15 Dec

Last night, before we got on the bus at 9pm to drive to Wisconsin, we had our official Framily Christmas Party with the neighbors. “Framily” is the word that Kirsten came up with-a relationship that lies somewhere between friends and family.  When you have kids, and live about 10 feet from another family that has kids, well, you better hope you like each other. If you don’t, moving is probably your best option. We have had some great times over the years with these people, and we probably will live in our house forever because they live next door. Unless they move, in which case we will follow them…because Caroline would sooner die than be separated from her brothers and sister. It’s really a great deal for Dave and I, our daughter has instant playmates at her beck and call, and we don’t have to send them to college, pay for their meals (well, sometimes we do), or discipline them (well, sometimes we do.)

So we met at our house at 5:45 to exchange gifts (in the long-standing tradition of the Howard’s it was 6:15 when they came), and David got a new remote helicopter.

That is Caroline, Dave, Kirsten and Ben. Isn’t he the cutest. HE LOVES CANDY. You really don’t understand how much. You never could. They try to monitor his intake, but I let him have as much as wants at my house. He loves me.

Below is Dave flying his new helicopter. Look at Bella at the bottom. She’s confused.

Here is Mister Rob opening his present. I also got him a hot dog bun steamer like 3 months ago, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m sure it’ll turn up. He works at Denise’s church. One of the big cheeses there… can follow him on twitter at @howardrm.

Here is me and Kirsten. She’s really tall and can eat anything she wants and never gain weight. It’s totally bogus. You can follow her on twitter at @kirstenhow. (if she accepts you)

OK, so I was SOOOOOOOOO excited when she walked in the door with bags from my FAVORITE STORE in Nashville. Gilchrist Gilchrist. Pretty much everything that I love in my house is from there, and everything that I don’t really like is from somewhere else. HA! If you live in Nashville, you have to go in there (and buy me something.)

So, on the left here is this really cool calendar that stands on an easel and all the months artwork are hand drawn with little beads or glitter. So cute. It will look great on my desk. Once you have the stand, which I do now, you just replace the calendar every year. On the right is this big glass jar that looks kind of old and antique-y. I’m either going to fill it with soaps and put it in my bathroom, or maybe red and white candy at Christmas…not sure yet. I love the versatile gift! I loved my presents!!

I wish you could see the jar better….it’s bigger than it looks and so cool.

After gifts we went to eat Mexican food, because that is truly the tie that binds. Chips and Salsa. Mexicali Grill. It’s kind of like “Cheers” to the neighbors. Where everybody knows your name. I got my usual number 43 chicken…..

Ben got a whale pillowpet, Sarah got a gift certificate for Young Chefs Academy, Caroline got an incredible “teacher’s kit” which she has not stopped talking about since last night, and Caleb-well he wanted what every 13 year old boy wants-cash. So that’s what he got.

Below is Caroline bothering Caleb, because his real sister doesn’t do it enough…

Here is Mr. SMU, I mean Mr. Rob, Caroline and Dave. At this point in the night I had to ask both guys to please fake a smile because they were OVER IT and ready to go home. I told them it was all for the sake of the blog. They just laughed at me and rolled their eyes. But I can guar-an-dang-tee you that they will both click on today to read about themselves. That’s just how guys are…

Alrighty then, so that was our framily Christmas. Do you have awesome neighbors?? Write and tell me about them!

PS You are welcome to use the term “framily”.  It has not yet been trademarked. But we are working on it….


Christmas Cards

14 Dec

So I finally finished addressing our Christmas cards a couple of days ago. I ordered 180, and I totally should have ordered more. We are completely out of them, and I keep remembering more and more friends everyday that I didn’t send one to yet. Shoot!

I take my card seriously, and was going to actually have my friend Keely come take our family picture back in November but canceled  our “shoot” at the last minute. I ended up just pulling a few of my favorite photos from our year, and ordering a card off of Shutterfly. It was right before our tour started, and I just couldn’t add one more thing to our calendar. Especially one that involved me putting on make-up of any kind.

