Monday, January 27, 2014

Another Cold Race

This weekend, I ran one of my favorite races. It's a trail race that benefits a local school that's hosted by a church. I really love trail races for some reason.

It was freezing this weekend. When I woke up Saturday morning, my iPhone said it felt like 8 degrees outside. I am not a lover of cold weather unless it's supposed to snow (and we have a chance for that the next two days!), so I really had to get psyched up to run this race. Thankfully, the race didn't begin until 10, so it had time to warm up - to a warm 31 degrees - before the race.

I ended up wearing a pair of Kevin's warm pants he wears for duck hunting under my running tights, two shirts, a jacket, ear warmer, toboggan and gloves. Since the race wound through trails in the woods, I didn't have wind to contend with. Given the cold, the length of the race (it's about .15 long) and the giant mountain that's about 2.5 miles in, I didn't have a set time goal, I just wanted to finish faster than I did last year.

We hung around inside a building until the very last minute trying to stay warm. When it was time for the race to start, we all huddled together anxiously awaiting the whistle.

I got off to a good start. The first part of the trail as well as a few places throughout it have gravel. I don't know about you, but gravel terrifies me. I'll jump over roots and run around trees all day long, but I'm scared of twisting my ankle on gravel. I rolled it within the first half mile of this race. In fact, the man that finished behind me said something to me after it about it. When that happened, I just concentrated on landing flat and enjoying the view. I really should try to take some pictures during this race next year.

I felt great throughout the race. There were a few men I normally finish right after in front of me which made me feel good. I think I could've pushed it some and finished faster because I wasn't worn out at the end, but at the end of the day, I was happy.

Last year, when I saw that there were no other women around me, I decided to walk up the hill. Kevin and I had been laughing about it that morning and when I got to the hill, I contemplated walking, but then I noticed the man in front of me was going up slow and I decided it would be my chance to pass him. I hobbled up the hill, but kept running and then flew down, dodging the brightly painted roots all the way. I kept a good pace until the end and was excited when I saw my sweet husband standing near the finish line. (Really, he is so sweet to go to all these races with me. I certainly don't take it for granted!)

I finished in 23:03 which was over 30 seconds faster than last year and great considering the length, trail and hill. I was the first overall female and ninth overall.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Coldest Race I've Ever Run

This past weekend, I had a 5K race. The race was for an awesome cause (which in my opinion, makes races better!). It was freezing on Saturday though! It was 34 degrees when I got out of my car and we also had 25 mph wind gusts. To say I was excited about running in that weather is an understatement.

(I feel like all of my winter race pictures look the same. I only have one thick running jacket because let's face it, we don't get too much cold weather that requires extra layers. I'm not one of those runners who can run in less either. I can't stand to be cold!)

I didn't have a goal time for this race. I knew it was going to be cold and I had an awful cold last week. In fact, I only ran one day before the race during the week which is unheard of for me.

I finished in 21:42 and was the first overall female.

Of all the races I've run, this one had the best medal.

After the 5K, there was a kids race which the boys ran. They had fun!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five On Friday: Meal Plan, Olympics and Cold Relief

It's time for one of my favorite link-ups of the week: Five on Friday!

1. I made a meal plan last week and I've stuck to it. Y'all, I can't tell you how big of an accomplishment this is for me. I always plan in my head what I want to cook and sometimes write it down, but this week, I meal planned for real and it's been great. One of my 2014 goals is to try a new recipe each week and that I've done. New recipes this week have included fried rice, seseame chicken and chicken and rice.

2. The Olympics are coming soon! I am a total Olympic junkie. I love it. Last weekend, I may have watched ten hours of figure skating (that's an exaggeration, but it was good!). The boys are pretty excited about the Olympics, too. We've been watching bobsledding, ski jumping and even some curling to get them up to speed on the winter olympics.

3. My post on maintaining a great relationship with your husband after kids was published on BlogHer yesterday. I'm pretty excited about that!

4. Everyone in our house is under the weather. We've all got a touch of a cold or something and it's no fun. I went to Target this morning and stocked up on Airborne, Emergen-C and Zarbee's. I don't like my three guys being sick and I have a race tomorrow, so I want to feel better and have some energy. Which one to try first?

5. I'm looking forward to the long weekend. I really just want to relax and play. We have no plans other than my race tomorrow and church on Sunday. I also want to get our bedroom and bathroom painted, but we'll see if that happens.

What do you like to do on long weekends?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Maintaining a Great Relationship with Your Husband Post-Kids

A few months ago, my friend Kaitlyn asked me to write a few posts for her. One of those was on maintaining a strong relationship with your spouse after kids. I ran across this post yesterday and realized I hadn't shared it on my blog. You can read the original post on Kaitlyn's blog by clicking here.

