18 Years of Love and Happiness

Stuart and I are celebrating our 18 year anniversary today.  

It may not be the dreamiest of anniversaries since we have spent it buying a new alternator for the van, painting the interior of the house while all of the furniture is still out, and of course, we are working on 3 weeks of living out of suitcases in a hotel.

But we have had a blessed life and wouldn't change a thing...well, not much at least.

We met in 1991 while we were both going to LSU.   We were first introduced to each other at a college bar called Ernie's through mutual friends we were hanging out with that night.  

Stuart was working to pay for his college and his only transportation was his motorcycle.

He was smart, cute, ambitious, and very charming.  But as I got to know him I realized that he was also kind, genuine, and honest.  And he also had some other great characteristics like ambition and a desire to learn, and an interest in building and fixing things himself.  Yes ladies, he is a total package.  After we had been dating for a while, I recall a special night when I was visiting him at work.  I was just sitting to the side waiting for him to finish up his work and I really watched him and thought about whether this was The One.  I remember thinking about all of the great qualities that he had and of course how cute he was.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to marry him and spend the rest of my life with him.

Fast forward 5 years when we gathered with our friends and family to say "I Do" on May 25, 1996. 

What a beautiful day that was!  We were so busy loving on our friends and family that had come to celebrate our special day that I don't think we ever had time to actually eat the cake or food at the reception.  But there is this picture of us cutting the cake!

About a week before the wedding we had learned that the company Stuart was working for was downsizing and that he would no longer be employed.  We had already planned our honeymoon to Hawaii and were committed to paying for it so we kept our plans and had a great time.  We relaxed, enjoyed some scuba diving, a helicopter ride, a trip up a volcano, and lots of boat rides (that explains the wind blown hair!)

As a special treat, we even rented a Ferrari to drive around for a day.  I think this may be one of Stuart's favorite memories from the trip!

God is good and we came back from our trip with a great job lined up for Stuart in Houston.  We had already talked about where we wanted to settle down and had decided on Dallas but Houston would be good to get us half way there.

My dad took these pictures the day we were leaving on a road trip to Houston to look for an apartment to live in.  

We lived in Houston for just two years and then Stuart had a great opportunity to transfer up to Arlington with his company.  Yay!  We made it to the Dallas area!  A few years later he transferred to another job that brought him to Plano and we bought our first house in 2001.

Since we are currently doing major repairs in our kitchen, I thought it would be fun to show how the previous owners had decorated their kitchen.  It was totally pink!!

I painted the walls two different colors over the years since then.  Stuart replaced the pink counter tops many years ago.  But I can't wait to show you what the new kitchen will look like when it is all done!

Ok, I'm supposed to be painting downstairs so I've got to fast forward a little more.

In 2004, God blessed us with our precious son Nicholas.

He was specially chosen for us by God to show us the joy in all the simple things in life.  He is full of wonder and happiness and even the mundane can be an exciting adventure for him.

We had hoped to have another child about 2 years later but God's plan was so much better.  In 2008, we had our sweet little Rachel.

She is quiet and shy like me.  She loves to cuddle and she loves to sit in our laps just to be a little closer to us.  She is such a sweetheart.

Now it is 2014.  We've been married for 18 years today.  Our lives are full and overflowing with blessings.  It has been hard and challenging at times.  But God has had His hand in our lives from the beginning and it has been better than I could have ever imagined.  I love our little family and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us in the years to come.

Turtle Fest at SeaLife Aquarium

Get our of your shell and swim over to a turtully awesome event taking place through May 30th...

Turtle Fest at Sea Life Grapevine!

At Turtle Fest, you will learn about conservation through up close interactions with non-releasable endangered sea turtles.  You'll get to see the green sea turtles Hope and Boomer as well as a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle named Squirt.  Sea Life also welcomes their newest turtle, Eddie, a green sea turtle rescued in South Carolina.

* The kids will have fun with special turtle coloring activities where kids can post their pictures on a wall for everyone to see.

* Learn about conservation with Sea Life aquarists as they host daily Turtle Talks at 12:30 pm in the Turtle Rescue Center.

* See how these special creatures make their nests with a special turtle nest replica.

* Follow the special Turtle Fest scavenger hunt throughout the aquarium to find fun facts on conservation and sea turtles for a chance to win four tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Dallas/Fort Worth.

