Mother’s Day: Surprises & Survey

All week long, Addi has been talking (shocker) about how excited she is to finish the “mother’s day surprise” for me at her school on Thursday. She has been so excited to work on this little project and give it to me.

“Mommy, are you going to be sooooo excited?”

“Mommy, are you going to cry tears of joy?”

“Mommy, you will really really really like what I will give you to put on the fridge so you can look at it every day!”

Adorable. Well, today when I picked her up from school, she was ecstatic. There she stood by the door holding a little white, sticker-covered bag and a huge smile on her sweet face. “Mommy, Mommy!!! Here’s your gift!” We loaded up backpacks, went & got Kam from her room (who had a gift for me too, but wasn’t in the best of moods thanks to a lip-busting accident on the playground) and headed to the minivan. As soon as we were all piled in, Addi opened my gift for me. (Isn’t that usually the way it works? I never get to open gifts for myself anymore!) And there it was…my new pink magnetic frame, to hang on the fridge & look at every day, with the most adorable 4 year old holding a sign with words that mean the world to me. Melt my heart. Addi was right, I did cry tears of joy! What made this gift so special was how much it meant to Addi to make it and give it to me …priceless.

Kam made a precious gift too! I’m sure her teacher helped just a little. It’s a clip board that she colored, has a sweet little poem on it, her hand cutout and a cute pic of her face inside the flower. So creative! Kam told me I could use it to make “lists” – perfect. So thankful for my beautiful sweethearts.

Also, along with Addi’s gift was a folded piece of pink paper that totally made my day. I opened it up and it said in big letters at the top: A Mother’s Day Survey Created for You by Your Child. This seriously cracked me up, so I had to type it out for you and share. Her teacher interviewed her and here are Addi’s responses…

What is your mom’s real name? Traci

What do you call her? Mommy

What does your dad call her? Baby

What does your mom like to do? She likes to kiss me.

What is her favorite color? Pink

What is her favorite food? Salad

What is her favorite drink? Tea

What is her favorite restaurant? Chuy’s

How tall is your mom? 6 inches

How much does she weigh? 6 lbs.

What is your mom’s favorite TV show? Alice in Wonderland

What does your mom do while you are at school? She works at Brown’s Landing.

If I gave your mom $100, what would she buy? A curtain

If you could spend a whole day with your mom, what would you do? We would swim.

If your mom was sick, what would you do to make her feel better? I would take care of her.

Ha! She was right on on most of them. Clearly, Alice in Wonderland is NOT my favorite TV show and if given $100, I would probably not buy a curtain – but how stinkin cute?!

I love my kids. I am blessed beyond words to be their mommy.

Easter Weekend

This past weekend was jam-packed full of stuff and busy, but it was very, very good! Seems like the older I get, life just keeps getting busier and time goes quicker and quicker.

Friday, Ryan had the day off for Good Friday. So, we took advantage of that and got a lot of stuff moved into the new house. We are about 98.5% moved in now. The only things left are mattresses, a tv, and some random junk drawer items. We can’t wait to be in the new casa and get settled in! I don’t like being disorganized, makes me feel nervous. This coming week will be a lot of unpacking, sorting through, and settling in.

Friday night, we headed to Arlington for the annual Clark Family Rangers Game! This is our third year to do this and we LOVE it. My little brother Jeff is the hugest Ranger’s fan ever. He wrote this post last year about how much baseball means to him. If you haven’t read this, you should – it’s an awesome and very special post. Going to the Rangers games was a big deal and a very common occurrence for Jeff and my Dad…memory makers. Back in 2009, they decided it would be fun to invite the whole fam to a game. Dad was so excited to take the girls and they absolutely loved it. Addi didn’t stop talking about the Ozarka dots and cotton candy for weeks. After that game, it was decided we should make it an annual tradition, and I’m so glad we did. Friday was a beautiful night, great temps and a nice breeze. Our seats were high up, felt like we were sitting in the sky. Rangers won with five home runs and I consumed my weight in shelled peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cotton candy. Good times. We all missed Dad a great deal, but felt like he was looking down from heaven smiling. Here are pics from the past three years:

April 2009
April 2010
April 2011

Saturday, we slept in (praise God!). After getting home around 1:30 a.m. from the game & having moved all day prior, we were beat. We continued to move stuff all day on Saturday and even cooked our first dinner in our new house that night! For those of you interested in and looking for a new recipe: here is what I made. It was yummy!

