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DIY: Fire pit.

31 Oct

Ryan and I have been wanting to get a fire pit for our backyard for a while. Well, really ever since we went to visit my brother in Austin a few months back and sat out by their’s one night. So relaxing and provides such great ambiance! Plus, we love camping so much – we thought this would bring a part of that experience right into our backyard. We shopped around some and even looked into chimineas.

My very creative and super manly husband (wink) decided he was going to build one of his own. It seriously took him maybe thirty minutes and it looks awesome! I know I was impressed with his skillz. We used it last night and loved it. We sat out by the fire and enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies while cuddling with the girls – memory maker.

So, for anyone out there who’s interested in building your very own fire pit, here’s how we did it!

1. Find a spot in your yard for your fire pit location. Obviously a safe distance from your home and other burnable stuff. We used 16 – 1 ft x 1 ft path stones for our base.

2. Dig up the grass where the stones will be placed so the base will be level with the rest of the yard. Place stones about a 1/4 inch apart, pressing each down into fresh dirt. Then cover with one bag of paver sand and press into cracks.

3. Assemble flagstone landscape blocks of your choice into a circle. We bought 20 blocks total, 10 for each layer. Leave a small space between each to allow for better air flow.

4. We found some river rocks in the base of a potted plant, so we used those inside the circle of blocks along with the excess sand to create a safe burning spot.

5. On the second layer of landscape blocks, lay them offset from the first layer for strength and aesthetics. Then, sweep up remaining sand and put in center of pit.

That’s it! Our very own custom built fire pit. Super easy and cheaper than buying a store bought one. Plus, it was fun to do! It will last for a long time and provide many opportunities for relaxing Fall evenings of great discussions with friends around a fire and smore making with our babies.

en-cour-age

19 Oct


I’m feeling good. Not too hot, gentle breeze, endorphins pumping…it’s race day. My iPod is filled with a wide array of awesome tunes courtesy of my husband working on the “ultimate running mix” for hours the night before. I had an awesome pasta dinner and a great night’s sleep. I was sporting my Garmin watch, my favorite shorts, my Saucony’s, and my Dad’s yellow “Livestrong” bracelet that he wore at races (see below). Things are looking good for these 13.1 miles I was about to log. I was ready.

As I made my way along the course of the Tyler Rose Half, I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Go Traci!” a few times and see some familiar faces along the side of the roads waving and cheering us on. At about mile 8, a point where my legs usually start feeling tired, there were two cute little girls standing outside of their house on the curb giving out high fives to those who ran by, so I gladly took them up on their offer. They looked to be about my girls’ age, and I needed that sweet encouragement at the time! It’s amazing how much of an impact the smiles and cheers from the spectators makes on runners. It’s most definitely appreciated! Then, as I turned the final corner downtown and headed towards the finish line, I see my cute husband standing there smiling at me. I love, love, love this part of the run. Knowing he’s there waiting for me always pushes me to finish strong! Of course, I ended the run with a huge high five to the sky – my Dad’s life will always be an encouragement to me.

Ever since this race, I’ve been pondering on the word, encouragement. It’s so simple really. Webster defines encourage as follows:

The spectators along the course were an encouragement to me that day. My race was definitely made better because of them! My family and friends are an encouragement to me every day. I feel truly blessed to have people in my life who spur me on. They inspire me with courage and for that, I am so grateful.

On the course of life, it’s made so much easier & definitely more motivating to continue on when you have people like that around you. People who will cheer you on when you are down. People who will attempt to persuade you to stay on course. People who will walk beside you to help give you hope. Jesus was the ultimate example of this. We should strive to encourage those around us daily, we are a team after all. And there are so many ways you can do this! I genuinely hope that you have people that surround you that provide this source of strength for you! Again, it’s so very simple – but so very important.

I’ve set a goal, starting this week, to do something intentional to encourage someone else at least once each day. Whether it be my husband, my children, a friend, or a stranger. Because you just never know who might be ready to give up, and just a simple smile and a wave might be just the encouragement they need to keep going. Will you join me in this?

