In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

In Memory of My Papaw

Filed under: Family — Rachel at 1:36 pm on Thursday, March 19, 2015

This is the eulogy that I gave at Papaw’s funeral. He was a wonderful grandfather, and we will never forget him. 

Papaw

 

J.C. Francis was many things over the course of his life. He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and a friend to many, but to me and my five brothers, he was simply our Papaw.

Since our father was Papaw’s only child, the six of us were his only grandchildren. He loved us, and showed us that by spending lots of time with us. When we were growing up, we spent a lot of time at Papaw and Mamaw’s house. We would call them on the phone Friday after school and ask if we could come spend the night. Papaw would always say, “You know you can.” We would stay with them till our parents would make us come home Saturday night to take a bath for church on Sunday. In the summer, we practically moved in. I don’t remember there ever being a time when Papaw told us he had other plans. We always felt like we were the most important to him. When they lived in their old house, we slept in Papaw’s big undershirts. I don’t remember if it was because we got scared by ourselves or just because they wanted to be close to us, but I would sleep with Mamaw in their bed and Papaw would sleep in one of the small beds with one of the boys. We always felt special.

We weren’t always just left to our own devices while we were there, either. Well, unless Nascar was on. Papaw did things with us. He took us fishing in his pond, watched cartoons with us, and played with us. When my brother tied me to Papaw’s worm tree and then forgot me there, it was Papaw that came looking for me and rescued me. He gave me some butter pecan ice cream to make me feel better.

It was the little things that I remember that are precious to me. Holding Papaw’s hand when he took us down to the pond to feed his catfish. We stood on the big rock, he would rattle the fish food around in an old coffee can, and then then he would throw it out onto the water. We watched till the fish were gone, and then we would hold his hand again and walk back up to the house. Papaw’s hands were so big, we often just held onto his finger. He was silly with us, and made us laugh. When one of us said grace over our meal, Papaw would end it with, “Amen. Bro. Ben. Shot at a rooster and killed a hen.” He was a little irreverent, but he had a fantastic sense of humor.

He always took us places, especially when I was really little and there weren’t so many of us. He took us to see interesting things, like a cattle auction, or to visit relatives, and every trip usually ended with a trip to Jim’s Burgers in Harriman. He would ask us if we wanted to go get one of “those little hamburgers”. Papaw took us to the only circus I’ve ever been to. He was kind and generous, but a little overprotective. He wouldn’t let us ride the elephants, because he was pretty sure we would get hurt.

As we got older, Papaw continued to be a big part of our lives. Mine and Aaron’s first cars were hand me downs given to us by Papaw. When my first car died, Papaw took me and bought me another one that I paid him back for twenty bucks at a time. Unfortunately, it was a granny car, because Papaw insisted a smaller, cooler car was entirely too dangerous. He gave us special things over the years…pocket knives and old jewelry. He always gave us himself.

When we were grown, and began having kids of our own, Papaw continued to be a wonderful grandfather. He couldn’t be counted on to remember our kids’ names, but, even though he was in his seventies, he would get down in the floor and play with our babies. He carried them out to look at the cows and throw pebbles in the pond. They don’t remember him the same way me and my brothers do. They were all so little when his health began to go. However, they know him through the stories we tell about him, and there are a great many stories to tell.

In his last years, as his health failed him, his grandchildren had the opportunity to return some of the time that he invested in us. My brothers have taken him to doctor’s appointments, dressed him, shaved him, and cared for him in every way possible. Watching my brothers, young men and teenagers, care for their elderly grandfather was a testament to everyone to the kind of Papaw he had been to us.

When the time came to say goodbye, each one of us had the chance to come and be with Papaw. We got to tell him we love him and thank him for everything he did for us. When he drew his final breath, two of my brothers were with him. Today, as we prepare to lay him to rest, I just want everyone to know that, among all the things J.C. Francis was in his life, he was the best Papaw that any kid could ask for.

