"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Friday, November 17, 2017

He is Good

A couple of days ago I saw a post on Facebook from a dear friend, looking for sponsors for the kiddos at Friendship so that they will each get a gift at their Christmas program next month.  Drew & I have been involved in this in the past, and I'm so glad for the reminder this year.  The school has grown significantly, so there are more kiddos and that requires more money.  After gathering some more info on what was needed, I shared this on Facebook...

You guys.  I did this with the hope that a few people would contribute $10 or $20 and that every little bit would help.  I intended to share my request on the blog as well, but I hit post on Facebook and within minutes my phone started dinging.  In less than one hour, every singe dollar needed had been provided.  With the money that Drew & I pledged and with donations varying from $10 to $150, the $1200 goal was reached in less than 60 minutes and I just cried.  Drew smiled and said, "Are you surprised?"  Well, I don't know.  I'm something and it's a big feeling.

As you know, the holidays feel a bit complicated to me in recent years.  There is so much hype & expectation and I find it all to often contradict what the spirit of Christmas should be.  Yesterday when Drew got home from work, we pulled the Christmas boxes down from the attic and began putting up the tree.  I was a willing participant and just going with the flow, hoping to find myself swept up in the cheer.  It was fun and Eleanor ran around the house yelling, "Christmas here!" and that made my heart happy.  Then I paused to post this request on Facebook and the spirit picked me up and swept me away.  God is good, y'all.  Yes, this money will be used to give physical gifts to children.  Some of these children come from loving homes with parents who are able to provide such things for them.  Some of them (perhaps more than we would like to think) do not.  This is special.  These aren't generic gifts that strangers will pick off of the clearance rack.  These gifts will be specially chosen for each child by teachers and therapists that known them and will be given with more love than you can imagine.  This makes my heart overflow.  Their gifts will be wrapped and delivered in a few weeks.  My gift came last night as message after message popped up from friends and acquaintances, asking how they can help and where to send the money.  My chest literally aches with it all.  So, no, I'm not surprised, but my God leaves me in awe.  I want each and every person who contributed to know how much your generosity means to me and I want you to know that yesterday, you were the hands of God in my life. 
While watching The Santa Clause and wearing an elf hat, of course. 
 Decorating today...
 She's a SUPER big fan of the nutcrackers, so I'm letting her play with them.  Life's too short, y'all. 

The top 2/3 of the tree is decorated.  You know, out of Eleanor's reach.  She's a handsy little thing :)  As I pulled out the ornaments today, I felt joy and gratitude for the memories that these little trinkets hold.  I didn't feel sad or overwhelmed or resentful... and that's kind of a big deal for me this year.  Among the ornaments were these...








Thursday, November 16, 2017

Better

We are all feeling much better, thank goodness.  We all stayed home on Monday and did absolutely nothing.  We just laid around and felt icky.  By Tuesday we were all fever free and just regaining energy from feeling ick the day before.  The aches, fatigue, and fever were relatively short lived, but now this strange congestion is settling in.  Eleanor and I both have congestion and a cough that is worse in the mornings when we wake up.  But we are functioning and that's good. 
 Last Thursday Daila and I dropped the girls off at church and declared it a fun day.  We had each marked off the day for nothing but fun stuff and we had such a nice time just being adults. 
We stopped for coffee and cookies at a new bakery in downtown Rogers.
We went to Crystal Bridges and wrapped that up with a walk through the Frank Lloyd Wright house.  It was interesting, but let's just say I'm not going to scrap my country home for a mid-century modern. We took a terrible selfie and vowed to practice selfie taking before our next girls' day. 
Before we picked the girls up, we had lunch in downtown Bentonville at The Preacher's Son.  I'm glad we went, but I can't say that I'll be back.  I can't even pronounce whatever it is that I ate, but it was pretty good. 
She's cute.  And yogurt remains one of her favorite foods.  
 This pot roast was probably the best that I've ever made and it was super simple.  Instead of putting potatoes in the crock pot, you make mashed potatoes.  When the roast and carrots are done, you use the juice to make a gravy.  As usual, my food photography is terrible, but this really was delicious and it's going on the dinner rotation around here. 
 Braeden asked Drew to come to his school and be honored for Veteran's Day.  Drew's not one to stand up on stage and take recognition, but he'll do pretty much anything for Braeden. 
 Dog in the little chair.  Little girl in the floor. 
 It's Christmas at Hobby Lobby and Eleanor is in awe.  She can't get enough.  In the car she asks to listen to Christmas.  At home she asks to watch Christmas.  Everywhere, she wants Christmas. 
 That's my kid, hugging a stuffed moose. 
 The fact that she's so into Christmas already just may be a saving grace for me this year.  The holidays are hard and, no matter how hard I try to deny it, they hold a lot of memories of loss for me.  That will never go away, but this girl's excitement and joy just might be a match for the holiday blues. 
That being said, she & Drew had this conversation about a Christmas movie the other day...

