Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy Surprises

Hubs and I planned a grownups night out Saturday for a belated anniversary dinner.  The kids were excited to go get their gymnastics on while we enjoyed some kid free conversation.  Then the gymnastics place cancelled their Parents Night Out.  Apparently, they don't really want to open the facility and put on a whole big thing when only eight kids register.  Weird.

No problem.  We'll take the kids to dinner with us.  We planned to go to one of our favorite restaurants with a piano player.  We figured it was a good opportunity for the girls to get a little more experience with finer dining and enjoy some music.  Now we have eaten at this place numerous times and always been seated right away.  I even questioned if we should make a reservation this time and said, "Nah. We never need reservations." Kiss of death.  They were completely booked up.  Of course.

Now, this restaurant is in "historic" Buford where there are cute businesses and shops but precious few dinner selections.  As we are standing on the sidewalk, contemplating where to go, we notice a table with what looks like menus posted several doors down.  It turned out to be a restaurant neither of us had ever noticed and a server came out on the sidewalk to invite us in.  We must have looked really pathetic.  :  )  Long story short(ish), we ended up having a wonderful meal and good conversation as a family.  It was completely not the evening I had envisioned but it turned out really well.  Many times I feel disappointed when things, even small things like dinner, don't work out the way I think they will or should.  I focus so much energy on what I am not getting, I miss out on what is right there.  I am so glad I was able to enjoy the happy surprise of dinner with my family in a new favorite restaurant.  Have you ever had an experience that wasn't what you expected or planned, but turned into a happy surprise?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Today is my fifteen year wedding anniversary.  Fifteen years.  How can this be?  When I was younger, I remember my parents or friends parents being married fifteen years and it seemed sooooo long.  They also seemed really old, so I guess that says a lot about how your perspective changes.  I will turn 37 in a couple of weeks and let me tell you- 40 seems a WHOLE lot younger than it used to.

The last fifteen years have gone by in a minute and lasted 100 years at the same time.  We share three beautiful daughters and one beautiful son now in heaven. We've moved seven times and will probably move as many times again in the coming years.  Hubs puts up with my indecisiveness and worry and obsessive HGTV watching.  I put up with his "talking out loud", which means he gives me frequent heart attacks by suggesting something outrageous/impossible/horribly expensive, then says he didn't really mean it, he was just talking out loud about it. 

You know those people that brag about how they have the most wonderful, perfect marriage ever and they could live forever just on their love?  I hate those people.  We've had great years and hard years, but I am thankful for every year we have had together.  We're in a good year now, just so you don't worry. 
: )  We really aren't big on making a big fuss about our anniversary but we may have dinner this weekend or something.  Hubs is actually on a work trip and won't be home until tomorrow so obviously we aren't doing anything today anyway.  I hope we have a lot more years together, and that I can drag him to my dream vacation in Italy and France one day!  Happy anniversary, Hubs!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook- Book Review

Growing up in a conservative Christian church, I am well versed in the stereotypes about preacher's kids.  People divide preacher's kids ("PKs") into two groups: the pious youth group leader destined to be a preacher or preacher's wife, or the highly rebellious kid who will probably end up in jail. Luckily, my sister and I only rose to the rank of Deacon's Kid (DK) and escaped the strict scrutiny bestowed on PKs or slightly lesser Elder's Kids.  : )

Firsthand is written by Ryan and Josh Shook, a couple of PKs. The book describes how they had a working knowledge of the Bible and faith concepts growing up in the church, but realized in college that they did not have a genuine faith of their own. This book is about the eventual need for every Christian to question what they believe and develop their own individual relationship with Jesus.  The Shook brothers provide examples from their lives and other real person accounts, thought provoking questions and practical suggestions of how to find your own faith.  This would be a great read for a young Christian (age or walk with Jesus) to really consider what they believe.  It was a little light (in my opinion) for some of the issues I struggle with faith-wise, but I would definitely let my 11 year old read it now or as she gets older.

If you want more information on this book, you can check out this description or Ryan Shook's website.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books to read and review, but all opinions expressed are my own.   

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pigeon Forge Recap

After last week's vacation in Pigeon Forge, I was half-way ready to go back to work and half-way trying to figure out how to a professional vacationer.  Unlike a Disney World vacation, I did not want to walk 5000 miles and fall into bed exhausted every night.  I think we did a fairly good job of balancing fun activities and relaxation.  We rented a two bedroom condo at the River Stone Resort and Spa.  It was fantastic and I highly recommend it if you are ever in Pigeon Forge.  We entered our condo through a screened in front porch that led to the real front door.  The condo was super clean and well stocked with towels, kitchen needs (plates, cups, pots, etc.) and we had a back balcony overlooking the golf course.  No bowl of fruit awaited our arrival, but E didn't even notice (of course).  Dollywood and the Dollywood water park are just two miles up the street past the resort (we did not go) BUT Dollywood set off fireworks every night at 9:30 and we could easily see them from our back balcony.  I love fireworks so it is possible I was the most excited and made everyone else sit through it.  Every night.  The only thing I would say was slightly misleading about the resort's website pictures (in a good way) is it doesn't really show how close it is to the main strip.  Just turn left out of the parking lot, go about 50 yards and boom! You are right in all the restaurants, shops and touristy attractions.

