Monday, June 29, 2015

Grateful for Dreams

Friday was an incredibly exciting day for our family as we watched from the sidelines as my oldest son signed on the dotted line to begin his dream job.  Riley was drafted by the Houston Astros, 79th overall, in this years MLB draft.  If you have been reading along you already know all this but for the sake of documenting this exciting day this post is a little about Riley's journey.  

In January I needed Riley to sign some paperwork and we met in Waco for dinner.  At the end of our visit I was just overwhelmed by how much he had grown up in the past several years away at college and I said to him "Bud, how does it feel knowing that in just a few short months your dream may come true?".  His reply shocked me a little when he said "Mom, it has been my job for so long it doesn't even feel like a dream anymore".  

I am so grateful today.  Grateful Riley was given such an amazing gift and grateful he realized at some point it wasn't free.  
None of this has come without some adversity.  I can look back now and pinpoint a handful of specific occurrences on Riley's journey that were turning points.  Yes, he had natural talent that carried him through when he was young and he was always bigger than most so he was able to perform at a little higher level from literally day one of T-ball.  He also understood the game much earlier and had a competitive spirit which led him to want to be on the field all the time no matter what position he was put into.  
Once middle school arrived and size began to even out among his peers, Riley had a decision to make.  We turned to tournament ball when he was 12 and he saw his fair share of time warming up the bench.  He was frustrated as this was something new for him and we began to encourage him to work outside of practice if he really wanted to continue at a higher level.  We also encouraged him to talk one on one with his coaches which was definitely something he was not really willing to do at that age but something we would continue to push as Reid & I felt strongly the contact needed to come from him and not us.  
Once in high school he had a few little challenges just from a  growth standpoint that caused him to have a slow start to the season.  If you have raised boys and seen how fast they grow between 12-16 you will realize how hard it must be to adjust to those growth spurts when it seems they happen over night sometimes. He kept working and after his freshman year he had a very hard decision to make. The team he had been playing for in our hometown had taken him about as far as it was going to and he had been invited to play with a team in Houston. Riley was extremely close to his coaches and some of his teammates but after discussing with his dad and me and knowing what the Houston team had to offer he made his decision.  We are so grateful he had the chance to play with a local team for so many years first and will always be grateful for the support those coaches gave him both on and off the field.  
Varsity baseball....wasn't that just like yesterday?!!  Riley had a stellar sophomore year on the field and could not have looked stronger on the mound.  He went on to play summer ball with the Houston Heat and that is when things became very exciting.   By the end of the summer he had been offered by four D1 schools right here in Texas (momma was happy) and by September he was sure TCU was the school for him.  
Flash forward to his junior season and there was the adversity again.  He struggled on the mound with his command at the beginning of the season and there were plenty of other boys to step up and take his place and they did.  It was hard to see him lose his confidence.  We again encouraged him to communicate with his coaches one on one.  He continued to work hard and by the time playoffs rolled around he was back on track.  He worked so hard the fall of his senior year and by the time the season started he was physically and mentally ready and had an outstanding senior season. We watched as they fought all the way to the state championship game before coming up short with the silver.      
Off to TCU where he was thrown so many adjustments all at once.  Alone without his family for the first time.  Workouts and college classes and learning to study on a whole new level left him feeling a little lost.  Let me tell you I have an entirely new respect for college athletes and the work they put in on and off the field.  Riley wanted to be a starter at TCU and he wanted to earn it his freshman year and when it became apparent that was not in the plan he was definitely frustrated.  TCU's program is all about selflessness; Team First, Team Last as well as energy and excellence.  He earned his first save against Texas Tech that spring and after receiving the game ball he immediately knew what he had to do...whatever was best for the team.  
I mean it just got better and better for this kid and his freshman summer he headed off to Santa Barbara for summer ball before getting called to North Carolina to try out for Team USA.  My baby was in California with no passport and I still can't believe it all worked out but let's just say there was some overnight shipping of birth certificates, a trip to the LA courthouse (alone!) and a flight across the country.  This boy grew up so much that summer!   Team USA was an amazing growth experience. While it was tough with traveling to a new ballpark almost every single day and then a trip to Japan which can be exciting or stressful if you are a picky eater and used to having your own space, Riley was grateful to be wearing the red, white and blue and playing for his country.  
Sophomore season arrived and the Horned Frogs made quite the run all the way to the College World Series.  Riley logged 15 saves on the season and was on top of his game.  He chose to forego summer ball to work on getting in shape to try and earn a starting position.  The fall came and went and it was clear what the team needed most was for him to remain in the closing role.  After logging 14 saves he hit a slump at probably the very worst time possible in the season beginning with the Big XII tourney. I cannot even imagine what it was like for him because my momma heart was breaking for him.  I am so grateful for his teammates and coaches for instead of giving up on him they all had the utmost confidence he would prevail and fight through.  They picked him up and he worked harder and was able to finish his career at TCU logging 9 outs with 8 of them being K's during TCU's run at the College World Series.  To see that smile back on his face was priceless.  
So here we are and his dream to one day play in the big leagues is one step closer.  Surrounded by his 9 biggest fans, he started his career with the Astros organization.  When asked what it meant to him to have us all there he said it meant "everything".  He went on to talk about how his family had made sacrifices to get him to where he is today and it was such a proud mom moment knowing he was so grateful.  He handled himself so well with all the questions he answered and I was just sitting there thinking who the heck is this man?!!  He definitely was no longer my little boy. 
He was able to throw a bullpen at Minute Maid park and this picture, oh my goodness this picture!!  He was so ready to get to work and honestly I think he would have skipped all the hoopla and headed straight for Iowa immediately after signing if he could have.  
I really do believe that every piece of this story has fallen right into place just the way God planned it. The adversity Riley faced along the way had the potential to derail him and send him along another path but the right people continued to be placed into his life at just the right time to lead him, mentor him, support him and sometimes just love him.  

