Happy Thanksgiving Week!!
Though I often neglect this blog, I try each year to write an ABCs of Thanksgiving to remind myself of the many blessings we have received this year. Some are serious, some spiritual, some silly...I just know if I don't record it, I will forever forget! As I write this, I know I will look back and realize that I have left something or someone major in our lives out, but this is what comes to mind at the moment.
*Very long post - for my benefit later!!
A - Auburn
This year, we were able to take the kids to 2 games and go by ourselves to several games. The city of Auburn is full of so many memories and the beginnings of so many relationships. We love to get back there, even if we don't always win the game. Last year, our team did some crazy things that led to an amazing trip to Pasadena in January. While I have grown to love watching the games, it is more about family and friendships for me! War Eagle!
B - Babysitters
About 2 years ago, when I wasn't pregnant anymore and Collins stopped nursing I began to feel an odd sense of freedom. This is and was made possible by the wonderful babysitters that God has provided in our lives. We have high school (now college) girls, MDO ladies and even a wonderful couple who will keep our kids overnight occasionally when the grandparents can't do it. I know that the main reason I am sane at any moment is because of help that I receive and I can't be more thankful for that!!
Our dear friend Sarah Beth who is now at Auburn! I am jealous...but she comes by to see us (and take a selfie) at the tailgate and hopefully I can track her down over the holidays!
Someone gets treated like a princess from her nursery ladies
Blurry picture (taken by Turner) of S and her husband, who graciously keep our children and love them like their own
Wow. This calendar year started out with a bang as far as church appreciation goes. We were stranded there during the snowstorm on January 28th...and we had way more fun than we should have!! The ladies in the kitchen showered us all with food, we were able to have a spend the night party in the nursery and even stay up late and chat with our pastor and some friends. We truly do live at Covenant:)
This year, Heath and some guys in our Sunday School class taught about the importance of community in our daily lives. Covenant provides such a wonderful sense of community for our family. We worship there and go to school there, and love spending time with so many families from there! I am glad the Lord has shown me this year how crucial a strong community, especially a church community is.
The unofficial Cornerstone soccer team - every family on there except one is in our Sunday School class
A candid shot from the Sunday School Easter Egg hunt - just part of the kids
Heading to a Halloween parade with some Sunday School friends
Spending the night in the nursery
Some of my favorite ladies and friends out to dinner at the Women's Retreat
The boys enjoying Camp Covenant
D - Disney World
This February our family took a phenomenal trip to Disney World. We really didn't ever think we would be "Disney people", but were all very impressed. It was SUCH a wonderful time to watch the kids experience everything for the first time and take in all the magic. It was organized and clean and the food was great and it exceeded our expectations for sure!! So many memories made and a highlight of our year. The most fun thing was to see how much fun our little family of 5 had just being together...it is rare that it is just us on trips, and we were pleasantly surprised.
I was the most excited and stood up through the sunroof on our drive in to take this picture
E - Enjoying the "kid" phase
Now that we are past baby stages (except that Collins is not potty trained yet..hoping she shows signs in 2015:)), I have really begun enjoying the "kid" phase. That has been such a theme of this year - enjoying them being able to buckle themselves in the car, or follow closely behind me in the parking lot, or feed themselves! Enough little changes that are sometimes bittersweet, but I have truly loved watching them get a little bigger. Motherhood is one of the greatest gifts of my entire life, and I so appreciate being able to spend so much time with them. I know it won't last forever!
That stroller is almost extinct...
Right now they are 4 1/2, almost 3 and almost 6!
My little ducklings with Gigi on Mother's Day. I love being their mom...even when they make me crazy!!
F - Family
We are so thankful for friends, but more importantly family. And extra points for cousins - friends that ARE family!! What fun to have kids the same ages or close on both sides!
Heath's sister's baby, Missy - born today!
