Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mall OF America... HERE I COME!

It's been my dream or WISH since I was 37 years old.  I wanted to spend my 40th birthday at the Mall Of America, in Minnesota.  From all of my research, the majority of people say, "This is a DEFINITE bucketlist item!" I was never sure if I would really have the opportunity to go.  Anyone can dream, right? About two weeks ago, Darren came to me and said, "I have been trying to plan your birthday present, but I can't keep it a surprise anymore because there are too many details and questions I have?" "Huh?", I said? So he told me.  "I have been trying to plan your trip to the Mall Of America?" "HOLY COW!!!! NO WAY!" was my response.  Hehe. I was blessed with a new car in September.  When Darren handed over the keys he said, "Happy Thanksgiving.  Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday!!!!!! Happy Valentine's Day! Happy Anniversary!!"  So, getting a trip for my birthday, I thought, was not an option.  This man NEVER FAILS ME! 

So... on February 9th, my actual birthday, I am heading to the MOA, to spend Thursday - Sunday there. Darren wanted to come with me SOOOOOOO bad and he is actually sad that he can't go.  Our childcare, for out of town, is very limited and we just couldn't make it work this time.  So sad.  BUT, my sister Ashley, who I haven't seen in four years, is meeting me there.  At first, I really wanted to go alone, if I couldn't go with my hubby.  The only part that I was weirded out about was eating dinner, at a restaurant, by myself.  Otherwise, being alone meant doing whatever I want.  AND CATCHING UP on my sleep/blogging. I am so excited to have someone to go with though. We are going to have a blast.  
Enjoy a few funny, quirky, facts about the Mall Of America: 
1. You could fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside the Mall of America.
2. Or you could fit 32 Boeing 747s inside the Mall of America.
3. Or you could fit 258 Statues of Liberty inside the Mall of America.
4. The Mall of America has its own counterterrorism unit.
5. If you were to visit the mall and spend 10 minutes inside every store, it would take you 86   hours to complete your journey.
6. It took 13,300 tons of steel to build the Mall of America. That’s almost twice the amount it took to build that Tinkertoy the Eiffel Tower.
7. It boasts having a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium.
8. Feeding these aquatic creatures requires more than 100 pounds of food, daily.
9. It cost more than $650 million to build the Mall of America in 1992.
10. And they just confirmed a $325 million expansion of the mall. By the way, a trip to the moon costs roughly $100 million per person.
11. The Mall of America generates almost $2 billion in annual revenue for the state of Minnesota.
12. On Black Friday in 2013, 29-year-old Serge Vorobyov was “cited for disorderly conduct” for throwing $1,000 off the fourth story balcony at the Mall of America. He was inspired to do so by a GEICO commercial.
13. There is a light rail that will take you straight from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to the Mall of America. You barely have to step outside.
14. You can get married at the Chapel of Love in the Mall of America. In fact, more than 7,000 people have gotten married at the Mall of America since it opened.
15. The Mall of America used to have a high school in it! Talk about an All-American education.
16. Ever wanted to get lost? The Mall of America has one of the largest mirror mazes on the planet!
17. The Mall of America plans to install two zip lines in the very near future.
18. It has no central heating. Despite Minnesota’s hot summers and brutally cold winters, the only parts of the Mall of America that are heated are the entrances. The year-round 70 degree temperature that it averages is maintained by body heat, lighting fixtures, and solar heat from the skylights.
19. The Mall of America uses water-saving toilets. This saves 1.4 million gallons of water a year.
20. The Mall of America boasts 40 million visitors annually.
21. In lieu of pesticides, 72,000 lady bugs were released in the Mall of America to protect its tropical plant life from aphids.
22. Speaking of plant life, moving all of those trees into the Mall of America required the labor of 65 semi-trucks.
23. The Mall of America was built where Metropolitan Stadium once stood (former home of the Vikings and the Twins). There are plaques around marking where home plate was and where iconic home runs landed.
24. Allegedly, one in three visitors comes from at least 150 miles away, while 4 out of 10 visitors are tourists of some kind.
25. The Mall of America holds the world record for having the most Ninja Turtles amassed in one area. There were 836. Previous record: 786.
26. There are more than 520 stores in the Mall of America.
27. The Mall of America produces upward of 4,000 pounds of biodiesel fuel monthly from recycled fryer fat.
28. The Mall of America employs roughly 11,000 employees year round, and about 13,000 during the peak seasons.
29. Contained within two parking ramps, the Mall of America offers 12,550 on-site parking spots.
30. It’s the largest mall in the United States, 4.87 million square feet.
Ashley and I are staying at the Radisson Blu Mall Of America.  This hotel looks AH-mazing AND SOOOOOO contemporary. Just the way I like it. It's also conveniently attached to the mall, so we can drop off our bags if our arms are too full/tired and need to rest our feet for a few minutes, but not for long... haha.  I ain't wasting a moment of this opportunity.  

If we finish shopping before our time is up, after all it takes 86 hours to complete IF you spend 10 minutes in each store, then we plan to take their metro or a taxi to explore St. Paul or other parts of Minnesota.  We even have a "fancy night" planned.  Gosh... I have SOOOO much to do to prepare this home for my departure and myself for my trip! Lord Jesus give me EXTRA ENERGY!

I cannot tell you how excited I am.  Darren, I love you and I am so thankful for this opportunity.  Saying goodbye to my 30s will be just fine. 40 is just a number and truthfully, I feel like last year and this year have been my best year yet!!! It's time this BIG 40 year old girl, do BIG THINGS, like shop at the largest mall in America, until I drop!!! #SoFun #MyHusbandROCKS

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Childhood Friends!

