Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Seeing Santa...

We don't have a super strict Santa tradition around our house like some of our friends in the Atlanta-area do. We don't need to see the same one each year (it's not really even possible for us, I don't think...) or be in a super fancy mall to see him. Our boys have generally never taken their lists to discuss with him. They also know that all Santas are different because they are helper Santas. This year, I wasn't even sure we would see Santa. A friend of ours has been trained at Santa School (for real) and has been Santa for a few years now. He traveled to our church last year from Virginia and we got him to come again this year...and then the world fell apart. We still planned to have him come and things had SEEMED to be on the upswing for our area, but Thanksgiving backed us up a little bit and things went back into lockdown-mode. Our church made the decision to go virtual again for a few weeks and Santa's visit was right in the middle of that. Because his mother lives nearby, he decided to make the trip anyway. He wound up partnering with a photographer we've used many times before and we booked a mini session to see him AND get better photos than I would have normally achieved. I am IN LOVE. What you cannot hear are the discussions about girls that they like and what gives the reindeer gas, but their smiles are genuine (even the tween's who is grumpy often and did NOT want to see Santa this year...). I'll treasure these for a long time. We needed some normalcy in an otherwise abnormal year.













Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What We're Up to...

 Well, hello there! *tap tap tap* Is anyone still here? I've had the itch to write recently so I thought it was time to pull out the old blog and update you on life with the Freshes.

James

James is 11 years old now (I cannot even believe it) and loves all things sports. All the sports, all the time. He loves to play sports, is constantly throwing and/or catching something, and also enjoys watching and discussing sports 24/7.

James excels at reading and writing (and always has), but math is NOT his thing. He is my child FOR SURE. Decimals, multiplication, and long division are MAJOR downers these days.

James is a world champion eater. He loves to try new foods (even if he may not like it) and the QUANTITY of food he eats is impressive.

Will

Will is 8.5 years old now and is definitely the wild card of our family. He is our LOVER and dreamer. Our highly emotional (both good and bad!) child. He is the baby, baby of our family. If you have one, you know. He's our snuggliest, loviest child, but he can turn on a dime and be the most complicated family member of all.

Surprisingly, Will is our artsy/creative kid! He is constantly taking things apart, building things, and has a dozen projects going. He joined Art Club at school this year ($25 for the year to stay an extra 1.5 hours after school once a week? Yes, please. I wish James would sign up, too!). He. LOVES. IT. We've been so happy that he has enjoyed it so much!

Will has his own style and he isn't afraid to use it. He knows what he likes to wear and he doesn't care what anyone else thinks. His hair is a statement as well. We might've encouraged him to grow it out this year and if it hadn't been that it was SO hot catching during baseball season, he might've kept on growing it. In the past two years I think he's had about 4 haircuts total. Those curls are pretty and we love it!

Eddie & Lauren

Things are pretty much always the same for the grown-ups in the family. We've tried to weather this weird year just like everyone else has. It has been SUPER stressful at work, unfortunately. Decisions about when to open the preschool, money being a HUGE issue for the preschool, etc., have caused more gray hairs and wrinkles than I'd care to count. Praise Jesus we aren't facing those trials personally. We've been pretty ok on the home front this year and even though things were stressful, we did enjoy the slower pace over the spring and summer.

I cannot BELIEVE that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We are semi-stuck at home this week after having been around two people that are possibly sick. (One tested positive, one did not but is treating it like he is positive.) They're people that we don't come into major contact with and we haven't been told to quarantine, but it just seemed like the right thing to do. We aren't visiting anyone this week for Thanksgiving, but we are enjoying being home and decorating for Christmas, watching all of the Christmas movies, and trying to get some organization back into our lives!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Blackberry Cobbler

James spent the week at the beach with grandparents so Will and I have had a lot of time to find some fun by ourselves. He was signed up for tennis Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and after his Wednesday session, we headed out to a local you-pick farm for some blackberries!



