Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas '08 - Rounds 1,2 & 3 (of 5)

When your family is spread out like ours, and everyone wants to get together around the holidays, Christmas gets a little crazy. And spread out over a few weeks. But oh, Christmas, how it gets better every year! I don't know if I'll be able to do it justice, there are so many good stories, but I'll attempt to cover some highlights.



On Christmas Eve, my mom and Greg joined Mel and us at our home to get things started. We went to church, which was actually not the usual for me, but it was really awesome. The service was beautiful and it was so crowded that we had to stand! There was something encouraging about being with all of those people in Christmas worship.


After our successful visit with Santa, we had a nervous run-in a couple of days later, so Katy was feeling unsure about the man in red. While we were eating dinner on Christmas Eve, Katy started acting scared and nervous. As I started to ask her questions, she finally confessed, "I no want Santa coming over. I scared. No Santa, Mommy!" So I picked her up and hugged her and assured her that Santa was not coming to our house. She was imagining that big scary man to just walk up to our front door, and she was terrified! So we didn't mention Santa on Christmas morning. We said all the presents were from us, and just left it at that. I guess we'll see where she is with it next year.

So we got up on Christmas morning and had a big ol' Blow Out of gift giving. I would've been embarrassed for any of you to see - I couldn't believe all the presents. But it was really fun. Brian surprised me with an Ipod and a docking station. I'm moving quickly into the 21st century!



Katy was 100% engaged in every gift that was opened - by every person. You could not open a gift without her "help." And she was SO excited for you - whatever you got!


David loved every minute. New toys, wrapping paper, lots of attention. That kid. He just smiles and smiles. There will be many pictures here where I just couldn't resist snapping away because he just melts my heart with that grin.




The biggest hits for Katy were her new laptop from Oma (she bought the one that several of you recommended), and the dress-up kit from us. I laughed hysterically when Brian said she looked like a princess who had stayed out too late at the ball.





After a nice low-key dinner and another day of relaxing, we went to my grandparents' house to see my clan. More good food, funny kids, and opening of boxes.







Next we headed back home to welcome Katy's cousins for more Christmas celebration! Food! Playing! And a trip to the Children's museum! And in case you get confused, that's my daughter in the pigtails. She tends to blend in with the other girls and just look like their 4th child!


Kimmy braved the high wire!




The girls get lost in the submarine.



I have a picture of Katy at this same water table 2 years ago.


And I couldn't believe how well David just chilled in the stroller! He was worn out.


After a couple of days to catch my breath: Round 4!! Coming soon!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from The Green Machine!!!

Guess what came today? Which wasn't supposed to come until Friday? Our Mutual Christmas gift: a Dell Studio 15 laptop! It's fast, it's fancy, and it sure is pretty...


I'm so excited about the new Green Machine. We've been needing a better computer for a while, especially since both of us work from home part time (Brian does website design for small businesses). And since Brian is in the business of purchasing computers for others, he was certainly qualified to select exactly the right one for us, and get the best deal. All I did was pick the color. Our old laptop has been driving me bonkers lately (it's so slow, crashing and freezing all the time). So yay! A new toy for Mommy!
And of course, I've been feeling greatful today for all that we have. My family, our home, our health, our church. I could go on and on. But I am filled with anticipation on this Eve of Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, may you be blessed as well!

Monday, December 22, 2008

When days are long and cold

Brian took the van in to the shop today to get some repairs done, so I knew I would be without a car. Then this morning when I came downstairs, I discovered that the internet and cable were out. The thermometer on the front porch was reading 9 degrees. It was going to be a long day.


I knew that I used the internet a lot throughout the day, but holy cow! I was having the shakes by the time it came back on at 7:00 this evening. I go to my computer for company, information, and reassurance. Not to mention that I can't do my job-job without it. In fact, I discovered today that I don't know how to function without my computer. I need to contact someone in my playgroup, but how? I need to register for swim lessons, but how? I need to look up a developmental question, but how? I've got 5 minutes free, what do I DO with such time?



Despite my best efforts to dress her warmly, I keep finding Katy crouched over the vent... it's THAT cold...

So kudos to stay-at-home moms prior to the 21st century. The internet has a tremendous impact on my daily routine, and I don't know what I would do without it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

3 years of Santa

I had absolutely zero hope of getting a picture with my 2 children on Santa's lap this year. I'm sure if you read here regularly, you can imagine why I didn't expect much out of Katy. A man, a beard, a funny hat. Not to mention that this year she was able to communicate her fear. She told me, "I don't want to sit on Santa's lap, Mommy. I watch other people sit on his lap." So I assured her, "That's fine, Katy, you don't have to sit on Santa's lap if you don't want to." And I wasn't going to make her, even though I really wanted a picture.


