Dear Disney Cruise Line – THANK YOU

Dear Disney Cruise Line,

This is just a letter to say thank you. Just, thank you for being you. We recently returned from our trip on the Dream (left Cape Canaveral on January 2, 2015), and I’ve spent the days since our return singing your praises.

Oh, I knew we were going to have fun, eat well and have great service. This was our fifth cruise after all. But this was our first cruise since Maggie (our 12-year-old) was diagnosed with IBS.

This was our first cruise with her on a low FODMAP diet. And, I was nervous.

I have plenty of friends who have sailed gluten free. I wasn’t worried about the gluten. But low FODMAP isn’t just no gluten. It’s no dairy. No soy. No onion. No garlic. No high fructose corn syrup. No apple. No… and the list just keeps going.

I shouldn’t have been nervous. Disney Cruise Line was amazing.

When we got on the ship, we went to the sit down lunch in Enchanted Garden rather than the regular buffet up in Cabanas. We knew that by doing so we would have an actual server, and that he would be able to help us withe allergies. No sooner did we say allergies than the head server was whisked over to our table ready to assist us. He walked through the Enchanted Garden buffet with us and then asked what Maggie wanted to eat. Pretty much everything on the buffet scared her so she asked for what she knew would be okay. She asked for beef and got a steak. Win!

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(Side note: We learned after this meal not to eat the fries. They are flash fried in soybean oil before being frozen. Soybean oil is a big no-no on low FODMAP. This is true of ALL fries in any Disney location from what we can tell.)

Then, as we were eating, Selo, the head server, came back over to our table to see what he could do to make sure she was set for the cruise. This man spent at least ten to twenty minutes with us trying to understand all that she had trouble digesting. He took a copy of the list I had brought with us (I brought MULTIPLE copies just in case) and studied it closely. He took a picture of the list so he could attach it to an email to send to the other head servers. He brought over another head server (Robert – thank you Robert for checking on us multiple times during the cruise) that would be in the same restaurant we were scheduled to be in that first night. By the time Selo left our table, I was literally in tears. It was going to be okay. She was going to be able to eat and have fun.

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The smartest thing Selo did was pre-order Maggie’s dinner for that night. He wrote it down on his pink slip, (You get to know the pink slips well when there are allergies.) and promised to turn it in for us. In fact, he gave it to Robert since he was going to be in our restaurant that night.

When we got to dinner, there was a little bit of confusion because our server didn’t know we had pre-ordered. However, once we told him Robert had the pre-order, all was fabulous and her food was on the way. (Note to future cruisers: It’s very important to know who you told what to. They will go find that person and get it taken care of, but you need to remember their names.)

This is what Maggie pre-ordered:

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And that is what she ate EVERY night of the cruise. EVERY night. Not an eye was blinked when she asked for filet mignon every night. Filet mignon… EVERY NIGHT. Would they have made her something different within her boundaries? ABSOLUTELY. However, she loves steak (raw by the way – yuck) so why not eat it while you can get it.

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With their little pink slips, our amazing servers, Frank and Nova, and our head server, Szilard, took AWESOME care of us. Because of these amazing people, I did not hear, “Mom, my tummy hurts,” one time. Well, that’s not entirely true. The first day, she at too much. That’s a different kind of hurt, and she knew the difference.

Here are our awesome servers Frank and Nova:

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And this is the only picture of Szilard I have! How is that?

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Oh, the reason I had a picture of his name tag? Because that first night when we were deciding where we would eat the next day, he told me to go to wherever he was, and he would make sure I was taken care of. He was going to be in Cabanas (Deck 11 – buffet) all day the next day, so that is where I went to get Maggie’s food. And, I needed to remember how to say his name. So, I took a picture of his name tag. Smart thinking right?

Let me tell you something about Szilard. This man is amazing at what he does. We watched him orchestrate all kinds of awesomeness around the dining rooms. He seemed to be everywhere. But, when he was talking to your table, you felt like he was only thinking about you and your needs. And, he was all about meeting those needs. Even when you decided you needed three hard boiled eggs during crazy lunchtime so your daughter could have a snack for later.

So, thank you Selo, Robert, Szilard, Frank and Nova for making our Disney cruise even more magical. Because of you, this mama didn’t have to worry about what her child was going to eat, and that made all of us enjoy our trip even more. In fact, because they were so diligent on the Dream, Maggie’s tummy feels better than it has in over a year.

