Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Pawty Day || Charlie is 77

Today Charlie turns 11! 
 
It's hard to believe our little fur baby is slowing down (just a teeny bit) and is eating senior dog food these days. But outside of anxiety, allergies and dirty teeth, he is otherwise super healthy and happy. Charlie has seriously been the very best dog to us -- he is protective of his family, very cuddly, has never eaten a shoe or piece of furniture in his life and let's Thomas roll on top of him and pull his tail without complaint.
 
Lucky for me, Charlie came with my marriage to Matt when he was just five years young. Matt got Charlie as a puppy 11 years ago. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans during Matt's final year of law school at Tulane, Charlie's parents were rescued from St. Charles Avenue. Soon thereafter, Charlie was born on Mardi Gras and he has been partying ever since.  
On Saturday we threw a little pawty for him. And by "pawty" I mean the kids sang happy birthday, gave him a cake, took him for a long walk and played outside all day! Gone are the days of throwing elaborate dog parties, but Charlie still had a terrific day and was utterly exhausted by the end of it.
For the sixth year we surprised Charlie with his favorite peanut butter banana doggy cake from Canine Cafe . He ate the entire thing, including the doily, in two bites.
Afterwards, the kids ate lunch in their play house. Caroline happily played waitress and Thomas happily accepted the service...and then threw his plate on the ground after a few bites. Oh, toddlers (sigh).
Matt also chased the kiddos around the patio making sure no one even thought about removing their helmet.
Then Thomas mowed the yard under Caroline's supervision before both of them collapsed into bed for a THREE HOUR NAP! It's amazing how many mimosas you can drink with your husband on the patio in three hours. After the kiddos woke up we took the party down the street to our friend's house (sorry Charlie).
In typical fashion, I showed up wearing the exact same outfit as Lisa.
And Matt had on the same outfit as John. Even our little guys were wearing the same monogrammed seersucker shorts. Hilarious.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening grilling out, drinking beers and mimosas and letting the kids exhaust themselves on the playground and running up and down the hill.

It was a great day!

Previous Birthday Pawties:
Charlie Turns Ten
Charlie Turns Nine 
Charlie Turns Eight 
Charlie Turns Seven
Charlie Turns Six
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Monday, February 27, 2017

Prayers for Dad

It's been awhile since I provided an update on my dad's cancer journey. To be honest, I am always hesitant to share less than positive news. Writing this post is extremely difficult for me and if you know me in real life you know how hard it is for me to talk about dad's cancer. However, so many of you continue to reach out to me (I can't tell you how much your love and concern means to me) so I feel compelled to give you all an update and also ask for prayers. I wish I had better news...
 
(skim for bolded sentences for abridged version)
 
For many months now we've just kind of been waiting to see how dad continues to respond to the clinical trial, Opdivo. We were told from the beginning that dad's cancer is not curable, however it is treatable for now. So for the past year or so he's been going in for hours of chemo every two weeks, followed by CT scans every few months to check the status of the cancer cells in his lungs. 
 
A few weeks ago dad's oncologist, Dr. Z, ordered a routine CT scan. We had to wait an entire week for the results which is always so nerve wracking. At last, the test results were in and the doctor reported the scan showed the cancer cells in his lungs were super tiny -- a ginormous blessing. For once (in a very long time) we were receiving good news. We were all so relieved and abundantly grateful to hear conversations about the possibility of spreading dad's chemo treatments a little further apart in hopes he can start getting stronger physically. The side effects of all his chemo have been brutal. He is constantly exhausted and in pain these days. Needless to say, we were all finally filled with some hope...
 
However, there was one more piece of information Dr. Z needed to share -- the CT scan also picked up signs of something in dad's kidney and ordered an emergency PET scan to confirm what he suspects is new cancer. The sliver of good news -- if the PET scan confirms kidney cancer, well...we can remove the kidney and hopefully get back on course. So we prayed for that.
 
The PET scan day came and went. And we waited for what felt like years for the results -- there is a mass in both kidneys and it appears the cancer has also spread to his bones. I really can't explain the wave of anger and sadness I felt when I learned this. I know God can do anything he chooses. So why isn't he choosing to heal dad entirely and bring him back to his vitality? I want my dad back. And I want him back in his energetic, hilarious, tan and full of life state. I miss his reports on how big and glassy the waves were he surfed the previous weekend. I miss seeing all the hard work he's put into his yard and garden. I miss his updates on the impressive residential projects he is managing and building at work.
 
