Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent-ures

Here we are, in that space between counting our blessings and celebrating our Savior's birth. The weeks loaded down with things-to-do, recipes to test, articles to be read, concepts to be taught, gifts to be bought, and that oh, so wonderful word--anticipation!! These last few weeks were also full of one other thing--the stomach bug.

I was testing camera settings when this little Santa popped up in my shot.

One of a zillion Christmas card photo outtakes!

Finally settled on this spontaneous post-church picture exemplifying the JOY of the season!
I thought we had gotten the worst behind us after Thanksgiving. But then Jack woke us up in the middle of the night yelling "Mom! I puked three times!! Three times!!!" And so it began. One by one they fell.

A few days later, Julia woke up screaming. By the time I got to her room it was too late. And suddenly I had some serious regrets about my children sleeping in bunk beds.

In between illnesses, we were able to attend the neighborhood children's Christmas party, complete with visit from Santa!


In addition to one very shaken daughter, our other girl's sleep was also seriously interrupted. After stripping the sheets, bathing Julia, and getting her bedded down on the floor of our room, Joci was still fighting sleep. I finally left her to figure things out on her own. She had just drifted off, and me too, when Jude bounded out of his bed and ran for the door.

A different point of view.


Jack and Santa are tight!
He also was a moment too late and and I reached his room just in time to watch his floor get covered in regurgitated dinner. Jon graciously volunteered to clean up the floor while I bathed Jude and made him a place to sleep on our bedroom floor. Meanwhile, Joci was up and screaming yet again. And so that's how it went the rest of the night. Julia and Jude alternating puking, Jon and I alternating clean-up duty, and Joci waking up with every gag or creak of the floor. Jon ended up taking Jude and Julia downstairs at 5:30 in the morning and I moved Joci to our bed, where she promptly threw-up all over me and the bed, again.

Gingerbread cookies! 

... a.k.a gingerbread buttons ALL OVER my kitchen
And it carried on all the next day as well. The poor darlings couldn't keep a thing down until bedtime. By Thursday, it appeared to have just been a 24 hour thing. Or at least the barfing aspect of it, (the other aspect of the stomach bug was taking its toll as well.) So we decided to get out of the house on Friday and celebrate Jon's birthday at a new restaurant in town. It was our second time visiting. The first visit had been so good, we were looking forward to sampling more of the menu.

Yay for being healthy enough to sing in the preschool Christmas pageant!


We got there early, always a good idea when you're eating out with little kids. I had even packed stuff for the littles to do--notepads, pens, crayons, dolls, games. We were busy keep them entertained, reminding Julia to stay in her seat, rebuckling Joci into her highchair each time she managed to snake out, taking kids to the bathroom one at a time since they never have to go all at once ...



Right about the time our food came out, Jude started complaining that this tummy hurt. We had just enough time to dump out a cup and thrust it under his chin before he filled both the cup and the tabletop. So Jon rushes Jude to the bathroom, I'm trying to calm a screaming Joci (it's a new phase, she screams when she doesn't get her way and then unleashes a stream of syllables that sound an awful lot like she's cussing you out), and Julia decides to race off after the boys. Except she didn't see where they went. So she's running around the restaurant, Joci is still putting up a fight in my arms, Jack is somewhere under the table, and Jon is cleaning up a sick kid.

Another accomplishment, Jack and Daddy made gingerbread houses with his Kindergarten class.

Jon came back with stories of spending an hour with 15 Kindergarteners, all a little too excited about the season!
We exited the restaurant as fast as we could (after leaving an extra tip for our poor waitress.) Naturally, as soon as we get out to the car, Jack has to pee. There was no way we were going back in, so Jon let him water the parking lot.

Tea party with the princesses.

