Wednesday, December 31, 2014

14 Who Blessed Me In 2014

It was a very big year for me. It was a very emotional, tear-filled year. It was a huge growing year for me. It was a strengthening exercise in so many, many ways. And while I could make a laundry list of all the ways this year changed me, I have decided instead to list "my angels" who helped me through it, over it, and own it.

I am a very blessed lady. I am loved even when I forget that I am, and have a hard time believing anyone could like this "mess" much less love it.  But, this year, I was extra blessed--or maybe extra aware of those who bless me.

My husband and kids and family bless me on a daily basis, but the below went out of their way to build me up or pray for me or with me, they shared conversations and hugs or advice, they pushed me or pulled me (or both) to get me where the knew I could go.

Here are my "14" of 2014.

14. Cindy

I think she finds the "use" in everyone. I struggle with having a "use" in this life, and when I went out on a HUGE limb and volunteered to help the church in a small way, she not only welcomed it, but declared it perfect.  There is nothing"perfect" about what I do--but she decided that I would make a fit that could not only be used, but would thrive. While I just meant to "help," she moved me to the "lead" position and took a great leap of faith in me. While I was happy to do what I can, and give my time to help children in need of clothes and coats any time of year, her confidence in my ability to do the job, and do it well was the greater gift in the transaction.  She is among those who made me feel comfortable and like an equal from the first moment I met her.  I am one to keep my eyes down and move to the back of the room, she is one to seek those of us out that hide our "light" and she helps you find a way for it to shine bright.

13. Jill

I am a big ole' fat stick in the mud.  It is who I am, and I own it. Jill makes it her goal to dig my feet out of that sticky comfortable mud with all her might.  Everyone needs someone in their life that makes them loosen up, and find away to laugh in the face of yourself.  Jill is that person for me. But, she has a way about her that makes you laugh at yourself and still feel good. She can effectively lift me up and chill me out all in the same conversation, and I am always grateful for her ability to "ground" me.

12. Nancy

Sometimes it takes just an innocent remark to spark confidence, and for people like me it will inspire us around the 4th time you mention it. Nancy was not only the first to purchase a dress from me for her daughter (she actually bought 2!!), but she was the first to tell me I should sell them.  But, like I said, the 4th time she adamantly mentioned the idea I started to think about it.  I credit her for giving me not only the idea, but the confidence to keep trying and to even start my own web-based business.

11. Jay

Of course a minister should bless you. But, in a congregation of several hundred and three Sunday services it can't be easy to minister to each individual "sheep."  On my roll of doing all the things I have never done the year I turned 36, I attended my first Bible Study for a 6 week period this summer. Pastor Jay headed up the series on Andy Griffith. Most of you know my love for Andy, so I was 40% excited and 60% terrified to join the group solo (Garren stayed at home with the kids those evenings so I could go).  While he touched on many points of life that pertained to me, the one that affected me the most--really, really affected me.  You see I have never felt worthy of anything, much less God's love. And, while he looked in the direction of all 20+ people in the room that evening, I will swear that he looked straight in to my eyes and into my heart.  He also told someone in the church office I was "awesome" a few weeks ago, and while I rarely feel "awesome" any day of the week, I especially did not that day.  A man who has devoted his life to serving God and preaching the good news thought, even if for only a moment, that a struggling stay at home mom of two who isn't sure what in the world God was thinking when he made her--thought I was awesome.  A blessing to me.

10. Clara

Gracie's best friend.  There are so many words I could use to describe her, but I think the best ones are: "opposite of Gracie." Clara is outgoing and funny (or at least she thinks she is ;), goofy and out spoken.  So, you can imagine how different these two are to have around the house.  Clara was our Thursday afternoon guest for most of the school year last year.  Clara's mom and I allowed the girls one day a week to hang out after school and enjoy "girl time."  It is so cute how they are best friends.  They are so different, and yet love each other dearly despite, or maybe because of their differences in personality.  Clara has taught me so much. Like patience and humility.  She is a spunky girl who says whatever she is thinking out loud and she keeps me on my toes.  She has taught me to think before I speak not only to her, but all kids. It is so easy to shush a child when they say something that you don't agree with, but they have thoughts and ideas and feelings too, and they won't ever feel a sense of contribution to the world if we tell them to be quiet or not to have an opinion.  But mostly this lively sweet girl has blessed me because she loves my daughter.  My quiet, shy Gracie takes far too much after her mama and she steps to the rear of life and keeps her head down.  But she has a best friend, and one that challenges her personality and the way she handles life--both things she needs.  Both things we all need.

