Friday, November 28, 2014

Coffee Date Friday: Counting My Blessings Edition

Hi friend! Just a quick coffee date Friday post today as we are smack in the middle of Thanksgiving break and there is much playing and snuggling and conversing and eating and drinking and celebrating with family to be done! Were we to meet for coffee today, you'd have to join me and my momma and my grandma and my aunt and cousin and several of my sisters for our annual Black Friday shopping adventure! Actually, we are foregoing our annual tradition this year in order to celebrate the life of my stepdad's dad, who passed away earlier this week after living 93 years and closed his life surrounded by love and a devoted family who never left his side as his health began to decline. He will be so missed and we will celebrate his life today. So. Please keep my family, and especially my stepdad, in your thoughts and prayers. <3 What a legacy he leaves. 

To think about other things for a bit, I would definitely want to hear about YOU. About your family. About how you celebrate Thanksgiving. About your traditions. About what you're thankful for. After being fully saturated in all things you, I would share the following upbeat points about moi:

...that, on a different note, last weekend was a smashing success as we concluded our family efforts as part of the L.W. Rutland Thanksgiving Food Drive by gathering and distributing meals to the families in need in the Aiken, South Carolina, community. In addition to raising enough money to feed 80 families for Thanksgiving, we had over $1000 of additional funds to donate to the ACTS charity. It is always an amazing way to kick off the holiday season. And my favorite part is always seeing all our sweet kiddos/cousins pitching in as the "Marshmallow Distribution Team."

...that we traveled back to Aiken, South Carolina, on Wednesday to spend the first part of the Thanksgiving holiday with my "in laws." We have been celebrating Thanksgiving this way since my hub and I have been married--the first half of the day with "his side" of the family and the second half of the holiday with mine. So, after getting our fill of family and food and fun in Aiken, we headed back to our (new) hometown to celebrate with "my side" of the family. One of my aunts and uncles moved here shortly after we did, and we have always gathered at their home for Thanksgiving. So. It is certainly very easy on us to just get to drive back home to close out Thanksgiving...and enjoy feast #2 for the day. Yummy!

 The effects of tryptophan kicked in as we traveled from Aiken to the Mill

...that a HUGE family rivalry will continue tomorrow as the Clemson Tigers take on the Carolina Gamecocks. We are headed to Tiger Town, along with several of my family members to watch our Tigers hopefully take down those Cocks. We have two sitters coming to watch my three kiddos, along with my niece, and I'm so excited to watch the Tigers run down the hill one more time this year. Hopefully, a big, fat W will follow, and we'll break our 5-year losing streak. :/ GO TIGERS!!! And also, I'm really looking forward to some light-hearted fun with my family after the heaviness and sadness of this week.

...that Raleigh's 3rd birthday party has officially been booked! We are doing a very small party this year, with just a few other little girls her age invited, but I think it will be an awesome celebration of our little girly girl. More on that coming in a future, January post. :) 

...that speaking of getting older, my sweet baby Harrison turned 7 months old this week! Absolute cliche but...time is FLYING by!!! I can't even wrap my brain around it! 

I won't have official weight/height measurements until his next check-up at 9 months. But. I can say that my love for this child grows by the second, if that's even possible. He is still not quite mobile yet but will be any day now! He can also push himself up to a sitting position when lying down. He is starting to babble (mama!!), loves to smile, and my most favorite--he will smile slyly and bury his sweet noggin in my shoulder when feeling bashful around others. I can't wait to see what his first December brings!! 

And with that, I would give you a warm hug before heading off to soak up time with my family, appreciating the moments I have with them and the memories we share. I hope you are able to do some of the same this weekend...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Am Thankful For...

This man, the anchor of our family, who is always a rock solid, steady, supportive presence in our lives, one who keeps us afloat but is always ready to shake things up and rock the boat, bringing fun wherever he goes.

Today. This day that I am living right now. In light of loss that has happened both within my own family and in my own neighborhood, I am reminded that life is beautiful, whether lived 93 years or 5 years. I am thankful for this day with my people.

This life-loving buddy, who enjoys every ounce of every day and is a kind, thoughtful, and loving son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, student, and friend.