Forget the tea cups, this girl goes straight for the carton!
Jude seemed to be doing better and we wanted to redeem Jon's birthday dinner night, so we decided to move forward with our plan to view Christmas lights. We'd barely made it past the first red light when Julia had fallen fast asleep. Joci was only a few minutes behind her. Jude looked like he was headed in the same direction, but then woke up with a jolt and started moaning about his tummy again.

One of my favorite evenings this month, our MOPS Couples Christmas Party!
(And since so many people have asked, that's a $4 dress from Goodwill.)

Now there's a couple who appreciates free food and babysitting!
We had just gotten in line for the drive-thru display at a local state park. We could see the twinkling lights just a few yards ahead, but the anticipation wasn't enough to keep the barfs at bay. I mean, the restaurant debacle was NOTHING compared to what happened in the back seat of our minivan. And the smell! Oh, the smell! I was gagging the whole way home. Because we did go home at that point. I'm all about persevering, finding ways to make merry during the Christmas season, but I also know when to say enough is enough. And clearly that point was way behind us.

My sweet husband set to work scrubbing out the van while I kept the laundry going (it hasn't stopped all week) and got the kids ready for bed. By now, just the thought of being sick gets Jude all worked up, so he slept in our room again.

What you see: three sweet babies enjoying hot cocoa by the fire. What you don't see (a moment later): muffins smashed under children's bottoms and a baby dumping hot cocoa all over the floor and rug.
On Saturday, we celebrated our Christmas. Jon is working 12 hour days this week so it was the only time we were all home to celebrate. The kids were positively giddy ... and up at 6am. But I guess that's all right. I mean, if a kid can't be excited on Christmas, when can they? It was a fun morning. Jack is FINALLY at the age where he really understands what's going on. And his attitude rubs off on the rest of the kids. So we had children asking us to open presents starting at 6am.

You may be wondering where Jude is ... 
... cuddling with the barf bucket, of course.
Jon and I were exhausted and unprepared to start the festivities. The house couldn't shake the smell of vomit and poop. And there's a barf bucket in the background of many of our pictures. But according to Jack, it was "the best Christmas EVER!"


This little sweetie! She just loved her gifts!

The "umbrellas" were a huge hit. We've had plenty of opportunities to use them this week too. :(

He was so excited! Jude's been asking for a Snackeez! for months. Darn you TV commercials that target innocent young children!



You know, Advent didn't really turn out the way I had in mind. We never got to my adorable children's craft devotional. Even the simple paper chain countdown to Christmas that I we put together barely survived one week. We got one batch of cookies made, ONE. And we devoured them in two days because gingerbread was one of the few things the kids' tummies could handle. The fancy Christmas lights display is not going to happen, and it will probably be a while before we can drive down that road without me gagging again. And Jon's birthday dinner was a huge (and very expensive) flop.

She finally gets her own piggy bank. 

And if you need a last minute gift idea, this Melissa and Doug castle is excellent!





But the good news is Christmas isn't over yet. According to the Lego Advent Calendar (which was a huge success, by the way), there's still one more door to go. There's so much I love about this season--the hope of His coming, the joy of our Savior, Christ's love that so many of us are putting in to practice this week, the peace that comes with His reign, and the rest (that intentional, satisfying pause  that I can relate to so well since having babies). Tomorrow, the celebration begins. But today? Today we rest.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Leftovers

I'm feeling a little guilty here. Not only did I never get around to writing a Thanksgiving post listing all the things we're grateful for this year. But we also didn't do a "Thankful Tree" or "Thankful Jar" or  Thankful-anything, really. And if you asked Jack what he is thankful for this year, which is what just about every project in school and church was about these past few weeks, he only has one answer--L-A-G-O-S (his spelling). So clearly, I'm doing a great job of educating my kids in the whole gratitude department.






Then again, Thanksgiving is so 10 days ago. And in that time, we've endured one 48-hour week of night shifts, a very sick baby, and 3 kids reeling from a little more sugar and a little less sleep than they're used to. So I'm carving out this sliver of time while my girl naps, my two middies catch an episode of "Paw Patrol Be There On the Double" (according to Lia), and while I turn my back on the other half of the groceries that still need unpacked, to dish out some Thanksgiving leftovers. Because some things are just better the second time around!

