I've always loved kids since, well, I was a kid pretty much.  I started babysitting in middle school and will never forget how I learned I could actually kinda handle kids.  In sixth grade, I started teaching Vacation Bible School in a 3-year-old classroom.  My first year, I had a teaching partner, but after that I was all alone.  I have no idea why it was allowed for a seventh grader to solely handle a room of 15 to 20 three year olds, but I remember thinking back then I was so wise and mature and totally had it under control.  I mean, I guess I did, because I don't remember any huge mishaps.  All I remember is that is when I realized the "specialness" of kids.

Two of the biggest lessons they taught me were to remember to simplify life and to always be full of wander.  Now, I know those are natural instincts for kids and we lose that as we grow older, but I truly feel living by those two principles would make for a better life.  I remember a little girl I fell in love while teaching VBS would always ask questions that I never knew the answer to, but they were things that I hadn't thought about since I was a little girl. 

"Why is the sky blue?  Why do some people here have a 'Miss' in front of their names and others don't?  Why do we eat lunch at noon?"

I know those questions may seem frivolous, and you may even think, "Well of course she thought those things.  She was a kid after all."  Maybe it was because I was on the cusp of becoming a teenager instead of a kid, and I was closer to that mindset, but those are instances I will never forget, and I always keep my mind open for situations like that when I'm around kids.

Working with my sorority's philanthropy, East Tennessee Children's Hospital, has been the best experience.  We go visit patients in the oncology and hematology ward.  Sometimes, we'll sit in the waiting room and play with kids while they're waiting to go back and receive treatments.  Other times, we'll go door to door and visit kids who are temporarily staying at the hospital.  While they are there under sad circumstances, you can often see them light up when you walk in.  Some of them are just so excited, while others are semi-hiding their grins.  However, it never fails for their parents to thank us and tell them how much it means to both the child and the parents to have visitors who are able to take their minds off the sickness if even just for a bit.

This semester, I started volunteering in the nursery at my church in Knoxville, Sevier Heights.  This church has given me so much, and I wanted to give back and also spend time with kids, since I enjoy it so much.  Especially getting back in the routine of working with kids in a church environment has touched me so much more than I ever thought it could.  I'm learning the same lessons I did during those summers in middle school working as a VBS teacher but also so many more.  I'm the first one to go on and on about how awesome kids are, and some people just don't have it.  They bring out all the cons about kids, and I'm not going to lie.  There are some.  There are kids who want it their way all the time, don't know how to share with other kids or just won't talk to you no matter how hard you try.  But aren't some adults like this as well?  Everybody's different, and especially children at the age I've been working with, two and three year olds, grow at different times.  But it's nice to know that, for the most part, the kids listen when you ask them to stop doing something they shouldn't be doing or start doing something they should be doing.  Although they may still be working on things, most of them know how to listen and end up respecting me, because I've asked or told them to do something.  However, for all the not-so-fun times, there are a million more fun things and little moments that make it all worth it.  I've heard lots of awesome and hilarious interpretations of Bible stories, I've learned that kids love when you help them make cool shapes with Play-Do, anything can be turned into a simple gamme that keeps them entertained for a long time and nothing means more to me than the hugs I get as the kids both enter and leave the classroom.

This summer, I read the book Heaven Is For Real, which completely awed me.  It's written by a pastor whose son had an out of body experience while in surgery.  I don't remember exactly what happened, but I know the child didn't die but somehow went to heaven.  He told his parents all these stories that would be impossible for a child who had not had this experience to tell.  The book was very moving and emotional throughout, but only one part made me cry.  The child talked about how kids are treated in heaven.  He told something about Jesus bringing out special chairs for kids to sit on.  He told his dad that Jesus loves children, and his dad responded that he knew that, they had often sung him a song called Jesus Loves Me, etc.  The child interrupted him, saying something like, "No, Dad.  Jesus really loves the children."  The father wrote in the book, "Jesus clearly viewed children as precious - and that if he loved kids enough to say that adults should be more like them, we should spend more time loving them too."  As a Christian, to hear just how much Jesus loves children and to know much I love them was definitely a moment worth bringing me to tears.

