Cousins | A Christmas Gift Surprise

The people in these photos are very near and dear to my heart.  Attempting to put how I feel about them into words will pretty much be a fail, but I'll try my best anyways.

If you know me, you probably know about my soulmate/meant to be sister... Allison.  aka Al, aka AlPal, aka AlGar.  We were born cousins but have grown to be much more than that.  Al has seen me at my best and my worst.  She has stuck with me through the tough times and the happy times.  She has been my encourager, supporter, uplifter, and surprise note giver.  We were inseparable growing up together.  Barbie and baby dolls, gymnastics in the front yard, "ice skating" in dad's barn, playing runaway Indians, being "Tim McGraw dancers" in the barn (we forced my little brother to be Tim McGraw..ha!), spending full days out on the trampoline teaching ourselves crazy flips, starting a baby-sitters business (for like one week), trips to Florida and Gatlinburg with family.... The list goes on. and on. and on. and on.  But I won't bore you.  Long story short, she knows me inside and out.  

When it came time for us to grow up we both ended up at Ball State where we spent our years as roommates, party partners, "meaning of life" explorers, and each other's support system.  We had fun together, but also helped each other stay grounded.  Going away to college has the ability to shape you into someone you never thought you would be (in good ways and bad).  Having someone that I felt like "home" with was the most comforting feeling, and helped me remember who I was and where I came from.  We always say that's when we really started to find who we truly were.  That's when I developed my love for music, for photography, for journaling, for Jesus.  And my AlPal was right there with me!  Since then we've obviously both graduated, gotten our Masters degrees, gotten married and live "big girl" lives.  We may live nearly two hours from each other but our bond is still strong.  She was one of the main reasons I had the courage to take a risk and chase my dream. Because she knows my heart, and she wants me to be happy.  I love her for that and will ALWAYS be grateful.  

Little Charlie and Sara are my younger siblings, in my mind.  I remember them when they were little babies... So many great memories in my life have Charlie and Sara in them and it makes my heart so happy.  Charlie has always been so laid back and calm, adventurous, funny, and hardworking.  He has such a good heart.  Sara Jo has always felt confident in who she is and lives her life without caring what other people think... A rare trait for someone her age.  That's what I love about her, and hope to fully take on that trait of hers one day.  She is so compassionate and caring... anyone would be lucky to have in their life.  They have both now gone away to college and are having the experience of a lifetime (I'm sure).  What makes me even happier is to know that they are learning who they are, what their passions are, and growing into better versions of themselves just like Al and I did.  I am SO proud of these two and excited for the bright futures they have ahead of themselves.  

So, anyways... for Christmas they wanted to surprise their sweet parents with pictures.  While their mother somehow figured it out (hmmmm....) she was at least surprised with the beautiful prints, book, and canvas they had made for her.  We had a great time together and could have walked around taking pictures all day!  Looking at these pictures brings a flood of memories to my mind, while at the same time seeing the amazing people they have become today.  Having people in your life that have been right beside you your entire life is something rare and special, and something I truly cherish.  

Okay, enough cheesiness (sorry, I just can't help it!) Here are some of my favorites from our time together....   :)   ||  PS, Nick, Al's husband, came along for the pictures also because he's family now.  I met Nick in college, and feel like I've known him much longer than that.  He makes my best friend so happy and I love seeing their love for one another and the life they are building together.  He's a pretty awesome guy.  :)

Okay, enjoy!