Jamaica ‘Mon

Wow, ‘mon! What a trip! We got back last week from a fun filled vacation to Jamaica. Let me start off by giving shouts out to our parents for keeping the kids while we were away. The inlaws split the difference on keeping the kiddos. We KNOW what you’re dealing with! And we thank you!

Jamaica was a blast. We actually split the trip between 2 separate places. The first place was the blue cave castle. It’s basically a castle that was built on the cliffs that are past 7 mile beach. We were in the “penthouse”. We had a ball there. There are only about 11 rooms in the whole place, 4 of which had guests. So we got to know some really neat people during our stay there. There was a chef onsite named Teddy. He cooked some amazing meals for us. There were some standbys as well as the ‘food of the day’, which he’d recommend. The food was delicious and even included some new stuff (at least to us) like curried conch. For some reason, even the bacon he cooked at breakfast was better than any I’d ever had.

Since blue cave wasn’t all inclusive, we didn’t feel an ounce of guild venturing out to have meals at other places. We went to a little place called 3 Dives and also had dinner one night at Rick’s. That night was a little special for us since Laura and I met at a joint called Rick’s when we were back in school. And our honeymoon was SUPPOSED to be in Jamaica until Hurricane Ivan nearly wiped it off the map 2 days before we got married.

One of the things that was really cool about the blue cave was the cliffs. There were steps carved into the rock that you could both walk down and dive from. I did a couple dives from one that was 30-35 feet up. What a rush. I felt like a 6 year old girl standing up there before I jumped. I’d almost get my nerve…then step back down. I finally did it, though.

The worst thing about venturing out of the castle was the local ‘hustlers’. We went to a craft market one afternoon and told our cab driver to be back in an hour. After about 20 minutes we were done with the craft market. The market was nearly empty of tourists, but all the locals with the booths were still there. Apparently, it is the low season, and the locals are hurting for money. We felt bad for them, but Laura never felt better about herself. The vendors kept referring to her as “boss”, and were telling her that she had pretty hair, pretty teeth, pretty eyes, pretty skin, pretty clothes, pretty legs. Everything was pretty. I happen to agree. 🙂

After 20 minutes or so in the craft market, we couldn’t take it anymore. We walked down the street and sat in a Burger King until it was time for our cab to pick us up.

The second half of the week was a Couples Swept Away. I’d say it is just about the exact opposite of everything we experienced at the castle. Tons of people, a bazillion different things to eat, air conditioning, lots to do and see. One thing we’ve learned is that there isn’t a lot of differences between most all inclusives. Rooms are all similar. Food is good, but is the type of food that you get when the chef has to cook for 200. There were some cool things about this one that set it apart from some of the others we’ve been to. We did a glass bottom boat ride, snorkeled on a reef, water skied, made a hat from coconut leaves, made a basked and tie dyed.

One of the BEST things about the resort was an ice cream station. All you had to do was walk up, grab a cone and make you a soft serve…ANY TIME YOU PLEASED. My record was 6 ice cream cones in one day. We even got a few of the other guests involved and turned it into a competition.

Coming back home was bittersweet. We were ready to be home…to see our kids, to sleep in our own bed. But we will definitely miss the time hanging out with just the two of us. There’s always next trip…


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cliff diving-2

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Family Pictures

Since birthday season is well underway (Haley in March, Trey in May, Avery in July), we figured it was about time to do some family pcitures. Of course, we don’t have time to go anywhere nice. But luckily, Julie was over a while back and was able to to shoot a couple of family pics for us. From the comfort of our own bedroom. 🙂

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Happy Birthday, Bo-Bo!!

Avery is definitely the third child! We incorporated a birthday party into our plans to join my parents, Grandma Dee, and the Caswells at the lake for the Fourth of July. Luckily, my amazingly over-the-top crafty friend Angelina had a Minnie Mouse party for her daughter just weeks before, so I hit the jackpot in borrowing all of her Minnie Mouse decor for Avery’s party.

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Avery loves Mickey and Minnie…mainly Mickey. She comes in to our room every morning to snuggle up and watch Mickey. She usually stays in bed watching while I start to get ready. A great plan!

