Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The tough ones

This afternoon, I spent some time reflecting on our tutoring program with some other volunteers and planning for 2015. It was such a joy to sit and talk through joys and struggles over the past few months. We talked about "wins" and when it was my turn, all I could think about was this one little boy, Alexander.

I met him in August and our first interaction was me intervening during an argument between peers. The kids were told to line up by grade level and there seemed to be quite the dispute among the other kids about what grade Alexander was in. He spoke ZERO English and honestly, he seemed a bit confused his grade level too. Just recently having arrived in the U.S, you could tell he was overwhelmed with the situation. 

A few weeks later, I'm sitting on the floor trying to reason with him (almost impossible) and convince him to pull out his homework. Followed by another interaction when I was taking him home after tutoring. While trying to calm a crying child outside my car, Alexander smacks another kids in my car and hops in the drivers seat. What ensued was, to be honest not my best tutoring moment, but with zero patience left I just started yelling at him in Spanish. Y'all, this boy. He tries my patience like no other kid before.

Yet, days after my yelling match, he sees me as he gets off the bus and comes running at me full speed and gives me the biggest hug. I was kind of like "what the heck?" I scream at you and you hug me? Anytime I see Alexander he face lights up and he embraces me.

The last week of tutoring, I worked with him one-on-one. He really wants to do the right thing. He was following my directions and practicing his spelling words over and over again.

It's the tough ones, you know, that really teach you things. That make it worth it. The ones you have to fight so hard for and dig deeper than you thought possible, they are the "wins." Isn't that true in all things? I mean I love the sweet, easy kids too, but my patience isn't tested and I don't practically lose my mind, and maybe the testings and near insanity makes the ending even sweeter.


"I like tutoring because you teach me how to play and read. You help me in school and I'm learning English." He then giggles and admits to listening to music during tutoring. Love this boy and so excited to see his progress. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Twenty fifteen

Time just seems to keep passing by faster and faster. It's crazy to me that it is 2015 now & that Christmas has come and gone.

Today Will & I started back to work. It was a bit of a rough start, snoozing the alarm way too many times, but we made it! Actually, Will is still not off work. Poor thing, he left way before I did and is still working away. Even though it was hard to wake up and get back into the swing of things, it's good to get into a routine again.

There are quite a few unknowns for us this upcoming year. Will's job on Sleepy Hollow will end in about three weeks and from there we honestly don't know what he will be doing. It's possible that we will say goodbye to the film business for a while and he may move into something different. Or we may move to another state, which seems unlikely at this point, but yet still possible. I'm thankful that we have made smart decisions financially and we feel very at ease with the potential that Will may be job-less for a bit.

The past week, I've found myself reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to what I want to change, keep the same and try out. Here's what I've come up with:

1. Will & I both want to encourage each other to consistently study the Bible. We agree that realistically this looks like daily devotionals on our own, more prayer time together and the biggest thing, joining a small group. I've been in a women's group for a while, but we took a break last semester. We have desired to be in a couple's small group for a while, but with Will's schedule we can't seem to find one that works. We're still deciding if we want to go separate routes or seek out a couples small group, but either way we need that community.

2. I want to Last year I devoured books & I want to continue doing that. Expand my reading list to new & different genres and just enjoy reading.

3. Consistent physical activity. I said this last year and there were months were I was great at it and many months I was not. Trying again this year. Here's to yoga, lap swims and long runs ... or short ones perhaps :)

4. Begin learning a third language. I still haven't decided on what language yet, but leaning towards French. I've wanted to learn it for a while & I really want to give it a shot, even if I just learn a little bit.

5. Travel. I'd really love to go abroad with Will, but we have no idea what the year may hold. Even if we take a few short trips, I will be so happy. Traveling with Will reminds me how we are best friends, in addition to husband & wife. We travel really well together & I love experiencing new places with him by my side. I love his laid-back travel approach & that we are totally satisfied to be reading a book & sipping coffee -- no jam packed schedule needed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Preparation for Christmas

Thanksgiving has come and gone and the advent season has already started. This year, we're working hard to focus less on material items and more on preparing our hearts for Christmas and the birth of Christ. It's tough when the world around us is saying buy more, this will bring you happiness, etc, but we are fighting hard to swim upstream. 

Normally we decorate closer to the second week in December, but this year we both felt eager to get the tree up and enjoy as much time cozied up by the tree & lights as possible. Last year, Will was working some super late nights and I remember that by the time we got the tree we were rushing to get it up. This year felt different, it was slower and more enjoyable. 

