UPDATE:  THE WINNER IS COMMENTER #6, DEBBIE LEBAUVE!  Send me your info Debbie so I can mail you your prize!

My family Christmas decor is pretty traditional.  Traditional red, traditional green, garland, stockings, pine cones, traditional.

I've thought about changing it a few times, but then I think about my sister-in-law, Debbi, and the year she decided to change her Christmas decor.  She went from a traditional "family ornament" tree to a plum and fruity tree.  Her children had all left home, and she was trying to mix it up, do something different, so she kept all the family ornaments boxed up and went out and bought these purple fruity tree ornaments.  Her kids revolted (I thought it was pretty) and she went back to her traditional tree.

So whenever I think of changing, I think two thoughts.

  • "Will my kids revolt or even notice at all?"
  • "Will I like it?"
And I inevitably end up leaving it the same. 

But this year, I'm toying with a couple of ideas.  I'm thinking of either going totally "Grinch Green"

or burlap and white.  I'm leaning toward the burlap and white though, because I saw some amazing photos last year on Pinterest.

So, in honor of Christmas decorating, and grinch green, I'm giving away a cute little napkin holder.  It's the size of a dessert napkin holder (thought I don't know how big that is in actual inches.  Maybe 6"x6" . . . I'm terrible at guessing stuff like that, so maybe we should just call it "the size of a dessert napkin holder.)

Here's how you enter.  1.  Follow this blog by clicking on the blue "JOIN THIS SITE" button in the right sidebar.  2.  Comment below.  Your comment IS YOUR ENTRY.  3. Pin this, post this, or tweet it!  And 4.  Check back on Monday to see if you won!  I will post the winner her, on this blog entry.

I will also post the winner on Facebook and Twitter.  And LASTLY, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT, you have to give me your contact info if you are the winner!  You can do this by emailing me at  I can't tell you how many winners I have had that don't do this last step, and I can't get their prize to them!

All that to say, each week I'm going to be giving away a bigger and bigger and bigger Christmas prize and you are eligible to win them all!  So follow, comment, pin, tweet, post!

Christmas and Your Church Staff

Last year at this time I worked at a church.  In fact, this is the first time since 1998, that I have not worked in a church at Christmastime.  If you've never worked in a church at Christmastime, or had a spouse or parent who worked at a church at Christmastime, then you may not know the immense amount of STRESS that comes with this holiday.

In the Christian church world, it's the Super Bowl.  It's the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world.  It's a month long building of events and concerts and plays and markets and parties and dinners, all culminating in THE EVENT, Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is the single most attended service of the year in churches, by Christians and non-Christians alike.  And I have to tell you, that's a lot of pressure for a church staff. In many cases, it's the only chance people will give the church, so you gotta get it right.

Keep in mind that people who work at a church also have families, and family parties, and neighbors and traditions, and school events, and shopping and all the things everyone else has to do.  (Yes, I know other people have jobs at Christmastime, but trust me, it's different!  I've been on both sides of the fence.  It's different!)

And when your family is dressing up all cute and feeling all warm and snuggly and festive as you attend the Christmas Eve service together, keep in mind that the folks who work at the church are attending ALL of the services while their family is most likely at home, celebrating without them, or "making the most of" the fact that their family member isn't there with them.

And they've probably been there for hours getting ready for the service.  No details have been left to chance.  The candles, the music, the lights, the message.  It's all been thought about for a long time.  Even if your church does it simply, it's still a massive undertaking for the staff.

Why am I writing all of this?  It's not because I was bitter working in the church at Christmas.  I wasn't. I loved it and miss it.  (Well, parts of it.)

I'm writing this because this Christmas I want you to cut your church staff some slack.  I want you to shower them with grace.  I want you to withhold how you wish the Christmas Market had been bigger.  Or your critique of (or the lack of) the Women's Christmas dinner.  I want you to be thankful that there WAS a Children's Choir performance and that your child got to sing in it, even if they didn't have a solo.

I want you to appreciate that someone had to set up and tear down and set up and tear down and set up and tear down the insane amount of extra events that people seem to want to plan AT church at Christmastime.

