to lunch on the town.  I miss my daily visits though.  Aside from the delicious home cooked meals, even if they were often leftovers, what I loved most our lunch dates was the time spent with a special lady.

I'm very blessed to have such a wonderful grandmother.  Grandma Coons has been a constant in my life, a living example of unselfish love and unwavering faith.  I will forever treasure my memories with her, from dressing up in her nightgowns and shoes... to cooking with her in the kitchen... to never beating her at Chinese checkers, and of course, Lunch at Grandma's.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Break Vacation 2010

The problem with not writing for a couple days is that there is no way to "catch up" from the retreat.  We've had a blessed week and wonderful trip with so many, many moments of joy.  I don't think it is possible for me to capture them all but I'll highlight some of my favorites...

First of all, the views were magnificent.  I'm so glad we planned this trip in the fall.  We visited during peak season and the trees were beaming with prideful colors.  It made me smile to see rows of trees with just the tips glowing yellow...or a random bright orange tree in the midst of muted tones.  Whether it was along our drive, at the many stops along the way, or by train, I soaked up every vibrant leaf.

After about the fifteenth stop for leaf and family pics, Noah began to say, "Mom, when are we getting to our hotel?"  Not are we there yet?  "Mom, when are getting to our hotel?"

By the time we made it to French Lick, he was so excited he couldn't sit still, like bouncing, jumping jelly beans in the backseat.  He rushed us through check-in and within minutes of making it to our room, he was changed into his swim trunks and eager to head to water.

We're not one for theme parks because Noah's never been a big ride-goer so it seems like a waste of money.  I thought this hotel, with an indoor water park, might be a nice transition.  He loves the water and I thought at the very least, he'd enjoy the smaller attractions.  On the way down the elevator, he began reminding us, "I've never been on a water slide before...my stomach's a little nervous......I might need to do a test run on the kiddie slide...do you think they'd care?"

We all jumped in and enjoyed the lazy river and it didn't take long for Noah to brave the smaller of big slides.  He and Tim enjoyed one slide in particular but both chickened out of the mega slide.  What set this slide apart was the large open tornado section that whipped you in circles for a few laps before shooting you back into another tunnel.  I dared, I begged, I pleaded but Noah would have nothing of it.  I continued to ask for a second day and soon gave up.  He shocked me on our last day by bouncing to our table, shaking the water off his body like a wet dog and practically yelling, "I did it!"  He wanted his first trip to be on his own and a surprise.  When he made it to the bottom, loving every second of it, he had to quickly share the news...and then bolt back for another run.  He remained on that slide, or in line, for the rest of the day.
We took a few excursions from the hotel during our stay, including a visit back to the Overlook, just for the view not the food, and two train rides.  We skipped the high price menu and lines at Overlook and snuck into a little hole in the wall place by the river Tim and I found on our previous trip.  (They make the best fried bologna sandwiches...and cheap!)

The train rides were among Noah's favorite parts of our vacation, and ours too.  We took the Haunted "Legend of the Lost train" ride one night, which included scary and silly Halloween moments, both inside and out of the train.  Complete with every scary movie character and goofy spooky song, it was great fun.  Our last two hours of our trip were spent back on the train for a robbery ride.  Noah just thought it was a scenic tour and he was shocked when the conductor announced for us to be on the lookout for a band of robbers.  When he saw the horses and heard the gun shots, his mouth dropped and eyes lit with excitement.  Yep, worth every penny for that moment alone!

Some random funny and favorite times....

Noah cracked us up continually on this trip.  He is the king of one-liners and I wish I carried a little notebook around to capture all the things he said.  Tim and I were rolling with laughter every day.  His favorite saying of the weekend became "long story medium," which he used every time he had something to tell us.  He said this because he knew he couldn't tell it quickly and he knew his dad, jokingly of course, was going to roll eyes a few minutes in at the length.

I grew up in the country, as did Tim, and we live right on the county line now, so seeing deer is nothing new to any of us.  I don't know why it is when we do see one, we have to stop, mesmerized all over again.  This night, we were walking into a restaurant and noticed a baby doe in the field.  We were surprised he was so close, given all the noise and traffic.  Noah crept off into the field, hoping for a picture.  The deer shocked us all, as Noah could've tossed a rock at him, he got so close.

