Happy New Year!

We rang in the New Year here at the McResidence with McDaddy’s two brothers, his sister and their families. In all, there were 19 of us sleeping in this house last night. Twelve of those people were under the age of 11.

We partied like rock-stars until well after midnight.

Or something like that.

This is my sister-in-law, Michelle and I (and the cute cowl she made for my 40th birthday!) just before midnight.

All the while, the kids were going nine kinds of crazy just behind us with blow-horns that I got at the Mart of Walls. [Have you ever had the joy of hearing TWELVE blow horns at one time? If not, you most definitely should.]

Anyway, a few days earlier, I saw a picture on Carrie Ann Innaba’s Facebook page that included a box of envelopes, along with members of her family holding cash money. (If you’ve ever been to a party at my house, you know that I am a sucker for games and prizes, so I am always on the lookout for a new game AND this one seemed fun!)

First, I bought a box of envelopes and a gift card.

Then, I searched my house over for flat items that would fit inside of the envelopes.

(And this is where I should include a picture of those items, but I got over zealous and placed the items in the envelopes before taking a picture.)

I randomly placed 20 coupons for a free frosty at Wendy’s (which I bought for Halloween treat bags and THEN FORGOT ABOUT), six gift cards for free games of bowling (which the boys received months ago when attending a birthday party at the bowling alley), three packets of Kool-Aid (we get wild and crazy up in here, folks!) two bookmarks, a ten-dollar bill and a five-dollar bill in the envelopes.

We sat in a circle (kids and adults) and passed the box of envelopes, pulling one envelope at a time until all the envelopes were pulled. It was so much fun and even the youngest child (3 years old) caught on pretty quick. The even funnier part is that the envelope box fell to the floor as it was being passed and the envelopes spilled out all over the floor. We ended up placing the envelopes in a basket to finish the game out.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you should go HERE right now and watch our nephew, Noah FINALLY picking a winning envelope after several rounds of picking an empty one. (I’m hoping the link works!)

And of course we ate. And ate. And ate some more.

It was a wonderful way to ring in the New Year and we all had a great time together.

I am looking forward to a wonderful 2014!

2013 Year In Review

When I saw on Facebook today that Jo-Lynne was hosting her annual Blog Review, I knew I wanted to participate again. I love to look back on our year, and remember the fun times we’ve shared as a family. (For that reason, I won’t be posting What I Learned This Week, but, I am adding a linky, so that you can link up your end-of-year posts, too.)

For years, I scrapbooked 73% of our lives. Sadly though, life happened and it became more important to live it, than it did to scrapbook it, so I haven’t done that since 2008. I recently decided to start making photo books on Shutterfly, so hopefully I’ll get caught up that way.

Until then, I’ll have to rely on my Year In Reviews here on the blog.

January

Our year started off with a bang, when my sweet little family had the privilege of meeting TobyMac and Matthew West.

Also in January, I signed up to compete in a Biggest Loser Challenge.

February

With the exception of exercising daily for the Biggest Loser challenge, the month of February was pretty calm… Until the 26th of that month, when my mom left work because she was dizzy. That was the last day that she walked unassisted, and the start of life-changing events for my family (which is also the reason my daily blogging became more like weekly blogging).

March

With only ten blog posts during the month of March, there’s not much to write about, except that McDaddy passed a very important test required for military promotion

and that I spent A LOT of time trying to trust and clinging to God’s promises. OH, and how could I forget that March was the start of a whole string of kidney-stone related problems that would take me FOUR FRIGGIN’ MONTHS to get over.

April and May

I ended up losing 8.2 pounds in the biggest loser contest, but lost 20 more pounds after that thanks to the flu, the kidney stones, and worrying about my sweet momma.

AND! I could barely kuWait to share the news that came this month, after finding out that one of McDaddy’s co-workers was selflessly taking the six-month deployment to Kuwait originally assigned to McDaddy. Folks, it felt like we hit the lottery, because that meant that this guy

would be with us for all of our birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve and Valentine’s Day.  So yes, you could say EXCITEMENT!