The weather was great and we had a fun time spending time with family. We took rides on the boat, played with Toby (the dog), and enjoyed the fireworks in the middle of the lake. Haley and I loved getting schooled by Grandma Dee in playing Crazy 8’s!

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Avery loved the balloons and the cupcakes the most. She got tons of attention and probably didn’t notice it was her birthday because she gets tons of attention every day! I am so proud of my sweet two-year old BABY! She is the cutest thing, is so full of life, and cracks us up at every turn with her facial expressions and personality.

Avery is almost fully potty trained and is now in a big girl bed- she was the first and only Simons baby to train herself to crawl out…it is hilarious too! I can’t believe how fast she is.

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We left the lake a little early to get home to our own lake celebration! Garner Lake does a great fireworks display too so we loaded the pirate ship and set sail!

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Happy 4th of July!

Proud to be an American! Where at

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least I know I’m free!!!

Free to do what’s right. And free to do what isn’t. By my standards. Or by God’s standards.

Lord, help us this day to do what’s right by your standards. They’re the only ones that matter.


**special thanks to Heather Hamm for the photos!

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Happy Birthday Trey

Trey has been EXTREMLY into superheros lately. In fact, every night when we put him to bed, we lift him up and “fly” him in. He picks whether he’s going to be superman (arms straight out), batman (arms back) or spider man (one arm out shooting a web). We toss him into bed and he hits face first. And laughs with delight. I think if I tried the same I’d come up with a skinned nose and a sore back.

Last month we celebrated Trey’s birthday. And he’d have no other type of party than a superhero party. Laura did an AWESOME job on the party preparations. It all started with her great idea for birthday invitations. Of course, I lost the final version, but a draft of the invite is below. What could have been a simple gathering of friends at the park turned into a treasure hunt for cape making supplies, a cape making party and a celebration that even a superhero would envy. In fact, a “bad guy” even showed up to steal the capes. Luckily, there were some water squirters that the kids were able to use to run the bad guy off.

All in all, a great birthday celebration for a kid that’s a superhero in my book.


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Coach Daddy

One thing I’ve always had a dream of doing is coaching Trey’s T-ball team. My dad was always involved in my baseball activities. In fact, I don’t think there was ever a time that he wasn’t the coach. In fact, I literally have expressed worry to Laura in the past. Worry that I might not be able to either get off of work or be in town to coach. I’m extremely blessed to have the opportunity to be the coach of the team.

That said, this group is like herding cats! We’ve got one 3 year old and the rest are 4/5 year olds. It’s the vast majority of the kids’ first time to play ball. We literally started the first practice showing them which hand thier glove goes on and learning the difference between home plate and first base. And after just 3 practices, it was time for the first game.

Now ‘game’ is a term that you can use loosely with this age group. There are 4 innings, everyone bats, no one gets out. So essentially, all games end in a tie. Very rarely does anyone hit a ball outside of the infield. VERY rarely. As in…it’s only happened twice in the 3 games we’ve played. So, we bunch all of the kids up in the infield. And when the ball is hit (many times about 5-6 feet), there’s a mad dash to get it, a brief argument over who should get it, and a haphazard throw to a first baseman who typically isn’t paying attention. Like I said, like herding cats. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Here are a couple pictures from their first game.

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Gone Fishin’

April 2013

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Last weekend we went to the country! We were so excited to take a weekend to relax and spend time with family. I think Hayden needed it most of all…but Haley had the most fun. Hayden got a new air gun and was dying to try it out. No better place than the country to shoot guns, fish, and hunt turkey!

We prayed the whole way there for safe travel because it was raining so hard! Thankfully we made it safely and the rain kept any chance of turkey hunting obsolete so we got to relax most of the day.

Later in the afternoon, once naps were over and the weather had cleared, we went outside to fish while the boys went hunting. Hayden’s Mom is a master fisher-woman. She isn’t scared to bait a hook with a live cricket or take a fish off a line. The pond on their land is stock full of Bream and the kids were catching fish throw after throw and LOVING it!