We always have fun with Ellie
and the boys couldn't wait to hold Hazel
Batgirl Chloe was brave to join Hook, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell on Halloween
Collins and Morgan - only 6 months apart
Turner and Kate taking the plunge at the beach
Uncle Derek taking the cousins for a very safe drive
Bad picture, but fun uncle Jay walking the boys into an Auburn game. We are surrounded by fun aunts, uncles and cousins!
G - Grandparents
Heath and I were very lucky to grow up with wonderful grandparents. It is so neat to see our parents serving our children so well! My kids have no idea how lucky they are to be doted on and adored and to have extra sets of parents to shower them with attention.
I can't leave out our MeMe - their number one fan who didn't even get to meet Collins but loved all 3 more than life! This week marks 3 years since she left us for Heaven - still very surreal to say that. I love this picture of her with John Burke because you can see how much she adored all her grandkids!
Pap and Tappy
GiGi and Pop Pop
All the grandparents before a soccer game this Fall
Heath's sweet Granny Eloise earlier this year
The hilarious Granny Fran
This April, my sweet Nanny went to heaven. I LOVED that I got to spend so many good years with her here on Earth, and I know she is so happy and complete in Heaven, but I still miss her a lot. She was such a wonderful example and so darn cute and funny.
Nanny's last picture with the grandkids in March
H - Heath
We celebrated 10 years of marriage this July, and we are very grateful to the Lord for that. I am very proud of Heath. He is a wonderful leader for our family and a terrific husband and father. Now, I am still laughing 13 years into our relationship at how different we always will be in some ways, and we will be guaranteed to drive each other insane at times forever, but God has showered us with grace and love and friendship.
This year was a first for us. We ran the Nashville Half Marathon together (well, in theory...I was behind him) It was surprisingly fun and I was able to check it off my list! He says he is doing it again, I may just watch this year, but it was pretty awesome to accomplish together!
2 of the loves of his life...Auburn and this little princess. Daddies and their daughters have a special bond, and he is a sucker for her!
Taking the boys on Big Thunder Mountain
Letting John Burke drive the boat - give that man some water!
I - Instagram (and social media)
Instagram is probably my very favorite form of social media. I try not to flood it, but I like putting fun things on there that will help me as I don't keep up the blog as much.
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I cannot stand fake or phony pictures of people's lives, but I understand the balance (ahem, this blog is convicting for me as I write this) of wanting to show and remember the fun times and sometimes not being able to cover the hard or awkward times for privacy or other reasons. In this season of friendships being spread out in other cities, I love the ability to constantly see pictures of friends and feel like I am still connected to them. I definitely take it a step further and have virtual "friends" - not on Facebook, I feel like I really do need to know someone on Facebook vs. blogs or Instagram - that don't know me but I like to see what is going on with them...good thing I have real friends too:)
One of my recent Instagram posts from a few weeks ago. I told Laurahelen that I needed to take a picture to "IG" it (instagram it), and she had no idea what I was talking about. I am so hip...oh wait:)
J - John Burke
He is 4, but insists he is going to be 6 on his next birthday and skip 5 altogetherWow, I am thankful for this child. I want to swat him off of me sometimes when he is all over me, but then I miss him fiercely when he is gone. I have to say he is the most me of my 3 children right now. That is not necessarily good ;). He is VERY spirited and ALWAYS has to have something going on. If he sees me settle in to rest or watch one of "my shows", that is his cue to literally pull the covers off of me or break or spill something to pull me out of any kind of rest. His constant question (like mine always was growing up) is "Where are we about to go?"
He loves people. He likes to know everyone's business (no clue where that came from) - their parents and siblings' names, etc. He will incessantly ask a question until I respond to him. Yesterday it involved pictures from around the house of grandparents (mine and MeMe) who have gone to heaven and any and every detail surrounding their lives and how they got to heaven. Did I mention I cannot halfway answer things with him? He gets it honestly.
He is very quick-witted. I have been somewhat spoiled with Turner that he doesn't tune in to things that don't pertain to him. Well, not Burke Burke. He is ALWAYS listening and will turn around and use things in context. This is pretty incriminating and embarrassing, but I wouldn't move out of his way the other day and I told him to get over it and he said "You can stop being a smart ass." Yep, nothing like checking myself on what I am saying as he uses it against me. And he won't forget it.
