How About A Holiday With No Shopping At All!!!

So maybe its the fact that I am completely broke right now, but the thought of a holiday with my family without ANY shopping at all is sounding pretty appealing right about now!

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Let’s face it, unless you have time to peruse through little boutiques and markets, shopping at big box stores or the mall during the holidays is no fun at all! They don’t do it in those Hallmark movies we are all so addicted to do they!?!  Not once, has the leading character from Christmas Lane, while staying at the local inn in the most charming town you have ever seen, ran out to Walmart to haul in three buggy loads of stuff to wrap and stuff under the Christmas tree!  You see, that’s why we love Hallmark movies so much!  They enjoy and remind us of the simplicity of Christmas – Love, family and hope!

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Now that’s not to say that I won’t be doing some shopping this season (you heard that right, I have barely even started)!  I have an 8 year old little boy who will expect that he has been good enough for presents on Christmas morning! And teenage daughters – I do not need to elaborate on this one! But so far this season I have enjoyed not stressing over what I am going to BUY everyone!  I made some candles for Hayden’s teachers awhile back and have picked a present or so for the girls but that’s about it so far, and I’m lovin’ it!  Our family decided to otherwise scale back on gifts except to the little ones and Husband and I hardy ever buy for each other. Instead of my holiday planning revolving around what I need to buy, I have spent time thinking up new dishes for Christmas morning and inviting my grandparents to enjoy the day with us!

What can you do to re-think your holiday and make it less stressful?  Let yourself have that Hallmark movie!

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How To Shop Small This Holiday

I know its a catchy phrase but what does “shop small” really mean!?!  While it is most certainly that cute little top from the boutique on the corner, its also Esty purchases and ordering fingernail stickers from a friend on Facebook or picking up the cutest crafty household decoration from a street fair!  Take advantage of every possibility my friends!  Shopping small not only promotes growth in your downtown and community it puts much needed cash in the pocket of your friends with a side-hustle for the holidays!!

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Here are a few of my favorite things to purchase “Small”:

  1.  Art & Home Decor – this one may be a bit obvious!  I love funky art and especially re-purposed items!  I pride myself in decorating my home with unique finds that have a story! 

  2. Scarves & Jewelry – almost every single lady on your Christmas list would enjoy receiving a scarf or unique piece of jewelry from a boutique. My mom always finds the best jewelry pieces for me!  The possibilities are endless! 

  3.  Handmade Products –  I am a sucker for almost anything handmade.  The thought that someone put something together with their own hands thrills me!  My dear Husband makes handmade wood crafts from whiskey barrels!  They make fabulous unique gifts, check him out on Etsy at BackyardSpiritsWood (Backyard Spirits Wood Products)!!
  4. Essential Oils – Yep, I hopped on that fragrant DoTerra bandwagon a long time ago!  I order most everything I need from my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law!

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  5. Boutique Clothing – I am not a huge clothes shopper, give me a thrift store or antique shop any day!  But I do love a cute little boutique where I can have a conversation with the owner and try on the products they have so carefully picked out for their shop to my heart’s content!

What are you favorite “Shop Small” items???

5 Reasons Why Coaching Your Own Kid Stinks

I have been coaching basketball for 8 years now and I do not hold back the fact that I LOVE coaching and I LOVE my team, but its not always as easy as it seems!  It started out all innocent and fun…during Elle’s first season of recreational basketball she was the only girl on the team and the neanderthals coaching the team paid absolutely no attention to her, or many of the other kids for that fact.  She learned very little about dribbling or the rules of the game – things first year players should learn!  So, after that season I decided that I knew way more about basketball than those guys and could at least communicate with the children without grunting…and 8 years later I’ve coached recreational basketball, travel teams of all ages, a middle school team, a junior varsity team and have had the varsity team at our local high school for the last 4 years.

img_124842995410275136335999.jpegI love coaching young athletes, I love seeing them grow and mature, not only in their basketball skill but as young women!  For many years I gave up coaching my own kid in travel so that I could coach the high school teams.  I missed travel and middle school games in which Elle was playing so that  I could be there for practices for my team to advance our program.  Some nights I hated it, but my pout didn’t last too long, as I loved being in the gym with my players, having faith that Elle was surrounded by coaches that loved her in the same way and our family cheering for her in my place.

