{ Birmingham Temple Trip }

Brianna and Aaron Birmingham temple blog

Since last July the Atlanta temple has been closed for renovations and our temple has been the Birmingham, Alabama temple. It’s the first temple Brianna got to go inside to do baptisms, so it has a special place for our family. The youth of our ward got to go on a ward temple trip over the Christmas break, and so did Aaron-a little perk of being the Bishop is all the fun stuff you get to do with the youth. They left early that morning to make the 3 hour drive to Alabama, did baptisms, had lunch, and drove the 3 hours back. It was a long, but spiritual day. Brianna got to participate doing baptisms for some family names on my side, wear her new Christmas dress, and spend some time with dad.

Brianna and Aaron temple close up blog

Brianna 12 1/2 years old and Aaron 37 years.


{ Ryan at 2 Months }

Ryan looking out window blog       Ryan playing with ear blog

Ryan eyes blog      Ryan big smile 2 blog

 Ryan grin blog      Ryan holding hair blog    

Ryan big smile blogjpg       Ryan pirate smile 2 blog

Ryan pirate smile blog      Ryan pirate grin blog

Our smiley baby is getting so big on us. Ryan is learning to smile, and it’s so much fun. He has started really focusing on watching something, and now he will watch our face, see us smile, and then brake out in a big grin. He has this sort of pirate grin that he does for us. He turns his head, eyes us with his eye, and then does a big “ARG Mate” kind of smile. It’s so cute! He still likes to hold onto the back of his hair, and sometimes even his ear too. Whenever we have to change his clothes (like today in these pictures) the girls will get their little fingers in under his chin or armpits and he will squeal in delight. I didn’t think a baby this young could be so ticklish, but he is super sensitive. Sometimes we will run our finger along the bottom of his foot and he squirms around smiling. I love this age!


{ Our Homemade Christmas }

This year for Christmas, we decided to have the kids draw names for who they would give a gift to. In years past we have had them each give gifts to everyone else, but this year we thought it would be fun to have each one of them focus on just one person. The kids had actually wanted to do this last year, but we were already a bit late in the game to start it. This year we picked names around the time that Ryan was born, so they each had a few months to work on their gift. As part of the gift giving this year, we went back to our 3 gift rule. One gift from mom and dad, one gift from each other, and one gift from Santa. (Actually four gifts because they always get new pajamas as well). Since this was the only gift they were getting from each other, we wanted to make sure that it was something special.

We allowed them each a certain amount of money for a budget, and the only other rule was that part of it had to be homemade. We really tried to work with each of the kids to listen, observe, and try to pick something that they knew the other person wanted, needed, or would be unique to that person. We helped them think about that person’s likes, dislikes, talents, interests, and other things that made that person special so the gift would truly be something from the heart. It turned out to be one of the most memorable and heart touching Christmases we have had. Definitely more work than other years, but truly gifts that were given from the heart.

The weeks working up to Christmas our house was transformed into Santa’s workshop, with secret gift making stations behind every door. There were lots of “No peaking!” and “Don’t go in there” talks happening. That only intensified the excitement for everyone. I think the best part was watching them be so excited for each and every person as they would open their gift. We had the kids each tell about why they picked this particular gift for the person so that they could each see that that brother or sister really had noticed them and loved them.

Christmas morning blog

The kids on Christmas morning 2010

{ Brianna’s Gift to Brooke }

As part of the gift giving this year, we really hoped our kids would feel what it was like to work hard and sacrifice to give a gift. Brianna had learned how to make these cute fabric flowers in Young Women’s, and had an idea that she was going to make a whole purse out of them for one of her Personal Progress projects. She was really excited to make it for herself, but realized how much more “personal” it would be if she made it and gave it away. Brooke loves bags and purses of any kind-she has a ton of them. She loves to always have a bag with drawing and writing supplies in it, books to read, or fancy lipsticks and brushes. Brianna measured Brooke’s notebooks to see how big to make the bag, and them together we drew out a pattern. We went to the fabric store and she found some cute fabric, used coupons, shopped sales, and made do to stretch her money. She wanted to use some of her money to have the bag personalized at a sewing shop, and also have some extra money to buy some smaller things to put in the bag.

With all of our supplies collected, the sewing began. Brianna started by locking herself in her room to secretly make flower after flower after flower for the bag. She had over 70 of them in all. Then we worked together having our mother-daughter sewing lesson so she could be able to sew the bag on her own.

We measured…

Brianna making present  blog

We cut…Brianna making present blogWe sewed..Brianna sewing present blog   for many, many days.

