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One less job... no more chauffeur (to Brad, at least)!

Sunday, January 30, 2011
I am no longer sharing cars with my husband. 

I am no longer his chauffeur. 

I am finally the owner of a new vehicle. 

And, no.... it is not a minivan. :) 

We considered it. 


I even almost bought one. 

But, then... something told me it wasn't right. It could have been the sick feeling I had in my stomach when dealing with the finance person, who said he'd given me his best deal, but then retracted said statement when I told him it was too much, and offered to take it lower. I am sure it's all part of it... I know it is... but sometimes you just know something isn't right. 

So, I bailed. 

Shortly thereafter, I decided that a car was in my future. A nice, mid-sized, safe car would be the better choice. 

And the research began. It took me a long time to determine the types of cars that were most safe... which ones would make the most sense for a mom and two kids (and a husband sometimes, too). :) 

I have to say... if you are looking for a used car, you need to go to www.cars.com. If you want to compare cars, they give you that option. You can enter in up to four different types of cars and compare them to one another. It has every detail you can imagine about the vehicles, down to how many cupholders are available. It truly was a lifesaver. Or a sanity-saver, in my case. :) 

It helped. I knew there were certain cars that I was interested in looking at. 

So, we went shopping. With the kids. Car shopping with the kids. Yes, it was fun. lol. 

I had decided that despite all the positive reviews on the Ford Fusion, I was going to go with a Camry, a Saturn, or a Sonata. I don't know why. All of them had very similar reviews, all had little differences, but none that would make or break the deal. However, I was bound and determined not to buy a Ford. It doesn't matter to me that we have had three Fords in the past 10 years and they have all been dependable and safe. They haven't had many problems at all (except most recently with the Escape, which is 8 years old and has been driven very hard). But, in my mind, a Ford was out. 

So, you know what I bought, right? A 2008 Ford Fusion. :) 

The price was right (or close to right). The mileage was good. The car is loaded, with the exception of leather seats. It has everything, including a very sport little sunroof, which reminds me of my fabulous convertible Mazda Miata and the sunroof on my Ford Escape. I love it. 

It is gray. Just like our truck. Just like our Escape. I swear... it wasn't on purpose. I don't really know how this continues to happen. It's like we are meant to have gray or silver cars. Always. And here I thought I might finally get another red car. Oh well... I still love it. 

Figuring out my boy

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I have been struggling to blog recently. The biggest reason is because of my own little negative spin on some things… which is really the person I don’t like to display. Another reason is because every time I sit down to blog, it becomes this HUGE, LONG ramble of 100 different topics that I should have blogged individually. I have had a very hard time “organizing” my thoughts into a way that might resemble a good blog post. I think I have a post here that might work. But, hang on to your seat. It could be bumpy.

My son is three. He turns four in April. He is adorable. He is cute. He is babied. He loves to be these things. He enjoys being the baby. I love that he enjoys it (most of the time). He is less independent than his older sister, who had decided by age 3 who she would marry, where they would live, how many kids they would have, and what type of pets they would take care of. Oh, no… not Jake. He is more concerned about which costume he will wear today and what superhero he will pretend to be. He does not like to discuss colors or shapes or letters or numbers. He has no interest in learning about cars or trains. He learns things, but he isn’t interested in these things. He could not care less if we live on Maple Street or Valley Brook Drive. He has no desire to learn our address or phone number. Instead, he tells me about superheroes. He recites to me that Iron Man’s name is Tony Stark, Batman is really Bruce Wayne, Spiderman is Peter Parker, and, well, I’ll spare you all of them. And, yes, I do officially know all superheroes and their “real” names. And their girlfriends, families, and the bad guys they oppose. :) Maybe I will quiz you for a prize at some point. Haha.

Jake takes the time to notice things that I don’t really pay attention to. He tells me every morning about the different colors of the sky. He doesn’t miss a morning. He tells me how beautiful it is… even when it is gray. He tells me his favorite color is “all da cowors.” Truly, his favorite color is red. He wakes up with a stretch and a “good morning” everyday. He usually follows that with a great big hug and then is quiet until he’s ready to talk… which is normally about 30 minutes, conveniently like me. He tells me he likes my makeup when I’m getting ready, even if I don’t have makeup on. He cares that it makes me smile.