Now though, she has finally made it to my roster and I have come to the realization that, at least at this level, it stinks coaching your own kid!  You see I think there is a common misconception that being the coach’s kid is a perk…wrong!  We are talking about a girl that has washed more stinky uniforms than she can count, has endured cold nights on a silent bus while Mom stews in the front seat after a loss (even though she wasn’t old enough to play in that particular game) and as a 5th grader even got recruited to ensure the varsity players were running the sprints they were to run as a punishment when Mom stormed out of the gym to collect herself in the locker-room!  Being a coach’s kid is NOT always fun! And now, shes on the roster!

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Here are the Top 5 Reasons Coaching Your Own Kid Stinks:

  1. I Am Always Second Guessing Myself.  When dealing with Elle I am constantly asking myself if I am talking to her and thinking about her in my “mom” voice or in my “coach” voice.  I second guess every decision I make – and it makes me feel horrible!  I have coached this team for 3 seasons without worry about what others think and say and now I am a mess!
  2. When A Player Or Parent Is Mad At Me – They Take It Out On Her!  When this happens I want to kick into “momma bear” mode and tear apart the offender -it just cant happen though, and Elle has to learn to deal with it!
  3. I Miss Big Moments And Plays!  Parents live for this right?  That moment when your kids does something so spectacular in a game that they can talk about on the way home and at work tomorrow!  Not me, I am focused on everyone’s big moments, and often miss hers – or they become a blur that I have to go back and watch on game film after another parent mentions it to me! My bragging to co-workers and peers is about my whole team!
  4. I Am Still Relying On Her For The Dirty Jobs! Yep, she is still washing her (now teammates) smelly uniforms and helping to clean up the gym long after practice is over.  She was recently accused of getting more gym time than others…well she does alright, vacuuming the locker-room or cleaning trash out of lockers left by her teammates.
  5.  I Miss Just Being Mom!  While I am more than thankful for the time we get together both at home and in the gym…Its difficult to console her after a loss when I have just told the team that I am disappointed in their performance and they need to work harder!  I miss the opportunity to just love on my kid!  I am vigilant though about reminding her that this is a game and no matter her performance (and what I say about it in the locker-room) I love her beyond measure and always will!  I sure hope she is listening…

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2 Weeks and Counting…The Basketball Season Countdown

    img_20180703_234246_6747610938281689502199.jpg We are exactly 2 weeks away from the start of basketball season and I can hardly think about anything else!

 

     Did you see how I just jumped right back in there, like I have not been on a blogging hiatus for 4 months now!  Yep, daily chaos, summertime fun, school starting back, a jury trial and writers’ block have gotten the best of me this summer (and fall)!  It isn’t as though I haven’t thought about blogging…I think about it all the time.  I write down ideas and quotes I like and think would make a good post; I carried my computer with me on vacation and while Elle was at basketball camp but this past summer I decided I just couldn’t write about it, I had to live it!  Unfortunately, Team Gunter also dealt with a bit of heartbreak this summer which may have added to my lack of blogging – if you can’t say anything nice…yada yada yada!  But anywho, I am back at it now and just in time for my favorite time of the year…BASKETBALL SEASON!!

     Why do I love basketball season so much…let me count the ways!

  1. I love the sounds, sights, smells and feeling I get from being in the gym. Yes, I  said smells!  It takes me to a more peaceful place.  I learned in college that there were not many problems that God and I couldn’t work out while in a gym alone with a basketball and prayers!

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  2. I love to see my daughter and players putting in the work to achieve their goals.   In today’s world our kids expect to simply have things handed to them; if I leave my players with anything, I hope that one of the lessons they learn is that nothing good in life is ever free and that they can accomplish any goal they set their minds to as long as they are willing to put in the WORK!  So, I ask them to keep a notebook to show me what extra work they have put in during their free time and in the summer.  I also want them to be writing down their goals and keeping them in sight as they progress down that path! I had the pleasure of reading a devotional by Crystal Stine called Holy Hustle, based upon her book by the same name.  In the passage she discusses that God intended the work before us and therefore we should do it as if working for the Lord and give him the glory! It made me ponder about doing a better job of serving the Lord in all three of my professions: criminal defense attorney, part-time basketball coach and Mom; not simply just going through the motions for a paycheck or March! Ouch and Amen! (P.S. I ordered the book! I can’t wait for it to arrive!) 

