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!

Our Honeymoon

Filed under: Family,Love,Marriage,Matthew,Me,Our Love Story,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 9:47 am on Sunday, August 2, 2015

Matthew and I got married on May 24 of last year, but didn’t go on a honeymoon then for several reasons. The biggest reason was Matt was gone for a month of our summer for the Army. The second biggest reason was financial. After paying for a wedding, we didn’t want to go into debt to take a honeymoon. So, we waited a year, saved some money, and, in July, we went on a belated honeymoon/one year anniversary trip. It was incredible!

We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico where we boarded the Carnival Liberty and set sail for the islands of the Caribbean.

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Our first Port of Call was in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands! We had a really good time in St Thomas. We took an ocean kayaking and snorkeling tour. We kayaked through the mangroves, hiked around a protected island, and went snorkeling. On our hike, we got to see some really interesting things. I held a small sea urchin in my hand, and we raced hermit crabs. When we snorkeled, we saw several types of fish, including a barracuda.

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Our second day was an At Sea day. We spent most of our time lounging on the Serenity Deck, which is the 21 and over area. We had a hammock that we ended up on nearly ever day, and the best hot tubs were on that deck. We loved lying together on the hammock, reading our books and sipping our drinks.
It was also our first elegant night, and I enjoyed dressing up with my man!

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After our elegant dinner, we went to change before the comedy show and found this Towel Bat hanging in our room!

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Our second Port of Call on our third day was Barbados. We loved Barbados! We didn’t book an excursion, but had a beach day instead. Barbados has beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. It was so clear, in fact, I was standing neck deep in the water and noticed a huge starfish lying on the bottom about four feet away from me. We had a lot of fun snorkeling. We found two starfish, and took lots of pictures with Matt’s new GoPro camera he bought for the trip.

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Our fourth day brought us to our third Port of Call…St Lucia. I had been looking forward to St Lucia more than the other islands, because Matt told me he had a surprise planned for my birthday at St Lucia. I had no idea whatsoever about what we were doing. When we got off the boat, we took an hour and a half taxi ride to our destination. The ride itself was great, because it was like a tour of a large part of the island. We saw everything from banana plantations to fishing villages to the peaks of the Pitons on our ride.

Our destination was the Rainforest Spa, where Matt had booked a couples massage, lunch and a private plunge pool. It was incredible! The massage itself happened in a private hut in the rainforest. When our massages were finished, the masseuses opened up the back wall of our hut to reveal the private waterfall plunge pool. It was incredible. Our lunch was rice, vegetables and fish wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in a bamboo bowl. The whole experience was amazing. Matt really outdid himself in the gifts and romance departments!

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Our fifth day’s Port of Call was St Kitts. We were excited about our excursion that day. We went ziplining in the forest above an old sugar plantation. It was lots of fun! I enjoyed going down a couple of the ziplines upside down! When we finished, a boy put a monkey on me. Later that day, we went to a little beach bar to get wifi and I sent the kids a picture of me and the monkey. I told them we had adopted a baby brother for them because it looked so much like Owen. The little ones thought I was funny, at least.

 

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This was also our second elegant night on the boat. I was so proud to walk around with my handsome husband!

 

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Our sixth day took us to our final Port of Call…St Maarten. We went on a powerboat and snorkeling tour. The powerboat was fun, but not much different than riding a jet ski through the water. The real fun was snorkeling. We snorkeled off of a European style (aka nude) beach. That was an experience–seeing people standing on the decks of their boats as naked as the day they were born! The snorkeling was really great. We saw huge sea urchins, a starfish, clown fish, and a host of other fish. The most exciting thing we saw was a huge eagle ray!

Unfortunately, our St Maarten day proved to be a day of bad luck. Matt slipped getting into the powerboat, and, when he grabbed the steering wheel to catch himself, it went between his fingers and hurt his hand really bad. Once we got home and had it x-rayed, it proved to be a bad spiral fracture of the second metacarpal. So, he’s in a cast for the next four weeks. On the same day, his wedding band slipped off his finger without him noticing. We retraced our steps on the ship, but couldn’t find it. We have no idea if he lost it on the ship or while we were on the island. A third less devastating thing that occurred on our bad luck day was his GoPro battery died shortly after we left the ship, even though it had been fully charged. So we don’t have any photos from our time on the island.

After all our adventures, I decided I was too tired to dress up for a fancy dinner. Instead, we spent the evening lounging on the Serenity Deck, sipping fruity frozen drinks, reading, and napping. It was wonderful! We ate dinner on the Lido deck, and then saw a couple comedy shows.

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The next morning, we arrived back in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were sad to see our adventure come to an end, but we had six little people at home we were missing a lot. Grammy Alice picked us up at the airport, and Hailey and Logan nearly knocked us over with hugs. We got the other four kids back the next morning. This mama was very glad to have all six of her babies under the same roof again!

