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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Card & Letter 2013

As you can see, I haven't posted in a little while.  As soon as we returned from our Christmas trip to Disney, reality brought a new tire, a dishwasher to replace & a hard drive that crashed.  Yes, I was that lady who cried at the Apple store.  Once when they couldn't fit me in, once when they told me my barely two year old computer needed a $479 hard drive replacement, and then again after I agreed to the repair and they entered the information realizing that the repair would be free because Apple has had a problem with my model.  My computer now has a new hard drive and I didn't lose too much saved information.  Yeah!

I have lots planned to share with y'all.  A new Chocolate truffle pie recipe, my Christmas coconut cake, Kizer family asperagus casserole, goodies for the school friends, and a new cinnamon roll recipe (I have been pondering this one for a while), but first our family Christmas card.  I have written a letter with our card every year since the year after Honey and I married.  There was one year when C-man was 3 and the Princess was 1 that I just couldn't pull it together to get one out.  My thought was, "Do people really read these letters?  They take so much time and people probably toss them anyway." That might be true with some but I received 3 notes & 2 phone calls from family or friends wanting to know why they didn't receive a letter - no joke.  I like to please, so even if they are occasionally late, I do my best to get a letter out every year sharing what has happened the previous year.

I hope y'all enjoy the letter and our card.  Our family wishes you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  May the love of Christ and the hope his birth brought us fill your home and heart with joy.  I hope you enjoy this wonderful time of celebration with family and friends.

Dear Friends & Family,

    As I sit to write this year’s update, I am reminded of all of our blessings.  We have had a few bumps in the road this year, but we have each other, wonderful family & friends, & the love of Christ.  Please know that although we don’t see many of you often, we do think about & pray for you often.  We hope that you have enjoyed 2013 with happy memories & loved ones.  Colin (aka 'C-man) (9 1/2), Lily Brooks (aka 'The Princess') (7 1/2) & Hannah (aka 'The Baby') (5) are all doing very well.  They grow up so quickly, but Allen & I are doing our best to not let the rush of life take over what is important & hope that our children are learning how to be servants of The Lord above all.  We were very blessed again to have family time together & hope that the children will always remember these memories as a family. 
Trips & Events -
Disney World - We wouldn’t be the O’Briant family if we didn’t go to Disney World would we?  Honey wanted to go this past spring with my brother, L, and his family to celebrate my niece & nephew’s 3rd birthdays.  Who am I do deny such a sweet gesture?  Our children were so excited to show LB & D the ropes at Disney explaining the rides & shows with excitement and Lily Brooks was a very gifted cousin babysitter to little D.  Some highlights - Hannah did Jedi training with Colin for the first time; L’s family LOVED Hoop Dee Do Revue as much as we do; Hannah was tall enough to ride Expedition Everest & surprised us all by not liking it; Colin became a master sorcerer in the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game; running & laughing through rain showers; the first trip that all of the kids truly enjoyed the world showcase at Epcot; all 3 being chosen in the Pirate tutorial & so much more.  I was so grateful that Honey had the idea and happy that L’s family had such a great time. 
    Honey sprang for annual passes this year that have allowed us to go a couple of times.  We took a short trip for fall break that included our favorite Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party where Honey was ‘Willie’ from ‘Duck Dynasty’; I was ‘Pocahontas’; Colin, ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’; Lily Brooks, ‘Princess Jasmine’ & Hannah, ‘Izzy’ from the Disney show Jake & the Neverland Pirates.  Highlights of the trip - everyone now likes to ride ‘Tower of Terror’; the girls now want to play the sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game with Colin; the water slide at the resort & a million trips down it; pirate tutorial; I was picked for the Indiana Stunt show; the girls meeting the new Princess Sophia (Hannah’s favorite); & my special night with Hannah.  The Magic Kingdom was open until 2 a.m. one evening so we all took very long naps with the plan of going & having a very late night without crowds.  Lily Brooks got sick, Colin didn’t want to go & Honey wanted to watch football.  However, Hannah was so excited that a bull wouldn’t have been able to hold her back.  Hannah & I arrived at 8:30 & had the BEST NIGHT.  We rode almost every ride in the park, saw characters & had an unforgettable night together.  She still talks about it & it will go down in my mommy log as a precious memory. 
    We head back for a special Christmas trip that is our Christmas gift for the family.  We have never been to see the lights & decorations and are all excited to spend time together. 
Mexico - Honey & I really, really, really look forward to these trips together and were lucky enough to have a get away together to the Secrets Maroma resort in Mexico where I was the resort Pilates/Yoga instructor for the week.  It was beautiful & probably the best trip we have taken where we enjoyed time together. 
Dallas - The children & I were excited to take a last minute spring break trip to Dallas to see Honey’s sister, BA and her husband, J.  We had a fabulous time and highlights included, Colin getting to attend a Dallas Stars game with Uncle J; a girls pedicure night; a trip to the Stockyards & Rodeo in Ft. Worth; a night at Medieval Times Dinner Show & a day at a new park together.  We all went back to Dallas for July 4th weekend and included a trip to the Perot Museum, another Medieval Times Dinner night & lots of pool time.  We hope to take a trip to Dallas each year, especially with new Baby S on the way!  Lily Brooks can't wait to play babysitter!

