Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Festivities

We packed so much into the month of December!  My apologies in advance for the photo overload.

Just a few days before his birthday, Dan went out of town with a couple of other guys to see Dream Theater perform in concert. He loves their music, and although it was a long drive and a late night before work the next day, they all had a great time.

Dan's birthday is December 1st, and unfortunately he had one of his longest work days on his birthday. The girls and I did get to pick him up for lunch, but he didn't get home until bedtime that night.

We made sure to party all weekend to make up for no celebration that day!

The first event that weekend was the Colonial Williamsburg Christmas parade with Dan's parents and his brother, Tim's, family. It's one of the best holiday parades in the area, and so far, we've attended it every year with some of the Jester family.

After the parade, Dan's folks babysat the girls for us so we could have a date. A delicious meal at Texas Roadhouse, some furniture shopping, then back early to put the kids to bed.  Yep, we are party animals!

The next morning, we ran the Busch Gardens Christmas Town 8k Dash with my coworker, Lori, and her husband, Terry.  Lori and I have been running together at lunchtime for a year now, and we've worked up to running that hilly 5 miles! Dan, on the other hand, hasn't run in a year and just ran the race along with Lori and I without any training or preparation. Show off.  He hates running, and only let me sign him up because they included a free ticket to Busch Gardens in the registration packet.

However, I could not convince him to dress up as one of my elves for the race. Heh!

We had a birthday lunch with Dan's family after the race.

This picture cracks me up because Emma had just jumped the gun and blew out all Dan's candles before he could do it.  She looks so proud of herself, and he's going "well...okay, then."

 And that night, we attended First Night at Colonial Williamsburg with Dan's parents. It's an outdoor event with live performers who entertain everyone until the end of the evening when fireworks go off right over the historic buildings.  It was pretty cool!
Dan's mom, dad, Dan, and Hallie watching the fireworks

Emma's face during the fireworks grand finale. After it was over, she said "I did NOT see that coming!" Haha!

I got to attend my company's Christmas party one evening later in December.  My boss and team are still in San Diego, but here's a picture of me with the two amazing ladies I work most closely with in the Portsmouth office, Denise and Cristi.

And me with my running buddy, Lori.

I received an Employee of the Month Award, and she got the Employee of the Year Award!

 A few days later, we had an office Women's Potluck Breakfast and sock/gift exchange. It's an annual tradition for the ladies, and we always make plenty of food to feed the rest of the office after we're done with our party.

On Emma's last day of school before Christmas break, she performed in a Preschool Christmas Concert.  Her grandparents and Hallie and I got to attend.

Before the entire preschool got on stage, Emma was one of six K-4 kids selected to perform a special number. She was the cutest one up there, of course!

 After their concert, the kids enjoyed a Christmas party in their classroom.

For Christmas this year, I bought my mom and I tickets to see "The Sound of Music" in Norfolk. We both absolutely loved it and it'll be one of my most fun memories with her.

Dan's sister, Robin, coordinated a day for us to join them at Busch Gardens Christmas Town.  It was crowded, cold, beautiful, and lots of fun! We enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights and decorations, watching a spectacular ice skating show, and letting the kids ride rides and play in the kids' areas.

We had our Christmas celebration early with the Jester family, on the 23rd. We met at Dan's parents' house for brunch and our gift exchange.

The kids played while they waited (somewhat) patiently to open their millions of gifts under Grandpa and Grandma's tree

Emma was the most excited about receiving two LOL surprise dolls!

Hallie was the most excited about ripping the paper off of everything she could reach!

She got a new tunnel to crawl in and she had a blast with that, too.

The Jester Family Christmas photo. We are grateful that everyone was well and able to enjoy our time together.

On Christmas Eve, the girls got extra fancy for church, and they even cooperated for a few photos before we left home.

Earlier this month, the girls had helped Nana and Papa decorate their Christmas tree.

We were getting ready for my brother, Steve, his wife, Sheila, and their daughter, Meera, to come to Virginia for Christmas!

On Christmas morning, we went to my parents' house and got to play and open presents with my family. The girls loved playing My Little Pony with their Boston cousin, Meera!

My parents opening some of their gifts. As usual, my dad got three times the number of gifts as the rest of us, because my mom loves him the most.

Our beautiful niece, Meera

My brother, Steve

Our sister-in-law, Sheila

On Christmas night, we drove to 43rd Street in Virginia Beach to see an entire block of beautiful houses that went all out with Christmas decorations. Dan was feeling sick that afternoon, so he unfortunately didn't get to go with us.

 The following day, we invited my family and Dan's parents to our house for lunch and games.
The adults played Preacher's Poker

Emma and Meera played dress-up while they ate lunch

They even got Sheila involved! Ha!

