And The Winner Is…

And The Winner Is…

It is with a great sense of defeat that I announce the winner of the 2017 Ornament Swap.

Britten’s penguin ornament won over the hearts of most readers and received 47 votes.

Brook’s RG Fit ornament only received 5 votes.

We were briefly concerned that the 2017 ornament swap was going to be a total shutout for the first time in the history of the competition. Thankfully,  a few of our more level-headed readers recognized the significance of opening a business and the toll it can take on your family and voted for my gym ornament. I’m not bitter. Really.

If you need me I’ll be under the covers sulking with my face buried in a pillow.

Ornament Swap 2017

Ornament Swap 2017

The annual Christmas Ornament Swap is a pretty big deal in the Taylor house. No matter where in the world we find ourselves, it seems to always be a very, shall we say, competitive part of our holiday season. When we are in the States our annual ornament swap is accompanied by a lovely dinner and a night away while our boys stay with grandparents. When we are overseas the Christmas date night consists of…

  • putting the boys to bed early
  • ordering take out

  • watching a Christmas movie by the light of the tree
  • and sharing a Double Doozie from the Great American Cookie Company that just so happens to  be in our city. #PTL

Ironically, it was a Double Doozie that made an appearance in our 2015 Ornament Swap.

The competition rules are simple. Find an ornament that reminds us of our year together, talk some trash to each other prior to the swap, open the ornaments and then let you all decide who was victorious. Winner gets bragging rights for 364 days.

Ornament #1 – My mother in law gave our family a day at Ski Dubai for Christmas. There was a pretty amazing Penguin Encounter included in the day’s festivities. Not only did we get up close and personal with a few penguins, we learned a lot of interesting facts.

Our personal favorite was that penguins mate for life. When a male penguin finds the female he wishes to spend the rest of his life with he searches for the perfect pebble and presents it to the female penguin. If she accepts the stone, the penguins bond for life. If she doesn’t accept, the poor pitiful penguin is left to find someone else. Sad.

Our new found penguin information quickly led us to start giving each other a stone at random times just  to say, “I love you.”  So it was only fitting that we add a penguin ornament to our Christmas tree.

Ornament #2 –  The majority of 2017 we were working to help get the doors open for a new functional fitness gym in our city. It was quite the ride to get the doors open, but very much worth it. The gym looks amazing. Guys are loving the fitness concept. And it is beginning to make an impact on our city.

Britten has been managing and training at the gym while I have helped coach the bootcamps on private compounds a few nights a week. So it goes without saying, RG Fit was a major part of our lives and definitely worthy of commemorating with a brand logo ornament.

So, now we take it to the people. All you have to do is cast your vote to help determine the 2017 Christmas Ornament Swap. Each vote will be tallied and the winner will be announced in the coming days.

Which ornament will take home bragging rights for an entire year?

Ornament 1: Pebble Penguin Love Birds

Ornament 2: Wooden Etched Gym Logo

Please cast your vote in the comments section below or by leaving a comment on the social media outlet of your liking.



I have a love/hate relationship with American holidays in the Middle East.

I adore them because of the simplicity. There is no commercialism, mass consumerism or expectation of what holidays are supposed to be. We are free to create traditions or customs based on what a holiday truly means to us and that can be a beautiful thing.

Holidays are also familiar. For some aberrant reason it feels “normal” to have a house full of people (even when they are from all over the globe) and make cornbread dressing with cornmeal you imported from the states. When everything about life feels foreign, you treasure the things that remind you of your home culture.

On the other hand, I usually get misty eyed at least once on all major holidays. I miss my family. I miss our friends. I miss the way we used to celebrate. I miss our old traditions. I miss being able to find the things I “need” to make the holiday special. (Full disclosure: I once cried because I make sausage balls every Christmas and now live in a country where pork is forbidden. I’m ashamed of my behavior.)

My compassionate husband goes out of his way to cheer me up when the holiday sadness sets in. This Thanksgiving was no different.

Thanksgiving is just another day here so that morning I headed to work.  Britten could see the sadness starting to rear its head so he picked me up that afternoon and said we were going out for Thanksgiving lunch. He then convinced us to say “The Thanksgiving” in front of everything we ordered. The only catch was you had to do it with a straight face and no laughing or smiling.

The boys nailed it as they politely ordered, “The Thanksgiving Nachos” and “The Thanksgiving Waffles.”

Britten had to fight off a smile as he asked our sweet waiter for the “Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict.”

I, on the other hand, could barely keep a straight face as I ordered the “Thanksgiving Sushi Roll” but it was impossible to fend off the giggles when I asked for a “Thanksgiving Diet Pepsi.” Laughter erupted across the table and all was right in the world.

