Thursday, December 15, 2011



Saturday was BJ's last full day to study for the dental board examinations, so we had to get the kids out of the house. Trisha kindly invited us to go with her and her kids to Joseph Beth, a big beautiful bookstore downtown, where Santa was going to visit and read a story to the kids. Everyone was invited to bring their kids and cameras to take pictures with Santa after story time.

McKay, Benson, and I piled into the car and headed off to see Santa for the first time. McKay was very excited to tell Santa what he would like for Christmas and, of course, to play with the train table at Joseph Beth.

We arrived just before Santa descended the escalator to arrive in the Children's section of the bookstore. When he did, the kids were so excited and sat very patiently as Santa read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to all the kids.

Once the story was over, there was a mass movement to form a Santa-sitting line. And somehow we ended up at the very back. For a group of 2 and 3 year olds, that line seemed endless. So, we opted to visit the train table while we waited.

McKay and Benson love this train table. We visit Joseph Beth often for the singular purpose of playing on it (never mind that we have a train table in our own house). Anyway, on this Saturday, the train table was busy. The entire store was packed and the children's section was no exception. Things started off well...until McKay decided he wanted a train that another little boy was using. He asked nicely for it once and then, when the train wasn't delivered forthwith, he flew into a terrible tizzy. He ran screaming at the top of his lungs through the aisles of books, wailing something about not sharing.

It was as if a collective hush fell over the entire store. All eyes searching for the source of all that noise. I chased after McKay, practically begging him to calm down but to no avail. I could see he was not going to be quieted which left us with only one choice. I scooped up a kicking and screaming McKay under one arm, and Benson, who had been playing nicely until he was unceremoniously dragged away, under the other. A kind parent pushed the elevator button for me and up I went with two screaming children.

The elevator served to amplify the screaming so when we finally reached the top and the door opened, the whole store was staring (many in disgust) at the parade of ill-behaved children and their frazzled mother.

It was about this time that McKay realized his opportunity to talk to Santa had been compromised. His screams turned then from indistinguishable shouts to a piercing, "SANTA!!!!!" which he screamed over and over again as we dashed madly for the door.

I don't think I've ever been so embarrassed in all my life. Even my infamous bra mishap on TV (plenty embarrassing, I assure you) doesn't compare to walking through a gigantic store carrying what appeared to be two totally spoiled children screaming about Santa at the top of their lungs. I felt like the whole store was collectively shaking their heads at this terrible mother.

Poor McKay was sorely disappointed. He sobbed all the way home about not getting to talk to Santa. However, I think it was a lesson well-learned. And perhaps we'll find another opportunity to talk with Santa. Maybe we'll even get a picture.


In this day of digital everything, I appreciate more and more a hand-written note. One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the influx of mail we receive. It means so much to hold a letter in your hands.

Lately we've received a couple of letters with particular meaning. Each one brought tears to my eyes, especially because the feelings each expressed are the way I feel about each of these wonderful people. At the risk of being too personal, I am going to document them here as I want to remember them for years to come.

From Becky, Todd, and Rachel (A Thank You Note at Thanksgiving):

"Thank you so much for having us for Thanksgiving! It was so nice to spend time in your home with you and your cute little boys. Thank you for your hospitality-the delicious meals. rearranging your schedules and rooms for us, and for your kindness! Hope to see you again."

"Thank you so much for inviting us into your home and taking such good care of us. You're both amazing, and kind, and comfortable. This has been the best Thanksgiving break in years. You guys are the best!"

"Thanks for having me and my friends for Thanksgiving. My family is the best part of me. Thanks for letting me share that. Love you!"

