Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas !

Just sharing some pics from our exhaustive (exhausting?) Christmas card photo shoot.....

We went from crying......
....to hysterics....
....to hats falling down and tongues sticking out.
We've said it before, but those girls at Olan Mills don't get paid enough ;>) Despite snapping a huge number of pics, we never could get them both smiling at the same time. Here are the ones that did make the cut:
We've posted more of our Christmas activities below. From our house to yours, Merry Christmas !

Our Christmas Parade....so far

Just some pics of our holiday activities so far.....

We plan to start some solids now that Ben's six months, but have been so busy with holiday activities we've not done it yet. He decided to take matters into his own hands by putting his face down in Mark's pistachio salad. You think that's a pediatrician-approved first food ;>) ?

Claire & Samuel take turns pushing each other around in the stroller.
Rosie was very sweet to make some Christmas cookies for the kids to decorate. Can you tell what was their favorite part ?

Yes, the S-P-R-I-N-K-L-E-S !! Poor Rosie had quite the mess to clean up !

Mark's brother, Michael, has endeared himself to Samuel by playing cars with him. Michael and Linda came up for a visit recently from Florida. It's the first time they've seen Samuel since he was about 15 months old. Samuel's changed a lot since then !

And, of course, they got to meet Ben for the first time; with Aunt Linda

And Uncle Michael

Samuel went to his first Christmas parade this year. This was the first time we'd ever seen a herd of sheep going down Main Street ! Samuel loved the fire trucks especially.....there were plenty to love too.......there were so many that Mark said he hoped nobody's house caught on fire during the parade ;>)

What's a parade without a flag to wave ? Most nights Samuel takes that flag to bed with him !
The birthday boys, Mark & Norm. Once again, Samuel's not getting too close to those candles ! I don't think we have to worry about him actually becoming a fireman !
Playing with Brian; Samuel just loved the Christmas village.

Ben with Lauren & Brian

This was at a Christmas party Samuel went to with his friend, Will. See what too much sugar does to them ;>)
  • larry_shannon
    I love the pics with the Santa hats. Adorable!
    by larry_shannon at 12/24/08 11:32PM
  • aurocks
    Great pictures! Merry Christmas.
    by aurocks at 12/24/08 11:34PM
  • grandmadiane
    You have great subjects for photos! I love Clair's green tongue and all the family pics. Was that the m'boro parade???
    by grandmadiane at 12/25/08 1:07AM
  • lol_smile456
    I think the pics. of Samuel and Benjamin turned out great :)
    by lol_smile456 at 12/25/08 2:14PM
  • dsh
    So many happy smiles in those pictures!
    by dsh at 12/26/08 7:57PM
  • mattmanua
    I would like to see it. I don't know if I can get a copy at school or not.
    by mattmanua at 12/28/08 12:03AM

First Snow, First Dates, & Disappearing Acts

Our sweet little Ben was 6 months old this week and went to the doctor today for his checkup and shots. Samuel has been skittish when Ben goes in for shots, but we read "Corduroy Goes to the Doctor" this morning and he seemed okay about it. When they took us back, we could hear a kid across from us crying and screaming his head off. He sounded older, I figured at least 6 or 7, and he was screaming things like "You hate me" and "Yes, I'm going to die" !! So much for my calm kids ;>)----they both looked very scared but at least didn't cry. When the nurse came into our room she apologized about it. She said the boy was 12 !!! (I think he needed something besides a shot ;>)

Anyway, our sweet "little" Ben weighs 3 ounces shy of a whopping 18 lbs ! (Samuel was about 19 lbs on his first birthday !) I can't believe how fast these 6 months have flown by (I probably wouldn't think that in the middle of one of our long, sleepless nights but those are becoming much rarer). Mark's mother was saying recently that Ben is acting like he will be crawling soon and she thinks he'll soon have a tooth. I told her I'm in no hurry for either of those things to happen! What's funny is that with Samuel it was all about "when" will he be doing x, y, or z. Maybe that's natural with the first. Now, with Ben, it feels like water slipping through your fingers----it's just going too fast and you can't hold onto it. Here are some pics of our much beloved "disappearing act" ;>) at 6 months of age:

"Whose bassinet is this; mine or Sophie's ?" (Sophie would say hers !)

