Friday, January 31, 2014

T's first haircut!

On January 25th T had her first "haircut."  I was at a retreat so Brandon brought her.  Actually the appointment was for M, but I told him to ask if T could get a tiny trim too.  Before she came home they regularly buzzed the front of her hair, but they left a section in the back long.  It was so much longer than the rest so I thought it might look nicer somewhat closer to the length of the other hair.  I guess she only made a few snips, but T's hair looks much fresher now!  As is her usual, T loved getting the cut and the attention, and of course the sucker :) 

I get a sucker and some love from Shelli.  This is great!
Look at how well I am sitting still.  This is a big job for me!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

One Year HOME!!!!!

Sweet T you have been home an entire year!  It seems so literally like just yesterday we were making our miracle journey home from China!  I still marvel at God's faithfulness on your "delivery" to America and our home.  If you want to remember that special day click HERE.  It is honestly one of my most read blog posts.  We saw God move so deeply with the perfect timing of our layovers etc that it is just such a blessing for me to read it over and over again. 

We are so very blessed to have T in our family.  She is such a delight!  She adds so much free spirited joy to my days.  T loves life!  She appreciates the little blessings and squeals with delight over me wearing socks that are not white :)  She just loves it all!

T is changing and growing every single day.  I have much to say and almost don't even know where to begin.

T is growing like crazy!  A year ago 6 month onesies were falling off her petite body.  Compared to her peers I get that she is still on the petite side, but to me she is a big girl!  She is wearing 18 mo pants and 18 or 24 month size tops.  We love the bigger size of tops mostly to cover up a bit of the cloth diaper bum she has going on.  I wonder if her pants will all fall off of her once she is potty trained.  T's feet are growing, but they are still a very dainty and narrow size 4!  Her hair is getting long as well.  She weighs about 22-24ish pounds.

Girlfriend LOVES to eat!  She loves meat!  I am so thankful we eat meat around here because it is her favorite.  Every kind.  She also loves bread... which we don't have as much of around here, but we try to hook her up with we can.  She also loves to eat ice.  I know this is bad for her teeth.  Sorry Tom and Adrienne.  We only let her have the crushed ice chips but she so loves them.  They really help her teething... more on that to come.  She loves popcorn, whew... how would you survive around here if you didn't love popcorn?!  She loves "raw-rah" (Chocolate) which is peanut butter and honey with a little cocoa powder.  She loves most fruits. They usually have to be hidden until the end of the meal so she will eat the other parts of the meal.  .  She loves avocados, and by love I mean she cries HUGE tears when they are gone.   "Hummy" (hummus) was one of her first words and another favorite food.  She eats everything that we eat at night with delight.  She will often have a bowl of rice as a side dish. She loves snack foods too... like chips, suckers, pretzels and other treats from parades and long car trips.

When we met T one year ago she had NO teeth... just soft gums.  Right as we were traveling home she cut her first tooth.  The first 6 came right at the beginning of our time together.  They were pretty brutal.  Then we had a big teething break.  Late this summer she started teething again and has not stopped since.  She is now getting #13, 14, 15 and 16.  She is the slooooooowest teether ever.  Teething really really affects her moods and her sleep.  We got her an amber teething necklace and it might help some.  Sadly, I have to admit that we have given her more Tylenol due to teeth pain than I ever imagined, but sweet girl needs to sleep.

After a summer where she slept insanely well, things have taken quite a turn.  T came to us with poor sleep (teething, not sure) but then became a rock star sleeper.  She was sleeping 14 hours a night and taking a great nap during the day too.  She would go weeks and weeks at a time without ever waking up.  The glory days!  She now wakes up about 1/2 the nights.  Brandon is T's bedtime and nighttime helper so he has had to deal with lack of sleep issues too.  Every once in a while she will have a great night of sleep which tells us that she can still do it.  We are hopeful that after the 4 teeth she is getting finally finish coming in we will have almost a year break before the 2 year molars.  The one year and two year molars typically come about a year apart and she just finished getting hers around late November so we are really praying for a break.

