Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thinking I'm Truly Blessed

When I started this blog earlier in the year I struggled to find a catchy name for the title.  Then out of the blue it hit me, and "The Blessed Life" was born.  Looking back over these last few months, and years really, I see just how blessed my life is.

Take today for example.  Robert is traveling back from a mission trip to Haiti.  He's had terrible traveling experiences this trip, and today has probably been one of the worst travel days he's had.  But he's spent a week building a house for a Haitian family that lost theirs in the earthquake on January 12, 2010.  I can't imagine the loss and devastation he's seen this week, or that the people of Haiti have experienced over the last 19 months.  So, all in all, a bad day traveling back to a blessed life in DFW isn't the worst thing you could experience.  And I know once Robert lands the travel nightmare will be over and he'll remember the beauty of Haiti and the warmth and love of the people there.

Then there's Justin.  Sweet Justin spent 16 days apart from our family training for and living out a mission trip in a tiny town on the Adriatic Sea in Italy, Giovinazzo.  These people aren't poor and devastated like the Haitians, but are still in need of help in many ways.  The worst part for Justin?  Having his brand new phone (that he bought with his own money with his upgrade in June) pick pocketed on a subway in Rome on the last day of his trip.  I have to say though, Justin had a great attitude about it all. 

Though I personally did not go to a foreign country on a mission trip, I've been profoundly touched by the images and stories of these trips Robert and Justin experienced.  We have 5 healthy children, a beautiful home, plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, great jobs, the ability to take a vacation, and the ability to praise the Lord whenever and wherever we choose.  God is truly wonderful. 

I'm also reminded of friends who are going through tough times right now.  I have a friend going through a divorce and getting zero help from her husband to support their children.  I have my friend's daughter, Mallorie, who is fighting for her life with lymphoma.  I have my friend's daughter (and Ally's friend) Presley who has been fighting leukemia for over 2 years.  I see people all around me struggling with various challenges in their lives and all I can think of is how much I have to thank God for every day. 

Six years ago, in the summer of 2005, I lost both of my parents.  My mom passed away of cancer on July 9.  My father passed away on September 5.  It was a dark dark time in my life for sure, but I clung to God and my faith and kept walking.  One foot in front of the hour at a day at a time.  In the past six years I see all the amazing things my parents did for me as a child growing up and the lessons I learned from them and through their parenting.  It wasn't all perfect and rosy, but it shaped me to become the wife and mother I am today. 

Life is short, God is good, I am blessed.

Matthew 5: 3-12
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

It's been so quiet here this week!  The kids are all 3 gone to youth camp this week.  It will probably be the last time they all go together.  :-(  I'm sure they're having fun, and I really have enjoyed the peace and quiet.  But I really miss them!

However, as the title implies, this is the calm before the storm!  Vacation is just around the corner and I am so ready to get away!  We've rented the same awesome house in Destin that we had last year.  It's perfect for us!!  This year there are 10 of us going.  8 kids and 2 parents.  It breaks down to 5 boys - aged 21, 19, 19, 18 and 16.  AND 3 13 yr old girls!!!  So much fun!!!  We've rented a deck boat to go out on the bay in Panama City and head to Shell Island.  There is all kinds of cool stuff to see snorkeling out there, sand dollars, star fish, clams, dolphins, fish and seagulls.  Shell Island is super cool - shells and shells and shells all along the beach.  We're also spending a day in Pensacola, going to watch the Blue Angels practice, tour the Naval Aviation Museum and have a blast.  I grew up a Navy brat and it's always cool to share that part of my life with my kids.  And then yet another day the 6 guys are going deep sea fishing!  Since the girls weren't too interested in that, we've decided to do girl stuff SHOPPING and PEDICURES!!!  The rest of the week is totally unplanned. 

I love Destin.  Can't wait to sit on my behind and stick my feet in the sand!  I'll be sure to brag a bit through pictures while we're there!! 

In the mean time, if you happen to read this please keep my friend Mallorie in prayer.  She's really having a tough time with her treatment right now and has been in the hospital for 12 days. :-(

Until next time......

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Baby Boy Graduates!

Andrew Ryan - WHHS Class of 2011

I am soooo very proud of my sweet Andy!!  He graduated from Western Hills High School this weekend.  It's been a long 4 years for him, but he's done.  Just a few pics from the celebration to share with ya'll
Receiving his diploma from Mr. Wellman
Magna Cum Laude

My amazing family - What a great day!

