Monday, January 25, 2016

A Kindergartener and a Selfie Stick!

I decided this set of pictures needed its own post.  These pictures could have been part of the Christmas post as they were taken on January 2nd while my parents were here.  Brandon got a Selfie Stick for Christmas and M was very excited to test it.  He had a great time taking pictures with all of us.  Brandon even got a photo of him using the selfie stick.  He seems so grown up!

M: First I took a picture of me and Daddy. 
M: Then T wanted to be in the picture too!

M: Grandpa Daryl was laying down so I just laid right next to him!

M: Mommy was in the kitchen. 

M: Grandma was sitting at the kitchen table. 

M: This is how it looks when I am taking the picture, cool! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Massive Christmas Recap 2015

We have so many photos and I have so much to say about our Christmas Season.  This might be my longest post ever.  It has taken many days to complete. Many days of writing means I may have switched tenses about 100 times and many silly errors. It doesn't stress me out to have errors, so if it doesn't stress you out, we will be good to go! Settle in for a long read with lots of great photos!

Each year the week before Christmas leaves me scrambling every night to get things done.  This year I felt much more on top of things.  I had to-do lists for each day during the two weeks before Christmas and amazingly everything got done.  The kids had school through the 23rd and this helped A LOT!  I was able to do all my wrapping while they were at school.  I still stayed up until 11:00 most nights working one on project or another, but it was paced well and quite fun.  I love wrapping and baking and cooking.  I addressed envelopes while watching a Hallmark Christmas.  Things went pretty smoothly.

Two Decembers ago we were in the baby stages of trauma understanding and every thing was HARD.  Last year we had discovered L-theanine and have my parents here and things went quite well.

This year we had a game plan and we stuck to it and we came out victorious.  Thanks be to God!  The kids are getting bigger and we are understanding their levels of stress tolerance more and more.

So... here we go...

Tuesday, December 22nd:
Today was T's last day before break.  She was so excited to open the gift from her teachers.  She got a little Lego set.  She put it together right away and declared it a space ship.

T: This is so cool!
T: I love my new space ship! 
Wednesday December 23rd:
I started the day by thawing SEVEN pounds of ground beef!  It was M's last day of school before break.  T and I ran some last minute errands and hung out with some dear friends.  After school we told the kids that we would be going out to eat at their favorite restaurant and then going to look at Christmas lights.  One of them didn't want to look at lights, but we kept moving forward and managed to enjoy the evening.

Once the kids were in bed I started all of my Christmas Eve cooking.  I have to admit, I was giddy about it.  There is something magical about getting this meal ready.  First I made some peanut butter and chocolate no-bake cookies.  They needed to cool completely before storing so they had to be made first.  Then I browned a pound or hamburger to be used for the Christmas morning egg bake. I then mixed up the meatball mix and formed 70 meatballs.  Whoa!  I boiled, peeled and smashed the sweet potatoes for the sinfully sweet and fattening sweet potato casserole.  I peeled the regular potatoes and made my lists for the next day.

Brandon was working on Christmas Eve service stuff so it is good that we both have our roles during this time.

Thursday December 24th:
I was up and going early getting things prepared for our noon meal.  Brandon and the kids ran around town to get me avocados since I forgot to buy them for the salad.  Browning 70 meatballs and making the gravy took over an hour, but once it was prepared and the sweet potatoes were ready there wasn't too much to do.  I was still washing dishes when our dear friends Curt and Deb arrived.  They pitched right in and everything was ready by the time Charissa's family came.  We had 11 people and a great meal and great fellowship and ZERO pictures.  David, Charissa, and Brandon are all pretty focused on the services so it seems we always forget the photos.  Maybe next year.  Anyway, it was a lovely time.

There were two church services that night.  The kids went to the nursery for the first service and then we mingled and came home for a quick bite to eat.  We decided to go back to church for the second service.  The kids both sat through the whole service and did very well.  T sang loudly which the front third of the church loved!  David's children's message was awesome.  T loved the book so much she was popping up to stand with David each time he turned a page.  He just went with it.  So great!  The service was lovely.  I am so glad the kids were able to make it through the service.  Christmas gets so connected to gifts when you are young and having them in the service and talking about the real reason we celebrate was excellent!

We were thinking about taking family photos, but it didn't happen.  The only photo was T standing during the children's story.

