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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Happy 6th birthday to my sweet Rachael. I loved you from the moment I knew about you... before really. God prepared my heart for you.

I'll never forget our first face to face moment. Your daddy had been to visit me in Tennessee and meet me; the next visit I came to North Carolina to meet you. Daddy had the garage door open for me, and I pulled into the garage. You and Daddy were waiting on the steps. There you were -- a redhead with an angelic face. You were a little shy, but you got over that really quickly. I was completely in love.

I know that God isn't reckless and that He has a purpose in everything... So not only did He choose me to be Daddy's wife, but He handpicked me to be your other mom too.

I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. I thought that the biggest struggles I would face as a stepmom would be dealing with your Mommy... Never once has that been a struggle. Instead, I struggle as I watch you continue to grow and I mourn the 3 1/2 years of your life that I missed out on. I lay awake at night worrying that I haven't done enough, loved enough, disciplined enough, played enough... I never play enough. I see you acting exactly like me (God does have a sense of humor) and having to learn things the hard way and I long to save you from making some of the mistakes I had to learn from. I didn't know that being a stepmom would be such a weird, delicate balance between loving you like you're mine and having to share you with someone else. The truth is you aren't really mine... nor are you Mommy's or Daddy's or Tony's or Maw Maw's or Paw Paw's. You are God's child first. I don't ever want to forget that you belong to Him and that you're just on loan to us. How privileged we all are!!

The hardest thing about being a stepmom is that... I'm just a mom. I don't get a free pass from the worry and responsibility just because I didn't give birth to you. I don't get a free pass from sharing my heart, just because I didn't have to share my body. In some ways, loving you makes me more vulnerable than I might be loving Henry, because with some of the insecurities that come with being a stepmom and loving you so much, you hold the power to break my heart... which has happened once or twice. I wouldn't change a thing. I don't know if you'll ever understand how much I love you, because I'm still trying to understand it.

I am so proud of you. I love your enthusiasm for singing and reading and swimming. I love the funny things you say when you're not trying to be funny. The love you already have for your brother amazes me. Watching you love on my belly and the excitement you have about getting to be a big sister... it makes me so happy. I love sharing him with you and I'm so glad that we will forever be tied together by not just Daddy, but Henry as well. Your ability to truly multiply, rather than divide your love... it's inspiring. The way that you open your heart to so many and just take in stride having to be shared and switching between homes. I love you so much when you see the difference between the way something is done and what God's word says... and it breaks your heart... or makes you indignant. I love you for your tender heart and that you cry when I cry. I love watching you grow and seeing you become more independent. I love the little pictures you draw. I love these things and so much more.

I can't wait to see how you grow and change this year... but for just a little while.. can't you just stop and stay exactly as you are right now?

Thank you for being my little girl and for accepting me as your Mama. Loving you and raising you is a privilege and a blessing. I still can't believe God chose me. I love you with all my heart. <3

Love, Mama

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

I was terrible this year about getting out Christmas cards. I wrote our Christmas letter, printed [not nearly enough] pictures, stuffed envelopes, remembered to take them to one Christmas party, forgot them for the next, never got around to the last group of people... Anyway, I have decided that it's probably just... not going to happen unless you are part of the Pritchard family, and then your name is already on an envelope and I might get it to you sometime in 2016. Maybe.

So for the rest of you, who I really did intend to send a Christmas card to... Here's what you would have gotten.

