Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Fun

Christmas Eve started with cookie decorating. Jackson was more interested in making each cookie look like what it is supposed to be this year, and Audrey was interested in making sure every spot of icing was completely covered in sprinkles. They each picked out a couple they wanted to eat, as well as a couple for Santa. They also wanted to make sure they gave one to Mrs. Claus in case she was in the sleigh too. They each wrote a note so Santa would know which ones were for Mrs. Claus. (I didn't manage to get a pic of the cookies they made, so this one is courtesy of my dad.)

We went to the early church service at 2 PM where we enjoyed worshiping and hearing a great Christmas message. The kids did really well throughout the service. The church handed out little coloring packets, which were perfect to keep them entertained during the message (they are normally in a kids service on Sundays). They loved the candlelight and singing of Silent Night at the end of the service. The hot chocolate and cookies after church were a hit as well.

My Dad and the Newman family joined us for dinner that evening. We had Ross' delicious chicken and sausage gumbo with a variety of desserts. The kids had fun running off the sugar while the adults chatted, and I got in a little snuggle time with baby Caleb. When the Newmans left, Jackson and Audrey were excited to put on their pajamas and get to bed so Santa could come and they could exchange gifts!

Santa brought each of them just what they wanted...a marble run and an American Girl doll. He also ate all of his cookies and delivered Mrs. Claus' cookies as requested. However, he did leave the eyes of one of the cookies for them to have one last taste.

Everyone was excited the next morning. We awoke to hear the kids discovering their toys from Santa in the living room. We quickly jumped out of bed so we could enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces. Unfortunately, I wasn't awake enough to operate the camera well at 5:30 AM, so the initial pics of Jackson didn't come out. The one below is from his first run of the marbles though! The kids enjoyed helping all of us go through our stockings too.

We spent the next several hours opening gifts and eating breakfast. Unfortunately, not long before we finished, I realized I had a stomach bug. After the last gift was opened and the real playing began, I crawled back into bed and didn't emerge again until late in the evening. I still enjoyed hearing the sounds of laughter and fun throughout the house though. Ross and my Dad played with them all day! My heart was filled with joy just knowing how much fun they were all having (a little disappointed not to be able to join in, but mostly joyful).

I managed to squeeze in a game with Ross and my dad while I watched a movie on the couch that night, which helped me feel like I was part of the fun. Fortunately, I woke up feeling almost normal the next day. Unfortunately, my dad caught the bug and spent the entire day after Christmas in bed...not the best gift I've ever given! He recovered by the next morning as well though, and so one else has gotten it!

Christmas isn't quite over for our family yet. We're gearing up for the final round of gift exchanges with Ross' family in Leakey. However, my favorite moments from Christmas this year have been hearing Jackson and Audrey describe the true meaning of Christmas and seeing the delight they get from giving gifts to those they love. They are such sweet, amazing kids (most of the time)!

Christmas with Nana

Nana came to visit the weekend before Christmas to spoil the kids. They loved it! We now have a safari bug hunter and a singer/doctor in the family!

Christmas Tree Farm Field Trip

It was Audrey's turn for a field trip to the Christmas Tree Farm this year! Unfortunately, it was a very cold, wet day. Everyone still managed to have fun, but there were a few meltdowns along the way. Audrey did pretty well, but she does not like to be that cold! I was fine aside from having frozen toes...until I got home and realized my new boots were damaged by all of the water. Thank goodness for shoe hospitals!

They got to do all kinds of fun stuff! They started by roasting marshmallows. Then they played on bales of hay and did a scavenger hunt. There was some good, old Texas sledding (on dirt and hay), as well as a little animal watching. Next was a hay ride around the tree farm where they learned how to tell how old a tree is.

After a cup of hot chocolate to warm up a bit, the kids got to decorate one of the trees outside and dress up scarecrows. Audrey did both very briefly, but she was ready to be inside to warm up.

Pizza was next on the agenda before heading back to the daycare. Despite the rain and cold, it was a successful outing!

O Christmas Tree

After everyone headed home from Thanksgiving, we headed to our favorite tree lot to pick out our Christmas trees! We got a big one for the living room, which was decorated the way Elizabeth wanted it, as well as a little one for the kids to decorate and put in the entry way. Jackson and Audrey hung all of their old and new handmade ornaments on their tree, as well as some of my old ornaments from when I was a kid. They loved it!

