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Jack O'Lanterns

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I have discovered that I am trying to do too much. Haha... I know. Everyone say it at once, "I told you so." 

Well, really, I can say that I think the trouble is that everything always hits at the same time. There are gaps where I can go three or four days without feeling overwhelmed in the slightest. Then, a week like this one hits and I feel like I need a vacation. 

I won't bore you with all the details of what life has been like. Just suffice it to say that it's been busy. Good busy... but busy enough to keep me from 1. writing, and 2. running. Neither of which makes me happy. :) 

As part of my insane schedule and insistence that I can and will do all things for all people that I love and care about, even if it exhausts me, we spent tonight working on a tradition that we have each October. 

We carved our pumpkins. 

We do this every year. No matter what. One year, I think we actually spent the night before Halloween carving them. It just has to be done. We love doing it... even when we have to squeeze it into our schedule. :) 

And we go all out. Well, as all out as any of us ever have. I print off templates online and the kids pull out all the disgusting stuff from the inside of the pumpkin and Brad and I work on carving them. 

This year, we had 4 large pumpkins - the most ever for us. We selected something to represent each of us. Funny how the kids picked a witch for me. Thanks, guys. :) I honestly told them that I was thinking about dressing up as a witch this year, so we'll go with that as to their reason for selecting a witch. We will ignore the fact that I have been very "witchy" to them over the last week. lol. Brad's pumpkin is the vampire. The kids selected his also. I think they chose it because they like vampires and teeth... and they didn't want to choose it for themselves. :) Bailey's is a cat - she's dressing up as catwoman. Jake's is a bat. I bet no one on here can guess what or who he's dressing up as for Halloween. :) 

I love that we do this each year. I love that the kids enjoy it as much as we do. And, I especially love that Jake actually did not refuse to participate. He normally just watches because his hands get yucky. :) This year, he dug in. He complained some, but had fun with it. He didn't do as much as the rest of us, but he did it. He's growing up. :) 

The photos aren't the greatest, but... here they are: 

Happy Halloween! :) 

A little golfer

I have posted about how wonderful it is to see Brad and Jake develop that really cool Father-Son relationship. It's probably one of my favorite things about having a little boy. It's wonderful that Jake is such a mommy's boy, but I sincerely love to watch him grow into that little man that I see him becoming one day. It is just so special. 

So, when Brad mentioned golfing with Jake on Sunday, I practically shoved them out the door. Bailey was upset that she wasn't going and Brad actually considered taking them both. After some careful thought, we decided that Bailey should shop with me (we had to buy the kids' clothes for their photo session for the holidays) and that she would get to go with Brad on the next round. Jake wasn't excited at first, but when he saw how much Bailey wanted to go, he quickly changed his mind. 

He looked so adorable... so adorable. I just can't explain how much I loved seeing him all ready to go. From what I understand, he did really well. Brad went with the expectation of only being able to golf nine holes. I packed them a cooler of snacks, just to provide an easy distraction. I truly thought they'd make it a few holes and Brad would be regretting taking him. I was wrong. They golfed 18 holes. Brad said that he asked Jake after 9 holes if he wanted to go home or go 9 more. Jake's response was, "We go 6 more." Brad said on the 7th hole, he was ready to go. My boy knows his limits. :) 

Anyway, they had a great time and I foresee many more father-son golfing trips in the immediate future. It's a great help for me. It's a great experience for them. It's a great chance for me and Bailey to share some girl time. It's just great. :) 

Thank God for daddies who take the time to make things special for their sons. :) 

Celebrate... :)

My camera has been found! WOO HOO! I feel like throwing a party. Anyone up for a party? :) Seriously... I have been sick over the loss of my camera. It isn't that it is a tremendous expensive digital SLR camera (that would be nice). It isn't even that it is the top of the line camera in its "class." It just happens to be the camera that Brad picked out for me for my birthday last year and a camera that I love. It just happens to be the perfect size to fit in the back pocket of my jeans and the pocket of my jacket. AND... it just happens to be bright red. Oh, and it does a really nice job with pictures and has some pictures on it from the past couple of weeks that I was certain were gone forever.

You can imagine how excited I was when Bailey ran into the house on Sunday and yelled, "Mom! Dad found your camera in the truck!" It totally made my day and I was already having a pretty good one.

