Living to the fullest or overfilling your life?

I was directed to a blog by a friend via facebook.  They are giving away a book called “Not So Fast” and to enter you have to leave a comment (done), post on your facebook (done), and post on your blog (almost done).
Here is the link to the site: Walk Slowly, Live Wildly “Not So Fast” Giveaway

If you follow my blog, you know that I haven’t posted in nearly 20 days.  Why?  Not sure…I just haven’t had anything to write about.  Until today.

I promised (kinda) a blog about my friend Amanda and was intending to do that last Thursday, April 22 for her birthday.  I’ve discovered I’m not ready to go there.  I have a book that I bought for her son, Alastair, in the days following Amanda’s death and I have planned on writing in the cover to him about his mom.  I’ve started that letter a million times in my head, but have yet to put a single word on paper.  I’m hoping to do it by Mother’s Day (yes, I know…that is close).  If I can do it, I’ll share excerpts of it here.

For today, I want to write about overscheduled kids.  Now, I can honestly say that I was NOT an overscheduled kid.  (My definition of overscheduled does not include regular church meetings or even church choir.  Those are connected to God and I feel that they are most important.  I’m talking about the other stuff.)  I was at church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  And I had choir on Sunday afternoon.  I did miss the sermon once a year for cheering competition (we left after communion) and I did miss church after my junior and senior prom.  I’m sure I missed other times too, but it was rare.  I even went to church the morning after prom my sophomore year even though I didn’t get home until 6 a.m.  I missed Sunday School, but I was in a pew at 11:00.  Why? To prove I could do it.  Me and my “miss perfect” self didn’t understand why the older kids always missed church the day after prom.  I’d go on and on to my mom about how awful I thought that was.  So – on the day of my first prom (10th grade) mom reminded me of my griping and asked if I was going to be “one of those” kids.  I said no – and dragged myself to church the next day.  I sat in church that day and prayed to God to forgive my judgemental attitude.  I proceeded to sleep through church the two following years (sorry, God, I did go Sunday night, though).

Oh yes…overscheduled kids…

I have a hard time with kids missing out on youth activities because they play a different sport every season and have so many extracurriculars that they can’t darken the church doors outside of Sunday morning (unless there is a soccer game).  I think this is why youth groups currently struggle…everyone is so busy practicing and playing in other areas that they don’t have time for Sunday night or Wednesday night youth group.

I also think it is crazy that so many parents and kids are eating in their cars nearly every night because they are shuttling between school/work/practice/etc to another practice.  Kids struggle to get homework done because that isn’t part of their daily afterschool schedule.  I’ve even heard parents say to the preacher on Sunday morning, “Little Joe isn’t here today because he has a big project due this week and this morning is the only time he had to work on it.”  Why?  He has sports stuff all day Saturday and then maybe even a date Saturday night.  What is happening Sunday afternoon?  Oh, a friend’s birthday party?  So his spiritual feeding was the only thing that could be sacrificed?

I know – I’m ranting.  Please refer me back to this page before I enroll Ella in anything.  Eating my words my be a good lesson, but this is one lesson I want to learn from others and avoid for Ella.  For now, we’re happy with a few relaxing playdates a week (most are free of charge and we pack a lunch).  Nope – I don’t do Romp N Roll or other toddler classes.  I can’t rationalize spending the money on those things…what if we’re having an off day and don’t feel like going?  I know people who do, and I promise I’m not judging you.  I learned that lesson at 16 with that prom weekend.

We do have a time reserved on Monday for me to attend Bible Study (they have cheap childcare with two excellent ladies).  But since Wednesday night church bumps up to bedtime, this is my additional study time.  Once Ella is old enough not to crash at night church, we’ll be there.

I am guilty of the overscheduled adult life.  I’ll admit that here and now.  We used to have plans every Friday night, daytime Saturday, Saturday night, going out to lunch after church on Sunday and occasionally getting together with friends on Sunday night.  By the time Monday morning rolled around we were exhausted and heading off to work.

