Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My birthday surprise

Chris, bless his heart, (look, I'm turning Southern!) can't keep surprises from me very well.  He is so easy to read and I am too curious for it to work out. But between some lines here and there I gathered that there was going to be a big surprise for my birthday...something along the lines of a rare-in-a-life-time experience.  (Despite the fact that we had agreed not to spend any money on birthdays for each other this year so we could save all our money for our house..I had followed the rules and gave him a home made cross word puzzle for his birthday in May) Anyway, I can't help my mind from coming up with possible ideas, so  I sort of thought he had found a cool band coming to Memphis or something and bought tickets to see them...something local, rare and totally up Chris' alley. Then I accidentally saw a purchase in our accounts for something from United Airlines and asked Chris about it. He said, "what? oops you weren't supposed to see that." So then I got some crazy ideas floating around my head but none of them fit all the pieces. He told me to keep Thursday open, but that I could still plan normal life (babysitting other peoples kids, having some other friends over for dinner and a game night etc..) for the weekend. Then Thursday morning he helps me clean the house and gets everyone ready for a car trip. We get in the car and 40 minutes into the drive I finally find out that he's giving me a shopping day. He didn't want me to have to drive very far by myself so he and the kids were just going to chauffeur me around from store to store in Memphis. I knew this didn't have anything to do with the united airline flights because he hadn't packed any bags for us and I knew we would be home that evening, so I figured he would just tell me about that later.  I was a little confused why we had to go all the way to Memphis (3 hours away) for shopping instead of Tupelo or Tuscaloosa (1 - 1 1/2 hours away). But anyway I was just too happy that Chris was making such a big deal out of my birthday to really care... he had helped me clean the house, he had planned some sort of surprise for me, and he was taking me shopping... I wasn't going to complain about anything! 

Here's a picture of our picnic lunch on the way up to Memphis. We ended up eating them tail-gate style because egg-salad sandwiches were too messy to eat without supervision, it was too hot/sunny to eat NOT in the shade and we couldn't find a park on the map anywhere close to lunch time. 

So he drops me off at Target and says, "Have fun! Lets plan to meet up in an hour or so and see how you're doing." I wasn't sure what I was supposed to shop for since we were really didn't have much in the budget this month for clothes but I can easily convince myself there's enough room for a LITTLE something.  I wandered aimlessly around Target for a while until I found the exercise clothes. Then I got all serious and tried on a million things. Next thing I know I turn around and find myself staring into Christy Harker's eyes! My mind wasn't making sense of it. All I could think to do is stare then squeal and push Christy away. What??! The Harker's were coming to Mississippi and didn't tell us?? and I just randomly run into her at Target?? in Memphis??!?!  Then I see Alec and notice Chris taking a video of me on my phone and I realize. OH!! This is it! He flew Christy here for my birthday! Wow. He had totally got me. He had been so laid back and in no hurry all morning I had totally dismissed the possibility that we were needing to be anywhere at a certain time and so I totally thought this trip was literally just a shopping trip for me. I'm so embarrassed of how I acted in the video squealing 3 octaves higher than humanly possible and pushing my friend around. I just couldn't believe it. I hugged and hugged her and instantly got excited thinking about showing her around the South...totally different from her hometown in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

We mostly just hung out around home. Chris still had to work, I still had peoples' kids I was babysitting, and food to cook and the house to prepare for a game night, and Chris was going to be gone helping friends move Saturday morning etc. But we still found things to explore. We took a couple spare hours on Saturday to tour the Waverly Mansion in West Point, Mississippi. Its a very old, very haunted, very typical Antebellum home with a 200 + year old magnolia tree in its front yard. The house itself was a bit more dilapidated than I thought it would be, but still very cool to see. The spiral staircase was amazing and being there makes me SO grateful for air conditioning. 

Sunday, I had Stake obligations to teach the young women up in Russellville, Alabama (2.5 hours away) so Christy woke up early with me and kept me awake on the drive there and back. She got to see LOTS of typical Mississippi and Alabama countryside. By the time my meetings were done we got home around dinner time to find the kids and Chris had made a cute Cafe for dinner... complete with nice table decorations, a menu and delicious food: steak, potatoes, green beans, juice and chocolate cake!