This weekend…

8 Oct

Busy weekend coming up! Tonight is our Date Night Co-op. On Ryan & I’s agenda for a date tonight? Run 5 miles at the trails, cook chicken lettuce wraps, then end the night at Andy’s for a pumpkin pie concrete…delish! Sounds like a perfect night to me.

Tomorrow is the Grand Opening event at Brown’s Landing, so I’ll be working there. Excited about this new venture! It’s been a great first week, by the way. Loving my new job and the girls are loving their new school! Back to Saturday…Ryan has a studio mix session that afternoon with a band he recorded live recently. Tomorrow night, we are looking forward to hanging out with the Blalock’s! Alison is coming all the way from Lubbock to run in the FULL marathon this weekend. We are going to Joe’s to get carb-loaded before the race with them.

Sunday is race day! This will be the first of three half marathons Ryan & I are registered this Fall. We went this afternoon to pick up our race packets. So exciting. Have I told you how much I love running?!

Night away in the big D.

27 Sep

Ryan & I left the kids and escaped away to Dallas this weekend! My friend Loretta was getting married Saturday night, so we decided to go see her & enjoy a night away. We headed out and drove straight to Chuy’s for lunch. Obviously we couldn’t focus on getting anything else done in Dallas without going there first and consuming massive amounts of creamy jalapeno dip. YUM. I couldn’t be more excited that we are getting one here in Tyler!!! That rumor better be true or else I will be highly upset.

Anyways, after lunch we went to the Apple store to check out the new shuffles, which are very cool. Didn’t get one, don’t need one…just went to admire. Then, we headed over to Luke’s Locker. Such a cool place. There is something inspiring about going to running stores! Got some shoe recommendations and Ryan got a flashy light to wear when he runs in the dark. Next on the list…Central Market. The grocery store of all grocery stores. This place amazes me. The produce aisle is unbelievable. They also have a great wine selection. And a whole aisle dedicated to granola, are you kidding me? Are we weird that we love going to grocery stores while out of town? We are foodie dweebs.

Saturday night was the wedding and it was much fun. It was at the Biblical Museum of Art, which was interesting. Great to see Loretta and meet her man! We stayed the night with my cousin Danny & his wife Kelly at their new place in Las Colinas. Always good to see them…I love my cousins!

Then, Sunday morning, Ryan and I got up and ran at White Rock Lake. My Dad always tried to go run ten miles around White Rock every year for his birthday. Since his birthday is this coming Thursday, we decided we’d run around the lake while we were there in his honor. Perfect weather for our run. It was overcast and cool, with a slight breeze. When we started the run, I looked across the beautiful lake as the sun was rising and my emotions overcame me. I burst into tears. I so longed for Dad to be running his birthday run with us. I miss him so bad. I thought of him the entire time. I prayed that my life would be meaningful, like his was. I prayed that I would make a difference and make my life count, like he did. I imagined God calling Dad over and saying, “Kip, I want you to see something” as he pushed back a cloud to show him us running. That made me smile to think of Dad watching me. It was a great run physically, but tough emotionally. We finished with a high five to the sky and a few more tears.

We headed back, stinky & sweaty, for our normal Sunday lunch in Quitman and to pick up our babies. Great night away with my love!

Date Night Co-op

11 Sep

Have I told you all about our Date Night Co-op? I can’t remember if I’ve ever blogged about it. Here goes anyways…

Ryan and I are firm believers that dating your spouse is a must. It’s not an option really, but a requirement. We feel that setting aside time specifically to be alone is so important and just plain good for a marriage. So, we try to plan dates often. Get away from everyone, including kids, and just go somewhere and talk, laugh & have fun together as a couple. Just one on one, quality time. Thankfully we live close enough to my Mom and she is our all-time favorite babysitter. And bonus…Grandma’s don’t charge! On occasion, we’ve had to hire a sitter, but not very often.

