Friends · Redeeming Grace

Thorns & Roses

Saturday, March 4, 2017

As Dad pulled into the upper parking lot around 8:30 AM, I noticed a line of workers beginning the church work day. My siblings and I were dropped off in the back where Mr. McCoon was weeding by himself. After saying goodbye to Dad (who planned to pick us up at 11:30), we exchanged greetings with Mr. McCoon and got to work.

Mr. Rawlings came out of the building a few minutes later. He greeted my siblings and me before informing us about the donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lobby. When we did not jump up to get some, he gave us a few instructions about weeding before heading off.

It was cold, and I was glad that I had had the good sense to ask Alexa about the weather and wear double layers. I did not, however, have the good sense to take Mr. McCoon up on his offer to supply us with gloves. My hands were fine when he asked, but soon afterward they became sore from sifting through mulch for weed roots and numb from the cold. 😅 😅

Last night, when I was deciding what to wear, I had another one of those feelings. You know, the ones you sometimes have when you end up predicting the future. This time, I had a feeling that Abi was going to wear her black and red plaid top. You can only imagine my surprise when, a few minutes later, I glanced up to see Abi step out of the building wearing that exact top. 😱

I decided to inform my best friend of this oddity when she walked over. However, she did not. “Hey, Abi,” Mr. Rawlings began. “When you’re done go help Tristen.”

She stood by the door and took another bite out of her donut before stepping back inside. Okay. I thought. I’ll tell her later.

Finished with the section I was weeding, I joined Haydn in weeding the bed of rocks. I was telling him about my feeling come true when Mr. Rawlings walked by. “What’s that?” He asked, and I told him. “Wow,” He said. “It’s like your psychic.” Abi was soon by my side, and I filled her in.

Saying that he’d go over it with weed killer, Mr. Rawlings explained that my friends and I didn’t need to weed the rock patch. So we weeded around the corner and continued to work on the beds on either side of the smaller back door. This is where Sarah found us.

Hugs were exchanged before my now frozen fingers prompted me to ask about gloves. Ansa and I followed Sarah who supplied each of us with a pair. We put them on and returned to our work where I remained while Sarah and Ansa left to get donuts.

The two girls soon returned with treats for Abi, Haydn, and I which we ate before deciding to go in for our own break. I mostly went along because I needed to warm up my cold bitten fingers. After several minutes of rejuvenating (during which Abi made several runs to the kitchen only to come to the conclusion that we did not have any lids that fit our cups😂 😂), we returned to work.

Soon my friends and I had weeded around the corner and were working on the side of the building where our job title was changed to “diseased rose bush gatherers.” While a rose bush was being trimmed or pulled up, we gathered all the clippings from the beds and organized them into heaps along the curb. Noah (my best friend’s older brother) would then collect as many piles as possible into a little cart and carry them off to the central brush pile.

When it became apparent that he was not returning from one trip anytime soon, Mrs. Gina had Abi go fetch him. My best friend returned several minutes later riding in the back of Noah’s cart, fist stuck in the air, and a silly expression on her face. Mr. Rawlings laughed at the spectacle and poised a question to Noah who replied, “I don’t know, she just got in.” 😂 😂

Once out, Abi and I helped Noah pile the cart high with thorn ridden branches. To ensure that nothing would fall out, my best friend and I joined Noah on his short journey to the growing pile beside the trash cans. Abi began to commentate on how she had looked like George Washington crossing the Potomac River when she rode in the cart. “Yeah, except for the sun,” Noah said. 😂 😂

Back and forth we went hauling the remains of diseased rose bushes. At her father’s request, Abi left in search of a blower, but I stayed behind to form the next piles to be hauled away. Haydn later joined me with a rake to get the little pieces.

When Mr. Rawlings yanked out the last diseased rose bush (which he was doing by wrapping the shrub with a rope (which was attached to the Rawlings’ SUV) and driving off), Noah abandoned the cart to help Abi start the blower. I gathered up the last of the clippings while Mr. Roberts threw on the bush. I then took the handle of the cart in one hand and steadied its load with the other.

I made it to the pile without losing any cargo and was thankful for my quick discovery of what exactly one has to pull to detach the bucket from the wheels for unloading. I was just beginning to dump the brambles when Noah and Joshua ran over. Together, the three of us went to collect the branches Mrs. Gina was trimming off one of the only rose bushes we were keeping.

