Five Finds Friday (some photos & what Otto thinks about fruit cups)

 

This week has been full.  But you already know that.  And here we are again —- Friday!

 

 

FUNNY

 

First, from a former “funny” entry, I’ve had such a good time hearing your thoughts and comments about my brother Danny’s fishing video.  My framily member Maggie said her two year old son is addicted to watching Danny catch that big one.  He has a new video up here and he’ll probably have a few more this week.  He got a little distracted this week from fishing videos because he became a GRANDPA!  What?  How can the majority of my siblings and I be grandparents already??

Now, on to today’s “funny”.  After everyone shared their thoughts and opinions about the TV show This Is Us, my friend Addy shared this video with me.  It makes me laugh.   (Obviously.  It IS under the heading of “funny” after all.)

 

 

 

FASHIONABLE

 

This week it’s earrings again.  I bet I talk more about earrings than any other fashion accessory.

Noonday has just released their spring collection – and why not – it’s all daffodils and blooms and sunny afternoons around our neck of the woods lately.  (I’m not sad to see glorious afternoons full of the bright sun, it’s just that I am a gigantic fan of snow and it just seems like we never fully received winter this year.)

Anyway.

I LOVE these earrings.

 

 

I don’t know when I became obsessed with giant earrings, but I find that I like those types best of all.  And with these being leather it means that they’ll be light, large but without breaking my earlobes.

If anyone is having a Noonday party I’d love to buy these through your link – so let me know!

 

FLAVORFUL

 

These are two items I’ve recently discovered at Trader Joe’s that make other foods more flavorful.

 

 

The spray is fabulous and has replaced any other cooking spray we use.  Also – the salt blend comes in its own little grinder and well, everyone at my house loves that aspect.

 

FAITHFUL

 

Last weekend and early this week our family had the lovely pleasure of spending a handful of days with Emma.  She flew up from Texas and we grabbed her at the airport and whisked her into a full four days of this and that and the other.  It was just the best.

How kind of God to give us good good gifts in the form of people to walk through life with.

Emma is a light and it was all joy to take her to our favorite spots and to talk late into the night when the house was silent and to take photos and to stop at coffee shops and to eat meals together and to just laugh and be in the same space in the same state.

If I say too much about Emma in general I’ll sound like I’m making it up.  She’s really that fantastic.  So I’ll mostly just share some photos – a highlights reel.

 

 

FEELS

 

Catching glimpses into the inner workings of the minds of my young kids is so entertaining and endearing and a for real privilege to me.

Driving in between our many trips to and fro the theatre this week, Otto was in the back seat eating a fruit cup from Chick-fil-a.  “Mom, do you know something I like to do with my fruit?” he asked me.

 

 

And then he proceeded to tell me a little tale that went something like this:

“I always pretend there is a battle.  The blueberries and strawberries go first.  They’re out of there fast.  Then the others slowly lose in the war.  Finally all that’s left is the poor apple and the mandarin orange.  The apple always loses and dies.  The orange is the only one left.  When I eat him it’s like he died from just old age.”

I tried not to laugh because I don’t want Otto to think sharing with me is funny when I can tell he’s kind of serious.  He’s sharing a genuine train of thought in his blissfully free young brain.  A picture into his mind.

And I love it.

I love that his fruit cup is a scene and his imagination is full and active and I love that’s he’s in the backseat right now and I get to hear when the apple slice gets taken out in the war.

Tell it all to me son, I’m really listening.

 

 

 

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the state of my fingernails and this one TV show and capital letter B Busy

 

You guys, this week has been Busy.

(I signified the amount of busy by using the capital B at the beginning of the word busy.  That’s how you know the week has been full.)

I should be doing a half dozen other things right now.  Like all that laundry.  Who has been wearing so many clothes this week, for the love?

This week a large portion of my children are participating in a week long theatre camp.  It’s great.  They’re loving it.  I’m finding it educational and fun and beneficial for them.  And every day we have to rise early to get a portion of school work finished at breakfast before they head to the theatre.  And each afternoon they come home exhausted and full of stories.  And every day somehow they expect to eat a lunch that has been packed.  And somehow in that short morning time between getting out of bed and getting in the car they are supposed to eat breakfast.  And every evening they are still hungry and somehow want to eat dinner too.  (If it sounds like to you that all the inhabitants at this home only just consider eating as their full time job, well – yeah – it sounds like that to me too.)  What?  Hey non-homeschool-mother-friends out there — food is exhausting.  How do you guys manage this?  Thinking about food and preparing food and packaging food and making sure food is portable and food is peanut free for the other classmates and that there is enough of it.  Ugh.  Food.

I’ve got the songs from Piper’s musical bouncing through my head ad nauseam.  “But a little hard work will never kill ya.”

 

 

Bergen gets to wear a beard – much to his delight.  And a dress – much to his chagrin.  It’s not technically a dress.  He’s a “Persian male” during Biblical times – that’s what he keeps telling us.  It’s a tunic, I keep reassuring him.  “Yeah, but it feels like a dress to me,” the boy says.

