Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 was an eventful year

I thought I'd end the year with a recap of some of the excitement experienced by the Stopper Family in 2005 - this replaces the "Christmas newsletter" that I failed to complete and send to all of my family and friends.

January - We started off the year slowly. We were preparing for Samantha's 8th birthday party (which I convinced her to have at home, thinking, erroneously, that it would be LESS work for me). I had recently been diagnosed as Gestational Diabetic, so I had started extra appointments with an OB specialist for the last couple of months of my pregnancy. We had Samantha's Lizzie McGuire birthday party and it was fun. The next day, I was placed on bedrest because it was discovered that my amniotic fluid was extremely low. By the end of the month, after numerous trips to the specialist and one trip to the ER with contractions, I was admitted to the hospital to raise my fluid levels.

- The OB let me go home from the hospital about 4 days after I was admitted. I was thrilled!! As I said to the OB, the hospital was just "bad food, bad TV and bad allergies" (they were doing construction on the maternity floor). I was discharged with the understanding that I would return to the hospital EVERY DAY for fetal monitoring and bio-physical profiles. That continued for a couple of weeks, and Emma finally decided that she had enough, and on Feb 16th, the Doctor decided it was time for Emma to be born. So, at 4:56pm on Wednesday, February 16th, Emma Grace Stopper was born via c-section!

March - My sister Emily brought her kids to visit at the beginning of March for their Spring Break. Since Emma's due date was March 7th, she thought her timing *would* be perfect - but alas, she visited a 2 week old baby!! Emily was amazed at how much Emma ate - she had a growth spurt OVER NIGHT while Emily was here. Emma has finally started putting on the weight and we began settling into a new routine with a newborn in the house.

- Soccer season has started up again. Both Samantha and Michael are playing soccer - thankfully, Michael's soccer is just games on Saturday with no practices.

May - May is always a busy month for us. It always goes so quickly. Michael's 5th birthday was celebrated with friends this year at the local Fire Station. It was such a great party. I had called the Fire Department to ask if they could bring a fire truck by our backyard party (they will do that if they aren't on a call). Because it was their annual "Open House", all of their trucks were planned for, but they invited us to use their party room for our party, and enjoy their free hot dogs, moon bounce, fire truck rides, and everything else they had planned. What a perfect birthday party. Michael always seems to get "lots" of birthday parties, because we actually gave him gifts from us on his actual birthday, and then we went to Smith Mountain Lake and had another birthday cake (Lemon Cake, of course) with Granny and Granddaddy!! We also took a trip to Norfolk in May to attend Samantha's dance competition. She really enjoys dance and had a great time at the competition.

June - School's Out. We were all looking forward to school being out and summer vacation. Samantha's dance recital in June was, as always, quite nice (and getting more efficient every year). However, our summer plans were thrown a wrench when 3 days after school let out, I fell and broke my foot. I knew the minute that I fell that it was broken!! I spent the rest of June (and into July) in a cast and on crutches. Thankfully, I have some great neighbors and friends who helped out with the kids and dinners during the hardest time.

July - After Mike returned from his business trip the last week of June, we all headed to Smith Mountain Lake for July 4th. The entire trip was challenged because I was unable to drive or carry Emma while on crutches. My sister Emily and her kids drove us back to Northern Virginia from the lake a few days later, and Samantha, Michael, and Emma got a few more days to play with their cousins. I also got my fiberglass cast off and a walking cast, which helped me become more mobile and able to DRIVE!!

August - Summers always seem hotter in Northern Virginia, and 2005 was no exception. It was extremely hot this August, and we didn't make many trips to the pool due to my foot, but the kids had their annual swimming lessons. They are both quite strong swimmers and Michael is becoming more comfortable in the water where he can't reach.

September - Schools In!! Michael and Samantha were both pretty excited about the new school year - Michael starting Kindergarten and Samantha in 3rd grade. School started 10 minutes earlier this year, so we all stumble through the morning bleary-eyed to get the kids to school at 7:35am when the doors open. Those extra 15 minutes to get unpacked and settled really help get the school day moving well. Fall sports have also started and Samantha is back into soccer while Michael is giving T-ball a shot. If you have never witnessed the chaos that is 5 year old T-ball, consider yourself lucky. We would by NO means have Michael playing this young if he weren't so athletically talented.

October - Following Samantha and Nancy's trip to New York City over Columbus Day weekend, we embarked on some of our favorite fall traditions, including visiting Cox Farms pumpkin patch, the South Riding Halloween Parade, and Trick-or-Treating for Halloween.

November - November felt especially busy this year. Nancy got to meet many of her internet online friends in REAL LIFE while attending a Scrapbook retreat in Pennsylvania. We decided that we would spend Thanksgiving at home since we would be seeing Nancy's parents the following week. It was nice to have a quiet Thanksgiving at home.

December - What a wonderful way to start off December - with a trip to Walt Disney World!! After 8 days in Orlando, we realized how quickly Christmas was upon us. We spent a nice Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at home, and then headed to Roanoke to visit Nancy's parents and siblings, Emily and Larry, and their kids. We ended the year with a visit by Mike's Dad and step mom and Mike's Grandmother on New Years Eve. What a nice ending to the year.