T: David did such a good job reading! I needed to stand to get a closer look.

After we got home the kids went right to bed.  I set up all the presents and stockings.  The kids each got a side of the tree and the gifts for the whole family were in the middle. I prepped the egg bake and went to bed.  I knew that I wouldn't be sleeping in the next morning.
Ready for morning!  Can you guess which side is T's? 
Friday December 25th Merry Christmas:
M woke up a few times in the night and then woke up for the day about 5:00.  He was allowed to come downstairs at 6:00 but only allowed to come into the front family room.  He was told he could wake T at 7:00 to go and get the presents.  I was so tired.  He and I read Christmas books and then blog books while we waited for 7:00 to come. He did a great job not sneaking into the other family room.

M: I was having a great time snuggling with Mommy, BUT I was really looking forward to the presents. 
Finally T was awake and they were able to get to their gifts. They were very excited about their stockings.  T had a tiara sticking out the top of hers and M had a football sticking out the top of his!  I really try to fill their stockings with a mix of practical and fun items.  Many of them come from Dollar Tree.  Each year they get gum, sparx "candy," a new tooth brush, fun bandaids, a movie, a special snack like GF/DF animal crackers and then other little things they want or need.  I always have way too many things so I just stash them for later needs.

As you read this post, make sure to notice T's clothes choices.  It is hilarious to see them evolve throughout each day.  She is a fashionista and never wears anything for long. I think it is worthwhile to note the total lack of typical winter clothing.  I am not sure if there is a single photo of her in pants and a shirt from here on.  We usually find her naked in the morning.  This morning she decided she wanted to put her Christmas dress back on.  I celebrated her being clothed.

M: What is this thing? (Mad Libs which he loved) T: Yes!  This is just what I was hoping for!
M: T, look.  I got gum!  
Once the kids were done checking out their stockings they were able to open their gifts.  They each had four packages from Brandon and I.  I accidentally ended up giving them each "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." I didn't even realize I had done this until I was wrapping.  The "need" is a stretch.  I gave them a lot of "need" items in their stockings.  By the way, M and T know all about Santa.  We have never "done Santa" but I tell them that we give gifts with joy in the spirit of St. Nicholas, so if a kid asks you what you got from Santa you can tell them any of the gifts from mom and dad.  The system has worked so far!
"Something to read"  The kids both got new Cindy Lee books!  We love them!!!
On Christmas morning the kids also get to open presents from others.  We have several local grand parent figures and friends who share gifts with us.

M: Can you believe I got REAL walkie talkies? 
T got an awesome tutu skirt and butterfly wings and she needed to try them on right away.  She was sure they were meant to be worn without other clothes.

T: I LOVE them!!!!  
T: Look, I put on my tiara too! I am a real butterfly Princess now!
M: I love my new Packer's scarf!  *Look at the green grass outside, wild!

M: I was VERY excited to get "session one" (that is what he calls season) of Black Stallion! 
We didn't take pictures of every gift they opened. But we quickly decided the kids should open their "wear" gifts so that T would have something different to try on.  She opened a Hello Kitty nightgown and slippers and wore the night gown right away!  Score.  M got some Ethiopia shirts for his "wear" gift.

T: A Super Duper sparkly princess dress.  I was so excited I couldn't smile. 
For the kids "need" present I got them each practical school/crafting supplies.  Their names went on every single item.  I settled for just an M or T on each crayon, but for the most part their full names went on everything.  Their gifts were identical in style although some of the items reflected their personalities. This has greatly reduced craft table fights.

M: I got an eraser.  T: I got a royally sparkly notebook. 
Last came their "want" gifts!  T got a wooden princess castle with people, horses, and other supplies. M got a Packer football suit.  They were both thrilled!

T: A royal pink castle!  I LOVE IT!!!
T: It even has horses!

M: I couldn't wait to put on my REAL Packers football suit! 

One of the family gifts was this awesome battery operated candle.  It came in the round container.  T quickly decided she needed both of them.  She plays with the candle every day and uses the round box to store her crayons.
T: How does this thing work? 
M: I tired REALLY hard to blow out the flame but it didn't blow out. 
Eventually everything was opened and we were left with many boxes and a sea of opened gifts!

