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.

Goodbye, 2016!

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,General,Hailey,Holidays,Home,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Love,Matthew,Me,Owen,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 4:17 pm on Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wow! Time really flies. It’s hard to believe 2016 is already over. It’s been a pretty great year for me and my family. We’ve spent a lot of wonderful times together, accomplished some really big goals, and received some huge answers to prayer.

One of the biggest events of the year happened in March. We bought a new house and moved to Knoxville. It took several months for our house in Harriman to sell, but I know it was all in God’s timing. Everything worked out perfectly for us financially, and we moved into our new home the day after we had Elijah, Abby, and Logan’s birthday party . . . so we had a lot of helping hands. Our new home and neighborhood have been a perfect fit for us. The house is  two-and-a-half stories, five bedrooms, four bathrooms and has a big bonus room for the kids, an office for Matt, and a huge backyard. So, it’s perfect for our family of eight! As a bonus, we have great neighbors on both sides of us, and the neighborhood has a big pool and sidewalks on both sides of the street. There are lots of kids around us, both in our neighborhood and the one behind us. Hailey has friends from school that live in the neighborhood behind us who walk over to play with her. It’s been great. We are so very thankful for the home the Lord provided for us. It reduced Matt’s commute to work by about twenty-five minutes. Now, he drops the little kids off at school on his way to work, and he gets to come home and have lunch with me on most days.

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I mentioned we moved right after three of the kids’ birthdays. Elijah turned 12 on March 25, and Abby and Logan turned 7 on March 26.

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Kyra and Owen’s birthdays were in June, and we celebrated with a big pool party. Kyra turned 14, and Owen turned 10.

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Hailey celebrated her 9th birthday in October. (For some reason, I can’t find a picture of her with her cake.)

We were super blessed to be able to take the family on another beach vacation to Panama City Beach, Florida back at the end of July through the beginning of August. We took our first family vacation to the same place back in 2014 right after we got married. We enjoyed it so much we chose to go back. This time, we took Mammy, Grammy, and Aunt Whitney with us. We all had a wonderful time and returned just in time for the kids to start school the next day.

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Professionally, Matt got a new position with the Army Reserves and transferred from his old unit near Cincinnati, to his new unit in Washington, D.C. He is now working with the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s not any closer to home, but he at least gets to fly now instead of having to make that long drive to Northern Kentucky. I got to go with him back in August. It was my first visit to D.C., and I really enjoyed seeing everything, even if I did most of my sightseeing solo, since Matt was working. We’re hoping to take all the kids to D.C. in the coming year.

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I did well with my writing pursuits in 2016. I published Little River: Vol 2 in August, and I had multiple publications for my short fiction in literary journals. I had five or so book signings over the course of the year, as well as being accepted into the Author’s Guild of Tennessee. There’s other news to share on the writing front, but I’ll save that for a future date. No contracts have been signed yet. (Wink, wink!)

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In September, God answered our biggest prayer and gave us sole custody of Hailey and Logan. I won’t go into any details, but I just want to give God all the glory. He told us in no uncertain terms over and over and over throughout the course of the year that He was fighting that battle for us. It brought great peace to all of us, and the kids are happy, healthy, and thriving. God is so good!

We had a lovely holiday season and got to spend time with our families.

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Halloween

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Thanksgiving

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Christmas

I could have inundated this post with photos, but these few will have to do. If you want to see more photos from our day to day lives and you are a friend of mine (either in real life or online), you should friend me on Facebook. That is where I am most active. I don’t add people I don’t know on Facebook, but I do have a public Twitter account where I occasionally post photos. Please feel free to follow me there.

I hope 2016 was as good to you and your family as it was to me and mine, and I hope 2017 is even better for all of us!

Happy New Year, Friends!

It’s Been A While

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,General,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Owen — Rachel at 1:15 pm on Monday, October 24, 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I could blog freely. About three years. The reason for that is gone now, and I’m itching to get back to blogging semi-regularly. I know I’ve said that a dozen times over the last three years, but, because of a recently answered prayer, our circumstances have changed and I feel free to write about my life and family again. So, here we go with an update post!

In a nutshell . . . things are great! Everyone is happy and healthy. What more can we ask for?

To be a little more specific . . . here’s a person by person run-down:

