The Best of the Rest From 2014

Because I'm a *bit* Type A, I am determined to wrap up my pictures from Christmas break before I move on to January.  I should probably resolve in 2015 to take fewer pictures but I don't see that happening! I dug through the rest of December and have included some of the best, along with the memories that go along with them.  
At this point I'm blogging for the family scrapbook, nothing that's riveting, but just lots of memories to record and cherish.  Enjoy :) 
It's pretty fun having cousins so close in age! Sawyer and Walker did lots of staring and talking and reaching toward one another.  They also swapped toys, high chairs, bouncers, walkers, etc. every day!  It will be exciting to see these two grow up together, I'm guessing with each visit it will only get noisier and more energetic :) 
 Walker loved walking in the walker!  Say that 5 times, fast!  Ha ha! 
Unfortunately, just after Christmas we got a call that Trav's Granny went to be with Jesus.  We had just seen her in November, which was wonderful, but Travis planned to go back to Texas to be with his family and officiate the funeral.  We were sad to know we wouldn't see her again on this side of Heaven, but thankful that one day we will be reunited when we meet Jesus too.  
Such hope in the midst of our sadness!   
 Even after Christmas ended, we decided that we needed some more holiday treats and the kids and I made some candy cane cookies together.  
They were delish and perfect with a cup of joe!
Sawyer amused us all with his hilarious noises while he ate.  It's too bad he didn't love the attention! 
We spent lots of hours around the table, playing all kinds of games after the kids went to bed or while the babies were napping.  We laughed like crazy, did a little trash talking and taunting, sang along to some classics from the last few decades, ate too many snacks, stayed up too late and drank a lot of coffee and hot chocolate!  Basically, it was perfect.  
While the kids were awake, Carter loved racing anyone who would play him in Mario Kart.  I knew he'd love this and before we left for Iowa I introduced him to the wii and taught him how to play.  He picked it right up and was better than me in no time!  
I also scored some big Mom points with this move :) 
Uncle Jesse was a good sport and loved playing with Carty!  
One night we even talked my Mom into playing a game, which is so unlike her!  She typically hates them, but she smoked me in scrabble this night.  I think you either are or aren't a game person and she is not one, she'd rather watch HGTV or read a magazine while she listens to the rest of us play.    Scrabble was the only one we could talk her into so we took her up on it.   
I was not feeling it that night however, and I was a pretty lame contender.  I did post this picture on my Instagram a few days later, remembering how great it is when the most stressful thing about your day is figuring out which scrabble tiles to play.  Gotta love vacation...
Walker had no shortage of arms to settle into.  
He was game for a snuggle with anyone who was willing!
He was also game for practicing his flying, apparently!
He definitely got more motivated to reach for toys (or the dog) and liked being on his tummy, trying to flap and kick his way forward.  He cracks me up, I've got a feeling this little guy is going to do everything a little sooner than his brother and sister, he is definitely motivated to not get left behind! 
Uncle Jesse and the newest nephews! 
I told Travis that I wanted just one good picture of the two of us while we were in Iowa.  I was looking for a recent one of us a few weeks ago and could barely find one in the last year that didn't have the kids in it too.  
Love pics of us with the kids, but I love him even more  :) 
One thing we got for each of the kids for Christmas was a new robe! 
Minnesota kids have to have a snuggly robe for the winter, right?? 
Can you even stand this little old man??  
That robe was Carty's when he was a baby, love seeing it on Walkie now!
Ava's got Grampy wrapped around her little finger, always has and probably always will! 
We had Jesse's parents over on NYE and did more of the same...played a few games...
Some rhubarb pies appeared...
...and lots of other great stuff too.  
At any given time, one of the babies was eating in a variety of places! 

Walker tried puffs for the first time and loved them! We added those to the shopping list  :) 

It's surreal to look back on 2014 and think about all that the Lord has done for each of us, in my kids too...big changes for Ava, from preschool to Kindergarten and all that comes with that.  She grew up before our eyes this year and has become so much more independent and confident.  We are enjoying the changes we see in her and feel like everyday is full of opportunity to help shape her and speak to her heart with truth.  She turned 5 this year but sometimes I think she's more like 15!  She's totally a firstborn and has become a "stand-in" mother, should I ever need the help  :) 
 Obviously 2014 brought us Walker and he is such an answer to prayer and a delight to us.  We are so in love with him and especially with the way he fit right in with the rest of us.  It's hard to imagine we started the year without him, although certainly he was with us the whole time!  I was in incredible pain for about half the year as a reminder of this sweet one growing inside me.  Not only was delivering him a relief, but it was also like recovering a piece to our puzzle that we never dreamed was missing.  We are so taken with Walker Cole and are so thankful the Lord chose 2014 as the year to bless us with him! 
This was also a big year for Carty!  He grew up quite a bit this year, both in stature and in maturity.  He  is still very tall and he towers over lots of other kiddos his age.  He's is equal parts rambunctious and yet surprisingly tenderhearted.  He began the year with potty charts and rewards until we mastered that and then continued to amaze us with changes in his ability to reason and his ever-increasing choices to obey.  He turned 4 this year and in many ways he has turned into Ava's twin.  But he has also learned how to be a big brother and he is a great one.  He and Walker play everyday and as Walker gets more aware and alert, Carter has been right there to make him giggle and come to his rescue.  
We have been so thankful for all this year has brought our little family. 
And on the eve of another year, boy did we have some wound up kids!!