Sunday…EASTER! I love Easter. What more could we have to celebrate than the resurrection of our Lord?! This truly means everything to us and because of it, we have HOPE. I love the words to this song below. It captures the message of Easter perfectly and has been stuck in my head for a week now…

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

Awesome. My mom and two grandmothers drove up from Quitman to go to church with us, along with Jeff. Then, we all headed over to our new house for lunch and to give them a tour! Ryan smoked pork, which was amazing as usual. We had pulled pork sandwiches on biscuits, homemade bbq sauce, beans, roasted potatoes, brownies, and sweet tea…pure Texan food right there! It was delicious and we enjoyed visiting w/the fam. My heart was bursting with thankfulness on this day. For my church, freedom to worship, my family, our home, good food, our friends, but most of all – Jesus! And look at these two sweet lil punkins in their new Easter dresses that Grandma bought them…

Family Photos

We had a blast hanging out with Ryan’s cousin Tim (Imago Photography) a few weeks back. He came to Texas to shoot a wedding and was kind enough to take a detour through Tyler on his way home to Tennessee! Out of the 100’s to choose from, here are some of my faves. I love my family!

Surprise, we’re going to see the dancing girls!

Last night, we had big plans for our girls. The Apache Belles, a dance team at the college where Ryan works, are putting on their Spring Show this week. The Belles are pretty well-known across the country and do performances and productions all over. Last year, Ryan did the audio for the Spring Show. That was a beast of a two weeks for me err, I mean for him. I took the girls one night with a friend to watch and they were in awe – they loved it! They called them “the dancing girls” and even proudly told people that their daddy went to work with “the dancing girls.” Lovely. I’m sure some people were thinking what the heck? This year, even though Ryan isn’t doing the sound, he was able to score some free tickets for the fam. So we decided to keep it a surprise…what fun!

We made a night of out. To start, we went to eat dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings – 60 cent boneless wings – with Uncle Jeff. The girls love to eat here because it’s one of the rare times we eat fried foods! We asked them while at dinner where they thought we were going for our surprise and we received answers like, “the park? ice cream shop? Grandma’s? Starbucks? Bealls?” Got to love their sweet, simple pleasures! After some delicious BWW, we stopped by for some ice cream. I mean, what better way to cool off your burning mouth (thanks to Caribbean Jerk & Mango Habanero sauces) than a scoop of chocolate peanut butter cup! They thought this was their surprise at first. So they were pumped to find out that this was just our final stop before THE surprise. After we got back in the car, I asked again where they thought we were going. “water park? the mall? and then finally and randomly Addi yelled, “to Daddy’s work to see the dancing girls?!” When we responded with a big YES, shrieks filled our van. It was priceless.

We got to the auditorium and headed as close to the front as possible. From the moment the show started until the final kick, their eyes were glued. Although Ryan was ready to leave at intermission (ha!), we stayed the entire time which was a good two hours. Sparkles, high kicks, music, singing, dancing, twirly dresses…our prissy girls were in heaven. And although I enjoy this show too, it’s the smiles on their faces that make it awesome for us. It’s the little things in life, you know? With a small amount of effort, a random night in Spring became a special night for us. Another memory maker for the books!

A weekend in Spring.

This weather has been amazing! Spring is like a breath of fresh air. It just feels good. Things start to come alive again. Flowers are blooming, grass and trees are turning green, more people are out and about in our neighborhood…it’s refreshing and good for the soul!

After being cooped up all winter, the girls are loving all of the outdoor time we’ve been having. And so are we. This past weekend was great. The weather was perfect. We ran, we spent an evening lakeside at Brown’s Landing with friends, we swung on the swings that Poppy built, we grilled, we sat by the fire pit under the huge moon, the girls rode their bikes a ton (they are getting so good at it!), we played with frizbees and some other random made-up games. It was so nice!

I’m thankful to our Creator for creating Spring and all of it’s beauty. Just more evidence of how He loves us!

Chocolate Gravy & Biscuits

What? Chocolate gravy? Yep, that’s what I said. You heard me correctly.

If you have never experienced chocolate gravy, you are seriously missing out! It’s like having dessert for breakfast. This recipe has been in my family for years and years. My great-grandmother used to make it for my grandfather as a child. Then, when he married my grandmother, he shared the recipe with her. It continued to be passed down from there. My mom has made it for us since I can remember. Every Christmas morning, we have chocolate gravy. To this day, my mom makes this for us whenever we are all together. My brothers, sister and I request it…and still fight over the biscuits. Just recently, I ventured out and started making it myself. I’ve only made it twice. Once on Christmas morning and then again today! Sort of a “special occasion” kind of breakfast. Haven’t quite nailed it quite as good as my mom, but hopefully I will get there!

Since so many of you have asked, I thought it was time to post the recipe. Straight from a cookbook called “Memaw’s Sweets” – a collection of recipes my Memaw put together for her grandchildren a few years back. Love it! Here you go…

Buttery, chocolately goodness. The best biscuits to serve with this gravy are Grands Homestyle. Totally healthy, totally fat free. Runner’s food at it’s best. Ha! Ryan describes as warm chocolate pudding. My kids LOVE it, of course. Anytime you can get away with having chocolate for breakfast, it’s a good thing. Let me know if you give this a try and what you think!

My grandrock.

