December 26, 2008

I'm baaack!

Whew! Man has this been a busy month. I haven't posted anything to this blog since the beginning of December. The entire month has been a flurry of holiday and regular activities. There's no way I can remember everything we've done since my memory is so pathetic. I do remember a few things- the Cleveland Christmas parade, which the kids enjoyed in spite of the FREEZING cold temperature, a Christmas party, two dinner parties at my house, the Strong Rock Christmas party at camp, then what seemed like a week's worth of washing clothes and packing for our jaunt to Texas.

Right this minute I am sitting on my in-law's sofa, "borrowing" a neighbor's wireless internet connection. (Thanks, random, faceless neighbor!) It's 75 degrees, just the kind of Christmas weather you'd expect...for Miami. We arrived in Texas a week ago, around 8:30 at night. We put the kids in the car at 3 AM that morning, just a few hours after the Strong Rock Christmas party ended, and got all the way to Mississippi before stopping to eat breakfast.

The trip went pretty well considering the size and number of children, taking a mere 18 hours including stops. I believe it was a mother trapped in the car with children who invented the portable DVD player. "Mom, can we watch another movie?" "Why yes you can, dear, let's pick a long one this time." We went in the truck, so one kid sat in the front with us and we were able to let them take turns. We enjoyed that, since we don't get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with any of the kids as individuals.

We spent the weekend in Waco where James went to college. His brother and sister-in-law and sister live there, and a cousin was graduating from Baylor Saturday so we got to spend time with a lot of family there. We also got to see some friends from his college days and went to his old church on Sunday. That evening we drove nearly two hours to his parents' house in Azle, just outside of Fort Worth. We've spent the rest of the week here, hanging out with his folks, brothers, sister-in-law, and sister. It's been terrific!

James with the kids outside the bear habitat at Baylor University. Baylor's mascot is the bear, and there are two bears who live in the middle of campus, taken care of by students. They sometimes make appearances at football games.

They were pretty worried about being out in the open and so vulnerable to attacks.

Krista, James' first cousin, the college graduate. We went to lunch in her honor on Saturday. With her is James' mom's mom, Grandma Lee. She and Grandpa live in San Antonio.

After lunch Grandma and Grandpa Lee and some other family came to our hotel to hang out and visit for awhile.

We met James' college friends for dinner Saturday night. One couple had four kids, one had three, and the other had three. It was pure craziness, just like we're used to!

Amelia and Elizabeth in the hotel room.

On Tuesday the family drove to James' Aunt Denise and Uncle Simeon's house near Dallas for lunch. Aunt Denise is his mom's sister.

On our way back to Azle that night we stopped by the Gaylord Hotel to check out some Christmas decorations, including a life-sized gingerbread house.

Avery and Papa.

On Christmas Eve we went to a service at James' parents' church where his dad is the minister of music. When we got back we had a family photo shoot.

James' other set of grandparents who live in Huntsville, TX arrived Christmas Eve as well. This is Grandma and Grandpa Himstedt.

Jared, James' middle brother and his wife Laura.

James and his siblings Jason, Jared, and Jennifer.

A cute picture of Elizabeth with her Uncle Jason.

Christmas morning was a lot of fun, as I'm sure you can guess. The kids are getting old enough to understand what it's all about. We all enjoyed a leisurely morning of opening gifts and hanging out as a family. That evening we had a nice Christmas dinner.

Avery and his stocking loot. Nearly all morning he carried around candy in one hand and a Cars toothbrush in the other hand.

We could have stopped after Shannon pulled band aids out of his stocking. He was pretty thrilled with them. Wonder if I can get away with that next Christmas?

Elizabeth has grabby hands these days and was trying to steal Amelia's stuff as fast as she opened it.


Amelia had "wedding dress" on the top of her Christmas list this year. We just told her it would be awhile before she could use it.

For me?

The gratuitous bow on the baby's head shot.

Grandma Himstedt made all the girls fun scarves. Like the angel on my head? She follows me wherever I go.

Mimi made Amelia a poodle skirt!

We still love each other after all these Christmases together.

Mimi enjoyed her time with Elizabeth.

