First friends…

Leah’s very first friend was a little girl named Camille. Leah had just turned 3 years old when we left Florida, but moving away from Camille (and other special people like our nanny Jillian) was so hard! Thankfully a friend warned me that moving is hard on tiny people and we shouldn’t assume a 3 year old would be “oblivious”. Leah was so not oblivious. Camille’s mom and I agreed to keep in touch – and for eight years now, we have ensured the girls get together at least once a year. It helps that Camille’s mom, Tara, is one of my favorite people!

Funny enough, both Leah and Camille have been 99th percentile in height since birth!

They always pick up right where they left off. It’s just incredibly sweet!

We hadn’t seen Lillie in a couple of years because she has been so busy. She had grown up so much and is as sweet as always! I really got a kick out of talking to her about her friends and the music she’s into.

Tara has three kids now – big sisters Lillie and Camille got a baby brother, Alexander, two years ago!

Camille (11), Lillie (13), Leah (11), Alexander (2) and Michael (8)

We had a great visit!

The Halloween Marathon

We did Halloween right – yet again this year! The marathon began with a chili supper and Trunk-or-Treat at church on Wednesday. (It’s mostly an outreach to the community but the kids from our church participate as well and it’s always a lot of fun!)

Michael was Harry Potter! Imagine that?

Here’s Leah as Katniss from “The Hunger Games”, Michael as Harry Potter, and our buddy Andrew as a bad guy from an anime series I’ve never heard of (which would be all anime series).

Here’s an action shot taken at church.

So the trick with Trunk-or-Treat is everyone decorates their trunk and brings candy so the kids can trick-or-treat around the parking lot. It’s a way of ensuring kids from not-so-safe neighborhoods get a chance to trick-or-treat. 🙂

Uncle Stevie had a lot of fun asking each kid what they were dressed as. Almost every little girl was a princess and most were either Anna or Elsa from Frozen. One toddler was dressed as Freddie Kruger. I kid you not. I didn’t know whether to laugh or run.

Bryan and Aunt Ginny estimated at least 200 kids came by!

The good times continued on Saturday when the kids went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood!

We have an annual tradition of trick-or-treating with our friend Andrew that dates back to kindergarten when he and Leah met. In recent years, the tradition includes Andrew’s dad driving the minivan while Andrew’s mom and I drink wine and the kids hop out at the houses that have the most intriguing decor to lure them to the door! Ha! Our kids make big claims every year about getting “knee deep in candy” and “going until midnight”. It never happens. The whole gig wraps up by 8:00 PM.

Success!!!

Friends

We were so excited to have Leah and Michael’s best friends from Texas come visit again this summer! It’s never enough time, but it’s always so much fun! I love that the kids pick up right where they left off. Leah and Ava were 7  and Michael and Tucker were 4 and 5 when our friends moved to Texas, but you would never know. The kids all share stories about when we were neighbors and have such specific funny memories of those years…

I know how this works, because my best friend moved to Texas the summer we were 8 and we are still friends!!!

Leah and Ava

We met at the pool with a bunch of neighbors who wanted to see the family…

Me and Jodi!!!

I call this “Hot Moms of The Cove”. Ha! Sounds like a good “reality” TV show. And I have no idea why Tina has her face in her hands in horror?!?

Michael and Tucker fell right back into their groove…

This picture cracks me up. The girls (and their little brothers) were swimming and having lunch with our friend Andrew at his house on Sunday…

Mike and Jodi with the kids…

We miss this crew so much!!! Little Mr. Graham Cracker (as I call the baby) is so adorable! He leaned right over and kissed me on the lips! Ha! Already a charmer…

Tucker, Ava, Graham, Leah, Andrew and Michael

We are scheming a summer camp option in Texas next summer…

Summer in the South

So, while our friends were here from Wisconsin, we tried to give them the full cultural experience of the South in the summer…

Here’s our friend Vaughn with Leah and Michael.

First, ignore the heat. It’s hot in Wisconsin, too. We went shopping at the “nice mall” which happens to be outdoors since, unlike in Wisconsin, you can shop outside in the winter.

