Monday, December 30, 2013

Stroke of Midnight

 "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever." Alfred Lord Tennyson

   I came across this quote as I was looking for a midnight pic to post in this New Year's Eve post, and thought it was so beautiful. I have always loved New Year's Eve. Certainly the idea of it. It is romantic, fun, and hopeful.  And, equally as important, it's an excellent excuse to wear a party dress and some sequins! ;) Now I'll be the first to admit- I am a bit of a Mamaw, and have fallen asleep before the stroke of midnight more than once. But not this year! I have already vowed it to myself. We will be ringing in the New Year in Oxford with our little fam and some sweet friends. With a toddler apiece for our families, it won't necessarily be glamorous--but I am really looking forward to it! 

I love the tradition of the midnight kiss to usher in the new year. There are countless movies that have commemorated and celebrated it. When Harry Met Sally may be my favorite:



  It is a symbol of hope and love and happiness for the days to come. I love the way this holiday is celebrated in our country--with family and friends gathering together in merriment, with gratitude for the past year's blessings and excitement for those in the future. 

I hope you are with the one you love this New Year's Eve night. If so, make sure to kiss them at midnight--and kiss them good! If not, whisper their name in the hopes that they are whispering yours too. And, if you are feeling lonely this year, for whatever reason-- remember that there is One who loves you, and pursues you, more infinitely, passionately, and completely than anyone on earth ever could. 

Happy New Year, y'all! Here's to 2014! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday, Sunday

 Today was a laid back day. Our church had a combined, single service this morning with no other activities, so we got up a little later than usual for a Sunday. Here were my boys this morning before church.

(Only in Mississippi can one wear a camo jacket to church and it be completely acceptable.)

 We had lunch with our sweet friends Carrie and Joel. They are sans kids this week, so T.Mark got lots of love from everyone! He was sorely disappointed that their little girl, Kaelyn, wasn't there. They are big buds! Perhaps a future romance? 

 We ate at Keifers, our favorite Greek restaurant in town. I got the falafel, which I sometimes hesitate to get in the U.S.--after having it in Israel a couple of years ago, it's just not quite the same here! But Keifers did not disappoint. 

After lunch Taylor headed back to the woods and I headed back to church. This afternoon was take-down day for the Christmas decorations. No simple task, as you can see! 

 What goes up must come down. 

I may never get all the glitter off my clothes after today! I was so impressed with how many volunteers worked so tirelessly to get all this done today. All ages and abilities. It took each one helping to make it happen. I have been a part of the setup in years past, but not the take-down, so this was a new experience for me. 

  Then we got to go visit sweet Gran, who is doing great with her knee rehab. We love you, Gran! 

 The beautiful sunset from tonight. Another red and gray one. 

Hope you had a great Sunday! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Low-Key Weekend

  It has been a pretty calm weekend so far for us. As many girls down south will understand, I have been a hunting widow this weekend. The weather has been cold and the deer are moving, so Taylor has been in the woods a good bit, and T.Mark and I have been having some quality mama/son time. He is a precious child, and I love our time together--even when he drives me crazy! His newest thing is that he never wants me to sit down. If I sit, he shoves his fingers under the edge of my bottom and says "Out! Out! Gill up!" (ie, get up!) Good heavens. He is a ball of energy! 

Last night Mom and Dad kept him for me for a little while so I could go by my friend Wade's parents' house. She and her husband Alston were in town for Christmas. They have been living in Asheville for the last year or so, so I do not get to see her sweet face near as much as I'd like! 

Me, Wade, and CG: 

  I am so excited because these girls plus several others--a group of our college friends--are getting together for a reunion in a few weeks! We've made it a priority each year since we graduated to do that, and it is such a wonderful time. I look forward to it so much. I think most girls, myself included, really need that kind of girl time on a regular basis! We usually stay in pjs too long, stay up too late, laugh too loud, eat too many sweets, and just enjoy those in-depth, soul-nourishing conversations until the wee hours of the morning. It is wonderful, and a great way to start off the New Year. I can't wait! 

Just as a little aside--my house is no longer my own. It has been overtaken by riding toys. And blocks. And Legos. My living room will never be the same.


Daddy surprised us by coming home a little early today! So we are looking forward to watching movies and hanging out tonight, then worship with our church family in the morning and a leisurely Sunday afternoon with family. Taylor's mom, Lisa, had a partial knee replacement yesterday, so I'm sure we will be spending some time checking on Gran!