     

  3. I love seeing the Sisterhood come together!   I started coaching basketball at the local middle school and junior varsity level five years ago.  We had a blast that first season; the players were relaxed without distractions, they trusted each other and me and we had very successful seasons!  Once my little 8th graders got to high school and influenced by the older girls and lost focus, life wasn’t always so easy.  We have had many highs and lows in the last 4 seasons but this year…the feeling is already different in the gym during pre-season workouts…they are focused, positive,  having fun and trusting each other and me like never before…they are developing into not just a team but a Sisterhood!   When I was in college and one of my teammates or I would be asked to join a sorority during fall rush an upperclassman teammate of mine, Brooke, would always quickly chime in that we were already in a sorority and our induction process was far worse than any hazing the sorority sisters could cook up.  We ran together, lived together, ate together, rode buses at all hours of the night together, endured injuries, heart-brakes, milestones, wins and losses together.  She was right, this was the closest thing sisterhood I could imagine.  Now that college is well in my rear-view mirror I still love and miss my teammates dearly, and have a complete desire for my daughter and the players that I have had the pleasure of coaching for the last 5 years to experience this type of relationship, one relatively few women their age get to understand…the sisterhood of  teammates.20180924_1457015713093968130368214.jpg

Summer Is Finally Here – Time To Learn!

Hello Friends!  I apologize for being MIA but its been a busy few weeks and while I have thought about it repeatedly, I have simply not had the time or energy to sit down in front of my computer to write!  Today, I am supposed to be lounging at the lake reminiscing with some of my college teammates and their families, BUT life had other plans…sick kid, low funds, busy work schedule this week…it just didn’t work out!

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While I am super bummed that our plans didn’t work out, this is still the first official weekend of summer vacation for my kiddos and I have lots to do as we plan for them to be home for the summer!  This year we have decided that Elle is old enough and mature enough to help us out with Hayden – she is great with him and Husband and I are not usually very far from home for work.  In fact, Husband and I both have a home office we can work out of in a pinch!

So, Monday morning Hayden will start “Elle School”!  I am in the process of planning activities that will help to break up their days, while hopefully keeping Hayden motivated to read and learn so that starting school in August will not be miserable for him or Husband and I!  Also, it keeps BOTH of them from sitting in front of the television all day!

The first week’s activities will involved learning about volcanoes!  This is a request of Hayden’s since he caught a glimpse of a news clip of the erupting volcano in Hawaii. On task this week:

  • volcano art project
  •  Google search of volcano activity
  • library trip for books on volcanoes and
  • an actual erupting volcano in our back yard!!

Other topics Hayden wants to learn about this summer include dinosaurs (he can probably give this lecture rather than learn something new but that’s ok), other STEM projects, the solar system and race cars, including how the engines work!!  Hayden is also participating in a summer reading challenge through our local library (10 pages or one picture book a night will earn him a pool party!) Finally, our weekday summer plans for Hayden includes a few trips to children’s museums and lots of outdoor and pool time!

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What types of summer activities do you have planned to keep your little ones’ minds engaged and having fun!?!

Mom Life – Are You A Mary or A Martha??

As women in today’s world we take the word “busy” to a whole new level!  In a life full of distractions and a society with a constant sense of “more” it is so easy to be swept up in the details of living everyday life that we miss the important parts!!  Today is the day we ask ourselves:  Are you a Martha or a Mary?

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We began a women’s bible study in my church last night from a series called “Living Life Together.”  First of all let me say that for as many years as I have considered myself a Christian, with the exception of a brief summer youth group experience, I have never really participated in a bible study group!  So, this was a first for me, and had this been a month ago I would have told you that I was too busy to participate in a bible study on Wednesday evenings!  Occasionally it is refreshing to be wrong!!

The study began by chronicling the busy lives of women and how easy it is to become so preoccupied with the aspects of surviving the day to day of our very full lives that we step away from what is truly important.

