Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 in 2015

At the start of December I realized that it was going to be a very busy month so I sat down and made a schedule and emailed it to Daniel so that we would be on the same page.

At the top of the list was family photos and a Christmas card. Unfortunately that was one of the things that got dropped. I was disappointed that we didn't make this happen, especially when Christmas cards from loved ones started showing up in our mailbox, but in all honesty, not doing the card was the right thing for us this year.

Hopefully next year will be the year we get back on track with cards. We do hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please know that we love you, even if we didn't get our act together with the Christmas card thing this year.

Even though we didn't get Christmas cards sent, we do want to continue our tradition of sharing our Top 10 List for the year, so here goes...

10. Our family grew by one sweet baby boy. Isaac entered the world in April and we have been so blessed by his arrival.

9. Exhaustion. Along with this bundle of joy has been a level of exhaustion that I had forgotten about. Juggling an infant, a 4-year-old, and Daniel's long work hours has made for a very tiring year for all of us. We are all ready to enter a more rested phase of life (that's coming, right?!?).

8. This year we braved taking our little family of four on a trip to the beach and also to the mountains. I'm so grateful that our little guys just bounce along and do whatever we do without much complaint.

7. Jack started his second year of preschool this fall. We love our little precocious 4-year-old and can't wait to see what the future holds for him. At this stage of life, he is really interested in learning and we try to facilitate that love as much as we can.

6. Isaac's little personality is really starting to blossom. He has big grins for everyone, almost all of the time. I think he will develop a wonderful sense of humor and keep us all on our toes. At 8 months he is starting to look more and more like his big brother.

5. Daniel and I both turned 35 in 2015. We never really feel old until we interact with kids in high school or college and then we suddenly feel our age.

4. Fun outdoors continues to be an important part of our lives. We took Jack for one final paddling session right before Isaac was born. Since then we have taken both boys on quite a few hikes and even managed some family bike rides. We are committed to not waiting until they are older to introducing our boys to our hobbies. I do have to confess that I am looking forward to when they are big enough to try mountain biking and backpacking!

3. My freelance business continues to keep me busy, my client list even grew this year through word of mouth. I am so grateful for my amazing clients and the fact that I can continue to use my graphic design skills in addition to being a full-time mom.

2. After two years of working a really intense work schedule (sometimes upwards of 80-hours each week) with long commute times, Daniel is finally back to a 40-hour work week. We are not going to know what to do with the extra time, though there is no shortage of things on the honey-do list! We are so grateful that life will hopefully have a less frenetic pace and we can slow down and enjoy this time together. Daniel still has a long commute time, but at least his hours have improved dramatically.

1. This year we celebrated 13 years of marriage. A trip to the mountains as a family was our way of celebrating.

That wraps up 2015, we are looking forward to all 2016 has to offer. We hope that you are blessed in the coming year!

Top 10 List from Years Past: 
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | We skipped 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas 2015


Our Christmas this year started out very low key. It was just the four of us. 
At home.

After several days of rain and fog, there was a break in the weather and Christmas Eve Day was warm and sunshiny. We took the opportunity to take a family bike ride around our neighborhood. Each time we do this, Jack gets a little better with his biking skills.


That evening we drove around to see neighborhood lights in our town. Jack must have been worn out from our bike ride because he fell asleep almost as soon as we started driving. Before heading home from the lights, we grabbed a pizza from Domino's.

Christmas Eve we let the boys unwrap one family gift containing pajamas, hot chocolate and a Christmas movie. This year it was A Charlie Brown Christmas. Jack thought it was "cute."

Once in bed, Jack said it was too long until good morning time (what he currently calls morning) and that he didn't want to wait that long for Christmas. I told him that the sooner he closed his eyes and slept, the sooner it would be Christmas. He fell right to sleep.


While the boys slept, Daniel and I wrapped the last of the gifts.

