Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get Your Portrait Done!

My brother-in-law, Jerrod Partridge, is now painting, drawing, and teaching full-time with a focus on portraiture. So if you or someone you know needs a portrait done, give him a call! You can find information on his website: www.jerrodpartridge.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Campers

We did it! The Partridge family went on our first just-the-five-of-us camping trip this past week. The kids and Kevin were the most excited about it, but I was excited, too. We ended up having to put the trip off a day because of all the rain, but the extra preparation time was good for us. We took a family trip to Target the night before we left to get some extra supplies and then rewarded ourselves with ice cream from Sonic.

Tuesday morning was spent gathering last-minute items and piling them all by the door for Kevin to pack in the van. By lunchtime we were all set. We made one last stop at McDonald's on our way out, and the kids got their coveted Happy Meals, and we sat out in the sunshine to enjoy our food and the start of our adventure. About an hour later, we arrived at Roosevelt State Park in Morton, MS, checked in, and found our site--#38.

The kids could hardly contain themselves. Callie was wanting to be all in charge and go blaze a trail or something. The pioneer woman in her really came out on this trip! Everyone was immediately--though happily--put to work. Everyone helped put up the tent; each child got to drive a stake into the ground. And we all helped gather firewood. We explored our site, made sure we knew where the bathroom was, and introduced ourselves to our "neighbors," who were just about the nicest people we've ever met. They were a middle-aged couple who were remembering bringing their own children on camping trips, and they loved that we were on our first big trip. They were also really helpful in letting us borrow a broom and some fishing supplies; they let the kids watch while they cleaned fish (ewww); they brought us some extra firewood; and they even brought us some homemade cake. Callie made a thank-you card for them, and the lady gave each of the kids a big hug before they left. The kids just loved our "neighbors"!

I'd have to say that I don't think the weather could have been any more perfect. It was in the 70s during the day, and it was just a little chilly at night--cool enough to sit pleasantly by the campfire and to snuggle up in sleeping bags to sleep. All five of us were snuggled together in our tent, which was fun. And we all slept pretty well, I'd say. As we were drifting off, we could look up through the mesh window in the roof of the tent and see the stars peeking through the towering pine trees. It was really beautiful. And I spent some of that drifting-off time pondering how big and wonderful and creative our God is.

Our food was pretty basic, but it was good. Hamburgers one night; hot dogs the next; and S'Mores both nights, of course. Kevin also cooked breakfast for us--scrambled eggs, sausage, grits. And we made my coffee right on the fire, which was fun. It tasted really good.

I think that Callie's favorite task was chopping firewood! All the kids really enjoyed using the hatchet, but Callie was the one who used it the most. I think she found great satisfaction in chopping wood; it gave her a sense of accomplishment and contribution, I think. She was really good at it, actually, and she has a blister to show for it.

Overall, we took it pretty easy. We walked around a lot, fed the ducks in the lake, played on the playground, played soccer (sort-of), did a little bit of fishing (didn't catch anything with our little Spider Man fishing pole, the line of which I managed to wrap around a tree in the water on my first try), did some reading, visited our friends who were there at the same time, saw some deer in a deer pen, and just kind-of observed things around us. One of the highlights for me was getting to take a nearly hour-long hike by myself around part of the lake. (I found someone's cell phone in the street and managed to find out where their campsite was to return it.)

Sitting together at night by the campfire was also delightful, as I knew it would be. We all sat really close together and laughed and ate S'Mores. And a few times we played what we call "Build a Story," where one person starts a story, and we all take turns adding a sentence or two until we feel like the story is complete. Everyone had great contributions, and our stories involved things like a raccoon that goes to Target and a marshmallow that gets put on a special "Don't Eat Me" stick (but gets turned into a S'More anyway). It was hard for the kids to stick to just one or two sentences when it was their turn.

So the first Partridge family all-out camping trip was a success. Two nights was just right, because it left us all (yes, even me) wanting more. That's a good note to leave on.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Unforgettable Trip

A year ago my husband Kevin and I celebrated our tenth anniversary by taking a trip to London and Paris! It was so exciting. We booked the trip right before Christmas and had between then and Spring Break to get ready for it. This involved getting our passports (They wouldn't let me use the one I got in tenth grade.), arranging for someone to take care of our three children for more than a week, finding someone to house-and-dog-sit, etc., etc.

Everything fell into place beautifully. The grandparents happily agreed to keep the kids for us; our friend Josh said he would watch the house and Uncle Rico (our dog) for us; and our passports came in plenty of time. We also did our research by asking all of our friends who had ever lived in or visited London or Paris to give us their lists of the "must-sees" in these places. Priorities were important, since time was of the essence--We would only have three days in each city.

We planned our course carefully and packed our bags lightly (in my opinion). We took all the necessary precautions, right down to making out our will (Gulp). We borrowed travel guides and money/ID holders to wear; we contacted our friends in London and knew exactly what to do once we landed; we arranged for our friends in Atlanta to take us to and from the airport and also keep our car for us while we were gone; and we made sure we knew what we could and could not pack in our carry-ons. We were taking care of every little detail in order to ensure an unforgettable trip.