It's so important to maintain a great relationship with your husband after kids. In fact, I think maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with your spouse is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids as well as one of the most important things you can teach them.

As you know, when I got married, I not only became a wife, I also became a mother. I didn't have a true adjustment issue because in reality, once Kevin and I started dating, we started doing everything as a family. The only things that officially changed were my last name and address and the whole marriage thing. With that said though, my husband and I both know how important it is that we keep our relationship and connection strong.

Life with children is busy. (Who am I kidding? Life without kids is busy!) There's the juggling of schedules, the extracurricular activities, the things at church and homework that has to be done, not to mention those other things that are given, too, like eating, bathing and household chores. And if you're like us, you want to spend good quality time with your children every day that doesn't involve soccer practice and writing the alphabet.

For us, I think the key is balance. For the most part, we do pretty much everything together. My husband doesn't race, but he's always there at the finish line. I'm not a big fisher, but I love being out on the water just spending time with him. Plus, there are some times the boys aren't at home with us which means we have time for just the two of us - automatic date nights. For us - me at least - I think learning how to carve out that time for just my husband and me is something that we all have to work on continually when we become parents.

I strongly believe (and know) that in order for me to be the best mother I can be, I need to be the best wife I can be. That means taking time to talk with my husband about his day (and he does the same for me), sending an e-mail or text during the day just to let him know I'm thinking about him and planning time for just the two of us to do something whether it be dinner and a movie out or staying in and just having fun together. 

I'm very fortunate that I married an amazing man. He's someone who understands the true meaning of partnership, who puts us and our family first and he knows the importance and value of time spent together. Our family only gets stronger as we grow even stronger as a couple.

Here are some of my tips for maintaing a healthy, close and intimate relationship with your husband no matter the ages of your children (and it even applies to those of you who don't have kids!). This list isn't in any particular order because I think all these things are important!

  • Make sure you put your spouse first. This doesn't mean that you neglect your children or take your focus off of them at all. It simply means that you put time and effort into this vital relationship because you know that having a strong marriage means having a strong family.
  • Remind your spouse how much you love them. And flirt a little! I love it when my husband tells me I'm beautiful, that he misses me during the day and how happy he is that I'm his. I like to remind him of those things, too. Stick a note in his bag for work, send him a flirty text and just remind him how lucky you are to be his.
  • Reconnect when you get home. If you're like us, you both work and when you get home, it's time to feed the kids, get things ready for the next day and have family time. Make sure when you walk in the door you give your spouse a hug and kiss and ask about their day. I like seeing that Kevin is excited to see me when I get home and wants to hear about my day.
  • Take care of yourself. If you read my blog regularly, you know I'm a big believer in a healthy lifestyle. I'm a runner and while I run to take care of myself, I'm going to tell you that I also do it because I want to look good for my husband (I think we all want that!)!
  • Pray for your spouse and your marriage. I'm a Believer, and each day I pray for my husband and I pray for our marriage. I think it's so important to do these two things.
  • Carve out time to spend together. Some days are going to be long. There'll be nights when you're up in the middle of the night because your child had a bad dream. You may have had a rough day at work. Whatever the case is, make sure you make time to spend with your spouse even if you only get 15 minutes of face time with just the two of you. For us, it's getting up after the boys go to bed. Some nights it's really tempting to just go to sleep when your kids do (we still put the boys to bed and sometimes it's a long process, but its our favorite time of the night), and that's ok. But don't make a practice of it. You need that alone time with your spouse whether it's vegging out on the couch, having a talk or spending - ahem - some grown up time together.
  • Make sure you take plenty of time for the two of you. I'm going to say this in a delicate way because my mom and my in-laws read my blog, but make sure to keep a healthy intimate life with your spouse. That's one of the biggest blessings of marriage and don't take it for granted. Every one wants to be loved and feel loved. Share that with your spouse. And don't let too much time go by without it.
  • Have date night. It doesn't have to be weekly or even the same day, but set aside some time to go out on a date and just talk and connect as two people madly in love with each other. Plan something to surprise your husband with that you know he'll like, cook dinner at home and rent a movie or make a weekend out of. Just don't neglect couple time because when you do, other things suffer.
  • Enjoy things together. I've already told you that my husband and I do many things together and I love that. Find something that the two of you both enjoy, both want to learn or take turns picking something new to do together. It's important that your fun is had with your spouse, not just your girlfriends or extended family members. 
  • Support your spouse. If your husband is into sports like mine is and is still active in some city sports, go and watch him, cheer him on. You'll find that you enjoy cheering him on as much as he enjoys playing. My husband is my greatest cheerleader at my races and I feel so loved that he not only goes with me, but he wants to be there.
I'm sure there are a million and one things left off of this list - I'm learning all about marriage and motherhood at once. Be sure to share your tips - I'm all for learning more! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Identity Crisis of Sorts

I feel like I'm having kind of an identity crisis on my blog. It's kind of like one of those days when you wake up, get all dressed up and you're having a perfect hair day, but then you walk outside and it's ugly and icky and you just don't match the day. I feel like that about my blog sometimes.

