Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas day was relaxing and fun. Believe it or not, our kids slept in! We woke up a little after 7 to see what Santa brought everyone and to start giving each other the huge pile of gifts that were under the tree.

The littlest girls were spoiled with new jewelry and treats!

After a little while, we took a break for some breakfast and to try out their new strawz! The top picture was from a little later in the day when the strawz were joined together and colored water was added to the mix!

It wasn't long before they got back to business though. They loved everything they got and were so much fun to watch! Occasionally,we'd have to put something together before we could go any further!

Technology has officially entered their lives since they both now have their own kid tablets and head phones. I think we'll see more of this in years to come...

We literally played all day! We stopped from time to time to snack on the yummy breakfast foods or leftovers from the previous days of delicious food.

One of the highlights of my day was going for a walk with the kiddos. Ross and Audrey headed back early, and Jackson and I kept going. Jackson decided he needed a little break though, so we stopped on a bench and chatted for a little while. I did a little check to see if he still remembered what we were celebrating, and while I shouldn't be surprised by how incredibly smart and in-tune he is, I always am. Not only did he say we were celebrating Jesus' birthday, he also went into the details of why Jesus was born and the ultimate sacrifice he made for each of us so we could be forgiven and live with God amazing!

As usual, there are more pictures from the day in the album! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

We spent most of the morning cooking and playing with Grandmother and Pop on Christmas Eve. Then our friends, the Fulliloves, joined us in the afternoon for some snacks before heading to the 4 o'clock service at our church, Gateway Community Church.

Our church has photographers set up in the life center where you can have family pictures taken and enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies before or after the service, which we did!

The service was really nice, but also a little tough for us since it was a strong reminder of how much we all miss John, Ross' dad. The music and message helped keep our focus on the real reason for the season though! Here's a picture of the stickers the kids got to play with courtesy of the church during the message. I think it's pretty amazing to see the difference between the two since they are right at 21 months apart in age.

When we got home, the kids exchanged presents, did a craft, and played while we finished cooking dinner. New matching Christmas PJs from the Fulliloves were huge hit for all the kids!

Before dinner started Emma shared one of her family traditions with us, which was opening Christmas crackers, which contained a paper crown to wear through dinner and a small toy. Not everyone wore their crowns the whole time, but a few of us did!

Dinner was delicious, but the kids were more interested in playing. Then Ross showed them how close Santa was to our houses thanks to the Norad tracker, and they were all eager to go to bed! We took a few last pictures and saw our guests out the door before the kiddos crashed hard.

The adults then had a little fun prepping for Christmas day! There are more pictures in the album

Christmas Weekend

The weekend before Christmas we had most of our family at our house. Our brother-in-law, Philip, was the only exception, so we had a full house! We had an early Christmas gift exchange on Saturday morning with Leslie, Mitchell, and Nana since they wouldn't be here on Christmas day.

Then we decorated some sugar cookies for Santa! There was a little finger licking going on in the process, and I'm guessing almost as many sprinkles were eaten as were put on the cookies.

After lunch and naps, we made our way to Hermann Memorial Park for a picnic! The weather was great for outdoor activities, and the kids loved waving to the train and passengers as it went past while we ate our dinner. After the sun set, we made our way into the zoo for Zoo Lights!

The kiddos loved seeing the lights and a few of the animals! The lions and giraffes were walking around getting ready for bed. Some of the lights were in shapes of animals or were projected onto animals, and some of the lights were set to music, which the kids thought was really cool. It was a wonderful day filled with lots of joy!

There are more pictures in the album

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jackson's Class Christmas Party

Jackson's class Christmas party was lots of fun too! The kiddos wore their PJs to school to board the Polar Express for a day of fun! Jackson chose his current favorite PJs, so he looked like a little elf, and apparently, he pretended to be an elf for most of the day. Audrey and I arrived at the end of the movie just in time for the gift exchange! Jackson's class had boys bring boy gifts and girls bring girl gifts. Jackson and one of his best friends, Cooper, had arranged to make sure they got each other's gifts..

Jackson was beyond excited to find a pirate puppet in his package, and Cooper was perhaps the quietest and most focused I've ever seen him after opening his, which was a Perplexus Rookie game that Jackson loves. Audrey was sad not to get a present at this party, but she was happy to settle for another cookie!

The room mom then presented Jackson's teachers with their gift, which was such a sweet and clever idea! She sneaked into the class with the help of the day care staff who distracted the teachers while she made these adorable Christmas tree pictures with hand and thumb prints from all of the kids. On the back was a list of their names along with the year. Such a sweet way to be able remember this year!

