Friday, December 31, 2010

A series of pictures and the stories that go with them

Long ago, like November, Kalleigh had her Thanksgiving feast. This is her little class singing their turkey song. (Kalleigh's all the way to the right.)

They feasted in the traditional way with turkey, pumpkin pie and KoolAid Jammers.

If we have an hour or so to kill in town, many times the kids and I will go to Barnes & Noble to "read books." Here we are with the kids' favorite "books."

One morning, we were about to get in the car on our way to school when Kalleigh tells John that her tummy hurts. Overhearing the comment, I very sympathetically rolled my eyes and said, "Don't worry. You'll be fine." John, however, decided to grab a big plastic bowl and put it in her lap. As we pulled into the school parking lot, the bowl served its purpose and only a little vomit got on her cute outfit. This picture was taken on our way home. She slept the rest of the morning and felt much better that evening!

We had our Christmas church family dinner again this year. The kids gave a little program, we introduced our new Children's Minister (yea!), and even Santa showed up for the occasion. Jonas's smirk in this picture cracks me up!

And finally, a series of pictures that I took in hopes of capturing the essence of the children when there are only three. Probably the next series of kid pictures will include Kate! Only a few tears were shed in the taking of these pictures. :)

"Ring around the rosy!"

This was the one I ended up handing out to family at Christmas. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

SoJam 2010

Oh my. Where to start? I guess I'll just try to tell the whole story. Skip as needed.

By 5pm, we had dropped off the kids at the Deans, loaded up all of the equipment and picked up all the members of Clearly Vocal and left Tyler. Here's the crew in front of our CVmobile ready to hit the road:

(Ben-sound, John-baritone, Don-bass, Kim-alto, Stefanie-soprano, Andy-tenor)

Since there were six of us driving and approximately 18 hours to drive to get to Durham, NC, we made a driving schedule, complete with driving buddies, three hours each. John and Ben started us off. We picked up supper in Shreveport, LA and then stopped somewhere else in LA to change drivers. Don and Andy were up next and took us the next leg of the trip, and then Stef and I took over to drove the 11pm-2am shift. And on and on we drove and switched drivers and filled up with gas and grabbed snacks and tried to sleep. Some big cities we went through were Shreveport, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Charlotte, all until we finally reached Durham at 1pm eastern time on Friday. We also included a Crackle Barrel stop, which added an hour to our overall travel time.

So 19 hours after leaving Tyler, we pull into our hotel to check in. The guys were gracious to go unload our equipment at the Carolina Theater, where we would be performing that night, while Stef and I slept!

By 4:30 we were all dressed in concert attire and ready to go through our relaxation/visualization exercise that Stefanie had created for us. Then we loaded up to head to the theater to begin our sound check by 5:30.

When we got there, Sonos was having a sound check/rehearsal. They were one of the professional groups performing that weekend. Wow. Truly amazing.

Running sound for everyone at the theater that weekend was Tony Huerta, probably the absolute best sound guy in contemporary a cappella today. He regularly runs sound for Nota, Take 6, m-pact, Sonos and others. He was also the guy who ran the sound at the Rocky Mountain Harmony Sweepstakes in which we competed last year. I just think it's pretty cool that we can claim Tony twice as our sound guy! Ben, our sound guy, was in sound engineer heaven watching over Tony's shoulder, learning, but also helping Tony know what was coming up in our songs!

We hit our sound check and worked out our inner-ear monitor kinks and other little things. It really felt rushed and we couldn't keep a consistent pitch and we were having tempo issues and hearing issues and we were getting irritated with each other, yadda yadda yadda. And suddenly our time was up. Next on the schedule was the Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL) reception, which was upstairs, but before we ran up there, we took a minute to regroup, to remember to think as a group and to breathe and de-stress. Thankfully it worked, and our shoulders relaxed back into their proper positions.

We headed upstairs and enjoyed reconnecting with the other CAL groups as well as the directors of SoJam and of the Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA). Also in attendance were the members of Sonos and Basix, the other pro group that was performing Saturday night. What an honor to rub shoulders with these people! Other "big dogs" included Dave Brown and Christopher Diaz, the hosts of the Mouth Off Show, Bill Hare, the producer of many pro, CAL and college cd's (Nota, Straight No Chaser, The Red States, On the Rocks, etc.), and Ed Boyer, one of the arrangers for the show The Sing Off. The place was packed with talent!

Friday night, the show consisted of six college groups who were competing against each other. After they all sang, we performed for 40 minutes while the judges' votes were being tallied. The theater was JAM PACKED! About 1000 in attendance. Probably the biggest audience for which we've sung.

We wore our black outfits, accented with purple and blue, like we wore in Denver, for those of you who saw that look. Of course Stef and I didn't wear our exact outfits, as we are both pregnant, so we had some wrap shirts made. I was pleased with how they turned out!

Overall, it was the best show that we five have ever done! "The Moment" of our show was when we put our mics down, stood in a semicircle a the front of the stage and sang "And Can It Be." I was really nervous about doing this song, because there were some pretty anti-Christian people in that crowd! But after the show, the two most talked about songs were Java Jive (of course--always a crowd pleaser--blows me away) and And Can It Be! They were impressed that 1. we would put down our mics, and 2. that we would be brave enough to share our faith with everyone! Seems they really appreciated both things. To all of you whom I know have been praying for the hearts of those listening, THANK YOU! I believe hearts were touched and that God was glorified.

Before our last song, I thanked Tony, of course, and then gave a little motivational speech especially to the college kids encouraging them to keep singing! Most think that if they don't plan to sing professionally, that their singing days are over after college. Our goal was to show them that they can keep singing at a high-quality level, if that's what they love to do. We can't NOT sing, and so we began Clearly Vocal.

After the show, we signed autographs, passed out business cards and received a flood of congrats and great jobs. What a night!

