Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas 2012 - part 2

The hotel staff at Aloft, Winchester was VERY agreeable to us having a mini-Christmas celebration there in their hotel restaurant / lounge area off of the lobby, for this was the only place in the building that there was a fireplace.  After Christmas Eve dinner at the hotel, we purchased a bag of cookies from the vending area, the restaurant poured a glass of milk for us, and brought a plate so we could set out the cookies for Santa.  Then, we watched a Christmas movie in our room and turned in for the evening.
I was back down in the lounge area twice to feed Isabella in the middle of the night.  It felt a little weird feeding a baby in a lounge area off of the lobby.  People were coming in at all times of night (12 - 1 and again later around 4 – 5 am).  While down there, I got reports from 3rd-shift hotel staff and new guests who had been on the roads that D.O.T. crews were working on the highways and the roads were clear.  That was great news for our continuation of travels to New Jersey.

Before we hit the road, we snagged a light breakfast and did notice that there were a few gifts laid out at the fireplace. Cool, the milk & cookies seemed to have worked! 

Mercer opened some gifts… we fed the baby again… packed the rental van again… and continued onward to New Jersey we went.  When we finally made it, the family was VERY happy to see us.  We were VERY happy to see them too!

Isabella was whisked from our arms and Mercer was ushered to some more gifts waiting to be opened~ Much of our trip was focused on introducing everyone to the newest member of the family. Pretty much everyone wanted a turn holding the baby.

Here are photos of Grandpa, Uncle Bobby, and Aunt Becki with Isabella.  Somehow, we did not get a photo of Grandma or Aunt Tonia with the little nugget??!!

The house was filled with laughter as Mercer was chased by his cousins and uncles… all while he chased them around with Nerf guns - reciprocating their fire.  Mercer even picked on grandpa as he was sitting in his chair - climbing over the back of it & teasing "you can't catch me."

Cousins Meagan and Marley loved on Isabella and made a comparison between her and a baby doll. 
They even dressed up their American Girl dolls in her clothes! The doll was a little smaller, as seen here!

Mercer and I got out of the house for a bit to go for a walk – one of my favorite things to do in Mountain Lakes, as it is such a beautiful town. Of course – any venture outside requires a visit to the nearby playground.  Mercer has been learning his states.  This was a great mock-up to show him where we live in comparison to all of the grandparents.  He's standing on NJ in this shot.
We played until it started to snow, then walked back home.  It actually snowed quite a bit there. Mercer was not interested in playing in the snow, however.  He said it was too cold!  (agreed!)

The entire family was together for this shot.  To zoom in, click on the photo.  The dog, Wonka, who Jim & Becki brought was in some of the other shots, but not in this one... this shot - however - has both of our children sitting still.  Otherwise, one of them is a blur in every other shot!

Once it was time to head back south, we packed up the rental van one last time and hit the road.  This time, the roads were clear.  The rolling hills of the countryside were still snow-capped and beautiful.  We made it into Charlottesville and met with the woman who we had been conversing with at the car dealer. Todd had picked out a replacement SUV (a couple of years old, but still pretty new).  We had test-drove the same car in NJ previously to know that it was comfortable and comparable in size to the SUV we were abandoning / selling back for "parts."  (The Xterra did require a new engine and it just was not worth making that investment.)  

We bought a 2010 Mercury Mariner which had more safety features as well as comfort bells-and-whistles than the Xterra.  It felt like the transaction took forever and after transferring the contents from the rental van into the newer car + encountering a hiccup with a dead battery, we were finally on the road heading back to NC around 9:00 PM.  It was a late night by the time we made it and we were so grateful to have finished that leg of the trip / anxious to continue home and put driving behind us for quite some time!  

