Friday, January 28, 2011


My mom assigned this word to my current state when I tried to explain to her how I've been feeling this week. It's pretty accurate!

I have been anxious about this morning for a while, the morning Rob would leave for the weekend for a friend's wedding in Texas. When we were first making our plans, I was anxious to leave the kids behind (not helping was the fact that we had just experienced Ellie's febrile seizure). When we couldn't figure out a situation that would work in terms of their care, we decided that I would have to stay behind, and since then the anxiety has swelled as big as my belly into fear that something will go wrong while Rob is gone.

I think it has just so happened that with every pregnancy we have gone through, Rob has needed to fly somewhere during my 2nd or 3rd trimester and I have cried and worried and expected the worst to happen. It never has, but that doesn't keep those same fears from resurfacing, no matter how irrational (there is no such thing as rational when you are this pregnant, right!?).

So welcome, Braxton Hicks. Make yourself comfortable, Tums. We have 56 hours to get through together until the most sane, stable person returns to our household again. :)

**I am so glad my sister comes home for good from college tonight - she and my parents will be keeping us company and occupied while Rob is gone, and I am so thankful!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Please... Make it stop

Just when you think you've paid your dues for the season and checked the box next to 'stomach flu'...

I am up with Robbie who has the flu for the second month in a row. Regretting taking that Benadryl before bed to help me sleep (I am still fighting off a cold). Now all I feel is jittery and nauseous as I do sick laundry!

Praying against Ellie coming down with it again... Won't you join me in that prayer!?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Step AWAY from the CAN

I am fortunate to have a friend who enjoys cooking and baking just as much as I do, and while family recipes are our favorites, we also share a love for and loyalty to one Mrs. Ina Garten in our culinary endeavors ("Oh, Jeffrey!"). There is something about enjoying a hobby together with a good friend, and while Becky and I live miles apart and never get to cook together in the same kitchen, we enjoy sharing recipes via email and tasting each other's new favorite dishes when we are able to gather our families together.

Becky was the one who introduced me to heaven in a bowl, also known as Ina's Roasted Tomato Basil Soup. And after begging her for her world famous recipe for homemade chocolate icing (my freshly baked chocolate cake would have no other), she generously obliged.


I just made this icing on my stovetop. After one lick, I vowed NEVER to buy icing in a can/tub again. All it takes is 4 simple ingredients that most of us always have on hand, one pot, one spoon, and 5 minutes... I hope Becky is OK with me sharing this recipe with you, because I feel sort of wrong keeping it to myself.

Now go bake yourself a chocolate cake so you can put this frosting to work! (FYI, I doubled the frosting recipe so that I could ice my 2-layer round chocolate cake.)

Becky's World Famous Chocolate Icing

1 C sugar
1/3 C milk
5 T butter
6 oz chocolate chips

In small saucepan, combine sugar, butter and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (1 minute). Remove from heat, add chips, stir until smooth.

Let them eat soup!

I came up with a new recipe for Minnestrone soup last week... it makes a LOT of soup (think one dutch oven filled to the lid!) and yet we still managed to polish it off before having to freeze any leftovers to keep them from spoiling. Success, in my book. Enjoy!

Ashley's Minnestrone

1/2 lb medium pasta shells
2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 C chopped carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1-2 C chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
1 can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans italian stewed tomatoes (with juices)
1 can tomato sauce
4 C chicken broth
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t dried sage
1 t dried thyme
2 C fresh chopped spinach
1 zucchini, diced
1 can green beans, drained
Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

Cook pasta shells according to box directions; drain, pour into an airtight container, and toss with small amount of olive oil to keep shells from sticking together. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute onion, carrots and celery for about 10 minutes until onions are translucent. Add white and red beans and stewed tomatoes, breaking apart with a wooden spoon. Add tomato sauce, broth, salt, pepper, sage and thyme. Bring to a boil and let simmer 10-15 minutes. Add spinach, zucchini and green beans and continue to simmer until zucchini is tender.

To serve: scoop a few spoonfuls of cooked pasta shells into the bottom of each bowl. Ladle soup over shells, and stir to combine. Top with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and serve immediately.

*I like to keep the pasta separate from the soup, even after the soup is done cooking. The shells seem to absorb the soup broth over time, expanding and getting soggy. Storing the shells and soup separately lengthens the shelf life of your leftovers!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Things you should know

Apparently, there are a few things that I've been missing out on. For way too long. Here are a few things you might want to know about...

