Mud and Milestones

The last few weeks have been fun and adventuresome. Jacob and Katie got married in the Salt Lake Temple so we flew out to Utah to participate in the celebrations! It was a beautiful week, a gorgeous day, and a lovely wedding! Alyssa was thrilled to participate in the ring ceremony as a flower girl. She was so sweet walking down the isle, throwing her petals. She loved the whole wedding experience! She even helped the florist place the flowers all around the reception. (The floral arrangements smelled so heavenly!)

We ended the day by locking Taft in the car and calling 911 to get him out! He was happy and totally fine, all buckled into his car seat! I felt a little bad that I found it all so humorous, especially the 6 firefighters and the giant ladder truck that they brought to extricate him. But I am grateful that they rescued Taft!

After being home for 2 days we loaded up the car and drove to Chattanooga, TN so Erik could participate in the Ragnar TN with the Strides for Sloane Team. I had originally planned on participating but was unable to because of this little guy:

But Erik still participated and we all went along for the ride! The team was a fun mix of friends we know from Delaware and friends from Mississippi and a new friend in between. They finished 66th/196 and everyone was still alive after it all!

We also got to go to Knoxville and visit Anna Jensen and her kids! My, how live has changed since we first met it Chem E 263 nine years ago. It does seem that we have eternally rubbed off on each other...she still eats peanut butter and bananas on her waffles and I am a Cadbury mini-egg addict!

En route to Knoxville I saw a sign for Mayfield Dairy tour. I couldn't resist taking a detour because I figured it might mean ice cream...or cheese. You can't have a dairy tour without one of those taste sensations! They didn't disappoint. We got to see how they package milk and then we enjoyed some ice cream afterwards! Taft particularly LOVED his hairnet (NOT)! I was only sad that we didn't also stop at the Sweet Water Farm a few miles down the road that boasted cheese!

All in all our trips were fun, but that brings us to this week. 
Mmm, there ain't nothin' better. I feel like we are relaxing and enjoying the simple things of life! Taft has taken a few attempts at walking in the past week. He can stand up and if he fancies he will walk. But mostly he still likes to crawl around, even outside! He doesn't mind the dirt and I have to tell myself that I don't either...because his dirtiness is mild compared to what Alyssa and her friends have experienced this week (scroll down).

I looked out the window the other day to see this.

Let me help interpret. That is Alyssa, kneeling in her long sparkly heart skirt (sorry Kristin, look away), playing in a puddle with Elsa and Anna dolls while her friend Chloe is playing with dinosaurs and Brayden (not pictured) is building a lake for them in the dirt behind them. Also not pictured - 5 chickens that sometimes have to have "surgery" or "lay eggs" according to the children's plans. It was extremely messy. Alyssa then changed, only to go back outside and re enter the mud resulting in a shower before dinner. 

But what it meant to me is that these three kids, though they have vastly different interests and ages (Alyssa (5) - princesses and dressing up, Chloe (11) - dinosaurs and some Freddy something or other, Brayden (10) - working, biking, and boy stuff, and Bryson (7) - Roger Roger, Legos, and Zurg), somehow manage to play together often and quite happily. Their adventures are unique, but all are engaged. Sometimes it is messy and sometimes I have to tell them to unbury the chickens or they might suffocate. Sometimes I won't let them in the house, but they are happy, good kids. It made my heart swell with joy to see them thus engaged this week and then to have it repeated, mud and all the next day! I am grateful we have these experiences and I hope to enjoy many more (as the observer).

Alyssa also met a milestone this week. She learned how to ride a bicycle and even moved up to her new, bigger bike! I had imagined hours of running behind her to help her, but I took her training wheels off (raised training wheels to one training wheel to none) and she took off on her first try! Erik asked how far she went when I told him and I explained that there was no way to measure the distance! She was all over everywhere and having a blast!


Odds and ends of life

2017 has started wonderfully! After all of our vacations we have slid back into life and its routines! 

We are a silly group of people!

Taft has adopted this chair as his walker. He also learned how to climb up into it! He is figuring out new talents everyday! He is at an age of imitation. He will start to swing his arms like our church chorister when he hears music start. He will fold his arms when he notices everyone is praying. He has started giving kisses - big, opened mouth wet ones. He loves to look through books and occasionally he'll let us read one to him. He wants to do what Alyssa and her friends are doing. He is often sad when we can't go outside with the rest of the kids!

Erik and Taft get their best naps together at church.

Alyssa is taking full advantage of her bathroom crayons and long sits on the toilet to practice her handwriting and nice note skills! 

In mid February my friend and freshman roommate flew into New Orleans for a visit to Vicksburg to see the LeMontes and us! We took our first trip since living in the south to New Orleans. We visited the WWII museum, ate the biggest donuts I've ever seen (Alyssa's chocolate sprinkle was too chocolatey), had beignets at Cafe du Monde, and took a tour of the cemetery and garden district of New Orleans. Apparently the Creoles don't believe in having exposed gardens, but the English and Americans who settled the area didn't mind surrounding their 10,000 sq ft houses with lavish gardens!

Taft fixed his kitchen sink while we were considering how to repair our leaky bathtub faucet. I think Taft's fix-it job did not take quite as long as the real problem but thankfully both are fixed now.

Yesterday Alyssa ran a 1 mile fun run! She ran it in 11:04! It was her first race that she ran by herself and she said she felt so brave! She had fun and felt proud of her accomplishment when she finished the race!

And again, Taft...this kid! He brings us so much joy!!

Wrapping up 2016

I flipped through some pictures on my phone and thought about what has happened in the last 3 months! LIFE has happened!

Here is a quick recap:

Thanksgiving 2016 - We met up with the Archibald gang in Branson, MO. We drove through the Ozarks...and probably stayed in the Ozarks, too..., enjoyed s'mores around a fire, paddle boated across a small lake, did a zip line, saw butterflies in their unnatural habitat, experienced Moses' life - Sight and Sound, ate turkey and other wonderful side dishes, made chocolate chip cookie covered oreos, took some family photos, played mini golf, swam in the hot tub, saw the Duttons LIVE, and many other wonderful things! Alyssa and Fife had a good time together unless they were fighting, in which case they were not having a good time. But all in all it was a good bonding experience!


Then Taft turned 1.

Then we went to Utah for a week and a half of Christmas fun with the Nelsens! We heard Porter sing with his choir, visited Temple Square, went on the Polar Express, had an ugly sweater making party, saw VoiceMale while wearing said ugly sweaters, had tea parties with dolls, played hospital with dolls - they had contracted poison blindness, enjoyed a truly white Christmas, and surrounded ourselves with wonderful company!

Taft was a little worn out after listening to Porter sing all day!

So were Alyssa and Claire!
One thing about our trip to Utah I hope to never forget was our ride on the Polar Express. We enjoyed the hot chocolate, cookies and corny elf jokes! It was fun to hear a surprisingly young Mrs. Claus play Christmas carols on her violin. The best part was when Santa walked onto the train. Alyssa's mouth dropped open! She could not believe her eyes! The real Santa was standing before us in full Christmas splendor! He greeted each child personally and gave everyone a bell that made the most beautiful sound! It was magical!

I am grateful for the time we were able to spend with the Archibalds and the Nelsens in the 2016 holiday season! We strengthened our relationships and made new and lasting memories!