Bless their hearts, the costume managers of this mostly middle school students performance, encouraged/begged/demanded that all of these puberty-riddled students do one thing at home this week.  Well, actually two things.  Bathe regularly.  Daily even. (!)  And employ the proper use of deodorant.  Thanks theatre leaders – we needed your back up on this one.  And all the middle school parents everywhere said amen.

Instead of accomplishing more tasks at hand tonight, I stopped what I was doing and watched the latest episode of This Is Us with Hannah.  If I was a real grown up I would have at least brought in the scads of dirty laundry and folded them productively whilst I sat on my couch and followed along with the pretend lives of pretend people that I’ll never actually know.

Nah.  I was too busy eating my kettle cooked chips and weeping.  (Notice I used the lowercase b for this busy.  I know the difference.)  I posted a Facebook message about the TV show.  I received more comments about that show than about the last eighteen posts I’ve written combined.  Why do I even bother to write anything personal at all?  Let’s just talk about TV already, shall we?  About Jack and Rebecca and Randall and Kevin and Kate and why don’t any of those people on that show own a dog and why does Miguel’s face look so much like an unnatural human color and where does Kevin live anyway and what does Kate do for a living?  These are the questions people really are asking.  This is what we want to know.  Who cares about meal plans and parenting and getting kids to their theatre class on time with a lunch bag filled with marginally healthy food choices?   Who cares about bedtimes and routine and my real life job?  Just tell me what happens to Jack already, TV show writers.  Tell me what I really want to know.

That was an unnecessary rant.  And a ridiculous one, particularly if you have never seen nor heard of the TV show This Is Us.  My apologies.

Besides the missed phone messages (what are those weird calls from Iowa and Peru anyway?) and the daunting laundry pile and the teetering tower of to-do, another sign of Too Busy (See that?  Yeah, you do.) is the state of my fingernails.  I don’t paint my nails often and I don’t chew them.  I like to keep them relatively the same length and trimmed up.  If I break a nail or get a damaged nail I usually repair the damage pretty rapidly.  I use a fingernail file and smooth it over.  Today I looked at my nails.  Good grief – they were deranged looking.  Can fingernails look deranged?  Maybe I’m turning a corner though, on this busy.  Because instead of ignoring them, I took care of the situation. Now my fingernails look like those of any normal human.  The nails on hands capable of packing lunches and waking up kids early and driving back and forth to camp and typing stories that people won’t care about nearly as much as they care about a fake family on television. And who can blame them?  TV families, dysfunctional as they may be, are prettier to look at than our own.  Even in their brokenness, they’re kind of beautiful.  (Maybe we are too, brown bagged lunches and ragged fingernails and all.)  And TV families can put a pause on their problems.  Let’s insert a soundtrack here and we’ll settle this out next week.

I think that’s a decent idea.  Let’s put on a song or two and we’ll figure this week out later.

I should be done for now anyway.  Probably somewhere one of my children is hungry.  Or thinking about getting hungry.  Or sleeping in order to be hungry tomorrow morning.

Hungry from lying asleep all night long.

 

 

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Love Him Anyway: A Book Review and a Blog Tour

 

It was a first for me.

An unsolicited invitation in my email inbox.  “Would you like to read this book and review it?”

I think I might have said yes just based on the sheer novelty for me of the question.  Also, I like reading books and I already write frequent reviews for what I pick up from the library book shelf on my own.  So this seemed like a perfect opportunity.  The publisher is local and the author has local ties as well. (And you all know how I feel about local.)

As it turns out, it was actually a little more than just a request to read a novel.  It was a request to be a part of a blog book tour – also a first for me.  The idea is that a handful of writers and bloggers will read the book and then write their reviews during a specifically assigned time.

 

 

Love Him Anyway by Abby Banks is one family’s story about what real life struggle looks like.  When what you imagine your life to be is not what your life actually is.  When an impossibly hard medical diagnosis threatens the future for your child and for your entire family and you are forced to face a new reality and a completely new (and unpredictable) future.

The book had not been released officially yet when I read it so it was sent to me via a pdf.

Well.  

I can’t stand reading real books on a computer screen.  It feels – foreign, cold, something not like what I love about a book.  But the hard copies had yet to be printed and so the screen was what I had to to.  I delayed.  Wrote “read Love Him Anyway” on a list and kept avoiding getting started.

Then I read the first chapter on my computer screen.

It’s a good story.  A broken story.  A hard story.

Two chapters in – I wanted to read more.  It is compelling and it reads as if a friend is telling me her story over coffee, well – over tea – but you know what I mean.

But good grief – it’s SO Much.  SO much hard in this one family’s life.  There would have been a time, maybe two years ago, probably more like about ten years ago, when I would have read the story of Abby and her family, of their son Wyatt, of their own extensive physical complications and those of their extended families (which are just skimmed over in this story really), and I would have thought it was almost unreal.  I couldn’t have related to so much heavy and so much sorry being inundated on one family.  But now my own life looks vastly different.  Different than it did.  Different than I had planned or assumed or hoped or prayed.  And so, what that has burned into me personally, is empathy.  Reality.  A hard reality, that life is often unpredictable and messy and terrifying and too much, some days.

