Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Five

Songbird over at RevGalBlogPals writes:

I've got home on my mind: what it feels like, how we make it, what we carry from the past and how we separate other people's leftovers from objects that really reflect our identity. My family has had one home for the past 13 years, the longest I've ever lived anywhere. As the time when all the children are gone comes closer, I wonder where my next home will be?

So here are five questions about home.

1) Where was your first home?

The same home where my parents still live in the HEB area.  The only move I ever made growing up was from my little girl room to the big bedroom with two closets at the back of the house when I turned 13.  My two year old footprints are still visible in the concrete walkway on the side of the house.  I love that.

2) Do you ever dream about places you used to live?

Not really.  I've had dreams about my grandma's house where I'm walking through and I can still picture where all of her furniture and knick knacks are placed.  Since she passed away ten years ago the family who bought the home has since added a pool and a second story.  I would love to be able to tour the house now and see what it is like.

3) If you could bring back one person from your past to sit at your dinner table, who would you choose?

Grandma so that she could meet Craig, Natalie and of course Angie.  But at the same time it would be hard to have to say goodbye to her again.

4) What's your favorite room in your current living space?

Probably my bedroom because I love how cozy and warm it is with just the two bedside lamps lit.  And of course on Saturday and Sunday mornings when it's the family bed and we have Craig, myself, Natalie and Angie all nestled in and playing together.

5) Is there an object or an item where you live now that represents home? If not, can you think of one from your childhood?

I have a crucifix that my Grandma gave me for my Confirmation and it has hung over the light switch in my bedroom at every place that I have lived - both apartments in college, my single gal apartment in Euless and finally now in our bedroom in our current home.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


We have a crawler in our house. 

It's the most basic army crawl.

But she's mobile nonetheless.

And nothing in our house, especially our tennis shoes, are safe from her grasp.

I'm so proud of her...I was THAT mother taking video last night and posting it on Facebook...but at the same time incredibly terrifying because I know that our life is going to change.  Corraling her will be more difficult and the real job of parenting is starting.

Sunday Day Book

Outside my is 7:35 pm and it is still pretty warm outside.  Craig and I took the girls for a walk about an hour ago and we were all sweating when it was finished.

I am that this week has got to be better than last week.

I am thankful principal and co-workers for encouraging me and expressing their unwavering support of me as a coach and a person.

From the learning rooms...I've really been challenged in the past week to examine myself and my coaching practices.  It's been an interesting week to say the least but I've resolved the issues and I have a new plan of action should these issues arise again.

From the kitchen...Craig is going to attempt to make his favorite meal this week - Poppyseed Chicken Casserole.  Yum.

I am wearing...another t-shirt and running shorts.  I really need to change my wardrobe every once in awhile.

I am creating...lots of fun fall activities for Craig, Natalie and I to do soon.

I am take the day off from work on October 11th with Craig and we're taking the munchkin to the State Fair.  I can't wait for a fun four day weekend.

I am reading...more like DEVOURING The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I love this trilogy - it's been one of the best book series that I've read probably since I first read Harry Potter.  It's got mystery, intrigue, suspense and some of the most complex characters.

I am hoping...that my girls get their first win this week.  I need some goodness this week with volleyball.

I am hearing...television and Angie snoring next to me.  She is resting after taking a long walk tonight.

Around the house...Craig is insistent that we decorate for fall so after a trip to Garden Ridge on Saturday we've got pumpkins and gourds starting to accumulate around the house.  Now if only the weather will adjust appropriately.

One of my favorite things...lazy mornings in bed with the hubs, the pup and the baby girl.

A few plans for the rest of the week: I have volleyball games on Monday and Thursday and a high school volleyball game on Tuesday night. I think Craig and I are going to do some Halloween decorating projects on Saturday and then Natalie takes her six month photos on Sunday morning!

A picture to share:
This is a picture that Ms. Rebecca sent me last week of my smiling, happy girl.  Makes me feel good to know that she is being taken care of by someone who adores her.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


This might come as a shock to some of you, but I was frequently grounded throughout my middle school and even into my high school years.  See, I have this problem and I don't take credit for it because my lovely mother whom I adore is the same way. 

I wear my heart on my sleeve.  And when I am at my most agitated and really worked up (either in a good way or a bad way), I have a hard time controlling that heart on my sleeve and.....whoops.  Sometimes words just slip out of my mouth unintentionally.  Which is fine when you're super excited and sharing a joyful attitude with everyone around you but unfortunately, more often than not, that was not what my heart expressed during my teenage years.

What I'm trying to say is.....I was a mouthy teenager.  Not to my peers and most certainly not to my teachers.  I bottled up all my special attitude, eyerolls, glares and venomous words during the day and unleashed them at home with my parents. 

Thus the frequent grounding.  Very.  Very.  Very.  Frequent.

Gradually by the end of high school I wasn't so angry at my parents (for what?  I never could figure out the real source - I had and still have incredibly devoted and supportive parents) and I learned to control my emotions and therefore my mouth and I wasn't much.  And obviously once I graduated high school, went to college and began living on my own the word "grounded" ceased to exist in my vocabulary except to mean "down to Earth" in regards to a persons character.

Well, except for last night.

I was in no television, computer or phone.  Yes.  I am a 28 years old and more or less in control of my home and life.

Let me explain. 

It was obviously a rough week for me professionally at school and all I wanted to do last night was eat some good Mexican food, drink a margarita and play with my baby.  Bathtime was around 7:45 and apparently the exhaustion that I have been feeling building up in my body over the course of the week was showing on my face and in my body language as I wrestled Natalie into her pajamas. 

Craig looked at me and said "I'm making a rule.  No television for you tonight.  I am taking Natalie and I'll put her to bed - you are going to bed right now and do not turn on the television.  I'm not going to turn on the monitor and I'll sleep in the spare bedroom.  You need a good night sleep." 

I didn't even have the energy to argue.

So I handed off my baby girl and changed into a big, comfy t-shirt and shorts,crawled into bed and curled up with Angie and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I can't remember the last time I was able to just sit in bed and read and feel completely (okay....MOSTLY) relaxed before bedtime.  Or anytime for that matter.  I was asleep by 10:00 and slept almost all the way through the night.  It was glorious - I woke up this morning at 7:30 ready to see my baby girl.  Craig took care of her through the night and I didn't even know if she had woken up at all (turns out only once at 2:00 for a bottle).

