Thursday, February 25, 2016

Valentines ~ A Little Chocolate and a Lot of Love

We don't usually make a huge deal of Valentine's even though Eddie and I do count it as one of our anniversaries.  We never really celebrated a dating anniversary because we had been hanging out a lot before we went on our first official date.  That was just how us broke college students did it.  Eddie proposed to me on Valentine's Day in 2002, and although it wouldn't have been my personal choice to become engaged on Valentine's Day, it was perfect timing for us, and Eddie "performed" perfectly.  I have shared the story of our engagement several times so I won't go into it again.  My very first blog post did a pretty good job of summarizing it.  This year like most years we just enjoyed using the day to show our love for one another in a little extra special way.  Yellow roses and chocolate are always a sufficient way for Eddie to express his love for me, and the boys love getting some candy, cards, and balloons from us. We especially loved celebrating our little man Mattox's first Valentine's this year.  Eddie and I got a little date night on the Friday night before Valentine's so we were okay with spending the majority of our Valentine's Day on Sunday doing our bi-monthly shopping trip to Super Target.

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There was a lot of love in our house for Valentine's. 

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You know we had to take some family pictures to commemorate the occasion. 

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The boys weren't the most cooperative for this photo shoot.  Brody was the least cooperative and barely wanted to smile.  I don't think there was one picture where they were all looking at the camera and smiling.  But when you put them all together, I think there is at least one where each of them is cooperating. 

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We were getting Mattox to smile with a stuffed animal so he was watching that instead of the camera.  I am okay with that.  To anyone who thinks that pictures aren't good if everyone isn't looking at the camera, I say "Bah!  You will never get any good shots if you think that!"  

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We made Brody get closer and act like he loves his brothers.  Haha!
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My boys were excited about their valentines. 

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I just love how Mattox is touching Daddy's face while he reads his cards to him. 

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Brody and Mattox got the sweetest cards from big brother Evan.  He is just the sweetest big brother ever!

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Brody got a cookie card from Grandma.  She knows him well and that he is always making her cookies and treats.  Evan tried to bomb our sweet pictures by stalking and threatening us with his candy stick. 

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Oh my, our Brody gives the best hugs and kisses!

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Brody also made his own valentines this year.  Lately, he has been doing all his own crafts.  Ha!  I find the evidence of his work all over his desk area upstairs.  He especially loves cutting shapes out of paper.  I am just thankful he only cuts paper.  I think his kindergarten teacher will be impressed with his cutting abilities.  He also covers his papers with letters and draws hearts.  For some reason, as his skills with letter writing and drawing have improved, he has become less careful about coloring.  He just doesn't care about coloring in the lines.  He and Evan are complete opposites. 

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And this sweet little Valentine has just been getting into everything.  He loves to take big brothers' toys.  

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Daddy and I before our "fancy" date night. 

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This boy and his brothers enjoyed a night with Grandma eating pizza and hanging out.  Mattox is like most toddlers and doesn't always eat well when someone besides mommy and daddy are feeding him.  Luckily for Grandma, he fell asleep early, and she just enjoyed getting to hold him a little longer while he slept. 

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Eddie and I attempted to use the selfie stick to capture ourselves on our date.  I wanted to snap a picture of our delicious feast in the restaurant, but I was afraid it would be frowned upon.  I laughed that we were the only couple not leaving with a take home bag.  We ate all of our food.  We both enjoyed a 16 oz. New York Strip, and I had some grilled asparagus with mine while Eddie had a baked potato.  We both had some shrimp and lobster bisque with bread.  I had some chocolate covered strawberries for dessert while he enjoyed some New York cheesecake.  I was glad we had our date night on Friday night as this place would have been a mad house on Valentine's.  They had been booked solid for months.  After our dinner, we went to pick out Valentine's for our sweet boys and then went to a late movie.  We finally saw Mockingjay Part 2.  It was definitely not much like the book, but I guess it did a decent job of showing why Katniss decided to shoot the leader of the rebellion instead of President Snow.  I thought the book failed at that one part, but I am still not a huge fan of the end of these stories.  I guess I never really liked Peeta. I like my guys with a bit more toughness and courage.  Haha! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Driving on NC's Scenic Highway 64

