Shake, Rattle and Roll

Yesterday morning we awoke to the whole house shaking violently. I knew immediately what it was. Being born and raised in California, I have lived through my share of earthquakes. I couldn't believe I was feeling an earthquake in Indiana, however. Brian and I were sleeping with the girls and as the house shook I just said, "It's an earthquake, hang on". It only lasted about 10 seconds and then it was over.

Brian asked me how strong I thought it was and I guessed 4.5 on the Richter Scale. We turned on the news and I was close. It was 4.2. Here's the kicker. The epicenter was literally Brian's grandma's house. I am not joking. I took a picture of the tv with my iPhone so you could see the map. See that pink dot? That is where we were staying. I have never been in an earthquake that was on the epicenter before. No wonder it was so jolting for us. Thankfully no one was hurt and there was no damage.

The girls didn't seem to mind at all and I couldn't believe they weren't scared. They just laid back down in bed, like, that was fun.

Tonight is New Year's Eve and like a bunch of old folks, we have no plans, but to stay in and enjoy a quiet evening at home. I like to watch all the New Year's Eve shows on t.v. I am going to do my best to stay up until midnight, but I'm not promising much. We will see if I last past 10:00.

Here's to 2011. I'm hopeful for a much better year than 2010 was for us. Cheers!

A Christmas of Firsts

This Christmas was incredibly hard. I think our most difficult ever to be honest. It was a Christmas of firsts.

First Christmas without PeePaw, Brian's dad.
First Christmas without our son Jonathan. I would have been 8 months pregnant.
First Christmas without my grandma. She passed away just a few short weeks ago.

I wasn't looking forward to this day, but I didn't really have a choice. The girls insisted the holidays go on and that's just what we did. For them we celebrated.

Christmas Morning

Waiting to come downstairs......

After opening up our presents, we headed up to Indiana.......

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow.....

Praying for an awesome 2011!

Christmas Eve

The girls are so excited for Christmas they can't stand it. They are tucked away in their beds sleeping and waiting for Santa to bring them a bunch of goodies.

We went to our Christmas Eve service at our church at 4:00 and then headed on over to Carrabba's Italian Grill to have dinner with the whole Darin clan. We decided to have Italian food for Christmas to honor my Grandmother who went to be with Jesus on December 9th. The food was delicious, as always, and better yet no one had to clean any dishes.

We then headed on over to my sister Stacy's house to open presents and eat dessert. My family does a $10 gift exchange every year instead of exchanging presents. It's more fun that way and is less expensive. We just enjoy being together and that's what matters most to us.

Of course the little ones all get presents from Nana & Papa and the Aunties & Uncles. Brooklyn got a Lalaloopsy doll from Nana & Papa and Sydney got a Little Mommy Doll.

We recorded a video of the girls singing that was just hilarious. You can see for yourself. (I messed up and held Brian's iPhone the wrong way so the screen is narrow. Sorry. Also, the girls decided to play dress up before they sang.)

Last, but not least, I want to say a Happy Birthday to my Father-in-law, Steve, who would have turned 61 today. He passed away suddenly in January of this yearand it's been a huge loss to our family. We love you and miss you so much PeePaw.

(We just got back from Indiana late last night and this is the first time I've been on the computer since last Saturday so that's why this post is late. We didn't have Internet access while we were there. So I will be posting a bunch over the next few days.)

100,000 and being real

As I look at my little page ticker dealy who, I can't believe I am 150 hits away from 100,000. That is crazy to me. I never thought anyone would read my blog, but my family and maybe a few friends. It started out as a way to chronicle my girls growing up because I was horrible at scrap booking. I still have never finished their baby books. Can anyone else relate?

