Friday, September 30, 2011

Power to the Pumpkin

There is no exact moment in time that I can recall as to why I adore pumpkins so much. Possibly it's because this time of year means high school football is in full swing and I have gobs of memories from my childhood as I ran around the stadium at games when my older brother (by 8 years) played ball. I haven't been to a game since around 1993 when PandaPop and I attended the game of some of our youth from church where he served as youth minister.

I have vivid memories of me and my friends swinging from the steel blue bars that were actually the old barriers for the concession stand lines, but they made for the perfect gathering spot for us kids.  Playing Dallas Cowboy* Cheerleaders or super serious re-enactments of Charlie's Angels* kept us glued to those bars unless we were running around on the other side of the bleachers looking for dropped treasures through the cracks of the seats. The image of a dark red Dr. Pepper wax-lined soda cup (that I faithfully chewed to pieces at each game) fills my mind along with the must-have slit package of corn chips with chili and cheese and a little plastic white spoon: The Frito Pie. Super sized pickles and green apple bubble gum are forever imprinted in my mind, too.

On super cold nights at the games there was hot chocolate in the small white styrofoam cups to keep us warm for a few minutes.  Living in central Texas at the time meant that cold was probably anywhere from 32 degrees to 55 matter I just remember being bundled up at games and loving it.  Actually, as a kid, I probably hated it at the time. Ya know, being uncomfortable and all.  As an adult, however, the nostalgia is so strong that at times I can smell the aroma and hear the sounds of the crowd and the announcer of a Texas Friday night football game.

That was when I was a kid in elementary.  As a junior higher (we didn't call it Middle School back in 1984) I switched schools to the nearby community, made cheerleader and had a whole new perspective on FNF (Friday Night Football).  I was in hog heaven in my royal blue cheerleading skirt, jingly bells on my shoes, megaphone and pom poms ready at a moment's notice and my long blond hair all curly and atop my head in an I Dream of Jeannie* pony-tail.  I did that for five years and it was the best part of high school (not that I was in HS for 5 years....I do have blond hair AND have a brain...the first year was in 8th grade).  Especially wearing our uniforms to school on Fridays.  It made for some catty girls and some heartbreaking times, but overall......I drank it in.

There is the smell of trash burning in the fall that I adore as well.  I lived out in the country and my family burnt trash instead of having a trash truck.  Not sure why I relate it so much to fall because it wasn't specific to that time of year, but I do and as soon as I get a whiff of smoke from a trash pile or campfire my senses carry me away to another time.

There's also the anticipation of Halloween, hayrides, Thanksgiving and then Christmas.  It all starts with the first dip in temperatures from the sultry summer heat.  I think when the craft stores like Hobby**Lobby put out the fall stuff the day after Easter it kind of takes away from the giddy excitement of it all when September finally does roll around.  I can't stand seeing Christmas decor out on the shelves in April!!! For Pete's sake (who's Pete, again??) WHY must the commercialism ruin everything that was once sacred.  Ok. Maybe not sacred, but at the very least...special...all the fall & Christmas decor coming out in September was much better than seeing it the day after I swallow an Easter Peep*.

The scent of pumpkin spice or apple/cinnamon or even a citrusy blend of scents permeating my home makes me want to cuddle my kids and snuggle with my man!  A pair of great boots (which, by the way, I got a pair last week from Target*---can you BELIEVE IT??---and they just might be my favorite EVER.....but that's another post), perfect fitting jeans, a cozy sweater and cool temps put me over the edge.

My precious man LOVES to light the pinion wood in our chiminea on our back porch.  I love to sit back and breathe in the scent while sipping the perfect cup of cream-flavored coffee.  The girls playing (and getting along....ahem) while we sit in our pub table height patio chairs watching the flames flicker in the chiminea is one of my favorite things to do.  Now that yours truly loves her deaf doggie so much.....he adds a special touch to our backyard experience when he sits at our feet so loyally. So, so ready for cooler temps.

As difficult as the past few months (years!!!) have been, I am really looking forward to spending this fall enjoying my family and looking forward to the fun and blessings of Christmas as a family of four.  I know I harp on that, but since we are still just hanging on the threads of the foster system's unraveled rug I must focus on the good that God brings our way as we wait.

His blessings are bountiful

Do you love fall as much as me? Please tell me WHY.  I'd love to know!!! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When It All Comes Down

As the days trudge by in terms of the adoption process for PandaJOY, one part of me cringes with how long it is taking.  The mind-numbing ways of the foster system are......just that: mind-NUMBING. Also, with each passing day I find myself falling more in love with that little toot.