The end result was absolutely gorgeous. I was so proud of Brianna’s hard work and dedication to learning something knew, putting in so many hours, and making something she knew she would never get to enjoy. I loved getting to see their friendship and love for each other grow so much through this.


The finished purse

Brooke purse blog

Brooke purse closeup blog

Brooke purse name blog Brianna had picked a super soft fabric for the inside of the purse. She had to sew the outside shell of the bag first, then lightly glue each flower to the outside to hold it in place, then HAND sew each flower in place so it would be stronger, than sew the flowers to each other, then the inside of the purse to the outside, and add handles. Brianna ended up getting blisters all over her fingers from hand sewing the flowers on. As the blisters became bigger and bigger one of them turned into the shape of a big heart. Truly a symbol of the labor of love she had.

Brooke purse inside blog

Brooke christmas bag blog

Brianna giving her gift Christmas morning

Brooke and Brianna blog

Brooke opening present blog Brooke seeing purse blog Brooke holding purse blogBrianna and Brooke with purse blog 

{ Brooke’s Gift to Austin }

Brooke drew Austin’s name this year, and ended up surprising Austin with a new suit. We had gone to the store several times and Austin would keep mentioning his desire for a new suit. I would nonchalantly make a “that’s nice” comment, all the while knowing that Brooke had a Christmas surprise in the works. Brooke and me snuck into Austin’s room and carefully took measurements of his pants and shirts to make sure we would get the right size. We waited until Kohl’s had their suits on sale, and then went in search of the perfect suit. We searched through rack after rack and were not finding his size. We finally had to get one size smaller of coat, but had a last minute miracle when I returned to Kohl’s for another return and saw his size on the rack.

Brooke’s homemade part of her gift was a small notebook that would fit right inside his top coat pocket. She labeled it “Austin’s Sunday Notebook”. She handwrote the sacrament prayers in the front of the book, and then wrote the date for each Sunday of the year on the following pages. He would them have a page already labeled to take notes in each and every Sunday. She wrapped up the notebook and hid it in his coat pocket. She filled the other pockets of his coat and pants with other small gifts. Gum, mints, a new tie, small Hungary hippo game, Beanz toys, and new church socks.

We wrapped up his suit with all the hidden surprises in it, then added his gift under the tree until the big day.

Brooke giving her gift Christmas morning

Brooke and Austin blog

Austin opening present blog

Austin trying on suit blog

Austin opening book blog 

Austin and Brooke hugging blog

Brooke and Austin in suit blog

I love how the kids each got to use the talents they were given to make something special for someone else. Brooke LOVES writing and organizing stuff, and was really excited to make this book for Austin. It was so fun to watch Austin strut around in his new suit all day-I don’t think I have seen a kid so excited to wear a suit before. He made the comment, “I need to get a job when I can wear a suit everyday”. He totally sounds like Uncle Mitch when he got back from his mission. Can’t wait to see it on tomorrow for church.

{ Erika’s Gift to Brianna }

Erika’s gift to Brianna was my lesson is flexibility. Erika had decided she was going to make a full length mirror for Brianna-something Brianna had been hinting at for a long time. I thought, no problem, we will go get a regular mirror from Lowe’s, let Erika help me put some boards together for a frame, she can paint the frame, and there you go, a fancy new mirror. Well, after our first visit to the hardware store, we found that the right molding for the frame wasn’t to be found, and by the time we got back in the car Erika was loosing steam already. We went to plan B- buy a mirror from Hobby Lobby, and add a cute vinyl quote to the top for her homemade part. The quote ended up being too big, so we are saving it to put on the wall above the mirror instead. It says: “Happy Girls are the Prettiest” by Audrey Hepburn. A cute quote to remind my girls to start out each day with a smile. We added to her gift a pair of skinny jeans which Brianna had been relentlessly begging me for for months, so she could put her knew mirror to good use.

Erika giving her gift Christmas morning

Brianna with Erika blog

Brianna opening gift blog

Brianna looking at her present blog

girls hugging blog

Brianna with mirror blog  Brianna opening skinny jeans blog

Yeah for skinny jeans! Merry Christmas Brianna!