Ryan’s on Spring Break this week (yay!), so we’ve tried to jam pack our week full of fun & different things. Memory makers. Yesterday, we decided to visit Tyler State Park for the first time. It’s been on our list of “things we want to do” but we’ve never gotten around to it. We decided this would be the perfect week for that, so we packed up a picnic lunch and headed out. Other than the temps being a little chilly, we had a great time! From our house, it takes about twenty minutes to get there. Beautiful state park that surrounds a very pretty lake. There is a new playground for the kids to play on and walking trails too. Looks like it will be a great place to go over the summer also -with paddle boats, canoes, a swimming area, etc. We may even attempt a small camping trip w/the girls – there are some great campsites that overlook the lake. Plus, we’d be close enough to come home if we needed to…you never know what to expect w/prissy little princesses! Here are some shots from the day…

Anyways, I tell you all of that because I just had to share this story. After we ate our picnic lunch of heart-shaped peanut butter sandwiches & granola bars, we let the girls play for “5 more minutes” on the playground before heading home. Addi runs over to me and hands me a small rock and a piece of grass and says, “Momma, will you hold my baby and feed her this bottle just like this while I go down the slide?”

Um, sure…Mommy will babysit for you. Who knew I had a grandrock?! Gotta LOVE the imagination of a four year old!

Livestrong Austin Half: Recap

This past weekend was fast and furious! I’m still recovering. We left Tyler Saturday morning first thing, kid-free & caffeinated. Along the way, we met up with our friends Mike & Ame who were also on their way to the ATX. Ame had decided several months ago that she wanted to complete a half marathon before she turns the big 3-0. Well, she turns 30 in March, so she picked the Austin Half to be her goal. Awesome! I love it when my friends decide to take up running. In fact, some other friends are running their first half in April and I hosted an official “half-marathon training” meeting at my house several weeks ago – am I a nerd or what?!

We followed speed racer Mike & Ame the rest of the way and of course had to make a pit stop at Chuy’s before we could do anything else. I mean, nothing says pre-race food better than chips, creamy jalapeno, and spicy tacos, right? Then, we all headed downtown to the race expo. Oh my word, it was packed OUT downtown! So much traffic and so many peeps. We finally found a place to park in some neighborhood on some street and headed in for our packets. I know I’ve said this before, but I heart race expos. They always make me feel like an actual, real, legit runner. Such great energy at these events. Being around other people that enjoy the same hobby as you as you all prepare to embark upon another challenge together – I don’t know how to explain it really. It’s refreshing and inspiring! Check out our swag… (don’t mind the blurry photo, time to upgrade to iPhone 4)

After loading up on protein bars, organic cereal samples, and Greek yogurt, we headed back to our car. Then, on to watch my niece play basketball! We had such a great time catching up with my brother and his family. We laughed A LOT. Not sure if we were all just really tired or what, but everything was funny. I’d share stories, but you wouldn’t think they were funny, trust me. Definitely a had to be there kind of thing. Good times. That night, we headed back to their house and cooked spaghetti to carb-up. Enjoyed a glass of wine as we tried to rest and relax and head to bed as early as possible. The alarm was set for 4:15 a.m. – YIKES.

I don’t know about you, but waking up before 6 is really hard for me. Well, waking up before 5 is just plain ridiculous. It’s the middle of the night for crying out loud! We threw on our race day attire, pinned on our bibs, drank some coffee, ate a Cliff bar and headed out the door as quietly as possible. We met our friends at their hotel and proceeded downtown to the starting line. Austin is such a cool city. Gotta love a race that starts in front of the state capitol building! National anthem was sung, introductions of all the race big wigs were made, and then it was announced that Lance Armstrong himself was there and running in the half marathon with us. Neato! I never actually saw him, but knowing that he was running was a cool thought.

The race itself was a lot of fun. Hilly, but fun. I decided to run with Ame, I wanted to be with her as she accomplished this pre-30 feat! The route was neat…running down Congress Avenue through downtown and by Lady Bird Lake. There was an insanely steep hill around mile 12. But, we conquered it and finished under her goal time! She did awesome. I was very proud of her. Ryan beat us, of course. I think he finished right behind Lance. ;)

After the race, we went back to Mike & Ame’s hotel to shower. Do you know how bad one stinks after one runs 13.1 miles? Peeeew weeee! I was craving a cheeseburger, so Ryan & I Stopped at Saltgrass on our way back to Tyler for this plate of deliciousness…

Crazy, but very good weekend. My hips were sore from climbing all of the hills! We’ve taken several days off from running, but I’m already itching to get back out on the road. Next up…Tyler Azalea 10k in March. H52S!

Like mother, like daughter.

Everyone always tell us that Addi looks like me and Kamryn looks like Ryan. Pretty balanced, I guess! Makes you wonder if we ever have a third, what he/she would look like? [side note: No, we aren’t expecting. No, we aren’t trying. No, we have no plans of trying anytime in the near future. I mean good grief, I was pregnant for 2 years straight -don’t you remember?!]