Please, take the time to send them a card and write a meaningful note in it.  Not just for your Senior Pastor (though he's clearly important) but to any staff member that you interact with regularly.  Or give them a gift card (even it's $5 to Starbucks) or just do something nice for them!  Mow their yard.  I don't know and it doesn't really matter.  Just be thoughtful is my point.

And best of all, when they ask you to, or better yet, BEFORE they ask, volunteer to serve.  You'll have plenty of chances.  There will be Children's events and Student events and Women's events, and OF COURSE Christmas Eve.

All that to say, this Christmas, let your church staff (if you have one) inhale the beauty of the season by helping them a little bit more.  After all, it's your Super Bowl too!

HO! HO! HO! and Happy Birthday

I have possibly mentioned, once or twice, that I am a fan of the Christmas season.  I love everything about every second of it. I acquire and abandon new "traditions" on a regular basis and am totally okay that we don't do the same thing in the same way every year.

For example, when my boys were younger we read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  (It's only 85 pages long and seriously one of my favorite stories.)  We read it so much that I could recite much of the first page.  "The Herdmans were the worst kids in the history of the world.  They lied, and cheated, and smoked cigars, (even the girls)."  And every year I looked forward to the reading.

And even though we don't read it anymore (but mostly likely will start soon with the girls), I love the memories I have of reading that story.

I also used to buy the boys an ornament every year that was somehow related to what they were doing that year.  My thought was that when they were grown and moved out of the house, they would take their lifetime of memories and ornaments with them to start their new lives.  It never occurred to me that they would have other thoughts about their own Christmas tree.  (duh!)

But I'm okay with that too.  I loved doing it, and I still love unwrapping those ornaments and remembering their childhoods.  And I'm buying the girls ornaments too.  And if they grow up and don't want them for their tree, well that's okay too!

(I'm starting to realize some of my traditions might be about me.  Tee hee)

And I used to buy a new nativity set every year (well, technically I still do this), but I stopped putting them all out last year (courtesy of Simple Christmas, thank you very much Brian Mann!) and gave myself permission to "downsize" Christmas.

Some of my favorite things still happen today though.

For example, the weekend after Thanksgiving always marks the hanging of the lights.  Mike and one or both of the boys get out all of my Christmas boxes, 16 to be exact, then sort out all of the lights, map out a strategy, and hang the lights on the house.  I have gone outside many years to arguments, laughter, people hanging in ridiculously unsafe manners from very tall ladders, and a myriad of duct tape and extension cords that would put Clark Griswold to shame!

I usually try to stay inside once ladders
and rooftops are involved!
Mike unraveling a string of "new" lights after announcing
the icicle lights had been retired.

And we still have "Cookies."  The weekend where I bake dozens and dozens of cookies  and then we invite one set of friends over to help us decorate.  It's a fun night.  Lots of competitive decorating.  And at the end, a winner is awarded by popular vote.  This doesn't sound like too much in this one paragraph, but if you've ever been the "chosen friends" then you know it's a special, special night.

Zack and Christina in 2009 with Cookie Champion Jackie Key

Jacob with 2010 Winners Corina and Kristina Patterson

And Zack with 2011 Loser, Ben Rush (sorry Ben)

And we still go to Guadalajara for dinner on Christmas Eve (because when I worked at the church, it was just too much to do 4+ Christmas Eve services AND have a meaningful Christmas Eve dinner).

They would absolutely KILL me if they knew I had posted
this on the internet!
And we will most likely still open presents on Christmas day, though it will definitely be different without Zack and Christina.   And we'll still open our presents in age order.  And we'll still eat a non-traditional Christmas dinner, like mouth-watering burgers or fish tacos . . . who knows? . . . because I can't bear the thought of another turkey dinner so soon!

And we will most likely still play Trivial Pursuit after our not-so-traditional dinner.  Heck, I might even splurge for the new edition this year!

This year though, I'm thinking of adding some new things. (WHAT?!!!)