Tomorrow we head back to about five hours, to be exact. We'll be putting sleepy kids in the truck at about 3 AM. We've had a terrific week and will miss the family we don't get to see nearly enough. We hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas. This weekend we will have late Christmas with my family in Cleveland. More presents, yeah!

I'm off to bed for a few short hours. I just hope we don't all end up looking like this before the LOOOONNNNGGG ride in the truck together is over!!

December 5, 2008

The stockings were hung by the chimney...

This has been a week of house decorating. Not that we have enough Christmas decorations that it takes a week to put them up, that's just how long it takes when you live at our house. Actually we only stepped over and around boxes for three days, so that wasn't too bad. I wasn't going to put up the tree this year since we'll be gone to Texas the entire week of Christmas, but the kids are getting big enough now to really get a kick out of decorating. It also affords the opportunity to talk with them about what Christmas is really all about.

We still only have five stockings hanging, as Elizabeth's is in Texas. Each year there has been a new Himstedt, Mimi has gotten their stocking.

Amelia asked when we were going to decorate the tree again, and I told her next Christmas. In January we would take the tree down and put everything away. She decided that was "the not fun part." She really enjoyed hanging ornaments. Shannon did too. Avery is still enjoying hanging and unhanging and rehanging and carrying ornaments around the house.

The kids pretty much hung all the ornaments themselves. I told them I would be moving the ornaments around, since there were 4 or so hung on random branches in little groupings. Perhaps a less picky mother would have left them all where the sweet darlings had hung them...but not me! Turns out they didn't care, and wanted to help me move them around. So they rehung them in little groupings of 3-4. When most of them were napping I arranged ornaments like I wanted them. My inner need for uniformity and spacing is now satisfied.

It's been a quick week. We had church as usual on Sunday, my riding lesson was rained out Sunday afternoon, but we did get one more Thanksgiving dinner (our fourth) at the Davidsons, as they had an unreal amount of leftovers they were begging for help with. Anything to help a friend. Monday we stayed home and attempted to decorate, Tuesday we made a trip to Gainesville and visited the newly refurbished Walmart, Wednesday we had gymnastics, Thursday we had playgroup here and then went to Rebecca's beautifully decorated Pottery Barn house for dinner, and then it was today. Which is about over. I stay up too late when I do this.

We did have a fun day, though, after a rough night. (More on that in a minute.) Ruth spent the night with us, officially with Amelia, I guess, though might I say I would adopt her if I could? (Okay, Jenny?) After finishing our kindergarten work, we put together a gingerbread house. I looked up information online about how to do one, and was quickly intimidated into buying a kit after that. Perhaps next year if I'm feeling more ambitious I'll do it the hard way.

Here's "before." I failed to get any pictures of kids working on the house because I was: A) Needed to closely supervise the effort and B) Covered in icing. Amelia is wearing her Cinderella outfit. It was last year's Halloween costume, courtesy of Great Grandma Himstedt who made it by looking at a Cinderella book after Amelia decided she wanted to be Cinderella "in her old clothes." We have gotten a lot of mileage out of that costume. (The other day she was wearing it and spilled her milk. As she was mopping it up with a rag she sighed, "Well, at least I'm in the right clothes for this job.")

Amelia squishes the icing bag, per gingerbread house directions.

Shannon squishes...

Elizabeth watches from her perch on the counter. She's officially six months old today!

Avery points out, "There's candy! I see it! Right thar!" (He just developed "thar" as a pronounciation. May as well talk like a country boy since he are one.)

The final product, good enough to eat.

After assembling that one I don't really think making one from scratch could be too much more difficult. It looked so easy in the directions. They just fail to mention things like, "This icing will quickly acquire the consistency of a pencil eraser, so work fast," or "Piping a thick line of icing down the center of the roofline to hold it together won't actually work. The icing and everything you put down that line will slowly sink like quicksand until it falls into the middle of the house. This will happen repeatedly until you figure out you have to cut a strip of cardboard out to plug the crevice and THEN put icing and decorations on top of that."

In spite of a few surprises, it was great fun and I think the kids did a good job. Now I wonder how long it will take for candies to start disappearing off the house...

Can we do a crazy picture?

