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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year of Change

I was just planning to write "2010 - A Year in Review." But then I realized that this year has been all about change. Mostly good changes, but changes nonetheless. And I don't typically do well with change. I like stability and predictability in most things. So this year has been hard...but that is a good thing. I think that God has been moving me out of my nice, safe comfort zones and in doing so, has forced me to be more reliant on Him, and has caused me to grow more. The growing pains may hurt, but at least I can see some of the results as I look back.

The year started with a visit from my family to meet Jacob and Samantha's birthday party while they were here. I gained some insight that weekend. Throwing a birthday party when you have a 3 week old baby who wants to eat all the time is NOT a good idea. I decided that if we do have another baby, I will work to plan the babies birth for AFTER Jacob and Samantha's birthdays. And maybe things will work out according to that plan :) In spite of the fact that I was completely overwhelmed, we had a good time both for the weekend and the party. And my mom also helped out a lot.

Later in January, my grandparents came with Kathy and Benjamin to visit me. That was an AMAZING surprise and I was so happy to have them there.

In February, we saw the arrival of our newest niece, Amelia, and then my personal change was to go back to work toward the end of the month. It was hard to work on getting some type of morning schedule for Jacob, but it did finally work out for us. The worst part was leaving Samantha again. We were able to interact so much while I was on maternity leave, and I really missed that every day. The blessing was that she had a great babysitter, though, and that Mrs. Nancy saved a spot for Jacob to come to her home as well...even turning down twins to start in January because she would have only had one spot come February when Jacob started coming. So even though Samantha and I had to say goodbye to each other every morning, that was tempered for her by being able to stay with her baby brother and Mrs. Nancy.

Many, many changes happened at work during the spring, with different policies, longtime co-workers retiring, and new co-workers coming in. Have I mentioned that I don't like change? Yes, things were a bit stressful. But it did manage to work out.

In April, Brent was offered a new job. A management position, no less. We were ecstatic. And then the reality of preparing to move hit us. We were still excited about the new job...and me being able to become a stay at home mom, but man-oh-man was there a lot to do! Packing, painting, cleaning...you name it, it was on our list.

Brent started his new job in early May, and would have insurance starting July 1. The insurance at his old job ended April 30. So we added the kids to my insurance policy and decided that I would stay at work long enough to make sure that we had continuous coverage. (It definitely turned out to be a blessing that we did that, because in the middle of that time, Jacob had a major problem breathing one day. I took him to the doctor and he had to have TWO breathing treatments before the doctor felt it was OK for us to leave. Then she sent us home with FIVE prescriptions, two of which were steroids. That was a bit of a scary day. And thinking about paying for all of that without insurance is almost as scary as listening to my baby boy struggle to breathe.)

Anyway, Brent lived with his parents for 6 weeks, and the kids and I had to learn to live seeing Daddy only on the weekends while we stayed in Dallas. Samantha had a VERY tough time with that change. She adores her Daddy, and she wasn't verbal enough to be able to tell me that she was overwhelmed and missing Daddy, so she started having some MAJOR temper tantrums. She would get so worked up that she was literally hysterical and there was nothing I could do, but put her on her bed and make sure that she was safe, then walk away and let her scream and flail it all out. The first time that Brent saw one of these fits, when he was home one weekend, he thought there was seriously something wrong with her. Yes, it really was THAT bad.

That six weeks of working single momhood was enough to last me the rest of my life! And I had Brent back with us each weekend. I have absolutely no idea how actual single moms do that all on their own without completely losing their minds.

Finally, though, our time apart ended and we all moved into the apartment that Charles and Ginger have on their property. I am so grateful that they have this place and are allowing us to live here until we are able to buy another house. Even when I start going stir crazy from the lack of neighbors. Or when I am ready to pull my hair out because my children, who now share a room, keep each other awake either by playing with each other or by screaming and crying rather than sleeping. After all, no matter how crowded or cramped we may be, and no matter how lonely I may get at times, it would be MUCH worse if I still had to be in Dallas, alone with the kids, working and trying to keep the house ready for showing all the time.