* Take a "selfie" picture with a turtle and post it with #TurtleShellfieDFW on Facebook @sealifegrapevine or Twitter and Instagram @sealifegrpevine to win fun prizes.  The winners will be announced on the Sea Life website on Monday, June 2nd.

* Snap fun pictures with Tyler the Turtle

* Go through the turtle excluder and learn first-hand how this device helps a turtle escape when caught in a fisherman's net.

Once you've had lots of turtle fun, be sure to look around the rest of the aquarium.  There is so much to see and do here!

My kids' favorite exhibit at Sea Life are the touch tanks where they get to touch live creatures like these starfish.

Nicholas even got to touch a pencil anemone which gently wrapped its arms around his finger and held it like a pencil.

Even Stuart enjoyed the touch tanks.  He had never touched a live starfish before!

Starfish are just so beautiful to see but they stay so still that sometimes it is hard to believe that they are actually alive.

Rachel seemed the most fascinated by the giant hermit crab.

We were told not to touch him because of his pinchers but Rachel enjoyed watching him as he moved all around the tank.

There are several fun places where kids can peek through bubbles that actually put them right in the middle of an aquarium with fish swimming all around their heads!

Of course the sharks exhibits were a big hit with our kids (and adults!).

There are some fabulous interactive screens that teach about different kinds of sharks.  You can turn the shark around to see it from all sides and you can even play some shark games.

My favorite exhibit are the jellyfish.  They are so graceful to watch as they float across the tank.  They look like they are dancing a ballet.  It is easy to forget just how dangerous those whispy tentacles can be!

There are so many fascinating fish and creatures to see at the Sea Life and the aquariums are set up so that you really get a good view of everything.  It's almost like you are swimming around with them!

We all love the tunnel where you can watch creatures swim under your feet and over your head.  We always spend a lot of time here looking at the sharks and sting rays.

The lion fish is amazing to look at but their spiky fins are venomous and can cause numbness, dizziness, nausea in humans.  Rarely the venom can cause paralysis or even death.  An interesting creature but one you want to study from a distance.

Sea Life Grapevine is located at 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway in the Grapevine Mills Mall.  Their hours are Monday - Saturday 10:00 - 7:30 pm and Sunday 11:00 - 5:30 pm.  For more information or to order tickets, please visit the Sea Life Grapevine website.

2014 Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Don't let the summer "brain drain" get to your kids this year.  Keep their reading skills up and their imaginations growing by getting them excited about some of these fun summer reading programs just for kids.  Best of all they are FREE!

Barnes and Noble - Download the Imagination's Destination Reading Journal. Read any 8 books and record them in the Reading Journal. Bring the Reading Journal to Barnes and Noble and choose one FREE book from their special selection of books for kids.

Bob Jones University - Read for 40 days during the summer and track your progress on a reading log.  Kids will receive a prize just for completing their reading log but will also be entered to win more prizes from drawings.

Chuck E. Cheese -  Print the reading calendar from the Chuck E. Cheese website.  Read each day for 2 weeks and record it on your reading calendar.  Turn in the completed calendar and receive 10 free game tokens.

Half Price Books -  Print your reading log from the Half Price Books website.  Read for 15 minutes a day for the months of June and July.  Record your minutes on your reading log.  Once you've read for 300 minutes you can turn in your log to earn HPB Bookworm Bucks for each month.

Pizza Hut - From June 1 - August 15, kids can read 5 books and be entered to win prizes in random drawings.

Pottery Barn Kids -  Kids can read all of the recommended books from now until August 26th.  Turn in your reading log at your local PBK store and receive a free book as well as a chance to win a backpack full of books.

Scholastic - Kids read and log their minutes all summer to earn rewards and participate in setting a reading world record.

Sylvan - A free online reading program for kids in grades K-8.  Kids read then take quizzes and are awarded points based on how well they understood what they read.  Their points can then be traded in for cool prizes.

These are some great summer reading programs that will help get your kids reading throughout the summer.  But don't overlook a great resource right in your own community.  Public libraries all over the country offer some wonderful summer reading programs for kids so be sure to check them out!

Our Little Dancer's Year End Recital

Rachel loves taking dance classes.  She especially loves recital time because she gets her hair curled and she gets a new sparkly dance costume to wear.  Fortunately I had grabbed her curlers and costume when we were packing up to move into the hotel!

