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Warm Wishes…

Having the entire family together again, late-night conversations, lots of laughs, good food, rambunctious rounds of “Phase 10,” gifts galore, 500-piece puzzles, baking, Beef-a-Roo, picture taking, catching up with friends, many cups of hot chocolate…

I am having an amazing time up North!!

I’ll be back up and blogging next week. But, for now I’m savoring all this time with my family.

Wishing everyone an enjoyable end of 2011 and a bright New Year!!

a divine gift…

I had a wonderful time with Ava this weekend!

We drove up north to see our families, meet our new nephew/cousin and share time celebrating the upcoming arrival of my sister-in-law’s twins.

Ava and I headed back home directly after the baby shower. Ha, I say headed home like it was just a jaunt around the corner. No, we had a 9 ½ hour drive to make. And I was the lone driver.

The majority of our trek went fine. I did have a few storms to drive through, so that added extra time and brain energy to the trip. But, Ava is always good company. Around 9pm I told her it was time for her to go to sleep. School started at 7:15 the next morning, so at least one of us needed to be fully rested. My plan was for her to conk out between 9:00-9:30. I’d then stop around 10pm for one last gas fill-up and hit a McDonald’s for a hot chocolate to see me through the rest of the journey.

At 10:10pm, I pulled off the expressway.

“Welcome to McDonald’s. Would you like to try our new caramel frappe?”

I politely waited for the automated greeting to finish before placing my order.

“Hi, can I please get a hot chocolate?”

“I am so sorry ma’am,” the other voice answered (and she really did sound very sorry).”We just shut our machine down for the night.”

Shut your machine down? “But, you’re still open for another hour,” I wanted to say. “Don’t start cleaning it yet.”

I started to feel a bit uneasy. I only had water in the car…not exactly great for an energy jolt. Anyway, I got back on the expressway and went up a few exits.

“Welcome to McDonald’s. Would you like to try our new caramel frappe?”

Okay, if the automated greeting was still offering specialty drinks, then surely I was in luck this time.

Nope.

Again, “Sorry ma’am, but we’ve already begun cleaning that machine.”

What is it with you Kentucky? Don’t shut down your menu down until your restaurants are closed!

I still had 2 ½ hours of driving to do.

My head started to hurt.

I was tired.

And I don’t drink coffee.

***

EARLIER THAT DAY…

In keeping with the baby shower “twin” theme, the party prizes featured famous pairs: peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, ketchup and mustard, cheese and crackers, tea and honey, etc.

Oh yeah…

Did I forget to mention hot chocolate and marshmallows?

My favorite.

Well, I did not win my table’s prize (peanut butter and jelly), but right before leaving, my mother-in-law came up to me with a gift bag and a big smile on her face:

“This is for you.”

Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows

Turns out one of the bags didn’t make it out on the tables.

Too bad! 😉

***

FLASH FORWARD TO ME BEGINNING TO PULL AWAY FROM MCDONALD’S…

Wait a sec! If I can’t order a hot chocolate, maybe I can still make one!

I glanced down to my right and sure enough, the green gift bag containing liquid gold was sitting right beside me.

I drove back around the drive-thru and tapped on the window.

“Okay,” I said. “I understand I can’t get a hot chocolate, but can I get a cup of hot water? I don’t care if it’s from the tap. You can even charge me for a hot tea if you want. Whaddya say?”

The young man looked at me before replying, “Sure thing.”

YESSSS!!!

He handed me a large cup of hot water, a spoon, smiled and said, “That’ll be 32 cents.”

I pulled into a parking spot, dumped in two packs of the hot chocolate mix (along with the accompanying marshmallows!), stirred it up and took a sip.

It was indeed a perfect pair.

the butt

Over the summer, the kids and I went with my parents to see “The Phantom of the Opera.”

I first saw the show 20 years ago and I have been in love ever since. This is hands down my favorite musical.

I hoped the kids would enjoy it as much as I did and I wasn’t disappointed…

They loved it!

They talked endlessly about it for days. When we got home, I played the CD of the musical and pulled out my old playbills and books. It was like Christmas in our house, they were so excited! The icing on the cake was when they found out there was a movie of the musical. They asked to see it.

Now, the movie is rated PG-13. Adam and I have a rule that the kids cannot watch anything rated higher than G without us watching it first. I’d seen the movie before and couldn’t recall anything overly overt about it. But, knew there had to be a reason for the rating. I told them I’d watch it again at some point and let them know.