So then my friend Abigail invited me to go with her (and oh, you must click over and see her daughter's CLASSIC get-me-the-heck-off-this-guy's-lap face), so I asked Katy again if she wanted to go. To my surprise, she got excited and said yes! She thought long and hard about what to bring for Santa (?) and finally decided on her Elmo doll. She didn't smile by any stretch of the imagination, but at least she didn't hesitate or cry.


Here's a review:

2006 - Katy is 7 months old. The real picture is on a hard drive that I can't get to right now, but here's a side view that gives you the idea. She loved Santa, stroked his beard and stared at him. I remember Santa said she "made the rest of the day worth it."


2007 - Katy is 19 months old. I had to crop Brian out of the picture because Katy wouldn't go up to Santa by herself. This Santa didn't talk, even when I spoke to him and asked him a question. I have to wonder if that made Katy even more uncomfortable?


2008: Katy is 2.5 years, David is 8.5 months. While we were waiting in line Santa kept abruptly shouting, "HO HO HO!!" and I really hoped he would stop when it was our turn. David grinned as usual. While we were waiting in line, I noticed other moms taking pictures with their own cameras, so I assumed it was allowed. Only after I snapped my photos did I realize that the "camera policy" then required a minimum $19.99 purchase from them. Tricksy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One of these things is not like the others...

I had to laugh when I found this under the Christmas tree today:


Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby Sis/Aunt Mel is All Grown Up


This weekend my family celebrated a great accomplishment by my little sister Melanie as she finished her Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. And Aunt Mel, who would've told you when she was in high school that she was not a strong student and was really nervous about going to college, graduated Cum Laude. I am so so proud of her!



Melanie is such a blessing in my life and for my family. She is a thoughtful sister, close friend, and a wonderful aunt. Melanie is going on staff with the campus ministry where she has been involved for the past 4 years, and I know she is going to do great things with them and beyond. She has been through a lot in her life so far, and she hangs in there like a trooper.



After the ceremony, we had a nice dinner and enjoyed the game room at the restaurant. Katy had a blast seeing all of her grandparents and absolutely buddied it up with her cousin Gabe. They're cheap to entertain on the driving games: you don't even have to turn them on!


The only downer of the weekend was that my mom got sick last night at my house, really really sick, and is currently driving 3 hours home with a borrowed bucket. Ugh, I feel so bad for her. And of course I'm wondering, did she catch it from us, even though we've been better for a week and we thoroughly cleaned the house? Or is this a new strain of illness that is just beginning? Either way, my poor mom.


But congratulations, Mel, we are all so proud of you!!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Still here...

Yikes! Recovering from vacation and lots of illness has completely consumed me for the last 2 weeks. I've thought of a hundred things I'd like to post, but haven't had any time to sit down and do it. So here we go... perhaps a really random assortment of thoughts from my week:

Until a couple of days ago I had not started Christmas shopping, which is unusual for me. I would typically aim for being done by now. I was feeling overwhelmed, because I couldn't figure out how I was going to get out and get it done. But then I had an Ah-ha (or Duh) moment: I spent a few hours online last night and am over halfway done. I have NO idea why it took me so long to figure that out.

I've also been trying all week to catch David's latest skill on video. Now I'm crawling around picking up crayons off the floor and digging stickers out of his mouth:



video


We got our Christmas tree up and Katy is SO excited about Christmas. The concept of time is lost on a 2 year old. She cannot possibly understand that Christmas is 2 weeks away, or what the end result will be. The other day, she pointed to the tree and said, "There's Christmas!" to which I said, "Christmas isn't here yet." So she ran to the window and said, "I watch to see if Christmas is coming. Nope, not here yet! I don't see Baby Jesus!" She sat there for 15 minutes, looking for Baby Jesus. How do you explain that?
Besides being incredibly cute and funny, Katy has been more difficult than she's ever been lately. I'm hoping that it's recovering from all the indulgance of sickness and vacation, but oh my, I'm worried that this is the new normal. We're having lots and lots of crying over here. My neighbor even came over this week to check on us because she heard "so much crying." Arguing, whining, crying. Ugh. Those of you with 2 year olds and blogs have been helping me feel normal this week.



