Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections of 2011

You can find these questions located here.  It's fun and inspiring to look back at the past year.

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

We made a life change.  The decision was made long before this year but this is when it all came to fruition.  We transitioned from the only life we had ever known as an Army family into the civilian world.  After nearly 10 years in the Army, Jason's duty was done and we were moving on to new adventures.  He had chosen to further his education with an MBA and was accepted into the program at Vanderbilt.  While I was hesitant at first about our life altering move, I quickly began to see all the advantages it had to offer.  Jason really knows what he is doing in taking care of this family.  Not only did he move us here to Nashville (which we LOVE with our whole heart!), but he also worked hard and scored an internship with the ONE company he was targeting to work for (Exxon Mobil, Gas and Power Marketing Division).  All that worry about moving here just proves, I don't know much...but I know I love the man that makes these decisions.  I should really trust him more!
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Moving away from THIS.  We spent the first 8 years of our married life in Fayetteville, NC.  A place I never knew I would miss.  We built our first home and loved living there.  We had an amazing neighborhood and friends there that proved to be more like family to me.  The friendships I had while residing there shaped who I am today. I raised my children from babies with those girls.   It was some of the most challenging times of my life and without them, I might have crumbled.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and I'm thankful for every minute!
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
We found this house.

  It was one of the first ones  I looked at.  I spent the months of February and March consumed in research for finding housing and schools for us during our transition to Nashville.  I knew we couldn't afford private schools so I would have to place us strategically in a place where the public schools were acceptable.  My search was consuming and a little disheartening.  I knew that Metro schools didn't have a great reputation and there was ONE, only one elementary school that carried a 10 (the best) rating on  I focused in on that area but there were no rentals available there.  I widened my search and even lowered my standards a bit to try and find something acceptable.  I had several picked out that were rented before we could move it.  I was looking too far out, apparently, when renting, you can only look 1 month out.  That didn't sit well with this planner mama.  I needed a place to live and I needed peace of mind BEFORE I left NC.  I found a house on craigslist, in our price range, close to Jason's school with a playground across the street.  It looked too good to be true.  I contacted the owner and set up a showing for when I flew into TN.  The only hang up was that the school wasn't exactly the one I wanted him to attend.  Oh, well, it was just Kindergarten.  I met the home owner and we had an instant connection.  She was delighted to see a family and I was happy to see that she actually cared who rented the house.   At the end of the showing, we discovered from my neighbor that the school WAS the one school I had chosen.  It had been rezoned to the only school I desired Jackson to go to.  That pretty much did it.  That was the biggest joy I received this year.  And we haven't looked back!
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Health Insurance!  We were a little blindsided by Tricare.  You know, you can always count on them.  When Jason exited the military he was told that we'd have 180 days of Tricare coverage.  Not true.  Luckily, we who are rarely sick didn't know until we had been uninsured for nearly 2 months.  They dropped us the day he was officially out and we didn't know it until 2 months later.  So then we were scrambling to find health insurance for the kids.  It was mostly on me since he had school and in that 2 weeks, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about insurance plans.   
5. Pick three words to describe 2011.
Anxious, Adventurous, Amazing  
After last year, I figured I'd go with a letter theme and it worked out well.  I spent the first 4 months of the year incessantly looking at housing, schools and researching where we would spend the next 2 years.  It was really important since I'd have a kindergartner and school zones were at a premium.  I knew public school was our only option(we jokingly say only one family member can attend private school at a time and right now, Jason is taking his turn!).
After moving to Nashville, we made it out goal to live out every single minute here to the fullest.  We jumped right into life here and started doing all the things one must do in Nashville.   We spent the summer in the Warner Parks, at the Music Venues and Canoeing along the river while occasionally visiting the not to be missed restaurants locals admired.  It's been quite an adventure and it's not over yet!
We love it here (this might get repetitive!)  It's an amazing city.  The people are nice, the weather is pretty great and there is tons of stuff to do.  We sat on our back porch late one summer evening and self proclaimed that this may be the best place we will ever live.  Not the house or area but the best city we'll ever get the chance to live in.  Sure, we will love wherever we are together but this place is about as good as it gets!
