Sunday, December 21, 2008

The girls were part of the annual Christ Academy Christmas Pageant this year, and I couldn't have been more proud! Last year, in 3k, they sang 3 songs and then we left. This year, they had a bigger role. The 4k had on little sheep costumes (vests and headbands) the Kindergartners were the angel choir, and the 1st graders comprised the nativity. They all sang 6 songs, with sign language, and told the Christmas story verses from the Bible between songs. It was very impressive, and it was the best program I have seen the girls do in the last 2 years. They sang every word, and did the sign language, all while smiling beautiful at their teacher on the front row! *lol* I sat on the front row to take pictures, and they kept sneaking smiles at me. I even had tears at one point because the song was so beautiful. God was truly glorified by those small children that night!

The girls waiting patiently for the music to begin...
Sarah is in the blue, and Aubrey is to the right in red (there is another girl between them)

Sean Michael before we left for the pageant... what a handsome boy!!

Sarah Grace in her Christmas dress, ready to go to the pageant.

Aubrey Linda, posing in her beautiful Christmas dress!

My pretty, pretty girls...

Ding Dong Merry, Merry Bells
With all the angels singing
Gloria, Hosannah in the Highest!

One small child in a land of a thousand.
One small dream of a savior tonight.
One small hand reaching out to the starlight.
One small savior of life. Ooh.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come...

All of the earth, all of Heaven rejoice!
Sing and rejoice!
All of the earth, all of Heaven rejoice!
Sing and rejoice!
Shout for joy, Heaven and earth!
Celebrate the Savior's birth!
All of the earth, all of Heaven rejoice!
Sing and rejoice!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Making his own fun...

While I was cleaning house on Saturday, I heard a ruckus in the kitchen... when I went in there to inspect, I found Mr. Monkey-Boy investigating my pots-n-pans cabinet. It's right next to my wrap-around bar, so it goes really deep. He was determined to check out every part of it! Also, he got his first haircut on Saturday... notice how he looks like a big boy now!!

Wow, look at this place!

Hey, these make cool sounds, and I'll bet mommy will love it when I bang them together for a while!!

Hmmm... what's up here...

Ok, now how do I get back down...

Mom, put down the camera a help me out of here!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Costumes, Unsafe Childrens' Games, and Other Stuff...

Well, evil Halloween is almost upon us. I can't help myself!! I'm sorry, mom, but I just can't resist dressing up my adorable children and parading them around town for Snickers bars!!

Anyway, a friend gave us the cutest little ducky costume for Sean, but Mike thought it was too "girly"... I thought it was precious, but apparently because it doesn't have any weapons or fangs it doesn't work for our son! *lol* So, I mentioned to my friend, Hollie, about the ducky costume, and she offered to let us use her son's costume from last year: a lion! Yay!! Lions are tough and strong and stuff, so Mike was cool with that. The only problem will be that he looks ADORABLE in it and not tough at all! Too bad, I like adorable. Anyway, here are some pics of the kids playing around in the costumes last night... the girls like them more than Sean does!!

Maybe not King of the Jungle, but Cutie of the House!!

NOT an Ugly Duckling... isn's she beautiful!!

Pretty little Lion grrrllll!!

Aubrey looks JUST like many of my childhood pics w/ that smile... aren't they precious??

My girls LOVE their baby brother...

While they had on the costumes, we decided to do the webcam w/ daddy, who was out-of-town. They really enjoy it, since they get to see him and he can see them. He got a kick out of their costumes, and baby Sean LOVES getting to see daddy on the computer screen.

Here's Sean trying to "hug" daddy (I had Mike smile for the pic, too!! *lol*)

Ok, so here are some random pics from tonight... the girls pushed some little shelves together like a little bridge, and they were running across them and jumping off the edge. Yes, I know, not very safe, but those of you who know me can attest that I pretty much let my children act like monkeys at my house! The only thing I can say about it is that they have developed good coordination from their many adventures in furniture-hopping! *lol* Anyway, we're too cheap for a trampoline or jungle gym, so we make do w/ this. Anyway, here are the girls "posing" in mid-air! I love these!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My little praise girls...

