Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

For three of the past four years, we have defied tradition and not put up a Christmas tree. It just didn't make sense to go to all the work of decorating when we were not going to be home. Even though we will be traveling again this year, we decided to just go for it and bring a little Holiday Cheer into the house!

Today, while Jackson was napping, Wesley and I put up the tree. It was so much fun! We have quite an eclectic collection of ornaments. Some of the ornaments are ones I had growing up; some we got for wedding presents; a few we have received at ornament swaps over the years; and then some are new ornaments for Jackson! We really enjoyed seeing all we had and sharing stories of where they came from or who gave them to us.

Once Jackson woke up, I raced downstairs to capture his reaction to the tree. He was definitely surprised to see it there, but wasn't really as impressed as I had hoped! Thankfully, he has not messed with it too much, but as you can tell in the pictures, we purposefully didn't put any ornaments close to the bottom.

Now, all we have to do is wrap the presents so the tree doesn't look so empty!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving at the Johnstons

A struggle most couples have when they get married is where to celebrate holidays. Though Christmas gets tricky, Thanksgiving has been easy for Wesley and me. Even while we were dating, we have celebrated Thanksgiving with his family. Usually, we all get together at Wesley's parent's house in Knoxville, but this year the celebration was moved to my sister-in-law's house in North Carolina. We made the trip from Atlanta, and Wes's parents came over from Knoxville. (Wes's brother Joel and his family weren't able to make it because they were hosting Thanksgiving for 19 at their house for Abby's family.)

Traveling to North Carolina- Jackson and Flash
Wednesday morning, we all attended the annual Lincolnton YMCA Prayer Breakfast. Ron, my brother-in-law, started this Thanksgiving tradition in 2000 when he was Executive Director at the Lincolnton Y. For 8 years, I have heard about this breakfast, and I was so excited to go this year. It really was a lot of fun and it was so impressive to see what Ron started. (The first year there were 30 people at the breakfast and this year there was over 300!!) Ron is now a VP with the Charlotte Y, but he spoke at the breakfast and did a great job!!

Jackson didn't make it through the breakfast so he and Cole enjoyed some reading time in the lobby.

Wednesday afternoon, Shannon and Lynne cooked..and cooked..and cooked!

Jackson just chilled on the "phone"

Jackson and Flash were spoiled with loving from Macey!

That night, we all went outside for S'mores!

Thanksgiving dinner was delicious as always. We had enough food to feed an entire army!

Shannon invited a friend from church to join us for dinner - Perry Potter

(He didn't understand why we all liked his name so much!)

Since we ate at 3:00, Jackson wasn't very hungry so he just sat at the table

and enjoyed himself a little Praise Baby!

Though I love the Thanksgiving meal, my favorite time of togetherness is Black Friday! Growing up, I never knew the enjoyment of the After Thanksgiving Sales, but once I joined the Bender family, I was introduced to the morning madness! Wesley and I love getting up really early and hitting the first sales of the day. This year, we braved the WalMart crowds to save a few dollars on some movies!

Yes, the clock says "4:39!"

Friday afternoon, we visited a field close to the Johnston's home where they decorate hay bales for the holidays. Here we are by the Thanksgiving Turkey!

Macey really wanted to play a family football game so Friday afternoon, the girls took on the guys. Who knows who won but we sure had fun!

Jackson even got in on the fun. Here he is with a hand off from Cole!

This morning as we were heading home, Wesley and I talked about what a great holiday it was! It is always good to be with the Bender family. It is constant fun and laughter! I am very blessed to have such a wonderful "in-law" family and truly treasure the times we spend together!

Thank you Shannon, Ron, Macey and Cole for opening your home to us and for a great Thanksgiving Week! We love you!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give thanks with a grateful heart

On this day, Americans take time to offer thanks. Personally, I have so much to be thankful for. Though I am grateful for all the material things in my life, my greatest blessings cannot be bought with money.

I am most thankful for:

1. My home that exists no matter what size house I have
2. My health that I will never take for granted
3. My extended family that represents decades of love & faithful living
4. My parents who continually give me support
5. My sisters who I miss daily
6. My friends who lift me up with laughter and encouragement
7. My church where I can go and worship without fear of persecution
8. My son who is the source of great joy
9. My husband who is the love of my life
10. My God who has given me far more than I deserve and has promised the greatest blessing of all - eternal life with Him!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The best job to stay home for...

Jackson and I traveled to Norcross today to visit my coworkers at Heavenly Ham for a Thanksgiving Feast. Since Jackson’s arrival, I have been working from home when ever they need an extra hand. It has been so nice. I am able to have some outside interaction and bringing home a small paycheck is great as well. I don’t make it into the office very often, but it is so nice to see everyone!