Another day, we made "Snow To Go," artificial snow that you can make at home by adding water to a small amount of powder. The girls loved playing with their Lion Guard figures in the snow.

We also took them to MacArthur Mall in Norfolk to play and eat lunch one day.

The Campbell Family Photo

Silly pose! We had the best time with Steve, Sheila, and Meera while they visited for a week! We wish we got to spend this much time with them all the time!

 Dan and I got the most unexpected Christmas blessing this year.  One of his student's families was upgrading their kitchen appliances and wanted to give their 4-year-old stainless steel appliances to us!  We had hoped to upgrade to stainless steel at some point, but thought it would be years down the road after we spent money on more critical upgrades for the house.  We are thrilled with our "new" appliances and how they finish off the look of our kitchen.  Dan, my dad, and his dad spent time during Christmas break installing them and creating enough space for the larger refrigerator. What an amazing gift!
The fridge and dishwasher

And microwave and stove

On our date night earlier this month, Dan and I had chosen and ordered a kitchen table and chairs set. It arrived just before Christmas, too! We are loving our beautiful kitchen more and more each day!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thanksgiving Festivities

We love the holiday season! This month was full of fun events.

But first, an update on the girls: Emma has continued to do very well in school. She is reading now!  She went into K-4 already recognizing her letters and knowing their sounds, but her teacher is teaching the students to "blend" the sounds together to read words.  She's surprised us almost daily with the words she sounds out as we look at books, drive by signs, etc.  She's learning how to write legibly, also, and we get the sweetest pictures addressed to "Dad" or "Mom" and signed with love from "Emma".  Our most exciting news this month is that Emma had an ultrasound and urologist appointment, and her kidneys and bladder looking great!  Her doctor said that unless Emma develops health issues, she doesn't need another ultrasound or checkup until next summer!  We are praying that she will continue to be healthy and infection-free.  She did have a fever this month, and I took her straight to the doctor to test for a UTI, just in case.  But she didn't have a UTI, ear infection, or strep, so it turned out to be just a virus.  That's only happened a couple of times in her life, so we were doing the "Just a Virus" dance in our house!

Hallie understands most of what we say to her, and she is communicating with us verbally, too.  Dan and I are probably the only ones who can understand her, but she can now say water, flower, cookie, cracker, meat, milk (although she usually calls it "night night" since she always gets a bottle before she sleeps), ball, bird, moon, more (along with the sign for "more"), bye bye, hi (always with a wave!), woof woof, quack quack, duck, Dada, Mama, and Nana.  She still refuses to say Papa, and she says "Ma" for Emma.  She is almost 15 months old and still doesn't walk independently.  When we push her to try, she plops right down on her bottom and crawls instead. But she can pull up and hold onto our hands, furniture, or a walker to help her walk with assistance.  She can also climb onto low surfaces to reach forbidden items.  She is interested in everything Emma, Dan, or I are doing and wants to be fully involved. She loves music and lights up and rocks back and forth when we sing or play music for her.

Hallie and Emma have become more interactive and playful together in the past few months. It's the cutest thing!

Emma loves all of Hallie's baby stuff, and likes to pretend that she's a baby sometimes, too. We didn't really have to deal with Emma reverting to babylike behavior after Hallie was born, but she enjoys play-acting like a baby.

In other news, my parents went to Boston this month to visit my brother, Steve, his wife, Sheila, and their 2.5 year old daughter, Meera. I wish it was a happier occasion, but they went to help out with Meera, who had a broken femur and was in a cast that immobilized her from her waist to her knees! Poor little girl! You can see part of the red cast on her upper leg, and you can probably tell from the way my dad's holding her how difficult it was to handle her.  Since daycare was out of the question until her cast was off, Steve and Sheila needed help watching her so they could continue working.  I'm happy to report that she's out of her cast now and her leg has healed well!

Right before Thanksgiving break, our family cheered on the StoneBridge School girls'  varsity volleyball team when they played in the State Championship

Their team is so good!  They won the State Championship for the second year in a row!

We took advantage of $1 admission to the Virginia Living Museum this month.  We met Dan's parents, my parents, and Dan's brother, Tim's, family

Emma with the most important men in her life

They had an indoor aquarium and some animals outside to see.  They recently added a dinosaur-themed play area, which the kids loved!

I think this was supposed to be a dinosaur footprint, but it looks like I dropped Hallie in a pile of something else.

Another fun event this month was Christian Heritage Day at StoneBridge. The entire student body dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans and participated in special activities related to the first Thanksgiving.

Emma dressed as a Native American and allowed me to braid her hair. 

