Senior Celebration Despite the Pandemic, Small Town Style

Photo Credit: Sheri Thompson

Even amidst a global pandemic, our small Kansas town gave the class of 2020 Seniors a night that they will never forget. Last Sunday, the community of Caney rallied together to put on a night of celebration for the kids that have had to postpone their graduation date. While the governor specifically stated that graduations are not allowed, the school board did some quick thinking and made an unforgettable event for the kids while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. This is how the Shoot the U and Cruise Down Memory Lane for the Seniors was born.

To fully understand this event, let me first explain this small town tradition. Like many small towns, the kids of Caney spent many evenings cruising around, listening to music and waving at their friends. After driving down the main street of town, actually named 4th street, they would make a U turn at the end of the street and continue back down the street where they came from. This would lead them around the city park and then back to that same route. The fun in shooting the U was always less about the drive itself but about seeing your friends, listening to music, and showing off your vehicle. This tradition has been a part of Caney for as long as most can remember.

So, it only made sense for the Seniors to be celebrated with a Shoot the U Event. The Seniors began by lining up at the grade school, where most of them started their school career. They were allowed two vehicles per child. The kids and parents did an incredible job of putting together unique vehicles. There were kids riding in the back of trucks (one in a recliner in the truck bed!), kids on trailers, in convertibles, jeeps, cars, ATV’s and so much more. Vehicles were decorated with balloons and signs, and chalk paint, etc.

While the Seniors and their families traveled down 4th Street, the streets were lined with spectators. (While practicing social distancing of course). There were aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers and neighbors snapping photos and cheering the kids on. Before shooting the U, each child was announced, as well as sports and clubs they were part of during their high school career, what scholarships they received and what their future plans are. Photos were taken, and it was broadcast via Facebook live for the people that couldn’t be there and for everyone to view later.

After this, they traveled down the road to the football stadium and then the high school to receive additional gifts. There were photos taken and goody bags given. Awards were handed out. Yard signs and photo plaques were given to each child. Photo banners hung on the highway.

Also, it didn’t stop with the school administration. The entire community did an incredible job to create an unforgettable night. The local gas station donated $5 in gas for the event for each senior. Sonic donated a free drink to each senior and Big G’s, the local burger place, donated one ice cream cone coupon per senior.

While these kids had to miss out on so many things for their last year for high school, and nothing can ever make up for that, I truly believe that this helped soften the blow. There is nothing quite like living in a small town. Especially when someone is in need. I have watched this town rally together so many times over the course of my life and I had no doubt that they would love our kids just as fiercely as always.

Easy Sign Making with vinyl and PVPP

I know everyone is bored in the house and looking for DIY projects, so I thought I’d share one of my favorites. I love to use vinyl as a stencil to make signs. I use what is called the paint, vinyl, paint, peel method. (PVPP)

I start off by painting a piece of wood the color that I want my lettering to be. This sign was burgundy with white lettering so I painted the board white first and let it dry.

While it dried I cut out the letters with some permanent grade vinyl that I wanted for my sign. Next I laid them out to make sure they fit. After I made sure they fit and I measured I attached the vinyl to the wood using transfer tape.

And then I painted over the vinyl letters with white paint. You want to use the same color paint first on the board so it will create a good deal. This helps prevent leaking.

After that coat of paint dries, paint over everything with your board color. This took a few coats.

Once the paint has a little bit of time to get tacky I peel off the letters using a wedding tool. I did have a small amount of leaking under the vinyl due to the amount of coats I needed, so I used a small brush to touch up those spots.

And ta da! I let it dry for a few hours and then it was ready to go to it’s new home.

Banana Ice Cream

Have you ever taken something super healthy and ruined it by making it even more delicious? That’s what I did tonight, whoops. I learned about this recipe the other night at an online Tupperware party. Thanks to the zillions of frozen bananas in my freezer I had to try it out.

What you need:

  • 5-6 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup milk
  • a handful of chocolate chips

Throw the bananas and the milk in a blender, blend together. Stir in chocolate chips.

I made two batches because I had a ton of bananas. Then we threw it in the freezer for about an hour. We put chocolate syrup and caramel on ours because well, yolo.

It’s cold today but this will be a great summer treat!

