Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas '08

In spite of a one-armed man for most of the holiday, as well as two coughing little girls, we managed to have a full Christmas! The picture on the left was taken in the nursery before the early Christmas Eve service. Chris' parents, aunt, and his sister and brother-in-law took Grace in with them while Rachael and I worked the nursery. Don't the girls look adorable in those dresses? They were made with lots of love by Miss Anita, a family friend who has known me since I was in preschool! They are precious dresses, and the girls loved them!

After the early service, the girls went to Grandma and Grandpa's while Mommy and Daddy got to enjoy the 6:00 service. Then we all gathered together to open gifts. Rachael really got into opening the presents, and Grace was incredibly appreciative and enthusiastic about each gift she opened! It was as if every gift was the best! gift! ever!

Grace and Rachael getting some help from Daddy as they open their first gift of the night!

Gracie showing off her new baby doll...

Rachael looking lovingly at hers...

On Sunday, we all went to Lion Country Safari -- it was a lot of fun! We got a van so we could all ride together, and I think the girls were most excited to be in a vehicle without any kind of car seat -- especially Rachael, who didn't want to sit still through most of it! I'll admit that it did make me a little nervous, but thankfully you drive very slowly through their preserve! I don't know if I could've handled going in our own vehicle! The thought of the animals getting this close would've made me nervous!

Those horns!!
This fella was tapping at the window!

The signs at the park say "Rhinos always have the right of way!"

The park also has a few rides that the girls were able to go on. Grace and Rachael both wanted to go on the flying elephants, so Aunt Lisa went with Grace while I went with Rachael. The merry-go-round suited Grace, but Rachael had no interest in it. She did, however, enjoy the ferris wheel! She was looking all around, looking over the edge, she had no fear!! Grace passed on that one, she would barely even look up at us to wave! All in all, it was a lot of fun! It was Grandma's great idea -- I'd never even heard of it until she brought it up, and it was great to go with Aunt Lisa and Uncle Darryl as well! The girls were able to spend a good bit of time with them this time around, and they really had such a good time with both of them!

The Christmas spirit rolled right into Monday, when Grace and Rachael finally got to open their big gift from the grandparents -- a new kitchen! And not just any kitchen, THIS kitchen! (Click on the link, really! Check it out!!) That isn't the kitchen they opened on Christmas Eve. What they opened on Christmas Eve was one I'd settled for when we weren't able to get the one I'd originally wanted. That one was sold out everywhere by the time we went shopping (and somebody -- ::cough::Chris::cough:: -- didn't want to get it when I saw it when we were out together one night, even after the associate told me it was the last one and they weren't getting anymore in), so I settled for one that was nice... but not what I had in mind.

The day after Christmas I went shopping with a friend. She needed to stop at Sam's at the end of our trip, so I tagged along. There amidst the post-Christmas sale items was the Step 2 LifeStyle Grand Walk-In Kitchen. Original Price: $238 and change. Sale price: $99 and change. The kitchen we'd gotten was $97 -- and just didn't compare to the kitchen I was staring at! After drooling over the sale price for a little bit, and after some serious thought as to how the girls' room would have to be rearranged, I called Chris and told him about it, and he said to go ahead and get it. With a LOT of help from my shopping buddy (and her husband, who came to our place with a dolly and straps to get the gigantic box up the stairs!), it was MINE! Well, the girls' really...

So Monday, yet another amazing friend came to assist me with rearranging the girls' room as well as the assembly. The girls spent the rest of the day playing in their kitchen, only stopping for dinner with Lisa and Darryl, then they were back at it! Here's a glimpse:

If you didn't click the link, it even comes with a table and chair set, as well as a small stool! And tons of accessories! It's amazing! The girls were so enthralled with it, Chris and I got a ton of cleaning done without interruption! And did I mention it was originally $238 and I found it on sale for $99??

Hope that everyone had a great Christmas, and we wish you a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

On My Christmas Vacation...

'Twas three days before Christmas, and all through the house...

