Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snapshots of Christmas...

I told you I would be posting some pictures from our Christmas and I am holding true to my word. I finally seem to have downloaded all the pictures from Christmas morning until now. It's so fun to look over them! I won't bore you with too many, but I did want to share a few of the highlights.

Here are Gracie and Livvy, my two nieces, at my parent's house on Christmas Eve. How could I not post this picture y'all? My sister emailed this to me and I just love it! You can tell the girls were excited over their matching gifts.

And speaking of being excited.... Here is Brian with the Johnny Heisman poster straight from College Station! He can't wait to get it hung up and a huge thanks to our Aggie family for making sure he got it.

Talk about Aggie gifts! Here is Kamdyn proudly showing off her new Aggie stuff after we opened gifts with the family.

Koby picked this one out in the Academy Black Friday sale paper!!

I don't know who was more excited over the Duck Dynasty tshirt we got my dad, him or Koby. This one has one of the great quotes - "It's on like Donkey Kong!". Please note Koby has already put on his new Texas ATM necklace as well. I am telling you he wastes NO time!!

This is Levi, our oldest nephew, holding up his Angry Birds shirt!

And Luke, who couldn't decide if he liked his Nerf gun or the mini M&Ms more!

No little girl's Christmas is complete without a new Barbie!!

Or for Gracie, it's a new pillow pet in the form of our Aggie mascot!

And finally, because I know you have seen way more than you ever wanted, here is a picture of our kids with the stockings mother has made for them. My sisters and I have our own crocheted stockings that our grandmother made for us and so it is neat to see our kids have have a similar keepsake. Right now they may be more concerned about what is inside the stocking than what the outside looks like, but I believe one day these stockings will mean as much to them as mine does to me. It is something that brings back childhood memories of a smiling, soft spoken and gentle grandmother. When I see my stocking I see her face and white hair and merry eyes and it makes my heart smile to have that memory. It is a snapshot of a memory that Christmas brings to the front of my mind. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Family, Basketball and Christmas Vacation...

It is crazy how Dec. 26 is so different from Dec. 25! At some point Wednesday I caught myself thinking, "did we just have Christmas?". Like many of you I made a few stops in town to pick up some %50 off Christmas sale items, but I just couldn't get into the shopping experience, which is very unlike me by the way! I wanted to hang on to a few more minutes of that feeling that time stopped Christmas Day for our family to just enjoy one another and the time we had together. Not that our children fought less or cooperated with one another more, but it was a day of being home surrounded by those we love with no games or other events that we had to be in hurry to get to. 

Our house was also excited about some arriving company the day after Christmas! My mom, dad, sister and niece and nephews were coming for Christmas and our family was looking forward to their arrival. It is not an easy drive to make with young children, and I am speaking from experience. We have made many trips from Mississippi to East Texas, and when our kids were young we packed backpacks of toys and books to keep them occupied. Thankfully now there are DVD players and iPads to help with the passing of time. Oh, and peanut M&Ms for the grown ups!

We had lots of fun with them all here...

From Mexican food to ice cream and shakes at ChickfilA, we drug our family all over town. The boys were playing basketball in the Christmas Invitational that our school hosts each year after Christmas so they got to see them play in several games. I know the boys were glad to have some extra fans in the stands!

We also had our Christmas with them, where we got lots of surprises! Koby was very excited about his new iPhone cover...

...and after I download the 348 pictures I have taken on my new camera over the last 3 days (which is not an exaggeration by the way!) I might be posting more pictures of things the kids were excited to get from home!! Just be sure this was not the only Aggie gift given!

I also have to tell you mother surprised us with a truly great gift that we would never have thought of - she had some old videos we sent home through our time in Guam transferred over to DVDs. There was no skype or webcams when we were stationed overseas so I would make videos of the kids and the things they were doing at ages 2, 4 and 5 and mail them home. We have loved watching these old videos and it was truly one of the best gifts we have gotten!

The clock is now ticking towards a new year. I too am going to try to avoid going off the cliff! Today I purchased Jillian Michale's 30 Day Shred workout video. I am hopeful it will keep me from going off the buy-a-new-size-of-jeans cliff! If I haven't taken it out of the package by this time next week it's going back to Walmart and I'll have $10 to spend on something else.

I have enjoyed the first part of our Christmas vacation but I am eager to spend this next week taking it a little bit easier. There are closets to clean and Christmas decorations to put away. I have a new book to read and plan to enjoy looking through some cookbooks. I'll also be posting more Christmas pictures and pictures of the kids' basketball games as I make time to download the camera card. I hope you have enjoyed your Christmas as much as we have!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to You...