The carnage!
After the presents were opened we ate a tasty egg bake that was cooking while we were opening.   Egg bake and fruit was the perfect Christmas Morning breakfast.  After breakfast Brandon and I got ready for the day.  I decided to take a walk while Brandon played with the kids.  It was a strange feeling to be out alone on Christmas Day.  People were arriving at their celebrations.  It was fun to have a window into lots of events as I walked.  I wondered if people felt sorry for me thinking that I was alone.  While I was walking Brandon ironed the "12" on M's jersey!  They also began filling in M's Mad Lib type thing.  They had a lot of fun doing this.

M: Now I can really pretend to be Aaron Rogers. 
The rest of the day was pretty low key.  I tried to get packing done when I could.  M knew were heading out the next day, but T didn't.  By the time we were finished with supper we were all so tired.  I got a chance to read the Mad Libs. They were very funny! 

M: Mom and I were cracking up while she read. 
Once the kids were in bed I got as much packing done as possible before I crashed. It was a very good Christmas Day with our family of four.  We were not rushed.  We didn't have to be anywhere.  The kids did very well for much of the day! We were very blessed.  I treasure all these things in my heart.

Saturday, December 26th:
We got up and moving pretty early.  M was on board and eager to help.  Because I got so much done ahead of time, packing and loading were pretty simple.  We got on the road at 9:10!  The kids were quite content in the car.  We had lots of movies to watch and lots of snacks to eat.  Morale was high.  We drove for over three hours before stopping.  We just filled the gas tank and went to the bathroom and kept going. I warmed up all of our food before we left.  I put it on one of those hot gel things in an insulated carrying tote.  It worked so well.  The food was still warm at lunch time.  Sadly, I didn't think about how very hard meatballs with potatoes and gravy would be to eat in the car.  Oops.  Brandon spoon fed T.  M ate without spilling a bit.  It was a tasty meal.  We have come so far and learned so much about traveling as a family.

The best part about leaving early was arriving early.  Because we only had to make one short stop we arrived at Brandon's parents at 3:10, exactly six hours after we left!  We have never gotten there that early before.  It was great to know we still had plenty of time left in day one.

We quickly unloaded and unpacked.  Judy's family was going to arrive in not too long.  We managed to get things put away before everyone arrived.  The kids were so excited to see their cousins and extended family.

Grandpa Tom with his grandsons!
M: I love it when we do silly face pictures! 
The girls were really into tea parties this year.  T and A love all the same things. They get along very well most of the time.  Judy had the brilliant idea to have the party on the dishwasher.  This way the spilled water goes on the door and can be dumped right into the dish washer.  I think some water *might* still have ended up on the floor as well!

A: Would you care for more tea?  T: Yes please! 
Big A acquired a large Care Bear from Great Grandma R's house.  He was thrilled.  The bear became a key part of many variations of wrestling games.

M: First we tackled with the bear. 
M: Then we decided we didn't really need the bear after all. 
Once the wrestling got under way Grandpa Tom suggested we head down to the basement to play.  Pretty much the entire time I have been in the family the basement has been full of storage.  We were so surprised to see it empty and able to be used for games and fun.  New carpet was installed just days before we arrived.  It was a GREAT space for the kids to play!  What a lovely surprise!

M: Air Hockey is so much fun! 
T: I love Air Hockey too!
Once Care Bear came downstairs things got pretty wild!
T: A and I were tackling the big bear. 
M: We played a game where we would take the bear from A. 
T: I got the bear!!!!
T: I could not contain my delight during my horsey ride!  
Eventually we came back upstairs.  Tom and Judy have a fun Advent calendar.  It is fine for kids to play with it, but I think T was a little worried she was getting caught touching it at first.

T: What?  I am not moving anything?  You didn't see anything! (Yes, she really did wear that summer dress during the drive)
The girls each got Play-Doh ice cream shops.  They had so much fun making tasty treats to pretend to eat!

T: A is really good at sharing. 
T: We needed some help from Aunt Adrienne. 
M got this fun basketball game.  He and A had great fun playing it for quite some time.  It is trickier than it looks, especially when you play it on carpet.

M: Good one A!
M: We really had to concentrate. 
T got some awesome Princess stuff which is just what she always wanted!  She was so excited!