Here’s a picture of Jackson and two of my co-workers, Jean and Debbie. Thank you so much for inviting us for the Feast. We loved seeing you all!!

Even though it has only been 16 months, it seems like ages ago that I was making the daily commute to the Norcross office. In fact, it feels like a lifetime ago...

Since college, I have been blessed with three full time jobs. I started off my career with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society planning the Nashville Light the Night Walk and Pennies for Patients program. I then moved to the University Relations office at Lipscomb University. Though it was a backwards move title-wise, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I loved that job so much! When we moved to Atlanta, I started working in Marketing for Heavenly Ham.

When I became pregnant, it wasn’t hard to decide that I would stay home with Jackson. It was what Wesley and I had always wanted. That said, it hasn’t always been easy. There are days when I realize it would be easier for me to go into work rather than staying at home full time! Mommy work is so different that corporate work!

Overnight, I exchanged my work clothes for jeans and a t-shirt. Instead of reading over ad campaigns, I now read "Humpty Dumpty" 50 times a day. There are no more lunch meetings at J.Alexander’s. I now go to playgroups at Chick-fil-a. And sometimes the biggest decision I make in a day is whether we should watch Handy Manny or My Friend Tiger and Pooh!

Even though the pay is not great; I can’t call in sick; and working late means tears (usually for me and Jackson!); I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am extremely blessed to be able to wake up each morning and go into my new office - Jackson's room. At this office, I am always greeted with a smile. And for some reason no matter how many times I mess up during the day, I still get kisses, hugs, laughter and endless encouragement from "my boss"

I do miss the Corporate world - I miss my coworkers, the office drama, the adrenaline rush that comes along with deadlines and feeling apart of a team. Even so, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. Knowing that I am home taking care of our son is the best job I will ever have! I'll stay home for that any day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can you be too cheap?

If you know me, you know I am the Queen of Bargains. I love to get things on sale or with a coupon - or if I am really lucky - both! I get so excited about getting good things as inexpensively as possible. I wouldn't say (though others might!) that I am cheap. I am just always on the lookout for a good deal! And last night, I hit the jackpot!

As noted in a previous post, I am a fan and loyal shopper of Publix. Last week, I saw an advertisement for an in-store Thanksgiving Feast. Samples of an entire meal would be available, and I decided we would stop in and at least see if we could make a free meal out of it.

Truthfully, I didn't know what we would find, but we were pleasantly surprised. We "dined" on everything from turkey and dressing to shrimp and ham to carrot cake and ice cream. It was a great spread throughout the store. (Just a note: There was a crowd of shoppers who had come for the festivities so we weren't the only ones enjoying the free dinner!)

Jackson and Wesley enjoying Pomegranate 7-up

Even Santa even made an appearance! They were providing free picture opportunities, and we tried to get a picture of Jackson with Santa. Wesley leaned in to put Jackson on Santa's lap, and WOW! Jackson has never met a stranger. He will go to anyone, but we learned yesterday that he won't go to Santa! Poor Jackson!

That was our cue to wrap things up so we picked up a few groceries, and headed out. Though we had eaten our fair share of samples, Wesley and I were both a little hungry. We didn't want anything big so we decided to use a gift certificate for appetizers at a local restaurant, Adkins Park.

When we arrived, we saw the sign "Kids Eat Free!" Great! Now we could get Jackson something. We could enjoy an appetizers, and hopefully, not owe too much at the end. How surprised were we, when the bill came back and they owed us $3.43! Yeah!! We left a tip and were on our way!

At home as Wesley was getting Jackson out of the car, I went in and for some reason, immediately checked our voicemail. Surprisingly, there was one from Publix! During the course of the night, I had registered each of us to win a $20 Publix gift card, and Wesley won!

We were so excited - not just about the $20 but also about the fact that this night was getting cheaper by the minute! We strapped Jackson back into the car and headed back to Publix. When we got there, we told them that Wesley was here to collect his prize. One of the ladies said, "Oh yeah! I am glad you were the ones who won!" (We had made ourselves known earlier in the night when Jackson had his Santa meltdown!)

Instead of just taking his gift certificate and leaving, Wes (ever the joker) told the ladies, "You know Leanne has a blog. Can we get a picture of this so she can put it on there?" I almost died of embarrassment, but it didn't stop me from snapping this picture!

As we were leaving, we both were so happy. When we got in the car, we realized that we had probably acted a little too happy since we had only won $20. We decided that the good folks at Publix were thinking to themselves as we left the store, "Bless their hearts. I guess they don't get out much!" Truth is, we do...just not this cheap!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What a day!