At the end of last week -- the day Chris had his surgery, actually -- Rachael spiked a pretty decent fever of 103.5. The next day, it reached 104.8 -- which is .2 degrees away from a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, we have an amazing pediatrician and he did a thorough exam and the culprit appeared to be a very minor ear infection. Her body must've just been fighting hard! She very unhappily received a shot, and woke up the next morning a completely different little girl! Unfortunately, that same morning Grace woke up with a slight fever.

On Sunday morning, Chris was still a little out of it (which is understandable considering all of the medication he still has in his system) and the girls were both a little off (Grace developed a persistent cough), so we didn't make it to church in the morning. And this morning, the above pictures were taken. Neither girl has had a fever, but they were both just a little pooped.

Good thing it's Christmas break! We're praying that both girls are back to themselves quickly so they can enjoy the holiday, especially since they haven't seen Aunt Lisa and Uncle Darryl since last October!

As for Chris, he was able to go into work and is set up with physical therapy twice this week and two times next week. The first visit they day after surgery went very well, and the therapist was very encouraged with how well he was already doing! Yay!

Here's a quick picture of Nurse Rachael feeding Daddy some Fruity Cheerios yesterday:

Hopefully we'll have some much happier pictures to share in a few days! Until then...

We wish all of our family and friends a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chris' Surgery

Chris had his surgery today, and it went very well! The doctor took a great deal of time explaining what had happened, but I think that the bottom line was this:

-- There were two small tears, one was a SLAP tear, but it was not major.
-- Cartlidge had broken off when he injured it, and it was loose and moving in his shoulder, causing pain.
-- He only has to be in the sling for about a week.
-- Two-three months before he's released for all normal activity.

We most definitely felt the prayers today! I was not as anxious as I have been before his other surgeries, and he came out of the anesthesia so much better this time!

I even had some fun, kind of at Chris' expense. :-) When he was given a sedative before they administered the nerve block, Chris was definitely a bit on the high side! When I was able to be with him right before they took him into surgery, he was asking the nurses if he could have a menu. One walked past him without looking at him, and he waved his index finger with the heart monitor and slurred, "She's ignoring me. I'm disappointed. That will be reflected in her tip!" I had tears in my eyes from giggling!

Again, thank you for the prayers!

Monday, December 15, 2008

December = Busy!

Last weekend wasn't busy enough for us. This past weekend, Grace and Rachael got to go to a "Night Out" at the church while Chris and I met up with some friends from our Sunday school class to buy gifts for our "adopted" family. (Each Christmas, Sunday school classes at the church help a family in need with Christmas gifts for the kids.) Saturday, we went to a little friend's first birthday party in the morning, then came home to eat lunch, rest, and then the girls headed to Grandma and Grandpa's so Mommy and Daddy could go to their Sunday school class Christmas party -- we had to get there early to set up and we knew we'd be there later to break down, so it was wonderful to know that we could relax and take our time! (Thanks to Brian for the following pictures!)

Grace at the birthday party, wearing her little ladybug hat, in honor of the birthday girl!

Rachael, apparently doing her best Elvis impersonation...

Mommy & Daddy at the Christmas Party!

Then on Sunday, we came home from church, got changed, and left for Sea World. We wanted to go see all their Christmas lights and do the whole Polar Express Experience and we needed to do it before Chris' shoulder surgery (this Thursday), so yesterday it was. Grace was so excited that we were staying at Sea World until dark! The girls got to meet Santa Claus, and this was Rachael's first experience with him -- at first she was a little shy, but she ended up giving him a high-five on our way out!

This is Rachael checking out the steel drums as we went into the kids' area. She would hit them a couple of times, and then inspect the sticks to see if she could figure out how they were working! :-)

Daddy caught this next one as we were waiting in line for Jazzy Jellies -- it's one of those rides where you can make the car spin around as it goes up in the air. Rachael looks a little intimidated, doesn't she? I was surprised at her hesitancy considering she's been on it before. Once on the ride, though, Rachael was totally relaxed -- even looking out over the top to see below us! Grace loves the rides, too, but she seems to get a little more anxious about the heights! I think Rachael will be the one going with me on roller coasters!

