Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Good Week!

Late last fall, Jordan, a senior in our youth group approached Wes about an idea she's had rolling around in her brain. She said she wanted to begin a weekly devotional just for our Middle School girls to share some things she's learned or wished she knew when she was their age. Since the beginning of the year, her and another HS girl have been leading these devos and they are doing an amazing job.

Around this same time, Jordan also quit her job and began volunteering at the Grayson County Homeless Shelter. Two weeks ago, instead of their usual study, they took the Middle School girls to the Shelter to make dinner (Granny's famous Taco Soup recipe), spend some time with the kids there (who happen to be some uber-talented kickball players), and just be a blessing to all those associated with the Shelter. It was a tremendous success.

So much so, that I suggested we take our High Schoolers during Word Up (our Monday High School study). Once again, it was a huge success. I just love seeing our young people learn what serving others can look like in their daily lives. We brought the girls this time, charged them with the crucial task of putting ice in cups and laughed watching them have a lot of fun with other kids their age. We had another mean game of kickball - it's not easy to play on a muddy field with monkey bars and a merry-go-round in the way, but we managed. We praise God for opportunities to partner with organizations like this and take part in life touching ministry.

Wes's cousin Kyle got married this past weekend in New Orleans. We decided to drive there. As we pulled up to Avery's school to take her out early, Abby said, "We're here, at New Orleans!" We met Nana, Paw Paw, and Granny in Tyler and caravanned to Alexandria, LA. On the way there, Abby said, "You know who I am gonna marry?" "Who?", I said. "Daddy", she replied. When I asked her why she said, "Because I want to live with him." We stayed the night there and went on to New Orleans Friday morning. Shortly after arriving we made our way to Deannie's - Wes's family was craving some good Cajun Seafood. So while they ate Soft Shell Crab and Shrimp Po-boys, Crawfish Etouffee and Gumbo, the girls enjoyed some Pizza and I played it safe with a hamburger Sorry, I'm sure all that Cajun food is delicious, but I just can't bring myself to eat something when I see its whole body...especially when it's called a "mud bug". I guess it's like Granny said, if I was brought up on it like they were, I'd probably love it too.

Friday evening was the rehearsal dinner. Wes's Aunt and Uncle rented out Broussards for the rehearsal dinner, and it was wonderful! Leg of lamb, prime rib, pastas, salads and bananas foster made for an amazing meal and we had a lot of fun catching up with Wes's family. At one point we asked Abby what she thought her favorite part of the wedding would be. She exclaimed, "When they kiss!"

I couldn't resist taking this picture of Abby before she put on her nightgown when she was looking down at the street below. This will be good for her senior video or wedding video.

The girls really enjoyed looking out our hotel window.

Saturday morning we went for a walk in the French Quarter. Wes and his mom caught a glimpse of Maggie Gyllenhaal walking her dog as we waited in line for beignets at the world famous Cafe Du Monde. What a treat! Paw Paw wasn't sure everyone could eat a whole order, but we did. And they were delicious. After that we walked around Jackson Square and saw the St. Louis Cathedral where the wedding would be later that day. We considered a street car ride, but decided it would be best to head back to the hotel, rest up and get ready for the big evening.

The powdered sugar got everywhere, especially when the wind blew. But, it was worth it!

Abby loved them!

Abby getting close to the pigeons at Jackson Square.

Debbie and Ernie in front of the St. Louis Cathedral where Kyle and Michelle got married.

Nice face Abby! We are in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.

The wedding was at 3pm. We were shuttled over from our hotel, the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel , to the cathedral... what a beautiful structure! After the memorable ceremony, a "second-line" band led the wedding party and guests from the cathedral to Pat O'Briens on the river. The reception was a blast! The toasts were touching, the food was delicious, the cakes were beautiful, and the band was amazing. Early on the bride and groom were treated to a special presentation by "The Seasoned Four". Four older gentlemen (friends of the groom's father) came out dressed silver sequin vests and berets and danced (about as provacatively as you wanna see a 60 yr old man dance) to "All the Single Ladies." It was a hoot! The flower girls (Avery and Abby's second cousins) passed out "light up rings" to all the guest. They were seen all over the dance floor. We absolutely loved watching our girls dance with their cousins... or watching Abby dance all by herself on an open dance floor. Wes's dad was just precious dancing with the girls. Wes and Avery did the Cupid Shuffle...pretty darn well, I must say. We got the whole place restaurant dancing with "Hot Hot Hot". And Wes and I even got to slow dance a little before the evening was over.

All dressed up and waiting for the shuttle bus.

Inside the Cathedral before the wedding began.

During the "second-line" parade. Abby was loving all the dancing.

The happy couple.

Wes and his mom dancing.

