Friday, January 31, 2014

Christmas 2013 - That's a Wrap

This was the first time that Addie has been able to see Julien open his gifts.
She typically is still sleeping when he runs downstairs on Christmas morning.

She was sweet and watched without complaint.

He's rotten.

Taking the official photo for social media relations.

Christmas 2013 - That's a wrap - finally.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"My Julien"

Addie really missed Julien throughout Christmas.
It hurt my heart to see how much she missed him and how often she asked about him.
Since we had to drive to Huntsville to get Julien, we decided to make a day of it since any car ride with Addie is a challenge - we might as well find some entertainment to offset the car ride trauma.

After surprising Addie with a trip to the nail salon, we set out for the trip North.

Our next surprise was a visit to the movie's to see Frozen.
Even more important was the popcorn and M&M's!
She was a very good girl and once the popcorn supply ran out, she snuggled in my lap until the movie was over.

After the movie, we went for a walk to see the beautiful Christmas tree 

and water fountain.

After stretching our legs a bit, we headed to a local restaurant for dinner.
Addie and I had to visit the restroom and when we walked back to the table, there sat Julien.
It was the perfect end to Addie's day of surprises!
She was absolutely speechless.
She stood just looking at him.
He finally bent over and scooped her up for a huge hug!

She was beyond happy to have her Julien back.

December 29, 2013

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No Laughing Matter

Northern blood runs through my veins, I even have the birth certificate to prove it.

I was in Alabama for the Blizzard of 1993.

I lived in Washington, and drove to Vancouver, BC in the depths of winter just for the fun of it.

I traveled cross country three weeks post Cesarean Section, with a newborn and three cats, in a vehicle by myself in late December.
Just so happened it was during a massive ice/snow storm.
It was an incredibly trying time and one of those moments in life when a "do over" would be totally acceptable.

I'm not fragile and I'm somewhat smart.

Despite my overwhelming hatred of the Alabama "summers" (March through September), I love Alabama.
I have always said that Southern Hospitality isn't just a phrase, it's a way of life.
So, although I claim my Northern heritage, I still find myself gearing up for battle when the rest of our great country seems to think we all walk around in bath robes with sponge rollers in our hair.
Some of us actually remember to take the rollers out - before we leave the house.

This winter ice storm that hit Alabama - is no laughing matter.

My family, was incredibly fortunate.
Our story does not hold an eye-catching title or envelope acts of unbridled heroism.

Our story is identical to thousands of others.

We were not one of the stranded motorists.
We didn't have to sleep on the side of the road
 we were all together at night's end.

Like so many other people, we stood, glued to the windows at work, watching the first snowflakes of the year start to fall.

After all, it's a familiar routine.
Snowflakes fall.
School closings begin.

Within minutes of the first snowflakes,

we received notification that schools were closing.

Chris and I are both beyond grateful to have an employer that allows us the flexibility to leave - at a moments notice - to go and get our children.

We gathered our things and left and by the time we made it to the exit of the parking deck, we realized that the beautiful snowflakes brought with them - sheets of ice.

We had no warning and never once that morning did it cross our minds that tragedy was in store for so many people.

Thank goodness that a friend and fellow co-worker was riding home with us, because that forced me to act better than I really felt.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Holly C. for keeping our spirits uplifted and for helping us along this journey.

According to Google Maps - we live 8.7 miles from work.
On that 8.7 mile stretch of road, we pass Julien's school and Addie's school - talk about convenience.  

Reality really started to set in when we realized that people were abandoning their cars and walking - on the street in front of us.

I started to get anxious when Julien called to tell me that the buses were no longer going to run and that we would have to come and pick him up.  
When a turn onto a main road that typically takes less than five minutes, took over three hours, I had to force myself to remain calm.
There was no going back.

It wasn't much longer after that when I received a call from one of Addie's teachers telling me that the school was preparing for the children to - spend the night at school.
Has something like that ever crossed my mind.

I was completely at peace knowing that Addie's teachers were with her and that she was safe and well taken care of.
However, I was absolutely sick not knowing how or when - we would get to Julien. 
We knew that the only two options were to have him - and a friend we were picking up - walk down the hill to the main road or either we had to park and walk up the hill to get them.
It truly was one of the most difficult decisions to make because I knew that if anything ever happened to them, I would never forgive myself.

By the time we finally got to Julien, almost five hours had passed since we left work and we still had to get to Addie.

Right after we got to Julien, we learned that the road into our little town was blocked - a semi truck had overturned and there were two bridges that were impassable until the sand trucks arrived.