Drew:  Who is that?
E: (blank stare)
Drew: Is that Santa? 
E: No, that a man. 

After school today.  The weather is beautiful, so we stayed a while to play with her friend Lucy. 
 How many Mickey & Minnie mouse dolls do you sleep with? 
 Oh, did I mention how we ended our evening last Wednesday?  We had Drew's work team and their families over for dinner and before the night was over someone noticed that the fridge had water running out the front of it and the floor was covered in water.  We aren't sure if it a valve (that's super hard to get to) or the ice maker (that isn't cheap to replace), so for the moment the water to the fridge is turned off. 
After we soaked every towel we own to clean up the flooded mess, I laughed over this fact... we just bought a 20 year old house with the knowledge that things would go wrong and need fixing as time passes.  We have a home warranty that will cover a lot of these incidentals if they happen.  The first thing that broke is the 4 year old fridge that we brought with us from the old house. 
 Kitchen dancing with Daddy. 
 She got mail from her friend Charlie and is quite smitten.  She had such fun playing with him when we visited them in South Carolina and still talks about him regularly. 
 When recovering from sickness, quiet play is ideal for all. 
 Aunt Becky & Robin were in town last weekend and we got to see them for just a bit.  Somehow these are the only pictures I left with that evening. 
 Peek-a-boo with Aunt Jessica.  She's always the fun one :)
 Checking out Uncle Pat's police uniform. 
Thanksgiving is just a week away and we are getting ready.  I've waffled over whether to decorate for Christmas now or wait until next weekend, but I've finally decided.  Casey's family is coming Thursday evening and so the McCarty gathering will be Friday.  Since I know that we won't all be together again for Christmas, we are having Thanksmas!  A little bit of Thanksgiving, a little bit of Christmas, a whole lot of togetherness.  So tonight we are pulling down the Christmas stuff so I can evaluate and come up with a game plan and get to decorating.  Alex & Emma loved Christmas so much that we often put the tree up early and I don't regret a single moment.  Eleanor is pumped, so I'm riding this Christmas loving wave with her. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s not the flu

Eleanor was acting weird last night. By weird, I mean being quiet and sitting still. I know, it freaked us out, too. 


She didn’t feel super warm, but her eyes weren’t right. Her temp was just over 100 and wavered up and down a bit through the evening. By the time we put her to bed, I was feeling achy and strange and running a low grade fever. I slept terribly and woke up with a 102 temp. Drew woke up feeling achy and ick and within an hour was also running a fever. We all had flu shots last month, but since it all came on so suddenly I figured one of us best get tested. At least if it was positive for the flu then we could get Tamiflu quickly. So I went to the doctor and let them stick a 4 foot cotton swab up into my brain. I mean, seriously, are they not gonna hurt something putting a stick that far up my nose? Anyway, the doctor was a little surprised that it came back negative. So it’s just a virus and we have to ride it out. He did say that if my fever keeps spiking when the ibuprofen wears off to call him first thing in the morning and we’ll reevaluate. But pretty much we just have to feel like crap until we feel better. Boo on that. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Yay me