At our home, we have unwrapped Santa's gifts and had a big Christmas dinner. I have settled in to my comfy, stretchy clothes to enjoy a rainy Christmas afternoon and write out my Christmas greetings to each of you.

I remember the magic of Christmas as a child, sleeping in the bed with my sisters on Christmas Eve and waking up early and often to see what Santa brought for us. Sometimes I even helped Santa out, like the time I swapped up the Cabbage Patch dolls Santa had worked so hard to leave for each of us. Even the first Christmas Brian and I spent together my sisters and I all snuggled up in one bed on Christmas Eve. Today, I miss our childhood days and memories but at the same time I have been thankful to see our children establish their own.

This was a year of firsts for our family, breaking some traditions but keeping with others. I finally wrapped all the kids gifts, leaving only their stocking sitting out on the fireplace along with a few other small gifts. Here they are checking out all their gifts this morning...

I have said before that our kids love breakfast! Our Christmas breakfast is always pancakes and bacon...

The kids love chocolate chips pancakes and I prefer plain pancakes with blueberry syrup. Everyone loves bacon, even Rocky!!

After everyone was full on breakfast the boys decided to break out a new video game and play it. Kamdyn curled up in her chair with a blanket and new movie!

As we made our phone calls back home to family to say Merry Christmas, Brian started working on his Christmas project...a fried turkey!! This was to be his gift to all of us. He has been working on it since Sunday, soaking the turkey and marinating the turkey. Usually we have a ham for Christmas lunch, but we were all anticipating this fried turkey for lunch this year.

And let me tell you that Brian knew exactly what he was doing!!! He cooked us the absolute best turkey I have ever eaten. Kamdyn even "helped" him carve it at the table. To go along with Brian's turkey I made green bean bundles, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cream corn and hot yeast rolls. We also have made it a tradition to drink out of the good china glasses on Christmas Day. The kids love to do this!

Shortly after 1:00 we sat down and bowed our heads, thanking God for sending His Son for us and for the many blessings he continues to give us each and every day. Then we sat down for our Christmas meal with our family and those who are like family...

As the rain continues to fall the kids have all settled back in to play games or watch movies. Koby has now tried on and worn every new thing he got for Christmas, all the way down to the underwear in his stocking. That has been something Koby has done since he was a little boy. Kamdyn has spent the day in her Christmas pajamas, even wearing them to lunch! She and Johnny are wrapped up in a quilt she got last Christmas watching a Hallmark movie. Brendan has gone to meet his girlfriend's family and have Christmas dinner with them, something that makes me a little nervous but happy at the same time. Our other boys have gone on to enjoy Christmas with their families and we continue to have friends coming in and out of the house today.

On this day that is set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I am grateful for the gifts He has given each one of us. His love, His grace and His Word are gifts we wake up to each and every day. While I find myself thinking on past Christmas memories I am also aware of future blessings God has in store for our family and for my extended family. So, Merry Christmas to each one of you reading today! I pray the peace of this special holiday fills you and that you will also open the gifts Christ has given you each day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

And now I'm on my break...

FINALLY!!! School is out and our Christmas break has started. The boys welcomed their Christmas vacation with 8:00 AM basketball practice on their first two days out of school. However, Kamdyn enjoyed her time sleeping in and going to Christmas parties!

Brian and I celebrated our birthdays on Dec. 19. It is so hard for me to believe that the first time we celebrated together we turned 18 and 21! This time it was 36 and 39. I have known Brian over half my life now and the time has flown by! For those of you who don't know, Brian and I share the same birthday but we are three years apart. He jokes that this is why he married me..at least I think it's a joke. Anyways, we compared drivers license all those years ago to be sure we had the same birthday and sure enough we did so we have been celebrating together ever since then!

We enjoyed a birthday trip to Birmingham this year to celebrate. One of our great friends spent the night with the kids so that we could spend a night away at the Ross Bridge Resort (who thankfully offered a wonderful military discount so that we could afford to stay a night there). This place was amazing...

We ended up with an upgraded room that included this amazing balcony where we could see all over the grounds of the resort. Our room overlooked the putting green and also the amazing pool area...

