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Packing life

We still don’t know when we’re going…

we only know it’s soon.

And we still don’t quite know where,

we just know it will be HOME.

Because HOME is where we are together… that is what happens when you are blessed with a family.

So as I packed last weekend – books and CDs and pictures and nik-nax and office supplies and cookbooks and the tea kettle and refrigerator magnets and books,

I shed some tears for the house we’re leaving ~

we made excellent memories here.

And I am grateful for the memories we’ve made

and the knowledge that we’ve only just begun.

MirandaAnd as I sell the baby gear and pack the clothes for Goodwill,

as I throw away some of the Sunday School papers and cards,

I know that the LIFE we have does not reside in any tangible things,

but in the smiles and laughs and hollers and tears and hugs and tickles and parties and fights ~

wherever we are, wherever we go.

~

Between high school and marriage, after having lived in the same house for 18 years, I moved 7 times.

I got really good at it.

As I pack this house, I find I’ve lost my skills a bit…or maybe I never had them, because packing a person is a lot different than packing a family. And packing a room/apartment/condo is a lot different than packing a home.

Everything I touch has a memory associated with it.

And, by the grace of God, in this house for the last 8.5 years, most of those memories have been really, really good.

My marriage began here.

I became a mom – four times, really – here.

I entertained family and a truly amazing circle of friends.

Songs were sung in the red room just like I planned, big meals cooked in the kitchen, babies nursed in the family room, Christmas decorations set up on every available space, and as you know, not a wall unadorned with pictures.

~

Maybe it would help to know where and when this move is happening,

but I doubt it.

My feelings will remain mixed…

excitement for where I’m going,
gratefulness for who’s coming with me,
sadness for who and what will not be there.

What I’m “giving up” for Lent

Or what I’m supposed to be missing on Facebook

A few nights ago, we finally watched The Social Network. My favorite parts of the fictionalized account of the creation of Facebook was seeing the shout-outs to Live Journal {home of my most intimate and rewarding blogging experience ever}, the questions raised about balancing friendship and business, and the even bigger questions raised about online reality and actual reality.

Facebook has mostly been kind to me. There I have found people I thought lost to me forever. I have certainly captured my most captive and interactive reading audience, and to a writer, that is so very important. I have been able to share in the victories and burdens of people all over the country and in some cases, the world.

But with all of that, with all the 800ish friends and many more “networked” connections, I have witnessed some truly disgusting behavior (and engaged in it a few times myself; thank God for the delete button, but unfortunately, words put out there can’t really be taken back). A friend of mine hypothesizes that people say things on FB they would never say in real life, because they plan their version of perfect wording to get across a point that will bring its share of cheers, awkwardness, and anger.

I wonder why we sometimes find our own real lives so boring that online controversy becomes attractive. {This type of drama did not begin on FB; I can remember it happening on my old “RATSA” General Hospital newsgroup back in the way back day!}

I resisted the idea of “giving up Facebook for Lent” last year because it has become so intertwined with how I communicate with friends, clients, and associates. This past week, I heard news of my cousin giving birth on FB. I have too many times heard about deaths in my friends’ families via FB. I have followed a friend’s fight against cancer, victories over infertility, milestones reached by special needs children, hospital stays, job losses and gains…all of it on this website that did not even exist to me just over two years ago.

But on Ash Wednesday, made sacramental in a special, quiet way by my amazing Pentecostal church, I indulged in a war of words with a fellow Christian on FB. And then I went to our Bible Study and heard the term “media fast” used more than once. And here I am.

While I have not disconnected completely from The Facebook (its original name according to The Social Network, and apt according to me), I have backed away. With my thoughts kept more to myself than usual just in these past 24 hours, I have had the reflection and peace necessary to come to important realizations, to meditate on some key scriptures, to engage in deep conversation with my husband, my friend, my sister-in-law, to organize my to-do list of work and ministry projects into something that seems manageable, to write more than thirty words at a time, to read more than threads, and well, I haven’t missed Facebook once.

