He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spelling Bee

Well this was a cultural experience to say the least!  By winning her school spelling bee back in December, Abbey was able to participate in the Memphis-Shelby County Spelling Bee along with over 150 other kids ranging in age from 2nd to 8th grade.  The 2nd grader was the youngest participant ever and was such a cutie.  He was 6 years old!  There were a handful of 3rd and 4th graders but mostly 5th-8th.  We had to be there at 8 in the morning to get signed in and so Abbey could get her seat on the stage along with all the other kids.  They had this huge screen with all of the kids pictures flashing up before it started, and then once the Bee got going, they would keep the picture up when each speller came to the stage.  Before I knew they would do that, it took me at least 20 minutes to figure out what order the pictures were flashing up in (alphabetically by school, NOT last name) and then another 10 minutes to manage to take the picture of Abbey's picture before it flashed off....


We were packed in the auditorium like sardines and the chairs were not exactly comfortable but even Naomi hung in there (thanks to Abbeys' DS and lots of coloring supplies that Annie brought).  Abbey was number 22 out of 156 and made it through the third round along with about 45 other kids.  We were very proud of her to have made it to the top third especially with some of the crazy words those kids were having to spell!


I was a little afraid that our super-competitive daughter would be disappointed not to have gone further, but considering that the rounds she made it through took almost 3 hours (no, I"m not kidding!), she was ready to get off that stage!  The word she missed was innocuous which now we all know how to spell.  I honestly thought it was one she studied and that she missed it on purpose just to get off the stage, but she promises that is not true :)
Great job AJ!

Naomi's Friendly Friday

We have absolutely loved Naomi's preschool class this year.  Each semester, everyone gets a turn for a "Friendly Friday".  In the fall, she got to make a poster about herself and take it to school, but this semester, she just took a snack to class and the class made this poster about her.  All of her classmates say something sweet about her and the teacher rights it all down and sends home a big poster.  I think it is absolutely precious!  Jason and I have already noticed how she talks about several of the boys more than the girls, and I loved how several of the boys commented about her playing some version of monster tag or chase with them.  One of them even said, "she does everything I tell her"- might have to work on that one!!  We are so thankful for this precious little group of kids and the amazing teachers all of our girls have had at Christ Methodist this year. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mani-Pedi's


It's been a long week.  Not a bad week at all.  Not even an eventful week.  Just a long week.  We're 7 days into Jason being gone for 15 days and I'm just feeling the weariness of it all.  And this is in Memphis with plenty of family around to help me- I'm going to be in trouble when we get back overseas and he travels!  But then again, I have plenty of "family"over there to help me as well.  It's just hard going it alone no matter how much wonderful help you have.  Not to mention that I'm pretty sure my almost 31 week pregnant self is closer to the size of a 40 week pregnant person.  I'm just achy!  My doctor reminded me earlier this week (ever so gently of course) that there is a good reason that "advanced maternal age" is stamped across my chart- ugghh!!  

Today was a busy day- not exactly a rest and catch up from the week kind of day.  We had Sarah Ann (Naomi's identical cousin :)) over to spend the night and everyone was super sweet and they all had a blast but the girls are always extra tired after a sleep over. 


Then Maddie had two basketball games today and we spent the afternoon at my parents letting the girls play outside and enjoy the beautiful.  Dad recently put up a basketball goal so they've been loving that.  After watching the Tigers get stomped by UTEP I was ready to call it a day and come home and get the girls settled for the evening so I could crash.  We had dinner eaten, the kitchen cleaned and everyone showered and I realized it was only 6:30 and in spite of the long day, still a bit early to try and get everyone to bed.

So, what to do?  Well, my toes have been bugging me.  Some days it's warm enough for sandals or flip flops, but I am just vain enough that I can't show my "winter feet" until I at least paint my toe nails.  In truth, I could really use a good professional pedicure (Oh how I miss the cheap mani/pedi's in Lebanon!  I could get both for around $20 total!) but I'm willing to show my feet with just painted toenails until I can get around going to get it done for real.  And more than the weather being warm enough is the fact that it just takes entirely too much energy with much "belly of epic proportions" to try and get my boots or other winter shoes on.  Not only that, but I"m pretty sure I"m not going to even be able to paint my own toe nails much longer even if I wanted to.  So I pulled out my nail stuff with plans of painting my own nails and it quickly turned into an impromptu mother/daughter nail painting party.  Not something I would have planned to do given how tired I've felt today, but it turned out to be just the fun, bonding event we needed in the middle of our two week stint without daddy.  
AJ getting ready for her pedicure...