But wait, there's more! From the theater, everyone went to an after party where we all got to interact with other groups and more fans and relive the evening. We met a guy from NYC whose job it is to match groups with events, sort of like an agent, but more of a consultant as he's not tied to any one group. He was very complimentary, wanted a card and said he would look for opportunities for us! Of course, people in this industry are famous for their promises, but not necessarily their follow-through, but still, the compliments were appreciated, coming from someone who sees a lot of talent.

We made it back to the hotel around 1am and just crashed!

We were out the door by 8:30 to grab some breakfast at Chick-Fil-A and get to Duke University to attend our first classes that began at 9. We tried to split up the classes so that everything was covered!

My first class was called "Organic Arranging," by Christopher Diaz. He focused in on the importance of communicating the emotions of a song through the music, as opposed to just "putting together a cool arrangement." He gave examples of both poor arrangements that failed miserably at accomplishing this concept as well as ones that were very good about being intentional about it. What a difference! We were to ask the question, "What pictures are my chords and note movements painting, and does that picture line up with the words?" I was inspired. :)

Interspersed throughout the day were mini-performances by the other CAL groups. First up was Euphonism, a group based out of Washington DC. It's just neat to see other "real people" doing what we do!

Next class for me was Advanced Arranging, by Charlie Forkish. Charlie is kind of child prodigy of sorts. He dropped out of college because his arranging and recording gigs were so demanding and rewarding! Admirably, though, he is finishing his degree, recognizing its importance! Again, some amazing tips about chord building, digital arranging and arranging for recording vs. arranging for live performance.

Up next for the CAL groups was Treble, a 13-member all-female group from NYC, that we had met last year. Their director is pregnant, too, and due about a month before I am. That was fun to reconnect with her and them. Only half of their group was able to make it, so I was impressed that they performed at all!

We ate lunch on campus as we tried to process everything we had learned!

Then it was off to the class called Sell Out, by .... huh-oh, I forget. But she was a reporter for a local newspaper who has an a cappella background, She gave us some fantastic tips on how to market ourselves and communicate efficiently with the newspapers. Great dos an don'ts for Twitter and Facebook as well as for what to put into our media kits and what to leave out. I learned huge amounts of information in that class!

The last CAL group to perform was The Red States. They are also from NYC, and have the best recording of Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" that I've ever heard. Seriously, you should buy it on iTunes, it's that good. It's on my running playlist. :) Unfortunately their female soloist for that song wasn't there, so they chose other songs to sing instead. I was able to talk to the guy who arranged it, though, and learned a lot of fun facts!

Then it was off to a class called "Lady Power," which was a panel of women in various groups that discussed specific issues that women, especially all-female groups, deal with in this a cappella world. It was mostly wardrobe, costumes, stereotypes and discrimination issues. I was disappointed, though, because no one ever addressed the issues of singing while raising a family and juggling other real-life responsibilities that women have while still trying to sing. I think I'll make that suggestion when I fill out my SoJam survey. Something tells me there's a good chance I'll be on that panel next year, since not a lot of those present were currently challenged by that issue, but I still think it's important for them to think about as they plan for the future. A cappella life doesn't have to end when you begin a family.

In between that class and the next, all of the CAL groups, both partial and full, were supposed to meet together to sing three songs in a jam-session sort of format. Yeah, I don't think that went as well as it was intended to go, so I think there's a good possibility that it won't happen next year. :)

The last class of the day that I attended was called "The Cool Factor," by Claude McKnight, the founder of Take 6, and older brother of Brian McKnight, the famous R&B singer. It was fantastic. The bottom line, the take away point that Claude made is that cool=authenticity and integrity. Be who you are, sing like you do and have your own style rather than always copying other people. I certainly struggle with this since I love The Real Group so much! But I'm determined to work away from that. I'm inspired to write more original stuff and come up with original arrangements. Anytime a song or arrangement comes from the group, the group can just be who the group is and will put themselves into the song more passionately than when we're singing a song that is not ours. Great class.

We raced from there to supper where we ate with the other CAL groups. Actually, we scarfed down our food as quickly as we could so that we could make it back to the theater to change and get ready for our last performance, which was to open for Sonos and Basix.

Saturday night, we went with all black and white. We hated to upstage the pros, you know. ;)

Kind of small, but you get the picture. That's me singing "Fever," our closer.

There was only one little glitch on Saturday night. Tony did not have our inner ear monitors turned on for the first half of our first song! (Words, by The Real Group.) All we could hear was the bounce-back from the back of the theater! Therefore, our tempo was a little slower than usual! We managed, though, and when we finally did get our ears back, thankfully we were all in the same tempo and key! Ha! The show must go on!

We were told to do two songs to open for the other groups, and as we walked off stage, Thomas King, who was running the groups backstage and one of the judges for the CAL Showcase, said "That's it? You had 15 minutes! That was the first we had heard of it! Oh well. Better to leave the crowd wanting more. Plus they were really there for Sonos and Basix that night!

Then we got to join the crowd and watch as Sonos and then Basix performed. Here's Sonos:

Boy, when Basix took the stage it was an obvious step up in class and professionalism, of course from where we were, but also a step up from Sonos, which really shocked me when I realized that. I also love that Basix, who brought their own sound guy (who ran their entire system through a Mac Book Pro!), not only thanked him, but had everyone turn around and wave at him! Very classy.

As Basix was singing, I leaned over to John and asked, "Are those our mic stands they're using?" He grinned real big and nodded. If you look closely, you can see them in the background of that picture! Again, I geeked out. After the show, I asked Chris, one of Basix's members, if they enjoyed using our stands, to which he replied, "Those were yours? Oh, thank you, thank you! They were so ease to slide up and down; much better than ours!" All the members of Basix were just so nice. Chris and I are Facebook friends, you know. ;) He's the one in the middle.

The Saturday night after party was a blast, too. We had so much fun hanging out with new friends one last time and reliving the evening. We got back to the hotel at 1:30am. I had to have a shower, since I was just nasty, so I finally crawled into bed around 2.

But Sunday morning we were up and at 'em again to go to one more class and finally our master class. We got all checked out of the hotel and headed to Duke one last time.