Papaw and Mamaw

This is my Papaw J.C. and my Mamaw June.

meandpapaw

Baby Me and Papaw

papawmamawkids

Mamaw June, me, Papaw, Lucas, Jason, Aaron, and Malachi (Seth wasn’t born yet.)

mePapawmamawKids

Me and my kids with Papaw and Mamaw, after Papaw’s stroke.

 

Saying Goodbye

Filed under: Family — Rachel at 1:22 pm on Thursday, March 19, 2015

holdingpapawshand

Last Wednesday, my baby brother, Seth, called and asked me to go to the nursing home with him to see our grandfather. Papaw had been doing very poorly for about a week. Me, my older brother, Aaron, my younger brother, Malachi, and my dad had went to the nursing home about a week before to sign DNR forms and instruct them on how we wanted Papaw’s care to go. We were expecting that to be the end, but then the doctor said he thought Papaw was going to pull out of it. By Tuesday, they had told us that he was not going to get better. And yet he lingered.

So on Wednesday, Seth called and told me that Dad thought all of us grandchildren should go and tell Papaw that it was okay for him to go on home. I loaded up all the kids, and went to my parents’ house to pick up Seth and leave the kids there with Dad. While I was there, I discovered that my tire had a hole in it, and Dad and Seth changed it for me. We were later than we intended to get to the nursing home. When we finally got on our way, we made it about three minutes down the road before Seth got a phone call from our parents. The nursing home had called to say they thought Papaw only had a couple of hours.

Me, Seth, and our niece, Keinzie, got to the nursing home and went to our Papaw’s room. He looked terrible. Even worse than the last time I had seen him. He was skeletal and asleep. His bed was lowered all the way down for safety reasons, so I got down on my knees beside his bed, stroked his white hair back from his forehead, and told him that I loved him, thanked him for everything he had done for us, and told him it was okay to go on home. Seth repeated these sentiments, and we were both bawling our eyes out. Papaw’s eyes were open and he looked in our general direction, but I don’t think he could see us. He had lost most of his sight when he had a stroke a few years ago. In his weakened state, I don’t think he could see us at all. A nurse came and told us that they were going to move Papaw to a private room. Seth and I continued to talk to Papaw until the nurses came to get him. As we went out into the hallway to let them work on getting him moved, Mom, Dad, and my Aunt Gail (my Mamaw’s sister) arrived. There were many tearful hugs.

The nurses got Papaw settled into a private room, and we were joined by other family members. Over the next twenty-four hours, family gathered with Papaw. We thought he would go quickly, but he lingered. We talked to him, held his hand, played some of his favorite songs for him, and generally just kept a vigil. The only response we ever got was when we played music, he would look in our general direction, and, at one point, he seemed to be squeezing my hand. He never got any more alert, though.

We wondered if he was waiting on Mamaw to come. My Mamaw June has Alzheimer’s and hasn’t known any of us for quite some time. She’s like a small child. My mom and Aunt Gail went and got her and brought her to the nursing home. She wasn’t sure who any of us were, but she seemed happy to be with us. When they brought her in the room, we told him that June was there, and he leaned toward her and made the only sound he made throughout the entire time (with the exception of crying out in pain when the nurses moved him). It was almost a whimper. We told her that Papaw was her husband and that he was very sick. She asked some questions, but was mostly distracted by everyone else. She didn’t know him, but she was happy to tell him anything we told her to tell him. So we had her tell him that she was June, she loved him, and that it was okay for him to go home. We had her tell him that she would be okay.

I just about lost it as I was trying to help her understand. It’s very much like dealing with a young child. I told her that Papaw was very sick, and he wanted to go home and see his mom and dad. She said she thought he should go on home then and that she wanted to go home and see her Mommy, too. I told her that he wanted to know if it was okay with her for him to go. She leaned over him and said, “It’s okay with me. Go on home.” Then she looked at me and asked me who was going to come and get him. My heart broke in two then. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I told her that his Mommy and Daddy would meet him and take him home. She just smiled and said, “That’s good.”

After that, we waited. Mamaw stayed for a while. She sang “Amazing Grace” to Papaw. She can’t remember a single one of us, but she remembers every word to that song.

