Monday, June 28, 2010

Today Is The Day!

The boxes are packed. Except for a few office boxes and cleaning supplies and laundry supplies, which I will pack tonight. The moving truck comes in a few hours, as does the crew of friends from FamilyLife who will be loading our stuff into the truck and unloading it into storage. Right now we're heading over to the realtor's office to sign closing paperwork on the house. Then it's home to clean the car for our trip and clean the house. Tonight we'll sleep on our mattresses on the living room floor. Tomorrow morning we'll take the mattresses to the storage unit, take Pepper for one, final swimming lesson, and then we're off!

Would you pray for me today? My emotions are so raw, and it is going to be a very full day full of hard work and goodbyes.

I don't know when I'll be able to blog again. We don't have a laptop, so we're taking our desktop with us on the road. Probably the first time I'll be able to set it up is when we get to my dad and step-mom's house in California on July 7th. Here's our schedule until then.

Tomorrow: Drive all day. Stay in Amarillo, TX.
Wednesday (our 9th anniversary): Drive all day. Meet our friends the Whitmores at a hotel in Flagstaff, AZ! This is a surprise for all the kids.
Thursday: See the Grand Canyon and have lunch with our friends the Holmquists. Drive to Santa Clarita, CA. Stay with Matt's sister, Julie.
Friday: All day and overnight with Julie and her family.
Saturday: Drive to Groveland, CA. Stay with my Grandma. My birthmom and aunt are joining us there!
Sunday: Day with Grandma
Monday: Yosemite! Drive to Visalia, CA, and stay with our very bestest friends in the world, Stan and Noel.
Tuesday: All day and overnight with Stan and Noel. YAY!
Wednesday: Drive to my dad and step-mom's house in Scotts Valley, CA. I can't wait!

So for the last time in Arkansas, farewell, my wonderful bloggy friends. I'll catch up with you from California.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Because My Life Isn't Crazy Enough...

This fall I get the privilege of photographing my sister-in-law's wedding. Debbie is Matt's sister who has been living here in Little Rock for the last 2 years, 18 months of which were spent living with us. She met her fiance, Ryan, here. He is a great guy, and I look forward to welcoming him as my new brother.

Several months back I promised Ryan and Debbie that I would do engagement portraits for them before we move. Seeing as how we are moving in 2 days, I spent a few hours with them this evening taking their photos. We had a great time! The spot I had originally chosen for our shoot was closed when we arrived, so we went with Plan B. I am so glad we did, because I am in love with how the photos came out. Ryan had a lot of fun being silly and letting his personality shine through. Debbie is beautiful, and so easy to photograph. Here are some of today's masterpieces.  I hope Deb and Ryan like them, too.

All photographs belong to Life Art by Emily. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some More Memories

Little Rock has taught me appreciate some of the finer things of life, things that I don't think most people on the West Coast understand or appreciate.

1. Humidity. Okay, so when it is really hot, the humidity makes the heat feel worse. But, humidity is wonderful for the skin. I haven't had to use lotion on my arms and legs since we moved here, winter being the exception. And people, I have really dry skin, so that is saying a lot. Also, the humidity keeps everything green through the summer and into fall. I love that.

2. Sweet Tea. Nectar of the Gods, for sure! Ah yes, you might say, McDonald's has sweet tea, even in California. That does not count! You haven't had sweet tea until you have had it in the South. Matt has mastered the art of making sweet tea.

3. Fried Okra, Catfish, Barbecue. As to the fried okra, all I can say is Y-U-M! The Original Cotham's has the best fried okra, although Matt does a good job with it too. Catfish is not seafood, you Arkansan restaurants! Catfish is a freshwater does not come from the sea. But who cares, right? Roll a fat fillet in egg and cornmeal and cajun spices, and then fry it up, and all sorts of tasty goodness! And then there's the barbecue. Barbecue is a type of food, not something you do. Barbecue is a culinary art form, one you rarely find on the West Coast. 

4. NASCAR. The second I typed the word, I could already hear your protests. NASCAR? A fine thing of life? Oh yes, it definitely is. Let me explain. First of all, in what other major, nationally televised sport is there prayer in the name of Jesus before the start of every event? I love that. I love the patriotism of the sport. Many cars frequently display paint schemes that are dedicated to honoring our military and our country. Every driver has a foundation dedicated to doing good. Whether the foundation benefits the Make A Wish Foundation, cancer research, the Humane Society, Autism research, Habitat for Humanity, it doesn't matter--millions of dollars are being given by the drivers, race teams, and car owners, to worthy causes. Yes, the cars go round and round for 3-5 hours. But there is so much else going on. Each race is a story. When you learn the personalities of the drivers, the rivalries, the dreams and goals, you get caught up in the story. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. And the end of the race? Adrenalin rush! On a Sunday afternoon, I am guaranteed to be standing in the middle of the living room screaming at the television and biting my nails.