So here is our card. I’m posting it because it is highly likely that you didn’t get one. Because I’m a doofus and didn’t order enough. But I love you and David and Caroline love you, and even Bella loves you. And you are totally worth 44 cents.

The pic of Dave and I was at this incredible restaurant called Caliza that we ate at during our vacation to Florida.  The family one is from the same trip to Florida on another night, and the one of Caroline is from Disneyworld back in September. I’m pretty sure I cropped Lilo and Stitch out of that one. And then of course there’s Bella in the fall leaves.

I thought the black and white card would be cool, but honestly it was just ok. I’m just glad I’m done addressing them.

I have quite a few cards that I haven’t opened yet.

I really like to take my time and read them, so I’m waiting until I have time! Maybe next week when the tour is over.

After Christmas I always recycle my Christmas cards. I save all the picture cards and leave them hanging up for quite awhile on my pantry door. (which I haven’t even STARTED hanging them up there yet this year!) But I “repurpose” the non-picture cards to use as gift tags for the next year. I just cut out whatever the main picture or design is, and when I need a gift tag, I just find one in my bunch that looks good with the paper, use a hole punch to thread the ribbon through, and WALLAH-a gift tag!

Here are the ones I cut out last year from my cards. I’ve already used a ton of them this year when wrapping. This is all I have left actually.

Just write “to” and “from” on the back side and you’re good to go.

I can’t even believe I take time to do this, but there is something oddly therapeutic about it.

It’s as crafty as I get. Lame-o.

But it saves me at least 5 or 10 bucks on gift tags. Just enough for a coffee and two cranberry bliss bars at starbucks.

Snow Day!!!

13 Dec

We pulled into Nashville this morning for a day off, and came home to a beautiful blanket of white. As I write, the kids are sledding down the street with the reddest cheeks I’ve ever seen. This whole scene makes me happy. Don’t you remember being a kid and how much you LOVED a SNOW DAY!

I had to beg Caroline to pose for this right before she came inside because she was certain she had frostbite.

Now we are all warm inside drinking hot chocolate with our neighbors and watching “Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas” which I actually love myself.
(Shelley’s hot chocolate has a couple extra squares of melted Hershey bar in it. Oh yeah.)

I made them put that blanket on the floor so I wouldn’t have hot chocolate on my rug. Isn’t Bella cute? And the kids too, of course.

Just a few random thoughts and things I also wanted to mention from yesterday.

1. A HUGE THANKS TO MICHAEL PASSONS, our keyboard player, (you can follow him on twitter @mpassons) who saved me (and this blog actually) with his kindness yesterday.
We had to change planes in Dallas to get to Shreveport. There was an earlier flight we could catch so we ran to the other gate two terminals away. Right as we were boarding the plane, our road manager got a call on his cell phone. Guess who left their computer on the other plane?? Yep, me. That’s right. So Michael offered to stay behind, go retrieve my computer, and take the next flight to Shreveport. He also got to eat at the new Pappasito’s in DFW, which was a slight consolation in the matter.

2.FBC Bossier City does a really great Christmas program every year. Yesterday, we were their special guests. Here we are with the “mini-Rockettes” that performed in the show. I’m not kidding, these girls were good! I believe they were called “Vicki’s Dancers” from a local dance studio. Denise and Leigh wanted to ask them if we could borrow three of their costumes and put them on to be funny “for your blog shelley! For your blog!”

Ummmmmmmm, nope. Not sure I see my size available in that pic.

3.Also at FBC Bossier– the church was decorated to the nines. They had these HUGE red velvet bows everywhere. There was one in the conference room next to our dressing room. I picked it up and acted like it was in my hair. The girls thought it was funny, so Michael stood behind the wall, held it above my head, and Leigh took this pic. Random.

I don’t know why I think that is funny but I do.

