It was 2003.  I was pregnant with our first child and was as big as a house.  I could barely fit into our car, so Adam and I began searching for our first family vehicle to get ready for the baby.
    Many friends had minivans, but we vowed to each other, to never break down.  
    "Stay strong", my husband muttered as we drove from car lot to car lot. 
     No matter what the features or conveniences of each minivan model, we refused to bite the bullet.
     Why?  I'm not really sure.  I guess it felt so 'old' and uncool. 
     Finding a sturdy SUV, we happily drove our family of three around town, not realizing the car would soon gain one, two, then three more babies shortly thereafter. 
     Years have passed and the bigger the kids have gotten, the smaller our vehicle has become.  It was to the point where knees became pulled in and packing the car for traveling was beyond obnoxious.  
      We were forced with the realization that it was time.  Time to look for something else.  Something the six of us would fit into comfortably.  Something like a (gasp) minivan.
      Searching through different models, we finally settled on one...and as much as I hate to admit it...I've fallen in love.  
     Someone evidently created the openness of the interior and features throughout the van, with a thousand sticky covered children screaming in the background.  The ease and convenience of each button and knob go beyond anything we've ever seen before.  
     This on top of the amount of space and room inside...forget about it.  It's bigger than my first apartment. 
     In the end, even though I realize it might not be 'young' or cool to drive a minivan, it sure is awesome. 
     If we've learned nothing since our younger days, we do know this, convenience and practicality far outweigh coolness any day.  Especially when it comes to...the minivan. 
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    It's that time of year again.  Time to turn on the Hallmark Channel and warm up to the most wonderful Christmas spirit.  
    This weekend's original movie premiere will help you do just that. 
   "Northpole: Open for Christmas" is a charming story of how important it is to remember the magic of Christmas.  
    We meet Mackenzie, (Lori Loughlin) a beautiful and fabulous business woman who has little time for anything but work in her life.  
    Upon learning of the inheritance of her beloved old Inn from her late Aunt, Mackenzie struggles in her decision with what to do. 
    Choosing to revisit the Inn, Mackenzie is pleasantly surprised when she happens upon the handsome Ian (Dermot Mulroney). 
     The magic only grows brighter when the adorable Clementine (Bailee Madison) sparkles her way all the way from the North Pole, to help save Christmas, while guiding Mackenzie to remember her love within. 
      We hope you can snuggle up this Saturday, November 21 8p.m. ET/PT and get into the Christmas spirit, too.  Don't forget the hot cocoa! 
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    How do you deal with a bully?  What do you do when your child comes to you with the same question?
    Our youngest son complains of a boy at school that's been pretty bad.  The boy's not in his class, it's after school, when our son waits on his older brothers to pick him up - so the teachers don't see it.  It's to the point where there's concern with the stories we get - and drama on the way to school in the mornings as he argues that he doesn't want to go.
    Our son won't tell his teacher, so we finally broke down and called the school and it will be handled now.  
    Many people believe kids should learn to handle it for themselves, however.
     When I was young, around 12 or so, there was a boy on our bus.  He messed with everyone coming and going, and the worst part of all was he was such a big kid, he probably could've driven himself to school.
     When it came to my two friends and myself, he'd sneer his evil grin when our bus stop came.  We had assigned seats and he'd sit in his, a few seats up and turn, so his back was against the window. He'd put his legs across the aisle, forcing us to stop while he blocked our path.  Everytime we tried to get around him, he'd reach forward and grab our rear ends as we passed.  
     We three girls would scream at him to stop everyday.  It made us mad and scared, esbeing in that awkward stage of Jr. High.
     The bus driver would yell at him to cut it out, but the kid just threw his arms up in the air yelling innocently, "I didn't do anything!  They're lying!" 
     One afternoon, my Dad saw I was upset.  Wondering what was wrong, he was patient as it took awhile before I explained the situation.  It was embarrassing, and I didn't know what to say.
     He questioned how long it had gone on and what I'd done about it.  
     That's when his response surprised me.
     "Tell the bus driver one last time and tell the school as well.  If nothing happens and they don't stop the behavior, you need to handle it yourself."
     Confused, I didn't know what he meant.
     "Dad, he's huge.  There's nothing I can do."
     "Yes there is.  You need to verbally tell him to stop, then warn him if he doesn't, you'll fight back."
     "WHAT?  I can't fight him."
     "If you want him to stop, you're going to have to.  You need to protect yourself no matter how scared you are, then run, and run fast.  You'll get in trouble with the school, but I promise, you won't at home.  
      I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  I had grown up fighting with my big brother, but we always got in trouble for it.  Now, Dad was telling me TO fight?  