Our amazing waiter didn’t miss a beat and even played along by serving each dish with, “The Thanksgiving” in front of it. Hearing our sweet Phillipino waiter say, “And who ordered the Thanksgiving Breakfast Bagel?” was a sweet spot in the day and a memory I will treasure for years to come.

The next day we hosted a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner complete with turkey, dressing and sweet potato casserole. The climax of the meal was when our friend from Zimbabwe said, “Can you explain to me how the food works?” You can’t comprehend the joy of introducing someone to turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce for the first time.

The guys competed for the coveted Thanksgiving Weigh-In Trophy. Each guy weighed before dinner and again after. The person that gained the most weight took home the trophy. I’m still not sure how it happened but our South African friend Garreth took home the trophy with a weight gain of seven pounds.

We ended the night with an amusing round of White Elephant, a tradition that’s been in our family for over ten years. Each person brings a gift that they no longer want or need. It can be a re-gift, something you no longer need, something that no longer fits or something you just don’t want. The only rule is you can’t spend money on your gift. We took home a vegetable peeler and a Chia Pet. Winning.

Our holidays are different every year depending on where we live and the diversity of the people that are near. But one thing remains the same, when the last guests leaves and the door is closed tight, my heart is full to overflowing for the friends the Lord has brought into our lives and the special times we celebrate together.

14 Years and 14 Things I Love: Part 3

14 Years and 14 Things I Love: Part 3

If you missed part one or part two of the 14 Things I Love, go back and read them before you pick up here. For those of you that have already read the previous reasons, I’m going to keep rambling on about my adorable husband.

  • I can be a terribly quirky human being. One example of many- I have a mild obsession with recycled containers. I’ve convinced myself that every container is one Pinterest page away from a makeover. Problem being, I have a hard time throwing any empty containers away which leads to an abundant overflow of random containers threatening to take over our kitchen.I’m also really funny about other people drinking from my water bottle or taking gum from the end of the pack that hasn’t previously had gum removed from it, just to name a few. I could fill up the internet with my outlandish little habits but you get the point so in an effort to save face, I’ll stop at three. These peculiar little habits can be humorous unless you’re the one faced with them everyday but Britten is always so full of grace when my bizarre little quirks rear their ugly head. He graciously pulls the empty containers from the dish pile and sits them aside for me to work my magic on. He’s even washed peanut butter out of an empty jar and removed the label because he knows that it is important to me. That’s love folks. That’s real love right there.

  • In the summer of 2000 when I crossed paths with Britten in the church parking lot, I must admit the first thing I noticed was certainly not his servants heart or his integrous character. I was however immediately drawn to his eyes the color of the summer sky and his statuesque physique. I was quite smitten with him and loved that whenever I saw him he was fashionably dressed, smelled good and his hair was perfectly in place. Fast forward 17 years and that is still one of the things I love about him. Britten works hard to take care of himself and make himself attractive to me. He asks me which cologne I like, which shirt I think looks best and how I like his hair. He works out regularly and watches what he eats so that I still notice his statuesque physique and boyish good looks  all these years later. Which leads me to the next thing I love.


  •  It’s always good to have a second pair of eyes read over something before you hit the “submit” button. I started my first blog “Too Many B’s” in 2010 before we moved overseas and Britten has been faithful to proofread every post before I publish it. Britten doesn’t have copious amounts of free time but the little he does have, he uses to help me. However, he is going to die when he sees the previous paragraph so I chose to submit this post before sending it to my editor.


  • This life can be tiring on numerous levels. Homeschooling our children, working part time, taking care of our home, living overseas- it can, at times, create the perfect storm and I find myself exhausted, hyper emotional and in need of a break. Britten gets a front row seat to the difficult days and my superhero swoops in to save the day. It reminds me of Exodus 17 when Moses’ arms grew tired so Aaron and Hur literally held them up for him. He sometimes takes over everything and sends me to bed for a nap and other times he sends me a sweet text messages like this one I recently received.

I consider my marriage to Britten one of the greatest blessing God has given me on this earth and there is no blog post that could possibly embody my love for him. 14 years of marriage and I’m still not done falling in love with him. Happy Anniversary babe, I pray the Lord gives us many, many more.

Say the Words

Say the Words

I watched the sun quietly set, reminding me I’d made it to the end of a somewhat lengthy day. We had been walking around the city for several hours with our five kids in tow as the rain began to fall. The rain caused the temperature to drop so not only were we wet, we were cold and weary.As I pushed the stroller up the last stretch of sidewalk into the hotel, I felt her hand rest placidly on my shoulder.

“I just wanted to tell you that I’m amazed by your family. I’ve been watching your boys and can’t believe how mature they are and how much they love each other. I can even tell how much they respect you and your husband just by the demeanor they take on when you speak.” I stood there silent, trying to form the words, but found myself unable to speak… so she continued on.