From Elder Anderson, our missionary friend here in Nicholasville:

"Dear BJ and Rachel,
Where to even begin! Thank you so much for the love, kindness, and hospitality you've shown me during my time here in the Nicholasville ward. Having the privilege to come to know your family and to see your growth in the Gospel has been a tremendous testimony builder to me. I cannot thank both of you enough for the example you have been to me and the members of the Nicholasville Ward. As I have witnessed your faith grow, my faith has grown. Thank you, Brother Cox, for magnifying your priesthood, and thank you, Sister Cox, for taking upon yourself the errand of angels. And thank you both for making your home a Heaven on Earth. I never thought it would be possible to come to love someone as much as I've come to love your family. I have every intention of staying in touch with your family, plus i know the relationships one acquires while on their mission will last for eternities. BJ and Rachel, never allow Satan to bind your tongues. Share what you know to be true with boldness and love. In the words of that great missionary Paul; Fight the good fight, finish your course, and keep the faith. Shall we not go on in so great a cause! The Lord loves you and so do I."
-Elder Anderson

From Elder Ahern, his companion:
"Dear Cox Family,
I want to thank you so much for everything that you have done for us. I have grown to love you all so much. I've enjoyed every minute of my time spent in your home and I want to thank you for the love that you have shown me. You make me feel like part of the family and my family back home has heard a lot about you, nothing but good things, hahaha! I want to thank you for having us over for Thanksgiving. It really meant a lot to me because of the fact that it was my first major holiday away from home and I was worried I would get homesick. Celebrating Thanksgiving in your home was perfect because I have come to love you as my family...kind of like a home away from home. You are too amazing and I know I still have some time here but it's going to be super difficult when I do go. I could go on but just know that I love you all so much. Have a wonderful Christmas season!"
-Elder Ahern

Monday, December 12, 2011

Everyday Angels

The last few weeks have been very busy. December always is. Especially so for musicians, it seems. BJ and I love performing at Christmas time and feel so blessed to share beautiful messages about the Savior's birth during this time of year.

Performing has become challenging though, since each time we sing or rehearse, we have to figure out what to do with the kids. Especially since McKay still hates our singing. Really, he does. He covers his ears and shouts at the top of his lungs, "Stop Practicing!" until it stops.

Last evening was our last big concert of the Christmas season. We have been taking turns attending Stake Choir rehearsals for our Bi-Stake Creche festival and Christmas concert. It was a beautiful event with nearly 150 Nativities displayed and a beautiful concert planned. We were both planning to sing in the choir and we'd also been asked to sing a duet.

The evening began well. We brought along the kids with plenty of snacks and toys. While we rehearsed our old friend, Rick Snow, did a masterful job of keeping the kids busy. We then went to find our babysitter but things didn't go as planned. After a few attempts to find childcare, I went back to the kids and a very nervous BJ. The concert was minutes away from beginning and we were stuck.

I sent BJ on in to sing with the choir and told him I'd stay with the kids and find someone to watch them while I ran in for our duet.

After he left, I sank into a chair, trying to hold back the tears of frustration and disappointment. The choir was large and they didn't really need me, but we had sacrificed many Sunday evenings to rehearse. We'd driven a half hour each way every week to practice, often with the kids in tow past their bedtimes to support good music in our stake. I wanted so much to be able to sing and, in the midst of hundreds of church members, I felt alone. I knew I could drag someone in if I really tried, but I didn't want to bother anyone. Everyone there had come to attend the concert, not babysit. After a busy few weeks of calling in favors and arranging for childcare, I just couldn't bear to ask anyone for yet more help.

The concert was extremely well attended. There were nearly 700 people and there were not 700 chairs set up. So, right before the concert began, priesthood men were sent to every extra room to retrieve chairs. As I was sending BJ off to sing, there were two men picking up chairs in the room we were in. One of them said, "Do you need someone to watch your kids"? I didn't know him and assured him that I would be fine. He left. But, just as I was saying in my heart, "Heavenly Father, I wish we had someone to help us right now" he came back with his beautiful wife. Scott and Julie Hill introduced themselves. Scott, it turns out, is a 2nd year dental student and a friend of BJ's. Julie said to me, "We would be happy to watch your kids tonight. You need to go and sing. I am a nanny and we love kids. It will be a blessing to hear you sing through the speakers while we play with the kids."

I was so very touched. All I could do was hug Julie and choke out a "thank you" before wiping my eyes and running out the door to sing.

We returned an hour later to two cheerful boys and the sweet smiles of Scott and Julie. They assured us that the boys had been great and that they had even played a new game with Benson.

I know that last night, in the midst of a crowd of people busily celebrating the Savior's birth, Heavenly Father sent two servants, angels in fact, to minister to a daughter who was feeling a little forgotten and alone.

