1. Sitting with Layla in my lap feeling her soft cloud puff of hair against my face and feeling her happily walk her fingers on my arm, from my shoulder down to my wrist and then back up to my neck.
2. Holding a relaxed but alert Caroline on my shoulder, with her head warm and soft and bumping gently against my jaw and cheek as she looks around with wide eyes.
3. Zion scrunching his little nose happily when he asks me a question he already knows the answer to, just because he wants to hear me say it.
4. Israel's wide-eyed happy exuberance and innocent joy.
5. Gabe's gentle and shy hugs, and the way he sometimes grabs me and hugs me tightly when I don't expect it and how I'm always startled by how wiry and boy-ish he is, instead of childish, and how his hands don't feel soft any more, but harder and more grownup and it's kind of bittersweet.
Things that make me happy:
1. The feel of a cold, wet cat nose against my nose, and the whispery fluff of cat fur on my cheek. I never thought I would ever get to have a cat again since Tim is allergic to them, but a stray cat adopted us this summer and we warmed up to her and she warmed up to us and now she mostly lives in the house after TIM basically invited her in because he was worried about her getting cold (!!!) and we think she is pregnant and we're all excited about kittens and she is so friendly and cuddly. And Tim went and got on Singulair and now the cat doesn't bother his asthma at all and he loves her and keeps telling me that Kitzi is such a good cat. :) I consider this a direct gift from God to me for us to actually get to have a cat. :)
2. A hot bath in the tub with the whirlpool jets running. Heavenly bliss. This often feels like my solitary break in the day...my luxury.
Things that have been very hard this month:
1. Caroline got hit pretty hard with RSV which caused bronchospasms that caused a very scary cough. When a chest xray seemed to show a change in her heart size, the pediatrician sent us up to A.I. Dupont Children's Hospital that night for them to evaluate her, and also to check her for possible pertussis. I was honestly terrified that she had pertussis, and it was a massive relief to find out that she did not, and that her cough that mimicked a pertussis cough exactly was just bronchospasm, and that albuterol helped immensely. Praise God. The chest xray ended up to be a fluke, but it was discovered that she did have two viruses at once - RSV and rhinovirus, and so the month of December involved very little sleep for her parents, as her stuffed nose and cough kept her up into the wee hours of the night for weeks. She was actually not diagnosed with bronchospasm until we came home and she was continuing to do her heart-stopping cough where she would cough and cough and cough and seem to run out of air and turning red and this thick mucus would be coming out of her mouth and her head would be lolling and she would be struggling to breathe in and this would be going on for over a minute. Terrifying, I tell you. I called our pediatrician a little before midnight that first night back in tears, because SOMETHING was not right, and she surmised what might be happening and told me to give her nebulizers every four hours to prevent it, and it helped enormously, but meant nights camped out on the couch with Caroline directly underneath a cold mist humidifier, ready to scoop her up and out if she started coughing, and with my alarm set for the nebulizer.
2. At the same time all of this was going on, Layla started doing this thing in the middle of the night where she would wake up disoriented and probably having to pee but not understanding it yet. She would throw massive and long temper tantrums in the middle of the night - say, 4-5 AM. Overwhelming and so frustrating and confusing to know how to best handle them. Tim and I would tag team in the middle of the night where he would go out to sleep on the couch to watch Caroline and I would go back with Layla. Then, she also started doing them with the onset of bedtime, and everything was a struggle: to get her into pajamas, to get her to stay in bed without one of us there, to get her to lay down. And then she would basically scream her head off in outrage until she fell asleep. This also for weeks.
With these two things, you can understand how Christmas felt like something to survive this year. I really tried to keep my expectations low in terms of Christmas-activities-to-accomplish, because I love to do all the "things". I made party mix and molasses crinkles early in the month...and that was about that. I got the tree up after repeated impatient begging from Israel (the boys were so cute and hyper and excited and racing around the house. They eagerly helped me lift things down from the attic and put the ornaments on themselves.) and I got Christmas shopping done and wrapped everything all at once the night before our Christmas. The boys also put up the little Christmas village in the window and arranged it just so and cut out stars and a moon (and later sun and clouds) to hang up at the top of the window and it looked so neat and I wanted to get a picture but didn't.