T has found her voice.  She is learning and saying new words and phrases every single day.  Over our Christmas travels she said the best thing yet, "I wah-yah" (l love you)!  I would say she says over 150 words, maybe over 200.  Some of the cutest things she says are: "Wat, Wat" (Watch, Watch), "Hewhoa" (Hello), "Heh Meee" (Hold me), "By ya" (I want to sit by you) "Eye" (Rice, Ice, Yes, or Eye) She is saying new words every.single. day.  Her understanding of words is awesome.  She can follow simple requests and can point to most body parts as well. She can still make the most awesome sounds and every time she babbles it has a Chinese ring to it.  No, I didn't say she can speak Chinese, but it just doesn't sound like Northern US babble.  This is typical, but oh so cute.  She doesn't really sing too much, but she loves music and attempts a few songs.  She has finally started to shake her head up and down for "yes" which is a great help to us.  She only says "no" for yes and no so there is still some confusion, esp in the church nursery. 

Things she likes to do/play with:
T LOVES babies!  She got many dolls for Christmas and every one of them was opened with squeals of delight.  We frequently have dolls in every room of our house.  I round them all up at night and put them in the baby pack and play for the next day of little mama care.  T also loves coloring/art stuff, but she is partial to all surfaces but paper for unleashing her creativity.  What did parents do before magic erasers and washable markers/crayons? T enjoys books in moderation.  Every once in a while  we read every word of a board book in on setting.  T loves running and playing "I'm going to get you" with M and daddy.  T loves her trampoline and jumping like crazy. T loves playing tea party.  She loves her tag blanket and can't go to sleep without it.  If she is at someone else's house and they have one, she will attempt to bring it home with her.  She sounds girly, I know... but she also loves to play with trucks and wrestle and get dirty.  She loves to play in the sink and get soaked.  She loves to listen to music, esp certain songs from Sound of Music.  She tries to sing along and even does some actions to "So long, farewell."  She has started to really appreciate cuddles and hugs and kisses which makes this mommy very glad! She likes to play in the snow on the rare occasions that the real feel temp is higher than +10. She LOVES shoes!!!  We have way too many pairs of hand-me-downs and she is forever trying them one.  She also loves wearing other people's shoes.  When we have Friday Night Group she is always prancing around the house in someone's shoes!

People she likes:
T loves her mommy and dada.  She also loves her big brother. When she wakes up before "Ki-ah" she begs to play with him and seems lost without him around.  She wants everything M has.  If he has an owie on his finger, she surely does too.  If he needs aquaphor so does she.  She loves "Ca-cah, Day-dee, L, and baby" our dear friends.  She knows the baby's name is J, but calls him "baby" just the same.  She actually had a conversation with J's mom Charissa recently about how J used to be in her tummy but was now laying on the floor on a blanket.  Big things for a little girl to figure out!  She loves all the people in our Friday Night Group and squeals with delight when she sees any of the kids. She also loves her grandparents and pretends to talk to them on the phone and in photos.  She also loves many adults that she sees each week at church.  Really, she is quite social!

Personality:  T is our "girl on the go" as we like to call her.  She is so busy all the time.  She just wants to go, go, go.  She is usually in pretty good spirits.  She is eager to try new things and has little to no fear.  She has incredible empathy!  I am overwhelmed with her deep care for others.  I have never seen a young child with a deep level of compassion for others like T has.  It is easy for my mind to spin with how God is going to use this unique gifting in the future, but I know I just need to wait and watch.  Her empathy is the perfect attribute in caring for her big brother.  When he has hard times she is so quick to offer him her toys, tag blanket, snacks etc. She seems to be able to access situations quite well.  She embraces the fun in little things.  She will say "YAYAYAYAYAY" because you are giving her orange slices. 

Physical stuff:
She is right on track with her peers in meeting every developmental milestone... in fact she is often ahead.  We have gained SO MUCH ground in the last year.  She is one brilliant little lady!  If she could reach the railing she could even do stairs on her own.

Potty Training:
I am pretty sure she is super close to potty training.  She loves to sit on the toilet and tells us when she poos.  I am NOT going to try (if I can help it) to train her until after our late February trip to the Smoky Mts.  We have LONG car rides and having traveled with a newly trained child in the past I know it is much nicer to train them when you are going to be home for a while and not planning an 10 hour car trips.

Not her favorites:
T is not a fan of diaper changes.  She is not a huge fan of many veggies.  She is pretty anti long car trips and she is not a fan of sleeping during car trips.  She doesn't get too excited about sleep.  She doesn't like loud voices or music.  She hates the Sound of Music song "16 going on 17" though I don't know why.  She is not a fan of sitting still.  This is a primary reason for a sometimes lack of photos of T on the blog.  I feel bad that there are not more of her, but most photos of her are her turned away from the camera at the last second or of an empty screen because she has already run away.  Bummer for me, since she does so many cute things I can never seem to capture.