Today was a day of fun and excitement. We started off with news that Elizabeth Joy was finally here! Elizabeth is the daughter of our dear friends Erin and Daniel. Erin and Daniel are going to make the most amazing parents. Baby Elizabeth is a very lucky little girl. We love you Erin and Daniel...and Elizabeth!!

Daniel, Erin, Leanne, Wesley, Jackson (10.19.08)

The next fun news we received was from my sister, Susan. One of her boys, Joshua, lost his first tooth! When Susan asked him how he knew he had lost it, he replied, "There wasn't anything wiggle in my mouth anymore." Of course!

I talked to him and his twin Caleb on the phone. When Caleb got on the phone he said, "Joshua lost his tooth today, and I think mine is going to come out tomorrow" I guess Caleb doesn't want to be left out of all the Tooth Fairy fun!

The day ended with a night out! The annual YMCA Volunteer Recognition Awards were tonight, and one of Wesley's volunteers purchased a table so we got to go! When I worked for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society & Lipscomb University, we had dinners like this all the time and I loved them!! I love getting dressed up, meeting new people, and having a really nice dinner.
I know a lot of Wesley's co-workers from the Alpharetta & Forsyth YMCA, but since he started his new position in January, he has met so many new faces across Metro Atlanta. He was introducing me to people all night long.

It was a great evening of food, fellowship, and freedom -- no Jackson! I missed him but he was in good hands with some friends from church!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Visit from Uncle Melvin

Today we had a special visitor - my Uncle Melvin!

Twice a year, my uncle makes a trip down to visit his Atlanta friends. He lived here years ago and still keeps in contact with many of his friends. When Wesley and I moved down here four years ago, Uncle Melvin added us to his schedule, and we look forward to his visit every fall and spring.

We were in our cottage in Alpharetta for his first visit. Emily and Ryan were visiting as well, and it was a blast hosting our first family dinner in Georgia! Since then, Uncle Melvin has made the trip from Marietta to Cumming each time so we can catch up. It has been a true joy to have him in our home so many times!
Here are some pictures from today's visit:

Uncle Melvin is so good to Flash and always remembers to take a few pictures of him too!

Here's a picture of his 2007 visit...

Friday, November 14, 2008

My TV curse...

Well, it's now official: I have some sort of curse when it comes to television shows. If I like them, they get canned!

It started when I got into a new show - Windfall - in the summer of 2006. The NBC show starring Luke Perry was about a group of friends who won the lottery. It was a fun, light drama that I really enjoying watching until one week- CANCELLED! No warning. No final episode. They just stopped showing it.

Okay, no biggie. It was September and a new lineup of shows was starting. I started watching The Nine starring Kim Raver, Tim Daly, and Scott Wolfe. The first episode followed nine hostages being released from a bank. The following episodes were flashbacks to what happened in the bank during the hostage situation. It was a`great concept and pretty intense. I watched all the episodes and was getting hooked when all of a sudden, it was off the air. I figured they were taking a break for the holidays, but I soon realized it wasn't coming back on...or was it?

Months later, The Nine popped up again. It picked up right where it left off, and I was so excited to finally see what happened in that bank. I knew the show probably wouldn't last long, but I was glad to get a second chance to see how it ended. Nope! After two episodes, it was gone. I will never know what happened in that bank.

Last season, I got hooked on Lipstick Jungle with Brook Shields. It is about the lives of three girlfriends living in New York. A Sex in the City for NBC Prime time! It is a great show that really has some interesting story lines. Well, this morning, I saw on Yahoo "NBC axes Lipstick Jungle and My Own Worst Enemy" (I can't be credited with the demise of My Own Worst Enemy because I haven't seen an episode though Wesley said it was pretty good!)

I am so upset because even though I know it is all fake, I really got into the characters and would like to see what happens at the end. Every show whether canceled or not should be given a finale. It only makes sense! Why leave people hanging?

Didn't we all like knowing what happened to Ross and Rachele? And didn't we feel good seeing where the Seinfeld gang ended up? And, even if you haven't watched ER in years, aren't you a little excited about seeing what happens to these characters who have been with us for 10 years? It is always nice to have closure. Even when it doesn't end like you want it to.

So who knows if I will ever learn the fate of Lipstick Jungle's Nico, Wendy, and Victory. I guess if NBC decides not to air the last episodes I will have to guess how the story ends.

Until then, I am left with only The Office, , Dancing with the Stars and Brothers & Sisters though maybe I shouldn't admit I watch those or they will get the boot too!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can it be??

I must have looked like the biggest dork today, but I had to get my camera out and take a picture of this!!