T: This is my Elsa crown and wand!
T: Ta-da!  Fooled You!  I waved my wand and turned into Elsa! 
It is so special for Brandon and I to spent time with our niece and nephew.  It is extra special when they want to spend time with us too!

A: Uncle Brandon has good shoulders for rides.  I was up really high! 

It was such a cool feeling end the day having already made a lot of great memories and still knowing we had several days to look forward to.

Sunday, December 27th:

M was up very early. M and Grandpa Tom left the house to go to the Y and to Burger King play land.  I am so thankful for Tom's willingness to get up early and allowing me to go back to sleep.  Morning sleep is heavenly!

Once T was awake she was eager to do volcanos with Grandma Judy.  M was eager to play baseball in the basement with his new bases!

T: I love the explosions!
M: I am ready Grandpa Tom!

This was the day of the annual Christmas Brunch.  This year it was held at Adrienne and Chris' house which meant we didn't have to go far at all.  It was great having it there.  The kids had lots of room to play and explore and there was more room to breathe and stretch out.  Brandon, Tom and the kids went down early while Judy got ready and I did a little stepping.  When the kids left T was wearing her new fancy blue green dress she opened on Christmas morning.  That was the only time I saw her wear it that day.  Cousin A also has lovely dresses and T was in heaven trying them on!

M: Hanging out with Big T is the best!!!
M: A may have a lot of cool toys, but I am a sucker for a screen every time!
M: I was VERY excited when Grandpa Tom's brother Rick came in!  He is so cool!
While M and the boys (big and small) were all over the house playing sports and running around, T and A were in A's room being purple dancing princesses together.  T may have a hard time getting along with most peers.  She may have a hard time getting along with A from time to time too, but overall she got along with her better than any other little person I know.

T: Dr. A, could you check on my baby? (a new outfit)
T: I LOVE dancing with A!  (Her favorite outfit)
T: We were dancing and A got tired I think. 
I guess they decided to sleep.  Hmm, I wonder who never closed her eyes?! :)

T: We were so cozy in A's bed!
T: I was sleeping, that is me sleeping. 
T: This it was time to wake up!

T: I guess after we wake up we kiss Elsa.  
T: Grandpa Tom needed a little medicine.  He did a good job taking it. 
The kids entertained themselves and adults actually talked to each other! 
The kids enjoyed spreading out their gifts throughout the weekend.  M got baseball gloves and cars from Uncle Curt.  T got a princess book with little figurines and a faces book from Curt.  The kids loved the gifts.  T spent much of the next several days playing with the faces book.  The princess figurines are the envy of every girl who has come to our house this year.

M and T: Uncle Curt gives great gifts!
They are so sweet together!
T: We were just working on Princess faces together!
After the brunch I took T back to Tom and Judy's for an afternoon nap.  She needed it.  Apparently there was a lot of blanket pulling that went on while T was napping.  When her nap was over we rejoined the fun at A and C's house and T got blanket rides too.  The laughter coming from the kids was beautiful!

M, A, A:  Someone PLEASE give us a ride!!!
And T joined the mix!
James and Jeanette were convinced to pull all four!
A,A, M, T: You can't see us, but we are all in the blanket!
Uncle Curt took a turn too. 
That night we celebrated Christmas at Tom and Judy's.  The kids were having a VERY hard time seeing all the gifts under the tree and not tearing into them.  Anticipation is over rated.  Before opening presents T NEEDED to put on a new princess dress.  The dress is A's from her dance recital. A was so willing to share with T.  Maybe she figured out that T never wears any dress for long :)

T: I love my new jewelry box.  It has a dancer and plays music!
T: WOW!  I got an Anna dress and an Anna ornament! (Has anyone found the ornament?)
M: I got a REAL batting helmet from Adrienne and Chris!  It is awesome.  I can't wait for Spring!
T: We were two Princesses playing with princesses!  (Girl hair at the end of the day is hilarious)
*In case you lost count, T had on 4.5 different outfits throughout the day.

Monday, December 28th:

M was up early and wanted to play baseball in the basement, but Grandpa Tom thought that would wake up the rest of us.  He decided to run errands with M.  M didn't want to, so Tom sweetened the deal saying that they could look for eye black like the professional athletes use!  I guess this is a grandparent privilege, right? Anyway, M was THRILLED to come home with eye black.