When I read all of your lovely blogs (and if you don't think I read yours, I want to! Let me know what it is!), many of them are written around a certain topic. In my Bloglovin' account, I have categories like All Time Favs, Everyday Reads, Parenting, Running and Faith (and then a slew of other blogs that I haven't filed yet). Most all of these blogs revolve around a certain theme. 

Mine doesn't. And while that's ok, I sometimes feel like maybe I should be a "category" blogger, but then I think I'd get bored with that. When I started this blog, I named it The Things I'm Learning because I really am learning all kinds of things about all kinds of things. 

Maybe I'll just stick with my name and keep writing those things that are on my heart, my random thoughts and throwing in some exercise posts here and there.

What do you think? What do you want to read about? More family, less running, more fun? I really want to focus more on my little space on the Internet this year. I want to share more, be more consistent and engage more. So, my friends, you tell me!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tackling It All

Last week was a relaxing week. Seriously. I'm not prone to really sitting down and relaxing much, but last week was, and truthfully, looking back, it was much needed. It was the first week in my recent memory that we didn't have anything we had to do. Sure, there were things that needed to be done around the house and things we did, but nothing we had to do. No places we had to be at certain times. It was great, and I really think I needed it after the busy holiday season.

During the last week, we watched more movies than we probably saw all of last year. We cooked dinner at home, I read some and I even got those things that I always want to do each week - things like menu planning - done.

Last night, as I was standing in the kitchen deboning chicken for some chicken and rice I'm making tonight and snapping the ends off of some butter beans, I was watching Kevin and the boys play basketball. In those totally not quiet moments, I just kept thinking "thank you." I love my life - as chaotic as it sometimes is - and I'm so thankful for my sweet little family.

But sometimes, I can get overwhelmed. Mostly, this is my fault as a strong characteristic of mine is to try to do it all well, but mostly, I know I can't. I can't do everything for everyone and be everything for everyone - something I finally realized a few years ago.

When it comes down to it, there are a few things I really want to do well.

I want to be the best, loving wife I can be for my husband. I want to be tuned in to those things that matter to him, support him, listen to him and be there for him. I want to be the kind of wife he's happy to come home to and I want him to always know how loved, cared for and really, cherished, he is by my actions.

As a mother, I want the boys to know that they are our most special gifts and spending time with them is the best thing in the world. I want them to know that I'm their biggest cheerleader, their best friend and love them more than anything in this world. I want them to know I'm all in whether we're reading a book, building with blocks or cheering them on at practice.

I also want to be the best daughter, sister and friend that I can be. I want to know areas where I can serve and I want to do it joyfully. I want to do my best to share Jesus with those I come in contact with and I want to continue placing priority on running stronger and being healthier.

All these things are fine and good, but I realize that without a firm foundation, without rest and without renewal - I can't be my best at these things.

This morning, my daily devotion had a reference to Isaiah 58:11. When I read this verse, I related.

Chaos will happen, toast will get burnt, mornings will be hectic and bedtime will sometimes be long, but with God as my source, He will strengthen me and give me rest when I'm weary. He will give me those things that I need to be my best for Him and for my people. And with His help, He won't let me fail.

So to those of you who are reading: whether you try to do it all or be it all, are tired from stress or the everyday and for those of you who may be struggling to feel fully there and feel like you're just getting by on a thread, hang in there and turn it over to Him. He'll give you rest and on top of that, fill you with what you need. Just trust Him.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five on Friday: coffee, a lack of motivation, nerf fights and devotions

Happy Friday! Is it just me or has this first full week of the new year been pretty good? I told my husband I felt like it was more relaxed than I expected. We're usually go, go, go, but this week, we've been home and it's been so nice. I've even cooked dinner a few nights.

1. I haven't had much - ok, any - motivation to get up as early as normal and exercise this week. I don't know if it was over two weeks off, a little extra sleep (by extra I mean 7 a.m. as opposed to 6) or staying up later than normal a few times over the past week watching the Orange Bowl, a movie or two and the national championship game, but I haven't been able to pull myself out from under my cozy covers this week. I've snuck in a few miles here and there, but I've missed the class I was planning to attend at my gym and missed my early morning sweat sessions on the treadmill. I'll be back at it next week.