I have had good intentions to blog ever since Sunday... hoping with all hope that I could find the time to download my photos and upload them here. Well... good intentions... but still no time. :)

It has been such a crazy week that I haven't run in 6 days. SIX days. I am so upset about that, but there's just not been the time. We've had soccer, a party for our soccer team, a UK football game, Jake and Brad golfing while Bailey and I had to do some shopping on Sunday, Girl Scouts, a fundraiser for Bailey's school, work, preparing for Halloween, homework, and the list goes on and on. That doesn't even include all of the laundry that I can't seem to catch up on. Shew... it makes me want to go curl up in the bed just thinking about it all. :) 

Anyway, I actually have worked on our photos a little tonight. While I'm not ready to post all of my favorites, I want to post these favorites. I'm hoping to get on here tomorrow night, too, and post some others. That will be after we have our holiday photo session with the wonderfully talented Priscilla Baierlein Photography. :)

A couple of weeks ago (I can't believe it's really been that long already!), I took the kids to a local orchard to purchase pumpkins and apples, play in the play area, and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather we've been having. 

Now you will understand part of why I was sick over losing my camera. I love my babies... and I hate the thought of losing ANY of their precious photos, even if I'm not a great photographer. :) 

I am so blessed. :)

Thoughts from our trip

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Well, the camera still hasn't turned up. So, still no new photos. If anyone would like to donate a new camera to me, please let me know. :)

Sadly, while on our trip, I thought a lot about blogging about the trip. Yes, I know... I need to get a freaking life. lol.

In all seriousness, I wrote several posts in my mind while we were traveling. And I got this fabulous idea that I was going to take a bunch of photos of all of my favorite points along the way home. Unfortunately, I can't share those with you. So, now you are stuck reading my thoughts. Get the coffee mug out and cuddle up. It's going to take a few to get this all out. 

I don't consider myself a very well-versed traveler. I have been outside of the country, but only when I was a baby. I have seen the beautiful beaches of the west coast, lived near the Mojave Desert, and have made the long road trip between San Antonio and Kentucky, but all of those "accomplishments" happened before I was three years old. With that being said, I have been to and driven through some really incredible places. I have visited the District of Columbia and 21 states, not including California and Texas, where I lived as a child.

Each place is special... each with its own unique qualities. I loved the deep red clay of Florence, Alabama, where I lived during the third grade. It's also the place that I found a love for banana and peanut butter sandwiches, fishing with a tree branch, and how to say the word "minnows" with a real southern accent -"manners." When I think of Florida, I remember several family trips to various beaches, two incredible trips to Disney World, surviving a hurricane while hanging out in a bathroom with my best friend, and sipping drinks from the poolside bar on our honeymoon. Of course, New York has the skyscrapers, the skyline, the people, the grunge of the city, the lights, the cabs, the grandeur, and the heartbreaking site of Ground Zero and a day that America will never forget. And,then, there's DC, where I spent 6 months of college, learning to love the city (and to appreciate the country), becoming a pro at public transportation, and enjoying the opportunity to see so much of our country's history. I could write a complete post on DC alone. There are way too many favorites for me to even begin to list them all here. And, really, that's how I feel about all of the places I've been. I could write a book on all of the things I love (and hate) about the eastern half of the United States.

However, among all of my travels (as limited as they might seem to those of you who have traveled all over the world), I have only felt a real desire to pack up my bags, put the for sale sign in the yard, and leave everything all behind when I have visited a few specific locations. And, oddly enough, those few times have nearly always been in the Carolinas. There is just something about the Carolinas that I have always loved. They draw me in. Maybe it's the rolling hills and country landscapes or the oceanic current from the beaches that I love so much. Maybe it is the diversity of it all - the southern charm, the oceans so close by, the countryside, the simple beauty. But, it pulls me in. And, every time that we visit, I spend the entire trip home, thinking that it would be fun to live there. I think about the different places that we love and wonder where we would fit the best and if we'd really ever be able to handle being so far from our family. It always makes the trip home seem just a tidbit longer. 

It doesn't help that we've been in our home for more than 5 years. As most of you probably don't know, I have never lived in one place that long. Yes, I grew up in Louisa. Technically. However, until I was 10, we moved on average once every two years or so, because my dad was in the military. When I was 10, we moved to Louisa and Dad left the military. When I was 14, we moved to Arkansas for about 9 months. We moved back after that and I finished high school in Louisa, moving again to go to college when I was 18. Five years seems like an eternity to me. I get a trapped feeling... panicky... restless. It's strange to most people... but it isn't hard for me to accept change. I embrace it openly. Traveling really helps to ease that restlessness... but sometimes it makes it worse. It makes me think about all of the what-ifs.  

This time was different though. I spent a lot of time comparing each place that I love in the Carolinas to Lexington. As I noted in nearly every instance, a few specific things kept me giving Lexington the points. The most important one... my family is only two hours away and that's not a bad drive at all. I have several groups of great friends and one group of insanely, incredible, supportive, loving friends who I simply cannot imagine going long without seeing. My kids love it here. We have access to so many things - concerts, events, sports games, anything you can think of. Yet, we still live in a region that celebrates the beauty and simplicity of nature. We love our home, even though we'd love to be in an area where we could have an outdoor dog and walk out on our porch in our jammies without worrying about speaking to a neighbor. We are a few short hours from some fabulous cities and could catch a flight without taking a day trip to get to the airport. In a nutshell, we are happy here. 