Since I am not a grandparent, I tried to negotiate a gift trade with M. M received two gifts that were much like each other.  I tried to convince him to give one of the gifts to a child without many Christmas gifts and he was not really into that.  I let the topic go.  M brought it up again and had a new twist on the give away.  He knew his cousin A loved Legos and he offered to trade the eye black for a Lego set that he would give to his cousin.  Wow!  What a generous and thoughtful trade.  Cousin A was very excited about this "trade" which cost him nothing.  He did the whole project right away!

M: Now I REALLY look like one of the Packers!
M: This is the gift I traded for the eye black!
Adrienne had the day off so she and the kids came over for the morning. The girls made many princess faces, had tea parties, put on a concert, read books and played hide and seek.  All the kids decorated their part of the cake for Jesus' Birthday.

T: I found a really good hiding spot. (Note this dress started the day)
T: I think the lips should go right here!
T: More tea please!
T: It was fun playing Christmas songs with A!
T: We worked hard to find the hidden pictures. (outfit number two... topless with leopard cuddle dud pants)
M: I chose blue frosting because red would have looked pink. 
T: I chose red because Grandma Judy said it would turn pink (note the butterfly wing shirt?)
T: She was right.  It turned pink!
After lunch Grandpa Tom took M to the Y while T napped.  Adrienne and the kids went home for the afternoon.  Everyone came back for dinner and cake!  The kids wore their matching Christmas Jammies and did some fun dancing as well.

They were so proud of their little cake!
Each child got to blow out their candle!  It was quite a production!

T: I was just too excited to sit!
Then each child needed a piece of their colored cake!

M: I was licking my chops! (M says this phrase a lot)
After cake it was time to take pictures with the Grandparents.  I chose to put a couple on here.  The second is a better overall picture, but the first picture happens to be pretty cute of T and A cozy together and a more genuine smile from M.

T: I am so glad I have such a great big cousin A. 
What a great bunch! 
Attempting a "silly" picture was harder than I imagined. 
Then it was time to dance.  If you put my children together with other children and music it won't take long before wrestling starts, but they did all dance for a couple of minutes!

Each is doing their own thing!
Great Moves!
M: That's enough dancing, let's wrestle. 
After kid wrestling, Chris got into the game!  First he held the boys upside down which led to holding the girls upside down which led to all four kids tackling and wrestling with Chris.  He was such a good sport!  It is great to see our kids comfortable with and enjoying their Uncle Chris!

M: Whoa, my head feels heavy.  T: I want a turn!
T: Ahahahhhahahah!  I could do this all night!
Four on One!
T: We got you now Uncle Chris!
After the wrestling everything headed south and it was time for bed.  It was a great and full day with quite good regulation throughout!

Tuesday, December 29th:
I am not sure how this happened, but we managed to go through the whole day Tuesday (and Wednesday) without taking a single picture.  Pictures usually help my memory of the day, but I think I know the major events of the day.

The morning started with M and Tom going down to A and A's house while A and A were still sleeping.  A and A slept in and then ate breakfast with M.  Tom and M drove A and A to their babysitter and then came home.

Brandon and I had our dentist appointments and Judy agreed to watch both kids so we could all go to town together.  Tom brought things home to check the kids teeth so they didn't need to go into the office.  When we arrived in town I went for a walk and Brandon has his cleaning and check first.  It was a pretty cold day, but after stepping inside for several days it was nice to step outside for a change.  Brandon and I both had healthy teeth.  Yay!

When we came home the kids and Judy were in a blanket fort.  They had a great morning together and were very regulated!  Wonderful news!  We all ate lunch together and then I put T down for a nap.

Once she was sleeping Tom and M left and picked up A and A at daycare and they all went swimming at the Y and then to the grocery store.  Tom was a brave Grandpa to pull that off!  I was very impressed.  He even managed to shower all of them after swimming.  Luckily the swim team was practicing so those not showering could watch the swim team.

Shortly after swimming Brandon and M went with Adrienne and Big A to his Jui Jitsu class.  M was going to possibly try it out.  In the end he opted to just watch, but he really enjoyed it.  Next time we visit I think he might have the courage to try it.

