Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Break Wishes

I can't believe it's Thanksgiving break already! We kicked off the holiday with some hot chocolate in front of the Christmas tree, snuggled in our pajamas with our sweet boys while watching Rudolph on TV. And Cookie Pole, our famous Elf, made his appearance on our Christmas tree this morning. The boys eyes were wide with wonder and excitement. Kaden has already starting sending Santa messages via Cookie Pole.

These next few days, I plan to relax with family, eat my FIL famous turkey and sample too many desserts. But there are also a few other things I want to do:

- Catch up with my best friend who's in town for a few days. We have plans for lunch and some afternoon fun today!

- Help the boys decorate their Clemson tree. I bought this white tree from the dollar store a few years ago with all intentions of hosting a white elephant party. Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to buy some white lights and orange and purple Christmas balls. The boys' currently share a room and it's Clemson-themed. I think they'll love their Tiger tree!

- Get in a few runs. I've been running about 4 miles in the morning before work and I'd like to get in a longer run sometime during the break. I've got a yearly mileage goal I want to reach.

- May the odds be ever in your favor! A date to the movies to see Catching Fire with my sweet husband would make me really happy.

- Decorate our house some more. I don't normally put up the tree before Thanksgiving, but the boys have been asking, so we let them put it up last week. I want to hang the wreaths and stockings, wrap some more gifts and have our house ready for my favorite season.

- Black Friday shop with my sister. Neither of us has ever shopped on Black Friday. And we don't have anything we're looking for, but we both think it will be fun to see what the craziness is about. We haven't decided entirely if we're staying in town or heading to the outlets at the beach, but either way, it'll be fun.

- Watch the Clemson Carolina game with my husband and family. I like watching Clemson games with Kevin. He still talks to me even when Clemson is playing. It makes me happy!

- Finish the boys' books. I am almost totally done with Kaden's 3 year book and about halfway done with K.C.'s 5 year book. I haven't started on our 2012 family book, but thanks to Blurb's awesome "copy" feature, I'll be able to get that done in no time. Blurb is running a Christmas special through Monday, so I want to get them done by then.

Codes for Blurb's Cyber Sale:
30% off of $75 or more order - CYBER1
25% off order under $75 - CYBER2
$25 off large book with premium paper upgrade - CYBER3
25% off 2 or more books and free shipping - BETTER25

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

School Days

I can't believe we already have a first grader and another in 4K. It's been a while since I've done an update on the boys and school, so I thought today would be a great day to do that!

Kaden - 4K

Kaden loves school. He loves his teacher, his friends, recess, learning and the snacks we get to pack for him each day (Some days, he loves the snacks more than anything!). He knows his letters, his numbers, can write his first and last name and knows our address. He really has a hard time picking his favorite - of anything! - because he likes everything.

This year, he's gone on two field trips already. One was to the pumpkin patch and the other was to see a play - Skippyjon Jones. He really loved both of his field trips.

Even though he's only in 4K, he has homework each week. We work on writing the letter of the week, a few words and his name. He also works on counting by 10s, sorting things and helping around the house.

Right now, he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

K.C. - First Grade

K.C. loves first grade. He has an awesome teacher who has made him love learning even more. We've discovered this year that he's a whiz at math. He absolutely loves it! In addition to reading, writing and math, he's learning about history and science this year. He also loves to draw and his art class. He's very artistic.

Like his brother, he got to go on a field trip to the pumpkin patch before Halloween.

He's had several projects already this year. He did his first book report on Indiana Jones. He had to write about the book he read, do a character diagram and give an oral report. He made 105 on it (he got 5 points for dressing up!).

He loves to do his homework. He rarely complains about having to do it. My mom found an old school desk that she got for me from a school no longer running when I was little. She gave it to us for the boys and they both love to sit in it and do their homework. I have it set up in the kitchen for them to use at night. K.C. sits in it to do his homework and I stay close to check in on him.


Both K.C. and Kaden love to read and be read to. We're reading through The Magic Treehouse series now and they love these books. I feel like it's so important to instill a strong love of reading and learning in our kids when they're young which will stay with them as they grow. I'm very hands-on when it comes to making sure homework is done, but I'm very hands off when it comes to creativity.