Morning photo-op with Nonnie!

Joci's pretty proud about graduating to the big kid counter.

Watching Poppie make breakfast.
As many of you know, there was snow over Thanksgiving in the northeast. So we tweaked our travel plans and ended up leaving earlier than we had anticipated. Jon and I had the car packed and 4 kids dressed and buckled by 7:15am. We made a quick stop for breakfast and then it was full throttle to Pennsylvania ... until the first bathroom stop, and then this--


And then Julia throwing up all over herself and the carseat about halfway into our trip. And then her claiming the need for an emergency potty break a half hour later. Oh yes, the joys of traveling with children!

But I'm glad we made the effort and were able to celebrate Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania because scenes like this make it oh, so worth it!



Since we had a whole day free, Marmie and Poppa offered to watch the kids so Jon and I could get some Christmas shopping done.  I felt a *teeny* bit guilty for leaving a potentially ill child with my parents, but she seemed happy and was eating again ... and we REALLY needed to do some shopping without our kids around. So we had a wonderful afternoon picking up our family's monogrammed duffel bags (this is soooo Jon's idea, people!), visiting Starbucks, grabbing hoagies (they're just not the same outside of PA!), and browsing Target without a million voices asking to look at Legos every second.


Meanwhile, back at the Grand's, Julia had fallen asleep on Poppa ... and then woke up and puked all over him. Poor Poppa! My husband likes to make fun of my terribly sensitive sense of smell/weak stomach/gag reflux but my dad is much, much worse. I felt horrible, but he was able to laugh about it when we came to get the kids. And little did I know I would be getting what was coming to me a few days later.

Showing off her two-legged skills!
We had two Thanksgiving dinners this year, one with each of our families. So basically a whole lot of eating with a few rounds of Settlers of Catan in between. And the kids' dream came true and they got to play in the snow with their cousins!


He's building a snowman on the porch so Joci could see.



We came back to Maryland Friday night, enjoying a much "quieter" car ride while the kids slept. And then Saturday it was time to switch gears and crank up the Christmas music!


Singing Christmas songs in the car wash!

No long, drawn-out, Christmas tree hunting stories this year. Jon chose a tree lot and we picked out one of the first trees we saw... which was good because, of course, the boys had to go potty as soon as we got there.
Can we just talk about decorating with four kids right now? Or decorating with four kids between the ages of 16 months and 6 years? It didn't really hit me until we were all finished that this will probably be the toughest year yet. Last year Joci was easy-peasy. And next year everyone will be that much more mature. Right? So I guess we can be thankful we got away with only a few broken ornaments ... and counting.



 It's just a little crazy, because everyone wants to unpack all the ornaments, but only hang the ones they like. Or they all want to hang the same ornament. Or they all want to hang a different ornament at the same spot. Or all stand on the stool at the same time. You get the gist. Basically, just picture boxes, tissue paper, and ornaments EVERYWHERE. And small children intermittently singing Christmas carols and screaming at one another. Dancing together one minute and pushing each other the next. With Lia yelling, "Boogers! I've got BOOGERS!" about every 30 seconds in between.



So of course, it's a bit of a decorating whack job, if you look closely. We tried to stick with keeping the non-breakable ones down low. But then you have older kids who think they have earned the right to climb the ladder... and then fall into the tree. Or a bare spot here and branches that are holding 3 ornaments piled on top of each other over there. I told myself I'd fix it all up when the kids went to bed, but it's been over a week and the Toy Story dinosaur is still sharing a branch with two glass balls and one cookie dough stocking.


