Friday, August 28, 2015

Healing Hands Gala / Edwin McCain

Healing Hands Health Center is such an important organization in our area. They provide health care to the WORKING uninsured. As in- NOT a free handout. So, this is a charity that we like to support. PLUS, our VIP friend-extraordinaire, Sarah, plans the entire Gala and is a bad ass, and we like to support her as well. Also...excuse to leave the kids at home. Everyone wins.

It was pouring rain when we first got there, but it is super fancy, and we got to ride from our car to the event in a golf cart. 

I did an awful job of taking pictures. I don't have any of the decor or the food. Sarah is a magician with planning an event, and it was perfection.  Everything was gorgeous, detailed, and special.

His voice is perfection- it was just him and two other musicians on the stage. Sarah told us a few months ago that Edwin McCain was going to be the entertainment, and I sort of flipped out.  I feel like 1999 was about 5 months ago, so he still seems extremely relevant to me. I had his CD's and loved, loved his music- especially the songs that weren't the popular ones. We (twin speak) have never been huge music fans. We love Garth, of course, and a handful of others. Edwin McCain has always been in that handful for me. His song, "What Matters," is probably my favorite song of all time. It truly encouraged me to fulfill my passion of becoming a teacher. I listened to it constantly during graduate school and always played it to my students on the first day of school.  (My other favorite is "Just Do Your Thing"- go listen to them if you haven't heard them). And, apparently he is really funny and down to earth.

During a break, one of my friends came back and said she got a picture with him. I said, "I'll be right back..." and ran off to meet him. I was completely normal and calm and acted very much like a grown up. 

Except...not at all. 

I went to get coffee because it was right beside him, and I wanted to act completely nonchalant, like, "Oh, hi Edwin- I didn't even know you were here- I was just grabbing some coffee." INSTEAD, I got the coffee and then walked over to him and literally blurted out something like, "I was totally just pretending to get coffee so I could come meet you."

Somehow, we ended up having a semi normal conversation, and I told him that "What Matters" was one of the reasons I became a teacher. He seemed genuinely touched and said he hadn't played that one in years. 

And, THEN HE PLAYED IT!!!!!!!! FOR ME!!!!!!! He even said a few sentences about, "Teaching middle school. Wow." It was very, very cool to hear him sing this song that has so much meaning in my life.  I will always treasure this memory. 

 (Very few things annoy my husband more than when I ask him to take a picture. It was such a sweet gesture, because he just appeared when I was talking to him. He knew I would want a picture, and it was really thoughtful).

Garieann, Sarah, EDWIN, me, Alyson. I was originally not beside him, but Alyson frantically gestured me over to come stand next to him. Love my friends. 

Also, thank you to SIL-Extraordinaire, Amanda, for mailing me a bunch of dresses to wear.

With our Gilleye.

It was a very fun night!

And, in a huge bonus- my mom came in town for the day and watched my kids!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer, etc...


I am a bit bipolar about this summer. There are moments when I truly feel like it is an IMPOSSIBLE task to take care of these small people and entertain them and feed them and try to put up the dishes and sit down for 3 seconds and not be on any kind of schedule. Doing classic "summer" activities, like swimming and going to the movies with all three is just too hard. Lily NEEDS stimulation and a schedule. Multiple times this summer, I have honestly wondered if I could just get in the car and drive away. Not forever- just for a few weeks or so. Even hours. I mean, what's the worst that can go wrong? I just want a few minutes with nobody touching me, talking to me, crying to me.

HOWEVER, there have been many moments where I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this life i am living. Three healthy kids, a beautiful house that used to be on a lake,  not having to rush out of the house for a job, being able to afford to buy the kids Icees at Target every time we go, a husband who works his ass off for us, CABLE TV!!!! and Netflix and Redboxes!

