Monday, April 30, 2012

weekend recap

For the first time in a long time, our weekend was the perfect balance of 'hang around the house and do whatever we fancied' with just enough 'scheduled activites' thrown in the mix. It actually started on Thursday night when Oliver and I attended the Alberta Community service commemorating the one-year anniversary of the tornado that wiped much of that community off the map. The service was held at University Church of Christ and several churches were represented, ours being one of them. Several area pastors, as well as our city's mayor, were present to pray and to share their hopes for the future of this part of our city.

Our mayor gave a speech and I wish I'd actually filmed it.
Such a beautifully thought out and worded piece that spoke of his faith in God and how God's strength had sustained him in the hours and days and weeks that followed the storm. So thankful that a man of God is leading our city.

Our church choir joined with the singers from College Hill Baptist and together, we The Spirit was so thick in that place, I felt like I could've reached out and touched it.
Sho nuff.

On Friday afternoon, exactly one year after the day, I put my kids in the van and we took a little drive.

We went to the parking lot of our church, where demolition was just completed a week ago-

Not much happening across the street to the left,

or directly across the street,

or across the street to the right.

I have no idea if there are any plans to rebuild what was once there-
probably not.
Only God knows...

After leaving church, we drove by the lot where Alberta Elementary once sat. The ABC 33/40 news crew was broadcasting live at that very moment-

After turning towards home, we passed a gathering of folks outside of Wright's Restaurant. Along with Family Dollar, it's the only business that actually came back in this shopping center after the storm. There were police officers and neighborhood friends and employees of Wright's that thanked others in the community for the work they'd done in Alberta City.

We crossed the train tracks and got back on 15th Street where I snapped this picture of CVS on the corner. It's one of the businesses that hasn't been touched in a year- the poor thing looks very sad, yes?

but we were hungry, so we headed straight for McD's since I'd heard they'd re-opened just the day before.
Wa-to-tha-hoo, friends.

Kind of a cool day for a re-opening, if ya ask me.
It was also kind of an awesome day for the rare treat of a Happy Meal.

On Saturday, we went to a birthday party in Capitol Park. "Lemonade Stand" was the theme, and lemme tell ya- this was one cool party. Not only was there an endless flow of lemonade, but the kids also got to play croquet with a lemon-

they carried lemons on wooden spoons and did a relay-

and rocked out to some cool 'lemonade' tunes while sippin' on some of the yummy stuff.
Did you know there were songs about lemonade?
Cause I didn't.

Hubs even drove straight from work so he could get his party on.

Here's kung-fu Oliver and the birthday girl, Chloe Lois-

After the party, we headed home for more outside playtime

I love that MM stood on this scooter, just waiting for it to move. Don't think she quite has the 'scooter' concept down yet...

"Maybe if I poke my belly out, it'll move..."

Happy Monday, friends

Friday, April 27, 2012

It happened on a Wednesday

God be with them.

The words came out of my mouth as I stood there, eyes glued to the tv screen. It couldn't be real, and yet, there it was. All of our news stations were broadcasting live coverage of what was turning out to be the worst outbreak of storms in years, possibly even decades, in our state. While I was no stranger to storms, this was like nothing I had ever seen before, and the tone and urgency in the weatherman's voice told me that perhaps I shouldn't have been so thrilled when I'd learned that school had been cancelled for the day due to the "threat of bad weather". Hubs happened to be off too, so I thought we'd get to spend a fun day at home with the kids- maybe play outside and have a picnic. But this? Surely what I was seeing wasn't real, because on the screen was the biggest tornado I'd ever seen in my life. It rivaled the CGI twisters created for the movies, only this wasn't a movie.

It was real, and it was in Cullman, AL.

And it was on the ground.

I said another prayer for the people in Cullman and I clutched the baby girl on my hip a little tighter. Maybe there wouldn't be a picnic today. Maybe we should just stay inside in case it started to rain. Maybe the whole thing would blow over soon and I could run to Target for some groceries. We were always running low on milk and juice and an entire day off from work should give me ample time to run out and grab a few things.


