Monday, December 22, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas to You!

Well, I know you guys are a lot like us and you, too, are probably rushing around before Wednesday night gets here. I just wanted to take a minute (while my babies are napping) to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We have been so busy this week with Christmas parties, programs at school, baking, shopping for the "last minute gifts", visiting Santa, going to see Christmas lights, etc. mixed in with the everyday bustle of life's routines! It would almost bring the best of moms to their knees! When I start to feel that "overwhelmed little monster" creeping up my back, I just try to think about Christmas morning and how I am anticipating the looks I hope to see on my children's faces as they experience Santa's visit. And just like that, I forget how much work I have to do! :-) 'Cause it's gonna be SO worth it!
As I said earlier, we've packed A LOT into the last few days before Christmas, and here are some memorable shots from these events.
Merry Christmas from the Hensley family!

Monday, December 15, 2008

We Love You, "Miss" Sara!

Jonah, "Miss" Sara, Mary Claire & John Owen
Christmas 2008

If you haven't had the privilege of meeting our "Miss" Sara, then you are missing out! "Miss" Sara is so special to our family. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I think God led her to us last year when we were looking for and praying for another nanny for our children. (Well, God worked through Laura's connection with "Miss"Sara, of course...thank you, Laura!)

"Miss" Sara is like our family now! And Jonah especially holds a special place in her heart(she always says so!) because he had her full attention, and they had some great "one-on-one" time together last year. She went above and beyond in taking care of my boys last year while I was working, and I could never express in words how grateful I am to her. She made a full-time working mom's life a little easier every day.

She taught my children many things, and she taught me some things, too! I love to make her chicken pot pie recipe and will always think of her when I make it in the future. I enjoy that we both LOVE to eat some of the very same foods with macaroni and cheese ranking right up there at the top of the list!

I knew practically right away that she was "the one." To some, her age might have been a concern, but I didn't doubt her for a minute. She reminded me of my grandmother, Jenny, and I knew I could entrust my children to her. She raised three boys of her own and then has raised her grandson, and even at 70, she could probably run circles around some people half her age. I hope I am like that when I am 70! I found myself faced with some what of a dilemma when I decided to fulfill my dream of taking off from work to be at home with my children this year. There was a huge part of me that didn't want to let "Miss" Sara go. But happiness can also come from seeing someone else experiencing the love of "Miss" Sara, and I know that's just what Lane and Bo are receiving from her this year. I know they love her now just as much as we do.

Jonah loves his "Miss Sara"

Yesterday, she came by so that we could exchange some gifts for Christmas. See, just like family she is! I took the opportunity to have my children's picture made with her because the things and people who are important to us are on this here blog...And "Miss" Sara ranks right up there at the TOP of our list! We LOVE you, "Miss" Sara!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking Christmas Pictures is FUN!!

(NOTE: You may have to click on "view all images" to view these...I just realized it's taking a long time to LOAD! Maybe it's because there were so MANY!!!hehe) Just wanted to share some of the MANY shots we took for our Christmas cards this year! Is it possible to get 3 children to all look at the camera at the same time with decent expressions on their faces? It is! (But they're gonna make you WORK for it!) Hope your holiday season is VERY MERRY!

Love, The Hensley Clan

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Message to Remember

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas China and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure. Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!
-Author Unknown
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Light My Fire

C'mon baby light my fire PIT, that is! Jan and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving Day, and our gift to each other was a fire pit! Jan had been admiring these for a while and wanted one for our "middle of the city" backyard. "Hmm...I don't know, Jan. What kind would you want?" (Me kinda thinkin the "oh so close" neighbors might fuss...) "It would be a way to extend our outside time," he said. ( thinkin it through again!) :-) "We could roast marshmallows," he added. SOLD me on it right then and there! Seriously, I really like it! And the boys...they LOVE it! We roasted marshmallows the night before Thanksgiving, and it was great FUN! So, friends are welcome anytime to come over to roast weiners and marshmallows. And Rob, no need to build a bonfire! We got your "citified" bonfire waitin' on ya!

This is the "I Make Fire" dance performed by the native children

Jonah warming his hands by the fire!

Funny story about the firepit...this past Sunday we hosted the CHS Baseball Tour of Homes, and Jan decided to light his firepit for the occasion. I came into the living room as people were starting through the house only to find that smoke from the firepit was filling my living room!! Needless to say, I tried to make sure the back door did not get opened very much after that! I thought it added a nice touch! :-)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Conversations with Boys

My boys have reminded me lately that some of the best times are when we just sit and talk about whatever THEY want to talk about! I thought I'd share some more of these "you'd better write it down" moments...

The Imaginary Turtle
(Sitting at lunch the other day, Jonah announced that he had an an imaginary turtle. Being a good sport and seeing how this could be so much fun, I went along with it.)
Jonah: Mommy, I have an imaginary turtle who's my friend!
Me: You do?! Wow! What is your turtle's name?
(Long pause...with no answer.)
I was especially proud of John Owen for deciding not to "call his brother out" on his imaginary tall tale like he usually does. Instead he chimed right in with me...
John Owen: What does the turtle eat? (Good question!!)
Jonah: He eats training wheels. (?)
Me: What else does he eat?
Jonah: He eats flowers.
John Owen: Does he eat meat?
Jonah: No.
John Owen: Does he eat fruit and vegetables?
Jonah: Nope.
John Owen: Dairy? (What?! I was impressed at this point at the things coming from John Owen's mouth. Had he been studying the nutrition pyramid on the side of the cracker box?)
Jonah: Nope.
(Ok..I stepped in to redirect this tale.) Me: What should we call this turtle when we need to talk to him?
(Another pause but not quite as long...)
Jonah: "John." (VERY original, don't you think?) hehe
Jonah: And he does not like (INPUT NAME OF BOY IN HIS PRESCHOOL CLASS). :-) He will bite (INPUT SAME NAME OF BOY IN HIS PRESCHOOL CLASS). (Mommy thought: "Uh-huh, that's what this is ALL about...I wonder what happened at school today.")
So, "John" the invisible turtle now lives at the Hensley house, I suppose. And I guess he's here to help my Jonah deal with the issues he's facing with friends at school. (Don't you think it's fitting that this "turtle" bears the name of his BIG brother whom he adores and thinks can BEAT up anyone?) Gotta love BOYS!