Things I'm looking forward to this Christmas season:
  • lots of time reading by a warm fire and sparkling tree
  • the children's Christmas play -- my absolute favorite thing where I get to see some of my sweet tutoring kids take part in the play
  • Christmas cookies & cookie swappin' -- my friend & I host an annual cookie swap & its such a blast getting to taste all different kinds of goodies
  • Advent time -- We started a new tradition with an advent calendar I made; each day has a passage for us to read to follow the story of Christ's birth
  • ELF and every other Christmas movie! -- We've already watched Christmas vacation with our neighbors & I can't wait to watch more.
  • Christmas Eve dinner with the Coopers-- The past two years, Will & I have hosted his family for Christmas eve dinner. I really enjoy cooking all day with Will and getting to serve the food to his sweet family of ALL men. We share some of my family's traditions (English poppers) and have created our own traditions too.
  • Post-Christmas time with my family -- we'll head to Charlotte after Christmas to celebrate with my family. I love it so much & so enjoy getting to take part in the traditions I grew up with. 
  • wrapping gifts -- I think I got this from my mom, but I love wrapping gifts! Finding creating ways to wrap them is so fun.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fall fall fall

Oh hey, just me. Haven't written in for-ev-er, but I'm back for now.

If you know me at all, you know I'm a summertime girl. A ninety-degree-weather-bathing-suit-&-tees- go-to-the beach-every-day kind of girl. (There is a reason I married a man from the beach!). But as I have gotten older, I have to say that I have come to really love fall. The coolness of the morning, the freshness of a new season, the comfort of hearty soups and the excitement of holidays on the horizon makes this time of year so fun.

(can you guess who did which one?)

Where we live it takes a while for fall to hit. We were rocking the eighty degree weather well into October and there were plenty of beach-worthy days right up until Halloween. Finally, things seemed to have cooled down for good. We've broken out the long sleeve shirts and sweaters, the down vests and boots. I cooked up several soups and we've eaten them with warm corn bread dipped in. The down comforter is even on our bed now, which is pretty exciting because I fight to have that thing year around, but Will insists its only for fall/winter.

 Even though I have a cup of tea every morning, I find that this time of year makes me savor it even more. I hop out of bed, throw on some slippers to protect my feet from the frigid hardwoods and turn on the kettle. Unloading dishes and cleaning up messes I ignored the night before, I wait for the whistling that tells me my water is ready. The past few days, I've found myself refilling my mug for round two of Earl Grey. It's so nice to just sit, slowly wake up and spend some time doing a devotional (currently doing one on Colossians and it's awesome).

Fall for us has meant long walks on Saturdays and Sundays through our favorite neighborhoods. Picking out our dream houses from the historic areas of Wilmington and sometimes stopping in for a coffee on the walk home. It means flannel shirts and neighborhood hangouts outside, fires in the fire pit and (if I bug Will enough) fires in our indoor fireplace soon!

 The neighborhood Oktoberfest (below) was awesome; totally taking things too far-- like a 20 person German band, costumes & lots & lots of lights-- and I loved it.

And as always during seasons of work for Will, this time is one of cramming in as much time as we can get together even when that means sacrificing other things (normal daily chores etc). They have been filming downtown a bunch lately so I've popped in for "lunch" with Will a few days. Lunch is normally at some random time that is totally not lunchtime for normal people. Sometimes its my dinner-ish time, other times it's the middle of the afternoon. Ninety five percent of the time I spend more time finding parking downtown than I do eating with him, but like I said we are just cramming in as much time as we can get. Thankful for a man who works hard! (Check out his camera cart on set!).

Monday, August 11, 2014


I've had this hankering for risotto recently and last night I finally made it. Granted it took double the time I remembered and we ate at 8:30 pm, it was delightful and everything I wanted.

As I methodically stirred the risotto, memories of my first time making it rushed back. It was senior year of college and I was babysitting regularly for a family in Chapel Hill. The dad was a doctor and the mom worked from home as an editor, I believe. I picked up their kids from school, took them home, prepared dinner and shuttled the kids to and from practices. On this particular winter day, after shuffling inside with the kids in toe, I found a recipe for risotto sitting on the counter. The mom, a super organized, type-a-personality, popped in to say that risotto was on the calendar for tonight. She quickly asked if I had ever made risotto and to that, I admitted that no, I'd never made something quite that fancy (after all I was a college student!). "It's really not as complicated as everyone says," she told me, "it's just a lot of stirring!" At that, she wandered back into her office and shut the door. 

I began skimming the recipe and pulling out the ingredients. Unlike me, this mom was a planner. She had individually portioned (1 cup) chicken broth in the freezer. Not to mention the typed out grocery list, which was organized by aisle at her particular store, so that she could simply circle the items they needed to restock on at home. And, if it wasn't on her list, don't worry, she had additional "write-in" lines! We couldn't have been more different. So I set out to make their dinner, hoping that I wouldn't screw this thing up because they didn't really seem like the "buy some takeout on a whim because we screwed up the risotto" type of people. 

Dicing up an onion and some garlic, I let those soften in some oil, quickly filling the house with the sweet smell of browning onions. After a few minutes, I added the risotto. With small crackles of the rice hitting the cast iron skillet, I began to smell the nuttiness of the risotto. I let that cook for just two or three minutes, then I poured in some white wine. Any kind is fine, even some thats been sitting in your fridge is fine. I find that it's best to pour a glassful in the pan and then refill for your glass. You're going to need it with all this stirring. Once the liquid has soaked in, begin pouring in the chicken broth a half of a cup at a time. You will get into a rhythm, pour, stir, stir, stir, until the liquid is gone, add another half of a cup. I'm not actually sure how many cups I poured in, I just kept adding more broth until the arborio rice was soft when I bit into it. It will be a while and a lot of stirring so grab a book in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, or better yet convince a friend to chat with you while you stir. You will see a clear difference in your pan, from separated grains of rice to more of a creamy mixture. Make sure you add some salt and pepper here and there, maybe some mushrooms or a spritz of a lemon, too. I like a little fresh parmesan cheese grated on top and some arugula mixed in just before serving. This meal is rich and so satisfying.