There is absolutely no doubt Kam looks just like her daddy and I love that! It’s adorable. She’s tall with long legs, she has a cute round head, she has his almond-shaped eyes, his pouty face, etc. Minus her toes…she does have Barney Rubble feet like her momma! See image below for proof.

Last week while the girls were riding bikes and playing outside, Addi happened to come across a small box in the garage filled with my baby pics. She opened it up and started looking through all of them and of course, she thought most of them were of her. It took some serious convincing for her to finally believe that they were actually of me! But then, we came across the following old pic. I smiled and held it up, “Who is this!?” To which both girls shouted, “Kamryn!!!”

Not sure what would make them say that, are you???

Saturday’s Emotional 8 Miles in Quitman.

One of our favorite things about the 2 years we lived in Quitman was the running. The scenery there and the “slower” traffic is a nice combination. As with most places we live, (have lived) we have a few set routes for whatever milage you are wanting to accomplish. From just a few to 10 or more. Country roads with horses and cows, open fields seeded with grains, decreped barns and it’s vacant downtown adorn this East Texas route. Hilly at times, thankfully flat at others. Here is an old post showing some pics of these hot spots.

Deciding to run there on Saturday, Traci and I wanted to revisit some of our favorite scenes. In effort to plan out our 8 mile quota, I stumbled upon a great resource called  mapmyrun.com. This site allows you to mark your start then draw the route you want to run on a Google Map. When you design your route, it automatically displays mile markers. Once you are finished making the route, editing and tweaking, it shows the elevation and you have the option to see a 3D fly through thanks to Google Earth. Super cool! Here is the route we planned.

We arrived at the much adored “grandma’s house!” around 10 am, said hello and as the girls began to play, Traci and I walked out the door to start at the back of the property. The sun was shining and our muscles were shivering. My playlist included a Matt Carter message on the God’s ability to do the impossible followed by some old school hip-hop. 45 degrees and breezy we pressed start and began our tour.

This place invokes so many emotions. Most may not know of our “Quitman life” and the ups and downs we faced. Joy with the birth of Kamryn, depression with job struggles, thankfulness in the hospitality of Traci’s family and desperation as I struggled with the guilt of feeling unsuccessful. We passed 2 houses we lived in for brief times. One we miraculously and quickly sold in a flat market shortly after a layoff, and then another we lived in for only 3 days. We ran past houses of friends, former colleagues and family who care about our little family and still reminisce of our little coffee shop.

At mile 2.5 we continued past the funeral home that we were forced to enter last June. Seems only yesterday we were running these very roads with Kip. He and I often spoke of how it was motivational for us to run past the town’s cemetery, nursing homes and ironically that same funeral home.

Mile 3 started our ascension of “Cate’s Mountain” to be visited by a familiar big dog that Traci often speaks of. Then we crossed HWY 154 close to dad’s wood shop where he created and felt “alive”. Addi’s beautiful baby bed was born there. Artfully cut and chipped away from large ruff planks of cherry and walnut woods. I was able to “work” there on occasion building studio acoustic panels for fun, and when I was between jobs, building cabinets for money he generously paid.

Mile 4 and onto a great country road with cows and naked trees; the sun shinning on them almost picture like. A major road and some Saturday traffic forced us to dodge a few cars, all the while with my beautiful bride right beside me. An exchange of thumbs up tells me she’s feeling ok.

We winded our way around the corner past the basketball gym where Traci’s sister Jen became a local hero and brother Jeff just graduated high school (2 years ago!). The graduation ceremony where the valedictorian’s speech included a reference to the “great times at the coffee shop after football games.”

Mile 6.5 and past 2 local churches and I thought of a blogsite I designed for a youth group. How that paid invoice and the one for designing the “Experience Quitman” light-pole banners provided yet another month of food and fuel in a time of unemployed and uncertain struggles. He has always provided. He promises He always will.

We continued through the lifeless downtown with thoughts of unreached potential. Past a building Kip and I dreamed of having for my studio reminded me to never back down from a challenge. This road took us into the park that was a part of a charity run our running group put together to raise money for a local 4 year old girl named Sophie with a stubborn brain tumor. How proud I was for the efforts there and how grateful we are for God’s mercy on her healthy life today.

As we passed the “fried food air” of Dairy Queen, 8 miles were complete. Success. With the milage complete we began our cool down walk; just a bit further to grandma’s. As we walked, we talked about the emotional roller-coaster-of-a-run we both just separately experienced.

“His fingerprints are all over this town. You know?” Traci said in reference to her dad with a tear induced, broken voice.

Indeed. Floods of emotions and stories swallowed us as we passed each significant and personal landmark. This town resonates from his influence. We discussed the buildings, the efforts, the struggles, the triumps and ultimately the memories that were just shaken awake on this hour long jaunt.