- If you get a cold while pregnant, it is safe to take Robitussin DM (cough suppressant), Sudafed (nasal decongestant) and/or Benadryl (at night for sleep). How am I in the third trimester of my third pregnancy and JUST FINDING OUT ABOUT THIS?! I am thrilled and annoyed all at once. And you can bet I got all self-medicated last night and slept through the night, and already feel better. Justlikethat.

- Most if not all cribs with a drop-down side rail are under recall right now. Some cribs, like our newer one, should be completely replaced. Just call the store where you bought the crib and they will tell you what to do or who to contact. For us, that means disassembling the old crib, sending a few parts back to the manufacturer, and then receiving a voucher in the mail (for the value of the old crib) good only towards the purchase of a new crib. Babies R Us lets you buy the new crib first, then bring the voucher back in later with your new crib purchase receipt for an adjustment so that you don't actually have to be without a crib for any amount of time.

- Old Navy Maternity makes the best. yoga. pants. ever. Sadly, I am highly inactive during my pregnancies and always feel a little guilty wearing work out clothing. As if I'm doing anything to raise my heart rate other than get excited for an occasional morning donut. But these pants? I just ordered them online with a gift card I got for Christmas (thanks mom and dad!) and they are so wonderful. They are not too snug but have enough shape to wear out of the house, and the waist has a fold over panel that could probably be worn as a full panel but sits at just the right place below your belly when rolled down. Love.

- Earth Mama Body Butter is the best belly cream I've ever tried. It isn't greasy, has a light scent that is pleasant, and is so moisturizing that you really only need to apply it once a day. I found it at Whole Foods but I know this brand is sold in other stores as well (Babies R Us, etc.).

- Trader Joe's makes angel food cake. Did you know that? I didn't. I don't love TJ's like some people... I find a lot of what they sell to be bland and it's hard to justify shopping here very often even for the things I DO like that they sell, because I HAVE to supplement my grocery shopping with another trip to Target (where we get all of our groceries). But. The angel food cake they sell in the bakery section is worth making a special trip for in the slushy snow. And I don't even really like angel food cake. Last week I bought one out of curiosity, and after one bite I was hooked. As in, I ate the whole darn 6 inch cake in one sitting. Oops. I am not typically a devour-the-whole-thing kind of eater, but that poor angel food cake never knew what was coming. For $2.99 you won't be disappointed. Just don't clear out the inventory at the TJ's in Glen Ellyn or I'm coming for you.

- One of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp, just released her book "One Thousand Gifts". I just ordered two copies - one for me, one to give to a dear friend. I can't wait for it to arrive, as everything Ann writes is so moving and spirit-filled. You can order a copy here.

- If you have a sweet tooth craving for Pez candy, I discovered that they sell large bags of the refills at Toys R Us. Don't laugh, this is my favorite thing right now. If only I could find a place to buy the Strawberry and Grape flavors by themselves...

Now you know. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A bad recipe

The Winter Blues (serves 2 adult parents)


2 little kids who have been sick for nearly a month straight
5 nights of broken sleep per week
1-2 hours extra office work per day
1 hormonal pregnant woman
1 crib recall, requiring the disassembly of old crib and assembly of new crib
6 baby teeth erupting at the same time in one mouth
Dash of seasonal bloody noses


Combine all ingredients. Let marinade in sub-freezing temperatures with extremely dry air. Pregnant woman must lift and wrestle 60 lbs worth of children each day until muscles are pounded to even thinness and breathing becomes labored. Gently whisk in weight gain until roomy maternity clothes feel uncomfortable, then fold in a black tie event requiring fancy dress, heels and the stamina to stay awake until at least 10pm. Season to taste with chapped lips, dry skin, runny noses and deep chest coughs. Pairs well with ambitions such as potty training, teaching two children to sleep in the same room together, debunking bunk beds and reassembling one twin bed in another room, and preparing for a new baby.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snapshot: Ellie at 1 1/2 yrs old

Elizabeth Suzanne Livingston

You are 18 months old and this stage you are in right now is so great! I never thought that I would be the kind of mom who is enamored by her little girl (isn't that a trait reserved for the daddies?). But I am the one who has a harder time disciplining you and refraining from laughing at your ornery antics, and your daddy can be thanked for keeping you in line.