Thanksgiving Weekend

Once again, I'm behind in posting updates and pictures. We've all been busy with good things though. To catch everyone up on the major events, I'll do several posts starting with Thanksgiving!

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year, and it was one of the best meals we've put together yet! Susan, Leslie, Mitchell, Kim, and Barbara joined us this year, and we had a great time hanging out.

Rather than joining the crowds to shop on Black Friday, we opted to go bowling! This was Mitchell's first experience bowling. It went mostly well...until Mitchell dropped the ball on Leslie's foot and then got hit in the face within the span of a few seconds. That would make anyone question the fun of the game!

Jackson was fun to watch bowl. He still uses the ramp to help him out, but he lines it up by himself, pushes the ball, and eagerly waits to see what he gets. Audrey was more independent this time as well. She was determined to carry the ball by herself with her super strong muscles! They all did really well.

We had such a great time visiting, eating good food, and playing. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for this year with such great family and friends, jobs we love, and so many other blessings.

Saturday, November 09, 2013


It poured down raining in Houston most of the day on Halloween, but fortunately it stopped a couple of hours before the evening trick-or-treating began. Audrey's school trick-or-treating at NASA that morning was cancelled due to the rain, but they still dressed up and got candy from their friends and teachers with a little indoor trick-or-treating of their own. Audrey was Sleeping Beauty for Halloween this year...until she decided to ruin her costume at school. Good thing we have a few dress up clothes! She quickly turned into Super Girl when we got home and was ready to go trick-or-treating!

Jackson's class didn't get to dress up at school, but he gave everyone a clue of what he would be by wearing Star Wars t-shirts all week! His class did something called "Fall Centers." I took the afternoon off to help out, and it was a lot of fun! They had pumpkin bowling, monster making, Halloween necklace making, and cupcake decorating centers. I loved the chance to get to know some of his classmates better! He was quick to get into character when he got home too. He was Luke Skywalker this year!

Our friends, the Fulliloves, joined us for trick-or-treating. Clara was Dorothy, and she brought her little dog too!

Now that we know a few more of the kids in the neighborhood, walking around the streets was even more fun. Here's a pic from the first house they stopped at. It got dark soon after this, so I really didn't get many pictures this year.

Their buckets were quickly full of candy after a short walk around our neighborhood, so we headed home. They loved handing out candy to the kids who came to our door. There were even a few scary ones that they didn't hide from this year. Jackson told one kid he should win the scariest costume award! It was a fun night!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Pics

We made our way to the pumpkin patch to select our pumpkins and take some pictures today before Jackson's baseball game. We even have proof that both Ross and I were there!

I just love Fall and these adorable smiles!

They have to be the sweetest brother and sister I know too! I sure hope it stays that way...

There are more pictures in the album!

Pumpkin Patch Field Trip

Audrey's class went on their pumpkin patch field trip on Monday! The plan was to go to Froberg's to check out their first ever pumpkin patch and corn maze, but after loading onto the bus, we found out they had to cancel due to rain. That didn't stop this group though! We went to the local pumpkin patch at a church down the street instead, which is where we've gotten our pumpkins every year. The kids didn't know any different! The church was expecting another group that ended up cancelling due to the rain, so they were all set up for us! The kids listened intently to a story about pumpkins. Then they scoured the patch for the biggest, littlest, and silliest pumpkins they could find.

The kids got to go to McDonalds for lunch and play on their playscape before heading back to school. Ross was able to join us for lunch since we were close by, so that made it an extra special day for Audrey!

There are a lot more pictures in the album!

Animal Crazy!

Last Saturday, the kids and I spent the day in Shreveport with Grandmother, Aunt Leslie, Uncle Philip, and Mitchell while Ross was in meetings at LA Tech. They had some fun activities planned! We started the morning at Chimp Haven. The chimps were fascinating to watch. We learned all kinds of interesting facts about chimps on our scavenger hunt, and Mitchell and Audrey had fun learning to walk like a chimp!

We then made our way to Gator & Friends where we saw LOTS of alligators and exotic animals. They loved getting to feed all of the exotic animals!

After lunch, they each had the opportunity to hold a baby alligator. Their eyes were all twinkling with delight when it was their turn, and thankfully the gator was very well behaved. The caretaker said it was because it was cooler outside that day.

We rounded out the adventure with a pony ride. Jackson rode a horse named Socks, and Audrey rode Spot. They went around the circle twice, and then we headed back to Grandmother's to meet up with Ross.