We turned left onto Meadowbrook Lane to view yet another house we lived in for nearly a year. Number 115, the red brick Clark house on the hill. The weight of that site still heavy with all its memories. The sacrifices that were made for us to feel at home there are still echoing. Lives were rearranged to get us there, rooms rearranged to make it “home”. Footsteps down the long hallway of this house along with voices were lightend to keep our babies from waking when they slept in their cribs. Awesome meals were provided when we had nothing to contribute and rooms and closets were built when we had to return after moving to an unknowingly unfit duplex.

Up the driveway and into the house we were cheerfully greeted by our precious girls hiding under blankets, eager to surprise. Happiness overwhelms my heart with the site of these crazy little women. When we made our decision to move East from Lubbock, we unanimously agree that it would be for the good of our children. Despite the struggles we faced, we are so thankful they brought us here.

Life has been drastically changed by our time in Quitman Texas. So hard. So good. So emotional. Thank you God. It’s been said that “life is a sum of our experiences.” That chapter has added no less than total trust for us. What an incredible route on this path of life. What an incredible 8 miles.

So now we continue on. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Remain faithful.

I will follow you.

The girls love listening to music when we ride in the car. They mostly prefer Mickey Mouse, but we’ve been trying (for our own sanity) to introduce them to some other artists other than animated ones, no offense Mickey. Over the Christmas holidays, we got the new Chris Tomlin CD and have been listening to that a lot this past week. I think its very good by the way, if you haven’t bought it – you should! Addi picks up words to songs so quickly and after several times of listening to the songs on this CD, she knows most of the lyrics. Its pretty incredible really. Of course, I think the child is a genius, but I am a little bias. There is just something so sweet about hearing your children sing worship songs. Especially when they have thrown many fits, aggravated their sister a lot, and refused to eat their dinner that day. When their sweet voices lift up words to the Lord, it melts your heart & makes all of the frustration fade away. It reminds me that these children really belong to God. I just am blessed enough to care for them, teach them, lead them, love them and be called “Mommy.”

Today, on the way home after spending some time at Grandma’s, this song came on & Add sang right along with Chris…

As she sang, all I could think about was the fact that she would be starting Kindergarden this Fall and how THIS was my prayer for her. That she would choose to follow Him. I’m not gonna lie, I get so nervous when I drive by the big, huge building they call “elementary school” – its overwhelming to this momma to think that my baby girl will be there in a few short months! I’ve talked to several friends lately about this very subject. I have some friends that choose private school, some that are considering home schooling, and others that choose public. Its interesting to hear people’s stories and reasons for making the choice they made. I honestly believe that God presses upon parents’ hearts what is best for their particular child – He gives us the knowledge we need to do what’s right for them. We just have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit guiding us in our decisions.

Even though it scares me to death to think of my child entering into this new phase of life come this Fall, I have to trust and have faith. Knowing that God will be there with Addi and that He loves her even more than I do, helps ease my fears and nervousness tremendously. Our prayer for both of our little girls is that they will always choose to follow Him in every area of their life! Not only that, but that Ryan & I can be that kind of example for them.

2010 Recap Through Pictures

I am VERY excited about 2011. A brand new year. A fresh start with renewed motivation.

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting back on 2010 and everything that happened. By far, the hardest year of my life. The hardest year in my family’s lives. Looking back on 2010 for the rest of my life, I know it will always be known as “the year Dad passed”…however, I also know that some great things happened this year and some awesome memories were made. I started looking back through pictures reminiscing on the good things and thought I’d scrapbook in one post a recap of the year. I am thankful for the blessings of 2010. Even through the tragedy and darkness, the Lord provided rays of sunshine to give us hope and make us smile. A little over a month before my Dad died he sent me this email. I re-read his emails often and have shared some on this blog. But this one, although short & simple, means so much to me and I think of it often…

2010 was definitely hard, but I WILL keep smiling! I have so much to be thankful for. And even though 2011 will no doubt bring its own set of hardships, I know that THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME! The joy that only comes from the Lord is my strength.

I’m hoping to jam pack a bunch of new memories for the Dixon clan in 2011 and live life to the fullest. Cheers to making each day count!

Us at Kiepersol Winery on New Year's Eve.

With love,

Traci

2010 Recap Through Pictures

January

Ryan & I celebrated 7 years of marriage & went to Shreveport for a little getaway.

I hosted a Recipe Exchange party at our house.
Read this book with our community book and it knocked our socks off. Good stuff.

February

It snowed! The girls got to build their first snowman.

Went to the Extreme Home Makeover Kickoff here in East Texas!

Some friends gave us a jogging stroller and have used it non-stop ever since.

Got to see Singing in the Rain at TJC – Ryan ran sound for the show.

March

The weather turned beautiful and we started playing outside again!
We ran in the Azalea 10k right here in Tyler.

April

We started a Date Night Co-op with some friends.

Went to see Switchfoot at TJC!
Hunted easter eggs with cousins.
Ran in the Capitol 10k in Austin.
Went to a Texas Rangers game with Poppy & Grandma & Uncle Jeff!

