Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Adam's 30th Birthday

Adam turned 30 back in September!

We have an agreement that we don't really do presents for birthdays, Christmas, etc. Neither of us really need any "stuff," and we prefer to enjoy a nice meal or find something fun to go do instead.  I wanted to find ways to make his 30th birthday special, and I think I accomplished it!

On his actual birthday, our family joined us to go out to eat and then open a few presents! Even though we don't exchange gifts, I still take Connor to pick out a few things for Daddy on special occasions.

Connor and I also made some red velvet cupcakes and found some candles to celebrate the big 3-0!

The weekend after Adam's birthday, I threw a small surprise party for him. I had coordinated with some of his closest friends to have a cookout at our house, and two of his friends got him out of the house for a bit so that everyone else could get there and help set up.

When he walked in, we did the typical "SURPRISE!" thing. He said he had no idea I had been up to anything, and he was definitely surprised. We grilled burgers, enjoyed birthday cake (red velvet again since that's his favorite, but this time I got one from Publix), and played cornhole. It was a really fun afternoon.

I still had one more surprise up my sleeve, but I wasn't able to schedule it until late October. It was worth the wait though! Adam is a big fan of Jars of Clay (and honestly, I am, too!). They're all here in Nashville, and I have a few friends who know one of the guys. I figured it never hurts to ask, so I reached out and asked if they would help me surprise Adam.

They were so unbelievably gracious and kind, and they really went above and beyond. I had hoped we could just grab coffee with one of the guys, but they offered to all join us for lunch. Adam was SO surprised, and I definitely earned Wife of the Year with this one. We had a great lunch with the guys and got to chat with them about their music, our memories of listening to it as teenagers, shows we've seen, and the non-profit they launched here in Nashville - Blood:Water.

They are the nicest guys, and it was really fun to get to surprise Adam with meeting them and getting to learn more about Blood:Water and their music.

Adam made my 30th really special a couple of years ago, so I was glad to get to plan a few fun surprises for his 30th!

Friday, November 13, 2015

DMB Weekend at The Gorge

Over Labor Day weekend (I'm very late in sharing, I know), Adam and I traveled out to WA state for Dave Matthews Band weekend at The Gorge. We took this trip back in 2012, and we decided we needed to make it happen again this year!

We flew out early Friday morning and landed in Seattle. From there, we hopped in the rental car to make the 3-hour drive to The Gorge. It ended up there was a lot of traffic, and we took some back roads to avoid the cluster on the interstate. It took a while, but the drive was pretty. We finally made it to The Gorge just in time to grab some food, find a spot, and see DMB take the stage for night one.

To say The Gorge is gorgeous is an understatement!

Night one was flat out cold. There was an incredibly strong wind, and toward the end of the show we moved to another spot along a fence to try to get out of it. We had also gone from the central time zone to the pacific time zone, and we were tired! We actually left before the encore (not like us) and made our way to our hotel. By the time we got to bed, it was 3am in the CST. We were pooped!

On Saturday, we slept in and then found a restaurant to grab some lunch in Moses Lake, WA where we were staying. We also hit up the WalMart to buy some cheap blankets and some glow sticks to take to the show that night. We made the 30 minute drive to George, WA (I'm not kidding) to visit the Cave B Winery. We found this place last time we were there, and it was fun to return and sample some wine and enjoy the view.

We got to the amphitheater earlier on Saturday and found a great spot for the show. We relaxed for a while and then enjoyed the openers. It was still a little chilly, but it was not as bad as the night before. We saw a terrific show and then made our way back to the hotel again.

On Sunday, we slept in again. It was a bit rainy that morning, so we went to Starbucks and hung out for a bit before making our way to The Gorge again. We stopped at the gas station for some beverages and snacks before heading to tailgate in the parking lot.

If you've never been to a DMB show (or if you don't like them), you probably don't understand how fun it is to sit in a field with a ton of other Dave fans before a concert. Everyone plays his music out of their cars, eats, drinks, laughs, and has a great time!

We still headed in a bit early so that we could find a great spot for night three.

The Sunday night show was pretty special. It was DMB's 50th show at The Gorge. It was also Adam's 25th DMB show he's seen, my 20th DMB show I've seen, and the 15th DMB show we've seen together. I thought that was pretty fun!

The show was awesome and did not disappoint. Our the course of all three nights, we did not hear a single song repeated.

We got back to our hotel and quickly crashed. We were only able to get about four hours of sleep before we had to be up and make the three hour drive back to the airport in Seattle to catch our flight home. The weekend went by way too fast, but we had a blast seeing our favorite band three nights in a row in this epic venue!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Race Report: The Middle Half

On Saturday, October 10th, Adam and I made our way to Murfreesboro to run in The Middle Half.

