First Day of School…for Moms

First Day of School '14
With the addition of social media to our world, we all now get the privilege of seeing all the adorable Back-to-School photos of friends near and far.  I particularly love all these photos, as they are truly mile markers in our lives as families, as kids, as parents. As a mama who has experienced years and years of “First Days of School,” I now know there are many stories behind the fresh tennis shoes, new backpacks, and front door smiles.

For some of us, it is pure, 100%, unadulterated relief that the kids are back at school.  I read an hysterical post on Facebook last week from friend who admitted singing “I Got One Less Problem Without You” as she dropped each child off.  Dying!  For some, it’s a start of a complete new season of life…sending the first or the last child to kindergarten or college.  Tears of relief and grief and joy.  For others, perhaps it is a returning to work after being at home for years or off for the summer.

If you are mom of school-aged kids, no matter their age, the first day marks the beginning of a new chapter, another year passed, another inch closer to launching them into the world.  And it’s so many emotions for a mom…exciting, terrifying, joyous, sad, lonely, yet connected in spirit to mamas everywhere.

For me this particular year, our “first day” today was good.  Just really good. And I rejoice, because past years have been so difficult for me. Today, I did not come home and “go to pieces,” as my mom calls it:), all three kids were ready on time (miracle), they all walked themselves in (out of necessity since David was out of town), and none of my kids were “brand new” to their school district, friends, and Oxford. Thank.You.Lord.  Nobody wants a repeat of moving to a new town and starting school 4 days later ever again like last August.  Not recommended to a worst enemy.

I know for some of you out there, though, the recent “First Day of School” was or is going to be really, really difficult.  I’ve been there.  And I promise it gets easier. Especially if you are sending your first to kindergarten…or your last to kindergarten. I can’t speak to college send-off, but I am reading posts from veteran mamas who assure us that we’ll survive that, too.  I have been praying this morning for all of us mamas…for God to reach down and rain down His grace for where we think we’ve not done enough, for tender mercy when it’s just plain hard, for comfort if we grieve them leaving, and renewed strength and energy if we’re singing Ariana Grand lyrics today.

Here’s to another “First Day of School” in the books!!

I’d love to hear what the “First Day of School” is like for you and yours.  Have a great week.

Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad Main
I was sitting at the pool recently with my sweet friend, Anna Dabbs, and we agreed that deep into summer, it becomes harder and harder to want to cook, especially with the temps so hot!  The thought of heating up your kitchen when it’s sweltering outside…boo!  Anna mentioned a cold pasta salad that her family has loved for years, and I gave it a try the next week. If you love Greek flavors, this pasta salad is for you! Below is the base for the dressing, but you can make additions to suit your taste! Enjoy!

Greek Pasta Salad

16 oz pasta (colored rotini or your choice)
4-6 green onions, chopped fine
2 oz. jar chopped pimiento (I chop even smaller from jar)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
3 T. mayo
2 T. Cavenders Greek Seasoning
1 can petite diced tomatoes

Optional additions:  Shredded Rotisserie chicken, crumbled feta cheese, olives, etc.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients with pasta.  Add any additional ingredients to suit your taste. Wal-Mart carries my favorite Rotisserie Chicken-Traditional flavor.  I shredded roughly half the meat from one chicken.

Chill overnight or at least a few hours before serving to allow flavors to marry.

If you prefer a sweeter version of pasta salad, be sure to try this Summer Pasta Salad that is an all-time favorite from my sister.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a favorite cold pasta salad to share!  Happy last days of summer!

One Year in Oxford and Pine Cove Family Camp

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Hey friends!  I sure have missed being here regularly this past year!  Hope you all have enjoyed your summer…can you believe school supplies are on the feature aisles at Wal-Mart?  Where did the weeks go? Hopefully, you have found some time to let your soul rest with the slower pace. We just returned from our favorite vacation, Pine Cove Family Camp, which could not have come at a better time for our family.  This month marks one year since we uprooted our kids and moved to Mississippi.  Not the easiest year, so we were counting the days til the start of camp this summer!

If you are not familiar with “family camp,” it’s basically just what it sounds like! Summer camp for the whole family. But do not be fooled if your first thoughts are to click away because you hated camp as a child or wonder if there is AC! Pine Cove Family Camp is the ultimate vacation for moms. I am convinced the Lord, in His tender mercy towards mothers, created Pine Cove.  Servant leaders, aka counselors, are there loving on families, meeting needs, and fulfilling requests before you even know you have a need or request! They unload all your luggage, cut your kids’ meat at the table, hold them if they as much as make a peep, refuse to let you pour your own coffee, and demand that you get up and walk away from every meal without lifting a finger! They also spend countless hours with our children, loving on them, pouring into them, and being sweet examples of Christ to them. Priceless. If you’d like to read a past post about what else Pine Cove offers, click HERE. Not to mention, all three of our kids swear it’s better than Disney.  And I sorta don’t love Disney, so this is good news for me.

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Last 3 photos: Pine Cove Photographer

Ten summers ago, when we first pulled onto the property of Pine Cove Woods, I was a much younger wife and mother of only two very little people, tired but not overly worried about much other than nap schedules and disciplining kids who hadn’t started school yet. Both challenging, mind you, but life’s a bit more complex now, putting it mildly. This year, as we pulled onto the property at Pine Cove, I was excited to be there, as we have dear friends who come the same week every year, I knew my kids would be well cared for, and I would NOT think about, shop for, cook, or clean up 17 meals! But also this year as we pulled in, there was a secret place in my heart brimming with worry, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and fear.