June

My sweet ten-year old baby boy graduated from Elementary School because our stupid school board thought it was a grand idea to send our fifth graders to our Middle School four years ago.

But I’m not bitter.

Our other sweet boy, Alex decided to be baptized.

And how could I not mention the one year anniversary of bringing my dream car (THE SATURN SKY) home from Kentucky.

July

July?

July, was a doozie.

I had a whole slew of medical problems that I turned into a medical mini-series and I briefly contemplated turning this family fun blog into a medical blog because OH MY WORD, THE MEDICAL PROBLEMS!

Plus, there was the whole “Alex made ALL-STARS” thing” that was so friggin’ exciting, you would’ve thought my kid was playing for the Yankees.

August

My heart ached as I watched my sweet boy walk into Middle School for the first time.

I found a post from 2010 noting 40 things I’d like to do before I turn 40. It was fun to revisit that post and provide an update.

September

Oh look, it’s another medical issue.

McDaddy celebrated 22 years as a member of the West Virginia Air National Guard.

October

October was a crazy, busy month.

I met my long-time bloggy friend, Heather at an Extraordinary Women conference.

In true dramatic Julie fashion, I came *thisclose* to losing my life when the drive-shaft fell off of the Jeep while driving down the interstate.

By October, my mudroom was slowly coming together.

SQUEAL!!!!!

And it just dawned on me that I haven’t posted a picture since we got the new flooring down.

[NOTE TO SELF: DO THAT!]

It became evident in October that I was having trouble sleeping (which also translates to McDaddy said I was keeping him awake snoring.) My family Doctor prescribed a sleep study and it was off the hook.

A few days later, McDaddy and I enjoyed a Jeep Jamboree weekend in Williamsburg, Kentucky with friends.

 

November

The craziness continued in November.

First, (and on the first) our sweet Alex turned eight.

For my 40th birthday, McDaddy took me on a surprise trip to New York City.

But McDaddy turned 40 before I did. We celebrated by giving him FORTY gifts.

 

December

After months of dreading it, I finally come to terms with and embrace TURNING FORTY. And my sweet boys hosted a 40th birthday party for me.

 

And the next day, Stevie turned 11.

Christmas is always a fun time around here.

We are so very blessed.

Tonight we look forward to ringing in the New Year with our family (lots of them!) here at the McResidence.

While I have no idea what is in store for my family in 2014, I am sure of God’s grace and mercy in our lives.

Happy New Year!!!

——-

Wanna link up?

It’s simple.

2013 Blog Recap Carnival

1. Publish your 2013 recap post on your blog.

2. Link to your actual 2013 recap blog post, not your blog’s main page.

3. Somewhere within your post, please link back here at From Inmates To Playdates so everyone can join in on the fun.



A Little Christmas Tour

Even though Christmas is over, I have decided to leave my Christmas décor up another week. I have heard that taking your tree down before New Year’s is bad luck, but I don’t believe for one second that my luck for the upcoming year has anything to do with when I take our beautiful, rotating, nine-foot pine down and cram it into a box. It makes me smile even though 1/5 of the lights decided they were on strike this year. (A big thanks to McDaddy for pulling several strands out of the loft because you know, I HATE TO WAIT on anything!)

My favorite thing is that when it’s dark, the tree shines in three windows all at once, our bay window, the huge window behind the tree and our sliding glass door behind our dining room table. I love it!

Here is the bay window – full of snowman – with the tree reflecting so that you can get the full effect.

And since we’re talking about my tree, have I mentioned that after years or research, shopping and searching I found a snowman tree-topper at Cracker Barrel?

I just can’t explain how cute it is.

As you can tell by my bay-window, my tree, and 80% of the Christmas décor in the McResidence, I love snowmen.

And I might have already mentioned this (and shown you, too!) but every year McDaddy’s parents buy us (and lots of others) a white-house ornament. The ornaments are beautiful and delicate and I just love them.