Our first class that most of us attended had to do with the physics of the voice; what is actually going on in your body when you sing, and how we can use that information to help us sing and blend better. GREAT info in that class. We were temporarily embarrassed and ultimately honored, though, because the instructor motioned to us and said to the rest of the class, "This is Clearly Vocal in here, by the way. They already do all of this stuff I'm talking about, which is why they sound so amazing. I don't really know why they're in here!" So sweet.

And finally, we went to our master class with none other than Claude McKnight himself. The man. Of all the SoJam attendees, he most likely has the best trained ear, especially for jazz. Who more qualified than the founder of Take 6 to coach us?! What an honor.

He appreciated that we do actually make an effort to listen to each other and think that tuning is important! He kind of harped on the college and CAL groups for their lack of attention to that. Yes, we had a few tuning issues, but we knew them and he knew we would continue to work on those. His main focus was on presentation. The most flattering thing (for me) that he said to the group was, "When I watch this group, I want to watch (pointed to me) you! I like to watch you perform. You know your notes, so you can relax, have fun and let your personality shine through!" I died. Right there. Melted into a puddle. It was all I could do not to cry!

Claude also gave us some very practical tips to use on each song and worked with us on how to accomplish those things. Things like grabbing the audience from the first word, standing and moving with a purpose, conversing with the audience in-between songs rather than giving speeches, and other things like that. Those seemingly little things made a huge difference as we worked. I can't wait to apply those principles to the rest of our show!

See? We're pretty much best friends now.

Several other people sat in on our class, including Dave Brown.

I'm kind of embarrassed at how much whiter his teeth are than mine. Hmmm.

Our class was supposed to be an hour long, but since it was the last think on the schedule, we actually went about an hour and a half! Other than performing on that beautiful stage, working with Claude was my favorite memory!

One other amazing thing we learned during our class was from the photographer, Michael Elderidge. He is known for picking up on people's antics and habits. Here's what he said to Stef: "You sing up here (motioned upwards about a 45 degree angle) because that's where you look to talk to your husband." To me he said, "You sing right here (motioned straight ahead with knees bent) because you're keeping your kids' attention!" To Andy he said, "You sing down here (motioning to the ground) because you're thinking too hard, and also where you look to talk to your wife." To John he said, "You sing like this (standing up tall and motioning one arm out to the side with his palm facing upward) because your leading your congregation!" And to Don he said, "You lean forward and raise your eyebrows as if your were teaching." (Don's an 8th grade math teacher!) Amazing and so telling! Still geeking out about all of that.

We took one last picture in front of the beautiful Duke chapel before hitting the road:

After grabbing lunch, we drove out of Durham at 2pm, rotated drivers through the night, hit a traffic jam in which we were stopped for a little over 30 minutes, and rolled into Tyler at 7:30 Monday morning so the boys could go to work. Crazy.

It was so strange to be treated basically like rock stars! Everyone knew who we were! They acted nervous to come talk to us. They whispered as we walked by. One funny story was that Andy walked into one class and sat down by a guy and his friend. The guy said to Andy, "Now what's your name?" His friend slapped his arm and said in a harsh whisper, "That's Andy from Clearly Vocal!" The first guy turned red and said, "I am SO sorry! Of course I know you are! You guys did awesome last night!" Andy laughed and was like, "Dude, it's totally fine!" We are not used to that kind of treatment! It was good for us to get back home where no one knows or cares who we are!

What a weekend. So physically exhausting, but so rewarding. So many connections made or renewed. We were encouraged, had our egos stroked, inspired, humbled, challenged, refreshed and refocused. I can't wait for rehearsal tonight!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Duke University, Durham, NC

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Fishing Trip

My grandparents, Ted and Evelyn Kell, have been going to Jack's Fishing Resort in Mountain View, AR, for 30+ years. They live in Brownwood, TX, but make the 10-hour trek twice a year. They stay several weeks in the summer and then another couple of weeks in October. It's just another Kell tradition that I have grown to love.

As I've mentioned, John had several conferences this fall, and as good and necessary as they were, I was beginning to feel a little left out on the whole "taking trips without kids" game. So, in my selfishness, I asked John when it would be my turn to take a trip without the kids, and that I would really love to go up to Jack's when Grammie and Papaw would be there and fish and shop and do all the other things I love to do there. In John's graciousness, he said that we could probably work that out. :)

That whole conversation happened before CV was chosen to represent CAL at SoJam. With all the adding in of rehearsals and gigs, I had pretty much given up on making it up to Jack's.

Papaw called me to ask if I was going to be able to make it up there, in code of course, because speaking cryptically is just so much more fun. So, "the Championship Trout Fishing Bureau" called to see if "one Ms. Kimberly Joyce Hodges was planning on competing in that rodeo." Heeheehee. Love my Papaw. I was so sad when I called back to say that I just didn't see any possible way that I would be able to make it up with our crazy schedule and our one-car-ness. We chatted a bit and then he gave the phone to Grammie. While we were chatting, she mentioned that Karla (their daughter, my aunt who lives in Dallas) was thinking they say way--that there just didn't seem to be a way up there and that her window of opportunity was from a Sunday through a Tuesday and because she would have to go alone, it might not work out.

Interesting. We had a gig on Saturday and rehearsal Tuesday night, but no CV commitments in between.

So, I texted Aunt Karla to see if she was still thinking about heading to Jack's. She calls back to say, "Seriously?" As I had, she had just about closed that door and asked God to make it happen if He saw fit. She needed a riding buddy and I needed a ride. It just so happened that our timing was identical!

CV sang at the Golden Sweet Potato Festival that Saturday afternoon and then drove over to Dallas to enjoy P.F. Chang's (what else?) that evening. John dropped me off at Aunt Karla's and drove back to Tyler by himself--what a hubby!

Early Sunday morning, Aunt Karla and I hit the road that would wind us through the Ozarks and finally arrive at Jack's.

