{ New Year’s Eve 2011 }

Our New Year’s celebration started the morning of New Year’s eve when we all took a trip to Party City and Sam’s Club for some serious party supplies. We were so excited to have my parents and my brother Mitch and sister-in-law Michelli here to celebrate with us. We grabbed snacks, party hats, poppers, silly string, balloons, loud blowers, and our favorite item my brother found - a pack of fake mustaches (so random, but they were SO funny all night long).

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We dressed people up in the mustache that best matched their hair. The funniest part was that some of the mustaches looked so real. Grandpa and Aaron could really have mustaches like that. We laughed so hard that night. Ryan got his own little mustache too, but wasn’t quite sure of it. (He totally reminds me of Nacho Libre in this picture) He wanted to pull it off…

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…and then tried licking it…

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..but finally was happy to let us give him another one that he kept on for almost the rest of the night. He must have liked the thinner, sleeker, dark mustache better. He looks like this funny little French man-baby.

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Michelli and Ryan with his fancy black mustache.

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We had a mustache fashion show-so funny that such a simple thing could make us laugh so hard. I love being with family!

Aaron and Brianna being so crazy!

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Mitch and Scott being manly men with their mustaches

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Austin and cousin David with their goatees

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Mitch and Michelli wearing mustaches Brazilian style

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We had high hopes of partying late into the night, but by the time 9:30 came around we were already spent. Aaron’s sister Cathy and brother in-law Jason and their family came over to ring in the new year with us. I’m sure they thought we were party poopers when we wanted to celebrate at 10:00pm instead of midnight. It was midnight somewhere in the world-no rules that you have to celebrate in your own time zone. We got all the kids loaded up with hats and poppers, fake mustaches, and horns. It was SO loud, but so fun too.











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There was so much silly string everywhere, and confetti from the poppers. I hadn’t really looked to see how big the box of poppers was, Aaron just threw it in the cart. It wasn’t until I was cleaning up later and saw that it was a box of 72! No wonder we had so much mess to sweep up. We were finding confetti and silly string on everyone and everything for days.

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Scott and Aaron getting me with their poppers

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Poor Ryan got caught in all the mess of silly string shooting and loud Happy New Year’s yelling that was happening. He was so confused about what was going on. And why he is carrying around a red high heel of mine? We have no idea. He finds shoes from our closet and is always trying to put them on or carry them around. It must have been part of the fashion show-black sleek mustaches, red high heels-it’s all good.

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After we welcomed in the New Year a few hours early, we had a toast with our Root Beer floats, and called it a night for most of the little kids.

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I love how short Scott is, but it trying so hard to be part of the toast. I’m pretty sure he’s on his tippy toes in this picture.

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The big kids and some of the adults stayed up for a while longer. We played Taboo with the neighbor kids Jose and Arianna who came over to have Root Beer floats with us, and then almost died laughing when Austin and Aaron were doing funny stunts with the balloons. Austin and Aaron each put a big balloon in their shirts and then they would jump up and chest bounce each other. Austin was so much smaller that he went flying across the room. We video taped it, then would watch it in slow motion, backwards with funny Chinese language, fast forward. We definitely had the giggles that night.

It finally came time for bed, and we all took one look at the floor…

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…and then promptly went to bed. This mess will have to wait until tomorrow. Happy New Year!!!


{ Our Christ Centered Christmas Part 1-The Planning}

It seems like every year I try harder and harder to make it the “best” Christmas. I’m not exactly sure what the “best” really means-it’s not really a checklist of things we did, or what presents we got, but a feeling that is never forgotten. Brooke informed me on several occasions that last year was, “Okay, but, I don’t know how to say this mom…it was kind of..(pause) not exciting.” A boring Christmas, now that sounds like a bummer. The truth was, she was right. We were in the middle of selling our house and we were trying hard to be careful in our purchases, and though she mentioned that she really loved when we drew names for our secret Santa’s and the present she received, the day as a whole was kind of “not exciting.” Christmas without magic?! How could that be? Real life sets in sometimes that’s how it be.

It seems like we all had this great Christmas to compare it too. Ah Yes, the Christmas of ‘08. It seemed perfect in so many of our minds for so many different reasons I am sure-but the truth be told..it was the best. I wonder often if it’s because we have video documentation of all the excitement and the kids watch that and instantly remember the thrill of the morning. For me, we had just brought home a new baby-even that new baby smell still lingered in the air. Everything just seemed calm and at peace. Ever since then we strive (at least partly even if it’s in the back of our minds) to recreate that Christmas. Maybe our kids were just at the right age and all the stars seem to align just right.

