Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankfulness

Here I sit knowing I still have several days of Disney overviews hanging over my head to write. Honestly, they take a lot of work because my OCD and ADD mix together too strongly when I am writing these trip reports. The ADD side of me wants to start writing about one day and then jump to another. The OCD side wants to make sure that every detail in every post is perfect. This whole mess takes about a week to make a clear blog post that everyone else in the blogging world could do in about 2 minutes. J tells me I'm just ODD (OCD and ADD put together). I just reply with "well, it always gets done and when it's done, it's perfect!" He gets a big kick out of my antics I'm sure.

Since I am adding lazyness into the OCD and ADD, I really didn't feel like working on another Disney post so I thought, "hmm, what should I blog post about" and like the other millions of bloggers, I immediately thought "Thankfulness"

So, if your blog surfing tonight, I'm sorry in advance that mine will be yet another "what I'm Thankful for this year" blog. Of course, mine are never really cheesy and you might find that you actually enjoy reading about Brea's thankfulness. So, my faithful readers of this blog, I give you Brea's Top 10 Things She's Been Thankful For in 2009.

Brea's Top 10 Things She's Been Thankful For in 2009
1. People that invented sleeping pills (like prescription strength-those silly over the counter things don't work for me): Although I have done many unfortunate things after taking the sleeping pill (including cutting off all my fingernails, calling my mother in which I remember none of the conversation, etc.)I would like to say I have slept like a baby the last two weeks. Whilst during that sleep, I have also had some pretty amazing dreams that have given me some good laughs this week. So the number one spot goes to the makers of those pills, because without them, I was pretty sure I was headed to the loony bin by my lack of sleep.

2. Encores and More North Children's Consingment Sale: Although there are many times when I want to run screaming from that place, I finally realized this year that God truly did call me into this line of business and not because he wanted to bless me financially, he wanted me to SEE HIM bless others through something that he created. The amount of cards and notes I received from families thanking us for providing a place to not only create income by selling old goods, but also by being able to purchase new stuff at great prices was simply overwhelming. I am thankful for each and every person that walks through our doors whether a consignor, worker, shopper, cleaner, cook, etc. Any person that contributes anything to the sale, please know we couldn't do it without you and Brea is thankful for you!

3. My husband's new job at Smith Travel Research. Probably doesn't seem like something that should rank on the top 10, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE that my husband now works 15 minutes away and doesn't have to fight that God awful traffic going back and forth to Brentwood anymore. We had taken for granted the simple things like him being able to come home and have lunch with the kids. How cool is that? So thank you to STR for being a stable, debt free company that takes great care of your employees and their families. Without you, we would have two less hours of daddy at home a day.

4. My mom and dad taking us to Disney last month. They probably didn't know how badly our family needed a break and for them to pay for the trip really was like a breath of fresh air. The family time spent together was fabulous. Being de-stressed enough to really get to watch the excitement in my kids faces-that's what vacation is all about. It was a wonderful time and we truly needed some time away.

5. V and T: Josh and Mary Elizabeth's moms. Right now, I have no clue where either of them are. I hope they are doing well. I am so thankful for them because they continue to challenge me to be a better mother (and I bet they don't even know that). They gave us children that I feel based on what I know, that they themselves could have parented quite wonderfully. What an honor to know that someone has picked me to raise her child. I hope I make them both proud. I hope they know how much I love them both and I do....I love my children and I love their other moms. My prayer is that someday we are sitting around a big table all loving on one another. I believe God could do that.

6. Saint Barbara. For those of you that don't know, Saint Barbara is held in the same high esteem as Saint Cindy (our house cleaner) My mother in law literally is a saint. When she told me one time that she felt she was put on this earth to be a grandmother, well, let's just say I believe her. She LOVES her grandchildren and is helpful to me. Constantly supporting me and my favorite is when she calls out of the blue and says "so, when can I have them" I never feel like I am wearing her out with requests for childcare because I know we have such a great relationship that she would just say, "can't do it then" and it's no big deal. The kids love going to visit and I literally never worry when they are in her care. She was definitely put on this earth to be a Saintly Grandmother.

7. Anna. She's a very bright girl who is radiating hormones from her body. She changes outfits 15 times a day trying to figure out which bra doesn't show, if her hair looks best with a bow, wanting to use the phone and singing to every song that plays on the radio while J and I look at each other and say "what is this song?" Frightening, I know. She's also a wonderful Christian young woman who has seemingly surrounded herself with good Christian young women. My prayers for years is that Anna would be surrounded with Godly friends that she can go to church and school with. ANSWERED PRAYER! I'm excited about watching her friends grow up now because I know chances are they are going to be sticking around more and more ofteh. Anna's a great gift to us, always amazing us with her beauty inside and out.

8. Craigslist. No, I'm not joking. I am thankful for Craigslist. I no longer get THE eye roll from J when I come home from weekend yard sales with the truck loaded full because he knows that most of it is going on craigslist and there's a pretty good bet that I'll make money on the stuff. I am even more thankful that Craigslist charges me nothing (right now) to sell or buy stuff. When you've bought two cars, most of your furniture, home decor, etc. off craigslists, who couldn't be thankful!

9. Jonathan. He's a rockstar. Seriously, what guy do you know that comes home from work and actually wants to play with his FIVE kids. He does all the laundry in this house and he is even a pretty dang good cook. He is so freakishly smart computer wise and you would be blown away if I listed all the work he has done for FREE for non profit organizations. It was eye opening to me to be at a recent conference where the speaker got choked up when presenting Jonathan because of all the work he had done for them for FREE and how much it had impacted the non profit. On top of that, he does his normal 8-5 job, works extra hours for his old boss, AND maintains everything on Encores and More North website including the fact that he built the tagging system. His strength amazes me and I love him more than the day I married him.

10. The little stuff. Like having warm socks fresh out of the dryer when my feet are cold. That they make meds for migraine headaches that make them go away (sometimes). I am so thankful for my wonderful, small house and the fact that our family has never felt more at home and together than we have living in this house. For our yard, with all the trees and things to do. I spent hours each day as a kid exploring and I love seeing my kids do the same. Being able to go to a doctor the same day I start having symptoms and getting treatment that day. Clipping coupons and using them and then using the money I saved to support 6 kids monthly in Ethiopia (no, we aren't adopting them) I was thankful yesterday when I sold my Bumbo off craigslist and when the lady came to pick it up, I got misty. I got misty because it's the last Bumbo we'll have in this house which signifies the end of the "baby" era. I am so thankful I got to experience that era...so many of my friends are currently searching out options because their bodies can't make babies. I am thankful I'm alive and I get to see this life HE has laid out for me. I get to see all the bad choices I made (which were devastating at the time) be turned into some of the most beautiful moments of my life. I have gotten to check so many things off my bucket list which is also something I'm thankful for, because that shows me that I am out there LIVING and not afraid to try new things and meet new people. I am thankful for the sushi guy at Publix deli who can rock out some sushi for my family in under 5 minutes flat and dinner is done! I am thankful that we have money in our checking account, central heat and air, food in our pantry, warm beds for us to crawl into soon and last but not least, that our family is ever growing and changing and I get to be here to witness it all. This time last year, Josh was a dot on a radar far, far away. Tomorrow, I will be eating turkey with my 6 month old Joshie on my lap with a tear in my eye as I remember his mom and wonder how she is spending Thanksgiving Day with her family.

