Thursday, October 26, 2017

Just Keep Living

alright alright alright...

in the words of my still-celebrity crush MM...just keep livin'!

Wow.  I realize I haven't posted since July I think?  or maybe June?

what have we been up to?  question is probably what haven't we been doing.

August:  School.  3 different schools.  4 if you count Mothers' Day Out for Mason.  5th grade at Eastside, 2nd grade at Northside, and Kindergarten at Clinton Park.  AND yep, I chair the fundraisers at ALL of these.  and yep, I sit in ALOT of car rider lines.

September:  took the oldest two kids with us to England!  Spent 2 days in London and then a few days with my uncle Jeff on their west coast in Minehead, Somerset.  Toured all the areas in between.  Weather was a bit fierce, Mati Claire suffers from EXTREME motion sickness, managed to avoid terrorist bombings, but overall we had a FANTASTIC trip!  London was great!  I usually don't care for the bigger cities, but I enjoyed it.  Course it helps when we have a tour guide to give us inside tips so we aren't stressing over the details.  

I've been debating homeschooling next year.  Still on the fence.  More on that later.

We've been renovating the new house for the past 3 months.  Its been slow but it will be great when its all done.  We also bought the 20 acres behind the house.  Looking forward to all that space!  The backyard is really what makes that house amazing.  With the added land, we have so many options and ideas being thrown around.  Matt is already feeding the deer.

Because we are in between houses, I had to cancel our annual Halloween party.

We were home from our trip a few days when Merritt started vomiting.  7 times in an hour.  She got so dehydrated and exhausted that she collapsed on me.  After knowing her friend Eliza that suddenly passed away (different circumstances), fear and panic found me.  I think at one point she was choking on her vomit, and was unresponsive for longer than my brain could contemplate.  In reality it may not have been that long, but too long for me and I began to shake her.  I haven't been that scared since she was born.  I decided calling 911 would take longer than me throwing her in the car myself.  so that's what we did.  the boys were asleep so I left Mati Claire in charge until my SIL could drive from Madison at 2:00am.  Merritt threw up again in the car on the way to the ER.  Matt was working so he hooked her up to fluids and zofran IV.   3 days later she was still vomiting after the smallest sip of water.  Dehydration again and children's group not calling us back, we decided to take her to UMC Children's ER.  Also in the hopes of talking with her omphalocele surgeon if it was due to her anatomy.  High fever also didn't play around.  We thought it might be her appendix with those symptoms... but never did find her appendix and her fever finally broke.  IV fluids and IV Zofran again.  Barium dye test, 2 ultrasounds, 2 X-rays all showed no intestinal blockages.  She definitely has a messed up stomach, but nothing that should have been causing that level of vomiting.  7 days overall and she started feeling better finally.  In the words of Eliza's mom:  God is good all the time.  The hospital stint proved we needed to get Merritt an upper GI scope.  That's something we had been putting off.  Hate to put her through that unless it was necessary.  She suffers from severe acid reflux but has never had any major problems since birth.

She's getting scoped in about 2 weeks.  :(  Testing her for Celiac's Disease and Eosinophilia among other things.  But apparently it was a SEVERE stomach bug.  However, that had to be the weirdest stomach bug I've ever seen because my professional-vomiter, Mati Claire, never got it.  Mati Claire tends to get every stomach bug within a 50 mile radius usually.

Moving on.  Literally.  We show our current house alot.  Someone make an offer for goodness sake! Do you know how hard it is to keep a house this size CLEAN WITH FOUR KIDS on a somewhat constant basis???

3 Fundraisers.  Red Ribbon Week.  Field trips.  Homework.  Class parties.  moving.  packing.  stressing.  Sicknesses.  Pink eye.  Flu-type virus.  Stomach bug.  Allergy sinus crud.  Doctor appointments.

So what do you do when you're stressed and not feeling well?

You go to NOLA with your sister to see Bruno Mars!!!!!!!!!!

Finally.  We've been counting down that concert for almost a year!  But what was great about that weekend is that I couldn't remember the last time JUST me and my sister went somewhere by ourselves.  Maybe 20+ years ago?  Now, any trip would usually include husbands or kids or parents.  But we had a great time and got to talk about stuff that otherwise would have been censored in one way or another! ha!  Dinner at Delmonico's, Bruno Mars, Cafe du Monde beignets for breakfast, and shopping in the French Quarter is what the doctor ordered!   Its good to get away from my kids for a day.

Mom even babysat on her birthday for us.  She's great!  Thank you, mom!  and Happy Birthday again!

