Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NYC Day 2

I love sleep.  I mean, I LOVE sleep.  I covet sleep, I crave sleep, and I sleep as much and as often as I can.  So when it came to busy days in NYC, I vowed to sleep in.  We knew ahead of time we would be exhausted every day, so we decided early morning appointments wouldn't work for us.  #wise

So on Day 2 we eventually (mid to late morning) made our way down to the Chelsea District and jumped on the High Line.  This is a cool deal because #1 it's FREE and #2 it's iconic!  The High Line is an old train track that was converted to a garden sanctuary above the city.  It weaves through Chelsea, near the Hudson River and has some amazing views along the way.  Plus, in parts, you can stare into the windows of crazy awesome apartments that you'll wish you lived in.  I mean, I was ready to sign a lease by the time the High Line came to an end.

This is how they have to park cars in NYC.

This is the end of the line, so to speak.
When you get off the High Line, you're sort of kicked into the Chelsea Market which is in itself an awesome place.  Add it to your list.  It won't disappoint.  We ate lunch there and thoroughly enjoyed Creamline, a farm to table fast food restaurant! GET THE CHICKEN SANDWICH and there will be a party in your mouth.

From there, you're just a hop, skip, and a jump down the block from Greenwich Village.  Toodle around!  You'll love that area too.

At this point, we started walking a crazy amount of miles, making our way to NoLita (which is code for North of Little Italy), Soho (which is short for south of Houston, a street in NYC), and Chinatown.  Be careful in Chinatown.  It's all kinds of shady.  A giant Jamaican and a tiny Chinese woman were grabbing my arms and fighting over me in the street.  Technically in a McDonald's on the street. Either way, it was frightening.  So do Chinatown at your own risk.

One last stop we made was the Flat Iron building which is in the aptly named Flat Iron District. Ha!

Have you ever seen this in photos?  It's trippy to see in person.  There's an actual cell phone store (AT&T? Verizon?) located on the bottom floor and you can stare straight through the building.  Seems to me there would be a better business to lease that space... but I'm clearly not in charge.

Pictures of the building are hard y'all.  Don't judge.
About this time we walked as far south as we could stand and grabbed an UBER for Brooklyn.  We chose Juliana's for dinner, which is next door to the famous Grimaldi's.  I'm sure both are great, but the story goes that after a family fued, Juliana Grimaldi opened her own pizza/pasta shop NEXT DOOR to the original Grimaldi's.  Some reviews on the internet tell you that Grimaldi's is for tourists because it's better known, and Juliana's is for locals.  Hmmm. We chose the locals' side in this fight and didn't regret it one bit.

Now, the benefit of either of these restaurants is what's not even on the menu.  It's the Brooklyn Promenade that lies just past them, by the water.  You can take the MOST STUNNING PHOTOS of the Manhattan skyline at dusk here, and we stuck around til it was dark.  SO AMAZING. Put this adventure on your list RIGHT NOW.  I'll get my hug from you later.

This was right after dinner.  Perfect timing!

This is a picture my husband actually took on his CELL PHONE.  Amazing views are easy to capture, what can he say?

You can even see the Statue of Liberty from here! 
Our day didn't end here, though.  We had switched hotels due to an (ahem!) INCIDENT and ended up in the Fairfield Inn near Madison Square Garden.


 I'm SO GLAD we did.  The rooftop bar had EPIC views as well and it was a great way to end our first full day.

That's Madison Square Garden!

And off to bed we went... to sleep as long as we wanted. Ahhhhh.....

Day 3 Coming soon!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

NYC Day 1

If you read my last post about how to vacation using Post It notes, you know that we recently visited NYC.  Many people ask me: If you could choose your top three favorite things, what are they?  Well that's a very hard question to answer because there are so many categories of favorite in New York City.  So I thought I would map our week out for you, so you'd get a feel for what to do and a couple tips and tricks along the way.  Okay? Okay.

First of  all, when we get to town, we hit the ground running.  No need to waste precious moments in the city that doesn't sleep!  So I call the afternoon we arrived Day 1.  You will be shocked and awed at how much we could do in a late afternoon and evening.

Day 1:  We arrived by plane around 1:30 pm, which by the way, if you're looking for tips, is the best time to arrive in an NYC airport (there are 2).  (Anytime after 3:00 p.m. arrivals lend to increased traffic and a bigger taxi bill to get to your hotel.  So you know.) (Tip #2 while we're at it, we wore cute clothes on the plane so we wouldn't have to change and shower when we got there.)