Thank you Craig.  I definitely needed to be grounded last night.  Now onto this glorious Saturday morning - we are preparing for her six month photos tomorrow morning and starting to decorate the house for Halloween and fall!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Daddy Duty

Craig is an excellent father.  I knew this from the minute I saw him coaching and working with kids at school, way before we ever started dating.  He pushes the kids to be their best, holds them to high standards and makes them accountable for their actions (or lack of action) BUT he also shows compassion, sympathy and his sense of humor at all times when he is working with teenage girls.  It takes a very special kind of man to be able to successfully interact with and coach twelve and thirteen year old young women.  These characteristics are what drew me to him as a person and are what I found attractive in him from the very beginning.

As a husband, friend, son and father he is patient, kind, loyal and honest.  To me these are qualities that are not out of the ordinary for a man to possess because that is the same type of person that my father was for me growing up and is still to this day.  But apparently, being an involved father who readily takes on and enjoys every aspect (the good and the bad) of fatherhood and being a parent is somewhat rare these days. 

It's no secret that I've been working my tail off the past four weeks with coaching both 7th and 8th grade girls volleyball.  Although Natalie is with Ms. Rebecca during the day, I leave for school at 7:00 am and don't return until 6:00 in the evening and even later on game nights.  This has forced Craig to really take the lead in taking care of Natalie and as a result, we've had some interesting conversations and some questionable (or maybe careless) remarks made.

For example:

- One night at my Wednesday night volleyball league, I was asked where Natalie was while I was playing volleyball for an hour.  "Oh she's with Craig!  She was almost asleep when I left, he is going to finish rocking her and then put her in the crib."  No big deal to me - Craig loves nighttime bonding with her and it's very relaxing to cuddle and snuggle with her before bedtime.  But the response was unsettling, "That's so great that he doesn't mind baby-sitting!"  Um.  Excuse me?  Last time I checked he is not the fourteen year old girl down the street that we pay $10 an hour to take care of our child.  It is not considered "baby-sitting" when it is his own child.  It's called being part of a team and sharing responsibilities around the home.

- Last night at my volleyball game Craig brought Natalie to the game to watch and walked over to the bench in between the Division I and Division II games for me to hold and kiss on her before my game began.  While I was chatting with Natalie I overheard the other school's basketball coach (whom I'm not very fond of to begin with) tell Craig "you're really having to jump into this Daddy thing, huh?!"  Now....given the source of the statement, I'm not surprised that it came out of his mouth but the connotation that it is unusual for a man to be an actively involved father really bothered me. 

Why WOULDN'T Craig want to jump into being Natalie's daddy?  Besides the obvious point of "she's so dang cute and therefore tons of fun to be around so there's no excuse to NOT want to be involved," he is her FATHER.  He was there when she was made and it's his duty as a man and as a part of her DNA to not just be around....but to BE there and love her and kiss her and snuggle her and to tell her everyday that he thinks she is completely amazing and wonderful. 

The good news is that Craig and I had a discussion about "dead beat dads" the other day after I thanked him for being so supportive of me while coaching and that it made me really happy and proud to see what a great daddy he is for Natalie.  His response was exactly what I wrote above - why WOULDN'T he be involved and take care of her, not only when I'm not around but if we're together as a family!  Just because I gave birth to her does not mean that she is solely my responsibility and Craig understands that in order for me to be a great mom, I must have his help and we must work as a team.  I think the younger generation in society right now is a little bit more progressive and there are lots of men out there that are commited to not just being PRESENT in their child's life, but INVOLVED by changing diapers, playing games, teaching lessons, going on trips and special events, etc.  That's the kind of father that my dad was - even though I was a girl and played dolls with my mom, he made sure that I knew how to throw a football, change the oil in my car and he definitely cultivated my love for cars.  Maybe my dad was the different one among the Baby Boomer generation but I don't know any different than having a father in my life that loves me unconditionally and enjoys my company.  And therefore I expect the same experience for my own daughter from her father.

It makes me sad that in some people's minds, Craig is the exception to the rule because he is the dad that doesn't mind sporting a girly diaper bag, changing a poopy diaper and someday....tea parties and playing with Barbies.  But knowing my husband, Natalie will also be able to shoot a lay-up and will perpetually have grass stains on her jeans.  And if she does....then she is following in the footsteps of her momma and I will always be proud to call her my daughter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

House Rules - Technology

I'm six months into this "mommyhood" gig but I really don't feel like I'm a PARENT yet because Natalie is still a little bitty and all she has needed up until this point is love, hugs and cuddles.  Craig and I have talked.....okay, I have talked and he has listened......about different rules and expectations we have for our children in our home.  Here are a few.

Technology: In my school district there is a new policy being instituted that allows all students to bring any sort of technology into the school building to use during the course of their day.  I'm on the fence about this new policy because on one side having a laptop available to take notes on during a difficult lecture in high school is a great idea, but on the other hand I think that there is a greater risk of cyber abuse and bullying.  In addition - what about those families who, as a family rule, limit the amount of time that a child can use technology or don't have iPads to send to school with their child or who don't trust their children (or the other children in the school) to handle high priced technology appropriately?  Okay.  Rant over.  Luckily, my principal is not diving into this headfirst without testing the waters.  He is proceeding slowly, carefully and deliberately by assessing the needs of the classroom, the expectations of the teachers and the concerns of the parents before making any major policy change regarding technology at our school.  One thing that I know is that Natalie will definitely not be one of the students who will be bringing her iPad or whatever is the "cool" thing when she is in middle school.  Now to the rules and expectations:

- No television in the bedrooms.  In our current house although the spare bedrooms are on the small side, there is a huge loft/playroom area upstairs that will be perfect for slumber parties, movies and spreading out lots of toys.  The best part about this room is that I can sit on my bed in the master bedroom and see what is showing on the television against the playroom wall.  That way I know what my kids are watching AND if they turn off the television when they are supposed to.  I had a tv in my room when I was in high school and nothing good came of it because every night I was up way too late watching Conan O'Brien. 