My next job was weeding the mulch bed around the sign with Ansa. This took a while. Abi and then Sarah came to help and then Sarah and Ansa left to help Mrs. Gina plant Pansies along the sidewalk.

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Abi and I went on to help mulch but were soon asked to haul off the last of the rose bushes. Abi tried pulling one by its roots, but we soon left in search of some gloves. Minutes later we were in the lobby where we found gloves and a tempting urge to take a break. One and a half donuts later, Noah walked in for some water which he went for after setting his gloves on the table. His dad traded Noah’s pair for his before Abi, who did not find her gloves next to mine, snatched Noah’s up and went out the door. “You can’t take those!” I said. “Those are his.” This had no effect on my best friend, so I followed her. “Sorry,” I told Noah before stepping outside.

Back at the remaining rose bushes, Abi grabbed one by its roots and headed off. I turned to the remaining shrub only to find, upon closer inspection, that my “bush” was actually two bushes and several clippings mushed together. I came to this realization right when Noah appeared. Understanding my dilemma, he volunteered his help which allowed the “bush” to make it from the upper parking lot to the brush pile in the lower parking lot in one piece.

While delivering another load of mulch to Haydn and Abi, I sliced my heel open by stepping on a palm tree branch. Once the mulch was unloaded, I sat down to examine the cut. Blood was trickling out at a steady rate, so I announced that I was going to get a Bandaid. “You don’t need a Bandaid!” Abi exclaimed. Okay, well I was at least going to stop the blood flow. That’s what I was doing in the lobby minutes later when Ansa came in to tell me that it was time to go.

We met the Hawkins at Bruster’s where my siblings and I got free ice-cream for showing up in our pajamas (we changed on the way). We hung out for a few minutes before heading off to run a few errands. Our last stop was the Bruster’s near my grandma’s house. I remembered that location was our final stop on PJ Day last year, too. I had been exhausted from a sleepover with Abi and disappointed that we weren’t able to get ice-cream together. Next year. I had told myself. Next year. We see how that turned out. 😂 😂

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Friends

Forget the Rules

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Forget the rules. If you like it, wear it.

After acquiring a pink and white striped skirt similar to other garments owned by two girls in my church, we decided to match. I don’t have a stripey skirt,” my best friend, Abi, told me after noticing the triplets. “And I don’t like matching.” Personally, I find it fun to occasionally highlight similarities in this world that amplifies uniqueness. However, we are all entitled to our own opinion. 😂 😂 What do you think about matching? Tell me in the comments!

Friends

Books & Movies

Friday, January 27, 2017

“Sorry if we were over-pestering you guys about hanging out,” I told Abi on our way to her house.

“Okay…” She said.

“Dad was telling me on the way home [from school] how rude that was, so I wanted to apologize,” I explained.

“I forgive you,” Abi said.

“Okay,” I replied. And so are hang-out began. 😂 😂

Because my best friend and I can sometimes think of nothing to do, I created us a bullet journal like project. This activity (which Noah, Abi’s older brother, later helped us title Write from the Heart) includes us filling the pages of a composition notebook with information that makes our friendship unique. Each page is inspired my one conversation or another, so the content of this book includes everything from a ven diagram of our favorite things to individual pages such as “foods Tristen doesn’t like” and “from the brilliant mind of Abi.” Write from the Heart is definitely a keepsake I will enjoy looking through in 20 years. 😊 😊

After dinner, Mrs. Rawlings took the high schoolers in the house to Senior High (one of our church’s monthly discipleship groups). “Everyone here is sick.” Mr. Ballard said, addressing the physical condition of himself and a couple others around the room. Several minutes of “sick talk” occurred before Mr. Ballard dove into his message about Corinthians, roles, and responsibilities.

After D-Group, Abi wanted to watch a movie so, since she and Noah had been verbally reviewing the book to me all evening, the three of us decided to watch Disney’s recent portrayal of The BFG (which Mrs. Rawlings picked up from a local RedBox on the way home). Thanks to Noah and Abi’s summaries, the movie was much better than I expected. My best friend and her brother informed me that it was exactly like the book. 😂 😂

Since Abi and her younger sister share a room, my best friend and I usually spend sleepovers in the family room. So, after Noah retired to the room he shares with his brothers, Abi and I settled into the sofa-bed. However, being two teenage girls, sleep did not overtake us for many hours. 😅 😅

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The first time I awoke, I rolled over to find Abi reading The Diary of Anne Frank (a school assignment), but I did not stay awake to watch. The second time, however, was different. “Are you awake now?” Abi asked. I nodded. 😂 😂

My best friend and I continued to work on our bullet journal until Mrs. Rawlings appeared in the doorway of the family room. “You need to eat,” she told us, and we were more than happy to do so…after we changed. 😂 😂 Once our tummies were filled, Abi and I returned to our work until my mom arrived to pick me up around noon.

