The Rest of January

Shortly after Thing 1's departure Thing 2's friend from Minnesota came to visit us and not too long after her one of my dearest friends and her sweet son arrived for a long weekend here in Nashy.  Its been a full 2016 and we are not showing any signs of slowing down just yet.  We all love when the house is full.  In between all of the visitors there were orthodontist appointments, chiropractor appointments, football matches for Thing 4, home-schooling science projects and papers, Thing 1 hiked the Grand Canyon and was in LA for a week, there was a work promotion for Thing 2 and then there wasn't, work for me came to an end, (at least outside our home), a trip to Minnesota for Things 2 and 3, a church retreat in which Thing 2 spoke on finding joy in all circumstances, a wicked snow storm for Nashy, some dinner guests and a new book club started.   Life has been chugging along.  We're trying our best to be present and appreciate the unexpected daily.  So here are photos from our fuller than full month.  And in case you're wondering, the weather is great, or if it's not just wait a day and it will be, we have an extra room and we serve three scratch made meals a day.  We'd love to have you join us, anytime.  Really.  Here's our month in photographs.

Thing 2 and Lauren at the tattoo parlor.  No tattoos were inked on this trip but a nose was pierced.  Hint, it wasn't Thing 2's or mine.  

Backyard campfire, complete with s'more roasting and pine cone burning.  

Thing 4's smile after braces.  Still as handsome as ever. 

The arrival of Minette and Kaleb.  Which in this case meant that the boys woke early and began mine-crafting.  

During their weekend visit we toured the Carnton Plantation and the Carter House.  I have done the tours numerous times before and each visit I walk away with a new nugget of history or a story revealed and a greater appreciation for this place I live and the part it played in our American history.  

The boys and Husband Jared went to the Adventure Science Center where they pretended to be astronauts for the afternoon.

My lovely friend on Winstead Hill, reading more on The Battle of Franklin.

Us girls made a spontaneous trip to the infamous Bluebird Cafe; An iconic and unassuming music venue in Nashy for 40 years.  What an experience.  So thankful to have shared it with her.  

Besides exploring historic sites we managed to put together a 1000 piece puzzle in our time together. An impressive feat if I do say so myself.  I have no photos of the day they left.   Mostly because I do not like goodbyes and my eyes were puffy on my way home from the tears.  I am grateful for the weekend with her, it was full of all the good stuff that come from the kind of friendship that feels like home.  

And the following weekend we were in the snow.  Thanks to the scary road situation Husband Jared found himself gifted a four day weekend.  We made sure to enjoy it by playing in the snow and sledding.  Maybe we caught some snowflakes on our tongues and we might have even kissed while the snowflakes landed all around.  

This one, she prefers to eat the snow.  She knows to stay away from the yellow stuff.  

Never too big for sledding!  

He tried his best at snowboard sledding.  This kid misses the "slopes" of MN!

Had to document the perfect pour of Guiness we enjoyed on one of the snowy afternoons in downtown Franklin.  

We had some visitors for breakfast and a footie match that required hot cocoa and craft time with Auntie Leanna.

An afternoon of being the only child meant he chose the lunch spot.  Pizza and wings and watching the Broncos make their way to the Super Bowl!  

Love this photo that Thing 1 sent me from her time in the Canyon. What an experience that was for her.  Stories beyond stories.  And so much beauty captured from behind her lens.

No big deal, just Polo wearing a sweatshirt.  Hey, he was cold and he was part of our January too.  

And not long after the snow we were in short sleeves and bike riding to Main Street.  See what I mean?  The weather is fickle here.  No matter to us, I'll take short sleeves and sunshine in January!  That about catches me up.  At least for now.  

