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    The Pancake Race

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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    They've been training all summer. Every boy and girl has sacrificed and worked hard for the beginning of the season, and now it's almost time. But before their first meet, the Oak Park High School Cross Country Team has a tradition they partake in: The Pancake Race.

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    A week prior to their first invitational, before they receive their uniforms, the entire team is broken down into groups of 7 by the team captains and assigned themes. They run a course near the high school called the Pancake Course, where in the spirit of friendly competition, the individual groups of boys and girls race against one another. Their combined times decide who comes out on top. Afterwards, the parents present the team with a homemade pancake breakfast. It is a wonderful event, and one I was glad to be a part of.

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    The theme chosen by the boy and girl captains for Madeline's team was "football & cheer". The girls were the football players, and the boys, in their artfully cropped t-shirts, were the cheerleaders. The other teams had chosen some good subjects as well: the Flinstone's, Wall-E...but as I'm partial to football, I thought Madeline's team had the best one. It was all in good humor, and everyone was in high spirits as the first race began.

    The boys went first, and as the heat started to rise, I have to give it to them: these kids really work hard. They're impressive. No one stopped-no one slowed down. They drove and encouraged one another as they raced around their courses. And the parents and coaches? Following their progress along the paths, cheering them on and shouting words of support the entire way. Of course, Madeline's team had built in cheerleaders, and as the girls raced, the boys shouted the chants that they'd written for them. You have to love that team spirit.

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    I've never been as proud of my daughter as I have been these past few months. She has worked tirelessly, and with great enthusiasm, to be a good team member. You can see how much she enjoys it, and this weekend, I finally saw it up close and personal. She loves this team. In the end, she had a great run, her team did beautifully, and as it was good prep for this week's Seaside Invitational, all felt properly motivated.

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    Madeline has been involved in sports since she was a young child, but never has she found a niche quite like this. Not only does she enjoy running with her team, she's really good at it. There is a passion there that was never present in her other sports; a drive that fuels her through each exhausting practice. I say a little prayer for her every day that she never looses that fire, and that if one day, cross country is no longer for her, she finds it in another area that helps her to grow. Something tells me she'll be running for a long time. All I can hope is that wherever she finds herself, she's surrounded by coaches and team members as amazing as the ones she has now.

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    Good luck this Friday team, and GO EAGLES!!

    Hotty Toddy, Y'all!

    Friday, August 29, 2014

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    There's nothing quite like the beginning of football season. I only really follow two teams, but each are very special. I love my hometown team, the New Orleans Saints. From pre-season to the playoffs, I will cheer them on until the last minute of the fourth quarter. But if I'm to be honest, it's the Ole Miss Rebels that have the stronger hold on my heart.

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    Every game day we proudly don our red and blue. As you can see, Jackson has a few hand-me-down's tee's thanks to his sister, and he wears his favorite one for the first game of every season. Maybe I'm superstitious, but each time he puts it on we win our game! It certainly worked last night as we literally knocked the socks off Boise State. It was a pretty sound win~even with the rough first half.

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    I'm not so much invested in the technicalities of the game; it's fun to watch, especially when you're around other Rebel fans. But I do love, and deeply miss, our tailgates in The Grove. Ole Miss is known as the best tailgating school in the country. Due to the charm of the people, the rich, Southern hospitality, and the elegance of the tents draped across the lush lawn of the oak-dappled Grove, it's no wonder we're known as the pride of the South. It's the place to be and be seen.

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    I always pull out these images from Southern Living when I think of The Grove. We haven't been back in years so I don't have any current images, but if people think what you see here is an exaggeration of what goes on during game days, then you've never been to an Ole Miss game before. It really is that beautiful and the feeling you get...it's the most natural high you will ever experience. There is nothing but cheer and good spirits spilling out of one corner into another. It's pretty special!

    I can't say we'll have a perfect season, because, really, who ever does? What I can say with full confidence, though, is that our family~and all Rebel fans~are going to relish every moment of every game from beginning to the end. I hope you and yours share in that same experience!

    Hotty Toddy, y'all! Have a happy footballs season.

    The Freshman & The First Grader

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

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    School is back in session!

    After a summer that revolved around Madeline's cross country practices & trips, and Jackson's swim lessons & playdates, we are finally back in a regular routine. I'm grateful for this time of year. Much as I miss my young companions, the return to school is good for them. Reuniting with friends, expanding their minds, growing into independant people~they're all good things. I've found that it's also pretty good for me. My time at home is much more constructive. As chairwoman to Westlake Junior's huge Fall shopping event, Gingerbread Boutique, having uninterrupted time to focus on my tasks is important. While the children are at school, I can spend a few hours working on spreadsheets, catching up with vendors and other contacts. Emails can be answered without feeling pulled in too many directions. Ultimately, I can be at home taking care of whatever needs to be handled, and there is no concern that something or someone is being neglected. School gets out, and I can dedicate the rest of the day to my children.