Hwy. 64 in North Carolina is a little state road that stretches across the state from east to west or as affectionately stated "from Murphy to Manteo" or "from the mountains to the coast."  Instead of just bypassing all of the beautiful sites like the major interstates, Hwy 64 takes the scenic route through the state.  We have driven almost all of it at one time or another.  It passes right by our new home as it makes its way around Raleigh to continue a northeasterly route towards the coast.  It also takes you to our state zoo in Asheboro, NC which is just about in the middle of the state.  The western part of the road takes you by some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state just outside of the trendy mountain vacation town of Highlands.  We had taken Evan to see these waterfalls on one of several trips to this part of the state in 2009.  At that time, my brother worked for a businessman with landholdings in the Cashiers, NC area.  He possessed several luxury mountain cabins that he hoped to turn into a mountain resort or at least sale to someone who would pay him big money to do so.  We went and stayed in these cabins a few times and enjoyed touring the area.  I had wanted to go back to see these waterfalls for some time so I begged Eddie to take the more scenic (and longer) drive home so that we could see them.  I knew they would look considerably different in winter than they did when we last visited in the Fall of 2009, but I wanted to try taking some better pictures of the waterfalls.  We might try driving back over there later in the year when we visit the Asheville area again, but the winter scenery around the waterfalls was still pretty spectacular.

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Highway 64 passes through the Nantahala and then the Pisgah National Forests between Murphy and Asheville. 
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One of the most beautiful sights on the drive during the winter is the ice formations along the smooth granite sides of the mountains where water running off the mountain freezes for most of the winter.  The granite rock is so smooth because that part of the mountain was blasted off to make way for the road to pass through.  You may need to click on the picture to view it larger to fully appreciate the beauty. 

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Can you see the guy climbing this giant smooth rock wall?  I didn't even notice him at the time and saw him when I downloaded the pictures from the camera.  Crazy! 

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As we entered the Cullasaja River Gorge, the first waterfall we saw was Cullasaja Falls.  In the warmer months, this little cascading waterfall that meanders down the mountain with a series of small drops is probably the most picturesque scene with the foliage of the mountain surrounding it.  In the winter months, it was probably the least exciting and the hardest to photograph. 

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Here is the comparison from our own pictures. 

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Here is my attempt to photograph the water with the smooth effect. 

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The next falls on our drive was Dry Falls.  The good thing about this drive is that all of the waterfalls can be seen from the road without the need to hike to them.  Dry Falls can be viewed from the road, but it is better to get out so that you can walk down and behind the falls.  It is called Dry Falls because you can actually walk behind the falls and stay "dry."  Of course, that wasn't the case at this time, and the walking path was closed because it was too slippery from frozen ice.  You can see the path that goes around behind the waterfall by the fence barrier that keeps visitors from falling in.  This falls does have a very heavy flow of water.   It was beautiful with all the snow and ice surrounding it. 
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We tried to take some pictures in front of this falls although we were higher up than the falls standing on an observation platform.  Don't let Eddie's bare arms deceive you about the temperature.  It was cold.  He's just crazy and didn't want to take the time to put on his coat. 

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Just a short drive further is another little roadside waterfall called Bridal Veil Falls.  I have since discovered that this is a very common name for waterfalls, and photographed the one in Yosemite National Park in California of the same name.  However, this one is a bit unique in that you can usually drive behind the falls.  It was closed because of the ice at this time, but in warmer months, the road meanders behind the falls under the outcropping of rock. I think the icy "stalactites" were the most beautiful part of this falls in winter. 

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Have you met my husband, the icicle murderer?  Haha!  My he has a big nose!
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The last waterfall on the drive in to Highlands is a manmade one on Lake Sequoyah. 