     The days went on and I did what he said, but reporting him to the school, brought no change.  Each day on the bus ride home, I was sick to my stomach and scared to death...until I couldn't take it.
      It was time.  He wasn't going to do it anymore and it was going to end.
      As the screech of the brakes pulled our bus to a stop, I told my two girlfriends to let me go last, but to get out of my way.
     "Okay, but why?"
     "I'm going to fight him."
     "You're going to WHAT?!" 
     Slowly walking down the narrow path, I watched as he snuck forward and grabbed one, then two in front of me.  I waited a second and took a breath as he turned to target me.
      "Come on."  He grinned.
      "Don't do it."
      "Do what?"
      "I mean it, if you do it, I'll hit you."
      Kids started turning around with wide eyes as his head went back from laughter.
      The bus driver had no idea what was going on and started yelling for me to move.
      Feeling the weight of my backpack on my shoulders, I positioned my clarinet behind my rear like I did everyday before.  Looking straight into his eyes, I said it again, "Don't do it."
      He snickered again teasing, "oooooooooo" as I neared, and stepped over his legs.  Sure enough, he reached forward and grabbed me, hard.
      Fear and rage took over as I threw my clarinet and backpack down, then lunged straight at him.  The kids on the bus started screaming as I hit again and again with everything in me.  He kept trying to lean forward, but I'd hit him back against the window.  
      I know he could've killed me, but I think the pure surprise of what was happening was enough to take him off guard.  He didn't fight back.
      Hearing our bus driver yell, I jumped off, and found myself crying uncontrollably.  I felt for my backpack and clarinet, then shuffled down the aisle.    
      Running off the bus, I heard the driver say, "What in the?" as he yelled back in his rearview mirror for everyone to settle down. 
      I never said a thing about it.  I didn't tell my parents or brother, I just waited for the punishment at school to occur.  
      Days passed but nothing came.  No note from the school, call from the principal's office, nothing.  
      Better yet, every single day after school, when it came time to walk down that bus, the kid looked at the three of us and threw his arms up in the air shaking his head, "I'm not touching you" he'd mock, causing the bus to laugh.
      He was making fun, but I'd take it.  He never grabbed one of us again.
      Weeks later, my dad called me into the kitchen.  
"Whatever happened with you and the bus?"  My throat tightened as I began to explain. 
      I was stopped short as Dad's smile grew wide across his face.
      "I ran into your bus driver today.  As soon as he saw me, he belted out the theme song to "Rocky"." 
      My words were lost.
      "After he told me what had happened, he explained why you didn't get in trouble."  
     Shaking his head, he continued, "Your bus driver said that if he didn't see that punk grab you all those times, then he didn't see you beat the tar out of that punk, either."
      Dad's smile grew even wider as he turned to go, "He also said you had a pretty mean right hook".
     That was it.  Nothing else was ever said.  Nothing ever done.  
     It was a long time ago and things are different now, but the feelings from a bully are still the same.  
     We'll keep watch of the situation and see how things go from here for our second grader, but I'm sure they'll turn out fine.  They often have a way of working themselves out in the end.  
     Just ask the kid on the bus.
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    Have you ever gotten to that point where you just can't take it anymore?  When everything in life seems to go against you and nothing comes your way?
    We've all been there.  Some more than others, but I'm here to tell you, even when life throws you more challenges than you think you can take, it's okay.  In fact, they're usually what make you stronger in the end.
    Take for instance a story I once heard about an experiment.  
    A group of scientists wanted to create a biodome filled with everything it needed to be self-sustaining.  The enclosure would be a utopia of sorts, holding all it could possibly use to achieve perfection.  The perfect soil, plants, trees, was balanced nothing could go wrong.  
     You know the one thing they forgot to add, however?  Resistance.  In their efforts to create perfection, they failed to remember you need resistance, to make things stronger.  In this case, it was the wind.  
     You see, in nature, plants and trees are made to bend.  It's an important factor so when the wind pushes against them, they move and force that resistance against their roots.  What results from this?  Stronger roots.  
     What the scientists realized, was that without the strength of the roots, the plants and trees fell over, broke or died out altogether.  
    I've learned over the years, even when you wish everything could be perfect or without difficulties, it doesn't necessarily mean that's what's best for you.  Sometimes the obstacles that get in your way, the resistance, are what make you better in the end.  
    Those are the times you look back on and realize just how important they were, even though you couldn't see it while they happened.  
    So when the wind pushes you, even on the rainiest of days, remember to allow yourself to bend and not break.  Trust that God is quite possibly using it, to make you stronger than you've ever been before.
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    Our six year old daughter is an amazing speller.  By that I mean it's amazing how she can put letters together to form words no man has created before. 
