Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Alexander Family 2014

What a wonderful year the Lord gave us. 
Good health, good memories...these are such wonderful days for us.

Free Food of  '14
It may not be an admirable Alexander family trait, but we're known for our love of free food! Truthfully, we schedule our life around free food events. It just seemed fitting that we chronicle them this year:

Krispy Kreme opened a new store less than an hour away (which is considered nearby when you live in the country) and they were giving away a free dozen donuts to each person. We loaded up!

If you dress up on October 31st, Chipotle will sell you a delicious, loaded burrito for just $3. In our crew was a "Frito Bandito," Cleopatra, a cowboy, a Canadian lumberjack, a masked man, and a horse. (Sully wore a saddle on his back and crawled through the store...anything for a bargain burrito.)

Chick-fil-A gives a free meal in July to anyone dressed like a cow.

If you bring your own banana, Bruster's has half price banana splits every Thursday.

Starbucks had an autumn promotion and offered half price frappuccinos. Yum!

The Cheesecake Factory had half price slices of cheesecake. Delish!

Krispy Kreme had a pirate day and gave away free donuts to anyone dressed like a pirate.

Oh, the fun we've had chasing down free food!

Celebrating Birthdays

Happy birthday, sweet 7 year old Sheridan.

Sheridan and Bitty Baby "Emma" dressed alike

Dinner, face painting, and riding the birthday saddle while the waitstaff shouts out a birthday "Yeehaw" at Texas Roadhouse

Yummy Chipotle burritos to celebrate Elliott's 23rd birthday.

Happy birthday to terrific 13 year old Harrison.

A cojone to celebrate Sullivan's 15th birthday with a beat.

Oliver's 21st birthday was the day following our annual barn dance. We surprised him with a new ukulele after he finished calling the lumberjack contest from the truck bed.

Making Memories with the Grandbabies

We are so blessed to live close enough to Margaret and John Bradford to see them often. 

Stephen and Meredith had out of town business during this visit so the little guys came to church and then joined us at our favorite affordable Sunday restaurant: Sam's Club, where we can each get a combo and ice cream for less than $4.

Elliott showing baby bunnies to Margaret

Dress up is so much fun for the girls

Little Jobby loves the animals at the farm as well as the pets on the back porch.

The girls having a pedicure party

Before Stephen returned from his deployment, we loved special times where Meredith and the little ones came for a visit.
Shopping and dinner is always a treat once we tuck young ones into bed at night.

Eating out at Texas Roadhouse

A fun, annual cook out and party at a nearby friend's house

John's first corn on the cob

Oliver had the privilege in May to travel with these great folks to Romania to minister for two weeks. We are so grateful for the many people who have surrounded our now grown kids throughout the years, challenging them in their walks with Christ while encouraging and loving them. 

Preparing for Stephen's Homecoming
When Oma and Nana heard that Meredith was planning on washing her windows to prepare for Stephen's return from Afghanistan, they both enthusiastically drove for 3 to 4 hours to help. I am so thankful for the example of a true servant's heart that my mother and aunt have faithfully set for the generations that follow them.

What an exciting day it was when we all gathered to welcome Stephen home 
after such a very long deployment. 

I hope I will never forget the story behind this smile on Margaret's face. As the troops exited the aircraft and Stephen marched in strict formation with his platoon while the large crowd of families stood silent as commands were given to the men, Stephen glanced over toward the crowd. In the split second that his eyes left the fixed stare straight ahead, he saw Margaret smiling excitedly as she recognized him among the many uniformed soldiers. Stephen broke from his stoic expression and grinned as big and happy back at his little daughter as one could ever imagine. It was such a touching moment for those of us who were blessed to have seen it that Timmy, when describing it to other family members the next day, couldn't tell the story without his voice breaking. It was beautiful.

John Bradford was just an infant when Stephen had last held him and now he was nearing a year old.

Meredith prepared an amazing welcome home feast and we all enjoyed eating, laughing, and sharing in the joy of our much-loved soldier coming home.

Oma, Nana, and PatPat were all part of the kitchen staff.

What a wonderful picture of Stephen surrounded by his family who came from all over to welcome him home. We are so proud of this fine man!

Life on the Farm

Contrary to the old John Denver song, life on the farm is not kinda' laid back. There is always something needing to be done, something broken that needs fixing,
 and something needing attention yesterday. 
Yet, the sun rises victorious even on what feels like a hard day ahead.

We help Elliott process hundreds of chickens every year. Usually it is a fun family day filled with laughter and good music but it's hard to sing when it's freezing cold outside.

Sheridan has settled well into her position of being a full time chicken catcher. Often when she gets caught up, she has the opportunity to earn money by cleaning chicken gizzards. Reviewing her shopping wish list is usually sufficient to motivate her to clean at least a few pints of gizzards.

Sheridan's much easier entrepreneurial endeavor than cleaning chicken gizzards
"3 cents if you want to pet her"

A trip for the homeschooling crew -
Homeschool Days in Williamsburg

Another break from the farm for the homeschoolers - a trip to Great Wolf Lodge 

Sheridan and a new friend at the water park

Finally spring is arriving

Bella, our family dog, welcoming a new baby calf

Going to concerts is one of our favorite family outings.
Here we are at an outdoor concert to see Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day.

