"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Weekend before last we headed to the "Greatest Show on Earth"! This was Caroline's first Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus! I'm sad to say that this is the only picture we have of anything from that night! This picture capturing mommy didn't even take a picture of her girl at her first circus (errr). 
We have waited almost three years to use this voucher that C's aunt Rhonda got for her when she was born! We didn't take her last year because I wanted to take her when I felt like she could remember something about it (something that set it apart from the zoo or the fair)!
We arrived just in time for the show! After finding our seats and hearing the ringmaster's intro I could tell C was a bit anxious. She wouldn't take her coat off and she sat in Sam's lap ( mind you the whole time too), poor baby. She said she wanted to go "bye bye mommy" when the tightrope walkers and the swing rope dancers appeared. I think she thought they'd fall and get hurt (I love that my girl already has compassion)! We told her they were real careful with their jumps and twirls! I was sad that she was anxious but I know how she felt at that moment! I have a lot of anxiety at times too. She became more settled during intermission and relaxed during the tiger show (funny)!
I am glad that we took her for the experience! We will take her back next year and hopefully she'll enjoy it more! I have always enjoyed the circus. We went every year that I was a child for as long as I can remember and my BFF recently reminded me that we even went with my parents when we were in college!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Recently Miss C had a playdate with Reece and his big sister, Sarah Ann, along with twins, Anna Claire and Charlie! We love playdates! It's been a lot of fun seeing these little ones grow, play, and learn! I hope playdates never stop! I hope they never outgrow fun and happiness!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For the last three weeks with the exception of the last couple of nights our little girl (or big girl baby as she calls herself) has taken us back to the infancy stage of sleepless nights. I have told you in the past that Caroline was an easy baby. I was one of those that set the alarm clock every three hours during the night so that I could nurse her before she became hungry or before the crying would begin to be fed (I was told by my lactation specialist that if a baby cries due to being hungry then they are past starvation and I never could fathom the thought of my precious sweet C being hungry). Then after feeding her she'd go back to sleep until it was feeding rounds 2, and 3! That seemed easy, right (well now it does..hindsight is 20-20, but in the moment I do remember those feeding periods being tiresome...Sam told me that he thought I raised my voice at her one morning..I probably did... in my delirium state).
Well, somewhere along the way she has learned that if she wakes in the night she'll get to sleep for the rest of the night with mommy and daddy in what she calls the "b bed"...big bed. I'm not sure if she got confused over Christmas break with our off schedule sleeping patterns. When we stayed up late and would sleep in and if she woke up too early in the morning say around 7, I'd put her in bed with me and she'd fall back to sleep for another hour or so. (Also, she sleeps exactly ten hours, to the exact minute). Whatever the reason, she would not go back to sleep in her bed and she would refuse to stay in her bed once awakened. She would scream and cry until we reluctantly placed her in our bed. I don't mind her sleeping in our bed occassionally...bad weather, a night terror, etc, but even though we have a king size bed it's almost impossible to go to sleep with a leg thrown over my chest, a hand punch in the eye, or a squirmy little body. 
Well, last week I told Sam that if she woke up in the night she would be crying "this one out". For sure, she woke up and for what seemed like forever we let her "cry it out". I'm sure it was due to exhaustion that she fell back to sleep. Before this point we were going into her room more than several times during the night to soothe her, to no avail, and that's when we'd pick her up and she'd sleep the rest of the night with us. She first started waking up at 4:40 close to the time for us to get up for the day, okay some manageable. Then she backed it up to 3:30 then 3:00 then one night 11:00 (this makes for a long sleepless night). One night, Sam laid on her bedroom floor in hopes that she'd go back to sleep. But as soon as he'd step across the hall, back to our room, she'd start the shenanigans all over again (more sleep loss for this teacher mommy). This went on for weeks until the night we let her "cry it out". It was awful to listen to her cry and to hear her say "mommy, mommy, mommy" and "daddy, daddy, daddy" over and over and over was just absolutely heartbreaking. This was very hard. Extremely hard.
But, what do you know, the next night and the night after everyone slept and all was rested.
Update: Well, she's still waking up once in the night but after some "much a do" we can get her to stay in her crib and go back to sleep. We tell her that "it's too hot" for her in our bed (I sleep with two blankets besides the wool comforter) and she's quite a heater herself, and that "you're a big girl and you need to go night night in your big girl bed". After putting her thumb in her mouth and finding her "pajama pants tag"..she won't use a lovey much anymore, she becomes happy and will lay down (only if we stand over her crib and wait for her to fall back to dreamland)! Oh and you know how much I love that happiness...
Until I hear, that once she's in a real "big girl bed", a new battle arrises. The battle for her to stay in her bed without getting out a gizillion times.
Good times!

