Monday, May 1, 2023

2023 Bucket List

 The one post I've come back to post all these years later is our Summer Bucket List. I look forward to making this list every single year, even though with tweens and teens it has gotten progressively harder (and WAY more expensive!). Here's this year's list!

Monday, February 27, 2023

William at 11.

 We blinked and we are here. Eleven years into your life. It feels like forever and no time at all at the same exact time. Time is such a bizarre thing to me.

Will, you are a source of conundrum in our lives in the best way possible. I told someone recently that we never know what to expect from you, but we ALWAYS know exactly how you feel about everything. You wear your heart on your sleeve. Happy? We know! Excited? Yep, we see you bouncing. Angry? Sad? Frustrated? Watch out! We know it for SURE!

For your birthday this year, we had a couple small celebrations. We took birthday snacks to school the Friday before your birthday. We took birthday cupcakes to 5th Grade Fun Day ON your birthday, the four of us celebrated at home on your birthday, and we had a very tiny "party" with Cacky, Grandmama, Granddaddy, Kelly, and Christopher a few days later. You are VERY into Harry Potter right now so we did a Harry Potter theme, sent you a Hogwarts acceptance letter, and are planning a trip to Universal to SEE Hogwarts as soon as school gets out. (I'm SUPER pumped about that. I have a few surprises and you're going to LOVE them.)

At 11, you love being outside, building, Legos, arts and crafts, Harry Potter, Duck Dynasty, Andy Griffith, and SUGAR. You don't like anything that pushes you out of your box or challenges you to do hard things. You're taking guitar lessons right now and it has PUSHED you in a way that you weren't expecting. Whew! It has been fun and challenging for me to see it unfold, but your teacher is absolutely committed to MAKING you get through the hard part. You're like sand in an oyster right now, but you're going to wind up being a pearl at the end of it all.

Your friend group is an interesting bunch. There are about 5 of you at school together who are self-proclaimed "NERDS." Y'all enjoy reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, swapping Pokemon cards, and building forts. I love that you're all still young in spirit and aren't in too big a hurry to grow up!

I'm a little late posting this update, but I made it before the end of February. Will Fresh, you amaze us and frustrate us every. single. day. I can't wait to watch you grow up into whomever you'll be. But I bet it will be doing something where you get to build and create.

We love you! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Floating Potatoes!

 For Christmas this year, part of the boys' gift was a trip to Tampa, Florida, for Martin Luther King weekend. We had a FABULOUS time. I wish it was closer so that we could go back more often because there was a LOT we didn't get to do!

On Friday, we left mid-afternoon in order to make the LONG drive down to Treasure Island, Florida, where our hotel was. We couldn't have loved Treasure Island more! It was a cute town with a few restaurants and shops that were in walking distance of where we were staying. It wasn't overly crowded or touristy. The hotel we stayed in was NOT so great, so I won't recommend that to you, but the character of the town was awesome! The ONLY problem we had while we were there was that it was frigid and we just didn't get to do as much outside and on the beach as we had hoped.

Saturday morning, we hit the ground running and headed to Raymond James Stadium for a tour of where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. (We scheduled this ahead of time through their website. It was fairly cheap, but they don't run every day so we planned around this particular thing!) Again, it was FRIGID, but we LOVED this tour. The tour guide was knowledgable, nice, and had worked for the Bucs for many, many years. He had lots of fun stories to tell. We all picked out our box seats, enjoyed hanging out on the pirate ship, and the boys loved walking on the field. Even Cacky loved this tour!

After we left there, we had lunch at Riveter's. It was excellent food and the atmosphere was fun! (Take note: there IS a very adult "bar" next door that James found hysterical and Will was appalled about once we explained what it was. It is VERY clear from the sign that clothing is not worn by members of the staff. Just hate to recommend a restaurant and have you be as surprised as we were!)

After lunch we made our way to the place we'd built the whole trip around - the Tampa Power Plant Manatee Viewing Center. This would be SO MUCH FUN if the temperatures were higher than 40*. It was MISERABLY cold on the water and we didn't want to watch the manatee for long. A few days later another friend went, there were manatee EVERYWHERE, and they were warm. I guess we need to go back again sometime! This place was AWESOME, though. Tampa Power Plant warms the water surrounding it and in the winter, manatee come close to it to avoid the colder water. They have boardwalks in several directions giving you prime viewing into the water - the "floating potatoes" could only be seen way out in the water from the longer boardwalk while we were there. They also have an excellent information/learning center that gives plenty of information on manatee and how to keep them safe. Downstairs under the building they have a sting ray touch tank. Will loved that! It was AWESOME, but a few things to note - I'm not sure if it's only open seasonally, but we've always heard that manatee only come in during colder months. Summer isn't prime viewing time. Also, the parking was HORRENDOUS. And if it's cold, BUNDLE UP. It's primarily outdoors and on the water. It was free to get in and Will said the hot chocolate at the concession stand (for about 60 cents!) was money well spent!

