Monday, October 31, 2011

Lily might be disappointed...

After months of trick-or-treat preparation by practicing around the house (and receiving things like sticky notes and empty DVD boxes for her pumpkin), Halloween is coming to an end.  How are we going to explain that the exciting culmination of all of her talking about Halloween has wrapped up?  At least she enjoyed every minute of it!

We started the morning off with orange pancakes with green stems.  I even stumbled across some yellow glitter cake gel and made a few of them jack-o-lanterns!  Paired it up with some bright orange scrambled eggs and some...normal, boring potatoes.

Then we made a run to the store because we were still undecided and unprepared for any one costume for the evening.  We did a lot of deliberating as we walked down the aisles of Walmart and tossed around thoughts of princesses, cowgirls, cows, dinosaurs, rockets, chefs, and just about anything else that Lily laid eyes on.  We settled on cowgirls because we had most of the stuff at home already and Lily was the one that suggested they match.

For lunch, it was a jack-o-lantern pizza.  What can I say?  I like to play with my food.  Then we almost literally wrestled them into their beds to attempt a nap.  They fought it hard and I tried to settle the girls with a story.  I could hardly read aloud over the wails and whines so I told them we'd all crawl into Julia's bed.  That erupted both of them with giggles and soon they were just rolling around with each other and a nap seemed far out of the picture.  We opted for painting fingernails and applying temporary tattoos instead.

After that, it was time for the fun! 
Yeah, those hats didn't stay on entirely too well.  Half the time Lily thought it was funnier to see if she could balance it and the other half, Julia opted for the beret style tilt.

We wound up taking turns carrying the hats and the camera so we didn't clonk either of the girls on the head as we helped them up and down steps, so it was great having my mom along to help us with an extra set of hands.

Lily had the 'Trick-or-Treat', 'Thank you so much', and 'Happy Halloween' routine down pat by the second house and Julia was running right along.  She quickly learned that we went up to each house and how to hold her pumpkin bucket up for candy.
I really was amazed at how much fun they both had!  Especially since it was a first for both of them!  How different than the orphanage life Julia was experiencing just over a week ago!  And for Lily, it was all just something you saw in shows up until tonight.

When we first started, they were both giggling SO hard as they tried to run from house to house.  I was thinking that one or both may be a bit hesitant over the other kids in costumes or walking around in the dark, but neither of them could have cared less.  We walked the neighborhood until they both were ready to be carried from house to house!  With tired legs and empty bellies, we headed home for some dinner and bed was not so long after.  How are we ever going to break it to Lily that she's got a whole year to wait until it happens again?  Hope she'll go back to being satisfied by practice runs receiving sticky notes and DVD cases again.

Can I do this? A 1-week update

Okay, so it's a bit late from being an exact one-week update, but it's been a pretty busy week.
Through the whirlwind of getting acquainted Saturday night and Sunday, then spending most of the day at the farm on Monday, it wasn't really until Tuesday that we all got to just spend time alone as a family.  Those were the days that it all moved past being a crazy journey and very much became reality.
Though the girls have had a lot of fun playing together and there have been many times that you could just feel the genuine love they have for each other, there have also been other moments.  Moments of tantrums.  Moments of tempers.  Moments of 'how did I ever think I could handle this?'.
They have both definitely had their incidents.  Lily sometimes likes to hang onto Julia's arm well past the point that Julia wants to tolerate it.  Julia absolutely has no concept of sharing or taking turns (yet) and expresses it in full-body cries.  They both saw their share of time-out in the latter half of the week.  We shed a few tears, both good and bad.
We balanced family time with one-on-one shopping trips.  We took some much-needed naps.  We tried focusing our energy into projects instead of always into each other and as the week went on, we kind of got our footing back. 
Julia is incredibly tolerant of the unknown and she wears that trademark smile with ease.  She is getting very comfortable with us and rarely does her rocking except for when she's going to bed.  She bravely tries any food (something I can't even say for myself) and will go along with just about any activity.  She loves riding in the car and even fusses to get back in if the ride was short.  She still loves to be picked up and get hugs.  Mommy even got a big kiss the other day!  She's even gained one pound in a week.  Not as much as mom had hoped, but we'll keep sneaking in those calories!  We meet with the pediatrician next Tuesday and will sort out or repertoire of specialists from there.
Lily has been such a good sport for as much as her world has changed in the past week.  During Julia's first big tantrum in the car, she sat quietly next to her and when it was all over just half-giggled and said 'oh, that was loud' even though it was obvious she was a touch nervous.  She's been very good at helping us to teach Julia sharing and she generally likes being around her.  Our house frequently echoes with 'Look at Julia! That's so silly!  Look at me, Julia!'.  It still amazes me how much more she is rambling in sentences and paragraphs now and I swear she gained a bit more personality (if that was possible) while we were gone!
Robert never ceases to amaze me as a parent.  He is patient and always teaching the girls in most everything he does.  He loves snuggling his 'princessa' and is so willing to drop what he's doing and just play with the girls.  He has such genuine, unconditional love for his girls and I could not ask for a better partner in this parenting thing that we are doing!
As for me, I am slowly getting past the exhaustion that came along with it all and moving away from the 'can I do this?' to 'how can I do this better?', which is what I think both of the girls need.  I will most definitely find what works best for us sooner than later.  Getting past jet-lag and a cold probably has helped too. 
Did we expect there to be challenges? Yep.  Have some of the challenges been more frustrating than we expected already? Absolutely.  Are the happy times so incredibly rewarding? Without a doubt.  Do we ever doubt that this is exactly what our family is supposed to be right now?  Not for a second!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Look, Mommy, Daddy, Julia--It's Spooooky!

