About laurenstoddard

former teacher turned stay-at-home mommy to two beautiful girls and three big mutts.

don’t hate me…

Don’t hate me! Please!

I’m going back to my old blogspot account! I missed it too badly. I will still keep this one for a bit – maybe I’ll use it for non-mommy-related posts…maybe not.

Sorry for the jumping around, and thanks for reading!

http://www.laurenandmommyhood.blogspot.com is where it’s at! Come find me!

Advertisements

WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!

If you know Carlyn, you know her obsession with Disney and the Disney princesses. Well, last year, my mother kept insisting that we take Carlyn to Disney World. Andrew and I fought it at first – we thought she was too young. Then Mom came up with the idea that we could pick my dad up from the cruise he was going on in June, and we could go to Disney World after that. We told Carlyn about it and started semi-planning until we realized my cousin was getting married then. We put the plans on hold. From that day on, I kid you not…Carlyn asked every day if we could go to Disney World. I know that she had no clue what was there, but she still asked. Finally, one day in November, she asked me…and I broke. I called my mom and Andrew and told them that I didn’t care how it happened, but I could not listen to her ask that question anymore – we were GOING to Disney World. I contacted a “Disney consultant” that friends of mine used to book their Disney trips, and we set the plans in motion. We collaborated with Santa, and we ended up using it as the girls’ Christmas present. I stressed and stressed about how to tell them – I just KNEW Carlyn would flip out, and we would be the next big viral sensation! Well, that didn’t happen (you can’t expect anything out of children – they always give you the opposite!).  I – I mean, Santa – had a note attached to a Tinkerbell ornament that was left near the cookie plate. It told the girls to find a present in the pantry, and then that present had a note with a poem on it that told them to look behind the chair, then that present was another poem that told them to look in their tent in the playroom…and in that present were two suitcases and two tickets to Disney World!! Carlyn screamed once and then asked to keep playing with her makeup vanity. :/ However, she still was very excited, and we made a paper chain to count down the days. We left January 21 and returned January 24th. My parents also came along!

We drove all the way to Orlando and checked in the hotel – the All Star Movies resort. It was a value resort on Disney’s property, and we are glad we stayed there! They had lots of fun activities going on all the time. People were swimming while we were there, and Carlyn was so sad because I didn’t bring their swimsuits – with it being January, I wasn’t expecting the weather to be so nice! The last day, Mom let Carlyn swim in her clothes. Oh well. 🙂

We went during a time where the dining plan was FREE, so we had a character meal every day, as well as a “quick service” meal and a snack in the parks! We had every meal provided except for breakfast. We just ate granola bars and snacks in the morning and then hit the road!

The first day, we went to Magic Kingdom. As we walked in, I have to admit – I teared up! I was so excited. We immediately jumped in line for the princess meet-and-greet, and the girls met Cinderella, Belle, and Aurora. We then moved on to FantasyLand and rode pretty much everything there – the carousel, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight (AWESOME ride!), Winnie the Pooh, It’s a Small World, Mickey’s PhilHarMagic, and more. We also made our way to Rapunzel’s FairyTale Garden and Carlyn got to spend time with Rapunzel! She didn’t like waiting, but it was worth it – it was wonderful. She said that was her favorite part of the trip. We also watched “Dream Along with Mickey” – a show put on at Cinderella’s Castle – and we watched the parade later on. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean and walked around Adventureland, where Carlyn got to meet Peter Pan! (She told him he was beautiful.) Mom and Daddy watched the girls while Andrew and I rode Space Mountain. We had to leave early that afternoon to get to our first character meal – dinner with Cinderella, the Prince, Lady Tremaine, and Anastasia and Druzilla at 1900 Park Fare! They come to your table, take pictures, and sign your autograph book. Carlyn loved the prince. We then made our way back to the room.