4.So our good friend Kimmie, who actually works for Reba McEntire, but is always a huge help to us whenever we play around town, took some photos at our concert in Nashville the other night. I just have to show you this one of Spence (Denise’s oldest) and Darby and Caroline. I hate that Price isn’t in it, he was on the other side of the stage playing guitar. But aren’t they so cute. Our fiddle player, Demitri, did their hair and they thought they were hot stuff. There is a video of them singing this on my previous blog.

Well, how’s that for a mixed bag of goodies.

I must go now and reorganize my house and life, because we leave for Wisconsin in about 33 hours. Happy SNOW day!

PS  Had to add these two pics in fresh off the press. Neighbor just sent me these. Happiness.

Not So Tiny Tots

12 Dec

Our kids are getting so BIG. I can’t even take it. It’s a tradition for them to sing in our Christmas shows. Below is a video of our Nashville show and the kids performing Silver Bells. Price is on guitar and Caroline, Darby and Spence are singing.


PS thanks to one of my besties in the whole world, Keely, for filming this, and also basically running my blog while she herself is traveling all over the world. Story to follow this week. She is going to get her own dedicated post real real soon.

Jingle Bell Not

11 Dec

So last night we were in the dressing room right before our Nashville show, and we were LOSING IT. See the video below for “lack of sleep” at it’s finest…

I can’t believe I just posted that.

I swear we can sing when we’re not delirious.

Home for the Holiday

10 Dec

Little Rock. My home sweet home. I got to go there today. And eat momma’s cookin’. We were in town for a show, so a bunch of us went over to my parents’ house for lunch. Sharon did it up right. Always does. I wasn’t sad to leave after the show because we will be going back for Christmas this year. So there is more where this came from.

That is actually Michael’s plate. I would have photographed mine, but I didn’t think about it until he sat down, and mine was already half gone by then.
Mom made brisket, homemade mac and cheese, five bean bake (which I had never had but was awesome), some kind of yummy salad with champagne vinegrette dressing, some wild rice turkey cranberry salad thingy, and rolls. And caramel cake.

Michael, Denise and I went running. Then we ate everything I listed above. Then I laid down between my nephew Grant and Caroline and tried to take a nap while they were watching Sponge Bob. But they kept waking me up to tell on each other.

This is a picture from intermission at the concert. It’s my mom, my sister, Caroline, Grant and me.

The kids were so tired but they made it to the end of the show. Bless their little tattling hearts.

This picture below has no specific meaning to this blog at all. I just think I look really good in it. Like sorta skinny or something. Which is weird, because I have like 10 other pics from tonight of me in that dress and none of them look like this.

How about that. Rock on.

I’m gonna start walking around with a person in front of half of me.

You like Caroline’s skirt?? I got it in one of my favorite children’s clothing magazines. Chasing Fireflies. You should check it out. It’s like all cute kids clothes edited down to the very cutest.

After the show, I made my dad take me to Taco Bell because I didn’t have time to eat supper. It was like 10:30pm and on the way back to the bus, I was thinking that I didn’t have many pics for my Christmas blog, so I made my dad stop at the Town Square in Benton, AR and take a pic of me in front of some reindeer display.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. At least you know I was thinking of you.

Christmas Lunch in NYC

9 Dec

Before I tell you about our New York trip, I wanted to show you what Elfie got into last night. I have to admit it made me laugh at 4:30 in the morning as I was leaving for the airport.
I’m really glad Elfie remembers to move every night and get into something, because it’s the first thing Caroline looks for when she gets up in the morning. (The second thing is that advent calendar. I think I’ve got it filled through Dec. 17th now. I’m always WAY ahead of the game.)

Elfie tipped over the Christmas candy and got himself lodged in the jar. Pretty creative I thought.

Denise reminded me today that last year around this time, their “Elf on the Shelf”, Kevin, got his clock cleaned by their dog, Sooner.
He was promptly replaced with his twin, Kevin the 2nd, and her boys were none the wiser. Thank God. Crisis averted.

