Baseball games, shaved ice, Father's Day grill-outs! Our summer fun continues!
Oh... and doggie shaved ice, of course (sorry- I didn't mean to ignore you, Oliver). Before I share our latest activities, I must first announce my newest nephew and niece...
Welcome, Isaac and Rosie! My sister and her husband, Brandon, had a beautiful baby boy back in May; and my brother and his wife, Lily, had a perfect, sweet girl in early June! It feels like Christmas around here! I get free baby snuggles at any time from these precious angels. Baby snuggles are the BEST. I am determined to be the best Aunt Becka who has ever walked this planet!
Even with a newborn in the mix, my sister and I still try to get out once a week for some time together. Last week we packed up all of our kiddos and drove to a shady park that I think will become our new space for those really hot summer days. Montgomery Park, a small, clean, and cool park in the city of Montgomery, Ohio, is a great place to spread out an outdoor blanket and settle in for a couple of hours. The park has a baseball field, a big playground, a sandbox, a shelter with a fireplace, a small walking path, clean restrooms, power outlets, and a ton of shade.
I know I keep mentioning the shade, but there are a lot of parks around here that we have to avoid on hot days because there is no shade. With a newborn in the group, a cool environment was really important to us!
Lo and behold, a digger (correction-- backhoe) drove up to plant a tree! What a treat!
A few days later, Reed and I decided to visit another park with one of my dear friends, Hannah, and her two sweet kids. We went to Juilfs Park, the polar opposite of Montgomery Park. Although pristine and clean, Juilfs spans over 26 acres and includes everything a mom could dream of in a park: ball fields, shelters, a playground, a splash pad, a walking path and tricycle path, plenty of benches, and clean restrooms.
Unfortunately, it rained the entire time we were there. I threw in the towel and let Reed run around like a wild man until he was covered in layers of water, dirt, and sand. He had a blast in the splash park and could've cared less about the rain. I did care about the rain, though, and only took a couple of pictures from beneath my umbrella. Sorry, peeps.
Boy, do I love summer! Even though the weather has been temperamental, it has been wonderful to spend time with Jacob and Reed, our families, and our friends. We are making the most of it!
More from My Soul Food:
Isn't Easter Sunday just one of the best times of the year? I love everything about it: getting all dressed up for church, singing and praying through a beautiful service, enjoying dinner with family, and eating candy. Lots and lots of candy!
Almond Joy for me, please!
Our church's Easter service was especially moving this year. I was pretty much choking back tears the whole time. I feel like each year I cry more during church services. Not a sad crying, just an overcome-by-emotion crying when I think of love, forgiveness, hope, and all of the other beautiful parts of my faith.
Our church service is pretty early, so afterwards we came home and challenged Reed in his first Easter basket hunt. Of course I went overboard and made rhyming clues for the four parts of his basket we had around the house.
I'm a poet and I know it!
As tempted as I am to write the rest of this post in verse, I'll spare you the agony of any more bad poetry. You get the idea.
We read only the most high-brow literature here in the Hacker home.
Honestly, though, Giant Pants is a great book! Yes, it's about a giant who can't find his pants, but there are all kinds of mythological creatures introduced in a super-friendly way.
Spoiler alert: he eventually finds his pants in his own dresser. Because nobody saw that coming. It is hilarious every time.
The third clue led him to a toy microscope that I have had my eye on for a while. It zooms in and out using little knobs, it has a light, and it lets him look at toys, shells, rocks, and anything else he might find. I think we will use it a bunch this summer.
Grand finale-- a giant chocolate bunny!
How does one even begin to eat such a thing?
Go right for the face, of course!
Easter basket hunt complete, we packed up and drove to my in-law's house for our annual Easter dinner.
They outdid themselves, as usual! Outdoors: a photo-spot, an egg hunt for each of the boys, and a quiet spot by the river for reflection. Indoors: a magnificent feast of prime rib, corn-on-the-cob, mashed potatoes, rolls, and decadent desserts.
Kim, my mother-in-law, made this carrot jam for the rolls that was AMAZING! It was like carrot cake in a jar. I'll have to get her recipe and post it back here sometime. Plus- how cute is that for Easter?!
She has cooking and decorating super-powers, I think.
Photo time was, well, interesting. Just look at these two cuties! Reed ADORES his cousin, Bo.
What you don't see is the crowd of crazy adults shamelessly yelling, making faces, shaking toys, singing, and otherwise looking like maniacs on the lawn behind the camera to get these smiles.