A letter to my 2020 Senior

My sweet Rachel. You came into the world in August of 2002. What should have been the beginning of my senior year of high school was actually my first taste of motherhood. To say that we grew up together is a gross understatement. I went from being a teenager girl without a plan for her life to being the mother of a bald headed blonde baby doll. The moment I held you for the first the first time, it changed me. I realized that I had self worth. I saw that I had someone else to live for. I knew that as long as I had you, everything was going to be ok. And, somehow, I was right. We have made it through so many things throughout the course of your life. Some days I look back and cringe because I wish I could have given you something easier and more stable. A cookie cutter family with a white picket fence. No traveling back and forth on weekends. Just a normal life with no worries or conflict.

But, I have to remember this is just as much part of your story as it is mine. Being raised by a divided family for all those years likely taught you as much as it taught me. I just hope you know that you are loved by all of us, both sides of your family, and we are all rooting for you to succeed. You’ve grown from a blonde haired freckle faced kid that loves video games and art to this amazing young lady that is going to use art and technology to start your next chapter, as an auto body mechanic. (Seriously, I cant get over how bad ass of a career choice this is.)

I hate the fact that your senior year was ruined by this virus. I know you were looking forward to prom so much. And graduation! We should be watching you walk across the stage in a couple of weeks, but instead we are waiting and watching to see if there will be a formal graduation ceremony once our state opens back up. I hate the uncertainty that you are facing. I hate that you’ve applied to your tech school but don’t even know if school will be opening in fall. What kind of weird life is this now? When you tell your kids about this one day they will likely look at you like you have three heads. Be sure to tell them that we had to wear masks to the grocery store too. And that parks were closed. They will think you’ve lost your mind and maybe have you put in a nursing home.

In just a couple of weeks you will be wrapping up your senior year and you will be moving on to the next stage of your life. In all honesty, that kind of shares the hell out of me but also, I am so excited for you. I hope and pray that this stupid pandemic will remind you to take nothing for granted. Life is short and tomorrow isn’t promised.

Here are some things it’s helped me realize:

  • Don’t rush growing up. It’s really not that fun anyway.
  • Go to school for what you want to do and then if you hate it?! The world won’t end. Do something else. At least you’ll know.
  • Travel while you don’t have kids to worry about dragging along (or leaving behind with your mom).
  • Eat food that you love and don’t have to share with anyone… and while you still have a decent metabolism. But also eat some veggies sometimes too.
  • Decorate your house the way you want because you are the one that has to look at it every day. Trends go away and you’ll get sick of looking at your farmhouse decor while living in the middle of town.
  • Maybe develop some healthy habits like drinking water and exercising so that you won’t be forced to later in life when it’s a lot harder to make changes.
  • Find something you love to do and do it. It doesn’t have to be a side hustle or even related to your career. If playing video games makes you happy awesome, or painting, or reading or whatever… find what that thing is and make time for it every week. Don’t lose sight of who you are and what makes you happy in pursuit of paying the rent.
  • Your family is always here for you. Even if they are kind of annoying or a total mess sometimes, we love you and we are always your safe place. ❤️

I can’t wait to see you finally walk across that stage and celebrate your accomplishments. (Even if it’s just the 5 of us.) You have made me so damn proud. Corona may have messed up your senior year but I promise you, these are not the best years of your life anyway. They are just a step stone to take you where you need to go next…. and I can not wait to see what is waiting for you next.

Pandemic Update

Oh my goodness. Hi. Hello. The world is closed. So… weird, right? I’m on day 37 of social distancing. I still maintain that I am definitely an introvert and I really do enjoy being at home, but maybe only on my own terms. I sure do miss buying overpriced coffee and wandering around Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx while my children are at SCHOOL. Not at home with me every freaking day. Asking me to open fruit snacks and complaining about being bored. I do not love asking 867935626235.2 times a day if all of their school assignments have been turned in. I am not made for the homeschool life at all. I have a senior that is missing so many lasts. I have a 7th grader that lives for sports and is a social butterfly. I should be complaining about how much time we are spending at the ball field right now. AND we have a 3 year old that doesn’t understand what is going on, but she knows that school is closed and she does dance classes on mommy’s laptop now.

When all of this started, I was a little bit excited. What! 2 weeks at home! “I’m going to finish projects and get caught up and oh my gosh I’m going to be so productive.” Uh, nope. Actually I’m going to spend this time worrying about my kids and their sanity and maybe cry 8 times a day because everything is so fucked.

I have to do lists and those items just move from one day to the next. It’s been a month and I haven’t decluttered our entire house or written a novel or made so many things for my flea market booths that they will be overflowing. I haven’t restocked my etsy shop or lost 12 pounds or anything. Hell, this is the second blog post I’ve even attempted. And I HATE that but some things are more important.