PandaGirl has been through so much in the past months since PJ's placement with us in February.  I have seen her struggle, grow, struggle some more, grow a ton, be selfish, be honoring & loving, struggle and grow.  I am so proud of her attempts at being a "normal" family when we are nothing of the sort.

(Noticed the terribly short, gnawed fingernails of PG?  That happened long before PJ came along.  I could blame it on being in an orphanage, but I did the same thing til I was in 8th grade.  I became a cheerleader and stopped biting them overnight. Hmmm.)

I often hear in my mind the line from You've Got Mail when Tom Hanks* character is speaking of his own little brood made up of an aunt of his that is about 8 years old and his brother who is, maybe all of 6 years old while Tom's character is in his 40's or pushing 50.  He bounces his head while smirking a smiling saying, " American family."

As are we.  Two white parents.  One stunning Chinese beauty.  One gorgeous mulatto doll-baby.....that isn't officially "ours" yet on paper, but has completely captivated our hearts while at the same time drives me to insanity with her independence and sassiness.  That same sassiness cracks me up making me so thankful that she is a part of us. Us. Our family.

Sometimes I forget that we look really different than most American families.  To be fully honest (as if I'm not honest at other times....duh) I wonder what it would have been like to have that little blonde haired blue-eyed girl and brown-eyed brunette little man-child running around us.  But that was just a made up fantasy that I had long ago and clearly, God had other plans.  Plans that were and are far better than any I could have contrived on my own.

Parenting is so hard.  Most days are filled with the struggle of being a real, live, godly, in control, emotion-less disciplinarian. But somewhere in the middle of all that trying, messing up and succeeding are the precious moments that take your breath away.  Kisses here and a little hug on the leg there.  A spontaneous, "I lub you, mommy".  Uncontrollable laughter with my eldest.  Moments where all four of us know, really know that we are meant to be together.  Realizing there is purpose in this motley crew.

Someday this stupid waiting will end and then there will just be something else to wait for, but for now in this present real moment, I am so thankful for my little family.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For the Love of Tex-Mex

Have you ever craved a food so much that you did whatever it took to get it in your mouth? I have.  Don't you think that with a post all about guacamole that I'd say I did some irrational act one night in hopes of finding the most spectacular guac on planet earth? Well, I haven't.  However, I just might have done some crazy things in my life in order to get some c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e on my screaming taste-buds.

I was an adult....say about age 25....before I even liked the taste of guacamole in my mouth.  Since it seemed the thing to do when out on the town eating Mexican food, I so wanted to be a big girl and eat it, too, but it was so slimy and ewww, gross that I couldn't even swallow the nasty stuff.

Then there was the day that a party broke out in my office and someone just happened to bring some green goo in with the tortilla chips so I thought I'd be a big girl and try again.  This time something magical happened to my once offended senses and all of a sudden.....I was addicted to guacamole.   Don't ask me what it was that made the change except maybe the homemade kind I had tried wasn't so slimy like the restaurant kinds I'd forced in before.

My precious mother-in-love is a domestic queen and personally knows June Cleaver. Really, she is great at being a wonderful hostess with the mostest, cleaning guru and a know-what-to-do-about-it gal in the kitchen.  I discovered that I enjoyed her guac the best so she told me how to make about ten years ago and I haven't liked any other much since learning to make it myself.

The first must is slicing open just-ripe-enough avocados.  This is a trick and somewhat of a crap shoot (that term really makes me giggle.....kinda like a crappie fish) if you ask me.  I know how to pick ripe avocados in the produce section, but the tricky part is thinking of what night they will be eaten and how many days until then and how much ripening time is needed versus how hard & green they are in the store or how soft & dark brown, almost black they are.

Too smushy is gross.  Too hard is just a disappointment because they don't smush well, stay chunky & hard and really have no flavor.  Then there are the few times that an avocado is cut open only to find weird brown stringy things laced throughout the entire fruit.  Gag.  You did know that an avocado is a fruit, right?  It has a pit. It's a fruit, high in fat, but super-uber good for you in the right portions.  Ha.  Portions?  With gobs of perfect tortilla chips, I do believe a proper portion is a cup.  Or two.