- Cell phones spend the night in the my room.  Teenagers text incessantly and nothing good every happens after bedtime, especially when you're in middle and high school.  Our plan is to have our children's cell phone chargers stay in our room or bathroom and every night before bedtime they will turn them into us to be charged and then receive them back in the morning.  And I'll be honest - if I suspect that something is amiss in my child's life, I will have no problem searching through her call and text records to see what is going on.  When I was in high school I received my first cell phone and my parents paid the bill but if I were to go over my monthly minutes (this was way before unlimited plans and texting) I had to pay the extra.  I have no problem instituting that with our children and I can assure you that they will have the most basic of phones - unless they want to pay for the cooler one themselves.

- All computer screens must be visible to the rest of the family.  If we are to stay in our current house (which I don't see a reason why we would move - I love our house, our location and our neighborhood) once Natalie is in elementary school we will convert what is right now the baseball card selling room that should be the formal dining room into a study/library.  I would love to paint the room, get a new light fixture, place a rug on the floor with a cozy lamp and chaise lounge as well as a computer desk or armoire.  This room is right off the kitchen so I envision that this is where homework would be completed in the afternoons while I am cooking dinner so that I can monitor progress as well as help on any problems.  I would like to have a stationary family computer in this room so that I could leave my school laptop at school and have all my family photos and documents in one place in our home.  I don't believe that there is any need for a child to have a laptop or computer in their room where an adult can't monitor the content that the child is exploring.  AND....if I hold my child to that standard, Craig and I as parents must set the example and hold ourselves to that standard as well.

- No handheld devices at the dinner table.  A few years ago I accompanied Craig on a Team Texas basketball tournament trip to San Antonio and one night while we were there a large group of players and parents went out to dinner at a fun Mexican restaurant.  Craig and I sat with another coach and his wife while next to us was a large table of parents at one end and their daughters at the other.  One end of the table was full of laughter, chatter and storytelling while the other end was completely silent except for the occasional BEEP that signaled a new text message had been received.  Guess which group sat at which end.  It made me so sad to see teenagers unable to communicate with their peers face-to-face.  How ridiculous that they can't manage to go an hour without texting or IMing one another.  That is not the image I have of dinners with my family.  Dinner is a time for sharing about everyone's day, telling stories and discussing important topics - even just with the two of us I still ask Craig every night at dinner "did anything interesting happen today?"  That's the way it was when I was growing up - we almost always had dinner together and oftentimes all televisions were turned off and the general rule was that the phone was not answered during dinner.  Of course this means that Craig and I will have to be diligent in ignoring our own technology devices while eating dinner with our kids which will be hard but at the same time, I think it will be what is best for our family as a unit.

Okay.  I didn't think that I would have so much to expain and think about just with technology....and by the time that she is old enough to use technology, who knows what kind of stuff will be out there!  I guess I'll have to continue on with rules regarding other aspects of our family life in a different post!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I Know

As a coach:
- I know that I come to work with the very best of intentions to lead my teams to accomplish the goals that we as coaches have set forth for each individual division and member.

- I know that I do my best to allow my assistant coach to take the reins of his own teams so that he can gain more knowledge of the sport and more confidence in himself as a coach.

- I know that I try to form lasting and personal relationships with all the athletes but I also know that some relationships are formed easier than others because of similar personalities.

- I know that I outline and construct practice lesson plans in order to best cover the wide range of skills necessary for my teams to be successful.

- I know that much like in the classroom with grades, playing time is not GIVEN but instead EARNED.  Everyone has the same opportunity to show what they know but it is what you do with that opportunity that makes the difference.

As a player:
- I know that it's hard to come out of a game after a bad run of passes and plays.

- I know that it is not about me as an individual but instead about what is best for the team as a whole.

- I know that I must trust that my coach is doing the best he/she can do in order to ensure team and individual success.

- I know that not only am I competing against the other team for points but I am competing against my teammates for playing time.

- I know that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, both personally and as a team.

As a mother:
- I know that my role is not to satisfy her every desire on a daily basis, but instead keep my eyes pointed twenty years in the future at creating a functioning and contributing member of society.

- I know that I must model for my daughter how to have a positive self-esteem as well as a humble mindset by acknowledging that all my gifts are God given.

- I know that sometimes I must ignore my Momma Bear instincts and stand aside so that my daughter can resolve her own conflicts and thus become a stronger and more independent woman.

- I know that my daughter will experience heartaches and failures but that these are all part of life.  My role as her mother is not to fix or prevent the problems but instead help and empower her to self-soothe or resolve the issues on her own.

And overall:
- I know that I am doing the best I can with what I have and that is enough.

- I know that there is only one entity that I must please with my actions and that is God. 

- I know that I am loved by my friends, my parents, my brothers, my husband, my puppy dog and my baby girl.  And that is all that matters.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Day Book

Outside my is 7:12 pm and the clouds are starting to build in the west - hopefully they will bring us rain soon.

I am thinking...about Halloween decorations, Christmas lists and six month picture outfits.  I've got a lot of lists to start making.

I am thankful husband.  WARNING: This is going to be mushy.  He is so inspiring to me because he has overcome such incredible tragedy in his life to become an amazing father, husband and man.  There is no doubt in my mind that he is the one that God selected for me to marry because he has been my source of strength and steadiness throughout the PPD. 

From the learning 8th graders did much better over the weekend at our volleyball tournament.  We split pool play games with a team that we lost to on Thursday night so we were able to advance out of our pool as a second place team and into the Championship bracket, which was my biggest goal going into the tournament.

From the kitchen...I made beef tips in the Crock-Pot today for dinner and it was really good!  They tasted like little bites of roast.  Mmm.

I am wearing...a school shirt and athletic shorts - we just took the pup and the baby for a walk around the neighborhood.  I can't wait until Natalie is big enough to run around the playground!

I am many lists!!!

I am have Natalie's six month photos taken on Sunday with a friend of mine from college.  I can't wait to catch up and see what kinds of beautiful pictures Heather is able to capture!
I am reading...Harry Potter to Natalie every night.  I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with fellow HP fan and former roomie Lauren - I've inspired her to read to her little boy Bennett when he is born in December!
I am hoping...that our family outing this morning brought closure to Craig.

I am hearing...planes go overhead to the airport.  I don't know what it is about this year.  Maybe it's because I have a family and therefore a greater understanding of love but all the September 11th stuff really got to me this year.  I can't help but think of what those people must have felt and experienced everytime a plane flies low over our house.