This was the 9th running of this race, and I've run in it all 9 years! This was the 2nd year that I convinced Adam to run it with me. We actually did better than we expected. You see, we took Connor to Disney World for fall break and had just gotten home the night before from a full week of theme parks. You might think we are crazy (and I suppose we are), but I really want to hit the 10-year streak for this race.

We were already tired when we woke up about 5am to make the drive over to Murfreesboro. It had been a little rainy, but it was a pleasant temperature. We honestly intended to walk most of the race. Quite frankly, our feet were pretty sore from walking 8-9 miles per day in Disney World!

We decided to run the first mile so that we could get a little distance out of the way. We soon realized we felt a lot better than we expected! We managed a really good run/walk for the first 9 miles or so, keeping just ahead of the 2:45 pacer. (As a note, Adam's PR is around 2:32 so we really felt like we were doing well to not be far behind his PR pace.)

Around mile 10, we saw her pass us by. Our walk breaks became a little more frequent, and the running was a bit less fun. Nonetheless, the miles kept ticking by and we finished in 2:52:10! Considering we didn't train (I don't think we've run 13 miles total in the last three months) AND we walked all over Disney during the week before, we were ecstatic!

It's crazy to think that my half marathon PR is at this race and is an entire hour faster. It's funny how the seasons of your life change things. I have no interest right now in PRs. Instead, I enjoy races for the joy of running... and for spending time doing something with Adam. We really challenged ourselves with this one, and we are proud of how we did!

One of the more recent perks of this race is that each runner can get one of their race photos for free! Adam and I picked out the ones we wanted earlier tonight.

As always, the race was terrific. It's a great course, and we always enjoy running around MTSU where we both went to college and met back in 2003. The aid stations are frequent and well-stocked, and there's always a fun spirit among the runners in this race.

I'm looking forward to running it in year 10 next year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recommended Book - One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella

Do you have a big, audacious goal for your life? No matter what it might be, you will find inspiration and encouragement by reading this book. Jena Lee Nardella shares her journey of founding Blood:Water together with the Grammy award winning band Jars of Clay. For those unfamiliar with Blood:Water, it is a nonprofit organization based in Nashville, TN working to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa. Jena was fresh out of college when she began joining Jars of Clay on their tour bus each week to create the vision of the organization and get started with making it into a reality.

This book offers a refreshingly honest perspective of the ups and downs of dedicating one's life to such an audacious goal. Jena shares just as openly about her biggest fears as she does her biggest dreams (and about Jars of Clay and their love of karaoke). I found her voice conversational and felt as though reading her book was similar to what it might be like to sit down to coffee with her. 

Jena is about the same age as me. In many ways, it was nostalgic to read about her perspective of the evangelical Christianity of the late 90s and early 2000s. I identified with her as she questioned whether or not we were missing the point by listening to Christian music and wearing Christian-themed t-shirts. Should there not be so much more to our Christian walk? Not only that, but I felt like I could relate to her tone and thoughts processed throughout her story. I found it fascinating when I read a few posts on her blog after finishing this book that she and I share the same Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ). No wonder why I could tell I liked her as I read!

The mission of Blood:Water reminds me very much of the old saying about how if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day... but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Jena and Jars of Clay envisioned and created an organization that doesn't just throw money at a problem in society. Instead, they focus on relationship-building. They teach people in Africa valuable skills that contribute to their own personal health and overall well-being. They don't just build wells and medical clinics - they build community.

As a supporter of Blood:Water, I found it fascinating to read Jena's perspective on how the organization built its foundation and grew from there over the last ten years. I've been a fan of Jars of Clay since the mid-90s, and after reading this book I'm an even bigger fan. More than that, I've realized that I deeply respect Jena. I read this book over the course of five or six evenings before going to bed, and I finished it yearning for more. I want to be a part of continuing this story. I don't want this to become another book that goes on the shelf. Instead, I want it to serve as a constant reminder to dream big, work hard to fulfill those dreams, and most importantly, to love God and love others with all that I have to offer.

I received a copy of this book for free as an advanced reader. My review is my honest opinion. You should buy this book!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Life and Times of Tucker

I realized I haven't shared much about Tucker in quite some time. I suppose this is because it's not just me and him anymore, haha. However, he is still a very important part of our lives!

Adam and Tucker love each other. Connor and Tucker love each other. This makes me happy. :)

Tucker turned 9 years old back in April. I think he still has a lot of life in him as he is still super playful and active.

