All the Thanks

In the chaos of everyday life with young children, jobs, houses, friends, family, and a dog, it’s hard, even on Thanksgiving, to reflect and give thanks for all the good in our life. But now, in the quiet of our house while I take a “mental health” day off from work, I sit in amazement of all that we were blessed with this year.

First and foremost, we give thanks this year for Lillian’s very successful surgery to repair her annual pancreas. Her birth, surgery, and homecoming were much less traumatic than I was prepared to experience. And now, at 6.5 months old, she is happy, healthy, and growing. As the saying goes, you do not realize how important your health – or the health of your loved ones – is, until it is compromised. We are thankful that everyone in our family is in overall good health.

We are also so thankful for the spice that Vivian adds to our life; for our marriage that keeps the foundation of our family strong, even when things around us seem to be falling down; for our warm and cozy house in the most wonderful neighborhood; for jobs that we like and that pay our bills and allow us to enjoy our lives (and allow me to take six months off for maternity leave); for our ability and willingness to travel to experience new things and places and to maintain strong relationships with our families who live far away; and even for Snoopy, that crazy dog!

This Thanksgiving, we spent the entire 4-day weekend at home in Orange County. We didn’t travel anywhere and no one traveled to visit us. We love our families, but this more quiet and simple holiday was NICE!

On Thanksgiving morning, we checked off one of our 2016 New Year’s Resolutions: Run a 5K together as a family. I ran with Vivian in a jogging stroller and Dan ran with Lillian in a jogging stroller. It was a slow race, especially for me who hasn’t run at all in over a year. I did run the entire race, though, without stopping to walk or rest, and finished in a humbling 38:26. Dan finished in 48:04.

Happy Thanksgiving from Dana Point!

Happy Thanksgiving from Dana Point!

Ready to Run!

Ready to Run!

Both girls fell asleep by mile 2 of the race. When we got home, Lillian fell back asleep for THREE hours (thank you, thank you!). Dan and I made dinner for our little family of four: brie and crackers, turkey breast and gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, dressing, and chocolate pie. Lillian joined us at the table for the first time and ate her first bites of solid food: homemade butternut squash!

Lil's First Food

Lil’s First Food

Our Littlest Turkey

Our Littlest Turkey

Viv in Her Thanksgiving Dress

Viv in Her Thanksgiving Dress

We enjoyed dessert and company over at our friends’ house and retired at the end of the night thankful that we still had three days of work off!

On Black Friday, we, of course, did NOT go shopping. Instead, we went to Laguna Beach and walked through town, Main Beach, and Heisler Park. We capped off our day trip with lunch and gelato.

November in California - Laguna Beach

November in California – Laguna Beach

Heisler Park Walk

Heisler Park Walk

Since Lillian wasn’t a huge fan of butternut squash on Thanksgiving, we fed her homemade sweet potatoes on Black Friday. She did much better with those! I fed her while Dan took Vivian to see a showing of The Polar Express at our clubhouse.

Day 2 of Solid Food - Success!

Day 2 of Solid Food – Success!

Practice with a Sippy Cup

Practice with a Sippy Cup

On Saturday, Dan and Vivian made cutout cookies using his family’s recipe.

Rolling Out Cutout Cookies

Rolling Out Cutout Cookies

We also decorated our house for Christmas and trimmed the tree. It was a wonderfully rainy day and the perfect day to stay inside, decorate, and watch Christmas shows on TV.

Trimming the Tree

Trimming the Tree

On the last day of the weekend, I took Vivian to a matinee showing of the musical, The Little Mermaid, at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster. She loved it! And I loved having over two hours of uninterrupted snuggle time with her!

The Little Mermaid Musical

The Little Mermaid Musical

At the end of the weekend, we had all sorts of new memories for which we could be thankful!

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SeaWorld, Round 2

Since we had bought 2-day passes to SeaWorld last summer and we still had one day left to use on our passes before the end of 2016 (see blog post from day one here), we ventured down to San Diego last Sunday to meet up with our friends, the Turners, and spend the afternoon at SeaWorld. This trip was also made possible due to Lillian finally stopping screaming in the car (can I get an Amen?!).