Now we are ready for 2006!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

There's no place like home!

At least that is how Emma feels. Despite many naps taken in our own pack-n-play, as well as the pack-n-plays of friends in my babysitting co-op, Emma doesn't seem to want to sleep in a crib or pack-n-play while travelling. We had struggles at Disney World, but most nights we were able to get her to sleep and then put her in the pack-n-play, where she would sleep until 4 or so and then we'd put her in the bed with us where she would finish out the night.

But, at Granny's house, she would have NOTHING to do with the crib. I tried to put her to bed awake, which we normally do at home, but no luck. I then tried to put her to sleep after she had fallen asleep with me on the bed, but no luck. I even tried putting her to bed after she had been asleep for an hour on the bed with me, but no luck. I was even unable to put her down on a sleeping bag on the floor after she had fallen asleep. Something about being out of town, I guess.

So, Emma has 2 very tired parents from having to share a bed with a very wiggly 10 month old who likes to kick when she wakes up in the middle of the night!!!

She was so happy to see her own bed - she has slept in there for 2 naps and now tonight with NO PROBLEM!!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Which of my children couldn't wait for Santa Claus?

You would think maybe Michael, or even Samantha, but NO, Emma was the one that decided at 4:30 that she wanted to be awake. We couldn't get her back to sleep, so she watched cartoons on TV. She finally fell back asleep around 6:30, but all the excitement of Christmas morning just after 7am, she wanted to see what was going on!!

So, through bleary eyes, we watched our kids open their presents and Emma is FINALLY thinking about taking a nap!

Merry Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas

(in our new Christmas jammies)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

by Clement Clarke Moore

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve - what do we do?

For the past few years, we have had Christmas Eve dinner with family friends. We have alternated houses each year and its been nice. We have dinner, we open gifts to each other, and then the kids typically open a gift of Christmas jammies for them to wear to bed. Then we each retreat to our own homes to put on jammies, put out cookies and milk for Santa, and read "Twas the Night before Christmas" before going to bed.

We had dinner with our friends last night - because her girls are going out of town with their dad today. We don't know what to do with ourselves. Two days ago, Mike looked and me and said "So what do we have for dinner on Christmas Eve". After having dinner plans for so many years, we feel lost...its kind of funny.

So, we decided to go "easy" and have pasta. Mike bought Shrimp Cocktail because he feels that you need to have "nice" dinner for Christmas Eve. We will then, as always, have the kids open their Christmas jammies (Emma even has matching ones this year), and we will put out milk and cookies for Santa, and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas".

The kids can't wait for Santa - neither can we - we see Santa in the kids eyes every Christmas morning and they come down and see what wonderful gifts they have under the tree.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I'm too cute to take a nap!

Our household is on a schedule - it always has been. This schedule makes for a happier mommy and happier kids. Emma takes 3 naps most days - around 9am, around noon, and around 4:30.

But now that she had learned to sit up, and start pulling up, she has started a new game. I will lay her down for nap and she is very still. She allows me to give her a snuggly blanket, and then cover her legs with a warm blanket and then give her her baby doll. I do the same thing every time I put her down and then I tell her to go to sleep (using the sign language for Sleep, as I am trying to teach her to sign). She smiles at me and I leave the room. Not five minutes later, I hear sounds from her room. After giving her sufficient time to go back to sleep, I realize its not going to happen. I go in her room to see her sitting up in her bed and when she sees me, she gets this huge grin on her face. Often it is because she has thrown her paci out of the bed and is hanging over the railing looking for it. Other times its as though she is saying to me "but I'm so cute, how can you possibly leave me in the bed to sleep instead of immediately hugging me and playing with me". Its one of the more difficult things I have to do each day - leave my *poor child* in her bed to take a nap - I'm such a mean mommy.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My wrapping is almost done!!

I'm almost done wrapping all of our Christmas presents. The only reason I can't be done now is that I'm home here with all 3 kids and there is no way I can sneak the last three presents out of the trunk of the car and into my room for wrapping. I'll wrap those tonight after the kids go to bed, and I retreat to my nightly "locked door" session in my room.

What surprised me so much is how many presents I ended up wrapping for "non-immediate" family. I define "non-immediate family" as those that do not live in our house!! As our kids have gotten older, the list of gifts for non-immediate family has grown. And, it was added to when I offered to wrap gifts on behalf of both sets of grandparents (not that I mind, I'm just surprised). And, in the interest of NOT forgetting to take gifts out of town, like I have done in years past, the gifts for "non-immediate" family are under the front Christmas tree, and gifts for the kids are under the back Christmas tree.

But, I'm almost done. I have a new "system" I'm working this year where Samantha has one style of paper, and Michael has another. There are no gift tags on the gifts - simply a number written at the top on the back. I have a sheet of paper that lists what is in each numbered box. This way, the kids can't try to guess what's in the boxes, and I can try to remember what we've bought, and I can have *some* feeling that I have *somewhat* balanced out the gifts this year (each year, for some reason, you find it easier to shop for one child more than another - this year, Samantha seemed easier to shop for than Michael)

And, Emma is easy. We have been pulling out old toys of Samantha and Michael's for her to play with, she is getting two new toys and three new outfits because she is much bigger than Samantha was at her first Christmas!!