The first night we were there, I had Noah call the front desk and ask for a wake up call.  Being able to do an "adult job" alone was fun for him but he was even more excited the next morning when the phone rang.  I got tickled at his enthusiasm as he answered the phone.  Maybe that's how I should get him up for school from now on?

And there are so many other moments, too many to capture on one blog post so I'll close with one of the sweetest.  Noah likes to have a glass of milk at bedtime.  While I'm a great trip planner and do pack both a snack bag and cooler, I did not think of bringing milk.  I did however pack Oreos and when he found them the first night, he sighed softly and said to himself, "milk sure would be nice."  I told him to call the front desk and see if they had any.  To my surprise, the lady must've answered yes because Noah's comment was, "Ok, will you get it ready for me?"  A few minutes later, he was back, smiling, with a big glass of frothy milk and the money I sent with him.  She was so sweet, she'd snuck into the closed restaurant to get him some and didn't charge.  He took advantage of this knowledge and new friendship for the remainder of our trip.  He'd make his way down to visit Lois in his PJs, come back with a glass of milk, and sneak a few cookies to dunk before falling asleep.  I'm sure this made his dreams even sweeter.  His happiness on this trip sure did wonders for mine.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Now I Lay Me...

One of the highlights from vacation this week has occured around 3 p.m. each day.  I really didn't start the week out planning to participate in this blissful activity every afternoon but it just happened.  And I'm not complaining!  Actually, I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate them into my daily life.

Monday's nap was quick and accidental.  We were on the way home from the zoo and I took advantage of not having to be at the wheel.  My sister was on the phone, the kids were quiet (because they were snoozing too) and I just slipped into a sweet slumber.  That is, until my baby sister elbowed me.  Perhaps she didn't know I was asleep, as she was showing me something, but I certainly didn't let on or admit it either. 

Thinking back, Tuesday may have missed out, as I can't recall it.  Yesterday though, was quite memorable.  I'd invited Noah to nap with me, thinking he'd jump at the opportunity.  He still loves to sneak into bed with us on occasion.  It never lasts long and is really more snuggle time but we all enjoy it.  Whenever Tim has training or is called out late to a fire, Noah's excited to save his spot with me.  I expected Wednesday to be the same sweet cuddling but the timing must've been wrong for him.  He wiggled and talked, giggled and fidgeted, until I lovingly kicked him and Patch out.  (I learned to not depend on a ten year old boy, deep in a video game, to be a good alarm clock that day.  My short siesta turned into a lengthy hibernation!)  Today, I perfected it.  Lights out, fan and alarm on, cool quilt, and many pillows later I drifted into dreamland. 

Naps are like hugs, warm and comforting.  I awake with a boost of energy unlike any cup of caffeine can offer.  I'm rested, yet alert.  I'm a happier, more peaceful me.  Naps are my friend and I'll miss them next week when the reality of the working world returns.  Perhaps I could fit under my desk and nap through lunch?  Or, figure out a way to sleep at the park without having a bystander call 911 for my stillness.  Maybe there's a kind soul who'd like to drive me home each afternoon, and wouldn't mind that the only small talk I'd offer would be through vibrations from my nose?  If not, I can always go back to Sunday afternoon naps and appreciate each restful moment they offer.  I'll take them, however and whenever I can get them!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rainy Days & Flu Shots

I love rainy days.  Sure, there are times when the rain may be frustrating, like when you've planned a cookout, or needed a good hair day; but there's just nothing better than cuddling up on a stormy afternoon.

The past two days have been uneventful, ordinary, lazy days. What's made them a little magical though is the rain.  There's something about a thunder storm that makes you slow down and snuggle.  Noah and I have lived in our pjs, shared a couple of mini tv-watching marathons, and enjoyed whatever else we wanted in that moment.

We've slept in, well, actually he's slept in while I snuck in what little housework I couldn't stand to let go of.  He's got to pick the menu for lunch each day, and I've probably gained ten pounds eating chicken strips and pumpkin pie blizzards.  (Hey, I did order off the kid's menu and eat a mini size, so I'm trying to be semi-good on vacation.)  Even venturing out for flu shots was fun with Noah because of who he is. 