My shelter--the roof over our heads, one that not only keeps us warm and dry but will also come to represent the place where childhood memories were made.
This mischevious lady with the golden curls and the twinkle in her eye, who loves all-things-girly...almost as much as she loves her family.

My family--both by blood and by marriage--each composed of different people, different personalities, different ways of life, different perspectives, but who are exactly the same in the value placed on love and family. 

This beautiful, bashful little blessing, the last piece to our family puzzle, who brightens any room he is in and adores his people.

My friends--those I've known for 30+ years; those I've known for 30 days. My life is fuller and more blessed by these special people, who help me grow--in faith, in love, in life. 

My faith--all of these blessings, ALL of them, are owed to my Savior. My thankfulness abounds. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all, from our little turkeys to yours. <3

(P.S. Photos by my dear friend and amazing photographer, Volree, of Volree Photography)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Coffee Date Friday: It's Nice to Do Nice Things Edition

Greetings, weekend! It is so nice to see you, especially since my hub was gone all but one night this week. :0 Whew. Needless, to say, I am very ready for this virtual coffee date this morning. 

Were we to meet up on this chilly Friday, I'd request we do so in our jammies in front of my warm fire in my family room where we could cozy up for good conversation. I would want YOU to start by sharing the highs and lows from this, the last week before Thanksgiving. I would then share the following about my week:

...that I absolutely love this time of year. Thanksgiving. It is a clear reminder to be thankful for the many blessings in my life while trying to spread joy and kindness to others. And teach my children to do the same. One way we spread joy and kindness each year is to raise money for meals for over 80 families in the Aiken, South Carolina, community, where my hub was born and raised. We do this in the name of his late grandfather, together as a family, each year. Later today, we will travel to Aiken and will organize and distribute those meals tomorrow. For the many, many family members and friends who helped us reach our lofty goal this year by both donating and sharing the link for our website, thank you so very much. This is possible because of YOU. Joy will be spread. Tummies will be filled. And kindness will abound. Also, I want to throw out a very special shout-out to my extremely busy and hard-working hub, who stepped up to take the lead on this project this year. I am one proud wif (no, that's not a typo) today and can't wait to see all of this hard work come to fruition tomorrow. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping to make it possible. This little turkey thanks you, too:

...that, speaking of good deeds, we supplied a little Christmas cheer earlier this week by filling two boxes as part of Operation Christmas Child. We were able to select the gender and ages of the international children who will be receiving the boxes, and we chose a same-aged girl as my Raleigh and a same-aged boy as my Banks. It was awesome to get their kiddo approval for all of the items I bought for the boxes and explain why other children would be receiving the toys. And we did all of it to honor the memory of a very special heavenly birthday boy, whose time on this earth was too short and whose momma chose to honor his memory by encouraging others to spread goodness and gratefulness through, and with, their children. I can't think of a better cause. <3 And also? It proved a great excuse to get together with some neighborhood girlfriends (the one night my hub was home this week. Ha!) who also filled boxes so that we could sip wine and hand-off our boxes for delivery. Giving back, remembering a special little boy, and getting in girlfriend time? Win-win-win.

...that, continuing with the Thanksgiving theme, Harrison and I accompanied Raleigh to her Thanksgiving Feast at school yesterday. The handmade leaf vests, the noodle necklaces, the feather headdresses, the festive goodies. It was just.too.cute. 

...that as part of our Thanksgiving kindness, we brought treats for both Raleigh and Banks' school buddies while supporting a friend of mine who has a momma-opened-and-operated etsy business called One Good Name. How cute are these treat labels? She has LOTS of other personalized, printable items available in her shop (placemats! invitations! and more!) for unbeatable prices. Check it out! 

...that, not to rush through Thanksgiving, but my Christmas shopping is well under way. I am really hoping to get it all done super early this year so I can spend December relishing time with my family and friends and focusing on what's really important. So. If you're looking for me during naptime or post-kiddo-bedtime, I'll be on my computer, putting our Amazon Prime account to good use, buying goodies for these three amigos, among others:

...that last Sunday my biggest boys got a special treat: an afternoon at the Marvel Universe LIVE! Superheroes show in Charlotte. They went with one of our 'hood friends and his son, and Banks could not have had more fun!