The second day, we went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here we saw a Disney Jr. puppet show, watched an Ariel play, rode Toy Story Mania, rode the Great Movie Ride, and more. We ate lunch here with several Disney Jr. characters – Oso, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates, June from Little Einsteins, and Handy Manny. Carlyn loved this one – the characters danced and sang, and she had a blast going up there with them! Us adults rode a ride here called Aerosmith’s Rock and Roller Coaster, and that was super fun. It was Andrew’s favorite. Speaking of Andrew…we also went to the Indiana Jones stunt show while at HS, and Andrew was called on stage to be an “extra”. He had to dress up, and then the guy called him out to pretend he was the bad guy and act out his death scene! Andrew was hilarious – of course – but Carlyn SOBBED in the audience! She didn’t like that man shooting her daddy in the belly! It was pretty funny. Blakely and I enjoyed the parade here while Carlyn, Gigi, Papa, and Daddy rode Star Wars. That night we grabbed dinner at the hotel and went to bed early.

The third day was spent at Animal Kingdom. We hopped on the safari as soon as we got there, and loved it! The giraffes went NUTS and tried to charge the bus – it was crazy! The guide said she had never seen that before. We also rode Expedition Everest (the adults, anyway), watched a Nemo musical, traveled on a train to the Conservation Station where the girls got to brush goats and pigs, and more. We left that afternoon before the parade and went back to the hotel. We enjoyed some drinks by the pool while Blakely took a nap, and then we went to our third character meal – Chef Mickey’s! This was super fun and we got to meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. Then, we said goodbye to Gigi and Papa – they got up early the next morning to head home.

The last day, we went to Magic Kingdom again. We only stayed a few hours, but it was perfect. We were able to see the characters arrive on the train before they opened the gates, and we headed straight to meet Tinkerbell. After meeting Tinkerbell, we went to meet Jasmine and Aladdin. Carlyn freaked a little around Aladdin, so he hid while she talked to Jasmine. She eventually warmed up and talked to him, too. We rode the magic carpets, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates AGAIN (this was so funny, because this was the one ride I wanted to ride again, but I figured it was too scary – however, Carlyn insisted on riding this again too! Like Mother, like daughter.), the Haunted Mansion, and the Spinning Teacups. The girls also danced in the Move It! Shake It! Street Party, and had a blast. We shopped around a little bit and then left around lunchtime. We drove home that night.

We had SUCH a great time. Everything was perfect, and we are already planning our next trip!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

church

Wow, have we been on a rollercoaster of a ride as far as church goes.

I grew up going to church. Until my senior year of high school, my family attended Rocky Creek Baptist Church…the same church my grandparents and great-grandparents attended. I have memories of sitting in the balcony with Dolla (my paternal grandmother), eating peanut M&M’s and tracing our hands on the backs of offering envelopes. (My sister and I also had one of our most memorable spankings after church one Sunday night – apparently we were playing in the balcony and kicking our feet up over the top of the pew! I guess we deserved it!) We were Southern Baptists that were there every Sunday and Wednesday. I went on all of the youth trips, I knew everyone…in fact, my lifelong friends were from church. We joined Simpsonville First Baptist when I was a senior in high school, and that was tough. It wasn’t the same as going to the church I grew up in. I was forgotten when they did the senior recognition service, and it was heartbreaking for me. However, that incident led to me becoming very close to the youth pastor, Steve, so it wasn’t a total disappointment.

I went on to college and attended Newspring Church while I was at Clemson. Newspring completely changed the way I thought about the church. They were contemporary, and at the time, they were meeting at Anderson College (now Anderson University). They played secular music and their pastor was not afraid to address subjects that no other pastor I knew would talk about. For example, I still remember the Sunday he discussed his former addiction to pornography. I had NEVER heard a pastor talk about anything like that, so I was shocked. However, his candidness that day forever shaped the way I looked at addiction and sin. It was like a light had dawned on me – I realized that just because something is a struggle for one person, that doesn’t mean another is facing the same temptation. However, just because we might be inclined to lean toward one particular sin doesn’t mean that we should just give in and live that way…it means we will have to fight harder than others to overcome it, and that’s what we need to do. I am forever thankful to him for that.

While in college, I had an epiphany about my faith – I had all of this inner turmoil, and I specifically remember the moment I found Phillipians 4:6-7. The Lord spoke to my heart then, and I was never the same. I knew that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, and if I believe the Bible – which I do – I needed to be involved in a church.

