Thursday, October 27, 2016

Seventeen

During the middle of all the fair hustle, bustle and excitement, a very momentous occasion occurred. My sweet, first born had a birthday. Her 17th to be exact.

Every time her birthday rolls around, I remember leaving the hospital on a bright and sunny Saturday morning with a tiny babe in tow and seeing the giant ferris wheel at the fair while sitting at a red light. She also spent her 1st birthday at the fair where she learned a lifelong love of carnival games. And the rodeo. :)

The fact that Taylor now spends her birthday week each year at the fair showing livestock and working Sweetheart shifts seems only fitting when looking at the beginning of her sweet life through that lens. Funny how things work out that way, isn't it? 

I mean considering I barely remember what I wore last week, it's kind of stunning I remember that ferris wheel so clearly. But it's like crystal.


Now there's no secret that I am unabashedly a super fan of my Taylor. She is truly one of my very favorite people on the entire planet. She's funny and sarcastic, beautiful inside and out, has a heart as big as Texas for both people and animals, is so very wise beyond her years, and I'm both encouraged and challenged by her. Daily.

It's also not a secret that the last year has been quite difficult in many ways for my girl. She's been through the ringer in several different areas of life. And, yes, I'm aware that's kind of how life goes. And that it's part of growing up. And that this, too, shall pass.

But it's hard. It's hard to see your sweet girl spend an entire Christmas break recovering from a tonsillectomy because she cannot get well. It's hard to watch her be unable to eat for the majority of a month after being diagnosed with a random, horrible virus. It's hard to see her have a random cyst found during that diagnosis and face another possible surgery. 

It's hard. But so totally worth it.

Because she handles it all with such grace and doesn't sweat the small stuff. She knows what's important. And what's just really not. 

She is also the very best big sister. On the entire planet. And that's not an exaggeration. She absolutely adores Soph, goes out of her way to make time for her (like when she wakes up on a school holiday to help the little get dressed for picture day or begs me to let her get Soph up before she leaves for school because "with my schedule, I won't see her for days otherwise"). There's nothing that makes my heart swell more than seeing these two together. 

Nothing. In. The. Entire. World.


To say that I'm incredibly thankful and feel so blessed to call this girl mine is basically the understatement of the decade. While I often wonder how these two are going to fare when Taylor heads off to college in couple of years, I also know that's an amazing problem to have. And we'll figure it out when we get to that point.

Just like we do most other things.

I'm not a perfect parent. Taylor and I grew up together, which has its own set of issues - both good and bad. But I know she's one of the best things that have ever happened to me. And I'd walk through fire to make her life easy, simple and nothing but happy.

But that's not what God has in store for her. For this season anyway. And, given the events of the last year or so in her life, I know - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that He is equipping her for a journey that will require perseverance. 

And that she's more than ready for the challenge.

I, for one, cannot wait to see what's in store for her life. Because I know it's gonna be big. And impactful.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tiny Takes The Fair

So. We clearly spent a lot of time at the HOT Fair & Rodeo this year. And with both the steer and heifer shows, including load-in days, that meant we had a bit of time to explore on several different occasions.

Our first outing with Soph was right as the midway opened up one day. Taylor was with us and immediately won her sister a stuffed Nemo throwing darts at balloons. Of course, Soph then decided she wanted to play a game of her own. She chose the duck game - which was Taylor's very first foray into the fair as well 14 years prior...


...and she insisted on choosing this green, inflatable alien. She loved it dearly. And eventually bit him, causing a hole that ended his life. Though his time with us was short, Soph loved him a lot. :)


We also visited the Geico booth that day where she came away with two stuffed geckos that became dear friends immediately. And we spent some time shopping in the vendors' area as well where Taylor bought a friend a diary cow pillow pet as a birthday gift - along with one for her self. Soph also confiscated the "cooow" very quickly as well.

Basically, she believes all stuffed animals are hers. Period. End of story.

The next week we brought Soph back for an extended fair experience while Taylor was working as a Sweetheart being T-Bone's escort. We wanted to see Taylor in the rodeo and give Soph a chance to have some fun as well. Her first choice was the carousel, which she found a bit scary at first. But when you have Daddy, you find the bravery to try. :)



She and I then tried out the mini train. Unfortunately, she's still a bit too short to ride many of the offerings. So we had to pick and choose our options.


Maybe next year the ferris wheel will be on the table...


...but, since that wasn't an option this time around, Soph wanted to try the carousel again. And this time around she needed no help at all. Or so she thought.


She also found a new inflatable friend. And danced adorably with him until Daddy went to get more tokens...


...which allowed him to become hers forever. And, thankfully, he has not met an early demise like the little green alien.