Me and the girls waiting for the snow to start.

Daddy with Gracie and only Gracie, because Rachael wouldn't get out of my lap!
The closest these girls will come to snow for a while!!
Rachael wasn't fooled -- as soon as it started coming down she yelled, "Bubbles!"

Please keep Chris in your prayers this Thursday! We are praying that what they find is easy to fix and that he'll be out of the sling in about a week! That would be a great Christmas present!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Preschoolers...

Grace wanted to watch Cinderella yesterday during Rachael's naptime. She put it in and as Cinderella was waking up at the beginning of the movie, Grace asked me if Cinderella was a princess.

ME: Not yet, she and the pince aren't married yet. You have to marry a prince to be a princess.

GRACE: You're a princess.

ME: (smiling) No, honey. I'm not a princess.

GRACE: (matter-of-factly) Yes, you are. You married a prince.

What could I say to that? She's right!

And I had my very first official parent-teacher conference today! (Never mind that it had been originally scheduled for Monday, but I had it in my head that it was Tuesday and I missed it altogether and had to reschedule it for today, with both girls in tow. Never mind that...) Anyway, real conference, "report card" and everything! No surprise, Grace is doing so well! Her teacher raved about her! She said she was the only one in the class who could count to 100, she is a great listener (hmmm, should've asked the teacher what her trick is), and the teacher said she's absolutely ready for kindergarten! She really, really had so many positive things to say about our girl. She even said the word "advanced" so hopefully we can keep encouraging her at home as well!

We were in a 2-year-old classroom for the meeting, and Grace and Rachael were keeping themselves entertained playing with the toys. (Note: after playing with a dollhouse set, Grace and Rachael both cleaned up all the parts and put everything away before moving on to something else!) Watching Rachael reminded me that in 8 months, she will be starting preschool! I know that sounds like a long time, but anyone with kids can probably agree that it'll be here before I know it!

See those precious pictures? We had the opportunity do another family photo shoot with Sonya Coates Colangelo the day after Thanksgiving! This shoot included six adults, two teenagers, and four girls -- 5, 3, 22 months and 6 months! Sonya did an amazing job, you can see some more from that shoot here, but I'll leave you with my absolute favorite:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

Nothing can scare the Grinch out of you faster than preschoolers singing Christmas songs! We were treated to it twice in one week.

Here's Grace as we went on our way to her VPK Christmas program last week. Each of the VPK classes sang three songs, and in between each one they "skated" around the sanctuary. Grace skated, smiled, and sang. And for those of you that encountered the Rachael of Thanksgiving Week, I know you will be shocked to hear that she sat through the entire performance without a whimper!! It was wonderful! The only time she made noise was to shout out to her big sister! So sweet!

Then this past Sunday, the children's choirs at church had their concert. I actually have video of that, and I may try to upload it. Grace sang her heart out, every word was clearly enunciated. Many thanks go to Miss Shannon for bringing about this change!

Here are Grace and Faith before the concert. It doesn't get any cuter than this:
Rachael was in the nursery during the performance, but afterwards she came out to visit with Grace and her friends. She was fascinated by one of the trees in the church, and had to touch almost every ornament within her reach -- she was covered in glitter when she was done!
And this picture is to produce evidence of Rachael being Daddy's Little Girl. Like Chris, she doesn't seem to get cold very easily. It was VERY cold Sunday night, and as soon as she got outside she took her little jacket off!

Hope your holiday season has begun well!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Thank God it's over!

Okay, maybe that's extreme. Maybe.

This is Rachael the night before Thanksgiving. We were waiting in the car while Daddy and Grace went to get some things for dinner with everyone at Nana's. That is probably the last smile we had from her all weekend. I wish I was kidding. In her defense, it ended up that she was sick with croup. She missed church today for the second week in a row. As did Daddy, since he stayed home with her!