You are turning into such a little girl, and much as I want to keep you as my baby you are growing up. It's a good thing, and very necessary for you to be developing in all of the ways you are, but I'm a sap - especially when I'm pregnant - and so these days you make me cry a lot (in the good way).

The best thing about this stage is that you love to snuggle. You crawl up in my lap a hundred times a day and ask me to read you a book, or simply want a soft, quiet place to rest and suck your thumb while you recharge before your next activity. Before I lay you in your crib for naps and bedtime, you sweetly look up at me with your big blue eyes and beg "rock you?". We sit side by side in your rocker and you lay your head sideways on my chest and drift to sleep. Sometimes I kiss your face and whisper over and over how much I love you, and you try to say the same back to me while you suck your thumb. I love these moments and am so thankful for them.

You are a pretty confident walker now - you really gained your footing through the month of December, and now you rarely crawl anywhere. In the evenings when daddy comes home from work, he chases you and your brother around the circle in our house (living room/kitchen/foyer) and jumps out to scare you both. You love it, and it pushes you to try and walk faster as you chase each other. Sometimes your gait is a little stiff and you remind me of a pint-sized Frankenstein, but it is so endearing.

You are very independent - you eat all your meals in your booster seat at the table with Robbie (that's not new) but you are diligent about using utensils. You eat everything I give to you and you clean your plate most of the time (with the exception of raspberries). You try to drink out of a dixie cup at night when you see your brother doing it, and I've caught you on numerous occasions helping yourself with the aid of the step stool in the bathroom (in the dark, of course). You've taken to 'helping' me wipe when I change your diapers. And you are quick to unload the dishwasher if I leave it open. You search the pantry for the snack you want and nag me to open up a granola bar or graham crackers or fruit snacks once you've made your selection. When thirsty, you call out to me as clear as day, "sippy cup!". You are great about saying please and thank you, often unprompted. Such a little lady.

You still cry when I drop you off at the church nursery, as you ARE a mommy's girl. But you always settle in and enjoy the playtime until we pick you back up. Reuniting reminds you of how much you missed us, and you usually start back up again with the crying as the nursery workers promise me that you were happy the entire time! Let's be honest, as a mom it's nice to be wanted and I'm not bothered by this behavior of yours.

I trimmed your hair just before Christmas and it continues to grow in with gentle curls, which we all love. Your sweet lips have been especially dry this winter, so I've indulged you with swipes of my own Burt's Bees chapstick, which makes you feel very grown up and special, judging by your reaction. You have the drill down - I ask if you'd like some chapstick, and at the mere mention of it you dry your lips with your sleeve and pucker up, and smack your lips together afterward to distribute the balm evenly. (Ha!) To say that I'm excited for the day you seem old enough to hold still for me to paint your nails would be an understatement.

You are still a great sleeper - you take one 2-3 hour nap during the day, go to bed at 6:30pm and wake around 7:30/8am. Lately your nighttime sleep tends to be broken and I'm convinced it's because you are teething ALL of your eye teeth as well as your remaining top 2 molars. Ouch! If you seem restless in your first few hours of sleep, before we go to bed for the night I give you a dose of Ibuprofin and that has seemed to help.

You play independently for much of the day, and of course with Robbie as well. You love your new dollhouse and know how to move the people around inside of it, put them to bed, feed the babies, give them baths, etc. You also can be found sitting quietly, paging through a book or figuring out a puzzle. You love finding chairs your size to sit in and will take a rest in them with your lovey or a stuffed animal and watch Robbie play nearby.

You are growing in your relationship with Robbie and the two of you get along more and more each day, it seems. He is learning to share with you and frequently hands toys over to you willingly if you screech for them while he's playing. He loves you, but lately he can't help himself and in his annoyance will push you down from standing position to sitting with one finger if you threaten his beloved trains. Your ego is most wounded by these assaults and you love to put your head face down on the ground and protest with a fake cry. Again, I shouldn't laugh - but often I do. You are definitely dramatic and it's so funny to me! (Don't worry, I come to your side ready to console you each time.) Your favorite way to needle your brother is to swipe his paci right out of his mouth or to pull on the blanket he's snuggling under in an attempt to steal it. You never really want these objects themselves - you want Robbie's reaction, and he gives it to you every time. The paci steal makes him laugh but when you mess with his blanket he gets mad at you. I think I must referee these interactions 2 or 3 times a day!

