meeting baby Eli!

The boys and I road-tripped to South Carolina at the beginning of the month to meet baby Eli and spend time with Joel, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Drew! Deric was at a convention with the youth group that weekend so I braved the six-hour trip solo and while I was nervous about handling both boys in the car on my own for such a long drive, all my prayers were answered and we made it to SC and back without any (big) problems. It was a short two-day visit but we packed a lot in and had so much fun.

I took this video probably two minutes after we walked in the door. Kids always get so excited to show visitors their toys! Sarah and I were dying over the boys' antics.

Jake & Joel from Ashley Skinner on Vimeo.

^reading the Bible with Uncle Drew before bed. Jake and Joel slept in the same room and surprisingly didn't keep each other up all night!
Jake and Joel raced each other around the apartment a hundred times, Jake taught Joel how to be a robot (just walk around with stiff legs while repeating "I am a robot!" and you're good!) and Sarah, Drew and I traded babies back and forth and stayed up too late every night talking. Always a good time when we see their family, and we're all looking forward to when the babies are little BFFs too! All too soon we'll have four boys racing around and wearing us out. ;)


New Year's Eve at Dollywood

We were still bringing bags in from the car after traveling to Indiana over Christmas when a friend texted to see if we wanted free tickets to Dollywood--but they had to be used that weekend. I've never been to Dollywood and Deric went once back in college so we figured that free tickets made it worth braving the end-of-season crowds and the cold weather. So even though we were pretty worn out from traveling, we loaded the kids (plus a million snacks and warm layers) into the van and spent New Year's Eve (afternoon) at Dollywood.

Bundled up and ready!

And let's just say, I'm so glad we didn't pay for tickets. ;) Jake and I rode a (kids) rollercoaster first thing and as soon as it started up, he started crying. So that bombed and we then couldn't convince him to try much else. He did enjoy riding some preschool-sized rides which bolstered his confidence back up a bit.

And the carousel was a hit after riding the carousel at Disney--plus he got to ride on the dragon! We tried watching a Christmas show and enjoyed half of it before Jake got a little antsy so we walked around the rest of the park to see the lights (the lights are amazing! I've always wished I could put lights on our house like this!) and then we headed home. It was a fun day but like I said, sooo glad we only paid for parking! We don't exactly get our money's worth at amusement parks in this phase of life.

After spending the day at the park, Deric and I were so happy to come home and put the boys to bed, order Chinese food and relax with a movie to "celebrate" New Year's Eve. 2016 was a great year thanks to Reid joining our family, visiting Disney World, Chattanooga and Nashville for the first time, plus all the moments in between watching our boys grow up. I have a feeling 2017 is going to be just as good! (Hey, two weeks in and its 65 degrees in January so yes, 2017 is shaping up nicely!)


Christmas in Indiana 2016

We drove north to Deric's parents house after church on Christmas Day and spent most of the week with them and Deric's brother's family. Jake plays with his cousins non-stop and Reid gets doted on by his grandparents which means Deric gets to read his new books, I get to color in my new coloring book (I still haven't finished Lost Ocean, my gift from Deric last year!) and we're all happy as can be.

Christmas morning is of course the highlight for the kids and the first gift Jake opened this year was a bike! He attempted to ride it right away but the carpet made it tricky so we took it outside the following morning to get some practice. He was also excited for Magna Tiles and has played with them almost every day since. He mostly makes ice cream cones and castles with them. We've already realized we'll have to buy more tiles soon because he's a bit limited in what he can build right now but with more shapes, the possibilities are really going to be endless...for him and for his dad. ;) I'm not much of an engineer but to my defense, I did teach him how to build an ice cream cone!

When we would ask Jake what he wanted for Christmas he'd usually tell us that he wanted trains or another toy he already had, so we made a Christmas list for him. We took a chance with the little guitar since he has no other musical toys and thankfully he loves it! He pulls it out every now and then and strums it while singing totally non-sensical but really cute songs. The fireman costume is also a hit! He'll ask me if there's fire in my room and if I need him to put it out, which of course I always do. ;)

Reid napped through the beginning of morning but woke up later and was perfectly content to rip wrapping paper off his gifts and ignore the actual gifts entirely. I love Christmas with babies!

This little reindeer is always set out by the Christmas tree and of course, Jake pushes the button to hear the song about a hundred times over the course of a week. But this year he learned (most of) the song and I was dying when he sang it for me! He is so funny.

Jake + Rudolph from Ashley Skinner on Vimeo.


the first Christmas with Reid!

