Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lunch Dates

Do you know the best thing about having a daughter who gets out of school at 12:30 every day?  

Weekly lunch dates!  

And while you're sitting at the cute little bistro waiting for your soup and salad, what better way to kill time than to take a million selfies?  Oh, how I love technology, and lunch dates with Savannah.  These are really good days.  And in a couple of years I'll get to repeat this schedule with my next little bird to leave the nest  (...only let's not talk about having the second bird fly away just yet...)  

Friday, September 26, 2014


It's been 18 years since Craig and I brought this baby home from the hospital in September 1996.
But I can remember every detail of it better than some of the details from earlier this week.  I remember the smell of the new carpet Craig had installed into the little house we had just bought.  I remember that she would NOT keep her feet tucked into anything.  I remember sleeping with my hand in her bassinet so I could make sure she was still breathing.  I remember her crying and crying and never wanting to sleep in her crib, and the only thing that settled her was having Craig walk her around the house singing John Denver songs into her little ears.  I remember how careful we were changing those first few diapers.  I remember being sleep deprived and nervous and so worried that I would never be good at this parenting thing.  

I remember first words, first steps, first days of school, moves across the country, best friends and new best friends, tantrums, Barbies, pony rides, birthday parties, pink everything, dress ups, time outs, ballet lessons, piano lessons, soccer, choir, musicals, May Day, her first hair appointment, her Easy Bake oven, Joy School, chickens, cats, and fish, Daddy/Daughter dates, shopping trips, dentist appts, her first time babysitting, her first time driving the car alone, her first talk in church, her first sleep away camp, her first dance, and her first date... 

And now all of a sudden, it's September 2014 and she's 18 years old.  

I wasn't expecting this to be such an emotional day, but all I can think about is that the firsts that are coming up for her are ones that we won't be as much a part of and won't remember as well as she does.  (...sniff...)

Monday, September 22, 2014


Well, it was not without it's dilemmas, but after all of my moaning and complaining and freaking out, this surprise party came together surprisingly well.  :)

The following is a serious "data dump" of pictures and details (which I know I love, but may not be as appealing to anyone else) so I'm just going to toss them all out there along with a little narrative so we can all read this in the years to come and remember the great things about this day.  

We went super minimal on the decor because really, with teenagers, they don't care all that much and because it's birthday season at our house (and apparently at the Bailey's house, too) so we were trying to keep within a reasonable budget.

I got this balloon idea from Pinterest (what did we ever do without that amazing website?) And it was the biggest hit of the night, I'm pretty sure.  18 pink helium balloons for Savannah and 18 masculine, multi-colored ones for Cameron with pictures from their childhood attached to ribbons and hanging all over the room.  Perfect way to keep 35 teenagers occupied while they waited for Savannah and Cameron to get to their party, and pretty fun for the guests of honor, too, I think.  I will definitely be using this idea again...maybe in October for Megan's birthday?   

Again, we went pretty simple.  Each of us made the kids' favorite appetizers and snacks, and also a few dozen cupcakes.  We tried really hard to not make this look like a boy/girl baby shower, but pink and blue happen to be their favorite colors, so it's a little baby shower-ish... 

On the invitations we asked the kids to park on the culdesac behind Cameron's house and to arrive at 7:30pm.  But by 7:29, when no one had arrived yet, we started to panic just a little.  A few minutes later, I received a text from one of the girls saying "We're all sitting here int he culdesac waiting...did you want us to come to the house?"  Um...yes we did.  Five minutes later the house was filled with 30+ teenagers, patiently waiting for the guests of honor to arrive.  It was around this time that I whispered a little "thank you" in my head that the Baileys had offered their house for the party.  Yikes!  That's a lot of kids.  
Cameron's dad, Shep, did an awesome job of corralling and quieting all the noisy kids while the rest of us orchestrated getting the two surprisEEs in from the driveway.  This was no small feat, by the way.  18 year olds are highly aware of their surroundings and apparently have some heightened awareness of all things "sketchy."
But, it worked.  The guests were quiet.  Shep eventually went out and dragged two unsuspecting teenagers in from the front yard, and we yelled SURPRISE! as loud as we could.  