My friends have always called me the mom of the group, and I have even been dubbed Mama Jules.  My friends also make fun of the way I act as a mother toward animals.  I can't help but point out a cute child whenever I see one and wave at it and tell the parents how adorable it is.  I know I'm meant to be a mom one day and will be a great one.  If there's one thing I'm sure of in life, it's that.  It's not just an, "Oh yeah, I think I'll have kids some day down the road."  No, it's a thing I feel called to do and do it well.  Maybe it's because I have the world's best mom and want to give my kids the life my mom gave me.  I don't know, but I have always had that need to nurture and provide for something other than myself.  For now of course, I'll settle with working with my church babies, but I can't wait to live life through my children's eyes and learn all the things I know they'll teach me.  Kids are great, and I encourage everybody to spend just a little bit of time with a kid and discover what you could learn from them.  You may be surprised.


I can hardly believe my junior year is coming to a close.  After I finish my last exam on Tuesday, I will officially be a senior.  One year until it's big girl job time.  One more year of living with Rachel and Lauren and having our TV marathon Mondays and weekend game nights.  One more year of being a collegiate Phi Mu member and seeing my sisters in the beautiful Phi Mu house every Monday.  Oh, boy.  Every year of college has been better than the one before, and I am so thankful for the memories and growth I've experienced.  Since I'm taking a study break and feeling so nostalgic and blessed, I decided to do a little recap post of this year.  I've come to the realization I need to work on posting more regularly in order to avoid doing a super long post just every once in a while.  I promise to work harder on doing that! 

August

 I moved into my new apartment with my two wonderful roommates, Rachel and Lauren.  Our apartment is now known as the 402.




A few days later, it was time to get ready for sorority recruitment - my first one on the other side.  Although it is exhausting, I love recruitment!  I guess that's what happens when my love of Phi Mu and ability to talk to a wall combine. :)

With Rachel and Lauren in our pink dresses on skit night

We had the highest return rate in Kappa chapter history and welcomed a beautiful new pledge class on Bid Day at World's Fair Park.


 My bid day buddy, Emily.  Keeping the Hendersonville blonde Phi Mus alive and well!


September

Football season!  I had so much fun this football season dressing up in orange, tailgating and watching the games with my sisters.



We had Phi Mu's Chicken for the Children philanthropy tailgate.  We are so fortunate to have O'Charley's donate chicken sandwiches and chips for the tailgate.  Sisters bring desserts and drinks, and it's awesome to see how many people come out, support and just hang out with us.

 Gotta love the pink Phi Mu cornhole board!



Phi Mu had its annual first date party of the school year, Mad Plaid.  Mad Plaid is always a big deal, and it's so fun to see how everybody interprets the theme.  I wore a super tacky plaid blazer my brother wore when he played the nerd in Grease in high school.


I got to welcome a little sister into my family, and I could not be prouder to be Anna's big.  Although we're both super busy and don't see each other very often, she is such a down to earth, adorable and smart girl, and I truly feel I have the right to brag about her being my little, because she's that awesome of a person.  I preffed her on pref night and knew then she was a great person who would make a perfect Phi Mu!


October

Fall is my favorite season, and it finally starts to feel like fall in October.  I'm so glad my roommates are cheesy just like me and enjoy decorating our apartment for each season and holiday.  We started the month with waking up early one Saturday morning, getting pumpkin spice lattes and heading to Walmart and a couple of craft stores to buy decorations.

 Lauren made these adorable burlap pillow covers.


 Candy corn + peanuts = best fall snack


We also celebrated my second favorite holiday (after Christmas of course), Halloween!


November

It seems like November was full of fun things.  Phi Mu had fall formal, and I was so happy to have one of my best friends since first grade, Joseph, as my date.