Lexington is a great place to live. It's a great place to work. It's a great place to raise a family. It's a great place to go out on the town. And, it is a great place to cuddle up and read a good book, watch the sky turn a beautiful combination of pink, purple, and orange, and enjoy all the simple beauty of life.

I am content. 

And, yes. That terrifies me. :) 

Pray for my camera to be found, please.

One more list item down!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
As soon as I mark one thing off the list, I add another 3... in my mind, at least.

On our trip to South Carolina, Brad and I spent a lot of time talking about things that we want to do and try and love and all that. You know, we didn't have kids to yell at or to referee for... we had to find SOMETHING to talk about. Naturally, I thought of my list. :)

I turn 30 in a little over a month. I have spent about six months trying to mark things off my list... only to add more when I turn 30. So, be prepared. A revision is in order. I know, you are all wondering, "What in the world could she possibly add to her list? There's too much on there already..." There's more. Dream big...

Until then, I am enjoying my last few weeks in my twenties. I am determined to make the most of them so that I can say, "I did that when I was in my twenties." :) I guess it isn't a surprise or a huge accomplishment that I have marked this next one off my list, even though this is one of those items that I will have to repeat every year. You know, when I made the list, I was thinking long-term and wanted to have items that I continued to mark off every year. This is one of those. But, it still counts as being marked off... just only for this year. Can you tell that I worry about these things? It actually disturbs me in the strangest ways. I really feel this need to approve this by all of you readers. :)

Anyway... I have now accomplished my ten new recipes for the year. And, as I mentioned before, I could have easily made it "Complete 10 new recipes from the Pioneer Woman and become completely obsessed with her, to the extent that I need a category on my blog called 'My obsessions with the Pioneer Woman.'"

I completed my list item with one of my favorite recipes yet... the stuffed shells. And, as usual, the Pioneer Woman did not disappoint. This recipe was incredible. I love pasta. I love cheese. I love pasta stuffed with cheese and served with garlic bread. It was great. So, if you love these things, you need to try this recipe, too.

And, here are my ten recipes for this year, ordered in my most favorite to least favorite:

PW's Stuffed Shells
PW's Shrimp Pasta
PW's Friend's Herb Crusted Whole Chicken
PW's Meat Loaf

PW's Crispy Yogurt Chicken
PW's Au Gratin Potatoes
PW's Chicken Stir Fry

And, since my husband and kids and family and friends and virtually every stranger I meet are all tired of hearing about my obsession with the Pioneer Woman, please send me some new recipes and/or blogging cooks so that I can add a variety for next year. Even though I am quite certain no one can meet up to the standard set by Pioneer Woman, I am open-minded. :) And, don't worry. I am not planning to stop blogging about her fabulous recipes... that is until she sends me a "cease and desist order" because I keep blogging about her. She is probably working with an attorney as we speak. Seriously, should I be worried? I hadn't really thought about how much I blog about her. She might really not like it. At all. Maybe I should calm down about the Pioneer Woman for a bit. 

Oh, but what in the world would I cook then? :) 

Great weekend

Monday, October 18, 2010
It was a great weekend. 

It was a really great weekend. 

It was a really, really great weekend. 

I had envisioned starting this post this way and then adding a photo after each line of my favorites from the weekend. It would have included a photo of me with a beer. It would have included a photo of my hubby laughing. It would have included a picture of us all celebrating at the wedding, partially because of the wedding and partially because UK beat South Carolina while we were at the reception and we watched the score on the phone. Did I mention that we were in the heart of South Carolina country? As in, the Lexington, Kentucky of South Carolina's fans? Yes, the win was very sweet. It was almost up there with the WVU defeat of UK in the Elite 8 last year... OK. So, I'm exaggerating. But, it was pretty funny that my husband repeatedly asked the DJ to announce the final score of the game (even though Brad "is not a UK fan"). I am very relieved that a fight did not break out. I would have had to defend my inebriated husband and I was wearing a short dress and heels. It would have been ugly. :) 

Anyway, my point in going on that really long tirade? My camera is gone. No where to be found. It is somewhere between my mom's kitchen and all of our luggage and/or truck. Gone. We have searched high and low. I have no clue what I could have done with it.I'm just hoping it isn't in the driveway or on the road. I am sad. There were some good pics on there... and I love that camera. It's only a year old. Not even a year old. :( I hope I find it. :( 

But, until then, I will share with you this... it was a really great weekend. :) And now I'm looking at a pile piles of laundry and wishing that it were still the weekend. More to come later!

Trip away!