“I know sometimes as moms we second guess ourselves and wonder if the decisions we make raising our children are the right ones. So, I want to tell you how impressed I am with your boys and that I think you’re doing a great job. It’s been a true blessing just to watch you and your husband parent your children.”

I could feel my face getting flushed and my heartbeat quickening which meant I knew  what was to follow. I tried to take a deep breath and blink away the tears but despite my efforts warm tears filled the rims of my eyes.

You see…what the woman in the hotel couldn’t have known is that the season of parenting we find ourselves in has proven to be quite difficult. Our oldest son is going from a little boy to a young man and the things we’ve learned in the last 12.5 years of parenting are practically irrelevant and more days than not I’m on my knees begging God for grace.It wasn’t the time for me to tell her that just last week my husband and I were fasting and praying on behalf of our boys, begging God to help us be the parents they need because it felt like we were failing at every turn.

There was no way that woman could have known the concern in this mama’s heart but we serve a God that knows every tear we cry (Psalm 56:8) and He knew that in that exact moment I needed to hear those encouraging words.

I’m sure to the woman it was just a kind compliment. She simply gave words to the thoughts running through her mind. But to this mom, it was the Spirit of God calming my soul and reminding me that He is in control.

As I continued up the steps to our hotel room I was astonished by the power of one simple compliment. One encouraging word, spoken from a thoughtful heart literally changed my entire outlook.

In that moment I made a promise to myself. The next time a kind thought lingers in my mind I won’t let it stop there. I will open my mouth and say the words because those words could be what the Spirit of God uses to breathe life into another person.


14 Years and 14 Things I Love: Part 2

14 Years and 14 Things I Love: Part 2

I was stuck on an airplane with no in-flight entertainment for five hours which made it the perfect time to continue my last post. If you are new to this post, go back and read part one first. If you’ve read the beginning, you won’t mind me diving right back in where I left off.

  • When two humans vow to live life together, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” there are going to be arguments. Just like all couples Britten and I disagree, we argue and as much as I hate to admit it, I can have a pretty hot temper. Thankfully the Lord knew that about me and gave me a kind, patient husband who NEVER loses his cool. No matter how upset I get or how intense a disagreement may be, he always remains calm and self-controlled. In fact, he usually smiles lovingly at me and tells me my spicy temper is cute, and it’s hard to stay mad at someone that’s telling you how cute you are.


  • In 14 years of marriage I’ve done a few absent-minded things. I lost a thousand dollar Canon camera. I threw my diamond earrings in the trash can at a drive-thru window, only to realize it the next day. I could tell you more but for the sake of my pride I’ll stop here. But, what is even more dumb founding than my absent mindedness is that in the midst of my costly mistakes Britten always responds with kindness and love. I can’t count the number of times he’s looked at me and said, “Babe…it was a complete accident, everybody makes mistakes.” He has never once talked down to me, made me feel stupid or even told me what a careless mistake it was. He always gives me a hug, wipes away my tears and tells me it’s ok.


  • I work part time as a personal-trainer and group fitness instructor which means when I go to the gym for myself I don’t have the mental capacity to think about my own workout, thankfully I don’t have to. Every time I step inside the gym I have a workout Britten has programmed especially for me. He knows the type of workouts I like, keeps track of what I’ve been doing, knows what goals I want to accomplish and he programs workouts to specifically help me reach my goals. A personal trainer having a personal trainer sounds a bit odd but it keeps me accountable and encourages me to push myself.
  • I recently finished the series “Anne with an E” on Netflix and have moved on to “Hart of Dixie” which tells you I’m a glutton for warm-hearted, girly shows. As you can imagine, my husband is not. Can you blame him? But that doesn’t’ mean I need to watch them while he’s at work or sit on the couch alone at the end of a long day because well, that would be boring. He knows I love these trite little shows so he sits down beside me and chooses to be present. Granted, he may be reading an article online or texting his brother about political issues or Back Squat PR’s but he still chooses to be right beside me and that makes my heart flutter.


  • Our four oldest boys are school age and we are beginning our ninth year of homeschool. I’m incredibly grateful for the privilege of educating our boys at home and at the same time I’m tired just from typing the previous sentence. Being a homeschool mom is an amazing gift and opportunity to teach your children to lift their eyes heavenward. In my humble opinion, it’s also an incredible use of one’s life but it’s exhausting to a new degree. That’s why it’s vital to have a husband that loves and supports you in your role as a homeschool mom and Britten does just that. He shares the homeschool load and holds me up on the days I can’t do it alone. That may mean I bounce curricula ideas around while he gives feedback, or he prays for me as mom and educator but sometimes it means I leave the house for a few hours while he steps in as the substitute teacher. Him giving me the gift of time away has led to a renewed sense of calling, a greater appreciation for mom as teacher and some hilarious impersonations of Britten’s teaching from our boys.