Since the winter weather returned to our area in the form of some crazy north wind, we were unable to enjoy any of the outside night time activities. Around the pool were areas of seating with fire pits which would have been a neat thing to do aside from the north wind providing some COLD windchill!!  Of course the place was all decorated up for Christmas and as we left out to do some Christmas shopping Friday morning a nice guy took our picture...

Now let me tell you, Brian was such a good sport when it came to getting our Christmas shopping done. We had done some shopping when we got into town on Thursday and then found us some good dinner to eat! And good is an understatement because I had some of the best shrimp fettuccine Alfredo at The Cajun Steamer that I have ever had. We will be going back to eat at this little place for sure!

Anyways, back to the shopping. On Friday we headed out to the outlet mall, which was a great plan initially. Once we got there, we were reminded that this was an outdoor outlet mall...

...and it was nice as could be and we had even been there before. It was just that this time, it was freezing cold with a windchill in the 20s and we were not prepared for walking around all day in and out of stores with some freezing cold weather. So, we decided we would just hit the stores we knew we needed to shop in and forget those that were in the maybe column!!!

I love spending time with Brian!! It never fails that he can make me laugh and that he finds the funniest things to crack a joke about. Here is one example:

He remembered seeing this weird speed limit sign outside the outlet mall area last summer. I probably would've passed this right by but Brian made a funny joke about it and I'll never forget that it sits there. We also got behind this truck on our way home...

Now, what can you really say about a truck loaded down with bicycles that are ON TOP OF Christmas lights and I don't even know what else. I'm just thinking that I hope he (or his wife) was not counting on using those Christmas lights because I am pretty sure the pile of bikes tore them up. And plus the fact of the wind I mentioned!! I was worried one of those bikes was going to come loose and fly over on our car.

So, now we are back home and the packages are waiting for me to sort and wrap all the kids' gifts. My Christmas break has officially started and I am looking forward to spending the next few days cooking and reading and watching some good Hallmark movies. Who am I kidding? I'll be doing laundry and cleaning and watching whatever the kids find on TV but at least I can be doing any of those things in my pajamas and a comfy sweatshirt with no make up because now I'm on my break!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas is Coming...

The date on the calendar tells me Christmas is just around the corner but my to do list tells me I need to pick up the pace in order to be ready. Maybe some of you can relate!

As usual, things have been busy over here in our little area of the world. The kids are wrapping up school and they have been studying hard for semester exams this week! They take two a day and let me say that Wednesday at noon can't be here soon enough to end classes for them. I have read over more study guides and now know more about American History and the elements on the periodic table than I think I should.

Last week our church led our first Women's Christmas Luncheon at our local mission outreach that Brian and I work at each month. I had really been prayerful about this and I asked 5 or 6 other women to work along beside me. We had activities for the women and a devotion and then we served them soup and sandwiches and desserts.

It was so much fun and God blessed our time there more than I ever  expected! There were 26 women who attended and I was reminded that God always gives more than we ask or imagine He can do. The Bible tells us over and over again how faithful God is and I saw that by serving these women who are in such desperate need of his faithfulness and love.

This week I hosted my annual cheerleader Christmas party! The girls love to come and eat and play dirty Santa. Our squad is made up of so many unique personalities and all together they make up one fun (and loud) group! I always enjoy spending time with them and they never disappoint me with entertainment...

With exams this week came a break from basketball! We have had two back to back nights at home and it has been wonderful! Our family is caught up on Duck Dynasty and I have been able to do some Christmas baking and cooking. I made Mrs. Laura Bush's cowboy cookies over the weekend and they were amazing! Even the kids loved them!! I highly recommend you make them over the holidays. Tonight Kamdyn made some Christmas treats of her own...

...Oreo truffles! It took a great deal of concentration as you can tell but she is all done. These will make some good Christmas gifts for friends tomorrow.

On a totally different note, Brian gave me my Christmas present early this year. Some of you are not shocked by this because you know he doesn't like to keep a Christmas-present-secret. He bought me a new camera which I was most excited about!! The lens and capabilities will let me take pictures of the kids while they are playing sports among other things and that is why I got it early. I broke it in at our last home game and while I won't bore you with tons of pictures I do want to include these few here on the blog for now...

Taking pictures of three teen agers and two dogs is difficult but not impossible! This was one of our out takes today.

Kamdyn and Johnny were much easier to photograph!

And this is Brendan and Ellie. He was much more cooperative with her around!

There are no words for that picture! It basically just tells you all you need to know about our middle child and why we love him so much!!!

