Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas

Christmas Blessings from our family to yours!
Steven, Blair, Mary Clare, Elizabeth, Steven, Thomas, and Babygirl!

Monday, December 23, 2013

On Christmas Eve's Eve

I'm listening to four sleeping children and the heater here in my sister-in-law's garage apartment. It's a peaceful place to be, one big loft room for our family. The kids have had some fun times with their cousins and are looking forward to two more days of family celebrations and the mass of the Nativity.

But my heart is restless. I don't do so well in Houston without Steven here. It's one thing traveling with four children and staying with family when you have your husband to help, but doing it alone and seven months pregnant makes me near breaking point. Add in a bunch of complications relating to medications and pharmacies, some illness and other family issues that keep our lodging plans changing by the minute, and I'm emotionally and physically exhausted.

I knew it would be challenging using an OB in a different city from where we live, but I didn't realize just how hard it would be. We're now recognizing that we'll probably need to fork out the money for an apartment or extended stay hotel while I wait for the baby's arrival. And then I'll still be left alone with the children during the week, worried about going into labor while Steven is working four hours away. I would feel better if I knew my body could make it to the 39 week mark where they can schedule a c-section, but with my history, unfortunately it is quite unlikely. 

And so although this Advent has had us away from home, away from Daddy, and away from all the experiences and traditions I'd like to be doing with the children, what we are experiencing is similar to the journey of the Holy Family. We are going from home to home, awaiting the birth of a new baby. We don't know where we will be staying (hopefully not in a stable!) or how it will all come about (hopefully with Daddy there and family to care for the children), but ultimately we know that God is in control. I pray He will lead us to His will in this time of anxiety and confusion. 

And I'll share a few iPhone photos from the past days. 

Playing with the Army men for his (postponed) birthday party. Patiently awaiting Daddy's nighttime arrival so we could celebrate. 

A late dinner to celebrate our 6 yr old! Finally his presents!

Binoculars and the wooden pop gun he's been wanting for months

He was ready for bed at this point but was a pretty good sport to humor Mommy by wearing the sombrero and being serenaded by the restaurant staff!

Since the party with his best buddy was postponed, we let him pick something special to do the next day. He chose laser tag! But he wasn't tall enough at the first place we went. So we had to brainstorm and drive around until finally we found another laser tag option with a lower height limit, and that place allowed Tommy to go in too. What an adventure!

Daddy had afternoon plans with a friend, so the girls and Tommy stayed back with me at the friends' house. They are in the middle of preparing for a big children's play with the homeschool group, so we all had fun with costumes galore!

And it looks like they enjoyed wooden blocks while we were there, I believe Ellie took this photo :)

After Sunday mass we went out to eat again, to a wonderful pizza place. Tommy slept through most of lunch!

But finally awoke for a bit of pizza and ice cream!

Movie time with cousins!

And in desperation tonight I took the kids on a drive to see the Christmas lights in River Oaks. Unfortunately they seem unimpressed with lights, which is sad because it was such a fun tradition of my childhood! Oh well. 

Hope your families are making some happy memories and that the coming days are filled with joy and wonder. May we all encounter the tender love and mercy of the Newborn King!

Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Happy Birthday, Steven Joseph!

I can hardly believe that our little man is six today! It's currently 4:30am and he's just fallen back asleep after waking with what appears to be croup. Hopefully it's just a little cold and my doTerra essential oils will help him sleep well. The girls used to get croup often when they were little but I'm not sure Steven has had it, and how sad it would be to be sick on his birthday!  Sickness has been rampant in our groups of friends, but we haven't really been around anyone this visit so far, just resting at my parents' house. We have a party planned with his best buddy here tomorrow, so please offer a prayer for my little man for quick healing! And for Daddy to have safe and quick travels to Houston this morning. 

Happy Birthday, Mom!
Steven shares his birthday with my mom. We're staying here at their house, which can tend to get a bit crazy with four children, a home based business, and two grandparents who are used to a strict schedule and a quiet house. I hope we're not dealing with sick kids over the next few days, and hope we don't pass anything to her. We'll pray for a joyful birthday and health for both my mom and Steven Joseph! Hope this year is a great one, NeNe! You are so loved by all of us, but especially each of your grandkids!

We survived last weekend! First we had Steven's company Christmas party at our house on Friday night. There were about 20 guests, a great Mexican food meal, and even a raffle (hence the big cooler in the photo). We even had our first fire in the fireplace! Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening. 

Then the family came! Steven's mom, two sisters, and niece arrived Saturday afternoon, just in time for Ellie's piano recital. It was held at a nursing home down the street, and she played "Angels We Have Heard on High" and two Nutcracker songs. It was a nice little recital. Afterwards, we had a little time to rest, eat some leftovers from the party, and then it was show time! Steven took his family to the late performance and I stayed home with the boys. Then we attended mass Sunday morning, visited a bit at the brunch afterwards, and then his family headed back to Houston and we headed off for their last performance! 

At the piano recital...

Farewell, Nutcracker season!
It was such a special year for the girls, joining a new ballet company and being cast as Party Girls. The many rehearsals and six performances were tiring but fun, and the girls were so sad when it was all over. They enjoyed every minute of it all! I'll have some better photos from my camera to share when we're home, but here are my phone pictures...

Me and my girls before the last performance

I found this photo below on Facebook. I think it's from the first weekend. Both the girls danced beautifully and were so animated with their acting! Ellie really hammed it up as she was always right in the front following Clara around and and throwing in some leaps and other moves around the stage. Mary Clare also did a lovely job, even in that one performance where she didn't feel well. We are so proud of them!