Those were my thoughts exactly one year ago, on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. I have never been one to worry over the weather. Would my kid choke on a grape that was too big, or would one of them be running through the house with a pencil and fall on it, subsequently sending it through their eyeball and into their brain? Yes. These were the things I worried about constantly, not the weather. I love thunderstorms and even have fond memories of watching them from plastic chairs on the porch of my apartment building in college. I love the rain. I love the pure awesomeness of seeing lightning and hearing thunder, but what I'd just seen on the tv screen had nothing to do with a measly thunderstorm. My stomach actually went a little queasy, sending me to the bathroom several times, and in an attempt to think about something other than tornadoes, 
 I blogged

I wrote about fabric- something I deemed as completely harmless and therefore completely opposite of a tornado. I must've really been shaken though, because my usual double and triple spell-check tendencies were off and I misspelled tornadoes. Twice.


We spent the entire day watching James Spann as he tracked the storm. Towercams would show us a visual until it moved out of range, only to be picked up by another towercam. Massive and on the ground. It stayed its course. Looking back, I think of us as sitting ducks, but we didn't know. How could any of us have known?

We stayed home. The kids played games, read books, watched movies, and the hubs and I tried to busy ourselves with things around the house. I sorted laundry and filled the dishwasher, picked up toys and emptied the trash. I don't recall us ever making any plans to go somewhere safer- somewhere with a basement perhaps. We just stayed.

At a little after 5 pm, the massive tornado was in Tuscaloosa county. Though I'd never seen any signs of it from hubs before, I could see it now- fear. He lost a little of the color in his face, and I knew. I knew it was bad and I also knew that it was too late for us to try and load the kids in the car and drive somewhere. Where could we go? His parents' house had a basement, but it was on the other side of town. Could we make it?

We told the kids to gather some toys and books and I spread out blankets in our center hallway. I sat with them and read and sang songs, all the while praying that God would pull it up into the sky. Please, God- just make it disappear. I know you can. Please just take it away and calm my fears. I also prayed that my children wouldn't be able to sense my fear. My heart was beating so fast that it was causing actual pain in my chest. It felt like every muscle in my body was tensed. After sitting at home all day trying to busy myself with menial tasks, I now realized that what I had been trying desperately to dismiss as a figment of my imagination was actually real and moving towards us, on the ground. And it was a mile wide. Hubs watched the tv in our bedroom from the hallway, and around 5:10 pm, we heard James Spann say, 15th Street. We pulled the full mattress off of the bed in the nursery and the twin mattress off of Oliver's bed and leaned them against the walls of our hallway creating a tent over us. I pulled Mary Martin into my lap, held Eliza on my right and Oliver on my left, and I wouldn't let them move. I didn't want a single inch of their bodies to leave the protective covering of those mattresses, as if they were some sort of metal shield that would protect us no matter what. God, if this storm hits us, please let us be okay underneath. Please let these mattresses be a shield of protection around us should the house be blown away.

 We'd turned the volume down on the tv so the kids couldn't hear itand while hubs continued to watch from the hallway, I held tight to our children and watched his face for any signs that we were in the clear. I didn't see any. What I did see was an incredibly pale face turn towards me and a mouth that uttered the words, "It's at Midtown, crossing McFarland".

Headed straight for us.

As soon as he spoke those words, we lost power.

He came and joined us underneath the mattresses, and we sat. We held our babies and prayed, and as I sat there completely hunched over as far as I could with both mattresses leaning over me, I actually thought of heaven. I really did. I thought, you know what, God? If this is our day- if you choose to take us now, it's okay. You've blessed me with far more than I deserve, and if we all leave this world today, at least we know where we're going.

I reached my hand behind me to feel the wall of our house as if somehow I might be able to gauge how close it was by the vibrations. I know- it's crazy, but I did it. I felt the wall. I remember thinking, it should be here by now. I couldn't hear anything hitting the house, and since I'd just been through this a week and half earlier, I remembered being scared silly when things started slamming against the windows and doors and roof.

But I heard nothing.

No limbs hitting the windows, nothing pounding the roof above our heads.


Just an eerie silence.

We sat hunched over in that hallway, not moving, for what seemed like an eternity. Why didn't we hear it? Had it passed? Was it completely gone? And if not, where did it go?

We had no power or cell service, so hubs did the only thing he knew to do- he ran outside. He could hear it, but he couldn't see it. Our neighborhood sits off of 15th St, so the only thing we could conclude was that it had turned.