It was so great to spend some time with family! There are more pictures from the weekend in the album!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Impromptu Photo Shoot

Last weekend we made our way to Shreveport. I'll do another post about all of the fun we had, but while we were visiting with my Dad, I got the urge to do an impromptu photo shoot with the kids. The light coming in through the windows inspired me...not to mention the fact that the kids were willing to cooperate!

I got a couple of shots of Jackson and my dad working on a little drawing. I think these two might be related...

Audrey was playing with a doll, and quickly decided she was ready to model for me.

Both Jackson and Audrey took turns taking pictures outside, and my dad kept them occupied between turns.

Can they get any cuter?

Check out this handsome guy...when did he get so big?

This little girl makes every day brighter with her adorable curls and beautiful smile. Isn't she gorgeous?

Jackson is such a sweet, loving kid. He is still learning how to manage his emotions from time to time, but these are the sweet faces we get to enjoy most of the time!

Jackson is constantly on the move. If his body isn't moving, then his mouth probably is, which makes picture taking a challenge. He also loves to give the cheesy smile now, so it's difficult to get a genuine laugh. Here are a few of the fun outtakes from the session.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

The same day the kids ran their first race, Jackson had his first baseball game! He is on a team with several friends from his old school, and a couple of their dads are coaching, which makes the whole experience that much more fun. His team is the St. Louis Cardinals, and Audrey dressed in red to support them...not that they actually keep score.

Ross isn't officially coaching, but he is on the field helping at every practice and game. We're now in our third week of the Fall season (2nd game due to a rain out), and Jackson got his first hit during a game today! There's a pretty wide range of talent on the team at this age, so I think it's awesome to watch kids spinning in the field, as well as getting good solid hits. That's what's supposed to happen at this age!

Audrey has had fun watching a little, but she mostly enjoys playing on the bleachers or at the park by the field. She also loves getting to see the other siblings. It's been a lot of fun so far!

There are a few more pictures in the album.

Off to the Races!

It's been a busy month since the start of school. A few weeks ago Jackson and Audrey ran their first race, which was the Galveston Daily News Kids 1K. We got them up early and headed to Galveston where we met up with their friends, Buzz and Elke. They picked up their packets, participated in the warm up, sang the Star Spangled Banner, and then lined up for their race.

Ross ran with Jackson, and I ran with Audrey. They both took off when the race started. Jackson and Ross quickly got ahead, but Audrey ran strong. I looked over at some point, and Audrey's cheeks were bright red. She looked concerned. She didn't seem to know she could walk if needed. I told her it was ok, so she quickly slowed to a walk. I thought for sure that meant we'd walk the rest of the race, but within a few seconds, she was running again! She did this a few more times, but she was determined to run as much as possible. When we neared the finish line and everyone was cheering, Audrey got serious and ran hard across the finish line. It was adorable! Ross said Jackson did great. He ran the entire way! Although, he was less excited about the attention at the finish line.

The 4 kids did awesome. They enjoyed a little fruit to refuel after the race, and then had a blast jumping on the bounce houses and playing around. They were rewarded with a donut of their choice before we headed home. It was a great first race! I think we'll be doing this again...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

1st Day of Kindergarten & Pre-K3!

Monday was Jackson's 1st day of kindergarten and Audrey's 1st day of Pre-K3!!! I apologize for the really long post, but this is a big deal!!! We've all been excited, nervous, and a little overwhelmed about reaching this milestone for Jackson. The transition really started about 3 weeks ago when we pulled Jackson out of his day care and sent him to a karate camp for 2 weeks at the place he is now doing after school care.

There was a mixture of excitement and nervousness about making new friends and being in a new place when he went to camp, but the kids and the adults at Bushi Ban were amazing the first week. The second week we began to see some changes, both good and bad, and we realize the "transition" was happening in full force. With Jackson, transitions have always been a little rough, and this one has been no exception. Despite the challenges associated with change, having Jackson start this transition early has worked really well for him, and having a strong support system of encouraging friends has worked well for me!

The first day of kindergarten, we decided we would take Jackson to school, but knowing he wanted to ride the bus, we thought it would be a good idea to meet some of the kids at the bus stop and see the process before he actually had to do it. This turned out to be both a great idea and a horrible idea all at the same time. Jackson was so excited about it he had a meltdown when we wouldn't let him get on the bus! In hind sight we probably should have just let him get on and met him at the school...not what we chose to do though. Fortunately, Ross was able to help him recover, and we managed to get some happy first day of school pictures!