We are so thankful for both Jackson and Audrey's teachers and how much they genuinely love our kiddos!

There are more pictures of the fun in the album!

Audrey's Class Christmas Party

Audrey's teachers put together a fun-filled couple of days for the kiddos that included watching Polar Express and having a Christmas party! The party started with the decorating and eating of Christmas cookies! Jackson was our helper for the party. He made sure everyone had a cookie and snack. He sweetly asked Audrey to decorate his cookie while he helped, which she was happy to do. Then, as you can see, he enjoyed eating it!

After some yummy party snacks the kids sat on the carpet and eagerly awaited their gift exchange. All the girls sat together and had fun giggling and being silly!

Audrey's class chose to exchange books this year. Each kid got to chose another kid's gift, and after everyone had something, the paper shredding began! Jackson read Audrey's book to her after she opened it. The book was a silly book, which was perfect for these two silly-geese! As you can see below, Audrey loved having her big brother there for the party!

There are a lot more pictures of the silliness and fun in the album.


Thanks to the Fulliloves, Jackson finally caught his first fish!!! Last year Jackson wanted two things for Christmas, a fishing pole and an umbrella. We've attempted to take him fishing several times since, but we've yet to successfully catch a fish until now!

We went to a pier owned by the Fullilove's family in Galveston, and within a cast or two, Jackson had caught his first fish! There were high fives and dancing to go along with the excitement.

Everyone caught multiple fish that evening. Some were too small and a few flipped off the table or out of the ice chest, which kept us all laughing hysterically. We had so much fun we didn't get home until almost 10 PM, which is really late for our kiddos, but it was worth every whiny moment the next day!

There are a few more pictures of the fun in the album!

O Christmas Tree!

I hope to catch up on my blog posts over then next couple of days since I haven't posted anything since Thanksgiving!

The day after we got home from Louisiana, we made our way to the local tree lot to select our Christmas trees for this year. Yes, I said trees! It's become a tradition for us to buy a big family tree along with a smaller tree (maybe 3 feet tall) for the kids.

Both kids had a lot of fun helping decorate the trees this year, and no ornaments (or kids) were broken in the process!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


This year I took the kids to Shreveport for the entire week of Thanksgiving. Since Ross recently changed jobs, he doesn't have much vacation saved up, and I have an excess, which made this the perfect opportunity to spend some extra time with old friends and family!

We ate at some of our favorite restaurants, and I finally got to introduce Jackson and Audrey to Sara Beth, who is the daughter of one of my bridesmaids and best friends from high school, Brandi. I also took them by my dad's office to see what he does and to get to catch up with a sorority sister that works with my dad, Rachel. The funny story from that excursion was when we left his office, which is in downtown Shreveport, to go to lunch, Jackson asked why we weren't getting in the car to go somewhere...he's never been somewhere you could WALK from one place to another. What a concept!

We brought Jackson's scooter with us and spent some time at the park down the street. It was perfect weather, and it was fun to be somewhere with color in the trees!

Ross drove up Wednesday night, and we spent Thanksgiving day with my mom's side of the family. We had lots of delicious food and lots of fun visiting and playing! My cousin, Stephanie, who is an all-star mom, went all out and had turkey hat crafts for the kids, which of course, meant Jackson became a little turkey! He also spent some time picking flowers, climbing on the wood pile, swinging, and playing chase, which allowed me to get a couple of sweet shots too.

Audrey was loving all of the pretty flowers around the yard, as well as twirling in her dress and swinging with anyone that would either swing with her or let her push.

Ross took a few photos too, which means I'm actually in some! I don't remember what he was doing, but I love the attitude Jackson has in the pic with me. My multi-talented cousin, Tiffany, even took a picture of the four of us that turned out great!

This is most of the Napper family. We missed my Aunt Barbara, Uncle Chad, Bud, and Meg, but we were grateful so many of us could get together this year! The pics below the big family pic are of my 1st cousin once removed, Andrew, who I seriously think could be a kid model...check out those eyes and the hair...and my beautiful cousins, Stephanie and Tiffany.

We avoided the Black Friday sales and made our way to SciPort for some fun. My dad joined us and helped us introduce the kids to all kinds of fun concepts!

My ADCO (Attitude Determination and Control Officer) friends from work would be proud...we even introduced Jackson to the concept of a gyroscope!

While we were enjoying time with family and friends and counting our blessings, we were also mourning the loss of my Mamaw, my dad's mom, who passed away early that week. I was glad to be able to be there with my dad and help him and my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike with funeral preparations. I loved spending the extra time with them and hearing some of their favorite memories of her. The funeral service on Saturday was really nice, and all three of my cousins were able to make it despite David and his wife, Rachel, just having a beautiful baby girl that Monday!

