Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas 2014

This Christmas season was a bit different with our tiny baby in the mix.  But it was kind of lovely. There was not the pressure to do-all-the-things and we were able to relax and just enjoy the days a bit more (all be it bleary eyed from a typical newborn sleep schedule).

Looking back, we really did quite a bit of celebrating.  Miss Julia's first Christmas was quite special for her and the rest of us.

We kicked off the Christmas events with the first of the extended family parties. I love how the cousins always have a good time together.

We took Walker and Eli to the Behold the Lamb of God concert for the first time.  It is one of my favorite Christmas traditions and we loved being able to share it with them. Julia snoozed through the entire thing, which is no reflection on how wonderful the concert was this year.

We had an early celebration with Pops and Grandma Jayne. Maybe my favorite present this year was giving them pictures we had made with all the Brown grandchildren when Elaine (my sister -in-law) was in town with my nieces and nephew. My brother and his family moved to Japan on Thanksgiving for several years with the Navy and it is a treasure to have a picture with the kids together (sans Julia, since she wasn't quite here yet).

Julia was shocked to learn she wasn't represented, but Grandma Jayne assured her she would have her fair share of pictures.

Also, when all the presents started getting passed out ole LJ made some observations and then sat herself right down in the middle.  She was so on the present game this year.

We made it to the candlelight service at church. It was raining buckets, but it was completely worth it. The older boys really paid attention and even though I had to slip to the back of the room to nurse Julia during the actual candlelight part, it was lovely to be "together" as we focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

(not my choice for church outfits, but we were there and I'll be satisfied with that)

We were able to do our Christmas Eve tradition of dropping off the kids with Gammy and Grin to make cookies for Santa while mommy and daddy have a quiet date morning of wrapping up some loose ends. We got off to a late start (shocking, I know). Our usual Cracker Barrel was packed, so we headed to Waffle House.  Which was surprisingly nice in it's own right.

That afternoon we celebrated with Gammy and Grin and the cousins.  Again Lydia was on the present game. Never do the kids sit so still and listen so attentively as when waiting for the open command.

The final night of our advent readings.  It really is so nice to have something with just the boys.  Well, and the baby who can't talk or grab markers and run.

It got me thinking that our days of doing things with "the big boys" are fading. So here is to one more year of sharing the lego calendar three ways.

There were showers and Christmas pajamas and then the tucking in for the evening.

And the quiet wait in anticipation of the next day's celebration. After last year's 2 am wake up call we set up several rules and barriers that made it clear there would be no coming down stairs until after 7:00am.  They made good and in fact I was up and ready and busting with excitement before Eli finally got the party going around 7:45.

The boys had a bit of time to explore their gifts before Lydia woke up and joined the fun.

They were eager to help her find her presents.

Can we talk about the fact that our Christmas now involves baby dolls and dress up jewelry. {love}

A pause for a picture.  Well the toddler never pauses, but I'll take what I can get.

There were sausage spins and sausage balls, because of course their were.

Julia seemed thrilled with her playmat and enjoyed the buzz of happiness going all around.

Julia's part of the matching pajamas were way to big, but I did manage to get one picture of them together before she spit up all over them and I got her in something more her size.

(because you know I don't want to miss the first in what will clearly be an annual event)

Julia is such a smiley baby.  Or gassy.  Whichever, it isn't like you can tell in a picture anyway.

We spent Christmas Day at home.  It felt like this wonderful pause we had been waiting on the whole year.  The boys got a WiiU and this is pretty much the scene for most of the day.
Christmas Morning 2014 from jason.mccay on Vimeo.

Jason and I made The Pioneer Woman's Fancy Mac and Cheese for Christmas dinner.  It was really fun to do it together and Walker kept calling it "the bacon mac and cheese."  So you know, it's awesome.

The Saturday after Christmas we had the last family party.  The family graciously agreed to come to us and it was lovely having it in our home.

Julia with her great-grandmother.

The kids being outrageously gifted by the aunts, uncles and cousins.

Aunt Ally even got some Julia and Lydia loving.  It was a special day indeed.

Grin got a turn before the evening was out.

Feeling pretty grateful and a little solemn as we close the book on Christmas 2014.  It really was quite magical.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Doing What We Need (️Christmas Cookies)

Cookie making is not the best use of my time these days. There are a million other things I should have done with quiet baby napping time. 