My kids are really great kids, easy even. Lily still consumes 90% of my energy, but she is quite possibly the best 6 year old big sister to ever live, so it's a give and take. Reese and Levi, especially to be two years old and 5 months old, are pretty fantastic, mostly go-with-the-flow kids. Lily and Reese have PLAYED TOGETHER this summer!!!! They have entertained themselves! Without me!!! I see such hope for future summers. 

I am past ready for Lily to go back to school and for us to reclaim a routine, but I do have to admit this has been my favorite summer (with kids) overall. It has mostly been chill and not especially exciting, but I think that childhood is made up of these moments of stopping to see the goats, trying to chase the ice cream truck down the street because he goes 90mph through the neighborhood, and of building forts all around the house. 

We are surrounded by farms and land and animals for miles. I love that my kids are growing up seeing so much green. (Although...I would like it if a little more red (i.e. Target) was closer, too). We like to stop and yell "Hellooooooo Goats!" at these little guys every day. 

Rubber Ducky has had quite the summer. I found him in Reese's treasure box one day.

My kids' FAVORITE thing in the world is to trash my house. Lily loves, loves, loves, loves to build a "house" in the middle of our main living area. We left this one up for almost a week, until we finally decided we really needed the kitchen table chairs back AT the table. 

I wish the messes didn't drive me crazy, but they do. I am a terrible cook, but I am a very neat and clean housekeeper. The quickest way to make me angry is to drag toys all over the place. This summer, my main goal (I am serious) was to LET them play and not follow them around nagging and trying to tidy after them. 

It drives me crazy, but they love it. 

This was about the extent of any type of learning. Lily had to do this for school, and she is such first born girl that she actually enjoyed it. I had such big plans to work with her on reading and math this summer. Pssshh.  I am pretty sure she has forgotten how to hold a pencil. 

This guy LOVES Lily. She just has to be in the room, talking, and he will laugh and grin and try to get her attention.

We went to a Junior League Family Night at a farm. Reese got to do the potato sack race!

I had to run and help Reese, so I just threw him down on the nursing cover on the ground, in the middle of a ton of kids and even some animals. 

Lily protecting Reese. 


Lily's patience with Reese blows me away. #shopkins

He adores them both. I think here he is looking at Reese. I hope they always love each other with such ferocity. 

We met the family at the Knoxville zoo, because it is only an hour and a half from us. I am so lucky that my parents only live two hours away. 

Reese is obsessed with Pops.

So many of our summer days are filled with moments like this one- us sitting outside at 7am, eating cold pizza for breakfast. 

Reese is constantly twirling her hair. I just need to document it. 

We went to Chuck E Cheese with the cousins! 

This is their childhood. 

Max. He is the funniest kid. Seriously, the funniest kid. 

We got a sitter during the day and went to a wine tasting- it was all from wineries in Tennessee!

My sister is a super VIP Assistant Principal. It is her FOURTH year as an assistant principal, but this year she changed high schools. This is a promotion, because she is now a Curriculum Principal. The point is that  my sister is a freaking bad-ass. I love to casually drop in a conversation about "oh, yeah, well my sister is an Assistant Principal...", because she is so important and a big deal. Some days I feel productive just because I think about everything Melissa accomplished that day.  I am living vicariously, because all I do is clean up the same damn mess of spilled Cheerios all day long. After the zoo, I got to run by and SEE her at her job! I made her pose under the sign, because we are adults like that.

We used to live on a lake, and it was really fun. But, now...we live on a mud pit. For the next 5-7 years. It is really too heartbreaking for me to even discuss. I had no idea TVA could just take away a lake. The dam is leaking, and apparently it is going to take 5-7 years and 300 million to fix it. It sucks. We alternate between trying to just be grateful we love our house/we are all healthy/this is not a real problem compared to struggles other people have....AND being PISSED off. It is sad, but there is nothing we can do about it, so we have to accept it. 

Lily starts school on Monday! Summer is almost over for us! Bittersweet...but mostly sweet.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Lily has never really liked toys. I can count on one hand the toys (excluding crafts or electronics) that Lily has consistently played with during her lifetime.  Rephrase- I can count it on one finger. 


