He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Friday, July 24, 2015

Memphis holidays

In the spirit of my last post, I need to get our Memphis holiday memories recorded too (from way back when).  Wow, am I the only one who feels like December was a lifetime ago?!  We've kind of felt like, when coming back to the states, that we really have the best of both worlds when it comes to visiting family.  Jason's parents live on the farm.  Fishing, farm animals, gardening and plenty of other outdoor fun.  My parents live in the heart of Memphis, and although Memphis is not a huge city, it definitely has lots of more urban style perks so we always love getting to experience some of both when we are back in the states.  

Family traditions are so often centered around food.  One of our Memphis favorites is a local hamburger joint called Huey's where you shoot your toothpicks through straws and try to stick them into the ceiling.  Only occasionally do you hit another diner and they are *usually* understanding!

And we wouldn't be home in Memphis, without Saturday runs to Gibson's donuts... Ok, so the tray below is kind of overloaded with not my favorite kind of donuts (little girls definitely picked these out!),but they have an apple fritter to die for and their maple bacon donut and new orleans style are super yummy.

We had plenty of fun holiday time with Memphis cousins too.  Merry Christmas from the Cox/Cameron cousins- only a few days delayed!

Celebrating New Year's Eve with Annie and Da

Identical cousins...


Happy New Year!

Anabelle has loved getting to be better buddies with Michael (1 year older)...

and Thomas (3 years older).  Thomas admittedly is a bit more patient with her constant attention which can be a bit smothering.  

Michael, however, did manage to convince her along the way that he is "the boss" and she is quite certain this is a cold, hard fact.  

In the midst of all the holiday fun, we took an afternoon to explore a park near our temporary home.  

Anabelle and Naomi loved climbing over and on and around the huge magnolias.  

Just a walk around the park...

I had to remind myself several times that many things in America are new and unusual for Anabelle.  What fun to ride in a car at the grocery store!  (I have finally convinced her that this is not happening on EVERY trip....)

She was a bit concerned about lovey going into the top loading washer.  Our washer in Jordan is front loading with a clear door so she can watch lovey spinning around.  She was much reassured when she came out just fine!

So many fun activities with cousins over the holidays!

The zoo is always a favorite!
(this is Michael's "I'm being very patient with all these girly hugs and attention" face)

Bundled up at the sea lion show!

This winter was super cold.  We had about a week where the high didn't get above 20.  Perfect for an afternoon at the movies!

Notice the girls all sporting their Memphis Grizzlies or Tigers Basketball t-shirts.  
Jason and I caught a few Grizz games.   Memphis is a basketball town for sure and it's hard not to get caught up in the fun.  Go Grizz!

(Naomi even made her own mask to wear at home!)

Just one of many bonding moments over the last 7 months...

Cousin sleepovers are the best!

To top off our holiday season this year, Annie took all the girls to see The Lion King at the Orpheum.  

It was beyond amazing!  

Such a great memory!!

Hard to believe it's been 7 months!  Time flies that's for sure.  At least this is a start at recording some of our memories from this time in the US.  Again, so amazingly thankful for family and all these precious memories!

Cox family Christmas

So here's the deal.  I do know that it is July (almost August!), and that January would definitely be the more "normal" time for a post about Christmas, but cut me a little slack.  The pace of life in America has just about done me in!  I always seem to forget during our stints on the other side of the world, just how crazy life over here in the US of A can be.  That's not to say that our lives in the Middle East don't qualify for their own brand of crazy, but as far as simply keeping up, keeping food in the mouths of my 4 children and husband, much less BLOGGING, it just hasn't been happening!  I mean you know things are bad when you're teenager who doesn't live in America and therefore lives for things like Chick-fil-A when we are back, tells you that she's tired of Chick-fil-A! Our schedules of been craziness!  But that's a subject for another day.  Today, apparently, it's Christmas in July.  

So, this is a lot of pictures, simply for the sake of jogging our collective family memories, when we one day want to look back at this chapter of our family's history.  These are precious times that we don't want to forget.  

In this post, I'll focus on our Christmas with Jason's side of the family, and I'll save my side for another post.  This season in the states has been especially precious for Anabelle as she is making lots of first memories.  She has done most of these things before (last year when we were home for a month for Christmas) but at age 3.5-4, these will be the first memorable memories.  

