Thursday, December 31, 2015

Two Thousand Fifteen.

To wrap up the year, I'm sharing some of my favorite memories from 2015. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. As I was looking back on the photos I wanted to include, I couldn't help but to think of how immeasurably blessed we are with wonderful friends and family! Most of this year-end review is about all those special people in our lives. 

Before I get started, I have to make mention that this was the year of the blog revival. My former blog is still active (as far as I know), you can find it by clicking here. I stopped blogging regularly after Stephen and I were married until finally I stopped blogging all together. The desire to blog again was always there, I just didn't feel like my life "fit" anymore with my old blog. I finally pulled the trigger back in April and The Second House on the Right was born. I was back in the blogging business with this post and I have to tell you, it felt SO good to have this creative outlet back!

The blogging community is an unexpected incredible surprise, and I am so grateful for those of you who have kept up with us this year through this outlet!

On to business...

If there's one thing we know how to do right, it's birthdays. Birthdays are my FAVORITE and are a BIG deal around here! We love to celebrate...apparently as much as I love to snap photos of candles being blown out! We were able to share in birthday celebrations with so many friends and family this year! (And yes, Emilee's birthday cake says "Good Luck Barbara"...long story.)

Both of our nephews were back on the basketball courts and baseball fields this year! We just love watching them play. Riley pitched his first game this year and I may or may not be a nervous wreck for him when I see him on that Pitcher's Mound. Ugh. Why can't he still be little, dog-piling on balls and playing in the dirt like back in the 3 year old league?!

At the first of the year, Riley's basketball team won the Championship for their age division in the city league. He's small in stature but has such a natural ability at sports. He loves playing basketball and baseball. 

After the Spring season wrapped up for baseball, Riley played on a travel team during the Summer. He had a great time, his talent developed, and they racked up several extra miles on my sister's car. They're only little once, right? When that was over, they played Fall Ball...there's always something going on!

One of my best friends, Amy and her husband, welcomed their son, Daniel Mark into the world on April 14th. He and Stephen will forever share a birthday! I  LOVE getting to be this cutie's "Aunt E". 

He has changed so much since April! He's definitely one of my VERY FAVORITES for 2015!

We were able to celebrate a few graduations in May. My cousin, Ann Marie graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga early in the month. We had a fun little weekend get-away to celebrate with her and our family. (here)

Colin graduated from Kindergarten, and I still can't figure out which teacher and/or school administrator decided it would be a good decision to let this kid have a mic. 

Also in May, Stephen's brother Evan was named 2nd Lieutenant and graduated from college (finally) ALL in the same weekend. (here)

In between weekend ball tournaments and vacations, we still managed to have several Thursday Night Family Nights at my parents house. These two chose to have their dinner on the back deck whenever we would let them. 

Our biggest and yet most heartbreaking news came during the Summer. We were ELATED to find out I was pregnant after encountering different problems and trying for so very long. We were even more over-joyed when we first saw our perfect little baby and heard the heart beating so strong! 

Not long after that though, God's plans proved bigger than ours and I had a miscarriage. Most definitely the hardest thing I have ever gone through. Quite honestly, there are days it's still hard. I've heard from others who have experienced pregnancy losses, that it's something you never forget. That baby is always on your mind and forever in  your heart. (here)

We were able to have several friends and family members over for meals throughout the year. One of those, was my grandparents on my Pa's 88th birthday! Maybe our love for a good birthday celebration comes from this fella. He sure does LOVE his birthday!!

The boys started back to school at the end of July. 

Speaking of birthdays....again. My birthday fell on a Saturday this year! What better way to celebrate than a big family impromptu dinner! After losing our baby not just a few weeks before my birthday, I wasn't really looking forward to any kind of celebration this year, but my family....they are the best! They sure know how to lift a girl's spirits! (here)

Also in August, was the hospital's annual Golf Tournament. This year's guest of honor was former Atlanta Braves player, Dale Murphy. It was like my little girl dreams came true. It was a great two days on the golf course and a fabulous dinner. Our golf committee really out-does themselves year after year! (here)

I have been saying for years, "I want Ma to teach me how to....." fill in the blank with a HUGE variety of recipes, skills, you name it. In one afternoon's time, this lady taught me how she cans and cooks her fried apples. I can't wait to see what our next "how to" lesson will be! (here)

Stephen and I headed to Destin the last of September / first of October for vacation which also fell on our 2 year anniversary. We had a wonderful week sleeping late, laying on the beach all day and getting dressed up for dinners every night. Can we go back? Like, tomorrow?  (here)

I had to share this...just one more time. On our honeymoon we discovered the restaurant, Another Broken Egg. Unfortunately two years ago, we discovered it the day we were heading home. WHAT?! Needless to say, we made an effort to get in at least two trips this time. I mean, c'mon, Cinnamon Roll French Toast?!?!!!

