Monday, January 6, 2014

hello 2014!

Cheers for a new year!
Cheers for 2013 and the trials we overcame. cheers for 2013 and the memories that will always be cherished.

I have plopped down in front of this computer about 16 times (or maybe more...who can remember?) to start one of my posts and without fail, something has come up every.single.time. I remembered that load of laundry that needed to be switched to the dryer before the clothes had a chance to wrinkle. One night the thought of needing to get all of our lunches prepped for the following week popped into my head and so up the stairs and to the kitchen I headed. And yet, even with neglecting yet another post, there are always jobs left undone and dirty toilets to be cleaned. Imagine that.

I fall crawl into bed almost every night thinking of words I want to share and memories I want to post, and then poof! There goes another 24 hrs.

So tonight as I sat down to eat my supper at 8:37pm I made a decision. I'm going to write. I'm going to write right now.

Where to start: Best memories of 2013? Lessons learned and hard times overcome over the last twelve months? Goals for the new year? Our 2013 Thanksgiving and Christmas memories? Fun crafts and decorations around our house during the holidays? Bible verses and lessons that have literally made my mouth drop because they have been that applicable to where I am in life right now? Or, maybe I could just start with....Now.

Keeping things simple...

1. It's cold here. And I don't mean 20 degrees cold. I mean -20's cold (with a windchill of  -50s cold). So cold that all Minnesota schools have been shut down for today and tomorrow.
2. I seriously tear up almost every day thinking about how fast my boys are growing up. Sometimes I will catch myself staring at them as I try and soak up every little detail so as not to blink and have them disappear.
3. I get overwhelmed almost day with my house and all the stuff...and the messes. Love the memories. Hate the messes. Working hard to simplify some things in 2014 (been on this mission and have been working towards simplifying our stuff since 2012. Sad isn't it?)
4. Started feeling the Baby move at the end of 17 weeks (just a few days later than I felt Cooper) but love that now I am feeling it move even while I'm working throughout my work days. It makes me so happy I find myself constantly smiling over it.
5. Experimenting with quite a few crockpot recipes these days and thankful as heck for that large cooking pot that saves me every single week.
6. Listening to "Pieces" by Meredith Andrews and "Just Say Jesus" by 7venth Time Down. Loving 98.5 and all it's goodness in tunes.
7. Reading "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young and literally inhaling every single passage multiple times a day.
8. Craving "alone time" to read, write and think creatively. It's been a long time...
9. Sooo loving our new sheets that Nana and Poppie got us for Christmas. I am literally sleeping 100 times better on them as I visit Dreamland.
10. Striving daily to not be anxious over anything. Did I mention this is literally a DAILY focus (thought upon

So thankful for this bit of quiet reflection before turning in for the evening. The dishes can wait yet another day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

littlest pumpkin to arrive...

So, for the first update...

Our Littlest Pumpkin is due to arrive April 2014!!!
We are very excited and feel so very blessed!! The boys love to come up and feel mama's tummy as it has been growing super fast. :) Please pray with us for our sweet little pumpkin over these next several months. (and for this mama's strength and energy to hold up with everything else in life going on besides this!! Thank ya much! ;))

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Fall Y'all!

Hope you and your family are enjoying all that Autumn has to bring...
Will be back soon for an update on life around here!
Blessings to you and yours,

Monday, September 16, 2013

his first day of Kindergarten

I can't believe my baby is old enough to be starting Kindergarten. I've known for years though that when the day came, Parker would be nothing but foot paused for mom to take her picture and one foot aimed right for the door. Ready to take on Kindergarten with enthusiasm and confidence. :) We started the day off right with a healthy and filling breakfast of eggs, toast and fruit, while filling our souls with a short devotion time...and then we were off. I snapped every picture that I could and got as many hugs and kisses as allowed before walking away from my child, who had the sweetest and seemingly excited expression on his face as he sat down at his new seat at his assigned table.
After Parker's first day, his daddy and I asked him what his favorite part about it was. His response: eating lunch in the cafeteria. :) Most other days since then he has told us that playing outside has been his favorite part of Kindergarten. I believe he truly loves it all though. Both of his teachers have come up to me and said that numerous times throughout several of the first days he would approach them with a hug and say, "I love Kindergarten. It's so much fun." Hearing that gives me a happy happy heart. When Clay and I asked him if he had made some special friends he told us no...that everyone in the class was his new friend.
Always keep that cheerful attitude and sweet heart, Parker. Love others as you love yourself. Listen well and ask lots of questions. Dream BIG. Your Daddy and I love you always. Be a Light for Him forever and always. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