We came home with over two gallons of blackberries. I put half of them in the freezer and have been scrambling to use the other half! First up, and most obvious to me, was a Blackberry Cobbler! I polled Facebook and the winner was a suggestion to use The Lady and Sons recipe. Paula Deen is always a winner over here so Will and I whipped up her SUPER EASY cobbler recipe. It is a PEACH cobbler recipe that we just adapted. Here's the original.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup milk
blackberries (we just used enough to fill the 9x13 casserole dish)

1. Preheat oven to 350*.
2. Put butter in casserole dish and pop in oven to melt.
3. While butter is melting, stir flour and sugar together. Slowly add milk and continue to stir to prevent lumps.
4. Pour batter directly over butter. Do not stir.
5. Add blackberries. Do not stir.
6. Bake 30-45 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!


Monday, June 1, 2020

What I'm Reading! May Books

Welcome to June! It feels so hard to believe it's already JUNE, but it also feels like it should be August, right? We are getting into somewhat of a groove around here now that summer has officially begun. I've been getting up and exercising every morning because of all the sitting we are now faced with doing. I get a walk in (as early as my night-owl body allows because, y'all...it is hot already!) and then I do a 30-minute Beachbody workout to round it out. It's made me feel a LOT better. On my walk, I've been listening to an audiobook. I'm normally a car-listener, but since I rarely ever drive anymore I had to adjust! Ok, on to books for May!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I don't know why this one called to me at the end of April/beginning of May, but I re-read The Hunger Games and LOVED it again. I need to get moving on the sequels and grab the prequel, but I haven't done anymore than the first one for now. If you've never read it before, it focuses on a "game" that is played each year in Panem, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic America. The country is now divided into 12 districts, and each year a boy and girl are chosen to participate in what amounts to a murderous, barbaric, Olympics. It is an honor and a privilege to be chosen in the richer districts, but the poor districts see through the facade of the tradition. Katniss, a girl from district 12, takes the place of her sister when she is chosen. Katniss is literally fighting for her life. It's a really great dystopian book, if you're into those. (If you are, I'm sure you've already read it!)

Mister Rogers Neighborhood: A Visual History by Melissa Wagner, Tim Lybarger, Jenna McGuiggan, and The Fred Rogers Center
Ohhh, this book. Who else loved Mister Rogers as a kid? This was a biography that centers MOSTLY on the show itself. The book is HUGE with gorgeous photos. It was a beautiful story of how the show came to be and is full of interviews with people who were cast members or friends. The most interesting thing about Mister Rogers, to me, is that he was SO authentic. Who we saw is really who he was. Was he a great leader and boss and businessman, yes. Did he use his power and authority in a disappointing way? No. The fact that a skeleton has never come out of his closet speaks so highly of him to me. What a one-of-a-kind! The other thing that I found incredibly interesting was how he put the show together. Watching it as an adult, it seems so SLOW compared to other kids' shows. That's completely and totally intentional. He uses pauses to allow the kids to think about things and really because that's how a conversation works - there are pauses for pondering and listening. He would write each week's show (each week had five shows that fit together to teach complete lessons) and then have a child psychologist look over it to be sure he was pushing out a truly educational show. If your kids haven't watched Mister Rogers, it's on Amazon Prime. Will LOVES it and James will still sit down and watch if it's on. What I love about it is that it isn't seen as a "baby" show by them because it's not widely watched by kids their ages. They also LOVED Daniel Tiger so in contrast to that cartoon, this seems more grown up!

The Honey-Don't List by Christina Lauren
I'll start by saying that this was not my favorite Christina Lauren book. (Christina Lauren is an author duo, not just one person.) This story was about a married couple who star on an HGTV-ish show. Behind the scenes, though, things are FALLING APART. They've just released a book about marriage and they can't even be in the same room together. On their book tour, their assistants, James and Carey are forced to go with them so that they can hold things together for the couple. While this wasn't a bad book, I've just enjoyed other books of theirs more. I didn't really connect with the characters and I didn't like some of the decisions they made. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I'll read others that they've written!