The boys like to draw and paint and I love for them to do it (even if sometimes painting can be frustrating). I think it's really important for them to do these things on their own, so I'll cover their picnic table with old papers and squirt the colors they need on a plate. My mom used to do the same for me when I was little and I'm glad I get to pass that on to the boys. I also pick up things like "treasure" chests and birdhouses for $4-$5 at Hobby Lobby that they can paint. They love this and you can see the sense of accomplishment they feel when they've finished a project.

I'm so thankful the boys have great schools, teachers and friends, and that they find school and learning fun!

What do you do to foster creativity and a love of learning?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekend In the Mountains & Kaden's First Clemson Game

This past weekend, we spent some time in the mountains and took the boys to the Clemson game - Kaden's first! It was also the boys first trip to the mountains.

We rented an awesome cabin up near Table Rock, SC, with my parents, but they were unable to go as my granddad is still in the hospital. Kevin and I left work early Thursday and headed to the Upstate. The boys were so excited! We stopped in Columbia at Fudruckers to grab an early bite to eat and then headed towards the mountains. We made it to the Greenville area right after dark and stopped to pick up breakfast foods and some things to use at our tailgate. We wove around a few mountains and made it to the cabin around 8.

The cabin was gorgeous! The boys loved exploring the house while we unpacked our car and quickly discovered the pool and bumper pool tables upstairs.

After breakfast Friday morning, we went outside and fished in the little stream behind the house and explored some.

Later Friday morning, we went to Table Rock State Park. The weather felt good, but it was really foggy. We hiked up a trail and spent a few hours at Table Rock. The boys loved it! K.C. really wanted to hike all the way up the mountain!

Saturday was game day. We got up early and were off to Clemson by 8 AM. The boys were both so excited! It was the first Clemson game Kevin and I have been to together, Kaden's first game and Stephanie's boyfriend and his brother's (they were with us) first Clemson game.

It was Military Appreciation Day, so there were military vehicles the kids got to check out and even some old military badges they got to get. We also walked around downtown Clemson before the game and picked up a few things.

We had great seats. Kevin's aunt and uncle have season tickets and weren't using them for this game, so we got to use them. They are a great location, especially with kids. K.C. and Kaden (and Kevin, too!) were so excited when the players were ready to run down the Hill. K.C. soaked everything in and Kaden had a good time, too - that is, until the cannons after each touchdown started going off. He ended up sleeping with his head in my lap from the end of the first quarter until almost the end of the third quarter including through the 21-gun salute at halftime!

After the game, we walked out on the field. Kevin and K.C. almost got close enough to Tajh Boyd to get his autograph which was exciting. We ended up with Shaq's autograph. We all touched Howard's Rock and the boys practiced their future run down the Hill!

We drove into Greenville after the game and had dinner at Smoke on the River. If you're ever in Greenville, SC, you need to go there. It was delicious! I wish we had made it into town before it was dark because I know the boys would've loved walking around downtown. The downtown area has really been revitalized.

When we got back to the cabin, we all decided to get in the hot tub, which I then dubbed the cold tub. It was frigid! I don't know if it wasn't shut all the way or if when my sister turned it down the night before, it got too low or what, but it was cold! This girl was not about to get in and it didn't take too much to convince our little ones that a hot shower and getting cozy in front of the fire inside was a good idea!

Yesterday, we drove up to Caesar's Head State Park. We loved this place, too. It was in the high 20's-low 30's, so we didn't stay outside too much, but we did go down a short trail and stopped at the lookout.

All in all, we had a really fun time in the mountains. Kevin grew up mainly in Spartanburg and had been around that area, but it's been years since I've been in our Upstate for the mountains as my family typically went more towards the Asheville/Maggie Valley area and into Virginia. I hate that my parents weren't able to go, but we're going to do a redo next year. I'm already looking forward to it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Baby Shower and Christmas Card Out Takes

I get the weekend off with a baby shower. One of my dear friends is having a little boy in January and I hosted a shower along with two other co-workers for her and baby R. Her husband plays the guitar and she loves rock, so deciding on a theme was easy. A talented friend designed the invitations for us and we built everything around the "shake, rattle and roll" theme.

On Saturday, Kevin and I did some Christmas shopping and then took the boys over to his parents to visit. We ended up staying outside all afternoon and picked up pizza with my in-laws for dinner. K.C. found this stick thing off of a tree and turned it into his bat. He had a blast!

We had a relaxing day yesterday. I ran seven miles before church and after church, we just hung out all day. Our neighbor's youngest daughter and Kaden are in school together and they love playing together. It's becoming almost a daily play date for us to all get together outside. The kids have a blast.