Thank you Disney Cruise Line.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We can’t wait to take this picture again. (Already booked for 2016!)

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Posted in Disney, Low FODMAP | Leave a comment

Christmas Letter 2014

 

Merry Christmas from the HOH

I sit here on Christmas Eve and try to sum up our year in one post. This post is taking the place of the Christmas letter that I have dutifully sent out (sometimes late) every Christmas for the last fifteen? years. I LOVE getting Christmas letters, but I have had to let some things go, and Christmas cards and letters are one of them.

Instead, I’m doing a digital Christmas card!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

We began 2014 celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary. The actual day is December 12th, but there is never any time to celebrate our anniversary during the Christmas crazy, so we decided to do it big in January. David and I went on a three night Disney cruise (on the Magic) ALL BY OURSELVES. We missed the girl for like five minutes, but had an amazing time just hanging out with each other and eating really good food.

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The end of January brought crazy snow to the ATL (twice!). I’m sure you heard about it on the news even if you’re not in town. We were thankful that David got home safely on the day the city shut down. His fifteen minute drive became three hours, but that was nothing compared to what friends experienced. We had a nice, warm house and plenty of food. There were even opportunities for fun sledding and snowman building.

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February brought Maggie’s big Off Broadway Kids show where she played the god of water, Agwe, in “Once on This Island, Jr.” It was her hardest role to this point, and we were so proud of how hard she worked. It was her first solo, and her first opportunity to take curtain call all by herself. These are big steps in the musical theater world. The troupe took a twenty minute portion of the show to the National Performing Arts Competition at Disney and WON!!!! (You can watch the twenty minute performance HERE and HERE.) Not only did the troupe win, but Maggie, along with her fellow gods, won individual awards for their performances. Because the troupe won the competition, they were able to perform on the stage at Downtown Disney. (You can see her solo HERE.) Such an honor!

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Disney Stage

Spring found us facing our biggest change of the year. David’s job transitioned to one that doesn’t have a role on Sundays meaning he now works Monday through Friday and is free to go to church with us on Sunday. Mother’s Day was the first day we went to church together as a family in over a year! It was a happy day indeed.

HOH Mothers Day

You can now find David’s work online presence on Facebook and Twitter. And, be looking for some exciting new web developments in the future. In addition, he continues to play an important role in the campus bookstores and during conferences held at North Point Ministries.

Kathy continues to work for Orange, and helped host over 5,000 ministry leaders at the annual Orange Conference this year. There are now over 3,000 churches using the First Look curriculum she helps produce. It’s amazing to see what God is doing around the world through the work Orange does.

Orange

Maggie did several jobs for Orange this year. She is on the new preschool Dance Moves DVD. (That was a CRAZY shoot.) And, she continues to be one of the Bible Story DVD Clubhouse Kids. (You can get an app that has these Bible Story videos for each week of the year.) She has a blast teaching preschoolers how much God loves them.

Dance CVD

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Maggie is not only in chorus classes at school, but in the Chamber Choir as well. She auditioned in the fall of her sixth grade year and was one of a handful of six-graders invited to participate. This spring, they competed and blew away the competition with a score of 99, which is CRAZY good. They had a great time on the trip and brought home a huge trophy.

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Maggie is truly blessed with a fabulous chorus director who pushes them to do new and harder things each quarter. Their spring concert blew us away. Mags even had a solo that you can listen to HERE.

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And, just like that, the sixth grade year was over. Here’s the obligatory last day of school pic.

Last Day of 6th

The summer months brought lots of fun.

There was Woodlands Camp. This was her fourth year attending with her friend Olivia D. This year, Olivia M. came too. These are truly life long friends as all the mommies were pregnant together!

Woodlands

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Maggie and Kathy went up to Camp Kidjam in North Carolina this year. This camp is organized by Orange, and is truly AMAZING. Mags loves hanging out with the interns and Ms. Colette usually lets her get on stage at some point. She also loves hanging out with Mr. O’Brien, who is even crazier than her daddy.

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There was a trip to Edisto Island to visit Grandpa and Grandma Dot and hang out with the cousins from the Hill side.