About six months ago, we started a date night co-op with some friends from our community group (idea stolen from Jamie). Here’s how it works. We got three other families that live pretty close to us to go in on it. We picked a night that worked well for everyone and set up a rotation schedule. Our date nights are the second Friday of every month and each couple takes a turn in hosting it. For example, last night, Ryan & I babysat all of the kids at our house. Next month, another couple will host and so on. So, you end up babysitting once every four months and the other three months, you get a free date night! Its also great for the kids, because they love getting together with their little friends to play at each other’s houses. Its neat to babysit for your friends, because you know you are contributing in some small way to keeping their marriage healthy! It’s really a blessing & works out well for everyone involved. Ryan & I LOVE it!

So I would encourage you to 1. always, always, always date your spouse and 2. start a date night co-op with some close friends! It’s so easy and well worth it.

Our trip to Lubbock.

7 Sep

We went to the good ole L-B-K for Labor Day weekend and had such a great time! Its been a while since we’ve been back to visit friends, so it was time. We also felt it would be good as part of our healing process, to see people who knew and loved my Dad. He loved Lubbock and the people there.

We got in late Thursday night or actually, extremely early Friday morning. A 7 1/2 hour drive turned into a 9 hour drive somehow. I’m guessing a 2 and 4 year old had something to do with that. Oh and as a side note, never exit off the Interstate in Abilene…just saying. It was so neat driving in late because we got to see a lightning storm in the huge skies of West Texas. It was beautiful. There may not be trees and it may be flat, but the skies are abundant and the stars are gorgeous!

The first two nights, we stayed with our friends Tim & Christy. We love these two dearly and appreciate their friendship. Addi & Kam love them too! It was adorable because they would choose to hold their hands, instead of mine & Ryan’s when we would go out places. I think it gave Tim & Christy a taste of having their own kids!

Friday, we went by to say hi to some people around town – old places of work, church, drove by Tech (wreck ’em!), etc. Stopped by for lunch at West Crust Pizza, which was quite tasty I must say. We also stopped by the Veterans Memorial, so I could see my Dad’s brick. Just when I thought I could not be any prouder of him, I am reminded of yet another reason to add to the list that is still growing, even though he’s gone. Special. Then, Friday evening we met up with our old youth group for dinner & had a fabulous time. We are so very proud of our Fusion kids & the grown-ups they have become! This night was good for my soul. And Julie Patterson – YOU impacted MY life dear.

Saturday, after yummy homemade blueberry muffins made by Christy herself, we met up with my friend/college roommate Amanda for coffee. So great seeing her & catching up! Come run the Turkey Trot in Dallas with us Amanda!

Then, we headed out to Levelland for lunch with the Pace’s (Christy’s parents). These people mean so much to us and my family. When my Dad passed away, they loaded up their car, along with their son Jason and Tim & Christy and drove all the way to Quitman just to be there for us and hug us. It meant the world to me. I love all of you guys so much!

Saturday afternoon, we headed over to Danny & Ashley’s for the remainder of the weekend. Oh my word, we laughed so much! We had so much fun just doing absolutely nothing but hanging out. Their daughter Grace is so adorable, Addi & Kam had a great time with her. Baths, dress up time, watching movies, swimming, etc.When we got in the car to drive home, Kam said, “That was so fun!” and Addi has been saying, “I’m sad…I want to go back to Grace’s house.” One night while we were there, Ashley arranged for a babysitter so we could go out for some adult time. We went up to Stella’s, where she sings on occassion and got to hear her sing a set.  I got to meet Alison, a friend I have gotten to know through blogs and Facebook. She’s a runner too & is actually coming to Tyler next month to run the Tyler Rose Marathon. Fun night!

Monday morning, we loaded up, drove through & got a Josie’s burrito and headed back East. The girls were sooooo good and well behaved. Thank you Lord! It was a fun trip and a great Labor Day weekend. We miss all of our West Texas friends already. Now its your turn to come to Tyler!

Fall-tastic

1 Sep

As I ran at the trails this past Sunday morning, I noticed that a few leaves had already fallen off the trees. It made me smile…Fall is just around the corner people and I can not wait! I heart Fall. I do believe its my favorite time of year. The smells, the colors, the temperatures, the holidays, football, food, races…I love it all! The changing of the seasons always reminds me of how big God is – and how extremely creative He is. The ultimate artist, for sure!

