February 10, 2011

More presents and snow

Before the worst of Barforama Week at the Himstedts hit, we had fun playing with new toys. Tuesday after getting home from Texas Monday night was like Christmas morning all over again, since the last time they had seen most of the toys was after they opened them in the hospital conference room.

Shannon enjoyed building vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

Shannon and Daddy built this.

Somewhere at my folks' house there's a picture of me around this age making this exact face while coloring Easter eggs.


Then there was the rest of the week, which much to your relief I will refrain from discussing again.

Mom and Dad helped us bring in the new year with a few more gifts, some from them, some from great aunts and uncles and great grandparents we missed seeing over the holidays.

Another bow! Yes!

Grandad and Amelia, exhausted from all the unwrapping.

I love presents!

A kid that gets actually gets excited about clothes for Christmas.

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Trashmas!

Opening presents was a fun way to bring in the new year. After putting the kids to bed we chatted until midnight, watched the Times Square ball drop on the internet, thanked the Lord we weren't there in person, and went to bed.

This gift was from Aunt Reda and Uncle Doug to Avery. A giant angry/confused/dismayed/upset/goofy bowling set! Incidently these are some of the same faces I make when I go bowling.


James got us some technology updates for Christmas, including an internet ready Blueray  DVD player. We can now get Netflix on demand.

He also replaced my car stereo. The factory CD player quit working about three years ago after eating a CD. "Error," it said. Duh, it ate my CD.  The radio part still worked fine though, so we never bothered replacing it.

It was a bit disconcerting to see my car like this. He saved enough money by buying it and installing it himself to make it worth the hassle.

Or so he thought until hour two, or was it four? Here he is on the phone with his personal tech support, Curtis D. One trip to Best Buy for a wiring harness later it was working. Except for a loud popping noise when it comes on (James says it needs another part of some kind- at least he knows what it is!), and no ability to turn the sound all to the front speakers it's perfect. I'm proud of my man for tackling the unknown yet again and learning something new. You know, he really is quite useful. He picked a nice stereo too, now I can plug the iPod directly into my stereo and can even charge my phone with it.

Changing gears, here's one of those things that can happen when it gets quiet in the house and you notice you've heard nothing from the two year old for awhile.

A pedicure with Amelia's nail polish!

Yes, I did it myself. Don't be jealous of my skill. (Or my 80's leotard.) And don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

Nicely done. Unbelievably she didn't spill a drop or get it anywhere but on her toes.

It reminds me of another young lady at the age of three...

If you value your make up at all and you have a preschool age princess in your home, lock it up! (The make up, that is....)

 Gimme a smooch!

The next week (January 10th) we had snow. There had already been one snow in Georgia, but it was while we were gone to Texas. North Georgia got the first white Christmas anyone could remember. This one was fun, it lasted all week because it stayed cold. We actually still had snow where it had been piled up off the roads  for THREE weeks. Unheard of.

Fun stuff!

The road into camp.

James clearing off the windshield of his truck. For Georgia it was pretty substantial.

The night before, James brought both of our vehicles down the hill and parked them on the camp road. His pointed out towards the highway, mine towards the barn. After taking care of horses in the snow for a week it gave me a new appreciation for folks who own livestock in places where it snows all the time.

The Lodge.

By the lake.

We drove out to the barn the first morning to take care of the horses and toodled around camp. Then we came home for some sledding...sort of. We had no sleds. Wal-Mart and the local hardware stores sold out in a matter of hours when everybody started to take the threat of snow seriously.

So we improvised with lids off of 55 gallon Rubbermaid trashcans.

The trajectory and direction of a round sled isn't always predictable.

Once we wore a path down the driveway and got it packed we could zoom pretty good. But we also had a secret weapon.

WD-40, baby.

Sometimes you get dumped off. Like every other run.

Amelia, Shannon, James, and I had a blast. The younger two didn't want to slide, they wanted to go inside and warm up and watch a movie. That suited me since they're higher maintenance with this kind of stuff, and so we slid and busted our rears in peace.

We tried using the barn shovel. Don't worry, it's the one we use for clean shavings, not for shoveling poop. At least not all the time. We didn't have too much success with it, however.

A nicely staged wreck, complete with a broken hip and a snowy hat. The shovel always quit on you too slow for it to actually be called a wreck. We recommend trashcan lids and WD-40 any day.

Old timers around here say if snow is on the ground more than three days you can expect another snow to come. It came last night...but only stayed for about two hours after the sun came up today. Does that negate it's former obligation? As much fun as it is to play in the snow, I'm ready for some sunshine and swimming. Two weekends ago it got up to 64 and I felt like a new person after soaking up some warm rays. Riding horses two days in a row didn't hurt either. I had to nix the pleas to play in the hose, though they begged and begged.

That's all for this post, since the rest of the photos are still on the camera.

Coming soon, kind of: The snowman/woman we built after the snow got melty enough, delayed Christmas celebration with family, a birthday, and more...I think. I can't remember. Until next time...