...that we rounded out last weekend by having our family photos done by my absolutely amazing and oh-so-talented friend, Volree, of Volree Photography, and I cannot wait to see how they turned out! I know my momma friends would agree that it is always *slightly* stressful getting everyone looking picture-ready, with smiles on hand, on photo day. But. In the end, I love having new family photos done each year as a little time capsule of that moment in our lives. 'Cause by this time next year, someone will be too big to fit his whole body in this little wagon (although I hope these sweet brothers always look to each other with such love and kindness <3 ).

And with that, I would offer one more big THANK YOU for helping us with our Thanksgiving Food Drive in the memory of our beloved Grandad Rutland. If you follow me on Instagram, I'll be posting photos tomorrow as we organize and distribute the meals. I hope you have a beautiful, memorable weekend. See you again soon!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fall Bucket List -- Check!

We have been busy the last couple of months checking items off our Fall Bucket List. Seeing as how the temp is going to be IN THE TEENS at least one morning this week, it's a pretty in-your-face reminder that winter is just around the corner. So. I thought this was just as good a time as any to share what items we managed to check off our list this autumn. There are a couple things that we just weren't able to squeeze in (apple picking--maybe next year?!) and a couple I still hope to accomplish by the end of the month (homemade pie!). But. I think we've been doing a pretty good job of hitting up all things autumn:

Visit a pumpkin patch: CHECK
Between field trips and our own annual family trip to the Fall Frolic, we accomplished this one several times over. 

Go on a hayride: CHECK
Again, we were able to do this one a few different times between field trips and the "Creepy  Crawl" our 'hood hosts each year to check out Halloween decorations.

Visit a corn maze: CHECK
Rals loved doing this with her school buddies this year.

Fall Scavenger Hunt: CHECK
The two littlest Lus went on our annual Halloween Hunt around the neighborhood and had a ball (Don't tell big brother! He was at school.)!

Make s'mores: CHECK
I have a new favorite fall tradition: hosting a post-trick-or-treating s'mores bar. It's yummy and fun for all ages!

Hike; Picnic at the Dairy Barn: CHECK and CHECK
So, right across the road from our neighborhood is the beautiful greenway, which includes a very picturesque area called the dairy barn. We love to visit in the spring and fall, when the temps are just right, which also proves the perfect time and location for a little dinner picnicking. 

Paint Pumpkins: CHECK
Another item we make an effort to do each year. This year's lovely works of art rounded out our Halloween mantle decor. Cheap, easy, homemade art? My fave. 

Bake a new cupcake: CHECK
Anyone who knows me knows I looooove to bake. So. I was really excited to make a new cupcake recipe from scratch: pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese icing. And they were gooooooood. Thank you, Pinterest, for the bajillion pumpkin spice cupcake recipes you had floating around throughout October. 

Make a thankful wreath: CHECK
This is another tradition we do each year. This year, we take turns every other day having Banks or Raleigh tell me something they are thankful. I love hearing what pops out of their mouths each morning. <3

Have a leaf photo shoot: CHECK
My photo-lovin' self had fun with this one. And so did Raleigh!

So. There you have it. We made our list short, and therefore, easily achievable ;) this year and had a great time checking off our activities. A few other items completed but not photographed: make warm apple cider, create leaf art, and watch a Halloween movie. I think it's safe to say we've thoroughly enjoyed our Autumn-azing adventures. Next stop, Winter Fun-derland. Ha! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Coffee Date Friday: The Holidays Are Here! Edition

Friday again so soon? Looks like it! Which means, time for us to pull up a chair, pour a fresh cup of piping hot coffee, and sip away while we spill the beans about our weeks. 

YOU first. How are all things you and yours? 

My turn? Okay then. I would share with you that...

...after welcoming my sweet new nephew to the family just over a week ago, we had so much fun with our cousins in Loganville to close out our Georgia trip. My kiddos just love playing with their cousins, and I don't think they could've had any more fun together! I think the highlight of the visit for them was a trip to a local game ranch, where they were able to feed a number of animals, including black bears, and walk around a large nature trail. It was fun for all ages!

...we concluded our week away with a wedding in Athens, Georgia. My hub's cousin got married, and almost all of the family was there. It was so much fun!!! We were asked not to bring children, which was totally fine, because they had a blast at their cousins' house while hanging with two babysitters. Meanwhile, we grownups danced, drank, and ate our way through the night. It was a ball!