I should have showered and put on some under eye concealer. I adore the snuggly newborn stage but no amount of experience gets you out of the newborn tired. 

We should have had some focused instruction time. We have definitely been schooling "light" these days. I should have done some phonics or language arts. 

We should have wrapped presents to be gifted tonight. I really dislike the wrapping on the way out the door thing, but alas we are here again. 

We should have cleaned or washed any or everything in the house. Keeping up with housework isn't my strong suit when I'm well rested. So currently, well,  I'm sure thankful for my husband keeping things somewhat put together. 

But the truth is I needed to makes some cookies. I needed to make my mom's cookies. 

Nothing makes me miss my mom like nursing a new baby. Babies were her thing. I don't have many memories of her, but her love of tiny babies is firmly in my heart. And right next to that, is memories of baking these cookies. 

I had also promised Colin the weekend before Julia came that I would make him some allergy safe cookies we could take to all the Christmas parties this year (we usually rely on Oreos, but the poor kid deserves something special this time of year, too). Then this weekend there was not one dessert he could have at the family party. Giant mommy fail. Colin is now firmly the middle child. I plan on way over compensating so he knows he is never forgotten. You know, except for last weekend. So momma needed to make good on her promise. 

And everyone else enjoyed helping make the cookies, and the eating part as well. 

As an aside Eli now tells people he only likes cookies and cake without eggs. Ha! I don't believe he can actually tell the difference, but it is nice he stands with his brother. 

So while there were a thousand things I should have done today, what I needed to do was make cookies. So we did.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Julia's First Week or So...

The first few weeks of babies lives zip by so quickly in a blur of tiredness, busyness, and adjustments, but there is still so much joy in these tiny moments. I don't want them to slip from my memory.

All of my people on one sofa = heart explosions

Grandparents Adoring

Friends visiting

Cousin Snuggling

Aunt and Uncle Greeting

Uncle Matthew (my brother) and Aunt Elaine and their little crew (Evie, Nora and Emmett) headed to Japan on Thanksgiving Day.  There was quite literally a 12 hour window of time when it would be possible for her to be born and my brother be in Birmingham.  So so, glad they were able to meet our little Julia before flying out.  Their time was super stretched and valuable, but still they made this moment happen.

There was sunshine bathing for the bit of jaundice she developed.

She recovered pretty quickly without the need to go on the bili lights.

We were released on Thanksgiving Day. So this year's Thanksgiving dinner was a simple one at home with just the seven of us.  Jason did some serious grocery shopping on Wednesday night (oh yes he did), and a dear friend brought over several yummy dishes.

A few bites in to the meal I was nursing Julia and Jason's on call alerts were going off.  But we still  had a few moments of sharing our thankfuls over turkey and mac and cheese.

So of course the next day their were dishes to be done, but it isn't quite as daunting with a tiny little one tucked in my new sling.

There was Thanksgiving dinner and football watching on Saturday with the family.

And a disappointing ending to the game, but still so grateful to be watching it with family.

And there has been much brother snuggling

And even some sister loving

Lydia is adjusting to not being the baby and sharing mommy, but even in all the trauma of that she is super sweet to Julia.

And really too many naked baby pics because I just can't get over her tininess.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Julia's Arrival 11.24.14

Here is Julia's labor and delivery story.

Over the past few weeks I have found that waiting for a baby to arrive around the holidays feels very different than any other time for me.  While I was quite done being pregnant and getting ridiculously uncomfortable, I really needed another week or two to finish up the very long to do list before Julia's arrival. Julia, however, had other ideas.

On Sunday night I had a wonderful evening with my very best friends.  It was a fantastic time of sweet momma conversations I needed.  On the drive home I had a few contractions, but nothing too intense.  I came home and crawled into bed, really not expecting anything to happen.  At 12:30am I was woken by a painful contraction.  My general labor trajectory is to have nothing serious happen before the big show, so anything with real pain gives me pause.  Through the evening I had several groups of strong contractions, but then then would stop for 45 minutes or so. Giving me just long enough to doze off before they would crank back up.

The next morning we asked Uncle Matt to come over and sit with the kids so I could go to doc to get checked.  The bummer was while we were waiting the contractions all but stopped.  He checked me and said there was only a slight change from the previous week, but he didn't have any indication anything would happen soon.  I was disappointed, but not convinced.