I never would have imagined that the struggles and heartaches that I have been through would touch the hearts of those that read my blog. I'm glad my words can do that, because for me it helps me make sense of it all. I have to admit that I've been having a rough time lately. It seems I've had to deal with one loss after another this year and it's taken a toll on me physically and mentally. I'm exhausted and just don't have tears left to cry. I could really use your prayers, especially during this holiday season and next month as I approach, what would have been, my delivery date of our son.

I can't put in to words just how much I miss him. This is not how I pictured Christmas to be this year. I thought I would be hugely pregnant and very uncomfortable, sitting around watching my girls open their presents and even letting them open some up for their baby brother. The nursery would have been ready by now with all of his little onsies washed and hanging in the closet. The cars seat would be in the van just in case I went into labor early. The girls would have their big sister shirts all ready to go and waiting for them to wear to the hospital. My bag would be packed and ready to go by the front door. The girls would snuggle up on the couch and touch my big belly and smile and laugh as their brother kicked inside mommy. Our family would finally be complete with the son that we had always wanted since having the girls.

I just don't get it. Why us again? Wasn't once enough? What did we do to deserve such pain? I know God understands these questions that I ask. I know that I may never get an answer to these questions this side of Heaven. I know His love for me goes deeper than I could ever comprehend and that His heart aches that I am in so much pain. I know all of this in my head, but my heart feels like it's been ripped in two.

Please don't get me wrong, I am blessed beyond words with an amazing husband and two precious little girls. I am proud to be a wife and a mother. I know this season in my life will pass and the sun will shine again. God is still working on the ending to my story and I wait with anticipation to see how it will all unfold.

So thank you for reading my little blog. I am honored and humbled that you would take a few minutes out of your busy day to read what I have to say. Thank you for your prayers over the last few months. I cannot begin to express how that has touched my heart and soul. I want to post my devotion from Tuesday that was just so awesome that I had to share it with you. May it encourage you and bring joy to your heart.

Tuesday's Tip-Recordable Book

This is my last Tuesday's Tip before Christmas and I saved the best for last. I love, love, love this gift. We did this for the girls for Christmas last year and they absolutely love it.

Have you seen these recordable books? They are available at Hallmark Stores for $29.99, but it looks like they are $10 off of that price right now, which is a great deal.

Last year Brian and I recorded "The Night Before Christmas". We each took a turn reading a page. Brian got all the Santa parts and he sounded so much like Santa the girls really thought it was Santa.

This year my mom and dad, Nana & Papa, are recording "The Very First Christmas" for the girls. I highly recommend having grandparents do this for their grandchildren. I so wish I would have thought about doing this last year as a gift to the girls from their grandparents. I wish I would have had Brian's dad, the girls PeePaw, do one last Christmas so the girls could hear his voice whenever they missed him. It would be nice to hear his voice again too.

They also have non holiday books as well. We bought one for Brian's mom to do for the girls. It is so cute. It's called "Thank you, God, for Everything!"
We'll bring it to Indiana when we see her at Christmas and she can record it and then give it to Brooklyn and Sydney. The books come with a lock so that after you record it, you can put it in lock mode and then screw the cover back on. The only way it can be erased is if you unscrew the compartment and push a button. Thankfully most kids don't know how to use a screwdriver at this age.

Tell the grandparents in your lives about these books. They seriously are the best gift ever. I think about all the toys my girls have gotten over the years that are broken or forgotten about, but these books will be keepsakes they can share with their children.

If it's too late for Christmas, think about what a great gift this would make for Valentine's Day. Ok, you are probably sick of me talking about this book, but I just think there is no better keepsake for my children then to hear their grandparents voice whenever they want.

Stay safe shopping out there y'all. It's crazy.

(I did not get paid to advertise these books, nor did I get a free one. I should though right? I just love them and wanted to pass on my knowledge to y'all).

Jump for Joy, Oh my Lord

The girls had their Christmas program at school on Tuesday. I really look forward to their programs. They are so fun and you never know what they are going to do. For example, last Christmas, Sydney cried the whole entire time she was on stage. I couldn't believe. I told her this year, if she did a good job, she could get a treat when it was over. A little bribery never hurt anyone I say and she thouroughly enjoyed her cupcake.