Noah's never liked shots.  When he was little I would leave the office crying as much as he was from having to hold him down.  A few years ago, they took him back without me and it didn't go well.  He relives the tale now with a chuckle, bragging about how he tossed the needle across the room before three of them took him down.  Needless to say, that was our first and last time to visit that doctor's office.  I laughed yesterday though to find out he thought it was because he'd been kicked out, not because a mad momma was protecting her cub.

When I made his appointment yesterday, I requested the flu mist, which they promised they'd have in stock by that date.  I tried to prepare Noah for the possibility that if they didn't, he'd have to get a shot.  We talked about how much older he was now and braver and stronger...but I secretly hoped it didn't come to that.  As the nurse brought in the needle, Noah's eyes met mine.  I braced myself for the worse but he surprised me, as usual.  He was older and braver and stronger and got through it like a trooper.  And then, of course, he soaked up pure enjoyment at watching me get mine.

I'm so thankful to have this week off to spend time with him.  He's growing so fast, sometimes it feels like an inch every second.  I find myself staring at him, willing time to slow down.  I'm learning that his physical features aren't the only things changing though.  Noah is evolving before my eyes into this new stage, between child and teen.  It's a wonderful and exciting world to share with him, as we experience it together.

Monday, October 11, 2010

And so it begins...

First of all, I apologize for missing yesterday's post.  Fall Break has just begun but it has already been a whirlwind of activities!  I'll just warn readers up front that this week's posts may be hit or miss.  While I want to capture the joy of each day, sometimes you gotta just live in the moment and there isn't time to write it all down.

Yesterday was one of those days.  By the time we made it home for a quick dinner, it was time to pack up and head to the Drive-In, which resulted in a late night getting to bed.  It was kind of a last minute cram-it-in decision to go, but I found out it was our last chance before they closed for the season.   This morning, we left for the zoo first thing.  We've just made it home and the only reason this blog is getting any attention now at all, is because I'd rather write while uploading photos than do housework!

You know what the best part is though in all the busyness of the past two days?  There are too many moments of joy to pick just one!  It could be waking up at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning to find Noah still awake.  He was soaking up every single moment of fall break by not going to bed!  Needless to say, it messed his sleep schedule up a tad.  Or, it could be the giant hug he gave me when he found out I made hot potato salad for dinner.  ....gotta love his excitement. 

Or, it could be sandwiched in between my two special guys at the Drive-In last night, wrapped in quilts, with my arms entwined around each of theirs.  The movies weren't all that great, and my nose and feet got mighty cold, but we were under a blanket of beautiful stars sharing the night together.  It was a pretty great moment when Noah leaned over, grabbed my hand with a squeeze, smiled sweetly and said, "Mom, this is a pretty cool fall break."

It could've been the crazy chaos of cousins running around the house, happy to see each other and travel to the zoo.  My heart melted a little when my nephew Allen, who's pretty shy around me usually, smiled brightly and said "Heather!" when I stepped outside.  Or, Bryanna's funny face she made when she tried to wiggle her nose like Aunt Heather.  And the many laughs shared in the truck with my little sister, who's not so little anymore, and just getting to spend time with each other. 

Many special moments throughout the visit at the zoo, from watching the kids pose for silly pictures to their expressions at seeing a monkey for the twentieth time.  And it very well could've been the shared happiness in Mom's face, surrounded by her grand kids, and even husband, for a rare all-together photo on haystacks before we left.  Many, many wonderful moments of joy.

I'm exhausted.  I need a bath.  I should wash dishes or do laundry, or something...but instead I think I'll just travel to the couch, where I'll find my boy, and we'll relive the memories of the past few days together. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chef Noah

We really don't have some strange fascination with eggs, even though this is my second posting in a month about them.  Today's joy came in the form of another omelet though.  It wasn't really the egg that made me smile, however, it was the boy who made it.

Tim and I tackled the yearly project of winterizing all the wooden surfaces in our backyard today.  As is the yearly ritual, in the midst of staining the deck, he was called out to a brush fire.  It happens every year, without fail.  He'll either be called out to work or through the fire department and I'm stuck holding all the brushes.  I don't mind.  Who doesn't love back spasms from stretching their arm repeatedly over their head for hours on end.  Alone.