I knew prices were going down so I was hoping to get gas today for around $2 a gallon. In recent months, I paid over $4 a gallon so I was excited about the possibility of filling up for half of what I had been paying. When I pulled into BJ's I was so excited to see $1.88!!!

The last time I can recall it being under $2 was Christmas 2004. I remember being at the BP in Crabapple on our way to Nashville for Christmas, and we filled up for $1.99 a gallon. I told Wesley as we drove away, "I bet this is the last time we will see gas under $2!" I guess I was wrong! Yeah!!

Wesley, Jackson and I are planning on traveling a lot in the next few weeks for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I really hope it stays this low!

I snapped this picture of Jackson while I was waiting for the pump to cut off. I guess he could tell something fun was going on because he was just smiling :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mimi!

Today is my grandmother's birthday. We are sad we can't be with her on her birthday, but hope that she has a great one! She will be celebrating it the way she has celebrated it for at least the past 28 years - She and my mom will be going to Christmas Village Thursday night! Happy Birthday, Mimi, and have fun at Christmas Village! We love you!

This is my favorite picture of Mimi (September 2008)

Four Generations - Mimi, my mom, Susan, and Rebekah

Friday, November 7, 2008

What a year!

I really wish I had started this blog a year ago! I can already tell that this website is going to become a great snapshot of our lives as I record all the new adventures that we experience as a family. Since I missed the first 15 months of Jackson's life, I thought I would go back and highlight some of the adventures of Year One!

July 25, 2007
7 lbs 8 oz
20.5 inches

Proud Mommy and Dad

Mimi and Pop-Pop with Jackson

Dad, Grammy, KD, and Jackson

August 2007
When Wesley and I were discussing names for our baby, we agreed on the boy name immediately. Wesley comes from a very close family. His best friend and role model in life is his dad, Jack. We knew we wanted our son to carry this strong name in honor of his dad.

For his middle name, we looked to my side of the family. I have always cherished my relationship with my Papa. I admire him so much as a husband, father, grandfather (and now great grandfather!) Though his name is Wilburn Carroll, those who really know him call him Drubby, a nickname he picked up from his older sister when he was a young boy. Though it is not your "normal" name, when we hear it, we are reminded of my Papa, a dedicated Christian that both Wesley and I truly love and admire.

Our prayer is that Jackson Drubby's character will reflect the two amazing men he was named after!

Jackson meets Drubby for the first time - August 30, 2007

September 2007
Road Trip! Jackson and I traveled solo to Knoxville to visit Grammy and meet Cousin Macey and Aunt Shannon. How fun!

October 2007
We went with Rocky, Ashley, and Camp Wyatt to a Pumpkin Patch. Jackson did so great all day!

November 2007
We celebrated Jackson's first Thanksgiving at Grammy and KD's in Knoxville. Everyone was there! Even Paw-Paw was able to celebrate with us!

On November 26, Jackson had his first taste of real food - yummy!

December 2007
Jackson's first Christmas was spent at Mimi and PopPop's in Nashville. Great Pop-Pop and Nanny were in Nashville too so we were able to celebrate with them!

This was the last time we would visit with Nanny as she passed away in April 2008.

January 2008
Jackson started becoming very active after the New Year! He started sitting up this month! He was so proud of his accomplishment!

February 2008
We started taking Jackson to Wednesday night Bible Class. He loved sitting up by his friends at the table!

March 2008
We celebrated Easter at home this year. Several families from church came over for Easter lunch. The cutest Easter Bunny ever even made an appearance at our house!

April 2008
Wesley traveled to India so Jackson and Mommy traveled to Mimi's! Jackson loved spending time with his cousins - Joshua, Caleb and Rebekah. Unfortunately, it is very hard to get a good picture of four little ones, but here is our attempt.

May 2008
Jackson started eating real food. His favorite - pizza! The night he first tried pizza, we also gave him ice cream and Mr. Pibb! He really enjoyed that night out :)

June 2008
The Teen Center won an award from Northside Hospital and we were invited to the Atlanta Zoo to accept the award. It was a hot but great day! Jackson decided to give the elephant statue his best "What are you looking at" face!

July 25, 2008
What a month! We first celebrated Jackson's birthday at the Bender's Family Vacation in early July, and then had another celebration at our home on the 26th. What a fabulous year of happiness we had to celebrate!

There is so much more I could include in this "Year in Review" - I didn't even include all that we have done since he turned one like his first week long stay at Mimi's (without Mommy and Dad!); our trip to Knoxville for a UT football game; our visit to the Children's museum in Chattanooga....

There are so many memories to cherish and so many more to look forward to as Jackson continues to grow! We are a blessed family!