Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend 2016 - Four Days of Family Fun

The last time I checked, it was Halloween and I couldn't believe it had come so fast, and now Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are well on our way to Christmas! Time just keeps getting away from me... We had a really nice four day weekend where we didn't really go anywhere or do much of anything but stay home, and it felt like heaven! Being home for more than one day at a time is a luxury for us, and we all enjoyed it immensely. 
I fixed a Thanksgiving meal, but first, Brady had to show Brailey how to clean the turkey out so we could cook it. Our girl is becoming more like me as she grows up - she loves to bake, but doesn't really enjoy cooking. For me, cooking is the biggest chore in my life and not something I even pretend to enjoy. It just isn't one of my talents. To be frank, I loathe it! However, Britt loves a big Thanksgiving dinner, and I was happy to spend the morning cooking my B's their favorite holiday dishes. The best reward of all was that we were able to eat leftovers for the remaining days of the weekend. That is what I call a Win-Win! Below, the sharing of a bowl of deliciousness - licking it clean!
Last year on Thanksgiving, Britt nearly died of starvation. He was quite dramatic about it, in true Britt form. This year, it was Brailey. She was so hungry, she fell on the carpet and curled up into this little ball. Our kids are seriously funny!
Our beautiful poinsettia we bought from a dear friend as a fundraiser. Isn't it gorgeous?! Even Brady said he thought it was an extra pretty one. Lucky us!
Popping the sparkling cider!
One of our traditions over the holiday season is to do a Christmas puzzle.
Below, shades of the future. I love these two B's more than words. They seriously take my breath away.
On Saturday, Brady and Britt did one small Honey Do - they cleaned the gutters. Usually I help Brady with this, but this year Britt "got" to take my place. Haha! He is a great helper, and he had a very good idea. Instead of putting the leaves and gunk in a trash bag, he said, "Why don't we just put it all in the wheel barrow to start with?" What can we say? Sometimes our kids are smarter than us!
While Brady and Britt were cleaning the gutters, Bray rode her Materbug. She exercised him and then she swung a rope on him for a while. She wants to learn how to rope so bad! I am sure 2017 is the year it will happen.
Near the end of the day, Brailey and Britt remarked they wanted to go for a small "run" together. Britt has been going with me on the days when the weather and our schedules permit it, and he is quite the jogger! His long legs carry him well and he has a fast pace. He goes much faster than I do, that is a fact. As they discussed doing this, before they knew it, Brady and I had made a bet on who we thought would win in a little footrace between the two of them. Brailey is in very good shape due to her dance team schedule, and she was sure she could beat Britt. Having seen Britt run, I thought he could probably beat her with his long stride. Brady put a dollar on Brailey, and I put a dollar on Britt.
And they're off! Brady rode the 4-wheeler down to the overpass. He is, as you may have guessed, a very protective dad.
And as you can see, Brailey won! Both of their lungs were burning when they were done. There was no "jogging" about this race. They had a fast pace and they were in pain by the end. But they did it! We all got a big laugh out of Britt, who had eaten a roll right before this race, and after he lost, he said, "I had a roll!" He meant it was harder to run with a roll so freshly eaten, but Brady thought he meant he rolled his ankle. We are still laughing about this. But no excuses allowed - Brailey won fair and square. For her part, she has had a cold the past month, and due to the exertion on her lungs, she was finally able to cough all the gunk up.
This was the day of the Civil War between the Ducks and the Beavers, and Brady temporarily put his flag up. He was very proud!
On Sunday, we took Brailey to a barrel race in Eugene. There is nothing Brady loves more than to take his baby girl to the barrel race! He loves every second of it. It wasn't the best day for Brailey and Mater. They are going through some growing pains, right now, but every experience is vital and they will become more consistent with time. The first picture in this post is from a professional photographer who was there and captured that image. She is just reaching for the horn. It is a great shot!
Below is Brailey with The Best Trainer Ever, Pasty. Sadly, only two days after this race, the horse Patsy is on, Piper, broke her leg and had to be put down. We are all devastated for Patsy. We still can't believe she is gone! As you know, horses are people to us, and even though Piper was not ours, we know how much Patsy loved her and we actually spent quite a bit of time around her. On Sunday, Piper gave me a hello sniff and I will always treasure that moment. You may remember pictures of Brailey riding Piper after a gaming show and Pasty on Petey where they were in perfect step together. We will always remember and miss Piper. She was spirited and sweet and well-loved by her owner.
Mater is a very jealous horse, and he doesn't like his people petting other horses. He could really care less about being around other horses, but he doesn't want his people enjoying any horse but him. He let me know more than once I shouldn't be petting Piper. I've never been around a horse who is so in tune with his people. He always knows where Patsy is, and on this day, he also knew where Brady and I were as Brailey was warming him up. Every loop around the arena, he would look over at us where we were sitting in the bleachers. I know I sound like a cuckoo, but even Brady noticed it. Mater loves his people!
The puzzle on Sunday night. It is coming along nicely! 
On the other side of the mountain, my brother and parents celebrated Thanksgiving together. It has been years since I have seen this family so truly happy! It is amazing the difference one person can make in a family. My brother, Shawn, met his girlfriend Rici over the summer, and she has really brought out the happiness that was lying dormant in his heart. It is heartwarming to see everyone relaxed and able to be themselves. We have spent the past several years in chaos being judged, ridiculed and frankly, lied to and about. We could not be any happier this person is gone from all our lives! It is such a relief to be done with that chapter and to be moving into a carefree, happy and honest life. These pictures made my heart swell with love and I am grateful to my toes for every one of these people. As always, we have a lot to be thankful for, and this year we are not only grateful, but full of love and hope for an amazing future. What can we say? Thanksgiving 2016 was a great success!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The High School Dance Team Experience

