Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Any Offerings For My Borrowings???

Calling on all mommies! :)

Hey, girls,
I'm sitting here at work, and my capris are feelin' a bit snug today. I know, I know, the button & rubber band trick...well, not all of my pants have buttons...some have those metal clasps.

Anyhoo, I'm 14 weeks pregnant and just wanted to check with any of you to see if you wanted to loan out any of your maternity clothes. I've just been so encouraged to watch some of my girlfriends borrow almost their entire maternity wardrobe, so I figured I'd try! :) I'll take VERY good care of your clothes and will return them clean! Ask my former roomie, Ashley...we shared clothes, and she knows I take great care of them!! ;)

So, of course, no pressure at all!! I was just wanting to try! :) I'll take anything! I'm normally about a size 6 (or 4 on bigger cuts), and I need early to late pregnancy ANYthing! Skirts, pants, shirts, sweaters, etc. I'm due in January, so I've still got some warm/hot months and then some cool/cold months.

I think elastic is about to be my new best friend! :)

Thanks for anything, in advance! :)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Socializin'! :)

I have gotten to talk to Russell each night since he's been gone. Some nights are brief, and I can tell he's just exhausted. Other nights, we have a nice, hour-long conversation without interruption and just catch up and dream about our future and coming babies. No, we're not having twins, at least not this time, but after this one, we're planning for more. We're excited and enjoying pondering over our future together.

We had a wonderful conversation last night...the longest we've been on the phone together...maybe EVER! Russell woke me up from a nap at 7:15pm. :) I'd been on the go all day (more on that below :)), so I was getting a power nap in so that I wouldn't melt into a crying session. Smart decision. :) Russell's doing well, as am I, and we're super excited to finally BE together this Friday!!! Yeah!!!

All that to say, too, that in our evenings chats, I've been able to share all that I've been up to, so I've been a bit less inclined to blog each day, as I'd originally promised, but rather I've chosen to throw several days into one blog...hopefully keeping it more interesting, too! :)

A big thank you to the Hipps for entertaining me on Friday night! Larry and Kathryn and Georgia Kate, their first child (such a doll!), are expecting a new member to the family in only 18 or so weeks! I've known Kathryn for about 5 years...I can hardly believe that! We worked at Briarwood Church at the same time but in different departments. Our friendship took off from the get-go! Maybe because she's a Florida-born-and-bred gal, and I always long for the beach :), we've got this close kinship. :) Regardless, they are a great family, always looking out for everyone else! We had a productive evening...The Hipp's were my and Russell's wedding photographers! We've just been too busy...for the last 11 months (!!!!)...to get together and put the album together! Ha! So, we conquered and finished that up right before dinner this passed Friday night! YEAH!!!

Georgia Kate is definitely a snuggly little angel, but it only lasts about 5 seconds until she's ready to jump into the next person's arms or into all-together new activity! She jumped into my lap, too, for all of her 5-seconds limit :), so we didn't have enough time to snap a shot. Bummer...oh, well, next time.

Dinner was delicious! Larry & Kathryn have always treated me and (all my single friends back in the day!) to their best! This time, Kathryn baked fresh, homemade Baked Ziti, buttery dinner rolls and prepared a beautiful salad! I forgot to get a picture of the most important part! Dessert! She treated us to a yummy strawberry pie topped with whipping cream that just melted in my mouth! Gosh, I could go for a piece of that right now! Hmmmmm...

Georgia was being sweet to include big brother Bernie in on all the fun. She had fun tapping on the window and keeping him abreast of all the fun and conversations! :)

"Thanks again, guys, for having me over! Y'all are great, and my heart was so fulfilled from our time together! Thank you for sharing all about your first birthing experience, too, (BOTH of your perspectives!!!) so that I have some idea of the fun that we're about to have! :) Love y'all!"

Saturday was a fun day with Granny, my mom's mom, and two of her sisters, my great aunts, Aunt Annie Ree and Aunt Gloria. I picked them up and we made our way to Cracker Barrell for lunch. We enjoyed catching up, while the "bottom fell out" outside! The storms were so strong that we were literally stranded at Cracker Barrell for a good while! Finally, I ran to the car, pulled it up to the restaurant as close as I could and then carried the umbrella back and forth for each of them to slowly make their way to the car. :) I'm glad we shared the day together...I was completely worn out at the end of the day! What do you get with four nervous women trying to 'play' catch up in a little car, then in a noisy restaurant? A LOT OF TALKING, which translates to a lot of NOISE for me! Yeah, so I needed SILENCE in a HUGE way after that visit! :)

Above, my sweet Granny with her oldest sister, Aunt Annie Ree.
Below, I'm sitting with my Aunt Gloria.

