We Loved You, 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018

I am absolutely obsessed with this crew. On a regular basis, in our ordinary old day-to-day lives, I find myself swooning and melting with affection for each and every one of them. Deliriously happy is an understatement. 

2018 was not particularly ground-breaking. It was actually a bit of a chill year compared to the last few, but it was a year full of adventure, family, and gratitude for this life we've built and love.

L I F E  I N  S T .  C H A R L E S

We just celebrated ONE FULL YEAR back in our home in Saint Charles. Remember we moved here five years ago, then moved back to Tennessee for what we thought would be six months, and then finally made the "official" move back last December (two and a half years later). 

We LOVE this area. We love the environment St. Charles provides for raising a family, we love the new church we've found (seriously, I'd move here all over again just to attend this church), and we LOVE LOVE LOVE being close to family! My brother and his family live just over four miles away, which is AMAZING. The cousins have gotten super close, and adults have each other to lean on! We're raising kids together - among other adventures (more on that later!)

Brian's family is only 35 minutes away, which means the kiddos are close to their grandparents, we have free child-care, and we get to spend plenty of time together. We particularly love camping together, and finally got our very first camper this year, which means MANY more family camping adventures to come!


Things with Brian's company continue to change and evolve. There have been a lot of overwhelming and discouraging moments, but even more moments of progress and gratitude. (We finished a 3-year law suit last month!!) Being a business-owner is nothing short of HARD WORK, but he takes it in stride and manages to prioritize family life better than I'd ever expect a human being with his work load to manage.

In addition to running a company and studying for other hobbies and ventures, he's also partnered up with my little brother to start their own LLC (so now he gets to work with TWO of his brothers!). This was a big deal this year! These boys have been talking about getting into rental property for EVER and on Halloween, they finally took the plunge and bought our very first property. I'm so proud of them and their hard work!

I am still really loving being a Book Lady with Usborne Books & More. I get to work part time and on my own schedule sharing these awesome books and leading a team of book ladies - and I love {almost ๐Ÿ˜‰} every single minute! 

Book lady life has helped cover some major expenses (mostly travel ๐Ÿ™Œ), blessed us with a ginormous library of truly wonderful books, kicked up the book-obsession in this house quite a bit (growing two avid readers), and introduced me to an empowering and inspiring network of people. With the combination of fantastic books that we love and the amazing women that I've met, this journey has had a GINORMOUS impact on a major decision we made this year... which brings me to my next point:


EEK! Yep. This year, we made the huge and extremely unexpected decision to homeschool! We're still kind of in shock (and awe), but simultaneously feel liberated and empowered and so so excited.

See, I was a public school teacher and (to be honest) pretty anti-homeschool. I'm a BIG fan of public schools (mostly of the teachers who work SO hard) and always expected my kiddos to attend. We actually moved to this neighborhood with the local school in mind.

I won't get into the story behind the decision (we'll save that for another extra-long post), but I can tell you that we believe so deeply that this is the right decision for our family, and we are so thrilled to have the option to learn and grow together as a team, and to have our family unit be so close-knit.

What makes the decision EVEN. SWEETER. is that Brittany is homeschooling her two as well! The kids attend a Classical Conversations community together and are learning all of the same material there. We get to journey through this together, and our kids get that much more opportunity to learn and grow as a family. I do not have the words to express the depths of how precious this opportunity is to us. We are in love!

T H E  K I D S

These two kids are w o n d e r f u l. We are smitten and grateful and overwhelmed that we get to be their parents. They get along incredibly well MOST of the time and sincerely love being together. They both love hot wheels, legos, playing with babies, being outside, wrestling with dad, reading, being with their cousins, helping in the kitchen, and {home}school! Brian and I agree that their current ages are our favorite yet. They're old enough to be independent in a lot of helpful ways, but not old enough yet to cause toooo much drama. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

Beckett turned FIVE this year and had a super fun transformers + nerf war party (check it out here). This year he is in pre-k. He started soccer, took swim lessons, ran his first Spartan Race, and (among other awesome academic accomplishments) graduated to reading chapter books (!) completely independently.

Charlie turned three this year! She started tumbling classes (and loves them), attended soccer camp, and started talking up A STORM. Her vocabulary is way ahead of where Beckett was at this age, so we're continually amazed. She's also incredibly sassy!


Travel is a passion and priority for this crew. We want to see EVERYPLACE, domestic and abroad, and try to be intentional about saying YES to opportunities to just GO! This year, we visited Chicago (five times), Wisconsin (a couple times), East Tennessee, Florida (twice), Michigan, Texas, Southern Illinois (a dozen or more times), Indiana, Arkansas, Jamaica, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cayman Islands, Panama Canal, and Kentucky for a total of more than 18,400 miles traveled as a family! That total doesn't include three girls trips (including another cruise) and a few work trips for me, or a couple of boy trips and many, many work trips for Brian!