 Prayers for Sweet T:
This hasn't been the easiest season in our family and T has been affected by everything as well.
~Praise God that T is a part of our family.  Praise him for His great work in her life this year!  Praise Him for her heath!  
~ Safety: Pray that God will protect T from physical harm.
~Emotions: Pray that God will protect T's heart from the actions and pain she experiences.
~Patterns: Pray that the negative learned behavior patterns will stop!
~Joy: Pray that her spirit of Joy will continue!
~Sleep: Pray that she will relax and be able to get back into a good sleep cycle.
~Teething break: Pray that T would finish cutting these teeth and get a long break from tooth pain
~Attachment: Pray that she will continue to attach to everyone in our family in a healthy and meaningful way.
~Daily Grace: Sweet girl is giving us a run for our money lately and has become very high needs.  We are in deep need of grace as we parent her and grace to extend to her!

We feel so blessed that God has allowed us to be worthy of parenting T.  She is such a beautiful soul and for the last year we have gotten to see more an more of her beauty and personality shine through.  She is so quick to learn and so determined.  Oh how I pray that God uses her great gifts to bring Himself Glory in her life.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My sweet "little mama" T

T is such a little mama!  It blows my mind how much she loves dolls.  Shortly after she came home we gave her a doll to play with.  She immediately knew how to hold a baby in her arms and love on it.  I find this remarkable seeing as though she was not around any other babies and was most likely not held much herself.  The mothering instinct is a real thing.  I loved playing with babies when I was young... and when I was considered too old to play with them as well. :)  It warms my heart to see T playing with dolls.  She got several babies for Christmas.  Each time she opened one she grinned from ear to ear and squealed with delight.  The last baby she opened was a special one.  The doll looks like her and came with matching clothes for T.  Last Sunday she wore her big girl clothes to church and we got some sweet photos of her with the baby afterwards.  Getting T to pose is a big challenge.  She was also pretty tired after church, but we knew we would be taking the dress off before nap and not putting it back on... so the pictures show a sweet and a bit weary little girl.   

I love my new "Baby T" doll!
Ummm, feeling a little tired here.

Hey Baby T, would you like to look at a book?  This is my favorite one.

You almost can't tell which one is me and which is my baby!

Yes puppy, we have room for you too! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Year, Old Germs!

(TMI warning... recording the memory of our sickness means I will talk about gross stuff)  :)

I think we are all FINALLY healthy, but we had some nasty bugs floating around our house this winter.  If you read the Christmas post you know that the kids and I were all sick while traveling.  We thought we were on the mend when we got home.  We arrived home on a Thursday.  I was always feeling a bit funky but brushed it off.  T still had a monster cold and then transitioned to a stomach bug with lots of diarrhea.  M also had diarrhea.  On Sunday night I was up in the night throwing up again.  Monday was one of my sickest days since the Ethiopia Court trip in 2010!  I am so very very thankful that it was Brandon's day off as he would have had to take the day off it it wasn't.

By Tuesday I was on the mend and all seemed better for me.  The kids were still suffering from tummy upset and bathroom stuff, but I was fine.  Brandon was having some tummy funk going on too.  I think a lesser grade of all the stuff we were dealing with.  On Friday I was running a fever and running to the bathroom too.  Friday night/Saturday am was the grossest bathroom stuff I have dealt with since before I learned I had Celiac... so over 10 years ago.

As I said at the beginning, I think we are all finally over this super bug.  Three of us experienced every single cold/flu symptom in the book with this sick spell so I felt it was worth documenting.

Don't worry, there will be another photo blog tomorrow.  It will not talk about gross stuff :)

*This post needs to be edited as well.  We currently have colds...again.  They are pretty mild and we are not letting them stop us from much during the day, but they do like to stop sleep.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Indoor fun during the big freeze

It was COLD here in early January... like really really cold.  Since we live by the Lake we often get a little warmth that inland cities don't get, but not this winter.  The "real feel" temps were -40's or colder.  Brrrr.  We had lots of quality time indoors.  It was a blessing that it was right after Christmas and the kids had many new gifts to enjoy. The first day the real feel temps were above zero it felt like spring was here.  Brandon and I were reminded of our days in Fargo.  We realized that we really had toughened up for the long haul as many years after living there we still didn't think it seems "that bad." 