And as I write all of this out I am again reminded of how much God has blessed us and how precious each moment is. Like many of you I have watched the coverage and read the stories of the tragedy in Newtown, CT. My heart truly has been broken for those who lost loved ones and my spirit has been encouraged by those who gave their lives in place of innocent children. When I went to work Monday I was more aware of our security at school and I did wonder what I would do should I ever find myself in the situation that those in the office at Sandy Hook were in on Friday. While so many questions still surround this tragedy there is one thing I am most certain of - our God is sovereign and He holds each moment in His hands. Right now, I am thankful for the moments He has given me with my husband, our children, our family and our friends; those moments that I blog about here with all of you. And I will continue to pray for those in Newtown, CT in the days ahead as they find a new way to live moment by moment. I hope you will do the same...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Favorite Things...

Today is Wednesday, a day that I am always happy to wake up to! We are enjoying winter weather in our little area of the country and unfortunately we are also in the slap middle of a flu outbreak. Which by the way is no fun when your job is to take care of children all day! I have used more germX and antibacterial hand sanitizer than I ever imagined possible. So far, it is paying off!

I've been meaning to post about several things the last few times and there seems to be more worthy topics to write about. So, the purpose of this post was to share some of my favorite things with you...

These are my new favorite dip chips! I know some of you have bigger issues in life than finding that perfect dip chip but around our house we always have some kind of dip and chips on hand. The other night I made some white cheese dip and we had these chips with it. It was SO GOOD! There are other flavors, but this specific flavor works great with dip and also with some taco soup. By the way, to make the white cheese dip use one pound of the white velveeta, two blocks of cream cheese, one can of rotel and one package of sausage. Just melt the cheeses and add the rotel and cooked sausage!! Your waist may not thank me but your taste buds will be super excited!

Several years ago Brian surprised me with a Keurig Coffee maker for Christmas and I do mean surprised!! Since that time, I have tried lots of different kinds of coffee. My new favorite is made by Folgers and it is caramel drizzle!! I have that almost every morning with a big splash of white chocolate macadamia creamer. I enjoy other flavors (as you can tell by this picture) but if you have a Keurig you  need to try the caramel drizzle.

At this point many of you may be thinking our lives are consumed by eating. That is not totally true, but food is enjoyed in our home! My kids always seem to think a dessert should be ready after every meal, and they aren't talking about some oreos. They want cookies, brownies or cake. One of the things they love the most is chocolate chip pie and it really is one of my favorites as well. This is like a warm cookie in a pie crust! At Christmas I make these and give them as gifts to some of our neighbors. The recipe is super easy:

Mix 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 stick of softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla all together. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips and then pour into pie shell. Bake at 325 for one hour and enjoy warm with ice cream or whipped topping.

This is my last food picture!!! When we were home at Thanksgiving, my precious aunt gave mother a tin of "trash", which in Texas means chex mix. My kids absolutely devoured that tin and most of another one. Once we got home, I thought I would make up my own. As is typical of my children, they said mine was good but not as good as what they had in Texas. Brian and I enjoyed it and it has been a new favorite snack at all these basketball games!

These are some of my favorite ornaments! They hang on our homemade Christmas tree in the dining room and I enjoy just passing by and seeing pictures of the kids and ornaments people gave us along the way. I gave Brian the bear ornament the Christmas I was pregnant with Brendan. We also have two "our first Christmas" ornaments that I hang each year. Those remind me of our first Christmas as husband and wife, learning how to blend family traditions and make some of own. That first Christmas Brian told almost everyone what we bought them and from then on it is usually a surprise to him what most of the gifts are. He still enjoys peeking and giving hints!

Speaking of Brian.... Here is one of my favorite pictures of him. I snapped this one night last week as we enjoyed a rare night at home watching TV. The dogs must have enjoyed it more because they piled up with him in his chair to settle in for the night. You can tell where Kamdyn might get her love for dogs! I love my husband for alot of different things and this right here is one of them.

SO, there are some of my favorite things for now. I know you are just so excited that I shared them with you, but if nothing else it lets you know a little more about me. I hope you are also able to find some special things to enjoy in the next few weeks as we celebrate the season of love and memories.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Carousel of Life....

Well, I can't believe it's been so long since I have had the time to write! This is the time of year that keeps our family on the go. The carousel of life will spin faster one more week before finally slowing up for the Christmas break.