You only get Easter pictures once a year, after all.
While we are on the subject of only getting Easter pictures once a year, let's just talk about Reed's face for a second. Seriously, every family picture we cannot get him to do a real smile! I think he is mimicking the Easter Bunny here. Cute, yes. My ideal family picture, no.
That award goes to...
Boaz and his mommy and daddy! These people know how to take a family picture.
I'm taking notes.
After pictures, we stopped for a quiet moment at the cross. (Cue more choked-back tears). Kim put together a little Easter story hunt for Reed. It looked a little bit like this. He looked around for jelly beans and a few items to represent the Easter story.
Finally, the big egg hunt! Find those Almond Joys, baby!
And time to play and relax! We needed it! Easter proves to be a busy day!
Our day was wonderful! There may or may not have been a few sugar-crash, nap-deprived "moments" (what's Easter without those, after all). I may or may not have had a sore throat that kept me from eating most of the food, hives that kept me self-conscious, and allergies that left me with Reed in one hand and a tissue in the other.
The silver lining?
Faith, family, fun.
And a snuggly nap with Reed while everyone else ate leftovers.
That's more than a silver lining, for sure. What's a few Easter sniffles in the face of all of that?
I am so thankful for another Easter with the people I love and who love me. And most of all, sniffle, for the God who loves me, too.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am slightly obsessed with Ree Drummond, AKA "The Pioneer Woman". Like many people, I first became acquainted with Ree through her TV show. Since then, I've read her blog, bought her book, memorized her cookbooks, and indoctrinated my child with her Charlie the Ranch Dog series.
I have a problem.
Ree, along with Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, was one of my inspirations for starting Soul Food Time. Her love for cooking, for her family, and for life is contagious! So yeah, I was beyond excited when my husband offered to take our family to Pawhuska for spring break. It was a dream come true.
We left Cincinnati on the Sunday before Easter and drove 8 hours or so to The Lodge at Old Kinderhook in Camdenton, Missouri. Located about 30 minutes off of the interstate, this lodge and golf resort was an unexpected treasure. I had flashbacks to our spontaneous discovery of the beach at Lake Ogalala in Nebraska. Just absolute beauty in the middle of nowhere.
A tip: We booked our room only a day in advance on Orbitz, and because it is Kinderhook's off season, the rooms were cheaper than the local Hampton Inn! Woot woot!
People, I felt like a QUEEN! We arrived to the lodge through a gated entrance (oooohh), and it looks over a beautiful golf course on all sides (aaahhh). There was an indoor pool, jacuzzi, outdoor pool, volleyball court that is transformed into a skating rink in the winter, two restaurants, and an elegant lobby area with a fireplace and piano that played by itself (that kept Reed occupied for a very, very long time).
Can I go back? Pretty please?
After a night and morning of relaxation and fun, we ate breakfast and left literally 2 minutes before the checkout deadline.
If you're ever in the land of the Ozarks, you have to check this place out.
We left Old Kinderhook behind, spurred on by the promise of The Mercantile's twice-baked potatoes. Four hours later, we checked into a hotel in Bartlesville, OK, about 30 minutes from Pawhuska and all things Ree Drummond. Bartlesville was a fantastic town with plenty of restaurants and shopping. Reed and I managed to sneak out to the mall for a minute or two... or ninety.
At last, on Tuesday, we made it to The Mercantile!
A few notes here:
1. I was so excited to see the Merc, I forgot my nice camera! So the pics from here on out are from our iPhones. Sorry! I lost my wits, seriously!
2. Let me take a moment and commend my awesome husband. I mean, what kind of man drives 11+ hours to take his wife to a town in the middle of nowhere so she can be a crazy fan-girl with mostly middle-aged women in cold, rainy March? This guy! There should be monuments built in his honor. He should hold seminars and charge lots of money. And then he should use that money to take me back to Kinderhook and Pawhuska.
Is that selfish?
Wait a second... didn't I camp out in the middle of nowhere IN A TENT for 10 days so he could look at antelope?
That's right, my ladies. It's all about the give and take.
But still, thank you, Jacob. You are an amazing man.
We arrived at The Merc around lunchtime, so the first thing we did was eat! We waited for about 20 minutes and then were seated at our table by the most adorable, friendly waitress. The size of The Merc was the most shocking thing to me; it just went on and on and on. About half of the bottom floor was a restaurant, the other half a store, and then the top level was a bakery with seating to relax and enjoy the 360 view of Pawhuska. We stayed for about two hours; I could've easily stayed for four.
