He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring cleaning

So our sweet little Mia puppy has been in desperate need of a spring cleaning.  I'm simply not a small dog person.  I love our little puppy but as far as proper grooming and hair care, I've always been pretty awful at keeping her presentable.  It's amazing how quick that long hair can get tangled and ratty!  During the winter, I mostly just hack at the hair around her face so that we can see her eyes.  See that little tuft there sticking up on top of her head?  Yeah, that would be my fault.  So anyway, Jason pretty much told me last time I cut her hair that I made her look like she had some strange hair loss disease.  Oh well.  It was free and our budget needs that these days!

Well it's been a while since I hacked away at Mia's hair, and it had really gotten out of hand.  So, it must be done, I decided.  Mia didn't agree, but I didn't give her much choice...

And can I just say, that somewhat like my youngest child, this dog is impossible to get a picture of!  None of these before shots really do the mess that was her hair justice.  But maybe you get the idea...

(yeah, like I said, I hack at her hair...)

So knowing I had quite a job on my hands,  I decided what better time to tackle said job than when I am home alone with my almost 2 year old with no help and no distractions for her..  Seriously though, this was a calculated (and somewhat selfish) decision.  See my days as a mom of 4 require careful calculation.  If I am to get any time to myself to plan meals, catch up on email, shower (?!) I have to carefully plan the timing of Anabelle's nap so that she is actually down for a nap a good hour before the older girls get home from school.  Very selfishly, I did not want my hour of "quiet me time" to be spent locked in the bathroom grooming my mangy precious dog.  

So there.  I decided to tackle Mia's hair issues with my little helper close by...

And such a helper she was!  Until she decided that she was not a huge fan of the bathroom door being closed (a necessity to keep sweet Mia from bolting), and I'm pretty sure she figured out rather quickly that she now had free reign of the house.  So she destroyed the rest of the house played while I groomed.
(this is Anabelle the day before, by the way, when I left her to herself for about 2 minutes...)  Just wanted some milk, mom...

So why I thought it was a good idea to clean Mia while AB was awake?..  Well, I already told you.  Calculated decision.  It might have taken twice as long because I had to pause 84 times to make sure she was playing and not destroying, but it still got done and I had my hour of free time later that day.  I think after AB figured out how to make water come out of our water cooler is about the time I decided maybe she'd like to watch Toy Story while I finished grooming.  Another great (and calculated) decision.  This indecisive girl was on a roll!  

Anyway, back to Mia.  I got as much of her long hair clipped as I could (as evenly as possible) and then I started working on the tangles closer to her skin.  This is where the "strange skin and/or hair disease" phenomenon usually enters in.  I HAVE to get rid of those massive tangles and some of them are just so close to her skin, but I can't cut all of her hair that short.  It's happened before- went something like this.

Fast forward several hours and Mia puppy is clean and (somewhat) presentable.  I have continued throughout the week to hack away at hair that is obviously longer than everything around it.  I got her face pretty well shaped but Jason pointed out that I neglected the whiskers and she looks sort of "old man-ish".  Oh well.  

 I'll hack away at those whiskers soon enough but I don't think she looks TOO bad...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bracketology: Tiger style

Yes, I am aware that you really can't read my bracket.  There's only one thing you really need to see, and that would be the University of Memphis Tigers claiming the victors spot.

I know, I know, the talking heads have them getting upset in the first round.  Dummies...

Last year I posted here about how my love affair with the Tigers started- it's a bit more detailed.  Suffice it to say that to be a Tiger fan, a TRUE Tiger fan, is to bleed blue, ALL blue.  For me, even as extremely competitive as I am,  that means that I simply cannot pick another team over my Tigers.  Can't do it.  It would just be wrong.  Even if it means I LOSE my bracket! (if you know me well, you know how much it hurts to say that!)

You may laugh at me, my husband did.  Actually it was more of a chuckle.  Kind of a "oh you sweet, deluded thing, if only you knew...".  Well I do know.  I LOVE college basketball, especially March Madness.  I read about the odds, I study what the experts say, I make educated picks.  And then there's the Tigers.

