Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Laina Turns Five!

It hardly seems possible that the tiny ten-month-old baby we brought home is now a beautiful five-year-old girl with a mind of her own. But here she is! Laina decided she wanted a play-date party, as she called it. All her girl friends over with their dolls, and crafts, and cookies and sprinkles. And sword-fighting. But we nixed that one--short on time and all. :)

(last day as a four!)

(first day as a five!)

Her birthday was on Tuesday, and we spent the morning doing hair, and then met the Whatleys for dinner at Chick-fil-a, it being Cow Appreciation Day and all. Laina wore a crown that read, "I'm the Birthday Cow." And loved it. She opened presents there from family. I made her adoption story book this year, and we didn't want her to open that at her party in case she felt uncomfortable with it. But she didn't, and showed some of the guests the next day.

(Cory got a salad and a coke--his idea of heaven.)

(Karolina sees the big cow walking around)

Tuesday night we had a massive thunderstorm. We lost power for hours that night and again the next morning and thought we may have to call off the party. But thankfully, we got it back and the house cooled off in time for our guests to arrive!

We decorated aprons and then cookies. Mason used his cookie to shovel sprinkles into his mouth. And he asks to look at this picture all the time.

Laina had a blast at her party. I think her favorite presents were the horse from Nona and the quilt from Grammy and Papa. Although the caboodle and girly accessories from Aunt Jenna were a pretty big win too.
(working on Laina's birthday banner)

(decorating aprons)

(the party people!)

Ivy enjoyed hanging out with her arranged Best Friend (similar to an arranged marriage; they are best friends, as decided by the parents!) Lyla. Lyla and Ivy are eight weeks apart, almost to the day. We did a little mini photo shoot since they both had adorable tutus and headbands.

(The big girls and their baby sisters. The babies didn't care for this part of the shoot.)

(sweet Lyla)

One of her presents from us was extensions in her hair! She's been wanting them for a while, but I thought I'd have to pay someone to put them in. I finally found someone and then Kelsey told me that it's not too hard and I could do it myself. So...I tried it! It took a loooooong time, but Laina was very happy with the results. She walks around tossing her head back and forth. It's great.

And just like that, the four became five. Her big brothers both bought her gum, since five is a family rite of passage to be able to chew it. She glowed and grinned both days of her birthday celebration. Laina, we love you so. You are sweet and kind, silly and fun. Happy birthday, Bug!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

To Pennsylvania We Go!

We've been wanting to take the kids up the East Coast for a while now--to see DC, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Williamsburg, etc. The boys are such history buffs, we knew they'd love it. And the fact that we could be based, for the duration of the trip, out of Alison's house, means I knew I'd love it. We tried to go in October, on two different occasions, and couldn't go. Then I, you know, had a baby, which slowed us down a little. No problem--maybe in April. Then said baby turned out to be a car-crier. Another no-go. So when Jeremy suggested we try for the end of June, with Ivy a little more relaxed in the car, no medical problems for anyone, and no one having a baby, we thought, once again, we'd go.

This time, we made it.

We didn't do nearly everything we wanted to. We skipped DC, Williamsburg, and Gettysburg, to name a few. We travelled slowly. But we did it. Can you tell I was pretty proud of us? And surprised?

It took us two days to get to Lancaster, and the night in the hotel was pure misery. But when we got there, our kids clicked with the McLennan kids like they hang out all the time, when in fact, most of them hadn't seen each other since we were in PA in 2010. Laina and Aviviah (also adopted from Rwanda, the same time as Laina) were joined at the hip the entire week, and the boys and Liam played hard for hours a day. It was perfect.

(in the hotel)

(look who turned six months old on the second day of our trip! People might have looked at me funny when I took pictures of her on her quilt on the sidewalk outside the hotel room...)

We arrived on Thursday afternoon. On Friday, we went to the Duck Park (our name for it; not the real name), out to lunch, and to the chocolate factory. This, except for the lunch, was the same thing we did on our first day in PA five years ago. The kids, minus Mason who was a mess, did great at the restaurant, and it was fun to take them somewhere nice instead of to a fast-food place. 

