Friday, December 28, 2018

Oh What Fun!

We celebrated our favorite guy's birthday this month! Dan turned 50 on December 1st, and thank the Lord his back has mended so he doesn't feel his age. He's such a blessing every day to his friends, coworkers, and especially to us! He's the best husband and father we could imagine, and we thank God for him!

I cannot imagine life without this man!

Dan's birthday weekend was the perfect time to put up our Christmas decorations. 

We bought a larger, pre-lit Christmas tree from Costco this year, and we love it! I hung Advent envelopes over our fireplace with a Scripture verse and candy inside. Emma has read the verses to us each evening and the girls love getting a daily candy surprise as we count down to Christmas!

 We hung some of the more delicate ornaments near the top of the tree, but *somebody* is determined not to let that stop her. Heh!

Dan's back was finally feeling much better, so he decided to get on the roof to decorate with lights. My dad helped me with the yard decorations.

Our sweet home, ready for Christmas!

We attended the Norfolk Grand Illumination Parade this year for the first time. Dan's parents, and our friends, Jenna and her son Elisha came, too.

Group shot before the parade started. It was one of the biggest parades we've seen and lasted 2.5 hours!

 I love Emma's expression. She absolutely loves parades, and asked if she could ride on a parade float someday. 

We visited Busch Gardens Christmas Town with Dan's sister, Robin and her family. It's such a beautiful place to enjoy during the holidays!

Our group watching the Sesame Street Christmas show in the kids' play area. 

My parents and I drove to the Washington DC area to spend an evening with my Aunt Ann, cousin Kim, and her family.
It was so nice to catch up with them! Kim (3rd from left) is in the Navy and has recently been re-stationed in Washington DC.

 My parents, Dan's parents, and Dan and I went to see a Mannheim Steamroller concert. 

And we spent Dan's birthday weekend in Williamsburg so we could watch the Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Parade, then have Dan's birthday party with the family. This was our group sitting in the cold, light rain, waiting for the parade to begin. We all had a blast despite the drizzly weather.

Dan's funniest birthday gift was an "old man" cane with accessories from his (older) brother, Tim. It came with a huge "happy pill" box, an ear megaphone, Coke bottle glasses, and an "old man coming through" horn to honk.

  I'm sure he'll put it to good use. Haha!

The following morning, I ran the Busch Gardens Christmas Town 8k Dash. Dan and my former co-worker, Lori, were supposed to join me, but Dan was worried about re-injuring his back, and Lori was sick that weekend. 

But I found a fun friend at the race and had a great time. :)

Robin and Rob's church entered a float for the Hopewell, VA Christmas parade, and Emma's wish came true when they invited her to be an angel on their float!  She was so excited about it until she had to sit around and wait 2 hours before the parade began. She was *this* close to deciding she was done when I offered to ride with her, just to keep her from bailing. So I ended up being the biggest angel on that float, but Emma was happy. We sang Christmas carols and waved to the crowds and made a fun memory.

Emma and I with her cousins Miriam and Naomi 

Hallie didn't ride on the float, but she wanted to dress like an angel after the parade was over, too. 

We attended Emma's elementary school Christmas performance, which was adorable. 

Emma is standing on the very right in the red dress.

We visited Regent University's Christmas Village, and Hallie and Emma got a kick out of the kids' activities - especially the teacup ride.
Dan and Hallie spun together

Emma's in the shadows, riding with her friend Elisha and his mom, Jenna

My coworkers and I coordinated a women's Christmas potluck at work. 

All dressed up for the party

All the ladies enjoyed the food and a white elephant gift exchange. The men in the office enjoyed the leftovers!

 Dan and I got fancied up and attended my company's Christmas party on the Spirit of Norfolk harbor dinner cruise. 

Emma got to dress up at school during her last week before Christmas break. We didn't have a Christmas character costume, so we improvised to make her a rosy-cheeked snow girl. So cute!

Hallie and I participated in Emma's class Christmas party on her last day before break.

The kids did a gift exchange, ate Chick-Fil-A nuggets for lunch, and decorated cookies for dessert. The girls did a thorough job decorating their cookies, and only ate the sprinkles off the tops. 

Now Dan and Emma are on Christmas break and we've gotten to enjoy fun days off together. The weather has been cold, but generally nice, and I got some sweet pictures of the girls playing in our front yard. 

We love this busy, fun season!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Let the Holidays Begin!

We celebrated fall's arrival by taking a road trip with my parents to Natural Bridge, VA. Although it was too early to see fall colors, the drive into the mountains was gorgeous!

