Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Eve Memories!

I. Love. Traditions. I love that every family group has them, whether they acknowledge them as traditions or not, as humans, we are creatures of habit. Habits make us feel safe, secure, and traditions usually derive out of. . well, we did it that way last year. So, each Christmas Eve we venture to our church's candlelight service, which always brings me to tears. The trouble with this year is that I was asked to sing with our church's new praise team group. "In Christ Alone" and "Silent night" about did me in. There was a moment in Silent Night that I literally could not get out the words because the room was lit with 500+ candles. . I was speechless. The candlelight tradition sung to Silent Night will always be one of my favorite traditions.

From there we travel across town to J's parents' house for an appetizer party. The kids dress in their finest and fanciest and dig in to a feast of finger foods. After that we take the "traditional" family photos in front of the fire. The kids then all receive one gift to open which is traditionally their Christmas PJ's.

We then head home all hyped on sugar and sheer excitement. . and the kids always check NORAD to see where Santa is on the radar. Luckily he was still in Canada so the kids had time to settle to bed.. . I tried to document as much as I could on camera.


Sweet baby girl! Now 18 months, her 2nd Christmas proved to be a delight. She really loved looking for our "elf" every morning. . when did she get so big?

This was taken "pre-pj's" and still dressed up from church. I appreciated every one's efforts to look nice for the occasion!

A quick photo with Nana and Papa. They have been so faithful to keep the tradition of hosting our annual party!

A fun moment once the some of the girls changed. . aren't they cute!

The kids are always such good sports. They know I love the tradition of getting a picture of ALL of them all ready for Santa!

M. E. and Daphne (sweet cousin) were doing handstands and flips they were so happy for Santa to come!

Sweet cousins. Poor boys, they can get lost in all those females!

It was finally time for our evening to come to an end. . Santa was coming very soon. . we rushed home and hit the sack. . and finally Not a Creature was stirring, not even a mouse! Or a Whitley!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Past

It's absolutely crazy to think of Christmas 2010 in the past tense. For months we have been planning, anticipating, organizing, and waiting for the event. It came, it went. . now it's gone. BUT, we have the HOPE of Christ because of Christmas. This year on Christmas Eve Eve. . we watched The Nativity Story which then led to a viewing of the Jesus film. Little J was a bundle of questions THE. ENTIRE. TIME.

I was weary of answering him until I realized at bedtime, it was the Holy Spirit prodding his little 5 year old mind. He. got. it. From birth to resurrection story, he wanted in, and I mean in. He didn't want to be on Satan's team and even told me in his own words. Right there in his bed, he prayed to receive Christ and be HIS forever. What a Christmas gift. Yes, the first Christmas has come and gone, but the HOPE of Christ makes it present for ALL of us today. This year will forever be etched in my mind as one of my very favorite Christmas's, (the White Christmas made it a little better!) BUT the best part of J's little commitment to Jesus due to his understanding of HIS birth and why HE came HERE.

I am feeling led to make a New Year's resolution to ramp up my blog posts. . hopefully I will follow through and not fail :) I hope to post Christmas photos soon!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours many Christmas Blessings this Holiday Season!
From our family to yours,
Merry Christmas!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows - light! sunbursts of light! Isaiah 9:2 The Message

Friday, December 3, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Our dance studio performs a precious show every other year, so glad they give us a year off. . Twas the Night Before Christmas. They do a great job of having several acts which include Santa's workshop, then the reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas. . we had elves, dreaming girls in nightgowns, an ice skater, and even Donder the reindeer. Even our own Papa wore a nightgown and performed as the Papa to the nightgown girls. The show is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and I am so grateful it does not fall during the hustle and bustle of December. I wanted to post a few photos from the weekend performance, such a fun time!

M. E. was the deputy elf. . are you surprised? She even had a clipboard she carried with a giant pencil. Does she remind you of anyone?

K as a Nightgown girl. . this is a precious "dreamy" dance. . she even danced with her Emily American girl doll. . we love this dance!

