Monday, September 26, 2011

Apple Picking

It's that time of year again...time to go apple picking!! This is one of my favorite fall activities and the kids love it too. We coordinated with Aunt Domi and found a good weekend to meet up at the Elegant Farmer in Wisconsin for a fun-filled day of apple picking and cousin bonding. Juju really got into it this year - she helped fill the basket and really enjoyed eating all the different types of apples. Daddy helped to get her started though...

And Daddy helped to give Abbey a lift to pick the perfect apple...

Then we found a ladder that the kids could climb to get the good apples...

Reach Juju - you almost got it!

Ah, this one is more within your range sweetie!

Ben preferred to just climb the trees to find his apples...

He also enjoyed the ladders though...

Caroline and Abbey climbing trees...

Even Juliette gets up the ladder!

There's a good one...

Abbey and Uncle Brandon enjoying an apple...

Abbey getting a ride in the wagon...

I love taking pictures of the kids picking apples, and then I saw this and realized that 30 years ago these two siblings would have probably been in a similar pose and Mama Kay or Papa could have been taking their picture!

These cousins kept raiding the "apple paradise" as Ben called it!

Don't forget the fun hay ride we took to get to the top of the apple orchard!

You had to have a hand stamp to get on the hay ride...the stamp looked like this...

These kids were excited to get going!

Love pictures of these two together!

Eating more apples...

We had a lot of fun, ate some yummy apple doughnuts, and picked a ton of apples. We came home with a bushel and a half - probably close to 70 pounds of apples. Now begins my fun challenge of cooking, baking, and eating them all! Tonight for dinner we had baked chicken with apples. Ben ate 4 apples today alone! I love baking (and the kids love helping me) so we should have some fun projects coming up within these next few weeks...YUM!! Thank you Acuff's for meeting us there - I know it's a long drive for you!
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Paul's birthday!

Friday was Paul's birthday, so in keeping with what seems to be tradition in this family lately, we celebrated over several days! We went out to dinner on Thursday night at Benihana, which is a favorite place for his birthday...and he had a coupon! The kids loved it...well, they loved the show anyway (this is a place where they cook in front of you if you are not familiar with it). They actually really liked the soup the best, but ate most of it ok. Ben really loves california rolls, so we ordered some of those for him too.

The next day was his actual birthday and the kids and I made him his favorite type of cake...carrot cake! Ben was very proud because he peeled all the carrots himself! We made cream cheese icing (Paul's favorite part of a carrot cake) and then decorated it too. I outlined the carrot and Ben filled in with the flower decorating tips. I tried to help him, but he very firmly told me that he knew how to do it by himself because he helped Aunt Theresa make Abbey's Elmo cake!

Happy Birthday Daddy!

He needed some help blowing out the candles :)

Then it was time for presents. The kids have this new thing where they really want to give presents too. They run around the house and find things, package them up in a bag, and then present the gift! So the kids' gift was some Halloween decorations they found!

They also each made their own card for him though. Abbey's and Juliette's card was pretty much some coloring, some cutting and some gluing combinations. Ben drew pictures of him and Paul playing soccer and scoring goals - it was cute and obviously meant a lot to him.

Abbey giving her card (pink of course)...

Then it was time for a giant group hug as a final Happy Birthday!!

Love you honey - thanks for another wonderful year!
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Patch Retires!

We have had so much going on lately that I neglected to share the big news that Patch retired from his practice over Labor Day! He has had an amazing career. He started in internal medicine in the air force in Texas (where Chris was born), and then moved to San Francisco (where I was born). While there, he switched to the army and we moved to Maryland so he could work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Sometime in there he switched from internal medicine to Radiology. He spent a year at Duke for a fellowship in MRI's, which were brand new technology at the time, and participated in the research that developed the MRI. That later became his specialty. Eventually, he left the army and we moved to Jacksonville where he joined a private practice, where he worked for almost 25 years. During his time there, he served as President of his group, Chief of Staff of the hospital, and Hospital/Physician liason. He started to get into sports medicine as well and soon became the radiologist for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jacksonville arena football team. Every year he would fly to Indianapolis for the combine to perform exams on the potential players. He gave lectures to residents and also started a side practice of reading films for insurance companies in their auto claim lawsuits. He was well respected by his peers and always worked with other doctors to ensure the best patient care. He has a long and distinguished career, but to me, he was just my dad who was always there for me and always at all my sporting events to cheer me on. And to my kids, he is just Patch, an amazing grandfather that they will hopefully get to see more often now! Congratulations Daddy/Patch - we love you and are so proud of you!

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We remember...

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I just felt the need to reflect on what happened to our country and how it affected me personally over the past 10 years. I know it affected everyone in the world, so this is just my personal reflection.

