Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ice Cream Dream

So we all know how to eat an ice cream cone, right?

1. Start at the top.
2. Lick all the way around to keep it from dripping.
3. Enjoy the cone after all the ice cream is gone from the top.

Sounds simple, huh? Well, tell that to a 17 month old who really loves the cone!

On New Year's Day, we were enjoying a nice lunch at Chick-fil-a. At the end of the meal, we treated Jackson to an ice cream cone. Wesley just gave it to him to see what he would do. At first, he did it correctly - Small bites from the top. Well, as soon as he sampled the cone, it was all over. That's all he wanted. He started eating from the bottom while the top was dripping all over him.
Kinda messy, but who cares? He was having a blast and Wesley and I loved watching him devour his tasty treat!

Yummy! This is so good!

Hey, wait a minute. What's this crunchy part? I think I like it better than the cold ice cream!

Let's just turn this thing around, and enjoy it from the other end!
That's more like it!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Bender Christmas

After all the festivities in Nashville were over, Wesley, Jackson, and I traveled to Chattanooga on Sunday morning for the Bender Family Christmas. The rest of the Bender crew had been celebrating together since Christmas Eve, but had waited to open presents until we got there Sunday morning. I still don't see how the kids had that much patience!!

When we arrived, we enjoyed a delicious Christmas Brunch Shannon had made for us all. After the brunch, we headed downstairs to open packages. The kids were so ready! Jackson loved opening his new treasures. He got an alphabet train, a school bus, a car, a Thomas the Train Floor Mat, and an alligator from his cousin Cole.

Can you tell Jackson wants to get down and start opening his presents?

Wesley and I also really enjoyed the generous gifts we received from everyone. It was a great Christmas.

Here we are in our Land's End vests from Jack and Lynne that came complete with something fun in the pocket!

The celebration didn't end after the presents were opened. Sunday was also Lynne's 60th Birthday!! We were all there to celebrate with her. We were honored to give Lynne a book for her birthday filled with 60+ letters from family and friends. She was so surprised!

I loved reading through all the notes she received. I know what an amazing lady my mother-in-law is, and it was fun to read notes from all the people who love her as much as I do.

Happy Birthday, Lynne!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A SEAL Christmas

Since our visit to Nashville was short this time, I was only able to catch up with one group of friends on this trip. My SEAL group - Shannon, Erin, Ashley, Leanne - got together for a Christmas Brunch at Erin's house.

Erin recently remodeled a house in the Green Hills area, and it is beautiful! She really has a talent for decorating and the entire house looks great! So did all the food Erin prepared!

She really out did herself. We had cheese, crackers, fruit, casseroles, ham (that she cooked herself in the crock-pot!), biscuits, bread, and drinks. It was an amazing spread that she put on with only a little help from Ashley - she made one of the casseroles. Shannon and I brought drinks so I guess we get a little credit for it, but not much since I don't even think we opened my orange juice!!

It was a great time to catch up on what's going on: Erin is busy at school and with her job as a nurse; Ashley is preparing for her wedding in June and is starting a new job on Monday; and Shannon is taking care of two little boys while going through a hard second trimester with #3!!

We are all at different stages of our lives, but one thing remains the same - our friendship! It is so wonderful to be able to be yourself and "Girl Talk" with good friends.

(I didn't get the message to wear black and white - whoops!)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Favorite Gift of All

This year, my favorite gift did not come wrapped under the tree. I didn't even get it on Christmas Day. My favorite gift this year was a shopping trip with my parents the Day After Christmas.

Because of the generosity of Susan and Tim, not only was Jackson going home with all of his Christmas toys, but he was also traveling home with some of Joshua and Caleb's old toys. Since our station wagon wouldn't hold all the new loot, Wesley and Jackson traveled on the 26th to Chattanooga to borrow his Mom's large Tahoe.

Since Jackson and Wesley were away, I went with my parents to the new outdoor mall in Murfreesboro. It was so much fun! Being the middle child, there was rarely been a time when it was just my parents and me so I treasured this solo time with Mom and Dad.

We shopped at Ulta, Barnes and Noble, Belk, and Harry & David (a personal favorite of all three!). After shopping, we went to lunch at Red Robins! Even though we have one down the street, I hadn't been to a Red Robin in five years. It was even better than I remembered.