My baby is so sweet. I can’t even begin to express the amount of happiness he brings to my life. His cute smile… his sheer excitement over the simple things in the world… his adorable pouty face when he’s sad. I love him as much as any mother could ever love her baby.

Which makes it all that tougher to discipline him. That’s why I think parenting is so tough. Discipline is hard. It isn’t something that I like to have to deal with. It’s the part of parenting that I always dreaded, long before we ever had kids. I guess part of me always knew that I’d be the one that had to be the disciplinarian. My husband, while he has improved greatly in this area and totally has a good bluff going on the kids, just isn’t as good at being mean as I am. Lol. He’s too sweet.

So, I guess that’s what this is really going to be about.

Discipline… and that gray area where I get stuck, wondering if I am doing the right thing.

Jake is stubborn. I love his stubbornness in a lot of ways. However, it makes discipline hard. He would let me beat him (not that I ever would) before he would apologize. I have taken away toys. I have put him in the corner. I have busted his butt. I have put him to bed early. I have put him in timeout.

And, most of the time, he takes his punishment. But I can look in his eyes and know that all he got from it is that he has to be sneakier and better if he wants to get by with something. I know that he isn’t thinking, “I shouldn’t do that again.” I can just tell. He’s plotting how he will get by with it without punishment the next time. I have to admit that I think this is pretty funny. Hilarious, in all actuality… because I can remember feeling that way from time to time, myself. As a parent, though, it is pretty exasperating.

While he can sound like a sneaky little brat (and trust me, he can be), there’s this other side. Kind of part of the sweet side that I described is this other side to Jake that I just don’t know how to deal with when I’m disciplining him. You have heard about scarring your kids for life. Most of the time, I think that is bull crap. Everyone has their hang-ups, perfect parents or not. Yet, I still worry that I’m not dealing with him the “right” way.

There’s this insecure side that comes out. I see it more than any other time when we are playing with other kids. Jake stands back. He watches. He is observant. But, instead of joining in and figuring out how to play or what to do, he bails. And said bailing is always followed by a series of excuses. He’s tired. He’s sweaty. He’s hurt. There’s always a reason that he can’t join. And, always, I know that it’s because he is afraid that he really can’t do it. 

Basketball is a perfect example of this insecurity. We signed him up, because he loves to play basketball when we go to the Y. As a matter of fact, he wanted to play so much that we worked it out with the sports organizer to let him sign up a little early (he doesn’t turn 4 until April) as long as Brad coached. He talked about it a lot. He wanted to play every time we went to the Y. Yet, when it was time to practice, he wasn't so interested. He did decent at the first practice. There were only 4 other kids there. By the second practice, he’d decided that he couldn’t dribble and he couldn’t shoot. He isn’t great, I’ll admit. But, he’s also the smallest and youngest kid on the team, and he honestly did fine. At the second practice, he sat on the side and whined that he wanted to go home for the majority of the practice. Then, came our first game. He went onto the court with the team, decided he was done about 2 minutes into the quarter, and stood on the side until his dad could sub in another player. Brad asked if he was ready to go back in when it was his turn and he refused. Then, in the last quarter, he decided he wanted to play (this was after I gave him a full-out lecture and busted his butt for swatting me away). Brad wouldn’t let him back on the court. He told him that if he couldn’t play when his daddy needed him, then he couldn’t play any other time. Jake cried and apologized. Yet, at practice last night, he ignored everything Brad and Dawn said. He ran in circles on the floor, refused to try to shoot the ball, you name it. We were so pissed at him (and Bailey, too, but that’s another story). He said he didn't want to play. I asked him why. He says, “I can’t dribble. I can’t shoot.”

AH. What do you do with this? I tried to explain that he can’t learn to dribble and shoot if he doesn’t try. This is where the terrible stubbornness comes to play. As much as I argued my side, Jake argued his. We were not going to agree. Period.

So, here we are. I am trying to figure out how to motivate him. I am definitely not able to motivate him by threatening and taking away things. He’s lost toys, been spanked, sat on the side while the other kids played, lectured, yelled at, and reasoned with. Nothing is working.

What do I do? I can't discipline him for not having fun. I mean, basketball is supposed to be fun. That's why we signed him up. Yet, I can't let him get by with thinking that he can just sign up for things and then ignore the people trying to help him, especially when his Dad is one of those people. He NEEDS to listen to him. 