Thursday, October 14, 2010
Brad and I are about to hit the road. We are headed out of town for a wedding in South Carolina and are going without the kids. It's our first long weekend trip away, I think. I can't really remember another long weekend away from home without them. But maybe my brain is just not functioning. You see, in order for us to leave town, the grandparents have graciously (and I think happily) agreed to have a weekend with the kids. Kathy has them tonight and all day tomorrow. My mom and dad have them all night on Friday and Saturday. We pick them up on Sunday.

Preparing for us to go out of town isn't exactly easy. It's nothing like it used to be when we had to pack diapers and bottles and formula and basically an entire Ryder truck just to go out of town for a weekend. But it's still not easy. Bailey has school tomorrow, so lunch must be ready to go, homework all set, and clothes laid out. They must have bags packed to go to their mimi and poppa's house. Normally, that wouldn't be much, but with the weather going from summer to fall all in one day this time of year, packing becomes more difficult. They must pack their toys and movies, too. At least that is one area that I do not have to handle.

We are really excited about getting away and enjoying some time together. Plus, it's kind of neat for us to go back to Columbia. It is the place we stopped at to spend the night on our honeymoon all those years ago before departing for Miami.

We will miss out on (what we hope) will be a great football game this weekend at UK. Colt and Emily were happy to help us out with those tickets. So, if you see Colt on tv this week, don't be surprised. Apparently we have good seats for the video camera or Brad has a lover that I don't know about. :)

For those of you who don't know, Brad was shown on last week's game several times. He had his game face on in this shot. lol. Thanks, Cilla. And, sorry to all of you UK fans who now hate Brad because "you've been going to the UK games for years and he isn't a UK fan and gets on TV..." :) You know who I'm talking about.

Don't tell the kids they can't go to the game. It is all the rage for them to go tailgating. And, no, for anyone who would dare ask, they are NOT drinking beer. They just wanted to be cool and have coozies for their pop. Yes. They do drink an occasional soda. I know... I'm a horrible parent. Burn me at the stake later, Bret. :) At least we have them cheering on the cats now, OK? :)

Isn't he cute in his solid blue "non-UK" shirt? :) I love him. Really. I do.

Oh Jakey

One of the funniest things I hear a lot is, "Oh, Jakey..." It is usually coming from my friend Cilla or my mom or dad or mother-in-law after I have described yet another one of Jake's "incidents." And this week is apparently an "Oh, Jakey" kind of week.

Before I tell you about this week, though, I must tell you about Jake's newfound "love" of preschool. It goes something like this:

He loves preschool when I pick him up. He's happy. He's always had a good time. He's always perfectly happy to be going home, but is always eager to show me what they've played with or to tell me about the fun things they've done. About an hour after I pick him up, he starts telling me that he doesn't like school and he's not going back. He tells me all about it. Forcefully. And he continues to tell me about how he's not going back all evening. Stubbornly. He tells me when I put him in the bath. Repeatedly. He tells me when I put him in the bed. And, as soon as he wakes up, he tells me again. It doesn't end there. He continues to tell me how he doesn't like it and "will not go" all the way there until I leave him, screaming and crying in the arms of his teacher. Pitifully. And then we hit rewind and start it all over again.

So, yesterday, I spent a good part of my day thinking about how I could get him out of this cycle. Still had no answers yesterday evening, but I thought a lot about it.

When I went to pick him up at school, I was eager to see him and hopeful that he would be happy. Then, maybe I could convince him that it is such a wonderful place to be and that he should be so excited about coming back.

Oh, Jakey.

I asked his teacher how he did. "Well," she said, "he didn't sleep at nap time. It wasn't a big deal. But, he kept taking off his shoe and then complaining because it was off."

I apologized to her and she said it wasn't a big deal. Then, I asked about the rest of the day. "He was good... I did have to get onto him one time because he walked over to his friend who was building a tower with blocks and then he knocked them all over for no reason." Oh... I am so sorry. I was ready to kill him. I had to sign up Jake for a school field trip next week. While I was looking for the form, I ran across the daily report forms. On Jake's, it says, "Refused to help clean up."


So, not only is he being difficult about coming to school, he is also being difficult AT school.

None of these things shocked me. At all. Jake is... Jake. We all know how he can be. So, I wasn't extremely upset, but I really wanted to make sure that he understood this wasn't acceptable behavior. After a long discussion in the car (and after he accused his teachers of lying - hehe), he seemed to "get it."

Then, we went to the post office. By the time we left there, the entire building of 20+ customers thought I was an abusive parent. I am quite sure that one woman was actually watching me walk to my car, considering calling social services or something. He was horrible. He ran into people, ran into things, knocked over a whole stack of boxes, hit me, and then, when I held his hand (and I did NOT hold it tight), the little jerk screamed that I was hurting him. I seriously wanted to strangle him.

Batman was taken away.