After seeing McDaddy’s great aunt’s white-house ornament tree in Florida last year, I started on the hunt for one. She bought hers at Pier One and probably paid an arm and a leg for it. I’m actually quite fond of my limbs, so I was delighted to find one in a magazine for the low-low price of $14.99.

It’s not as tall as I would like, but like I said, I enjoy all four limbs, so….

Instead of piling pictures of my boys with Santa over the past ten years on this sofa table, I decided to do this instead:

I just love the way it turned out. (Obviously I’m talking about the table and not the horrible photographic evidence.)

I had no idea this post would turn out to be a tour of my Christmas décor, but while we’re at it, I want to show you the lighted garland I bought for my loft this year. It is so fancy and beautiful that sometimes I just turn the lights out and stare up at it.

I will be so sad when it all comes down next week. I’ll be even sadder to have to do the work it takes to get all this stuff put away. But I’ll worry about that next week.

Just a few more days in 2013. Make ‘em count y’all.

Christmas At Our Place

We had a wonderful Christmas here at the McResidence. Here’s what Christmas was like at the McResidence….

We ate too many of these,

We said good-bye for another year to our elf, Louis Hamilton,

We watched this (and Home Alone) approximately, 419 times.

I watched this beautiful tree spin around and around night-after-night in amazement, because I am a like a little kid when it comes to all manner of Christmas.

These two were wishing and hoping for an Xbox 360.

Santa came and brought this stuff,

Which means that these two got what they were hoping for,

And I spent about five hours last night signing [next year's] Christmas cards with this beautiful array of awesomeness which McDaddy had packed carefully in my stocking.

And once I again, I was privileged to spend Christmas with these three beautiful people. I love them to the moon and back.

And that, as they say, is that.

50 Last Minute Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Last year, I finished up my Christmas shopping in early December.

Then, on Christmas Eve, I discovered that I hadn’t bought nearly enough stuff to fill the stockings. I decided that wouldn’t happen this year.

Oh, no ma’am.

I started picking up stocking items way back in November, and this year, I will be a stocking-stuffing fool come Christmas Eve.

Remember, I have two boys, so, you know, BOY STUFF.

  1. Fun Gum (Big League Chew)
  2. Batteries (for electronic games)
  3. Reading light
  4. Pringles
  5. Tree ornament
  6. Chap stick
  7. Toboggan
  8. Whoopee cushion
  9. Phone charger (can you ever have too many?)
  10. Shoe strings (What exactly do they do with them, anyway?)
  11. Hershey kisses
  12. Sticky hands, feet, or bugs.
  13. Silly Putty
  14. Slim Jims
  15. Slinky
  16. Gloves
  17. Twizzlers
  18. iTunes Giftcard
  19. YoYo
  20. Toothbrush (I know, I know!)
  21. Snow Ball maker
  22. Glowsticks
  23. Rolos
  24. Magazine (My oldest loves Car & Driver)
  25. Beef Jerky
  26. Rubik’s Cube
  27. Harmonica
  28. Bookmark
  29. Hot Wheels
  30. Gift card to Pottery Place
  31. Skylanders
  32. Earbuds
  33. SkipBo or Uno cards
  34. Mini Etch-A-Sketch or Mini Magnadoodle
  35. Small foam football or basketball
  36. Origami Paper (Stevie’s newest hobby)
  37. Jacks
  38. Mini Mag-Lite
  39. Pop Rocks
  40. $5.00 DVD from the movie bin at Wal-Mart
  41. Arcade (or Chuck E. Cheese) tokens
  42. Bubblebath
  43. Silly String
  44. Madlibs
  45. Laser Pointer
  46. Lego Minifigures
  47. Any Legos for that matter
  48. Those crazy, expensive tall athletic socks
  49. Mega Reese Cup
  50. And finally, MORE LEGOS.

Christmas Cookie Exchange

I had every intention of coming back here to report on my friend Becky’s annual cookie extravaganza.

Because of our ski trip, I had to choose a cookie that I could bake within the time constraint I was under. In other words, after our three-hour drive home, I would have no more than three hours to bake seven dozen cookies.