So, I'm in one of those spots these days. Trying to figure out how to deal with a little man who has one of the most unique personalities you can imagine. Maybe he's immature and just not ready for the things that a lot of other kids his age are ready for. Maybe he's just going to decide to do this like everything else, on his own terms. Maybe he just wants me to lose my mind. 

In any case, we will figure out something. And, then we'll look back and laugh about this. :) 

I hope. :)

First times...

Monday, January 24, 2011
Lately, we have had a lot of snow. 

I have a love-hate relationship with the snow. Some days, it is a welcome break - a moment to slow down and relax at my home with kids, enjoying the little things that we love... popcorn, movies, junk food, blankets, and pajamas. On other days, it's a huge hassle. On days like these, I have to drag the kids out of the house, take Brad to work or pick him up, driving on slick roads. On days like these, I'm stressing over trying to do work from home so that I can keep my hours and paychecks up, while also stressing that my kids need my attention and have watched their 100th video of the year. :) 

So, what have we been doing with all of the snow and snow days? 

We aren't moving slow. That's for certain. And, we've had some fun "firsts." 

Our kids have had their first basketball practice and game, under their first basketball coaches, my wonderful husband, Brad, and one of my closest friends, Dawn. There will be many more posts on this to come, I'm sure. Let's just say, Go Celtics. I hope there is improvement down the road... and leave it all at that. :) 

I also had a first this weekend... I ran for the first time in my life in sub-freezing weather and in the snow. Yes, that's right. I ran outside, in the snow. I was a little worried and not excited. But, I have to say, other than the salt truck that threatened to run me off the road and pelt me with salt a few times, and the neighbors that I am sure wanted to run me down, and the puddles of melting snow that ended up in my shoes, freezing my toes, it was a lot of fun. I actually warmed up pretty quickly. While running, I was wishing I had the Rocky IV soundtrack on my iPod. I just kept thinking about Rocky while running... and laughing that I was actually channeling a movie that I've watched so many times in my life that I honestly hate it now. :) It was a good start to my "real" training for the half marathon. A little over 6 miles, in the snow, at a decent pace. I hope that means I can do this. 

The other first is one that I just laugh about. We went out with our friends without our kids while they hung out with a babysitter at home... going to bed on their own at 9:30. Now, you know we've gone out with our friends. However, we have yet to go without the kids AND have them at home with a sitter who is not in our immediate family. AND they went to bed on their own at 9:30. I mean, really, I can't believe I'm blogging about it, but it happened. It is amazing to me how it feels like we have moved into a whole new phase in our life by just this one simple act. But, over the past 6 months, it really does seem like we've moved into a whole new and wonderful phase of life. The kids don't wake us up at 6 a.m. on the weekends... instead, they sleep until at least 7:30 or 8 and then proceed to only wake us up when they are starving for breakfast. On those days, we get up, fix them a bowl of cereal, and crawl back into bed until 9 or 9:30. It's incredible. I officially can say that I have NO desire to have another baby now. :) 

And, then there is the final first that we really are not that pleased about. We have shared a vehicle for more than a month. I will say two things... I cannot wait to get my car back and I have an incredible amount of respect for all of my friends who share vehicles and my parents for the many years that they transported us everywhere while sharing one vehicle. It's not horrible to share a car... but it is definitely not something I want to do much longer. Please say a prayer that my car gets fixed this week... and that it stays that way. :) 

... and the next list item will be...

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Drum roll... please. :) 

Well, before we get ahead of ourselves here, I have to say that I really considered all of your responses. I even tallied them up a few different times to see if I could figure out which list item was the one that I should do next. 

And, you know what I learned? You guys are just like me. You can't decide either. Hahaha! I'm so happy I'm not alone! 

All of you actually made really good points as to why I should or should not do this or that. 

There was a five way tie on what I should do, which I found quite hilarious, because it's pretty much exactly how I felt. 

It came down to: 
Snow tubing
Tango lessons
Painting class
Ice Skating 

I learned that I'm really terrified of doing karaoke. I mean, extremely terrified. I might never even mark this one of the list because I really am TERRIFIED. So, that one got ruled out by me. :) 

Brad overruled the tango lessons... I think he will do it eventually, but not now. 

This leaves me with snow tubing, painting class, and ice skating. 

It is going to be snow tubing. 