Back to the rough night part of the story. Apparently James and I are raising an insomniac. For a just turned two year old, Avery seems to function well during the day with large parts of his nightly sleep missing. At least every third night he is out of the bed at 2 or 3 AM. He used to just wander around, now he comes downstairs, grabs the step stool out of the half bath, and uses it to climb up either into our bed or right next to it where his face is at my face, sucessfully SCARING ME HALF TO DEATH. He's not sleepy or stumbling around either, he is wide awake, and sending him back to his bed doesn't always work. Last night he was on one of his nightly treks, and woke us up as he was climbing into the bed between us, at 4:30 AM. This is after I had already taken care of Elizabeth, who at 18 pounds and 6 months old still can't seem to make it through the night without a 3 AM feeding. James told him to go back to bed, and at 5 AM he came down again. I went up with him and put him back in the bed. For the next half hour I keep hearing banging around upstairs. I go BACK up, put him back to bed with threats, and through my fuzzy sleep deprived brain continue to hear little footsteps off an on. Around 6 I go up again and grab him as he's coming out of Amelia's room with a toy (thankfully she and Ruth are still asleep), and bring him downstairs, plop him on pillows in our floor, cover him up, and he's asleep in minutes. At 6:30ish the rest of the crowd is awake, and he's not in our room anymore. The kid doesn't seem to need the sleep! I'm out of solutions. I keep thinking one day he'll either be one of those people who gets a ton of stuff done because he can go on four hours of sleep...or he'll just stay up way too late wasting time on the internet. Or whatever they'll have developed by the time he's an adult.

Speaking of staying up way too late, I'm going to bed. Hopefully to stay, with no interruptions. That would be great.

I leave you with this.

None of our other kids found their feet like this.

Toes. Yum!

November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving and family fun

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! I've been mostly away from my house (and my computer) since my last post. James finally returned from his Missouri hunting trip last Saturday (a week ago). Since the guy he rode back with lives near my folks, we met him there Saturday night after attending two birthday parties in Cleveland that day. We like to party. James had a great trip, and came home with meat for the freezer. He was hoping to kill a big buck, and though he saw a lot of them, he was bow hunting and never got one within shooting range. So we have deer to eat, just not a deer head to look at.

Sunday we had early Thanksgiving with my dad's side of the family at my Aunt Angela and Uncle John's house. We usually have it at my Granny and Pa Pa's (Dad's parents), but last year at New Years' Granny had a stroke and things haven't quite been the same. I think she was glad not to have it at their house this year, though it's sad for the rest of us to have to give up tradition and adapt to life's changes. She's doing pretty well considering what she's been through, though she definetely would like to be back to her old self. She asks us to keep praying for that to happen.

It was fun to get together with family. The MOST fun part was the family picture we took, with all 37 of us. It's always fun to get that many people to cooperate, especially when 8 of them are seven and under. I think we've added all 8 of those kids since the last time we did a big family photo. Guess that explains why it seemed so much harder this time! I hope at least one of them turns out good. I am always proud to be a part of the family God put me in. We had a prayer time where many were able to share their hearts and pray for fellow family members who are having issues with health or finances. That was cool.

James returned to Cleveland Sunday night, and I stayed at my folks' house in McDonough with the kids until Thanksgiving. Over the next few days we went to the Imagine It childrens' museum in Atlanta, visited my dad's office, hit a few consignment shops, saw family, and went to look at a horse that the media specialist at Strong Rock School wants to donate to camp.

A couple of goofballs at Imagine It.

Thursday we had Thanksgiving at my folks' house. James came back, bringing with him a few ducks from hunting that morning. He said he shot at the one duck that actually flew over him, but our friend Ryan gave him a few that others killed that morning. My Uncle Ned and Aunt Dawn also came, and they brought a friend from church and her 3 year old daughter who had a blast playing with my crew. My Nanny came as well. It was a feast, harkening back to the first Thanksgiving where they probably also ate duck and elk (which we had too, as my mom had thawed some from the freezer- makes pretty darned good kabobs!).