We went to a "rainbow lipstick" party last week for a 3 year old, and he was ALL IN. This is his new favorite picture - face painted on a "real unicorn".
He loves to guide and supervise any situation he is in - read bossy - so I caught him several times "shepherding" children to the face paint lady or the jumpy or the unicorn riding line. No, sir. I say to him no less than ten times a day "YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS."
A flip side to the bossiness is that he is an amazing helper. He is always my first choice to accompany me at the grocery store, or in this instance he was helping me do laundry at our hotel in Disney World. He also loves to clean and organize (he gets that from his father), and will clean up a room or sweep or wipe down a sink in a hot minute.
His sense of humor is like an adult sometimes. But, he has a sense of confidence to accompany that which is dangerous at times. In this picture, I was cracking up because he was so proud last weekend that he dressed himself while we were visiting friends out of town. Please notice the cut of that shirt, because it is definitely Collins'. Oh, don't worry - he kept it on, as if to spite me. A mess.
Finally, he loves the ladies. Collins is his number one favorite person ever. But, he loves babies, the girls in his class (or anywhere for that matter), and older ladies.
Kina is his long-standing "guhl-friend", but this cute thing on the right is Alice - his "guhl-friend that is a kid" I don't think she knows...probably better.
Look at all these cute girls in his class - he is working it
I love this picture of him with Nanny last Christmas. He would not leave her side, and luckily she didn't mind. He loved to stroke her hair or her arm and just laugh with her. He is such a bird!
K - Kindergarten
I have always loved our Mother's Day Out and Day School at church. We have had a great experience every year, but kindergarten is blowing me away!
Turner with his crayon on our mailbox from his kindergarten teachers. They love and appreciate him and his joyful little personality, and he is learning so much! He loves going to school, and I am so grateful for teachers that love and challenge and gracefully discipline my children - all while teaching them about Jesus. So, so thankful for our school!
On our way to class one morning - they love that durn elevator in the school lobby
L - Lifetime
They asked me to take this picture - they are always obsessed with the decorations at Halloween and Christmas. The little things:)
We love Lifetime Fitness. It has great childcare that they love, and they offer classes like karate and gymnastics and arts and crafts so I don't always feel like I am just leaving them. Which, I am not above:)
In the summer, it is even more fun because so many of our friends go there too, so we always have a ball at the pool. Down side - extremely cautious lifeguards. We are working through that, and I guess I can't really complain about that! Safety first, but wow, the intensity.
Turner's birthday party last year at the indoor pool
Heath meets his friend some mornings during the week up there, so I am thankful for a gym that all 5 of us like in this phase of life. Some days it is just a place to escape to or meet friends if Heath is working late or we are bored. It is always fun!
M - Melissa Collins
It has been so fun learning how to be a parent to a little girl. She is so much easier in some ways, and so much more dramatic in others. This picture is so skinny because she refused to cooperate when sweet Lauren was trying to get a shot in the dress I thought I just had to have. Stinker.
As I look over the pictures from this year, I am amazed how much hair she has gotten! She is extremely opinionated on it - right now, I am only allowed to put a bow in it. No ponytails, no ribbon. I may only use "Mommy's brush". Yes ma'am. Maybe because she is the third, or because she barks the loudest, but I have to try extra hard not to let her always get her way just for the sake of it being easier for everyone. She is not the most strong-willed person I know, but it is definitely growing. And another child who received that honestly, unfortunately.
She used to refer to herself as only "Colley Wolley", but in the last month or so she can now say "Caw-lins". She can name Nurner, Shawn Burke (but she will adamantly deny that if you say it as a sh instead of a j), Kelly and Heaf. She is deathly obsessed with her lovey, Beary. That bear will kill me one of these days, as I constantly try to locate it, so as not to endure the wrath of not having it.
She loves Nemo and is beginning to notice princess things, but is not scared to play with the 90 percent of the toys in the house that are boy-oriented. She is laid back like that.
