Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Here is our Christmas card and letter for 2011.

Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas! We hope this letter finds you enjoying the season and making memories with family and friends.

For us, this has been a big year. We've made big changes. We've carried out big plans. We've taken big vacations. (In our "bunch" there are six kids ranging from 8 years to 19 years old. So, when there are 7-10 people in your group at all times, nothing is ever small.)

Around the first of November, Joey and I made a life changing decision, one that was discussed and thoroughly thought out as to what would be best for us and the many young lives involved. We decided to merge my household into his. So, the entire month of November was spent rearragnging, reorganizing, replacing, redistributing, repainting and rethinking. His house became a six bedroom home overnight. (Well, not overnight, but in a hurry.) It's nice to be settled in a place where we can all enjoy being together all of the time.

After all of the craziness in November, we are truly enjoying December. It's been fun creating new traditions: the decorating, the shopping, the wrapping and the excitement, all under one roof. Most of the time we have a full house and those are the days and nights that we enjoy most.

The Earth may have just four seasons but our seasons included: karate, basketball, baseball/softball, summer vacation, football season and deer season. And seven months out of the year we celebrate birthdays. There 's always something to look forward to and events to plan.

Between the kids' sports, various activities, (and birthdays), we still managed to find time to get away with all of the kids. We set up camp twice. On Spring Break we spent a few nights in Glen Rose with friends. Here we enjoyed Big Rock Park across the street from our campsite, a one mile trek down the river and through the mud; Dinosaur Valley State Park where we thought we lost a kid and some truck keys in the river, took a four hour hike on the trails (only getting lost and for a very long time); and lost sleep the last night thanks to an all night long fiesta going on in another tent area. Our second camping trip was at Lake Whitney with just us and the five kids. We took the boat on this tip so we enjoyed time in the water - cliff jumping, swimming and a late night fishing trip. (We did lose a couple of kids on this trip when they thought their route back to camp was shorter. No worries, they eventually showed back up.) The late night fishing trip became even later when we realized that I had left the truck keys back in the tent and we couldn't load the boat on the trailer without them. All of the kids slept on the boat (except the one that got sick) while Joey made the long hike to camp and back. (Not sure what it is about kids, keys and camping.) Nevertheless, both trips were fun and broke me in to the "great outdoors" a little more. Our big "family" summer vacation was a trip to Panama City, Florida in a rental van. The bunch went coastal. It was a great time there spent with the kids and friends - on the beach, snorkeling, riding the waves, dodging the seaweed, multiple trips to the grocery store and souvenir shops, riding the go-carts and sending the boys crabbing with the kids at night. It was definitely an exciting and memorable trip from start to finish.

And then there were several mini-getaways that Joey and I enjoyed throughout the year. We made a day trip to Galveston, enjoying dessert on the beach. (It was a work trip for him, a road trip for me.) We spent a weekend going to San Angelo to pick up a boat and spent the night near the deer lease. We took a quick trip to San Antonio for a couple of days to unwind before the new school year started - walking along the Riverwalk, remembering the Alamo, taking a haunted tour through the wax museum and stopping in Gruene to enjoy the river and shops on our way home. Our big vacation was four days in Cozumel. We enjoyed the beauty, the beach, the buffets, the market shops, and touring the island in our rental jeep; the security guards coming in during the middle of the night and the rain - not so much. Our past year and a half together has been amazing and we have found complete happiness. We made the most of our time together and our time with the kids all year long.

As life is rolling along, we have definitely learned to go with the flow, take things one day at a time and to live each day to the fullest. We know that above everything else, time spent together is time well spent. May you find time together this Christmas season and all throughout the year. Make big plans and create big dreams with those you love most.

With love from our bunch to yours,

Joey and Stephanie

Thursday, December 22, 2011

a date to remember

December 24th and 25th are typically the days celebrated with family. For all of my kids' lives -which began 14 years ago- we have celebrated traditionally. We'd open some gifts on Christmas Eve (mainly because I was as anxious to give as they were to receive) and Santa came Christmas morning and we finished opening the gifts under the tree.

This year, that tradition had to change due to circumstances. I have the kids every other year on Christmas and Christmas Eve. Last year was my year, this year is their dad's year. In many ways, I tried to share last year so they could have time with their dad. This year, I am not getting much of that same respect in return. To avoid any personal grievances, I'll just say that I feel blessed to get them for two hours on Christmas day. That's better than what it could've been and more time than I was told a couple of weeks ago.

A couple of weekends ago I struggled with all of the texts being sent back and forth, realizing that there did not seem to be any chance of having my kids at all for Christmas. It was hard and it was emotional - for me, for the kids, for my family. After finally coming to terms with it and knowing that for my kids' sake and their happiness, I had to make the best of the time given. As a mom, it's my job to make it a Merry Christmas for them no matter when it's celebrated. Joey and I made plans to celebrate with them the weekend before Christmas. I told my mom, not only to try and convince her but to also convince myself, it's just a date. And, in all actuality we can celebrate it any date that we choose. With this inevitable circumstance comes flexibility and change- both of which tend to be my weakest qualities.

On December 19th my kids and I celebrated their Christmas with Joey, my parents, my brother and his wife at our house. We had pizza, snacks and coffee which made for a fun and spontaneous get together. Clayson, Trey and Ashlyn were more than satisfied to get these gifts that they'd been eyeing under the tree for weeks, a week early.

There's always such a joy that can be seen in the eyes of a child as they open each present. I saw that same joy on December 19th (instead of December 25th). I got to see the anxiousness and gratitude as they played with and enjoyed what they had been given. Christmas is a season. As a mom, it's very hard to stay strong when I know that this year will not be spent with my kids traditionally. But, I am thankful for December 19th and the joy it brought into our home. It was definitely a Merry Christmas.

Don't take things, traditions or people for granted. Times change. But, in the end, it's just a date- you choose when to celebrate the birth of Jesus and spend time with those you love most.

Merry Christmas to you all.