Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Birthday TWO our Sweet T.

I wrote much about T's milestones HERE when we celebrating T being home for one year.  T has been 2 now for about 6 weeks and that post is 8 weeks old so it is crazy and cool to think of all the ways T has grown and changed in just two months!

Here are a few new things since the last post:

~She is no longer obsessed with ice!  Whew!
~She has fully cut 16 teeth and we think is on a teething break, but the last few days she has been putting her whole hand in her mouth.  Could she really be getting her second set of molars just a couple months after her first set?  Seriously?
~She is talking up a storm!  She repeats everything we say, or at least parts of it.  She says many new words every day.
~She has fallen in love with reading!  She will request book after book after book!  She can even sit through non-board books if they are not too long. LOVE it!
~T has a favorite shape, the oval!  She LOVES ovals.  She finds them everywhere and want so read the "oval" (shape) book all the time. 
~She likes to actually walk on walks rather than ride in the stroller.  Oh dear, I think she forgot that her mommy and Charissa like to cruise in the summer and that she will have to stroll every now and then.  I think I will be able to lure her back in when she remembers that stroller trays have snacks!
~She loved her Birthday.  She loved the cake!  She loved the presents.  It was very low key and perfect!  It was on a Sunday so a very busy day for daddy with church stuff in the am and a service at a nursing home in the pm, but we did have some special time together after nap.

M and I decorated the kitchen early in the morning before she woke up.  She loved it!

T: "Happy, Cake, See, Ball"  (Happy Birthday.  I like cake!  Mommy look at those ball things hanging from the ceiling over there.)

M: I love getting my picture taken. (Check out T's "It's my Birthday" shirt!)

T: Classic 2 year old "Cheese" picture!

T: Heidi always knows the perfect gift!  I LOVE to draw!

T: My own pink ride on toy! Love it!

And this is how it feels when someone else has a Birthday... M did get to open many gifts as well.

The cake!  Gluten and dairy free and enjoyed by my family. 

T: Whoa look at that fire!  M: I will blow it out T.

T: whew (tiny tiny dainty blow)

M: Actually T you need to BLOOOW it like this!  T: Oh, OK!
T: Hmmm... not sure how this thing works?

M: T, you blow it just like this.

T: Got it!

Not sure if she ever really got it, but it was a nice distraction while I cut the cake.

T: This is good stuff mommy!

T: Like, really really good stuff!

M: I love the frosting!

A sweet moment captured!

T: The fork was slowing me down! (Aunt Joanna, please note that I needed to immediately wear my new skirt)

T and M: I guess we were a little thirsty!

2 years old in the red chair!

The best photo we got of just her... sigh!  She sure has grown since her first Birthday.  Check out those photos HERE!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

World's Cutest Orange Peeler!

A couple of months ago T learned the fine art of orange peeling.  Well, OK, she learned "cutie" peeling.  Cuties are great because the peeling comes off super easily.  She is so incredibly proud of her skills! The slices sometimes get a little mangled, but it will keep her joyfully in one spot for several minutes.

T: I have to use all my strength!
T: Then I dig my fingers in a little bit.

T: Just a little more pressure here and we should be good!

T: Want to join me for a slice?  I like to share!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chinese New Year, Totes, and more!

 This post is a mix of pictures from several events that happened in January/February. 

T: Mom, I really can't pose now, I have corn chips that need to be eaten. 
 A note about the photo above.  Do any of you recognize the outfit?  We put in on T to celebrate one year with her.  This is the cozy oversized outfit she was wearing the day we met her in Ch!na.  Click HERE to see her a year ago! One year later it is still a bit to big is some places.  She looks like a typical Ch!nese little girl in this photo... minus the chips.

 The following photos are from Chinese New Year.  Last year you might recall we had a hilarious time trying to get photos of the kids in their CNY gear.  Check out the great photos HERE. Amazingly it seems there is something in the material of these clothes that causes my children to have the complete inability to pose for a photo.  I promise you all, these really are the best ones!