Mexico girls trip - This July, after swimming lessons were finished, the girls & I took a very special trip to a family resort in Mexico where I was the resort yoga/Pilates instructor for the week.  We had saved money to take Lily Brooks to Notre Dame for her to compete in the Miss Majorette of America competition.  She, however, was not all interested in competing & I didn’t want to spend money doing something she wasn’t excited about.  I found a great price on flights & for just a little more, took the girls to Mexico for some beach time.  (C-man is not a fan of the beach & was so thrilled with a week alone with Mimi & Pappy that he suggested we take a girls trip every summer!)  My mom joined us the first 3 1/2 days & Aunt BA joined us the last half of the week.  We enjoyed beach time, sandcastles, snorkeling, kayaking, pool time with the other kids, cooking classes, movie nights (In Spanish with English subtitles. When we asked Hannah, who is just learning how to read if she wanted to leave she responded by looking at us like we had grown an extra head and said, “No, I’m watching a movie!?”), the bungee trampoline, Mexican food & more.  The girls love the beach so much that every day they would literally just sit quietly at the edge of the water & let the waves roll over their legs for at least 30 minutes.  They absolutely my girls & inherited the love of sand, sun & the ocean honestly.  A highlight of the trip was a first for me as well.  Our birthday gift to the girls was getting to swim with the dolphins.  The experience included kisses, holding the dolphin’s fins for a ride & being pushed by the dolphin while riding a boogie board.  The trip was so much fun that Hannah, in particular, asks me at least once a week when we are going back to Mexico & plans to ask Santa for another trip to Mexico.

C-man  - C-man is in the 3nd grade at ECS.  While he is a gifted student, his ADHD complicates life.  Honey & I are learning, doing our best to help him learn coping skills to stay focused on the task at hand and balance the pros and cons of the medicine.  It’s a daily evaluating process but he is healthy & learning to pave his own way.  He loves reading (a LOT), math & science, playing chess, video games & video game creation, acting (he was a Prince & Guard in the all-children’s ‘Aladdin’ the Musical this summer & the Shoemaker in the ‘Shoemaker & the Elves’ in the Fairy Tale Trails this fall.  He also started acting classes this fall & had a great time learning), & LOTS of Golf.  For his birthday again this year he wanted a ‘Mine-craft’ video themed party at Golf & Games with mini golf, laser tag, go carts, bumper boats & a ropes course - the party almost sums up all of the things he loves most!
    This summer C-man attended two week long camps - Camp Lake Stevens in Oxford, MS, where he attended solo & Lakeshore with his cousin, K, in Eva, TN.  He LOVED both weeks.  I worried about hygiene & the many clean clothes that came back home, but Allen assures me that it is perfectly normal for boys.  I am thankful for the girl balance in the family!
    He & Honey enjoy playing golf together & C-man takes golf lessons a few times a month.  This past spring/summer he competed in several TN Junior Golf Association golf tournaments in the 8-9 age division.  Allen’s dad, Pappy, was Colin’s caddy & they enjoyed the time together.  C-man is still learning & we are very proud of his ever-constant positive attitude.  C-man also swam on swim team again this summer.  While he enjoys the swim meets with ribbons for everyone, swim team practice every morning is a battle that I think I have now lost.  He is probably proficient enough to go to the driving range & putting green while the girls have swim practice this summer.  My love of swimming just wasn’t passed on to C-man.  Oh well.  He is his father’s son.  I’m hoping that will make anticipating his moves slightly easier as he matures.

