looking back at 2016

Look how little they look at the beginning of 2016!

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to go back through my pictures and see all of the fun things we did throughout the year. 2016 was a good one for our family. Our kids all grew up so much over the last year!

In January it snowed. A LOT. I'm talking a blizzard for the south! We got like 7 inches and the town pretty much shut down. It was beautiful & the kids loved it...but 4 days of being homebound was a bit more than we can handle. I look forward to the days where it doesn't take 45 minutes to get the kids ready for snow.

This girl was sick a majority of February but she knows how to rally. She is the toughest girl I know!

February was hard. We started a rough 6-7 weeks of constant sickness for sweet Cheney. She had lots of high fevers & lots of stomach viruses. She and I missed a bunch of school, spent lots of time with our favorite pediatrician, & even some (not so fun) times at the hospital. We also learned that my mom had lung cancer. February was full of scary & unknown things but it really taught me to lean on the Lord. He is good all the time. (and also? we got some answers about our girl AND my mom is now cancer free. YAY!) I also got a minivan in February and it was a GAME CHANGER. I never thought I would be excited about a minivan....but I am obsessed.

In March it finally warmed up; a time our family always appreciates because we love being outside! Baseball season started for Grayson & he had a fun time playing with several friends. We went to Georgia for spring break and spent the week at my old house hanging out with family. We also celebrated Easter with lots of egg hunts with friends!

We spent our weekends at the ball fields in April. Cheney was finally HEALTHY. Grayson got to have kindergarten sneak a peek at Lipscomb & we all got to ride the bus and take a tour of the school. He LOVED the bus and was officially ready to start in August!

May was a fun & busy month! We spent Mother's Day at the Sounds game with Grayson's baseball team! They got to go out on the field with the players and stand out on the field during the National Anthem. It was so fun! The little kids also finished out their preschool year with the preschool program (Cheney totally stole the show--little performer) & Grayson graduated from pre-k!

In June we spent a week in Hilton Head with my parents! We had so much fun that we booked our 2017 trip almost immediately after! Grayson really learned how to swim & really enjoyed the water. The kids also did a day camp at church called Playcation & it was awesome. They had a blast and it gave me 3 days of kid-free time. THAT IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF!

In July we celebrated the 4th of July at our favorite little downtown Franklin festival & then went to see fireworks with friends. Sadly, it thundered right before it started so we had to wait a night for those. We also started celebrating our family birthdays! Ben turned 32 and Griffin turned 4! We did a combined birthday party for Cheney & Griffin and had a petting zoo in our backyard. Ben thought I had lost my mind but it was amazing! Now I would like a small farm.

August brought about a huge change for our family: Grayson started KINDERGARTEN. He wasn't really nervous & loved it from the start. He has done so well, is learning so much, and has already made lots of new friends. I love his teacher and his school! He is also obsessed with his bus driver, Ms. Andi:) Our Cheney girl turned TWO on August 6th & is turning into such a big girl! Grayson also starting playing baseball in the 7 year old league. I was apprehensive about bumping him up, but he did so great and improved so much. Their team was a great group of boys & I am hoping they will get to play together again this spring!

In September we let our kids in on a little secret we had been keeping from them. We were planning on spending a week in Disney World during the week of Grayson's birthday! As if that wasn't a fun enough surprise, Mimi and Pops showed up in our resort lobby--the kids were pumped! It was a magical week with our crew & we definitely have become that family that is Disney obsessed. Grayson turned 6 & is so grown up. He is sports obsessed & so athletic. The little kids started preschool & love their new classes. I became lead teacher in my preschool class & still love spending two days a week with a group of 3 year olds!

October was spent exploring all of the local pumpkin patches (it is our favorite thing to do) and going on hay rides. We spent Halloween with some neighbors at a block party & then went trick or treating. We also went to our first Trunk or Treat with some friends & had a blast!

November as a sports-free month which meant some relaxing weekends! We of course started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving because that is how we roll. We spent Thanksgiving in Alabama & got our bellies full of yummy food! Hudson gave us a scare when his back started hurting again, but thankfully he was fine and it just meant he got to tag along on our road trip.

December was so much fun with all of our Christmas activities! The kids all had classroom parties, we went to Opryland to look at lights, we saw the Jellystone lights for the first time, watched way too many Christmas movies, & got lots of fun new toys.

I am so ready for 2017. God has opened new doors over the last couple of months & we are excited to see what He has in store for us. Happy New Year!


our Christmas

We had such a wonderful Christmas with my parents in town!

