While I've clearly given up on monthly posts -- and laugh at myself remembering I used to manage weekly ones -- I'm fully committed to seasonal posts. And hey, this is number two for Spring alone! I'm winning.
With April showers and all of that, we have enjoyed a couple of nice, lazy days so far this spring.
It would appear that the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have swallowed me whole. It's partially true.
BUT! While not posting, I have been taking pictures.
And a touch of March.
This first photo pretty much captures how our Thanksgiving trip to meet family at the beach started out. With joy for the days to come and the time spent with those we don't get to see nearly enough.
While laid over in Atlanta, some of our very favorite people made the trek in to meet us for lunch. Here the kids are meeting their new 'cousin Will' for the first time -- I loved how Henry had to take a photo, too.
It was dinnertime when we finally rolled into the beach house and we all made a bee-line to love on sweet baby Jennifer. One of the biggest surprises of the week? Discovering Michael is nearly as much of a baby-hog as Ella.
The temperature stayed in the 60s on Sunday and Monday so we made the kids wait to head out to the beach while it warmed up a little and we could enjoy a leisurely start to the day. This resulted in a dead-run to the shore when they were finally released from the house. Which was a nice change from the two hours of whining that preceded heading outside.
Venice Beach was full of interesting finds. A month before we arrived, there was a red tide, the remnants of which littered parts of the beach. Shells were abundant and apparently the beach is also known for sharks' teeth but we didn't luck out with finding any of those.
What do good parents do to entertain their kids on the beach without sand toys? Trick them into thinking the find-mama's-toes-in-the-sand game is awesome.
What do *great* parents do to entertain their kids on the beach without sand toys? That now-empty Miller Lite can isn't just for the recycle bin, folks.
We should have known that things were going too smoothly by Sunday night. Our flights ran on time, we got a deal on upgrading our rental car, the cousins were all getting along, there was no rain in the forecast.
For all of this, we were punished with a stomach virus that hit Henry first and kept us up most of the night. Poor kiddo was feeling a bit better in the morning and so I carried him out to sit and chill on the beach. (Yes, those are his jammie pants and maybe the second or third shirt I had changed for him since 1 a.m.)
Thankfully, everyone else was still feeling well and I was making use of Lysol wipes on every possible surface of the beach house on a regular rotation.
Jennifer's first time out on the beach was a hit.
Joshua proved to be much smarter than our kiddos (not that we were surprised). He explored the beach thoroughly over the week, but wisely chose to steer clear of the very chilly ocean water.
Monday evening, the bug took down Michael...then Ella. Tuesday morning, Wes got hit. It was another sleepless night but, gratefully, it seemed to be a fast-moving bug and only Henry was still trying to fully recover by Tuesday night.
Given the amount of clean-up and snuggling duty I took on for a couple of days, it's a wonder I didn't also get sick. I did try a new trick -- can't say that it's what kept me healthy, but I'll share it in case anyone else wants to give it a try at warding off GI sickness. Three times a day, I drank a full glass of 100% grape juice with a generous splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar. I chose Bragg's ACV that includes the Mother in the vinegar.
Most of all, we are grateful that neither Joshua -- who has been recovering from a nasty bout with strep and has a weakened immune system -- and Jennifer stayed well. PHEW.
Lysol wipes and quarantining strategies for the win!
Wednesday night, we started preparations for our Thanksgiving dinner. Wes began to brine the turkey and us ladies got the apple pie underway.
With an early wake-up call to get to the airport on Friday morning, we made the most of our Thanksgiving day on the beach. It was absolutely beautiful and very peaceful with hardly anyone else around.
I felt a deep thankfulness that day that went beyond my normal sense of daily gratitude. Life is truly good and we get to share it with the most incredible people. We will seek to pay forward as much kindness and giving as we can this Christmas season and I look forward to all of the traditions we've begun to build as a family over the years.
Thursday morning, the bird spent a little time smoking on the grill, then got an herb butter bath and headed to the oven. It was quite tasty, under Wes' careful supervision.
As for me, it was my first time trying my mom's dressing recipe, and it turns out that I needed to pay a lot closer attention to her cooking skills. Oh well, the mashed potatoes were edible. I think.
I'm playing a bit of catch-up on the blog today, getting ready for our Thanksgiving week trip to the beach. I have a funny feeling I'm going to come home with one or two shots from vacation...maybe three.
According to the calendar, but maybe not the mid-80 temps we have forecasted all week, it's finally here. Time to start thinking about Christmas lists, chili nights, and chilly nights.
If we think it, it will come, I'm telling myself...For now, we are happily not sweating into puddles at the soccer fields each weekend.
On the same day as Michael's birthday, we were blessed with a new addition to our family!
Welcome to the world, baby Jennifer. May I never forget to send your birthday gift on time with such a wonderful way to remember your special day.