Spill Some for ME!
The other day we were making scotchies. The boys were standing around me with their chairs pulled up to the counter to "help" me stir the batter when all of a sudden I dropped the bag of butterscotch chips and several fell out on the floor! John Owen quickly jumped down from his chair and exclaimed,"I'll get them!" (Which meant he would pick them up off of the floor and put them in his mouth.)
Jonah quickly picks up on this tactic, and exclaims,"Hey, mommy, spill some for me!!!" :-)
When I Grow Up...
Last Thursday, I went to Jonah's class and read a Christmas book to them about the birth of Jesus. It was so much fun! I read "The Christmas Donkey", and they really got into the different sounds of the animals in the story. It reminded me of why I enjoy teaching. Kids can be so much fun sometimes! Anyway, when I picked the boys up from school later that day, here's how the conversation went:
Jonah: Mommy, I saw you at my school today.
Me: Yes, Jonah. Did you like the story I read to your class?
Jonah: Uh-huh. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and had cupcakes, didn't we?
Me: Yes we did, JOnah!
Short pause.
Jonah: Are you gonna be a new teacher at my school?
Me: No, Jonah. I was just there to read and sing with you today. Mrs. Joy is your teacher this year.
Another short pause.
Jonah: When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.
Me: You do?! That sounds like a great idea, Jonah!
(I wanted to cry at the thought of my three-year-old boy saying he wanted to be teacher and not saying something typical of his age and gender like being a fireman or policeman or something like that! It was a great moment!)
And then the moment ended abruptly with John Owen's interjection in the conversation...
John Owen: When I grow up, I want to be a racer!!!
Jonah: I want to be a racer, too! (Of course! I just smiled. It was nice thought while it lasted.)
Yall Hush Yall's Mouths Up!
Last night, we rode on the church's Christmas float in the parade. I rounded up as many children from the church as I could to ride with me in my van down to where the float was stationed. I lost count, but there must have been 11 or 12 kids (ranging in ages 3-12) "squashed" into my mini-van with my "projection voice" saying, "OK, there's only one of me and lots of you, so listen for my voice." "And stay with me!"
Needless to say, my own children were subjected to this craziness as we drove slowly and carefully down the small streets to the float. I was so afraid the police would get on to me in front of the children for this fiasco, but we made it with no problems.
Jonah and John Owen had a BLAST!! They loved the "throwing out" of the candy, shouting Merry Christmas, and "hangin out" with the older kids! On the way back to the church, the van was once again VERY noisy with children who must have been on SUGAR HIGHS! Jonah, who was sitting in Hannah's lap in the front seat, said in a very deep scratchy voice, "YALL HUSH UP YALL'S MOUTH-S!" (Emphasis on the "S") It was so funny! Hannah, Catherine Ann and I burst out laughing which of course caused him to say it again. Catherine Ann told the others in the back to be quiet so they could hear Jonah, and ...he said it again! The van was filled with laughter! It was a fun time and a great Christmas memory!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Tradition?

As part of our decoration for the upcoming Tour of Homes (which by the way, I am SO ready to be overwith), we bought a gingerbread house kit. This is something new for the Hensley family, and let me just say that we enjoyed it so much that I think it'll be a tradition from now on. Or at least until my kids think they are too big for it, and then I'll probably enjoy doing it just to bring back the memories of a day when their little faces beamed with excitement about putting candy on an iced rooftop. Secretly, I hope they never think they are too big for it!

John Owen showed true skill (with a little guidance from Mom) at placing the candies in the perfect places! Know where Jonah thought was the perfect place for those candies? IN HIS MOUTH!! :-) He was so funny! I burst out laughing once when he thought I wasn't paying attention because I was "in the zone" and piping that icing with intent focus! With my "Mommy Vision" I spotted a little hand trying to sneak a piece of candy away from the pile of candies on the table, and I firmly said, "Jonah, don't even think about it." He laughed, which in turn, caused me to deeply laugh out loud, and John Owen said, "A little person makin' a grown person laugh!"

Jonah tryin' to decide which piece he's going for!

Mouth open to show me he did not eat any! :-)

It was FUN! Call it fate if you please, but I found three little gingerbread candies in the pantry that are supposed to go on top of cupcakes and told them we would add them. And we would call them "John Owen", "Jonah" and "Mary Claire". Jonah liked that! So here it is (minus the gingerbread "people"...I haven't put them on yet.) Now, if I can just keep little hands off for a little bit longer...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Brother!