 

 

I’m just not at all a fan of spoilers in stories or movies or books.

So I don’t want to give away the story, the intimate details, the baseline.  And yet, I know I have to tell you a little.  The tease, if you will.

I’d much rather just say – You know what, read this book.  Can you trust me?

But I know it doesn’t work that way.

Abby and her husband Jason have three children.  When their youngest son, Wyatt, was only seven months old, his life (and theirs too) changed forever when Wyatt suffered from a medical condition that paralyzed him.  (I’m pretty sure this much is basically on the back cover.)

Love Him Anyway is a book that tells Wyatt’s story, Abby’s story, Jason’s story.  A story about Jesus really.

It definitely reads like a memoir, like a diary – a personal journal of both medical and day to day life.  More like a prayer book, a timeline, a this-is-how-it-all-happened sort of retelling.  As you read you are caught up in the struggle and the pain, the unknown and the fear, the hope and the life raft that carries Abby and her family through the process of fear and frustration and then fighting and accepting, the balance of attacking the situation and living in the weakness.

 

 

It’s a true and honest retelling.  A take-a-deep-breath because I’m just going to peel back my layers kind of book.

My favorite part of the whole story is the way that Abby, Wyatt’s mother, describes the difference between the way she sees Wyatt’s limitations and the way Wyatt sees his own limitations.  It is both humbling and up lifting.  She’s unflinching and sincere and regular and admirable – kind of like lots of women I actually know in real life.

All of which serve to make her book readable and endearing.

You can follow along with Abby and her family, and hear more about Wyatt, on Wyatt’s Facebook page.

If you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of the book Love Him Anyway you can click here.  (Winner will be announced the first week of March when this blog tour is completed.)

You can also buy your own copy at Ambassador International for 10% off with the code LOVEHIM.

 

 

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Five Finds Friday (a homemade hamburger bun and a novel thrice read)

 

It’s been one of those weeks that has been both filled and empty.  Both speedy and long.

And now it’s over.  (This week, I mean.)

 

 

FUNNY

 

You can have two funnies this week.  Buy one get one free.  

The Lego Batman movie.  It was indeed rather hilarious – even to a non-cartoon fan such as myself.

And the second funny —

In our small group this week there was a neat activity where everyone had a piece of paper with their name on it.  The paper was passed around and everyone had a chance to write encouraging words or a sweet sentiment for that person on their paper.

(I love these types of things.  I did one once with some girls I taught in high school and I still have my note – probably from fifteen years ago.  It’s just so helpful to be reminded in low times how other people see you and to read their words of encouragement over you.)

I was reading over the notes the kids received and couldn’t help but laugh when I read what Bergen wrote to his sister Mosely on her paper.

(Backstory – Mosely has a notoriously difficult time with fire ants.  Our lawn is riddled with them and the fire ants especially adore and locate Mosely’s feet.  They always have. It’s a situation.)

Bergen wrote:

Mosely, in your honor – I curse the fire ants. 

 

 

FASHIONABLE

 

For real, this week — I have no fashion.  And no thoughts about fashion.  I’m calling a pass.

You tell ME what is fashionable this week.

 

FLAVORFUL

 

Sometimes we like to go all out and make all of our meal from scratch.  (And sometimes we go to Five Guys and buy burgers there.)

Actually, I pretty much NEVER make burgers at home.  I don’t own a grill.  I’m not a great burger cook and it takes a lot of ground beef to make burgers for the whole family so usually I choose more economical meat dishes where one pound of beef goes farther.

But not this week.  This week we had a classic burger and fries dinner.  Except we made our own hamburger buns.  And London used her deep fryer to make homemade french fries.  (I love homemade french fries.  I love potatoes.  Dipped in hot oil.  Generously coated in salt.  I like them when they get too crispy.  I like when they don’t get quite done.)

 

 

It was a simple meal in theory, I guess.  But it was pretty to us and an exceptionally large hit with my table mates.

I used this hamburger bun recipe.  (And I did what one of the commenters did – lowered both the oil and the sugar to 3 T only.)

 

FAITHFUL

 

This week’s faithful notes and evidences of God’s grace and kindness:  An entire group of friends who, without pause, offer to watch the kids while I attend a work dinner for this new Travelers Rest Here gig.  A dad who calls from the road and talks and wants to know his grandchildren and to be part of the story of their lives.  Kids who ask “How’d the meeting go, Mom?”.  Opportunities to network and talk and connect for progress on the website.  The generous guidance of skilled people who answer the myriad of ridiculous questions I ask about techie stuff that my mind cannot handle.  Trusted church leaders who are kind enough to listen, brave enough to correct, empathetic enough to weep alongside me, wise enough to say “I don’t know.”, strong enough to guide me to ask better questions.  Hot tea.  Freshly groomed dogs.  Genuine and deep conversations with children.

And the words to songs like this:

I take all the gifts that You have given and I stake my claim like they’re my own,
Will You help me when I forget to remember, the good I’ve got is yours alone.

Oh ’cause I don’t wanna tell some arrogant story
Or let myself believe I’m you!
I don’t wanna be a thief who’s stealing Your glory …
Will You help remind me of what is true?

