Friday, September 13, 2013

Celebrate Good Times... C'mon

September 5, 2013 
You can hear the song, Cant you? 

What a wonderful birthday celebration I have had this year! I have been able to spend quality time with my parents, sister, in-laws and especially my hubby and beautiful kiddos! On August 24th after Natalie’s 4th Birthday party, we were able to go to one of my favorite restaurants “Chuys” for a family dinner in celebration of my 31st birthday. This was very special because it is on a very rare occasion that I get to be with both my immediate family and my in-laws at the same time and it was great to visit and fellowship with them all. My mom also coordinated to have Mrs. Martha make me one of her AMAZING "Martha Cakes" and bring it down this weekend. It was just as I remember... AMAZING!

I don't know what she does but it is the BEST cake EVER! Thank you, Mrs. Martha!

On Monday, September 2nd (Labor Day), I was able to have yet another early birthday celebration with Chris and the kids as we went to the Mall and spent the whole day together! This was special because I do enjoy going to the mall and Chris rarely has time to come with me so it was neat to have him come along. We got to go to the Puppy Store for Natalie and Luke, The Disney Store and even the Apple store for me in search of a new iPad!

In addition to shopping, we were able to eat in the Food Court together and try out some new places, one in particular “French Fry Heaven”. This was a pretty cool place to get fries. I tried the “Festival” French fries which were sweet potato fries with Funnel Cake sauce. It was yummy!

The best lunch ever... A bunch of FRIES!

Of course the main reason for us going to the mall was to go and pick up my Cookie Cake for my 31st birthday! It has been somewhat of a family tradition to get each other Cookie Cakes for our birthdays and even anniversary! This cake was great because it had all VANILLA icing… just the way Natalie and I like it! Thank you Chris for this delicious way of celebrating my birthday!

As always, this was a VERY SPECIAL part of my birthday celebration! Thanks love!

And then of course, ON my birthday (Wednesday), Chris, the kids and I went to Babin’s for my annual birthday dinner. We started this back in 2011 after we had just moved to Houston and found this hidden gem of a seafood restaurant! I just love this place and hope to celebrate my birthday there every year!

Our annual Birthday Dinner at Babin's!

In addition to all the physical celebrations that took place the past 2 weeks with family and friends, I also go to celebrate my birthday with AMAZING gifts! I have said that as I get older I don’t really need gifts but just cards with WORDS of encouragement on them but I still got AWESOME presents! My parents got me a new FANCYSoda Stream” maker. This was something Allison and I happened upon back around Father’s Day for dad and I just fell in love with them. Mom and Dad got me the actual Soda Stream Maker as well as a variety pack of syrups and an extra carbonation dispenser. Natalie and I will make Soda Stream nearly every night! She and I just LOVE it!

My Soda Stream system from Mom and Dad!

In addition to that, they surprised me on Monday by having me go and pick up a Compact Refrigerator for my classroom. This was completely unexpected since they already gave me the Soda Stream a few weekends ago! This fridge is AWESOME! This is NOT an ordinary mini-fridge! It is Huge and can hold a weeks’ worth of food and meals PLUS MORE! Thank you mom and dad!

 Where was this when I was in college? This thing is AWESOME... It can hold 8 of my Weight Watchers meals in the SEPARATE freezer PLUS a weeks worth of fruit and drinks! Thanks again, mom and dad!
Allison gave me some additional liter bottles for my new Soda Stream as well as a few Soda Stream Syrups! We just LOVE the Cream Soda Flavor!
Some of the syrups and bottles from Allison and Chris and the kids too!

Of course, Natalie, Luke and Chris gave me even more Soda Stream Syrups, 1 liter bottles, more carbonation as well as some OU pens for my office and new pillowcases!

I have no idea where he found these down here but I LOVE THEM! Thanks!

All of the stuff Chris and the kids got me for my new Soda Stream maker! Yummy!

I also received money from my in-laws and extended family which I plan on using to buy the new iPad that launches (supposedly) on in early October! I am Really excited about this! I have been wanting one for A WHILE but never got around to it... This time, it will be mine! I just have to wait...Haha, how ironic!