his first day of Preschool

My baby has started Preschool. Last Tuesday, I dropped him off at his all-day preschool trying hard to hold back the tears. I knew he would be excited and totally into all the activities once we left and he got settled, but saying bye was hard "cause I no like you weave!" The last several months, Cooper no likes anyone leaving. ;)

He was happy to put his new "school blankie" from Rassie in his very own locker/cubby. The blue Buzz and Woody backpack that he's carrying is the same one that his brother had for his first day of Preschool/daycare.

After we picked Cooper up after school on Day 1 and asked him how his first day at Preschool went, he said, "I no like!" When we asked him why, he responded (with his right hand pointer finger up in the air), "Cause da teacher told me Shhh!" hahaha! Love love.

He is actually doing very well and the teachers say he is having a blast...after the first few minutes of drop off that is. :) One of my favorite parts at the end of the day is when I walk back into his classroom and he gets this huge grin on his face and runs into my arms. I LOVE that he is so happy to see me and doesn't want to let go of me until we get to the car (where his blankie and "B" are waiting for him! ha!).

Monday, September 2, 2013

MN State Fair 2013

What would a summer be without our traditional Minnesota State Fair excursion?! This is the first year that we have ventured to it without the accompanient of our friends. Click for previous years: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009. Clay kept asking me if I had contacted anyone, and each time I laughed and said it was on my never-ending "to do" list and it obviously had, unfortunately, not made top priority. :( We missed everyone this year but still had a wonderful as a family getting to play and eat lots of fair food!
Cooper was continously happy because, well, he was constantly being fed! lol. Corndogs, strawberries and cream, fries, Hawaiian shaved ice, popcorn, Sweet Martha's cookies, a slice of pizza, and tater logs. Did I forget anything? I think I was the only one who changed the tradition by not opting for my typical picks...the thought of all the fried foods didn't settle too well with me this year so I stuck to my apple, a couple of tater logs, strawberries and cream and of course, some sweet Martha cookies! The boys inhaled everything else for me quite happily. :)

The weather was nice: cool and sunny. Quite a few people, but not enough to drive us crazy until later in the day. And with a wide stroller device like ours, it's quite easy to part the thick waters of crowds. ;)
We spent a fair amount of time watching the horses in the arena this year and the remaining time was spent "playing with big boy toys." We had to sit on, look at and/or pretend to drive every truck, tractor, digger, 4-wheeler, mower, gator, and front-end loader that we passed. I am so not joking.

We ended the day late afternoon by slurping down some Hawaiian Shaved Ice and then headed for the buses to get these boys home, bathed and ready for a first day of Preschool and also for Kindergarten Assessment day. I can't believe my babies are growing up as fast as they are. Just glancing back at pictures of them last year sent me into a tearful reality of how fleeting our days are and how much they have changed in the last 365 days. Wow. They truly are no longer babies. They are little boys!!! Busy, busy little boys at that. :)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

my little chefs on a Saturday morning

This morning, after a busy week of work, I couldn't wait to spend some quality, downtime with my boys. We got in the kitchen and started making eggs and toast for breakfast. Parker wanted to make the eggs all my himself...and he did. He was sooo proud. And Cooper was in charge of the toast (sort of). I had to relieve him of his duties when he started just eating the butter and the strawberry rhubarb preserves out of the containers. ;) It was a joy to be in there with them though, watching them so happily at work. Then later in the morning, after the kitchen was clean and a load of laundry was in the washer and dryer, I went upstairs to find Parker playing make-believe with his train, tractors, trucks and sleeping bags. He was so into his little game that I hated to interrupt.