Friends

Well Worth the Pain

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snow, ice, a rescheduled church service, unusually free schedules, and a lack of communication all played a role in the decision that allowed my best friend to go sledding with my family. After the message, her dad took her home to change into clothes appropriate for the intended activity and my family and I left to do the same.

Although I was the second one to exit the van, I was the first one in. To save time, I had decided to adorn my snow gear in the vehicle. This would have gotten us to the determined location much sooner if Haydn and Ansa had done the same and Dad had not made tea. 😂 😂 Mom decided to stay home.

I had a lot of fun sledding with my family while we waited for Abi to arrive, despite my ever-growing hope that my best friend was still coming. When flying off our sled was not my primary concern, I was scanning the road for a familiar car. I did, however, watch my family sled.

One of the last times Dad went, he decided to ride the coaster on his stomach. Haydn, Ansa, and I watched him from the top of the hill. For the first couple of seconds, everything looked great. Dad was sledding really fast on his way to a successful ride, that is until he began to veer right. At the bottom right of the hill (from me and my siblings’ view) was a decent sized ditch filled with rocks and lined with small boulders. Dad was hurtling straight for it. It was one of the oversized stones that finally brought him to a stop. Haydn, Ansa, and I momentarily held our breaths.

Dad let out a loud moan before rolling off the sled and onto the rocks. Suddenly my siblings and I were racing down the hill. “Don’t die!!!” Ansa screamed while I, confident about my father’s well being, imagined how funny it would be if the Rawlings showed up at that moment. Dad was fine. He was able to stand up by himself and chuckled about the chest pain he’d have the next day. 😅 😅

As we hiked back up the hill, Haydn announced, “That’s them!” I looked up to see one of the Rawlings’ vehicles pulling into the parking lot. It turned out that the siblings immediately older and younger than Abi tagged along. The more, the merrier!

After one sled ride with Abi, I began the first of several attempts to sled with Sarah (Abi’s younger sister who is Ansa’s age). It must have been our weight differences that prevented us from reaching the bottom of the hill before veering left. We tried me in the back and her in the front, me in the front and her in back, and finally, I had her sit on top of me. Whoosh!

We soon found ourselves at the bottom of the hill rolling off our suddenly still sled. With the coaster barely under my left side and Sarah caught in my legs, we laughed. I pumped my fist into the air and looked up the hill to proclaim our victorious ride, but no sound escaped my mouth. Barrelling straight for us, at an unstoppable speed, were Haydn and Noah.

I grabbed the sled from under me and held it up milliseconds before the boys crashed into Sarah and me. Haydn bounced off of us and landed in the non-rocky section of the ditch while Noah ended up tangled with Sarah and me. After a moment of silence, laughter filled the air again and everyone stood to brush themselves off.

“That was like an action movie sequence!” I exclaimed, still laughing. I felt sure that I had saved Sarah and me from potential death.

“More like comedy,” Noah replied, but I feel like an argument could be made for either.

The rest of our time sledding christened most of us with a new nickname:

  • Tristen and Abi: the “Rock-N-Roll Queens” because most of our sled rides together ended with us accidentally (or on purposely) bailing and rolling over each other until we came to a stop.
  • Sarah and Ansa: the “speed devils” since their combined weight seemed to be the perfect recipe for high acceleration sledding.
  • Noah: the “Human Wrecking Ball” and “Mr. Determination”. The first because several times throughout the evening he attempted to knock people over by sledding into them. Thankfully, only a few of those attempts were successful. 😂 😂 The second title came from Noah’s resolve to make it to the bottom of the hill each sled ride. If he veered off to a stop, Noah would merely adjust his sled and keep going, rather than re-start. Even in chain link sledding: if we failed to reach the bottom, Noah would keep going whether he was able to pull the rest of us along or not.
  • Haydn was just Haydn. 😂 😂

Chain link sledding was started by Noah and Haydn. That’s what they were doing when they ran into Sarah and me and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a snow-covered hill. What is it? Chain link sledding is when two more sleds/people connect via handles, hands, or feet and descend the mountain together. Stopping a chain more than often involves passengers landing in a large, twisted knot. It was when Abi and I joined in that (of course) the real fun began. 😂 😂

Initially, we lined up horizontally with Abi and me sharing the middle sled while Noah rode on our left and Haydn on our right. To stay together, Noah and Haydn held onto the handles of my and Abi’s sled.