My guacamole consists of smushing up 2-3 avocados, sprinkling the mashed up mess with lime juice, a guesstimate of garlic powder, onion powder, salt and some dried onions.  I don't measure, but if you try it just toss out what doesn't look like too much.  How's that for accuracy?  The big no-no for me is NO TOMATOES. Barfy-barf.  I love cooked tomatoes, but have tried raw a million times and really can't find a place for them in my food economy. So no toms, but the beautiful gem that is last to enter is.....drumroll.........cilantro. Yum.  It must be cut up or torn apart for the scrumptious aroma to infiltrate the guac.  Can I get an "amen"?

I am in no way a proper foodie like the gobs of true foodies that have covered the internet like a swarm of bees to honey.  I just wanted to share this yummy recipe....if you can really call it that with no measurements.....with y'all.  I'm a Texas girl through & through therefore, Tex-Mex is on our menu either at home or at a restaurant at the very least once a week.  My other Texans reading this will attest that once a week is low-balling it.  Even better with Tex-Mex is a Dr. Pepper with a squeeze of lime. Oh my.  Alas, tonight I had water.

And for the STAR of the show:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just a Small Town Girl***

Livin' in a lonely world....she took the midnight train goin' anywhere.....

Yes, last night I went to a concert for Journey*, Foreigner* & Night Ranger*.

Can I get a collective....AWE!!!! from my buddies who are my age?!!

I didn't get any good pics of Journey* but then it really didn't matter because it wasn't Steve Perry*, but an Asian guy, who by all good graces really can sing just like SP, however it just didn't cut it for us.

Though a GREAT time was had by all, my friends and I all agreed that we left the concert feeling like we'd truly heard Foreigner*, but felt lacking after hearing Journey* songs without Steve Perry* actually singing them.  I mean the musicians are great and all, but SP WAS Journey and without him.....well, it was like hearing a cover band doing Journey's* songs.  

There was a sold out crowd of 20,000 people in the outdoor park.  We had lawn seats since they were cheaper than the regular seats which I knew no one would actually be sitting in anyway once the rockin' started so we were quite content on our blanket.

I think I might have shouted, raised my arms and screamed a little at a few moments during this mayhem.  All in good fun.  Of course, listening to some of the lyrics to these songs now as an adult and as one who tries to live a godly life (ahem.....TRIES) made me cringe a bit.  

The crowd was really lots of oldies reliving the glory days, which I would not return to for anything, mind you. It did blow my mind that people brought their children.  


First of all WHY on earth would you WANT to bring your children to a rock concert and secondly, the music was SOOOOOO LOUD....why would you want to damage your kids' eardrums so early in life???

 Blows my mind.

PandaPop was originally supposed to be in the place of my Reckless buddy, but we couldn't secure one of our authorized babysitters to keep the girls (that's another foster system snafu that keeps us from dating as much as we'd like to, but I digress) so my Beloved volunteered to stay home with them and let me go since I am a music freak and he could easily do without the crowds.  

The couple in front are my dear friends who made the night even more fun!! 

I can't quite hear as well as I used to on Saturday morning, but I had a blast rockin' out right along with all the other 40-somethings grasping at glimpses of our youth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Can't Have Your Bride & Eat Her, Too


I'm on a kick.

Feeling the rush that comes from being sucked into an imaginary world that makes you think for a second or two that these characters are real and that you are watching their lives unfold.

Then I blink and remember that reality does not contain cold-skinned midnight bloodsuckers nor warm overgrown angry dogs that turn into boys with muscles.

Back at this posting from 2008 you can see that I enjoyed the midnight showing of the first of the Twilight* Saga* movies. (You have to pardon the old and outdated blog background, header, name, etc. and the first part of the post about the dinner thingy).

For some reason last Friday afternoon I got the itch to see the first two movies again.  Oh wait....I remember why now.  I got the 3rd movie in the mail from Netflix*** (now aren't they in the line of fire this week??'ve lost millions!) and wanted to rehash the first two stories so I could really get into the scenes.

I borrowed the first two and watched them a couple of nights apart and am chompin' at the bit to see #3 tonight after the girlies go nighty-night!!  

Do I believe in vampires or werewolves? 


Is the story fun to follow? 


Is it completely cheesy?

You betcha!

Have I been stressed lately over a certain issue and am enjoying the escape?

You better believe it.

Do I know my True Source of empowerment, strength, renewal and hope don't come from a Bizarre Love Triangle (who knows that song?!!!!!!!!!!) between a vampire, werewolf and fickle melancholic girl, but rather from the Living God who made me?

Without a doubt.