T: See Mom and Dad, I do fit in here! 
T: This is such a cozy place to read. 

The messier the better!

M: This is great!

T: More paint please!

We created masterpieces!
**This post was written during warmer weather.  We are now experiencing some extreme cold once again!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Christmas 2013 Roadtrip!

The BIG Christmas post is finally here. The length of this post will most likely fill the blog.  This means that even the most recent posts will have to be located by clicking on the "older posts" link at the bottom of the page.  A month late and most likely error filled, but also memory filled and photo filled.  Here we go!!!

December 25th
Our big travels started on Christmas Day.  Brandon's schedule leading up to Christmas is crazy busy!  He is finally ready to begin getting into the relaxed Christmas season togetherness spirit on Christmas Eve at around 9:00pm.

I had been up until after midnight every night that week addressing Christmas cards, wrapping presents, washing clothes, and getting all of our Christmas Eve meal stuff ready.  Lest you think I live a life of misery I must confess that I had a Christmas movie on on the background every night! Sadly, I had not yet packed for our 9 day road trip.  When Brandon got home and the kids were in bed on Christmas Eve we did something that most people wouldn't recommend given the tasks at hand... we just hung out and talked and vegged and spent time together.  If felt like days since we had really talked with all the craziness leading up to Christmas Eve.  It was so refreshing and life giving... but guess what it wasn't?!?!  It was not getting packed and ready for our roadtrip.

Christmas Day was a little on the crazy side. When we woke up to a trashed and unpacked house and  we quickly decided to not have the kids open any of the presents from us that morning.  We had a few presents from others and we knew we didn't have the time to have them open them.  Funny story... they are still wrapped and in our basement.  We had given each child a gift earlier and I think they both thought that was it.  In the end it will work out fine as we are going to give the kids the gifts for gotcha days, half Birthday for M and Birthday for T.  The gifts are already wrapped and will be much more appreciated when the kids have not been getting so many awesome gifts every day as they did during Christmas.  I am glad that my kids do not need gifts on Christmas.  M didn't ask to open any.  He just wanted to see Grandpa Tom and Grandma Judy.

We opened the presents, played with the toys and read the books.  I packed and packed and packed.  We ate lunch at home.  FINALLY at 1:15pm the van backed out of the garage.  I believe we were on the road by 9:00am last year on Christmas Day.

One of the hard parts about travel on Christmas Day is that very little is open for bathroom and food needs.  One of the hard things about packing in a crazy hurry is that we didn't have organized snacks and toys and books for the car.  One of the hard things about leaving at nap time with kids that don't nap in the car is that emotions getting pretty sad pretty fast.

We survived the trip to Brandon's family!!!  YAHOO!!!!  We stopped very little and actually arrived to their home in less than 7.5 hours.  The shining moment/time in the car was teaching M the game "I'm thinking of a family..."  I loved playing it in the car growing up and M enjoyed it too.  We actually got over an hour of travel out of that game and T fell asleep for over 30 minutes (I think) during it.  During the last hour of the trip (maybe two) we were listening to the Third Day Christmas Album.  Their "Merry Christmas" song gets me EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!  As I thought of sweet T and our wait for her last year.  The lines of the song fit her so perfectly! 

Check out the first verses: 

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
There the forgotten are

(We didn't know last year how true that was until we felt the bitter cold of the room she lived in.)

But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

(I edited out some of the song because this blog is crazy long already, but check out this final verse... oh how I cried listening to it and looking back at my sweet daughter in the van)

It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas

Finally the van stopped! We were tired and hungry, but we were safe and happy to see the smiling faces of Grandpa Tom and Grandma Judy.  We began talking that night about buying and emergency DVD player for the car for the next legs of the journey. 

December 26th
Today was a HUGE day!  Even though it was busy, it was much more joy filled than the traveling day! In the morning we headed over to Brandon's uncle's farm.  We got to see all of Brandon's mom's side of the family.  Every year they have a massive breakfast the morning after Christmas.   Brandon enjoys all the special foods and looks forward to it each year.  Brandon's Grandma R was able to come to the farm and enjoy the special family time as well.

