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 kid...you'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

...is 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 http://www.txtumblers.com/).  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!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Love Our Furry Friends

I love our pets.  We have two sweet kitty cats. 

Duchess is Ally's cat.  My mom gave her to Ally, and named her for us.  She's a beautiful, blue-eyed siamese-y stray.  And she's a snob.  Yep, a real stuck up cat.  She does not like to snuggle.  She does not like to be held.  She does not like you to touch her really.  She'll sleep on your feet, if she comes up on the bed on her own.  She loves kitty treats, she'll bite you if you aren't careful while feeding them to her!  Duchess even has her on facebook page, find her - Duchess McNeill!  She's a brat really, but a beauty for sure!
Miss Duchess McNeill
And then we have Dakota, my cat.  Robert adopted him from the humane society in July 2008.  He's my baby.  He's the snuggle bug kitty in this house.  Not at all as beautiful as Duchess, but he makes up for it in personality.  He sleeps with me, I mean snuggled right up to me...closer than than Robert even!  He's fat, has allergies that make his eye get icky, bites my nose to "kiss" me, and loves loves loves to walk across my lap ON MY LAPTOP while I'm working.  Which is exactly what prompted this post today.  He's a mess!  But he'll snuggle with all of us.  He particularly likes Snuggies!  And we think he's part dog somewhere, he totally has doggie traits!  And that boy is one fat cat!


So, now you know the two youngest members of the family.  And yes, this entire post was solely about our pets.  Guess I should dedicate a post to each of the humans in the family....yeah, I'll do that next time.  :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I will be here....

Tomorrow morning if you wake up and the sun does not appear....I will be here..
Mr. and Mrs. Robert McNeill


That's the song Robert sang to me in our wedding. Actually, the day before the wedding we went to the church and he recorded it to be played during the ceremony. Surprised the heck out of me when the song started and his lips were moving - not lip sync like Vanilla Ice either! He sang from his heart, straight to mine. It's a moment I'll treasure the rest of my life.

15 years ago today I married my best friend. There is no one I'd rather run to when something good happens. There is no one else I want to hold me when the worst happens. He is my strength and my encourager. He's the father of our beautiful daughter, and has stepped up to be dad to my boys, after theirs passed away. He adores all five kids and treats them just as if they are the most precious gifts ever given to him.

I love you Robert. Thank you for loving me. Happy anniversary. Sorry we didn't make it to Maui!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Are The Champions!!

As you may, or may not, know Allyson Paige McNeill is a cheerleader.  Not the rah-rah-go-team cheerleader you think of.  And definitely not the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader type.  But a competitive, or All Star, cheerleader.  This is her sixth year to cheer, and I think she loves it more and more each year.  Currently, she is on two teams at Texas Star.  She's on the Senior Level 2 team - Fusion.  And the Senior Level 3 team - Blaze. 

They begin training in April each year perfecting skills.  In July they start working on their routines, a 2 1/2 minute dancing, tumbling, stunting, cheering, energetic experience.  Competitions start in November/December.  There are regional events during that time.  January thru April are National competitions.  There are several cheer companies, and most sponsor a National event.  So there is the opportunity for teams to win multiple national titles. 

Our teams only attended one regional event in December.  Ally's teams both won their divisons! 

Spirit Celebration Christmas Classic
So, we move into Nationals!  There are 5 National events each of Ally's teams are attending.  Yesterday was ACA Small Gym Nationals in Fort Worth.  Only one of the teams she is on attended, Fusion (Senior Level 2).   They rocked!!!!  So then we wait...and wait...and wait for the awards ceremony to see how they scored.  We, the parents, felt good about it, but you never know.  We're not judges, so we have no idea what to expect.  There were 7 teams in the Senior (age 18 and under) level 2 (the ability level - can throw a back handspring in combination and extend stunts).  I get so nervous waiting to hear!!  And then it's time....they announce 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th..hey, we're top 3!  Then 3rd (not us) and 2nd (not us!!)...we won!!!  Not only did they win National Champion for Senior Level 2, they had the highest level 2 scores....HIGH POINT!!  They garnered snazzy new jackets with the ACA National Champion logo all over the back for the world to see, and $500 for the gym!   AND they won a fully paid bid to the International All Levels Championship in April! It's a pretty good day!