The ONLY hope I’ve got, it’s You,You.
It’s You,You.

Or do I think I have anything to offer, when You have overcome the world?
Couldn’t take Your place, ’cause You’re the Author of the greatest love this world has known.

Well it’s only by Your grace…
That I heard You whisper my name.
I don’t have the power to save – to change a heart,
Could You come and change my heart.

— Ellie Holcomb

 

FEELS

 

I like to reread books occasionally.  After seeing Wendell Berry, I reread Hannah Coulter.

For the third time.

I figured, since it was the third time I’d read it, and being so familiar with the story line, that surely the tears would fall less rapidly.  Maybe even not at all.  I mean, it’s a tender story, but one that I know.  That I’ve already cried over.

Nope.  Wrong.

In classic me style, it was like 2 a.m. and there was a child snoozing in my bed and my sobs were so difficult to contain that I felt certain I’d wake the sleeping boy next to me.

I did not.

But I still struggled to breathe accurately and like a normal human as I read the words that are just so beautifully poignant, so full of truth and sweeping history and grief and gratitude.  A love that reads more real and enduring than the love story I watch weekly on “This Is Us”.  (Even though I adore Jack and Rebecca.  Well.  I don’t adore Rebecca.  She makes me angry.  But you know.)

Hannah Coulter has officially risen to the top on my list of Top Five Favorite Books.  It has replaced Fair and Tender Ladies and Jane Eyre and To Kill A Mockingbird.  I forget what book has earned fifth place – Man’s Search for Meaning or The Silver Chair or Turn My Mourning into Dancing.

For many reasons and for the grand and sweeping way that the novel covers a lifetime and yet takes place in one small town, really on one small farm, mostly in one character’s mind.

You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can’t remember it the way it was. To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise. Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind. And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence. But you have a life too that you remember. It stays with you. You have lived a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present, and your memories of it, remember now, are of a different life in a different world and time. When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is. It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present, alive with you in the only time you are alive.
—- Wendell Berry

 

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how a year round schedule is saving our homeschool. (and me.)

 

Two years ago the Wildwood Halls of Ivy (that’s our fancy registered homeschool name) switched it up.

We started doing school year round.

 

 

I’d say the year round aspect of school has been a complete success.  I’m so glad we made the shift.  I only wish I had done year round school always.

The first year we tried year round our schedule (and our life) was in quite a bit more upheaval than it currently is and our weeks off were widely flexible.  God was gracious and that free time fit our needs more organically and fluidly when the occasion called for it.  It worked, but I wouldn’t call it an ideal year and I’d love to never repeat it.

This year we’ve been much more capable of sticking to a more consistent routine.  Pretty much right on target we’ve attended school for six weeks on and one week off, Christmas break being an exception.

 

 

I tell you what, every six weeks, on that one week off, I am convinced that this schedule (and that one free week) are literally saving my sanity.  (And therefore rescuing the sanity of my children as a byproduct.)

It’s a genius plans for our house right now.  A perfect fit.  (The troubling truth about perfect fits in a homeschool rhythm is that they are not eternally perfect.  Much to my disappointment.)  But, for right now, it’s just what we need.

At the six week mark in home educating, I’m not completely spent, exhausted, burned out or frustrated, but I’m anxious for a break and just shy of several of those adjectives.

During the previous six weeks I’ve had time to delve into subjects and to see where the gaps are in each student’s particular areas of weaknesses and the beams of sunlight in each student’s strengths.

My finger is on the pulse, so to speak.  And I’m ready and capable of doing the fine tuning.  A week off to plan and to reorganize and to redirect is well timed.

 

 

At six weeks a couple of household chores have stacked up and I am actually motivated to conquer them.  I’ve got a handful of recipes I want to cook, stories I want to tell, letters I want to send, long phone calls I want to make, mornings I want to sleep in, board games I want to play, Netflix series I want to introduce the kids to.

And for a few days we sleep in or stay home or take a trip.  We clean up or make piles for the thrift store.  The kids play Legos for hours on end.  We plan elaborate meals (like an entirely homemade burger and fries dinner I’ll surely share in a Five Finds Friday post soon).

 

 

During the week off I spend a little time regrouping and adding in structure where it’s been lost and taking out extras that have bogged us down and pinpointing some special areas the kids need to progress in.

And then I spend several days NOT thinking about school at all.  I write and dive into larger projects.  I organize the kitchen pantry.  I sit on the porch and read extra chapters of the book I keep forgetting about.

And by the week’s end, I am ready to ramp up for six more weeks.  I’m encouraged to hold tight to what works in our routine and to let go of what is tedious and unhelpful.  I’ve got an energy boost, like drinking a five hour energy beverage or something, but less weird and scary.

 

 

If I could have a homeschool do-over, I’d start right from the beginning with this six weeks on and one week off routine.  But I don’t have a do-over.  (Not for school.  Not for life.)  But I have this school year, this next six weeks, this schedule right now.

And it is saving me, saving our homeschool, empowering me as a teacher and as a human, protecting us from burn out and fatigue, from despair and slack.