I ruled out painting class by looking at the schedule at the Living Arts & Science Center and seeing that I couldn't swing any of the classes available. 

I ruled out ice skating (at least temporarily), because I know that I'm an enormous klutz and I could totally see me having an injury from ice skating that would prevent me from training for the half. That would be very disappointing. 

So... snow tubing it is. :) 

And, I must say that I'm pretty excited! The kids are going to love it... I'm going to love it. Now, just to find time in our crazy schedules to go... oh... and the money. Haha. Always the money. :) 

I do have to say that I'm a little disappointed in myself for not having the nerve to do karaoke. We have a babysitter for Saturday and the perfect opportunity to go out with friends who will support me in making a fool of myself. Yet... I just can't make myself do it. So, for all of you who wanted me to totally humiliate myself in front of a group of people by singing, I have every intention of doing it. It just might be when I'm 80. :) 

2011... the verdict is still out. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011
Because I had a friend e-mail me to see if my 2011 was getting better, I figured I'd give you an update. 

It is getting better. 

The Escape is still not fixed. It's a long story. Not one worthy of spending much time on. Just know it costs a lot to get it fixed. And, apparently it takes a while too. :) So, we have it in the shop... hopefully we will get it fixed by the end of the week. 

The upstairs heating unit was never "really" broken. Funny story. When Brad put up all of our Christmas decorations in the attic... well, a bag "fell" over and hit a switch on the heater. Ninety bucks later... the heat is fine. :) Trust me... $90 is nothing in comparison to the cost of a new unit. So, no complaints here. :) 

The truck also had to have new brakes. Seriously, my mom and I were talking on the phone when my heat and car weren't working and my mom said, "It all comes in threes. Something else will happen." I am not exaggerating when I say that within 5 minutes, the truck started making a grinding noise. New brakes. 

So... in an answer... 2011 has been expensive. 


I'm refusing to focus on it. 

All things happen for a reason and I guess this time, the reason is... I don't know what the hell the reason is... but somehow it will pay off in the end. 

And, because I have been distracted by these things (and spending extra time running back and forth between Brad's office, my office, the kids' two schools, and the YMCA), I have spent nearly NO time in 2011 focused on my list. And, maybe, just maybe, focusing on the list will help me feel like 2011 isn't so crappy. :) 

So, tonight, I have spent the past 15 minutes reading through my list and wondering which one is next to come off of it. 

And, well that got me to thinking... 

What would you guys like to see me do next? I know you won't actually "see" me, but what do you think I should do? Here are the options that I think would be most feasible in the nearest future: 

Research my family tree
Teach Bailey to tie her shoes
Ice Skate
Sing karaoke
Milk a cow
Learn to speak Spanish
Learn to paint
Learn to tango
Go snow tubing at a ski resort
Take a cooking class
Host a beer and/or bourbon and/or wine tasting party at our house

Help me decide. I'm not sure which one makes the most sense to go for next. I think Bailey's shoe-tying is a priority for the next few months, but it might not happen next. So, what do you think? Or do you have another suggestion? I'd love to hear what you all think!  

The Perfect Gift

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I have been dying to write this post for a long time. And, now I can finally post it... and then I thought I should wait a few more days. But, honestly. It's been a long time coming. And I really and truly just cannot wait. I've really wanted to write this for a LONG time. So... I just can't wait any longer.

If you have a best friend in the world that you really feel like is your family... 

If you have a best friend who you would do nearly anything in the world for... 

If you have a best friend who you know would do nearly anything in the world for you... 

... then you will understand why this post is so special to me. 

I have the best friend a girl could ever have. I know I've posted about her before and you guys are probably gagging over having to read more about how much this woman means to me. So, I'll keep that part brief. She really is incredible, but for the sake of keeping you reading, I'll just say that God broke the mold with her. 

Before I got pregnant with Jake, a little over 4 years ago (I can't believe it), Cilla and I had talked about her and Bret and their plan to start trying to have a baby. They started trying before we started trying to have Jake. So, when Brad and I decided to go off birth control and plan for our second child, it crossed my mind that our kids could be born around the same time. I was excited thinking about us going through pregnancy together. I was more excited about all the possibilities that us having children the same age would bring. After one short month off the pill, I was pregnant. No big surprise there... apparently I come from a long line of fertile myrtles who get pregnant easily (planned or unplanned). It was really tough for me to tell Cilla... I didn't want her to be upset that she still wasn't pregnant. Little did we know, that would be the beginning of many tough conversations. Looking back, it was probably one of the easiest conversations we have ever had. :) In all honesty, after all these years, I can hardly remember it. There are many more that I can recall so much more vividly. 