Growing up, my mom used to take us to Hallmark each year around Christmas time to pick out a Keepsake Ornament. She bought one for my sister and I for each year, and seeing them gives me a warm feeling in my heart. I have such fond memories of taking them out of their boxes and putting them on the tree so carefully every year.
So we have continued this tradition, and this year was the first that we let Katy participate somewhat in the selection. Since she loves books, the one she picked was perfect:


David thinks ornaments are for the same purpose as everything else in life.



Have you ever seen that show "Yo Gabba Gabba"? We came across it recently, and I find it a bit...trippy. Not that I'm an expert on techno, but I did graduate from college in 1999, so every episode is like a trip back in time.
We have a big family event this weekend...aren't you just dying to know what it is? Until Sunday!!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Uncle!"

Here's a list of the ailments that have been living at our house this week, and who's been victim, in order:

1. Stomach bug (I use the term "bug" instead of "flu" because this round has been less...er...offensive than other stomach flus we've had in the past):
Katy
David
Emily

2. Cold/cough
David

3. Fever/aches/sore throat:
Emily
David
Brian
Katy

4. Pink eye:
Katy
possibly David, per pediatrician

So we've cancelled our weekend plans, and I'm still no further along in Christmas prep. I've finished all the vacation blogging, though, so if you missed it, see below.

The Final leg

The last 30 hours of our trip had some bumps and bruises. Here's how it went down:

Saturday:

6:15 am: Wake-up call on the cruise ship. Mickey's voice is saying, "There's lots of things to do today, so let's get started!"

8:05 am: Get through customs, claim our luggage, and go to meet our ride to the airport. Difficult to keep the girls contained on the sidewalk.

8:55 am: Van arrives, all 11 of us pile in and take the 45 minute ride to Orlando. David naps in the car seat.

10:00 am: At the airport, check-in and check our bags.

10:30 am: Settle into a corner near the shops and restaurants to kill some hours before going through security. Diaper changes, snacks, coloring, browsing shops.

11:45 am: Quiznos for lunch in a crowded food court.

12:30 pm: Go through security.

12:45 pm: Ride the tram to our concourse and walk to our gate.

1:00 pm: Pull out the portable DVD player to keep the girls in one spot. Our departure scheduled for 2:50 still says "on time," but we are skeptical because every other flight is delayed because of severe storms and tornados all up and down the east coast.

1:30 pm: Now delayed until 3:30. I discover that Katy has diarrhea. I change 5 or 6 poopy diapers in the next hour. David manages, by some minor miracle, to take a nap in the stroller.

2:30 pm: I send Brian on a hunt for more diapers. He pays $10 for 14 diapers (gasp with me, fellow bargain shoppers) that are size Medium. Not the standard 1, 2, or 3, but Medium. We go with it. He also buys snacks because we assume we'll be sprinting to catch our connecting flight in Atlanta, if we make it at all.

3:30 pm: After several explanations for the delay, they begin boarding for our flight. We are excited to finally get moving, but I am nervous because Kathy and John (Brian's folks) reported that they were taxing for 1.5 hours before taking off. This is my worst nightmare.

4:00 pm: The captain stands at the front of the plane and delivers the news over the PA. Three problems: 1)There's a long line to take off here in Orlando. 2) We can't even get in that line for another 30 minutes because we need a tire change on this plane. 3) Atlanta hasn't been letting anyone land for the past 2 hours, so even once we get there, we'll be circling for a while. Oh, and it's going to be a bumpy ride, so if you have to go to the bathroom, go now.

4:05 pm: Another minor miracle: Katy curls up and goes to sleep in her seat. Shear exhaustion.

4:15 pm: CNN is playing on the monitors in front of us, and it is reporting ground delays of 1.5 - 2.5 hours at all major airports. The captain comes back to the cabin and casually tells us that this has been the worst day for air travel he's seen in years.

4:30 pm: We're still at the gate, mind you. The captain comes on the PA and says he has more bad news. While changing the tire they found a problem with one of the brakes that will have to be repaired. This will take 2 hours. They are going to ask us to deplane and wait for further instructions. Everyone stands up to gather their things and I lose it. In front of everyone on the plane I am sobbing.

5:00 pm: Back off the plane, there are incredibly long lines at every gate, and we learn that our flight has been cancelled. Everything on the monitor is cancelled or very much delayed. Brian, my knight in shining armor, walks over to the phones that say, "talk to a Delta rep" on them, where no one else is standing. He calls and books us on the first flight for the next morning. He then immediately calls the hotel that is IN the airport and makes us a reservation. Our travel insurance, he tells me, will cover this.

