O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Today we went on a hunt to find our Christmas tree. The past few years we've put up an artificial tree, but this year I really wanted a real one. I love the smell of a freshly cut tree in the house. When I was growing up in Orange County, CA, we went to a Christmas tree farm and cut one down. It was so much fun. We would hunt forever it seemed like til we found the perfect one and then my dad would cut it down. Oh I would love to find the video of that. Such great memories. I really wanted my girls to experience that as well so we found a farm about 40 min away and went on the hunt for our perfect tree. The name of the farm was Country Cove Christmas Tree farm in Murfreesboro. The girls got hot cocoa and Brian grabbed the saw and the measuring pole and off we went.

After about 20 minutes we finally found one. It was a little shy of 7 ft. Brian cut it down and carried it back.

The girls were so cute. They tried to carry the tree, but it was just too big for them.

We also got to go on a hay ride. My sister and her family were there so the girls got to see their cousins. (Sydney Kate, Maiya, Brooklyn and Sammie.)

I was so excited when Santa showed up. I really wanted them to sit on his lap, but they were not having it. I was really bummed because I wanted a picture. Santa was way cool. He said, "Go sit on the swing and I will come around behind you and you can take a picture". So that's what we did. Thanks Santa. We had a great time and I can't wait to do it again next year. A new family tradition has begun.

A Thankful heart

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It combines two things I love, family and food. For the last 5 years, my family has participated in the Habitrot. It's a 5K walk to benefit our local Habitat for Humanity. Back in 2004 we ran/walked the race in memory of Zoe. So every year since then we do it for her. It's such a special time with my whole family. We get all bundled up because it's usually freezing and meet at the mall where it takes off from. Then we meet back up afterwards for a picture.

Maiya, Brooklyn, Sydney Kate, and Sammie. They love their cousins and they loved this turkey.
One big happy Darin family. We look a little worse for wear. We literally crawl out of bed, put sweats on and head out the door. We're lucky if teeth are brushed and hair is combed.

I was so proud of Brian this year. He set a personal record of 23:48. Way to go babe! So proud of you. After our run, we head to our local Krispy Kreme where we put the calories right back on that we just took off from the run. It's Thanksgiving so anything goes right?

Thanksgiving was at our house again this year. I invited my sisters new in laws over for dinner as well. The feast was incredible. I still don't know how you can be so hungry and then within minutes be so full. The people in France would probably shake their fist at the way we Americans eat. I say it's the one day you can just stuff yourself til your hearts content.

Finally, I am thankful this year for continued good health, that Brian still has a job, a house to call home, a family who loves me and most importantly a God that continues to forgive and love me just as I am. Thank you Lord for all the blessings in my life. They ALL come from you and I am so undeserving of them. I love you Father.

Tuesday's Tip (Christmas Book)

My tip for today is a recordable book. I saw this book at Hallmark and knew I had to have it. It's called "Twas the Night Before Christmas". I loved this book as a child and couldn't wait for my girls to have it. What makes this book so great is that mommy and daddy are reading it. All the girls have to do is open it and up and they get to hear our voices. This came in handy when Brian and I went on our cruise. They could hear us anytime they were missing us.

The original price is $29.95, but if you buy 1 item, it's $19.99. I bought a .99 cent card. Brian and I recorded it last week after the kids went to bed. We each took a different page and Brian did all the parts that needed a Santa voice. This is such a great idea. They even made it child proof as you will see in the video. Brooklyn hit the record button and it didn't erase. This is a great keepsake and I highly recommend getting one. This is also perfect for grandparents to give their grandchildren so they always have their voices around. Here is a video of the girls getting and reading their book.

On the high seas

No Switcheroo Sunday today because I am on a cruise. Whoohoo. Brian and I were blessed to be able to go on the new cruise ship from Royal Caribbean called Oasis of the Seas. If you haven't heard about it it's the biggest cruise ship in the world. It was featured on Good Morning America on Friday. This thing is unbelievable. I have a few pictures I can post now, but I left my cord to my "big girl" camera at home so I can't download them til I get back so I will have to do with the ones I took on my iPhone. This ship holds 6,000 people. We have about 3,200 on board right now. Mostly travel agents and people in this industry. The ship officially sails, with paid customers, on Dec 1st. We are in an amazing 300 sq ft room.

We found out today that this room goes for $8000 a person for a 7 day cruise to the Virgin Islands. Needless to say we will never step foot on this ship again, so we're trying to take it all in.

This is the waiting area before boarding. We got to board about 2 hours early which was nice.
We were in a junior suite so we got to hang in comfy chairs while we waited. (Kathy and Duane Ward on the right and Tyler and AnaLee Ward on the left)
The party at night in the middle of the cruise. They were doing the YMCA dance.

This is the carousel that was handcrafted out of wood. It was simply beautiful. The girls would have loved it.
Brian talked me into doing the zip line. I do not like heights, but he told me to do it for the girls. To show them that their mommy can overcome her fears. So I did this for you B and Syd. It actually was pretty fun. We were 8 stories up and I looked straight ahead the whole time.