Our first time down was not the best since I nearly slid off the front and Abi somehow fell aside. The second time was better because I held onto the handles of Haydn’s sled. Mr. Determination did not want me connecting him to the group. 😂 😂 The third time we lined up vertically with Haydn in front, Abi then me in the middle, and Noah in the back. This ride would have been a charm had Noah not accidentally disconnected from the rest of us.

We continued to chain link sled, and each ride ended with exclamations of: “Let’s do that again!” At one point, Sarah and Ansa joined in our fun, but I believe it was their added weight that prevented most of the next sled rides from reaching the bottom of the hill. Around this time, everyone began to get worn out, so several minutes after each wreck were spent laying where we landed to catch our breath as we gazed at the heavens.

One of the last rides we did chain link sledding, my friends and I created a square with the four sleds. The latest to do so, I was about to board our contraption when Noah began to slide down the hill from the group. Haydn and I grabbed his hands and started pulling him back to his original position. “Superman!” Noah exclaimed. I laugh upon realizing that, apart from me and my brother’s hands, Noah did resemble Superman. 😂 😂 As Noah reached his original location, I lost my footing but let myself fall. Noah grabbed onto Sarah and Ansa’s sled as I regretted my decision to give into gravity. Reminding me why I tend to be a cautious person, the sudden impact caused pain which traveled from my tailbone to my head where it enhanced a headache that I attained from two different wrecks whose endings included me hitting my noggin against the snow.

It must have been Noah’s added weight that caused the square’s pre-mature launch. The next thing I knew people were screaming at me to get on. I leaped for me and Abi’s sled, but our contraption had picked up speed, so only half of me made it on. I knew that if the rest of me didn’t board soon, the half dragging behind would eventually ruin the ride. I squirmed and wiggled until I finally kicked hard enough that the entirety of me was scrunched up on the back of the sled. I tried to adjust to a sitting position but was interrupted as we began to stop.

“You looked like a little ball!” Abi exclaimed, laughing. I am quite encouraged that I threw caution to the wind and actually jumped in the first place.

Cold limbs made quick goodbyes as each made his or her escape to their car. My fingers were so raw that I honestly believed I would not be able to move them until morning. However, while we were away Mom made us cornbread and hot chocolate that was waiting on the counter when we arrived home, so my recovery was not nearly as long as I predicted but I would gladly endure it for another sled experience like tonights.

Friends · Redeeming Grace

Cold Weather, Warm Hearts

Friday, January 6, 2017

Barely six days into the new year and it was snowing. I know, what?? Here in South Carolina it usually doesn’t snow until the first day of spring, months from now, and I was hoping it would do just that. No snow meant a sleepover, a wedding, and church but, as the snowfall piled higher and higher, everything was getting canceled. Having not been to a wedding in about three years, I hoped I’d be able to make it to Mike and Hope’s (no pun intended). Besides, I was looking forward to a reason to dress up.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The sun (which appeared two hours earlier than forecasted) melted the snow on the roads a great deal. However, the little bit remaining prompted my dad to drive us girls to the wedding. Mom, Ansa, and I arrived at the church building 15 minutes beforehand since, apparently, coming early to a wedding is a way to honor the bride (I did not know that). Mom was escorted to our seats while Ansa and I followed.

I skimmed over my program before twisting my neck this way and that (in search of my best friend) until I spotted Noah (my best friend’s older brother) standing in the back of the lobby. A second scan confirmed his presence and that of Abi, my best friend. When they entered the auditorium with their mom, Abi spotted me and told Mrs. Rawlings (her mom) before their escort seated them across the room from my mom, Ansa, and me. Mr. Rawlings joined them seconds later. Oh, well. 😅 😅

On the way here, Dad jokingly told me, “Tristen, don’t you dare catch the bouquet. Just knock it towards Abi.” However, at the sight of Mike and Hope’s grandparents walking down the aisle, Mom told me to catch the bouquet so that I can marry before Grandpa passes on. I am sensing some contradiction. 😂 😂

All of the bridesmaids were beautiful, but it was Patricia (the bride’s youngest sister and a friend of our’s) who took me and Ansa’s breath away. As soon as the girl’s face was visible, we both exclaimed, “Aww! She’s so pretty!” Hope, of course, looked gorgeous as well. Beauty runs in their family.