And the caps fly......
As for now he plans to attend Tarrant County College and get some basics out of the way.  In the long run his dream is to design and develop video games.  He spends hours and hours and hous doing "research" on his Xbox!  ;-) 

We'll keep you posted on his progress fo sho!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cheer Memories.....has it really been 6 years????

Ok, so I haven't posted in a long, long, long time!!  Been a busy few weeks around the McNeill household! 

Age 8

Finished up a great cheer season with Texas Stars!  Ally's teams won many national titles and are up for a Worlds Title, to be announced later this month.  AND, we've already had try outs and start practicing for year 7 next week.  Nope, there's not much time off with competitive cheer. Here's a mini review of her first six seasons:
Year 1 (2005-2006) Cheer & Tumble Factory Ponies

Year 2 (2006-2007) Texas Stars Diva Dazzlers
Year 3 (2007-2008) Texas Stars Heartbreakers
Year 4 (2008-2009) Texas Stars Shooting Stars
(Ally's Center in the Pyramid)

Year 5 (2009-2010) Texas Stars Eclipse
Ally's being tossed....she's the one on the right

Year 6 (2010-2011) Texas Stars Fusion
Yep...upside down

Year 6 (2010-2011) Texas Stars Blaze
Check out the focus!

Age 8
 Can't wait to see what this new year brings.  We've said goodbye to some friends over the years, but always make new ones.  There are 4 girls on Ally's team this coming year that have been together for 5 years.   It's so exciting to look back and see how much they've grown up, and grown in the sport.  Stay tuned throughout the year to see how they do!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Love of My Life!! (Yes, Robert!!!!)

So, I've been thinking.  I posted about the cats.  I posted about Ally.  I posted about Andy.  I posted about Justin.  I posted about Roby.  And I posted about Savannah.  Perhaps I should post about my best friend.

Most of you probably dont' know the whole story behind how we ended up together.  A long, long time ago...long before anyone had uttered the word "blog" the internet was created!  Remember the movie "You've Got Mail" with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks??!!  Well, that's kinda sorta how we met...but not exactly.  Both of us had been divorced, and each had two kiddos.  I was goofing around and posted something on a 'bulletin board' on  Lo and behold, Robert replied!  We started emailing, and I got brave and gave him my phone number.  We talked on the phone, but still hadn't met.  So, we agreed to meet one day at lunch, not far from my office in Euless.  He was working nights loading freight and going to school during the day at UTA.  On July 19, 1995 we Wendy's.  It was truly a blind date!  We had no idea what the other looked like.  We spent the next 30 minutes talking about our kids pretty much. 

It was a great time.  The next day, in the mail, I got the sweetest card from him.  We talked again on the phone and agreed to go out the next weekend, with all our kids.  Wouldn't you know our first date was with all 4 kids (at that time aged 7, 5, 3 1/2 and barely 2) to Chuck E Cheese!!!  It was amazing.  The pizza tasted like cardboard, it was super expensive for two single parents, but it was so much fun. 

We got married just 6 short months later, January 19, 1996.  He sang to me at our wedding.  I couldn't believe I'd found the most amazing, loving, romantic guy!  And that hasn't changed in the 15 years we've been married.

 Robert is a software developer by trade. But his passion is photography.  It all began 5 years ago when he bought his first SLR.  We got it primarily to take pictures of the kids.  Ally had just started cheering and the point and shoots just didn't do the job.  Then on our 10th anniversary trip to Maui we went on a whale watch and he caught "Wilma" the whale.  He was hooked!
Wilma - Maui January 2006

He does get some great pics of the kids too.  This was the pic that stemmed the interest in taking action shots....
Ally - January 2007
It's always an adventure with us.  Robert's truly my best friend.  We share a lot of common interests...which is good!  We love to travel (all the time if we could!), love sports, love God and absolutely adore our children.  
 I've been so blessed to have met him when I did.  And to still be right beside him today.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for us!  Sure is fun getting old with this guy!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beautiful girlies!

Megan, Ally and Christina

All dressed up for the dance!  They looked absolutely beautiful!
 We did a little photo shoot in the backyard before taking them to the dance.  And, of course, there had to be trampoline time with these three!!  They're the best of friends.  I couldn't have chosen better friends for my daughter!!!
A little trampoline time first!!