I'm just having some fun and now I.CANNOT.WAIT.UNTIL.BREAKING*DAWN*.COMES.OUT in November!!!!!!!! I don't think I have it in me to do the midnight showing again unless I have friends who beg, but I don't know if they can hang with the super-uber late nighter either (you know who you are so tell me!!).  The kicker is that I wasn't even aware that the 4th movie was coming out until last night and now that makes it all the MORE fun, urgent and everything more exciting!!!

***UPDATE*** No lie!!!!!.....I was cooking dinner, PandaPop was being goofy chanting like a monk in a monastery and it made me think of the Italian Volturi Vampires in their chambers and AT THAT MOMENT I SLICED MY INDEX FINGER ON A PIECE OF FOIL......JUST LIKE BELLA did at the Cullens' house!! LOL!!!!!!!  And for even more Twilightish happenings today....I was at PP's office working in the work room, looked over beside the paper cutter I was using there was an old box that used to have meatballs in them. Guess what the name of the company was: Bella.  Yes, Bella Meatballs.  It's all too much fun. Except slicing my finger, of course.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Perks of Being a Minister's Wife

I adore my church, love the staff that PandaPop serves with and I LOVE the staff wives.  We all get along great and love to serve alongside our hubbies, but rarely get the chance to all be together in the same place, at the same time and able to actually talk.  The last time we met all together was a year ago August.  We recently just added two more to our bonded group so our oh-so-beloved pastor's wife invited us all over for lunch today and, true to form......she had a darling craft for us to do.  Christmas organization cutie-patootie file folders!!

We started out with a regular manilla file folder, followed her instructions on how to make it perfectly compact, picked out our Christmas scrap papers, measured, cut, inked the edges, spray glued and embellished our little projects all while gabbing the whole time.  I didn't mention that our pastor's wife, M, is one of my favorite people on this planet and is probably one of the top two of the best hostesses I know.  I adore her somewhat rustic, but a bit shabby chic decor taste and style of her home and she always cooks up perfect delectable delights for us to nibble.

 I want to be her when I grow up.

Nah...I know that I really want to be the me I'm supposed to be, but I just can't help but be mesmerized by her ease in homemaking and hostessing all the while being quite busy and active in the life of our church and she runs her own organizing business and works part time as the assistant to the owner of a dance studio.  Did I mention she has five grown kids and several grandchildren that all live in the area?  Busy woman who is completely sold out to the Lord.  Of course, she's not perfect and has flaws like the rest of us, but she is a doll. Love her. Love.

It was great to catch up with the other girls and fill in the two new ones about the rest of us.

Laid back, delightful time.

Anyone can have a group of girlfriends and make a cute Christmas organizer.  I have different groups of friends that I love to do things with like my college BFFs and my NOGs and friends that live in other cities.....or countries, but there is something really special about sharing life with other ladies who are married to ministers.  Just like any group of like-minded people who like to share joys and vent griefs it's nice to know that the others "get it" making the time shared comforting and freeing.  I respect these women and am very blessed to be a part of this group for such a time as this.  Believe me, I have found this closeness of staff or staff wives in no other church in which we have served.  It's rare and we are blessed.

(I just tried to link to my NOGs, but apparently I had uploaded that collage of us in our red shoes to flickr* and have since deleted from my account so what's the point of linking to a post with no pictures, right? None. )

Now I just need to actually use my darling new Christmas planner.

On a mommy side note: guess what my darling 3 year old said today?  On the way back home from picking up PandaGirl from school, PandaJOY busts out with, "Mom, you're a great mom."


"Mom, you're a great mom."

Awe.............I so needed to hear those words from her.  Can't even believe she articulated them so well.

As an update on that whole thing.....still in the appeal process and turning into skeletons as we wait, but are doing it with a joyful heart.  Things around here are getting better and even enjoyable as compared to our many months of adjusting to the new normal.  I even said today that I love this crazy deaf doggie.

Yes, I said I love him.

Even though at this very moment I want to strangle him for being too hyper and barking at the air, leaping off the bed and spinning circles down the hall.  Idiot.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago

9/11/01...We had just moved into our apartment in Baytown, TX at 10PM the night before for a new position at FBC Baytown. Went to Walmart to get cleaning supplies around 9AM. Heard on the radio that the WTC had been hit by a plane. I was thinking about the one in Dallas. We watched on the Walmart TVs everything happen & were in shock. PP's first day on the job was counseling people who were scared out of their minds. One of my student's grandmother went down on one of the other flights.