We also took some family pictures for our Christmas card yesterday afternoon. While I wanted sunshine, I'm still happy with the way the photos turned out. Here are some out takes to brighten up your afternoon!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankfulness: Week 2

For a recap of my first week of thanks, click here!

8. Our Home. I'm thankful for our home and most importantly the people in it because that's what makes our house a home. I've really been enjoying adding a few things here and there over the past year including painting a few rooms. I hope everyone feels at home in our house!

9. The Beach. It's no secret that our family loves the beach. We've spent some awesome times with our families at the beach. It's also where Kevin and I got engaged, so it holds an even more special place in my heart because of that!

10. Choir. I can't even begin to tell you how great of a blessing it's been to me to be back in the choir. Since leaving the church I grew up in to go to what is now our church, I haven't sung in the choir which was something I did for ten years or so at my home church. This fall, I joined our choir and I'm so glad I did. I'm finally starting to feel more a part of things and I love it. Wednesday night choir practices are one of my favorite times of the week!

11. Sunshine. I love the sunshine. The feel of it on my skin during the scorching heat of the summer and the warmth it brings during cold winter days. 

12. Good Books. I love a good book. Combine a book, the sunshine and the beach and I'm one happy girl!

13. Christmas Lights. Just thinking about Christmas lights makes me excited. I love them and I can't wait to get ours out!

14. Blogging. Blogging has been awesome in so many ways. I love having a record of the things we're doing and I love the friendships that have formed out of this little corner of the Internet!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Creating time for what really matters

Lately, y'all, I've been feeling so stretched thin and I've decided to make a change. I'm not going to sit here and write about our busy lifestyle because chances are, if you're breathing, you're busy. But, I am going to tell you what I'm doing about it.

Each morning when I get to work, I read two short devotions. They're both from publications our church gives and one particular morning a few weeks ago, both of my devotions were centered around time. I don't think it was a mistake either. I'd been feeling really stressed about how I was going to get all of this stuff done when I wanted to get it done and still have fun. And that morning, it stopped me in my tracks when I read about how what we spend most of our time doing shows us where are priorities are. Yes, I knew this, but for some reason, those words jumped out at me that morning.

If you know me in real life, you know that I like to do things. If there's a school party for the kids, sign me up. If it's a holiday, I'll bring the treats. If there's something we want to celebrate at work, I'll take care of it. It's my personality and it's just in my nature to do. I like to do. It gives me so much joy to do things for others, and most of the time, it's totally fun. But sometimes, I bite off more than I can chew (yes, honey, I'm admitting it!).

I also have a tendency to try to fit one million things in a small amount of time. For example, I think I can make it to a class at the gym, run a few miles, stick dinner in the crock pot and cook a homemade breakfast for my family all while making it to work on time a few mornings during the week. It doesn't work. I'm not super woman although sometimes I think I am. (I do have to chuckle when I think about this though - Kaden always wants grits and pancakes for breakfast. Every day. He loves them. One recent morning, I handed each he and K.C. a plate with pancakes on it and Kaden immediately asked for his grits which were still in the microwave. I laughed and said something like, "I'm getting them buddy. I'm not super girl, I only have two hands" to which he replied "but you are super." Things like this make my day!)

Most of my outside of work to-do list is comprised of self-imposed to-dos and many of those things don't really have to be done. I am your poster child for an over-achiever and I'm ok with that most of the time except when I feel like I'm doing too much stuff to really do those things that are important.

When I think about my life and those things that are most important to me, they are these things:
  • My husband 
  • Our boys
  • My relationship with Christ and our involvement in our church through teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir
  • My family and friends
  • Running and exercising 
  • Taking care of my family and home
Those six things are what make me me. They're the things I live for, want to spend my time being with and doing and the things that matter most. When I'm stretched thin, I can't be the best for my people.

For myself, I've discovered that to be the best version of me I have to have time to run/sweat and I have to have time with the Lord because I just can't be the best me without Him. Unfortunately, the latter of those two things is often neglected and I have to do something about it.

I feel so convicted (not a word I usually use) about not spending time with my Savior as I should. I think about God, I whisper prayers throughout the day and we read a Bible story (usually Goliath because the boys are obsessed with this story) and say our prayers with the kids each night, but at the same time, I don't have that set aside time each day that is my God time and I know I need it.

