Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Meeting Santa And Sharing Christmas Wishes

It's no secret that I think our Santa is the best Santa in the entire world! We've been visiting Santa at the Chick-fil-A near our old house since Bella was a baby, and he's always been incredible! Bella and Evelyn are just at that perfect age where both of them believe so completely that this is the real Santa, and his reindeer are on the roof of the Chick-fil-A. It's so fun to be a parent during Christmas!

Can you believe Bella is sitting on Santa's lap?! I love it!

Santa spent a solid 3 or 4 minutes with the girls, just talking to them about what they liked to do, how he fed his reindeer, and what they wanted for Christmas. It was so special to see them to engaged with him.

We were expecting this response from Henry, so it wasn't a big surprise...everyone just smiled along anyway! Except for Bella. She's definitely a big sister, so she kept looking at us like, "You see that he's crying, right? And you're just going to leave him there?"

The staff at CFA does a great job making sure each family feels special and has their time with Santa. We love them!

Christmas Wish List This Year: Bella wants an American Girl doll. She's been asking for one for about 3 months now, so we got one! Well, the Target version. Bella's not normally a "doll" person, so we're testing out the Target version until we see if she really likes them. Evelyn has been asking for make-up for forever (Whitney's daughter, Madeline, got a make-up kit a few years ago for her birthday, and somehow Evelyn has remembered!), but I keep having to remind Evelyn that Madeline is way older than she is, so she's probably not getting make-up this year. 

Getting Our Christmas Tree

We wanted to let the girls "pick" a tree this year, but we weren't feeling up for a long drive to a legit tree farm. (I'm pretty sure that's the very definition of first-world problems.) So, we found a middle ground and went to Pike's Nursery, where they have the trees in stands already. That way, the girls could see them up-close, but we didn't have to cut it down ourselves. 

They loved running up and down the aisles of trees! I think they were pretending to be explorers!

Bella actually stood still long enough for me to take her picture.

Standing in front of "their" tree. Evelyn kept saying, "Should we hug? Should we hug?", and Bella's reply was always, "EVE-lyyyyyyynnnnn!"

Family selfies are getting harder now that there's 5 of us. 

I may have been a little excited for our tree!

The little humans were quite as impressed...

I think this is the smallest tree we've ever bought, but it turned out to be so perfect for the space. Last year, the tree was a little big for our living room, so this worked out better! True story, when we first got it home and stood it up, I almost cried (Not the good kind of crying.) Fraser firs take awhile to spread out, and the tree looked so ugly. Thankfully, by the time we'd put on beads and lights, the branches has "lowered" a bunch!

All done and glowing! I love the wooden, red beads! They're a new addition, thanks to my friend, Andi!

December Shenanigans!

I'm only about 80% sure that I spelled "shenanigans" correctly, but here is my monthly dose of spastic, funny, and "real life" pictures.

Steve and I still aren't completely sure that the girls won't smother Henry one day. Or accidentally break his arm while trying to play "family".

My new piece of Christmas decor that reminds me of Whitney! (Because of their dog, Butters.)

Henry modeling his Yankees sweatshirt from Papa.

I may have already posted this one, but I couldn't resist her cheesy grin!

The girls get their own tree, so they can display all of their ornaments from Grandma and us! We're also a little white trash in this picture with a mattress in the background. It's being picked up soon!

Evelyn is definitely "all in" for Christmas this year, and it's fun to see her so engaged!

Henry supervised by trying to eat all of the ornaments.

Posing with their "sparkly" ornaments

Practicing some walking in the eye doctor's office.

Evelyn and I, sneaking in a little Starbucks date.

Our mantel this year. Our living room has really dim lighting, so it's not a great picture, but I love the greenery and all of the red!

Continuing with the theme of White Trash Christmas, the girls are actually tucked under the mattress pad that Mel is donating. This picture always makes me think of Charlie's grandparents sharing a bed in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Little Man, finally leaving his hat on during cold weather!

Steve and Evelyn at Breakfast at Bethlehem. This was Evelyn's first year to go, and she was so excited! She asked me, "Mommy, how does Daddy know how to get to Bethlehem?" I'm pretty sure there's a sermon in there somewhere.

My favorite corner of the house right now. Tall, red branches, and a beautiful picture of the kids!

Hope you're loving the start of December!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Henry's Eyes

In the background of normal life has been the ongoing concern over Henry's eyes. Steve and I first noticed a problem when he was about 8 months old. Every once in awhile, one of his eyes wouldn't track with the other one, especially when he looked at something that was any sort of distance. At his 9-month check-up, his pediatrician recommended we see a specialist. For the last few months, we've been back and forth to the doctor about 4 times. The specialist diagnosed Henry as having exotropia, meaning his eyes go out.