Fusion Pyramid - ACA Nationals

Senior 2 Champions and High Point!

National Champions in their newest jackets!!

And so we've begun Nationals season on the right foot!  Next weekend we have another.  The American Showdown.  Both teams Ally is on compete.  Last year at this competition all six teams we took won..A clean sweep!!  Hoping to do it again for sure!

It's definitely a busy busy time for us, but we love it.  It makes for long days, disappearing weekends, but immense joy and pride when our girls give it their best, regardless of what place they finish in.  The girls Ally began cheering with at Texas Star five years ago are still together, and have come so far.  It's just amazing to watch them.  At the end of the season I'll post videos of their routines for you all to see - it really is cool!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I just keep runnin' and runnin'...

Ok, so I've never been a runner.  Ever.  I distinctly remember being in 7th grade, in Southern California, and having to run a mile in PE. It sucked.  Big time.  I was the last one finished.  My sides were killing me.  I was huffing and puffing.  You'd think I weighed 450lbs.  I was tiny, maybe 75-80 pounds soaking wet.  Heck, I could still wear a dress my mom bought for me when I was 5, although it didn't come to the edge of my booty. 

In high school I stayed away from track, cross country, anything that required running. I did play soccer one season, until I sprained my ankle.  My sports were tennis and swimming.  I loved both.  Didn't learn to swim until I was 15, and only then because my little sister had joined a swim team and I couldn't stand to see her do something better than me.  So I joined the swim team.  I still can't swim butterfly...I look like a whale trying to beach itself!   But I did go on to become a lifeguard the summer between my junior and senior year.  I loved that job. 

But for some reason, I've decided I want to be a runner.  So, I started the week of my birthday last year.  Downloaded an app to train for a 5K on my iPhone and started running.  Some days I didn't want to, but I actually stuck with it.  Until my leg hurt so bad I couldn't put weight on it.  Bone bruise...no running.  I had to wait 4 weeks so it could heal.  After 4 weeks I started back at day 1.  But my leg wasn't ready - and told me so in no uncertain terms!  So then I got lazy.  Figured it was the holidays, I'd start again after New Years.

Well, Jan 1 came and I didn't start.  Jan 2 was a Sunday.  I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I was determined not to workout on a Sunday.  It's the Sabbath.  I take a nap!  :-)  Jan 3 was a Monday.  So, I made up my mind to start.  Went to the gym, ran the first day on the program and it really wasn't that bad!  I went to the gym on Tuesday, didn't run, but did the elliptical for 30 minutes.  Went on Wednesday and ran.  It actually felt good!!!  We went to SF the next day, and I didn't run while we were there although we walked a lot!  So Monday, I was back at the gym running again.  It still felt good. Should have gone yesterday, but was lazy. I played Kinect with the kids instead and probably got more cardio in with that than the gym would have given me!  Went back today and actually ran....Week 2, Day 1 accomplished.

The goal is still a 5K. Maybe late March, or early April.  I'm still not convinced I'm a runner. I have a friend, Wendi, who inspires me.  Wendi jacked up her knee pretty seriously about a year and a half ago.  It was bad.  She ended up having surgery and having to learn to walk again.   Wendi runs.  Her little Nike app posts to Facebook.  Wendi runs a lot. She's already done some 5Ks.  And is training for a half marathon in May.  Yep, Wendi inspires me.  I don't think I could do a half marathon.  I'll stick with the 5Ks for now!!

So, tomorrow is a non-running day.  Friday I run again.  And I just keep runnin and runnin and ......

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I left my heart......

Uhhhh....nah!  My heart is in DFW!  We've had a great time, run the whole time, seen a lot of sites, but it's time to go home.  I miss my kids.  I miss my kitties.  I miss my bed.  I miss my bathtub.  Just miss home. 

The sun finally came out for us today, just in time to leave.  That figures.  We did get a few more shots of the Golden Gate and Postcard Row.  Oh, and AT&T Park, where those dumb Giants play ball.  There's a college football game there tonight, the Kraft Foods Fight Hunger Bowl.  What do you think of when you hear "Kraft" and "Bowl" in the same sentence??  Yeahhhhh.....mac and cheese!