Whatever the reason was, I still had it in my mind that I was going to make this Christmas have the same wow factor I knew that at least Brooke was seeking. Since a new baby was not part of the picture this year I knew that was not an option, but I knew that the feelings of peace could still be.

Just days before the week of Christmas I was talking to my good friend Lisa who mentioned a new tradition they were trying out as well. She has received a book entitled, “A Christ Centered” by Emily Freeman, and it outlined a series of devotionals that focused on a different character of the Nativity and what their significance was that sacred night that our Savior was born. It was the answer I knew I was looking for. Years ago, I had built a wood manger that stood by our fireplace each Christmas. It was filled with hay, that inevitable got scattered around the room by little hands, but otherwise remained empty until Christmas morning when a doll was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in it. We looked at the manger, read and acted out the story of the birth of our Savior, did acts of service for others, and many other good things-but I knew that the “wow” I needed my kids to feel meant that the story of the Savior had to burn bright in their hearts.

I immediately order the book, and then downloaded an e copy as well, knowing the other book might not make it in time, and I wanted to give myself time to read it all the way through first. Lisa was nice enough to email a little packet that she had made up from sections of the book and an opening activity the kick start the whole event. With days away, I got to work tweaking the packet to fit our family, printing out stuff, and gathering little details to make it all be a “wow”.

One thing I have learned being the mother of these seven children is that the key to success with them lies heavily in the right amounts of expectation, magic, and love for any given thing. They thrive so much on knowing what to expect and when. Their little hearts have less breaks, tears are saved for real tragedies, and the Spirit can be there in much abundance. Does this mean no surprises?, NO. We love all the little surprises and the fun that comes with them. They just like to have a general plan of things-it actually helps with the anticipation so much more. They love to look forward to exciting events, so this week needed to be no different. I knew that to have this be a success I needed to work out a whole “Week of Christmas schedule”. Hour by hour schedule my friends. Insane yes, but it’s something I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure that we were able to include all those traditions that we still wanted to do this year and not be rushed or any be forgotten that were important to the kids. I wanted to mingle in the Christ Centered Christmas so that it seemed natural to them. I wanted them to see that those feelings from the Spirit about the Savior are natural and meant to be the whole focus no matter what you are doing.

Our plan was to start our Christ Centered Christmas on Monday, and it would end on Christmas morning, so I planned our schedule accordingly. Did we end up doing everything? No. But, the things we didn’t get too, weren’t too missed. I loved having a schedule to mostly keep me on track. I have “house ADD” sometimes, and flounder around from one thing to the next without ever getting anything done it seems. This really helped me remember the ultimate focus of the week, and whole Christmas season.

After I felt like I had the expectation part covered, I knew that the magic part had to be there somehow. I remembered that a few months back while at Michael’s Crafts I had found these small 1inch by 1 inch ceramic boxes that had initials on the tops of the lids. They were in the dollar section and I couldn’t help myself when I discovered they had all of my kids initials. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to use them for when I bought them, maybe tooth fairy boxes? Nonetheless, they had remained unused so I dug them out and got to work figuring out if they could somehow be used as a part of our special week. I read through the book and tried to find one small object or token that could be used to represent each day. I rummaged through my old scrapbooking stuff and was able to find almost all the things I needed. A quick trip to the store in the coming days helped take care of the rest. Each item represents a different person in the Nativity, just something small to jog their memory about that individual. I’ll explain more in detail each one as we did each day.

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Sunday night, I set up our dining table with all the pomp and props I could find-a picture of Scott as a baby that we had used as our Christmas card that year, all their packets lined up in order, their small ceramic boxes, and whatever else I could find.

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Brianna so wanted to be part of the magic so she used her Personal Progress book as a guide and made special little signs with everyone names on them, something special about them, and a scripture for them to look up that talked about that nice attribute. I loved that she was feeling the “wow already. The magic part came in as they would each find a small little gift in their box each morning, and then that night we would do the Christ Centered packet part of the day. Cute little objects coupled with the mystery of what they meant=magic for me. I discovered as the week went on that the magic became more in what they experienced than this.

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As I’m looking at this picture I am remembering that as thee week went on, I found that I had a larger object (the candle stick, the lamb, the treasure chest, the bell, etc.) that went along with each person. I liked having a bit bigger reminder that I could see as I was passing through the room. It helped me really remember each person all day.