Then, ALL 500 Spidermen dolls were taken.

And, the new Scooby Doo movie he loves so much. Gone.

To beat it all... it doesn't end there!

We get home. We get calmed down, including me who was by this point ready for a heart attack or blood pressure medicine at least. I fix Jake a snack and am working on Bailey's popcorn. I had fixed them a juice and sat it on the counter. Jake asked demanded that I bring him his juice. Being as stubborn and frustrated as I was, I demand that he get up and get it. It's literally like five steps from him. FIVE steps.

He refuses and begins to scream and cry. Yes, over me not bringing him juice. I started to take it to him. But, my stubborness can go a long way. I had had enough of Jake. I was sick of dealing with him. So, I wasn't going to give. Ever. I went on about my business, gave Bailey her popcorn and juice (she walked from the living room - gasp - and carried it herself). Jake continued to cry and scream at me. I went in the front living room and sat down. He came all the way in there to yell at me. We're talking at least 25 steps more than he would have had to taken to get the damn juice.

By this time, he's throwing such a tantrum that I am seriously almost laughing and almost busting a vein in my head simultaneously. I calmly give him the choice of getting his juice or taking a nap. He yells at me in his most angry voice and horrid little scrunched up face, "YOU GET MY JUICE."

Needless to say, I took him to his room, placed him in his bed and closed the door. A few minutes later, he cries out that he'll get his juice. I let him out and walk with him downstairs. Where he again proceeds to  yell at me that I need to get his juice. Oh. My. Gosh. I took his hands, walked with him to the counter, and placed his hands on his cup. He throws the cup down. THROWS IT DOWN. So, I pick him up, carry him to his room, and let him cry himself to sleep.

The end.

Not really. When he woke up, we had a long talk about his actions. Daddy shamed him. A lot. He apologized. Will he change? Don't hold your breath. I could see his little mind working already.

Oh, Jakey... what are we to do with you?

He seriously thinks he is the boss in the house. Poor kid... his perception of the world is about to change drastically. Mommy isn't going to put up with this crap. I don't care how adorable he is and how sweet he can be and how much I love that he's my little baby...  he is NOT going to act like a complete brat. At least not like this.

He is pretty adorable though... :)

It. Is. Good.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Life is good. It is full. Completely and utterly full. It. Is. Good. 

This is my perspective today. 

Had I posted yesterday or last week, my post would probably have been something crabby. Just completely and utterly crabby. 

Because, basically I have figured out that crabby is what happens to a person when they become addicted to something and then don't get the "fix" they need. Apparently, my addiction is running. Well, that is the addiction that I wasn't getting last week. My Diet Mountain Dew addiction would have had a much more violent response, including something like, "Get the hell out of my face. My head hurts and I don't like anyone or anything at all." My lack of running had a much more passive reaction, but one that could not be ignored, especially by my poor husband who had to deal with me all week. :) 

As you can probably tell, tonight I ran. And I feel so much better having run. It was relaxing and enjoyable. It was therapy for an otherwise very busy week. It was worth the 45 minutes away from everyone and everything to be alone in my own little world. I felt guilty taking the time to run when so much needed to be done, but it helped. I actually have done everything I needed to do tonight and I have the energy to blog. So. Running = energy. The myth is true. Well, it's true for tonight, anyway! :) My ankle is feeling better. I just need to learn to be patient when my body needs to heal. 

In the meantime, while waiting for my ankle to heal, we didn't really slow down. We spent the weekend playing soccer with Jake, tailgating at the UK game, cleaning the house, cleaning the cars, grocery shopping, etc. And, I spent the better part of Sunday evening going through all of the Girl Scout stuff that needed to be done before our meeting on Monday. Let me just say, this is a lot of work. I don't know how teachers do all of the planning they do. My hat is off to every last one of you. Honestly. I just don't know how you do it day in and day out. I enjoy it, but it's not easy. It takes lots of thought and lots of time. And lots of creativity. 

As I was spending hours preparing for our meeting on Sunday evening, I was thinking, "Why did I sign up to do this?" After our meeting last night, I remembered. I spent an hour with 13 (of the 15 in our troop) amazing five-year old girls. They giggled. They sang. They painted. They acted silly. They smiled. They didn't want to leave. I giggled. I sang (horribly, but loudly in front of a group of people - karaoke, here I come). I cleaned up lots of paint. I sweated. I acted very silly. I smiled. I hugged little girls. I loved that they wanted to hug me. I loved watching my daughter smile. And, I remembered. This is why I signed up to do this. There is nothing better in the world than to see these little girls smiling and having fun... learning to play with one another, learning new skills, and learning to embrace one another's differences. I remembered why I became a mom and I remembered what kind of mom I want to be. I want to be the fun mom who hangs out with the girls and has a great time with them. I want them to know that adults value their thoughts and opinions - that they matter. In a nutshell, I just want to be my mom. :) I really was thinking that I had lost my mind when I signed up as the troop leader. BUT. Sometimes things work out. I have a feeling I will end up gaining a lot more from this than the kiddos. :) 

And the winners are...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Congratulations! You were selected by random to win the free personalized letter from Santa! Please e-mail me at andrea_ooten@hotmail.com to claim your prize!