All kidding aside, Noah kinda had to fend for himself today.  Of course, he could've ventured outside but that might result in being asked to help so we didn't see him much.  After the fire page, I snuck inside for a water and recliner break to be hit with the "I'm hungry" bomb.  I was hot, tired and had just pushed the Ahhhhh button on the chair. 

"How bout' cereal?" I said, which even though it was after 1:00 wasn't odd to suggest because he'd slept in and was still in pajamas.  Normally, he'd jump at a bowl of Lucky Charms but not today.  He was in the mood for a ham and cheese omelet.

So, I surprised him and replied, "Ok, cook it."  He was speechless for a moment and then bounced excitedly with a yip and a, "Are you serious?!"

Noah loves to cook and we've had many fun memories together in the kitchen.  The past year, he's taken an even bigger interest and I've begun to let him take the lead on many meals.  He's never used the stove unsupervised though so this was a big moment, for both of us.  Of course it wasn't completely on his own, as I was in the next room reminding him of the steps, one hand hovering over the recliner lever if a quick rush into the kitchen was required.

To my great surprise, he didn't need my help and the omelet turned out beautifully.  I was very impressed, as that is not a super easy dish for a novice cook.  The flip of the egg doesn't always cooperate and it turns out more scrambled mess than perfectly formed frittata.  His was flawless, golden yellow, bursting with flecks of ham and oozing with cheese. 

Part of me teared up a little at what this meant, my guy is growing up!  Seeing the delight in his face though at this culinary accomplishment, quickly brought a smile to mine.  I was so proud of him.  The enjoyment gave me the needed burst of energy to get back outside and complete the last set of rails on the deck too.  Great moment.  Good day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Holding onto Heaven

Sometimes people question how I can find joy in any day after losing a child. I'll admit that some days are difficult and there are times when a part of me would rather just give in. There just came a point in this journey that I realized I had to choose...either the grief would take me over, or I would take over my grief.

It didn't happen overnight. In the beginning, even months after, I felt so disconnected from God. I questioned everything. Nothing made sense. I was angry. I didn't want to hear "he's in a better place" because I wanted Austin here, with me, even though I knew he was.

At one point, I turned to a spiritual friend for answers. I mentioned that when we lost Austin I'd never prayed as hard and without ceasing as that night. It hurt that my prayers weren't answered and I felt God wasn't there, that he didn't hear me - or care. He said, "Do you ever think God could've been using Austin in your life to strengthen your faith?"

I have to admit that this made me angry.  Why would he use MY son that way?  Wasn't my faith strong enough?  Then one day it hit me...God sacrificed his OWN son to save the world.  He did know my pain; and all those heartbreaking nights, when tears soaked my pillow and I felt so very alone, he was there to catch each one in his hands. 

And it wasn't all about me.  From the night of Austin's death and every day since then, his life has continued to inspire others.  At his service, and for days after, hundreds of hugs were shared all across this state from the message given by his youth minister.  It was his legacy, to help and hug others, and it continues to be shared.  While it hurts to not have Austin with us, what a privilege and blessing it was to be trusted with such a child and Heaven-sent soul. 

Getting to this place I am now took lots of prayer, time and reflection. Most of all, it took giving it to God. And that's when the joy came.  I'm reminded of the scripture, "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5)  The pain from losing a child doesn't end with one night, truly, the pain never goes away.  However, you learn to function again because of the knowledge we all have as Christians.  I do know Austin's in a better place and that joy makes me yearn for Heaven each and every day.  Some morning, I know we'll be reunited at our final home as a family again.

A few weeks ago, something told me to continue listening to K-Love after I arrived at work, so I typed in their web address and tuned in online.  They were interviewing Matthew West, who just recently released an album inspired by letters written to him.  One of the stories was from a mother who had lost her son and so much about his and Austin's story was similar.  The song, "A Reason for the World" gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it.  I downloaded it today and played it over and over on the way home.  I cry every single time but the message is so clear and echoes all the feelings I've had the past two years.  He may have written the song for this family but I feel like he's speaking directly to me with each word. I hope it touches you too...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What'cha doing?

At some point in my day, sometimes multiple points, I will either ask or answer this question.  It's the opening line for my husband and me when we call each other.  When I first started using it, Tim would laugh and answer, "I'm working," as if I'd just asked a stupid question.  The saying stuck though and we both use it now.  It's a quick way to know if the call is coming at a bad time because we can always answer, "Really busy right now, can I call you back?"