Through all of the struggles that Cilla and Bret have gone through in their quest to have a baby, I have watched (usually with my most optimistic smile in front of them and through large tears behind closed doors) as they have faced on every setback with such strength. Their faith in God has inspired me to strengthen my relationship with God. Their love for each other has only helped my relationship with my own husband. Their strong desire for a baby has only made me appreciate the two kids that I have that much more. It reminds me daily not to take things for granted.

After so many setbacks and discussions about the future, Cilla and Bret kept their focus... they kept their faith. On November 29, a day after I turned 30, my phone rang. I had been waiting... watching the clock all morning... I had been waiting hours, days, weeks, months, years for this phone call. And I was terrified. I swear, I think I was as nervous as I was when I took my very own pregnancy test. I dropped the phone (twice) while trying to answer it. Seriously, it could have been a scene from a movie. I was so excited and so scared to hear the voice on the other end of the phone. What was I going to say if the test was negative? How could I ever console her (and Bret)? How could I help? Please God, let it be positive.

Thankfully, I got the very best birthday present, one day late of course, that I could ask for. A glowing voice on the other end of the phone... with good news. With GREAT news. Cilla is pregnant. 

She is now entering her second trimester. She can start telling people (she posted this tonight to announce it). She can breathe a little easier and feel as safe as any other pregnant person about the success of this baby. She has no idea if it's a boy or a girl (although we have nicknamed him big boy and bully for reasons that he'll (or she'll) never quite understand). :) We have all cried tears of joy... prayed prayers of thanks... prayed prayers for a healthy bouncing baby. Regardless of whether it's a he or a she, this baby is a miracle baby to all of us who love Cilla and Bret. It is an answered prayer from hundreds of praying people. It is going to be the most spoiled, loved child. Trust me... I have big plans for some serious spoiling. :)

I am so excited to see how this baby grows... to see it's beautiful little face... to hold it when Mom is so tired from those sleepless nights... to get it all riled up and screaming  and laughing when Bret and Cilla are just wanting it to calm down... to let my kids teach it all the things they shouldn't do and then send it home. :) I can't wait to meet him or her and to tell it how much it is loved... and how much him/her simply being a part of our world has made the whole world a better place. 

Congratulations, Bret and Cilla. I know it's just the beginning. I know there are plenty more peaks and valleys until you raise this little one up to adulthood. Trust me... it will change your life.... hahahaha. I can't wait to be a part of the journey... and I hope you know how much I have loved being a part of it this whole time, even in the deepest valleys and toughest times. I wouldn't trade you guys for the world, and while I wish that you had an easier time getting to this place, I know that God really does have a plan. We just have to stay out of the way. :)  I love you... ALL of you!

And to all of you who have prayed and wished and sent positive vibes toward Cilla and Bret, sometimes not even knowing what you were praying for, thank you. God is good. :)

Training is ON!

Friday, January 7, 2011
As I might have mentioned in another post (I'm pretty sure I did, anyway), I, along with two of my fellow running friends, Dawn and Maria, have registered for a half marathon in Nashville in April. I am so excited about the weekend away with just us girls (Priscilla and Rebecca are probably and hopefully going, too). We have big plans to enjoy Nashville for a few days while we are there. 

But, until we get there, I have a lot to do to get ready. For those of you who are not runners and don't keep up with how long a half marathon is, I have to be prepared to run 13.1 miles. 

I have to say, when I started my training for a 5K last summer, I never REALLY thought I'd get to a point where I thought I might actually be able to do a half marathon. I remember driving places (like to pick up Bailey from her preschool across town) and watching the odometer in my car. I remember measuring how far a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon would be. Then, I remember thinking, "There is no way I could ever run that far," or "Why the hell would anyone want to run that far?" 


I still don't know why I want to do it, really. I would probably say because I want to see if I can. Or maybe it's an egocentric thing... where I want to see if I am good enough to do it. It could also be a little bit of a competitive thing - if others can do it, I can, too. 

