Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm on a Boat!

There are lots of things that I love in this world, reading good books late into the night, taking naps on Sunday, and Diet Dr. Pepper, just to name a few. But at the top of the list of things that I love are boating, tubing, friends, family, and fun (and alliterations).  In my contract for things that I want in heaven, going out on a boat is written in the "must have" section. I love it. It's a good thing that I have some serious boat related connections and some awesome friends that enjoy celebrating their birthdays in such a fashion.

My sister's sister-in-law, Becca, had a birthday on Saturday and we all partied "I'm on a Boat" style.

It was Grace's first time on a boat and sister friend is just like her Momma. Like she was born there and made to ride on that boat.

Tubing was on the agenda. Becca and I held on for dear life as we rode Superman style on the tube, constantly checking with each other, in between sprays of water and bouts of hysterical laughter, "Are you good?!" But my skills are unrefined and I wiped out twice. I do, however, have some sweet battle scars that prove I didn't go down without a fight.

The boys tested out their new wake-surfing board skills. (yes I now know there is a difference between a wakeboard and a wake surf board). And we even dipped the little ones in the water. Grace and Tyler bonded.

Only in Texas.

We stayed out until the late afternoon, kissing nap times goodbye. But the little one's were sending serious messages that it was time to head back to the dock.

Connor couldn't hold out and he slept the whole ride back. There is nothing cuter than a sleeping babe in a life jacket.

My shoulders have been kissed, or severely slapped, by the sun and if I close my eyes I can still feel the slow sway of the boat rocking. It was a glorious glorious day.

Not to mention that I grabbed Chick-Fil-A for dinner on my way home and I happened to be the 100th customer, my meal was free.

I submit that the day was pretty close to complete perfection.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Straight Trippin' and Days of Birth

Months ago, some stars aligned which allowed Aaron to get time off and for us to purchase tickets to California. We've been missing our friends, or family as they always seemed to be. Tickets purchased. Plans set forth.

Five days before we were supposed to leave I found out that my Grandfather passed away. In the next 24 hours our California tickets were cancelled, tickets to Virginia were purchased (thank you Mom and Dad), bags were packed and Grace and I (later followed by Aaron) were on our way to the opposite coast.The battery on my camera was dead, so I relied on my phone to take pictures

 Somehow on both legs of our flight out to D.C. I had an open seat next to me so Grace didn't have to sit on my lap. I was even able to eat an orange in peace. Unheard of.
 Pit stop for lunch in North Carolina.
 When we arrived we gathered with family both blood related and not blood related.
 It was the first time we met gorgeous Mae.
 This was a common scene throughout the week. Many trips were made to the airport to pick up the flood of family coming in town, and tying up ends for the funeral.
I didn't take pictures over the funeral. The thought to take them never crossed my mind. To be honest I couldn't get over my thoughts to entertain the "you should be documenting this" idea. This funeral felt so different from my Grandmother's. When she passed the shock and loss were piercing. The whole experience was sad. With my Grandpa the weekend had an odd sense of peace and completeness. He was back with his wife, he was happy. I kept waiting for the sad to strike, and it did. As his Grandsons walked the casket away from the church after the funeral it hit me hard. The end of an era, the end of my maternal Grandparents. And I sobbed. But just as quickly as the sad came, it left and I was filled, once again, with the peace. It was an interesting experience.

Aaron and I decided to stay in Virginia for my birthday, since we were planning on being in California then. So we extended our stay and partied hard. I rang in the big 2-5 by eating. Honestly, the day revolved around food.

Grace slept in until 9am, and when I went upstairs I was greeted with homemade waffles. No one makes waffles like my Mom, she has MAD waffle making skills. Did you notice the pecans? I'm salivating.

After quick shower, we headed up to Maryland because the D.C. area now has a Cafe Rio. It was a drive to get there, but worth every minute. Pork Barbacoa salad, DDP on tap, tortillas dipped in tomatillo ranch dressing. Are you getting hungry yet?

When we got back to my parents house, everyone crashed. We all took 3 hour death naps, Grace included. I'm guessing waffles and cafe rio combined can really knock you out. Later, Grace and I played outside and she was thrilled that Mr. Nutter was there to play with her. She carried him around and accidentally dropped him on the driveway. Poor Mr. Nutter had to go to the squirrel statue hospital for some surgery with high tech medical gear.

Then there was dinner. Jackson's. Complete with chocolate waffles and ice cream, and a plate that said my name on it.

If you think that the food related birthday celebrations ended there, you would be very very wrong. Please don't underestimate me. That super awesome Barbie bag was filled with 3 different kinds of m&m's. Plain, Peanut, and Almond. Thank you Matt and Ashley.

For my "Birthday Cake" I requested two things: Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies and a candle on top. I didn't want to waste calories (even though calories don't count on your birthday) on a cake when I would much rather be having chocolate chip cookies.