M: I will only smile if I can close my eyes!

T: She caught me! 

T: I'm going to get you!  M: I am faster!

T: Do you want to give baby a ride?  M: Sure, tell her to hop on!

M: I can "read" this entire book.  (He memorized it)
 In this journey towards healing and protection and love we have tried several different approaches to therapy.  The following photo is from our time trying to use containers to bring some calm to our home.  We had very limited success with this, but it was nice to use them during the Superbowl as all the snack crumbs had a nice place to stay.
Superbowl!  Super Family!  Super Containment!

M is fascinated with the attire of the characters in Bible Stories.  One day he decided to dress like he lived in Bible times.  He does have underwear on.  He learned he likes his "sporty clothes" a bit better than a dish towel. 
M: I am in King Saul's Army! 

M: I really look like the guys in the Bible Stories.

 This winter T really started to take a serious interest in drawing.  Usually she likes to draw everywhere but the place she is suppose to draw.  Magnadoodles don't allow her this option and I just love them.  She is learning skills and my house is protected from crayon, markers, and pens!
T: Mommy Wat Wat!  (Watch, Watch)

T: Where is the boat headed?  M: I think we are lost.  Eating our stuffed animals might be our only option.

M: Don't stop hugging me Mommy!
M: Maybe I do like having a sister!  T: This is great!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Great Smokies!

In late February our family headed south for vacation!  Brandon and I decided to take both kids to the Smoky Mountains for a week of swimming in the pool and hiking.  We prepared for this trip much more than the Christmas road trip.

One of the things that we couldn't prepare for was the sad news that the place we were planning to stay would no longer be an option.  Less than a week before our planned departure we received a call that the resort experienced an explosion and a fire and the whole building was unusable.  It had happened weeks ago, but the hope was now lost that our unit would be ready.  They offered us an alternate location in an alternate city (25 additional minutes from the Smokies each way) with a Friday-Friday check-in/out.  We were scheduled for a Sunday check-in/out and due to Brandon needing to be here to preach on Sunday we knew we would not be able to get to the resort until late afternoon Monday.  This would create a very short vacation.  We were devastated.  We worked through our options and hired the very best travel agent in the world, my mom, to help us.  OK, actually we were using my parents time share so she didn't have a choice, but she is the best so we were lucky!  My mom was able to get us into a resort very near the park for a Saturday to Saturday stay.  While that was not great, it was better than the previous option.  I was able to call the resort directly and changed our dates to Sunday to Sunday. After explaining the situation to them, we had no additional charge.  Awesome news, right?!  Well, there was one little hitch in the plan.  The new place we were going to be staying, the one that was available with less than a week's notice... well... it did NOT have very nice reviews.  The reviews were pretty horrible, but we prayed and trusted that we could make whatever we found work (well unless there really were bedbugs).  We were so thankful for the location and the check-in/out that it would have to be OK. 

I spent many days getting little things done for our journey.  I had a tote system where each kid had a tote of toys, books, and activities for the long drive and also for the week in TN.  I also filled three identical totes with snacks, one tote for each journey and one for our time on vacation.  I was up late each night packing and preparing, but it paid off!

General vacation themes:
As I blog about the vacation I want to share about the things we did and the moments of joy we shared as a family.  In an effort to keep this blog authentic and honest for readers now and for my family later I also want to share some of the general trials.  The biggest trial was something that we knew we would face... Trauma does not leave a child when the child leaves the home.  In fact, trauma gets worse.  Wow!  We had a hard week in many ways, but all 4 of us came back alive so we celebrate.  Another trial was sleep.  Both kids had a hard time sleeping on vacation.  The place we were hoping to stay had a huge master bath that we were planning to convert to T's room.  The new place had a bath so small that this didn't really work.  T was in the room with Brandon and M with me.  T heard Brandon move and woke up many times every night and then very early in the morning.  M woke up for several hours almost every night we were gone.  Lack of sleep leads to tired kids which makes things harder.  Another trial was the cold temps.  The whole nation entered a deep freeze while we were there, and the highs some days were in the low 30's.  This is pretty cold for little kids to be outside for many hours, esp when our little girl does not do mittens.