No. I don't really think it's any of those things. While all of them are probably there in some capacity, the real reason I want to do it is because I really enjoy running. I love to go out and run and clear my head. I love to feel exhausted afterward, like I really did something. I love the way it makes me feel stronger. I love feeling healthy and young, even if my legs feel really old on some mornings after I run. :) I love that it's brought me new friends and that my kids see that I can actually do something more than cook for them. I love that I have found something I am incredibly addicted to... and that something is a good thing and not a bad thing like Diet Mt. Dew. :)

So, that's why I am doing this... I think. 

And, because I love to share my training...
And I just know that you guys are the reason that I have stuck with this... 
And because Maria and Dawn invited me to join the www.dailymile.com... 
And because Dawn is sharing her training through her blog and recommended I do that too... 
And all that... 

I have added a widget on my page that shows my training status. Feel free to watch it and read it and to send me notes to tell me to suck it up when I'm being whiny or to remind me to run when I'm slacking. :) 

I would totally appreciate it. 

And, pray I don't collapse and die in Nashville in April. I really want to finish it... without walking, if possible, and in a decent time. 

Thank you all... for tolerating me. :) I love you for it! Truly. 

A little venting going on

Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I try really hard to stay positive. 

Most days, I end up laughing off the things that I can initially see as a disaster. I mean, really, it's not the end of the world when something goes wrong in most cases. Usually, there's a solution. And, since Brad has always dubbed me a "fixer," I immediately jump from the problem to finding a solution. I might get frustrated. But, instead of going crazy (well, after a rant or two to Cilla and my mom and Dawn and Rebecca and Brad - hehehe), I move on to finding out a way to fix the problem. 

Well, 2011. I am not going to take any more crap. 

Just stop. 

Right now. 

We had a great 2010.

I am not about to let 2011 be that year. The one that follows a great year and ruins the good. 

Oh yes. In just a matter of 4 days... FOUR DAYS... we have had a problem with the Escape (my 2003 SUV that I still love, despite its age - we both are looking weathered these days - what with me needing some major dye for my graying hair), our upstairs heating unit is not working (please God, let it be inexpensive to fix), and now the truck is making some funky noise (no doubt because I drove it - gasp! Please go away noise). Seriously... what the heck?

So, 2011 - you suck. I want my 2010 back. :) 

Waking up with positive vibes tomorrow. No more malfunctioning things in our home, cars, workplaces, schools, ANYWHERE NEAR US! 

Love you all... thanks for letting me vent. Now, to be more positive... 

We have good health. 

We have work.

We have food. 

We have love. 

This is totally just a little speed bump. Things always seem to work out... this will too. :) 

About our Christmas

Monday, January 3, 2011

This is the post that I always find the hardest to write. I always feel like I've cheated and left out majorly important components of what makes Christmas so special. I always, ALWAYS, feel like I've left out the important little details that made our Christmas unique from the years before and from the future years. I never feel like I have conveyed how special these little moments are or were in the grand scheme of this sometimes very chaotic holiday.

I try. But I always leave this post with a feeling that it lacks all of the things that I want it to bubble over with.

So, again, I am trying. And, because I hate how I have written every post in past years that I have written before about our Christmas, (well, not every one, but I have always been so disappointed with my inability to paint the picture of our Christmas holiday to you), I thought I might try something a little different. I'm taking notes from one of my favorite bloggers. ;)

Dear Bailey and Jake,

This Christmas had to be one of my favorite holidays with you yet. Both of you are at the perfect age, 5 and 3, to really and truly believe in the magic of Christmas. It doesn't come as easy for adults to have so much faith in things, so watching both of you eagerly trust in something so simplistic is just incredible.

Each year, we travel to eastern Kentucky for the holidays. Trust me, it is no easy task. There are so many presents to take back and forth that we have been known to take two vehicles. Ridiculous? Yes, it is. However, it is true. It doesn't help that I always insist on taking half a kitchen so that we can bake and cook over our vacation. I could easily buy supplies there, but why purchase things I already have? Anyway... this year, your dad was able to take some extra time off (some of it was because of an unpaid furlow, so not exactly the vacation we would have liked to had). I was so thrilled to have him home to help pack everything up and get ready for our trip. It helped that we were able to travel a day before Christmas Eve. Taking our time to get settled in, cook some food, and allow your Mimi and I to make our plans for the next few days. Oh, yes, planning is a big component of everything we do. :) As if either of you will find that a surprise.