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
Psychological thriller! This is the only one I read this month. I hadn't ever read any of Sally Hepworth's books before, but I will read more. I didn't love this story, but I did LOVE her writing style! Lucy and her family are home one night when the police show up and tell them that her mother in law, Diana, has committed suicide. In the days following, we find out that the suicide was staged and that she was actually murdered. The story moves back and forth between past and present, told by both Lucy and Diana. I loved how the story unfolded and couldn't put it down. I wasn't a fan of how she wrapped up the story, but it did make sense. I didn't see it coming at all (Jennifer, you would've figured it out by chapter 2, I'm sure!). I'll be looking for more of Sally's books ASAP! This is worth the read if you even tame psychological thrillers. It wasn't clear who did what, but it also wasn't scary. 

All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
Oh, this book. All Over But the Shoutin' just about broke my heart! Rick Bragg tells the story of his own upbringing with an alcoholic daddy who didn't stick around and a mama who worked herself to the bone and did the best that she could for her family. Rick worked from the ground up to get where he is now (flip to the last page of your Southern Living each month) and had lots of heartache along the way. The most haunting thing about the story, to me, is that he has worried his whole life that his daddy's dna will someday wake up inside of him and he won't be the person he wants to be. His marriage ended and he has never had children because of the worry that he is his daddy's son. The love he has for his mama is beautiful. My favorite part of the whole story was him taking her as his date to receive his Pulitzer Prize. She'd never really left home before and he took her to New York City. This is definitely worth a read, especially if you're from the south. If you're not from the south, this is a good peek into what it looks like to be poor in rural Alabama (could be Georgia, though!). 

I'm almost finished with a few others so June is shaping up to have a great list of books as well! (Yes, I read multiple books at a time. It's the number 1 thing that slows me down, but I can't not do it!) I hope you're enjoying reading this summer!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What I'm Reading! April Books

We continued into April with just a handful of books after a heavy-reading month in March. April got BUSY with work so I wasn't able to sit as much. 

Saltwater Kisses by Krista Lakes
This one was an EASY read about a girl who wins a vacation but the person going with her cancels at the last minute and she decides to still go on her own. A beach emergency puts a stranger into her path and sparks begin to fly. As a joke, they get married on the island, knowing that it wouldn't legally uphold once they returned to the U.S. What Emma doesn't know is that she's just "married" the U.S.'s most eligible bachelor and what Jack doesn't know is that someone recognizes him and sells a photo of their union. The story unfolds as Emma realizes who Jack is and is thrust into a spotlight she didn't ask for. It was a cute book (it's the beginning of a series) and I would probably read another in the series if I could borrow it from the library, but it wouldn't be one I would spend money on. It was a super quick and easy read. It is, however, rated R, so use caution.

I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
Ohhhh, I have all the opinions about this one. First of all, can we just discuss the CRAZE that Friends is causing these days? All these college and high school kids that are SO obsessed with it need to SIMMER DOWN. We watched it at 8pm on Thursday nights BEFORE you could DVR anything. I can remember having to call home and ask someone to record it for me if I wasn't going to be home in time! HA! So this book was REALLY good. It has stories that I had no idea about before and gave a very in-depth look at how the show came together and was created. However, it felt SO. LONG. I would read a while and then put it down for a few weeks. It was just long. If you're a Friends fanatic, it's a great one! Just know that it's packed full and will take a little while to get through.

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Woof. Ugh. Ack. I cannot describe this book appropriately without you seeing my facial expressions. I am in a book group on Facebook and literally everyone AND THEIR MAMA was raving about how awesome this book was. I finally started reading it on Kindle Unlimited and I was quickly pulled in. Hoover is an EXCELLENT author. The story was interesting and compelling. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened next. I could NOT put this book down. Lowen is a washed-up author who has gone bankrupt caring for her mother as she died. She is asked to come into her agent's office and is present with an offer to complete a series for uber-famous Verity Crawford who has had a car accident and is no longer able to work. She goes to Verity's home and stays with her husband and son in order to read her manuscripts. While there, she discovers an unpublished autobiography that holds CHILLING admissions of horrible things she has done over the years. Then, things begin happening that make Lowen wonder what kind of situation she's in. I can't share more without revealing too much, but I had NIGHTMARES at night after reading this and I thought it was HORRIBLE. I am in the minority according to the Facebook world, but I hated it. Now, that said, Colleen Hoover is an AMAZING writer. Someone told me the other day that every other book of hers that they've ever read they LOVED so I will not give up, but this was far too intense for me. (And I will literally read ANYTHING.) Just read with caution if you do. Also rated R for SURE.