While the boys were at Jui Jitsu, the girls were with us at the house.  T was having a HARD day.  She was done with sharing, done with people, done, Done, DONE.  Poor girl.  In the end I had to hold her in my arms to calm her.  She was biting, pinching, grabbing and pulling while I sat there tying to calm her as gently as possible.  I was following the directions from our incredible therapist perfectly.  OK, I admit, not totally perfectly.  She pulled out a big chuck of hair once, bit hard once, and dug her nails in to my skin hard enough to make me cry out.  Besides those times, I was not talking, remaining very calm, slowing my breathing, holding as loosely as possible etc. T was screaming that I was hurting her and thrashing about.  I am sure Tom, Judy, and little A thought something horrible was going on.  After 20 minutes of trying to calm her down she finally relaxed in my arms.  She went to A and told her that she was sorry and we went on with the night.  It was hard, but it eventually worked!

The rest of the night was a blur of drama and joy and food and laughing and apparently not picture taking! Uncle Curt joined us for dinner.  The boys were playing baseball in the basement and the girls were playing hide and seek.

Brandon and I stayed up really late talking with Tom and Judy.  It is so great to talk with them, though we were feeling the late night the next day.

Wednesday, December 30th:

Tom and M went to A and A's again.  M slept later which was great but also meant that we didn't have as much time to pack before T woke up.  Amazingly we were on the road at around 9:30.  We had to stop to get gas right at the start.  We also had to get gas and go to the bathroom one time in the middle.  We ate (a less messy) meal in the car and made it home at around 3:30.  When we pulled into town we noticed a lot of snow.  We were so hopeful that our driveway had been cleaned, but we were saddened to pull to the front of our house and see a huge pile of snow.  Whoa!  We called our wonderful neighbor/friend Wade to see if we could borrow his snow blower and he said not to worry that he would be right over. Wonderful!  We couldn't unload anything, but the kids and I made it into the house so I could get the furnace going.  It was going of course, but on a very low temp.  I also got the kids snow gear ready. They went outside and played.  I prepped some chili and did what I could and eventually the van was in the garage and we were able to unload and unpack.

Our long car ride DVD's were due that day so Brandon took the kids to the library and I ran through the house trying to get things put away.  The hard part of getting home early with tired and weary kids (and adults) is that it is a LONG time until bedtime!

We made it through.  Brandon was such a trooper to play with them while I was unpacking and cleaning the kitchen.  Eventually it was bedtime for the kids.  I kept moving until everything was back in its place.  I knew that with Brandon working the next day and lots of laundry needing to get done, I had to have a game plan.

We had a great time with Brandon's family and a great phase two of our Christmas Vacation.

Thursday, December 31st:

The pictures from the 31st are actually in a future blog post, so I will just give a brief summary of the day.  Charissa and her kids came over in the morning and the boys played in the snow.  T wanted to stay in with Baby A!  It was a bit of chaos, but after the outdoor play we all went into the basement and things were a bit calmer.

I plugged through the laundry loads.  M watched a movie during T's nap and we had a pretty low key day.  The kids enjoyed playing with their new toys and being home.

None of us stayed up until midnight :)

Friday, January 1st Happy New Year:

After a day to regroup at home, Brandon and I prepared for phase three of our Christmas celebrations.  The kids had no idea that my parents were coming.  They were coming for a short weekend, arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving on Sunday after church.  Because it was a holiday, Brandon was able to be home for the morning.  He went to work for a couple of hours when T went down for her nap.  M and I were cuddled on the couch watching a movie when my parents arrived.  M was shocked and excited to see them!

We played the little Basketball game while we waited for T to wake up from her nap.  She was VERY excited to see Grandma and Grandpa as well.  It didn't take long before the kids were ready to open gifts.  They did quite a good job passing out the gifts.

M: I really had to teach Grandpa Daryl how to play. 
M and T:  We can't believe we get to open MORE presents!
Each year my parents get the kids a Christmas Ornament that is special for them that year.  M got a Packer football.  T got a little ballerina that looks just like her!

T: I can't believe it has my name on it!  Can that girl be me? 
Both of my kiddos have sensory issues when it comes to loud noises like parades.  We borrowed a pair of my dad's headphones of the last parade, but we decided that T might like her own pink ones.  She loved them!
T: I can't hear you... and I love it!  Thanks Great Grandma F!
Trying to figure out practical and fun gifts for a boy who only wants sports stuff isn't super easy.  M loves to bike in the summer so we thought be might like to have a real jersey like Brandon wears.  He was thrilled!  It really does look just like Brandon's jerseys and even has the three pockets in the back!  M is now ready for winter to be over so he can bike and play baseball!

