Our area of Texas has had more than it's fair share of snow so far this year. It is kind of crazy how much of it we have gotten and to be honest. We are a little over it. The first time was fun and we had a blast playing in it, building a snowman, sledding, and riding in our Ranger (check out the video). But this second time around was not so fun. As you may have seen on the news, or even experienced first hand yourself if you live in Texas, we got hit really hard by a winter weather storm and the entire state experienced awful power outages and broken pipes. We lost power and water for 2 days. We toughed it out for a little while but then we decided it was better to go to Ashley's grandparent's house to sleep in a heated home and charge our devices. Our daughter Marjorie has Type 1 Diabetes and we manage her blood sugar and insulin with two different devices that we needed to charge and we were not willing to lose power on those. The kids loved spending time with Ashley's grandparents and being somewhere new. They played games, baked brownies, made pancakes, read lots of books, and looked through lots of pictures. We are back home now and safe thankfully. We were able to take a lot of precautions to protect our plumbing and so far, we do not have any damage. We are hoping and praying that you too are safe, warm, and were not too badly affected by this awful winter storm, wherever you are.
Winter WeatherFeb 19, 2021
Parent time/Date NightsJan 25, 2021
Spending quality time together, without children, is very important to us so we can remain connected to each other. We feel the most valuable things we can provide for our children are a solid example of living a life that is Christ-centered and a solid foundation of a loving marriage and family. As much as we love being parents, we know that we loved each other first and we would not have our family if we did not have each other. So it is very important to us to stay grounded in our marriage. We are mostly homebodies and like to stay in. So having a date night at home and watching a movie together is a lot of fun for us. But we still liked to get out every now and then and go to dinner or maybe go see a show. With Covid-19, that has not happened and it has been difficult to get creative with new ideas for date nights at home. This past weekend, our local library was offering a Virtual Escape Room, and we decided to take advantage of it to have a new and fun experience. So we poured each of us a glass of wine after the kids went to bed on Friday night and started our virtual escape room. It had 8 questions with rhymes, hidden messages, and math problems to solve and we had to answer all 8 within 60 minutes. It was a blast. We ended up having to get out paper and pens to decode some of the messages but we laughed a lot, worked together, and enjoyed doing something new with each other. As we are approaching the one year mark of Covid-19 coming to America, the fatigue is definitely wearing on us. But we are very grateful for opportunities and experiences like this one to connect with each other and make new memories to sprinkle a hard situation with positivity.
My Favorite Christmas gift to giveJan 13, 2021
When Ryan proposed to me, I had a coupon for a free 8x8 Shutterfly book so I decided to upload all the pictures and make a photo book for free. I ended up making more for our rehearsal dinner, engagement photos, bridal portraits, wedding showers, and honeymoon. So on our first anniversary, I decided to make a photo book of our first year together as a married couple. This turned into an annual thing where I would collect all our photos from one anniversary to the next and make a photo book for each year we are married. Then when we got pregnant with Marjorie, I made a pregnancy journal that document my pregnancy with her and showed pictures of my growing belly and the baby showers I had. And of course, I had to make a photo book for her first year too. This tradition continued also with Mitchell. So now I have three books I make each year. One is for Ryan and me from anniversary to anniversary. Then I also make a book for each kid from one birthday to the next and it shows what their year looked like and all the funs things we did like vacations, zoo trips, family time, and everything else. It is such a labor of love that I am passing down to our children and my hope is to continue this until they graduate from high school so that they can have their entire childhood documented. I truly enjoy making these books for my family as they remind me of all the special memories we have had in the year prior. I also love watching how our family is growing and changing. But it also brings me great joy to see the looks on their faces when they open this gift each year. Despite what other toys or books they get, this is always their favorite gift and they spend the most time looking at their year in review book. Both kids ask to get out their "baby books" quite often and love looking at them throughout the year. I look forward to doing this same thing for all other children we add to our family in the future and even had an extra copy of our "Adoption Profile Book" made for our future child(ren) to have as a keepsake. These books are a very special tradition in our family and one that I look forward to continuing and expanding in our future.