We have the best time going on trips together. We NEEDED this one. To just get away, relax and be. It was perfect.

Also in October, we snuck in a hockey game with family and good friends with seats 6 rows off the ice! The Preds were BIG winners that night! We all had the best time! (here)

I'm not sure who screamed and cheered louder. Me or the Mr. No wait, it was definitely our 6 year old nephew. He made fans two rows below us turn around! 

Stephen and I had photos made in October, and I could not love them anymore than I do! This one is  a favorite and he is my favorite! (here)

We had a couple of really cute trick-or-treaters that we loved so much we let them in our side. We just love being these boys Aunt and Uncle. (here)

The boys are both in their school's chorus this year. They put on an AMAZING Veteran's Day program this year that honored our FAVORITE veteran, my grandpa, Riley and Colin's great-grandpa! I found myself with tear-filled eyes a couple of different times during the program. It was just so sweet!

In December, they had another great performance with their Christmas program. The school gym was PACKED that night! They both have done so well, and seem to really enjoy it!

Stephen and I went with our friends Robert and Katie to a UT game in November. There is no better way to spend a Saturday in the Fall than in Knoxville! (here)

We ate our way through Thanksgiving with our families! Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE! (here)

While most of America is out on Black Friday morning snagging up the hottest sales, the Staffords are casually hanging out in Papa and Meme's front yard for a family photo shoot. Don't mind if we do. (I still haven't shared these, but don't you worry, I will. There are some fabulous one. And by fabulous, I mean hilarious.)

However, one of my absolute FAVORITE things this year, has been watching these two become best friends. Colin, our youngest nephew, and Stephen have formed such a special bond this year. Where there's one, there's the other. It's been so sweet to watch my nephews love and grow close to Stephen through the years. The feeling is mutual. There is nothing he wouldn't do for those boys. 

One day, we'll have children of our own, and these boys will have cousins. But for now, we're blessed to have two wonderful nephews who we love like our own. 

They will forever be my all-time FAVORITE of FAVORITES! 

The day will come, when we're not as cool in their eyes as we are right now, but for now, we're pretty cool. I'll take it. We've had a great year making many memories, carrying on and starting new traditions with them. I can't wait to see what 2016 has in store for us and our families!

May you be richly blessed in 2016!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Whirlwind Christmas Review

Friends, Christmas 2015 is in the books. I've said it many times this year, and I'll say it one more time, it just didn't FEEL like Christmas this year. The weather has been really warm, it rained SO much and we had thunderstorms and tornadoes nearby...IN DECEMBER?! What's going on?!

Nonetheless, we had a great holiday with our families!!

Wednesday night, church was cancelled due to thunderstorm and tornado threats so Stephen and I decided to go ahead an exchange gifts that night while we had plenty of time just us together at home. I had to laugh at this moment, we were both playing with our new "toys". Electronics for him and a new Erin Condren Life Planner for me. 

Every year we watch White Christmas together, we were going to watch it after church, but again, plans changed so we started the movie after we opened gifts. I just love this movie. This is a little tradition that I hope we're still doing when we have kids and grandkids one day!

The next morning, Christmas Eve, we were up early and headed to Jamestown for lunch with Stephen's mom's family. 

We got home from Jamestown Thursday afternoon, took a little nap, got the next set of food dishes ready and then headed to my cousin's house for my dad's side of the family's get-together. For my entire life, plus many more before my time, Christmas Eve night is the Flatt family tradition. This year, we had several family members who could not make it, but we still had a room full. When we're all together, there's about 50 of us. 

Christmas morning, it rained. And rained. And rained MORE. It was such a messy day, but no one seemed to mind and everyone's spirits were bright! 

We were on our way at 7am to start our busy day!! I posted this pic on IG, all of my pretty wrapped presents were soaked, my casserole dishes were soaked, we were soaked...and we had just loaded car. HA. We had 4 stops to  make in 9 hours and we were READY!