And that's exactly what it did.

It's path was still pretty straight, but it was no longer headed down 15th Street.

After crossing McFarland Blvd and dancing briefly in the parking lot of University Mall, the tornado turned towards CVS, taking out Full Moon Barbecue, Chuck E. Cheese, Milo's, Big Lots, Tuesday Morning, a gym, and my beloved Hob Lob before heading straight for Alberta City where it took out our church. 

My MIL's office, which sat near the corner of 15th and McFarland, was also completely destroyed. Only a few interior walls remained.

Shortly after hubs came back inside, we heard a knock at the back door. It was Lanny, a good friend of our parents' who lived in the neighborhood next to ours, and he'd been sent over to check on us. Our phones still had no service, but my parents had gotten a call through to him, and he was able to call them from his house to tell them we were okay. Since it had taken 6 days to get power restored from the storm that had come through just 12 days earlier, we figured we should at least head to my parents house and come up with a plan for where we'd spend the night. We loaded the kids in the car and I remember thinking, maybe we can grab some fast food on the way there. I wasn't at all hungry since the knot in my stomach and the pain in my chest were still going strong, but I knew the kids would need to eat soon. We loaded everyone in the car for what we thought would be an 8-10 minute drive. I'd grabbed my camera on the way out the door, and as soon as we hit 15th St, I started taking pictures.

We were immediately sitting in traffic. It was as if everyone in town had either jumped in their cars or were walking on the sidewalks. No one had power, so no one knew exactly what to expect.

  T-Mobile store
 Dippin' Dots

 CVS on the corner of 15th and McFarland

Police Officers had the intersection blocked off, so we turned into the parking lot of the mall. People were parking here and heading out on foot to look at the damage. There were people everywhere, just like in a disaster movie.

It was surreal.

Since our quickest route was cut off, we continued through the parking lot where we realized that an entire wall of Belk was missing. My SIL had been at work there just a couple of hours earlier.

My photos stop here, because sitting in the parking lot of the mall, I started to lose feeling in my fingers. My legs also tingled, and while I've never experienced 'shock' before, I realize that it was taking up residence in my body. There would be no stops for fast food that day, not just because most businesses had closed, but because the places we frequented weren't there anymore. Sitting in that parking lot, looking through that intersection, I had to squint and look again, and again. 

After trying to reach my parent's house by two other routes, we realized that making it to their house might not be an option. They lived just over the bridge, but every single path to their house was cut off. We'd already been in the car for an hour and hadn't made it 4 miles from our house. We turned around and headed home, where we changed the girls diapers, grabbed a couple of movies for the dvd players, and filled the tank of hubs truck with gas he'd bought for the lawn mower.  We tried yet another route to Northport by heading to Five Points in Cottondale and getting on University Blvd. Again, we sat. I have never seen so much traffic in all my life. I was angry, thinking that most of the people on the road were only there to look and gawk at everything, and then we'd pass a car with a tree limb stuck in it. And I was grateful. Grateful that we didn't have a tree limb sticking out of our car.

We made it as far as the intersection of Crescent Ridge Road and University Blvd, and I actually wish we hadn't made it there. The kids had already finished Tangled and were now watching The Phantom Menace. I wished they'd been watching anything but Darth Maul on the screen, because at that particular intersection, there were stretchers. By this time, it was getting dark, but I could still see what was happening and I prayed our children in the back seat couldn't. Trees were down everywhere, so were the power lines, and there were still people everywhere. Most of the people we saw now were coming out  of Alberta City, which is where our church is. Hubs rolled down the window and asked a man walking by what it looked like in Alberta. His response was, "Man, you don't wanna know." He shook his head and looked down, and repeated, "You just don't wanna know. It's bad. Real bad." And then he continued walking. After sitting in traffic at that intersection for almost 30 minutes, we made it through and hubs actually drove over a few power lines and around a tree. We'd almost made it to the Moon Winx when we couldn't go any further. There were too many poles and trees and debris in the road, and the sun had set. There wasn't any power so it was now completely dark. Our last option was to take the toll bridge, which was the longest way possible to make it to his parents house, but it worked.