Our ChristmasJan 13, 2021
We wanted to share what our Christmas was like with you. It was a little different this year of course, but it was also kind of wonderful. We ended up having to cancel the plans we made to see extended family because several family members were testing positive for Covid-19 but also because we just did not feel it was safe to do considering the spike in cases and hospitalizations. So we spent a lot of time at home just the four of us. While we really missed getting to see our families and go to some of our traditional get togethers, we also relished in not having any expectations set on us to be in certain places at certain times for certain get togethers. There were no obligations and no running around and feeling exhausted. It was actually very relaxing. We know that we will likely not get another Christmas as relaxed as this one, so we took full advantage of it. We watched a lot of Christmas movies with our kids (some of their favorites are The Grinch, Klaus, Noelle, and The Santa Clause) and Ryan and Ashley spent time together watching movies after the kids went to bed too (our favorites are The Family Man and It's a Wonderful Life). We decorated cookies TWICE, played with special Christmas-themed homemade play dough that a friend made for the kids, and went to some drive-through light shows. On Christmas Eve, we decided to get dressed up like we were going to church and Christmas Eve dinner and streamed our church service on the couch. Then we ate a traditional dinner just the four of us. After that, we got into our matching Christmas pajamas and watched a movie before sending the kids to bed. Christmas morning, we saw what Santa had brought us, opened presents, watched the Disney Christmas special, and made brunch together. The kids were extra excited for Santa this year since they understand a little more and since we had watched so many Christmas movies about Santa. It was so exciting to see their reactions and joy to the magic of Christmas. We spent the rest of the day playing with their gifts and reading all the new books they got for Christmas.
Meeting a new cousinJan 13, 2021
We had a new baby cousin added to the family on December 1. Baby Leighton is technically a second cousin. Her mom is Ashley's cousin but Ashley and her cousin Kathryn are really close. Kathryn and her husband are very much like an aunt and uncle to Marjorie and Mitchell. So our kids have been so excited waiting for their baby cousin to come. She finally arrived on December 1 and we quarantined for two weeks to be able to go meet her. Marjorie and Mitchell both love babies so much and kept fighting over whose turn it was to hold baby Leighton. We had to alternate a couple of times but they each got to hold her twice and Ashley and Ryan only got to hold her once each. But the kids were so gentle with her and very doting, making sure she had her blanket covering her and had a pacifier nearby. They ask about baby Leighton all the time and are getting plenty of experience holding a baby and helping take care of a baby in anticipation of their new sibling or siblings.
Family Pizza & Movie NightDec 06, 2020
Ryan and I have always loved watching movies together, but we especially love watching Christmas movies during the holiday season. Friday night, we decided to do a family pizza and movie night and let the kids stay up just a little late to watch Noelle on Netflix together. It is a really cute and sweet movie about the true meaning of Christmas and caring more about giving than getting. This is something we want to instill in our children also, not just during the holiday season but every day of the year. The kids loved watching Noelle and anytime we all sit down to watch a movie, show, or sports game together, this is what it looks like. They both like to cuddle and snuggle up to us on the couch. They just both happened to choose snuggling up with me Friday night and Ryan got this picture.
Family WalkDec 06, 2020
Yesterday was such a beautiful day where we live and we really wanted to get outside and enjoy it. We loaded up the kids bicycles and our dog Maddie and went on a nice 2 mile bike ride/walk/run as a family along some trails in the neighborhood we are hoping to move to next year. We always are taking pictures of the kids but are not great at always getting pictures of all of us together. So Ashley was intentional about making sure to take a family selfie to remember what a wonderful time we had yesterday.
Thanksgiving 2020Dec 01, 2020
This Thanksgiving, we kept it pretty small and instead of getting together with our larger and more extended families, we had small get togethers with our parents and siblings only. Although we really missed getting to see aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, we enjoyed spending quality time with our immediate families. We also really enjoyed spending time together with just us and the kids making muffins, decorating for Christmas, and getting in some family exercise. A friend shared a recipe with me for some pumpkin cinnamon chip muffins that are extremely easy to make. So I let the kids make them mostly by themselves with just a little assistance. Now we are quarantining for the next two weeks so we can meet my cousin's new baby that was born today. This cousin is more like a sister to me and the kids are so excited to meet their new baby cousin. They are so excited to welcome their own baby brother and/or sister into our family so getting to meet a baby cousin and hold her is very special for them. Since we will be home for another week and a half, we have several Christmas movies we plan to watch and will be making cookies and doing other Christmas activities to really take advantage of our time together and relishing in the Christmas spirit. We hope and pray that you were able to spend some time with loved ones on Thanksgiving and will have the same for Christmas.