First stop, Stephen's mom and dad's house for presents with his parents, grandmother and brother.

And his mom's dogs...we can't forget them. These sisters racked up, although they didn't seem to care much at the time. 

Next up, we moved two doors down the road to breakfast and presents at Stephen's grandparents' house. 

Stephen's dad and uncle ended up getting the same jackets. I guess a mother's love for her sons to match never fades. 

Next, we went to my grandparents' house. Everyone was almost done with breakfast when we got there, but I just love seeing all my family spread across their house sharing a meal together. Our family sure has grown. Growing up, all the adults fit at the dining room table, and the kids all fit a card table that we set up. Now, we're spread out in three rooms. 

The grands and great-grands were anxiously ready to start passing out presents. Gone are the days when everyone got everybody something. These days, we draw names, everyone gets our grandparents something and everyone gets the little kids something. I have to say, for me, I could care less if I got even that one present. I just LOVE us ALL being together in this house that holds so many special memories for our family.  

Like most kids in America, according to my FB and IG feeds this weekend, my nephews got the game Pie Face. I tried it one time. As you can see, one time was enough. 

My sister and our uncle rocking their Christmas plaid. 

Later in the afternoon on Christmas Day, Stephen's parents host a meal for both sides of their family, and my parents typically come as well. Stephen's dad grills the VERY BEST steaks you've ever had in your entire life and his mom fixes the most amazing baked potatoes! Gosh, my mouth is watering again just thinking about it. Throw in a salad, homemade rolls, fancy Christmas dishes, and you've got the meal that everyone looks forward to every year!

Stephen's uncle Ben, was able to come and bring his little son. Little Clay was quite the star of the show and I was able to snag quite a bit of snuggle time while everyone arrived and filled their plates. I will gladly be the last to sit down and eat if it means I get to hold a little one. 

After we eat, the room is cleared, we we play Dirty Santa with $10 gifts. This bunch is NOT afraid to do some stealing from each other. 

After everyone left, Stephen's aunt, uncle and cousins stayed behind and we played games and cards. 

We ended up back home around 10 pm that night, and I'm not sure if our bed has ever felt so good before! 

For several years now, we have been celebrating Christmas at my mom and dad's the morning after Christmas. For us, it works out perfectly! No one has anywhere to rush off to, and we just ENJOY the day together. Mom and Dad fix a great breakfast, we open presents, our nephews play with their new toys, at some point, most of us end up taking a nap at various places around the house. We'll snack on leftovers for lunch and eventually we go home later in the afternoon. December 26th is seriously one of my favorite days of the year!

The boys had spent the night at my parents, hence their comfy pj's look. 

Last year, my dad started this game after we opened our gifts. We all enjoyed it so much and have talked about it often during the year. We all pretty much begged him to do something like that again; and he did not disappoint. 

For this year's game, he gave us all fifty $1 bills. He had 24 items in a tote, one by one those items were auctioned off to the highest bidder. We didn't know the items we were bidding on until they were "sold". Colin didn't quite get the concept of an auction. To him, outbidding everyone was the most important. He didn't quite get the point that he had only $50 and there were several items up for grabs. Needless to say, he was out of money about 5 items into the game. 

Some items were good, some were jokes. He had gift cards, board games, movies, food items, germ-x (which Colin paid $11 for, HAHA), bird feeders, cough drops, etc. 

Me and my sweet Mama. She always knows exactly what to get us each year, and fills our stockings with the most useful things! And yes, my shirt is a nod to the movie Elf and does say "son of a nutcracker". 'Tis the season!

Stephen taught Colin how to play Battleship. Colin taught Stephen how to lose BIG in Monopoly Jr. Kid beat him BAD twice. 

Later that night, my mom's family got together at my aunt and uncle's house to play games and you guessed it, eat again. I swear we are still in food comas two days later. 

And because any good blog post, needs a picture of laughing baby, let me introduce you to our cousin, Arabelle. She enjoyed Christmas BIG this year. 

I counted up and over the three days of festivities, we spent that time with 65 family members! It was hectic and busy, but we are fortunate and blessed. Many people don't have families to celebrate with. They don't have multiple places to go. The day may come when our families cut back on some of the gatherings, but until then we will be thankful and enjoy these sweet times and memories. 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas weekend making memories with those you love the most!