Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas 2015

It's the most wonderful time of the year, even when, or maybe especially when, it's 75 degrees Christmas week! We've all had various intensities and durations of cold symptoms over the past 2 weeks and have enjoyed spending some restful time around the house, at the park and playing outside in this gorgeous weather!

Rachel continues to be the happiest toddler on the block, although she does know how to cry and whine to manipulate us. She's our super social kid, with words for:
All Done, more please, giraffe, I did! Jackson, dog, cat, shoe/sock (same word), bath, snack, mommy (finally!). She loves to figure things out and is very pleased with herself (lots of clapping and a face like the picture below) when she gets it! She and I took a walk in the rain yesterday and she decided it was a good time to figure out how to put the straw back into the lid. She got it and exclaimed, "I Did!"
 This little nugget has 12 teeth (4 molars at one time...poor girl) and is working on her 4 k9 teeth any day now. She loves to talk on the phone, wrestle her brother, eat, put on clothes and take baths. She also loves to pull her diaper down and scratch her bum...we're trying to teach her that it's not lady-like. She has these super sweet curls in the back that I hope last forever! 
 Jackson is all about the world of imagination. He LOVES to take all of his toys (and rachels too) and create a scenario for them. His current favorites are still Rescue Bots and Ninja Turtles, but he'll use various accessories in his scene, like old glow-bracelets, a pulse and my little ponies. He enjoyed the excitement of Christmas, wrapping gifts for others, knowing that there might be some gifts for him. This year he actually seems to process some of the Christmas story more than just the details of who, what and where. We are hoping that the true message of Christmas can sink into his heart and mind amidst the fun and joyful experience of decorating, gifting and spending time with family and friends during the season. 

 We had a few gifts for Jackson but realized they were quite boring and Jonathan made the excellent purchase of 2 Nerf guns. The Byrne household has a rule of Safety First (see all of our previous pictures with dogs and helmets) so the rules are no deliberate head shots, and all participants must be wearing eye protection. These little darts go fast and far and they have really enjoyed themselves. 
We hosted Christmas brunch again this year which is working out really well. We get to enjoy both sets of grandparents and the kids can wake up in their own home on Christmas morning, which I always thought was special when I was younger. The kids just ADRORE their grandparents. It's so fun to see Jackson run to be swept up in the arms of a big embrace, and to see Rachel just squeal with excitement when she sees one of them on FaceTime, or better yet, in person! EEK!  We also realize how blessed we are to have 2 local and 2 very close grandparents who love the kids so well and help us a TON. Parenting takes a village...and we're thankful that our village includes both sets of parents!
 I'm a tad biased, but isn't she beautiful? 
 Rachel's fun gift was a tricycle from BB and Grandad. Our neighbor has this one and we picked it out so she and Rachel can be twins :) She is already obsessed with riding this and it's hopefully going to get us out for even more walks around the neighborhood! Jackson is a rockstar big brother and does a great job of pushing her. 

 I happened to find a train table for sale on our Nextdoor Website and we decided to buy it and make it a Christmas present because it seemed like good timing. JB and I secretly rearranged his room while the kids were out on a walk with grandparents. J was somewhat speechless at the time but now really enjoys his new room.

 J thinks that it can't be Christmas unless it snows. I admit that it's weird to have a warm (hot) Christmas, but I really didn't mind the chance to get outside and enjoy some sun and fresh air! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations!

Each year we have attempted to simplify more and more when the holidays roll around. It's been very evident this year as I have had time to enjoy my family (well...mostly the kids since Jonathan is working long hours to make up for the 5 days off at Christmas and New Years). We had a great dinner with our Community Group for Thanksgiving, celebrating our friendships and Jill and Stephen who moved to CA. Jill and I had grown quite close recently and I am so grateful for our short but meaningful friendship. And I'm so very grateful for this group of people who encourage and pray for one another, laugh together and care for each other, tangibly and intangibly. 

