Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back

Our theme for 2015 was the Year of Positivity.  I must admit, it was really hard to stay positive at times, but we knew despite whatever trials we went through, better things were coming.


Craig was transferred to a store 45 minutes from home.  With traffic in this area, it usually took much longer.  However, he was only there for about a month before being transferred again to a store only 15 minutes from home.  This time it included a small promotion.  However, he was not happy there.  Being closer to home was great, but there are a lot of other factors that go into enjoying your job.  I could see the difference in his demeanor and experiencing some things myself in that store, I could see why he didn't like it.  Finally, in September, Craig got transferred (AGAIN!) to a store 12 minutes from home.  It's much larger, closer, and he got to work with his old store manager again.  We get to see him all the time.  he doesn't have to fight traffic, and he is so much happier.

I continued my college education, but this time I had to attend classes on campus for the Fall semester.  The first couple of weeks were so hard!  I wanted to cry, I kept asking Craig if I was doing the right thing (he assured me I was), and I felt like our normal family life was thrown completely off track.  I just kept pushing on and realized this school schedule would become the new normal for us.  It was tough for us to get through.  Some weeks were easier than others.  Unfortunately, I had a night class on Wednesdays so I would be gone from 7 am to 9 pm at night. We just kept telling ourselves it's for a good reason.  Thankfully, my wonderful in-laws are not too far from campus and I was able to go to their house during my downtime.  They let me nap, study, fed me dinner and sent me on my way again. :)  I finished the semester with a 3.75 and will continue to study hard for many, many more semesters.

Keep Going:
As a family, we made a huge decision together.  After many months of prayer and seeking God's guidance and wisdom, we decided to change churches after 10 years.  It absolutely was not an easy decision.  It was not a decision influenced by anybody else.  But rather, we knew the time was coming for this change.  We just did not know when. 
We had tried a few other churches throughout the years, but never felt at peace.  This time, I can tell you exactly the day, the time, and where I was when I distinctly felt God telling us it was time to leave.  Although we were all a little sad to leave the church family and the comfort we were familiar with, we knew we needed to be obedient to God. 
God has led us to a new church not far from home that is just perfect for us right now.  The first few weeks, we were just in tears every service over the peace we felt with this difficult decision.  The second service we attended was a message and interpretation in tongues (1 Corinthians 14) about God bringing restoration to our lives.  It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. 
It was a smooth transition, but not always easy.  Old friendships have seemed to die off as we try to make new ones.  The kids have loved this church since the first week we attended, which is a huge sigh of relief for us.  Sometimes change is scary, but the outcome can be beautiful.
Despite these big changes in our lives, we also enjoyed some great moments.  We celebrated God's Creations with beautiful vacations to the Great Smokey Mountains and Atlantic Ocean, celebrated love with weddings and anniversaries,  celebrated family with memorable holidays and family reunions, and celebrated life with peaceful and enjoyable birthdays.  We stayed positive throughout this rocky year and God has continued to show us that better things always lie ahead.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Truth About My Coffee Habit

If you follow me on social media or even if you know me in person, you probably know about my love for coffee.  Perhaps you've even been on a coffee date or two with me and know I just love sipping on some hot goodness. I post funny memes about coffee or even pictures of the infamous red cup (scandalous!).

What most people do not know is that I actually don't drink that much coffee!!!!  This past semester we were given a semester long wellness assignment in my Music and Wellness class and had to improve one area of wellness in our life (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.).  I chose to work on my physical wellness which included cutting back on coffee.  Previously, I was drinking two cups a day, one in the morning and one at night.  I changed my habit to only one cup a day and even cut back on all of the sweetness that goes into my coffee.

Now, were there days that I had more than one cup?  Absolutely!  Some days were just tough to get through and enjoying a cup of coffee would certainly help me relax.  In fact, Craig calls it my "good attitude potion."  There were even some mornings when I didn't have any coffee at all (but I didn't do that often).  For the most part, I stuck to only one cup.