I'm so grateful for all of those people from every teacher, coach, friend who guided him and also for those who were critics and challenged him in a different way.  I'm grateful for a family that sticks together and shares in the positive and the negative along the way.  I haven't always felt comfortable asking for prayers but the past few months I was begging for this boy to be covered in prayer and I'm so, so grateful as I know our family felt those prayers in such a big way.  

So a new journey begins and this time it is a "real" job instead of just a dream.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for my boy.  

Thanks to all of you for following along with this story!  

Visit my contact page to see where I may be linking up today! 

Favorite Summer Shoes

 Today I'm joining Erika and Andrea for a Favorite Things party with this months favorite showing off summer shoes!
Summer Shoes

Summer Shoes
 I ordered these Reef Flip Flops several months ago and have been so pleased.   I have a really high arch and there is enough arch support and cushion in these to wear even for longer walks.  The colors go with everything!  
Summer Shoes
So many of the bloggers I follow have recommended these Sam Edelman Gigi sandals and I finally broke down and purchased a pair for myself.  They have definitely been the most worn shoe since April and they really do go with everything.  
Took the Gigi sandals on a stroll around the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha and did a whole lot of walking and my feet never hurt.  You can read about our Omaha trip here and here.
Summer Shoes
 I purchased these shoes on a whim and wasn't quite sure if I would love them once they arrived but oh my goodness they are so much better in person.  I typically do not like to splurge on shoes because I am so hard on them but these definitely instantly elevate an otherwise plain outfit.  The first time I wore them I did have some rubbing around my toe but have not had any issues since.  
Summer Shoes
Summer Shoes
 Here is another shoe I put in my cart and then debated about before ordering.  Even after I received them I let them sit for a couple of weeks before finally deciding to take them for a spin.  Why I waited so long I will never know!  I have worn them multiple times since and even wore them last Friday for 8 hours which included lots of walking in and around Minute Maid Park.  A few other similar styles in the same print here in a wedge and here in a flat.  
Summer Shoes
Loved these Vaneli wedges from day one!  They were comfortable from the get go and are such a great neutral.  This is definitely a pair of shoes I may wear out in one season.  
Summer Shoes
This has been one of my favorite outfits this summer and you can see all the details here. running shoes!  I have missed them the past few months but it's time to get reacquainted.  I switched to Brooks running shoes last November and have been really pleased.  

I've kind of been on a shoe kick lately.  Do tell....what are your favorite summer shoes? 

Hop on over to my contact page to see where else I may be linking up today!  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Queen's Chronicles - Week 26

Week 26 and just like that half the year is over! We have packed in so much the first half and I can't wait to see what the next half has ahead of us.  I am looking forward to a little downtime the rest of the summer.  

Day #173

Am I the only one who does this??  I don't know why but stopping for gas is just such an inconvenience to me (as if running out would not be) and I always push it to the very last mile before I fill up.  