Brent and his mom, and a couple of our friends worked very hard on getting our house ready to sell. And we listed it at the beginning of July. We have dropped the price twice. And it is still on the market. We pray very regularly for it to sell soon so that we can move from our transition and begin to put down more roots in our new home and neighborhood.

Speaking of transition, in anticipating our move, I was very concerned about Samantha and how she would handle leaving her babysitter, leaving the only home she had ever known and leaving our church family in Dallas. Her transition was relatively easy once she was again secure in the fact that Daddy will be with us all the time. But in my concern for how she would transition, I didn't really give much thought to what it would be like for me to adjust to all the changes.

I quit my job. (I had been working full time for 16 years, and before that, I worked part time while going to school.) I became a stay at home mom. I left DFW, where I had lived for nearly 10 years. I left all of my friends. I left my church where I had a place that I belonged and made a difference. I moved to the country outside a very small town. The only people I knew in this town are Brent's family (who I, very thankfully, love dearly!) To say the least, that is a lot to adjust to. And I hadn't even considered that I would have an adjustment other than having to drive an hour to go to Walmart. To say that I was surprised when I started having a tough time would be a huge understatement. I was completely blindsided. I am still adjusting to all these changes.

Just before we moved, I found out that I would have to have surgery to remove a mass from my abdomen. It turned out to be a benign tumor and the doctor was able to remove it all, but I will have to have regular checkups to see if it re-occurs.

Then, shortly after we moved, Benjamin came to stay with us for a couple of weeks, and we were so sad when it was time to take him back to his mom. I tried to get them to agree to let him live with us always, but they said that they missed each other too much. Huh! What about how much WE miss Benjamin now?! ;)

The kids and I went back to Dallas in August, for Hannah and Ava's birthday party. We stayed with the Armstrongs for the weekend and had a great time. It was strange, however, to be a visitor in a place that was home for so long...and that still felt more like home than our new home did.

But there are so many good things about our move. Brent's job is much better than his old one, and it was a significant advancement in position. We are able to raise our children away from the craziness and illusion of affluence that exist in Dallas. I am now able to stay home with our kids. We were able to move closer to ALL of our family members. We don't have to plan our trips to visit around when we will avoid the most traffic. We have been welcomed and loved at our new church home from the very beginning. And I am learning many lessons in and about trusting God, contentment, patience, seeking and finding peace, complacency, restraint and quite a few others.

Once again, as I look back over the year, I am grateful for what we have been given. And I am resolved to be much more intentional practicing gratitude. And I (almost) look forward to the changes that will come in 2011. I definitely am happy to see what the year has in store for our little family.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmastime

This was the first Christmas that we were purposely at our own house. Last year we were at our house, but it was because I couldn't travel two weeks after having a C-section with Jacob. We were supposed to have been at Brent's parents house last year. I wasn't sure how I would feel this year, not being with everyone in my family. Last year Christmas Eve was very hard for me, but Christmas morning was lovely, then we went to the Griffiths house for Christmas dinner with several other families, and it was a wonderful day. So, like I said, I didn't know what to expect this year.

Honestly, I really think that it helps to have the kids older. I didn't have time to miss everyone on Christmas Eve because I was so busy with the kids, and they are both at such a fun age. Samantha and I made cookies for Santa while Jacob was napping, and the rest of the time, the two kids keep me hopping. We went to a Christmas Eve service at the church nearest to our house (since our church doesn't have a Christmas Eve service) and saw quite a few people we know. (After all, we have visited there before since it is the church that Brent's parents attend.) It was a very nice service with quite a few Bible readings and lots of Christmas carols (which I love, of course!) Then later, after the kids went to bed, Brent and I stayed VERY busy trying to finish up with wrapping presents and getting them all under the tree.