I took almost no pictures on this trip.  I prefer to think of it as enjoying the moment and capturing memories in my head rather than being a terrible mother who doesn't preserve precious memories.  Beyonce just scolded an Atlanta concert-goer for filming her concert instead of experiencing it, so I feel Bey would back me up on this.  The pictures I did manage to take were largely eating at Mellow Mushroom.  Aren't we adorable?

I don't even know who these people are. How did they end up at my table?

This is what happens when you let a four year old take pictures: you look like a sleepy troll just awoken from your slumber. And you aren't happy about it.

This is what happens when two divas want to record a song and their big sis brings not one, but two berets on vacation.  They sang "Trouble" by Taylor Swift.  Because obviously a six year old and four year old don't tolerate all that relationship drama.

There is a ton of family fun in Pigeon Forge and nearby Gatlinburg.  Hubs, G and S went to MagiQuest, a wizarding adventure game (or as E called it, the Nerd Castle), and we all did some black light minigolf, mirror mazes, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, Guinness World Records Museum, and lots of candy and ice cream shops.  Of all the things we did, the girls liked the resort lazy river and pool the most.  Seriously.  I drove more than three hours for the girls to beg to swim at the condo.  I could have walked the 200 yards to our neighborhood pool, but whatever.

Lest you imagine this was a perfect Norman Rockwell vacation, let's keep it real.  The Friday before we left, E came home with suspicion of lice (a kid in her class had full blown lice).  Lice treatment kits all around!  S suffered throughout the trip with what we hoped and prayed was a nickel allergy reaction to earrings.  Once the blisters spread over her face and body we had to accept that it was probably something more serious, and the urgent care place confirmed a type of bacterial infection on Sunday (she's doing a thousand times better now). We can add mirror maze, black light mini-golf, Ripley's anything, and pretend wizarding to the list of things E finds terrifying (i.e., cries and needs to be carried throughout).  And to cap it off, the same hairpin turn filled road through the Smoky Mountain National Park that was so breathtakingly beautiful on the way to Tennessee caused three children to feel car sick on the way home. Two barfed.  It was not awesome. However, it was overall a great vacation and we really needed a week off. And today I finally received my Pigeon Forge visitor's guide so if you need any info on the area, I'm your girl!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why Can't We Be Friends?

When the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial came down Saturday night, there was an immediate and impassioned reaction among my Facebook friends.  Some of my friends were outraged at the verdict, appalled by the Florida "stand your ground" law in general, and decried the entire justice system as racist. Other friends expressed sympathy for Zimmerman and argued he should not have been tried in the first place.  It doesn't surprise me that my friends could have completely contradictory perspectives.  I've seen similar differences in opinion over Paula Deen, elections and a host of other hot topics.  As long as people have brains and opinions, I expect them to vehemently disagree.   

What did surprise me was when a friend announced that anyone not in line with her particular stance was going to be "unfriended" on Facebook.  Is it really so terrible to have dialogue with people you disagree with?  How do we learn other perspectives if we refuse to listen to the people who have them?  As the years have passed, Hubs and I have grown further apart on some political and social issues but we don't stop talking about things.  I just accept his wrongness and hope my rightness rubs off (ha!).

I acknowledge there are some positions that are so offensive to me, I would not maintain a friendship with someone who held those views.  For example, if you support pedophilia, don't bother sending a friend request.  Other issues are a little less clear cut.  Where do we draw the line?  If someone has a less "evolved" viewpoint than you do, are they someone who can learn from you?  Or are they such a raving loon you can't associate with them?  Perhaps my friend was referring specifically to people expressing views she found reprehensible, but it wasn't entirely clear.  Don't get me wrong; I have embraced the joys of hiding people from my news feed.  However, I hide people because I get tired of reading what they are doing every half hour or because they post a selfie that looks exactly like the selfie they posted yesterday.  I haven't yet actually unfriended someone.  Would you unfriend someone who had vastly different political/religious/social views?  When would you unfriend someone?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Funny People in Unfunny Roles

I like to laugh and have a good time, but I am also a sucker for dark, quirky or just plain sad movies.  What could be greater than watching people who are usually funny in movies that are decidedly not funny?  It's like my own weirdo version of peanut butter and chocolate (like a Reese's peanut butter cup). Because PB&J is disgusting. Because grape jelly is disgusting. See where I'm going with this?