Yesterday was a much celebrated day. It wasn't JUST Thanksgiving with turkey and my mom's dressing and all of the other good food we were blessed to have on our table, but it was also my younger brother's 28th birthday! Happy Birthday, Christopher! That "turkey" was born on Thanksgiving Day 28 years ago...sorry, I couldn't resist that one! :-)

Now, it wouldn't be like me to not say something about the only sibling I have had in life, so here it goes...
What comes to mind when I think of Christopher (AKA "Bubba")? I don't think he prefers being called that, but my boys enjoy it! hehe
Well, I think about his talent for singing. I will always cherish the memories of my childhood that I have of us putting on "shows" and singing along to songs by artists such as The Temptations, The Beatles, Three Dog Night, and many more! He was quite the entertainer and loved being in the spotlight. He always took the spotlight which was ok with me being that I lacked the level of confidence and bravery he seemed to have.
And this would probably embarass him, but I think about how so many girls' faces would look when they would say, "You're Chris Phillips's sister?!" Like he was famous or something! (Whatever! was what I thought then...Now, I think a little differently about it.) I am proud that he was given such talent encased in such handsomeness.
I think about his athletic ability and how his abilities seemed to come so naturally for him. I am thankful that he was a good catcher for the many pitches I attempted to throw when practicing my softball. I will always have the pictures in my mind of us throwing ball in the front yard of the old house.
I have many good memories of time spent with my "little" brother and I could go on for days writing about them. I wouldn't change a thing about them. I hope that I was a good sister. Yeah, he got on my nerves his fair share of times, and I am sure I returned the favor my share of times, too. Funny, though, I can't seem to ever remember deeply wishing for a sister, so that must account for the happiness I have from being Christopher's big sister.
Happy Birthday, Christopher! I hope and pray that you will always find happiness and that the Lord will watch over your every step in life. I know He has great things planned for you, Bubba. And I am here if you ever need me, or if in the future you ever find worth in my advice, I'd be happy to share what little I have learned about life with you. Always remember that you have a sister who loves you, no matter if we agree or disagree about life and how it should be lived. Hope you had a great day! Love, " 'Cole "

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brave Little Indians...and Pilgrim!

Yesterday was the boys' Thanksgiving Feast and Pow-Wow at their school. I was looking forward to it very much because believe it or not, they still use the same song and dance they used when I was in the same preschool. It's a great song...I guess some things are meant to last!

I arrived at the preschool later than I would have liked to have been being that I was slightly detained by a hungry baby sister...hehe, but got there in time to turn the camera on and start filming. Some kind soul let me squeeze through to the front row of the crowd, and I sat on the floor so as not to block the others with my not-so-petite frame! I immediately spotted John Owen with his class dancing around the tee-pee, and I thought his class did a spectacular job! My brave little indian!

I held the camera aside for a second and scanned the crowd of "indians and pilgrims" for Jonah and his class. And there they were...boy and girl pilgrims crowded around a tee-pee doing their very three-year-old best to follow the song. I noticed after a few seconds that when my energetic Jonah stopped circling the tee-pee, he would look out at the small crowd watching. And the "Mommy instinct" in me KNEW he was looking for me. I had told him I was coming to watch him, and that child doesn't forget a thing!

I purposely filmed his expression as he scanned the crowd for my face. His expression was almost fearful, and I wanted to scream out, "Here I am, Jonah! Mommy's HERE!" I waved my hand once, but he did not see me. After a few more seconds and as the song neared its end, he stopped circling and again looked at the crowd. I was able to capture the very moment that he spotted me. I watched as the expression on his face turned from scared to confidence and excitement. It was priceless! My brave little pilgrim.

And here's the thought process that followed: It's funny how knowing that the ones who love you are there for you and knowing this can bring you such bravery and help you through the times when you are scared and nervous. (A thought that can be applied to alot of situations in life!) And like I was desperately wanting Jonah to know I was there, God wants us to know He is there, too. I can just imagine Him waving His hand and saying,"I am here, child!" We all need THAT reassurance.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for life, the loved ones who have been there, and thankful to and for the Lord and His presence in good times and in bad. I pray that everyone would know His presence when they are faced with situations that bring them fear. My mind is so full of friends and family who I know are facing fearful situations of all kinds today. I am praying for all of you. I enter His courts with praise and thanksgiving as I thank God for the things He has brought me and my family through. I hope everyone reading this, and even those who may not read it, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Nicole

Friday, November 21, 2008

No Ordinary Day

Today, November 21, is what I would call "no ordinary day". Why? Well, for starters, Jonah is home sick with a stomach virus that we are nursing with rest, Pedialyte and lots of "Kung-Fu Panda." :-)Hmm...I think he could get used to this treatment, huh?

John Owen had "Cowboy Fun Friday" at school today so he was "up and at 'em" this mornin' decked out in his cowboy gear and rarin' to go! (At least somebody around here is!)

Jan got up and left for work before 6:00 a.m. which is pretty ordinary, but the real reason this day is truly a "no ordinary day" is because of something Jan did 10 years ago on this day...

He unexpectedly popped the question of "Will you marry me?" to a very surprised me!

TEN YEARS hardly seems so. We were enjoying a visit to the Smoky Mountains and planning to catch the TN vs. Kentucky game later that day. We hiked through the woods just a short distance down from the Missionary Baptist Church there in Cades Cove. I kept warning him that I really didn't think we should get off of the main trail. (I could just envision a park ranger coming and hauling us off in front of all those bystanders.) My adventurous and nervous husband helped us over the bobbed-wire fence, which I am pretty sure we weren't supposed to cross, and we walked out into the open field. There was one tree standing out in the field, so we decided that was our destination. With both of us dodging cow "patties" and me looking over my shoulder for that park ranger, we finally reached the tree. We talked about how pretty it was there in Cades Cove with the mountains in the backdrop. And then he said,"If I ever ask you to marry me, do you think this would be the kind of place you'd like me to ask you?" "Yeah, sure," I replied and then started to ramble about how I had several childhood memories of this place. And then he did it! He got down on one knee (such the traditional guy:-)) and said," Well, will you?" I think the rest went something like this: "Will I what? Oh my gosh...are you serious?" (Ever wish you had said something ELSE?) I looked into his face and eyes and saw he was serious, and I gave him the answer..."YES!" From behind his back he pulled out a small blue box and opened it to show me the ring that I would forever wear as a symbol of this day and our "marriage to be." And I have never tired of looking at it! I suspect after 50 years, I will not be tired of looking at it! As he left this morning, he kissed a sleepy-headed me good-bye and whispered, "Thanks for saying yes." With my eyes still closed, I responded with " Thanks for asking me." :-) And that's why today is "no ordinary day".

