Sunday, January 1, 2017

Alexander Family 2016


The year began with the beautiful charity ball for the local Crisis Pregnancy Center.

While Elliott was out of town, we surprised him by working like crazy on his new house. 
Here are all the IKEA kitchen and bathroom cabinets 
organized and ready to begin the big assembly project.

Once everything was assembled, we took it all over to his house and began installation.

Whew! It ended up being such a big project.

Oliver is a good brother and is able to take a minute to squeeze a little sister in the midst of the work.
Elliott was so surprised and thankful when he got home. 
What a fun memory it was for the rest of us to bless him.

A reason to not dread winter...
my long-prayed for wood-burning stove,
 finally home and heating our old farmhouse.


Happy ninth birthday, sweet Sheridan!

Sheridan had her very first birthday party. 
She chose an ice skating party.

Even though Sheridan had only ice-skated a few times, 
she specifically chose a skirt that had lots of ruffles because she said she envisioned herself twirling around in circles in the middle of the rink like the people she had seen on the Olympics.

Sweet girlfriends

What wonderful memories Sheridan made that day.

Sheridan with her new haircut and her new Kit doll

A combined birthday and Christmas present for Sheridan
was a newly decorated room.

We had so much fun decorating.


Happy 25th birthday, Elliott!

We enjoyed making sunflower cakes to deliver and invite
 our neighbors to church for Easter Sunday.

Timmy and I had volunteered to help at a ministry event but they ended up not needing us at the last minute. Since Sheridan was already set to spend the time with Meredith in Boston, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. So Timmy bought tickets on a Saturday morning and that night we drove to Miami in our usual drive-through-the night fashion - lots of coffee, pistachios, and singing. We boarded a boat in Miami headed to Jamaica on Easter morning. 
What a completely wonderful and unexpected treat!

We were on the Norwegian Getaway again. What a fun ship!

One of the port beaches had very friendly, shoe-loving geckos.

This time we thought to bring gear to try the rock climbing on board the ship.

It was so hard for me to make it to the top but I just had to prove to Timmy that I could do it!


Oh boy, the Disney Magic Bands arrived. 
An Alexander family trip is on the horizon.

We stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time.
Meredith told 2 year old John Bradford that we'd be staying at a resort
that had real, wild animals roaming around.
To which John replied, "Tell Farmerdaddy to bring his gun!"
The grandbabies loved seeing giraffes, zebras, and rhinos surrounding the condo. 
Each evening we'd enjoy a Disney Resort event of roasting marshmallows.

Days at the resort are highlighted by the afternoon pool party with dancing and games. 
Sheridan is helping John learn the dances.

Counting critters from the Critter Toss Game

We love going to the Boardwalk in the evening for some exercise and entertainment.

Sheridan was chosen as the street juggler's volunteer

Because our condo fridge gave us some trouble early on, Disney (so true to their impeccable customer service) offered us an all-we-could-eat free meal in their African inspired restaurant. 
We could never afford to do this otherwise so it was a big treat for us!

Sweet baby Penelope loved the Mickey Mouse waffles.

Pool fun with Uncle Oliver

We were all so excited to get "pixie-dusted" at the
 Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo Boutique.

Even Elliott was eager to make a glittery wish.

A trip to Disney isn't complete without a boat ride...

...and, of course, a trip to our favorite Florida pizza place: 


We loved having the grandbabies stay with us while 
Meredith and Stephen enjoyed some time together.

Sheridan organized a cooking competition where the children all made cracker creations.

 "Time's up! Raise your hands
so your project can be judged."

Sweet Penelope had more fun climbing in the bin than actually playing with the toys. 
What a joyful baby girl she is!


When Meredith, Elliott, and Oliver were young, the shores of the Outer Banks 
were the setting for most vacations. 
Wanting Sullivan, Harrison, and Sheridan to also create some Outer Banks memories, 
we took them for a fun trip where we hit all our favorite spots.

Playing on Jockey's Ridge

A cold treat at our favorite ice cream place on the Outer Banks: 
Scoops Ice Cream Parlor

Happy 15th Birthday, Harrison.

We bought season passes to King's Dominion to have a place to unwind as a family. We are grateful to be able to live and work together as a farming family but because our work so closely ties to our home life, it's nice to have somewhere to go to take a break. On Harrison's birthday we enjoyed a fun-filled day at the park and stopped for ice cream at Bruster's on the way home.


A fun July 4th tradition -
 preparing something creative to take to Granddaddy and Grandma Lou's 
for the big party they throw each year.
This year Sheridan made a "fruit cake."

All the cousins were able to make it this year. 
What a rare treat.

Granddaddy and Grandma Lou are incredibly hospitable and even invite Oma and Nana to their celebrations. What an example they are to blended families everywhere as they purpose to gather us together because of the love we share for all the children.

The Hammers lived in nearby DC for the summer so we enjoyed many wonderful visits together. 
A favorite spot is at Bruster's for the Thursday B.Y.O.B (bring your own banana) 
half price banana split special. 
Baby Nonie has on her big-mess-bib and is ready for some ice cream.