Then Christmas morning was so exciting. Both kids had a great time, and I think that the hit of the day for BOTH kids was the kitchen that Santa brought for Samantha. Although, Jacob really likes his learning puppy that Santa brought him, too.

It was so much fun to see the excitement on Samantha's face as she saw her kitchen and told us it was for her. Then she looked over to Jacob's puppy and told us that it was for J-Bub with almost as much excitement as she showed for her kitchen. And you can see from the pictures how she reacted to starting to open her stocking. Then, finally, when she opened her present from Uncle Steven (a Fancy Nancy book) she yelled out, "It's Fancy Nancy!" She asks someone to read that book to her at least once a day. And she is very regularly asking me "It's OK if I play with my kitchen now?" I think she keeps asking because we told her that she could only play with her handbells when Jacob is awake, and she hasn't quite figured out that the music toys are the only toys she must leave alone when he is sleeping. But, no matter what the reason, it is quite cute to hear her asking, and then to hear how excited she gets when the answer is that of course she can play with her kitchen.

Brent's parents came over later in the morning and we had lunch together, then they stayed until the middle of the afternoon. We enjoyed being together with them as well. Even though I still miss my family, I think that I really do like our new tradition of staying home for Christmas.

Christmas Eve:






Making gingerbread cookies for Santa:



Santa has been here! (the tree before the kids got up)



Excitement!














Monday, December 20, 2010

Until We meet Again

We went back to Dallas to visit for the weekend and to get a few errand taken care of. We had planned to leave mid-afternoon on Friday and have the kids nap on the way there, but that did not work out at all. Instead we ended up feeding the kids dinner and putting their PJs on before we left at 7pm.

It turned out to be a good thing that we left later than planned because our host for the weekend had forgotten to tell her husband that we were coming...and then she forgot about it herself. I called as we were leaving to tell her that we were on our way, and left a message when I didn't get an answer. I called again a little after 8. There was no answer on the house phone. There was no answer on her cell phone. So I called her husband's cell phone and he said that they were on their way home from dinner and he would have Lezley call me when they got home in a few minutes. That was when Lezley remembered that we were coming for the weekend and told Nathan that we were. The great thing about my wonderful friends was that this did not put either of them out in the least. They worked to get the guestroom ready for a baby, an almost 3 year old and their parents to be there for the weekend and were all smiles when we arrived. Ava and Samantha had a great time playing together...Samantha was excited to have a friend to play with, and I think Ava was very happy to not be the youngest :0


We had a great time visiting with them, and found out that the Breakfast with Santa at Prestoncrest was on Saturday morning, so we decided to all go together. We had a great time. Samantha's favorite part was the music corner where she was able to play a piano by walking on it, play handbells, a xylophone, maracas and a drum. She hardly wanted to leave that corner. In fact, she refused to even go listen to Mrs. Claus read stories because she didn't want to leave the music corner. There were a couple of craft stations, one of which was making a jingle bell ornament. Samantha chose the buttons to go on it, and I did the assembly for hers as well as Jacob's.







Sunday morning was a wonderful time of surprising all our friends with the fact that we were there (we had neglected to tell anyone other than Lezley and Susan that we were coming.) We got many hugs and did a little catching up with quite a few people. The worship service was wonderful and I particularly enjoyed listening to a large auditorium full of people singing joyful Christmas songs.

After church, we had lunch with the Dillamans, the Galdianos and Lezley and Nathan, and stayed talking for a long time. I was so happy to be able to hug Angela and Brian. Brian was diagnosed with cancer after we left Dallas, and has been undergoing very strong and yucky chemo treatments. We missed seeing and hugging Ann, who was also diagnosed with cancer after we left.

After hearing of our friends diagnosis and being so far away, I was reminded of how unsure life is. I had previously been thinking that when we do visit, it will be strange to just say until next time when we say goodbye rather than saying see you tomorrow or see you next week. But now I really realize that it is even more than that. So much can happen in 4 months...or six months. Maybe our goodbyes won't even be correct in saying until next time...they could be until we meet in heaven.

