Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflections of 2013

I look forward to this blog most of all each year.  Its fun and interesting to see how you view the entire year in your life, all summed up in one blog.  Even more fun is looking back at years past to see how things have changed.  At some point, they all make me tear up just a little.  The time passes so quickly.  It seems to go by faster each year.
REALLY BIG changes happened if you were a deFoor this year.  Here they are, for better or for worse!

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

 I don't think anyone had ANY doubt that THIS was the best thing that happened to us this past year.  In July, we found out we were expecting a 3rd deFoor baby and finding out it was a girl painted our whole world PINK.  The boys weren't thrilled at first but they pretty quickly took a liking to the idea of "baby sister".  Now they can't wait.  I can't wait.  Jason can't wait.  This girl is going to be spoiled in the worst way!  I won't lie, I'm counting down the days until I can hold her.  She will come into this world with 8 open arms waiting to love her!

2.  What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

 We said goodbye to what I'll probably look back on as the best years of our life.
 Leaving Nashville wasn't as hard as I'd expected. 
 Nope, it was HARDER.  
I'd come to love it there even more than expected.  I invested in friendships that are life long and saying goodbye to those girls and their families was by far the most difficult thing for me.  It's not every day you find THIS many girls you would consider good friends.  They took us in and treated us like we'd always been there.  They didn't give any thought to the fact that we wouldn't be staying forever.  I am forever grateful that God placed us in this community and in the lives of each of them.  I'm thankful for our constant communication and support even from 800 miles away!

3.  What was an unexpected joy this past year?

Finding THIS house!  I had done so much research.  It had consumed me over the 1st few months of this year.  I had looked up schools and houses and one look at this one told me it should be home.  We had to jump through more hoops than I'm willing to go into to get it but we love this house so very much.  It was like it was built for us.  Perfect size and even more perfect location.  
 And loving THIS girl!  She technically came to us last December but our love for her grew tremendously over the last year.  She's perfect for us and our family.  She snuggles with me, fights with Jason and chases the boys.  She loves us all equally.  Lucy is finally out of that "puppy stage" and we can trust her at home alone for a while.  Just look at this face! How can you not love her!

4.  What was an unexpected obstacle this past year?

Moving to a new city was an obstacle.  Not knowing ANYONE in the area was definitely an obstacle. In the Army, we were handed a group of friends, hand picked from the unit to which we were assigned.  After that, you were free to make other friends but starting out, you had people.  In Nashville, we were handed a group of grad school friends, all new to the area also but it made it easy to go from there with friendships.  Here we were on our on.  Most of the people that are here grew up here or somewhere nearby.  Many of them have family here.  That makes breaking into their circles a bit more difficult.  They aren't looking to add to their circles.  They have plenty of friends.  Sure, we can all use a few more but they weren't looking.  I was!   We are very social.  I had been here 10 minutes and I was ready to get out and start making friends.  At least 2 times in the first 2 weeks, I complained and told Jason that we needed to get out and make some friends.  A place isn't comfortable until you have people in your area.  People you can hang out with and count on whether it's questions or advice, it's necessary.  I'm still learning some patience in this area.  I have joined a great moms bible study and those girls I just LOVE!  I also have some good friends at the gym I can count on.  I love how children bring on new friendships and I have high hopes for budding friendships in the future!

5.  Pick 3 words to describe 2013.  

New, Bigger, Settled

New House, New City, New Friends.  So many things about Texas are new to us.  I had to learn my way around this place which wasn't easy.  I had to learn new grocery stores. I conquered driving in 8 lanes of traffic.  All of these things are new to us.  It was like every turn we entered new territory.  Starting at graduation from Vanderbilt.  I'd never even been to Texas before we planned to move here.  There are still new things on the horizon but new was definitely a trend for us this year.

BIGGER!  Everything is bigger in Texas.  That's no secret.  They are proud of it!  
For us, it meant a bigger house AND a bigger city.  Plus, we found out we will be becoming a bigger family.  Yes, it was a year for bigger in many ways!  