We got to the school before the doors were unlocked, and Jackson got to see several of his friends before walking in. When the doors were opened, he held Audrey's hand, walked her down the halls, and showed her where he would be. It was adorable! We left him sitting happily at his new table playing with playdough.

In anticipation of Jackson's "transition behavior" I'd written his teacher a note, which turned out to be a good idea because I got a phone call that afternoon letting me know there had been a couple of challenging moments during the day, but overall he had a great first day! Each day this week got a little better, and by the end of the week, he had a smiley face with no note in his take home folder! He was greatly rewarded on Friday!!!

Jackson has LOVED riding the bus in the mornings. There are around 10 kids at the bus stop every morning along with parents and 2 or 3 dogs. The bus driver seems amazing, and we've all enjoyed getting to know our neighbors a little better.

When we picked Jackson up from Bushi Ban each day this week, he was grinning from ear to ear and having a blast. We even got to watch a couple of the karate classes and see how quickly he is learning there too.

Early bedtimes (7 or 7:30) were part of our routine this week to try to help with all of the changes. Even though Jackson doesn't always nap anymore, he's still used to a rest time. Despite the early bed time giving him almost 12 hours of sleep, Jackson still had to be woken up to catch the bus some mornings!

I was able to join Jackson for lunch on Friday, which was fun. He was SO excited to see me, and I loved getting to see him in his new environment. He got to invite a friend to eat with us at the parents' table, so I got to get to know his "best friend at this school," which made it clear he still has other best friends too.

Audrey has done amazingly well with her transition to a new class at her school. She has been a little sad not to have her big brother in the car with her on the way to school or just down the hall to go visit, but she has dealt with it all really well! We've also enjoyed a little alone time with her each day. It's given us more time to get to hear about the things that are important to Audrey!

Audrey has loved walking Jackson to the bus stop each morning, and now that we're also taking Bailey, she loves getting to be responsible for the leash. Here are her first day of school pics and one from our walk home from the bus stop the first can see Jackson is a little grumpy, but Audrey is happily leading the way.

We're excited to have the first week behind us and enjoy a long weekend for Labor Day. I think it's going to be a great year!

End of Summer Break!

Last Friday was the end of the kids summer break. Audrey's school had a 50's sock hop to celebrate, and we spent the day with Jackson at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Both kiddos had a blast!

We gave Jackson several options for how to spend his last day of summer break, and his choice above the beach or riding rides or anything else was to go to the museum and a movie. Honestly, I was a little worried he wouldn't have as much fun at the museum, but he proved me wrong! He absolutely love every moment. There was so much excitement over each dinosaur and new discovery that he was exhausted when we were done, which made it the perfect time to relax and see a movie of his choice. We wrapped up the day with dinner as a family at a favorite restaurant. I couldn't have asked for a better last day of summer!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jackson's Baptism

Jackson chose to get baptized tonight, and he was blessed to be surrounded by family and friends for such a special occasion. There to celebrate with him along with me, Ross, and Audrey were Jackson's Nana, Pop, and Grandmother, as well as several close friends. Pastor Randy, who also prayed over Jackson at his baby dedication, was there to baptize Jackson today. Last November Jackson prayed to ask Jesus to be his savior. I never imagined a 4 (now 5) year old could truly grasp what all of this means, but Jackson's desire to truly understand everything around him has resulted in a pretty amazing understanding of God. I am so grateful to know so many people are pouring God's love and grace into all of our lives. We have an amazing family, both church and relatives!

After the baptisms were done, our church's family fun night began! There were water slides and a grilled cheese food truck...can't beat that! The kids had a least until they stepped in a pile of ants.

Here are a couple of individual shots I captured of Jackson and Audrey from the weekend too. I love these kids!!!

There are a few more pictures in the album from this weekend.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 4th Weekend

This July 4th weekend was filled with a couple of firsts for the Taylor kids. Every year since Jackson was born we've spent New Years and July 4th in Leakey with Leslie, Ross' sister, and Philip. Every year there has been a burn ban because there hasn't been enough rain. This July 4th weekend was different though! The area has had enough rain that we were able to do fireworks and float the Frio river!

We arrived the afternoon of the 4th, and I managed to capture a few pictures of Jackson and Audrey before the celebrations began. The top pics below were taken at our house the day before, and the bottom pics were in Leslie and Philip's front yard.