We may have had to wait a year for our honeymoon, but it was definitely worth the wait!


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!

 

 

 

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!

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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The Mommy Life

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,Hailey,Home,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Love,Matthew,Me,Owen — Rachel at 11:21 am on Thursday, September 11, 2014

I can’t possibly express how happy I have been since making the decision to stay home with my kids. I am happy every day. I am so very thankful that Matthew is willing to let me stay home and be a mom.

My days are very busy, but I have to say it’s easier than when I had four little ones. There was a time when “staying at home with the kids” meant constantly feeding and cleaning and changing and never having a moment to rest. At one point, I was homeschooling two kids, had a toddler and an infant, was taking care of the house, AND was leading a Bible study for teen girls. I had two in diapers for a very long time. Plus, I’ve been in school for the majority of the time I’ve been a mom. I have been in school for the last eight years…almost all of Owen’s life and all of Abby’s.  So, I know what it’s like to be a very busy, very tired mom of several little kids.

However, that is not where I am now. Our youngest kids are five years old. Kindergarteners. They go to school every day. I am definitely in a new season of motherhood. I go through phases of thinking I want another baby. I miss it a lot. I absolutely adored my children’s babyhood. Then I see one of my friend Monica’s posts about the crazy messes her toddler makes or watch my Aunt Debbie chase her little grandbaby around, and I think that maybe six is plenty. There are definite pluses to this stage of motherhood. Instead of potty training, I’m helping Kyra raise money for homecoming. Instead of watching mind-numbing hours of Dora, I enjoy watching The Fosters with Kyra or a football game with Elijah. Instead of never, ever being able to get a handle on the housework, I have several capable helpers to keep the house going. Instead of never going anywhere without having to tote a diaper bag around, I can leave the house with my drivers license, my debit card, and my keys. Instead of having to sit out the fun activities because I’m pregnant or nursing or holding a little one, I get to go parasailing with my two eldest. Logistically, this stage of motherhood is much easier.

Easier logistics mean that I get to enjoy life more. And, oh, am I enjoying my life!

I enjoy it because I am doing exactly what I want to do. I don’t want to miss anymore of the day to day stuff with my kids. Being divorced, I automatically miss out on half of my kids’ childhoods. They are with their dad half of the time. Now, because I get to stay home, at least I get to spend all of my half of their time with them. When they are gone, I get to spend a lot of focused time with Hailey and Logan. I think this is good for all three of us. They are doing so well. Especially since school has started, they are just thriving. They really miss the other kids when they go to their dad’s, but we get to spend a lot of good time together. There are certain things that only I do with them, since Matt is still at work for a couple hours after they get home from school, and I think those things are bringing us closer together.

I know I’m gushing, but that is honestly how I feel. We did an icebreaker question at small group last night where we had to say what we wanted to be when we were 5, when we were 12, and then what did we end up being. When I was 5, I wanted to be a mom. When I was 12, I wanted to be a writer. I ended up being a mom, and I’m still working on being a writer. That icebreaker made me feel very blessed…to grow up and get exactly what I have wanted my whole life. Granted, I never thought I would be mom to six. My mom likes to remind me how I told her she was crazy for having six kids and I would never have that many kids. The joke is on me, I guess, but I couldn’t be happier with the six kids that God has blessed me with.

Every night, at bedtime, we have the same routine. Me, Matt, and the four youngest kids pile up in Hailey and Abby’s beds. Usually, Abby is in my lap, Hailey is sitting between me and Matt with her head on my shoulder, Owen is on the other side of me, and Logan is usually on his daddy. We read a chapter out of a book to them every night. We’ve already read two Pippi Longstocking books, and we just finished Robinson Crusoe. If the book is interesting to him, like Robinson Crusoe, Elijah will sometimes join us. We read our chapter, and then tuck them all in. I put my hand on their little heads, say a prayer over them, kiss them and tell them I love them. This bedtime routine is the absolute best time of my day. It is so sweet and they are so precious.

It’s a gift to feel like you are doing exactly what you were made to do.

bedtime

 

We were missing Matthew in this bedtime photo, because he was away for the Army, but we had the bonus that night of Kyra and Elijah listening to the story with us, too!

Our First Family Vacation

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Matthew,Owen,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 5:14 pm on Sunday, August 10, 2014

We went on our first family vacation last week. We went to Panama City Beach, Florida. It was so great. The trip itself was a wedding gift from Matthew’s Uncle David and Aunt Jennifer. We were floored by their generosity. We had so much fun. Nothing went wrong. The weather was perfect. My mom went with us to help with the kids. It really couldn’t have been a better vacation.