The season of Lent is about sacrifice. Some of us will use it to sacrifice things in our lives, be it a media outlet, food, caffeine, whatever. Some of us will use it to give sacrificially. Some of us will use it to simply be thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made. I guess I am engaging in a combination of the three. I want to be intentional in the things I give to Christ, in the service I do in His name, and in how I treat His creation, including me! The idea of simplifying life has been foremost in my mind for over a year, and during this season, I feel that being refined in me. I don’t have to be involved in every conversation available to me. I don’t have to address every issue that stirs me. But I do need to grow closer to my Lord, and by the means He lays on my heart, I will strive to do that during these precious weeks leading to Easter.

Eating good and fast at Walt Disney World

Disney has become our thing. We blame our friends, the family Paris, as well as the utter coolness of Walt Disney World. We love it…we want to be there as much as possible…we can’t get enough. Apparently, I have been vocal enough about this that I’ve become a “Disney Mom.”  Other parents planning trips have started asking me for tips, which just delights me, because a few short years ago I was barraging my friend with questions (and still do).

One of our favorite aspects of the modern Disney vacation is the dining plan. If you don’t know it, WDW is a first-rate place to eat, with dozens of places grand and quaint, featuring just about any kind of cuisine a family would want while on vacation. The Dining plan is available to guests staying on Disney property and allows you to eat at most any of the on-site restaurants without spending a fortune. For a daily per-person price, you’re entitled to a certain number of meals and snacks/drinks.

The dining plan breaks most WDW restaurants into two categories: Full Service and Quick Service. Full- service is either a buffet (and I could write about WDW buffets alone…they’re not Ryan’s. They’re wonderful!) or a sit-down meal. Quick Service, however, should not be equated with ‘fast food,’ as the quick service options are vast and often include a full meal you might order at a sit-down restaurant; the only difference is that you order at a counter, you don’t have to tip, and it’s slightly cheaper.

Here is a list of our family’s favorite quick service restaurants at WDW~

~MAGIC KINGDOM~

Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe– Located in Frontierland near the Country Bear jamboree (but not very far from Pirates of the Caribbean), this restaurant has a rustic, Pirate-y feel. It features one of our favorite quick-service amenities: the toppings bar (grilled onions, cheese sauce, mushrooms, produce, condiments galore! It’s a Burton dream come true!), which can be used for their burgers, sandwiches, or my favorite item: the taco salad.

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe: Located in Tomorrowland (near Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and most of the stuff your kids will want to ride on over and over), this restaurant has three distinct dining choices that are basically categorized as BBQ, Rotisserie, & grill. There is also some “live” (animatronic) entertainment, and space for the kids to play.

Casey’s Corner: This is one of our Magic Kingdom staples. Go to Casey’s, pick up your hot dogs, cotton candy, Cracker Jacks, and nachos, and grab a bench near Cinderella’s castle to people-watch. On our last trip, we went to Casey’s late at night after the parades and fireworks. It’s become our traditional last meal at WDW. The nostalgia can’t be beat!

~HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS~

ABC Commissary – With a small but very diverse menu (great chicken curry, cheeseburgers, Asian salad), this place is a staple for us at Hollywood Studios. The ABC TV commercials and posters are also fun for the adults in your group (We dare you not to sing along with the Growing Pains theme!)

Pizza Planet – While I admit to never having eaten here, it’s sure to be a stop on our next trip (January 3, 2012, baby!), as our kids are now full-fledged Toy-Story-maniacs. The pizza menu is a little more diversified and the décor can’t be beat!

~ANIMAL KINGDOM~
Pizzafari
– It’s pizza…it’s decent enough. We haven’t explored much of the dining at Animal Kingdom, though Tusker House (a buffet) is one of my favorite places to eat in all of WDW!