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Then, later in the summer, we celebrated all three of their birthdays together with Nana.

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Maggie did a summer camp where she played a MOSTLY HYSTERICAL Captain Hook in “Peter Pan, Jr.” You seriously need to go watch one of her songs HERE. I mean, her comedic timing, awesome. So much fun.

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She also did a drama camp at CUE52, where she was one of three girls to play Elle. This was a really fun production that they pulled off in just a week. You can see her monologues HERE and HERE.

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The biggest fun this summer was had at the Nestleroth (Kathy’s mom’s side) family reunion over the Fourth of July. It was great to have all the Wileberger cousins in town as well as family from all over the country. Maggie really helped with the food preparation this year and has now learned family recipes including deviled eggs and brownies.

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The reunion was the first opportunity I had to use my NEW CAMERA too. LOVE IT!!

Speaking of cameras, Maggie had her first set of head shots done this summer. We’ve not signed up with an agent yet, but we’re thinking about it. And, we’re ready!

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We finished off the summer with a trip to Lake Lanier Islands with the Wileberger cousins. Such a great day!

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Finally, it was time to go back to school. Mags started SEVENTH GRADE! How is that even possible?

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She celebrated her 12th birthday with theater friends at home and then her cousins at their pool. Hard to believe, but next year’s Christmas pictures will have a teenager in them!

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Off Broadway Kids started up again in August, and Maggie was cast as Jojo in “Seussical, Jr.” They’ve been working VERY HARD on the production and will perform at the Off Broadway Theater the last weekend in January and the first weekend in February. If you’re local, you’re going to want to get tickets. They’ll then take this production to competition at the end of February.

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This amazing group of kids not only accomplish much on the stage, but they banded together twice to serve others this fall. A large group of them walked in the Walk to Defeat ALS. Then, in November, they packed 25 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

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In fact, the HOH packed EIGHTY-EIGHT shoeboxes this year for Operation Christmas Child for Kathy’s Birthday. It’s one of our favorite traditions of the year.

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In October, the HOH headed to their favorite place on earth to celebrate Halloween. This was our first time going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Maggie dressed as Smee and they had a special moment during the parade.

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Maggie was very creative this year and made one-of-a-kind Mickey ears to wear with her outfits.

IMG_6320 EPCOT_ECENTR2_7071431990MK_BELLEVILLAGEBRIDGEICONNC_7073641812We had an awesome time like we always do and, of course, can’t wait to go back. In fact, we’re heading out on the Disney Dream cruise ship very, very soon.

Maggie and Kathy continue to serve in the preschool area at Browns Bridge Church. Kathy is a “coach” over two rooms, and Maggie leads preschool worship. There is nothing like leading 100 preschoolers in singing songs about Jesus. So much fun.

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Finally, the most exciting thing that happened this December is that Maggie was asked to help with the Christmas Opener at North Point Community Church. Now, NPCC Christmas Openers are a thing of legend in the church world so this was a HUGE HONOR. We spent this past weekend hanging out in the greenroom (which isn’t green by the way) at North Point while she performed in six services that were seen at the main campus and online. She brought tears to our eyes multiple times with her performances, and we truly couldn’t be prouder of how she is using the gifts God gave her to glorify Him. You can watch her performance (and the rest of the awesome opener) HERE.

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That brings us to this day—the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior. We couldn’t be more thankful for the blessings we’ve had this year and the friends and family we get to celebrate with in this season. We pray that you and your have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

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31 Days of OCC: Packing Party

Everybody likes a party – right!? Well, almost everybody. Extroverts like a party. And, we’ve got TWO of those living in the House of Hills. So, several years ago we decided that we’d celebrate my birthday with a party—an Operation Christmas Child packing party!! We even had birthday cupcakes supplied by My Katie.

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Now, we’ve got the packing party down to a science here at the HOH. In fact, I did a whole Top Ten Tuesday blog post on having an Operation Christmas Child packing party. Make sure you click over to see the details.

The important things are these:

  1. Decide who is supplying the box contents. Is it you, your guests or a combination?
  2. Have a festive environment so that everyone has a good time.
  3. Be sure to collect the shipping money.
  4. Pray over the boxes.
  5. Know where you’re going to take the boxes once they’re packed.