It's the anniversary of when he asked and I said yes!

Monday, November 17, 2008

We Like To... MOVE It!

It is inevitable that when you hear the theme song from Madagascar, there's just something in your body that's got to MOVE with the music!! I LIKE TO MOVE IT, MOVE IT...
OK...if you haven't seen Madagascar 2, you really need to go see it! We went with our good friends, the Bondurants, this past Saturday night to see the movie, and I think it's safe to say that the adults probably enjoyed it more than the kids did! (I really enjoyed it seeing that I haven't been to the movie theater since before Mary Claire was born!) Jonah's favorite part (and mine) were the hippos...Especially the incredibly LARGE, raspy-voiced hippo, Moto, that admired Gloria... "Moto, Moto...a name so nice you got to say it twice." :-) -Jan's been walking around saying this with his name since we saw the movie! - Oh, brother!

John Owen, Carter, Jonah and Shelby at the movies!

They like to move it, move it!!
Now we're hoping there will be another sequel! We loved it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Old Friend

I greeted an old friend the other day as we brought the exersaucer out of storage for Mary Claire. And seeing it was like seeing a familiar face I hadn't seen in awhile. "Hello, Exersaucer!" "Long time, no see!" "How are you?" "You look good!" "Is there anything I can do for you?" (Alright, I haven't lost my mind and started to talk to things around my house...just bear with me as my imagination runs wild! Haven't you ever wondered what something like an exersaucer would say to you if given personification?) Well, maybe not, but anyway...
In honor of my old friend, the exersaucer, I spent a long time IN THE COLD washing her off, soaping her down, and disinfecting her. I washed and dried her with extreme care! After all, it's the least I could do given that she has done so much for me in providing joyous entertainment for my boys. I am so glad she has safely returned to see MC and spend some quality time with her. When I think about it, she's like me in many ways. She's held my children, entertained my children, and taught a little independency to my children.
Like a good friend, she's helped out when I needed to accomplish other tasks, and I am indeed forever grateful for my friend, the amazing exersaucer. Sadly, I am aware that we'll have to part ways one day, but she should be happy to know that she'll forever be remembered in family photos and videos. So for now, we'll enjoy our friendship and good times together. And together we'll greet other old friends as they, too, come back from their storing places.
Now...if she could just help me talk the high chair into feeding Mary Claire. A stubborn one, he is!
Word to the Wise: This is what happens to you when you have 3 children in 5 years! You become "best friends" with every baby apparatus in your possession.
See why I call her "amazing"? She can entertain three at a time! Pretty amazing to me! :-)

Splish, Splash!

Mary Claire and Daddy

Mary Claire enjoys her bath! Bath time has become Jan's time with her, and I think she prefers that he be the one to give her her bath every night. She has never cried at bath time. (Well, except for the very first bath given to her by the nurse in the hospital. No, she was not happy then!)

But since we brought her home and began our regular bathing schedule with her, she seems to really enjoy it. I think she's just about ready to move to the big bath tub and into the other seat for bathing. I can't believe that she will be 6 months old on Thanksgiving! It seems like just yesterday that we carried her through the front door of this house for the first time.

"Mom, can't a girl take a bath in peace?!"

I try not to think about where the next 6 months will take us and how quickly they will pass! One year!?! OK...enough of thinking about that. I'm gonna slow it down as much as I can and just enjoy every minute of today. And then one day lovingly look back on the pictures of my baby enjoying her bath.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dear Momma,

Well, it's beginning to look alot like Christmas around my house! Is it just me, or does Christmas seem to start earlier every year? I don't think I have ever started this early putting Christmas decorations out! But because I gave in to putting our house on the Tour of Homes this year, I have to get decorated by Dec. 7th! I think I have lost my mind! Last year, they asked me to do the tour, but my expectant body was too tired as it was, so I sent them to Laura! hehe (Her house looked beautiful by the way!)

I kind of thought they wouldn't ask me again...but they did! So, I decided to not turn them down two years in a row. I gave in...but only after calling my momma and asking for her help. I think my exact words were, "Momma, I CAN'T do this unless you help me." And like the wonderful mother she is and has always been, she agreed! So, she has been working like a mad woman at my house for the last week or so. (I have to give her all of the credit because I feel like I haven't done much of anything except give approval or lift something here and there!) So, today as I looked around the house at the beautiful decorating she has done, I thought about some things I would say to her...

Dear Momma,
I don't know where to start. The small words of gratitude I have could never measure up to the deep thankfulness that I have in my heart for everything you have done and do for me. I guess I knew that you would help me with my house when I called you and asked you to. Because you have always been there to help me when I needed it most. I appreciate so much that you have allowed me to use your decorations from your own house because you understand that I don't have the money to buy new things since I am not working this year. I know you understand this because you, too, made the sacrifice to stay at home with me when I was little and live on one household income. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made for me. You have taught me through your example how to make sacrifices for my children, and I see through your lasting marriage to my daddy how a husband and wife must be willing to make sacrifices for each other. Sacrifices that are not always fun, but are necessary in making a loving marriage work.