The Pritchard Family
Christmas 2015

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow! What a year! As we speed into this Christmas season, we are approaching our eighth month as an “official” family. Two-thousand fifteen brought with it joy and heartache and fun and so much more, but above all, it has brought love.
To share some highlights of the year, we would definitely have to start with April 26th. Our wedding day was perfect. We took an 11-day honeymoon to Naples, Florida and the Florida Keys, and we were able to see and do a lot of exciting things.
April 26th is not just the day that we became husband and wife; it is also the day that the three of us became a family. Rachael thinks she’s pretty special to have Mama (Amber) and Mommy (Heather). She is still a Daddy’s girl, but has plenty of love to go around… and it’s a good thing because she has a lot of people to love!
This spring was very eventful for Rachael as she also gained a step-father and step-sisters in March. She thinks her collegiate step-sisters are really cool and has picked up phrases from them like “I know, right?!” and the over-use of the word “like” (Amber may also be partially responsible for that one). She is a very loved little girl.
Amber is working part-time as a dental hygienist in Hickory and she is giving piano lessons to Rachael and a friend’s son. Brian recently left Polychem Alloy to start a new job at Bernhardt as a data systems analyst, which means he makes all of the data of the company more easily accessible.
Rachael started kindergarten this year and Amber is homeschooling her with the help of MawMaw Mary when Amber works. Rachael is excelling in math and language arts and performs above her age/ grade level in both. She enjoys doing fun things for science and getting to do her math on the computer. Rachael attends a homeschool group at a local church, is involved in the Adventure Club at church, and takes piano lessons and gymnastics.
We did a lot of travelling this year. Our family, or part of our family, has been to Jacksonville, Naples, Orlando, FL, and the Florida Keys; Hilton Head; Myrtle Beach (3 times); China; Louisville, KY; Roanoke, VA; Blue Ridge, GA; Pigeon Forge, TN; Cades Cove, TN; Austin, TX; and probably a few other places that we’re forgetting. We hope to be home a little more in 2016!
Through the joys and trials of this year, we have learned so much about love. Loving unconditionally. Loving sacrificially. Loving extravagantly and deeply. As we enter this Christmas season, we pray for a deeper understanding of a God who loves us so much that He would send His Son, who knew no sin, to become sin for us. We pray that in the coming year, each of us come to understand the deep love of God more and that we can each model it to those around us. We love each and every one of you and feel so blessed to have you in our lives.

“And now these three remain: Faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

The Pritchard’s

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Long time, no posting

Wow! Lots has changed since I last wrote a blog.

Brian and I got married on April 26, 2015. I am working part-time and homeschooling Rachael for kindergarten. On my two work days, my mother-in-law does school with her because she's awesome like that.

So that's it in brief. I love being a wife. I love being a mom.

I decided that while Rachael works on her journal for school that I will start trying to write more as well.

Her journal prompt today is the following:

Write about the best day ever. What would you do?

Rachael's answer: I will play with samwan [someone]. We pretend to be cats.

She actually spelled "pretend" BY HERSELF!!!!!

My response is:

On the best day ever I would wake up around 7:30 AM (after getting plenty of sleep), roll over, kiss my husband (who would miraculously also be awake and ready to get up), and get out of bed. I would make a cup of coffee and go sit on the deck of my uncle's vacation rental in Blue Ridge, GA with Brian. We would wake up slowly while enjoying the quiet stillness of the morning. We would talk about what we wanted to do that day, hopes and plans for the future. We would read the Bible and talk about what we read. I would sip my coffee and he would sip my coffee while pretending to not like it, although he would drink at least a quarter of it. Eventually Rachael would wake up and come join us.

Rachael would help me make pancakes and we'd eat breakfast as a family and then get dressed and to to Mercier's Orchard. We'd buy apples and peaches and maybe even pick some ourselves. Then we'd eat lunch there at the cafe. Afterward, we'd go tubing and after tubing we'd enjoy a snack of some of the fruit we picked.

Later, Rachael would have a babysitter and Brian and I would go on a date. He'd take me to dinner at one of the nice restaurants in Blue Ridge. Then we might go see a movie, or maybe get so caught up in conversation over dinner that we don't want to go see a movie. We'd stay out late, then get home and read books to Rachael and say prayers with her and tuck her in and then we'd play some pool together. After spending time together, we'd end our evening sitting together while I read a book and he plays a video game for a few minutes. Eventually we'd go to bed and fall asleep in each other's arms.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beachin' with my Babes & Friends

Every year for... a while -- I'm sketchy on details that don't include me -- Brian, Rocky, and friends have had a beach trip. This year, I was lucky enough to be invited along. They have a friend whose grandparents have generously allowed Cory and his friends to use the beach house on Hilton Head Island.

I actually went to Lenoir on Wednesday and was able to spend all day Thursday with Brian and Rachael. Thursday morning, the three of us hung out. We played a little and then we went to the duck park and watched Brian play basketball. Rachael and I cheered for Daddy!! Gooooo Daddy! Actually... it was more like I talked to Betty Jo and Rachael ran around with Kylee and Zachery, but those are minor details. Even when I'm doing other things, I'm always cheering for Brian. I'm his biggest fan!

