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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Samaritan Community Center

Today's Bible Study group was different.  It was a service day, so we dropped our littles off at the church and then my group went to the Samaritan Community Center in Rogers to volunteer.  We learned a bit about the center, what they do, and got a tour of the facility.
The Samaritan Community Center has been part of Northwest Arkansas for many years, beginning as a Fellowship church ministry, but quickly growing into it's own 501c3.  Today there are two locations that offer a market where families can shop once a month, a free dental clinic, a cafe (served restaurant style instead of soup kitchen style), counseling services, social work services, worship services, a 1/3 acre garden that provides fresh produce to the cafe & market, and a snack pack program.  These programs are partially funded by the Samaritan Thrift stores in the area (so donate clothing and household items there or volunteer to sort items in the store). 
I'm not sure that I've ever felt more like a middle class, white woman in all my life.  It was humbling and rattled me a little.  In a necessary way.  I saw many people today who don't live the same life that I get to live.  I have privileges that many have never experienced. 
Today my group packed snack packs.  The program started years ago when a child passed out at school on a Monday morning because he/she hadn't had anything to eat since lunch at school on Friday.  Snack Packs include 8 items: 2 breakfast items, a shelf stable bottle of milk (doesn't need refrigeration), a protein snack, ramen noodles, easy mac & cheese, animal crackers, and a fruit.  These packs are sent home with 6,000 children from 170 local schools who have been identified by their teachers and counselors to be food insecure.  6,000 children have food to eat EVERY weekend because of this program.  That's startling.  That's awesome. That's humbling. 
 My mind has a hard time processing the fact that 1 in 4 children in Northwest Arkansas struggles with hunger.  22.7% of children in my county are considered food insecure.  How can that even be? 
I actually stood in front of my bedroom mirror this morning, contemplating whether to wear my diamond earrings or my new leather earrings.  I actually spent time on that today.  Do you know how many minutes I spent worrying about what I was going to feed myself or my child?  Zero.  Zero minutes. 
Y'all, my child has more food at any given time than she could possibly ever eat.  Just this morning she ate a cup of yogurt and part of one mini muffin before turning down the rest. She is so comfortable and sure that there will be food when she is hungry that she's willing to turn it down at any moment.  There will be more.  She knows it.  It shakes me up when I think about where Eleanor could have been.  She could have been one of those statistics.  I'm fairly certain that Birth Mom was.  On multiple occasions I took her out to eat, only to watch her ration it out and ask if she could take it home for later.  That's one sign that the professionals look for in children who may be facing food insecurities at home.  Eleanor's life could have been so different and I'm just so very very grateful that we have the privilege of feeding this sassy child each and every day. 
There have been times in my married life that we struggled in pretty big ways.  Grocery shopping was not enjoyable, it was a precise operation in which each and every item was needed to feed my family until the next pay day.  I knew, down to the penny, how much I was spending before I got to the check out.  Often times making the weekly food needs meet the weekly budget requirements meant hoping that at least one of our parents invited us over for dinner one evening.  When the girls were little & yet to be diagnosed, Pediasure was needed to give them adequate nutrition.  Pediasure is expensive, we were poor, and so we were put on WIC.  I was embarassed and ashamed.   We struggled and we had to ask for help at different times, but my children never went hungry. What a gift that was.   
I know that my parents struggled at different times during my childhood, but I didn't know it at the time.  I didn't get every single little thing that I ever wanted, but I did get every single thing that I ever needed.  And I can never remember being hungry.  I never went to bed without food.  I never had to wait for school on Monday morning to eat again.  What a gift that was.
Today about 20 women from Fellowship Women's Ministry spent one hour working and we packed 1,350 Snack Packs.  What a gift that was. 
The vast majority of workers at Samaritan Community Center are volunteers.  You can volunteer as an individual or with a group.  You can host a food drive and collect Snack Pack items to donate to the program.  You can sponsor one Snack Packs child for $10 per month.   www.samcc.org will give you all the information you need, should you feel led to do any of these things.  I'm going to talk to Drew about our family sponsoring one Snack Pack child a month.  I hope to volunteer there again soon.  There are many needs just at SCC.  I served in the kitchen one Sunday morning this spring, preparing and serving breakfast in the cafe before the worship service.  There's tons to do and they'd be glad to have you.  I'm certain there are many other organization and ways to serve all over NWA and wherever you may live in this country.  I challenge you to seek it out.  Step out of your bubble and serve. 
Now, that is my pitch and I 100% believe in every word of it, but I must also be honest and say that this isn't easy for me.  Showing up to a strange place where I don't know anybody or how anything works and just saying, "How can I help?" feels super scary to me.  Anxiety inducing, even.  It helps me to have a buddy or a group I can serve with.  I'm going to pray about where God needs me to be and what He wants me to do.  I'm going to give thanks that my child is fed and that, for just a little while and in such a very small way, I got to be a part of making sure someone else's child will be fed, too.