I asked them later if they had any idea, and they both said they TOTALLY knew it about it.  (Really??)  Cameron said someone accidentally told him that morning, and Savannah said she knew because there was a pineapple on the counter in our kitchen.  (see why it's impossible to surprise this girl??)

I have zero innate game or cruise directing skills in my little handful of super powers.  My usual plan for throwing a teenager party is to make food and open the door.  After that, they're pretty much on their own.  Fortunately Tammi and Craig are both game-y types, so they were in charge of entertainment for the party.  We played a few of those Minute to Win It games for about an hour, and then the kids migrated to the food, and finally ended up outside in the pool...another reason this was the perfect party location...the Baileys have a POOL!  

The reason there were TWO:
When we first moved here four years ago, there was a boy in Savannah's Sunday School class who we found out had the same birthday as she did.  Fun coincidence...
The following year, as Savannah and Cameron got to know each other better, they wondered who was older.  And since we also knew his parents better, we dragged out birth certificates, compared times and accounted for time zone differences, and realized they are almost exactly the same age!  Cameron was born at 5:25pm CST (in Texas) and Savannah was born at 6:29pm EST (in Atlanta.)  Over the years they've been friends and not friends, they've tolerated and irritated each other, but they have always managed to set aside their differences and come together for at least one day a year when they acknowledge the extremely not-random fact that they were born less than four minutes apart and now live in the same town, go to the same church, and hang out in the same circle of friends.  They are actually pretty close now that they're older and much more mature, and we absolutely love Cameron.  So a combined surprise party for their last birthday together before graduation seemed like a great idea.  

Once again, our wonderful host and emcee, Shep, called everyone together, handed out cupcakes, and told the entire group the story of Cameron and Savannah's "four-minute-apartness."  And all were sufficiently impressed.  
Afterward, we sang first to Cameron...

...and then to Savannah...
...and then there was more food, and more cupcakes, and more swimming, and three hours later we helped clean up and then went home exhausted but happy.  

Surprised or not, I think both kids had a great time and felt abundantly loved and celebrated, and that's exactly what we wanted!  I'm so grateful for a huge group of good friends.  For two other daughters who helped decide, coordinate and decorate, and who filled in for me when I was stuck in endless traffic.  And for Shep and Tammi Bailey's generosity and enthusiasm for this crazy idea.  

Friday, September 19, 2014


Here is what you do when you have to sneak and make 36 cupcakes while your daughter is at seminary and you have no good reason for the house to smell like cake at 7:00am...

 ...you make coffee cake for breakfast!
And it was apparently so good that this is as close as I could get to a picture before they devoured it.  

All this sneaking is not as fun as you might think.  This may be my last surprise party for awhile...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Don't you just love watching people do what they love to do?  Their energy and passion is absolutely contagious.  And it doesn't even seem to matter what it is they're doing, when someone loves a thing, and you are in their presence while they are doing it, you can literally FEEL their enthusiasm, and all of a sudden you become enthusiastic with them.

Last night, at a Relief Society Enrichment activity (that's the monthly get together that we have as a women's organization of the church) I watched a woman teach a lesson about personal financial management.  (yawn...)  I did not expect to even really listen, much less find the subject enjoyable.  But, the teacher clearly loved what she was talking about, and her energy instantly drew everyone in.  She was knowledgeable and funny, and her ideas were relevant and accessible, and by the end of 30 minutes or so, I was thinking about personal financial management in a whole new way.  I told her afterward that I was shocked at how she had been able to change my mind, and looked forward to implementing her ideas at home.  (Beware family...)

Last Thursday, DMCO (Dallas Millennial Choirs and Orchestra) met for our first rehearsal since April!  Thats way too long a break, in my opinion.  And even though I was there for 5 hours, and even though I was exhausted and my throat hurt and my abs hurt and my legs hurt from all that singing (when you do it the right way, it is a dang workout, I tell you) I didn't even care.  I could have stayed for another two hours!  There is energy in that space with those people who all love to sing, and especially with those directors who have a passion for bringing about an enormous sound with a huge message.  I cannot help but be motivated and inspired in their presence.  

