Our Christmas Letter: 2015

2015 CHRISTMAS CARD FINAL AU 5x7

Ho ho ho! We hope your holidays are off to a great start! Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and share the highlights of our year:

Leah is now 11 and in 5th grade. She’s had a busy year with drama club, guitar lessons, student council, basketball, volleyball, her pet sitting business, and being a news anchor for her school’s in-house TV station. This summer, she went to Space Camp again (the robotics camp) plus YMCA camp, church camp and a cooking camp. Leah wants to be a chef someday and loves American Girl dolls, swimming in her mermaid tail and reading Percy Jackson novels.

Michael is 8 and in 2nd grade. When he isn’t researching dinosaurs, he is developing elaborate schemes to build a dinosaur zoo on a hovercraft in space. He also started a ‘dangerous reptile removal’ business – no customers as yet. Michael stayed busy this year with basketball, swimming, Space Camp, church camp, running club and football (with Mommy coaching)! He wants to be a biologist someday and loves reading Harry Potter books.

Bryan and I stay busy between the kids, work, church, family and volunteering – but we’re lazy sometimes, too, and enjoyed several beach trips this year with my family and with friends. Bryan has his final round of Lemtrada in December and then we wait for the next medical breakthrough in treating MS. We lost Bryan’s mom this summer which has been so hard – we look forward to spending the holidays with his dad and the whole family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

P.S That’s a 1930 Ford Model A. Not ours! Just a fun photo op.

Quick update… and a Thanksgiving recap

I can’t figure out why WordPress ate the images on some of my blog posts and not on others, so I am going to give it one more try before I give up. Here is a super quick recap on Thanksgiving to replace the posts I lost:

We spent Thanksgiving Day with my father-in-law’s extended family: 52 people met at cousins Zach and Alyse’s new home. Their rooster was so gorgeous that he looks fake in this photo, but he was the real deal.

Not everyone made it into the group picture!

The kids loved seeing their cousins!

On Friday, we met with Bryan’s immediate family at his dad’s house and cooked together which is always so much fun!

Then on Saturday, we had round 3…

I hosted Thanksgiving for my family and we watched the Iron Bowl on TV.

We had a great time!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Our friends Yesy and Alfonso (a.k.a. “Ms Jessy” and Alfonso) invited us to hang out with them on New Year’s Eve! I’ve never liked New Years and have a broad policy of staying in, but it was time to make an exception. The last time I recall being out until midnight on New Year’s, some friends and I were ringing in 2000 under Big Ben in London. Ha! It had been a while… And we only stayed out until about 9:30 this time. 🙂

Alfonso and Yesy just finished a renovation/addition on their home and wanted to give us the tour. Everything was beautiful! Alfonso does great work. (He’s a contractor.) Yesy has an incredible eye for decorating and she’s super organized! I walked through every room thinking, Maybe the next room will be messy… Nope.

As much as we enjoyed visiting their home, the plans for the evening took us to the home of Feliz, one of the men who works for Alfonso. Feliz was busy cooking the pig Alfonso bought from a Mexican grocery store…

The barbecue.

I loved that Feliz was using a board to stir the meat!

Alfonso and Bryan

The meat was cooking on the bone along with orange and pineapple juices.

Inside, Emma was making refried beans and a pico de gallo that was different from what I accustomed to eating in Mexican restaurants. Emma chopped the veggies into big chunks and included cucumber then squirted lime juice on top. Everyone ate it like a salad/side dish. Everything she made was from scratch and it was all amazingly delicious!

Yesy was born in Honduras, so she was telling me some ways these dishes are alike and different from the way her mom cooked for her.

Muy delicioso!

I speak Dora The Explorer Spanish, which is to say, I can roll off quips like, “Muy delicioso!” (Very delicious!) But I can’t say much else! Between that and muchos gracias (thank you very much) we were pretty well covered, but I kept thinking I really should learn Spanish. It would have been nice to visit more with Emma and her children instead of just watching and having Yesy translate for me occasionally.

We grabbed forks out of habit, but I noticed other guests using used a corn tortilla to scoop up bites.

Michael was happy to get a Fanta.

Vegas is safe – Michael’s poker face is worse than mine! Yes, the whole experience was a little odd for him – but that’s a good thing. I told the kids to use their very, very best manners and they did. They ate everything on their plates but didn’t ask for more which was perfect – especially for 7 and 10 year olds being introduced to new things.