I am thankful to have such a talented mom who can take something from a picture in a book or magazine and make it just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, on a table. I smile when I think of my wedding and how you and Aunt Dinah, Aunt Becky, and many of your good friends worked so hard to make everything so beautiful. I wish that I had the talent you have, but as it seems to be, God gave me different talents. Where you can sew anything perfectly, I would end up with a potato sack. Your smocking could be featured in magazines, and mine...well, let's just say I'm better off buying it! And eventhough we might excel in different talents, I am overwhelmingly proud of our similarities. (Because there are some ways we are alike!) I think we are similar mothers to our children. Our sleeping practices for our children may be different :-), but our love as a mother is still the same. Someone was watching me at the Harvest party with Jonah the other day, and stopped me and said," You even move like your mother." And I had to laugh! Thank you for giving me your moves, I guess! Coach Lawler always said I was fast on my feet and a good hustler and I know I get that from you! If people only knew how many times I heard, "Keep up!" as we went for walks in the neighborhood. Thank you for always being a Christian example of a mother. And as hard as it is for me to say this, thank you for disciplining me and never giving up on me. I thank you for loving Jan as if he were your son, too. He may roll his eyes in disgust at the things we do to the house, but he loves the person you are! And he is thankful for the things you have done to help us, too! I could go on and on about the many other things that I am thankful for, but let me just end this with saying, "Thank you for being my momma."
I love you,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jan Has A Birthday...We're So Glad!

Yesterday was Jan's birthday! Happy birthday to my wonderful husband! We love you!

The boys and I made him his favorite...chocolate cake! He loves chocolate! The boys insisted that their daddy have a chocolate cake since they are quite aware of their father's fondness for it.

So we ended up with what I would call a chocolate overdose. First we used chocolate cake mix, then topped it with chocolate icing. Then we sprinkled chocolate chips and drizzled melted chocolate over the cake! I was beginning to think that our cake resembled a chocolate mountain or volcano about to erupt! As I shared with my husband my thoughts about the cake resembling a mountain, I said, "It's a mountain of LOVE for you!" He smiled...undoubtedly thinking how cheesy his wife is. Happy Birthday, Jan! (My "mountain of love" for you grows everyday!)


nicole (your cheesy wife)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fun-Filled Saturdays

Hmm...wonder if I could take this pot-belly pig home with me?

Our Saturday agendas for the last several weeks have consisted of several events packed into one day's time. There's soccer in the morning, or a yard sale, numerous birthday parties or pictures in the afternoon, and then usually something we've been invited to do with friends to round out the night. Please don't think that I am's nice to have these things which bring so many memories, and we are grateful to have time with family and friends! Here are some shots from this past Saturday's birthday party we attended. It was a petting zoo and the boys had such a good time.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

My Two "Goblins"

John Owen's Halloween bat bologna!

Jonah and his Halloween cat cheese!

Hmm...what to do to deter the attention from all of the Halloween candy we've gotten over the last few days? Jonah asked for candy before we even got home! Oh brother! It's definitely Halloween, huh? So, I got his attention off of the candy (at least for a little while) by having some fun making Halloween shapes out of our food. It was great fun! We used our Halloween cookie cutters to cut out bats, cats, and ghosts with our slices of cheese, bologna, and bread! My two "goblins" gobbled them up! Who knew lunch time could be so much fun? Happy Halloween to everyone!

Who's that behind the mask? hehe
I guess John Owen(AKA "Batman") decided that his baby sister should dress up like him since we're always telling him she looks like him. He put this on her while I was getting her dressed for the Fall Festival, and she was such a good sport about it! Oh, Baby Sister, just wait...this is just the beginning of a life lived with two older brothers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Never-Ending Love

I attended a funeral today for a friend and neighbor, a person who grew up in this community just as I have, a person whose family lives and works here, a person who has touched so many because of his profession as a doctor. Our community has suffered a great loss with the passing of Zach, but more than that, a family has lost their precious loved one. I listened intently as the minister spoke about Zach's life, spoke of the testimonies shared by so many touched by his life, reported of some 1800 people attending the visitation service, and as he spoke words of comfort to a wife, mother, father, and brother. I thought about the things the minister said, and I thought of Zach's ability to overcome the childhood disability he had, how my husband and I admired the doctor he had become. I should have told him! (I remember the disappointment when I was told he wasn't accepting new patients as I called his office to try to have him as our doctor.)

As I glanced at the order of service I noticed that the Epistle called for the reading of I Corinthians 13 . And I thought how appropriate its words. I guess that's why you see it used so often in wedding ceremonies and funeral services. It has been a verse that I have turned to many times in recent struggles and troubled times. (It is the verse for which I named my blog.) Now, it may seem to say different things to different people, but to me it reminds me that God's love is so great...the greatest love there is. No matter what and no matter how bad things seem to get, His love is always there. When we hurt, when we cry, when we laugh, when we are angry, when we doubt...God's love is there. And I know God was there today. I pray that God will wrap His hands around the Maxwell family and that they will feel His never-ending, abundant love.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Tradition Continues

So maybe I am a tad bit partial to little "pumpkins" with lots of dark hair, rosey cheeks, and dark eyes:-), but I think she's the cutest pumpkin in the patch. I guess I could've gone out and bought her her very own first Halloween costume, but the nostalgic side of me likes the fact that all of our children have been pumpkins for their first Halloween. (Gotta keep with tradition, right?) And actually, this is the same pumpkin outfit Jonah wore for his first Halloween! So, the tradition continues! Those pumpkins just keep gettin' cuter and sweeter, though!hehe
Speaking of tradition...All of my children have been given biblical and family names. Jan and I decided that this was something that was important to us, a tradition of sorts, if you will. Well, before John Owen was born and even before he was "officially" named, I attended a Passion Play at a local church and came across The Name Book. I have always been intrigued by name origins and meanings, and you can find tons of books on this subject, but this book stood out to me because not only does it give the meaning and origin of a name, but it also gives the spiritual significance and a scripture with each name. It is my hope that the Bible and the reading of its scripture will also be a tradition for our children.
"Mary"-Spiritual Significance: Blessed
And having come in, the angel said to her,"Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women." Luke 1:28
"Claire"-Spiritual Significance: Shining Light
For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Psalm 36:9