Happy birthday to me.
I'm sensing a lot of jogging in my near future, but it was totally worth it. The Stringham's know how to party hard. Thanks for making my day so special. I don't feel like an adult, but saying I'm 25 makes it sound like I'm an adult. I'm 25. So weird.

The flights home were rough and the day after we got home Grace and I sent Aaron off to Utah. I'm still trying to get my brain wrapped around "normal" again, all while battling some serious sugar crashes (think birthday celebration) and exhaustion headaches. I don't bounce back like I used to, maybe I do feel old being 25.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

He Was a Good Good Man

My Grandfather's name was John Yates Merrell but everyone called him J.Y. I can still hear my Grandmother's voice as she said his name. The initials J.Y. aren't a common pair but they fit him so well. 

My Grandma saw my Grandpa on campus one day and without ever meeting him she pointed to J.Y. in the crowd and told her friend "I'm going to marry him." Do you blame her? He was a stud.

I don't ever remember hearing my Grandpa raise his voice at us kids, although I'm sure we probably deserved it. Maybe things got heated when the grandkids broke the pool table light, but aside from that he was a gentle giant.

During Christmas or family birthday parties we all opened our gifts one at a time, patiently waiting our turn. Whenever it was my Grandpa's turn his gifts were already 75% unwrapped and the box "just magically" slipped open. Every time, without fail.

He always kept us laughing. Always. He was so subtle with his sense of humor that you sometimes had to do a double take to catch the smirk on his face or the glint in his eye. Stealing food from our plates or giving "serious" eye contact when we made toasts at Christmas. And when singing the twelve days of Christmas his "Three French Hens" would morph into "Three Sleeping Cockroaches." He also sang us Happy Birthday in whatever language we wanted. It wasn't until I was older that I realized he didn't actually know how to sing Happy Birthday in Mongolian, he was just making the words up.

And most importantly, he loved my Grandmother. After my Grandmother fell and was slowly slipping away, she held on for days. My Grandfather got sick a year later and he passed in less than 24 hours. My Mom told me, "I think my Mom held on for so long because she didn't want to leave my Dad, and when he got sick he passed quickly because all he wanted was to return to her."

As all of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gathered in my Grandparents house for the last time we shared stories and laughed and remembered. Even though the house felt different, the walls just looked like walls instead of the place that housed my Grandparents, the memories were real and vivid. We were lucky kids, I hope we do our Grandparents proud.

J.Y., Dad, Grandpa, Papa you are loved and will be missed. Make sure to tell Grandma I say Hi.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Weekly Randos

Rando: Random sans "M." It's my new favorite word.

I have a confession to make, I don't like to blog when I don't take pictures. Shocker, right? I was bummed when I scoured my pictures a few days ago and for the life of me couldn't find a picture of just me and my Mom (in recent years) that I could have attached to my Mother's day post. Speaking of which, Mom, you and I need to take a picture together. Just you and me. I also don't like to take pictures when the lighting isn't good. The lighting in our last apartment was awesome, but at the new place our lighting is very cave like. I've resorted to phone pictures and the occasional right-next-to-the-window pictures to compile enough memories to go off of this week.

Mother's Day

It was low key and relaxing. I almost cried when I saw this craft Grace made for me in nursery. Almost.


Grace has a special smile, one that has been well documented. I guess Grace thought it lacked some pizazz so she added a new dimension: eyes shut tight. And yes, I totally let her play on this ladder, I'm sure the yellow warning label on the side tells me not to, but I haven't read it.


There is nothing I love more than little kids in sunglasses. Even better when they put them on themselves.

The Bag

There is a bag of clothes, mostly sweaters and maternity shirts that I have yet to unpack. I have zero desire to deal with this bag. I'm sure it would take me 20 minutes to unpack it and put it away, but I just can't make myself do it. We have fished out some of the contents inside, and we even play with the hats in it. But yet, it still looms in the background. Dang bag.

New Friends

I met a girl that Aaron went to high school with through our blogs. Showing the signs of the times, we struck up a friendship via the blogosphere and then we moved to Dallas (where she lives as well). For about 7 months we have planned, cancelled, and re-planned times to meet and get together. We tried to meet at the park but our timing was an hour off. Finally, finally, we met today at Chick-Fil-A. All good things happen there. In the land of boys it was very fun to get together with Jamie and her girls. Lets do it again soon, eh?

You should also take note on the fact that I have graduated from a regular size CFA Diet Dr. Pepper to a large. I'm developing a serious problem. 

Now it is time to start the weekend off right. Breakfast at Chick-Fil-A with a large Diet Dr. Pepper.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Mom Effect

There is something special about Moms, thus the day set aside to celebrate them, right? I can remember a time in my life when this special mom-ness came into play.