Anyway, once I graduated and moved back home – now married, in my little apartment with my husband and dog – we went back to Simpsonville First Baptist. In fact, I was their youth intern that summer. It was a great learning experience for me, as I had not seen the inner workings of a church up close. I also learned that although I am not naturally inclined to seek out relationships with students, I love planning and organizing events, and trying to find solutions for weaknesses I noticed. Once summer ended, Andrew and I became involved in a married couples’ Sunday School class, and things were hunky dory….for a while. Things happened, and we decided to visit other churches. That’s when we ended up at SFBC’s West Campus. The first Sunday I cried twice – once in Sunday School, and once in service. I knew we were in the right place. We got involved and ended up leading a small group. We were there for a little over a year – maybe 2? – but once Blakely was born, we were accidentally/purposely (we still don’t know) replaced as leaders. (I think they were trying to give us more space so we didn’t get burned out – oops!) We ended up visiting Newspring again with my sister, and were immediately hooked – we weren’t planning to leave SFBC, but we couldn’t deny that the Lord was calling us to Newspring. However, as we tried to get involved…it never worked out. I volunteered in the office a few times in Anderson, but that was FAR. Andrew tried greeting but they basically said if he could make it, great. We tried NS Greenville and just didn’t feel a peace about it. However, we didn’t tell anyone about this. We loved the sermons, so we were trying to work through it….and as this happened, we ran into a few people. First, I ran into our old friends, Stephanie and Russell at Moe’s. Somehow church came up, and they mentioned they were going to Capstone, a small church in Fountain Inn (we live in Fountain Inn, by the way). I was like, “oh, that’s great” and asked a few questions, but like I said…we were happy at Newspring! I then saw Walt. Walt and I grew up together at Rocky Creek, and he is the pastor at Capstone now. He mentioned the church and I told him I was happy for him, etc., etc. Small talk, basically.  I didn’t really think much of these encounters until we kept feeling the call to get more involved in church, and it just wasn’t happening at Newspring. At this point, I emailed Tracy Estes. Tracy and Chris were members at SFBC with us, and were active in the youth ministry. They also helped get a Sunday School class started for us specifically – they had us and another couple over for dinner to talk about what we were looking for in a class, and worked to get that for us. (Thank you, Tracy!) However, they were now at Capstone, and I didn’t really know why, but I emailed her to check things out there. I told her we were interested in maybe visiting, and she was very excited. I remember she invited us to a Discovery class they were doing to learn more about the church, but we had gone through that with Newspring, and I knew it was more for people looking to become members, so I declined. I did plan for us to visit one Sunday, though, so we were looking forward to it.

THAT THURSDAY, Steve (the youth pastor I mentioned above) called. He came by our house and said for some reason, our names were on his heart, and he basically came by to ask us for help with his youth program. I was thinking, “no way!” and I told him we were visiting Capstone that Sunday. Well, guess what? I got a horrible stomach bug and couldn’t go! The bug was in our ear about helping with the youth at that point, and so we broke down and went back to SFBC. (I wrote more about this journey here.)

Ultimately, it didn’t work out. Some things did work…Steve and I talked a LOT about ideas I had for the youth program, and he tried to implement them. I hope the ministry benefited from us being there for the short amount of time we served! However, Andrew and I had such turmoil in our hearts, we could not stay.

So, we were back to square one. I (again) emailed Tracy, and this time, I talked to Walt as well. They both welcomed a visit to Capstone, so we tried it one Sunday in June.  When we walked in, it reminded us of a smaller-scale Newspring. I was pleasantly surprised to see Laura and Chris Barrineau – Chris was the youth minister at Trinity United Methodist when I was in high school, and that’s where a lot of my friends went. I played on his basketball team and I even went on a trip to Awanita with Trinity. Laura led a group of my friends in a Bible study at Carolina Fine Foods before school, and I went. (I even have a journal she gave me – she wrote the sweetest note in there, even though I was a newbie and she didn’t know me very well!) Also, when I was checking my kids in, I saw a teacher from REC that I knew, and during the service, we saw a couple that we met randomly while we were still at SFBC. We met them as we were moving a friend out of her house…Hunter and Jenny knew her former boyfriend, and came to help as well. That stuck out to me, because they really didn’t know Megan all that well – they just knew she needed help. I remember seeing the Capstone sticker on their car, and we talked about church a little bit as we were eating lunch that day. It was a seemingly small encounter that I definitely remembered as we came to Capstone.