The girls made gingerbread houses with Zack and Christina.  I can see us doing this for years!  It was funny to watch them do this though!  Zack (who helped Shannay) is like his Mama; a teeny weeny bit controlling, and Christina (who helped Nikki) is totally a free spirit.  You can easily tell this by looking at the houses.

And we're going to Dallas this weekend to ride the Polar Express.  Maybe that will become a tradition.

The girls are going to see the Nutcracker.  I have ALWAYS wanted girls just for this very reason!

And we might even start the Elf on the Shelf (maybe not though!)

All that to say, I'm gearing up for the holidays.  HO HO HO!  and as Frosty would say, "Happy Birthday!"

I Am Thankful for Pie

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Our first Thanksgiving with the three new Jones girls.  Well, technically, it is not the first one with our daughters, just our first one with them "officially" as our daughters.   It's our third Thanksgiving with them in our home.

And it was our first Thanksgiving with a daughter-in-law.  She is a welcome addition in many ways, but ESPECIALLY if she keeps making those ridiculously good buttermilk pies that she made!

We also had a little foster baby with us, "Baby D" as we call her, as well as my Dad and Step mom.

And then Jacob came home from college, something I always look forward to and am incredibly grateful for when it happens.

Man.  Full House to say the least!

I love that my family gets together at Thanksgiving.   Well, technically I always love that.  No matter the occasion.

But for the most part, I don't love Thanksgiving.  I spend two days cooking a meal that takes 15 minutes to eat and two hours to clean up from.  Mike spends most of the day outside cooking turkeys (he cooked THREE turkeys this year . . . I have no idea why!)

The boys typically spend the time napping.

The girls spend their day being toddlers, requiring interventions on an ongoing basis.

And me?  I'm in the kitchen cooking, and constantly answering the most asked question on Thanksgiving Day, "What time do we eat?"  (At least I had help in the kitchen this year!)

Even though I don't enjoy Thanksgiving, "the holiday," I do enjoy my family, in all their messiness, all their craziness, all their moodiness, and all their zaniness.

I enjoyed having my parents here and watching them interact with their granddaughters.  I want Nikki and Shannay to have sweet memories of holidays with their grandparents.  And I enjoyed having Jacob home, even though he left early.  And I enjoyed playing dominoes with Zack and Christina and my dad and Mike, even though I lost, again.  And I enjoyed sharing our home with a baby who didn't have one.

And I enjoyed the pie . . . man did I enjoy the pie.

All that to say, I am glad that we are moving into the Christmas season, the season of hope and joy.  I am "thankful" that Thanksgiving is over.   And I'm thankful for my family.  (And I'm thankful for pie!)

(Here are some favorites from the day)

Christina teaching Nikki to make Pink Salad (to die for!)

Chef Mike frying THREE turkeys!

Jacob, Nikki and Shannay with our guest

The family eating.   I love that everyone is either in mid-bite or looks grumpy that they had to pose for the picture!)

Christina taking her turn at Croquet.   Probably getting instructions from Mike here!

The girls with their mallets.  I have a massive bruise on my leg from one of these!

All That to Say: Grow

For the past seven days, I have been watching a sweet, little, now 9 day old, baby girl do her thing. Her "thing" is to wake up, eat, poop, sleep, repeat.

That's the sum total of her existence.  The whole cycle lasts about 3 hours.  Every 3 hours she relives her life.  And in the less than one week that we have had her, she has changed before our eyes.  

At first, each time she awakened, she awakened with one need; eat.  Then, as she would eat, she would leisurely suck down about 2 oz. of formula, maybe a little less.  Then she'd poop, burp, get drowsy and fall asleep.

Now when she awakens, she demands to be fed, hungrily sucks down 3-4 oz., gets annoyed that we stop to burp her, then does the rest of her cycle, but now she stays awake for a while.  Not a long time (really just long enough to prevent us from going to sleep).  But she's more alert during her awake time.  She makes eye contact.  She's trying to raise up her little bobble head while I'm burping her.  She's taking in the world around her.  She's growing.  Each day she is becoming a better version of herself.

And watching her I have been struck by how much work it is to grow, just to grow.  That's her one job.  Growing.  That's why she sleeps so much.  Because growing is exhausting.