2. Three words: Gevalia Caramel Macchiato. I'm not a huge coffee drinker unless it's really cold out and even then, I'm usually a decaf girl, but I love lattes, frappes and macchiatos especially when they're from Starbucks. I have a Keurig stuck in a cabinet somewhere at home (what's the point of leaving it out when I'm the only one who uses it and I don't ever even make coffee at home), but when I saw these K-cups, I knew I had to buy them. I made my first at work this week and let me tell you. It's so good!

3. Nerf wars can sometimes cause problems, but they can also give you the sweetest moments. The boys, particularly K.C., love to have Nerf wars (and I often find leftover Nerf bullets in my purse and workbag which makes me smile). Earlier this week, we had a Nerf fight. We were on our usual teams - Kevin and Kaden vs. K.C. and me, but I tactfully somehow convinced Kaden that we had to sneak up on Kevin and get him. So around the stairs into the dining room we went. It was dark in there and my sweet husband shot towards me as I leaned over and down and kabam, Nerf bullet to the eye. Ouch! We have this rule about no aiming above the chest that we all follow, but sometimes, things happen. Now to the sweetness: K.C. ran into the kitchen, got out a snack-sized Ziploc back and filled it with ice before bringing it to me. I know I'm biased, but I think we have some sweet, compassionate boys!

4. I tried a new recipe this week and it was good!

5. What do you use for a daily devotional? I received Jesus Calling by Sarah Young for Christmas, but I've been reading a chapter of Mended by Angie Smith as my devotion each day. I'm going to be sad when I finish it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We Believe! {Child-like Faith}

A few weeks ago, Sunday, December 22, 2013 to be exact, we had gone to lunch after church and after that, Kevin ran into Sam's to pick up some batteries while the boys and I sat in the car. For some reason, Sam's parking lot has been the source of many God-centered conversations for us and this day proved to be no different.

I honestly can't remember how it came up, but somehow, we started talking about what a Christian is. We talk about Jesus with the boys daily, so a God-centered conversation wasn't out of the norm,  but I guess we don't really use the word Christian too often and they wanted me to explain what that word meant again.

I told them that when you're a Christian, you believe that Jesus is God's Son and He came to earth to live and then died on a cross to take away all the bad things that we do. I reminded them about how we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead on Easter and how He's in heaven with God now and that how as Christians, we'll live with him forever after we die on this earth. I told them that these are the things Christians believe.

Immediately, they both said "We believe that!" Then they wanted to know what they have to do to be a Christian.

I told them that all they had to do was to believe these things and ask Jesus to live in their hearts. I told them that when they become a Christian and Jesus lives in their hearts, He'll lead them and guide them and take away all the bad things that they do and that when they die, they'll live forever with Him and all the other Christians.

At that moment, Kaden, who's only 4, wanted to know exactly what he had to ask Jesus so that He could be a Christian because he believed that. I told him that there aren't exact words to say or a certain way he had to say them to ask Jesus to live in his heart. And then, I heard some of the sweetest words I've ever heard: our sweet baby boy prayed in the sweetest voice and with these simple words, he asked our Savior to live in his heart.
Dear Jesus - I love you and want you to live in my heart. Amen!
He was so excited about it. K.C. began to ask me about getting baptized and how all of  that works (We're Baptist and we believe in a public profession of faith followed by baptism.).

While I know that at 4 and 6, they don't understand all about faith and all about being a Christian (I know I don't have it all figured out at 27!), they do understand Jesus and His love for them.

This conversation and the retelling of it several times to family, has really made me think about faith and trust. This child-like faith comes really easy for the boys, but is it always that way for me? I like answers, I like plans and I like to know exactly what to do and why, but all God really asks of me is to trust Him. To follow Him. To let Him lead the way.

In this new year, I seek Him first. I want to follow Him and hear His voice. As I told someone recently, I can look in all areas of my life and see clearly how faithful God has been to me. Faith isn't about doing it all right, following a set of rules or checking off boxes. It's about believing in Him, trusting Him and following Him.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cold Weather and Some Other Randoms for Hump Day

It's the middle of the first full week of normalcy of the New Year and this week has been anything but normal, temperature-wise in SC.

1. Yesterday, when I left for work, it was 19 degrees! N-I-N-E-T-E-E-N! That's freezing!

Kaden's school closed and K.C.'s has been delayed for two days because of the cold. You can really tell that we Southerners don't know how to deal with the cold!

2. On Monday night, the batteries in my treadmill's screen went out so instead of just replacing the batteries, I set my phone to go off in 35 minutes. I had run a quarter of a mile before it stopped, so by 37ish minutes, I figured I had about 5.25 miles done based on what I felt I was running. If you know me, you know I'm particular about getting my exact miles/time recorded for each run (I know it's crazy), but I let go and did it.