5. Southern Hospitality. The people here are so kind, generous, and thoughtful. I have been welcomed into many homes, and treated with the utmost of care. These people have loved me, loved my kids, been there for me through everything, and allowed a California girl to become southern. Really, I should have been born here. I was made to be a southern girl.

6. Thunderstorms. I know, I know, I have been raving about thunderstorms for the last 4 1/2 years. I can't stop the raving, because the storms are so beautiful, wild and powerful. I can't get enough of them! I will say though...I will be able to enjoy the storms in Florida without worrying about tornadoes. That will be nice.

I'm sure more thoughts will be coming to me in the next few days. I'll write them as they come. I think it will help bring some much-needed closure to this chapter of my life. Come Tuesday, the new adventure begins.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Winding Down

The countdown is on, and it is ticking away faster than I thought it would. We are now only five days away from move day. I am almost done packing. The entire upstairs is done, with the exception of the last few office items that we are still using, and the few things that will go on the road trip with us. Tomorrow I will finish downstairs. All that's left down there is to take the pictures off the wall in the living room, and to box up the pots and pans, cooking utensils, and one set of dishes in the kitchen. We're down to bare bones in the fridge. There is still some milk and cheese, and some condiments. Oh, and a few veggies. In the freezer are the frozen meals that we'll eat for the next few days, and a bag of chicken breasts that I'll give to a friend on Saturday.

Today as I was packing, I spent some time remembering some of my favorite things that have happened in this house. This is the first home we have ever owned, so that makes it extra special.

I remember arriving here on March 2, 2006. It was so thrilling to pull into the driveway, knowing that this home belonged to us and that we could decorate it however we wanted.

I remember being 7 months pregnant with Pepper, and oh so miserable. My hip joints loosened up so much that my hips would pop out of socket when I climbed stairs. Every time I stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up, it seemed like a mountain. For 2 months I had to crawl up the stairs on my knees, and come down sitting on my behind.

I remember the first severe thunderstorm I had ever experienced. Snapper was 3, and Pepper was still a bun in the oven. Matt was at work. I was sitting in the living room when the brightness went out of the room. I quickly went to look out the back window, and there was a wall of dark clouds rolling toward the house. Out of nowhere, a powerful gust of wind slammed the house, and the downpour began. I sat by the window in complete fascination as for an hour, lightning flashed almost constantly, and the roar of the thunder never really stopped. I love those amazing storms.

I remember bringing Pepper home from the hospital, and putting him in his crib in his Noah's Ark room. That nursery was so cute, a quiet haven for me to enjoy with my baby.

I remember Snapper's first slumber party in our home with her best friends V and S. All three of them cuddled together in Snapper's bed. They were 4, 5, and 6 years old.

I remember our first snowfall here. Hot cocoa and popcorn while waiting for the snow to accumulate, followed by sledding and a snowball fight with the neighbor kids.

There are so many great memories in this house. Popsicles on the front porch. Fireflies at midnight. Bunko nights with my girlfriends. Gatherings of friends for community group. Hours upon hours of scrapbooking. A year of homeschooling. Backyard swings. The sprinkler under the trampoline. Visits from family and friends. Severe thunderstorms. Hiding in the closet under the stairs listening to the tornado sirens, hoping the tornado wasn't going to hit us. Waffles and scrambled eggs. Birthday parties. Bike riding in the cul-de-sac. At least 50 watermelons! Family movie nights. Watching my kids growing up. Growing closer to my husband. Deepening my relationship with my God. These years have been sweet. How thankful I am that God brought us to Little Rock. Wow, am I ever going to miss it!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Orlando, Day 3

Today, after a great night's sleep, I...

