Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year! and Happy Birthday Stephen

Happy New Year Everyone!!
Where do I begin? After a rough month in November, we sure made up for it in December. I was the last to get sick and was feeling mostly human again by the end of the first week. It was then time for the fun to start.
We were just about to get a big snowstorm, so it was time to run out and get the Santa pictures done. Honestly, waiting in lines while doing nothing but yelling at my kids to stand still is the last thing that I want to be doing. So, we get it done early, especialy before we get snowed in. We arrive 10 minuets early allowing the kids to see where Santa was going to be and to prep both of them for the main reason why we were there - to take a picture with Santa for Mommy :-) I wasn't worried about Stephen this year since he wanted something and was eager for his meeting. Rhea wasn't too sure about the whole thing, but enjoyed looking at all the decorations and listening to the music. Our wait was short and without incident when Santa finally arrived. There was a white picket fence separating the kids and two friends they had made. I wish I would have had my camera to capture their faces pearing between the slats to get a glimps of Santa. I had to hold Stephen back once the gate opened since his new friends were waiting in front of us. He watched them intently while Rhea decided that she had changed her mind about this whole Santa "thing". I don't believe in forcing kids to sit on Santa's lap only to come away with a picture on how your child was tortured. However, both kids freaked out last year, so I was slightly more motivated. I remembered what my mom did with our darling little brother when he was two, and it worked. Stephen was in position and already making his requests to Santa while I picked Rhea up and backed up to Santa. I think she was on to me because she kept trying to look over her shoulder to see what I was trying to do to her. I managed to sit her down and run. No, really! Santa gave her a little bounce on his knee and a "ho, ho, ho" and we waited. After processing what I had just done to her, she decided that she liked Santa and wanted to stick around for longer than the photographer wanted which created a whole other problem. In the end, everyone had a great time and I got my picture this year.

The snowstorm arrived as promised. The snow started to fall around 11am and continued through the night. Stephen was especially excited and had his snowsuit on before we were able to completly wake up. The boys went out to play while Rhea slowly woke up. She was more interested in eating breakfast, but I was able to distract her enough to get her dressed and outside. Stephen started building an igloo while Rhea decided to eat her breakfast out of a bag from the back of the car.

Our next adventure was off too finish our Kindermusik class at CCC. We loved our teacher, Miss Becca and had a great time with our Holiday class. Tom was able to come to this class and we managed to get a picture of all of us together. Well, mostly. I am not sure what Stephen was doing in the picture, but he always has a great time in class. Becca does a great job pacing each class to make sure the kids will sleep at naptime. The musical benefits are good too, but I appreciate a little help sometimes when it comes to wearing our children out.
Our big project all month was making Christmas cards and ornaments to take to St. Patrick's Nursing Home in Naperville. I will include pictures of each of their projects. I talked with Stephen about what we were doing and why. His interest with arts and crafts comes and goes, but he really put effort into it this month since he understood that we were making gifts for special people. It was incredible to watch his little heart being expressed through his work when he would normally not be interested for very long. Rhea, on the other hand, could sit at the table for days doing artwork. She is still too young to grasp the concept of what we were doing while we were at home, but that all changed when we arrived at the nursing home. We were able to make it a family event since Tom was able to spare a couple of hours before going to NIU. As always, we get there a little early so the kids can feel comfortable with their surroundings. Stephen knew why we were there, but more importantly, he knew that he was there to talk to people and was eager to carry out his mission. We met the residents in the common area for their social hour and the kids went to work after only a couple of minutes. I still think that these 30 minutes were the highlight of our Christmas season. Tom stayed with Rhea, or at least tried to, while I monitored Stephen from a distance. It wasn't long before the kids were running up to the residents to give away their treasures that they had made, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. There were a few ladies that made a point to ignore them, but that was only a challenge for our two darlings (I am not sure where they get this from). I know it is hard to believe, but Stephen and Rhea were not ignored for very long. These same residents were then talking about their children and grandchildren by the time we left. Stephen was very disappointed when we ran out of things to give when I told him that he could just go talk to people. It was amazing to see him trot off like he was born to bring comfort and joy to people through his voice and spirit. The residents starting getting too comfortable with him and starting kissing and hugging him, so we pulled him out. He still wanted to stay and talk with them, but didn't want to be touched. I promise him that we would go back, but used Rhea as an excuse to make our exit. Rhea had made her way out in the hallway to take up birdwatching from the aviary. She did a great job with the ladies, but was more than ready for a nap by that point.
Christmas was right around the corner and the business of the season was calming down for Tom and I. The making of the Christmas Gingerbread house was next on the list. I had to do this task on my own last year and it was not easy. Tom not only had a better kit to deal with, but he had more hands as well. Then again, I think he would say that I had it easier. I think the kids would say that this was their favorite activity next to opening presents on Christmas day. Stephen was very methodical about helping putting everything in its place while Rhea managed to eat the icing that Tom put, or tried to put on the house to hold it together. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.