Who put this random Halloween picture in here? :) 

Beth did it again and hosted another lovely Thanksgiving dinner for us and the Speasmakers. The group seems to rotate every year based on JB's work schedule, us in Northern Virginia or the Speasmaker kids and grandkids in town or now very far away...sniff. We enjoyed a great dinner and conversation. The kids even cooperated and played/ate well for a period of time so we could all be hands-free of little ones! Matt was tasked with making these cute little place cards which were a hit. 
Rachel is a joy to be around. She is always smiling and up for a new adventure. She loves to bring you a book and then back up until she can plop into your lap. She gives big hugs, high fives and loves to say "tickle tickle" while she tickles her own belly. She still loves when I am in the house but she will snuggle with Jonathan like no one else. She will lay out on his chest, so deeply relaxed for 20 minutes without moving. Her favorite toys are my phone and anything from my purse. Current favorite books are: Brown Bear (slide-and-find) and Where's Spot (lift the flap book). She loves shoes, baths and hats that belong to other people.
I had a chance to practice with the camera in their house, which has good lighting for much of the day. This picture really sums up Jackson's last year...action figures and his imagination. He currently loves Ninja Turtles and Rescue Bots and will take them on great adventures with our Little People Farmhouse, in our garden, in the stroller, or even in an Amazon box. Playing with him is interesting, since he loves to dictate how you should play. "Mom, pretend that your guy says this. And then pretend that he goes here. No mom, your guy can't do that. He has to move like this". So, usually I sit with him and do as I am told and we have lots of quality time together. That is, when he actually wants to play with me. JB and I have taken back seat to his friends and TV if he's not on restriction (which is often, as of late).
We love having JB around for the holidays and lucked out. This year he was on call Wednesday which gave him Thanksgiving off! He magically got 3 holidays off this winter (but is working like crazy for the whole month of December). We're going to try to pack in a bunch of Christmas fun in the 5 days he's off! It will all start with watching Die Hard....yes, it's his choice :) We've already seen Love Actually, the Grinch, Mickey's Christmas and Frosty. 
I love that J still plays like he did when he was 15 months old...sprawled out on the floor, level with his trucks and equipment. He's such a sweet boy with both a tender spirit and a heart for adventure. 
Because of JB's wonky schedule, we decorated for Christmas on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This is one of the many joys of having a FAKE TREE! We love our $50 Black Friday purchase from Lowes several years ago. Our pre-lit beauty is still going strong about 3 years in and I don't know that we will ever be convinced to get a real tree. Jackson loved decorating this year and continues to move ornaments around the tree (and play with them...and break some of them...)
We also hosted our 7th annual Elf and Cookies night! The group has rotated each year since we all have more kids and they are all old enough to help now, which makes it tricky to find enough space for everyone. This year I pre-baked the cookies and we ate pizza while we watched the first part of the movie. We took an intermission to decorate cookies and then ate while we finished the second half. Happy and with full bellies, the kids were all home by 7:30! 

Grand Illumination Parade in Norfolk 

1st annual Byrne Family Turkey Trot in Larchmont! 

Springfield Visit with William!

Although I wish it was under better circumstances, we got to visit with our entire family this November. My grandfather, Pete McKay, passed away on Veterans Day, November 11th after several weeks in the hospital for abnormal blood work. Thankfully, he was in high spirits and surrounded by visitors, family and friends during that time. We had a chance to face time with him the day before he passed and express how much we love him and are thankful for his service to the Lord and the witness he was. 
Because we have hope in Jesus and the promise of Heaven, the service was a joyful time of celebrating his life. Yes, we are sad on earth that he is no longer with us, no longer at Christmas gatherings or there to sip coffee and chat. But, he is now celebrating in heaven with Nana as well! 

