Thursday, February 27, 2014

Week Two: check!

The einsteins have finished week two of training! 
It's been a bit harder now with spring sports starting up and such. Some days it's a hurried run in between here and there, but we handle it well. Once the runs become longer...we'll see. I suppose when the polar vortex decides to move on, we'll be able to run in the evenings without frostbite, so that will help. 
The number one song on their playlist: Everything is Awesome! (LEGO movie soundtrack, of course)

In other random news:
* I have successfully fed our fam on $100/week in groceries, cooking balanced, pretty healthy meals. It's been a challenge at times, but I'm getting the hang of it. The balance between what they'll eat and trying new things is always hard, but our family has a "eat or don't" policy, so if they don't like it, they'll eat a big breakfast the next day, I suppose. (We really haven't run into that quite yet)
I've also learned to buy the meat that's on sale and find a recipe for it the next week - which also plays into trying new things. I normally wouldn't buy whatever a flank steak is, but if it's on sale, I'll grab it and find a good sounding recipe for the following week. It's actually pretty nice because I'm not a good trier of new recipes, either. I'm my own Pavlov's dog. 
* A couple weeks ago, my neighbor's little yorkie was attacked by what was probably a coyote and did not survive. We've heard them running in their pack around the back property, but they never seemed to come so close. Now I'm even more afraid for the little deaf, blind puggy of ours. I have to send him out before it gets dark, that poor little sitting duck.
* I kinda want to paint my wicker porch furniture something more fun than white. Maybe turquoise or yellow or lime. But then again, maybe I just want to repaint them white. Thoughts? Either way, I suppose I'll have to wait until the earth defrosts. :(

Happy Thursday! 

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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Cowtown Marathon, and other things Texas

On Friday, we headed down south to Texas for the Cowtown Marathon. We had our two einsteins and our two travelbugs in tow and set off before the sun even awoke that morning.
On the way down, we found what is currently our favorite geocache as of yet. (It's called Ham Stand, in case you ever want to check it out), and left our friend, Home-Home there. 
Happy travels, Home-Home!
 Then, we picked up 2 more travel bugs! Both of them were missing parts to them, so we attached one to a dinoTot we had in our geocache swag bag, and pinned the remains of the other together again (someone had taken the chain and two other pieces of flair that were originally attached). (You know you're a runner when you have safety pins EVERYWHERE, including every nook and cranny in the vehicles you drive...) Now, they're ready to head off on another adventure!
Meet travelbugs "Hiawatha Music Co-op" (now with a dinotot aboard) and "Crystal Pink!".  Coming soon to a geocache near you!
The next stop we made (besides a few caches that were MIA) was the Texas Motor Speedway. Evan is really hoping to make it back here for a NASCAR race one day! 

For her birthday, Emma wanted to go back to the American Girl Place in Dallas, originally to buy the new doll of the year, Isabelle. She had saved all her Christmas & birthday money to buy her, but came up short. John and I think that having more than one doll is more than enough, so I was really really really not looking forward to telling her that we would cover the last $25 for the doll, but right before I did, she decided that it was okay. She was going to buy some things for the dolls she has (specifically Saige), and that was just as good. (whew!) I was basking in the glow of hope that maybe she had learned to make do with what money she had. After all, isn't that what we all really wish for our kids?!?
One worker, whose name was Martin, was an absolute DELIGHT. He saw Emma on the cover of the magazine and immediately began acting as her publicist and security guard. He showed her off to all the other staff there and told Em that if too many rabid paparazzi came, just to let him know, and he would take care of them. He was a hoot! For all the people who think it's so strange to have men working in little girls' stores - you are missing out, my friends. He literally made the trip a BLAST!

Em & her cover at AGPlace.
 That evening, we met up with Courtney & Sam at his brother's house, where we stayed for the weekend. They have a "mother-in-law" quarters that my kids are now OBSESSED with (Evan even dreamed about it last night). They want to build one in our backyard now. 
Sam was signed up to run the 10k with John the next morning, so we went to bed early and woke up early and headed to Ft. Worth for day one of the Cowtown Marathon. 
Sam & John in the 10k corral

And...they're off!
 Courtney & I and our 4 littles found a great spot right before the finish line and laid my quilt out for the wait. (I should totally name this quilt, people, seriously. Ideas?) Evan & Joseph played together and Emma held her baby Sarah the whole time. Little momma, I tell ya. 
 We didn't have to wait too long before the daddies rounded the bend!