Hooray for a week off.  And hooray for six weeks on.  It’s working so well for right now.

 

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Ripley’s Gatlinburg Attractions: A Review in Three Parts, Part 2 (The 5D Moving Theatre)

 

I’m including the same intro and review before and after each of these three reviews.  You can read our family’s Mirror Maze Review here.

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Gatlinburg in the winter is a different sort of town than Gatlinburg in the summer.

When we took our recent adventure to the mountain town, we found it sleepy and quiet and that’s exactly the way we liked it.  Traffic was minimal (except for the weekend) and the streets were not overcrowded and the restaurants had no wait time.  Again – that’s exactly what we love – especially when we are always a party of six (at least) and generally tables for six are not as readily available at peak times.

The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was hands down our favorite activity of the week, but we had some great laughs and funny moments at several other stopping points along the Gatlinburg streets.

In exchange for writing honest reviews, the kind folks who run all of the Ripley’s attractions offered us tickets to a few of their other museums and amusements.  I’ll be sharing all three reviews in a three part series over the next week or so.

 

Ripley’s 5D Moving Theatre

 

For the life of us, we never could quite figure out what all the “Ds” stood for here.

Ripley’s 5D Moving Theatre is exactly what you think it is – one of those moving roller coaster-esque experiences where you are seated in one chair the entire time, but through the magic of 3D and moving chairs and giant screens, you feel exactly as if you have been on a roller coaster or a jet plane or a parachute or a log flume or a helicopter or a sinking ship or all of the above.

 

 

Our Ripley’s attendee was rather enthusiastic and very kind and quite chatty as we prepped ourselves for the “ride”.  For my kids, this was their first moving theatre experience to their recollection.  (Seems to me I have vague memories of riding one at some museum with them, but as not one of them said they could remember that and my memory is rather hazy on it, we’re calling it the first.)  The theatre was small, but more than adequate for a large number of guests.  During our ride there was only our family and two other couples.  London and Mosely decided rapidly and emphatically that they were not interested in the seats that moved a lot and anxiously sat together in the first row – a row of seats that were completely stationary.  Provided for those guests who were pregnant, suffering from heart conditions, suffering from back pain, prone to motion sickness or otherwise unable to actually enjoy the experience for which they had just forked over some cash.

I knew the girls would be missing the real gist of the ride, but I wasn’t willing to force the motion on them if they truly were not interested.  They still both received their 3D glasses and they seemed content with their choice.

During our ride – where we faced landslides and avalanches and swept through both the jungle and the tundra, also the arctic and the ocean (we were really time and space traveling) – we were jolted and raised and shaken in our seats.  The kids (the ones in moving seats with me) laughed and sighed and screamed at all the appropriate places.  I felt a lot like I was just in a car accident and suffering through some serious whiplash, but I wanted to be a team player and not an old person prone to motion sickness (which is what I actually am, in fact) so I endured the shifting and the shaking and the jolting and the jarring.  I endured.  They enjoyed.  (That seems par for the parenting course sometimes, does it not?)

 

 

We never did count all the “Ds” but there was the movement of the chairs of course and the 3D glasses and screen and another was also water that sprayed on us as we went down the waterfall and snow that fell from the “sky” as we hung out with the penguins.

London and Mosely, as one might expect, did not report their enjoyment levels to be as high as say, Otto and Piper and Bergen did.  However, Mosely also did not suffer from an upset stomach, to which she is prone, so – that’s a win.

It was fun to see the younger kids, especially Otto and Piper, really get a kick out of the moving seats and the snow coming down (I actually really liked the snow effect too).  I can’t say the movies are high quality – they are definitely more about falling coasters and moving fast than any semblance of a plot or characters.  But – hey, that’s not why we were there.  We were there for 3D glasses, falling snow inside a building and jumping off virtual waterfalls in a virtual boat!

 

In Review

 

I’d say the key to all Gatlinburg attractions is the same, keep your expectations in line.  Recognize that this is not Disney.  This is Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  These are mirror mazes and world record museums and 5D moving theaters on a street in a mountain town.  A town that sells footlong corn dogs at place called Fannie Farkle’s for the same price that you can buy two kids’ meals at Chick-fil-A.  

Be reasonable, guys.  

If you are visiting Gatlinburg for the second (or thirtieth) time, you already know this.

And you’re okay with it.

You’re making these return trips to Pigeon Forge and to Gatlinburg, to the cabins and to the go cart rides, to the outlets and to the pancake houses, because it’s nostalgic, because you first came to Gatlinburg as a kid with your Memaw and your Pepaw, because you brought your toddlers here and you remember how big their eyes grew when they first ordered their silver dollar pancakes at the Pancake Pantry and rode their first roller coaster at Dollywood and you like the idea of returning to the same quirky streets that seem like they never change, old time photo shops on every corner and a gem store and wooden guns and beanie babies.  That’s why you come to Gatlinburg.

So you stroll through the mirror maze and you let the kids buy a couple of pieces of candy and you stop in for the free fudge samples (always take the free fudge, people) and you admire the hand crafted wooden knives and you buy the funnel cake and you stack up those memories and that nostalgia for all its worth.