February 5, 2011

It's still Christmas

Perhaps I can drag this Christmas post out through February. The gift that keeps on giving!

So anyway, back to Austin. Although we couldn't hold Voa, we could feed her. There weren't supposed to be more than four folks in her room at any one time, but they let us bend the rules a bit. We took turns visiting her, hanging out in the waiting room, and spending time at the Ronald McDonald house.

As an update on Voa, she spent a month at home but was readmitted week before last. She has an infection again, so they once again removed her shunt and are running another two weeks of antibiotics before they try again with the shunt. They are hoping to put another shunt in a few days. Our constant prayers have been with her and Laura and Jared. I can't imagine the patience, faith, and perseverance it requires. They're getting to know this place pretty well.

Dell Children's Hospital. Right across the street is the Ronald McDonald House where we got to stay. This picture was taken from our balcony, so it really is a convenient place for parents of sick kids to stay, or kids who are undergoing continuous treatments.

Here it is, and not even shaped like a french fry!

The front yard.

A fiberglass replica of Mr. McDonald himself. Seriously, how did people take him seriously as an entrepreneur?

The suites are very functional. The floor is stained concrete, and there is a front room with a pull out sofa. They stained it on purpose, by the way.

The bedroom has a bed, TV, computer, and side tables. There's a community laundry room down the hall, and when you leave they ask you to wash your linens and clean the room.

Downstairs there's a play room for younger kids. Upstairs is a game room with a huge screen and Nintendo, movies, and there are also pool and foosball tables. (Completely off the subject, but recently I heard foosball described as soccer meets shish kabobs.) :)

Downstairs is a kitchen with refrigerators and pantries you can keep your stuff in. There's a community one as well which anyone is welcome to eat out of. Every day for lunch and dinner different volunteers bring in meals. Parents that miss meal times can get leftovers out and heat them up whenever they get there. What a great ministry opportunity. There's a Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta we wish there was some way to get involved with.

This is a gingerbread village someone had brought in for the holidays. The whole place was decorated and everyone staying there was so well taken care of.


Mimi and Papa stayed at Jason's place but we all hung out here when we weren't at the hospital.

Christmas morning the tree was overflowing! It was all we could do to keep our kids out of it, since we only cousins of the one in the hospital. Still at every turn whether here or at the hospital it seemed someone was handing them a toy. They wanted to know if we could come back next year.

Meals really were abundant and plentiful. Christmas morning and afternoon were sights to behold.

Christmas morning before heading back over to the hospital.

Yeah, yeah, when can we open the presents?

Because of logistics with family living both in Atlanta and Texas we have never had a Christmas morning at our own house. This was completely new though- Christmas morning in a hospital conference room. It was nice of them to let us use it so Voa could be a part of the celebration.

Oh Christmas house plant, oh Christmas house plant, how lovely are your branches. We borrowed the teeny tree out of Voa's room.

The loot. We've never promoted Santa Claus with our kids, but Shannon still told us "Santa brought the presents and left them in our car." What a thoughtful guy.

This display was in the room so naturally I read up. I'm pretty proficient with an epidural now. Anybody need one? Call me.

Uncle Jason and Elizabeth.

Aunt Jeni and the gang.

Voa joined us in a red wagon. She was awake for approximately four minutes. (Kinda like our kids' first Christmases.)

Okay, enough with the photos already, bring on the stuff!

Daddy Jared and his favorite Christmas present ever.

A very good gift in this one's opinion. He's a Lego/K'nex building fool these days.

The stockings made it from Georgia to Texas, but not from Azle to Austin, so we improvised stockings.

Elizabeth definitely understood presents this year.

No more being satisfied with the just the boxes and paper.

Why are feather dusters considered glamorous? I've always wondered.

Last Christmas Mimi requested a photo calendar. It seemed like a reasonable repeat for this year.

I got the coolest thing from Mom H., the first year of my blog in a book! It's been a real hit since we've been home too. The kids pick it up every day, especially Elizabeth.

Mom H. got Jared a photo mug....and Jared got her one too!

Hey y'all.

Mimi got all of our kids' stockings when they were born, thus starting a family trend. This one is complete in Baylor green and gold. (Hung by the IV with care...)

WHY are Transformers so difficult? I haven't met a kid under the age of 12 yet that can make it transform properly. Every time one of our boys brings me one I point to the man of the house and say, "Remember? Not Mommy's gig." I figure the less I know about how to do it the less responsibility I'll have. That's what's meant by ignorance being bliss.

Partway through the festivities Voa's nurse hunted her down for a check up and more antibiotics. I think we asked if we could use the conference room for an hour or so...which turned into closer to three. Thanks nice Dell Children's Hospital staff!

 Laura and Jeni.

 Sorry Jared, not sure that's gonna fit you.

 Jason and Dad. H., probably discussing the finer points of transforming a robot into a vehicle.

Mimi picked up a book at Women of Faith, "The Boy Who Changed the World." Great story, great message.