That night, we had dinner at Captain Bill's Oyster Bar in Treasure Island. The boys found it to be EXCELLENT food. I had shrimp and grits. I can't remember what everyone else had. We did arrive during happy hour so we enjoyed a few half-price drinks and appetizers before dinner. Our children ate their weight in calamari. We all enjoyed it!

Sunday morning, we got going early again and headed to Busch Gardens for the day! James' class trip for school this year is to Busch Gardens and he opted out of it back in September. It's a one-day trip and it's a LONG way to go for just a few hours of roller coasters. SO we decided while we were in Tampa we would take him! Because it's the off-season, there were plenty of things that weren't open, unfortunately. I commented over and over that it wasn't Disney World. We did try a food pass for Eddie's ticket so he was able to get food every hour and we all split it. NOT worth it in our opinion - the lines were long and we were having to stop every 60 minutes to feel like we got our money's worth. The boys liked the animals the most. Next time, we will go to the Tampa Zoo instead! Busch Gardens wasn't bad, it just wasn't SUPER fun or memorable. 

On Monday, we checked out of our hotel and drove north to Clearwater for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Will and I watched Dolphin Tale back in December and it was so fun to see where the movie was based and partially filmed. They have an IMPRESSIVE new building and it was really a fun experience. All of their animals have either been injured or are unable to go back into the wild for one reason or another (there are several dolphins with hearing problems and one or two that don't know to stay away from humans). The employees were really kind and helpful and answered all of our questions. It's not like SeaWorld or Georgia Aquarium, but it was a very nice facility and really interesting. One of the dolphins, Hemingway, passed away a week after we visited from some sort of intestinal bacteria. It was really neat to see him doing some jumps the week before. He was "elderly" at about 37 years old.

Tampa was a great trip for our family! We love getting away for fun long weekends and finding new places!

Monday, February 20, 2023

7th Grade Swim

 James has year two of our middle school's swim team under his belt and he ROCKED it. Last year, it was so fun to watch him try a new sport, but this year he really, really found a groove and had such a fantastic season!

Last year, for the season, he won  most improved for the team. I'm excited for him to go to the swim banquet this year, but I don't think we'll see the major improvement in times that we saw from his first meet last year to the last meet last year.

I am missing some of the results from one of the meets for this year, but of the ones I could find James had individual placements in: 1st place in 50 yard butterfly, 4th in 100 yard breast, 5th in 50 yard breast, 6th in a 200 yard freestyle, 7th in a 50 free, 8th in a 100 free, and two 10th place finishes in 50 frees. For his relays he and his teammates had a 1st place finish in a 200 free, 2nd in a 400 free two times, 3rd in a 400 free, 4th in a 200 free, 4th in a 200 medley, 5th in a 200 medley, and 6th in a 200 free. They lost LOTS of 8th graders to high school this year but even so they had a tremendous season! They aren't losing quite as many next year so they should be even better! I can't wait!

While James doesn't LOVE swim, he has found his groove and really pushed hard. He seems to be one of the 7th grade leaders. I've watched practice a few times and he seems to be one of the faster kids at practice and he doesn't love to just loaf around. He'd rather get out there, get it done, and move on. We were hoping he would do club swim over the summer, but he thinks he will be a little bored if he swims summer and then turns around and has to swim again in October. SO. Jury is still out, but he's leaning toward skipping. Either way, we are excited to watch him in his final year of swim next year AND we are hopeful that a certain baby brother will join him!

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2023 Goals.

 A few weeks ago we reviewed our family goals from last year - we met some and we didn't meet others - and we began making a list of new ones for this year. I listened to a podcast recently about helping your kids set goals for themselves - spiritual, educational, physical, etc. - and have been talking to both boys, but especially James, about that recently. The podcast basically said that if you help your kids learn to set their own goals, THEY have invested in what's important to them and then you won't nag them to do things that YOU want them to do, but encourage them to work toward what THEY wanted to do. This one hit home because there's been a lot of nagging at our house. I'm not going to share theirs this year, because as they get older I feel like a lot more of what they tell me is just meant to be for us, but I am going to share mine. These aren't resolutions (or "revolutions" as Will has been accidentally calling them - and I haven't corrected), but goals and things I'd like to work toward this year. If I work toward them but don't hit them, ok! But I'm still making forward progress!

Read 100 Books

This seems to ALWAYS be my goal and I have yet to hit it, but I am so determined to do that at some point. I've actually already finished one book today! WOOHOO! James and I were discussing grades last night with another friend and I encouraged both of them to do hard work at the beginning of the semester rather than doing mediocre work until the midterm and then having to really work hard to pull out whatever grade they were hoping for. So I'm using that same advice for myself and I'm planning to REALLY work hard to read as much as I can in the early months of the year so that when the busyness of October, November, and December hits I'm not having to scurry OR face the impossible task of finishing. I keep up with all of my books on Goodreads and hit 63 for 2022. Nowhere near 100, but WAY more than the 10 I read in 2017! Wow! (I count all paper books, e-books, and audiobooks and also include anything I read to/with my boys that is over 100 pages.)