9. Dawn

I just have the one brother.  And, he married a woman who couldn't be more opposite than I.  She and I parent differently, talk differently, think differently, handle life differently, speak differently...the list could go on and on.  She and Brian have been married now for 6 years, and I don't see them often, and when I do she loves to make me uncomfortable. Whether she is giving my kids sugar, or buying them things like hair dye and gift cards to Justice! or simply telling me things she knows will curl my hair.  This is a fun game for her--freaking Barbara out.  But, she is also one of the most loving people I know.  She is a hugger, and one to say "love you,"  I don't really do that, and it makes me uncomfortable (with everyone, not just her!!)--but she keeps on trying, and she still says it even though I struggle to return he words.  And while that is a blessing in and of itself, this sweet lady, who works 100+ hours a week I think--took time out of her hectic schedule several times this year to just check on me or the kids. She called and didn't have to, she checked in and didn't need to--she honestly wanted to know how I was doing or how the kids were doing.  You can't choose your family, and even though I love her and my brother and the 6 niece/nephews she brought in to our family, she doesn't have to care or love us back--and yet she chooses to.  Even when we undoubtedly make it very, very hard.

8. Abby

Abby is one of those people I think I am most jealous of. You know the type with the seemingly perfect life and family and home.  The kind that look like they belong on a magazine cover. There is reason she seems to have it all--because she gives it all right back.  I haven't physically seen her in many years as I left her and so many other people I love back in Strasburg-- the home I miss even to this day (5 years after moving!!). A multi-tasker who is good at everything she has blessed me multiple times this year.  Not only does she not miss a birthday--with a real live card and send my kids postcards when she goes different places, but she will type out a HUGE email full of helpful hints, information and encouragement in response to a tear-filled email about how badly you want a house and how badly you need help because you are screwing it up. And, not only will she give you everything she has to help you knowing full well she can't "realtor" where you live, she will seek out a mortgage company to help you too.  She will take time away from paying customers to hand-hold you through trying to understand a very complicated process.  Because she is the most giving person.  And, she will buy more dresses from your new-found online store than any other person. And, she will buy them not because she pities you, but because she believes in you and loves your work. And, then she will encourage her friends to buy from you and liter her Facebook wall with the link to your store.

7. Amy

She has blessed me before, but probably not as big as she did this year.  Gracie's friend's mom and principal at our elementary school, she is one who eased my fears this fall. Not only does she trust me with her biggest gift: her daughter and allowed her to spend many Thursdays with Gracie and Clara at our house after school--but she went out of her way to make sure that I could sleep at night in September.  You may remember that Thomas started Kindergarten this year, and while my boy is very outgoing and makes friends at the drop of a hat--I am his mama, and I am going to worry.  I begged asked for a favor for one of the only times in my life--and I asked Amy.  I don't ask for help, and I don't want any one to bend or break rules for me or anyone in my family, but I "needed" this.  I needed Thomas to be in a kindergarten class with his best friend and the only preschool friend attending his elementary school. I needed to know he had a familiar face to look at, someone to sit with him at lunch, someone to play with him at recess. I needed to know there was love in that Kindergarten classroom.  She didn't flinch, or tell me she had to think about it.  She told me certainly and plainly that she would be happy to make sure of that request.  She kept her word, and she continues to bless me by watching over my children 5 out of 7 days a week--and that is a HUGE blessing!

6. Candice

Sometimes I am sure she is the only person that understands me.  I am so quirky and just plain "nuts," but never once in our 10 year friendship has she thrown up her hands and thrown me away.  She listens, and calms me down or builds me up, or tells me to get a grip (which I usually need)...but mostly she just tells me I am not crazy and that she understands. I can't tell you how much of a blessing it is to have someone tell you they understand.  It seems so simple, but when you are a mom it is so easy to feel so alone and like you can't do anything right and that you might actually be going insane. And to hear the words of reassurance "I understand," they are the most needed and appreciated of them all.

5. Keri

It takes a lot of faith, and a lot of trust and confidence to let someone take your child or children for any amount of time.  I have always believed what a leap of faith it is to leave your children in another persons care. Maybe its because I have a (very) hard time doing that, and don't really do it at all, or maybe because I am a stay at home mom that feels so blessed that I don't have to make that choice--but I know it to be true.  So, to trust me, is to bless me.  And to share your beautiful girls is to truly bless me.  I miss my kids during the day, and those few hours of toddler laughs and giggles and play time renew my soul. Keri's faith in me goes beyond occasional child care opportunities, it goes to mommy chats and suggesting I help with Bible School and to join a Bible Study. It includes inviting my kids to your kids birthday parties and sharing concerns and motherhood woes and joys. It includes words of encouragement over the making of a few dresses.

