Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ready for Happily Ever After

It seems only logical to follow my last blog post up with a post to showcase some engagement photo layouts. I do envy today's generation that reaps all the benefits of living in a digital age. Marybeth and Philip have more engagement photos than were taken at mine and Steve's wedding! And they are all stunning. I had fun with my favorite 4, printing them out as 5 x 7's, and I completely went off the engagement grid by pairing them with a camping line. But I knew when I saw these photos that Simple Stories Cabin Fever would be spectacular. 

I want to share here some words I penned for Marybeth on her January birthday:

I met Miss Mary Elizabeth Perry of Memphis, TN on May 12, 2016, but I had first heard of her two years earlier. Sometimes good things come to those that wait. I have never had a daughter, and have never regretted having only sons. And for years I have prayed for the women my sons would date, and court. On May 12, 2016, I knew that God had answered my prayer with Philip. It was love at first sight. Steve and I waited anxiously, albeit nervously, in the lobby of the Grand Floridian as Philip and Marybeth drove down to Walt Disney World from Nashville. When we got the text that they were getting close, we moved outside to the porte cachere. The first photo below is the first photo I ever took of MB, and what followed were four days of together time, of family fun, of getting to know one another, of staying up until 3 AM, of laughing hard, of sharing meals, all while we traipsed around the Happiest Place on Earth.

It was a gamble for me to invite her to join us. It's a little unnerving, on both sides, to meet someone for the first time and feel the weight of potential future commitment. MB is a delight to be around, and she offered me several gifts over those next 4 days. The first gift was just the absolute thrilling joy of having another girl on the family trip, someone who would break out in song with me, someone that would race to see the princesses with me, someone that always smiled and jumped INTO the selfie. The second gift was seeing how much my son loved her. That first day we stayed at Magic Kingdom until after 2 AM. We made it to our hotel about 2:30 AM and as we approached the hotel door, I heard my son say, "Babe, give me the keys. I want to go to the car and get your hairspray." Somewhat silly you may say. But I knew in that moment that the boy that would walk quite aways into a parking lot at 2:30 AM for a can of hairpray was a boy that was in love with this girl by his side. And, seeing how they interacted together over the next 4 days, it was endearing to see such a bedrock of commingled friendship and affection, of tenderness and jesting, of loving and of liking one another. The third gift that she gave me was just the gift of being herself. It was easy to see that she was a confident and fun girl, and completely comfortable being in her skin. She embraced all experiences and enjoyed the adventure. She said yes to trying new things. She was up and at it early each day, and went hard all day long, enjoying every moment of it all. I still chuckle when I recall her pushing back at Andrew's teasing of Philip by jabbing her finger toward him and spurting, "QUIT IT." The fourth gift that she gave us was of loving Steve and I. It was such an honor to meet her, to spend time with her, and to see her wanting to get to know us and opening up her heart to us, and inviting us to open up our heart to hers.

Four days went all too fast. Since that May trip, I've had the absolute pleasure of seeing MB again in August in Dallas, in September in Nashville, in November and then again in December in McKinney - a handful of days - less than 30 in total. But she is never far from my heart, I miss her every day, and I look forward to having the rest of my life to spend time with her and to continue to get to know her. This is the first year that I've been able to celebrate this beautiful joy of a woman on her birthday. Steve and I are so thrilled that she is now a part of our life. Happy Birthday Marybeth Perry! May God pour out His lavish grace on you every day, and may this next year of your life be one full of joy, of wonder, and of adventure! I love you and you are such a blessing to us!

And now Miss Marybeth Perry has been Marybeth Grimsley for one whole week! Yes, the engagement photos have turned into wedding photos. And I love that I have another girl in the family. I am no longer the only Grimsley girl! The last seventeen months of their dating, courtship, and engagement have been such a time of happiness in our family. 

We are just thrilled to have a front row seat to watch them live out their very own Happily Ever After. They are so happy together.

Philip & Marybeth, Happiness Found Togther, True Love, Ready for Happily Ever After ~ Engagement Photos ~ April 2016

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Titles: Silhouette Cut Files, Ballerina Script, Arial

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Fab Five

I've had a slow week, and it's been enjoyable. But I've felt a little lost, to be honest. My big To Do list is done, and there is nothing grand looming on the horizon, aside from normal every day life, and the ensuing {and much anticipated} onslaught of the holiday season. I've worked this week, and gone home at night, and just been able to sit on the couch and watch football, and it's been good, but it's also felt weird. 