Thanksgiving TimeNov 21, 2020
Today was the last day of school before Thanksgiving break for our kiddos at their preschool. I (Ashley) love getting the kids themed shirts/outfits for holidays that are personalized with their names on it. So today, Marjorie and Mitchell wore their personalized shirts to school for their Thanksgiving feasts. They both had a turkey on their shirt, and I also have a graphic tee with a turkey on it so Mitchell asked me to wear it today to match them. The kids went to school and had a blast with their teachers and friends celebrating their Thanksgiving Feasts. Ryan and I also took advantage of our time together to have a lunch date while they were at school. We sat outside on a patio at a local restaurant cause the weather was so great and we only feel comfortable dining outside at the moment. When I went to pick the kids up from school, they had had so much fun that they were completely exhausted and fell asleep on the way home. It was so sweet to see them sleepy and remembering how little and how big they are all at the same time. So I snapped this sweet photo at a red light. We are looking forward to spending time with family over the next week and hope you are getting to spend time with the ones you love also and are safe and healthy during this pandemic.
Family UpdateNov 17, 2020
Towards the end of the summer, we decided to shake things up and go on a few trips. We had been at home so much and needed to get out a little bit. So we took a few road trips with some friends to get out of town and reset. First, we went to a small town in Colorado and spent a week in the mountains enjoying time away from the normal hustle and bustle. Then we went on another road trip to Philadelphia to visit some college friends who live there. We live in Texas, so it was quite a trip. But we broke it up into several different days and were very cautious to avoid crowds, wear masks, and sanitize anytime we had to stop. But we had an absolute blast seeing parts of the USA we had not seen before and visiting good friends. We went on several bike rides with them and their two children, visited a park, made homemade pizzas in their outdoor pizza oven, and watched Hamilton in their home theater. Our best friends asked us if we wanted to take a long weekend trip to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, so we decided why not? We spent a weekend in a cabin with them and their three boys and got to spend a lot of time outside. It was beautiful there and so nice to have some fresh air again like in Colorado. Then just this past weekend, we visited Ryan's aunt and uncle at their ranch in Texas. It was a quiet weekend we spent entirely on their ranch helping feed the animals and cooking/eating lots of food. Ryan's uncle let the kids help with everything and they got to feed horses, cows, goats, and also threw out corn for the deer. It was an "unplugged" weekend that came at the perfect time. A few weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to one of our family dogs. He was older (11.5 years) but he had gotten really sick with an aggressive form of cancer and we did not want him to suffer. It came kind of unexpectedly and he had been with Ashley since a puppy. Ashley got him as a puppy before she even met Ryan. So it was very hard and sad for our family. However, when we went to take some family photos a couple of weeks ago, Ryan did the sweetest thing and brought Noah's collar so Noah could still be a part of our pictures since he is very much still in our hearts.
Making Changes in our FamilyJul 06, 2020
We want to take some time to address some issues in our country with you and let you know our stance on the racial injustices in our country. As we started our adoption journey, we knew going into it that any child we were matched with, we would love and cherish and treat him or her with the same fairness we treat our other children. We knew the race of the child would not matter to us and we are open to a child from any race. However, in light of the recent killings of black people in the United States, our eyes have been way more opened to the racial injustices in our country. We realize now that we were color blind and although that felt like the right thing before, we know now it is not the right thing. We are also more aware of our white privilege and how it has shaped our lives and the position we are in. We started having some deep conversations about how a birth mother and child of color would feel coming into our family and our home...would you feel welcome and included? Would your child feel welcome, included, and equal? We are not okay with that answer being no. So we decided to make some changes and be intentional about being a part of the solution to fixing the problem of racial injustice in our country and not a part of the problem, or blind to the problem anymore. The first step we have taken is to diversify the books our children read. We realized so many characters in books are white. So we ordered several books with children of color/different cultures. We limit the amount of time our children get to watch TV but when they do get to watch television, we are picking movies and shows that feature characters of different races and cultures. And we play music in our house now from different cultures. It is a small step, but these are ways for us to expose our children to more culture in a time when we are limited on how much we can interact with others due to the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, we know that we need to educate ourselves more too. And we want our children to see us diving into new cultures and educating ourselves because we know they observe us and learn from what we are doing. So we have ordered several books about diversity and people of color so we can better understand how to not be color blind and be better human beings to all human beings. We have thought a lot about the community we live in as well and have even started to look into other school options nearby that are more diverse for our children now and our future children to attend school with kids from all different backgrounds but to also have teachers of different races and cultures to learn from as well. Again, these are just the first steps we are taking and we are committed and dedicated to diversifying our home, our family, and our life so that you and your child will never doubt our commitment to you and our commitment to racial justice and equality.