4. Peggy

My Thomas. Surely no one can love him like me.  He is mine, and "yup, he's mine."  He is a loving sweet boy that is all energy and bounce, and mouth.  While I will take all the moments of his life, it takes a patient and loving person to voluntarily take him week after week.  Thomas started going to Wednesday nights at Bryce's church last year.  Bryce invited him to attend one week as a part of his homework for church, and well....Thomas wanted to go the next week, and the next week, and the next week.  I have wrestled over and over again about making him stop going.  While his father and I agree that " you can never have too much churchin'," we have a church, and they are using resources for our son that could be better allocated to a child or family without a church or a love or knowledge of Christ.  And, yet, session after session, and now year after year, they welcome my boy back with open arms. They include him in their lessons and performances and special events.  They take the time each week to give him a much needed lesson in God the Father, and they do it even though we spend Sunday mornings in a different sanctuary. Peggy is Bryce's grandmother, and she shows him just as much love as she shows the other kids in that group. I have seen it. I have felt it and witnessed it.  Her heart is big enough for my little handful, and that is of the biggest blessings anyone can give me...and him.

3. Cathy

While we are talking about loving my child, I have seen it so much this year. I know it sounds silly to be surprised that others could love my kids--but I guess I see it as my job and no one else's.  And while loving Gracie seems easy to me, well, loving Thomas might be a lot harder.  But, his Kindergarten teacher does.  How do I know? She told me.  She told me today, and 20+ times before that.  But, that isn't the only way she blessed me this year.  You see while she teaches my child, she also taught me a big lesson as well.  I make so many excuses for Thomas.  He is so different than his sister. He can't sit still, he talks a mile a minute, he is active and bouncy and well... a handful.  And, while I sat and listened to this wonderful woman tell me how my child was doing in school, I heard myself make excuse after excuse for him. I explained away his "intelligence" his behavior and in general who he was.  I was expecting to be bombarded with all the things my child couldn't do--but unlike me, she saw nothing but the best in him.  I left that conference in tears, and I saw one of the biggest failings of my life.  I realized that a woman who had known my child for less than 30 days spoke more positively of him than I, who have loved him for more than 5 and a half years.  She told me in that meeting that she loved him. And, I looked at her face and I knew it was true.  She has blessed me several more times since that meeting, like calling me at home on her own personal time to talk me off a "mommy ledge," and emailing me when I was sure I was screwing it all up--again.  There is no bigger blessing that having people in your life who truly love your children-for everything they are, and are not.

2. Jo

By far the kindest soul I have met since we moved here, and maybe forever.  Jo not only blesses me just by listening to me, but I think in a lot of ways she understands me too.  I am far more crazy quirky than she could ever  think about being, but as a mom and someone who misses the valley (almost) as much as me--we find ourselves kindred.  But, the awesome thing is we share more than parenthood and love for a "home" that is too far away and too little visited--we have so many of the same values and experiences and loves in life.  Her kids may be grown, but she and I can talk and talk and most of it ends with "me too!" She has blessed me by just being a friend.  I know that sounds short and cheesy, but as a pastor's wife, she has so much on her plate, she didn't need to add loving my kids and sharing stories and play dates and sewing stories to her already full schedule. And, yet she did, and she does, and I am all the better for it.  Because in her talks with me, she just makes me feel "full."  I have always loved the verse "my cup runneth over," and after a Sunday morning hug from Jo, or a long conversation--that is how I always feel--"full."

1. Grace

No one has blessed me more this year than Grace.  Poor Grace.  Her child would have to be-friend the child of the most neurotic, nutty, ridiculous mom in the whole 3 year old preschool class. ;)  Good thing God blessed Grace with patience.  And, while she would not agree with that statement, that is one of the things that I notice most about her.   That and she doesn't run like the wind when I suggest we let the kids play.  A woman of amazing faith, I think Grace might be the most grounded individual I know.  And, as a test of her faith, God sent her to me.  And, she has taken that challenge and run with it.  Grace and I have shared play dates, recipes, special occasions, preschool cheers and tears (and frustrations!), Kindergarten apprehension, boys clothes, motherhood successes and (seeming) failures, kid battles and germs...and so much more.  All of that is wonderful, but when someone truly shares their life with you, and comforts you and encourages you and lifts you up--they are truly a friend and a blessing.  And, when they make you do things that your personality rallies against with every fiber of your being--and you know you'll be okay--that is a blessing too!  10 hours in the car, a strange city, and 2 days of a women's conference with no husbands or kids---and she still wants to hang with me?!  That is a blessing.  I have said it many times, and I will say it again, God blessed me when he sent you into my life.  He totally screwed you--but he blessed me ;)  Thanks for hanging around, and finding the strength to pray for me, pray with me, comfort me, encourage me, help me, cry with me, and share your time, talents, energy and grace with me.