I am doing some singing and piano playing at The Mission tomorrow night, so I've been running through my music all week to get ready... tonight I was singing and playing "Beauty for Ashes" by Crystal Lewis (one of my favorite songs!!) and Aubrey climbs up on the bench beside me and says, "Can I sing that song again?" I said, "Which song?" and she starts singing, "Beauty for ashes... strength for fear..." I was floored! I said, "Can you sing the whole song?" and I started playing. She immediately started singing all the words, which are,
"He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear
Gladness for mourning, peace for despair
He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear
Gladness for mourning, peace for despair"

Of course, her pronunciation is adorable (I think she's singing "Gladys" instead of "gladness") but who cares!! So, being the little stage mom that I think I am becoming, I had to set up my video camera and get her to perform! Then, Sarah Grace wanted to get in on the action, so she sang the chorus to "Every Move I Make". The video is dark, but you can still hear them singing... I'm not at all proud, can you tell???

Monday, September 1, 2008

Move Over Partridge Family!!!

Today was a really nice, relaxing Labor Day... it was our first time since the girls have been born to NOT go to Midland for the weekend and visit family. We did miss getting to chill out at Jillma and Uncle Lester's, and especially getting to spend time w/ Mike's grandmother Smith, but things just didn't work out to go this year. So, we opted to stay home and enjoy family time. While I was making supper (grilled chicken & veggie kebobs and mashed potatoes!!) Mike started playing around w/ his drum set in the guest room. The kids went in and started playing around on the mini-piano and microphone that we have, and BOOM! : We had a family band!! It was so cute, I couldn't resist videoing a little concert... I think we may be on to something here!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chasing Tennis Balls for Eternity...

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
- Unknown

Big Brother Samson

April 1996 - August 20, 2008

Yesterday, August 20, 2008, we lost a beloved family member: Big Brother Samson, our Golden Retriever. After an eight year battle with kidney failure, Mike and I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to have him put down. He had been getting slower and slower because of his advanced arthritis, and his BUN and creatinine were tripled since his visit in March. He had lost 20 lbs in the last year and was down to 54 lbs. When he was first diagnosed with kidney failure, they told us he would eventually "hit a wall" with his kidney levels and we wouldn't be able to flush out his system to lower them again. This was his wall, the day we had been dreading for years.

Mike got Samson from his friend, Steve Cloud, when he was just a puppy, because Steve wasn't able to have a large breed dog in his new rental home. I met him when he was about 6 months old, before Mike and I were even dating, and since I had grown up with chihuahuas I was not too fond of large dogs. However, like all Goldens, he really grew on me. Samson never met a stranger. There were many times we would take him to the vet or groomers, and they would rave about how sweet he was, or would say, "Oh, you have Samson? He's the sweetest dog!" He was our only child for the first five years of our marriage, and we have many fond memories of him jumping on the bed for a good wrestling match, or going to the park to throw a ball. He was an amazing friend and big brother to our children, and we do not say that lightly. It was not unusual for him to sleep outside the girls' bedroom when they were babies, or to find him curled up beside their cribs if we left the door open. I think it's safe to say he was Mike's best friend and most constant companion the last 12 years... I don't mind saying that, even as his wife, because the unconditional love and loyalty you receive from a canine companion is one not easily matched by the human variety. I'm proud to say Samson agreed to share Mike with me when he was barely a year old, and I loved him more than I can explain... with the birth of our children, he went from being our baby to officially being "Big Brother Samson", and he filled that role with all the adoration and protectiveness that you would expect from such an amazing dog. We hope our girls will always remember what a special part of our family he was.

Samson with the girls when they were only a few months old

"If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go
where they went."
- Unknown

Samson was always ready and willing to let them climb all over him, even in the last painful months of his life when he wasn't feeling well.