Saturday was rainy and very cool--strange for the end of June, but lovely. We stayed at the house all day and the kids played. Alison, Ivy, and I may have gone out for iced coffee and ended up driving around town for an hour or two, you know, to let Ivy sleep. Blessed quiet and face-to-face talking time.
(Ivy in the high chair for the first time, looking mighty pleased)

Sunday was the biggest and hardest day. We loaded up early and headed to Philadelphia to attend church at Epiphany Fellowship. That was pretty sweet. Then we went to the historical area to get lunch...or to try to. By the time we found a place to eat, it was 1pm. By the time we got our food at the world's slowest restaurant, it was 2 and we were starving. Not our finest moments. We did eat Philly cheese steaks in Philly, by gum, but it was hard-fought.

(waiting, waiting, waiting for the food)

Then it was on to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's grave, and Betsy Ross's house. We saw the room the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed in, and the chair that George Washington sat in. We stood in the courtyard that the Declaration was read in, and we saw original copies of both documents. 
(the boys pretending to be in the painting)

(outside Independence Hall)

(the room everything was signed in, and GW's chair. So cool!)

(Iain looking at the Constitution--an old copy anyway)

We read about the history of the Liberty Bell and saw it. Mason yelled out the CC Bill of Rights Song, and the three big kids became Jr Rangers. Everyone ran around a big green field while I fed Ivy.
(family photo in front of the Liberty Bell. Contrast with our family photo from the last time we were in PA, below)

(October, 2010)

(waiting for a tour)

(outside Betsy Ross's house)

Iain loved everything about Philly. Cory's favorite thing was the Liberty Bell. Laina liked our Dairy Queen dinner. Mason liked any time I gave him a snack, and really, that was Ivy's favorite part too. Jeremy liked seeing Leviticus 25 on the Liberty Bell, and learning about the courtyard where the Declaration was first read, and I liked the courtyard too.

This day was hard. Logistically, physically, stressfully hard. :) But totally worth it. Mason didn't nap all day and he did as well as we could have asked for an over-tired two-year-old. The big kids loved it.

Monday we took the day slow. We let the kids play. We went to a beautiful playground. And then after lunch, we went to a pretzel factory and then to an Amish farmer's market. We ate hotdogs and hamburgers on the back deck. It was one of my favorite days, and once again the weather was beautiful. 

(Ivy was brave enough to pet Pixie--until Pixie moved!)

Tuesday was Valley Forge day. The McLennans, minus Tim, came with us. We discovered the Story Benches on this trip, and were so sad we missed the ones in Philly. These may have been my favorite part of all our day trips. The kids sat on the Story Bench and the storyteller spun tales of historical heroes, funny foibles, and daring escapades. The storytellers were fabulous, drawing the kids into the stories, acting them out, using voices and physical comedy. It was amazing, hilarious, entertaining, and memorable. Iain got to play the general of Pennsylvania, Gen. Wayne, and was so animated and into it--we loved it.

(Iain as Gen Wayne, rustling cattle)

We drove all around the beautiful Valley Forge and could have spent a much longer time there. The kids climbed in bunk houses and on cannons, and we saw the house George Washington used as his office. As we were preparing to leave, a big thunderstorm was rolling in. We stopped at a gas station and our phones were sending warnings of tornados, saying "take cover now!" The gas station was closing up because of the storm. We looked back and could see huge, rotating clouds, so we quickly drove to the mall where we waited out the storm, had an early dinner, and let the kids look around the Lego store. Finally we made it home--at bedtime. 

On Wednesday, let the kids play for a while, took some pictures, and sadly headed home.

(have I mentioned how thankful I am for this girl?)

(Contrast this one with the kid picture we took last time we were in PA, below. Between the two families, we've doubled the amount of kids we have!)

(October, 2010)

We made good time heading home--at first. Then we got stuck in one traffic jam after another. The night at the hotel went better (thankfully!) but the next day was bad in the car. It took us over nine hours to drive what should have been around six. For a while there, we were stopping every fifteen minutes for one thing or another.

When we finally made it home, the kids ran to the backyard to check on the garden before they even came inside. Then they ran around like excited puppies for the rest of the evening. There's no place like home!

We concluded that, though the trip had some very hard hours, overall, it was good. We did and saw as much as we could with the younger kids being the ages that they are. We made some great memories as a family, spent good time with good friends, saw some really cool historical things, and did fun stuff in Lancaster. When the trip was weighed in the balance, we found that our second family vacation to PA was a success. And that we don't want to drive anywhere for a while.