After Brian played basketball, we went to Taco Bell and took Rachael to the library. She did a summer reading program there and after so many books she completed a block and could pick out a prize. So she completed her final block and we took her to the library to pick a prize -- she picked out the book Fidgety Fish and Friends. It's a cute little book... and of course, it's about fish so Rachael loves it.

We had dinner at Dennis and Mary's house. Dennis made the most delicious steaks ever. They were soooo GOOD. I really like Brian's parents a lot. I like his whole family a lot. Brian and I left to go pack his and Rachael's stuff for the beach and then we picked Rachael up from her mom's house, picked Brian's friend Jared up from his house, and met up with Rocky and Betty Jo. Betty Jo, being the awesome friend that she is, had me a Frappe from McDonald's. Brian, who claims to not like coffee, seemed to like it a lot since he drank at least half of it. I'm beginning to think I should dispute his claims of not liking coffee since he always drinks mine!!!

On the drive down to Hilton Head, we stopped and picked Cory up at the airport and we sang along to one of Rachael's CDs in the car. It was late. Really late. I think it kept Brian awake. I fell asleep in the car.

Brian's friends seem pretty great. Jared used to be Adventist and actually graduated from Southern the same year as my dad, so we talked about Southern a little. Cory is really nice and lives out in Texas, unfortunately. But hey ladies! He's single and great with kids and a nice guy and a lot of fun and has a job... so... maybe someone in the Carolinas could fall in love with him and he with them and then he can move back so Brian and Rocky and the guys can all have their friend close? Yes? Ok great.

Our first day at the beach was Friday. The rest of us were running on very little sleep, but the kids were ready to go! The weather was threatening rain, so we tried to get down to the beach to enjoy it while we could. We were there for a little while and it started to rain. There was a funnel cloud that we could see also. While it rained the guys played frisbee. The rain wasn't really bad enough to go inside and it's good that we stuck around for a while, because when it stopped we got to go out into the water and enjoy it. That evening, we went out to eat and then played putt-putt. We had a lot of fun even though Rocky made fun of me for hitting every rock on the course. Ok, maybe that was fun too. If he didn't pick on me, then I'd think he didn't like me. The kids were really cute trying to get their balls into the holes. They would chase it around the course (much like I did, actually), and then pick it up and put it closer to the hole (like I might have been tempted to do) and FINALLY get it in. Things are so much more entertaining with kids around.

After a quick trip to the grocery store, we went back to the house and hung out. Brian and I talked for a while and then he and took me to my hotel room. It was sad to have to leave them, but that's ok. That's how it is right now and it's what's best for Rachael and it won't be that way forever. :) Saturday morning, Betty Jo came and picked me up since my two lazybone loves were still in bed when she left. When I got there Rachael bounced out of bed and Brian and I played with Rachael and Kylee for a while... Zachery didn't really get in on the action. Probably smart of him since there was a lot of tickling going on.

I prepared a meal for everyone so we could eat when we got back from the beach. Brian helped me in the kitchen. He's seriously actually HELPFUL in the kitchen and doesn't get in the way. I really enjoy that he likes to help. I made baked ziti, green beans, corn, and garlic bread. We all went to the beach and had a great time. We played in the water a lot -- most of the time Kylee was out there with Brian and I and Rachael was playing in the sand. When we got back and all got showers, I put the finishing touches on dinner and we ate.

After supper, a few of us played scrabble and then after sunset, Betty Jo, Kylee, and I went shopping while the guys stayed at the house and played a game. We we got back, I spent some time with Rachael. Brian, Rachael, and I were going to go walk on the beach, but it was raining so we missed out on that. However, Brian and I did have one of the best conversations that we've ever had and then he took me back to the hotel. Rachael was very sad to see me go. The next morning she said to me, "Where was you, Amber? I've been missing you." Cutie pie!

Sunday, we packed up, headed home, and then I had to go back to Tennessee. I cried lots when I had to leave my Love and my Little. One day we'll all be together.