This past week we played basketball three nights and the kids were worn out by Friday night. (I'll admit I was too!) Kamdyn's team didn't get that win this week but finally things started clicking for her. She led her team in scoring and in one game she hit four three pointers in a row! We were happy for her and I had hoped that would ease the pain of not winning but her coach stopped to tell me that she talked with Kamdyn in the locker room after that to let her know she thought she played really well. Kamdyn's response to that was, "thanks but my team lost". I am praying for her competitive nature and that God will use it for His glory somehow. For now, she is learning a life lesson that you keep going even when it is sometimes not so fun!

The boys had a big week on the court as well. Koby is getting to see more playing time than Brian and I thought he might and he is thrilled for the time I can tell you! Brendan hurt his ankle Friday night in the fourth quarter of a close game, giving me minor heart pains in the bleachers. After the coaches brought him back to the bench Brian went down to check things out. Brendan wanted to be taped up to finish the game because we were down by 8. Thankfully, one of the coaches helped him to see playing on it hurt might not be for the best. We are anxious to see how quick he recovers from the ankle sprain. Like any good mother I did push him right out the door Saturday morning to take his ACT. I wasn't loosing that money and I reminded him he hurt his ankle not his brain or hand!!

The kids participated in the church musical this weekend and we also worked at our monthly Mission Project Saturday. Then, we spent Saturday afternoon getting ready for another big night for the Aggies...

Our house is still recovering from celebrating the Heisman win by Johnny Football! We had a house full of people when the announcement was made and I think they could hear us yelling all over the county! We proudly sported some Aggie gear at church this morning and will be doing so for school tomorrow. As I heard the commentators give the back story on each candidate I found myself thinking what great character was on display. In a world where many athletes seem to let their God-given abilities be used for things other than His glory, I was very impressed by the details of daily life for each guy at the ceremony. At the end of the night, I was truly proud to be an Aggie and part of the 12th man on the road this year!

I'm hoping to do a better job writing this week! I have a list of a few of my favorite things that I want to share and it will include some recipes. While we will find ourselves in the bleachers again for most of the week, we will also start attending those Christmas parties that I always look forward to. We start this Wednesday with the Youth and then Thursday with Brian's work. It is hard to believe Christmas is just a few weeks away!

Also, I can't finish out this post without wishing my mom a very happy birthday!! Hope you enjoyed it and I love you so much!

Talk with y'all later this week....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Christmas Spirit...

Well, it's officially like Christmas in our house! I have put all but one tree up and what a marathon it has been.



I have hung up the stockings and decorated the tables. The trees are up in the kids rooms and in the living areas.

I have also put out pictures from Christmas pasts, which is one of my favorite things to decorate with! I love to look at old pictures of the kids all dressed up in the Christmas pajamas or nice matching Christmas shirts. I am reminded of the two Decembers we spent serving overseas in Guam and how I appreciated the song "I'll be home for Christmas". I am also reminded of the Christmas the kids and I were home but Brian was overseas getting ready for a war. I love to remember the kids excitement over putting up the tree or seeing Santa in the mall.

The tree I still have left to decorate is the tree full of homemade ornaments that the kids have made over the years or that people have given us. It's also one of my favorite parts of decorating for Christmas. I have held off on it because Koby has been gone all weekend to Atlanta with our youth group. They have been working at the Distribution Center for Operation Christmas Child. This is a ministry I believe in and that our family and church support. Koby was going for the first time to work at the center and he was so excited about it! I told him to send me a picture for the blog and here is what I got:

Now I'm not real sure what this is. He just said, "this place is like 200 yards long and there are lots of people".  So, there you go! That's about what I would expect from a 15 year old boy!!

However, he did send me another picture without me asking this morning. Along with the picture he said, "this church is huge!"

The church where they were this morning had Chris Tomlin leading music and Louie Giglio giving the message! Those are two very powerful people!! When I got out of church Koby text me this: "That was the most awesome church service I have ever been to mom!". I can't tell you how that made me feel to know he not only thought enough to text me that but that he enjoyed and was fed such a message that he would feel that way. God is good!!!

Well, our house might be ready for Christmas but we are anxious to hear about two things: 1) what bowl will our Aggies be playing in? and 2) will Johnny get the Heisman?  Maybe you are also distraught over those two questions as well! Just know we share in your anxiousness!

And finally, just to keep you updated on our newest family member I wanted to share this picture:

Rocky and Johnny are becoming friends at last!! And to tell the truth, the dog is growing on me, too. He really is a cute little thing!