Brailey's first fall season of dance is almost over, and I have barely managed to get a single decent picture of the experience! I am always filming her dance performances, so I don't get to take as many pictures like I would like to - the perils of only being one person, right? Last Saturday was her last competition for the fall, and so I made sure to get a few shots here and there. Above, as I was dropping off some goodies for the team food table, I ran into her out in the hallway.
Below, after their amazing Hip Hop performance, which you can see on our Facebook page or YouTube Channel, they waited in the stands and watched the rest of the dances.
Apparently, they only do this at the West Albany competition, which is where we were. It is called the "Grand March." They introduce every school and line them up along the floor. It was pretty cool and I would love to see them do this at every competition. Unfortunately, it is hard to get good pictures when they are on the fly and I am so far away without a tripod to keep my camera and humongous lens steady. But I did my best!  
Her bun was so amazing! Truly epic! That sweet face of hers melts my heart in so many ways.
All of the schools and dancers. And countless hours of dedication and hard work and practice. Impressive!
The Drill Down. She came very close to making the Top Ten again, but doubted herself at the last second and had to drop out. I couldn't manage to do even one of these commands, so I am impressed that she does it at all!
And here they all are together, JV and Varsity. Varsity, as usual, cleaned house! They took home two Firsts and three Seconds. They are all amazing! Like I said, countless hours of hard work. And frankly, coaches who are extremely talented. I can't even imagine trying to come up with new dances for every season. The choreography of the Sheldon Colleens is always impressive, that is for sure! Varsity is headed to State, and JV is preparing for the Winter Showcase and tryouts for Winter season. It takes a huge amount of dedication and time to be successful in dance, and Brailey is still working hard to improve her technique and skill set, which she is behind in. But considering this is only her second year of dancing, she is catching up quickly and will be able to do all the moves she needs in due time. As her mother, I am incredibly proud of her and understand the struggle to maintain proper dedication. Her first love is her horse, so it is hard, sometimes, to put this love aside for something she can only do in high school. We try to balance things out, but you can only do so much in one day, and that is what we do - we take it one day at a time. Dance - it's not for sissies!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Where Did October Go?