The only thing worse than a creepy elf, is a creepy elf that has been mutilated by a dog.

This year, our Home for the Holidays tour is being sponsored by a new program of the American Bible Society called “A Soldier’s Hope”. This is an initiative to raise funds to send special military edition Bibles and Bible study materials to our brave soldiers serving on the front lines right now in Afghanistan. It’s an incredible thing that they are doing, and we are honored to be the spokespeople for this project. Their main corporate offices are in New York City, and today we flew up to sing at their company wide Christmas Lunch. We literally flew out at 6am, went straight downtown to the lunch, did a soundcheck, ate, sang, got back in the car, went to the airport and flew home.

Madness. But the good kind. Nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Here we are right before the party with the president of ABS, Dr. Vest and his wife. They actually live part time in Tennessee and part time in NYC. Best of both worlds I’d say.

The lunch was delicious. Catered by an Italian restaurant around the corner from the offices.

Menu in case you care…

Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Salad with fresh Basil
Foccacia Bread
Penne Pasta with Tomato Marinara
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Beer-Braised Short Ribs  (at ABS, can you believe it??)
Rosemary Chicken

and some desserts we never got to.

Anyhow, the thing that really put this lunch a cut above your normal banquet lunch were the beverages. Usually, at banquets of this sort, it’s watered down ice tea. I don’t like iced tea in the first place, but especially not banquet iced tea. But not at ABS. No sir. They do it RIGHT.

On every single table there were two liter bottles of coke, diet coke and sprite.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

When you’re really tired, it’s the little things that get you through. Diet coke gets me through a lot of life’s obstacles come to think of it. I went off it once last spring for like 4 weeks. I felt really good, clearer even. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my life was missing something. Like I wasn’t truly happy.

So I started drinking it again. And now I’m super happy.

So there you go.

A Day off in December

8 Dec
Today we had a day off from our tour here in Nashville. It was a wonderful day of relaxation and rejuvenation. I slept in until ten, then went to the spa and got a massage and pedicure.
I came home after that and ordered a big cheese pizza and sat on the couch and watched the food network until I had to get Caroline from school.
I just wanted to type that to see how it felt.
It felt good.
Actually, my day off in Nashville was a good one, but chaotic nonetheless.
I will spare you the details and just hit the highlights because Michael and Denise are meeting me at my house at 4:45am to go catch our flight to NYC and I need to go to bed!
I hate when my private jet (owned and operated by Continental Airlines) leaves at 6am.
First, we taped a show at our local NBC station called “More at Midday” with this really sweet anchor named Holly Thompson. It should be posted right here sometime today after it airs around 12:30pm. We made my mom’s salsa and Denise’s Chocolate Bundt cake, talked about the cookbook and record, and met a guy from a local chocolate store who gave us some goodies before we left. The white chocolate peppermint bark and chocolate covered oreos he gave me are in my tummy right now. And they were yummy in my tummy.

Here we are in the kitchen after the segment. My hair was so whatever today but I just couldn’t deal. But that necklace I have on is COOL. I got it at J.Crew. I wish you could see it up close.I also don’t like standing next to Denise in pictures. Take a second to focus in on her thigh, then look at my thigh. Not cool.
I had to literally race out of the TV station because I promised Caroline I would eat lunch with her at  school, then deliver some Christmas gifts to some of her teachers. I told her I would pick us up lunch from any where she wanted. She picked Subway. Saturday night when I was on the road, David told her he would take her out to eat anywhere she wanted. She picked Subway. Do you know what she orders? Turkey, cheese and mayonnaise on white bread. Whose kid is this??
Whatever. That’s what I got her. She ate the whole thing. A six inch. Which is extraordinary in and of itself. She could care less about food. No comprende.
Then we went to deliver some Christmas gifts to some of the faculty. POG Cookbooks and Christmas CDs. I get a discount.
Below is Caroline getting ready to make her deliveries.