3. I've decided to take a photo a day - or document one at least. I take at least one or two pictures everyday with my phone, but in 2014, I want to document these. I've seen several other bloggers do this and it looks fun. Follow me on Instagram (annat2012) to see our days! I'll also try to do a recap each week or at the end of each month.
Row 1: Twister with my boys on New Year's (1/1/14), my three loves after dinner at Kevin's parents (1/1/14), Kaden likes my Uggs as much as me (1/2/14)
Row 2: A happy husband after Clemson won the Orange Bowl (1/3/14), sweet boys playing before the awards ceremony at my race (1/4/14), first race/win/PR of the new year (1/4/14)
Row 3: Sweet boys after church - Kaden in his choo-choo vest from Bebs and K.C. wearing his vest like Hot Rod's (1/5/14), Life Inside the Bubble - my first finished book of the year (1/6/14), freezing weather! (1/7/14)

I've gotten so much positive feedback about #Service2014. If you haven't read this post, check it out. One of my goals for the year is to do some type of service project each month and I'd love for you to join me.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christmas 2013

We had an awesome Christmas! I know it's two weeks late, but I wanted to recap our Christmas.

This year, I really wanted to savor the holidays with my sweet family and that's just what I did. We celebrated for what seemed like a week and it was great!

We started off Christmas break by making sugar cookies. One of my friends and her kids who are great friends with the boys, came over for a fun play date. Kaden loves to help in the kitchen. It's a tradition of ours to make and decorate sugar cookies each year and we had so much fun doing this with friends (even if I haven't mastered my mom's sugar cookies yet!)

The night before Santa came, my sister and her boyfriend came over for dinner and he brought the boys a gift. They loved getting an early present! A friend of mine also stopped by and brought the boys a bowling set which they played with all night. I'm a sucker, too, and let them open a family gift early. It was our 2012 family book (See a trend with the lateness here?). We sat down and looked through the whole thing together.

After baths, it was time to make a plate of cookies and a mug of milk for Santa and then leave some food for the reindeer. It was pouring down rain, so Kevin sprinkled the reindeer food on the back steps while the boys watched.

When we got upstairs, we read the Christmas story from the Bible as well as Twas the Night Before Christmas. As we were snuggling in with our sweet boys, we heard a crash. The boys thought it was Santa; I thought it was a window breaking. It turned out to be an ornament.

I love Glory Haus ornaments and had purchased a few for Kevin this year. This one, a seashell, was for our week in Sapelo Island. It didn't make it. 

After the boys went to sleep, Santa stopped by.

We really had some good boys this year! They each got an electric scooter and some playsets like Batman, Spongebob and Scooby Doo. They also got crossbows (not real, of course), some books (love my readers!), games and other toys. Kaden got an Easy Bake Oven which he was so excited about and K.C. got BeyBlades which he loved.

After they opened their stockings and gifts from Santa, they opened some things from us and Kevin and I opened our gifts. Kevin was excited about his autographed Clemson football! I love everything I got and have lived in my Uggs since Christmas (I even wore them to work on Friday and brought an extra pair of shoes in case I ended up in a meeting.). K.C. had a Christmas store at his school before Christmas and we gave him some money to use to buy some gifts. He gave Kevin a Number 1 Dad flashlight and he gave me a pair of silver snowflake earrings which I wore on Christmas. I love the special gifts like those that the boys pick out themselves. Kaden had also wrapped up something special for me - a keychain, a quarter and a small stuffed heart. These things make me smile!

Later that morning, our parents came over for breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls and to visit and see what the boys got. My grandparents always came over to see what my sister and I got for Christmas on Christmas morning and I love that this tradition has continued with my parents and Kevin's parents coming to our house.

We actually did our Christmas morning with the boys on Christmas Eve which was really nice. Kevin's family has always done Christmas on Christmas Eve, so it's nothing out of the norm for us. That whole day, we did nothing but play.

After lunch, we went outside and rode scooters and had a blast. Kaden is still too small to ride his scooter, but Kevin and I were both able to ride him on it. I think we should get our own electric scooters when the kids get older!

On Christmas Eve night, we went to the candlelight service at church. I love the candlelight service, singing carols with the congregation and hearing the Christmas story. This year, our pastor shared this awesome video. It gave me chills.

Another one of the things I love about our service is that the kids have a special part. They got to go up on stage with the choir and hear the Christmas story. This year, they got glow in the dark stars to remind them of the Star that led the shepherds to the manger.

Our sweet baby was tuckered out from the day and had a nice nap in my lap during the service.

After the Christmas Eve service, we always go to my in-laws for fondue. After dinner, we all "hide" upstairs in a closet (it's large enough for all 12 of us) while Santa comes to fill our stockings. My FIL reads the Christmas Story from the Bible and my MIL recites Twas the Night Before Christmas. It's a fun tradition. The boys are still scared of Santa though. They admitted this year that they're scared of him because he makes so much noise and Mimi and Granddaddy's. I think it's cute!

