Thankful for the Captured Moments

Kids can be a total pain in the butt – especially when you pull out the camera. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t give birth to children who know how to look into the lens with super sweet and genuine smiles on command. I don’t blame them that their mother doesn’t have the slightest clue about angles or backdrops or flashes or anything photo-related – those are completely my fault. But I do blame them for thinking that “freeze” means “dance around wildly”, that “say cheese” means “give me the most annoyed look ever,” and that “hug your sister” means “please hug her so hard you knock her into that massive mud puddle on the ground.”


No, in our house beautiful photographic moments are almost always immediately ruined by the arrival of a camera. We have fun with it though, and even though most of my photos are blurry, out of focus, and full of weird faces I love knowing that who we are has been accurately captured forever.

But every so often I manage to snap a photo that freezes a perfect moment for all time. Usually this means the girls aren’t aware that a camera was present, and so the image collected is one of absolute genuineness – the definition of a candid.


While I love all the photos in this post, the following are my absolute top favorite candids ever, with a little backstory on each. Be warned, these photos might melt your heart… they sure do mine.

<3 Julia had colic as a baby and cried constantly. She quieted down before I got to her room one morning, and when I peeked in I saw that Emily had brought in the stool so she could give her sister the pacifier. I think this is one of first candid photos I ever took of the girls together, and I love that you can’t even see Julia in it.


<3 On a family vacation to Savannah we stayed in a hotel room that was a bit too small for the hotel-provided crib and Emily’s cot. We were worried that the girls would play all night and that none of us would get any sleep, but especially that Julia would bother Emily all night since their beds were bumped right up beside each other. Shortly after getting them both settled down, we looked over to see that Emily was already passed out. But instead of bothering her sister and waking her up, we saw Julia’s little arm extended out of the crib, offering Emily a pacifier. Yes, I died in a puddle of Mommy Mush.


<3 Emily is a natural-born nurturer, always looking out for Julia and wanting to protect her. The girls rarely get sick, and when they do it’s almost always completely out of nowhere with very little indication an illness is on the way. When I went into Julia’s room to wake her for school one morning I found the girls like this and rushed to my room to get the camera. Julia had become sick during the night, and when Emily had gone in to read to her in the morning Julia passed right out in her lap, exhausted from her sick bug.


<3 This last favorite is just more evidence of Emily’s love for Julia, who had just received a couple of shots at her doctor’s visit. Julia didn’t want me to comfort her, she only wanted her big sister.


I’m thankful for these moments more than I can express, and I’m sure every mother out there completely understands why. The girls are 9 and 4 now, and as their interests begin to differ and they begin to grow more independently from each other the opportunities for these beautiful moments will begin to dwindle as well. I know there will be fewer and fewer photos on my camera as the girls grow and live their lives, and more and more photos on their cameras of people I won’t know and places I won’t be with them. And that’s okay – it’s part of letting them grow.


But for now, I’ll take as many pictures as I can – both candid and cheesy-posed. And I’ll cherish the moments I’ve already captured – for myself as much as for them. <3

I Dream of a Genie Bottle Medal

Oh, how I dreamed of this medal.


The minute I stumbled across it on Facebook I was scheming and plotting and trying to figure out how on earth I’d manage to train for another half-marathon – in the heat of the summer nonetheless – just to get it. I’d just about given up on the idea when I discovered a super cool way that I could run this event and still get my medal – without running the entire 13.1 miles myself.


The Cocoa Beach Half Marathon offered a relay option, something I’d never seen at an event before. All you had to do was be ready to run/walk 6.55 miles and find someone who was willing to do the same! I checked to be sure that both runners would receive a medal, and as soon as it was confirmed that they would I sent a message out to my friend Jen, who  had just been telling me that she was looking for a 10K to run (a 10K is 6.2 miles, so this was pretty darn close). Our friend Tina decided to join us, and she had a friend who lived near the event who was also a runner and wanted in on the fun. We were ready to go get those medals!


We prepped everything the night before and drove as much of the route as we could to familiarize ourselves with it. Nearly 3 miles of the course was on the beach, so we couldn’t drive that part, but the drive gave us a good sense of some important details, like where the busses would be picking up the runners headed to the starting line, where we would need to do the relay exchange, and where the finish line would be. Of course the race was perfectly planned to end on I Dream of Jeannie Lane. :)


In the morning Jen and I said goodbye to Tina and Jennifer as they got on the bus. Don’t they just have the best smiles?


