Monday, May 30, 2016

Alabama Times...

 It's time to say goodbye again. Thankfully more wonderful time with family and friends is ahead, as we drive to Indiana tomorrow. But, we're saying goodbye to these Alabama family and friends for at least 6 months. Always bittersweet... But we have so many wonderful memories from the last 10 days! Tried to pare them down, but there are still a ton of pictures!

Walking our old road was still a highlight. Though the heat did get to us if we got out too late! But first thing in the morning with my big girl, still wearing pjs since it is so secluded, feet enjoying the sand, picking huckleberries and blackberries and teaching her how to get the sweetness from a honeysuckle... It doesn't get much better.

 My sister Maria and her girls came for the weekend - they were so sweet playing with both girls!

 Now there are TWO girls enjoying the swings! Every morning after breakfast you would usually find us here.

 Dad accompanied the girls and I on a trip to the park. So nice to have an extra pair of arms to hold one or the other!

 Little girl who likes to climb...

 Blue eyed baby in the old choo choo train...

 Ellie got more and more enamored by her grandparents as time went on. I loved the sweet smiles she gave them!

 Mom had already bought some cute clothes for the girls AND gave me multiple trips to thrift stores while she babysat one or both. Such a blessing! I shop for 6 months of clothes in the span of these brief weeks...

 Mom also babysat so we could have a double date with my brother Elijah and sis-in-law Megan. Olive Garden is the best. :)

 Both girls also enjoyed the trampoline. I am reaping the benefits of having to help dig the hole and cart the dirt from it away in wheelbarrows... Of course my siblings did most of the work, since I was only 8 at the time. But I love that my children can play safely on it now too!

 Board games were also a must. Ryan worked hard during the day, working remotely for his company in China, to make this extra trip possible. But he took a break here and there during nap times, as playing games with my family is a must!

Wagon rides with two are just that much cuter :)

 The toy room off of the kitchen is the best place ever, with all the classic toys we played with as children. And Dassah enjoyed this time of giving toys to TWO babies!

 Matthew and Ellie are just about 5 weeks apart, and as cute as can be! Matthew is the surprise 7th child of old friends and mentors of mine, and we were blessed by their company on Friday night. They even brought Moe's takeout so we didn't have to prepare or do the dishes!

We also had a drop-by picnic party on Thursday evening with many great friends stopping by, mostly previous ballet students and theatre participants. With the group there, talking, laughing, and playing frisbee, it didn't feel like it had been years since I used to see them on a weekly basis... We had so much fun, we forgot to take pictures!

 Saturday morning brought a trip to the zoo! Feeding the parakeets was a highlight this time!

 My parents have a great membership that gets grandkids and a certain number of extra adults in with them. It's always a fun time together!

All of the green in Alabama never failed to cause me to give thanks... God has made such beauty!

 Feeding and brushing the goats was another of Hadassah's favorite things ever! She loves animals, this one...

 And even Ellie got in on the fun!

 It's fun having two girls to enjoy the playground now too!

 Even if Ellie isn't quite big enough to swing by herself yet ;)

 This monkey was the friendliest we've ever seen. He kept hanging down right in front of us - such fun to watch!

 The zoo is never complete without a ride on the choo choo train!

Saturday we had a reunion of "the foursome" complete with spouses! Elijah and I and close friend Miriam and her brother Joel used to play together all the time growing up, but it had been years since we'd all been together. In the meantime, we all married and some even have kids now. Pretty crazy how time changes things.

But it was pretty cool how everyone just clicked, even though most of the spouses had never met. We had a lot of fun resurrecting the old game favorites, Taboo and Dutch Blitz!

Sunday we made just an "us" afternoon, after church with family in the morning. Hadassah's attitude was suffering after all of the get togethers and so many people she didn't know (but who knew her!) and less time with just mommy and daddy than usual. So after naps, we took things slow, enjoying the trampoline and swings, then picking up Arby's (miss that in China!) and taking it to a park complete with big geese to feed and a splash pad!

When we got home to get ready for bed, Dassah was thrilled to find Uncle Elijah and Aunt Megan waiting. We had to let her stay up just a tad longer, since she just wanted to snuggle with them. When we finally got ready for bed, she kept asking to give them one more hug, or one more kiss... How can you resist that? She loves them so.

Then we spent the evening up late, hearing stories from my parents about their time in Africa. Lots of laughter and "wow!" and realizing our "trials" in China in this modern age are nothing compared to their time in Africa in the 1980s!

Then today, I had the pleasure of the company of these girls for the morning. Once they were my ballet students and the children I babysat. They grew to be friends, costume design helpers and seamstresses, choreographers and teachers, and ultimately the ones I passed classes and leadership off to. Now they're in college and graduating high school and all grown up from little girls who did four twirls on stage. But what a blessing to still have them in my life, and in the lives of my girls!

Then it was packing and relaxing with family and more games. The car is loaded, and we leave first thing in the morning!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jetlag and the Crazy Beach Trip

My parents live 3 hours (or we thought - more like 4-5 hours with kids!) from Pensacola Beach. And Ryan loves the sight of the ocean, especially at sunrise. So, we thought, we'll already be messed up by jet lag. Why not take a day and see a sunrise at the beach?

May be the worst decision I ever made. At least in terms of how messed up the girls were in the car rides... But it may be the best decision we made in that it seems to have cured jet lag completely!