6:00 pm: We check into our hotel room, which is fabulous, and I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. I'm throwing up the white flag, and we'll give it another try tomorrow.

6:30 pm: Brian goes down to baggage claim and learns that our luggage, including the car seat and stroller that we had put under the plane with a valet tag, have been checked through to our final destination, so we are set up with Survival kits. Thank goodness we bought those diapers.

7:00 pm: We order room service (again, Travel Insurance) and set up portacribs. Our cell phone chargers are in the luggage so we make very short phone calls to family.

8:00 pm: We attempt to put the kids to bed, but they keep disturbing each other because we don't have our sound machine. They aren't quiet until 9:30.

Sunday:

6:45 am: The kids wake up and we start the process over again. Check in, security, breakfast, boarding.

9:20 am: Finally, we're on a plane and it's taking off.

12:00 pm: Layover without a stroller, and no highchair in the food court: urgh.

2:40 pm: We arrive at our airport and call Aunt Mel to come and rescue us. I am elated.

3:00 pm: We are reunited with our car seat, stroller, and 2/3 checked bags. The third bag, they tell us, will be delivered to our house the following day (it was). That, of course, is the bag with our blasted phone chargers in it. (Note to self: always put phone chargers in carry-on.)

3:30pm: Walk into the doors of our beloved home. Proclaim that I am never leaving again and immediately donn my pajamas.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Disney Cruising with a Toddler and an Infant: A Review

I don't know the ins and outs of Google, but as I was preparing for this trip, I was trying to find something like this: someone who has been on a Disney cruise with small children tell me what to expect! I found a few things here and there, but nothing comprehensive. So! If you stumble upon this post because you are about to go cruising, leave me a comment! And this will also give the rest of you an idea about how our trip went day-to-day.

Having an infant and a toddler is probably not the ideal time to go on a cruise. For example, Katy was terrified of the shows. And they didn't even start until after David's bedtime, so that pretty much took Brian and I out of the running for shows. But if you are going to go, Disney is the one to do. I've been on one other cruise before, with Carnival, and it was great for me as a single person, but Disney is just a step above.

Generally I was impressed with Disney's attempt to accomodate my family. Of course, they are known for that kind of thing, but I still thought that everything would be aimed at older kids and I would have to seek out the extra things that I needed. But here are the ways that they provided:

**Graco pack-n-plays, which I requested ahead of time by calling, were waiting in our room. The 2 pack n' plays fit into the curtained off area of our state room and we still had enough room to sit on the couch. (They advertise that their staterooms are 25% larger than others'). The curtains were thick darkening shades, so we could sit in the main part of the room during naps or early bedtimes and have a light on to read, etc., while the kids slept. I brought our noise maker and we were good to go.

**The bathroom had a bathtub, which is also only found on Disney ships.

**Plentiful clean and sturdy highchairs could be found at every meal.

**At dinner each evening, they brought pureed vegetables for my 8 month old son. Fresh pureed vegetables. That is better than he gets at home, folks.

**Everywhere we went, the crew was tripping over themselves to help us - can we carry something for you? Can we go get you something from the buffet? Let me show you where your family is.

**While the organized activities for kids start at age 3, you are allowed to go in and play with your toddler in the play area, which is really nice, as long as you stay with them. This is not advertised, but I discovered it by asking questions, and we played there several times.

**For 0-2 year olds, they have a nursery that takes reservations and has an hourly fee. We used this twice on our trip, and it was win-win. Katy absolutely loved it in there (they even had her making Thanksgiving crafts) and David took a nap. All the while Brian and I got some time to sit on the deck and not chase or hold a child. Oh, and do a little Christmas shopping in the gift shop.

**They take a lot of extra steps to keep the boat as germ-free as possible. Every time you walk into an eating area, a person is standing there handing you a wet-wipe so that everyone goes to the buffet with clean hands. I saw several crew members cleaning elevator buttons and door knobs. We still got sick when we came back, but it put my mind at ease while we were there.

**There's an entire pool that is only 1.5 feet deep or less. There's a large slide for ages 4-7. Technically, according to public health guidelines, no children who are not potty trained are allowed in the pool. There's a small splash zone for non-potty-trained kids. We managed to avoid the pool all but one afternoon. I'm just going to leave it at that.

**We brought our own, but they did have strollers that you could borrow (for a $200 refundable deposit).

So there you go, more info than you needed about cruising with little ones!