I love this picture of Michael holding onto his daddy’s scooter and talking his ear off as we headed out to the movies…

My college roommate, Lori, moved down here from D.C. last summer which has me over the moon with happiness!!! She and her family met up with us for dinner and a movie while my friend Linda was in town. Linda and I met at work in Dallas about 15 years ago and became fast friends. I really enjoyed getting to hang out with some of my very favorite people!

We went to a great Mexican place. Not that Alabama is any closer to Mexico than Wisconsin, but still… Mexican food is universally loved and the pineapple mango salsa at Lime is killer.

We took them to the pool a couple times…

Selfie!!!

We took Linda and Vaughn out for some real Alabama barbecue, of course. Did you know Alabama has more barbecue restaurants than any other state? There’s an app for your phone to help you find great barbecue joints on the Alabama Barbecue Trail. I am not even kidding.

Vaughn is an only child and I think this week with us each summer is enlightening for him, providing insights into a life with a moderately dramatic sister and ever so slightly pesky but charming little brother. Vaughn is a great kid. We want to keep him, but Linda won’t let us. Michael suggested they both just move in. Maybe next year – ?

Space Camp

The kids spent last week at Space Camp! This was Michael’s first year to go. He learned so much each day and made friends with a little boy from Connecticut. It was such a melting pot of kids. My friend Linda brought her son Vaughn down from Madison, Wisconsin for the second summer in a row. Since this was Leah and Vaughn’s second year, they opted to participate in the Robotics camp where they spent the week designing and building working robots.

“You know, we have all these camps for youngsters in this country – band camps and cheerleader camps and football camps. Why don’t we have a science camp?” – Dr. Wernher von Braun, father of the U.S. space program, initiated the idea of Space Camp while observing children studying rockets at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in 1977.

Nerd alert!! (Just kidding – sort of!) Our kids know we aspire to raise nerds. So far, so good.

I love love love Leah’s sweatshirt:

It’s not rocket science.
Oh, wait – yes, it is.

Next year? Year three of Space Camp: Aviation Challenge!

S’mores

It has been unseasonably HOT here lately and rather than hide in the air conditioning, the kids asked if we could roast marshmallows! I love it – when you can’t beat it, just embrace it, right? Man, it was so stinking hot by that fire…

I decided to burn some old financial papers but quickly realized you can only burn a little bitty bit of paper before you create a fire hazard!!! The scouts among my dear readers are no doubt concerned about my fire building skills. I kept a garden hose close by!

Leah drew a fire…

This is our friend Andrew roasting his marshmallow.

 

You’ll notice a couple burned marshmallows on the patio… Freddie assisted with cleanup. Our dog will eat anything and nothing seems to make him sick!

Yum.

Grown-ups night(s) out…

Bryan and I have had not one, not two, but THREE nights out without the kids in the past week!!! This never, ever happens. It’s a Fall Break miracle, friends. I have long had a goal to go out at least once a month on our own – and frankly, we don’t always make our goal. This past week, both kids spent the night away twice so Bryan and I went out for Thai food both nights – but to two different places. Living life on the edge, as usual. Ha!

Last Friday night, we joined Andrew’s parents for a fundraiser party for a historical museum that was just incredibly beautifully done. The party was outdoors on a gorgeous, cool Fall evening, set among homesteads and barns preserved from the 1800s. I took so many pictures… Here are a few:

This was built in 2013! I just included it so you could see the sunset over the city.

The party had a Western theme! Dawn’s outfit was so amazing and David’s head dress was hilarious.

This is my idea of Western wear. Ha! I wore crazy black and white patterned ankle pants just like all the cowgirls who shop at Old Navy. 😉

There were tables and hay bales to sit on during dinner – a buffet of unique salsas, barbecue chicken and cornbread topped with fig preserves. I love the string lights that ran from tree to tree and house to barn.