I ran over to the mall after that, got a couple of Christmas presents and a birthday gift for Darby Mae (Leigh’s daughter who turned 8 today-story to follow), ran to Walgreen’s and bought every pair of number 33 false eyelashes they had (which was 8 pairs) and a healthy after school snack for Caroline since we had to go straight to piano lessons from school. Cheetos and red gatorade. Lots of vitamins and nutrients.
After piano, I took Caroline to Darby’s b-day party.  We were talking right before bed and I asked her what her favorite part of the party was. She told me that she and Darby got to be “Snowman Mummies” and everyone else had to wrap them in toilet paper and that it was awesome. I left her room, went to my computer to write this blog, and Dana (Darby’s dad) had sent me this picture.

Good times.
The last event of my non-day off consisted of a benefit concert for the music school Caroline attends here in Nashville. She takes piano. It’s called School of Worship. It’s a really awesome music school that  sorta combines classical training with modern worship. For instance, right now, she is working on learning about playing “staccato” notes, and also learning how to play chords and sing at the same time for “Here I am to Worship.” They do a great job at nurturing her heart to worship God through her music.
Denise and I, Michael and Melissa from Avalon, Mike Weaver from Big Daddy Weave, Tobymac, FFH, Phil Joel….all our kids take music lessons there…voice, guitar, piano….we all believe in it. We all performed for the concert tonight….very cool.
Caroline sang with us and Price (Denise’s youngest) played guitar. Training them up so we can retire.

See how I have on the same thing as the cooking show about 9 hours before that…no time to change. Not one minute.
I may sleep in it and wear it to New York tomorrow. We’ll see.
PS: The one person I didn’t mention is the girl in the front in the black jacket. She sang with Michael and Melissa. Guess what her name is? Shelley.
Spelled just like that. Weird.

Deck the Halls at Shelley Breen’s House, Fa la la la la. La la la la. (To the tune of Deck the Halls)

7 Dec

We made it home from the first leg of our tour safe and sound. I couldn’t go to sleep when I got home at 4am, so I started reading the Pioneer Women’s blog. I saw this Christmas Rum Cake on there that I am totally going to make. I almost just started doing it at 4am, but I thought the mixer might wake up Dave and Caroline.

I love being home. Even if it’s just for a couple days, I try to pretend like it’s a permanent thing. Like I’m not flying to NYC and back on Wednesday, then getting on a bus at midnight to go to Arkansas. One day at a time, right?

Here are a few reasons I love my house at Christmas time.

This is my new flocked tree I just got last year. I am totally against fake trees. So I don’t really know why I got this, other than I am going through a white phase. I got most of those ornaments at Target last year. Jessie (my long lost to Africa unpaid assistant) and I seriously went back like 5 times in one day to buy more and more balls. I really liked the muted blue ones, but they were sold as an assortment of shiny and muted, so we just took it upon ourselves “rearrange” a few balls when no one was looking, in order to make a few boxes of ALL muted, like I wanted. I think there was probably someone out there who wanted all shiny blue balls, and when they found them they were really happy. So we helped someone. And that’s good. Actually, in case the police are reading this, JESSIE did the ball swap, I just watched for anyone coming close wearing a red shirt and khaki pants.

This is what you get when you have a fake tree. I swear it smells JUST like a real Christmas tree.

Now listen, I have tried EVERY SINGLE Yankee candle that has anything to do with trees, winter, mistletoe, evergreen…all of them. CHRISTMAS WREATH is the ONE. Don’t even bother with the others if you want that “tree smell.”

In case you care, the other Yankee candle that is the BOMB-OLA is  called Buttercream. You will want to stick your face in it and lick the wax.

These little vintage-y looking trees and houses sit above our TV. I just got them this year. I wish you could see it in real life, it’s a lot cuter than this pic. It just occurred to me while looking at this picture that I didn’t put any fake snow around it.

Will do. That will be even better.