Settled.  I knew early in the year where we were headed.  It took a lot of research to get here but once we were here, I felt settled.  We are probably here (at least here in Texas) for the long haul.  We know what Jason's job looks like for the foreseeable future.  We know the area pretty well by now.  We love our community, we have a church and the boys are involved in their schools.  I feel more settled than I have in a few years.  As much as I loved Nashville, living in a transition left and unsettling feeling that you just can't shake.  Knowing you're where you are going to be for a while, possibly forever has a way of helping you place your roots!

6.  Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your past year.  

(It always says don't ask them.  I ALWAYS do.  I like knowing what he thinks of MY year)

I caught him on a good night.  He was more than willing to participate.  I like his cooperation!

His thoughts were: Unsettling, Hopeful, Blessed.

Unsettling.  Funny thing is above I considered my life settled here.  I questioned him on this opposing view.  He said our life this year was unsettled because we made a BIG move from comfortable, know our way around everywhere to this BIG city, into a new suburb.  He remembers the days after our move where I would tell him we needed to get out and find friends.  It wouldn't be "home" until we had people we could call friends.  We had to search for our church, multiple Sundays.  Moving is tough.  I can see where he would see it as unsettling for me.  Good thing for me is going into the new year feeling just the opposite.

Hopeful.  Yes, now this one I agree on.  We had just gotten notice of steady employment last year.  We would be moving but it would include a bigger house and a new and better paying job for Jason.  Graduation from Vandy opened doors we never knew existed and we were hopeful for what our future would bring.  To this point, I'd say it exceeded our expectations.  I was hopeful for LOVING Texas and making this place home and I was hopeful that we would be adding a final baby to our family once that move was made.  DONE.  I guess everyone is always hopeful but this year, I held some high hopes in store for us and I wasn't disappointed!

Blessed.  In the end, it's easy to see how all of the changes over the last few years have led us to this point.  It wasn't always easy but we were always blessed.  This year was no different.  We were so blessed to have lived in Nashville near our families and spend tons of time together. It was such a change from the deployment life.  Now we are blessed to make more changes into a life more like we expected.  Sure it's the corporate 9-5 (plus a 3 hour commute, true story) but we live in a dreamy planned community with schools easily rated a solid 10.  Not to mention 14 pools, 120 parks and over 200 miles of walking and biking trails.  We live so close to school, the boys will walk the 1/4 mile (maybe) out of our back fence and be on school property.  
We will start the new year with a BANG.  In less than 8 weeks, we will be adding an element to our family that we've never experienced before.  We are PRETTY sure this little girl will complete our family.  It's easy to see how very blessed we are and it's hard not to be grateful.  

7.  Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year. (I let him help with this one)  

Transition, Challenged, Satisfied

Grad school was no doubt the good life.  We have both said, we will look back on that as some of the best years of our life.  You are smart enough to not do the stupid 20 year old things of undergrad and you have more financial stability along with personal responsibility.  It's the best of both worlds!  Going from Army life to Grad school was a change and going from Grad School to corporate world was also quite a transition.  He says it took grad school to remind him that those brain gears still turned in that direction!  School was the best thing for Jason's transition to this new business world.  He's had quite a transition into this new life but there's no doubt in my mind he's kicking a$$ and taking names up there on the 43 floor of the Exxon tower! 

Challenged.  School wasn't hard for J but it did propose a challenge at times. These challenges prepared him for the workforce he's in.  It's a sharp learning curve and it's self taught for the most part.  Good thing for him, he's used to self learning as it was a point of teaching at USMA.  He was placed in this job and given tasks that seemed overwhelming but he was up to the challenge and we both feel like it's paying off.  He impresses me with his ability to meet challenges so easily.  If he was ever stressed, you'd never know it.  That is most likely his life motto.

