Thursday, December 15, 2016

Happy 7th Birthday, Beautiful Bella Ann

Dear Bella,
I kissed you goodnight for the last time tonight as a 6 year old.  I came downstairs and worked on my last few continuing education hours to renew my RN license.  I need to go get you and your sister's Christmas gifts out of my car, but the house is silent and I don't want to wake anyone.  Now I am writing you a birthday love note. I have written you and Lucy one every year on your birthdays so far.  Our lives are so busy.  I do try to shield the chaos and how overwhelmed I get from you and Lucy.  I know sometimes you see it and you try to help me.  You say, "mama, go sit down.  I will finish dinner and clean up."  We compromise and do it together.  Teamwork makes the dream work. Tomorrow during your last day of school, you'll have your 1st grade Christmas party.  I have some cupcakes to  share with your class to celebrate your birthday also. The following day, we are going to ride the Polar Express for the 1st time and then have our slumber party at Mimi and Pops and that next morning have a big breakfast and exchange gifts.  So much goodness is slammed in the next few days.  It'll be awesome.  

This year for your birthday, you had a small, friend-birthday-party a couple weekends ago.  You and I decided on the theme: Bella's Crafty Christmas Birthday Party.  We giggled at how long the name of your party was.  It was fun!  You mostly invited friends from your school, you all made 2 adorable ornaments that we picked out together from Pinterest.  Tomorrow night, we are meeting with our family after school/work at a restaurant to celebrate again!  Daddy and I got you a bookshelf in your room.  For over a year, your books were piled up in a laundry basket in the corner.  I knew you needed a better bookshelf, so we went shopping.  You picked one out at the local antique store.  We came home and told daddy, the next weekend it was loaded up in the back of his truck and carried up the stairs and now sits beautifully in your bedroom.  It's filled with books and toys.  I love it!  

Over the last year I have often thought, "what if this is the last time that I carry you to bed?" your legs hang almost to my knees and it is not easy carrying you up those stairs when you are sleeping. But I don't want it to be the last time, so I carry you again and again. You have changed and grown up quite a bit from 6 to now 7 years old!  You've lost almost all of your baby teeth.  You are growing so tall.  

This summer you were in the Sylacauga Community Playhouse's Tarzan play.  You practiced 3 nights/week for 9 weeks. You really enjoyed it. You chose to skip peewee cheerleading this football season.  However, you are back in gymnastics and are doing really well. If you keep working hard, I know you will move up to pre-team and maybe even be on the team.  This summer we also got a boat of our own.  We went almost every single weekend until after Labor Day.  We had a blast!  We would get up Saturday morning, load up the picnic basket, towels and our lake bag and be in the water by about 9-10am!  If we weren't camping then we would get back home usually after 10pm, shower, sleep then do it all again the next day.  

This summer we also got our 1st family pet.  Daddy and I knew one day we wanted you girls to grow up with a beloved pet, like we both had when we were growing up.  We agreed that this was the year.  We discussed and cautiously decided on a breed.  We wanted a German shepherd.  Daddy grew up with a German shepherd mix dog, named Roxie.   She was a total sweet heart.  I loved her just as much as daddy.  We talked closely with a breeder and decided to go meet her.  That morning, I told you and Lucy our puppy plans for the 1st time.  You girls were so excited!!!  You ran and told Mimi, "this afternoon, we are going to look at a SHERMAN PEPPER!"  We laughed When we saw her dark markings on her face  we knew she was coming home with us and would be named "Pepper".  She's an inside dog.  There have been frustrating days raising this puppy, but we know she will grow up to be your and Lucy's close companion.  She will be our camping and lake buddy.  

You also got a new baby cousin this year!  Sweet Grayson was born on August 8th!

You are doing good in school.  You have a great group of friends in your grade!  We talk often about being friends with everyone!  In the 1st grade you don't need 1 "best friend", it is better to have 100 great friends instead.  You enjoy math and tell us for Christmas, you want a science kit.  We have a few fun science projects in our near future!  You write daddy, Lucy and me sweet notes almost every day!  You sneak them on our pillow or bathroom, where we will find them.  Your little heart is so full of love.  

Bella, you are such a blessing to our family.  I love you so much and I am so grateful for you!  I hope today, tomorrow and all the days after that are filled with faith in God, love, family, peace and joy.  

I love you,

Just a normal summer weekend for us, having a wonderful time!

Family days on the boat on Lake Martin

You and some of your cousins on Grayson's BIRTHday 8/8/16

meeting Gray

Tarzan play!  7/17/2016


Bringing Pepper Epperson home!

This was our last weekend on the lake this year.

Pepper and I came to pick you up from school one day.  I couldn't figure out who was more excited!  

This was in a photo booth during our family beach trip!  We have fun no matter where we are!

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Happy 5th Birthday, my lovely Lucy!

Dear Lovely Lucy,
Today you turned 5 years old. I made muffins and put a candle in one and sang happy birthday to you as I woke you up this morning.  I often make you promise me that you'll always be my baby, no matter how old you are.  You always promise me that you will. I say, don't ever be mean to me like some teenagers act toward their mama.  You respond, "Oh mama, no!  Never!"  I am going to hold you to that when you become a teenager. I am finding truth to the saying "The days are long, but the years are short."  As a mommy to you and your sister, a wife and working hard to make sure we make a good living...I am often exhausted at the end of each day.  I love that you want to snuggle me.  You definitely bring light to my day.  Daddy chose your name perfectly.  Lucy means light.  You bring light to our family!  You are witty and funny!  You are so silly and sweet and tender hearted.  Your hair is still as untamed and wild.  You started gymnastics this year.  You have so much fun.  The beam is your favorite and you think the bars are hard, but you love swinging from them.  We bought a boat this year and spent almost every single weekend at Lake Martin this summer.  That's where you learned to swim.  No swimmies, no life jacket.  We also welcomed a puppy into our family this year.  Bella told Mimi and Pops that we were going to get a "Sherman Pepper", really she's a German Shepard   It was so cute, we decided to name her Pepper.  Pepper Epperson.  You like to play with her, even if she is still in her biting, puppy phase that drives us all crazy. This is your last year at Ms Betty's.  Next year you start big school with Bella!  Your daddy and I think you are already very smart.  I sure do love you fiercely.  I am so thankful for our days together. 

I love you,

helping daddy with his shaving cream

dress up + music + card playing=fun family night!
planting seeds at the beginning of spring

Photo booth fun at the beach

laughing with daddy during a gymnastics meet

Easter 2016

Easter 2016

Lake baby!

you sign this heart and the "I love you" sign all the time!

I adore those sweet smiles!

July 4th, 2016  Watching the sunset on Lake Martin before the Fireworks show

Jumping off our boat

Halloween 2016.  You were Mal from The Decedents 

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Happy 6th Birthday, Bella Ann

Dear Bella,

I feel completely blessed to spend the entire day with you on your 6th birthday!  Today was a Tuesday, but not any Tuesday. I took the day off from work to be with you.  Mrs. Moore had planned a field trip to the McWane Center.  How cool is it that one of your kindergarten field trips got to be on your birthday!?! You rode the bus and I met you there. You enjoyed looking at each of the stations.  Daddy and I took you and Lucy there 2 years ago, you were 3 and sister was 1.  Right before you started kindergarten, daddy and I decided to take a family trip to Chattanooga.  We did lots of fun things on that camping trip, one thing that stands out is that we visited the Creative Discovery Museum.  You and Lucy loved it.  You really enjoyed the McWane Center today too.  You took your time at each little station.  You didn't bounce quickly between it all.  We watched an IMAX movie together.  You picked us out a seat on the front row.  We held hands most of the 20 minute movie.  I tried hard to soak you up in little moments today.  Daddy had planned on meeting us for lunch, but last minute he couldn't.  We enjoyed a lunch at Cheesecake Factory with sweet friends.  After looking at the cooler full of desserts, you went with a Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake.  After the Happy Birthday song and dessert, we went to Let's Play- a large, fun indoor playground.  We left around 4pm to get Lucy.  It is rare that I just spend time with you and not you and Lucy.  I love when we are all 4 together, but today was good.  Once we got home, Lucy and I made you a birthday cake while you watched the movie Elf.  We lit 6 candles and sang Happy Birthday yet again.  You, daddy, Lucy and I danced in the living room before a late bedtime and when your head finally hit your pillow, you feel asleep fast.  I hope you are in a happy, sweet dreamland now.  I told you where in the living room we placed a rocking chair to rock you as a newborn, right between the fireplace and Christmas tree.  I posted a picture this morning of you when your skin was brand new and you smelled of baby lotion and spit up.  