Anywho, let's start with Will Ferrell.  Seriously funny man.  One of my family's favorite movies is "Elf", mainly because Will Ferrell's Buddy is so believably sweet and naive and unintentionally hilarious.  My four year old, E, loves to impersonate Buddy's first trip on an escalator.  Sometimes she does this on an actual escalator in front of a store full of people.  Awkward.  Will Ferrell's trip to the serious side was in the movie "Everything Must Go".  He plays a down and out alcoholic who loses his wife and job in the same day, and decides to sell everything he owns in a yard sale.  I was kind of surprised how well Will played someone I sympathized with even when he was a real jerk.  I really enjoyed the movie and think Will could do some more serious roles if he wanted.
Everything Must Go (2010) Poster
While Pam on "The Office" wasn't the most obviously hilarious character, I feel pretty confident that Jenna Fischer is a pretty funny lady.  Anyone who can balance out Steve Carell probably has some comedy chops. "The Giant Mechanical Man" is a great example of the odd, quirky movies I like.  If you don't like this movie, you will probably hate my taste in entertainment.  "The Giant Mechanical Man" is one of those stories where a character is so down trodden, I want to jump through the screen and shake her and say, "Stand up for yourself, lady!".  And then she does, and all is right with the world. Jenna's character, Janice, is a bit of a lost soul trying to find her way when she meets another kindred spirit.  This story of finding your own way, even if the path is outside the norm, just warmed my cold little heart.  : )
The Giant Mechanical Man (2012) Poster
John Krasinski, another veteran of "The Office", did not fare as well.  I really wanted to like "Nobody Walks", I really did. John plays Peter, who agrees to help an aspiring film maker finish her art film.  Maybe I too deeply associate John Krasinski with Jim because more than once I thought, "Jim! What are you doing!?", or maybe the movie just wasn't that great.  I can't really say a whole lot about it without giving away spoilers; to be honest, not much happened in this movie.  I will say Peter makes poor choices and I like Jim much better.
Nobody Walks (2012) Poster
Now that I think about it, Will Ferrell was technically on "The Office" for at least a few episodes.  Hmm, that was completely unintentional.  Do you like seeing funny people in serious roles, or does it just weird you out?

Monday, July 8, 2013


We leave today for what E keeps calling "bay-cation".  Since SOME people insisted on growing up and won't fit in a pack and play anymore, it gets a little more complicated to make hotel arrangements that don't involve paying for two rooms.  They should really provide warnings to people before having a third child.  "Warning: changing from a family of four to a motley crew of five incurs substantially more expense!"  Enter the condo.  We went with a two bedroom condo with two king beds and a fold out sofa. All three girls could fit in the bed if they want, but G is also claiming the sofa as a back up plan.  The resort has a lazy river with waterfalls, indoor pool and hot tub, playground, and game room. And yet, of all the photos online, this is the one that has held E's attention for over a week.
Courtesy of

No, she does not love kitchens in particular, or stainless steel or even eating at the counter.  The item in this photo that has her captivated: the bowl of fruit.  For a week, I have fielded questions such as "Is there going to be a bowl of fruit in our room?", "If there is fruit, will it be real or plastic?" and "If they don't have fruit, will you take me to the store to buy some fruit?".  Really.  I had no idea that all of E's expectations could be met by a simple bowl of fruit.  I wish I'd known this before I shelled out for a condo.

We'll be enjoying a week of cheesy family fun and relaxation. Hope you have a great week too!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Cloudy skies all day long
So apparently fireworks and pouring down rain don't mix, so no fireworks show for us tonight.  E and I are most disappointed.  The upside of constant rain is I didn't feel at all guilty about getting very little done today. I starting watching season 1 of "Once Upon A Time" this week and may or not be a wee bit addicted.  Hope you have a wonderful holiday and are as busy or relaxed as you hoped for!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Francis: Man of Prayer by Mario Escobar- book review

Mario Escobar has written numerous books and articles on church history, sectarian groups, and the discovery and colonization of the Americas.  It may be this background of writing historical accounts that made this biography feel more like an encyclopedia entry than a personal account of Pope Francis.  This biography is well written if you are looking for a factual background on Pope Francis from the beginnings of his theological studies through his election to Pope. However, I was hoping for a more personal account of the man who became Pope that showed his personality or how he has arrived at setting certain priorities for his leadership over the Catholic Church.  I am not Catholic and some of the terminology used and descriptions of certain church activities in this book were unclear to me.  Pope Francis' apparent concern for the poor and shunning some traditional papal benefits, such as traditional robes and housing, make his a very interesting person to me. I was a little disappointed that this book did not delve more into these personal attributes.

I received this book for free from Book Sneeze for my review, but all opinions expressed are my own.