Holidays are upon us... not sure if thats a good thing or a bad thing at the moment.  Considering I just cancelled our annual Halloween party... I think I've reached a breaking point.  Wondering if I can cancel Christmas too?  Can we just go on a trip and escape for a few days instead?  No decorating, no shopping... just relax?

I'm turning 39 soon... and must be hitting a sort of mid-life crisis--- I want to simplify.  I'm tired of always worrying and stressing and being on the go.  I feel like I'm always yelling and in a rush.  I feel like Ferris Bueller kind of:  "life moves pretty fast".  So I want to slow it down.  Which is ONE of the many reasons I'm considering homeschooling.  Life doesn't HAVE to be so stressful.  It CAN BE easier.  But that's a post for another day.  Its all about what your priorities are perhaps? Yes, I realize life will never slow down having 4 kids... but I think it COULD be easier in some ways.

Here's a few pics of recent days to top off this post.

She went from this to this in about 1 hour:

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sad Summer

Most of you that know us, have probably heard we are moving down the road soon.  Same city.  Different house.  

Question of the year:  WHY are you moving???

3 days before our trip to Ireland while sitting in a church pew at Merritt's preschool graduation program, Matt shows me a picture of a house for sale.  We had never discussed even the possibility of moving.  If anything, it was the opposite.  He would repeatedly tell me he planned to NEVER move again.  2 months ago, I would have told you we were planning to die in our house.  Just goes to show me again - you can plan all you want... but life has a way of not following.  I REALLY thought it was a novel that would fall through and the idea would pass when it didn't work out.  I REALLY thought it wouldn't "pan out" so to speak.   Surely the realtors and inspectors would find SOMETHING wrong, right?  ......  we toured it twice before leaving for our vacation.  

After much discussion, arguing, and silent treatments while on vaca out of the country... we bought a house!  I was really mad because Matt was focused on the house and not on our vacation.   We were eating breakfast one morning in a CASTLE and he's on his phone looking at contracts.  I immediately began to resent the "new" house for distracting us.  crazy, huh?

I blamed Matt for uprooting the only home our kids have ever known.  I resented the fact that he obviously wasn't 100% happy in what I thought was an amazing house!  It IS an amazing house.  We built it. We made it.  We added to it.  It fit our needs as we grew.  Until it didn't anymore with kid #4.    But we still didn't NEED a new house.  Plenty of siblings share a room and I was beginning to think I was spoiling my kids by letting them each have their own room.  

Our house COULD be perfect for a family with 4 kids... but it doesn't leave much room when alot of extended family comes to visit on a pretty regular basis.  Our house sort of maxes out at 2-3 kids with a room or two to spare for company.  Plus Matt needs a dark quiet room to sleep in during the day.  Our large-er family has somewhat specific needs for crazy schedules with family that lives out of town.  The new house fits the bill as far as layout, size, location, etc.  Its definitely more family-functional for a bigger family with an even bigger extended family.

The new house is great - don't get me wrong.  But it wasn't OURS.  Certainly wasn't MINE.  Sure, it had more space, more bedrooms, and a much better backyard for kids.  But again, I was happy where I was.  Content.  I still had reservations. I didn't just like our house, I LOVE it!  I am emotionally attached to our house because its where ALL of the memories with ALL of my kids are.  Their first birthday parties, their first steps, our annual Halloween party, and even the bad memories are still part of it!  I felt like I was gaining and losing with the move.  It all depended on the priorities and who you are talking to.  

After weeks of being upset over leaving the house I love, it finally hit me that I am too blessed to be upset over these houses.  I am blessed to have a husband who allows me to stay home with the kids.  Who am I to argue with where he wants to live if he makes all the money, right?  If he was willing to put in the work that it needed to make it ours, and he was.... and the actual moving process... then I decided to quit arguing with him, and see that he thought our current house was getting tight as the kids are getting bigger.  

Then our dog, Koda, took a turn for the worse.  She was 13 and we knew her time was coming soon. However, we were unprepared for the quickness.  She was in alot of pain and we couldn't put her through another dreadful Mississippi summer heat and moving houses next month.  God wrote His name across that situation.  I began to see Koda's passing as a sign that one chapter was ending, and a new one beginning.  Sad nonetheless.

Its ok to change.  Moving is part of growing up.  I have driven by the house I grew up in and I don't even recognize it now.  Yes, its the house that built me.  But I take the rocking chairs with me.  The kids go with me.  ha. The kids still worship the ground the others' walk on.  What makes it a home is US.  We can still dance in the kitchen.  