Satisfied.  He made some BIG changes in our family and had high hopes of it all working out like he'd planned.  This is the year he saw those changes come to fruition.  He had a vision of where he saw us in a few years and at this point, we are right on track.  He's never led us astray but some called him crazy for leaving the steady paycheck of the Army for NO paycheck in grad school.  He knew what he was doing.  He wasn't doing it blindly.  He knew God had bigger plans for him and he followed HIS lead into the life we are currently living.  Aside from the 3 hour commute every day, I'd say he's quite satisfied in the life we are living here.  We all like Texas, he likes his job and momma's happy here in this place.  And we all know when momma's happy, everybody's happy!

8.  What were the best books you read this year?  

And I thought last year was a slow reading year.  I have higher expectations of next year in the reading category.  I hope the "sit down and rock-a-bye-baby" will allow more reading and I have already started a list of my must reads for next year.  

As far as what made the list this year:
I didn't waste any time reading the new Nicholas Sparks.   I always love his books and this was no different.  Now, can we get a movie for it PLEASE!  

 These two were my summer and fall bible study books.  Both were good and thought provoking.  I learned new and in-depth things about the Bible.  They both had great life application messages.  Our next study is Love Does and THAT one I'm looking most forward to!

9.  With whom were your most valuable relationships?

My sister tops the list of most valuable relationship.  I probably talk to her, oh, 3 times a day.  We probably send 100-150 text messages daily.  Is there a time I'm not talking to her?  Not much.  Just when I thought we couldn't be closer, her having Allie Gray made us even closer.   We have another common bond.  We always say we feel bad for people that don't have a sister.  There's just no other relationship like it.  Its the best friend you were born with!  

I also had a little reunion with my friends in NC.  We all met in Colorado and although it had been 2-3 years since we'd all been together, it was like we'd never left!  It was so fun to rekindle friendships with those girls.  We carry a special bond of absent husbands in dangerous lands while raising babies and toddlers alone.  It will really make you feel like family.  Life may carry us into every corner of the US and beyond but those are valuable relationships to me!

Of course my Nashville girls make the list too.  I said a sad "see you later" to these girls that made a BIG impact on my life in a relatively short time.  I love how our chain text messages sometimes make me feel I never left!  Those girls are important to me.  I love them, their opinions and their honesty!

10.  What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

There's nothing like a cross country move to make you rely on the ones you're with!  I think my biggest change was the realization that we are a family.  Just the 4 of us (soon to be 5!).  I realized that we are responsible for making the memories our children will remember for their lifetime.  I realized that when I "grow up" they will be my real friends.  They are nearly the age now where we can have fun and intelligent conversations.  Our relationships have changed from all take to a little more give and take and it is very satisfying!  It makes me even more happy to be expanding our little family again and adding another friend to the mix.  
I learned the real meaning of  "We are FAMILY!"

11.  In what ways did you grow emotionally?  

When you have your first child, it's nearly impossible to imagine sharing the love you feel for them with another.  Then your second comes along and you realized that your don't have to split your love among your children but infact it simply multiplies.  This year I learned that the love I have for my children strengthens and multiplies with each one.  And that makes my heart smile!

12.  In what ways did you grow spiritually?

In HIS time.  I'm what you might call "in the process" of learning that things happen or NOT happen but they happen in HIS time.  It may or may not be the time you want.  You may or may not like it. I definitely still have some improving to do but understanding that He has my best interest in mind helps me see the future more clearly.  In HIS time.

13.  In what ways did you grow physically?

Well....I'm 31 weeks so I think this pretty much speaks for itself.  

14.  In what ways did you grow in your relationships with others?  

Again, perfection was not achieved but I feel like I tried harder to offer grace.  I worked to first give the benefit of the doubt before rushing to judgement.  God gives us all the grace you can imagine and there is no reason I shouldn't pass this gift onto others.  I won't lie to say it wasn't a struggle.  And sometimes harder than others.  It's a work in progress but if HIS grace is sufficient for me, then I should be happy to offer it freely.