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reflections of a Rainy Day

The rain started not long after I awoke this morning. So much for "rise and SHINE!" I do love beautiful, sunshine-filled days, but every now and then I long for days like today that make you just want to stay in your pajamas all day and watch TV or sleep! (Yeah, those days are not a part of this season of life I am presently in, but I can still dream about them.) We went about our daily routine of eating breakfast, getting dressed, and getting off to preschool! I picked the boys up early from preschool for a haircut appointment. And I will advise anyone with 3 small children to check the weather forecast before making hair was NO FUN hauling all of us into the Depot with the rain pouring down! Jonah was not happy! Thankfully, he settled down by the time he got in the chair. After that, we went home and finished our sandwiches I had packed for us to eat at the Depot. I put Jonah and Mary Claire down for their naps, and I got to enjoy snuggling down for a nap with (my first baby):-), John Owen.

Now let me tell you...John Owen has always been my "go-to-guy" for naps! I never let him get in the habit of sleeping with us at night because I remembered what it had been like when my parents made me move out of their bed when a certain little brother was born(hehe), but John Owen napped with Jan and me frequently as a baby. Still does now, if we are all taking a nap! Jonah holds the title for "Best Sleeper" in our house, but I have never been able to get him to sleep good with us. He likes to be in HIS bed with HIS things! John Owen would rather be with me, holding my hair as he falls asleep. That's always been HIS hold Mommy's hair. He'll tickle the inside of his ear with my hair and rub the ends across the side of his face. (One day he'll hide this information from his friends or deny it, I know!) Oh well! I'll have my memories of it.
So, for the first time in a long while, I enjoyed a much needed rainy day nap. It was a good rainy day! Hmm...wonder what the weather forecast is for tomorrow?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Congrats to Zac and "LiLi"

Our good friends in Germany welcomed their first child into the world yesterday! Robert Oliver is such a lucky little boy to have Zac and Lisa (AKA "LiLi") as his parents. Zac will probably be the most hilarious and fun dad EVER! Little Ollie will be telling corny jokes before his 3rd birthday! Lisa will probably be educating Ollie to be multi-lingual before age 3. Hey...he could tell his dad's corny jokes in another language! Now that would be impressive!! OK enough of that...
On a more serious note, I just can't wait to hold Baby Ollie in my arms just as Zac and "LiLi" have held all three of my children. So, guys, if you are reading this, hug and kiss Ollie for me and hurry home, please, so the rest of us can hug and kiss him in person! We love you!

P.S. Does he have Zac's feet? hehe

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Better Write That One Down

Anyone with children could probably share a wealth of funny stories about the things that have come out of their children's mouths. So many times I have laughed that I have lost count. Just one of the joys of parenthood, I guess. Many times I have been instructed, "You better write that one down." I guess so that I will remember it when they are grown 'cause my mind can only hold so much, right? Well, I am writing some of them down here and feel free to enjoy if you'd like.

Jonah was especially concerned about his baby sister's cord after her birth. You could say he was obsessed! And every day, several times a day, he would ask about it. Except he called it her "quarter." "Mommy, let me see baby sister's quarter." "Does she still have her quarter?" "Can I touch baby sister's quarter?" And it didn't matter that I would pronounce the word corectly in my response to him. "Mommy, did the doctor cut her quarter off?" "Where did her quarter go?" I wish I had a quarter for every time he asked about it! hehe

John Owen got a guitar for Christmas last year. It's pretty neat! Many a time I have found myself rockin' to the beat as it plays mostly on its own, but allows him to think he is puttin' out those rockin' tunes! Well, one day he's rockin' along and I say enthusiastically, "John Owen, that sounds great! You are a great guitar player." He responds by saying, "Yeah, 'cause I learned from Elvis." ELVIS??!! Hmm...

Jonah has always been my collector of little things. Little cars, little dinosaurs, little get the picture. And he obsesses over them sometimes. He carries them with him everywhere he goes, and surprisingly, I can't think of any time that he has lost one! That in itself is pretty amazing, I think. Last summer he was going through a "Cars" craze! He would take every car he could carry into his room, line them up on the toy box top, and proceed to turn every one of them upside down. He would tell each one "Good night!" When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "They are going to sleep." I thought it was too cute!

Jonah has a lizard he has been carrying around with him lately. He came into the kitchen the other day and asked,"Mommy, where is my ink-a-wana?" "Your what, Jonah?" I asked. "My ink-a-wana." Well, I was stumped! I didn't know what he was saying. And then it hit me! His iguana! That "lizard thing" he's been carrying around all day, that's what he's saying!(He still says it that way! I think it's cute!)

Recently the children and I were out for our usual walk in the neighborhood, and John Owen and Jonah stopped to talk to a friend who was out walking her dog. I had stopped to talk to another neighbor, and could not hear the conversation going on between my children and our friend. A few minutes later she laughingly approached me and proceeded to tell me that John Owen informed her that he has a chocolate dog named Sam(like her dog is named) and a "vanilla" dog named Sophie. (Translation: Chocolate Lab and Yellow Lab) But hey, his version sounds much more tasteful!

