Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I drove with the big boys to Tennessee this past weekend to visit my parents and youngest sister (and to escape the awfulness that is Iowa in January). Bennett had a long weekend off of school so I made arrangements for Channing to stay behind and the three of us set out on Thursday morning. It's always funny hearing some of my friends' reactions when I mentioned the road trip. "Ten hours?? By yourself??" Someone asked me today if I stopped overnight half-way. I had to suppress a laugh. We grew up driving from Canada to Georgia without stopping overnight. Last summer we drove to California without stopping overnight!! Road trips are a way of life for us. And frankly, all day in the car, listening to a good book on CD, with my boys strapped in, watching movies is a whole lot more relaxing than a normal day parenting all three at home.
We had three full days there and filled them with new restaurants, lots of my mom's cooking (for that alone I'd drive 10 hours), a new library, the children's museum, frozen yogurt and lots and lots of games of Spot It, and Old Maid (Dawson calls it Homemade. We just call it boring.).
Local was a highlight on this trip. I cannot wait to go back there and order something different. I was disappointed we didn't have time to go to Brother Juniper's again for the breakfast sandwich I've quite possibly thought about every day since last June. But then....deep fried, crab-stuffed avocados. I mean.
We stopped at Gibson's donuts for the boys. (I have a serious sweet tooth but don't really like donuts. Unless it's a warm Krispy Kreme original glazed. Which I would consider trading a child for, depending on the day.)
 I'm not really sure how this happened....all in the name of vacation, I guess:

We drove back home on Monday and swerved off the highway (literally. I got honked at.) when I saw this gorgeous old wooden mill. Nobody was around. It was 60 degrees. We ran and hiked and explored and trespassed and it was glorious.

Before any of you question my judgment over the next picture (I know there are at least two of you who would), I assure you, I tested that collapsing bridge myself before I let them cross. Perfectly safe. (Safe is a relative term, isn't it? We like to push the boundary a bit.)

Of course, my little observant one noticed all that gorgeous green moss and kept stopping to touch it. The vibrant beauty of it jumped out at you since everything else was dead and brown.

 This next picture is for my dad. There isn't a historic sign he hasn't stopped to read.
That little 20 minute pit-stop was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. Being outside at some beautiful spot, exploring with my boys, is the closest to heaven I ever experience on this earth. (Ok, deep fried avocados come pretty darn close too.) I desperately want to live somewhere with mountains (or hills at least!) with beautiful lakes or rivers. I was talking with a friend about contentment. Sometimes there's a deep stirring inside of you that wants something to change. It's hard to tell sometimes if that's the Holy Spirit calling you to something better or if it's just discontentment that can breed bitterness or jealousy if we're not careful. I wasn't content to live in the suburbs anymore with our three boys and I do believe that was ignited by the Holy Spirit. But I would love it if He opened up the door for us to move a bit further South, rather than just outside the Des Moines city limits (which we're currently trying to do). I keep trying to convince my in-laws to start looking for a job elsewhere. Because we'll be right behind them if they do! It was incredibly depressing to drive from 60 degrees to about 12 degrees in just a handful of hours. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas week

Christmas week began the way it should...with lots of snow. This little boy was quite content with a bowl full of the stuff to play with. And eat.
I don't remember what they were laughing at (something inaproppriate, I can assure you) but I just adore these next two pictures, with all their colorful gear and colorful cheeks. And in case you're new around here, this is my sister's daughter, Piper, who's exactly a month older than Bennett.
My parents and youngest sister arrived from Memphis on Christmas Eve. I didn't get any pictures on Christmas eve which makes me sad, because it was the first time my little boys were dressed up since Easter. But it was a hectic night since we always host everybody for appetizers after church services and I was getting all the food ready. I was also being a grouch to my husband who wasn't doing things I didn't ask him to do.
Dawson woke up at 5:40am on Christmas day but thankfully fell back to sleep in our bed for an hour, after throwing a mini fit that we wouldn't let him go downstairs yet. When he woke back up at 6:40, we went downstairs together and found Bennett and Auntie Claire already watching a Christmas movie. Dawson snuggled in there and we waited semi-patiently for Daddy to sleep "just 20 more minutes".
We can never put any presents out before Christmas morning because they'd all be opened. (Jon wrapped a couple of presents for me and left them in the living room and Dawson opened them twice before I locked them away with the rest of the gifts.) I love the magical moment when the boys see the pile of presents for the first time. I still remember those moments so vividly as a kid. (I guess we must have opened presents too, because my parents never put them out until we were asleep on Christmas Eve either.)
I'm so thankful my Dad took these next two pictures. It was a sweet moment, letting Bennett read some of the Christmas story out of The Jesus Storybook Bible:
The boys always get to open their stockings right away and then we have breakfast before the rest of the presents get opened. We like to stretch things out around here. They didn't mind. There was a lot of bacon.
The one time a year I buy my boys matching jammies and I love it. How long will they let me do that?? This year's photo went just slightly better than last year's. ;)