You will repeat just about anything we ask you to try and say, but your everyday well-used vocabulary seems large to me. You voluntarily say or identify the following on a regular basis:

Mommy, Daddy, Robbie, Ellie
Jessie, Mima, Papa, Collin, Kelsey
(Aunt) Rachel, (Aunt) Cheryl, (babysitter) Erika
Sippy Cup

Socks off!
Stop it
No, no, no
I did it!

Body parts:
Necklace / Earrings

You know the sounds these animals make:
Fish (you make the face)

You sing along or know motions to the following songs:
Jesus Loves Me
Deck the Halls (you chime in on the Fa-la-la-la-la part!)
Rock a bye Baby
The Blue's Clues theme song
The Caillou theme song

At your last pediatrician visit (Jan 4th... I was a little late getting you in because of Christmas!), your stats were:
27 lbs 6 oz = 79th percentile
33 3/8 inches tall = 92nd percentile
19 inches head circumference = 91st percentile

And thankfully the doctor didn't ask to measure my head to see if your large noggin is just genetic or cause for concern. Yes, very glad those days are over.

We love you Ellie! You are sweet and spirited and so much fun to watch as you grow into your own little person. We hope and pray that we are nurturing, loving and disciplining you in ways that are honoring to you and bring glory to God!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Christmas, Armbruster-style!

So many Christmases, so much to blog about!

'Armbruster' Christmas happened the week after the actual day, on Dec. 30th. We planned it around our trip to NJ and my brother Collin's work schedule, and it was so much fun to all be together!

Have I mentioned yet that my sweet Grandma Jessie moved into my parents' home back in November? She is living with them now, as she requires around the clock care and the family just wasn't ready to put her into a full-care nursing home if there was a way for us to care for her ourselves. My mom spends much of every day tending to her needs, and although it is A LOT of work and responsibility and greatly affects her freedom, she does it gracefully and patiently. I have learned so much from her example, it will have to be a blog post of its own another day. But I think it is one of the great privileges and callings that God gives to us - to care for family members at the end of their lives. Not everyone embraces it - but my mom has, and her self-sacrifice along the way is an act of worship to God. I'm so lucky to see this demonstrated within my own family, and Rob and I fully intend to walk this path later in life as our own parents age and as we have the opportunity.

Grandma Jessie
(She's cute, right?!)

So Armbruster family Christmas included all of my immediate family (Mom, Dad, Collin, and Kelsey), and our little family as well as my Grandma Jessie.

Christmas donuts for the kids' sweet treat at breakfast!

We are a flexible bunch as far as when and how we celebrate, but we always seem to land on having a big brunch first and then opening gifts. Staples: monkey bread, mom's egg casserole, and fruit salad. Often a good number of 'breakfast biscuits' (mexican wedding cakes, secret family recipe!) are eaten throughout the morning, but this year we were all just too busy to make a batch right before our celebration.

Robbie always requests salt if he sees Rob using it at the table, so we pretend to salt his food too.

We are edging into the chaotic gift-opening scene this year, with 2 little ones. My family's Christmas gift opening is usually very serene and I think it's only going to get worse, seeing as how we will be adding a 9 month old into the mix by the next Armbruster Christmas. I missed nearly all of the gifts my brother and sister opened, and I definitely did not get to enjoy my coffee like my sister is in the background! haha. It's a happy trade, don't think I'm complaining.

Love this - something funny/surprising is happening in the background, while Ellie takes advantage of the chaos and reaches for my mom's nice camera. She's a sneaky one.

This picture is for the DeBlock's - Robbie got his very own Aero train! We will be bringing it with us on future trips to NJ. ;)

More awesome Aunt/Uncle gifts - my brother and sister got Ellie this pink pony!
I almost died - again, I could never get her something like this in good conscience but they can and I LOVE IT! If you press the ear it plays a recording of a man singing "I'm a prett-y poooony, clippity clop, clippity clop... such a prett-y poooooony, clippity clop, clippity clop... I LOVE TO RIDE MY PONY!" It kills me. It sort of sounds like something you would have heard on the radio when our parents were little - very vintage sounding. Since bringing it home, both kids fight to sit and rock on it.

After the gift exchange, we laid Ellie down for a nap and made a late lunch of chili and veggies. Then Robbie baked his annual birthday cake for baby Jesus. I let him crack the eggs with me, look for shell bits (none!), mix the batter, and frost and decorate it this year. He was so careful throughout the entire process and loved doing it. I love that it reminds him what we are really celebrating at Christmastime.