Now for the play by play...

Sunday Day One:
The morning went more smoothly than I could have ever imagined.  I decided to take advantage of our location and bring T to the nursery during the Sunday School time so that M and I could pack.  Well, actually I was guessing that M would watch a movie, but at least I would be able to pack. There is so much last minute stuff to pack with kids who need things to sleep with each night etc.

Once we got to church M decided to stay and play with Charissa and Baby J and T went to the nursery so I had 45 minutes to myself.  I sprinted home and packed like crazy.  I got everything by the door and ready except for the booster seats and the cooler food.  It was incredible how quickly everything came together.

Our first goal was to leave church at 12:00.  This is quite an undertaking in itself as there are so many people to chat with etc, but we left very close to 12:00.  We didn't leave alone.  We hired a high school student, B,  to help the kids eat while we loaded the van etc.  It was AWESOME!!  She changed their clothes and fed them and played with them in the basement while we got everything done.  The double blessing, when I attempted to pay her she would not take the money.  What a servant's heart!  We are so blessed!

Our second goal was to leave our house at 1:00.  That is crazy fast turn around time.  We almost did it.  We left at 1:15 and everyone was in good spirits.

The first leg of the journey went great.  I don't think there was much sleeping, but compared to our Christmas travels, things were much more calm.  The kids watched about an hour of Sound of Music and ate lots of snacks.  We were motivated to carry on by an incredible play date waiting for us in IN!   

In exactly five hours we had made it to our stopping location for the evening.  We arrived at an incredible McDonald's playland and met some dear friends for a couple hours of fun!  We met this family in Ch!na when they were bringing home their daughter E and we were bringing home T.  They were on the long flight to Chicago with us.  The playland was incredible and exactly what my kids needed after a long day of sitting.  E is one year older than T and their T is one year older than our M.  They also have two older sons who were great with both of our kids.  The four adults actually got to chat and relax a bit while the kids played.  It was such a blessed time.

T: I like my new friend E! 

T: We are future Olympians just doing some stretching. 

CHEESE!!!!  Group Shot!

The moms and their girls!

After McDonald's we headed over to our hotel for the night.  We booked a two room suite at LaQuinta.  We are not typically "suite" people, but we have a daughter who really only sleeps well in her own room, so that didn't leave us with many options.  We actually got a pretty good deal and the room was very nice.  The kids were so excited to be on vacation and were running up and down the halls and enjoying pushing all the buttons for the elevator.  I remember doing that as a little girl so it was fun for me to see them enjoy those simple pleasures as well.

It was LATE by the time we finally got the kids settled down.  T was not a fan of being in a new place alone and I don't blame her.  She doesn't usually see me at bedtime either, but the doors between the room were glass and anyway, I ended up holding her in a chair until we both fell asleep. 

Monday Day Two:
We got up pretty early and Brandon quickly showered and took M down to the hotel breakfast.  T woke up just as I finished showering.  The kids continued to be giddy and excited about the adventure ahead of us.  They loved the elevator and the halls and the hard boiled eggs at the breakfast buffet!  Brandon repacked while the kids and I explored.

We were on the road by 10:00am which is pretty impressive since that is 9:00am CST!  The driving time was far from perfect but still better than the Christmas Day drive.  We stopped at Wendy's for a late lunch.  It was a great place to eat as we saw someone fixing a flat tire and a "military man on a motorcycle" to entertain us.  The restaurant was connected to a gas station so it was a one stop shop.  It also had non-automatic toilets, a big hit with M!

Once we were back on the road we realized we left T's beloved tag blanket at the Wendy's.  A call back to the store assured us that we would be able to get it on our way home the next week.  It was safe in the manager's office.