I feel like just as memorable as Christmas is, for me, almost more memorable is my Christmas wrapping experiences of the past few years. A few years ago, Zion was two and still often up late and finally I gave up and wrapped all but his gifts with him there, and he "helped" by putting tape on the wrapped presents. :) And then last year I had another mega-wrap night the night before our Christmas, and the boys were warned to stay in their room and not come out, and Tim helped me wrap after I begged him to and he did just a staggeringly impossibly terrible job (HA!!!) of wrapping but I didn't care at all. Somehow, wrapping gifts for him is like math for me. Just so confusing and mind wrinkling. And this year included Caroline and another mega-wrap session in the wake of a crazy month.
But I "got-er-done". We had our Christmas morning mayhem,
- actually Tim made the entire breakfast, with the exception of me whipping up the pancake batter for him - and then we had our pancaked-crash afternoon and then a visit from out of state/country friends Janelle and Jessica
and then finished up the evening with a "snacky" supper
and our annual viewing of Nacho Libre. :)
We went to VA the next morning, which was Christmas Day, and had Christmas with my family and then my extended family the next day. We came home on Saturday.
Things that have been a blessing this month:
1. People who were praying for us during Caroline's sickness and afterwards.
2. Our church family who brought meals to us for a week just to help lift some of the burden of life. Like, seriously. This was a month of WORK. Like, WOW. Phew.
The good news is that in the wake of Christmas, Caroline is completely better and going to sleep much much earlier, usually before midnight, and then sleeping until 9 or 10, and Layla has gone down with almost no fuss or even none at all, and has slept all night. I was hoping the time away might "reset" her, and I reeeeally hope it sticks!!!!!
And here's where the photo onslaught begins. :)
Here's a view of the fixin's.
We got to Virginia at around 2 PM on Christmas Day. The kids helped their Grandaddy decorate the snow scene with the lime mixture that turns white and takes on a snowy texture. Everybody got a chance to pour.
Layla taking an apple break in the living room. :) Cutie.
Dad and his good dog, Maddie.
Oh look! It's the Sneaky little Sneakerton hard at work again, this time behind Grandma's couch, with the same delightful toy. Cackle of laughter. :D
The Christmas Feast.
Presents. Look at Layla's delighted little face. :)
Layla LOOOVED this gift. It was supposed to be a Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) costume. She felt just beeyoooteeful in it, and tripped around in her little shoes for a long time with just a look of delighted awe on her face.
Layla helps Grandaddy make the popcorn for the traditional nightly popcorn and juice snack that occurs at Grandma and Grandaddy's house every night.
These days, it's a squeeze to get everyone around the kitchen table. :)
The next day, Israel was keen to get started on his new science kit. Thankfully he had a good Grandaddy to help with such endeavors. This project was very exciting and got brothers running to see.
Gabe was not to be left out of the science goodness and had to do one of his own projects from his kit. This one was cool too. :)
Caroline just said...snore.
Grandma giving Caroline a bath getting her ready for the evening.
Layla fell fast asleep on our drive over to her Great Grandma's house for supper.
She was enamoured of the chalk board that hangs on the wall there and it kept her busy for quite a while.
Downstairs to the basement to open presents after supper. There was a strange man there carrying a very sweet baby that looked familiar.
The boys eagerly waiting for the next gift installment. ;)
My uncle Lowell, cousin Calvin, Grandma, and Mom.
We stayed one day longer than we had planned, so that Tim and I could get a night out on the town doing exciting things like hitting up discount stores ;) and going out for Indian food.
The boys had a GREAT time hammering away at this iced up water to give the birds a drink.
Caroline smiling away at her Grandma.
When I went upstairs to get the kids ready for bed after we got back, I found them having a great time in the boy's room. Gabe was laying in bed reading, and the other three were having a great time taking turns climbing onto the dresser and jumping off into a pile of blanket on the floor.
Home again, home again. We ended our day playing a new game from Nana Carol and Grandpa Norm called The Treasure of Skull Rock. Very exciting pirate game. So exciting that only Layla and Israel ended up brave enough to snatch the treasure rocks out of the treasure chest. ;) Everyone else took an additional day to warm up to this concept.
A good time was had by all!! Thank you, family and friends, for all your blessings to us this month!!!