We checked into our hotel and we were starving.  So once the bags were dropped, we hit the streets to find pizza!  Across the street was Patzeria, a ridiculously yummy pizza place with 6 chairs to seat people against a wall.  Since those chairs were taken, we ate our pizza on the street. Hey, when in Rome!

When our bellies were full, we skipped on over to Times Square to see allthepeople. And the famous red staircase!  Which leads to nowhere.  It's just a staircase. In the middle of Times Square. So, whatever. Take a picture! You've arrived!

Next, we started walking quickly, because appointments. We zipped over to Sugar where the kids ordered a giant fishbowl drink that cost $30.  But it bubbled!  And tasted yummy (allegedly)!  No problem, it wasn't on my tab.  (insert toothy grin here.)

From there we made our way all the way to Central Park on foot and then caught our Pedicabs.  These two guys took us through Central Park and did all the legwork (pun intended).  It was fun! It was glorious!  It was quintessential New York.  A must do and not ridiculously expensive. Check Groupon!

You can see that although we were at Central Park, at one point we had to enter traffic.  AGGHHH!!
Of course we didn't sustain any injuries, and in the end we got a picture for the ages.  If only those cute tourists behind us had been out of the way....

By now you may be wondering who that cute blonde that looks like she could be related to us is. That's Abby's bff and my bonus daughter, Jeni.  She kindly came along for our reindeer games in NYC and never complained once.  I can't say the same for my children.
So the funny Pedicab guys dropped us off near the subway and we hopped on, bound for Harlem.  HARLEM AT NIGHT, you say?  Or is it just my dad who said that?  Either way, yes, we subwayed up and stepped into the light of day in a place not so scary at all.  I loved Harlem!

Amateur Night at the Apollo is AWESOME, y'all.  I highly recommend this fun show!

So to end the day, we UBERed back to Times Square (near our first hotel, but that's another story for another day).  UBER is your friend in NYC.  And to be honest, we were brave enough to take a subway to Harlem in the daytime hours, but not after dark.

We ended the night with Wafels and Dinges (pronounced waffles and deen ges).  If you stumble upon one of these in the city, RUN, do not walk.  You'll never regret it.

This wafel has the following dinges' (toppings): warm nutella and strawberries, sprinkled with powdered sugar.  HEAVEN.
Day 2 coming soon!

Friday, June 23, 2017

How to take a vacation with Post It Notes

We took some epic vacations when I was a kid.  I'm talkin' two week road trips to the east or west coast (equal distances from my landlocked home in Oklahoma). Dad would plan the whole thing without the use of any stinkin' internet to guide him and our meals came mostly from the cooler that took up half the backseat or fast food along the way.  This is how I learned an extreme distaste for anything at McDonald's before 10:30 am. The smell in our Buick Skylark was nauseating. I begged to roll down the windows, but on we rolled to our multiple destinations.  Dad would whip out his trusty map and we would hit the road.

Road trips in the 1970's and 80's were the best.

Today, we take our kids on trips, too.  But ours are different.  While we fly to some locations (Hawaii, New York, Florida), we like to take a good old fashioned road trip too.  We pack snacks but avoid childhood roadtrip foods like soggy pre-made sandwiches and fruit in a cooler.  Instead, we plan to stop and eat.  This is not the most cost efficient, but it allows us to stretch our legs and see what we can see along the way.

This blog post is not about a roadtrip, but it is about an epic adventure.  One that was planned and curated the new-fashioned way... jumping many hours down the internet rabbit hole.  I'd like to say that these things can be easily done in an afternoon. But unless there's an app I've never heard of, this takes time. And paper.  Specifically Post It Note paper.

Behold our trip to New York City.

Isn't it dreamy?? This makes my OCD sooo happy.

Now, let me start with saying this: everyone has different things they want to do and see in NYC.  Some of my friends go purely for the shopping and celebrity sightings.  Some go for the tourist-y stuff.  Others look for places that are off the beaten path.  This itinerary is a mixture of all these things.

Here are my tips for creating your own vacation planning board.

1. Gather your supplies.  Get a poster or paper in close size.  Grab sticky notes of 3 colors and a sharpie. Now you're ready.

*Side note: For NYC, we used two large papers.  The first was to divide the city into districts, the other to divide the days.