We made pretty good time getting to the Smokies.  Sadly, when Brandon went to pull out the address for the location to put into the GPS we realized we lost the all important information.  Since we live in a world free of smart phones (and we like it) we called a friend to get the address.  Once we had the address we quickly navigated on the mountain roads to the resort.

We pulled up to the office and grabbed the key from the late check in box.  I ran to the room while Brandon drove the van to our parking spot.  I tore the bedding off the beds in each room and checked for bed bugs.  There were not a sign of anything.  In fact the mattresses looked to be in great condition and quality.  The condo also looked just fine.  It was older and smaller than the typical places we stay, but many attempts to remodel had been made and it was generally quite nice.  Whew!

Once we got everything in the condo M wanted to swim right away.  We decided to go for it and swim.  We all had a great time swimming.  The water was a little chilly and the pool was small, but my kids didn't care at all.  They were jumping in and splashing and laughing like crazy.

Once the kids were rinsed and fed and put to bed it was time for operation unpack.  It took quite a while, but by the time I went to sleep that night, we were settled in quite nicely for the week! Since we bring all our own food and cooking supplies that a resort might not have unpacking is actually a pretty big victory.

Tuesday Day 3:
We attempted our first hike as a family of four!  We knew that today was looking to be the warmest day for a few days so we decided to do a bigger hike.  We went to Alum Cave.  The kids did great on the way to the cave.  They both walked almost the entire 1.4 miles to the cave.  They had a blast and showed us how big they were.  Going up was great, because while T fell a lot, she fell up, didn't get hurt and popped right back up.

M: I am ready for Arctic Hiking!  T: What in the world are you doing mommy?

M: I was so cold for the first few minutes.  Then I warmed up.

M & T:  Our Daddy is strong!

M: I am quite a hiker.

T: I walk!

M: I don't need you to hold on mom!

Approaching the cave area.

Ready to climb!

T: I want to walk mommy!

Snack break!

Another hiker offered to take this for us! 

It felt a little steeper going down.  I took it slow.

We stopped just past the cave to have some Lara Bars and other snacks and then attempted to wear the kids down the trail.  Both kids were pretty weary and it was not safe for T to walk down the Mt. as she would fall.  She didn't wait to be carried in M was walking.  I was wearing a borrowed Kelty carrier.  I tried to wear her and she was not impressed.  I can see where they are great for storage etc and it was such a blessing to have one lent to us, but wow are they heavy and cause all the weight to be on the shoulders.  I wore the Ergo the rest of the week and it worked out much much better.  After trying various carrying options with the kids, we ended up settling on Brandon carrying both of them to the van.  My husband is strong! 

The rest of the day was filled with naps, swimming, playing a "car game" in the pool building without actual coins, eating dinner, and family time complete with popcorn.

Wednesday Day 4:
Today was quite cold.  We started the day with a trip to the Nature Center and museum.  I am pretty sure my kids made every person there smile.  They were hilarious as they gave commentary on the stuffed animals in the museum.  T also caused every person in the gift shop to stop their shopping when she said hello and gave hugs to every stuffed animal in the store.

The comments under the photos are the direct quotes from our kids while there.  We wrote them down quickly afterwards so we would not forget!  Hilarious! 

T: Doggy?   Us:  No T it isn't a dog.  T: Cat?

M: Yes T you are right it is a dog (because he loves to contradict us)
T: Cat!!!!!  (nope so not a cat)

M: What is this thing?

T: Doggy (Can you tell she has a few favorite animals? )  Us:  No, it is a Wild Boar.

M: Look mom, it's a frog.  (Seriously, M are you just being silly now too?)

M: Mommy look (with great excitement) at the flamingo!  (I almost wet my pants at this one.  He was totally serious.)

M: Oh yeah, turkey, that is what it is called.

M: Is that is bobsledding cat?  (I guess we did watch a lot of Olympics)

T: Owie!  Owie!!  (This is actually what she calls an Owl.  We got one correct!!!)