In addition to all of these from my family, my new SCHOOL family surprised me with a wonderful card and fruit for lunch! That was really sweet and after 3 weeks of being at my new school, it finally made me feel "At home!"

My teammates are so nice!

It has been a WONDERFUL birthday celebration time and I cannot believe I am already 31! Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was turning 21! I used to think those were “The good ol’ days” but looking back and comparing to what I have now… THEY AREN'T EVEN CLOSE! I am so very blessed and I thank God for His continued blessings and I can’t wait for another 31 years!

My 31st year has been fun and I cannot wait for my 32nd… The best is yet to come!

God is good… All the time! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

30+1= FUN

September 4, 2013

Hard to believe this little girl is 31? Man, I'm old!! 

Well THIRTY came and went and here I am adding another year to my book of life. This past year has been full of life-changing events and memories. It is hard to describe in words the blessings I have received this year but the best part is knowing that these blessings will only continue into my 31st year of life this coming year. God has blessed me so much and I cannot thank HIM enough for HIS blessings! 

Here are just some of the many blessings that I have received since my 30th birthday in September of last year:

September 2012 
We closed on our house on September 14th and by the 17th we were all moved in... not unpacked but moved in!

Closing day FINALLY arrived!! Yay!! 

We are so very blessed... Thank You, Lord!! 

November 2012 
Chris and I hosted our first "holiday" in our new home with Thanksgiving Dinner with The Davis's.

After 2 months of unpacking, the house is ready for guests...

Aunt Leeanna and the only and only Uncle John!
These two are great with our little kids!! Thanks y'all!! 

December 2012
Our First Christmas in our New Home! This was a very special occasion and a "holiday" that will live with me for the rest of the life. Thanks to all my family for making it so special!

I will ALWAYS hold this Christmas near and dear in my heart!! 

I am so blessed to have such a BEAUTIFUL home! 

Auntie Allie and the kiddos...

Gigi Shirley and Poppy with the kids on Christmas morning!

March 2013 
Chris and I celebrated 7 years of wedded bliss by taking a Mini-vacation to Lake Charles, LA.

7-7-7 Years of Marital Bliss...

June 2013 

We all celebrated Baby Luke and his FIRST Birthday! This is always a very monumental birthday and this proved why! I love you Luke!

Spoiled rotten like guy... He didn't even know what to do with ALL these gifts! 

I love my little boy! I am so grateful God chose ME to be his mommy! I love you, Luke! 

July 2013 
Chris and I took an exotic cruise to the Caribbean and had THE TIME OF OUR LIVES! Just 11 months til our next one (Wink, wink)!

The Most GLORIOUS 10 days of my life!! 

August 2013
I started a new job teaching in one of the best district in the north Houston metro area. This will be my 9th year of teaching and Chris' 3rd!

We also celebrated our precious Natalie Grace and her 4th birthday! It is hard to imagine that she is already 4! Where has the time gone?

I cannot believe she is grown up enough to have birthday parties with her friends! What a precious little girl! 

Once again, Thank You, Lord for letting ME be her mommy!! I love you Natalie grace! 

It is hard to believe that a year has come and gone so quickly. But I guess the old saying is true "Time flies where you are having fun"! And I sure did have fun this year! But I know, the best is yet to come! 

Thank you all so much for the wonderful birthday wishes! I am blessed and I give God ALL THE GLORY! 

God is good... ALL THE TIME! 

It Feels Like Yesterday...

September 11, 2013 

The time was 7:50 and I was sitting outside my Music Theory Room in Catlett Music Center on the campus of The University of Oklahoma. It was a Tuesday morning and I was waiting for my aural skills Music Theory class that began at 8am. My professor, Dr. Stephenson, was known for starting on time and for never cancelling a class. Even though, I was just a freshman, this became apparent to me within the first week of school. There were about 15-20 of us sitting in the hallway waiting for the classroom doors to open. I remember us all keep checking our watches and wondering what was going on. Yet in those 10-15 minutes the rest of the 150 member class didn’t arrive like usual. Finally, around 8:05 a secretary from the School of Music office came and told us that class and been cancelled and to go back to your dorms/ house immediately. One guy asked her why and with tears in her eyes she said “New York City has been attacked”.