Posing for pics

We love these three beautiful girls!

My princess

Princess Christina
Princess Megan

Not sure the dance was all they'd hoped, but there will be many more!  Seems like a good time was had by all!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Savannah Kaye

Savannah our oldest daugher and one of the most beautiful people I know.

She's turning 23 next week and that's so hard to believe!  Shortly after we celebrated our wedding we had an 8th birthday party for her.  It was memorable for sure!

Savannah and Dad celebrating DBU Graduation May 2010

She gets her diploma at 4 short years!
Now look at her...B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L!!!!  In May 2010 she graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  The kid is amazingly talented.  She spent a full semester at Martha's Vinyard in a program at the Contemporary School of Music during the fall of her Junior year.  She made some amazing life long friends.  And has kept in touch with them. 

She's also my beach buddy.  She loves the beach.  She actually picked our 2010 vacation spot, Destin, FL.  It was a blast and seems like she absolutely soaked up the sun.

In January she decided to pursue her music career, meet up with some of her friends from CMC and moved to Nashville, TN.  She got a job and an apartment before hitting the road and chasing her dreams!  It's crazy, and a little scary.  But Carrie Underwood better watch out!! 

As you can see we are immensely proud of her and love her to the moon and back!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Roby Dale

Roby is our oldest son.  He'll be 21 in just a few short weeks.  It's so hard to believe he's a grown man now!  Roby's a pretty laid back guy, with a great personality.  He's super quick-witted and sharp. 

He's working pretty much full time now, making some bank.  He and Robert get together for lunch every couple weeks and have a great time. 

He's a great cook, and loves to try new things!!  Honestly, I don't know that there's anything I've seen him NOT try!  He and I went to a cooking class last spring sponsored by the Texas Beef Council.  Had a great time, learned a whole lot about beef, and ate some great food!  The funniest part about it was that I won the class through a contest for "Girls Gone Grilling".  I invited him, knowing that he loved to cook and grill.  And except for the instructors he was the only guy.  Secretly I think he kinda liked that!

He, like Justin, is quite the comedian.  And never afraid to poke fun at himself! 

I'll never forget a time when Roby was little, probably barely 6.  We were driving him home to his mom's and the kids like to do word problems in the car.  Robert said something like "If you have 7 apples, I eat 1, Rachel gives you 5 more, Savannah needs 3 for a pie, but Justin gives you 8, how many do you have?"  Before Robert could finish the sentence Roby piped up "Wait, I don't have that many fingers!!"  For some reason that just cracked us up and I've never forgotten that.  Kids...gotta love 'em!

Here are a few more random pics of him...

Snorkeling off Shell Island, Florida 2010

With Mokie, Gummie's dog

Surf lessons - 2007 vacation to Virginia Beach
Roby - love ya!!!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Justin Scott - Finally!!

Why is talkin about Justin so hard??!!

Justin makes me smile....all the time!

He's 19, and full of energy. J's a freshman at UT Arlington this year, studying political science.  At this time his plan is to possibly work for the CIA or FBI in Washington DC, or maybe teach something in social sciences...maybe.  :-)   Whatever he chooses to do, I'll be excited and proud of him!  But secretly, I'm hoping he settles on teaching here in Fort Worth!!!  I like having him around!

Justin Scott loves Jesus!  He's started a blog as well ( and posts a verse or passage with every entry.  He's planning on going to Italy this summer to spread the Gospel to that part of the world.  He's also planning on attending Super Summer as a leader and/or part of a worship band.  Seriously, this boy's just a neat kid.
Yes, Justin's a musician and a servant as well.  He plays drums in our church worship band every week, and he's really good!  AND, in addition to school and church activities, Justin works at Spring Creek Barbecue in Fort Worth.  Go see him, he weilds a heck of a knife on the block!!!

Destin - July 2010

He's my adventure kid...and, as he's named himself, Chief Comic Relief Officer!  He's a confident, zany, smart, just an all around great guy!  He's always willing to pitch in and usually does a great job.  He loves to go to the acreage in Denton with his Papa, cutting wood, clearing brush, or just hanging out.  He's a great cook too.  Although he doesn't care for fresh vegetables, there isn't much he won't cook.  He loves to try new recipes from the Epicurious app on his iPad. 

He has also recenty started pitching in with our photography business.  At one of Ally's competitions last month he named himself "Third String Photographer".  He has also proved himself as kid-entertainer in the holding rooms at Upward team and individual portrait shoots.  Oh, and did I mention he was our first "Senior Portrait" model??!! 