Monday we walked around the nearby nature preserve, Noxubee. We walked down two of the boardwalks and visited the little museum there. We saw a big alligator swimming in the water. By the way it moved and trailed water, it definitely was NOT just a floating log...but it basically looked like one. 

I love to kiss these cute little boy cheeks on Freddy sooooooo much. 

We had some good BBQ, tried out the Biscuit Lady's famous scones (SO GOOD) and talked a lot. Christy is one of those rare friends that I feel I can be totally myself around - silly, spiritual, goofy, chatty, quiet, joking, rambling, tired, complain-y, whatever. We hardly keep in contact, but when we do get together its like we've never been apart. She was a wonderful birthday surprise! I know she had to go through a lot of hoops to make this trip out to visit me. She left 5 kids behind, a busy-working husband, and she's pregnant! She had to renew her passport last minute and find places for her kids to be etc..  I guess this was the first time she's had a trip away from her kids! I actually feel a little bad it was just to visit me in little ol' Starkville, MS. Chris is soooo sweet to care so much about making me happy. He knew I was missing having good friends, and family close by here and thought, 'well...its only a plane ticket!' He even wanted to make this a tradition a do it every a good friend, or sister or sister-in-law out for my birthday. :) What a cute guy. I'm not sure our bank account can handle that, but its so wonderful that he wants to do that for me.  I love him, I love my life, I love my friends, I love my family, I love my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ and am so blessed to have lived another year on this beautiful planet. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer storms and biking on Tanglefoot

Maybe my favorite thing about Mississippi are the storms. I LOVE how dramatic they are. You can see them coming for a little bit. Maybe 10 minutes of super dark clouds on the horizon, then the wind picks up and blows things around in the air for 5-10 minutes and then the rain hits. And I mean HITS. It just pours out of the sky like a bucket of watery nails. Thunder and lightening every couple of minutes with some LOUD ones a couple of times for the whole storm. It lasts an hour or so. I wish I wasn't getting scared of lightening by all the crazy stories I've heard here so I could stand with my arms out in the middle of it all. But I try to be a good mom, for Chris, and tell my kids to stay under the porch at least while its lightening and thundering. 

 This particular day we had planned to ride bikes so instead we washed them. 

Did you notice that Gwen is still in her pajamas? Alec is too. That's one reason why I love summer days. Also, did you notice Frederick is wearing suspenders over his t shirt and sweatpants? The kids have made those their playthings this week - hooking up the two ends to two different kids on their hands and knees with the other kid holding the single end like reins. Giddyap! 

On Saturday we rode the Tangle foot trail with two friends, Shellie and Crystal. Chris was helping with a Elders Quorum service project in the morning... helping a nice older couple who live way out in the country cut back the trees and bushes from their path to their storm shelter. So it wasn't until 1:00 pm that we made it to the Algoma, MS (about an hour and 15 min away) to start riding. Shellie's bike thingy said it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit IN THE SHADE!! People looked at us like we were crazy but we did spot another biker or two on the trail so at least we weren't the only ones crazy.

I pulled the trailer with Gwen and Freddy on the way out, and Chris had it on the way back. Tanglefoot is an old train track paved over to create a bike trail... part of the Rails to Trails series. We had planned to just go to the next town about 6 and a half miles on the trail and then turn around. The boys did great and never complained. Charlie learned how to ride without his hands, and Gwen and Freddy were troopers in the back, but it was hot. 

At one point the bike thingy we were using to measure our distance only said we'd gone 3 miles but knowing we had to bike back as far as we biked out made us reconsider and Chris offered to turn around with the kids and let Shellie, Crystal and I go on to the end of our plan. Less than a mile after we left Chris and the kids we came to the next town! The bike thingy hadn't measured our distance correctly and the kids had actually gone over 5 miles out... so over 10 miles total. They're great. Big Thanks to Shellie for telling us about this trail and for getting us to actually get out and try it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Memphis Zoo and Temple

Our assigned temple is the Memphis, Tennessee Temple 3 hours north of us. This past month our branch was assigned to clean the temple. We decided to make a day of it and give both Chris and I a chance to go serve in the temple. We had brought our temple clothes to UT and WA and had hoped to be able to take advantage of the shorter drives and free babysitting to go do a temple session together but alas... it did not work out.  We woke up early (watching The Great Race on the way there) and got me to the 10:30 session. Chris watched the kids run around in the building next door, then took them to Target to look for school shoes, and a backpack for Gwen. Then we did the switch and Chris went in for the 1:00 session and I took the kids to the Memphis Zoo! We bought a year membership since our whole family going twice would more than pay for it. We had plenty of time since Chris was going to stay after the session to clean the temple. We had a really fun time. I love taking my kids places...they [generally] act so much better out in public then they do at home. Well except for Freddy. He didn't get his nap so he was a little more fragile then normal. We saw tigers..