On Christmas Eve night, Kevin and I went down to my parents and spent the night. We helped my mom finish wrapping gifts (it's becoming a tradition), drank hot cocoa and stayed up way too late trying to watch Christmas Vacation. The next morning, we got up and took our time opening gifts. My mom got her first Erin Condren planner and Naked eyeshadow. (I love the Naked3 Palette KT's parents gave me!). One of my gifts from my parents was a gas grill. I can't wait to get it put together and grill.

After lunch, Kevin, my dad, Dalton (my sister's boyfriend), Stephanie and I went on a dove hunt. This was my first time ever going hunting. I did the watching and I shot once. My sister on the other hand, killed a dove.

Later that afternoon, we went over to my grandma's for dinner and to celebrate with everyone. After a great dinner, we did Chinese Christmas and opened gifts. A few years ago, we started doing Chinese Christmas and it's been great. We all have so many things and the family is steadily growing with the addition of our boys, my cousin's precious kids and other cousin's girlfriends and boyfriends. It's fun just to pick up a few $15 gifts and play this game.

This year, Kaden drew the next-to-last number and K.C. drew the last number. Kaden had his eye on an Icee maker someone had opened earlier, so when it was his turn, he stole that. Poor K.C. opened a neck pillow. My uncle who hadn't played for some reason, took it from K.C. which gave him the chance to open something else. He ended up with something girly, so we of course let him choose something else. He ultimately opened something else - a candle - my boy loves candles! He was so sweet not wanting to "steal" anything and I was happy to see that he liked the candle he opened. We've lit it every day since!

Once this game was over, we opened gifts. My grandma has started giving us each one or two presents and some money for Christmas instead of shopping for everyone (there are 22 of us). The boys each got a money box with a key (they love keeping their money and treasure in random boxes hidden around our house so now they have an official, real place to store it) and some little toys. They loved them.

When we finished at Grandma's, we went back to my parents' so the boys could play and open their gifts from BeBe and Hot Rod.

After playing some and taking baths, we headed home with more toys than we need and a car full of love. I thought the boys would fall asleep on the car ride home as it was almost their bedtime and they usually do, but the excitement of Christmas kept them awake. As soon as we got home and made it to their bedroom, they were out though. They even slept late the next morning.

On Thursday night, we went out to where my granddad is in rehab and celebrated with them. He and Nana were so glad to see us and we were so thankful to be celebrating with them. It was different not going to their house (and missing Nana's cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie), but I'm so glad we were able to celebrate the way we were. And I'm continually amazed at my granddad's progress.

Christmas finished for me on Friday when one of my best friend's came to town. We went out to lunch, shopped around for some things for the boys' bathroom and hung out. It was great!

This Christmas was just the best. It wasn't the presents (although I loved everything I received), but it was the time with family and slowing down enough to soak it in.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Legwarmers for Literacy: The First Race of 2014 and a PR!

I ran my first race of 2014 this past Saturday. It was absolutely freezing (34 degrees in the middle of the afternoon!), but it was so much fun! 

Kevin gave me The Little Red Book on Running for Christmas and during this race, I put to use a few of the tips I read. The ones I really focused on are below (in my words).

1. Let your goal be to finish faster, not a certain time.
2. Listen to your body and don't look at your watch so much.
3. Don't start out too fast.

I really felt like a popsicle at the beginning of the race. I had on three shirts, a headband over my ears and even pulled up my hood for most of the race. It was so cold that Kevin and the boys stayed in the car during the whole race. 

For this race, my goal was to finish stronger than I did at my last 5K (20:50). I would've like to have PR'd and broken 20 minutes, but I decided to keep with the tips from my book and make a general goal to finish the race faster than my last race a few weeks ago.

Before the race, I ran two miles on the treadmill in my new shoes at about a 7:20 pace just to get my legs warmed up. Kevin and I had stayed up late the night before watching the Orange Bowl (go Tigers!) and on race day, we'd just been playing with the boys all day. 

I wasn't sure how smart it was that I ran a few miles before the race, but I didn't go all out and felt good, and my book suggested a run longer than I usually run before races, so I thought I'd try it.

When the whistle blew, I held back. I'm normally in the front, but this time, I choose to stay in the front pack, but not be side-by-side with the 15 or 20 guys that started off beside me. I enjoyed my run and gradually picked up my pace. I made it to the mile 1 marker and wasn't breathing heavy at all. I decided not to look at my Garmin and kept gradually speeding up. By this point, I'd passed a few of the guys and I began to focus on running to the next guy. One of my earphones broke right before the race, so I didn't have any music which caused me to have to concentrate on not psyching myself out as I have a tendency to do. 

