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Monday, December 31, 2012

Saying Goodbye To 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the year and all it offered me.  It was a year of many discoveries.

I discovered the wonder of the show, "The Voice," and weekly cheered for my favorite contestants.  (Marry me, Adam Levine?)  I discovered Trader Joe's and their delicious, chunky guacamole.  And their orange chicken.  And their cookie butter.  I discovered that small children and long hotel stays are a recipe for "monkey-like" behavior!  I discovered Maybelline's Baby Lips and Tarina Tarantino's eyeshadow palettes.  (Oh.  My.  Gosh!)  I discovered the public school system as the parent of a kindergartener, and what it means to "collect Box Tops" for a school.  I discovered the PTA!

I discovered the peaceful serenity of Amish country, and fell in love with the charm of the old farm houses there.  I found a place, in Pennsylvania, where the angel-fingers of heaven touch the earth.

As a girl who comes from a desert state, I discovered the "high-definition green" of the east coast.  I discovered the east's humidity and it's ability to wilt someone like steamed spinach!  (Which is also green!)  I discovered that the "bugs" that reside in the canopy-like trees chirp loudly when the sun goes down.  I discovered I barely noticed the bug sounds, when staying up late to listen to my friend's infectious laughter.

I discovered a bit of myself; who I am and what makes me special.  I discovered I am braver than I realize, nicer than I know, stronger than I remember, and a better mother than I give myself credit for.  I am a good person.  I am a good friend.  I'm capable of giving much and loving greatly.  And like the lyrics from the Peter, Bjorn & John song, Objects of My Affection:  "I laugh more often now.  I cry more often now.  I am more me."

Undoubtedly, 2012 was met with many challenges.  Broken teeth, broken cars, and broken hearts.  No money, no time, no rest.  Our bathroom flooded, resulting in an astronomical mess.  Our cheap-o shingles blew off our roof, resulting in a re-roofing expenditure.  After a year of trying to add "just one more" to my brown-eyed clan, all my pregnancy tests revealed negative.  My unique and unforgettable friend passed away.  My son was diagnosed with a language development delay.  My chronically ill daughter required a tonsillectomy.

It would be easy to focus on the hardships, to let myself sink into the murky waters of discouragement and despair.  But I choose not to do that.  I choose to celebrate the edifying and invaluable experiences I had in 2012.  The discoveries.  I choose to focus on all the high points, the moments that made my heart soar.  The new friends I made, the old ones I kept and cherished.  The support shown to me by those I know; the love offered to me by those I have yet to meet.  The times of laughter and indelible goodness.  The times I joyfully cried to God, "Thank you for my incredible life."

Helen Keller said, "Your success and happiness lies in you.  Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."  As I bid farewell to 2012--the highs and lows, the blessings, the lessons learned--and greet 2013 with a courageous will and open arms, I will choose to do exactly what the incomparable Helen Keller suggests...

I will resolve to keep happy.

(Happy New Year, my darlings!)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Observations From A "Sort Of" Surgery Survivor

I am a survivor.  I am a survivor of out patient surgery. be more specific...I am the mother of a survivor of out patient surgery!  My little Lilly Girl had her tonsils and adenoids removed the day after Christmas.  And to say that I was a nervous wreck during the procedure would be an understatement.

I went outside for fresh air.

I considered throwing up in the bucket of ice melt by the door, that the man shoveling the hospital sidewalks had left behind.

I paced in front of the elevators.

I called my mom.

I sat beside James and closed my eyes and tried to meditate and find my calm center...but couldn't manage to stop the shaking in my legs.

I thought the worst part would be when the anesthesiologist--clad in green scrubs and a surgery cap--came to take Lilly away from me.  That was rough, heartbreaking even.  But, in actuality, the worst part was the waiting.  And waiting.

I was overjoyed when we were called to meet with the surgeon afterwards.  I was elated when he took us to Lilly's post-op recovery room.  I was eager to see her as we waited, yet again, for a nurse to bring her to us.  And I was utterly startled by Lilly's condition when that nurse placed her in my arms!

She cried.  She moaned.  She fidgeted and flopped.  She rambled incoherently.  She wailed.  She kept saying the most bizarre things like:  "I don't want that number two in here."  (There was NO number two anywhere!)  And, "I wish that dog would leave."  (There was NO dog anywhere!)  She continually asked, "Is this my new voice?"  Then demanded that her "old voice" be returned to her at once!  She asked if her tonsils were gone at least twenty times, and she couldn't seem to remember where she was.  (Apparently, the probability of someone acting like a "wacky doodle" as they come out of anesthesia is very high!)

When we were finally told we could leave, I helped Lilly out of her hospital gown and into her pajamas.  She watched closely as I put her socks on, then started bawling.

"Ooohh," she weeped, "I just really love you..."

James and I exchanged knowing smiles as we realized our daughter's tender heart (and drug-induced state) was invoking an outpouring of love and affection for us.  We were there for her.  We would take care of her.  Our shared smiles seemed to say, We are terrific parents.