The highlights were getting to spend a TON of time with all of our fantastic family (including welcoming my sweet new birthday twin nephew!), spending 10 days on a cruise to the Panama Canal with my mom & her side of the family (see those highlights here!), and taking the kids to Disney for the first time!! Apparently I forgot to document Disney here on the blog, but the jist is: it. was. MAGICAL.

T H A T ' S  A  W R A P !

For our family, 2018 has been WONDERFUL.  The fact that the same is not true for all families around the world is NOT lost on us. We are indescribably grateful for the sweet life we live and actively look for ways to share joy and bless others as well. 

This new year already looks wonderful, and we cannot wait to see what God has in store.

Happy New Year!

A New Christmas Tradition

Monday, December 10, 2018

Brian and I have slowly been building on Christmas traditions for our little family. So far our traditions have included Advent activities every year (although this year I'm way behind), a birthday celebration for Jesus on Christmas morning (complete with cinnamon rolls and candles), the same Eggs Benedict and mimosa breakfast, stockings stuffed with individually wrapped gifts, and new Christmas jammies. 

We've chosen to follow the "want, need, wear, read" pattern to gifts and then choose one more traditional, "old-school" gift to be left out and unwrapped under the tree. This is our gift from Santa, even though we have yet to actually ever reference him in our home! (Biding our time on that one).

This year, at the recommendation of Brian we decided to add in a new tradition! Yesterday, we loaded up on the ingredients for brownies and four types of cookies (confession: the pile included boxed brownies and two types of break and bake cookies) and we spent the entire afternoon baking! There were messes and Christmas music and kids licking (and then washing) their hands 1 billion times, and all of the chaos and goodness you would expect of a Christmas Baking Day with two preschoolers.

This was also a really excellent opportunity to talk about giving. It's a hard, hard lesson for a three and five year old to comprehend when we intend to give the cookies we're baking away to someone else. Yes, there were tears - but I think it ended up well! 

Today, we loaded up the kids' gator (which worked out super well) and knocked on the doors to seven surrounding houses! Three of the four neighbors we talked to we were meeting for the VERY FIRST TIME. These are people who live 35 yards from us! 

Brian had coached Beckett on how to introduce himself with a handshake, ask questions, and wish the neighbors a Merry Christmas. He did a FANTASTIC job. Brian and I both thoroughly enjoyed watching him work (he's definitely his father's child). 

 For those who know me, you know that neither baking or knocking on people's doors and making small talk are in my wheelhouse of talents. Both give me anxiety (and spoiler alert: Charlie is a chip off the ole block). However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Charlie and both I enjoyed this project and I'm sincerely looking forward to getting to know our neighbors better! This is definitely a tradition we'll aim to keep for many years to come!

Beckett is FIVE!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Beckett is FIVE. Five YEARS old. It's insane. I feel like it happened over night, but at the same time feel like it suits him SO. WELL. Brian and I are both just ENAMORED by this child and unbelievably grateful that we get to raise him. The weight of that blessing is not lost on me (as I type with tears in my eyes).  So, this week, we celebrated this awesome kid.

Beckett continues to be mostly chill (although he did try his hand at pushing boundaries and throwing tantrums this year), very kind, and incredibly smart. This year he played both spring and fall soccer and took Ninja Warrior courses. He's not a natural athlete by any means, but he's learning to respect his coaches & be a team player and is having a ton of fun in the process! 

He loves cars, transformers, reading, math, building, problem-solving, wrestling with dad, playing with his sister & cousins, and any type of screen! He's super proud of himself as he becomes more independent - getting himself ready in the morning, reading books on his own, helping around the house, etc. He can even cook scrambled eggs {mostly} on his own!

Beckett hasn't had a "big" party since his First Birthday so for five years it was time to do it up right! When it came time to plan this party, he knew immediately that he wanted a Transformers party, and I knew immediately that I didn't want it in my house. So a gymnastics + Nerf War party was born!

Hosting it at a gymnastics gym was basically the best decision I've ever made. All I did was provide some cupcakes and Nerf darts, and VOILA. Epic. Party. We invited family, friends, and the kiddos from soccer and our homeschool community class. We ended up with thirty-one kids celebrating with us - which is more kids than I realized we knew! It was SO MUCH FUN to have the gym to ourselves. The coaches led them through all of the equipment and let them play for over an hour. The entire time,  Mom & Dad got to just hang out, watch the kids have a blast, and take a few pictures - it doesn't get much better than that!

After the organized equipment play, came the part that I'm pretty sure every single one of the 31 kids showed up for: NERF. WAR. Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds. I was a little bit jealous that I wasn't out there with them!

The coaches set up boundaries and barriers, split the kids into two teams, and then the kids just went Nerf Berzerk! I was actually pretty surprised at how well the kids all handled gun malfunctions, getting shot in the face, and the rest of the general chaos. I was concerned that the coaches only allowed for fifteen minutes for this part, but the obviously knew what they were doing - it was definitely enough. 

