Friday, April 19, 2013

Parties and Pretties

It's been a beautiful spring here in Texas.  Well, most days.  As Texas is wont to do, the weather is rather changeable, but the flowers are still dazzling.

My parents left Easter morning to go back to Idaho.  We were sad to say goodbye, but feel SO blessed to have enjoyed their company for 5 months.  Are we lucky or what?!

The last week, we made sure to have lots of fun together.

Before they left, the kids got to enjoy a last ride on Grandpa's motorcycle. 

Easter morning dawned with sunshine and candy.  We enjoyed a fun dinner with friends and reflected on our blessings from the Savior.

Last weekend, I hosted book club.  We read "Crossing to Safety" by Wallace Stegner.  LOVE him and loved the book.  The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a good three hours on my patio chatting away.  It was divine.

Gracie also celebrated a birthday last weekend.  She is the ripe old age of 10.  I can't believe that my baby has grown so fast.  I am not the mom of little kids anymore.  It's funny how fast that happens.  She had a few friends from school over.

She received lovely presents and money from her friends, including her newest pet, Cheerio.

Before my mother left, she helped me give Gracie's room a make-over for her birthday present.

Here is the before:

She just wanted it to be more grown up.  She felt like it was very babyish.  SO:

She was so thrilled when we let her in for the first time.  She jumped on the bed and hugged the owl.  She loves owls.

I love my little Gracie.  She is high-strung and can be all kinds of drama (can't imagine where she got that from!!), but she is also sweet and sensitive.  Yesterday, Derick poured a 1/2 gallon of milk all over my newly mopped kitchen floor and was in the process of emptying 4 tubs of yogurt.  I swatted his bum and yelled, "No, No, No!" and escorted him to his room.  Sweet Gracie said, "Mom!  Why are you getting so mad at him?  He's only a big baby."  I said, "Grace, I need to teach him that he can not get into the fridge and make these messes.  He has to learn."  To which, she responded: "Mom, he's here to teach US!  We need to learn from him!"  Ugh.  So true, Gracie.

This week, she was sick, so we spent a long lovely day together, enjoying the beautiful sun and flowers in our back yard and sipping peach tea.  She has been loving having me read "The Blue Castle" to her.  And I love reading it.  She is a darling girl.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Breakers

The girls and I joined my parents for a Spring Break trip to Mississippi. You know, the mecca of breakers around the country.

Mom and Dad have wanted to see as many things as they could while they have been here all winter.  They enjoyed New Orleans and Memphis, and this time, I volunteered to join them in Mississippi.  We visited the Civil War battle site in Vicksburg and then drove down to Natchez to see the antebellum mansions.

This park where the 47 day battle took place is HUGE and incredible.  It still has the trenches that were used in the war.  The girls and I loved running down them and imagining what it was like to dodge bullets in a battle.

The only "ironsides" ship left from the civil war.  All 7 sunk, but this one was raised from the bottom of the river in the 60's.  Very cool.

 The weather was incredible for our trip, and we enjoyed a lovely lunch in downtown Vicksburg.

After lunch, we enjoyed the old courthouse museum. I love old-school style museums that have the little typed yellowed cards to explain everything.  Most things are sort of falling apart.  But, they are genuine and packed with stuff.  My girls especially loved the courthouse cat, Maggie, who was probably twice as big as our cat.

Next, we drove down to Natchez and stopped along the way to admire the "Windsor Ruins".  It was an old plantation mansion that burned in 1890 due to a careless guest's cigar.  These pillars were so imposing and impressive.  It had a creepy element, as well as a romantic feel.  Very very cool.

Once in Natchez, we checked in (it was actually over the river in Louisiana) and then headed to dinner.  What would a trip down south be like without frog legs for dinner?!  (or, for that matter, an awesome mullet photo-bomb in the background)

Now, Jane and I are all smiles, but let me tell you, Grace had the right idea.  Those frog legs were not great.  I am not terribly squeamish, really.  I like escargot and caviar.  But, I can leave the frog legs in Louisiana.  If you are wondering how I got picky, picky Grace to try frog legs, I paid her $5.  --My mom finished all rest of the legs.

Next day, we toured this HUGE plantation home: Longwood. It was built to be 30,000 sq ft! Just add a zero to the square footage of my little home...

It really was incredible, but interesting, because the civil war stopped progress on the house and they never finished the interior above the basement.  But the basement where they lived was still 10,000 sq ft!!

Upper stories.

Next was the incredible Natchez Catholic Cathedral.  It was so beautiful.  I have been to some of the biggest cathedrals in the world.  St. Patrick's (New York and Dublin), Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, the Duomo in Florence.  And I think usually with cathedrals, they are over the top.  In this case, it was stunning and not too much.  Just enough to invoke the perfect level of reverence.

This is where we had lunch:

What would a trip down south be like without some southern fried chicken and black-eyed peas?!

After lunch, a trip to the cemetery, of course!

Gracie really wanted to tour this house.  It was sufficiently beautiful.

I look right at home, don't I?

As we drove home Sunday, Dad saw a sign that said, "Cane River".  Knowing that Mom and I had read the book by that name, he pulled off the freeway, and we were able to visit the location of that incredible novel, based on truth.  If you haven't ever read it, put it on your to-read list.  We were able to visit the plantation that was built by former slaves who became free in the early 19th century.  They went on to own their own slaves.  Try that on for size.

The slave quarters:

It was a fascinating trip.  I had just finished "The Kitchen House", so plantations and slavery were very much on my mind.  At the visitor's center in Natchez, I bought, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl".  This is a WONDERFUL book, written by a slave who ran away and eventually gained her freedom.  She spent 7 years hidden in a tiny attic where she couldn't even stand.  Her book was published in 1861.  Reading these books about the lives of slaves put a whole new perspective on these huge homes.  They were really distasteful.  Though beautiful, they were tainted with the blood of those human beings they kept in bondage.  Even 150 years later, it is hard to conceive that this country actually practiced slavery.  But we did, and it was horrific.  More than once on this trip, we turned to each other and declared, "I'm SO grateful I was born now."  Amen.