That’s the basics. Then, it comes down to the details. I typically collect items throughout the year and then ask my guests to bring more age specific items to complete the boxes. Before the party, we line the hall with every container we can find in the house and sort all the crazy stuff I’ve collected throughout the year.

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When my guests arrive, they take a box (I order mine from OCC, but you can use shoeboxes too.) and start filling it with what I have in the hall. Then, they finish it off with the items they brought with them. Finally, they print a shipping label through the OCC website (we have a computer and printer) set up in the living room and attach it to the box. They all end up in the back of my van and get taken to my church, which is a drop off location.

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I love the site of my van filling up with boxes. It makes me happy every year.

Now, don’t think your packing party has to be a big, huge one like mine. I kinda like to do parties up, and now it’s become a tradition that people calendar months in advance. (Seriously, my friend Angela asked me in July when this year’s is so she could get it on her calendar.)

Your packing party can be just your family or yours and the one that lives next door. Or, maybe you are in a small group through church, and you want to get those families together to pack boxes. Or, your Bunko group might want to pack boxes before the next Bunko night. Oh, what about that playgroup that meets once a month—maybe they’d like to pack boxes. It could even be those friends from high school that you’ve been meaning to get in touch with, but needed a purpose to call them.

Whatever group you pull together, be it large or small, remember that what you’re doing will impact someone’s life forever. That’s why it’s important to pray over the box. That box that you pack at the party will end up in a child’s hands halfway across the world. They will open it and know you care and that there is a God who loves them.

So, who are you inviting over? When’s the party?

Have you been following along with the Write31Days series. Be sure to check out what other bloggers are writing about.

Posted in 31 Days, Christmas, Faith, Family, Serve | Leave a comment

31 Days of OCC: Why OCC?

31DaysOCCatHOH_HouseofHills.orgSometime in the last few years, I’ve become known in my circle of friends as “the lady who does OCC parties.” A question arises about OCC, and people say, “Ask Kathy, she’ll know.” The closer we get to collection week, the more tweets and texts I get with people asking me questions, “Can this go in the box?”

You wanna know a secret? I kinda love it.
I’ll answer any and all questions, and if I don’t know the answer I’ll find out.
I’m that passionate about it.

What started out as something that was fun to do around Christmas turned into a full blown, year-round endeavor in 2010. That was the year I decided that for my birthday I wanted to have an Operation Christmas Child party. So, I posted it on the blog and asked friends and family to give me box packing supplies instead of gifts. And, I invited anyone and everyone to participate.

We had a GREAT time that first year so we’ve done it every year since!!!!

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But, why OCC? Why shoeboxes?

That answer’s easy. My love languages are acts of service and gifts. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to give gifts. Ask my friends. When somebody says they like a particular candy, I write it down to make sure they get it soon. When it’s a special occasion, I like to mark it with a gift. Actually, my favorite gifts to give are “just because I love you gifts.” Those are awesome.

So, what better way to show someone half-way around the world that God loves them than by giving them a gift. A shoebox is a tangible way of saying, “I may not know you personally, but God does. And, He cares about you.”

A shoebox is something those children can hold and treasure and share and love. Each item in a shoebox communicates God’s love to these precious children. Toothbrushes and toothpaste show that He cares about their physical being. A plush friend shows His love through snuggles and cuddles. Toys show that He cares about joy and fun.

Then, there is that one item that He puts in each box that He’s picked out just for them. I’ve heard story after story of children who opened their shoebox and found just what THEY needed. Maybe it’s hair clips for a little girl who’s never had her own. Maybe it’s a new shirt arriving just as the one the little boy’s wearing is too small. Maybe it’s a needed pair of shoes or a sewing kit or a hammer and nails. Whatever it is, that one thing speaks into that child’s life, and God whispers, “I know  you. I love you.” 

It’s the stories of those whispers that bring me to my knees in gratitude and awe. My heavenly Father loves me as much as He loves these little people a world away. And, I know how much He loves them as I’ve watched Him orchestrate hundreds of thousands of people to bring them joy in the form of a shoebox.

That’s why OCC.
That’s why I pack shoeboxes EVERY year.
That’s why I’ll do it until I can’t do it any more.

I pack shoeboxes to give the gift of God’s love.

Won’t you join me this year?