I also want to say that several others were awesome to me this year including: Jason, Brian, Becky and Sandy.  I picked 14 to match the year, but I was blessed beyond measure this year, and I truly hope that I have been and will continue to be a blessing to others all the years of my life.

Goodbye 2014

The Whitlocks joined us to send this year out, and ring in 2015!

We have kind of made New Year's Eve a tradition, and so I think we will have to keep on sharing it together.  (Check out last year)

The kids enjoyed the goodies and the noise makers and the hats and beads, but mostly hanging out and playing.

Jason brought over a confetti gun--gotta love him--so the kids also had a great time shooting that noisy messy thing in the front yard.  I would have loved it more, but my son was a little too proud to show me he "gun stance" and it was freezing out there!

The big boys mostly watched football and we girls chatted while the kids played all over the house.

But, we did all gather in the same place to do some cheers and an early countdown.

I think we all had a blast tonight, and we find ourselves very thankful to have the Whitlock family in our lives this year---and maybe they'll find it okay to be in our lives next year too! :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Game Night

It started off as kind of a lazy day.  Daddy was cherishing his last full day of football and we picked up sandwich "fixin's" for lunch.  I started to catch up my blog (this makes blog post #27 today!!!!) and I was typing and typing and Thomas came in and reminded me that I should be playing with him.

Since Gracie didn't want to play with him, I agreed to stop blogging and play a game.

Well, that made Gracie suddenly want to play too.  And, Daddy decided to hang out with us as well.

4 games and a few hours later our family was laughing and full of joy.

The kids got several great games this Christmas holiday, and we love games in this house.

I think it is definitely time for a return of game night!

This Christmas Gracie got Olaf in Trouble (our new favorite), Frozen Uno and Apples to Apples Junior.  Thomas got Paw Patrol Adventure Game, Transformer's Rescuebots Memory & Paw Patrol playing cards.

I personally think you can never go wrong with games!  Spend some time with your family taking turns with cards or a game board this week!!  You'll be glad you did!

Warm Sunday

It's December 28th and it feels like October!

I am loving it!!

Gracie took the opportunity to show off the dress she purchased at Justice yesterday.  And, Thomas took the opportunity to look adorable.  But, he does that pretty often. He and Chewey sported their matching chevron bow ties at church this morning.  We walked the long way around today and enjoyed the warm temperatures.

The car said 60 degrees. I somehow doubt I'll get to keep it--but I will enjoy it while I have it!!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Thank You Uncle Brian....And Aunt Dawn

Gracie had a great time choosing her items from Justice.

I did not have as much fun watching her choose her items from Justice--but I am pretty sure that was half the reason you gave her that gift card.

She actually did pretty well with my help. We shopped on the after Christmas clearance rack--one of the reasons we made the kids wait until after Christmas--and she got 3 items: a dress, a sweater and a Frozen t-shirt.

Thomas had his heart set on a certain Lego set, and he knew he wanted that from the time you gave him the gift card.  We drove all the way out there to find out they didn't have it in the store.  We were willing to order it--but when you are 5 and thought you would get something, you will make mommy and daddy crazy while you all wait 5-7 days for delivery.  So, daddy will go and look at the Walmart and get the ONLY one they have.

So, I will hold on to the gift card and use it when it comes time to buy his birthday gift(s). It will all work out.

Thank you!

Build A Bear

Gracie asked Santa for Build A Bear gift cards, and he was good to her.  Plus, she still had gift cards left over from when Mamaw & Papaw took her for her Christmas present at Thanksgiving.

So, now she has Elsa bear (that she stuffed in TN), and Olaf (from Jolee) so she was excited to build Anna Bear.

The place was a little packed, but we waited for our turn patiently.

Gracie stuffed Anna, and then used the remainder of her money to get Olaf his outfit (even though he wasn't stuffed at BAB, he is roughly the same size and should fit the clothes just fine) and then 2 additional matching Frozen bedding sets to put on the triple bunk bed she got as a Christmas gift from Grandma & Grandpa.  She got a clearance outfit and and a few other clearance items. 

She racked up! And left the store very happy!