As you will see, she did not cry this time. The 3 year old classes sang 2 songs and this was the first song they did. Sydney is the 6 child from the left. She's sandwiched in between 2 boys and right over the teachers head. You can't miss her. If you listen closely you can hear her singing. She enjoyed herself up there.

The next song they sang was one of my favorites. I think it's because she would sing it around the house all the time. She lost her santa hat about 20 seconds in, but she recovered like a true professional.

Tomorrow I will showcase Brooklyn's performance.

Tuesday's Tip-The gift that gives

I know it's Wednesday, but I still wanted to post my Tuesday's Tip because it's such an important one. What I'm going to tell you about today can help thousands of people around the world that desperately need our help. We do this every year as a family and it's always a highlight for us and the girls.

As you know, I love World Vision. When my sisters and I were in Christian Music, we used to be World Vision Artists. At our concerts, we would give an appeal to those that came, to sponsor a child. Brian and I sponsor 2 children, a girl in Mexico, a boy in Ghana, and a mom and son in Romania.

World Vision also offers a gift catalog for Christmas. This is so much fun. It's such a great way to show your kids the importance of giving. My girls love picking out the gifts they want to give. In the past we have given goats, chickens, medicine for babies, clean water, and the list goes on. It will be neat to see what the girls will pick this year.

So this is how it works. We have the catalog at home, but if you don't have one, you can go online and see the catalog there. We make a list of all the people we want to give a gift to in their name. This year we will also give in memory of 4 special loved ones. Here's what we picked out so far:

PeePaw-Goat (Brian's dad used to have a goat on his farm)
My Grandma-2 Bibles
Zoe-Rabbit (Brooklyn picked this out for her sister)
Jonathan-2 Chicks (Sydney picked this out for her baby brother)

You get the picture. World Vision will give your loved one a card for Christmas with the donation in their name. (Order must be placed by December 19th). You can also choose to have an email card sent or print one out on your computer to hand deliver.

Don't think it has to be a huge donation either. They have gifts for under $20. Here are some things you can provide to a needy family all under $20. Of course, if you could give more, that would be great. Your donation is tax-deductible.
Seeds for 1 Family for $17 Give seeds. Your gift offers life-changing help for farmers struggling to raise enough food for their hungry children: fast-growing hybrid or drought-resistant seeds for an agricultural bounty of crops.

You can help prevent famine before hunger takes hold. Your donation will help provide seeds for crops like maize, rice, cassava, carrots, cabbage, green beans, peas, potatoes, and onions. Surplus crops can be sold to bring in much-needed family income that can pay for life-saving medicine or help send a child to school.

1 Rabbit for $16 Rabbits multiply and multiply their blessings! God created rabbits to be among the most prolific animals on earth, making them a terrific gift for an impoverished family. With a gestation period of just 31 days, a pair of rabbits can easily become 50 rabbits within a single year. These offspring can provide food or be sold at market, producing a steady source of extra income.
3 ducks for $18 Give three ducks to a hungry family today and they'll benefit from hundreds of large, protein-rich eggs throughout the year. Extra eggs and hatched ducklings can be sold to buy medicine or help pay for children’s school tuition.

For those of you who are so inclined, you can actually do even more. Some years ago, we decided to get the whole family together, saved up for a whole year, and funded half a health clinic. Now we did have several households saving together and clinics were a bit cheaper then, but I will have to say it was one of the most rewarding things our family has ever done. We really felt like we were able to make a difference in that community, and that lives will be changed forever because of it.

How can you give to a needy child or family this Christmas?

Slip N Slide

I'm watching the girls take a warm bubble bath after playing in the snow with daddy this morning. It started to fall yesterday and has really stopped. I've lived in Nashville 11 years now and don't remember snow this early. It's not even winter yet. I guess the girls and I will be staying at home today.