We are having a blast. There is so much to do on this cruise it's unbelievable. They have 2 rock climbing walls, 2 Flowriders (Brian did both of them), a mini golf course, Zip line, A floating bar (it goes up and down 3 floors,) a parade at night in the middle of the ship with acrobats in the air, an ice skating show, the musical Hairspray, high divers and synchronize swimmers, and on and on. There is just so much to see. It doesn't even feel like you are on a ship. You really feel like you are in a mall or a little city. Unbelievable.
On another note, we were waiting in line to get wrist bands for the zip line, when Brian got a call from my sisters Stacy. She knew not to call me because she knows me all to well. She knew I would have freaked out, but Sydney had fallen out of the parked SUV, and hit her head on the curb. She cried for a bit, but then seemed fine. They decided to take her to Vanderbilt ER to have her checked out. Of course, I was a little emotional to say the least. I just hated that my baby was hurt and I couldn't be their to hold her. Thankfully the doctor checked her out and she also had an x-ray done and everything was fine. Call it mother's intuition but I had a feeling something was gonna happen today. It was just an uneasy feeling I had all day. I am so thankful the Lord protected my baby girl. A big thank you to my sisters who took care of her and Brooklyn today while at the ER. I am so blessed with such amazing family. It's hard being in the middle of the ocean and not having cell service because I want to call and check up on her, but I just have to rest and have faith that the Lord is taking care of them. Thank you Lord for protecting my baby from what could have been a really bad situation.

My former life

(me, Heather, Rachelle, Stacy)
I was blessed to grow up with 3 amazing sisters. My mom had 4 girls in 5 years. I'm not sure how she did it to be honest with you. I know what it's like to have two girls 19 months apart and that's hard enough, I can't imagine 4 under the age of 5. Let's not forget about my poor dad who was surrounded by women. He got his little boys when we all decided to be jocks and play sports. We grew up playing soccer and softball in Southern California. I loved my life as a child. We had so much fun. My parents taught us to love and fear the Lord. They celebrated their 40th anniversary this past August. I am blessed to have them as parents and they are wonderful grandparents to our girls. My sisters were and are my best friends. It was so nice to have your friends constantly with you. Little did I know when we grew up we would sing together. For those of you that don't know me personally, I traveled with my sisters as Christian Recording Artists from 1999-2005. We traveled all over the country together and had a blast. We were blessed to record 2 albums and get to minister to so many all over the country. It was truly a family affair. Dad drove our motorhome, mom ran our merch table and Stacy's husband Bill ran our sound. I knew since I was in high school that I wanted to be a singer. So when it actually happened, it was a dream come true. The other artists we met and the people we came in contact with at the churches are embedded in my mind and heart. The best part about it was being on stage with my sisters. Lifelong memories I will never forget. There are days that I miss being on stage and getting to minister to people who are truly hurting. It was rewarding and humbling to know that our songs made a difference in peoples lives. I am thankful that God used me, used us, the way He did. Back in October we flew home to California to sing for our high school to raise money for their new performing arts center. It was so great to relive old times with my sisters once again. While we were out there we stopped at Costco to get gas and we were listening to The Fish in L.A. and on came "Can't Stop". We acted like it was the first time we had heard our song on the radio. It never gets old and I want to thank The Fish for continuing to play our music after all these years. Y'all rock!

My youngest sister Heather got married Nov. 7th. It was a fun time of the family coming together to celebrate their union. Brooklyn and Sydney were flower girls, along with Stacy's girls, Maiya and Sammie. They did a great job walking down the aisle and dropping the petals on the floor. Once they got down the aisle, everything changed. Sydney decided to lay down at the end of the aisle because it was 2:00 and past her naptime. Daddy had to take her out when she started to cry. I had to try to keep Brooklyn still while I was on stage. That is not easy in 4 inch heals and a short strapless dress during a 45 min ceremony. Thank God Heather and Phillip had their backs to us and didn't see the chaos that was happening. The rest of the church did though. A little embarrassing, but there was not much else I could do since I was a bridesmaid. I'm sure the video will be quite a sight to see.
It was a wonderful day and I am so happy for my sister as she starts her new life with her husband. I wish them all the best and many, many children. :)

Left to Right: My sister Stacy, not related by blood, but a sister nonetheless, Jamie, my sister the bride, Heather, my sister Rachelle and me. I had to be hidden because this was after the reception and I had already changed clothes back into to jeans and a tank top.

The hunt for acorns

Today the girls and I went on a hunt for acorns. I needed them for my glass hurricane for the island in the kitchen. Brooklyn loves acorns so it wasn't hard to convince her to go looking for them. In fact, she knew right where to go. She and daddy had gone to the little trail down the street from our house where there are a ton of them. She loved to tell me that squirrels eat acorns like in the movie "Ice Age". It was such a beautiful fall day here and I loved being outside with them.
I love this picture of Brooklyn because it truly captures her personality. She loves life and loves being outdoors with the bugs and the acorns.
Sydney had more interest in playing with the sticks than picking up acorns. Not surprising.
That branch was huge, but she really didn't care. It needed to be lifted and she was gonna do it.

The end result. I put a taller candle in it tonight than what I had in it earlier and I think it needs a few more acorns. I guess I know what we'll be doing tomorrow afternoon.