Expectations, friends.  Most adventures fare better when you can manage your expectations.

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what bok choy can do . . .

 

Bok Choy.

Until a few weeks ago I don’t think I had ever heard of it.

London and I took a cooking class together and it was one of the foods we learned to prepare.  It’s leafy (kind of) and green and we learned to prepare it simply by basically wilting it with olive oil and salt over heat.  We served it up alongside our Chinese meal of potstickers and meatballs at our class.

Following our class I’ve been seeing bok choy everywhere.  I picked up some last week when we reinvented our Chinese meal at home with everyone and Piper and Otto were in charge of the “wilting”.  (By the way, what might look like plenty of bok choy at the beginning cooks down to an incredibly small amount of bok choy by the end.)

Isn’t it funny how that works?

A month ago I would have told you I’d never eaten bok choy.  Now I’ve paid money for it and added it to a Thursday night dinner.

I’ve been educated, you might say, in the ways of bok choy.  I’ve been introduced and it has changed me.

Sure, bok choy is a tiny change.  I’m not passionate about bok choy and I’m not blending it into smoothies or writing poetry about it or finding ways to serve it for breakfast.   I’m not obsessed with bok choy.  (Although I’ve now typed the word bok choy so often in the last few minutes that I feel a little obsessed.)

But my point is – I didn’t know something existed last month and now I’m incorporating it a tiny bit into my life.

I think that’s how education changes us.  How people change us.  How relationships change us.

I think that’s the formula for how we move from being closed off to being open, from being uninformed, to being educated.

We need an introduction.

Sometimes just a small one.

When we encounter a new idea, a new thought, we have the potential to be changed by that thought, by that idea.

(This change can be positive or negative.  It can even be a little neutral – like bok choy.  Not life shattering, but still visible.)

Tennyson once wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met.”  

I read that line probably two decades ago and I’ve never forgotten it.

People, education, knowledge, stuff, situations shape us and mold us and make us and change us.

Not only am I a part of all that I have met, but all that I have met is a part of me.

It’s what I love most about being so intimately involved in the education of my own children.  The front row seat to what makes their imaginations soar, to what new words they learn and how their knowledge propels them into new avenues and adventures.

Last month it was bok choy.  This month it might be the multiplication facts (oh, for the love, let it be the multiplication facts that stick this month) or it might be a phrase from a novel or the perspective of a new friend.

There’s a little mystery waking up every day to discover what will change us and find us, of what will make us and mold us.  Of how we will form and grow and morph and become.

How have you been educated recently?

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A Call To Support Marriages

 

I’ve thought about how to introduce this video challenge I am sharing today.

But I just can’t seem to find the words I want.

Valentine’s Day can be so cheesy – and this isn’t cynical Lacey or a jaded person typing.  I’ve always found the hearts and the cupids surrounding February 14 to be contrived and manufactured.

(I have, however saved one Valentine’s card from fifth or sixth grade.  It was a sniff and smell kind and on the front was an orange.  You can probably guess what lame joke accompanied the orange.  I have no real idea why that singular card has been saved all of these long years.  It was from a boy and he didn’t write a sweet sentiment on the back.  He wrote, “Why don’t you like me?”  You guys.  I have no idea why I didn’t like this boy.  I don’t even have any memory of actually not liking him.  In fact, I have zero memory of him at all except his name and what he looks like in our elementary school yearbook.)

That story was completely irrelevant.  My apologies.

I’m sharing a video from a dear sweet friend I have known for more than two decades.  We met in college and she’s been a soul sister to me ever since those days of Chuck Taylors and flannel shirts.

Parts of me really long to tell Mandi’s whole story, but it is her story and not mine.  I will say that she loves Jesus in a way that is tangible and genuine and influences her entire life.

Mandi made this video and created this challenge – an idea to pray for marriages on Valentine’s Day in a specific manner – and she texted me this link and asked me to share it with my friends if I wanted to.

Mandi doesn’t ask for a lot of things.  She offers a lot to other people.  She helps and leads and volunteers and coordinates and works behind the scenes and encourages and praises and fills people up.

So, basically, if Mandi asked, I was probably going to say yes.

She didn’t ask me to share her video here, but it only seemed right to put it in a post and to let other people do what they would like with it as well.

I’ll be joining Mandi and praying for the marriages of people I love – like my daughter and like Mandi.  Like my friends who are thriving and my friends who are barely hanging on.  I believe in marriage still, even though I am not married.  I believe in the picture that marriage paints of intimacy and service, sacrifice and honor.  And that’s really worth bringing before God, who also cares deeply about marriage and the people he created who build up and break down marriage every day.

 

 

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Five Finds Friday (two videos & BBQ chicken & a full circle story)

 

At one point in this week I was like, “What?? It’s only Tuesday?  No.  I have lived more than two days already this week.  It must be Friday.”  So now here I am at Friday and I think this week took two weeks instead of one.

What I’m saying is, friends, I don’t know how your house is faring, but it’s been a long week over at my house.  I’m pulling into the weekend with an empty tank but hopeful for rest at the end of this week.