The weather was perfect that day. We took a nice walk when we arrived, stretching out our car legs. Then we just relaxed in our room that opened up into Grammie's and Papaw's room and visited with them. That evening we went to church where my great-aunt and uncle go. This is my other Papaw's brother, the Papaw that finished his earthly race a couple of years ago. My Great-Uncle Frank looks so much like his brother, my Papaw! It's like hugging my Uncle Frank is about as closest I can come to hugging my Papaw. So good to see them.

Early Monday morning, Papaw cooked breakfast for me before we bundled up and hit the river. It's those simple times around the table swapping stories that are some of my most favorite times!

It was chilly out on the White River, but we had prepared and stayed warm.

This is "Ship Rock." My iPhone picture just doesn't do it justice, but you might be able to see that as you're motoring up the river, the rock looks like a big ship emerging from the river bank. It's one of those iconic scenes that you look for each time to you go up the river.

We fished that morning, caught a few, and Papaw had me back at Jack's by noon so that I could get cleaned up.

'Cause my mom came up to see us for a late lunch! Eating at Wood's Pharmacy is also a tradition. Wood's is a working pharmacy, but also a soda shop where they have the best lemonade, the best chicken salad and the best chocolate shakes of just about anyone.

After that, we shopped a little, and we all found things that we liked "A LOT" or that we just really "NEEDed!"

Mom headed back to Searcy after the shopping trip, and Grammie, Aunt Karla and I headed back to Jack's to rest a bit before supper.

Supper was at the traditional JoJo's Catfish, there at Jack's. Mmmmmm, so good!

Tuesday morning, Aunt Karla joined Papaw and myself out on the river for just about an hour and a half or so of our last chance to fish. The Lord held off the forecasted rain, for which we were thankful, and we pulled in a few more fish, again, for which we were thankful!

We booked it back to the rooms to get cleaned up, packed up and checked out so that I could make it back to Tyler in time for the tail end of CV's rehearsal.

It was a whirlwind of a trip, but I'm so thankful that it worked out! Aunt Karla and I had some great conversation during our 14 hours in the car together. I'm kind of hoping we can make this happen every year!

I also must mention that while I was gone, John's mother stayed in Tyler and was a HUGE help, not only to John and to the kids, but also to me! When I got home, the laundry was done, beds were made and evidence of healthy eating was left! Amazing, and thank you, Martha, again.

I love spending time with my family. This was such a special trip!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Mountain View, AR

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Clearly Vocal Happenings

First of all, I promised an updated CV pic after taking some new ones back in September. Here's our new promo pic:

Second, we've had a couple of gigs in the past couple of weeks and three more in the next couple of weeks! Sometimes it's tough being a jazz group in East Texas, though. It's hard to fit in at the Edom Festival of the Arts, where the belly dancers followed us, or at the Golden Sweet Potato Festival. Exactly as it sounds. But we try our best to force a little class into our neck of the woods, no matter how blatantly we stand out. :)

Those gigs have paid off, though, as we've already booked a couple of Christmas parties because of them!

But our most exciting news, and this is third, is that we are headed to North Carolina next week to represent the Contemporary A Cappella League at the nation's biggest contemporary a cappella festival: SoJam! CV went to SoJam last year and made a ton of great contacts and found out that there were people "out there" who loved to sing just as much as we did and strived for excellence like we did! So we had already made plans to be there this year.

Side note: the Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL) is made up of groups across the country who are out of college, but not professionals. As in we have lives and real jobs and kids and other responsibilities. We joined this league about 2 1/2 years ago.

Well, a couple of months ago, the folks planning SoJam announced that they were going to have a CAL video competition. The winners would be the headlining group for the Friday night concert and then open for the two professional groups Saturday night. We sent in our video, not really expecting much ........... AND WE WON.

So off we go to pull this crazy stunt. After the initial panic and denial stages, we decided we had better get to work. We've stuffed in several more rehearsals and even a practice concert for friends and family. We have our show order and our outfits (almost) ready. Now it's just time to polish.

We've also added a full-time sound guy, Ben Crawford. Woo-hoo! Ben and his wife Leana also go to church with the rest of us. It's amazing the difference he has made in just under a month. He'll be going to SoJam with us as well and will get to attend sound classes under the master of a cappella sound, Tony Huerta (just the sound guy for Take 6, m-pact, Sonos, and has even run sound for Nota a time or two! No bigs.).

Needless to say, we are all so excited and quite nervous. Prayers would be greatly appreciated!

One more side note: I wrote a song for CV. It's my first one ever. Just finished it last night. Actually, I have been singing the melody for about 2 years, as it was what I sang to Jonas as I nursed and rocked him. Therefore the title is "Lullaby for Jonas." The group hasn't even heard it yet, so I'm a little nervous to put myself out there like that! But hey, it's something different. We won't even be able to get to it until after SoJam, and maybe even after Christmas. We have a lot of work to do in the next two months! But someday ...

Schedule: tonight, rehearsal. Friday night, rehearsal. Saturday night, family and friends concert. Tuesday night, rehearsal. Wednesday night, private party concert. Thursday, drive to NC. Friday night, big show! Saturday, classes and concerts all day. Saturday night, open for Sonos and Basix. Sunday, drive home.

It's going to be LEGEN ................ DARY!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Patch ... Almost a month ago

On Kalleigh's birthday we went to the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch. John was flying into DFW back from his last conference of the fall late that afternoon, so the kids and I had the day to enjoy the pumpkin patch.

I don't know how many pictures it took to get one where all three were looking at the camera. So many of you have been there. :)

Johnathan thought he needed to take a picture of our newest little pumpkin. :)

But this one just might be my favorite photo of the day:

You can see the face painting that the kids got. All of the activities at the patch were free! In addition to face painting, there was a tractor-pulled hayride, a train ride, bounce houses, a playground, two different hay mazes and more pumpkins that I had ever seen in one place at one time!