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I think it is still such a picturesque site. 
Thank you, husband, for indulging your wife's wish to revisit these old spots.  It was such a beautiful drive home!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fields of the Wood Park, Murphy, NC

When I was looking for things for the kids and I to do while in the Murphy, NC area, I knew that our options would be very limited because of the winter weather.  When I saw this little park that I had never heard of before (it is crazy the stuff I have discovered this year in my own state for the first time), I thought it was worth checking out even though I knew it wouldn't be the same experience as during the summer months.  Mainly, the mountain would be covered with white snow which would greatly diminish the effect.  As we headed up the mountain outside of the town of Murphy, the snow really started falling heavy.  When we arrived, we were not surprisingly the only "brave" souls out on this very cold, winter day.  Yes, my motherly instincts were on high alert as I bundled my little ones up so we could at least take a few pictures.  It was so quiet and peaceful up on the mountain with the soft snow falling around us.  Even though I may not have gotten the full experience, I at least felt the peace and beauty of the site.  On a warmer day, you could easily spend a day here climbing the mountainside and enjoying the beauty and the Biblical messages inscribed all around.  There is also a cafe and gift shop.

From the website:

God’s Word is truly a gift to all men. Come visit us and experience just a small representation of His love and presence  as it unfolds through the use of beautiful marble and stone. From the top of Prayer Mountain to the valley baptismal pool; through the gigantic Ten Commandments spread across the mountainside; poured out through the All Nations Cross; God’s Word is presented and preserved for future generations. People of all races and religious beliefs are welcome to visit Fields of the Wood to enjoy the presence of God and to see the dramatic presentation of truth in a unique and revealing manner. Visitors are admitted without charge in order that all may freely receive the spiritual blessings awaiting them at Fields of the Wood.

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The entrance to the park.  

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The huge ten commandments inscribed on the mountainside is definitely the largest feature of the park.  Of course, the snow covering made it more difficult to read than when it is covered with green grass.  I like the reminder above the commandments of Jesus' message from Matthew that the greatest commandments are to love God and one another.  If we truly do this, obedience to the other commandments from God should come naturally. 
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Here is what the ten commandment mountain looks like in the warmer months.  
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The little wall of Psalms was sweet.  I love reading Psalms as I always feel like David just understands so many of our human emotions and feelings.  Brody standing beside the beautiful 23rd Psalm. 

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We didn't venture up Prayer Mountain, but it sure looked beautiful in the falling snow.  Those little red breasted Robins were the only other living creatures admiring the view with us. 

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Brody visited the recreated images of the three crosses on the hill and the tomb of Jesus. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mattie's Hopes and Dreams for the Future

So you all may already know that Eddie's grandmother Mattie is one of my most favorite and inspiring individuals.  Is it weird to hold someone you never met in such high esteem?  I truly ache to have known her.  I feel that Eddie and I and our children were robbed by having this wonderful woman taken from our family by the evil of cancer.  I know that our lives would have been a lot different if she were still alive.  I read her words, and I feel like I truly knew her.  We are so lucky that she was such a thoughtful lady to write her memoirs for us.  I didn't have too many inspiring personal role models growing up so this lady became one of mine when I read her words.  I guess a lot of people are inspired by great writers and thinkers that they never personally knew so it isn't that unusual.  I want the world to know a little more about this great lady.  I hope you enjoy this thoughtful list she wrote of some of the things she hoped would happen in the next ten years.  It has been a lot more than ten years since she wrote it, and I think she knew the likelihood that most of these things would come to pass was slim to none, but she also knows that we can never give up hope.  We have to remember that God is in control no matter what.

"I have never tried to foretell the future in any way.  In ten years, I will be 74 years old and probably gone to be with the Lord.  Some of the grandchildren will be married with families living and working in far away places.  I would like to see:

  • Peace in every land among all religious and ethnic groups. 
  • All children around the world cared for, loved, have enough food and clothing and good shelter and never to experience abuse. 
  • The Word of God continued to be presented abroad and at home freely. 
  • T.V. and computer programs which are appropriate for children and adults with no violence, abusive language or pornography. 
  • Schools with children experiencing innovating educational programs for all regardless of learning styles or abilities.  
  • Family illiteracy decrease and all children come to school with experience to become good readers. 
  • Medical science find a cure for more cancer, disease and addictions. 
  • Environmentalists still working hard to educate the populace to save our natural resources and to prevent pollution of air, soil and water. 
  • Space scientists exploring space and maintaining space station colonies for experimental and recreational purposes.  
  • Government to be fair and representative of all people. 
  • Trials, treatment and rehabilitation of criminals for betterment of society. 
  • All Christians still looking for the return of Christ."