Abby and Sara Grace had a ball together!

Abby and Paw Paw dancing.

Avery's turn with Paw Paw.

The cousins dancing.

The next day we left for a long drive back home. The girls did awesome on both the drive there and back. They kept busy by reading lots of books, watching videos, and playing their DS's. They took turns riding in Paw Paw's car. Avery rode in their car first. She then tried to convince Abby that she wouldn't enjoy the ride with them because they didn't have a DVD player. Tricky, tricky! I told Abby she would be just fine. They would love to hear her read her little books and she could color and play her DS. Sorry, Avery - you were outwitted!

We had a memorable weekend! Thanks Encalade and Young families for making it all possible!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lovin' Spring And All It Brings!

Life is good around here. I feel like we have so much to be thankful for. We are healthy, happy, and blessed!

A couple of weeks ago I attended our annual ladies retreat at Pine Cove just outside of Tyler. There were over 60 of us there. We had a very moving speaker, fun activities, and some awesome quiet time alone with God. It was such a blessing to get away and be spiritually fed. Parts of it moved me to tears. Listening to Brenda talk about children in Africa who don't have the Bible in their own language and singing songs that reminded me of my mom were just a few things that tugged on my heart strings. I am also so thankful for the relationships I have with several of these ladies. We can laugh and cry together. The camp itself was gorgeous. It sat on a little lake with lots of pine trees and it was so peaceful.

Our beautiful surroundings.

I loved all the trees.

Katie (Russell) Cassady and Amber (Martindale) Norris took Jennifer Chapman and I for a paddle boat ride.

Thanks for the ride, girls!

I feel blessed to call these ladies "friends" and "my dear church family".

Strapped in and getting a little nervous even though I have done this zip line thing twice before.

Jennifer and I getting ready to do the zip line. Woo hoo!

There we go! What a rush!

Jana and Carrie in their zip line gear.

As Easter approached I wanted to plan another "family day" for Friday since Avery was out of school. I immediately thought about Arbuckle Wilderness, but as I checked the weather I was discouraged to see rain in the forecast for that day. I kept praying that the weather would stay dry and sure enough the forecast cleared up that Thursday. "Thanks God!" So, Friday we headed up to Arbuckle Wilderness which was just an hour and a half away. On the way there we read an American Girl Doll chapter book about Kit. (I can't remember the name right now.) It was set in the depression era, and I was actually pretty impressed with it. We will definitely be reading books together more often in the car. It was pretty neat to stop and discuss what was going on.

Arbuckle Wilderness was pretty cool. You get to drive around and different animals come up to your car. We were surprised with the variety of animals that they had as well as how large the area was. We saw wolves, emu, ostriches, llamas, zebras, several kinds of deer, camels, rhinos, giraffes, donkeys, and more. It was great watching the girl's reaction to it all. They made Wes and I laugh so many times. Here are some of the things we heard while driving through the park.

"I'm not a mammal!" - Avery yelled this at one point.

"Run!" - Screamed by Avery when llamas were sticking their heads in our car.

"Look under your breast!" - Said by Avery when one of the animals was looking for the food she had just given it.

"Looks like a little bamboo." - I am not even sure what animal Avery was referring to.

"I want a pet peacock!" - Avery pleaded.

"That one got the purple chicken pox." - Stated Abby about one of the peacocks.

"Please don't sneeze on me!" - Abby begged the giraffe she was feeding.

"CLOSE THE WINDOW" - I am pretty sure each of screamed this at some point during the trip. Some of the animals could be pretty aggressive about getting some food from you.

Having a ball!

Abby was so brave feeding the giraffe. Avery was a little scared.

The other giraffe who missed out on our food.

The camel took a bite of the cup that had the food in it as I was feeding it. How rude!

This guy wanted his food and kept following us.

The zebras getting their share.

The girl's excited faces as the went from window to window feeding and watching the animals.

Taking an afternoon snooze.

Can you see the peacock behind me?

Feeding the turtles and fish below.

I love my girls!

Can we just freeze these moments, please?

Sweet Dad and his adoring daughters.

Hand in hand.

On the way home we stopped for ice cream. Yum!

After driving through the park we got out and went to another area where you could feed fish, turtles, peacocks, swans, geese, and ducks. At one point we witnessed a fight between a swan and a goose. It was pretty entertaining. There was lots of pecking and what looked to us like water skiing. They also had a reptile exhibit to walk through.

We had such a good time feeding the animals, watching them, and even making fun of them at times. We will definitely visit our new friends there again sometime.