Life through January 5th

Thing 1 is long gone and has been experiencing life on her own for a few weeks now (again) and I am just going to post on our family togetherness while she was here.  You know this is all about firsts.  Our first child leaving home.  The first time she wasn't here for Thanksgiving.  The first time she left again.  You catch what I'm saying.  And then just this past week after about two weeks of limited contact with Thing 1 the other two girly Things headed off to Minnesota where there were even fewer texts and pictures and such otherwise known as communication.  I'll stop pouting and get over myself.  It is only that this Mama's heart sometimes can't make sense of all this growing and changing and independence taking place here.  And when I say that out loud I can imagine the eye rolls and head shaking on the other end.  This is the design though, right?  Growing up, learning, creating life experiences of one's own, gaining wisdom, making mistakes, dealing with consequences.  We are in the thick of it around here.  How about we pause and remember a couple of weeks where we just were.  Where pajamas reigned as the outfit of choice and the biggest decision we made was what Netflix show we were going to watch, what kind of cookies we were making and whether or not we were playing cards or a board game after dinner.  Yes please.  

That is what our in-between week was.  Well sorta.  There was still work to be done, for some of us, and chores and laundry and all that but we sure tried our best to maximize our time together.  We celebrated birthdays, we hiked, we picnicked, we read, shopped and dined and lounged.  And here are photos from it all.  

The weather was unseasonably warm here for Christmas.  In fact despite the rain and gloomy clouds we were in short sleeves and even shorts for a hike we took at Radnor Lake.  We walked around the lake, asked the ranger questions, stopped to look at trees and turtles and laughed our way through the trail.  Bigs and littles alike.  And after we picnicked in the parking lot.  No really, we sat in the parking lot with the tailgate open and ate our lunch.  It was a good afternoon.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon playing footie at the park and eating pizza for dinner.  To say it was a good day would not do it justice.  The entire day was so much better than that.  I forgot to mention that we started the day off with a trip to The Barista Parlor.  Husband Jared had met the owner of said coffee shop in his store and it had been on our list to check out so that is just what we did.  An old grease garage turned coffee house, yes please.  I'll take that any day.  There was vinyl spinning, scientific coffee brewing contraptions and a diverse customer base all enjoying their beans.  The sign had me and the makeshift stage, dreamy, which I am certain hosts all manner of musicians, poets and artists when the weather is just right.  We will be back for sure.

Swoon.

After hike tailgating?

Horels and Hansons.

Cousins skipping rocks.

Hanson Six.

New Year's Eve we scheduled a family game night, per our usual plan.  We made all the snacks.  And I really mean that.  Then we played all the games.  Wore silly hats.  Lit sparklers.  Ate our traditional NYE dessert, crack balls, and didn't even make it to midnight.  Well 3 of the 6 didn't.  Guess who?  Ok, I'll tell.  Husband Jared, myself and Thing 1 were in bed by 10pm.  The other three partied hard downstairs and danced their way into 2016.  It was a good night.  Maybe even more so since I was in bed by 10pm.  Wink, wink.

Polo-Lolo.

Silly girls.

Dance Party 101.

For Christmas this year the Things were surprised with a day of zip lining with Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie.  They were whisked away in the afternoon, bundled up and then given clues for their gift.  It didn't take them long to figure out where they were headed.  I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with Autumn and Gemma.  We explored a new park, had arts and craft time, drank hot chocolate and giggled the entire time.  The Things soared above the tree lines and then were treated to a delicious dinner of wood fired pizza.  Which of course they shared with us upon their arrival home, along with the tastiest cannolis I've had, next to mine of course.  I'd say zip lining for the win!

Thing 4 and Uncle Jeff.

Aunt Natalie and the girl Things.

 Thing 2.

Thing 4.

 Thing 3.

Thing 1.

The group.


My hot chocolate dates.  With marshmallows and whipped cream.

Mema and Thing 1 had a date at the REI garage sale and Thing 2 and I tagged along for fun.  We weren't quite prepared for the experience that awaited us.  A line wrapping around the building and people camped out with blankets and coffee and lists and backpacks.  We learned so much about the way to have a successful garage sale experience and we will most certainly be back for the Spring sale.  Thing 1 scored the shoes she had been  hoping for, a yoga mat and some other backpacking supplies and necessities.  Thing 2 found herself a winter coat for her upcoming Germany school experience. And Mema and I held clothes and gear and were on the support team.  Then it was off to breakfast and an afternoon nap for us before birthday celebrations that evening for Thing 1.  We couldn't send her off to Seattle without first throwing her a family birthday bash.  Good, I knew you'd agree.  The dinner menu was all her choosing and chocolate cake and frosting her choice for dessert.  There were decorations and plates and candles and birthday banners adorning the dining room and all of us gathered round to show her just how much we love her.