~EPCOT~
I have not gone to all of the places at Epcot I would like to. Everyone knows that the real cuisine is on the World Showcase side of the park, but with the kids (and let’s face it, all the shiny, fun rides), we tend to spend most of our time on the Future World side of the park. ‘Tis ok, though, because one of our favorite, favorite, FAVORITE quick service places is there: Sunshine Seasons Food Court. Located inside The Land , also home to wonderful attractions like Soarin’, Living with the Land boat tour, and the Circle of Life movie, this “food court” boasts a great variety of meals – both robust and healthy. There is an Asian Wok Shop, a great deli/bakery (use your snacks to get wonderful pastries here), a soup and salad counter, and Rod’s favorite, a wood-fired grill, where he typically gets a huge pork chop and yummy mashed potatoes.

Dining Tips:
– We haven’t explored a lot of the hotel restaurants, but the ones we’ve used for quick-service are just fine. Also, we’ve only done a few quick-service breakfast meals, but none stick out as either special or disappointing. If we eat breakfast at the park, it’s usually for a character meal, and then we skip lunch and have an early dinner.

–  Off-hours are the best time to use quick-service because seating is often full during “peak” meal times.

– KIDS who have the dining plan can eat ADULT meals. This is not something Disney is going to tell you, but unless it’s changed since we were there in October 2010, all the meals are put on one tally. So if you the mom or dad place an order for your family, no one’s asking how many kids are on the dining plan, so you can realistically order adult meals for everyone. Now, we don’t suggest you use this to ‘rip off’ Disney (though this would be hard to do!), but sometimes the kids’ options just aren’t things our kids like, so we get them an adult meal. Or sometimes we get one adult meal (say, a pizza and fries somewhere) and all split it as a snack.

– Most places will allow you to get a LARGE drink instead of a regular sized one; you just have to ask.

– Dining Plan SNACKS can be used for a variety of things; if you’re not sure, ask. We almost always end up with too many, and our last few trips I’ve thrown out Mickey applesauce, carrots, or brownies several weeks after we’ve been home. In light of that, I recommend getting extra drinks…water, milk, juice, whatever. If you’re driving home, those will never go to waste. If you’re flying, eat up!

– Smile & relax. It’s Disney. They want you to have a great time and everything is kid-friendly!

Reference: DIS.

Pictured: Miranda at Cosmic Ray’s, June 2009; The girls waiting for their Casey’s hot dogs, December 2009; Disney gives us the crazy eyes! October 2010

For Kaity on her 2nd birthday

When I first found out she was coming to us, I laughed in shock to the seven month old staring at me and my positive test.

Then I spent the next eight months worrying about having a 15 month old and a newborn.

When I first found out she was a girl, I mourned for a few seconds for ‘Jackson Cash’ as I had envisioned him.

Then I spent the next four-and-a-half months imagining matching clothes, nighttime giggles, and two little girlies skipping hand in hand.

When I first saw her, I was mystified. I knew she was ours, the Kaity we’d been talking to and about, the one I was just a little afraid of.

Then I first spent a night away from her, at just a few weeks old,  and suddenly, I knew the myth of ‘loving the first baby’ most was indeed that. I could not wait to get back to her and hold her and find out all about her.

During Kaity ~ Kaitlyn ~ KK’s second year, she showed us more every day who she is and what she is made of.

She says her “L” as a “W” ~ “Wookie, Mama! The doggie wicked me!” “I don’t wike it” and best of all, “I wove you!”

She stares in awe at her painted toenails.

She has visited and kicked butt at the hospital twice.

She has gone to and took ownership of Disney World twice.

She has gone to countless churches, concerts, and conventions and earned her own fans in person and online.


She colors her body parts, her ‘Dumbo’ jumbo coloring book, and the kitchen floor with equal fervor, and she is insistent about ‘working’ at the ‘ ‘puter.’

She loves her Papa, and her Gramma too… and is especially fond of ‘Nanda Rose,’ Paigey,’ Uncle, Auntie, ‘Joshy,’ Brett, Aunt Jen, Sammie the Dog, and her friends Kendall, Quad, Liam, Paul, and ‘baby’ Adam (who is 5 weeks younger than she is).  (I will make no remarks about the fact that most of those are boys. Those are just the ones she mentions all the time).


She pretty much, though, loves on anyone who is nice to her. And gives them gi-normous hugs.

(And sometimes hits them, too).