This is such a fun age with each of the kids. Grayson is all things Christmas obsessed. I feel like he is our very own Buddy the Elf! He was so excited about Christmas Eve this year so he could track Santa's sleigh on my computer. We had been watching Santa and the reindeer on ReindeerCam & he is just so intrigued.

My parent's got here the afternoon of Christmas Eve & we let the kids open up the gifts from out of town family. They were super excited!

They sure do have a lot of people that love them!

We went to church on Christmas Eve before dinner. It was a beautiful, candlelit service.

Cheney slept through about half of it. She was worn out! We sang Lauren Daigle's "Noel" and those words are just powerful. That has been one of my favorite songs this advent season. It is beautiful.

We ended Christmas Eve with the Pioneer Woman's pot roast (make it!), tracking Santa one last time, & finishing our Storybook Bible advent story.

Christmas morning started bright and EARLY. I had told the boys not to wake up before the sun on Christmas morning. Well, I heard them in the hallway walking towards our room & I got up to take them back into their room. I looked at the clock and said, "guys. seriously. it is 6am!" Grayson immediately looked at his clock and said, "NO IT ISN'T! It is 6:01." ha! They stayed in their room for about half an hour while the adults got ready & then it began!
Santa came!
 One of the only things Grayson asked for this year was some athletic leggings. He is OBSESSED with only wearing basketball shorts & this was something he wanted so bad. He cracks us up! Look at that face. He was so excited!

Griffin is just the sweetest. The smallest things make him so happy. He was honestly just as excited about giving me this snowman he made at school as he was about opening his own presents. He was so proud of this snowman!
All Cheney has said that she wanted for Christmas was "TWO BABIES!" Well, she is a lucky girl because I found these Bitty Baby twins before they discontinued them. They look like a little Cheney & Griffin. She loves them!

We spent the day playing inside & outside -- we had beautiful weather -- and eating way too much yummy food. The perfect way to spend Christmas!

We ended Christmas by taking Nana and Poppy to see the Sunnyside lights. We love Sunnyside & are so sad that next year is his last year. It was a great Christmas...I can't believe it is already over!


on Christmas & traditions

I love family traditions & Christmas is just about my favorite. I vividly remember so many things about Christmas with my family growing up. I loved digging out all the decorations with my mom, turning on our favorite Mitch Miller Christmas cd, & decorating the house and tree. The candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church was one of my favorite things. It was beautiful & I loved spending Christmas Eve singing "O Holy Night" by candlelight.

I have become especially sentimental since becoming a mom. Our mentor moms at MOPS last week talked about traditions they started when their children were younger & which ones have lasted now that their children are adults. It got me really thinking about how the things we are doing with our 3 now will carry on & even may continue on as we eventually add grandkids to our family. (how's that for thinking ahead?!) I wonder about the things that I do to try and make Christmas more special and memorable & about what the takeaway will be for my kids as they grow up. What will they actually remember? What traditions that we do now as a family will they continue to do with their own families one day? I love the magic of Christmas & I love how fun it is to celebrate with my kids but I have been really convicted this year about making sure that the focus of the season is on the reason why we celebrate in the first place. Looking back on their childhood Christmas traditions I want my kids to remember that Jesus was the focus of our holiday season. His birth is the whole reason we celebrate & while there are lots of fun things that also get thrown in, I hope they can look back and say that Jesus really was the center of our Christmas celebration.

I always wrap 25 Christmas books before December & the kids take turns opening one book a day. That has been a fun way to countdown to Christmas. We have so many great children's books about Christmas but I wanted to add something else this year. I searched for Advent readings that were appropriate for young kids & found this great one! It is a Jesus Storybook Bible Advent reading plan & we have been reading it each night before we do our bedtime books. It even has a cute free printable that goes along with it!

One of my favorite things we do in December is drink hot chocolate while driving around looking at Christmas lights. Grayson LOVES all things Christmas and he gets so excited when he sees lights. Even if you have one tiny bush with lights, he loves it. He is the one that I think will remember helping me decorate one day:) We also love going to Opryland each year and looking at all the beautiful decorations. We will be adding the drive through lights at Jellystone to that event this year!

I also look forward to Operation Christmas Child each year. Samaritan's Purse does Operation Christmas Child and it is a great way to teach your kids about serving others & that giving is better than receiving. We love filling up a couple shoeboxes every November to send off to children in need. It's fun for Grayson, Griffin, and Cheney to shop for these kids & pic things out that they think will be fun and useful. We even have them track our boxes and they will eventually email me & let me know where the boxes end up! Last year they went to Ghana & they traveled to the Philippines the year before last.

