Friday, December 30, 2011 came, and almost went...

Oh December, what a busy month you are! Quick recap of the days leading up to Christmas:

The first weekend we visited my parents for a quick day trip to see Disney on Ice. I had wanted to take the kids here, but prices were too high. My parents' town had far more inexpensive prices and my mom was able to get a deal on top of that. Sign us up! My kids sat completely still for 2 hours, glued to the ice. It was wonderful! Anna-Kate and I went a couple of years ago to one of the princess shows. Thankfully, this one was perfect with attention shown to princesses, Toy Story, Nemo, the fight scene in Mulan, "Pokie-nokie", (Pinocchio) and my favorite, a tribute to "It's a Small World". A little something for everyone. Disney does nothing but cater to all audiences, and yet again, exceeded expectations.

Buzz and Woody! (or, to Jack, "BUZZ BUZZ!!")

Pocahontas and John

Belle and the Beast

The boys were wide-eyed!

All of the princesses with their princes.

Group shot--pretty good seats!

It's a Small World.

The following Friday was Anna-Kates schools' annual toy parade (each kid brings in a toy to donate to kids who don't have toys. They parade them through campus and the older students take them downtown and distribute them while the little kids have cookies and hot chocolate!). She was very excited to get to wear Christmas clothes to school and we bought fun reindeer ears for the occasion.

That night we spent back at Anna-Kate's school for their wonderful Christmas program. I was moved to tears to watch the kindergarten class recite Luke 2-complete with hand motions and "dramatic" voice intonations. It was fantastic. They sang some carols and we were able to get a picture with her teacher. A fantastic night!

Anna-Kate, with her sweet teacher.

The following weekend was BUSY, but so very fun! Friday was Anna-Kate's last day of school. The boys and I picked her up and headed down for our traditional ride on the Pink Pig and to visit Santa with friends. The lines were GLORIOUSLY short {remember last year? I almost swore it off!} Anyway, it was a wonderful experience this time. I feel a little bad that the Santa pictures make me laugh. A part of me will be sad when all four kids actually start smiling in the Santa pictures. :)

The big kids--Henry and Ryan, and Luke and Anna-Kate

Little Jack loved it!

The whole group of kids! (yes, we travel large!)

She asked for a light up hula hoop.

He asked for Captain America.

Santa did not get any Jack-love!

Finally, smiles and hugs {clearly, sans Jack, lol}

The most stressful part of the day was waiting in line in the food court for Chick-fil-a and then finding a table that would fit us all. We made it (barely) and the kids loved it! Afterwards, we went back to Megan's house for little kid naps while the mommies enjoyed salted caramel cupcakes purchased from the food court while the big kids watched a movie. Splendid afternoon!

That night we figured we'd throw a bit more activity in and went to church for a "young family Christmas party". We had pizza and goodies, Christmas movies (during which the mommies sat in a different room and chatted--super!) and some parent games. I won the mom game (blowing up a balloon and blowing it across the room first) and won the new Christmas Veggie Tales movie. I had some proud and happy kids!

Saturday the 17th was no slower...that morning was the ultrasound, followed by a graduation for a friends' husband. That evening was the kindergarten Christmas party. We had such a great time! Santa made an appearance and brought each child a gift (I felt so sneaky...not only did I get out my secret stash of Santa-only paper, but I successfully got the gifts inside, undetected!). Anna-Kate was thrilled with her new Barbie, Ryan loved his new dinosaur train car and dino and Jack was happy as pie with a new train. Fun night.

Sunday the children led worship at church, followed that evening by the adult choir presentation. I was exhausted, to say the least, by the time my head hit the pillow Sunday evening.

That week was spent in our pj's. We watched Christmas movies, had dance parties, made Christmas goodies to share with neighbors, played dress up, trains and doll house, and just enjoyed not having a schedule. It was a wonderful week!

Since I've been such a slacker, I'm post-dating this so I can fit Christmas in, in 2011. I'll just go on and pat myself on the back now.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

For the sake of documentation

As this blog is ultimately a journal for me to be able to look back on life, I feel I must make short mention of the following...

We have withdrawn Ryan from his school. The situation has consumed a good bit of my time and thought life this semester, culminating in an emotional climax mid-December. Chris and I are both extremely comfortable with the decision and believe it to be in the best interest of Ryan and our family. This is definitely us trusting the Lord and stepping out in faith that He will provide.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

And the caboose is.....

So I guess I left all seven of you hanging the other day...the conclusion to our ultrasound is that our caboose shall be blue! Yep, another boy for our family {much to the chagrin of Anna-Kate}.

They took us back to a room and the kids all sat in their chairs and looked at the wall where the image was projected, full of anticipation. The ultrasound tech asked her if she wanted a brother or sister and she immediately answered "Sister!" to which the tech said, "are you sure?" {sidenote, seriously? She has two brothers. Must you really follow that questions up?} she said, "uh, yes.". Her then smiling face went blank as she heard the words, "well, it's a brother!". She didn't cry, but she just looked sad. I took her to the bathroom afterwards and I asked if she was OK. She said she was just sad, then teared up a bit. Being the planner that I am {and remembering when I solved her sadness problem after telling her Jack was a boy--remember THIS?} I took along a present for being our only princess. A necklace with an oval pendant with a cross in the center. Clearly, it worked.