Day #174

 There is no personal space with this boy.  After being gone for a week he has barely let me out of his sight!  

Day #175 

( should read shut up but evidently autocorrect recognizes the inappropriate word)
Riley moved all his stuff home from Fort Worth on Monday and we loved having him home for the week.  He is always entertaining and evidently Dutch was trying to make sure he knew who was boss at home now! 

Day #176

Poor Dillon has grown so much this year and all of his clothes were too small so we had a little shopping spree.  I wish I had a picture of him and how excited he was when we finally made it to Hollister.  He was so adorable trying on clothes and coming out to show me....A-dorable.  He has grown up way too fast and it really seems like just yesterday that I was shopping at Hollister with Jordan and Riley.  

I also had a great girls night out with my friends Holly, Amanda and Sarah!  We were obviously too busy talking and taking a picture never even occurred to us.  

Day #177

As most of you already know Friday was a special day for our family.  Riley signed his contract and officially became part of the Astros organization.  It was really just surreal and I was so happy we were all able to be there with him.  He left the next day and will start his career with the Quad Cities River Bandits in Iowa.  

Day #178

 Look y'all we really do have more going on than baseball!  Saturday we were back in College Station to watch Dillon's 7 on 7 team compete in the state tourney.  

Day #179

 One of Dillon's good friend from Austin actually came to town for the same 7 on 7 tourney and was able to stay the rest of the weekend with us so Keith took them for some fishing.  
Don't be jealous but while they were gone I decided to go through my "junk" drawers.  I had been shoving paperwork and pretty much anything else I couldn't deal with immediately this past few weeks into the drawers to keep the counter clean.  Sure felt good to have everything find a home today.  
 Watermelon is one of my very favorite things about summer!  
And these girls definitely felt the same way!  Between the 3 of us we ate half a watermelon.  
We had a nice little thunderstorm Sunday afternoon which was the perfect chance to catch up (read cram) for Sunday night Seamless bible study.  This is a good one y'all so if you are looking for one I would highly recommend it.  My friends Katy and Cindy have done an excellent job leading us!   

Back to the grind in the morning!  Have a great week! 

To see where I may be linking up please visit my contact page.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Epiphanie Camera Bag

What better time for cute patterned shorts and tanks than on vacation.  It is also not uncommon to see me with a camera in my hand and this is especially true while on vacation. I love having lots and lots of pictures to spark our memory for years to come of all the fun experiences we have.  
I also almost always have multiple lenses in tow as the majority of our trips also include some sort of sporting activity.  I always carried a backpack style camera bag but it seriously looked like a backpack you would carry in college.  
 Last year I purchased an Epiphanie camera bag and have been so happy to have something to hold all my equipment yet still look somewhat stylish.  
 I still have the comfort of a backpack but it could double as a purse for sure. Excuse my bra strap and the shadows...vacation time meant pictures when it was convenient and and a lot of bribing the 13 year who was overjoyed to be photographing his mom in public!   
 There is a compartment for my iPad as well as plenty of extra little pockets to sneak in a snack or two at the ballpark!   

This particular style is almost perfect with one exception.  The way the straps are configured make it somewhat difficult to get into the zipper pocket on top to retrieve the larger pieces such as the actual camera body.  I often have to completely remove the bag and set it down first and it would obviously be much more functional if I could just grab what I needed quickly.  Other than that I'm super happy with the quality and feel my equipment is safe in the cushioned compartments.  

Shop the look! 
J. Crew Factory Patterned Shorts here - My fave are the 5 inch
J. Crew Factory Tank exact here
Sam Edelman Gigi Sandals here

Hope you are having a super week!  

Visit my contact page to see all the fun bloggers I'm linking up with. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Omaha Fun Part Two

 We have actually traveled to Omaha, Nebraska 4 times in three years but knew this would probably be the last for awhile and wanted to enjoy some of our favorite places and experience some new things too.    I recapped our first few days including a trip to Lauritzen Gardens and Kennefick Park in last weeks post which you can read here.
Visit Omaha
We stayed the first four nights in Aksarben Village (Nebraska backwards..clever) which was all very new with hotels less than a year old.    If you head to Omaha and want to be away from downtown but within a few miles of all activities I would highly recommend this area.  

