OUR CHRISTMAS IN PICTURES…2016

fc66It was a grand and glorious two day celebration!  Our Adam (who is a paramedic) had to work on Christmas Day.  So we had our immediate family celebration on Christmas Eve!  Because of God’s great goodness, Alex was feeling well enough to be up with us the whole evening!  He so enjoyed time with his brothers, as they did as well!  Isn’t it wonderful how God just drops in a miracle to give us joy and happiness.  We all truly doubted Alex would be able to join us.  But, God came through.  Praise His name!

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A little African drum solo to add to the merrymaking!

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Remember the old Operation game?  It’s still fun!

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Me and my boys….

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The whole crew…look carefully…Don is in mirror!

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On Christmas Day, Don and I attended worship service at our church.  It was lovely!  We sang all the old Christmas carols, had an inspiring message, and then shared communion as we departed.  How blessed to be able to attend worship on Christmas Day!

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Back home, Ian and Don and I began to prepare dinner for the extended family.  I had put in my JENNIE-O COOK IN THE BAG TURKEY  🙂 in the oven before I left!  (By the way, it was as delicious as ever!)

Family began arriving around 4 and from there on it was a cacophony of laughter and squeals and paper tearing and singing and love…lots of love!  (Alex was here in spirit, but unable to be up today…we missed him so).

First order of business, make the little boy’s pics in their Christmas pajamas!  They were really not in the mood to pose for pictures…but we cajoled and threatened and promised and managed to get a few good ones!

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Photo bomber!!!

 

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Silly boys..climbing around like monkeys!

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Joy and her girls…

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The keeper of the trash!  Thanks, Ian!

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And to our parents, who are celebrating Christmas in heaven…we love you and honor you and miss you everyday…and especially at Christmas.

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Thank you, God, for sending your dear son, Jesus, to us on earth.  He is the reason there is love and hope and happiness in the world.  He is the one we strive to be like.  He is the one who cares for us and cherishes us and forgives us and saves us!  To Him be all glory and honor and praise!

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EXPLORING

There was just the teeniest touch of fall in the air…still hot, but with a smell of the cooler temps to come.  Don and I picked Levi up from school and went out to eat.  Then, per Levi’s direction, we headed to Landmark Park.  He loves this place.  Don and I have not been in quite a while…but Suzanne and Adam take Levi there quite often.

We visited all the little buildings and then headed to the fabulous playground.  Just an ordinary day…nothing to cause it to stand out any more than any other day.  But, it was a beautiful day…a God-given respite in the middle of the stress of everyday life.  Actually, it is well worth remembering…so enjoy some pics I managed to snap!

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Are you as happy as I am when I have an ordinary day.  So many of our days have a moment when something startles us…we have an accident… we get bad news…we have to do something we really are not comfortable with…someone is unkind to us…someone doesn’t behave in a way that we agree with.  And, from that point on, the day goes down hill.  Nothing can rescue it and turn it back into an ordinary day.  It is marred by circumstances.

But, all along there are also plain, ordinary days.  The sun still shines, or the rain pours…but it doesn’t matter.  Nothing is ruffling our feathers.  No bad news…no accidents, we can do whatever makes us happy, everyone one we meet either ignores us or is kind…but no one gets in our way or causes us one bit of stress.  These are the days that generally come and go and we think them unremarkable.

But, oh! what joy there is hidden inside those days.  There is time…there is fun…there is play…there are smiles and there is laughter.  There is room to explore and time to stop and give thanks for the days when ‘nothing happens’.  And, when you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you think to yourself, “What a great day!”

And, those are the days you treasure and keep in a safe place.  It was one of those days.

ARTS AND CRAFTS AND DECORATING…OH! MY!

PART ONE…Thanksgiving Day…

Thanksgiving Day in our family is full of good food, wonderful family, and furious decorating!  We always have lunch at Pop’s with Joy in charge of the kitchen.  Due to the effects of the past few weeks, we had a lot catered this year, and paper plates were in order.  It was delicious!  Our Birmingham Boy, Ian, came bearing two delightful deserts…one made by his own hand!  Yummy!