She likes to spend time with me and Heath - her favorite thing is to watch t.v. in our bed, she is doing that as I type this.
She can roll with us easily. I tried to get out of taking her to Disney World, but Heath wouldn't have it. Then she shocked me and was an absolute angel the majority of the time! She likes to be the baby at times, but she will NOT be left out!
She plays well with girls and boys, and good thing because she is thrown in with little boys a lot of the time. Sorry not sorry!
One of her favorite people in the whole world is her cousin "Tate" or Kate
My little stubborn daredevil. She couldn't walk last summer, but could full out swim and jump off the diving board unassisted all summer this year. This time it was a high dive, so I made her wear a life jacket. Like I said, she will not be left out!
Finally, she also LOVES her brothers and (hopefully a little less than the former) cheese dip. They make her happy, and I am very grateful for her...and the spunk that she brings!
N - Neighbors
God has blessed our little street so much this year. We have the best neighbors next door, Ken and Helen, and their daughter Jennifer. They are always available for my children to run by and show them new shoes, a leaf they found on the ground, artwork, a riding toy, etc. They are SO patient and kind and we are so so glad they moved in next door a couple of years ago.
Mrs. Helen and Ms. Jennifer took John Burke one afternoon and let him pick out crafts and some pumpkins to decorate. Basically, his love language. They also brought dinner home and we all sat by the fire and decorated pumpkins with our neighbors! So fun!
This is Mae Mae. She lived on our street for a few months this year while she and her parents were buying and selling houses. Mae Mae's grandparents live down the street, and we had SO much fun swimming and riding riding toys and eating popsicles with them this summer. Glad they aren't too far away!
Ken and Helen and Jennifer with my parents at one of the boys' soccer games. They came to watch the boys play and even saw them score a goal and we were so grateful!
O - Our Lord and Savior
I am constantly aware of the blessings and the trials that the Lord puts before us. In both, I am thankful to serve such a patient and loving and forgiving God. I am very thankful that He loves me even when I neglect or forget Him and that He calls me back to Himself.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - "Be joyful always, pray continually; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
P - Program
This week I am specifically thankful for the Thanksgiving Program that Covenant Day School put on last Friday. I was busy running around before hand trying to get pictures of them before they totally gave up on me, and I forgot until they actually sang how precious it is to hear them sing to the Lord!
John Burke's class were pilgrims
He LOVES a stage and did every move and sang his heart out
The kindergarteners decorated turkey shirts that they wore, but they each had a small speaking part in the program.
Here is Turner saying "You know when I sit and when I rise". I definitely cried. Because he didn't mess it up, but also because their little voices quoting scripture was just precious.
The two year olds were turkeys. Adorable.
But this turkey had one specific look for me, and it said "I will NOT be participating." She didn't cry and she didn't run off stage, so I call it a win. The boys made up for it with their participation, not so much here.
Their fan club. So very thankful for the hard work that went into this program, a sweet reminder of children and how innocently they come before the Lord. And for grand dads that made time to see it!
Q - Quick Trips
One thing our family loves to do that I think would stress other people out a lot is to take quick trips places. Whether it is to the lake, the beach, Atlanta, the mountains...we are almost always game! We are thankful to have friends invite us and put up with our craziness and time away from the day-to-day in Birmingham.
Mountains this year - 3rd annual trip to Highlands with friends
The kids and I headed to Atlanta with friends for a couple of days for Spring Break
The beach - an all-time favorite!
Heath with one of his best friends, T.J. We were able to visit (and actually run with him) when we went to Nashville for the race
Fishing with friends at their farm
The lake - always a win!
R - Real Housewives
Let me just be real, I love trash television. Especially Bravo TV. It is just relaxing when I want to watch mindless t.v. or need entertainment during bouts of insomnia. Heath is NOT a fan, oh well. It is silly and I like disconnecting and escaping and laughing in their crazy drama worlds.