We spent all of our time at the beach or the pool. The only different things we did were on two days we rented a pontoon boat and drove out to Shell Island. That was fabulous. It was the most  beautiful, pristine beach, and we had it all to ourselves. Along the way, we did a little fishing, dove for sand dollars, caught about a hundred hermit crabs, and even found a starfish. We swam, boogie boarded, snorkeled, sun bathed, built sand castles, caught jelly fish, and the kids procured a small fish that they put in little pools they made in the sand and connected with tunnels. Oh! I almost forgot. I took Kyra and Elijah parasailing, which they absolutely loved.

That’s our trip in a nutshell, and, now, for what everyone wants anyway…the photos! Enjoy.

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My Birthday Post

Filed under: Abby Jo,Birthdays,Family,Friends,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Love,Matthew,Me,Owen,Photos — Rachel at 1:34 pm on Sunday, July 13, 2014

My birthday this year turned out to be the best ever. Matthew worked really hard to make it special for me.

On the 2nd, Matt arranged to have our small group meet at Roane County Park to celebrate my birthday. We grilled burgers and hot dogs. The kids played at the splash pad. Matt made me an absolutely delicious triple chocolate cake, and even had candles for me to blow out. Everyone sang to me. It really is the simple things in life that make you feel so loved. After we ate cake, we went swimming in the lake. I had so much fun swimming with Matt, and jumping off the dock with him and the kiddos. It was a great day.

birthdaycake

 

On the 4th, my actual birthday, Matt had arranged a surprise party for me at our house with our families. I found out about the party a couple days before, but Matt took care of everything. It was the first time that me, my parents, and all five of my brothers have been at the same place at the same time in a very long time. I even got to see my brother, Aaron, who I hadn’t seen in over a year. Matt invited everyone, grilled the burgers and hot dogs, asked my mom to make me a cake, and made sure everyone was happy. My mom asked me what kind of cake or pie I wanted, so I requested the cake that she used to make for me when I was a kid. It is so good, and was very nostalgic.

flag cake

 

One thing that was very fun for me was that my little brothers, Lucas and Seth, brought their guitar and drum set to play. We had learned the basics of “Don’t Stop Believing” in the couple of days before the party, and we played it together…Luke on guitar, Seth on drums, and me on piano. I’m pretty sure we drove everyone else crazy, but we had so much fun. Before everyone got there, we even sang a bunch of old hymns together. It was nice.

After a couple hours of hanging out and eating, we all loaded up and went to Kingston Park to watch the fireworks. This is my one family tradition that has been the same nearly every year since I was a young teenager. Last year, the fireworks got rained out, and we didn’t go. Every other year, though, we have been down at the lake to watch the show. It was exciting for me this year to share that experience with Matt, Hailey, and Logan, as well as Matt’s parents.

I don’t know if it was just that I am generally happier right now than I have ever been in my life or if it was because it was the first birthday with Matt and he worked so hard to make it special for me, but I can honestly say this was the best birthday I’ve ever had. I felt loved and celebrated, and I got to spend it with all the people that mean the most to me.

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Matt, Abby, and Alice (aka Grammy…Matt’s mom.)

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Mammy, Kyra, and Hailey waiting for the fireworks to start.

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This one is of Owen, Abby, and Logan climbing on Papaw John’s back.

 

Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

Filed under: Love,Matthew,Our Love Story — Rachel at 6:49 pm on Sunday, June 29, 2014
Table of contents for Our Love Story
  1. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version
  2. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

Matt has made me a very happy wife by guest blogging his version of the beginning of our story. Leave him some love in the comments section, and maybe I can talk him into guest blogging again in the future.

 

As my first marriage ended, the kids and I had a lot of changes going on in our lives. Besides the divorce, we had moved to Tennessee, I had a new job, Hailey had started Kindergarten, and Logan was in a new preschool. I had been alone for a long time, and I was tired of it. I wanted someone to spend time with and talk to. Someone who cared about me.

The problem was, I was incredibly insecure around women. I had no idea how to meet one. I kind of envisioned a mom at school drop off, or t-ball practice, or maybe church. Other than that, I didn’t have the foggiest. I’m not a bar guy. Never have been.  I wasn’t interested in a woman that I would meet at a place like that anyway. I felt very poorly about myself anyway.  My marriage hadn’t just ended. It ended badly, and some things were said that made me feel pretty un-datable. On top of that, I had full time custody of my little ones, so I was asking for women to, not only consider me, but the prospect of motherhood as well. I had a sense of duty to the little ones to find somebody that would be good to them and a good influence for them. All that said, I was not desperate. I had been alone for a long time. I could do it. I just didn’t really want to anymore.