The wedding was a lovely but bittersweet occasion. Mrs. Rita (the groom’s mom) was crying from the moment she set foot in the auditorium and Brittney (a bridesmaid) was in tears as Hope approached her groom. During her vows, the bride choked up to the point that her last couple of lines came out in whispers. While Mike and Hope lit candles, a video displaying pictures of the bride and groom from birth to an engaged couple began to play. What a cute idea! Abi later told me that this was a surprise for Mike which explains why it moved him to tears.

When the first notes of the recessional song (“I Do” by Colbie Caillet) reached my ears, I couldn’t help but sing along. I trilled quietly-ish. I hope no one heard me. 😳 😂

The reception was held in the Multi-Purpose Room where Abi and I met up and continued as if we had never been separated. In light of the New Year, we resolved to hang out more and take more pictures together (since our collection only contained about 20 photographs). Mrs. Rawlings took our picture. 😂 😂

After filling our plates with light refreshments, Abi and I moved to an empty table where we were soon joined by Ansa, an elderly couple, McKaela (a friend), and Madi (another friend). Said table was right next to the snack route at which I was gazing while Abi talked to me. Mr. Rawlings happened to be in the section of line I was staring at so, when he noticed me, he exclaimed, “Hi!” We exchanged the usual greetings before he said, “I like your dress.”

“Thanks!” I replied.

Abi must have given her father a weird look because Mr. Rawlings suddenly explained, “Because I know you two were texting back and forth about dresses.” Sometimes I forget that the Rawlings share an email address. 😂 😂

One item my best friend and I had forgotten to get were drinks. There were two punch options, both fruit flavored, but one was colored orange and the other sepia. “Why don’t we each get one?” Abi suggested, sharing my indecisiveness. “Not four. You get one, and I’ll get one.”

“And then we can taste test,” I said, taking the cup she held out for me before fumbling with the dispenser of the sepia drink.

“I’m winning!” Abi exclaimed, acknowledging the fact that her cup was closer to being filled than mine. I argued that a race was unfair since I had encountered a mind blank with the knob. Abi did not revoke her win.

Once our glass was full, we tried the concoction it contained before trading cups and tasting the other liquid. Abi gave me the opportunity to choose but I liked both beverages and honestly couldn’t pick. “Which do you like better?” I asked her.

“Well,” Abi thought. “I like them both but, if I had to decide…” She took the glass I held.

With snacks consumed, Abi, Ansa, and I headed toward the lobby where we found the bridal party exiting the auditorium (where formal pictures were being taken). I made a beeline for Patricia and delivered my compliment. Abi joined us as Patricia was passionately sharing, “When I get home I am going to burn these shoes!”

“No, don’t.” Abi protested. “They’re pretty.” 😂 😂

Patricia went on to explain that she had been in her pair of silver, sparkly heels since 9:00 this morning. Our conversation, however, was cut off by Brittney who told Abi and me that we weren’t allowed to be in the lobby at this time. My best friend and I retreated to the hall.

Later, Abi and I quietly watched Mike and Hope slice into their cake until each newlywed placed their piece neatly in the other’s mouth. My best friend and I agreed that, at our future weddings, we are going to rub the contents of our hands all over our husbands’ faces. You have been warned. 😂 😂

Although we were at the front of the dessert line, Abi graciously gave up our spot so that I could see Mike and Hope’s first dance. By the time we returned the line was long but not terrible since it moved quickly, so Abi and I were soon faced with the task of deciding what goodies to fill our plates with.

“Take some gummy worms!” Mr. Easton exclaimed.

“Braces,” Abi said, pointing to her mouth.

“Throw braces to the wind!” Mr. Easton replied. Abi shrugged and grabbed a handful of the advertised candy.

In the lobby, Abi gave Patricia the cannoli (yum!) the bridesmaid requested and then began to merge the contents of her two plates. Abi ended up putting several items on my dish, although she did ask. My best friend and I claimed seats after which Abi continued to consolidate her desserts.

“Here,” I said, returning Abi’s cannoli to its original home. “Just so you don’t forget that’s yours.”