I tell ya, I miss those brand new snuggling, sweet, tender moments of when I was a new mommy...winging it with you.  Figuring out each day as best I could.  I'll be honest, I am still doing that today. Just winging it best I can. Figuring out how to be a good mama, a good wife, be good at my career & full time job, how to handle you when you respond overly sensitive to something simple, what to say when you tell me that you hate you can only have 1 boyfriend "because there are so many sweet and handsome boys" at your school, how to be patient when you are trying to read new words and you get distracted easily or you can't remember the word that we said 15 seconds earlier.  Bella Ann, you are teaching me how to parent, just as much as I am trying to teach you about life. I am sorry.  I will sometimes fail and will have moments of frustration and anger.  I will not always make the right calls and sometimes I will hurt your feelings.  But I promise that I will try to make decisions that is in your best interest and decisions that will help mold you into the person that God will want you to be.  Hang in there honey, we can learn these lessons together.  
To my first-born, I love you wholeheartedly.

Biggies over the last year...

  • you learned how to braid
  • you started kindergarten
  • you started gymnastics
  • you lost your bottom 2 teeth
  • you can ride your bicycle with no training wheels
  • you can swim completely independent (well I think you were doing this at 4, but you are improving so much each year.) 
  • you went on your 1st Disney World trip (and loved every minute of it!)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday, Lucy Lee

Dear Lovely Lucy,
Today you are "fourve" as you say.  You are so funny and one big ball of unexpected spunk.  And I love every ounce of you.  A few months ago when the new school year started, you became one of the "big kids" at Mrs Betty's.  You have daily lessons and have started drawing pictures of your family, which consist of 4 huge round heads and 2 stick legs coming out of each of our heads, the only difference is that you draw us girls with long hair & pink/purple clothes...daddy gets a red shirt because you know that's his favorite color.  Speaking of daddy, you remind him almost daily that he is your "best friend".  A few weeks ago when we were laying in our bed, you told your daddy that you loved him up to "puppy heaven", then you looked at me and told me that you loved me up to the house.  You are pretty sure that your daddy hung the moon and I'm just here to get you ready in the mornings. I am a little jealous of the bond you two share, but I still love you into the depths of my soul and I am sure you love me too.  

Your sister might boss you around some...but not much!  You tell it like it is and those facial expressions keep us giggling! You play well with others, but don't NEED others to keep you entertained, you are just as happy playing in your own little world.  You are not a fan of playing outside yet. When daddy or I try to get you to play outside on a beautiful day, unless we are right there with you, you are back inside!  Your favorite cartoon is 'Little Einstein'.  

You recently declared that your favorite color is purple.  For your birthday are asking for purple cowgirl boots.  You and your sister are having a big birthday bash together this year & have agreed on a Brave theme.  You both love how awesome Merida is with her bow and arrow!  

When I put you to bed at night you like for us to talk about memories from our Disney world trip we took together at the beginning of this year.  

Lucy, you are wonderful, just as you are!  I hope that you never lose that ability to be quick witted and spunky.  I love that you still want me to hold you on my hip sometimes. I can't talk about you no longer being a baby...I will begin to cry. I make you promise to me that no matter what age you are that you'll always be my baby. You just grin big, nod your head yes and hug me.  That's all I need.  Please always do that when I remind you that you are my'll be our little code phrase that your mama needs your lovin to get me through tough moments.  

Today we celebrate you and how lovely you are.