In Luke 10:38-42 the bible chronicles the story of Mary and Martha, two sisters who learn that Jesus has come to their village and will visit their home!  As he arrives and is welcomed into the home, Mary simply sits at his feet – listening to Him and worshiping Him.  Meanwhile, Martha goes about the tasks of entertaining the Lord! Eventually, Martha becomes upset that Mary was of no help whatsoever with Jesus as their dinner guest! Martha finally breaks down and asks Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!”

Now, most of us are cheering Martha on at this point right?  Help a girl out already! Its not everyday that the Lord is sitting in your living room – it needed to look like the pages of Southern Living or Better Homes and Gardens up in there!

The Lord’s response:  “Martha, you are troubled about many things, but only ONE THING is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.”

The pastor in the country church I grew up in would say… “Ouch and Amen”

Are you a Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, focusing on Him and the truly important things in life, or a Martha, being so busy entertaining and paying attention to the details that you miss the big picture — THE LORD IS IN YOUR HOME!  Put down the dish rag and go hang out with Him already!!!

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Jesus was telling Martha that while it is important to serve, developing and nurturing a personal relationship with the Lord should be above all else.  In order to do that we must be completely present with Him – not just in the same room, busying around doing menial tasks!

This concept follows through to our families as well!  The title “Mom” also encompasses the role of problem-solver, mentor, housekeeper, cook, laundress, income-provider, psychologist, doctor, grounds keeper, maintenance worker, travel planner, and occasional veterinarian!  With all these roles it is easy to be CONSUMED with the multitude of things your family “needs” and at the same time, completely neglect spending time with our children and significant others.  I mean real, quality time here folks – not just being in the same room!  Be TOTALLY present!  Ouch and Amen again!

It is time we all be a little more like Mary – it is time to be with, instead to doing for!

Not that “doing for” is bad, in fact we are still called to serve and frankly, that laundry isn’t washing itself.  The point that I think Jesus is conveying to us, especially us busy moms, wives and women in general, is not to become so concentrated on our precious To Do Lists that we lose sight of what is most important – Our TIME developing a personal relationship with not only the Lord but also our families and loved ones!

This life is all about people & relationships make the most of it!

We are on the eve of Memorial Day Weekend and I have been struggling all week to determine what adventure Team Gunter can get into next – our decision after much prayer and discussion with Husband and Elle:  hanging out in our backyard – TOGETHER!

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Weekend Adventure Awaits

“All practices and games are cancelled this weekend.”

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These words strike excitement and a brief impression of FREEDOM deep down in the heart of almost every sports parent!  Not that we don’t love watching our little (or not so little) ones play the sport that they enjoy, but when you are constantly running here or there, juggling everyday life with practices, games and dirty uniforms, a little surprise like this is music to our ears!

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When I read the post on the soccer complex’s web page Thursday afternoon I could hardly contain myself….”Let’s Go RIGHT NOW” was my initial thought….oh wait, Elle is still on a field trip and the kids have school tomorrow and oh yea…I have to work tomorrow!  Still, my mind is racing with all this freedom my family can experience this weekend.  Yes, it is supposed to rain ALL weekend, why do you think soccer is cancelled….its okay though, we have rain coats,  galoshes and a sense of adventure!!

 

The million dollar question…what type of adventure will be undertake!?!  I have written before about my love for the mini-vacation, so I am sure we can figure something out!

To be continued…

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What type of mini-vacations/adventures do you enjoy?  What would you do with a weekend of freedom???

The Sisterhood of Mothers

“You were teaching me before I ever knew it…Welcoming me into the Sisterhood of Mothers”

Isn’t it amazing to be a woman!  I have had such a crazy few weeks between the everyday life of running my business and household, helping out with a women’s gathering at church, becoming an “auntie” again and Mothers Day; I am all sorts of charged up on the glorious state of being a woman and even more…a Mother!

In reflecting on the blessing of motherhood and of being a woman, whether you bear children or not, I am reminded of one incredible phrase…

“I am who my Creator made me to be…Worthy”  fb_img_15266087273901700557613.jpg

This past weekend made me want to celebrate and recollect on all the amazing women in my life who have helped to shape me into the person I am today.  Women that God put in my path that were examples of grace and compassion, strength and poise and most importantly, love.  I also gained a realization that my impact on other women , including my daughters and surrogate daughters (aka my basketball team), is of great importance and I count the opportunity as a pure blessing each and every day.  It is in fact their presence in my life that reminds me of the person I continue to strive to be, of who I believe my God has made me to be.  It is certainly a call to action or in some cases inaction!