Around the house...we are getting more and more of Natalie's newborn baby stuff put away.  She's got her big girl car seat installed in Daddy's car and we've bagged up her play mat, her swing, her Bumbo and her little vibrator-bouncy thing - now it's just waiting for Craig to put it all away in the attic.
One of my favorite things...being able to mentor teenage girls through coaching.  That is the part that I'll miss when I go back to the classroom and quit coaching for good.
A few plans for the rest of the week: I have volleyball games on Monday and Thursday and a high school volleyball game on Tuesday night.  I think Craig and I are going to do some Halloween decorating projects on Saturday and then Natalie takes her six month photos on Sunday morning!

A picture I am sharing: A little tribute to the hubs.
Craig and I during our fabulous honeymoon to Antigua.  He really worked hard to plan a perfect honeymoon that was really something special.  On a separate note - don't I look so tan and thin?!

At our engagement party that we had at the horse races.  We rented a suite and invited all our friends and family - the best part was that Craig's Uncle Tim was able to join us in the celebration AND get some beautiful pictures!

Natalie and her Daddy.  I couldn't have ever imagined how wonderful he is with her.  She will have the hardest time finding a husband because no man will ever compare to how great her Daddy is!

Each year Craig makes the deal with his basketball players that if they win the district championship they can style his long, curly hair.  What a great look.

He sure does love his Dallas Stars.

On our most recent trip to Las Vegas for my birthday.  As my birthday present he arranged for me to have my hair and make-up done for our big dinner out on the last night!

Six Months Old!

Okay.  I totally skipped her five month chair with sign and puppy dog picture because it was on the day that we were leaving for Vegas for my birthday and things were cah-razy to say the least.  So in the last two months since I've done one of these pictures.....she has gotten a little (okay, a LOT) more active.  I might have to rethink my approach for her monthly pictures in the future.  As you can see....
This was a group activity - Momma made the sign and took the picture while Daddy held the sign and maneuvered the little creatures.

And then we tried to let Natalie hold the sign.....and Angie took advantage of a weak parenting moment to get a few licks in.

Daddy held the sign up closer while Natalie chose NOT to look at the camera because she was more focused on getting that piece of paper back into her mouth.

"Momma?  Daddy?  I'm donezo with these pictures."

Holy cow.  Are we really here?  Is she really this big?  And are we really halfway to her first birthday?  I know that it's such a cliche to say "they grow so fast" but time is flying by with her.  Part of me wishes that I could start all over and truly enjoy the first four months of her life without all the anxiety and frustration...but then again, I really enjoy her having a personality and being able to sit up on her own!

Vital Stats:
Height: about 28\7 inches, above the 95th percentile
Weight: 17 pounds, between the 50th and 75th percentile

As far as her growth goes...she's been pretty consistent with her length and weight gains.  Some other things that have been happening this month:

First day of school with Ms. Rebecca.  Through a co-worker and an old friend I was able to find the absolute BEST in-home child care for Natalie.  Ms. Rebecca is right in our neighborhood and takes care of a few older boys - Natalie is her first little girl to take care of!  She gets doted on all day by all the boys and I know Ms. Rebecca loves having a little girl around the house.

We are a definite SITTER now!  She started doing it on her own all of a sudden one day around 5 1/2 months old.  It really makes life so much easier - I can plop her down on a blanket with some toys and she will just sit and play all on her own.  I know that it's a fleeting time in her life because pretty soon she will be mobile and scooting around the house.  Having her sit up also makes going out in public so much easier as well - she is able to sit in a high chair at restaurants and in the seat on the cart at the store!

She loves, loves, loves to be able to sit up and play with her toys.  I love this picture because she is in her 12 month (yes...12 month at 6 months) pajamas that I adore and she is playing with her dollies.  One of my favorite things to do growing up was to play with any kind of dolls (Rainbow Brite, Cabbage Patch, My Little Pony, Barbie, Quints, etc.) with my mom.  I can't wait to share all that kind stuff with Natalie.

Just hanging out at Uncle Stephen and Aunt Meredith's house meeting her baby cousin Ian for the first time.

My parents and their four grandbabies: Alexander (almost 8), Ford (4.5), Natalie (6 mo.) and Ian (1 week).  Last Christmas we had two grandparents, three adult children and spouses, two grandsons and three pups (Andy, Annabelle and Angie).  In one year they doubled the amount of grandchildren that they have and this year at Christmas there will be FOUR little ones roaming around.  It will be fun...and completely hectic and crazy.

Oh man...we're getting so close to crawling!  Or she's just practicing baby yoga and doing her "child" pose.

She rode on the power wheels car that Grandaddy and Nonna found and cleaned up for her!

She played Legos with Uncle Michael when he was in town for a few days.  We can't wait until he is back down here full time!!!!!

- She also has found new voices - she babbles and she screeches!  The other night I was rocking her to sleep and she looked up at me with the sleepiest of eyes and said "ba ba ba ba ba."  And then closed her eyes and snuggled in to me.  My heart melted because I think that was her way of expressing some sort of love and comfort to me!!!
- I think she is starting to figure out hugs and kisses - she will kind of throw herself on you with her arms out and slobber on your face.  It's pretty much my most favorite thing at the end of the day.
- She was just recently sick for the first time over Labor Day weekend with croup.  She was just so pathetic.  It was also our first time as parents to really try and read our own gut instinct and do what was best for our baby.  In the end we were right - there was something much more serious going on in her body than just teething and we made the right decision by taking her to the emergency kids place.  FYI: Not the emergency room but Acute Care for Kids which is an after hours doctor's office right by our house - we LOVE it because it's quick and easy AND costs the same as a trip to the doctor!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Strengths....I guess. Weaknesses....for sure.

My 7th graders this year are posing a particularly interesting challenge for me.  Only one girl out of 38 has ever really played competitive volleyball before and the majority of the last four weeks with them have been spent pounding the fundamentals of the sport into their brain repeatedly.  They are a sweet group of girls but they have kept me on my toes and have forced me to continually think outside of the box when it comes to preparing practices for them.

Today was no exception.

Friday afternoon practices with 7th graders are tough.  No one wants to be there - we all would much rather be heading home straight after school with a glorious and relaxing weekend stretched out in front of us.  The girls were in the midst of a competition drill which focused on getting three touches (pass, set, hit) before sending the ball back over the net to the opposing team.  I looked around the gym and there was no dedication, inspiration or perspiration for that matter.  Something had to be done.....something on a deeper level.