We decided to mix up our partners since Tina and Jennifer run about the same pace and Jen and I run the same pace, that way we’d all have someone to run the course with. I was really eager to run on sand for the first time, so Jen and I took the second leg of the relay, meaning we’d wait for Tina and Jennifer to reach the exchange point at the halfway mark before we could start our leg.


It wasn’t too long before Tina and Jennifer got the the exchange point, and they seemed pretty happy to be done with their half. Jennifer had finished long runs before, but it was Tina’s first official 10K+ distance, so she was extra psyched!


As soon as they crossed the timing pad, Jen and I took off. The first part of our stretch was pretty uneventful, and the route took us down a main road past some shops and hotels and doubled back before turning north again for a bit. But then we were directed to a narrow wooden boardwalk, and after a short jog through the sand we found ourselves running south again right along the shoreline. It was pretty awesome.


Since Tina and Jennifer were finished and our leg was headed back in their direction, they were able to meet us on the beach to snap a pic. :)


Instead of sandwich board or digital timed mile markers, the event had genie bottle signs along the route with the mile number on them. The signs were held by gals dressed as genies, which was a pretty great way to keep the theme going throughout the course.


Gotta love a running pic photobomb! :D


The end of the course took us back up the beach to the same road we started on, then kept on that road until we reached Lori Wilson Park where we crossed a very pink finish line… and received our super heavy and super awesome medals!


Tina and Jennifer had already received their medals at the exchange point, so once Jen and I had ours we were all officially finished!


This was the first time Cocoa Beach had held this event, and there were definitely some things they need to work out for future runs. But that won’t stop me from signing up for next year’s race, especially since they plan to hand out a different version of Jeannie’s bottle as a medal! Can’t you just see me with a little collection of genie bottles? I sure can! :D



Who’s Driving?

Inside Out had only been out for 24 hours and I’d already seen it twice. In addition to the trip we took to the movie theater to see it with my best friend and her three boys. And it may sound crazy, but I’m convinced that this is by far the deepest and most insightful children’s movie I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, please go. Now. Seriously, stop reading and don’t come back until you’ve seen it. But just in case you haven’t, no worries, I promise not to give away any spoilers. :)

11009135_10204323113749973_7157234629957383461_n_2The premise of the movie is that we are driven by 5 main emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These 5 emotions live inside our head, pushing buttons and twisting knobs on a giant console table. They direct how we feel about things, they are responsible for the way we react to things, they are responsible for how we perceive things. And the feelings we emote externally are a direct result of who’s at the helm. If Joy is in control, we are happy. If Fear is in control, we are afraid. You get the idea. The one who sits in the middle chair is the one calling the shots.


As I was watching it the other day, something occurred to me. It’s clear that the little girl in the movie is being primarily driven by Joy, and even though the other emotions get to take control here and there, Joy is the one at the wheel. She (Joy) doesn’t like any of the other emotions to take over too long, and is eager to be back in charge when it’s her turn again. The result is that overall, the little girl is a very happy child. But although the film focuses on one main character and her emotions, occasionally you get a glimpse into the minds of some of the other characters. And what I noticed is that they are not all driven by Joy. Some are driven by Anger. Some Sadness or Disgust. And some are even driven by Fear. There are even a couple of characters that don’t seem to be strongly driven by any one emotion – there’s just a sort of odd balance to them, even if it means they are all equally calm or equally freaking out. But the thing is, not everyone is driven by Joy.


I find this to be incredibly profound, because isn’t it the reality of life? Isn’t it true that some people seem to be wired to smile and laugh their cares away, while others explode or panic at the slightest inconvenience? I’m sure this might get me into trouble, but I could name good friends that default to each of these emotions. Friends that are driven – but not defined – by Fear, Joy, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. And I love every single one of them, no matter which emotion is at the wheel. I say it all the time: it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round.


We are all dealing with the same emotions, we just deal with them differently. I’m just the same – I find myself struggling to fight off Disgust, Anger, Fear, and Sadness on a daily basis. And most of the time, I’m successful. But not without constant prayers to God to help me see Joy. Not without relying on His strength to help me push aside the other emotions that can so easily slip back in charge. I’m well aware that more often than not I’m in need of grace, both from God and from my fellow man. Grace that I don’t deserve from any of them, but I’m completely humbled and grateful to receive.