What is a shopkin, you may ask? Well, they are tiny, plastic collectibles* made into the likeness of food, clothing, school supplies, etc... I think they started in Season 1 with just being created based on food. But, now in their 3rd season, they are desperate to still create "148 for you to collect!" So, in addition to Apple Blossom (Season 1), you can now also own Leafy (Toilet Paper- Season 2) and  Erica Eraser (Season 3). 

Note to future Nicole- run sprint away from any toy that markets itself as a "collectible." They use scary, fear-mongering words, like "ultra rare, exclusive, special, very limited edition!" It's hard not to panic when faced with this type of pressure. I will admit that even Hughes, calm and practical as he is, has fallen prey. 

It all started about a year ago, we were at Target and Lily BEGGED me to let her get a $2.99 blue basket with "surprise shopkins" inside. At this time, I had never heard of a shopkin and was sure she hadn't, either. I told her in basically these words, "What the hell is that? NO. You cannot get that. You don't even know what that is, and it looks like some tiny thing I will step on when you leave it lying around." She insisted she has wanted this "FORRREEEVER." I didn't really believe her, but she rarely asks me to buy her toys, so I gave in. I remember being annoyed, though, because I just KNEW she would never play with it. Lily has never played with toys. I REMEMBER this shopping trip so clearly. It's like I knew this was a dividing line in my life: Life Pre-Shopkins and Life Post-Shopkins. The little basket wasn't even in the toy aisle- it was in the shampoo aisle! Clearly: fate. 
OR: a parent smarter than I am who distracted her kid and took it out of the cart when she wasn't watching and hid it among the bottles of Suave.

Fast forward over a year, and Lily is still really into Shopkins. They were basically the only thing she wanted for Christmas, her birthday, and any other time she gets to choose a toy, so she has quite the collection. 

They are usually sold out at Target, which is awesome in so many ways. I don't have to hear her beg every time we go. Plus, when we DO find them in stock (maybe one of out every ten trips), it's so exciting and unexpected that we all get a little giddy. Usually, if I even venture to the toy department, we find a couple of parents, with disappointed kids standing empty handed in front of the ransacked Shopkins display case. Often, a Target employee is standing, holding his red Target magic wand that shows inventory and shipments, shaking his head, "Yeah, we just got a shipment this morning, so I guess they are already all gone."

The other day we went, and...DRUMROLL...SEASON 3 has been released!!! AND, they were IN STOCK!!!! There was no way I could permanently crush her heart by not letting her get a pack. 

She plays with them in various ways every day. 

They are ALL OVER my house. 

Crafting with them is her favorite hobby. 

Reese is obsessed with them, too, of course. She usually has one or two clutched in her hand. She even knows a few of their actual names, but mostly just refers to them as "My Lily's* Shokkins."

They really are pretty cute. Fine, I admit it. They have creative names, like "Aspara-Gus," "Cheese-Kate," "Peachy Keen." Lily has the book about them, and it really is clever. It is filled with puns about their favorite foods, books, hobbies. 

(I think summer is killing my brain cells, because I actually DO enjoy reading about them. It's pathetic).

Lily made replicas for about 20 of them out of perler beads. Look closely- she really did a great job. Also, behind the chair, you can sort of make out the pink basket/slap bracelet/yarn that is the elevator she made for them.


She made them a hotel out of milk caps and cardboard boxes. Girl will raid the recycling on a daily basis. 

I think this was at about 7am one day. It takes a lot of planning for me to be able to play Shopkins with her. We have to distract Reese, because she LOOOOVESSS some shopkins. Unfortunately, she also has an inclination toward destruction and theft of said shopkins, so we have to lock her out. 

This guy is allowed. 


As much as I wish these things weren't scattered everywhere, they really are cute, and I enjoy watching them PLAY with toys.  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Collision on the inflatable.

So, I feel ridiculous doing a blog post on this incident, but the documenting hoarder in me feels this is necessary. 