T: Nothing like a before breakfast hotdog bun!  (In general T loved that constant eating during traveling)
T: Yes!  I am one and at the adult tables... I see people in their 20's at the kid table!
Brandon and his Grandma... they even coordinated outfits :)
T: Come with me, I found where all the presents are stashed.

T: Hey, I want to play with those bells.

After breakfast we all piled into the family room to open presents.  Part of of the present opening happened on Christmas Day without us, but we were there for part two.  The kids got many incredible presents from the family.  I noticed cousin A open a football uniform and I so hoped that M would get one too.  I am so thankful that he did.  He loved it.  He wanted to put it on immediately.  He rarely takes it off.  He did appreciate the other gifts, but the chance to be like a "real football player" was incredible (and still is) for him. T loved opening up gifts too.  Her favorite gift was big girl underwear.  M put some (clean) underwear of his on her head a few days before Christmas.  When she opened it she squealed with delight and then immediately tried to put it on her head.  Hopefully it won't be too long before she is also testing it out on her bottom. 

M: Now I am a real football player!!
M: Check out my muscles!
After presents the kids discovered a bell collection in the kitchen.  T was so filled with joy she was almost bursting as she was ringing her bell.

M: I am glad to have the biggest bell.  T: I am glad because I love life! 

T: OK A, are you ready for a concert?

T: This is great!  Ringing bells is fun and loud!
After playing my kids started crashing.  Grandma Judy and I took them home for lunch and naps.  Lunch went well.  I got M down for a nap, but T would not calm down without daddy so no nap for her...

M: I sure love my Grandpa Tom.

M: We were having a great day!  T: What?  This isn't how I should smile for the camera?

M: Apparently T got a phone call the same time as me.

T: Grandpa Tom, wake up and have some "wahwe!" (T was trying to wake up grandpa by offering him her water)

M: This sounds like real music.
That evening we had our family Christmas dinner and gift opening.  The kids were emotionally spent, but amazingly M stayed incredibly regulated.  Early on M opened a trampoline which meant that Brandon needed to set it up immediately.  We just let the kids blow through all their presents and then opened the adult presents while the kids were looking at and playing with their things.  They all loved the trampoline.  Big A got a dinosaur thing that he was very excited about.  T's favorite gift of the night was a baby doll (of course).  The kids were wearing matching PJ's and did a little dancing before bed.

T: We helped Grandpa Tom open his presents.

T: Grandma Judy and I are both wearing scarves now!  (T put a pair of slippers around her neck to be like Grandma)
M: Thanks for setting up the trampoline Daddy!
M: Yep, it works great!!

M: This is so fun, right A?
T: A helmet, a trampoline, cute PJ's  and my cousins... what could be better?
M: I love this, don't you Big A (and thanks for taking the photo when I was in the air, I look tall) Big A: Yes, this is great!  T: Cheese!  Little A: This handle tastes great.  (This is the best shot I got out of many takes)
M: A did a great job letting me check out his new cool dinosaur.

After bedtime it was fun to reflect on the events of a year ago.  It was the day after Christmas 2012 that we learned we had travel approval to bring T home.  We incredible news.  You can read about it HERE if you wish! We were so thankful to have T with us this Christmas.  Her first Christmas in a family!

We had other exciting news to reflect on as well.  My brother Bret and his with Joanna had a baby girl today!  What joy!  We are so thrilled to be an aunt and an uncle again. My kiddos have 3 cousins now and guess what... all the names start with A.  New baby will be "Baby A" and other cousins are "Big A" and "Little A."  

December 27th
This morning Judy's family came over for a few hours.  It was so much fun to watch M wrestle with Brandon's cousins T and T!  M loved it so very much!  It was a blessing to have extra time with them.  All four cousins but on their football/cheering gear.  Much time was spent trying to get a photos of the four of them in the gear.  I would say we had partial success. I know I included a few, but I couldn't decide which one was "best."

M and T: Early morning jumping is good for our bodies!
T: OK, time to stretch.  M: I don't know what she is doing.

M: We are real football players!

M: Hey A, you can wrestle with us too!
M: Pinned!

M: Mom, I need to get back to wrestling and playing football, I can't cuddle with you right now.

M: I really could do this all day. 
T: Goooo M!!!  I love cheering way up high!