And I guess that’s the lesson in this: we all need grace, so we should all show grace. You don’t know which emotion is at the wheel in the minds of those you come across everyday. Got a brash waiter serving your lunch? Maybe Anger is in charge because he just dealt with a rude customer. Show grace. You don’t like the way that guy is driving his car? Maybe he’s headed to his sick wife and Sadness is the one at the wheel. Show grace. Having a hard time getting your child to be honest? Maybe Fear is in control of their words.


The thing is, you really don’t know the struggles going on in someone else’s head. They may very well be trying to let Joy take over and just can’t seem to figure out how to make it happen. So show grace, the same as Jesus does for us when we aren’t shining beams of light and rainbow-y smiles. I know the emotional war for the middle chair in my head, the thoughts that go through my mind – even when everyone else sees the smile – and I’m well aware that I don’t deserve His grace. Which, to me, is all the more reason to demonstrate it to others.

I’m learning to be okay with who I am – emotional mistakes and all – and to give myself grace for those emotional mistakes that extend beyond my own head out to others. I’m learning to keep relying on God to keep my heart and attitude positive, to extend the same grace to others that He extends to me, and to take the wheel from my emotions and hand it over to Jesus. He’s a much better driver anyway. :)

The Mud Run Zone

Urban Dictionary defines in the zone as “being completely unaware of what’s going on around you, as you are so extremely into what’s going on right in front of your face.”

And it finally happened to me. I was in the zone.


I’d been dying to try a mud run since I started running, but I was terrified of the obstacles. I knew I needed to build up my arm muscles (thanks to a friend’s advice), and since I hadn’t exactly been dedicated to my arm workouts I figured there was no way I was ready to attempt one. But when I found out a group of people from my church were signing up for the Goliath Gauntlet and that everyone was willing to help each other out, I was in.



The Goliath Gauntlet is a 3.5-mile course with over 20 obstacles of varying difficulty. 100% of the proceeds from this event (including race photo proceeds) go to the children’s homes at Sheridan House, the same group that organizes and hosts the Family values 5K that I ran earlier this year and last. Obstacles included a tire wall, a tank of ice-cold water, and a log roll. Awesomesauce.



IMG_1531Our group had about 30 participants, and my plan was to stick with the majority of the group so that we’d be able to help each other complete the obstacles as needed. We were all scheduled to start our wave together, so we joined hands, prayed, and climbed the mandatory start line fence to wait for our countdown. The first leg of the race was a short run until we reached obstacle #1, and I’d planned to take it slow and not worry about pushing too hard. I just wanted to have a good time getting through the course.



I’ve written before about the energy in the air at running events, but I’ve never actually been overtaken by that energy before. I was completely (and unexpectedly) overtaken this time! My legs just didn’t want to go slow. I came up on the first obstacle and scaled it like it was a bump on the sidewalk. I dove in the sand to crawl through the tunnel, then scaled the next wall. I passed most of the people in our group during a long running stretch early in the course, and it was during that portion of the race that I realized I might actually have a chance at finishing under my own steam. I decided then and there that I was going to go at this run with everything I had. I felt a little guilty leaving my friends behind, but I knew I’d feel worse if I didn’t try as hard as I could.


So I hit every obstacle hard. I was determined to give  one hundred percent effort in everything I came up against, and I did. If you didn’t complete an obstacle you were expected to do 10 pushups, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t need to do a single one – I tackled every obstacle with everything I had. Dude, I was in the zone. I climbed walls. I leapt over tires. I swam canals. I crawled through mud below a ceiling of barbed wire.





I wasn’t successful at everything I attempted. I fell off of the rings before I even reached the second one. I tried running on water (this was the most INSANE obstacle), and only made it to the 5th platform. I needed help scaling a couple of tall walls after swimming the water I wasn’t able to run across. My legs were pooped… swimming with sneakers on is no joke. I’m obviously not hard-core enough for that.

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I was able to climb the rock wall unassisted, which totally rocked my world (pun intended), but then I came to the final obstacle – Jericho. Jericho is a warped (curved) wall with three different options to scale: an 11′ side with a rope assist, a 13′ side with a rope assist, and a 13′ side without a rope assist. I chose the 11′ wall. :D I managed to get halfway up the rope on my own, but as I was trying to climb the rope my feet couldn’t find the wall because it was curved inward, and I panicked. A man was at the top of the wall, helping anyone who needed it. He tried to encourage me to climb higher, but I just couldn’t do it. He grabbed my hand and pulled me up with one arm. It was amazing. I thought he was one of the race volunteers, and it wasn’t until later that I saw his bib in the photos and realized he was actually a participant.