Have to pick 'em.  Just do.  

Because what if?  WHAT IF this is the year they defy the odds.  Joe Jackson brings his best game yet, Chris Crawford can't be stopped from the 3, Adonis Thomas and Tarik Black do their things and DJ Stephens continues to fly.   WHAT IF?  And I had cast my vote against them!  Just can't do it!  

If you could read it, you would see that the rest of my bracket is somewhat education.  I have Indiana, Kansas, and Ohio State in the Final Four.  (Memphis, of course, beats Louisville in the Elite 8- TAKE THAT Patino!)  I DO know a bit of what I'm doing here.  And we definitely take Kentucky, oh wait, no, Kentucky fell to Robert Morris in the NIT....  oops...

So, say a prayer that our newly fixed sports satellite continues to work.  It won't be pretty around here if ESPN quits on us.  There's always the computer option but it's not so reliable... We did get to cheer the Tigers to victory in the CUSA tournament last week via computer...
(not ideal)

But good enough to celebrate Joe Jackson's dunk in the 2nd overtime!

Anyway, I don't know about you but I'm ready for March Madness!  Have you filled out a bracket?  Who's your favorite team?  I'm dreaming big for my Tigers this year.  I know they CAN do it, now we just have to see if they WILL.  

My St. Patty's Day

11 years ago, St. Patrick's Day took on a new meaning for me, and my extended family.  On that day, Reginald James Patterson, my sweet Granddaddy; and John, Michael, Mary, Eli, Sarah and Ann's Granddaddy; Ann, Bill, Tom and Ginny's daddy; Charles, Margaret and E.W.'s daddy-in-law, and Annette's husband and best friend for 50 plus years left this earth to be with Jesus.  And our lives forever changed.

His presence was a constant.  A consistent comfort.  For 20+ years, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins gathered holiday after holiday in the same home, eating the same foods, doing the same things.  We were, and are bound by the legacy of family that he and Memommy created together in their home.

He is missed dearly.  By some, more than I can begin to understand.  And by me, more than I can begin to express.

I remember that week in March so very vividly.  Jason and I lived in Clinton, MS.  Abbey was 2.5 and Maddie, 9 months.  My mom called on Tuesday (I think, maybe Wednesday) and said, "we're finally getting some action taken on Granddaddy.  They've taken him in to the hospital," she said, "and they're running tests".  I knew he'd had a rough winter.  Lots of respiratory infections.  I didn't realize it was serious.

My mind flashed back to the last time I saw him.  We visited my parents house in late January and Meems and Grands came for dinner.  I remember hugging him as he walked out the door.  He had on a navy blue cardigan.  He picked up Abbey and swung her around and she laughed.  Meems scolded him with a "Reg!" and his eyes twinkled.  His eyes always twinkled.  I think especially when she scolded.  I don't mean to imply she did it a lot, but some.  They just had that kind of relationship.  A comfortable love intertwined with best friendship that only 50+ years of marriage can bring.  And he liked to hear her scold, I'm convinced.  Only because she cares so deeply/loves so deeply and that was only one of the ways in which it showed so clearly.  We said goodbye.  I hugged him and he said he was proud of us.  He said that more times than I can count.  And they left.

I am thankful that even though she does not remember, Grands got to know Abbey just a bit...

After my mom called, I struggled, I worried.  My mind wandered to the "what if" and "surely not"s.  I called her back.  "Do we need to come up?" I asked while thinking, surely it can't be that serious!  "Not yet," she said, "I'll let you know".  From there, the sequence is a bit blurry, but suffice it to say that things went downhill fairly quickly and we piled our family of 4 into the car and made the very familiar 3 hour journey to Memphis sometime in the next 24-48 hours.

My childhood in Memphis centered around several key places.  One- my house, obviously.  We moved in in 1979.  My parents still live there.  The other- Grands and Meems house.  They moved in sometime in the late 50s (right?).  She still lives there.  Of course there were other locations- my aunts, uncles and cousins were all nearby.

