Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year of the Horse, 2014 - It Was a Wild Ride!

OH EM GEEEEE! 2014 was one heck of a wild ride for us! And actually, everyone I've talked to has said the same thing - it was a weird year, or a tough one, or a sad one, or a hard one. I don't know anyone who isn't ready to see 2015! 2014 was the Year of the Horse, on the Chinese calender. She was a little bronky! Yah, cliche as it may sound, it really was the best of times and the worst of times for our little family of Bs. But things can always be worse, and we are thankful for the lessons and blessings alike. 2014 was a roller coaster in nearly every aspect of our lives - ups, downs, highs, lows and everything in between. There was never a dull moment, but that's the way we roll around here. So why not ride that bronc?

Highs, Ups, The Best of Times
Volleyball became a whole new world of fun with Brailey, as we embarked on our first club journey. We learned so much last year, only to learn it was just the tip of the iceberg! Volleyball has already taught Brailey more than just the game itself - she learned how to work hard to reach a goal, to take care of her body and get strong, how to deal with difficult individuals (she is a rock star at this, by the way, and light years ahead of me!), and how to come out of her shyness a weensy bit and make new friends. For me, I was so blessed to have developed a lasting friendship with a woman I met through volleyball, and then, I ran into one of my dearest friends at a volleyball tournament our girls were both playing in. So silver and gold friends, for me! Brailey's Kidsports team was a major high, as well, as she was on a phenomenal team that won, won, won! It was great for her to experience success after all the years of being on, shall we say, less successful teams. And now, she is continuing her volleyball with a new club, Webfoot.
Swimming and swim meets became another world we learned to dive into (notice my pun?!). This was the first year Britt attended real meets, and we finally figured out the protocol and developed some friendships. Britt continues to impress Brady and I with his determination, dedication and drive in the pool. We are so happy to see him invest in his passion!
Have you heard of the WWE Universe? Brady and I thought we would be cool and introduce it to the little B's, and now they are obsessed! We didn't see that coming... BUT! It is their absolute delight and they live to watch Monday Night RAW and Smackdown. A major highlight of our summer was seeing the live RAW in Portland, Oregon, where it was Hulk Hogan's birthday celebration. We felt like stars ourselves as we sat in the nonstop shower of confetti and balloons! The WWE is more than entertainment for our family, though. It brings our family together every time it is on the television and has sparked more conversations than I can even count. Whenever I feel annoyed, I remember what Dr. Phil says - if they don't talk to you about the little things, then they won't talk to you about the big ones. It has also inspired both little B's to get in shape and they are positive they are the future of the WWE! Brailey has even researched wrestling schools to attend after high school, and Britt is still considering a law degree, just in case the WWE doesn't work out and after he makes the 2024 Olympics, of course. If anyone in our family is having a bad day, we just talk wrestling, and that almost always fixes things.
Our little Texas Tornado, Brailey, experienced a life-changing trip when she flew to visit Brady's sister and his family with his mother this summer. Brailey bonded with everyone there and made lasting connections. In fact, we are still hearing about Texas! Brady and I no longer wonder where she will end up - we feel certain it will be in Texas. Even if she becomes a WWE Diva! She is already begging us to go back to Aunt Cindy's this coming summer. We are very grateful she was able to meet her family and to feel like a part of them. We don't have a lot of family connections like that, and she needed it. Below, picking her up from the airport with Uncle Frank.
We also had The Best Thanksgiving Ever - it really was! It had been years since we spent a holiday with my parents, and we all had an excellent time just being together, doing the holiday thing. We played cards, went on walks, ate a lot of food, watched football, college volleyball, talked endlessly and even took in a movie! It was low-key, casual and full of love and appreciation for one another. It is a Thanksgiving we will all remember forever and ever.
And speaking of going to the movies, we rediscovered our love for Dumb and Dumber, our absolute favorite movie. We'll get more into this later, but we literally watched this movie at least 30 times over the summer. It never gets old for us! We couldn't wait for Dumb and Dumber To to come out, and it didn't disappoint us at all! We laughed harder and louder than anyone in the theater - we are true Harry and Lloyd fans!