After serving, my small group went to lunch together.  I'm grateful for these women and the relationships that we share in Jesus Christ.  Their encouragement, friendship, and fellowship is a blessing to me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


It's only Tuesday, but so far I feel like this week is just right.  We haven't had a "normal" week in a long time and it just feels good to do normal stuff.  I'm not painting anything or unpacking boxes, I'm just doing normal Mandy/wife/mom/friend stuff and I like it. 
Yesterday evening was just normal and lovely.  Dinner around the table with my people, bath time splashing with Eleanor, and then playing in her room where Mac curled up on the giant dog like a little princess.

After bath Eleanor ran around naked yelling, "I run to Momma!  Okay?  You ready?" before running to me with the expectation of me swooping her up like we were recreating the lift scene from Dirty Dancing.   We all laughed so much and I liked it. 
Today Eleanor and I ran errands.  It's one of her favorite things to do and she often asks, "Run errands?  More errands?"  I don't even think she knows what an errand is, she just likes running around and doing stuff with Mommy.
I'm unashamedly fond of the Dollar Tree.  I just like it.  I can't even say why, I just really like going to the Dollar Tree every now and then.  The one in Siloam Springs is kind of nasty, but I like it anyway.  I got the few things that I went for, but I also let Eleanor pick 3 things.  For the rest of the day and everywhere we went, she wore this princess crown while carrying a football in one hand and a squishy little toy (that she calls a monster) in the other.

 On to Walmart...

 Back home to drop off groceries. 
 And then to the doctor's office for Eleanor's flu shot.  Now that she's bigger, I do my very best to just be straight with her.  I tell her what to expect and just keep it casual.  We always did this with Alex and Emma and I firmly believe that it helped them to deal with tons of stuff that was really crappy & scary.  The flu shot isn't that big of a deal, unless you are the toddler getting the shot.  I just told her that the nurse was going to give her a flu shot, that it would feel like a poke, it would probably hurt a little, but it would be super quick and then she would get a sticker for being a big girl.
In case you were wondering if she took her crown, football, and squishy monster to the doctor...
 It was so quick and she did awesome.  She cried when I had to hold her down (I would have, too!), but it was so quick and she was fine before we even left the room.  She did not forget about getting a sticker! 
The whole way home she said, "I get a two shot!  Poke my leg!  I get a two shot!"  The shot was fine.  She was way more upset over not getting to take her crown, football, and monster to bed with her for nap time. 

I haven't done any 5 year journal entries in a while, so let's play a little catch up. Are you guys doing these with me?  Are you writing your own answers?  Or at least pausing to think of your own answer?  Or just letting me do all the thinking and writing? 

October 13, 2017
When was the last time I cried and why?
I cried in South Carolina when we visited Steve & Rosanna.  The guys were gone to the football game and the kiddos were napping and so Rosanna & I just got to visit and talk.  We talked about our children and being moms and being wives and just life.  And all of those things are sometimes difficult and lots of times happy and sometimes a whole lot of emotions.  And sometimes those things make me cry.

October 14, 2017
What video/computer/app game am I currently playing?
I spend too much time on the Instagram and Facebook apps, but I haven't played a game in a long time.  Yesterday Drew found the app for Wordscapes and it's fun.  I probably spent an hour laying in bed playing this game on my phone last night.  It starts off easy and gets progressively more difficult.  For each puzzle you are given 4 or 5 (or maybe more as the game goes on?) letters and an empty crossword puzzle.  You make words out of the given letters and try to fill in the puzzle.

October, 15, 2017
This was for Sunday, so I'll answer for that day.  I woke up about 8am and the first thing I did was make coffee before getting Eleanor up.  I prefer to be up an hour or so before she is so that I can wake up and have my alone time, but on Sunday that didn't happen and we had to do our waking up together. 

October 16, 2017
Describe the last time I was embarrassed.
Eleanor peed in her car seat on the way to church Sunday morning.  I couldn't carry her in with wet pants, so I stood her up in the front seat, stripped her pants, and got her redressed right there in the church parking lot as all the nice people were coming to worship.  Toddlers have accidents, so I'm sure nobody thought twice, but I was still a bit embarrassed and flustered. 

October 17, 2017
What did I do right today?
I let Eleanor be Eleanor.  I let her wear her princess crown and carry her football & squishy monster all over Northwest Arkansas.  I recognized that we were not in a hurry and that there was no great reason for me to rush her through our day.  So when she asked to walk, I let her.  We went slowly and looked at everything she wanted to look at and talked to all the people she wanted to talk to.  I slowed to her pace and it was lovely.  It made me think of my Grandpa and all the times I took him shopping.  Sometimes it was really difficult, but we moved at his pace and I just had to be patient and let him be him.  Yes, sometimes we are in a legitimate hurry and need to get stuff done.  But you know what?  Sometimes we aren't.  Today I slowed my roll and I let Eleanor be Eleanor.  That's what I did right today. Also, I bought a bag of Snickers.  That seemed right, too. 