Monday, January 23, 2012

On the day that I took C's Christmas card pictures we also grabbed this outfit and snapped some of her in her fall outfit! I love this fall outfit! It reminds me of the month of October, the fair, apple picking, apple doughnuts, and candied apples! I couldn't resist posting these and I know they are currently as her header but the header will change and when I look back at previous posts I want to see these of my girl!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I absolutely love when Ms. Leah sends me pictures like this throughout the day of my girl! Here's Miss Caroline and Miss Bella helping Ms. Leah make muffins for their afternoon snack! Ms. Leah has the freshest lunches (mostly cooked and includes meat, fresh fruits, and veggies) and snacks that I have ever seen! The children eat more healthy than I do! Anyways, Miss C is quite a character. When she came home she told Sam that Ms. Leah let her lick the spanking spoon! She hadn't told me that when I picked her up so when she said it to Sam over supper I nearly fell out of my dinner chair. I am so thankful for all the fun memories and good times that Ms. Leah is creating for my sweet C while this teacher mommy is at work.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I would say I cook at least 7 (minus or plus one) meals a week. This would be dinner each work night and once during the weekend. Our breakfast on the weekends are quick and one includes our Saturday morning McDonald's stop (and if we don't go there I make french toast at home)! Sam and I both eat breakfast at home during the work week (I can't start my day without some type of breakfast albeit cereal, oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, Jimmy Dean's sausage biscuit, yougurt, toaster strudel, grits, egg sandwich,..something). We generally eat out either Friday or Saturday night and always after church on Sundays. We take left overs from each night for the next day's lunch (unless the school's serving mozzarella cheese sticks for lunch, ha) Variety is good! As far as meals I do like to learn new quick recipes! I've included two recipes here. A breakfast casserole (I make this sometimes on weekends and usually for our SS class for the Sunday we're signed up to bring breakfast) and a cowboy quesadilla! Both are really good with the latter becoming my new favorite dinner meal!

Breakfast Casserole:
1 lb mild sausage, cooked (I use Jimmy Dean's roll sausage)
2 c. milk
1 tsp dry mustard (I do not use this ingredient)
5 slices white bread cubed
1 c. grated cheese
6 eggs

Beat eggs, mustard (if you use), and milk. Layer bread, sausage and cheese in 9X13 pan. Pour beaten egg mixture into pan. Refridgerate (not sure if this is spelled right but you get the idea), over night. Next morning, bake 45 minutes at 350!

I'm not sure if you like Quesadillas but I've never tried them until Christmas break and I've made them twice. You have to use the correct ozs and ingredients in order for it to be "right". The first time I made it I used what I had and it was too watery. It's not spicey either. Actually, it's very simple to make! C and Sam love them!

Cowboy Quesadillas- source is from a recent issue of Parents Magazine!
1/2 lb (8oz - this is a half block) Velvetta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can (10 0z) Rotel diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, drained
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use no more than 5 chicken breasts...I'm sure a lb of beef would also work if you wanted beef).
4 green onions, thinly sliced (I do not use this ingredient)
6 flour tortillas (10 inch)

Combine Velveeta and Rotel in 1-1/2 qt microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high 3 minutes or until Velveeta is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir in chicken and onions.
Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high heat. Spoon about 2/3 cup chicken mixture onto half of 1 tortilla; fold in half. Add to skillet and cook 1 minute on each side or until golden brown on both sides. Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
Cut into wedges (one tortilla makes 4 wedges).