So, thank you Mamaw & Papaw for Elsa Bear, the gift cards, and the Frozen princess dresses and original bedding set. Thank you Jolee (and Candice & Elliott) for Olaf, and Santa for Anna Bear, Olaf's clothes, and 2 more Frozen bedding sets.  Her life is complete ;)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Pups Ready For Bed

I had to snap a picture of Thomas and all his doggy buddies ready for bed after this exciting (and exhausting) Christmas Day.

We don't do a lot on Christmas Day proper.  We opened gifts, called/Skyped grandparents , I made a HUGE brunch, and then we cleaned up. And, our yearly tradition of the kids getting bored and mommy and daddy getting cranky began.  So, daddy made us all get dressed and we went out to dinner at T.G.I Fridays--the only restaurant (besides Waffle House) open Christmas Day in Mechanicsville.

I think it worked.  The service was slow, but we enjoyed the company and getting out of the house.

We certainly hope that your day was wonderful as well.

Christmas With Jeff Gordon

A big thank you to Bryce from Thomas!

I am just now catching up on the blog, and I meant to post something sooner.  Bryce picked out Jeff Gordon tiny ornaments while shopping with his family in November, and he said Thomas just had to have them. 

As it would happen, Grace had an extra mini fake Christmas tree so she decked it out just for Thomas.

You may remember that last year, Grace gave Gracie her old tree so that our girly-girl could have her very own tree in her room.

Well, now both kids have their own tree.

Thomas LOVES his Jeff Gordon themed tree and has excitedly turned it on every day.

Thank you Bryce, you are such a sweet friend to make this an extra Merry Christmas for Thomas!!

Merry Christmas Morning!

It was an exciting morning as always. 

Gracie asked Santa for Build A Bear gift cards, and he was sure to leave them for her.  Mommy and Daddy showered her too. She got a doll size snack cart, doll tent and camping set and Frozen sheets.

Thomas asked Santa for a Walmart truck.  But, Gumdrop, our elf told Santa that Thomas would LOVE this CAT truck with forklift even more.  And, I think Gumdrop was right! This has definitely been the favorite gift of the day. Mommy & Daddy gave our little man 2 more Lego sets (including one that looks just like Uncle Brian's jeep!), Rocky & Chase from Paw Patrol (along with other Paw Patrol toys) and a Transformers Rescue Bots matching card game.

I think both kids were spoiled rotten. Not only by Santa and mommy and daddy, but Mamaw & Papaw, Grandma & Grandpa, Candice, Elliott & Jolee, and Uncle Brian & Aunt Dawn.  My kids are truly blessed. As is my little family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Services

This is my favorite part of the entire Christmas season.

I love Christmas Eve. It is the most magical and wonderful part of the Christmas miracle story.

I look forward to Christmas Eve services every year, and we choose a night time one, because I think it is more fitting. I know it is exhausting for the kids, but they are always good sports and I really get to soak up all it offers.

I was really nervous about whether or not we would get to go because of all the illness. But, Gracie is all better, I am mostly better, and Thomas' eye is no longer oozing--so we got all dressed up and went.

I don't assume any one is judging me, but I honestly felt like no one was contagious, and I would never take my kids or myself and accidentally or purposely infect other people. It is Christmas and no one should be ill on this holiday or any other. I am always super cautious especially at church as we attend services with a large number or elderly and I know how dangerous even mild symptoms can be for them.

I think I choose our outfits pretty well, and we got to church early so there was some time for tree pictures.

The service was lovely as always, and Thomas took his first communion.

I had my phone posed and ready, but somehow it didn't start recording until he walked away. I was super bummed, but I witnessed it, and it was wonderful.

Not that you asked, but Methodist believe that the communion table is open to all people of all faiths and ages.  But, as parents, Garren and I have always agreed that we didn't want our kids to take communion until they really understood what it meant. As children they would just be eating bread and drinking grape juice and have no idea of the significance. Garren and I have decided together at what age we found appropriate.  Gracie took her first communion at this church on Christmas Eve 2011.  She was 7.

Since the first Sunday of the month is communion, I may let Thomas stay downstairs for that service and take it again.  He usually goes up to Children's Church after children's time early in the 11am service.

At the end of our Christmas Eve worship we lit candles and sang silent night. It was more beautiful than I can explain.

I think everyone left that building that night full of faith, love, and belief in the miracle.

 Merry Christmas Eve.

Farewell Gum Drop

It was another fun December sharing our home with our very own elf from the North Pole. The kids will say goodbye to Gumdrop tonight and wish him well on his last flight home.  We certainly hope he will return to us again next year.  We sure do love seeing all the adventures he has in our home.

Thanks for dropping by Gumdrop!