Monday, October 16, 2017


Sorry to leave you all hanging for a week.  We made the trip home last Wednesday and it went really well. I mean, I'm glad we didn't have to drive a single minute longer than we did, but it went really well.  We made the drive back from Pigeon Forge in 12 hours and we were all glad to sleep in our own beds.  Vacation is awesome, but there's no place like home. 
Re-entry has been a chore.  It's funny how just a week away can mess up the routine, but it really can.
On the way home I put Eleanor in a pull-up, just in case she fell asleep and couldn't stay dry.  (fun fact: she slept 30 minutes of the 12 hour drive.)  I think it was the right move, but she's peed in her car seat 3 times since we've been home.  I mean, if it was okay on the road trip then why isn't it okay on the way to church? Grr.  So frustrating, but hopefully she'll figure it out again soon.  She's fine in undies all other times, but letting her wear a pull-up in the car was just too confusing. 
With the move and then our vacation, we've gotten into a bad habit of letting Eleanor eat what, when, and where she wants.  I'm going full force on re-instituting the old rule of eating only at the table and actually sitting still for a meal.  Don't want to eat dinner?  Fine.  You're hungry 10 minutes later?  Your spaghetti is still on the table, girlfriend.  Have at it.  I mean, I'm fine with her having a snack, but we can't just eat cheese sticks and goldfish forever.
Look what Uncle Kyle showed up with.  A tricycle.  She's got a lot to learn, but she thinks she's so fancy. 
 Wearing Braeden's shoes. 
 She eats yogurt with a spoon like a big kid. 
 Drew remembers how to braid hair and was feeling pretty proud.  
 Kayla's volleyball. 
 Helping Dad with the new (gigantic) compost pile.  When your husband has obsessive yard maintenance habits, you wind up with 1.5 acres of swept grass clippings after vacation.  I told him I could compost it, so he used the old fence panels from the old house to fence it in.  It's like a grass clipping graveyard.  Now I've got to work on getting the carbon/nitrogen balance right so that it will compost. 
 We're zero help in the yard, but the weather sure has been beautiful.  Whew, I look tired in this picture.  Re-entry is hard for mommas, too. 
 Eleanor's friend Lucy came over to play today. 
 Making music. 
 Peeking in on them to make sure they were playing nice.  They were. 
 Outside.  They found a ladybug on the bench. 

 Every little girl needs a unicorn head band. 
 Lucy couldn't make the tricycle go, so she yelled for help.  "Help me, Ella Noah!"  
Eleanor was pushing in the wrong direction, but they sure worked hard at it for while. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Today we did the tourist thing. Pigeon Forge has a great outlet mall and we made the rounds, finding a few good deals and just enjoying the process. Then we had an early dinner at the Dixie Stampede. 
The Disney Store. This seemed like such a good idea in our minds. Then she wanted it all. (It was ultimately, but not with persuasion, narrowed down to an Anna doll and a Halloween Minnie Mouse.) 
Sitting in traffic, but still all smiles. 

Then to the Dixie Stampede. She thought this was a princess and wanted to hug her. Of course this was the lady’s job, but it was still so sweet. I’m seriously so excited to take her to Disney World someday and weep as she hugs all her favorite princesses and characters. 

And a hundred attempts at the perfect, everybody looking & smiling, family photo. 

The pre show was bluegrass music and we were really into it. P.S. I want to play the banjo when I grow up. 

Eleanor was so tired, but really loved the Stampede. 

Reading a book to her Anna doll before bed.

We’ve had a great vacation and now we just have to make the drive home tomorrow! It’ll be a long haul, but a great finale to our first big road trip with Eleanor. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cades Cove

Today was sort of awesome. We all slept in, I made a big breakfast, and then we took advantage of the pretty weather and headed into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive there gave us the opportunity to see some beautiful country and as we entered the park we were just in awe of the beauty. We drove the Cades Cove loop, stopping at different points to explore. We chose to simply make the short walks to the various cabins and look outs instead of packing up for longer hikes. This allowed Eleanor to do a lot of walking and she loved it. This evening we asked her what her favorite thing was from the day and she said, “Go hike. Eleanor do it.” So I think we made the right choice. We spent hours in the park and marveled over the beauty. 
A pic in front of our cabin this morning. 

Our cabin is adorable. 

The Methodist church gave me all the feels. I felt stirred just walking through the doors. It was built in 1902 and it was so simple and beautiful. 

The mill was amazing (and still operational). 

By the time we got to this point, Eleanor was crazy baby and we were all feeling flustered. I’m sharing so you know that the entire day wasn’t mountain air and sunshine. 

But this picture makes me look thin and I had a good hair day ;-) 

You had to know this picture would be in there somewhere. 

It took a while, but Eleanor fell asleep when we got back in the car. We took the scenic drive along the Little River and just took in the beauty of it all as we made our way to Gatlinburg. It’s still really warm here and leaves here are just starting to turn. I can only imagine how beautiful they’ll be in a few weeks when the temps begin to drop. 

Gatlinburg was cute, but SO crowded. We did stop because we wanted to visit a moonshine and whiskey distillery. I mean, y’all, moonshine. It was super cool. 

Proof that I took my toddler to a distillery. 

And that she got to sit on the old Harley out front (by she wasn’t impressed because it doesn’t have buttons like Uncle Kyle’s Harley). 

At dinner...

Lemons are sour

Corn on the cob squirts juice if you poke the kernels one at a time. 

It was a fantastic day and I’m so grateful for my people.