-Signed the lease and paid the deposit on our new home!
-Drove to New Symrna Beach.
-Went swimming. 78 degrees, crystal clear, amazing!
-Enjoyed the hundred of beach umbrellas that turned the beach into eye candy.
I didn't take any pictures. GASP! I know, shocked and amazed, right? Emily didn't take any pictures! Why not? I was too busy loafing to bother with the camera.
-Drove south through a marine wildlife reserve.
-Saw 2 eagles bringing fish to the eaglets I'm assuming were in the big, stick nest on top of a dead tree.
-Didn't stop at the manatee viewing platform because I was too hungry to stop.
-Drove past Cape Canaveral and saw the site of the shuttle launches.
-Ate lunch at Subway.
-Went to the famous Ron Jon surf shop and bought a hat for Pepper.
-Treated myself to an Orange Julius, which was nowhere as good as I remember them being.
-Went back to Eleanor's house and showered.
-Had uneventful flights, and arrived back in Little Rock 30 minutes early!

A few thoughts.
1. When traveling, God is the best travel buddy. He has everything under control, and He's a great listener.
2. I needed the time away to just be alone, to be quiet, and to do a lot of praying and soul searching. Today was a great way to finish off the trip. Now I am fresh and ready to begin the rat race that starts tomorrow. T minus 9 days until departure!
3. We're going to be just fine in Orlando. I quickly learned to love Little Rock, and I'm sure I'll learn to love Orlando, too.

I will leave you with a photo of our home for at least August-January. Isn't it cute? God's gift to us!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Orlando, Day 2

I didn't sleep well last night. I think maybe it was because of all the questions swirling around in my head. The biggest question of all: will I find a house, or will we come down in August without a home to come to? My dreams involved hotel stays, cockroaches, and an upset stomach. The upset stomach wasn't a dream, though. I woke up with it. Nerves, I'm sure. As for the cockroaches, I sure hope they were a dream!

My agenda was very full today, with appointments to view 5 homes. I pretty much drove from home to home, and was generally unimpressed with what I saw. The one home I did like this morning had some crazy requirements...they wanted a securty deposit, first and last months' rent, $600 deposit for the cats, photos of the cats, background check, credit check, and income verification. Oh, and application fees for both Matt and me. It would have cost us about $3000 to move into that house.

After lunch, I went to see the last 2 homes. And it was all smooth sailing from there! In the morning, I will be signing our 1-year lease on a beautiful, 1520 sq. ft. townhome! The sweet lady who owns it had a serious back injury, and she is no longer able to navigate the stairs. She and her husband are going to rent a single-level home nearby, and they wanted to rent their home to a nice family who would take good care of it.

Built in 2007
3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms
Big living room, dining room, and large eat-in kitchen
Beautiful kitchen with maple cabinets, black appliances, and Corian countertops
Jetted tub and large shower in the master bathroom
Walk-in closet
Huge storage closet under the stairs
Tile and immaculate carpet
Fenced courtyard
Huge, grassy common area in the middle of the complex
Community pool
Sewer, garbage, HOA fees, internet, cable, and gardener included in the price

$300 security deposit, no pet deposit, and she isn't requiring us to pay for our first month until we move in! She was relieved that we aren't moving until August because she isn't ready to move quite yet. We are signing a 1-year lease, but she said if we decide to buy a house before the year is up, we just need to give her 2 months notice, and she will release us from the lease without penalty! $1075 per month!

This is so awesome. Such God's provision for us. Oh, and did I mention that it is 2 minutes away from the wonderful school that I toured yesterday? If we want to walk to the school, it is a 7-minute walk. Also, when we do decide to buy, there are a lot of great houses for sale in the same school district.

I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I am! Seriously, I feel so much I can relax and breathe, and now I'll really be able to enjoy our road trip. So good to know a sweet home is waiting for us. Tomorrow, since I don't have to go look at apartments like we originally thought I was going to have to do, I am going to the beach. Yup, after I sign the lease and pay our deposit, I am driving myself out to Cocoa Beach to enjoy the water for a few hours before I fly home.

So I was right, folks. God already had this home picked out for me. I was the first person to see it, and the owner had 2 other people scheduled to come just an hour after me. Thenk you, God, for providing just the right home for our family. The door will be wide open, should any of you come to Orlando!

I'll post a photo when I get home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Orlando, Day 1

I am so happy that I was not traveling with my children yesterday. Flight #1, delayed, then delayed, then delayed. Connection in Atlanta missed by 2 minutes. Got a seat on the next flight, which left 2 hours later. Seat 39E, back of the plane, between to ginormous men, both of whom were smokers, and one of whom had obviously been drinking. Flight #2 delayed, delayed, stuck on the Tarmac for 30 minutes. Stinky seatmates. Then tubulent the whole way. Flight attendants never even left their seats. Thank God for anti-nausea medication! But when I landed, I had no trouble getting my car which happens to have a plug-in for my iPod, and Sirius satelite radio!

