Sunday, July 8, 2018

Choose Peace

We are halfway through 2018.  It seems like only yesterday was January 1st and before we know it, it will be December 31st.  The months have been flying by and I must say, for my family so far, this year has been good.

When God spoke to us at the beginning of the year and told us to live a life fulfilled every day, we truly took it to heart.  I saw each one of us embrace each day, take on each challenge, and enjoy some fabulous moments, big and small.  We have experienced some great things and made some unforgettable memories.

God has truly blessed us and I am so thankful for the life we get to live.  He provides our every need and we are never without.  However, the human side of me can't help but wonder when something dreadful will happen. I find myself waiting for something to go terribly awry or to find ourselves in a circumstance that we cannot get out of.

But God does not want that for us.  He does not want us to be robbed of our peace.  By allowing these little annoyances to sneak into my mind, I am not allowing myself to be fully enveloped in His peace and blessings.

Now, has everything been perfect?  Has everyday gone swimmingly?  No.  We have certainly had some challenges to face albeit all minor in comparison to what others are going through.  We've trusted and believed in God's provision and He always provided.  When we found ourselves with a hurting heart or mind full of turmoil, we gave it to God.

And He always gives us peace.

So as we finish out the year and experience all that these next few months has to bring, we will continue to enjoy each day, live life to the fullest, and give any little worry or problem to the One that will take care of it all.

We choose God.  We choose peace.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Preston's Birthday Letter

Dear Preston,

As I type this on my phone, we are traveling hundreds of miles away from home on another family adventure. These adventures always excite you and you love to help in the planning.

This past year, you have grown up so much. We realize our little boy is not so little anymore. 

Although school is not your favorite place to be, you have really made an effort to excel in your classes. You have found new interests, new ways to study, and are ready to challenge yourself in your upcoming middle school years.

You have found a new excitement when it comes to church. You are eager to go and even more eager to invite friends. 

You are still very passionate about baseball, just as you have been for many years.  This last year brought new challenges,  new friends, and a new team. As always, you fit right in and do what is expected of you. 

You are a mama's boy and try to imitate your dad. You're that pesky little brother but also the family comedian. Your personality is unique and you make no excuses. 

Stay unique. Stay strong. And try to stay little.

Happy  12th birthday, #12!

Love you, Dude,
Dad, Mom, and Kaitlyn 

Friday, June 15, 2018

School Life

The kids and I made it through another school year.  For them, they are headed to new schools with new teachers, new friends, and new challenges.  For me, I am starting my junior year of college with same teachers, same friends, but new challenges.

I think we all struggled at some point throughout this past year.  There were frustrations and tears.  Poor Craig was as supportive as he could be for his three students.  We muddled through and were overall successful in all of our studies.

After the new year, when God spoke to us about living a life fulfilled, we sat down together and talked about how we were going to face our school challenges over the next 5 months.  We agreed we would throw ourselves into our school work, we would tackle every new challenge, and we would enjoy every moment.

And we made it.

We saw Preston study even more for tests by creating his own flashcards, be creative and work hard on every project (and he had A LOT!!!), and his grades improved tremendously.  He was in so many after school clubs and was the top runner in Running Club for 6th grade.  He also practiced hard in percussion, enjoyed his private lessons, and received a I in his first Solo and Ensemble contest.  He is excited about staying in band and joining Athletics as he goes into middle school.

We saw Kaitlyn maintain very high A's in all of her Pre-AP classes as she had some struggles with Algebra.  She continued to seek tutoring when she didn't understand a concept and did very well on her Algebra exam.  She now has a high school math credit!!!  She did a fabulous job in her theater activities, AVID and NJHS volunteer work, and was even asked to be part of the Principal's Cabinet.  And when she hurt her shoulder in volleyball and could no longer participate in Athletics, she kept a positive attitude and enjoyed the things she could still do.  She is really looking forward to all of her design and art classes in high school.

I finally completed my 4 semesters of Music Theory and Aural Skills.  Phew!!!  I become a better piano player, developing my own accompaniment patterns.  I feel I became a better vocalist, really taking time to learn how to use my entire body to create the sounds I want.  However, there is still sooo much more to learn and to practice with all of my instruments.  I actually made it through the semester without ever telling Craig that I wanted to quit.  Most of all, I completely fell in love with my school, my fabulously talented friends, and my very understanding and helpful professors.  I wholeheartedly look forward to graduating (a very long time from now), but I will absolutely miss this school when I do.  I cannot wait to take more in-depth music therapy classes in the Fall.

We all excelled at our studies, received accolades for our hard work, and balanced our very busy schedules.  We enjoyed some really great moments and handled some really tough ones.  And we did it as a family.  We were each other's cheerleaders and each other's supporters.  We were each other's tutors and even each other's audience.  We were always there to pray for each other, asking God's guidance through each day and truly living each day to the fullest.

As we enjoy a long summer together, we eagerly anticipate a new school year as a 7th grader, 9th grader, and college junior.  But first, we rest.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Find Your Passion

We are two months into the new year.  Which mean we are two months into living "a life fulfilled."  We have embraced our phrase of the year and looked at the blessings in our lives in a whole new way.  Part of living a life fulfilled is being able to put a positive spin on any negative situation.  It's a whole new mindset, an attitude adjustment, and always seeing the glass as half full.