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That night Haley prayed that they’d get to fish more tomorrow and that the fish would be biting. Her prayer was answered. Saturday was so much fun. EARLY in the morning I went hunting with Hayden and his Dad- insight on that experience at LouderGod.com. I told Hayden if we are planning to wake up before 5am, to leave me in bed! So, at 4:30am we all got up, got the camo gear on, made coffee, and headed to Kosciusko. On my blog post I wrote about how much I love hunting with Hayden…but didn’t mention my other hunting buddy. Hayden’s Dad is awesome to go with. His excitement is contaigious and he is so generous. He tries to put us in the best place to see what we are hunting, he always makes sure I am comfortable (gave me his stool to sit on this trip), and is so encouraging about my shooting abilities…which is pretty good, if I do say so myself! I love having that time with him, listening to his hunting stories on our way and hearing about how he lives out his Christian walk. He never brags about all the ways he helps people, but as we drive along, he’ll point out places where he helped someone. The difference in hearing a guy tell about helping someone and hearing his stories are that he is always more effected than them. You can tell that it’s his life that is changed when the Holy Spirit uses him…which is often. The main lesson here- when you are open and willing The Lord will provide all possible resources needed. Hayden frequently says if he grows up to be half the man his Dad is, he will count himself successful. I agree. The best news is that as parents, we do all we can to teach, inspire, and pray our children into being better people than us. Gary is no exception and I see evidence that Hayden

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is on that path. Life experience teaches us a lot about loving others, being patient with differences, and the importance of helping others to be their best. We still have a lot to learn, but I hope we pass these lessons on to our children- in word and deed- as we learn them and see them modeled in our parents. Makes me SO thankful for the passion and drive both sets of Grandparents have in serving others in the name of The Lord…what a legacy!

Even though we were tired, we focused the rest of the day on spending quality family time outside in the sunshine. Haley was “hooked” on fishing so we hung out at the pond. She was on cloud nine and Trey was in and out of interest. Even though fishing wasn’t his favorite activity, there were plenty of other things to keep his attention- sticks, rocks, dirt, ant hills. I sat on the dock watching the kids run along the edge of the pond and thought to myself, “CLICK!” I wanted to keep that picture in my mind. Getting all nostalgic about the simplicity of being out there prompted some conversation between me and Hayden about how we can put more of “that” in our life at home. We committed to more outside play time, more fishing, more concentrated family time, and trying to keep it simple. Week one of this has gone well! We’ve done some crafts, played games, rode bikes, worked in the garden and kept the TV off! It’s been awesome and I’m grateful for the perspective.

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Haley made badges for everyone so we could show our “best fisherman” pride! She was busy coloring and working on her badges for us for a good part of the weekend. So sweet.

Hayden’s dad had just gotten the patio under the new cover poured but he intentionally left a spot open for him to pour himself…when the grandkids were around so he could put their handprints in the patio. The kids LOVED that part!

Let’s Go Gardening

I'm not sure why, but we're planting a garden. We don't eat many vegetables. Definitely more of a meat and potatoes type family. But the house we moved into a couple months ago has a 13×15 foot raised bed that is screaming to have some vegetables planted in it.

I've spent some time researching and talking to Julie's boyfriend, Reed. I think I've got a plan. It's going to be done in a style similar to square foot gardening. The premise is that you divide your area into square foot regions and plant x number of plants per square foot. Some plants grow wider and require multiple square feet (i.e., cantaloupe require 2 feet). Some plants don't take up much space at all and you can plant multiples in each square foot (i.e., 16 carrots to the square foot).I already know there's going to be a decent amount of work required to get the bed in good shape. I've dug down 18 inches or so and the dirt “seems” good. Well, as good as dirt can seem I guess. But I'll definitely have to do some tilling and will need to bring in some more soil as well.

Of course, in typical Simons style, we're going a little over the top with the number of different veggies/herbs we're planting in our FIRST garden. But you know what? Go big or go home.

Again, in typical Simons style, Trey wants it here NOW. We've bought the seeds and some little seedling starter planters. I've laid the grid out in Excel and have started putting together a document outlining when to plant each seed, when to transplant started seeds to the garden, etc. Maybe if we're lucky, we'll at least get one meal's worth of food out of this garden. Even if we don't, it is sure to be an adventure that the kids won't soon forget.

And for your browsing pleasure, I've included a draft layout of the garden below.



Happy New Year!