The things I didn't like about the "new" house were all cosmetic.  Of course, Matt doesn't care for my expensive taste but my conditions on moving were to completely renovate it.  I saw it as a fixer upper and he didn't.  So that's exactly what we are doing.  Fixing it up!  Matt gets to move and I get to decorate it! lol!  

Renovations should take a month or two but our house will be up for sale in the very near future.  We moved in Sept. 11, 2007 --  its almost 10 years TO THE DAY! 

No pun intended... but moving on! 

Mati Claire is not handling it well.  She turned 10.  Lost her only family pet.  Starting shaving her legs.  Asking ALL sorts of adult questions/conversations that I am not ready to answer.  But again, life keeps moving forward on me and I can't stop it.  I am saddened by the fact that she is "coming of age" VERY soon.

Merritt turned 5 and got a major haircut.  She is very excited about starting Kindergarten.  Other than the insane amount of constant talking and the number of times she changes her clothes per day... her behavior has made much improvement.  I think she is finally out of the terrible 3's... that yes, lasted into her almost 5's.

Mason has started talking in full sentences. He's 2 going on 6 I think.  HAS to keep up with the older siblings!  God knew what I needed when He gave me that boy.  He is all smiles and just a joy to be around ALL of the time.  Even teething, he is smiling or sleeping.  He is showing signs of wanting to potty train.  Heaven help me, the baby isn't a "baby" anymore.  His curls and his smile will slay anybody that walks past him.  He even dances to rap music!

Mattox has hit a growth spurt and is going to eat the entire grocery store.  He got a retainer to start his orthodontic work and grew an inch in height since his birthday 4 months ago.  He is ALMOST passing Mati Claire in size... I can't wait to see how tall he will get.  He got the stomach bug a few days after we got back from vacation.  He is struggling with a pretty bad social anxiety phase.  At least I hope its just a phase.  He's had some "extremely rare" (quoted by the dermatologist) viruses lately that have manifested on the skin.  Luckily they will all go away soon but its taken a toll on him.  He's had a pretty miserable summer.  Lately when I look at him, I see a pre-teen/teenager.  I don't see a 7 year old anymore.  He went from being 6 years old, to a big teeth, big man-hair, retainer-wearing, tall/major growth spurt, iPad/video game playing, reading as well as my 10 year old, little MAN.  He's not such a little boy anymore.  :( 

As busy as our summer has been... and contemplating/planning the school year already... it has occurred to me that I rarely see my kids as they get older.  I stay at home, and limit their extra-curricular activities.. and I still don't see them but for a few hours each day.   My kids are their own best friends.  They LOVE each other and for the most part play really well together.  When one is gone, the rest don't know how to act.  Its funny in a way, but it really shows me on a daily basis how important family is.  But I've learned having 4, that when one gets sick, it dictates the others' schedules.  One kid affects the other 3 in so many ways!  When one gets the stomach bug (which is often), do I send the others to school knowing they've been exposed even though they aren't showing symptoms... yet.  ?  They can't afford to miss unnecessary days of school.. due to their sibling's illness.  I can keep them quarantined for a time...but I still have to take the others to school and I can't leave a sick one at home by themselves.  And I won't take the stomach bug in the car if its really bad... so we ALL end up staying home.  Its a cycle or snowball effect type thing.

Life has gotten SO busy (and I only see it getting worse as they get older)....  will I have wished I kept them home more?? I feel like I'm not spending enough quality time with them.  I am usually yelling at them in the car all day because we go from one "thing" to the next.  I've been contemplating homeschooling lately.  I don't feel like I've been called to do that just yet.  Teaching is NOT my spiritual gift and I have ZERO patience.  

And we don't do as many "things" as most people we know.  My mind is blown at the people who sit at the ballfields ALL day or ALL weekend.  We LOVE our family dinners almost every night.  We LOVE having a weekend to do nothing after such a busy week!  We LOVE to go to the lake and teach them how to fish or ski or how to drive a boat!

With all that said, we are ending a chapter in Bellewood... and starting a new chapter in "SOSO" in a new home.  Starting a new school year with 2 of them in new schools.

"Be still and know that I am God..." -Psalm 46:10

Turned 10 and 5 this year!

Miley family pic in front of new house. 

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ireland and Scotland Trip 2017

Long post ahead, but for those of you who want all the details of our trip!

Matt turned 40 and our 13th wedding anniversary was last week.  We celebrated with a huge 2 week long vacation to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland with no kids!  I've had so many questions about it that I decided I will share all the details here.