We soon headed inside for the rodeo action and she spent a lot of time climbing, trying out multiple seats, and hanging on Daddy.


This pic I took during the steer show basically sums up Soph's feelings about the fair. She thought it was fun. BIG. FUN.


But the popcorn may just have been her favorite.


Right behind getting to spend so much time with her biggest fan and idol. Her Sissy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

And The Flurry Began

October. I do love me some October. But it is ALWAYS a crazy busy time. And this year has certainly been no exception. We have some extreme highs and extreme lows. But, for today, let's focus on the first part of the month which featured the Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo.


On October 1, my girl kicked off fair activities with the Ag Speaking Contest. She did a fabulous job and came in second in her category. Unfortunately, only the top one advances to finals and the one in Taylor's group won the whole dang thing. Now, I sort of find this annoying because it means she could have been the second best speaker in the whole contest (and I've heard on pretty good authority that was the case) but such are the rules. :)

The next day I pulled off something I've never even attempted before - a SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY!

That's what happens when you don't let us throw you a party for many years in a row. We scheme behind your back for weeks, get family to help pull off the big event, and swear your friends to secrecy for weeks at a time. She was absolutely shocked and may have even been annoyed with me for a bit but I do believe she loved it in the end!


Shortly thereafter, we loaded Cooper up and headed for our first weekend of showing at HOT. Soph got into the bathing action. It happens to be one of her favorite things to do with Cooper.


Ol' Coop competed in the Shorthorn division for the first time and, because of the timing, was alongside a bunch of steers who had just come back from the State Fair. That basically means they're older and farther along than he is BUT he came in second in his class, which was a huge accomplishment!


Soph also likes to groom. She just sort of always brushes his hair the wrong way.


Hanging out in the ring.


He looked good out there, in my opinion!


With her winnings, Taylor bought a new show stick. And we learned there's an "extra large" size that's taller than my girl.


We spent a lot of hours together on these days and, honestly, some of my favorite memories are the ones I catch from behind. Sometimes you capture your entire world in one little photo.


After wrapping up steer shows, my girl kicked it into high gear and spent 30 hours working as a Sweetheart. We didn't see her much AT ALL for almost a week but we were able to catch glimpses via her social media posts.



The following week we headed back with Cherry and Kate in tow. While Kate behaved like a perfect lady, our sweet Cherry reverted to her "spirited" and "flighty" ways and may have acted a bit of a fool in the show ring. Now, that may sound like a completely horrible thing BUT it turned out ok because Taylor realized she can handle her when this happens. And Cherry realized that Taylor will not put up with this mess. 

We believe it was a good thing all around and Cherry has, in fact, behaved much better at the barn since. Now for that to translate into the show ring. :)


The evening of the heifer show, my girl was the spotter for T-Bone (after portraying the mascot herself earlier in the week) and we caught up with her while having some fair fun with Soph. (More on that in its own separate post.) While my intent was for the little to be part of this pic, she was not having anything to do with a stuffed bull. Whether her sister was around or not.


We stuck around late enough that evening to see Taylor accompany Miss HOT and T-Bone in the back of the truck in the rodeo arena as well. It's hard to tell from the pic but my Taylor was throwing t-shirts, smiling and waving. And I will never forget her first throw being a bit errant and a nice arena worker who was standing on the ground next to the truck catching a t-shirt. Her aim got much better after that!


 This was a super fun and packed 10 days for our entire family. We were exhausted, happy and delirious by the time it was all over. And, in the middle of it all, we also celebrated our little Clyde turning a year old. My, oh my, how he has grown!


The HOT Fair & Rodeo was so good to us this year. Memories to last a lifetime.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

September

So...it's finally happened. I'm getting caught up. Miracles never cease.

During Labor Day weekend we headed to Belton for the Central Texas State Fair. Though we didn't show her, Cherry made her first trip to a show and she did really, really well. In fact, she actually behaved much better than she does at the barn. Who knew?


Taylor showed both Kate (who I somehow didn't get a picture of) and Cooper. It was one of those shows I love - in and out by lunchtime. Truth be told, those are generally a family favorite. Though you gotta get a multi-day show in there occasionally, which is coming up for us next month.


It was still blistering hot in early September but Taylor and I decided to have our first pumpkin spice treat anyway.


Tiny also found her new best friend - Buddy the dancing ghost. She didn't put him down for about 36 hours and took him EVERYWHERE. He plays The Ghostbusters theme song. Loudly. Discreet is not her thing.


I snapped this at lunch one day because it kind of sums up our life these days - cattle feed and a stroller with red dirt from a stock show.