The Princess -  Lily Brooks is in the 1st grade at ECS this fall.  According to her teacher she is a leader & over-achiever.  She is doing well, but her desire for perfection & “fear of failure” (yes she has used those words) are sometimes hard to balance with just growing up.  Our princess is quite the fashionista.  Yes, she still hates her school uniform, but accepts it & is the first one ready every morning.  In fact, she helps me get C-man focused about half of the time & is extremely responsible.  Her favorite things include singing (she sings in a vocal group at a local studio, just started private lessons & she sings in church children’s choir), takes ballet classes, piano lessons, acting (she was in the chorus and a townsperson in the all-children production of Aladdin the musical this summer with C-man and was an elf in the ‘Shoemaker & the Elves this fall), swimming (she swam on the Country Club swim team again & is quite the breast stroker.) & baton twirling.     
    Her love of baton twirling has only increased and she has enjoyed twirling this spring with the girls from ECS.  This spring, she won beginner ‘Little Miss Majorette of the South’.  My mom was with us & it was a really fun experience.  She decided against the national competition in lieu of Mexico & I don’t blame her a bit. She has been able to twirl at an ECS football game and will participate in several more competitions this spring. 
    Lily Brooks’s birthday this year was her first fun & exhausting sleepover party. You may have also noticed that Lily Brooks isn’t wearing glasses anymore.  Last summer, because of swimming, she spent more time without glasses than with and the transition in the fall was difficult.  My dad told us that she was ready for contacts & she made the switch this past May before swim practice started.  She loves them, needs help putting them in, but is doing great.  She still battles asthma and the scar tissue in her ears hurts in this cold weather but other than that she is perfectly healthy for which we are extremely grateful.

The Baby - Our little angel is ever-hilarious with a mix of princess & soccer star.  With the impending birth of a new baby cousin, I think she is starting to worry about her status as the baby of the family & has started to call herself the ‘Baby Princess’ & likes to be assured that she will always be the baby of the family.  I think she really likes her place in the family!  She is thankfully still at home with me & I love having her as my side kick.  She is the most easy-going child who has become very self-sufficient.  She even asks me most days what we are doing so that she can pack her backpack accordingly.  She sadly has to wait on her siblings’ activities frequently but she is always prepared with activities of her own.  I think that her ability to keep up with her things will serve her well.   She & I have ‘school work time’ 3 days a week for a couple of hours each day & she goes two half days a week to ‘gymnastics preschool’.  The Baby will start 1/2 day Kindergarden at ECS next year & I will need lots of prayer to be able to make it through letting her go.  Seriously.  

The Baby loves soccer (she played spring & fall and did 3 soccer clinics this summer), swimming (she swam this summer on swim team at age 4(!) & loved every minute of it), and now acting (she made her debut in the Shoemaker & the Elves with her siblings as an elf and had so much fun.). 

Us - It has been a difficult year with Honey’s health spending 4 weeks in the hospital throughout the year.  Thankfully, he was able to see a specialist at Vanderbilt a couple of weeks ago & we are hopeful that they have figured out the root of his kidney problems.  We should know more this month.  Honey is happy at the bank where he serves as head of bond accounting & continues to travel often to assist clients.    He also took on a new role trading loans.   I taught 8 long weeks of swimming lessons this summer to assist financing private Christian education for Colin & Lily Brooks.  It was exhausting, still hard on our children not having Mommy all of the time, but well worth the effort for our family.  I am truly grateful that the Lord has blessed the swimming lessons.  I taught Pilates/Yoga & stability ball at a local church but had to stop in May for swimming lessons & look forward to returning this Jan.  This summer I tore a tendon in my rotator cuff & had surgery in August to clean out the area, remove a bone spur & repair the tendon.  We are so very grateful to my mom & Honey’s parents who helped for 4 weeks when I couldn’t drive.   The physical therapy has been slow but I’m happy that it is healing nicely.  After much encouragement from Honey, I started writing again and have started a blog that you can read at  We love you all & pray we are able to see more of our friends & family this year.  We hope you enjoy a healthy, happy 2014 filled with laughter, love, family, friends & showing God’s grace to others. 

Love, Hope &

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