It’s ok that I haven’t changed the world, because instead I’ve embraced so many things. I’ve spent time with my kids. We have baked and hung out and talked. I’ve played with my toddler. We had smores around the fire pit. We have talked about feelings and fears and anxiety and depression. We have laughed. We took pandemic porch pictures.

My car isn’t racking up a zillion miles because it’s sitting instead of running to town 2-3 times a day. The gas I’m saving is crazy.

I’ve exercised 40 days in a row.

We are eating healthier because we aren’t eating out, basically ever. We have gotten take out 2 times in over a month. I am sick of cooking my own meals, but my body appreciates it.

We aren’t spending a ton of money because I’m not running to walmart 2 times a week and buying random impulse things. I make a list throughout the week and then do grocery pickup.

Everyone is getting more sleep. I love not getting up at 6:30 in the morning. I’m going to be spoiled and ruined when school starts again.

A lot of these changes are going to come into play with how I live my life after this is over. There are things I love and things I took for granted (like date nights with my hubby!).

It’s easy to look at this situation and think of all the downsides. What we are missing out on. What we have had taken away. (prom, graduation, vacations, etc.) but try to be grateful too. We are getting a chance to slow down in at least one area of our lives.

However, it’s ok to be sad too. Crying is ok. Being sad and angry is ok. Your feelings are valid and even though other people have it worse than you, that doesn’t dismiss your feelings. Own them. Deal with them and then take a deep breath and think about all the things you have to be thankful for. You can do hard things. We are going to make it through this.

How are you doing?

Sand Alphabet Dig

Thanks to the Corona outbreak, my kids have now been out of school for going on three weeks. My older kids are still waiting for the school to finalize their plan for continuing education, but my toddler is BORED. She doesn’t understand that we won’t be going back to school this year. So, I decided this is a good opportunity to put my Early Childhood Degree to good use.

The biggest thing to remember with young kids (and probably older kids too now that I think of it) is that they learn so much through play. I will not be sitting my three year old down to work on a bunch of worksheets. We may throw one in here and there but the most important thing I can do is let her play!

This activity is super easy. Here’s what I used:

  • Sand
  • A plastic tub
  • Letter magnets
  • A piece of paper
  • Page protector (optional)
  • A marker
  • Shovel and sifter

I had all of these things on hand. If you don’t have sand you would use rice or rocks or beans or dirt or whatever you can find. Be creative!

I started with writing her name on the paper and covering the paper with a page protector. This isn’t necessary but it’ll make the paper last longer.

Then we dumped the sand in the tub, and added the letters. I stirred them around to bury them.

Then I explained what we were doing and let her go for it!

Also, remember that their attention span is not super long so if they don’t actually finish it’s OK. My kid gave up after finding a few letters and now she is burying herself in sand. 🤷🏻‍♀️ The point is that we played, and we did something new. (And it wasn’t on the iPad! Score!)

An Afternoon in New Orleans

Recently, my hubby and I took a Carnival Cruise out of New Orleans, LA. Basically the whole entire reason why we chose NOLA as our port was so that we could see a little bit of the city before taking off.

When we pulled into NOLA we were starving, so we went straight to the French Quarter. Hi, don’t be like us. Eat a damn Snickers or something because being hangry and trying to find parking in a new city is frustrating as hell. We ended up DRIVING DOWN BOURBON STREET which meant that I’m surprised my husband didn’t divorce me then and there. Just because. The streets are tight, there are cars everywhere. It’s all confusing. Find a parking place before heading into the Quarter. A little walking isn’t so bad. Just be prepared to pay for parking no matter where you park.

Once we were out of the car, it was 100% worth it. I have some kind of fascination with old buildings and the French Quarter has plenty. It was a little rainy, but still comfortable outside. I loved taking in the sights.

We settled on a cool little restaurant named Bourbon Heat for our lunch. They had live entertainers at 1:00 in the afternoon singing jazz music, the employees were dancing in the front of the building welcoming customers. It was an amazing expericence. And this view.

Our lunch view at Bourbon Heat.
Gator Po Boy

My Gator Po Boy was incredible. After eating we walked around a bit before heading back to the car. We had to make a quick Walmart run for things I forgot.. when we pulled up we discovered that we had a construction nail in our tire. So we ran to a tire shop (NTB) where they informed us that the tire was too thin to patch, we would need a new tire, and they didn’t have any in stock…. So we were basically SOL in NOLA… So, down the road we went. We went to NOLA Tire who patched us, and checked all the remaining tires and gave me a free valve cap for my missing one. For less than 20 dollars and we were out in 20 minutes.