Of course, I will continue to enjoy the beloved drink and am actually writing this from a coffee shop.  I will continue to have coffee dates and check out cool coffee spots, which are some of my favorite things to do.  I will continue to post funny memes and pics and love all the ones that people send to me as well.  I just wanted to prove to myself over this semester that I can complete this assignment and complete it well (I made a 102 in the class) and make sure my coffee habit remains under control.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kaitlyn's Birthday Letter

Dear Kaitlyn,

You have been a huge blessing in our lives for 12 wonderful years.  We will always take time during this special day to reflect upon the moment our family truly began.  The struggles leading up to your birth were soon forgotten when we first heard your cries.

You have become an extremely creative individual with the most unique projects.  You can visualize something in your mind and make it happen.  You love to create gifts for others and are overjoyed when everyone is amazed at what you can do.

You are incredibly caring and always think of others.  You are always so eager to give back and want to help in any way possible.  You never want anyone to feel left out.

You love God and want others to know Him, too.  You are a great Bible study leader and are always wanting to invite friends to church.  We also love seeing Scripture verses posted around your room.  You truly take God's Word to heart.

You are a Daddy's girl through and through.  You absolutely love spending time with him and he feels the same way.  As much as you dislike being compared to your mom, I know the affection is still there.  You have also become a great example for your brother and enjoy hanging out with him.  It brings us great delight to see you sharing those silly moments with him.

Enjoy this next year and embrace every moment.  Continue to dream up more creations and make them real.  Search for those that are lonely and reach out to them.  Share the Gospel and love of God with others.  And keep making your family smile and laugh through your silliness. 

We love you always and are so proud of you,

Mom and Dad


Saturday, December 12, 2015

DIY In The House

We have been pretty busy making some cosmetic updates to our house. And when I say "we" I mean "he".  Craig has been doing an awesome job keeping busy with some house upkeep while my head has been buried in the books. We decide on ideas together and he makes it happen. 

When it comes to decorating, I am not creative. I have to look up pictures in magazines or Pinterest and then just copy it.  First, we needed to update our family room walls. They have been looking pretty boring since we bought our house in 2008! I also don't like tons and tons of pictures everywhere. I try to keep everything minimal so it has a clean look without crossing the line to a cluttered look.
I found this picture and just loved it.  

Just got this "family" sign from Hobby Lobby on sale for $15 :) Can't wait to put it up!!:

I looked through the frames and decor that we already had and only had to purchase a few items. I was even able to find the exact 'Family' sign at Hobby. Lobby for 50% off!  This wall...

...turned into this!

These baby pictures of the kids were taken when they were each 2 months old.

That is because Craig and I had our baby pictures taken when we were 2 months old also. Now, all of our baby pictures are hanging together.

Kaitlyn and Preston are on top, Craig and I are on the bottom.  The resemblance is uncanny! My mom even made Kaitlyn's baby dress to match the one I was wearing in the picture.
Hanging pictures was not too bad, but Craig got to work on building stuff out of wood. We have a new neighborhood popping up next to us which means lots of scrap wood.  Why not turn all that scrap wood into some fun projects for our house?
Kaitlyn is a budding artist and is constantly bringing home her masterpieces from her weekly art class. We decided to make an art gallery in an upstairs hallway to display some of it. Craig spent time cutting the wood, sanding it, staining it, and even adding a little ledge so the pieces wouldn't slip off.
Here is the Pinterest version:

LOVE this! - eclectic by Esther Hershcovich via http://@Cindy Erickson. for space by kids room: 

The finished project in our home is it's own work of art.

We added some of Preston's art and other keepsakes and now the shelves are full. We can easily rotate pieces when we choose and can always admire their creations.

The next project was the boring front door. Here is a flashback to the first day of school so you can see how plain it looks.

I have always wanted a red front door and we have always had a very beige door. Craig heard my desire and obliged.

It looks fabulous and makes the outside of our house look so inviting. I especially love it right now with the Christmas wreath on the front door.

The final project was to build a blanket ladder to add to our family room similar to this picture.