Then came Ella…
Now I love to get up on Saturday morning and chill out (some weeks I go to yardsales)…then it is home for lunch and naptime.  Once she’s up from nap, Jeff usually comes up with a great family activity – the zoo, Lewis Ginter, Bryan Park, etc – and we head out to play together.
That one afternoon nap is a beautiful thing.  It forces us to be home for 3-4 hours in the afternoon every day.  I read, play on the computer, clean, or (very rarely) sleep.  Somedays we go no where – and stay in jammies all day long.
I hope I can keep us from the overscheduled life.  I don’t want to look back and wondered what happened to my time with Ella.

Thanks, Laura, for directing me to “Walk Slowly, Live Wildly“.  I’m going to keep finding inspiration there.

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A Night Out and IN Without the Bean

It started with a simple question, “Hey mom, do you think you could babysit Friday night so Jeff and I can go out to dinner?”  I hadn’t even asked Jeff if we wanted a date night (we’d just had one last Thursday thanks to his mom, Nana).  Her response?  “Love to!  Or, you can drop Ella off here for the night and pick her up Saturday morning sometime.”  WHAT?

So I sent Jeff a message – “Hey hon – want to go out to dinner tonight? Mom said she and dad would keep Ella overnight for us.” 
His reply – “Sounds great!”  (Should’ve known then that he didn’t read all the words.)

I was picking mom up to go out to the petting zoo at Short Pump (yes- again. the kid likes animals) so on the way to get her I called Jeff to ask if he was sure…”Hon – just calling to be sure you’re ready for Ella to spend the night away from us?”  To which he replied, “SPEND THE NIGHT?”  He obviously didn’t read all the words in my earlier message.  After just a few moments of discussion we decided to go for it.

So, last night after feeding Ella dinner and getting her packed up we headed to her GrannyMac & Pop’s house to leave her for a sleepover.  It was sad to leave her – there were tears…just not hers.  And off we went for a night alone…A…L…O…N…E…with no little one to wrangle, or rock, or put to bed, or to hear on the monitor, or to wake up to.

First we went out to dinner to a fabulous place at the intersection of Robious and Huguenot Roads – Ghengis Khan Mongolian Grill.  For those of us who LOVED the Greywolf Grill, here is your place.  There are some differences:
(1) the guys at the grill aren’t funny…they don’t even speak.  the guys at greywolf talked to each other and really cracked me up when we were there.

(2) they didn’t automatically bring us more rice
(3) they don’t give you the little tortillas to wrap your goodies in to eat
But they were good!  And the bread they give you with your soup (Chinese soup choices) is AWESOME…I got more.
They aren’t the Greywolf, but they’ll at least partially filled the hole left in my tummy since it closed.
And there are fortune cookies at the end.  Mine said, “When you get something for nothing, you just haven’t been billed for it yet.”  Made me laugh.  Jeff’s said something about touching others which we made plenty of dirty jokes about.

Next, we went to Starbucks and got coffee and headed into Lowes.  Now, for those of you with toddlers/young kids – go to Lowes without them whenever you can!!!  We looked in all the kitchen cabinets for ideas of what we want to do in our kitchen remodel…we looked at paint samples…we looked at rugs…we looked for new plants we wanted.  No one cried, no one needed to be rolled around to avoid boredom and crying.  It was nice and relaxing.  I texted mom when we got there (8:30 p.m.) to be sure all had gone well getting the bean to bed.  Mom texted back, “We’re having a blast – what time is bed?”  Uh…30 minutes ago!!!  Ha ha!  They got her down around 9:00 and she slept until between 7:30-8:00 this morning.

Then, we came home – alone – without or to our kid.  Crazy, I know!  A night at our own home without our little bean…what would we do now?  Basically the same thing we would do any Friday night including watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (I have a huge celeb-crush on that man) and going to bed.  That’s all the details you get there – I know you’re thankful.