I ran into the coaching office, grabbed our cup of pencils and a stack of blank white printer paper and headed back into the gym and waited for the drill to finish.  I handed each girl a piece of white paper and a pencil and described their assignment:

1. Write five things in volleyball that you are really good at - could include physical things like passing or serving, but also the intangibles such as encouragement to teammates or focus on the court.

2. Write five things you struggle with in volleyball and things you need to improve.

3. Beside your struggles, include a team members name that you would like to emulate or that you could go to for help with that particular aspect of the game.

I gave them eight minutes to write and off they went with their respective teams (Division I, II and III) to separate corners of the gym to work on their assignment.

On a completely different note - while I was describing their assignment, my principal chose that moment to walk into practice to speak to me regarding an entirely separate subject.  He stood in the corner and listened to the directions I was giving the girls....BROWNIE POINTS FOR ME!!!  :)

After the girls finished their writing I had them share their thoughts and I sat down with my Division I team to partipate in the discussion.  From a coaching standpoint it was incredibly enlightening - I was able to find out who the physical leaders on the team were but more importantly, who my emotional leaders were which is knowledge that can change the course of a game for sure.

Although this information was good to have something bigger stood out to me.  Here is a collection of what the girls would say about their strengths:

"I am okay at serving."
"I pass to target sometimes."
"When my serves go in, they're really good."
"I think I know the rotation."

There are no definitive statements.....but when it came to their weaknesses they had no trouble laying it out.

"I really need to work on my serving."  (Imagine this said oh so dramatically by a 12 year old girl.)
"Ugh.  I do NOT understand the rotation!"
"I'm not a good passer."

In addition to being able to so clearly define their own weaknesses they also had no problem acknowledging which girls on the team were better than them at those skills!

This left me wondering - what would the "strengths" have sounded like if it was a group of 7th grade football players?  I have a feeling we would have had 38 different young men that are all better quarterbacks than Peyton Manning and who can run faster than Usain Bolt.

So here I am at the big picture.  Why is it that so many women have a problem feeling confident in their strengths?  And when does the switch happen from confident little girl who will be both an astronaut AND Miss America while serving as President of the United States to a seemingly fragile young woman who is afraid to acknowledge that they are good at ANYTHING?!  Is there a fear of being labeled "conceited" and "full of herself?" 

Being humble doesn't mean hanging your head down low and never having confidence in yourself.  For me it means to keep things in perspective and to have a realistic view of oneself. 

For example:
- I know that if you looked at my coaching career as a whole.....I am a great coach.  I have had and will continue to have my not so great moments here and there, but overall - I'm doing a very good job in all aspects of coaching and teaching.  The girls are learning and excelling in the sport as well as enjoying themselves along the way.
- God blessed with a natural aptitude for everything athletic.  Give me almost any sport and I can play it to some sort of higher level ability.  Obviously volleyball and basketball are my strongest sports, but I'm a great swimmer, I can throw a mean spiral with the football and I was the best girl on the church softball team in high school. 
- I am a leader.  I don't get nervous when I'm in front of a large group of people and I know how to give directions and convey information in a clear, concise and entertaining way.  People pay attention when I talk and naturally tend to do what I say.  Or maybe the kids are just a wee bit intimidated by me with my booming voice and six foot stature.  Ha, ha, ha. 

BUT...on the other hand:
- I have a short amount of patience.  I tend to want things done how I want them and when I want them.  I struggle with this daily because my precious little darlings don't always function at the level I would like and I have to really center myself sometimes before overreacting.
- I am not the craftiest person.  Every once in awhile I will get a wild hair and peruse the aisles of Hobby Lobby for a project, but most of the time I tend to outsource those kinds of things to my two incredibly talented and much craftier friends, Heather and Amy.
- I cannot sing and nor can I play an instrument.  God did not include these things in my list of talents.  But given the choice of voice selection, I would choose to sing like Adele.  Sigh.  Her songs and her voice speak to my soul.  Sidenote: one of the few positive memories I have of Natalie and I during my maternity leave was one night I was in the kitchen and while cooking dinner and listening to my iPod Natalie became increasingly upset and agitated.  I scooped her up off the playmat and began dancing around the kitchen with her in my arms all the while singing "Rolling in the Deep" from Adele's 21 album.  It is a picture I will forever hold in my heart because it was a moment of freedom from PPD when I could just enjoy a spontaneous ounce of joy with my daughter.

I ended my practice describing what I heard from the girls in the manner of which they spoke about their strengths and how timid they were to truly acknowledge that they were good at something.  I told them that when they said "I'm good at passing SOMETIMES" that the sentence should have ended after the word "passing."  It's okay to acknowledge that you're talented as long as you realize that there are imperfections as well.  And hopefully they also understood that struggles and challenges in volleyball are perfectly acceptable as long as you are actively pursuing an increase of skill in those areas - hence the writing down of people on the team that you admire for those skills.

Regardless of the greater societal implications that this little activity shined a light on, I think it helped to bring some unity to the girls as well as served as an interesting inventory of the girls' perception of each other for me.  I will be repeating it with my 8th graders on gameday next Thursday - I'm interested to see if another year of maturity and growth will produce stronger conviction in their attributes and maybe more complex weaknesses in their athletic and emotional abilities.

Momma Bear

I have a new title among my 8th grade Division I volleyball players.  I am no longer "Coach" but instead "Momma." 

Sounds a little creepy, right?  Let me give you the background.

I have a wonderful group of girls this year - they aren't necessarily the most athletically talented girls I've ever coached BUT they are the best listeners.  They generally trust me and my volleyball knowledge and when I tell them to do something different or make an adjustment to their game they do it and voila - they become a better player and a better team.  I would much rather coach a group of kiddos that listen and apply what I tell them than a team full of stubborn athletes.

There is one special young lady who has a very unique spark that is truly God given - she is full of life, incredibly witty and lights up the court and her teammates with her enthusiasm and energy.  But there is one thing that she struggles with in volleyball - her height.  She's my shortest player (but with the highest jump) and desperately wants to hit as easily as the taller girls.  This has been such a challenge for her that it landed her in tears one morning practice after a game.  She and I had a heart to heart about the challenges in life that God gives us and how this is just one of those things she is going to struggle with during volleyball.  I promised her that we would work on her hitting to find a way for her to be successful and have the glory that comes along with getting a great hit over the net.