  • Matt – He’s working hard as always and taking good care of all of us. He recently switched Army jobs and left the unit he has been with for several years and went to a new one. We are really happy he doesn’t have to make that awful drive to Cincinnati every month anymore. That was getting really old. His new unit isn’t any closer to home . . . he’s now with the Army Corps of Engineers and drills in Washington, D.C. . . . but at least now he gets to fly and his travel is all paid for. His first D.C. drill was in August, and I got to go with him! While he went to work, I got to go sightseeing. I had never been before, so it was a lot of fun for me. He’s also coaching the kids’ soccer teams.
  • Me – The whole mom life keeps me hopping, but I know I’ve got it made. With the kids all in school during the day, I have lots of time alone. I’m trying to get into a better writing routine. I thought it would be a lot easier, but this school year has been so incredibly busy! It started out with a ton of events at their schools, and it seems like there’s always a doctor or orthodontist appointment, someone forgetting their lunch box, or some other errand that has me out running around instead of writing at home. Running a household is a lot of work; there’s so many moving pieces. I love my family so much, though, and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. (Unless I had a housekeeper. I would have it that way!) So, new writing has been kind of slow, but things have been going really well with my already completed writing. Little River: Vol 2 came out in early September. That was very exciting for me. It is still being published weekly in it’s original serialized format in a local newspaper. I’ve already started working on Vol 3. I’ve had several book signings over the summer and done really well at a lot of them. I have one more coming up next Friday, and then I’ll have a long break between it and the next one I have scheduled in February 2017.
  • Kyra – It’s hard to believe she’s already in high school. For those of you who have followed this blog for a long time, you’ve watched her grow up! She’s fourteen, as tall as me, and a super great kid. She’s doing really well in school. She has taken to high school and really loves it. She goes to one of the best high schools around, and it offers a plethora of opportunities. She had no trouble making friends after our move, and she’s generally a happy kid. She loves to read (just like her mama!) and binge watch Netflix shows. She’s such a good kid. I couldn’t ask for better!
  • Elijah – He’s the kid who has changed the most recently. I guess puberty will do that for you. He’s twelve and a half and taller than me and Kyra now by  just a little, and he’s pretty proud of that. He’s still my quiet, shy, smart boy, though. He still loves football, and I think he appreciates my newfound enjoyment of the game (thanks to FanDuel.) We have spent more time together watching football already this season than I think we have in his previous eleven years combined. He plays for the Farragut Admirals, and he’s doing so well. Being the new guy on the team, he’s had to really prove himself and fight for a spot. He did that in a big way last week! He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and then followed that up with a huge sack, five tackles, and three carries for positive yardage each time. He’s been playing a lot more offense since that game. I think he impressed the coach!
  • Owen – I adore this kid! He turned ten this summer. I think he is probably the most genuinely funny kid I’ve ever known. He makes me laugh every day. He’s another book lover. He really enjoys reading, and he’s so good at it! He reads way above his grade level, and he’s been expanding his repertoire lately into books his big sister and I have recommended. He has the best grades of all the kids. Straight A’s, without fail. He wanted to play baseball this Fall, but we were stretched too thin between football and soccer. We just couldn’t fit in a third sport. So, he’s planning to play Spring baseball when it comes around.
  • Hailey – She’s a sweetheart. She loves to be helpful, both at home and at school. She’s her teacher’s right hand in the classroom, always volunteering to help with any and every task. Her birthday is actually coming up next week. I can’t believe she’s going to be 9! She’s been counting down to her birthday for the last three months. Out of all the kids, she’s the one who looks forward to her birthday the most. She’s finally getting to play soccer this season. She played when she was in Kindergarten, but then the next two seasons just didn’t work out because of moving to Harriman and our family schedule. She played baseball and basketball for one season each between then and now, but insists that the only sport she really cares for is soccer. Signing her up this season was at the top of our recreational priority list! She’s been loving it. She’s on an all girls team, and she’s doing so well. She gets a little more aggressive each week. Her first soccer game was also the first soccer game I had ever been to. Turns out, they’re fast-paced and fun to watch. I guess I’m officially a soccer mom now.
  • Abby – My sweet baby girl is not much of a baby anymore. She’s seven and a half and as sweet as ever. I may have to fold her up two or three times to get her to fit in my lap, but we still make it work. She’s still my super precocious child. She’s still planning to be an engineer when she grows up, but she told us the other day that she’s reconsidering her desire to be the President as well. She said, “It seems like a lot of work!” She’s smart and rambunctious and is still the perfect mix of girly-girl and tomboy. She’ll be playing baby dolls with Hailey one minute and the next thing I know she’ll be outside playing in the dirt and ruining her clothes.
  • Logan – This one is really growing up a lot lately. Not necessarily in the physical way (although, that, too,), but he’s really starting to mature a lot in the way he carries himself. He’s a great kid and rarely gets in trouble. He is Elijah’s shadow. The two of them are thick as thieves! He’s playing soccer and doing great in school. He is naturally very athletic. He’s super smart and has a fantastic smile that catches you off guard by how completely adorable he is!

So, full disclosure . . . I wrote the above post a month ago, all the way down to the middle of the last paragraph. Then I got distracted by the kids coming home from school and never returned to it. Sheesh! The best laid plans . . .

But, here I am again . . . finishing it.

I don’t know what the future of my blog entails, but I think I’ll be blogging much more frequently. It may be a completely random mix of family news, my own thoughts about whatever crosses my mind, or just the random picture.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Lit Babies

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Owen,Reading — Rachel at 1:02 pm on Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Anyone that knows me knows I love to read. I love books–all sorts of books. Since having children, I’ve wanted to pass down my bookish nature, and, so far, it’s been an overwhelming success. My three older children enjoy reading, and do it for fun on their own. They are all good readers. Owen, in particular, has tested in the 99th percentile for reading at school, and that gives me great pleasure. The three youngest kids aren’t yet reading fluently enough to comfortably read a chapter book on their own, but they are getting there.