Thanks to all of you who entered! I loved reading about your family traditions and just might incorporate some of your traditions into our holiday this year! And, remember that if you want to order this special gift for your child, letters will go on sale on Friday, October 15, 2010!

Just arond the corner...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010
A couple of years ago, I was really frustrated with a lot of things in my life. I wanted a change of sorts, but more than anything, I wanted more time. I wanted to spend more time with my kids. I wanted to be at home with them, full-time. Thanks to a great hubby, I was able to do that for a while. However, it took some time. In the midst of the waiting, one of my favorite google searches was "Ways to make money from home" or "Small businesses from home that work." You can imagine the wonderful variety of messes that came back when I googled this. Try it...

But one thing that came across was something that stuck. It was a story about a man who decided to become one of Santa's helpers... and Jingle Bell Mail was born. Now, Jingle Bell Mail is nowhere near enabling me to stay at home full time. It hardly pays for our Christmas gifts. But, it helps... and it is something that I truly enjoy. Oh, no, don't get me wrong... when it's two weeks before Christmas and I'm in a panic about how I'm going to get everything done, I'm not having fun. I'm usually yelling at Brad about how we are out of ink or how he doesn't help me with anything (oh - that happens all the time, not just in December!). But, the e-mails and phone calls that I get from parents telling me about how much their little ones enjoyed their letters from Santa, all make it worthwhile.

And, as much as I want to pretend it isn't true, Christmas is literally just around the corner... as in like 10 weeks away. Did I just freak you out? Are you looking for the most special gift in the world for your hubby or your kiddos yet? Your parents? Your brothers or sisters? Or even tougher - your sister-in-law (ah-hem, Jennifer)? I haven't even thought about it yet. But, it did occur to me today when I looked at the calendar that I had better get to thinking about it and thinking about Jingle Bell Mail. So, here's me thinking about it all. :)

I know you are all wanting to focus on Halloween and Thanksgiving... and so am I. But, the truth is, I have to start thinking about what in the world I'm going to get everyone this year. And I really, truly, and honestly have no idea what that will be.

To help everyone get in the holiday spirit, I am going to giveaway a personalized letter from Santa to three lucky people. Winners will be selected by random on Friday, October 8 at noon (EST)... all you have to do to sign up is comment on this post, send me a message, or comment on my link on Facebook, with the answer to this question:

What unique Christmas traditions do you have with your family?

We have lots of traditions that I could list. Among my favorites - shopping on Black Friday with my mom (and whoever else will drag their butts out of bed to go with us), telling the kids to look out the window for Rudolph's nose and Santa's sleigh when we travel between grandparents' homes (I can remember doing this as a kid - it was magical), Santa sending our little ones a new ornament for the tree in the mail, selecting someone very special from the Angel Tree (it has to be a little boy or girl with a really tough Christmas list item that no one else is brave enough to take on - or they have a great name like Rick, David, Leonard, or Charlene - our loved ones who have passed on), and eating tons of good food, especially cookies, pies, and Papaw's fruit salad (yummy, yummy). :) And, despite the fact that we missed it last year, we almost always see the Nutcracker. Because Bailey will be in it this year, I think it's on the list. I have a couple that I want to introduce to my kids this year, including some service projects (giving to others) but I'm just dying to know what others do.

Tell me all about yours and sign up to win a letter from Santa for your favorite little one! Disclaimer - you can't order your letters until after October 15. The drawing will be made at random on Friday, October 8 at noon (EST). 

Good stuff...

Focusing a little on the list... 

I think I should change one of my items. Instead of trying 10 new recipes each year, I think I should have said, "Become obsessed with the Pioneer Woman by stalking her blog, website, and recipes, and deciding that the only new things I will cook have to come from her." 

That's what it seems like anyway... because I love this woman. I totally and utterly think she is the most fantabulous cook ever. Move over Paula Dean and Rachel Ray. I'm telling you... the Pioneer Woman can cook better than anyone. Period. 

So, ladies... if you are single and looking for a way to make a man fall in love with you, or if you are married and want your husband to think you are the bee's knees, you simply must cook some of her food. Trust me... it will work. I think my husband would leave me in about .2 seconds if he met Pioneer Woman. 