Allyson and I had planned to visit the science center with all the cousins and see their Christmas trains that morning.  I decided to go ahead with the plan, even thought I was exhausted. I didn't know when we would get a chance again, and I knew this was the only shot to go with the cousins.

The kids had a blast, but after two hours I decided we had to go home.  Momma was fading fast.  I didn't have any strong contractions, but I knew I had just enough energy to make it home (or rather I was hoping I had enough).

We hit the drive thru, ate lunch and then I put Lydia down for her nap.  Before going to the science museum I made the boys promise to do their school work in the afternoon.  They were more than okay with that turning into a movie afternoon. I never heard a peep out of them. I went and tried to lay down, but could not get comfortable and then the contractions started back up.

I let Jason know things could be heating up, but nothing to run home about just be aware.  By 4 I was breathing through contractions and swaying but able to parent in between contractions. I talked to the nurse and my sister in law, both of who reminded me that this wasn't my first baby and if I thought it was labor, it probably was.

We loaded up the kids, dropped them off at Uncle Matt and Aunt Ally's, who were supposed to be having a chill night at home with one kid, but graciously accepted our four. I called my doc, who has missed all 4 four of the previous kids deliveries and was schedule to leave the country to following Monday, to tell him I was on the way.  He was happy to finally be able to be there for one of my babies.

The hospital ride was the least dramatic of any of the labors (meaning it didn't feel like actual torture), so I was feeling things were not going too fast.  When we arrived I was at 3cm at 6:45pm.  Which confirmed that this was labor, but maybe just the beginnings.

By 8:30 I was 5/6cm and completely thinned out. I asked the grandparents hanging out in the room with us to head to the waiting room.  And for sure things started to move more rapidly at that point.

Once again, Jason was the perfect coach.  Just the exact right amount of massage, encouragement and support. Unfortunately ladies this is a service he only provides to me. Our nurse, Michelle, was great too. She was happy, funny and encouraging while basically letting us do our thing.

At 9:12 I asked her to check me.  I was 7cm and after she checked me I couldn't muster the ability to get back out of the bed, so I continued to labor on my side in the bed. With Lydia it took almost 4 hours to go from 7cm to complete.  Funny story (not funny), after a certain point of labor I am unable to move.  Like can't. I wish I could form words that would express this, but I'm just frozen.  It can throw Jason and the nurses off as to what exactly is happening, but they always manage to make help me out as needed.

Shortly there after my water broke, which it has never done on its own. That is a spectacular sensation.  We were alone at the time and Jason quickly called the nurse.  She rushed in and wanted to confirm Julia was head down.  She asked me if I felt urge to push. To which I replied, yes, followed quickly by the addition that she was in fact coming right now.  Michelle hit a button, called for help and then caught sweet Julia as she came right then.

A swarm of nurses filled the room and we had that amazing moment of meeting our daughter.  It was the perfect unmedicated delivery. It was intense, but I will choose quick and intense over long and slow any day. Aside - so even though my doc was in the building, he still missed the delivery. He arrived shortly there after and finished up, but it is almost comical at this point.  It clearly was never meant to happen.

From delivery I knew she was smaller than the others, but I no idea how much smaller.  Our little one was only 6 pounds 2 ounces.  My other babies were 7lb 13oz, 7lb 14oz, 7lb 15oz, and 9lb 15oz.  So we have three in the middle of the pack and two outliers. I've also had two at 37 weeks, and one at 38, 39, and full term.  Each one has made their own way, and reminded me that momma should hold loosely to my plans.

So happy to be holding our baby girl in our arms today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

One Day 2014

Laura over at the Hollywood Housewife has encouraged us all to document a day in the life.  These days are busy, but oh so worth the effort of documenting.

The morning began with pre-dawn toddler cries that required a visit from mommy.  The picture that goes here is a black square so you will just have to use your imagination. She settled back down, but momma didn't. Instead I enjoyed the quite time of feeling baby Julia kick around during what is often our only calm hour of the day.

This, however, was my daylight wake up call.

Not so bad, especially with his partner.

Who hopped right into daddy's empty spot since he is out of town.

Next up:  coffee.  I stink at making half a carafe of french press, but lack of self control means I really can only make what I should drink.

Then a bit of Bible, geography and sociology.  Explaining the drug trade as it relates to Columbia, umm, was a bit out of my comfort zone.