I am already looking forward to next year's beach trip!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Girl's Day Out

Sometime last week, I realized that while Brian would be flying out for China really early Sunday morning and I wouldn't get to see him on Sunday, that didn't necessarily mean that I couldn't see Rachael. I debated about whether or not to ask if I could have Rachael for a few hours, but finally my desire to spend time with Rachael overruled my hesitancy to ask. I think I knew Brian would say yes, but it was kind of a big deal! So I texted Brian and asked if I could have Rachael for a few hours on Sunday to do something special with her... and he said yes!

Sunday morning, I went over to Rocky and Betty Jo's for breakfast and had breakfast with their family and Dennis and Mary (Brian's parents, aka Maw Maw and Paw Paw). When I got there Rachael was playing, but then she came over to me and climbed into my lap and loved on me. Then we took a picture to send to Daddy.

Rachael is seriously the sweetest little girl I've ever known. She's is extremely affectionate and funny and smart and adorable... and while all of that is certainly true, I'm also beginning to realize that I have a strongly biased opinion regarding Rachael's wonderfulness. She is a very special little girl and I love her very very very much.

I hung around for a few minutes and talked to Mary and Betty Jo while Rachael played, then took her home (to Brian's) and waited for Daddy to call us before he got on the plane to China. Rachael got to talk to Daddy for a minute and then I gave her a bath and let her play while I tried to keep myself occupied so I wouldn't cry about the fact that our favorite guy was on his way around the world. So, while Rachael played, I picked up her toys and did a load of laundry. Then I got Rachael out of the bathtub, put lotion on her, got her dressed, etc. You know, all the normal stuff. Rachael is a girly girl and I brought nail polish to paint her nails for her, so I did that... and like me, she can't seem to keep it on her fingers very long... except she has the excuse of being 3. I don't know what my excuse is. :) But she enjoyed it and that's what matters.

Next, we went to Barnes & Noble. Mine and Rachael's "thing" is reading. I have always read books to her and she LOVES being read to, so I decided to take her to Barnes & Noble to pick out a new book. We read lots and lots and lots of books. She wanted to read them in the Hundred Acre Woods, so we sat down, and read a few such as: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny, Charlie the Ranch Dog, The Day the Crayons Quit, The Pout-Pout Fish... and many more. She kept saying, "Aw! Poor Piglet. He's up in the tree!"

Finally, I selected a few and let her pick from among those and she chose my favorite book by my favorite children's author! Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems. I was very surprised that she didn't choose The Pout-Pout Fish. I thought it was a really cute book. I was excited that she chose Knuffle Bunny.

Rachael was so sweet and thoughtful. She kept seeing things that K or Z would like. I told her that next time, we would get a surprise for K and Z to take back to them.

She was hungry and requested macaroni and cheese, so when we left B&N I saw the Jason's Deli in the parking lot so I decided that a salad sounded great to me and that she could have her mac & cheese. Rachael chatted with me while we ate and it was so fun to be with her and have people walk by and comment on how cute she is. :) I think I'm going to have to work on saying "thank you" instead of "I know, right?!" While we were sitting there, I noticed that she had her little legs crossed under the table. Cutest. EVER.

The waiter walked by and asked me something and ended the question with "maybe". Rachael thought he called me "baby" so we had the following conversation.

Rachael: Why did he call you "baby"? (or maybe it was "he called you baby.")
Me: He didn't. He said, "Would you like another salad plate, maybe?" Only Daddy calls me "baby."
Rachael: Why?
Me: Because I'm his girlfriend.
Rachael: No you're not. (Said in a "silly girl... no you're not" kind of way.)
[Rachael starts talking about Batman and his girlfriend again.]
Me: If I'm not Daddy's girlfriend, what am I?
Rachael: You're Daddy's little big girl. And I'm Daddy's little baby fishy.

I had her repeat it for me on video for Brian. I've been upgraded from "normal peoples" to "Daddy's little big girl." She has probably heard Brian call me his "big baby" and her his "little baby" or refer to us as his girls, little girl and big girl, etc, because he often says that. More than calling me his girlfriend. We're thinking that "girlfriend" is a cartoon character to Rachael and that her only point of reference is batman. Rachael doesn't realize yet that "girlfriend" is a relationship. I love that she's so sweet and innocent.