This is my new buddy Abraham. I held him all night and Bryan reminded me – jokingly – to leave the baby with his mama when we left. Ha! I love babies – especially when they’re little and sweet and cuddly like this guy!

Christmas wrap-up…

I meant to post a Christmas wrap-up days ago. Once a new year begins, I like to focus on all things new! But the entire month of December was busy – and fast. Losing a week to Bryan’s MS treatment and my crud compressed our Christmas timeline so I compensated by keeping it simple. We didn’t go crazy with anything. Shopping was mostly online. Decorating was whatever we could get done in one afternoon – and the kids did our outside lights. We didn’t do everything I had hoped but Leah baked us Christmas cookies, the kids and I went to The Nutcracker with Nana, we hosted family several times, cooked a lot, read a little, watched several documentaries and went to the movies twice. Oh, and Santa came! So I’m calling it a successful Christmas season… 🙂

Leah and her daddy have an annual tradition of going to The Nutcracker ballet together, but since he was quarantined, I took both kids and Nana. We loved it! Michael had never seen a ballet and was pleasantly surprised at how much he liked it. A friend of mine who is a dancer took the kids backstage afterwards.

Bryan and I took the kids to Mellow Mushroom to celebrate the anniversary of our first date…

I got so much quality time with my babies over the break – although Michael has enjoyed giving me a hard time saying we just don’t get enough time together!!!

Leah and Michael sang with our children’s choir in the Christmas program – a first!

The first week of choir practice Michael said skeptically, “I don’t recall discussing this.” Dude – we didn’t! I was so proud of both kids for jumping in and even taking a speaking part! They did great!

All four grandparents were there to hear them sing as well as Uncle Hal and Aunt Glenna, Uncle Stevie and our friends Dawn and Andrew!

Two very excited kids on Christmas Eve!

Bryan’s family came to our house for a Christmas dinner on Saturday and of course my father-in-law brought all the fixings for oysters since that is THE annual tradition for the family! I graciously let him and Bryan eat all mine. Ha!!!

Claire’s vibe here pretty well sums up the week after Christmas at our house. It’s all good.

Our friend Dawn told Leah that she likes Bryan’s beard. Leah said, “Well, it began as ‘No Shave November’ and,” with a big sigh, “it turned into ‘No Shave December’.” Folks, it is January!!!

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!!!!

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!

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!!!

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.

Trunk-or-Treat

I am pretty sure “Trunk-or-Treat” (or “Trick-or-Trunk” if you’re my confused friend Lori) is a Southern thing. It didn’t exist when I was growing up in Auburn, Alabama, but I think it originated with the churches who said the Halloween Carnival needed to be renamed the Fall Festival. Every church in the metro-area throws a devil-free “trunk-or-treat” where members decorate their cars and the kids trick-or-treat through the church parking lot. Who knows, maybe it originated with the 1980s Tylenol scare and the days of hospitals allowing parents to x-ray their kids’ candy. Remember that?!? Good grief.

Anyway… I like Halloween a lot, especially the happy pumpkin kind of Halloween, but only because I’m a big scaredy-cat! You could not pay me to go through one of those Jaycee’s haunted houses. Michael and Andrew as ninjas is enough for me. 😉

Our children’s minister uses “trunk-or-treat” as an inner city outreach. It makes me very happy to ensure kids have a safe place to load up on enough candy to make them thoroughly sick! I mean, what is the point of Halloween if not to consume candy to your own peril?!? (I got that line from Andrew, btw.)

After a chili dinner, the kids (and their parents) just go from car to car…

Some people get very creative in decorating their trunks!

This was my parents’ first year to “trunk-or-treat”.

I had to explain to people that Dad didn’t purposefully go with an Auburn theme – this is just a regular ol’ Wednesday in the life of Paw-Paw!

Ms Sandra is our preschool education coordinator.

These Hogwarts students with Leah are my college roommate Lori’s kids, Riley and Maddie. They are the neatest kids! They moved here from DC this summer and we could not be happier about it!

Teenagers make very good candy-hander-outters.

And so do 4th graders!

We had a great time! And guess what… these three are trick-or-treating again tonight through the neighborhood!