Yes, we made it back in time for Halloween.  Not with much time to spare, so the girls will have some fairly make-shift costumes by tomorrow night, but nevertheless we've have some fun getting in the spirit of things!

Of course, one of the first things on my to-do list was cupcakes!  It started out calm and careful...

...but soon they each had a cupcake that looked like this--
All that mattered was these looks as we decorated together!

On Saturday night, we got a little creative with a craft we found in a Family Fun magazine.  I recruited some empty milk jugs from my mom and encouraged all of the milk-drinkers of our house to hurry along and started drawing some ghost faces.  The original craft called to light them with Christmas string lights, but since I didn't have the time or the real desire to dig those out, I opted to use glow sticks instead. 
 It was probably the best, cheapest toy we have had in a long time!  The girls loved them!  They thought it was pretty cool that they glowed and were different colors, but when they found out they were noisy because of the glow sticks--oh man!  We played with those things for over an hour!
The video is kind of horrible, but too cute to pass up.  This is the full body dance we used to get when we showed up at the orphanage.  Saturday night, the milk jug ghosts got the same celebration.

By Sunday afternoon, we decided it was time to carve the pumpkins.  Lily thought it was a blast to play with the 'icky' guts.

Julia was happy to just scoop away with her spoon.

The cutest part about it was sisters working together.

After all that hard work on the pumpkins, it was time for a bath.  We were going to bathe them separately, but someone snuck her way in too...

We were very fortunate to have let her in, just in case her big sister forgot how to take a bath...
After they were both certainly clean, it was time to just have some fun!

 One of the cutest parts came after they were washed and dried.  We were doing Lily's dressing change on her feeding tube and Julia started to get upset.  We couldn't figure out why until she lifted up her shirt.  This is what she wanted--
Tape on her belly, just like little sis.  Glad she doesn't need a tube too, but fun that she wanted to be like her sissy!

With all of the crafts, we're excited to wrap up a fun weekend with some trick-or-treating tomorrow night.  My sister and her friends usually get together for dinner before heading to a very kid-friendly neighborhood and we will be joining them this year.  It will be a first for both of them to go trick-or-treating and I can't wait to see their reactions to it all!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Welcome to our home..and the farm

There is no doubt that one of my favorite things to do this time of the year is head up to Black Island Farms.  It is a perfect family outing for many reasons.  
I'll start with a few: I a sucker for the farm animals like the goats that will eat straight out of your hand or my favorite miniature donkeys. I could also eat my weight in fresh kettle corn made right there and served warm. I love the tradition of the hayride to go pick your pumpkin straight from the vine.  
It also just so happens to be a genuine family event each time we go because Robert's family owns and runs it!  It is great to be able to enjoy such a fun place and be able to visit extended family all in one trip!
Needless to say, one of the things on my mind as we were watching our timeline wrap up quickly is the fact that we would make it home before Halloween and might be able take Julia to experience the Farm before they shut it down for the season.
It was a pretty quick turn around but we did just that!  On Monday, we took advantage of the last nice weather day before the holiday and introduced Julia to one of our favorite Fall traditions.  It was especially nice that my mom took a partial day off of work and my sister was a bit naughty and pulled my niece out of school early (which she was thrilled about) so everyone could go together.
This morning everyone woke up on their own and we got the girls some breakfast.  After hanging out around the house, we added another set of clothes to the diaper bag and got ready to go.  
By the time we left, it was about lunch time and Robert had seen a commercial for the McRib--the one time of year that he craves McDonald's.  We though it'd be fun to get lunch and see if Julia had the same affinity for french fries that she did for the hashbrowns.  It takes about 45 minutes to get from our house to the farm and Julia ate her happy meal almost the entire trip up there.  She ate every chicken nugget, drained her juice box and downed almost every fry!  In fact, she was eyeing Lily's chicken nuggets for a time there too.
First stop at the farm were the animals--
Julia had no problem latching onto Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Brandon.

Momma got her snuggles in though too--

Next stop were the animal tire swings--

The slides were our first glimpse of the dare-devil in Julia.  After the first trip down with dad, she wanted to go on any slide with anyone she could recruit!
Lily is more a 'cheer them on from the hay bale at the bottom' type--

The rock band section has always been a favorite of Lily's.  She loves music just like her dad and we have many pictures of her with the 'rock star' faces while playing here.  The apple once again did not fall far from the tree and Julia loved the play sets too!  Amazing how God has yet again given me another little female copy of my husband!

We made a pit-stop at the corn cannons and corn sling-shot afterwards and my sister, niece and I all tested our aim with some corn cobs.  Um, not so much. Ha ha!
Though we couldn't pull Julia away from the rock band booth long enough to check this one, Lily is a big fan of 'echo sounds' right now so she loves the giant ghost!

Then came one of the surprise hits of the day--the corn box!  It's basically a sand box filled with dried kernels of corn.  Let the less-messy sand-box play begin!

We were (and still are) finding corn everywhere!  In diapers, in shoes, in socks--you name it!  It's been hilarious for one to fall out of the diaper bag at random.

Afterward, we went on our hay ride and picked our pumpkins from the patch.  We lugged them to the car and decided since it was getting chilly and dark that we'd better call it a night.  We wound up spending almost 6 hours there that afternoon!  Lily had fun as she always does up there and ran around, leading the way for the group.  Julia was once again in awe of most things around her.  She still amazes me that most things do not cause her to get anxious or scared.  The majority of the time, she just takes it all in and wears that big, happy smile.