Who could know where October went? It was here yesterday and gone today! "Today" as I write this is Halloween, and although I didn't think I would get my traditional picture of the kiddos together in their Sort Of Costumes this year, after we got home from school, they said, "So are you going to take a picture of us together this year?" It melted my heart... And so here they are, my Puddins, the totally rotten Harley Quinn and the NBA super star Kevin Love. Now let's go back to the beginning of October... 
Britt is still loving basketball and is on a fun team for Fall Ball coached by two boys from the University of Oregon. He is catching on and learning more every single day.
Below, a picture of Britt and his teammate Hayden. They both serve as altar boys at St. Paul. They don't go to the same school, so it has been fun for them to connect in this new way.
One of his tournaments was at the Catholic high school, Marist, so of course I had to take pictures with the statues. Why not?
Last Monday was the last home game for the volleyball team, and it was a fund raiser for cancer with pink jerseys. I got some fun pictures of Brailey with her old teammates. We have had the best time watching these girls play! Sometimes there is a tiny piece of me that wishes Brailey still played, but then I see her dance, and I know we made the right choice. We had an extra fun time at this game, because there was a silent auction. We ended up winning a basket of Irish goodies, which was really fun! Britt was bummed, because he bid on a really cool tower of candy, but he didn't win it. Dang... (I was so relieved!)
Britt and I were waiting on Brailey to get out of dance practice one evening in car, so we took some cool pictures of his groovy new headband. To say he loves his headbands is an understatement. They keep the sweat out of his contacts, sure, but I suspect he likes the added bonus of a little "cool" factor, as well. This headband is reversible, which is even more stellar, right? Or as the kids today say, "lit!"
This past Saturday was Brailey's Fall Dance Showcase. She danced in four routines, and she was amazing in every single one of them. I didn't get any pictures of her dancing, because I was filming. We can't share the videos until competition season is over. So stay tuned for some really cool dance videos to come. She will blow you away!
Brady's favorite part of dance is when they do the Drill Down, or as he calls it, the Thrill Down. Brailey did so well! She took herself out when she didn't need to - doubted herself. Or she would have still been in it at the end! But she is getting so good at it, and the more experience she has the more confident she will be. Just like anything, right? She takes it very seriously, as you can see from her face.
Our Best Trainer in the World, Patsy, came to watch her dance! It was so sweet of her, and really fun to have her there in the stands with us. Brailey was so touched that she came and I think Patsy was impressed with her dancing skills. 
We were really excited to see Roshny, the Best Dance Instructor in the World, who was there with her dance company, The Dance Factory. Her kids looked so good in their routines! She ordered this darling trash can from Brailey, and we were able to deliver it. It turned out really, really good, don't you think?
After the showcase, Britt and Daniel went to the Duck game, where they once again had the BEST DAY EVER! They decided Daniel is a lucky charm for the Ducks, because both times he has been to their games this year, they have WON! 
My brother brought his girl Rici to the game, as well - her first Duck game! They had a big time, too, and she was super impressed with all the fun Autzen Stadium shares with fans. Aren't they so cute?!
And then a fun family Sunday breakfast before they had to head home. Below, Brailey and her Godfather.
Uncle Shawn with his only niece and only nephew. They love their uncle!
As you can see, we were all quite happy and we had a seriously good time. Words cannot express how good it is to see Shawn so peaceful, content and, frankly, on cloud nine! There is a lot to be said for the comfort of good company. After all he has been through the past few years, he deserves a wealth of happiness. We couldn't be more thrilled he and Rici met! She is a LOVE!
And to wrap things up, a little Halloween fun. My B's are the best posers ever. I don't even have to ask them. Little do they know what a treat it was for me that they wanted that traditional Halloween photo session from years past. Goodbye October - you were fun! 

April - Here and Gone in the Blink of an Eye

It seems crazy to think Easter Sunday was on April Fool's Day this year, but it totally was. We started our Easter at mass with our fa...