We have a lot of stuff going on this upcoming season. Good stuff. The Dixon iCal is getting filled up! The next few months emotionally will be tough for my family – with Dad’s birthday coming up, my parent’s anniversary, the holidays without him, and running without him in races we’ve all done together in the past. Everything that is a “first without him” is tough. Definitely will be a hard season, as it has been a hard year. Incredibly grateful to have so many wonderful memories with him. And I am thankful we have some good stuff going on – and things to look forward to. Dad would want us to make the most of this beautiful season (he loved Fall too) and live life to the fullest – so I will try to do just that!

Some things coming up that I’m excited about are…

1. Going to Lubbock Labor Weekend to see old friends (leaving tomorrow actually – yay)

2. Joining a new downtown Women’s Bible study group

3. Attending a friends wedding in Dallas – a night away for me & Ryan!

4. Celebrating both of my brother’s, my sister’s, Ryan’s, and Kam’s birthdays

5. Running in 3 half marathons in 3 consecutive months & the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day

6. Ryan’s brother Ross coming to Texas and our camping trip to Beaver’s Bend

7. Trip to Boston & New Hampshire

8. Thanksgiving & Christmas

9. CRUISE

10. Several baby showers for dear friends

Beautiful One, I Love You.

5 Jul

Last night, we were at some friends’ house for the 4th and this conversation came up…”What do you guys do as parents to introduce your kids to the gospel?” Great question! It really made me think – what do we do?

Ryan & I shared that we try to read stories out of their Children’s Bible at night before bed. We pray with them often and bring Jesus into our conversations whenever possible…especially in those very trying & patience-building teaching moments. Also, we sometimes listen to worship music in the car when we are out and about. Either that or Micky Mouse Clubhouse or Owl City – their other faves. Lately, the girls’ have loved listening to Beautiful One by Jeremy Camp and Glory to God Forever by Fee – both awesome songs. It fills my heart with joy to hear their sweet little voices singing…especially when its a song to the Lord. Even when they don’t get the words right and are off key – its beautiful.

After some conversation, we determined that really…the hugest and most impactful way you can introduce them to the gospel is with your own life. Its not all about what you tell your kids, its about what you ARE in front of them. Challenging for sure. Something I need to work on daily & remind myself often…and honestly fail at frequently. Teaching my kids to live a life of worship and devotion to their creator can be done most successfully when I live a life of worship and devotion to my creator.

God has entrusted me & Ryan with these two little cuties and we certainly want to do whatever we can as their parents to assist them along their spiritual journey. We can’t wait to see how God uses each of their lives in great ways!

Thankful Board

2 Jul

This morning, I went out for a run. With tear filled eyes and a heavy heart, I logged 6 miles in the rain. Physically, it was a great run. Emotionally, it was hard. A lot went through my mind this morning. Today marks one month since my Dad passed. Crazy that its been that long already when it still feels so very fresh to me. The past few weeks have been the hardest of my life and those in my family’s lives. But through this tragedy, I have also seen some very neat things taking place. Blessings.

My friend (and co-worker) Sarah had the idea to make the huge chalkboard wall in our office our “Thankful Board.” Every day we try to write five things we are thankful for on the board to keep our minds focused on positive things and give God glory that is due for everything He has blessed us with daily. From small things to big things. Its been helpful to see some rays of sunshine during a dark time. So as I ran this morning, I tried to focus on things that I have to be thankful for & here are five, out of probably twenty, that I came up with.

So pretend the following is on a chalkboard that has “Thankful Board” written in huge pink letters at the top…

1. The friends and family that have completely wrapped their arms around us and loved & prayed us through this painful time, provided food for us for weeks, have allowed us to cry on their shoulders, and sometimes just came and sat with us – your presence means the world. We are thankful for each of you & the sense of genuine community we have here.