So I decided to put myself out there. I went back and forth about it for a while, but I finally made a Match.com profile. I was more nervous than I thought I would be. I wasn’t very good, especially at that time, at selling myself. What would I say? What picture would I put up? I went on for a couple of weeks, and found somebody to talk to. She was nice enough and I could tell she wanted to be asked out, but I wasn’t feeling it. Then I saw this beautiful woman with pretty eyes and freckles. She had a comment in her profile about not needing a dad for her kids because they had a dad, but she was looking for someone to make her happy. She seemed so confident. She met my “want list”. I wanted a Christian, a woman with confidence, smart, someone who would want to spend time with me. She seemed to have all that, and I thought she was smoking hot. So I messaged her, not expecting to hear back. I didn’t normally overtly flirt with women, but I ended with a comment about her eyes. I wanted her attention. She messaged me back pretty quickly and after a couple of days, I told her a joke and she “lol’d” politely and sent me her number. The first text I sent her, I sent to the wrong number! Somebody with an 859 area code is probably still confused about that. She told me to tell her something that would impress her. I told her I’d been to Iraq twice. I thought for sure that would impress, but, no, she said lots of people did that. So I told her that I’d been to 15 countries and a couple of territories and that seemed to do it.

We started texting a lot, and then late one night, it was Friday the 13th believe it or not, she texted me and said she had just gotten back from dinner with a friend and was thinking of me. I had the feeling she had been on a date, but I figured, if she was texting me instead of that guy, I must be doing pretty well. I had looked up things to do in Harriman that day because I wanted to ask her out. I didn’t feel right asking her to drive to Knoxville for a first date, and came up with a picnic idea. Frozen Head was the only park that was on the map I was looking at, so, after some back and forth, I took a leap. I asked her out and she responded pretty quickly with an emphatic “yes!” So I floated picnic at Frozen out there, and she told me that was her favorite place ever. So things were looking up.

We were going to meet at Kroger that Sunday afternoon. I dropped my kids off with my brother and went to the store for supplies. I was so nervous on the drive out.  30 minutes to second guess what I was wearing, what I would say, even how to date. I hadn’t dated in SO long. I didn’t know how to do it. Did I shake her hand when I met her? Quick side hug? And what the heck did I do at the end? Hug? High five? Surely it wasn’t appropriate to kiss goodbye. Surely societal norms of not kissing until at least the second date still held true. Oh crap, what happens if I want a second date? Did I ask her today? Did I wait two days? Oh crap, what if she said yes to a second date? Did she expect a kiss then? What if our first kiss was terrible because I forgot how? Then I pulled into Kroger, and all that went away.

She was so pretty, sitting there waiting on me. I got out to open the door for her. That was in her profile, she liked that old fashioned chivalry stuff, but I would have done it anyway. Old fashioned is kind of my MO. As soon as I closed her door and walked around the back of the car, I was grinning. She looked really good. We drove out to Frozen Head. The thing that struck me was there wasn’t a single minute of the awkward silence that I expected. We chatted away. I found out that her last name was my ex-wife’s maiden name. I got a good laugh about that. I got the sense very early that she wanted to know me; she didn’t want me to put on a show. So I told her the truth, told her about me, my insecurities. When we got to Frozen Head, we picked a spot that was quiet, but not too secluded. I wanted her to be comfortable. We talked as we ate, and decided to go for a walk. We walked to the first waterfall, and she asked if I wanted to hike up the hill to the big waterfall. Of course I did. She led the way up the hill, talking the whole way. I was really impressed with this chick. We talked and talked. I felt so comfortable with her. She was so engaging, so confident, so beautiful, and so intelligent; she seemed to hang on every word I said. I already wanted to see her again, but here’s where my self-doubt starting screaming at me. “She’s out of your league” it said.  “She’s just being nice” it told me.

On the way back to her car, we stopped at the gas station to get a drink. Dr. Pepper for me; Diet Dr. Pepper for her. She had her bank card in her pocket and thus got it out faster than I got mine. We argued about it for a second, but she said, “You can make it up to me by buying me dinner sometime.”  That made me happy! No more pressure. She seemed to get the fact that I was new at this dating thing. She talked about how she’d gone on dates with a few guys, but none of them made the cut for a second date. I asked her if I made the cut, and she said that I did. I didn’t want to leave but it was almost dinner time already, we’d been out five hours. Much longer and we’d have to do dinner, too, and that was almost like a second date. Then I’d have to figure out if it counted  as two, and decide on the kiss thing!

When we got back to Kroger, I got out and walked around and opened her door. My heart was beating 900 mph. Now what?! We lingered for a minute. Another second or two and I probably would have kissed her, but she came forward for a hug. I liked it. She felt nice. We parted ways and started texting again pretty quickly after I left. At least I wasn’t like the Friday night guy, and have her texting someone else. She asked me the next day if I was talking to anybody else on Match. I said I had been talking to someone, but I lost interest. She told me she’d get off Match if I would, but she wanted to know if I was as interested in her as she was in me.

I canceled Match that night.