We ate, talked, and just enjoyed being together! Of course, I missed Jackson and Wesley, but it was so nice to be able to be with just my parents for a little while. I miss being around my family so much, and really took advantage of this time with my mom and dad.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the day of shopping and the best present of the year - time with you!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Nashville

Around the holidays, you can expect a few surprises here and there - extra presents under the tree, special sales at your favorite store, coming down with Strep Throat three days before the Big Day. Okay, maybe you don't expect that one, but it happened to me! Last Monday, when we should have been thinking about packing and wrapping, I was heading to the doctor for a shot of penicillin and hopes that we wouldn't have to cancel our Christmas trip to Nashville!

Thankfully, 48 hours later, I was feeling better and we headed out. My sister Susan was having the family over for a Christmas Eve taco dinner. We arrived in time to enjoy dinner, dessert, and playtime with cousins for Jackson. It wasn't a late night because there were four little ones who needed to get to bed early - Santa was coming!

Christmas Morning, Jackson woke up to find toys from his Mimi and Pop-Pop and a stocking from Santa. I think he enjoyed all of his toys!

Jackson's new microphone from Santa

Cruising on his four-wheeler from Mimi and Pop-Pop

Playing with his new farm also from Mimi and Pop-Pop

One of the best picture-ops came when Pop-Pop and Wesley were putting together a new table and chair set. Jackson just had to get in and help. Here he is helping his Pop-Pop.

Emily, Ryan, Susan, Tim, the kids, my grandparents, and uncle all came over for lunch. After a delicious feast, we started the massive present opening. We opened and opened and opened all afternoon. We truly received more than we deserved! The highlight of the day for Wesley came from two presents - one for him; one for Jackson. He is trying to raise a Star Wars fan, and I think it is working!

Jackson and Wesley playing with Star Wars Mickey - thank you Aunt Emily and Uncle Ryan

Wesley and Jackson with Wesley's Make your own Light Saber Toy

Jackson and Rebekah did so good during the present opening. The just moved from one person to the other examining all the new goodies. The only issue they had was before the presents were opened. Jackson got a little selfish and wouldn't let Miss Rebekah play with the tea set. She was not happy about that!

After all the presents were opened, Jackson's favorite toy was still the center piece my mom bought earlier in the season - a little musical snow scene. Jackson learned to turn it on so he could hear "Walking in Winter Wonderland." He did that over..and over..and over again! Funny, it doesn't matter how many great toys a child gets, the simplest thing will always be their favorite!

Jackson rocking out to Walking in a Winter Wonderland.


Merry Christmas!

We hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends.
Remember to take time to BELIEVE in the magic of Christmas!

Jackson Bender - December 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bed Time and Baby Jesus

Wesley volunteered to work late tonight and help out the local YMCA branch. Since taking his new position, he has had very few late nights since he no longer is bound by the branch schedule. It is rare that Jackson and I have nights alone. Tonight, we played, read, ordered a pizza, and enjoyed our night in. Around 7:30, I could tell Jackson was getting tired so we started his nightly routine minus one thing -Daddy!

Ever since Day 1, Wesley has been in charge of BBB (Bath, Bottle, Bed). From 8 weeks on, Jackson has gone to bed at 8:00ish, and it has always been with a routine: Daddy takes him up for his bath (I always hear laughter coming from the bathroom!). Then, they go into Jackson's room to watch Jackson's train (Wesley built a train track around the top of Jackson's room so he turns it on for Jackson while he puts his jammies on). Up until month 15, Wesley gave him his last bottle of the night, and then would tuck him into bed.

BBB with Daddy and Jackson (4 months)

Sometimes, I have to go in there and stop the fun. They truly could play together all night long, but usually, after a few stories, Jackson is off to sleep.

So..needless to say, when Mommy tries bedtime, it is not as fun! You can almost see it in Jackson's little face, "Oh, it's you tonight? Great :("

I didn't do the bath right. As I was getting him out of the bathtub, he cried and started pointing from his mouth to the water...guess who always blows bubbles for Jackson in the tub? Dad. Guess who forgot? Mom!

I am too short to turn on Jackson's train so he had to get ready for bed with just me signing to him. He wasn't impressed! But I loved every minute. 

As I was rocking him for a few minutes before putting him to sleep, I decided to tell him the Christmas Story. It was the first time I have ever told it to him. I went through how Mary and Joseph went looking for room at the inn; how they couldn't find any room so they had to settle for the stable and how Baby Jesus was born and placed in a Manager. 

Finally, I looked into his eyes and told him that Jesus came into the world with nothing, left with nothing, but what he gave was the greatest gift of all, eternal life. I told him Jesus loved him very much and then I just started crying.  What a beautiful story that I have heard millions of times and told millions of times. And a story that will never be the same now that I have shared it with my son. 