Turns out my big belly is the perfect foot prop...

Naomi pretty much serenaded us with every song known to man the whole time we painted.  We got to hear "He's got _____ and ______ in His hands" for every person we know and even many of the objects.  He's even got "poof balls" in His hands apparently which I finally figured out were the cotton balls we were using to remove old polish...
Here she's serenading Maddie hard at work...
Naomi letting her toes dry
We even got the white paint pen out and got a little creative..
 The final result...

Now it's 9:00 and all the freshly painted munchkins are asleep so it's my turn for a pedi- if I can reach my toes...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Naomi!

I can't believe my baby girl is 5!  Even more than that I can't believe she'll only be my baby girl for about another two months.  And yes, she is very much the baby of the family, but she is so excited about becoming a big sister.  Here she is in her "pop star" outfit from Sarah Ann and family.  I wish I had a video of the concert that the two of them put on at her family birthday party but I didn't get one.  Pretty sure there was some singing about baseball (they are both starting t-ball soon) and some other really random things. 
Naomi is such a joy to our family and is just becoming the SWEETEST little thing in the world.  She has a huge heart and is always looking out for her sisters and cousins- wants to make sure everyone around her is happy. (yes, of course she has her moments of completely aggravating her sisters and cousins as well).  She throws herself passionately into everything she does.  Nomi, we all love you so much! 

This was the first year that we have been in the states for Naomi's birthday so we decided to just have a big family party and do barbecue and birthday cake at mom and dad's house.  Jason and I got back from our anniversary trip just a few days before I was planning on having the party and Jason convinced me that I didn't need to stress myself out by trying to make her a fancy birthday cake.  I love doing birthday cakes for the girls so I didn't want to NOT do it but I realized he was right about the stress of trying to do a fancy cake without any of my Wilton cake decorating stuff and very little time.  So instead we thought she would enjoy an ice cream cake that she could pick out herself.  When I first asked her if she wanted an ice cream cake she responded with, "Yes, we can make a big cake shaped just like an ice cream cone!"  No,no, no- point missed completely.  So the next day I took her by Ben and Jerry's to show her what I meant.  She was thrilled to get to flip through the "cake book" and pick out her own design and her own flavors of ice cream.  And let me tell you, a Ben and Jerry's ice cream cake with cookies and cream and strawberry ice cream AND chocolate chip cookies for the base- darn good (and that's not just because I"m pregnant...) .  It was a huge hit! 
(for some reason, I was a little off my game at this party and failed to get a picture of the birthday girl and her cake but you get the idea....)

Presents were flying right and left with lots of help from her cousins.  Pretty sure she had no idea what she had opened until we got home and looked back through everything the next day....  Admittedly, the adults in the room were a little distracted by the Tigers getting slaughtered by Rice in the background..

My sis-in-law Liz, is an AMAZING baker and she made these adorable cookies along the ice cream cone theme...

Thomas enjoying his cookie...
Baby Michael on the move...

By the end of the night, I think all the kids had a major sugar high.  Ice cream cake...

Cookies...

(look at Sarah Ann's eyes!)...


Oh, and I almost forgot- birthday punch!  Click here for this yummy and easy recipe...

These two cousins are so silly and funny together.  Pretty sure they were doing "cheers" with the birthday candles here.  We're having Sarah Ann come sleep over tonight so there should be plenty of good stories to go with that!  
 (can you tell Naomi adores her cousin?)
Happy Birthday Big Girl!  We love you!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hummus

We love hummus in our house.  LOVE it.  But I should probably warn those of you who live in America that think you know and love hummus that unless you have tasted genuine, for real Lebanese hummus, sorry but you don't REALLY love hummus.  (I'm sorry, that sounded somewhat snobby but I have to stand by it because it's pretty much true).  Anyway, since arriving in the states 5 months ago, we have really missed hummus.  I have tried multiple kinds of store bought hummus and various kinds at "Mediterranean"  restaurants but have still not found anything that lived up to the wonderful goodness we could have anytime we wanted while living in Lebanon.  Until yesterday...

