Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in Georgia

We left chilly Iowa after Eric got off work on the 23rd. We drove overnight and arrived at my grandparents home in Perry, Georgia about 7:00 am the next morning. After a family nap and showers, we were ready to enjoy a couple days with my family.

We just hung around Grandma and Grandad's on Christmas Eve. After the long car-ride, we were glad to see the weather was nice enough for a walk around the pasture and through the planted pines.

My two married brothers were spending Christmas Eve with their in-laws, so my grandparents, parents, Nathan, and my little family of four went over to my Aunt Jody's for chili and appetizers that evening.

We enjoyed a couple photo ops in front of the tree with the girls. Gabriela, as usual, was excited to hold her baby sister for the occasion. Lilian, as usual, was less than thrilled about the sitution. Both girls were equally concerned though when we got the great idea to toss them both into a giant stocking for pictures.

Papai Noel managed to find the girls in Georgia on Christmas morning. So we opened Santa gifts before heading back over to Aunt Jody's for brunch. Gabriela really got into opening presents. Her favorite gift of the morning was a remote control of her very own - which often doubles as her make-belive telefone. The enthusiasm shifted though when Grandma brought out a gift for her to open early. My child loves shoes. So brown and pink cowgirl boots from Grandma and Grandad made her a very happy kid!

My immediate family all made it to Perry before dinner, so we had our gift exchange then. The entire family, all 22 of us, were at Grandma and Grandad's for Christmas Dinner. Much food was followed by many presents with lots of laughter mixed in with it all.

A little Christmas Day photo session before we open presents.

Gabriela and Lilian are the only great-grandkids (unless you count Travis and Brii's en utero), so they get spoiled in a major way anytime we're around my family. Lilian gets held and cuddled and cooed over constantly. And Gabriela has a very captivated audience to entertain all on her own.

It was, as it always is, a fantastic Georgia Christmas. We then celebrated my first-ever annual 29th birthday on December 26th before leaving that afternoon to drive down to South Florida.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lilian - 3 Months

Dear Lilian,

A quarter of a year old on Christmas Day! What good times! And how has 1/4 of a year already passed since your birth?

After driving down to Georgia for Grandpa's retirement party and Thanksgiving, we turned around and did it all over again on the 23rd for Christmas. Our plan is to drive down to South Florida now after Christmas before making the journey back to Iowa in January. Your Papai and I are so thankful that you are proving to be a good car rider!
Your little personality has been developing so much this last month. You flash great big grins anytime someone is talking to you and have started to giggle on occasion. Your laughs are really throaty and almost sound fake - it's really cute and hopefully you'll let me catch it on camera one of these days.

You remain on the top of Gabriela's "favorite things" list. You have mixed emotions regarding her though, I'm afraid. She tries to be very gentle but inadvertently ends up bonking heads with you, stepping on your hand, or shoving the pacifier in your mouth just a little too hard. And then you roll out that bottom lip of yours. And you scream. Loudly. You've become known as "the drama queen" around here for your over-the-top antics. Given your normally super laid-back and ultra-chill demeanor and how quickly you can turn it to drama, you might have a job in Hollywood one of these days. Which would be great - we're not against you making us rich. ;)

Despite lacking anything resembling a routine in the nap department yet, you are a great little night-time sleeper and generally sleep from about 8:00 pm until 10:00 am waking sometime between 6:00 and 8:00 am to nurse. You're quite the cuddler and on weekdays you often stay in bed with me after our morning milk session since Papai is already up and getting ready for work then. Given that the rest of my day is pretty well split between you and your sister (with her demanding more of my attention at the moment), it is awfully nice to get some one-on-one cuddle time (even if you are asleep during it!)

You are having trouble stretching out your feedings to four hours, but since you already sleep all night I'm not really stressing over it. You tend to nurse every 3 hours or so and end up with five feedings each day rather than my preferred four...but we're getting along just fine that way. You are growing well and really filling out in your face - you've got some serious jowls now!

The last couple weeks you have turned into a complete slobber monster. I am pretty sure every bit of saliva you produce ends up on your chin and running onto your shirt. You have really got to work on the whole swallowing your spit thing...otherwise I'm afraid you might drown yourself one of these days!

