Happy New Year!

Last year, I wrote “Expect the very best in 2014” on our chalkboard and then posted it on our blog. I made it my mantra – positive thinking! It was a good year in many ways, the highlights being the FDA’s approval of Bryan’s MS treatment and having my family move here!

So this year, I wanted to continue that optimism and had been looking out for a great quote for 2015. I’ve decided to paraphrase Joanna Gaines from the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”. She had a metal worker make letters to spell out an encouraging quote for a homeowner who was beginning a new chapter in life: “Today is a good day to have a good day.” I love that because so often in life we have to take it all one day at a time. I decided to paraphrase the thought and go with this as my 2015 mantra…

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Hope your 2015 is great!!!!

Ben’s fishing cabin

Michael decided Ben needed a place to live – since Beatrice had moved into such a fine townhouse. So I came up with a simple home we could build together. It’s a “rustic fishing cabin” with a front porch/fishing dock. Uncle Stevie gave Michael a wood fish to hang on the wall as Ben’s big catch.

Michael did a great job building the cabin.

We added casters so he can move it around to play with it. We aren’t done yet but the kids are already playing with it. Michael’s foot is resting on the porch/fishing dock.

For Christmas, both kids got a little furniture for their houses. Ben now has a bed and an Adirondack chair for his porch.

Ben invited his cousin Beatrice to visit.

I keep thinking I should start a boy version of American Girl.

Beatrice’s new digs

The Uncle Stevie Construction Company completed Beatrice’s deluxe new townhouse just after Thanksgiving and Beatrice moved in! Leah could not be happier! (Steve is pretty happy, too — to be done!)

I now understand why American Girl does not sell doll houses – how would you ship this?!? We needed the Uncle Hal Moving Company to come help. An 18″ (46 cm) doll needs a lot of space. 🙂

Please note Beatrice has a custom fireplace very much like ours!

 

Julie, Beatrice, Sarah (the mom) and Angie

We took this family photo to frame and hang in the living room. Leah was concerned that there’s no daddy so we decided he’s a spy and doesn’t have his picture taken. 🙂

While Stevie was building the townhouse, Beatrice and her sister Angie went on a trip to Austria in the RV with their cousin Ben.

Leah made this outfit for Julie!

The townhouse has an “open concept” living room and kitchen.

Beatrice and her family moved in right away! Nana and Paw-Paw gave Leah a kitchen for the dollhouse for Christmas. I’ll post updates soon!

Nine boys and a log house…

This is the latest addition to the photo collection I’m pulling together for the kids for a collage wall of their ancestors pictures.

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My father-in-law just sent me this picture of his grandfather and grandmother and their 5 oldest boys in about 1905. They had 12 boys, if you can even imagine. Sadly only 9 survived infancy, but those 9 all lived very long, healthy lives. The family is standing in front of their log house near Shop Springs, Tennessee – east of Nashville. Cedar from the log house was used to build a larger more modern home in 1910. Some of the wood was used to build a cedar chest which Bryan’s dad is giving to him this weekend. It’s going in the man cave.

The farm is now owned by country music singer Gretchen Wilson.

P. S. The clapboard siding had been added sometime after the original log house was built circa 1850. Also, Granny said the trick to raising children (nine good boys) was to give them a job and make sure they did it. 🙂

Our Christmas Letter – 2014

THE CHRISTMAS HERALD

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Annual caveat: Management accepts no responsibility for Christmas letter haters who read this and cringe.

Christmas 2014

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! Greetings from our family to yours! We just wanted to share a quick update on a great year…

Leah is 10 now and in 4th grade. She loves cooking, sewing and her American Girl dolls – and she wants to either be a chef or a fashion designer when she grows up. Leah played volleyball this Fall and loved it – and is now playing her third season of basketball – good sports for a child who is already 5’3″! Leah is taking German again this year, singing in the school Chorus, and recently performed her first [epic] death scene with the Drama Club. The highlights of her year include visiting New York City and getting braces.

Michael is 7 now and in 1st grade. His interests are focused on wild animals, specifically reptiles, and he can talk with you at length about sub-species of monitor lizards and king snakes. In his spare time, Michael likes playing with his lizard, Emmitt, and doing research online about the care and keeping of reptiles. When he grows up, he wants to be a zoologist and professor. Michael played teeball last Spring, went to football camp this summer, and played soccer this Fall – his favorite.

Bryan volunteers each week as a math tutor with the Inner City Learning Center and we both taught Sunday School again this summer – he had K-1st boys and I had 4th-5th girls. We took the kids on several trips this year: Santa Rosa Beach for Spring Break, Jonesborough for July 4th with friends, a week at Isle of Palms with Bryan’s family in July, and a weekend in Atlanta to celebrate Leah’s 10th birthday. A highlight of our year was Bryan starting a new MS treatment just last week!

My parents bought a house 700 yards from us last Spring and then Steve bought a new house just 3 miles away. It has been sooooooo nice having my whole family together again! Most of Bryan’s family live about an hour away, so we see them a lot and enjoyed vacationing with them this year. We are extra-grateful to see Bryan’s mom continuing to successfully battle breast cancer.

Wishing you all the best in 2015… Happy New Year!

Fröhliche Weihnachten • Glædelig Jul • Sretan Bozic • Srozhdestvom Kristovym • God Jul • Buone Feste Natalizie • Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket • Zalig Kerstfeest • Geseënde Kersfees • Merry Christmas, Y’all!