Last night was our 3rd district game and I was a little nervous seeing how terrible the girls had played last week and this week we were playing a VERY tough team.  From the start of the very first volley I knew something special was going to happen.  My first six girls on the court were playing phenomenally - talking it up, serving well, passing perfectly and taking risks by hitting the ball on the third touch.

By the way - if you don't understand volleyball, I totally apologize for all the "lingo" I'm throwing around in this post.

The game was neck and neck, back and forth for every point and I was going hoarse from all the yelling, albeit it was GOOD yelling...but yelling nonetheless.  I called a time out and I looked at my little one and told her if she got the opportunity to hit "her" hit - she has a great back row attack (a jump and hit from behind the 10' line).  She and the other setting looked at me like I was crazy and they tried to convince me that physically that would never happen because of their position on the court, blah, blah, blah.  I cut them off and looked at her and said "If the opportunity happens...hit the dang ball from the back row.  I know you can do it."  She looked at me again like I was crazy but just said "Ok coach," and we broke from the huddle and the team returned to the court. 

And what would you the next rally, the front row setter set the ball and there she comes from right back, flying through the air and KABOOM!  She sends if flying over the net, knocks down a member of the opposing team and we win the point.  The gym completely erupted as did the six girls on the court and the six sitting next to me on the bench.  The team collapsed on my special little girl and I wish I had a picture of the joy on her face. 

After I settled down from the excitement, I had tears in my eyes.

I love my girls.  That much I already knew.  I put my heart and soul into coaching them and as an emotional person I can't help but get attached to my 8th graders each year. 

But this year is different.  Maybe it's that I'm a mother now and I look at each of these girls as someone else's daughter.  Maybe it's just a special group of girls that I've formed a unique bond with.  I don't know.  But I wanted that hit for this girl.  Not because I wanted to get the team a point....but I wanted her to feel the joy, the pride and the accomplishment of that moment when you hit the ball and are successful.  I prayed that she would figure out how she can best serve her team and I'm so glad that I was able to find her "sweet spot" - that area on the court from which she can hit the best. 

So back to the Momma Bear.

Each morning after a game we get together as a team and hand out awards for the best plays and stand out players of the game the previous night.  Of course this girl got a special award - the heart award, given to the girl each week that plays with the most heart for the game.  I talked with the team about the discussions that this young lady and I have had regarding hitting and height.  I discussed how proud I was of her because I wanted that success for her - I wanted her to know that she can do anything she wants.  And of course, I got a little choked up about it and then that started me talking about how I am so much more of a sap after I had a baby.  They looked at me and said "Aww."  And thus started the "momma bear" comments. 

But I'm okay with it....because to a certain extent...during the volleyball season, I am their momma bear.  I push them to be better, I comfort them when they are having a bad day and I protect them from refs when they are in a game. 

I've always been one to wear my heart on my sleeve and I always thought of this trait as a bad characteristic of mine.  But I feel that when my players know how much I care about them, not only as players but as young women as well....I think I inspire them to work harder, play smarter and become the best athletes and young women that they can be.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who am I?

I've never met this woman but I read her blog everyday.  In a lot of ways, she and I are very different but there is something about the way that she writes that I connect with and today was no different.  Today over on Blue Eyed Bride, Erin wrote about "The Evolution of a Mom."

Read it and come back.

Okay, you back with me now?!

Erin expressed so many things that I think every mother struggles with...especially for those of us who become mothers a little bit later in life.  Yes.  I know that 28 isn't exactly LATE in life, but I definitely had a career and entire lifestyle established long before I brought a little person into this world. 

I think the whole concept of "who am I now" was the root of all my struggles with PPD after Natalie was born...and although I'm in a much better place now that I've gone back to work full time, I still have my identity crisis moments.

Before Natalie (and really, before I was ever pregnant) I was able to focus my time, energy and entire being to coaching volleyball and although I've written this before I will reiterate it - when Craig brought Natalie up to the volleyball game the other night, my heart was ripped in two.  Half of it was on the court and in the game with the girls but the other half jumped clear across the gym and into the stands, wanting nothing more than to forget the game and go home to cuddle and play with my baby girl.

The last six months have really challenged my sense of purpose in this world and forced me to redefine how I value myself and my success.  It's no secret that I like check things off and get high from finishing up a lengthy "to do" list.  Graduated high school with honors....check.  Graduated college with honors....check.  Career straight out of college....check.  Bought first car and rented apartment on my own....check.  And although I can check "get married and start a family" off my list because I have physically done both of those things, there really aren't any clear parameters by which to measure how well I do both of those things. 

And yes, I am aware that I am totally rambling and probably not coherent in any manner but please bear with me as there will most likely be some sort of majorly thoughtful conclusion at some point in time.  But in the meantime - welcome to the slightly chaotic and sometimes out of control mind of a PPD woman.  :)

I guess what my major point is - I used to be able to so clearly see my success and feel good about the work that I was doing in my life but with being a wife and a mother, it's a little bit hazier to really define "success." 

And back to Erin's original point about evolving into motherhood - I have struggled with the feeling of being "selfish" if I tried to maintain any part of my former self instead of devoting my entire everything to being Natalie's mother.  But I think of my own mother who, although I always knew that she loved me, I also knew that she wasn't just MY MOTHER but also a daughter, a wife, a friend, a sister, a youth minister and most importantly.....she was a woman with her own fears, desires, dreams, etc.  She has set the example for me that I can be not only Natalie's mother, but a teacher and coach, a wife....and just Laura - a woman who loves to play volleyball, read books, and sometimes sings really loudly in the car by herself.

Over the summer I went to a 30th birthday celebration for my friend Shevawn and people were good naturedly joking with her about any "fears" regarding her leaving her twenties forever.  I loved the response that Shevawn gave which was something along the lines of how she was looking forward to turning 30 because in her twenties she felt a lot of conflict about who she was (college student, wife, teacher, mother, etc.) but with the start of this new decade in her life, she felt more confident about who she is and her place in this world.  I love that concept.  I want to be in that place emotionally.  I've been there before....a long time ago before Natalie was ever introduced into our lives and I know that I'll get there again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

Ten years ago today....I was in the first few weeks of my freshman year at UNT.  I was on my way to my first class - a science class all the way across the campus in the Environmental Science building.

Today....I am in the first few weeks of my 7th year teaching in the district, I have a six month old baby girl and have been married for 18 months.