    It's horrible.
    The only thing worse than her spelling, is her reading.  This creates a double edged sword when it comes to doing homework or getting ready for tests.  Especially, spelling tests. 
     Her latest first grade spelling list contained the word, "shirt".  We focused on the "sh" in the beginning and the "t" in the end.  Evidently, I should've paid more attention to the 'r' in the middle.
     Slowly moving my finger along the word for the hundredth time, I tried again, "Sound it out".
     Putting her pencil down, she began, "Shiiiiiiiiit".
     She was as serious as she could be, looking to me for confirmation.
     Trying to hold my smile from painfully wanting to escape, I pointed back to the word.  "Let's try again, baby.  Really look at each letter."  
      "Shiiiiiit.  That's it, right?  Shit?  Isn't that it?"
      From the other room, my husband's confused expression popped around the corner, "What's going on?"
      "We're working on spelling words."
      "From what list?!"  
      Lauren Elizabeth held up her words, "Look, right here.  We're on this one.  Shit." 
      Watching his reaction to his six year old blurting out her spelling words like a sailor, finally did me in.  I fell out laughing until I tried to get it together and begin again.
      I don't want to think about how her test is going to go tomorrow, but more importantly, I desperately hope she doesn't decide to study out loud in class beforehand. 
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     Somebody help me understand.  What IS it with this movie?  
     When I met my husband, I knew he loved the James Bond series, but as much as I've tried, I just can't figure out why.  
     Don't get me wrong, the last few have been more tolerable than others (and Daniel Craig definitely isn't hard to watch), but REALLY? 
     Let's just start with the initial images.  I've seen enough 007 marathons to make your head spin, so trust me when I say, they're ridiculous.  Especially the old school versions.  Naked girls swimming, naked girls dancing.  Artistic expression, as my husband likes to call it.
     Then there's always the opening scene.  Always.  Like any good book - the first page has to grab you - and the opening scene needs to stand out too, but wow.  It is physically impossible for my husband to remove himself from the TV until at least the first inconceivably impossible scene/action sequence/explosion has taken place.
     Next you have the witty dialogue that is. just. plain. ridiculous.  You know, like when someone gets shot through with an arrow and Bond smirks, "I guess he got the point".  My husband busts out every single time as though it's the first he's ever seen it.  This is usually when I start doing laundry.        
      Then there are the gadgets.  Well, no, the gadgets are actually pretty cool.
      Last but not least, let's just mention the names of the female characters.  Xenia Onatopp, Honey Ryder and I won't even get into the names from "Goldfinger" or "Moonraker".  I actually like the Bond girls and think the movies would be even worse without them, but the names?  ugh.
      So, with the latest release, my husband is as giddy as he can be.  He'll be riveted from the opening sequence until the credits take place, completely glued to every exploding second in between.  
     I'll be dreaming about taking the kids to the new Peanuts movie instead.  
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    Our boys had their last football games of the year.  It was a long season with many ups and downs, resulting in getting to know a lot more than just football.
    When you're with the same group of people from August through November, the heat, rain, cold, early mornings and late nights tend to bring you closer together. 
     More than that though, it's the pulse of the team, the bond that's formed between players and the families, that's created by something other than the's developed and generated by the coach.     
     We've all known good coaches...and bad.  The ones that encourage a team to excel and the ones who discourage to the point of defeat.  
     What makes a good coach though?  The kind that ignites a player and a team?
      I believe there are four primary elements, the first two being, awareness and attitude.  
      Awareness in the fact that even though there might be one team, there are several facets that comprise it.  There are strong players, timid, focused...afraid.  So many different personalities exist, it's impossible to treat them all as one.  We've seen this first hand.
   Of our three boys, our youngest would power through a wall if you'd let him.  He's no bigger than a minute, with a fight that would make your head spin.  Our middle, has a pure love for the game.  You can see him smile from ear to ear on the field, even through his helmet.  Our oldest son is as big as a house, and yet he's a gentle giant.  We've urged him to play sports, even though he didn't want to.  He'd rather read or draw than participate in athletics.  
     Finally deciding to stop pushing, this year when we signed the two younger boys up, we didn't register him. 
     During practices for his brothers though, a funny thing happened.  He saw his favorite coach from last year, then wanted to play.  
    Why?  This coach has played professional football for the Steelers and Panthers and looks like he could kill you, but like our son, he too, is a gentle giant.  
     Oh, he yells and pushes the team, don't get me wrong...but he does it in a way that makes them feel strong and sure about opposed to beaten down and dejected.
    I'll never forget one Saturday in particular, the opposing team of 11 and 12 year olds were so huge, I think they actually drove themselves to the game.