I don't know how many years will go like this, but right now Jack and Isaac both sleep in until after 8:00 and even after he was awake, Jack was super patient about the whole Christmas presents thing. We ate a leisurely breakfast and didn't start on the stockings or presents until after 9:00am.

This is the first year we had Jack choose presents to give each of us. He really enjoyed picking out something for Isaac, then taking a turn wandering around Target with me to find something for Daniel, and finally going with Daniel to find something for me. Next year I may have him make presents, but this was a nice introduction to the idea of giving gifts.


We don't do Santa presents, but we did do a visit to Santa on our trip last week where we discovered that a Ninja Turtle costume was high on Jack's wish list. 

Since we had already purchased gifts, Daniel made a last minute order from Amazon and we told Jack that the Ninja Turtle costume was from Isaac. He said it was his favorite gift and that he got everything he wanted. We don't buy a lot of gifts, so that was sweet to hear.

Isaac experienced a lot of firsts this Christmas, each experience is so new and he really seemed to enjoy himself. He is sitting really well and sat in the middle of the floor where he had a ball pulling the wrapping paper off of gifts (and then trying to eat it). He was a bit ambivalent about his toys, but did seem to love his brother's toys. 

My sister has spent her entire life complaining about how the first-born gets everything and the second-born (and subsequent kids) get overlooked. It is really hard as a parent because I already see that playing out with Isaac. 

While he is well loved, he mostly gets hand-me-downs and where Jack was fawned over with visits and excessive presents and a million "first Christmas" ornaments, Isaac did not. Thankfully he is too little to care, but I hope to make an effort to make sure he feels equal in that regard as he grows.


Where we live, the weather was unseasonably warm and rainy on Christmas day. Heavy fog and raining cats and dogs. My brother drove up from Nashville and barely made it to our house before two of the three roads roads up our mountain closed, leaving one access on and off the mountain. 

The rain, along with flood warnings, continued all day. You don't think about a mountain having flooding conditions, but the runoff down the mountain was swift moving and enough to make the roads treacherous. 

Hydroplaning on a mountain road that drops off on one side is not a good prospect. Also, the runoff down cliffs was bringing down a lot of debris that had to be cleared from the roads. 

One of the roads actually ended up collapsing in one spot from the barrage of water. It was a crazy weather day for sure.

We have a tradition of going to eat Hibachi on Christmas Night (Jack's first Hibachi experience was when he was about a month old). With the crazy weather and only one way off the mountain we debated the logic in leaving our home. In the end, tradition won and we safely made it to have dinner with one of Daniel's sisters and their dad and his wife.

Hibachi was a little bit of a disappointment this year in that our chef lit the table on fire as soon as he stepped up to the table. Normally the chef lights an onion volcano at a later point in the meal, and that is what we had prepped Jack for. Unfortunately Jack freaked out and ran away from the table, and our chef proceeded to cook our meal without any special effects. 

Of course Jack was fine and ended up standing in his chair watching the other chefs in the restaurant do cool tricks with their knives while lighting tables and onion volcanoes on fire. Isaac was pretty mesmerized by the whole process. Thankfully the food was delicious and we enjoyed our visit with family, even if I felt a bit cheated with the show.

Two days after Christmas we headed to Nashville to spend some time with Daniel's family. We had a lovely Christmas dinner and the kids received more presents. 

Up until now Jack has been the only kid, this year two more boys were added to the mix – we had another baby and one of Daniel's cousins also had a little boy. It was fun seeing the two little boys interact (they are about 2 months apart).

After Christmas with Daniel's family was wrapped up, we went to meet some of our old friends from Cookeville. Jack had a blast playing with their kids and we enjoyed catching up. It's been four years (too long) since our last visit!


Finally rounding out this extended Christmas week, we went to my aunt's house in Ashland City where we were able to visit with some of my extended family including one aunt and uncle and their family from Canada, as well as my parents who had driven over from Arkansas.

What started out as a very low-key Christmas ended in a very busy week of visiting and seeing as many people as we could see. We are all set for a quiet evening at home for New Years and hopefully we will accomplish some house projects in the next couple of days.

