Thursday, December 14, 2017

Merry Christmas ~the Whitings

So here it is:

And here is the template:

Now imagine some font saying "Merry Christmas" and ~ the Whitings
Can you see it:  Gorgeous - huh!?!?!

It's better for your imagination anyway.
As for the letter, I think I can manage that.
As my mom liked to point out in my childhood, "You started talking in full sentences before 18 months and haven't stopped since."

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from your family.  We love this time of year, we love the season, we love the giving, the service, the presents, the excitement, the surprise snow here in Texas.  We love the reprieve from school, the late nights, the extra cuddles and the enormous amounts of special holiday goodies that we gorge on for two weeks straight.  We love the big meal and the leftovers for days.  Needless to say, but I'll do it anyway, we are over the moon, beyond excited for the upcoming holiday.  We hope your family is too. 

Our family moved this year and so everything is different and sure there have been adjustments to be made, changes galore, and some frustrations, heartache, and sadness.  It has been far harder than I ever imagined when the revelation from God originally came to me.  Somehow I naively thought, because of such strong spiritual guidance that it would be filled with rainbows, butterflies, unicorns and magical goodness from beginning to end.  I felt like we would know exactly why we were being sent here once we got here and that he was just waiting to pour out his blessings upon us for being so obedient.  And to be sure, we have seen blessings galore.  Well I have anyway, depending on the day, my kids may say differently.  That being said, some things have been easier than I could have ever imagined.  Some things have felt quite provident.  We are getting glimpses of the bigger picture and are moving forward with optimism when possible and robotic discipline and a refusal to think about it when things aren't going so well.  So what does it look like currently:

Travis - As always is boss.  He is the most steadying influence and my rock.  His quiet consistency makes possible my every goodness.  I need him increasingly to be my best self.  He has shut down our businesses in PA and WY, for the most part, and is making a go at working and living in the same state.  He is gainfully employed currently and that is going well as it tends to when you have a steady, reliable income with benefits and all the good stuff that makes life easier in some ways.  He is active in our youth program at church and slaying Scouts as he tends to do wherever we are.  He is the man who is able to do all things, and be all things to all people.  I wonder if he ever gets tired of it.  No real signs yet.  Wait for next year's card and letter to see if he ever will break.  Let's hope not!

Mary - She is largely the same, maybe a bit haggard around the edges as she tries to keep it increasingly all together with all the chaos and changes.  For the most part, I think people still see me as this happy, Energizer Bunny of helpfulness.  It makes me happy, it pleases the Lord so I think I will stick with that recipe for life.  Every now again, I have to reign myself in as the very intensity of who I am can scare people or be a bit off putting, but I am learning balance and hopefully getting to be a bit better version of myself with each passing year.

Isabella - This girl is a rock star.  She is a lady boss and quite a force to be reckoned with.  She is still doing sports and school and music and starting an online bakery and any other ideas that pop into her beautiful, high functioning brain.  For the most part she is great at managing herself, time, and abilities with minimal direction and redirection from us.  It makes me think that she'll be ready to leave me and live on her own in less than three years.  {insert midlife crisis and tears here}  Boys have entered her radar this year.  And though I wouldn't say she is boy crazy, it's an interesting change that's amusing to watch.  She is accepting any and all boy applications for her upcoming birthday and ability to date and her new found desire to kiss.  Hot boys with great personalities start lining up. {insert her mortification here}

Wyatt - Having transitioned to our new life the best, Wyatt continues to steady on in a way that is very similar to his dad.  This new school has no sports at the middle school that he played in PA, so he has a lot of free time.  I'm looking to fill some of it with a hobby or something.  Suggestions welcome.  The newest and biggest change has been the introduction of testosterone to his teenage body.  This has turned our mostly mellow son into a rage machine at times, who seems capable of possibly hurting someone - most likely a sibling.  Not a change I treasure, but a necessary part of living I suppose.  He is part boy and man and I am clinging to every sign of childhood as I think it is almost a sign of the past.  This man-child will be the best husband someday, but he would be mortified if I went into the details of his tender care of his mom and women in general, so I'll leave it for now.

Issac - My precious, happy boy.  This move has rocked his previously perfect life.  Where Wyatt has blossomed, Issac has lost a bit of himself.  Many tears have been shed on his part and mine as he struggles to find his way and place.  And where I want to protect and save him, shelter him from every pain, I am actively looking to let him grow and develop on his own, but with all the strength and support I can give him.  He turned 12 and got the Aaronic Priesthood.  He couldn't be happier.  This boy's testimony of God has increased exponentially through these experiences and I see him trying to develop a relationship all his own with God.  So though painful to watch at times, I see where this is going and I have a great hope that he will come though the other side better honed to accomplish his purposes in life.