Once the kids were good and worn out (who am I kidding?), it was time for cake! To be honest, listening to our huge, awesome community sing Happy Birthday to my five year old was significantly more emotional than I care to admit, but it's just true. I am so grateful for all of the people who cared enough to show up and celebrate this kid!

One special thing we did with this party, that I'm so hoping we remember to do in the future, is encourage our guests to skip the gifts. Beckett has SO MANY TOYS and anything else he could possibly need, so we took this opportunity to let him practice giving instead of receiving. We talked to him in advance, and he agreed it would be super-cool to give all of his guests a gift instead of opening presents at his party. Each family received a gift bag with a few of Beckett's favorite things: a [robot-themed] book or two, plus enough hot wheels and play dough for each kiddo in the family. He got to hand the gift bags out as his guests left, and thank each of them for coming. It was INCREDIBLY HEART-WARMING to watch him be such a big kid!

After the party, the whole family crew headed back home for dinner and PRESENTS! With such a big family, Beckett still had MORE THAN ENOUGH gifts to open once we got home. The major themes of this years gifts were legos & building, coding, and transformers!

Even better than having a ton of friends at his party, was having a ton of FAMILY at his party. Brittany, DJ, Eli, Avaya, Devin, Katie, Jack, Will, the Hill Grandparents, the Uhll Grandparents, Grandma Beth (Brittany's mom), and Grandma Irene (Katie's Mom) were ALL IN ATTENDANCE. This is why we moved. We are so indescribably grateful for this amazing village.

Fall Family Challenge

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fall is my absolute favorite (until Christmas rolls around, but more on that later). The season rolls around every year like clockwork, but every. single. year. I cannot even handle how magical and fabulous it is. And I commit to making the absolute most of every moment of its goodness. 
This year I’ve vowed to get the whole family on board the fall-obsessed bandwagon, so I’ve challenged the family to marking off every item on our Fall Bucket List. We’ll record our adventures here! 

August 15 | Apple Dessert + Leaf Project

I know. August is early. But this crew was hecka excited about fall in the air so we jumped on in with  a Fall Themed play date. These cheesy fun, chaotic days are my FAVORITE. We had a combination of just letting the kids play and having organized crafty times, including a leaf craft and apple decorating + eating!

September 29  |  Baking Pumpkin Pie

Beckett thought it would be cute to buy a pumpkin and make a pie from scratch. I don’t have the energy or patience for that, so we went the good ole three ingredients and a pre-made crust method. It didn’t disappoint.

September 30  |  Pie for Breakfast 

Last night’s pie wasn’t ready until too close to bedtime, so the logical choice is to wait and have pie for breakfast, right?! I very rarely allow sugary breakfasts so I thought this would be a fun, magical treat (apologies to the church nursery staff). Beckett was thoroughly entertained. Charlie refused to eat hers and requested a banana instead. Weirdo.

October 3  |  Buy Pumpkins

Yes, I know getting pumpkins from the patch is cute and all, but Walmart is cheaper! Tonight, we took a trip to grab a fun variety of cuteness for our front porch! Don't worry, we'll hit up the patch, too!

Oct 4  |  Pumpkin Pancakes

I’m a big ole fan of grocery pickup, but this week it totally failed us and skipped our chicken, bell peppers, and salad. I didn’t even notice until I went in the fridge tonight to start our chicken fajita salads. I TRIED to be healthy, y’all... but instead we checked Pumpkin Pancakes off the Fall Bucket List. I've never had Pumpkin Pancakes before, and honestly was only trying them because it made for a cute Bucket List item... but Oh My Fall-ness they were sooooo good. There will be an encore performance.

October 9 & 16 | Nature Walk

Two weeks in a row, we went for a nature walk with our co-op. It's a perfect time of year to study leaves! It's also pretty crazy the difference in clothing we saw in that week! The kids enjoyed looking at the leaves, and Beckett is particularly enthralled with the bright colors. 

October 20 | Family Flannel Day + Pumpkin Fest + Pumpkin Carving

An old family friend (the Brooks) hosts Pumpkin Fest every year, and this is the first year we've made the drive home to attend! She had fun games, a bounce house, candy, a piรฑata, a TON of food, and pumpkin carving! We're hoping to make this an annual tradition! Mom, Curt, and DJ + Crew jumped in on our Family Flannel Day, which made it that much more epic. 

October 21 | Rake Leaves

Today we visited Grandma & Grandpa Montgomery. Aunt Sally was there helping with some chores, and she was SO gracious to patiently allow the kiddos to "help" her with the task of raking leaves. They grabbed rakes (and brooms) and went to work! 

October 21 | Visit a Pumpkin Patch + Take a Hayride

We BARELY made it to the pumpkin patch this year. Between our crazy schedules and the weather not cooperating, I thought it wasn't going to happen. We managed to squeeze in an hour at Krolls, which is a pumpkin patch near Nana & Papa's and quickly becoming an annual thing! It was cold, but fed animals, played in pumpkins, took a hay ride, and enjoyed perfectly sweet family time!!

October 31 | Trick-or-Treat
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