15.  What was the most enjoyable part of your work?

The level of independence the boys developed this year made my job very enjoyable.  I can ask their assistance in doing many things and they are capable of doing it.  They have chores they are responsible for doing in helping around the house and they are learning to take care of their own clothes and things also.  They both can fully dress themselves down to their shoes and both can get into the car and buckle themselves.  They can both swim now and that makes time at the pool less stressful and a whole lot more fun!  They also became better "friends" because they have similar interest.  Both like legos and work pretty well together.  Seeing them thrive in brotherhood is enjoyable and gratifying!  

16.  What was the most challenging part of your work?

It's a continuing theme as a parent.  The biggest challenge we face is raising MEN.  Not just boys. We are constantly working on manners, kindness and fairness.  We strive to ensure they are not living in the entitlement age. One of the phrases we do not allow around here is "I deserve."  We want to give them freedoms to make decisions and choose for themselves but things around here are EARNED and not deserved.  Now that they are both of "boy age" and not toddlers, we don't let them cry over trivial things.  I want them to be emotional but for the right reasons.  We can cry if you are hurt, someone else is sick or hurt (feelings included) or if someone dies.  We also strive hard for generosity and humility.  We've had some intense conversations about humility!  

17.  What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

No doubt about it, this is family wide.  TRAFFIC.  Moving to a big city has some pitfalls.  This is one of them.  It's well known the traffic in Houston is significant and poor Jason just can't avoid it at his job and times for work.  We, however, can avoid it and we do at all costs.  I took no time learning my way around the HOV lanes downtown.  I will waste an extra 10 minutes if the HOV lane is about to open in order to take it.  I try to plan my trips downtown to be within the 10-2pm time frame when traffic is at it's lightest.  I find myself watching the 630am traffic reports just to check in with Jason on his whereabouts and if he'll make it to work on time.  There is no rhyme or reason to the traffic patterns around here.  You just know it's there and plan on it or plan around it but it can often feel like a hopeless time suck and there's nothing worse!

18.  What was the best way you used your time this past year?

I spent every Tues and Thursday at my favorite boot camp class from June until October when  I was having to modify so much that it wasn't worth going anymore and that was most definitely time well spent.  I can't wait to get back to it even thought it's gonna HURT!  

We spent LOTS  of time at the pools this year. The one thing from my childhood summers I remember most is the time we spent swimming with my cousins.  I hope the boys remember summers as fondly as I do!  

Blogging.  I wouldn't have said so, I've been feeling lack luster in my most recent blogs but the boys got up extra early one day last week.  When I stumbled into the living room to find them, they were sitting on the couch reading one of my past blog books.  It was super sweet to see them reading the stories about themselves and giggling.  And that moment I was reminded "this is why I blog!"

19.  What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

It never slows down.  Time.  It goes faster and faster with each passing year.  My dad has been saying that for years.  Sometimes its hard to believe.  This year, was my year of reckoning.  I knew it would go by fast but as I ponder all the things that happened this past year I'm quickly reminded at how quickly it passed us by. The kids grow a year older, we move states and homes, we start new lives and make new friends.  We grow in many ways and time never slows down.  As I see the next year going by even more quickly than the last, I'm reminded to relish each and every moment.

20.  Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.

Excitement and adventure are best when shared with the people you love the most.

I cherish (almost) every moment I have spent with boys this year.  I cherish the time I've spent alone with Jason and the time I've spent with my extended family.  I cherish every season of life a little more than the last.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

None the Wiser

If this isn't the cutest wiseman you've ever laid eyes on!  Lincoln's preschool program did a nativity for Christmas.  He was cast as a wiseman and I was responsible for making his costume.  The burlap came as an afterthought because I had it around from decorating at Christmas.  
He did a lot of standing around and smiling.  Singing and following cues, not so much but isn't that what makes preschoolers so adorable?!