I am so grateful for two humble wonderful people who willingly gave up an evening of pleasant enjoyment for one of service. Who answered a small call that made all the difference to me. To me, their smiles were radiant and nothing short of angelic.

I know Heavenly Father is mindful of me and my two boys. That was evidenced to me last night through the actions of others. I was reminded that it is often through others that the Lord meets our needs and answers our prayers. I'm grateful for the Hills' example which has encouraged me to look around more attentively and listen to the Spirit more closely that I might minister too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Let me just start off by saying that my boys are cuter than any other little boys out there... sorry if you have boys and are reading this... but it's true :)

Every time I burp in front of Benson (which, I'm sure isn't very often...), I look at him and make a scrunched-up face and say "Sick!"

So, tonight, Benson got the hiccups. It was hilarious because each time he would hiccup, he'd look at me and say "Sick!" (which comes out more like "Sih"). This went on for about two or three minutes until he got over the hiccups.

Cute kid. Gotta love him.

Update: Rachel insists that I make sure that you all know that BJ wrote this post... Rachel doesn't know how to burp.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Daily Tantrum

Well I don't know who ever coined the phrase "Terrible Twos" but they must have never raised a three-year-old because two-year-olds got nothin' on the three-year-olds.

At our house, we have a "Daily Tantrum". Yes, it even has a name. McKay wakes up at 6:30 every morning and by 1:00pm he has HAD IT.

(Insert tantrum here)

We now have a tantrum routine. When he starts his screaming fit, I calmly say, "you may go to your room until you calm down. Benson and Mommy don't want to listen to screaming."

Recently, McKay has been sending himself to his room when the screaming begins. That helps some.

Benson mostly just stares in shocked horror. You'd think he'd be used to it by now.

Today's edition began like this:

We arrived home from a friends house where the kids had been decorating Christmas cookies and having a wonderful time. McKay was exhausted but when I suggested taking a short rest he flew into his "daily tantrum".

(Insert screaming and gushing tears)

I calmly said, "You may calm down and play for a few minutes while I put Benson to bed or you can stay in your room and cry."

(More screaming)

So, I put Benson to bed and returned to assist McKay. When I opened his door he glared at me, with tears still streaming and said, "Zook what you've done to me, Mom! I'm SO SAD! Zook what you've done! I am SO disappointed in you!"

At least I know he listens to me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ugly Sweater Party

Isn't it a fantastic idea? There are so many hideous holiday sweaters wandering around, why not have a party to celebrate them? Our friends, Kauti and Josh Nicholls did just that. Here are BJ and I in our versions. The sweater BJ is wearing is actually the sweater he picked up for me at Goodwill but it just worked so much better on him. You can't exactly see it, but the sweater is skin-tight and has miniature snow scenes all over it. Little barns and covered bridges--a tribute to my New England heritage.

Sierra, Kauti, and I in our versions of the ugly sweater. Mine is a little lame, I know, but I would never wear this out in public, so I figured it worked. After all, I had to give my sweater up to was a selfless gesture. Just call me Mrs. Santa.

Trisha, Kate, and I. It was really hard to have serious conversations with people throughout the evening while wearing such horrible outfits. I just can't take someone seriously who is wearing a gigantic Snoopy on their chest.

Eric and BJ. They are such good friends. :)

BJ, posing in his winning sweater. Yes, of all the garish, awful outfits of the night, BJ was voted the owner of the Ugliest Sweater. Way to go honey! You make me proud!

His winnings included a Fruitcake log, reindeer antlers, a tacky Santa wall decoration, and a musical Christmas tie. Perfect for Nursery!

We also exchanged White Elephant gifts. BJ and I walked away with a $10 gift card and a mug with a sweet quote likening friends to bras. Brought tears to my eyes.

Our contributions to the gift exchange included 4 bottles of pickled peppers and a crab. Yes, it was alive and nearly scared the opener to death, especially since she mistook it for a scorpion.

That's right, don't forget to invite us to your next White Elephant party! You never know what you'll get!
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Pie

Watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. McKay loves this movie. So does everyone else but when we tried to quote it, we were all scolded by McKay. He would tell each of us in turn, "Stop talking! You're distracting the movie!"

