Sunday, November 28, 2010

L.E.N.S. photo challenge: your best shot

Tonight, after an 8 hour roadtrip home from Thanksgiving in Indiana, the boys were enjoying their freedom from the car. 
We decorate for Christmas before leaving, so all we have to do is plug everything in and presto!...it's Christmastime! 
The boys started pretending that Alex was Santa and Tim was supposed to sit on his lap and tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas.  It was hilarious...Tim kept slipping off his lap and the giggles and belly laughs just kept coming.
A few minutes later, they grabbed the red beanbag and pretended it was a toy bag...all that was missing was the red suit, boots, and beard.  

Although, it was supposed to be my best shot (singular) for the L.E.N.S. photo challenge, how can I choose one boy over the other?

The photos that follow are of the Santa's lap moment...and some brotherly love time with the two of them discussing things over and giggling their way through photos for the memory books.

Wish you could have been there!   







Monday, November 22, 2010

little yellow tree

Every fall I watch and wait as the leaves start turning colors...and, finally, my favorite little yellow tree produces the largest, most beautiful yellow leaves. 
It is in the front yard and visible from the kitchen, dining room and living rooms.  Its leaves make a beautiful backdrop for pictures. (Exactly the reason why it's featured for today's "Mommy & Me" photo).  And, it's not very big yet, so there aren't so many leaves to rake once they all fall to the ground. 
I love my little yellow tree.


 










Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Multumesc...Merci...Gracias...

"John replied, 'No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.'"  John 3:27 NLT

There is something astounding in that simple statement of John the Baptist.  Stopping to think about all the God has given me in the way of blessings, answered prayers, ideas, dreams, family, friends...it amazes me.  I am humbled that He gives so freely, time and time again...and always when I need it most.
The journey of the past couple of years has been more than I could have ever asked for...definitely, without a doubt, more than I could have imagined. 
The journey continues, although it is unclear where the next turn will lead.  Whatever is next, I know that it holds what God so awesomely and graciously gives.  Nothing comes without His hand offering it.  I pray for the wisdom to be a good steward of His gifts...taking nothing for granted. 
In this, the season of thankfulness, I am without fitting words to express how much it means to me to have been given such gifts...
Alaska.
Encouragement.
Understanding.
Laughter.
Joy.
Friendship.
Forgiveness.
Faith.
Hope.
Love.
So I simply say, "Thank you."
Thank you for everything.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

L.E.N.S. photo challenge: Home

The photo theme this week is "Home"...the possibilities are endless.  I pretty much feel that home is wherever my feet are at the moment.  However, being it is almost Thanksgiving and I'm going home to Indiana next week, I've chosen a photo of my home away from home.  Grandma and Grandpa's farm will always be in my heart as one of my favorite places!

                           Sunset over the farm on Thanksgiving evening 2006.


Join in on the photo challenge at "Home Is Where You Start From".  It's so much fun!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Crafts


We have had alot of fun decorating the classroom for fall this year.  In fact, everything seems alot more fun this year...probably because we're all together and not running here and there so much during our morning hours.
The boys had alot of fun making some thanksgiving crafts last week.  Alex made a pinecone turkey...it was so cute!


 


















Tim made a cornucopia...aka, "Some kind of horn, Mom, not corn."  That made me laugh because, on the directions, it was called a Horn o' Plenty, but I called it by its other name.  Tim thought I was calling it by the wrong name.  So sweet!
As the pictures tell, this craft required alot of cutting and it was wearing Tim out.  But he persevered and was happy with the results!

I love fall decor, but secretly I'm dreaming of what our classroom will look like for Christmas. 
Oops!  Guess that's not a secret anymore. :)


Sunday, November 14, 2010

A day on the water...

On vacation earlier this month, we spent a day boating off the shores of Key West.  Needless to say, it was a great day to be on the water...






This last picture was overlooking the area in which we snorkeled.  A stormwrecked sailboat made its way to the reef here about two weeks prior to our visit.   



Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

L.E.N.S. photo challenge: capture the ordinary

The photo challenge this week at "Home Is Where You Start From" is to "capture the ordinary" and share a picture from our everyday family life.  Some days I don't think there is anything ordinary about our life...it is EXTRAordinary and I love it!
We love a good rain shower at our house.  The boys and I are often found outside playing in the rain.  And we love large cardboard boxes.  Oh, the adventures they bring us.  This is us, in the rain, in a cardboard box that held our new garage refrigerator this fall.
Ordinary days don't get any better than this!

Boxes will always be the best toy around!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday's Walk...late night smiles

Two years ago, while camping, I captured the boys' smiles as they sat outside on a picnic table by the campfire.  I love the sweetness they add to my life.










Lazy Wednesday's Walk

Monday, November 8, 2010

something beautiful

God is so good.  The most recent thing He has used to teach me a lesson is a Bradford Pear tree.  Yep, a tree...a big one, at that.  This pear tree has stood in front of the garage for probably as many years as this house has been here...about 25 years, I'd guess (we moved here in October 2006).  Upon moving in it was requested for the tree to come down, but I saw a great tree that would provide shade for our home and for us to play in during the hot GA summers.  It did just that.  But, it also provided a home for ants, centipedes, and who knows what else.  The birds loved to sit in the tree and drop presents on any unsuspecting vehicle under them.  It smelled awful like fish in the spring when it bloomed.  Flower petals, fake "pears" (more like hard nuts), and leaves fell at one time or another throughout 9 months of the year.  This summer it dropped a large branch during a rainstorm that came very close to hitting the house.  
I was afraid of losing the shade, so I forgave the tree for all of the negative quailities it held.  What would it look like to have the tree gone?  I would miss the tree...or so I thought.
About a month ago, in a moment of weakness (or clear thinking, depending upon how you look at it), I gave consent for the tree to come down.  I've never seen a project come to life so quickly or be finished in such a timely manner in all of my life.  Really.
The tree is now gone and in it's place is an open patch of sky that provides a great many stars at night.  The light of day lasts just a little bit longer on that side of the house now.  And, I can walk barefoot in my driveway without ouching my way along.  One would never know there had been a tree even there.  Come spring, there's an open canvas just waiting on me and my "let's plant something" mindset.  
I have not once missed that nuisance of a pear tree.
Isn't it just like fear to keep us from letting go and making room for something beautiful in our lives.  As I stood and looked at the open space that once held a monster of a tree, I saw a chance for something new.  God nudged my heart that it's time to make room for something beautiful in another area of my life.  But in order to do so, I have to let go of something first, just like I had to let go of that tree.  It isn't easy.  In fact, it's heart wrenching.  But...
God is perfect.
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.  Deuteronomy 32:4
  He is love.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  1 John 4:7-8
Believing these truths, I can start to wrap my mind around this...
Perfect love casts out fear.
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 John 4:17-18
I am on a journey of faith, hope and belief in a God who loves me and wants the very best for me.  He gave His son for me to have an abundant life and I desire it now more than ever!
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  1 John 10:9-10 
Bring on the beautiful!                
      

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Florida Keys...last two days!

One last full day in the Keys...it started with a relaxing morning, poolside.  Beginning our journey North was the only event on our schedule.  Everything else was icing on the cake.                                              We weren't on the road long before sidetracking to see what we could see.  Surprisingly, we found a rather big beach.  It was nice, but you had to tread carefully due to all the broken glass on the sand.  Treading carefully, indeed...up the beach not too far from where we were, apparently, bathing suits were optional.  (A HUGE thank you to the gentleman who gave me a head's up on that!)
The beach was home to some beautiful shells and fallen coconuts.  The boys were so determined to break open a coconut like they do on Survivor!  They found some large pieces of coral to bang the coconut on to try and get it to bust.  It never broke open, but it was neat to see them put into action the methods that had worked for others.  They gave it a gallant effort.
On our way again, the only thing left on our wish list of things to do/see in the Keys was rent some jet skis and have some fun on the ocean waves.  We were directed to find a rental on the Gulf side due to windy conditions on the Atlantic.  No problem.  Found a little place with a sign out front and in about 10 minutes we were on our way, jetting over the
 warm water of the Gulf.  It was so fun!  The boys took turns riding with Scott and I...they liked jumping in the ocean in order to make the switch.  Our half hour went by quickly, but it was just enough.  The wind picked up and I was definitely getting chilly as the spray hit me.  Memories made. 
Jet Skis...CHECK! 
Next up was to figure out where to stay for the night.  (Remember from day one, we are spontaneous travelers).  We thought about staying at Sunset Cove again, but we were open to something new.  Let me tell you, that made for a great thing.  The Matecumbe Resort was the find of the trip!  (What got our attention was the "heated pool" sign posted by the road).  It was on the Atlantic side of the ocean...had a heated pool...and was the best spot for viewing the sunset found yet.  (We didn't stay on Key West, so the sunsets were hit and miss).  Add to the list of pros, was just over a mile from the best food on the Keys, and you have a perfect way to end our trip.  Dinner was at The Hungry Tarpon and it was delicious!  They had the seco
nd best Key Lime Pie (to mine)...it was a mango/key lime pie.  Should have chosen just the plain key lime pie, but there's always next time. :)
 
