Pecan Picking

One day, after Christmas break but before the week of snow days, we had some nice, sunshiney weather and we were itching to get outside.  I had recently overheard some of our friends talking about all the pecans on their property and so I quickly texted to ask if we could come pick a few.  "Take as many as you'd like!" they said.  "Seriously!  Take them all!"  

I can't even begin to tell you how many pecans there were...SO many!  Lots and lots of pecan trees, all that had dropped piles and piles of yummy pecans.  The kids were super excited to find them and pick them up.


Surprisingly, both kids really liked eating the pecans right out of the shell!  I expected them to turn their noses up to the idea, but they loved cracking them and picking the fresh nut out.  


I'm not sure what official pecan pickers use to hold their haul, but we brought a car wash bucket and a sand pail with us and they both worked just fine.  Filled 'em right up!


After collecting pecans, we threw sticks onto the existing stick pile and then the kids had fun climbing up this fallen tree branch.  


This pecan grove is situated near the river, just on the other side of a levee.  We climbed to the top of the levee hill to the gravel road and something about the time of day and the sunshine and the quietness made it all just so peaceful.  


We didn't last too long because of the cold, but I sure hope it's something we can do again sometime.  I love making these kinds of memories with my family!


Cross Stitch People

Does anyone reading this ever cross stitch?  I know that's usually thought of as a "grandmotherly" activity, but I used to love doing it when I was little.  I'd sit and watch tv while stitching whatever sampler my Mom had set up for me to work on.  

Anyway, whether you've ever done it before or not, I have a book to show you that might make you want to brush up on your skills (or learn how to do it!).  It's called Do-It-Yourself Stitch People by Elizabeth Dabczynski-Bean.  I discovered it on Instagram around the first of December and showed it to my Mom and we both agreed we had to order it.  We found it on Amazon for $49.

Stitch People Book.jpg

So the book is filled with tons and tons of different bodies and faces and clothes and hairstyles and you pick and choose which ones together to create a cross-stitched portrait.  I told my Mom she needed to do each of her kids' families and give them to us for Christmas and sure enough, she did!  Here is how she stitched our family of six.  I had to really zoom in to avoid the glare of the frame.  I love that KW and Thomas are in matching gingham and that she included Lolli!


While Mom was busy stitching all of us, I borrowed the book and made patterns of two of my friends and their families to stitch as their Christmas gifts.  When we got together to celebrate the holiday with them, I had only finished stitching the Cooks!  I scribbled out a stand-in for the Earls since I didn't have it ready yet. 


But I did end up getting the Earls done and I added their cat, Sophie.  I love how she turned out!


While making these, I stalked all their pictures on Instagram trying to determine the correct shades of hair and eyes.  I tried to make their outfits match something they actually owned too.  

As a surprise, I stitched out my Mom and Dad with their dog, Charlie, to give to them for Christmas.  She had no idea she was going to get to unwrap a stitched portrait with the rest of us!


Then, as another surprise, I stitched out Matt's parents too!  


It's hard to get good pictures of them because of the glares and reflections from the glass, but they really look so stinking cute framed up and sitting on a shelf.  I love passing by ours in the living room, and seeing both of our parents' in their houses too.


There is really no point to this post except to maybe show you this cute craft if you need a good gift idea for someone!  If you've never cross-stitched, it's super easy to do and you could order the book and learn.  She walks through all the steps in the first few pages of the book.  

And since I've done those, I've discovered that she has also put out books for occupations and farm animals.  In the book I have she also includes lots of different ways to do wedding dresses - wouldn't a stitched wedding portrait be an awesome gift for newlyweds?!  Now I have to think of more people I can stitch's nice to have something to sit on the couch and do at night while watching tv! 

December Phone Pics

I'm realizing as I get ready to write this post that a lot of these pictures could (and probably should) have been included in my Christmas post, but oh well.  Where do you draw the line between the two?  Isn't just about all of December about Christmas?

I started out the month by joining three friends to complete a 10K for St. Jude!  We raised our money, did absolutely NO training, and showed up ready to walk.  Or at least that's what I was ready to do.  I had absolutely no intentions of doing anything other than walking, until the took off running and left me!  I jogged to keep up but I was not prepared for that!  They didn't run the whole time - thank the Lord! - and I somehow managed to A) keep up with them and B) not die, so I call it a success!

Ready to go! 

Ready to go! 


Somewhere along the route...


And, finally, past the finish line!


The kids and I joined friends one evening on a trip to see the Christmas lights at the zoo.  It was cold but we had fun!


A few days later we joined most of the town to watch the Christmas parade.  Our church serves chili and cinnamon rolls beforehand so it's like dinner and an event! :)


We had our annual Christmas dinner with the Cooks and Earls where I introduced them to a staple snack from my childhood - Chicken In A Biscuit crackers with potted meat (yes, you read that correctly) and squeeze cheese.  Gotta be honest, I didn't know if I would be able to stomach it as an adult.   Matt refused to try it but everyone else was brave.  


Final verdict?  Not as awful as it sounds.  Not like scrumptiously delicious by any means, but something you could eat if you had to.  