My roommates and I hosted a Thanksgiving potluck, which was so fun.  All the food was delicious, and it was so nice to have everybody over and hang out.  I cooked my first ham and felt so accomplished!  It turned out so well!


Thanksgiving at home was really nice, and it was the first time both of my mom's siblings and their spouses were able to come to Tennessee and spend it with us.  It was fun to be able to take them to different places around Nashville, including the Opry!

The week after, it was time for Phi Mu's Wacky Tacky Christmas date party.  I love being able to dress up all Christmasy!




Two days later, we celebrated the birthday of the first roommate to turn 21, Rachel.  We tend to make birthdays a big deal around here, and it's always so fun to have everybody over to our place to celebrate.  Rachel's obsessed with her diabetic, overweight, black cat, Nemo, so Lauren and I chose to make her sign look like him.




Also in November, Phi Mu held elections for our executive board members.  I was so honored to be elected philanthropy chair!  I have wanted to do it ever since I became a member, because I'm in love with our philanthropy, Children's Miracle Network.  We work locally with East Tennessee Children's Hospital.  It has been incredible organizing hospital parties and planning events to raise money for the hospital!

December

My favorite month thanks to Christmas and my birthday.  Of course, every last inch of the apartment was decorated.



The roomies and I even made a Christmas card.


Christmas break at home was wonderful, and my Hendersonville friends and I made our annual visit to Opryland Hotel.  Wouldn't be a Nashville Christmas without one.




I spent Christmas day with my parents and brother, opening presents, eating lunch and venturing to the movie theater to see Les Misérables.  Being the musical geek that I am, I fell in love and now own the DVD and soundtrack.  What else would you expect from me?  That night, the Clique Six and I got together and exchanged presents with our secret Santas.  The Clique Six is my main group of friends from Hendersonville.  As you can guess, there's six of us.  The group really didn't solidify until after we graduated, but they're the girls I always hang out with when we're back home, and we have a group message continuously going while we're away at college.  I'm so thankful for them and the fact that we have remained close even three years after graduating.  I know that's nothing compared to where life will take us, but I think it could've been easy to get so busy with our new lives and fall apart.  Somehow, we all manage to communicate regularly and pick up right where we left off whenever we are able to get together.


Five days later, it was time to celebrate my birthday - the big 2-1!  My parents were so kind to take my friends and I to eat at The Melting Pot, one of my favorite restaurants.  My friends and I then went to the Wildhorse Saloon for some line dancing.



January 

Soon into the semester, Knoxville had a big (for our standards) snowfall!  Southerners go crazy over some snow, and this was no exception.  Some classmates and I ran out of our classroom as soon as we saw the snow, and UT canceled classes for the first time in ages!  As soon as I got home, I bundled up to play in the snow with Lauren and her boyfriend, Tyler.


Finally, it was Lauren's time to turn 21.  Rachel and I spent that morning running around buying decorations and picking up the traditional cookie cake.  Lauren's a Disney fanatic.  Her parents met at Disneyworld, and their family goes almost every summer.  Rachel, who is much more artsy than me, made Lauren a Minnie Mouse sign.




February

Phi Mu's first date party of the spring semester is a surprise, meaning that nobody knows about it until the night of.  You have about two hours to find a date, put together a costume and make it to the venue.  This year's theme was "Shotgun Shells and Wedding Bells", aka redneck wedding.  It's always interesting to see what costumes everybody throws together last minute, and it was especially hilarious to see costumes for this theme.



March

March was pretty full of Phi Mu activities.  Phi Mu's Founder's Day is March 4th.  The following weekend, we celebrated at The Foundry with lunch and awards.  The whole chapter votes on the awards, and I was so humbled to receive the Spirit of Phi Mu award.  This meant so much to me, and I was honestly not expecting it.  I know in my heart that I try to live our creed every day and embody what it truly means to be a Phi Mu woman, but I did not know the rest of my chapter could see it so well.  I'm cheesy about stuff like this and really do believe that being in a sorority comes with the responsibility to live according to a certain standard.  I just know how much Phi Mu has given me and can't imagine not living in a way that represents the fraternity well.  I was so thankful my mom was able to be with me on that day.

