Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The One In Which I Share My Embarrassing Moments

I am pretty good at embarrassing myself whenever possible. Matt often calls me "Grace" because I can trip over a crack in the sidewalk if given the chance. I am sure there are many friends, namely Josh, who would be happy to tell you embarrassing stories about things I have said or done if you simply buy him a drink. But nothing is quite as humiliating as sitting on the floor of a storage closet in the Houston Airport and pumping breast milk.

In fact, I believe breast feeding, while having many wonderful benefits for a child, is the source of most of my embarrassment over the last 3 years of my life. 

I don't usually talk about nursing on this blog because I have a few guys that read it and they really don't want to hear about this but I decided to share this aspect as nursing just to get it off my chest. (ha!) 

(And because it is on my mind since my pump just broke with only 3 months left to nurse. Such a pain. Luckily my friend Tracy was able to step in and save the day! )

I guess the most frequent embarrassment for me when it comes to nursing is that I have to pump a couple of times a day at work. It is totally obvious to everyone that I work with when I am gone in the mother's room (which is so posh and comfy...with it's flickering lights and straight backed chairs. They do give us a table, so I guess I should be thankful...but the space is contained within a break room so it's always awkward to run into a business partner or co-worker when you are coming out of the 'mysterious' closet). My co-workers have joked about it for a while now. I often get asked (loudly) where I am going when I am on the way to the mother's room. Sometimes I get text messages saying that they have cookies...if only they had some milk...and so on. 

And work doesn't stop just because I am in the mother's room. I regularly listen in on conference calls (and sometimes have to speak on them) while pumping. People on the phone have asked, "who is using a washing machine?" or "what is that breathing sound?" if I don't have the phone on mute while in the room (generally because I have to talk, not because I want everyone hearing my pump. so awkward). It is nice, however, to at least have a dedicated space at work to take care of this. When I travel it is a different story altogether. 

I have traveled for work 2 times in the last 2 months and both times were amazing opportunities for me to humiliate myself in public. It starts at the airport when you go through the screening line. I am always stopped and searched because of my pump. If it is a woman, they search my bag, I tell them it's a breast pump, and they look around some more just in case. Then they send me on my way. If it's a man, the minute I tell them it's a breast pump the search is over and they can't get my bag zipped up fast enough.

When I get to the work site I have to ask if there is a mother's room. So far in both sites I have visited there has not been. In SLC I had to use a man's office (because none of the women had offices) so that was just super. Twice a day I would kick him out of his space in order to pump. Then I would leave the milk in his refrigerator. I am sure he was thrilled by this. 

On the second day in SLC I was in the office when I heard the sound of a key going in the lock of the door. I quickly tried to cover myself while yelling out that I was in the room. As the door started to open in slow motion I shouted, "Don't come in!" but the cleaning lady apparently didn't speak English and she kept on coming in. She got a show and I got a very red face. Seriously, though, even if you couldn't understand what I was saying don't you think the yelling from the other side of the door would make you think twice about coming in? 

In El Salvador I had to pump in a training room because the closet that they used as a "mother's room" didn't have any electricity. Helpful. 

I know the rooms at the site are monitored by security so I can just imagine some Salvadoran security guards in a room wondering what the heck was going on in the training room on the 3rd floor. I tried my best to look for a camera in the room and I did everything I could to cover up but I know I couldn't cover everything. There were probably reports of someone using a washing machine in the area of the training room and they needed to investigate...

On the way there and back from El Salvador I had to pump on the airplane. Continental has power supplies right there in the seats so it made things pretty easy. It was a full flight on the way to El Sal so I had to ask a woman who didn't speak English to trade seats with me so that I could sit in the window seat and pump in relative privacy. It was clear that she didn't understand my request since we had a bit of a language barrier so I decided to show her the pump pieces and then motion to my boobs and then to her seat. She was happy to switch after that. We didn't make eye contact for the rest of the flight. (so ashamed)

On the way back from El Sal I had an empty seat in between me and my co-worker but our power supply didn't work in our row. I moved to a different row with power and put up a blanket to block my pump from everyone going to the rest room. It was working fine until the flight attendant came by to offer water. He reached out to hand it to me and then the blanket fell. Fantastic.