The rain moved in overnight...and remained the entire drive back to Miami.  It didn't dampen things for us in our hearts and mind, though.  It had been a great trip!  My tan's not going to last long, though, wearing sweatshirts and jeans in this chilly Atlanta air.                




Friday, November 5, 2010

Keys: Day 3

Ahhhh...the day I'd been waiting for had arrived in beautiful fashion.  Sunshine, warm breezes, and a day spent on the ocean.  We had chartered a boat to take us on a 6 hr. fishing/snorkeling adventure off the coast of Key West. 
Just us.  On a boat.  Fishing.  Snorkeling.  The good life. 
Correction.  The great life!
Capt. Kyle, with Dream Catcher Charters in Key West, was a champ at finding great spots for both fishing and snorkeling.  (Of course, he'd better be...that's what we paid him to do :) ).  He was great with the boys, too, which always makes for a very happy mama. 
We chose to do some fishing first.  The water was calm and you could see fish swimming around the boat.  So relaxing.  On the way out to our fishing spot, we saw dolphins playing around and showing off for us and another boat.  I've seen lots of wild dolphins before but never putting on the show these 3-4 were.  They were just a few feet from the other boat, jumping and flipping in the air like you see trained dolphins do at shows with trainers.  It was captivating to watch.  So captivating, I was distracted from taking pictures...I watched instead of filmed.  They were amazing.  Alex and I also saw a small shark surface while we were headed out as well.  Those are always cool to see...from the safety of the boat.  While fishing, we saw a couple of sea turtles.  Now that was awesome!  I've never seen sea turtles in the wild.     
Scott had the first catch of the day...a beauty of a Blue Runner.  The boys were next to follow with catches of their own, both nice sized Grunts.  (We were catching and releasing everything we caught).  We were using little fish about the size of my finger
as bait.  They looked too small to be effective, but effective they were.  My first catch came along finally and it was a Grouper.  How can a fish be so ugly yet so funky at the same time?  Along the course of the day, I could tell what kind of fish I had on
the other end of my line by the way it felt as I reeled it in.  Groupers were the toughest reel.  Grunts felt heavy, but easier than the Groupers.  Blue Runners would fight then rest for a few seconds, then try to run with the line again.  Yellow Tail Snappers would just swim every which way as you would reel them to the surface. 
One time Scott caught a Blue Runner and it was injured too badly to release, so Capt. Kyle cut it up and used it as bait on a heavier line.  He had something on the line and started to reel it in.  It became increasingly hard for him and then all of a sudden whatever was on there, got off.  We were all surprised when the line surfaced with 
half a grouper still on the hook.  His minnow sized fish caught a nice grouper...which attracted a much larger fellow.  What was even more crazy was that it happened again on my line a few minutes later, this time with a Blue Runner.  We suspect the big eater was a Barracuda.  One was spotted using our boat as a shelter soon after the second feasting had occured.  The Barracuda was like the length of my leg.  (I tried not to think about the fact that I was about to get in the water with creatures such as this and bigger in a little while).
Tim was getting so excited about snorkeling, he kept asking if it was time to get in yet.  We finally were headed to the snorkeling spot and he grinned the whole way there, sitting on the front of the boat...being the captain, I'm sure, in his own little world.  (I wish I could visit his
little world...he's so happy there and it seems so fun!) 
At the reef we were going to snorkel around, the boys were in the water in a quick splash.  Although they had never been snorkeling in the ocean before, they had no problem taking to it.  Let me interject at this point, I would really LOVE a waterproof digital camera.  Between the boys and the fish/plantlife we saw, it's almost too much to even try to remember.  
We snorkeled for quite a few minutes before seeing a fish, but the ocean bottom was so beautiful it didn't matter at the time.  Before long, we found the honey hole of fish.  We found them and they were so beautiful!  I don't know what all of their names are, but I did see all the same types as we had caught, plus so many more!  Yellows, black and white stripes, "Dori", other blues, white/silver...they were just amazing.  God blessed us with a display of His creativity.
Having our hearts content of snorkeling, we climbed back on the boat to talk of what all we saw.  Alex leans over the side and immediately says there's a huge fish down there.  He said he saw it under the boat before he came aboard.  Yes, it was another Barracuda.  Yes, it started to sink in I was the last one on the boat.  Yes, this means I was just feet...maybe only inches...away from this massive, meat eater of a fish.  I was glad it was Alex who saw this beast and not me. :)
We headed to the south end of Key West to do a little more fishing before heading in to shore.  It was such a beautiful day and a great day to be on the ocean.  Stepping back onto land, we all were wind blown and sun kissed.  The only thing on my mind...when and where we will do it all again next time.  Time can only tell.
Being in Key West, we had to go to the buoy landmarking the most southern point of the USA.  Stopping for ice cream on the way, we found the marker without any problem.  As I was there, reading that Cuba was only 90 miles away, being as far south as one can get on US land, my mind went to Alaska.  Sound strange?  Not to me.  Half my heart is there in that wonderful most northern state of the USA.  In likewise fashion, in AK, off the island of Little Diomede, one can see Russia.  (Read more about this here). 
We made our way back to our room at Parmer's to enjoy an evening meal of pizza and Key Lime Pie.  I'm still searching for the best tasting Key Lime Pie...so far, the one I made a couple of months ago is still my favorite.