I am glad Wesley has the special nightly bond with Jackson. Tonight though, I am thankful I was able to be with him and share the beautiful story of Christmas. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Macey!

Cole (my nephew), Macey, and Cali

Today is my niece's 11th birthday. Happy Birthday, Macey! For her birthday, she was able to get a new puppy, Cali.

Macey holds a special place in my heart. Wesley "used" her as bait to get me. He knew that once I met Macey, I would never leave him. It was true. I fell instantly in love with her (and him too!)

I have watched Macey grow over the past years into a beautiful young lady. She is so creative, funny, so smart, and will one day make the most amazing teacher.

Leanne and Macey - 2004

Leanne and Macey at Disney - 2005

Wesley and Macey - 2005

Macey, I love you and wish you the best birthday ever! Can't wait to see you next week.

PS. Since starting this blog, my brother-in-law and both of my sister-in-laws have celebrated birthdays. I wanted to give them a shout out today,too. Happy Belated Birthday, Ryan, Shannon, and Abby!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The game of Spades is really quite simple. It is designed for four players- two teams of two. There is some strategy involved but really it is just a card game. Well, maybe not just a card game.

To me, the game of Spades is three to four hours of uninterrupted time with Wes and Cristal Kohring, two of our best friends. Our history with spades and the Kohrings goes way back...

It was July of 1998. I was getting ready to start my freshman year at Lipscomb University. I had decided to go "pot lock" with a roommate. I knew my new roommate would be at this orientation, but had no idea what she looked like. My lifelong friend, Laura, was with me as I entered the doors of the Student Center. I didn't know where to start to find Carrie, but looked ahead and there were two girls sitting on the stairs. “Who knows?” I thought, “Maybe one of them is Carrie.”

I walked up to the girls and said "I am looking for my roommate. Are either of you Carrie Jones?" The red headed girl responded "Nope, I'm Cristal, but I will help you find her!" From that moment on, I was friends with Cristal Beasley. We did most everything together that first year. She was the most down to earth, friendly person I had ever met, and I loved being around her.

We ended up pledging the same Social Group - Phi Sigma. It was during pledging that we had a Swap Date (two girls pair up and each one asks out a guy for the other one). Cristal asked Wesley to be my swap date. That was the beginning of our relationship. She was supportive of us the whole time and would always listen to all my lovey-dovey stories about my new man.

Fast forward to the summer of 2000. Wesley and I had been dating for about 6 months when he invited me to join him for a weekend in Knoxville. On the agenda - boating, swimming, and meeting his best friend and future roommate, Wes Kohring.

I remember sitting at the Benders watching TV, when this person started "flying" in the outside window (You know what I mean by flying? Where you put half your body in view doing the Superman pose and it looks like you are flying?) Anyways, it was Wes and he and his girlfriend had come over to join us on the boat. After the evening was over, I told Wesley, “He needs to meet Cristal. They would be perfect for each other!" Wesley's response "Leanne, he has a girlfriend!"

All summer, I talked about Wes to Cristal. I told her she had to meet him. He would be a freshman the following fall and I knew she would love him! Before she was able to meet him face to face, Cristal and I went up to the 2 Wes' dorm room to hang out. Other Wes (that's the only way I could keep them apart at first) was out doing freshman orientation things. My Wes left the room so Cristal decided to poke around in Other Wes' things. Sure enough, as she was poking around, Other Wes came in and said "Um, can I help you?" Awkward! But it worked. They started dating and the summer after Wes and I married, they were married.

Soon after they were married, Cristal started working at the West End Church as the Children's Minister. It was so wonderful! I think we saw/talked to each other every day. Many a nights were spent at each other's place for dinner or games. It was a blast to be able to spend so much time with close friends.

In January of 2004, I received a call from Cristal. I was in California and she was calling to say that Wes had decided to go into full time ministry. They would be looking for jobs, and one place they were really interested in was Colorado. Later that spring, they were offered a job at a church in Ft. Collins, CO.

I remember when Cristal and Wes were trying to decide whether they were going to accept it or not. Cristal and I went out to eat (strangely, I remember it was Amerigo's in Cool Springs). We talked about the pros or cons. I don't recall what I said to her that night, but I know that all I wanted to say was "Please don't go!"

Obviously, my talking didn’t work :) and they ended up taking the job out in Colorado. It broke my heart the day they drove away. The four of us had breakfast at IHOP and then they pulled off. I realized then I was loosing daily contact with my best friend.