When my Papaw passed away, Audrey was born a few days later, and this time when my Mamaw passed away, we welcomed precious Abigail into the world. While we were all a little sad not to be able to share in more of their lives, Jackson was quick to remind us that Mamaw and Papaw are happy to be with God now!

The entire week was packed with good food and great people, which of course, means there are lots more pictures in the album!

Christmas Card Photo Shoot

We did an impromptu photo shoot for our Christmas cards just before Thanksgiving. They aren't as great as the ones we had done by a professional last year, but they were a lot more reasonably priced! Can you guess which one will appear on our Christmas card?

In an attempt to get the kids to both look at the camera and smile, we did some silly pics, which the kids loved! Jackson was in a much more cooperative mood than Audrey, but she loved putting on the mustache!

I was also able to snap a few pics of some genuinely happy smiles from each of them while they were playing around.

The rest of the pics are in the album for those that just can't get enough of these two!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Halloween was a long, fun-filled day this year! It started with trick-or-treating for the younger kids at the day care in the morning. Jackson and the older classes passed out candy to Audrey and the younger kiddos, which was really cute. Then the older kids piled into the bus and did a little trick-or-treating around the JSC campus. Lots of co-workers and friends greeted the kids with smiles and candy!

Audrey chose to be a princess this year. Specifically, she chose to be Rapunzel, and because of her short hair, we deemed she was Rapunzel after her hair is cut off in the movie Tangled. She loved it! Her teachers asked if she could wear the costume everyday because she was more calm and a little princess.

Jackson chose to be Simba from the Lion King. When asked what Simba says, his most common replies were either the typical roar or a song from the movie, which is his current favorite. He has a knack for remembering songs, so he could sing most of several of the songs!

Audrey's class spent afternoon partying! Ross' mom spent the week with us, so she was there to enjoy the festivities. The teachers did a great job making this first class party a success. Audrey and her friends got to decorate their own sugar cookies (yes, I made them), play with "yucky stuff" (the insides of a pumpkin), and see a witch's brew (made from dried ice).

I'm very sad to say I lost the pictures from trick-or-treating at our house that evening. (Make sure you've gotten ALL of the pictures off before reformating your memory card...lesson learned I hope!) The kids had a ton of fun though. We made it around our small block and down the street before calling it quits. Audrey was a little scared of some of the scarier costumes, but both did great knocking on doors and saying trick-or-treat and thank you. I think the highlight of their evening was handing out some candy before going to bed. They loved being the one to give to others! It was definitely a long, fun day!

There are more pictures in the album from the fun at school.

Pumpkin Patch

The weekend before Halloween, we finally made it to the pumpkin patch near our house to select our pumpkins and, of course, to take some pictures! The kiddos both love wagons, so selecting a wagon was the first order of business. From there, Jackson was determined to find the perfect (and apparently the largest) bumpy pumpkin he could find, which didn't leave much room in the wagon for either of the kids!

As a side note, we've realized recently that Jackson has had a good growth spurt at some point. These pictures really make me realize just how much he's grown up this year! Audrey is also starting to get some hair and is simply beautiful inside and out!

Clara met us at the pumpkin patch and spent the night with us that evening, which meant she had to have her picture taken too. Isn't she adorable!

Here's a better perspective on the pumpkin Jackson chose, and a shot of the kids as an airplane flew by overhead...the Wings Over Houston air show was going on at the same time.

For fun that evening the kids decorated brownies. They all chose to make an owl with Oreos and candy corn. Here they each are with their creations!

The next day we attempted to carve the bumpy pumpkin. I say attempted because we broke THREE saws trying to do a very simple design. In the end, Ross brought me the saws-all, and I managed to create exactly what Jackson wanted. It wasn't all that pretty, but it was a little scary looking, which was what he was hoping for! I somehow lost my pictures of the final product, but I did get a few of the kids scooping the insides out.

There are a few more pictures in the album!

Fall Festival 2012

JSC's daycare had their Fall Festival the week before Halloween. The kiddos had fun getting their hair painted, playing games, and even doing a cupcake walk. I didn't get a lot of pictures because both Ross and I volunteered to help with the activities, but I was able to capture a few shots from my seat...

Old MacDonald Farm

In mid-October, Jackson's class went on a field trip to Old MacDonald Farm in Humble, TX. Audrey and I joined them for the fun! There were lots of animals to pet, a train to ride, a dirt pile to play in, a huge fort to run around on, and a pumpkin patch!