Do you know about this guy? At our house he’s called Elfie. A cute little “Elf on the Shelf.” A new Christmas Tradition for the kiddos. He’s kinda creepy looking honestly. He moves around every night. Sometimes he makes little messes that Caroline thinks are hilarious. Golly, we just LOVE Elfie around here. Can’t wait to see what he’s gonna do next!!

(For the record, I want to kill the person who thought of this whole scam. LIKE ANY OF US HAVE TIME TO DEAL WITH THIS.)

Our advent calendar that my neighbor got me for Christmas a couple of years ago. When she gave it to us, she filled every little compartment with candy and trinkets. Now guess who gets to go all around town hunting down tiny toys and candy. ME! I DO!

I should make Elfie fill the dang calendar. He’s doing nothing all day but sitting around looking creepy.

I just realized I’m starting to sound Scrooge-ish. I seriously love filling that calendar. Caroline can’t wait to open a new door everyday! It’s super cool.

But my feelings toward Elfie haven’t changed.

I AM PUMPED about this. I have NEVER had my mailbox done. I tried once to do it by myself and it was a big fat joke. I am the opposite of crafty. I get the cold sweats when I walk into Hobby Lobby because I just don’t understand it all. I can’t do it. But, we all have different gifts, amen? My super sweet, nicest ever, salt of the earth, prayer warrior friend Terri did this for me. Just because I asked her to. I told her I would totally pay her and I want to and she keeps saying no. So I’m going to get her concert tickets and POG cookbooks and Blondie’s cookies. Doesn’t it look so awesome??

I was going to show you a pic of these big candy canes that we have along our front side walk and tell you how much Dave hates putting them up, but how he does it because he loves me and he knows it makes me happy. But you’re probably bored…

oh what the heck….

what’s one more pic.

I’m not trying to sell you anything, but speaking of Candy Canes….you HAVE to go listen to our new song Candycane Lane.When you hear it you will want our new Christmas record. You just will.  If you go to our website, it will start playing in like 3 seconds. So you can try before you buy. You will LOVE it, it’s the cutest. Like these yard ornaments….

I can’t believe I have yard ornaments. Not just one, several…

My Christmas Family – Part One

6 Dec

As most of you know, we are out on the road for most of the month on our Home for the Holidays Christmas Tour. We are only home for two days this week, then back out again for five. It’s kinda funny that we named our tour Home for the Holidays, since we are anything but. We were on the Gerry House show the other morning in Nashville, and he said we should call our tour “The Big Lie.” Not a bad idea.

Most buses have 12 bunks. When we’re not on a budget, sometimes we convert our bus from 12 bunks to 8 bigger bunks, and get a separate bus for the band and crew. That’s the high life. More space, more privacy. Currently, we are not living the high life.   In fact, we actually converted the back lounge of our bus into another sleeping room with 3 additional bunks. So we’re at 15 now.

15 people on a bus.

We’re a family.

Meet the Family/ Part One

You probably know Leigh. She is drying her hair at the venue in Detroit.

In MY dressing room with MY hairdryer.

This is Derek our drummer during intermission. He used to play for Kelly Clarkson. We got to meet her once because of him.

He’s too good for us, but he doesn’t act like it.

This is Denise. She likes to work out. She tries to make us do it, but we always think of a reason why we can’t.

Today mine was, “I’m taking pictures for my blog.” Leigh’s was,

“I’m drying my hair.”

This is Mark our sound man. We drive him crazy. That lady’s name was “Mom.” She picked up our dinner and also swore a lot, especially for an older lady.

Anyway, if we sound good, it’s because of him.

Now this girl is an angel sent from heaven. Her name is CeCe. You know that yogurt place Sweet Cece’s? Named after her.

She is fluffing the trees in this pic.

This is Marcus. He is our lighting guy. We met him on tour with Mark Schultz.

He is amazing. Marcus, not Mark…

This is Walt. Plays bass. You know those people who act like
Jesus? He’s one of them…

So, that’s the first installment of my road family. If you come see us on the road, come up to them and say hi. Call them by name and freak them out.