celebrations, Food, Sweet girls

Halloween food

We moved the summer of 2015 into our new home. We took our outdoor cat, our indoor dog, and our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to a new house in a new neighborhood with new traditions.

One of these was the annual neighborhood Halloween party and trick-or-treating. I was so excited. For the first time, The Artist was old enough to actually trick-or-treat and understand the concept.

I bought her a “My Little Pony” Pinkie Pie costume. She wore her old Anna from “Frozen” costume instead. All the kids in the neighborhood loaded up for a hayride and community trick-or-treating.

The Artist had a blast. A BLAST. She was the youngest trick-or-treater, but she worked so hard to keep up on her short little legs. The moment she was sitting back with me in the trailer she would immediately dive her hands into her candy bag and start sugaring up.

With the other kids being older, sometimes, if the houses were close together, they would go to two houses at one stop, and the trailer would just move up to the next house. The Artist, however, was the youngest and slowest, so I tried to help her by carrying her. She saw the trailer moving away and thought it was leaving us behind. She ran as fast as those short, toddler legs would go, yelling, “No! Wait! Please!” She was channeling her inner Anna (from the scene where Elsa runs away), and I absolutely died out laughing.

We trick-or-treated for hours that evening, and close to our house, The Artist was feeling the effects of being up late and eating too much candy. Kyle took her to a house very close to ours. She apparently had a wet pull-up that was uncomfortable, so she decided to strip it off, throw it in our neighbor’s yard, and continue on trick-or-treating.

Kyle carried her and the wet pull-up two houses down to our house and to her bed.

The next year, I had a newborn, so she and Kyle went solo trick-or-treating, and last year we just walked up and down the hills on our street in the very appropriate misty fog. The Engineer was old enough to trick-or-treat this time, and she loved it. She couldn’t believe she could just walk up to people, hold out her little pumpkin, and people would give her candy. Frankly, I’m generally surprised with this concept, too.

We all love the Halloween season. Every time The Engineer sees a pumpkin, she yells out, “Pumpkin! Happy Halloween!” It is precious. The Artist has drawn about a hundred Halloween pictures – she very much wants to go trick-or-treating dressed as a witch. And because we love celebrating the end of the week during the fall season, this last Friday we had a Halloween dinner consisting of ghosts bananas, pumpkin oranges, kitty cat cheese, and spider donuts. You know, super healthy stuff.

For the ghosts, I used mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth. I peeled cutie oranges and used celery for the stem of the “pumpkins.” And the cheese was the easiest – in fact, for The Artist’s birthday this year, a friend gave us 101 cookie cutters, so we can do pumpkins, cats, bats, and ghosts like this (Because The Engineer has a love for cats and pumpkins, I am sending her to school this week with cheese quesadillas shaped like pumpkins and cats.).

The spiders were easy, too, but instead of trying to push the M&Ms into the chocolate, I would suggest adding a little chocolate icing for the eyes.

And, even though the dinner wasn’t full of all the food groups, it sure was colorful and fun.





Celebrating the matriarch

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday.

NINETY. Ninety years old.

Ninety Christmases. Ninety New Year’s Eves. Ninety Thanksgivings. Ninety summers and winters, falls and springs. Ninety birthdays.

She was born in 1928, the same year Mickey Mouse was born, the same year the first trans-Pacific Flight was completed, the same year Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. She lived through the Great Depression, through World War II, through Vietnam, through 14 presidents. She remembers when Kennedy was shot, when man landed on the moon.

She gave birth to seven children, four of whom were alive to attend her celebration earlier this month. She has buried three of them and a husband.

She’s fought and beaten cancer three times. THREE times. There’s a reason my daughter is named after her – she’s a fighter. This world is a hard, ugly place sometimes, and you’ve got to be a fighter. But she is so kind as well, most of the time with a smile. She is so social and loves to see new places and meet new people. I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger.

She’s fashionable. I remember being at her apartment in Little Rock one time and seeing all of her shoes. She had a pair of shoes to go with each outfit, I am sure. Even in her everyday wear, she is fancy.

My daughters love her – and it’s a good thing they’re small, because every time they see her, they are so excited, they barrel into her like wrestlers. The Artist will kindly sit and cuddle with her; even at five years old, she wants to be in someone’s lap. The Engineer comes when there’s food.

Her family gathered together to celebrate her and her amazing life she’s had and what more there is to come. There were her four children, of course, but so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there, too. We were all there to celebrate this one woman who has such a legacy emphasizing the importance of family.

My kids and I are so lucky to have her living so close to us. She didn’t grow up close to me, but now she lives next door to my mom. She and my aunt, who always lived either in the same house or in the same town, would come over every Christmas and spend Christmas with us. I remember one Christmas in particular when they couldn’t come because the weather was too bad. It just didn’t seem like Christmas without them there.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Granny! Celebrate your birth month all month! I am so thankful for you and the life that you have lived so far and cannot wait to celebrate more birthdays and Christmases with you! Imagine where we will be in 10 years at your 100th!

celebrations, marriage


Thirteen years ago, Kyle and I were living in New Orleans. Technically, Metairie. And technically, as we were just days away from our marriage, he was living with his aunt in Luling, and I was living in our to-be-shared 500-square-foot apartment in Metairie, which is right outside New Orleans.

Thirteen years ago, two days from now, we watched as Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and wrecked our plans for our life.

We had planned to attend the seminary in New Orleans. Kyle had a part-time job as an assistant football coach at a high school and I was a barista at a Starbucks. We were apparently going to pay our bills on sunshine and dreams. Because we were young, in love, and filled with optimism.

Then Katrina came, six days before our wedding.

We still got married. The cross necklace, a gift from Kyle I planned to wear on our wedding day, was buried under at least six feet of water. I borrowed my aunt’s necklace, a diamond solitaire. I borrowed clothes to wear on our honeymoon.

See that shirt and shorts? Borrowed. Thanks again, Misti.

And, six days before our wedding, we were scrambling – scrambling to find a home, jobs, and a new plan – a God-given one.

Because we moved to New Orleans without praying for guidance. It sounded pretty awesome to us, and we went for it. We moved down there in August 2005 and we moved back up to north Louisiana a month later.

1923391_512450458508_4490_nWhen Katrina struck, we prayed – we sought wisdom and insight. We asked for mercy, not only for us but for all those in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Because we were safe. We were together. But not all families had that luxury.

Our Katrina story is actually a happy one. With God’s provision and the support of dear friends, within that week, both of us were employed – and jobs using our college degrees as well. We found an apartment within our first month of marriage. I was able to start a master’s degree that fall, and the only thing we actually lost in the hurricane was a cheap entertainment center and the food from our fridge.

We were lucky. So lucky.

Very few individuals had the same story we did. Our story could have gone a complete different way. We could have fought our way back to New Orleans and stayed. Many people did – and many people needed to. Because that was their story.

But it wasn’t ours.

Our story was to come back up to Ruston, where we made a home. Where we are raising our daughters. Where we plugged into a church home.

I will always have a soft spot for New Orleans. I will always feel like it’s a second home to me, because, for a very brief spell, it was. When I cross Lake Pontchartrain, I feel energized. I feel like I have arrived somewhere beautiful, because it is.149798_622430273078_4763511_n

We are embarking on the 13th anniversary of Katrina, and while the date always reminds me of the hurricane, it also reminds me of the beauty of south Louisiana. The people, the food, the culture. There’s something special about Magazine Street, about Jackson Square, about Metairie and Kenner and the surrounding areas. There’s something about it that always calls to me.

We remember Katrina – but we also remember that New Orleans survived. It rose. It thrived.

And it always will.