Then onto the equator and Brazil.

Learning and working among distractions is a skill little sister is trying hard to help her brothers with, and more so now as she has given up her morning nap.

A break to play trains. This game always ends with a,  "No Wydia!" from Colin.

And lest you think she always looks like a doll, girlfriend has had a seriously gross nose today and required several wipe-down tackles.

The kids ate lunch but I "forgot" so momma had some cereal while the boys handled the lunch dishes.

LJ now ask for "rock, rock, book" before nap time and bed time and over and over through the day.  She is rarely refused.

2pm shower, because late is better than not at all.

Afternoon double duty: checking math work and conducting a reading lesson.

And when daddy is out of town my number one nighttime routine survival rule is to wear them out so they just fall into bed. To the park we went. We happen upon a whole group of friends, perfect.

Perhaps there was a Sonic stop on the way. It just seems wrong to drive by without stopping during happy hour.  I mean they are practically giving slushies away.

Jason does not care for frozen pasta dinners, but I quite like them. So when he is out of town we often have some simple pasta out of a bag with plain pasta and cheese for the pickiest among us.

10 minutes and dinner is ready. Winning.

Our hardest working appliance.  The dust buster. So many crumbs, all day, everyday.

Four clean kids, and two of them of their own ability.  As long as they are reminded to use soap, and shampoo and a wash rag.

And the pull back shot of the bathtub.  Everyone just drops their clothes, kind of as a border.

When I grow tired of kicking them aside, I will scoop them up and throw them in a basket. Maybe.

Before bed warm milk and "mimi" which means Mickey or Minnie, but is pretty darn cute.

We are in between chapter books, but the boys always approve of this bedtime story.

Probably, mostly because it says stupid.

And now Julia and I shall have dessert and watch Pride and Prejudice for the hundredth time while planning the library trip for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Patch 2014

Adventures are more fun when Daddy gets to come along.

Like visiting the pumpkin patch farm for a field trip.  It's just better with Daddy.

(We've decided the pumpkin is Julia's stand in since he can't hold her yet. So look at that daddy with his adorable crew.)

How these two adore each other...

It was quite a bit of fun, but it was also 150 degrees.  Okay, maybe it was more like 85, but was super muggy and really did not feel like an autumn day.  We soldiered on and did fall-ish things in the summer weather.

Between the heat and the hay and the animals poor Colin was miserable. I felt so bad. I can't believe I didn't have any Benadryl to help him out.  We've never had this kind of trouble at the pumpkin patch, but we haven't done a real working farm or had it be so stinkin' hot.  He recovered quickly as soon has he got home and had a bath, but oh how hard it is for him when the itching starts.

But hey, cotton picking

Boys with baby sister...heart eyes for days.

She really adores them all in their own way.

Lydia became very focused on the task of rearranging all of the small pumpkins in the display area.

She eventually included her brothers in her plan and forcing them to do her bidding,

which they did, of course.

Then she was satisfied.

Another year blessed to pick pumpkins with these folks.

Pumpkin Patch 2013
Pumpkin Patch 2012
Pumpkin Patch 2011
Pumpkin Patch 2009
Pumpkin Patch 2008
Pumpkin Patch 2007

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Better Now Than December

Naming folks is hard. It is an amazing honor, but it is hard. And it gets harder each time. I mean, they have to carry this for all of their time earth side. The pressure is real.

I feel like we have done a pretty good job four times over now.

But oh have we struggled with this baby girl.  I hate not being able to call her by name.  We've had a few finalist for a while but just not the perfect fit.  Until now.

We like the classic, pretty sound of Julia and Kathryn is my middle name.

Disclaimer: Jason thinks name meanings are silly and actually mean nothing, but just for the record:
Julia means youthful. Since she will, at the very least, always be the youngest of five it seems appropriate.

Between the name and the carseat I think we are all ready for her arrival.  Prepping for the fifth baby is dramatically different than prepping for the first (ha).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Babywearing Reflections 2014

I've written about babywearing before, but it's been 4 (!wow!) years.  It is international babywearing week and I felt compelled to put a few more thoughts together.

Ultimately babywearing has allowed me to be the parent I have wanted and needed to be as we have nurtured, moved and expanded our family.  We like to go and explore and experience life with our kids and this includes the little ones as they have joined our crew.  It is not the perfect or only answer for every situation but it has allowed me to take care of my older children while meeting my babies' needs.  I cannot imagine doing this gig without it.