I watched the last show with Steven Joseph (photo from Take 1 above), and the girls joined us at intermission on the balcony. There was a cast party afterwards which we assumed would have some snacks, but it actually included a full Italian dinner catered by Johnny Carino's, plus a delicious cake! We were all very hungry, so we were grateful for the spaghetti and lasagna that night!

And here are the kids walking to the car, all bundled up. It was always so cold outside the auditorium, since it is right next to the bay. In fact, we park on a shipping dock area! We will have lots of fun Nutcracker memories to treasure. 

After a day of rest, the kids and I left on Tuesday morning to drive to Houston for the Christmas holidays. The kids got right to work, helping NeNe and PaPa with their giant tree!

I was so happy to be able to attend the baby shower for my old homeschooling group on Tuesday night. There were seven moms honored, and I was so glad to be included. Each mom (plus one to donate to a mom in need) is gifted with a laundry basket that the guests fill with little baby items like diapers, blankets, booties, and books. We had time to visit, ate wonderful snacks, and prayed a rosary together. I really enjoyed being together with all these friends again; I miss them so much! And receiving some tangible gifts for the baby has made this start to feel real! I can't believe I could be holding our little girl in about two months!

Speaking of our baby girl, I had a good 28 week appointment on Wednesday. I had yet another little symptom that warranted a quick peek at baby (and confirmation that all is fine!), and some wonderful 4D images!

My mom found this photo of Ellie at around a month old. Similar facial features, right?  Looks like she has the little button nose and big lips!

Well, since I've written this post twice now (iphone ate the first one), the coughing birthday boy is sleeping somewhat soundly, and it's nearing 5:30am, I guess I'd better go back to sleep and prepare for whatever will come today. Hopefully it's a fun birthday for SJ and my mom. Thanks for your prayers for them, and may these last days of Advent be peaceful and fruitful (and healthy, please God!) as we await the celebration of Christ's birth!

See links to many more quick takes over at Conversion Diary!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Walt Disney World 2013, Day 4--Epcot

Day 4 was our day at Epcot.  It started with an early wake-up to make it for the Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests.

Here we are waiting for the bus.

Watching a different park bus drive away.

And we arrive at Epcot!

We went straight over to The Land for the Soarin' Ride so that Steven could take the big kids before the lines got long.  Thomas and I got some breakfast plates there at the Sunshine Seasons counter service restaurant.  The others joined us soon after and then I went to ride Soarin' with the girls, while Steven took the others to Livin' With the Land.

After that we went on the Nemo and Friends ride and then to the Turtle Talk show.  It was really enjoyable!  You sit in a room with a big screen and the cartoon characters actually talk to the audience, like a little comedy show.  It's amazing technology.

Then we walked through the different aquarium areas there at The Living Seas area.

Here was a cast member feeding some lionfish.

The Nemo shark!!!!

Next we headed straight to the Character Spot, and only waited in line about 10 minutes to meet Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie.  We were surprised that Mary Clare was the one insistent on meeting the characters.  Then we realized it was because she gave them each a Rainbow Loom bracelet.  How thoughtful!

High Fives for Mickey!

Or maybe not.

A hug to thank her for the bracelet.

I'm amazed that the characters can actually sign autographs with such big costumes!

Thomas actually stood with the kids for this one!

And he was very engaged with Minnie!  I guess it just took a few characters for him to warm up!

Next on the agenda was TestTrac for Steven and the big kids, which was definitely a favorite.  It's some kind of race track thing, and everyone loves it.

Meanwhile Thomas and I went to explore the Innovations buildings.  There was a show going on with real firefighters.

At this point, we decided it was time to start making our way around the World Showcase.  Mary Clare took most of these photos and iPhoto won't let me straighten them, but you'll get the idea!


Norway, where we enjoyed the Maelstrom ride.



We made lunch reservations at Via Napoli in Italy.  Thomas slept for most of lunch in his stroller and they were very accommodating, giving us a spot where we could park the stroller.

Salad, bread, and dipping oil.

My white pizza, half eaten :)

I think this was Ellie's pasta

And Steven's gelato.
Overall, the food was great at Via Napoli, but it did take quite a long time to wait for a table (even with reservations), order our drinks and meals, and then desserts.  The sit-down restaurants are definitely time-consuming, and it was hard on this day because we scheduled two of them, and also went back to the hotel for a long break.  We walked around the countries but didn't get to explore them, so we were a little disappointed.  But resting mid-day is so important with small kids (and pregnant moms) if you want to stay at the park through the firework show!


Looking across the water towards Spaceship Earth


Taking a break while walking around towards the front of the park

At this point we headed back up to the front and I took the kids on Spaceship Earth (fun ride!) while Steven sat with sleeping Thomas.

We rested at the hotel and then came back a couple hours later and rode Spaceship Earth and Soarin' again.

The United Kingdom

While Steven, Steven, and Ellie were on Soarin', Mary Clare, Thomas and I went back towards France to sign in for our dinner reservation at Chefs de France.

It was a good dinner, although I'm not sure we were hungry enough for the amount of food and desserts that evening!  Here Steven and MC are eating her creme brulee! 

Then we walked out to enjoy the Epcot firework and laser show, before calling it a night.  Another fun Disney day, with only one casualty...Ellie's hat which we walked around looking for that night to no avail.

Epcot was definitely a favorite and one that would probably be better experienced over two days.  There are great rides in the Future World at the Front, and so much to see in the World Showcase.

We have one more day of our vacation to share...the last day at Magic Kingdom is up next!
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