After being in the car for 3 hours and 45 minutes, we were at my in-laws house which is only about a 20-minute drive from where we live. The kids ate, but I was still too tense to eat anything. The entire time we'd been in the car, my hands had tingled and a few times I'd lost feeling in my fingers. My legs and back also ached, I guess from being hunched over in the hallway with those mattresses propped on my head. The 5 of us all slept in the same room that night in the clothes we'd been wearing all day, and to be honest, I wish we'd all slept in the same bed. I wanted to be able to touch all of my children and my husband, just to make sure they were really there. I don't think I closed my eyes once all night. I just laid there, thanking God over and over for protecting us. Thank you for keeping us safe, God. Thank you, thank you.

School was cancelled for the rest of the week.

On Friday, I went to my friend Jamie's house to sort through some clothes that had been donated for families in our church. Many of our church members lost everything, but miraculously, all of them survived. We watched a special NBC Dateline about the massive tornado that hit Tuscaloosa just two days earlier. It was still surreal. By this time, we were fully aware of the damage done to our city. If we hadn't passed it driving down the road, we'd seen it on the news. They called it the 'perfect storm', since conditions that day had been just right to form a tornado of that size and keep it on the ground.

Late that night, I woke up with the worst stomach cramps I'd ever had in my life. Labor pains didn't even come close to being as bad as whatever was going on inside me at the time. We were still staying in the guest room at my in-laws, so I crawled out of the room, woke my MIL, and asked if she'd take me to the hospital. I was that certain that something was really, really wrong.

And I was right.

After ruling out a kidney stone, the Dr. informed me that my appendix was almost 3 times the size that it should be and that it needed to come out immediately. I include this part in the post not to talk about the surgery, but to say this: while in that hospital room, I wept. I didn't weep from the pain or from anything having to do with the reason that I was actually in that hospital, but because I'd suppressed my fear, and shock, and every single feeling I'd had since the storm. I didn't want my kids to see me afraid and I didn't want them to see me sad. So I held it in. I don't even remember what it was that set me off, but I remember hearing someone say tornado, and that's when it happened. I cried. With every bit of energy I had left (after puking all night long) I cried. I cried for our church building that was gone, I cried for the families we knew that had lost everything, I cried for being so afraid and for trying so hard not to show it. I cried and I didn't even care who saw or heard me. I just cried. And you know what?

I felt better.

Don't get me wrong- that appendix still came out an hour later, but sometimes you just need to have a good, loud, nasty,ugly cry.

And I'm still convinced that pure fear mixed with a heap of shock will grow your appendix to 3 times its normal size. I am also convinced that if the fine Dr. that performed my surgery had truly cared about me, he would have given me a tummy tuck while he was down there, like I requested. What difference would a few more stitches have made anyway, hmmm?


Our church is rebuilding in the same spot. Demolition of our sanctuary was completed just last week.

Some of the businesses that were destroyed have been rebuilt and some chose to purchase different locations in town.

All of the families from our church that lost their homes are now in new homes. Praise God.

Our children now play 'tornado'. Every child in our town, no matter where they were at the time, was affected by the storm. They saw it on the news, they passed piles of rubble in their car, and perhaps they even spent the day in a bicycle helmet in the bathtub, or under a pile of mattresses in the hallway. Whatever the case may have been, it had an effect on them. While our girls were too young to remember what happened, Oliver was not, and my prayer is that he'll never forget how God protected us.

We still have a long way to go, but God is holding our hands.

And He is good, all the time.

Even in the midst of the storm.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

An afternoon at our house

usually involves a costume.

It may also involve riding a bike with a Star Wars character.

Just maybe.

It might also involve a mommy and daddy, sitting together on a metal glider, who are so grateful for the little people playing in the driveway.

And for the gorgeous day.

And for the fact that they both happen to be home at the same time.

And then maybe,
just maybe,
those little people might ask to play in the water,

and the mommy and daddy will oblige.

One of the little people may also ask to strip down to their skivvies so as not to get their Dorothy dress wet.

And the others will probably want to do the same.

And before long,
the mommy and daddy will have 3 very muddy little people to take inside,
and hose off bathe,

and feed,

and tuck into bed.

And what a lovely afternoon that will be to reflect on.