Lows, Downs, The Worst of Times
We had our share of little downers, of course, because that is life - it happens. But we also had some major downers, as well. The most obvious, of course, was Brady's broken leg. Believe it or not, though, this was also a positive, in some ways. How? Because it could have been so much worse - he could have been killed, as many people who saw the wreck thought had happened. He could have been injured worse than he was, paralyzed or with trauma to the brain. It is a wild, wild story, from start to finish, all the drama that was involved in the aftermath of the accident. That's an entire post I may write about on another day - the story is actually quite entertaining. Back to the tale at hand, though, it threw us for a definite loop when Brady's leg was broken. You see, it wasn't just a simple break. And it flared up some old arthritis that has caused ongoing pain for him. He will most likely never be able to jog again - low impact activities, only. But thank GOD he can walk! And work! The injury definitely brought some stress into our lives. The worry over pain pills, having to do everything for him and then his depression was sad for all of us. That is where Dumb and Dumber came into play, though, and watching that movie helped us get through some of those dark days. Our summer plans were changed, but we were blessed to spend more time than ever together. Both kids were troopers and never complained once about helping their dad out. They each got to travel with him for a week, and they took perfect care of him. They not only helped Brady out, they helped me out, as well. My spirits took a dive a few times throughout the healing process, too, but one of us was able to pull the other back up into the light. It is so easy to feel sorry for oneself! It is hard to see the positive, sometimes, but between the four of us, we were able to make the best of things.
One of our lows was a side effect of Brady's accident. When something like this happens, it really brings to light who your true friends are. Some of the people we held in the highest regard ended up not being who we thought they were. But this was a great lesson for us, too, because we now understand how important it is to sincerely reach out to people who are going through a tough time. And we remember all the people who reached out to us. Unfortunately, this changed the way I think about some people, but that's okay. It is good to see the true colors of folks when the chips are down. It is good to know who has an understanding of what really matters in this world, and what doesn't. Another thing that put this into perspective for me was a post by a very good friend of mine, which said, "Priorities: When someone says they are too busy, it isn't a reflection of their schedule. It is a reflection of your place on their schedule." This resonated deeply with me, because it is true, and not only was it an eye opener, it was also a good reminder for me to make time for the ones I love. Britt also experienced a hard lesson in friendship this year - he was heartbroken, because he is a tender soul, but he finally sees the light and understands what true friendship really is. At the end of the day, we are thankful to know who our real friends are, and we are also grateful for the reminder of  how important and necessary it is  to be there for people who experience a life-altering event.
The very worst part of our year wasn't Brady's broken leg, though. The worst part is still hard for us, and I don't know when we will ever get over it - maybe never. On November 1st, Brady's mare that he loved so much and that we all had such high hopes for, died. We did everything we could to save her. We still don't know what made her sick - she was eating the same thing the other horses were. Maggie was her name, or as we called her, Mag-Doll. Regardless of how it happened or why, she died, and it devastated us all. She wasn't even ten years old. I didn't realize how much she meant to me, personally. And yet, I thought of her as a person. I now realize I think of all our horses as people. I talk to them like they are people and care for them like they are members of our family. I didn't realize how much time I spend thinking about our horses and their welfare. She is the first horse I've ever lost, Brady's second. It has set forth the floodgates in me, which has been slightly mortifying, as I pride myself on being tough. I cry at the slightest emotional mishap, now, be it happy or sad. And I have a whole new appreciation for our horses. I love them more than ever, and I don't care if we don't ride them enough, because they make me feel complete. Horses are part of who I am. Maggie's death changed the way I look at the world. I feel especially sad for Brady, though, who loved her so much. The two of them had a special bond, and the sad part was that he was just getting ready to rope on her when he broke his leg. Then, his leg had just gotten to the point he could ride her again, and she died. Sadly, two of our friends lost their great horses this year, as well. "The year of the horse..." It can always be worse, though - a couple of weeks ago, one of my friends lost her niece, and another acquaintance lost their 4 month old baby, and those deaths brought to mind how lucky we are to have only lost a horse.
I used this picture for our Christmas card this year, not because it is a great picture, but because of how much it means to our family. This was the hardest Christmas card I've ever made, and not only was I crying the entire duration of the process, my computer picked up a virus, which made it even more difficult, and I had to redo it several times. By the time I was done, I was nearly ready to scrap Christmas cards, this year. But I'm glad I persevered, because even though I wasn't thrilled with the end result, it is sentimental to us, and in a way, it was a tribute to our Mag-Doll. The picture above is the last time I rode her. Below, she was so mellow, she just stood there waiting for me while I took pictures of and filmed Brady and the kids roping the ropin' dummy. The one below is Brady riding her on Easter, before his leg was broken.
 