My allergies haven't appreciated the swinging temperatures of the last few weeks. High temperatures so high that they set records, low temperatures giving us our first freeze.  My sinuses just don't know how to handle and that means I've had a pretty constant headache for the last 3 weeks or so.  I've functioned with a steady flow of ibuprofen, but I've just felt crappy and been sort of a grump about e everything.
Thankfully I'm adulting all over the place and one of those stops was my primary care doctor for a well visit.  I am 100% guilty of never doing such a thing because it just didn't seem necessary (hence the "well" in wellness visit).  Anyway, I got my blood work done and had a doctor visit and I'm good to go.  The dread that I feel over going to the doctor and finding out that anything might be wrong is trumped only by going to the doctor and hearing that I'm perfectly healthy.  Yay me.  And I got a prescription for a decongestant that makes life approximately 100% better and makes my sinus headaches take a hike.  Thank God. 
This morning I went back to the dentist to get a permanent crown.  The dental work I had done a few weeks ago left me with a temporary crown (which I don't recommend as a good time) and so I'm glad to have marked today's appointment off my adulting list.  The only good thing about insurance with a yearly maximum benefit is that I get to put off the next phase of dental work until a new calendar year.  I still can't totally feel the left side of my face and my mouth & jaw are sure to be sore for a week or two, but I'm glad to have it done.  Yay me. 
Add this to the adulting list... Drew & I finally went and had our wills updated.  I'm grateful that our old family friend who did the last ones 10 years ago is still practicing and easily able to update things for us.
Eleanor is all about her daddy lately and he's eating it up.  She went through a good chunk of time where she was a momma's girl, but I've now been moved to the back burner.  Daddy is number one again and I'm okay with that.  Eleanor is lucky enough to have a daddy that loves her as much as my daddy loved me, and that's saying something. 

Only child problems... your only living room floor pallet buddies are the dogs and your stuffed Minnie Mouse.  
 Shopping at Cabela's. 
 While Daddy was mowing the yard, Eleanor and I soaked up the 80 degree day this weekend.  She gave me some much needed snuggles and I loved every minute of it. 
 Minus the weird double chin on Eleanor, I love this picture. 
 Admit it, now you can only focus on the weird double chin.  Right? 
Dirty hands from the sand box.  "My hands dirty!  I need a wipe, please!"  She's mine, y'all.
 Mac
 Foose
 Her first driving lesson? 

 Front porch sitting. 
After my dental work, I was getting Eleanor ready to head out the door. She found  this blanket scarf in my closet and was quite insistent upon wearing it bye bye. 
  I've been looking at living room rugs since before we closed on this house and I finally made my decision.  The short time we were in the store was reminder as to why I usually do that sort of shopping when she's at school.  Expensive rugs, super fancy furniture, semi snooty women shoppers with their professional decorators... and me with my loud & wild toddler.  Thank goodness the owners thought she was cute.  Also, still wearing the blanket scarf and loudly proclaiming, "I have a barf!  I wearing a barf!"  She makes me crazy while making me feel quite certain that I'm winning at life.  Praise God for this little girl. 
I did make a decision on the rug, which Drew is amazed about.  I agonize over silly things like picking the right living room rug and so I wind up putting it off and just never doing it.  Not this time.  Remember, I'm adulting today.  The rug is chosen & paid for and it will be here in a week.  Yay me. 

I've been neglecting the 5 year journal, but I want to keep it up, so let's back track a bit. 

5 Year Journal prompts:

November 1- What decision am I glad I made? 
I'm glad I decided to suit up, quit dreading, and just go to the dentist & the doctor.  It's stupid stuff to worry over and I'm glad I've got that behind me for now. 