We were invited by some friends to join them at a restaurant in downtown Memphis called "The Little Tea Room".  I honestly don't know a lot of the history of this place so I won't pretend that I do, but it is fabulous and is a very popular lunch spot for the downtown crowds.  It's run by a sweet little Palestinian lady who has been in the US since the '60's.  She's serves amazing country cooking with kind of an Arab twist if you can imagine.  She apparently uses no pork in her cooking but rather an assortment of Middle Eastern type spices.  The turnip greens and corn bread sticks are truly ah-ma-zing.  She also has various couscous salads, sandwiches and an array of other yummy southern dishes.  

Our friends, who are regulars there, introduced Jason and I to this sweet lady and told her that we have lived in Lebanon for many years.  She started crying and carrying on and talking to us in Arabic all at once- it was so great and made our hearts hurt for Lebanon and our Arabic friends!   We talked a bit in Arabic and then she stopped and said, "oh, I have something for you!".  She hurried off apparently going to her apartment above the restaurant where she lives.  She brought us her homemade hummus and baba gannoush (another yummy Arabic salad) along with flatbread to enjoy along with our meal as her treat.  (these things are not on the menu or I assure you we would have ordered them).  

The place was packed for lunch so we didn't get to talk much more with her but we will definitely be back.  As much as we could have inhaled every bit of that hummus on the spot, we just couldn't bring ourselves not to share it with the girls who are frequently lamenting over how much they miss Lebanese food.... They were thrilled!




I give up...




 On what?  On actually having time to blog anything about our crazy lives on this side of the world!  I have an ever growing list of things that I want to blog about and I can't find the time to do it!   So, I give up.  Here is a summary of our lives over the past 5 months since arriving in the states- maybe after reading it you will understand why I have found NO TIME to record it!!  And, yes, I have left several things out that I still hope to devote entire posts to- our trip to the beach and Disney world, our trip to the TN aquarium.  Those entries still may or may not happen, but by the time I was finished uploading pics of everything else from the past 5 months I was too tired to go back and figure out how to fit everything else in! 

So, the above pic is my 13 week baby bump of what we now know to be baby girl #4!  Yes, we are all thrilled, and no, she does not yet have a name.  There are several things I could blog about this pregnancy- like my hugeness already, how I was able to stick out my belly far enough and fake a waddle enough at around 10 weeks in a hotel in VA in order to get enough sympathy from the stupid manager to get a pillow for Naomi (who was claiming that all the extra pillows in the hotel were "locked up", yet thanks to my fake waddle he was able to come up with one from somewhere...).  Anyway, there are many stories that will have to go untold.  Suffice it to say we are thrilled with the blessing of yet another girl to add to the Cox clan and thank goodness I won't have to change the name of the blog- pink laundry just got pinker! 

So, our lives in a nutshell since Octoberish....  We've been quite busy.  Our little Indian had a precious Thankgiving program and is still singing about "one little, two little, three little Indians".  Actually, there is rarely a day that Naomi does not sing...




Abbey and Maddie were both in the spelling bee at Christ Methodist.  They were each in the top three from their classes.  Maddie came in 7th out of 18 and Abbey won the school spelling bee after 47 rounds!  And probably the last 20 something rounds were just AJ and the sweet little girl who got second place.  It was quite a competition.  We were so proud.  She won with "chihuahua" and will be in the city wide spelling bee tomorrow.  She had quite a cheering section including my brother who won when he was in 6th grade (I'm sure you can tell by my frequent spelling errors that I never had that honor..) and sweet Memommy who braved the rainy day to come see the girls...
Both Abbey and Maddie are playing basketball and loving it.  AJ is on the 5th-6th grade girls team and Maddie is on a 4th grade girls team.  This was the first year for them each to play so I kind of wondered how it would go since most of the kids have been playing for a while but they are both in kind of beginning leagues and having a ball.  Both have scored goals (Maddie even scored once for the other team- she's always had such a tender heart and they were losing...).  Last week AJ got a defensive rebound, took the ball the entire length of the court and made a lay-up (left handed I might add...)

Oops- with those pics of Maddie, I may have spoiled the surprise... Again, this would have been a separate blog entry in an ideal world, but right before Christmas Maddie did locks of love and donated her hair to kids with cancer.  

Before..


