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This past weekend we loaded up and headed south to my home town in Brevard County, FL.  My sister and her family graciously let us stay with her and fed us and endured the volume.

 My niece, Nicole, graduated from high school (and also 2 years of college!) a few weeks ago.  We were unable to go then, but went this past weekend so we could see her recognized with other graduates at church on Sunday.  It made me think about my buddies at church that I graduated with.

Here I am with Nicole and Penelope as she was getting ready to walk down to the front of the church.

And here I am on my Graduation Sunday at church.  I love these guys.  Such great memories.
The Alley's love Nicole.

And on a side note, my sister reminded me that when she came to my high school graduation, Nicole was almost exactly the same age as Juliet is now.  Crazy!

We also hit the beach three times and being at home made me miss the ocean and my home town community of leather backs, retirees, and surfers.  Seriously, I reminisced a lot and enjoyed my boogie board rides (it's amazing how it's like riding a bike) and cruising A1A telling my kids stories about my past.
Ju-Ju with Elise
I love the Atlantic Ocean!  It is home to me.

The kids loved playing in the ocean.  It made me a little nervous but they really handled the waves and currents well.  I was proud of them.

Our visit also included a visit with Jimmy's cousin, Robert, his wife Emily and their 13 month old, Henry.  We invaded their house with all the Alley chaos we could manage and enjoyed hanging out for a couple hours and letting the second cousins meet.

Cute Cousins
Yesterday on the way home we drove through Orlando to visit IKEA and pick up some furniture we've been wanting to get.  They were having a deal that if you spent more than $100 you could also turn in your receipt from your meal there and they would reimburse you for it.  So of course, we did.

 What we did not consider is that everyone else in the entire Orlando area was also going to IKEA to do the same thing.  But we made it through, then drove all the way to Tallahassee with three large boxes.  One in the van and two on top.  In the rain bands of a tropical storm.  Needless to say, we all went to bed exhausted last night.  The car trip home was hairy to put it nicely but these things make you stronger as a family.  Right?

Here we are riding home.



When I graduated from Florida State with my BFA in Art, I was sad.  It was the end of something and I knew it.  I could feel it.  I did not want it to be over.  I have always been this way.  I even formed an attachment to a phone from my childhood.

This week I had to say goodbye to the preschool four of my kids have attended.  Even though this school year we no longer lived down the street we kept Penelope there because the preschool is just that good.  But we're not sure what we will be doing when Juliet is preschool age, so I have said goodbye to Covenant Presbyterian Preschool in case this is the end for us.  Endings are no fun!

A friend, Carl, that I graduated with from art school felt the same.  We talked about how it was a little depressing when it should feel pretty good, graduating college and all.  He wrote on the wall in the studio, "It's not an end it's a beginning."  We had talked about this too.  I tried to get excited for the beginning.  It was hard, but the truth can be hard.

It truly was a beginning for me.  A month or so later, I got engaged. 

And began.

And  the older I get, the more of these little life endings I'm forced to live through.  It can make me feel old and tired.  I have been blessed with a heavenly perspective on these things, but at times it's hard to grasp it.  I am only human.  And this human thinks endings suck.

So I'm going to miss preschool.  Sometimes I pick up my near eight year old girl and tell her how I'm going to be sad when I can't pick her up anymore.  Today the neighbor who lives behind us called me to tell me his wife of over 60 years passed away last night.  And the children feel the weight of an ending too.  Cash remarked sadly, "Now he is all alone."  Endings are hard.

But it's just preschool after all.  We can visit.  It's not the end of the world.  It's the beginning of something else.  Right?  Only now I have stretch marks and gray hairs peeking through and children I can't pick up anymore.  The whole thing hits you pretty hard sometimes.

And just one more thing.  When did my blog go from hilarious descriptions of poopy diapers to melancholy ramblings about life changes?



Happy Mother's Day 2012

Had a great Mother's Day with my wonderful family including my parents.  Even my sister via Skype.  Wanted to share this comic Libby wrote earlier this week since it's about a mom.  Libby has captured it perfectly.  Sometimes, as hard as you try to stay positive, you end up saying, "Just forget it."


Multi-Grain Cheerios

Yesterday Jackson went on an all day field trip to Pensacola.  We were thoroughly packing Thursday night since he had to wake up before dawn and be at the school at 5:45 a.m. the next day.  Looking toward a long bus ride with his classmates, we plugged in his iPod Shuffle to charge and I also remembered I had a large pad of Mad Libs, and asked him if he'd like to take some along.

