Monday, July 29, 2013

Birthday, Beach and Big Changes

Wow! What an eventful past 9 days it has been!

Emily turned one on the 20th and we had a small birthday bash at the house. There were friends, presents and cake. Lots of yummy cake.

Emily had a blast digging into her "smash" cake (she wasn't sure what do with it at first). We let her chow down for a bit until we had to take away to prevent a sugar high meltdown later in the evening. Thank goodness she had her own cake because about halfway through, she sneezed all over it! She got the hang of opening presents and had a blast pulling off the paper and tissue paper. She played with all her toys and passed out promptly at 8:30. Having fun can be so tiring.
It was a good thing she went to bed early because Randy and I were able to get to work packing up for our beach trip the next day! We spent a wonderful week at the beach with both the boys and their girlfriends. We had lots of laughs, a bike ride, naps with EG, shopping, hot tubbing, time on the beach, yummy food (crab legs-TWICE) and NO rain! It was a wonderful trip and just what the doctor ordered to melt the stress away.

Coming back to reality has been a little less than pleasant. Emily had her one year check up this morning. Lots of tears and screams for two shots. And I had to drop her off at daycare afterwards. So hard to leave my sweet girl after spending more than a week with her! She gave me such a sad look when I dropped her off (like "where you going, mama?"). Between that and the doctor's office, I was emotionally drained for the day way before 10am. But her check up was great. Her growth is right on track and she's an all around healthy baby. Here are her 12 month stats:
  • She's 20lbs and 29 inches long.
  • She can pull up, cruise and push her walker around. Her newest thing is trying the walker one handed. It's terrifying because she goes so fast and is so unsteady. I know she will be walking in no time!
  • She is loving all her food. We tried sandwiches at the beach and she is a fan! Trying to get her to drink milk but not having much luck yet. But girlfriend is all about some cheese.
  • She is really into pulling/dumping things out of baskets and bags. Hurricane Emily can tear up a room in a mater of minutes.
  • "No no" is definitely not her favorite word and she pretty much has a full on meltdown when we say it. Sometimes she will point to something she is not suposed to have and shake her head "no". It's so cute but the cuteness is usually short lived because she will touch the thing she is not supposed to and we end up having to say the dreaded words. It's a vicious cycle.
  • She has started blowing kisses and waving "bye bye". The cuteness just about does me in every time. To see her little fingers wigging in a fist is beyond words precious.
  • She dances to just about any music that comes on. While sitting, she twists her upper body to the music. If she's, standing it's a full on booty shake! I giggle every time I see her do it. She is probably going to hate me when she is older for taking videos of it. :)
  • She's still taking up a storm with lots of "mama" and "dada". She can get REALLY loud (and always at the worst times!) and it sometimes sounds like she is carrying on a conversation while playing with her toys. It's really amazing to see how she plays with her toys now, such focus and determination. She's a smart and curious little girl and I love her so much!
Emily isn't the only Branham kid who's growing up right before our eyes. Aaron is moving to Raleigh this week (with his girlfriend) in hopes of landing a "real job". I'm so excited for them both to start this new chapter, but sad that they won't be close by anymore.  And Zachary proposed to his girlfriend on Sunday. While they won't be getting married anytime soon (finishing school first), it's kind of wild to think about having a daughter-in-law. Both boys are amazing and I'm enjoying being a part of of their lives during these big changes.

Here's to a wonderful vacation and a wonderful family!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I can't let today go by without talking about her. I've been debated posting this, for several reasons, but I find there's a bit of relief that comes with exposing hidden words and feelings.

I don't want today to define her. I think that one of the saddest parts about death is that ultimately that person is defined by the day they left us. There's no doubt that July 16, 2010 was one of the most traumatic days of my life. Who expects a seemingly healthy 9 year old  girl to be diagnosed with leukemia and pass away less than 10 months later? Lauren's illness affected everyone. Nobody really knew what to do, so we all did the best we could. Looking back, those months were a blur of sadness, anger, frustration, relief, happiness, and guilt. And after Lauren's death, all the negative feelings were intensified to the highest degree. There were days I seriously questioned my faith and if my marriage (that had just begun) would remain intact.

Those feelings still remain and resurface from time to time but they don't hurt as much. Her artwork and picture remain in my office and don't bring the unbearable tears they used to but instead give little flickers of joy. I found that in the middle of the the worst days over the last three years, my faith grew and my marriage was strengthened. The less I doubted and questioned God, the more more peace I had. And the more peace I had, the easier it was to see God's plan taking shape. I'm still in awe that amazingly wonderful things can  emerge out of something so awful.  Is it really a coincidence that Emily was born 2 years and 4 days after Lauren's death?