 

 

FUNNY

 

You might think I’m the funny one in my family.

What?  Someone might think that.  I AM funny, you guys.  Sure, I have to verbally remind my children of this fact from time to time when they do not find themselves laughing as readily as they should at my jokes, but I AM funny.  Jane thinks I am.  (Although at dinner last week she admitted to laughing at me as often as with me.  Which, now that I think of it, feels wrong.  Nah.  Jane thinks I’m funny too.  That’s what I am choosing to continue to believe.)

Anyway, I’m not the only funny person in my family.  (And I’m also talking about my own birth family too.)  Actually – I definitely am the funny one in my birth family.  (Sorry the other brothers.  You are great, just not hilariously funny.  You’ve got other talents.)  Growing up, my only competition for funny was my older brother Danny.  He’s funny too.  And also, he was born with the great curly hair and this charming smile and eyelashes for days and dimples too.  It was really quite unfair and I spent a decent portion of my teenage years resenting how pretty my brother was.  He’s still a good looking fellow and he carries this enviable charm and schmooze around with him wherever he goes.  (Also – he has more hair on his face and head currently than he has ever had in his entire life.  He’s recently retired from the Marines and I think he is making up for all those years of being told to cut his hair and shave his beard.)

My sons think Uncle Danny is some sort of fishing demi god.  (Are there fishing demi gods?)  (Wait.  What’s the difference between a demi god and a regular god?)  Whatever.  Uncle Danny catches a lot of fish and Berg and Otto think that makes Danny the coolest.

My brother has recently moved to a home where his front yard is a lake and he’s spending literally all of his days in a little boat on the water.  Now he’s got a camera to keep him and his dimples company and he’s started his own YouTube channel.  (Which, is funny all by itself, for a man who despises Facebook and Twitter and all things social media related.)

Now you too can watch my brother catch a colossal fish on a lake, grow out his massive beard and say a cuss word or two.  (He’s up to 98 views you guys.  Make his day and add a few more.  Maybe you can even comment so the only two comments are not me and his daughter in law!  He won’t even know I sent you because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog.  Shoot, I don’t even know if he knows I have a blog!)

 

 

FASHIONABLE

 

This week I have had no time to consider fashion.

Well.  That’s not entirely true.  The kids and I did step into Mast General Store recently and as we walked up the steps there was a sign, glowing and calling my name and beckoning me forward.  I looked at the children, “Guys, can you just humor me for a minute?”  They all had a piece of candy from the barrels downstairs in their hands that I would soon be paying for for them so they felt more obliged to respond, “Sure.”

This sign, you ask, what did it say?

Frye Boots Half Off.

Half.  Off.

I did what anyone would do.

I told the employee my shoe size and tried on a pair of half priced Frye boots.  Grey ones.  Very tall grey ones.

The half off price was still $200 so the half off tall grey Frye boots still currently live inside their dark box at Mast General Store on Main Street, but I wore them for about three glorious minutes.

Also – my thirteen year old got a haircut and I think it makes her look even older and it felt significant because I remember getting a “styled” haircut around her age and it was a legitimate shift in the way I viewed myself so I guess this haircut reminded me that I better buckle up.  Here we come, puberty and teenage and hormonal fluctuations and stuff like that.

 

 

FLAVORFUL

 

Easy-peasy this week.

I”m not a broken record, I promise.  But Instant Pot helped me create a fast BBQ chicken that was quite popular at our kitchen table.

 

Photo from CozyKitchenCooking.com

Photo from CozyKitchenCooking.com

 

(Note to self: 1.3 pounds of chicken is not enough to feed my children and my son-in-law.)

 

FAITHFUL

 

It’s just cool how God sometimes answers secret little dreams you never even quite knew you had.

When I taught high school English in a little town in Virginia more than a decade ago, I had a special class of students who were dreamy.  They were such a great group of kids that I planned a gigantic field trip from Virginia to Flat Rock, North Carolina to visit the home of poet Carl Sandburg.  The students memorized his poems and stood in front of his home, reciting his words to the trees and the birds and the assorted guests at the national park that day.  I fell in love with Sandburg and his gorgeous home.

Then, years later, we left our Virginia home and moved just twenty minutes south of that incredible beauty of a farm, Connemara.  I started trekking my children up the hill on the trail by the lake to visit the farm and read Sandburg poetry.  We’ve hiked the highest trail half a dozen times and picnicked near the goat barn on oodles of days.

And this week we added another layer to our connection with this beautiful farm.

Bergen became a volunteer at Connemara.  A bonafide youth volunteer.

 

 

He was so excited and I think it shows such growth – a fellow who has spent years being afraid to communicate with strangers, and sometimes friends, requested the opportunity to volunteer at a goat barn and shovel goat poop and sawdust and meet and greet strangers.

And none of this was my idea.  Not a bit.  He requested it.  He reminded me to contact the coordinator.  He reminded me again.  And again.

I’m pretty thrilled to partner with the Carl Sandburg house in this way and to have more excuses to head over the mountain and to walk up that incredible trail.