I was in high school. I can still remember the time of day, and what shoes I was wearing. It was dusk and I was wearing KangaROOs that were pink and purple. There was a skateboard in our garage, and for whatever reason I thought it would be cool if I taught myself how to ride one. I ran down to the bottom of our driveway where it was flat and hopped on. I could ride for a few seconds and then I'd step off. I'm not the risk-taking daredevil type but I thought I could be. For a few minutes I stuck with it. The sun was slipping behind the trees and the light was dimming. I counted the seconds that I stayed on the board. One one thousand, two one thousand. I think I had gotten up to 6 seconds and I was feeling confident. I became more casual with it, less cautious. I stepped on one last time. The board flew out from underneath my feet and jetted across the road. I got that weird surge of adrenaline that makes the tips of your fingers tingle and I fell backwards. I landed on my right elbow and the asphalt was unforgiving. Pain shot like lightening through my shoulder. I bit down hard and held the tears back. I remember telling myself "Skateboarders don't cry," because standing on a skateboard for 6 seconds qualified me as such. I thought it was silly that I couldn't handle a fall without crying at the age of 17. I retrieved my board and went inside constantly telling myself "Keep it together, Kara, keep it together." My elbow was scratched and bleeding but I could do this.

I wasn't in the house for two seconds when I saw my Mom, she took one look at me and said "What happened sweetie?" I crumpled in her arms like a piece of paper and cried. I don't know if it was the tone of her voice or the concern in her eyes, or merely the fact that she was my mom and loved me but I couldn't bear my bleeding elbow or hurt pride anymore. Even as a 17 year old I knew that I needed her.

She has that special Mom-ness. The kind that gives off love and comfort while letting you know that she is there and you can get through whatever life throws at you. She's helped me through bleeding elbows and parenting woes. She has wiped my tears and held my hand. Ups and downs, goods and bads, she has been their with her special Mom-ness getting me through so I could stand on my own feet.

And I am eternally grateful for that. Maybe one day I can be just like her.

To all Moms and their special Mom-ness. Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Move

We survived our move. I'm learning quickly that no matter how much mental, emotional, and physical effort you put into making your move stress free, it will in no way actually be stress free. Thankfully we had some help hefting our heavy stuff down one flight of stairs and up two flights of stairs (our new place is on the third floor). From that point on it was packing our cars and making at least 50 trips up and down those stairs. Our thighs were a burnin' and despite jello-y legs, we managed to get it all done by Sunday. My sister watched Grace ALL DAY LONG for us on Saturday, (insert me giving her a medal of honor here), which severely cut back on the amount of neglect Grace would have felt otherwise. 

In all the times that we have moved since our wedding day, we have never broken a glass or a dish. Unfortunately, during this short move we had our first casualty. I barely nicked the side of this plate with another plate and it broke right in two. Bummer.

On Sunday, between the last few car trips, we celebrated Easter. Baskets in the morning, church in the afternoon, and a family dinner and Easter egg hunt (with my brother-in-law's family-- we love the Fousts) in the evening. I had no idea where my camera was in the mess so there weren't any pictures taken. You'll have to use your imaginations. I can assure you, however, that fun was had by all, especially Grace, and we looked pretty darn good in our Easter get-up.

After a deep clean, walk through, and key turnover at our old place, we started settling into our new apartment and 25 seconds later we packed and left for Oregon for my brother's wedding. I'll probably post more pictures of this event once I can convince my incredibly talented photographer sister to get me the photos she took so I can blog about it (Whatdaya say Ashby?). For now, I have one picture that sums up the weekend:
It was short, jam packed, full of family laughs, smitten newlyweds, and driving all over Portland. We were wiped by the end.  The first morning at home Grace slept until 10:15. Craziness.

We are finally, FINALLY, getting settled in and to say that I love this apartment would be the understatement of the century. I'm borderline obsessed. I walk up those 2 flights of stairs knowing that my buns are slowly turning into steal and I open my door to find heaven on Earth. This apartment has an accent wall that makes our plaid couch look good- it's magical. Did I mention that we are less than a mile from Costco, Chick-fil-A, and the mall? And that WalMart, Grace's pediatrician, and Target (along with everything else you would ever need) are only 1and a half miles away? We even have a room dedicated to laundry, and for the first time in 5 years we now own a washer and dryer.
We are officially adults. Happy Anniversary to us.

Now, you really need to come visit because we actually don't live in the ghetto and we have space for you. Not to mention the buns of steal workout you would receive as your complimentary gift from us. Come visit, you can thank us later.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

5 Years

Now that I'm in my mid twenties I look back at the day we got married and think "Holy crap, I was so young." 19 years old, marrying a 22 year old, dated for 6 weeks before getting engaged and 5 months later getting married. To be honest, the numbers don't add up or make logical sense. In every scientific respect our union was doomed for failure before it even began. 

But despite every logical red light going off, every warning, I knew deep down that this was a very very good thing. It was so right that not marrying Aaron seemed like the wrong thing to do. I couldn't deny the goodness and we went for it. Looking back, I'm glad I had the faith to go for it, because it was the best decision I've ever made.  Take that logic and science.

Happy 5th Anniversary

Always and forever.