Friday, January 13, 2012

In one of my recent posts I mentioned that I had a picture of mom holding my twin sister and I when we were babies! I absolutely love this picture of the three of us! My twin Melinda looks exactly the same! I'm on the left and she's on the right! I also love that we are all in white, my favorite color! I'm thinking this was the day that we were baptised (I grew up Presbyterian), but mom can certainly clarify if the picture is about that day!

Here's my mom holding Melinda's twins, Nataleigh and Nicholas. I love that she had twins and is a grandmother to twins! These babies are precious and I just love cuddling them, feeding them, holding them, and loving on them! They are in their very cute "just learning to laugh and giggle" stage and when you get them going it's pretty funny and sweet to hear their coos! They are defintely little blessings to my whole family! Love them!

While I'm adding pics, I'll add these as well! I love looking at our baby pics!
My dad holding Melinda and me! I'm on the left and Melinda is on the right! I still remember  quite vividly that couch and shag carpet! I'm loving my daddy's shoes too and his jet black hair (I only remember him having salt and pepper hair)!

Here's Melinda and me with our Pawpaw (our mom's dad). He and my Mawmaw were precious precious people! I wrote many many college papers on the life lessons and wisdom they shared and gave to us girls, along with the fond memories of them that I share with my sisters, especially the summers that we spent at their house. My sisters and I miss them a whole bunch! I'm on the left and Melinda's on the right!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One evening, over Christmas break, these two had quite a bit of fun playing with each other and with Sam as Raven and I talked about couponing! I loved hearing these two (or three if you're counting Sam) laugh and giggle and talk to one another! Caroline loved showing Nolan her dress up clothes from Santa. Nolan didn't much like the fort Sam made for him and Caroline but he sure liked playing with the toy cars and ballpopper! The Polar Express was playing but these two had other interests like playing with the Christmas tree ornaments, drinking milk, and playing and playing and playing some more (Sam was worn out by end of the evening, ha)! Nolan is just the cutest and has the most biggest brightest smile ever! I don't know who had more fun that night, Nolan and Caroline or Sam!

Just so precious!


Monday, January 09, 2012

I have to admit I'm a bit sad by the turn out of this collage. I for sure thought that it would be bigger, but I had to take many things into consideration while I was making this one like the size of my blog's center in pixels and cropping, etc. Yes, it's complicated and I made this one a different way than I did for C's birthday post (blah, blah, blah you're thinking, right?) and I even uploaded it differenlty a second time too. Oh well! 
Anywho, this is 2011 in review!
So as I was thinking back to last year's resolutions I found myself laughing. For one, like I said in a previous year's resolution post, I don't remember all that I think I want to start "new" as the year progresses. Life goes on and things happen and sometimes my "things" get thrown out the window. So for 2012 my goals are pretty much the same as past years but with a few new ones of course!

In 2012 I would like to:
1. Continue growing in God's word. I have enjoyed our SS's book studies and Sam has ordered two new books for his personal studies and growth! So continuing to grow in God's word would be my daily lifelong aspiration not just a resolution that I want to start at the beginning of each new year. I state it here because this is the first thing that I think about as a new year begins.
2. I would like to put into practice, in my personal life, the 7 Habits! We are teaching our students these life skills at my school and they are fabulous lifelong skills that everyone should be implementing personally!
3. I would like to know how to use other modes on my DSLR camera besides "auto".
4. I want to know how to use Photoshop better!
5. I need an exercise regimen! In the fall I started inquiring about running to several coworkers and friends at church. I would like to do a mini marathon before this year's out...looks like I need to get started to make this happen, huh?
6. I would like to not procrastinate. I do not procrastinate professionally but boy do I bottom out personally.
7. I would like to read the last four published Nicholas Sparks books! I purchased them when they were published but have yet to read them! The last time I tried reading one it was the morning of the night that I went into labor!
8. To study more of the things where I have interests!
9. To understand more the many different financial savings plans like 401K's, IRA's, savings bonds, and stocks, etc! 
10. Begin working on my master's plus 30! The paperwork is being submitted!