I slept like a log last night, and woke up refreshed and ready. I enjoyed eating breakfast in my friend Eleanor's silent house, and reading my Bible without interruptions.

My day today included:
-Looking at 3 houses inside
-Looking at (and striking off my life) 4 houses outside
-Lunch at DEL TACO!!! My favorite fast food ever, and we don't have it in Little Rock!
-Tour of what I really hope will be Snapper's new school.
-Meeting with the head coach of Snapper's new swim team. He is fantastic, and this is going to be a good thing for her.
-Driving all over the place and getting familiar with the area.

I am tired, so I am going to bed now. I am looking forward to another full day tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I find our house!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God Is God...And I Am Not.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Tomorrow morning I am flying to Orlando. The purpose of this trip: Buy a house. At least, that was the purpose of the trip when I booked the ticket 3 weeks ago. But sometimes plans change. And sometimes I don't like the change. Sometimes I actually hate the change, and can do nothing but acknowledge that God is God and I am not. He knows what He is doing, and He knows that the plans He has for me are for my good, whether I like them or not.

I won't go into specifics, but due to a bizarre set of circumstances, a recent change in Florida mortgage law, and a really horrid company called Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, we are not able to get a new home loan until January.

So, Plan B involves finding a rental property that is $1000/month or less, will allow us to have our cats, is in one of our preferred school districts, and will be available August 1st.

Honestly, I don't even know what to feel about this trip. Instead of having a realtor doing all the work and setting up showings for me, I am on my own. No realtor to make the phone calls. No realtor to drive me around town. Just me, exploring a new place in my little rental car, and trying to get appointments set up to look at rentals. I am so tired, so stressed out by this.

All I can really do is lean on God. I have no strength, no ability to do this on my own. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe God planned it this way in order to remind me to rely on Him completely. He has firmly closed doors to us buying a house right now, and I just need to keep in mind that God does indeed see the future, and I can't. He knows the outcome of this trip, and I don't. He has a home picked out for us, even as I will be trying to find it. He is already in Florida. He has called us there. He will go with me to Florida, and will give me wisdom and guidance while I am there. God is just so cool like that!

I feel like recently my blog has been a bulletin board of Emily's prayer requests. But I understand the power of prayer, and I am so thankful to know that the people who are reading this are praying for me. Thanks, y'all. The end of this journey is in sight. Thanks for praying me through the thick of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Photo Says It All!

Look at what is in our front yard! YAY!!!!!
The buyer's realtor--who also happens to be a friend of mine--told me today that all the final paperwork has gone to the title company, and we are right on schedule for a June 30th close! The house is about 60% packed. I'll be packing the last of Pepper's room and the hall closet tomorrow. Then upstairs will be completely done, except for the absolute essentials. That will leave just the office and living room to pack up, and we won't do those until the day before we move out. I need two places that still look and feel normal.
Oh, and don't you love the bird poop on the sign? Adds charm.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raging Chaos

In the next 21 days, I get to:

1. Work with God and my hubby to identify $1300 of new monthly support for our ministry, plus $6000 to cover move and start-up expenses. These are completely God-sized goals, by the way. Daunting. I am really curious to see how He does it.

2. Try to keep life in some sort of routine for my 2 kiddos. This involves taking Pepper to play with friends, taking Snapper to her swim practices and swim meets, spending intentional time with each child every day, and keeping them on a regular eating and sleeping schedule. Oh, and feeding them decent meals. And feeding their daddy decent meals, too.

3. Keep my house clean with 2 young children and a husband at home all the time, while trying to pack. Why is this necessary, you may ask? Because if I don't have order in this part of my life I will go M-A-D. Period.

4. Organize everything necessary to fit in one minivan for a month-long road trip covering 14 states and about 7000 miles.

5. Pack everything that is not going on the road trip into boxes to go into storage until August. Everything in my house. While trying to keep trip stuff separated. I tackled Snapper's room today and conquered.

6. Figure out where my sweet kitties are going to stay in the month between moving out of our Little Rock house and moving into our Orlando house.

7. What Orlando house? The one I am going to Orlando to buy one week from tomorrow. Well, I'm hoping to buy, anyway. We have two homes on our radar right now. I am holding my breath and praying they will still be available in 8 days. I am flying down there all by myself from the 16th-19th.