“You can have it,” Abi said, putting the deliciousness back on my plate.

Mrs. Rawlings and Noah walked up. “He is your date.” Mrs. Rawlings told us, referring to her son. “Don’t leave him.” Noah moved to stand behind Abi and me while Mrs. Rawlings gave them a heads up that they would be leaving soon.

“Do you want this half-eaten donut hole?” I asked Abi, still reviewing what food on my plate was her’s.

“You can have it.” She replied.

“Okay,” I said and popped the treat in my mouth.

Including the Cuban Shuffle, Noah, Abi, and I danced to a few songs. I feel like I did better than usual but all Abi saw was a “dying Panda” (how my brother describes my dancing). To ensure the quality of my first dance, my best friend (aka my dance instructor) is now even more determined to improve my dancing skills before I marry. Patricia got the gist of this conflict and told me that I just need to feel the music and dance like no one’s watching. I do- when I’m alone or with my family. 😅 😅 Oh, well. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of it.

The Rawlings family left a few minutes later, Abi’s food lay forgotten on her seat. I took care of it. 😂 😂 I feel like, in some weird way, Abi and I bonded over food today. I promise we are not your stereotypical teenage girls. 😂 😂

To conclude the wedding, all in attendance lined the sidewalk out front, lit sparklers in hand. Although everyone was unbelievably cold, we shivered through and managed to cheer when the bride and groom appeared in the doorway. Halfway to the car that would take her away, Hope stopped and reached back to take the hand of her youngest sister: a final goodbye before she left to begin her new life. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Nicosia! I wish you both a life full of happiness.

Extended Family · Family · Friends · Holidays

Christmas 2016

Christmas Adam

I found the week before Christmas Day exhausting as I worked around the clock to finish making gifts for my best friend and her family. Only when the Rawlings ran out of their home to greet us (and Mrs. Rawlings and Noah verbally expressed their amazement) did I realize the multitude of gifts I bore. I suppose one, handmade present for each member of their family is a lot. 😅 😅

After placing the gifts under one of the Rawlings’ two Christmas trees, Noah fetched the rest of his family while I gave into Abi’s insistence that I open her present for me: a black frame containing a burlap background which depicted our friendship. The gratitude and praise I expressed to her did not accurately communicate my profuse love for her sweet, creative, and thoughtful gift (which also included a bar of dark chocolate and multiple bookmarks). Once home, I placed the present on the headboard of my bed and noticed that, since doing so, an overwhelming emotion fills me when I see the frame upon entering my room: joy. Today was the first time I fully realized how happy Abi and my friendship with her makes me. I am forever grateful for both and don’t deserve either.

Once the rest of the Rawlings had been rounded up, the youngest children opened my gift to their family: a cross-stitch of an eagle. With one glance Mrs. Rawlings, Abi, and Sarah knew the thought and effort that went into this gift and so their praise, comments, and questions were the first to reach my ears. The more time that passed after the cross-stitch had been revealed, the more Mr. Rawlings and Noah squinted. The closer their faces came to the gift, the more they realized the long and complicated process required to produce such a piece. Each family member was amazed. Despite her few words, it was Mrs. Rawlings who expressed full knowledge of the loyalty, love, appreciation, and kindness I sewed in every stitch, the effort that made my gift so much more than string and cloth.

Christmas Eve

Breaking from tradition, it was the day before Christmas that my mom’s side of the family gathered at my grandparent’s house for dinner and a gift exchange. One humorous gift included a bucket of golf balls for Uncle John (each of which was individually wrapped), but the highlight of my evening occurred shortly after Haydn unwrapped a VR (Virtual Reality) Headset.

Appropriately, my brother was the first to experience a virtual reality: a roller coaster ride. In the real world, he held onto a doorway like he was tied to the mast of a ship and only left this position when explaining to me what he was seeing and where it was. “And the seats,” Haydn continued. “Their red and black.” He lowered himself to the floor and patted the space around him. “And they’re right here.” Following my voice, my brother did a bit of exploring (which landed him on the armrest of the couch) before returning to the staircase where he contentedly plopped down for the rest of his ride.

Haydn was quick to share his gift with the rest of the family, so the VR headset made its way around the room thrilling whoever dared to put it on. When the device reached my Aunt Chris, she turned around in her seat and stood in her chair on her knees. “Ooh.” She said.