We tried afterwards to get the kids to nap, but it ended up in me taking a power nap, and no one else. Go figure. Eventually, we decided to wander down to the nearby playground to - i don't know - wear the tired kiddos out even more?
The kids had a BLAST having John spin them around on this thing, but he ended up hitting his ankle on one of those metal feet in the process. Ouch!

Can you believe they already had GREEN GRASS growing?? And dandilions! And BEES!! 
Go away, polar vortex!! We want some bees and flowers, too!!

Later on, we headed back to the house and played in the yard while Emily & Ty (Sam's brother) made a mouth-watering meal of home made salsa and burgers on the grill. 
Have you ever seen a more fun tree?!? Ty even let her carve her name in it!

Emma & her baby Sarah. Attached at the chest, those two. 

Football with dad (and what is the deal with Texans and their flag?!?)

The next morning was the marathon. John was running this one alone, so we quietly snuck out and headed to the starting corrals in the dark of (almost) night.


Go Daddy, Go!!
 Out of town races are hard, because I never know my way around enough to chase him around the course for the whole race. This was no different, so we settled on a spot in a park, where there were playgrounds, and a creek, and beautiful trees all around us.  By then, the first runners were just appearing (they were REALLY fast!) i was hoping to do some geocaching or letterboxing while we were here, but I must say to Fort Worthians: MAINTAIN your caches!! There's a zillion caches all around and almost all of them are destroyed, stolen by muggles, or missing! We didn't find ONE intact geocache in the ft. worth/arlington area! Now, granted, we didn't go find them all, but of all the ones we DID look for in parks and such, they were un-findable for one reason or another. Sad. Very sad. 

Trying to get brother to play with her.

Handsome boy!
 Look at this spot. I took this picture from a wooden bridge that the runners were crossing over on the course. It took them onto the path that you see on the left of the photo, and on the right, about 3 feet into the trees was a little babbling brook. We had a PERFECT spot! We cheered all the runners on as they passed, and still had a beautiful day in a beautiful area to play and dream. 

Evan cheering the runners on while Em & I explored the brook.

 When hubby ran by, we forced him to stop and take a photo with us. That's just how we roll. Don't try to make a new personal record with this pit crew in tow. Just sayin'...

We made it home late last night to three furbabies that were happy to see us all, and a bed that only feels that good after a long, late, drive back home. 

We had fun, Texas! See you again soon, maybe?

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A Tuesday

It was a Tuesday when the warm breeze blew across the plains to our house. The day was one of those days that you have that really remind you how much you love your life. 
I had the windows open, even though it was still a bit chilly for me. The cool breeze blew through the house clearing out dust and dander that had been breeding throughout the winter, when suddenly I heard a ruckus. Dobby was whining and yelping in the living room. I ran out to see a little black dog hopping up and down in the window like a kangaroo from our porch, and Dobby was just beside himself. This was Sunny, the dog that had appeared earlier that day and whom Dobby had invited in while I was saying adieu to my friend outside. Apparently, they weren't done playing, and Sunny was out there on the porch hopping up and down peeking in the windows for his dear Dobby.
So, I let his friends out, and there they sat and chased each other for at least an hour before Sunny left the porch and ours had to stay.
(He did, however, come back now and then throughout the entire day)
Harley, Dobby, & Sunny : The three amigos
 Meanwhile, Evan and I spread my new early birthday present - a hand-stitched-by-her-great-aunt-a-long-time-ago-quilt  (THANK YOU, COURTNEY!!!) on the lawn and soaked in the sun while we played with some cars. He put them in a rainbow for me at one point. Isn't he the best? :)
The rainbow of cars

My beloved pug. Oh, what would I do without you?
It was a beautiful day!
I want spring to hurry, hurry, hurry!!

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The eleventh year...