Plan B…

My friend Fern has a coin purse that says, “Life is all about how you handle Plan B.” Well, yee-haw… Plan B is in full swing because I got a fever Tuesday night… just in time for Bryan’s entire immune system to get wiped out. We waited three years for this new MS treatment and this is the week I get sick?!? I had to leave Wednesday – not only was I unable to help, but I became a burden on the whole Plan A system that hung in an already delicate balance.

This is bad to admit,  but sometimes I think I’m Atlas – like I can hold up the whole world – or at least my little corner of it. This week, I was reminded that it’s not true, and more importantly, not necessary!!! My parents held down the fort at home with help from our neighbors and church – Bryan’s sister Kathryn went to care for their mom (who has been doing her own chemo for breast cancer) so Bryan’s dad could come stay with Bryan. I haven’t been home yet so as not to contaminate the house. The house is clean but my parents went by to give it a quick Lysol treatment. Bryan gets home today and has to be quarantined for 7-10 days so my brother Steve is going to stay with him until I’m well.

I have been in this chair in my parents living room for 48 hours. Worthless. But it’s fine. Actually, it’s better than fine – it’s pretty great to be reminded how many people love us and how amazingly generous friends and family can be. It’s humbling.

I am sitting in this chair feeling so very grateful.

MS, meet Lemtrada

Today is a very big day for us! As our friends and family know, Bryan had to stop his last MS treatment program in 2011 when he developed antibodies to a fatal brain disease – one of the trickier side effects of an otherwise really effective treatment called Tysabri. It was unfortunately Bryan’s last option because there is so little available for progressive forms of MS.

After waiting more than 3 years, a new drug called Lemtrada just got FDA approval. Today, Bryan became the 10th patient in the US to begin treatment. Lemtrada is a chemotherapy administered for 6 hours a day over 5 days. He repeats this next year and then he’s done. Because it significantly raises your risk of getting leukemia and other cancers, you’re required to do blood work every month for 5 years. I guess that makes it sound terrible, but cancer can potentially be cured and MS cannot, so it’s all about weighing risks.

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 Getting hooked up at 7:30 AM.

 

The good news is that Lemtrada has shown to be quite effective in halting the progression of the disease and in some cases allowing for a little healing! That is huge because it means people who are newly diagnosed will likely never go through what Bryan has been through. That takes my breath away. It’s huge for us and others who have been through so much because it offers hope – and it gets us a step closer to other medical breakthroughs in fighting MS.

*** Learn more about Bryan’s experience with MS here.

Magic, please…

My brother Steve is concerned that this blog reflects a distorted view of life here on Pebblestone Path – one where everything is shiny and perfect – despite my disclaimer. I am working on a blog post about that. In the mean time, rest assured, real life happens right here every day!

Tomorrow night, we are hosting our annual Sunday School class Christmas party! Since we keep floating through different Sunday School classes, it’s actually a party for the people who used to come to our Sunday School class Christmas party plus a few new and/or fun church members who should have been coming!!

I need some serious magic to happen in the next 30 hours…

The whole house looks a lot like the kitchen sink and the table you can see behind it – it’s all in dire need of attention! There’s also a funky smell wafting out of the laundry room…

…and an even worse smell coming from Freddie!!!

Oh, and in theory, you should have your house decorated for Christmas before hosting your one and only Christmas party. (Argh!)

It will all work out – it always does! The trick to the busy-ness of the holidays is keeping the pace at an easy jog for the entire month of December. Wish me luck!!!

Cooking Club: Shrimp and Grits

I dropped out of my Cooking Club several years ago, but every once in a while, one of the girls will call to see if I want to pop in. This month, my friend Kimberly was hosting. The hostess picks an elaborate menu, provides recipes to the group, and we each pick one to bring. It’s mostly an excuse to have dinner together and talk – but it’s also a fun way to try something new. I made shrimp and grits and they were so good that I made them again for my family this Saturday when we watched the Iron Bowl. (What a game!!!)

This is Tatum, Megan, Kristi, Emily and Kimberly (our hostess).

This is Jennifer (preggie!!), Julie, Farrah, Kristi and Kristen.

Yes, we have two Kristis and a Kristen!!

I followed this recipe for Shrimp and Grits with two exceptions: I upgraded the artificial/overly-processed ingredients (so real half and half and real stone ground grits) and I used real bacon (because I don’t think Canadians eat shrimp and grits and therefore their bacon is out of place – HA!).

This recipe is easy and FAST and a crowd pleaser! I tried it with Asiago cheese this weekend and it was amazing.

Mmmmmm!

Thankful…

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving break! We celebrated on Wednesday with Bryan’s family and again on Friday with mine. In the middle, we had some serious down-time capped off with dinner at a Greek diner Thursday evening with Uncle Stevie. It was a great holiday, a relaxing break from work and school, and a time to reflect on how blessed we have been this past year.

Back row: Anna (15), Olivia (19), Drew (26), Emily (22) and Will (15)

Front row: Michael (7), Papa, Mama P, Leah (10)

Bryan’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 14 months ago and we’re all happy to see she is so well! All 7 of the grandbabies were in town for Thanksgiving which has always been a special holiday for Papa’s family.

Wednesday night, I was standing in the kitchen watching everyone cooking and talking and laughing and I thought, This is what I enjoy so much about this family. I’m so thankful for each one of them and particularly for God’s blessings on my mother-in-law.