"Vanderpump Rules" is a spin-off of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It is about 20 and some 30-somethings that work at a bar in Beverly Hills. When we went to LA for the Auburn game in January, my sister and I just had to rope our husbands into a trip to "Sur" - the restaurant in the show. It.Was.So.Fun. Maybe not as fun to Heath and Brandon, but Lindsey and I kept on trekking! We had WAY more fun than we should have, thank you Bravo TV!!
Lindsey and I as Heath and Brandon were realizing what was going down
Peter, the manager
Tom, a bartender who loves drama
S - Small groups
Several years ago, Heath and some guys from Sunday School began a small group. He has been so blessed by it, and loves those guys and the accountability they provide him. We are both so thankful for that group of guys and their families.
This year, I was able to carve out time to become involved with a small group of my own and it has been so beneficial to study the Word and pray with sisters in Christ. Praying the Lord will continue to teach us through these groups.
T - Turner
Man, am I thankful for this first born of mine. He wakes up every morning in the best mood and ready to tackle the day. He reminds me of my dad that way. His brother and sister are NOT the same:)
He is curious and kind and clumsy and doesn't always listen. My prayer for him this year was that he would get teachers who would love him, but also understand and work with him. One day his teacher asked me if he ever got in a bad mood. Since then she has seen that he is definitely not always so jolly, but a lot of the time he really really is.
He loves to give hugs and kisses, and now that he is learning to write he is always making pictures and notes for us, like this on my birthday card.
He doesn't ever really mind who he is playing with, though he does love his friend H, to his left here.
He LOVES to watch t.v. and remembers specific details about the most random things. He always recalls said facts with "Can I tell you something???" and doesn't let up until you agree. Also, like his father, he has one volume - loud.
I find him like this A LOT of the time. He has an avid imagination, and he is always fighting some battle or exploring somewhere with some sort of costume or prop. The gaudier, the better.
He is an avid swimmer, and has always loved the water. He was so proud of himself for passing the swim test at the gym this summer like a big kid!
A couple of times this year he even melted Heath's heart and got up on skis. Proving to us that he has selective attention - he listens and achieve what he WANTS to. We are constantly working on that!
Turner is a wonderful big brother, and truly a joy to be around. I can't believe he turns 6 next week, but I am proud of the little boy he is becoming!!
U - UBS
This is where Heath works, and I am thankful that he has a job that he loves. 3 years ago he switched over to them and has never looked back, and I am grateful he has such a fun and challenging work environment!
V - Visits to Chick-fil-A
Sadly our weekends were busier this year - a good problem to have if you ask me. But our friends who work at Chick-fil-A definitely noticed our dip in attendance. They are always so good to us - great service and they genuinely love my children and show us so much kindness. We did have Collins' second birthday party this year, so we haven't floated too far away I hope.
W - What they say
These turkeys make me laugh all day, every day. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. I don't want to forget the way that Turner says "Hah-rible" or "firty" and then John Burke corrects him for not saying "thirty". "Th-th-thirty." He also likes to reign Turner's voice in from the back as he shouts excitedly about some movie in the car - "Turner, we are all RIGHT HERE."
Collins is very confident in what she says, though sometimes it is very indecipherable. A few minutes ago she kept screaming I want "Saw Soul" - I finally realized that she meant the show "Paw Patrol." She will beg to "hold you", meaning to hold her. She loves to say "'Mon Mommy" for come on! and she loves to call her buddy Sims "Nims" and lives for "pot-seekles" (popsicles).
A few weeks ago we replaced the bottom of our fish tanks with marbles. John Burke kept calling them "norbles" and I didn't want to correct him. Heath got home and I couldn't stop laughing at the argument that ensued about the correct word for marbles. John Burke and I still call them norbles.
XYZ - Wow, I have done a lot of talking. I wish I had a clever way to use these consonants, but I think I will use it as a way to remember to not always talk - to rest and stay still in this upcoming season of celebrating Christ's birth. As I look back over the year in pictures, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and want to remember to praise Him in the good and fun times and in the hard and lonely times. Happy Thanksgiving!