2. The way my Dad’s life is motivating us to make the most of our own lives. Ryan posted an awesome blog about this very thing, you can read it here. Dad used to tell us to always leave a place better than the way you found it. That’s inspirational to me on so many levels! It is overwhelmingly obvious to us that Dad definitely left this world a better place than the way he found it. Now its our turn. I am thankful for my Dad’s LIFE.

3. My Mom, brothers and sister. We are in constant contact throughout each day – phone calls, texts, emails, dinners, etc. Its much needed and somehow produces strength. My grandmother, mostly known as Memaw, told me just the other day that there is strength in numbers & gosh, that is so very true!

4. Ryan, Addi & Kam. There are no words. I LOVE my family with all that I am.

5. The song “Blessed Be Your Name” & the memory that goes with it. For those of you that were with us on the Mexico Mission Trip when my Dad’s truck got stolen – you know the depth & meaning behind this. And now during this time…even though the road is marked with suffering & there is definitely so much pain in the offering, we still continue to say – blessed be your name.

He’s got Poppy with Jesus in his hands.

15 Jun

Many of you have asked how Addi and Kam are doing through all of this. As you know, our kids LOVE Grandma & Poppy. We have been blessed to live near them the last few years and spend a lot of time with them on a regular basis…definitely a God thing.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to handle telling them or what exactly to do. Heck, I still don’t even know how I’m supposed to handle it myself. We figured Addi was old enough and smart enough to understand, so Ryan & I wanted to make sure we did the right thing and approached her tender heart carefully. So after seeking advice from my mother and my grandmother, we determined to tell the girls that Poppy is living with Jesus now and that he’s so happy and will always be in our hearts. We didn’t let them see him at the funeral home, because that would have been too confusing.

They both seemed pretty unaffected for several days. They both loved going to Grandma’s house every day and playing with their cousin Kendrick…pretty distracted during the days of the viewing, funeral, etc. Every now and then, they would ask, “Where’s Poppy?” or “Where’s Hoppy?” – depending on the which child was asking – and we would remind them that he’s with Jesus. They would accept that answer. Sometimes they would ask why we were crying and we would tell them that we’re sad about Poppy and Addi even said, “well I’m not going to cry about that!”

But a few nights ago, I think it finally hit Addi. We were putting her to bed like we normally do – sing a song, say a prayer, etc. She started crying…big tears and a sad sob. When Ryan asked her what was wrong she said, “I just love Poppy and don’t want him to live with Jesus…that makes me sad.” She continued to cry for about ten minutes – saying “Poppy…Poppy” and finally Ryan calmed her down to pray. I obviously had to leave the room because my crying would have only made it worse. She said she wanted to pray for Poppy. In her little three year old way, she mourned my Dad that night. She got it and was sad. The next day, without being prompted, she went and found her little pink scrapbook that had pics from when Poppy was building her crib…she carried it around all morning and told me it was her special book. So sweet.

Then, in the car the next day, the girls were singing the song, as they do often, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” They like to make up their own verses like “He’s got Addi and Kamryn in his hands” or “He’s got Mommy & Daddy in his hands”, etc. So they were singing along and Addi busted out with, “He’s got Poppy with Jesus in his hands.” Wow. How much truth is in that sweet innocent statement?

It struck me that – all of this IS in God’s hands. My heart is breaking wide open, but knowing that truth helps and gives hope. And seeing how even in Dad’s death, God is using him in mighty ways – I continue to be so very proud of him.

Addi and Kamryn will no doubt miss their Poppy/Hoppy. I certainly do…terribly. I am thankful they had the last two years to spend so much time with him and get to know him and love him. His face lit up when we pulled into their driveway, and he was always the first out the door to greet us. This new reality will be hard. Please pray for their precious hearts. I am thankful that they still have their Grandma Clark and Grandaddy & Grandma Dixon to love on them and make memories with them for hopefully many years to come.

I love you all and am truly thankful for our friends and family who have wrapped their arms around us and loved us through this time. Your prayers, calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, flowers, food, and most of all – your presence, will never be forgotten and mean more than you’ll ever know. We genuinely thank you.