The great thing about risottos is that there are so many ways to change it up. Add some veggies in the spring or butternut squash in the fall. It will not disappoint, I promise. 

I am happy to report that I successfully made it on that winter day in college. I snuck a few spoonfuls before running of to drop the kids at karate. It's a funny thing to prepare a family's dinner, but not share it with them. It felt a little bit wrong, maybe I just selfishly wanted some more of that creamy risotto, but to me sharing the meal with those you've prepared it for is the best part. It makes all the stirring worth while.

Risotto (4 people as a side dish)
1 medium yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. arborio rice
1 c. white wine
1-2 cartons of chicken broth (or homemade) ... I am not sure of the exact amount I used, but I always try to have two cartons on hand just in case I have to tap into the next one, usually one will do.
mushrooms, parmesan cheese, veggies, arugula (any extra add ins you can think of!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sunday morning skipping

This past Sunday was by far one of my favorites in a long time. The night before we had friends over and we stayed up super late catching up on life & eating pie. We climbed in bed and I was dreaming of sleeping in late. Our alarm went off too early, or so it seemed, and without even thinking about it we hit snooze. And continued to snooze again, and again. Honestly, this not that far off our usual Sunday morning, except that I normally get up after one snooze and get ready for church, then go back in and wake Will up. The poor guy is always in a state of sleepiness due to his job. But this Sunday, I kept hitting the snooze button. I'd think, next one I'll get up. Finally, I told Will, let's just turn it off & sleep in so we pulled the covers back over us and happily slept for as long as we wanted. 

I eventually got up, because I can't actually sleep that late anymore, made some tea, and grabbed my journal. Pulling the curtain back just enough to let a little light shine in on my side,  I settled back into bed. Will slept soundly by my side and I happily read for a while. Finally, around noon or so, I woke him up. We decided we'd make a little brunch to go with our coffee/tea (round two of tea for me). I whipped up some buttermilk from milk and lemon juice, gathered the ingredients for biscuits and cut in the butter. Since it was Sunday and why not?, I used my largest biscuit cutter. I wanted big, fluffy ones that I could smother in jam. Will fried up some bacon and a few eggs, while making a big cup of coffee. This is what I dream of: slow mornings with my favorite person, buttermilk biscuits topped with homemade strawberry jam and some new tunes spinning on the record player. 

Growing up, I always felt like there was this requirement to go to church every Sunday. Even in college, I felt this guilty feeling if I skipped a week. Eventually some sweet friends pointed out to me that I shouldn't feel forced to go and that no one is keeping an attendance log. There's nothing wrong with skipping every once in a while to catch up on sleep or in my case, catch up with your husband. This past Sunday was delightful and I didn't feel one ounce of guilt about missing church. It was exactly what we needed after a very long & frustrating week. I am thankful for sleeping in, homemade brunch, and a God who loves me even if I take a day off.

***Addition: After reading this weeks later, I want to add a little note. I recently read a book review on this book that basically said we no longer need to go to church, we should just sit at home, be comfy & drink tea while thanking God. I totally disagree & completely believe we desperately need the church. We need community and accountability. After rereading this post, I realized it came across more like that book. This post was more about rest and how every once in a while, it can be beneficial to rest and catch up with your spouse who works 65+ hours a week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dog days of summer

Even though summer officially just started in terms of the calendar, we have been feeling the heat for a while. We have seen plenty of days in the 90's with a heat index of 103 or so. On Sunday, our AC went out so we have REALLY been feeling the heat. The situation is confusing, but in short it could have been fixed Monday, but now it will hopefully be fixed on Friday. I'm working hard not to wallow in self-pity over here, but I must admit that I have treated myself to an icee and lots of popsicles. Thankfully, my father-in-law brought over a window unit so we have that cranked up in our bedroom so sleeping hasn't been too bad. I'm struggling to have patience and trying to remind myself that AC is a luxury that many do not have. We are working hard on being positive and not complaining (too much).

Other life updates: the triathlon I was training for got cancelled. Not sure if I mentioned that on here before?, but yes, quite a bummer. I have to confess that once I heard it was cancelled I really slacked on the workouts. This week I am teaching VBS at our church which has been great, a little exhausting, but wonderful.

Here are a few scenes from summer thus far.

devouring popsicles to fight the heat. these are from trader joes & are delicious, strawberry & mango flavor.

a little slow morning time with some fresh south carolina peaches on my bowl of cereal

heaven on earth, i'm convinced. last week i spent at least two hours at the beach daily (eek, sorry but it was awesome).

lazy summer days have included a few naps for the two of us

scenes from last night: cereal in a mug (because its too hot in this house to turn the stove on) & a good read, all while sitting directly in front of the window unit & air blasting on my face.