Its about time I jotted down some memories of Christmas this year! So much has already happened since Christmas that its taking me a minute to remember my favorite parts of this Christmas. Actually, one of my favorite parts of Christmas has become the Christmas pajama photo in front of the tree. Taking the photo is not my favorite (it took me four different nights to get last year's picture!) but there's always at least one picture that turns out well and I really love pulling out the photos from past years and adding to them. It took quite a few attempts this year to get a picture where both boys were actually looking at the camera with a semblance of a smile but we did it! We snapped a few in their matching red sweaters on Christmas Eve and then again in their pajamas the next morning. Reid's wearing the same sweater that Jake wore on his first Christmas Eve and so when we were at the mall a few weeks back and I saw a very similar one in Jake's size, I had to get it (in a 4T, might I add, because that boy is stretching out quick!)

^Not a headlock, but a quick catch of a falling baby...maybe. ;)

Christmas Eve is such a special night to me. I love attending the service at church and having the boys with us. It feels so sacred and holy; the calm before the storm that is opening presents the following morning. For me its easy to forget about the miracle that is Jesus' birth in the midst of unwrapping presents, but on Christmas Eve I can feel that sense of anticipation and excitement building over the gifts under the tree and its a small glimpse into how much I hope and wait for Jesus to come back and rescue our broken world finally and completely.

This year I decided to make a special dinner after the church service, just for our family. I cook all the time but rarely do I set the table with cloth napkins and placemats or use nice dishes. So I planned a dinner of steak, green beans, sweet potato casserole (made in the crockpot and ridiculously easy and delicious!) and rolls. I set out candlesticks that I have actually never used since we got them as a wedding gift and we enjoyed a candlelit dinner as a family. And it was so fun! I may start a new tradition of a slightly fancy Christmas Eve dinner in the years to come. 

And after dinner, the Christmas jammies! Jake was thrilled to see dinosaurs with Christmas hats on his pajamas.

Below is the face Jake makes whenever we ask him to make a goofy face. He gets this spacey look on his face and blinks a bunch of times and we all crack up...and then we get a genuine smile. ;)

This photo is my favorite and it was a total accident. Reid started to fall over and Jake simply caught him. 

The following morning, we took our time opening gifts. I was a little worried we'd have to rush through opening gifts in order to make it to church on time but we finished with time to spare...and we were actually on time since I was able to get ready without interruption, thanks to the new toys. ;)

^Those blurry little hands were so much more entranced with the wrapping paper than with his new book! But no worries, Jake spent a few minutes flipping through the book by himself. I love this age, when he takes his time enjoying each gift before opening another one.

I took Jake to the store a few weeks ago to pick out a gift for Reid and with just a little leading from me, he decided on this activity cube. Its great for the stage Reid is in right now--sitting up on his own with only a few falls now and then.

Jake got quite a few games this year! The fishing game is a favorite that one of our babysitters, Miss Peg, always brings with her. Deric also picked out MouseTrap and Chutes and Ladders, and they've played the games quite a few times together since Christmas. Deric's so great at choosing meaningful gifts for both me and the boys. He got the games for Jake so they could play them together, and he found me some of the softest tee shirts because he knows I love them, plus another coloring book and The Magnolia Story. He also stuffs everyone's stockings full of chocolate (except Reid's-- next year, buddy!)

Jake the astronaut! Deric and I tried to think of gifts that Jake doesn't have already--as in, no more trucks/trains/vehicles of any kind--and he has no costumes. (Or very many board games.) So we found this costume for all of $20 and couldn't pass it up. Jake loves this space station book we have and now he wears the costume (or just the helmet, or just the gloves) while he's pretending to be an astronaut. I love to see him dressed up and running around the house!

I'm having trouble tracking down more of the photos from Christmas morning but the gist of it is in these few pictures. I love giving gifts to my family and seeing the joy on their faces but of course, they are without a doubt my favorite gifts! 


Reid // 7 months

This baby is just the best! He is hands down the favorite of the family...and I'm pretty sure he knows it. We have to watch him every second if he's not strapped into his high chair or playing in his exersaucer because he can roll so quickly across the room and his big brother has a few too many tiny toys all over the floor most days. And man, if I try to take away a toy he will cry and cry until we give him a suitable replacement! I don't remember temper tantrums starting this early with Jake so we'll see how this progresses. ;) Feeding Reid--baby food or nursing-- has become a challenge if Jake's around because all of Reid's attention is on Jake. I'm about to just teach Jake how to feed him with a spoon so they can keep each other busy for a few minutes. ;)

That tuft of hair kills me! I debated trimming it since most of his hair is short and fuzzy now, but this picture changed my mind. 

Reid loves to smack his lips together in that little smile, all the while drooling like crazy!

I hope hope hope those blue eyes are here to stay!