2. Discuss your ideas.  We started by sitting down the whole family and asking what they most wanted to see or do.  Each person could add their ideas to a sticky note and put it on the board under the district where it is located.  Ideas that were agreed on by at least 3 of us had a definite place on the board.  If only one person wanted to do something, they were overruled and not placed on the final date map.

These are the remnants of our planning.  They got the boot.

3. Color Code.  Use one color sticky note for restaurants, one for activities, and one for destinations that have a reservation.  The hubs loves food.  Almost more than he loves me. So he spent lots of time just scouring Trip Adviser for recommendations on great restaurants.  I loved seeing destinations: Radio City Music Hall, Central Park, and the Today Show. Those are fun things that don't cost money and can be photographed and left in the rear view mirror.  Activities were my kids' things.  We took a pedicab tour of Central Park that ended up being their favorite thing all week.  We also did a gondola ride from the Loeb Boathouse which was quintessential New York (That was my favorite).

Hubs wanted to sleep so we took an uber at 5:15 am JUST TO SEE Matt Lauer and he wasn't even there that day. :(

Haven't you always thought Al would be a great guy to bring to your party? He was as sweet and jovial as I imagined, even pausing when my finger malfunctioned on the selfie button and it took a few seconds for me to figure that out. Ha!

This was the gondola ride from the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park.  It took planes trains and automobiles to get us there with all our high heels and such.  But it was OH SO WORTH IT.

3. Make a plan.  Once we knew how many ideas were in each area of the city, we started placing them on days together.  We stayed in Midtown so if we were headed to the Financial District, then we might throw in Battery Park while we were down that way.  Maps and Pinterest are your friends!  Click here for my personal NYC board.  Consider leaving the last day open.  #5 will explain this more.

4. Take it with you! Many people ask me how I remembered all of our plans once we got there.  Are you kidding?  I lost too many brain cells having children.  I can't remember anything. So of course we folded that baby up and took her along on our adventure!  In Hawaii we taped it to the wall of our room, but in NYC we simply laid it out on the desk in the room.

5.  Sticky Notes are Moveable.  Every day we looked at what we had accomplished on the list and moved our Post Its around. If we had skipped or missed something, we would move it according to our interest.  Somethings got skipped altogether.  But others got moved to the final day.

6. Keep the mindset- everything is negotiable.  You may not get to go to the Brooklyn Flea.  And it's ok! (I mean, that's what they tried to tell me when they all ix-nayed my plan.)  We walked 50 miles in NYC this last time.  That's a lot of freaking walking!  Some days you may plan it all and need to abort your mission to take a nap in the room.  And that's ok!  You may run out of money at the end of your trip and need to eat pizza instead of steak.  And that's ok too!

Just remember that vacations are meant to be fun.  But if you fail to plan, you'll plan to fail.  We want to see as much as we can when we visit a cool location.  If you'd rather sit in the room and listen to the traffic below, do it!  But if you want to experience all that a new place has to offer, try this technique.  You'll thank me later.

Central Park, I love you in the summer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Falling Free

It's funny how the heart begins to change, little by little, as we read, talk, and share ideas.

Recently I threw my name in the hat for a Book Launch Team.  I'd never done this before, but I love to read, so I applied and was super excited to be accepted to the team.  The book came in the form of a pdf, which proved slightly challenging, but I was no less excited to soak in the words of this awesome writer.

Shannan Martin lives in Indiana.  She's a mama and a wife, a blogger and an instagrammer, and she is living a life that most of us would only cringe to dream about.  She left everything behind in the countryside, where she started her popular blog and moved to the inner city.  She and her husband put their money where their mouths were and trusted God with EVERYTHING... Their money, their future, their children, their safety, their very lives.  And Falling Free is the story of how it all came to pass.

I won't give anything away here, but let me assure you, LOVE WINS.  In the biggest and most God-sized way possible.  You will love her heart for those with less.  Take a look at this example that blew my mind...

I had never heard it put in that way before.  Can you imagine if we all stepped out, opened our eyes and hands, and poured into the people out there that need our capital?  

A few years ago, I ran into an old student at a sporting event.  He's in high school now, but I had him as a fourth grader.  I've never known why, but God has placed this child on my heart... to the point that I would literally take him in and make him my son to this day.  My whole family knows this, and they've all agreed that when and if that day comes, he will be ours.  No questions asked.  Here's his story.

Since reading this book, I've been thinking about this kid specifically.  I've been praying for him with abandon.  And my heart is opening up to where God is leading me with this new paradigm.  I'm thankful Shannan put her words to a page, because all the people on this launch team share about the many ways their hearts are shifting and opening.  And community is so important.