S performed a very hard tap dance to "Sleigh Ride". . it put me in the spirit!

Sweet S. . skating away on a river. . it was a beautiful dance!

And here's. . . . Johnny! Papa will probably hate that I did this. . talk about a grandad giving his support. We love you Papa!

Now. . I must go trim some trees, mail some Christmas cards. . and make that figgy pudding!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's in a Name?-Big T goes to College

Here is Big T on move in day! Precious moment!


Growing up in a small town and still living there now, I have come to love the "perk" of knowing many people. Even today one very special friend, Georgia Mother, was my back door neighbor when we were preschoolers. The other day I went to the local deli and when they called out, "grilled chicken salad on pita, lettuce and tomato", the owner said, "oh, that's Wendy's, she always orders that". I thought, how sweet and special I feel that someone remembered my name and knows me. . it feels good to be "known". Later that day, I swung into the cleaners drive thru line. The sweet worker brought out my order without me even having to call out my name, she knew me! I thought to myself, "this is what I love about small town life!"

Late August, we drove 2 hours southwest to my college alma mater and moved Big T into my former dorm. .talk about surreal. At age 36, I never thought I would be moving one of my children into college where I once loved college life. Some 12 years prior in early August, I began my 2nd year as a first grade school teacher. . a sweet, thin, beautiful girl entered my classroom, her name was Tabitha. I so wish I had a picture of her then, she was precious (still is). She was very smart, and I taught in a lower income school, so many students struggled even with first grade curriculum. Not Tabitha, she was a learner, she got new concepts quickly, she was a happy child. A few months into the school year, Tabitha began to get sleepy during the day often, lay her head down and sleep. I remember vividly her dark, almost black hair laying down on her desk for a quick nap. I would come home and tell J about her, how much I loved her, I felt drawn to her. He told me emphatically, "tell your principal, she can come live with us, whatever she needs" (true story, but boy we were young didn't have a clue how the child care system worked). After talking with our school counselor about some concerns the ball starting rolling on some things and Tabitha and her younger sister went to live with their Grandmother. She was a precious Grandmother, she loved those girls dearly. She would come to parent conference day. . Tabitha was going to be ok.

I kept up with Tabitha and her younger sister over the next four years as they stayed at my school, but that year their grandmother would pass away due to a quick illness with liver cancer. Tragic. The girls left our school. . and well, I just lost touch with them. Fast forward to 2002, we had started our current job and were at the local mall carousel. There were the girls, I knew it was them, they were with another couple. I remember saying to one of my older girls, "that's Tabitha, I taught her when she was in first grade, but I don't know those people she is with, but she looks great." I went up and said hi, but I don't even know if Tabitha remembered me, she was still only a 6th grader or so at this point.

Fast forward to the spring of 2006, we were very new members at a new church in town and our church was hosting a "girls day" for a local girls home. I went as I had helped arrange for two girls that had grown up in WinShape Homes to give their testimony and speak to the girls in attendance. As I was sitting at a round table, with my friend, I remember telling her, "That's Tabitha ______, I used to teach her" I immediately started making calls, speaking with her mentor, our program director, and anyone I could to see if Tabitha could live with us since I knew we had a spot and she had recently expressed she wanted to live in a home. That was April, that June she moved in and spent her high school years with us. It was always HER, her inner beauty that drew me into her. Her name was unforgettable and I KNEW HER and her story. I loved her.

Tabitha had her ups and downs with us, mostly ups. Literally, every year of high school her GPA rose by several points, she quickly adapted to a private, christian high school, gained friends quickly at school and church, got involved, was selected time and time again for leadership opportunities, including one trip to Washington, D. C. She also had many moments she grew frustrated with our rules and guidelines. Even guidelines that our hands were tied on because she wasn't physically our daughter. BUT, we worked through them, I honor Tabitha because unlike my other older girls that lived here, She. stayed. the. course. She has hung in there, EVEN when she didn't love things. I have always bragged about her to my friends and to her, "you know, Tabitha, just gets it. She just gets life." That is a rare gift many in this world don't have.