Three Days until Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

We have a beautiful house!!

I can say this lots of times throughout the year - because I love our house. We built it 6 1/2 years ago and we were really pleased with most of our choices. There are a few things that I would do differently if I had the chance, but all-in-all, I am very pleased with my house. I am pleased that we expanded many rooms and added extra bathrooms, and that we finished the basement.

But, our house is especially beautiful at Christmas. My husband likes to decorate and I have left it to him to do each year. This year he has added window wreaths to our decorations - we had wanted to do this for year but never got our act in gear in time. Mike bought bare wreaths and actually added ribbons and decorations onto each wreath, and then hung them from each window. So, our house is beautiful both day and night.

The picture at the top of the post is a photo of the house during the day. When you come in the door, this is how you are greeted!

Here is the house at night

It really helps to put us in the Christmas mood to see all of the decorations.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Our tree is up!!

Well, our Christmas tree is now beautifully decorated in our family room. We have adjusted the couch at an angle so that the tree is not "behind" the couch. I really like the room this way, especially for the holidays when there will be lots of activity in the family room. A couple of things I thought I'd share that we don't ever seem to learn while picking out a Christmas tree:

- Measuring poles, regardless of how close they look, are NOT accurate. Our tree was cleary taller than 9' - good thing we put it in a room with a valuted ceiling.

- The gaps in the tree are NEVER visibile while you are looking at it on the lot. The good news is that we can usually hide the gaps in the tree in the corner.

The photo above was taken about 1/2 way up the stairway in our family room. The other photo taken from standing across the family room!!

Mike had to use the full-size ladder to get the angel on the tree, and used our "ceiling light bulb grabber" to hang the high ornaments, as this is clearly the largest tree we have had. But, I really like how it looks and I can't wait to see it with presents from Santa underneath!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Happy 10 months Emma!!

Emma has reached her 10th month birthday. This has been an exciting month. Emma had her first visit to Walt Disney World - but I assure you - not her last. She has finally mastered crawling, which means I WILL never get anything accomplished again while she is awake!! She initially used her new skill to simply reach her toys that were out of reach, but now she has started exploring. I have cleared the coffee table twice - but it seems to "grow" clutter - and Emma LOVES it. She pulls herself up until her mouth is at the edge of the table - and then she chews on the table while smiling at me, proud of her accomplishment. She loves to grab her shoes and play with them. She loves to play with diapers out of the diaper basket. She loves to "read" magazines - which means, she loves to pull them off the table and rip the pages and put them in her mouth.

She doesn't understand Christmas yet. When I put her under the tree tonight, she simply tried to grab for the train track of the Christmas train under the tree. I'm sure she'll figure it out soon enough - especially once Santa visits.

Mike was just asking tonight where our baby went? He feels like this one has gone so much faster than the others - yet, I feel like I have experienced so much more. The pleasure of being able to be home with her all of the time has been wonderful. Even when I'm exhausted and just begging her to sleep so that I can nap, or sweep the floor, or even go to the bathroom - its very worth it. I can't believe its been 10 months.

Happy Birthday Emma!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Tree in the mud!!

For years, we have always tried to check the weather, and work our day of getting a Christmas tree into the schedule when we knew the weather would be nice - when it hadn't rained or snowed in a few days so that it wasn't muddy, and it wasn't too cold. Well, we finally realized that our expectations were just too high. Regardless of our good planning, it seems that it would always rain or snow or do something awful on the day we had planned to get the Christmas Tree. I remember one year standing in a Christmas Tree lot in the pouring rain trying to get a tree. So, a few years back, Mike and I decided that we would "realign" our expectations. We have decided to pick the worst weather day possible and go get our tree on that day - we'll strap on the boots and the hoods, and go out in the cold and get a tree. Of course, yesterday in the snow and ice would have been perfect but Mike was still out of town. So today, in the piles of mud, we decided to go get our tree. Not nearly as messy weather-wise as we would have liked (LOL!) but messy none the less.

As we are putting the tree in the family room with the valuted ceiling this year, instead of in the living room, we had some flexibility with height. Our tree is 9' tall this year, but had great shape and form. Its currently sitting in the stand in the garage settling the branches, but it will be in tomorrow and I'll post photos.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Emma is crawling - and curious

Well, life just got a little more difficult. Emma is finally crawling forward. She has been trying for a while, and probably would have a week or so ago if she hadn't spent the past week in a stroller - literally. So, she has figured out how to move her knees to go with her hands and she gets to where she wants to be. The problem is, she wants to get to the basket of diapers that I have recently put ON TOP of the coffee table (instead of underneath) and the toys that the older kids leave on the table. She has also crawled herself under the table a couple of times and can't get out - I hate to laugh because she is so mad, but its funny. Now I have to worry about closing the door to the basement just to run to the bathroom - ugh.

Right now, Emma has pulled her face up to the level of the coffee table and she is using the edge as a "teething ring" - goofball!!