Florida Keys...day 2

Awoke to a beautiful day that had no set agenda...just lots of sunshine and fun to be had!  We enjoyed an eco boat tour, exploring the Gulf side of Key Largo.  Our Captain was great and made the educational side of the Key's plants and wildlife interesting.  We took pathways through mangrove trees that didn't at first appear to be wide enough for our pontoon boat, but we made it through just fine.  The boys especially loved seeing the fish in the clear shallow water.  Needle fish were a favorite.  Tim had fun counting how many crab spiders he saw above us, dangling between the trees, as we traveled along.  
On our boat tour we saw numerous kinds of fish, manatees, pack of wild dolphins (including a baby), all kinds of birds, a huge osprey's nest, people getting to swim with tame dolphins, and an iguana.  Such a wonderful adventure for the family!
Once back on land, we packed up our belongings and headed further south.  We enjoyed lunch at an oceanside restaurant, The Island Grill, in Islamorada.  It's so nice not being cold while trying to enjoy a meal. 
Our next stop was along the side of the road for a dip in the ocean.  They have pull off spots along the way for fishing and such...we opted to just get our feet wet.  Some fish came around and there were so many cool shells and living creatures on the rocks in the shallow water.  We dried off and headed off again, only to stop not too far along at Long Key State Park for a walk along a boardwalk through the mangrove trees.  We found a neat little beach there, but we weren't all getting wet again right then.  It was peaceful with the exception of the biting gnats...oh, the horror of it all!  We were the lunch buffet for the no-see-ums...all you can eat, free of charge.  The car was a nice haven away from the stinging bites.  Note to self and others...bring bug spray to FL Keys!
Next stop, Parmer's Resort on Little Torch Key.  Great getaway with a pool and an ocean view!  I'm not sure where the boys had the most fun...in the pool or on the hammocks.  The resort had several large hammocks across the property.  They were so comfy and so much fun!  It was cute to hear the boys say, "We're going out to play on the hammocks."  Next best thing to a playground.




Our evening consisted of swimming, dinner, and enjoying the star filled sky over the ocean.  Another great day!