"We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.  And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." - Marianne Williamson 

That's a small part of one of my favorite quotes ever.  And as I have gone through this year thinking about LIGHT...being light, receiving light, standing in places where there is light...this quote comes to mind often.  There is LIGHT everywhere, and people radiate it in so many different ways.  It doesn't matter if you are speaking in front of throngs of people, or singing in the privacy of your own little garage band, when you do what you love, you have no choice but to emit LIGHT.  

I want to do that.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning

You'd think Monday mornings would be hard for me, especially since my body insists lately on staying up until midnight and waking up promptly at 5:00am every. single. morning.  

But they're not.  

Mondays are my favorite.  I like order after two whole days of random.  

I love making breakfast for my family.  Since we've switched to a 9:00am church schedule, it's harder to make breakfast happen on Sunday mornings, so I thought I'd make up for it with a little more ambitious breakfast today.  It turned out so pretty I even impressed myself.  (Don't think I do this every morning...)

I love starting the day with scriptures.  This is the chapter we're on today...

"Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."  Those words were so comforting today as I thought about all the many things I hope for, but don't actually have knowledge of yet.  

And this sweet, little, almost grown up, mouse of mine totally melted my heart (and her dad's) this morning when she scooted her chair right next to his and snuggled up while we read scriptures.  I can feel it tugging at all of us that these days aren't going to look like this for much longer.  I keep trying to soak it all in so that I don't miss anything.  But the days roll forth anyway and all of a sudden we're one week or one month closer to the part where she leaves for college.  

And then there was Institute.  Oh, how I love going to Institute on Monday mornings.  Honestly, the rest of the class could just not even be there because I'm quite sure every week that the lessons are entirely for me.  

Hope your Monday was great and that the week ahead brings fulfillment and joy.  

Friday, September 12, 2014


Have I mentioned that I am ridiculously impatient?  

Well, I am.

I struggle on a fairly regular basis with the need to wait and the inability to do so.  

I am, by nature, a striver and an orchestrator and a manipulator of events in order to accomplish the things that I know are supposed to happen in my life, and to expedite them as quickly as possible.  Because why know a thing is coming and then have to wait forever for it...that seems unnecessary, don't you think?  

I peeked at my Christmas presents when I was a little girl.  

I skip to the end of books...only the really, really good ones, though.

I Google to find out what happens at the end of the movie...while I'm sitting in the theatre.  

Clearly, waiting is hard for me.  

But, guess what happens when I restrain myself and exercise even the smallest particle of patience...EVERYTHING!  All the good stuff happens when I stop hounding people for it, whining about it, and worrying that it won't ever happen.  

Answers come.  Inspiration comes.  Motivation comes.  The clock slows down.  The weather changes.  People show up with a plan.  Opportunities present themselves.  Windows open.  Songs have the perfect lyrics.  And sunflowers grow in the middle of a wheat field.  

"God gives us vision to point to what's coming.  It is a witness in our spirit of the dreams, promises, purposes, destiny and calling He has stirred within us.  But there is a season of waiting that comes between the time you receive the vision and the time it comes to pass.  God's timing is perfect.  And as you walk in step with Him, you don't have to worry that you'll "miss it."  Don't get anxious when you start to ache for the vision or the dream to come to pass; don't force your way of making it happen.  He is more eager than you are for you to step into the fulfillment of every promise He has given you, so STAY THE COURSE.  Wait for it.  And before you know it, the answer comes.  The breakthrough happens.  The dream comes to life.  The relationship flourishes.  The miracle bursts forth.  He won't be a single day late in bringing the fulness of His plan and its purpose to life in your life."   - Andrea Howey

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Someone in our house has a major birthday coming up this month.  She also has gargantuan expectations for it and a mother, who as of Monday morning, still had no earthly idea how to pull off anything close to what she might want.  

But, as is typically the case in my life, I realized that when I slow down long enough to do the things I NEED to do first, and then ask for help with the things I can't do on my own, everything miraculously comes together.  