Fast forward to her senior year of high school, she quickly enrolled in SU, was of course accepted, offered a scholarhsip, and the case was closed. She was going. So here I was, in my former dorm, looking at this precious girl, recognizing all along that GOD had orchestrated this moment. HE has always had her in HIS hands, as He does all of us. Not only did I always know her name, HE DID.

Fast forward to mid-September, Tabitha had planned all along to go through the rush process. Now for those of you that are anti-sorority, this will further your cause that they are ludicrous and mean to girls. For those that are pro-sorority and were even in one, you will get it, that something wrong happened with Tabitha. She went through rush and REALLY wanted the sorority I had been in at SU. Given that Tabitha was a "legacy", (the daughter of a former member) priority should have been given to her, however, she was dropped from their list before the last day. She of course called me. .and boy did we get the ball rolling. It was a rush emergency. I called all of my friends that knew her, had met her, and they all agreed, a great disservice had been done. A new friend I have never even met face to face, Tabitha's boyfriend's mom sprung to action. WE ALL KNOW her, love her and didn't want her to be hurt. Plus, we knew this group was making a big mistake by not picking her. In the end, there was nothing else we could do, and the verdict stood, maybe she just didn't meet enough people and the numbers weren't there. (It's all in a name, right?) Of course I am probably more crushed than Tabitha at this point, she has handled like a pro and I constantly ask her, "are you ok?" "Yes, mom, I am really fine, I am happy for my friends and still may want that sorority next fall". What a trooper. . she once again, gets life. (even though I am still fuming)

Just last night she sent me an email where she has been selected to serve on a special student board within student government simply because, and I quote "your resume and name stood out above all the other applicants". ( I am so proud!)

I must be honest, this job and life and motherhood has taken a deep, emotional toll on me. My heart has been crushed by girls that have left, chosen sinful lives based on their "independence". Ultimately, I don't have control, God does. . trusting HIM with their lives is once of the hardest processes I have ever had to learn. He has taken me on the field trip with that now 3 times. (think I've got it God) I pray for Tabitha daily that she too will hold firm to all she has learned and will TRUST HIM for her dependence, not herself. That she will continue to be directed by HIS hand all of her days. I am so thankful God let me be her mother. .

I am so thankful that even though those sorority girls didn't "know" her like we all do, that even though MANY people in her small hometown KNOW her well, that even though I and her family KNOW her and her detailed story. . GOD knows her even better. I couldn't help but think of this song as I have been writing this post in my head for a month. . listen below and relish the fact that it is true about YOU too.


These are pictures from a recent visit to see Tab on Parent's Weekend. This fountain is off the main Quad at SU, I walked by this hundreds of times. What a surreal moment to be there with her.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with Tabitha's favorite verse. Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day 2010

How does a worn out mama from summer get refreshed? Time. With. Friends. At. The. Beach!!!!

My special group of college gals had our annual Labor Day trip for the 14th year!! Woo-hoo. We all take great pride in the fact that we have kept this up through the years. The number of gals has changed, who can attend due to births of the 45 kids (that was the count with this year's group), and various other reasons. BUT, it remains on all of our calendars with a special asterisk. We all know what the weekend means. Fun. Relaxation. Food. Lots of chatter. Some sleep. Shopping. More chatter. And my favorite, LAUGHTER.

My college years hold a special place in my heart and always will. That's another post. But for me these girls, yes, we are still girls, stand for more than college years now. We have gone through weddings, divorces, re-marriages, births, miscarriages, deaths of parents, illnesses of siblings, loss of siblings, jobs, loss of jobs, travels to our various cities. . we've just done life. While not together for most of the calendar year, emails, calls, Christmas cards somehow keep us all connected enough to always start right back up where we left off. It's funny how some relationships can stand the test of time in that way.