This morning, I woke up with a splitting headache (thanks, pollen) at 7 a.m.  So much for sleeping in.  I went in the kitchen, made some coffee, took a claritin and some bc, and stumbled into the living room.  While I was stumbling about, Jeff went out to get the paper.  And we SAT AND READ – both of us!  I read the entire first section interrupted!
We showered and then headed back to Lowes.  We needed to look at the paint cards in the morning light next to the brick on our house before getting samples of the two shades we want to paint outside and choose between.  Yep – we’re going to paint the outside of the house…and not green.  I’m not saying any more right now…just know that it is going to look different and I AM EXCITED!  We also bought some wood (well, something like it) for Jeff to make a jig from (jig here meaning straightedge) and a new little rug for the living room.
We took all our purchases home and got the new rug down (cleaning as we went) before heading to my parents to pick up the little one.

We wondered if she’d missed us…would she cry when she saw us?  Nope – she just wanted to show us my parents’ cat, Cricket…who we’ve met many times.  Oh well.  We hung out a bit and then brought her home for lunch and naptime.  She nearly fell asleep in the car on the way home – my parents must have worn her out!

It was a first – Ella away from both of us at one time overnight.  Or should I say, “It was a first – our first night away from Ella together.”  We missed our Bean, but it was nice to just be together.

Singing at a Funeral…

This morning on the way to Target the song I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me came on the radio.  Normally I immediately change the station, but today I put on my big girl panties and decided to listen to it.  See…I LOVE that song.  The problem is, I’ve sung it at a couple of funerals.  The last time I sang it publically was 5 years ago…on April 2, 2005…at my grandpa’s funeral.  Since that time, I can’t even listen to it.  I made it pretty far today – even singing along – almost through the entire song.  Then I fell apart and just listened to the rest.  I really meant every word of that song for my grandpa.  He was an incredible Christian man and an excellent example of love.  I knew he was dancing around on a street of gold.
Here is a picture of him with my brother Warren the Christmas before he died:
I’m so glad I took that picture.  He was living about a half mile away at an assisted living center called Chestnut Grove.  For those of you that have to make that decision in a loved ones life, we LOVED Chestnut Grove.  It was the best place in the world for my grandpa and my family.  We knew he was being well taken care of and we were able to come and go as we wanted/needed.  I had always loved my grandpa, but it was when he was living with us at home and when he was living at Chestnut Grove that we really got close.  I went over nearly every day to watch Oprie (Oprah) with him.
I’ve sung at other funerals.  Mostly for people I have been very close to.  I sang at Vess Hollenbeck’s funeral with the United Christian Church praise team.  I sang at Felix Hollenbeck’s funeral – the first time I sang I Can Only Imagine
People have asked me how on earth I can sing at funerals for people I’ve been so close to.  The secret is to have a little mental box (i.e. compartmentalize).  My mom taught me about it the first time I had to sing in a highly emotional setting.  She said, “Okay, now you’re going to take all your sadness and tears and pack them away in a little box and shove that box to the back of your head.  Then, you’re going to get up and sing.  After you sing, you can unpack that box and fall apart.”
There are other funerals, but two specifically stand out…
I sang at one of my dad’s friends’ funeral in August 2006.  His name was Jimmy Sadoski.  I had grown up just loving this man.  There are many, many stories to tell about him, but the fact that he had shared with my dad during a previous near-death experience that he wanted me to sing at his funeral just endeared me to him forever. 
One quick “Jimmy” story…when I was about 19, he was attending our church and two of our members got married.  They threw a real party that included a tent, dancing, kegs, and a fountain full of a Screwdriver.  Jimmy offered to get me some punch and about 3 glasses of punch later I was pretty sure my mom was going to kill him.  Oh, still funny today!
I have no clue what I sang at his funeral…it is not what stuck with me.  What has stuck with me is that our sanctuary at church was PACKED full of people who might not have been in church on a regular basis.  Some of the people who spoke about Jimmy were ex-cons (as he was), art students from VCU (where he got his art degree), and artists who had done shows with him.  I was last…I had to sing after all of those people talked about this man I adored.  So I packed up all that stuff I’d heard…I ignored the cries you could hear from all around the room…I went up front and sang.  When I finished, I walked off the stage, directly to the church office, sat on the floor and wept…sobbing so loudly people came to see if I was okay.
The other funeral that has had the deepest effect on me was the CELEBRATION OF LIFE service I planned and carried out last year for my friend, Amanda.  I didn’t shed a tear that day.  I sang twice and read the thoughts her husband Adrian had put on paper.  He was going to read them himself, but was unable to once standing in front of that crowd (literally the biggest crowd…standing in the hallways, some watching the service projected into another room of the church and others around the world watching online).  It is to this day the biggest thing I have ever been a part of.  And I didn’t shed a tear…all day.
I sang Amazing Grace in four part harmony with some other church members and I sang the song Remember Me by Mark Shultz.  That one gets me as badly as I Can Only Imagine, though I’ve not tried to sing it again.  My mom accompanied me on Remember Me and above our heads ran a slide show of Amanda and her then 3-year-old son Alastair.  I’m listening to it as I type and I’m now a wreck.  Bad move, Ev.
I actually just recently started to grieve Amanda.  I kept that little box packed up for a long time, but as Ella grows up and I have things I want to ask her and tell her, that box gets unpacked one thing at a time.  I heard the song playing along with a slideshow of photos recently at the funeral visitation of a friend’s mother.  My mom said, “Isn’t that the song…” I interrupted her with a quick “yes” and tried to get away from the music.  It is just hard for me to hear it because it makes me remember how sad I am that she’s not here.
I’ll admit here that I like singing at a funeral.  I am honored to part of someone’s final sendoff.  Yes, it is hard and oftentimes the song I sang becomes part of a painful memory…but it is also part of a great memory.  I’ve never sung at a funeral from someone who wasn’t a Christian.  That means that every time I’ve been part of saying goodbye to someone, I know that that person is not hurting, is not sad, is not lonely, but instead – they are partying it up with Jesus.  I thank God that I have been important enough to these people to be included in their final plans.
So why am I posting about this today?  Because I heard a song on the radio that triggered a memory.  Then, I realized the date…today is April 9, 2010.  We held a memorial for my grandpa at church sometime after his funeral in Collinsville.  I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was close to now.  So it has just been on my mind today.  I’m not sure when/if I’ll sing at another funeral.  If I do, I hope it is no time soon. 
My message to you today – love your loved ones and tell them you love them before you’re sitting at their funeral wondering how the person singing is holding it together…