Here are a few of my favorite babywearing moments.

With a tiny Lydia in my Sakura Bloom

Babywearing and a bow.  So much momma happiness in one shot.

{Let's pause at the tininess - shall we - because wow I can't believe how the time flies.}

I find going out to eat with a snuggly baby much easier than with a baby who wants in on the dinner action.

And really it doesn't take them long to figure out when dessert is being served.

Our California beach trips were made so much easier with my sling.  Even if she got down and played for a bit, just the logistics of getting to down to the shore is so much easier with free hands.

And if it was freezing cold, it was much easier to handle with her nice and close.

{her first ocean visit}

Visiting the tide pools was a new experience for us all and it was easily had with the baby close.

Sightseeing and travel in general are so much easier for me with my baby close and comforted and me not fighting with a stroller.

Above San Francisco

Above Birmingham

(Please ignore the boys faces. They are not miserable, just tired of pictures.)

And to crowded the train shows.

Pumpkin patch train riding

It really is the only way for me to travel with baby.

We can go places we couldn't with a busy toddler without babywearing, like forest field trips.

And visiting Disney -

Lydia sacked out in the babyhawk at Disneyland

Lydia's first Disney ride - tucked in the sling.

Colin "ready to ride" in Disney World (where it is much hotter to babywear than Disneyland).

Colin was really the first kid to get much babywearing documentation (any guesses when I got my first smart phone? wink).

Kitchen back carries

Grumpy Colin in my first ring sling

At the pumpkin patch while documenting the older boys with the now outdated camera.

The older boys did get a couple of photo booth shots with the computer.

The positioning is off, but this is all of the boys in the hotsling.



And Colin riding a train with his great-grandparents.

It is doubtful that I would ever use this carrier again, but I just can't get rid of my first carrier.

When I don't have a baby to wear, I have been known to borrow a baby.
Wearing my nephew while pregnant with Lydia

And my snuggly nephew-in-law(?) at dinner one night not too long ago.

I've invested in this gorgeous purple sling for our new little girl coming in December.

And Lydia as needed, because toddlers still need a snuggle every now and again.  And of course, momma does too.

Babywearing is not for everyone. It has to work for momma and baby.  But it has been a big part of my parenting of littles. It is a part that is a short window of time in the grand scheme of parenting. This week's babywearing events are a reason for me to write things down for my one-day-memories when everyone is all big and independent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thankful in the Busy, too.

Y'all, yesterday was crazy cakes.

There was morning schooling, lunch in the car, afternoon co-op, racing home for a toddler nap (that wasn't to be), traffic and traffic and traffic to dinner, dinner with friends and family, baths and showers all around, late night grocery shopping ($$$) and finally two exhausted parents who fell into bed.

And at the end of the day all I could do was weep with thankfulness for this God-designed family.

My kids are healthy and growing and learning.  I do not deserve these blessings, but the abundance of them was overflowing yesterday.

It is overwhelming the number of friends and acquaintances whose dear little ones are sick or hurting or facing obstacles we will never understand.  Jesus be near.  Jesus come quickly. Let me remember to pray and help and never forget how many walk the-very-hard-road each day.

And Lord, do not let me squander these moments where you reveal a glimpse of your glory in our days.

*This is for me.  I have needed to keep these thoughts fresh on my mind today.  I was awoken with "mommy I don't feel good" from a very grey looking child.  And the day has followed with much tummy problems, fevers and spending the day washing everything on the sanitize cycle.

We have given up on couch schooling and have moved onto movie renting for the afternoon. And still, He is showering me with blessings. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The B-Side of Vacation

We had a fantastic vacation with memories for a lifetime, but let's be real. Four kids is a lot of work no matter the location.  No one wants to read (or hear) about the daily grind of keeping everyone alive and well, but sometimes there are stories that are so bad we laugh even while they are happening.


So poor Lydia had an upset tummy for most of the trip.  As one can imagine this made the swim diaper status less than ideal, but she really was in a great mood considering her digestive situation.

As we got up for the day of departure, Walker let us know he had been sick that morning.  This poor kid has a problem stopping once he starts, but he is pretty good about handling it.  He was fine in between episodes, but it is a lousy way for him to have to travel.