The other part of her book that has shaken me to my core, is this next blurb.  

AMEN! Right?  How often are you comforted with the story of another person?  For me, hearing the healing from hurts that can cripple a soul have allowed me to find freedom in the forgiveness of my own sin.  I love the times that God prompts my heart to share my story with people who not once, but EVERY time, have replied with tears that they have the same story to tell.  We find that moving beyond pain is the realization that there is no shame in sins that are forgiven!  Once God wipes our slate clean, there is nothing that can hold us in darkness any longer except Satan telling us that we should live in shame.  Sharing your story breaks your stronghold, friend.  Don't allow the enemy to hold you in bondage anymore!

Anyway, back to Shannan!  hehe!

Dear Reader, please consider buying this book.  It will open your eyes in the most wonderful ways and you won't be able to stop telling people about it.  Just ask me.  ;)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

modern-day miracles

Her husband had unceremoniously moved out the day before.  It was her first day as a single parent and she was trying to find joy in the small things.  The kids had gone to visit their dad at his new home, but she still had a nagging feeling.  Earlier in the day, my friend Melinda, had picked up a pregnancy test.

Now, I know what you're thinking if you read my last post.  OHMYGOSH NO.  I had the same reaction, albeit a little more cussy.

She wondered how in the world she would be able to raise not just four children, but a newborn as well?  All alone??  How God?  I never even wanted five kids!  

And yet...

That night, we had dinner together with some friends and when I dropped Melinda off at her house, I could tell something was off.  She was distracted all evening.  Not herself.  OF COURSE, BECAUSE SHE IS PREGNANT AND DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO BLURT THAT OUT.  So when she got back to the house, her husband was there, with the kids.  He got up to leave and she followed him to the car.  He was headed back to his new reality.  His new home.  And that's when she told him.

There are many personal details here, dear reader, that are not mine to tell.  In fact, I'm not even privy to the moments Melinda's husband spent with God that night.  But let's say this....

That night, alone in his new home, Melinda's husband had a divine appointment with the Creator.  God spoke truth into him that he hasn't heard from anyone on this earth.  And for the first time in months, Melinda's husband got the message loud and clear.  "My will, not yours be done."

So after a restless night of sleep, he awoke, called his lawyer and cancelled the divorce.  He called his wife and asked to come home.  He was the Prodigal Son, coming home, to the arms of a wife who never lost hope, never stopped praying, never gave up on the husband she vowed to love through thick and thin.

I cried tears of joy to hear this news and then I was taken back to my last blog post.  How did it end?  I'll remind you.  Mind you, this was the day before he moved out.  I asked you this:
"I would covet your prayers for Melinda.  For her 4 children.  And especially for her husband, who has lost his way.  It is never too late to right a wrong.  Will you believe with me?  Amen."

I hope it's not lost on YOU (You, who prayed for Melinda.  You, who prayed for this family.  You who prayed for her husband) that YOUR PRAYERS repaired a marriage.  Your prayers moved mountains for my friend, her children, and especially for her husband who needed us to stand in the gap for him.

I especially love that none of this was a surprise to God.  He knew all along that in the silence, He was still moving.  We couldn't see it, but He was at work!  He never stopped interceding on behalf of these precious people I call friends.

If you don't know the power of pray and a mighty God who still does miracles, please seek out someone who does.  Call me.  Call a friend who loves Jesus.  We would love nothing more than to point you to the cross.

And all the people said AMEN!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Where is God?

"Where is God?" my friend asked.

I'll never forget this moment.  I was standing in my closet while one of my dearest friends told me her husband was leaving.  He has decided their marriage has "run it's course" and he's moving out.  Leaving his adoring wife and four small children in the wake of his selfishness.

My friend, we'll call Melinda, has been married 12 years.  She has four precious children.  She has shown her husband the kind of unconditional love that many people will never know in their lifetime.  She is the quintessential homemaker.  Melinda makes home cooked meals, sews, bakes, keeps an extremely clean home, and feeds her family organic food.  She is thrifty in a super cool kind of way, and watches all of her pennies.  Melinda is not only an amazing wife, she's probably better at this wife-ing thing than I am.  In fact, if I were one of those sister-wife kind of cult members, I'd totally make her wife #2.  I think the world of Melinda.

But yesterday when she told me that her husband had sat the kids down to break the news, I cried.  "Where is God?" she asked.  "Why didn't he answer my prayers? This isn't fair!"