No one pressured us that day to come back, although Walt and Tracy followed up with us later on. We kept attending, and as we learned more about what Capstone believed in, what they supported, how they ran things…we felt confirmation at every turn. Before we attended Capstone but as we were struggling in the other churches, Andrew and I consulted Scripture…and a line from Crazy Love by Francis Chan stood out to us. Paraphrasing here – he says that if someone was stranded on a desert island with the Bible, they would have a RADICALLY different view of church than we do in America today. That’s true! How much do our churches look like the churches Paul describes in Acts? Not much. We realized that, and prayed for a church that was striving to be what Jesus called for. Well, we found it.

Walt and Betsy met with us to discuss our take on Capstone over dinner, and I also met with Laura B. to talk about where we’ve been, what the Lord was doing with us, and what we could offer at Capstone. They were excited about the possibility of us ending up there, and definitely wanted to use us if this is where the Lord was calling us to be. (However – as I did get involved and then later needed to step back as my anxiety took over in the fall – they were the first ones to support and pray for me. That meant so much!) The staff and leaders are humble – they will openly admit they aren’t perfect, they are willing to listen and change the way things work if it’s not ideal…yet, they will stand up for the right thing and are unashamed of the Gospel. They constantly strive to be the church that Christ calls them to be. The building isn’t fancy, the people are casual…but I have never been to a church where people are this genuinely excited to be there. Lives are changing at Capstone, and it shows.

We finally became PARTNERS Saturday (not members – partners!), and we couldn’t be more pumped. Sunday was the 3rd birthday for Capstone, and Walt announced that we’ve given away over $100,000 in the first three years. THAT IS AMAZING. We are a young church, obviously…but people have a heart for the Gospel, and we are willing to be radical about it. It is so exciting to be a part of this…something is stirring in Fountain Inn, and it’s not about Capstone – it’s about Jesus!!!!

As I look back on our long, winding journey, I realize that EVERY SINGLE THING that happened to us, happened for a reason. Every experience at SFBC and every experience at Newspring has made us the people we are today, and I pray that Christ will use these experiences for His glory as we serve at Capstone. Thank you, Lord!

**If you are interested in learning more about Capstone, check out our website HERE….or just ask me!

**Also, “like” us on Facebook for more updates. You can watch sermons and more!

what I don’t want to do

It’s a NEW YEAR, which means everyone is thinking about one thing – their resolutions.

Call me a realist, but I get kind of annoyed with the new year. I can hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, “It’s just another day…”

Anyway, I still think about my goals for the year. I decided to make a list of things I DON’T want to do this year. I’m sure there are more, but it’s just what was on my mind, and I didn’t want to say I’m going to do something that I might not follow through with…it just sets me up for failure! 🙂 So here goes.

I DON’T WANT TO…

1. Talk about people. I read Scripture over and over about how the tongue is destructive, our lives should be holy and blameless, and how we shouldn’t judge others (read James for a real kick in the pants)…so I really need to watch it.

2. Waste time. I make lists of things to do (in my head, on paper, on my phone…you name it). However, I get overwhelmed easily, so I usually spend a lot of time trying to decide what I need to do first. I also want to take advantage of my time with my kids and husband – which means no TV, not on my phone, etc. I need to work on this.

3. fall off the Weight Watchers wagon. The holidays were hard, and I wasn’t great at counting my points…in fact, a few pounds crept back on. Thankfully, they are coming back off, and I just hope I can stick to the plan even if I slip up every once in a while. I have to keep my focus on the prize – getting healthy! I also don’t want to stop exercising – it’s easy to get into a rut and be lazy! I don’t want that to happen!

4. do things for the wrong reason. I want to be authentic, real, and passionate about things that truly matter to me…and I don’t want to spend time focusing on things that are not what God has intended for my life. I know it’s hard to decipher His plan sometimes, but I really want to make sure I am following His lead and not my own…not what I think would work best.

5. neglect people! I heard a Steven Curtis Chapman song today about how we have all these things going on – seminars, things at church, etc., but it all comes down to LOVE…and isn’t that the truth? No matter what we do for church or for ourselves, if we aren’t loving, it doesn’t matter. Again – read James for a kick in the pants…he talks about how if we have faith in Jesus Christ but we don’t show it in our actions, it means nothing. Well, Jesus taught us to love others. It’s so easy – especially in my blessed life – to focus on myself and my kids and ignore others. I need to be more mindful of the needs around me – maybe it’s an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, even. I am even thankful (today – haha – it might change) for social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter) because I can connect with some when I wouldn’t otherwise.