Thing 1's loot.

Smelling birthday cards made with scented markers.

Make a wish.

The remaining few days found us soaking in each other's company.  A couple days off for Husband Jared and time around the table and hunkered down close.  We held our annual goal setting and reflection of the year past discussion over a long and slow breakfast.  Then there was the frigid afternoon hike and one more lunch at Chick Fil A.  Yikes.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend our last day together though, despite the icicles that formed on our eyebrows while hiking through Natchez.


Reflecting and looking forward.  2016.

Swinging vines on our hike.  

Family selfie for the win!

All that to say, it was full, overflowing with joy and sweet time together as six.  Now onto 2016.



A 19th Birthday Letter

For my eldest daughter on your 19th birthday,

Where do I begin?  It is your first birthday not celebrated in our home.  The first time I've woken up on February 1st and you were not here for me to sing to.  Strange, this becoming a Mama of adult children.  Watching my heart beat outside of my body and witnessing your journey into adulthood.  To say I am proud would be an understatement.  For me to simply say that seeing the work God has done over this past year of 18 to be remarkable just doesn't seem sufficient. What I'm really trying to say here is that you, my sweet girl, are the gift.  A daughter of the King and to think that He chose me to be your Mama.  That in and of itself makes me want to pinch my skin in disbelief.  So happy 19th birthday to you.  Shall we recap your 18th year a bit?  Yes, well alright then.  Here we go.  

You turned 18.  Then you graduated from high school.  Before that though, you made honor roll for the first time ever in your high school career.  You worked with a personal trainer to become a healthier version of yourself.  You were a para for a sweet girl with some special needs.  She and you became fast friends.  When I would see you two together her adoration was quite clear.  I think it was mutual.  You traveled to Israel with your Dad.  Shared in experiences of our faith and saw things anew.  You returned a bit different.  Changed, scarred, in the best way.  You said goodbye to many of your friends.  Celebrated them all.  Dealt with changes.  And then you left for Seattle.  Kairos.  The discipleship program that you enrolled in for your gap year.  So much new.  New people, new places, a new family to live with, new teachers, new experiences, new goals and new expectations.  Like I said, so much new.  And through it all I've watched the girl that didn't like change adapt and grow and thrive and press in like never before.  

Thing 1 you are stronger than you think.  More beautiful than you know.  Loyal like none other.  Steadfast and honest above all else.  You feel deeper and think logically than most.  I won't say don't change, because that is inevitable.  What I will say is keep on keepin' on.  Trusting the Lord with all your heart, reading, learning, loving and taking those risks.  Continue serving everyone, everywhere.  Smile.  Find joy in the little things.  Be committed to what stirs your soul and causes tears to flow.  Don't lose your passion.  Ever.  Admit when you're wrong.  Give grace always.  Be you, no one else can do it quite like you can.  

I wait with anticipation to see where this year of 19 takes you.  I'll be praying along the way.  Not for boundaries and safety but for the unknown.  For you to have courage and be bold.  For relationships unexpected and for doors to open and close.  I'll be praying that you know how much you are loved.  My sunshine girl, I wish you a happy birthday!  Much love is being sent your way, today and always.  

xo, Mama

The Boy's 14th Birthday

Boxing Day.  The day after Christmas.  Otherwise known as Thing 4's birthday.  In our house, a pretty special day.  Thing 4 has his own birthday tree, updated this year to a blue table top tree with matching LED lights.  It sits in his bedroom and holds his birthday cards and presents.  Separate from our Christmas tree and no Christmas wrapping paper is allowed under that tree.  This year a present sat under that tree for almost an entire month and had Thing 4 guessing and wishing.  Hmmm.