8. Get ready for our church's Vacation Bible School. I am in charge of organizing registration, dividing kids into small groups, and making nametags. Not so bad.

9. Load the moving truck when it arrives on the 26th and unload everything into storage.

10. Clean the house for the new owners. Oh, and make sure the repairs they want done get completed.

11. Say goodbye to the people I love here. This part sucks.

12. Clean and pack the van. Leave on June 30th.

Okay, I am tired now. I think I'll go to bed. Maybe the list will look smaller in the morning. But before I go, I gotta write down what Pepper said yesterday and today so I don't forget.

Snapper went to a karate birthday party on Saturday. When she got home, she was showing Pepper the moves she learned, and in her enthusiasm, she overshot a punch. Ended up slicing his forehead with her thumbnail. Of course, he got very mad and slugged her. About an hour later, Matt came upstairs and saw the red line from Pepper's hairline to the bridge of his nose. He took Pepper to look in the mirror.

Matt: "Buddy, what is that red line?"
Pepper: "That's my brain, Dad."
Matt: "No, what is this red line?"
Pepper: "I told you Dad, it's my brain!"

Then this morning, Pepper came into my room to kiss me when he first woke up. There was something dark red and sticky on his cheek. 

Me: "Good morning, Bud! What did you get into? There's something on your face."
Pepper: "Silly Mommy, that's my skin!"

He is so cute! And obviously confused about his facial anatomy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Goat Is What?

I love my kids. I seriously love them. They are so cute and so funny...and so, kid. I learned a couple of things tonight at dinner that I must share. Why? Because one is a brilliant parenting trick, and the other is cute and funny.

1. Brilliant parenting trick.
Do you have a child that won't eat veggies? I do, and his name is Pepper. Pepper loves all the conventional kid foods: mac and cheese, hot dogs, pb&j, chicken nuggets, etc. I try not to feed him these processed non-foods very often, except for pb&j which I make using whole wheat bread, fresh ground Whole Foods peanut butter, and homemade jam. Pepper has learned to like turkey, string cheese, whole grain crackers, yogurt, and a general assortment of healthier, kid-friendly options. He also loves apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, and watermelon. I have not, however, been able to convince him that any vegetable is a healthy, kid-friendly food choice. Except for baby carrots, which he consumes at an alarming rate. I require that he eat at least 3 bites of the vegetable on his plate at every meal where I serve veggies, which is at least once, if not twice, per day. Because yes, I am a perfect superhealthy genius supermom. Yeah right, I'm SO not! But I do try, as much as possible, to instill healthy eating habits in my kids. My mom did with me, and I really try. Not always successful, but I do my best. Anyhoo, moving on.

Brilliant parenting tip: Asparagus spears are green swords, a superhero superfood! 

After I told him that, Pepper devoured 2 asparagus spears in about 30 seconds! I almost died sitting there at the table, watching his face. His eyes were watering, and his face contorted into all sorts of horrible expressions. But he ate that asparagus willingly, even though the dislike was obvious. When I asked him if he wanted a third piece he said, "No thanks Mom. I ate two, and that is just about all I can take."
I almost died. Really! I almost choked on my asparagus trying to hold in the laughter.

2. Cute and funny

After the green superhero superfood incident, our dinner conversation got even funnier. Let me remind you that Snapper is almost 8 years old, and she is a very gifted student. Not much going on in the common sense department, but brilliant in school. And out of the blue as she is eating her chicken, she pops out this:

"Mom and Dad, did you know that chicken is chicken?"

What? Chicken is chicken? What is she talking about? Matt and I just stared at her.

"Really, y'all, this chicken we're eating used to be a real chicken."

Oh my gosh, did she just figure this out? She is 8. She is going into 3rd grade. Chicken is chicken.
Matt asks her if she knows what cow meat is called. 

"Sure! Beef."

He asks her if she knows what pig meat is called.

.....(long silence)....."Meat?"

I ask her again what the special name for pig meat is. Then I tell her the word starts with P.


Yes Snapper, sausage starts with P........
Then I remind her that it starts with P and ends with ork.


That's right kiddo, you've got it!
Then, just for fun, I ask her if she knows what goat meat is called. (The correct answer is chevon, by the way.)

"I know, TURKEY!"

That's where I lost it. I laughed and laughed, and so did Matt. Snapper laughed too, but she didn't know why. I didn't even bother to correct her. So on Thanksgiving, remember that according to Snapper, your Thanksgiving turkey is really goat meat.