A little bit of batter might have been taste-tested. He is, after all, my child.

The finished product!
Yes, it looks like a train wreck. And yes, that is one happy, proud little boy.

(None of this cake was consumed by anyone but him. There were about 1,000 finger pokes in it by the time it was finished, and being the walking petri dishes that my kids are right now, it was safer that way.)

It has been a wonderful Christmas season, and we are so thankful that we were able to spend it with all of Rob's and my immediate family members and even a few relatives.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Christmas that almost wasn't (in NJ)

We made it to New Jersey to see Rob's family for Christmas! And it was quite the trip. Let me back up...

When we were trying to decide if and when to travel for the holidays (Thanksgiving/Christmas) I was in the first trimester, wasn't feeling well at all, and felt like I was just wrangling the kids every day and trying to survive. Rob and I thought that driving in our van to NJ to see his family with a 2 year old, 1 year old and growing pregnant belly sounded like pure misery, much as we missed our family out East. So we basically planned not to travel at all until after the baby was born.

As we were putting up our Christmas tree in early December, it just didn't feel right that over a year would end up going by without seeing most of Rob's family and getting all the little cousins together. We were only 4 weeks out from Christmas, I was well into the second trimester and feeling great, the kids were healthy, sleeping well through the night and were on a good schedule, and we were hating the idea of Christmas passing without seeing all of our family. So I begged Rob to reconsider heading to NJ for Christmas... and we decided to look into flying instead of driving.

Rob's dad offered to let us use his miles and fly under his Elite status - which (who knew) would be our saving grace as we traveled. It afforded us the best seats on the plane (bulkhead, just behind first class with room for the kids to sit and play on the floor!), priority boarding, and free checked baggage! Ellie flew as a lap child and that ended up being the toughest part of the flight. She is at a busy age and is always moving.

When we arrived in NJ on Thursday, Dec. 23rd, we were thankful that Rob and I had avoided getting the flu that the kids had earlier in the week. We spent the afternoon and evening unpacking, settling into Grammy and Papa's house, and having a big family dinner with all of Rob's siblings, their spouses, and of course the cousins.

The next day, Rob's older sister Rachel invited us over to her house (just 15 mins away from his parents' home) for the morning. She had pre-glued together gingerbread houses made of graham crackers for the boys to decorate, and had gathered and sorted every kind of candy imaginable!

It is so much fun to do activities like these with cousins who are the same age. It was a great morning, and fun way to kick off our visit. Poor Marc (Rachel's husband in the top left of this picture) - he and I rarely make it into pictures because we are busy taking them all! Sorry Marc, I think this is somehow the only picture I have of you from the week!?

Love this one - the little girls just ate their way through the morning, and I think Katelin is getting a sucker taken away by mommy!

Cousin James - he was the most intent decorator, and the last one up from the table HOURS after we started! For such an active little guy he really got into this quiet activity. If I remember correctly, he included a pool as well as garbage can complete with candy wrappers inside on his plate. So creative!

Cousin Nicholas with Robbie - Nicholas is very imaginative and spent a lot of time hollowing out the center of marshmallows and tending to the details of his gingerbread house. He made his choices carefully and thoughtfully and it was fun to see how able he was to carry out his vision because of his age. Robbie spent much of HIS time thoughtfully eating the candy while he watched Nicholas create. :)

The girls enjoyed reading books and playing together once they were banished from the table.
This age is just too cute, and the two of them together!? Agh! I hated only picking a few pictures of the two of them together for this post. I have hundreds.

I peeked into the playroom later on when things got quiet, and found James perched on the table explaining some of his toys to Robbie and Ellie.

After getting the kids down for a nap, Rachel, Christine and I snuck out to get Christmas manicures and pedicures. This is becoming a traditional outing whenever we are together, and we always wrap it up with a walk across the street to Starbucks. Love! Christine couldn't wait and made us open her gifts to the two little girls in the parking lot. She had picked out matching aqua peacoats, white skinny jeans, and a hot pink shirt for them! The perfect gift for an aunt to give - what mom can rationalize that sort of purchase!? Oh so cute and totally impractical. She is the best gift-giver. Later on, she also gifted the girls matching pink tutus with grey tights and frilly white turtlenecks. I need to get a picture up of Ellie in these clothes!