A scenic view on the way to Natural Bridge

 After spending the night nearby and eating breakfast, we started our day at the Virginia Safari Park.  It was one of the most fun places we've ever taken the girls. You can drive your car or ride in one of the park's trucks along a 3-mile route where llamas, deer, emu, buffalo, and other animals walk right up to your vehicle to eat out of buckets.  The most aggressive animals (mostly llamas) stood at the beginning of the drive, and they practically climbed into the car to get to the food, whether we were offering it to them or not!  One managed to grab the entire bucket of food out of my dad's hand and take off with it!  The animals were less aggressive the farther along the road we drove, but we were out of food by the time we got to the calm ones.

Emma shrieked and laughed hysterically the entire time! She was half terrified and half thrilled about the animals reaching right into the car.  She kept us in stitches the whole time, and we still laugh thinking about the experience.

Hallie leaned back as far as she could in her seat to avoid contact with the animals, but she seemed to enjoy watching them eat right over her lap.

Once we were done with the drive, we visited the rest of the Safari Park where we saw zoo animals like monkeys, tigers, kangaroos, and cheetahs.  The second highlight of the day was the large canary cage we walked into with bird seed sticks. The beautiful birds landed right on our sticks to eat the seed, so we all enjoyed close encounters with them.

There were also fun play areas for the kids throughout the Safari Park.

Once we finished at the Safari Park and ate a quick lunch, we drove to Natural Bridge State Park.

The Natural Bridge (behind us) was only a short distance from the park entrance. 

Two of our very favorite people!

Our family

After seeing Natural Bridge, we walked two miles out and back along a scenic river to view a lovely waterfall at the end of the trail. They had recreated a Native American village that visitors could explore.  It was a beautiful day, and a fun place to spend it!

Shortly after our Natural Bridge trip, Dan suffered from a piriformis muscle injury, which caused intense sciatic nerve pain down his left leg.  He couldn't lie, sit, stand, or walk without extreme pain for several days, and wasn't able to go into work. It was so sad to see him lying around in agony, with nothing we could do to help him. After two urgent care visits and several days taking prescription medications, he was at least able to move again. He's been visiting a highly recommended chiropractor and has seen slow improvement. He's still a long way from feeling normal again, but at least he's able to function and is feeling less pain after three weeks. 

Hallie is supporting Dan while he does his daily stretches. Heh! Actually, he couldn't sit up to read the book she wanted because it was too painful, so she laid on the floor with him so he could still read to her.

While Dan was laid up, I took the girls to a fun harvest festival at one of our neighborhood churches. Emma dressed up as Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony, and Hallie was a pink princess.

They had bounce houses and pony rides!

Hallie's very first pony ride. 

There were also game booths and face painting. Hallie sat still long enough to have a flower painted on her cheek.

Emma asked for a pink unicorn

Our church, Colonial Baptist, had a hot dog and marshmallow roast one evening, too.

The girls roasting their marshmallows. Another first for Hallie!

On Halloween night, we drove the girls to Williamsburg to trick or treat with Dan's brother, Tim's, family.  Dan's parents joined us as well as some of our nephews' friends, so we had a pretty big group of candy collectors!

Our awesome group of kids

Emma dressed as Skye, the flying dog from Paw Patrol, and Hallie was a pink princess again. I love their poses.

We also went to the Suffolk, VA "Touch a Truck" event, where the kids could see and sit inside various service vehicles. They had everything from police cars, fire trucks, construction vehicles, campers, school buses, trains, etc.  Plus, they handed out candy to all the kids. 

Emma pretended to be a police officer

and a construction worker

Hallie got to "drive" a school bus

Dan and the girls toured a train car

 There was even a big celebrity at the event! Of course we had to eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A afterwards.

The next week, Hallie and I did our civic duty on our day off together

Emma and her friend from school, Elisha, had a play date at MacArthur Center, a mall in Norfolk. They had an awesome winter wonderland exhibit with fake snow, stuffed arctic animals, and Santa!

We didn't pay for a photo with Santa, but he was very sweet and came over to talk to Emma and give her a Christmas bracelet.

Emma took the cutest Kindergarten picture. She's been learning so much in school this year.

Her class got to lead the school chapel service one Thursday. They recited Psalm 100.

 And sang and danced to "Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin. Emma danced right up front in the pink dress, and she got to make an announcement for the audience to "stand and worship with us". She did a great job!

The Friday before Thanksgiving week is StoneBridge School's annual Christian Heritage Day. The kids got to dress as pilgrims or Native Americans and participate in educational activities all day. 

They played games, watched demonstrations, and listened to historical accounts. The highlight, of course, were the sweet petting zoo animals they brought to school.

The day ended with a traditional Thanksgiving feast in their classroom.

Emma's classmates and teacher, Mrs. Boyce

The girls let me put their hair in pigtails (a miracle!) so they could pretend to be puppies with ears. Haha! We've loved making special memories with them this month.