After that I needed to clean the pump pieces with bottled water from the plane and the male flight attendant was unwilling to part with a half of a bottle of water without good reason. Once I showed him my used breast pump pieces he gave me the water without any further hesitation. I was mortified.

The trip through customs also offered a fresh chance to be embarrassed by the US Federal Government. There were three checkpoints with questions and they went something like this:

checkpoint 1: customs agent asks if I have any food or liquid. I tell him that I have breast milk. He then hesitates and says, "I don't mean to get personal but is it yours or someone else's?" Mine, thanks. He goes on to tell me about a buddy of his that is a body builder who buys the milk for $80 per 6 ounces. I wish he hadn't shared that with me so much that I decided you should feel that same awkwardness.

checkpoint 2: same question about liquids or foods. I respond that I have breast milk and the guy quickly signed my form and let me go without even looking at me again.

checkpoint 3: bag search. The man asks the standard food or liquid question and I tell him that I have a breast pump and milk in my bag (a week's worth). He must think I mean baby formula and he asks where the baby is. I tell him that I am not traveling with a baby and that I have stored milk during my week away. He brings out a jar and asks me to provide a sample. 

Oh. My. God. 

I looked at him for a second and then I said, "Sir, that is breast milk. Actual milk. Not formula" to which he looked at me in horror and closed my bag as fast as he could. Search and questioning over. And all this happened in front of my male co-worker. I seriously could not have been more embarrassed. 

All I could say was that Jack better not turn out to be an a-hole after all of this because I feel like I have given up my dignity to attempt to ensure he gets the best nutrition. I have one more trip to go on before he turns one. It is an overseas trip and I don't think the airline has electric outlets like the Continental flight had. I just can't wait to figure out what kind of fresh humiliation I will be put through on that trip. **takes deep breath**

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's official, We're THOSE Parents

Unfortunately we have more toys than space.
Here are some pictures from Christmas morning.
This is the way things looked after Santa left presents but before the kids woke up...which was 6:30am for Jack and 15 minutes later for Avery. Santa was considerate enough to put Jack's presents on the right and Avery's on the left. Of course, Avery went straight for Jack's stuff first. She eventually took notice of her toys but his were much more interesting. I think that is always the way kids are. Other people's toys are SO much better than their own. 

Jack discovered his toys from Santa fairly fast. He was pretty impressed with everything on Christmas morning. I was a little disappointed that he didn't try and eat more of the boxes but I guess he is just smarter than Avery was on her first Christmas. I'm sure she'll appreciate me saying that when she is old enough to read.
Avery with her doll from Aunt Tina. She carried that baby around all morning much to the dismay of Grammie who gave her a Bitty Baby for Christmas. Avery also refused to put on the matching pajamas that the Bitty Baby came with. We were so proud....

The slightly sad face she is making is because all she really wanted was an FHS Dance shirt but she didn't get that. Apparently you have to actually go to Illinois for Christmas to merit one of those shirts. We will be going there next year so hopefully she will make the "nice" list and get a dance shirt. 

Uncle "Gooey" sent an ornament for Jack that had his name on it but Avery's birthday. We all know that Larry is getting older so I guess I should let this one slide. It's just sad to see him deteriorating like this. He was one of the greats. Mr. Mascoutah from 1989. Tragedy.

Back to a lighter side of Christmas....

The "bouncy" from Santa was a big hit with both of the kids. Avery loved jumping up and down and Jack loved sitting in the back and being bounced. I am sure this is going to cause some kind of shaken baby syndrome but his laughter is contagious. When he is 12 and just learning to count to 10 I will remind him that it was all worth it because he loved that darn trampoline.

Avery enjoyed hearing him laugh so she kept it up. This is the kind of thing that will land us in the hospital by the end of January. I'm not sure what Santa was thinking. I am pretty sure that he wasn't aware of the size because he would have probably thought twice when he realized that we live in a small house. 

A 1625 square foot house.