May

We walked the Tyler Race for the Cure 5k with Poppy. This was the girls very first race to participate in!
We celebrated Mother's Day in Quitman with Grandma.
We had our family pictures made at one of our favorite places in Tyler - the trails.
Had a blast celebrating my 30th birthday!

June

Aunt Debbie came to visit from New Hampshire.
June 4th. My dear Dad passed away suddenly after his morning run. Now he is running and living it up in Heaven!

We enjoyed swimming in the evenings at our friends' pool.

Aunt Jen treated the girls to the Tumble Bus!

July

Addi played in her very first t-ball game at school.
We escaped for a family vacation to Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.

August

Addi started Pre-K. Kindergarten days will be here before we know it, oh my!
Addi turned 4!
Kamryn had a blast at Jumping Jacks.

September

We made a trip to Lubbock to visit old friends.
We "adopted an Apache" through the TJC Tennis program.
Ryan did a live recording at KE Cellars.
We had a night away in Dallas to see a friend get married.
Got together with friends to give Robyn a baby shower. Mayleigh was born in November!

October

Got a new job working for Brown's Landing as their Marketing Director!
The girls started a new school on Tues/Thurs.
Went to Georgetown for Kelly's ordination service.
Started going to Story Time at the public library regularly with friends.
Ran in the inaugural Tyler Rose Half Marathon.
Ross came to visit from Minnesota and we went camping in Beavers Bend.
Andy's brought back Pumpkin Pie concrete for the season!

November

We flew to Boston to run in the New Hampshire Half Marathon in honor of my Dad. High five to the sky!
Ryan built our fire pit.
Another baby shower! Brunch with friends to celebrate Jennifer's baby boy on the way. He'll be arriving in the next few weeks!
I ran in the Bambi 5k Run while Ryan was at home sick.
Ran in the Dallas Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.
My mom cooked a feast for our Thanksgiving meal and Ryan carved the turkey.

December

Went on a Caribbean Cruise with cousins & made new friends.
Ran in the White Rock Half Marathon in Dallas. 3 halfs in 3 months achieved!
Kamryn turned 3! And I made my first decorative birthday cake.
We celebrated Christmas in Georgetown with family.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS!

The Last 2 Weeks.

My 2 week Christmas break is officially over and man has it been great. Not due to any fabulous vacation or life changing events but just because. The time I’ve had to just chill and read and tickle and love have been fantastic. I look forward to this time of year and huge benefit to working in education since last years break. It always seems to go so fast. Fortunately I still have the weekend before Monday’s return to the workforce.

The first week flew by with mostly loafing. I really can’t remember anything significant about the week other than some great loafing. Then a trip to Georgetown for Christmas with my bro-in-law and his kind family last Thursday thru Sunday. The girls had a blast spending time with their cousin Kendrick and are still enjoying the fruits of giving friends and family. Christmas was great as usual minus the giant vacant spot at this years festivities. Makes me feel more mortal and family like.

This week has been different than the previous. My miles have picked back up and soreness has returned to my legs. Reading has taken a huge emphasis this week. I am about to finish a book that I started last Friday. More on this in future posts. We have cleaned house and rearranged. Early Spring cleaning? I have had a list of self declared projects that I have been wanting to accomplish during this year’s break. On the list were: leaves, oil change, replace bathroom cabinet door hinges and replace garage security light. Of these, all of them were accomplished. I’ve been working on the vast and overwhelming leaf removal project for about 2 months now. My West Texas friends have no idea what this even means. Man it feels great scratching even the littlest tasks off a to-do list. Makes me feel more handy and man like.

Most of all though, the time with my little family has been priceless. It really is amazing how the consecutive days with this much interaction with them makes me want to be around them even more. I am so blessed with this gift. Sure there are days when bed time cannot come any quicker but for the most part it was a great as my mom-in-law’s chocolate cake. The hugs and giggles are golden as I try to pause the moments in hope of somehow slowing down time. Time that’s quickly escaping like an opening handful of dry sand. A few nights this week at the close of our night time routine, Addi has asked with her eyebrows slightly raised in her face’s expression of excitement, “Daddy, is tomorrow another family day?” With much joy my answer has been a pause-less “YES!”. Questions of, “Can you tickle me?”, “Can we dance?” have been answered likewise. Moments like this make the whole break of great value. Makes me feel more fulfilled and daddy like.

It’s neat to see how they are developing physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Traci and I are really working on leading our precious girls by example. Teaching as we go and acting how we are wanting our kids to act. Fortunately we are about to start a parenting series in our Grace Community group as we could use so much help on aisle 10. We have began implementing a small “for girls” devotional with a story, verses, application and some questions. Still yet to see if it’s doing much at this age but really it’s about establishing a good habit/routine. One thing I want to impress on my family this upcoming year is to be more philanthropic. More giving of time and resources. More on this in future posts. Really when life comes down to final weight of worth, that’s what it’s all about. Adding value to others. Extending the grace that’s been so freely given to me. Fulfilling purpose. Makes me feel more humble and servant like.