"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures;
they give unconditional love.
For me they are the role model for being alive."
- Gilda Radner

When I called Mike yesterday morning to tell him that Samson wasn't walking, and that he hadn't eaten his food the night before (again) we knew it was inevitable. Mike drove 2 hours home from Sherman, TX, to take him to the vet's office. I called my best friend, Jessica, while I waited for Mike, and she came over to love on Samson also. We got some pics of him and the kids one last time...

Aubrey and Samson

Sarah and Samson

Samson and the Aiden, Jessica & Brenden... they knew him for 8 wonderful years of his life!

We are so grateful to Colonial Park Vet Hospital for their amazing care since his diagnosis at only 4 years old. At their behest, we fed him more expensive food than we eat, which was protein-free, and it prolonged his life for 8 more years... he had excellent quality of life despite his disease, he was our miracle! He is survived by his loving human family, and his kitty-sister Jonesy and little Golden Retriever brother, Hercules. We fully believe he is in heaven with his "little old lady mutt" sister, Reagan, chasing tennis balls for eternity.

"Heaven goes by favour.
If it went by merit, you would stay out
and your dog would go in."
- Mark Twain

Monday, July 28, 2008

If You're Going to Saaaan Diiiii-ego.....

Well, we finally made it back from our week-long sojourn to the sunny shores of San Diego! It began by getting up very early at 4:30am, Saturday the 19th, and packing the car. I had dropped off Sean Michael at my parent's home the day before, so it was much easier to get things done without my "appendage"! *lol* The girls were very excited when I woke them up at 5am, since they would be taking their first plane ride! We met over at Mimi & Baba's house at 5:30am, and Gary had gotten us all McDonald's for breakfast. After a quick meal, we loaded up, and began our caravan to Dallas Love Field airport. It was Mike, the girls and I in our vehicle, and Mimi, Baba, Mark, Janelle & Grayson in the other car. We had SOOOO much luggage to unload when we got there, not to mention pushing all the kids in strollers so that we wouldn't have to worry about losing anyone. We finally got all our baggage checked and got through security, and then it was just "hurry up and wait" until the plane arrived. The kids enjoyed watching out the window as the airplanes arrived, and I couldn't believe it was finally time when we got to board! The girls thought the plane was so cool, and since you could only sit three to a row, the girls had to split up. Aubrey wanted to sit w/ Mimi & Baba, and Sarah sat with us:

right before the big take-off

Aubrey is excited to go up up up!!

Once we finally got up in the air, the girls kept occupied w/ the portable DVD player and their little Leapster video games... what lifesavers!! I thought they would sleep, but I think they were too excited. Mommy and daddy wanted to sleep, but it's not so easy w/ a 4 yr old next to you asking questions every 5 minutes! We mentioned to the flight attendant that it was the girls' first flight, and they gave them certificates that said, "First Flight" for their scrapbook, and a set of plastic flying wings and some coloring books. Very cool!!

Sarah was a super cool flyer!

After a 4 hour trek in the air (a short layover in San Antonio was included) we finally made it to cool, sunny San Diego! It was wonderful to leave triple-digit weather for the breezy shores of California... Gary already had two rental cars reserved w/ rentals, so we loaded our luggage on the shuttle and headed that way. Imagine our dismay when we saw a MASSIVE line out the door at the car rental place. We arrived there at 1pm, and we were hungry, tired, and did NOT want to wait in a parking lot for our car. However, we didn't have much choice, so we found some seats under a nearby tent and waited. And waited. And waited. TWO HOURS later, we finally got our cars! The kids were amazing, considering we had to wait in a parking lot the whole time. We met some very nice people and had plenty of snacks and drinks, but it still sucked. So, we finally headed to the condo. One of Ann's bible study teachers owns a condo in Balboa Park, and she rents it out to people when she's not using it. An interesting note about the condo is that it is in the epicenter of San Diego's gay community, and we arrived the day of the San Diego Pride Parade! So, block around our condo was blocked off due to the parade and parking restrictions, and we circled the area for 1/2 an hour before we finally had to ask a security officer to move the barricades so we could get to the condo. We saw some VERY interesting sites while circling the festivities! *lol* When we finally got to the condo, I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely it was! To say it wasn't kid friendly is an understatement, but we moved most of the breakables up higher and really had to keep an eye on the kids the whole time, but no disasters thankfully! Here are some pics of our "home" in San Diego!

