I know I’m not the only one who wonders where 2015 went. It flew. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the last year. This certainly wasn’t how I planned or wished to commemorate the year through the blog, in one fell swoop. But alas, here I find myself trying to capture the highs, lows, and as much of the in-between of 2015 as possible. And whomever is reading this, will you join me in praying that the Lord would bring a fresh, lively spark to this space that needs some rekindling?
So before 2015 (April-December) escapes without some sort of tangible marker of remembrance for our family...
This was one of my most favorite holidays of 2015! Just our church service would make it my favorite. My parents joined us for church and then our family prepared to host some of the most incredible people. Really, I’m amazed I get to be their friends! Lisa, Kim, Hannah, Jennifer and David came for a potluck Easter brunch. The children soaked up having extra attention and people to read to them, and we had an Easter egg hunt everyone participated in. We lingered over amazing food, invigorating conversation, and the gift of friendship.
He completed kindergarten in May and started first grade this past August. He loves to learn, is a voracious reader of chapter books, is still on the swim team, and is obsessed with making up football games using his NFL sticker book, miniature helmets, and his own two feet and hands to run plays either contentedly by himself out front, with Matt or with some buddies. He lost his first two teeth, both of which already had permanent teeth nearly fully grown behind the baby teeth hanging on by a thread (like a shark, much to our amusement). The first tooth he didn't even know fell out during the middle of a small group party, and Matt happened to come across it on the floor. The second tooth he threw out of his mouth onto the floor next to our bed thinking “it was a stick”. He is a huge fan of the only show he chooses to watch, Wild Kratts, loves studying animals, and is a kind, respectful little guy who still loves his snuggles and reading side-by-side.
In May he swam in his very first swim meet and had a second one in October, and I’ll just say, he is an excellent swimmer and a joy to watch in the water. His school events have been some of the most fun: his kindergarten graduation (receiving from Ms. Carlson the recognition of his gift of enthusiasm), a global parade, a pizza party based upon the Jack Prelutsky’s poem “A Pizza the Size of the Sun”, and an elaborate Egyptian feast. He is quick to ask me how he can help, has made huge strides in learning to control his emotions (there are still exceptions…just like his momma), and is the most extraverted one in our family, but is still a homebody at heart. Brennan started taking piano lessons this summer with our friend and concert pianist, Becca. Kensie and I got to watch her son, Tadele, while Brennan had his lesson, and we soaked up the time we had with these dear friends before they moved. And Brennan enjoys playing, especially Christmas music. Within two weeks of each other, little boy’s ear plugs finally came out after his surgery in June 2014! The only way we knew is because the tiny blue plugs were sitting in his ears after he took off his swim cap…both of them!
Oh, he turns 7 on Saturday, and this Momma is not willing to accept it.
THIRTY SIX YEARS OLD…AND COUNTING
I’m at the age now where I have to ask Matt how old I am…I’m losing track! I had a most special birthday celebration with my family in April, and Momma made me my favorite: chocolate cream pie! I’m not ashamed to say she makes me two since the first one goes by in a flash sharing it with everyone.
I want to throw these in here from Mother’s Day:
Little girl completed her first year of preschool, loving every moment of it! I agonized over the decision to move her to a different preschool this Fall. We spent the last 4 years at the OLC building relationships and a deep fondness and appreciation for this school that was such a gift to our family. Walking out of those doors for the last time in May I wept. In fact, I’ve wept a number of times this Fall seeing how much my children have grown and how fast it’s gone. Even in knowing something simple like our season of playdates has past brings an ache to my heart. But I also fully embrace and love where each of them is now, too.
So Kensie, who turned 4 in July, started at the same school Brennan is at, and is thriving in a class with mostly boys, known to be an exceptional teacher’s helper choosing to help Mrs. Whorton with papers and putting things away rather than play. She is one of the most nurturing caretakers I’ve ever seen, gentle and thoughtful, and wants to grow up to be “a mom”. She loves playing with her dolls, adores her brother, completed her first dance recital last May, played on her first soccer team this Fall (telling other kids on her team what to do rather than going after the ball herself), loves to learn and is picking up tons from Brennan, and has started reading! She learned to ride her bike, loves dressing up (both in costume and wearing beautiful dresses and accessories). If you’re one of our neighbors, you may have enjoyed receiving the flowers she picks that she personally delivers to you. She has an incredible group of women who she gets so excited to see: “Miss Kim” and “Miss Melissa”, and after I receive Communion, this girl sniffs my breath for the wine and she sighs in delight over the smell! Her emotions: a pendulum.