I feel like this post keeps getting off topic as many of my posts do, but all of this is related I promise.

When I read the short devotions about time and how what we're devoting our time to show where our heart is, it made me think hard about some things:

  • I get up earlier than everyone in my house many days each week in order to run and workout.
  • I stay up late many days making lunches, ironing clothes and doing other things.
  • I work as hard as I can during the day so I don't have to be bothered with my real job once I leave the office.
  • I fill every free second with all this "stuff" that doesn't have to be done and I rarely relax.
While all these things are good, do you see what's missing? Set aside time with the Lord each day. When this immediately jumped out at me as I was reading, it stung. You see, it stung because I realize I go to great lengths to ensure that I can run at least five days a week. I go to great lengths to make sure my family gets (for the most part) real breakfast and not just cereal each morning. I go to great lengths to make sure I'm able to spend family time with my husband and kids each day and sacrifice sleep to pack lunches (with sandwiches often in the shape of dinosaurs or something from whatever holiday we're getting ready to celebrate) and get clothes ready for the next morning. I go to great lengths to do all these things (like M&M Halloween cookie jars) that don't really have to be done just so I can say "thank you." But I don't go to great lengths to spend time with my Lord every day. And I always blame it on the busyness of life or the fact that my eyelids shut the moment I get snuggled into bed at night.

And that had to change.

There are so many things in this world that I can't control no matter how hard my control-freak nature tries to control them. But there are two things I can do: pray and ask for guidance and read God's Word. As a wife and mother, one of the greatest things I can do is to pray for my husband and pray for my children for each and every aspect of their lives. If you haven't done this, I encourage you to. It'll take a load of worry off of your shoulders and give you a calm peace. 

I told my husband a few days ago that I'm officially slowing down. After having something nearly every night for about three weeks, we're entering into the busiest season of the year and I've decided to slow down. Sounds absurd, right? 

I'm going to be intentional about what I'm devoting my time to. It's already been an easier week for me and I'm enjoying it. I want to be able to run out at the last minute to shop for Christmas gifts, I want to be able to snuggle up at night and watch Frosty the Snowman, I want to be able to hop over to my parents or in-laws spontaneously and I want to be able to enjoy this season.

No, I'm not giving up running or making dinosaur sandwiches, but I am being more intentional about my time and what I sign up for. I want my kids to remember their childhood with playtime, free time and lots of giggles and love. I want my husband to have a wife who isn't stressed about making an absurd amount of treats. I'm not saying I don't want to go the extra mile because I do and I don't do anything halfway, but I'm not going to be the first to volunteer to pick up the cupcakes or take on an extra task. At this point in my life, the most important thing to me is my family and I want to be able to enjoy them fully all the time.

Here's what seems to be working for me, so far, a few days into this experiment:
  • Time with God - I've been packing my lunch and taking this time each day to read my Bible, jot down things in my prayer journal and turn off the noise.
  • Running and working out - Instead of stressing about the number of weight workouts I'm doing each week and my mileage, I'm planning my runs around what I know we have going on and adjusting weight workouts accordingly. I've managed to hit my mileage without any problems and I'm falling in love with running just for what it is even more.
  • Cooking, lunches and clothes - I've been trying to pack the kids' lunches at night as I'm cooking dinner. I've been planning out what we're going to eat for dinner each night and that's made it a lot easier. Kevin is awesome with making sure the boys clothes are ironed each night. :) I know I'm lucky to have a husband who gives 100%.
  • Other things - I'm not taking on things that aren't super important to me just to do them. I'm throwing a baby shower for a friend later this week and instead of trying to make many things myself, I've ordered the things I'm responsible for and the only thing I have to do is make a diaper cake.
So there you have it: my plan to slow down and soak in life. If you've been reading for a while, you may remember that my theme for this year is to soak it in. And that's just what I want to do for the last month and a half of this year.

What are your secrets to doing it all?

How do you manage your time?

10K Turkey Run: A New PR

This past Saturday, I ran in a 10K Turkey Run. I don't do a lot of 10K races because I generally like the short and fast courses, but these 10K's are growing on me!

It was a beautiful morning for a run. I bundled up in my leggings, two layers of shirts and a pullover and headed off to the race. Kevin and the boys were going to meet me at the end of the race. I hate for the boys to stay out in the cold and all of them to have to wait around for me when I'm running 10K's.