On the balcony with the kids

Our breathtaking view!!

The living room (I'm standing on the balcony looking in)

Mimi in the kitchen

Our bedroom (the girls bunked on the floor beside our bed)

The windows in the living room (the balcony is on the right)

Gary wanted to "do it up right" the first night, so he took us down to Chula Vista Harbor to eat at Anthony's Fish Grotto, which has been voted San Diego's Best Seafood Restaurant for 11 years in a row!! It was sooo good! I had a grilled kabob with shrimp, scallops, & swordfish! Yummy!! Here are pics from our first meal:

Aubrey and Daddy

Aubrey & Baba

Sarah & Mimi

Grayson & Aunt 'Lissa being silly

A Dragon Statue outside the restaurant

After dinner we went down to the Seaport Village, which is a cute little tourist place with neat shops and eateries, and an 1895 Antique carousel with hand carved animals by Charles Loof.
To show what a small world we live in, we actually ran into some good friends from our church while we were there. They were literally parked right next to us at the Village, and Mike thought the lady getting out of the car looked familiar... then he saw the rest of the family: it was Gary & Seree Keese from our small group! They were there w/ their kids and her parents, and they were going to be headed to Disneyland the next day! How funny! So, we rode the carousel and walked around a bit and decided to head home and hit the hay! It had been a long day and we were 'zausted!!

Day Two started out beautifully! I got to drink coffee on the balcony and breathe in the cool morning air... it was even chilly enough to need my jacket! After breakfast, we loaded up and headed out to Point Loma to the Cabrillo National Monument. There are incomparable views of San Diego from this area, plus beautiful shoreline! We took lots of pictures!

the whole crew!!

Daddy, Mommy & the girls

The beautiful shoreline view of the ocean

at the top of the mountain at the Cabrillo National Monument

Sarah and wonderful panoramic of San Diego

After some time at the top of the mountain, we went back down to the ocean to visit the tidepools. We had to make quite a hike down a trail to get there, and the trip down was quite an adventure w/ three 4 yr olds!!

Starting down the trail...

You can barely see Baba's hat to the left of center in the picture...

Ocean view from the tide pools

Can you find the crab in the tidepool?

Mike and Aubrey trying to hike down to the beach...

We tried to find our way down to the beach, but there was not a direct trail, so Gary decided to take us over to Coronado Island to the beach there and to see the historic Hotel Del Coronado!
This hotel is sooo beautiful, and is probably most famous for being the location for some hilarious beach scenes from the 1958 movie "Some Like It Hot", starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis & Jack Lemmon. I didn't get any pics of the Hotel Del, but I did get quite a few of the beach... the hotel was quite a ways down from where we were, and I had already put up my camera before we got there... It was the girls first trip to the beach, and they were amazed at how big the ocean was and LOVED finally getting to run around and be as loud as they wanted!!

Sarah actually fell asleep in the car on the way to the beach... I couldn't resist...

Mike and Ann

The girls enjoying the water

Isn't God an amazing artist?

Enjoying the cool water and soft sand

Does it get any more fun than this??

The perfect ending to a beautiful day...

Day 3 was going to be a big day, as we were going to visit the World Famous San Diego Zoo!!! We were going to be meeting Ann's good friend Tatiana Tunik and her 7 yr old daughter, Masha. Tatiana was a student at MSU in Wichita Falls and volunteered in Ann's classroom. Tatiana is from Russia (though she is now a legal citizen) and has no family to speak of, so she considers Ann & Gary her adoptive parents. She is a sweet, beautiful young woman (I say young woman because she is my age!!) and her daughter is a little "mini-me" of her and very well behaved. We all fell in love with them! Anyway, here are our pics from the zoo!