This is Melanie & Daniel's newborn, Cole, not even 24 hours old. We're very happy for them. He was so close to Ben's size at birth and he was born on the day Ben was exactly 6 months old, so it just reinforced how quickly these 6 months have flown by !

Mark and I went out last night to a concert. The Canadian Brass quintet was playing with the Symphony. They were our "first date" back in the spring of 1998 when they played the Ryman, so we thought it would be fun to "recreate" that evening. We had a great time (if you ever get the chance to hear them, they are wonderful!) but the "re-creation" was somewhat modified with the passing of time. That first time, we had a leisurely dinner at Demo's before going to the concert. This time, in a concession to nursing schedules, naptimes, & bedtimes, we quickly grabbed something from Wendy's and ate it in the car. That first time, Mark picked me up at my office in his new 2-door sports car; this time, we arrived at the concert in our 5-door minivan ! The jazz in the car's CD player from back then is usually replaced with "The Wheels On The Bus and Other Toddler Favorites". And all romantic thoughts driving home from that first date were replaced this time with 2 kids screaming in the backseat almost all the way home. I don't think either of us would change a thing though !

Grandpa with his boys; he and Grandma were on babysitting detail last night.

We left home around 5 pm yesterday, so imagine our surprise driving back from a snow-free area around 11 pm and encountering all this snow the further south we went. There was a big moon and it was a beautiful drive home (more or less, with 2 screaming kids in the backseat ;>). I got the kids out in it for a short while this morning, so Ben could see his first snow:

I think he looks like a seal in his snowsuit !
Ben was rather "underwhelmed" by it all ;>) He looks like he's thinking "Don't you know what the temperature is...?"

I took Samuel & Ben on a wagon ride through the backyard. No time for snowman building though since we had to go to the doctor's.

This is a pic from earlier in the week. Samuel & Will often love to "lead singing" when they get together !

  • kerrielee
    All very precious!!
    by kerrielee at 12/12/08 5:40PM
  • harbermama
    Happy anniversary or re-creation of your first date. I couldn't believe the snow when we went to the airport last night...we didn't have anything here and it looked like a winter wonderland just that far south of us. I'm sure you had a lot more! And the moon tonight was the biggest I've ever seen! Norm said it was supposed to be the closest it will ever be to earth right now, so I guess that would make it look bigger.

    Does Grandpa always dress up so for babysitting? :-) It IS important duty, I guess.
    by harbermama at 12/12/08 8:51PM
  • harbermama
    I love your little "seal!" He and brother are adorable!
    by harbermama at 12/12/08 8:51PM
  • larry_shannon
    The pictures are great and your boys are precious! Shane told me about your Halloween costumes and I had to check it out. Hilarious! Do you really believe that comment by Shane up there? A man of few words?? Ha!
    by larry_shannon at 12/12/08 9:05PM
  • boromom
    Great pictures! Glad your night out went well. The snow shut down our class last night. For those that can we are doing one tomorrow afternoon.
    by boromom at 12/12/08 10:37PM
  • amandochka
    Thanks for the pics. It's nice to see little Cole too. Maybe I'll get to meet him in a few weeks.
    by amandochka at 12/12/08 11:24PM
  • mpettes
    So sweet! Ben looks very different from Samuel to me. I know exactly what you mean about "date night". All we ever find to talk about is the kids ;)!
    by mpettes at 12/13/08 8:06AM
  • shieldmaiden_rosa
    Very cute pictures, I can't believe how big the boys are getting! Glad you all had a good time at the concert and were able to find that parking!
    by shieldmaiden_rosa at 12/14/08 9:19PM
  • lindseymarie
    Those are the cutest pics! You must have come by to see Cole right after we did--isn't he adorable, and his hair--I've never seen anything like it! You're post was so sweet--I almost got a little teary. You def. have two very precious boys!
    by lindseymarie at 12/15/08 10:58AM
  • derbydi
    Such pretty babies you have!
    Terry Fator is a celebrity ventriloquist. He sings celebs' songs w/his puppets and sounds just like them! He's very good at not letting you see him move his mouth. The boys are excited about going. :-)
    by derbydi at 12/15/08 1:34PM
  • derbydi
    Only in America, Rhonda! ;-)
    by derbydi at 12/15/08 8:18PM
  • shelbysmom
    These pictures are great!! I'm so disappointed that the party was canceled on Saturday. I was excited to see my grape eating buddy again! And I have Ben's gift...whatever will I do with it?! Actually we are thinking about attending services at Westvue on Sunday night if we can work out all the details. Will you guys be there?