By mile two, I had passed a few of the guys I set out to pass and didn't hear anyone behind me. I looked to the guy ahead and started counting the seconds between us as we would make turns. There were about 18 seconds between us at my first count. I know he's a sub-20 runner, so I felt good with where I was.

At 2.5 miles, I looked at my Garmin for the first time and the whole "you're going to PR" voices in my head started which also led to my pace slowing from somewhere in the 6:20s to 6:38. I don't know why racing well and fast has this effect on me. I need to work on my mental strength. I popped a piece of peppermint gum in my mouth at this point and kept churning. 

When I got to where I could see the end, I was excited. I knew I was going to beat my last race time by 20 plus seconds and I knew that unless something crazy happened, I'd PR. 

I crossed the finish line in 20:20 (6:34 pace). I was happy with a 5 second PR and my first race of the year. I was the first female and 9th overall. 

After the race, I started thinking that I should have run my first two miles slightly faster because a six-second faster pace would have given me a sub-20 race, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

The race was 80's themed and though I didn't dress up (it was too cold to think about anything but running, much less wearing a tutu, wig or anything else for this girl), I was excited about the cassette tape medal. The boys were really interested in how a tape worked. I may have to pull some old ones out for them!

Have you raced your first race of the year?

Have you done a themed race?

Service 2014: A Year of Service

Many times during the holiday season as we were buying more, going more and doing more, I would think to myself we have enough already. We have been blessed tremendously and for those blessings, I am thankful. These thoughts along with a desire to radiate Christ's love, left me with an idea: a year of service.

Some of my fondest memories surrounding Christmas as a child (probably around K.C.'s age) involve going with the youth group from my parents' church (my parents led the youth at this time) to shop for a needy family at Christmas. It was so much fun to be in the mix with the teenagers as they searched for clothes, toys and needed items for families. It was even more exciting to see the look of joy on the faces of children and adults when we delivered beautiful packages to them and gave them a Christmas.

Of course, Christmas isn't about presents, but it is about a Gift. It's about the greatest Gift ever given and that's the Gift of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who was born, died and rose again to give us eternal life if we only trust in Him. This great Gift makes me want to share and the memories of all those Christmases shopping and delivering gifts to those in need makes me yearn for that feeling again.

I'm typically not one to talk about what I may do or give to others, but each month this year I am committing to do some type of service for someone or an organization. It may be as little as paying it forward at the drive thru or it may be donating items and time or even being that "behind the scenes" person who helps things happen. Regardless, I want to serve this year.

This project, which I'll call Service 2014, is something that I am deeply passionate about. It's something that I can do alone, with my family and with my friends. It's also a fun tool that can be used to teach our boys about giving back. Would you like to join me in this journey?

Each month, on the last Friday of the month, I'll host a link up where we can share our service for the month. This link up will serve as an encouragement to others to continue serving and give us all some ideas of things to do to serve. I'll also use #service2014 to keep track of those things we do.

I can't wait to see what ways we'll serve this year!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five on Friday: The First of the New Year!

Happy Friday! Friday makes me happy, especially this Friday. I'm fortunate to work for a great organization that affords me a large chunk of time off before and after Christmas, but let me tell you, going back to work for the first time was not exactly easy yesterday. That said, I'm so thankful to have a career I love! Enough about that; it's time for the very first edition of Five on Friday at TTIL in 2014!

1. New Year's Day! We had a full (literally speaking, too) New Year's Day. My grandma invited us down for the traditional Southern New Year's lunch. After lunch, we went over to my parents' while Kevin and my dad had a dove shoot. Normally, we spend nearly every moment outside when we're at my parents. The boys love to play in the fields, ride the golf cart and mule and do anything else you can think of outside, but on Wednesday, it was rainy and icky, so we stayed inside. My mom pulled out some old games like Memory, a giant checkerboard and Twister. We had a blast playing Twister.

After the guys finished hunting, we went over to Kevin's parents' for a great dinner. I'm so thankful that we are able to spend so much quality time with our family.

2. Traditional New Year's Lunch. I've gotten spoiled these last few weeks when it comes to cooking. We've eaten so many meals at our parents and my grandma's, that I've begun to be used to not cooking. That will change come Sunday though. While I don't cook like this, I really enjoyed the New Year's food my grandma and my FIL (not pictured) made on New Years. I made sure to eat my greens and pork! (I really don't believe that eating greens will bring you money and pork will make you move forward and cornbread will give you gold, but it's fun to take part in the tradition.)