And here we are, just like that, back to the very best of times. As one wise soul said, without darkness, there would be no stars. Truth! So it was a wild ride, and frankly, one we are still recovering from in many ways. We are looking forward to 2015, which, by the way, in the Chinese calendar, is the Year of the Sheep. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas 2014 - Another Beautiful Holiday Remembered

Chrismas Eve, before mass.
And below, after mass, right before they open the traditional One Present on Christmas Eve, the PAJAMAS. Notice how the packages are wrapped exactly the same, which is what I do, every year. Except, guess what? I was so strapped for time, I must have gotten a tad bit mixed up in my wrapping, because, unbeknownst to me, these two packages, which I THOUGHT were their pajamas, WERE NOT PAJAMAS AT ALL! Instead, they were their WWE shirts. EEEEEEEEEEEEECK! Oh well! Rather than get upset about it, we laughed, and they opened their traditional ornament (which I search high and low to find) to commemorate their year. So we didn't start Christmas morning with their new pj's, but that's okay. This was a Christmas with lots of changes...
The biggest change was having to finally tell them "the truth" about Santa. Brailey had it figured out and was just playing along. Britt, however, was on the verge of believing and wanting to know the truth. Too many kids at school told him Santa was actually his parents. (Why can't "those kids" just keep the secret? Why do they have to ruin it for others?) Yet when he found out, he was devastated, because in his heart, he DID believe, and not only in Santa, but the Easter Bunny, too. He was truly heartbroken. After several days of Britt saying he just couldn't believe Santa wasn't real, Brailey finally got a bit irritated and said, "Oh Britt! Why didn't you just pretend you believed like I've been doing for the past three years!" She's a very good actress, our Brailey. In any case, it took a lot of pressure off Brady and I. We didn't have to sneak in the Santa presents late on Christmas Eve. Nor did we have to quietly fill the stockings, praying they were sleeping and not listening to us. Thus, we started a new tradition of buying each other a small gift for our stockings, so Brady and I had stockings for the first time, which was fun, and the kiddos had a great time finding a small something to go in them. And below, I couldn't resist a picture of one of my gifts from Britt, a true Mama's Boy.
Once we finally found the pajamas, they quickly donned them and didn't find their way out of them until the day after Christmas. Pajamas are kind of like their ornaments, and I have to find the "perfect pair" that exemplifies their year. Luckily for me, this year was easy!
I am a bit embarrased by this picture, because everything is a mess, but that's what happens on Christmas at our house. And I thought it was so cute that our tween, who is halfway through her last year of being a tween and nearly a full-fledged teenager, found her way into this box, just like she used to do when she was a wee little one. Below, can you find the pug? 
Grandma and Papa's gifts were a HUGE hit - fringe cowboy boots for Brailey, which she is over the moon about...!
And WWE cards for Britt, which he is ecstatic about! There were two very rare cards in the box, and he still can't believe how lucky he is to have them! He had a big time going through every card, and then later in the day, organizing and putting them into sleeves.
 
Finally, the traditional pajama pictures, which we USUALLY take on Christmas Eve, but it just didn't work out that way this year. Oh well! They are just as lovely. I love these two angel faces!
 