I let Rachael get a little ice cream after we finished eating. She thoroughly enjoyed her treat. Sadly, I had to take her back to Jo's house because I had to head back to Tennessee. We had a really great ride back in the car though!! She sang zipadeedoodah, which was ADORABLE! We chatted about Daddy and China.  We sang Apples and Bananas and giggled over the silly ways of saying "apples" and "bananas" and made up our own words.

We got back home and I was in Rachael's room getting a few of her things together to take to Jo's house and I was going to re-braid her hair. She sat down in my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck and wouldn't let go. She just wanted me to hold her and hug her; I was MORE than happy to oblige. When I took her over to Jo's she hugged me and kissed me and told me she would miss me and that she didn't want me to go. I didn't want to go either! I was glad when she started playing so I could leave without having to pull her off of me first. Leaving was hard enough as it was! I almost cried.

I think Rachael is trying to figure out exactly what my role in her life is and what place she wants me to hold. She's is extremely well-behaved, but I could tell at times that she was testing the boundaries a little to find where they stood. She didn't misbehave AT ALL, it was just obvious that she was figuring out where the lines are and what my response would be.

Rachael is such a gift. I am so thankful that God chose me, not just to be in Brian's life, but to play a part in Rachael's life as well. Rachael is one of the greatest blessings that God has ever given me. To have the privilege of taking care of her, loving her, being responsible for her, being loved by her... and helping to guide her through life and prepare her for eternal life... it's a gift.

I am so thankful that her mom gave birth to her. I think the mom/ step-mom/ ex-wife/girlfriend(eventually wife) relationship can be a complicated one and I hope to avoid some of those complications... or at least ill-feelings on my side of things by always maintaining the perspective that one of the greatest gifts in my life came from H. Without her, I wouldn't have the joy of Rachael in my life. Loving Rachael warms my heart toward H. I can't and do not want to ever replace Rachael's mom; she is special. But I am very much looking forward to our relationship (mine and Rachael's, and growing as a family with Brian) continuing to grow so that one day Rachael will feel like she has been blessed with, not just one, but two mommies who both love her very much. I don't ever want this to be a competition for Rachael's love and affection -- she has plenty to go around. I just want Rachael to be the happiest and most secure little girl in the world knowing that she has the love of a VERY wonderful Daddy and double mommy-love.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Meeting Rachael.. and other important people

This past weekend, I met Rachael for the first time. Leading up to the visit, Brian and I were talking about it and it just hit me... I would be meeting my daughter/ future daughter. I already think of her as mine.

Friday, when I got to Brian's house, he had the garage door open for me, so I pulled in... He and Rachael were waiting for me on the steps and I took her right out of his arms to hug her and hold her and kiss her sweet cheeks. She hugged me back. She wasn't even shy!! It was an amazing moment of finally getting to hold her in my arms. Eventually, I gave Brian a hug. :)

Brian took me inside and gave me a tour of the house while we stopped to play with Rachael and be entertained by her. She's adorable. We had worship with Rachael and she and I picked out her church dress and hairbow. Then we went over to Rocky and Betty Jo's (his brother and sister-in-law and neighbors) to hang out. They had some of Rocky and Brian's friends over so I got to meet lots of people. I was really excited to finally get to meet Betty Jo in person. We had skyped a little and texted some so I felt like we were already friends. We played Catch Phrase, which is a favorite of mine.

I put Rachael to bed over there and kissed her goodnight. She and K and Z said their prayers and Betty Jo and I listened. For the first time ever, Rachael prayed about me. She thanked Jesus for ME! :) I actually teared up. To me, that was the mark that I had made it into her inner circle. I told a friend a couple of weeks ago that when Rachael included me in her bedtime prayers I would know that I had arrived. Well, y'all... I have arrived. K and Z also thanked Jesus for me. Z said, "Thank you Jesus for Amburger... amburger... amburger... noooo..." :) it was ADORABLE. He's my buddy.

Sabbath morning, I got to church just a couple of minutes before Brian, so I went in the direction that I assumed his mom's classroom would be and found Mary and gave her a hug. I was really happy to see his family in person. Then Brian and Rachael and Rocky and Betty Jo and the kids got to church. Rachael was wearing her cute little dress that she and I had picked out and I fixed her hair and put her hairbow in. She was so pretty!