She knows the words to all her Daddy’s songs, to many Disney songs, to The Sound of Music soundtrack, to her own song (“K-k-k-Katy”) and to The Isaacs’ “Walk On” and Israel Houghton’s “I Am Not Forgotten.”


She also knows the words to “Down in the Valley,” and it’s our special song together.


She has a bath towel that looks like a duck, and when she’s getting dry, she quacks.

She loves to eat crackers, ‘gogurt,’ pizza, hot dogs, clementines, and guacamole.


Speaking of hot dogs, she can totally groove Mickey Mouse’s “Hot Dog” dance, and we’re more than happy to do it with her.

She claps and raises her hands when she’s in a good ol’ Pentecostal service. And she knows one when she’s in one!

She has two of the deepest dimples you’d ever see.

…and the strongest will, we think, too.


She always gets compliments on her big wide eyes, her talking ability, and her obvious compassionate heart.

She doesn’t get as many compliments when she’s throwing her plate on the ground, or throwing her stuffed toy into someone else’s plate.

She likes to play with doors, books, dolls, cars, things with buttons, drums, microphones, and guitars.

And she loves to “drive” the bus.

She is a movie buff, namely for anything with Julia Andrews or by Disney or Pixar or revolving in some way around Moses or Santa Claus.

She thinks any man with a gray beard is Santa Claus.

Also, she has an affinity for men with gray hair in general. I think it’s the southern gospel immersion.

She would make a great big sister, and hopefully someday, in some way, she will be.

But today she is Our Baby. We could not foretell how she would complete our family, nor could we imagine it without her.

She will insist that she’s is going to be ‘FWEE’ tomorrow (that’s 3 fingers, like her sister ‘Nanda-Rose’). But she will be 2. Already.

Bring on the potty training, the tantrums, and one more amazing year with K-k-k-kaity, the only (2-year-old) g-g-girl that we adore.


‘Roses love sunshine, violets love dew, angels in Heaven know I love you.

Like an episode of Buffy

Pictured: The sunset over the ocean on our last night of the cruise. Definitely a ‘softer’ feel than our 20-degree snow filled front yard…

For some reason, I have been back in touch with my inner Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangirl lately. I even watched a few episodes while we are gone. This automatically means I put my life in the framework of Buffy-ology, which is easy to do. The whole show was a metaphor for life’s various drama and roller coasters, and dontcha know, we’re usually living in the middle of one!

Specifically today, I think of when Buffy was ‘pulled out of Heaven back to live in the world.’ Please don’t get theological on me ~ this was a fantasy show. Buffy’s friends, who arranged for her resurrection, assumed she was suffering in a ‘hell dimension,’ when in fact, the wounded warrior was finally at peace.

The first time she shared with someone that she’d been in Heaven, she described being back on Earth as this: Everything here is … hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch … this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that …

I would hardly describe our two weeks away as Heaven (stuck on a bus alone with our kids for up to 13 hours was not even a little like paradise!), and I definitely do not think of being at home as being hellacious, but it absolutely takes some adjusting after time not only away but running around in the ‘other world’ we have.

I was up unusually late last night (ok, it was almost time for Paige to get up for school when I went to bed) finishing this little baby, so when I woke up around 10 this morning (this is a treat, and thanks be to Rod), I could barely function. I hugged the girls, made coffee, and took them and it upstairs. While they ran about, I sat on my bed and watched Beverly Hills 90210 (another Gen-X television gem, but a much less literary one) and figured that as long as they didn’t smash their fingers in any doors, that was about as good as it was going to get today.

Isn’t it nice when things surpass our expectations? Instead of stumbling wearily through a depressing Monday on which everything seemed too hard and bright, I got a surprise visit from a friend – whose children are friends with mine – and her brand new, sweet 2-week-old baby. The laundry is almost done. I’m counting my WW points. I even answered some emails. I’m easing back in and wearing a Buffy-esque game face, because the truth is…

I love my friends, my home, my life ~

but today, I really miss Nashville.

…especially Nana Rosa’s, but that is another (food-filled) blog.