Well, there are five things I don’t want to do this year. We’ll see how I do! I’m not perfect, that’s for sure, but hopefully I can work on keeping these things real.

On a lighter note… check out this fun reading for New Year’s resolutions! Pretty funny – and true!

yin to my yang

This is my husband. He is a goober.

He is obsessive about checking the latest news on all things Clemson sports. He isn’t too great at watching his words around our girls (but neither am I…and Carlyn repeats almost everything she hears! Eek!). He loves to dance like a goofball and make beatbox noises.

And he CANNOT LIE TO ME. 🙂

Occasionally, he tries to pull a fast one on me. I am a control freak, so I like to know everything. I also handle the budget and $$ in the house, so I can see everything he spends $ on. For this reason, he likes to have cash to spend on things he doesn’t want me to know about…but he doesn’t like me to know when he gets cash. It’s weird. He doesn’t go and buy crazy things – it’s like for when he wants to stop and get lunch out or something! I am not sure why he doesn’t want me to know, but he doesn’t. However, whenever he gets cash, or goes somewhere, I catch him! It’s hilarious. It sounds silly, but I always happens to find a receipt, bag, or SOMETHING that gives him away…and when I ask him about it, his reaction is priceless. I even caught him putting the ring in his pocket the day he was going to propose…he acted like he was going to put his gloves in the car, and I followed him to tell him that he would probably need his gloves…and there he was! Ha. It still makes me laugh when I think about it. He was so mad at me. He also bought a birthday card for me last year on the way to meet me for lunch. I accused him of not planning ahead, and he swore up and down he bought the card days ago. I opened it and saw Carlyn’s signature, and I was so touched! I apologized. Then, that night, I found the receipt with the time stamped on it – 20 minutes before he met me!! That little stinker had FAKED Carlyn’s signature while he was driving to the restaurant!

Last night was the most recent instance. I got home late. Andrew was in bed, and so were the girls. He came down to greet me, but went back upstairs quickly, so I messed around the kitchen for a minute. For some reason, I decided to do Samson’s eyedrops. Somehow this led to me remembering that we were out of dog food. Andrew usually feeds the dogs every day, but on the days I go to exercise in the mornings, I feed them. I went and checked the dog food container…there was a different food in there. (We buy Canidae – it’s a high-quality dog food you can’t get at supermarkets.) I called Andrew downstairs, and the look he gave me was priceless. He said he had been praying I would just hurry up and come upstairs, but when I called him, he KNEW what I was calling him downstairs for. It turns out he was going to pick the girls up while I was in class and realized that he had not gone to get dog food, and the store was closed by then. He took the girls to Publix, paid with CASH so I wouldn’t know, and hid the bag in the trash so I wouldn’t find out!!! He was so upset that I checked the container. I was crying, I laughed so hard. I don’t know WHY he tries to hide stuff from me, but he does…and IT NEVER WORKS. I LOVE IT!

I also love him. I’m so thankful I have a hubby that can make me laugh-til-I-cry on a daily basis. Our anniversary is Dec. 18 – six years. I hope the next 60 are as fun! 🙂

Christmas is much more entertaining with a 3.5 year old!

Other highlights…

She occasionally will say she’s getting presents for Halloween instead of Christmas.

We finally made a paper chain to show how many days before Christmas, because she was waking up every morning and asking if it was Christmas yet.

She was/is SO excited about the Christmas tree. She loved picking it out, decorating it, looking at it, etc.

She tells me every morning she woke up in the middle of the night and heard the elf flying back to Santa.

She calls Juan the elf “Pinocchio” most of the time.

This morning, I warned her that Juan the elf was watching her…she turned around, saw him, and said, “But he’s still smiling!”

We went to Target yesterday, and my mom came to scope out gifts. She and Carlyn went to the car afterwards while I bought presents for grandparents, and when I came back out, I handed them off to Mom and retrieved Carlyn. When I was putting Carlyn in the car after my mom drove off, she said, “I know you just went and got Ariel.” I insisted I didn’t (I really didn’t!), but she didn’t believe me. Mom swears they didn’t talk about anything I was doing while I was in the store.

She keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure! I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when her sister is joining in on all the fun!