Kody - He is in his last year of elementary school for the second year in a row due to the move.  Selfishly, I want him to stay small as I am not ready to concede my kid years are over and I have a house full of tweens and teens.  This boy amazes and surprises me.  He keeps me on my toes.  He fills my life with snuggles and affection.  He fills our home with sassy, spiritedness.  He has a great ability to be thoughtful and perceptive.  There are a million things that confirm for me that he is a little old man trapped in this kids body.  He is an old soul for sure.  He knows who he is, where he comes from, where he is hoping to return to, and has all of life's major challenges figured out.  Now it's just the details, a time to sit back and watch the journey and mitigate any collateral damage as a result of his impish ways.

Truly, we hope you are doing well.  We are thinking of so many of you all of the time.  If nothing else, I think it is safe to say that our family loves people.  We value the intrinsic part of humanity that makes us each different, fascinating, and wonderful.  We hope you feel our love whether near or far.  We hope you feel comfort when you are sad, peace when you are conflicted, and that if every you need anything we are a call, text, IM, plane ride or car ride away. 

~the Whitings

Friday, December 1, 2017

Issac - Another Year, Another Number

Big 12

What's your favorite thing to do?
Hang out with the Deacons

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
A Vet

What is your favorite food?
Crepes, tacos, and oatmeal

Who do you like to hang out with?
The Deacons

What do you do really well? 
Swimming, not running

What makes you laugh?
"I'm not sure, nothing really" (as he giggles), "No, why would you pick that, Tickles"

What is the best time of day?
When we get home from school

What are you afraid of?

What do you like to do with your family?
Ice Skating, board games, TV watching marathons

What do you like to learn about?
Science, Student Leadership

Where do you like to go?
Anywhere but school

What is your favorite book?
Just books by James Patterson

If you could have one wish, what would it be?
To never have to go to school again.

Friday, November 10, 2017

How I See It

So it's been three months!  Three months since we uprooted the last decade of living in Pennsylvania and hightailed it to Texas.  Everyone keeps asking me for comparisons and what I think.  So here it goes...

First and foremost, it has been a major blessing and a miracle how much this feels like home already.  It's been astounding to realize that we feel much more assimilated in our church, schools, and community than we have ever felt would be possible in 3 months.  I can't help but think that it has more to do with our attitude than anything.  Something about going on absolute faith, knowing that God has something there for you, really does help to settle things down and put your whole heart into the move, but here are some things I have noticed.

Size Really Does Matter:
Daily down here, I hear about the size of Texas - the state itself, I'm bombarded with the hulking trucks zipping down the freeway, and I see spreads of land that my brain could never fathom before here.  Bigger is better is a colloquialism they truly believe in.  Including their school PTO budgets.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  In the spirit of bigger is better is the similar vein of anything you can do, I can do better.  It's not quite so invasive, but still a periphery concept that is fast gaining momentum.

Urban and Suburban (which is which):
This has been the biggest surprise to me our whole move so far.  Everyone down here thinks of the North (especially Pennsylvania) as all city.  Clearly they have never visited as anyone who has been there knows we are the Turnpike State with huge anchor cities on each of the states eastern and western edges and a whole lot of rural, raw, green earth everywhere in between.  Small towns are the life blood of Pennsylvania and growth has leveled off and even dropped in recent years.  Counter to that, Texas is one of the fastest growing states.  They have 3 out of the 10 most populated cities in America in their backyard.  Their small towns are booming and in most every measurable way, this feels far more urban to us than we have ever previously known.  So despite this being the town Travis grew up in, it feels totally different.  More on growth here!

Friendly vs. Cold and Emotionally Distant
It's true what they say.  This state is friendly.  This is not your garden variety, wave and say hello as you pass friendly.  Although they have that going for them...this is all of your neighbors stopping by to greet you as you move in, that person in the grocery store picking up your crying toddler to help you in those crisis moments is the norm, and everyone learns everything about you because they are truly interested kind of friendly.  I have been genuinely surprised time and again at how friendly you can be: no one opens their own door, everyone greets with hugs, and compliments are the first words spoken.  It gives you all the feels.  Adversely, Pennsylvanians can come off as distant and harried.  People might mistake you for being cold or unfeeling, but what they are really seeing is single minded focus that may not include you in their line of vision.  But don't worry, once you break through that "icy" exterior there lies the warm, ooey gooey center.  A friend in Pennsylvania, though hard won, is a friend for life - a true, blue, died in the blood, has your back, thick as thieves, brother in arms.  TBD if Texans are all surface in their niceties or if they have roots that travel deep too!