 

FEELS

 

That weekend three of my friends and I drove six hours to Kentucky to hear Wendell Berry, we spent most of those hours together in the car.  We listened to a lot of songs and sang loudly and listened quietly and laughed about our varied musical tastes and shared favorite songs and important songs in our own personal histories.

Jo shared one song that I brought back to the kids and we have just loved. It’s encouraging and just the right amount of loud when you need loud and a little shouting too and I find it to be a kind of perfect “fight” song.

I looked at four videos for this song – one where they sing it on the Jimmy Fallon show and one that is the official music video and one for the NPR Tiny Desk series and this one with just the lyrics.  In the end I picked the lyrics only one.  Because the lyrics are good.  And because  the Jimmy Fallon one was too distracting with the one singer’s excessively high waisted green pants.  And the actual music video is a little kooky and I like this song and didn’t want to embrace the odd.  And the NPR one is just too long.  I’m always looking out for you guys.

 

 

“I could surrender but I’d just be pretending.  No, I’d rather be dead than live a lie.”  

 

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Hi, My Name is Lacey and I Have Some News

 

It was a little over a year ago.  Maybe eighteen months?

Sometime back then, in our provisions notebook that was a gift from hannaH when it was most important to look for provisions – and we’re still finding it pretty essential – I wrote these words down …..

Got a job at Travelers Rest Here.com.

And I did.  A freelance writing job for a local website that paid a bit.

Almost exactly one year later – both in November – I was presented with an opportunity to do something more than just write for the website.

Through a whole myriad of yeses and nos and maybes and timing and financial provision that can only be described as divine (and of which I’d be happy to share the more personal details privately and face to face with you) I moved on up from writer to owner.

 

 

It’s a little exciting.

I took the kids out to dinner (in TR of course – it was only right) to celebrate me and us and buying a business and making steps I never thought I’d make.  I own a business you guys!!!

I was a little more thrilled than most grown ups might be when I went to the bank to open a business account and I got my own business debit card.  With my business name on it. I high-fived myself because no one else happened to be around.  (Kidding, guys.  I’m sort of silly, but I did not actually high five myself in a bank parking lot.  Maybe I skipped to the car and grinned in a doofy way.  Also – I just typed the word doofy as a personal description.  Whatever.  I wore yellow shorts in high school and my son wants to keep every cardboard box we get to sleep in like a bed (even though he HAS a bed) and I still like to have dance parties in my own kitchen and I can call myself doofy and sling out personal high fives all day long if I want.  That’s what business owners do – am I right?)

Anyway.  TravelersRestHere.com is a website – the “official” travel source for our family’s favorite little town of Travelers Rest – and it features a blog with posts about the people and the places, the stories and the history of our town.  There’s a Town Guide for locals and visitors to figure out where to eat and where to sleep and who sells cinnamon rolls and where you can buy coffee.  We’ve got an events page and you know – just all the things you would assume a travel resource for a town should have.

It’s fun.  And it’s hard.  And it’s my new job and my new time-taker-upper.  (It’s the reason I’ve missed posts here and missed some sleep too.)

The order of my life is still the exact same:

Jesus.
Kids – raising and educating them.

But now I’m adding website owner along with writer and blogger and editor to the third place position.

The balancing act has been a challenge at times – and I am sure it will continue to be a challenge.  It’s still a mostly late at night venture for me because that’s when I can accomplish tasks.

It’s been so neat already though to partner with businesses I’ve long been supporting and with people I’ve already been working with.  It’s humbling to see bits and pieces evolve together from friendships and relationships.

You guys – my readers – have always been such kind supporters of all that our family has undertaken.  And although this job is certainly mine for now, it is truly still a family job.  The kids have been a great set of team players as they are occasionally required to complete their school work at a coffee shop while I conduct interviews and they are quick to pitch in and help with dinner and to ask encouraging questions and to give me all those high fives when I get excited.

If you have a hankering to lend a virtual hand to this new venture – there’s actually quite a bit you can do from right where you are sitting this very moment!

You can like the TravelersRestHere Facebook page.  (This helps increase our followers and our likes to improve our chances of being seen and enticing advertisers to partner with TRH.  It really matters — so thank you very much for taking the time to do this!)

You can follow us on Instagram.  (Same premise here of course.  And – we have really great photos so it’s a fun feed to follow. My friend Jane is working with me and lending her photographic skills to the team.  You’ve seen her work on this blog a lot.  Also – we’ll be hosting giveaways and goodies periodically.  So, there’s that too.)

If you’re in TR, visiting or living, you can use the TravelersRestHere hashtag when you take pictures in TR and share them.

Also – and this makes a much bigger difference than you realize – share the Facebook posts.

Visit the website.  (I put a link on the sidebar.)

Read the blog posts.

Click on the advertisers.

Comment on the blog posts.  Comment on Facebook.  Comment on Instagram.

Share the blog posts.

Subscribe to the newsletter.

If you are local – BE an advertiser!

Aaaaaand.  I think my list is exhausted.  That’s a LOT you can do and I’m grateful for any of those tasks that you take the time in your own busy life to do.

And –  one last one – I’m currently accepting all high-fives when I next see you.

 

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