As I mentioned in my Christmas post, my brother's kids received a new puppy - miniature dachshund - for Christmas.  My parents kept Stella for a week before they received her, and we even got to babysit her for a little while one night! 


This year, we had two cuties in the Christmas program at school and we had 50% actual participation in singing the songs.  Katie Wynn rocked it out and Thomas took her job from last year of just standing there. 


There's a new hospital being built in our town and we got to sign the beam that will be placed on top.  So cool to know our signatures will always be up there!


These kiddos were excited to be out of school after their Christmas parties wrapped up!


To wrap up this post, here are a bunch of snapshots from our two weeks at home together!


I love that they both popped a foot in these pictures!  That's all them - I didn't tell them to do it at all.  Such little models! :)


Now, onward to 2018!

Christmas 2017

One of the first weekends in December, our Sunday School had a Christmas progressive dinner.  We started at one house for appetizers and drinks, the main course was at our house, and then we traveled to another house for dessert and games.  It was SO much fun!  I hope we make it an annual thing.  Because we were hosting the entree, I set our tables with festive place settings.  I didn't have enough of any one thing for all the guests we'd be having, so each table had a completely different look.  Eclectic is cool, right?


I also lit candles in these luminaries on our front steps.  I've had these for YEARS and was so glad to finally have an excuse to use them. 


In the living room, we once again put up and decorated our 12-foot tree (an all-day activity) and had our forest of twinkle trees on the mantel.  


I added some new Christmas decor around the house this year but forgot to take pictures of most of it.  One of my favorite things that I added, though, were mini Santa and Elf hats to the decor in each of the kid's rooms.  Aren't they cute?!


And since I mentioned us hosting part of our Sunday School party, here's a picture that I took that night of most of the group.  We really love this group of people!


Moving on to other Christmas events, we wore our matching Christmas jammies to see Santa Claus at a friend's house.  Yes, we wore this to a party with friends.  No shame in our game.  


And then we donned our jammies again with Wyatt and Anna on the morning of Christmas Eve.  


Later that day, we attended the Christmas Eve service at church.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that the candles during Silent Night are always my favorite part (especially when I don't catch my hair on fire).  


Just like every other year, we gathered at my parents' house after church for dinner and presents.  Mom shooed us into the living room to take pictures while she finished up dinner.  Behold...7 grandkids and one new granddog, all eyes open and somewhat looking at the camera, and no tears.  A Christmas miracle!


Stella is the newest granddog, and she was a gift to Parker, Ramer, and Lilli Greer from their parents.  They received her for Christmas right when they got out of school for break and she's just the tiniest, cutest little thing!


For the kids, Christmas morning was great.  For me, it was awful.  Possibly the worst one yet.  I can't even write all the details because I am still not over it, but basically I shot up from where I was sleeping on the couch (not sleeping, rather) before 6am with the realization that when I had filled the kids' stockings, I hadn't put in the green yo-yo that Thomas specifically requested from every Santa he talked to.  I dug through the box I'd brought all the Santa gifts in and couldn't find it.  I threw on my house shoes and hopped in the car to grab it before the kids woke up.  Couldn't find it at home.  Drove to three truck stop gas stations looking for one.  No luck.  Finally found an orange one at Walgreens.  (Also, I had on no bra, or coat, or makeup, or brushed hair.  Didn't have my phone. Just shopping on Christmas morning in a panic.)  I did make it back to the house with the not-green yo-yo right before they woke up and snuck it into his stocking.  He was happy.  I fought back tears.  It was one of the first gifts purchased and I failed to deliver it.  I did finally find the green yo-yo when cleaning up the Christmas the bottom of a shopping bag.  


The rest of the day was great.  We had breakfast at Nick and Beth's and dinner at my Aunt Vicki's house.  The kids played with ALL their new toys and were exhausted by the end of the night. 


Matt's sister, Jill, and her boys didn't come into town until later in the week and then we all gathered at Lala and Poppa's house to have Christmas with them.  We opened gifts that morning and had a big, delicious lunch.  In between the two, I brought all the supplies to play Minute-To-Win-It games.  We divided up into two teams - this group was Team Awesome.  


And these goofballs were Team Not Aweome.  (Spoiler: they were actually more awesome.)


Everyone had a blast playing the silly games - everything from transferring M&M's with a straw to stacking pennies, pulling out kleenexes, building cup towers, knocking over water bottles and more. 


Despite the Christmas morning snafu, we really had a great holiday.  We are so lucky to get to celebrate Jesus's birth with so many of our friends and family.  And our kids were completely spoiled, as always.  Now we have to find homes for all these new toys!

All Aboard the Polar Express

Last year, several of Katie Wynn's classmates got to ride the Polar Express and ever since, she has BEGGED us to ride it too.  Couple that with the fact that Thomas loves the "Holer Express" (how he says it) movie and we knew that this year we had to take them.  

Our Elf, Coffee, doesn't do crazy things around the house but on the first morning they were out for Christmas break, Coffee had big news for the kids.  He had written them a note telling them he had gotten them tickets to ride the train! 