He got excited and said he would take the whole thing.  He also brought an entire pack of pens, so he could pass them all out and share them.

Within minutes of stepping off the bus late last night he told me that as soon as they pulled away that morning that "everyone" pulled out their Nintendo DS and messaged each other the entire way there.  Some were using the phone of their chaperone parent.  He then proceeded to of course tell me that he wanted a DS.

I had forgotten about the Mad Libs but remembered later today and asked him if he used any of them.  He said "No, everyone was too busy with the movies and other stuff."

I have held out getting a cell phone and Facebook account.  This makes me feel old and the opposite of hip.  I do not text, twitter, or pin.  It is enough to read a few blogs and keep up with e mail and my home phone. 

And the above story illustrates why...I don't want to get to a point where I text someone sitting a few rows down from me and Mad Libs are boring and not stimulating enough. 

A few weeks ago I found a box of letters spanning my freshman year of college until my wedding.  Real letters.  Some typed, many written by hand, more than one encouraging me to get an e mail address.  The hour I spent looking through that box of letters lifted my spirits.  They were extremely personal. 

I'm sure much out of my love for paper, I am sad to think that my children will not have written memories of their friends and loved ones.  I do encourage them to write letters to their friends.  I hope we can strike a balance between these new forms--text, Facebook, twitter--of communication (which are unfortunately often selfish and convenient) and the ways of the past.

And I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but here is the truth:  When Jimmy leaves his Facebook page open on the computer and I spend some time scrolling through his friend's updates, I don't feel edified or encouraged.  Often I feel inadequate and discouraged.  I definitely feel as though I've neglected what is going on around me.  Mostly I get the feeling that many are wrapping their self worth into how many comments or likes they receive and spend much of their time trying to promote and prove themselves to people who supposedly already call themselves their friends.

I even had reservations about this blog at first.  But hopefully I can write with a pure heart and leave a history for my kids.  So kids, one day, when you get a cell phone, please don't look at your phone instead of me when I'm talking to you.  Because I don't have one for that very reason.  I want to look at you when you're talking to me.  You are growing up way too fast for me to miss anything.  Embrace technology.  Just remember it can't hug you back.

"Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar;"  Romans 3:4


Garden Dress

My good friend Tara made this adorable dress for Juliet.  Today I took pictures of her in it as she walked around our driveway, our neighbor's driveway, and then took her in the backyard so I could photograph her next to our garden, which we planted the first week of March.

Juliet is quite good at walking now, so my inept fashion photography was even more challenged because the model would not stand still. Thank you for the dress, Tara.  It makes my heart happy.  How can you not love the back of her fat little knees?  And she also had matted peanut butter in the back of her hair.  No one would know if I didn't say it, but it just endears me to her even more.  She smelled like peanut butter all day.  It's a toddler thing.

Here we are by the garden.  It has really gotten big and the beans and tomatoes have taken over everything.  We really had no idea what we were doing.  This is our first attempt at planting anything for school that didn't just sit in our windowsill until I threw it away.

Have you ever seen some incredible person who had done some incredible feat say, "If I can do it, anyone can do it!"  I never believe these people.  It's things like, "If I can run a marathon, anyone can run a marathon." or "If I can become a concert pianist, anyone can become a concert pianist." You get the idea. And you're saying to yourself, right buddy, I could never do that.  But let me say it, and this is true.  If the Alley's can plant a garden, ANYONE can plant a garden.

I seriously thought that we would stare at black dirt for the entire summer and wonder what we did wrong.  I had no faith that it would produce anything.  I really only did it because my five year old asked me every single day, multiple times a day, for about two months, when we were going to plant our garden.  (Yesterday I told him I'm glad he bothered me about it.  You won't hear me say that very often.  That I'm glad someone bothered me.)

Tonight we ate our first batch of beans and they were good.  Your kids don't give you a hard time about eating their vegetables when you can use lines like, "You planted these seeds with your bare hands.  You watered them.  We are not going to waste them!"  They all ate them up.  Juliet especially.

Ju-Ju in her garden dress.  So sweet I could pick her up and eat her!  Wait, am I talking about the beans or the baby?  It's all blurring together this late at night...