Your last appointment was at 2 1/2 months. You weighed 10 pounds 12 ounces (25th percentile) and were 23.25 inches long (40th percentile).

You are our little cutie and we all enjoy you so much everyday. You are my daily reminder of how richly blessed I am!
Eu te amo,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Early Iowa Christmas

(I have a bunch of posts in the works...I only just now getting around to finishing/editing and posting them!)

Being that I'm from Georgia and Eric is from Iowa has it challenges some days. Besides the occasional language barrier, my rather persistent groaning about the never-ending winter, and a constant battle as to whether tea is meant to be brewed and sweetened or instant and disgusting (sorry but I do the writing here, I'm entitled to my opinion), there is the issue of the holidays. It's a little hard to do Christmas Eve with one side and Christmas Day with the other like my brothers and sisters-in-law do (although we did manage that in 2006!) So you can imagine our delight when Eric's sister in Florida, Tanya, announced that she and her four kids were coming up to Iowa for two weeks in early December. Eric's family decided to celebrate Christmas early while everyone was here! (Thereby freeing us up to journey down to Georgia for the 25th.)

Madison, the oldest grandchild and very much the "mother" of all the youngins', liked holding Lilian, the youngest.

We went up to Eric's parents' house both weekends that Tanya and the kids were in town. (Brian wasn't able to come since he was finishing up the school semester.) It was crazytown with all the kids: Madison (6), Kaylee (4), Hannah (2), Gabriela (20 months), Carson (3.5 months), AJ (3 months), Lilian (2.5 months). Yes that would make seven grandkids total under the age of 6, with two toddlers and three itty-bitty babies.

I should also mention that we had the great idea to take all the kiddos up to Sears Portrait Studio for a group picture. With no adults in it. Bless their hearts, the girls at the studio spent tons of time with us and did their very best. But here's the thing: it is impossible to get two toddlers to cooperate and three babies awake and not crying all at the same time. IMPOSSIBLE. We quickly realized that we were certifiably insane for even thinking that was a good idea. We agreed to try again later...once they're teenagers.

Lilian and Carson (5 weeks apart) spent lots of time smiling, laughing, and "talking" to each other.

The second weekend they were in town, we had a busy schedule: get together with some of the aunts and uncles at Tammy's house on Friday night, deer hunting on Saturday morning, Christmas on Saturday night. I ended up leaving before the festivities even began though.

Some of the family that got together Friday night at Tammy's

My very first doula client went into labor that day, so I high-tailed it back to Burlington Friday evening, supported her all night and day through a very long labor, came home Saturday at 6:00 pm after the baby was born, and (after eating my weight in pasta) slept for 14 hours straight. (For those who are wondering: it was a fantastic experience, left me in complete awe at the amazing miracle that is birth, and left no doubt that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now. A 30-hour labor (I was there for the last 20 hours) is exhausting and tough on everyone involved, but even that didn't deter my enthusiasm for this new venture!)

The baby line-up: Carson, AJ, Lilian, and Mary Jo (their second cousin)

Even though I wasn't there and I'm certain that the absence of their favorite daughter-in-law (I maintain that it's irrelevant that I'm the only one) was greatly felt, it sounds like everyone had a great time celebrating Christmas. Good food, good company, lots of toys was basically the report I got.

Nena and Papa with their grandkids on Friday night (late enough for half of them to be in pjs already)

I hated to miss out on the weekend, but was somewhat consoled by the fact that we were planning to be in Florida with Brian, Tanya, and the kids for several days after Christmas!

Gabriela tearing into her presents on Saturday night
(How impressive is it that Eric even got the girls into Christmas dresses all by himself?!?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

So Pitiful (but hilarious)

Gabriela is reaching that stage where she sometimes gets a little whiny. Sometimes she just sits and cries for no apparent reason. Sometimes that moment occurs while she's sitting on the toilet. Whenever and wherever it happens, she rolls that bottom lip out a mile and usually off to the side a little. It's equal parts pitiful and hilarious. To me anyway. :)

(And to those who know the difference, please excuse the grammar slip-up.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving in Georgia

I picked Eric up at the Atlanta airport on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving. We spent a few days with my folks in Colbert before heading down to my grandparents' home in Perry for Thanksgiving. We left Perry on Saturday evening and made an overnight drive (much easier for the girls if they can just sleep the whole 14 hour journey) back home.