COUNTRY HOUSE REUNION
In April, I traveled to Wisconsin for a reunion with the girls I lived with our senior year of college (always noticeably missed and talked about is Becca, who passed away summer 2007). It’s the first time we’d all been together since they all came to Austin when Brennan was not even a year old. It was a grand time! We were at one of their family’s lake cabins, and while the trees were still bare (unlike Austin at that time), it was one of the most glorious spring weekends. We walked around the lake, went out on the boat, cooked meals together, shared about our lives…the good and the hard, prayed together, and laughed a ton. Our fifteen year college reunion is this May! (I first typed ten years, and now I’m hyperventilating at the brutal reality.)
On April 2, we welcomed a new nephew into the world, Boone Mackenzie, Mac and Julie’s 3rd baby! He is the happiest, most easy-going baby I’ve ever known. You couldn’t hold me back for very long! Once Mac and Julie had Boone and got settled into their new home (talk about crazy transition within 2 months: having a baby and buying a house and remodeling), I made my way up to D.C. and got to love on my babies. We now have 4 nephews and 1 niece!
Matt started taking the children out for special, one-on-one breakfast dates each month, and we’ve also had some dates sporadically throughout the year with each of the kids, like when Matt took Kensie kayaking on Lady Bird Lake and I took Brennan for lunch and to a piano recital our friends were playing in.
THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL GOD
One of the things I can say about 2015: I got to see lives transformed, and it was a huge privilege! Along with three other ladies from church, we went through the Good and Beautiful God series, meeting regularly throughout the year and it was so, so good. I highly recommend the series (with a few caveats), and I love these ladies. Really, we learned so much from each other, and experienced both the joy and the loss of walking through sending two of them to different communities: one was our church plant and the other to a different city. This group was graced to be together for such a specific, exceptional season in each of our lives that prepared us for what was next. I personally benefitted from this group as it came upon the heels of finishing Vestry and entering into our quiet season, when I was feeling a bit lost.
He has brought such joy! Every day he makes us laugh with whatever antics necessary to get as close to us as possible, whether it be while we’re at the table, on the floor, on the couch, in the middle of a tickle session, or outside playing. He is a mammoth 90 pounds and thinks he can still get in your lap (guests beware!). As of this fall, he’s mostly outgrown all things puppy that make you want to pull your hair out. He has done incredibly well with us leaving him inside (with a few exceptions like our front door trim and a couple of stuffed animals), which we’re so thankful for because it allows so much more flexibility. And we can also leave him with the doggy door, but we’re mindful of how much we do that because we want to protect our relationships with our neighbors…his loud bark is directly proportional to his weight. He is crazy about our children and vice versa.
Sea World; VBS; thorough house cleaning (my kinda satisfying task, very needed fun); B&K’s individual “Popsie & Meesie Camp” for 4 days each; pool time (lots of pool time…where Kensie got to be an even better swimmer and went off the diving board); Round Rock Express baseball games; family walks in the unexpected pouring rain; first time visit to Schlitterbahn; Fourth of July with friends; cookie and cake baking; a splash pad visit with some besties, the Rutlands; a visit from Corrie, Guy, Simi and Lucy all the way from Turkey (!); Kensington’s 4th birthday and party; Kensie’s completion of a year and a half of speech therapy (which happened to fall on her birthday); Father’s Day; Popsie’s birthday; dinner with our dear Avalos family; and a visit from Meesie before school started…for a high level overview. :)
Kensington’s 4th birthday & her party at the splash pad
The first week of August, we traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a family vacation with Matt’s side of the family. It was definitely a highlight of the year getting the cousins together, enjoying the gorgeous beach, partaking in divine Duck Donuts (twice!), boogie boarding and sand castle building. The beach and I tend to have a love-hate relationship. For instance, it wouldn’t be the first time I attempted something like jumping waves or jet skiing (this time with a child in hand), that left me walking out of the ocean cursing the waves with bruises to prove the ocean’s fury against me. And thus, I opt for the calm pool or the sun-bathing (lathered and covered) with a book in hand. Despite the waves, we treasured the time we had together as a family, and left with some great tans!
A NEW JOB
In early May, Cliff, our pastor whom I worked closely with on Vestry the past three years, approached me about a job opportunity to be his assistant, a job that would begin in August. We met on a Friday morning with the kids who were already out of school at Central Market, whose playground was sadly closed because of the torrential spring rains and destructive winds that swept through Austin and he told me about the job. Giddy and nervous all at the same time, I asked a lot of questions, and Matt and I spent the next couple of weeks praying about it and asking more questions. In all regards, it’s a dream job working with a church staff I adore, for a church I have such deep affection for, for a boss I highly regard and esteem. And I have enough history of the workings of the church to help the learning curve, and it has flexible enough hours to make it work alongside homeschooling also. I said ‘yes’ and started August 17th.
Becoming a working momma (albeit very part-time one at 10-15 hours a week), has been the hardest and most significant transitions for me this year. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity and enjoy my job, but I’m not going to lie when I tell you that it has been hard, and been something I wrestle with internally every day. My other “job” is homeschooling, so I find myself once again in a season where I don’t have much breathing room. The breathing room I have is intentional and family-focused and protected, better than when I was on Vestry (a lesson learned), but it still doesn’t feel like very much. Cliff has been incredibly kind, patient and generous to let me work from home some days and see the kids in school for lunches (I work from home a bit MWF and go into the office T/Th, generally). But this, combined with the homeschooling, is why I dropped off the blog.
I have a small, close group of people, cupping me in their hands these days, who are aware of some specific boundaries about the job and my own self-care that I’ve had to work closely to maintain. Cause ladies and gents, I have a tendency to go all-in with something. This season of my soul is tinted grey, partly related to adjusting to being a working mom and partly completely unrelated to that. But this blog is a creative outlet I need to use to add more color to in 2016. The grey can accompany me, I’m not afraid of that; but I am afraid of it being the dominant color.
One thing is for certain though: I love these people! (pic of staff and spouses)
THE 2015-2016 SCHOOL YEAR
Our boy started 1st grade and our girl started her second and final year of pre-school! We are still at a classical, university-model school which affords us the opportunity to part-time home school, using curriculum and doing work that the school prepares for us. So the kids go to school all day Tuesday/Thursday and we homeschool MWF. Kensie doesn’t have any “homework”, but she is eager for things to work on like Brennan. Thankfully, we have been blessed with amazing teachers and a great school community. Last year, we had 6-8 weeks of a rough start getting used to the new school routine. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that we didn’t experience those same bumps this year. I imagine we will have some again, especially homeschooling two at the same time next year, but for this Fall, I really needed the grace of starting well.
I savor this picture: it was Kensie’s last day of preschool and the last day of us being at OLC, standing in front of our precious secret garden.
First day of school
So far, this has been my favorite of the poems Brennan has memorized, and he let his sissy join in the fun.
This one had us on a roller coaster ride from March until early December; was the topic that received an abundance of prayer covering by us, our parents, our small group; and was the biggest source of off-and-on contention in our marriage this past year. We learned a ton through this process about each other and about the job process, particularly since it’s been 15+ years since Matt’s been through the process. In March, Matt inquired about a position at a start-up company, working with former colleagues. He didn’t even have to interview; they wanted him as soon as possible. To make a long story short, it took the company until July to make a formal offer that Matt and I were both at peace about, an offer we were both excited about. Matt had an expected start date of October, which then got postponed to an unknown time, which created more confusion and discussions about how long we should wait for this job.
Matt pined for this job, and it would be a really difficult loss if we had to let it go. But we were coming up on a time when both of us needed some movement. Then of course at what seemed like the 11th hour, we got the go ahead for a February 1st start date, which allowed Matt to take his week long Christmas vacation from Dell, plus all of his 4 weeks of 2016 vacation. So we’ve had our man home since December 18th, and it’s been glorious! This short paragraph doesn’t do justice explaining the vast emotions that we experienced and the mental thought Matt’s job occupied since March! Since March! It was exhausting and brutal at times, and whoever feels like a good wife when they can’t come to a peace about something when it’s one of your husband’s deep desires? But at the same time, the Lord used those moments of unrest in my spirit to teach Matt things, too, and also to get us to wait and not rush until something more specific and desirable about the job came through. We needed each other in it, but man, it was a kick in the tail!
Our season of transition will roll into 2016 as we prepare for Matt to start his new job in February, after 14+, faithful, hard-working years at Dell.
In July, Kensie completed a year and a half of hard work at speech therapy with our wonderful Miss Kiki! At the start of therapy in spring 2014, Kensie couldn’t even say her own name; it wasn’t until a few months later that I heard my little girl say “Kensie” for the first time and it brought tears to my eyes. We are so, so grateful for the gift of Miss Kiki and her staff. I honestly don’t think I heard Kensie complain once about going (sometimes two times a week, 45 minutes away), nor about practicing her sounds at home. Even just this week, out of the blue, she said, “I want to go back and see Miss Kiki”. In celebration of her accomplishments, the four of us went to Lost Pines for a few days in September.
The stack of hundreds of words and sounds she practiced. We are so proud of her!