And if that wasn't we were ending the walk, John Owen discovers a cotton boll lying on the ground, picks it up, and excitedly proclaims,"Mommy, look! I found a piece of a cloud! It came from up there!" And he points to the sky. I almost didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. There was a part of me that just wanted to relish in the moment of child-like thoughts of actually touching the clouds! I'll remember this moment so that I can remember the sweet innocence of his childhood when he is grown.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How GREAT Grandparents Are!

This past Monday, October 13, was my dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, "Daddy Nick!" My grandparents came from Jackson, TN to visit and celebrate with a birthday lunch at my mom and dad's house. The children and I joined in the celebration, of course. My grandfather is 87 and my grandmother will be 84 next week. They still live in the only home I have ever known them to live in, drive themselves everywhere they need to go, and function without much help from my dad and his siblings. I have been privileged to have known all four of my grandparents, and they are all very special to me!

But something even more special is that they have all held my children in their arms!
I will try to always hold on to the pictures of them holding my children, their great-grandchildren, because I enjoy so much seeing the pictures of my paternal great-grandparents holding me and my brother. The only one of my mother's grandparents that was still living when I was born was my mother's maternal grandmother, Virginia Mary Warren Davie or"Me-Momma," She didn't live long after I was born, so I have no memory of her. Only a picture or two of her holding me as a baby. However, she did live to be 94 years old! (I'm hoping I will be be blessed with such longevity of life.) :-)
But my father's grandparents ALL lived to be at least 90 years old. My memories of them vividly appear in my mind. I remember their houses on quaint little streets in Jackson, TN. I remember the nice, neat little bun Great-grandmother Phillips always had her hair fixed in. We share the same birthday, so I remember her especially on Sept. 4th. We even blew a few candles out together before her passing. She was a little bitty woman, but I remember her voice and how it seemed just a little bit fiesty for someone so small in stature.

I remember Great-grandfather Phillips and despite the fact that he could not see me, I can still see his glasses on his face and him sitting in his chair beside the fireplace in their home. In my mind there are clear pictures of my Great-grandmother Wamble and the candy dish on her coffee table filled with my favorite and hers...butterscotch discs! I can see her walking through the kitchen with her limp from the polio she suffered from as a child. And I can picture in my mind the large hands of my Great-grandfather Wamble. The many years of working with the railroad company had taken its toll on his hands. I remember the look of them as he drank the tea from his glass. I remember his hair and dark-rimmed glasses and his fancy for watching wrestling on TV.

I am glad to have such memories and I can only hope that one day my children will look back on their childhoods and remember and appreciate what they knew about their grandparents and great-grandparents. I'll close with this one thought that came to me as I was about to go to sleep last night...It's funny to me how I can remember so much more about their lives and as much as I try, I cannot seem to remember much about their funerals or burials when their lives ended. The only memory I can find is one of my father singing his Grandmother Phillips's favorite hymn at her funeral. And then I thought...that's how it should be! Remember their lives and not their deaths. And in doing that you give them life forever in your mind and heart.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

He Loves Me...He Loves Me Not

He LOVES me! Well, let me start this from the beginning...Jan got sick yesterday with the stomach virus. He went on to work anyway! Those of you who know him know what a "work-aholic" he is. I checked on him several times throughout the day to see how he was. He did not look good when he got home last night, and he went straight to bed. When I got in the bed, he asked me about the weather forecast for the next day. ('Cause he knows I am a Weather Channel junkie!:-)) I told him there was supposed to be rain. He said, "I could really use a rain day to get over this stomach thing." And as I settled in, I prayed that the rain would come just as the meterologist predicted.

Well, the rain came! Jan went in to the office early this morning, but then called after breakfast to say he was coming home, and he asked if I needed anything from town. "I can't think of anything we need. Just come home," I replied. What happened next made the rainiest of days seem bright and warm. In walks my sick husband with a sweet yellow daisy and berries flower arrangement in the neatest little rustic concrete bird. He had stopped on the way home to buy it for me. It's funny how such a small gesture can say so much...I love my husband and that bird! I think that I shall never part with it!:-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Soccer

This is John Owen's second season of playing Fall soccer. He really enjoys playing goalie, and he's pretty good at it. Here are some shots from last Saturday's game. I love the one of him "down and ready!" Jan is helping coach John Owen's team, so I tried to include some shots of the both of them on the field. His team was undefeated last year! And until last Sat. he was still undefeated. Sadly, we suffered our first loss to a good team. It was a good time for the lesson of "winning isn't everything." :-)
And here's what the rest of us are doing during these soccer games! :-) Jonah and I go on our weekly hunt for acorns while Mary Claire usually naps or gets to sit in Daddy Nick's or Mimi's lap. Notice the changing leaves on the tree in the background! Don't you just love the fall? I am ready for some REAL cool weather! :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winding Road of Memories

Today was a special day because we had a family get-together in Fayette County at my Uncle Davie and Aunt Mindy's house. I guess we have been doing this since my granddaddy passed away in March 2004. And as I drove the long winding roads with a sleeping husband and 3 sleeping children, I found myself completely comfortable with the uncommon silence that engulfed me. I refrained from turning on my favorite CD and let my mind wander wherever it wanted to.

It led me to the memory of my granddaddy. And I guess that is because I knew that I was going back to the place where he and my grandmother started this family. Back to Hwy. 64 and past Glen Geary Lake where he and my cousins took me fishing. Past the John Deere place that's been there as long as my mind will allow me to remember. I thought about the old house on the farm, and I could smell the smells and see the view out the living room window again. I think that I had forgotten how much I loved that house. I thought about all the hard work my granddaddy did to make sure his family had the best.