But first! Proof that we've gotten to go to one soccer game since June. We're still hopeful Ella will get to play in 2016. Things are looking promising for Tuesday night.
Now, the road to the lake.
We rounded out the summer digging in the dirt, enjoying a visit from Gigi and Poppa, seeking A/C wherever possible, and finally sending off three kiddos to the elementary school down the street. Kind of wished we hadn't blinked so much.
My Facebook feed has been chock full of adorable faces sporting backpacks on their shoulders this week. It's incredible to think summer is so close to being over for us here in Texas as well. The weeks have been fun and fleeting -- we'll be squeezing as much as we can out of our remaining three weeks of later bedtimes, not packing weekday lunches, no homework and not dealing with a mountain of school papers that seem to multiply as they escape from the kids' folders.
I'm caught up on the last two months of photographs! This can only mean one thing -- it must be a holiday weekend.
Happy 4th y'all.
This year, our traditional Cowgirls weekend took a journey south of the border to Mexico City. Not to make the rest of the Cowgirls jealous, but we had kind of an amazing time. #vivalascowgirls!
After a few months with far more travel than normal, we're enjoying a few uninterrupted weeks at home. It's been a nice change of pace and my dusty to-do list is benefiting a little. Unfortunately, the next big item is getting our tax paperwork together and I'm running out of excuses to avoid it altogether. (Help, anyone?)
Michael was recently inspired to 'hang a shingle' and formalize branding for his bedroom. If you get there early, the cover charge is pretty reasonable.
We've since upgraded his desk to allow more room for the very serious projects he likes to take on between bedtime and lights-out time. This kiddo's brain takes a while to wind down at the end of the day.
Brisket and Henry seem to suffer from the same weekday affliction.
P.S., Brisket isn't allowed on the couch. That rule is working out well.
The calendar tells me it's February already and 2016 is on pace to go by even faster than 2015, if that's possible. We started off the year with our favorite niece turning FIFTEEN. Ugh.
I'm going to ignore you for a smidge while posting photos from our days in December.
December was more fun anyhow.
It's birthday season at the Manning's house and I'm getting a lot of practice making (and eating) all of Smitten Kitchen's celebration cakes. We haven't found a bad one yet.
When not chowing down on sweets, you can find us on the soccer fields.
Best decision ever. This year, we postponed our summer vacation until November. The kiddos were all broken up (ahem) about missing some school, but with less heat and crowds, we'd do it all over again.
After a quick change into dry clothes in the parking lot, we hit 18 toll booths on the way to MCO and all collapsed onto the airplane. It was a blow-out marathon of a trip, but it was wonderful to spend so much quality time with family, making memories we'll dredge up at the dinner table for years to come.
Apparently even monthly posts aren't happening this year. So tonight, here is September and part of October. As long as they eventually make it on the blog, right?
We'll start with soccer. We're averaging four games per weekend right now so the tailgating chairs are getting quite a workout.
In September, our man Michael turned seven. Here he was Skyping with Gigi and Poppa and opening his first presents.
With the weekend came Michael's American Ninja Warriors birthday party at the "jumpy place." (Finally!)
Back home, we took time to celebrate with family.
Aunt Sandy and Papaw also had birthdays this month. We celebrated with mildly inappropriate cards, per usual.
The next morning, I found Henry had stolen my phone and was having quiet time by himself.
He showed me he was watching The Hobbit. (Which apparently isn't scary when you know it's all fake. "Orcs are bad guys. We get those bad guys. So cool, Mom. Where's my Ninja Turtles sword?")
New Manning Tradition: The Texas State Fair
First you by your $5 tickets to the Fair. Then you go and spend $300 on coupons and game cards to hit the Midway and buy a hot dog.
But it's totally worth it to get an annual picture of the kids in front of Big Tex.
Wouldn't everyone like to Time Hop back a few weeks to when it was still summer break, lunches didn't need to be packed, stacks of papers didn't pile up every afternoon, bedtimes could be broken and long weekends were easier to come by?
We started off August with another wonderously awesome weekend spent on the water.
But most importantly, we were there to celebrate these two love birds.
45 YEARS. I don't have the words.
But I do hope to make at least half of the good decisions they have made, and have all of the same appreciation for how wonderful life can be with someone you love along at your side.
Not long after, Gigi, Poppa and Gramps came for a visit. Breakfast with Poppa is clearly the bee's knees.
Onward to the start of my own favorite week of the year: Anne's Birthfest Celebration.
Preschool 3s! He'll be the first to turn four of the whole class, but we still get to pretend he's a "3" for the entire year.
The next week, it was the big kids' turn. Unfortunately, Michael wasn't well the night before so he missed his first day, but he did agree to take some fake 'first-day' photos with me for a promise that he wouldn't have to do it the next day.
More big news for August: Henry entered the world of team sports.