This morning was the BEST! I got to go on a killer bike ride with Heidi! We went HARD for an hour! I was so sore that I was bow-legged getting off my new bike. So, I went straight to my parents' house to jump in the pool and work out the 'owey.' :) It still hurts - in a GOOD way - to climb the steps in our townhouse. Then, I came home and cleaned the house so that my husband knows he's coming home to a spic 'n span house! He always loves that! So, I'm now plopped on the sofa, pondering what snack I want to eat before heading over to the deVilleneuve's then church!

Happy Sunday!!!

Love! Love!! Love!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fun Times Had & Fun Times To Come!

Gosh, I've had a wonderful week, spending my evenings with some great girls! I got to meet up with Brooke McClinton at one of my all-time faves...Panera Bread. I had a yummy time of catching up with my sweet friend over Panera's delicious Garden Vegetable Soup and their new Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad over Focaccia bread! I highly recommend both selections!! "Thank you for sharing your evening with me, Brooke! I really enjoyed our relaxed 'session' of catching up!" :)
Wednesday night, I was treated to an evening of fun with another great girlfriend Cori Dillon and her 15-month-year-old Daniel! We caught up on the last several months of our busy lives, while playing with Baby Daniel, feeding him, bathing him, reading to him and eventually tucking him in.
Isn't he so handsome!

Mommy is so proud of her big boy!!

Daniel is also very much in awe of Mommy!

Gosh, he looks just like Daddy, except for that sweet signature "Cori" dimple in his chin! :)
What a cute little man!

"Cori! I love you!!!! Thank you so much for letting me live an evening with you and your sweet family!! I also enjoyed catching up with 'Big Daniel'! Y'all are wonderful! Such encouragers!"

Tonight, I went to my weekly Girls' Study of Tim Keller's The Reason For God. A group of us girls from Redeemer Community Church started up this weekly study time so that we could get to know each other, as well as be in some type of study that would tie us back to the Word of God. So far, I really appreciate the book, and I love the girls I've gotten to know! (I wish I had a picture of our group!!)

On a personal, pregnancy-related note, we approached week 13 yesterday! I feel great and am eating...well, too much! :) Maybe not really, but my appetite has sure increased! I got home last night from Cori's house at 9:00 and ate a big ole bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream, but I so wanted a muffin or something "cakey." I made muffins! Banana nut muffins! I ate two very large ones with way too much butter and maple syrup! :) Does that sound gross? Well, it was yummy to me! Of course, I went to bed way too full!

Today, I was absolutely craving RED MEAT! I was driving and just praying, "Lord, what would be a healthy choice red meat that would really satisfy this craving?" Well, I went to the grocery store and picked up a big ole serving of the deli's turnip greens, then marched over to the soup and cracker aisles for something chunky and meaty and salty! I ended up eating Chicken & Sausage Gumbo Soup with traditional, salty Triscuits! It was yummy, and I guess I was craving the turnip greens for the iron??? Anyway, I was completely stuffed, as I ate the whole TWO-serving can of soup and way too many crackers! I went home, slept for TWO hours and got up to another can of soup...Beef Vegetable Soup with lots of crunchy French Bread...YUM!

Pregnancy is definitely interesting! :) It's fun, for sure, but sometimes I just have to 'blame pregnancy' for anything out of the typical "Shireen Ordinary." :) I am excited and we definitely hope to find out the gender of this child just as soon as possible!! Woohoo!!!

An update on Russell:
Russell presented the idea of my driving up to Anniston to spend Saturday night through early Sunday morning with him. We prayed about it through last weekend and the beginning of this week, asking the Lord to show us what would be best. In the past, those mid-way visits have been pretty hard on me because I get all excited to see Russell and then he's gone, and it just really messes with my emotions. When he initially introduced the idea, he was so sweet and sensitive to us praying through it and making sure we did what would be good for my heart. I've just been praying that the Lord would make His plan for our Saturday night very clear through open and closed doors. Last night, Russell called me with the fun news that he's reserved a hotel room for us! We were both so excited to have some good, quality time together. Then, he called me tonight and sweetly let me know that his unit is under lock-down, another military training exercise, through the weekend, so it won't work out, after all. My immediate response: "Praise the Lord! You can't get better clarity than a closed door from the military!" :) So, although I would have loved to share that evening with Russell, he and I are confident in the Lord's plan, and I genuinely look forward to whatever HE works out for my Saturday afternoon/evening, which I had obviously set aside for this trip. I'm not worried...I'm excited, praising HIM with all my heart!