It was a very disheartening moment.

The rest of the story involves an extremely long walk, sweaty gym socks, flip flops, suit pants and favorite three inch heels, and puddles of frozen urine.
The story also involves two very smart girls and two teenage boys taking a ride from a complete stranger despite all that they have ever been taught, complete emotional exhaustion and an almost eight hour journey to get to a little Monkey and then to the comfort of home.

We were incredibly fortunate.
We made it home - safely - and with our children.
Our journey was a walk in the park compared to what other people are going through.
We have no complaints.

There is no one to blame and only endless gratitude for the people who watched over our children until we could get to them, the kindness of strangers and the immense loyalty to an employer who truly represents a caring company.

There are so many people still not with their families tonight and thank heaven for the people working desperately to ensure their safety.

This wasn't a little dusting of snow and truly is no laughing matter.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Day Full of Surprises

Addie woke to discover that we had a very busy day scheduled...and that it would be full of surprises.

Although Chris and I were a little worried about Addie's first surprise of the day, it was a flawless experience.

The Little Monkey sat quietly and enjoyed being pampered.

I sat in absolute admiration and had a glimpse into what I can look forward to in the years ahead.

I was so proud of her!


December 29, 2013

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Christmas Day

...and then there was Christmas Day.

Post Santa, we had to send Julien a "We love you, miss you!" text before scurrying off to the next adventure.
Addie's sweet little face is absolutely precious!
She lights up at the mere mention of Julien's name!

Christmas dinner at my aunt's.

Family, more food and Monkey's.

Just the girl's.

I think Addie was pretty exhausted by this point

and was starting to glaze over.

Then came the annual opening of presents, which means that we once again cram everyone into the room, fight over prime spots on the couch and see how many of us can manage to fit onto one couch.
It was a tight squeeze.

The gifts were perfect, the day was wonderful 

that wrapped up Christmas...for a few more days until Julien made it home.

I'll try to get through Christmas before the end of January.
It's been a busy month!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ever So Humbling

I always sincerely appreciate every kind comment and word of encouragement.

Lately, the comments have come from as far away as Slovenia, Poland and Russia (to name a few)!

I am always so amazed and so humbled to know that our efforts are not in vain.
The comments always seem to come at some of my darkest moments, and they never fail to brighten my mood and bring me back into focus.

Thank you - all.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 of my book will focus solely on the benefits of a good nights sleep, expert recommendations on how to achieve a good nights rest, references to world wide best sellers properly documented in APA style and then the many, many ways I have a blatant disregard for anyone who has ever made a living trying to tell me how to get my child with a wide variety of special needs to sleep through the night.  
I'll follow that by 101 Ways to Make Child Psychologists and Pediatricians Cringe, and possibly finish up the chapter talking about the health benefits of sleeping on the outermost edge of a king sized bed, keeping warm on cold winter nights by utilizing live fur coats and finish by comparing the ergonomics between memory foam pillows and the cushioned 240-/+ bones of a feline pillow.

After Addie was born, we started putting the cats to bed downstairs in our finished basement.
They had four large rooms to play and sleep and when morning came, they would come upstairs until it was our bedtime the next night.
That's the way our routine stayed for the next almost seven years.

Not long ago, we started noticing that Alley and Thomas had started slowing down going up and down the stairs and I really started noticing that Alley was starting to show her age.
It's sad.
We then decided that the trip up and down the stairs was too much on them, and decided to try to let the kitties "roam free" at night.

It has worked out fine so far, but it took Rudy a few nights to adjust.
Things have been going very well - Rudy got a new fur covered dog bed for Christmas and that is where we tend to find him, until this morning.

This - was a first.

They were sound asleep, until I woke them while trying to take a picture. 

Addie had absolutely no idea that she was laying on Rudy and there is no telling how long he had been there. 

What a way to start her morning and that beautiful smile on her face was a great way to start my morning.

Now, we just have to have a long talk with Rudy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christmas Morning

Addie slept pretty late - close to 9:00 on Christmas Morning!
She was still sleepy while opening gifts and continuously asked, "Where's Julien?".

Another addition was added to the family and she was welcomed with lots of love and joy - just like the other 40 something babies that we have taken in.
~Addie outright refused to even glance at her gifts until she had Baby Lila all settled on my lap~

Monkus was definitely ready to take a look inside the bag.

She seemed pleased with all of her gifts and she was very happy that her baby got a new coat for Christmas.