She hasn't said alot about it since, but is coming around I think. She said, (quite dramatically, a la Eeyore...) "well I guess I just get to do lots of things with you."

I can't say I was shocked. I didn't have a strong "knowing" feeling, but I figured it was a boy. In lots of ways this will be easier. We are thrilled to know and begin picturing our complete family...he will be just perfect. :) Per usual, we are struggling with names. We'll see how all that turns out! :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours!

{and yes, this is a picture of a picture. I'm amazing like that.}

The letter:

Merry Christmas! I cannot believe another year has flown by!

We have had a busy year with lots of traveling to see family. We were fortunate to be able to continue our annual Disney tradition with my parents this year and spent a wonderful week at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was an amazing trip as we were able to wake up to giraffes and zebras outside our window and a great little water park a short walk away at our resort! We also enjoyed being able to travel to St. Louis twice to see Chris’ parents. As Anna-Kate told a friend, “St. Louis is awesome. Their zoo has hippos and butterflies!” We are blessed.

Our big news is that we are happily anticipating the birth of our fourth child in late May or early June! The kids are very excited to find out in a few weeks if it’s a baby brother or baby sister coming. We suspect this to be our last child, so I am savoring every moment and flutter.

Jack, almost 21 months, is still sweet and easygoing, always happy to tag along as I run errands and as we drive carpool. He also holds the distinction as being our tall child with his height almost to the 25th percentile! The other big news in Jack’s life is his severe allergy to penicillin and his (actually diagnosed) extreme motion sickness. Lovely. Jack is happiest when playing trains with his siblings and is constantly asking where “Toss” (Thomas), “Icky” (Mickey) and “Buzz Buzz” (any Toy Story character) are to play with.

Ryan, 3 ½, is our independent child, yet the kid who still will snuggle with me (Oh, how I love that!). He can entertain himself for hours with his Tag books, trains, Legos or dressing up as super heros (Spiderman being his current favorite). Ryan has an amazing imagination! He loves learning and will tell you he is so sad that he hasn’t yet learned to read. One of his favorite things is having his sister read to him and then trying to figure out the words before she does.

Anna-Kate, 5 ½, is our big kindergartener! She is doing a fantastic job learning to read and we have loved watching her personality develop as she’s made new friends and learned to raise her hand and participate in class. We are beyond thrilled with the school that she is at and are thankful for teachers who come along side us as we parent. Her teacher called to tell us that Anna-Kate “has excellent hand writing and is always careful to take her time and to always do her best work”. We are so proud of her! Her favorite things are cheering at football games, playing dress up and using her vivid imagination, playing with her princess dolls and American girl doll, Lizzie. Anna-Kate is anxiously waiting to begin ballet next semester! She also enjoys reading to her brothers and will, on occasion, read our family devotion at night. So special!

I am well and enjoying the pregnancy, my (sometimes too busy) sewing business, and my ever expanding role of stay-at-home-mom. As I watch my children grow before my eyes I am finding it easier and easier to let a few things wait a bit around the house in favor of quality time spent with them. I realize that Anna-Kate won’t always want to tell me every detail of her day, or that Ryan won’t always need me to snuggle and comfort disappointments. I know Jack won’t always delight in simply holding my hand and having all of my attention. These simple treats are my blessing for this season of life, and I am doing my best to remember to “treasure today, for tomorrow, it will be memories.”

Chris is amazing. He loves his job, a true blessing, and has proven himself an integral member of his team. He works long hours but always manages to come home full of energy and with lots of love to devote to me and the kids. His favorite part of the day is coming home and opening the door to three children yelling “SURPRISE!” and tackling him at the door.

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas season. May the Lord bless you through 2012.

With love,
Chris, Janelle, Anna-Kate, Ryan, Jack and baby #4.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Further thoughts on the caboose

So, today is my ultrasound. I've woken with the ever-so-lovely pregnancy insomnia around 5 every morning this week. Basically, I've had lots of uninterrupted time to think about the baby. :) As we are in the Christmas season and I've heard it read often, I've really been struck yet again by the sentence, "Mary took all of these things and pondered them in her heart." Not that I am comparing myself to Mary, but I doubt a woman in history has not felt more closely aligned to her than while pregnant during Christmas. I have been very introspective as I think about this coming baby. All of my life my desire was to marry, have babies and be a mommy. That's it...never wanted to be president or a doctor. Just a mom. And while I know that the job will never end, I am seeing the day fast approaching that my role will shift from supreme Mom. I think I'm a little fearful of the change.