You can continue to pray for us....ONLY 8 more days, and we can totally do that with the Lord's grace!! Russell asked that I pray for his relationships and communication with fellow leaders through the remainder of their time together. So, y'all can join me in that. I'm praying that the Lord would continue to have favor over Russell with these men/women and in all situations, that God would allow his heart and mind to overflow with His perfect peace and that Russell would remain steadfast in our Savior so that he experiences joy and the Hand of God even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Thank you all for your friendship, for your constant encouragement, and know that, as you pray, we are genuinely at peace and thankful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Half-Way There!

11 days in, 11 days to go!

Thank you for your continued prayers!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Count Down - 13 Days To Go!

One week in, only two weeks to go! Actually, only 13 days until Russell gets home!

Last week was a lot of fun! Aside from missing Russell, of course, I chose to make the most of my week by spending it with great people! Friday night, my sweet friend, Sarah Dunn, had me over for dinner and a movie! She prepared baked pesto-mozzarella chicken, pesto-cheesy squash casserole and a yummy feta cheese-smothered green salad! Voila! Que delicioso! (Am I mixing languages there?)

"Thank you, Sarah! You're always too good to me!" :)

Saturday morning, I got to go hiking with Heidi & Isaiah again! We had a great time! The weather was perfect! We hiked 6.5-7 miles at a great pace, finishing in about 2 hours! Heidi carried Isaiah in a backpack carrier the entire time! Way to go, girl! And Isaiah was a trooper! Never made a peep, just enjoyed playing with Mommy's braided pig tails and that cool red bandana that he kept sneaking off her head! :) "Thanks, friends, for a great time of fellowship and, as always, a fabulous work out! I'm up for biking next!"

Saturday evening was a treat that I've been looking forward to for a while! Dinner with a great girlfriend, who I don't get to see enough. I knew Stacy Roberts before either of us was married. She now has two little girls! My, how time flies!! Reese is 2 years and 4 months. Sidney is just over 6 months. Since her hubby, Matt, was playing golf with the guys, we absolutely endulged ourselves to a GIRLS' NIGHT OUT :) at Cheesecake Factory! YUMMY!

The girls were SO good!! Reese just sat there so quietly, 'reading' the menu to herself. :) Sidney just laid there in her little carrier, gazing up at Mommy through droopy, sleepy eyes to sweetly falling asleep by the end of our meal. Gosh, I wish I'd thought to take pictures of our meals, too! The meals at Cheesecake are ridiculously HUGE, but I love taking home the left-overs!

My heart was set on ordering the Fresh Fish Tacos: Three Soft Corn Tortillas Filled with Fresh Grilled Fish,Spicy Avocado Cream and a Spicy Citrus Salsa. Served with Black Beans, Rice and Guacamole. It was (and still is...in my fridge! :)) DELICIOUS! (Picture below)

Russell and I got to have a nice, long, relaxed conversation last night. He is doing well. They transition the soldiers from the field to barracks on Monday or Tuesday. No more sweaty nights, breathing kerosene from noisy generators; back to air-conditioned quarters and better access to showers! Yes! Praise the Lord!! Again, thank YOU for praying for each of us during this time! We are each doing very well...spiritually uplifted, which makes everything else absolutely more than "do-able." We certainly miss each other, but we are thankful for the phone time we get AND that we're already 1/3 finished! :)

Well, happy Sunday to everyone!! May this be a fresh, new week for each of us!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm STARVING!!!

By 10:30 this morning, I'd already eaten breakfast and two hearty snacks!! Good grief! This baby is hopefully growing and helping me with this inhalation of food! My tummy is pooching out...NOT because of the baby; rather, because of all the food I've eaten today!! :) I also just downed a Publix 6" turkey & cheese with EVERYthing sub! Heavy on the jalapenos, pickles, banana peppers, olives, tomatoes, bell peppers and lettuce, but no onions, please! Oh, and I always ask for EXTRA VINEGAR!! :) Oh, gosh, it was yummy! That sandwich has become my 'stand-by' these days! I picked up some yummy looking Kellogg's Special K Chocolatey Drizzle granola bars because they were on sale, so that'll be my afternoon snack. Ooooh, I'd love a cup of decaf coffee with that. Hmmmmm....I'll have to figure something out.