As I alluded to before, my childhood memories center around the beautiful consistency of family.  Easter, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  Backyard BBQ's, puzzle working, croquet games in the front yard, swinging games on the backyard swingset that Granddaddy built for my mom that still stands, fishing trips, COUNTLESS fishing trips, church events, family reunions and state parks in sweltering summer heat, laughing with all my normal cousins at our other ridiculously weird cousins,  (joking of course,...  maybe), babysitting, hours of babysitting. My income through junior high and high school came almost completely from babysitting cousins.  My aunts and uncles were maybe a bit too trusting...   I was the oldest cousin by 8 years which made me at times super cool, and at other times, oh so weird.  It's probably actually a good thing for the purpose of this post that I live overseas and don't have access to the boxes upon boxes of old family pictures.  The traditional picture of "Granddaddy and his retarded grandchildren" (please don't be offended, we came up with that name long before it was socially incorrect and if you saw any of the pictures I'm pretty sure you would wholeheartedly agree), anyway, there was at least one such picture taken at every social event.

All that to say, Granddaddy and Memommy had been fixtures in my life for as long as I can remember.  

She made him a snail patch to go on his khaki pants so we could match...

If I had access to more family pictures I would show you,

(the backyard garden with him hard at work planting and harvesting)

(his pick up truck loaded with laughing cousins driving at full speed around the block, just for fun)

(fishing trips with meatloaf and ketchup sandwiches and Little Debbie Oatmeal pies)

(one of MANY dress fittings as Memommy made just about all of my dresses- Sunday, formal and otherwise- until I went to college and I would ALWAYS model for Grands)

Here is the whole motley crew the last Christmas that Jason and I were able to be with them.  I was pregnant with Abbey and just didn't know it yet.  I can't tell you how many family pictures have been taken on and around this couch over the years...

Like I said, vivid memories from that last week.  I remember crowding around Memommy in the ICU waiting room listening to her tell stories, letting her cry, all wondering how things had happened so quickly.  Grands was in an induced coma in ICU diagnosed with ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and possibly other things, but that's what my nursing brain latched on to.  My nursing brain also latched on to the fact that this was bad, very bad.  Jason and I took turns pushing Abbey and Maddie around the hospital in our massive double stroller and buying them random treats to pass the time.  The rest of us took turns visiting Grands, always with Meems.  Going in, holding his hand, talking to him.  He couldn't acknowledge that we all were there anymore than any of us could acknowledge what was happening.  But of course we ALL were there.  Of course we were.  Just like we always had been.  And of course he knew that we were.  In my heart, I know he knew.  

Most of my family is still right there in Memphis, TN (or at least within a day's drive), reliably consistent.  My first exposure to life outside of Memphis, outside of the US for that matter, came, ironically from Granddaddy.  When I was in early elementary (there were 2 trips, and I get the timing confused), he went along with hundreds of other volunteers from TN to Upper Volta, West Africa (now Burkina Faso) to work with Baptist missionaries Larry and Cheryl Cox.  Incredibly gifted with his hands, he headed up construction projects on their mission compound among other things.  Even at that young age, I was absolutely fascinated by the trips.   Memommy went with him the second time and upon their return, I made myself a little cardboard box and wrote "My Africa Box" on the outside.  I put postcards, coins and various other random things that they brought me from the trip.  Those trips wakened a yearning in my heart to experience life outside the familiar boundaries of Memphis, TN.  And only God could know that some 15 years later, I would meet and fall in love with Larry and Cheryl's son, Jason.  He had known Uncle Reg and Aunt Annette for many years, and they would soon become Memommy and Grandaddy to him as well. 