I see God!

On Sunday as we were driving to church from the backseat Sydney said, "I see God". I asked her where? "She said, right there mommy" as she pointed out her window. "Oh yeah", I said. "What does He look like"? "A superhero", she said. Then she said, "Or an angel". It warmed my heart to the core. It got me thinking about how many times God has come to my rescue. The times I have fallen and He's been right there to swoop me up and take me in His arms. The times that I have been in physical danger, seen and unseen, that He has saved me from what could have been a pretty tragic outcome. Most importantly He has saved me from myself. He has given me eternal life with Him. Thank you Lord for being my superhero and thank you Lord for my precious Sydney Kate.

Tuesday's Tip (JumpBox)

Today's tip is something everyone should have in their car. This came in so handy for us this past Sunday. Brian went out to start the Sequoia so we could get to church and it wouldn't start. The battery was dead. Normally this would be a pain to pull up another car and get the jumper cables out and hook them up all the while keeping an eye on two little ones. Thankfully we didn't have to do that because we have a jump box in the back of the SUV. We got this about 4 years ago and it has come in so handy not just for us, but for others who have been stranded with a dead battery. This is so easy to use and if you are a woman, especially with kids, I would really recommend having it because you can do it by yourself. You just stick it on black and red, it tells you which cables to use, then go start your car. It's that simple. They are very affordable too. I think ours cost $50. After you use it you want to recharge it by plugging it in so it's ready for next time.

I've posted a very short video on how easy it is to operate. http://www.ehow.com/video_2260499_jump-start-car-jump-box.html

A Tree To Remember

5 years ago after we lost our daughter Zoe, we held a memorial service for her in our backyard. It was such a sweet time with family and friends. It was late October of 2004 and we planted a tree in her memory in our backyard. We picked the tree because of it's name, October Glory. It's a beautiful maple tree that turns bright orange and red in the fall. I loved that tree. Unfortunately it died not long before we moved. I was really sad because I really wanted to have it transplanted to the new house that we were building, but that wasn't meant to be. Fast forward to August of 2007 and I am at our new house (we hadn't moved in yet) because I wanted to water the plants that they had already planted. That summer we had a heat wave like no other and we were in a drought so I snuck over at night and watered the plants and the trees. As I was walking back to turn the hose off in the driveway I saw a little piece of paper on the ground. I didn't really know what it was until I bent down to pick it up. It was a tag that had fallen off the 2 trees in the front yard that the landscapers had planted a week earlier. I looked down and you guessed it. The tag read, "October Glory Maple Tree". I couldn't believe. God had given me not one tree, but two October Glory trees. Oh how good He is! He knew that my desire was to have a tree at our new house that would remind me of my sweet baby girl.

I have never needed an excuse to love fall. It's my favorite time of the year, especially living in Tennessee. The colors you see are just so amazingly beautiful. Now every time I walk out my front door and see these 2 trees I can think of my little Zoe. Oh how I miss you everyday.

Tuesday's Tip (Garage Storage)

Today's tip will help you organize a part of your garage. I pull my car into the garage and love to have it organized so I don't feel stressed as soon as I pull in. At our old house we had a peg board up in the garage and all of our nuts, bolts, nails etc were in little containers that hung on the pegboard. We don't have that at our new house so all of my stuff from the old house was in a Pampers box and it was driving me crazy. It only took me 2 years to get it all out and put in one place. :) I ran across this container at Walmart ($4.99) and thought this would be perfect. I love it because when I have some work to do in the house I grab my toolbox and this container and I have everything I need at my fingertips.

Now off to do some projects around the house that need to be done. Happy organizing.

Tuesday's Tip (prevention of H1N1)

If you are like me you are a little nervous about the H1N1 virus that is going around. I think we all know someone who has gotten it. Maybe you yourself have been hit by the bug and I hope you have come through it just fine. I have been researching different ways that this flu and every other flu is spread. I came across a study that I thought was interesting. They did an experiment where they put 10 healthy people in a room with 10 people who were infected with the regular flu. They were told not to touch each other just to sit in the room for a few hours. Out of the 10 healthy people, 2 became sick. Then they did the experiment again with a new group of 10 healthy and 10 sick people. This time they were told they could make contact with each other. All 10 healthy people became sick. Yes, the flu can be spread through the air, but it's spread mainly by contact with those that are already infected. It can enter 3 main portals; eyes, nose and mouth. We pick up the virus on our hands and then rub our eyes, touch our nose, or if you are like my kids you constantly have your hands or fingers in your mouth.

This made me really think about what I am doing to make sure that my family and I are protected. As you know I didn't get the girls or myself the flu vaccine so I have to do the best job I can to help protect us from this nasty bug. I have definitely stepped up the hand washing that's for sure. I read that germs can get stuck under your fingernails even if you keep them short. So that prompted me to find nail brushes for every sink in my house. So that's my tip of the day. This is a cheap and easy one and I encourage you all to try this at home and with your kids. I bought my brushes from Dollar General for $1 each. They were the cheapest that I found and I liked these the best because they are small and easy to use.

Happy brushing and good health.

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