Here's 11 wonderful things, in random order, the year 2-0-1-1 for The Leviners!
1. Our family increased by two with the birth of my twin sister's twins, Nicholas and Nataleigh.
2. USC won the National Baseball Championship for the 2nd year in a row!
3. Caroline earned her first reading medal by "reading" for our library's summer reading program.
4. My mother celebrated her first year after cancer!!!
5. My oldest niece, Courtney, graduated from high school and is now a freshman at Clemson!
6. Sam and I celebrated five years of marriage!
7. I learned how to successfully coupon!
8. We were snowed in for a week this exact time last year.
9. We went apple picking for the very first time in a real orchard!
10. We tailgated and attended our very first Clemson football games (even though I am a Carolina fan)!
11. All the memories of 2011!

Also, with the fun memories, 2011 brought "heavy heart" times to me personally. My sweet hubby lost his childhood best friend, Wayne, on my birthday last March. We still think about Wayne daily. When Sam has something funny he wants to share or just wants to say hi he still finds himself picking up the phone to dial his number. This has deeply saddened me. I just cannot imagine. Wayne will always be the brother that God let Sam choose. Everytime I look at sweet Caroline I'll always be grateful for Gerald Wayne Martin! He introduced Sam to me.

2011 was also hard for several other reasons. Sam lost two uncles within a couple of months, we lost two siblings at my school due to a horrific incident that also lead to the death of a person I knew growing up. I also witnessed a loved one deal with the worst kind of emotional pain in a marriage that the devil could impress and then thank God for "that" trial when it passed (how most amazing)! God answers prayers! Isiah 53:5

I am, too, thankful for 2011! It has made me think about life and how I want to live it and how I want others to see me live it!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This post is just about Miss C! This little girl loves books of all kinds and dolls! Santa brought her a cabbage patch doll but she still prefers mine, the one that I had as a child with the adoption papers saying the name "Melissa". How funny! Mom tried her best to find one with my same "Melissa" name and that would look just like me with dark brown hair and freckles! She was successful!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

I am posting our New Year's Eve fun a little late but that's quite alright! It's tradition to spend NY'sE with the Hardisons/Callahans! Sam and I have been doing this since I was in college! It's so much fun to relax and have the best of times with close friends and family! Here's all the fun we had NY'sE and here's to a great 2012 to you!
The Yonemuras!

The Leviners

C and daddy enjoying the firework "show"!

Nolan and his gorgeous mommy!

The gang!

Happy New Year!

Sam reading to C and MK! These little ones love storytime!

Nolan playing with Lola!

These two were a hoot in MK's jeep! They ripped and roared
all the rest of the evening! A lot of fun was had!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Even though Christmas has passed I'm still thinking about all the fun we had while baking and eating dinner at Raven's so I'm posting more of our fun!
C getting her reindeer ears on and soon her apron!
She has no idea all the fun that will be had!

Super cute Nolan and his gorgeous mommy!

Decorating our first cookie!

Daddy and C's turn!

Nolan, he just had to have an apron too!

Cute cookie, Sam!

The girls synergizing!

The children opening up their presents from one another!
Sam loved C's doll as much as C, ha!

Little Miss Betty Crocker ready for another batch...

of these!

MK is just so cute!

Stopping long enough for her portrait!

The bakers!

There's the cuteness from MK again! She never
stopped smiling!

Nolan's turn!