The food at The Merc restaurant was some of the best I've ever had! And it's not just the rose-colored glasses, Jacob agreed! He kept saying over and over, "Wow, this is a lot different than what I expected!" and then I would fill him in on another 5 minutes of random Pioneer Woman trivia. I really think he had a great time.
So ladies, don't be afraid to bring along your husbands. The food will make the trip worth it.
He ordered the steak dinner, Reed ordered mac n' cheese, and I ordered the half chicken parmesan. We split chips and queso, and even after stuffing our faces we had enough leftovers for dinner at the hotel.
Thanks to Charlie the Ranch Dog, may he rest in peace, Reed is almost as obsessed as I am with Ree Drummond. He could narrate her mac n' cheese recipe and he had her seasoned salt recipe memorized at age 2. He was sooooo excited to be in cowboy country. Whenever a cowboy walked by he would smile creepily and watch him until he was out of sight.
Where does he get this weirdness?
After eating and shopping, we went upstairs to the bakery. I ordered a cupcake for later (it was dreamy) and a latte.
I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
We spent a few more sweet minutes at The Merc before grabbing tickets to the Lodge and heading out back in the rain for the 30 minute trek to Ree's guest house and TV studio. If you make the trip to Pawhuska, be sure to check The Merc Webpage for lodge visits. The tickets are free and easy to get, they just aren't available every day.
The drive to The Lodge was long, but it was so worth it! Although there was a tour guide there to take questions, we were allowed to explore the TV studio and guest house on our own!
Ree is so cool like that.
I have so many design ideas now for when I become a rich and famous cowgirl someday!
Ok, and maybe some practical ones, too!
Reed and I stood behind the stove and pretended we were cooking for the camera. #nerds
Sneek peek into the props closet! See that box of Dr. Pepper?! Ree Drummond is a kindred spirit, I'm telling ya.
The view from the lodge is just as beautiful as it looks on television. Reed is a little distracted by the ranch dogs here, not by his psychotic mother.
At least that's what I'm telling myself.
Time to head home! Our day in Pawhuska was amazing. If you ever get the chance and you are a Ree Drummond fan like me, you have to make the trek to Oklahoma.
You just might have to go camping for ten days first. It's worth it.
Oh, and Reed learned a new sleeping-while-traveling trick on our roadtrip. Experienced little fellow!
Want to read more about our family adventures? I tend to keep them on The Little Outdoorsman's page; here are some of my favorites!
Spring break is here at last! I think I heard trumpets blast and angels sing when I locked up my classroom on Friday. We are heading to Oklahoma for a few days over break, just to relax and explore a new part of the country. (And possibly see the land of Ree Drummond!)
But first-- Spring Party!
Reed and I have spent the last few weeks ignoring the snow and planning a "Welcome, Spring!" party for his friends. Honestly, I've never really been a person to throw parties or show hospitality. My excuses were endless, but the top three were always:
3. I don't have time. (Excuses: work, school, parenting)
2. I don't have resources. (Excuses: house, space, money)
1. I don't know how. (I really just don't know how to show hospitality!)
Amidst my excuses, over the past year or so, God has been dealing with me about confronting this skill, this commandment, of hospitality. I picked up a few books on the topic like The Lifegiving Home and The Turquoise Table. Sally Clarkson, especially, has been an inspiration and encouragement to me. After the long winter, I finally decided to take a baby step in the form of a Spring Party- Winnie the Pooh style!
I kept it low-budget and relaxed. I bought a fold-out table, a couple decorations, a disposable tablecloth, plates, and napkins, and invited a few of his closest friends (whose mommies are my closest friends).
The kids ate PB&J, goldfish crackers, and apples. I used bunny, butterfly and flower cookie cutters cut their sandwiches into fun spring shapes. I made a giant bowl of Simple Pasta Salad for my friends. We ate the whole batch! For dessert we had strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
After dinner, the kids played for a little bit...
Meanwhile, we steeled ourselves for the egg-dying activity that some psycho (me) decided would be fun to do with four toddlers and two infants.
What could possibly go wrong?
Believe it or not, other than a few runaway eggs, there were zero (yes, zero) messes! These kids are egg-dying experts!
The lady at the table took the gold medal for the most beautiful eggs (of course). And look at how neat and clean her space is!