My family and I had been to New York City several times in my youth so this spoke to me immediately and I think I walked faster back to my dorm on the opposite end of campus that day than I did my entire career at OU. When I got back to my dorm the news broadcast was already on one of the big screens in the lobby. It was then that I discovered that The World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. It was in that moment at 7:46 central time that America changed FOREVER! I decided to go back up to my actual dorm room to watch it on my own TV.

June 1999
Just 2 years before this, my family and I had visited New York City and we were able to go up into The World Trade Center and actually walked around the top floor 110 stories above the ground. During this trip we tried to fit in EVERY OUNCE of NYC as we could since the trip before this was basically “RAINED OUT”. We did Broadway shows, baseball games (of course) and so much more. But it was late one night in our trip that we FINALLY got over to The World Trade Center. It was about 8:45pm and the Observation Deck closed at 9. We saw a sign stating “The last elevator leaves at 8:45pm.” We had missed our opportunity to go to THE TOP OF THE WORLD! I can remember my little sister Allison, who was only 10 at the time, started crying and I too was pretty upset. Out of nowhere came the nice Middle Eastern man who said “I will take you guys to the TOP OF THE WORLD

This is a scene that we saw from the "TOP OF THE WORLD" on the 110 floor Observation Deck of The World Trade Center
We were all so very thankful and appreciative to this gentleman. For the life of me (and my family) we cannot remember this man’s name but his legacy still lives with us. We got to the top and we were able to walk around the inside 109 floor which was actually called “The TOP OF THE WORLD” and then we rode the elevator 1 more story up to the 110 floor and went outside. The sight was something I truly will NEVER forget. We had been in many skyscrapers around the United States but this one was different, for whatever reason. It was beautiful to look out on one of the best cities in the world and see all of it lit up in the night light! I remember my grandma now beginning to cry at the beauty of the city. It was incredible.

September 2001 
Now over 2 years had passed and it was Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and 1 of the 2 World Trade Center Towers had been hit by a High-jacked plane. I sat in my dorm room just in tears as all of the news footage came in of the damages and live-lost. Close to 30 minutes passed and I then watched the 2nd tower get hit LIVE. This is something I will NEVER forget as long as I live. It was a terrible scene and picture and I still think about it often, especially on the annual anniversary. My grandpa used to tell me stories of where he was when JFK got shot or where he was on the day The Challenger exploded and now I will have a story to share with my grandkids. 

A scene that will be in my mind for the rest of my life...
This may be the most ICONIC photo of that day in 2001!

September 2013 
It seems like only YESTERDAY this event took place yet somehow, 12 years have passed! In the past 12 years my life has changed drastically. I was barely 19 at the time of tragedy and here I sit today 31 years old. I am a college graduate, with a Master’s degree; married to a wonderful man for 7 years; have 2 AMAZING kids and have been teaching 9 of those 12 years. Yet somehow, it feels like ONLY yesterday that I sat in my small dorm room watching this event unfold LIVE!
Just 12 years later...This is what the 9-11 Memorial will look like when it is complete

As each year passes by and this anniversary creeps up on me again, I am brought to my knees in prayer for the families that this tragedy touched. I say prayers of Thanksgiving that my family was NOT involved but I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering the families that WERE involved go through on this day. It is for those families of the over 3,000 individual lives lost that I dedicate my thoughts and prayers to you! May God be with all of you today, and always! God is in control and even in a terrible crisis and tragedy such as this, HE ALWAYS HAS A PLAN!

Thank you, Lord for the past 12 years! I am so BLESSED and it is ALL for YOUR Glory!