Have You Found God:
Texas is known for being in the south, ever heard of the Bible Belt.  It's real.  Everyone knows, loves and talks about Jesus.  He's real, he's here and no one is afraid to mention it.  It's not considered taboo to bring him into any conversation.  Pennsylvania overall may not be quite so church going openness, but where we came from - Lancaster County, we were home to some of the nation's largest Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren church populations.  What we may have lacked in actual numbers felt more than made up for in depth of conviction, actual conservative values, and personal sacrifice in the name of religious belief.  This has been the most similar category of the move so far.  Both are a God loving and fearing people.

Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum:
Both states love their hole in the wall diner type establishment that excel at comfort foods and home cooked favorites. After that, it's all over for food comparisons.  Texans like to think of themselves as foodies and have enough food brands specific to this area:  Frito-Lay, Whataburger, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Big Red Soda, and Dr. Pepper - this last one I have never seen so much drunken in my whole life.  They even have their own grocery store chain, HEB, but seriously, this is the bulk of it.  They live on bbq, meats, and starches.

Now consider, Pennsylvania is the snack food capital of the world.  It may not be healthy, but it is delicious.  With a large German influence, the dinner foods are rich and heavy and often play on sweet and sour themes and a fair amount of bread product.  After that, you look no further than to see 3 major cities (DC, Philadelphia, NYC) close by and so you get an influx of ethnic food abounding.  Everyone argues over what is the best and what is not, but the ethnic choices are almost unlimited.  Both states are enthusiastic eaters and I can get behind that!  That being said, Texas does pie and I love pie.  I wish they had more fruit pie, but they have such an abundance of pie I will never  rarely complain.

Good Old Fashioned Manners:
Texas is kicking butt.  Truly, the manners are like the friendliness.  It is out of this world, over the top (but in the best way), amazing the manners.  Everyone, kids included, yes ma'm and no sir"ing" at every chance.  They look at you while talking to you, they shake hands and hug and give respect to most every adult.  It really is A-MAZ-ING!

I'll never not miss the four seasons of Pennsylvania, the buds popping forth in spring, the lush green vegetation everywhere and the height of the surrounding trees, the color show of leaves come fall and the blanket of white snow in the winter, but Texas has more beautiful, perfect, sunny days than anywhere I have lived to date.  With so few overcast days, I spend a lot of time in my backyard hammock under the trees where the breeze blows reading books.

Laid Back or Incompetent:
This will be by far the harshest, most critical thing about this post.  And I'll admit, I'm probably still a biased "Yankee", but what they say about Texans being laid back is true.  So true, so frustratingly, painstakingly, annoyingly true.  Their response time to emails or issues is like molasses being poured through a very small funnel in a Minnesota record low winter.   Unless it is important to them, they will not take the time or energy to be efficient.  I'm convinced most of them wouldn't even know how to be fast and effective, even if they wanted to.  Add to that work that is not focused or detailed oriented. The drawback of being laid back is that your attention to detail is sometimes not as acute.  Oh, how this state will make or break me in this area!

Appearances and Such:
The Texas woman is not one to be messed with when it comes to her appearance.  She will generally fall into one of two categories.  She is either a country girl or over 40 and she fits the idyllic mold of bigger hair, full face of makeup, bright lipstick, and sparkles, or she is a city girl and under 40 in which case she is beautiful, lithe, well maintained, bleach blond hair, contoured makeup and accessorized to be auditioning for the next spin off of Real Housewives of ... or Stepford Wives.  This is not a critique but an observation of 100% diligence to being made up before going out in public every time.  So imagine my neighbors' surprise when one morning while running late, I went out to the bus stop with my kids in my PJ's and a robe over top.  It was a chilly morning and the bus stop is my corner of the neighborhood.  Pennsylvania may have a bit to learn in this department as I have been witness and myself been casual to these displays of self care.  That being said, looking so put together all the time does raise a red flag or two in my book, but that's a post for another time.
For as much as every Northerner may think that the south, including Texas, is a bit back woods, every Southerner thinks those Yankees sure are weird.  But truly the similarities are more than the differences.  Both are filled with good people, country music, a love of nature, a desire to fish and hunt.  Both love their country and state with a fierceness unparalleled by most other states.  Family is a big part of living and both are wishing for just a little less government interference. They are filled with people who I love or will grow to love.  So here's to our new home.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What's In A Name?