Previously, I saw someone else make a dedication to her family who are far, far away, and I thought that the song is completely appropriate to dedicate to our friends who are far away and who we don't get to see as often as we would like, so here it is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Party Time





Jacob's birthday was on a Saturday this year, so we actually had his party on his birthday. We only invited family to keep the party small, but it was still too many people for our little apartment, so Brent's parents were incredibly kind to us and allowed us to have the party at their house. I have to tell you...having a party at someone else's house is not an easy thing. Making everything at home, transporting it to the party, trying to make sure that nothing is forgotten...the list goes on. We were very grateful that they allowed us to have the party at their house, though...we were much more comfortable than we would have been at our house.

I started working on the party on Thursday. I baked the cake and let it cool, planning to ice and decorate it the next day during naptimes. Everything started out fine on Friday...until the whipped icing I bought (because I think it tastes SOOOO much better than buttercream) just would not form stiff peaks. So I finally iced the cake and then started adding powdered sugar to the icing to try to thicken it up. That was a huge mistake. Rather than thickening, it just melted into a gooey mess. Ugh.

And I didn't have enough powdered sugar to make buttercream. So off to Brookshire's I went as soon as Jacob woke up from his morning nap. Of course, he woke up late that day...so it was lunchtime as we were going to the store. Yup...that is NOT a good time to be going to the grocery store with young children! We got back home, I fed us all and put the kids down for their nap. Only Samantha did not cooperate with napping, or even being quiet at all. So NOTHING was done during their nap.

After Brent got home from work, I was able to start working on the cake again while he fed and entertained the kids. I opened a stick of shortening...and it smelled horrible. The next one was the same. I was groaning, thinking that I was going to have to go to the store again and I was not happy about it. I planned ahead so that I would not be staying up late the night before trying to get things done...but it was happening anyway. I did however have one unopened package of shortening sticks that were not butter flavored...and I was so excited when I opened it and they smelled just fine. No trip to the store after all. Hooray!

I finally got the cake decorated, finishing long after the kids were already in bed, then decorated the cookies, took pictures of the cake and went to bed myself. On Saturday morning, I got up to start getting things together and putting them in the van. I glanced at the cake and noticed that the border on the top edge and the words on the side had started falling down. I. WAS. NOT. HAPPY. Apparently the whipped icing is not capable of holding the weight of the buttercream up for an extended period of time. I sort of smooshed it back up, but it still looked like it was falling. I was glad that I took pictures the night before, but still...I wanted it to look right for his party. Well, as right as I was able to get it in the first place, at least. Oh, well, we loaded up the van and headed off to put on a party with our family.


Dave and Staci and their kids came on Friday night. My parents, Steven and Benjamin were supposed to come Friday night as well, but as they were leaving town, they had problems with the lights on the car and they said that they would come in the morning instead.


We called my family after we got to Brent's parents house to see what time they would be arriving, and found out that they had not left yet. You see, it turned out to be a very good thing that they had van problems the night before, because my dad had to go to the ER later Friday night and he ended up being admitted to the hospital in the wee hours of Saturday morning. They did manage to get everything under control and they told us that as soon as the doctor came by and signed the discharge papers, they would be on the road again to come see us. Dave and Staci had to get back to CS for Emma's dance recital that afternoon, so we couldn't just completely put the party on hold, though. We went ahead with the party and I saved a couple of presents for Jacob to open with my family and we decided that we would just do cake again that evening.



So Jacob had TWO birthday parties for his 1st birthday. I know that isn't all that unusual, but I don't think that there are generally 2 parties in the same day!



Jacob wasn't all that interested in opening his presents, he decided that he would rather play with ribbons and tissue paper. But his big sister could hardly stay away and opened his presents for him when he wasn't moving as fast as she would like.