I took the pictures below of them with their fake tickets from my bed because they woke me up to show me.  Notice there is no light coming in through the windows.  It's Christmas break!  Why aren't we sleeping in!?!


So we packed our bags, hit the road for a long drive, and checked into our hotel room later that afternoon.


Our train departure time was 5:00 so we changed the kids into their Christmas jammies and went to check in and get our official tickets.  


We had a fair amount of time to kill before the train left the station, so we walked around and looked at the fountains and decorations.  The kids thought this car was really cool.


Eventually, it was time to board the train and go!


Katie Wynn was super excited about getting her ticket punched, "just like in the movie!" and about getting hot chocolate.  And she got both of those things!  On the hour-long trip, they read the Polar Express story to us, served hot chocolate and cookies, sang Christmas carols, and we got to see lots of Christmas light displays out the window.  Both kids really enjoyed all of it!


Santa came on board to visit with the kids and take pictures and, well, I think we all know how Katie Wynn felt about that.


Super excited about having "real bells from Santa's sleigh!!"


So, there was a "homeless man" sitting on top of the train when we boarded that called Katie Wynn "Polka Dots" as we walked by.  Near the end of the trip he came onto the train and was hiding from the conductors and they tried to kick him off, yadda yadda.  (All just some fun acting and entertainment.)  Well, he recognized Katie Wynn's polka dots and sat down in our booth after "escaping" from the conductor and she was scared to death.  The conductor came back and caught him and threw him off the train, but he grabbed our bag of souvenir mugs on his way out and poor baby girl just boo-hooed.  The conductor brought them back and we had to explain that it was all just pretend.  You can see the homeless man's hand in the picture below.


We highly recommend taking your kids on a ride if they are fans of the Polar Express movie or book!  Definitely fun to experience with them at least once.  

We had booked two nights in our hotel room but really hadn't decided what we would do the next day or if we would even stay the extra night.  Our plan was to play it by ear, which is not something Matt and I are very good at.  First thing the next morning, Katie Wynn and I found a place to get our nails done while Matt took Thomas with him to find a place to get a hair cut.  


If Matt was writing this post, his advice to you would be to never get your hair cut while on vacation, especially by an old, possibly ex-military, man.  That's how he ended up with a buzz cut for Christmas 2017.  


We spent the rest of the morning walking around a little shopping area.  We shopped and played arcade games and ate and rode up in this really tall balloon thing to get a view of the town.


We made it through lunch and then didn't know how to spend the afternoon.  Find an attraction or hop in the car and start the drive home?  We knew Silver Dollar City was nearby but we had heard it was kind of a full-day type of park and we'd already wasted half of ours.  We went to a ticket store with the thoughts that if we could get tickets to some kind of afternoon show or event we would do that and if not, we would just head back.  After talking to the man working the ticket counter, he convinced us that for our age kids, Silver Dollar City was where we needed to go.  Plus, it didn't even open til 1:00 in the afternoon so it's not like we could have gone earlier even if we'd wanted to.  We were still kinda hesitant because rain clouds were moving in and the tickets would be expensive, but we decided to give it a go anyway.

As we walked up to the front gates of Silver Dollar City and headed towards the line to buy tickets, we were approached by a couple and their kids.  They asked if we already had tickets and we told them no.  They happened to have an extra ticket that they weren't using that they graciously gave to Matt.  And then, they told me they had family passes and that technically one more person could go in on their passes if I wanted to tag along.  Isn't that the nicest thing ever?! Since Thomas was three, he got in free, so the only ticket we had to buy was one for Katie Wynn!  What a little blessing that family was - I wish we'd taken a picture with them!  We didn't necessarily need help buying tickets, but it was nice to know that if it started raining soon, we hadn't sunk a lot of money into the theme park for a short amount of time.  


The weather had really dropped since the day before so our first stop in the park was to buy gloves for everyone and hats for me and Matt.  Souvenirs for everyone!  From there, we rode carousels and climbed in big tree houses and played carnival games and watched weavers and ate snacks.  


When we made it to the kids' amusement rides, I could not believe Katie Wynn...for someone that was terrified of Santa Claus and even the nail technician when we were getting manicures that morning, this girl wanted to ride very single ride!  And she was disappointed that a grown up had to ride with her! 


You may be able to tell from those pictures that by then, the rain had come.  It started out as a light drizzle and then turned to heavier sprinkles.  It was picking up though to the point that the seats to the rides were soaking wet when we sat down and we occasionally had to stand under a steady drip while waiting in line.  Our clothes were getting pretty soaked through and it was COLD!  

Matt and I held out as long as we could but when it finally turned dark, we gave up.  We had given the kids as much time at the park as we could and now we just wanted to be warm!  We took one last picture under the Christmas lights and then hopped on the tram to get to our car.  


Everyone slept good that night after a full day's worth of activities.  The next morning we left for home, but not before getting breakfast at Hurts Donuts.  They had some of the craziest flavored donuts we'd ever seen!


It was a really fun quick trip for our family of four (wish the big kids could've come!).  We returned home on the 23rd, just one day to spare before Santa could come!