One of my worst fears is something happening to someone else's kid while I am watching them. You know, like someone else's kid breaking their arm while on a play date with me at an inflatable place. Breaking their arm and having to be transported by ambulance to the hospital. 


A few weeks ago, one of Lily's best friends spent the night with us (nobody got hurt!), and I picked them up from a tumbling camp the next day. There is an inflatable place (Leaping Lizards) right next to it, and I promised them I would take them to play. I had my three plus Emma, and I devoted 90% of my attention to Emma. I was basically stalking her around the place like she was destined to get kidnapped or something. I wasn't even sure where my kids were the entire time, but I was not going to let Emma get kidnapped. AND, for the record, I did not. So, gold star for me. 

They bounced, they ran around, they were so patient with Reese. I bought them popsicles and even ordered a pizza trough the concession stand for us to eat for dinner. All in all, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for keeping up with all of the kids and even remembering to feed them. 

They took off running at one point, Lily and Emma squealing toward the shark slide. Reese was right behind them, giggling, tripping over her feet, thinking she was their age. Emma and Lily slid first and then were at the bottom to catch Reese. This was probably the 15th time they had caught Reese on this inflatable. I was WATCHING. PARENTING. I was not on my phone, I was not distracted by Levi, I was not even staring into space. I was 15 feet from them, watching them grin and laugh and enjoy themselves. 

Then, BAM. Reese slid---I guess she got more momentum than before?--- they tried to catch her, and they all just collided into each other. 

All three of them were SCREAMING. I'm sure I was probably screaming, too, because I saw blood immediately. So much blood. It looked like a murder scene. I quickly scanned and tried to identify the source of the blood- Reese. 

(This was the NEXT day, when it looked significantly better but was still bleeding. She kept saying, "I got booboo on my mouf.")

She busted her lip (on Lily's head), and I could see chunks of her mouth hanging down inside her mouth. *gag* Poor Emma and Lily. I didn't see much blood on them, and I had to triage, so they were basically left to fend for themselves for a few minutes. We were the only customers in the place, which has never happened there. I can't imagine how much we would have scarred innocent bystanders. 

I ran over to the owner, carrying Reese. She took one look at her, paled, picked up the phone called 911. 

Lily had a huge knot that was bleeding a little. The paramedics described it as "larger than tennis ball size." They were fairly certain she had a concussion (she didn't). But, I couldn't really help poor Lily, because about 2 minutes into trying to get Reese to stop bleeding and trying to see if she lost all of her teeth, I went over to soothe Emma.  And, it was evident immediately that her wrist was broken. I will spare the details, but just know that there was no doubt.

One of my friends texted me this a few days afterward. It's not funny. But, it is. 

Yep. It did feel a bit like this. CHAOS. (Although, hopefully his mom talked with him about appropriate future texting since she probably thought it was a drive-by). I don't remember the sequence, but I know at some point I had to call Jenn, Emma's mom, and tell her. I distinctly remember wanting to run away. Just away. Since that wasn't an option, I was desperate to just start crying and hope a real adult would take care of it. But, I do remember forcing myself to not cry when I called Jenn to tell her. The last thing she needed was me babbling incoherently about Emma getting hurt. I remember Face-Timing Hughes. In retrospect, I realize this is ridiculous. But, at the time, I just needed a a real adult's opinion. God Bless my husband for putting up with me. 

 Thankfully they called an ambulance, because it turned out that the kid who wasn't mine had to go to the hospital. I know this is awful, but I really wish it had been one of my kids that had taken one for the team and got hurt worse. (Am I allowed to say things like that?)

Jenn told me to not let the ambulance take Emma until she got there (she didn't want Emma to go alone and Emma's dad was on Call at another hospital). Well, apparently, since I am not the mom, I have no power. The paramedics were incredibly nice and caring and were just doing their job. But, they had to take Emma since her mom wasn't there, yet. So, I literally had to LIE on top of Emma so they wouldn't take her. About 30 seconds after one of the men said to me, very kindly, "M'aam, we are going to have to use force," Jenn sprinted in the door. 