Last night, the four of us enjoyed a fabulous conversation over a delicious dinner.  I asked everybody to name their passion. Everyone was eager to share without hesitation.  Then, I asked them how were they going to grow that passion and have a life fulfilled.  It took some thought, but those answers soon came as well. 

In that moment, as we were embracing the passions that had long been on our hearts, we were also embracing what is to come.  God wants us to have an engaging, meaningful life.  He doesn't want it to be dull and full of dread.  God wants us to feel the joy, live a life fulfilled, and share our passions with others. 

God recently showed me my true passion.  Once I realized it, it made so much sense to my musician self.  I simply am not passionate about singing.  I enjoy singing, I love music, and I love to engage others in a song.  But, I'm not passionate about classical singing and the foreign languages and the proper technique that goes into becoming a true singer.  I am very, very thankful for the skills and opportunity to learn, but it's not a true passion.  Learning all of this made me realize why I struggle so much with practicing, getting through the lessons, and trying to get past German diction.  However, performing a Sing and Play on piano or guitar is completely different.  I am eager to practice and learn new techniques. I am eager to find new songs and play them well.  I am overjoyed when I get to hang out with preschoolers and have fun with music.  Music therapy is my passion.  While it is not my passion, proper voice training is a small part of music therapy and the voice lessons will help me become a great music therapist.

Spring Break 2018-Atlanta

So I'm a little behind...ok, I am way behind...on posting our Spring Break adventures.  Here it finally is...

We have driven through Georgia before, but never stopped to spend some time in the Peach State.  We decided to spend the week in Atlanta and take in lots of cool touristy attractions and enjoy the history. 

Day 1
Our first stop was the Georgia Aquarium.  It is world famous and full of exotic creatures of the sea.  However, we weren't super impressed with the place.  There were definitely some cool things to see, but perhaps it's because our kids were older that we simply weren't taken aback. 

We consider ourselves pizza connoisseurs and love to try out the local pizza places. We went to Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria in downtown Atlanta.  It's a hip, old looking place, with a brick interior and picnic table benches. And their pizza is amazing!!!

After lunch, we walked over to the Center for Civil and Human Rights.  It's a beautiful place full of history that is heart wrenching. That place stirs up emotions and will even bring a tear to your eye.  It makes you angry to see how people are treated, not just in America, but around the world.  It was very educational and I am so glad our kids got to see it.

Day 2
We started the day with a tour of CNN studios.  We were all looking forward to this tour.  I was really hoping to casually run into Anderson Cooper, but our tour guide told us he had just been permanently transferred to NYC.  Boo!  The tour was fascinating!!!  We learned all of the ins and outs to keep a large network running, we saw the offices and gigantic screens, and experienced the hustle and bustle required to deliver the news. 

We headed over to the College Football Hall of Fame, which Craig and Preston loved!!!  Everything you needed to know about college football was in that place.  The boys even got to run some football drills. 

Lunch was at our favorite restaurant chain, Hard Rock CafĂ©.  We have visited so many of these places and they always have the coolest music memorabilia.  Honestly, we really like the food, too, even if it is a little on the pricier side. 

We strolled through Centennial Olympic Park, where the 1996 Olympics were held, and went to the World of Coca Cola.  Wow!!!!  We loved checking out the cool Coca Cola memorabilia throughout the decades.  The store had every type of Coca Cola merchandise you could think of.  And of course, there were tons of flavors to try!!!!



Day 3
We traveled outside of Atlanta to really learn some local history.  Georgia is a very pretty state, green and full of farms. We went to the small town of Warm Springs to tour the former home of the late President Franklin Roosevelt.  It's a small house with very pretty grounds.  Down the road was the pool full of soothing minerals in warm water where he used to swim to help ease ailments from his polio.

We drove to La Grange and had lunch at the best tiny hole in the wall diner called Charlie Joseph's. We found it on Tripadvisor where it received rave reviews.  The food was delicious and VERY cheap!!!!

Our next stop was at the historic home and gardens of Hills and Dales Estate.  We love to tour old mansions and this place was gorgeous!!!

Dinner that night was back in Atlanta at the city's #1 BBQ joint, Fox Bros.  BBQ.  It was delicious, but still not quite as good as Texas BBQ.

Day 4
The last day in Atlanta was spent enjoying more tours.  Chick Fil A was founded in Atlanta so we took the Backstage Tour.  So cool!!!  The offices are very progressive where employees are free to move about and work anywhere they choose in the building.  The founder, Truett Cathy, had quite a car collection including one of the real Batmobile's.  His office was left as is, including the Bible on his desk.  For lunch, we ate at the very first restaurant he started, the Dwarf House.  Such good food!!!

We headed back downtown and visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site.  There was a lot to see and it was very touching.  We saw the artifacts at the museum, his boyhood home, and the memorial site dedicated to him and his wife.  We also spent time in Ebenezer Baptist Church where he used to preach. In the sanctuary, recordings of his sermon were playing and we sat in the pews to listen.  It was so moving and you could feel the Holy Spirit come alive. 

We ended the day driving through beautiful, historic Ansley Park, admiring the gorgeous Georgian colonial homes, and enjoyed delicious Sprinkles cupcakes. 

We saved quite a bit of money by purchasing the City Pass that includes visiting many of these attractions.  I will definitely look into a City Pass for other vacations.  While we saw some pretty cool things, learned a lot of history, and ate some great food, I think visiting Atlanta once was plenty for us.