After the pumpkin patch, we ran over to John's sister Laurie's house for a quick visit with her, cousin Brenna and Aunt Elisa before going to pick up John. After swinging by DFW, we all enjoyed a Laurie/John/Kalleigh birthday dinner at P. F. Chang's. Where else?!

Good times. :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SOLD! SICK! SMILE! And Something Else!

On Craigslist! And the Consignment Sale! This whole week has been about getting rid of things that we no longer need. I LOVE getting rid of things. Admittedly, I'm a trasher. I throw old toys away without blinking. We haul stuff to Goodwill about four times a year. But this time, I made the effort to organize and put up for sale everything worth reusing! I've already talked too much about the CCC sale, but today I'm going back to pick up my leftovers, if there are any. I figure if they are all hung up and organized, surely I can sell them on Craigslist.

Speaking of, this weekend I have sold crib sheets, a Bumbo and a box of boys clothes on Craigslist! These were things that were just up in the attic, not being used. The box of clothes was one that I had missed when I was tagging all that stuff for the CCC sale! Of course, while I was selling, I was also shopping. But I still think I'm going to come out ahead in the end. :)

I think cousin Elizabeth said it best when she said that consigning is being a good steward with what God has given us! You should do it. It's worth it!

I love animals, but I don't like spending money on them. Especially when it's because of their own stubbornness and stupidity that they are sick. Bison ate something again. A few years ago, I posted about Bison getting sick because he ate something, and I graciously posted a picture of what it was ... After it came out. :) Well, he's back at it again. This happens a few times a year, but it usually passes by itself after a couple of days. Oh Bison. It's been a week now. We just got some medicine to help with the complicated IBS. But he's just pitiful. I'm going to have to take him back in on Monday if he doesnt have the "guts" to "get through this" on his own. Stupid dog.

Clearly Vocal took new pictures today! These are the first ones with our new tenor, Andy, in them. It's about time; he's been performing with us scince July! I'll make sure and put some up when they're ready. Of course, they will also appear on our Facebook page and our web page!

Something Else!
I just couldn't come up with anything clever that summed up, "I never tried PW's mini brownies," so I just said "something else." If any of you try them, you'll have to blog about it, and I'll do the same.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kate Evelyn

Most of you know by now, but we are having a girl! And Kate Evelyn is her name, named after my Grammie Kell, Evelyn. She represents strength, confidence and a fierce love for family that I hope will be passed on to this sweet one!

I can't remember if I've mentioned before, but John and I did a lot of research before trying for this baby. We read many articles on how to naturally increase your chances of having a boy or a girl. Well, it worked, I guess. I mean, we got the result we were hoping for. Of course it's a 50/50 chance, so maybe nothing we did mattered at all! Sometimes I wonder if it makes God chuckle when we think we made something happen. Like the baby lion scaring the hyena away, when in reality his daddy is standing behind him! Either way, we're having a girl, and if anyone is interested in the methods we learned about, I would have so much fun telling you all about it!

Sorry for the delay in the blog announcement. We found out on Saturday, and of course this is Tuesday. What happened was that I got such a rush of excitement after finding out that we're having a Kate that I spent the rest of that night and any time I had Sunday, Monday and this morning pulling out, hanging up, safety pinning, tagging and labeling all of the boy clothes I had size 0-2T to take to the big consignment sale! No suppers were cooked and no laundry was done during this time, either! But at last, everything is in its place at the Harvey Hall Convention Center, and I can't wait to start pulling out all the little girl things!!

I was 16 weeks on Sunday. The baby books say that Kate will go through a major growth spurt over the next couple of weeks. I'm STARVING.

I will reluctantly post some belly pics. Eventually. When I'm having an emotionally stable day. I have WAY too much estrogen in my system.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

And now for a change of pace

Wow, my last post was really depressing! But like Tiffany said in her most recent post, it really does help to get it all out from time to time. It helps me put things in perspective and sends me running back to God to thank him for so many wonderful blessings that always outweigh the frustrations in life.

So sorry to all those who were afraid that I needed medication or therapy ... or even a chili-cheese coney. I think I'm okay without all of that.

For now. :)

So, today I'll let you faithful readers (and apparently there are a lot more than I realized based on the fallout from last week!) in on some of the near-perfect things about my life right now.

I buy a cantaloupe about once a year. My kids will eat it okay, John doesn't really prefer them, but I'll get a "hankerin'" for one about once a year. So I bought my 2010 cantaloupe at the Buckly Farms farmer's market in downtown Flint just yesterday. Cantaloupes are like watermelons. Mostly they're pretty good, but occasionally, they're amazing. The Hodges 2010 cantaloupe was AMAZING. That ought'a do me until next summer!

I just like to say downtown Flint to see if anyone laughs out loud. It's the four-way-stop.

Speaking of the farmer's market, while I was there, I just happen to let a jar of pear preserves jump into my bag. They are my favorite, and if anyone ever wants to make some pear preserves for me, I will gladly award you with a million points. Did you hear that? A MILLION.

Terry Dean, my other mom, surprised me with a phone call a couple of days ago saying that she wanted to take me to Stork Vision to get an early look at the gender of this new baby! I am so excited! We're going on Saturday, which will be the day before I'm 16 weeks. If this baby cooperates, it will be the earliest I've ever gotten to find out the gender of any of my babies!! It's really for practical purposes, though, since that consignment sale is next weekend and I need to turn in my stuff by Tuesday, and if I know the sex of the baby, I can get rid of all of my other baby gender stuff, too! See how practical we are? ;) Of course I will keep all of you up to date as to pink or blue!

Speaking of baby, I'm feeling the first little flutters of this child! This, for sure, is going to be our last child. We're going to take drastic measures to make sure of it. We, of course, means he. :) So, I have just been treasuring each day. This is my last time to do this, and instead of being sad like I always thought I would be, I'm just enjoying it! I don't want to be pregnant again and I don't want any more children than these four. This is a great place to be, mentally!