Daddy and Nicholas went to get a bouquet of flowers to give her after the recital while Rachel and I stayed in the hotel room getting her ready for the show.  She looks so grown up in this picture (well, except for the chocolate milk moustache!)

Daddy and his little princess walking into the building.

Rachel just loves being all dressed up.  She informed us that she is the most beautiful girl ever when she is wearing her costume.  I would have to agree but I don't think the costume is the reason.

Although Stuart bought me a new "tough" camera at Christmas, we were disappointed with the video quality and returned it.  Unfortunately, I haven't replaced it with something else so the only camera we have right now is the big D90 or our cell phones.  We recorded the dance with the D90 but it made for still pictures and has only a rudimentary video function which doesn't include auto focus!  It is quite a challenge to use so just bear with us.  I've ordered the professionally made DVD of the recital but here you can see the videos that we made.  

Here is Rachel's ballet dance... 

And her tap dance....

Don't forget the finale!  There are always lots of squeals when the curtains finally close :)

After the recital, Daddy gave Rachel a sweet bouquet of flowers.

After the recital, Rachel got to pick where we went for dinner.  She wanted crab legs at Joe's Crab Shack.  We don't usually eat there because it is kind of expensive but went since it was her special day.

She insisted on cracking the crab legs herself and she did a great job.  

Progress on Floor Repairs

Although there are workers in the house all day long doing repairs, we can't help but stop by at times to check on the progress.   Stuart told me that our contractor had called him with an update that the kitchen tile was complete and needed to set up overnight so we couldn't walk on it if we came to the house.  Well, I couldn't wait another minute and we headed over there as soon as we thought the workers would be done for the day.  

When we moved into the house, the kitchen was pink.  I mean all pink.  Pink wall paper, pink countertops, and even the vinyl flooring has some pink tones in it.  Ugh!  We quickly painted the walls and Stuart replaced the countertops himself but we never did get around to tackling the kitchen floor.  This year we had actually made the plan for Stuart to take a whole week off of work and the two of us would work together on replacing that vinyl flooring with tile ourselves.  But that task was a little daunting since we have never worked with tile and there are so many nooks and crannies that would have to be covered including the bathroom, 2 closets, and the laundry room.  So when I walked into the house and saw that we had a new beautiful porcelain tile everywhere that used to have pink vinyl flooring, I was truly overwhelmed.  

Our contractor is such a blessing to us.  Insurance paid to replace the vinyl flooring with new vinyl flooring but Richard was able to find us a great deal on this tile and he helped us decided on some other items that we would repair on our own in order to put that money into the tile upgrade.

I just can't help but do the Happy Dance as I look back at these pictures!  I'm so excited!

Some of the laminate flooring is in as well.  Here is our school room.  They will replace the base boards next.

The playroom that the kids are standing in used to have old builder grade carpet in it but now it has the same new hard surface as the rest of the downstairs.  It will be so much easier to clean.  I pray that getting rid of the dust-collecting carpet will help Nicholas and me with our allergies and asthma.

As we see our new kitchen coming together it is really hard to look at that builder grade stove that is 23 years old and doesn't work well.  Insurance has paid us to replace some of our personal items that were damaged in the flood but we've decided to not replace those and put that money into getting a new stove.

We have been doing really well about eating breakfast and lunch in the hotel room to try to save money.  We have a little fridge in the room so we keep milk and sandwich meat and a few frozen items there and it has gotten us through great.  But we decided to go out for lunch today and I let the kids pick where they wanted to go.  I was craving a big salad so that was the only requirement that I gave for the restaurant.  I think that gave Nicholas the idea for picking Souper Salad. They have a full salad bar as well as pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, soups, tacos, etc.  And it is all-you-can-eat so the kids loving going back to the bar as often as they want.

After our lunch, we went to many places to shop for stoves and even to look at kitchen cabinets because that may be another blessing our contractor is working on.  Insurance has paid to replace the insides of the lower kitchen cabinets because they absorbed water from the flood but our contractor said that the cost to do that will probably not be much different than just replacing the whole cabinet.  He is working with the numbers to see if he can find a way for us to replace the upper cabinets as well and still stay within our budget.  The kids did a great job and behaving well after hours of shopping.  So I didn't feel too bad when we left our last store, Home Depot, and we all got a little treat.