Well, it is that time of year again. Time to reflect back on the past 12 months, but more importantly, ahead to the 12 that are coming up.

What a great year we've had around the Simons' house. As usual, it is easy to forget just how much has gone on. I like to take this time each year to do a 'review' of what's occurred.

  • Each of us had another birthday
  • Laura killed her first deer (and went deer hunting with me for the first time!)
  • Avery started 1 day a week Mother's Day out
  • Trey went to 3 day a week pre-k
  • Haley started Kindergarten. And rides the bus!
  • We sold our house in Windward slopes. Twice (first contract fell through)
  • We moved 3 streets over and now live on the lake!
  • We turned the 30 year old pontoon boat that came with the house into a pirate ship
  • I got a tractor
  • Our company was bought out
  • Laura started teaching high school girls again at church
  • I taught young adults again at church
  • My grandfather passed away
  • Laura's grandmother passed away
  • Read the 1 year chronological bible through for the 2nd time this year.

Goals for next year:

  • Live a life that will guide my children to walk in the Truth (3 John 4)
  • Love my wife more
  • Be present with my kids more
  • Continue to take time alone (normally when hunting) to relax, reflect, refocus and talk to God.
  • Read the Bible through again
  • Disciple a group of men to be leaders in their family, church, community and the world. But start with having the right leader in their own life.
  • Focus on being anxious for nothing. I struggle with anxiety more than any other thing.

And the list wouldn't be fun to look at next year without documenting a couple things about everyone in our family:


  • Loves learning
  • Loves drawing and artwork and crafts of any sort
  • Loves her teacher, Ms. Wooley
  • Loves church. Loves children's choir.
  • Has nearly learned the Lord's Prayer
  • Loves living next door to Ashton/Sarah and down the street from Carrington
  • Thinks that she's one of the smartest kids in her grade. And she's right.
  • Is one of the most creative people I've ever met
  • Is really beginning to enjoy sharing a room with Avery


  • Is 100% boy
  • Listens sometimes
  • Would take a bullet for either one of his sisters. Especially Avery.
  • Is very protective of his sisters
  • Easily gets his “heart broken” (his words)
  • Loves Jesus
  • Loves his daddy
  • Loves spending time with his family
  • Likes to snuggle
  • Is a lot smarter than he lets on. He “pretends” most of the time not to know the answers, but when you catch him off guard, he knows most of his letters and numbers.


  • Loves to be held and played with
  • Is extremely determined
  • Is very self sufficient. She usually lets you know she doesn't need help. But when she does, she quickly lets you know that as well. Usually in the form of screaming.
  • Has got the biggest, prettiest eyes
  • Is starting to get longer hair
  • Laughs like crazy
  • Can take a beating, but keeps on going. She rarely cries because she's hurt.
  • Can't sit still for 5 minutes
  • Can't leave ANYTHING alone. No doubt where she's been. She leaves a trail behind her.
  • Usually listens and is obedient. Sometimes listens, but pushes the envelope…testing us.
  • Is fanatical about keeping the floor clean. Which is a really tough job in our house. She walks around the kitchen with a piece of toilet paper wiping the floor.
  • Infatuated with toilet paper. About twice a week, we find a whole roll undone and laying on the floor in the bathroom. We count it as a blessing if she hasn't “cleaned up” by putting all the toilet paper in the potty.


  • Grown spiritually by leaps and bounds again this year
  • Does a fantastic job teaching her girls. She genuinely cares for them and is very passionate about them.
  • Has been my support. My rock. There is no way I could make it without her emotional support as well as her support around the house. Cooking, cleaning, raising our children.
  • Looks better than the day I met her
  • Loves to put individual dove chocolates in the freezer and pluck them out a couple times a day
  • Has embroidered very little 🙂
  • Has turned our house into a home. Decorating, painting and mostly, making it a loving and relaxing environment.


Super cute future duck hunters

Just a couple of quick pics of some future duck hunters.  Every chance Avery and Trey get, they go upstairs to Hayden’s office, grab a duck call and start blowing it.  The other day, he came in from hunting and they each got a chance to practice their technique with dad.  Trey got a duck call for Christmas from Hayden.  Expecting it to be super quiet around here for the foreseeable future. 🙂