Adam recently went on a business trip and the kids brought up the question of watching the movie again. Hold on a sec, did I say brought up? Hmmm, I think pleaded would be more accurate…

He was traveling, they were begging, so I thought, “Why not?”

I watched the movie and identified two questionable moments. I didn’t think it was serious enough to dismiss the movie entirely, so I planned on having them cover their eyes at those specific parts.

The next morning they all came thundering into my room. Ha – I think they’ve figured out the ambush effect works well on their mom!

“Did you watch it Mom?”

“Can we watch it Mom? Can we???”

I told them, “Yes,” but only on the condition that they cover their eyes twice during the movie.

I laid out the ground rules for eye covering:

1. You cannot cover your eyes with your hands because I know you’ll just peak through your fingers.

2. You must place a blanket or pillow in front of your face instead.

3. I’ll be watching the whole time. If you even try to sneak a glimpse, the movie goes off.

Needless to say, they accepted the terms of my agreement. Though, not before Ava threw in, “But, what if we accidentally drop the pillow or blanket?”

My look back to her officially closed the subject.

After dinner, we popped a big bowl of popcorn and got ready for the movie. The kids decided they would rather watched the movie on my laptop while snuggled on my bed, as opposed to watching it on the big screen in the basement.

Everything was going great. When we approached the first eye covering, I ordered, “Blankets up!” and they obeyed without protest. I knew we had a bit before the next eye covering, so I sat back and relaxed.

Things were flowing nicely, when all of a sudden, one of the characters totally dropped trou and shook his derriere.

I.Could.Not.Believe.It.

I mean, we definitely had a full moon going on.

My jaw dropped.

My eyes bulged.

What just happened?

My children reacted…

Ava: (bursts out laughing)

Garrett: I saw his butt!

Grady: Mom, is that butt real?

Ava: I thought you said you watched this!

Me: (flabbergasted) I did!

Garrett: I saw his butt!

Ava: (mercilessly) How did you miss the butt?

Me: (fumbling, trying to hit ‘pause’) I don’t know!

Grady: Mom, why did he show that lady his butt?

Garrett: I saw his B-UHHHHH-TT!

I immediately apologized to the kids. Oh, you can bet your bottom dollar, I was grateful we didn’t watch the movie on the big HD screen. I gave the kids the “we don’t show people our butts even if we don’t like them” speech. I then asked them not to tell their dad about the butt, explaining that he needed to hear it from me first. Adam’s flight didn’t get in until after midnight, so I planned on telling him the next morning after I took the kids to school. Before going to bed, I thought through the best way to explain the butt without him kicking mine.

After waking up and while sitting at the breakfast table, I gave the kids a quick “no butt” reminder before Adam came in. He was working from home that day and spent the morning with us.

The kids were soooo excited to tell him about the movie. I think I held my breath through the course of the entire conversation. All was going well until Grady, in a loud voice, asked me, “Mom, what was your favorite part? The scary part? Or, the FUNNY part?”

Garrett, in a gallant effort to avoid catastrophe, hissed, “Grady, we’re not supposed to talk about the butt!” Not missing a beat, Ava hissed, “Garrett, you said butt!” To which Garrett retorted, “No, I didn’t! Grady did!” Not to be left out, I joined in the hissing, “Go brush your teeth, no more ‘butts’!” Thankfully, Adam wasn’t paying attention. After he walked out of the kitchen, I asked Grady, “What is the funny part?”

He gave me that mischievous Graders smile and said,

“The Butt”

I told Adam about the butt after dropping Grady off at school. He was very gracious and said mistakes are going to happen. He, like Ava, also mused, “How did you miss the butt?”

I have no idea how I missed the butt, but I did.

But, I’m not missing it again.

And now my children know, when we watch the movie, they have THREE points where they cover their eyes.

she’s in!!!

Ava made the Drama Team!

Oh, what an emotional ordeal this process was…

Ava and I spent a week rehearsing her script. According to the information sheet, she didn’t have to be memorized. Note for everyone out there: always memorize it! It not only gets your face up and helps your voice carry, but enables you to focus on the meaning of what you’re saying as opposed to the actual words themselves. Plus, at the outset, the drama coach said there are over 120 kids who audition for only approximately 50 spots. In a group that large, you want to do your best to stand out…memorization helps!