I climbed down the back of Jericho and crossed the finish line. Best feeling ever. It turned out that out of our entire church group I was the 5th to finish, and even more amazing, I was the first female in our group to cross. Boo-yah. :)


After the race everyone who came up to me said the same thing: that I was in the zone. And they’re right – I had blocked out nearly everything around me, focusing only on moving forward and giving each obstacle everything I had until this beauty was hanging around my neck.


One thing did manage to break through my focus though – my incredibly supportive family. <3 Jay and the girls ran alongside the entire course, bouncing from obstacle to obstacle just to take photos for me. Anytime I had to wait my turn to complete a wall or swim or climb I’d look around for them, and there they were – waving, smiling, and cheering me on. I could hear Emily shouting, “GO, MOMMY!” across the course, and Julia screaming, “ARE YOU TIRED YET?” XD


This event made it in the list of my top 3 favorite runs ever. It was everything I’d hoped it would be – and I did better than I ever expected. I was in the Mud Run Zone. And I gotta say, I’m really hoping to get there again someday! :)


How a Song Changed my Feelings on Temptation

Temptation pisses me off.

I have struggled with accepting the idea of temptation’s existence my entire life. I’m not talking about being tempted to eat a glazed donut when you know you should eat a banana or being tempted to buy a cute pair of fringed boots when you know you’ve got to pay the electric bill.

I’m talking purely about the temptation to stray while in a committed relationship.

I have no idea why this has been such a hangup of mine, but ever since I was a kid I’ve found myself ridiculously angered whenever I’ve heard that someone has been unfaithful to the one they swore to be faithful to. I’ve never considered myself a romantic or one to have “fairy-tale dreams” about living happily ever after, but I do believe – very strongly – that if you vow to spend the rest of your life loving someone then you darn well better keep that vow – and not put yourself into situations where you’ll be tempted to be unfaithful.

Now, I understand that people sometimes fall out of love. And I’ve watched enough Lifetime movies to know that feelings for another person can sneak up on you and develop without you ever seeking them out – especially if things are not well in your primary relationship. I know that people change, tragedies happen, mistakes are easily made, and the day-to-day monotony of life can make you crave something more exciting.

But I still can’t stand the thought of someone actually going through with it.

I have always been an insecure person, and I spent the first 8 or 9 years of my marriage convinced that one day Jay was going to find someone better than me and decide he’d rather be with her. Someone kinder (I can be quite snippy), someone more beautiful (I still get huge ugly pimples), someone cleaner (always barefoot = dirty feet), someone smarter (I taught Kindergarteners… not an easy job, but not exactly the same intelligence level as a neurosurgeon). I know now what a stupid thing that was to let myself dwell on. Feeling like I wasn’t worth his love began to heighten my awareness of the physical temptations that are absolutely everywhere: miniskirts, high heels, perfect skin, big boobs. Jay finally told me that it hurt him that I didn’t see myself the way he did, that I thought so little of him that I didn’t think he was capable of keeping his commitment to love and be faithful to only me for the rest of our lives. Seeing how my fears were hurting him, I decided to let them go.

But it’s still hard to not be afraid from time to time when temptation is everywhere, and enjoying its presence in our everyday lives is completely normal: movies… TV shows… songs… books… checking out and enjoying someone else while in a committed relationship is inarguably prevalent in our society, and it’s more abnormal than not to consider the potential consequences for indulging in temptation… even if nothing is “actually” done.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am completely aware of human nature, of how men are “wired,” and that women have emotional needs that sometimes men just have no idea how to fill. But it’s hard for me to believe that we can face sexual temptation over and over and somehow manage to never cave. The Bible teaches us to lean on God to help us fight temptation, to pray for the strength to turn away. But it also points out that the flesh is weak. I was starting to feel like everywhere I looked I saw more examples of weak flesh than strength in action. When you see friends, celebrities, and pastors cheat or be cheated on, it’s even harder to believe that any of us has the strength to say no.

So here’s where the song comes in.

Lately I’ve been hearing Andy Grammer’s new song, “Honey I’m Good,” on the radio a lot. Catchy lyrics, a kind of hoe-down-y beat – I found myself singing along almost immediately. The song is about a guy who’s out at night, having a drink or two and noticing the girls in the bar around him. He notices their legs, their nice tushies, and even acknowledges that they would probably be a lot of fun to spend the night with. But, unfailingly, he chooses to go home to the love of his life.