{ Abby’s Gift to Scott }

Abby had Scott this year, and she was SO excited to give her gift. Her gift to Scott was a lot of mommy- inspiration-as-I-was-laying-in-bed-and-couldn’t-fall-asleep, and a lot of tender mercies from the Lord to find just the right stuff. Abby decided she would give Scott an interactive book/toy. We had a small board book titled: The Mitten by Jan Brett. It is a cute story of a boy who wants his Grandma to make him white mittens. He loses one that becomes a home to a bunch of small animals.

mitten book blog

Our idea was to get a lady in our ward to crochet a huge mitten for us (Abby part that was handmade), and then find all the animals to go inside of it. As Scott got the story read to him, he could put the animals in one by one. Abby picked out the yarn she wanted to use, and was adamant it had to be used. I tried convincing her of some other yarn, but no this was the yarn. It ended up turning out SO cute with this yarn. It was soft and fluffy, and absolutely perfect. Abby was so surprised when she saw the final mitten all sewed up. She just kept looking at me, and would do this little wink and say “Mom, Scotty’s present..” and smile a sly little smile. It was so fun to watch.

mitten up close blog

Finding all the right animals was the part that was all pure blessings. Some of the animals that go inside were kind of unusual-like a badger, a mole, and a hedgehog. How in the world would I find those? Well, just go to ToysRUs, and right in the middle of the isle you’ll find a tall cart full of animals-just the ones you need. I found a rabbit, a hedgehog, a fox, an owl, and a raccoon we used for the badger. They all were made to make sounds when you squeezed them. What a perfect touch for Scott. We found the little mouse, the bear, and the mole online and at another store, and the mitten was complete. It turned out so cute! They all fit inside along with the book for storage, or to carry around.

 Mitten animals inside blog


Abby giving her gift Christmas morning

Abby with Scott present blog

Abby hugging scott blog 

Scott opening present blog

Scott christmas mitten blog

{ Austin and Scott’s Gift to Erika and Abby }

We wanted Scott to be able to give and get a gift, but it became a bit more difficult to figure out something that he could make for someone else. As we started planning Austin’s gift for Erika, it became easy to just combine the boy’s resources and have them make a gift together for both Erika and Abby. It was a bit of a gamble to have a gift that we knew they would have to share, but as we started on it, we knew it would be no problem. It would be a gift so much more fun to play with together.

Austin and Scott made a super fairy land house for the girls, and it was AMAZING! Austin’s love for the outdoors, cutting things, and inventing stuff worked together perfectly to make this cute house. We combined stuff from craft stores, our backyard, and random stuff around the house to make this fairy dream castle. I am so proud of Austin, and was floored by this kid’s imagination. He was constantly coming up with more and more clever ideas of what to add to this.

It started out in our little workshop (AKA Me and Aaron’s bedroom) like this:

building fairy house blog

and became this:

The final fairy dream house

Girls fairy house blog

We used some wooden letters from the craft store to make the different levels that we glued and then screwed together.

Austin working on fairy house blog

Austin painted, and glued, and stained, and glittered wooden birdhouses for the fairies, while Scott helped to gather bark, sticks, leaves, and acorns from the backyard to attach the the big fairy house as all kinds of different things. Acorns and birthday candles became little lanterns on a fence.

fairy house lanterns blog

A cut up log from the back yard became a spiral staircase up to the second level. Completely Austin’s idea, and one of my favorite parts of the fairy house. We used a miter saw and he cut the log into smaller pieces to stack up to make the stairs.

fairy house stairs blog

A fairy swing hung down from one side of the house.

fairy house swing blog

Since the boys had combined their budget, they were able to have enough money to find the fairy dolls to buy. We found a pack on ebay that had Tinkerbell, Rosetta, Silvermist, Fawn, Videa, Iradessa, and Terrace.

Fairy house tinkerbell blog

He added flowers, a drawbridge that really worked, painted houses for each of the fairies, pixie dust falls where they could refuel on pixie dust, wooden ladders to all the levels, and lots of little pinecones and moss.

fairy house top view blog

Tinkerbell’s house  tinkerbells house blog

Terrance’s House by the pixie dust lake

terrance house blog


Austin and Scott giving their gift Christmas morning

Austin and Scott with girls with fairy house blog

I thought for sure they might have peaked in my room one of the days, but they were completely surprised by their gift. They kept saying again and again, “I can’t believe you made this, Austin!” It is really amazing. I just love it because they can keep adding onto it anytime they want with all the little treasures they find. Bottles caps, buttons, any little bit of tinkery thing can make it all the more fairy like. We all had fun playing fairies the rest of the day- flying them around, making beds for them in the candy tins from Christmas, gluing fairy shoes back on, moving houses around (their was Velcro on the bottom of each so they could be moved) and having the bridge move up when Videa didn’t want anyone by her house.

Poor Erika wasn’t feeling well, and had just enough energy to stand up to give and get her gifts. By the end of the gift giving she was asleep again on the couch with her knew puppy from Santa.

Erika asleep on couch blog