Phillips, Craig, and Dean - 
What a powerful worship service

Another chance to see SCC and Third Day, along with Brandon Heath at a Christmas concert just 30 minutes away from the farm... unheard of! 
We usually drive for at least 2 hours each way to see our favorite worship leaders perform.

Timmy and I enjoyed a cruise to the Western Carribean to celebrate our 30th anniversary. What a gift to share the memories of the many years our friendship has spanned. We knew each other before we were even teenagers and now we're both approaching 50. I am so grateful God has allowed us to walk beside each other for all these years.

Farm Interns

As the farm has grown, so has the internship program. We are so thankful for the incredible young people who choose to work alongside us. They bring fresh perspective and a helping hand into our lives. Here Elliott is teaching Kathy how to operate a tractor.

Sunday afternoon fun with interns

An ice cream break at Bruster's for all the farm workers

Sunday and lunch - two things to smile about

Interns Kathy from NC and Manuela from Sweeden

Because of our really great farm interns we were able to go camping nearby as a family.

Mmm...a chance to try out some of the hot dogs that recently arrived from the processor

The state park had a great swimming hole for the kids to enjoy.

And canoeing as well

Later in the summer we had two young men from farming friends' families watch over the farm so we could take a really fantastic family vacation. 
After driving through the night, we stopped at Daytona Beach in the morning to enjoy a swim.

Then we headed to Disney where we hung out for a few days.

Water guns and fun at Saratoga Springs 

Water taxiing to Downtown Disney for the evening 

A treat from our favorite ice cream store in Disney "Beaches and Cream"

Then we headed to the port to board a Disney cruise ship headed to the Caribbean

Woohoo! We're on board. Let the party begin!

That first meal when you board the ship is always so thrilling. All the food you can possibly eat...and the boat hasn't even left the terminal yet.

I always tease that I like to be the first on board, the first to eat, and the first to get in the pool (or at least get a poolside chair).

Playing on the cool overhead pool tube slide

Sheridan loves to make new friends everywhere she goes.

These are some other sweet girls Sheridan met from Arab of Emirates. They continue to write to one another and the new friends are often part of Sheridan's bedtime prayers.

Docked at Disney's private island for the day

We ate and ate and ate.

Ice cream...cone after cone after cone

"Party Like A Pirate Late Night Dessert Buffet"
...just to be sure you don't go to bed hungry

Sheridan just loved one of our waitstaff named Duarte who would cut her food, make animals out of napkins, and entertain her with magic tricks.

We were up early in the morning so we wouldn't miss out on any of the fun...

...and didn't go to bed til late at night after the fun was finally quieting down.

...Only to get up early again the next day to soak up more fun

Paradise Island
Nassau, Bahamas 

Castaway Cay
 Disney's Private Island

Fun on the ship deck

Sheridan and  the Princesses

Sheridan and the Princes

Pirate Party

Lots and lots of smiles. 

The sound of mooing could faintly be heard in the distance so we headed home with sun-kissed cheeks and a boatload of happy memories, so grateful to God for the opportunity to enjoy time away as a family.

Just before immersing ourselves in some major farm projects, Timmy and I enjoyed serving at a marriage intensive in Florida with "Whatever It Takes" ministry. WIT Ministry along with Barnabas Training (a biblical counseling course and ministry) have made a bigger impact on our marriage in the last 2 years than all the marriage courses we've taken in the nearly three decades that preceded. We are so grateful to have been introduced to the relationship-strengthening principle of
"open, broken, and free."

Back to work. 
This old house on the farm's property needed serious renovations to make it habitable
 for interns and other farm guests.

Sheridan is scraping newly painted windows.

Elliott is working on repairing a huge hole in the roof.

Elliott and Oliver are taking a crazy roof-top break, dancing while we sing 
Mary Poppin's "Step In Time."

Timmy can be seen through the hole in the kitchen ceiling as he works on the roof.

Sullivan, Sheridan, and Harrison removing old carpet

Elliott, Oliver, and Tim repairing the kitchen ceiling

Sully and Sheridan painting

Harrison scraping windows

After Pictures

It's still not a fancy place but it is habitable thanks to everyone's hard work.

Finally the farm and buildings were cleaned up and ready for a beautiful fall wedding.

We were so blessed to be involved with Daniel and Abigail Heffington's wedding. We love them and their families and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the celebration.

What fun! 
Congratulations Daniel and Abigail. We are so happy for you!

Our last big event of the year...the annual old-fashioned barn dance.

Someone joked that with all the big families attending, 
it looked like a used car lot for passenger vans.

This event is the highlight of our year. We love seeing all our old friends and making new ones.

It's like stepping back in time as all the young people are laughing, dancing, and having fun together.

This year we had a photo contest and lumberjack contest. So much fun.

Christmas Day
A day to relax, make memories, and reflect on the greatest gift...

Priceless...a picture of the boys helping Sheridan set up her dollhouse.

As another year closes, I am filled with so much gratitude. We have our health and we have each other. Most importantly, we have a Savior who loves us and can carry us through whatever the days ahead may bring. He is good.