Being able to connect with each other during the day is one of my favorite things about cell phones.  In fact, we've had them for so long I don't really remember a time when I couldn't call or hear from him this way.  Our chats are quick, usually just to check in and see how each other's day is going, but they are always a highlight for me.  And we never end a call without saying, "I love you."  I think we've always done it but it has more meaning the past several years.  We know how quickly life can slip away, in an instant, and so we never take each other for granted or an opportunity to say how much we care.

It's interesting.  We've been together so long that often times I'll be thinking, "I haven't heard from Tim today," and then my phone will ring.  Or, he'll pick up the phone to call me and find his phone ringing and me at the other end of the line.  We can tell by the tones of each other's voices whether we're needing to vent or have something exciting to share before we even say it.  I love the connection we have with each other.

We complete each other's sentences in person all the time and each time it happens, I'll say, "Never doubt it."  ...which means, never doubt that we were meant for each other.  I truly feel Tim is my soul-mate and as cheesy of a movie line as it is, "He completes me."  And I, him.  We bring out the best in each other and what one lacks, the other possesses.  I'm grateful every single moment that he's in my life.

Maybe it's sappy and sweet.  Perhaps you're gagging inside a little right now at today's blog.  But I can't help it.  I love him.  And that's why I look forward to those daily calls.  Today's was extra nice because when he called he said, "I just wanted to hear your voice." 

That's kept me smiling all day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A simply sweet sick day...

Can you find joy in a sick day?  I'm going to try.  Noah was sent home about an hour ago with tummy troubles and he's resting on the couch.  So, I'm hanging up the laptop case and wearing my nurse hat today.

September was filled several sleepless nights and coughing, as bronchitis attacked my health.  I felt like I lived in the recliner, as it was the only place I could rest.  In fact, the coughing was so violent that I pulled a muscle.  It was a month of yuck and I hoped October would be a healthier, happier month.

So far it's been fairly happy but not any healthier.  Over the weekend, Tim broke out into some type of strange rash on his back.  I went to the worse, fearing staph infection, especially when I began to find the same sores on my back.  Thankfully, it was an allergic reaction to a hot tub chemical but it was a scary wait.

Unfortunately, I've still not shaken my illness and returned to the doctor today to learn I have a sinus and ear infection on top of the bronchitis.  As I waited in the hospital room for a chest x-ray, the school called with news about Noah.  Good grief!  My family's wellness is suffering this week.

I could let all this sickness get me down, go to bed and pull the covers over my head.  (Actually, a nap is probably on the agenda this afternoon but it will be a happy nap.)  I'm just going to let go and rest.  So many times it's easy to make excuses as to why you can't stop and take time for yourself, and others.

But today, I'm taking it easy.  I'm going to snuggle with my little guy and let him be master of the remote control.  We'll snack on Sprite and crackers and maybe even pull out the crayons and coloring books.  I'm not going to sneak and check messages or emails, as I usually do.  I'm taking a sick day, fully, and I'm making the most of it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tis' the Season

I held out as long as I could.  My need to decorate for the season had me bursting at the seams, but per request of Noah, I was holding out for an "appropriate" date.  As he stated, "Mom, you don't want to be one of those people who decorate too early!"  I don't?

After homework I called him out to the shed, filled his arms with a basket full of goodies, and we set out to spruce up the house.  Sadly, many of our favorite decorations did not make the cut for this year's display.  My favorite little scarecrow had seen better days, was missing an arm, and looked like he'd been partying in storage.  It left some holes in the yard but that just gives me a reason to go shopping!

I had hoped to find some beautiful mums bursting with color for the front steps this weekend, but none of them met my standards.  And even though we have two window boxes full of pumpkins, I want more.  I have a picture in my mind of the right size of pumpkins and blooming mums I want to display and will be on the lookout until we find each other.  If you see my truck come screeching to a halt in your town, you'll know I've spotted them.

Decorating with your child, when you have a slight case of OCD, is a funny thing to watch.  Inside, I'm thinking, "Don't put that there.  Move it up to the right a little bit."  Outside, I'm smiling and saying, "It looks great!"  It's a compromise.  We have a unique blend of country cute and frilly fall, mixed with spooky, scary, and creepy.  I get sweet little happy ghosts and Noah gets gruesome ghouls. 