I struggled with the message behind this song for a while (though I was always singing along). Even though he remains faithful to his girl, I hated that he even mentioned the pleasing appearance of the other women there. I didn’t understand why he would even allow himself to be somewhere – drinking almost to the point of giving in to temptation – if he loved his girl so much. In my eyes, if he really loved her he wouldn’t be there in the first place. I really wanted to see the good in this song, but I couldn’t tell if it was about him being faithful to his wife or wishing he didn’t have to be.

Then I saw the video.

And I get it now. At least, I think I do.

I can’t keep allowing myself to notice and focus on the failings of others. Their lack of resistance to temptation is no reflection of my marriage or Jay’s commitment to me. Despite the fact that I’ve always known this (I wouldn’t have married a man I didn’t trust my heart with), seeing this video gave me the visual I needed. Made me realize that there are still lots of people out there who are determined to remain true. Dedicated. Loyal.


It’s not that they’ve been faithful because they were never tempted and it was easy. No. These couples made a choice – a choice to fight temptation and maintain their commitment. And they aren’t upset that the temptations exist, because the truth is, they do exist. And all we can do is make sure we don’t give in. For Jay and I, that means leaning on Christ to help us remain forever loyal to one another.

Which we have. And will continue to do. Hopefully until we can hold up a sign saying we’ve been married for 71 years… or longer. <3

Chess Whiz

Emily has taken a liking to Chess. And once that checkered board is on the table my sweet, calm, empathetic daughter becomes competitive, energized, and merciless. The game completely brings out a different side of her that I’ve never really seen before – a side that I kinda like.

IMG_7921During the past school year Emily and her 3rd-grade classmates each received their own chess set and were taught how to play the game. Emily caught on pretty quickly, and from what I was told had no trouble beating almost everyone in her class. This, of course, boosted her confidence enough that when she brought her game home at the end of the school year she felt ready to challenge Jay and I to a game.

Like most things in life that we wish to improve on, chess takes practice. And the best way to build your skills at chess is to play someone more skilled than yourself – someone difficult to beat. Watching your more skilled opponent during a game can reveal new moves and thought patterns that you may not have discovered on your own while playing a less-skilled opponent. Jay is definitely a more-skilled opponent than Emily, but it soon became clear that I was more than a little rusty.


The first time I played with her I was so sure I had her in checkmate that as soon as I said it I began clearing the other pieces off of the board. Only I didn’t actually have her in checkmate. Oops. The next time I played her I got so confused at the end I couldn’t figure out a single way to get her in checkmate, and I made such a mess of things that we ended up in a stalemate, although I’m pretty sure she was just being nice. The last game I actually did win – I got her in checkmate with a pawn, of all pieces – but forgot the rule that a pawn that crosses over to the other side of the board can become a queen. Clearly, I was not the best opponent for Emily to build her skills on.


Then one day we discovered that the local library hosts a Chess Club one or two Saturdays each month, and surprisingly my normally happy-to-stay-home daughter was really excited to try it out! :)

When we got there, we quickly learned that the club was run and mainly participated in by middle and high school guys who were probably earning volunteer credit hours for school. I was sure that she’d turn around and walk right back out, but no – my normally shy-around-strangers daughter chose an opponent, sat right down, and started a game. Proud Momma moment, right there.


What made me even more proud though was how she not only stalemated 3 of her middle-school opponents, but even managed to win a game! They also had a drawing for a little prize, and amazingly she won that too – a little yellow knight chess piece on a keychain, which she immediately hung on her bookbag when she got home. And just to add a fun little side note, she even won a chess award at the end of the school year!

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As it got closer to her birthday, Jay and I had one of those moments where light falls from heaven like a spotlight and you hear angels singing all around – we were going to get our Harry Potter-crazed daughter a Wizard’s Chess set, just like in the movie. I said it on Facebook and I’ll say it again here: there should really be a prize for mad gift-giving skills. And I’d win.


No surprise here, but she absolutely loved it and immediately began playing against my brother, who’s been a chess nut for as long as I can remember. My dad even built him a beautiful chess table years ago since he loves the game so much. And despite the look of inevitable defeat on Kevin’s face here, he is definitely a better player than I am and has continued to beat her when they play. Finally, the perfect opponent!


I’m not sure how long it’s going to last, but for the moment she’s totally into knights and rooks, castles and pawns. I love that it’s not only teaching her logic and reasoning skills, but it’s also teaching my normally-can’t-handle-losing daughter how to lose gracefully. And, of course, how to be a gracious winner, too. :)

A Salesman, a Security Guard, and a Cobblestone Necklace

I’ve said it before. In fact, I’ve said it here… and here… and here. Oh, and here.