T: Great Aunt Jeanette is reading one of my favorite books.  Me: Yum, these almonds are great... I sure hope no one is taking a picture of me... wait they are and now I am posting it here... must be a sweet  photo of my daughter.
M: Mom, I still don't want to cuddle with you, even if you wear a helmet!

T: Bouncing this many people is intense!  (How could I not include this determined face?)
Hey, I can see four sets of eyes!!!
M and T: This is so much fun!  We love our cousins!
If I have my days right, during nap Brandon and I had our dental exams.  No cavities!

T: Grandma Judy and I had so much fun with stickers!  I really like the stars!

That night it was just us with Brandon's parents. M had very little appetite, and spoke of a stomach ache. Suddenly he was throwing up.  Since all he had eaten that day was Lara Bars (fruit and nut bars) his vomit didn't even smell bad.  He felt so much better after being sick that he actually thought his first time throwing up ever was great.  I am glad it wasn't scary for him.  He drank a lot of water afterwards... even though we told him not to.

 For a while he felt great.  He went with Grandpa Tom and Brandon to ride bikes in the garage and it seemed that all was well.  The ladies joined them later as well.  He loved riding bikes down there and he REALLY loved riding in the front seat of vehicles without a seat belt for the 12 feet they moved in and out of the garage.

T: Daddy, this crazy car is fun!
M: I am never too sick for a biking adventure.  (Look at that pale face)
M: Daddy, we should all go really fast!
M: Ready Grandpa Tom?  Let's race!

M: I am in the front seat not in a car seat... this is the best 10 seconds of my life!
M: Yes, in the front again.  I look like an adult!
After playing in the garage he started to not feel so great again.  We didn't have a thermometer, but I could tell he was running a fever.  He really felt like he had to throw up... and so we waited and waited and waited.  Eventually he threw up all the water he drank.  Still no smell.  Still felt great afterwards.  This time he didn't drink much and took Tylenol to knock out the fever.  He fell asleep quickly and slept through most of the night.  He woke up early in the morning but then realized it was maybe better to go back to sleep!  I wasn't feeling awesome either, but I managed to make it through as well.  It was a milestone day as this was the first time either of my children threw up since coming into our family. We all survived :)

December 28th
This day was supposed to be our  big day with Grandpa Tom's family.  After M's sickness the night before we called them and asked if they still wanted to come.  They chose not to make the journey and risk the sickness.  Now that we are all finally healthy, I can say I am so glad they didn't come.  We had some nasty germs among us and we had no clue then how bad they were.

We had a pretty lazy day.  M and I stayed at home all day.  Brandon ventured with T to visit Grandma R.  M and I were so sad we couldn't go, but of course we are thankful that she didn't get sick.  T had a great time in the nursing home and I think Grandma R enjoyed herself as well.
T: It was fun to see Great Grandma R and to say hi to all her neighbors!

T: She cracks me up! 
Brandon also ventured out a second time to buy a DVD player for the van seat backs.  As with everything in parenting I have to eat my words.  I always thought I would be able to entertain my kiddos without screens... but sanity is important too so we bought the DVD player and got it out of the box etc, but we did not tell the kids.  We were saving it for emergencies.

That evening Chris and Adrienne and the kids came over for dinner and playing in the garage etc.  The little girls wore the sweetest matching dresses.

T: We love jumping and matching!!

T: I was concentrating!
T: We LOVE the little chairs!  (This photo came after 20 attempts!)
T: Thanks for the floss Grandpa Tom!
T: I think I am getting the hang of it!
T: Nothing like a cozy flossing cuddle at the end of the day.
M: Yahoo!!!!
M: Even Daddy and Uncle Chris were speeding around!
M: This Crazy car is crazy!
T: Giddy Up Horsey!  This is fun, but a little slow!
T: OK, this guy is more my speed!

After the kids were in bed Brandon and I worked hard to get as much stuff packed up as possible.  We knew leaving at 1:15pm was not an option and we wanted to get on the road by 10:00am.

December 29th
The day to head to my family's home finally arrived.  We all woke up at a good time and things got done pretty quickly.  M was loving playing in the garage and directing Grandpa Tom as he backed the cars in and out of the garage.  If my memory serve me right, we either left at exactly 10:00am or even a few minutes early!  M was going to be directing the van in and out of the garage one last time so that hurried his pace in getting ready.

