Thursday, January 29, 2015

Remembering little conversations and moments

Sometimes, when I write down funny conversations, you can't fully appreciate how cute it really was. You can't hear the beautiful, childish sound of a two year old boy's voice. You can't hear the inflection in his voice or see the big brown eyes and curly hair. Caleb and I had a little back and forth conversation one night this week while he was playing with his cars in the living room. It went like this:

Me: Caleb, it's time to go upstairs and put on your PJs.
Caleb: And then we'll read books?
Me: Yes and then we'll read some books.
Caleb: And then I'll go to sleep?
Me: Yes, and then it will be time to go to sleep.
Caleb: And then I'll wake up?
Me: Yes, and then we'll wake up.
Caleb: And then I'll play cars again?
Me: Yes, and then you can play cars again.

This boy LIVES to play cars. It's beautiful to me how simple and sweet his little life is. It's all about sleep, play, and eating!

Last Sunday, Jeremy and I planned a little after church lunch and playtime at Mission Dolores Park in the City. We go to San Francisco every Sunday morning for church, but we almost always go straight home because it's easier to have lunch at home and Caleb and Anna need to nap. Sunday was a nice day, so we decided to do a picnic lunch at the park and let the children play at the super cool playground that's there. Jeremy picked up some sandwiches at a local restaurant near church and then we headed to the park. It was only a mile or so from church. I knew it would be crowded there on a warm, Sunday afternoon, but I was itching to do something a little different from our ordinary routine. Luckily, we found street parking without too much hassle that was a short walk to the children's playground. The grassy area was so covered with people hanging out and eating that it looked like an outdoor concert might be taking place soon! It was great for people watching. You can't fully appreciate the diversity that is San Francisco until you've been to Mission Dolores Park on a warm Sunday afternoon. You see lots of racial diversity as well as cultural and lifestyle diversity. The funniest thing was seeing this guy in dreadlocks work the crowd with his music while selling fresh coconuts with a pour of whiskey. He would cut up the coconut and then pour a little shot into it. It was interesting to watch him and so strange!

After eating our picnic lunch, we headed to the children's playground. Caleb spent most of his time in the sand pit jumping off a 2 ft ledge into the sand over and over and over again. Emily played on slides and scaled the climbing walls and scampered all over the place with Jeremy doing his best to keep track of her. Anna Kate slept or rested in the Ergo baby carrier. The thing I will remember most about this playground trip was how sweet Emily and Caleb played together. After Caleb tired of the sand pit, Emily talked him into going down the big slides with her. They were a bit intimidating for a two year old! Jeremy went down with him the first time, but after that Caleb and Emily slid down together over and over again. Emily sat down and then helped little brother get between her legs and they slid down together. The pure joy and happiness on his face was priceless. To see her patiently wait for him every time was just precious. We bragged on what a good big sister she was to him and Emily lit up with the compliments. She said, "It's like I'm the big sister mama!" She's been saying that a lot as she "mothers" Anna Kate, too. Emily has fully embraced her big sister role and it is charming to see her confidence.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Christmas Vacation: Part 2 Lee Family

We headed to Bowling Green on December 27th and stayed through the new year until January 4th. Christmas was a big deal for the family this year. It was the first time Laura and Will and the boys had been home for Christmas in over two years. The last time I had seen my sister Caleb was about the age of Anna Kate! SO much has happened in all of our lives since then. When I first saw her sitting in Mom and Dad's living room, it was like, "Oh hi! There's Laura!" It didn't seem out of the ordinary for her and the boys to be there. That's the thing about living in our digital age; we're still able to maintain connections. We "see" each other all the time on Facebook or Facetime. We often text one another and send photos. We read each other's blogs or newsletters. So, even though it had been over two years since seeing each other, it hadn't felt as long as that with all the ways we can still communicate. Still, nothing like hugging and kissing your family in person!