Even Walker was wound up  :) 
These two will probably undergo the most changes in the year 2015!  By this time next year, we won't even recognize them...which is exciting and a little bittersweet, too. 
Matching outfits, courtesy of Uncle Jesse and Aunt Stacie  :) 
We played a big (and contentious) game of Hand and Foot while we tried to keep ourselves awake until midnight...
I thought my coaster was appropriate for the occasion...
 Travy wasn't feeling the card game so he read his new book  :)  I gave him an earful about how old and exciting we are!  Cards and books and we could barely keep our eyes open, ha ha! 
So grateful for another year with him by my side!  I'm asking the Lord for many, many more! 
 In between hands, I picked some of my favorite pictures of the kids from the last year...
 ...and some favorite memories from Trav and I.  
What. A. Year!!!
The next day I dug up this baby picture of mine on the left and realized, Hello!!  
Walker is a total mini-me at this point!  I'm around 8 months in that picture and Walker is 6 months, but I think our resemblance is pretty strong.  
Trav pulled off a pretty impressive photo bomb before the kids had to say good-night and good-bye to Stacie and Jesse. 
It just flat-out stinks when vacation comes to an end.  That's life, but it still stinks!  
 Thankfully when they had to leave on an early flight home, Trav was able to go with them and catch his early flight to Texas.  Couldn't have planned that better if we tried!  But with all three of their absences, the rest of us were pretty sad.  
 Especially this boy.  
He caught his first cold and it was a sad, sad thing.  
Unfortunately his cousin Sawyer caught his first one, too and was equally miserable.  They're awfully sweet for being sick, aren't they??
We had such a fun time away although it ended differently than we would have chosen.  With Travis back in Texas, I needed to get the kids home so that Ava could get back to school.  I was starting to feel sick myself, Walker had barely slept the night before and I wasn't looking forward to doing the drive or the unpacking by myself.  But, such is life!  
I had no idea what was in store for me when we took this last picture...

Our drive was going very well and we were about 45 minutes from home.  I had asked my cousin if she would come help me once I got home, just to stay with the kids while I unloaded the van of all our stuff.  As I was (ironically) thinking about how smoothly things had gone, I began to smell something and looked in my rear-view mirror to see that Ava had just thrown up all over herself in the very backseat.  I could not believe it, neither could she, but suddenly I had a crisis on my hands.  She and Walker were in the very back seat of the van and Carter was in the middle.  Praise the Lord we were about 5 minutes from an exit with a gas station I'd been to before, but it was dangerously cold outside with windchills around -20 below. I knew I couldn't open doors or windows really and I was by myself with three kids and a van piled to the roof with luggage and Christmas toys.  It was one of those scenarios I care to NEVER live through again.  

I pulled over, and tried to climb my way to the back.  I quickly realized Ava had thrown up more than she ever has in her life, all over herself, her carseat, the van and an assortment of toys beside her. It was awful, but I was also panicked for Walker who was sitting beside her, while trying not to lose it myself over the smell.  I kind of lost it inside, but tried to keep it together through some tears.  I literally didn't know what to do because it was so cold and I couldn't leave the car or even take her out to clean her up.  I started throwing things out the window in the snow that I planned to throw away when a stranger knocked on my window, thinking I had just dropped something.  She took one look at my tears, the scene unfolding in my car and asked what she could do to help.  Seriously, the Lord put her next to me, I know it.  She ran inside to get me paper towels and plastic bags, which I greatly needed and appreciated, and after I assured her we were good she left.  I had to take all of Ava's clothes off, try to do my best at cleaning up the vomit with some wipes.  I opened the back gate for about 30 seconds so I could dig for some clean clothes for her and then fed a crying Walker a bottle, all while hunched over and standing in a 6 inch space.  To say it was a nightmare is to put it mildly.  Thankfully after 30 minutes or something, I got us on the road, practically shaking from the whole ordeal.  We managed to make it home without anyone throwing up and then thanks to a helpful neighbor and my cousins, about 3 hours later all three kids were cleaned up and in bed and we had some groceries in the fridge while we tried to get some sleep and wait for Travis to come home the next day. 
I climbed in bed, starting to feel bad myself with a cold that was worsening and just thanked God that we made it home and He sustained us the whole way.  It was a brutal end to such a wonderful Christmas and Holiday break, but sometimes you have just to celebrate simple victories, like survival! Thankfully the funeral also went well on Trav's end and he was not too long from making it home to us.  We were quite happy to be back in our own beds and for everyone to be together again.  

Nothing like kicking off the new year with a bang!