Happy 17th Birthday, Sullivan!

God continues to send us the absolute best farm interns imaginable. 
What a great group of kids to celebrate with.

Thanks to our amazing interns, we were able to enjoy running around
 King's Dominion on Sullivan's birthday also.

Cheesecake Factory's Half Price Cheesecake Day
We love it! The one time each year that the children get their own piece of cheesecake.

Becoming a Sunday afternoon family tradition - lunch at Sam's Club. 
A couple of years back when we attended a small, nearby, country church for four years, Sunday was a big-meal day. I'd work all morning so that we could come home from church to roasted chickens, mashed potatoes, gravy and the whole big deal. Once we began attending a church in town, we discovered how fast and easy it was to simply eat an inexpensive pizza combo at Sam's Club for lunch. At first I felt a little guilty but I've since adopted the mindset: "Four years on, now four years off." I told Timmy I'll gladly accept his kind gesture to give me four years off from Sunday afternoon meal prep after having consistently prepared big Sunday lunches for four years. 
We're already approaching the halfway point of my four years off. 
Hmm...I'm hoping we can consider an extension.

This day we're feasting with our gang, farm interns, Meredith and the grandbabies,
and even Oma who recently moved to our area.

Our Sam's Club Sunday lunches have given us a great opportunity
 to enjoy making memories with friends and family.

Our kind neighbors, Ty and Carla, let us come to their 
resort-like pool often throughout the summer. What fun.

Chick-fil-A Day

We have a bin in a farmhouse closet filled with gear so we can participate in the various
 "free food" days at area restaurants. 
Pirate garb for Krispy Kreme, cowboy bandanas for Chipotle, 
and black spots for Chick-fil-A Day. 

We try to finish milking early enough to get to Chick-fil-A in time to enjoy a delicious meal. 

The interns have added richness and laughter to our farm life.
We are blessed to get to know them and stay in contact with them for years to come.


Our all time favorites in concert in Richmond

Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day

What a fun night. Our family has made such great memories 
worshiping together at Christian concerts.

After all the goodbyes had been said and tears shed, God surprised us with one more
 extended visit with Meredith and the grandbabies. 

Meredith and Stephen enjoyed one of the weeks together in Dallas while we had the babies with us.
Margaret lost her second tooth while visiting.

 Then one last Sunday together.
Mother/Daughter Dresses Sunday


There's just something about the farm shirts hanging on the line that makes me appreciate all over again this life God has chosen for us.

The farm crew likes to take a selfie at Bruster's each week and send it to the former interns,
 telling them they're missed 
and show them what they're missing.

The kids and interns enjoy movies and music at the farmhouse when
 Tim and I go to our church's small group each week.

 Timmy and I were excited to go on a trip 
celebrating our 32nd anniversary.

We arrived in Florida just in time for Disney's annual "Night of Joy" 
where many Christian music artists perform for two nights in the park. 

We sung along with Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, 
Dave Crowder, Francesca Battistelli, and more. 

The concerts lasted for seven hours. 
It was as close to Heaven 
as we've been in a very long while.

A trip to Florida isn't complete without a trip to Giordano's.

We toured West Palm Beach 
then boarded a boat
 headed to the Bahamas.

We tried something new this trip and did an all-inclusive island vacation 
where the lodging and food was included.
We drank Starbucks concoctions and ate pastries and ice cream til we were miserable.

Our balcony had a beautiful view of the ocean and the resort's pool that
 swirled from one end of the property to the other.

Among the reading materials that I brought on the trip was a book about Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM (Youth With A Mission). I read that one of the greatest areas of the organization's missionary impact was in the Bahamas as a result of a devastating hurricane the island experienced in the 1960's.
After Tim and I settled into our accommodations and headed to the pool, I was blessed and amazed to hear the resort's musical poolside host playing a Christian hymn on his steel drum. I couldn't help but wonder if this man or his family had heard of Christ as a result of YWAM's ministry decades earlier.

Several days later when Tim and I were leaving, I told the musician that I appreciated the Christian music that had welcomed us to the island. He quickly told me in his strong Bahamian accent with the broad smile that so many of the islanders possess, "I know Jesus!"

 He was eager for us to get a selfie together but insisted I hold the microphone for the picture. I scurried away quickly afterward fearing he had an impromptu poolside duet in mind.

We returned to the Disney resort after our cruise and time on the island. 
It's always nice to have a day or two on land to catch up on business so that we can 
enjoy just being with the kids when we get back home.

Disney serves cookies and lemonade every afternoon in the lobby. 
We're sure to keep a close eye on the poolside clock so we don't miss out on the yummy treats.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity Timmy and I had to step away
from our fast-paced life to celebrate our anniversary.

This was a big year for Sheridan as she developed several new skills. 
She blessed us with pancakes made from scratch...

Yummy treats from recipes in her American Girl Cookbook...