Who doesn't love to cuddle under a cozy blanket in the cooler months? In fact, we usually wrap ourselves in a blanket all year round when we want to relax. Craig got to work using some more scrap wood and it took him no time at all. I absolutely love the end result. This best part was that it didn't cost us anything!!!

We have many more projects we (and by that I mean he) want to start working on. This was all accomplished in just the last few weeks. I think Craig has found a hobby he enjoys and I found I am good at picking projects for him to work on! :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fall Ball 2015

Fall ball was literally a whole new ballgame for us (pun intended).  After trying out four other times for Elite baseball, Preston finally made the team on his fifth try.  Seriously, this kid does not give up when he has a goal in mind. 

His team, the Keller Panthers, is considered a AA team playing mostly under TEBA guidelines (baseball parents will know what all this means).  This is the first season for kid pitch which was quite an adjustment for everyone.  They also learned to steal, bunt, and team signals.  The first few games seemed long and boring.  Once the team started really working together and improving their skills, the games got more exciting. 

Here are some highlights of Preston, thanks to Mrs. Jennifer!!! 

Preston played mostly short stop, third base (he has an amazing throw to first base), and center field (where he caught a lot of pop flies!).  He was able to pitch a couple times and really wants to do it more.  His sliding into base was not the best at first.  However, he improved so much that he now has holes in all of his baseball pants. 
As always, we are sad the season is over and actually have quite a long break until Spring season starts.  We've been pretty much playing ball since March and will have to find something to do with our time. Haha! But it was fun and we love all the new families and friends we made. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Planned Chaos



The two go hand in hand.  It seems life has been nothing but chaotic since school started this year.  Not necessarily a messy chaos, but a planned chaos.

Our calendar is full with something planned almost every single night.  Our weekends are full with something planned at least one, if not both of the days.  And there has been more than one occasion when this planned chaotic life has gotten to me emotionally or contributed to my anxieties.

However, it's OUR life.  It is the life that has been given to us by the great Planner.  It is the life that we are glad to live, chaotic or not.

Recently, a lot of anxiety has been brought upon me due to many personal decisions that need to be made.  My thoughts have become scattered.  My words have become lost.  But my love for my husband has become greater.

As I brought all these anxieties and worries to Craig's attention, rather than sit there and worry along with me, he gave me the simple answers and words I wanted and needed to hear.  He understands my growing concerns and always has something encouraging to say.

Yesterday, I actually had a few hours to myself.  I was able to catch up on a lot of mundane tasks.  It was in those quiet moments that I had a heart to heart conversation with God.  I was able to thank Him for all that He has given me and all that He has put in my care.  I gave to Him my anxieties and worries and I know He has heard my cry. 

Now, I simply wait for the clear answers to come.  I will continue to thank God for this planned chaotic life.  My calendar will remain full, whether it is with coffee dates with friends or school events for the kids.  And I will appreciate and love every single day of it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A New School Year 2015

Well, we survived the first week back to school.


Our schedule is incredibly crazy this year and it will take all hands on deck to get through it.  This year, I'm back to attending classes on campus so we are all having to adjust to me not being home as much.  This is where my organizational skills will be kicked into high gear to make sure we are always where we need to be, appointments are made and kept, housework gets done, and we can proudly proclaim at the end of the school year "I SURVIVED!" lol

Kaitlyn started 6th grade and so far enjoys her three teachers.  Preston started 4th grade and also changes classes midday.  It's something new the district is doing and 4th grade is being departmentalized.  Preston now has two teachers and they each teach two different subjects.  I think this will be very beneficial for students and teachers.  Happily, I get to be the Room Mom for one more year.  I am classified as a college junior, however, I'm working on the core curriculum for my degree plan and am in a lot of freshmen classes.  I'm taking 4 classes which equals to 8 hours:  Psychology, Biology Lecture, Biology Lab, and Music and Wellness. 

We all started school on Monday.  Thankfully, I was still able to go with Craig and take the kids to their schools before heading off to mine.  I got up early and made strawberry muffies for breakfast.

Here are the kiddos, looking so grown up!  Sniff.

We all came home to a special after school treat that Craig picked up for us as a surprise at a local cupcakery.  They were delicious!!!