God is good… ALL the Time!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

GRAND Memories

August 2013
"Gigi Shirley, Poppy and Natalie's week of FUN" 
We just picked Natalie up in Buffalo, TX from a week long vacation with her Gigi Shirley and Poppy! This has been a tradition of theirs for the last 3 summers but this trip in particular seemed to form GRAND memories. I remember when I was a young girl and was able to go and visit my grandparents and even take trips with them. These are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life and I can tell from listening to Natalie's stories that she will cherish these memories too.

Gigi Shirley and Poppy took Natalie to Colorado to see the mountains, and a baseball game (or 2) of course! This was really special because Natalie has never been to the mountains. Chris and I had been telling her all about them and had printed off some pictures to help her get an idea before she went and for the few days leading up to the vacation all she could talk about was mountains and riding the train to the top.

Gigi Shirley and Poppy started their trip in Denver where they went to 2 Colorado Rockies’ games. This too was really special to Natalie because it was yet another baseball team and stadium experience that she got to share with Poppy! Although, I do find it funny that she asked “why are they playing outside, Poppy”? This poor girl has gotten used to Minute Maid Park so much that she didn't realize that REAL baseball is played outside! I had to tell her that several times when she got home.

Poppy and Natalie Grace at the Rockies' Game

They also went one of my favorite attractions in Denver, Casa Bonita CafĂ©. This is a place that obviously serves Mexican Cuisine but also is built around a very large indoor water area that has cliffs and other points of interest that their special Dive Team jumps off of! As soon as we picked her up in Buffalo, all Natalie could talk about was this “DIVE TEAM”. She even told me she wants to be a diver when she grows up! My parents also took my sister and I  here several times in our youth and this was special to hear my little girl talk about the same experiences.

Part of the "Dive Team"

Poppy and Natalie on the edge of one of the Jump-off points for the "Dive Team" 

They also went to the Denver Aquarium in Downtown Denver. I have never been here but I have heard all about it and now I know A LOT about it via Natalie Grace. Here she got to watch Mermaids and Sharks swim while she ate her lunch as well as get to meet some of the mermaids! She has “swam” around our playroom like a mermaid nearly every day since she got back!

Our "SURVIVOR"... She loves this picture! 

This was cool because we pulled out our Grand Cayman stingray pictures and compared them!
She thought this was cool! 

The Mermaid even waved at her! She reminds me of this each day too! 

Natalie loved this Aquarium so much... She wants to go back! 

Our little traveler...

This is a GRAND memory! 

They also went to Colorado Spring where they went to Santa Land! This was one of my favorite things to do in the mountains and I remember so much about it and once again, I loved reliving these memories through my little girl! Natalie did come home and ask for her Christmas gifts but I think she finally realized it is NOT Christmas!
 I'm not sure if she is happy or scared in this one!

Poppy is such a good grandpa! 

 Natalie saw our pictures from Roatan and us riding a Gondola and wanted to ride one and little did she know, she would get to ride one with Gigi Shirley and Poppy!

Natalie got to go to the North Pole! 

Gigi and Poppy also found an “Arcade Amusements” for Natalie to play at where all of the rides were only $.25 each. Gigi told me that it was “Chuck E Cheese on steroids”. When we take our kids in a few years, we will have to visit this place. I am very intrigued!

In Colorado Springs, CO

Natalie had so much fun! 

And a Colorado Springs trip is not complete with a visit to the Colorado Spring Zoo. This is one of my all-time favorites and Natalie seemed to love it too! She brought home a Zebra, who we named Marty, for herself and a black bear, named Buddy, for Luke. 

One of Natalie's favorite Zoo Animals... The Elephants! 

Natalie petting a Wallaby!

When she looks a this picture she says, "Mommy that is a BIG bear"! I love it!

Overall, this has been the best and most memorable of the 3 vacations that Natalie has gone on with Gigi Shirley and Poppy! She has gone to St. Louis and Kansas City as well but she was much younger during those trips and didn't seem to remember much. This trip created GRAND memories and ones that she will remember for the rest of her life!

Thank you, Gigi Shirley and Poppy, for taking Natalie on these wonderful trips! She is so blessed to have y'all in her life and I know she will one day be able to tell HER kids about trips like this! Thank you!

God is Good… All the time!