We managed to have the presents wrapped by the 23rd and made our plans for the best Bough Christmas yet. Miss Christy and Cory made a surpise visit to deliver early Christmas and Birthday presents. We spent the day making cookies for Santa on the 24th and had a great family day after cleaning up our usual mess.

Christmas morning came and we were awakened by an excited little boy. Poor Rhea was torn out of bed before making our way downstairs. The kids took their time this year and enjoyed each present that was opened. Stephen got more train stuff than he will know what to do with, while Rhea got a puppet theatre and a new chair so she won't have to "share" with her brother anymore. Christmas would of course not be complete without Meem's famous cinnamon rolls made by our children. Santa made sure that they now had appropriate attire for all of their cooking adventures.


Our most recent fun has been celebrating Stephen's birthday weekend. We started on Friday when Rhea and I went shopping for decorations while Stephen and Tom went to the Dupage Children's Museum. Unfortunately, Rhea and I were shopping in the middle of a mild snowstorm while Stephen and Tom stopped off at the Le Chocolate Bar for a hot chocolate. In their defense, they did pick up two bags of my favorite chocolate that I eat every day, so I guess I will let them off the hook. Anyway, Rhea picked out all of the Diego decorations she could find and we eventually met the boys back home. Stephen's next big surprise was a trip to a NIU basketball game on Saturday. Our wonderful babysitters, Ashley and Katie came over to play with Rhea while Stephen had the undivided attention of both parents for the entire day. Tom did have to be with the band, but Stephen was still able to be close to him and chat between bites of pizza, nachos and cheese, pop corn, and candy. Sunday after church was spent fullfilling our birthday traditions. The kids love to bake a cake and decorate it for each other's birthday and this birthday was no exception. Stephen woke up from his nap on the 30th with all of his Diego decorations up and ready for action. It was then time to make the cake after dinner. Stephen had been talking all week about Rhea making his cake for him but changed his mind after we started. I think cooking is such a big hit with this kids because of the spoon licking at the end. Stephen's birthday on the 31st was a great success! Rhea "helped" decorate the cake while most of the icing made it to other places besides her mouth. His favorite babysitters came to join us by 10am and the unwrapping of the gifts began. Stephen actually took time this year to play with all of his gifts instead of opening everything in 2 minutes or less per his previous birthdays. Everything was a big hit since a boy can never have too many train sets. Most importantly, we can not imagine our lives without our favorite boy. He brings a smile to our face everyday when he wakes us up each morning and makes us laugh at the end of the day before he goes to bed. We couldn't be more proud of him and thank God every day for the precious gift He had given us.

Rhea signals for the party to begin. She spent two days being afraid of the party horns and then we could not separate her from them. Notice also that she would not let me take her apron off. Stephen's first gift was a responsibility chart. This one is from Melissa and Doug and I highly reccommend it! I have never seen his bed made so well before he came downstairs the next morning.

Rhea "helping" again.......

The best present came in smallest package. The one thing Stephen wanted more than anything was Annie and Clarrabel from Thomas Train. This was one happy boy!
Here is his Happy Birthday song video. Click on the play button on the bottom left and not the center. You might need to click twice. Enjoy!

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