Dearest Emma,
   I'm already crying as I type this, but that's your mom, right? ;) Today, eleven years ago, you came into this world with a bang! You were ready to show the world what you had in store for it. I can still remember sitting, watching your little feet kicking my bulging belly and smiling, imagining the days that those tiny legs would be doing plies in a tutu or kicking a soccer ball across the field. It seems so far away, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the nurses ooh-ing and aww-ing over all your hair. I remember them laying you on my chest all wrapped up with a tiny pink bow the nurses had already clipped in your hair. I remember the way you smelled. I remember the look on daddy's tear-stained face as he held his little girl for the first time. I remember looking into your eyes in awe, wondering how you could love something so fierce that you had never seen until now. I wanted to be the BEST mom ever. I wanted to protect you from everything and everyone and I wanted to give you all the secrets of life i had learned in my 24 years, so you wouldn't have to learn the hard way, like I did. 
I've done pretty well, I think. Daddy & I worked so hard to make sure you were well behaved and well learned. You have grown up to be just who we prayed you would be. And now, as you leave childhood behind, a lot of new changes will come your way. Changes that are hurtful, or scary, or confusing, but also ones that are freeing, and exciting, and new! As good parents, our job is to let out a little bit more of the string that attaches you to us, and let you explore the world of tween. (Oh boy, Noah will be loading the ark here in a few if I don't stop this crying!) So today, on your eleventh birthday, I want to let you know eleven things that I feel are important for you to know, or be reminded of, or just to keep close until you need. 

 1. Happiness is NOT your job. I believe with all my soul that God put you in my life to be my strength when I need it, but that doesn't mean it's your job to make sure I'm happy. It's not your job to make daddy happy, or Evan, or your teachers or boyfriends or husband. Happiness is choice, and only you can make that choice for yourself, no one else. Don't let others bring you down!

2. No one thing or person can be your everything. Sometimes we go through life searching for that one thing that makes us feel whole. Some people fill it with a person, some with alcohol, drugs, or food. But the truth is, God put everything we ever need in life inside of us the day he sent us down to earth. The moment that you were born on this day, eleven years ago, you came out with a full head of hair and a soul full of talent, intelligence, grace, will, desire, and strength that will get you through this life, you need only to unleash it. The only thing that can fill that aching void is finding YOU. It's there, I promise.

3. In a world of technology, remember to use your body! It seems that kids growing up in your generation can live solely on facebook, instagram, and texts. These things are fine in moderation, but don't forget to dance. Run and spin, walk and skip. Keep your temple well and alive. One thing I learned from Daddy's bout with cancer is that at any moment, your body could be ravened, taken, attacked. Keep it strong and healthy and you'll be better able to fight things that head your way. Keep fresh air flowing through the strong lungs that cried for the first time on this day, over a decade ago, and keep the sun on your smiling face. Never forget that having working legs and a good strong heart is a blessing that not all are privy to.

4. It's not always about you. (And it almost is NEVER about you). You are heading into a season in your life that tends to be hard for girls. There will be times when people say or do things that hurt your heart, and you have no idea why. Just remember that it's not always about you. When people feel hurt, scared, jealous, weak, they sometimes take it out on the wrong person. I have always struggled with this, and I continue to. You have my emotional genes, so I know there will be times that your heart aches even when your head knows there's no reason. People WILL hurt you. People WILL let you down. Just remember that perhaps God asked them to fight through something that we don't know about, and in turn, they try to feel better by taking it out on someone else. You are strong, you are brave, and you will get back up and stand again. Your family will always be here to help you through.

5. Be yourself. I love to see your screensaver say "Stay calm and LOVE EMMA!", because it shows me that you are confident enough in yourself to know you are who God made you. Keep it up! Wear footies even when everyone else laughs.Watch My Little Pony when you're too "old", play with your dolls even when all your friends have moved on to "cooler" things. Stay true to yourself. You are different, you are unique, you are YOU, and that's who we love! Don't let magazines, friends, or actresses make you feel that you should become someone you're not.

6. It's okay to go. You're looming closer to the launch pad of adolescence. I'm always telling you I want you to live with us forever, that I'll pull an RV to wherever you are and live on the curb outside your house, because I love the time we spend together. But the truth is, you need to go, and it's ok. It's important that you spread your little wings and fly. Watching the little birds on our porch leaving the nest, I always had ulcers when one would fall, not fly. I teared up for momma bird, as she watched her baby on the dangerous ground where he surely would be eaten in a matter of minutes by one of the cats next door. But momma bird chirped and chirped and sure enough, those fallen baby birds got up, flapped their little wings, and eventually flew up into the tree, where mom and dad were proudly waiting. I'm going to cry, and my heart is going to break, and I'll miss you like I'd miss breathing, but inside, know that I am proud, and excited for you, and I know that you will learn to be the woman God created you to be by being on your own. And don't ever be scared to ask for help or encouragement because we'll always be just a tree away, no matter how many times you fall.