We headed home Thursday night and Friday morning James got Amelia up at 5 AM and took her hunting with him at the hunting club. She had been asking to go, so she got all camoed up and enjoyed herself in spite of the fact that they didn't see any deer until they were on the way out. Friday afternoon we went to Dahlonega to hang out with my brother and his wife and her family who were there from Florida. They spent the holiday at the house some of my family owns in Dahlonega. This morning James was going to give Shannon a turn hunting with him at the club, but it was raining at 5 AM so they skipped it. We went to yet ANOTHER Thanksgiving dinner today for lunch. My Granny's family has been getting together for nearly 40 years, four times a year. They are all originally from Cleveland so most of the reunions are held here, which makes it handy for us to attend. She is one of eleven, and I think it's really neat that they've always made a point to get together.

Tomorrow we're off to church, then Monday starts life as usual again until Christmas stuff kicks in. We'll probably drag out the Christmas decorations tomorrow too, especially since it looks like my riding lesson will get rained out. Bummer.

Here are Thanksgiving photos, for your enjoyment. Or ignorement. Of course, if you were going to ignore them you probably wouldn't be here reading this in the first place. Anyway...

These are from the Sunday before Thanksgiving Thanksgiving celebration.

My brother Jonathan, sister-in-law Lisa, and niece Jordan. Jordan will be a big sister in June. :)

My Aunt Angela, Dad's sister, whose house we were at on Sunday.

Here's the rest of her family, along with Granny and Pa Pa. My cousin Adam just got engaged this week, so that was happy news.

Granny playing with Elizabeth. Elizabeth kept doubling over to look at Granny's jacket from about three inches away like she just couldn't get enough of it.

My cousin Brooke and her husband Ben.

My cousin Ashley and her husband Michael. They will welcome their first baby in June.

Uncle Danny (my dad's brother) and Aunt Lynn's family with Granny and Pa Pa.

Uncle Doug (my dad's youngest brother) and my cousin Jesse.

Uncle Doug and Aunt Reda's family with Granny and Pa Pa.

Elizabeth with her second cousin Abi.

Amelia flashes her gang sign (?)

My mom and Avery.

A few from Thanksgiving day...

Uncle Ned (my mom's brother) and Aunt Dawn.

Shannon pretends Uncle Ned is his personal jungle gym/toy in true Shannon fashion.

Nanny (mom's mom) and Elizabeth. Nanny happily snatches up babies the second they make a peep so Elizabeth had some good attention on Thanksgiving.

And here are a few other random photos from the first part of the week at my folks' house...

Dad helps Avery play the piano. Amelia kept requesting for my dad to play so she could dance. I loved to hear my dad play while I was growing up. He had a grand piano that was just on the other side of my bedroom wall. Mom always wondered how I got to sleep while he was playing at night. So do I now, come to think of it!

She's not a real ballerina, she just plays one whenever possible.

I wish I had taken a picture of the audience she had lined up against the stair rail to watch her dance. There were a couple of dolls, a bunny, and an angel.

I took the doorway jumper with me because I figured Elizabeth was getting big enough to enjoy it. She loves it!

Whoa, look at this blue strap! Check it out, it's really a BLUE STRAP! Wow!

She went nuts bouncing when Dad played the piano. I think we have another music lover.

Well, now you know what I've been up to for the past week and a half. Let's see if there's anything else to note that I'll be interested in reading about in 20 years. Oh yeah-

While at my folks' house (this just made me laugh)- Shannon and Avery were shirtless, and Avery looks at Shannon and says, "Shannon has a little tummy." I said, "What about you?" He says, "I got a BIG tummy!" while rubbing it.

Today Amelia asked me, "What is an a-gay-sha?" Huh? "You know," she says, "Like a special a-gay-sha?" Occasion. It was occasion.

Elizabeth is about to cut a tooth. She has lumpy gums and was up, unhappy, several times last night. I hope things will be different tonight.

Earlier in the week Avery said he needed to go to the potty before bed. (Several weeks ago I was hoping he was starting to potty train. He's still just kidding around with me about it.) He said, "I want to ride the motorcycle potty. I want to ride it!" Shannon explained that Avery wanted to sit on the potty seat that goes on top of the regular seat that has handles on the sides for little kids to hold. Glad he could interpret, I wasn't aware of us having a motorcycle toilet in the house!

And those are the things I will care about in 20 years.


PS- Oh yeah, here's another thing James and Elizabeth did today.