And speaking of consignment sales, of course I'm going to sell my stuff, but I'm also going to get to take advantage of some really great deals! It's such a good way to clean out those closets and fill 'em back up again. Um, that didn't come out right. Anyway, I can't wait!

John does NOT have a meeting tonight or tomorrow night! These days, two nights in a row without a meeting of some kind is almost unheard of. So we're going to make the most of this time at home together as a family, because it will be another week until we're all home together for dinner again! Right, focusing on the good. Tomorrow is also John's day off, so we'll get Johnathan and Kalleigh off to school and just have Jonas at home with us. Very nice.

Speaking of Kalleigh, she got her little cast off yesterday! She's still limping around as if she had the cast on, and the Dr. said she would do that for a week or two. Poor thing. Limping without a cast makes people worry more about her than when she had a cast on! But this morning, she was begging me to let her jump on the trampoline again. Of course I let her! She did just fine.

Tonight I'm making PW's pan-fried pork chops and I might try those little mini brownies that she had on her page yesterday. Anybody else try them yet? They look so good!

So see? No need to worry about me any more. I'm just me. Plain, happy, hormonal me. :)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Feeling compelled to write

Except I don't know what to write about. Is that so weird? I mean, I dropped my second major in college because I didn't want to write the 50-page paper. Seriously, that's all I lacked to complete that major. And I still don't regret it.

But why now do I feel compelled to write? Perhaps the purpose will unfold if I just keep my fingers moving.

Maybe it's just the two cups of coffee I drank that makes me a little manic.

I feel like a little bipolar today. In some ways I'm so very bummed. The preacher search is not going at all like I would prefer. But then again, I'm not in charge. The committee isn't either, but sometimes they forget that. I'm speaking in harsh generalities, but it is how I feel today. The bullies have won. And they're going to get away with it, too. Man. I'm really sorry if I've offended anyone. Please come talk to me about it if you feel that way.

On the other hand, my coffee did fully kick in and I'm ready to conquer the world. The Children's Clothing Consignment Sale is in two weeks, and I have a load of stuff to tag and sell! The organizing of that stuff will get done today. Tagging, tomorrow. That's exciting!

John has a meeting tonight, so I'll see him just before bedtime. I'm also car-less, which feeds my feelings of helplessness. Thankfully, I have Tina who runs with me in the mornings and takes Johnathan to and from school, so I don't really  have anywhere I need to be.

Jonas is wanting to potty-train. He's giving all the signs that he's ready, and I've been dragging my feet for months. Well now, the Pull-Ups have been purchased and he's been keeping them dry as long as I initiate going potty, which he is glad to do. Except for the poopy part. That's still a little scary for him. The first time he actually pooped in the potty, he jumped when he saw it fall in! I guess he wasn't expecting that! We'll see what happens.

Tuesday was a rough day for the kids. Someone was crying at least 80% of the day and I had had it. When I picked John up from work at 5, he said, "You okay?" He got "the look" and I proceeded to whine to him the same way my children had been whining to me all day. Wonder where they get it. Anyway, rather than John pointing that out to me, he said, "Sounds like you need to get out of the house tonight." I just nearly cried right there. We ate the supper I had prepared, and after I pulled the dessert out of the oven, I went to Starbucks. I drank a smoothie, I talked to my mom, I read my book for ladies Bible class and I played games on my phone. About an hour and a half later, I was a totally different person! When I got home, the kids were bathed and in bed. I do love my husband. God, thank you for blessing me and our children with John!

The laundry sits on the counter, almost all folded, the coffee pot is empty, the younger two children are napping and Johnathan will be home in a little over an hour.

Thanks for letting me get all that out. I don't know what the purpose was for that string of nonsense, except that I do feel better. I'm hormonal and if I could just have a foot-long chili-cheese coney from Sonic, the world would probably be perfect. Sounds like I was a little more down than up today. Time to count blessings: John, kids, this precious new one growing inside, a house, rain, church family, blood family, God providing for us always, a God that understands and listens and loves anyway. And coffee. And chocolate. And coffee and chocolate.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


First day of school

All three kids are in school this year! Woo-hoo! Johnathan, first grade, of course goes everyday. Kalleigh goes MWF. Jonas just goes MW. Everyone was excited and ready to go! Interestingly enough, in each of my kids' classes there was one or more children crying on that first day. In Johnathan's class, it was the little girl sitting next to him. He whispered to me, "Mommy, what's wrong with her?" Not using this as a lesson in compassion as I probably should've, I said, "I don't know, Baby. Just be nice to her." Similarly, in Kalleigh's class, a child was crying. Kalleigh looked at me and said, "Mommy, she's hurting my ears." Oh, we need to work on that compassion at home! Jonas just ignored the crying kids in his class and went about his business of playing. I'm thankful that my kids are pretty independent. I'm sure this 4th child will be "THAT" child.

And we should be compassionate. Not my strong suit.

It's okay to call your first grade boy "Baby."

Just had to show this comparison of Johnathan and Jonas on their first days at Little People's School. :)

Obviously I had more time for photo editing when Johnathan was 2.

Obviously I had an actual camera when Johnathan was 2.

First time on the Praise Team

Kalleigh "sang" with me on the praise team this past Sunday! Well, we turned her mic off, but she thought she was! I thought it would give her a way to feel more involved and responsible rather than coloring or eating the whole time, which is what we usually do. For the most part, she did great! She got a little tired toward the end and started scratching the top--it just feels so weird, you know--so I'm glad we had it off. :)

First time ever to see a picture like this:

Okay that's a lie. I just think it's so funny when Bison sleeps upside down. Forgive him for his lack of modestly. He just doesn't care.

I doubt you've seen this kind of picture with a Batman Croc in the background.

I always try to have shoes in my pictures. It makes it them so much more real.

First Ladies Bible Class

Our assignment for the first day of LBC was to read the introduction of the book we will be studying this semester. We were also all supposed to bring salads for our salad luncheon. Also, at the beginning of each class, we all meet together for a devotional before we break into our groups for our book study. I was asked to do the first one.