Editted to add, per Charity's request: my kids were 8 months and 2.5 years when we went on this trip. Also, we didn't have any issues with motion sickness. The cruise director did comment that we had really good weather and smooth water for this trip, so sometimes it may be more rocky. But most of the time I could barely tell we were moving. It was more of a "Oh, that's a weird feeling," than a sickness. And I do get motion sickness sometimes, so I think as long as you don't run into bad weather, it's usually fine.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Big Trip

I'm finally getting around to posting the vacation summary. As I feared, within hours of arriving home we gradually joined the ranks of EVERYONE else we know and got sick. Seriously, do you know anyone who hasn't been sick in the last 2 weeks? So that has made catching up a little difficult.

But the trip: as nervous as I was about the details, things worked out and went about as well as they could have. Of course, it took a lot of planning and preparation beforehand, and there were aspects of the trip that were hard, tiring, and stressful. But we had a really good time with our family and I know I will always remember it fondly.
The 11 of us, ready to board. We flew down a day early, which really cut down on the rush and the stress, and gave us extra time on the ship. We were among the first 20 or so people to board.
David and I spent a lot of time like this, starting here at the Castaway Party.
The Disney Wonder is a beautiful ship. We also had the apparently unusual opportunity to pass the other Disney ship, the Magic. It's been over a year since they passed each other at sea, and it was really hilarious. They did this cruise ship mating call kind of thing back and forth, blowing their horns to the tune of "When you wish upon a star..." (that's a different ship in the background, not the Magic)
Leah and Kimmy show off those beautiful (and timeless) smiles! Leah was about to lose another tooth while we were there, but she was hanging on to it...maybe she was nervous about whether the tooth fairy would come all the way out to the Caribbean.
Carrie likes to play "Big Cousin" to Katy - she isn't used to having anyone around who is smaller than she is!


David was such a ham the entire trip - flashing this grin to everyone we met. And that was on late bedtimes, short naps, and sleeping next to his sister the whole week! (You wouldn't believe how much he slept when we got home - poor baby was exhausted!)



Katy had the Best. Time. EVER. Every moment was more exciting than the next, you would've thought she was in heaven, the child was so happy. Grandparents! Cousins! Swimming! Exploring! Dessert at every meal! By the end of the week she kept saying, "I can do anything I wanna do!" Umm...yeah...about that.



Speaking of happiness, she absolutely adored all the characters. And I couldn't believe how many she got to see. They were around every corner. And she learned very quickly that she had to stand in line, and she waited very patiently. But when her turn came, she shrieked with joy, ran up and gave them hugs, posed for her picture, and talked their ears off. We let her pick out a stuffed animal to take home, and she selected a Minnie Mouse wearing a pink pirate outfit (they do a theme night called "Pirates in the Caribbean.") She has been showing Minnie the ropes since we got home.



Aunt Kelly and all of the other adults on the trip helped us out with our little ones. It was nice to have some extra eyes and arms to corral those two throughout the trip. You can see their pictures from the trip over on their blog.


Here's Grammy with her troop. Brian's mom Kathy is the one who treated us all to this trip, including planning and arranging all the details. She did a fabulous job and everything went smoothly.



David started blowing raspberries on Brian's shoulder - it was too precious! Also - the weather! The captain commented that it was the best weather they had had in 6 weeks. Highs around 80, perfect amount of sun and calm water.


One of the ports is on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. It was beautiful, and once you got set up on the beach (a short walk/ride from the boat), the ship's crew were serving drinks, lunch, entertainment, anything you could ask for. Those Disney folks know how to do it!


Of course on the boat there was great food, excellent shows, and areas to play and swim. There were a lot of things going on that we couldn't realistically do with our young kids, but we would go back when they kids are older and catch the rest of it. Disney is such a great experience, we truly enjoyed it!

I'll be back with those other trip-related posts...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We're back. We had a really good trip. I'm exhausted. We got home 21 hours after we were scheduled to arrive. But the trip was good.

I have 3 posts that I want to write when I get some time.

1) Our family vacation, with photos, which could be entitled, "The time of Katy's life."

2) How Disney Cruise Line does a really excellent job of accommodating families with small children.

3) An account of the last 30 hours of our trip, spent entirely in an aiport (ok, part of it was in the airport hotel), and the reason I walked into the house today, proclaimed that I am never leaving the house again, and immediately donned my pajamas. I'm being a little dramatic, just because I'm tired.

Let's talk soon. I've missed you all, and judging by the 135 posts in my reader, you've had busy holidays, too!