The day after Thanksgiving, Todd demonstrated his baking prowess. He made two Amazing pies, a Lemon Meringue and Raspberry, both recipes from his Grandmothers. Here they are...

And they tasted even better than they looked (if that's possible).
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It was, simply, one of the best Thanksgivings in recent memory. It could only have been improved by sharing it with ALL of our family and friends. However, we felt so very grateful to have a house full of people we love for Thanksgiving this year.

This set of missionaries, Elder Anderson, Elder Ahern, and Elder Gaastra, are very dear to us. They have taught us, strengthened our testimonies, and become our friends. We were so happy they could join us for Thanksgiving this year.

Shaelynn, McKay and Benson had their own little Thanksgiving nook. They really enjoyed themselves. They laughed and played and sampled the food. Well, Shaelynn and McKay sampled the food. Benson just at jello...and pie.

We were nothing short of delighted to have Becky and her two wonderful friends, Rachel and Todd, join us for the weekend. It felt more like Becky brought two of our cousins home.

Rachel, Becky's roommate, is a sweetheart. She was kind, patient and sweet with the boys, and a big help in the kitchen. We loved getting to know her better.

Todd was fantastic too. He took some family photos for us, baked two unbelievable pies (I have the recipes in-hand), played trains and airplane with the kids, and seemed to be doing dishes every time I turned around! He was kind and thoughtful too.

Needless to say, we hope they come back for another visit soon.

Our dear friends Trisha and Eric Ashford also joined us for the Thanksgiving meal. They have been our home away from home here in Kentucky. They have been there for us, no matter what and we feel so blessed to have them as a constant in our lives here.

Just had to include this adorable pic of Mr. Benson chillin' on the couch after the meal. He looks like such a little man.

This Thanksgiving was truly a special one. There is something about living far away from home and family that makes you so grateful for every meaningful relationship. From missionaries to friends, to family, each person in our home over this Thanksgiving weekend was so special and important to us. How often does that happen?

Joy is so many things. This weekend joy was:

A beautiful golden turkey
A walk through the woods with no coat
Lemon Meringue, Apple, Raspberry, Pumpkin, and Pecan
A park-side duck-attack
More people than beds to hold them
Bang!, Apples to Apples, Loaded Questions, Bananagrams, and Scategories,
Two babies and Five adults
New friends you feel you've known a long time
Little Women
A new sweater and Chick-fila waffle fries
A van with no empty seats
A best friend named Becky.

I am so grateful for the dear, irreplaceable people in my life. All weekend long our home felt complete for the wonderful people surrounding us.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Elder Anderson and Elder Ahern, two of the best missionaries to ever serve in Nicholasville!

Becky snuggling with McKay, post-nap.

Elder Anderson setting the Thanksgiving table. Those missionaries are always serving! :)

Eric and Alyssa. So cute!

Three of the four Ashfords. Our family away from family.

Elder Ahern and Elder Gaastra playing Bang! It was so much fun to play some games with the missionaries!

A kitchen-full. Delicious food everywhere, friends and family filling the kitchen, lots of helping hands, and a silly husband mashing the potatoes = a perfect Thanksgiving.

Benson giving me loves. Oh he is such a sweet little man!

Becky unwrapping the goodness.

Part of the Thanksgiving feast. And, for the record, our turkey was BEAUTIFUL! Props to BJ for doing the dirty work to make the turkey so beautiful and tasty!

How to eat a roll, Benson-style.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

McKay's Karaoke

So, last night while McKay, Benson and I (BJ) were playing with trains, I (like I often do) broke into song. Sometimes while I sing songs, I will pause and let McKay fill in the words... Our song last night went something like this:

BJ: Splish Splash I was taking a...
McKay: Bath (half-heartedly)
BJ: I stepped...
McKay: out of the tub, (a little more enthusiasm)
BJ: Put my...
McKay: Feet on the floor,
BJ: Splish Splash I...
McKay: Jumped back into the bath. (quite enthusiastically)
BJ: How was I to know...
McKay: There was a turtle in the bath!

Letters from McKay

When people are sick we sometimes scribe for McKay while he dictates a letter to a loved one. Here are a few of his recent correspondence.