Love was all that was left. I prayed mightily for that one. Not that I needed more love towards my children, but just a general feeling of love and well being for all of us as a whole. I wanted a week with no fighting, no arguing, nothing to drive the Spirit away. I wanted everything to go just perfect without me being so caught up with it being perfect. A sometimes impossible task (the me part that is). I concluded that the best Christmas was only perfect in their eyes because of their experiences they had and the things they felt. I  decided within myself to just stand aside and let their own feelings dictate this. If the packets were left empty, but the nights conversations had been full, then so be it. If the little tokens were unnoticed or lost (which happened by some of our littler hands), but they knew what each person’s part really was, that was the real point. And if  the only “wow” that was found was the one in their hearts as they discovered, “Wow, I never knew that, or realized that, or felt that before,” then that was “wow” enough for me.


{ We Love Hot Chocolate! }

Seriously one of the best parts about winter is drinking hot chocolate. We aren’t too fancy with different flavors, and usually don’t venture out of the norm of just regular hot chocolate with marshmallows-but man do we love it. I filled a clear glass canister with hot chocolate mix, and another one with marshmallows that I keep on the island counter. The kids love to sneak up there and grab handfuls of marshmallows to eat. Ryan has started pointing and grunting until I put a little pile in the table bench for him to eat. It has become our afterschool snack lately. The girls were making chocolate milk mustaches, and Scott had to join right in. He got a case of the giggles that was too cute not to capture.

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Things I want to remember:

  • Scott still was sucking a binkie (his on the table)
  • We have been having to set the stool on top of the counter because Ryan will scoot it to whatever he wants and climb up and make big messes.
  • Lego toy on the floor. We are trying really hard with keeping the majority of the toys upstairs. Scott usually fills his backpack with them and brings them down to play with. I’m sure just out of frame are a big pile of Legos from that day. We have a cupboard in the front room we throw all the random toys downstairs in, but it sure gets full fast.
  • Box on the counter. We get so many boxes for Aaron since he has been called as the bishop. Our poor kids get their hopes up that it’s a package for them, only to be disappointed that “Daddy got another one. He gets all the packages around here.”
  • One of the girls lunch boxes on the island. Yeah! We are working on having them bring it in from the mudroom (mostly because of ants we have here. A whole separate post for sure. They are driving me crazy. I think they are driving our bug guy crazy too-he can’t seem to get rid of them) Glad to see that the girls are learning something I am trying to teach them.
  • Our lovely scratched table. I love that table. It really needs to be sanded down and restained, but I just love it. The kids were looking at it at an angle the other day trying to read things that were etched on it from someone’s writing too hard on a piece of paper.


{ 2011 Family Picture }


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Here is the family picture we took this year for our Christmas cards. If you didn’t get one, don’t let your feelings be hurt because… no one got one. We thought were so on top of it this year-we set aside a day to take pictures, updated our Christmas card list, and then it pretty much stopped after that. Our Christmas season found itself busier than we expected with our Christ centered Christmas activities (a later post), and  unfortunately the Christmas cards were the first to go. Hence, the title of this post is just 2011 Family picture because to me that is what is most important-that we documented this year in our life and what our family was like with a picture. I love having at least one family picture a year to remember what our life was like at that time.

After Christmas passed I was feeling the Christmas-card guilt after having received so many nice cards from family and friends that I thought I may still send a New Year’s card with all our “New” things we had experienced in the 2011. But truth be told, even with all the new things-I am still the same old me-and my ideas didn’t become much of a reality-so no card.

Some of the things I hope I remember about this year when I look at this picture 10 years from now:

  • That we were all there-healthy, happy, and smiling (for the most part)
  • That we were in our new house (on the back steps by the patio)
  • That we were wearing a lot of purple because our outfits were from a funeral of some good friends who lost their 3 year old daughter to brain cancer just the week before. Her favorite color was purple, so they had asked each one to wear purple to celebrate her life.
  • That Brianna was wearing makeup for the first year of pictures. (She had to wait until she was 13 to start wearing makeup)
  • That Austin was wearing his converse even though he confessed they were too small, and spiked his hair up just for me even though he prefers to wear in down and longer in front.
  • That Austin was wearing one of his new Under Armor shirts that he LOVES. It is one of my favorite too.
  • That Brooke let me curl her hair, and it stayed curly for a least 30 minutes. (her hair is so soft that it doesn’t hold curl very well-a constant problem)
  • That Erika loves it when I curl her hair with a curling iron, even though her hair is curly on it’s own.
  • That Brooke and Erika have leggings that were totally in for 2011.
  • That Abby was in her funny smile phase. Getting a true smile out of that girl is a struggle-but I like REAL life too, and real life for her is quirky smiles when you’re 5.
  • That Scott was super cooperative to take pictures and looked at the camera almost every take.
  • That Scott was wearing a shirt that used to be Austin’s.
  • That Scott was wearing his “soccer shoes”. They are the only pair of tennis shoes he will wear. His shoe of choice is flip flops (he is definitely MY child).
  • That Ryan still had his curls.(He got a hair cut not too long afterwards) We are still having a hard time dealing with it. I miss his curls terribly.
  • That Ryan was just 13 months and SO hard to photograph. He loves to look at the camera and see himself on the LCD after a picture has been taken.
  • That Aaron knew I loved that shirt on him and put it on because he knew I would like it.
  • That we were getting ready to go to our ward Christmas party right after this.
  • That I had my long hair still. I hope I never want to cut it. I love it long (and love that Aaron loves it long)
  • How happy we are. I love our life. I love our family. I love where we have come and what we have been through.