The only thing on my list yesterday was invitations.  That's it.  Well, there were plenty of other things on that list that needed to get done, but the only thing I absolutely wanted to accomplish was getting invitations finalized.  By 10:00 last night, I could count the million other things I had done yesterday:

Read my scriptures.
Planned my lesson for Sunday.
Went to lunch with a friend who I really, really needed to connect with.
Had a conversation that I really, really needed to have with another friend.
Remembered to mail Savannah's transcript to BYU Admissions.  
Picked up Megan from school.
Showed up with a guest speaker/presenter for our weekly Cub Scouts den meeting.
Made dinner.
Drove all over Allen dropping people off and picking people up.
Listened to all four kids debrief me on their days, made sure they finished their homework, said family prayer, and got them all in bed in a timely manner...mostly.

But...those darn invitations still were not done.  And because of the nature of this party, I couldn't wander upstairs and work on them with someone potentially looking over my shoulder.  

And then the miraculous started to happen...  

I had been emailing a couple of people via Etsy.com (that cute DIY website where people sell their handmade stuff) about invitations that could be sent via pdf and that could be edited and then printed from here...or from Staples.  At 10:30, I looked again at what I thought were my limited and not very appealing options, and noticed a message I must have missed earlier in the day.  Tracy, from Australia, said that she could make some changes and rush a custom order and send me the file by Friday morning.  Hallelujah!   I sent her my specific details, along with my payment, and hit SUBMIT.  And then I slept fitfully all night worrying that I might have missed something or that the 16 hours I had waited to respond had changed her availability, or that the time difference between countries would delay her.  (ugh...)

But this morning I woke up to find that not only does Australia stay awake while we're sleeping, but they also have wonderful little DIY angels/elves who can manifest exactly what I envisioned in my head, but could not possibly have done on my own!  

Eek!  I'm so excited about them, I can't even stand it!  Now...I just have to try really hard not to blow this whole surprise accidentally between now and next Friday night.  

Don't say anything, k?  

Monday, September 8, 2014

One Tiny Sunflower

Some days are inexplicably difficult.  There's no good reason for them to be challenging, but they just are.  Sometimes the workload and the number of hours in which to do it all doesn't quite add up.  Sometimes expectations are extremely difficult to live up to (mostly my own.)  And sometimes the discouragement and doubt settles in where I don't expect it to.  

I felt like that most of today.  Despite starting Institute again, which I have missed so much over the last three months, and despite having lunch with three of the most enjoyable people I know, I felt a little flat and hopeless.  

At 2:30, I scooped up Megan from school, turned up the music, and invited her to come with me on a quest to find something beautiful in the day.  We chatted about her day while we looked for something unexpected in the ordinary places we've driven a thousand times.

And then we found it!  A little gravel road with an open gate!  We nearly missed it as we sped by with all the traffic around us, but we had just enough time to make a bit of an abrupt turn off the main road. I have come to love that feeling of uneven terrain under the tires, and weeds right up to the windows beside me.  In my brief experience, those back roads almost always open up to some hayfield or barn, or some other beautiful, unexpected thing.  I didn't even have my camera with me.  Just my phone.  But I told Megan to keep her eyes open for anything she thought was beautiful.  She took a few pictures of some purple wildflowers and a really tall, really thorny bush from the window of the Jeep.  And then, almost at the end of our gravel road, we found this...
one tiny, immovable, yellow sunflower in a field of drab, ordinary weeds.  If I had been driving any faster I would have missed it.  I stopped the car and jumped out, snapped one quick picture and off we drove back home.  

That's how I can always tell it's been a successful trip.  When something catches me by surprise or takes my breath away enough to make me get out of the car and take a picture of it, then I can go home without regrets.  And almost always, it only takes one shot to catch it.  

Our mini adventure only took about 30 minutes.  We made it home in time for homework, practices, and dinner prep to continue as scheduled, but what a great little break it was. That little yellow flower and Megan's sunny personality were exactly what I needed to remind me that there is always, always something in every single day to be grateful for; sometimes you just have to hunt for it.