As I stood there, staring at the wall, I asked the same thing.  "God!  Help me!  I have no words!  She needs to know where you are!  Help me help her!"  And yet, my tongue was still.  I had no answer.  All I could do was sit down on the floor and cry with her.  My heart ached while I wondered, how do I show my friend that God is still there in the midst of our deepest suffering?

I felt God stirring in me.  BE STILL, Kim.  You don't have to have words for everything.

And yet....

I have allowed this question to stir in my mind for a day now.  I've thought of Melinda and her children, and even her lost husband, and prayed.  I've wondered why God didn't change his heart.  Why didn't He open her husband's eyes?  Why didn't he place someone in this man's path that could speak the truth to him in love?

Tonight I was brought back to a song by Lauren Daigle.  I was singing along without thinking at first, but then I really listened to the song when I heard this:

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

And that's when I realized.  I won't have all the answers to why bad things happen to good people on this side of heaven.  But I can trust that when God says He's gone before me, before my friend Melinda, He has already paved the way.  There are no surprises here to Him.  He knew my friend would feel this pain.  He knew her kids would be devastated.  But HE promises to make beauty from ashes.  HE promises to show her the unconditional love that she has given away but not received.  HE promises that her pain is not forgotten, not without use, and not permanent.  HE will give her new blessings.  HE will give her new hope.  And HE will surround her with just the right people at just the right time.  All we have to do is trust.  Trust that He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do, as Beth Moore once said.

I believe firmly that God protects the orphans and widows, as He says in the Bible.  But I also think the single mamas are in there, too.  And I have a HUGE heart for those single mamas. 

I would covet your prayers for Melinda.  For her 4 children.  And especially for her husband, who has lost his way.  It is never too late to right a wrong.  Will you believe with me?  


Sunday, May 15, 2016

pink chairs and soft hearts

Well hello there!  Have you missed me?  I've been busy.  Planning a fair, throwing Gatherings, and of course teaching the loveliest group of second graders you've ever known.  It's been a fun and busy year and my blogging has taken the hit.

I've thought of funny stories along the way to share, but haven't had the time or inclination to type them out.  Until today.

You know we bought this new house last year.  It's been over a year now in our latest home and we've settled in so happily.  We used most of what we already had to decorate and finish it out but have slowly changed things out as time and money have allowed.

Right now we're in the throws of redoing our little Buddy's room.  When we moved in, he had a green room and bunkbeds.  Well, that's just what he had at the last house, so we figured we could throw him in there swiftly and easily.  He wasn't thrilled as his big sister had gotten a redesigned "middle school girl" room and he was entering middle school, waiting for his turn at "the dream bedroom".  He'd have to wait, as there were vacations and holidays and sports, oh my.  And then.... well... we just forgot.  So now, we're moving things out and moving things in.  We're painting and building and conspiring.  And it's going to be great.  Very "big boy".  Very "this room will take you into college" - like.  Hopefully.

But then, my Mother-in-Law came over recently and made me the loveliest curtains for my formal dining room.  Suddenly, those red parsons chairs at the table were craptastic.  I needed to replace them.  And soon.  Along with finding time to paint that table white.  (It never ends, right?)

Man, that's crappy lighting.

Yesterday, MIL told me about some chairs on sale at Steinmart, so I headed on over there to check them out of course.  The Mister and my little Buddy were in tow.  So when we walked in the door and I saw the pink coral dining chairs sitting inside the front door by the cash register, I stopped in my tracks.  CORAL DINING CHAIRS?  COULD IT BE?  The thoughts started swirling in my head.  OH THE BEAUTY.  OH THE FUN.  I MUST HAVE THESE CHAIRS.

Don't they look darling with my new curtains??

Luckily, as I turned to look at the Mister, he agreed!  WHA the WHA??  REALLY??  Then let's go find 4 more, I said, and we took off for the back corner of the store.  

Unfortunately, all we found was one more chair.  But that would not deter me.  No-siree!  I grabbed that chair and started heading back to the front.  And that's when my son, in all his wisdom turned to his dad and said, "Dad.  Why are you letting her carry that pink chair?  It makes her look like a feminist.  Take the chair and carry it for her!"

Y'all.  I AM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.  Because A. I didn't have to carry that pink (okay, coral) chair an inch further.  And B. because my son is learning to respect his elders and women.  Thank you Jesus.

The coolest kid with the kindest heart.  Seen here in Hawaii.  ;)