One thing that my kids look forward to each year is getting their special ornament from Ben & I. I add it to their stocking and it is special for that specific year. They get to hang it on their own tree and one day all of those ornaments will go with them to their own home! I love pulling them out each year and seeing what all they have.

Christmas is pretty spectacular as a child, but it is even better as a parent. I love starting special traditions with these 3 & seeing the magic of it all through their eyes! What are some of your favorite traditions?

brain dump

Somehow it is already the middle of December. I am still racking my brain at how that happened. This year is going by so fast!

We have been a fun kind of busy--here is what we have been up to!
Preschool has been so much fun! I have a great class this year & the littles are both loving their classes. Griffin is doing great in his Alligator class & it has really helped him become more independent and confident. It is easier to not follow in your big brother's shadow when he isn't at your school anymore:) Cheney has the sweetest little class & talks about her school friends a lot.
Grayson is still LOVING kindergarten & got to go on his first field trip in October. The kindergarteners went to Walden Farm & he had a blast. I was sad it was on a school day for me - I am learning to deal with that mama guilt since I can't be at everything! I'm glad other sweet mamas send me pictures:)

Our fall has been super warm and we have gotten to enjoy lots of outdoor things. We went to the zoo with some friends which is always fun! Grayson is still not used to the fact that we go places while he is at school. Griffin and Cheney had fun with their friends! Our zoo is getting renovated and will be so awesome when it is all done. 
Ellie and Cheney are best friends & are so cute together. They are both surrounded by brothers so they love having their girl time!

We spent fall break in Atlanta with my family. My mom continued our Disney obsession with tickets to Disney on Ice! It was so good and the kids loved it. Cheney even sat through the first half!

They even convinced their mama to spend their college tuition on these swords and Elsa wand. Oh, Disney.

We had to take them to the Varsity for lunch afterwards. I'm not the biggest fan of the favorite Atlanta grease pit but the kids thought it was great! I love how the simplest things make Grayson so happy!
We spent our Thanksgiving in Alabama with Ben's family. Our kids love going to see Mimi and Pops & Uncle Thomas! Lots of football was watched and lots of front yard baseball was played--the boys dream come true!

Our fall has flown by & I still haven't figured out how to slow time down. Life with these people is the best kind of busy!


Two baseball boys

This fall was the beginning of a crazier schedule for us. We have always just had one kid involved in sports but this year Griffin got to play, too! We kept asking him in the spring if he wanted to try soccer or baseball & we were actually surprised when he kept saying baseball. He never seemed interested in Grayson's games but we gave it a whirl!
Griffin played in the 4/5 year old league and was on the Threshers. Our league doesn't start off with tee ball; it is a combo of coach pitch and tee ball. The kids always get 5 pitches and then they use the tee if they have not gotten a hit. Griffin only used the tee a couple of time this season--I was so impressed!
This season was so great for his confidence. He had a great time (which is the most important part) but I loved watching him play & seeing how excited he was every time he made a good play or got a hit. He was so proud!

The Threshers favorite part of every game was ending with a snack!

Griffin finished the season strong & got the game ball after his last game! He is already talking about playing again in the spring. I love his enthusiasm!
Grayson moved up to the 7 year old league this fall & played on the Sea Dogs. They didn't keep score in the fall but they did start doing outs. It was a big learning year for him!
Grayson learned so much this season. He struck out for the first time (and handled it way better than I imagined) AND he hit his first homerun! He is so determined to improve & I just love his drive! He is asking Santa for a batting cage--we are baseball obsessed over here.

This was the sweetest group of boys! They got along so well & I really hope most of them can be together again in the spring. As hectic as life was during baseball season, we sure do miss playing!


Menu Monday

Well, I haven't quite gotten my blogging groove back, but it is getting a little better. Right? sigh. I'm trying! I am doing something different this week in hopes of making my hectic Sundays a little easier: Wal-Mart grocery pickup! If you know me at all, you know that I would rather stick hot needles in my eye than shop at Wal-Mart. Grayson has called it "Dirty Target" since he was 2 and he couldn't be more spot on. BUT, if the Wal-Mart people want to shop for me, who am I to say no?! I am hoping it is the greatest thing ever.  Here is what the Mays are eating this week!


Monday: Marlboro Man Pasta w/ garlic bread


Tuesday: Tamale Pie

chicken zucchini casserole 2
Wednesday: Chicken Zucchini Casserole

Bang Bang Chicken - Amazingly crisp chicken bites drizzled with sweet chili mayo - so good, you'll want to double or triple the recipe!

Thursday: Bang Bang Chicken with jasmine rice

Taco-Filled Pasta Shells Recipe

Friday: Taco Stuffed Shells