Jacob did not blow out the candle on his cake...he has no clue about that at all...although I have tried to teach him. He did however tear into his cake right away. There was nothing tentative at all, and he gobbled it all down. Of course there is no surprise in that, seeing as how this is the kid who truly loves to eat.





All in all, we had a wonderful day and had fun at the party...even though our time with my family was cut so short. And our sweet little boy is such an adorable one year old! :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jacob is One!!!

From so little




to so big


in just one short year!

Yes, our sweet boy is one already, it seems so hard to believe. The time has gone so quickly, yet at the same time, it seems as if he has always been part of our lives. It seems that I can hardly remember a time that he wasn't part of our family. Of course, that might be due to sleep deprivation...since I get up several times per night between Samantha's nightmares and Jacob's nursing one or two times per night...either way, I can't imagine our family without this sweet boy.

Jacob now weighs 23.8 lbs and wears mostly 18 month clothes. He wears some 12 month pants and he wears 24 month PJs. I expect him to start wearing some more 24 month tops and one piece outfits pretty son, though, because his body is just so long!

He is a great eater and eats more and more regular food. He still eats 2.5 to 4 jars of baby food at a meal, though. I just keep looking at him and wonder where on earth he puts it all, because he is still getting slimmer in spite of how much he eats. It makes the thought of the teenage years a little frightening! He nurses 4-5 times per day and is getting fairly proficient at drinking from a cup. In fact he generally drinks 4-6 ounces of water a day...and most days all that water does actually end up inside him rather than all over his clothes.

He crawls all over, faster than one would think is humanly possible, and cruises along furniture and walls almost as fast as he crawls. He has stood on his own a few times, but it is generally not his idea, or he just isn't thinking about it when he does this. As soon as he realizes that he is standing alone, he slowly lowers himself back to the ground. It's really quite funny to think about, because he would be walking all over, which I am sure he would be very happy about, if he just tried a little bit. I'm sure it will happen before too much longer and then I will have to run even faster to keep up with him and keep him out of things.

Jacob's favorite things are stuffed animals and pillows, so the pillow pet that Benjamin gave him a few months ago is definitely the most in favor toy. He also loves toys that make music when he pushes buttons.

He is still a very happy and smiley baby...as long as he is getting what he wants. If he doesn't, he throws some pretty impressive screaming fits. And the rest of us are getting pretty good at ignoring those fits. I am hoping that as his communication skills develop, those fits will decrease...but I am also remembering his older sister just a few months ago and not holding my breath.

Jacob now has 7 teeth, the 7th one popped through on Thanksgiving day. He says "Mama" and "ball" (ball was said for the first time on 12/10) and he signs "more" and "eat" (he signed eat for the first time on 12/10)

He loves his sister and he loves to dance. He also enjoys watching other people dance and giggles like crazy when Mommy or Samantha are dancing around the room. Although he smiles a lot, he doesn't laugh a lot...but when he does, it is the sweetest sound you can imagine.

It's hard to get a picture of him looking at the camera, because as soon as he looks toward it, he starts crawling to the picture taker for some hugs.

He is a sweet, adorable boy and we are so grateful for another month, a whole year of months of him in our lives. We look forward to watching him continue to grow and learn in the time to come.

Happy Birthday, Jacob!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Preparation

Jacob's birthday is tomorrow! I am busy cooking and baking and washing LOTS of dishes (somehow all the cooking and baking generates many dirty dishes...go figure!) and getting ready for a house full of company. Since I need to do as much as possible while the kids are amusing themselves, I will now leave you with a few pictures of the preparations for the party.

I've never had such unlevel cakes before. I had to cut off a LOT of cake in order to get them level enough to stack and ice.



The partially frosted cake...you'll have to wait until after the party tomorrow to see the completely decorated cake.




Our menu is hamburgers, so the fixings and the drinks are ready to go.



Shortbread brownie bites...yummy!




And a box of plates, napkins and other party supplies.