....meanwhile, Cooper was attempting to hide his sneaky little self downstairs. Kinda hard to hide all that cuteness, wouldn't you say?!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

our garden project: herbs and vegetables

In 2011, I tested my green thumb by planting a variety of herbs on our deck. Needless to say, my thumb didn't turn out to be so green. The poor herbs died a few months later. I missed my plants last year, so when 2013 rolled around I had already decided that somehow, I was going to figure out how I could not only give the herbs another chance, but how I could also dip my does into some potted vegetables.

A friend of mine came over to help me...since I truly had no idea what I was doing. She was gracious enough to supply me with all of the herbs and vegetables that we are growing for this summer: Patio tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and cherry tomotoes. For herbs: mint, basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley and now rosemary. My little plants make me happy to no end! Admittedly, instead of curbing my desire for a large garden, by diving into this little project, it has made me want to throw all of our stuff in a moving van and hightail it to the nearest farmland available for purchase.

Pictures taken on August 2, 2013
In the evenings lately I have so enjoyed walking outside just before the sun goes down with a glass of wine in hand to check on my plants. And then of course, on a few rare occasions I make a fool of myself in front of my neighbors by squealing and jumping up and down over my budding vegetables...ahem, which I may or may not have done tonight.
The plants are doing really well, except they are all outgrowing their pots. They need bigger spaces. I am hoping to solve that problem next year; I have already started looking at possibilities that would work even in our little patio space.

Fast forward from August 2 to this past Wednesday, August 14. Our first baby tomato was ready to be plucked from its vine. It only lasted long enough for a quick rinse as Parker decided it was the bestest, juicest tomato he had ever seen and promptly popped the whole thing enthusiastically in his mouth. :)  The boys and I picked 3 more this afternoon and those actually made it to the thanks to my tomato-lovin' child. ;)
Have I mentioned how stinkin' happy I am about our little plants!!! They put the biggest smile on my face each day. Truly theraputic...
Picture taken on August 2, 2013
"And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness." James 3:18

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moms Connect Leadership Retreat 2013

Today I was blessed to be able to attend Wooddale's Moms Connect Leadership Retreat with this fabulous group of women (Vanessa, I am so sorry but blogger is cutting off your sweet self in both the group pics :(  Boo.) The retreat was held at the Minikahda Club Paddle House in Minneapolis. Seeing so many of these women after the summer break and getting to fellowship together was definately a highlight of my weekend. LOVE these women so much. They consistently inspire me to be a greater woman of Christ, a better wife and a better mother. So excited to work with them again this year! A slight change from last year, I will be attending the evening group in Edina instead of the morning group at Eden Prairie due to a change in my family's schedule.

I am starting a new job tomorrow.

Transitioning once again, from work-at-home mom to a working outside the home mama. This go round, I have been at home for 1 year and 4 months. My first lay off in Minnesota took place in January 2009...January 15 to be exact. I remember the day well because it was the two year anniversary of my dad's passing. It made sense for our family for me to stay at home for awhile, but then the time came for me to jump back in the workforce which led to a new job start in spring of 2011. One year later, history repeated itself. Tragic at the time, but a blessing in disguise. That's usually how it works isn't it? :) So much going on this past year...thankful to have had more flexibility with my schedule to be able to be at home with the boys and make precious memories with them. I have cherished being with them this past year...treasured and documented the not-so-good moments as well as the incredible ones.

Though I look at this change as being bittersweet, I am going to embrace the opportunities that come with it. This first month before the boys start school will be a little bit tricky and challenging, but I anticipate that come the second week in September, we will feel like old pro's. :) I feel so thankful that for this initial transition the boys are with our Texas family living it up and enjoying the spoils that having 3 aunts, 1 uncle, 1 set of grandparents and 1 great-grandparent brings. Yesterday I got a few pictures from KK and Nana...any guesses where they were?