 Vanilla with almond buttercream
 Strawberry with strawberry buttercream
Chocolate with peanut butter buttercream

We chose a steak dinner for our Back to School meal and Craig cooked everything.  It was fabulous! 

We did not eat all of this!  

Craig also made some homemade fudge brownies.  We each had a very small piece since we were so full from everything else.

I have to say, this week could not have gone as smoothly if it weren't for Craig.  Work schedules, school schedules, baseball practices, and art class had to be sorted out between the two drivers in the family and Craig did a lot more chauffeuring than usual.  He also cleaned, did laundry, made breakfast, made dinners, and on and on and on.  All of this was on top of the usual things he does, including his 50-60 hour work week.  He has been nothing but supportive with my decision to go back to school and knew it would be challenging at times.  However, Craig has never complained and when I keep wondering why I made this decision, he is the one to always give me the encouragement I need.  I could not be more thankful.

So, we are taking this semester one week at a time and know that it's just for a season.  Needless to say, we can't wait for Christmas break!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tour of the Carolinas

This year's summer vacation was a little different for us.  Instead of picking one place and staying there for the week, we decided to tour a state.  Two states actually.  Well, more like we picked several cities and visited some pretty cool sites.

We started our trip in Franklin, North Carolina for the Kelley Family Reunion.  As usual, it's always fun seeing relatives.  I love Craig's family and am so very thankful they have always accepted me and made me feel like one of them. 

Franklin is nestled in the mountains and is just gorgeous!  I could wake up to the sun rising above the mountains every day.  The summer evenings were cool enough that I actually had to put on a jacket.

Saturday was spent with part of the family going antiquing, part of the family staying at the lodge (a lot of the out of town guests stayed in one lodge together-it was perfect!), and the rest of the family exploring some waterfalls.  After seeing Laurel Falls in the Great Smokey Mountains during Spring Break, we couldn't wait to see some more.  It never gets old. 

That evening we all took family pictures and enjoyed a delicious BBQ dinner on a screened in porch with a soft rain coming down. 

 Just a small portion of the Wes Kelley clan
The three Kelley siblings (seated) and their spouses.  There is so much A/G history in this family, thanks to them!

We got up early and headed to Asheville, NC to visit the famous Biltmore Estate.  I was so excited to see this gigantic house.  You are not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but believe me, we were in awe of all the rooms.  It took about an hour to tour the inside.  However, we will spend a little more money and do the audio tour next time we visit.  We toured the beautiful gardens, took in the magnificent acreage, and then had lunch in one of the little cafes. 

After lunch, we headed to Winston-Salem, NC.  We saw an old Shell Station shaped like a giant shell. 

Then, we drove through Old Salem and checked out all the old Moravian style buildings.  We finally settled in Greensborough, NC for the night. 

Monday morning started off at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.  It's a tour by car that tells the history of the largest Revolutionary War battle.  It was pretty surreal to think that where we were standing was a battle fought so many years ago for our freedom. 

We drove on to Kill Devil Hills, NC.  The drive there was pretty scenic.  You are nestled in the trees and mountains and then it gives way to flat lands and ocean. 

We were able to stop at the Wright Brothers National Memorial 30 minutes before it closed.  It was a pretty cool place.

We checked into our hotel located on the beach and then headed to dinner.  We were actually able to walk a mile on the beach right to the great pizza place we had found. 

I absolutely love the ocean-the sound, the smell, the sights.  However, I had one firm rule for this trip:  Look, Don't Touch!  There have been so many shark attacks this summer right along the Outer Banks of North Carolina (where we were!) so we were not going to push our luck by going into the ocean.  In fact, we didn't see too many people that were brave enough to go in the water.

"Pretend" laughter

"Real" laughter.  This is how I get to experience every day with this guy-lots of love and lots of laughter.  And sometimes it's on a beach. ;)

Most of Tuesday was actually spent in the ocean, or rather traveling through it.  We drove down the Outer Banks, with dunes on both sides (and gorgeous beach houses), and got on our first ferry.  It was a pretty cool experience.  Once on the ferry, you were able to move along the boat, stay in your car, or hang out in the ferry lounge.  We spent the hour long trip watching for dolphins, but sadly, didn't see any. 