20170506_1540192074152420.jpgI was raised by possibly the strongest  woman you can imagine.  She was gritty and tough when she needed to be. She maintained a career (even changed careers to better provide for my sister and I), developed a loving home, somehow managed to accomplish all the regular mom goals with two super active kids all by herself, taught us the importance of faith and raised my sister and I to truly believe that we could accomplish anything we put our minds to if we were willing to work for it!  It is quite remarkable thinking about how she managed everything….I can’t imagine functioning day to day without my Husband helping out!  Even more so, she lost her own Mother at a very young age to cancer; her support system and friend.  It makes me truly thankful to have the blessing of my Mother to be a presence in the lives of my children.  I gift for which I will be forever thankful.

I am also very grateful for other amazing women that I have come across at all stages in my life that impacted me in almost every way.  A grandmother that shared a love for simple pleasures like the miracle of growing flowers in your garden and great-grandmother who was not only an entrepreneurial pioneer in her small community but also the matriarch of our family and had no problem keeping my grandpa in line, even as a grown man.  The mothers of many of my friends in elementary school and high school who welcomed me into their homes and whom gladly would have cared for any need I had and knew my mother did the same for their daughters; one of which could also give a glare to us teenagers in the back pews of the church on Sunday morning that made everyone within its path take notice and start shouting “amen!” Our pastor’s wife in the small country church I grew up in that loved so deeply and shared an amazing relationship with her Husband; multiple teachers in the elementary and high school I attended that taught me passion for topics I was interested in and how to turn that passion into a career as well as the importance of social conscience – the tiny community in which I grew up knew how to take care of its members in times of joy and in the depths of despair. College friends who warm my heart by just keeping in touch and seeing this families grow!  My first “real” boss when I was straight out of law school was an outstanding mentor, she was accomplished yet humble, very poised and stringent with detail but also kind and caring, especially to those within her inner circle, and super supportive as I took the first steps of independence in my legal career. The ladies in my women’s group at church that I have only recently met, but have given me an outlet like no other, that brings me closer to God and the woman and mother I was meant to be each day just by being around them and sharing our crazy family stories or kid catastrophes! And finally, my own two daughters and basketball team, which I have had the true blessing to watch grow into amazingly wonderful young women and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them or how they will impact their communities, families and the world!

It is abundantly clear to me that being a woman is of great importance; even God ordained Mary to be the mother of the Savior and his supreme supporter even until the end.  Mary was trusting of God and his plan, courageous, strong in character, and accepting of her role in this life, even if it wasn’t easy or popular! Isn’t that what we as women strive to be; whether we are blessed with little tornadoes in our homes or not, we all have the ability to impact others around us in positive ways – and in the same ways God called Mary to impact the world.

So my friends, welcome to the Sisterhood of Mothers or maybe better put the Sisterhood of Strong, Courageous, Compassionate, Loving and Impactful Women…go forward and support the women in your life, love them, and be a woman whose presence will positively influence the lives of those around you.

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A Letter To My Niece About the First “Best Day” of Her Life

Georgia Alice,

Today is the day! You are about to become a big sister! I want to tell you a story about the first best day of my life and give you a few tips as this momentous day unfolds for you!  Over the course of your life you are going to have several days that are turning points that can clearly be label a “best day” – your wedding day, the birth of your children, baptisms and TODAY…without a doubt the day that God has chosen to give you a sister is going to be the first “best day” of your little life!

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The day your momma was born was certifiably the first very best day of my life.  I gained so much more in the instant that she was born than my four year old self could have ever imagined.  I remember most of the events that lead up to your momma making her entrance into this world; my favorite movie the night before with Granny and our cousins, a walk around the garden with Granny – it would be my last as an only child and the excitement of seeing her for the first time through a tiny glass window in a hospital door.  I remember being upset that I couldn’t hold her immediately and that my dad hadn’t lifted me up high enough to get a really good look at her!