Another "Today"

So, I was directed to Communal Global through a comment on Kelle Hampton’s blog.  It was about a contest for a picture of TODAY.  I posted the picture from yesterday’s post of Jackson on the bench and Ella debating if she was going to join him or not..
Now, I’m looking for “that” moment of each day.  Today, there were too many to count.  Do you realize that when you’re looking for that magical moment, you get many of them?  I didn’t.  So I’m going to share more pictures than I usually do because I really loved my day today.
I was up early because today was the Annual Easter Egg Hunt at my church, United Christian Church.  My mom heads up this insane day every year – always trying to have more plastic eggs than any previous year.  This year, some of our cartons went missing so we had less than 5000 eggs in three hunts.  Of course, less than 5000 means we had MORE than 4000 eggs.  There were over 1000 eggs in the Infant/Toddler hunt.
I was even more excited because this year, Ella was big enough to gather eggs in her basket. 
Oh, such a joy…my child…
She never ceases to amaze me in what she can do.  She is beautiful and funny and full of energy.  A friend interviewed Jeff and I as a game used at our baby shower.  One question we were asked was what trait of our spouse did we want our child to have.  Jeff said he wanted Ella to have my confidence.  And she does so far.  It is so much fun to watch.  And while she didn’t say she would do it herself, that is just what she meant by taking the full basket from her daddy:
It was cool.  And thanks to Josh Foshay…we got a picture with all three of us!  So rare!