Wyatt and Kody are tame in the cowboy themed pool of names here in Texas.  Names like Sterling, Ranger and Magnum are everywhere around us and not one person has asked me how you spell Wyatt!

Likewise girl names are boy names and I am ever befuddled and amused as Isabella introduces me to friends like Reese, Hunter, Kody, Layne, Frankie, etc...

Just another day in the culture shock that is Texas!

Friday, September 29, 2017


After a cross country move, a forgotten password, and the world's longest most intense password recovery process, I am in.  I have missed blogging and will be catching up immediately.  I am going to date them (as they occurred) just so I am chronologically accurate.  But know that everything from June to current has been done retroactively.  (All of this is for the blog book to be read and treasured for generations to come) Hopefully!!!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The River

When Travis's family talks about the river, they are referring to the Medina River.  His mom inherited some property form her dad that is primo.  It has fields, a camping ground, the dam, a beach entrance, places to swim, rope swing, kayak, and barbeque.  It's ideal and so most Memorial Days and Labor Days, the whole family goes with all the good toys too including the 4 wheelers.  Travis's dad makes the best grilled goodies and his mom lovingly and thoughtfully covers everything else.  And then any other time, we get time, we head there too.  It's perfect!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Beach, Beach, Beach, Beach

As a total beach bum, it took me all of a week before we made our first day trip.  Just over two hours including a stop for food, we got to the beach.  We went to Corpus Christi, where there is a sheltered bay area.  The waves were small, the water super warm, and it was close to parking, soft sand, and perfect.  I can't wait to do many more trips next year. 
Oh yeah, we pass lots of cotton fields on the way there and back.  It's crazy awesome.  And of course the kids sleep as soon as we are driving. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Summer Vacation Concluded

With a cross country move in the summer, sometimes I can't even remember how my days were spent.  Several trips back and forth to Texas, but lots of fun.  Then once here, we toured our little town, registered the kids for school and sports, unpacked a lot of boxes, and got to know the library, the square, and some of the culture.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Friends...

The worst thing and the best thing about moving is the friends.  Leaving behind friends you've had for years, can share anything with, and have a long history is one of the most heartbreaking things.  But moving always mean another group of friends waiting to be made, more share experiences, girls nights and trips, and all the other amazing things that come from women friendships.  My heart still aches thinking about who I'm leaving behind, but there is joy to be had in knowing I was so richly blessed.  To everyone who housed us, fed us, visited with us, cleaned with us, packed with us, I cannot say enough...Thank You.  We love you!

Monday, July 31, 2017

The City...

Leaving Pennsylvania behind wasn't just about leaving behind the town we lived in, but a rich heritage of East Coast cities close together, easy to visit, and filled with our countries heritage and start.  New York City was a favorite of the kids and I.  Isabella has been the most and would most often cash it in as her reward for accomplishing something big.  It was a 3 hour drive into the city.  We would spend the whole day and then drive home late at night.  She has seen a half a dozen shows, done walking food tours, hit all the major tourist attractions, a couple of the major museums, and just meandered the streets.  Her last trip was on the day I took her to Spain, I scheduled her flight out of JFK.  I hoped for one last girl trip, to tire her out, and put her on a plane to sleep for 7 hours.  The city houses garden centers in little bodegas smaller than my living room, but with every inch covered in plants, 500 kinds of the best foods including pizza and donuts.
Then when we were ready to pick Isabella up from the airport to come home, we scheduled her a late flight in.  Wyatt and I went up for the day.  His tastes were totally different and each child could find a million things to do.  We visited NYU, visited Washington Square Park in the Village, learned about the northward expansion of Manhattan starting North and moving south through SoHo, Tribeca to see Little Italy and Chinatown.  The architecture, the history, the amazing book store, Strand, all the yummy food - Chinatown grocery stores are not for the faint of heart, and ending at the 9/11 museum and memorial were just amazing to do with my little curious boy.  More than anything I miss seeing the diversity in faces.  Because no matter the skin color, you see more concentrated ethnic diversity in the features and personalities of those in the city.  I miss that everyone is unique for their own reason in a perfectly wonderful and celebrated way.  And the icing on the cake, the last few times, I felt like a boss navigating the subway system pretty much anywhere in Manhattan.