So, that's it...I'm just thankful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our Family Trip to Disney World: Day 4, Magic Kingdom AGAIN!

We had decided that since we had already done a bit of Epcot, we wouldn't need a whole day at that park like we had originally planned for Friday. Instead, we decided another day at Magic Kingdom would be great, especially for the little ones. We decided to meet at 9am at the bus stop, with everyone getting breakfast on their own. I noticed on this trip that the buses seemed to be few and far between. We waited almost 30 minutes for a bus.

We arrived at Magic Kingdom and headed straight for Toontown. I took Mary Elizabeth and Anna to Minnie's house (which I don't think I had EVER been in) and then we headed on to Mickie's house.


I *think* everyone else was hanging out at the play area. After we all got back together, we decided it was time for the train. These pics were taken as we waited for the train to arrive.




We enjoyed a wonderful trip all the way over to Adventureland, where we thought we were going to ride Splash Mountain, but it wasn't running. We also thought we would attempt Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it was PACKED so we decided to head over to Pirates. Everyone loved Pirates and when we got done, we were definitely pretty hungry. We had a quick service meal planned for lunch so we pulled out the map and decided on Pinocchio Village Haus, which is right near the carousel and Dumbo. As we got near the restaurant, we saw Peter Pan so the girls got their pic made with him. We got our lunch and found a beautiful spot on the upstairs outdoor patio. We were the only ones up there and really enjoyed our awesome view.

NEXT POST: More of Day 4

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mary Elizabeth's Hair

In case any of you are wondering how much Mary Elizabeth's hair has grown since we started styling it a year ago, these pics were taken on Friday when it was time to get a new "do". Her hair has been braided with beads for Disney, so after almost four weeks it was time to take it down and get some puffs. Here's before:
Here's after her hair was taken out of braids and this pic totally cracks me up:

Here's the final "do" which I love. Can't believe how big she looks:

Our Family Trip to Disney World: Day 3, Downtown Disney at night

We had originally planned to do Downtown Disney on night four, but since we were already mixing the plan up a bit decided it was a perfect night to head to Downtown Disney after Hollywood Studios. We didn't have dining reservations for dinner, so we decided to just wing it knowing we could find something yummy.

For those of you that haven't been to Downtown Disney, it's basically a huge area filled with shopping, restaurants, etc. Many people assume Downtown Disney is another name for Main Street at Magic Kingdom, but it's actually a whole area. Some of the things we love about Downtown Disney are the MASSIVE Lego store, the MASSIVE Disney store, the MASSIVE pin trading store and the atmosphere. My boys love all the different life size displays made out of Legos.

We took the bus over and found some great photo ops.
Now, two things you might notice about this picture. First, Mary Elizabeth in her Snow White costume. Adorable, I know. I had found this at a yard sale earlier in the year and had grand visions of her wearing it at one of the parks, but then reality set in and I realized it would probably be uncomfortable, not to mention hot. I decided Downtown Disney was the perfect place for her to wear it and sure enough, many people commented on what a precious Snow White she was. She liked twirling in it which was adorable. Second, you are probably wondering where Luke is. Well, look carefully, he is next to Tigger. This is probably an appropriate time to tell you that after we returned home from Disney, I noticed Luke wasn't acting "right". I took him to the doctor twice and basically told the doctor I had a "mother's instinct" that something just wasn't right. Sure enough, we found out he has had mono. Looking at these pictures, I can't help but feel like a bad mom that we drug his little mono butt all over Disney world for five days not even realizing the reason he was so pooped was because he was sick.

After the photos, we decided it was time for some serious pin trading. The cool thing about the pin shop at DTD is that outside they have little tables set up where you can trade with the general public. Our family had all split up so we took some extra time in the pin shop and then traded a bunch of pins with two different traders outside. Isaac and Luke both picked out some pins to buy and then we decided it was definitely time to find some dinner.

The kids were starting to get frustrated because they couldn't agree on where to eat. We finally settled on McDonald's. Yes, we are on vacation and my children decide their ideal meal is McDonald's. J and I decided it wasn't worth the fight so we battled the crowds and ordered Mickey D's. We proceeded to sit down and eat in the loudest, nastiest McDonald's I have ever been in and I was immediately reminded why I avoid these places like the plague. I could literally feel my hips expanding as I ate the cheeseburger. Then, one of the boys spilled a drink which resulted in total meltdown of our entire party. Mary Elizabeth screaming "MORE PLEASE!" because she is hungry and can't figure out why we are all scrambling around trying to clean up sprite, Jonathan trying to calm down the boys who are both crying because they are afraid they are in trouble, Anna trying to find napkins, and me trying to tell Mary Elizabeth to be quiet. It was the darlings doing dinner.

After the stressful dinner, we decided to walk around some more and do some window shopping and quickly decided we were exhausted and were ready for bed. We found the rest of our group and headed for the buses. We got back to the room and were all quickly asleep, excited for another day at Magic Kingdom in the morning!

NEXT: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and back on Day 4.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Our Family Trip to Disney World: Day 3, Hollywood Studios

I will admit that I woke up even more excited on Thursday than I had been the day before. You see, Hollywood Studios (AKA MGM) is my FAVORITE park. I'm not sure why other than the first two trips to Disney (that I actually remember) both involve magical memories at MGM. I will never forget my first experience on Tower of Terror or seeing that wonderful Ms. Piggy fountain by the Muppets. I LOVE THIS PARK! Here's Jonathan and I before we headed to breakfast:
I should also take a minute to give a big shout out to Aunt Ali who made us ALL matching Mickey Mouse shirts (see ours in above pic) She was so generous in doing this for all of us and I can't even begin to tell you how many compliments we got on the shirts throughout the day (even from people who WORKED at Disney) It also made it very easy to spot everyone in our big ole group.

We had decided that it would be best for everyone in our group to do breakfast on your own and meet at the bus stop at 9am to head to Hollywood Studios. We opted to do a simple breakfast using our snack credits on the dining plan. We did cereal, muffins, etc. which was fine since we had a big lunch planned.

Here's our group as we got to Hollywood Studios. Notice all the adorable Mickey shirts.

We immmediately headed towards Tower of Terror. We didn't get far though because we kept popping in and out of gift shops and that is when I found THE Princess Tiana costume. It was simply stunning and I KNEW I had to have it for Mary Elizabeth. We had the costume delivered back to the hotel as I didn't want to lug it around all day.

We got to Tower of Terror and Uncle Josh, Papa Eddie, Jonathan, me, Isaac and Luke decided we wanted to ride. I was giddy with excitement and even more excited that Uncle Josh had never rode on it before. The line wasn't long at all and before you knew it, we were heading up in the elevator. We had a blast and then headed back to meet our crew. After we met up, we decided to do Rock n Roller Coaster. This time it was me, Uncle Josh, Jonathan, Anna, Isaac and Luke. I was really excited because even though this was my third time to Disney in three years, both times before this ride had been closed. It definitely met my expectations and has definitely been moved to the top of the list of my favorite rides.