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).
Neurotic, Surprised, and I asked him the last one and well, we won't even begin to go into the words he came up with.  It wasn't pretty and it didn't end well.
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2011 (again, without asking).
I totally asked him.  I didn't have the patience to try and choose for him.  Besides, who knows himself better than him?  Ok, sure, most of the time I do but this time I thought I'd give him a chance.  His answers were similar to what I would have chosen.
Different, Exciting and Happy
8. What were the best books you read this year?
Ah, I read a lot of great books this year.  I read The Help, Same Kind of Different as Me, Water for Elephants,  Black Wheels to Tractor Wheels (again!), The Art of Racing in the Rain and most recently The Hunger Games.  Next up on my library que is book 2 in that series.  It is INTENSE!
Oh, and I nearly forgot but I read the most amazing book called Kisses from Katie.  It should be on your next book list pronto.  Life changer, game changer, hold on to your seat!
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
While I had to say goodbye to some of my very best friends in NC, they will still remain my friends among the many miles.  We can thank social networking for that!  I also developed quite a few new friendships here in TN.  I joined a MOMS club shortly after moving here and it gave me tons of moms just like me.  It wasn't long before I found a new running partner, Stephanie who has kept my miles up and my running strong.  Also, as sad as I was to say goodbye to Mari H, I found a new Mari!  Really, I found a friend with lots in common and her name just happens to be Mari W.  How totally cool.  Cool enough for it's very own blog...coming soon!
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I went from being an "Army wife" to a "grad school wife?"  I had always defined myself by Jason's job in the army.  It was my job too.  I had to transition from that lifestyle but luckily for me, much about business school at Vandy is about networking which is exactly what I was doing in the Army.  Sure, it's never as intense as it was while discussing deployments and homecomings but it does take an outgoing personality and a smiling face.  I think I can handle that!  
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
My heart grew on the mission field.  I had never even considered any type of mission for me to go on. I have always been a giver of money but never put myself there.  I had never put such an emphasis on serving God.  Crosspoint is a church committed to serving God's people both near and far.  Also, a friend from NC who has become a better friend across the globe also set my heart on fire.  She and her husband, led by God, moved their family across the globe to serve His people in Cambodia.  She was a normal girl, just like me.  Her kids were my kids age and God told them to go and she obeyed, they obeyed.  You can and (SHOULD!)read about her life HERE.  It hasn't always been easy for her but it has been a blessing to me and started a fire in me that will lead wherever God sees fit.  This Christmas, it was Wheelwright, KY. I don't know where it will lead next,  I just pray for obedience.
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
After the move, we were looking for a new church.  We didn't have to look far.  As we drive into the neighborhood, Crosspoint Church is about a mile away.  We like to choose a church that is close by, it ensures that we at least get there somewhat on time!  We tried it and the kids came back telling us it was the best church ever.  It helped that many of my mom friends already went there but when in every single message God started speaking directly to us, I knew we were home. Also refer to question #11.  It applies here as well.
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
No brainer here, Jen and I finished our first half marathon in April!  It was our running send off.  We ran the Raleigh Rocks Half Marathon and did it even faster than we ever thought possible!  We crossed the finish line in UNDER 2 hours which is far better than what we had expected!  I'm already aware that we set the bar pretty high for future half marathons.  It was so exciting to finish with her by my side.  We'd been running together over the last 4 years pretty consistently and most days about 5:45, I still miss her.  Country Music Half Marathon coming up in April of this year, who's running with me?
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

Many of my past friendships matured into long distance friendships or friends via social networks.  We moved and many of them did too.  I like to think I'm pretty good at the long distance friendship thing since my best friend moved to Ohio several years ago and we never miss a beat.  I keep up with several friends via their blogs and then when I need advice, I know I can count on them to be there.  
I also jumped right into making new friends here.  I love how quickly the dust settles and you discover who you will mesh well with.  I have discovered several true friends here that I fully intend to maintain long term friendships with.
It warms my heart to know that some friendships are blind to distance and time.  Those are the best kind!
15. What was the most enjoyable area of your work?