Towards the end of the summer, or even now after a month long Christmas break, the snickering and bickering between Brennan and Kensington starts ramping up. Oh, and will my son ever learn to keep his hands to himself!? At the same time, these two are best friends and can play hours together, coming up with creative games and projects like “Art Club”, birthday parties for their stuffed animals; building trains; reading together. It is a sweet season with them.
This was one of my most favorite of the games they came up with: art club.
The pumpkin festival; Winnie the Pooh play with the Coveys (becoming a tradition for us to go to Zach Theatre plays with them); football watching and playing (Gig ‘em!); cheering for Kensie and her soccer team; celebrating Jillie’s 40th birthday; marking the return of Blue Bell ice cream; an overnight stay at Popsie and Meesie’s (for the kids and just for me!) where we were all respectively SPOILED; a field trip for Brennan’s class that left my heart racing after we came across a large, and I mean a LARGE rat snake; celebrating my Momma’s birthday; and Kensie’s Thanksgiving feast at school.
THE LOVE OF OUR NEIGHBORS
For nine years we’ve lived in our home next door to “Mr. Owen and Miss Linda”. They are gifts, pure gifts. The kids have an extra set of grandparents they get to visit and play with; who babysit for us; who have the kids over for some snacks and a movie, to teach them how to garden; who invite them in to make Christmas cookies and deliver them to other neighbors; who hand make us a nativity scene (!!) that is now an heirloom; who come to sports events to cheer on the kids; who come outside and play basketball with them or show them amazing inventions Mr. Owen made. We love them dearly. I did, however, have the scare of my life this year. For breaks during our homeschool days, I let Brennan go outside and play football or basketball for 5 minutes. One day he wasn’t there when I called him inside. I called and called, threw Kensie in the car and drove around the block, and he was nowhere to be found. My heart was pounding, my hands shaking, I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t get a hold of Matt and didn’t know if I should call the police. Thank the Lord Linda texted me and said, “Brennan is over here; I’m not sure if he should be though.” That boy thought he could go over there for a break. I still shudder at the thought of that morning. But that just goes to show you our kids would much rather be over there! :)
Baking cookies together
Married to the man who is more than I could ever have asked for or imagined in a husband, a teammate, a daddy, a friend, an encouraging supporter!
We hosted my folks for Thanksgiving, which was delicious! All six of us went to The Peanuts Movie together, right before the cold front blew in and dropped the temperature 30 degrees within a matter of minutes. Finally, it was Fall!
For all of the kids’ lives, we have told them about the real St. Nicholas and haven’t done any of the traditional Santa kind of stuff and haven’t emphasized that gifts were from Santa. But this year, they surprisingly became more and more intrigued by it and so we adapted a bit and said we could pretend this year. So they had their first experience sitting on Santa’s lap. For our family’s St. Nicholas celebration this year, we went to Community First Village and worked alongside Anthony in the gardens. Y’all, that place is amazing! We can’t wait to go back!
We had the most wonderful Christmas in San Antonio with my parents, Mac, Julie, Wynn, Maysie and Boone! My parents kindly and generously hosted Christmas, and not only was their home as beautiful as ever and the food scrumptious, it was just downright good to be together. The kids got to make Christmas cookies for Santa, and we had the best team of homemade luminario makers in the history of our tradition. The kids were even able to be a part of the Christmas play at my parent’s church: the girls were angels and the boys shepherds. Maysie liked the stage and didn’t want to get off! The littlest ones were all in bed already, but Brennan and Kensie wrote Santa a note on everyone’s behalf and left out Christmas cookies and reindeer food. Mac and Julie are our game buddies at night after the kids go to bed, and on our last day together, my parents treated us all to the children’s museum, which was fabulous! I think it’s way better than the one in Austin. It’s hard to say “goodbye” to my brother and his family. My heart aches every time we have to part. But I’m putting this in here to make it official: we’re going to go to NYC with them some time this year! And see Jimmy Fallon together. And eat some amazing brunch. This is our dream.
We spent the last week of 2015 taking down Christmas decor, cleaning house, and I was sick. In fact, the morning of January 1st, we spent the morning in the doctor’s office getting meds. But the highlight of the week, besides having Matt home still, was that Alan, Lauren and Charlotte had us over for a super fun New Year’s Eve party where we adults were enraptured in a game of “Settlers of Cataan” that the kids watched 3 Winnie the Pooh movies until 11 p.m.! And at 36.5 years old, my body officially ain’t like it used to be!
Christmas Eve night
Post Christmas and New Year’s Eve
I don’t know how to close, other than with a humble hope to return to this space soon, and to wish you and yours a wonderful New Year!