We've never used travel agencies before.  We do, however, use private tour guides for our big trips out of the country.  For us, it is worth every single penny.  We don't lose time getting lost, figuring out how to drive on the wrong side of the road with different driving laws, directions, still getting lost despite using international GPS, getting lost in the accents/speech/language, or not getting to do something because they won't allow coach/large groups access to certain roads.  No long lines anywhere.  Plus we don't lose time waiting on the precious 90 year olds who are in wheelchairs... determined to make it up steep stairs of a medieval castle that aren't wheelchair accessible.  :)

So we researched the many tour groups, compared pricing, compared details, and decided on Ireland and Scotland Luxury Tour Group with Maurice Dowle.  Austen was our actual tour guide and driver.

We flew to Dublin.  Stayed at the Trinity City Hotel for 2 nights and toured Guiness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and Trinity College and Library (Book of Kells).  We ate at the Brazen Head, Arthur's Pub, O'Neill's, and a few other good ones!  I wish we had time to tour the Cemetery and Prison but we had to prioritize,  Trying not to kill ourselves and enjoy the leisure time as well.   We didn't use a guide for Dublin, and managed to walk to most places.  Got lost a few times.  Tried my first real Irish Stew = delicious!  Drank so many craft beers I had to take pics to remember them all.  Had my first official tea and scone.  Learned that the people there don't really eat lunch the way we do.  They eat a huge breakfast, have a snack and a drink around 3:00pm, and then eat a bigger dinner.  The sun rises a little before 5:00am and doesn't set until almost 11:00 pm.  Their days don't get started until 9 or 10am.  Most places don't open till 10am and then close.  Then reopen around 6pm for dinner.  We had a hard time finding lunches, so I was extremely glad I packed protein snack bars and meal replacement shakes for the car.  By the way, their "scone" is a fancy word for a b.i.s.c.u.i.t.  Except they put a ton of butter, cream/or clotted cream, and jam/jelly on it.  No matter which way you spin it... it was still a big biscuit for this southern girl.  I wanted the "real deal"  so went with the plain, but apparently you can get them cream filled or with fruit and raisins.  They also put milk in their HOT tea.  No such thing as cold tea or sweet tea.  It was all good though!  No complaints at all!

On Day 3, we met our driver/guide, Austen!  We felt very comfortable with him and he's hilarious!  Easy to understand and told us alot of the history everywhere we went!  He drove us through Kilkenny and then to the Rock of Cashel.  You can Google the details of these places, but its a medieval church.  This was our first day of "light rain".  The meteorologists aren't lying when they tell you to be prepared for all 4 seasons in 1 day there.  Yes, we experienced all 4 seasons and then some every single day.  So even though I felt ridiculous wearing my rain boots with certain outfits, it never failed I was thankful for them later in the day.

Sheen Falls Lodge was absolutely our favorite place to stay.  It is amazing.  I loved the small area of Kenmare and then we toured the Ring of Beara (which is basically a very long and winding road that makes a circle around the peninsula).  Perhaps if we had another day, we could have toured the Dingle Peninsula as well.  I really fell in love with this area.

On Day 5, we traveled to the Cliffs of Moher!  Wow.  Just breathtaking views.  Its as terrifying as it is beautiful!  You will definitely be standing on the edge of earth!  Just amazing.  I found it cool, yet strange, there aren't many walls there!  You walk at your own risk!!! And being someone afraid of heights, that's scary! It had also rained that morning (big surprise) so it was wet, slippery, and muddy along the walking paths!  I really found it odd that SO many people allowed their young children to go with them.  I would have had mine strapped to my back or handcuffed to my wrist!  This was one day I was so thankful we did NOT have our kids with us.   The Cliffs were on my bucket list, however, and it was thrilling!

the paths on the edge. I found it odd there was a fence to keep us from walking into the cow pasture, but oh well if you fall off the other side!  I slipped going down this part and my legs were shaking the rest of the time!  I also found it funny that there are stone "stairs" on the left side of this picture... but you see how many people choose the muddy side. #itookthestairs

We then traveled through the Burren Region, around Galway, to Ballynahinch Castle (the na is silent, so pronounced "bally-hinch").  We walked the grounds there which are beautiful fishing areas and paths.  I couldn't get far enough away to take a picture of Ballynahinch but if you go to their website you can see it.  Its really cool place near Roundstone (my favorite craft beer that isn't actually made there, but in Dublin of all places).  We visited the stunning Kylemore Abbey and Aughnanure Castle.  I'll have to let the pictures do the talking.  Those are definitely worth the long car rides.  Kylemore Abbey reminded me a bit of Biltmore Estate in North Carolina -- but even more so.  There is good story that goes with Kylemore also, but I will not spoil it for you.