While Lori slaved cleaning up the kitchen, all by herself, with a joyous attitude, Tara, Joy, Suzanne, Ian and I were busy seeing to the decorating of Pop’s house.   It has been our tradition since Mom moved to Heaven to spend the hours after Thanksgiving dinner getting Pop’s house into a Christmas mood.  Ian made 65 trips into the attic since he was the only male with young enough legs and strong enough arms to tackle the job.  The other men were all a ‘few’ years his elder. His 3 peers were needed elsewhere…. onewas urgently needed to help control the deer population…out in the wilds of Abbeville.  One was needed to sew and patch and transfer those who chose Thanksgiving and big sales as their clue to begin partying And, the last one was helping watch the youngest of the male members of our clan as they were showing their mad skills to each other and their grandfathers on various athletic equipment consisting of 2, 3, or 4 wheels!  (But, if you notice, in the pics below, one of the little boys has a busted lip, chipped tooth and skinned nose…Way to Watch, guys!)

After we finally got the tree fluffed, and plugged in, we set about finding and hanging the 586 ornaments Mother had on her ‘family tree’.  She also had a ‘Fancy Nancy tree’ elsewhere in the house, but the family tree has every single ornament any of her children or 5 grandchildren had ever made, or that anyone had given her.  Oh, my!  So many…and every one of them dear to her and Pop’s heart.  We did away with the fancy tree, but still put this one up right in the den where he sees it.  If Mother decorated something in years past…it must still be decorated now, according to our patriarch.  Oh, and it makes him so happy to know she would be so happy to see it still done so.  This means that 6 wreaths get hung, 3 light posts get adorned, arrangements on a dining room table, a kitchen table,  the island, and two tables in the hall.  AND the old ceramic tree with those tiny plastic bulbs that is as old as I, am goes in Pop’s study.  We had fun, as we always do when we are together.  Even Lori’s grumbling about people still using forks and glasses couldn’t stop our fun!  (just kidding…well not really, but she did say it with a smile in her eyes!)

Someone may or may not have fallen off a step stool, onto a 3 foot tree lying on the couch and continued rolling until he/she hit the floor.  And, the little tree may have been permanently altered.  However, it sits proudly in its spot…propped up by 2 books that are hidden by some burlap around the base…looking to all the world as if it is intended to be that way.  There can be beauty in the broken.  Mom would be so proud!

Anyway, back to the purpose of my post today.  John Thomas and Levi were so excited at the prospect of having another tree to decorate!  Oh, the ornaments were shiny and bright and wherever they put them was perfection!  John Thomas called the right to put up the star, with Uncle Ian’s help.

Let me just interject this observation.  John Thomas is most cooperative and gracious to anyone who may even think they want to make his picture.  He waits.  He poses.  He makes the most adorable smiles that make you just want to pitch his little cheeks!  In fact he wants to be in every picture made!

Sweet Levi, on the other hand, does not have the patience nor the ‘want to’ to smile sweetly for just a quick second while you try and catch a cute picture.  Pose?  Are you kidding?  You have to sneak around and usually the best I can do is get something from the side.  If you ever do get him from the front…his eyes are looking around furiously to see what he can do the minute he is released.  They are NEVER looking at the camera!!!  (Unless he is being threatened by someone whom he knows really means it!)  I always take 10 or 25 pictures of him in hopes of getting a good one!

 

 

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You can not imagine what it took to get a good one of these 3 below…

 

 

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Spot the difference in the two little boys?  God love ’em both!

All kidding aside, with this tradition, we honor the sweet memory of our Mother and Granny and take great pleasure in making the house as festive as she did, knowing what pleasure it gives to Pop.  And, he is so gracious and appreciative.

 

PART TWO…The Day After…

I ask for trouble.  I know it’s true.  Don’t mean to…but it happens.

Last year John Thomas was visiting me and asked me if we could paint a Christmas tree.  I told him that I did not have one but I would look around and see what I could do.  Well, things happened and people happened and life happened…and I did not get to carry out my plans. But, I told John Thomas that if I was able we would do it this year.  And I was…and we did.

The day after Thanksgiving John Thomas and Sweet Levi showed up at my house at 10:00 sharp.  And, I was ready and waiting on them!  Time for our morning of fun to begin!  I had a huge sheet spread out on the floor.  Both boys had the same supplies…a bare tree, a palette of paint, brushes, an empty snow globe, two empty glass ornaments, a tiny truck, and a tiny tree.  I kept control of the paint bottles, and the supplies for the snow globe.

We began by swirling different colors of paint inside the glass ornaments…these turned out very pretty…but was not a hit with the boys. It took too long for the paint to run down the sides.  They needed fast results!

Then we started the trees.  Now this, they loved.  They discussed  which colors they would use.  Levi told John Thomas that he should copy him because he does art everyday.  John Thomas told Levi that he already decided which colors and not to copy him!  I think that ended all discussion of paint colors.  They both went to work and let their creative spirits soar.  I guess they didn’t notice they both had the same 4 colors.