After scouring the internet and Pinterest for a cookie that fit my criteria (quick, easy, fail proof) I settled on the Andes Mint Cookie Recipe. I did a test run while we were on our Ski trip.

ANDES MINT COOKIES

  • 1 Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 package of Andes  Mints

Mix cake mix, oil, and eggs together.

Drop small balls of dough onto baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 6-9 minutes.

Do not over-cook. Take cookie sheet out of oven and place 1/2 an Andes Mint on top of each cookie. Within minutes, the mint will melt. Use a sharp knife to swirl the mint around on the cookie like icing.

Be prepared to make friends and influence people.

And I’ll just tell you now, they are best served hot and gooey.

And it helps if you like mint.

Within an hour, my cookies were done and my kitchen looked like a cyclone had gone through it.

For as many years as I have attended Becky’s annual cookie extravaganza (which at this point I think is eight or nine) I have taken my cookies in a beautiful Christmas Longaberger basket. I decided that my beloved Longaberger baskets have not brought me any luck in winning the crown in the past, so this year, I decided to take my cookies in a Dollar General cardboard Christmas container.

I used red sprinkles on this batch to make them more festive.

Remember, presentation is everything.

Or something like that.

This was the official 2013 cookie exchange extravaganza spread.

It always looks so fancy.

(My cookies are just above the white platter in front.)

After catching up talking smack and filling up on this mess,

we all gather round the cookie table to eat A BITE OF EACH COOKIE. (This is the point where I start praying that MY COOKIE WILL WIN!) It may sound crazy, but, THERE IS A CROWN AT STAKE, and y’all know how I feel about a crown. Not to mention bragging rights for the entire year.

So, imagine, if you will, thirteen women gathered around a table getting pieces of each cookie.

And then getting a sugar high.

Once we have a sample of each cookie on our plate, we gather in Becky’s living room for the official vote.

We close our eyes (at least I guess everybody else does!) and Becky calls out each cookie. We vote by raising our hand and we get to vote for two.

When the voting was completed, Becky announces there is a three-way tie.

AND ONE OF THEM IS MINE!

Sweet hallelujah. I can’t believe it.

Because Becky only has one CROWN, we had to vote again.

This time there was a two-way tie.

AND ONE OF THEM WAS STILL MINE!

OH MY HEAVENLY DAY. I CAN’T BREATHE.

This was it. The final vote.

After counting the votes for a final time, Becky announced the winner.

It was not mine.

As it turns out, I lost by ONE vote.

Which means I was the runner up first loser for the second time in three years.

Meet this year’s winner…. Lee.

She made some nutty Mounds bar, which for the record wasn’t really a cookie.

The only thing I went home with this year was a prize for the cookie with the least amount of ingredients.

So at least there’s that, right?

Next year, though? IT. IS. ON.

Be warned, girls.

Forty and Fabulous

I had a fabulous weekend.

On Friday, McDaddy hosted an open house birthday party to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was an enjoyable evening full of laughs and thankfulness.

I have the best friends and family.

My friend, Linda brought me this lovely bag full of awesomeness.

I absolutely love it.

    • Some people say that turning 40….
    • is a sticky situation – post-it note
    • is rough – nail file
    • is sweet – Lindor truffles
    • stinks – a candle
    • blows – bubble gum
    • sucks – candy canes
    • is golden – goldfish
    • drives you to drink – bottle of Coca-Cola classic (Because that’s what I drink)

My sweet friends, Gannett and Katheryn gave me a yummy candy bouquet, a Yankee red-velvet candle and this hilarious card.

 

Oh my sweet mercy, I crack up every single time I see this card.

Y’all know I love bling, right?

And I also love baseball.

My sweet friend, Jessica, brought this perfect gift.

That, my friends, is a rhinestone MOM baseball bracelet and a rhinestone baseball ring.

It is fabulous.

My friend, Becky, brought another snowman to add to my collection.

And, as an added bonus, she filled it full of chocolate.

