Welcome to Agrabah!

What an absolute blast this past weekend was! The First Redeemer Conservatory performed Aladdin, Jr. and it was simply spectacular!  I know I may be a bit biased, but seriously - there aren't adequate words to describe this year.  I'll give it my best shot though!

This was my fifth production with the FRC Conservatory of Music and Fine Arts Drama Class.  I can say without a doubt, this year really took the cake!   I looked forward to every class.  Tech week and production went smoothly. And, in the same amount of time as years past, we were able to pull off Annie (the elementary class production), the full Aladdin Jr. production, and a condensed JTF (Junior Theater Festival) competition performance.  We won an international award!  Not to mention, we had about 20+ extra kids than years past.  So, how did we do it?

1.  God Almighty:  He was the focus and center of everything we did.  We give Him glory for it all and continuously ask for His direction in all things.  We opened class with prayer.  We took time to study His word with the kids.  And, when extra prayer was needed, class stopped - and we prayed.  When decisions needed to be made, we sought Him first.  And, let me tell you, He showed up and showed out all year!  Thank you, Jesus, for blessing our program!  Thank you for allowing  us to reach families for Christ through musical theater.  What a fun way to serve!

2. A selfless leader: Katy loves the Lord, has a heart for kids, a creative mind, and a gift for teaching.  Put that together and you have one powerful punch in a tiny package that is Katy Cook.  She is quiet and humble.  She has never asked for recognition or been filled with pride.  She simply seeks to find the best in every single student and does what it takes to pull it out of that child.  As a mom, I'm incredibly grateful for what she has done for my children.  At the beginning of the year Audrey wouldn't speak.  She was the last to audition and we had to pull it out of her.  By the end of the year, she was the first to volunteer to stand up in class and improv with classmates.  She also had her first speaking role and solo in a performance.  Same with my youngest - who has now decided she wants to "be a singer".  She auditioned for a solo for another musical for the first time - and got it!  Life changing?  You bet!  As a choreographer, Katy was a joy to work with.  She's encouraging, supportive, and down right fun to be around!

3. Team Effort: This is certainly not a one man show.  Our leadership team met before the season began. We prayerfully considered the show and began to brainstorm about what we needed to do to make this the best we could for the kids.  We made a plan and we stuck to it!  Everything was thought out and organized before class ever started.  We communicated regularly and stayed on top of everything thanks to some incredibly organized and administratively gifted people.

One of my favorite things about the entire year was the way the kids showed their leadership.  They were taught how to lead and they put those skills in action when needed. When the elementary kids were having their production, the entire back stage process was lead by the older kids.  We went back stage at one point to make sure that the kids weren't running around crazy and what we found was all 19 first through fifth graders sitting quietly in their chairs as the older kids were kneeling with them and praying for their fears and nerves to be tamed.  Wow!  It doesn't get any better than that!  And, I will also say that the throughout the "big" production, the leadership continued.  What an incredible blessing this Mama has been given knowing that these are the kids my daughters look up to.

So, here's one last plug - if you're looking for a program for your child (first through twelfth grade) where they will be loved, taught, supported and encouraged - look no further.  The productions on stage will far exceed your expectations.  And, your child will learn far more than how to sing, dance, and act.  FRC Conservatory has gotten back to its mission focus - bringing kids closer to Christ through the art of musical theater.

Anxiety and Sleeping Fears

I'm reaching out to my friends for some advice on an issue that has recently popped up.  My 7 year old has suddenly developed a fear of going to sleep at night.  For a few months now she has complained daily of her tummy not feeling well.  I've taken her to the doctor twice and there have been no physical indications of an illness.  I've noticed some insecurities that she's dealing with and have been helping her to overcome those.  As of about a month ago, I noticed the daily complaints started changing to bed time.  When I put her to bed she would appear sick - even to the point of gagging.  She has not slept through the night in a month.  When I get her to sleep, she comes in my room usually between 1-2:00am visibly upset and unable to go back to sleep.  She seems to shiver with fear.  Often times I have taken her to another room to calm her and sleep with her until morning.  Her fears are progressing and now she is struggling just to go to bed at night.  She will sometimes work herself into a full blown panic attack.