How he loved my grandmother! I always thought it was so funny the way he so fondly called her "Woman" when he needed her. I can still hear his voice today. He was such a physically strong man even up into his 70's, and he didn't let anyone working around him be lazy, no sir! "Nicole, go get those 2x4's and bring them to me." And I obeyed. You would have, too. I don't mean to make it sound like I feared him because that is so far from the truth. I respected him.

I knew his heart. He loved his family and God. And I can completely identify with why my grandmother married him. (It's almost eerie that my own husband possesses some of the same qualities.) He was strong, yet could be sensitive. He was a hard worker. He could be stubborn about things he felt strongly about. He desired to raise his children in a Christian home.

I think he would have been proud if he had been there today and seen the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I think he would have looked at my grandmother and said, "Jenny, can you believe all this started with just you and me?"

I am glad that I drove the road today...the road to my family's roots and the road to my memories.

Mrs. Mary Virginia Caudle and her great-grandchildren! (top: Mary Shields-13,Olivia-5 months, middle: Jonah-3, Max-10, Harris-4 months, "Miss Jenny", Mary Claire-4 months, Brooks-6, Isaac-6, bottom: Grant-4, Avery-5, John Owen-5) Christopher and Cooper were absent and we have another boy, Hardy, due any day now! :-) Our girls are a little out numbered, huh?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What About Weedeaters?

I tell you...I am having to start bed time earlier these days because John Owen and Jonah BOTH have particular books being read to them before sleep will come. (And if Mary Claire does this same thing later, that's three books to read in completion before sleeping. Maybe I should consider a group reading.:-)) Do other children do this? They both seem to get stuck on a book for a week, maybe two...and sometimes longer!

John Owen recently went back to a book we haven't read to him in a while...Dr. Seuss's "Oh Say Can You Say Dinosaur?" It's a great book, by the way! In the book they address the meaning of the words "carnivores" and "herbivores." I took the opportunity to REALLY focus on this one day while reading to him. You just never know what kids are thinking and what they are going to say...Here's our conversation about it:
"So see, John Owen, carnivores are meat-eaters, and herbivores are plant-eaters," I said in my greatest "teacher voice." hehe Oh boy! He 's gonna be so smart and remember this and impress everyone with his knowledge, I thought to myself. I went over it again just to be sure! :-)
"Carnivores are meat-eaters and herbivores are plant-eaters. Can you remember that?" There was a short silence, and then he said something for which I could find no response..."Mommy, what about weed-eaters?" hehe

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Let It Shine!

There's so much that God has to teach us, and it seems we learn something new or are refreshed with something we learned long ago every Sunday when we attend church. You might say that Jonah learned the lesson of "turning the other cheek" today at church. He and another little boy in his class had a little collision of sorts (not really sure what happened), and Jonah now proudly bears his first "shiner". Let it shine for all to see, Jonah! :-) These things are inevitable it seems! I'll just say that I am glad this happened AFTER our family pictures were made yesterday!!
And I had to put this picture on here! I stayed in the nursery after the incident with Jonah's eye happened. He loves seeing all of the babies like his baby sister. I laughed when I saw him patting both Sam and Faith (our friends' twins)on the head at the same time! I grabbed the camera from the diaper bag to snap this picture. We all laughed and said he looked like he was "laying hands" on them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Good Times!

John Owen went to his friend's bowling birthday party on Sat. He had a blast!'s a couple of shots from this past weekend as we attended the children's parade at Heritage Day on the square. The theme was "Superheroes and Princesses." And the Prince Charming(Jan) in the picture isn't too bad either...hehe!

Are We There Yet?

When Jonah has been with his grandparents he seems to take on another life form! I am not kidding! I guess it comes from getting his way with everything and lack of sleep. :-) The boys stayed in Somerville with my mom and grandmother Monday afternoon and night and most of the day Tuesday. I went to pick them up late Tuesday afternoon, and the ride home was interesting, to say the least. Jonah talked the whole 45 minutes. And he didn't just talk, he asked for bubble gum 25 times until I told him not to ask me again. He said the sun was in his eyes 3 or 4 times in between, so I loaned him my sunglasses. I had to laugh when I saw him with them on. (I managed to snap his picture! Don't worry, mom, I didn't take my eyes off the road to take it!)

When I told him not to ask for bubble gum again, he started asking for candy pumpkins! He strategically "hit" me with this question at least 30 times or more. And where was all of the candy he requested? AT HOME!! And we weren't there yet!!

I was extremely proud of myself as I demonstrated great patience with all of this. My usual strategy of asking a question to their question had not worked today. Too bad! I laughed out loud, to which John Owen asked, "Mommy, what's so funny?" "I just thought of something funny, John Owen," I responded. "What was it?" Inquiring minds wanted to know. "Candy corn," I said.

Jonah was quiet for a few minutes...I couldn't believe it! Could me laughing like a crazy woman have ceased his seemingly never-ending questions for candy? Hooray! I overcame!

And then he asked again for candy pumpkins! Oh well...could nothing deter his attention? Good grief! His little sister woke up (after sleeping through all of this) and began to "talk." I almost doubled over in laughter when Jonah started crying and saying,"Baby Sister said I can't have candy pumpkins!" (Oh, Mary Claire, I wish you could talk and tell him a thing or two! ) Hehe!

When we finally got home, I recounted this story to my husband, but he didn't find it as funny as I did. He even asked me if I was delirious. Mommy (and Daddy) Lesson Learned: Sometimes it helps to remember to try to find the humor in things even when you think your patience has run thin. Laugh about it! It just might catch them off guard, and buy you a few minutes of sanity. :-)