After that fun little disaster was over, we went to check into our hotel room. We booked a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites Convention Center. It was a little far from the French Quarter to be walking there, but I would 100% stay there again. The hotel was gorgeous. We were close to the downtown area so we had food, sight seeing and we could walk down to the Riverwalk Marketplace for beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Also, they shuttled us to and from the port for our cruise… and kept our car in their parking lot. It was the very best service.

I loved this square across from the hotel.
The Scrap House
Any insight on this would be great! I can’t find any information!

Walking to the River Street Market was definitely a highlight of our trip. I loved seeing the Scrap House Monument and doing some people watching. But the real treat was Beigents and Coffee from Cafe Du Monde. They tasted like a giant piece of funnel cake and were pretty much heavenly. After we ate we bought t-shirts for the kids and walked back to our room.

For dinner we trotted down the street for some pizza at Tommy G’s. Justin had a Buffalo Chicken Pizza and I had Lobster Ravioli with Nola Cosmo. Probably the best Lobster Ravioli I’ve ever had.

All in all we had a good time in NOLA and I think everyone should visit there at least once. I have friends that love it there. I’m more of a small beach town girl, but I love seeing new places and beautiful old buildings so NOLA was a must see. I wish we would have had more time to explore the French Market and the French Quarter a little more, but I had to remind myself that this was just a stop along to the way to our first cruise!

Have you ever been to New Orleans?

Book Review: Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire By Jen Hatmaker

Hello my friends! It’s me. Fresh out of my reading cocoon that I have been rolled up in all night while finishing Jen Hatmaker’s newest book: Fierce, Free and Full of Fire.

I was recently honored with the opportunity to help launch Jen Hatmaker’s newest book baby. This mean that I received an advance copy of the book so I can tell the world what I think of it. Well, hello, I knew I would love it because, Jen Hatmaker.

I started following Jen on social media and reading her books (generally in one sitting) probably five years ago. I was immediately drawn to her humor.. I honestly had no idea that Christians were even allowed to be funny. I guess I thought they were supposed to only talk about Bible Verses and eat communion wafers. Little did I know that they could write hilarious words that speak to my soul and make me feel a little less alone in this giant, weird world.

I’ve always been one of the first in time to read Jen’s newest work. I’m also a member of her book club. I promise I’m not a weird stalker but it kinda sounds like that’s where this is headed. Anyway, when the chance arose to be on her launch team, it was a no brainer.

I received my digital copy of her book and dove right in. After reading the first two chapters, I read them over again because they were that good. And it was a good thing because this quote hit me harder and deeper the second time around.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the life I want to lead. I want to love and have open arms. I am sick of the judgy crap that turns me away from the church so fast it makes my neck hurt. I love my current church and I am so grateful for them, but damn, some of my previous church experiences make my heart hurt. What if I had give up? What if I had believed that God didn’t love me because I’m not perfect? This isn’t ok.

Jen covers so many topics and I’m sure it was all written with me in mind since we are obviously the best of friends. She talks about owning who you are, body imagine, deserving to be treated right, parenting and marriage and so many things. There is help in this book for all of us.

I am ready to put these things into practice. Some, I have already started. Some I need to sit down and chew on for a minute.

I highly, super mega encourage you to add this one to your list. Order the pre-order. You won’t regret it!

*This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase anything through my link I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

10 Things I learned on my first cruise

So… we just got back from a Carnival cruise about two weeks ago and the first thing I said was “we probably won’t go on another one…” Right? Well guess who booked another cruise for next December for our 10th anniversary? Yep, that’s me. Obviously the last one was a trial run and a good opportunity for us to learn things for next time. Here are the things I definitely learned for next time:

  1. Bring a plug adapter. We have one plug in our room. Not one outlet. One plug. We could charge our phones on our multi USB port OR we could use our fan. I ordered this one from amazon. It has USB’s and outlets so I’m already loving it. It’ll be a permanent part of my travel stuff now.
  2. Don’t bring 1000 pairs of shoes. I ended up wearing my sandals, flip flops and sneakers. My ankle boots and high heels were basically a waste of luggage. However, I will probably bring water shoes for excursions. The shore at Mr. Sancho’s was hard to walk on barefoot.
  3. While we are at it, chill with overpacking of productive stuff. I brought 3 books, my laptop (for the car trip, never opened it) and my ipad. I read one chapter in one book and touched nothing else. I joked that it was in case I caught Corona Virus and had to be quarantined for two weeks. This did not happen. (Thank God)
  4. I did not need a blanket. I bring one when we travel because my husband likes the hotel room to be 23 degrees. The cabin wasn’t hot, but also not cold. And if you ask for an extra blanket they will get you one.
  5. We did not need towels. I packed beach towels for Cozumel. The ship leaves towels for you to use on deck or at port. You just have to return them. That room we could have saved in my suitcase would have been fantastic.
  6. Just because you have the drink package (which is highly recommend) doesn’t mean you have to “get your monies worth”. 6 mojitos after dinner was maybe too much. I did love the drink package though. No worrying about budgeting. And it includes soda, and specialty coffee. Order a drink and don’t like it? Who cares. Order something else.
  7. We did bring a small fan. I have trouble sleeping in total silence. And it keeps the air in the room moving. We got this one from amazon.
  8. If you want a snack, get it before 11 pm. After 11 Pizza was the only thing opened and I did not love the pizza on the Valor.
  9. The photo package is not a must do. We bought a photo package for $99. After formal night we looked at our pictures and decided that we wasted our money. Some photos were good but not anything I was dying to purchase. We had to really search to choose our 5 photos, and that was after having a few drinks and running from backdrop to backdrop getting goofy photos on the last available night. Next time we will just purchase one or two as needed.
  10. Enjoy and relax. Your first cruise is a learning experience. Once you’ve been on one you know what to expect for the next one!

Cruise Recap: Sea Day #2

Recently, my hubby and I went on our first cruise. We left from New Orleans with Carnival and visited Cozumel, Mexico. Recap from Port Day here.

On our second Sea Day and really the last day of our cruise, I may have woken up with a slight hangover. Turns out trying to “get your monies worth” of your drink package by drinking 6 mojitos in 6 hours isn’t a great idea. Who would have thought. Weird.

Basically, I spent most of the day napping, sipping Sprite and feeling like garbage. The effects of eating junk for three days were catching up with me so I went in search of a salad from the buffet. I had no idea the buffet would be so good! I was able to make a huge salad. Getting some vegetables in my stomach made me feel human almost immediately. Next time I will for sure be utilizing the buffet more.

The rest of the day was spent walking around and watching. People watching, searching for dolphins (no luck!) and just enjoying our last bit of Sea Time.

After our last dinner with our friends we went to pick up the last of our photos from our photo package. And we watched a couple of shows. There was an 80’s Rock Show in the theater and 90’s night in the lobby. They were both really good. Also, we caught part of the comedy show. So funny and definitely not kid friendly. I feel like this is the night I finally relaxed a bit. The rocking of the boat was still annoying but less bothersome.

I will say I am so glad our dinnermates warned us of what to expect when the boat turned into the Mississippi River. We were standing by the photo lab waiting to pick up pictures when we made the turn. Everyone leaned hard to the right and even knowing to expect it I was still kinda wondering if I was going to have to learn to swim real quick.

Last but not least we ran to the deli and got sandwiches for a late night snack. We were so over the pizza and refused to be be fooled by not making it there before 11 again. They were sold out of many things, but I was able to get a grilled cheese sandwich so I was happy as any 8 year old could be.

The next morning was disembarkation day! We woke up early (6!) and got ready to go back to reality. We had packed the night before so all we had to do in the morning was get ready and get our alcohol. (They keep any alcohol you buy in Mexico and you can pick it up in the morning.) Justin went to get our booze while I put on my makeup and did my hair. They start letting people off at 7:30, and they want you out of your stateroom by 8:30 so as soon as I was ready we went to the buffet to get some breakfast and wait for our turn. We were on the second floor and they start letting people from the first floor off first. It helps to carry your own luggage too. Otherwise, if you check your bags you will be waiting a while.

Our floor was called by 8:00 and we were outta there. Once we went through customs we called the hotel to pick us up. We had stayed in the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown Convention Center. They let us leave our car parked there for $14 a day. When they dropped us off our car was ready and waiting for us. Perfection. We were on the road home in no time.

Just because this is the end of our recap doesn’t mean it’s the end! Stay tuned. Next time I will share a summary of all my tips and tricks I learned on this trip. Plus, I need to share our time in NOLA!

See You Soon!