I think that's true no matter how old we get.  Growing is hard work.  And at times, it's exhausting.

But the benefit of growth is that we become better versions of ourselves.  And if we are open to the hard work that comes with growth, we become more like the people God created us to be.

All that to say, becoming a better you is hard work, but so worth the effort.  So go, grow.  And get some sleep.

*Photo courtesy of Shauna Maness Photography who shall someday will these GROW letters to me.

All That to Say: Change

I'd like to begin this post by saying that I am sleep deprived, hormonal, and I watched a Hallmark Christmas movie at 3:30 in the morning.  Any of those things alone could cause the rush of emotions I have had today, but all of those things combined is like the perfect storm.

The movie was about a family that was blending.  Each of the parents had lost a spouse, each came to the new marriage with children, and for each family this was a first attempt at trying to take their separate holiday traditions and merge them into their new holiday traditions.

I'm here to tell you, I cried buckets of tears during that movie.  In fact, I'm kind of glad it was just me and our little 8 day old foster baby sitting there in the dim light of the TV.  Otherwise I would have had to make up some goofy reason for why I was crying.

I think in part I'm a little emotional because this is our first year with a married son.  And that changes things.  "Our" traditions will inevitably change as they must split up their time between two families, and at the same time begin to create their own traditions.

They are a family.  He and she.  We are now their extended family.  And with that comes change.

And that's not bad.  In fact, it's what every parent wants for their child.  They want them to leave the nest, get married, start their own family, make their own traditions, live their own life to the fullest potential.

But nonetheless, it's hard.  Especially at holidays.  And especially when "someone" has enough holiday traditions to choke a horse.  I've raised holiday traditions to an art form.  Really, I have.  And now, I must let go, change, adapt.

And as I watched this TV family navigate the waters of change, I felt emotional for all the change that we will most assuredly navigate over the years.  So I had a good cry.  And then I ate a cookie.

So now then, that's out of my system!  And, I'm looking forward to seeing how the years unfold.  Years of holidays and more marriages and grand babies.  In fact, I think grand babies may be the only thing that will ease the pain of all this adjusting.  Lots and lots of grand babies. (insert knowing wink here)

All that to say, the holidays will be different this year.  But different is good.  It signifies change, and change means growth, and growth means life.  And if the Hallmark families can do it, then I can too!

All That to Say: A Little Distracted

Quite some time ago, over 2.5 years ago to be exact, we unexpectedly became foster parents. 

It wasn't our first time to be foster parents, as we had fostered two sweet little girls when our boys were much younger.  Zack was three at the time, and Jacob had just turned two, when a family member needed help with his two year old and 13 month old daughters.  So our family of 4 became of family of 6 overnight, and we found ourselves parenting a three year old, two two year olds, and a 13 month old. (Not an easy task to say the least)

Fast forward a whole lot of years, and once again our family of 4 became a family of 6, only this time it would be permanent.

We never set out to be foster parents (in either case).  It just happened.  Maybe because we made ourselves available, but most likely because God had ordained it would be so.

Once we realized that the short-term fostering of our daughters was going to become permanent, we knew we would no longer be able to be a rescue family.  At times, the longing to help children in crisis situations would pop up in our hearts and minds, but then the demands of twin toddlers, jobs, schedules . . . life . . . would distract us from those desires (which was probably a good thing for those days!)

Fast forward 2.5 years and once again we find ourselves as foster parents.  We had a sweet little boy in our home last week, quite unexpectedly, but thoroughly enjoyed every minute with him.

Imagine my surprise when just 4 short days later I received a phone call asking if we would take a newborn for two weeks.  A NEWBORN!  She had just been born that day!  We gulped a few times and then readily said, "yes" and began the process of preparing. (Thank God for facebook and facebook friends who jumped in with all the baby paraphernalia we needed!)

I gotta say, it does come back to you, much like riding a bike, but for a few days it's more like a distant, vague memory.  But we're in the swing the things now, sleeping (or not sleeping as the case may be) bottles, schedules, the lot. 