We spent Christmas Eve traveling between my grandparents' homes. Early in the day, Big Poppa took you both to Granny Dale's house to play during the day, which gave your dad and I some time to get a few things done and ready for Santa to arrive. I can't even begin to explain how much stress this took off of us. We were so relaxed when we made our way to pick you up and take you to Papaw Lenox's house to celebrate. You both were incredible at Papaw's house. I couldn't believe how well-behaved you were. There were ten kids there and you all played nicely and quietly. We were all in shock. Of course, there was no shortage of electronic gaming systems, which probably explains a lot.

Back on the road (our holidays have always been filled with lots of running between homes), we made our way back to Granny Dale's (who I have learned you all love to hang out with - no surprise there). Watching your eyes light up over the sheer mention of Santa Claus and hearing the real wonder in your voice when we looked out the car window for Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve might have been one of the top experiences in my life. That might sound dramatic to you. I can understand that sounding dramatic. But, you need to understand...

Every year... for as long as my memory can recall, I have spent searching the sky between my Papaw Lenox's house and my Granny Dale's on Christmas Eve, watching for any sign of a red nose or a sleigh. Every year, I would see the same red dot in the same spot (most likely a tower of some sort) and I would be convinced that I had seen him. So, you have to see how fun it was for me to see you both looking in that same sky, on that same curvy little road, seeing that same red dot, and hoping with all of the same hope and passion that I had used all those years that you were seeing Rudolph pulling the sleigh.

After we spent a short time with Granny Dale and the gang, we had to make our way to Mimi and Big Poppa's house for our time with Cory, Angela, and the boys. They had to spend Christmas Eve night with their dad this year and Cory had to work for part of the day, so we opened gifts late (around 10 p.m.). Again, we couldn't get over how well you were all playing together and how good you were being. All of you were just incredible.

When Cory, Angela, and the boys left, we started getting ready for bed. We didn't have cookies to leave out. I know... what kind of mom am I?! We decided that Santa really would be tired of cookies anyway and would probably really rather have some pumpkin pie and milk. And, this, Bailey, is where you melted your mommy's heart. I don't know what it was about this particular moment in time. I don't think I will ever forget it. Jake was curled up on the couch, engrossed in some superhero movie, and you were sitting in the computer chair with a paper and a pencil, writing a note to Santa. It hit me that you were no longer my little baby, but a big kid. Maybe it was because Colt was there and I could remember him being your age so easily. I could remember him with all of his belief and faith and it really seemed like yesterday to me. And, here he is in college, a full-grown man... and here you are, my little girl, who will all too quickly leave your passion for doing everything just right for Santa Claus to thinking that he doesn't even exist and rolling your eyes at little kids who do. I had that moment of realization that I needed to take it in, because it was one of those fleeting moments in time. My heart hurts just thinking about how fast you are growing... and how quickly you have gone from being my little baby who would prefer a box to a little girl who writes her own notes to Santa.

As we crawled into bed that night, I couldn't help but smile when you were both saying you couldn't go to sleep because you were so excited. And, then, about 2 minutes later, you were both snoring. Thankfully, you didn't wake us up at 4 a.m. I know those days are coming, at least if you are anything like me and Cory were. Instead, I woke you both up at 7:30 because I was too excited to wait any longer. :)

Your reactions were priceless. The American Girl twins were a major hit... as was the Blizzard Maker. Jake, you loved your Batman cave, as predicted, and you spent more time with it and your new Batman DS game than just about anything else. You enjoyed the other gifts... later. All the focus was on Batman. Later, you told me that Santa forgot to bring you any bad guys. Poor Santa had no idea that you expected bad guys. He won't forget next year. You've told everyone you know that you loved your gifts, but that you would have really liked to have had some bad guys. If you weren't just 3, I would consider you the most ungrateful child in the world. However, I'm giving you this time to soak it in. Later (as in like three months from now), you will be told that if you aren't appreciative, you won't get anything else. :) And, in all honesty, while you wanted bad guys, you were really sweet about everything you got... and you loved it all.