They also sang "baby Jesus" and had a little party with snacks afterward.  We are so thankful for Lincoln's preschool.  It's at our church here but we LOVE it and he LOVES it.  His teachers have been teaching preschool for a very long time and they are so sweet.  He has a small class and he is learning quite a lot.  He's gone from not knowing letters to knowing AND writing them. He thrives in the school setting which is why Kindergarten is the clear choice for him in the fall.  He will be young but he likes school and is a pleaser when he's there.

Here's the video.  It's 2 minutes of shaky cellphone video but it's really cute!

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Great to be EIGHT!

The only thing I can think when I look at this, besides "how adorable!", is Can I REALLY have an 8 year old?  I'm clearly not old enough to have given birth to this child 8 years ago.  It seems more like last year.  He's certainly smart enough to be 8 years old.  He's wise enough to be 16 and witty enough to dish with his 34 year old dad!  
For his 8th birthday, I took him to see ELF, the musical.  We LOVE Elf the movie.  We quote it year round.  I knew I wanted to see the musical and I'm glad Jackson was old enough to enjoy it with me!  It was also a fun time to see the lights in downtown Houston.  The federal building behind them changed colors.  (Note:  I love that he's not too cool (YET) to wear a painted rudolph nose for the most part of the day!)

It was a late late night and he didn't make it all the way home without falling asleep but he was great company during the musical.
We had this guy a Geronimo Stilton Birthday Party.  He is a literary character that Jackson loves. He is a Mouse reporter/detective.  He gets into all kinds of situations and we just picked a few of them.  We use a volcano as the main theme.  The boys helped me build it and we exploded it with vinegar and baking soda.  You wouldn't believe how entertaining a little kitchen products can be!  We planned the party at the park because here in Texas we have warm winters, right?  WRONG!  It wasn't just cold, the wind blew 30mph from the beginning of the party.  We were like popsicles. Funny, the kids didn't seem to mind much but I sure did.

We had a silly string fight and Jackson took the worst of it when his friends turned on him and all sprayed the birthday boy!
You see those red balloons high up in the pine tree?  Those lasted about 3 minutes outside of the car and then we watched as that $16 floated up into the trees.  Kids CAN NOT leave balloons alone until they are popped or in trees.  Noted.
Jackson requested a cookie cake and that wasn't hard to do.  Just a quick stop at the mall and he had a perfectly decorated chocolate chip cookie cake.
Nearly ALL of Jackson's friends from school made it and that was the best gift for him!  He loved having all his friends around to celebrate him.
We picked the park not far from our house because it has lots of spinners.  The kids all seem to like those the best.
We had pizza, cheese, crackers and juice.  No ice was necessary.  It was cold enough.  

Little brother thought he was just as big as the second graders.  He was with them every step!

Happy 8th Birthday Jackson!  You are one of a kind and you set the bar quite high for your siblings.  You are a great, kind and caring (mostly) brother and you will be the BEST big brother to your baby sister.  You are helpful, generous and appreciative.  You were born with a love of learning that most kids have to be taught.  You are so much your father that I can't help but love you!  Set your sights high, you will achieve more than you know.  I hope you achieve beyond our expectations and always know we love you to the moon and back!  