Sometimes I wonder if my family- my whole family- realizes what a huge part of my story they are.  Sometimes I even feel guilty for leaving Memphis behind, taking my kids so very far away and, in a sense, depriving them of the opportunity to know as well as I do, these precious grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.  And then I think of Granddaddy and Memommy and how they weren't afraid to go in the first place.  Yes, their going was temporary, but their faith to go in the first place and the family legacy that they have left behind somehow makes the going so much easier for me.  Because upon returning, I can rely on the consistency that is my Memphis family.  The sights, the smells, unchanging.  Walking in the entryway to my Memommy's home, I smell the faint scent that speaks to my soul of Grands.  I see his fishing hats, the furniture his hands constructed, the pool table my uncles used to chase me around, the sewing machine that under Memommy's skillful hand fashioned dress after dress after dress, and I know I'm home.  And you know what the cool thing is?  My kids know they're home too.  The faces and sights that are so beloved to me are becoming just as precious to them when we visit, despite the many miles that separate us.  

There are certain moments in life, wonderful and not so wonderful, that are forever ingrained in our minds.  I walked through the cafeteria of Baptist hospital at Sunday lunch.  Of course it was not where I imagined being on that beautiful spring day, St. Patrick's Day, 2002.  Just a month, or even a week earlier, I wouldn't have believed that our family would be gathered together, watching as Granddaddy slipped away.  But even in those difficult moments, we go through the motions of the necessary.  My 2 toddlers needed lunch, despite the fact that no one else felt like eating, so I walked through the cafeteria fixing plates of nuggets, fries and other not so healthy options- just so they would eat something..   In the back of my nursing mind, I heard the hospital alarms that sound when a code takes place.  Someone slipping away from this life.  I heard the sounds but it didn't register.  That would not be us.  We were not at that point yet.  Then I looked across the cafeteria and saw my dad and uncle approaching.  My dad was pale and there was a tear.  "You need to come upstairs" he said.

 And I knew. 

 I knew I would not see the sparkle in his eye again when he pretended to fall out of his chair, or "accidently" drink buttermilk instead of regular milk.  I knew I would not hear his contagious chuckle or watch those hands, scarred with "little nicks" reel in another fish.  I knew I wouldn't see his face light up with the smile that had greeted loved ones for 80+ years.  I knew that our Grands was gone from this earth.  And my heart hurt.  Oh how it hurt!  

We moved as a group out the door and towards the stairs leading to the ICU.  I vaguely remember holding hands with my younger cousins as we stumbled forward.  The treating physician passed us in the stairway mumbling his condolences.  We gathered around his bed.  All of us.  I think my uncle, maybe my cousin, read Psalm 23.  I couldn't bear to see my Memommy's heart breaking.  Heart-wrenching, yet so beautiful.   Their's was not a perfect love, no human love is.  But it was beautiful,  and exemplary, the kind you want to pattern your own love after.   And we have.  Sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins.  We love deeply, because we saw what it is to love lived out in front of us day after day, year after year.  

We left the hospital because that's what you do next.  You don't want to say goodbye, but you must.  You move on.  You put one foot in front of the other and you do the next thing because what else can you do?  The next week came and went.  A blur of condolences, hugs, tears.  We said our earthly goodbyes in the best way we knew how.  We hold on to our hope in Jesus and the assurance that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones.  With our Grands.  And it does help.  Praise God that we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but we do grieve.  

We grieve and then we choose to live.  And live fully.  Because we know that that is what our loved ones would want.  I know that is what my Granddaddy would want.  And when I think on his death, the swiftness, the shock, I hurt, yes.  We all do.  But I am also thankful because I know that he did not suffer much.  He would not have wanted to be fussed over, we all know that for sure.  So we pick up the pieces and we live.  Slowly at first, for some more than others.  Because the hurt is deep.  We cry but we also laugh.  We remember together and our love as a family deepens.

We endure the first family holiday and he is not there.  And it hurts.  There is a hole.  Of course there is.  

We welcome new family members as cousins marry and babies are born.  We miss him.  But we are thankful for the time we all still have on this earth.  

My girls learn to fish and bait their own hooks.  I cry a silent tear and wonder if he sees.