From youngest to oldest: Kate, Lilah, Julia, Vivian, and Ansley (not in order in the photos).  They have been childhood friends since birth.  I mean, they didn't KNOW it, but they were, haha, because their mommies have been friends since they were conceived and/or born.  And now, as mentioned in a post early, one of them is moving away! Sniff, sniff.
I decided to capture their last moments in a "photoshoot".  The day was damp, dreary, wet, and COLD.  It was pretty dang hectic capturing 5 girls, with uniquely DIFFERENT personalities.  I don't recommend it unless you really can manipulate your camera well OR have a friend there to help keep things under control. I had BOTH, but it didn't seem to help. LOL! I took 317 photos and I am simply unsatisfied with the results. I am thankful to have a small handful that turned out beautiful.  I might be satisfied with 10, haha. #Perfectionist. The rest need to be put in the trash bin, but I will share more than the 10 I can smile about. 
A huge thank you to ERIN, Julia's mommy, for spotting these darling jean dresses and helping me TRY to keep them calm and collected during the "shoot".  Each girl arrived in jean dresses, scarfs, black leggings, and boots. From left to right (below): Vivian, Kate, Ansley, Julia, and Lilah.
Walking together from beginning to end, #bestfriends!
These pictures will be special to all of the girls  I am sure. They will be something to reminisce on, as they say goodbye/miss Ansley.
We saved ourselves about $350 by NOT hiring a professional.  LOL! I was hoping for ONE good one.  I think I accomplished my goal. Thoughts? One thing remains not matter what the outcome of this photo shoot was... these girls are beautiful, precious, and best friends.  As parents, we are praying for the Lord to rescue their hearts, that their joy is found in Him and Him alone, sharing the light of Christ to all they come in contact with, AND that, no matter the distance, their friendship will remain...NO MATTER what.  

FAST Bed Making!

I have been asked MULTIPLE times, by MULTIPLE people, strangers and best friends, to do a bed making tutorial.  THIS video IS NOT a bed making tutorial, BUT I did record myself, in hyperlapse, making Jax's bed.  I sure wish bed making happened this fast.  MY bed making takes a minimum of 5 minutes and some beds, in our home, take far longer 8-10 minutes. If you feel your home is messy on a daily basis, I recommend making your beds DAILY.  It makes the house feel a LOT tidier. And who the heck wants to get into a messed up bed of a LONG day's work? NOT I.

Friendship Bears!

Our dear friends, the Williams' Family, are moving to Tennessee. It was a hard reality to swallow.  When you know someone for 10 years and you have raised your children together, it's truly hard to imagine a day when you couldn't just drive over to their home, see them at church, or be a part of their lives on a weekly basis.  Our time left with them is crazy limited. Their departure is happening SO fast and everyone is grasping for every moment left to spend with them. Not to mention, they have a house to sell, a house to pack up, a house to find, and so many loose ends to tie up.  Lilah has broke down twice already. She has been writing Ansley a goodbye song.  She has notes written on her white board, in her room, that state, "I do not want Ansley to move.  She is my best friend!" It's pretty sad, but thankfully children are so resilient and slightly "out of sight out of mind", so I am hoping she will bounce back fairly quickly.  I am also praising God they aren't moving to Texas or California, but rather to Tennessee, a 3 hour car ride away.   Lilah expressed a desire to find some sort of friendship bear for them to have, to remember them by.  I suggested Build-A-Bear.  I didn't know exactly what this would look like, but I am beyond satisfied with the way it all unfolded. 

As shown above, we all know that FIRST, you pick which stuffed animal you wish to "build". Lilah and Ansley agreed to build the SAME bear.  So, so sweet. They chose a brown, candy scented bear.  It smells just like Strawberry Shortcake does.  They shopped around a little bit, just discussing what outfits they liked.  
But then, as we waiting in line to stuff the bears, I spotted the section where you can pick a voice to be inserted into the bears. I came across a "record your own voice" insert.  I didn't want to control this moment, but I offered up a suggestion that I felt they would be SO thankful for. "Hey girls, this is just a suggestion, but how sweet would it be to record a special message to each other and insert that message into each other's bears? This way, you can always hear each other's voices when you are missing one another!" They snagged that idea almost immediately.
We went in the back of the store. They were trying to come up with something special to say AND again, I tried to make it less stressful for them by offering up ANOTHER suggestion.  One of our family favorite books is "Love You Forever". There is a reoccurring theme in the book where the mommy sings to her child, during each phase of his life, 
"I'll love you forever.  I like you for always.  As long as I am living my baby you'll be."
I suggested this song and just changed the "my baby you'll be" to "my best friend you'll be".  Again, they snagged the idea almost immediately.  I am glad I could assist them.
See their sweet recordings below!
They stuffed their bears and got ready for the "heart ceremony".  
I captured this sweet moment of expresses genuine emotions and feelings as we stood in line.
They each chose to name their bears after one another.  Lilah named her bear "Ansley" and Ans named her bear "Liley Bo".  
They bathed their bears.
It's amazing how a child can find comfort in a stuffed animal.  Whatever works!
While standing line, Lilah and Ansley over heard these two telling someone that they had JUST gotten married.  When Lilah and Ansley were finalizing their outfit selections, they spotted a wedding dress and tuxedo.  They came to me and said, "that couple should buy these for their bears!"  So, I said, "Go tell them!" They did.  The couple was flattered, but still undecided.  They wanted to check out the store.  AND THEN... as we were leaving the store, they came up to us and said, "We decided to go with your suggestion girls!" I thought it was so cute.
The girls chose donut pjs and blue slippers.  "Donut you know that I will miss you?" They also purchased an adorable outfit (gold heart on a pink shirt, frilly skirt, and sparkling gold flat shoes).
Such a sweet experience.  These bears will be a helpful transition as they say "good-bye" "See you soon!"