I was impressed with how well the animals handled the craziness! There were a lot of kiddos running in and out of each pin and even jumping and screaming at times. Jackson was determined to make sure each animal had plenty of hay and that each of his friends did exactly what they were supposed to...hmmm, I wonder if my controlling nature is rubbing off on him?

We saw one goat that escaped from it's home. It was having lots of fun visiting the other animals and occasionally chasing a kid...we steered clear of it!

I'm not sure Jackson will ever grab a bull by the horns, but he wasn't afraid to grab the horns of a goat!

Audrey really enjoyed hanging out with the big kids, and they loved having her there. They were extremely helpful to both her and me! They made sure to show her what to do with each of the animals, held her hand when she got scared, and had lots of fun running and playing with her!

They also got to ride a horse! Audrey was a little too nervous, but Jackson was all about it! He did great being guided around the ring.

Jackson and Audrey rode the train twice because they loved it so much. It took them around all of the animals, but I think they enjoyed waving at the people the most. After our last train ride we found a spot by the horses and free range deer to play a little and waive at the next set of passengers.

The farm was a great Fall experience, and they each got to take home a small pumpkin! There are more pics in the album!

From there we met up with our friends, The Fulliloves, and headed north to Dallas to spend the weekend at Great Wolf Lodge. Unfortunately, I didn't take ANY pictures while we were there, but we had a ton of fun!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Leakey in October

Ross' dad, John, was buried in Leakey, TX at their family cemetery on October 13, 2012. I posted pictures from the service in my post about John, but I didn't post these pictures of Jackson after the service. He was clearly in a reflective and curious mood.

While we were there, we spent a couple of days reminiscing and enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery. Our nephew, Mitchell, has a fun 4-wheeler all the kids enjoyed. Jackson had fun being the older sibling/cousin and driving everyone around!

Leakey is beautiful in October! When the sun is setting, you get a really beautiful golden glow you won't see in the middle of Houston! These pictures of my favorite people are from the fields on Susan and John's property, The Three Oaks ranch.

I attempted to get some sibling pics while the kiddos were dressed up and wearing their boots. I don't know how professional photographers get both kids looking at the camera and smiling at the same time! Here's what I managed to get...

There are a few more pictures in the album.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Grateful for John

October has been a rough month for the Taylor family. Two amazing men passed away. Ross' dad, John Taylor, and grandfather, James Stone, are now with the Lord. We miss them tremendously, and we are so grateful for the time we had with them!

Ross and I were able to be there when John passed away, which allowed us to say our goodbyes and have some closure. The reality of it day-to-day is still extremely hard though.

Ross wrote these touching words a few days later, which do an incredible job of describing John.

My father passed away on Friday. I knew him as a strong and loving husband, father, and grandfather. He expected the best from us and was always there to help us achieve it. I would not be the man I am today without his guidance and support and I regret that my children and my nephew will not grow up with him in their lives.

What I have learned over the last few days is that we were not the only ones that benefited from his character. The outpouring of support from his friends, coworkers, doctors, people that met him only a hand full of times, and even people who never knew him has been overwhelming. I believe many of his employees felt a similar bond to him that his children did. I'm sure he also demanded their best and helped them achieve it. They had a relationship of mutual respect and his employees grew to love him for it.

One of his doctors actually got watery eyed when talking with my mother and I about Dad. They developed a relationship that the doctor referred to as "stimulating." Dad always wanted to learn and he would ask his doctors for details as he went through treatment. But he also asked them about their families and I know that he had the personal cell phone numbers of more than one of his doctors because they all came to care for him as a friend.

Lastly, the support from complete strangers, not just to me but even to him, has been incredible primarily due to his time as a Marine and his service in Vietnam. The respect shown for a man who served is awe inspiring. People from around the country have commented online in support of Dad and our family because they don't need to know the man to appreciate the things he did.

Dad, we love you and we will miss you. Rest in peace.

John has been part of my life for the last 13 years, and like everyone that knew him, I loved him and had a tremendous amount of respect for him. He and Susan welcomed me into the Taylor family as if I were one of their own. I have always enjoyed watching and being a part of the dynamics of their family. They find joy in everything and are always genuinely interested in whatever topic is being discussed. They love with all their hearts, which was evident to me from early on in the days Ross and I were dating. Here are a couple of pictures with John from my first trip to Leakey, TX and from our graduation from LA Tech.

There are a handful of things I feel John loved doing. Sharing and teaching his knowledge, wisdom, and life skills; cooking; taking pictures; riding his motorcycle or later driving his convertible; sailing and fishing; and mostly, spending time with his family and best friends.