The course was 3.1 miles out and then 3.1 miles back. I really like courses like this because when I get to the halfway point and turn around, I always know I have less to run than I've already run. I think it's just a mental thing! I ran most of the race (about 5.8 miles or so) with a friend of ours, so that was great. It's always easier to run with someone on long distances.

I finished in 43:06 (6:57 pace). Had I known I was that close to finishing in the 42's, I would've sped up because I had some energy left. I was really happy though with this race and PR.

After the race, they served whole wheat pancakes and turkey sausage which we all enjoyed. My mom made it to this race, too, which was nice!

I was the overall female winner for the 10K and fifth overall. I'm really happy about this race!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Playing Catch Up: Christmas Dinner, Field Trip, 10K PR and a Fun Weekend

I don't feel like I've blogged in forever! Life has been busy, but it's been fun!

Last Thursday, we had a ladies Christmas dinner at our church. It's always a good time with shopping, dinner and a great speaker. This year didn't disappoint.

I have to brag on my husband for a minute. The last few weeks have been incredibly busy and I didn't have a ton of time to get everything ready for dinner. While I was at choir Wednesday night, he ironed my tablecloth and then he and the boys met me after church to help unload everything and get the table set up. Kaden even pulled all the napkins through the napkin ring holders all by himself!

Friday was a fun day! We were doing a video shoot for work which tied up much of my day, but I also got to go on a field trip with Kaden to see Skippyjon Jones. I have to admit, Skippyjon is not my favorite character. I don't know if it's the fact I can't do a really good Spanish accent when I read the book, or if it's all the "-ito's" or if it's just the whole cat whole thinks he's a dog thing, but I just don't really like Skippyjon Jones. We had a great time on the field trip though and I had a blast with Kaden and his friends. He and I even got to go backstage after the show to meet Skippyjon and the cast!

Friday night was low key. We've been pretty busy lately and I really enjoyed just being at home and cooking dinner. We hung out and played all night and the boys painted some things. K.C. painted a train he got for his birthday and Kaden painted us some pictures. They love to paint!

I had my final race in a string of races Saturday morning. I ran a 10K in a Turkey Run. It was great and I PR'd. Full recap coming soon!

After the race, we went home and hung out for a while and then dropped the boys off at Kevin's parents for a few hours so we could do some Christmas shopping (and we did great!). I told Kevin I'd like to have everything done by December if we can. I really want to be able to enjoy the holidays without having to worry about buying gifts every spare minute. I do like the hustle and bustle of last minute shopping for things like stocking stuffers, but I want to be done with major shopping soon.

I had practice for our Christmas program at church Saturday afternoon. I am so enjoying singing in the choir again. It's really the biggest blessing to me!

After practice, I rode out to visit my grandparents at the retirement community where they're staying while my granddad has rehab. It was great to see them, but also difficult. It's tough to see someone you're so close to in pain. Three weeks ago, he was driving around and doing whatever, but due to a fall, he's in excruciating pain and unable to do most things for himself. Thankfully, some people from the church where I grew up stopped in to see him while I was there which made it a little easier.

Kevin's best friend came over to watch some football Saturday night. We ate dinner and the boys had a blast playing with him. They love it when Uncle Barb comes over. While the guys watched some games, the boys and I read some of their Magic Treehouse book. They love to read and I adore sitting down reading with them.

We taught Sunday school yesterday. We have a really large group of kids which can be hectic, but they were awesome yesterday. After our lesson, we had them color a Thankful Tree and filled each leaf with something they're thankful for. It was cute to hear their answers, and I laughed as almost everyone included "candy" as something they're thankful for.

We went to lunch with Kevin's parents after church and then went to buy our items for Operation Christmas Child. The boys had fun picking out things to fill their boxes.

We spent most of yesterday afternoon outside. Our neighbors have kids around the boys ages and they love to play. We took a momentary "time out" to get frozen yogurt, too. I like it as much as the kids!

Last night, we had an ingathering service for our church's Operation Christmas Child boxes. Our choir sang a beautiful song with one of the children's choirs, too. There was also a pie social after the service which was delicious. My mom and my sister came to the service and stopped by our house after it for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

I'm looking forward to a great week!

When do you start Christmas shopping? What's on your list?

Have you started The Magic Treehouse series with your kids?

What's your favorite kind of pie?