Twelve Years Later

There are good things that happen during a time of mourning – favorite stories are told, family members gather to comfort one another and offer affirmations, and friends from seasons past come back around to pay respects.

We aren’t entirely out of touch with the Pennys and Valovcins, so it isn’t that we haven’t seen each other in 12 years. However, our three families haven’t sat down for a meal in a long time, and we certainly haven’t taken photos of the group when we’ve been together.

After Bill’s funeral on Sunday, we went to dinner together, along with Karin and Ethan, and marveled at how old our children have become.

This photo was taken a few days before Christmas in 2006. From left to right, in order of age: Lauren, Grace, Jeremy, Christian, Jake, and Jackson, who was a mere six months old.

Pennys, 2006:

Jillyan wasn’t born until the following September:

Valovcins, 2006:

And us, 2006:

Going back even further, here’s a picture (of a picture) of the three dads with their first borns in 2004:

And now in 2018:

We spent a lot of time together in those days, but by the end of 2008, we left Chattanooga for Amarillo and we haven’t lived in the same city since.

Now the guys and I are facing 40 (Amy and Christy have a few more years to go), and our oldest kiddos are 14 and 15 years old.

High school. Driving. Dating. Conversations about college.

What in the world.

So yeah, there are good things that come during times of mourning. It was wonderful to see our old friends, to hug their necks, to laugh and remember how easy parenting used to be. 

We’re doing all right. Thanks, friends, for being with us this week. We love you dearly.

Miller Camp for Boys 2017

Last summer Jake came to stay with us, and this summer it only felt right to have him here again. Jake belongs to Matt and Amy, our besties from Chattanooga, whom we’ve parented alongside from the beginning. Jeremy and Grace were born two months apart,  then came Jake two years later and Jackson a year after that. These kiddos don’t see each other often, but you wouldn’t know it. As soon as we’re together, it’s like we never moved away.

We picked up Jake on a Tuesday night and returned him Friday, but in those four short days, they accomplished a lot. It all started Tuesday evening with Jake introducing us to the strangest movie I’ve seen in a long time: Trolls.

I don’t know what to say about Trolls other than it’s completely weird. The music was fun, and the cloud guy was funny, but otherwise, I’m at a loss. The kids enjoyed it, which is all that matters!

Wednesday brought a few hours of pool time with another favorite family of ours. The weather was perfect!

We brought home with us another of Jeremy’s friends, which meant I was outnumbered four to one. The boys exhausted themselves in the heat outside, cooled off inside with video games, and stayed up late that night with a board game marathon. The next morning, they made themselves breakfast and cleaned up afterward.

On Thursday Jake was a good sport and suffered alongside me at the boys’ orthodontic appointments. He and Jeremy worked on card tricks in the waiting room.

We wrapped up Jake’s visit with more board games. This time, I joined them in a two-hour Monopoly session.

We should’ve planned for a longer stay, and honestly, we should’ve had Grace with us. When I look at this photo, she is glaringly absent.

I continue to be thankful for the friendships we’ve maintained since our earliest days as a couple. It means our kids are growing up with friends who are more like family. It means our tribe of people is rooted in loyalty and love. I will never forget when Matt and Amy told us they were pregnant with Grace, and then came Jake, and soon we had this squad of four beautiful children who played together seamlessly.

These two were the sweet pair from birth to Kindergarten.

Excuse me while I go mourn the early years.

Oh, and the Miller Camp for Boys 2017 continues next week when my nephews arrive. Woohoo!

Where November went

It has been the strangest month, and I blame the election for stealing half of it. While on the phone last week with my sister, she said something about “Thanksgiving” and “next week,” a combination of words that jolted me out of whatever timeframe I thought I was in. I didn’t realize we’d already arrived at Thanksgiving, a sign that 2016 was heading rapidly towards its finish line.

If you don’t live in my part of the country, or even in this specific region, then you probably didn’t realize that east Tennessee (and North Georgia) is in the midst of a terrible drought. We’ve gone weeks without rain, and that gave a few people the idea to start wildfires. For weeks we’ve been under a cloud of smoke, and just when it looked to be improving, another fire started just ten miles down the road, close to the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A week ago we had a brief drizzle, but it wasn’t enough to douse the fires.

rain-on-nov-15

Over the weekend we had another rain, but it too wasn’t enough. Driving home from the orthodontist yesterday, the smoke from Walland was still wafting. The fire is painfully close to an elementary school, many homes, a historic Bed and Breakfast, and the place where we board Major. There are many people and animals in harm’s way.

Then, yesterday afternoon we got word that a school bus accident in Chattanooga resulted in the death of five young elementary students, potentially six, with many more injured and in the hospital. How does that happen the week of Thanksgiving? How does that happen at all?