I went to Sabbath School with Brian and then picked Rachael up from her class when it was over. I took her potty and then took her into church and gave her the Sabbath bag I had made for her. It had puzzles, coloring books and crayons, and stickers in it. I also have been working on making some felt dress up doll people for her to play with. Rachael sat in my lap for most of church and colored. She wanted me to take her down for the children's story, so I did. The kids were sent back to their seats before praying and Rachael went back to her seat and was called back... which embarrassed her. But instead of staying back with Brian, she came back up front and climbed into my lap and buried her face in my neck. She's my baby!

After church we had potluck. I sat beside Rachael and took care of her. Then we all went to the nursing home to sing to the residents. Brian and I were squatting down and Rachael wrapped her arms around both of our necks and squeezed the three of us together and said, "I love you both." We went back home and put Rachael down for a nap and Brian and I ended up taking a nap too. Rachael didn't sleep long, but stayed in her room talking to herself and singing songs for a while... After a while, we let Rachael get out of bed and we all played together.

Brian started packing for China and I helped him... and snuck a few things into his bag. In the meantime, Rachael played in his room and on the bed and played with me while we worked. She also wrote her name on a card for Daddy that told him how much we miss him.

Later, we headed over to Rocky and Betty Jo's. On the way over, Brian was holding my hand, so Rachael asked why he was holding my hand.

Brian: Because she's my girlfriend.
Rachael: She's not your girlfriend.
Rachael: [talks about batman's girlfriend]
Brian: Well, if she's not my girlfriend then what is she?
Rachael: She is just a normal people. And you are a normal people. We are all just normal peoples.

We think that Rachael's only point of reference for a girlfriend/ boyfriend is batman. Therefore, a girlfriend is a pretend character, not a relationship. More later on what Rachael says I am to her daddy...

I talked to Betty Jo for a long time on Saturday night. I think we're going to be good friends. It'll be so nice to have a friend who lives right next door. I love that I didn't just get Brian and Rachael, but a whole family AND an instafriend. :)

Brian and I left Rachael with Betty Jo and went home and spend some time together then I headed back to my friend's house really late while he got a little sleep before getting on a plane to China. :( It's terrible when my Love is on the other side of the world and my Little is 5 hours away. I miss my "normal peoples"!

I'll post later about Sunday... girls day out with Rachael.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Our First Weekend Together

Brian came to visit me last weekend! After counting down the days for 22 days, he finally arrived. I wasn't nervous until I left work. I had the busiest day of work that I've had in a long time, so it was good to have that as a distraction. When I got off work around 3:30, I rushed home and jumped in the shower, fixed my hair, put on makeup, etc. Then I waited... and waited... and waited. Really, I only waited about 30-45 minutes from the time that I finished getting ready until I saw Brian, but it felt like an eternity.

Brian and I met at the Southern Adventist University Student Park. We wanted a place where we could just hang out and talk and it was the perfect place. As soon as we got out of our cars, we hugged... and hugged... and hugged. Finally, it was like he was a REAL PERSON!! I was a little nervous when I was sitting in my car waiting for him to arrive, but as soon as I hugged him, the nervousness went away... and the giddiness hit! I was soooo giddy. :) We walked to the Goliath Wall and spread a blanket on the ground and just enjoyed each other's company for a few hours. We also had an audience of groundhogs who eyed us suspiciously on several occasions. We decided to leave and go back to my house so he could meet my parents. When we walked back to our cars, he took my keys out of my hand, unlocked and opened my car door and then handed me my keys and closed my door. That was a definite first for me!! It was very sweet. I would soon discover that I will rarely ever have to touch my car door, in or out, with Brian around. I've dated guys who open doors, but I've never had someone who opens EVERY door, EVERY time like it just comes naturally. It's not forced with Brian and it's not like he's trying to put on a display for me... he just treats me that well naturally.

Friday, Brian came over for breakfast; I made him blueberry muffins. After we ate, we headed up to Lookout Mountain to do the touristy thing. I was wearing wedge sandals, but had taken my flip flops with me just in case we decided to do a lot of walking. Brian is so sweet and thoughtful... he's always thinking of my comfort or what's best for me or my health or whatever, because he encouraged me to wear my flip flops instead because we'd probably be doing a lot of walking. Then, out of habit, I grabbed my purse, and about halfway through the parking lot, he asked me if I wanted to leave it in the car. I was so thankful that he suggested both of those things. He is so attentive. I love that about him.