The day before, I remembered one of the three things: my devotional. The night before, after my children had gone to sleep, I remembered the other two: salad and introduction. Introduction, no problem. Got it read. Salad, problem. Kids were asleep (with John out of town) and I have no lettuce, no spinach, no cabbage, no salad-y things of any kind. What do you do when you need the perfect recipe with only the ingredients you have? Go to Mamaw's cookbook, of course! Found it: potato salad. Who cares if I had never made potato salad in my life? If Mamaw says it's good, it's good.

For my devotional, I had decided to share the forward of Mamaw's cookbook. It's a devotional thought for sure as it compares the need for both physical and spiritual food! Then, as I was chopping up my ingredients for the potato salad, I thought, "Why don't I just bag up the separated, pre-measured ingredients and stir this potato salad up while I'm reading the devotional?" Sounded great, so that's exactly what I did.

It was a lot harder than I had originally thought. I was READING, people. I couldn't look at what I was putting into the bowl! Thanks to half-decent peripheral vision and a little luck, I got that thing made about the time I finished reading the forward. The ladies loved it, I plugged Mamaw's book, my salad for the luncheon was made, and I'm done with devo-duty for the semester. :)

Of course, I had to call Mamaw right afterward to tell her all about it!

Hope everyone else's "firsts" of the semester are going well, too!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two Big!

Jonas turned two a week ago. For our little family/Deans celebration, Jonas wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese.

This is nothing new. If we are within 5 blocks of CEC Jonas starts looking out the window, quietly saying, "Chuck E. Cheese? Chuck E. Cheese?" I think he's been once that he might remember. At the end of the school year, Johnathan's class had a party there. Anyway, as soon as CEC comes into view, Jonas, in an excited/panicky scream yells, "CHUCK E. CHEESE!!! CHUCK E. CHEESE!! CHUCK E. CHEESE!!" until he can no longer see it. So of course, when asked where he wanted to go for his birthday ... exactly.

With as much energy and motivation as I could scrape up that day, I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and "decorated" them by spelling out Jonas's name a couple of times across the cupcakes and then slapped a "2" candle in the middle. Poor 3rd child! For Johnathan's 2nd birthday, we had two different celebrations for some reason and I made two cakes: Big Bird and Tigger. And we went to CEC. I just hope and pray that Jonas will not need therapy because of this discrepancy.

Anyway, we had a great time, ate all of the pizza and cupcakes and Terry and I had some great conversation while the rest of the grownups took the kids around to play games! Perfect!

 Backing away from the flame and still trying to blow it out. Heehee. We might have helped him a little.

 Jonas's biggest reaction was to new clothes. That's my kid. :)

Speaking of clothes, Sunday morning, Jonas decided to outgrow all of his 2T pants. Luckily I had pulled a 2 & 3T box down from the attic some months ago and we found an outfit for church. So, it was time to go through his clothes. I had 6 boxes already out in the garage of clothes that all of the kids had outgrown over the past year that I had just piled there to sit until I could no longer put off putting them up in the attic. The time had come.

Tuesday I had a burst of energy (Woo-hoo!!!) and decided to get it done. The plan was to pull down the couple of 3T boxes and store the others. When I got up to the attic, I remembered when I saw them that a friend had given me FOUR boxes of 3Ts a year ago. Add that to my two, and I suddenly had SIX boxes of 3T clothes. People, Jonas is set. After putting away all I could, I still have 2 full boxes of 3T winter clothes and another almost full box of 3s that looked big or were actually 4s. Crazy, but I'm so thankful!

So my barely-2-yr-old is square into 3s. Bless his heart. What can I say? We make 'em sturdy. :)

Happy birthday, my sweet big boy. You were the perfect labor & delivery. You made our 8-year anniversary extra special that year! You do everything in your power to keep up with your brother and sister. You love your blanket and your thumb. You entertain yourself quite well. You are a clown and a half, doing anything for a laugh. And I love you so much!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Broken Leg ... oh, yeah, and the family reunion

Bless her heart. Kalleigh broke her leg almost 2 weeks ago. She was jumping on the trampoline and from what I can tell, it just buckled underneath her. Our orthopedic surgeon said that this kind of "buckle break" is common for her age! Crazy.

She broke it around 1pm on a Wednesday. I had said she could go jump on the trampoline for 5 minutes before nap time. Brilliant. I went out when I heard the screaming, but had no idea what had happened. I carried her in, examined her leg, and couldn't tell anything from looking. No bruising, swelling, nothing. So I told her to go ahead and go potty and she could rest it during her nap. Well, she took a few steps and then just collapsed, screaming. So I helped her take care of her potty business and went ahead and put her down for her nap. Thankfully, she fell right asleep.

I made the phone calls for advice to John and Mom, then spent a little time reading about broken legs in children and came to the conclusion that it warranted an x-ray. I called my pediatrician and the soonest we could get in was 4:00. Thankfully, "Miss Terry" was ready and willing to watch the boys while I got Kalleigh to the doctor!

The doctor mashed around on her leg while she and I both cringed and he said his best guess what that she had hyper-extended her knee because she winced the most when he put that backwards pressure on her knee. But if she had a broken tibia just below the kneecap and he was trying to hyper-extend it, of course that would hurt like ... a lot!

We sneaked into the x-ray place just before they closed. Since I'm pregnant, I couldn't be in the room where the x-rays were being taken, but instead of having me wait out in the hallway, they just brought me around the corner where the x-rays were being scanned in! I could see that something was not normal, but of course the technician wasn't allowed to say anything. They said they didn't know when the radiologist would be in to read the x-rays, so we should just wait for a call either that evening or the next morning.

Needless to say, church was a bust for us that night. I took the kids home while John took care of church duties. I wrapped her little leg with ice and an ace bandage, propped it up and let the kids watch a Veggie Tales before bedtime.

Thankfully, I did get the call that evening saying that, yes, the leg was broken and that I needed to call the pediatrician's office first thing in the morning to set up an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon, because of course our insurance requires a referral ... more to come on that ...