I have really enjoyed being involved in Jackson's school activities.  I am fortunate to be able to have that luxury.  I like him knowing that I care about his education and can invest time into it.  I like him to see that his teacher and I are on the same page.  
I also enjoy the time I have had to spend with Lincoln while Jackson is at school.  Sure, we talk about him all day until he returns but it is nice to do things one on one just like I did with Jackson before Lincoln came along.  It's only fair.
16. What was your most challenging area of home management?
This house is SO much smaller than my NC house.  We have tons of stuff in storage but it seems to not matter.  It is so much harder to keep this house clean!  I try equally as hard and it never seems tidy.  I know it's temporary but I miss my big house, my large kitchen and my craft/dining room!  There are also stairs in this house and that took a little getting used to.  Basically it means toys are up and downstairs now.  The children won't have it any other way!
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Say hello to PINTEREST.  Yes, along with many many others, I have spent more time than I care to total up checking out the latest recipe and craft pins.  Pins of houses I'll never live in and projects I'll never be talented enough to try.  I actually had to take a step back after the initial addiction because I was pinning my life away.  Now I get on there mostly to look up recipes or great ideas for pumpkin carving or 100 days of kindergarten activities.  Otherwise, Facebook and Google Reader are my only vices.
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
The best time I've spent has been with my family.  I spent the whole summer with Jason and the boys exploring Nashville and all it had to offer.  We spent a week traveling LA and FL.  I've probably never in my married life spent this much time with him.  It was such a wonderful change for us.  Having him home for dinner on a regular basis is still surprising sometimes.  Definitely something I want to get used to.
We are also taking full advantage of living so close to our extended family.  They boys are getting to spend so much more time with the grandparents lately and having babysitters 2 hours away has been fantastic!  We are lucky to be able to depend on them so much!

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
Change can be good.  Fantastic actually.  I gained nothing for all the months I spent worrying about how things would work out when we moved to Nashville.  Things are working out just fine.  Better than fine and it all happened without the help of all my worrying.  I need to learn to trust God more and worry a little less.  He's got this!
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.
Happiness is something you CHOOSE. Love is WORTH IT. Life is what you make of it and I think mine...SPARLKES!
To God be the glory!

Monday, December 26, 2011

I have a 6 year old-part 1

You might be thinking that it will take 2 blogs because what I have to say about having a 6 year old is so heartfelt and sentimental that the emotion covers more than one blog can handle but that is not the case.  It is in 2 parts because his birthday is SO celebrated, it took us 2 days just to wrap up all the festivities.  Some would say having a birthday so near Christmas is a disadvantage but not to this 6 year old.  Not yet at least.

Being a good mom, like I am, I had scheduled to see The Radio City Christmas Spectacular on none other than Jackson's birthday.  He's 6, what does he care if his Mom spends his birthday evening with him?  Well, honestly, he doesn't but it was also not the day of his planned party and I'm still thinking he got a pretty good deal out of my poor planning.
We started out the big day by checking him out of school to meet Nana and my Aunt Janie for burgers at Burger Up, the fancy little burger place on 12S.  No Chuck E Disease for his birthday lunch, we went all out.  We topped it off with popcicles at Las Paletas.  Those popcicles are good no matter how cold it is outside!  Next, we headed to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.  That place is an event in itself.  The extent to which they decorate for Christmas is above and beyond and definitely worth seeing once a year!  It was his birthday 2 years ago we also visited the Gaylord for an overnight stay.  Such a fun staycation.  I wonder if I can get someone to take me there for my birthday next year?
Aunt Janie ponied up the nearly $20 bucks to take them on the little indoor boat ride around the hotel river.  yes, I said river, inside the hotel.
The Gaylord hotels have partnered with Dreamworks animations and brought characters to the hotel to add to the magic.  The only catch is you have to purchase a "Dreamworks" package to have your picture made with the characters.  As we longingly looked at Po the Panda from Kung Fu Panda, a nice man walked up and asked us if we'd been to the ICE exhibit.  I told him no and he handed me 2 tickets to it plus the bracelets that allow you access to the Dreamworks experience!  Score!  So Jackson and I visitied the panda and Shrek on our way out to see the Merry Madagascar Ice display.  This is what he had asked for ever since a boy in his class had gone.  I was glad it worked out so that we could take him and even more glad that Jason and I didn't have to pay the exorbitant ticket prices to get it!
At the ICE building, we were fitted with extra large parkas for our journey through the 2 billion lbs  (or something like that) of ice carved in every color to look like all the characters from the Merry Madagascar movie.  It was pretty stunning to see the cool creations and by cool I mean 14degrees indoors!  It is COLD in there.  By the time we got to the exhibit highlight, Lincoln was starting to whine.  Jackson, Jason and Lincoln took on the ice slide more than a few times before Jackson himself decided it was time to move on to warmer climates.  By the time we got to the nativity in ice, Lincoln was crying and Jackson was sporting a red nose.  We were pretty glad to see those doors and feel the heat again.  When the boys thawed out, Jason took them home and Mom, Aunt Janie and I walked over to the Grand Ol' Opry to see the Rockettes.  It was my 3rd time to see them and it never ever gets old to me.  I LOVE it.
I'd say Jackson had a pretty great birthday for a 6 year old and the fun is just beginning.  Part 2 will feature pirates, volcanoes and slime.  Yes, everything a 6 year old could possibly love.