We hope you had a very Merry Christmas and were able to spend time with loved ones!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Our Live Christmas Tree: A Christmas Tradition


As is our tradition, we set up a live tree in addition to our little fake tree. Unfortunately, due to weather and time constraints, we were not able to make it out to a Christmas tree farm this year.

Instead we chose to go to Jack's preschool where the church was selling trees to raise money for a local Boy Scout troop and youth group activities. It didn't hurt that the preschool/church is less than a mile from our house!

I'm a little sad that we (meaning Daniel) didn't get to cut down the tree ourselves, but it was a sweet family experience none-the-less. I'm pretty sure Daniel would make this the new tradition if he could... we shall see.

While this year's tree doesn't rival the size of some of our trees in years past, it is still pretty much as big as the room can handle. We tend to go with Griswold-esque trees instead of Charlie Brown trees.

In preparation for this year's tree, we actually swapped our formal living room with the dining room since the dining room has more windows.

Even though the room is smaller, it is nice and cozy and we love to see the tree when we drive up to our house. 

Another tradition in our family is to decorate the live tree with white twinkle lights and homemade gingerbread cookies (future post will include recipe link). Pre-kids I would string popcorn and cranberries and sometimes make a paper ring garland. Those traditions may make an appearance again when our kids are older, but for now we are sticking with lights and cookie ornaments.

I love Jack at this age. He is really getting into the spirit of Christmas and starting to enjoy these traditions. I hope that the memories we make will stay with him and that as an adult he will reminisce about this precious time spent together.

Isaac is old enough to be curious and stare at wonder at the lights and the efforts of his big brother and parents. I am savoring these moments, but also look forward to when he can participate a bit more. Until next year...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

13th Anniversary Trip

I mentioned in a previous post that I thought coffee was my love language, the truth behind that statement is that quality time is what fills me up.

Daniel's work schedule over the last two years hasn't provided a lot of time for quality time, so a last-minute anniversary trip to Gatlinburg was something we were in desperate need of.

It was a trip with kids in tow, but sometimes you just have to make it work. 

We rented a little cabin just outside of Gatlinburg and squeezed in some of the activities that we like best. It has actually been 5 years since our last trip to these mountains and many memories kept flooding back as we drove around and visited old spots we loved. 

Reminiscing is good for the soul and we have a lot of fond memories from experiences in these mountains.

My favorite thing to do on vacation is to eat out for breakfast and we had 3 amazing breakfast experiences, which I will share in a later post.


Our first day in the mountains was cold with snow flurries swirling around. We used the day to visit shops that Daniel wanted to see (Daniel and Jack had a blast at Bud's Gun Shop, Coleman, the Dewalt Store and the Smoky Mountain KnifeWorks).

We finished out our day with a visit to Bass Pro Shop where we snagged a time slot to see Santa. The boys were both troopers had we finished the day with dinner at Bass Pro.


Saturday we woke up to sunshine and decided it was a perfect day to be outside. After a big brunch, we headed up to Newfound Gap. We had hoped to drive up to Clingman's Dome, but the road was closed due to ice.


We bundled the boys up and stepped out of the car to freezing temps. The outside temperature was a balmy 30º but the windchill was probably in the teens. We huddled together for photos before hurrying back to our car to warm our frozen cheeks and fingers.


After Newfound Gap, we went back down to hike to Laurel Falls (I will share more in a later post). Our love of the outdoors must shine through because the first thing we were asked when we stepped out of the car was, "You guys look like you hike a lot." This from a stranger at the trailhead who had a question about the area.


The Laurel Falls trail goes up for about a mile on a paved path that has steep drop offs on one side. We decided to push Jack in the BOB stroller and the entire trip he kept saying, "Daddy, you're making me nervous!" Thankfully we made it to the 80-ft falls without a hitch.


It was a fun weekend and I'm so glad we took a moment to celebrate 13 years of marriage by spending time together as a family.

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...