We had a pleasant drive down to SeaWorld with no traffic. The girls napped. It was a beautiful day and we happily walked towards the entrance gate.

SeaWorld, Round 2

SeaWorld, Round 2

As soon as we got into the park, the day fell apart. Vivian, who is now scared of public toilets due to a very unfortunate auto flush incident, refused to sit on the toilets. So, she peed herself. Then, she pooped herself – twice. I lost my mind over these incidents and was in a terrible mood. (Bad, bad mom.) We watched two shows (the dolphins and sea lions), saw a few exhibits (sharks, turtles, sea lions, and penguins), let Vivian play in the Sesame Street Bay of Play (until she pooped herself), rode the Skytower (which we didn’t get to do last time) to view the sunset and super moon, and then called it a day. We said goodbye to the Turners and began our drive home north.

Ben and Viv

Ben and Viv

Friends Hugging Goodbye

Friends Hugging Goodbye

Our drive home took forever – okay, maybe more like two hours. We were stuck in horrible traffic. We were all tired and hungry. As Dan and I pulled into our garage, I said, “we’re never leaving the house again.” A bit dramatic, yes, but the day didn’t end up being the fun and exciting day that we thought it would be. Perhaps instead of never leaving the house again, we’ll just pick some activities to do with the girls that are a bit closer to home at locations that do not have automatically flushing toilets.

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It’s Fall Y’all!

It’s Fall – perhaps the best season of the year! Sadly, we don’t live in a geographic location where we can really feel it, but we still can celebrate it, and boy did we this year!

We started our Fall celebrations promptly on October 1 with a visit to Pumpkin City when my mom and sister were still in town visiting us. Vivian got to ride a pony, pet goats, bounce in a bouncy house, ride little rides, and run all over.

Pumpkin Patch with Nana and Aunt Anna

Pumpkin Patch with Nana and Aunt Anna

First Pony Ride of the Season

First Pony Ride of the Season

We're All Getting Tall!

We’re All Getting Tall!

Our Family at Pumpkin City

Family Photo in the Pumpkin City Pumpkin Patch

In the middle of the month, we attended the Autumn Harvest Festival at Heritage Hill Historical Park, near our house. Vivian got to meet her favorite princesses, go trick-or-treating, get her face painted, and, again, run around.

Walking Through The Little Mermaid Exhibit at the Autumn Harvest Festival

Walking Through The Little Mermaid Exhibit at the Autumn Harvest Festival

Then, we went to our second pumpkin patch at Tanaka Farms with our friends, the Bullocks. Vivian watched a pumpkin cannon shoot pumpkins across the fields, rode in a wagon around the farm, picked pumpkins, pet more goats, and walked through a corn maze.

Farmer Vivian

Farmer Vivian

Family Photo in the Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch

Family Photo in the Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Haul

Pumpkin Haul

We carved the pumpkins that we bought at Tanaka Farms that evening. We carved them way too early in the month and right before a heat wave. They didn’t last through the week and had to be dumped into the trash five days later. Oh well – we had fun carving them!

Carving Pumpkins in a Pretty Dress

Carving Pumpkins in a Pretty Dress

Our community hosted a Halloween event where Vivian crafted and ate chocolate apples.

Family Photo at Baker Ranch Halloween Event

Family Photo at Baker Ranch Halloween Event

We stopped into Home Depot to pick up something and even took a few pictures in their indoor “pumpkin patch.”

Home Depot "Pumpkin Patch"

Home Depot “Pumpkin Patch”

At the end of the month, we attended our HOA’s community Halloween event. Vivian picked pumpkins, got her arm painted, had a balloon animal made for her, played carnival games, jumped, played ball, and had her caricature drawn (as did Lillian).

Baker Ranch Pumpkin Patch

Baker Ranch Pumpkin Patch

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin

Jumping

Jumping

Cat Princess

Cat Princess

Two days before Halloween, we attended a neighborhood potluck at the park and we all had fun talking to our friends and watching the kids run around and play.

Family Photo at our Neighborhood Potluck

Family Photo at our Neighborhood Potluck

With one day left before Halloween, we visited our final pumpkin patch of the season at the Irvine Park Railroad. We all rode on a little train and a straw ride. Vivian also rode a pony and bounced in another bouncy house. It was a perfect rainy, cool, Fall day.