Tiffany & Co. is the best store in the world.

And in case I haven’t made you a believer yet, allow me to spend yet another blog post trying to convince you how fabulous this store really is. And I’m not sorry.

My bestie and I just took our annual Girls’ Trip, this time to snazzy, jazzy New Orleans. Our trips always include a few stops for frappuccinos, and while waiting for our order at the mall near the French Quarter we spied it – Tiffany & Co. <3

We got our coffee, and because my bestie is the best bestie in the world, she was happy to let me wander through the mall and swoon over the store’s entrance, which was flanked on three sides by beautiful tiffany-blue lighting. She humored me and guarded my beverage and my purse while taking yet another photo of me in front of a Tiffany & Co. sign.

And the security guard comes over and asks if he can be in the picture with me.

Here’s where I knew I’d be having yet another great Tiffany’s experience. Here’s where this visit to Tiffany’s became my favorite ever. Here’s where I knew I’d be writing another post about this establishment and its total awesomeness.

After my photo moment with Ben, Sanne and I went in to look at all the goodies. We were immediately offered assistance by a salesman with an incredibly kind face, to which I politely declined. I explained that I wasn’t going to buy anything, I was just looking to get some ideas for my upcoming birthday. Sanne and I walked around admiring all the pretty things – and then I saw it.

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This is the Tiffany Cobblestone Medallion Pendant. It is by far my most favorite item the store has to offer, and I had never seen it in person before.

Cue the drool.

This pendant is absolutely breathtaking, and comes with a pricetag completely worthy of its beauty – $14,000. There was no way they were going to let me try that on, especially knowing I had no intention of purchasing it. But I had to ask. See, right before we left for New Orleans Jay accidentally made a joke about money while planning a trip with his friend, saying, “There’s no time like the present to spend money.” So, naturally, I saw the perfect opportunity to freak him out a little. After all, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose too, right? :D

I asked the kind-faced salesman, John, if there was any way I could try it on. He didn’t even hesitate – he pulled it right out of the case and while my jaw dropped to the floor and tears began to form in my eyes he brought it around the counter and clasped it around my neck. I’m still in shock.


Can I just stop for a minute and say again that this is the most stunning piece in the entire Tiffany & Co. collection?


I took a bunch of pictures with the necklace on before reluctantly handing it back over to John to return to the case. He wasn’t done with me yet though, and called me to join him behind the counter to have a look at the matching Cobblestone ring on his computer screen. Definitely on my wish list too, but as I told John, if you’re going to spend that kind of money then you should definitely go for the more eye-catching piece. :D

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We finished looking at everything, but before we left I asked John to take a picture of Sanne and me. He looked around the store for a minute, then found the perfect backdrop. I wish this picture did it justice – the wall behind us was beautiful.


Then I took one with John too because, after all, we had become such good friends by this point.


I asked him if he was okay with me posting his picture on my blog, and he got all excited, writing down my blog’s web address and complimenting its name, which then led to a brief conversation on Slurpees, Icees, and slush puppies. :) In case you can’t tell, John is awesome. He then called Ben (the also-awesome security guard of entrance-photo fame) over and told him that the two of them were going to be in my blog post.

Sadly though, we couldn’t stay all day, and Sanne and I bid adieu to our new Tiffany & Co. besties. On our way out John gave me his business card and told me that he hopes I get my necklace someday.

Me too, John. Me too. <3


Grandpa Bill

There are some people in this world that you just have a connection with. Miles don’t matter. Infrequent interaction doesn’t matter. Commonalities don’t matter. What does matter is the joy you feel when those miles are crossed… when the interactions occur… when the commonalities are discovered. That’s when you know that a magical connection exists. You feel your soul light up with just the thought of them. And you feel an enormous hollow space in your heart once they are gone.


That’s how I feel about my Grandpa Bill. He passed away this July, just a few days shy of his 84th birthday. He didn’t have a funeral, so he didn’t have a eulogy. There was no memorial service, so there was no one listen to stories and memories of how he impacted their lives. But I want to share what he meant to me, share the memories that are working to help fill the void that’s now there.