We did sneak in one more visit to Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa's house before hitting the road.  All-in-all, Mercer and Isabella did amazingly well for having spent so much time in the car!  They are both little troopers!
There's really not a good segway to this part, but there are a few things that Mercer has said lately that are priceless:  
-  while in NJ, he called me into the bathroom... he yelled enthusiastically "look -- a wonderful sky!" (the sun was rising and he could see the many colors of the sky out of the bathroom window
- we drove by a pile of snow that had been plowed in a parking lot.  He was completely overwhelmed by how tall the snow was.
- a phrase that he used to say a lot was "because I'm a smart boy" after a number of different scenarios.  Now, his new saying is "easy as peasy."

Happy New Year's Eve~ 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012 - part 1

Here are some Christmas photos that we've taken throughout the past couple of weeks: 

We visited Santa on the Square.  He is so sweet and was very happy to meet Isabella in person, as he's heard a lot about her.  She wore her finest clothes to visit the big guy (courtesy of Aunt Tonia).  Mercer was a little shy around Santa, but the big guy did not take it personally and gave him a candy cane.  

The next week, we built a gingerbread house, gingerbread trees & people.

Little sister didn't really help - she watched Mercer and me build it... but she did want to get in on the photo with her big brother.  

Later that week, we went to a neighborhood Christmas party.  There - they had a cool "Santa's helper" at the party who rode in on a motorcycle!!  Mercer was comfortable enough with Santa's helper to talk to him about his sister and his wish for some legos.  Mercer and Todd - as mentioned on the last blog post - stayed out really late at this party while Isabella and I crashed early.  

We also celebrated an early Christmas at our house -- sharing some gifts with each other before driving up to North Carolina.  

"Sister" got Mercer a camera.  

Mercer picked out a light-up musical turtle for Isabella.  

Here, Mercer is "trying" to pass off some of his cars as a last-minute gift to Todd and myself~  Todd and I already received the greatest gift we could imagine last month.... the addition of a baby girl into our family + watching Mercer become the really great big brother that he is (so far).  ~~  

After the little event at the house + an extensive packing session of Todd's SUV, we headed to North Carolina for the Nunn family Christmas party.  While in town – we got to see some of my dad’s family too.  Funny thing about a baby… everyone wants to come visit & hold the sweet innocent little nugget.   And she’s a good little nugget; she’s agreeable to people holding her and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over her. 

Dad’s sister, Becky, and her hubby (lovingly known as “crazy uncle Tony”) came over to my mom’s house to see Isabella and Mercer.  They commented on how much she looked like Mercer and they were “tickled” by that.  
Dad’s brother David came too, but didn’t get a chance to hold baby girl as his two daughters did most of the cuddling.  His wife, Francis, was only able to sneak little time from the girls.   So… everyone wants to come visit, hold, and even feed the baby… but we did not have any takers on changing her diaper.  Hmmmm

Todd, Mercer, Isabella, and I also spent some time at my grandma & grandpa’s house (Mercer & Isabella’s great grandma & great grandpa).  Grandma held Isabella and doted on our little “baby doll.”  Meanwhile, Todd was building lincoln log structures that Mercer would promptly crash & tear down.  All around, it was entertaining!   

The following day, we prepped for the Christmas party.  (Great) Grandma and Grandpa were there.  As were Mel, Erica, Sandra, Eddie, Rhonda, and the “kids.”  Of course, it seemed that all of the aunts wanted a turn holding Isabella.  My cousin Mandy found her sweet spot on the couch for most of the party snuggling with the sweet baby.   We were happy to oblique!  

Aunt Sandra and Isabella  

Aunt Rhonda and Isabella

The guys cut loose - trying on different stick-on mustaches.

Uncle Mel

Uncle Eddie




even Aunt Sandra tried one on too!  

Mercer refused to wear one.  He played with his toys as well as a manger set that Erika and Mel gave him (so sweet)!  

And - here's a final shot of the party:  budding artist, Emma, with Grandma

It was nice to see everyone and spread a little holiday cheer... sharing our "new gift" with the family!  

