Rain has become a regular visitor here. It wasn’t raining when we woke up Friday, so we ran out of the house with a bag of blueberry muffins we’d made the night before and went for a hike…really, just a stroll along a bike trail.

Mae brought her phone (She usually just listens to music on it at home while she does chores. It doesn’t do anything beyond the camera without Wi-Fi). She wanted to take photos, like Mama. She managed to get in a few before the battery died. I enjoyed observing what she found interesting.

As a rule, we only really take photos the first few minutes of any given outing, if that, and then put the phones away, although this was the first outing we’ve taken photos in a while.

The photo we sent to Zack on his break ^ Would’ve been more fun with him there!

Blurry, but, man does she look old. Ugh. Time really does fly on this side of childhood.

We saw a dung beetle on our way back to the car. Both Zack and I had no idea “we” had dung beetles. Mae painted this gem while watching the episode of Puffin Rock that features Dung Beetles.


Our initial plan was to meet up with my grandparents for supper one evening. In actuality, we spent one night -upon arrival into Dothan- had supper on the pre-planned night and stopped in to say goodbye one last time the morning we headed home.

The extra time with them was SO nice. Rae has officially dubbed Grandpa the silliest human. They can’t get enough of him.

We stopped at the coolest roadside joint just outside of Montgomery. A bounce-house/slide/maze, free roaming chickens, homegrown (and made) vegetables, meat, cheese, eggs, fruit, and peanuts (obviously?).

Such a cool place. It also had a bakery attached…or was it an ice cream shop? We didn’t eat there, so I don’t recall. Either way, it was cool. We’ll be going back on our next trip to Dothan, for sure!


Our friends enjoy the ocean as much as we do, despite one of them also being a sunburn-prone ginger, so of course we had to drive down to the gulf while we were there!

We stopped at a beach shop an grabbed some floats for the kids to use. We even had a guy there fill them up for us, and managed to just barely fit them into the car.

Zack tried (and tried and tried) his hand at surfing. He enjoyed it! I think if we ever live by the ocean he’ll give it a real go.

We all felt this way the entire day! ^^^

We stopped in to check out the gators. We saw a small one napping. It was terrifying.

1, 2, 3- LOOK UP!!

We explored the area, climbed trees, observed gorgeous landscapes, and attempted to poach some stubborn palm leaves. No dice, but she gave it her all.

We also ate at a Greek restaurant before leaving town. Delicious!

Everyone came home with a sunburn. My lips, the girls’ under-eyes, Zack’s entire body, ha! Worth it.


Possibly Definitely the most fun trip we’ve taken in our 12 years together. Our children being old enough to take care of themselves contributed to this, but really it was the people. Our favorite people.

Endless hours of popcorn on the trampoline, water balloon fights, eating frozen yogurt in the heat, dirty feet and not a care in the world. The Stevens’ know how to make the middle of March feel like summer vacation.

We felt right at home the moment we arrived. Helped ourselves to the fridge, our girls shared with each other without hesitation, and there was *no fighting all week*!! Eight humans, happy as can be in each other’s company. We would make for terrible reality television.

Mae got sun sick one afternoon. Poor girl. I got snuggles out of it, so it wasn’t all bad!

Zack and I took a ride in Jonathan’s red VW bug. Very cool! I mean, look how close I got to be to Zack!!!! We may just need to invest in a punch buggy. Anything to get a little more shoulder contact with that man!

My dearest friend took me out for an entire day, just the two of us! Food, shopping, and plenty of catching up!

(KBC has incredible food, and Dothan Ice Cream has the best homemade ice cream and popsicles!)

They took us to family day at the art museum. We got to create faux stained glass pictures to take home, and did a scavenger hunt around the galleries. The whole experience gave Zack a lot of ideas for his classroom. (The art was all made by kids grades K-12. They even had a section of art made by blind children!)

I still have two posts to write about our time with them, but this image of Rae, the morning we left, sums up our general mood. Sad.


We started learning about Ireland, the Irish people, and the who and why behind the holiday the day before Valentines Day.

We interweaved lessons between our regular academics, and I believe, after learning about space and the planets in this way as well, it will become a staple way of teaching / learning for us.

^ Patrick’s way of symbolizing the Trinity ^

We learned about Leprechauns first. I learned a lot of new things, which I did not expect.

Mae also ended St. Pat’s Day by independently building a leprechaun trap. She’s so creative!

Finn McCoul and the Giant’s Causeway. I hope we get to go someday!!

We discovered the meaning behind the flag, and what it previously looked like (Not featured here), and learned about Patrick’s interesting roller coaster of a  life.

We read, easily, twenty books, which included both chapter books and short stories.

So many crafts. Pudding cups into hats. this was a lastminute10:00thenightbeforetheholiday decision. Mom win.

We also watched several Irish movies, including re-watching two of our favorites – The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, which we own and watch throughout the year.

Green pancakes, how original… with baked green apples and honey on top.

It’s blurry, I know, but I meeeean-ugh!

Hands propped accordingly (I don’t pray this way, yet she has somehow learned it) Chapter books close at hand.

Rae forcing her eyes closed, because – Rae. Ha! Ants doth overflow from thy pants, sweet sweet Rae.

Mae made her first mess. Ever. It was just a non-sticky piece of pancake, but us mere mortals certainly got a bit puffed up over the incident. Rae’s face shows no sympathy. I’m sure you didn’t expect there to be.