For as long as I can remember I’ve been told that I take after him, and it’s always made me a little proud. To me he was someone who confidently knew what he did and didn’t like; someone who loved my grandmother very deeply; someone who’s respect was hard to earn, but for me it was one of the best feelings in the world to know I had it. His approval meant everything to me as a child, and whenever I worked towards a goal throughout my life I did it knowing in the back of my mind that he’d be proud of me when I succeeded. High school, college, teaching, marriage, kids – I wanted to be someone he could brag about. I wanted him to be proud of who I was and the choices I made. When I started dating Jay I remember thinking how much my Grandpa Bill would like him. And when they finally met and he told me that I’d found a good man – well, let’s just say that Jay became even more attractive that day once I knew he’d met Grandpa Bill’s approval.


I’ve never lost anyone that I felt a real connection to, and I was surprised at how quickly my head and heart flooded with memories. Memories like the small planes he flew right off his own property (he’d even mowed his own runway!) and the stories he’d tell about flying and shutting off the engine mid-flight to test his emergency skills. The rusty oil tank on his property that was no place for children, yet he allowed my brother and me to climb the rickety ladder and sit on the top, feeling like royalty looking over our domain. Watching the Long, Long Trailer with him, and listening to him talk about Snow White, his favorite Disney princess. Laughing while he chased pelicans on the beach, trying to capture a photo in one of the cameras he’d bought on one of his frequent pawn shop excursions. The cave tour Jay and I took with him that led us on a 4-mile subterranean journey throughout Mammoth Caves while a tornado passed over us above ground. The surprise wedding album he had someone make for me because he knew I enjoyed scrapbooked albums.


But my favorite memories are the ones that occurred on my wedding day. <3

The night before my wedding I put everything I’d need to get ready at the church the next day in my mom’s van, including my wedding dress. The next morning my mom and I grabbed our purses and stepped outside to leave… and noticed the van was missing. Gone without a trace. We freaked out, thinking maybe it had been stolen, until my Grandma Skip walked in and told us that Grandpa Bill had taken the van to check out some pawn shops. This was before cell phones were common, and as my grandpa had no idea my dress was in the back we had no way of getting in touch with him and no idea how long he’d be gone. Fortunately, he showed up in time for us to get there with plenty of time to get dressed, although I’ll admit we were a bit panicked for a while!

He more than made up for hijacking my wedding dress after the ceremony though. Jay had rented a Rolls Royce to whisk our newly married selves to the reception, and it wasn’t until we were about to get in the car that we realized our driver wasn’t going to take us anywhere until we paid the $300 remainder we still owed him. We’d completely forgotten about it and didn’t have any money to pay him. At the exact moment we were about to send the driver away and bum a ride with someone, my Grandpa Bill walked up – not knowing our predicament – and said he wasn’t sure when he was supposed to give us our wedding present. He put something in Jay’s left hand while shaking the right, and when we took a look we saw that he’d given us exactly $300. In cash. We turned around, handed it to the driver, and headed off to our reception. (Then he commemorated the event in the wedding album he’d had made. :D )


When I was in my early teens my grandpa sent me a special birthday gift. Along with the gift from him and my grandma, there was a small package with a note in his blocky handwriting. It was a silver chain bracelet, and he’d written that when he saw it he thought of me and wanted me to have it. I don’t know if my grandma knew about this extra gift because the note was signed just by him, but I always felt like it was something just between the two of us. I wore it every day, and when it broke I bought another to replace it. When it broke too I went years without a replacement – until Jay took me to Tiffany’s to pick out my Christmas present. I chose a simple beaded bracelet with a Tiffany Blue heart to stand in for the silver chain my grandpa had bought me all those years ago. I wear it every day and think of him whenever I look at it.. <3


I’ll miss his determination to make sure I was safe – which usually involved his belief that I needed a gun. (We’d had long phone conversations about why teachers should have concealed weapons in classrooms, and once while we were driving he even pulled out his gun and tried to stuff it in my glovebox. I’m pretty sure he just wanted to see what kind of gun would fit in it, but I’ll bet if I’d decided to get one he would have been more than happy to take me shopping.) I’ll miss that blocky handwriting. I’ll miss the way he smiled at me, conveying just how proud of me he was and how much he loved me.


Rest in peace, Grandpa. Gobs of love to you forever. <3

London on a Bicycle

One of our favorite things to do whenever we vacation somewhere is to locate a bike rental shop and check out the area at our own pace. Jay and I have biked through Williamsburg, Toronto, and even on Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island), and now we’ve added London to that list!