3. My Boys. These three make me smile. All the time. We just have a blast together. I'm so thankful for them!

4. Decorating! I've wanted to get new bedding for a while, but couldn't find anything that we both liked and was practical. I am in love with white bedding, but with a four year-old and a six year-old, white isn't exactly appropriate for this point in our life. I had my eye on this bedding from Serena & Lilly and Kevin saw it as I was flipping through Pinterest and liked it, too. 

I also ordered a shower curtain from Serena & Lilly for the boys' bathroom upstairs and bought a few other things to go with it. Once I have everything painted and finished up, I'll share all the details and maybe even a house tour.

5. My Granddad. You may remember me asking for prayer for my granddad back before Christmas. He had pneumonia, followed by a fall, followed by rehab at a retirement community, followed by over a month in the hospital due to a really violent infection and multiple other issues. I don't think he remembers much about that time, thankfully. Thanks to prayer, he is doing well. He's not walking on his own and he's still following a special diet, but he's improved every day. I've spent a few hours with him a few times over the last few weeks and it amazes me how he's improved even when there's only been a day or two between visits. God is faithful in all of His promises and loving toward all He has made! Psalm 145:13.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Goals for 2014

Are you a New Year's resolution person or a goals person? I'm really goal-oriented, so it should come as no surprise that instead of resolutions, I set goals for the year. (In case you missed it, you can read how my 2013 goals worked out here).

I decided to lump my goals into categories this year: family, faith, fitness, financial, fun and other (if only I could have come up with another "F" word!). In no particular order, here they are.

1. Take at least one beach trip as a family
2. Spend a weekend away with Kevin
3. Take the boys to Charleston
4. Have our whole family over for dinner at least four times
5. Travel somewhere with Kevin we haven't been before

1. Spend quality time with God daily
2. Read through the Bible with KT
3. Do a devotion and pray with Kevin and the boys each day
4. Memorize one verse a week myself
5. Memorize scripture with the boys
6. Tithe

1. Run 750 miles
2. Run one race a month
3. Finish a 5K below 20 minutes
4. Take a class at the gym

I'm not going to share specifics here since this is one of those subjects I don't really share, but I have a few financial goals this year in regards to saving.

1. See another lighthouse in SC and NC
2. Finish decorating our room, the boys' bathroom and our office/exercise room
3. Read one book a month
4. Try one new recipe a week

1. Take lunch 4 times a week
2. Write regularly on my blog and use social media effectively
3. Start the motivational project I've wanted to do for years
4. Keep up with photo books
5. Scrapbook the boys' school work
6. Scrapbook my race bibs

The Theme for the Year: Radiate

Happy 2014! I took a nice break from blogging during the holidays and soaked up so much fun time with my sweet family. I'm glad to be back today, refreshed and renewed, and can't wait to share our Christmas celebrations, goals and so many other things with you!

Do you have a theme for your family each year? Last year was the first year I really had a theme and I knew I wanted to continue that for this year, but I was having a hard time coming up with what exactly would fit for our theme this year. Then, as I was sitting in the kitchen watching the boys play with some new remote control cars they got for Christmas and jotting down some goals for the new year (more on those later), Jack Johnson's song "Radiate" was going through my mind. A light bulb went off. Radiate. That's it! That's our theme! And it doesn't hurt that we all love that song. So, here you have it, our family's 2014 theme:

"Radiate what?" you may be thinking. There are a few things that we want to radiate this year.

1. Radiate our love for Christ. I can't tell you how much it thrills Kevin and me to hear the boys talking about Jesus. They love Him. It's clear. We talk with them about God daily, about His blessings and care and about His love for them. They know they are His perfect little miracles and it just makes me smile to hear them talk about Jesus. As a family, we want to radiate Christ's love this year. Now, of course, this is something we should do all the time, so it's not really just a year thing, but I want to make a conscious effort in 2014 to share the love we have as a family for Christ with others. We can share it through the way we act, the things we do and the things in which we participate.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. ... In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Matthew 5:14,16

2. Radiate our love for each other. We love each other and we love our family. That's evident. This year, I want to continue to radiate the love we have for each other. We have been blessed beyond measure and that's something I want to share. Yes, we have our ups and downs, some days don't go as planned and we aren't sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows and singing "Kumbaya" at night, but we love each other despite our imperfections and cherish the little family we have. In 2014, I want to make a more conscious effort to radiate that love to Kevin, K.C. and Kaden. That means doing little things that show them I love them, slowing down and simplifying, being more patient and getting "off schedule" for indoor forts, movies and more Nutella dates (yes, the boys and I have these. Don't you think it's a great idea?)

3. Radiate love for others. I want this year to be about service (more on that one later, too). I want the things we do and say to show the love and compassion we have for others. There are so many ways that we - as a family - can do this. In 2014, I want to kick it up a notch.

Do you have a theme for the year?

What little things do you do to show your family your love?