But we got the whole house decorated in one fell swoop. And just in time before Jon started working those dreaded nights. I've decided the only difference between Jon working the nights shifts and when he used to travel is that I have to make a wholesome dinner (instead of just getting away with smoothies or PBJ) so he has something to eat during those 12 hour stretches. But other than that, he might as well not even be here. And friends, IT.IS.TOUGH.

'Tis the season of many, many tubbies because they keep the baby occupied!

This photo was taken approximately .38 seconds before I realized she was wielding a sharp knife!
This past week, it did not help that Joci started with a fever on Sunday night. This was quickly followed by a runny nose, and I mean RUNNY, and a horrible cough and diarrhea. At the end of a very long Monday, I was nursing her in my bed, so ready to call it a night myself as soon as I got her to sleep, and she threw up all over me and the bed. Let me tell you, you start to really feel alone in the world when you're trying to decide just what to do with your very sick baby so that you can wash the puke off yourself and your bed. And your rational thinking may involve just throwing a few towels down on the bed and sending a quick text to your husband alerting him that he may want to sleep in the guest room that night before starting on a very unrestful night of sleep yourself.

If Jack is ever missing for an extended period of time, you can usually find him hanging out in the warmest spot in the house--the bathroom heat vent!
Tuesday and Wednesday didn't show much improvement. In addition to having no appetite whatsoever, Joci just slept on me all day long. If I set her down, she just laid there. If I picked her up, she didn't even try to support herself. It was like playing with a rag doll. And when her cough kept getting worse I decided it was time to visit the doctor.


I was worried about the flu or pneumonia and if it would have any effect on her heart. But it turned out to be an ear infection and a small case of bronchitis. And on top of all that, she lost almost a pound during the whole ordeal, which is not good for our already petite little girl. Thankfully, she is on the mend! We had a few more days of more whining than usual, and an excessive amount of clinginess, which made the caring for other children thing that much more challenging, but I'd say she's back to herself today (as evidenced by her running away while I was trying to change her diaper and going right back to her playing in the toilet antics.)


And it's so good to hear her giggle again! This girl is such a tease, and we've been missing her twinkly eyes and tricky antics!

[What's left of] the gingerbread house the kids made with Aunt Kylee.
In addition to healthy kiddos, we're thankful for family. Namely, Aunt Kylee, who came down to entertain the older three one night last week so Jon and I could get out on his first night off (with Joci in tow.) We didn't get much Christmas shopping done, but we were able to each pick up a gift for the other. And we also apparently crashed a "Girls' Night Out" at our favorite local garden center. We had no idea why people kept giving us dirty looks. Or why no one was asking us to enter their drawing or offering us any free samples. It was starting to get uncomfortable. So we bought two ornaments and left. And then I checked my email when we got out in the car and discovered it was "Girls' Night Out." Oopsy.

That one time we attempted to "do the mall" with 4 kids after church. We quickly changed our mind after just one store.

How we typically do our Christmas shopping--Amazon, we love you!
We also got a short visit in with Marmie and Poppa, who stopped by on their journey north from Florida! After hearing about last week's plague, they offered to stay back with the younger kids so Jon and I could attend Jack's futsal game alone. And then they helped me out with dinner and bedtime prep after Jon went in to work. And, more importantly, gave our recovering patient lots of snuggles. Because we all know that's what Joci likes best! And anytime she's willing to let someone else hold her for a little while I am ready to take advantage of it!

My little baristas!
And that was a good start to our week. It's Monday now, which is actually one of the easier days of my week. In fact, we were feeling so good today that I did two grocery stores with three children. And now that Baby Girl is on hour two of her nap (there was a time we all thought this day would never come, remember??), and the two middies are giggling together while they build a submarine out of couch cushions (it's so hard to be angry with them when they're using their imagination!) and dinner is simmering on the stove (so it can be done and packed-up for Jon by 3:30), I'm celebrating with sweatpants and a decaf latte, neither of which are drawing away this bone-chilling cold.

And I think that cleans the plate of our Thanksgiving leftovers. Time to do dishes for the next round!
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