Here are the kids individual pictures for this year. I don’t have one of Ryan because he had just woke up from a nap and wasn’t cooperating at all. I realized when I was editing these that I didn’t have one for him. It makes me sad because now his hair is cut too. Note to self-add his picture in later.

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Brianna 13 years old

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Austin 11 Years Old

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Brooke 8 Years Old

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Erika 7 Years Old

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Abby 5 Years Old

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Scott 3 Years Old


{ Brooke’s Christmas concert }

Brooke performed in her school’s Christmas concert tonight. She had been singing the songs around the house for that last few weeks, and we were anxious to see this production she kept telling us about. She was super concerned about what to wear because they had requested that each child wear Christmas colors. Brooke was sure that meant that they each had to wear red, green, and white. After some heavy persuasion on my part, I reassured her that she could wear red, green, OR white.

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The kids put on a play about the real meaning of Christmas, with full on costumes, and singing, and props, and scenery. It really was like nothing I had even seen before-certainly a step up from my elementary school concerts. Brooke’s favorite song was  “Ribbons and bows” . It was this cute little rap about “Ra Ra Ra ribbons and Bows!”

Here she is with her friend Mallory. They are in our ward at church and both go to the same school now and are in third grade. Fun to have someone from church to go to school with.

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{ Holiday House Tour }

We made our move just before all the holiday rush, and though many boxes remained unpacked I was anxious to get out some of our Christmas decorations and make our new house a home. Here are some of the main living areas we decorated. I’ll have to share more of the house as I slowly start to decorate and finish unpacking.

Here is our kitchen from the front room. There is a hallway just past the refrigerator that leads to the garage, laundry room/mudroom and Aaron’s office/extra storage pantry room.

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A view of the kitchen from the sunroom. I am realizing how much I would like a wider angle lens. These pictures really don’t do the space justice. It is just so open, I love it. This kitchen is definitely the heart of our home. It brings me so much joy to have many hands working in here at once. The kids will be at the island doing homework, someone at the stove cooking, someone else making Family Home Evening treats in the corner, others talking to us while all standing around the island, all while the little boys run around and open drawers. It is my idea of heaven. It’s one of the things we made sure we did when designing this house-make this area have lots of room so we could all be together in one spot-talking, laughing, eating, having good old fashioned bonding time. I love it. New House Christmas Blog-9

My Christmas wreaths this year were just a simple evergreen wreath hung from ribbon. It was totally simple, and I loved how it looked. Here they are in the sunroom looking out to the back yard.

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And here are some in our kitchen above the sink.

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A view from the garage hallway leading into the kitchen

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Our stockings hung on our banister. Erika saw a picture I had in my idea book that I would carry everywhere with me as we were building the house that had stockings hung from the staircase. She was adamant that that was where our stockings were going to be hung as well.

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We ended up having to hang them all the way up the stairs because we had so many of them. I love that!

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Our sunroom that is just off our eating area in the kitchen. There is a built in desk just to the left along the wall. I love having a space out in the open to have the computer. It’s perfect because I can work on the computer and see the whole backyard, or talk with someone in the kitchen or front room. I love our open floor plan so much. Someday those boxes will get unpacked, there will be nice soft cushions on the benches, some cozy pillows to lean on while reading a book, and maybe even some pictures actually hung. Someday soon I am hoping.New House Christmas Blog-14

My favorite wooden trough filled with ornaments. I ended up adding some real evergreen branches to it and a few more ornaments. I used mostly green, silver, and turquoise colors to decorate this year and I LOVED it! I never thought I was a turquoise person, but I am really loving that color in my house.

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Our elf on the shelf Chadwick in one of his hiding spots this year-on our counter with some new dish towels and my IKEA basket. When we were building I had picked out these small white subway tiles for the backsplash. I was a little nervous they would be too small and busy. They are by far one of my favorite things in the house. So simple, yet such a great classic look.