One of our Christmas Traditions

We started this tradition last year and the girls absolutely love it. Its simple, its free, and quite enjoyable!

We all put on our pajamas (even Mommy & Daddy), make hot cocoa in to-go cups, and load up into the minivan. Turn up the Christmas music and we’re off to drive around looking at Christmas lights around town! The girls are completely enthralled the entire time, “Look at that!” or “Wow, so beautiful!” or “Kamryn, move your head. I can’t see.” You get the picture. We end the night downtown on the square where there is a huge Christmas tree. Much fun!

Tonight as we drove around, the girls sang “Fa la la la la” over and over and over and over and over…we tried (desperately) to teach them the rest of the words to the song, but they wouldn’t have anything to do with decking the halls. “Fa la la la la” was enough for them!

The smiles and laughter from our punkins make this tradition very worth it and something Ryan & I have fun doing. Great night! Memory maker.

Kamryn turns three!

Our baby girl, who was just born yesterday, turned 3 this weekend! Seriously, where does the time go? We had an awesome weekend celebrating our Kamryn Jane. Saturday, we had brunch with some friends and then headed to see Tangled at the movies. Popcorn, cokes, and candy…what at treat! The girls LOVE going to the movies. Then, that night we cooked out and enjoyed some good ole quality family time with lots of cuddles and tickles. Great day. Today after church, we headed to Grandma’s house for lunch and then Kam’s official birthday party. Kam had requested a Mickey Mouse birthday, so I attempted and succeeded (I think) at baking her a Minnie chocolate cake! Here are some pics from the weekend. We love you Kam Kam!

Addi & Kam Updates

Our two precious punkins are just developing, learning, and growing up so fast…it feels like if I blink too fast, they will be teenagers way  too soon!

Addi is four going on thirty. She talks non-stop. I mean like all the time. Seriously. She is so curious and is going through the “why?” phase. She needs explanation on just about everything. You can tell her brain is going 90 to nothing and she is soaking up so much right now. Quite the little thinker that one. She’s also very sweet and tender-hearted. She plays well with her friends, it’s neat to watch how considerate she is. Playing with her sister? Well, that’s a different story. Her & Kam fight pretty much every day several times a day. But that’s normal, right? Addi got her first “report card” at school last week and is doing very well…”proficient” in almost every category. Smarty pants! She’s almost half way through her year of preschool. I tear up just thinking about her going to that big, ginormous building of a place called Kindergarden next year! Don’t know if this momma is ready for all that.

Kamryn is not even 3 yet, which we often forget. She is just a little bit shorter than Addi, but already has surpassed her in shoe size. No doubt, she will be tall like her Daddy. She has quite the personality. Very funny and independent. And brave! When we go play at playgrounds, she heads straight to the tallest, largest slide! She likes to wear the same purple dress-up dress every day and always asks to dance with Daddy. Her favorite word is “because” and she tries to use it in every sentence she says. She is fully potty trained now…well, sort of. She still wears a pull-up at night and we are working hard at trying to eliminate that altogether. She loves chewing gum – it has become a good form of bribery for us. She is still very shy when she meets someone new and it takes a while for her to warm up to them.

It has been such a joy to be home with them and having more time with them. I am LOVING it. I thank God everyday for the blessing of my new job. I’ll leave you with a few pics from the last several weeks.

Fun fact for you: there are a total of 11,351 pics in my iPhoto library. WHOA NELLY FURTADO (as Addi would say)!

Blowing bubbles is one of their favorite things to do outside. Look how serious they are about it.
Any opportunity they have to dance, they dance. And will put on a highly entertaining show!
I love it when they are sweet to each other. But don't let them fool you, they are usually fighting!
New pajamas & slippers from Grandma.
They made me stop and take their pic...just so they could make silly faces! Kam creepily resembles Jack Nicholson.
Think these 2 belong to him?
I am blessed to be their mommy.
With friends, Emma & Hannah at the library. We try & go every Wednesday to Storytime.
We spend a lot of time at the trails. The girls are becoming quite the little runners!
Happy Fall everyone!

Story time.

On the flight home from Boston, I finished the book A Millions Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. It was GREAT, I loved it. The book is simply a collection of stories in Donald’s life. He is a writer and realizes through the course of turning one of his books into a movie, that he had spent a big majority of his life writing stories – but not actually living them which made him incredibly sad and feel empty. So, he decides to get off the couch, turn the TV off, and start making his own stories – start experiencing life for himself. Stop taking the easy road and creating moments that matter. He ends up with some awesome, very inspirational stories to share. The book is eye-opening on many levels.

For me, it challenged me to really live in the moment. In one section of the book, he talks about how he and some friends were driving down a road as the sun was setting on some open fields. One of the girls said she loved running across fields like that when she was a child. He pulled the car over and they all got out and high-tailed it, running into the sunset. Such a beautiful picture of experiencing life and taking time to fully engage in the moments God gives us.