“Christina,” my dad gave voice. “This looks quite awkward.” Aunt Chris did not seem to hear.

“Whoah!” She exclaimed, stretching her arms into the air and swaying back and forth. 😂 😂 I love my family.

Christmas Day

Santa outdid himself this year. The lengthy list of presents he left had me (at least) sincerely believing that I am spoiled. My family and I are truly blessed.

One of the items my dad put on his wish list (besides 3 John 1:4) was an Amazon Echo Dot speaker (the smaller version of Alexa which is basically another rendition of Siri), so Grandpa and Grandma bought him one (which my Dad received on Christmas Eve). On Christmas morning, Dad opened a present to find that Mom, too, had bought him an Echo Dot. Minutes later Dad opened two more gifts (both, also, from Mom) each of which included another Echo Dot, bringing his total up to four. Apparently, they were on sale and Mom didn’t know Grandpa and Grandma had purchased one. 😂 😂 Sharing the love, Dad gave one each to Mom, Haydn, and me.

Once darkness blanketed our town once more, my family and I left our cozy home to experience the Roper Mountain Holiday Lights (a family tradition). Upon our return, having requested and received permission, my siblings and I grabbed our ENOs and some additional bedding in preparation for another adventure: camping out under our back porch. Only in the south can you get away with sleeping outside on Christmas night. 😂 😂 Happy holidays, everyone!!!

Friends

RAATH Get Together December 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

As soon as Christmas break was in sight, I was emailing RAATH (Abi Rawlings, Abbie Arnold, Julia Alix, Tristen Thomas, and Heidi Haase) about a possible get together. To my delight, I received a whole lot of “maybe”s rather than the usual “sorry, I can’t”s. After profuse correspondence, it was Abi Rawlings, Abbie Arnold, and I who were available and we wasted no time in scheduling a get together at Abi’s house.

We started off playing Christmas Charades (like “decorating the tree”, “baking Christmas cookies”, and so on). The more humorous reenactments included Abi’s portrayal of “the angels telling Mary she’s going to have a baby” and Abi and Abbie’s representation of “mailing off packages”. Balancing active and still activities, the three of us then sat down to play Christmas Trivia. I’ve put a few of the questions below if you want to have a whack at it. See the bottom of this post for the answers. No cheating!

  1. What ornament do elves have on the tip of their shoes?
  2. What is the color of the berries that grow on mistletoe?
  3. After delivering presents, how does Santa get back up the chimney?

Feeling slightly more intelligent, the three of us proceeded to dance along to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” and (of course) Taylor Swift’s “22”. However, filming the whole activity proved to be pointless since all the footage turned out to be too torturous to watch. 😳 😂 😂 We spent the last hour of our get together filling in Christmas coloring pages while guessing the titles of Christmas carols. What a great way to kick off winter break!

Christmas Trivia Answers:

  1. Bells
  2. White
  3. He places his finger on the side of his nose, gives a smile, and a nod.
Extended Family · Friends

Pool Time

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

At the Heritage Lakes Recreation Center pool with the Rawlings family, we played several games including but not limited to Marco Polo, Blob Tag, and Statues.  There was one specific round of Marco Polo when Abi was dead set on getting me tagged. She followed me around the pool like a shark before locking me in her arms. Haydn, Ansa, and I have always played by a “no sacrificing” rule, so several times during my struggle to free myself from Abi I exclaimed, “Surely there is a rule somewhere against this!” Abi and Noah, both very entertained by my struggle, were each faithful to give me a “no” in reply. 🙄 😂 😂

As the gap between Joshua (who was “Marco”) and I rapidly shrunk, I realized talking Abi out of sacrificing was getting me nowhere, so I turned things up a few notches. I began to squirm, kick, and wiggle which, for the first couple of times, allowed me to successfully free myself and swim away before Abi was able to catch me again. However, the third or fourth time she ensnared me, Haydn joined in.

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With Abi immobilizing my arms, and Haydn a hold of my legs, I gave up. I was already breathless and the energy it would have taken to shake off Haydn (who is much stronger than me) in addition to Abi would have taken much more vigor than I was already using. Still, when captors approached Joshua I gave one last kick so that Haydn ended up being the closest to Joshua and more likely to get tagged. Although it would have been cool if my brother had been the next swimmer to be identified as “Marco”, Joshua had already tagged another swimmer. So the game continued.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

At my neighborhood pool, Hunter broke our “how long a human tower can stay standing” record. This is not something we time, we just knew.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Toward the end of the week, the Heffernan family (the youngest Uncle, Aunt, and cousins on my mom’s side) were in town so we spent the day with them. I had a lot of fun with John and Joel. They are six now so the usual simple answers and exaggerated facial expressions one puts on when talking to little kids no longer convinces them. I’m sure their IQ has shot up since we last saw them.

