Holidays, Real Life. Pause, Fast Forward; Calm, Chaotic. Love!!!

It all comes together in this symphony of life.

We used to have this little squirrel tarrier dog, named Sally, who had exactly 2 speeds: go-go-go or flat out asleep. Nothing. in. between.  I sometimes feel like that is our life. Yet, the holiday vacation provides a bit of the "in-between."

A little late, I know but I'm going to reflect upon the holidays. First, I'll tell how the four of us kicked it off with our gift night, a bit of a facelift for the girls play room:

This girl in her infinite giftedness for human connection knows how to show appreciation for gifts with the most excited expressions of gratitude. It is one of her gifts.

So I ordered the wrong slip cover for the chair, had to order the big chair. BJ thinks it was a trick to get a new piece of furniture, but it wasn't. They also got a new art table.

Along with some useful things like shoes:

A few days later and a croup diagnosis for Anna Cate the last day of school, we left for Tennessee, with our annual stop-over at Aunt's home. I don't know how it happens every year, but it is about 90 minutes of quality time, every single minute.

Both the girls instantly feel comfortable there.

It is so special, quality time on pause and fast foward all at once.

Then we were treated to 10 days of Bates family holiday style! So much good that it is hard to even reflect upon what to write...But seeing these girls together tops the list.

Mom makes sure there is a lot of family time, good food, and good times.

In addition to all the big moments,  there were quiet times of serenity.

Tradition commenced as Aunt Becki showed Anna Cate how to find the path of Santa Claus and Kitty joined them.

There was gift-giving galore. Uncle Doug has teased Anna Cate about dragons for over two years so she got him one.

Kitty and Molly each got a turtle sort of like the one Anna Cate was given a few years ago.

They were just happy to be together.

Elmo was the star of Molly's Christmas.

Kitty likes the little guy, too, and I enjoyed showing Kitty Molly's Elmo app.  Kitty is as excited about everything as she appears here. It is fabulous -- Kitty's excitement, but the free app is pretty great, too.

Douglas and Mom (along with a gift from Daddy's cousin of meat) made sure Chrsitmas dinner was divine.

I didn't partake of the meat, but I enjoyed the brandy.

BJ and I enjoyed our annual date.

Molly bonded with her other "cousin" Merc.

Cue mother's guilt for a dog-less household. But this kid is enough to take care of, I tell myself.

All 6 adults had a night out.

Then, we headed to Memphis to cheer the Vanderbilt Commodores in the Liberty Bowl.  I didn't go to Vanderbilt (didn't get in), but I've loved them my whole life.  At only 5 years old, Anna Cate does too.

We did the bowl game and all the festivities, which of course started on Beale Street.

With Lunch in a Bar, decked out in our black and gold.

My good friend, Carla Offenburger, here with us. Carla has been my pal since I was a child and seeing her connect with Anna Cate was a certain highlight of the trip.  Carla's husband, Chuck, and Daddy went to college together. Both of them were second parents for us on RAGBRAIs of my youth and when I was a student at Cornell College Iowa. I love you, Offenburgers!

And a Parade.

And a bit of a pep rally.

The day of the game, my little Commodore was all decked out.

Thankfullly, Molly Mae (and her cousin Kitty) were kept by babysitters for the day. Thank you Becki and Douglas!!!

We tailgated.

And cheered the team into the stadium.

Here, Coach Franklin extended a hand to Anna Cate on BJ's shoulders.The Commodores did not win, but it was a great experience being with family and friends, supporting our team. (Several of the pictures, I took from

BJ and I tried to go out and celebrate our anniversary, but we were exhausted. On New Year's Day, we stopped by the Peabody to check out the famed ducks, and watch them "march" (run) in.

BUT we found a bigger celebrity....Coach Franklin.

Anna Cate saw him again (after the high-five) and he reached down to give her a hug.  Like all Commodore fans, this guy has my heart for sure!

The ducks were pretty cool, too. Anna Cate took this picture.

We did a drive-by to honor "The King."

On our last day in Tennessee, the first day of 2012, Douglas and Becki hosted us for dinner.
Where in the middle of the craze of family togetherness, I caught this moment.

My brother and I exchanged a sincere sentiment that we wished we lived closer, could know each others' kids better. But look at Molly's eyes, she knows, right?!

It seems like we got back into the swing of fast-paced life too easily and in a way, the time I had to stop and visit and actually fix my hair, put makeup on, play with my kids and slow dow a bit seems like  a dream. I didn't take as many pictures as I probably should have, and I've been absent from the space where I put my thoughts to words.  BUT here is the beauty in taking pictures and writing in general: I notice life as if I'm going to blog about it. In the midst of experiencing it all on fast forward, my soul says pause: Think, notice, reflect, say thank you. So, as we wrap up 2011 and open up 2012, I want to say thank you to this space and all of you who care to visit (like my best friend in the 4th grade who I haven't seen in over 20 years, Misty!) and share this journey with me. The passing of time is so fast yet so beautiful, exhibited by Anna Cate's glee over her toothless self.

Both the Tooth Fairy AND Santa Claus had to find her in Tennessee.

This morning as I was getting ready for church, I thought as I looked at my face how many lines I have around my eyes. Less than an hour later, I sat with Anna Cate and noticed her pride for her missing teeth. I wish I could embrace my lines with as much glee as she does her tootless smile, because I should.  I have the lines because I'm living, even if it feels like it is on fast forward.

I'll be back soon for musings on January.

The years teach much which the days never knew.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson