We're the Guelfis... That's pronounced Well-Fee! So, Guelcome to our blog! Get ready to laugh and smile with us as we share some fun stories from our blessed life!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

BIG NEWS!!! (No, I'm not pregnant.)

In May 2009, I was seven-months pregnant with my oldest son and pretty much jobless. After working in the insurance industry for several years, I was certain that quoting auto insurance and calming down customers after their policies "collapsed" was definitely not for me. Knowing I had very little time to start another career before the new baby arrived, Fernando & I prayed like never before. I guess you could say we were completely winging it, trying not to be overwhelmed with worry as we counted down the days to my due date.

God opened all the right doors, and I was offered a job as a property manager at Seymour Homes Realty, Inc. in Goldsboro. Linda--the owner-- did not laugh in my face when I told her I was due in two months. She also offered to let me bring my new son with me to the office after he was born. "I love babies!" she said. It all seemed too good to be true. 

From my very first day on the job, I was fascinated by real estate. I learned how to process rent payments, communicate with property owners and tenants, coordinate repairs, look up tax cards, list properties for sale, and so many other things that made me realize I had found a career that might actually work for me. It was unpredictable, fast-paced, yet so rewarding to be a part of helping customers find the perfect home for their family. 

Two weeks after giving birth to Enzo, I was back in the office, but this time,  I had a little assistant. I realized it wasn't the most ideal situation to have a baby in the office (nothing says "look how professional I am!" like burping a baby while talking on the phone with a customer), but not a day went by that I wasn't thankful to be able to spend those hours with him. Talk about having the best of both worlds!

Things really got interesting when I threw not one but TWO babies in the mix. I'll never forget the look on Linda's face when I told her I was expecting Baby # 2. She reminded me that we were running a real estate office, not a DAYCARE. She immediately began to make arrangements for me to work from home- she bought me a laptop and had a server set up so I could access my office computer from home. I also finished the real estate class and received my real estate license just a few weeks before giving birth to my second son. 

Working from home had its challenges. Many nights I would stay up into the wee hours of the morning trying to get my work done. I learned how to work quickly (and quietly!) while my babies were asleep. What a privilege it was to be able to work from home and spend those priceless moments with my boys. 

As the boys got older, I was able to be in the office more. Each year, my sales steadily increased, as well as Seymour Homes' rental property portfolio. Although each day brought new challenges, I was beginning to see how rewarding a career in real estate could be. Although I wasn't the official owner of the company, I felt personally invested in it. 

At the end of last year, Linda approached me on a busy afternoon and offered me the opportunity of a lifetime. She asked me if I would be interested in being the new owner of Seymour Homes Realty. After I picked myself up off the floor and made sure she was serious, I told her "YES!" It took us a few months to work everything out, but as of April 23rd of this year, we closed on the sale of the business and made it official. As a rookie small biz owner, I am excited, terrified, cautiously optimistic- to name a few- but I'm also proud to be the owner of such a great, growing company! I know the road before me will be filled with many challenges, but my goal is to not only sell and rent houses, but to build a lasting relationship with each of our customers and to be a positive influence on my community. (I do realize how cheesy that sounds. No, I cannot figure out another way to say it other than: I will work hard & do my best.)

I will be FOREVER GRATEFUL, GRATEFUL FOREVER to Linda for taking a chance on me and saying, "you're hired!" She has always allowed me to be a mother to my boys first and foremost, and even if I sold a million houses, I could never repay her for that privilege. 

Now with all of that said….. who's going to help keep me in business? :)

For more info about Seymour Homes Realty, please like our Facebook page

Friday, January 2, 2015

5 Things I Want to Leave in 2014

I've been itching to get to my computer all day. A new year has begun, and I am practically brimming with ideas, goals, and dreams for 2015. I feel like the Energizer Bunny after he's consumed a case of Red Bulls. First item on the agenda: get a dust rag and a can of Pledge and go to town on this blog. I can't believe it's been almost a whole year since I've blogged! And I call myself a writer? What a disgrace!

2014 was a whirlwind of change: we rented out our house and moved into my mom's old house; my boys started school for the first time; real estate went crazy; we said goodbye to many dear friends at church; my sweet, dear, precious Grandma went home to Jesus; and plenty of events in between to keep us on our toes knees. As I reflect on everything that happened, I feel almost breathless. Whew! Sometimes I wish we could ask God to let us off the roller coaster and give us a turn on the placid, predictable Lazy River for a year or two. Wouldn't it be grand if we could be assured that only good things would happen in 2015? Although I have no idea how the New Year will pan out, at least I can determine to abandon those things that hinder me from experiencing God in all His fullness and glory. In order to successfully launch into the New Year, I feel God reminding me that a few things shouldn't accompany me. Here are 5 things that I'm determining to leave buried in the dust of 2014:

(1) Negativity 
I recently deactivated my Facebook account for an extended period of time, and once I logged back in, I was overwhelmed with story after story of more bad news: crime, tragic accidents, sickness, disease, heartache. Although social media can be used for much good, I am starting to realize how much negative information our brains and hearts are forced to process when we participate in Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I believe having the whole world at our fingertips is making it harder for us to think positively. I want to do my best to avoid negativity in 2015, even if it means reducing my time on social media.

(2) Love of Possessions
I'm not saying that I'm a hoarder… but I do need to remind myself, as the old song says, that I can't take it with me when I go. I especially want to convey this message to my sons. As they grow older, I want them to know they will never find true happiness in things. I realize that this truth must begin with Fernando and me. As their parents, it's up to us to show them how to appreciate their possessions and how to distinguish between "I need" & "I want." May 2015 be the year that materialism moves out of our hearts and home.

(3) Comparison
Compare, compare, compare: I've compared myself, I've compared my husband and sons. I've compared my family, my job, my church, and my friends. I've compared everything from my parenting skills to my Origami Owl necklace. Is there any area of our lives that isn't affected by the bad habit of comparison? I am asking God, even now on January 1st, to remind me to keep my focus on Him when I'm tempted to compare and criticize others.

(4) Apathy
I looked up the definition of apathy so it would stick with me a little better. Apathy is: "absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement." This is a tricky area, because many times, apathy goes unrecognized. Apathy is often not addressed BECAUSE OF apathy. It's probably best described with three words: I don't care. With each passing year, I become more aware of the brevity of life and how important it is to infuse our daily activities with fervor and purpose. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Life is so much more enjoyable when we resolve to leave apathy behind.

(5) Laziness
If you would've told me a few years ago, that one day I'd be resolving to avoid laziness, I'd have punched you in the face. When my sons were babies and toddlers, I barely had time to take a shower. They kept me moving all day, and in the brief moments they napped, I would catch up on my real estate duties. But now my babies are older. They've started school, they've learned how to do many things for themselves, they go to bed earlier, and they don't require the constant supervision that they did when they were *little*. [Insert crying emoji here] Even though I work full-time, I've found myself with a lot more "free time." Pedicure? What's that all about? Lunch with a friend? Yes, please! Grocery shopping alone? Sign me up! I have truly enjoyed having a few more moments to myself throughout the day, but I've also noticed an increased tendency to spend more time on my phone and computer in the afternoon/evening hours (READ: laziness). I am determining now to make a better use of my time in 2015- to stay busy, to not complain when laundry piles up, to work hard, to find ways to run my household more efficiently, to go to bed each night absolutely exhausted from a day well-lived. Time to trash the couch and leave it in 2014! (You do realize I don't mean that literally…)

I am determined that these five things will not be coming with me into the new year. 2015, come what may, will be a productive year lived for the Lord. I want to be busy doing things that matter! I want to roll up my sleeves and work hard for others. I want God's grace and love to be my footprints. Wherever I go in 2015, may His truth be my constant companion.

What bad habits/attitudes would you like to leave in 2014?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Eastern NC Blizzard Survival Tips

Y'all, I barely made it home before it began. Rain was starting to fall as I pulled into the driveway late this afternoon. A biting chill filled the air, warning of the fury to come.  Heavy, gray clouds loomed and swirled overhead as I got out of my car and ran for the safety of my house.

Frankly, I'm just thankful to be alive. 

Our local Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel is forecasting the "s" word: SNOW. And let me tell you, nothing pulls the crazy out of us Eastern North Carolinians quite like The Fish's forecast of a little frozen precipitation. Freezing rain, snow, sleet: call it what you want, but you can bet your bottom dollar that anything remotely WHITE and COLD falling from the sky will initiate a SHUTDOWN. It totally blows my mind how we handle Category 5 hurricanes without batting an eye, but throw a little wintry mix our way, and we go into full-throttle PANIC MODE. In order to survive a winter event around here, extra precautions must be taken. As a native Eastern NC girl, I'd suggest the following tips for surviving an Eastern NC blizzard:

(1) DO NOT PANIC! Even if the National Weather Center has placed our entire viewing area under a Winter Weather Advisory. Even if the DUALDoppler3000 shows your entire county shaded in light pink. Even if things are getting "dicey" out there on the Traffic Cam. It is important that you remain calm. 
(2) GO TO THE NEAREST GROCERY OR CONVENIENCE STORE AND BUY A LOAF OF BREAD & A GALLON OF MILK. This is when things get tricky. This is when you'll be glad you've been training for a 5K. There's just something about the threat of winter weather that makes us Eastern North Carolinians NEED bread and milk. Seriously. People who haven't had a ham sandwich in months will suddenly race to Walmart for a loaf of Sunbeam bread. Lactose intolerant folks will stock up on Maola 2%. These staple items will be flying off the shelves, so it's in your best interest to make sure you stock up. I don't care if you're on the Atkins diet and you're watching your carbs. I don't care if milk makes your tummy rumble. Trust me when I say you will need bread and milk to survive. (Go ahead and pick up a box of Fudge Rounds and a bag of Doritos while you're there. You'll burn off all those extra calories trying to scrape together enough snow for a midget snowman.)
(3) GET YOURSELF HOME AND IN YOUR FLANNEL PJ'S AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! As soon as you've survived the Bread & Milk Run, it's important that you head straight for home and get as  warm and comfortable as possible. Now would be a good time to crochet an afghan. Or put together a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle. (Take it a step further and do a puzzle of a cozy, wintry scene.) Crank up the Keurig. Lose yourself in Pinterest. Make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Or park yourself in front of the window and wait for the white stuff to start falling. (This is what most of us do). (This is the stuff Snuggie commercials are made of.)
(4) STAY TUNED TO YOUR LOCAL NEWS CHANNEL FOR UPDATES ON CLOSINGS AND DELAYS. You'll want to make sure you're in the loop regarding local closings and delays. Let me tell you: you do not understand the emotion of EXCITEMENT until you've sat on the edge of your couch during a winter weather event, hoping and praying and wishing that maybe, just maybe your county will be flashed on the screen and you will be granted a SNOW DAY. Hey, we'll break out the confetti for even a TWO-HOUR DELAY. Who are we kidding? We all know that the roads will be totally drivable by sunrise (yes, even the treacherous "bridges and overpasses.") But OK, if we must sleep in until 10 AM on a work/school day for the safety of the public, we won't complain.
(5) BY ALL MEANS, GET OUT & PLAY IN IT! One does not simply stay indoors when one has been granted a Snow Day. You MUST pile on as many layers of clothes as you can possibly stand (don't worry, most of us don't have a decent coat, much less snow boots), grab a trash can lid or cardboard box, and head for the closest hill. Or ditch. Or pothole. (Now you'll be wishing you'd made friends with that kid in the neighborhood who has a REAL sled.) You might want to bring a rope too, because chances are pretty high that someone will be pulling people around on a four-wheeler. Whatever you do, DON'T MAKE SNOW CREAM. The neighborhood kids will need every little bit of snow/sleet/wintry mix to finish their snow man.

As you scrape the ice off your windshield with your credit card (not many of us around here own an ice scraper either), remember: we may go a little crazy when the temperatures start to dip and angel dandruff starts to fall. But no one knows how to celebrate a SNOW DAY quite like Eastern NC!

((((The following footage was filmed during the height of tonight's historic "winter event." Make yourself a ham sandwich, and watch at your own risk........))))

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

30 Signs You've Busted 30 Wide Open

I hit the big 3-0 on October 11th, and I must admit I'm having a hard time with it. I know I won't get much sympathy from you 40+ people (since you're only a few candles away from dentures and Depends), but this getting older stuff is for the birds! I still want to spend a day at the beach without worrying about fine lines and wrinkles! I still want to browse in American Eagle on occasion without people assuming I'm shopping for my daughter. HA! I still feel young, right? Although I am somewhat in denial about entering another decade, I can't ignore the undeniable evidence that it's time to let go of my twenties and embrace this new chapter of life. 

Maybe you can also relate to these "30 Signs You've Busted 30 Wide Open":

(1) Your eyesight is getting worse. I visited the eye doctor a few months ago for my yearly exam (only I haven't been since 2008), and I was seriously straining to see the letters on the chart. There's nothing more horrifying than not being able to read past the "E" on the top of the chart. The doctor's last words to me before I left were, "Please don't drive without your new glasses." 
(2) Minivans are starting to look like the answer to all of life's problems. I spent my twenties as a staunch opponent of The Minivan. Although I have many friends who ROCK their Odysseys and Siennas and Quests, I personally couldn't bring myself to trade my SUV for a Mommy Mobile. Car companies have made noble efforts to jazz up the minivan and increase its cool factor, but for me, buying a van has always been the precursor to mom jeans and outdated sunglasses. But lately, I've found myself sneaking a second look at minivans as they whiz past me. What's not to love about automatic doors and comfortable seating for your kid's entire Little League team? The simple fact that I'm starting to see minivans in a new light can only mean one thing: I am getting older (and tired of having to manually open the doors to my SUV). 
(3) Young people start looking even younger. Fernando took me to Outback for my birthday dinner, and as we sat and waited for a table, I couldn't believe the young couples who kept arriving for date night. I kept looking around for signs of a mom dropping them off at the front door, because most of the young men didn't look old enough to hold a driver's license, much less to be dating. I mean, were they paying for their date's dinner with their allowance? And the girls? They looked like they could still (legally) order from the kids' menu. I almost threw a bread knife at a love-struck couple who were ignoring their cheese fries and holding hands across the table. Maybe they were truly in love or maybe they were just trying to avoid getting food in their braces. Either way, I was reminded that I definitely ain't a spring chicken anymore.
(4) Eyebrows are starting to get tricky. Wax? Pluck? Trim? Wear my hair like the girl from The Ring so that no one can see my eyebrows? I'm at a total loss as to what to do with these puppies that seem to get thinner and lighter with each passing year. In fact, I've started using an eyebrow pencil for the first time. I think I need a hug. 
(5) You catch yourself talking like your mother. Remember those phrases that your mom used all.the.time. that made you roll your eyes as a kid? Chances are you'll start hearing those same phrases come out of your own mouth once you hit 30. 
(6) Tanning beds are icky. If tanning salons rewarded their customers with frequent flier miles, I would never have to worry about paying for airfare again. A frequent fake-baker while in my twenties, I enjoyed spending a few minutes cocooned in warmth and emerging with a glowing, golden tan. (Who was I kidding? I looked like a TANgerine.) Now that I've had kids and hit thirty, the smell of burnt flesh has lost its appeal. I'm not saying I won't ever step into a tanning salon again; however, I am saying at this point in my life, as far as indoor tanning goes, AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
(7) You'd rather stay in on Friday night. Flannel pj's and Netflix > anything Goldsboro has to offer. 
(8) You lose interest during a movie. I hardly ever watch movies anymore. Two reasons: (A) I can't stay awake and (B) There are always dishes that need to be washed, clothes that need to be folded, toilets that need to be scrubbed... Kinda hard to focus on a story line when there's a To Do list to take care of. MEN DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS! 
(9) Your idea of "clubbing" involves visiting Sam's and buying 1100 rolls of toilet paper and five pound blocks of cheese. Also, SAMPLES!!! 
(10) You become more career-oriented. Starting a new decade in life makes you reflect on what you've accomplished in your career, and it's a good time to set goals for the next ten years. Or better yet, lose yourself in a half-gallon of Haagen Dazs and lament all the wasted opportunities from your 20s.
(11) You are more excited about your kids Halloween costumes than they are about getting candy.
(12) Wearing high heels just ain't happening. The only time I wear high heels (and by "high heels," I mean my pair of black pumps with sensible heels that I bought at Sears for $14.99) is on Sunday morning for church. And I can hardly wait to kick them off when we get home. If I'm feeling real adventurous, I'll wear them again to Sunday night service. When you're out and about with two little boys, you must be prepared to break into a run at any moment. And if you've ever had to chase your child across a crowded parking lot while wearing high heels, you'll agree with me that flats are a much more practical (and safe!) option. 
(13) Your four-year-old is beating you at Memory. True story, bro.
(14) You are more worried about your health. Hitting 30 makes you start wondering and worrying about what's going on inside your body. That piece of Bubblicious gum that you swallowed as a pre-teen... is it causing issues for your small intestine? And moles and sun spots on your skin will start to look very, very suspicious (another reason I've decided to steer clear of the tanning bed). 
(15) You're starting to get bold in the kitchen. By age 30, you've had a little time to experiment and evolve as a cook. You've cooked enough meals to realize that a can of Cream of Mushroom soup covers a multitude of meat sins, and that it is possible to botch up Kraft Mac. But you've probably also started channeling your inner Barefoot Contessa, and trying new things... like substituting applesauce for oil and making fondant (AKA- Icing from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks). 
(16) You've abandoned Victoria's Secret for whatever's on sale that doesn't pinch, itch, or require special washing instructions.
(17) You've tried hot tea.
(18) You no longer make Christmas wish lists.
(19) You haven't been into American Eagle or Aeropostale since...............
(20) TV shows from your childhood are now being played on Nick at Nite. Back in the 80s and 90s when I was a kid, I remember Nick at Nite running old shows like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "I Love Lucy." Fast forward a couple decades, and those old black and white shows have been replaced with "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "The Nanny."
(21) You can't even remember what you did on your 21st birthday.
(22) You've stopped buying graphic tees. Maybe it's just me, but now that I'm in my thirties, I'm finding it a tad difficult to wear anything (in public) with corny sayings like "Beautiful Disaster" or "Set Me Free" emblazoned across the chest. In fact, I just donated two huge bags full of Old Navy graphic tees to Goodwill. This is more than a tad bit depressing, especially when I remember how much I begged my mother to let me wear graphic tees when I was a young lass. But graphic tees like this one? I just can't.

(23) You're learning to be a little smarter with your money. When you're in your twenties, retirement seems like an eternity away. But there's something about hitting 30 that makes you wake up and smell the 401K. Unless you want to spend your golden years slurping Ramen through your dentures, now is probably a good time to start saving for the future. 
(24) You've been around long enough to see trends come, go, and come again. I totally remember my mom rocking flats like these in the 90s. Although hers were not embellished with gold studs and most certainly did not come from Old Navy.... And let's talk about how burgundy is all the rage this year. BURGUNDY!!!

(25) "Fun" is now defined as anything that doesn't interfere with sleep or require extra clean-up. You probably have to be in your 30s in order to enjoy the total elation that comes with alphabetizing your CD collection on a Friday night.
(26) THE BACKSTREET BOYS ARE NOW FATHERS!!! And their chart-topping hits which appalled our mothers back in the day now sound like lullabies compared to today's musical garbage. Also, Zack from "Saved By the Bell" will turn 40 next year. Let that sink in for a minute.

(27) Words like "selfie" & "bestie" make you cringe. Maybe this is just me, but I wouldn't be caught dead using these abbreviated hashtags on Twitter or Instagram. #embarrassing
(28) You're not afraid to ask for help. Just a couple weeks ago, I visited a local office supplies store to buy paper. In case you've never had to purchase ten reams of paper before, let me explain that there is NO ladylike way to get that box off the shelf and into your cart. I highly recommend wearing a back brace and elastic waist pants if you are shopping for paper alone. Make sure you have a heating pad and a bottle of Aleve on standby. Those cases of paper weigh more than yo' momma! Anyway, I was in the store, and once I'd located the cheapest box of paper, I stretched my neck, flexed my wrists, and cracked my knuckles. Let's do this, I thought to myself. Taking a deep breath, I bent down and reached for the box in front of me. (I may or may not have repeated, "Light as a feather, stiff as a board" three times as I slid my fingers under the box.) I'm pretty sure I let out a groan as I finally got the box off the shelf and realized I would need to lift it higher to get it into the cart. About this time, a little elf of an employee decided to make his rounds down my aisle. "Can I help you with anything, ma'am?" he asked casually. "Um, sure, could you tell me where I could find the best deal on paper clips?" I wanted to spit out sarcastically, but I didn't answer right away, mainly because my cart was getting away from me and I WAS HOLDING A FOUR-TON CASE OF PAPER! "Yes, if you could help me get this paper in my cart, that'd be great," I finally managed. "Oh, of course," he said as he scurried over to help me. After what seemed like an eternity in the land of Awkward Moments, we finally dumped the box into the cart. I felt like I'd just done an hour of Zumba. I'm pretty sure the twenty-something me would've refused his "help" and lugged that paper across the store like a boss. I'm also pretty sure the thirty-year-old me fears the word hernia enough to ask for help when needed.
(29) You're more interested in politics and the future of our society. Do not get me started on Obamacare.
(30) You're starting to realize, with each passing moment, what is truly important. Like control top pantyhose and Oil of Olay. HA!

Those of you who've joined the Thriving Thirties Club with me, what would you add to this list? Any advice for getting older?


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm Ready For My Magic Wand Now... Right Now!

I'm ready for my magic wand now. You know.... the magic wand that you wave over your kids and that keeps them little forever. Where can I get one? What I wouldn't give to make these days last just a little longer.

I watched my boys fall asleep last night, and I couldn't stop the tears from spilling down my cheeks. I guess every mom has a meltdown or two or forty like this, but it hit me like a ton of Legos that my babies are growing up. My boys are now four and three -just a few short years away from braces and Little League and summer camp and incredibly awkward school pictures- but we are having so much fun together in this stage of early childhood.

Trips to the grocery store and other public outings aren't nearly as traumatic as they were a couple years ago (back when I thought it was absolutely necessary to load up two diaper bags, a Pack N Play, lullaby CDs, and enough Goldfish to end world hunger, just for a quick trip to Food Lion). My little angels are also learning that the food pyramid doesn't consist solely of Easy Mac and fruit snacks (chicken fries count as a protein, right?). And best of all, they shower me with kisses and hugs and "I love yous" until I feel like my heart will burst. I'd be perfectly content to freeze the clock and chase Indian summer with these two little mischief makers and their Daddy for the rest of my days.

If only I could....

No matter how much we as parents wish time wouldn't taunt us and float away like a leaf in the wind, we can't stop it. We can't even slow it. We can only squeeze the most out of the minutes we have right now....

Right Now- a precious, priceless gift from God that I often choose to squander on meaningless activities instead of investing it in my children.

Right Now- a split second to say "yes" to good and "no" to evil.

Right Now- a fleeting chance to distinguish between the temporary and the eternal.

Right Now- the tick tock tick tock that all too soon turns into yesterday and might-have-been.

Oh, how the Lord is convicting me about my misuse and abuse of Right Now! I spend time like it's unlimited and refundable; I waste precious minutes on Candy Crush and Facebook and Pinterest and Netflix like I have forever at my fingertips; I foolishly continue my pursuit of more when I have all I need hopping up and down in front of me, tugging at my shirt and asking me to read them a book.

There are a million and one ways to wave goodbye to time, but I'm learning, little by little, that any moment shared with my sons is time well-spent.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dollar General Jam Session

Is it just me, or are Dollar General stores popping up EVERYWHERE? Honestly, it's like they build them during the night while the rest of the town is asleep. I can't count how many times I've passed by a Dollar General in recent months and thought, "When did THAT get there?" It seems like we have a DG on every street corner in Wayne County now.

Don't get me wrong- I love a good dollar store just as much as Dora the Explorer loves to explore and ask questions. Especially when said dollar store offers semi-non-cheesy greeting cards (without typos!) for 2/$1. Especially when said dollar store has a clearance section. Especially when said dollar store offers basic groceries that (A) don't bear expiration dates from before I graduated from high school (here's looking at you, Big Lots) and (B) don't look like they were hauled around in the bed of a '77 Chevy down a 100-mile stretch of dirt roads (cough cough, Ollie's). Especially when said dollar store is a Dollar General!

I'm pretty positive I inherited my love for Dollar General from my mother. She is the DG Queen!! She says she doesn't have access to "The Back" of Dollar General (you know, the warehouse area of stores where employees like to hoard all the good stuff), but seriously, she finds the best stuff in there that no one else can find. She recently showed up at my house with a cool pair of Navy flats that, I kid you not, looked JUST LIKE TOMS. My mother? Wearing Toms? Oh no, this can't be happening! I don't even own a pair of Toms yet.

"Mom, I didn't know you had a pair of Toms!" I said, pointing at her shoes.

"Eight bucks, Dollar General!" she exclaimed with a snazzy snap of her fingers. "And who's Tom?"

Another time she brought me an adorable set of owl garden ornaments. Cutest things I've ever laid eyes on. Three guesses where she got them? Dollar General, baby! For less than a #7 combo at McDonald's, of course.

So anyway, I guess it was my mother's godly influence that sent me to Dollar General earlier this week when I needed aluminum foil. It was my youngest son's 3rd birthday, and we had made big plans to grill out. I wasn't really in a hurry, so I grabbed a cart on my way in. (Can I just interrupt myself here and admit that getting a cart instead of one of those handheld baskets is a pretty big financial commitment? It just screams, "I'm here for more than just milk and bread. I'm here to find THE DEALS!")

I started browsing and adding a few things to my cart: SpongeBob hand soap for $1? Don't mind if I do. My favorite TRESemme hairspray for $3? I think I'll take two, please. Batman pj's for my boys that will probably fit a Ken doll after one washing? Why not?

I had quite a cart load of bargains by the time I finally noticed it, and boy, did it snap me out of my retail therapy reverie. The music they were playing in the store.... why was it so loud? And it sounded like two guys having a competition to see who could be more obnoxious- the one banging on drums or the other one screaming incoherent phrases into a microphone. I was annoyed, but I decided to give the DG disc jockey the benefit of the doubt. Surely this was just a bad song choice on Bob 93.3, and we would be right back to Kenny G and Adele after the heavy metal shouting match was over.

Folks, that didn't happen.

In fact, the next song started up even louder and more annoying than the first. The only way I can think to describe it is: if electric guitars and drums could give birth, that song would be the sounds they made while in labor WITH QUADRUPLETS.

My heart started racing in time with the awful beat, beads of sweat speckled my forehead. Oh no, Dollar General, this is not what I wish to be serenaded by while I shop! Don't you understand that shopping without kids is the Mommy equivalent of a Sandals vacation? Are you trying to run me out of the store without buying anything? I have a cart, for Pete's sake. I'M NOT JUST HERE FOR BREAD AND MILK!

I started searching for an employee- anyone with a yellow shirt and black pants that could turn the music off and put those guitars out of their misery. The only person I could find was a sweet-looking senior citizen working at the register, and since she had a line full of customers (mostly basket shoppers) I decided not to bother her. I resolved to get my aluminum foil and get the heck outta dodge, before a migraine set in.

As my luck would have it, I couldn't find aluminum foil ANYWHERE! But then again, being blasted with Annoying Anthems of a Head Banger didn't exactly have me in the best frame of mind. I finally located the aluminum foil (located right below a loud speaker, of course), and pushed my cart to the check-out line.

Bless her heart, sweet Granny At The Register was doing the best she could. But a customer trying to pay part debit/part cash was a just a little too much for her cashier skillz. She consulted a black binder for about forty-five hours and punched quite a few numbers into the computer until somehow -miraculously- the transaction went through. When the next customer in line presented Granny with a pastel housedress without the price tag, I was about done with DG. I was ready to abandon my cart of bargains (don't judge- you know you've done it before) and just pay $7 for foil at the BP down the road.

But something stopped me and kept me in that line of weary shoppers. I knew I wasn't leaving that store until someone heard what I had to say about their choice of music. (Plus, who was I kidding? I really really needed that hairspray.)

Finally, it was my turn. I began unloading my items onto the counter, and summoned every ounce of Southern dignity and grace in my body. I decided to be polite even though I was none too happy about being run outta there before I had a chance to check out the greeting cards. "Excuse me, ma'am," I began politely. "How do you work here with that loud music? It makes me wanna pull my hair out!"

Granny stopped scanning my items and peered at me over her bifocals. "Everybody keeps complaining about it. I guess it's a little too loud." She shrugged, then went back to scanning and bagging my purchases. Everyone behind me in line stood quietly. If it hadn't of been for the Sons of Lucifer screeching in the background, you could've heard a pin drop.

That went well.

I collected my bags and ran out of that Dollar General, determined to never return again.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Panama Trip- Part 1

In May, one of our family dreams became a reality.... we went to Panama! For those of you who might not know, Panama is a tiny, beautiful country located at the southernmost tip of Central America....

(I know Geography's not the most exciting subject in the world, but I was appalled by how many people had NO CLUE where Panama is located. Before we left, I mentioned to several people (read: everyone I came into contact with) that I was getting ready for a big Panama vacation with my family. One man replied, "Panama....that's over by the Philippines, right?" Another said, "Have a great time in Florida!" And yet another commented, "I know! That's where the Suez Canal is located!"

Not cool, people, not cool. Let's think outside the box a little, shall we?)

My handsome husband is from Panama, and ever since I met him, I've wanted to visit his country and see where he was raised. Due to work and finances and the Baby Boom of '09-'10, we've never been able to go. But this year, we were determined NOTHING would stop us. (I almost ordered us t-shirts that said "Panama or Bust." True story.) Since Fernando's dad's birthday is on May 13th, and Fernando's birthday is on May 15th, we decided May 12th through the 27th would be a brilliant time to go. Fernando's nieces were also planning to visit us through May 12th, so we would be returning to Panama with them.

We had everything planned out, but as the day approached for our departure, I started feeling just a teeny, tad bit PANICKED about getting to Panama. Google and I became good buddies as I searched for tips and tricks for travelling in an airplane with toddlers. (Apparently checking children in with the luggage is frowned upon by most airlines.... ha!) We heard from friends that Nabis (tablets for kids) were wonderful tools that would keep even the most hyper of children entertained for hours, so of course we had to have two of those. (eBay!) Terrified that the kids' ears would pop, I bought enough Bubblicious gum to keep every passenger on our flight smacking all the way to Panama. By the time our departure date arrived, I had collected candy, coloring books, stickers, crayons, small toys, and -though it pains me to admit this to the world- PACIFIERS! That's right, folks, I stocked up on two packs of my boys' favorite pacis. Enzo had pretty much stopped asking for his paci, but I wanted to be prepared for anything. If my kids were gonna be screaming banshees on the plane, I needed to have a plan of action. If a paci wouldn't calm 'em down, nothing would.

Fernando's nieces, Karla and Stephy, arrived on May 8th. Fernando was working, so the boys and I went to the airport to pick them up. I figured it would be a stellar opportunity to point out the airplanes and prepare the boys for our journey. When we pulled up in front of the pick-up area, Enzo started freaking out. "Where are we going, Mom? What is this place? I don't want to get on the plane. I don't want to get on the plane. I. DON'T. WANT. TO. GET. ON. THE. PLANE!" I patiently answered each question and assured him that the airport is a super cool place! And we were going to have so much fun on the plane! And Papa was waiting for him in Panama! He wasn't too convinced and was still white-knuckling his car seat by the time Stephy and Karla got in the car. Luckily, seeing the girls made him forget his fears, and he turned on his full-blown Enzo charm. I, however, knew that I had less than five days to get Enzo on board with the Panama trip. Emotionally AND physically.

We really enjoyed our time together with Stephy and Karla. Enzo and Gabriel HAD to introduce their cousins to one of their favorite places- Marbles Kids Museum. I'm not sure if the girls were quite as impressed....

The boys fell in love with their cousins....

And I LOVED taking them to all the hot spots in Goldsboro (i.e.: Walmart & Chick-Fil-A & my favorite pedicure place).

Their time with us flew by, and before we knew it, D-Day (Departure Day) had arrived.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at noon on Mother's Day, so at least we didn't have to wake up two toddlers before the crack of dawn. Fernando crammed everything into our SUV, then we squeezed ourselves in between the suitcases, and we were off! I am fully aware that we looked like the Clampetts all the way to RDU airport. The ride to Raleigh was uneventful, probably because we barely had room to breathe. Or maybe God in His infinite wisdom and mercy was just giving me a few moments of peace and quiet before the debacle that was to come.

The calm before the storm........