 

We wondered why Papaw lingered at death’s door for so long. My dad is his only child, and us grandchildren were his family. Jason and Malachi, my brothers, had been by a couple of days before to say goodbye before they left for California and New Jersey. Me, Aaron, and Seth were all at the nursing home with him, as was our dad and Mamaw. The only one of us who hadn’t been there was our brother, Lucas, who was working in New Orleans. During the night, Lucas got a layoff from his job, and headed home. He drove all through the night to come and be with Papaw. At about ten thirty on Thursday, Lucas made it. He got to say his goodbyes to Papaw.

At about two thirty, I decided to go home and take a shower. I had been at the nursing home for twenty-four hours with no sleep. I was tired, and we weren’t sure how much longer it would be. Shortly after I stepped out of the shower at home, my mom called me to tell me that Papaw had gone home. I was devastated to have not been with him, but comforted to know that Dad and Lucas and Seth were with him when he passed.

On Sunday, we laid my Papaw to rest. It was a very nice funeral, and I think Papaw would have liked it. I was honored to give the eulogy, and the honor guard was at the burial. It was a very moving tribute to a man I loved very much.

I’m really going to miss my Papaw, but I’m glad to know that he is in a better place where he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.

Abigail

Filed under: Abby Jo,Family,Kid Quote,Kids,Photos — Rachel at 2:47 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I love my little “girly-girl tomboy”, as she recently dubbed herself. These pictures and quotes definitely capture her tomboy side more than her girly-girl side, though. I propose that she’s really just a completely fabulous, well-rounded girl, with all the many facets that girlhood encompasses.

abbybow

“My game I made is called, ‘You can always find an adventure.’”

 

abbyslugs

 

“I caught ten slugs!”

Books, Books, Books

Filed under: 100 Books,Me,Reading — Rachel at 2:38 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I have been reading tons of books lately, and I thought I would share what I’ve read. I like keeping track of what I’ve read, and this blog is a great place to do that. I set the goal to read 100 books this year, and, right now, my goal is 14% complete.

I have read:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Gold by Chris Cleave

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Glimmer Train Stories #90

I’ll Take  You There by Joyce Carol Oates

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott

Tin House: Tribes

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Several people have said to me that they don’t know how I read so many books. First of all, I love to read. Love, love, love it. Secondly, I’m a very fast reader. Having a Kindle app on my phone, though, is probably the real reason I read so many books. I always have my phone on me, so I can tap up my book anytime I have a few minutes to read. Whether I’m sitting in the car line, waiting at a kid’s ball practice, or just have free time, it’s easy to spend the time reading instead of doing nothing. I don’t watch a lot of t.v., so I read instead. I also tend to read on my phone in bed at night after Matt goes to sleep.  When I’m doing chores or straightening my hair, I listen to an audio version of a book on my phone. This takes about five times as long to get through a book than if I was reading it myself, but it makes chores a lot more enjoyable. When people say they don’t have time to read, I just don’t believe them.

The book that I enjoyed most of the fourteen I’ve read so far this year is “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved everything about this book, and I was genuinely sad when it ended. It was a long book, but not nearly long enough. I wanted to know so much more. Since then, I read “The Bean Trees”, also by Kingsolver, and I am currently reading “Pigs in Heaven”, also written by her. I’m on a Barbara Kingsolver binge, and I will happily read everything she has ever written if they are all as enjoyable as what I’ve read so far. I have a copy of “The Poisonwood Bible”, but I’ve been waiting for it to be available in Kindle edition from my library because it’s so much easier for me to read a Kindle book lately, because of the aforementioned reasons.

I also really enjoyed “Gold” by Chris Cleave (author of “Little Bee”) and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman.

One of the things I love about reading fiction is the way I can absorb new information about subjects I never would have thought to be interested in before. The discussion of ecology and predators and insects in “Prodigal Summer” was captivating, and I learned so much about the history of the Dominican Republic in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. I’m most likely not going to read a book dedicated to any of those topics (well, maybe I would read a book about ecology), but, if you wrap it up in fiction, I will swallow it whole.