On Saturday we had 3 soccer games. Abby had 2 games and Avery had one. Abby lost her first game and won her second game. They did a lot better their second game. It was almost like they finally got what they should be doing. It is neat to see how far they have come. Avery's team played great and won their game. Nana, Paw Paw, and Granny got to drive up for the games and the Easter Egg Hunt we had in the afternoon at church. The girls, of course, got more candy than they need or will ever eat.

Not sure what Abby is doing here. Ha!

The girls and their loot.

We had a terrific Easter service at church. Wes led a children's sermon where he called all the little kids to the front and he lead a discussion about the resurrection with the help of the Resurrection Eggs. (These are great to teach children about the resurrection if you have never heard of them before.) It was cute watching the children tell the story in their own words of the resurrection. I am sure God was smiling down on them. The biggest highlight of the morning was when one of our youth group graduates decided to get baptized. Her father tearfully baptized her and you could just tell that the Spirit was moving in her to make a change. It was such a sweet, beautiful, and emotional moment. I know several prayers were answered that day.

Thanks Granny for the girls' Easter dresses!

After church we headed to Blake and Katy's house for a delicious Easter meal with family. Avery, Abby, and Tripp enjoyed hunting for eggs over and over again.

These bunnies are ready for the hunt!

Looking through their new treasures.

Carrie and I and the little preschool munchkins we teach, after our Easter Egg Hunt at school.

The girls and I have been watching a nature documentary series that I recorded. (I love DVR!) Here is a description I found online about it:

"The earth is home to more than 30 million different animals and plants – every single one in its own fight for survival. From the makers of PLANET EARTH and narrated by global media leader and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, the epic television series LIFE is the definitive exploration of our planet’s living things and their spectacular, bizarre and fascinating behaviors."

It is amazing how much they were actually able to capture on film. I have used it as a spring board several times to talk about God's amazing creation with the girls. I am learning so much too! I have to share this funny story from the other night's episode about birds. It showed two birds mating (for about 2 seconds) and Abby asked what they were doing. I quickly answered, "They are hugging." (Not a complete lie, right?) That answer satisfied her. When the whole episode was over Abby said, "My favorite part was when the two birds were hugging." Ha!

Last Monday, Avery had her class play entitled Wackadoo Zoo. She had several lines as the narrator and did a great job. She has Wes' memory and memorized her lines without any help from us. I really think she will enjoy acting in the future.

Avery is in the middle with the safari hat on.

Abby attends University of Gymnastics every Thursday which has an academic, music, and gymnastics program. She loves it! Last week she got an award for her loco-motor and tumbling skills.

Reminded me of the Olympics.

Yesterday, soon after Avery got out of school the girls and I headed to the Waterloo Park for a picnic dinner. After we ate we fed the ducks. (I often save the heels of our loaves of bread for the ducks.) A couple of times Avery got her fingers nipped by a duck. She was teasing it with bits of bread, so I am not sure why she was shocked that the duck would do this. Thankfully, it didn't hurt her. Abby enjoyed talking in her silly voice to them. Then we walked around part of the lake to our favorite spot which overlooks the entire lake and the beautiful surroundings. The girls love picking up the rocks or flowers in this area and just running around. I love soaking in the beauty and getting some good pictures, of course. I absolutely love these times with my girls. I know they will grow up so quickly (they already have) and I just want to soak in these good times with them. I love it when life slows down and I can really just concentrate on loving them and truly enjoying them. I have had some memorable quality times lately with them, whether it was big activities like the Ft. Worth Museum and Arbuckle Wilderness, or just reading lots of books together, or watching Life or Little House on the Prairie with them. I definitely signed up to do too much this year with preschool, tutoring, and PTO. I am looking forward to the summer and next year when I will not set out with too much on my plate.

These three were especially friendly.

"Mom, take a picture of me on this rock."

"Me too!"

Best Friends!

Thank you God for these sweetie pies!

Today I get to eat lunch with Avery at school. She will get to choose a special cheer for herself because she gets to put her bee on the class flower in the cafeteria for getting 90 AR (Accelerated Reader) points. She was the first first grader to do this this year. She graciously agreed to wait to celebrate until today. My preschool hours and the TAKS test set the celebration day back a bit. I am so proud of her. I love that she loves to read and is great at it. Last year she got Top Reader which means she got the most AR points out of all the kindergartners and it is her goal to do it again in first grade. She took another STAR Reading Test last week that stated, "Based on the national norms, Avery reads at a level equal to that of a typical 5th grader after the 4th month of the school year." Yay Avery! I told her she better not grow up to be a 5th grader any time soon.

Abby has also been enjoying reading. She can read the Bob Book Series and we recently got some other early reading series with Clifford and Biscuit in them. She is gaining confidence and improving daily. It is so fun to see them take off. It amazed me when Avery did it and it is amazing to see Abby doing it now.

OK, I must end this incredibly long post now and get back to the real world.