You see, on May 12, 2016, my husband and I met Miss Mary Elizabeth Perry of Memphis, Tennessee, and it was quickly evident our son was smitten with her, and we knew him well enough to know that this could very well be the real deal. They had their first date at a college social club roller-skating event on February 24, 2016, and from our phone and FaceTime conversations with Philip after that first date, we took the risk in March and extended an invitation for Marybeth to join us in May on our family vacation to Walt Disney World (WDW). It felt very daring at the time to invite a young lady, whom we did not know, to come stay with us in a shared hotel room. But, at the same time it felt very natural to want to meet her, and to include her in our annual trek to the happiest place on earth. 

Honestly, aside from the initial awkwardness over the idea of sharing a hotel room, I thought, "What better place to get to know one another? There's plenty to do, conversation can be natural and not forced, and time together at Disney is always fun, right?" Thankfully, she took an equal risk and said YES, and so on May 12, Philip and Marybeth drove up to the Grand Floridian, where Steve and I had been sitting in the porte cachere, waiting and very excited and anxious for their arrival. She was shy at first, and rightfully so. Meeting "the family" can be daunting. But, for my part, I loved her from the beginning. How could you not look at her, and just be smitten? So much beauty, inside and out.
She was energetic, enthusiastic, funny, sincere, honest, heart-warming, joyful, happy, and caring. I loved that she jumped IN to the selfies, I loved that she sang songs with me in the room and in the parks, I loved that we ran together later that first day, after midnight, to the Princess Hall to meet Rapunzel. 

We had decided, with the extension of the invite, to go ALL IN on our son's girlfriend, and we could tell early on that she was going ALL IN with us, too. She had been to Walt Disney World before, but so many things were still new to her, and seeing them through her eyes brought an added measure of joy to me and to Steve. I snapped this photo of her as we rode the monorail over to Epcot on that first day - she was straining to see the sights out the monorail window, and it made me smile so. Such a tender blessing. I could weep over the joy this beauty gives to me and to Steve, and to our son, Philip.
We had a wonderful day at Epcot. Steve, Philip, and I all chuckled every time Marybeth said something, because it included some iteration of the word wonderful. "And I think to myself, what a wonderful world..." Yes, yes, we all thought the day was indeed truly wonderful! We worked our way through Future World, and then headed back to the World Showcase, and we were able to introduce both Philip and Marybeth to the Flower and Garden Festival food booths. It was a beautiful Florida May day, and we just worked our way around the world, sampling drinks and eats, chatting, having fun. It was also wonderful ;-) that we had the PhotoPass photographers around to take our picture! Such a blessing to have the memories and the magic captured.
Steve and I had the opportunity to buy Magic Kingdom (MK) After Dark tickets for the four of us for that first day, Thursday May 12. We asked Marybeth if she was up for a long day. We tried to explain to her that we vacation hard at WDW, and I don't think she fully took in the extent of that, but she did learn quickly. ;-) {See, why waste any time when you are at the Happiest Place on Earth? Sleeping is for home!} 

So, after spending a full day at Epcot, we park hopped over to Magic Kingdom and from 11 PM to 2 AM, we were able to do so many attractions at MK. Probably my favorite moment was when I finally had a GIRL with me that wanted to go into the Princess Hall. I have always adored having sons, but in that moment, it was wonderful to have a glimpse of what it would be like to have a daughter. So very precious.
Doesn't her smile light up the room? I loved that she and I both got to meet Rapunzel together, for the first time, on this magical After Dark night! 

We got back to our hotel that night at 2:30 AM, the day spent, full of fun, laughter, smiles, and happy togetherness. As we approached the monorail station and prepared to embark, my Philip says, "Babe, where are your car keys? I want to go get your hairspray out of the car for you now." Now, to many people that might seem completely normal, but Steve and I immediately exchanged a knowing glance. This was PHILIP saying this, Philip who likes people to bring HIM things, Philip who loves to yell, "Dad...", Philip who tires first and loves to head to bed, Philip who almost never offers such a gesture! And this was Philip offering this AFTER a very long day, at such a late hour! In that moment, I knew he loved her so very much, and my heart melted toward them even more. 