Here is Grace, helping me mix the ingredients for our apple pie! She was in the kitchen watching as I sliced the apples, and she was so interested. I'm not going to lie to you, my first instinct was to say, "Mommy's busy" and have her occupy herself elsewhere, but I quickly realized that my child was interested in something I was doing in the kitchen and I probably shouldn't squelch that! So I pulled a chair in next to me and she watched as I measured the ingredients and put them in a bowl, then I let her stir them up. She was happy to help! I don't know if she actually tried any of the apple pie on Thanksgiving though. I did, and I thought it was great! As were the mashed potatoes that Chris made -- YUMMY!! Everything, as usual, was phenomenal.

Here is Veronica. The last time we saw her, she looked like this. She has gotten so big, and even more beautiful! Grace loved to look at her and touch her, and Rachael liked her just fine... as long as she was with anyone other than ME! Veronica was so sweet all weekend long, and so cuddly! Next year I think she and Rachael are going to be buddying up. They're going to have to, because Grace and Savannah, well...

They are inseparable!! It was a repeat of the weekend we spent in Georgia, the two of them playing and giggling together non-stop! I'm not really a big softy with my girls, but my heart broke when we had to leave Nana's Saturday night -- Grace just fell apart! She loves her cousin so much and sniffled all the way home. I reached my hand back and she grabbed it and squeezed so hard. I definitely think we have to try to get up to Georgia in the summer again. Maybe the whole family this time. It could happen!

It was such a busy long weekend, filled with friends and family! It was fun, but exhausting! Thankfully, Chris and I had enough energy to go out and celebrate our 6th anniversary on Saturday night!

I am so thankful that God brought Chris into my life. He's an incredible man. I mean... He cooks, he cleans, he tidies up the sink after he's done shaving in the morning. :-) He will go grocery shopping, and he'll take both the girls. He's been known to take the girls shopping for clothes too! He is a strong Christian, he is faithful, he is hard-working, he cares deeply about his friends. We have our ups and downs (who doesn't?), but I always know that he loves me and our girls. He makes me smile, he makes me laugh, and I don't know what I'd do with out him.

Have you had your fill of cheese and mush? I know I have! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

For Mom & Aunt Molly

And everyone else who knows my level of cooking expertise... Seeing is believing:

That would be me, in an apron, preparing food! Our moms' group had a night out where we went to one of those places where you are given all the ingredients and just put a meal together, and I'm pretty sure I was the least experienced of the bunch! One time a recipe called for chicken soup and I asked the woman in charge where it was. In my defense, the label was hidden by one of the cylinders... But to be honest, I probably would've double-checked. I mean, the stuff labeled chicken soup was really thick and almost yellow. The only chicken soup I'm familiar with is the kind in the can with the red and white label, and it has noodles in it! ;-) One of my friends heard the exchange and said, "Oh sweetie, you really don't cook, do you?"

But I really did have a great time! Just look, I'm positively glowing in this picture, even handling some raw bacon. ::shudder::

It was a really fun night, and now our freezer is full! Hopefully if I can tackle preparing 8 meals in 90 minutes, I should be able to handle a few home-cooked ones each week!

Mom and Aunt Molly, are you proud? :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Feast

Grace's VPK class had their family feast today! They were all wearing their turkey t-shirts and turkey hats, and there were even turkey cupcakes! Daddy was able to join us too!

Rachael came along, but was much more interested in checking out the room. She'll definitely be ready for preschool in August! She never wants to leave when we drop Grace off!

We are all very excited about Aunt Kiki, Uncle Jerry, Blake, Savannah and Veronica coming next week! It'll be so much fun to have the girls together again, especially since Veronica is going to be interacting with everyone!
As a prayer request, it looks like Chris is going to have surgery in December on his shoulder. Let's see...