This summer was an especially hard one for me. Maybe because I'm getting older? Who knows? But this year, the Labor Day trip could NOT have come at a better time. I was weary from summer and needed to refresh and unwind. These special girls always seem to re-energize me. And this mama is better for it. I love you all!!!

Enjoy some snaps from our trip!


Dinner at my New Favorite: Caliza Pool at Alys Beach!! So fun!

Dessert at Fish out of Water at Watercolor!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Been Too Long/Back to School!!

Well. . has it actually been that long? Two months since I last logged on to post. Sorry to my few followers that search me out to see our latest news. The truth is, I've just been too worn out to sit and write things down, wait for the computer to load pictures, and have patience to get my thoughts down. It's not that I am not posting in my head every day. . I constantly think of things I need to document for myself to remember what my little have done or have said.

School season is upon us and summer is quickly fading. (Thank. You. Lord.) Summer for us is like having a mini youth group home every day, they need 3 square meals, an activity planned for sanity's sake, plus keeping all the areas clean. It's been a long summer, but fun, exciting, busy, and restful at times. Hopefully I can play catch up and post about some of our fun summer days. But for now, I must relish in Back to School days.

The kids went back last week and I have slowly begun to emerge for a quick breath of fresh air. I love, love my kids. They are funny, intelligent, insightful, entertaining, and just plain darling. BUT. They keep me busy, worn out, ready to collapse at night, and longing for breaks! Back to School brings routine, structure, and down time for us during the day. Big T is headed off to college this Friday and once that happens, it will be official: Everyone is Back to School!! (except little AC of course, she will have to be our sidekick)

I took a few pictures last week to save for posterity :)

The entire Lion crew headed back on the first day. Boy were they as eager as I was. . it was the 2nd morning that threw us all for a loop. Rise and Shine was not as pretty that morning.!

Little J on his first day of "real" school. Kindergarten is just so fun, isn't it? A new school had him worried when the first morning he told me, "I just don't know what my friends will look like." He was thrilled when he came home and a few kids were from church and tball. Familiar faces made it all better! He loves it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Year Older?

Well, Happy Birthday to me!! I can't believe a year has come and gone so fast. 36 years young!! I still feel like a mere 25. My sweet hubby has planned a night of celebration tonight with the entire family at a local restaurant. No clean up, no mess!! I can't wait. But for today, I am headed out for a day of errands with NO KIDS!! Maybe even lunch wherever I want to eat!! Can't wait.

I am not one of these people that gets sappy and sad they are getting older. I am totally okay with getting older and wiser. So happy to admit I need a Savior and each year that I can grow closer to Him in His wisdom and knowledge, I will happily embrace.

I also love the fact that I share my birthday with the Summer Solstice. It's the longest day of daylight in the year. Just that much longer to enjoy the beauty of MY DAY!! :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Little Pirates

We are away on our annual time off. Some kids are away at camp, one is staying with friends and our biological kids are here with us. Tonight we enjoyed our tradition that includes a trek to the "shark store". A fabulous souvenir store that includes and entrance where a shark's teeth greet you as enter. The back exit of the store includes a giant pirate ship with a pirate theme everywhere on the building. I couldn't resist this photo op.

A warning to all those headed to the Gulf Coast, the oil has made it to Gulf Shores. We were hopeful that we would beat it here, but fellow vacationers reported the nasty balls of tar arrived around Friday afternoon. The water's edge is covered in tiny, thick globs of sticky tar that adheres to anything it touches. Thank goodness we have a pool to swim in. The beach area is great for playing, but no ocean to play in. It is of course only a glimpse of the large portion of shoreline and ocean waters effected by this tragedy. But my eyes have been opened to this severe issue. So. Sad.

We will still enjoy our time away. Ann Claire will be celebrating her first birthday this week at the zoo here. . fun times.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Life is Good

Just wanted to send out a hello from Key West. Life is good and I have J to myself for 3 more whole days!!

This was my view for most of today. Life is good!

That's J in the distance. We ate on the beach tonight and watched the sunset. So romantic. My "normal" life never contains such delights!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In life and In Death. . .