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Week in Cherokee County

A couple of weeks ago, the youngest kids and I hit the road with Daddy for another work trip.  Sadly, we had to leave Evan behind with his Papa so he wouldn't miss too much school.  Boo!  I am so thankful for another long break in March to spend with my biggest boy, and we are looking forward to a really fun trip all together then.  For now, I was thankful to spend this little week trip with my littlest men, Brody and Mattox.  With Brody starting the Big K soon, I was happy to have some extra special time with him.  We had taken Evan on several trips to the mountains before Brody came along, and I really wanted Brody to get to see some of those places.  Daddy was teaching another training course for professional loggers all week in the small mountain town of Brasstown which is located on the edge of southwestern North Carolina just north of the Georgia state line.  Many of his loggers were actually from Georgia.  Brasstown is so small that we had to stay in the nearby larger town of Murphy, NC.  Murphy is located about an hour west of Asheville, and we enjoyed the beautiful drive through the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests on Hwy. 74 to get there.  I wanted to stop and take pictures because the highway meanders alongside a beautiful river that is great for whitewater rafting in warmer months, but with the snow falling, we didn't want to delay our drive since it was already an almost 8 hour drive.   There are a lot of campgrounds and mountain cabins along this route so maybe one day we will vacation here.  I only went on one canoeing/whitewater rafting trip when I was a kid, but I remember loving it.  Unfortunately, my mother had no such fond memories of the trip as she was terrified of the water, and when our canoe tipped over, she injured her leg and suffered a very severe staph infection that lasted for weeks and threatened her life.  Thus, we never repeated the experience.  Of course, there were no such excursions planned for us this trip since it was in the dead of winter, and all such places are closed up until the warmer months.  I wouldn't have taken my youngest men on such a trip anyway so we will have to wait a few years to try that experience again.  For now, Brody enjoyed getting to see the mountains again and getting to see some more snow.  It was a very chilly week with temperatures hovering in the twenties and snow showers falling most of the day.  Despite the chilly temperatures, we tried to venture out a little to explore this little mountain community with a rich history.

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Murphy, NC is the county seat of Cherokee County.  As you can infer from the name, the county has a rich history as a home to the Cherokee Indian with the reservation nearby.  The Cherokee people were abundant in this area until the U.S. government forced them to leave their homes and relocated them out west to present day Oklahoma in the famous journey known as the Trail of Tears.  Murphy still holds onto its rich Native American history, and the Cherokee maintain a vibrant part of this area with their nearby Reservation and Casinos bringing many tourists to the area. The town of Murphy is like something from a Norman Rockwell painting with a quaint and charming downtown.  While we were visiting, it was mostly covered in snow.  When we went to dinner at night with Eddie, the snow showers increased substantially, and the church above looked so beautiful in the fresh fallen snow.  

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Brody loved another opportunity to play in the snow, but Mattox was not as content this time.  To be fair, it was a lot colder this time. 

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Brody was so excited when we arrived, and he got to see the snow coming down.  We enjoyed going to eat dinner with some of the members of Daddy's Association.  The next morning, these boys just had to get out to experience the snow.  It never accumulated more than a couple of inches because the snow would all melt on the ground by late afternoon even though the snow continued falling.  It would accumulate again over night so there was another fresh ground cover in the morning. 

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I had to take selfies to include myself in a couple of pictures. 
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Brody enjoyed making some pretty perfect snow angels and hitting me with handfuls of snow. 