 I am thankful for low-key weekends like this one, especially during such a busy season. I am thankful for Christmas. I am thankful for the meaning of Immanuel--God with us--that He reaches down and establishes meaningful communication with us through His presence. I feel like that has been a theme in my brain these last few weeks. I am thankful for the New Year and what it will bring. Looking forward to 2014! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

NYC Part 2

Because my house became the sick house for a few days, I never did post about the rest of our New York trip. So here is the rest of the recap.

When I told my sweet friend Brittnye that we were going to see Beyoncé in concert in Brooklyn, her response was, "Oh my gosh. What do you wear to that??! Something gold and short and sequiny?!" Ha! So Brit, just for you, here is my attire for the night. I changed out of the sequined mini at the last minute. ;)


Taylor found this yummy Italian restaurant close to our hotel. They had the best marinated olives I've ever had! It's funny how taste buds change over time. Ten years ago I wouldn't touch an olive with a ten foot pole, and now I absolutely love them. Briny, salty yumminess.

All bundled up and ready to go! 

We took the subway over to Brooklyn and it spit us out right in front of the Barclays Center, where Beyoncé was performing. The show was incredible. The special effects, lighting, and sound were all pretty mind-blowing, actually. Beyonce's voice put all that to shame though. I do not necessarily agree with everything Beyoncé does, but vocally she is a hero of mine. The girl can sing. One of my favorite parts of the show was hearing her sing happy birthday off the cuff to a girl on the front row. It was the most beautiful I have ever heard that song sung in person, by anyone. I also enjoyed seeing how genuine and kind she really seemed to be, even from afar. 

The next afternoon we went by a foodie hotspot called Eataly. It is a fresh grocer and restaurant combo that is quite titillating to the senses. Everywhere you turn there are fresh fruits, cheeses, meats, and beautifully crafted desserts. There are four restaurants and a cafe within the complex. 

After puttering around in there for a bit, we met up with a friend from college, Sam, and his wife Richa and their little girl, Nandy. We walked around the corner to a more kid friendly burger joint and grabbed some lunch. Sam is in medical residency in New York, and Richa and Nandy had just returned from a trip to India to visit family, so it was nice to catch up with them.

We strolled through the Columbus Circle market and alongside Central Park. I really loved this picture of the frozen creek:


 I can never resist taking a picture in front of the huge tree at Rockefeller Center. It is one of the main reasons I love New York at Christmastime.

Our second and last night there, we got to take our friend Ashley out to dinner at Mr. Chow, an awesome Chinese restaurant that I've heard about for quite some time now. Ashley's fiancé had already headed out of town for Christmas, but she was staying another day to finish up work. She is a teacher in the Bronx. I am so excited about their wedding coming up in May! 

And then, a fun surprise--I ran into my friend Ruth at the check-in line at La Guardia on my way out of the city! I have not gotten to catch up with Ruth in years, so this was such a wonderful treat!   She has been living in Paris, London, and now New York over the last few years. She is fluent in French, and one of the smartest girls I know. She and I, along with two other friends, shared an awesome trip to New York together several years ago, so it was quite fitting to run into her there! We got to chat for over an hour as we waited for our flights. 

We both agreed that this was not our best pic ever, but I wanted to include it anyway so I will remember! 

  All in all, it was a great trip!  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So This Is Christmas

It was an exciting morning!
After breakfast at the Sledges, and some hangout time at our house for just our little family of three, we headed over to my parents' for lunch. They failed to inform us that it was a PJ friendly affair.
I told Dad this was the most interesting ensemble I've seen in quite a while! My sister came up with an AMAZING idea though for next year: instead of our usual big lunch meal, which is very similar to how we celebrate Thanksgiving, we will do a Christmas PJs and brunch celebration instead!

I am already eagerly awaiting this. I love a good PJ day.
 
Angie and me:
Mom and Dad gave us matching infinity scarves:
And they also gave us this very special gift. Our church building had some roof damage last year, and the roof has been being replaced for the last several months. The slate roof tiles from the old roof were apparently made available to church members. Mom and Dad got some, and then had my uncle, who is an excellent welder, make these little tables for us.

It made me cry as they explained the gift! It means so much to me to have a little piece of the church house I love so much. I was baptized there, discipled there (still am), Taylor and I were married there, and it is one of the greatest joys of my life to serve in various capacities there. My baby was dedicated to the Lord there. That place is such a big part of who I am. However--the best part of all that is--it is not because of the church house or building, which I do love so much. It is because of the Church. The people. The community of believers I am so thankful to be a part of, who continually invest in me and help me and my family grow in the Lord.

 

What a precious and thoughtful gift. Thank you Mom and Dad!

 

A message from my sweet boy--Take THAT, flu:

That smile melts my heart.

 

And, just for you--the tail end of the Christmas sunrise from this morning:

Sometimes as Christmas Day comes to a close, it is easy, and quite physiologically normal, I think, to experience a little bit of a let-down kind of feeling. So much anticipation has led up to this day, and now it is over. There are 364 more days until Christmas comes again. It is easy to let difficult thoughts, stresses, and even sadness overwhelm us as we move past the Christmas season and back into the "real world." But let me offer a word of hope for you (and me). What Christmas signifies actually IS the real world. Immanuel, God with us. The world we inhabit now is the transient and temporal one, the one that will fade away. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Philippians 3:20-21.
 
So let's look forward to that, sweet friends! And remember that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, and the one after that. And the one after that. I am thankful that His mercies are new EVERY morning. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Christmas Eve Recap

It has been such a sweet Christmas. Last night we had supper with Taylor's family plus my parents. They all attended the Christmas Eve service at the Sledges' church. T.Mark and I stayed home, just to make sure he would not get exposed to anything in the nursery since we have just gotten over the flu. (Thankfully he has been fever free since Monday!! And is no longer contagious. Yay! Still getting rid of that ear and sinus infection though.) I was so sad to miss such a special service, both at our church and at theirs. But you do what you've got to do for your little ones, and happily.
Supper was the usual Sledge Christmas Eve tradition: gumbo with greens. Yum!
I am very concerned that my child does not receive enough attention from his grandparents:

Good grief.
Pop, Gran, T.Mark, Mimi, and Doc:

 

My sweet little fam:
T.Mark and Mama:
Taylor, me, Caroline, and Travis. So glad I have such a sweet and fun brother and sis in law!
Most of the present-opening happens on Christmas Eve at the Sledges' house. Travis got a little overwhelmed.
Contrary to what may appear, we did NOT give him a giant curling iron.

It is a lighter that is specially made for the Big Green Egg cooker he has. However, if you need some SERIOUS hair bounce, this thing might could do in a pinch.

One more very interesting happening of the night: as we were finishing up dinner, and getting T.Mark ready for his bath, we heard bells outside. We looked out the front door, and apparently Santa had decided to stop by! He came in, saying ho-ho-ho and Merry Christmas, stayed for a minute to take a pic or two with T.Mark, and then handed us a giant stocking full of small toys like play-doh, balls, a tiny airplane, and others. This all happened extremely fast, and he left right after he handed us the stocking. Everyone looked around, assuming that the others had orchestrated it. But none of us had. We still have no idea how it happened or where he came from.

So there's a little Christmas magic for you!

 

 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quarantined

  There are those decisions you make as a parent that you sometimes regret, that you second guess. That make you feel incompetent. Like a failure. The night before we left for New York, T.Mark had a low grade fever. I gave him some Motrin and didn't think too much of it. He had been congested, and I thought it was probably due to that. My in-laws were going to be keeping him for us the next day, and they assured me they felt fine about keeping him and that it was probably nothing.

    So we went on the trip. He was with my in-laws the first day, and my parents the second. (It takes a village!) I had no worries because I knew he was in great hands. But he continued to have fever. Still a happy-go-lucky little guy and acting fine, but not quite himself. I decided to cut my trip a little short, changing my flights and coming home instead of going over to Houston on Saturday with Taylor for a wedding. I am so glad I did. It was a rough night, and all day Sunday was rough too. Poor baby just lay in the bed crying and hugging mama and sleeping off and on. We finally got in with the after hours clinic, thanks to our wonderful pediatrician, and got a diagnosis of flu and an ear infection. 

Ouch. First of all for my precious boy-- but also, the sting of this question: am I a bad mother? The guilt of going on this trip was a little overwhelming right when I heard this. I mean, no, I could not have prevented any of it if I were here, but I might could have realized a little earlier what was going on. Plus now I have exposed basically the whole family to his illness. 

I realize that in the grand scheme of life this will not be a big deal. But as a parent sometimes little decisions like this can haunt you. And I know that as life goes on, and as kids grow, the stakes get higher, and the decisions become more complex. 

We will be laying low today and trying to get better. Lots of snuggles with mama. Which brings up another issue for mothers--both whose who work outside the home and stay-at-home-moms--feeling torn. For example, I feel badly about not being here for my baby this past weekend. However, if I had stayed home, I would have felt badly about not spending time with my husband in New York. Today, I am staying home from the office on our only full workday this week because I have a sick child. It is the right thing to do. But I feel guilty about the patients who will not be able to be seen today because I am not there. 

It is tough being a girl, y'all! 