The next day, we headed up to see Todd’s family in New Jersey.  We hit a bit of a snag…. Todd’s SUV had a pretty serious malfunction occur while we were in the middle of the mountains of Virginia.  Driving slowly to a dealership in Charlottesville, we dropped the car off.  They checked things out and said that “sorry to tell you this the day before Christmas, but you’re not making it to New Jersey in your own vehicle.”  Not what we wanted to her, of course, but we had at least left early enough in the day that we were able to get a rental car (our first encounter with a mini-van, actually) and several hours later were back on the road.  We don’t know what is in store for Todd’s SUV, but we are putting it behind us for at least Christmas day and deal with it on the way home. 

Another "snag" was looming over us as well:  a slushy snow storm.   While Todd had to navigate our way north on a very stressful drive in a rental... I got to take advantage of some beautiful scenery, however.  
- The snow-dusted rolling hills of the Virginia foot-hill farms are stunning... as are pristine woods in a snow storm.  
- Horses braving the cold - standing tall with a light dusting on their backs.  Snow-capped stone walls surrounding historic homes and plantations.  
- Wineries with their empty grape vines -- replaced with a little of the white stuff clinging on the branches instead.  
- charming main street Sperryville, VA with quaint art galleries and shops (maybe check that place out sometime when we have some time to browse??)

It's all beautiful unless you are sliding around in the slushy white stuff on the ground.  We decided to stop driving and pull over to spend the night in Winchester, Virginia.  

So, we hit some snags.  We weren't spending Christmas Eve with family or doing the big "opening of the presents" from under the tree.... but the most important thing is that the 4 of us were together.  We were safe.  We'd be on our way the next morning.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's been a month....

... since Isabella has come into our lives... she has been such a gift. 

We did not meet the birthmother, but we are grateful for the gift she gave us.  We are blessed this holiday season, indeed.

Everything happened so quickly.  I am not sure yet if I will take maternity leave, but my employers are being very flexible. (Plus - I didn't leave them high-and-dry on the projects we have going out the door.)  I'm working from home with occasional visits into the office.  Honestly, I need to continue working.  I recently went to reduced hours, however, which helps the "juggle."  It's not ideal, but maternity leave is for such a short period of time anyways... the overall goal is to be a family for the long-term.   Todd and I may be a little more tired these first few months because of the daily grind... but we'll get through with bags under our eyes & extra caffeine.  At some point (maybe 12 years from now?) we'll catch up on our sleep~  

Todd & I are happy.  Mercer seems to be happy.  Isabella seems happy too.  As mentioned, a couple of weeks ago, she was starting to smile.  She does it even more now & "on command" if we make silly faces at her.  In general, she doesn't cry out much (except when hungry she'll let us know).  She loves to be held and may "complain" just a tiny bit until we pick her up to cuddle.  She probably spends the majority of her day laying her head next to my heart or Todd's.   Spoiling her?  Maybe, but we want to hold her... stare at her sweet face while she's sleeping... watch her little lips crunch up when she squirms and stretches out her arms.   This is especially true as there was a tragic event that happened at an elementary school in Connecticut yesterday; it makes us want to hug on and love on our beautiful, innocent children even more.

There are so many things we do with Isabella that remind us of the early days with Mercer.  The first bath she took is in the tub that Mercer used.  She sleeps in the same pack-and-play that he did and I take a double-take often when looking over and seeing her there.  There are some of Mercer's outfits that I put on her... and I swear that (especially from the side)... I'm looking at him.  We've said this before, but it's worth repeating:  it is as if they were meant to be brother and sister! Thank you, God!  This "had" to have been divinely led!! 

Here's a photo comparison of Mercer (in blue) age 2 months... and Isabella (in the zebra stripe) age 2 weeks.  Uncanny, isn't it?!  The mouth is the main difference between the two.