Dear Mom,
I'm sorry that you're sick. I hope you feel better...I'm drawing a spaceship on Dave's picture for him...I love you a lot, Momma.


Dear Dave (and Vickie),

I'm sorry you're sick. You're welcome for giving you this card.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Muffs and other random thoughts

Yesterday morning while Benson was still asleep and McKay was watching a show, I hopped into the shower. Once in, I realized I didn't have my shower puff or a washcloth in the kids bathroom so I grabbed McKay's puff and began using it.

About two seconds later I heard the bathroom door open and McKay's voice authoritatively say, "Hey Mom, don't use my new muff that Nanna bought for me. It's my own special muff, so don't use it, okay?"

"Ok," I replied. I mean, technically I wasn't using a "muff" anyway.

In preparation for McKay's nap today, I sent him in to go potty. He went into the bathroom, then I heard the toilet lid lift up and crash back down, followed by McKay's wailing.

I said from the other room, "Are you ok? What happened?" to which McKay responded through tears, "The toilet lid fell on my pee-er."


Yesterday the boys and I went and got flu shots. Today I feel horrible. It feels like a miniature dose of the flu. I am reminded of two years ago when I got my first ever flu shot. I remember feeling badly then, too. It was after that flu shot that I swore them off forever, deciding I'd take my chances with the flu.

The next year I got the flu. I felt horrible. Three full days in bed feeling disgusting. So, this year I opted for the flu shot. And now I feel horrible again. Grrr.....

As we were leaving the clinic after getting our flu shots, a lady was being taken back by the nurse for an appointment. As she walked past us McKay looked up at her and said, "the nurse will give you a squirt in your arm, then you will be all better too!"

This morning I stepped out of the shower and was drying off. McKay had just come into the bathroom and was talking to me about Benson. All of the sudden I heard a strange "plop" behind me in the shower. I turned around and looked at the very spot I'd been standing in only a few moments before. A huge spider had just fallen from the ceiling to that very spot. We're talking big black, thick body and legs, and hairy too. A few moments earlier and it would have landed right on my head.

I'm not kidding.

I managed to half-choke the scream that unconsciously rose in my throat. I made McKay close the shower door and watch to make sure the spider didn't escape. I grabbed the poison and gave it a healthy spray. It didn't seem much affected by the stuff. When it came running at McKay and I, I knew we needed reinforcements.

I called my neighbor, Dave, who was just on his way to work. He knows a little of my arachnophobia and gallantly came over to rescue us. I felt a little ridiculous but some things are too much for me to handle. And why does this always happen when BJ is away? I think spiders can smell fear.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Carving 2011

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Truck or Treat 2011

This year our ward held it's annual Trunk or Treat and Chili Cook-off at the Nicholls farm. It was the perfect place for the event. The ward met in the barn, ate on hay bales and had a wonderful Halloween time! Right outside the barn were horses. Above McKay is posing in front of the horse. He was fascinated by it and kept trying to feed it pine needles.

Here are Mommy and Benson. Benson would walk right up to the horse and start giggling...and barking. He seems to think all large animals are dogs.


A shot inside the barn
At the entrance to the barn was a blow-up monster. McKay thought it was very exciting indeed.

Mmmm all the delicious treats!

And here is where Benson spent the majority of the party. Try as I might to keep this boy clean, he insisted on rolling around in the dirt.

Actually, the truth is, it was a very cold night, so his well-meaning mother dressed him in 4 layers underneath his monkey suit. He was wearing a full fuzzy jammy, jeans, a sweatshirt, and long johns (maybe a coat too) underneath. So, anytime he bent down to reach for something, he fell flat on his face (think "The Christmas Story"). All I have to say is, thank goodness that costume is brown!

"Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 28, 2011

At the orchard

Last Saturday we soaked up some of the last of the beautiful Fall weather at Boyd's orchard with our friends, the Hamiltons. Axl and McKay loved the Hay Ride (above), the Inflatable Train, and the Petting Zoo.

Benson Loved feeding the goats!

There is nothing like Kentucky in the Fall. It is so beautiful here. Thanks Tyler and JoAnna for a great day (and for taking some photos of all four of us).Posted by Picasa