If you guessed the circus you are correct. Word has it that they had a good time. ;) I think everyday in Texas with this crew is a grand adventure for our boys.
Thank you so much Nana, Poppie and girls for taking care of our boys for a little bit for us. We appreciate it so much!! Please give them big hugs and kisses from their mama and daddy. :)

...oh, and just in case you are wondering, the crazy hats were part of the party. :) I chose to decorate mine with things that reflect me: hot wheels cars (all over our house with 2 boys), pen (I love to write), a moms connect business card (because I am passionate about this group and in growing in Christ with other women of faith), a piece of Lindor dark chocolate (no explanation needed there ;)), a tube of MK lip gloss (love my lip gloss and I sell it), an airplane (a passion is traveling and I am married to a pilot), a book (yes, I hung a book from my hat because books are that much a part of me!), a bullet (as of June this year, I am legal to carry a gun in Minnesota...which makes my husband quite proud...which I think is cute), and of course photographs of our family (once again, no explanation needed.) And finally, to represent a Southern background, a handmade purchase tag hanging off the side just like my fellow Southerner Minnie Pearl would have flaunted. ;)

And now it's off to this bed for this working mama...wish me luck! :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lake Ann Beach and Summer fun!

A couple of weeks ago the boys and I went for an afternoon play at Lake Ann Beach. One thing I love about this state is the vast number of lakes that surround us. You don't have to drive far to find a lake to either fish in, boat in, or swim in! At many of the lakes, there are walking paths through the surrounding woods, baseball fields with games going on, playgrounds, concession stands...the whole works. Love this. We are blessed to live within walking distance to three different parks!!! The free outdoor entertainment areas literally saved us last summer after our move, and has been just as enjoyable for us this summer, though we have not frequented them quite as much as last year.

Clay and I took them out to Lake Ann late one afternoon for a ride in their Ford pickup truck through the beach area and the walking trails. Not having a yard, the boys have not ridden in the Power Wheels much this summer. It has been a fun treat the few times Clay has loaded up "Little Blue" in Troublemaker and let the boys take a wild spin through the vast, "power-wheels-kid-friendly" region that Lake Ann has to offer. Parker has definately earned his Power Wheels license by maneuvering "Little Blue" through some of the woodsy and hilly trails around Lake Ann, through the picnic area beside the beach, and the steeper, green hills that rise and slope around the active baseball and soccer fields. And when Cooper drives...well, it is full-speed ahead all the way. Watch out on-lookers! ;)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Flying solo and Disneyworld 2013

When the time came for us to depart our family and friends in Mississippi, the boys and I were happy that we were flying over to Texas to continue the visiting and fun times with more family. In a just a few short days, the boys would be flying out to Florida with their grandparents and aunts to visit Mickey Mouse and friends. The plan was for me to do the drop off in Houston, stay for a few days of visiting and Disney prep, then fly back to Minnesota to pack my own bags and pick up Clay, where we would fly out to join family for a few days of theme park fun.

On the morning that I was to fly back to Minne, without the boys, I shocked myself by sitting at the terminal gate in tears. There I sat with a delightful venti Chai tea latte (extra whip cream) in hand, a good book to read, and the busy aircraft just out the window in front of me, and yet I did not quite know what to do with myself and the all that luxurious, I do what seemed like the most logical thing to do at that time. I cried. ha! Yep, you read that right. As I sat there thinking how still and quiet it all was (in this busy airport no less) I just cried. I think the businessmen sitting on either side of me thought I was insane. I tried to fake like it was allergies, but between the frequent sniffs and wiping of the eyes, I don't think my idea passed. Crazy right?! Here I am, in much needed rest and quiet...without kids so that I can think, process, and just be...and yet I cry the very hour that I leave my kids. ha! How pathetic. Aaahhhh...I think when you are just so used to doing practically everything with a two year old and a five year old, that when you finally do get that chance to use the bathroom by yourself in a public facility or take a sip of Chai tea out of peace and not out of desperation, you just go least that's what I did. You question what you are supposed to be doing and if you are doing it right. (I am referring to the simple things like using the bathroom, washing your hands, sipping your tea and boarding an aircraft.)