More educational toys.
Bless her.

The Hippo backpack.
I'm pretty certain that she has transferred the backpack from a dance bag to a hiking bag, because the dancing hippo spent this past Sunday afternoon with us out in the woods of Alabama.

I don't think Rudy had fully recovered from the previous night before he found himself in the middle of yet another mess.

Christmas morning 
December 25, 2013

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Up Next...Christmas Day

A not completely perfect Christmas morning.
For the first time, Addie woke up Christmas morning, missing "her Julien".
He celebrated Christmas in another state, which left our house rather quiet, and left our Little Monkey - very sad.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christmas Eve with the Little Monkey

I love Christmas Eve.
I love that my family can get together and sit around and talk and relax and enjoy the evening. 

Our favorite movie was playing, and the night was almost perfect.

My brother and new sister in law, bought this ornament for Addie - perfect and so thoughtful!

Speaking of thoughtful, my brother and his wife were so nice and were very willing to pick from the "wish list" that I create for the Monkey every year.

It can be kind of tough knowing what to get for her, and honestly, I try to make it easy for everybody.
I try to get a mix of educational and fun toys
make sure that the gifts will be appreciated and used.

This educational game is one of Monkey's favorite gifts.
She tries - so hard - to match and sort the pieces.
I have had to modify the game a bit, but she absolutely loves it!

Tucker was still hanging in, although he truly looks like he is pleading for help or trying to tap out.

Monkus was so happy and she was such a sweet girl all evening long.

When it came time to open presents from my Mom, Monkey was all smiles... 

although she wasn't 100% sure what to think about the little monkey she had just unwrapped.

The next gift - without a doubt - was a hit.

Addie adores Baby Lila.
When the baby gets upset, Addie goes into full Mommy mode and pats Lila and rocks her until she stops crying.

Gift number three, was also an enormous hit and loved by everyone at the party.

The cutest, most adorable and softest sleeping bag/napper - ever.

I will have to talk more about this sleeping bag later - it was yet another "find" that I spent way too much time researching.

December 24, 2013

Thursday, January 09, 2014

bella's inspirations

In typical jennhen fashion, I spent an obnoxious amount of time researching my children's gifts for Christmas.

I don't want to buy gifts just so they can have more to open, I buy gifts that I think they will love and enjoy.
I don't think it's about the quantity, but the quality.

This year, Julien's gifts were way more difficult than Addie's, but Addie's gifts still required way more thought than probably is really healthy.

One afternoon, I was helping Addie dress and undress a small village of dolls when she asked me, "Diaper"?
Being the horrible Mother that I am, I realized that I did not have a drawer full of doll diapers readily available for the 30+ dolls that live in my home.

That is when the search began.

In case you didn't know it, disposable doll diapers are ridiculously expensive.

So, I turned to my trusted Etsy for help.
I searched, and searched, and searched.
and searched.
I needed to find just the perfect diapers for Addie's babies.

I kid you not, weeks of late night Etsy viewing took place and that's when I happened upon bella's inspirations.

When I saw the diapers, I knew my search was over.

I ordered four five diapers with matching wipes (a bib arrived as well...)


a sleeping bag with matching pillow.

Two business days later, the package arrived at my house.
When I opened the box, Chris was standing next to me (maybe in hopes of a prize for him....???) and he was extremely impressed with the quality and workmanship of the diapers and sleeping bag.

For dolls.

We were so impressed, that I ordered eight more diapers with matching wipes.
Everything from polka dots, to doggies, to kitties, to ballerina kitties adorned the diapers.

I loved the diapers so much that I decided to let Addie give some as gifts
then Santa confiscated the rest.

...and on Christmas morning, my sweet Baby Girl was so surprised to receive the new diapers for her babies.

Her babies have been changed countless times.
The diapers have been washed and the Velcro strips put to the ultimate baby changing test
and they look just the same as the day I received them.

As an added bonus, Nancy from bella's inspirations is a remarkably kind woman who puts her heart into making these diapers.
I love nothing more than to find an amazing item, that has been handmade with love.
It makes it that much more special.

If you are shopping for baby doll diapers, baby doll wipes or baby doll sleeping bags, please contact Nancy at bella's inspirations.  

You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Christmas Eve Animal Invasion

On Christmas Eve, Tucker came to visit.
This made Addie very happy

and wore Rudy out.

Although Rudy was exhausted from chasing after Tucker, he refused to go anywhere except on an available lap,

and mine was available,
for a limited time.