Our friend Shane went home to be with the Lord early this morning. . .what do you say from here? There are so many thoughts circling in my head, I just told J, "I've got to go write!" Shane's sweet, precious wife has known my family since we were little. . her family were member's of my father's church years ago when she was a little girl. I have watched her from a distance growing up in our small town and known her sister as well for years. Life brought us back together as neighbors in the early years of matrimony raising babies under a year old. I always remember seeing each other walk those babies in strollers time and time again. . up and down the street. Those babies are now in 4th grade together. Shane and DeAnn came to join our school family a couple of years ago and we would be "doing life" together again. . as J had gone to college with Shane years ago. It was awesome to be reacquainted with people you just feel good to be with!

DeAnn has been a faithful reader of my blog and started her own a few years ago, then of course has kept up with Shane's caring bridge site through these past 5 months. Her faith throughout this journey has amazed me. Right up until Thursday night when she had a minister come and administer communion with her husband and family. The same night our Lord took bread with his closest friends. . .her faith has been unstoppable, her sadness almost palpable, but her hope unrelenting! She has been a rock sustained only by the power of the Lord. To Him be the Glory for that.

Today's date marked a benefit for Shane at their local church and has been on the calendar for several weeks. J is on deck to sing with his dad. Yes, sing. J doesn't even sing (don't get me wrong, he sings beautifully, just in the shower). . but on the list of songs is those such as "It is Well with my soul", "Amazing Grace", "The King in Coming". Many of those old favorites that remind us the power of our Lord and His amazing ability to give us grace and peace in times like these. I am praying he can get through the songs! I know I wouldn't be able to.

What a precious time to go home to be with the Lord. The very weekend all of Christendom celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord. From Greek orthodox, to Roman Catholics, to Baptists, to Presbyterians. . this weekend is about death and new life! Easter will forever be etched in their families' hearts as a time to celebrate that process. And mine too. Joni wrote a beautiful post over here last night. Everything she said has been ringing in my brain since I read it. Our sweet friends J and R have just been through this same process this very week over here. . . And so death. . has been in my face! J and I because of our life with kids and well, it's what we do. . have been drawn to have a heart for Shane and DeAnn's kids. .hurting for them, sad for them. Our children are in class with their kids, so we are just "doing life" with them. My kids love their boys and often tell stories of their funny ways, silly jokes, and friendship. (K actually used to have a "crush" on their son. . DeAnn and I would just giggle over that) My point is, a lot has been circling in my brain this past week. This past week, J drove their middle son over from the lower campus to the upper campus to meet up with the family that has been helping DeAnn with all the ball practices, carpooling, etc. As J was walking S into the school, he said, "can I get on your shoulders?" (remember from my Washington, D. C post, J is 6'5"), riding on his shoulders I'm sure is like a ride at the fair to any 1st grader. J said, "of course". And so S got a ride like none other. In my mind that was like little S saying, "Can you just pick me up and give me a big hug?"

I am forever changed by this past week. We are called to be there for the family of believers, in life and in death. Help those you love who are hurting, pick them up, hug them, put them on your shoulders. . be there for them. YOU will be forever changed! And today as I think of Mike Sweeney and Shane Richardson. . I couldn't help but think of this verse in 2 Corinthians, I loved how it was written in The Message, especially special this very weekend!

2 Corinthians 5:6 -8That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.

The Message (MSG)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Please pray

Dear friends in blogland:
I am sparing all the details, but please help me pray for our friends DeAnn and Shane. Shane is battling cancer and may lose the fight. He is an awesome believer, but we need to intercede for DeAnn, Shane and their 3 children.
Thanks to all of you out there who I know will pray!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We've Been Home-but I've been busy!

Obviously we have returned from Washington, D. C. As we were only there for 4 days, it seems like it took the entire month of February to prepare the house to leave, then to experience something I like to call "re-entry". That usually takes another two weeks to recover from. Once we returned a "cold" bug had set upon the younger two kids, then J and I. We are finally recovering as the warmer weather is setting in, life feels better.