I admit that with us being off of school so much in the last couple of weeks, bed times have been less consistent and I've been a little more willing to cuddle past bed time, let her fall asleep on the couch, etc.  Last night I was determined to make her stay in bed if she got up.  At 3:15 this morning, she came wandering into my room once again.  I walked her back to her room, tucked her in, and tried to leave.  Let's just say the next 45 minutes were unpleasant.  Every time I tried to leave her room, she chased me screaming.  It was painful to watch - and at 3:15 in the morning, I admit I was a wee bit cranky!  After nearly an hour, she calmed down and we discussed her fears at length.  I still ended up taking her to the guest room to sleep.  Even laying beside her, she wasn't able to go back to sleep until I wrapped both arms snugly around her.

Now, here are some things that I do know.  When we discuss her fears, they are consistent.  She is afraid 1 - that something bad is going to happen to me, her dad, or her sister and 2 - that she is afraid in the dark when she is not with an adult.  What I don't know is why all of a sudden these fears have developed.  We have been in our new house now for almost 7 months.  There have been two things that have happened that she has mentioned which could play a part in her fears.  One, we saw a bad car accident happen in front of us a few weeks ago.  We were the first on the scene and Derek & I both got out of our car to help the victims.  She was visibly upset by it.  Two, our sweet little 12 year old friend, Kylie, passed away from Cancer a couple of weeks ago.  She has asked many questions since then.

So, if these are the triggers of her fears, what do I do to calm them?  I've offered to keep lights on at night.  I check in on her more often.  I pray with her.  I diffuse essential oils before bed.  We discuss in length about her fears and concerns.  I try to reassure her.  I'm at a loss as to what else to do.

Snow Day Updates

I really stink at this "keeping up with my blog" thing.  Thank goodness we've been snowed in for several days and I can sit back and catch up on some things.  Laundry is done, dishes are washed, and by golly - I'm gonna sit down and blog!

First thing that has changed since my last post is our home.  We sold our house and moved further north into a beautiful new home.  It was not an easy road, but definitely worth it!  We are so happy in our new house and are so grateful!  The girls are going to a new school.  Audrey loves it.  It was definitely a positive move for her.  Maddie has struggled with the move a bit, but she's making progress.

Our cheer season went well.  It was a huge learning experience for me as Coordinator this year.  I do believe that the program honored its ministry goals and reached many girls and their families for Christ as we set out to do.  I'm still grateful to be a part of this amazing program.  Maddie loves cheer and has been blessed with some great coaches and teammates.

The girls and I are still participating in the FRC Conservatory's drama department.  The girls just had their very first elementary school performance.  They did ANNIE and it was super!  Be sure to check it out if get a chance.  I was incredibly proud of the kids - and of course, my own.  Audrey had her first speaking role and had a couple of one line solos.  She did fantastic!

This is also my 5th year teaching choreography for the drama class.  We did something new this year and it was a phenomenal experience.  We attended and competed in the JTF Festival.  It was a weekend filled with 4500 drama kids.  The weekend was filled with the Broadway stars, tv stars, and many other wonderfully, talented individuals.  The highlight of the weekend was receiving the Award of Excellence in Dance out of over 100 teams from 28 states and 6 countries.  What an honor!!

So, that's it for now.  More to come...

Summer 2014 Update

Once again I've fallen off of the blogging wagon.  You'll have to settle for an occasional update for now.  Several have asked about a few happenings in our lives so I thought I'd pop on here and knock it all out at once.  

First of all, we're having a great summer.  It's been packed full of swim team - which just ended.  The girls did great!  Maddie made the team this year and finished with several first place honors.  Audrey made some awesome time improvements and made it into the "double digit" club (improvements over 10 seconds).  We've had a couple of weeks of cheer camp and a week of drama camp. This week we are taking it easy before jumping into VBS and an overnight cheer camp next week.

Maddie after making the swim team.
Not sure that I ever posted this, but I took over as Coordinator for our competition cheer program.  I won't be coaching this year, but will be overseeing all the teams and doing all the "behind the scenes" stuff.  Our program has grown so much and I'm excited to see how the Lord is going to work this year.  I took several of the coaches on a cabin retreat right before camp.  It was an amazing time of rejuvenation and reflection.  God has truly anointed the ladies that are serving as coaches and I know it's going to be a wonderful year.  