I cooked this for supper the day of. SO GOOD! But really, sausage, cabbage, onions, and bacon can never be a bad decision in my book – together or separate. Mmmm.

SO MUCH Irish folk music ( and attempts at the modern stuff  – though we didn’t branch far from out favorites ) played throughout the month, and lots of little river dances / clogging / jigging? I have no idea what the proper thing to call it is – (The girls, btw – NOT ME! Yikes!)

Until next year, Ireland. 💚


I’m grateful my girls have a life that can involve exploring and gettin’ messy, and a life that is built on spontaneity!

Look it! ^^ She’s becoming brave and not so anti-dirt!

Though she has yet to catch a fish, she is in her element when she fishes.

If I can’t have an ocean, I’ma pretend the endless wide mud puddles that surround us are the salty sea. Trading Gulls for “Merican Eagles” and hot soft white sand for cold brown rocks. I think its working.

Cup of worms, and conversation.

The wind was brutal, so we ate in the car. We had PB and honey sandwiches and general store sodas. They squealed so loud when I pulled up to the store.

My eyes rival Gollum, I know. It was the least awkward photo of the three of us.  Whaddayagannado.

Tasting each other’s beverage choices. They preferred their own.

We stopped on the way home for a walk through the woods. Definitely my favorite part of the day, Mae was the leader. Rae and I followed. We found several rabbit holes, a few deer, and no one ran into a thorn bush!

Its been so nice to get out of the house after nearly a month of colds, poison ivy, bad weather, and a handful of other obstacles.


My younger brother, Ben, came to visit us for four days over the holiday. Our plan was originally to meet up in Tennessee and camp, but we chickened out when the temperatures here dropped to below freezing at night.

Why we ended up congregating around our random platform, I have no idea – but four out of five kids are smiling, so its a keeper!

Their love for each other is something we should all aspire to obtain at least once in life.

My parents and my sister’s family came down New Years day (Ben’s last day), to see him for a bit.

Penelope’s one request for Ben’s visit was to go fishing with him. It didn’t work out for them to go just the two of them because…well, because we wanted to go too! It was so cold. So so cold.

Ben recently traded in his small car for a large truck, upgrading his leg room significantly (He had his seat pushed all the way back, so I had to relive my childhood and sit in the front-middle, ohiguessyoucancometoo seat. Tiny hiney for the win!)

We’re movie people. We don’t have cable, or an antenna – which is okay because we’re movie people. Ben is a movie guy. We like Ben. He got to watch some new-to-him movies while he visited – one of which was The Force Awakens. We have every word memorized. He loved it – Almost as much as the four year old beauty beside him. She still hangs on every word.

We couldn’t have asked for a better way to ring in the New Year, than spending it with my brother.

Howsabout you come on over next year, Joseph???


In preparation for writing this letter I did something different. I asked each of you what you like about the other, just to see where you’re at in your relationship.


“What do you like about Rae?”

“I like her because she kisses me a lot.”

It should be noted, future Rae, that Daddy and I have to tackle you, smother you with our faces pressed firmly against your face, and force the love from your lips, which at this point are now tucked tightly behind your teeth.

“What do you like about Mae?”

“I like … ummm … ummm … hugging her?”

Close enough to a good answer as I think we’re going to get. I hope you’re BFFs forever.






Mae has been asking for us to take her ice skating since she was three years old, and so I finally got my act together and made her dreams come true!

Since her and I have dreamed and schemed about how to make it as magical as possible for weeks, the plan was for me to take her out on the ice. On our way to the rink, however, Zack asked if he could take her. His teaching skills are unmatched, and I really don’t wish to relive the broken bum incident of 2009, so I pushed my mother-daughter bonding fantasies aside for the good of my bum and his father-daughter bonding fantasies.

We began the evening taking her out for whatever supper her heart could dream up. McDonalds “chicken” and strawberry pie. To the moon, Mae!

I reluctantly agreed. After we finished our meal, we grabbed the girls some hot chocolate and pie for the road and headed for the rink.

I’m sure her tummy was full of butterflies!

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^ Look at that anticipation!!  Makes me so happy! ^

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The thrill of wobbling on skates for the first time, it’s up there with wobbling in toddler heels for the first time.


The ice is in her sights!!!


Two seconds on the ice later … still enthusiastic about the outcome of the evening!!

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HE DIDN’T FALL DOWN ONCE! Clearly he was the right choice.

Look how good she’s doing!

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Rae and I walked around (it was at an outside mall, and only 15ºF). She picked out her gift for Mae at the ever never annoying, Claire’s. (She chose perfectly!)

Next, we strolled back up to the rink to sit around the fire pit they had set up, but the smoke kept following Rae. I grabbed the iPad from the car, and sat down at a picnic table. Naturally in this moment she had to pee and, naturally, the bathroom was clear on the other end of the mall.

Enter, Von Maur.

I felt like Kevin McCallister as he entered the Plaza Hotel. As if they were sure to think I stole something walking into the store. But, they didn’t, and they were terrific.

Rae decided she wanted to stay in the store (who wouldn’t??) so we cautiously made our way through this Christmas wonderland of $30 socks and other various donttouchthat! items.

We went up and down (and up and down) the escalator, sat and watched the pianist as he played Christmas tunes to perfection. Then we went up the escalator, watched him from above, then back down the escalator so she could tell him, “Hi” and stare as he asked her question after question about Christmas.

By then it was time to head back to Mae. We arrived just as they were turning in their skates.

Mae was beaming! I hope she remembers that night forever.