My little farm girls spend countless hours in their Papa's garden picking tomatoes, peas, okra and squash.  And my heart smiles.  I wish he were here.  

Of course we all wish he were here.  He's not, though, and we are.  And I think he would want us to remember that and live fully.  So we play together and we laugh.

Cousins hear stories of their Granddaddy, and we all rejoice in the love they are still able to share with their Memommy.

So even though we are more miles apart than I care to remember most days, I cherish these precious ones, my family,  and I rejoice in the legacy of Reginald James Patterson, our gentle giant.  

He taught us what it is to love and our Memommy continues to faithfully speak that love into our lives. 

Together, they taught me what it means to go, and faithfully trust in those I leave behind to hold the ropes in prayer and welcome us back with open arms whenever we are able to come.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yeehaw Cowgirl! Naomi is 7!

It's no secret around here that Miss Naomi has been a HUGE Toy Story fan for as long as I can remember.  She actually had a Buzz Lightyear party for her 4th birthday.  Take a look here.  Anyway, she got the cutest pair of Jesse pajamas for Christmas this year so she decided that she wanted a Jesse party.  We had so much fun with this theme!

We went with red, yellow and cow print.  Thank goodness for all my crafty helpers to draw cow print on balloons, cups and a table runner.  The big girls also helped Naomi draw all her signs and decorate the house which she wanted to do completely herself.  (and I was totally fine with!).    We kept it simple and just had cake, cupcakes and "yellow" (i.e. buttered) popcorn with red and yellowM&Ms.  (again, thankful for my helpers who went through individual bags of regular M&Ms to pick out the red and yellow ones..).  I was hoping with it being around V'tines day to come up with a bag of red M&Ms but no such luck.

We decorated Toy Story cupcakes also.  Much fun! (and thank goodness for pinterest!)  I got the basic idea for the cake off of pinterest and then Naomi used a bunch of her Toy Story stuff to decorate it herself.  Bulls Eye is climbing up one side and Rex is falling off of the other.  Maddie made sherrif stars for all the guests out of foil and cardboard and Naomi wanted to put one on the front of the cake.  

We did a braid down the back- just like Jesse..

Naomi's Jesse Hat was a birthday present.  We made the braid to attach for her costume.

The girls made a "watering hole" sign for the drinks.  And of course we had birthday punch which has become a tradition at every Cox girl's birthday.

For party favors, I found a Mr. Potato Head craft on pinterest using paper bags and construction paper cut-outs.  OH. MY. WORD.  It took FOREVER to cut out all the little pieces for the kids to glue on.  
(each cup has a different piece- eyes, noses, ears, earrings, arms, feet, hats..)

Abbey was the craft table helper

Didn't they turn out cute?

In the party favor bags, we put the sherrif badges that Maddie made, bags of red and yellow popcorn, and Jesse hat cookies.  Basically a big round sugar cookie, with a smaller one on top, covered in red icing and white piping.  I didn't get a very good picture, mainly because they were already in the party favor bags when I remembered to take a picture, and I was too lazy to take them out!

Like I said, Naomi wanted to decorate the house herself, and she came up with all the games herself.

She turned the living room into the Pizza Planet arcade.

And they played musical chairs, of course (that has been a constant at all of Naomi's parties...)

She also drew a picture of Jesse for the door and they played pin the belt buckle on the cowgirl.  (and of course, I forgot to take a picture...)

It was a houseful!  My least favorite part was when Naomi declared that she had created another game...  She apparently put 1JD (about $1.40) in one of the balloons and said that whoever found it first would win it.  Considering the amount of kids (and adults at that point!), I could have done without that game, but I had no advanced warning!  

About a week before the party, Naomi declared that since she was going to be Jesse, Jason should for sure dress up as Woody!  A few phone calls later, we tracked down a yellow plaid shirt, a cowboy hat and a sherrif badge.  I intended to make him a cow print vest but that never happened...

Our sweet birthday girl- we love you!!