Your routine as a mother is not about yourself and the task at hand; it is about including your little ones in the processes and making sure they are safe while learning about and accomplishing the functions. Everything I do throughout the day with my boys is a learning opportunity for them, so naturally I want to break down and teach the individual parts of the processes that we do every single day. (And no, the lady in the nearby stall does not care how to take the toilet paper off of the roll and yes, she already knows what not to touch in a public restroom. What?!) Can I actually board an airplane without juggling a stroller, purse, diaper bag, 2 kids and 2 roller carry-on bags? Am I capable of doing that anymore? Why is it that these simpler tasks seem so difficult now?

As the gate agent started the boarding process, it took me a few minutes to realize that I was not loading first...I didn't need the extra time to strap both children into their seats with the safety seatbelts. I didn't need the extra time to collapse and cover the stroller before placing by the door at the end of the terminal. I didn't need the extra time to get out the blankees, b's (paci's), snacks, and airplane books and distribute them to child #1 and child #2 now settled in their seats. I didn't need to then get all my 4 bags stored in the above hatches.

I checked my seat number again. Middle of airplane. I would be the third group called. I can do this. Oh wait? Have I used the restroom yet? Yes. I did that 15 minutes ago. (I couldn't remember because there was no drama attached to it.) Checklist: Put purse in carry-on bag. Zip suitcase. Get out handbag. Place book, pen, paper, and phone in handbag. Chai tea in hand. Was that my section that was just called? I slowly get up and walk to gate agent. She scans and then hands me my boarding pass; thank you Lord that I am on the flight. Walk down ramp. Wait in line to get on aircraft. One roller bag. One shoulder bag. One chai tea latte in hand. Step on airplane. Smile at flight attendant and say hello to crew. Walk down aisle until I reach my seat. Placed bag directly above seat. Sit down with Chai tea in hand and handbag on floor beneath seat in front of me. Text family to let them know I am on flight and to check on boys. Buckle seatbelt. (No one is sitting next to me.) I sit and stare out window and at seat in front of me for several minutes (not sure how long). I teared up...well, maybe cried just a bit more. At some point, I pull out book "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman and pen. I sip Chai tea as I read and underline. About mid-flight, a lady just behind me on the other side of the aircraft leans up to tell me she's proud of me for reading this book...that she thinks all parents need to read this book. I agree. Back to reading. As the plane descends onto the Minneapolis runway, I close the last page of the book. End of flight. End of book. Wow. Is it really that simple?

I realized after the flight, that although I truly enjoyed reading a book from start to finish during flight, and being able to sip my chai tea and not worry about a wandering little hand with a toy airplane knocking over my precious drink, that I missed the crazy. I missed the busy. I missed the lessons learned and the adventure that comes on a flight with two small boys. Yes, I cherished and was thankful for the quiet time. I needed it. However, this trip showed me how much I enjoy sharing each traveling experience with my little men.

No matter how hard and long the days get sometimes, the responsibility of a mother is the most cherished one of all. One that I do not take for granted. And one that I will be forever grateful to God for entrusting to me.
 June 2013
The Nolen Family
Parker: age 5 1/2
Cooper: age 32 months
Words nor pictures can do justice to express the happiness and pure excitement that I watched spread across my little boys' faces during the three days that Clay and I were there to join the family for some fun at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Each day held new wonders and new adventures for both. Parker and Cooper had a full 7 days of fun at Blizzard Beach, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

The current favorite Disney characters for the boys...besides Mater of course!...are Chip and Dale. Parker and Cooper have a Classic Chip n' Dale DVD that has a selection of classic shows that feature the chipmunks, so naturally, the two boys were excited to see the characters in life!

The boys stayed with Nana, Poppie and the girls at Disney's newest resort, Art of Animation. Parker was so proud to show his daddy and me his bedside spot...right where Mater snored soundly with him. :) Orange traffic cones for lampshades, coneshaped carpet designs, coneshaped designs on the curtains, toolbox style dresser detail left forgotten. It was the perfect little boy's suite.