I had hope that we were already over the worst. Hadassah slept 7 hours straight on our first night here, after all. We dutifully woke them from naps, and even had energy to stay up after the girls that Friday night to be with family who would leave soon. And they did sleep for the first half of the night. But then Hadassah was up just before Midnight. I gave her crackers and milk, and put her back to bed, thinking maybe she could sleep. Didn't work, so Ryan took her for a midnight walk just as Ellie woke up. I nursed her and put her back to bed, which actually worked. But Hadassah did NOT go back to sleep. She was happy... but it was pretty miserable to lay in bed trying to sleep while hearing a toddler singing and talking on the monitor. Especially when we were hoping to leave for the beach around 3-4 AM (we kept debating when as we were running on just over two hours of night time sleep at this point).

When Ellie woke up again just after 2 AM and didn't settle down to sleep, we decided to just be crazy. The girls weren't sleeping anyway. Maybe we would make the sunrise. And everyone knows that the car lulls kids to sleep, right? We were really trying and hoping to help them sleep more that night, not less!

 Wrong. I think Ellie only slept for one 45 minute stretch after must protestation, and Hadassah NEVER fell asleep. What we didn't take into consideration is that they are not used to car seats. Hadassah was happy in hers, but Ellie kept looking at me with pleading eyes to take her out of hers... "I don't understand, Mommy - you always hold me after I've been in something for a while and I'm all done" I could read in her face. So she alternated between playing with toys and wailing, which didn't help Hadassah's up-since-Midnight mood. Didn't help that their car seats were next to each other either.

So. It was exhausting to not get any sleep ourselves either. Add to it stops with children and miscalculated time on directions, and we didn't make the sunrise. But we did get to the beach by 7 AM. And it was still beautiful...

 Hadassah was so excited! We'd told stories about her animal friends at the ocean and shown her pictures, but she was beyond thrilled to see that much sand and water to play in!

 Her first introduction to the ocean

 She was a fan!

 And though there weren't any sunrise colors, the beach was still beautiful in the morning light

 Hadassah loved jumping whenever the ocean came on her toes!

 Ellie went to sleep in the Ergo so Ryan was nice enough to wear her. That car ride sure wore her out! But seriously, that blue sky!! This was what our eyes had craved.

 It was even more fun having a young one to experience it all too. Though we could tell she was running on little sleep. She threw a cup she was playing with into the ocean, and was absolutely completely devastated when it was swept away. "Mommy, make it give it back!!" she kept crying as I explained the ocean was much more powerful than I. The littlest disappointment is hard for a toddler to handle when she only had 4 hours of sleep that night! Thankfully looking for shells finally curbed her cries.

 My sister was awesome enough to be woken up at a crazy insane hours to do the trip with us. Having an extra set of hands and conversations in the car was so nice. And she found this really cool coral that had living creatures in all of the holes! After watching it for a while, we put it back so they wouldn't die...

 Trying the ocean again...
 ...and running away! :) After the cup incident I think Hadassah realized its power and didn't want to be in it for too long, and only would for a while if her hand was held. That was fine with me. I'd rather she have a healthy fear of it!

 Then this cute beach baby woke up...

 Seriously, her outfit is the absolute cutest thing.

 Sisters in the sand - they both loved playing in it!

 Introducing Ellie to the water

 She really seemed to enjoy it! She'd stand for quite a while as the tide ebbed and flowed over her toes, and every time I was holding her and walked toward the water, she'd kick her feet until I put her down in it. :)

 Sandy feet

 Baby chub

 And sandy face! Yes, she ate her fair share before I could prevent her!

 Family at the ocean! It seems like not that long ago that I was walking along the beach with a man I knew I loved but hadn't even held his hand yet... And here we are with our arms full. Together. :)

So the two hours at the beach was definitely awesome. The girls had fun. We had fun. And even cleaning up all that sand was okay since we had good memories - and even survived without a sunburn on any of us!

But the ride home... Oy. Now we had a toddler who hadn't slept in 10 hours and yet still refused to sleep. And a baby that hated being stuck in a car seat and mostly cried. We pushed through for a while, wanting to just get home, but then stopped when it seemed maybe Ellie was hungry again. We moved the car seats so they weren't next to her (Mama in the middle instead!) and finally, as I gave up trying to have Hadassah sleep and just tried distraction techniques instead, her eyes suddenly closed as she was doing stickers. We were an hour from home. Ellie fell asleep 30 minutes later, and thankfully they both made the transition into beds.

So when my family asked if it was worth it, we said NO!

But then... both girls slept 11 hours straight that night. And it's continued (except for one toddler wake up one night wanting milk and crackers - but she went right back to sleep!). This was only the third night in America, so it's the quickest we've EVER gotten over jet lag. Either it was all of that melatonin from the bright beach sun or the fact that we managed to exhaust them so much they just slept when they had a bed available! Or we joke that after we dragged them out and about at all hours, if they did wake at night they decided it was not worth the risk to make a noise and just went back to sleep! ;)

So, it still remains to be seen. We wouldn't do it again (probably!). But our eyes were happy with the site of sand and sea to least another few years. And the benefits of sleep since then has made the craziness of no sleep that day pretty worth it!

 And though those eyes of hers looked SO tired when we woke her from her nap after a few hours, she was in good spirits at our family hot dog roast that evening. She kept talking about the ocean and the sand. Though when anyone asked her about it, first she would say "Let's not think about the yellow cup (that she lost in the water) - let's think about something happy!"

 Ellie was a pretty happy girl too! Children are resilient. And being with family is such a blessing.

So, if you want to get over jet lag, spend a morning at the beach on the 3rd day home? Maybe. But it seems to have worked for us! :)