We spent the afternoon with them at the pool. John spent most of his time atop a human tower before plunging back into the water. Joel was usually found in the corner testing the limits of his breath-holding abilities. I was very impressed by how brave John-John was and by how long Joel could stay under the surface. These boys are going places! 😂 😂

To view more photos from this event, click here. Once in Flickr, click the arrow on your right to view the next picture. Thanks!

Friends

Kyler’s Graduation

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

As we had planned from the moment we received the invitation, my family and I made the two-hour drive up to Tennessee to be a part of an old friend’s graduation. Throughout the day I told several people that I would not realize how weird this event was until I get home, but that feeling never washed over me. However, I still find myself relating very well to this poem:

“We look at you and wonder, where have the years all gone? What happened to our yesterdays? It hasn’t been that long… You stand before us on this day prepared to step into a special chapter of your life written just for you. We look at you and wonder and then we realize the time has come to see you as the man you have become. The one that you’ve grown into is a gift beyond the best, so we congratulate you and count ourselves truly blessed.”

Kyler, may God continue to bless you today and always. Congrats! 🎓 🎉

Extended Family · Friends · Holidays

Christmas Break 2015

The Johnson Home

I usually get out of school at 1:30 PM on Fridays, but Friday the 18 was an exam day so, since there was only one exam that day, my classmates and I were released at 10:30 AM. The weather was nice outside. A bit chilly but, overall, pleasant. Needless to say, my family picked me up, we drove two hours to Greenville, Tenessee, pulled into the Johnson family’s driveway, got out, and it was snowing. Talk about a change of weather! My first reaction was, It’s not supposed to be snowing! It’s December! We’re not supposed to get snow until March! Ansa said she wanted to go home but I’m sure she was joking, right? 😂 😂

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Ellie and I spent the afternoon running around taking pictures. That evening we went to their old church to enjoy a local Christmas recital that Simon participated in. I had fun hanging out with them while we tried not to freeze to death. 😂 😂

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Saturday Ellie and I filmed half of a soon to be music video. The boys joined us as we made our way back to the house which is when they discovered large pieces of ice behind the barn. Simon broke a big chunk over his head which looked really painful but seemed not to scratch him. Once back inside we played several games with the rest of the family including dodgeball and Buzz Word. Later the girls decided to open my Christmas presents to their family and they posed for pictures before we retreated to the basement to play more games.

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Sunday came, as it always will, and we had to go our own ways. I had a lot of fun with you guys! Hope we can get back together really soon!

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QOTD: “It seems we have always been, and will always be, friends. Time can change much, but not this.” -Winnie the Pooh

The Heffernan Home

On December 21, we arrived at my Uncle John and Aunt Christina’s house. After unpacking, we spent the evening hanging before us kids and Uncle John went caroling at a nursing home.

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On the 22 we played Ticket to Ride before Aunt Chris, Mom, Haydn, Ansa, John, Joel, and I went to Martin Nature Park for the afternoon.

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Christmas Eve was filled with cake decorating and a lovely dinner and Christmas day, of course, was filled with present opening and the enjoyment of our gifts. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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The Blackert Home

On December 26 we arrived at the Blackert’s home in Dearing, Kansas. Mrs. Blackert, or Aunt Barbi as we call her, has been my mom’s best friend since high school so visits with her and her family are real treats since they now live so far away.

Over the summer the Thomas and Blackert kids performed The Phantom of the Opera. We had a lot of fun producing it so, over Christmas break, we attempted Les Miserables. Sadly, this project never reached completion but we had a lot of fun and made many memories while filming what little we did.

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It’s insane how much Heide looks like the actress who plays Cosette in the movie.

It snowed while we were in Kansas so our days were filled with a mix of filming and breaks spent in the frozen water.

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On New Year’s Eve, we did our best to stay up all night but weren’t able to keep our tradition as well as we have in the past. Heide fell asleep around 4:00 AM, Ansa around 4:30 AM, I around 6:00, and Haydn around 8:00. I had A LOT of fun with you guys and hope we can visit soon.

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