It's become a family tradition to stop at Cracker Barrel at least once during our many treks back and forth between Memphis, TN (my family) and Rome, GA (Jason's family).  This year was no exception.  

Fire making is one of Jason's favorite things to do for which I am very thankful as sitting in front of the fire is one of my favorites.  Here's our first fire upon arriving.  Anabelle was eager to help!

These 2 cousins are about 2 years apart in age, but hit it off pretty quickly!

Just a little bird watching...

Happy to be together again, here are many of the 12 Cox cousins building a fort in the woods out behind the house.

Millie and Boss, the farm dogs who are fixtures at Papa and Nana's farm and my faithful companions on my morning run by the creek.  

So fire building is a favorite activity of my man both indoors and out...  

Patiently standing by waiting to start roasting s'mores.  Another fun treat we can't really get where we live.  

Who wants a s'more?

Anabelle was mostly a fan, however her desire to not get messy or sticky or dirty in anyway interfered a little with her ability to truly enjoy the gooey treats!

Cloud, a new addition to the farm since our last visit, is such a sweetheart and faithfully herds and watches over the goats (and ducks).

And we always have to make time to put a line in the water!  The girls all love to fish and sometimes it's a test of Daddy's patience to bait hooks, remove fish, untangle lines, run off unwelcome goats and ducks etc etc- especially when lots of cousins are wanting to fish at once, but a little test of patience is good for us, right?  

 And look at those happy smiles!  So worth it! (says the girl who doesn't bait hooks or remove fish)

These 2 cousins (almost 3 years apart) have gotten to be big buddies too!

And I can't leave off one of the best parts of this Christmas- getting to meet the newest addition, Miss Libby Kathleen.  Somehow I have very few pictures of our first meeting!  (Allison, we must do something about that!)

Anabelle was a huge fan of the Christmas Eve service especially since she got to hold (and blow out) her own candle.  I think I look a little nervous here because she had almost caught something on fire at least 4 times...

Nana's cooking is always a favorite part of any holiday.  Ribs have become a fave of all the cousins and AB quickly discovered that if she batted her long eyelashes at Nana she could convince her to hold the rib for her so that her hands wouldn't get messy.  (not sure that tactic would work now that we've been here for 7 months!)

 This year, Papa had collected various international coins and stones and had them made into jewelry for the ladies of the family.  I didn't get pictures of everyone's (nor do I remember at this point the stories behind each), but they did each come from a specific place and the girls loved this special treat.  
 Anabelle's is a Lebanese coin made into a necklace.

Naomi got a necklace of some beautiful blue beads.

Abbey got earrings made from Moroccan coins.

And I got a necklace and matching earrings made from ostrich eggs. 

A few random cousin shots. 

 Emma and Jenna who are close to the same age (and actually live in the same country!) were so sweet to include the younger Anabelle.  She loved playing with her new cousin buddies!

I think Aunt AJ may have stepped in here to have a tea party with AB, so that Jenna and Emma could have some time playing Wii to themselves!

Silly girls...

 Another Cox Christmas tradition is matching cousin pajamas.  Nana even sends our girls Christmas PJs to match their cousins when we are having our Christmas overseas.  
Getting a decent picture of this gang...

Well, it requires lots of adults with cameras and other devices....

Speaking of family pictures.... Of course a necessity considering how rare it is to have all of us under one roof!  Always such a miserable experience that ends in me yelling at all of my family members joyous occasion.  

Well, at least here's one of Papa and Nana and all the grandkids.

And one of my hurried (obviously) attempts of the girls that resulted in none of them looking in the same direction and not so great color.  Oh well...

More cousins...

Somehow I don't have any pictures of our Christmas stocking but these are definitely a highlight.  Nana is a pro at stuffing a stocking.  It is a year long affair that is always highly anticipated and never disappoints.  Here are Abbey and Maddie opening theirs and modeling some of their gifts. 

Not entirely sure what we are all doing here.  I would guess singing Christmas carols or maybe reading the Christmas story.  

 So thankful for this crazy group of people that I get the joy of calling family.  And super thankful for the many memories we made.