We got back to find the rest of our family cracking up. The street performers had started chatting with Papa Eddie and this lady fell in love with Papa Eddie. Here's Papa Eddie (my dad):
Here's the actress who fell in LOVE posing with Anna:
She told Papa Eddie she instantly knew he was from Tennessee because he was the only "ten I see!" The street actors and actresses are top notch at Hollywood Studios and I've decided that would be one of my dream jobs. Dressing up, taking on a different persona and talking to tourists all day (especially picking on them and cracking jokes).

We then headed over to the Playhouse Disney area and decided to see the show. It featured Little Einsteins, Pooh and Friends, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. This was probably Mary Elizabeth's favorite part of the trip. You sat criss cross applesauce on the floor and all the characters were puppets (which was just fine with Ms. I'm scared of anything full sized in a costume) and the music was loud. Lots of kids sang and danced along and Mary clapped a few times with excitement. Here's Aunt Ali and Maggie enjoying the show followed by a pic of the stage:

Now it was time to eat (again!) so we headed to our sit down meal of the day on our dining plan: italian food at Mama Melrose's. We had decided this would be our BIG meal of the day and I must say, it hit the spot. I got the tomato and mozzarella salad (aka caprese salad) and a ceasar salad. It was SUPER yummy and our service was awesome. This was one of the few sit down dining places where we didn't have to wait past our reservation, which was extra nice considering it was about 3 degrees cooler than hell outside.

After lunch, we headed to the Muppet store gift shop where the kids traded pins and we browsed around. Anna also purchased her first (and I think only) souvenir. Mom and dad decided to split off and head back to the pool. Ali, Uncle Josh, Maggie, and our entire family decided it was time for TOY STORY MANIA. Not only did we have a great time, but my boys enjoyed it so much they are now asking for this game for their Wii from Santa. From there, my family split from Ali's family and we headed to the animation place near Playhouse Disney. We waited inline, watched the awesome movie at animation at Disney, and then got a sneak peek at lots of memorabilia from The Princess and the Frog movie that is coming out December 11. As we walked out from this area, we noticed that their was an animation class and some character spots. We decided to stand in line to meet Mickey. We were a little unsure at how this would go since (as mentioned before) Mary Elizabeth was NOT A FAN of anything life sized and in costume but she did surprisingly well. Here's a few pics:


After Mickey, we decided it was time to head back. I stopped at guest services as the clerk from the store with the Tiana costume had accidentally kept my debit card (which I noticed and freaked about over lunch), so I had to go there and claim it. As we were approaching the guest services, the sky opened up and it POURED. We put on our Walmart ponchos that mom had bought for everyone before the trip, headed to guest services and hung out there for a while during the monsoon that occurred outside. The kids traded pins, we chatted with an awesome cast member named Les, and then finally decided to brave the rain and make a run for the buses. While we were waiting for the buses, Aunt Ali and her crew walked up so we were able to ride back to Coronado with them. We got back to the hotel and decided as a group we would do Downtown Disney. We decided to meet at the bus stop after everyone had time to freshen up.

UP NEXT: Downtown Disney

Friday, October 30, 2009

Our Family Trip to Disney World: Day 2, Magic Kingdom

After a very restful night's sleep at Coronado, we were up and at 'em by 7:30am. I was so excited because Jonathan was flying in later that night and we all missed him terribly! Today was Magic Kingdom and I'm not sure what I was more excited about: that feeling you get when you are standing at the beginning of Main Street with that amazing castle out in front of you OR seeing our girls in their custom Minnie outfits made by Melissa, owner of Jam Clothing Co.

We headed to the bus stop to meet the crew to head over to the Magic Kingdom. I love the look on Mary Elizabeth's face as she looks at Anna at the bus stop.

As we walked towards the Magic Kingdom, we realized we were there in time for opening or "rope drop" as they call it. The show was really neat and as security checked our bags and strollers, we were getting more and more excited about getting into the park. We stopped at guest services to get Josh's GAC card (for medical emergencies) and then we went straight to Crystal Palace for our 9:30 breakfast reservation. This pic was taken right before we headed into the nice, air conditioned restaurant for breakfast (it was HOT!)

Crystal Palace is a buffet style character dinner so on our dining plan, this counted as our one sit down meal of the day (we got one sit down, one quick service and one snack) We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of Mickey pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, blah, blah, blah. I even had a bowl of Frosted Flakes cause I'm on vacation too! Pooh and all his friends came around to greet the children, sign autographs and take pictures. Pooh was first and got a pretty warm reception from Maggie, not so much from Mary Elizabeth. She enjoyed them from a distance, but heaven forbid they got close to her. She would start screaming, "No! No!" and swatting her arms. Hence, the pics are sans Mary Elizabeth.




After breakfast, we were ready to ride some rides. We headed straight over to Dumbo and stood in line in the heat. We were all gross by the time we got up to the ride and actually got on. Keep in mind, the crowds weren't that bad, but still a 20 minute wait in hell type temps can make anyone feel gross after a while. Everyone loved Dumbo and then we headed to the carousel where we walked right on. Then it was on to It's a Small World. The kids LOVED this ride and even though that adorable little song would be like a death wish were you to get trapped on this ride, it is awesome to see all the little children chanting that adorable little song. Here's a pic of Anna and Maggie I snapped from behind on IASW:
After IASW, we headed over to the Haunted Mansion. Not everyone rode this ride and when we came out after the ride, everyone who had been waiting on us was literally melting. Mary Elizabeth literally drank two full glasses of ice water in the 20 minutes we were gone. We decided it was time to cool down and do Splash Mountain. I should mention that this is Isaac and Luke's favorite ride so it ended up being me, Isaac, Luke, Anna, Uncle Josh and Papa Eddie. As we headed to the ride's entrance, we noticed that the stand by line wait was 45 minutes. I asked Josh to show the cast member at the front of the ride the GAC since that is what they told us to do at guest services (up until this point, we just waited in line). The cast member pointed us to the fast pass line and told us to go ahead. Wait, what? We don't have a fast pass, we have a GAC. Well, I guess in Disney's eyes it's the same thing. We literally were on the ride within 10 minutes. No melting Uncle Josh. It was amazing and we felt so blessed to have that little card. Splash Mountain rocked and we met back with the rest of the crew.

At this point, it's 1pm and we were hot, hungry and tired. We decided to head back to our resort and hit the pool. Papa Eddie, Juju, Aunt Ali, Uncle Josh, Maggie and Mary Elizabeth headed back to the room for the girls to nap while I took the rest of my crew to the food court at Coronado for lunch. It was AWESOME and we enjoyed our counter service meal of the day. From there, we headed back to the room, changed into our suits and hit the AMAZING pool. This sign was on the way back to our room and my kids loved it (talked about the sharks every day)
The great thing about Coronado's pool is that they have an awesome water slide that even I enjoyed! The pool is HUGE and they even have a baby pool so there are activities for the entire family.

We headed back to the room to take showers and get freshened up and then we decided to hit Epcot. If you stay at a Disney owned resort, every day you qualify for extra magic hours at one of the parks. It just so happened that Epcot, which normally closes at 9pm, was open to midnight that specific night for extra magic hours. We headed to the park and immediately went and rode the ride in the big ball (sorry, can't remember the name). From there, we went straight to Soarin', which is one of our favorite rides. Then, we went straight to Test Track which was not working so we decided to head over to the Food and Wine Festival in the worlds part of Epcot. Wow, was it packed. We were also starving because my crew had only eaten lunch and no dinner. At this moment, I opted for the bad mom card and let my kids eat ice cream for dinner. They were so excited and I was very thankful that they stopped whining. We watched the fireworks show and then decided to head back to the hotel.

Jonathan arrived around 11pm to a room full of sleeping kids and a sleeping mommy. Isaac and Luke were so excited to see their daddy that they all decided they wanted to stay in our room so we literally had 4 kids in a queen bed. It was quite the sight. We were just thankful to have daddy there! Next post: Hollywood Studios (my favorite park!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Magic Kingdom Picture

Yes, I know I haven't done my second day at Disney yet, but I plan to work on Day 2 tomorrow. Until then, I thought I would wet your appetite with this pic that Uncle Josh took at the Magic Kingdom. Yes, he took this. Looks like a postcard huh?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our Family Trip to Disney World: Day 1, Animal Kingdom

*My last post in this series will include lots of planning resources, websites, etc. that I used to help plan our vacation* There were 11 of us on this trip: my immediate family which includes me, my husband, 11 year old daughter, 7 year old twin boys and 2 year old daughter. My sister's family which included her, her husband and their 2 year old. Last, but not least, my parents: JuJu and Papa Eddie.

Our trip to Disney World in FL started on a Tuesday morning. We had decided to fly Southwest airlines simply because we wanted a direct flight since we were flying with 2 toddlers and we didn't want to have to pay for our checked baggage since we had a total of 11 bags between the 11 of us. It just so happened that the rates for the time we wanted to go were VERY high, especially for our return flight, so I would definitely recommend you try to plan your vacation further out than we did (6 weeks) and I would set yourself up to receive dings from Southwest if your travel dates are flexible. I have heard that you can get flights pretty cheap if you just continue to watch.

Since our flight was at 8am, we got to the airport around 6:30am. Southwest in Nashville is great in that they have seperate check in lanes for families with small children, so we were able to walk right up to the counter, get our bags checked, and get through security with no issues at all. *I will also take this pause to tell you to read through all your Disney paperwork that they send you beforehand. They provide special tags for you to not only identify your luggage, but it also tells them what hotel you will be staying in* They do this so that you literally don't touch your luggage again until it arrives in your room a few hours after you land. You should keep this in mind and not pack anything you will need right away because if you plan to go straight to the parks like we did, you won't have access to your luggage before you go. Here we are on the plane:


Sorry you won't find a picture of Papa Eddie and the boys, it didn't turn out good.

The flight is pretty quick, I think about 1 1/2 hours so we really didn't have an issue with the kids getting bored. Matter of fact, Mary Elizabeth curled up in my lap and took a nap which was perfect.

We arrived at the airport and headed straight for B1 where Disney's free transportation check in is. If you have already registered for all of this in your reservations, you literally have your info book stamped and walk straight to the bus for your hotel. You load onto a nice motorcoach that takes you to your resort. This typically takes about 45 minutes but because my children were fascinated that the bus had a restroom, this kept them occupied for most of the trip. That, and the fact that they show a video about Disney on the buses.

Disney has three levels of resorts: basic, moderate and deluxe. Because our flights were more expensive than we had originally planned, we ended up staying in a moderate resort. This basically means that it has no direct access to any of the theme parks, but does have a pretty amazing pool and bus transport to the parks. We chose Coronado Springs based on a friend's recommendation and I have to tell you, it was NICE! Matter of fact, we had previously stayed at Polynesian and Beach Club, and the only thing this resort lacked was monorail access. The food court was amazing and the pool was REALLY nice. We got to the resort around 11am (remember, they are an hour ahead of Nashville) and were pleasantly surprised to hear that my room was ready. It was great to be able to go and dump our carry on bags, etc. before heading to the parks. If you plan to stay at Coronado, I would highly suggest you stay at the Cabanas. The resort is HUGE with multiple areas, but the Cabanas area not only puts you close to the bus stop, but also to a fabulous pool with an amazing waterslide, play ground, arcade and snack bar.

After we dropped our items off, we immediately headed for the bus stop. Here's a pic of everyone (minus Mary and I) at the bus stop waiting for our bus to Animal Kingdom:


We immediately headed to Animal Kingdom. This was our favorite park last time so we decided to start there since we only had a few hours prior to our dinner reservation. We got there and realized it was HOT! Like 95 degrees with it feeling like over 100. Thank goodness we had checked the weather long before we came and had planned our wardrobe accordingly. I will also take a minute to tell you that my kids love pin trading, so we immediately found a cast member with a lanyard as we entered and the kids were so excited to start trading pins. Here's some pics of the kids as we entered the park:


We immediately searched out lunch, as by this point, we were all starving. We had gotten FREE dining because of the time of year we had booked and it was an incentive. Basically we received one snack, one counter service meal and one sit down dining meal per night we had a room. Disney does a great job with their maps so we were able to quickly find a counter service meal that everyone agreed on. A counter service meal allows you to pick a main course, a drink and a dessert so it's actually quite a bit of food. While we ate, the kids loved that all the animals roamed around our feet. We had ducks and various other birds that were very anxious to see if they kids would drop any food.

We then headed to Dinoland where you will find the most little kid friendly rides, although their isn't much in this particular park for small children. Pair that with the heat and our little ones were pretty miserable pretty quickly. We did ride a few rides, including Dinosaur. My parents kept the 2 little ones while the rest of us rode. It is an awesome, scary ride but my older children are thrill junkies like me so we all enjoyed it. By the time we were finished with that ride, my sister's family and JuJu and Papa Eddie were ready to head back and get checked in to their room. They took Mary Elizabeth with them but my older three and I stayed at Animal Kingdom for the parade, which we had never seen. It. was. amazing. The detail that goes into these parades is amazing and we really enjoyed it even though it was so hot. I literally took about 40 pics of this parade so here's just a sampling:



From there, we had to book it to make our dinner reservation at 5pm. We had dinner booked at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge, another resort on Disney property. We had heard about Boma from the same person who told us about Coronado so we were really excited to try the food. My older three and I were able to hop on a bus from Animal Kingdom over to the lodge, but everyone else who had gone back to the hotel quickly found out that you can't go from resort to resort via the bus system. You must take the bus to a park and then catch the other bus over to the new resort. Needless to say, we finally started dinner about 45 minutes late because of how long transportation takes. The food at Boma was WONDERFUL. It is buffet style with lots of African themed dishes, but they still had a great selection of "normal" food as my kids call it. The dessert section was wonderful.

After dinner, we headed back to Coronado Springs to take a look at the pool area and then it was time to turn in for the night. One of the great things about Coronado is that it is the only moderate resort that features two queen beds, so it was very comfortable for me and the girls to sleep peacefully. Isaac and Luke stayed in Papa Eddie and Juju's room. Mickey (aka mommy) also brought special gifts to the room for Isaac and Luke. You see, we had special outfits made for Mary Elizabeth, Maggie and Anna that had Minnie Mouse on them (THANKS Melissa!) so Mickey felt bad for the boys and bought them Wall-E shirts. It's little things like that help spread the Disney magic, so I always try to plan souvenirs long before we go because it saves us so much money and my kids never beg to buy anything while in the parks.

That's it for our first day, next post will be on Day 2: Magic Kingdom!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Family Trip To Disney World

I know I've been bad at blogging lately, but between fall break, our family trip to Disney, coming home to sick kids and a zillion other things, it honestly hasn't been a top priority. I decided today that it's time to catch up the blog and the best way to do that is to tell you about our trip to Disney World 10/13-10/18 in a day by day blogfest. I will be including pics, details of what we did, what we wished we could have done and what we would do different. I am doing this because I know how helpful it is to me to read others personal experiences with vacations so I'm hoping it will help out another family. Even if it kills me, I will have our first day post up tomorrow night so stay tuned!

Monday, October 12, 2009

What We Did Do When M.E. Turned Two

Mary Elizabeth turned 2 on August 7 but since we were starting consignment sale madness we decided to hold off and do her party on August 29th here at the house. We went with a Dr. Seuss theme because she loves the books and because we thought it would be cute.

Melissa from Jam Clothing Co. made her beautiful Dr. Seuss dress.
She also made a coordinating skirt for Anna and as an added surprise, an adorable THING 2 shirt for Joshua. Her eye for detail is amazing and I highly recommend any of her custom clothing!

We held the party late afternoon/early evening and decided to serve breakfast for dinner. We originally planned to have green eggs and ham, but then decided people wouldn't eat it because it looked gross so we just fixed scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits, and potato casserole. Angie V. brought cheese grits as well. Here's a pic of the spread of food:

Mary Elizabeth loves to eat...seriously, it's one of her favorite hobbies. She was so excited to eat all that yummy food sitting that she could see in front of her on the table:

After "dinner", it was time to open presents and boy, did we have a ton of them to open. This pic shows our table where we had the goodie bags on top and all the presents for Mary underneath:
Almost everyone we invited to the party got to come, so although our house was packed, it was so much fun to see all the little kids running around! Mary Elizabeth got loads of cool stuff: toys, doll accessories including a doll pack and play and a doll stroller, clothing, etc. She had so much fun ripping into presents.

Next, it was back to the kitchen for cupcakes! Mandy LeMay made these awesome cupcakes to match Mary Elizabeth's dress. Everyone raved about how great they tasted:

Last, but not least, it was time for the pinata. I actually found the pinata shaped like a number 2 at Encores North. Someone brought a brand new pinata in and had it priced for $3 so I was pumped. We brought it home, filled it up with candy, and the kids HAD A BLAST beating the fire out of it. When the candy came spilling out, all the kids kind of stood there for a minute not sure what to do. We yelled "go get the candy!!" and they were off.

I think everyone had a great time, especially Mary Elizabeth. It's hard to believe she is already two and even harder to believe how big she is now compared to how tiny she was starting out. She is such a sweet girl...her smile and personality immediately light up any room she's in. I am blessed woman to be able to be her mommy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

More Info: Beech Country Day October 3, 2009

Hot off the presses: I have the first copy of all the items to be auctioned during the LIVE auction at Beech Elementary's Country Day. For those of you that don't know, Beech calls their annual fall festival country day and it serves as the largest fundraiser for the school's PTO. Since we moved to Hendersonville, I have been so impressed with how well run country day is and if you are looking for something to do tomorrow, I would highly suggest bringing your whole family down to enjoy a fun day at our school.

Country Day runs from 9am-3pm with the live auction running from 10:30-12:30pm. During country day, you buy bracelets for your kids for $15 each and that allows them to do all the games/activities. The most any family will spend on bracelets is $45 so if you have a herd like us, don't fear, $45 is the most you will spend. Kids 3and under are free. There will also be extra paid activities like the dunking booth, a car you can smash (only in TN) and MASH. Food will be available for lunch and there will also be booths to shop at in the gym area.

Now for the best part: the auction. The thing I love about Country Day's auction is that the items that have been donated are things that you can and will actually use. I can't give you a detailed list of items, but I am excited to share with you more details of items to be sold. The best part? All the money goes to the school!

I can tell you that there are more than 60 lots being auctioned tomorrow. If you are a UT, Vandy, Predators, or Titans fan, you don't want to miss this auction. Lots of great packages that include tickets, hotel stays and other awesome gear! If you could buy a car for what you spend on your child's orthodontics, again, don't miss this auction. Awesome gift certificates donated by Dr. Doyle, Dr. Taylor, and Dr. Mary Kay Koen. One of my favorite items is a private shopping party at The Kids Clothes Basket where you and 10 of your friends get to shop with 40% discounts off your ENTIRE PURCHASE! You can even bid on a load of crusher run if you need to fill in some spots in your gravel driveway. If you are a Beech Buc, there are two baskets custom weaved by the Longaberger company in Beech colors so you can make all your friends envious while you tailgate. My other favorite item is so freaking cool: Chef Nigel Cox (former chef to Princess Diana) will customize a dinner party for 8. He will help you design your menu, shop, prepare and serve your meal. What an awesome Christmas party that would be. Don't forget we are auctioning off a BRAND NEW PT Cruiser so if you need a car, you need to come. Of course, I have to mention being the FIRST person to shop Encores North at the Spring 2010 sale. AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE!

If you have questions, leave a comment and I'll be checking my phone. I plan to update tomorrow night to let you know what some of the items go for. THANKS FOR ALL OF THOSE THAT COME OUT TO COUNTRY DAY!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Want to be the FIRST person to shop at Encores North Spring 2010 sale?

Well, let me tell you how to do it.

In case you didn't know, the ONLY people that shop before the workers are me, my mom, my sister, my mother-in-law, and my best friend Angie who works about 200 hours per sale with me. Otherwise, the first shoppers enter at 5pm on worker day. Those workers either work or barter to be able to shop at 5pm and we value their 3 shifts plus sort to be worth $200.

This Saturday, October 3, at Beech Elementary in Hendersonville there will be a live auction that is held during Country Day, our annual fall festival. At that live auction, ANYONE can bid on a certificate that will allow you to shop at 12pm on worker day which is a full FIVE HOURS of shopping with no worries of someone else getting items you want.

The auction will start at 10:30am and the certificate will only allow ONE ADULT to shop and will be sold for the highest bid. All money from the auction will go to Beech Elementary! There are also tons of other items to be auctioned including a PT CRUISER so come check it out. Tons of games for the kids, food, live and silent auctions and other activities. Come out and see us and HAPPY BIDDING! I can't wait to see who wins!

P.S. Just found out a few more things that will be auctioned: Kenny Chesney autographed guitar, Miley Cyrus autographed guitar, Taylor Swift autographed guitar, night at Vanderbilt Lowe's with Ruth Chris gift card, Titans tickets, and Predator tickets. I think I also heard they are auctioning Disney theme park tickets!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Goodness

Ok, I've got some more awesome things to share with you guys. In case you are new to this blog, from time to time I like to share some of my personal favorites. I do not get anything free for writing these reviews, quite honestly...I think most of them never even know I have eaten there, shopped there, etc.

My friend Kelly, mama to Nathan (Mary Elizabeth's future husband), is an awesome crafter and made the most adorable dress for M.E. for her birthday. She has now decided to start sewing again and is selling her items on etsy. The best part? All the money she raises from her sewing will go towards their second adoption. I'm hoping they adopt a girl so Joshua can also have an arranged marriage and heck, we could save some money and have a double wedding. A girl can dream right? Click on her name above for a link to her blog where she is also giving away an adorable dress to help bring more traffic and awareness to her site. I'm hoping I win!

Do you love cupcakes? Honestly, I'm normally not a big fan of cake period but when I heard my friends Rebecca and Elizabeth were making up some yummy cupcakes and selling them at Papaboo's in Greenbrier, well...I had to try one. Sunday we got the chance and I've been talking about that cupcake all week (lemon raspberry). It was AMAZING! These suckers are so good and so cheap ($1.50 a cupcake) that you will begin to feel your car drive itself to PapaBoo's and buy cupcakes. We are having some friends over for dinner tomorrow night, so I found myself back in Greenbrier today to get cupcakes for dessert tomorrow night. I can't wait to see all these adult faces light up when they see these masterpieces! Check out Liz and Rebecca's site HERE for a daily flavor menu and go buy you some cupcakes. Hey, you might even want some pizza while your there!

If you are in Gallatin, TN and are looking for a new place to dine, you MUST check out Granberry's on the square. This quaint little deli features hot and cold sandwiches, soups, chips, and awesome drinks (most in the old time glass bottles). Angie V. and I checked it out and both gave it a huge THUMBS UP! My favorite was their white bean soup, it was TO DIE FOR! The atmosphere is awesome, staff is super nice and laid back, and overall service was great. I love a good locally owned restaurant and I promise you will not regret a trip to Granberry's! I can't wait to go back.

Last but not least, if you find yourself in a pickle and need to sell your home OR if you know of someone who has an estate to auction, you MUST call Ray Carman at Gene Carman Realty. Although I was sick as a dog on Saturday, I wanted to spend the day with my hubby and he was already committed to working with Ray at his auction in Gallatin. I LOVE working auctions (even when I feel like crap) and it was nice to sit back and watch Ray and his family not only sell a farm and all the personal property, but I got to watch them witness to not only the family, but to every person there. Ray and his family sprinkled in so many examples of Christ's love throughout the day and I was honestly proud to be representing his team. He is thorough and works his butt off...he spent over 6 weeks alone at this farm preparing for the auction. You are going to pay commission when you buy or sell a home and I feel like Ray earns every penny.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Consignment Woes

I probably shouldn't put this out there. I've dealt with horrible migraines all week on top of some yucky sinus stuff, so I'm sure that is helping with the fact that this email I received today honestly just makes me want to rock in a corner and cry. I am putting this out there because my hope is that anyone reading this will think long and hard before you are ugly to someone who runs a business. I know I have had times where I want to rip someone a new one, but it feels differently when you are on the opposite end.

Today I received an email from someone accusing me of being dishonest, a thief, and many other things. She was upset about something that happened at the consignment sale and honestly, I was just floored at how she came at me like a bull in a china shop. She and I have been emailing back and forth over the course of this week and I could tell she was getting more and more frustrated with me because I wasn't giving her the answer she wanted. I won't go into more specifics for privacy sake, but I will say that I work my rump off to make sure that 100% of my consignors are happy and I will do anything I can (within reason) to make sure that people are satisfied with the customer service they receive and their overall perception of Encores North. The last thing I expected to be accused of was being dishonest and a thief. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Absolutely. You Betcha. BUT I am more than willing to admit our mistakes and make them right. I guess that's why this email came as such a shock especially when in this instance, we didn't make a mistake.

So, I'll leave it at that. I learned some valuable lessons today:

1. THINK and PRAY about what I type before I type it and certainly before I send it.
2. Put myself in the other person's shoes before I send something that could be read as ugly.
3. Consider that I might have made a mistake before automatically assuming that it is another person's fault.
4. Treat others the way I want to be treated. I hope I never make someone feel the way I felt while reading that email today. From now on, I hope to remember that moment when I am ready to rip someone else a new one.
5. Don't read email while I have a migraine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sarah

When we first started the process of adopting, we knew we would be open to race and some medical issues. For us, it was a non issue and although we knew it would make our family a little "different", well, let's face it....we've always been a tad on the weird side.

In true Brea fashion, I began devouring anything I could get my hands on to read about transracial adoption. I searched the internet and joined sites about adopting transracially, african american culture and traditions, etc. That's when I met Sarah. Come to find out, she lives here in Nashville and adopted a beautiful little girl Bella. She was so great to me, answering any and all questions I had about Bethany Christian Services and what it was like to be a transracial family in Nashville. Her smile is contagious and her willingness to be an open book to our family made me feel more confident about the journey we were embarking on.

After we adopted Mary Elizabeth, Bethany has a huge fundraiser each year called the new friends dinner. I was so excited to see Sarah and tell her our news and sure enough, as I walked into the hotel lobby she was the first person I saw. She was so excited for us and it was so neat to tell my "adoption mentor" our exciting news.

The reason I am typing this all out is because Sarah has breast cancer that has now spread into stage 4 cancer in her lungs. She is scared and yet her attitude through her sickness has been amazing. You can't help but listen to her and hear God speak through her. One of her latest updates on facebook said "I'm not scared of dying. I'm scared of how much of Bella's life I may miss....." She finds out this Friday, September 19 if the cancer has spread to other parts of her body including her brain and I am asking all of you that read this to lift her family up. Her husband's name is Dave and I can't imagine how hard all of this is on him as well.

So, if you don't mind, join me in praying for this beautiful family. Our God is a God that can move mountains and if he wants to heal Sarah, he can do it. Her webite is HERE and I'm sure she would love some positive encouragement there as well (you can leave messages on this board)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Weekend Getaway

Tomorrow will be a very emotional day for me. Tomorrow morning, my mom and dad are taking Joshua and I to the airport where we will board a plane for Houston. We are going to visit his birthmom and this will be the first time she has seen him since he was 4 days old.

As I type, he is WIDE awake at 10pm at night. It's like he knows he has a big day ahead tomorrow. I would by lying if I didn't admit that I am a nervous wreck. I remember she and I sitting in the hospital guessing how big he would be at this visit. We both decided he would be 13 lbs. We were both wrong. He's about 16 lbs with a head full of hair and a personality to boot! He goes from completely happy to completely insane when he gets hungry. He laughs out loud, is trying so hard to roll his big booty over, and loves his toes.

I wonder what his mom will think when she sees him. Will she regret her decision to place Joshua with us? Will she feel like she made the right decision? I personally can't wait to see her beautiful face.

Jonathan flies down tomorrow night and we will drive to Dallas where we will meet up with our friends for a leadership conference for RLC. I'm excited to see our friends Russ, Angel, Sam and Wendy and to meet all the other faces that make up the inner workings of RLC. We are there until Monday while the troops watch the rest of our children here at our home. I am so thankful to our family and our babysitters who are helping us make this trip possible.

I'm sure I'll do an update from Houston with details of our visit, but in the mean time, say a prayer for Joshua and I tomorrow during our travels and our visit. I'm sure it will be an emotional day for all!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Me?