For his day, this 14th birthday, Thing 4 chose each and every activity and meal, beginning with the Manchester United match, quite early, and a proper English breakfast; Of which I have no photographs, slacker Mom alert.  The Horel family joined us for breakfast and the morning of footie. It was quite wonderful.  From there it was on to the skate park with his new scooter and then family dinner at Burger Up with cake and ice cream to follow at our house.  G-pa and Mema joined us for cake and ice cream and then Husband Jared, Uncle Jeff and the birthday boy were off to the new Star Wars movie in IMAX.  From what I heard it was incredible.  Sun up to sun down was spent celebrating this boy of ours.  

Thing 4 attempting to keep his eyes open to watch his team.  Although, I may have shut my eyes through some of that match too, it was ugly.

After breakfast swings in the Eno.  

My birthday boy!  

The six of us at the table.  Birthdays are a big deal around here.  At family dinner we like to continue the celebration by sharing one thing we admire or love about the birthday person.  

The present he was waiting for, from his sisters.  That might be the look of disbelief right there!  

Strawberry cake with strawberry icing and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for the birthday boy this year!  Make a wish!

The family!

Post Star Wars, 3-D glasses!  

One celebratory filled day in the books for this now fourteen year old.  Can't wait to see what the year holds for our teenager. 

A Different Christmas

Our Christmas was different this year.  Not necessarily better or worse just different, for lack of a better word.  I know that doesn't translate well but roll with me here.  Our first Thing left the nest and returned home after three months.  Different.  The Things are all teenagers now.  Different.  Husband Jared is working retail once again, as in a store.  Different.  Gone are the days of Christmas through New Years holiday.  We are living near family, again.  Different.  There was no snow on the ground and hardly a chill in the air.  Different.  Like I said, so much change, so different.

All that and I still could not have been any giddier picking Thing 1 up from the airport.  I tried to hold it together and just calmly wait at the car for her but then I caught sight of her walking through the doors and I could not contain myself.  I sprinted across the street and jumped into her arms.  No really, I did.  Three months is the longest we have ever been apart.  We had a girls weekend planned since the boys were off to Florida for a showcase tournament at IMG.  Woo hoo, all the way around!  To kick off our weekend she requested Chick Fil A and then it was all eating and shopping and movie watching all weekend.  It was so good.  There were a few other highlights too, the Franklin Farmers market, church together on Sunday night and an outing to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens' holiday light display.  Such a sweet weekend with my three girls, reunited.

 Together again.

Fun at the Factory, we took a similar picture almost 10 years ago with Thing 4.  
A little different now.  

Baking Cookies, or something like that. (not different)

Holiday lights at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens

More lights, and not the best quality photograph but these trees were mesmerizing.

A few snapshots of the week leading up to Christmas.  Four of our six had a busy work week with Thing 2 logging over 38 hours but we managed to squeeze in a bit of fun here and there.  Thing 1's ornaments were waiting for her so she decorated the tree and put the angel on top(her year).  We also encountered some frightening weather one evening and were in our safe spot for most of the night while Thing 2 and Husband Jared were at work in theirs.  During one of Thing 3's work shifts we visited for fried pork chops.  What can we say, we like our meat and three's.  Well, mostly we like the girl serving them.  All this, more different, as noted above.

 Thing 3 behind the counter serving Thing 1.

Popcorn, a laundry basket and nothing but good times. 

This is how you put the angel on when your tree is almost too tall for your house.  

They were filled with excitement as Thing 1 placed her ornaments on our tree.  
(Enter sarcasm, definitely not different)

Before we knew it Christmas Eve arrived and we spent the day soaking in the bright sunshine and exceptionally warm weather that graced us.  We were outside running, walking Polo and strolling on Main Street.  Thing 3 was in her element baking away and we prepped for our traditional Italian dinner that evening.  Since Husband Jared was working all day the Things and I went to Christmas Eve service together, came home and put the finishing touches on our meal.  The six of us gathered around the table and toasted to Christ's coming and laughed like we haven't laughed in a while.  After clean up it was time for our jammie and hot cocoa Christmas light tour.  These kids never fail to make me laugh.  A poor attempt at Christmas caroling was made and after viewing everything from professional light displays to the average jo's we found ourselves at home and watching Polar Express.  Only thing was we were all so tired I don't think we made it but half way through.