And then I realized, I FORGOT to  post a weekend giveaway! Oops!

All that to say, sorry.  I've been a little distracted.  I wish I could post a picture of the beautiful loveliness of this baby girl.  But privacy laws and agency policies say that I cannot.  So you'll have to take my word for it.  She's a beautiful distraction though. :)

All That to Say: Santa Logic

When Mike and I were in San Antonio last weekend, Zack and Christina took the girls to the mall.  

While there, Zack noticed that the Santa booth was being set up and mentioned to the girls that Santa would soon be there.  When they walked around the corner, he was surprised to see that Santa was already sitting in his chair.  And they girls were very excited as well.

The lady running the Santa booth asked Zack if the girls wanted to get their pictures taken with Santa, but at $34 for one picture, he declined.  He did ask if the girls could just sit on Santa's lap (apparently not typically allowed without paying the $$) and seeing that NO ONE else was in the mall, they allowed it.

Apparently he was a pretty awesome Santa and asked  the girls if they knew what Christmas was all about.  Shannay said it was Jesus' birthday, and the Santa told her she was right, and that Jesus was the most important part of Christmas.  (That makes me happy.  Please go see him.  He's at The Woodlands Mall)

Anyway, fast forward a week.

Shannay and I were talking about seeing Santa at the mall, and I asked her if she thought he was the real Santa or just a helper Santa.

This was her logic.

Shannay:  "He was the reeeeeeeeeeeeal Santa, Mama."

Me:  "How do you know?"

She held up two fingers and said,

"1.  He said "ho, ho, ho."  (duh Mom)

"And 2, he had presents."

Then she put her hands around her mouth to really drive home how secretive this information was and whispered, "I saw his presents."


I love that girl. 

All that to say, you can't argue with her logic.  If the man looks like Santa, has presents and says, "ho, ho, ho" then he must be the reeeeeeeeal Santa.

This is going to be a fun Christmas!

All That to Say: Pinch Me

My grandmother used to make this cake that she first baked, cooled, frosted, the whole bit.  And then when it was all looking pretty, she'd dump it and crumble it!  Then she'd layer it with vanilla pudding and whipped cream mixed with cream cheese.  It was unbelievably good!

I remember the first time I saw her take a beautifully frosted cake and turn it upside down in a bowl.  I almost had a heart attack! But she assured me she was making something even better.  And she was right.

That's how I feel about my life right now. 

I felt very comfortable with the life I had.  I enjoyed my work, the people I worked with, my church, our friends, all of it.

And then all of that got turned upside down.  And I almost had a heart attack.  (Truth be told, I still have hard days every now and then).  There was no way that I could see the whole mess turning out okay.  But God assured me He had a better plan.

So here I am a couple months later, and I am just so amazed at everything.

Mike and I are in such a great place, marriage wise. Probably because we have more time for each other!  Maybe because our family order has returned to normal.  I don't know.  But it's awesome!

I'm writing.  For a living.  And I'm making very good money to work part-time.  From home, well technically from Starbucks.  I'm working with some people who are doing amazing work and for some reason feel like I have something to offer in the process. 

And every. single. day, I am home when my daughters get off the bus.  Every day.

And now we are getting to foster babies.  Because I'm available.  Last week we had a sweet little 4 month old boy.  And this week we are getting a 3 day old baby girl. 

All that to say, I feel like I have awakened to find that I am living the life I was created to live.  And it's pretty incredible.  Pinch me . . . yep, it's real.

All That to Say: A Weekend of Surprises

I was on facebook the other day when I saw that one of my former Marathon Makeover peeps was offering her Hyatt San Antonio Riverwalk rooms for $100 a room.  (She had booked the rooms because she thought she'd run the marathon, but an injury sidelined her.)

These are rooms that typically go for well over $400 a night, so I contacted her and took one of the nights off of her hands.  After I contacted my village (aka Zack and Christina) to see if they could watch the girls, I surprised Mike with the announcement that we were going to San Antonio Friday and Saturday!

It was a weekend of surprises to say the least.