November 2- What occupied my mind today? 
Getting the house cleaned up so we can host Drew's quarterly work dinner with his employees and their families tomorrow evening.  I have been especially preoccupied with the dog hair.  It's inevitable and a never ending battle to keep under control.  Welcome to our home, please don't mind the dog hair. 

November 3- Currently watching, listening, reading, loving, feeling, admiring, contemplating. 
Sheesh, this is a big one.  Let's pare it down to this very moment.  In this moment I am only watching the monitor to check in on Eleanor while she naps. I am listening to the click of the keyboard and the white noise of monitor, because sometimes my brain just needs to not have other noises going on.  I just finished my Bible Study homework for the day, which focused on reading & studying 1 Peter 3:18-22.  I'm loving that sassy little girl who is napping right now.  I'm feeling accomplished with all the adulting.  I'm contemplating the browning bananas on the kitchen counter and trying to decide if I really will go in there and make banana bread, or just think about it so long that I'll have to toss them in the compost pile in a few days. 

November 4- What was the best conversation I had today? 
Drew stayed home with Eleanor this morning while I went to the dentist.  When I got home, she was still all about Daddy and not about to let him leave without trying a few tricks.  Her imagination has us quite entertained lately. 

Drew: Why don't you go sit with Mommy so I can go to work.
E: No (clinging to him)
Drew: Why not? 
E: Monsters over there.
Drew:  Monsters?  Where?!
E: Right there.  On Foose.
Drew:  Monsters on Foose?  Are they mean monsters?
E: No, they right there.  Monsters on Mac, too. 

So, yeah, that went on for a while and she stuck with her story.  She's told a similar story about monsters before, but that time they were outside her car window, there were "lots of them", and they were happy monsters. 

November 5- Do I love my job? 
Love it.  Being a full time mommy is the best, even on days when she sort of prefers daddy :)

November 6- 10 things I am thankful for.
  1. Dental insurance
  2. numbing agents.  I mean, can you imagine needing that sort of dental work done before such things existed?  
  3. medical insurance
  4. decongestants
  5. Eleanor's strong personality (I'm told that one day it will serve her well, it just makes my job harder in the mean time.)
  6. How Eleanor adores her Daddy
  7. This big, pretty house that I get to call home
  8. date nights with my love
  9. A vacuum cleaner that sucks up the dog hair.
  10. Sweat pants and fuzzy slippers
November 7- Last time I laughed, cried, relaxed, stressed
I laughed today because a numb face and tongue make a gal sound down right silly.  I cried last week because spiritual growth is a big, fat, overwhelming feeling and sometimes those feelings run down my cheeks.  I relaxed on the front porch Sunday morning with Eleanor.  I stressed Sunday evening about the attorney, doctor, and dental appointments for the week and I'm still sort of stressing over the dinner party tomorrow evening and the weekend company we'll have for the opening of deer season.  That's lots of socializing and this introvert is about all adulted out, y'all. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Open Enrollment

Friends,

I typically stay away from writing about politics because I like to keep the peace, but recent changes made to the health care system are affecting my family and perhaps yours, too.  I'm not going to get into straight politics here, but we live in a country where the health care system seems to be neither private or public, and so it's all mushed up and feels like a big, fat, confusing, expensive mess.  Still, I want share some information about health care and open enrollment because it is important to know.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert, I am simply a consumer who is being affected by the current state of our health care system and I make an active effort to understand my rights and responsibilities.  I don't want to argue with you, so please just don't. 

First, some background.  Drew's employer is a relatively small company and most of those employees are in Canada.  Canada has national health care, so they don't have to worry over private insurance like we do in the United States.  This was something that we took into serious consideration before Drew made this career move and we were aware of what we were getting in to.  Since there are some US employees, his company partners with an HR firm in the states to provide such benefits.  Eleanor and I were on this plan with Drew in the beginning, but it was very expensive.  We did our research and chose for Eleanor and I to purchase a private policy.  This gave us better coverage for a much lower premium.  Now, when I say much lower, I do not mean cheap.  It is far from cheap, but it was much less expensive than the options available to us through Drew's employer and it meant that we could still provide preventative care (well child check ups, vaccinations, routine needs) for our daughter & myself and have insurance coverage that would protect us from financial ruin should anything big ever happen.  That is non-negotiable for me.