And speaking of chocolate, I found these on Pinterest and thought the kids might enjoy them.

They were a huge hit.

In addition to a wonderful evening of laughing and visiting,

EATING,

and sharing memories, my wonderful friends brought a variety of gifts that I absolutely loved.

I have a whole new outlook on turning forty.

I am thankful.

I am blessed.

And I had a happy birthday.

And from the looks of my kitchen, I think our guests did, too.

I say it all the time…. I call myself a Princess, because I am married to a Prince.

Of course at forty… I suppose it may be time to upgrade my Princess status to Queen.

 Oh, and I almost forgot that McDaddy surprised me with these beauties,

Thank you, McDaddy! For the party, the trip to New York, for the sandals, and for loving me.

I am truly a blessed FORTY YEAR OLD.

On Turning 40

I spent the day reflecting on my forty years of life while I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more. It was a snow day for our school district so the boys were home too. They enjoyed half of the day before I made them clean their rooms.

I have been dreading this day for many months. Maybe even an entire year.

FOR.

TEE.

It even sounds OLD.

And weird.

I’m not sure why this has hit me so hard. I’m not really *that* kind of person. Age has never mattered to me before this BIG one. Plus, I don’t think I look that old, despite the appearance of that stubborn wrinkle between my eyes that refuses to go away whether I’m smiling or frowning, and the gray discoloration in my hair.

As I spent the day cleaning out and organizing most of my cabinets, I began to reflect on my forty years of life. I received a text today from a friend asking for prayer for her dear friend who is fighting pancreatic cancer. I found out on Sunday that my 40-something neighbor is in an ICU bed fighting for her life. If that isn’t enough to snap you out of your funk, I don’t know what is. I decided that instead of dreading this rite of passage – this 40th birthday – I should count my blessings and thank my lucky stars that I am alive, well, healthy and loved.

I have led a charmed life. I have seen and done things that most people only dream about. I don’t say that in a prideful way. Rather, I mean simply, that I have been blessed beyond measure throughout my life.

I grew up in a loving home. We weren’t rich, but we didn’t want for much, either. I had a beautiful lavender-gingham bedroom with a big, canopy bed. I have fond memories of sledding on inner tubes on snowy days, twirling my baton on our front walk for HOURS, and Sunday dinners gathered around our family table. My twin brothers and I were taught that honesty, respect, and hard-work are more important than material possessions, and my mom always told me you never do wrong and get by with it – words that I find myself telling my own kids today. I enjoyed playing school or office on our back porch and every Christmas was magical and memorable. I thought those were the best years of my life.

I met the man of my dreams in high school, even though it took me a couple of years to figure that out. We dated all through college and I could hardly wait to marry him. I worked my way through college and attended graduate school. If I had written a thesis I would have received a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Counseling. That is probably the biggest regret of my life. Still, at this stage in life I have no desire to go back or finish. Our college years were busy and fun, and I remember McDaddy and I would often hop in the car on the weekends and take a day road trip to Virginia or Kentucky. I thought those were the best years of my life.

After we were married I entered the workforce. I enjoyed the craziness in jail. I enjoyed my job. And I appreciated doing a job that I really enjoyed doing. During this time, McDaddy and I travelled the world – having visited ten countries – romantic places like London, Paris, Switzerland and Rome – and we’ve been to 36 states. (Just last month in fact, he took me to New York City to celebrate my 40th birthday.)

Back then, McDaddy and I were foot-loose and fancy-free. If we wanted to go on a trip, we packed up, and we went. I thought those were the best years of my life.


After trading in a career for motherhood I realized that I had it all wrong. These children – these two human beings that I helped to create – arehealthy and beautiful and wonderful. Realizing that this is the most important job I would ever do, I prayed that I would get this thing right. There are days that I lose my temper. There are days that I feel like I have lost [what's left of] my mind. There are days I feel like a complete failure and I go to bed knowing that tomorrow is a new day. I am not a model mother. But I try to give it my best every day of every year. I have so much to be thankful for.