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The trees are hinged on the back so they will stand up.  They did a great job!  Then we washed up and sang a few Christmas carols to liven us up!

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We made our little truck ornament for the tree, and then came time for the snow globe.  Oh my!

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I found the neatest snow globes at Michael’s this year.  They are plastic and are in 3 pieces…the globe, a little platform for the characters you choose, and a twist on cap.  And, they are large enough that you can put more than one thing in it.  I had a snowman, a deer, trees, 2 elves, a house, a bicycle and two signs to the North Pole. And two bags of snow!  John Thomas chose first cause he said he was older.  Levi said, “Don’t you know I’m 4 now?”  JT told him it didn’t matter, he was still older.  Levi told him that he went to his birthday and he was four, too!  John Thomas just rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, two years ago, Levi”  I didn’t stop at 4!”  Not sure Levi gets it yet, but we let JT go first.  He tried out several and decided on an elf and a tree and a sign.  So, I hot glued and then we opened the snow. OH! THE! SNOW!  I bought some somewhere that was teeny little styrofoam like balls.  BIG MISTAKE!  They immediately attach themselves to your hands and clothes and face and everything!  And, they are so very lightweight that every time you breath out or say a word the weight of your breath sends them into orbit.  They fall where they will and refuse to let themselves be picked up again!  I learned a lesson, for sure.

Levi and John Thomas were sure troopers though.  They got down on the floor and tried their best to corral the lost snow.  Oh if only it would really melt!  Needless to say, we grabbed what we could and dumped it in a bag and decided Levi would use the flaky snow!  He had been studying the pieces and finally decided that he would take the other elf and a tree and a sign…just like John Thomas!  I glued.  And told him to wait for me to open the bag of that lighter than air flaky stuff.  Somehow, his brain did not comprehend what those words meant and he bit a hole in the top of the bag and proceeded to pull it apart with all his might.  And he did…pull it apart.  And it really truly snowed in my studio.  A whole bag full.  I couldn’t speak.  John Thomas stared at me.  Levi laughed and said, “Come on, John Thomas, help me put it back in the bag and lets do it again!”  JT didn’t move.  He knew.   He’s 6.  The bag was quickly then removed from Levi’s hands and cleanup began.  OH ! My!  What Fun!  Here’s the two other ones we did.  See those little demon balls in the snowman?  NEVER buy them!

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We finished up with the projects and put everything away.  They played with cars for a while, then John Thomas chose a book for me to read.    But, no.  Levi decided he would read to John Thomas.  He ‘read’ him a photo album of his K3 year of school.  I don’t think JT was particularly enthralled.  But, the dear boy was kind, and let Levi finish.

And this is the only bad picture of John Thomas known to be in existence!

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And our fun morning came to an end.  The boys gathered their treasures together to take home and soon their Moms came to pick them up.  I tried everything to remove snow from my studio, and finally hit on a lint roller as the best tool for the job.  Used up all the sheets on the roll…but there’s very little snow left!

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JT looked the the pics I took before he left and he told me I messed up on this one.  “You don’t have anything in this picture, Aunt Tonja, “he said.  “Oh yes, I do, Little Man!  There’s a little hand reaching into to a beautiful palette of paint!  He can paint anything he wants.  He can create a blue sky or a dark storm, or a truck or an airplane or even a family.   It’s all up to the artist.  I think it’s beautiful!”  He said it still looked like a wrong picture to him.  That’s OK.  He’s 6!

“…work with your own hands…” 1 Thessalonians4:11

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And, it’s now nap time for the grown-up!

BOOGALOO CAMP…2015

The first annual BOO-GA-LOO CAMP is history.  But, history that is bound to be relived and talked about for a while to come.  Because family is so important and I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with mine…I decided that the big girls and the little boys would have a special few days together.  Why ‘Boogaloo’, you may ask?  Well, it had to have a name.  And, the Boogaloo (bugaloo) is a fast paced dance with wild, crazy movements…. and with these little guys around, we ‘re nothing if we are not fast, wild and crazy!  So Boogaloo it is.  I also changed the spelling to my liking…because I don’t want it called the ‘bug’aloo camp.  Cause bugs…not invited!

Joy and I arrived a day early to rest and reserve our strength for what we knew was going to be a wild weekend.  We were wise to do so!  However, I did have one small project for us to do.  We bought pavers and sorta/kinda laid a walkway between the house (The Sandcastle) and the trailer (The Flamingo).  We had to wait until it was almost dark for it to be cool enough for us to work outside.   And, late afternoon…prime mosquito time!   It wasn’t exactly perfect …but it worked well enough that the boys did not have to walk through the sand spurs to go back and forth.

The crew arrived and the first order of business was discussing all the activities that were to follow. Oh, yes!  Arts and crafts, swimming, sunning, bumper boats, story time, water fun, go carts, and donuts, of course!  We blew up a big pool for the boys to play with their new water squirters and boats and cars.  While we girls sat around and visited.

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After a meal out, we turned in…praying for a sunny tomorrow…with NO rain!  The next day was our planned time on the beach.  And, wow! we could not have ordered a more gorgeous day.  Perfection!.

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The boys and girls rode the waves, gathered shells, and floated in the glorious ocean under a blazing sun!  Joy and I sat in the shade of a giant umbrella and enjoyed the show!  Back at the Sandcastle, we got in a little art work.  Painting, stamping, building boats…puzzles, cars, and games.

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Levi even got a lesson in Solitaire from Aunt Joy!

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After a night’s rest, we were up and ready to go again…this time to the Water Park.  Oh, the boys love it here!  There are fountains popping up from the ground to run through and glorious misters to stand in.  The kid’s pool is only 2 feet deep and it is huge!  There’s 2 slides and all sorts of water fun.  There is also an olympic sized pool with obstacles to run.  And around it all are ledges for the older folks to rest…’cause the little boys don’t stop when they get there…until it’s time to eat.  Also lots of covered picnic tables to escape from the sun for a while.

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After a little rest, we went to a wonderful place to eat…Boondocks.    After dinner came go-cart time!  This was our promise to Levi.  And, then we had to scout out some shells.   This was our promise to John Thomas….he has a shell collection…and there really aren’t many to be found on the beaches.  Found a great place, and the boys were going strong.  Joy and I, however, were fading fast.  So we switched up cars.  They went for ice cream and Joy and I went back to the Sandcastle.

Plans were to head to the beach for some crab hunting, but Levi came in the house in his Mother’s arms…already deep in dreamland.  So that’s on our list for next year!

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The crew left out by noon on Sunday.  But Joy and I needed a day to recuperate.  They all left and by 2:00 we were both napping!  Revived, we did a little shopping, a little visiting, and a little eating.  We finished cleaning the next morning and were home early afternoon.

What an amazing few days together we had! Time focused just on family and fun.  And building memories for the boys.  I think both boys were sad their dads were not along.  It makes me happy that Will and Adam spend such quality time with their sons that they want them along wherever the fun is!  Such good daddies! But, this trip was for us girls!

We are so thankful that God granted us these days to laugh, and read and sing and dance and play and swim and rest at night!  God is good to us and His blessings can never be counted.  It is He who established the family.  And, it is He who blesses ours.

A GATHERING OF MOMS

There are wonderful mothers in most families,,,mine included.  These are the women who help lay the groundwork for the way you were raised.   Much of what you and your grandchildren are taught to respect and hold dear, comes from the mothers who have moved on to another place.  I can joyfully say these women who have physically left this earth are in heaven and waiting for me to join them there.  How blessed I am to come from such a legacy.  Here then is a gathering of the mothers who helped shape me.

My mother’s mother…Annie Mariah Tew Merritt….when I was just a baby…

 

 

 

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Here she is a few years before she passed away…Granny Merritt…

 

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Here is the sweet mother of my Daddy…  Ester Lillian Hallman Townsend…..Granny T…

 

 

 

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And this is a picture of Don’s Daddy’s mother…she passed early in our marriage…Ola Owens…

 

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Sitting with my young boys is my mother in law and Don’s mother Sarah Elizabeth Meadows Owens…..

 

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Elizabeth Owens…she was a kind and gentle soul who loved her Lord and her family greatly…..

 

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Here is my mother a day after I was born…Elosise Merritt Townsend….

 

 

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With me, ready for church….

 

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With her grandchildren, Ian,Lori, Alex, Adam, Tara, who learned and loved so much from her…

 

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With Joy and I on one of our fun trips together…

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My beautiful mother, whom I miss every day….