Today does not and will never define my niece, Lauren. She will forever be the little girl that I loved playing Barbies with and swimming with in her pool. She is still the little girl I was just getting to know as I was becoming part of a new family. Although my time as Aunt Megan was way too short, the memories we made and the things she taught me will stay with me forever.  Her life moves me to appreciate every day I have with those I love, to show compassion to all I meet (not knowing what they are going through or loss they have suffered), to serve others, to love and trust God, and to give endless hugs to and thanks for my own little girl. And one day, sweet Lauren, we'll play together again in heaven.


Friday, July 5, 2013

July 4th and Peach Cobbler

After my last doom and gloom post, the sun finally broke through yesterday. Answered prayers!

Randy and I both had yesterday off and decided to check out the Gilbert Peach Festival parade. Gilbert is a little town not too far from us and I've always heard about the parade but never been. We woke up yesterday morning (overslept a bit so we got ready and flew out of the house in less than 1 hour) and drove over to Gilbert. We made it JUST before they blocked the road off for the parade. A few minutes later, and we might have been in the parade.

Emily had a great time checking out all the sights. She saw a few dogs, clapped her hands at everything and only got scared once when an ambulance went by.

Afterwards, we made our way through the thousands (I swear) of hot, sweaty people to the vendor area. I got the one thing I came for: peach ice cream. And it was amazing! We also got some fresh peaches which I came home and made THIS:

Yes, you are looking at fresh, homemade peach cobbler right of the oven! I know you are amazed. Thanks to Southern Living, it's pretty much the easiest, most delicious recipe ever:

You'll need:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
  1. Melt butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).
  3. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired (and I did).
  4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Three things: I didn't have lemon juice so I used lime and that worked fine. I was a little worried that the peaches were too juicy when I poured them over the batter but it firmed up nicely (so don't freak if yours looks the same). I think next time I will only use 1/2 cup of sugar in the peaches. The whole thing is very sweet (but very delicious)!

I wasn't sure how Emily would do with the loud noises and she can barely stay up past 8:30 (but then again, neither can I , so we opted to just do sparklers this year. They were always my favorites when I was little and I can't wait for a little bit bigger Emily to try them out. But for now, she enjoyed watching her Daddy with them.

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. My deepest thanks to those who serve to keep our country the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

When it rains, it pours

I love the saying "when it rains, it pours" and the past few days it's been more than just a saying.

Traffic jammed and waterlogged 

The majority of the time, I really try to keep my complaining in check. It's not productive. It's selfish. And despite how bad I think things are, I can always think of a million other ways things could be worse.

But the past few days, things have really worn me down. And I just want to vent. I don't want to rationalize it or self talk my way out of this funk. I just need to be able to throw it all out there, accept it for what is is, and move on.

Ugh, the rain. Stop already. It's July and it's supposed to be blazing hot and sunny. 

Emily has been sick which means no sleep for us. It started last Friday and we've been up with her at all hours of the night since then. She's tired and cranky and we are tired and cranky.

Work is work. It's never perfect and no job will ever be.  The tough part is still learning being in a new job with new people, new personality, and new expectations. I work my a$$ off. That's my style. Always has been, always will. Which is fantastic until you have a baby and a husband with an equally (if not more) demanding job and then my work takes a back burner to everything else going on.

There's never enough time or money. Groceries have to be bought and dinner has to be cooked. The kitchen has to be cleaned and quality time has to be spent with Emily and Randy (together and separately).  There are phone dates to be scheduled with dear friends and lunch get-togethers to be had. There are dear friends who are going through tough life struggles that need supporting and encouragement. There are church activities and events that are on the calendar but our attendance at them is never present.

As much as I want to be (and often think I am) Wonder Woman, I am not. I am just a woman trying to do the best I can. And some days, like the last few days, the best I can do is stay afloat. Not swim forward, towards something, but simply keep my head above water as the rain continues and the water rises.

And just as I think I'm about to slip under, I see the tiniest bit of hope. It happened this morning on my drive in. I caught a glimpse of bright blue behind the oppressive grey and white storm clouds. A reminder that behind the storm clouds, there are clear skies. Even when we can't see them., they are always there. And  at some point, the rain clouds WILL break and sunlight can begin pouring through.

So God, please bring on the sun. I'm more than ready to shine.