...I made a roast! For dinner! That was good! You may think this is not blog-worthy. But. I am 33 years old. This is the first roast I have ever made. My entire life. Have I mentioned I am not much of a chef in the kitchen? ;) I am so proud-ha! 

...on Wednesday evening, I went to my favorite neighborhood event of the year. It's a party called "My Favorite Things," and the premise is that you bring five of the same gift, that cost $6 or less. All of the items are then assigned a number and put on display on tables around the hostess's house. Each party guess then randomly draws five numbers from a basket and gets to take the items corresponding with those numbers home. So basically, you end up with five items that are other people's favorite things. And of course, the wine is flowing and the dessert treats are devoured as the party guests chat away. It is so fun! I ended up taking wine tumblers with a mini bottle of wine as my "favorite thing." I ended up bringing home (1) some chocolate and a reusable grocery bag with a discount for local grocery shopping, (2) an awesome crystal nail file from Sephora, (3) nail polish in a pretty Fall hue, (4) the BEST loaf of cinnamon bread from a local bakery, and (5) a gift card to Amelie's (a French bakery). Score!!! And so fun! 

...I have just had this sense of calm this week. After being out of town all last week, even though we had a great time, it sure was nice to come home. While the holidays are certainly a busy time for us, I have just felt calm and relaxed ever since we got back. For whatever reason, it just hit me that the most important thing that is ever on my "to do" list is always less important than spending quality time with my children. So. I've been soaking it in this week and enjoying this newfound sense of zen. And relishing my moments with these three: of our dear friends from college is also an extremely talented artist. We have wanted to have one of his paintings hanging in our home for the longest time. So. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that his latest masterpieces was going to be a part of an auction to benefit his church in Greenville, South Carolina. I quickly inquired as to whether or not we could bid from afar and then proceeded to do just that. I'm so happy to report that our bid ended up winning! I just dropped off the amazing painting to be professionally framed and should be able to pick it up next week. I cannot wait to have this piece hanging in our dining room and will certainly share a photo of it as soon as it's so that  I can share how amazing his talent truly is. Thank you so much, Gash! We will treasure it forever!

...We are excited to have a weekend at home, especially since we'll be gone four of the next five weekends! Tonight, we'll be hosting some of our college friends, and their three adorable boys, for dinner. Tomorrow will include a play date for Banks with one of his best buddies, who's momma just so happens to be one of my best buddies, and who also happen to be moving into their new house in our neighborhood this weekend!!! We'll also be cheering on our beloved Tigers before taking dinner to some good friends who welcomed their third baby, a sweet little girl, recently. We'll round out the weekend with church, a Daddy/Banks date to the Marvel Universe LIVE! (aka Super Heroes) show in Charlotte, and then family photos on Sunday (should the weather cooperate!). Whew!  

And with that, I'd wish you the happiest of weekends and shout from the roof tops: GO TIGERS! BEAT THE JACKETS! See y'all next week! 

Monday, November 10, 2014


All aboard the crazy train. We are now leaving the station...


***We never carved our pumpkin because, well, I totally forgot about it.

***I found out I have some food allergies--chicken, rice, pork, lettuce, and chocolate! It sounds crazy. But. Apparently, my diet is so flooded with these foods that my body has built up an allergy to them. Oops. 

***I put perfume on before I go to bed. Even when my hub is out of town. There's something about smelling nice before my head hits the pillow that I love.

***The first thing I eat in the morning and the last thing I eat before bed is chocolate. See food allergy issue above. 

***I bought a Christmas gift for Raleigh right in front of her the other day but distracted her by pulling a, "Look! There's Santa!" There really was Santa...okay, so maybe he was a small statue, but still. Mission accomplished.

***Even when I know I won't see a single soul besides my children some days, I still wear make-up. Every single day.

***We've lived in our home for two years. I STILL have yet to decorate one single bit in our Master bedroom. I am totally intimidated by decorating "grown up" spaces.

***I still get very uncomfortable by my fellow church-goers who are so moved during the music portion of the program that they feel the need to raise their arms in the spirit of all things Jesus. I'll bee-bop along with the best of 'em. But. I am just not an arm-raiser. 