The boys took first place in the "how-many-different-eggs-can-I-dye-at-one-time" category. Yeah, that cutie with the blue hands? He gets his clean-space skills from me.
From the youngest to the oldest, we had a blast welcoming springtime! Something so small to many was a big step for me, and I feel encouraged now to open my home to my friends, neighbors, and family. This experience helped me see that it is not so much about impressing people (because nobody likes that), but that hospitality is about loving and blessing others with whatever we have. I'll keep you updated on my journey!
Happy Spring, everybody! Now if that pesky snow would just go away...
Take a look at some of our past Easter and spring activities!
The rain is melting the snow outside, creating that not-so-perfect groggy and lethargic mood that so easily settles in to start my day. Will I let it invade, make its cranky bed, and grouch up my heart and home?
As the Mama, that choice is mine.
This week I read an inspiring post by one of my favorite bloggers, Modern Mrs. Darcy, titled "What is Saving My Life Right Now". I fell in love with this whole concept. I decided to create a similar post of my own on this dreary February day. I can't bring myself to keep the same title because, well, (and I laugh as I write this) it just seems irreverent. Jesus saves my life today and every day. So while I can't say anything else is "saving my life," there are several things I am doing intentionally to enrich it right now. This time of year, it can sometimes take effort to stay motivated, happy, and, well.... sane. Ahem.
Winter has been a tough season for me for all of my adult life. Each fall I give myself a little pep talk about "getting through the winter" and, inevitably, I find myself pale, beat-down, gloomy, and lacking motivation as January wraps up.
This year I am feeling great! This has definitely been my best winter in years and years and years. I am happy, energized, motivated, and inspired. I look forward to the things I do each day. I (like to think I) encourage the people around me. I can breathe, pause, love, rest, enjoy, and create. I am happy.
So I started to think about what made this year different.
First-- grace. No matter how many things I might decide contribute to my "good" winter, I am certain that grace is the #1 player in this game. God is good, and I am so thankful for His help this winter. But I've also been more intentional in the ways that I "spend" my thoughts, words, time, and money this winter. Living with this purpose has given me the best winter yet. Here are the top three discoveries that have changed my winter:
1. Really Good Books
Is there anything like curling up on the couch or relaxing in the bath with a good book in the winter? Embracing my love for reading and refusing to feel guilty about spending my time with a book has truly enriched these long winter months. My "to-read" list includes a mix of feel-good fiction, memoir, short stories, and historical fiction, some brand new, and some older. I have linked them all to goodreads if you would like to check out summaries and reviews.
I've also included a gallery of some of my favorite books from this fall and winter. Five stars! I gleaned these titles from my local library, thriftbooks (my obsession), and the Book of the Month Club.
2. Fresh and Clean Spaces
I am certainly not a model housekeeper in any sense. Any. Sense. But I've discovered that a clean and pleasant space at home vastly improves my mood. I keep my space as positive and nice-smelling as one can while working full time with a toddler, a husband changing jobs, and an unruly dachshund roaming the premises.
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Lilac Multi-Surface Cleaner has been my favorite scent of the season. It brings springtime into my home. I seriously love cleaning the counters with this stuff. I just close my eyes and pretend I have a beautiful, fragrant lilac bush outside of my kitchen window that overlooks a rose garden and bubbling brook.
My doTERRA Petal Diffuser is another one of my favorite things this time of year. I'm not the essential oil expert that many of my blogging peers are, but my favorite oil right now is Plant Therapy's Blues Buster. It has a citrus-y scent that picks me up no matter the weather, and plays right into my bubbling brook fantasy. We will add a few lemon and orange trees to my rose and lilac garden, now. It's looking pretty nice!
The final little trick that I've noticed makes my space feel more beautiful are a few low-maintenance indoor plants. I have a crazy aloe at home in the brightest orange pot I could find. I only have to water it once a week and it doesn't take up much space at all. The others are in my classroom at work- 4 colorful, tropical, thirsty plants that have kept my students and me busy watering and rotating over the past months. The freshness these small plants bring to my space is incredible.
3. Hobbies and Activities
The last change I've made this year is being more mindful of how I spend my time. I've found a balance of fulfilling work and purposeful leisure and rest has helped me keep my emotions and thoughts in check. When I'm at work, I work really hard and pour my heart into what I do. I'm also taking a few graduate classes that are keeping me inspired and passionate.