Aubrey dancing to a band near the entrance

Sarah, Masha & Aubrey waiting for lunch

The mama panda

Daddy & Sarah on an sky taxi

Aubrey and an orangutan (it's back is to her)

Aubrey LOVED Masha

Four adorable kids

We were soooo tired after a long day at the zoo, but we still wanted to eat some good local cuisine, so we went to Old Town, which is the historic district, and ate at Acapulco's, which was excellent mexican food... I had grilled shrimp tacos that were to DIE for!!! After that we went home and CRASHED!!

On Day 4 we took it easy during the morning and slept in a bit. We left around noon to head up toward L.A. and visit Gary's cousins Bob and Mary Ann (not married to each other, but siblings who live in the same neighborhood) We stopped on the way and had In & Out Burgers, which was a first for all of us. It reminded me of Whataburger, but not as good. Anyway, after a two hour drive, we got to Bob's home near Saddleback, in Lake Forest. I've told many people that my father-in-law, Gary, is the nicest man in the world, and he is incredibly generous and congenial, and I now know taht it runs in the family! Besides a family resemblance, Bob and Gary have very similar personalities also. He and Marianne hosted us for a fun afternoon of swimming, followed by a fabulous cookout! To top it off, they even served milk and cookies for dessert! It was wonderful to meet new family, and there's even talks of a reunion w/ the other cousins next summer! Woo hoo!!

Beautiful pool, beautiful girls!

Taking a break...

A much-needed respite from swimming

Finally, a picture of Tatiana!!

It's a hard life, but someone has to live it...

I love this picture of Sarah

Gary, Marianne & Bob

Day Five had me up early to take run! I woke up on my own at 7am, and everyone else was still asleep, so I decided to take advantage of the situation and take a jog through Balboa Park. It was nice and cool outside, and there were many other people running, walking, biking, and just enjoying the beautiful morning. It was wonderful! I was back home by 8am and ready to get going for the day! We were supposed to meet up with a dear family friend of the Southard family, Pat, for lunch, so we had to get dressed in our nicest clothes to head out to the Hotel Del Coronado! Pat was friends with Gary's parents, and I don't know the exact details, but he had a hand in her oil prospects back in the day and is somewhat responsible for her financial stability today. Needless to say, she is still very grateful to him and is very happy to show it by treating the Southard family very well when they visit. Since Pat lives in high cotton, I was petrified that the girls would act like heathens at this fancy restaurant, but I was pleasantly surprised! They were so well-behaved that when Ann called Pat later to thank her again for the lovely lunch, Pat even commented again on how well-behaved all the children were. Yay!! We had her fooled!! I don't have any pictures from the hotel, because I was on my toes the whole time keeping the girls in line that I didn't take the time for any pictures...

After our lunch, we all changed into our swimming gear and headed down to the beach for the rest of the day! I'm not one to get into the water, because I believe the same as my daddy: everything in the ocean wants to sting ya, stick ya, or eat ya! So, I stayed on the beach and played in the sand w/ the kids while Mark, Janelle & Mike went out to jump the waves...

We had been there about an hour when I realized I couldn't see them out in the water anymore... I assumed that they had moved on down to a different part of the water, but it wasn't long before Gary showed up and informed me that Mark was getting First Aid at the lifeguard stand. He had stepped on a stingray in the water, and the barb had gone into his foot and he was bleeding a lot! Apparently it's not life threatening, but he had to go back to the condo and soak his foot in warm water and bandage it up. So, Mike and I stayed w/ the kids and everyone else headed back to the condo to take care of Mark. We stayed for about another hour and then we headed back also.

Once back at the hotel, our options were limited because Mark couldn't walk, but thankfully they found a pair of crutches in one of the closets, so that helped. We decided to walk a few blocks to a local Italian food restaurant called Sanfilipo's for a laid back meal. We were seated on the patio, and we split a few pizza's. It was fabulous!!! Then we went back to the condo, and Gary and Ann offered to watch the kids while we went to see Batman: The Dark Knight. Thank the Lord for the Garmin GPS, because we used that to find local theaters and call about showtimes. By the time we left it was 8:30pm, which meant we had to see a late showing. The closest one that wasn't sold out was at 10:15pm!! We really wanted to see it, so we headed that way. The movie was WELL worth the late showing, though we didn't get home until close to 1am. What a day!!