I'm actually glad to have my appetite back. I wasn't interested in food for weeks, which was sad because I typically enJOY food! So, 'Junior' and I are happy little campers...well, I guess he/she's more the 'camper' in my belly. :)

On another note, Russell's doing GREAT! He accidentally called me this morning, and we got to talk! He explained that his cell phone was actually powered off, but when he and the guys were literally dumped upside down in a Hum-V simulation exercise and had to unbuckle their belts (I guess to escape???), his phone was evidently powered on and did the smart thing...calling me! :) I mean, what are the chances of that!?!? "Thank YOU, Lord!!"

Gosh, I'm re-charged for days! I LOVED that surprise call...I NEEDED it, and I know it was indeed a gift from the Lord, for which I absolutely acknowledge and praise Him!

Thank y'all for praying for us!! We appreciate each of you, even if we don't know you personally! :) I like kind "blog stalkers." I'm one of them!

Count Down - 16 Days To Go!

Whoops, I skipped a day of blogging! :) So, only 16 more days to go until Russell gets home!

He called me around 9:00 last night...of course, I was fast asleep, but not too asleep to reach over and pick up! :) He said he had a great day...shooting all kinds of guns all day long. He was truly in his zone! ;) He is wild at heart, and I'm crazy about that!

I'm doing well, too. I got to rest a good bit yesterday afternoon and evening after work and got a couple of pregnancy and baby books read, so I'm getting some 'book knowledge' on how to be a mommy. :)

Thank you for your encouraging comments!! :)

Love you all! Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Count Down - 18 Days To Go!

I've been pretty tired and cried for the first time tonight since Russell's been gone. I miss him. I guess that's not too bad for four full days into this 'mission.'

We spoke briefly tonight, since I was out to dinner with my girlfriend, Sarah Dunn. Russell almost reached heat exhaustion today after actually getting cold on his cot early this morning...it went from 65 degrees at dawn to 90 degrees plus by noon/afternoon. He had to ask a supervisor to keep an eye on him in case he had to "fall out." He made it through the day and has rehydrated with water and Gatorade to replenish his electrolytes.

For our prayer warriors out there, please pray that the Lord would give Russell supernatural protection from the heat during the hot afternoon hours. In fact, pray this for all of the soldiers. They need our heart-felt prayers, friends. Russell told me that he was getting a shower tonight and finally switching to a new, clean uniform, after wearing the same one for four days! That stinky uniform could probably stand up on its own! :)

Also, please pray for my heart. I miss Russell, but I do praise the Lord for HIS will, and I desire to honor Him with my attitude and productivity each morning, day and evening. Please pray that He would continue to pour out His grace over me so that I maintain joy, peace and comfort during this time apart from Russell.

Thank you so much for praying, and, since my love language is words of affirmation, feel free to post comments! You encourage me tremendously!

"You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in You."
Isaiah 26:3

Monday, July 14, 2008

Count Down - 19 Days To Go!

Russell sent me this picture of the area in which he's staying. There are about 50 tents, about 15 soldiers per tent, spread out on an area about the size of 8 football fields. So, if 50 tents x 15 persons = 750 persons total, then no wonder there's a shortage on shower time! Well, good news, everyone, Russell was able to "sneak a shower" (<--his words!!) last night around 2200 hours!! I'm sure he slept better being clean after 2 loooooong days of working and sweating with no shower. We definitely praise the Lord for that gift!I got to spend this evening with my former roommate and best girlfriend, Ashley Matteo, and her sweet hubby, Dan. We had a wonderful time visiting, cooking, eating and good ole catchin' up! I finally got to see her nursery!! Pictures below! Ashley is due in less than a month, so I enjoyed asking her questions and listening to everything she was willing to share! It's such a blessing to learn "what I'm getting into" :) from my girlfriends! Once again, I praise the Lord for loving on me today through a great workday and then a fun evening with my great friends! "Thank you, Dan & Ashley (okay, & Piper! :))!!"

Yum! Ashley cooked Chicken Parmesan over Angel Hair Pasta and fresh green beens! Delicioso!
Below, pictures of Nathan's sailboat theme nursery. So cute!!! "You're welcome to come on out any time, now, little man!! You're room is ready!" :)



Below, sweet Mama Ashley holding her first baby, Piper. I have a special place in my heart for Piper since I got to live with and take care of her for a couple of years. :)

Good night to all, and to all a good night!
"Nighty-night, Hun! Sleep great, and don't let the flies bite!! :) I'm glad you have your mosquito net!"