I assume it is like Pearl Harbor in that we will always remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when this happened. I was at Notre Dame, earning my Masters in Accounting, and living with my long-time friend Kelly. She woke me up and told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in NY. At first, I didn't think too much of it, assuming it was a personal prop plane that probably lost control. She had the news on and by the time I came out of my room, the second plane had just hit. We were shocked and didn't quite know what to make of it all. So we finished getting ready and headed to class, sort of just stunned. I was supposed to give a group presentation in class that day, and I remember a girl in my group coming up to me before class and wanting to discuss the presentation. I remember looking at her and thinking, "Are you serious? Do you know what just happened? Who cares about this stupid presentation!" Our teacher cancelled class, noting that he had several colleagues and friends who worked for Deloitte in the twin towers and he hoped we would pray for their safety. I walked into the student lounge, which was packed with people watching the tv coverage. As soon as I got a good view of the tv, the first tower fell. I think I instantly started crying in shock and disbelief. Then the second tower fell. Pretty quickly, a mass was organized in the business administration building and I went to that to join others in prayer, which was all we could really do at that moment. I went back to our apartment and Kelly and I were glued to the tv the rest of the day and on into the night. I, of course, talked to my family on the phone and Paul, who was working in Chicago. I wanted him to stay away from the city - we didn't know if another big city would be attacked too. We were engaged at the time and I was terrified of losing him.

I remember everything about that day, but I don't remember much about the days to follow. Somehow, we picked up and kept going. Our lives had changed. Our national security changed. Our airport security changed. Everything changed. I remember flying home for Thanksgiving just 2 months after this happened. I was so scared and almost didn't come home. My mom knew how scared I was of flying - I was scared of flying before this even happened and now it was just exacerbated. She told me it was up to me if I wanted to fly home. It was the busiest travel day of the year and I would say everyone was on full alert on the planes. Each person eyed each other and nobody got up without everyone watching them carefully. I am sure there was quite a lot of racial profiling going on, but that wasn't something we had even had a term for quite yet.

That spring, I finished my degree and went home to prepare for our wedding in June. I couldn't wait to marry Paul, but mostly, I just couldn't wait for him to get to FL. I was terrified that something would happen to him before he could get home. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and being upset. I went into the kitchen and my mom woke up and came out to talk to me. She asked if I was nervous about the wedding and I told her I was nervous about losing Paul. I am confident that those thoughts would have never even entered my mind if we had been married prior to 9/11. Once he finally landed in Jacksonville a few days before our wedding, I was able to relax and really enjoy everything.

So much has happened in the last 10 years, but I think that 9/11 has forever changed the way we think and function. As a mother to 3 small children now, my hearts aches in deeper for those who lost loved ones...sons, daughters, mommies and daddies. I have watched some tv coverage of the events (that is a great excuse to be late to work by the way, right Bob?) and I have had to turn it off. I can't watch it. It's not because I want to forget what happened - I don't think that could ever happen. But I also do not want to relive those feelings and memories. It still feels so raw and when I think about that day, it still brings tears to my eyes. We all move forward in the best way we can and for me, that means not thinking too much about it because that drives me back to that fearful place where I almost cannot function. I live in my bubble, and that makes me happy. I am so blessed in so many ways and I continue to pray for those who were lost that day, and have been lost since that day in our fight to protect this great country. God bless this country and all of you!

Chicago Half Marathon

This morning I ran the Chicago Half Marathon. I was pretty nervous about it because my training had not been that great. I had a great training plan, but a lot happened this summer that sort of got in the way. For starters, the house remodel and basement disaster left me without a treadmill for a few weeks (I run long runs outside, but usually do my shorter, mid-week runs on the treadmill in our basement either in the morning or when the kids are napping). Also, our whole family got so sick earlier this summer and it eventually got to me too, leaving me unable to run at all for about 3 weeks. So I abandoned my training plan and just spent the past month trying to get in some long runs. I knew I could finish, and I felt fairly confident I could break 2 hours (my goal from last year), but I did not think I could break my time from last year (1:56:53). Well, I guess I was in better shape than I thought because I broke my time by almost 2 minutes to run 1:55:04. Even though I didn't do my intense training program, I had an entire year of consistent running since last year's race and consistently ran at least 6 miles every weekend since then (including all throughout the winter).

This was my first race solo, and I can tell you that I really missed my running partner, Theresa. We always laugh because I always feel so good in the middle and she comes on so strong at the end when I am faltering, so we work well to carry each other through our respective rough patches. And this race was no different! I felt great when I started and went out a bit too fast. I ran 5 miles in 41 minutes, 7 miles in 57 minutes and then I started to feel it sometime after that. I knew I was going fast (I was well ahead of the 1:50 pacer for quite a while), but I kept hearing Theresa in my head saying, "Well, if you feel good, just go with it!" as she told me in many previous races, so I did. And then my legs started to protest my efforts. This is where more training would have helped as I think my legs would have been able to hang on a little better. Oh well, I watched the clock and knew I could still make a PR if I just kept running, even slowly. So I hung on the best I could and did my last 5k in just under 30 minutes, but I finished with a PR! I had to keep going because I knew I had some fantastic cheerleaders waiting for me somewhere between mile 12 and 13...