But quickly dad reminded me of God’s eternal goodness and love for us. He doesn't want any of us to be sad or scared or angry. He wants us to enjoy and take advantage of all of the time we have with him on this side of heaven. And so I promise to do that.  
 
We are driving home to Orlando next weekend to spend some time with dad. It's a lot of driving for a short amount of time we will have there, but I'll take whatever I can get.

As for next steps, Dad has an outpatient biopsy procedure on Thursday which will help inform our path. Additionally, he will begin radiation on his bones March 6.
 
Thank you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers. 
My sister sent me this sweet picture of Mom, Dad and Jackson last weekend.
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Five on Friday || Life Lately

Happy Friday! Five recent happenings...
one. The weather has been gorgeous in Charlotte lately so we've been spending a lot of time outside. Last weekend I picked up this adorable push car for the kids and they've been fighting over it ever since. I'm not sure why I waited so long to get one of these. It's way easier than pulling two kids in a wagon and it doesn't have pedals for the kids to get their legs caught in (I'm looking at you, evil tricycle). 
We also finally picked up the second seat kit for our stroller and are also kicking ourselves for waiting so long to do this. It's only been two weekends and there are no less than 2 boxes of raisins and 3 sleeves of crackers crushed in the bottom of the stroller already.
two. Triple Date Night! Last weekend Matt and I went on the most fun triple date with two other couples. We kick off the evening at Exit Strategy, a 60 minute puzzle you have to solve to escape the room! (Charlotte friends -- we did the Murder Mystery room and loved it). I am happy to report that our team of friends solved the mystery with minutes to spare! We can't wait to go back and do another room next!
 Afterwards we enjoyed a delicious dinner in a private wine cellar in the basement of an old church.
Matt and I started with fried green tomatoes topped with pimento cheese, followed by steaks and lots of cocktails!
It was an awesome night out with friends.
three. I love this little snap I took of the fam walking to church last weekend. Caroline has been loving Sunday School. And Thomas has been hating it. I swear he acts like we're never coming back for him when we drop him off. Also, a huge shout out to the nursery crew for catching Thomas's contact that fell out while he was there last week. I didn't even tell them about him wearing contacts so I was ridiculously impressed when I received a text during church saying "We think a contact just fell out of Thomas's eye?" This blew me away. In the almost two years that he has been wearing and losing contacts regularly at school none of his teachers have ever recovered a contact! So grateful!
four. While transferring my 235983405 photos from my phone to my computer I realized I forgot to post about our recent impromptu happy hour date night at Heist Brewery. Matt and I had an event to attend after work a few weeks ago and realized when it was over that our kids would still be very much awake. So we took a detour on our way home and ended up in NoDa for an early dinner. I am certain that happy hour dates are my new favorite.
five. Our daycare recently moved one of Thomas and Caroline's old teachers into Thomas's class! It has been super awesome because she is one of our very favorite teachers ever and loves our kiddos so much! It was an amazing surprise and we've already seen so much growth in Thomas in the past few weeks! He is drinking out of cups without spilling his milk everywhere, saying a lot more words and is now obsessed with books. So I'm wrapping up today's post with a few favorite pictures of Thomas that his teacher sent me this week!
 
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Monday, February 20, 2017

February Supper Club (& How It All Got Started)

One of the most common questions I'm asked anytime I post about Supper Club is "how does your Supper Club work?" So today I'm going to share about how we got started...
How it All Got Started
I've always been a people gatherer. Bringing people together (especially fun people) is a passion of mine and it always has been. In high school I loved hosting my best guy friends on the football team over for pancakes on game day mornings. In college I led bible studies for my sorority. On winter breaks I hosted annual pasta parties back home with my best high school friends. I've always been the party and vacation planner of all my friend groups -- and I love it.

After graduation I moved to Charlotte where I knew NO ONE -- and so the pursuit began for some solid girlfriends. Lucky for me, I made some pretty incredible friends right away through my new job. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have met my husband! I also joined a bible study and made a few more friends there. And I made friends with their friends. Then Matt and I moved to a new neighborhood and made a few more friends. And so I was feeling pretty good about all these wonderful groups of people in our life and we found ourselves planning vacations with these friends, hosting them over for dinner, going out for drinks together and more.

And then I had a baby.