She auditioned last Tuesday and was supposed to find the results online Thursday night. I swear, she had me checking the computer every 18 minutes (but, I was secretly checking around every 9 minutes from my phone…). By the time bedtime arrived, there was still no word. I tucked her in, told her not to worry and tried to kiss the furrow in her brow away. I told her even if she didn’t make it, I thought she did wonderful when we worked together. I tried encouraging her with the “as long as you gave it your best…” talk, but I could tell my well-intentioned words weren’t carrying much weight. So, I eventually said, “I know how badly you want this. It means a lot to me because it means so much to you.” And I let it there. She eventually fell asleep after I promised to continue checking. I kept a vigil until after midnight, then went to bed hoping for results in the morning.

Ava shared with me recently that she plays a lot on her own at recess. Not exactly something that makes a mother’s heart jump for joy. So, I was kept praying the drama team would be an outlet for her to meet some new friends who share a common interest with her. We attended a school fundraiser not too long ago and she introduced me to a girl from her class. Turns out, this girl was also auditioning for the drama team. They had their arms around each other while they talked about the play. I smiled watching them, remembering some of my own sweet childhood friends. “How wonderful would it be if they both made it…”

Friday morning came and still nothing. I decided to call the school to see if I was checking in the wrong place. I’m thankful I did because the secretary said the results wouldn’t be posted until after school. And she was right…

Not too long after the kids arrived home, I saw the results.

Ava’s name wasn’t there.

Or so I thought. I mean, I titled the post, “she’s in,” so obviously she made it. But, when I first read through the list of 57, I didn’t see her name. (In my defense, even Adam didn’t see her name at first either…)

My stomach dropped.

How was I going to tell her?

I went through the list again, feeling like I was willing her name to appear. First of all, the list wasn’t in alphabetical order, so that made finding anyone’s name difficult.  But then, tucked between two longer names were the two words I was desperately seeking, “Ava Newton.”

YAY!!!

How was I going to tell her?

Well, since this was for the drama team, I decided to go with a dramatic approach:

I went to Ava’s room, which most of the time resembles the aftermath of a terrible storm. Sure enough, such was the state of her room that afternoon.

Perfect.

“Ava Grace”, I hollered. Now, when I used my children’s middle name, they know it’s something serious. She came running toward me, but slowed when she saw the stern look on my face.

“What do you see?”, I asked her. We both silently looked around the room: clothes on the floor, dolls sprawled everywhere and crafts filling up the remaining space.

“Oh”, she said, hanging her head.

I let that word linger there for a moment.

“I asked you a question. What do you see?”

And then I pulled out my phone (I had the internet opened to the page and had her name highlighted…)

She took one look before screaming and jumping into my arms. We both fell to the floor laughing as I held her tightly and kissed her head.

We went to Olive Garden that night to celebrate. Before leaving I asked her if her friend, Brooklyn, made the team.

“Who’s Brooklyn?”, she asked.

“The girl you introduced me to the other day,” I replied.

“No Mom. Her name is London, not Brooklyn.”

Hmmm, wrong city, I mused.

But, yes. London made it too. The team is putting on the production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in March. So, here we are…beginning yet another adventure!

I was kicked out of my bed

Adam’s promotion brought a new aspect to our family life: travel.

When we first moved here, he was gone more than he was home. But, now we’re settling into a more balanced schedule, so it’s not as demanding.

The kids miss their daddy when he’s away. But, they do look forward to one special treat I save only for “travel nights”:

They get to sleep in my bed.

We have a king-size mattress. While shopping for it, I remember saying to Adam I wanted a king, so if the kids ever got scared, they could climb on in. I think music from “The Sound of Music” was underscoring this thought. I’ve always been fond of the thunderstorm scene when all the kids climbed into bed before breaking into “My Favorite Things.”

So, last night, my kiddos fell peacefully asleep beneath the comfort of my many blankets. They looked so sweet, lined up together and dreaming away:


However, at 1:38am I awoke with a jolt…from a foot:

I was slightly disoriented, but no worries: I soon received another jab in the head, so my senses quickly alerted. My picture perfect sleeping babes became active little tumblers. Seriously, you would have thought the bed was a gymnasium by the way they were rolling!

There was no way I was staying, so I decided to go sleep in Ava’s bed. I tried to get my blanket (yes, I have one. It’s unbelievably comfortable and comes with me where ever I sleep. Call it a Linus complex if you want, but if you felt it, you’d fall under it’s fuzzy spell too…). However, my children somehow managed to tangle themselves up in that, so no luck.