The consignment sale is officially over, checks have been mailed and Jonathan is doing the final walk through with the leasing company as I type. I'm exhausted. I'm drained. I'm over emotional. I'm thankful to be home with my kids, even though they are already trying my patience :)

I've struggled the last 5 years through the 10, yes 10, consignment sales we have had. We started in March of 2005 simply because God wouldn't leave me alone about starting a consignment sale on the North side of Nashville that offered a clean, heated/cooled environment where the workers were friendly and honest. I wondered if it would be a complete waste of time and a waste of our money as, trust me, starting a consignment sale is not cheap.

Our first sale was held in an empty Family Dollar store in Greenbrier, TN. I am very familiar with this area as this is where I was raised, but most of TN is not that familiar with the location of this first sale. I'd have to pull my paperwork, but I think we had about 45 consignors, less than 10 workers, and lots of sleepless nights. We didn't make a dime, but we did pay ourselves back and I don't think we lost much. There were many times during that first sale where I would ask God, "why me? why did you want ME to do this?" You see, I had a 5 year old and 2 year old twins. I didn't have time to do this, we certainly didn't have the money, and when it's comes to patience, well I'm definitely not the poster child.

It went well enough that we decided to try our hand at the sale again, but this time we moved to a new area, Rivergate, and leased a space next to Chuck E. Cheese. Boy did we grow. The walk in traffic was amazing and we found ourselves selling out of items instantly. Again, we didn't make anything, but we were able to break even and we had a lot of people say how thankful they were to have something like this on our side of town. Most importantly, we were able to donate money and items. We found out about a family who had lost everything and were able to tell them to come shop for free (with us paying for it). We donated all the items at the end of the sale to local charities with an emphasis on charities in dire need of items. We wanted places that would give needy families items, not charge them outrageous amounts for items that we had just given them. We felt God telling us to direct our giving to crisis pregnancy centers, local good samaritan centers and schools. For the first time, I began to see this small seed growing into something bigger and blessing people far beyond what my two hands could reach. In happiness and awe, I asked God "why me?"

I have continued to ask that question to God multiple times over the last four years. Times when consignors were upset with me because we made mistakes and I would cry out "WHY ME?" Times when consignors were upset with me for no fault of our own and again I would say "WHY ME?" Times when a family that Encores North helped came back to us and said "your donation changed our life" and with tears of joy I asked God "why me?"

It was this sale that I got some answers in a way I didn't expect.

I can tell you that this sale was by far the most challenging sale we have had to date. Not only did we grow by over 100 consignors, but our traffic from those shopping the sale was insane. We were never slow, many times I was so exhausted I physically ached and at one point a few days in, I was convinced that if you cut me, I would physically bleed money. You see, my mission for the sale had not changed, but finding a way to accomplish that mission had. I tried to maintain composure as I had various issues pop up along the way. On top of that, I missed my children more than ever, especially knowing my oldest was starting middle school and my youngest daughter would turn 2 during the sale and my sweet baby, Joshua, was only 3 months old and didn't realize why mommy was gone during the sale. All of these together left me again asking God, "why me?" I just want to be at home with my kids, I just want a normal life where I get to sleep a few hours a night, I just want my household back to normal.

And this is what he showed me.

God knew there would be a need for this sale long before I answered the call. He knew that a small little sale that started in a small little town would one day meet the needs of those that were homeless, out of a job, orphans in Ethiopia, and the family nearby who just wanted to save a few bucks on their kid's stroller. He knew that the Brea who started the sale with little money, patience and time would be molded into the Brea who still has little money (hey, we have five kids), lots of learned patience, and that I would learn this reality: Our world is lost. People need God. They need hope, they need fellowship and they need love. I hope our sale provides some of that for those people. I hope people who visit Encores North will find a sea of smiling faces and realize that something is a little different about our crew. Not because our space is clean and big. Not because we have a ton of consignors, but because we truly want to fill a void.

Yes, our sale has issues. We are not perfect and I feel like every sale is another chance for us to get constructive criticism and fix things for the next sale. I am always learning and Lord knows I make enough mistakes to write a book. BUT my mission and my heart remain the same.

So, that's my answer. That's why me. Yes, there are days (like yesterday) that I wished I had never even answered that call, but I also know that is Satan attacking the fire out of me. I am so glad to be back home in my "normal" life and a huge thanks to all the workers, consignors, and shoppers that made our 10th sale our best yet!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Two years ago today, we had been officially home study approved and waiting for 10 days. I was already growing impatient and wondering what in the world God had planned for our family.

4 hours away at midnight, Mary Elizabeth's mom was rushed into the hospital with placenta previa and in full labor. She was only 26 weeks pregnant and within 5 minutes, sweet Mary Elizabeth was born. She weighed only 1 lb. 4 oz. but was able to breath on her own until they got her to a hospital with a NICU. Amazing huh?



Fast forward two months later, to the day I got THE call. "Brea, there's a little girl in a NICU that needs a home" I heard my social worker say. As she listed the mountain of special needs this baby girl would have, I already knew she was our daughter even though I wasn't sure we could handle a child that would bring so many health issues to our family. I'll never forget calling Jonathan and telling him about her, knowing he wouldn't be open to it, but praying God would change his heart. Most importantly, I prayed that God would allow me to be submissive and not be mad at my husband when he said no. Sure enough, God did change his heart and on October 13 we brought our sweet Mary Elizabeth home. She weighed 4 lbs. 10 oz at 2 1/2 months old.

As I sit here today, I can't help but testify to the miracle that has been performed in her little body. Mary Elizabeth had a very severe brain bleed as a baby (very common in micro-preemies). The bleed caused fluid to build up in her brain and they had to do surgery to put in a shunt to drain the fluid. She will have that shunt the rest of her life. Because of the area where the bleed occurred, doctors assured us that M.E. would have have cerebral palsy. She also had a scar in her eye and doctors told us she was blind in that eye. She was at risk for infections and was exposed to many horrible things the first two months of her life in that NICU. Today I am proud to say that if M.E. has CP, it is a VERY MILD case only on her left side. She walks, talks, runs, jumps, dances and loves on her siblings. She is NOT blind in her eye...the scar moved as she grew and although she will probably need glasses at some point, she sees 20/20 right now. We've had one scare with a bug bite about a year ago, but other than that our baby girl is as healthy as a horse. Doctors are amazed that a baby born so early is so perfect in every way.

Her personality is contagious. She loves to tell everyone HI! that she comes into contact with. Her favorite activity is eating and although she is petite (22 lbs., 31 inches) she eats my other children under the table. She gets so excited at meal times that she claps her hands and yells "THANK YOU!" as you bring the food towards her in her high chair. She has the most amazing eyes, eyelashes and smile. Her best friend is her thumb and her blankee. When you ask her how old she is, she proudly says TWO but when I hold up two fingers, she believes that a sign that I want a high five and slaps my hand while saying "OH YEAH!"

If you can't tell, I love this little girl to pieces. She has changed me. She allowed me to let go and truly trust in God. I've watched Mary Elizabeth break down racial barriers, jump through physical hoops, and melt people's hearts. I am a better person because I am her mother.

Happy Birthday Mare Bear!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Clothes for me!!

With all the fuss over the kids' clothing, sometimes I forget about myself. I have found that with 5 children, it is very difficult to shop and spend quality time really putting together outfits. That's why I am so excited about this!

Save the Date!