Granted, he also loves to sleep. One of his newfound favorite spots is to pick a step on the stairs. Specifically, he likes to curl up on one where the sun is shining in from a nearby window... but once he's warm and cozy and falls asleep, he doesn't seem the notice that the sun moves.

He also likes curling up beside me on the couch while I work.

Tucker is particularly interested in Connor's toys. If he's here and has things pulled out, Tucker is right in the middle of the action. I think he's aware that there is something out in his territory that he doesn't regularly see.

He also loves to sit on my nightstand under the lamp at night once we get into bed. I think maybe he likes the warmth from the lightbulb. Generally, he'll sit there anywhere from 5-30 minutes while I read (my nightly routine), but eventually he'll come over into the bed and curl up on one of us.

I'm really glad he loves Connor. There are definitely times when Connor is being a bit loud that he will take off and hang out somewhere else in the house, but it is so sweet when Tucker curls up with Connor (when he's being still).

Like any cat, he loves to curl up in unusual places. He's got quite a few including on the shelf in our closet, under the guest bed, and on top of the kitchen cabinets if he can get up there before we intervene. However, one of his favorites is to curl up on my computer if I walk away from it for a few minutes. I guess he likes the warmth?

He loves running all over the house, especially up and down the two sets of stairs. He loves all of the windows we have and the easy access to watch all sorts of wildlife in the yard and happenings in the street. He is cuddly and affectionate, just like he has been since he was a kitten.

He definitely still knows I'm his mama, and he's partial to me. But he also really loves Adam. Generally, if we're watching tv in the media room, Tucker wants to be on him. During the day he hangs out with me, and at night he rotates a bit but usually sleeps against me.

He's also started sleeping on Connor's bed a lot lately. I think it means he loves him and misses him when he's not home, just like Adam and I do.

I'm hopeful he has at least another 5-6 years with us. He's really just the best cat ever, and I'm thankful we have him in our life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Second grader!

I almost can't believe it, but our son is a second grader! He's had a full week of school under his belt, and he is already such a little man.

Right before school started, we gave him a new bike. He has not really had a lot of experience on a bike, and this is his first without training wheels. We are definitely working on confidence and balance, but I have a feeling he'll be flying around the cul-de-sac with his neighbor friends in no time!

I just can't get over how big he is getting! He is already over four feet tall. It won't be long until he is taller than me! I am constantly blown away at house smart, funny, and kind this kid is... Granted, he is JUST like his daddy. Sometimes when I look at Connor I realize that I can sort of see the future. Not only does he look just like Adam, he also has his personality and mannerisms. It's sort of crazy sometimes.

Adam and I are so proud of him and all the ways we see him growing into such an amazing young man. I am so thankful to be his stepmom, and it's fun to think about all that life has in store for him and for us!

Friday, August 14, 2015

One Year in Our Home!

Technically, we closed on our home last year in June. However, we didn't move in until August. So we're sort of at the one year mark now. In some ways, I feel like we've lived in this house forever because it feels so much like home. In other ways, I feel like there's no way we've been here a year!

We want to take photos out front every year, and this was our attempt this year. I determined that I need some better chalk because what we used didn't work very well on our sign. We might try this photo again soon if I can make a better sign.

We have worked hard over the last year to make our house our home. We've painted. We've worked in the yard. We've decorated. We've slowly but surely found all the right touches. We've changed out a few of the big light fixtures. We've changed out the ceiling fans. We've gotten some new appliances. We've added a backsplash in the kitchen. We've ripped out hideous tile around our fireplaces and added some nice stone.

There's also still so much we'd like to do. Our spare bedroom as remained more of a storage unit the entire year. I'm determined that by the end of the year we will sort through it and find a place for everything in there or get rid of it. A lot of what's in there is the stuff we want to hang on the walls... for some reason, this is the hardest project of all for me. So maybe by Christmas we will have things hanging where we want them, and we will have set up that room to be something useful and not just a giant closet. We also have a ton of Dave Matthews Band concert posters (no surprise there) that we want to frame, so we're thinking of telling our family we want gift cards for Christmas to places where we can get them framed.

We also dream about the other things we want to do but that will take some time and some budgeting to accomplish. We want to remove the mulch in the yard and put in rock beds. We want to paint the kitchen cabinets, get new countertops, and add new light fixtures in the kitchen. We also want to replace the black appliances with stainless steel. We did that already on the fridge and dishwasher, but we still want to do the oven, stovetop and microwave. We want to update a few more light fixtures throughout the house. We want to redo the deck. We'd love to refinish the hardwoods. I know it may take years for some of these things, but half of the fun is just daydreaming about what we will do when we can do it.