After we had breakfast that morning, we made our trip to Mamaw Kathy's. It was a white Christmas this year... something that I rarely remember happening. It was nice. We always spend Christmas Day with Mamaw Kathy, Uncle James, Ryan, Jennifer, and Rianna each year. This year, like all the others, was great. It is one of the few times each year that we get together without feeling like we all have to rush back to our normal, everyday lives, working, playing sports, or cleaning. There were more than enough presents, delicious food, and a nice, warm fire. We spent the entire day there, late into the evening, playing the Wii, the Kinect, and watching different shows. It will probably go down as one of my favorite Christmases.

You are both growing up so fast. It won't be long until the only thing you care about on Christmas is presents and getting to see your girlfriends and boyfriends. While I know that I will love that age as well as I do this one, I feel like it is going by way too fast. I hope you both know how much we love you and that you always have the sweet innocence that you have right now. 

Thank you both for making our world complete. 

Love, Mom :)

Looking Back... and Forward

We said goodbye to 2010 in style. Well, in true Ooten-style. Too much food, too many drinks, time with great friends, time with our kids, all at our house instead of going out like most people our age would prefer to do. The truth is, we have always spent our New Years' Eve holidays in. I think it's because we do so much running for the other holidays. It just feels nice not to have to be "on." We had a great time with our friends, Dawn, Brandon, Bret, and Cilla. We missed Rebecca and Paul, and our family members that sometimes join us. And, while the kids missed Joseph and Carson (as did we), they partied hard into the mid-morning hours with Jackson, who also celebrated his 4th birthday. It kind of epitomized our last year in a lot of ways... spending time really enjoying everything we love about life.

I don't typically like to look at the past, unless it's to cherish it. I like looking to the future, wondering what it holds, and really planning for what I want it to hold. :)

But, this week, it seems appropriate that I look back at how our lives have changed over the past year. We didn't have huge, life-changing events... but we did have some pretty big things going on. Maybe it just felt that way for me, because, as many of you know, lots of things in my life changed this year.

I think I finally made a commitment to make some choices this year. Or maybe I was finally confident enough to make some choices because Brad was so willing and able to help me make those choices. I don't know. But, in any case, we made some choices this year that I think really improved our lives.

In January, I walked into my job, where I had worked for over three years, and gave my resignation. I was tired. I was stressed. And, despite the fact that I knew it was what I wanted to do, I was totally terrified to leave. Not only because I was worried that I was going crazy to leave a job during the largest economic downturn in my lifetime, but also because I was really pretty scared to be a stay-at-home mom. I hadn't really done it for more than a couple of months when Bailey was a baby. I also knew that, while Brad's promotion helped, it in no way compensated him enough to replace my pay. So, we were going to have to make some cuts or some choices to go further into debt. You probably can figure out which way we went with that one. :)

Looking back, it was the most freeing decision I made. I love the people at my former job. I am and always will be forever grateful for the vast opportunities that it gave me and for the many things that I learned while working there. However, I had no idea how much stress it was putting on me until I was away from it. That made being at home with my kids even more wonderful.

As you know, I became a little, ummm.... crazed, during the spring. I think it was a combination of things that made me crazy. You know, staying in the house for too many hours with the kids through bad weather, watching too much Spiderman and Batman, and feeling like I really had no idea what I was going to do with my "career" once the kids got a little bigger. I always have to have a plan. I just have to have a plan. No matter how silly that might seem, especially to me in my life right now, I still have to feel like I'm working toward something.

That's when I had the insane idea epiphany to create my life list.

I think these two decisions were probably the two decisions that shaped our year more than any. Combined, these two decisions, really shifted our focus on life and made us all more aware of the most important things in our lives. It's not to say that it didn't come with a price tag. It did... and still does. We still have to be sane about things and make compromises sometimes because of this price tag. BUT... we have a clearer idea of what we want and we know that eventually we want to come up with a way to get there.

Because, I really, really want to go through and talk about the past year in detail. And, because I know that you really, really probably don't want me to recite my entire blog from 2010 in this one post....


I'll do it this way: A video. 

It was supposed to be short and sweet. 

But, that just would not be me. AT ALL. 

You have been warned. :)

So, when you need something to do on your lunch break (hehe), I've provided you a nice little video of us in the past year. 

For those of you who make it to the end (yes, all three of you), the music runs over a bit. I am not sure why, except that the Windows Movie Maker made me crazy and I eventually threw my hands up in the air and said, "It's close enough." No one ever gave me an award for video editing... 


Happy New Year... Here's to hoping we have as much fun in 2011 as we did in 2010.