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Count Down - 20 Days To Go!

If this were my journal, I'd write...
Father, thank You for an all-sufficient weekend! You are my Provider, my Comforter, my Giver of all things! You created me, You know what I need, and You never hold back. I specifically thank You for leading me and Russell in how to pray toward this time apart from one another so that we could SEE You in our midst! YOU have provided him with safety and a strong, positive attitude in the midst of physically miserable conditions. YOU have sustained his strength and shown favor in the weather...no rain! YOU have provided me with joy and peace in my more emotional pregnant condition. YOU have loved on each of us through everyone's prayers and reaching out to us. Thank YOU for Your body, for Your children, through whom You have more than fulfilled my heart and soul these last two days. Thank You with all my heart for the opportunity to speak to Russell by phone these last two evenings. What an unexpected gift! We absolutely acknowledge You and praise You for the encouragement that this conversation and prayer time offers. My heart overflows in thanksgiving and praise to You, Abba Father, dear Lord Jesus and Holy Spirit.

Only 20 days to go!

Today, God loved on me through family and friends and His Word (among countless other means!):

I got to visit with my mom, dad and sister this morning. To clarify, while I was physically visiting with my mom and sister here in town, we called my dad, who is currently in Iran. The visiting time always blesses my heart. I also got to lay out and swim at there house, which I always enjoy!

This afternoon, I got a good hour-long visit with our closest friends, Ryan and Jenn. Just an afternoon visit with the deVilleneuve's...catching up, sharing and listening, watching their interactions with each other and with their son Rollins is incredibly fulfilling to my heart and soul! "Thank you for sharing your weekend with me, guys!!"

This evening, I got to hear the Word of God spoken with boldness and confidence. Jeff Heine preached at Redeemer Community Church on I Corinthians 2: 6-16, "Wisdom From the Spirit." Wow! Read this passage. Then, re-read it, realizing Who God gives us and what that means!

"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us...We have the mind of Christ." I Corinthians 2: 12, 16 (emphasis mine)

Again, wow! Jeff did a great job preaching this evening, and the Spirit was fast at work in my heart to get this TRUTH in an new, life-giving, hope-filling way! "Thank YOU, Lord!"

I did get to speak with Russell tonight, just after eating sushi in the car and on my way home from Publix after church! So typical of me! If I'm driving, I'm likely eating! Sushi is not so typical, however, but I am pregnant and have been craving it since last week! Back to Russell :), we caught up on the phone for over half an hour. He's doing very well, especially spiritually! He gave me a good description of his living conditions, which I'll share in another blog. I'm so tired and ready to turn out the lights after this fun, long weekend! :) Russell hopes to get his turn at the showers tomorrow night. You can join us in prayer specifically for that. This is day two of a hot, sweaty workday without a shower. I'd be miserable!

Thank you!

"Count Down - Day 21" Updates

Russell & I were able to text each other a couple of times yesterday. Then, around 6:00 last night, he surprised me with a phone call! To get a signal, he has to climb a wall and just sit there while we're talking! :) Oh, the things we'll do for love, huh? Oh, you'd do it, too!! ;)He is also able to check his email and our blog, too, so I plan to keep the updates and count down going! So, I hope you'll all let me humor you a bit these next few weeks!

Russell explained to me last night that his unit is spread out in an open, cleared-out field, where they've pitched their tents, cots and spread out all their gear. I imagine a bunch of men in full uniform really 'roughin' it.' I got a long text from Russell...he sent it about 9:25 last night, and I got it about 3:30 this morning. He wrote, "It's 9:25. I've been up since 2:20[am]. I am now going to bed without a shower, with the hum of generators in the background. They are going to set us up on a 3-day shower rotation. I don't know when it will start. So, I may go 4 or 5 days before I get my first shower! Hooray! Thank goodness for baby wipes..."

Gosh, I praise the Lord for his attitude!!! He truly sounded upbeat last night, as tired as I knew he had to be.

"I'm so proud of you, Honey! Thank you for your service to our Lord, to our country, to me!"