Clay and I opted for the "under-construction, cheap, check-the-mattresses-for-bed-bugs" more economical, off-site friendly hotel. ;) He and I would meet the family each day for rides and memories and then say goodnight and part ways until the next day.

Favorite rides:
Carrie: Soarin' at Epcot
Parker: (he says something different everytime I ask...he truly loves them all!)
Cooper: Cinderella's Carousel, It's a Small World, Nemo, Dumbo...happily smiling with every ride though!
Clay: Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom

Nana, Poppie and girls, thanks for taking such amazing care of our boys at Disney and for including us in some of the fun!! Clay and I were so excited to be able to go and be a part of the theme park adventure!
**Currently, I am working on getting up to date with our family's Project Life albums and in getting all of our Disney trip memorabilia and pictures sorted through and recorded in the books. This year, I am being much more selective than I was in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, we were there for Christmas and in 2009, for the Halloween celebration...and for almost 2 weeks... so more actual Disney decoration is printed and displayed in our albums during those years than will be this time. For this trip, I am focusing more on conversations and funny things that the boys did and said than actual pictures.

Friday, July 12, 2013

a trip to my Southern state

Mississippi Summers= 
Fireflies, family gatherings, sweltering humidity, easy tans, magnolia trees, muddy toes in the green grass, bubbles all around, white pants, painted toes, baskin' robbins treats, pearls with every outfit, summer sandals, and fresh peaches and berries.

The first several years after moving to Minnesota, I would find myself getting home to Mississippi quite frequently. This due to many factors: the majority of my business was in the South, my dad's health was going down fast, friends weddings were happening every other month...we had no friends or connections up North, Clay was flying all the time, so why not? :) Over the last two to three years, we have not been able to get down there nearly as often as we would like. It is a blessing in one way because we now have such a strong base up here: church, friends, our kids activities, community events, and the breathtaking outdoors here in Minnesota keeps us happily busy and occupied with life. In another way however, we find ourselves desperately homesick for family and friends back home. So much that by the time we find ourselves visiting our loved ones, we (Clay and I) joke about how pathetic we are. Honestly, from the time the plane lands in Memphis, TN or Houston, TX (well, maybe the day after we land...after we've had a good night's sleep and have caught up on a little rest...flying non-rev with kids is no small task) we are just like our kids vying for our parents' attention: "Mom, look at me! Look at me!" haha!

Our family is amazing about it though. They love us, care for us, tend to us, spoil us, listen to us (and listen, and listen and listen...) :) Bless our sweet family and friends.

We were thankful to get a good summer dose of Mississippi during the beautiful month of June. The boys got in great family time with the grands, the great's, and pretty much everyone in between. :) I rang in my 30th birthday here, saw family and friends, watched Parker attend his very first Vacation Bible School at my hometown church with my childhood Bible Drills leader (what a blessing this was! Mrs. Karen has always been and always will be amazing!! She raised 4 children...3 of them boys so she knows what's she's doing!), and the most fun part of all...seeing the huge grins of pure happiness on my sweet little men's faces as they enjoyed the simplicity of it all. I will let the pictures below speak for themselves.




Thanks to each of you for making our trip so very special. We enjoyed seeing y'all and appreciate your sharing part of your summer with us. Thanks to my precious mama for making me feel like royalty (as usual) while in Grenada--because if anyone saw me when I landed in Memphis that warm day in latter May, you would know I certainly looked far from anything having to do with royalty. My sweet mama treated me to a pedicure, haircut, new clothes, shoes, jewelry...seriously, I felt like a new person when I left for the Memphis airport headed to our next destination. Bless her heart, when I landed in Memphis last Fall, the day after I flew in, she told me to shower and dress and we were going shopping. I said, "For what?" She said, "Honey, I hated to tell you this but I wanted to cry when I saw you get off the airplane in those jeans yesterday!" haha! Yep. It was pretty bad...and I don't think this time was much better. Well, thank goodness that's one of the things mama's are for...and thank goodness mine just so happens to be from the South--she knows how to shop! ;) I love you, mama. Thanks for sharing some Southern style with me. I needed it. :)