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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 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 ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Has turned our house into a home. Decorating, painting and mostly, making it a loving and relaxing environment.



About two years ago, Mom and Dad purchased about 100 acres in Millington, TN. It’s about 30 minutes door to door from our house. The land backs up to the Mirimichi Golf Course that is owned by Justin Timberlake. About 45 acres is farmland that is leased out to a farmer for soybeans. The other is timber – mostly cottonwoods. Big creek runs through the land as well. And I can tell you, Big Creek is a REALLY big creek. There’s really no way to get across it.

There was a small house on the land that is probably about 90 years old. It was in a terrible state of disrepair. No one had lived in it for about 9 years. Our original intent was to tear it down. But upon further thought, my parents decided to put some money into it and bring it back to life. Our family now spends the night out there at least once every other month. The kids LOVE being out there. It takes us back to a simpler time. Sitting around together – all on the same couch. Watching TV. Eating popcorn. Playing board games. Picking up sticks outside.

One thing that I did growing up was spend a lot of time hunting with dad. I got to understand wildlife, gun safety, how to plant food plots. You know – man stuff. Quite frankly, I want my kids to understand the outdoors too.

The amount of wildlife on our place at Millington is less than desirable. Most of this is due to the lack of habitat for the animals. Contrary to what most would think, a really mature forest is NOT good a good habitat for wildlife at all. With a little thought, it all makes sense. Sure, the trees are tall, and there are no briars or weeds growing up on the ground. But when you think about it, what kind of protection does this provide for wildlife like deer and turkeys? What kind of food is available? The short answer is – none.

We’ve worked hard to improve the land. One of the first things we did was to have the Ducks Unlimited guys come out and help us figure out how to get more ducks in. We had a levee pushed up around part of the open field that is cropland and installed a spillway that can be opened and closed. Now, after the soybeans are harvested, we dam up the spillway and allow about 5 acres to flood. Last year was a dismal season for duck hunting due to the weather, but this year we’re hopeful that colder weather will move in up north and the ducks will be migrating…while the season is open. The land is about 5 miles from the Mississippi River, so it seems promising. We’ve already built two duck blinds and I’ve been able to take Haley, Trey and Laura duck hunting already this year. We’ve only bagged a couple of ducks so far, but I can assure you, taking them hunting isn’t just about killing animals. Our primary focus is spending time together and enjoying God’s creation.

So, next up on the agenda is to cut a large portion of the timber and allow some undergrowth to come in. We’ll also be planting a couple of varieties of oak trees, which unlike cottonwoods, will continue to provide a food source for the wildlife on the ground even after the trees have matured.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed over the past year or so is that Laura has also taken up hunting. I know that she enjoys it to some degree, but I also know the main reason she does it is because she knows I enjoy it so much. Aside from allowing us to spend time together, the thing she enjoys most is learning about the animals. Learning the times when deer are most likely to move, what deer eat, what the rut is and how it makes taking a mature buck more likely. She likes to learn about how ducks make the 2,000 mile journey every year…and what drives them to do it. Learning about decoys and calls and tactics. How deer don’t see in color, but ducks do. How a turkey’s most valuable defense is it’s eyesight, but a deer’s is it’s sense of smell.

I took Haley duck hunting yesterday evening. She spent most of the time in the duck blind sitting on the floor and playing on my IPad. Did the noise coming from the IPad help my chances hunting? No. Did a group of 8 wood ducks come over and flare off at the last minute due to the bright light of the IPad? Yes. But I did get a chance to shoot two ducks. And Haley got really excited about it. And the truth is, her excitement had little to do with the ducks. It was more about my excitement. The fact that I picked HER to go hunting with me. To share in that

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experience. I chose her to share yesterday evening with in a duck blind. It’s this these types of memories that sticks with me from the hunts with my dad. And it is these types of memories I look forward to making more of.

Below are a couple pictures from hunts this year…followed by the morning of my first duck hunt and the first duck I killed with my dad.








Schoolโ€™s in session

This has been a week of new beginnings.  Monday was Trey’s first day of school.  It has been hard to keep the excitement of him re-entering Preschool balanced with the excitement of Haley entering Kindergarten.  Luckily, both didn’t happen on the same day.  Last week was Trey’s open house and he loved his classroom- mainly the toys that were in there.  He was acting silly the whole time we were there, but he was excited to see some of his buddies from last year and to meet his new teachers.  I don’t think he realized that a new class meant new teachers.  He wasn’t willing to accept that his teacher was Ms. Angie, not Ms. Gina.  The night before school we packed his lunch and got his backpack all ready.  There was not a minute of hesitation walking into school and sitting right down to have a snack in his classroom.  I was so proud of him and pleased that he was transitioning so easily.  Plus, when he sat down across from one of his friends, his friend asked, โ€œWhat does your name start with?โ€  And Trey said, โ€œT.  TRE.โ€  Missing one letter, but I didn’t realize he had finally learned how to spell his name!!  He also recognized his name on his butterfly clip (for attendance) and spelled it all correctly later that day when I asked him.  That is so typical of him- smarter than he lets me know!  After school I got more details about his day than I ever have.  He told me all about who he sat with at lunch, what toys he played with, and what they did on the playground.  He really has changed so much in the past year…I’m a happy mom.

Haley and I had a really fun day playing games and making Trey a treat for our snack after school.  I’m going to miss her so much!!

Tuesday was Haley’s first day of school.  Monday night we had organized and labeled all the school supplies, set out the backpack and lunch money, and laid out her clothes.  She was so excited I was worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep.  At 6:30am, she came down stairs fully dressed and ready for her big day.  I made her favorite muffins-lemon poppyseed- and finished getting ready.  My Mom came over to keep Avery so Hayden and I could focus on Haley on her special day.  We dropped Trey off at preschool and we had to get out fast because one of the moms asked me if I was doing okay and I almost let the tears flow!  Haley was bounding with energy and excitement.  We took the short ride to the school and Hayden got a great picture of her huge smile in the car on the way.  After a few pictures in the parking lot, we marched inside to find Ms. Wooley’s classroom.  Before going this morning Haley had memorized her room number, her bus number, and my phone number (just in case!).  We met the teacher and got all the school supplies out and organized.