We arrived at our hotel room Friday around 3 p.m. and decided to just hang out in our beautiful room.  A couple hours later, after an awesome nap (something we just don't get to do much!) we decided to get moving and get ready for dinner.

I had just undressed when I thought I heard a faint knocking sound.  It stopped so I just assumed that someone was knocking at a door across the hallway.  But you know what happens when you assume, don't you?

All the sudden, I heard our door handle click and the door opened!  (note to self: always use the security lock on your hotel room door!)  Let me tell you, I couldn't have moved any faster out of view if I'd superpowers. 

"HELLO?" I said in a panicked voice.

"I'm here to check your phone,"  the voice said back.

(What the heck?!!!)  I thought in my head.

"Well you aren't gonna do it now!" I said back in the same panicked but slightly tinged with anger voice.

After I put clothes on, we went downstairs to discuss the situation with the hotel staff.  The man at the desk said, "Well I'm sorry that happened.  What would you like me to do for you?"

(In my head, I saw that conversation going differently.)

He suggested we should think about how the hotel could help us and let him know the next day.  Seriously.  I just thought that was an odd approach.  Maybe it's not.

Anyway, next morning, we went downstairs and our helper wasn't there, so we had to re-explain to the new front desk girl what happened.  She blushed when I said naked.  And said, "Oh my goodness."

We said, "The man we spoke to last night suggested we come back this morning and let him know how the hotel could help make it up to us.  We thought maybe if you comp'd our parking that would be nice."

Well apparently she didn't think so.  Because she comp'd our parking, bought our breakfast, and then comp'd our room.  (I think she was more embarrassed than I was!)

All that to say, it was a weekend of surprises.  I wonder what they would have given us if the room intruder had actually SEEN me naked!!!!  Bahahaha!

All That to Say: Weekend Giveaway

I remember when I first learned that when talking about what you put on your hair, you refer to it as "product."  Really, it was like the whole world knew to say "product", and I had somehow not gotten the message and was walking around being totally unhip or uninformed, both of which I hate.

So whenever possible (right  after I learned this new fact) I would work the word "product" into my conversation.  I'd be real cool and say, "so what kind of product do you use?" And miraculously people somehow new I meant hair!

Now I don't know about you, but we have a product morgue at our house.  This is the place where failed product has to go.  I don't know why I don't just throw away the failed product.  I mean, it FAILED.  But I guess maybe because it's so expensive, I hate to throw it away.  Or maybe I think by storing it in the cabinet for a few months, it will magically somehow work when I take it out of the cabinet again.  I don't know.

But nonetheless I have dry shampoo, and serum, and hair spray, and sleek conditioner and several other failed products in my morgue.  The girls have bottles and bottles and bottles of oil and grease and tonic and detangler and moisturizers and puddings.  OMG the list could go on.

Hair, glorious hair.  :)

So, in honor of hair,  and "product," this weekend's awesome giveaway is a gift package of TeaTree Lavendar Mint Moisturizing Shampoo, Conditioner and a body bar. (and it's worth a pretty good bit of money) which you know if you buy "product."

It's from Paul Mitchell, The School, in Houston.  Some pretty awesome people I know work there and they tell me all the time what a great place it is to work, how well their students do, how high their job placement statistics are, you know . . . all that.  It's where we take the girls to get their hair braided, and it is INCREDIBLE and inexpensive.  Two things I love!

All that to say, if you would love to win this great gift, please do two things:  1. follow my blog (if you are not already a follower) and 2. leave a comment.  I'll post the winner on Monday morning, so be sure to check back and see if you won!


All That to Say: "Hi, My Name is Gary."

Our girls, of late, are very much into playing games that require interactive and pretend conversation.  Most often this happens with dolls or their stuffed animals, and the game usually goes something like this:

"What's your name?"
"No, what your doll's name?"
"Oh, ummmm, Ellie."

"What's your doll's name, Mama?"
"Yes, Latoya."
"No, her name is Ellie."

Once names are established, then usually we go on to really important topics like what we drive, if we can chew gum yet or not, if we are married. . . you know really important topics that FOUR YEAR OLDS should be talking about!!!