Our time went by so quickly! We had several meals together with the whole family. We were able to attend church with them twice. We spent an evening with Dad's siblings and their families at my Aunt Cindy's house. Mom and Dad treated Laura and me to a spa gift certificate to get massages. (I think they realized how stressed Laura and I were with our trips to KY this year!) We celebrated Mom's 60th birthday with a meal and cake at the church's party room. The whole family was there as well as most of Mom and Dad's siblings and their spouses (and Memommy!) Emily and Caleb enjoyed playing outdoors on their property and swing set. Jeremy and I really appreciated having extra holding hands to help us with the kids during our time in Louisville and Bowling Green. Even now that we are back home, there are SO many evenings that I wish one of the grandparents could just rock Anna Kate for us while I read a long story with Emily. Now that Christmas is over, it's time to start planning our vacation weeks for when the grandparents come visit us in California. Love our families so much!

Silly Pop!

What a cute little kid's table!

Caleb jumped into the photo of my sister and me

We were treated to a lovely Christmas pageant by our children and nieces and nephew! My Mom was so sweet to organize their costumes and get them all ready. The kids were so proud of themselves and happy to put on a show for their parents! 

Little dude buried in presents!

Woohoo! Paw Patrol! This is Caleb's favorite cartoon right now--obsessed! 

A photo to capture a little of the fun chaos. 

This was a surprise big hit with Emily. She has loved creating cute things with her bead toy.

Anna Kate looks pretty comfortable in Uncle Stephen's arms.

The grandkids enjoying popcorn and a movie.

Aunt Mima made a quilt for all of the great grandkids! So generous and thoughtful.

We took the kids to cousin Jason's fire dep't to explore on a cold dreary day in BG

The Littlest Fire Marshall

Driving the big truck!

Cute photo op that didn't exactly get the expressions we wanted! ha!

Caleb was feeling under the weather and clingy. I knew he felt bad when even a trip to the fire dep't couldn't make his mood better.

Not the best photo of me, but oh how sweet is his face! 

Memommy holds Knox while Hudson plays a game.

Watching a show on the Leap Pad with cousin Hunter

I wanted to take a photo of Mom and Dad's house because it could very likely be the last time we're all in it together. They are putting it up for sale this spring and plan to build a new home on the property they inherited from Memommy and Grandaddy Lee's farm. I have mixed feelings about Mom and Dad moving. I want the best for them and I know they are excited to build again, but this has been home for my whole life--the place I can come back to no matter where I move. The land means more to me than even the house. It's on a beautiful large lot with acres of farmland in front and to the side of the house and woodlands to the back. The land has been in the Meisel family for several generations. It's just so, so sad to see our childhood home go to anyone else. 

Wonder how many times my siblings and I sat on this very same swing?

One last shot of my sis and our babies!

This year Emily asked Santa Claus for one thing. A dollhouse! We couldn't get her a dollhouse in KY, but Santa wrote her a note Christmas morning saying he had left it in our house in CA! Emily got so many things for Christmas that I don't think she was the least bit sad about not having it that morning. When we got home the evening of January 5th, a huge box was wrapped under our tree waiting for her to open. I wish we would have also had time to put it together, but we wasted no time and she was playing with it the next day.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas Vacation: Part 1 Reiss family

Our KY Christmas trip was our longest since we moved to California in 2013. We left Oakland for Louisville on Dec. 17th and returned January 5th. It was much cheaper to fly on these dates during the week and not as close to Christmas, but it required Emily to miss four days of kindergarten. (Basically, Emily is a "delinquent" now. The school sent us our first truancy notice when we arrived back into town. Yikes!) The flights went as well as possible for that long of a trip with three children five and under. The hardest parts about a Christmas trip (vs. summer trips) is packing and managing gifts to/from KY and packing a winter wardrobe which takes up a lot of luggage space. I buy as much as I can and ship directly from online stores to KY, but we still have to get things back home. It really cramps Santa's style to have size limits on what we can reasonably do.