Yesterday we had Brian's work party to go to. I always look forward to his office Christmas party and this one did not disappoint. We went to the Nashville Dinner Theatre to see "A Scattered, Smothered, & Covered Christmas" featuring Joyce DeWitt (Janet) from Three's Company. It was such a great original musical. It had really funny bits and some tear jerker moments as well. The food was yummy and I got to get dressed up and hang with my hubby. It was fabulous. If you live in Nashville, you must go see it.

When we walked into the theatre at 1:00 it was snowing a bit, but when we came out at 5:00 it was bitterly cold and the snow had fallen at a pretty fast rate. I knew we would be in for a fun drive home. Luckily we were in a tour bus, that Brian's boss owns, so we were comfy and safe. When we got back to the office is when we had to get back into our own car. That's when the real fun began.

We were fine until we got into our neighborhood. We live on the top of a hill and I knew it would be a slippery ride. We tried to go up the main thoroughfare but there were too many cars at the side of the road and 3 firetrucks were in our way, so we had to turn around and go a back way to our house. When we got onto the side road we came upon a truck that was pulled over at the side of the road in a ditch. He was facing oncoming traffic and had no lights on. Brian said, "I think we should pull over and see if they need help". As soon as he said those words our car slammed into the side of the truck and all I heard was this horrible scrapping sound. Then the side mirror flew off. It all happened so fast. Thankfully no one was hurt. Brian got out of the car to talk with the guy. He was an EMS worker on his way to the hospital to start his shift. Thankfully he was cool about it all and it was so cold and dark, we just exchanged names and phone numbers and we were off. I didn't want anyone else hit or hurt. So much for being a good samaritan.

Here is the amazing thing. There is not a scratch on our car. I don't get it. The mirror is gone and something is wrong with the tires and steering, but not a scratch on the body. So crazy. The guys truck has a small dent in the door, but that's it. So know the fun starts with the insurance company. Brian just left to go get a rental car and we will call to get the car towed to auto body shop. Oh yeah, left out the best part of the story. So we couldn't get our car home last night after the accident. So we had to park it at the clubhouse and walk up the huge hill to our house. That hill is a bear in normal weather, but at 20 degrees, in 35 mile an hour winds, with snow falling fast and in 3 inch high heels, it was unbearable. At one point Brian said I could hop on his back and he'd carry me, but I didn't want to do that to the poor guy. Needless to say, I was never so happy to get inside my warm and cozy house and hug my sweet girls. I'm gonna chalk this one up to making a memory.

I was thankful that the girls Auntie Jamie and her friend Ashley were their to take such good care of them. They also got stuck at our house and had to spend the night. By the time 7:00 rolled around the hills were just too dangerous for them to get their car down. The police even decided to close the two main roads to our house because there were so many cars off the side of the road, they didn't want anymore accidents.

I wouldn't want to be working for an auto insurance agency or a rental car agency today. They are slammed. I'm thankful we got a rental car when we did because they will run out of cars for sure. There have been 442 accidents in Middle Tennessee alone, 109 of those are still on the road. We haven't seen this cold of temps in Nashville since 1942, according to The Tennesean. Tonight it will be a low of 6. I'm praying that the girls have school tomorrow so they can have their parties and do their Christmas program for all of the parents. Hopefully some of this snow will melt this afternoon before the single digits tonight.

Stay safe and warm out there everyone.

I'm all a Shutter!

It's that time of year again. Yes, it's Christmas and that means it is time to order Christmas cards. Does anyone else stress about getting their Christmas cards done and mailed? I do. My biggest stress is what picture to use. Well this year I got lucky and got some great shots of the girls so it made it easy for me to decide.

