Celebrate Good Times

So, my cooking has been less than consistent lately. This month has been chock full of celebrations for our family. My husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary;  my son, my sister, my dad, and my grandmother all had birthdays, and my sister and her husband celebrated their third wedding anniversary (don't worry, I was NOT there to crash their celebration!). It's been a whirlwind of a month, and it's been so much fun to do some special things to celebrate everyone's big days.
10 years ago
First up was our anniversary. We had a fun night out on the town after my oldest child participated in the Whitaker Elementary School Talent Show. If you know my child, you know that this was a big deal. He tends to be on the shy side, and I couldn't believe that he wanted to be a part of this event. A family friend of ours taught little George some magic. He had the full ensemble complete with a magic hat, a magic wand, and a special table on which to perform his tricks. I honestly think (actually I know) that I was more nervous than he was when he got up to perform in front of about 200 children and parents. He did an awesome job and was super proud of himself (as was I!). He even landed his first appearance on twitter from the performance! Afterwards, we dropped him at home with the other two children and our babysitter and headed out to a delicious dinner at Noble's Grille...one of our favorites! We were SO surprised when we walked in and our precious babysitter had called ahead and had the table decorated and two splits of champagne waiting for us. It was such a thoughtful gesture and started the night out on a very celebratory note!

Next on the agenda was little George's birthday. He is pretty much only into sports these days, so his party at the Soccerplex was just perfect. My sister, brother-in-law, niece, grandmother, and in-laws made the trip up for the party, and it was all hands on deck keeping the chaos to a minimum. This was the first year that my son requested a cake rather than cupcakes and that he didn't really need any decorations. After I swallowed back my tears that I would not be ordering cute decorations from Etsy to adorn his cupcakes or to decorate for a party, I headed to Lowe's to order his cookie cakes (WFU Demon Deacon cakes of course) and a few balloons (you guessed it, black & gold). I finished off my party shopping at the Dollar Tree to get tablecloths and little party favors (I really hate party favors, so I opted for mechanical pencils and mini-composition books...not too exciting for some kids but right up George's alley). Although I was sad not to do a big themed party for him this year, I must admit that this party was super easy, and it was exactly what George wanted. Let's be honest, playing soccer with some of his best buddies was party enough for him!

My brother flew in that night, and my parents arrived the next day. We were all set to celebrate Nena and her 90th birthday. What a HUGE deal! We planned a private party catered with some of her favorite foods...fried chicken (okay, it was pecan crusted but along the same vein), mashed potatoes, green beans, squash casserole, and chocolate cake (actually three....one for Nena, one for dad, and one for my sister) for dessert. My dad started out the evening with an incredibly touching speech honoring Nena, and my mom followed suit with an extremely heartfelt, special toast. We all enjoyed cocktails and good food and stories and laughs. It was a birthday miracle that the children were all entertained and well-behaved for nearly TWO hours while we celebrated our birthday girl. Again, part of me was sad to not have thrown everything together at my house and cooked this special meal along with my sister and my mom, but at the end of the day, it was absolutely perfect because we got to focus on what was important...celebrating Nena.

celebrating three birthdays
The next day was my sister's birthday. My dad made a trip to Biscuitville, and we celebrated with breakfast and another cookie cake before she and her fam had to head back to Charlotte. We also got to give my dad his birthday gifts...couldn't let his birthday be overlooked!

Later that afternoon, my husband, the boys and I headed down to Great Wolf Lodge to complete little George's birthday celebration. He won a gift certificate to Great Wolf Lodge playing Bingo, so we thought it would be perfect to use it for his birthday. It was our first trip to the Great Wolf Lodge, and it did not disappoint. We all had a blast riding down the water slides, playing in the wave pool, getting drenched by the huge bucket on the fort, and playing pool basketball. We were all thoroughly worn out at the end of 24 hours. We came home and met back up with my parents, my grandmother and my brother and we had one final night of celebration over Village Tavern take-out.

At the end of the week of celebrations when everyone had gone their separate ways to head home, my husband and I headed to Charleston for our anniversary celebration/his ten year medical school reunion. Luck would have it that the ten year reunion reception was at the same place where we had our wedding reception. We spent the weekend reliving our days pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-four moves. We ran along the Battery, we ate delicious seafood at Graze, Leon's Fine Poultry and Oysters, and one of our old favorites, The Variety Store.  We walked past First Baptist Church in downtown Charleston where we got married, we drove past our old homes, we sat in the gazebo where we danced the night before we got engaged, we danced the night away to the tunes from the same band that played at my sister's wedding in Charleston three years ago (The Mighty Kicks). It was a wonderful weekend that just reminded me where we once were and how far we have come in the past ten years. I know it's cheesy, but MAN, I love my husband!
South Carolina Aquarium then and now
This week, as I sit here thinking about all the people and moments that we celebrated this month, my heart is full. I always have a wonderful time with my family, but this time was different. Although this wasn't a "holiday" per se, the week they were here felt like one, and I thought that I might experience some of the holiday stresses...wanting everything to be perfect, wanting to make sure everyone was perfectly entertained and perfectly happy, wanting the schedule to work out just perfect, wanting the perfect family photo to document the occasion, wanting the meal to be the perfect focal point of the holiday fanfare. Let's be honest, perfection is overrated. This time, I didn't strive for perfection. It wasn't about ME, or the meals that I prepared, or about MY agenda. It was about the special moments in life that we were celebrating and the special people involved in those moments.

Something I've been striving for for a while now is to be intentional about spending quality time with friends and family. I don't want to just be around them, I want to be present when I am with them. I do love to cook, and I love a plan, but I often find myself missing out on what's going on around me because I am so focused on "the plan." I know that there is a balance, and I want to shift my focus ever so slightly from what I'm doing to who I'm doing it for. Whether it be a night at home with just the five of us or a family celebration with twenty people around the table, I want to look into the beautiful faces of those that I love and really see them, not just what needs to be done for them. Sometimes letting go is the best plan for everyone. I didn't cook one meal during this week of celebration (very out of character for me), but it was ok...it was more than ok, it was fantastic!

On that note, dinner is simmering away in the crockpot, and the sound of laughter and the basketball bouncing on the basketball court is beckoning me.  Happy Spring Break...I hope you can find some moments to "let go" and enjoy spending time with those that you love.

Happy Cooking!

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