What is the best book you have read recently?

 

Kid Quote

Filed under: Kid Quote,Kyra — Rachel at 4:56 pm on Thursday, February 5, 2015

“My brain is hardwired for literature…not math!” – Kyra

 

Like mother, like daughter, huh?

How Is Married Life Treating Us?

Filed under: Family,Love,Marriage,Matthew,Me — Rachel at 11:27 am on Thursday, February 5, 2015

I love being married! I really do. I was made to be a wife and a mother. It’s what makes me happiest in life. Every time I see someone I haven’t seen in a while, I get asked, “How’s married life treating you?”

Well, the answer is that it’s treating me wonderfully. Matt and I just had a long conversation the other day about how much better our lives are since we got married. I firmly believe that sitting and counting your blessings…intentionally speaking aloud all the things you have to be thankful for…is the one needful step toward contentment.

Our lives are so much better on all fronts since Matt and I got married. Of course, the big one is relational. We adored each other when we were dating and when we were engaged, but something just changes when you make the commitment to be married to someone. Going to bed together every night and waking up with each other every morning is such a comfort to me. Sending him off to work and being home, cooking dinner, when he gets back every evening is comforting. All the time spent cuddling on the couch watching football games or snuggled in bed watching “The Walking Dead” (very romantic, I know) are comforting. It’s just the “being there”…every day…together. I am just thrilled with the prospect of all the ordinary, nothing exciting days we have to share for the rest of our lives.

Another benefit to being married is that we were single parents, but now we are a family. I’m going to brag on my husband here. He is such an incredible man and an extraordinary father. When his ex left him, she walked out on him and the kids. He had to balance his full time civilian job and his Army Reserve career with being both a dad and a mom to Hailey and Logan. It was all on him. Before he moved to Tennessee, his mother moved to Lexington to help him out for a while, but after he transferred here for his job, he was completely on his own for raising his kids. I have mad respect for him. He loves his kids more than life itself, and it was very evident when I met him. He was getting up every morning, getting ready for work, getting the kids up, dressed for school, fixing Hailey’s hair, feeding them breakfast, dropping them off, going to work all day, picking them up from daycare, grocery shopping, taking them home and cooking them dinner, doing dishes, laundry, playing with the kids, doing homework with Hailey, bathing them, reading to them, lying down with them till they went to sleep, and about nine thirty every night, he had the only time in his day to take a breath. He didn’t just do everything, he did everything well. He didn’t just wake them up in the morning, he sang them awake. He didn’t just keep them alive and going, he played with them and engaged with them. He coached their soccer and baseball teams. He was completely incredible, but he was exhausted.

I was a single mom, but I had a lot more help. My children’s father is just as involved in their lives as I am. He had them half the time. When I went to work and school, Amy watched Abby for me and took the other kids to school and picked them up.After she moved out, if I was in a bind, I called Chris and we worked it out for him to take the kids when I needed him to. I was only really on my own with the kids for a couple months before we got married. I’m not saying it was easy, but I had help. I missed my kids terribly when I was working or at school on the days I had my kids. I had been a stay at home mom for ten years before my divorce, and it was painful to not be the one at home with them.

Getting married changed those things for us. Matt no longer had to do everything himself, and I got to be at home with my kids again. Matt could be the dad and I could be the mom, and no one had to pull double duty anymore. He is still exhausted a lot of the time because he works full time, has the Army obligations, and is in school right now. He doesn’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking dinner or getting kids to and from school anymore. He doesn’t have to worry about homework or doing laundry. I’m here to do those things. I get the kids up and dressed in the morning. I fix Hailey’s hair. I take them for haircuts and to the doctor and dentist. That’s not to say Matt doesn’t ever help with those things, because he does. He’s an incredibly kind and generous husband, and he does things just to be helpful and nice all the time. But he doesn’t have to anymore, and that makes all the difference. When he has to go away for the Army or travel overnight for work, he doesn’t have to worry about coordinating childcare for the kids. They just stay home with me. While I hold down the fort at home, he works incredibly hard to provide for us, and I don’t have to worry about money or surviving anymore. Marriage has obviously made our domestic lives much, much easier and more enjoyable.