And I must say that Anabelle is following in her big sister's footsteps as far as her love for all things Toy Story.  She LOVES the new hats and has gotten in quite a few "yeehaws"!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Huggy Bug!!!

Like I said in the previous post, life has been insanely crazy.  But in the midst of the craziness, life goes on.  Wouldn't you agree that in general, time just passes way too quickly?  Isn't there a pause button?  Or a stop and smell the roses button?  Something?! 

 It seems like we just started the "FAMILY HUG!" tradition. But no, it's been almost 10 years!  Jason or I would call it out from wherever we were in the house (usually close to bedtime) and 2 little pairs of feet would come pitter pattering from opposite ends of the house and jump into a big family hug with kisses all around.  Abbey and Maddie were maybe 4 and 2.

(in case the all caps didn't make it abundantly clear, FAMILY HUG is something you drag out and say loudly and exuberantly.  Give it all the southern you've got!)

And in case that wasn't enough background on the whole FAMILY HUG tradition,  when Jason is traveling we have to say "FAMILY HUG WITHOUT DADDY" for those in our midst who feel the need to be exact.  We have also been known to say, "FAMILY HUG WITH MIA!" when Mia puppy is jumping up trying to be included. Sometimes there's a FAMILY HUG WITHOUT (insert sister's name who is otherwise occupied).

So, I've mentioned before that Anabelle talks NON-STOP.  Literally, from the time she wakes up, until the time her sweet little head hits the pillow, she does. not. stop. talking.   A lot of it you can't understand.  You can usually catch the gist of what she is trying to communicate from the words at the beginning and end of the sentence.

For example,  "Mommy, eh bee do da be na bo do rara bb KISSES, Nomi!" means "I just gave Nomi a kiss".  Or, "Abbey, ba do rabe no no doo ba SHOES, GO, GO, GO!" means, "Abbey, I want my shoes it's time to go, go, go!"
 You get the idea.  

Well, occasionally there is something that she says over and over with the same inflection in the same general situation, but NONE of us can figure out what in the world it means.  That's been the case the last few days.  She would say the same thing in the same way and then usually lean in and give me a big kiss.  (shoulda been my first clue but I'm going on 2 weeks of Jason traveling and my brain is NOT working on full power...)  So anyway, tonight it hit me- she's saying FAMILY HUG, but in Anabelle-eese it comes out...


How awesome is that?!  

Tonight I had one of those precious FAMILY HUGS, or HUGGY BUGS as they will now forever and always be known as.  Anyway, I was hugging all of my sweet girls before bed and passing out kisses all around, and I just looked around at their precious faces and wanted to hold on to them so tightly and just freeze time for just a tiny minute.  It just all goes so fast!

How is Abbey 13 and taller than me?! (yes, it's official, I've always claimed 5'7" without quite being there and she is fully there!).  And her wisdom, oh Jesus, thank you for the wisdom you have given her beyond her years.  She teaches me.  

And Maddie- what happened to my chubby roly poly fatty Maddie?  She's long gone and has been replaced by this graceful, petite beauty who amazes me with her grace and sensitivity.  

Miss Naomi I believe has far surpassed us all with her wit and intellect.  Look out world is all I can say for this one!  She prayed this week to be baptized soon so that "all my sin can be washed out and I will be clean".  Will be so fun to see what her life becomes in the hand of the Potter!  

And Anabelle.  My heart.  All of our hearts.  She has completed our family, and the love I see in those precious eyes for her sisters just does something to my insides!  

So, yes, life has been crazy, but it is thankfully still full of precious, daily, often mundane moments that I hope I will not forget in the years to come.

It is not lost on this Momma that the years are going by way too quickly and I simply can't get them back.  

Here's the latest glimpse at some of the ordinary daily events, that make for extraordinary memories.

Maddie in the kitchen with Naomi as her sidekick is a regular (and pretty delicious!) occurrence.

Hard at work...

Look at their amazing "sleepover cupcakes"!

So Anabelle hardly eats at all (she's too busy talking!).  Thankfully, she's finally increasing her percentage on the growth chart a bit but she is definitely our most petite baby.  But don't get in between the girl and her hummus and falafel!