Christmas in Texas

Well, it ain't Dixie and there's no snow on this ground.  That's fine by me.  I prefer the 50's and 60's any day!  We had a really fantastic Christmas this year.  Jason had his first few days off and we really made the most of them.  We honored our family traditions and made a few memories in our new house.  The boys are at a magical age for Christmas morning.  They were both very excited about their gifts.
 Jackson (aka Jason) scored a VERY nice rifle for hog hunting.  I'm sure it will be a nice father/son bonding time when they go for a hunt but is a scope of that size REALLY necessary?
 Mustaches in stockings was one of Santas best ideas yet!  Note:  Jackson is claiming to be British.  He's holding his pinky out and has a cup of tea.  He also is using his best british accent.  You'd have to hear it to appreciate the comedy in it!
 Oh, yes, I have.  I am finally to the age where I get household appliances for gifts and actually LOVE it.  I spent the rest of the day with this baby!  I think she and I are going to get along just fine.  Maturity has its perks.
 Lincoln got his own DS.  This picture accurately shows who is truly interested in the DS but now they both have one and can play.  Bad news is they still fight over ONE game.  Seriously.
 The boys and Jason got "the family" a Soda Stream.  I had never considered one because the idea is to NOT drink more soda.  I have all but stopped drinking diet sodas but I had moved on to drinking lots of sparkling water.  I was buying the cans.  A friend had one and made us sparkling water right from her tap.  In seconds!  I was SOLD!  I can flavor it with lemon and I might as well be drinking a sprite.  Now the kids prefer it to be sugared to some degree but fruit juice does the trick there and they are none the wiser.  It was an even better gift than I had originally thought.
 Miss Marie got Lincoln the watch he'd been wanting.   He's hardly taken it off.  He even sleeps in it.  You know, in case he needs to know what time it is!
 Jason was excited to get a LEFT handed glove for playing baseball with the boys.  It's extremely difficult to find a LEFT glove that large.  Three cheers for amazon, again!
 Even "baby sister" as the boys refer to her got a few things for Christmas.  Gosh, we can't wait until she's here.  She's going to be one well dressed and overly adored baby girl!  Lucky her!
 All that Christmas joy...piled into the floor of the living room.  It's a crumpled mess but the memories and the joy they bring will last forever.
 Santa couldn't get the two giant trampoline boxes inside.  They were far too heavy.  He left them on the back porch for the boys to find.  It didn't take long to locate them.

 A classic and a modern twist.  Jackson asked for a lava lamp and in true Miss Marie style, he not only received a shiny new one but this awesome vintage which one might be everyone's favorite!  These things are mesmerizing!
 And I got these shiny (and handy)  new rainboots, or wellies for all the british among us!

They were pretty serious about their new mustaches.  The fun with them went on for several days.  Reminds me of the Sons of Anarchy!
I spent the day vacuuming the entire house while the guys were constructing and bouncing away!  It was a great day followed by a really delicious standing rib roast.  These kids don't even know how good they have it!

The day after Christmas my parents flew in for a week.  I was SO glad to have them here.  Those two!  They are so helpful.  I don't know what I'd do without them.

I had been making plans for Santa's Wonderland in college station for quite some time.  I had gotten tips from others that have gone before.  Use the groupon and go after Christmas if at all possible because of the crowd levels.  It seems as if my advice was right on point.  I bought the groupon and it was accepted the weekend I wanted to go.  I planned on going the 27th so the Christmas spirit was still lingering but the crowds had died down significantly.  And that's not to say it wasn't still crowded.  I cant' imagine going on a "crowded" night.  Crazy!
 Nana is Lincoln's playdoh.  Anything he wants, anytime he wants it.  She is putty to him. Always has been.   Can you tell?
 The lights were amazing!  We took the hayride and it was fun.  Everyone had their favorites.  Mine was the "stream" made of blue LED lights.

On Sunday, we had a belated Christmas "brunch" at Brennans.  It was Jason's favorite place here in Houston and I hadn't tried it yet.  I knew I would love it too.  Brunch was a great choice and nobody left disappointed OR hungry.  The service was pretty impeccable too.  The final word was in the Pralines.  Nobody left empty handed!
This was my photo worthy shrimp and grits.  The grits were almost as good as the shrimp themselves.  I also had an appetizer of "turtle soup" and surprisingly it was good!

 We had to make a run to IKEA. Mom loves that store and I needed some baby room items from there.  We went on Sunday and the crowd was pretty bad.  We only needed a few things but we left with ALL of this!
 I think he's getting worried about what else we plan to purchase and where we might try to place it.
 There was a whole lotta lego construction going on in the days that followed Christmas.  Lincoln is getting amazingly good at following those meticulous directions and building.  I was impressed that he could follow so many steps at age 4.

 No trip is complete without a "science 'spirment" with nana.  This was actually just shaving cream and food coloring they made pretty designs on paper with.  It makes great stationery.