    As always, I enjoy seeing pictures of your boys and their gorgeous smiles!
    by shelbysmom at 12/15/08 11:18PM
  • acurtis
    Well, I'm a little behind on reading posts, but I was thoroughly amused by this one. LOVE LOVE LOVE the snow pics. Ben is getting so big! Can you believe he's half way to a year old? Wow! That pic of the cat and Ben is hilarious!
    by acurtis at 12/16/08 2:55PM
  • mamap
    LOVED your description of your anniversary night...SO funny...big changes, huh? ;) Thanks so much for the little extra "note" in the mail...You're very kind...SO wish we could have gotten the "ideal" family pic...Maybe we'll get another chance sometime! Love y'all!
    by mamap at 12/16/08 10:15PM
  • bruski
    Very handsome sons! (I'm partial to sons...)
    by bruski at 12/17/08 5:55AM
  • mpettes
    Just got our card today and LOVED it!!! Thanks so much! Is Samuel laughing at Ben's misfortune? ;)
    by mpettes at 12/17/08 2:43PM
  • kerrielee
    Thanks for our card,it is so cute.They are absolutely precious.Hope you guys have a good christmas.
    by kerrielee at 12/18/08 9:51PM
  • acurtis
    Our pleasure! Cleaning up the sprinkles was my favorite part ;)
    by acurtis at 12/19/08 1:11PM
  • shaneg
    Thanks for the picture. It's on the hall of fame fridge.
    by shaneg at 12/19/08 6:10PM
  • kaylawayla30
    by kaylawayla30 at 12/23/08 4:20PM


We had a busy but wonderful Thanksgiving week. We have so much to be grateful for, but certainly the arrival of our sweet little Ben would top the list this year. We're also thankful for the friends in our lives; we got to have a playdate with a few of them just before Thanksgiving:

Who has the curliest hair, Claire or Samuel ??

It's hard for me to believe that Michael got over here on his own; I guess Ben will be there in a few months !
Will and Samuel goofing off.
Quite a few years ago, we began having some of our Thanksgiving celebrations with the Duggins, when we weren't able to go away for the holiday. It's come to have a special place in our lives and we were so glad to be there this year. Our longtime friends, the Boyds, were there and it was extra special because of the two new babies, Benjamin and Nicolai:
Yes, it was SPECIAL ;>) Actually, posting this first is misleading......this was toward the end of the evening when "tired and cranky" replaced "sweet and cuddly" !

We actually got some good pics of them together (and see who else squirmed into the corner ?) There's about a month difference in their ages, but Nic seems to be as healthy an eater as Ben !

We're SO thankful we do NOT have a piano at our house ;>)

Samuel found a playmate in Tracy.

Anybody who plays cars with Samuel is an instant soulmate ;>)

Not sure if Gary expects Ben to chew it or write with it ;>)

I think this is such a sweet pic of Tracy & Ben.

Dan & Nic.