Ten years ago this morning....I was confusedly being turned away from my science class by my professor who was in tears and mumbling something about her brother that worked at the Pentagon.  I checked my cell phone and listened to the most bizarre messages from my mother and my friend Sam each mentioning something about the country being at war.

This morning....I watched my baby play on the blanket in the middle of the living room bathed in early morning light and completely unaware of the tragedy that her father and I were reliving on the television screen.

Ten years ago emotionally....I felt sad and a little shaken but I was excited about having a beautiful free day off from school to hang out with my friends.

Ouch.  That feels kind of crappy to admit.

Today emotionally....the scenes are jarring and unsettling.  I have a greater understanding of the horror that those individuals experienced on that Tuesday morning.  Anything and everything could happen to my family and loved ones at any moment in time.  I held my baby a little closer and made sure Craig knew that I love him.

Sunday Day Book

Outside my is 7:07 and the light is starting to fade in through the windows.

I am amazing that it has been 10 years and that my child will be of the generation that really doesn't have the full grasp of what happened today in 2001.
I am thankful for...bravery, sacrifice and dedication.
From the learning rooms...still no wins from the volleyball court.  Last week was a little rough for my 8th graders - they were a hot mess both on the court and off.  My 7th graders are improving - we had a great practice on Friday afternoon which made me feel incredibly hopeful for Monday night's game and the rest of the school year.

From the kitchen...Craig has been doing such a great job planning and cooking dinners for us while I'm in volleyball.  Last week he even attempted meatloaf and It was pretty good!

I am wearing...a t-shirt of Craig's and athletic shorts.  My baby girl is sitting on the floor of the living room wearing her pajama shirt....and a diaper. 

I am creating...nothing major this week.  My brain hurts and I'm tired.

I am have coffee with a former co-worker this afternoon and to the grocery store but other than that...not going anywhere important.

I am reading...for twenty minutes everynight.  I'm at the beginning of The Girl Who Played With Fire.  Love, love, love this trilogy.

I am hoping...that volleyball season keeps going quickly.  With every week that passes by I'm closer to Craig's basketball season, closer to shorter work days and hopefully closer to cooler weather!
I am hearing...Natalie cooing and gooing on the floor and the bagpipes of the September 11th memorial on the television.

Around the house...I've got to get Natalie's clothing situation under control.  She has outgrown her 6 month clothes and we were recently gifted with some wintery 12 months stuff that I have to sort through and divide up into keep and donate piles.

One of my favorite things...Natalie's new "hugs" that she gives me when she's happy to be with her Momma.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Volleyball games on Monday and Thursday nights and then an all day tournament Saturday with the 8th graders.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


One of the things that Craig and I were most excited about when we found out we were pregnant was the idea of celebrating holidays with Natalie.  I've never been a big Halloween person because I don't like dressing up and I'm not big candy and chocolate fan.  But with Natalie around this year we are definitely getting more into the holiday spirit - Craig insisted the other day at Target that we start decorating for Halloween around the house. 

It's a good thing that I find his boyish enthusiasm for holiday decorating endearing and cute because rearranging my house and tacky holiday decor is probably at the top of my pet peeve list.

I seriously hate taking things down and replacing them with decorations THAT DON'T MATCH anything that I have in my house.  So I've been searching on Pinterest for holiday ideas that are cheap and fashionable at the same time.  I haven't quite figured out how to properly load pictures straight from Pinterest onto my Blogger site.
Black thumbtacks pushed into a pumpkin.  Easy to do the "N" for our last name.

I love this one - all I need is some paint and maybe some sort of finishing gloss to set it?!  I can do our names or initials and set it out on the porch....and by this time next year that would be an easy and creative activity to do with Natalie.

Place stickers all around the pumpkin and then paint the entire thing black.  Super cute.

I love candy corn and this would be so simple to do with some spray paint - I could use fake pumpkins and reuse them every year!

I still have a few hurricane vases left over from our wedding rehearsal and my absolute favorite thing about Halloween is candy corn.  This is such a cute idea although I would have a hard time not eating the candy!

Again - something cute for the mantle or entryway table.  I could use things I already have and use scrapbooking supplies and ribbon for the letters.

I have a feeling at some point in time our house might be used for some sort of Halloween party and I LOVE this look.  The shades of black, gray and white look so much classier than orange and black (which always reminds me of a prison uniform).

I have a couple of pots on the front porch with fake flowers (eek!) from our wedding (which was a year and a half ago!) that desperately need to be replaced.  I could easily get a few pumpkins and paint them like above and set them out on the porch.

A different variation on the apothecary jars above.

I love this look - easy to do with a glue gun and some fun ribbon!  It could be a centerpiece on the kitchen or coffee table.

That's all I have for right now.  Now it's just a matter of putting these plans into action and seeing if I can recreate any of these ideas!  I'll keep you posted!

Does anyone else feel the pressure to be Martha freaking Stewart around the holidays?!  And does anybody else absolutely dread holiday season because of that pressure?!

It's just me?  Oh.  Okay.  Hmm....

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Walk

I'll repeat what everyone on Facebook is saying today - it is the most gorgeous day outside!  The sky is clear and blue and there is a breeze....and most is in the 80s!  Hurray! 

Craig, myself and the little creatures had a lazy morning complete with Craig and Angie sleeping in while Natalie and I went downstairs for coffee, cream of wheat, a bottle and Dora the Explorer followed up by everyone playing and hanging out in our big bed.  Around ten o'clock we pulled ourselves out of bed and threw on some quick clothes, bundled up the baby girl (well...she wore pants and lightweight hoodie jacket), put on Angie's necklace (or a collar as you might call it) and leash and off we went.  We have the cutest park right by our house with a great playground and duck pond - it was so full this morning!  I guess everyone else in the neighborhood had the same idea we did! 

As we approached the park with puppy dog on the leash and Natalie cooing in her stroller I felt a flashback.  It was on one of these great kind of autumn days that Craig and I were going around with our realtor Hudson Floyd looking at houses.  We drove through our current neighborhood and I saw other people having exactly what I wanted - a house, a dog, a family and Saturday afternoons spent hanging out at the park.  Craig and I weren't even engaged at this time but there wasn't a doubt in my mind that he was the man with whom I wanted to make my dreams come true.

Oh.  That sounded incredibly cheesy didn't it?  I apologize.