 During (this is Mamie by the way who has cut my mom's hair for, well a long time, and she cut mine in high school too...)

 After...  absolutely adorable!

 Ok, back to the update...  December was crazy!!  Christmas programs, Christmas activities, family fun, family dinners...  All very fun, but oh so crazy.  Combined with ballet and basketball and occasional traveling. Naomi was in the preschool Christmas program at school, but by the end of it she was kind of overwhelmed and teary when all the parents mobbed the stage and she couldn't find Jason and I- this was the happiest picture we could get of our little angel...


 AJ and Maddie were both in the grade school program at Christ Methodist.  The 6th graders put on the drama part and the grade school choir (where Maddie is stands behind them for back-up singing)...

 Sadly, all three girls had a Christmas program at church as part of the "hanging of the green" ceremony that Jason and I managed to miss!  That was a dramatic, pregnancy hormone filled evening...  Jason and I were sick and stayed home from church that morning so the girls spent the afternoon with my parents.  We headed to church that afternoon around 5:30 for the program that we assumed was at 6- WRONG!  It started at 5 and by the time we got there we had missed the whole thing.  So distressing for this pregnant momma, but the girls probably would have never known that I wasn't there if I hadn't started blubbering all over them when I walked in the church...   Oh well, at least I got a pretty picture of their Christmas outfits, and I'm told they all sang very prettily.  Thankfully no one had solos or anything like that...




Another favorite Memphis Christmas tradition is the Alpine Village at Trinity.  (again, would have liked to make this it's own entry but not gonna happen...).  My Granddaddy was the master mind behind the construction of the village and after many years it has become a very popular Christmas even for many families in the Cordova area.  The gym at church is turned into a winter wonderland including the center bell tower surrounded by different Christmas shops where kids can do various craft projects and get treats.

 Naomi and Sarah Ann loved playing in the "snow storm"- and yes, that stuff was impossible to get off!


 The older grade school kids at Trinity "work" throughout the village.  AJ and Maddie were part of the live nativity scene.  We rescued them after about an hour so they could visit the rest of the village...


 Looking in a shop window at Naomi and Sarah Ann


 A view of the village...



John and fam were coordinated for a pic with Santa (we didn't plan that well in advance...) and sweet little Thomas took the opportunity to ask Santa for "Toys R Us"...  I mean, why not just ask for the whole store??  Smart kid!



We have some dear friends who own a house on the Little Red River in Arkansas and they have offered it to our family several times now.  We had the opportunity to go for a weekend in December with my parents and my brother and his fam.  (I'm still hoping to get a whole blog entry done on this one so these are just highlights...)


 We had a very festive Cameron family Christmas...

 Jason got his fly-fishing fix (at least for a few weeks) and even gave lessons to the girls.  There were no warm clothes for Maddie so he carried her across the frigid river...

 Maddie was a very attentive pupil...

 Abbey, not so much...

 But she got the hang of it...


 When Jason went down to the river super early by himself, he realized that it was time to come in when his rod was feeling too heavy due to the ice forming on the end!  Yikes!

So, I was determined this year to have a real Christmas tree.  I love the smell, and the fun of picking it out.  We waited a bit to decorate and then waited some more, and then realized that it was December 16th and we were leaving for Christmas in Georgia on the 23rd so it probably wouldn't be too wise to invest in a tree that we didn't have any decorations for and that would die while we were gone.  We settled for a Christmas bush....

 And enjoyed decorating my parents tree...
 Michael and Thomas weren't too interested in the tree...




Annie and Da and all the cousins...

 Oh, I forgot to mention Naomi's ballet.  She and Sarah Ann are in the same class each week and loving it.  They will have a real recital in May, but for this semester there was just a parent observation day when we could go to their class and watch.  She was very proud...

 So where was I?  Yes, Christmas in Memphis...  There is plenty of fun to be had in the Memphis area for Christmas and we were determined to take advantage of as much of it as possible during our family holidays together.  One night, we all headed to the Botanic Gardens for whatever their Christmas even was called and it escapes me at this point...   (sorry but there is Zoo Lights at the Zoo, Starry Starry nights at Shelby Farms and a bunch of other stuff- can't remember the name of this particular family event but it was fun...  and cold...