Amanda & Ben.
Samuel with his buddy, Matt.
Ben knows a "Grandma" when he finds one ;>)
We headed out Friday morning early for Alabama and met family at one of the malls around 11am to snag some deals (supposedly). There were only a few things we were looking for and several of those were long gone to those willing to get out at 4 or 5 in the morning (definitely not us !). We still found a few bargains, but we mostly just enjoyed the time out and about with family. Around mid-afternoon we headed back to my Mother's for some turkey and the trimmings. Here are some pics from our visit there:

Ben with Grandma. In recent weeks, Ben has discovered his feet/toes. He thinks they're absolutely fascinating.....I should wrap them up for his Christmas !
With Aunt Stacy.

With cousin Brooke.

His cousin Trennis tried all kinds of things to capture Ben's attention.......
.....unfortunately what worked was offering his hair to Ben, who's recently discovered pulling hair and was happy to give Trennis more attention than he wanted !

Something sure is funny !
Ben with cousins Peyton and Trennis.

With Uncle Wayne before he and Stacy head to the Alabama-Auburn game.
You'd probably have to be from Alabama (or maybe be Daryl W ;>) to understand that the Alabama-Auburn game is a MAJOR BIG DEAL. And it was so nice to actually be in the state of Alabama on the day they won it big (after many years of losing to Auburn) and be surrounded by all that CRIMSON (versus normally being surrounded by all that "Big Orange"). It only made the wonderful Thanksgiving weekend that much better ;>)

The only unfortunate part of our Thanksgiving was that Mark developed a really severe toothache before we left Alabama, so we had to postpone Part 3 of our Thanksgiving, which was with his parents. We hated that, but Mark was really in a lot of pain. However, we got some clove oil from Janet and since using that yesterday afternoon, he has gotten much better. If that's what cured him, a big "Thank You" to Dr. Janet !! Here's hoping it doesn't recur !

  • derbydi
    Your family has some great, unique names for their kids!
    Enjoyed your pics. :-)
    Hope Mark's toothache does not reoccur!
    by derbydi at 12/01/08 7:34PM
  • dsh
    I enjoyed looking at all the pictures! Hope Mark's toothache is better.
    by dsh at 12/01/08 7:51PM
  • acurtis
    What great pictures!!! Please send me the first one of S and C. You know it's going in the scrapbook! I love how Samuel poked his head in the picture of Nic and Ben...too cute! My sis and bro in law that live in Alabama were very pumped about the "Iron Bowl". I definately feel your excitement...through them at least =)
    by acurtis at 12/01/08 7:53PM
  • shelbysmom
    Looks like fun!!
    by shelbysmom at 12/01/08 8:08PM
  • amandochka
    It sure was fun...I got some good ones of the kiddos too. Will I get around to posting them? I wish.
    by amandochka at 12/01/08 9:12PM
  • snickers63
    Sweet pics - doesn't seem that long ago that the Boyd kids were the size of Ben and Samuel. Won't be long before your kids are entertaining little ones themselves.
    by snickers63 at 12/01/08 9:35PM
  • boromom
    We sure enjoyed your being here! :-) You got some pics I haven't seen. Hope Mark keeps feeling beter.
    by boromom at 12/01/08 11:52PM
  • lah90
    I was sad I didn't get to see you over break! I hope Mr. Mark feels better.
    by lah90 at 12/02/08 3:21PM
  • lol_smile456
    WOW!! Little "caleb" i've know since he was born is sooo big!! :(
    by lol_smile456 at 12/02/08 5:51PM
  • dsh
    Some of my piles are smaller tonight! How about yours?
    by dsh at 12/02/08 10:44PM
  • mamap
    Hi Rhonda...I got your pics in the mail today...Okay, Laura and I were BLOWN AWAY by these photos! How do you know the Boyds??? They are in our homeschool group! Laura and Andrew take Biology and Literature together! It's certainly a small world!! Can't wait to hear this connection!
    by mamap at 12/02/08 10:48PM
  • harbermama
    No, I wanted to save my "good" houseshoes for special occasions! :-) Took me a while to get what you meant.
    by harbermama at 12/03/08 2:13PM
  • kerrielee
    He is still in the hospital,we don't know much,doing an MRI later today.Thanks for asking.
    by kerrielee at 12/04/08 11:32AM
  • snickers63
    Good to see you and your little ones at Kohls for a minute last night.
    by snickers63 at 12/06/08 12:49PM
  • mattmanua
    Thanks. I just hope that was the only thing I confused... but you never know.
    by mattmanua at 12/11/08 4:11PM