I've lived in the place where lack of insurance loomed overhead.  I've lived in the place where insurance premiums ruled the roost and nearly broke the bank.  I've lived in the place where my kids were sick and we didn't know how we'd pay the co-pay to take them to the doctor.  I've lived in the place where, even with insurance, medical bills were monstrous and unmanageable.  I've lived in the place where our children were dying and insurance companies got to decide what care was acceptable.  I've lived in the place where we weren't poor enough for help and not rich enough to do it ourselves.  This place shouldn't exist.  It should not be a luxury to have appropriate health care for your child.  I do not take this lightly.  

So purchasing private insurance was the choice we made and the choice that many Americans have to make in order to have health coverage.

The money that Drew's employer pays toward insurance costs each month pays for Drew's health, vision, dental, and a few other benefits. Eleanor and I pay for our own Blue Cross policy. The first year that it renewed, our premiums went up 8%.  I recently received the 2018 renewal notice for our health coverage and was not so pleased to find that the same policy would cost 38% more beginning January 1.  You guys, that's a lot.  It is a significant amount of money each month.  After I cooled down a bit, I began my research and I have chosen a lesser plan that better fits our budget. The coverage is not as good and premiums are still more than our current policy, but Eleanor and I will have insurance and therefore access to medical care when and if it is needed.  We are among the fortunate.

The reason I'm telling you this is because I want everyone to be aware and do some research to best care for your own family.  I hope you work for an employer that is able to offer fantastic coverage at very low cost to you and that you don't have to worry about this.  For those of you who need more options, I just want to make sure you have some resources.  So please know that open enrollment for health care coverage is right now.  It began yesterday (November 1st) and ends December 15th.  That means that if you are not covered under employer health care, then there is a 6 week period for you to make decisions for what your health insurance will be in 2018.  You used to have 3 months to make such big decisions.  Now you have 45 days.  If you weren't aware of this, it's because the marketing budget for open enrollment was drastically cut this year.  This matters because if you don't make active decisions about your health coverage by December 15th, then you will either be automatically re-enrolled  and locked into your current plan (that could be MUCH more expensive like mine would have been) without the option to make changes until next November, or, if you don't have insurance and want to get it, you only have 45 days to do so.  You can't just buy insurance any time you want to, y'all. Unless you have a qualifying life change, you can't just shop for insurance when you feel like it.  This is the time.

If any of this applies to you, please do your research and I pray you are able to find a plan that will fill your family's needs.  Use the resources on www.healthcare.gov and find out if you are eligible for any help getting coverage.  We aren't, but some households below a certain income criteria are.  Give the website your basic information and find out what health coverage options are available to you.  Use your good friend Google and gather as much information as possible.  Use the resources and help lines to ask questions and be the most informed you can be.  This is your responsibility. 

 If you are among those with great coverage and no concerns, be grateful.  If you are in my boat and have some expensive decisions to make, but are blessed with the ability to make it work, be grateful.  Be grateful, and remember that not everyone is so fortunate. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November

It's November!  Let's catch up on the end of October.  I take a lot of photos.  A lot.  At no other time do I realize this more than when I don't post for a week and then want to catch up with you all.  So prepare yourselves for photo overload.  And it's all in some random order, because that's how the pictures loaded and I'm just letting it be. 
On Saturday I took Eleanor to her friend Ben's birthday party.  If there is a profession in which I am not called, it is being the facilitator of two year old birthday parties.  It was chaos.  The kids had a blast and I can totally see the draw of having a party in a place like The Little Gym, where you don't have to prep, organize, or clean up.  Eleanor was leery of the chaos at first (she is mine, after all), but finally joined in and had fun. 