Move my body more!

Shouldn't we all strive to do this each day? 

Learn a new hobby.

Unsure what this one looks like. I'll keep you posted on what new hobby I find...

Travel more.

I'm so interested in finding new adventures, whether it's close by or hitting the road somewhere. We have a trip planned in a few weeks and then nothing on the horizon but a few ideas. I can't wait to see where this year takes us, though. Last year I visited two new states (a total of 9 states in the year) and I'm hoping to see more new states this year!

Spend more time with my boys.

They're growing up so fast!!! (The traveling also forces them to hang out with me!)

Grow my PaperPie business.

What's PaperPie, you ask? Usborne Books and More, of which I've been a consultant for a few years now, has rebranded into PaperPie. I LOVE books and selling these books has been a no brainer for sure. We've really enjoyed them and I've enjoyed pairing them with activities to share with families looking for a way to connect. I'd love to share it with you! Visit my website here or ask me anything!

Read the Bible in a year.

Again, this one I try every year. I need to stick with it!!!

So there you have it! My goals for the upcoming year! Let's do this!

What's Cooking?

 One of my 2023 goals is to eat at HOME more often than out. With that in mind, I'm going to be back to regular meal planning around here! I'm so excited about this! So here's What's Cooking this week at our house!

Sunday, January 1, 2023:

Hoppin' John - there are MILLIONS of recipes for this out in the world, but this is the way we generally do it.

3-5 cans of black eyed peas (drained)
1 diced onion
1 can Rotel
smoked sausage, sliced
1 can chicken broth
1 can beef broth

Combine ingredients in crockpot and cook over low 3-5 hours.


1 head of cabbage, chopped
smoked sausage, sliced
1 can chicken broth
1 onion, diced

Combine in pan and cook over low heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender.


Any favorite rice will do! We serve our Hoppin John over the rice.


I cheated and used Jiffy! 

Monday, January 2, 2023:

Boston Butt - We had a gift certificate for a butt from a local store that we used today!

Leftovers from yesterday for sides

Tuesday, January 3, 2023:

Boston Butt tacos/nachos/burritos

Chop up leftover Boston Butt and serve as taco meat. You can chop it and combine with taco seasoning, but I think we will just add flavor with salsa and hot sauce! You'll just need whatever regular toppings you like for Taco Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023:

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Confession: I made Hamburger Helper twice in the month of December. For some reason, we had two boxes of it and the boys thought it was the greatest meal EVER. SO I'm hoping to find a few CopyCats that aren't quite so unhealthy!

Green Beans - olive oil, seasonings, roast in the oven!

Thursday, January 5, 2023:

Leftovers night!

Friday, January 6, 2023:

Pizza and a movie!

Saturday, January 7, 2023:

Out to dinner!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Halloween 2022

 Y'all know that some of us around here LOVE Halloween. And while I felt like we didn't do it up exactly right this year, we still enjoyed some fun. October FLEW by. I can't even believe we are already in November! Christmas will be here before we know it! Whew!

I wound up getting the boys to coordinate costumes again this year (the trick is to sign up for a Trunk or Treat so that we can have a "family" costume). Will was still wholeheartedly for the whole thing, while James wasn't sure how he felt about the festivities this year. He was swayed by a super fun costume and we pulled the whole thing off! I'm not sure whether we'll participate again next year or not (Eddie is in the "or not" camp because it's not his favorite and I spend too much money to do it).

Halloween being ON a school day also created an interesting day. Poor teachers. Will wanted a costume that wasn't really a costume so he went with Elliot from E.T. James pulled out of his own closet and threw on a wig from a few years back and had a makeshift Napoleon Dynamite costume. (At this point we were post-Homecoming week AND Red Ribbon week and I was decidedly unenthusiastic about trying to find a middle school costume when I really wondered if I would be called to come and get him - he was pretty much on his own here!) He was less Napoleon and more Bob Ross in my opinion - but he went dressed and was happy!

Halloween night was NOT our best yet with exhaustion and high emotions from one kid and just some all around drama. A friend and I are considering paying our kids to stay home next year. LOL!!! Will and three buddies wound up doing a group theme again this year and if they want to dress up until college (and stay home and hand out candy), I will support that endeavor! It was very cute. Will trick or treated with his bunch of friends and Eddie and I went with them. James and a friend decided at the last possible minute in the swim team locker room to go trick or treating! We weren't sure it was going to happen again this year!

It won't be our most remembered or best costumed year, but it's another year of fun! They're growing up! I can't imagine we have many of these years left!!!