When I am home, I am trying to be more present with my family. I plan activities with Reed (like the volcano we made a few weeks back). I've made a bigger deal out of New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day than I have in the past. I've spent more time playing, conversing, cooking, and resting... and less time on my phone.
Lastly, (and I think this is the most difficult one), I am trying to take more time to care for myself. I take a nap every once in a while, go shopping, or meet a friend for lunch. One of my favorite things to do this winter has been to work on a puzzle while listening to an encouraging podcast. Joyce Meyer's podcasts are so encouraging, and her constant emphasis on positive thinking and a renewed, strong mind are always inspirational and useful this time of year.
Another obsession: about once a week I will take a long bath with a favorite book and a paper face mask. These little moments leave me feeling refreshed, pampered, and pretty- all difficult things to feel sometimes in the winter.
I hope you are embracing your winter just as I am. I know this time of year can be hard. Trust me, I know. But there is beauty and value in each day and moment. Sometimes all we need to do is figure out what works for us in a certain season.
So let me know... what is enriching your life right now?
Did you enjoy this post? Check out some other thoughts in My Soul Food:
The past several days have been a pleasant but chaotic whirlwind. At the eye of the hurricane is a big change I'd like to share with you. After a decade of hard work on the streets, a whole lotta prayer, and no small amount of late-night conversations and sleepless nights, Jacob made the decision to resign from his position as a police sergeant for a new job in the hunting world. It has been a bittersweet step of faith for our family, especially Jacob, of course. He will keep working as a police officer on occasion, "auxiliary" they call it, but it is still going to be a big change for all of us. And a big blessing, in many ways. Oh the pages and pages I could write as we end this season and begin a new one. Pages of reflection, contemplation, and anticipation. God is truly good.
So our recent winter break and snow days have come at a good time. This has allowed me to stay at home and keep the balance and harmony of home during this transition. God always seems to work things out that way.
The early-morning phone call was a beautiful sound today. I mean, I love my job, but I'd be lying if I said I don't want a snow day every now and then.
Teaching from Home
I'm a teacher everyday; I can't help it! It's in my blood. Look back in the family tree- I can prove it! Today, Reed and I attempted a homemade lava lamp. Unfortunately, we didn't have any food coloring, but Reed thought it was cool anyway. Water, vegetable oil, food coloring, and salt is all you need for a little at-home science lesson.
The best thing to do on a snow day is hole up and cook warm, yummy, beautiful food. This morning, Reed and I made Eggs Benedict for the first time. I don't know if I can really say I made it, though, because I didn't poach the egg. I've never poached an egg before, Reed was being, well, 3... and I decided to just make the egg over easy. Gasp! I know that's not really Eggs Benedict, but trust me. All of the mommas of threes out there will stand with me, call it Eggs Benedict, and dare you to disagree.
This afternoon, I made Ree Drummond's Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies. I've wanted to make these for ages, and boy, were they worth it! They were so yummy and satisfying on this icy, gray day. Out of the two recipes I tried today, I will make this one again. To be fair, it had an advantage to begin with. Chocolate wins against eggs... what a surprise.
Oliver is ALWAYS one of my favorite things. Snow days give me extra time to cuddle him, a win-win-win-win! Today I listened to him snore for about an hour. He just melts me.
A Stack of Books
This one's a no-brainer. I love having a giant stack of books to read at all times. My current stack has some old favorites, like Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place alongside books I've always wanted to read or ones that have been recommended to me, like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Hmmmm... where shall I start?
Oh, yes. My new Gideon Spa Foot Bath Massager! Jacob got this foot spa as my "big" Christmas gift this year. I am in love! With Jacob, yes, but I meant the spa. My sister and I do a girls' spa night each weekend, and this beautiful addition makes our nights even more luxurious and fun. On a completely unrelated note, Valentine's Day is coming up in about, oh, 37 days (give or take). This spa bath would make a wonderful gift... just in case anyone is interested.
Spring days will be upon us before we know it, so I've resolved to enjoy every moment of this snowy winter. These are the things I like to do to make me happy when I'm surrounded by snow, cold, and ice. Please share some of your favorite things in the comments below!
Happy New Year from our home to yours! I have to admit, 2017 treated us well. I don't know if I could say the same thing about 2016... 2015... so yeah, it was nice to catch a break!