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We ventured out to see the historic L&N Depot.  From the website:  "The L&N Depot (circa 1887) - Was the meeting place of the Southern (originally the Carolina Railroad) and the Louisville & Nashville (originally the Georgia Railroad). What remains is the freight area. The grand station was torn down shortly after the railroad pulled up the tracks in 1974.
Both railroads met at the river and were unable to cross it due to a group of Murphy businessmen and New York investors who chartered a railroad called the Hiawassee Railroad Company and set up a blockade to keep the L&N and Southern railroads from meeting. Passengers and freight had to be ferried across the river to the depot.
Georgia Railroad went to court to condemn the property and finally put its tracks across the river to the present depot site 12 years later. Murphy now boasts the smallest railroad in the country with a short spur of tracks, a boxcar, and a caboose. The last train to leave out of Murphy was a trip to Andrews over the July 4 weekend of 1992. There are currently plans to restore the train cars and start running lighter weight trains through the Andrews Murphy Valley once again."

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Brody loved getting to pretend to drive the caboose.  Hey, if it has a steering wheel, he can drive it.  Ha!  Oh and am I the only one who misses trains having bright red cabooses?  I mean, I never see them in use anymore.  It used to be so exciting to see the caboose at the end of the train while sitting at a railroad crossing.  

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My little minion enjoyed a walk on the tracks.  It was definitely the shortest track ever.  It ended at that white fence behind him with the river below. 

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My little train lover.

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To warm up, Brody and I hoped we could visit the Cherokee County Historical Museum in downtown Murphy.  We were happy to add another painted bear to our collection of pictures from last summer in New Bern.  We just hoped the museum would be open.  I went up to the door that was below the stairs and rang the bell marked for handicap entrance since the door was locked and the lights were off.  I was just turning to leave thinking it was closed when the kind lady who runs the museum opened the door to us.  We really enjoyed getting to explore this little museum filled with treasures from "the old days" in the area.  If you ever visit the area, you must stop in and say a friendly hello to the nice caretaker, Ms. Stalcup.  I purchased her book "How I Saw Cherokee County" because it is such a sweet little book of memories, pictures, recipes, and her personal account of the area.  It is like a little printed blog of her life, and I had to appreciate that.  I really want my blog to be like that for my kids, and I am thinking of starting to write some of my own personal memoirs from my childhood for my kids as well.  I have wanted to do so since reading Eddie's Grandmother Mattie's memoirs she left for us. 

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There was a little one room log cabin in the museum like what the Cherokee Indian residents would have lived in
at the time of their removal. 

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I love all of the handmade crafts and works of art that Native Americans are so famous for producing.  Beautiful wood carvings, furniture, baskets, quilts, and beaded necklaces and feathered headdresses. 

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There was a little handmade replica of Fort Butler that was the base used by the government and army to stage the removal of the Cherokee.  I thought the quote from an army captain showed that the job was not a pleasant one for the soldiers. 

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A map of the old Cherokee Territory in this part of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, some Indian artifacts, including arrowheads, a bow and arrows, and some knifes made from bone and bear jaws.  I thought the white handled bear jaw one with the teeth still attached was particularly creepy.  Brody posing with the wood carved Native American statue that was carved in memory of the victims on the Trail of Tears.  .  

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Brody particularly loved the little train section of the museum dedicated to the railroad history of the area.  I took a picture of the drawing of the original depot to go along with the pictures of the refurbished one. 

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There was lots of other history in the museum, like this impressive old doll collection, some heirloom baby gowns and shoes, and some Confederate and North Carolina paper money.  I can't remember ever seeing any printed Confederate money, and I didn't even know North Carolina ever printed its own money.   Just shows you can always learn new things. 

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I loved seeing my almost kindergartner sitting in the little school desks.  He is so ready to start school and loves learning.  I loved the old phone collection and especially the old telephone booth.  The picture in the top middle was of a little children's play kitchen set, and I showed it to Brody saying children have always loved pretending to cook like he does.  

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I cannot even pretend to do justice to the gun collection since that is my husband's area of expertise.  There were also old military uniforms and medals from World War I and II all the way up to the most recent Iraqi conflicts. 

I am so glad we got to take in this little piece of history in our state, but our trip didn't end there.  We had a few more sights to see during our trip.


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