(happy thursday friends)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recent reads

Happy Tuesday friends! I wanted to share with you a couple of books I recently read, both of which actually came about because the authors began the stories on their blogs. Chances are, you've probably heard of both of these books and perhaps even read them, but I wanted to give you my honest review of each. So here goes.

The first is Bloom, by Kelle Hampton. I've been a blog reader of hers for a little over a year now, and I'll admit that it's one of my faves. She is so incredibly open and honest about her 'everyday' life and happenings and her beautiful writing paired with her awesome photog skills is simply captivating. I want more each time, and so I go back again and again. Pure lovliness.

The book is about her journey of (unexpectedly) having a child with Down syndrome and the highs and lows she experienced as a result of it in the first year of her daughter's life. I was moved to tears, several times actually, in the first chapter of the book where she recounts Nella's birth story. Her honesty is what I found to be so refreshing. In a blogosphere where many only paint the 'pretty' pictures + stories of their life, she openly says that she was heartbroken and felt that, in a way, the world had come crashing down. The chapters that follow tell of her growth and acceptance and eventual celebration of her sweet Nella and while I do not have a child with special needs, this book truly speaks to any mother who has brought a child into the world in circumstances that were not expected and perhaps, not ideal.

There are pictures sprinkled throughout the book so that it reads just like a series of blog entries. Pics of her family and friends and precious snapshots of her children are included to complement and give visuals to her beautiful words. Perhaps one of the things that stuck with me the most was her core group of friends she calls the 'Net'. These ladies were there for her in the hospital and along every step of the journey, just as if a trumpet had been sounded to rally them to duty. It caused me to think about my own friends- yes we have moments too where we come together to support and encourage one another, but are we truly being a Net? Are we holding each other up and even carrying each other if one of us can't stand? Yes, we pray for each other, but seeing the way her friends were truly there for her made me want to step it up and be that kind of friend. Know what I mean? A Net is always a good thing to have close at hand, not just in case it's needed, but because it will be needed.

Sorry-didn't really mean for that to take a deep turn, so let's now move from deep thoughts to horse troughs.

Do horses use troughs?

I don't know.

The second book is all about passionate love and out-of-control flop sweat and squirty manure and if you guessed already just from that list of adjectives that I'm describing From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, well then you must read The Pioneer Woman. The book tells the story of how Ree met and fell in love with her cowboy husband and also recounts their first year of marriage together. She began telling her love story in installments on her blog, and over the course of 18 months, her readers were treated to chapter after chapter of her courtship, engagement, and marriage. For the book, she went beyond the wedding and finishes just after they celebrate their first year as husband and wife. If you know Ree's writing, then you know what a fun, quick read this was. I wasn't a blog reader yet when she began telling the stories online, so most of it was new to me and I ate it up. Not only did I find her true tales of courtship incredibly entertaining, but I was also immediately inspired to begin recording my own tale of love + marriage, including the first time I laid eyes on the hubs. I remember it well- I was at church, headed to the choir room for elementary choir when I saw him with the preschool class. His blue striped tank, blue shorts, and white knee socks with the velcro tennis caught my eye. He was four and I was....not.

Anyway, if you're on the lookout for a good read or two, I highly recommend these two books. I don't even have time for pleasure reading, but I wanted to read these so badly that I gave up some of my precious sleep and at one point, read on my stomach on the floor while my 2 yr-old sat on my back singing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".

I hope you have a mahvelous morning/afternoon/evening, friends. Toodles!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday confessional

1. I have summer fever. Bad. Spring Break comes along every year and ruins me with an entire 9 days in a row to be home when the girls wake up and to play Barbies and watch movies and swing and stay up late and actually put forth effort into a meal. Sitting at the piano yesterday in my classroom, I let my mind wander all the way to my house. I wondered what my girls were doing- were they in costumes? Was Eliza singing soprano? Did Mary Martin have her blanket firmly wrapped around her entire body? Do they miss me when I'm not there? Is MM wearing her beloved Toms? Sometimes I want to be home so badly it hurts. Don't misunderstand- when I say that God blessed me with the perfect job, I mean that God blessed me with the perfect job. I love what I do. I love singing and music and composers and the smiles on all the sweet faces that walk through my classroom door. I love the fact that Oliver comes to school with me everyday, and I love the fact that he spends his days in a classroom down the hall from mine. But I miss my girls.

