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!

 

 

 

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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And…we’re back!

Filed under: "Coming Out",Family,Trips — Rachel at 10:33 pm on Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guess who? It’s your absentee blogger friend! Sorry for the long absence from blogging. I’ve been having adventures and life crisis(es). What is the plural of “crisis”? Oh, ok. It’s crises. I could hear the word in my head, but I didn’t know how to spell it until I looked it up. So, I’ve been having adventures and life crises.

Basically, I went on a cruise and it was mostly fun. I visited Cozumel, Mexico. Belize. Isla Roatan, Honduras. and Costa Maya, Mexico. It was great. I had never been out of the country before. I had never rode in a taxi before. I had never sailed on a ship before. I had never had a scarlet macaw land on my head before. I had never ate iguana before. I had never been bitten by a monkey before. I had never shared a hot tub with Canadians before. I had never played slots before. But…now I have. And it was good.

As far as the crises go, I’m getting divorced. We tried to make it last longer for the sake of the kids, but that’s not going to work. That’s all I really want to say about it right now.

Also, you should really buy my book. Pretty please. If you already have, if you write a review on Amazon for me, I will send you a free book. One that I didn’t write. No worries. I have some good ones, and I’ll let you choose.

I know this post is kind of ADD’ish, but it’s the best I can do tonight. I’m just trying to get back into the groove of writing again.

Princess Photos

Filed under: Abby Jo,Family,Kids,Kyra,Owen,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 8:48 pm on Monday, August 8, 2011

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Disneyworld! Photo Overload

Filed under: Family,Kids,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 8:38 pm on Monday, August 8, 2011

I am finally getting around to posting photos from our vacation. Chris had Army orders to go to a chaplain conference in Orlando, so we went with him. We hung around his hotel for the first three days, and then we moved to a Disney resort for the next four. We had a great time, and took quite a few pictures. Here are a few:

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The Freedom Tour – Going Home

Filed under: Freedom Tour,Photos,Road Trips,Trips — Rachel at 10:25 am on Thursday, August 4, 2011

And so our stay in Texas was over…

We traveled from Dumas, TX to Springfield, MO on the first day of the return trip. It was a mostly uneventful day, but we did have a delightful highlight just before we stopped for the night at our hotel.

Andy’s Frozen Custard! A Springfield tradition.

(Owen was asleep in the van. He wouldn’t wake up. Not even for Andy’s.)

The next morning, we began our final leg of the shared journey…from Springfield, MO to Fort Knox, KY. (The kids and I spent another night with Amy before we drove our final four hours from Fort Knox to Harriman, TN.)

We went through St Louis, and saw the Gateway Arch that we had visited on our road trip from the previous year.

It’s always exciting to cross the Mississippi River, no matter which direction we are headed.

We snapped a quick picture of another state sign. There is always lots of clapping and cheering each time we cross into a new state.

After this point, we were too tired and sick of each other’s company to chronicle anything else from the trip. We dragged our tired, sore, travel-worn bodies onto Fort Knox that evening, and bid a fond farewell to The Freedom Tour – Summer Road Trip of 2011.

The Freedom Tour: How to Have Fun in Dumas, Texas

Filed under: Freedom Tour,Photos,Road Trips,Trips — Rachel at 9:28 pm on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This post is LONG overdue, but, as promised, I am returning to tell you about the last day of the Texas portion of our Road Trip. Amy was with her family at the hospital for her little sister, Julie’s, surgery. Since Amy was at the hospital, I was on my own with all six of our kids in a town I wasn’t super familiar with. So, we decided to find out how to have fun in Dumas, Texas.

First of all, you go to Pizza Hut.

After going to Pizza Hut and getting your belly full, you can go geocaching. There are several to be found in and around Dumas. One of them will lead you to a delightful park, where you will find this awesome plane.

There are lots of other fun things at that park, too.

Some dangerous things:

And since it’s a bajillion degrees in Dumas, Texas,  you should end your adventure with sno-cones from this fabulous little sno-cone shop.

I suggest the Cherry Cream Cheese flavor. It’s delicious!

And that, my friends, is how to have fun in Dumas, Texas!

There is one more post coming in this Road Trip series. Coming soon!

The Freedom Tour – Days 6-12

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,Freedom Tour,Friends,Kids,Kyra,Owen,Photos,Road Trips,Trips — Rachel at 1:27 am on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dumas, Texas. What can I say about Dumas, Texas?

Dumas, Texas is a little town in the panhandle of Texas. Driving down Dumas Avenue is a little like visiting the United Nations. Somehow or another, Dumas, Texas has become the recipient of a number of refugees from places like Somalia and Burma. Along with that unusual addition to their small Texas town, Dumas is also home to it’s fair share of cowboys, rednecks, and teenage girls in pajama pants. They have a great Oriental Supermarket where you can get chicken and sticky rice, and a fabulous snow cone place that is open till ten p.m. Do you know about Texas snow cones? They are very different than what I’ve had in Tennessee. Far superior. Dumas has a fantastic park to visit with your kids, but, alas, none of the water fountains work. This is a real bummer when it’s a hundred degrees outside. However, if you have a more adventurous mother than my kids had, Dumas has a nice little waterpark next door where you can cool off.

Snow cones or waterparks or a backyard sprinkler, take your pick, but you’re going to have to cool off somehow. I wasn’t kidding about the one hundred degrees.

We spent most of our time in Dumas hanging around Amy’s parents house. Visits from Amy’s sisters, Jami Leigh and Julie, were the highlights of our days. Abby warmed up to Jami pretty quickly. I think it might have had something to do with Jami having the same face as her Aunt Amy.

As I mentioned before, one of the best ways for the kiddos to cool off in the Texas heat was by playing in the sprinkler.
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Over the weekend that we were there, we all loaded up and drove to Lavern, Oklahoma. The kids all wore there tie-dyed shirts that Jami helped them make.
Here are the boys in the “boy van”.And the three big girls in the “girl van”.

From left to right: Ethan, Miah, Joshua, Jeremiah, Elijah, Owen, Kaleb, Sarah, Charleigh, Emileigh, Abby Jo, and Kyra

The evening that we arrived, we checked into our (surprisingly nice) motel rooms, and then went to a small family get together. The next morning, which was the day before Memorial Day, we went to several cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of some of their family members. It was pretty sad at times, because this family had lost three children. A sixteen year old, a fourteen year old, and a baby. Watching their parents decorate their graves made me hold my babies a little closer. While at one of the cemeteries, I snapped a couple of pictures of the Oklahoma scenery.

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Later in the afternoon, we went to Amy’s great aunt’s house for a bbq dinner. The food was fantastic. Seriously, it was so good.

We went back home that evening, and started getting ready for the festivities of the coming day…Julie’s thirtieth birthday party.

Julie’s birthday was one of two important reasons that Amy was making the long trek to Texas. She really wanted to attend her baby sister’s birthday party. The other reason that two days after the party, Julie was having brain surgery. For that reason, everyone really wanted Julie to have a fantastic birthday. She had a great party, and I enjoyed getting to know some of the characters in Amy’s stories.

This is a picture of me and Julie. I’m glad we like each other. As the next picture indicates, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Julie and I could share grandkids some day.

This is, of course, my son, Owen, and the little girl is Julie’s daughter, Miah. They first met last year when the kids and I went with Amy to Dumas the first time. Apparently, they still have their spark. (I LOVE this picture!)

Amy Jo and I before Julie’s party.

Me and my Kyra Joy at the party.

Amy Jo, Jami Leigh, Amy G., me, and Janae….Jami said it was a picture with all of their mom’s adopted daughters.

The day after the party was very low key. We mostly just sat around the house relaxing. Here are some random pictures I thought I would share:

Abby Jo and Emmy-Kai-Kai, as she calls her. They were pretty good friends.

Kyra Joy and Jami’s daughter, Charleigh. They were delighted that everyone agreed that they could pass for sisters.

We were using our hands to block the sun. Jami was trying to take our picture, but the sunlight behind us was too bright. Turns out, I LOVE this picture of us. It’s so happy!

Me and my Elijah

Love it!



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The heat was getting to us.

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Our trip was drawing to a close, but, before we headed home, we had one day left. The day of Julie’s surgery. Amy Jo was going to go to Amarillo with her family for the surgery, and I was staying at her parents house with the kids. We had too full of a day to include it in this already too long post. So, until next time…

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