Financially, there’s no question that we’re better off now. Matt was bearing the full weight of supporting his kids, and that was incredibly expensive when he was paying for daycare. I take care of the kids now, and that took a huge financial burden off of him. That’s just one example of how being married is financially better for us than being single. There are many, many more, on both sides. I was pretty much destitute right before we got married, so there’s no question that I am better off.

Matt and I are both the kind of people who are happiest in this kind of life. We are tough, determined people and we could have survived without each other, but we have found incredible happiness with each other. Getting married deepened that happiness immensely. There is such comfort in a loving and mutually respectful marriage. We are each other’s best friend and biggest fan. No matter what, we’ve got each other’s back. We fight each other’s fights and we celebrate each other’s victories. We have accepted each other’s children as our own, and we are committed to our family and to each other. We will take the exciting days filled with adventure along with the comfortable, nothing-special days at home and appreciate them together for what they are. Our life together.

So, how is married life treating us? Exceptionally well!

Kid Quote

Filed under: Family,Hailey,Kid Quote,Kids,Logan — Rachel at 8:19 am on Monday, January 26, 2015

Matt was gone for five days for the Army last week, and, Friday, Grammy (Matt’s mom, Alice) came and spent the night with me, Hailey and Logan. Friday night, we were sitting on Hailey’s bed, waiting for Matt to call us so we could FaceTime and say goodnight. The kids and I were chatting, and it went something like this:

Me, “I can’t wait for Daddy to get home so he can give me a kiss.”

Logan, “I can’t wait for him to get home so he can give me a kiss.”

Me, “I can’t wait for him to get home so he can give me fifteen kisses.”

Logan, “I can’t wait for him to get home so he can give me fifteen kisses.”

Me, “I can’t wait for him to get home so he can give me five hundred kisses.”

Logan, “Daddy doesn’t have enough time to give you five hundred kisses.”

Me, “Oh, yes he does. He gives me five hundred kisses every night.”

Logan, “No he doesn’t! That’s impossible.”

Me, “What do you think we do after we put you guys to bed? We start a timer and give each other five hundred kisses every night.”

Hailey, chiming in, “Nuh uh. You go put on music and start the shower.”

Grammy, “Oooookay then.”

Those kids. They just say the darnedest things!

A Few Random Thoughts

Filed under: Family,Kids,Quotes,Random Thoughts,Writing — Rachel at 1:23 pm on Monday, January 12, 2015

I’ve had a hard time getting into the swing of things since the kids went back to school. I slept late too often during their Christmas break, and it was hard for me…the total opposite of a morning person…to get used to getting up early again. I spent most of last week feeling tired. I did manage to write my first short story of 2015, though. I’m really happy with it, and am planning to submit it to a literary journal before the end of the month. I think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever written, and I’m pretty proud of it. Hopefully, someone else will agree with me. If it gets turned down by the journal that I’m submitting it to first, I’m going to submit it all over the place, since most lit mags accept simultaneous submissions.

My three little guys are playing basketball this year, and their first game is tonight. I’m pretty excited about it. They’re pretty cute playing. They’re all three on the same team, so that makes it easier on us. Kyra is playing this year as well, but she has only just had her first practice last night. I was surprised to see that she looks better than she did at the end of last year’s season. She has grown so much since then. I think that’s the biggest reason for her improvement. She’s not the shortest kid on the team this year! (I’m always hoping that my kids will not be short like me but that their dad’s genetics will take over in the height department.)

Speaking of height, Hailey has shot up recently. She is getting so tall! Just before Christmas, her pants fit perfectly. They were just the right size. Now, a couple weeks later, they are all an inch too short. These kids are breaking us up with their constant need to outgrow things!