The weather was fantastic our whole visit. We spent tons of time outside going on walks and sitting on the porch visiting. It was 79 degrees and sunny on Thanksgiving Day. Shortly after arriving back home to Iowa, winter set-in and most days it hasn't made it above freezing. I would like to officially make it known that I still do not like cold weather.

Anyhow, we had lots of fun hanging out with my brothers and sisters-in-law, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We ate our fill of turkey, ham, noodles, mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle, green beans, cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. I decided that as much as I loved preparing a Thanksgiving feast for friends the last two years in Brasil, you just can't beat going to Grandma's house and eating all her cooking! We watched lots of college football. We did some Christmas shopping. But the most fun of the week was finding out that my brother, Travis, and his wife, Brii, are expecting a baby in May! And we are super excited about that!!! Although I'm not sure if Gabriela and Lilian are prepared to share the attention. Since they are the only kids on my side of the family, they totally love the audience they have when we're in Georgia. I suspect they'll enjoy a cousin too though. :)

The girls hanging out with Momo and Grandpa

Gabriela accompanying Tio Justin on the piano.

And then helping out Uncle Travis (If she gets any musical talent at all, we can attribute it to Justin and Travis . . . Eric and I possess NONE!)

Gabs taking a break after helping Grandad pick up pecans. (She loved that job! She had so much fun out in the yard with Grandad and actually did a really good job finding and picking up the pecans.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dad's Retirement Celebration

Dad getting up to defend himself a bit after everyone's remarks. :)

The girls and I drove down to Georgia on Wednesday, November 17 so that we could surprise my dad and attend his retirement reception the following day. (Eric stayed back home to work, but flew down Saturday to spend Thanksgiving with my fam.) My brothers were the only people who knew we were coming, so it was fun to see the reaction from all the rest of the family too!

A group shot of all the family in attendance

After 31 years with the University of Georgia Extension Service, Dad decided to officially retire and then hire back on part time for a while. Despite only being 53 years old, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a couple years ago. Mom still knows everybody and if you were to casually meet her you wouldn't necessarily know anything was wrong. (You'd probably just think she was a bit eccentric.) But she is getting to the point where she depends on Dad to do pretty much everything for her, and she can't be left home alone too much anymore. So after lots of contemplation and prayer, Dad decided he needed to retire so that he could devote more time to Mom's care.

Grandpa looking awfully proud to have his granddaughter there! (Gabs was getting a little tired though.)

There was a committee of Dad's colleagues that put together an awesome retirement celebration, and I was so glad I was there for it! Along with comments from a couple coworkers, they asked my Grandad, Aunt Jody, and my little brother, Justin, to make some remarks on behalf of the family. Everyone had lots of stories to tell and gave Dad a pretty hard time! Justin did a great job representing my other two brothers and me and cracked everyone up with his speech, so I will share it for anyone who would like to watch.

My brothers have been picking on Dad a bunch about being retired. His facebook page has included questions as to whether or not he is now sporting black socks with mandals (men's sandals) while driving the speed limit in the left lane with his right blinker on en route to his favorite fishing hole. I enjoy the opportunity to tease him about being an old grandpa these days, and an old retired grandpa at that! (Although if we were to be real honest, we are all hoping to be able to retire at 53...admittedly we'd prefer if it wasn't because our spouse has Alzheimer's though.)

My Grandad was happy to have his first granddaughter there too, I think. :)

Besides my mom, brothers and sisters-in-law, grandparents, aunts, and some cousins, there was a huge turn out of extension service colleagues for the party. Dad has had a great career with the UGA Extension Service and is greatly respected by those he worked with. He makes me awfully proud to be his daughter!

Lilian kept a close eye on Mr. Marable, the photographer of the evening. (And thanks to Blane Marable for letting me share these pictures!)