We also didn't have to be woken at the crack of dawn, this year. We slept a bit later, which was a nice change for Brady and I. And after we opened the gifts and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, we had a wonderful day watching movies and being lazy, something we rarely do. It was a different kind of Christmas, and one that snuck up on us, causing a bit of stress in the weeks leading up to it, but it turned out perfectly. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Back to December, Before Christmas

It was a busy week right before Christmas. Busy with all the last minute details of Christmas and of course a few extra-curricular activities to keep life even more interesting. You may have seen my Instagram posts of these activities on Facebook, but just in case you didn't, here is the "backstory," forever documented in this blog. Britt had a dance recital with another Artist-in-Residence at his school. He was extremely nervous for this one, for some reason. In fact, he even asked us not to come and watch him! He was embarrassed to have to dance in front of everyone, and had hoped for a different part. But he did a great job and made both Brady and I proud. So he survived, and it was a nice bonus that Brady was in town and able to come watch him.
Brady and one of the school's custodians and protectors, Wade, who has become a friend of Brady's. Wade is a tough guy with a heart of gold!
Then we had the season finale with Brailey's Kidsports volleyball team (also known as "Coach David's Dream Team"), a party to wrap things up. Coach David did a really cool thing that I believe every coach should do. He gave each girl the name of a random teammate with a white plate, and they had to come up with an award for that person, which they made out of the plate. Then, at the party, he had them present each award, and it was really special to hear and see all the kindness! And every single girl was given an award. GENIUS IDEA, I'm telling you! It was perfect! Above, standing next to Coach David, is Lindsey, the girl who drew Brailey's name, and she gave a heartfelt account of how she felt about Brailey. Her presentation was so sweet and sincere, it nearly brought a tear to my eye. Brailey had a great time making her award for Sara (see the Super Server award below), and they all had a big time presenting their coach with a gift and card. It was a really fun party and so nice to have a coach who was an eloquent speaker with a heart of gold. He may be a tough police officer, but he is a softie when it comes right down to it, with a passion for volleyball. He brought his sweet family with him, and his wife made delicious, adorable cupcakes for dessert which we all enjoyed. It was a great way to wrap up the season - lasting friendships were made during this short season, teammates and families alike!
After the party, we took the long way home and looked at the fun Christmas lights. This setup is always one of our favorites, and our Light Viewing just isn't complete until we find this one! Aren't those angels darling?!
And that brings us to Christmas, my next post I am working on, and then we are at the start of a new year. I am already writing my annual post to wrap up the year... Stay tuned! 2014 was a wild one for The 4 Bs!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Traditional Photo Before Christmas Eve Mass 2014

Here it is, our traditional Christmas Eve picture we take ourselves right before we head out the door to Christmas Eve mass. It was a wonderful mass with a beautiful homily by Father David, whom we adore. Before mass started, Brady was asked to help with the offertory, a job he truly enjoys. So the kids and I indulged in a short photo session while he was getting last minute instructions before mass started.
It was a Blessed and Merry Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One Busy, Rewarding December Weekend