 

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Joy and I holding our precious grandsons….Levi Hampton Owens, and John Thomas Bush

 

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My Sister, with her children…Joy Annette Townsend McKibben with Lori and Tara

 

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Me, with my children…Tonja Lynn Townsend Owens…with Alex, Ian, Adam…

 

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And the next generation….Tara Suzanne McKibben Bush with John Thomas

 

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Suzanne Michelle Horne Owens with Levi…

 

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

THE MERRIEST CHRISTMAS 2014

THE MERRIEST CHRISTMAS DAY…2014

The last car has gone from the yard and the house is too quiet!  But, OH! MY! the fun that has gone on within the walls of the Creekhouse during the past few days!  I think it was the best Christmas ever!  (But, I say that every year).  But, this one was surely among the top!

Christmas Day started bright and early with me getting the turkey in the oven.  Then finishing the meal prep with Don’s help, and getting dressed and ready for the fun!  First to arrive was Tara and Will and John Thomas, followed by Lori, and Tommy and Joy and Pop!  We knew Tina and Ian and Jackson were on the way, but were going to go ahead and start eating!  We held hands around the table and prayed together.  As soon as we said “AMEN”…in they walked!  So, we quickly added a postscript to our prayer and thanked God we were all together and for safety in their travels.  Alex was able to be up and enjoy the family, too!  Thank you, God!   (Adam had to work…and Suzanne and Levi were joining us after lunch at her parents.)

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After lunch, Adam and Suzanne came in and I followed the advice of several of my friends.  Last week I posted a pic of our 3 little guys made on my front porch steps.

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Several of you suggested I make this an annual photo of the boys and I thought that was a wonderful idea!  So here is CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPS…2014

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We had a big surprise for Levi, and as soon as we had snapped these boy’s pics, we took him into the garage where he had this waiting for him!  He was ecstatic!  We were trying to give him a chance to ride it a little before it got dark!  He jumped right on and the other boys hopped in too!  Off they went…down the drive, and all the way to the bridge!  What made it even more special was that Adam and his work partner happened to be free and swung the ambulance by the house in time to see Levi’s big surprise!  Thank you, Lord, for working that out!  As it turned out, we all went outside for the big ride…and made lots of pics while there.

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We gathered in the den to share some gifts.  Pop blessed us all by donating gifts to Heifer International, in each of our names.   This organization provides animals to those who live in deep poverty around the world.  By using the animals, goats, sheep, chicks, cows, pigs,  rabbits, etc., they are able to have milk and eggs for their family, and some to sell.  They then can breed the animals, as well.   By suppling a few families in the poorest of villages, soon they are able to help each other out and help provide for the village as a whole.  This is a Christian organization and well worth supporting.  Also donations were made to Clean Water and Smile Train.  This is such a worthy gift and honors us greatly.  Pop and Mom started doing this years ago, and it has become a blessing to our family.  To know that we, who need so little, are helping many who are in such need, is humbling.  Thank you Pop for having such a giving heart and for being so willing to share so others may have a better life.  You lead us well!

Levi sang ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ for us, and we all sang some Christmas songs together.

Then the little boys dug into their gifts and had a ball!  Too soon, we were all stuffed and sleepy and the  celebration came to an end!  It couldn’t have been any sweeter!

THE MERRIEST DECEMBER 26….2014

Because Adam could not join us on Christmas, we extended our family celebration into the next evening.  Oh, what joy it was for me to have all my children and all my grandchildren and Don and I in the same room at the same time!  Adam and Alex and Ian had fun just playing and sharing tech stuff.  They laughed and danced and sang and I watched it all with pride and happiness!

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Levi finally gave out on us and the night had to come to a close.  BUT…I had told the whole group I was getting pictures of my boys and nobody was leaving until I did!  So, grudgingly, I got the boys and Don and I in three quick pics!  Treasure, I tell you!  Treasures!

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You’d think folks would be glad I made a few photos of the day, wouldn’t you!  They all like to have them after they are made!  And, most of the family is cooperative….but these guys?  Party poopers!

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Can you believe it?

Jackson got his bath and posed for a sweet Christmas picture in his Christmas PJ’s beside my tree….gladly, I might add!

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And, a few minutes ago they pulled out of the driveway, heading back to Birmingham.  Levi is spending the day playing with his new toys, at home with Adam and Suzanne.   Alex has retreated to his apartment to recuperate, Don is watching a movie, and I…I am here…documenting it all.  I love to record the happy memories we make.  I want my children to be able to look back on these posts one day and remember just how sweet the times were.  I want my grandchildren and grandnephew to remember how blessed they are to be in a family that loves and adores them.  I want us all to remember this is not by accident.  It is by the grace and mercy of our Lord.  Thank you, God.

“It is God who gives us these times of joy!”  Nehemiah 12:43