***I cannot stand television shows about infidelity. Won't give them the time of day. Except. Well. Okay, so there's this new Showtime show called "The Affair." I know, right?! Terrible. Just awful. Only...I love it. NOT the affair taking place. It's the unique storyline that has me absolutely hooked. 

***I think I'm actually pretty good at singing Disney princess songs. I was belting them out with Rals the other day and picturing myself on a stage near you. Sadly, this will remain a private showing for now. 

***I have that momma ache to have another baby, even though my Harrison is only 6 months old. Yes, that door is officially closed. C-L-O-S-E-D. We are a happy family of 5. And honestly? I think that even if I had eight more children, that ache would never go away. So. I focus on each moment, big and small, with my last baby, and look forward to the adventures to come. But still? The ache remains.

***I get caught up in such trivial things some times: What will we wear for family photos? Which thank you cards should I order? I know that these are such dumb, irrelevant, first-world problems, and it really bothers me that I get wrapped up in such small details.

***I feel discombobulated if my bed isn't made each day, first thing in the morning. 


We have arrived at our sanity-deprived destination. I think I've shared enough of my crazy for now...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Coffee Date Friday: Back to Georgia Edition

Greetings from....GEORGIA! Yep! Surprise!!! My hub and I planned months ago to head to Georgia this week in particular for a very special, very specific reason (see below); so, were we to enjoy coffee together this morning, it'd have to be a long-distance coffee date since we are a travelin' family this week. 

First, I would want to know, how are YOU? What's new? What's old? What's shakin'? What's bakin'? I would love to hear all about YOU and your life, before delving into my own. I would then share the following...

...that on Tuesday, we loaded up the car for a SIX day trip and drove the 5+ hours to Georgia...

...but all for a very good reason. To surprise my sister to be there for the birth of her baby!!!! 

The kids were awesome for the drive and the pay-off was well-worth it. Seeing my sister's face when I walked into that room was priceless. I got to spend a little time with her and her hub before the baby was born and my kiddos and hub joined in the waiting-for-baby fun, too. 

Then, late Wednesday night, my sister and her hub (who just so happens to be my hub's lifelong BFF) welcomed a perfect and beautiful baby BOY!!!! I am so proud to introduce my new nephew, Everette. He is perfection and God's greatest gift:

...that my hub is in his cousin's wedding this weekend (congratulations, Will and Lorraine!). So. After getting our fill of new baby snuggles in Carrollton, we headed to Loganville, Georgia, yesterday, where we're staying with my brother "in law" and family this weekend since they are just 45 minutes from the wedding festivities in Athens, Georgia. Whew! Between their three kids and ours, we'll be having two sitters come to babysit all six little hooligans while us grown-ups celebrate the nuptials tomorrow afternoon/evening. It should be a BLAST!!!

...that my dear friend, Sarah, has opened a new etsy shop with the most divine, hand-poured candles you ever did smell. The candles are made with all natural soy wax, have no added dyes, and use metal-free wicks. I'll be receiving my first order on Monday (Pumpkin Souffle-scented. Yum!!!) and can't wait to buy more to holiday-scent-up my home. 

...that we had so much fun last weekend doing absolutely NOTHING. Seriously. On Saturday, all five of us stayed in our pajamas all day, and my hub only left the house for a few minutes to pick up our take-out sushi dinner. It was rainy and cold and PERFECT for lounging, drinking wine, and watching football. And besides a little church, golf (for him), and hip hop (for me) on Sunday, it was much of the same to close out the weekend. We loved every lazy, family-filled second. Friday night, though, was a different beast. We met up with friends both pre- and post-trick-or-treating, and while my s'mores bar ended up getting rained out at the last minute, it still looked festive (and I was able to sneak in a few fireside s'mores before the monsoon began):

 Ready to rock Halloween 2014

 S'mores bar, complete with regular, chocolate/vanilla swirl, and toasted coconut marshmallows (the latter, BTW, tasted exactly like a Girl Scout Samoa cookie. Go get some NOW. You're welcome.)

...that we are just one week shy from our deadline to raise money for families in need during this Thanksgiving season, and we met our goal!!! So. Thank you so very much to those who helped us with this amazing achievement. We are blessed to know you!! <3 

And with that, I would wish you the happiest of weekends. See you again soon!