After the museum we decided to go on a short trail to a waterfalls near the museum.  We were not really planning on the hike even though it was short.  We didn't have big coats or snacks or carriers, but we made it work.  The kids found many exciting things along the way.  They loved playing with leaves and sticks and other treasures of nature.  They reminded us 100's of times to take joy in the journey, and we did!

M: I want to play in the sand.  (It has been a long winter)

M: Come in the tree T.  T: OK!

Hiding in the tree!

T: I love balancing on the wooden beam.

Me: Look guys we made it to the waterfalls.  Let's take a picture together!  M:  I want to pick up a stick.  T: Stick! Stick!

M: T you should get a stick just like this.  (See the beautiful falls (destination) in the background.  See how they don't care about it.)

We love our sticks.

M: This branch is the perfect spot for a break! T: Break! Sit!   (20 seconds after our last break)

The rest of the day included a trip to the grocery store and more swimming, napping, and eating!  Our computer seemed to struggle to hook up to the internet which in general was OK with us because it meant that Brandon and I were able to talk more once the kids were in bed.  It also meant that I was able to tackle the organization of the photos in iPhoto, something I have wanted to do for a long time!

T: I am ready for the pool mom!

M: Yes, I do like to swim!

Thursday Day 5:
Today's hike was one of those hikes that will always live on in our minds and family memories as a "what in the world were we thinking" sort of hike.  It was only 30* when we started the hike.  It was a LONG hike and was listed as difficult.  We should have just gone to the aquarium or an easier hike or for a trolley ride, but we didn't.  We came to hike and we were going to hike!

Things started OK with both of the kids walking and in pretty good spirits, but this path was much more steep and they were cold.  We were wearing them a lot and taking turns wearing different kids in different ways.  We would stop for snacks and comfort, but kept trying to press on.  We hardly saw anyone on the trail.  We met a couple heading down the trail and they said there was a very tiny cascade not too far up the trail.  That became our destination.  We were planning to cross a foot bridge and have a snack.  While crossing it M slipped and almost had a HORRIBLE fall.  Scary indeed!  We ate a snack and the kids were not very happy.  It was time to begin the long journey back to the van.

This is our ONE photo from the hike.  The trees in the creek had ice hanging from them.  Very pretty, but showed that it was very cold.

I thought T was stinky so I attempted to change her.  She was freezing cold and ended up just being wet.  She was so upset that I changed her and she began to scream.  We decided that I would wear her on my back and Brandon would wear M and we would just try to cruise as quickly as we could.  Well, our T is strong willed and strong lunged. We had no fear of an animal attack with her LOUD screaming.  OK, I don't think the picture you have in your heads is accurate.  You are imagining a crying baby.  Imagine a screaming and flailing toddler.  Imagine every person we meet staring at us like we are crazy (well we were) and wondering if our daughter had been seriously injured.  The screaming continued as we ventured on.  The path was slick in some spots due to the cold temps.  There was also open water.  I twisted both of my feet and would have been in pain if not for the screaming toddler on my back to switch my focus.  Then things got worse, I was trying to navigate across a stream and stepped on what I thought was a patch of leaves.  It was actually ankle deep freezing cold water.  My running shoes were soaked and beyond soaked.  Amazingly the screaming toddler put the soggy foot right out of my mind.  M was not enjoying things either and was letting us know this as well. When we all could take it no longer, Brandon decided to continue to wear M on his back and carry T.  This actually did eventually help her to stop crying.  Once she stopped crying she worked both of her boots off.  I noticed when the second one fell, but the other was lost.  Shortly after this we met a family.  We gave them Brandon's business card in case they found the shoe.  Amazingly, the found it and Brandon went to get it later that day.

We were all cheering like we had just won the Superbowl when we finally saw the van in the distance.  I think I almost cried for joy!  We learned lessons.  We made memories.  We survived!