Family Train Selfie on the Train

Family Train Selfie

Waiting for the Straw Ride

Waiting for the Straw Ride

Cowgirl Vivian

Cowgirl Vivian

Pumpkin Picking

Pumpkin Picking

Almost Three Feet Tall

Almost Three Feet Tall

Ye-haw!

Ye-haw!

On Halloween morning, the girls dressed in their best costumes before daycare.

The Princess and the Pumpkin

The Princess and the Pumpkin

And on Halloween night, we all went trick-or-treating. Vivian had a BLAST and Lillian really enjoyed being out-and-about.

Trick-or-Treat!

Trick-or-Treat!

Chambers Family Trick-or-Treating

Chambers Family Trick-or-Treating

Lillian slept in her pumpkin jammies that night, just as Vivian did two years ago.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Whew! I think we did it ALL this FALL! (I would have loved to have gone apple picking, but Lillian was still a car screamer during apple season, so we had to skip that this year.) In between all of our Halloween fun, we spent many evenings watching the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown over and over and over. And now, on to my favorite time of the year and favorite holiday – Thanksgiving!

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Baptizing Baby #2

On October 1, 2016, surrounded by her family at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Lillian was baptized according to the rite of the Roman Catholic Church. She wore the same baptismal gown that her daddy wore over 33 years ago at his baptism and that her big sister wore two years ago at her baptism. It was a beautiful, short, intimate ceremony and she only cried for part of it (she did fine when the water was poured over her, but by the end of the ceremony, she was hungry and ready to eat!). We were so happy to have her baptized and were so pleased that her Nana and Aunt Anna, who is also her godmother, were there to celebrate with us.

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Lillian and Her Daddy

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Baptized by Water (and Fr. Tim Ramaekers )

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Group Picture with Her Godmother/Aunt and Fr. Tim

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Family Photo

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Lillian and Her Godmother/Aunt

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Family of Four – All Baptized!

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Celebration Lunch

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O-H-I-O (& New York!) Family Trip

In September, prior to my maternity leave ending, I flew to Ohio (alone) with both girls. I know, sounds a little crazy, but honestly, the flights went really well. The worst part of the entire day of travel was the drive from the Detroit airport down to my mom’s house in Ohio (because of Lillian’s crazy car screaming). The girls and I went to Ohio to spend two weeks with my family and friends. We took a similar trip the summer after Vivian was born and before I returned to work after giving birth to her.

Off We Go!

Off We Go!

It was on this trip that Lillian met her Uncle Matthew and Papa for the first time.

Lillian Meets Papa

Lillian Meets Papa

Lillian Meets Uncle Matthew

Lillian Meets Uncle Matthew

Lillian also met and spent quite a bit of time with her Great Grandma, who turned 90 while we were in Ohio. We celebrated her at a birthday party in her senior living community.

Lillian at Grandma's 90th Birthday Party

Lillian at Grandma’s 90th Birthday Party

Damschroders!

Damschroders!

She also met some of my Mom’s side of the family – Aunt Deb, Uncle Den, and Uncle Lee.

Oberhausers!

Oberhausers!

And, she met some of my friends.

High School Friends

High School Friends

College Friend

College Friend

In between meeting all of these people, we went to the library, zoo, parks, museum, and more (of course!).

Getting a Balloon Animal from Sillie Tillie at Reliegh's Closet

Getting a Balloon Animal from Sillie Tillie at Rileigh’s Closet

Visiting the Toledo Zoo

Visiting the Toledo Zoo

Playing After Library Storytime

Playing After Library Storytime

Vising the New 9/11 Memorial at Williams Park in Gibsonburg

Vising the New 9/11 Memorial at Williams Park in Gibsonburg

Playing at the Helena Park that Papa Helped Build

Playing at the Helena Park that Papa Helped Build

Painting at the Toledo Art Museum's Family Center

Painting at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center

Playing with Uncle Lee at Fremont's East Side Park

Swinging with Uncle Lee at Fremont’s East Side Park

Vivian also helped my dad collect chicken eggs and feed the chickens nearly every evening. She was not afraid of the chickens at all and would reach under them and grab the eggs from right beneath them!