I remember at one point while we were waiting on the paramedics, I looked up and saw poor Lily. I was holding bleeding Reese in my lap, stroking Emma's hair. The owner had given Lily a bag of ice, and she was standing there, crying, holding the ice to her head. Levi had started crying, and she was rocking his carseat back and forth. Levi was not even on my radar at that moment, and I love that the big sister was still looking out for him. I was not even surprised.

I have to give credit to the staff at Leaping Lizards, because they were wonderful: calm, genuinely concerned, helpful. quick-thinking. I handled it better than I ever thought I would handle a semi-emergent situation, but I am very grateful to their staff. 

Everything has turned out okay. Emma has been spoiled, her wrist is going to be fine, she still loves us and wants to be friends, her parents are AMAZING and don't blame me at all, and my kids are healed. I know this won't be the last injury for my kids or for any of their friends. (gah, I REALLY do hope it is the last injury for one of their friends when I am in charge). I am still a little traumatized by the whole situation, but I do have to admit that about a week later we were back on the inflatables! 

I blame summer. Just in general. It is never, ever, ever going to end.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Baptized. ✅

I grew up Catholic: Mary statues in the yard, crucifixes hung above every door- with palms from the most recent Palm Sunday tucked neatly behind, an elegant leather Bible on my mom's dresser that was only ever opened to tuck in important items like birth certificates and old photos, a complete ignorance of Biblical knowledge, associating the smell of incense with Church, Saturday evening Mass, Sunday evening Mass, and occasionally the early Sunday morning Mass, PRE, plaid skirts and saddle oxfords, no meat on Fridays during Lent, "In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.," stained glass, First Communion in a white poofy dress, trying to kneel and sort of rest my butt on the seat at the same time, Confession, reciting the rosary, Stations of the Cross, proudly displaying ashes smeared on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, "Bless us O Lord." And on and on. When you grow up Catholic, it isn't just a set of religious beliefs- it is part of your identity. My childhood was very much shaped by being Catholic. 

You can see the Black Bible, the Joseph statue, and other Catholic trinkets. 

All Girl's Catholic school. 
This is Melissa, because it's the first picture I found. 

So much going on here. So. much.
But, there is a crucifix above the kitchen door, just like above all of our doorways growing up. 

First Communion. Possibly Melissa, again. Lily is especially pumped about this part of being Catholic. White dress! Make up! Veil! Cake afterward! 

That is my Uncle Bubba. Circa...a long time ago. And, no, he was supposedly not in the Mafia. Hmmm..
Anyway, crucifix above the doorway. Complete with palm. 

11 years ago. We were just babies. 

Hughes and I were married in a Catholic church, but we were in agreement that we were not going to actually attend Catholic Mass. To be honest, I was bored with it and was perfectly happy to stop going and basically blame it on Hughes. We went through periods where we did attend church. In medical school, we went to a Presbyterian Church for 3 years- we attended the contemporary service almost every Sunday, Hughes joined the basketball team, we attended the Adult Sunday Service class, I volunteered for VBS. Then, the preacher- whom we loved- was discovered to be having an affair with the Church Secretary= whom we also loved. Bam. More proof that attending church doesn't automatically make you a good person. Through the rest of medical training, we went through phases, cycling through a Methodist and another two Presbyterian churches in other states. I greatly enjoyed the contemporary service to the old-fashioned seriousness of Mass. PLUS- COFFEE DURING the service. And...CHILDCARE! I would be lying if I didn't admit that the majority of our church attendances were basically so we could stick Lily and Reese in the childcare. Praise be to God for the nursery. #justbeinghonest