We toured Ruby Falls and then went to Taco Bell for lunch. (Friday is Brian's TBD, a.k.a. Taco Bell Day.) After we ate, we sat side by side looking at pictures of Rachael on his phone. We must have been sitting there with our heads together for a long time, because another patron came up to us and commented that whatever we were looking at must be really good because we hadn't moved from that position in a while! And of course it was good; it was pictures of our little girl!

After Taco Bell, we headed back up the mountain to the Incline Railway. When we got to the top, we sat on the lookout and enjoyed the view and the cool breeze in the nice shade. Brian is so easy to be with and to talk to and to just sit quietly with. He is my favorite person to hang out with. W
e rode back down the Incline and then headed to our favorite place of the day -- Rock City.

I had been to Ruby Falls as a child and while the view at the top of the Incline was wonderful, the Incline Railway itself was somewhat anticlimactic. It was really neat to see the view of Chattanooga as we rode up though. :) Rock City is gorgeous! You can supposedly see 7 states from a peak that is located in Rock City. There are also little garden gnomes in one area. It's just a very pretty place. There, Brian and I, toward the end of our walk, sat down on a swing and talked some more... and were eaten by mosquitoes. Totally worth the thousand bites.

When we finished on Lookout Mountain, Brian took me to dinner at a Mexican place not too far away. I'm so glad we both like Mexican food. Our food was really good. He got some kind of burrito... it was HUGE. And I got a vegetable quesadilla that was delicious. We both ended up taking leftovers home.

We left Cancun and went to my office, which is right down the street, so I could show him where I work. From there, we went downtown. Chattanooga has a really great downtown. It's kind of artsy. They have a walking bridge, so we walked down the bridge and then sat on a bridge and looked out over the Tennessee River for a long time and watched the moonrise and the sunset while we talked. The bridge goes over the Tennessee River and Coolidge Park, so I took Brian down to the park to see the carousel where I want to take Rachael and the interactive play fountain that I want to take her to. Then we walked down the sidewalk and they have bronze footprints in the sidewalk showing the steps for different dances: a waltz, a tango, the cha-cha... and my favorite, the kiss. So we danced on the sidewalk in the middle of downtown Chattanooga. And well... when we came to the footprints labeled "The Kiss"... we may or may not have done that too.

We finally left and went back to my house where we just hung out for a little while before Brian went back to his hotel room. It was a really wonderful day.

Sabbath morning, Brian came over for breakfast before church and I made him some eggs while I was preparing our Sabbath lunch. Then we went to church. It was sooooo nice to spend Sabbath with Brian. After church, my friend Brooke came over for lunch and to meet Brian. I made pasta with whole wheat angel hair pasta, julienned vegetables lightly sauteed with a smoky balsamic marinade, tossed with pesto, topped with pine nuts and parmesan and romano cheese. We also had bruschetta, broccoli, and banana pudding for dessert.

We visited with Brooke for a while, and when she left, Brian and I went to Signal Mountain to go to Falling Water Falls. We never really found the falls that we went for, but we didn't look very hard either. We enjoyed the view and each other's company. We had a really great conversation there and on our way back to my house. When we got to my house, the air conditioner was not working so we sat out on the front porch for a long time and eventually fell asleep out there.

Sunday, Brian came back over and took me out for breakfast somewhere with air conditioning. :) We went to Cracker Barrel, which is always delicious. Then we decided to go to the Ocoee for the day and swim to stay cool. We stopped at a few places along the way, but ended up at Goforth Creek. We sat on a rock for a long time and on a rock in the water. It was a really pretty place. After that, we went back to my house and showered then went out for dinner at China Kitchen.

Before we left for dinner at China Kitchen, my dad talked to Brian and I and basically said that they're really impressed with Brian and my dad really complimented me. It was so sweet it made me cry. My parents really like Brian... but then again, what's not to like?! He's amazing.

Our weekend came to a close... and Brian held me close in the car for a long time while I cried over how much I would miss him and how much I love him. Then we finally had to say goodbye when he took me back to my house.

It was the best weekend of my life. Brian was everything and so much more than I ever dreamed he would be... I am the luckiest girl ever.