Love my sweet coaches and friends!
Getting into the spirit!
We were suppose to be heading to Pure American Nationals today, but we opted out.  We had so much on our plate.  The expense was huge and our traveling/split the cost partners had to withdraw, so we chose to, as well.  It would have been loads of fun, but there are greater needs here right now.

Derek and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in May.  We celebrated with an Eastern Caribbean Cruise.  It was so much fun!  It was our first trip without the girls and I missed them terribly!  We really had a great time.  A couple of families from our church were on the same boat, so that made it extra fun.  :)

The end of this month Derek and I are heading to my 20th high school reunion.  I still can't quite wrap my brain around that one.  Have I really been out of school that long?  I'll be honest, I'm a little freaked out with my own insecurities - ya know, that same ole battle I fight every year with the weight issues.  But, I am who I am.  I'm going to go and enjoy myself.  I'll get to see some amazing friends that I literally haven't seen in 20 years.  And, maybe by my 30th reunion, I'll be skinny.  LOL

Throw back to my Senior Pic.

Audrey turned 9 last week.  Seriously, I'm feeling super old here!  She had a great time.  We got a couple of neighbors and went to the mall.  They went to My Room Rocks and designed some rooms.  It was super cute!  Can't believe this big girl will be starting 4th grade in the fall.  (Did I mention we just bought her a size 8 women's shoe?!)

Many have asked, so here's the scoop on the house.  Have you ever fallen fast and hard for something or someone?  Well, we did!  We weren't looking to move, though we've casually talked about it for years.  We have dreamed of living out on land, having some livestock, and enjoying the quiet.  Well, we found an amazing home on 10 acres of land about 45 minutes north of us.  It was everything we ever dreamed of - and much more.  We were willing to do whatever we could to get it.  For several weeks we negotiated with the sellers and finally came to an agreement which ended in a contract on the house.  We scrounged up closing costs and down payment - the night before our cruise!  We dreamed of the animals we would get, swimming in our new pool, where our furniture would go - all the fun stuff!  Well, obviously God had other plans.  I'll spare you all the details, but about 2 weeks after we put the contract on the house - and put our own on the market - things started to fall apart.  There were numerous issues that popped up - some that our lender said she had never in her career seen.  In the end, we felt like this was not a good choice for us.  The Lord gave us a very clear "out" and we took it.  It was heartbreaking at the time, but I know that it was what was best.  As of now, we still have our house on the market.  We've had 30 showings in a little over 30 days.  We've had one offer, which we turned down.  We're looking at other properties.  We're taking our time and making sure we are wise with our decisions.  It's exciting - yet challenging!  Half of our belongings are in a storage unit 30 minutes from here.  LOL  We have to keep the house "show ready" all the time - which is difficult with 2 children, 2 dogs, and a cat.  We've looked at so many different options.  Right now we're leaning towards a "fixer upper" that's on a beautiful 3 acre lot.  We'd love to make over our own kitchen, add a swimming pool, and update with our specific tastes.  We're just going to keep looking and praying.  The Lord will put us right where He wants us - and I know we'll be happy with wherever He picks!
Lastly, I wanted to share some exciting happenings with Chosen.  We are finishing up a CD project.  It's been incredibly exciting recording and going through the whole process of making an album.  Hopefully it will be out by Christmas.  :)  In the meantime, we'll be on an episode this Friday night on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress - Atlanta!!  We filmed an episode with the beautiful bride, Chrissy, back in October.  We didn't know if the episode would get picked up or not since they only air about 20 of the 80+ brides they film.  We just found out last week that they did choose Chrissy - so we'll be on TV THIS WEEK!!  I'm scared to death - and excited all at the same time.  You never know how on earth they will edit things.  They did have us sing a few diddies here and there.  :)  No matter what they do or do not air, I pray that Chrissy's story will touch the lives of others.  She is a beautiful person inside and out.  I'm blessed to call her friend.  And, I'm proud to say that I've seen her live out a life of grace and dignity in troubled times.  God is truly faithful to those who believe.

Spring Break 2014

Best staycation ever!  I don't think we could have packed any more into our week.  I'm pretty sure I need a vacation to recover from all the activity.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time with my girls.  I feel incredibly blessed to be able to provide such amazing opportunities for my girls.  Here are a few highlights from our week.