So early that Sunday morning, we rose from our beds in Jackson and began our adventure. We made the six-hour drive to Atlanta, only stopping in Birmingham to eat lunch and use the copier at a Staples store to make copies of our passports. (I told you we were taking all precautions!) We arrived in Atlanta right on schedule and even had time to hang around with our friends Daniel and Angela before time to head to the airport.

Still right on schedule--and oh, so proud of ourselves--Angela dropped us off at the curb in front of the Atlanta airport. As we were getting out, we made sure we had all our bags, and I asked Kevin to get out the passports. To which he said, "I don't have them. You do." So I started digging around in my purse . . . then in my bags . . . then in Kevin's bags . . . then in the car . . . Eventually I was on my knees on the sidewalk--hopelessly, fruitlessly looking through all of our luggage for those passports. I had the black-and-white photocopies, mind you. But where were the actual passports??

Where were they? They were face-down . . . on the copy machine . . . at Staples . . . in Birmingham . . . two hours away.

Our hearts sunk to the bottoms of our feet. I have truly never experienced a feeling quite like it. We went from bubbly excitement to extreme despair in fifteen seconds flat. Without much hope of success, we decided to go inside anyway and talk to someone from the airline to see if there was anything at all we could do about our situation. After all, we DID have photocopies! Good grief.

After getting the answers we expected, we went ahead and rebooked our flight for the next day. Now out one-third of our time in London--and a hefty chunk of change for having to rebook--we dragged ourselves back out to the curb and got back into the car. What can you do? All we could do was laugh, sort-of, to keep from bursting into tears of disappointment.

The redemptive factor in it all? Well, it really was not the fault of just one of us, which was a huge blessing, really. Could you imagine starting out a big anniversary trip angry at your spouse for costing you a bunch of money and a day? No, we had both gone into Staples, both stood at the copier, and both walked away from the copier without those little blue books in our hands. So we were both to blame. But we didn't blame anyone.

Instead we enjoyed some extra time with our wonderful friends and got to eat some of our favorite food at Chipotle! We tried not to think about the "what ifs" and just concentrated on the time that was still ahead of us. We also called the manager at Staples to make sure our passports were still, in fact, on the copier. They were.

Early the next morning, we got back in our car, drove the two hours back to Birmingham, went into Staples, walked right back out (little blue books in hand this time), got back in our car, drove the two hours back to Atlanta, went back to the airport, and this time GOT ON THE PLANE!

At this point, there was no looking back. We had a very nice flight to London. Once we got there, we saw as many of the sights as we could, bowed and curtseyed in the general direction of the Queen, paid our respects to some royal dead guys, ate some fish and chips, rode the Tube ("Mind the gap!"), pointed to Big Ben, bought some souvenirs for the kids, slept a little, and moved along to Paris.

We enjoyed Paris more than London, actually. There seemed to be more color there, and the people didn't seem as rushed and stern. We ate some wonderful food, saw some beautiful art, did a lot of walking, and wished we spoke French. It was a great place, and we would love to visit there again some day.

All in all, our tenth anniversary trip was absolutely wonderful! When we got home, we couldn't wait to share our pictures and stories, save one. We just couldn't bring ourselves to confess our foul-up to anyone--especially our families, who probably would never let us live it down. But it's been a year now, and since the memory isn't quite as painful as it once was, we decided to tell the story. (I just might not allow any comments on this post.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Little Girl, Big Goals

In January, our little family had a discussion about setting goals for ourselves for this year. Things like learning to tie shoes, riding a bike without training wheels, working on swimming skills, and learning to blow a bubble with gum were mentioned by my 4, 6, and 8-year-old children. I thought these were great! What has been even greater to me, though, is the fact that every few days since then, one of them will exclaim, "I thought of another goal!" I just think that this is really wonderful and am pleased that they are giving it so much thought.

Today as Katie and I were riding in the car, she said, "Mommy, I thought of two more goals for me!"

"Really?," I said. "What are they?"

"I want to learn to be patient and to be nice to everybody."

"Wow, Katie! I think those are really wonderful goals!," I said, thinking that my four-year-old had wisdom beyond her years.

"And I don't even know what 'patient' means!," she said almost proudly.

Smiling to myself, I began to explain. "Well, being patient means that--"

"Hey! I can't get this unlocked!," she interrupted.

Case in point, I thought.

The Great Outdoors?

Here is my latest article published in Parents & Kids magazine!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cute Correspondence

Yesterday my family and I were at our friends' house. As we were walking out the door when it was time to leave, my four-year-old Katie wanted to check our friends' mailbox, which was empty. So Kevin suggested that Katie could mail a letter that our friends' baby girl could find in their mailbox. Katie, excited about this idea, exclaimed, "Yeah! I want to send her the letter B!"

I think we should all send letters to each other.