I promised pics from our dinner and dessert at the deVilleneuve's last night! We had fun baking spinach calzones (above).
And this amazing blueberry cobbler! (a blueberry version of this recipe. Thank you, Angie!!) Serving it a la mode, of course!!! :)
And summing up the evening with a couple of games of Joker.
"Russell, Ryan was sure to ask me if I had told you that you were missed last night! Of course, he may have just been missing your help with the fence! He was exhausted last night!" :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Count Down - 21 Days To Go!

Hi, friends & family!

Russell left town this morning for a 3-week military annual training. His alarm sounded at 2:20am, and the next thing I remember is him kissing and hugging me -him in uniform, me snuggled in bed - at 3:05am! Needless to say, I didn't sleep well at all after he left. I missed him, dreamed he came back, saying that he didn't have to go, after all, and then I awoke to the disappointing reality that I had only been dreaming, or should I say having a nightmare!

We've certainly prayed toward these 3 weeks together and have asked several of you to be praying for our hearts to stay unified during this time. I pray that each of us would seek the Lord when we miss the other, that the Lord would lead each of us by His Spirit, giving us recall of His Word and leading us to pray specifically so that we may see God at work in our midst, that we may be encouraged and honor Him with our praise and thanksgiving. We appreciate each of you and ask that you would pray alongside us through these next few weeks.

At this point, Russell and I don't know if we'll be able to communicate at all. He's within a couple of hours away, but he'll be on the field, experiencing hands-on training. So, he may or may not have cell, text or email access. I've decided to take a chance and commit to blogging each day so that, just in case he does have coverage and can check our blog, he knows something about my days. I'll keep it as interesting as possible for everyone...no promises for anything to "write home about," however. :)


So, let's get this count down started already!!!

21 days to go!
Philipians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Jenn, her sister, Lauren, Rollins and I went blueberry picking this morning! Girls will be girls in the car, which means we talk non-stop! :) I'm certainly not complaining! I love the catch-up time. However, we did miss our first turn off of the highway and had to back track about 5 or so miles. No big deal...you just keep on trekkin' and talkin'! :)

Here are some pics of our FUN day at the Morgan Creek Winery, where each of us girlies picked our own gallon of blueberries! Above, we arrive, about to be drenched with sweat!!!
Jenn (& 'Deuce' - due in September!!), Lauren and Rollins.
Rollins had so much fun eating and picking right along with us. He was eating them almost as fast as Jenn was picking them! ;) "Way to go, Jenn, for getting your bucket full!!"
Rollins & his handful (soon-to-be mouthful) of blueberries!
After picking, we asked a sweet lady to snap a shot of all of us! I forgot to pick up my bucket of blueberries for this picture, but you'll just have to believe that we actually did leave with 3 gallons! It took us a good 1.5 hours to pick that much!
I just love this picture! Rollins looks like he's reaching out to share his blueberries with 'Deuce'! What a sweetheart! Already sharing with his little brother. :)

Whew! It was a fun morning, and I look forward to heading over to the deVilleneuve's tonight for calzones & blueberry cobbler! Oooh, I'll have to get pictures of dinner & dessert! :)

"Honey, I froze 2/3 of our blueberries, and I promise to bake you a blueberry cobbler when you return! Love you!!!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I Love Surprises!!!

On Monday night, I was on the phone with a girlfriend, and Russell whispered to me, "Do you mind if I run out to Helena for about an hour or so?" (Ashley, remember when I asked you to hold during our conversation? ;)) Of course, I said, "Go on!" I just assumed he would be test driving a Jeep, since he hopes to get one in the coming months. Well, after I hung up and cooked dinner, I got cold in our (highly) air conditioned house, so I went and sat outside on our front door step. About a minute later, Russell drives up with this cool bike on his roof rack.

We all know Shireen loves surprises, and this was so incredibly sweet! It's a woman's Trek mountain bike, more specifically, a 2007 WSD Trek 4300. Of course, the aesthetics are highly important...it's so cute...white and purple! Can't beat that for a girl! :)

Ashley, I guess I can return your mountain bike! :) Thank you for letting me borrow it all these months!!

"Thank you for my new bike, Honey!!!"

Monday, July 7, 2008

New Orleans & More!!! Mmm-Mmm Good!!

We had a great, long weekend in New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana! I got to 'meet' Russell's hometown and 'stomping grounds,' as well as experience New Orleans for the first time!