I also attended a professional development day and the keynote was Clint Harp of Fixer Upper fame. So fun!


Unfortunately, the major story of September was my girl becoming incredibly ill. She and I both came down with what we thought was a simple stomach virus; however, I got better after 3.5 brutal days while she did not. Once at the clinic, we learned that she had a WBC of 15,000 and thoughts immediately went to appendicitis. I snapped this pic while she was drinking contrast and awaiting a CT scan.

We truly believed she would end up having surgery before the day was over so we were surprised when it came back negative. For appendicitis anyway. What she did have was a very bad case of mesoteric adenitis (which mimics appendicitis) and a secondary finding of a large cyst. So we ended up having further testing, learned it's more annoying than worrisome and will go back for follow up in November. Unfortunately, it will probably have to be removed but it could be much worse.

She also ended up in the ED one night due to dehydration despite all our best efforts. She was just SO SICK. I've never seen her so sick for so long. It broke my heart. And she's been a champ about getting back into the school groove and doing makeup work.

{Side note: the week after she returned to school, she called me crying with a headache and vision issues. Talk about a heart attack for mom! But this time she had ethmoid sinusitis, which affect vision due to swelling and infection of the sinuses. Needless to say, we're ready for a healthy season.}


Like I said - blistering hot. This should not be one's fall wardrobe. At least she's cute, though!


And my girl finally returned to work and felt well enough to participate in the student section again! That smirk was a sight for sore eyes.


The next day we headed to another show where Cherry made her debut. And was the American Reserve Grand Champion. AND she was really, really good!


Cooper also did well - he was 4th - in a tough class. There were SO MANY quality steers at this show. It was our first time to head to Hico and, wowza, it was a great show. It was also a combined British class so there were all kinds of steers in each class. So, like I said, it was a good day!


And now that I'm caught up, let the more detailed posts begin!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

August

August was really busy but really fun. My girl started the month by going to church camp. In Colorado. In fact, it was an adventure camp so she camped, kayaked, white water rafted and even did some rock climbing. She was nervous about going but had THE BEST TIME.


When she came back she headed straight to the DMV to get her driver's license because she'd passed the driving test the day before she left for camp. She. Was. So. Excited.


She picked up her junior year (how is that possible?) schedule the next day and went straight into training for MPACT, which is the group at the high school that puts on Fish Camp and welcomes new students to the district. She even donned a Hawaiian-themed hat. So proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone continually and trying new things.


Later that week we headed to Fredericksburg for the final show of the summer. Coop was excited. Clearly.


The horse races were held at the same venue on the same weekend so we had some entertainment while waiting around for the show.


This was also the weekend my grandmother's world changed forever as her home in Louisiana flooded for the first time ever. The one she'd lived in for 50+ years. It's basically a loss and she has temporarily moved into the church parsonage. We were very thankful for family that took care of her - moving from house to house as new ones took on water - and made sure she had everything she needed until my parents could get there. Closed roads made it challenging for a few days.


The girl showed Coop for the last time and he acted a total fool. I'd never seen him actually run but - on this day - he hopped, skipped, jumped and ran. I'm relatively certain I've never seen her more angry in a show ring. But they made it through.


We left Fredericksburg and headed to Jamaica Beach for our long-planned vacation. There was a subdued quality about this year's trip because my parents were in Louisiana with my grandmother instead of being with us. And, though I knew adding five more people (including a toddler) to the mix in a flood-ravaged area was not a good idea, we certainly never stopped thinking about all of them.


For the most part, we spent lazy days on the beach, dodging rainstorms, taking naps and watching a whole lot of the Olympics. But we also headed to the aquarium one day, took a dolphin/harbor tour and ate out several times. These two hit a bunch of souvenir shops. I have to say it was nice for the girl to have her own wheels on this trip and she and Hal def enjoyed having some time away from the babe.


Tiny LOOOOOOVED the beach. She played for hours every day in the sand. Toward the end of the trip she also decided to like the water and waves as well.


The one day we convinced the older girls to come to the beach. They've always enjoyed gazing at it from a hammock more than actually being on the sand. :)


After returning home, we hit the local water park one last time before it closed for the season...


...and Cherry FINALLY started walking a bit...


...and we wrapped up the first week of school with the first football game of the high school season. Tiny is a natural born cheerleaders. She absolutely loves the games. And cheers constantly. Mostly for the right team. Sometimes not.


And these two. They've been living it up in the student section. I'm in awe that Taylor is a junior and Hal is a senior. I am constantly aware of exactly how much time I have left with both of my girls at home - which isn't NEARLY ENOUGH - and we are truly trying to make the most of every single day.