Then, before we could respond with our own sentiments, she finished (and slurred) her sentence:

"I just really love you so much, Tiana."


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Little Irreverent, But Funny!

"Happy ho?"

James was sitting on the couch, watching as I put more ribbon on my Christmas tree.  I just couldn't get the ribbon right--fidgeting with it and moving it from bough to bough.

"What did you say?," I lazily asked, not really paying attention.

"Happy ho," he repeated.

I turned around.  He smiled, slowly.  Slyly.

"What!?," I screeched, with a laugh.  "Why are you calling me that!?"

James laughed--a sound I have come to know and adore, a cross between a clown's yuk-yuk and a snort.  He pointed to the tree and said, "No, look."

My eyes trailed to where his long finger was pointing, eventually landing on Lilly's little homemade ornament.

"OOOHH...," I replied knowingly, as the perpetual light bulb (or rather, strand of Christmas lights) clicked on above my head.  "Lilly made that ornament this afternoon.  She wanted to write a message on it, and asked me how to spell, Happy Holiday...

...Bless her heart, she ran out of room!" 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Name Her "Aleisha!"

Chantel is one of my best friends.  Do you remember her?  I wrote this post about her a while ago.

Anyway, Chantel kills me for a couple of reasons:

1.)  She has three gorgeous girls.  We've been friends through two of her three pregnancies.  Each time she's pregnant, and each time we find out it's a girl, I politely state, "Name her 'Aleisha.'"  She just politely laughs, because she's real sweet like that.  She leaves me no choice but to bring it up again:  "No, seriously.  You should name her 'Aleisha.'"  Still, she laughs.  I mean, come on!  What's wrong with the name, "Aleisha?"  It's a GREAT name.  (Granted, no one spells it right...)  Time passes, Chantel's precious bundles of pink are born, and not one of them goes home from the hospital bearing my name.  It kills me!

2.)  Chantel lives far, far away from me.  In another state.  A state that may actually share borders with mine, but still!  It feels far when you've had a bad day and you just want to call up your girlfriend and say, "Hey, let's run to Nail Trix for pedicures."  (Yep, that's it's real name.  Nail Trix.)  It feels far when you just want a hug!  It feels far when you realize your girls, who are special friends, are growing up without each other.  The fact is, it stinks and I hate it.  I will never forgive her husband for moving her away from me.  Just because he got a good job.  Or whatever.  (I'M KIDDING!  I'M KIDDING!) 

The distance between us most especially kills me around the holidays.  Isn't that the case?  We always miss the loved ones who are away from us this time of year.  Just today, I was addressing a little Christmas package to her.  As I was writing out her address, I realized, oddly, that I didn't have her zip code.  Without thinking, I googled her name.  (I say that because had I been thinking, I would have pulled up  The very first thing to pop up in my search results, was a YouTube video of her dancing with her ridiculously good looking husband.  I gasped in surprise, then clicked on it.

The first time I watched it, I cried.  It made me miss her.

The second and third and fourth time I watched it, I giggled and grinned; thoroughly enjoying myself.  Chantel is so talented.  Her husband is amazing.  They look great together.  And while they're "hip-hoppin'," there's a picture of Jesus in the background!  (That's just a bonus!)

Today, I'm thankful for good friends.  Friends who cherish me despite the miles that separate us.  Friends who have big hearts and beautiful souls.  Friends who desire to see me succeed--who sincerely want good things for me.  I'm thankful for friends who dance to Mr. Grinch and brighten my day while doing it!    

This holiday season, I hope we remember that our true friends--
whether they are near or far,
whether they dance or not--
are some of life's greatest and most precious gifts.

They are ours to treasure.

Monday, December 10, 2012

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

Over the weekend, I posted a picture of a gift idea I had on Instagram.  My sweet and talented friend, Adrienne, at Free Time Frolics, posted the following comment:  "So dang cute.  It had better end up on your blog."

Well, I'm not one to disappoint.  Ask and I will deliver!

While shopping in Target, I paid a visit to their dollar spot.  (Oh heavenly choir of angels, I LOVE the dollar spot!)  I found all sorts of hilarious "A Christmas Story" memorabilia in their bins.  The items that most caught my eye were the Ralphie pens.  I thought about tongues getting stuck on flag poles and dogs ruining Christmas dinner.  I knew I had to buy them.

At home, I cut Christmas scrapbook paper into strips and printed "tags" off the computer.  My tags read:  "We hope the holiday season treats you 'write.'"  I stuck the tag to the scrapbook paper with a single piece of washi tape.  (Oh heavenly choir of angels, I LOVE washi tape!)  I punched a hole in the top of my tag, and threaded a thin piece of ribbon through the hole.

I tied some sparkly (because it HAS to be sparkly) ribbon around the pack of pens, then attached my cute (and VERY easy to make) gift tag.  And...ta-da...cutest neighbor/friend gift ever!