And really I wouldn't have it any other way.  It's not perfect.  It won't be on the cover of Martha Stewart magazine.  But it's ours and it's beautiful to me.  Especially when I know there won't be many more years of this.  Soon my little guy will be all grown up and the lopsided pumpkin stickers on the door will be gone.  So I'm treasuring the hodge-podge Halloween on Hope Street this year and giving thanks for a ten year old who still wants to decorate with Mom.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh, Beautiful...

What a wonderFALL weekend!  It held so many of the things I love, love, love about fall.  Saturday was filled with chilly air, snuggly blankets and a warm bowl of soup.  We were completely lazy and I didn't accomplish any of the household duties I should have but it was so worth it.

Sunday afternoon we took off to the orchard.  October is so busy and filled with many of the activities I enjoy so I knew that if we didn't go, we took a risk of running out of time.  It was cool, 58 degrees, when we pulled in front of a cute, crooked apple tree, but we had jackets, hands to hold, and hot cider awaiting!

The entire afternoon was absolutely beautiful.  I loved the way the sun would hit the harvested fields, turning them from brown to gold.  Or the way the sun would hit the tip of the trees, as if it was shining spotlights to showcase each beautiful autumn color.  The squatty, bent and twisted branches of the apple trees were filled and spilling over with fruit.  As we walked through the corn, I smiled at the rustling sound the stalks would make as children raced through the paths.  Wherever I looked, I was amazed at the majestic fall landscape.

It always brings me joy to see Noah having a good time, and he was filled with excitement, as he went out exploring the orchard.  Whether it was shooting down the Cider Slide, or hugging a tiny bunny, or blasting through the corn maze, his face was filled with happiness.  We ended the day with a hayride, always one of my favorite parts, and a leisurely walk back from the pumpkin patch.  Oh, and of course, we had our share of caramel apples and all the other yummy treats to be had!

Typically on a Sunday night, I'm eager to get things organized and ready for the coming week.  I'll make sure laundry is caught up and outfits set aside, ensure that meals are planned, and other busy work, but not yesterday.  I was just so happy to be in the moment of the day and I didn't really care what Monday would hold.  Instead, I ended the weekend much like it began, snuggled on the couch with my sweet boy at my side, wrapped in a blanket.  It was such a delightful weekend and I wanted to soak up every last morsel.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Egg in a Bag

When we took our camping trip on Labor Day weekend, I scoured recipes and cookbooks for fun and unique camping treats for us to cook.  By far, Noah's favorite was the "egg in a bag" that we had our last morning.

It's basically just an omelet, meant to use up all the leftovers from the cooler.  The exciting part for him is smushing it all together in a Ziploc bag and dropping it into boiling water.  Two to three minutes later, you unzip the bag and roll it onto a plate.  VoilĂ  !  A perfectly cooked omelet filled with your choice of ingredients.

When we got back from camping, it was all he talked about.  Noah has wanted egg in a bag for breakfast, or dinner, or whatever meal I'll cook it for, since we've returned.  For whatever reason, it just hasn't worked out to make them until this morning.  (Actually, the major reason has been that I was either missing eggs or the other ingredients to make up an omelet.)  Anyway, this morning seemed like a good time to do it.

His cousin, Tina, spent the night last night and I knew she'd enjoy making them too.  Noah had already told her about them.  ....I told you, he was really impressed!  I guess I made major Mom points on that camping trip by cooking such a cool breakfast, huh?

So, this morning, with cold feet on a colder hardwood floor, and my non-coffee perked body, I pulled out the needed "fixings" for the meal.  Sure, it would have been easier to offer a bowl of cereal but we were making memories.  Both kids had such fun squishing the eggs, choosing their toppings, and dropping them into the water.  They liked watching the yellow goo transform into an omelet right before their eyes. 

Just from spending a little time surfing the net and reading through recipes, I've found a new tradition.  I hope it's one we continue many mornings to come and maybe even one Noah will pass down to his kids someday.  Who knew a Ziploc bag, two eggs, and a pot of boiling water could do that?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chilly Chili Day

Brrrr!  Who knew today would be so cold?  I love it though.  It lets me know that Fall is here!