Later that evening, we thought it would be fun to let the kids open a few more presents early. Aunt Christine (in the background with the yellow shirt and blue cardigan) and Uncle Brad (far right) gave the kids these awesome Melissa & Doug chunky wooden beads and strings, and it was a huge hit. The uncles (Ryan, left, and Brad) sat with Robbie and Ellie at the table and played for quite a while. Our kids are so spoiled to have great aunts and uncles on both sides of the family!

Ellie totally remembered Uncle Ryan from his visit earlier in the year, and he was carrying her around the day we arrived and she hung on to him like they were best buds. Be still my heart. She found a cozy place on his lap to play beads.

Papa and Uncle Brad, possibly advising Robbie on the best way to string beads or create a pattern!? :) This is a family full of patient men. I'm so lucky to have married into it, and am reminded of that when I look at pictures like these.

Christmas Eve dinner!
Grammy slaved all day and made a big turkey dinner not unlike Thanksgiving dinner (which we missed, as well as Brad and Christine). It was complete with Great-Grandma's sausage stuffing and homemade applesauce, both of which are legendary and impossible to recreate. I've tried, and only came close with the applesauce.

The kids take over the kitchen table now, and it's quite an event feeding them all at the same time! So much fun to see them all together, and never a dull moment.

Post-dinner lounging.

I found the girls like this while the adults tried to eat in the other room! Another too-quiet moment made me nervous, but I walked in to find them like this. Little angels! (ha) Katelin is modeling the new white skinny jeans - how cute are they!?

This little girl loves her Uncle Brad, and always makes time for a snuggle with him.

Oh yes we did... Rachel and I ordered matching Christmas Eve pj's for all the cousins, and had a great time trying to get a group picture!

The girls were more than compliant to pose for us.

And after a few takes, we actually got a great shot of all the kids!
So much easier than last year's attempt.


We put the kids to bed, anticipating a fun Christmas day the next day! Since Robbie was having a hard time staying in a new bed, I went upstairs and turned in early with him. Ellie slept in a pack and play in the room with Rob. I was woken up by Rob at 5am Christmas morning, though, because he had come down with the flu in the night and Ellie was awake and he didn't want to pass the illness back to her. So baby girl and I headed downstairs at 5am (4am bodyclock / Central time!) and watched a lot of Blue's Clues in our pj's. Christmas was cancelled for the day in an attempt to keep the flu from spreading, but the next day Rob's parents caught it and were sick as well. Ryan and I managed to stay healthy the whole time.

So there is a gap in pictures for the two days we took turns nursing one another back to health! We laid pretty low, and the kids enjoyed a bath in Grammy's huge tub.


I think it was Sunday that Rob was feeling better and Rachel invited us back over to her house for dinner and some cousin playing time, while Grammy and Papa battled the flu. She made a wonderful dinner of baked ziti and pasta fagioli soup, and the kids had fun together playing trains and kitchen!

Little chefs...

You guessed it... another quiet moment, and this is what I found. Ellie perched in the drawer of the train table, playing by herself. It could have been worse...!

That night New Jersey (and New York, for that matter) experienced a massive snowstorm and the next morning (Monday, Dec. 27th) the east coast was snowed in. The kids enjoyed a quiet morning in their pj's while Papa, Rob, Ryan and Brad attempted to dig out the cars in the driveway.

About to head out into the 3- and 4-foot snowdrifts! Robbie was still a little clingy to his daddy after not being able to snuggle him for a few days (b/c of the flu).

Seriously - it was an incredible amount of snow.

The kids perched in the bay window in the dining room and watched the action.
Again, to brag on the sweetness of my husband and his family, after finishing Grammy and Papa's driveway they headed next door to clear the neighbor's driveway. She is a widow and would literally have not been able to get out of her house without someone's help. It took hours and uncle Marc and cousin Nicholas had come over by then so they helped, too. She sent them all home with a chicken dinner!

Post-shoveling snuggle.
Check out the snow that blew in through the screens and was settling up against the windows in the background! It's reminded us of that fake spray-snow that people (used to?) spray on windows to get this effect. We had the real deal.

Brothers, digging out the deck!

That evening, we finally celebrated christmas with everyone rid of the flu but the kids now passing a deep chest cold around. :) Once again, Rachel and I are never ones to pass up an opportunity to coordinate the kids' outfits. Sadly, Katelin's red dress was out of stock by the time I tried to order it. Ha! Please note that Robbie and James are hugging. Is there a cuter bunch of kids? I don't think so.

