Beach Days are the Best Days!

We love hitting the beach the week before Memorial Day to beat the big crowds and, more importantly, the sweltering heat!  This is our last year not having kids in "real" school, so it might be the last time we get to take advantage of going that week.  Who knows, maybe we'll skip one of the last weeks of kindergarten next year...

For the third year in a row, we invited our friends, the Rikards, to join us.  Our kids play so well together and we've gotten in the groove of how to vacation together.  I think this year was probably our best one yet!

I know I've said it before, but it's so much easier when we leave on Friday and drive a little more than half way.  Plus, the kids think staying at a hotel is the best.  We stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel and had to do some porch rockin'. 


I bought the kids each a pair of headphones for the trip and they wouldn't take them off.  They carried around their "ipads" (Leap Frog Tablets) so they could listen to music.  Teenagers already, I tell ya.


Our vacation is getting predictable.  When getting close to the beach house, we first stop in Seaside for pizza and our first beach sighting.  And then we always take a picture in this cutout board!


Our biggest goal for the trip was just to really get into vacation mode.  So we tossed any kind of schedule out the window, ate ice cream or candy every night, didn't force naps, and generally said yes to most things.  It was fun!

One pineapple, four straws!


Beach Bums

This year, Matt and Laura dug two really deep holes in the sand and then connected them with a tunnel.  It terrified this mama, but Katie Wynn and Levi loved crawling from one hole to the other!  We let them do it a few times before collapsing the hole so no one else could go in it.


Pool Sharks

Coordinating Cuteness

If you know me at all, then you know it wouldn't be vacation without plenty of matching outfits!

I don't know where they get all of their "coolness" from.


Here is our family picture from the evening we spent at The Hub.


And this is the "goodbye" photo taken on the front steps of the beach house before we drove away after a super fun week.  Might be my favorite picture of all four kids...even if they don't all match!


The only bad thing about vacationing the week before Memorial Day is that it's over too early in the summer!  We really have to figure out a way to spend another week at the beach at the end of the summer too.  Not too much to ask, right?

Wyatt's High School Graduation!

Last month, Wyatt graduated from high school!  It's hard to believe that he's old enough to be done with school.  Wasn't he just playing little league basketball and sleeping in the top bunk?

His graduation was on a Saturday afternoon at an enormous church.  He had to rent his cap and gown and would only have it (and be available for pictures) for about 45 minutes before the ceremony started.  So we took some quick pictures with him before heading inside to get seats.


Katie Wynn recently lost her first tooth and saved one of her dollars to give to Wyatt as a graduation present.  She was mostly excited about getting to wrap it up by herself.  Of course, that morning Thomas needed a dollar so he could do it too.  Wyatt was really good sport opening his two dollars and thanking them.  :)


After securing a row of seats, the littles and I killed time in the lobby.  They can only sit still and quiet for so long and I didn't want to waste any of it on waiting for the service to start!


Wyatt was one of six graduates that got to sit on stage for the whole ceremony.  He and two other boys (twin brothers!) tied for salutatorian so they were all included in the order of events.  Wyatt was the second student to speak and he introduced the president of the school to come speak. 


Thank goodness for the big screens since the students sat in the very front section and we couldn't get very close.  From where we were sitting behind the sound booth, we got to watch him on the big screens, live on stage, and through the little screen in the booth.  Here he is accepting his diploma and perfect attendance award. 


We are so very proud of Wyatt and all that he has achieved thus far.  If you noticed in the pictures above, he was wearing a Georgia Tech tie - the school he has committed to attending in the fall.  With his fun personality, sharp thinking skills, and incredible work ethic, we know he will do great things there over the next four years.  We can't wait to visit him in Atlanta too!

I'm not sure if Wyatt was tired by the end of the day, but graduation sure wore these two out.


Now with one child out of school, we have one (Katie Wynn) who will be starting in the fall.  Next year, just the girls will be in regular school!  

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!


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!

Family Pictures

You know Christmas season is approaching when we have a family group text going of when we can try to schedule pictures.  And the older the kids get, the harder and harder it gets.  This year I think we squeezed them in right in between two people flying in from out of town and two others leaving for a basketball game.  Whatever it takes to get Mom's Christmas card picture, though.  Right?

Here is a family picture we took 6 years ago.  Ramer was the baby of the family and our two small kids weren't even on the scene yet!

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Now that our family is finished growing in numbers (knock on wood), we met back at this same old house to recreate the photo.  Except, when we arrived, we realized someone had started sprucing up the house and cutting down the trees and it just didn't look as...interesting...anymore.  Whomp, whomp.  Still fun for a comparison, but this new picture won't be replacing the old one as one of my favorite family pictures.  

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Mom did get another winner for her card, though, with this picture of her and Dad with all the grandkids.  

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I was pretty pleased with the ones we got of our family.  I love this one and if I hadn't already ordered my Christmas cards, I would've used this one for our card!

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All of these pictures were taken by Meghan Fowler Photography.  She got some good ones of everyone in the family!

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I have been wanting a photo of me and Mom together to use for Mint Tulip and I love this one she took of us. 

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As busy as everyone is getting, we should probably go ahead and start trying to pick a date for next year's family pictures now...