And out of obligation:  How in the world do I have a reading, writing, math whiz, bike riding, growing taller by the minute 6 year old?  It is amazing how quickly he went from looking like a toddler to being a blooming Kindergartner with a very independent mind.  He's growing up faster than ever and learning like never before.  Some Most days he surprises me with things I didn't know he knew.  I guess I'm still getting used to him being away from me for more hours of the day than he's with me and depending on someone else to teach him.  I'm not one for homeschooling, Jackson is definitely a social child and his school is great but I do miss being in the know about what goes on with him every day.  He has always been the easiest, most agreeable child.  He was my perfect child.  He is a pleaser and a charmer.  He is his father at age 6.  And I couldn't possibly love him more!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

Do you ever want to remember one particular day forever?  All of the details so later whenever you wish, you can relive the nostalgia?  That is exactly how I felt about today.  I wanted to be able to look back and recall every moment of our time spent together today so I can remember it forever.

This is your warning that this might not be my most well composed, humorous or witty blog.  Heck, you might not think any of them are well composed, humorous or witty but apparently I do.  I like to think so anyway.  This is the story of our Christmas Day 2011 from morning until night.

It was just before midnight when Jason and I hung the last of the stockings up in anticipation for the big guy.  Our last task was to make a crepe paper gate so that no littles got downstairs before we did.  In the past, it has been well into the 4-5am hour when the joyous news of his deliveries was upon us.  We had discussed with Jackson the "sun coming up" thing previously and this year he obeyed.  It was around 7am when he came and got right in my face to tell me Santa had came and it was time to go downstairs.  I happily awoke from possibly one of the best sleeps I've had in quite a few months!  Jason got Lincoln up and I assembled the camera for the chaos.
As we approached the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner the squeals of joy were apparent.  Lincoln said "Oh, whoa" and "It's Thomas!" While Jackson was thrilled over his new footie pajamas that he'd been wanting.  Lincoln was most interested in his stocking which subsequently held candy.  The only thing he asked Santa for Christmas.  Jackson proceeded to open his gifts and finally got around to his coveted Leapad that *Santa* had thankfully pre-ordered in November before they became extinct for the season.
I opened my new special edition perfume (Viva La Juicy) and I really loved how Jason proceeded to tell me what the salesperson insisted I know.  It is a special edition rare, less alcohol, higher concentrate bottle of perfume like they make in France.  I stopped him before he got too tongue twisted explaining to him that I was aware of the special edition bottle, I know my perfume!  I was also gifted with some cold weather running gear that I had been asking for.
Jason got a "daddy purse" as the boys proclaimed.  Yes, he got a nice leather briefcase style bag for his new job at Exxon this summer.  He'll be living downtown and walking to work.  This way he can carry his lunch with him too. (ha, what man actually makes and carries his lunch?)  Jason also got a new jacket and in his stocking he found a surprise.  I purchased us the Head and Heart tickets for March.  It's a long way out but he was really wanting to go and I was happy to be able to afford concert tickets for once.
After the boys finished oooohing over their stocking stuffers, I got to work on the electronic set-up.  I was busy  downloading the software for his new leapad while also cooking quite the breakfast spread.  The coffee was ready upon wake-up and the cinnamon rolls were a-rising.  Yes, the beloved PW cinnamon rolls.
There is nothing better.
I also made sausage balls and an egg and chili puff casserole.  It must have been pretty good because even my egg hater kids ate it.  We (and I mean Jason and I) celebrated Christmas morning with mimosas!  I love the bubbly mixed with the fresh taste of high calorie OJ.  I love to drink it for special occasions.  It makes it feel different from any other day and it should be!
Back to the electronics, I had a mini meltdown about it not downloading correctly.  It might have not been so mini.  Ask Jason.  I have a serious problem when it comes to electronics.  I can throw a fit in a second if they do not work correctly.  I have no patience and loose all sense of reason.  It is a serious flaw.  I should work on it.  Instead, I loaded and reloaded the silly Leapad until finally after doing nothing differently, it started doing what I demanded.  See, persistence paid off.  Jackson took it from me and continued to play with it the rest of the day.
Lincoln was due a nap and Jason and I had our sights set on one too.  Jackson settled in to watch Cars 2 while we napped.  It was short, the day was too beautiful to nap.  I got up and picked up the mess of the chaos.  I also started our Christmas dinner.  We were having a standing rib roast.  His parents have done this tradition before but we never have.  We were a little intimidated but after checking them out a publix we decided to give it a go.  I salt crusted it and placed it in the oven.
When Lincoln woke up, it was time to get outdoors for a few minutes.  We took a little family stroll down to the Harpeth River in the back of the neighborhood.  The water was pretty high and Jackson immediately noticed how much of the rock we normally stand on was underwater.  We threw rocks in, stomped in puddles and had a little silly string fight.  Lincoln didn't disappoint us with a constant whine all the way back home.  You can always count on him!
Jason cleared out the living room while I prepared the rest of our fancy Christmas Dinner.  I did chuckle at the fact that it is only us and I made quite a feast.  Most of which only Jason and I could possible appreciate.  Along with our Rosemary-Horseradish Crusted Rib Roast served with a blue cheese chipotle sauce, we also had PW green bean casserole, Creamy cheese grits with chilies, and wilted spinach with garlic.  I would like for it to be known that no cream soups were harmed in the making of my green bean casserole.  No cans were opened and no gelatinous masses were added in its creation.  It is the BEST homemade green bean casserole out there (well, in my opinion).
After dinner, Jason and Jackson played Toy Story for Wii while Lincoln looked on and pretended to play.
(pause for funny story)  
This week Jackson told my dad he hoped he would get an Xbox for Christmas and Dad said "why do you want one of those, you already have a Y."  Jackson corrected his mistake saying "Pawpaw, it's a Wii not a Y!
Jackson donned his new footie pajamas and we settled in to read books.  I read You are Special by Max Lucado. Great book, btw.  Amazing way to represent God's love for us in a way children can understand and remember.  Then we read the birth of Jesus in their children's Bible.  We ended it with old faithful, Goodnight Moon.  I am amazed at how they never ever tire of that silly book.  It's still going strong for nearly 5 years.
This was our second year to spend Christmas alone as a family of four. I think I'm starting to like it!  I like making our own traditions and look forward to repeating them for years to come.  I'm sure there will eventually come a day that Goodnight moon is not requested but until then, I'll keep reading it and finding that silly little mouse eating mush and love every minute of it.
Merry Christmas from the deFoor family.  I hope yours was equally as full of traditions and memories made.