But the truth we drove through the neighborhood I saw what I wanted for my future flash before my eyes.  I craved the stability and simplicity that seemed to abound in the families that were playing at the park that day.  Their joy in life wasn't from fancy clothes or decadent dinners but from walking down the street with a little hand clasped in their own on their way to fly down a slide and feed the ducks. 

Having lived here for three years I know that just because the houses are pretty and the park is fun doesn't mean that things going on behind the windows and doors in my neighborhood are sunshine and roses.  But all the stormclouds that come along with being married, raising a child and working two full time (and then some!) jobs can be forgotten for a moment with one simple walk down the street on a beautiful sunny day with my loving husband, my beautiful baby girl and my loyal pup.


I took Stats in college during the May Minimester and I got an A. 

So...I'm pretty good at Math and everything associated with data.

And that's why I don't like Blogger's new statistics feature that shows you how many people have viewed your blog and how many times and all that other fun stuff.

Because I just don't have a lot of visitors. 

And that makes me kind of sad.

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day which, according to reliable Wikipedia sources is...

a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.

And Lord knows I've been making some economic but MOSTLY social contributions as a worker lately.

So I definitely have earned my day off - I had tons of plans this weekend to really enjoy our three days off with a graduation party, two birthday parties and a visit with my middle brother who is in town from Maine as part of his "moving back to Texas" plan. But all this fun and excitement got derailed with the little one woke up looking absolutely terrible on Saturday morning. She hadn't been sleeping well on Thursday and Friday nights but we attributed her wakefulness to her two first teeth coming in through her bottom gums. But by Saturday morning the teeth were in but she was still fussy and red-eyed with a runny nose. That night as I was getting ready to go to my friend's graduation party I walked into her bedroom and took one look at her pathetic little face sitting there curled up in Craig's arms and I made my decision - I took off my party dress and put on shorts and a t-shirt...we were headed to the Acute Kids Care office to see what was going on with her. Less than an hour later we walked out with the diagnosis of "croup" which basically means she has a lot of congestion in her least that's what I gathered. She had an oral steroid while we were there and when we got home she got a nice warm bath with lotion and a little baby Vick's on her chest. We raised up her mattress with a blanket so that she could sleep with her head elevated to help with the drainage. She slept through the night for the first time in several nights. Whew. Yesterday she was better but she took a TON of naps. I think she was just so exhausted from not sleeping well due to the congestion and from her body trying to fight off this virus. This morning she woke up and the bags under her eyes are gone and even though she still has a VERY runny nose, I'm okay with it because I think that all the congestion is finally making it's way out of her body.

In other Labor Day news, I have been working my butt off for the past two weeks. I know that the start of school ishectic for all teachers but I think that middle school volleyball coaches have it the worst. We have try-outs the first week of school (while the football teams don't make any cuts) and we have games the second week of school with the 7th graders only having two practices before we put them out on a court (while the boys have two full weeks of practices before they have a scrimmage). It's a lot of stuff crammed into a small amount of time. I don't even want to calculate how much time I've been spending up at school...

Monday: 7:00 - 6:00, practice, school, practice = 11 hours
Tuesday: 7:00 - 8:30, practice, school, practice, Open House = 13.5 hours
Wednesday: 7:00 - 8:30, practice, school, 7th grade games = 13.5 hours
Thursday: 8:15 - 7:30, school, 8th grade games = 11 hours, 15 minutes
Friday: 7:00 - 6:00, practice, school, practics = 11 hours
TOTAL: 60 hours, 15 minutes

I know there are those critics out there that say that teacher's shouldn't complain about their job or their salary because we get so much time off during the year. Maybe we do...but that's 60.25 hours a week that I'm devoting my time and energy to raising and developing YOUR child into a functioning member of society while I have other people watching mine.

Which opens up another topic - last week was hard because I didn't see Natalie too much. I would get home with just enough time to quickly change clothes and sit in the chair with her and read Harry Potter while she drifted off to sleep. Oh the doubts and worries this brought up... Will she remember me? Does she know that I'm "Momma" and different from all the other women that are helping to take care of her right now? Will we have a bond even though I'm not around very often right now?

I know that biologically she and I are connected in a way that no one else shares with her - I carried her for nine months and my voice will forever be a source of comfort and security to her. Rationally, I know that she knows who her Momma is and although she can be comforted by other people (which in the long run is a GOOD thing) I am and always will be number one in her book.

At least I hope.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Day Book

Outside my is 8:46 in the morning and outside is apparently a little cooler this morning.

I am thinking...of things that I would like for Christmas.  It's never too early to put together a list, right?

I am thankful for...the modern medicine that helped Natalie feel better last night so that we were all able to get a better and more restful sleep last night.

From the learning 7th grade volleyball team has SO FAR to go.  I always forget how LITTLE they know at the beginning of the year.  My 8th graders look pretty good and I think we'll do alright overall.  I'm excited about coaching them because they listen and apply what I tell them to do.

From the kitchen...I think I just want something easy and comforting for dinner tonight - chili dogs?!

I am wearing...a t-shirt and athletic shorts and probably some bags under my eyes.  If baby ain't sleeping, ain't NOBODY sleeping.

I am creating...tons and tons of volleyball practice plans.

I am going...absolutely NOWHERE today.  We had two birthday parties scheduled for today but with the croup that she just got diagnosed with, our plans for today and possibly tomorrow kind of got killed off.

I am reading...too much into people's actions and always assuming the worst.

I am hoping...that baby girl keeps feeling better throughout the day.  I think getting 10 straight hours of sleep last night definitely helped the little booger feel better.

I am hearing...Craig's gentle snoring next to me and Natalie's throaty breathing through the monitor - poor little thing.

Around the house...there is a ton of laundry to fold and the sinks are full of dirty dishes.  Although we are staying home today that doesn't mean we won't be working!

One of my favorite things...watching my 8th grade girls play the game that they love.

A few plans for the rest of the week: I have volleyball games on Wednesday and Thursday nights but luckily no other commitments other than those.
A picture I am sharing:
Last Sunday Craig, Natalie and I all went over to my eldest brother's house (Stephen and Meredith) and met their new baby boy, Ian Andrew.  Here are my parents with their FOUR grandbabies: Alexander in the back - he is in second grade and will turn 8 in November, Ford is in the middle on the bottom - he is four and a half and will be in Kindergarden next year; Natalie is almost six months old and Ian is a week old in this picture!  Christmas this year will be crazy and fun!