This past June Jay and I decided to spend our 13th anniversary in London. We knew we’d want to go exploring on a bicycle at some point in our 3-day stay, and after doing a little digging online we came across BrakeAway Bike Tours. The company offered a number of different tours, and we were thrilled to see that one of them would cover many of the popular tourist attractions that we’d already planned to visit – which would save us a ton of sightseeing time on our trip.


We met our tour guide, Matt, in Waterloo Station, then took a short walk to where the bikes were housed – a crazy tunnel where spray painting the walls was completely legal. The tunnel was frequented by graffiti artists who would just paint over the existing work on the walls, and as a result the walls were constantly changing daily – we were advised to take pictures of anything we liked because it would most likely be gone the next day! There were even artists spray painting in the tunnel while we were there, which was pretty cool to watch (albeit a bit smelly).



We put on our helmets, grabbed our bikes, and headed off through the tunnel. I was a little nervous about biking on the “wrong” side of the street, but Matt was a great guide and always made sure everyone in the group stuck together. He explained biking signals, that there would be areas where we’d be required to walk our bikes, and that we could feel free to stop him any time we needed.



Big Ben, Buckingham Palace (including the Changing of the Guard), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and MI5 were just a few of the stops on our tour. At every location we went to, Matt would give us interesting tidbits of information that made us feel as though we were really getting insider information – past and present – about the city. He quickly caught on that Jay and I are Harry Potter fans, and any chance he got he’d squeeze in a few factoids about the actors and the movies. :)


The ride was an easy 7.5 miles, which we finished in only about 3.5 hours (including a 20-minute break). Despite the crazy traffic and not being used to everyone driving on the left, we didn’t have a single moment where we felt things were dangerous. Our tour included the bike rental (mine was named Audrey Hepburn – how perfect is that for a gal who loves Tiffany’s?) and helmets, and of course, an amazing tour guide. My bike had a little basket on the front, which was perfect for holding my purse, jacket, and water bottle. If you’re ever headed to London for a sightseeing trip, I highly recommend checking out BrakeAway Bike Tours! :)


Jay and I have always enjoyed walking and biking through the cities we visit, but I think this tour has made us consider booking bike tours on our future travels to other cities, too! Now, where to go for our 15th…? ;)


PS – I was not paid or perked or even asked to write this post. Jay and I just had such a good time that I wanted to give this company some internet love! <3 :)


It’s one thing to mispronounce words, and it’s another to have your own phrases and ways of describing things. Julia’s only 4, but she’s got her own linguistic style. And it never fails to make us smile.


For example, a common Julia-phrase while reading a book is scoop the page.” This is her version of saying turn the page,” but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because when you go to turn a page your hand sort of scoops the paper up. What doesn’t make sense is that she sometimes applies this to watching TV, and she’ll ask us to scoop the channel or scoop the shows.” I just can’t bring myself to correct her though. (PS – Here’s one of my all-time favorite videos of her reading. :) )

The other day we were at the table talking about something fun we all liked doing this summer, and after sharing hers she told us all that it’s her favorite because it’s the much most more funnest ever.” How can you disagree with logic like that? :D


But my favorite is when she talks about decorating the bed.” In Julia-speak, this is her way of saying “make the bed,” but I’m guessing she has issues with that phrasing since she’s not actually creating a bed out of thin air. I just love it when she runs up to me with a huge smile on her face and says, “Mommy! I decorated my bed all by myself!” :) In all honesty, I think I like her way of saying it better.


Then there’s also the seemingly endless list of words that she just can’t seem to pronounce no matter how many times we practice with her:

  • wusually (usually)
  • bekbast (breakfast)
  • amember (remember)
  • pocksicle (popsicle)
  • Valenstime’s Day
  • instrodoosting (introducing)

IMG_7970I think my favorite mispronunciation though was when my best friend and I were planning a trip to New York and I was trying to explain to Julia that I’d be gone for a few days. She looked up at me and said, “Have fun in You Nork, Mommy!” Oh, my heart. <3

When Emily was younger she of course struggled with word pronunciations too, and to this day I can remember the day she stopped mispronouncing “tarantula.” For the longest time she called it a “tralantrula” and no matter how much she begged I refused to tell her the right way to say it. Then one day she got in the car after school, looked right in my eyes, and said it correctly. I was crying as I drove out of the parking lot. My baby girl had lost her last word. :'(

It’s been almost 9 months since Sanne and I took that trip, and to this day Julia still can’t say “New York.” I think I’m going to leave it that way – I wouldn’t change this girl’s unique style of talking for anything. Her sense of style… now that’s another thing entirely. :D