Also, Colin has decided making regular potty visits are, sometimes, just too much trouble.

All four kids need new athletic shoes.


As we were approaching Sikes and Kohn (the random country store on highway 231 between Montgomery and the beach that sells name brand goods for about 25% off every day), Lydia finally fell asleep in the car, which is her least favorite thing to do. Naps be darned momma said, pull over anyway cause we need those discounted shoes.

Of course as soon as the car stopped she woke from her 10 minute nap (for the day).  We unload and start to head in and realize Colin is in need fresh pants. We back up the whole crew,  make the change and head in on a mission.

We miraculously get everyone fitted and they pick out their shoes in a rather short amount of time. Momma was pleased.

Jason and I agree to make one lap through the grown-up shoes just to see if there is something that caught our eye.  He heads right with the boys and I left with Lydia.  I quickly realize she is dirty and the diaper isn't holding.  I wave Jason down and head to the car to deal with her.  Leaving him with 4 boxes of shoes and 3 boys.

I realize during the clean up that LJ needs new pants.  I'm not interested in digging in a suitcase at this point. I text to let Jason know we will just wait in the car. No new shoes for momma.

As we are sitting in the van I see Jason stick his head out of the door of the store.  Then Eli knocks on the car door. "Mommy, Daddy told me to stay with Lydia because Walker is throwing up outside." Sure enough there the poor kid was, head over a trash can and another mom had come to give him some napkins from her car. He calms down and I get him to car and settled.

3 kids in the car.  Daddy, 1 kid and 4 boxes of shoes inside. And momma's pregnant bladder necessitated a trip back inside.

As Jason and Colin were coming out, I was running in. Upon passing him, I grabbed Colin from him who was clearly 5 minutes too late for a potty trip.  So another clean up and the excuse of he didn't think they had a restroom (sigh).

On the final exit the nice older lady (who is always there), said, "Y'all come back and see us!" I my head I replied - "you don't mean that." But I smiled sweetly just the same.

And finally we were off again.  With new kicks for everyone.  I would do it again for the deals in a heartbeat.

Sunny and Warm - Beach Vacation 2014

We needed a get away. We craved some focused family time and a chance to do something different for a few days. We waited for the temperatures and the prices to drop and made our escape to a Florida beach.

{PS - I planned the kids outfits (minus Colin's red shorts...sigh), but didn't really think through Jason's or my attire - oh well, but hey all 6 (7) of us in one frame}

Pops and Grandma Jayne were even able to join us for a few days.

{read: great family bonding time, plus bonus date nights}

After visiting the chilly California beaches, the warm Gulf waters were amazing.  Everyone dove right in.

Well, most of us.  *Someone* didn't care for the sugar white sand sticking to her hands and feet.

But she got over it.

It was rather funny for her to have such an unexpected reaction. She is typically so brave and independent.
Now the other three, we couldn't drag them out of the water.  They all (even the cautious first born and the water fearing little brother) found their bravery.

And little sister eventually splashed on in.

Sea life watching up close and personal, without fear of hypothermia.

Beach still life {also, my favorite}

Hey, look all of us in one frame again!

And every great beach trip seems to involve some mini-golf.

Which, of course, is crazy with 4 young kids, but crazy-fun is our favorite kind.

Walker wakes up early, no matter the location.  At the beach he just slipped out on the patio and watched the sunrise and the ocean life in silence.  One morning Momma managed to drag herself out of bed to enjoy the conversation and the view with the oldest.

Double dolphin fins with the sunrise reflecting in their fins.

I never regret a little extra one on one time, and I was able to snag a nap later on.   Of course the eight year old didn't need a nap, but momma sure did.

Beyond thankful for the family building that happen along those shores.

{And less you think it is all perfect shots and smooth sailing: The B-Side of Vacation}

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kicking off the Football Season with our Crew

One of our very favorite family activities is watching the Auburn football games together.

Saturdays last fall were a bit hard knowing we wouldn't be able to celebrate with our extended crew of football loving folks. Not so this year. The boys counted down the days. Bring on the football parties. The grown ups love the community of being together. The kids love the basically unsupervised play time with the cousins and friends, the junk food and dressing in a theme (ok maybe I'm exaggerating that last one).

Well at least LJ loves documenting adorableness.

And, y'all, our first pigtails...I die.