M: I got a real jersey!  Thanks Great Grandma F!
T got many princess dresses this year.  She loved this purple one, even though it was a little big!  It will be fun for her to have various sizes so that she can grow into some of them!

T: I love it!  It is purple!  Can I wear it right now? 
T: It's OK if it is a little big, right? 
T: I am a princess with my new baby princess doll and he likes to dance on your head Grandma Kathy! 
All Christmas long M has been hoping for one specific gift... cleats!  While I was shopping with my mom on Black Friday I told her he would love them.  I knew they were coming.  M didn't.  He waited and waited and hoped and hoped.  He was shocked and thrilled to open the box... his final Christmas gift of the season!  He ended on a high note! 
M: I can't believe it!!!!!
M: Look mom, I got real cleats!

He just stared at them throughout the weekend.  Here he is later, still holding the cleats!
M: I just can't set them down!
After all the presents we had dinner together and played the night away.  My mom was battling a bad sore throat and cold.  I felt so bad for her, but I was glad to be able to make her good food to eat.  We all went to bed pretty early.  

Saturday, January 2nd:

M ws up early to play with Grandpa Daryl.  Another day for me to have a slow start to the day thanks to an awesome Grandpa!  Bliss!  At some point in the morning when I was not around, M brought his bike in to see the look of the jersey with the bike.  I think they go together quite well since the bike says "blazin speed" and the jersey has flames coming off the biker!  

M: How much longer until Spring?  (oh my son, a LONG time)
Once everyone was ready for the day, the kids decided they wanted to play out in the snow.  Brandon and my dad went out with them and then my mom joined them.  I stayed inside prepping meals, but was able to watch all the action from the window!

M and T: Yahoo Grandpa Daryl!  You are strong!
M:  I am ready.  T: Wait, I can't see anything. 
T: I like to go down the hill backwards.  M: Not me!
M and T: Thanks for coming to cheer us on Grandma!
M: This is really hard work!  You are heavy T!  T: Thanks for pulling me up M.  This is fun!
A sweet picture!
M: This is pretty fun, but a little bit slippery!
Once inside, T wanted to work on her new puzzle.  It is a brilliant concept as the girls feet, bodies and heads can be interchanged.  A fashionista like T is in heaven!

T: I am going to be this girl, and this girl, and this girl, OK? 
After lunch T took a great nap.  M and Grandpa Daryl watched a sports movie.  My mom and I went on a long walk during the movie.  Poor Brandon had to get some work done.

M: Grandpa Daryl is a great buddy! 
The rest of the day was spent playing and eating!  T even got to try on her recital dress so that Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Daryl could see it. 

T: M is such a good dancer and a good singer.   M: I was just singing to my sister.
Sunday, January 3rd:

The last day of break finally arrived.  We had a very special church service in the morning.  Many people shared about ways that God was at work in their lives.  It was so encouraging at the start of the year.  My parents went home right after church to eat lunch and load their car.  Once we got home they were just about ready to leave.  We said good-byes and then ate lunch.  The afternoon and evening got a bit long with some very weary detoxing children, but the hope of routine on Monday kept us going.

While we surely had some challenging times over break, overall it was filled with wonderful memories and great laughter.  The kids were regulated a good deal of time. It was nice to have things planned for each day to keep the time moving along.  It was a blessing to see both our families over the break.  Of course I missed seeing my MN grandmas and other relatives, but part of our lives is being here for Christmas so that is the way it works out.  I am so thankful to be here for Christmas.  It is nice to start developing traditions for our family of four.

As we move into this new year I find myself feeling very renewed!  My prayer this year is that I will find rest in a HOPE that is greater than a Dr, treatment, pill or therapy.  I pray that I will find HOPE in Jesus alone and that this HOPE will be a lasting hope that is can cling to in the harder days.

It is now January 19th and I have been overwhelmed with HOPE this year.  My relationship with the Lord is at a place it hasn't been in years.  It is a beautiful dance.  It is one filled with joy.  Because my children respond to my emotional cues,  the mood around here has been much better!  Hope is a beautiful thing!  May each of you have renewed Hope in 2016 as well!