When we moved here, Lily attended Pre-3 at Saint Annes two days a week. We picked it because it seemed like a good fit for Lily. Also, I had no idea of any other preschools since we had just moved. Haha. But, deep down I was a little giddy about my kids being exposed to a little Catholicism. It just feels like home. Comforting. I NEVER expected we would baptize them Catholic or that we would start actually attending the church. Lily has surprised us by being very curious about religion and God. She is constantly making "Jesus and God" books and talking about church. Don't get me wrong- she is bored to tears during actual Mass and tries to get sick before Mass day at school. But, she was curious enough that I realized we had to make going to church a priority, again. We started going to Mass and looked into Baptism and felt like it is the right decision and the right time. I don't want to push religion on my kids, because I just don't think "religion" is a vital component in a healthy, happy life. However, I do want to at least give them the foundation of religion and faith so they can make that decision for themselves. PLUS, we get a decent tuition discount for them being Catholic, and we usually get to go eat lunch with friends after Mass on Sunday. Win, win. 

I am not trying to start a religious debate. Every family has to do what works for their family. Period, end of story. I feel like baptizing our kids Catholic was the right choice for our family. To be honest, I am so happy- almost giddy!- about it!  I have probably been to Catholic Mass four times total in ten years,  but it ALL comes back. There was a slight change in the Nicene Creed, but otherwise, I felt like I could have led the service myself.

My 3 new little Catholics!
My love of efficiency was jumping up and down at being able to do all three at once. 

Somehow I showed up without my expensive camera and without a plan of who was going to take the pictures. Because I get my documenting love from my mom, she asked this other family there to take pictures and email them to us. 

This happy boy grinned when it was his turn. 

Lily's main motivation for becoming Catholic- Aunt Manda and Uncle Zack getting to be her godparents. She doesn't really understand what that means, but she heard the word "parents" in the name and is probably hoping this means some kind of parent swap in the future. 

Lily chose the godparent sets. 

Noni and Bop for Levi.

And Aunt Sissa and Uncle Brandon for Reese.

Except, oh, that is Kyler and Noah. Poor Brandon and Melissa. They left Knoxville at 10:30 for the 2 hour drive to us. The Baptism started at 2, but they wanted to be early. Unfortunately, there was a huge wreck (fortunately, it was not them), and they MISSED THE BAPTISM. They were trapped in their car with no food and no bathroom WITH Anderson and Max for 4 hours.  I just can't. That is awful. Lily was hysterical that they were going to miss, Reese kept hearing us say their names so she was trying to find them, and I was mainly sad she was going to miss the family pictures scheduled for afterward. Melissa was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Rightfully so. 

We missed them, but Kyler and Noah made excellent stand in godparents. 

Also, Reese is normally a lot more fun. She is skeptical about this Catholic business. 

The ditch behind our house. It is DEPRESSING to not have a lake, but this ditch is actually an adventure in itself. 

Anderson and Lily making s'mores.

Levi and Aunt Manda. 

Max, chilling in the Bumbo. He is so funny and has the best vocabulary of any two year old I have ever met.  Now that Reese is talking better, Lily even says, "She sounds like Max! She can talk like him!" You forget he is barely two, because he is basically like a 6 year old. 

Reese opted for the mud baptism as well. 

Hand-me-down onesie from Max. "The Godchild." 

Mom got all of my kids a rosary, and Levi got his very own! Hilarious.

The next day, we drove to a lake that is about 30 minutes from us. Kyler. How do I always forget that he is not 2 anymore? I understand the need to turn back time. 

My brother is pretty much the greatest brother, ever. 

Reese and Bop are obsessed with each other. 

She is so silly and thinks she Lily's age.

Anderson and Noah.

Sissa and Brandon had to go back Saturday night, but Anderson went on the lake with us. 

I got a babysitter for Levi!!!! It was not just selfish- I would have been paranoid with him on the lake and no life jacket. (Is that even legal?). So, I actually got to hang out with my other kids some. 

Until the monsoon came. SO. MUCH. RAIN. And such a tiny awning. 

It was pelting us sideways, and I literally dove under this towel with Amanda on the floor and left Mom and Pops to protect my kids.

My brother, flipping a coin to see which of my teenage nephews gets shotgun.

The  Mass has ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. 

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