Something else that made it easier for me this year was Shutterfly. If you have not checked out their site yet for Christmas cards, you are missing out. In my opinion, they have the best selection out there. The hard part is narrowing it down to the one you like best. Here is what I came up with. What do ya think?
Dotty Holiday Monogram Christmas Card
Make unique Christmas cards with Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Their website makes it so easy to upload your photos and edit your card how you would like it.
They have so much more than just cards too. It's really a one stop shop. They have everything from photobooks to calendars. I also found some great gifts for the grandparents that I am going to order. I can't post them though because it would ruin the surprise. :)

Right now they are offering free shipping over $50 (code SHIP50) and they are offering 20% off selected gifts. It really is so easy. I even did it with the girls climbing all over me. I would love to hear your experience if you have used Shutterfly in the past.

Now, I just have to address all the envelopes. Joy!

(Disclaimer: Shutterfly is offering 50 free cards to bloggers that blog about their awesome products. I am one of those lucky bloggers. This is the first time I have ever been offered something for my opinion. I would never endorse something that I personally did not love. )

A Tribute to my grandmother, Mary

I just received a phone call from my mom at 5:30 tonight that my grandma has died. I knew this was coming, but I am still in a state of shock. The matriarch of my family is gone. She know wears a crown and is sitting with Jesus. I wanted to pay tribute to an amazing woman I was blessed to call my grandma.

Mary Carmela Bartolomeo Darin was born on May 31, 1919. Her parents were imigrants from Italy.

She met my grandpa Joseph Darin, yes they were Mary & Joseph, I always loved that about them. They were married on June 18, 1939 and soon started a family, in a small town, outside Chicago.
My dad is the oldest of 6 kids, 4 boys and 2 girls. My grandma loved being a wife and mother. I loved hearing stories my dad would tell me about his childhood.

I was the 3rd grandchild out of 8. 7 girls and 1 boy. My poor cousin Tom had to deal with all the girls in the family. My grandparents managed hotels when I was a kid. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. I remember one year they managed a motel right on the Rose Parade route in Pasadena. We had the best seats in the house, on top of the roof. It was great.

My grandma was an amazing cook. She would spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal for us. Everything was made from scratch. The pasta, spaghetti sauce, and my favorite, Buyata (dough with pasta sauce, bacon and herbs) you roll it up and bake it and it is heavenly. I remember going with her to the Italian Deli to get meats for sub sandwhiches. I just loved being with her.

My grandpa passed away suddenly shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a shock to us all and so hard on my grandma. After 21 years, they are reunited tonight.

I was thankful that I lived fairly close to my grandparents when I was growing up. I got to see them quite often. When we moved from California to Nashville in 1999, I wasn't able to see her as often as I would have liked too. I tried to get back about once or twice a year. I was thankful that she was able to fly to Nashville to see me get married in 2001.

I got to see her for the last time on August 6, 2010. I spent some time with her in her room at the nursing home. I remember she was sitting in her recliner and I was on her bed. We just chatted about life. Then we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner with my aunt and uncle and my cousin's wife and her daughter. I sat by my grandma. I am so thankful I had that time with her. I am thankful she got to see me pregnant. Wow so much has changed since that day. I no longer have my son or my grandma. I am so thankful that she is with my grandpa again and my sweet Zoe and Jonathan. Oh what an amazing reunion that must be.

One of my favorite, most recent memories, is surprising her for her 90th birthday last year. All of her kids and grandkids were there in one room to help her celebrate. It was such a fun time and I know it meant the world to her.

Grandma, I miss you terribly. I can't believe you are gone. I am so glad I got to talk to you last night, if only for a moment. I'm thankful I got to tell you how much I loved you. Thank you for being such an amazing woman. You left an incredible legacy for your children, your grandchildren and great grandchildren. Thank you for loving the Lord and being my prayer warrior. I will treasure the memories of the times we spent together always.
I will see you again Grandma. I love you so much!
(Thank you to my cousin Tom for collecting and scanning all of the pictures so we could have them. So thankful to have them.)

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