Christmas is the one time of year that so long as we live in California, I can never make it "as it should be" in my mind. At this point in my life, I pictured us owning a nice home in KY somewhere and the kids waking up in their own house to the wonder filled joy that SANTA came to our house!!! I see myself making fun breakfasts for them and having plenty of time to do special celebrations locally with each set of grandparents. I see us crashing in our own beds at night. Nowhere in my mind, does my ideal Christmas include packing and/or shipping loads of luggage and gifts, sleeping in our parents' homes, stressful times with three kids at the airport, flying cross country, illnesses contracted from the flight, managing time zone differences and the havoc that causes with their schedules, and spending as much as a good vacation on travel just to "go home." I realize that I may sound complaining and ungrateful, but this is the reality of traveling so far at Christmas. Our parents are wonderful hosts. I know they work tirelessly to put us up for a week and buy beautiful, special gifts for us all. They are generous and always helpful with the children. We are grateful and thankful and lucky. We want to see them and our extended families. Of course we do! We miss them and love them so much. It's just that I also want to make memories with my little family in my own home. Do our own little traditions. When we travel for Christmas, I feel like I'm just trying to survive it all. I realize that this year was especially difficult because Anna Kate was just a couple of months old. It will be a tiny bit easier when I don't have two in diapers! 

And so there is no way to make Christmas "right" in my mind. If we stay in California, we avoid the stress and hassle and expense of traveling, but then I think we would feel sad to not be with our loved ones. We either deal with the downsides of traveling and not being in our own house or we deal with missing out on the special times with our loved ones. That's the choice. And I wish I didn't have to make that choice every year. I would say that for most of the year, I LOVE living in California. I love our climate, all that there is to do and see, the beauty of coastal living, our friends and church and neighborhood and that my husband is so happy and fulfilled with his job. But, I really miss that we no longer live in KY at Christmastime and Derby week. I miss the peak of autumn color and country little pumpkin patches. I love a few weeks of hot summer fun and swimming at Lakeside. The homesickness is worse for me at those times of year and at each child's birthday when we want to share those special early birthdays with grandparents. 

Even with the very real difficulties of traveling, I would be remiss not to say that we were blessed with the gift of time with our families and friends and many memories were made. We are thankful that Jeremy has a generous vacation policy at work and I'm able to be completely flexible while staying home with the children to allow for these long trips home each year. During our Louisville visit, Jeremy and I were able to attend a Christmas party with his former co-workers. We had appetizers and drinks one evening with Jeff and his new girlfriend. Dinkney, Poppy, Emily and Jeremy enjoyed a special IMAX movie treat to see The Polar Express. We were able to attend a regular Sunday church as well as the special candlelight Christmas Eve service. Jen, Ed, and Elizabeth also were visiting from NC during part of our time in Louisville and it was great to see them, too.

We took lots of photos. Here's a few highlights from our time in Louisville with Jeremy's folks and I'll make a separate post for our time with my folks in BG. 
Decorating Dinkney and Poppy's tree

Their reward for being good little decorators. 

Caleb called the apple cider "apple spider." It was so cute that we all adopted the saying!

Dinkney with her little kitchen helpers

Celebrating my birthday with my three littles. I chose a dutch caramel apple pie from the Homemade Ice cream and Pie Kitchen store--a Louisville original!

Sweet sisters and morning bed heads. :)

Chilling with cousin EB after church

The kids were all dressed up for Sunday church, but of course it was nearly impossible to get a good photo of all three together. 

This was the best we could get...

And it quickly went downhill from there!

Christmas Eve jammies

Christmas Eve with the family and the ONLY photo I have of all five of us over the whole break? What? 

Santa came for Elizabeth, Emily, and Caleb! Lucky kiddos! Anna Kate got a stocking, but beyond that Santa didn't leave much for her this year. ;) 

The kids loved their tent. Luckily, it could break down easily and fit in one box for travel back home to CA.

Morning coffee and a sleepy baby girl Christmas morning

Caleb loved going through his stocking. 

Emily practicing her reading skills with Poppy 


Oh, look at that face! She was so happy and pleased with her "Emily" American Girl doll from Dinkney and Poppy! Her grandmother bought it years ago and was just waiting for her to be the perfect age to take care of it. 

Caleb requesting for us to open his new toy for him to play with

"Reading" together

Caleb loves his dress-up outfit so much!

Sweet baby girl with grandmother! 

And with Poppy

And with Aunt Jen!