Highlights of our weekend:
Thursday night dinner with the Whitty's (Jenn's parents) - Po' boys, traditional submarine sandwiches from Louisiana, stuffed with meat and served on a French baguette. We had a yummy variety! One was stuffed with fried shrimp, one with fried oysters and one with roast beef. We also had a ginormous Muffuletta, which consists of a large, round muffuletta loaf, split horizontally, then covered with a marinated olive salad, followed by layers of capicola, salami, mortadella, emmentaler, and provolone. I enjoyed each sandwich, and I was stuffed! However, that did NOT stop me from endulging my pregnant self with Jenn's freshly baked Kahlua cake, topped with Bluebell homemade vanilla icecream! We all then waddled ourselves to the Whitty's sofa and watched Dan in Real Life. It was a fun evening!

Above, traditional shrimp po'boy. Below, traditional Louisana Muffuletta.

Friday morning breakfast with the deVilleneuve's (Ryan's parents) - strawberry smothered pancakes, bacon, sausage and a yummy orange-grapfruit juice punch! My compliments to the chefs, Mr. Doug & Miss Linda, "YUMMY!!" :)
Friday in New Orleans - This was my first experience through one of the United States' most historic cities. Although hot and humid, evidently a typical Louisiana summer day, the city was beautiful! I enjoyed snapping shots of the architecture, the cultural aspects of the city and, of course, the people...


Notice, the piano man just playin' along in the middle of the street!

Friday Night Dinner in New Orleans: Palace Cafe - So, what do you do in a city that knows food? EAT! The four of us had reservations at the recommended Palace Cafe, where we absolutely endulged ourselves, yet again. Note, there were only 4 of us, and we ate ALL of the below:
Appetizers:
2 orders of Crabmeat Cheesecake - Baked in a pecan crust with a wild mushroom sauté and Creole Meuniére
Seafood Gumbo - shrimp, oysters and okra, served with white rice
Entrees:
Gulf Fish Pecan
- pecan-crusted with Creole meunière sauce, spiced pecans, popcorn rice and vegetable du jour
Grilled Gulf Fish Panzanella - served with housemade olive bread croutons, local cucumbers, Creole tomatoes, grilled eggplant, capers and spinach tossed in an Italian parsley pistou
Andouille Crusted Fish - pan-roasted and served with Crystal buerre-blanc, chive aïoli,
rissole potatoes and vegetable du jour
Polenta Crusted Diver Scallops - topped with sautéed jumbo lump crabmeat, grilled corn,
tomatoes, peppers and red onions, accompanied by a thyme infused crab broth
Desserts:
New Orleans Amber Rum Cake
- topped with fresh peaches sautéed tableside in butter and brown sugar, flambéed with amber rum & peach nectar, served with vanilla bean ice cream
Bananas Foster - Fresh bananas sautéed tableside in brown sugar and cinnamon, then flambéed with banana liqueur and rum, served over housemade vanilla bean ice cream
Mississippi Mud Pie - Layers of chocolate mousse with an Oreo crust topped with whipped cream & chocolate sauce
Housemade Blackberry Sorbet

We all agreed that we ate too much, but it was worth it!

Saturday was a fun day, too! We visited with friends, went swimming, rested and then headed back over to Ryan's parents' for another fun dinner! We had chips with homemade salsa from homegrown tomatoes, veggies & dip, fresh guacamole, Miss Linda's potato salad, baked beans, fresh homegrown cucumbers soaking in vinegar (my favorite!) and all kinds of grilled meats! Of course, we also had desserts!

Sunday morning, we awoke to Mr. Chris' (Jenn's dad) fresh Belgian waffles & maple syrup. YUM! I love breakfast food!!

It was just a perfect vacation weekend! We had lots of fun, tons of interesting & tasty foods and fulfilling fellowship with great people! I missed everyone's company so much that I cried when we got home last night! It was just too quiet, and I missed all the good night wishes and hugs from everyone that I'd that been receiving for the last few nights!
Couldn't resist sharing this picture! Rollins is a stud in his sunglasses, and he was a trooper for our 5 hour drive back to Birmingham. "Way to go, Buddy!"

More pics here!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I am Blessed

I've really enjoyed 'letting' :) Russell in on blogging! I tried to encourage him to blog several months back, but it took us getting pregnant for him to jump on the opportunity! He claims that I've "made" him blog, but he wanted to, and I was all about letting him!

He's really a darn good blogger, and I hope he'll keep this up with me!!

I just wanted to share a quick "Shireen's Perspective" of this so far amazing pregnancy experience...