Just a few short months ago, I found myself in a pretty low place. In typical Southern fashion, I had learned the art of hiding the hurt places, not asking for help, and just hanging on til whatever it was went away, got better, or more likely, got covered up with another fine layer of distraction.

Our move last August from Arkansas to Mississippi was extremely difficult on so many levels. Watching my children grieve when the move was still fresh…I’m talking all-out wailing a few times, making me seriously consider getting in my car and driving back to Arkansas at 10 pm on a Tuesday. Living in a bare rental house and moving twice in six months. Transitioning from a smaller Christian school to a huge public school setting…scary to say the least, but it’s been such a great experience. Sending my youngest baby to kindergarten after having a small person at home for 13 straight years…I was unprepared for the sudden, very real grief. Parenting a teenage girl from my heart that was running on fumes…not recommended. Visiting and searching for a church home…if you’ve done it, you know it is low on the fun list. Feeling disconnected from David as he struggled to understand my feelings…not much changes for husbands during a move. They just go to work, whereas moms are the primary cultivators of networks with neighbors, new friends, doctors offices, and schools, among a thousand other connections necessary for running a family!)  More than a few times this past fall, I came home to our impersonal, rented kitchen and wept.

Life for me this past year was a constant paradox…internal conflict hovered as I experienced all of the above mentioned scenarios, yet many days I felt filled up, energized, cared-for.  Go figure. Nevertheless, we were in the middle of several of “Life’s Most Stressful Events” list simultaneously.  As the year went on, so many contributing factors helped and to continue to help me get back to “myself.” Although there are a thousand little things, these are just a few of the biggies…a husband willing to enter into the hard stuff with me (he has the patience of Job and really deserves a medal), a wonderful counselor to help me unpack my junk (I’m convinced we all need therapy haha), exercise (which I loathe but it helps), a handful of friends to be real with, Oxonians who welcome newcomers with dear hospitality, embracing the intrinsic pride of our new community, knowing David is enjoying his work, and time away with my family this summer, namely Pine Cove.

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I so appreciate the authenticity of the families and staff at Pine Cove and the sweet spirit that abides there.  While Pine Cove itself is merely a location on a map, we have seen lives changed, family legacies restored or start brand new, and the world getting put on hold for a glorious week.  Pine Cove is not a magical week where God waves a wand and life is suddenly easy and ordered, but it is a week where we can safely share the stuff of life and hit the “reset button.”  We leave filled up and commissioned to go back home with hope, courage, and Truth. We like to say “the start of our spiritual fiscal year.” I’ll take that any day over Disney;)

As always, I’d love to visit with any of you who are interested in hearing more about Pine Cove!  Praying for us mamas as the start of school and the promise of busy, action-packed weeks awaits us.  May we not lose sight of what’s most important, even in the midst of homework, activities, dinner, baths, and bedtime.

I’d love to hear ideas on how YOU keep your faith, relationships, marriage, family time, and yourself a priority when life is hard or schedules are demanding!  Here’s to August…!!

Linking to: Weekend Bloggy Reading

Craigslist Dresser Makeover with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Craigslist Dresser Main
After moving recently, we are still in “settling in” mode…perhaps will be for some time…making furniture work in each room, making decisions about what to keep or give away or purchase, making time for the ever-dreaded task of hanging pictures.

For our master bedroom, I had been searching for a long dresser as an anchor for a tv above, and Craigslist did not disappoint!  I’ve found several pieces on Craigslist to redo, and it’s a fun challenge to find terrific deals!  (To date, this Craigslist Hutch Makeover remains my favorite redo!)

Thankfully, David tagged along on the ride to pick this puppy up.  We pulled into the driveway of what resembled a scene from Breaking Bad.  Or Cops…the Mississippi version.  Glaring reminder to always take a buddy on Craigslist adventures:).

It wasn’t until we got the dresser home that I realized how bad of shape it was actually in.  A bit disappointing, but I loved the lines of the piece and knew paint would bring it back to life in no time.  Although the photos do not do justice to the terribleness, trust me, it had been used and abused, and it showed.

See here below, she’s deceivingly pretty!  
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But ohhhh no.  Just a few of her battle scars here.  Perhaps “Adam” was  a 4th grade crush…Craigslist Dresser 1
For the final look, I wanted fresh, simple, and clean.  After a few trials of mixing Annie Sloan’s French Linen and Old White, I landed with the combo of 3/4 French Linen and 1/4 Old White.  I highly recommend mixing as much as you think you’ll need for the whole project in an airtight container (tupperware or ziploc container). This way, you can seal the container during your project and come back to the paint without having to remix.  Also, another tip I read on some blog…place your wet paintbrush in a ziploc bag and refrigerate it.  It keeps beautifully, and you avoid washing brushes every time you take a break from your project.
Craigslist Dresser 5
The final finish shown is two good coats of the French Linen/Old White combo and two coats of clear Annie Sloan Soft Clear Wax.  For the hardware, I removed each piece for painting the drawers, but loved the finish the way it was and did not change it.  Oil-rubbed bronze spray paint or black spray paint (the kind for painting metal) are good options for refinishing hardware easily.  Just be sure to sand the hardware with steel wool before spray painting.

After the paint cured and the hardware was back in place, the insides of the drawers were begging for a fresh look.  The previous owners must have eaten meals in the open drawers. I found this adhesive drawer liner on Amazon Prime for about $12!

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The drawer liner makes these drawers pop when you open them up!  I love how they turned out.

Craigslist Dresser 2
Transformed beauty in our master bedroom!
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Amazing what the simple act of paint will do to completely change a piece of furniture!  Now on to my next project…:)

Linking to:

Weekend Bloggy Reading