I had two boys throwing up this morning, which is a terrible way to start a Monday. Elijah has a stomach bug, I think, because his dad had it over the weekend. So he had to stay home from school today. Logan, on the other hand, just has to take some really yucky tasting medicine and couldn’t hold it down the first time. My littlest guy has had severe stomach pain for a week. I took him to the doctor on Saturday. We aren’t sure what’s wrong with him. Doc thought it might be gastritis. He’s been on a bland diet over the weekend to give his tummy a break, and the doc put him on Zantac. So far, no real improvement, but last night was the first night he’s not went to bed at five p.m. I’d appreciate your prayers for him. If he isn’t showing a lot of improvement by tomorrow, I’m going to have to take him back to the doctor for some blood work and maybe some other tests, which I know he won’t enjoy.

Matt was gone for the weekend for ILE. Since our youngest three had practice and I also had my kids for the weekend since their dad had drill, too, I didn’t get to go along with Matt like I’ve been doing. It’s crazy how much you can miss someone when they are only gone for one night. He told me he didn’t sleep well that night, and it took me forever to finally get to sleep. I have gotten so used to sleeping next to each other, it’s hard to sleep when he’s not there. I just really don’t like being apart.

At church yesterday, the pastor was talking about our schedules, and I appreciated this quote from him: “Schedule what you want to be not what you have to do.”  I thought that was excellent, and went right along with what I’ve been thinking about in regard to my writing. Allowing myself to think of reading, writing and blogging as equally deserving of my time as cleaning house and running errands has made a real difference for me. I want to be a great wife and mother, but I also want to someday be a great writer. So, I’m building my schedule to allow me to do both.

That’s all the news from our crew for now!

In the New Year

Filed under: Writing — Rachel at 6:00 am on Thursday, January 1, 2015

I don’t always make New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I have a few goals that I want to accomplish.

My biggest goal for 2015 is to get published. All of my other resolutions serve that purpose.

I have wanted to be a writer my entire life. For a long time, I didn’t have the self-confidence to believe that I could achieve my dreams. Once I started to acquire a little faith in my ability, my life had entered a phase that made writing very difficult. I was working all the time and going to school, and, when I added that to being a mom, I just didn’t have anything left to work on writing. As I’ve mentioned here before, Matthew has made it possible for me to stay at home with the kids again, and, since they’re all in school now, I have the time to work uninterrupted on my writing for the first time ever. This is thrilling for me.

I’ve been working on a novel for some time now, but I don’t really expect it to be my first foray into the literary world. My goal is to have some of my poetry and short stories published in literary magazines. I don’t know how long this will take me to achieve, but I believe I can do it. I hope that I can do it this year.

These are my resolutions for the coming year that I believe will help me become a better writer and achieve my goal of getting published.

1. Write every day.

2. Read 100 books this year.

This has been something I’ve wanted to do for years, but, with work and school, I really didn’t have the time to accomplish it. This year will be different, though, and I hope to finally do it. Reading widely will make me a better writer.

3. Blog frequently.

I don’t know how often “frequently” will be, but I really want to be much more regular about posting to my blog. I’m thinking of having my blog redesigned as well. A fresh look for a new phase.

4. Network.

I’m already working on this. I’ve made connections with several people already this year that I hope will help me reach my goals. From writing professors who have offered to help me in some way, to a famous author who has promised to take a look at my novel when I finish it, to my friend, Cathi, who has a career in writing and advertising and is helping me with editing. There are several published authors in my writing group that have offered me great advice and tons of encouragement. I hope to do more networking in the coming year.

5. Establish a daily writing routine.

I really need to get some firm routines down to make sure that I write every day, read every day, and still get all the housework and other things I need to do done. I was making some headway with this, but the holidays threw it all out the window. So, one of my resolutions is to start habits that will last.

These are my New Year’s Resolutions, and I hope to have a corresponding post at the end of this year saying that I kept my resolutions and they made a huge difference.

Feel free to share your own goals/resolutions for 2015 in the comments!