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Another view of our island and our refrigerator. We get a lot of grief from people about how big our refrigerator is, but with 9 people in the house, I am so glad we went with it. It is a Frigidaire separate refrigerator and freezer that sit side by side with a trim kit. It has the look of a VIKING or a SUBZERO, but with a lot nicer price tag-I think I love that most of all. We have been so pleased with it so far. A funny thing to note for my own memory-the kids were concerned it didn’t have a water dispenser in the front of it, and Austin asked one day, “So where are we suppose to get water?” Um, try the faucet? I realized at that moment how spoiled we are. So far they have managed to get water from the faucet with ice from the ice maker and are surviving just fine.=)New House Christmas Blog-15

We were able to do a Christmas tradition I have been wanting to do for years. My good friend Libby has done this with her family and I loved the idea. We have finally gathered enough Christmas books through the years to have one for everyday until Christmas. The kids took turns wrapping them and we displayed them in a basket in the front room. Each night whomever’s prayer night it was (We rotate ever night..Brianna is always Monday, Austin is Tuesday…) they got to choose a book from the basket, open it, and read it to us. It was so fun to hear all those stories again. Some were religious, some were heart warming and had a touching giving message, some were just silly and fun. After we read them we displayed them on top of our wainscoting ledge that runs through the main living area. The kids would pull down their favorites on some afternoons and read them again and again, and Scott and I would usually pick one for our naptime story. It was a fun new tradition.New House Christmas Blog-10

And last but not least our Christmas tree this year. I loved that we were able to put it in the piano room and shut the door. Ryan was constantly taking off the ornaments-you can see the random one of the hardwood floor, and try to rip holes in the presents. We had our manger by the fireplace at first, but Ryan kept pulling all the hay out of it too, so it ended up in the piano room as well. The kids loved to go in there and put their presents in piles and play guessing games with them. It was funny to over hear the games they made up. Some had to do with closing your eyes and having to find a present for a certain person or guessing what was in each one. Those presents got quite man handled before Christmas morning.

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I was really glad that we got to move in around a holiday, it made our house instantly seem like home to have some of our decorations up, when it would normally take me months to find what I wanted to put on the walls. It was a nice transition.


{ Santa Shuffle 5K }

Right before Thanksgiving Aaron and I planned out all the way through December all the activities we wanted to do over the holidays. Running the 5K Santa Shuffle at the kids Middle School was one of our first activities. Aaron and Austin were the two that signed up, and the rest of us came as their cheering section. Austin had never run a 5K before, but was sure he could do it. He is a great runner-I think since the time he could walk this kid has never walked anywhere. He is always running! The race was to start at 9am-and we were right on time. By the time we got there though all the racers were lining up. Austin and Aaron ran to sign in, grab their numbers and bags with goodies in it and headed to the starting line. I unloaded kids, and went to meet them at the start when we realized they hadn’t grabbed any pins to pin on their numbers. I ran (my 5K for the day) back to the gym for some, but by the time I was back out front, the racers had already left. Needless to say my 5K time wasn’t quite fast enough.

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They had the road blocked off almost all the way back to our house, where they would then turn around and come back. We tried to keep ourselves warm since it was a bit chilly out, and figured out our plan for cheering them at the end and taking pictures. The road the school on had  some trees in the front area that are in front of the parking lot where the finish line was set up.

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Scott and Erika with hats

Brianna and the girls were going to stand out by the road until they saw them coming then come running through the trees for a short cut to meet us at the finish line. That would be our cue they were coming. Me and the little boys decided to hang out by the finish line as a few fast runners started coming in. All of a sudden we see the girls running through the woods. We figured that they were bored of waiting out there and decided to join us. We look up the hill though and here come Aaron and Austin! They had rushed off to run they didn’t even have their numbers on..they came in running and shouting their numbers. They ended up being the 6th and 7th place overall and both won for their age divisions!

Boys coming to finish lineAustin and Aaron after race

We were so proud of them. We were hugging and jumping up and down. Poor Austin was hurting pretty bad. He was amazing! Aaron pushed him so hard and loving just like the awesome dad he is.  We were so happy for them, and this lady to the side was smiling and I could hear her say, “That must be his mama”, in her best southern voice. I am his mama, and proud as could be!


We waited for the rest of the group to slowly trickle in, cheering on the runners as they would come by. They had music going for the kids to dance and snacks for the runners. At the end they each got a trophy and a gift certificate for a running store in town.

Austin with trophyAaron and Austin with Santa

We are so proud of our runners!!!!