He headed off to the car and we headed on to our room, all ready for bed. Friday the 13th was Animal Kingdom day, and we were going to get up and go hard again the next day. After all, we had only four days together, and four parks to hit. And up and at 'em we did. We were enjoying our time together, yet just a little bit sad that Andrew couldn't join us. He was in his gap year preparing for culinary school, working at two restaurants at this point: Ida Claire in the morning, and Whiskey Cake at night. It did not seem the same without him, and we were all thankful for Marybeth's presence to help aid our coping with Andrew's absence. 

One of my favorite things to do at Animal Kingdom is to see The Festival of the Lion King (FOTLK). I seriously never tire of this show. It's spectacular. The Lion King movie came out June 1994, after Philip was born that April. Buying that video when it came out was a "necessity", and my boys watched that movie together so many times during their early years. I always loved belting out the Circle of Life, and all the other songs, singing along while they watched the movie. So, on this May 13, 2016, when we were at Walt Disney World for the first time without one of us, as I sat in FOTLK, I wept. I cried for all the years behind us, and all the years ahead of us. I wept at the memories, and I wept at the possibilities. And I cried for the joy and the anguish of the day we were in - the joy of having Marybeth with us, the anguish of not having Andrew with us. Ah, "the circle of life, the wheel of fortune..."

Circle of Life
Elton John 
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give
In the circle of life
It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith
It's the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life
Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the Sun rolling high through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
In the circle of life
It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith
It's the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life

And as we walked out of the show, those lyrics ever seared on my heart, my eyes damp from the tears, my 6' 2" baby boy is actually standing there in the Harambe Market plaza, waiting for me, having woken up at 3 AM to fly over from Dallas to WDW for 24 hours. It was the greatest surprise of my life, and I cried and screamed and laughed all at the same time, and that baby boy Andrew just laughed and laughed, knowing he had pulled off a good one.
This boy of mine has such a big and genuine heart. "The circle of life, the wheel of fortune, the leap of faith, the band of hope...'til we find our place on the path unwinding..." And in that moment, it was pure and joyful, and the five us us were together. Andrew got to meet Marybeth, and Marybeth got to meet Andrew, and for one day we were all together. We, like Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto, were the Fab Five.
We finished up Animal Kingdom and park hopped to Hollywood Studios, and the day went all too fast. Andrew had worked on Thursday, and had to work on Saturday night, his ethics preventing him from asking for a day off. It meant so much to all of us that he wanted to come over and be with us. I've teased him since that he has forever ruined FOTLK for me because when I walk out, there is no grand surprise of him standing there to greet me. ;-) He enjoys that, I think. ;-)

I have lots of photos of that day to scrap, and I will get to them all soon I hope. Such a wonderful day. After Andrew left us, we finished up our trip Sunday at Magic Kingdom. And that trip ended, and life went on. The Fab Five. Philip and Marybeth continued dating, and by Thanksgiving, Philip began talking to us about engagement rings. And he and Marybeth, having only started dating in February, knew soon they were the forever ones for each other, and even looked together in Dallas over Thanksgiving break for rings. In our family, we fall hard, and we fall fast. ALL IN. {I remember Steve and I started dating in October, and were engaged in July. When you know, you know.}

It was February 25, 2017 when Philip proposed to Marybeth. And the wedding planning swirl joyfully began. Venue found, date selected, and all the decisions began falling into place. And this time last week, Steve and I were driving toward Gallatin, Tennessee with a car load of supplies, set to host the rehearsal dinner Friday night. Philip and Marybeth had the most beautiful wedding on Saturday, September 9, and have now begun their very own Happily Ever After. Such a blessing and such a joy. And I'm so looking forward to scrapping it!! 

And right now we are officially The Fab Five. And we are ready for another chapter. Another beautiful, new chapter. What I have learned is that Best Day Ever is an organic term. You can and do have the Best Day Ever. And then life comes along and hands you something bigger and better, another Best Day Ever. I'd like to think that The Fab Five are ready now for another Best Day Ever. Right now we're just resting up, living our normal life, waiting for it. But I think I will see it coming someday. I hope I do. I sure hope I do. Because The Fab Five will take another Best Day Ever. "There's far too much to take in here..." But, we're trying. Boy are we trying.

Best Day Ever ~ The Fab Five at Hollywood Studios ~ May 13, 2016
Sketch Credit: Pinterest (I apologize - I cannot find the layout that inspired me - I will continue to search for it.)
Paper: Simple Stories