A Wonderful Year

Filed under: Family,Holidays,Kids,Love,Matthew,Me,Videos — Rachel at 3:39 pm on Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Today is the last day of the best year I’ve ever had. There have been years I’ve been so glad to see the old year go and the new year come because it was so difficult, and years that I’ve anticipated the new year because something I wanted was waiting there. This year, though, I’m simply ending the year with great contentment and satisfaction. It was a thoroughly good year. I’m happy to see a new year come, because I anticipate it to be just as wonderful as this one has been.

The obvious highlight of 2014 was my wedding. I am so very thankful that I got to marry my best friend. I have never in my life met a man like Matthew Holbrook. I didn’t even think men like him existed. He’s the perfect combination of tough and manly, sweet and romantic, funny, intelligent, successful, generous, and overwhelmingly kind. I don’t care if people get tired of me bragging on my husband. I’ll brag on him until the day I die. He is a gift, and I am so thankful that 2014 made me his wife.

Here is a link to the post about how our love story began.

Our marriage brought together two families, and I am so thankful for how well that transition went. We haven’t really had any major issues with the kids. They all like each other, and they get along just like brothers and sisters normally do. They play, fight, tattle, tease, get in trouble together, and have a good time. They’ve all went through their parents’ divorces and remarriages in the last couple years, and I’m incredibly thankful that they’ve adjusted as well as they have. Kyra, Elijah, Owen, and Abby spend equal time with us and their dad and stepmom. I think that has made it all much easier on them. They know all their parents love them and put them first, and that they will always get to spend time with all of us. They all like both of their new step-parents that this year gave them, and I’m so very thankful for that.  Logan and Hailey have had extra challenges, but they’re doing amazingly well. We have them with us one hundred percent of the time, so the three of us spend a lot of time together when my kids are with their dad. This has been good for us, because it’s allowed us extra time to bond with each other. Hailey took to me right away, and we’ve never had any issues. Logan has taken longer to get close to me, but things have gotten much better in that department. He sat in my lap and snuggled with me for the last two movies we watched together. Anyone who knows us knows what a huge deal that is. I’m very happy with the way things are going, and I’m very thankful for the family that was born of our marriage this year.

Here is a link to a series of posts about our wedding for those of you who are new to my blog and might be interested.

Another highlight of 2014 was our family vacation to Panama City Beach, Florida. This trip was a wedding gift from Matt’s Uncle David and Aunt Jennifer, and it was just the most perfect trip. My mother went along with us and helped us with the kids. Having her along allowed Matt and I to have a date night while we were there, which was an added bonus. We swam in the ocean, snorkeled, para-sailed, picnicked on the beach, fished, collected shells, laid in the sun, rented a pontoon, built sandcastles, and enjoyed some really good quality time together. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a vacation more than that one. It was just perfect.

Here is a link to my post about our first family vacation.

The rest of the year was packed with lots of firsts and lots of good times. From holidays to birthdays to our every days, we have been incredibly blessed. We’ve got to do a lot of fun things. We’ve been surrounded by friends and family. I’ve been so thankful for the family I inherited when I married Matt. The Holbrooks are beautiful people, and they have accepted me and my children with open arms. I’ve even gotten to know a lot of Hailey and Logan’s maternal grandparents and relatives, since we often take the kids to visit them, and that’s been a blessing as well.

Another wonderful addition to my life has been my involvement with the Roane Writer’s Group. This group of fellow writers has encouraged me so much, and I’ve really loved participating in the weekly meetings.

Our church small group has been another family to us this past year. Through all of the difficult moments of this year, they’ve had our backs. They text us and let us know that they’re thinking of us and praying for us. Whether it’s been court dates, sick children, discouragement, or any other thing, our small group has let us know that we are not alone. I’m very, very grateful that they are a part of our lives.

As 2014 comes to an end, I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude for the way my life has worked out to this point. There have been times in recent years when I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world, and I would never be happy again. I never could have imagined that the Lord would bring me to this happiness. I don’t deserve it, but I am forever grateful.

Here’s to 2015 being as kind to us as 2014!

I already posted this slideshow as a standalone post, but I’m going to include it here, too. Enjoy!

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