I was inspired in so many ways by John, and I know I wouldn't be who I am today if not for his influence. John is the one responsible for putting a nice camera in my hands and entrusting me and Ross to take pictures of his daughter's wedding. It was in that moment I fell in love with photography. He taught me a lot about taking pictures, but more than anything he inspired me to learn more about photography.

The joy he found in giving gifts to those he loved was also inspiring. I'll never forget how much fun he had picking out a monkey that is a little bigger than Jackson is today to give to Susan for Christmas. There was a lot of laughter and smiling when she found it, and it still brings joy to our faces when we see it...partially because it's decorated for every season! John loved to pick out jewelry for his girls or the perfect "toy" for Ross or the kids. He was filled with delight to see others filled with joy.

The way he loved his family and friends was the most inspiring thing of all to me. I started hearing fun stories about John's friends and their adventures early on, and the adventures continued after I met him. During the holidays, at crawfish boils, on vacations, and really any chance they had, John and Susan were surrounded by family and friends.

I know John loved Ross and Leslie unconditionally, and he was so proud of each of them and who they have become. He also loved his grandkids. He was known to them as Granddad, and they would truly light up his face! I don't know that I'll ever forget the first time we went to see John in the hospital a little over a year ago when we weren't sure if he was going to make it. John was in critical care, which meant Jackson and Audrey couldn't come see him. Instead they recorded a video. John was in a coma at the time, but we know he heard their sweet voices saying, "Hi, Granddad! We hope you feel better, Granddad! We love you, Granddad!" He responded physically, and I truly believe the sound of their voices was a reminder to him that he wasn't done yet! While we wish they had more time to get to know him better, we are forever grateful for the time we've had and the memories we will keep. Memories like John introducing Jackson to his baby sister, Audrey; teaching Jackson to fish; keeping Audrey warm at a freezing cold Mardi Gras parade; taking us on Polaris rides; and being there to collect rocks and hold hands when needed.

The most inspiring thing to me about both John and Susan is the way they have loved each other. They were truly best friends, and their love for each other shone through in every action and every glance. They were a team that worked off of each other's strengths, encouraged one another, laughed together, fought together through the tough times, and genuinely loved one another! You could see their love grow deeper and deeper as time went on.

Aside from being a husband, father, and grandfather, John was also a Marine that fought in Vietnam. We've heard a few of the stories from that time in his life, but not many. He was extremely proud to be an American and a Marine though, and the outpouring of gratitude and sympathy from fellow servicemen and people who never knew him was incredible. John's mission here is complete. Though we feel the time was too short, we trust in God's plans.

I've included the write up from the obituary below for those of you who are interested in knowing a little more about John. He truly was an incredible man!

SHREVEPORT, LA - Mr. Taylor, 64, passed away on Friday, October 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm after a long and hard fought battle with cancer and the effects of treatment. John was born on September 21, 1948 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was a graduate of C. E. Byrd high school and Northwestern University. John proudly served in the United States Marine Corps, India Company, 3rd Division from 1968 through 1974, including active battle during the Vietnam War in 1969 and 1970.

In 1977, John began his 33 year career at Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, where he served in many leadership positions throughout the organization before becoming Vice President of Program Operations in 1989. He held this position until becoming Evergreen's fourth President and CEO in 2006, where he served until his retirement at the end of 2010. John has said that his proudest achievement at Evergreen was his contribution to Evergreen's transition from a rural institution based program to community based group services. John strongly believed in the mission to "help people with disabilities build better lives" by allowing clients to direct their own lives and develop pride by choosing jobs, recreational activities, and routines while living closer to their homes and families.

John and his wife spent many adventurous vacations sailing in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and elsewhere with his beloved cousin and friend Dick Mitchell who preceded him in death in 2009. John also enjoyed a variety of other outdoor activities, such as fishing, bicycling, riding his motorcycle, and photography.

John was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Wilda Taylor and his sister, Lucretia Taylor Miller. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Susan Stone Taylor; his daughter, Leslie Rodriguez and husband, Philip of Leakey, Texas; his son Ross Taylor and wife, Elizabeth of Houston, Texas; his grandchildren, Mitchell Rodriguez, Jackson Taylor, and Audrey Taylor; and his sister, Beverly Christianson.

Visitation will be held from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm on Monday, October 8 at Osborn Funeral Home. Funeral services will begin at 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 9 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Officiating will be Reverend David Greer. Interment will be at the Taylor Family Cemetery in Leakey, Texas.

Honoring John as pallbearers will be Larry Abbitt, Howard Borden, Kent Craft, Bob Lindsey, Dan Long, and Buzz Wheless.

If you would like to be a part of John's legacy, please consider making a donation to St. Paul's Alter Guild Memorial Fund, the Client Needs Fund at Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, or a charity of your choice .