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    There is a feeling I get about the direction of the school year after the first day, and most of the time it's on point. For Madeline, our Freshman, it's going to be a year filled with tremendous personal growth. With a zero period class and cross country right after school, her days will be very, very long. She will have to adjust and relearn how to balance homework with her academic and athletic obligations. Some of her classes are going to be challengeing, but my heart tells me she will handle them beautifully. She has a wonderful support group in us, her friends, and excelent teachers and coaches. Never have I felt more excited about a school year in my life. It's nothing tangible, only a feeling, but something tells me 9th grade is going to be phenomenal!

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    First Grade is shaping up to be a great year as well. Jackson is off to a good start, and that is very encouraging. Our sweet boy has faced some obstacles, but each time one has popped up, with proper guidance he has overcome them. Comparing yesterday with the first day of Kindergarten was night and day. A year ago he could hardly tell me what happened during his time at school. But yesterday, over a cup of frozen yogurt, he told me all about his day from start to finish. His enthusiasm was contagious and about made my heart burst! He was so happy to see his friends. He loves his new teacher. Carrying his Ninja Turtle backpack and comparing them with his friends made him feel very cool, and having his own desk? Nothing compared. I've heard the transition from Kindergarten to 1st is a big one, and in my opionion, the teacher your child has makes all the difference. Jackson is very blessed to have one that really nurtures the individial student, and shows them how to rise to the challenges ahead. It's going to be a big year for our boy, but it's going to be a really good one as well.

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    Friends, if you can't tell, I'm very optimistic about the school year ahead. I'm very excited. But I'm also in high spirits over the very first Ole Miss football game of the season tonight! The kitchen is calling and football food needs to be made.

    Hotty Toddy, y'all!

    Cousins

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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    One of the highlights of our summer was a visit with our family from Mississippi. Shannon's brother, sister-in-law, and our nephews came to California at the end of July for a family vacation, and near the end, stayed with us for a few days. It was wonderful! It's been 3 years since we'd all been under one roof, so to say it was a reunion long overdue would be an understatement. It was great catching up, sharing a few of our favorite local spots to eat and visit. But if you were to ask me what made the visit especially memorable, I would have to say it was watching the cousins catch up.

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    I said it had been 3 years since our children had seen one another~we were in Tokyo at the time. But you wouldn't have known they'd been apart for so long. They picked up right where they left off and spent every waking moment with one another. For Jackson, it was a wish come true: two other boys to play with around the clock. He was on cloud nine!

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    It was good for Madeline as well. She was being pulled between her early morning cross country practices and family time, and the three boys were so busy with one another, she usually had a few hours of down time before rejoining in their shenanigans. This brings to mind the cousin pictures we were all determined to take!

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    Three years ago while while we visited Tokyo Disneyland, we had all four children stand one in front of the other for this picture:

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    Goodness were they little! At the time, their heights were perfect for a shot like this. Now, however, they're at ages and heights where they have to do a very Brady Bunch pose to accommodate all four in a picture. All three of the older kids ad to bend over for these pictures to happen. It certainly gives you an idea of how tall they are now! It's so sweet, but it's also pretty darn funny. Take a look!

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    Jackson seems to have a favorite "go-to" for all pictures these days. I just hope he doesn't pull the face during school pictures this year! That would be something else.

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    It's been almost two weeks since our family returned home to Mississippi, and we miss them very much. We experienced Jackson's first real meltdown with their departure. He didn't want his new best friends to leave. I know Madeline and Jackson are blessed to have one another; they have a very special relationship. But I think this visit with our family was important. It reminded them how lucky they are to have such wonderful family, especially in their cousins. We've been "tagged", meaning the ball is now in court to visit Mississippi in the near future. We're crossing our fingers that we can make it early next Summer. Until then, we'll look at the pictures from our fun visit and think back on the wonderful time we all had together.

    Running Free

    Monday, August 11, 2014

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    Good morning, friends. It's been well over a month, but life has been busy. Nothing too crazy, but between a terrific family visit, camps, swim lessons, and cross country, our days have been full. I'll share over the next few days. At the moment I'm nursing a little ache in my heart.

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    Madeline has gone to Mammoth Mountain to train with half of the cross country team, and I miss her. During the winter, Mammoth is a lovely ski resort town enjoyed by many a southern Californian. In the warmer months, however, it's a haven for bikers, hikers, and as I now know, long-distance runners. Over the next 5 days it will be all about high-altitude training. For those who qualified for this trip, they'll spend much of their time bonding, learning, and running.

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    How could they not enjoy their daily runs while surrounded by this beauty? Look at that view! It's gorgeous. I wish I could have chaperoned.

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    It was a pretty gloomy morning when Madeline met up with her teammates. I looked at them, noting how awake they were despite the early hour. Maybe they were excited for their trip to a place with cooler weather and new sights. Who could blame them? Mammoth looks like a magical place. I can hardly wait to hear all about it when Madeline returns!

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    We're counting down the days until Friday. Until then, we're keeping ourselves occupied with movies, playdates, and preparing for the return to school at the end of August. Enjoy your week ahead! I'll be back to share a few things very soon.

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