After church obligatory picture for Mama. 

And then this happened and the situation escalated.  That blur is Thing 4 falling over the hedges and Thing 3 right behind him.  They both toppled over and thankfully stood up laughing with no major injuries.  

Thing 1 took over on fried cauliflower for me, she did a fantastic job!

The table is set.  

Christmas jammies on, hot cocoa at the ready and four Things.

Traditional sibling sleep over.  Although I'm not sure there is any sleep happening because we all know that before long Thing 1 will be waking us all up before the sun. (Not different)


Our tree with pretty brown paper packages.

And then came Christmas morning.  Per the usual Thing 1 was the first awake and her and the others stormed our bedroom to wake Husband Jared and myself.  After a quick snuggle it was downstairs for coffee and coffee cake.  Much to our surprise Thing 2 was on it already, coffee made and coffee cake in the works.  See, different, again.  We gathered with our blankets and coffee and Christmas music playing and we all opened our stockings.  One at a time so we could see what Santa had done.  When the oven dinged and coffee cake was ready we gathered around the table for our reading of Luke 2.  This year the Bible was passed and everyone took turns reading.  There we sat sharing new thoughts, trying our best to comprehend the significance of His birth.  It was my favorite part of the day with these people of mine.  We snuggled and spent the rest of the morning just being.  Whether that was preparing brunch or sorting through our goodies, watching movies, playing games, it was all good.  The Things had been patient long enough and there were gifts
waiting for them.  Next stop, around the Christmas tree.  Each gift was unwrapped and oohed and ahhhed over.  Paper was cleared and brunch was ready.  G-pa and Mema joined us for brunch and then it was off to the Horel's house for pressies with Autumn and Gemma.  Autumn had chosen special gifts for each of us this year, all on her own and she was filled with anticipation to present those to us.  The Things and their cousins opened presents and laughed and played and then there were dance parties and Wii tournaments.  We left the Horels and returned home to a quiet afternoon of movies and Enos and trivia and birthday cookies for Jesus.  Oh what a celebration!

Thing 2 on her own in the kitchen.  I must say, the coffee cake was delicious!

Time for stockings.  
Always too heavy for the hangers on the mantle.

 I'm not sure Thing 4 was fully awake just yet.

Thing 3's turn.  And a tail tucking Polo photo bomb!

Thing 1 and a blur of ribbon and wrapping paper.

Thing 2 attempting to untangle her lanyard from her stocking. Just as Husband Jared had predicted the night before.

Luke 2.  

Coloring time with their new crayon pencils and coloring books.

Damian jersey for Thing 4.  Looking good.

Sibling time in the Eno, despite the rain.

Due to the rain our walk to the Horel house was cancelled, thus we piled in the back of Betsy.

Autumn watching as her cousins open their presents from her.

Thing 3 and Gemma dancing!  

For posterity's sake and before we wrap this up I am obliged to include our ornament choices for this year.  The girl Things were all gifted vintage ornaments, chosen for their colors and uniqueness.  Thing 4's ornament, well you can see that one for your self.  Thanks for playing along.  

Thing 1's vintage ornament.

Thing 2's vintage ornament.

Thing 3's vintage ornament.  Well, sort of.  You see in the process of moving said ornament to the tree this Mama shattered it.  Like no gluing it together and pretending it didn't happen.  I was heart broken.  So Thing 3 in all her wittiness is showing you the ornament that wasn't.  Thankfully, since this photo was taken said ornament has been replaced and all is right once again.  

Thing 4's antler ornament.  You know, to document the year of pocket knifes and new adventures and arm pit hair.  Yep, I said it here folks.  

video
I'll leave you with this.  A snippet of the soundtrack of our Christmas morning.  I do hope you and yours had a merry and joyous day celebrating our King's birth!