The bright spot of this month so far has been getting together with some of our dearest friends (our Fred and Ethel Mertz) and photographing a beautiful, intimate wedding.

amy-and-me-2016

It’s a reminder that there is still love in the world. There is still happiness and friendship.

jem_6693-low-res

And somewhere, I have to believe, there is hope.

In your prayers around the dinner table on Thursday, please remember Chattanooga, the Tennessee Valley, and our country.

Ever Thankful

When we go to Chattanooga, we squeeze in every moment we can with friends and family. It used to be our home, so not only is the city nostalgic, it’s also home to some of our favorite people.

This year Thanksgiving was with Chuck’s family. I admit that I was glad to be a guest and not a host, but only because November has been a tiresome month. Normally, I enjoy all the cooking and whatnot. This month,  I enjoyed lounging.

Miller Family ThanksgivingDo you think these two are related?

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So grateful Tami and Jeff could host this year. I can’t say that everyone was well-behaved (Chuck), but that’s how little brothers are (Chuck).  SiblingsOrnament reflection

Before we stuffed our bellies with turkey and dressing, Chuck and I got up early to meet Karin and run the Turkey Trot 8K. It was Karin’s first road race and I was so happy to run alongside her.

Turkey Trot 8K

On Black Friday, while everyone was blowing cash and fighting lines, we were with our Fred and Ethel Mertz.

Valovcins and MillersValovcin and Miller kids

We also drove down to Santa Land Tree Farm to get our Christmas trees. That’s right – plural. As in two trees. I’ll post pictures of that tomorrow.

Finally, for those who are wondering, I haven’t finished the novel but I’m in the 70,000-word range. I completed NaNoWriMo, which was really satisfying, but I have a little less than two weeks to finish the story and turn it in to my creative writing professor. So far, so good.

Happiness is…

…best friends coming in town for a much-needed visit:

Millers and Valocvins 2013

Jennie and Amy 2013

Chuck and Matt 2013

Grace 2013

Jeremy 2013

Jake 2013

Jack 2013

…sitting by the fire:Fire…and watching your garden grow:Red Bell Pepper

Parsley

LavendarHappiness is also finding out that the dog finally vomited that sweat sock he swallowed four days ago, but I don’t have any pictures of that.

A Win in Overtime

A couple months ago Amy asked if we’d be interested in going to a Tennessee game with her and Matt, which was of course a big YES. She purchased discounted tickets through her workplace and they drove up Saturday afternoon from Chattanooga. After a quick bite in town, we hopped the bus from Maryville to Knoxville and arrived just in time for kickoff.

The weather was perfectly chilly and the game was STRESSFUL. Tennessee is still rebuilding its team with young, eager players, so even though a win against Vanderbilt shouldn’t be that big of a deal, it was a huge deal on Saturday night. The game went into overtime, tied at 21, when Tennessee intercepted the ball and took it into the end zone for the win. The crowd erupted into screams and singing Rocky Top. From our top tier seats we could see Smokey howling at all the ruckus. It was great.

(photo courtesy of GoVolsXtra.com)

What in the world will we do when football season is over?

I suppose we can start by praying for a better 2012 season.

Three Cheers for Adult Time

The boys and I are together almost all the time, especially now that we are homeschooling. In a lot of ways, this is great! I know tons of parents who wish they had more time with their kids, and for that, I’m a lucky girl. But sometimes it becomes too much – too many needs to meet, too many demands that only I can fulfill and definitely too much noise. Sometimes, depending on Chuck’s travel schedule, Jeremy and Jackson are the only two living beings I talk to all day. At all.

You can see why having adult time every once in a while is mandatory to maintain some semblance of sanity. Occasionally, I like to talk about adult things with other adults who have similar adult interests. Once in a while I like to eat a meal without ordering two kids meals along with it. And sometimes, I really want to listen to Little Lion Man without having to censor it for naughty language.

Enter Matt and Amy, stage left.

After our roller coaster riding on Saturday, we met up with Matt and Amy in Pigeon Forge for a mini-weekend away from the kids and also to celebrate Amy’s birthday. When we still lived in Chattanooga we’d spend almost every weekend together grilling out, playing cards and letting our kids grow up together. They were some of the people I missed the most while living in Amarillo for two years. Now that we’re just a couple of hours away, it’s much easier to resume our regularly scheduled friendship.

Thanks for the great weekend, friends! I really needed it.

Our Fred and Ethel Mertz

We had the pleasure of spending two days with some of our favorite people for Father’s Day weekend. A few weeks ago I purchased a golf package for two for Chuck and invited Matt to be his plus one. The plan was for them to play 18 holes, enjoy lunch at the grill, and spend the bulk of Father’s Day in the mountains while Amy and I kept the kids busy elsewhere. Thunderstorms flew in and altered the plan but we still had a great time with some of our best friends, people who we’ve long called our Fred and Ethel Mertz. Spending time with the Valovcin family is one of the things I missed the most while living in Texas.