And if that weren’t enough to convince you why my love for Britten has multiplied exponentially over the years come back next time for part 3 of 14 Years and  14 Things.

14 Years and 14 Things I Love

14 Years and 14 Things I Love

I’ve read the articles and talked to enough couples to know that marriages change. That’s just reality when two people who say, “I do” live life together.

Things don’t stay the same. There is growth. There are setbacks. People develop certain patterns or ways of thinking. And sadly, often times those changes can have a pretty negative impact on the important relationship we call “marriage.”

There has been no shortage of change in our marriage. Its hard to fathom how much has changed since we first sliced into the infamous 6ft tall wedding cake. 

Have we changed in our 14 years? You bet! Are we different people than we were the day we said, “I do?” Of course we are. But what those articles forgot to mention is that sometimes those changes can make you fall even more in love with your spouse than you were on the day you got married. There are so many things I love about Britten that I didn’t know about him in the early years of our marriage.

And in honor of our 14 years, I’m sharing 14 things I love about my man. Of course I love that he works so hard to provide for our family, he’s an amazing dad and that he loves Jesus Christ and loves to tell people about Him. But, if you’ve known him for any length of time you already know those things. I want to share the reasons I love him that you may not know about. So, without further ado, in no particular order here are 14 things I love about Britten.

  • He shops for me. Yep, you read that correctly and it’s one of the main ways he blesses me. After shopping for and clothing our five children I’m usually too tired to give much thought to my own wardrobe. My incredibly stylish and fashion forward husband knows that about me so he serves me well by choosing clothes that he thinks will look nice on me and that he likes. I give him the sizes and tell him what kind of clothing I need and he does the rest. Dream. Come. True.


  • He brings me cookies at 10:30 p.m. Confession: I try to be conscious of my diet and the amount/types of foods that I eat but I have zero control when it comes to Double Doozies from The Great American Cookie Company. More times than I care to confess my sweet husband has gone out after 10:00 at night to get cookies for me just because I want them. As a matter of fact, it’s 10:09 p.m. on Tuesday night and he’s currently driving to The Cookie Company as I type. Shameful, right?

  • Because I eat a lot of cookies, I have to counter it with healthy eating at other times and we all know it’s easier to eat healthy when you have someone to do it with you. Which brings me to the next reason I’m completely smitten with Britten. Do you see what I just did there? He’s always up for my preposterous health food ideas. I’m constantly bombarding him with wonky ideas like, “Let me put butter in your coffee” or his personal favorite, “We are going to drink this Detox Drink three times a day for two weeks.” But no matter how crazy my ideas are, he plays along. And it’s not because he needs to. It’s because he knows it’s important to me.
  • He tells me daily how beautiful, smart and talented I am. On the night of our wedding rehearsal Britten’s great uncle shared a bit of advice with the young groom-to-be that has stuck with him for the last 14 years. His Great Uncle James said, “Don’t ever let a day go by without saying something kind to your wife.” His Uncle James would be so proud to know that Britten took those words to heart and not a day goes by that he doesn’t tell me that I’m an amazing mom, that he loves being married to me or how thankful he is for the work that I do in our home.


  • He hauls me all over town and has never once complained. I’ve mentioned before that there are challenges to living in a country where women are not allowed to drive. I use Uber a lot to get around when Britten is at work but if he’s at home he will drop any and everything to take me where I need to go. I’m not crazy enough to think that he loves driving me around but that’s what makes it even more special. Despite the fact that he has other things to do, doesn’t want to get back out or is just plain tired he never lets me know that. He puts a smile on his face and crawls back in the car to drive me all over town.

I could fill the world wide web with the many reasons I love my husband but in an effort to keep this post from getting too long I’m going to stop at five. Join me later this week and I’ll finish out the list.

Anything But Normal

Anything But Normal

I can’t speak for every expat but I can speak for our family.

When we first moved to the Middle East four and a half years ago everything felt new, strange, unfamiliar and different. Adapting to a new culture is no easy task especially when everything is no longer “what you’re used to.” Our senses were assaulted from every possible angle and somedays we didn’t know which way was up.

Fast forward a few years and give us a few countries under our belt and you may find us having a good chuckle at just how “normal” our unusual life is.

In an effort to help myself remember these days I’m going to post them here.

We live in a completely Muslim country where it is illegal to produce, consume or import any form of alcohol. In light of the “no alcohol” rule it is very popular to see a wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks in restaurants (don’t be fooled by these fancy mocktails)grocery storesand convenience stores.
Several of the non-alcoholic drinks have fun fruity flavors and colors which make them especially appealing to children. My boys will generally choose one of these fruity soda-like beverages if given the opportunity.

Just this week I was reminded how our lives are anything but normal when I looked over at my six year old who was relaxing by the pool and chugging his beer.