First of all, we acknowledge that God is so good to us. He's truly given us the desires of our hearts, allowing for Russell and I to be on the same page...ready to get our family started, and, here we go, we're already 10 weeks in! We're excited and so pleased! We can hardly wait to find out if we'll be parents of a first-born son or daughter!! :)

Another tremendous blessing has been the support Russell has been to me...you can tell just in the sweet and encouraging blogs he's shared. God has blessed me abundantly through my husband, and I know I'm not worthy, but I am absolutely grateful! In reference to his 'emotional' comment, I admit, there have been some interesting crying spells, where I'll even ask myself in the midst of crying, "Where is this coming from!?!?!?" He just holds me and encourages me to just let it out. Then, we're all good! :)

Everyone has been so sweet to ask, "Are you feeling okay? Any morning sickness?" So far, so good. I felt a little light-headed a few times at about 5-6 weeks, but I've really been able to maintain my workout, work and social schedule without change. I've been grateful for the energetic mornings and days, and I don't mind going to bed a little earlier than usual sometimes. It seems to have become a pattern that at least one day a week, I'm just exhausted and can hardly wait to get home from work to take a nap. That was yesterday for this week. I laid down for a nap at 4:00 in the afternoon and awoke absolutely shocked to see that it was already 7:00! I napped for 3 hours! I guess 'Junior' had a little growth spert yesterday and was using up my energy, so I had to replenish. I didn't mind. :)

Finally, the eating bit of pregnancy. Really, I expected to be craving and binging on junk food and fattening stuff. I'll have my occasional craving for a McDonald's or Chic-fil-A ice cream cone, or I'll trek down to the nearest grocery store for Blue Bell's most interesting flavors, but, for the most part, I crave fresh fruits on cold cereal for my breakfast, Yoplait Yogurt Whips for mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks, Kashi meals for my lunches (easy & healthy frozen dinners to microwave at work!!), and then more fruit and a good, solid, warm meal at night. I've eaten lots of breakfast foods for dinner, recently: eggs & cheese on toast, biscuits, grits and all kinds of jellies. Oh, and I love jalapenos right now! :) Russell made his homemade salsa a couple of nights ago, heavy on the jalapenos, and I've just about planted my face into it the last couple of nights!

Have a great, long weekend, everyone!!! Happy Independence Day!

We're actually heading down to New Orleans and Slidell, LA this afternoon, where we'll spend the weekend with the deVilleneuve's and their families. I get to see Russell's hometown for the first time; I think he's planning to take me on a swamp tour (fun!!); and we're sure to pig out on some great foods while down in Cajun country!

Lookin' forward to sharin' some pics & tales of our weekend soon!

P.S. Darby, I've been praying for you, Baby John and your family each day this week. I prayed for you guys during my walk this morning...for a full recovery through this nice, long weekend, and for some good entertainment for the girls so that you could rest! :) Love you and so proud of you, girl!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

2nd Doctor's Visit

Well, Shireen and I had our second doctor's visit today. It went very well. We heard a strong heartbeat and got to see a lot of good movement. As expected, we were given a more accurate duration of pregnancy, giving us a new due date. The new due date is January 28th! The current measurements estimate us to be approximately 9 weeks, 6 days into this new adventure. This is great because that puts us a week ahead of our original estimates.

So far Shireen is doing GREAT! God has blessed us tremendously. She has experienced no morning sickness! The nurse asked today if she had been more 'moody' lately. I, very strategically, responded, "No, but maybe slightly more emotional." I'm not the smartest man. But I've walked into many loaded questions before. I know a landmine when I see it.....okay, 'hear' it would be more accurate.

Shireen is handling this pregnancy very well. She's needed to enjoy a good cry once or twice. But I think its healthy for her. She's had some serious cravings lately. (Actually, I think the cravings have always been there. She just has an excuse to feed them now! But don't tell her I said that.) She's being careful about what she eats and drinks, insuring she gets enough exercise and being sure to get enough rest. I love her! She's amazing.

Below is our ultrasound. For some of you sitting through 3+ minutes of black & white video is beyond cruel. But to all the others, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It is much easier to see when it's on a flat screen 40" monitor like the doctor had. Here's specific spots where you can witness cool stuff.

At 1:08, Junior waves at us.

At 1:56, the nurse/tech measures for an estimated duration of pregnancy.

At 2:26, you can hear the heartbeat.

And at 2:36, the nurse reads the heart rate.

If you want to see it in full screen you can go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjG5QuJdqWY


video

And, I must say CONGRATULATIONS to the Sticklers! Way to go Darby. May the Lord continue to shine all around you.