The weather changed our plans a bit but I'd much rather stay inside snuggled up with the family than do yard work anyway.  Who doesn't love a lazy Saturday afternoon?

The cool day felt like a great time to make the season's first pot of soup.  There's just something so comforting about soup and today seemed like a chili kind of day.  When the onions hit the pan with a sizzle, I smiled a little, inside and out.  I enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking for those I love.  It's calming to be by the stove chopping vegetables, adding seasoning, and stirring away in a big pot of warmth.

There are many soups that we love and I usually try a new recipe or two every season but chili is an old familiar favorite.  It reminds me of family and being gathered all together, playing games and laughing.  There really isn't a family member that I don't have a chili memory of, which is kind of strange if you think about it.  I can close my eyes and picture different people and know how they like their chili....

My step dad likes it with macaroni, which as a kid I always thought that was gross.  Who wants slimy noodles in their soup; however, Tim and I enjoy it with broken spaghetti.  My grandpa Wavie liked his spicy and would add lots of black pepper, actually he added lots of pepper to anything.  And I used to get a kick out of watching my cousin, Justin, eat from his bowl.  He refused to use a spoon and grandma would always give him an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers all to himself.  He'd use the crackers as a spoon to scoop up the yummy mixture.  Noah loves his with tons and tons of cheese, the more the better.  By the time he's finished, it looks more like a yellow glob but he likes it that way and eats every last bite.  How do you like yours?

I can smell mine simmering away, as it fills my house with warm scents of tomatoes and onions, garlic and cumin.  May seem silly to get this excited about a bowl of soup, but I'll be a happy camper in a couple hours, wrapped up in blankets on the couch, surrounded by those I love and watching some good movies.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend a chilly Saturday afternoon.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trees, Trains & Water Parks, Oh My!

Hellooooo, October!  I'm looking forward to so many activities this month but excited most about Fall Break.  Nine whole days of dedicated family time!  I've been busy this afternoon making plans for the mini vacation we'll take that week.

I love planning vacations so much that I've often wondered if I should've been a travel agent.  I enjoy researching the area, finding the best deals, planning our itinerary, and even organizing and packing.  Tim really has it made, as all he has to do is open the truck door and come along for the ride. 

I'll spend so much time researching the area I feel like I could be a guide for visitors by the time we arrive.  It tickles me when I find interesting, little known places or surprises I sneak into our trip.  Sometimes we just happen upon them but I like having tidbits and ideas in my back pocket to use as needed.  The best found spot while researching was an orphanage down the road from a resort we stayed at in Jamaica.  Finding about it ahead of time, allowed us to plan a visit there and pack an extra bag of supplies and toys for the children.  Jamaica was a beautiful place and I have so many great memories of that trip but none compare to those precious little kids running up to us, with smiles wide as the ocean, and the day we spent there.

We have a rule about not eating at a restaurant we have at home, while on vacation, and make an effort for it to be one we've never eaten at before.  I'd much rather eat at a local diner or mom & pop than a chain restaurant.  Sometimes we've found treasures and break our rule, eating at a great find more than once while traveling.  When we took the boys to Pensacola the summer of 2008, we visited the same restaurant my grandparents loved taking us to as kids.  They loved it so much we went back again while there and I loved creating a generational memory that could continue to passed down.

As I mentioned, Tim gets the best of our trips, as he can just sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  In fact, the last anniversary trip we took, he did just that.  He had no clue where we were going or what the plans would be.  I plugged in the address on the GPS and told him to drive.  The entire vacation, I surprised him every step of the trip, from the scenic drive avoiding all major roadways, to the bed & breakfast, and all the little activities along the way.  It was an amazing get away to Southern Indiana, that included dining at the Overlook restaurant and visiting French Lick.  We had such a good trip, we decided to return and take Noah for this Fall Break.

Our trip will be different, as romantic bed & breakfasts and winery visits aren't really activities a ten year old would enjoy.  I don't think he'll miss it though, as we have booked a few nights at Big Splash Adventure, an indoor water park/hotel, and not one, but two different train rides.  We'll sneak in some fall foliage along the way and may have to return to the Overlook, if for nothing else but the spectacular views...and memories. 
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