They lasted about 20 minutes, but it was enough for momma to be happy.

We tried to get a picture of all the kids together early on, but could not coordinate having all of the little ones awake at the same time. By the point in the game watching when we finally were able to get a picture there had been playing in the rain that led to outfit changes, but still worth it to get all the kids in one frame. Well almost everyone, this shot is missing baby number 10, and by next season there will be 11 and possibly 12 to keep tabs on during our football viewing (ha).

Seriously...this is how are football viewing years began (2004).

(Which, for those of you keeping score, is TEN years ago. A decade! How does it feel like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time???)
My, my how things have changed. The blessings abound.

And because now and then are just too fun,
First Auburn game of 2014

First Auburn Game of 2013

And the way back to 2009

So happy to celebrate our Tigers with those we love. War Eagle!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mondays Are My Favorites

So secretly (or not so secretly now) I love Mondays.  Now nothing compares to the full family fun of the weekends, but of the "regular  ole work days" Monday is just the best.

I realized pretty quickly into our homeschool journey that it was best for me and the boys (and now girls - still not used to that) to block out our Mondays completely.  We have no activities, no friends over, and no mandatory errands.  The idea is to just dive into the week's curriculum and maybe even catch up on some laundry. I found that if we went anywhere on Monday, it threw my whole week off and I felt like I was playing catch up all week.  Falling behind on a Tuesday doesn't feel as overwhelming to me as it does on Monday.  So our Monday's have become this calm stay home day with no pressure to rush around and I love it.

I guess I should acknowledge that really our Monday's start off right, in part because Sunday nights I have my small group with my girls. There is nothing quite like talking Jesus, praying and hugging my ladies to start off my week right.

This week Monday morning started slow.  New letters, new verses, new books, and new lessons. Of course it isn't all peaceful and serene (less you get a false image of what it is like with 4 kids home all day). This one would have for sure had a parent conference planned due to behavior, if well you know I wasn't totally aware already and such.

(not her letters, not her book, not her chair)

There was outdoor science, math and art.  The covered patio is quickly becoming my favorite classroom.

Look we have even grown some plants from seed, like actually had success and not had to go buy another plant already grown to continue the experiments!

There was baby napping and quiet reading.

There was a quick and easy dinner at home.

And after the 8 under set went to bed, there were cheap reality shows and intense good dramas on TV for momma and daddy with a bowl of ice cream.

And the day ends with happy feeling that we have started the week of right and we can handle another week of all-the-things that need to happen.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer 2014

A photo documentary of our first Alabama summer in four years.

We kicked things off with Colin jumping headlong into five. It suits him well.

There was much backyard play

Popsicles in pajamas.

And VBS here and there

And lots of swimming

There were date nights enjoyed by mommy and daddy and children left to relish in spending time with the grandparents.

Days out with friends

And park days in familiar spots

And more backyard play

And more popsicles

And months of days filled with enjoying our time together with our favorite people in the world.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sweet Home Alabama

Transitions are hard.  No matter how good I know they are for us, they are still hard. Leaving California was tough and moving is obviously a stressful experience.

We are finally settling in to our new home with our familiar surroundings and in arms reach of family and friends. Being with our people and settling into our home has been the best encourager around.

Isn't this what your moving crew looks like?

The backyard has already been such a joy.  Lydia would spend all her out there if her momma could stand the heat.

We are enjoying finding ways to stay cool in the backyard.

The neighborhood pool is super close and being able to swim with the cousins is awesome.

Also, did I mention the cousins are mermaids?

It took her a few minutes to warm up (or cool down as it were).

I really wish she had held on a bit of the fear.  Now the pool visits are straight up exhausting as LJ spends the entire time storming off into the water until she is covered head to toe with no concern for being able to breath.

I foresee many hours spent keeping cool in good company.

Much to say about the past month since our move, but here is me dipping my toes back into the sharing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


You know that one awesome piece of clothing you have? That top or dress that looks so great hanging in your closet, but doesn't quite fit right and never really feels comfortable, that one? It turns out living in California is kind of like that ill fitting shirt for us.  It is so pretty from the outside, but it just doesn't quite work for us.

We will be saying good-bye to the Bay Area and heading back to Alabama in a few short weeks.