2003 - Vanessa has Grace
2004 - Chris has knee surgery
2005 - Vanessa has her wisdom teeth out
2006 - Chris has the kidney stone and surgery
2007 - Vanessa has Rachael
2008 - Chris has shoulder surgery

I'm thinking this pattern needs to change! I'm also thinking no one should take the "in sickness or in health" part of the vows for granted!!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! We know we have been given so much to be thankful for, especially our family and friends!

Monday, November 17, 2008

She SANG!!

Here is Grace in her first "performance" -- the end of the year program after her first year of preschool, May 2007. She started out just doing her pout thing and then... Well, you can see for yourself.

Yes, that's my girl with her back towards all the parents and teachers, while her classmates sang and did all the motions.

Here is Grace at the past year's program, in May 2008.

For any children's choir performance, Grace has improved in that she doesn't hide her face, but she has never actually been singing while she's been up there.

But this past Sunday morning, in both worship services...


And, look! A SMILE!
I'm not really an overly emotional mom most of the time, but I was BEAMING on Sunday morning, and yes, even wiping away a couple of tears! There's a Christmas presentation at her school in December, and of course her choir at church will sing during the holidays as well. It'll be exciting to see her enjoying herself like she did this past Sunday morning!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mama's Helper

That's my little helper there. Rachael can be anywhere in the apartment, and if she hears the dishwasher being opened, she'll come running. She loves to unload! One day I was in the girls' room putting away their laundry and I thought I heard the dishwasher opening. Sure enough, I walked into the kitchen to find Rachael pulling silverware out of the basket on the bottom! I double and triple check to make sure the door locks shut now!!

Last week our church had a ladies' night out, and Chris went to meet some guys to play basketball. He left early to set up and took Grace with him, and I brought Rachael when I left. She saw me grab my camera and started pointing at it. "You want me to take a picture?" I asked. She nodded. So I took a picture -- can you tell she's saying "cheeeeese"? :-)

Rachael has definitely been trying to talk a whole lot more! It's a lot of fun to watch her babbling, clearly trying to communicate something! One day we were with Nana, and Nana whispered, "I love you" to Rachael. Rachael started whispering back to her, telling her a bunch of secrets! It's so much fun!

Rachael also loves to point out who she's with, and who she likes to talk to. Mama, Daddy and "Gway" are the most popular. When I say, "Who are you?" her answer is always "Baby." She will not say her own name, and I am starting to think she's just being stubborn, or maybe she just wants to constantly remind us that she is the baby!! Of course, one time I told her she was just trouble, and now once in a while when I ask her who she is, she'll answer, "Twubble." Uh-oh! ;-)

One thing I'm going to try to get on video is a conversation I like to have with her. I ask her a bunch of questions, and her answer everytime is this sweet, melodic, "No-oooooh!" It can be pretty funny depending on the question!

Can you believe she's going to be 2 in just two months?! I can't!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Before it's too late...

Halloween is not my favorite time of year. Truth be told, if I could skip it I probably would. However, there are always plenty of alternative fun activities for the kids to do and dressing up is usually expected. This year I even participated:

In case you can't tell, I was Sarah Palin, and there with me was a fella with a sign saying he was Joe the Plumber. THAT was pretty funny!

Here is our little Dolphins cheerleader -- it was difficult to get a still shot of her, because she was a wiggle worm, especially when the Chick-fil-A cow was around! She was given an award for being "prettiest" that night, awww!

Here are two of the sweetest little fairies you'll ever see. Grace and her "BFF" Faith (who was Tinkerbell).

Grace and Faith have been friends pretty much since Faith was born! That might have something to do with their mothers being as close to sisters as you can get without having the same parents!

I got to take the girls to a fall festival one of the local churches had, and afterwards I took them out for a very, very late dinner. They were having the best time hanging out, and the woman in line behind me remarked at how cute they were, and how sweet they were together. While I was ordering, I heard her speaking to them, and when I finished she said, "I just asked them if they were sisters or friends, and they said both! Isn't that precious?" That definitely warmed my heart!

If you haven't already, don't forget to...