The rest of the day was spent swimming and eating and sleeping.  We had a small window of internet signal time today and discovered that our journey home might be quite a weather adventure.

Friday Day 6:
Today, as I reflect on it, was a great day.  We spent much time the day before figuring out a hike that would be more doable for our family.  We wanted to finish what we started and see something new and keep spirits up.  During the process we were not always sure, but at the end of the day our goals were accomplished.
The weather was warmer today, 40's!  We were able to hike without mittens much of the time which was a blessing for everyone.  Today's hike was to an unmarked waterfall.  None of us had been there before and we were excited to check it out.  The hike started with almost a mile on an old gravel road.  The kids walked, but M's feet were hurting and of course this led to drama and a need to be carried etc.  The trail seemed to go on forever and things got pretty steep.  We were wondering if we missed a turn or something.  We were so thankful for the directions one of the resort staff printed off for us.  By the way, Tom, the resort guy became a quick buddy for both kids.  They loved talking to him each day!

We came to a very very very intense foot bridge.  The railing slanted way out and it was long with a big drop off and rapids below.  Wow was it hard to cross, but we did it.  After that the trail got more steep, but we motivate each other to press on.  I kept thinking about M and his trauma and how we are not going to quit on him even though it is hard and we don't know how close or far we are to healing.  This motivated me in huge ways to press on.  The trail was beautiful and we started to enjoy the journey more.  Suddenly we were at the Falls.  They were quite impressive.  We had a snack and climbed up next to the falls.  Brandon even navigated up the Mt. with each kid to show them the top of the water fall.  It was a special sweet time for our family.

You can tell it was a much better day by the much increased number of photos from the day.
M: Do I look really tall?

T: Hewoah!

M: Climbing is fun.

M: Smile Daddy and T! 

Snack (with falls in the background)

The Falls up close!

T: I an smile and chew at the same time!

M: I am not going to smile!  (Well, he was successful!)

 The way back is always easier.  We notice landmarks and can guess how much time is left more easily.  We stopped and took some photos of the foot bridge.  It looks much more intense in real life!

I was not excited to cross it again. If only the railing would not have leaned so much.

The home stretch!

Almost done!  I tied my hat on tightly so the strings wouldn't be in my way on the hard part.

So, would you have been scared?

It looked scarier in real life. 

We took a little planned detour on the way back hoping to find an old farm site.  We scored big time!  The kids loved looking at the barn, spring house, and cabin!  It was so much fun to see their joy.  Tehila had a perfectly planned dirty diaper and there as a nice level surface to change her.  This change went much better than the day before.

The Barn.

M and T:  We are animals!

Me: Hey kids check out this little house.

M: Mommy look at the water.  T: Pay (play)  Me: Oh wow, there is still a spring with freezing water filling up the Spring House.  (Note mommy death grip on each child's wrist)

Mountain family!

After the hike we stopped at the grocery store and realized it was way too late for the kids to take a nap.  We knew we would never gain back the nap time sleep with night sleep as my kids don't really do that sort of thing, but we also knew that if they did nap they would be up until midnight.  We decided to try to make the most of it.  We gave M some coins to actually play the "car game" and he LOVED it!  Daddy may have taken a turn as well!

M: I am really going to drive!

M: This is awesome!

We ate and swam and managed to keep them awake and alive until a somewhat normal bedtime.

Saturday Day 7:
Our last day in the Smokies.  The weather was even warmer, I think in the 50's.  We decided to take it easy and go on a path that was near the Nature Center and well traveled.  We even used the jogging stroller and L and Baby J let us borrow.  The kids welcomed a relaxed ride for a while, but quickly wanted to walk.  We found some out foundations to explore and some hills to climb and some sticks to carry.  The kids said hello or "hewhoa" to many people and many dogs.  They really enjoyed seeing more people on the trail.  Most of our hikes were pretty lonely. We also did the usual swimming and sleeping and playing and eating.

Classic Sign Photo!