I do know these two things: 
1) I am not perfect and will never be. I am human. But I have a Savior who IS perfect, whose grace covers my imperfections, and whose birth I get to celebrate this week. We may be celebrating while quarantined, depending on how this Tamiflu works, but oh we will be celebrating. Which brings me to #2...
2) I am so thankful for modern medicine! Antivirals and antibiotics are my best friends right now. 

I know there are many others out there struggling with issues or illnesses much bigger than a bout of the flu and an ear infection. I am praying for you, this week especially. The Lord's grace and mercy is enough to cover the littlest and biggest things that happen in our lives. He is sovereign, and for that I am so thankful. I try to remind myself of it daily.

We've been better, y'all:

We've also had better hair days! ;)



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Whirlwind NYC Trip: Part 1

 Our New York trip was short and sweet, but we had a great time! It seems there is never enough time to do all the things I'd like to in New York, but we managed to hit several highlights. We have another trip here planned for the spring, so we will just have to save some things for then!

 One of my favorite little bakeries, Le Pain Quotidien, was just a couple doors down from our hotel, so we ate breakfast there on Friday morning. This bakery is a chain but does not feel like one! I think there are three locations in NYC and a few overseas.

I had the oatmeal with maple syrup. Yum.

Pretty Christmas decorations:

I did just a little shopping-not much! 

Don't worry, nothing too expensive in there--just some pretty red lipstick! I am not usually a name brand kind of girl but I do love me some Chanel lipstick. Plus I just like going in the store if I happen to be nearby--it makes me feel very feminine and girly! 
If you have never eaten a cupcake from this place, you need to do so as quickly as possible:
If a trip to the city isn't in the cards right now, Magnolia has a great cookbook that apparently gives away all their best secrets! So you can have all that yumminess in your own kitchen. 

I ran in Dylan's Candy Bar just for fun. I just love going in there! It makes me feel like, well, a kid in a candy store. 

I just realized I am seeing a bit of a pattern here...bakeries, cupcakes, and candy, oh my! Sounds like I need to take a step away from the sweets! ;)

Central Park:

I will recap the rest of our trip in another post. Right now I'm going to go take care of a sweet little man who is feeling under the weather with a bad sinus infection. We are staying home from church this morning in hopes that he will get well quickly. I hate missing church but I am so thankful for technology! So here's my gratitude list for today: live streaming so we can still be with our church family in worship this morning. Safe travels home. Conversations with cherished friends. A sweet little hand on my cheek last night, because someone needed his mama a little more than usual. 

 I am so looking forward to celebrating Christmas. I hope you are too! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Party Girl

  I mentioned that we had a couple of Christmas parties this week. Tuesday night was our supper club party, and we had a GREAT time. When we get together with this crew, we all end up laughing so hard at some point that we just about wet our pants. Every. Time. 
   
This year we were missing three couples due to other obligations they had, so it was a little smaller group than normal. Finchers, Aikens, and Nicholases, we missed you! 
  
 Here is a pic of Taylor and me from that night:

 Also of note: every year, this party has been a tacky Christmas party. Every year. However...apparently I missed the memo that we were foregoing the tacky part this year. Oopsies. So Taylor and I were rocking the tacky look all by our lonesome. I don't think Taylor will let me forget that one for a while!  Thankfully all these friends love us anyway and didn't think twice about it! 
  
  Love these two!  

Stephanie and me:

 The sweet hostess and me. Excuse the funky lighting. Phone pic. 
 
  The supper club Dirty Santa ended up being uncharacteristically tame, probably because of the small size of the group. No one even stole any gifts! A miracle for this crew.

 The next night was our Sunday School party. Any tameness from the night before was totally rectified on this night. There was all kind of ornament stealing, and sweet Brittnye even got so desperate as to almost sing to be able to keep her ornament:
 
Here is a pic of our table. This isn't everyone but it's a good representation! 

A couple more pics:

After Dirty Santa we skyped in our precious friends, Travis and Alison, who now live in Chicago. Travis has always been the rule-keeper for the game and we had some questions for him. I think it is safe to say that we all feel that they are just as much a part of our class as ever! They just happen to be living in a different town. 

  It has been a busy week. One more thing I'd like to mention--after Carols by Candlelight last weekend, it seems that everyone in our choir has come down with some kind of illness. Several missed our Sunday school party because of the flu, I've got sinus yuck going on, and many others have the same or something else like upper respiratory infection or bronchitis.  I think around 50 people or more are sick, and it all happened immediately after Carols. Our choir's motto has always been "we are family"...as one person said, no one can accuse us of not sharing!  I have decided that the Lord kept it at bay for most of us over the weekend so we could get through Carols. Somebody said we should name this strain of flu CBC2013. Ha!