It's the cheesiest! 
So now we're at the airport.  Rental car turned in.  TSA security complete.  Food in tummies.  Just killing a few minutes till our plane is ready to go.  Hopefully there won't be any delays.  Of all days for North Texas to have a winter storm blow in...today's the day.  There is snow and sleet coming down in DFW, it's friggering (ask Ally about that term sometime) and we're supposed to land at 8:30 at night.  Fun fun. 

Until next time.....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The City By The Bay.....

San Francisco....ahhh...  Isn't Cali supposed to be sunny?  We haven't seen much from the great orangy orb since we arrived.  Lots of clouds and fog.  Cold, damp weather.  But we've had fun.  We've almost hit everything on our list of things to do!  Sausalito, Muir Woods, pics of the Golden Gate from all four angles, Union Square, Transamerica Insurance bulding, Postcard Row, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square...  We drove over the Oakland Bay Bridge, the one that collapsed upon itself in the earthquake of 1988.  That was a little unnerving, but we made it over and back just fine.  Chinatown was an experience for sure! 
Chinatown....An Interesting Neighborhood
The open air markets were incredible.  Some with all sorts of fresh fruit and veggies.  Some not as exciting.  I'm not a seafood eater at all..period.  Saw more than enough swimming things in Chinatown - alive and dead.  Whole and in pieces.  Ugh.  And the smell! 

Fisherman's Wharf had some of the same...but what do I expect?  I'm in a coastal town, known for it's seafood.  Just keep walking, just keep walking, there's something that smells good somewhere.  Oh, yeah, Boudin Bakery with the sourdough bread!!!  Yummmmmmm. 

The last pic I'll post tonight is from "Postcard Row".  For all of us who love 80's sitcoms you'll probably recognize it from "Full House".  Ally loves that show.  Every time I see this picture I start singing the theme song ..."everywhere you look...there's somebody that loves you..."
Postcard Row
All in all it's been fun.  I wish it had been sunnier, and maybe a little warmer.  We need to add this to the list of towns to come back too for sure!!  Heading back to DFW tomorrow.  Not sure how the "Winter Storm" heading that way is going to affect our flight.  Hopefully we'll make it home on time.  We'll see.....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Let's Get It Started!

After a brief delay leaving DFW we arrived in San Fran.  Got checked in to the hotel, unpacked, grabbed the cameras (yes, Robert carries multpile cameri around!!) and hit the road for some sightseeing!  We found the Golden Gate Bridge, it's orange - not golden, Fisherman's Wharf (smelly smelly!), Lombard Street (need to go down again earlier in the day when the light is better to shoot a video - that's a freaky ride!) and up and down the craziest angled streets.  Honestly, some of these streets, like Hyde, are creepy steep.  Here are a few pics.

Driving over the Big Orange Suspension Bridge (aka Golden Gate)

Aren't we adorable??  He's the master of the "camera-on-tripod-hit-timer-and-run-to-get-in-picture"!

Shaped sourdough bread at the Original Boudin Bakery at Fisherman's Wharf
Had dinner at a little restaurant off Union Square and ordered chicken pot pie.  Here's the pie....

Mmmmm.....chicken pot pie!

Chicken pot pie bigger than a cake pan!
It's been a great day, but time to hit the hay.  Lots on our list of things to see tomorrow.  Look for more pics!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All aboard!!

Sitting in seat 1A (and Robert is in 1B) awaiting take off to San Francisco! With the crazy schedule for cheer competitions and photo shoots this month we are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary a little early!

I'll post some pics this evening!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I finally did it!!

Ok, so I'm finally trying my hand at blogging.  Not sure if I'll have any followers, but it's worth a shot! 

Christmas break is wrapping up.  Back to work tomorrow...but only for three days.  Off to San Francisco Thursday for Robert and I!!  A short, early, celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary.  We had planned on going to Maui, but decided SFO would be more fun!  Haha. 

Then the real running begins...for the next 2 months there is something on the calendar every Saturday. Cheer competitions,cheer practices, Upward portrait shoots and more. 

Hopefully I'll figure out how to do this blog thing and can post every now and then with some pics! Maybe some of you more savvy bloggers can help me out!  :-)