Mother's DayMay 12, 2020
Yesterday was Mother's Day and it made both of us really think about you. What you are feeling and experiencing right now. What you are like. What the relationship will be like between you and your child that bonds us. What our relationship will be like with you. And many other thoughts, wishes, and dreams as well. Yesterday and every Mother's Day to come, we hope you know that we will be celebrating you as the mother of our child. So we decided to share what our day looked like yesterday with you. We know yesterday was a difficult Mother's Day for many, us included, as we were not able to see our mothers in person. We did set aside some time to FaceTime with each of our mothers so they could see us and the kids. But we also wanted to do something special for the four us to hold the day in a positive light. For our most recent anniversary, 8th anniversary, we bought bikes for ourselves/each other and a bike trailer to tote the kids in. We went for our first ride as a family on Saturday and it was the best day we have had since social distancing started. We wanted to make sure to keep our distance from others so we were very safe on the trails, kept the screen zipped shut around the kids, and only let them out in places where no one else was around. It was such a fun day and so good for all of us to be outside and enjoying nature together. So we decided to do it again on Sunday but for even longer. We packed up a picnic, plenty of water, and went for a 16 mile ride with the kids, and we all LOVED it. It was the best way we could have possibly spent our day given the circumstances of social distancing and making sure we all stayed safe. We hope that you were able to spend/share your Mother's Day with people you love, and we want you to know we continue to think about you and pray for you every night.
Fostering VinnieApr 30, 2020
First of all, we are both big dog lovers. Ashley got Noah a year before she met Ryan. Then once we got engaged, we decided to get another dog so Noah would have a companion to be at home with since we both were working full time when we got married (before we had children). So we added Madeleine to our family just a few months before we got married. Then as we added children to our family, we made sure that the dogs were used to and comfortable with our children and that our children also knew how to treat our pets with respect. When Covid-19 hit Texas and we went under a shelter-in-place ordinance, we started hearing about how animal shelters were in need of extra foster families during this time. We knew that we had plenty of space in our house, our hearts, and our backyard to welcome another dog temporarily. So Ashley connected with a local rescue organization and sure enough, there was a puppy in need. This particular dog, Vinnie, is around 1 year old and looks like a yellow lab/chihuahua mix. He had been hit by a car and had major surgery on his hips that required special attention for him to heal. Most foster animals are with the foster family for a few days or maybe a week until they are adopted. With Vinnie, it would be several weeks of healing and another procedure before he was available for adoption. So the rescue organization was having a hard time finding a family who felt comfortable caring for him after his surgery. We knew we could handle it because our older dog Noah had already been through two major surgeries to remove cancerous tumors and we cared for him to full recoveries both times. So we reached out to the organization to foster Vinnie through his healing process. We brought him home two days before Easter, on Good Friday, and he has been such a blessing to our family during this time. Both of our children were really missing their school and friends, but having Vinnie here has given them something new and fun to look forward to. They knew he had been injured and we explained the situation to them appropriately. They have been very attentive to him and careful with him just as they were to Noah after he had his surgeries. Vinnie has definitely been a bright light to us during a difficult time with Covid-19 and brought a lot of positive energy to our family. He is also healing so well and we are so happy to see him getting better each and every day. We are thankful for this experience, the memories we have made, and the lessons we have all learned through fostering Vinnie. The picture above is of our two golden retrievers and our two children getting Vinnie used to our home and his new bed not long after we brought him home.