Tuesday, December 31, 2013

family ties.

In preparation for Thanksgiving I was thinking about what I might say I'm thankful for, should we go around the dinner table one-by-one. (Not that it would be so hard to come up with something, I'm grateful for a lot of things, I just really hate to be put on the spot and even the simplest of questions can make me draw a blank when I'm caught unprepared.) In reflecting upon the things I'm grateful for, of course family came to mind, and I realized that I had spent time with each of my family members (and their families) individually this year. I don't know if that's ever happened before, but as I thought more about it, it rose to the top of the things I'm grateful for.

Ella Jean was born on March 14 - a miracle to our family as B&A had been wanting a baby for so long and actively trying to adopt for nearly a year. Obviously I needed to meet her ASAP. With Pikeville being three hours from any airport, we hatched a plan for me to fly into Cincinnati and have my parents time their arrival from Detroit to swing by and grab me from the airport. It all worked out perfectly.

Ella was (and still is) an adorable baby. We spent several days close to home but did get to join Ella on her first walk and her first Easter Sunday. It was fun getting to love on her and just be with her (and Brian, Amanda and my parents, of course).

In April I randomly got a text from Geoff that simply said, "Ever feel like going to Disneyland?" Having never been it seemed like a great idea, especially to experience it for the first time with kids. I knew it would be equal parts work and play (I mean, they didn't invite me just because I'm awesome - the kids couldn't outnumber the adults) but it seemed like an ideal plan.

We spent several days at the parks and wore ourselves right out. Temperatures hit 100 degrees which, for this Pacific Northwesterner where temps max in the low 90's for maybe one week a year, were nearly too much to handle. It was fun to spend a significant amount of time with the kids, since I see them maybe once a year.

J and I had a standoff when he decided to test my patience (while I was outnumbered) and run away into the crowd while I chased after him with a double-stroller carrying his brother and sister. But he was also so brave and went on a lot of rides even though they scared him a little. Watching him walk through the park with the map wide open, like he was on a grand adventure, was the cutest.

C and I bonded over his love of rockets and came up with a game where he would make a rocket ship with his hands and I'd countdown "3...2...1...BLASTOFF!" and then his "rocket ship" would takeoff, his hands shooting in the air. Somewhere along the way he started "breaking" the rocket right before I'd get to the blastoff part and thought that was the funniest. He also made me laugh the hardest when we stepped off It's a Small World and he just laid down on the ground (wearing his backpack leash, which was a true necessity) and wouldn't get up.

A was a doll and I taught her to say "CHEEEESE" (or at least a prolonged noise that sounded like it) for the camera. Those big blue eyes and toothy grin are to die for.

Annie made her way to Seattle in June and, with her having visited before and done a lot of the typical touristy things, we made it a trip of mini-adventures. We took a hike to Franklin Falls, took the ferry over to Whidby Island and stopped at various landmarks from the bottom of the island all the way to the top, hit Deception Pass, Carkeek Park and more. The weather was perfect (rare for that early in June) and we soaked it all in.

After two failed plans of getting down to Phoenix, I was finally able to make it work to visit Julie and her family while she was on fall break. William and Elizabeth are fun little buddies.

William doesn't stop talking and loves having his picture taken ("Take a picture of me!"). A couple of nights I was able to join in the bedtime routine and as I rocked him in the rocking chair I just listened to him talk and talk and talk about the whatever thought came into his head. Those moments with him were some of the most enjoyable I'd had in a long time. There were a couple times where he'd lay next to me on the couch, throw his leg on my lap and point to it or put my hand on it, wordlessly requesting a tickle. I could only think about the many, MANY times I had done the same things as a child to his mother and it made me smile.

Elizabeth is a smartie. She was sick (they both were) for a lot of my visit, so she spent a lot of time resting with the iPad playing some educational games. She was recognizing letters, rhyming words and tracing letters like a pro. One of my favorite moments was when she wasn't feeling well she asked if we could lay on my bed and I scratched her back as she fell asleep. I recorded a video of her singing a song about a bumble bee and here scratchy, little sick voice is too cute (and sad).

I spent Christmas with my parents this year. We saw B&A and Ella a couple times before they headed down to Kentucky and the rest of the time was just Mom & Dad and I. With the weather being a bit of a wreck, we stayed pretty close to home - watching the first season of The Blacklist, a couple seasons of Sherlock and eating dinner with the 3pm crowd on the regular. We turned our Christmas traditions upside down and had Christmas breakfast for Christmas Eve dinner and opened presents on Christmas Eve night to ease the hustle and bustle of Christmas morning. It's always good to go home.

In the end, we didn't go around the table one-by-one on Thanksgiving, but I thought what better time than on New Year's Eve to look back at the last year and reflect once again on what we're thankful for?

It's been a good one.