Rode scooters on the Greenway.
Sleepover with friends.
Saw Captain America on a date night with hubby!
Massage, Mani, Pedi - woohoo!
Girls caught a fish with the neighbors.
Sliced off a knuckle, not pleasant.
Nail in the tire, but all is well now.

Saw the musical, Anne of Green Gables.

Spent a day at the Atlanta Zoo.
Went horseback riding at Sunny Farms.

Went to Griffin, GA to visit one of my best friends from college.  Our girls were instant friends.

Another favorite at the museum - digging for fossils.

Loved the Children's Museum in Chattanooga!  Check out these bee hives with all the busy bees.

Saw Beauty and the Beast

Maddie had a very busy week!

DIY Lalaloopsy House

I was feeling a little crafty today so I thought I would make Maddie a house for her Lalaloopsies.  She loves playing with the miniature ones.  In just a couple of hours and less than $20, she has a new house for her babies (and mommy loves the organization).

I started out with a quick trip to Goodwill.  I found this sturdy shelf.  Not sure what exactly it was used for, but it screamed miniature Lalaloopsies to me!  ;)

It got a good bath.  Next I used a pencil to outline the opening on the back panel.  Then I removed the back panel to add the "wall paper".  This was just old scrapbook paper I had tucked away.  I cut them into blocks and used Mod Podge to adhere them.

After that, I just used some ribbon and hot glue to cover up the dated edges around the shelf.

Last, I added the back panel back on and put a few little buttons on.

This is the final project with her babies:


Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and then thank Him for all He's done. Phil 4:6

I have been clinging to this verse for several days now.  Waiting patiently is not something I do very well.  I haven't advertised much of what I've been dealing with because I didn't want to bring about needless worry.  It's easy for me to go online and research all the "bad words" my doctor said it could be or enter my symptoms on a website only to be given "worst case scenario" to freak me out.  I will say that the thoughts have consumed me, but I've truly had a peace that no matter what, God was in control and we would take any diagnosis as it was.  I serve a faithful God and He holds the future, MY future, in His hands.

Let me back up a bit and tell you how this journey started and why I felt like I was living an episode of House, MD.  Two weeks ago tomorrow I had a doctor appointment to check on some issues.  I was due another physical, so I called a couple of weeks prior and made the appointment.  I'll spare you all the details, but six and a half hours later I was leaving the hospital from having an emergency CT Scan.  Thankfully, there were NO blood clots in my lungs!  I was sent home with orders for a brain and neck MRI, blood tests, and appointments to see an ENT, Cardiologist, and Neurologist.

Today was my "results" appointment and I am happy to announce things are not as bad as initially thought!  The main praises at this time are: it is NOT Lupus, MS, or Cancer!  Thank you, Jesus, I am so grateful!  There are still more tests and specialists to see, and although results are not 100%, for now she is saying it is chronic mono. My spleen and liver are enlarged and some small lymph nodes are present in my neck, but given my blood counts are normal, she did rule out Leukemia.  We will recheck in a few months.  My sugar is slightly elevated, but not Diabetic.  I will be put on a small dose of meds to hopefully help my sugar, liver, and spleen.  The worst of my results, according to the doctor, is my neck.  I have several bulging discs and pinched nerves, which could explain the loss of sensation in my arm.  However, it is the wrong arm according to the findings.  :/  Again, going to the neurologist for further testing.  Additionally, I have a deviated septum and swollen sinuses, which would explain the lack of sleep and breathing.  I will be doing a sleep study soon.  The doctor will let me know if he suggests surgery or treat me for Sleep Apnea.  Not much I can do on my own about a crooked nose.  Haha!  I also still have to see the Cardiologist just to cover all the basis.

Ok, so there you have it!  Probably way more than you ever wanted to know about my medical history.  But so many asked, so there it is!  I'm so looking forward to feeling 100% again and I know it's just around the corner.  :)

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the prayers and sweet notes.  I love you all! I'm giving God all the glory.  I do believe He brought healing.  I am convinced
that my doctor expected worse.  She said she was very pleasantly surprised at how good my blood work was, especially with some of the other findings.  So, I'm saying my God is bigger, my God is Greater!  Booya!

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