Oh, the shame!

I was literally kicked out of my bed, I had no blanket, but the icing on the cake?

As I made my way toward the bedroom door, our dog, Ted, raised his head to see what was going on. Our eyes met and for a moment I thought he was coming with me. Then, he rolled onto his back and went back to sleep.

Awesome.

I took this the next morning:


Give my kids space and they’ll fill it.

On a positive note, I did get to sleep in a Cinderella carriage bed for the first time.

So, while they may have taken my king, I still slept like a princess.

🙂

Garrett is now in 1st grade.

You know what that means, right?

He graduated kindergarten!

Um…three months ago.

And…

IknowI’mlametojustbepostingthisrightnow,butbetterlatethanneverright???

yyyyyaaAAAYYYYY!

Garrett loved kindergarten. His teacher was simply amazing. In fact, she also taught Ava and I’m just sorry Grady won’t have the chance to work with her. The graduation ceremony was so sweet. The teachers each got up and gave an encouraging word to the students and their families. I just love the poems teachers read at these events. Have you noticed that even though the poems are geared toward young children, it’s the adults who take the most away from them?

My mom came up to see our little big guy stride across the floor, shake hands with his teacher and receive his diploma. I smile when I recall that moment: Garrett’s strut was more of a mix between running and skipping. He is definitely a boy full of joy!

After the ceremony, we went to Panera (boo-yah!) to celebrate. In addition to it being the day of Garrett’s graduation ceremony, it was also our official last day in Plainfield. Adam was already living in Tennessee, so the kids and I were anxious to reunite our family and begin our next chapter.

And now, a special shout-out to probably my favorite person in this world:

My mother and Garrett share the same birth day, so it’s only fitting that this post naturally found it’s way to honor both of them…

I know there are people who would drop everything and go anywhere for their family. My mom does. But, in my opinion, what sets her apart is she does this not because of a sense of duty, but because of her genuine love for her family. I know how hard that day was for her and could see the struggle in her eyes as she tried holding back her tears. My heart broke every time I saw the “brave face,” for I knew the goodbye we were saying tore her apart. Yes, she is definitely happy for us! But, it’s one thing when your dear ones are less than two hours away, compared to nine hours.

Thank you Mom for sharing that day with us. I know Adam thanks you too. He would have been there if possible, but since he couldn’t, I can think of no other person I’d rather have sitting beside me…not just in a gymnasium, or in a booth at Panera, but in every aspect of my life.

So, I’ve thought about it…

Quite a bit actually…

And…

I think you and Dad need to relocate here. 🙂

so, whatcha up to?

One of the things I’ve really loved about moving to Nashville is getting more involved in the music scene. I’ve grabbed the networking steering wheel with both hands and have had the chance to meet some great people.

I typically don’t post too much about music here. However, I have a passion for other musicians, helping them better themselves and creating something lasting. So, this opportunity is one way I get to fulfill that drive.

I currently write a post a week for my coach’s artist development company. It’s not only been a great outlet, but keeps me writing. Admittedly, on the flip side, I don’t post on my own blog as much, but I”m working on creating a better balance there. 🙂

I’m given a video segment each week. From there, I create an article from the information and then add some of my own content to round out the edges. I think the most time consuming part is crafting the introduction to each piece. In fact, there have been times when I’ve had the body of the article written, but took another day or two just to come up with the intro. Thankfully, my husband is a great sounding board (he also makes sure I don’t sound too “girly” when I write for the site). I like to frame each post with some sort of relatability as opposed to keeping them strictly “how-to.” So, that definitely keeps my creative juices flowing!

Another challenge as a writer is capturing another person’s voice. This is where the video segments are really helpful! It allows me to delve into another person’s vocal rhythms and jargon, so I stay true to their voice when I’m writing. My parents read the blog (how cool is that?!?!) and my mom recently told me she can totally “hear” my voice in the articles. But, then again, she’s had the privilege of listening to it for the past 30 years – ha! On a serious note, I appreciate the amount of freedom I’ve been given as a writer and the company’s trust in me to represent them well.

I just had my 11th post, “Songwriting 101“,  published on the site. The posts go live on Mondays and range from technical singing and songwriting tips to topics more philosophical in nature. If you want to follow along for fun or for information, you can do so here:

http://thevocalteacher.com

(If you’d like to read any of my previous posts, anything that says “posted by Kelly” are pieces I’ve written!)