I am sure that if she saw my obsessive blogs about her cooking, she would think I'm insane. And that I'm someone she should probably put on a list of potential stalkers. Honestly, I would probably be slightly worried if someone posted such obsessions about me (but please feel free to go ahead because I would absolutely feel incredibly special!). :) I just can't help it. I sincerely and honestly love her recipes. Brad is loving them, too. I think he was quite impressed to find out that the Pioneer Woman doesn't look like a half-ton cow. :) I think it gave him hope that I can actually cook this wonderful deliciousness and not become morbidly obese. 

Anyway... one of my new favorites involves red meat and bacon. Yes... two of the most wonderful things in the world, combined into one dish. Pioneer Woman's meat loaf was incredible. Simply incredible. I can't even say anything else about it. It's just good stuff. If you are looking for a recipe for meat loaf, try this one. It's relatively simple and just downright good. When I turn 30 and have my heart attack, please remind me of how wonderful I thought it was to eat this stuff. I know I will pay for it one day, but not today. :) 

In the words of one of my favorite little people (he loves Yo Gabba Gabba): Try it.... you'll like it. Try it... you'll like it. Meat loaf in your tummy, so yummy, so yummy. :) Sorry, I just couldn't resist it. If I ever say "Try it" about anything, this song automatically pops into my head. Thanks a ton, Joseph. 

I made it...

Saturday, October 2, 2010
I wonder if it is safe to take an entire bath in Biofreeze. 

Does that tell you how I feel after running my first 10K? :) 

My ankle hurts. I think I broke three toes on my left foot. 

And... I finished a 10K. I finished it in (around) 1 hour and 4 minutes. That's around 10 minutes per mile... not quite there, but close. 

I probably won't walk tomorrow, but hey... I finished it. :) 

It was really cold. It was perfect weather when I left Lexington... and by the time I made it 20 minutes to Georgetown, I discovered that it was about 10 degrees cooler and it was extremely windy. Clouds were rolling in... so I was pretty pumped that I brought my jacket. 

I waited around the orchard for over an hour. I hadn't pre-registered, so I was worried that if I didn't get there when they first opened registration, I'd be rushed or something. Never again. :) After sitting around for about an hour, we got ready to race. We went down to the road where the starting line was. There wasn't a HUGE crowd of runners or anything, so you could pretty much see everyone in the race really easily. 

The race started and I felt like I was going at a decent pace. There were lots of people in front of me, but there were quite a bit behind me, too. When we hit the 1 mile marker, I looked at my watch. I was under 9 minutes. No wonder I was feeling like I might have a stroke and die in the middle of the road. I slowed my pace (which is normally more like 10:30 per mile). People started to pass me. I got discouraged. The first 20 minutes of my race was truly a struggle. I couldn't find my rhythm or pace... I just struggled. The hills didn't help it any. Every time I thought I was getting into it, a hill would slow me down. It was hard. I was happy at the 3 mile marker, because I was at around 29 minutes, which means I was faster and could have beat my initial 5K time. But after that marker... I was alone. Not last (thankfully), but also not in the "fast" group of runners. I was just alone. For more than a mile, I ran without seeing another person running at all. 

I have commiserated with my fellow runners (Rebecca, Dawn, and Maria) about how mental running is. I never really knew HOW mental it is. But put me in a race and put a group of runners WAY ahead of me and another group far enough behind me that I can't see them, and I become a complete mental mess. :) Well, maybe that is a bit of an overstatement. Basically, my point is that I really need to run against people in a race in order to feel like I am racing. :) 

So, at mile marker 5, I heard someone coming up from behind me. He was a runner that was helping organize the event. He was running back to the finish line (not in the race, just running). He asked how I was doing and I panted that I was making it (barely). He said, "You're at about a 10 minute pace - doing good... want me to help keep you going?" I just begged him to stay where I could see him in front of me... if he needed to go faster, that was fine, but just seeing someone would help me gauge where I was and how fast I was going. He did. At mile marker 6, I had to turn up a gravel road to get to the finish line. It was uphill... and gravel. My ankle was killing me... so you can imagine how frustrating the gravel was. :) My buddy that had stayed in front of me had finished and he saw me coming to the last stretch. He raced me, saying, "Go harder, go harder," the whole time. It helped me so much. And I finished. 

And, for the first time ever since I started running, I wanted food, immediately after running. I hoofed down a banana faster than I ever have in my life. I also would have been happy to eat some apple crisp, but since my purse was in the car and I'd have to walk there and back to get one, I just decided to come home. 

I missed Rebecca (she couldn't come because Joseph was sick). It would have been nice to have her to run against... it helps tremendously. She probably would have kicked my butt, but still... having someone to race against would have been really nice. And, I really missed having her there when I was just hanging out waiting for the race to start. However... I met some really sweet runners, one of which was the women's overall winner and the other one won in her age group. I also saw a friend of mine and learned that she runs, too. 