Kylemore Abbey (under renovation)

just one part of Kylemore's magnificent gardens

Kyle more Abbey's cathedral/monument  in memory of Mrs. Henry
On Day 8, we went to Northern Ireland!  Yes, it is its own country with different currency than the Republic of Ireland!  We were technically in the U.K. now.  We visited Dunluce Castle and Giants Causeway - which is just one of God's many wonders in this world.  We really wanted to do the Rope Bridge but it was raining and very windy.  We were told it was closed, but did see a few people walking across it.  We also heard rumors of kids that recently cut it.... I'll go with the safer side and just look at it instead of walking across it.

We toured Belfast and stayed in the Fitzwilliam Hotel.  Belfast gets a bad rap because of their troubles, but we felt safe everywhere we went with Austen.  Luckily, Austen is from Belfast so he knew his way around very well.  Showed us where C.S.Lewis was born and the areas he grew up in.

Matt's birthday fell on that day.  We ate at the Dirty Duck in Holywood.   A local pub Irish singer sang Happy Birthday to him the night before -- that was pretty cool.  Toured Portrush and Holywood.  When you know someone that knows someone... you even get to see Rory McIlroy's personal trophy case at the Holywood Golf Club... and hold the heaviest and biggest trophies I've ever seen!  Very cool day.  Happy 40th Birthday, Matt!

On Day 9, we took a ferry to Scotland!  When I say ferry -- it was more like first class on an airplane and then some!  You drive your car onto the boat, walk to your assigned floor, eat, watch tv, stretch out on fur lined chairs.... it was the nicest boat I've ever been on! Then get back in your car and drive off!  Glad Austen knew what he was doing ;)

Spent most of that day driving and watching the scenery.  Beautiful area.  Drove through Glasgow. Finally made it to Stirling Castle further north.  Stayed at The Cameron House.  Found the Scottish accents a bit harder to understand.

Cameron House Hotel 

Drove through the Highlands and Glencoe.  Stopped in Fort William to walk around and eat.  Then on to Inverness.  Very long drive, but beautiful!  We stayed at the Culloden House in Inverness for 2 nights.  SO much history there!  Battle of Culloden, Jacobites, and Bonnie Prince Charlie! oh my!My favorite part was the "call for dinner" with the bag pipes around 6:00pm each evening.

Culloden House.  Culloden, Scotland
We took a boat ride on Loch Ness to visit Urquhart Castle!  This was one of my favorite days!  The lake is very interesting in itself and the castle was neat too!  I loved learning about everything there!
On the Jacobite Cruise Line
I thought this was neat.  The "darker water" you see in the middle, is actually the deepest part of Loch Ness that they think is deeper than the ocean in that particular area!  Perhaps that is where Nessie hides??  lol ;)

On Day 12, we drove through the Cairngorm Mountains to Edinburgh for 2 nights.  Austen left us at "The George" Hotel aka the Principal in Edinburgh.  We spent the last day and a half touring Edinburgh on our own.  AND. IT.  RAINED.  and by rain, I mean, it rains sideways.  from the ground up.  hard.  thunderstorms.  But when you only have 1 day to tour Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Royal Mile.... you do it anyway!  Austen told us everyday "if you let the rain stop you here, you'd never do anything!"  So I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked but at least we were inside for parts of the day.  If the Queen of England is in her "summer home", it is not open to tourists.  Thank goodness she had not arrived yet, because we really enjoyed touring it!  It was worth walking in all that rain!

Then we flew home from Edinburgh via Amsterdam to Atlanta.  Missed our shuttle and had to wait an hour for the next shuttle bus to Chattanooga (2 hour drive).  Then my Dad drove us the 1 hour to Athens, Tennessee so we could pick up our 4 kids.  By that point we had been up over 24 hours.  Got up the next morning, and drove 8 hours home.  Came home to 2 out of our 3 air conditioners broken and a sink that flooded somehow.  And 4 kids who think everything is better at their Gigi's.   Welcome home!

There are about 1,000 more pictures I could post, and I probably forgot some here...but you get the idea.  We had a blast!  Learned a ton!  Enjoyed every minute and then missed our kids too!  Thank you to Maurice "Mo" and Austen for showing us the way!  We want to go back to some of our favorite places and the places we had to skip.  Nessie is just waiting to be found!  ;)

Together is the best place to be.  Happy 40th, Matt and Cheers to 13 years married to me!

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