Well a few days ago, Zack was over, and the girls wanted to play pretend, but they wanted to use cars.  (They love cars, and if they had a car that their dolls would fit in, then the world would be a perfect place.)  Zack is always a good sport about playing with them, so he readily accepted his role in the game of pretend.

Shannay had the new blue van (which in reality is a broken down Scooby Doo van that I got from a garage sale, but they love it!)  We told her its name was Mystery Machine, but I inadvertently kept calling it the party van (what is wrong with my mind?!).

Zack had a plastic infant's squeaker toy car that he called, "Gary."

I had a cool revved up black race car called, "Midnight."  (Trust me, these details are important.)

And Nikki had a green, John Deere Gator that we called, "Deere." 

So the conversation went like this:
Shannay to Zack:  "What's your name?"
Zack:  "Gary.  What's your name?"
Shannay to me:  "Mama, what's my name?"
Me:  "Party Van.  No, I mean Mystery Machine."
Zack:  "Nikki, what's your car's name?"
Nikki:  "Beer."


Zack:  "Nikki, it's Deere, not Beer."
Nikki:  "No, it's Beer.  I like Beer."  OY

Shannay (noticing Zack's car was not cool like everyone else's):  "Zack, what's wrong with you car?"

Poor Zack, first he has to be a boy fairy for Halloween, and now he's got the baby squeaker car.  He always gets the raw end of the deal.

Zack:  "Gary needs to go to the mechanic."
Shannay:  "What's a canic?"
Me:  "It's like a doctor for cars."
Shannay:  "He gonna get a shot?"
Me:  "No, cars don't get shots."
Shannay:  "Zack, why he gotta go the canic?"

Zack:  "He's got diabetes."

Total Silence.

Confused looks by all the toddlers in the room.

Eruptive laughter.

Mischievous smile by Zack. 

Game over.

All that to say, you've gotta admire a man who can play with toddlers and genuinely enjoy it.  You're gonna be a great dad someday, Zack Jones. :)

All That to Say: An Oldie But a Goodie

Mike's birthday was Saturday, and we celebrated in the usual Jones family way.  We had dinner together (minus Jacob who is still away at school . . . OMgosh I wish he would graduate and come home!) and then we celebrated with cupcakes and candles and singing. 
I thought long and hard about what to write about Mike.  In fact, I was really struggling with what to write.  Me.  A Writer.  And I couldn't decide what to say about this incredible man I married.

I wrote about how funny he is.  I mean really funny.  So funny that when he does something funny, he laughs at himself, hard, and then says, "That was a good one babe, wasn't it?"  But that didn't seem like just the right thing to say, so I erased it.

And then I wrote about how he hates celebrating his birthday.  But that didn't seem like the right story, so I erased it.

Then today we got a phone call; a call asking us if we would take in a 4 month old little boy who needed a home for a few days. And without wavering he said yes. (Well, I think technically he said, "Let me check with my wife.")

And that's why I love this man.  He is the most incredibly generous man, willing to give and do whatever it takes to help others.  He has always been this way.  If you need it, and he has it to give, it's yours.  That includes his money, and his home, and his time, and his love.

And I don't think there is anything better I could say about Mike Jones.

All that to say, "Happy Birthday Mike.  You're a good man.  An old man.  But a good one." :)

All That to Say: He's Got It; He's Got Me

When my boys were younger, we took them to Disney World.  They were old enough to enjoy it and really take it all in (and also remember the trip!) but still young enough to appreciate fun things like chasing down characters for photo ops. 

There was this one ride, though, that was terrifying.  Truly terrifying.  It was called Alien Encounter,
and was Disney's one deviation from its otherwise "child friendly" environment.
It was an interactive "experience" ride about a space alien who escaped and terrorized those of us "visiting" the holding capsule where he was being held.  There was an initial shock, when we realized pretty quickly something was wrong, followed by anticipation of the fallout, followed by pure fear, and finally the perceived end.