Here are a few updates and snapshots from our trip. I also FINALLY found the missing connector cable to the camera we use for small and miscellaneous family things. . you know the cord that NO ONE in the family could find. Thanks to R, he is our resident handy man, he found it.

This is a shot of J sitting on the property of the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. D. C. was actually about a 20 min ride north. Notice the Potomac River behind him and LOTS of snow that was leftover. D. C. has had record breaking snowfall this year, and we were able to enjoy the remnants when we first arrived. Doesn't J just look so cute posing for me! Isn't he sweet to play along. I mainly wanted to emphasize the height of the snow. Remember he is 6'5"!

Those of you that KNOW us in real life know this one was taken for little J, an avid dinosaur junkie. . we ventured out to the Smithsonian Natural Museum of History. I haven't been to that one since the 4th grade.

We LOVE Buddy the cake boss. The kids insisted we find him. . as he was a special guest at the Seminar Expo.

Buddy was intrigued about what we do! I love on his show he has a family business and his large family of sisters work for him. He told us, "God bless you guys then with all those girls!" in his best New Jersey accent.

A Cake Boss cake. Every piece is made of sugar or cake! It was the best cake I have ever put in my mouth!

We also enjoyed special guest speakers such as Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, and Tim Hawkins. If you don't have time to click links to all three, you must see Tim Hawkins. He is a clean, hysterical comedian that has written new lyrics to "Yesterday" by the Beattles and sings about CFA! A really good laugh!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Nation's Capitol (we're leaving with a Capital L!)

Tonight, J and I will depart for a 4 day trek to Washington, D. C. to the annual CFA seminar. Each year, CFA honors their operators, employees, and spouses for a 3-4 day conference on leadership and training. In case you don't know WinShape Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A. This year at the seminar WinShape Homes is being featured. . each home has a child that is being featured, and we have a huge booth to work in.

Huh, huh, huh. . do you know what it takes to get us outta here? As I am stealing from one of the other foster moms, "it takes an Act of Congress". Here's the country's decrees:

Now here's mine:

Notice the entire kitchen island is covered with sticker charts for good behavior, checks, envelopes for various babysitters, master lists for the family, a master list for AC (she gets 3 pages alone), envelopes with cash, medical release forms, and insurance cards. . it has taken days!

Here's just an example!

We hope to get in a little sightseeing and hear from some awesome speakers, such as:

And for some awesome leadership training, this guy will be there!
For a fun treat, we heard this guy will be there. . maybe he will make a cake that looks like this?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Makes all Things New!

Over the past 36 hrs, I have been through the ringer. A stomach bug descended upon Ann Claire and myself. . I thought I was going to die. It was really bad there for a bit, I knew I was approaching dehydration and was so weak I couldn't peel myself off of the bathroom floor. Sweet J took the household over in a mighty force and would crack open the bedroom door to push through sprite, a heating pad, and to periodically check on me. Hysterical to see his face covered with his shirt, I knew he really must love me. This week we have faced many other hardships, so to spend a day watching the snow fall, cover the ground with white, see my kids faces light up at the sight of it, and to see their joy in playing in it. . it made all things feel new!

To our surprise when we awoken this morning school had been cancelled due to impending snow. . we would have to wait and see if it would come? Around lunch the snow started and the kids squealed with delight! "It's snowing, it's snowing!" and "It's sticking, it's sticking!" (every good southerner knows, it's not official until it STICKS) Around 2 they headed out with many breaks in between for hot chocolate and a good warm up by the fire inside. They all had a blast, and even Big T and B headed out to make the cutest snowwoman I have ever seen!

Meet Geraldine! (of course her snowwoman accessories are pink and chocolate!)

The rest of the gang thought they would get in on the snow person action!

All in all, it was a day to remember, the final measurement was around 2.5 inches! That's a lot for us!

These are some shots taken this morning at sunrise! Thank you Lord for your beautiful creation! Several from my front porch and kitchen window! What a sight!