The photo display was set up by my mom-in-law and all of it was provided by her employer (James) at Buckingham Greenery.  It has been a hit this year and last.  Thanks, Mom S.
Then, tonight after naptime, playtime, and dinner Jeff suggested that we go to my favorite Ice Cream spot in the world – Gelati Celesti!!!  Ella didn’t get her own ice cream, but she had bites of Jeff’s banana and my chocolate and she seemed to be in heaven…

Jeff wasn’t aware he was in the background…oops…
We came home and it was so nice, we let our little hippie girl hang outside for a while.  She decided that she and her daddy needed to sit in their new “spots”:

according to Ella, they must each have their own side…and I was not allowed to sit because I would throw off the balance.  I love this kid!
So, that was our TODAY.  It was long…it was crazy…but it was ours.
Tomorrow is Easter…the most important remembrance in the life of a Christian.  I am so excited about church tomorrow.  I hope you know Jesus…He has made all the difference in my life.
I sing because I’m happy…I sing because I’m free
For His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

Today…

Today we went to Maymont.  We went so we could meet my friend Amy’s sister, Penny.  Oh…what a beautiful person!  She is amazing and I can’t wait to hang out with her for the next few days.
Here are Amy, Jackson, Ella and Penny looking at the roosters:
We walked the hill down all the way to the bears and back up again to have a picnic.  After we ate, we let the kids (and Penny) run around a play.  Ella just has a mind of her own and loved to run as far away as she could from our blankets, which made for some great pictures of my little one…
It was great fun.  A day out with some friends. 
In the photo above is Ella (up close) and in the background are Aunt Penny, Jackson, Katie, John, and Amy.
Friends are great…aren’t they?  I love my friends (and Ella loves hers, too).
Here, they are deciding who should sit where…so cute…
Let’s all sit together:
Well…for a second…
(Thanks, Penny for supervising the huge hole in the back of the bench)
Now…after naptime we’re headed to Lewis Ginter for fun with Daddy (who took the day off)!!

Easter Bunny

So I went to see the Easter Bunny today.  Yep, you read that right…I went to see the Easter Bunny.
I thought I was taking Ella to see the Easter Bunny, but that isn’t quite how it worked out.
Ella and I got to Short Pump Town Center about 30 minutes earlier than planned and and hour before the bunny started posing for pictures.  We went to SPTC last week to see the bunny and to wave (which Ella couldn’t get enough of and even yelled, “Bunny!” over and over).  This morning, I got some coffee and some breakfast and we strolled around a bit.  Then we played in the play area for about 20 minutes before the Bunny was scheduled to arrive.  We talked about the bunny.  We pointed to his chair.  We did the sign for Bunny (Ella’s only has one ear…).  AND when that Bunny arrived we excitedly waved and yelled (while signing), “Bunny!  Bunny!  Bunny!”
Then it was our turn to sit on the Bunny’s lap.  Nope – not happening.
Now, this resistance was not nearly as funny as the Santa meltdown, but it was major resistance.  She was clinging to me for dear life and no longer remembered how to speak only making small whining noises. There was NO WAY she was going to sit on that Bunny’s lap.  So I decided to join her.  Of course, even with me holding her if she could SEE the Bunny it was a no-go.
So here is our picture:
I am barely sitting on the bunny’s knee (really just squatting) so that Ella is far enough forward that she CAN’T SEE THE BUNNY AT ALL.  She didn’t realize he was there.  So she even smiled at the lady taking the picture.
After the Santa picture (so bad of me)…I made sure I’d gotten a shower this morning and wore a spring color shirt…just in case I had to be in Ella’s Easter Bunny picture.
Just a couple more days until our Annual Egg Hunt at the church.  Hope you’re coming:
United Christian Church
2101 Fordson Road
Henrico, VA 23229
10:00 a.m. April 3