Chicken Chores at Papa's

Chicken Chores at Papa’s

Vivian also had a lot of fun playing with Aunt Anna’s old toys, like her Little People house.

Playing House

Playing House

The last weekend that we were in Ohio, Dan flew out to join us. He and my dad took Vivian up to our cabin in western New York for a few days while my mom, Lillian, and I stayed home in Ohio.

Little Girl in a Big Woods

Little Girl in a Big Woods

Papa and Vivian at the Cabin

Papa and Vivian at the Cabin

Riverside Walk with Lillian in Grand Rapids

Riverside Walk with Lillian in Grand Rapids

Lillian Visiting Her First Dead President (Rutherford B. Hayes)

Lillian Visiting Her First Dead President (Rutherford B. Hayes)

Nana and Lillian on the Porch at the Hayes House

Nana and Lillian on the Porch at the Hayes House

When my dad, Dan, and Vivian returned from the cabin, we all went out to dinner together on our last night in Ohio.

Depot Pizza Dinner - Of Course!

Depot Pizza Dinner – Of Course!

We all flew home together and after an anxiety-ridden tumultuous flight into and out of Minneapolis during huge thunderstorms, we arrived home late and tired, but safe. I had one week left of maternity leave before we learned a new normal – two working parents and two kids in daycare.

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Summer Fun 2016

If I had enough energy after this past summer, I’d come up with a more creative title for this blog post. As it is, though, this summer exhausted me! But, we did have a lot of fun! Just as our summer in 2014 was a summer filled with new baby adventures, our summer this year was filled with new baby – and toddler – adventures. I was home on maternity leave for six months and so I had a lot of quality time to spend with our two daughters. Vivian continued going to daycare halftime (every other day) and, of course, Lillian was home with me full time (she started daycare in October). On the days when I was only taking care of Lillian, she and I would often go out for coffee, do a few chores around the house, and spend most of our time nursing and watching HGTV. On the days when I was taking care of both girls, we were out and about doing fun things mostly centered around Vivian’s interests. Most of our adventures were fairly close to our house since, just like I had two years ago, I had an infant who absolutely hated riding in the car. On the weekends, Dan joined in on our adventures for quality family time.

In addition to library storytimes; swim lessonsgymnastics classesmusic classes at our city’s recreation center; park play; pool play; Starbucks visits; family visits from Nana, Aunt Anna, Grandma, Grandpa, and Great Aunt Maxine; and our travel (see here, here, and here), we did all this other stuff this summer (okay, now that I’m reviewing it all, I realize that I was crazy and it’s not surprising that I was so exhausted!):

Big Air Trampoline Park

Big Air Trampoline Park (We went here multiple times.)

OC Zoo

OC Zoo (We went here multiple times.)

We Play Loud

We Play Loud Indoor Play Yard (We went here multiple times.)

Irvine Spectrum

Irvine Spectrum Center (We went here multiple times.)

We Rock the Spectrum Indoor Playard

We Rock the Spectrum Indoor Play Yard

Tanaka Farms Watermelon Tour

Tanaka Farms Watermelon Tour

Storytime with Live Animals at Rancho Las Lomas

Storytime with Live Animals at Rancho Las Lomas

Pretend City Children's Museum

Pretend City Children’s Museum (We went here multiple times.)

Zoomars Petting Zoo (We went here multiple times.)

Zoomars Petting Zoo (We went here multiple times.)

Pretend City (Again)

Pretend City (Again)

Jumpin' Jammin'

Jump ‘n Jammin Indoor Play Yard

And now, summer is over, everyone is back at work and in daycare and it’s time to slow down a little bit!

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San Diego Summer Trip

Just as I did when I returned from maternity leave after Vivian’s birth, I am catching up on blog posts now that I’m back at work after Lillian’s birth. Two months ago, we took Lillian on her first trip that was not to visit family members. We took a similar trip with Vivian during the summer that I was on maternity leave with her, but, to be honest, our trip this year didn’t flood me with as many heartwarming memories. But, we did make memories – many of them good (ha!) – and we did some fun things.