I remember being so freaked out that we were totally away from our friends, comforts of home and anything we knew to be "normal" and were now in this town by the bay filled with gas and oil refineries that served the whole world.  Exxon was in our back yard basically.  We could look out our apartment balcony and see the gorgeous walk in pool with water-fall & tropical plants on one side and the HUGE fire stacks that constantly burn from the refinery towers on the other.

My first thoughts were that we were going to be hit next because of the oil.  PP assured me that we were NOT going to be hit because of all the places in North America......the oil refineries were being guarded like crazy with fighter jets. Crazy talk.

Next came being GLUED to the television as each and every moment played out before our very eyes.

Next came the freakishly scary anthrax* scares with the deadly white powder being mailed across the country.  Bizarre.

Time really did stand still and more people turned to God for answers and comfort during that time.  Sadly, as time went on and life began to get back to some sort of normal then the church crown started dwindling.

This day is so weird.  Everyone seems to know someone who was effected by this tragedy in some way.  My father in law was on business in Florida and had to drive all night and more to get to us in Baytown for a place to sleep because his flight was canceled after all planes were grounded.  Long after the fact, I found out other stories of people I know who were actually right in the midst of it all in NYC.

I feel badly now that my friend and I just didn't have the time in our three day journey to NYC this past April to make it to Ground Zero*. I know that sounds crazy and lame, but we packed that trip to the fullest and made the best of our time, but I so wish that we would have gone to see the spot, especially now that it is 10 years later.  Back in April, I wasn't thinking about today.

We are so blessed to live in this country even with it's junky ways.  The good thing is that it is not our home either for us Believers.  We are not home yet.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What to Say?

Have I lost my blogging touch?

Maybe so.

Maybe I just got in to the habit of only doing 365 pics over the summer and found it is much easier than thinking up blogging posts.

I mostly love hanging out over at Pinterest** if I have extra computer time these days.  I have learned so much from there and have already done several projects from ideas I got by lurking around others' pin boards.  If you haven't gotten on there yet, I would encourage you to try it for yourself.  So fun.

Well, we're off to a busy weekend so I'll take pics of what comes around in our PandaFamily life. 

Be blessed!! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Goodbye 40----HELLO 41!!!

Here's the link to the recipe for these beauties.

Well, I have loved celebrating my 41st birthday today.  My man made these to.die.for.cupcakes this afternoon and we shared them with great friends who hung out just for kicks today.  I found the recipe on Pinterest** this summer and have wanted to try them.  I had no idea they were soooo involved! I just handed my man the recipe that I printed off and asked for them for today.  They are totally from scratch and he did a GREAT job.  They are lemon cupcakes with raspberry/blackberry buttercream frosting. ( I have gotten so many great ideas from Pinterest** and have already done several things that I found on there that I'd otherwise never have even known about!).


I said TO DIE FOR!!!! and I'm a chocolate girl!!

I must say that I woke up this morning ecstatic that 40 was OVER and 41 has been ushered into my life. Though I've have some GREAT moments in the past year....I also have to say it was in my top three of the worst (read that as MOST DIFFICULT) years in my life.  

- Many emotional roller coasters that made me want to puke my guts out
- learning to deal with this deaf doggie
- wondering if we were EVER going to get PandaJOY in our home
- dealing with the reality of it when she actually made it here
- dealing with PandaGirl adjusting to life with a sibling
- dealing with the mind-numbing stress of the foster system
- still having to make biological visits for PJ 
- sitting on our hands as we wait on the appeal for PJ's case
- parenting two children with adoption issues
- some heart-breaking personal family issues
- weighing more than I've ever weighed
- natural aging of my body and it not working exactly the way I think it should
- raising a very demanding 2 (now 3) year old with her own heavy baggage and no real way of disciplining her.....all at the ripe of age of 40!!
- more wrinkles
- watching my precious Man start to age and deal with his own health issues (though I think he is HOTTER than ever!!!)
- our gorgeous tree in the front yard being blown down in a storm
- several costly vehicle problems
- a summer FILLED with 105 degrees plus days of horrible heat (got up to 114 and MANY at 110)
- and pretty much the feeling of not being young anymore. 