Hand knit washcloths...

And beautiful pictures with her blossoming love of photography.

Sheridan was grateful for this picture of her beloved Muffin. Shortly after it was taken, dear Muffin suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. She has surely been missed.

In late September I decided to throw myself (and anyone close enough to grab hold of) into a farmhouse sprucing-up project.
 On day one of the renovations I gave Tim a name tag and encouraged him to play his part well as Chip Gaines.

Sullivan and Harrison were my right hand men as they removed the disintegrating 
white, plastic wall board and then a layer of green tile board. 
For a couple of years I had been holding the shower walls together with white duct tape, and I teased that some upper-class friends of ours had stopped coming to the barn dance because they spied the taped, dilapidated shower walls.

The expense of fixing up a 100 year old, rented farmhouse is always a factor so I freshened up 
the tub and sink with special porcelain paint, 
and the vanity with some $5 "oops" paint that had been returned to Lowe's.

Tim, I mean Chip, helped Sullivan and Harrison install cedar on the walls
 and corrugated metal for the tub surround.

Ahh - so much cleaner, 
and no more duct tape holding it all together.

Then we turned our attention to the kitchen where Harrison built this terrific new light
with pallet wood and mason jars.

We also painted the kitchen cabinets a stormy gray,
 and the porch door a sunny yellow.


We celebrated the wedding of Elliott and Bethany in Georgia.
 The weather, ceremony, and reception were beautiful.

Stephen turned 30 the day after the wedding so with all the relatives still at the hotel, 
we surprised Stephen with a happy birthday welcome to the lobby breakfast.

We then headed to the church whose pastor has had such a profound impact on our family: 
Dr. Charles Stanley from First Baptist Atlanta. 
We're grateful for our children to see in person the pastor whose television broadcast has been part of our Sunday morning getting-ready-ritual for more than twenty years.

Since we were already in Georgia for the wedding, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make memories with the kids and grandkids at Disney's Vero Beach in Florida.
John Bradford said this was the "best day of his life" when Goofy and Donald Duck 
showed up in the resort's lobby.

The afternoon poolside dance party...
"It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A."

What a completely delightful and joyful baby girl Penelope is!

Evening games and entertainment. 
Even Timmy and Harrison joined in the freeze-dancing game.

Timmy made sure we all participated in the water slide races where judges recorded 
each contestant's time and "gold medals" were awarded.

Fun in the sand and waves

I'm so thankful for a husband who enjoys making memories with his family.
Those happy moments carry us through the exhausting and difficult seasons.


The arrival of fall marks an intensely busy season on the farm.

Gearing up for turkey processing, the farm's customer appreciation day, 
and the annual barn dance.

Sheridan is big enough this year to help catch the 20 pound turkeys.

A recent litter of puppies was a favored attraction 
at the farm's customer appreciation day.

We were absolutely overjoyed at the barn dance by the surprise visit of our dear friends, Steve and Ginny Riley, after whom Sullivan Riley was named. 
We hadn't seen this precious couple in many years and we were beyond thrilled 
when they surprised us.
Steve and Ginny were used by God to encourage us during a very difficult season of our lives. 
They pointed us to Jesus. 
They introduced us to Christian music whose lyrics ministered to our heavy hearts 
and helped to lift the burdens.
Their spirit lives in our Sullivan as he has such appreciation for the message behind the music.
 How grateful we are for these dear saints, our friends, Steve and Ginny.

A couple of days after the barn dance and our biggest farm commitments of the year, 
Meredith still hadn't delivered sweet baby Eleanor. 
So Sheridan, Oma, and I jumped in the car and headed to Boston to help out in any way we could.

We arrived in time to enjoy visiting with Stephen, Meredith, 
and the babies before Eleanor arrived. 

Stephen took us on a tour of Harvard's campus.
 I was amazed to see how many of the buildings have Bible verses engraved on them.

Even though it seems God has been banished from this institution, He has not.
 God is still there. He cannot be removed. 
An army of dedicated, fiercely committed God-followers carry the torch even now.

And then, at just the right time, baby Eleanor arrived!

I was able to attend the birth and as usual, Meredith did an incredible job. 
Another baby to love. 
This really is the hope of the nation - 
moms devoted to nurturing their babies and raising up a godly generation, 
and admirable dads unwavering in their dedication to their wives and children.

What unspeakable joy Stephen, Meredith, and these babies bring to our lives.


When sweet baby Eleanor was just ten days old, Meredith and the grandkids all came for a visit. 
Sheridan insisted the children participate in her amateur photo shoots.

This baby girl is all about meal times! First to the table, last to leave. 
And she has the thighs to prove she is not a picky eater.

Just before Christmas the Hammers said goodbye to us and headed to Texas
 to enjoy time with family there. 

Merry Christmas!

How gracious of the Lord to give us another year together to celebrate and remember His many blessings. He is a good God, worthy of our praise, worthy of our love, worthy of our devotion. May our lives be a reflection of our thankfulness.