The girls winding their baking and decorating down for the night!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

When I look at this picture I think:
"All will share alike." 1 Samuel 30:24

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24

"A generous man will himself be blessed..." Proverbs 22:9

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others..." Hebrews 13:16

"...be generous and willing to share" 1 Timothy 6:18

When I also look at this picture I'm reminded about the 6th chapter of Matthew verses 2-4 where it reads: "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Along with celebrating Jesus's birthday, the above picture filled my heart with so much joy this Christmas. I didn't post this picture to brag as it says to clearly not do in Matthew 6:2-4, but to merely express the ultimate joy that I had of giving and sharing this Christmas. Yes, I've given and shared before but it's something about this "gift" that is different and I can't quite put my fingers on the "what"!
Before Christmas break a friend shared with me her thoughts on helping a precious family in need. She wasn't asking me to go in with her she even stated "I'll do for this family before my own first". This struck a cord with me. My dad and oldest sister are givers. My niece Courtney is a giver like none I've seen before. These three defintely put others before self.  Anyways, the dad in this family works full time and still doesn't make ends meet. She continued to share that he told his wife that they were going to share with their two children that Christmas for them this year just wasn't going to happen. Hearing my friend tell me this news nearly broke my heart. I listened as my friend shared information about this family and my heart was breaking. The mom and dad were doing all the right things for their children and their children were their top priorities. After our conversation I called another friend and we both decided to tell our other friend that no matter what we were going to make Christmas happen for this beautiful family. And we did!
We looked over the list that the mother compiled and saw that all this family wanted was basic items. We wanted to give them more than life's necessities. And we did! We divided the list and each kept reporting by email who got what for whom. It was amazing! This was more than a SS class adopting a family (which we partake in every year and feel deep joy for helping others). It just seemed so personal, so close to home for some reason. I felt like I knew this family from the information that my friend shared and yet I'd never seen them nor meet them in my whole life.
Besides buying clothes and toys for the children I also wanted to share many of the items that I'd gotten from Southern "Saving"! As I was packing the clothes basket with necessities I kept thinking about how anyone, including myself and family, could be in this very family's same situation. I kept filling the basket and hoping that the mother liked the items and brands that I packed. It was like I was giving the best of things away (gladly of course) and still hoping that they were suitable for "this" family. I wanted them to know from our gifts, love, and support that somehow they knew we cared about them, their situation, and their family. After all this is what the Father asks of His children. To love thy neighbor as thy self and to give with a grateful heart.
I lived for 31 Christmases and this was like none other. I still think about that family even after Christmas has passed and the comment the mom said to my friend about one of the items that I packed in the clothes basket. A simple Gillette razor that I thought to give brought the mother to tears because her husband had wanted this very one for so long. After hearing this I for once grasped the depth of gratefulness that one family felt from three others and this my friends is priceless. I want not another Christmas to pass that I don't help another family, where I don't share my talent of giving items from couponing with another. I want to feel the kind of joy that I can bestow on others in someway whereas they have no idea the joy returned. It's sad to me to be "this old" and to just now be feeling this type of joy. I just wish it were sooner in my little life because by now I could be doing so much more for others. I once heard a God fearing man say "if the church did their job welfare wouldn't exist". That was three years ago and I'm just understanding fully what this elder, man of wisdom's words really mean. 
So doing, giving, and sharing are not only on my 2012 New Year's Resolution list (another post) they are on my life's goal list. I challenge you to add them to yours.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Our Christmas Day was a busy one but oh so much fun! We started our day at home opening up Santa's surprises! Then we headed off to church and afterwards to Orangeburg to the Leviners. After having Christmas with Sam's family we went to see my grandmother that lives in an assisted living facility. We ended our day at my dad's house! My twin sister had to work Christmas day so he and my stepmom, Joyce, kept the twins. We didn't get home until midnight but it was a day of fun for our little family! And a day well spent with family is priceless in my book!
Santa's letter to C! C was more amazed at his
empty plate and mug than her presents!

The look of Christmas morning!

She loves her art easel!

Her surprised fun excitement look followed usually
by "mommy", "mommy", "mommy"!

She calls her guitar a piano and she'll tell you
that her favorite new toy is her piano!

Merry Christmas...


and mommy (now I can continue couponing)!

C loves her new slippers and Barbie!

The Leviner grandchildren!
Samantha, Anna, C, Christian, Silas, and Franklin!

C and Mawmaw!