 On Sunday we had family photos taken.  This was before photos and they were just too cute to not take a few phone shots of my own.  You'll have to wait for the photographer photos, because they will be our Christmas cards :) 


When our Christmas cards go out next month, let's all pretend that such a pose was natural and easy to accomplish.  Let's not talk about how Eleanor was completely uncooperative, refused to smile or stand still, and that I bribed her with cranberries to coax a smile at all.  Let's not talk about that.  Okay?  
We had a fire pit in our backyard to celebrate Nonnie's birthday.  It was such a fun evening and made me love our new home that much more for having such a great place for everyone to gather.  (Also, my new phone takes such great pictures and picks up so much light that it looks like these were taken in the daytime, when it was actually at dusk and later.)
No fire is complete without catching at least one marshmallow on fire. 


 Smores!

 JR is all about having his picture taken and then seeing it :)

 Eleanor and Lucy.  These two are quite the little pair.  This was absolutely not posed or coerced, they just love holding hands. 

Yesterday we had a day at home, so my plan was to work on my office a bit.  As you can see, I'm making great progress and Eleanor is a great organizing help.  (cough, cough) 
When she wakes up from her nap, she wakes up jumping.  She wants me to sit in the recliner and rock while she jumps and acts silly in her crib.  She can get some air. This is her standing still.

This is her mid jump.

 Also, she's "this" close to climbing out.  Didn't I just proclaim that she was sleeping in a crib forever?  I may have to eat my words soon.  She hasn't actually climbed out, she just perches there.  She also hasn't done it since this one day last week, so maybe we have some good crib time left.  I'm just not ready for her to not be contained & safe in her baby bed! 
 When I brought up the boys vs girls pumpkin carving contest, Kyle groaned.  Since Casey's crew is so far away now, and Kyle's kids are big enough to carve their own, we just had a fun evening of the actual kids doing pumpkins.  Kayla and Braeden did awesome, Eleanor LOVED the pumpkin goo (and may have fed some to Foose), and us big kids just served as cheerleaders. 
 Eleanor would get her hands slimy and play in the bowl of goo, then ask to wash her hands.  Then she'd go back to the goo and do it all over again.  And again.  And again. 

 She's recently asked for a pillow to sleep with.  It took me by surprise and this full size pillow was all I had to give her.  All evening she laid in the living room floor with Foose and her pillow.  (I've since gotten her a little toddler sized pillow for her crib.) 
 This is Eleanor's current favorite book and I keep forgetting to hide it!  It's so basic and I feel like she needs more, so I'm mixing it up.  Instead of saying, "Where is the lamp?"  I am saying, "I see something that you can turn on for light."  And she finds it!  On each page she does a scavenger hunt with clues that I give her.  I don't know if I was more surprised that she could find the objects I was describing, or I was surprised at her creativity.  If I describe something too generally, she can find multiple things to fit the bill.  It's such fun watching her little brain work. 
 Last Friday night we took Eleanor to her first Razorback basketball game.  We've been talking about it since she was born, because it's something that Drew & I enjoy so much.  We finally decided that the first exhibition game of the year would be a perfect trial run. 

 It wasn't crowded at all and turned out to be the perfect scenario for her first game. 
 Good luck getting a good picture of me, Mom. 

She did relatively well, but she quickly figured out that if she said she needed to potty that she got to get up and explore.  That got old real quick.  We made it to half time and she declared she was "all done!" and ready to go home, so we called it a night.  I'm glad we went, but we're definitely not going to buy her season tickets.  
Our entry before we moved in. 
I didn't paint the entry because the paint is nice and neutral already, but we did pull the privacy cling off the windows and add curtains that can be opened or closed.  
 Sometimes she's such a big girl that it startles me, but sometimes she's still a baby who lays down in the kitchen floor with the dog, her blanket, and a pacifier. 

 And Halloween.  We kept it super simple around here, but she sure was cute in her Olaf costume.