There was a petting area in the school courtyard with ponies, sheep, goats, bunnies, and guinea pigs. 

The kids got to make their very own candle

And ride horses!

Emma's class with their teacher, Mrs. Baines

For Thanksgiving week, we took our first real road trip with our girls.  First, we drove to Washington DC and visited IKEA. It's the closest store to where we live, and we've missed shopping there since we moved from San Diego.
Hallie found the perfect place to conduct her business.

They had a room with a dollhouse and toys that Emma loved, of course.

Our real reason for stopping in DC was to spend time with Dan's brother, Tim, his wife, Dawn, and their five boys. We spent our first day at the Aviation Museum next to Dulles National Airport.  It was the best, and probably largest, aviation museum we'd been to!

Stair-stepped from the oldest to the youngest: Benjamin, Nathan, Aaron, Josiah, and Emma.

Dawn and Tim

The military monument they built at the entrance of the museum

The next day, we visited the newly opened Museum of the Bible. The building was beautiful, and they had some very good exhibits.  There was no gospel presentation, but it displayed the history, truth, and relevance of the Bible through the ages.

Micah and Hallie playing in the kids' room that was full of Bible-related toys, games, and a playground. It was so much fun, and after we toured the museum for a couple of hours, Dawn and I took the youngest kids back there while our husbands and the older boys continued looking at the exhibits.

Emma and Josiah moving the pillars like Samson!

On our last day in DC, we visited Great Falls National Park. It was absolutely beautiful, and there were handicap accessible trails to see the falls, so we could push Hallie in the stroller. Bonus!

Our nephew, Micah, dressed as a bear for his great outdoors adventure. Heh!

Our first view of the beautiful falls! We saw a couple of people kayaking down the falls later that day. It was fun to watch them.

Our girls were both crying within minutes of being exposed to fresh air and exercise. Dan laughs, but they *may* get that from him. 

Tim and his boys

Our family

Hallie just wanted to get down and explore when she saw the other kids climbing and running around. So we found some good places for her to try rock climbing.

And see all the "wa-wa"

Tim, Dawn, and Micah

Nathan and Benjamin

Josiah and Emma in a hollow tree stump

Exploring the remains of a structure built by the townspeople of Matildaville

We all had a blast at Great Falls! I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you visit the area!

The next stop on our trip was Pittsburgh, PA.  It's been years since we've visited a new city to see a hockey game, but before having kids, we used to do this every year.  We just had a day in Pittsburgh to see a few of the sights, and it was such an interesting city.  Downtown is completely surrounded by water and bridges, so driving the unusual road patterns made us feel like we were in a different country.

It was cold in Pittsburgh! We bundled the girls up as much as possible when we went outside. They looked adorable. :)

Our favorite experience in Pittsburgh was riding the Incline, kind of a vertical trolley that takes you up and down steep Mount Washington. Several inclines were built for commuters originally, but now there are only two left for commuter and tourist use.

Ready to ride!

Dan and the girls enjoying the view while riding the Incline.

At the top of Mount Washington, where we saw beautiful views of the city

Later that night, we went to the Pittsburgh Penguins vs Vancouver Canucks game

Waiting for the game to begin!

Dan and the girls watching the game. Hallie was so frustrated because we wouldn't let her down to play. If you've been to a modern arena, you know that the seats are on a terrifyingly steep incline and packed tighter than airplane seats, so there was no way we were letting her crawl around.

After they made it through the first period, I took the kids to the "Kid Zone" that they'd added to the arena to save the sanity of parents and their children.  They had some hockey-related games to play, including a toddler-sized "hockey rink" with balls and short hockey sticks. And Hallie got to crawl around and explore, which was all it took to make her happy.  We spent the second period playing, then went back to our seats for the third period, and the girls were tired enough to sit still for the remainder of the game.

The hockey game ended at 10 pm, and we put the girls in pajamas and hit the road!  We drove through the night until 4:30 am to reach Dan's parents' house in Williamsburg on Thanksgiving morning.  It was exhausting, but the best decision we made on our trip.  The girls slept right through the drive, and there was zero traffic going through Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Richmond. It was the most peaceful drive during our journey.

We all fell into bed at Dan's parents' house at 4:30 and the girls let us sleep until 8:30, but thankfully we got to take naps before it was time to eat dinner. 

Thanksgiving dinner at Dan's parents' house was delicious and fun, as always!  We had a great time visiting with family and friends.

Dan's sister, Robin, brought a gingerbread turkey for the girls to decorate. They had so much fun eating the candy instead of putting it on the turkey.

The poor guy didn't even get eyes. Maybe next year.

And when the cooking and eating were finished, Grandma finally got to rest and enjoy some time with her four granddaughters. It was a wonderful day!