What a difference it made to get an early start.  The kids were in an overall good mood which meant that the time passed rather quickly.  It was super cold that day, so we tired to stop as little as possible.  We had a quick bathroom break early on then made it quite far before stopping for lunch.  Bathroom breaks are always an adventure with a child who does not like automatic flushing toilets.  There are not a lot of outdoor options when it is zero degrees and windy so without too much disclosure I will say it was very good we had the vomit bucket in the car... even though no one threw up!  :)

We found the greatest truck stop ever to stop at for lunch.  It might have been too great for our kids as there was a lot to look at and distract us from eating.  They had a two story fountain in the middle of the general store, a food court and then two fast food places on the ends.  Besides the automatic toilets it was the greatest place ever!

After the big stop the kids both napped... at the same time!!!!  AMAZING!!!!  M napped for an hour and T for almost 90 minutes.  I think I have that right.  This has never happened friends.  I admit there was the temptation to drive 120 miles an hour during this silence, but I resisted.  After naps we stopped one or two more times, I can't remember.  T was very very sad the last couple of hours.  We could tell she was getting a bug and was begging to be held.  So hard to watch her sticking her arms out and crying "hold me" when we can't do anything about it. We made it to my parents house before dinner and without watching any movies.  Victory!!!!

It was so good to be with my family.  We had a lovely dinner and then everyone in our family got to open one gift.  T was really feeling sick, but enjoyed opening her big box anyway.  She went straight to bed and M enjoyed reading some new books from Grandma Kathy's library.

M: My own fishing pole!  This is just what I wanted!  (truly one of the few things he asked for)
M: "I want to go fishing right now.  Grandpa Daryl, could you buy some fish and put them in a little pool so I could catch them?"  (Yes, he seriously asked for this several times)
Me: A new and big crock pot for my family and my Friday Night Group friends... YES!
T: I am not feeling so good mommy. 
T: Even though I am tired, I think I might be able to open this!

T: My own kitchen.  This is worth standing up for!  (Sadly it was in about 1000 pieces and we had to leave it behind.  Grandpa Daryl put it together so it will be a new and awesome gift for T next time we see them.)

December 30th
Poor T was really feeling sick today.  Major head cold and fever.  We stayed indoors and played around the house.  M tried out the real treadmill and enjoyed it.  M also went with my dad and Brandon to the Ambulance Garage and then to the City Garage.  He LOVES sitting in all the big trucks and diggers and rigs.  What a special thing for him to do.  

M: Grandpa Daryl, this article is very interesting

M: Awww, I really do love her!  T: He likes me? Cool.

M: Learning to cast was hard work, and so funny.  I finally did figure it out!

M: I am just like a real EMT!

M: I got to ride on the stair chair!

M: Real flashing lights!

M: Then I pretended to be a police officer!

M: "Keep coming."  (M pretended to direct the ambulance out of the garage)

M: So many choices, where should I go first?

M: The plow blade is even bigger than me!

M: I like sitting up high in this big truck, but I LOVE looking at myself in this mirror!
M: I am off to clean some dirty streets!
M: I am just like the guys in the movie I Dig Dirt! 

M: This guy is huge!

M:  I am up way high!

M: Check out this big bucket!

That night we played in the basement.  The kids loved running from one end to the other.  I was really starting to feel sick at this point.  I woke up in the night to throw up and ended up sleeping in the bathroom.  

M: This is real!  Can you believe it?

T: I am going to beat you Grandpa Daryl.

T: These gloves make me run faster.  M: Holding Grandpa's hand makes me run faster!

Check out their personalities!  M is intense and T is pretending to fly!

T: I like having special time with Grandma Kathy!

T: Gah! (Again)
T: Wat Wat (Watch Watch) I just press this button and then...

T: It pops right up!  Amazing!

December 31
Again our plans changed.  We were supposed to head up to my parents other home to celebrate Christmas with my dad's mom and Bret and Joanna and of course sweet Baby A.  I was still sick and T wasn't doing great either.  We decided to postpone for the following day.  This day was sort of a blur for me because I just laid on the couch or in the bed or on the bathroom floor most of the day.  It is nice to be home when you are sick, but when you have kids, it is really nice to be at a place where they can be cared for while you are sick.  The kids played in the basement again and seemed to be in OK spirits.

Not many photos today...

Fun jammies and a fun grandma.