Looking for inexpensive and easy gift ideas for teachers, neighbors, or friends?  Hit up the dollar spot at Target and raid their "A Christmas Story" bins!  I found cookie cutters that were shaped like the infamous leg lamp.  How funny is that?!  You could attach a "You 'light up' our lives," or "'Light up' your holidays with love" tag to that.  I also found mini journals/notebooks with Ralphie's mug on the cover.  If you were to purchase the notebooks, the tag could read, "In the 'story' of our lives, you are an important part of the 'plot.'"  OH!  How about this one?  "In the 'story' of our lives, you are an important character."  AAH!  Genius!

Or...if you don't need gift ideas, but just need help coming up with witty and quirky sayings to go with your gifts, I'm your girl.

I've got a bazillion and will work for a cookie!   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Is In My Crockpot?

Confession:  I love Paula Deen.

What's not to love?  For starters, her accent is as sweet as Georgia peaches.  When I listen to her talk, I get a hankerin' for gravy and bona fide southern comfort food.  She is that delightful.

She's published fourteen cookbooks, has won an Emmy award, and owns a restaurant.  She is NOT afraid of butter and she knows how "to put her face on."  And don't even get me started on her hair!!  It is Aquanet perfection.  It is a magnificent silver coif that seems to defy Savannah humidity.  I'd love to spend an afternoon with Ms. Deen, talking hair products and pecan pie.

I've tried out several Paula Deen recipes, and I have to tell you they are real winners.  Lately, my FAVORITE recipe to prepare is her crock pot potato soup.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  It's amazing, y'all!  (Oh, see?  I'm channeling Ms. Deen right now.)  It's been in my crock pot numerous times in the past month.  It's too good not to share!

My crock pot is cherry red, which warms my heart as much as Paula Deen's hair does!

Ingredients, y'all:
1 (30 oz) bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, the square ones--southern style
2 (14oz) cans of chicken broth
1 (10.75 oz) can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/3 tsp. ground black pepper
1 (8oz) package of cream cheese
Garnish:  minced green onion

Directions, y'all:
*Place frozen potatoes in a slow cooker.
*Pour broth and cream soup over the top of the potatoes.
*Add the onion and the pepper.
*Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
*Stir in cream cheese, thoroughly, until well combined and cook for 30 minutes.
(Mama Leisha note:  Here's what I do...I cook my soup for about four to four and a half hours, then add the cream cheese for the remaining half hour the soup is cooking.)
*Garnish with chopped green onion, if desired.

Our favorite thing to add to this soup is bacon!  When the soup is ready to DEVOUR, I garnish it with a sprinkling of chopped green onion and a sprinkling of bacon crumbles.  (You could add a sprinkling of cheddar cheese too.)  This soup is nice with a green salad and a crusty bread.

I made this yesterday.  I wish I had a photo of the finished product...but we ATE IT ALL before I could snap a pic.  So sorry!  You'll have to settle for this one instead:

Stayin' classy in my "no makeup, old hoodie, and...pearls??" look!
 Happy "Potato Soup Eating," my friends!

*Disclaimer:  This recipe is soooo not mine, it's Paula's!  Duh!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We Might Be Starting A Movement!

Lilly and I were shopping in Joann the other day.  She spotted a bead necklace kit that she wanted to purchase with her allowance.  Upon further inspection, she discovered the kit contained several letter beads.  She asked, "What are the letters for?  To spell my name?"

"I don't know, Lil," I answered.  "Let me see."

She handed me the bead kit.  It only took a quick glance at the package to see what the letters were.  WWJD.

"This is a WWJD necklace, Lilly.  See the picture example?  Those are the only letters you get."

"What does that even mean, Mom?"

"WWJD?  It stands for What Would Jesus Do," I replied.

Lilly looked at me briefly before saying, "Well...that's nice, but what about Larry?  What would Larry do?"

I shared this little experience on my Facebook page yesterday, and oh man, the response has been hilarious!  Friends have laughed right along with me over this experience.  Some have commented, "Who is Larry?  And why should we care about what Larry does?"  While others wrote:  "Seriously, who wouldn't want to know what Larry would do?," and "I love Larry!"

The thing is...I HAVE NO IDEA WHO LARRY IS!!  But that is exactly what makes this whole thing so funny!  It's why I love my quirky kid.  Her wit is brilliant.  She makes me laugh, and she makes others laugh as well.

So...what would Larry do, if he were in my shoes?  Eat a cookie?  Probably.  Write a blog post?  Sure.  Make WWLD key chains to give as Christmas presents?  Most definitely.  Design some t-shirts?  Of course!  Start a WWLD movement?  Heck yes!  Inspire others to ask the question, "What Would Larry Do?"  You betcha!    Combat the forces of evil?  Lead nations?  Change the world one lost soul at a time!?  YES YES YES YESSSSSSS!

But that's a lot of work.
For now, I'll get started on making key chains...