7. You have a strong voice - let it be heard! You are SO smart, Emma. You have ideas and thoughts that are beyond your years, and you shouldn't be scared to let them be known. Your opinions are important, and they should be heard, just be sure they are in a respectful manner. When you're wrong, admit it. When you're sorry, say it. When you're thankful, let them know, and when you feel wronged, let the wrong know it. Never be afraid to disagree, whether it be with an adult, a child, or peer. But you have to remember to LISTEN to others as well. They'll have beliefs that are completely different than yours, and that's okay. Don't negate that. Something was put inside them that led them to believe what they do, and it's okay to agree to disagree. It's OKAY to have different beliefs and thoughts than your parents, friends, and family. If they can't accept you for that, they don't belong in your inner circle no matter WHO they are. Let YOUR light shine!

8. You're safe. I often felt that I wasn't safe to talk about things going on in my life. I sometimes felt even ashamed that life at school wasn't "perfect". I NEVER want you to feel this way. You can tell daddy and I ANYTHING. We may not always be happy about a situation, we may be angry or sad, but we will work through it TOGETHER, as a team. There is nothing in this life that would ever make us not love you. We are here for you forever. God didn't make us to do life alone, he gave us relationships to help bear the burdens that we face, and you can come to us with any problem, big or small, happy or sad, embarrassing or not. We will never judge you based on mistakes. We ALL make them.

9. Boys are hard. Looking back on my own life, I realize that the boys that I dated helped me find your daddy. I can remember good traits from some, bad traits from others, that shaped the kind of man I wanted to marry when the time was right. I wanted a man that would make a good father. I wanted a man that would never lie about even small things. I wanted a man that loved me for what was inside, not just looks. I didn't want to be treated like a 50's housewife, I didn't want to be flawless in a man's eyes, and I didn't want an unfaithful man. The things you learn from dating boys are important because they let you learn about yourself, and who you are, and who you want to be, and who you want to share that with. I learned that I am NOT a dinner-on-the-table-by-the-time-he-gets-home wife. I am not a wife that relies completely on her husband for all things outside the house. I am whiney. I am hard headed. I am emotional, but fierce. I am a protector. Daddy was able to love me for me, through all my good and bad traits, and he was, and still is - everything I wanted and more. Is he perfect? No. And no one will ever be. There are always little things that will drive you crazy, and you'll have them, too. But a marriage is always a work in progress. I've always told you that the marriage doesn't end at "happily ever after". You have to work hard for those three words, and it's not always easy, and it never ends. You will learn things through boys about yourself that may be completely different or opposite from me, and that is PERFECTLY okay! You need to learn who YOU are before you can learn who HE needs to be.

10. You are so loved. Your little brother loves you with a love so fierce it hurts me to think of the day that you close him out of your life (Go away, Elsa!). He looks at you like a flower looks at the sunshine. Every decision he makes has your thoughts in it. Every picture he draws is for you, and every sacred treat or event in his life is always shared with you, even kept aside until you are around to receive it. Daddy & I love you more than you will ever know, because a love like this cannot be put into words or hugs or songs. If there is one thing in this world that you will always have an abundance of, it is love.

11. You are special. Most of the people in this world head back to heaven never knowing why they were here anyway. They live their lives wondering if they were meant for so much more, or if they should be embracing a path that they're not. But you?
You are special.
 I learned of your purpose here the day your brother passed away. You are my rock. My strength. My life source. It's funny, when you think about it. A parent is always the one that a child fully relies on to be fed and clothed and raised, and yet, 11 years ago today, i had no idea that the tiny little baby i held to my chest while daddy cut your cord was going to be the one saving ME.
The day Eli died was gut wrenching. It was dark, it was confusing, it was the worst kind of hurt. The kind that I hope you will NEVER feel in your lifetime. The kind that rips your soul into a million bleeding pieces that keep hurting and hurting and swirling in a body like a tornado or razor blades cutting away at everything you are over and over and there's no way to stop it. Not even death could come quick enough to ease that kind of pain. I could easily have stopped living that day. Easy. I could have stayed in my bed all day forever. I could have gone on cursing God with every hurting cell in my body all the while begging Him to take me home every day and every night.
But I didn't.
Because of YOU.
You made me get out of bed every morning. You made me cook and eat. You made me smile. You made me laugh. I LIVED for YOU every day, and slowly your love and life began to heal wounds that were so deep they were never even seen before. Slowly, with your faith and stories of the brother that you never knew began to fill the darkness that was my soul, and I began to see the blessings in the pain, and the happiness in the sorrow, and this tiny little girl, who had to bury her brother at only 3 years old, showed me how to live again. How to breathe in and out again. How to embrace the faith and strength I had locked deep within. YOU! Tiny little you.
And it was then that I knew that God had sent you to me. He knew that I may not be able to pass that test with who I had, so he sent an enormous strength, all wrapped up in 9 pounds and 22 inches of Emma, for me to hold onto when I was drowning in life.
You are the reason that I know how strong i am. The reason that I knew when daddy was diagnosed that we could get through it together. The reason that evan is so confident and strong. The reason daddy fights for this family. The reason I live. You ARE strength. God sent you here because you have a gift so powerful that it saves lives! You are a gift to the world!
You are an angel, Emma.
You are special.