 

Posted in 31 Days, Christmas, Family, Serve | 2 Comments

31 Days of OCC: The HOH Loves OCC

For the last four years on the second (or third) Sunday of November, the trunk of my van has looked something like this.

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Isn’t that AWESOME!?!?!

The HOH loves OCC (Operation Christmas Child), and we’ve ushered in the holiday season (and celebrated my birthday) with a huge party right before collection week since 2010.

In 2010, we packed 89 boxes.
In 2011, we packed 110 boxes.
In 2012, we packed 75 boxes.
In 2013, we packed 50 boxes.

Like I said, the HOH loves OCC, and I want to share that love with you, my Internet friends. I’ll be talking about OCC here on the blog for the next 31 days. We’ll talk about the history of OCC, how to pack a box, what to put in a box, how to get a box where it needs to go and so much more.

So, get ready to pack some boxes friends, because by the time the month is done, you’ll know exactly what to do… just in time for National Collection Week! This year, National Collection Week is November 17 -24, and I’ll be hosting my annual party on November 15th. I can’t wait to share all the fun with you!

So come back every day in October to see the newest 31 Days post. I’ll be linking up to #Write31Days along thousands of other bloggers. It’s going to be an awesome month.

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Posted in 31 Days, Christmas, Serve | 1 Comment

Parent CUE App

Friends! I realized I’ve never shared this AMAZING resource with you!

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It’s the Parent CUE App that my company, Orange, created a few years ago.

There is a section for preschoolers and a section for elementary. When you purchase the app, you get access to both sides!!! Awesome right!?!

There is a weekly video Bible lesson and then activities to do with your kids several times during the week that correspond with that lesson. There’s also support resources for parents. The App is designed to supplement churches that use the Orange curriculum, but anyone can use it.

My favorite part is the videos. They are so well made and perfect for when you just need to distract the little people for a minute at the doctor’s office and also for when you want to sit as a family and watch them together. I mean, if they’re going to watch a video while getting a haircut, even better if it’s a Bible story – right? Oh, and the preschool videos…. every few months there is a cute blonde girl named Maggie that shows up.

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She’s my favorite.

If you’ve never looked at the Parent CUE App, you should check it out. It’s a good one.

Disclaimer: I work for Orange, but get no additional benefit from selling the App. I just think it’s great.

Posted in Faith, Family | Leave a comment

Yummy Taco Cups

My girl loves some yummy taco cups — at least that’s what we call them at the HOH. Do you ever make these for your kids?

Yummy Taco Cups

I mean, they’re really easy to make. Like minutes easy to make.

You need:

  • Tostitos Scoops chips
  • Taco meat
  • Shredded cheese (I use the Mexican blend.)

Warm up your taco meat. I’m assuming it is leftover in the fridge like mine always is.
Place a spoonful in each scoop.
Top with shredded cheese.
Serve.

See, amazingly easy. Yummy taco cups for the win!

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My girl usually eats a dinner plate full for a meal OR a smaller plate (like maybe four or five) for a snack.

Oh yes! They are a great snack food too.

What’s a quick meal/snack that you like to make for your kids?

Posted in Cooking | 1 Comment

Awe, She Loves Me

I took Mags outside tonight to do a few quick videos and pictures for work. She was of course beautiful and great on camera.

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Then, I handed her the camera to hold while I picked up our scripts, and she started doing something I didn’t expect. She started taking pictures of me. Like, lots of them.

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She loves the fancy, new camera as much as I do and often grabs it to take nature shots. But, she’s never turned it on me.

Why would she want pictures of me?

And then I thought something that made me pause.

I take pictures of her ALL THE TIME.
Like, multiple times a day usually.
Why?
Because I love her more than words can say.
I love every inch of her… flaws and all.

You know what? She loves me that much.
Flaws and all.
Maybe that’s why she wants to take pictures of me.
So she can see me through that lens.
And focus on just me like I like to focus on just her.

So, I let her take my picture.
Because she loves me.

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We are on #TeamJDC

Remember how I said on my Fall TV plan that we were planning to watch The Voice because we knew someone auditioning? Well, he went last night and was AMAZING!!!

Did you see him? Did you see the judges fighting over him? Did you see how charming he was? Love me some James David Carter!

The HOH is on #TeamJDC !!!!