Happy birthday. I love you.
7 weeks old
Twirling with Cinderella
While at Disney you were chosen to play Chip in the Beauty and the Beast play
You dancing with your best friend in the lobby of the Grand Floridian
{{You should know that your daddy was in heaven while he felt the weight of you and your tiny pink, sparkling shoes on his feet and that perfect face looking up at him}}


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Monday, March 2, 2015

our little disney video

Whether you're 10, 30 or 50 years old, most people enjoy watching their family's home videos.  Smart phones make it easier than ever to make little short videos. It's the part where you need to MAKE SOMETHING out of all those little clips that often gets pushed to the side. When we went to Disney World, I knew I wanted to make this little video with pictures and video clips to remember how their eyes lit up, their sweet voices and excitement.  I wanted to remember each fun detail. This vacation was nothing less that a blessing to our family.

Here's a glimpse of our magical Disney Vacation....

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

our magical family trip to Disney World

Jacob and I had an amazing honeymoon at Disney World.  When we were there all those years ago, we knew we would go again when we had a family of our own.  Fast forward 8 years and the day came and it was even more magical experiencing it with our girls.  By the end of the vacation they thought they were real princesses and was asking strangers if they wanted to take pictures with them. Of course we played along, because they ARE princesses to us.

I planned this vacation for a year. We stayed 7 nights at Fort Wilderness in our camper.  We loved it.  We love our camper!  It has a full kitchen and 2 bedrooms.  Fact is: we would've had to pay big bucks to stay in a resort with a kitchen and 2 bedrooms!  We knew we wanted do the Disney Dining plan and we were able to eat at some amazing restaurants and saved money by doing the dining plan. Our sit-n-stand stroller was a life saver!  We had 7 day park-hopper tickets. We did the Memory Maker pictures (totally worth it). For our girl's birthdays and Christmas we requested that instead of toys that they give our girls gift cards to be used for their souvenirs and special things, like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. We loved using our magic bands.  I was a little worried that the girls would mess with them and try to take them off, but the never did.  I made all my fast pass selections before we went.  I tried choosing the best/longest rides for them.  We didn't wait more than about 20 minutes for rides that we did not have fast pass reservations on.  January is known for the lowest crowds and one of the main reasons we chose to go then. However there was quite a bit of construction.  Magic Kingdom-they are expanding the area right in front of the castle, Animal Kingdom-they were doing work around the Tree of Life, Hollywood Studios-they were removing the Sourer's Hat.  The girls were 3 and 5 years old.  It was a great age to take them!

Day 1: I worked 1/2 day and we left around 3pm.  We drove a little more than 1/2 way and slept in our camper at a rest area.

Day 2: We couldn't check in until 1pm, so we took our time waking up and eating breakfast. We arrived at Disney around 12:30. Nana, Papa and Aunt T stayed at Port Orleans Riverside Resort.  We got settled in and headed to Epcot. We spent the evening walking around the world and excited as could be!  We ate a quick service meal at Sunshine Seasons. Bella & Lucy got fans from Japan.  They even wrote their names in Japanese on the side. We enjoyed a big pretzel while waiting for Illuminations.  
Magical Moment of the Day: Bella loved riding Soarin'....she rode it twice.  Poor little Lucy was too short to ride, we really wanted to sneak her on!

Day 3: This was our biggest day!  We got up before the sun came up.  During the sunrise we rode the ferry to the Contemporary Resort and ate breakfast at Chef Mickey's.

 Then we rode the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  Where we meet lots of princesses, rode rides & ate lunch at the newest Be Our Guest.
 After lunch we headed back to Fort Wilderness & we all took about a 2 hour nap!  Then we hit the ferry back to Magic Kingdom.  The afternoon was spent meeting more princesses, rides, Enchanted Tales with Belle.  The girls loved the Electrical Parade and the magical Wishes Firework's show.
Magical Moment of the Day:  The girls rode their 1st rollarcoaster: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!  It was so much fun doing this with them.  They loved it!  We would've rode it over & over but since this is Magic Kingdom's newest ride, it was the longest wait.  Thankfully we used a fast pass when we did ride it. 