Happy 11th Birthday, sweet Emma.
We love you.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A week(end) in review

Isn't it crazy how a weekend can be totally uneventful, and then the very next can be so jam packed full of ...stuff? It didn't feel like we did much over this long weekend, but the ol' iphone was begging to differ with all it's photos of tales to tell. So, here we go. The weekend in review.

Twin night at church:

Dental cleanings for all! 
(Evan loves fluoride about as much as I do.)
School parties for St. Valentine's Day.

The einsteins completed week one of their training for spring races!

They each earn one app or song under $2 for each week completed. Evan chose some racing game, and Em got a "Keep calm and____" lock screen maker. Right now her phone says "Keep calm and love Emma!", which I think is the bees knees. Keep that confidence, sister!!

Most of Saturday was spent out at grandad's farm, where we planted trees and trees and more trees. 
Hubby filling up the tank!
The einsteins and I walked the pond trails and cut any branches that were in the way. There were a LOT of nasty thorn plants that had begun to take over the bridge!

Watching Maggie slop around in the pond
After the branch cutting, Emma took over running the tractor, driving around digging holes for the trees and controlling the auger bit. I was pretty darn impressed!
Evan and I plopped the trees in, helped fill the holes, and water the new baby trees.

hubby clearing spots for Em to drill, Ev watching grandad plant the tree, and dee-oh-gee drinking the tree water.
Both kids had outgrown their boots, but Evan's was especially small. They finally began to hurt so much, he headed for the truck and released the piggies!

Em is dead set on wanting ONE thing for her birthday, the new American Girl Doll of the year, Isabelle. We told her that she has enough dolls, so mommy & daddy won't be fulfilling that wish. We'll be by an American Girl store the weekend after her birthday for a marathon, so she decided that she would try to earn & save enough of her own money (she's been saving all her Christmas & birthday money) to try and have enough to buy isabelle while we're there. Instead of a birthday party, we will take her there to eat and maybe grab an outfit or two. A couple of her besties were a little sad that she wouldn't be celebrating the big eleven with them, so we conjured up a surprise sleepover (NOT birthday party). My part was picking up two girls and making rainbow desserts...which I did...awesomely.

The girls did all the decorating. It was adorable! 
They hid in the dark until she got home and jumped out. It was precious. What sweet friends. 

Totally unrelated: my valentine tulips from hubby looking stunning!
The next morning, we headed off to the zoo to see my favorite baby elephant and baby gorilla, who had just celebrated his birthday. The warm day wasn't so warm with the cold wind, so we didn't stay long. 

Once we left the zoo, we decided that this would be the perfect day to find our very first letterbox! There are only 2 hidden in the city we live in, so searching in this place turned up quite a few. We chose one called the "Birthday Box". After a lot of navigational help from hubby, we found our way to the box and hiked up the trail to find it. 
Emma stamped the log book with her stamp - a cupcake. She was first, she said, because this was her unofficial "birthday celebration weekend". 
Here's Evan stamping his own passport book with the birthday box stamp. It even had a green stamp pad with it!
Once we all had stamped the log book with our signature stamps, we tucked the birthday box back in it's snug hiding place and moved on.
The Birthday Box log book, signed and stamped!
first stamp in the letterbox passport!
We stopped in Guthrie on the way home and picked up a few more geocaches close to the highway. There were no letterboxes there, but we stuffed the caches we found with some more swag for the next finders!
Once we made it back home, we started out to collect the two letterboxes in town. One was missing and the other was a really great one with a fun back story! The einsteins and I have decided that the next geocache we hide will HAVE to be a hybrid cache - a geocache-plus-letterbox in one. Now, to find the perfect spot.... ;)
Hope your weekend went well!

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