    As soon as I saw my son's eyes, I knew he felt it, too.  I was close enough to the sidelines to hear what was being said to him, even though the coach didn't know I was listening.
    Taking our son's helmet, he assured him before putting him in, "I've got you.  I'll always have your back."
    He was aware of how our son felt and knew exactly what to say.  This awareness helped push our son through his fear to feel proud of himself in the end.
    Another characteristic of a good coach, is their attitude.  This is key.  It's easy to have a good attitude when you're winning.  The true test though, is when you're not.  
    The coach's attitude sets the stage for the rest of the team.  It can be broken down into simple terms of fight or flight, really.  When it's the end of the game and defeat is inevitable, how does the coach handle it?  Does he throw in the towel in a rant, or does he stay strong until the final second?  
     And what about after the game?  
     Again, it's easy to be a great coach following a victory, but what about a loss?  Does he beat the team down?  Tell them everything they did wrong?
     In years past, I've literally seen a coach grab a nine year old by the facemask screaming, "We lost that game because of you".
     We lost last night, then the coach pulled the whole team together.  Through the cheers and claps from across the field of the celebrating opposing team, our players and families gathered to hear what he had to say.  Instead of speeches of defeat and dejection, he discussed how the boys had grown together over the season.  How they had developed a bond through good and bad and how the most important thing to take away from the season was the quality of character and the strength of how they would become as future men.  
     He could've said a thousand different things after that game.  He instead, explained to the team how it's always easier in life to preach from the mountains, however many times you'll find, you'll have to preach from the valleys.  Your attitude, faith and strength will determine if you're able to do that.  That night, the team walked away with their heads held a little higher.
     Besides awareness and attitude, the second two components of a good coach are passion and compassion. 
     Passion for the game and compassion for the players is paramount.  I've gone on about the boys and their coaches, but it also held true for our daughter.  She cheered for the first time, and her coach couldn't have been more amazing.  The compassion she showed for "her girls" as she called them, was nothing less than remarkable.  The hours and dedication she spent on and off the field were unparalleled, and the girls sensed every bit of it.  Even a child can tell when their coach is genuine at heart. 
    So to the coaches of kids, the truly good coaches, who volunteer their time, effort, hearts and souls - thank you for all that you do.  Your awareness of the strength and weakness of each player, positive attitude throughout, passion for the game and compassion for each child, will go further than you'll ever truly know, making you much more important than any scoreboard ever will be.         
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    With the new Star Wars movie just around the corner, the family voted on a theme this year.  We've done it before, but it's hard to keep the Force at bay.
     Our friends, Julie and Bob have the Best Halloween party every year, before everyone Trick-or-Treats.
       Then to a haunted house the kids love to brave.
  It was a night fit for a Jedi with sweet dreams of sugary fun.  Happy Halloween to you and yours!  XOXO
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    'Twas the night before Halloween and all through the house, a thousand creatures were stirring, and even one mouse (ummm, hamster).  The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of past costumes, danced in their heads.
              Years of pea pods and cowboys,
                ...of Woody and Buzz,
           Lions and tigers and bears were a fright,
            Until Superheroes came in the night.
 Captain Hook had his croc and Peter Pan had Tinker Bell,
      While yellow brick roads replaced streets all too well.
    The Force became strong as the Monster Mash played... 
   ...and the children slept in wonder, how they would dress the next day.
     Happy Halloween!  We can't wait to show what costumes come tomorrow!  :)
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    Nothing says cool Fall and Winter weather like a delicious cobbler baking in the oven.  The sweet smell fills your soul with warmth and love. 
    A girlfriend at work named, Sarah, is from Georgia.  People from Georgia know their peaches - and when we're lucky, she'll bring her Peach Cobbler in - making even the longest of workdays seem so much better.
    Sarah shared the recipe with me and I can't even wait to try it...    
                  Sarah's Peach Cobbler

1 Cup of Self Rising Flour
1 Cup of Sugar (Plus 3/4 cup for top)
1 Cup of Evaporated Milk
1 Stick of Butter
2 Cups of Fruit

Melt the stick of butter in a 9 x 13 dish.
Mix flour, sugar and evaporated milk together, then pour over butter.  Do not combine with butter - just pour it over.

Put 2 cups of fruit on top of batter, again, not mixing in.  Sarah uses peaches, but says apples, cherries, well.  You can even add cinnamon with apples if desired.

Sprinkle 3/4 cup of sugar over fruit, then bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes.

    Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and if that doesn't make you want to curl up next to a fire, I don't know what will.
    Thank you for the recipe, Sarah!  It will be a yummy winter because of you!
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