We've never really "celebrated" New Year's Eve as a family, usually because Jacob was working the late shift at the PD. (Let me give yet another shout-out to our men and women in blue and their families! They sacrifice so much.) Miraculously, Jacob was able to spend NYE at home this year. So maybe it was the off-shift, maybe it was the three-year-old, maybe it was the extra-great year, but we decided to throw a little party for just the 3 of us. Four, I mean. Sorry, Ollie.
Our party was pretty low-key, but it was PERFECT. Five bucks bought streamers, hats, horns, and confetti poppers for each of us. Another 10 bucks bought sparkling grape juice and ingredients for our favorite fried ravioli recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. We jammed to our new favorite Louis Armstrong album while frying up these delicious little guys in Jacob's new fryer, an amazing gift from his incredible, thoughtful, and beautiful wife, who obviously was not thinking how such a gift might impact her hips and thighs.
We basically can't keep Reed out of the kitchen now (still closely monitored, of course). He helped us with this simple recipe: cheese ravioli, buttermilk, Italian breadcrumbs, and vegetable or olive oil.
Dip the ravioli in the buttermilk, then coat with the breadcrumbs. Set aside a batch and fry 'em up!
Sprinkle with some parm and serve right away with warmed marinara. Delish!
Jacob ate like 20 more than what is healthy, recommended, or humanly possible, and found himself in a food coma. This always makes me feel good. Ha. He finished the Bengals game while Reed and I prepared with great anticipation for the "countdown".
Let me take a moment and just say... THANK YOU, NETFLIX! We use their "anytime" countdown each year so Reed still gets the NYE experience without missing bedtime. King Julien led us to the New Year around 6:00, and we welcomed it with as much noise as possible! It was a blast! Best of all, Reed didn't miss any sleep, and I was still in bed at 8:30, asleep by 9. Yep, that's right.
2017 deserved a celebration this year. Good health, positive relationships, spiritual growth, the launch of my blog, traveling, new nephews, love abounding. It was incredible. But really, every year deserves a thankful celebration, no matter how we feel as we reflect. As I move into 2018, I pray for God's blessing upon my family, friends, and all of you. May we start this year emptied of bitterness, and full of love, forgiveness, passion, and joyful expectation.
Best wishes to you and yours. Happy New Year!
This past weekend included something extra-special. Baby Boaz was dedicated on Sunday! It has been a while since I updated y'all on my newest nephew, Mr. Samuel Boaz, so prepare yourself for a whole lotta cuteness!
Boaz has been keeping quite busy lately, let me tell ya. In short, he has been doing the "normal" baby stuff: growing, learning to eat cereal, rolling over, and talking. In his spare time, he hangs with the ladies, sings Mary Poppins songs, and trains to be an Olympic swimmer. And models for the blog.
I'm surprised he had the time or energy to be dedicated this weekend! Luckily, he was able to squeeze it in.
Bo was obviously a pretty popular fellow on dedication day. Nobody in the entire family wanted to miss it! On Sunday we all drove to Bo's church and watched as his mommy and daddy dedicated him to God. The family and church body vowed to do its part in raising and supporting Bo, too. It was a beautiful ceremony.
Boaz is a miracle baby in so many ways. Aunt B and Uncle Sam prayed and prayed for him, and boy, did God bring them the perfect miracle. The ceremony was a glorious reminder of the faithfulness and goodness of God in Brook and Sam's life. In all of our lives, really.
The Little Outdoorsman was there to support his cousin, of course. Going up on a stage can be tough, although Boaz handled it like a pro. But it is what cousins do, right? Reed and Boaz are already BFFs. They have inside jokes and secrets and stuff.
After the dedication, we went to a nearby park where Brook, Sam, and their friends grilled out for everyone. They made THE BEST hotdogs I have ever had in my life. Seriously. They grilled each hot dog, put a slice of pepper jack cheese between the bottom of the hot dog and the bun, and wrapped the whole thing in foil. I plan to never eat a hot dog without pepper jack again.
Bellies full of hotdogs, Cha-Cha's famous pasta salad, and CAKE (woo-hoo!), everybody relaxed in the sunshine while the kids played on the playground.
I was able to steal away the man of honor for a few moments of cuddles. He is the sweetest guy. Never a peep or cry. Whenever he is with me, he falls asleep almost immediately. No joke! I'm either really peaceful or really boring. Let's go with peaceful... AKA comfortable... AKA cushion-y. We all know what that means. All those months of not working out have finally paid off! Yippee!