And, if I had been 30 already (just a few more weeks), I would have won in my age group... by about 5 minutes. Oh well... instead, I'm 29 racing 25-year olds and getting my butt handed to me... not even placing. lol. :)

Dawn - I wish you could have been there to show up the 5K racers. I know you would have totally kicked butt. :)

OK... A 10K

As I have alluded to recently, I am trying to make my blog less about my running. It has been hard to do that. For one, I really like to blog about it because I feel like it makes me accountable for it. For, two, I really like to "keep it real" on here and just blog freestyle. That sounds like I'm talking about skateboarding or rapping or something. lol. But, I like to just get on here and really write what is going on in my head, however crazy that might be. So, bear with me while I share yet another running post. 

I might or might not have mentioned that I was training for a 10K that was originally scheduled for November. Since then, the race has been cancelled. I'm pretty sure I mentioned it, but if not, now you know. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago, when I found out that the race wasn't happening, I started searching for a 10K to replace it. It's getting cold out, people, and there are less races in the winter. I'm guessing weather might be a factor. lol. 

I started to run the CASA 10K with Rebecca, but decided I wasn't ready. And, I decided I could suck it up and get ready for a 10K by October 2 (TODAY!). I've been doing well with my running. I am getting faster. I am running further. I'm still not super speedy and I still can't run more than a 6-miler. But, I'm getting there. 

So, you can imagine my dismay when, once again, my ankle begins to hurt and swell this week. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? It's a week before a race. OF COURSE my ankle hurts. OF COURSE it does. 

I've rested it for three days. Let's hope it handles the race tonight. 

So, for those of you who are reading before 5:00 tonight, please say a little prayer that I pull through and finish my first 10K. I'd like to set a goal that I'll finish in an hour, but I'm just shooting for finishing tonight. I will keep you posted on how it goes. :) Thankfully, I'll have Rebecca running in front of me, so I'll have someone to try and keep up with. LOL!

Student of the Month

Friday, October 1, 2010
I make no excuses for bragging on my kids. I am sure it annoys the crap out of some people. Some people would probably hate to read my blog, because, in fact, a lot of it is me going on and on about my kids and how wonderful I think they are. Well, if you are one of those people, you really should stop reading this post. :)

I worked it out with my boss to come in and leave an hour early from work on Wednesday. I did this because Bailey's school has a monthly music showcase that they present and, on Wednesday, they were holding the first one of the year. Of course, I knew a lot of it would be the kids huddled up together, picking at one another, picking their noses, or waving at their families, and not a lot of it would consist of singing. I contemplated not going at all, not because I didn't want to be there, but I hated to have to "work out" my schedule when I was only two weeks into the job and then go to something at Bailey's school that wasn't really "necessary." It's kind of like I feel like I should budget these things... that I should make sure to use my time as wisely as possible because I might really "need" to be at something, like a school field trip. However, the mom guilt that plagues me daily pushed its way through and I went ahead and worked it out to go.

I was so happy that I did. Bailey's teacher, Mrs. O., came up to me as soon as I got there and said, "Oh... I am so glad you are here. I started to e-mail or call you to tell you to come, but I knew you had just started your job and I didn't want you to be really worried if you couldn't be here. Bailey is getting recognized as the Student of the Month from our class!" Relief washed over me. Thank goodness I had worked it out. Not that it would have been the end of the world if I hadn't made it. But, I know my daughter well enough to know that the self-induced guilt I have would be nothing in comparison to the guilt that she would have placed on me by saying, "And such and such's mom was there. And you and Daddy weren't... why weren't you there?" She would follow it up with a pitiful pouty face.

She was completely surprised when they called her name and gave her the certificate. She was thrilled. She kept waving to me and pointing to the certificate, and, of course, showing all of her friends. I was excited for her and very proud of her... especially when I read what the certificate said, "Bailey has a positive, can-do attitude and is a team player. She is willing to work hard to achieve her goals. Bailey works efficiently and always stays on task. She is a great friend to every child in our classroom."

I know the wonderful qualities my daughter possesses. I don't need her to get awards and trophies to make me proud of her. But, it does feel really good when others recognize all of the wonderful things that we see in her. She is a leader, not a follower. We prayed she would be able to stand on her own two feet and not follow the crowd. She loves to please people, so we have always worried that she would give in to her friends and do whatever they were doing, despite the rules. But, after seeing how well she is doing in school, we couldn't be more proud. We are so hopeful that this continues throughout the years... :)

So, sorry if I have annoyed you guys, but I just have to brag on my baby. She can be so rotten and we have such a hard time channeling all of her energy some days. As a parent, I have this intrinsic fear that we are going to screw up our kids' lives by teaching them or not teaching them things. But on days like this one, I feel confident that she will be just fine... way to go, Bailey... we are SO proud of you.