There were also a couple of fire pits set up and a “smore station” with flavored hand-made marshmallows (!) and elegant toppings like white chocolate and Nutella. Haha! It was adorable.

A band was playing Bluegrass music, which is really not my thing, but they were great and managed to create a very relaxed feel. You could dance if you wanted to – and there was an instructor on hand leading line dances – or you could carry on a conversation without screaming over the noise. The vibe was great!

Whoever planned this party knocked it out of the park!

We stood by a pen talking for a while and the little cow kept sticking her nose through the fence to smell Bryan. I tease Bryan about his connection to animals because this kind of thing always seems to happen to him! 

Shameless selfie! I like this one – a lot. When Bryan is really cracked up he rocks back like this. 🙂

Playdate in the garden…

Last week, we went to the Botanical Garden with our neighbors. It was our first visit in over a year – which is odd for us because we usually keep up a family membership. I’d somehow forgotten how beautiful it is, so I am glad my neighbor Lori suggested it.

Michael’s favorite is the butterfly house. It has a corn snake (in an aquarium) and a lot of turtles in addition to hundreds of butterflies.

I don’t recommend touching the turtles. This one looked hungry for a finger-snack!!

The garden is really kid-friendly. (Ominous hungry turtles not withstanding.) There’s a fun theme every summer (this year it’s Alice-in-Wonderland) plus amazing tree houses and stuff to climb on and through. Leah’s favorite thing about visiting the botanical garden is that kids always wear swimsuits to play in the fountains and water features.

This pergola is my favorite. You wander down a path through the woods and then BOOM there it is. It’s just amazing… The lily pads alone are incredible. They’re gigantic!

Ellie and Leah the castle guards!

Jason, Ellie, Lexie, Leah and Michael

We are enjoying the final moments of a very short summer break. School starts next week! It has been a really fun summer – about the perfect pace of slow days and busy days with just enough travel and just enough being at home. We all just wish we had about a month more of it!

Summer Stock

This year’s visit to Jonesborough was maybe my favorite because we didn’t try to do very much – we just got to enjoy being together. We are usually shuttling the kids from the water park to the bouncy house place to the cousins’ farm to the festival downtown… one year, 13 of us hit Dollywood in matching tie-dye shirts! What a sight! Anyway, we always have fun but it’s always slightly frenetic.

This year, we essentially did nothing and the most amazing thing happened… five little kids put their imaginations together and decided to put on performances for us! They worked so hard on it for a couple of days – and they were awesome!

Leah created a reserved seat for Bryan on the aisle. I think she was copying our church – they gave us our own seats years ago with a “reserved” placard. Very sweet!

The girls had teamed up so the boys followed suit. The differences in their chosen performances was nothing short of a study in X vs Y chromosomes. The girls had plot development, conversation, emotions and singing. The boys had no words at all in act one and when it was done, Michael clarified for the audience that the scene was intended to explain the direction of the storyline. Anyway, there was a lot of hunting, chasing and grunting – but the boys had practiced and actually created this all very deliberately.

Best visit ever.

July 4th

I need to tell you about what we did over the July 4th weekend!

Every year, we spend July 4th with my childhood friend Molly and her family in Jonesborough, Tennessee. It’s the highlight of our summer! Jonesborough dates back to the 1700s and is such a quaint little town. It’s very Mayberry-esque.

Molly’s parents, Terry and Sandy, have three precious grandchildren (see photo above) but made room in their hearts for two more years ago. Leah and Michael’s little faces are on the refrigerator next to the grandkids. We all have so much fun together!

Buddy got a haircut and I almost didn’t recognize him!

Friends since 1979… as in 4th grade… as in the exact age our daughters, Leah and Lucy, are right now!

Molly and Rene.

Every summer, we ride on a parade float with the whole family. It’s so much fun! Terry and a couple of his buddies play guitars and banjos and we all sing “Grand Ol’ Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as we ride through town.

My favorite float this year was the giant chicken! The whole thing was made from plastic grocery sacks! Isn’t it amazing?!?

Up next… a post on something really cool the kids came up with while we were in Jonesborough!