Tomorrow I will wrap up my What Am I Reading? series with May's books. Hope you're reading some amazing books. Please share with me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What I'm Reading! March Books

So March is when the world hit the brakes. Our schools ended on March 13th and we began sheltering in place the next day. I had ALL THE FEELINGS in March. I couldn't sleep, I wasn't eating great, I couldn't focus on anything. It was just a MESS. However, I did read a TON of books this month. FIVE of them were Audible books, though. HA! I needed someone to read to me, I guess!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
This one feels like SUCH a long time ago. I gave it 3 stars. It was a cute book about a girl who is waiting for the perfect man to come along and sweep her off her feet. (Tom Hanks is who she considers is perfect - the man he plays in all of her favorite movies - he doesn't actually appear in the books.) However, while she's waiting someone else comes along and shakes her up. It was a cute, easy rom-com and it has a sequel coming out that I will likely read. It wasn't my favorite, but was EASY and that's what I needed. It would be a perfect beach book.

Congo by Michael Crichton
Here I go again with my Crichton obsession! (I don't have any more of these coming up so you're safe from them for a while!) Congo is an excellent story, in my opinion. It does closely follow the movie in many ways, if you've seen it. Deep in an African forest a group of American geologists suddenly go missing. Their co-worker, Karen Ross, is sent to Africa to try to find them. She coerces Peter Elliot and his gorilla, Amy, to join her. Amy has been drawing things that they cannot understand and Peter thinks taking her to the Congo may unlock something for her. I really enjoyed this book!

A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod
This was another Audible Original which was more of a podcast and less of a book. It was full of dinosaur facts and figures and elaborates on a lot of things we learned as a kid. It was well-done, but not necessarily my favorite and unless you're SUPER into dinosaurs, I'd pass on this one.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
The boys and I started the Harry Potter series on Audible last summer and we have sloooooowly been working our way through all of them. Unfortunately, because we are never in the car anymore, we haven't had much time to finish these! We did finish Goblet of Fire back in March and I think James declared it his favorite so far. I'm really excited that the boys are getting to be old enough to finish up the series and watch all of the movies!

Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Ohhhh. I didn't know what to expect with this one. Jessica Simpson was such a bubblegum airhead when we watched her show back in the early 2000s. Bless her heart, y'all. She's come a long way AND had a really rough (celebrity) life! From being molested as a child to her problems with alcohol, she laid it all out on the line! Now, I am curious whether all of it was true because Nick Lachey's wife called her out in a lie she supposedly told in an interview, but she did not make herself look good in this book. If she's lying, it wasn't to make it look prettier! I really enjoyed her tell-all. If you were a fan in your teen and college years, it's definitely worth a read!

Don't Miss It: Parent Every Week Like it Counts by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy
This was a QUICK listen on my Audible app one afternoon while I was cleaning the house. Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy are leaders from Orange, the curriculum our church uses for children and youth activities. I've attended two of their conferences and had the privilege of meeting both of them in person. They are wise leaders! This particular book was all about the time between birth and graduation and how we need to be sure we are making every second count. There are many books that spin off of this one for parenting the stages, but this is the central one that pulls it all together. We use an app from Orange called Parent Cue that will tell you exactly how many weeks you have left at home with each child (it's RUDE and painful to see that number!) as well as topics you should be covering with your kiddos each week in order to make the most of your time.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Hmmm....this tell-all by Carrie Fisher was INTERESTING. It was mostly narrated by the author and I enjoyed listening to it. Carrie shares all about the time surrounding making Star Wars and coming into stardom on her own. ALL the drugs and alcohol, poor decisions, and she even answers the question of whether her alleged affair with Harrison (Carrison?) Ford was real. I enjoyed it! It was interesting to learn about all of the behind-the-scenes goings-on.

Whew! Well, that was March. I'm almost caught up!!!