It should great and there is so much to be happy with here and so many reasons that we should fit right in. But the thing is - it just hasn't happen.  We have been trying for the better part of three years to make this move fit, but the further we get into the more uncomfortable we get.  Jason and I have realized that this place just isn't a fit for us.  We have loved our time here and there will be much that we miss, but it is time to let go of this thing that will just never fit right or feel comfortable.

We miss our families. We miss our friends. We miss kind smiles and wide opened spaces. We are ready to settle and find a peace of place for our family. No house or city is perfect and there will be some things we still find uncomfortable, but it is time to go "home."

We will be packing up these memories and experiences with us.  They have added so much value to our family experience.  We will be leaving a bit of our family heart here and part of me is sad that these California memories will fade for our young children.  But these few years of growing and stretching will impact who we are as a family and as individuals forever.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Life Snapshots

How does it go, "the best camera is the one in your hand?"  These are little moments captured on my phone for the past week or so.  I don't want to forget all of the nothing special but quite extraordinary to me moments.

When she demands a headband and a tutu with her pajamas, I feel like we are moving in the right girly direction.

The kids' favorite place to play is on our bed.

It's adorable, right up until it gets too rough and everyone gets kicked out.

Smoothies have become a favorite.  Well, of everyone but Colin.  But 3 out of 4 ain't bad.
And Baby Girl's favorite thing is to look out her window and watch the trees blow while she has a snack.

She is convinced she is a big girl. She wants to sit on the sofa with her brothers and drink her milk.  They think it is pretty special when they are the chosen one she sits next too (for 10 seconds).

The Saturday morning quiet before the busy.

I love the ease of feeding a toddler any and everything. After the last two boys having allergies or sensitivities that made meal time so much harder it is a joy to just feed her whatever we are eating.
And Baby Girl loves her protein.  Eggs, sausage and anything else you could get in an old fashion breakfast at Cracker Barrel makes her morning.

LJ has started grabbing her blanket from her bed, bringing it to us, and requesting a snuggle.  It is about the cutest thing in the world and pretty much erases any stress or worries of the day.

It is even cuter when big brother joins the snuggle.

We are still taking (very pricey) swim lessons.  Come on kids, swim already.

The spring fog and clouds has given us some pretty spectacular sunsets lately.

Lastly, I'll leave you with how Eli sits to watch TV.  Every time.  This cannot be comfortable, but it seems it is for him.

And now I realize how many of these pictures are of the kids watching TV.  Well, apparently, I take stationary however I can get it.

Happy Weekend to you!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Day Trip - The Monterey Aquarium

The morning began with oatmeal waffles (okay okay, chocolate oatmeal pancakes) and actual time to enjoy our coffee and chocolate milk.

Then baby took a fantastically timed morning nap while we all loaded up and prepared to head to Monterey for the day.  It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and one of our favorite places to visit.

There is a new exhibit called Tentacles so naturally there were inflatable octopus legs coming out of the top of the museum.  I'm so thankful for my one child who will participate in my photography funnies.

Harbor seals with their pups - the cuteness was astounding.  We talked about mammals and nursing babies, which I love is so natural for my boys.

Then Colin hatched out of a penguin egg.  Okay, not really Monterey local or anything, but still fun to watch.

Once Baby Sister was released from the stroller confinement she was wide opened and having the time of her life.

Being able to stand under the tide and stay dry, fantastic.

Then there was the point where she tried to throw her bow into the open ocean. I think she has underestimated my commitment to her accessories. She will wear bows and she will like it.  I got nothing but time.

And this - this just makes my momma heart overflow.

She did keep coming back to them in the "tide cave," but she did her fair share of stretching her legs at the same time.

And those legs own me.

A few more in the cave, because they won't fit forever.

Of course we rounded out our visit with a stop at Pinkberry.

No one complained.

Walker kept saying how much he loved Monterey and wants to live there.  I secretly hope he does end up living there one day and wants his momma to visit often to make his chocolate milk and chaperone his visits to the shore.

And visits from the past: October 2013, September 2012, and our first trip in May 2011

And and aside - as many times as we have made this drive south the hills have always been brown.  This time they were vibrant green.  It was breathtaking. We could not stop commenting on how amazing it looked.  I don't know if it was because of the recent rain, or if this happens every year but the green only lasts for a short window that we have missed. In any case, we feel blessed to have witnessed the rolling green hills of the California shore.

{shot out the car window as we buzzed along home}