Chris thinks it's a boy. Anna-Kate thinks it's a boy but is still hoping for a girl. Ryan thinks it's a boy. Jack still can't talk. And me? I just don't have a strong feeling. There are certain things that make me think it's a girl...dreams, cravings I've had. Then the realist in me says it's a boy...I look like I did when carrying the boys and I've had 2 boys since my girl. Statistically speaking, it's a boy. So, today will be a surprise for me because with all of the other three I had zero doubts in my mind what it was. When polling friends, I get more guesses of girl. Made me wonder if I'm starting to explode all over, until my friend Emily told me that she forgot I was pregnant until she was sitting next to me and noticed my belly. God bless her! Ha. :)

As you probably know, we would love to have a girl. I've always said I wanted two boys and two girls (though, to be fair, my plan was to have boy, girl, girl, clearly, my planning didn't align too closely to the Lords' plan!). And then there is my sweet Anna-Kate and her desperate desire for a sister. To be honest though, before there ever was a number four we began praying for the Lord to prepare us for a fourth child...not another girl. This baby is loved, prayed for, wanted and will be the perfect book end to our family. :) So, all that to say, we would also love to have another little boy.

I'm feeling all melodramatic at the moment. I think a little part of me will be sad no matter what the sonographer tells us. Whatever gender the Lord has blessed us with, I will never again have the other. A whole genders worth of baby things will be sold or given away, never to be used and loved by me or my family. I am so one that deeply connects music, smells, visuals (ie, clothes) with memories. It's like the end of an era, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't saddened by the thought. Soon we will know our family. The full picture of God's plan for the people in it.

I guess I can then spend even more time praying for my future kids-in-law.

So, we're off.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The tradition continues

Ahhh. I love the Christmas season. I generally even rally and blog every day in December (clearly, not the case this year...). I love the decorations and freshening up of spaces that stay the same all year. I love the wonder and excitement in my childrens' eyes as we put up our tree and they see their ornaments from years past and gleefully see lights around the neighborhood (we have awesome neighbor's who go crazy all out with a whole cul-de-sac of Griswolds!). I love the parties, decorating gingerbread houses, as much as it beyond stresses me out, buying and wrapping presents and sitting at home on the couch with Chris after the kids are in bed quietly enjoying the lights and the tree. In short, December is a month of very special memories and traditions, and I am just the kind of sap that lives for that! :) I love the teachable moments of things eternal that the constant talk of giving, sharing, and Jesus coming to earth afford me.

So, last night we continued our tradition of attending the Nutcracker. We were blessed by a friend who had access to some free tickets (yes, free!) and shared some with us. It's a pricey tradition I've started, so I was very thankful. Leigh-Ann and Lydia drove with us and my mom and Aunt Julia drove up to meet us for our traditional dinner pre-show. Side note, I kicked myself all night for getting something new and not my absolute favorite, the shrimp and grits. O well, I have the recipe from the restaurant that is part of our Christmas morning breakfast line up (yes, another tradition!)! :) Anyway. The show was beautiful, as always, but even more special this year as Anna-Kate was able to read (and was so proud of herself) the signage, as well as knowing the story so well that we whispered what was coming next and talked about how it was different from last year. I swear, I am watching that girl grow up before my eyes...and it ain't watching grass grow, it's happening fast!

Ladies Night Out! (which the girls told a couple of older gentlemen at the restaurant-ha!)

{And yes, I'm in that horribly awkward, "absolutely nothing fits me so I try and not look indecent as I wait for maternity clothes to fit" stage. Lovely.}

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An educated guess

Well, I have my ultrasound scheduled (an early sneak peak only purpose it serves is to determine the gender) for December 17th! Very exciting! So, for some fun, thought I'd compare pregnancies and we can all have an educated guess as to what this little cabooses gender is. :)

First off, here is a picture of me from today. I am almost 15 weeks. To be clear, this picture was taken vertically and when I rotated it I got wider. My cheeks haven't actually got fatter (yet) and tummy isn't quite this big (yet). I would call this carrying "high", if you want my opinion. All of mine have been higher though.

OK, I'm craving salt. Gracious, I swear I could eat it by the spoonful. I love basic salty lays potato chips (which I usually could take or leave). I love french fries, assuming I've dumped salt on them. I'm craving grapefruit and berries. And blueberry bagels with butter. I always like these, but I LOVE them right think about toasting one every time I walk into the kitchen. These are all similar food loves I had when I was pregnant with Anna-Kate.

I don't have any huge aversions, except purple onion (or any, raw) and sloppy joes, which I don't love in the first place, but I could shiver at the name now. There is not a good comparison to this. When pregnant with Anna-Kate I had a major aversion to lunch meat turkey, purple onion and anything sweet (for the first trimester). None with either of the boys. I generally love a bowl of icecream most nights, but I'm finding I can take or leave dessert--mostly leave.

I was the sickest with Anna-Kate (13 weeks) and Jack (16 weeks)--lost weight, had to do the whole eat saltines before moving thing, lots of ginger-ale. With Ryan, my nausea lasted a long time (18 weeks) but it wasn't debilitating. It seems I'm on a similar path this time. Currently feel horrible.

My skin is pretty clear, similar to Ryan--very different from Anna-Kate and Jack.

{Side note: now does everyone see why I thought Jack was going to be a girl???}

I'm wondering if since Anna-Kate and Jack seem to take more genes from my side of the family that I "reacted" stronger to them? So, since Ryan looks more like Chris the pregnancy didn't affect me as much (so would assume this baby will look more like Chris and Ryan?). Is this a plausible hypothesis?