Yesterday, the girls and I had to drive out to the lake to take care of a few work-related things at Brown’s Landing. On the drive home, Kamryn rolled her window down a smidge on accident when her foot hit the button. I instantly rolled it up and turned on the child safety locks, without even thinking. I caught myself…this is an opportunity. I quickly pushed the safetly lock off, rolled down not only Kam’s window but all four windows in the car. It was then I noticed how beautiful the day was! The laughter that came from the backseat was like music to my ears. The girls loved how their hair flew crazily around them and they smiled and giggled the rest of the way home. We created a story. A small, short, but sweet little story and I loved it.

When I come to the end of life, I want my life to be overflowing with stories. As a child of God, I desire to have stories of how He worked in my life and used me in ways that only He could make possible. As a spouse, I want to have adventures to share about living life with my love. As a mom, I want to have “memory makers” galore with my children. The ups and downs of life can all be part of a story. Even the hard, sad, or difficult times can create a good story, if you let them. After all, God is the author. And He is perfect. You just have to submit and embrace each moment He gives you!

Manchester 1/2 Marathon.

Just got back to reality from our great trip in Manchester New Hampshire. We stayed with Kip’s sister Debbie and her precious family at their cozy 1920’s house. We had a great time exploring Manchester’s great landscape and establishments. Ate some great food including breakfast at the famous Red Arrow Diner and drank some great New England stouts, porters and pumpkin ales. We even made it into Boston for a brief time for a walk thru the park, frosty beverage at Cheers and dinner at the 2nd oldest restaurant in Boston. The East coast is full of rich history! I can’t wait to go back! Next time more Boston for sure.

We woke up race day (Sunday) to temps right above freezing. Some coffee and a Cliff bar as ritual for breakfast as we warmed our bones by the fire in anticipation for the run. The colors in the trees are beautiful this time of year. It really is a site to see. The leaves began falling last week which helped set the Fall setting for our story. Traci, her brother Kelly and I each had some clothing article of dad’s. I wore his shirt, Traci wore a pullover he gave her and Kelly wore Kip’s race bib and even the same outfit that Kip wore the day he left this world. We headed out the door into the brisk – crisp New England air and to the starting point. Kelly and Traci’s cousin Mary and her Dad had trained to run in this one too. 5 runners in all. Mary, Traci, Kelly and I had all predetermined that we were going to run this one together as a team. After the National anthem was sung and as the starting commands were given, we were off.

Despite the cold I kept to my sleeveless shirt and shorts. Beanie and gloves a must when it’s that cold. As long as my head and hands are warm I’m ready to go. My left ankle seemed to be super weak and sore from about mile 3 on. Not sure why. Never-the-less, I endured. I usually keep my iPod in reserve for races as I like to hear the sounds of people around me, especially in a new place. I did try to push play on it once to which I discovered my battery was dead. Good thing I don’t rely on that. Fortunately Traci sung key phrases and chorus’s of her music to me every once in a while. Made me smile. She’s cute.

What a beautiful route! Old cotton mill buildings lined the water fronts. Adorable hundred plus year old houses. Hills, more hills and then a few more. Kip hated hills. As usual there was diversity from point A to B. Wide, tree filled and stone walled yards to tiny, worn yards with chain link. The community support was nice and scattered throughout the 13.1 mile course.

Mile 13 down and with the finish area in site, we lined up side by side as we approached the end. As I approached the finish line I got a bit choked up thinking of the man we all wished was running in line with us. It’s practically impossible to breathe and run when your throat is in your nose. As we took our last step across the finish, each eye of our team was a bit more moist than the thousand steps prior. We did it. We did it for Kip.

Herded thru the metal barrier path out of the chute everyone was being handed the customary finishing metal strung with gold colored ribbon. As I reached out for this Chinese, assembly-line-produced trinket, I couldn’t help but feel a bit lame. Everyone gets this. The guy who finished an hour before I did and the one who will finish an hour later. Maybe the lady passing these out at the end of the day ends up with an extra box of a hundred and takes them home for her kids to play with and destroy. Sure I know it’s part of race schwag, but this time it felt emptier than before. Empty because it’s never been about trinkets and empty tokens. From the moment we said we were going to do this for Kip, nothing else mattered. He was often quick to remind us that stuff was just stuff. It’s all about the memories and the story. The following verses reinforced these thoughts.

1st Corinthians 9: 24-26a

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

So I run with purpose in every step.

While the run was enjoyable and all of the touristy stuff was fun, the most value was found in the time we spent reminiscing, laughing, and crying. Accomplishing the purpose. Kip signed up for the Manchester 1/2 marathon race but couldn’t make the trip this year in person. Our purpose was to finished it for him. Curiously, I am honored to have finished it with him. High 5 to the sky!

Now, our story continues. Running with purpose in every step. Lord, hold me to it!