He prescribed a patch that Henry would wear one hour a day for 30 days. The doctor let us know that, for this particular condition, the patch either works or it doesn't; it's not like if we keep the patch on longer, that it keeps working better and better. We noticed an improvement with the patch, but not completely. At the end of October, we went back to the specialist and he told us that the patch works 100% in only about 1/3 of patients. For Henry, it just didn't work enough

Our next step was to wait and see. The specialist had us wait another month to see if Henry's eye muscles gradually strengthened on their own, or if they got worse. That was the hardest month for us. The first week that Henry didn't wear the patch at all, his eyes were crazy! Like chameleon crazy! We spent a lot of time laughing at his eyes and snapping to get hi to re-focus. The remaining three weeks, his eyes sort of plateaued - they (thankfully!) calmed down from that initial week, but we noticed them wandering multiple times a day, especially when he was tired. By the time we went back for our follow-up appointment at the end of November, Steve and I were both convinced that surgery was the only other option. We were really praying that the specialist thought so, too. 

We met with the eye doctor last week, and he felt that surgery was a definite next step! He walked us through the surgery, listened to any of our questions, and then answered his "Parents' Top Ten", which was really helpful, because it included things we hadn't even thought of. I then spoke to the Surgical Coordinator on the phone, and she was able to schedule us for surgery on December 17th. That was such a blessing, because we've met our insurance deductible this year, and were praying that we'd be able to do the surgery before the end of the year. So, thank you, Lord, for small, but meaningful answers to prayer!

What's our next step? We have a pre-op appointment this Wednesday, the 9th, to get Henry's eyes measured one more time, and sit down with the Surgical Coordinator face-to-face to discuss times, surgery prep, etc. We have an appointment with the pediatrician on Monday, the 15th for Henry's final "all clear" that he's healthy enough for surgery. Surgery will be early morning on the 17th, but we're still waiting for exact details. Our post-op appointment is on December 23rd. (Downtown...bummer.)

Whew! So, thank you so much to everyone who's been praying! I am the most nervous about his recovery, I think. My girlfriend told me to be prepared for when he's on the table and going under anesthesia; she said it's really emotional to watch them go limp and then have to walk away, so I'm not looking forward to that at all. The specialist also warned that the whites of Henry's eyes will be blood-red for the first few weeks following his surgery. But mostly, I'm nervous about his recovery and how that affects his life and his sleep. He's mostly weaned now, so nursing is not an instant calm for him anymore. That's really hard for a 14-month old, so that's my biggest prayer request - that Henry wouldn't feel pain, and would be able to feel as normal as possible following his surgery. 

Thanksgiving and Early Christmas In Ohio

Thanksgiving was in Ohio this year with Steve's side of the family. We had a great time! We stopped halfway at Matt and Julie's, and got to squeeze in some extra time with them. The week was filled with Grandma and Grandpa memories, cousin bonding, and lots of cookies! On Wednesday, we celebrated our Early Christmas, and the girls were so excited!

One of Steve's favorite moments was taking the girls on a walk through the back woods that he used to traipse through as a kid. He loves those woods, and loved getting to take the girls back to the places where he played.

Best idea ever...I ran to the Dollar Tree the night before we left and bought about 30 small gifts: one gift for each girl for each hour we were on the road (and a few thrown in for Henry). Then, Steve and I wrapped them and labeled them for what hour they should be opened. This step took a little bit of time, but it helped because we could make sure that they didn't open two "quiet" gifts in a row, or two pieces of candy. The girls loved it! (duh!) The downside is that it's hard not to make your children a little present-obsessed when they know they're getting 12 of them, but it helped make the trip much more enjoyable!

At Matt and Julie's, Henry got a little bonding time with Braden.

Scribbling on Aunt Julie's chalkboard wall!

Dressing up at Kraynak's, the best Christmas store ever! There are dozens of Christmas trees decorated in different styles, and the girls had a blast!

Grandma setting up all of the presents 

On the way home from church on Sunday, it snowed!

It wasn't exactly a blizzard, but the girls were really excited about catching snowflakes with their tongues!

Personal space means nothing when older cousins have video games!

Bella checking out her Christmas presents

Dressed head-to-toe as Princess Elsa...she couldn't be happier!

Henry got a bunch of Steve's trucks...he was very impressed!

Everybody checking out their loot.

Grandpa and Henry, getting some snuggle time in.

I got to take a break with this little guy. Look how cute he is!

Playing in their Christmas PJ's and reindeer antlers

Matching Christmas PJ's are the best!

A little bit of snuggle time with Great-Grandma Wires and Great-Grandma Ferguson

Heading out to the woods with the girls and Braden

I love holding this little girl's hand!

Of course, Bella's riding the tree like a horse!

Evelyn loved throwing leaves into the water. Or at least, close to the water.

That's a perfect family picture right there!

We ended our hike with playtime on the swingset. By the time we were done, both girls had fallen or bumped heads, and they were ready to go inside.

Back in her Elsa gear, sitting with Maddie, and playing a game. The outdoors are rough!

The kids table for our Thanksgiving feast.

The grown-up's table

The girls were still struggling with coughs and colds when we were there, so we gave them some strong cough medicine each night. I loved the pictures we took of them sleeping on top of each other! Adorable and hilarious at the same time!

Ohio wouldn't be complete with taking family pictures. Luckily, we had taken family pictures not too long ago, so we didn't feel pressure to dress or pose perfectly. 

Grandma and Grandpa with all the kids! And yay, Henry cooperated!