Dan was scheduled to be in San Diego for a few days last August to attend a Bluebeam software conference for work. Since Lillian was only three months old and Vivian wasn’t yet 2.5 years old, I was not about to stay home alone for three days/nights with both girls. In retrospect, staying home alone with both of them would have been much easier than entertaining them by myself for three days in San Diego. I don’t regret our trip, though, as, like I said above, we did do a lot of fun things.

Lillian is a huge car screamer and it stresses Dan and me out to no end. Somehow, by the grace of God, she slept, and did not scream, on our drive down to San Diego. The car silence ended after we arrived, though, and she screamed on nearly every other car ride around San Diego and home to Orange County. Sigh.

Day 1: We checked into our rental house in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego and quickly learned that, apparently, Golden Hill is the ghetto. You can read our review on the VRBO site for specifics on why our house’s location was not very desirable. After we unloaded the car and unpacked, we went to Seaport Village for dinner and so that Vivian could ride the historic carousel. Vivian loves carousels and took many, many rides on many, many carousels this past summer.

Seaport Village Carousel Ride

Seaport Village Carousel Ride

Day 2: We spent the second day in San Diego at SeaWorld with our friends, the Turners. This was the girls’ first trip to SeaWorld and Dan’s and my first trip there together. It had been well over a decade since either one of us had been there and Dan wanted to go and see the orca show before it is changed (stopped) at the end of the year. It was a full, hot day. We saw most of the shows (including the orca show in the midday sweltering 1pm sun) and most of the park. By the end of the day, we were beat!

SeaWorld!

SeaWorld!

Day 3: Dan’s conference began on this day (a Monday) and so I was (mostly) on my own with the girls. I say “mostly” because although I did have to take care of both girls by myself, I, thankfully, got to do it in the company of my good friend, Katie, and her two kids. We met up at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park and spent the whole day there. Our older kids loved it! They ran and played and explored.

Running and Playing in the Science Center

Running and Playing in a Maze of Packaging Tap in the Science Center

We watched an IMAX movie about ocean life and later in the day, I watched the National Parks Adventure IMAX movie with the girls (until the film literally broke and stopped – boo!).

National Parks Adventure (#fail)

National Parks Adventure (#fail)

Despite Vivian peeing her pants at lunch and the broken film, we had such a fun time here and I highly recommend it to people visiting San Diego with kids – even ones as small as ours! After we left the Science Center, we picked up dinner and joined the Turners at their house for a casual dinner. We really enjoyed being able to spend so much time with them on this trip.

Day 4: Well…day 4 was a bit more chaotic and crazy than day 3. While still at the rental house, and after Dan had left for his conference, Vivian rocked Lillian out of her carseat while she was unbuckled and it was sitting on the floor (and I was in the bathroom) and Lillian flew out of it and hit the tile floor head first. Then I took the girls out for coffee in Barrio Logan and Vivian threw a giant fit on the floor while I was nursing Lillian. Afterwards, I endured major infant car screaming and we met my friend, Megan, and her two youngest kids at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park where Vivian briefly got lost.

Fun Times (After the Scary Times) at the San Diego Natural History Museum

Fun Times (After the Scary Times) at the San Diego Natural History Museum

Sunny Afternoon in Balboa Park

Sunny Afternoon in Balboa Park

In the afternoon, we went over to Megan’s house in Coronado to finish our visit. Then we picked Dan up downtown (while enduring more infant car screaming) and met our friends, the Alachniewiczes, for dinner in Little Italy. The day ended with gelato, so it wasn’t that terrible after all – just crazy!!

Day 5: On our last day in San Diego, I took the girls to The New Children’s Museum downtown. We took Vivian here last year and it was even more fun to go back there with her now that she’s so interested in all the exhibits and able to interact more fully with them.

Playing at the Children's Museum

Playing at the Children’s Museum

Lillian Happy - and Not Screaming - at the Children's Museum

Lillian Happy – and Not Screaming – at the Children’s Museum

After Dan’s conference ended, we drove north to our home in Orange County (cue more infant car screaming). We had a fun, packed trip, but since Dan was at his conference for 2.5 days, we didn’t get to spend our entire trip together as a family. We made memories (some good, some bad) and realized that we don’t want to take Lillian on any long car trips anytime again in the near future, so we cancelled our plans to go to Temecula the following weekend. As we did with Vivian, we will just travel to places where we can fly!

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