I am not a perfect wife. I am not always the best friend. I am certainly not the best Christian. I am impatient. I have strong beliefs and opinions, and often times my mouth beats my brain off the starting line. God has been so good to me, even though I fail Him often. His grace and His mercy is something I will never understand.

And that, my friends, is something you can’t put a price on.

I am loved by so many people. I have wonderful parents, a husband who adores me, children who are healthy, and friends I could call on any hour of the day.

Who cares that I am FORTY years old? These are the best years of my life after all, and I don’t want to waste another second dreading it.

So here’s to my F-O-R-T-I-E-S.

May they truly be the best years of my life.

Christmas Card Addressing Party

December is my favorite month of the year. It is also our busiest. There is Christmas, my birthday, Stevie’s birthday, pictures with Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, decorating, Church play, Christmas parties, Christmas break, Church cantata, basketball season, driving around neighborhoods looking at lights, baking, Becky’s cookie exchange, and of course the annual Christmas card extravaganza. And by extravaganza, I am referring to hand-signing and addressing 250 cards, writing and printing an annual Christmas letter, and including a family Christmas picture. In other words, my yearly Christmas card extravaganza, is just that. An extravaganza. So, it should come as no surprise that I have come to really appreciate my friend Christina’s annual Christmas card addressing party.

Because Christina and her family are in Florida visiting Mickey at Disney this week, she held her Christmas card party the last week of November. That fact didn’t bother me in the least because it caused me to get an early start on my Christmas cards. To my surprise, I forgot I had actually signed them all last year while we were in Florida (the week AFTER Christmas).

Oh yes ma’am, I did.

Christina always has a fabulous spread, complete with fancy glasses, even though none of us are really fancy people. (And apparently I was so busy eating that I forgot to get a picture of the spread. I hate it when I do that!)

We sit around Christina’s dining room table, and though I can’t speak for the others, I spend more time talking than I actually do addressing cards, because I love being with friends, some of which I only see at Christina’s annual party. Still, I enjoy the opportunity to get a kick-start on my cards.

(And if you’re wondering about the foreign language cards there on the right, those would belong to my friend Becky, who, instead of working on her Christmas cards, spent her time working on her homeschooling lesson plans because her girls hadn’t had their Christmas pictures taken yet. And before you ask, I have no idea what foreign language that is, though I am pretty certain it isn’t German which is what I took in High School… because, you know, everybody needs three years of German in their life.)

This was Christina’s third annual Christmas card addressing party (or at least the third one I was invited to) and we laughed ourselves silly, especially when Christina shared a really funny story with us. Despite the fact that she spent hours preparing her Christmas cards, money buying stamps for her Christmas cards, and days driving around town with the Christmas cards IN HER CAR, she forgot to actually drop the Christmas cards IN A MAILBOX.

Y’all.

I am still laughing about this little gem two weeks later.

You can imagine the dilemma that presents itself the next year as you fill out this year’s cards. Do you send last year’s card along with this year’s card? Do you trash last year’s card and count your losses? Do you send both cards, making a note on last year’s explaining that you’re a dork?

Obviously, I’m kidding about the dork part.

I take the Christmas card thing pretty seriously and it would make me crazy crazier knowing I had forgotten to send them.

Part of the reason I didn’t get much done at the party is because I got a wild hair up my you-know-what after seeing a great idea on Pinterest. I saw a fancy schmancy way to address cards. It went slow at first and took me several tries, but I just love how they turned out.

And before you start Googling, or decide to rob my friends, The Smith’s or The Abbott’s, you should know that the examples in these pictures are fictitious people and fake addresses. I didn’t figure any of my friends or our family would approve or appreciate me displaying their personal info here on the blog.

The silver sharpie looks best on a red envelope, but I didn’t have any extras.

And I am so happy to report that I will be mailing my cards tomorrow.

Did you hear that, Christina?

I.

Am.

MAILING.

My.

Cards.

Tomorrow.

And you probably should, too!

Have a great Monday, folks.

I’ll be enjoying my last couple of days being in my 30’s…