We also got to celebrate unexpected time with Matt, Chase and William, who is growing so quickly! He's such a sweet boy, always exploring, never sitting still to read a book, wary of hugs from girls (we can hope that lasts for a while, hehe) and a great eater and sleeper. 
nose smooshing is genetic with my two kiddos 
uncle matt and rachel
rachel goes in for some aggressive kisses!

Matt and William
dancing cousins

Grandmom and William

I have the most handsome nephew!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Things we love (and a very late cruise update)

After a very busy October, life unexpectedly stayed very busy in November. So, here are a few picture updates from October and November. 

We had a great time on our cruise to the Bahamas, just the two of us. The weather was not as bad as predicted, so we enjoyed some lounging, reading, pina coladas at a local rum distillery and lots of quiet time. It was good conversation, good company and a very restful week together!
We started our cruise week with Wine Fest at Town Point Park on Saturday morning. Then, we grabbed our bags from the car and boarded the cruise. not bad.

Honeymoon Cruise 2006 (Left); Bahamas Cruise 2015 (Right)
>17mph winds in Nassau
Here are some things we love:

We celebrated a neighbor's 3yo birthday party at their house one evening. The night ended with me on the couch reading to them about Hungry Sharks. It made my heart full. 
 J got a razor scooter from us for his birthday. He loved getting it and hasn't ridden it at all. He loves to be incredibly fast on his current scooter and doesn't want the learning curve of a new one.
 Afternoons at the park. Siblings. Hugging. Dirty hands and feet. 
 cute baby in baby-ators. 
 pretty blondie at the beach. 
 Trinity Presbyterian Women's Retreat at Sandbridge. Amazing talks by Leigh Ellen Rodriguez, a peaceful run on the beach, good conversations with good friends, yummy food, worship time. 
 Snuggling with my baby. 
 Watching the kids have a blast with their grandparents. This is a rainy day in Williamsburg and coordinating rain coats! 
 They are related but not looking so much alike. 
 A toddler UVA Cheerleading outfit can make anyone's heart melt. 
Finally. I got a chance to ride the rhino at the zoo ;) Outrageous tights brought to you by LulaRoe (I was a hater but now I'm a fan). 
Lastly, something with a happy outcome but a scary day for all of us. Rachel woke up on Tuesday and was not herself. She lay on my chest all day and wouldn't move willingly. Whenever I shifted her position she was uncomfortable. She didn't eat, talk or drink water. She didn't want to be let down. I walked J to school with her in the ergo and then we cat napped on her couch together. When JB woke up, he assessed her symptoms, took her temp (none), looked in her ears (clear) and determined based on her symptoms we should have her checked out. I grabbed stuff and headed to a walk-in sick visit at the Pediatrician's office. However, those don't exist and thankfully instead of waiting to see them at 2pm they sent us right to the CHKD ER where we were able to see a doctor who used to work for Jonathan's practice. It was a long morning for both of us: I had to hold her down during an x-ray, hold her writing head and shoulders while she screamed as they attempted to draw blood and place an IV for a CT scan. 
The x-ray showed some possible swelling behind her throat (where we were expecting to see signs of an abscess) hence the need for the CT to further explain what was going on. However, since 3 practitioners were unable to place an IV, they gave her a mild sedative to assist with that process. That drug started to relax her and she began to move normally again. When the current (leaving at 3pm) and relieving doctors came into the room, they both agreed that she was looking like herself again and we could cancel the CT. So, the plan was to dose her with motrin and monitor her symptoms for any signs of infection, trouble swallowing, etc and if none of those reared their ugly heads, we were in the clear. 
At this point, the working diagnosis, torticollis, doesn't fit for a child of her age so we are really attributing this day as an answer to prayer. We had a bunch of friends praying for us when we were in the ER and are so thankful that Rachel made a complete recovery without any invasive interventions. We've been holding our children a little tighter this week and are grateful for how incredibly healthy they have been until this point. It's easy to take things like good health for granted and forget to be grateful for that each day.