But just when we thought the ride was over, the terror of it started over.  I was screaming "it's not real, it's not real, it's not real" to the kid on one side of me who was screaming in terror.  And I was squeezing the heck out of the leg of the other kid who wasn't making a sound.  All the while telling myself that it was almost over.  It was a grueling experience, to say the least.

That ride is how I have felt of late.  When I lost my job, there was an initial shock, the shock where I realized pretty quickly that something was really wrong.  That was quickly followed by the thoughts of all that would be drastically affected by the change.  Followed by pure fear . . . (yes, I know I should have been completely trusting in Jesus, but I wasn't.  I was afraid.  I was uncertain. I was in shock.  I was hurting.  I most assuredly was not trusting.  I was trying, but I wasn't trusting.)

And finally, I turned a corner.  I met with a friend who helped me really ask myself what I wanted to do with my life moving forward.  He helped me think through what my family needed, what I was good at, and what I believed God wanted me to do.  I started my own business, which at its core is  primarily a content management company, (we write stuff for people) but also provides marketing and design services. It is just doing incredibly well (that's actually an understatement), and I am amazed every day to see how rapidly it is growing.

I started to see God's hand in all of this.  I realized that God knew I was going to lose my job.  It wasn't a surprise to Him.  He didn't look over one day and say, "Whoa!  Totally didn't see that coming!"  I began to feel a sense of peace.  A sense of purpose returned.  The world stopped spinning madly out of control.  I could breathe.

But just like that ride at Disney, this present interactive  life "experience ride" is grueling.  From what I understand, it is grief.  I am processing what has been lost, which is much.  And while I am incredibly grateful for all that God is doing, I still some days find myself grieving.

It is on days like this that I find the greatest comfort in scripture.  Psalm 32:7 says, "You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance."

All that to say, it is incredibly comforting to know that even when I feel overwhelmed or sad or troubled, God's got it, and He's got me.

All That to Say: Weekend Giveaway! Stella and Dot

I met Lauren when I was training for my marathon back in 2011.  (I seriously cannot believe it has been a year since I ran my marathon!)  Anyway, Lauren was one of the coaches with the Marathon Makeover; a coach I simultaneously loved and feared.

You see, Lauren is the kind of running coach that doesn't just run alongside you.  She COACHES you.  She stretches you.  She challenges you to do more than you ever imagined you'd be able to (aka tortures you).  Whenever I would see her bouncing my way, I would feel two things simultaneously;  ticked that she wasn't even sweating (though I was dying); and fearful of what she was going to make me accomplish!

But I grew to love the times that Lauren would run with our group (sort of).  She's the kind of coach you want to have in your life, stretching you, challenging you, making you better.

Well, recently Lauren became a stylist for a really great company called Stella and Dot.  If you've never heard of them it's because you must live under a rock . . . just kidding, calm down.  Stella and Dot is a jewelry company (though they sell a lot more than jewelry).  Anyway you can read about them if you want to know more by clicking the link above.  And to support Lauren, I told her I'd host a virtual trunk show right here on my blog!

So, as is the case every weekend, I am giving away (as in free) something that goes with this story.  I toyed with the idea of giving away my marathon medal, but really doubted ANYONE would want that, so instead I decided to give away a piece of Stella and Dot jewelry. 

You can click this link, shop around a bit, order something if you'd like (and you will like, so be warned) and then leave a comment on this blog as your official entry.  If you haven't already done so, you'll need to follow my blog as well. (yes, it's shameless . . .)

Oh, and the prize . . . well the winner gets to choose their OWN prize!  WHAT?!!!  Yep, you get to pick your own prize if you are the winner!  Simply go back to the Stella and Dot link, click  "gifts,"  and look in the gifts under $50.  Then choose your gift! 

All that to say, Lauren, thank you for all you have done for so many of us who try to call ourselves runners.  And here's to smashing success at your new business!

FROM LAUREN!!!!! (She left it in the comments, but I added it up here in case you guys don't read the comments!
***Trunk Show Special***
When you make a $50 purchase, you will receive 50% off of the following pieces:

Estate Chandelier Earrings
Marchesa Necklace
La Coco Clutch
Astor Strand
Juliette Gem Drops

Happy Shopping!!!