Shortly after Caroline was born I quickly recognized how much less time I had in my life for hanging with friends. Things changed so much after a little person came along and began monopolizing all my time not spent at work. Then my friends started having babies too and it seemed like getting together was nearly impossible. And honestly, it was a bit lonely. I missed my friends. And I definitely missed late nights of funny, inappropriate conversations over too many glasses of wine. My biggest challenge was making time for each group of friends -- work friends, bible study friends, neighbor friends, etc. It was difficult to keep up with them all regularly and still have time for my family.

Then one night I told Matt I was going to start a Supper Club -- and he loved it and encouraged me to do it. And it's honestly been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 

So I approached each friend separately and asked if she would be interested in joining a supper club. Through these discussions I learned that I wasn't alone in feeling like regular fellowship with gal pals was certainly missing. And although some of the girls did not know each other well, there was a resounding "YES!" from them all to kick off the club. And so I did...

How It Works
Once I rallied enough girls together we flushed out the organization and the process: 

ORGANIZATION: At the beginning of the year each member selects a month she would like to host Supper Club in her home. We have liked using Sign-Up Genius to plan out the year because it's first come, first serve for grabbing a month and the website automatically sends reminders to the host when her turn is coming up.

We also agreed on the third Thursday of every month at 7 pm so the timing is consistent and the girls could plan accordingly (several of the girls have husbands who travel and need to secure babysitters for the night).

We have 11 girls in the club which leaves one month open each year. The past few years we've used this month for a girls night out. However, this year we're trading our open month in for a girl's beach weekend!

HOSTING: A few weeks before the next Supper Club the hostess sends out an evite so she can collect RSVPs and plan for the night. The fun part about hosting is you can literally do whatever you want -- create an ultimate salad bar, require pajama attire, make a large pot of chili, go fancy, celebrate babies, throw a party under the stars, grab takeout, celebrate birthdays, etc. The only rule is the hostess provides all of the food and each guest brings a bottle of wine. It's that easy!

If you aren't in a Supper Club, don't be afraid to start your own! I can speak for our entire group when I say that this club has been a blessing to each of us. So many friendships have evolved over the years -- from weddings to birthdays, we've celebrated countless events together, welcomed 11 babies (and have a handful more on the way), started a weekly play group for the kids to get together, share a group text that dings all day with mom questions or funny stories, been there for each other in the toughest of times and many of our husbands even get together on a weekly basis for beers and trivia. 

***
February Supper Club
This month I hosted Supper Club! I kept things as simple as possible with a crockpot meal and prepped far in advance because Matt had an event the same night. Thankfully, my bestie Mel came straight from work to help with the kiddos and last minute dinner prep. 
For the tablescape I threw a lightly shimmered tablecloth down and ran a $3 roll of pretty gold dot wrapping paper (from Target dollar spot) down the center of the table. Then I crammed as many gorgeous tulips as I could into 3 of my coffee mugs and set out some gold votives. Easy.
For fun, I sprinkled some fun TableTopics across the table. In typical fashion we were too busy chatting away about everything that we didn't really get through too many of the cards but they were still fun!
 
Sticking with my "easy" theme, I picked up a log of goat cheese, a round of boursin cheese and crackers from Trader Joes for an appetizer.
Caroline desperately wanted to hang "with the ladies" as she kept saying, so I let her party with us through dessert with only a few ear muffs along the way. Once Matt got home he scooped her up and put her to bed. But the very first question she asked when she woke up the next morning was "are the ladies still here?!" 
You're welcome, Lisa.
For dinner I served Sausage & Cheese Tortellini Soup that I slow cooked all day in the crockpot (adding the tortellini and the spinach in the last hour of cooking). Alongside the soup I served fresh bread I picked up from the Teeter and warmed in the oven for a few minutes. Then Mel sliced it for me while I put a screaming toddler to bed. Thanks Mel!
For dessert I whipped up some homemade ice cream sandwiches! I kid. I kid. I unwrapped a box of M&M ice cream sandwiches and arranged them on a plate.
And finally, may I introduce the cutest little new member to our Supper Club? To the right we have 6 days new -- baby Belle! She is pure sugar and enjoyed her first party with the ladies.

As is standard, my Supper Club ran late into the night, many bottles of wine were drank, dinner was devoured and I kicked the last 3 usual suspects out just before 11 pm and collapsed into bed. Another successful Supper Club in the books!

My Previous Supper Club Dinners
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