I put Kalleigh in the now-vacant crib, since we moved Jonas into the other kids' room into his big boy bed. I could just see Jonas trying to climb into Kalleigh's bed early in the morning with her broken leg. That would be fabulous. Thankfully, Kalleigh didn't object to the crib, and thought it was kind of cool for one night.

By the way, we were supposed to leave the next day for the Curtis family reunion up in AR. Timing ...

First thing in the morning, as instructed, I called the doctor and asked if an appointment with the Orth. Surg. had been made yet so that they could cast my daughter's leg. The poor, uninformed receptionist was defensive immediately. "Well, we're going to have to call over there to set that up, and a lot of times they don't want to cast it for 2-3 days." Seriously. Okay, I could understand if we already had a soft cast put on, but my baby's BROKEN leg had been COMPLETELY unprotected for 18 hours now, and we were leaving town that day. Oh, how the momma bear comes out. I filled her in on the crucial points of our situation and asked her to call me back as soon as they had an appointment.

Well, whaddya know, but just ten minutes later she called back and said that we had an appointment at 1:00. Thank you very much. :)

Now 24 hours after the breaking had occured, we get to see only the best pediatric orthopedic surgeon in the world, Dr. Mayfield. He and his staff are like NORMAL people. Caring, understanding, practical, all those things that most doctors office people usually are not! Yes, of course the leg was broken. We'll get a full-leg cast on it right away. We'll take it off in 3 weeks to re-x-ray it and probably get a short cast put on for another 2-3 weeks.

Kalleigh chose pink for her cast, of course, and while it was still sticky, we picked up the boys from the Deans and drove to AR!

My poor family had to deal with me tense and on edge and just worn out. Kalleigh was still in pain most of the weekend and so very frustrated that she couldn't run and play with her cousins as much as she wanted to. I was frustrated that my hands were tied up either carrying her or pushing her around in the stroller! After this whole mess, the reunion seemed to fall to the back burner.

BUT ...

I'm so glad we went ahead and drove on to AR! It was sooooo good to see so much family.

 And this is, what, 1/2 of just the Dean Curtis family? And we just keep getting pregnant. Thanks, Deborah for the pic. :)

One of the best things about having a cast at a family reunion is that everyone gets to sign the cast!

Oh! Mamaw got her cookbook published! It's called "Recipes for Body and Soul," and you can order it on Amazon right HERE! I think I'm going to get rid of all other cookbooks. What's the point? It's not like I'm going to use them anymore now that I have my very own signed copy of Mamaw's book. Everything that people repeatedly ask me to make here in Tyler is in that book. You just need one.

My favorite tradition: singing together.

Blessed Assurance--oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Indeed!

It took Kalleigh a week to start walking on her cast. Dr. Mayfield said that whenever she was okay with putting weight on it, that it was safe. Truly amazing.

She now walks, runs and even jumps with that silly cast on. Poor baby! It will be great when she gets a shorter cast so that she can walk more easily on it.

A huge THANK YOU to the anonymous donor who felt led to help us financially during this minor crisis. We have a massive deductible that we probably will not reach, and I don't know if these people knew that or not, but obviously God was a huge part of that. Whomever you are, we did receive it and are so very grateful. Praise God for providing!

Friday, July 16, 2010

How did we get halfway through July already?

Didn't the summer just start? And here we are with a month left until school starts again!

We had a wonderful trip to AR at the end of June for Mom's wedding. Time spent with family is just so precious, and I cherish every second! The wedding was wonderful. Very meaningful and "real." My children behaved shockingly well. I'm going to put together the wedding scrapbook, so I look forward to getting the pictures! I took very few pictures the whole time, but here are some:

 Uncle Kreg and Johnathan with their spiked hair.

The ONLY picture I got at the wedding: Jonas, Abby and Kalleigh.

That night after the wedding, all of the "new siblings" hung out together at Rees and Shanna's house for pizza and games. We had so much fun, and I look forward to more sibling time in the future! We are so blessed to be combining families who already know and love each other!

We stayed with John's mom the next couple of nights and the kids got some good "Momo" time in. We went to a great used book store at the River Market in Little Rock! It had a fun kids' section with a tent, that coincidentally was made out of the same fabric as Jonas's nursery. This is one of my favorite pictures, though such poor qualilty! It's everybody in the tent. Poor Johnathan had Roseola that day. Yeah, the kids passed it around during the trip, but didn't seem to suffer too badly. Johnathan was the loudest complainer. :)

Then we drove over to Mountain View to spend some time with the Kells. That afternoon we did the Blanchard Springs Caverns tour. I love that big cave! We saw several bats this time!

Johnathan's highlight, by far, was going fishing with Great-Papaw all Thursday morning. Papaw would hook the fish and let Johnathan reel them in! I even bought a license and brought in a few myself. :) I could've fished all day and the day after that and the day after that ...

After the fishing morning we drove up to Branson. The children were blown away by the Dixie Stampede and the Cirque Montage show kept the older two's attentions while Jonas fell asleep.

The next morning we slept in, swam in the hotel pool and then drove all they way home. We packed in a lot in a short amount of time!

Child Labor

Since then I've been trying to catch up on laundry and housework while being slammed with early pregnancy exhaustion! So basically the laundry is done, but the cleaning ... hmmm ... call before you come over!

We moved Jonas into Johnathan's and Kalleigh's room! He's now sleeping on his big boy Nemo bed, while all of the toys are now in the nursery/playroom. He's so proud of his new bed! Every time he wakes up after a nap or sleeping all night, the first thing he says to me is, "Leep Nemo bed!" He loves it, and thankfully it was a smooth transition.

Keep our church family in your prayers as we continue the search process for a new pulpit minister. It seems these days that the most obvious choices are the hardest to make.

That's about it for our family! It's been a nice lazy summer since the wedding, which is exactly what I've needed!

Don't worry folks. He's sleeping. :)