 Day 4: Animal Kingdom!  Our 1st ride was Kilimanjaro Safari and it did not disappoint!  We enjoyed lunch at Tusker House.  It was one of my favorites.  The dessert bar was aMaZiNg!!!  We loved watching the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the musical!
We headed back to the resort, the girls enjoyed the pool and water play area (January~~~crazy!)
Magical Moment of the Day: We rode on another breathtaking sunset ferry ride to the Polynesian resort, where we enjoyed dinner at O'hana.  It is a delicious Hawaiian themed restaurant.  
After dinner we explored Downtown Disney. It was so cool, all the different things they have to do there. It was also under construction as its being transformed into "Disney Springs". 

 Day 5:  We went to Hollywood Studios this day.  We loved Toy Story Mania, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Jacob's favorite-For the 1st time in Forever: Frozen Sing-Along.  For real, one of the guys telling the Arrendale's story was hilarious.  Jacob loved it!  We ate dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine In. Then Fantasmic was fantastic!  We sat front row & was so into it!
Magical Moment of the Day:  Bella nervously rode the Tower of Terror and LOVED IT!

Day 6: took us back to Magic Kingdom.  
 The girls used a huge chunk of their gift cards on the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  They wore their own dresses and chose their hair style and color eye shadow and nail colors.  In their little minds...they were now REAL PRINCESSES!
Afterward they went to another area for their "photo shoot".  It was hilarious how they posed them.  It's totally reminded me of glamour shots back in the day!
When we left it was the cutest thing...Bella was in the stroller waving and blowing kisses as if she was in her own little princess parade.  It was spectacular to see her shining!
Magical Moment of the Day: We left Magic Kingdom and went to the Grand Floridian to eat dinner at 1900 Park Fare.  While waiting in the grand lobby, there was a jazz band playing.  Jacob asked Lucy if she wanted to dance.  She accepted.  She stood on his feet and the 2 of them spun around and swayed from side to side.  No one else was dancing, but them. I knew he could've cared less what anyone else was thinking. He was in paradise with his youngest love as they danced.  It completely melted my heart.  Later Jacob and I were talking and he was saying how precious it was to have that sweet little face smiling up at him.  I think that is a mental picture that he will never forget as long as he lives.  People often talk about the best age to take their kids to disney & base it off if the child will remember it or not.  Whether our kids remember these moments or not... Jacob and I will never forget them!

Day 7: We went went back to Epcot for breakfast at Akershus.  It was wonderful...ALL the princesses were there and the girls got to talk with each of them again.  Bella and Jacob rode Soarin again while (too short) Lucy and I enjoyed a little ice cream.  They both had their faces painted. Then we went to Downtown Disney, explored a bit...ate a churro or 3.
Magical Moment of the Day: Was when we went back to Magic Kingdom that night.  I love fireworks....I think my heart smiles when I am near them.  I love the boom, the way the sky lights up, the way the glitter falls from the sky.  So when I learned of the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party, I booked reservations...and of course I loved it.  

Day 8: Our last day.  We hit up Hollywood Studios.  Jacob and I really enjoyed the era that you were taken back to at Hollywood Studios.  We all enjoyed Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage.  We ate lunch at Hollywood and Vine with all our Disney Jr friends.  The threat of rain was close, so we slowly headed back to Ft Wilderness.  It never rained so we explored the campground.  It was huge.  Horse and carriage rides, restaurants and beach area made it the nicest campground we've ever been to.  
Notice Bella's "Rapunzel's hair"?  (yes it is a scarf)
Magical Moment of the Day: when I realized our vacation was over, sure I was disappointed, but I was also so very grateful for the experience.  This long trip to Disney was pricey, but worth every penny that we spent!  We tried very hard to minimize distractions-mainly on our phones.  We tried to put them away (except when checking on my 3 month old nephew who was hospitalized for RSV while we were gone).  Other than checking on him and texting my family, we avoided Facebook and other social media so we could soak up every moment of this opportunity.  To see our girls was worth the planning and money!  I'm so glad we went!  Jacob and I have already decided that we might be heading back in about 5 years!  

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