Yes, I have posted a ton of pictures from this past weekend, and I probably could have added even more! But someday, when I am reading a book of this blog, I will be so very happy and grateful to look back on this special weekend, and that is really what these posts are all about, for me - preserving memories the best I can. If you saw my Instagram post from last week, then you know I have been behind on everything - laundry, shopping, stalls, cleaning, you name it, I'm probably behind in it! However, the weekend was a crowning moment in a two week period of intense scheduling stress. It started on Friday with the Kidsports volleyball tournament, which we were lucky to even get to. Our pickup's alternator went out at the Coburg Dari Mart on our way home from picking the kids up at school. Some intense moments there! But our awesome mechanic down the road and a good Samaritan got us started, and we were able to get home, feed Brailey and get her gear and made it to the tournament in the nick of time. Phew! It could have been a different story, entirely, and we are grateful it turned out so well. The girls had four games. They won their first three in a row easily. They had a little break in between the third and fourth, though, and they had to fight for their fourth game - they weren't playing their best. But they did it! Below, the referee is one of my friends - she hired me when I worked at the Law School. Her name is Della, and it was fun to see her after all these years. She was at the school when Brailey was born and the little mascot of the Law School (they let me bring her to work with me for a while, and the Dean would make his way up to see her every single morning - he just loved her! All the faculty and staff did.) Who would have thought she would be reffing Brailey's games twelve years later?
Brai (as she likes to be called, now) in her bright pink Nike Elite socks from our beloved Renee. She loves these socks!
They were taking selfies and having a nice time with each other in between the third and fourth games. This team was special and full of incredibly sweet and kind girls. Brailey made some wonderful new friends! Two of the girls are on her Webfoot volleyball team, as well.
Saturday and Sunday required early morning wake-up calls, as we had to be at the pool for Britt's warm ups. This was his big TEAM Winter Open Meet, and he did really well! On Sunday, he clocked a new time standard in his 100 Free, so he is on his way to improving and getting faster. Lots of folks remarked on how much his strokes have improved. He is still planning on being in the 2020 Olympics, and Brady and I are so proud of him for his dedication and try. He has also made some good friends, and they were both at this meet, which was really nice for them.
Checking in with Coach Britta. My goodness, when did he become as tall as her?!
His buddy Charlie - Charley moved up to another group, and so they haven't been able to see each other for months due to different practice times. Charley's mom told me he has really missed Britt and been a bit lonely without him. In fact, I think it was summer when they last saw one another. They had a big time playing games on the Kindle and just talking and being boys.
Below, their friend Varun, who is also a great kid. I thought it was so cute how all three of them were checking their arms for their races to see which ones they were in together. All three of them swam amazing races and did well!
And that's a wrap for the swimming portion of our weekend. I would like to note we were able to fit Mass in on Saturday evening, so that was a nice plus for us, as we struggle to fit it in at times with our work schedules.
And here we are, Sunday afternoon, in the Championship Bracket of the tournament. I grabbed Coach David before they went into the gym for some fun candids. In the one below, they are smiling their sweet smiles. In the next one, I said, "Give me a pose!" And he said, "Okay, how about a police line up pose?" And they said, "What's that? How do we look?" And he said, "You look very serious, like you are in trouble but trying not to be." Of course, they couldn't pull it off, and lots of giggles ensued. David is a Lieutenant in the police force, if you didn't know. He was such a blessing to these girls and they were so lucky to have him for their coach - he didn't even have a kid on the team and dedicated himself to their success. He is an amazing person! And his wife Kristen came to the tournament and kept books for the team, which was really great of her to do, and thank goodness she did, because the score keepers had the wrong scores many times! It was so fun to get to visit with her for even a few minutes - I am an excellent judge of character, and I knew she was an amazing person the second I met her!
Above, the two Catholics. They prayed before their games on Sunday, right on the court, complete with the sign of the cross. It was darling! I am so proud of them for being proud Catholics. Brailey and Megan (that's her name) have become good friends, and I predict seeing them go through their Confirmations together someday.
And they won! They had to fight for it - it wasn't easy. But in the end, they out played and out coached the other teams. They were the only team in their division with all overhand serving and "three hits" per ball - most of the teams they played were ping ponging it instead of passing, setting and hitting. Did I mention we had a really good coach?!
Coach David may be a tough cop, but he has a tender soul. He gave the medals to the parents to put on their daughter. It was a really special moment for everyone. Brailey said, "I almost cried when Dad put the medal on me!" So did her mother... I had to work hard to choke those tears back.
WINNER-WINNER-WINNERS! Happy girls!
And happy, proud parents, too!
Brailey gave Coach David a volleyball signed by everyone with their numbers and then she made him a card that looks like a donut on the front and a volleyball with a thank you on the back. Above, they are sharing a hug after she gave him her card and thanked him.
I was so excited, my hair got all mussed! This picture of the four of us cracks me up - we had two people taking our picture, so Brailey and Brady are looking at one camera while Britt and I are looking at the other one. We're a funny family, to say the least, and funny lookin', too!
Brai with Megan above and Sara below. She and Sara were so lucky to be the setters on the team, and they did a great job! They've been in the same class since second grade. They are also setting on their Webfoot team. We love Sara and her dad!
Proud moments. We celebrated the weekend with dinner at Applebee's, and it was delicious! It was an incredibly busy weekend full of activities, but one we will never forget.

The Harlem Globetrotters Experience

Saturday was all about basketball for Britt. And there is nothing he loves more than basketball! Every year, when the Harlem Globetrotter...