After a couple of hours at the park, everybody was tuckered out and ready for a nap. Boaz sneaked in a snooze or two before we left. It's hard being the cool kid.
I am so thankful for the chance to share in Boaz's special day. I am excited to watch him grow up into the man God has created him to be. Aunt Becka loves you, Samuel Boaz! I'll let you get back to your Olympic training!
Eleven years ago, give or take a few days, a handsome country boy with a cute smile left his drumset, crossed the floor of our church, and told me about every animal he had ever hunted while the choir practiced without him. Within minutes, hunting animals became my new favorite topic in the world. Ah, love!
Sweet talker, that guy!
Hey, at least I knew what I was getting into. And it must've worked, because two years later, in the same church, we said our vows and committed to forever.
Today, nine years later, I find myself looking across a carryout chicken dinner at the same country boy, now a man in a police uniform. He still sports that same cute smile, and today I have one to match it. I have a toddler on my lap and a weenie dog waiting for me at home along with a pile of laundry and a stack of ungraded papers. Our life is beautiful, messy, and exactly, perfectly right. Right where God wants us. At dinner tonight, I couldn't help but reflect on the story of the past years- how I got to this place with this man.
9 years- just like that. All I did was blink.
Right? That's what people say, anyway. That it all goes by in a flash. But I don't think that's true, really. Because, although 9 years isn't 25, or 40, or 50, it's still 9, and it didn't happen in a blink.
It was 9 years of committed faithfulness- in mind, body, and soul.
It was Survivor reruns until 3 AM. (Can you believe that Russell??)
It was freezing my tail off in a hunting blind winter after winter.
It was him talking me through the same worries again... and again... and again.
It was walking through greater joys and deeper sorrows than we could've ever imagined.
It was learning to make chicken pot pie just almost like his momma does.
It was arriving home each day, taking off my shoes, and trying his on for size.
It was a thousand head rubs and "what do you need today?"
It was holding hands at the hospital through more deaths than births.
It was mountain-top vacations and the ordinary everyday.
It was asking God to write our story and not complaining when He does.
It was hard work that really wasn't that hard at all- because spending life with your best friend makes it a whole lot easier.
It was all of these and more, with mountains of grace. But it most certainly was not a blink.
I started praying for my husband in junior high. God answered my prayer, as He always does, and sent me the most patient, loving, wise, and kind man he had. He sure knows what He is doing. I am so thankful for the past 9 years, the experiences and memories to come, and the greatest gift God has given me.
Love you, buddy!
I know it has been two weeks since I last blogged- I know, I know, I know. I will do better.
The first two weeks back at work have been amazing. My students are fantastic, as always, and my lessons and strategies are much improved after spending my summer at Miami University. What remains the same is that stack of essays. I just can't seem to make it disappear! But I am going to set it aside for a minute to give you an update. You should feel very special.
Jacob's gearing up for hunting season. To translate- I pretty much won't see him until Christmas. He goes crazy this time of year and hunts every chance he gets- land near our house, nearby states, across the country. The good news is he is staying in the country this year. Hooray! I miss him a lot, but I love seeing him so happy! I won't complain about all of the yummy meat he brings home, either.
The Little Outdoorsman-
To be honest, Reed has had a tiring couple of weeks. Transitioning from being home with me full time to his school-year schedule has been tough for the little guy, plus he's fighting through his second cold in two weeks. Everybody around here has been sick, plus I know I bring germs home with me from work. He's a trooper, though. We've invested in a few wooden puzzles, floor puzzles, and a Play-doh start up kit to help keep him occupied while he is sick. But believe it or not, he misses being outside all day. We are looking forward to plenty of farm visits, harvest festivals, and pumpkin-pickin' with the little guy in the fall.
When I'm not at work, I've tried to squeeze in as much quality time as possible with Jacob and Reed. Any "alone time" is an epic battle-showdown between sleep and Iron Chef America. And books. And puzzles.
My sister and I have been trying out some new recipes for the blog. I have my salmon burger recipe just about perfect. I'm also working on a perfect grilled cheese recipe- almost there- and tonight we are going to try out chicken alfredo roll-ups. I am so excited to share these yummy recipes with you soon. But I want them to be PERFECT!
So that's us right now. I know this time of year is a transition time for many people, but I finally feel like things are settling down. I find my peace and strength still, as always, in God and knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am so excited to see what September holds for us!
Now back to that stack of essays...