The day your momma was born was the day that I came to understand, without a doubt, that God answers prayers, even those of a little girl.  You see, when I was not much older than you I prayed for a sister; Granny thinks it was actually my grandmother and great-grandmother who talked me into it.  I suppose they were hedging their bets – “from the mouths of babes…”  Either way, He answered; He sent directly to me, not only a sister but a best friend.  I knew from that day forward that she was mine and I have never thought of her as anything else but an answered prayer – a gift from God!

It was also the day that I learned that I could love another person more than myself and care for them in that way.  I could not stand to see your momma upset or hurt.  Granny will tell you that it was difficult to punish her as a child, even when that punishment was earned for doing something rotten to me – it broke my heart for her to be in trouble – so I would try to reason with Granny as to why she didn’t deserve the particular punishment.  (This was a skill I developed way back in my childhood that proves to be valuable to me today!) I learned to be protective of her until she was old enough and tough enough to beat up her own big kid bullies on the bus!  I  learned to be encouraging to her as I wanted her to be happy, strong and loving towards others.  I wanted her to know without a doubt that I was and will always be in her corner, by her side and there for her in any and every way possible – I love her that much!

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The day your momma was born, I learned how to have a best friend, a play-mate and secret keeper for life.  I understand that not everyone is blessed with a sibling but I am beyond thankful for mine.  I am so happy for you, Georgia Alice, that you are about to meet your best friend.  Take care of her.  Love her beyond words, even when you aren’t necessarily happy with her.  Let her vent to you when she needs to, you are the only person in life that she will be able to do this with and she will listen when you need an outlet as well. .  Tell her the things she needs to hear, even when she doesn’t want to hear it – but do so in a loving way.  Be honest with her – always.  Take her places with you, I know that she will always be tagging along; you will come to appreciate this and miss it when you become adults and she isn’t living in the room next door.  Never hesitate to drop everything and go to her if she needs you – she will do the same for you.  Share your toys with her, and later clothes, by doing this she will learn to be giving to others and she will always share with you – it will have been the only thing she has known.  Do not let people tell you that “sisters fight” and “resent each other”; of course you will have disagreements but she is a blessing to you and your life is better for having her in it – do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise. Also, your mother will not tolerate bickering with your sister so just accept it, figure out your differences, knowing that while you will not always see eye to eye, no other person on this Earth will support you like she will. Tell her you love her often! After all, she is a gift from God straight to you – your parents think that Graeson is theirs…really she is all yours!

I count myself as blessed to have the opportunity to be here with you as you awake this morning and start your day  – you don’t even know it yet, but God is blessing you today!  I watch as you have loved on Sam, your momma’s faithful old dog, and rocked and cared for your baby doll.  You are going to be an amazing big sister!

 

Auntie Jess loves you GA – I can’t wait to meet your sister but most importantly I can’t wait for you to meet her!

 

It’s Festival Time Ya’ll

Here in the South, we love a good spring/summer festival especially if it involves local music and craft beer and wine!  We had the privilege last Friday night to enjoy our little town’s local festival, Field Fest 2018 – the first of 4 installments – and it did not disappoint!  Yes, it rained almost the entire time but that’s just how it goes sometimes…you are best to pull up your rain boots and have fun anyway!

 

We love this time of year…gatherings of people, having fun, shopping, enjoying local music and consuming craft beer or homemade wines!  Husband and I decided last night while musing by one of our first bonfires of the spring/summer in the backyard that we want to attend more festivals this summer!  Field Fest was a great way to get started!  There are also at least 3 festivals I’d wanted to attend last Saturday, the first Saturday in May; but of course we were in the gym all day at a basketball tournament…gotta love being a sports parent!  Go Fury!

A few of our favorite local festivals and music events…Field Fest in Bluefield, Virginia the first Thursday of June, July and August; The Budbreak Festival in Mt. Airy, North Carolina (see my post last year about “boy bracelets” we had an amazing time at this one last year), The Spring Fling at Shelton Vinyards Winery in Dobson, North Carolina. (Delicious wines and a beautiful property paired with tons of local crafters and music…what could be better?), Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia (a dirty trail hiker homecoming) and the Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia. (This one has made some changes in the last five years or so but it is still a really nice week-long event featuring crafts, demonstrations, antiques and an opportunity to see a play at the outstanding Barter Theater or Stage II.)

What are your favorite festival?  We are up for suggestions and new adventures!