Leslie and Philip provided some poppers to play with on the driveway, and Grandmother provided some cupcakes to celebrate America's birthday. The kids had fun pulling the strings and watching the streamers fly, and they especially loved throwing the little poppers on the ground or stepping on them. In the end, they were covered in icing and sawdust, so it was a perfect time to send them to the pool!

All of the kiddos had fun splashing around in the pool throughout the weekend. They dove for rings, practiced holding their breath and swimming, and took turns jumping off the diving board!

As if that weren't enough fun for one day, fireworks were next on the agenda! Neither of our kids has ever seen fireworks, so this was an exciting moment for them! I loved watching their reactions. We started with some little ones, which got them over any potential fears. Then we moved on to some that went into the air, which amazed them. Then we let the ones who were brave enough play with sparklers, and as it began to get darker, the bigger and higher fireworks came out. Of course, the big kids (a.k.a. the Dads) enjoyed lighting these just as much as the little ones were in awe watching them.

I also have to admit our kids were awed by the stars out there. Living in Houston and going to bed pretty early, our kiddos haven't seen very many stars. It was a perfect way to spend the 4th of July!

Friday morning we made our way down the road to float the river. The kids helped pick out their tubes, and we caught a shuttle to the drop off point. The water was cool, but it felt great on a hot summer day. They had fun hoping in and out of the tubes to swim and float down the river. It was relaxing and fun most of the trip. It ended up being a little longer of a float than originally planned, which left everyone a little tired and hungry by the end, but Jackson and Audrey did great despite ending well past lunch time and ultimately at the tail end of nap time!

Saturday morning was the Leakey July Jubilee Parade. We arrived just in time to check out the local helicopter that provides life flight services and watch it take off.

We then settled into our spots and waited for the parade to start. We were all grateful to have found some umbrellas in our cars to provide a little shade while we waited and had snacks.

The parade started with the Star Spangled Banner, the waving of our flags, and a tribute to the soldiers who protect our freedom!

Then there were cars and floats throwing beads and candy and toys! This also included a special appearance from Tow-Mater!

Everyone got a little more patriotic...and silly as the parade went on!

After the parade we found a local spot for lunch. Then Philip and Grandmother took the kids home for a nap while the rest of us did a little shopping at the Jubilee festivities. We brought home funnel cakes to reward them for their good deed.

While Audrey and Mitchell took naps, Jackson got to spend a little 1-on-1 time with Grandmother at her house. They rode the Polaris and went to visit Granddad.

When they got back, we were back in the pool! Jackson quickly joined the fun, and they splashed until they were exhausted. After dinner, Uncle Philip had a special treat. He let all the kids go for a ride on the backhoe, and Jackson got to drive!

It was a great July 4th Weekend! There are a few more pictures in the album.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jackson's 5th B-day - Parts 2 & 3

As I mentioned in the previous post, I was out of town for Jackson's actual birthday. In an attempt to make up for it, I created a scavenger hunt for him when he woke up the day of his birthday. Ross took a video of it so I could see his reaction. He loved it! I had a small gift with a little note and a picture of the next location in each spot. Ross, his mom, and his Aunt Dottie were there to help set this up and spend the day celebrating with him. He got to have the traditional party with cupcakes at school and have more cake with a special dinner that evening.

Grandmother got Jackson a small vacuum for his birthday, which we are all excited about! Jackson has always liked for things to be in there place and neat, so he loves getting to vacuum! I love having a cleaner floor! Another example of his excitement for organization was during the scavenger hunt. He wanted to find a place for a new game before moving on to the next location. I love it!

We had the official birthday party last weekend at Jump N Jungle, which was a great, low-stress way to celebrate! All I had to worry about was the cake and the party favors. Jackson had a little over 20 of his friends join him to celebrate, which meant so much to him! It was a little bittersweet for me to realize a lot of these kiddos have been at most of Jackson's parties for the last few years, and they will all be going to different schools next year!

After wearing themselves out jumping, everyone took a break for pizza and cupcakes. Jackson thought the sparkler candles that won't easily stay blown out were hilarious!

Jackson chose a Mario theme for his party this year. I didn't do a very good job of taking pictures to document this party, but there were some adorable cupcake toppers and a fun invitation to go along with the theme. He also loves his shirt from this party, and I love that I'm in a picture or two with the birthday boy this year!

Here are a few more shots of the chaos and fun while everyone was eating and Jackson opened presents. I'd say he had a pretty awesome birthday this year!

As usual, there are more pics in the album!