2. I wear Spanx. If I ever meet the brilliant gal that created these, she should brace herself for a kiss on the face. Eliza saw me in my beloved Spanx yesterday (sorry for that mental picture) and she called them my 'bloomers'. I love that she called them my bloomers. Because, let's face it, sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that skin that used to be on your back is now on your front after stretching 3, yes three times to accomodate growing babies, and it needs to be pushed ever so tighly to your body so as not to cause others to ask when you're due.

3. I ate a chocolate bunny yesterday. Not just any chocolate bunny, but a 6-inch chocolate bunny. Not even a hollow one. Sometimes the day just calls for it.

4. I also ate a nutter bar for breakfast. Is that what they're called? You know the wafer things covered in chocolate with peanut butter between the layers? Hubs brought home 2 boxes a few days ago and I'd resisted until this morning. I used to love pulling the layers apart when I was younger and eating all the peanut butter first, and then the wafers. And who am I kidding. You know that's exactly how I ate it this morning too.

5. While I'm on the subject, we desperately need groceries. All I could find for breakfast was a nutter bar.

6. I love my curling iron. Well, it's not actually mine since I purchased it for the sole purpose of curling E's hair for her dance pictures, but I totally paid for it. It's pink and ceramic and doesn't have a clamp to hold your hair on it, which is why it came with a glove. Yup, a black one. At first, I told myself I wouldn't need it. I've used a curling iron before. I lived through the 80's and 90's. But ohbygoshbygolly, that glove was in the box for a reason and after the first burn that baby has been securely on my hand before I even hit the power button. Besides, I like doing jazz hands early in the morning.

7. I miss early-morning-just-woke-up-squinty-eyed-can't-wait-for-you-to-lift-me-up-outta-this-crib hugs. Two days a week just isn't enough.

8. I'm reading Kelle Hampton's book right now. I'm half-way through and I've already cried 47 times.

9. Sometimes I wish that my shop sales would shoot through the roof and we'd have enough money to buy a bigger house. Not huge, mind you- just a bedroom for each of us, and when people would comment on our house, I could day, "What, this thing? Oh we just bought it with pillows and flowers and banners".

10. I made a crazy-good pot of spaghetti last night. I tossed things in the pan like garlic, and thyme. I cooked meat and sauce and threw in tomatoes and it's a big deal because it doesn't happen often. The kiddos and O even had seconds. I really do actually enjoy cooking when I have the time and energy. Those two things just don't happen together very often.

Your turn- anything you wanna fess up to today?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

just like BK says, "You can have it your way"

Anyway, I think that's how the slogan goes.
I've been working on some super cool custom orders which have promted me to actually make a listing for something custom.

Up until now, I've only done custom orders for friends & family, but now you can 'have it your way' too thanks to a listing for custom banners in my shop.

What kind of banners, you ask?

Well, maybe some like this...

Maybe you'd like shades of yellow, or perhaps pink.
Maybe you want black and white patterns.
Maybe you want half-circles instead of triangles.
Maybe you want a banner that's made just for your party and not his party, or her party.
Just yours.
Maybe you want one for your mantel.
Maybe you need that perfect something  to hang in a nursery, or a playroom.

Well, friends, this could be that something.

Just click HERE and tell me how I can make it your way.

And in the meantime, have an awesome Tuesday, mmmkay?

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's a zoo out there...

I don't know about you, but one of my fondest field-trip memories from elementary school was going to the zoo. I remember the giraffe's, the polar bears, the flamingos, and I also recall that I wore a yellow outfit that my grandmother made with my hair in two braids and light pink reebok tennis shoes. Isn't it odd some of the things that stay stored in your brain? Especially when it's sometimes impossible to recall what you fed your kids for dinner just 24 hours ago. Anyway, O's class took a trip to the zoo last week and the girls and I followed the big yellow bus in my mini, which also carried a double-stroller and a cooler full of juice boxes and uncrustables. The weather was perfect and I mean perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, but as Goldilocks would say, "just right".

 We ended our fabulous day at the zoo with a quick run in the fountain. Well, the kids did anyway, so not so much 'we', but rather 'they'.

Can't wait to go back, y'all.

Happy Monday!

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