M: That moose book was so funny!
I think everyone in the house was sleeping well before midnight.  

January 1st
I woke up feeling quite a bit better.  When T woke up we discovered that she had vomited in her crib in the night.  Poor sweet girl.  She was covered and miserable.  I am so thankful my mom was there.  We gave her a little sink bath as she had a fever and would have been so cold and miserable taking a bath.  Once her hair was clean and her Tylenol kicked in she was in better spirits.  We decided to have Christmas at Grandma's house and not drive all the way to my parents other home.  We also decided that Bret and Joanna and the baby would not come and get exposed to all of our germs.  Very good decision.

The drive to my Grandma's house is less than an hour, but both kids slept the whole way.  Never happened before, pretty cool!  We all enjoyed the lunch and my appetite was finally back.  We opened LOTS of presents.  The kids played with Grandpa's chair and listened to the animal carousel Christmas music.   The kids were thrilled and we felt very very blessed as well.  Such a wonderful family.

T: I never got to meet Great Grandpa, but I sure like his chair! 
M: Are you impressed?  I am just sitting her and not falling out!

T: Yes, a Marvel box! 
T: This is awesome!!! 
Yay!  It is a Little People M and T!  Very fun that my mom found this combo of kids!
After presents we attempted naps, but only T was game.  M enjoyed time with all the adults and then got to pet Grandma's cat Shadow.  He was so sweet with the cat even though poor Shadow was very afraid of M (all children).

Who can nap when this chair is around to ride up and down!
M: We all were enjoying some snacks!
M: I was great with Shadow, but he was a little scared!

M: Awww, we are so cute!

M slept all the way back to my parent's house and T was either sleeping or quiet.  It was an incredible car day.  Granted the trips in the car were short, but the kids rocked during them!

M: I am so glad Uncle Bret got all these tractors a long time ago.  They are so much fun!
Once the kids were asleep we attempted to get as much packing done as we possibly good.  This time we were hoping to leave by 9:30.  My mom had to leave for school by 8:30 and we wanted to leave shortly after her. 

January 2nd
The morning pack up worked more smoothly than I ever could have imagined.  It was SO COLD out while Brandon packed.  We had A LOT LOT LOT of stuff so packing took a long time.  After getting things ready my dad came home to say good bye and we got on the road to my mom's parents house.

Yes, that does say -13.  Shortly after this photo we saw -14 for a little while.  Brrrr.

We arrived at my mom's parent's farm around 11:30.  We were surprised that my aunt and uncle were there as well.  We had more presents to open there! We had a lovely time eating and talking and playing with family.  My uncle Eric is a kid magnet so both my kids were glued to him most of the time.  He and M had a blast playing some game about pretending to put bugs down each other's shirts.   The time went quickly.  We knew we could not stay too long with an over 5 hour car ride still to go.

T: Uncle Eric is so fun!

M: Uncle Eric showed me a book about my mom.
T: Awww, I love my Great Grandma!
Group photos are always interesting.  Neither of these are perfect, but together they are pretty good.  Not sure why M was eating his hand in the first photo and bummed that T is blocking Grandpa.  The second photo is great of all the adults and OK of M, but T looks a bit out of it. 
The first attempt.

The second attempt.

One of the gifts I received that day was the CD soundtrack to Sound of Music.  Once we were back on the road we opened that baby up and enjoyed a full hour of Julie Andrews and happy kids.  Shortly after the soundtrack ended sadness began in our backseat.  We made it a bit further, but with about 4 hours to go we decided to pop in a DVD.  M was shocked and thrilled about the possibility of watching something in the van.  Amazingly he had received one DVD for Christmas... Sound of Music!!!  He loves this movie and has been watching the VHS version that my family taped off of TV 25 years ago complete with major fuzzy screen and tracking issues.  This would be his first viewing of the crisp and clear DVD.  Let me tell you, it was bliss friends.  For OVER three hours M was captivated by the DVD and we just drove and drove and drove.  Perfect car movie!  T was not feeling well and was in and out of sleep, but watched the screen during many of the singing parts.  I was so glad to have it.  We stopped for a short break when the movie was over and the kids were not too eager to get back in the car.  We made it home and we were glad.  Eventually we were all sleeping and our travels had ended.

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse of our holiday travels... even though they are a month overdue! We were blessed with incredible driving weather and incredible time with family.