Why we even continue to try, I do not know. Attempted family picture.

It was fun and chaotic for the kids to all open gifts together! Ellie perched in Aunt Christine's lap for much of the time, and felt the need to test out her Mrs. Potato head's glasses.
(Does everyone have a picture like this one from their childhood? I feel like it's some sort of rite-of-passage!)

After way too many sweet gifts from doting Aunts and Uncles and very generous grandparents, we enjoyed another big meal courtesy of Grammy. We topped off the day by celebrating Great-Grandpa's 83rd birthday (belatedly, since we were in flu-mode on his actual day) with cupcakes for the kids and carrot cake for the adults.

We flew home the next day (Tuesday, Dec. 28th) and that in and of itself was a miracle.
When we got to the airport, we needed the skycap service just to get checked in (think 4 large suitcases, 2 backpacks, a stroller and 2 little kids). But the bays were all closed. We found a skycap walking around (there weren't many visible) and he told us to follow him, that he'd get us checked in. He led us inside with our suitcases on a big cart, and took us past lines that looked hours long and scooted us into a service elevator ahead of other people. Rob and I had no idea where he was taking us or how we were going to even get checked in in time for our flight, but we quietly followed him and prayed under our breath! Because of the massive snowstorm, flights had been cancelled and passengers were stranded and now trying to get home. And they were not a happy bunch. Our flight was unaffected and we had seats on our plane, but we ran the risk of not making it onto our flight because of the back up inside the airport itself.

The skycap led us right up to a desk to be checked in, and within 15 minutes we were on our way through security in plenty of time to board our flight. It was worth every dollar we tipped him, too - he was the only way we made it home that day.

It was a great trip and we are so glad we did it. Of course the illnesses we passed around made it more challenging than we could have anticipated, but there is just no predicting things like that! We are so thankful for every bit of time we get to see Rob's family, since it is so much less frequent than we would all like.

And I have to say that the thoughtfulness and generosity of Rob's mom and dad, his sister Rachel and sister in law Christine made it SO much easier on me. They had thought of everything we could have needed at the house for the kids - booster seats, beds, car seats, etc. Combined with the willingness of the uncles to play with the kids, especially while Rob was sick and I was managing them on my own, it was a team effort!

What a great Christmas memory this trip ended up being! We love you, Livingstons and DeBlocks!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our Merry Little Christmas (Dec. 19)

We celebrated Christmas as our own little family on December 19th, the morning after our get together with the Larsons and Bellitos. We were planning to fly to New Jersey to see Rob's family on the 23rd, and had already decided not to put the kids in their Sunday School classes that Sunday morning so as not to pick up any illness at the last minute. So we skipped church altogether and designated the morning as our own family Christmas.

After the long, fun day with friends the day before, Ellie slept in until after 8am. We finally decided to wake Robbie up at around 8:30am and start our Christmas celebration, but walked into his room to find that he had thrown up all over himself and his crib through the night and never cried out to us! I hate moments like this as a mom - I felt absolutely horrible for him, and although we had no way of knowing he was sick I somehow felt like a negligent mother.

We gave him a warm bath and as he perked up, he decided that he was up for opening presents. So we headed downstairs and had a very low-key Christmas, which ended up being really nice.

We only did a few gifts for the kids - one sort of bigger gift and a few little things on the side. Ellie's gift was a more grown-up dollhouse with lots of littler pieces to fill each room.

It has proven to be the perfect gift for her as she plays with it daily and is learning all about how to care for the babies. Yes, I am training her. ;)

Oh my! This picture kills me.

Sickie had picked out a few new GeoTrack trains that he wanted for Christmas, and knew they were under the tree waiting for him. He was still ecstatic to unwrap them and play with them all morning! We thought a V-Reader (electronic book reader) would be fun and challenging for him as well as provide endless entertainment during our travels to NJ, so that rounded out his Christmas gifts. He already knows which buttons to press to 'turn the page' and play various games on each book.

Enjoying a quiet reading of "I Love Trains" by daddy.

My attempt at a picture of the kids by the tree... I missed Ellie's monster face that matches Robbie's by mere seconds. It was awesome.

It was a merry little Christmas for the 4 of us and I just can't believe we are old enough to have these two little kids as our own, with another joining us next year. Surreal and wonderful!