Now, with all the yuck out there let me say that I've had some of the most wonderful moments and experiences this year as well:

- finally getting PJ in our home!!
- I LOVED going to New York City in April with a fellow 40er friend!!!
- my weekend in January with my colleges BFFs that will go down in my history as one of the BEST weekends of my life!!!
- having a precious dog as a part of our family that truly does NEED us
- being blessed as the MOM of two gorgeous daughters who are orphans no more because God chose us to parent them
- being a family of four
- driving a Tahoe that we got for a song from my in-laws (though the A/C still needs fixing!!)
- LOVING my in-laws amazingly gorgeous new home they built on their retirement land
- life changing godly counsel
- precious friends all around me
- watching PandaGirl GROW just from having PJ around
- the countless times that PJ has made me laugh hysterically at her antics 
- purposefully getting myself more organized
- finding an online group of women who are focused on health and exercise and motivate me greatly
- my Man re-doing my kitchen for me
- getting to see my BFF from Across The Pond for a night!!
- getting to see another BFF whom I hadn't seen in person in over five years!
- having a fabulous church and church family
- the most awesome fun-filled vacation with my PandaFamily in August!!!!!!!
- honing my skills as a photographer and seeing fruits of my labor with more to come!!
- drawing close to my God who created me for more than I've allowed myself to be

When I look at the good of the year I do see that it was wonderful to turn 40.  I also know that it has been a major struggle to get through it.  I am looking so forward to what 41 holds and know that my God will carry me.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer Wrap-up 2011

Hi Friends!!!

Whew! Has it ever been a BUSY summer around the PandaHouse!! I think we jammed it as full as possible and all survived to tell about it! Though I missed blogging sometimes and almost caved a few times I'm glad that I took July and August off from here. It was fun looking over the collages I made and realizing just how much we really DID do.  Of course, there are tons of pics not included on here, but I figured some things can just be private and not poured out on everybody.  Kinda like sitting down to look at someone's home movies of their vacation a million years ago.

The collages above are a few random shots with explanations. The one below is from a friend's pool.  The ones following that are from our most FABULOUS vacation that we took the first week of August. We had originally planned a trip to Sea**World, but that went by the wayside after about $2000 worth of vehicle bills (yes, you read that correctly....$2000) AND our A/C went OUT in our Tahoe' read that correctly, too. 

The A/C is still not fixed.

We have set records with our horrible Texas Heat Wave of 2011.  Most of the summer has been back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back days of 100 plus degree weather.  Really above 105 has been the norm.  Even on one of our vacay days it was literally 114, but I just didn't have my camera handy at the moment to snap a pic of a thermometer. Crazy.  My eyes get hot just walking outside. Bleh.

God blessed our socks off with an amazing STAYcation doing things right in our own neck of the woods and we were super relieved to know that we would NOT being walking around looking for Shamu** while sweating to death.

This was my first time to experience Medieval**Times and I couldn't have loved it more! So fun!

Yes, me...white skinned momma that burns in lamp light took our girls to a water park.  I had a blast!!! They did too and this was a great day followed up by a nap and then a trip to a Japanese Hibachi grill for dinner.

I thought the sign was just boasting like all businesses do that their product is "the best" so I rolled my eyes and said, "yeah, right."

I'm not kidding.

Milwaukee Joe's*.

I think I might have fallen on the floor because this WAS THE BEST ICE CREAM I've ever tasted. And I've had a lot of ice cream in my life.

Below...we dined at a food court in a mall just because it was fun and ended up stopping at the Godiva** store for these gems.  Let me just say that I have NEVER been impressed with the chocolate from here.  Give me Lindt* truffles, Dove* bites, Hershey*s BLISS or Ghirardelli* squares ANY DAY of the week and they will be divine treats for my tongue.  Godiva*?? eh.

As if our wonderful vacation wasn't filled enough, we got home and our dears friends asked us to join them on their boat for a Saturday morning cruise on the lake.  It just couldn't have been any better!! It truly was the cherry on top of a perfect vacay. (Don't get too jealous, though.....there were plenty of times that the girls got in trouble and that's never fun for anyone).

Yes, I know that I look less than stellar on that float and that my hair looks more like a little helmet than hair, but I have NEVER been pulled on one of those behind a fast boat and I am so proud that I did that! It was so fun to be on the boat and watch both PandaGirl and PandaJOY ride on the float with their Daddy!!

Not a lot has happened in the way of PandaJOY's case.  The birth father appealed and we are in that nasty, long, good-for-nothing process.  We have moved on as a family of four trusting that the Lord is allowing all of this mind-numbing mess for His purposes.

In seven months we have ALL grown tremendously because of PJ entering our daily life.

I won't lie or pretend.

It has been so incredibly hard and challenging, but coming out on this side of the growing pain....I'm feeling blessed, empowered and humbled to be called the mom of these two beautiful girls.  How did He choose me to be their guidance when I have so very much to learn myself?  I'll never know.

I will be happy to be blogging again and can't wait to see FALL coming so soon!!!