Regardless of all the material items, this house is our home because of the love held within it. Like right now... we're sitting on the couch in our media room. We've been sipping on some wine and listening to some Jars of Clay while we both piddle a bit on our computers side-by-side.

So much in our lives has changed over the last year. We're so much happier now that we're not in Indiana. I really can't even explain what a miserable place we found it to be... at least where we were living. We both started grad school in the last couple of months. That's certainly been a game changer in terms of our schedules, to say the very least. We are also thrilled we are able to see Connor so much more than we could when we lived in Indiana. We don't regret going there temporarily for a single second as it was a great job opportunity for Adam that allowed us to set a foundation for our future together, but we're thankful to be so close to family and friends again.

It's been a good year, and I can't wait to spend many more years in our home!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Our Second Wedding Anniversary

I can't believe it's already been two years since this amazing day...

Adam and I are big on experiences instead of gifts. You might recall we headed to Denver for a long weekend last year to celebrate our first anniversary. This year we have a Labor Day weekend trip to The Gorge to see DMB again, so we thought something more low key would be in order.

We decided to make a reservation at one of the nicest steakhouses in town (and apparently one of the top 10 in the country) - Kayne Prime. Connor was with us for the weekend, so we dropped him off at Gram's for the night and got a few photos were here awesome weeping willow. Seriously, I love this kind of tree.

We had the most amazing evening. We were asked if we were celebrating anything, and we were treated to some champagne. We had a cheese board. We had bacon topped with cotton candy - who knew that was a thing? It was delicious. We had steaks and potatoes and corn. We had an awesome bottle of a Malbec from Argentina. I considered dessert, but I just couldn't do it.

Kayne Prime is highly recommended. We loved every bite, and the service and ambiance were top notch. It's definitely pricey, but for a special occasion it was perfect!

After dinner, we wandered around the Gulch for a bit and stopped for a cocktail at another bar. We headed home and curled up on the couch with a movie. It was truly a perfect evening.

Sunday was our actual anniversary. We picked Connor up, and he and I hung out with friends at the pool while Adam did some homework. That evening, we all three looked through wedding pictures and watched our wedding video. We got up and danced in the living room when we got to the "first dance" part. Connor loved watching us, and he was excited to dance with me when we watched the first dance I had with him. 

It was a perfect anniversary. I can't imagine anywhere else better to be other than at my home with my two Riddick boys. I'm so thankful we became a family on August 9, 2013.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Other Summer Adventures

We have been having so much fun this summer! Connor was with us for the bulk of June, and in addition to all of our weekend adventures and trips we managed to find some fun things to do here and there.

We checked out the splash pad at our park and got slushes at Sonic.

We took Grandma to dinner and visited McKay's to check out their used movies and books.

Connor attended VBS four days with his friends from our cul-de-sac.

We went to two different programs hosted by the library.

We enjoyed just playing with toys at home.

We of course hit up the neighborhood pool (quite a few times!)

We also went on a family picnic at Arrington Vineyards on a gorgeous night! It was almost June, but it was SO pleasant outside.

We picked up some fireworks and enjoyed shooting them one night.

We watched movies at home. We played video games. We saw one of the $1 movies with our neighbor friends. We went to a few cookouts. We read library books. We went to a family fun center to ride bumper boats and go karts. We cooked yummy meals. As I type up everything we were up to, I can totally see why I never blogged in June. We were too busy living life!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Father's Day Fun

We had a great Father's Day weekend!

On Saturday, the whole family went to Lynchburg to celebrate with both dads - Daddy and Papa!

First, we took the Jack Daniels Distillery tour. My sister, Adam and I had gone before, but it was the first time for everyone else. It's definitely fun.

After the tour, we had lunch at Miss Mary Bobo's. It's just delicious southern food, and we definitely left with full bellies that we needed to walk off by visiting the shops in the town square.

Connor was excited to give Papa his card and gift, too!

Connor with Daddy and Papa!

Meredith and I with our dad

On Sunday, Connor helped me cook an extra special breakfast for Daddy. It was delicious if I do say so myself.

We also opened presents. Connor was pretty excited to give him the screwdrivers and stud finder that we knew Daddy wanted!

He was even more excited to give him the goblet that he painted all by himself at the pottery place (one of our activities earlier in his summer break that we had to keep a secret!)

We spent the afternoon taking a tour of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville. It was pretty neat.

That night, we wrapped up a great Father's Day weekend at the drive-in movie to see Jurassic World!

I am so thankful to have a great dad of my own and to have a husband who is such an amazing Daddy to Connor. Adam is the best father in the world, and Connor is so lucky to have him!