We got off on Ocracoke Island and drove to Ocracoke Lighthouse.  We were disappointed that we didn't actually get to go inside, but it was still pretty neat to see. 

After driving through the island town, which was so crowded with buildings and people that you will feel claustrophobic, we had lunch on the marina.  Then, got on our second ferry. 

This ferry was bigger, lasted longer, and got me feeling a little queasy.  I think it was a combination of having just had lunch, killer humidity, and the smell of fumes that made me feel like that.  I sat in the big, air conditioned lounge with a cold drink, and it helped immensely.  Once we arrived back on land, it was time for another drive to Wilmington, NC for the evening.

Wednesday's adventure started at Poplar Grove Plantation.  The house was full of history and we were given a personal tour.  We also learned a lot about the history of basket making that is so popular in that area. 

After a fabulous deli lunch, we visited the USS North Carolina

We toured the USS Mobile last summer and this battleship was similar in a lot of ways.  Of course, it's always important to learn more history.

Back in the car and onto Charleston, SC.  As we got closer to Charleston, we saw all the little basket stands along the road selling homemade seagrass baskets.  This area is part of the Gullah Geechee Corridor (anyone remember the kids show "Gullah Gullah Island"?) and part of the culture is making these gorgeous baskets out of seagrass.  When you look at the baskets up close, it's amazing the craftsmanship that goes into each one.  Plus, they are all for different uses.  I really wanted to buy a basket, but most of the stands were already closed for the day.  However, we found one across the highway from where we had dinner and we stopped to buy one.  The baskets are incredibly expensive and I can understand why.  We talked to the lady that made all of them and she told us her family history of making the baskets.  I bought a little one for $20 (a regular sized basket was hundreds of dollars) and I just love it.

We stayed in a fabulous hotel in the historic district of Charleston.  We were able to walk to all the places we wanted to check out.  We started Thursday morning with a shuttle tour of the entire historic district and then got on a boat to Ft. Sumter

Ft. Sumter was the location of the first shot fired of the Civil War. Just about everything was left as is on the little island.  It's not a huge place, but definitely worth checking out.

All of those poles are supposed to have replicas of the flags that were flown during the Civil War.  However, due to the recent controversy of the Confederate flag, they had to be taken down.

Surprisingly, we actually saw dolphins as we were getting off the boat and heading into Ft. Sumter.

That evening was spent at Waterfront Park where we saw even more dolphins!  Plus, we took tons of pictures of the beautiful scenery all around us. 

We got up early on Friday and started the long drive home.  We stopped outside Jackson, MS to spend the night and arrived home Saturday afternoon.  Phew!

It was a very busy week with details planned down to the hour.  We wanted to get in as many things as we could.  The best part was that I did not plan any of it except for the restaurants.  One afternoon, Craig took it upon himself to plan the itinerary including all the hotels.  He booked everything, purchased tickets, etc.  It was great!  I think the kids even liked all the many unique things we saw and experienced.  Time to plan for next year!

We ate at some fabulous places on our trip.  We always try to find places that are locally owned and have great reviews.  Check them out if you are ever in that area!

American Pie Pizza
This pizza was worth walking a mile down the beach.  Then, we were able to burn off some of the calories walking the mile back to our hotel. 

Duck Donuts
Hot, fresh, and made to your specifications.  It gets super busy but the line goes fast!

Located on the marina, all seating is outside on the covered deck.

Chop's Deli
Fabulous deli.  Craig and I shared the Jackson and it was sooo good!

Jack's Cosmic Dogs
As seen on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, it doesn't look like much of a restaurant.  However, step inside and it's full of diners.  There are a variety of hot dogs to choose from and it's very inexpensive.

Jim 'N Nick's BBQ
This is fabulous BBQ!  North Carolina BBQ has a sweeter flavor than Texas BBQ, but it is still so yummy.  Share a plate or bring a huge appetite!