The Big Backyard at the Botanic gardens is such fun and really deserves it's own blog entry too (but you know by now how that goes...)  Anyway they had a snow pit the kids could play in, marshmallows to roast, crafts to make etc.  We went with the cousins and had a ball.  I was especially impressed by this one game.  They had filled water bottles with different colored water and put a huge light behind a section of chain linked fence that was covered in black paper and voila- a life sized Lite Brite- such fun!



 This year the Memphis Zoo put in an ice skating rink for the holiday season.  It was such fun (especially since I could play the whole pregnancy card and didn't have to hold up a wobbly 4 year old for over an hour...  :))  I'm clutzy enough NOT on ice, didn't figure I should take the risk...  The girls had a blast!



 But I think Jason and Liz had the MOST fun as the designated parents on ice...


Pretty sure my decision to supervise the funnel cake consumption was a good one...



 So now it's time to move on to our Christmas in Georgia where the whole Cox clan was together for the first time in four years.  It was a little touch and go for a while there as to if Jeremy and Kimberly and family would ever make it from snow bound London, but they finally did and we all had such fun. 

Here are the kids creeping up the stairs on Christmas morning to see if Santa came...

 Naomi was thrilled with her Toy Story loot (all she wanted)...
and didn't let Rex, Bo Peep and friends out of her sight for long...

AJ and Maddie were super excited about their new Rip Sticks...


 The cousins gathered around in their Christmas pajamas to hear the Christmas story...


 The adults making fools of themselves to get the kids to smile for a picture in their Christmas pajamas...




And to make a wonderful Christmas even more wonderful, as we were eating breakfast Christmas morning, it started snowing.... Beautiful!!

 We tried sledding on the driveway (which didn't work) but we were able to build a snowman...






I kind of wondered about the Christmas gift Jason helped AJ pick out for Naomi.... Now I understand.  This was our afternoon entertainment (thanks to Jason and Jeremy) while snowed in...







 (and no one was hurt)...

Of course we made Christmas cookies, a Cox family tradition...




 and the girl cousins put on numerous shows...  (with poor Collin lamenting about needing another boy cousin)...




One of the biggest treats was going up in a small prop plane (no idea if that is what to call it??).  Papa knows the pilot and arranged for us to all have turns flying and seeing a beautiful view of the farm and all the Christmas snow...



These girls were ready for the adventure!

(and loved hearing themselves talk in the headsets...  Remember me mentioning earlier how much Naomi likes to sing??  Yeah, she also likes to hear herself...)

All the Cox cousins with Papa and Nana...


 We had a fabulous Christmas all over the south and were so thankful for the precious time spent with family!

Oh, and I can't believe I almost forgot to mention some of the most exciting news from the Cox family this Christmas is Allison's (Jason sister) new coffee shop that has opened in downtown Rome.  We all spent a lot of quality family time there over the holidays helping her get everything prepared for her grand opening on January 7.  We even had a New Years Eve party there and somehow I managed to get NO pictures whatsoever on my camera.  If you are on facebook, you can go here to see pics of her place.  (no idea if that will work so if not, go to Cups & Mugs on facebook and check it out).  It's AWESOME and we are so proud of her and all her hard work!

So with Christmas come and gone, what better way to enjoy our time in the states than with more snow!  Actually, as I sit here typing, a major storm has hit most of the US and I'm sure most of you are quite sick of the white stuff.  We haven't quite gotten our fill in Memphis but we have had a few fun snow days...

(Thomas had enough...)
 
 Sledding didn't quite work with this snow either, but we had fun trying...


 WHEWW!  That's about all I've got for today ( I know, it's more than enough!).  And I haven't even gotten started on my thoughts on life in the states or raising "tweenage" girls...  Yikes.  And to think that at one point I actually thought I would be able to blog weekly about this pregnancy and put cute little things that the girls were saying and compare the new baby to whatever fruit it happens to be the size of now...  Anyway.  Maybe I'll stay more up to date but I'm not making any promises.  Tomorrow we're going to the Memphis-Shelby County spelling bee so that should be entertaining.  For now, I'll close with some more belly pics and a sweet picture of Maddie going to school this morning.  They are reading the book, Mr. Popper's Penguins and were supposed to dress all in black and white today for their Penguin Party.  She went all out- even black and white finger nails....


 19 weeks...



 Almost 28 weeks (this was yesterday)...