From that day on, we have made it a point to see each other a few times a year. Things have changed: we moved to Georgia; they moved again to Texas; and we have three kids between us.

However, every time we are together, we steal away hours at night to play cards. Wes and Wes against Cristal and me. There is never a night we are together that we don't pull out the cards and play a "friendly" hand. It is during those four hours that we are transformed back into the carefree couples.

Granted the talk has now changed. Instead of talking about pledging, grades, dorm life, we now talk about jobs, kids, stress, and family life. And every now and then one of our little boys joins us for a hand or two.

Even so, we still take the time every time we are together to gather around a table and for a few hours, forget about everything else. We laugh way too much! We reminisce about the past. We remember we are still friends who despite the miles between us will always be close.

So yes, spades is just a card game, but to me (and Wesley), it is treasured time with best friends!

To sum it up in a dorky, overly done cliché:

Pack of Cards - $5
Snacks - $10
Four hours of an intensely competitive game of cards among friends: Priceless

Jackson goes to school

Jackson on his way to school!

As mentioned in the earlier post, while we were in Arlington, Jackson went to school with Micah and Jonah. When I first had the idea to ask Cristal if he could tag along for the day, I thought it would be so much fun for both of us. He would get to play with kids his age, and I would get some girl-time with Cristal. At the end of the day, that is what happened. He had fun. I had fun. But it was a little more involved than I first imagined.

To start with, Wednesday night when we got home from church and finished getting the boys in bed, Cristal announced that we should get everything ready for the morning. I am not one to plan ahead like that, but said “Sure! Why not?”

First we packed lunches - a task that in and of itself is more complex than one might think. I had to pack Jackson food he could eat by himself so I made him a PB& J sandwich, cheerios, yogurt bites, goldfish, and a piece of cheese. I know, it sounds like a weird combination, but I had to think of things I knew he would eat and food that he could eat by himself. That’s asking a lot for a picky eater like Jackson. After the food, we had to pack a napkin, wet wipe, and two cups of milk/water.

After the lunches were packed, we had to get the bags packed: two diapers (labeled with his name), a complete change of clothes, and all his "sleeping toys" which for Jackson is a passy, blanket and stuffed Flash. Then Wesley had to fill out the Emergency Contact paperwork; we had to print out his shot record; and have it all ready so we could leave the house at 9:00 a.m.

Way to go Cristal for thinking ahead!

Thursday morning, I got a little emotional thinking about Jackson being gone from me for an entire day - 9:30 - 2:30. All sorts of fears started running through my head - what if he cries, what if he can't sleep, what if no one plays with him? Luckily, Micah would be in the same class as Jackson so I at least knew he would have a friend!

We got Jackson ready in his school clothes and took a family picture on Jackson's first day of school!

Jonah, Jackson and Micah ready for school

Once we got to the school, I was feeling better about everything because I realized that Cristal and I were in for some fun! Once the boys were dropped off, we could do anything! We went by Jonah's room first and he ran in. He loves school!

Then we went to Jackson's room. Cristal dropped Micah off first and out of the blue, he started crying! Oh no! Jackson took one look at Micah crying and realized he was next to go across the door into the "room!" He broke down, and I reluctantly handed a teary-eyed little boy over to two strangers.

By then, Cristal had eased away from the door, and I joined her in the hallway. I could still hear Jackson crying. Cristal gave me a reassuring smile and said he would be okay. All first time kids go through this! She took my camera and captured this picture of Jackson sitting in the teacher's lap. It was reassuring to leave knowing that he was at least going to be loved on!

The 5 hours went by quicker than ever! Why is it that 5 hours drags on when you are home alone with a baby but goes so fast when you are out with friends??? Anyways, we went shopping, ate at Pei Wei, and just talked. Though I hated for our time to end, when we pulled up at the school, I was ready to see Jackson.

After picking up Jonah, we headed to get the little ones. I saw Jackson's room up ahead and could see into a window. I caught Jackson’s eye, and he ran towards the window. I don't know whose smile was bigger his or mine! The teachers said he did great. They said he had trouble napping - nothing new! - but other than that, he was all good. They give each of the kids a report card at the end of the day.

Jackson’s said he was "Friendly, Busy, and Curious" What a great description of my little boy!

Though I am not ready for him to grow up and start going to school regularly, I think it was good for both of us. We both learned that we can survive without each other for a day. I’m sure the next time he goes to preschool will be just as hard, but at least we have the real “first” day under our belts!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas with the Kohrings!