and lots lots more animals - penguins, giraffes, elephants, bears, komodo dragons, exotic birds, etc. But IT. WAS. SO. HOT. Mainly we tried to walk from shady place to indoor place to cool-off places (fans and misters). They had two fountains that kids could swim in. Most of the parents had brought swimsuits for the kids to play in. Next time, I'll do the same. But who needs swim suits when its 100 degrees out? 

Yeah, um, Freddy tried to copy the kids walking on their hands in the pond right after I took this picture and face-planted in the water for a good 3 seconds until I managed to save him. WHEW! He spluttered for a bit and looked up into my eyes quite seriously while he took some deep breaths but other than that seemed to hardly notice the near-death experience. He wanted to go right back to the water. That boy. 

By 5:00 the zoo was closed and Chris was done and had someone drop him off at Costco to get started on the shopping. By the time we got to him he had most of the shopping done. Then it was off to Taco Bell before starting the 3 hour drive home. It was a long day, but so good to be in the Temple. I love that place. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Gwen's birthday!

The customary birthday breakfast in bed. This time we served a frozen blueberry pancake, a small bowl of sugar cereal, water and chocolate milk. This one is easy to please as long as the food comes soon enough. This girl wakes up dreaming about breakfast...just like her mama. 

Sort of at the last minute we threw together a strawberry shortcake party (our friends are were so great to still be able to make it without more than a few days notice.)   Some pirates stole the jewels we were going to use to decorate the foam crowns but they left clues around the house and had these kids running from corner to corner before finally finding the missing treasure chest. :) Then we played 'Put the Strawberry on the Cupcake' and ate some delicious Strawberry shortcake. 

Our up and down, sweet and tough Gwendolyn is a mix of so many things. She loves Strawberry Shortcake and Tinkerbell, faeries and princesses, girl-y clothes, Fancy Nancy books, and singing. She also loves to play with cars, build with duplos or legos, ride bikes and scooters, and throw punches at her older brothers. She's nervous for Kindergarten and not really excited about having to wear "boy clothes" (khaki shorts and polo shirts) to school. I was given a bunch of old (but still in really great condition) school clothes from a friend who recently moved away from Starkville and lucky for her there are some skirts and jumpers in there too! She's quick as a whip with made up songs that rhyme and also with pestering her older brothers. She's more than ready for academics... she can already do simple addition problems in her head and read most simple words.  Her prayers are so detailed and imaginative.."thank you that we have shoes so our feet don't have to get all muddy when we walk outside" or "Thank you that we have food so our tummies don't grumble"  Most of the time her apologies (at least to me) after she's been boisterously unkind are sweet and sincere given with a quick but tender hug. We're so lucky to have her in our family and love her lots. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

4th of July

Happy Fourth of July! We celebrated with some friends and a hot dog roast. Except we boiled then broiled the hotdogs inside and saved the outside time for later in the evening when it wasn't too hot and the kids weren't too hungry. :) 

After a few hours inside the 11 kids 12 and under needed some time outside and some of us hopped the back fence to see the horses.  It is so picturesque on the farm out back. It makes me feel so happy to be out there. But smart Shandee spotted poison oak in our trees just before we hop the fence. YIKES! we've walked through there more than a handful of times and never noticed. The horses seemed friendly and the kids loved trying to feed them grass. 

Then instead of dealing with "traffic" and "crowds" and tired cranky kids we decided to skip the town fireworks and just build a fire and play with sticks in it and watch the fireflies. It sorta of worked for me. I had wanted to buy fireworks and looked at the two stores in town but am new to Independence Day in Starkville and found out from my friends that they while almost every kind of firework is legal in MS, you have to buy it OUTSIDE of town and can't light them off within city limits. Our house is out of city limits, so next year we just have to buy some fireworks outside of town and then we can have a real party. :) But 3 cheers for America, our Founding Fathers, our soldiers and veterans, and fun friends with whom we celebrate.