Saturday, January 25, 2014

Christmas in Denver

We had a great Christmas in Denver with my family this year.

A highlight was seeing Noah play with his cousins.  We lived in Denver from the time Noah was a newborn until he was about 20 months old.  For most of that time, Noah was too little to really play well with his cousin Callum, who is 2.5 years older than he.  Oh Noah would certainly try to interact with Cal--but that mostly consisted of Noah following him around, slobbering on his toys, getting in his way, knocking over his creations, and making Callum cry out of frustration.  By the end of our time in Denver, Noah and Callum were just starting to play together really well, and it was so sad to leave!

This trip, they played together like a dream.  They would spend hours playing cars and trains and giggling together.  I don't think a single fight broke out.  It made me so happy to see them together...and also so sad that we don't still live closer!  Even little Jade, who is eight months younger than Noah, got in on the action and played with the boys.  (Give her six more months and she will be right in the thick of everything with them.)  When we were on the road back to Idaho from the Salt Lake Airport, Noah started crying and saying, "I want to go back to Callum's house!  PLEASE, turn this car around!"  So cute but also so sad.  He cried for Callum on and off for days and still often asks for him.

Speaking of my sister's kids, Ryan developed a real crush on little Jade this trip.  Can you blame him?  She is to-die-for cute with her little blonde pig-tails and spunky personality. 

Another highlight of the trip was spending time with my grandparents.  I have written about them on this blog a lot, so you probably already know how much I adore them, but every time that I see them interacting with their great grandkids, I am reminded again how special they are.  How many 85 year olds are so interested in playing with little ones?  How many great grandmas get on the floor and play cars and snuggle with stuffed animals with the kids?  We are so blessed that they have been part of our kids' lives.

We had Christmas Eve dinner at their house, and Grampy and my dad showed up in the same shirt. :)  Classic.  Like father, like son.  After dinner, my grandpa read us the "Tommy Right and Left Story" which has been a tradition for decades.  He wraps candybars and reads a story which includes the words "right" and "left," and we pass the presents around in a circle until we each end up with one.  I love family traditions.

Christmas morning was pretty magical with the kiddos.  When my sisters and I were kids, we slept together in the same room (usually the same bed) and then woke our parents up in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas.  We stood at the top of our big staircase and waited for Dad to get the video camera and tape us running down together to see what Santa had brought.  We reenacted that tradition this year with our kids.  We didn't think they were quite old enough for a sleepover (we will definitely let the kids do that in a couple of years when we are together for Christmas again), but we did have them line up at the top of the stairs and run down cheering.  So fun!

Santa (well, it was actually Bapa) brought Noah an electric Thomas the Train set.  He is in love.

Callum was pretty impressed by Noah's train too.  :) I was amazed by how excited Cal was for Noah.  Before he even looked at his own gifts, he was rejoicing that Noah was so happy about his!  Sweet him.

We miss living close to my family.  It was great to be with them for Christmas, but the visit just wasn't long enough (we had to cut it short so we could also go to San Diego to see Laura).  Can't wait to see them again, hopefully soon!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


We had a busy December full of lots of fun.  Some of the highlights:

1. Noah's Special Date with Grandpa

Ryan's dad owns a small plane for his business, and he needed to bring it to Twin Falls to be repaired, so he stayed overnight with us one day in December while they were working on his plane.  Ryan and I had a work party to attend, so Grandpa babysat Noah and spoiled him rotten.  First they went to KFC for mac and cheese (Noah's favorite), then they went and saw the movie Frozen (Noah is obsessed), and of course, they had to stop for blizzards at DQ on the way home (Grandpa loves ice cream).  Noah was in hog heaven!  That was probably the most exciting night of his life thus far.  In fact, when I told Noah that he would be going to the movie theater with Grandpa, he put his hands in the air and did a little "raise the roof" gesture and said, "Whoop! Whoop!"  Ryan and I both cracked up because we had never seen him do that before.  He must've been pretty pumped.

2.  Preparing for Christmas

Noah sort of "got" Christmas this year, which was really fun.  He knew it was a special and different time of year, due to the decorations we put up at home and all of the holiday lights that he saw around town.  He loved helping us decorate our (pathetically small) Christmas tree and insisted that the beads that we strung on the branches were a "scarf."  He kept saying that the tree was "so tall."  Um, not so much, but whatever you say, kid! :)  

I enjoyed teaching Noah a little bit about the true meaning of Christmas.  One night, we watched a short video depiction of the Christmas story that was produced by our church, and that was really helpful in talking through the Bible story with Noah.  We also have the Little People nativity set, and Noah and I would often play with it and talk about all of the characters.  Noah learned the basics of the Christmas story, such as the facts that Baby Jesus was born in a stable, Mary was Jesus' mother, Joseph was Jesus' earthly father, and our Heavenly Father sent Jesus as a gift to us because He loves us.  He also fixated on the wisemen for some reason and often told me that they brought Jesus "gold, frankincense, and myrrh." :)

Honestly, I didn't really go "all out" on Christmas this year with lots of traditions and fun--I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant--but Noah was thrilled with what we did do.  Sometimes I feel like it's hard to get into the "Christmas spirit" (whatever that means) when life is so busy and draining, but I'm realizing more and more that simple is fine.  We read the Polar Express a lot, listened to Christmas music, burned a pine-scented candle most days, and drove to see a cool light display in a nearby small town one night.  Good enough for Noah!

Because we were going to be in Denver for the holidays, we celebrated Christmas early with Noah's Idaho grandparents, and he was very excited about the new cars and racetrack that he got from them!