Day 6 was another big day, as we were going to SeaWorld!! I had never been to SeaWorld before (not even the thousand times I've been to San Antonio!!) so I was very excited! The kids slept until 9am, so we got a late start, and it looked like everyone in San Diego decided to go to SeaWorld that day also! We parked out in section BFE, and poor Mark had to crutch his way quite a while before we made it to the ticket stand. Generous Pat had given Ann an envelope with a money gift inside for our trip to SeaWorld, and we were very happy since the entrance fees were very high! Mark rented a little "rascal-type" scooter for the day, and it was a great idea because the park is huge! We saw Shamu, the sea lion show, Cirque "De La Mer", and the dolphin show. They even have a Sesame Street themed kiddie section w/ lots of rides and a HUGE jungle gym for the little tykes. I LOVED SEAWORLD! I have to say it was my favorite of all our excursions... I didn't take a lot of pictures, simply because I didn't want the camera to get wet... we were there from 11am to 11pm, however, and by the end of the day we were pooped! However, we topped off our day by riding the "Journey to Atlantis" roller coaster, and it was Grayson's first coaster! It was really fast and had several BIG splashes during the ride. Gary and I rode in the front coaster together, and we were soaked at the end! It was really fun, and we even got to see the fireworks show at the end of the day!

Waiting for the sea lion show

Day 7 everyone slept in again! I have never known Aubrey to sleep so late, and it was really nice. We had planned to go visit the Wild Animal Park, but after such a long excursion at SeaWorld the day before, we decided to just take it easy instead. We kind of started packing up a bit, and around lunchtime we decided to head out and go back downtown and ride the city's Trolley system. Grayson is QUITE the train enthusiast, so it was mainly to pacify his curiousity. We went down the road to find something to eat, and we discovered a great little chain place called L & L Hawaiian Barbecue!! Then we headed down to the train station (which is also where the trolleys come in) and after quite a bit of head-scratching, we figured out how to buy tickets and where to go. Let me say, it was very nice to see Grayson so happy riding the trolley, but it was basically a glorified bus ride. Seriously. We headed down the line that goes to Tijuana, and I think the majority of the people were heading TO Tijuana... it was packed like sardines the whole way down, and the smell was not pretty and it was HOT. The man next to me had a huge, scabby wound on his knee that I spent the majority of the time trying not to bump into. Yuck! On the way back it was much better, not as crowded and much cooler. We were very happy to get off and head somewhere else! We decided to head back to the Seaport Village, and we got to ride the carousel one last time:

The rest of the gang wanted to head over to a local winery that was owned and run by some of Janelle's cousins, Schwaesdell Winery. As much as I LOVE wine, I figured it wasn't very kid-friendly, so Mike and I opted out. We stayed at Seaport Village and walked around a bit more, and then we ate at a cute little deli there. Then we decided to head back toward the condo and walk down to the shops in the area and seek out some dessert. It was getting late, and the sun was going down... the weather was beautiful and we really enjoyed walking down there. We found a fabulous restaurant, City Delicatessen. They made their own desserts and pastries right there, and the choices were enless! Mike ended up with a HUGE slab of carrot cake and I had a beautiful piece of lemon meringue pie. The girls chose some cookies from the front case, and we all had a yummy visit there! Then we headed back to the condo (thankfully we got to walk off those calories) and we all turned in for the night.

The FINAL DAY had us up early CLEANING! We needed to leave the condo as clean as when we found it, and after a week with our crew that was quite a task. We had a 12:30pm flight to catch, so we had to book it. We finally got it all cleaned up and everything packed and loaded. We were very sad to be leaving our lovely little home away from home, but nothing is better than getting back to your own home after being gone for so long. I missed Sean Michael, I missed my bed, and I actually missed Wichita Falls. I just didn't miss the triple-digit weather that greeted us when we returned!