All the sisters wear pink, and Mom decided to as well.  Isn't she the cutest?!


Exec 2013

The following week was Phi Mu's spring philanthropy event, Model for a Miracle, a male pageant.  Since I'm philanthropy chair, it was my responsibility to plan the event.  I knew it would be a lot of work, but I didn't know how much work.  It was pretty much three months of constant work.  As you can imagine, trying to coordinate about 30 fraternity boy contestants isn't the easiest task.  Combine that with the 30 sorority coaches, and I think my text message and email inboxes consistently had new messages coming in.  However, seeing the event all come together and raising thousands of dollars for the hospital was well worth it.  Seeing the tiny logistical things that nobody else probably noticed all come together was so rewarding.

Some of us with the the newly crowned Mr. Phi Mu

Right before spring break, I was elected president of PRSSA, the Public Relations Student Society of America.  I've been active in the organization since I was a freshman and gotten so much out if it.  We always have professionals come in and speak about various topics, and I feel that I've gained so much insight into the field and that it has reaffirmed my decision to major in PR.  I'm really excited to continue to improve the chapter as president next year!

The last week of the month was spring break, which I spent in New York.  I wrote a whole post about that, so I won't go into detail here.  If you want to read about it, you can do so here.  I'll just say it was a perfect trip, and I can't wait to go back.  On the last day of March, the sister of my best friend since second grade got married.  The wedding was beautiful, and it meant so much to me to be there.  Because I've been friends with Kelsey for so long, gone on family vacations with her and spent almost every weekend in elementary and middle school with her at one of our houses, I've always considered her family my second family.  I know they would be the first people I would turn to if (Heaven forbid) something were to happen to my parents, and they would treat me as their own and do anything for me.  

Isn't Kelsey a gorgeous maid of honor?  I can't wait for her wedding day!  She and her boyfriend have been dating since 7th grade.  Yep.  I'd say I hear wedding bells in the not so distant future.

April

I went to Chattanooga the first weekend of the month to visit some members of the Clique Six who live there.  Erin and Emily Ann go to UTC, and Katie goes to Covenant College, which is about 30 minutes away.  I had never been to Chattanooga before, and that weekend was a perfect time for me to go, because Katie was starring in her school's musical.  It was great to see her be fabulous as always and spend time with these girls I hadn't seen in three months.

 Emily Ann, Erin, Katie and me in Coolidge Park in Chattanooga


The next weekend, I went home to see one of my friends, Sarah, get married.  It is so weird to realize I'm getting to the age where it's normal for my friends to get married.  Sarah is three years older than me, but still.  Sarah has been such an important person in my life.  She was a senior at UT when I was a freshman, and she was my best friend at school.  Freshman year was a little rough, and Sarah did everything she could to make me feel at home.  She would cook me dinner and have me over every Monday to watch The Bachelor and Thursday to watch Grey's Anatomy.  We went to most football games together and saw each other almost every weekend.  Although we don't see each other often since she's off being a big girl three hours away, she will always mean so much to me.  She looked so beautiful, and the wedding was lovely.  I sat with my roommate from last year, Rachael, at the reception and it was also great to catch up with her.

With Sarah and our mutual friend from UT, Brittany

Rachael, Brittany and me

With Brittany, Jess and Jill.  We were all in a service organization with Sarah at UT, and the five of us (plus Whitney who was unable to make it) pretty much stuck together! 

The last weekend in April was Phi Mu's Carnation Ball.  It's always fun to get dressed up and dance the night away in a pretty venue with your friends and dates.  It was a perfect way to end the school year.




As you can see, junior year has been a year full of lasting memories and lots of blessings.  I feel as if I can't even describe how wonderful it's been.  I'm so thankful for the people and opportunities that have been placed in my life.  Now, here's to hoping I can keep you all updated a little more consistently in the future! :)