If you missed his blind audition, take just a minute and watch the fabulousness. Truly. Push play. You won’t be sad you did.

See, I told you!!!

Now is the time I get to brag and say I’ve been listening to this man sing for years. He’s led worship at our area churches and does an awesome job. He’s always been my favorite at various Married People events they’ve done because he of course gets the country songs, and his voice just melts you.

We’ve followed his career for years on Facebook and are just so stinkin’ excited for this amazing opportunity he has. Because, the thing is, not only is James David an incredibly talented guy. He’s also a super sweet, caring, southern boy (as seen in this article) who loves the Braves and the Dawgs.

We wish him the best and will be praying God guides him exactly where he needs to go. Right now, he’s leading the pack. Pretty sure it’s gonna stay that way.

#TeamJDC for the win.

Looks like I’ll be watching my first season of The Voice.

Posted in Fun | 2 Comments

Fall 2014 TV Schedule : What We’re Watching at the HOH

Fall2014_TVReally, I should have titled this what Kathy’s watching. Because, let’s be real. I’m the TV addict here in the HOH. I actually may have a problem. My DVR almost can’t keep up with me. For other’s who are like me, I thought I’d share what we’re watching at the HOH for Fall 2014.

Oh, and another disclaimer. I TOTALLY added shows to my DVR list after I read Mary’s AMAZINGLY THOROUGH investigation of the Fall 2014 TV Schedule over on Giving Up On Perfect. I encourage you to go check it out.

Here’s what I’ve got set up to record. (Please note that not all of these are starting this week, but this is what the TV Guide website has up as the Fall 2014 TV Schedule.)

Sunday:
Madame Secretary – 8PM – CBS – This one is new. Woman in power in a high drama situation. Thought I’d give it a try.
Once Upon a Time – 8PM – ABC – The entire HOH watches this crazy show. Can you say Disney characters? We caught up from season one during the summer and are anxious for the new season to begin.

Monday: 
The Big Bang Theory – 8PM – CBS – Watch this one with the hubby. We laugh out loud. Literally.
The Voice – 8PM – NBC – We know someone auditioning this year. Honestly, we’ll probably only watch as far as he makes it. So, hopefully all the way!
Castle – 10PM – ABC – I love Richard Castle. Sigh…
NCIS Los Angeles – 1oPM – CBS – I adore a good crime drama, and the the ensemble cast of this show really clicks.
The Blacklist – 10pm – NBC – Hubby and I both like this one. Always leaves you hanging just enough to go “huh?” in a good way.

Please note that Monday at 10PM is over-booked. I can only record two at once. (I know I’m behind the times, but we only have one TV and older model DVR and it’s really all we need.) We have not yet determined which show will be pushed to the bottom of the list and therefore must be watched online. Thankfully, this decision can wait until next week as NCIS:LA is not on this week.

Tuesday:
The Voice – 8PM – NBC – We know someone auditioning this year. Honestly, we’ll probably only watch as far as he makes it. So, hopefully all the way!
NCIS – 8PM – CBS - Gibbs… love him and his team. I’ve watched this show since the beginning. ADORE it!
NCIS New Orleans – 9PM – CBS – Newest of the NCIS franchise. Not sure if I’m going to like this one, but I’m going to try.
Person of Interest – 10PM – CBS – Another one hubby and I really like and have watched from the beginning. If you’re jumping in late on this one, go back to the beginning and catch up. Worth it.

Wednesday:
The Voice Results – 8PM – NBC – We know someone auditioning this year. Honestly, we’ll probably only watch as far as he makes it. So, hopefully all the way!
Criminal Minds – 9PM – CBS – Disturbing yet addicting. This is one I went all the way back to the beginning and caught up. Can’t let it go.

Thursday:
Football – 8PM – CBS – We kinda love football at the HOH. It’s on all fall. And, it’s a family thing.
Gracepoint – 9PM – FOX – David Tennant – That’s all that needs to be said. Truly hoping we like this one. Might let Mags watch depending on the intensity of the show. She is currently in love with Doctor #10.

Friday:
Um, nothing…. catching up on the week.

Saturday:
Football – wherever we can find it.
And, when football’s over, we have to reconfigure our lives.

What shows are set to record on your DVR? Did I miss any good ones?

Posted in Family | 10 Comments