 We grabbed a cupcake at Jones Bros. which has appeared on Cupcake Wars.  Dillon grabbed the german chocolate cupcake and evidently it was super because he ate it too quickly to share a bite or have me take a picture.  
We were excited to be able to add a pin for College Station on the map!  
The boys passed on the zoo this year but Carly, Amy & I just couldn't resist.  There was a huge construction project going on so that did take a little away from one area but it is going to be fabulous when it is completed.  We really love this zoo and all the exhibits.  
The exhibits are all set up to present the animals in a way that makes them feel so close to you.   
What a beautiful animal!  The cats have both indoor and outdoor habitats and every time we have been we have been able to see several different types of cats up and moving.  
There is also a sky rail that passes across the zoo and is available for a one way or round trip excursion.  This is Carly's favorite thing to do.  
The giraffes can be seen as you ride across.  
There is also an aquarium with so many different types of animals.  We loved these starfish and were allowed to gently touch them.  
Omaha, Nebraska
I have a jellyfish fetish something terrible and could stand and watch them for hours.  Hard to believe something so beautiful could inflict so much pain outside of the tank! 
There is also a butterfly garden to walk through 
Such a fun time with my girl!  
We also took a ride on the train around the zoo.  
There is so, so much more to see and you will just have to trust me it is a zoo that should be on your bucket list! 
The boys were fishing at Lake Manawa for the second day and they were able to catch a few. 
We met up with the boys at Upstream Brewery for a cold beer and some snacks.  We ate dinner here after the first CWS game as well and I really like the food and service.  

We moved to the Doubletree Downtown which was the team hotel.  It is an older hotel but it was definitely clean, the staff was friendly and the beds were comfortable.  Did I mention they have fresh baked chocolate chip cookies pulled straight from the warmer ANY TIME you want one!  My kids thought this was the bomb.   They also had an indoor pool which was a plus.  I loved that we could walk everywhere we needed to go or they also had a shuttle available.   
We headed to Old Chicago for dinner and enjoyed the pizza which was delicious.  I have to say the service at this restaurant wasn't the greatest.  We had tried after the Tuesday night game as well and ended up leaving before being seated.  I would still keep it on the list as I'm assuming maybe it was just timing as last summer we had a much different experience.  

After dinner the kids and I went to explore a park downtown and were so excited to see all the history that was included.  You can read about the First National Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness & Pioneer Trail.  The sculptures that wind around downtown helped tell the story and the kids were really interested.  We also saw quite a few little bunnies out hopping around which was fun.  
 The sculptures were much bigger up close as you can see how small Dillon looks on top of this one. 
 Pretending to be a pioneer.  
These fountains were across from our hotel and they looked so beautiful at night!  
The next day we enjoyed Italian food at Spaghetti Works downtown.  They have lots of mix and match pasta and sauce dishes and a great salad bar.  
It was kind of a dreary day but we walked around downtown anyway.  This O looked fun and was outside the Chamber of Commerce so of course we had to stop for a photo op.  

We headed up the street to the Fairmont candy store where they have pretty much anything candy you can dream of.  

Remember these?  So funny to me that when I was a child it was perfectly acceptable to pretend to smoke!  

And what about cinnamon toothpix?  I remember when we would make these at home and they banned us from bringing them to school!  
I grabbed a quick picture with Super Frog at the ballpark and TCU beat LSU for the 2nd time in the tourney!  
We had brunch at the Diner downtown which is a small little restaurant fashioned much like an old time diner.  I had the Heartland omelet and it was so good.  We dined with Dansby Swanson....well kind of...he was in the restaurant so we felt like we were special.  
Dillon & I rented bikes and took little ride down to the Riverfront park and circled back around town.  We figured out really quick that Omaha is much hillier than we realized!  They even have gondolas to ride at the park but we passed on that.  
While we were biking Carly was having a great time sliding down the big slide in the Gene Leahy Pedestrian Mall area.

We had a great time in Omaha!  If you have been around the blog at all you know I'm not much on sitting still so when I travel I really try to explore as much about the town as possible.  After four visits I would say we hit a lot of the high points of Omaha and there is so much more than just baseball!

One thing we didn't do this trip was cross the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge but if you ever visit Omaha it is a must.  You actually can stand on two states at once in the middle of the bridge and I think it's cool even though my family thinks it's overrated.  Here is my picture from last year!
Hopefully you enjoyed this little visit to Omaha!

Visit my contact page to see where I may be linking up! 
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