That's right...the best husband in the world got up this morning and brought the kids downtown to watch me run! And I cannot even begin to tell you how much motivation they gave me, knowing they were going to be near the end of the race cheering me on! And in between, I guess they found some sand to play in too!

Here I am at mile 12.5...very ready to be done! You can see from this picture that everyone wore red, white and blue in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Also, a 9/11 NY fire truck led the first 4 miles of the race. 9/11 was very much on our minds and in our hearts, even though we were running!

Yay - done!!

Thank you Paul for supporting me and bringing the kids down. And thank you Theresa for being with me throughout the race, even if it was just in my head!
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Labor Day Fun!

Since we had not been to TN to visit Mama Kay and Papa all summer, we decided to make use of the long weekend and go down to the lake for one last summer trip. It was a long way for a short weekend, but it was well worth it. We left on Friday morning and got there in time to do some swimming in the lake before dinner. Abbey wanted to hold my hand in the water the first few times, but before long she was swimming on her own (with the life jacket of course).

Ben and Abbey swimming...

Me with all the kids swimming in the lake...

The next day Uncle David, Aunt Carolyn, Madelyn and Virginia came and that meant lots of fishing with Uncle David! Here is Juju helping Daddy to fish (and Chien). By the way, Chien absolutely loves the lake. Whenever he gets out of the house, we can open the car door and he will run to get in the car. We think he does this each time in hopes that we are driving down to TN. He loves swimming in the water and fetching balls in the water and just being out and about at the lake.

Abbey swimming on her own...

Ben is helping Juliette reel in a fish. Highland, the black dog that belongs to Uncle David's family, is eagerly watching and waiting for the fish to come up. He went crazy for the fish. We didn't realize what a problem this would cause until later...

Ben fishing with Uncle David. He is looking into the bucket where the minnows were. They went to the bait shop each morning to buy minnows and crickets.

Daddy caught a big one!

Ben caught his first bass...

Besides swimming and fishing, we also did lots of riding on the boat (a personal favorite activity of mine).

It took some convincing to get in the tube, but Ben eventually went with Daddy and absolutely loved it (although he did not want to go by himself quite yet).

Then it was Juliette's turn. She was pretty laid back about the whole thing and almost fell asleep during his ride (granted, we went considerably slower with her in the tube so it was more a relaxing ride than a fun, bouncy ride).

Abbey did not want to go in, but with the promise of an ice cream sandwich, she braved it and went for a little bit. She did not enjoy it though (as you can tell by the look on her face)...the things we do for ice cream!

Ben enjoying the boat ride (notice his cool boat hair-do).

Daddy fishing with his girls...

OK, so back to Highland, the dog. On Saturday evening, Paul was bringing the fish they had caught into the house to cook. Highland, really wanting the fish, was right next to him and Abbey was next to Highland. Abbey wanted to see the fish and somehow, when she reached for them, Highland turned and bit her on the cheek. At least, that is what we think happened. Mama Kay and I took Abbey to the ER where she got 4 stitches (2 stitches in each main cut). She was so brave and did so extremely well. She is normally so terrified of doctors, but she just did great. They put some numbing cream on first and we had to wait a bit for that to take effect. When it did, they wrapped her in a blanket (using the excuse it was cold) so her arms were kept down and she closed her eyes. I sang her (and the 4 nurses and doctor) a song to keep her calm and she had no problem with the first two stitches. Then she started to get upset. She said it hurt, but I think she was mostly just scared and pretty done with the process at that point. So that was hard and it took everything I had to keep singing to her and not cry myself. I also can't believe I watched them put stitches in her (I am extremely squeamish when it comes to blood or anything like that - I did not get the doctor gene in my family)! The nurses were so nice and kept saying how well she did. When it was over, they even gave her some ice cream. Except for getting the stitches though, she was in a great mood and seemed to get a big kick out of being the center of attention. She was being cute and hamming it up with the nurses and doctor. Anyway, here she is the next day with her stitches...poor Abbey!

She did forgive Highland the next was important to me that this did not cause her to be terrified of dogs because she loves animals and always wants to pet dogs that we see out on walks. We will obviously be much more cautious now with dogs around the kids...both with dogs we know and dogs we don't. This was the conversation I overheard between Ben and Abbey...Abbey: Highland is the black dog. Ben: Abbey, that is the dog that bit your face. Abbey: Yeah, I know, but he is very sorry!

She did get some special privileges the next driving Papa's boat!

And in true Abbey style, she kept pushing Papa's hands off the wheel so she could do it herself!

Look at this fish that Ben, Uncle David and Virginia caught!

The last night we made smores, even though it was slightly raining.

Juju with her smore...
Yummy smores under the umbrella...

Then it was time to do the smores dance!


Besides the incident with Abbey and Highland, we had a really great weekend! Thanks Mama Kay and Papa for being such wonderful hosts - we love coming to visit you guys! See you soon!

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