You can't tell in this picture, but my girl is taller than me! (and between her  first youth retreat, drama practice, baskeball practice, and Model UN I haven't gotten any pictures of her around the house so this will have to do)

Be still my heart.  I love this picture.  My favorite early morning site!

Anabelle now wants to eat her breakfast in the "other chair" which means basically that she doesn't want to sit in her high chair but would rather have her freedom on the bench thank you very much.  She sits beside Jason just about every morning and talks his ear off while he gets started on email.  Often she'll ask to color as she sees him writing in his notebook.  About every 2-3 minutes, she'll stop what she's doing and stand up and say "daddy, HUG!" and lean in and give him a hug.  Precious.  Who could ask for a better breakfast buddy?!  

So there's a glimpse into our ordinary days.

What about you, do you have enough HUGGY BUGS in your lives lately and if you do, do you take them for granted or do you relish how absolutely precious they are?!

"He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil- this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.  God does it so that men will revere him"
Ecclesiastes 3:11-14

Catching up...

Whew!  For a while there I was doing so well with 2, sometimes even 3 posts a week- NOT the last 2 months!  My goodness, do you ever just have one of those seasons of life where you feel like a hamster running around a wheel?  The faster your legs run, the faster the wheel spins and you just. can't. quite. get it all done...  This has been that season for us!

Jason and I actually went to the states together for a meeting WITHOUT kids.  Having flown internationally for the past 10 years always with at least 1, sometimes 2, sometimes 4 kiddos in tow, let me tell you that flying as an adult was, well, a COMPLETELY different experience!  I actually slept.  And watched a movie.  And ate the food (that was possibly a mistake...).  I kept looking around thinking, WHAT? am I forgetting!  During our trip, we had the amazing and unexpected gift of having my mom come and stay with the girls.  It's hard to leave them for any length of time but knowing they were getting Annie to themselves for 10 days was great.  Sadly, we (mom and I) only had about 48 hours together total since she arrived less than 2 days before we had to leave and left 2 hours after we got back, but they are coming back this summer.  After we returned, Jason left 2 days later for another 2 week trip.  Crazy times, I tell ya!  Thankfully, Anabelle's tubes are working like a charm so even thought I'm exhausted from the combination of jet lag and being a single parent, at least we're getting night time sleep!  

So that's where I've been.  I've written lots of fabulous posts in my head, but I've really just had to pull back from internet time just a bit and focus on my family.  It would be a bit weird to have a fabulous blog all caught up about the life we're living but no meals for my fam and an out of control house, right?!

We've had some fun adventures, that in a normal season of life might have gotten complete posts, but for this season, let me just catch up a bit in pictures....

We spent a night at the Dead Sea Marriot resort after Christmas.  It was fabulous to get away from the cold!

These 3 loved the pools! (yes, it was heated, outdoors, but heated)

This little monkey was TERRIFIED of the pool so we opted to just roam around the grounds with her.  If we stayed to close to the pool she was constantly running over asking her sisters if they were "OTAY?"  in a very concerned voice.  

Here we are climbing one of the many sets of stairs on the hotel grounds.  I have no idea what she is doing but her expression cracks me up!

And of course we had to experience the Sea itself...

Coming back from the warmth of the Dead Sea, we were greeted a few days later with an incredibly cold spell topped off by a pretty major snow storm (at least in this part of the world)

We also took a day trip to Petra.  The little girls stayed with some friends while Jason, Abbey and Maddie and I made the hike in to the treasury and beyond.  Really an amazing place!

The girls opted for donkeys up the steepest part of the climb.  I prefer to stay on my own two feet, thank you very much!

Amazing view!

When we finished, we joined up with the little girls and had a picnic overlooking the canyon with some friends from the US.  They brought supplies for s'mores so the kids were super excited!  

Starting a fire to roast the marshmallows with desert brush was a little interesting...


That smile is worth the effort!