We were grateful for the wagons parked everywhere we could borrow. It was long haul back to the car, especially with a two year old at the helm.

Christmas Day Grandma and Grandpa Lee and cousins Krista and Sharon drove up from San Antonio. It's always great to see them.

 Grandma Lee and Mimi.

Looks like Grandpa Lee is reading her a book. She's actually reading to him.

 Papa and Elizabeth share a poignant moment over a ballerina.

 Aunt Jeni made the kids cute little owls for Christmas. In her spare time in the waiting room she worked on some other projects.

 Watch and learn, Amelia. The most sewing know-how you'll gain from me is putting a button back on. (And you can't look at the tangle on the other side when I'm done.)

Here's WALL-E the robot under construction.

Passing the time in the waiting room with some Legos.

 There was a garden/courtyard on every level. It was all I could do to keep Elizabeth from going swimming, at least from her hands to her shoulders.

The boys wanted bows for Christmas so we obliged them with beginner/non-sharp pointed arrow ones. The courtyard was a great practice place.

 Ready, aim, hope someone doesn't come out the door, FIRE!

Meanwhile I keep hearing "Cannonball!!"

 Back inside we all did the only thing we could do for Voa. Food!

 And more food.

Elizabeth kept highjacking Voa's toys and books. 

Laura got several gift baskets and things volunteers had brought to the hospital in the spirit of Christmas. This one had a handmade card in it.  

 Touching, truly touching. Laura laughed until she was nearly crying.

We stayed in Austin Christmas night, then headed back to Azle on Sunday. Dad H. had to head back Christmas day so he could be at church on Sunday, so Mom H. rode back with us. We borrowed my parents' Suburban for the trip (which was wonderful, as it's got room for luggage in the back, unlike our Expedition), but it has one less seat than ours. I wedged myself between the two booster seats in the back and behind what seemed to be a 10 foot high pile of luggage and coats. It's a wonder I'm not still there, but they were able to dig me out and unwedge me somehow.

We just had one short night back at Mimi and Papa's.

Bright and early Monday morning we were heading east again. It was a LONG day, but again thanks to DVD players and liberal leg stretching stops we made it home in time to toss kids in the bed. Time with family is always too short.

The next week at home is a week that will live in infamy. We were planning a quiet week, ending with a delayed Christmas celebration with my family at our place over the following weekend. Tuesday night started the Barforama. From the hours of midnight to five AM I changed bedding (no kidding) NINE times between Elizabeth and Avery, and used over half a bottle of carpet cleaner. What is it about carpet that triggers the acute need to hurl? The next morning Elizabeth was better but Avery dragged around most of the day. 

Thursday I was getting ready for my family to come since it looked like by then we were in the clear, so I headed off to WalMart (thankfully alone) to finish some shopping. Around Aisle 12 the unmistakable feeling hit. Either I too had contracted the plague or I was about seven weeks pregnant. I'm sure the nice people in the WalMart bathroom were thanking me for the concert coming from the white throne in the next stall, but I was just grateful to have made it there at all. I wondered later had I yakked in the cart could I have gotten the items for free?

I hurriedly checked out, abandoned a prior plan to grocery shop at Publix, and fervently wished I could teleport myself the 35 miles home from Gainesville. Thank goodness for it being a holiday week and no one was at work at the real estate office whose parking lot I had to hurriedly pull into about halfway home. Thank goodness for James being home too. I curled up in a ball on the bed and had been there no more than an hour when I hear Shannon at the table...yep, you guessed it. Then Amelia, about an hour after that. It was unreal. I was very proud of James, the sympathy barfer, who managed somehow while I was incapacitated. Sixteen hours later (which is how long I was in the bed) I was feeling a little more myself. James was feeling like he had a target on his head, as five of the six of us had been attacked.

Wow, I am now actually on paragraph four about vomit and still going strong! There's so much more to tell! (Gotta preserve the good, bad, and the ugly for future generations to read. I dare not deprive them of this.) Anyway, we survived somehow. Needless to say we did not have our full Christmas celebration with my family, as Jonathan and Lisa's girls were just getting over some other illness and they were gun shy. And with good reason...because Saturday it finally got James. While at Chris and Jill B.'s house. (We're still sorry about that too guys! Considering the fact that you're still willing to hang out with us after the rug debacle we'll  conclude that the friendship runs deeper than we had imagined...) :)

My folks did come over Friday night for dinner, during the calm before Saturday's storm. Did they end up with it? Why yes, they did! Thankfully not until they were back home though. Highly contagious, highly disgusting, but thankfully fairly short-lived. No one on the Texas end got it, so I imagine we picked it up in one of those lovely gas station bathrooms along the way home. Even in spite of the fact that I all but made the kids drink hand sanitizer for fear of that very thing. Oh well!

The number of photos I have to yet to post is huge. I will attempt to get January finished before February ends, though at this point it isn't looking hopeful.

Farewell until next time, where I promise an in-depth monologue about belching or some other enthralling topic. Any requests?