 And, mostly, Justin loves his family.  He totally adores his baby brother and sister!!  He's helped with the WHHS band during Andy's Senior year, helped with pictures for Ally's cheer team and even painted his face red to support her at competitions. 

My sweet babies - November 2011
 Justin Scott Erwin -- I love you!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Andrew Ryan

Andrew Ryan is one amazing young man! As you can see, he plays trumpet.  Andy's a senior this year at Western Hills High School.  He's played trumpet since 7th grade, and is pretty darn good at it. 

But Andy's passion isn't his horn really.  He's a technical kid who loves his video games.  He spends hours and hours doing 'research' on his Xbox 360 every week, and he is passionate about those games!  His dream job is to design games.  So after he graduates this summer he plans to begin college and work toward that dream! 

Andy works at Spring Creek Barbecue in Fort Worth.  He's been with SC since last spring, starting at the Lake Worth store.  He transferred to Fort Worth just a couple weeks ago.  He seems to like it pretty much. 

Andy's got the most striking blue eyes.  And when he smiles, they just light up, and melt my heart.  He's my tall, skinny'd never know he was the biggest of the three kids when he was born.  He's the tallest of all the kids, but if tghe wind blows too hard he may just blow away, he's so thin! 

Striking a pose during the band show
Andy's a cool kid, honestly.  He's quick witted, mischevious, extremely smart and somewhat stubborn.  He loves to create - Legos were a major part of his growing up years.  He could build just about anything out of them.  In physics this year he had to create a structure out of popcicle sticks and hot glue to support and cusion a raw egg dropped from the height of the top of the bleachers.   It's was crazy neat - and it worked!!!  He's also my most particular eater, but eats some of the oddest things!  He loves any sort of berry, but doesn't like sauce on spaghetti.  He'll eat broccoli - only if its raw.  Loves almonds, pecans and peanuts, but doesn't like onions at all.  He'll dip a chip in salsa, but shake everything off it before he eats it.  He's persnickety, as my mom would always say. 

As you can see, Mr. Andrew is perfect just the way he is.  I love you Andrew Ryan Erwin!!!
Summer Vacation 2010

Fall 2009

Friday, January 21, 2011

Allyson Paige probably the most spoiled little girl in the world!  But she's not so little!  Ally is our baby.  She's 12 1/2 (well, 12 3/4 really).  I can't believe our youngest child will be 13 in April!  She's a beautiful, talented, outgoing 7th grader. 

First and foremost the girl is an athlete.  She's a cheerleader, but not in what most people think of when they hear the word cheerleader.  Ally has been on competitive all-star cheer teams since she was 7 years old.  When she first started tumbling classes she knew nothing, but within just a few short months was asked to be on a cheer team.  We were clueless.  I mean, what can 6-7 year olds do on a cheer team??  Oh my, if we only knew then what we were getting in to!!  She's in the midst of her sixth year of cheer at a private gym in North Fort Worth, Texas Stars (find them at  Her tumbling skills have amazed me, she's progressed from nothing to a cartwheel, roundoff, back handspring, walkovers, back tuck and has a layout.  She's working on a full, which is crazy hard!  Next time you see the NCA or UCA college nationals on ESPN stop and watch.  She's not too far behind what those kids do, and she's 12!!!  She's also a flyer, the girl they throw up in the air, hold up on one foot and fling around in pyramids.  It's so amazing to watch her teams, and this year she's on two...busy busy.  Here are some pics of her in action....

That was a wicked pyramid!  2009 Cheer Power Nationals

One of her favorite pics...2010 Cheer Power Nationals (Champions!!!)
ACA Nationals, January 2011 - Champs and High Point!!
 Other than cheer, she's attached permanently to her cell phone and iPod touch, where she is on Facebook almost all the time!  Her two besties, Megan and Christina, are the sweetest girls and they do just about everything together!  She also serves, as you can see by the pic at the very top here, as dad's model for our budding photography business.  Here's one of my favorite pictures of her...totally glam with cheer makeup!

So there you have it.  You've been introduced to Miss Allyson Paige McNeill, the baby, princess, doll of the family.   She's also one of my best friends.  Those trips to and from the cheer gym provide lots of mom-daughter time that I treasure.  Ally, I love you most!