So, Channing has a thing for babies. He's obsessed. He goes up to any baby that's his size or smaller, starts talking in a baby voice (How does a baby talk in a baby voice, you ask?? It's the cutest thing on the planet. Cuter than a pomeranian puppy. His already baby voice gets higher pitched and his face scrunches up and he makes happy little sounds at the other miniature human.) Sometimes he reaches out and gently touches or tickles them or puts a hand on their back. Seriously. Kills me. So I got him a boy baby doll for Christmas. The next three pictures are worth every penny of the $8.99 I spent on it:
 This isn't his mad face. This is just a face he does. Usually when smelling a candle or flowers:
 After our relaxing morning (honestly and was a really great Christmas morning.), we headed to Jon's parents house. We managed to get all eight cousins in a picture. Almost everyone was cooperating...
There's #8. Slightly pacified to at least sit for a moment with a cookie. (I'm just thankful it wasn't mine this time and that my days with a very spirited toddler are past me! A spirited four year old is very tough. But it doesn't hold a candle to his second year of life.) But seriously, how cute are they all together?? One of the biggest blessings of our life- living close to all of their cousins.
To avoid the absolute chaos that was opening gifts last year, Nana Jude came up with a great idea. Only the child sitting on the stool could open gifts. To which Bennett stated after a couple of kids had had a turn, "I hate this stinkin' rule!" That's the giving spirit, my boy! We also dismissed the kids when their gifts were all opened so the adults could take a long time enjoying our gifts. Although, we came to the decision that we'll dismiss the men next year too. ;)
This was Dawson's face after he opened this Playmobil set, only to find out it didn't come with any "guys". 
Dawson's antics when he received gifts this year were comical. A couple of times, he opened something he wasn't so happy about, stared at it for a minute and then said in a downhearted voice, "Here. You can have it," and handed it to whichever kid he was closest to. 
I'm pretty sure Nana dreamed about this moment her whole life: 
My sis-in-law with the smallest Colyer. Don't let his size fool you. This tiny little peanut took his first steps (at 10 months) only about two months after Channing finally started walking (at almost 21 months!!). They're exactly a year apart.
 Long live the queen.
My brother and his wife flew in from California on Christmas day. They joined us at the Colyers, along with my parents and youngest sister, for Christmas dinner. I'm always gung-ho about taking pictures for our first Christmas celebration and then completely drop the ball for the next one. So there aren't any pictures of my side of the family's Christmas which we had the next day. The highlight for most of us every year is our Christmas brunch. Y'all, my mom can cook like nobody's business. We had baked pumpkin oatmeal and bacon on Christmas morning and then a blueberry baked french toast and ham for our second Christmas morning, the next day.
It's always so much fun to have my brother and his wife around. They don't have kids yet, so of course they have the energy and patience to devote a lot of attention to our kids. And they're also just incredible people. Anyone who meets Sarah thinks she's such a warm and kind and interesting person. We're incredibly blessed to have her in our family and yet, it's heartbreaking we're only with them for a handful of days every year. I'm hoping we can start visiting them out there, in addition to their week here.
We had incredible weather right after Christmas so it was a perfect day for a hike in the woods. 
Auntie Claire has weasled her way into all of these boys hearts. Some more easily than others. They adore her.
My mom was still laughing here. Not for long...on the way back out she was watching her feet, focused on Dawson singing and walked straight into an overhanging tree branch and cut her head right open. She didn't need stitches but there was a lot of blood!
 No outdoor adventure would be complete without a little nature lesson from Aunt Sarah. (She and my brother both teach outdoor education in and around Yosemite National Park.)
 Just missing one Ottley sister in this picture:
My brother wasn't feeling good that afternoon so he stayed home to nap while we hiked. These next pictures are pretty terrible from my phone but they're the only ones with my brother in them! One day we went to the library. Half the group jogged over while my mom and I drove over in the van. Yes, we're the wimpiest about the cold. But mostly I didn't want to haul a load of books back. Mostly. ;) :
At the newly renovated Academy of Wildlife Education at our mall. (If you're local, it's a fantastic place to spend a couple of hours.)
Oh, Graham and Sarah, you bring so much life and energy to this family. Your love for us and our boys is such a gift. Our days with you are a highlight of my year.
And since I probably won't blog again for a couple weeks, I'll throw these on there too. Our New Year's Eve plans got cancelled due to our friends' very sick baby. And then Jon ended up in bed in the basement at 8:45 because he didn't feel great either. I was really bummed that it didn't feel special at all. Bennett was watching a movie on the couch and I said, "this is the most boring New Year's ever, huh?" He agreed. Well, right then and there I realized it didn't have to be. So I said, "Let's make popcorn and go eat it in my bed together!" So I made popcorn and I threw in some marshmallows to make it more fun (we didn't have any M&M's...the obvious first choice). I poured the last of some apple cider we had in the fridge and we snuggled under a blanket together on my bed. I read a book and he watched his movie until he fell asleep. It didn't take any effort and it made for a really special memory together.
On New Year's Day, we took advantage of all of our husbands being home from work and had a Colyer girls shopping day and then came back to Judie's for "high tea". It was exquisite and an incredible way to kick off the New Year. I sense a tradition has begun. 
Well, I should end with all kinds of sentimental words and my goals for the New Year but it took me a week just to get these pictures edited and posted so I'm just gonna call it good and save the sentiments for another day!