Special Visitors

I'm so behind on posting; we've had such a busy fall and I have so many pictures, but in lieu of wading through those tonight, here are some pictures from our combination potluck/baby shower last night for Marcie & Lee and their son, Nicolai, who are back from Hungary for a visit over the holidays. It was so good to see them and finally meet 4 month old Nicolai !!

Two of the guests of honor ^. Don't know how it happened, but somehow we failed to get a picture of the proud dad----oops ;>) Such a sweetie, although an exhausted little sweetie ! There's quite a time difference from Hungary to Tennessee.

We had a very good turnout and lots and lots of food.

Samuel's found a new friend in Melanie----although anyone who'll play cars with him automatically qualifies!

High fivin' with Lauren.

Shane took his turn with both Nicolai and Benjamin.
(1) Any guesses which baby spit up on Shane ? (2) Any guesses what Shane did after that?If you said (1) Benjamin and if you said (2) "gave him back", you would be correct ;>) In addition to Shane, there were several "babysitters" helping out, which was nice. I think Joe dazzled Ben with his orange.
I like to think Ben is laughing because he's thinking "how can anybody wear all that UT orange THIS season" ;>) I'm sure Mark appreciates that caption ;>)
  • shelbysmom
    What great pictures! I wish we could have been there!
    by shelbysmom at 11/23/08 11:49PM
  • grandmadiane
    All the children seemed to have had a blast! It was so nice of you and Vicky to organize this. :)
    by grandmadiane at 11/23/08 11:57PM
  • shaneg
    It was fun, that's for sure. I'll confess my evil plan. I ate a really big late lunch so I would be free during the meal. It was really easy to get my hands on the babies.
    by shaneg at 11/24/08 5:46AM
  • acurtis
    Would have loved to have been there...I was and still am sick, though. My head feels like it is going to explode! Anyway, Great GREAT great pictures! Looks like everyone had a blast. I love the little blue and white striped box on the table for cards...too cute!
    by acurtis at 11/24/08 7:12AM
  • derbydi
    by derbydi at 11/24/08 10:50AM
  • curtisamy
    Great pictures, your last caption was funny.
    by curtisamy at 11/24/08 1:05PM
  • mattmanua
    Nice party. I wish we could have made it.
    by mattmanua at 11/24/08 2:19PM
  • kerrielee
    I love that last picture of Daddy and Ben,and your caption was halarious.My dad would wear that if that had never one a game at all,he "bleeds" orange.
    by kerrielee at 11/24/08 5:21PM
  • amandochka
    Yeah...too bad we couldn't make it. We might have avoided our wreck.
    by amandochka at 11/24/08 6:16PM
  • snickers63
    LOVE the pics of Marci and N! Looks like you had a good time!
    by snickers63 at 11/25/08 8:02AM
  • lol_smile456
    cute pictures :) & i would
    by lol_smile456 at 11/25/08 5:53PM
  • shieldmaiden_rosa
    Such a fun night! Thanks for posting these! :-)
    by shieldmaiden_rosa at 11/25/08 9:32PM
  • aurocks
    Ha ha, you're not Auburn fans yet? :) Of course you can post, I hope it will just be a good game. Happy Thanksgiving to you!
    by aurocks at 11/27/08 12:07AM
  • aurocks
    Thanks, hope ya'll have a great day! Will you be coming to Alabama?
    by aurocks at 11/27/08 12:30PM
  • acurtis
    I could just eat that boy up! Miss you guys...unfortunately fevers are rampant around here so no play dates for awhile =(
    by acurtis at 12/01/08 2:09PM