We have not had as much time to blog.  With Mercer, we were in a hotel room 24/7 for the first 1 1/2 weeks of his life... we were mostly alone and our support group was through emails & the blog.  Now - we're at home and we've had a wonderful support group of people from church and the neighborhood -- bringing meals and little things for Isabella and big brother Mercer.  But, it's the holidays.  Also, we have a 4 year old at home.  I feel that we may be "slighting" Isabella a little in terms of blog-press... sorry (if she's reading this later).  We'll try to document as many "firsts" as we can~

At the same time, we don't want to slight Mercer either by focusing only on the baby.  We've been trying to pay a lot of attention to him.  He still gets the same amount of one-on-one attention (songs, reading books, etc.) during bedtime.  He got a special advent calendar from his grandma that he gets to open each morning & he's enjoying getting a new little toy each morning.  We're going to /doing things that he'll enjoy that "sister" is just too little to appreciate like going out & looking at Christmas lights, making muffins and cookies (and licking the beaters). 

He's been to a couple of parties without his sister as well.  In fact, he & I went to a birthday party today where he got to have his face painted.  This is a first for him.  He's always been too shy to get his painted, but the birthday boy went first.... so Mercer followed.  Here are a couple of pics of Mercer and his buddy Gabriel.  

The "big brother" photo above was taken at our neighborhood Christmas party.  Mercer and Todd ended up staying at the party late while Isabella and I came home early to finish our evening asleep on the couch.  Mercer stepped into their koi pond two times / had to change his clothes and shoes each time -- he was having such a great time running around with neighborhood friends! 

I almost forgot... it was also recently my birthday.  As mentioned, we have received an amazing gift:  baby Isabella and getting to see Mercer "step up" as a big brother.  Instead of doing gifts, we went out to breakfast at one of my favorite spots then stopped by a coffee shop that's located next to a river.  We got to sip on some coffee, chai, hot cocoa... look over the water... walk in the woods... and explore a new place that I've been wanting to go with the boys.  We weren't sure if we would be able to hike & hook up to some nearby trails along the river.  As it turns out, this place was not connected - but that's OK.  It was nice to get out and explore a new place. This was probably one of the most relaxing birthdays I've had in a long long time!  Here are some photos that capture the scenery of this beautifully-situated coffee shop.  I especially like the photo of Todd & Mercer down by the water.  I stayed up at the top with Isabella in the sling, as I did not want to "climb down" to the water's edge with her in tow.

UPDATE (Monday 12.17):  We were a little concerned about some rattly breathing that Isabella has had for awhile.  I took her to the doctor.  The doc said that she has a condition called laryngomalacia ("soft larynx").  It's pretty common... she's not concerned.  She says that in 90% of the cases, it goes away on it's own as the cartilage hardens.  And even if it doesn't repair itself on it's own.  At this point, there's really nothing that can be done anyways.  If Isabella is ever in breathing distress, we will act immediately, of course.  Let's hope that never happens! 

We noticed a little something / got it checked out / turned out to be nothing major.  Whew! 

Of interest:  while at the doctor, Isabella weighed in at 8.9 lbs / 9.0 lbs -- the scale kept moving back & forth as she wriggled.  Wow.  She's grown quite a bit in her first month with us!! 

Also today, we had our first post-placement home visit from the adoption agency.  The woman came over to visit with us.  It seemed that she really wanted a home tour & was interested in the renovation.  After showing her the "before & after" book / walking her around the house, she asked a few questions about Isabella, Mercer, my working part-time or full-time, etc.  She was not here long & went on her way.  She will have one more visit with us (likely in January) and the petition for the adoption will be filed.   According to the lawyer - tomorrow (12/18) the parental rights will be terminated in court.  The birthmother rescission period is over / the birthfather registry was researched and was clear.  All of this had to be done to take that next step with the state of Georgia and the termination could officially be done.  

We're not sure if this is how everything happened with Mercer's adoption??  Perhaps the process was different between Colorado / Georgia... or perhaps we didn't ask as many questions (or the right questions) last time.  All-in-all, things are progressing! 

I'll try to get another blog in before Christmas.  It may be short - but we'll post some holiday photos~