CAbi Fall '09 Fashion Presentation

Join us at the Encores and More North Consignment Sale site to view the collection of nationally recognized fashion designer, Carol Anderson. You will love the 82 great casual and dress options offered this Fall! We have 7 jeans, 3 belts, 3 scarfs and even a beanie for those of you who love accessories!

Tuesday, August 11th, 6:30pm

Bring a friend and come let Tracy (the consultant) show you how to create the perfect wardrobe for you!! Visit HERE to view the full Fall line before the Trunk Show.

Let me know if you plan to come and again, remember to take some time out to shop for yourself during this crazy back to school season!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Church Camp


Isaac and Luke returned from their first church camp today. They left on Monday and while they were gone, I prayed for their hearts to be changed. I won't lie, I was a little nervous about them being away from home for two nights because they both like to have sweet little night terrors and they both LOVE to sleep walk. Good times at my house. I knew they would be ok though and I just prayed that when it came time for decisions, that their little hearts would stir.

I was so anxious as I picked them up today. I couldn't wait to ask all about camp, but I immediately noticed that they were exhausted so I certainly didn't want to press them too hard. As they climbed in the Burb and we drove off, I slowly began asking "So guys, did you love camp?" Yes. "Did you have a good time?" Yes. "Are you tired?" NO!!! (ok, sorry I asked). I waited a few minutes before I said, "So did you guys learn about Jesus and asking him into your heart?" to which they replied, "Yep, and we also learned how to play tug of war at the mud pit" Great. I waited another few minutes and then said, "So when they had service last night, did you guys think about asking Jesus into your heart?" They paused and then said, "Nope, the line was too long." Well, there you go.

So, tomorrow night, Jonathan and I will again begin the process of explaining salvation to these two guys, but I knew you guys would get a kick out of their responses. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to see a long line again without thinking of them at church camp.

Shopping Review: Pottery Barn Furniture Outlet Memphis, TN

I got the chance to go to Memphis with my dear friend, Candy, last weekend. It was our second trip and we've decided to make it an annual thing for our birthdays (once in Oct/Nov for hers and once in June/July for mine). Our original reason for REALLY wanting to go last October was to hit the Pottery Barn outlet in Memphis. Since this was our second visit in a year, I thought it might be helpful to others to tell about our experience.

When we went in October 2008, we drove down on Sunday arriving at PB about two hours before they closed. We found a few things, but decided to head back on Monday morning when they opened. We hit the JACKPOT on Monday morning and some of the highlights were white armchairs for your desk that retailed for $379. We got them for $59.97! I also found the NFL quilt that is currently being sold in the Pottery Barn Teen catalog for $50 in full/queen size. Candy totally got the best deal when she found an anywhere chair cover already embroidered with her son's name for next to nothing. They had this whole section of items that had been embroidered that had been returned so we were super pumped when she found something with her son's name on it! My favorite find of the day was the Pottery Barn Kids art table complete with the hutch that has the rolls of paper to color on. I got the whole thing for under $200.

Fast forward to this July. Again, we went on Sunday but got there earlier in the day. We immediately noticed that the prices seemed higher, especially when we found the same table that I had bought in October for under $200 priced at $731. Seriously? I am not even sure it cost that much in the regular store! They were also remodeling and had completely taken out the section with the returns with embroidery. They were offering an additional 20% off the lowest ticketed price on outdoor furniture and any bedroom furniture. We both agreed that their selection was MUCH better on furniture, but the prices were really high...seriously, close to retail. We left without spending a dime, but again decided to head back on Monday morning when they opened. Although I didn't find anything, Candy hit the jackpot Monday morning and found a GORGEOUS dresser for close to 75% off retail. That was THE item she was really looking for so it was definitely a big WIN!

So, here's my advice if you are making the drive to Memphis to go to the outlet. First, call ahead and have them add you to their email list. It is seperate from the "normal" emails you get from Pottery Barn. They will email you when they do specials, additional percentages off, etc. Second, call ahead if you are looking for something specific. We saw them answer the phone multiple times where someone was asking for something specific and they even encourage you to call. If you have your eye on something in the catalog, it can't hurt to call and see if they have it there. We figured your saving at least 20% by buying at the outlet. Third, make your list of what you REALLY need. It would be VERY easy to get off track and blow your budget in there so make sure you are really sticking to a design plan, etc. otherwise you could definitely end up with buyer's remorse and their return policy isn't great. We also found Halloween costumes that were in the current catalog last October so definitely keep that in mind if you plan to pay full price in the catalog!Their phone number is 901-818-9770.

Another thing to keep in mind is that they are now connected to a West Elm outlet and the Williams Sonoma outlet is on the other side. You will definitely want to put directions in your GPS because it is a little off the beaten path. So, if your in Memphis, definitely check it out and leave a comment with your experience.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What's Next

I've talked about this before, but I've been thinking about it more and more the last few days. Does it surprise anyone else how quickly you are asked about having more kids right after you just had/adopted one? It seemed like within days of J.T.'s homecoming, people were asking J and I "were we done?" or "when are you starting the process again?"

I will be honest, newborn stage has yet again kicked my butt. Literally. I am so tired sometimes that I no longer form coherent sentences, I go days without showering, and I now view a nap as one of the most important things to do in a day.

I will be honest and also admit that after J.T. came home, I felt like this was it. Party of 7 sounds good. No more kiddos for us. We have done what God has called us to do.

BUT if I am really being honest, I can tell you that I just don't know the answers to those questions because I am not in control. Only God knows those answers. I can tell you that once you have crossed over and your eyes have been opened, there is no denying a need for families for orphaned children. Can we afford another adoption? Right now, the answer is no. Do I believe that God would provide if he called us to do it again? Absolutely yes.

So that's my answer for what is next for our family. "Wherever he leads, I'll go" is my answer. Now, mom, don't go start breathing into a paper sack or anything...I'm not saying we are starting another adoption! I'm just challenging all of you. This world is not black and white. There is gray. I want to be different. I want God to use me even if the world thinks I'm weird. I'm ok with weird, I'm ok with gray.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Two Years Ago...

It seems impossible to me that two years ago my precious niece had just entered the world. It honestly seems like yesterday. On Friday, July 24, Ms. Maggie turned two and we got to help her celebrate at her cow themed party on Saturday morning. Maggie looked adorable with her cow clip in her hair and I loved watching her stand at the front door peeking out the side window anxiously awaiting her guests.

Joshua was very alert during the party and enjoyed showing off to everyone.


Mary Elizabeth loved the fact that they were serving donuts and decided she needed to eat two in honor of Maggie's birthday.


All the kids had a great time, Maggie enjoyed her gifts and the fellowship among friends and family was great.


Last but not least, two years ago was also when we almost lost Uncle Josh. God only knows how thankful we all are that he decided to let him stick around with us. What was one of the scariest nights of my life changed my perspective. I was strongly reminded of what is important. My relationship with Christ first and foremost, my relationship with my wonderful husband, my relationship with my children, and my relationship with my family and friends. This world is full of things that aren't important. It's the relationships that really matter. I am so thankful that we were able to make this photo at Maggie's party.


So happy birthday to Maggie Moo! We love you little girl and are so thankful that we get to watch you grow. A big thanks to Ali for letting me swipe these pics!