Santa put up a gate to ensure nobody got a sneak peak!

Lucky boy!  There are those amazing footie pajamas.  How funny is he?

He's going to be a Soccer player.  I guess that means I'll be a  soccer mom.

There it is, the highly sought after Leapad!

And Toy Story for the Y, or the Wii.
Jason got Jackson a Harry Potter want in Orlando last month.  Daddy was explaining how "this is a collectible, not a toy" but you could have fooled me!

Lincoln's version of his wand.  It was  a set of wooden spoons that Santa thought might come in handy if any fights over toys might have occurred.  He's a Smart guy/girl because they did happen to come in handy a few times throughout the day.

Thankful for him and his Lego construction ability!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Elfing Around

Well, Criddle has made his yearly appearance at the deFoor home.  After a fun couple of years in NC, he now is visiting us in NashvilleTN.  He is definitely bringing his creativity with him from the north pole this Christmas.  He first showed up at Granny Patti’s at thanksgiving.  He then followed us home to Nashville and has really been having a good time watching the boys and reporting to Santa.  Each morning, the boys bound out of bed to see what he has been up to next.  You just never know where Criddle will be found.  He has a wild imagination. 

One weekend, the boys were at Nana and PawPaws when Aunt Janie woke up to something funny going on in her kitchen.  She called Jackson and Lincoln to come quick and see that the elf had came to her house from the north pole and he had cooked them breakfast.  He showed up riding a brass reindeer and brought snowballs donuts, santa hats (white chocolate covered strawberries), raspberry yogurt and peppermint chocolate milk.  It was quite the spread for one little elf.   He had letters written to both boys about watching them and reporting their behavior to Santa.  I was pretty impressed and hoped he’d decide to make breakfast more often.  All he seems to want to make at my house is a MESS!  Go figure!

As we prepare to say goodbye to Criddle again until next year, we leave all of his funny and clever disguises for your viewing pleasure and mine.  I just hope he can keep up with this level of creativity in years to come.