Riding in style.

M: This could be my cabin!

T: I can see you through the window M!

T: I would rather walk!

T: Something doesn't feel right with this hat!

M: Take my picture on these steps Daddy!

Much of the time during nap was spent looking at weather sites on very very slow internet.  We were anticipating driving through lots of rain, ice, sleet, and snow.  We had offers from at least 3 families at different places on the journey who opened their homes for us if we needed a place to stay.  We talked about staying an extra day, but it seemed that this would make things worse as the storm was slow moving and would possibly force us to stay there until Tuesday.  We were ready to get home.  Our hope was to make it all the way in one day!  We had done it with M and we thought we could do it again.

Once the kids were asleep I was a packing machine.  We got a lot done before turning in ourselves.

Sunday Day 8:
Brandon and I got up at 5:00 and were both showered and loading by the time M woke up.  We got him fed and most of the things done that we could before waking T up.  The weather was beautiful and was supposed to be in the 70's there that day.  It was sad to leave on what would have been an incredible day for hiking.  Our goal was to leave at 8:00.  We actually left ten minutes EARLY at 7:50.  We even impressed ourselves!  Even more impressive was making it to Knoxville before we started the first DVD!

The first hours of the journey had incredible weather.  It takes two hours to cross into KY.  The whole journey in TN was perfect driving weather.  The first hour in KY (with the hardest winding and Mt. style roads) was great too.  We stopped at the Wendy's once again only to find that the blanket was not saved for us.  I almost cried.  This led to much drama etc.

Once we left the Wendy's it began to sprinkle.  The temps were as high as 64* but they began to drop.  We had down pouring rain the entire way through Lexington.  Luckily there was not much traffic.  There were many times that I could see nothing but I just kept going and praying and knew that many people were praying for us as we traveled.  The temps kept going down and pretty soon it was 34* and then... the rain... STOPPED!  We couldn't believe it.  Every car we met was covered with thick layers of ice so I was preparing myself for the sleet and ice to come.  We were planning on Brandon taking over as the driver when the roads got bad because he has a better ability to stay calm in stressful driving than me.

We decided to stop for lunch at a DQ/gas station place.  The kids made quick friends with the workers and I kept watching the icy cars stop for gas.  We were pretty quick in our stop and I decided to keep driving.  Amazingly we went on and on and there was no sleet.  We saw trees and signs and grass covered in ice, but the right lane of the road was wet but not slick.  Eventually we did hit a patch of freezing rain, but I was able to navigate through it.  We heard of big snows around Indy, but besides a few very brief slippery areas the roads continued to be good.  God truly put us in a protective bubble.  We missed the earlier freezing rain and then we missed the much more harsh round two that came to every single city we drove through later that day evening, and night (Seriously, I went on when we got home to learn that no travel was advised on much of the roads we drove on earlier in the day).  We just kept driving.

We stopped for the third (and final) time in Gary IN for dinner and gas.  The kids were weary and we were all so ready to be home.  Neither kid had napped more than 10 minutes all day at this point. Both kids fell asleep around Chicago and T slept the rest of the way home.  M slept for about an hour and it totally took the edge off for both of them. 

We got home in just under 13 hours which looked more like 12 as we gained an hour.  The kids were so very happy to be home.  T just squealed "HOME" over and over again!  We were so blessed that our dear friend Charissa came in and turned up the heat so it was nice and cozy.  I think the real feel temps were in the teens below zero so our bodies experienced quite a temperature shift throughout the day!

I played with the kids while Brandon unloaded the van.  We were all weary, but we were home.  Traveling with two young children across country is not easy.  Traveling with a kiddo with trauma issues is not easy.  Making memories is worth it!  I am so thankful for my gratitude journal which helped me remember the good things I shared in this post.  Without it I would surely have been weighed down by the hard stuff, but fun was had and joy was felt and kids were loved!  God answered many prayers and we were indeed very blessed to have special time as a family of four!