What a week! We just returned from the best family vacation! Last Monday morning, we packed up the car in Nashville and set out on our 10+ hour journey to Arlington, Texas. We were headed to spend a few days with our friends, Wes and Cristal Kohring, and their two boys Jonah and Micah. They moved to Texas from Colorado last fall when Wes took the Youth Minister position at the North Davis Church of Christ. The Kohring crew came to our house last January, and we were excited to see their new place.

Since neither Jackson nor I like to be in the car for too long, we decided to split the trip into two days. After our first day of travel, we checked into a La Quinta Inn and headed off to pick up dinner. We went by Sonic and brought it back to the room. Jackson loved eating on the bed with his Daddy. I had to capture a few pictures of their bonding time!

Who knew you could get a banana in the Kid's Meal at Sonic?

The drive from Little Rock to Texas was very easy. When we pulled up at the Kohrings, Cristal, Jonah, and Micah were there to greet us. Jackson was so glad to be out of the car and even more excited that he had two people to play with! Cristal gave us a tour of their house (AWESOME!) while we waited for Wes to get home from work. That night, Wesley and Wes went to an ACU recruitment reception at the church, and Cristal and I were able to catch up.

The next day, Wes took the day off, and we all went to the mall. One of the highlights at the mall was this interactive TV screen on the mall floor. The boys loved playing around on it!

Here are the boys playing on the Interactive Screen.
I love this picture because it pretty much sums up the week - the two younger boys following Jonah!

We found a fun play area for the kids though we didn't stay too long here because we had a diaper malfunction with one of the kiddos :)

That evening, after long naps by all three boys, we went to church. The teens were hosting a dinner that night in the Family Life Center (isn't that the proper "Church of Christ" phrase for a gym :) The boys were not interested in eating, but they loved playing basketball!

Wesley and I were able to sit in on Wes's class that night. I think Wes is such a talented speaker & teacher,and he did an excellent job in his class.

Thursday was the day I was looking forward to the most. Cristal teaches part time at a preschool. Micah and Jonah attend that school, and I asked Cristal if she thought Jackson might be able to go one day while we were there. She asked her supervisor and she graciously said "yes." So Thursday morning, we packed up all three boys and took them to school.

While the kids were away, Cristal and I played! We went Christmas shopping, had a yummy lunch at Pei Wei, and were just able to catch up on life. It was so good to be with her!

After school, we went home and let the boys play. They had a blast. Jackson and Micah are only 5 weeks apart and already are big buds. Look! They even know how to share!

Here is the story behind this picture: Cristal was trying to get Micah to sit on his bottom in the chair. Every time she would say "Micah, on your bottom" he would make this face! Too cute!

Jonah took this picture of Jackson and me. I am holding the ornament Jonah made for me. I already have it on my tree. Thanks, Jonah!

The boys were so tired by the end of the day, we put them down at 6:45 and enjoyed some adult time!

It was so sad to leave the Kohrings Friday morning. Usually, we have a "next time" in mind, but we aren't sure when we will see each other again. Hopefully, it won't be too long! We already miss them!
Though we were leaving Wes and Cristal, our trip to Arlington was not done. Wesley found out that one of his friends, Michael, recently moved to nearby Ft. Worth, TX. We made plans with Michael and his wife Ruth to eat lunch on Friday. It was too short of a visit. It was so good to see this special couple and hear their special news - they are expecting a little one in July!

Take a look at Jackson in this picture - He figured out that the cup Wesley was holding had Coke in it. He would poke his finger into the straw hole and sneak a taste. We caught him in the act!

The drive home was a little longer than the drive out there because we had to go by Chattanooga to pick up Flash. We decided to stop in Jackson, MS for the night. We didn't have a hotel room booked so we looked up a few hotels on Wes's phone. We found a nice one and Wesley called and somehow worked up a deal on a great room!

Saturday was spent driving home. It really wasn't a bad drive at all. Jackson entertained himself by finding creative things to do with his blanket. A few times, I would look back and he would be hiding!

We arrived in Chattanooga around 5:00 and were able to visit with Joel and Abby. A HUGE thank you goes out to them for watching Flash for us for a week! They are so awesome!

Isn't this a fabulous picture?!

We got home around 9:00 Saturday night. Jackson woke up as we drove into the driveway (he had fallen asleep at 7 when we left Chattanooga) but quickly went back down. We had already decided to take it easy on Sunday, and I am glad we did. Jackson slept until 11:00!! I guess he had just worn himself out playing with his friends!

Thank you Kohrings for a wonderful family vacation!