3.  Visit with Noah's Birthparents and their Families

One thing that I really dislike about living in Twin Falls is that we have to drive so far to get to an airport.  The Boise airport is about two hours away, but it doesn't have as many flight times and tickets are more expensive, so we often make the long 3.5 hour drive to the Salt Lake airport.  The only plus to this arrangement is that we can see family and friends in Utah on our way out of town.

So on the day we were flying to Colorado for the holidays, we spent the morning and afternoon with Katie and Drew and their families in Utah.  It is always so fun to see them.  There is usually a big gathering of people, excited and waiting to see Noah.  They love him and they love us, and it's just really awesome to feel the connection, love, and support that has come with this open adoption.  It's honestly always a highlight of my holiday season.

Every time I see Noah with Katie and Drew, I feel so grateful that he is never going to have to wonder if they loved him and wanted the best for him when they chose adoption.  What a blessing!

4.  Lots of Traveling!

Not only did we drive to Utah and then fly to Denver in the days leading up to Christmas...we also flew from Denver to San Diego on Christmas day and spent a few days there with my little sister and her husband.  Laura was due to have a baby any day and couldn't travel for the holidays, so we decided to visit her so she wouldn't be too lonely (and so we could soak up a little sun).

Overall, Noah was a trooper during such a lengthy, complicated trip, but he definitely hit a wall by the end of it.  I've noticed that when he and I travel together, he does really well until about the sixth day, and then he starts to absolutely lose it.  I guess he's just tired of being out of his routine and his own bed for so long.  It doesn't help that I am also really tired of traveling by that point, so I am not as patient with him.  On the flight to Denver, he was really pleasant and funny.  He was watching out the plane window and saw the bags go up the conveyor belt and into the plane, and he informed us that they were going into the "belly of the plane."  "So they're kind of like food, but they're not food, but they kind of are!"  Where does he come up with this stuff??  And at one point, he was muttering to himself and said quietly, "So, I guess I'm inside an airplane right now."  Hahaha.  I love him.

On the flight home from San Diego, he was not in such a good mood.  During our layover, we rode the train from one concourse to the next for about an hour to keep him distracted, and he liked that--until we had to get off in order to make our next flight, at which point he had a complete meltdown and smacked me in the face.  Lovely.  I think future trips with Noah need to be limited to a maximum of one week and probably only one destination and not multiple plane trips. (Duh, Mom, right??)

That said, we really loved both trips, to Denver and to San Diego, and I am going to devote separate blog posts to each of them in the near future.

Wow, this post ended up much longer than I expected.  December was an exhausting but fun month, and we feel fortunate to have been able to spend so much time with loved ones and family.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Papa Scotty

Today I want to write about my Papa Scotty.  He is my step-grandpa.  My mom's dad passed away before I was born, so I never knew him.  Oh how I wish I had!  Grandma Barbara remarried when I was five years old, and her new husband was my Papa Scotty.

Scotty was an extremely kind and gentle man.  Even though he joined our family later in his life, he treated us like his real grandkids, and we immediately felt comfortable and at ease in his home.  He had a big house with an amazing yard in Colorado Springs, just over an hour away from where we lived, and my sisters and I would sometimes go and stay with Grandma and Scotty for the weekend.  I've written before about our many memories there--rollerskating on the huge concrete porch, playing for hours in the beautiful yard which had a stream and a totem pole, and watching movies on their big bed that moved up and down with a remote control.  

Scotty was originally from Czechoslovakia, and I remember sitting on his lap and listening to him say poems and nursery rhymes in Czech.  My favorite was a riddle about a great big bowl of porridge, and he would hold my palm up and draw a circle in it, like he was stirring a pot.

He taught me how to play chess, and we would play for hours. Now that I am an adult, I know how boring it can be to play long strategy games with children, but if Scotty tired of playing chess with me, he never let on.  He was endlessly patient.

At night, he always watched Lawrence Welk, and my sisters and I would parade around mimicking the dancers and putting on our own show in front of his TV and he would laugh and laugh.  It seemed like he really enjoyed us being there, and we loved him for it.  

He had a box full of spare change, and on Christmas, we each got to grab a huge handful and take it home--it was so exciting.  I remember trying to stretch my hand as wide as it would possibly go so I could clutch the most quarters.  He also had a little penny slot machine, which we thought was simply the coolest.

He called me his "Chicken Soup Girl." Once when we were out to dinner with him and Grandma, I asked if I could try a bite of his chicken noodle soup.  He agreed, and I finished off his entire bowl!  He thought it was hilarious and ordered more just for me.  From then on he would say, "How's my Chicken Soup Girl?" as he wrapped me in a big hug every time he saw me.

Scotty came to my baptism when I was eight years old and was a part of so many important events in my life during the seven years that he was married to my grandma.  When she was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 70, things got really difficult for them.  Scotty was losing his memory and couldn't take care of her anymore, and his grown children insisted that they get divorced because they were worried that Grandma's cancer treatments would become his financial responsibility. This was an extremely painful time for my grandma, and she was heartbroken.  Grandma came to live with us and we weren't able to see Scotty anymore.  We all worried about him a lot, wishing we could stay a part of his life and help take care of him in his old age.  When my grandma passed away, Scotty was lost to us, and that is painful for me to think about.  I hope he was happy and at peace in the final years of his life.

The reason that I didn't write Scotty's tribute on his birthday is that I don't know his birthday, which makes me sad.  I searched through our family records, looked online for his obituary, and tried to call some distant relatives to find it out, but to no avail. :( Sometimes in the midst of hard times in life, relationships falter or face really difficult times, but that doesn't change the love or the beauty that was there before.  That's why I wanted to make sure that I wrote Scotty's birthday tribute anyway. My sisters and I loved Scotty, and he loved us.  He was an important part of my childhood, and I want to make sure that he is recorded within the memories of my life.  I am grateful for him and the good man and grandpa that he was.