 

I’m a big believer in reading aloud to kids above their reading level, and, since Matt and I got married, that’s become our nightly tradition. I also don’t believe in censoring books (with few exceptions), and will allow the kids to read most anything they want after a certain age. My intent in reading to them is to give them a taste of good writing and good literature and a love of a well-told story, so when they are choosing their own books they will have a more discriminating literary palate.

Chronicles of Narnia

 

Before bedtime, we gather in the girls’ bedroom, and I read to Matt and the four littlest ones. We started out reading the Pippi Longstocking books, then Robinson Crusoe, and now The Chronicles of Narnia. We have read all of the Chronicles except for The Magician’s Nephew, which we are reading now. Since Owen and Abby are with their dad every other week, when we have just Hailey and Logan at home, we read something different to them. We are currently reading The Series of Unfortunate Events. We are on Book the 2nd, The Reptile Room, right now.

If you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them. Leave your suggestions in the comments section!

This Year So Far – The Highlights

Filed under: Abby Jo,Army,Birthdays,Elijah,Family,Hailey,Home,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Matthew,Me,Owen,Photos,School,Trips — Rachel at 11:46 am on Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I don’t think I’ve ever let myself go so long without blogging here, and I’ve got a lot of ground to make up for. This post will be photo heavy, and just hit the highlights.

 

Celebrating the new year. January 1, 2015, 12:00 a.m.

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Our three little guys played basketball this year. It was the first time playing basketball for all three of them, and they really enjoyed it.

 

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Kyra played basketball on two different teams this year. This was after the game where she made her first ever 3 pointer!

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We had a tremendous snow in February, and we were iced in for several days. Our road was impassable. At one point, Matthew and I had to walk out to the highway with rucksacks to meet my dad so he could take us to the grocery store to restock. These children ate us out of house and home!

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They enjoyed the snow, though!

 

 

 

 

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Elijah turned 11 on March 25, and Logan and Abby turned 6 the next day, on March 26. We had a birthday party for them at our house.

 

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Owen, Abby, and Logan all played baseball this Spring, and they were on the same team. (It was a really wide age range.) It was Owen and Abby’s first time playing baseball. Owen played catcher, and he loved it. Abby wasn’t a huge fan. I’m not sure if she will play again next year.

 

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Enjoying the newly warm weather, I took the three boys out for ice cream one day after getting their hair cut.

 

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Because I’m mean, I sent the above picture to the girls who were at home, and they sent me the picture below in response.

 

 

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Because I’m not really a mean mama, when I took the girls for haircuts a few days later, they got ice cream, too. (We took a frappachino home to Kyra, who didn’t get her hair cut that day. No worries. I’m pretty fair.)

 

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I had a really lovely Mother’s Day, and was so glad that I got to spend it with all six of my kids. They made me feel very loved and special.

 

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Matt and I got to accompany the Wonder Twins on their Kindergarten field trip to the zoo. We had a blast! They loved the River Otters.

 

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I also got to go with Owen on his Farm Day field trip.

 

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Abby and Logan graduated from Kindergarten, both with special awards. We were so very proud of them. (The other kids all got special awards, too, but I’m sparing you pictures of all of them. This post is already getting so long!)

 

 

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Matt and I celebrated our 1st Anniversary on May 24th with several different (kid-free) activities, including my first ever game of golf…which I loved!

 

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Kyra had a piano recital in May, and she did a really great job playing “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter movies.IMG_3632  IMG_3633

 

We went on a weekend camping trip in June that we really enjoyed. It was big on fun and short on pictures. We can’t wait to go again very soon!

 

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Matt spent nearly three weeks away from us in June. He had to go to a three day drill followed by two weeks at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin to finish ILE (a school for the Army…the equivalent of a Master’s degree). We really missed him while he was gone, but we are all very proud of him.

 

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Kyra turned 13 on June 20th, and Owen turned 9 on June 26th. We had a party for them after Matt got home from Wisconsin. I thought it was sweet that they wanted to postpone their party until their stepdad could be there.

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Kyra had a Dr Who cake, and Owen had a Jurassic World cake. Unfortunately, I somehow missed getting a photo of Owen with his cake.

 

 

 

 

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The picture below is from my birthday, which was July 4th. I turned 27 again!

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I hope you enjoyed this jam packed highlight post. We did so many, many more cool things over the last seven months, and I could have shared hundreds of more photos. This post would have been a mile long, though. We are a very blessed family!

 

 

 

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.

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

 

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“I caught ten slugs!”

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?

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!

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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Kid Quote

Filed under: Abby Jo,Kid Quote,Kids — Rachel at 12:47 pm on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Monday morning, Abby was showing me a little package she had wrapped in Christmas paper. She had made a gift for a little boy in her class she likes named Peyton. She said she made some flowers and a Naughty and Nice list that had her and Peyton’s names on the Nice side.

I said to her, “You better be careful. He might fall in love with you.”

She grinned up at me and said, “That would be ok.”

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