Oh man. Where are we going to put all this stuff? It's going to end up in the living room and our house is going to feel like Toys R Us. I don't know how we can escape it. We have managed to keep most of the toys at my parents house up to this point but I'm afraid my dad's head would explode if we show up with anymore toys to keep there.  We already have to sneak toys in and then run out of the house if he finds things we have left there and leaves them in a pile on the dining room table for us to take home. That's just no way to live. 

It was somewhat easier when he was away visiting my brother's family because he would be gone for 2-3 weeks at a time so he would just forget what was already at their house when he got back. (or we would just say, "that's been here all along, dad" and he would shrug his shoulders and go out to the back porch) Now that it is winter and he is afraid to step outside if it is below 60, we are going to have a decidedly more difficult time getting anything in there. Plus if he finds something new he calls and calls to tell us to come get it. I would just avoid answering but he makes our dinner every night so I want to answer in case I have a chance to give input on the menu. Then we have to run out fast after dinner and "forget" the stuff he wants us to take so that the toys can stay there. The pressure to get out fast is just too much.
Back to Christmas morning...

Yeah, it's true. Men are the weaker of the two sexes. He was asleep by 11am. He just can't handle all of the excitement of Christmas.

Jack out enjoying his new car. Notice that Matt is wearing shorts and flip flops. That is because it was almost 80 degrees on Christmas day. That is why I love living in Texas. Kids in Michigan are not out playing with their toys at 10am on Christmas morning. Those poor suckers have to wait until late Spring before they can test drive their toys and by then they have forgotten what they even got for Christmas. 

It's sad, really.

The sun shining through the trees at Anne and Steve's house where we had Christmas dinner. Seriously LOVE living in Texas. Avery played outside while dinner was cooking and we managed to make it through the afternoon without breaking anything. That is a huge victory for us because Anne and Steve's house is littered with very breakable valuable stuff. Everywhere you turn there is something that I could not possibly afford to replace just sitting at toddler level calling out Avery's name. I pretty much just spend the whole time that we are there with elevated blood pressure and quick hands to catch anything that falls. 

Now I am off to help boost the economy by doing my part with after Christmas shopping. You can thank me later.

Friday, December 26, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

On our way to the Christmas Eve service at church. We went to the 3pm Children's service and I am so glad we did. It was nuts! When you show up you get to pick out either an angel, a shepherd or a king costume to wear. All of the children participate in the service. Of course, I wasn't prepared for it to be close to 80 degrees on Christmas Eve (or Christmas day) so we ditched the stockings and cute sweater and went for bare legs to keep things cooler for Avery. Avery was happy to pick out the angel halo and started wearing it with pride.
Jack decided to be an angel also but he didn't participate in the service since you had to be able to walk and understand direction. He really enjoyed ringing the jingle bells during the service, though.
Avery after church. She was ready to go home and make cookies for Santa. But the real Christmas miracle was that she actually PARTICIPATED in the church service. When all of the angels started walking up to the front of the stage Avery followed. Then when she was on stage she didn't really know what to do so she just walked to the very edge of the stage in front and looked out at the 900+ people who were in the audience. I was expecting her to start screaming out for me at any moment but she never did. She started to notice that all the other kids were sitting down so she finally decided to, also. She stayed on stage for about 10 minutes. We saw her walking back toward us but we were in the back so she didn't see us. She just checked out every face in the pews until she made it back to ours. I was almost dead from holding my breath while I waited for her to start screaming but she didn't. It was a Christmas miracle.

When we got home we started to make cookies for Santa. I have made cookies with my nieces tons of times but never with Avery. She wasn't the right age until now. It was a lot of fun. She loved to crack the eggs and pour the ingredients into the bowl. It required constant supervision because she was always ready to add more but it was so much fun.
She was so proud!
Of course you HAVE to lick the spoon so you know that it tastes good before you bake it.

Testing the cookies before leaving them for Santa.

Jack trying to open some gifts while no one was watching.

And then the saddest part of the night for me...putting a baby to sleep on Christmas Eve for the last time. I posted this picture on facebook also and my friend commented that he will be a baby next year, too. That's true, but it won't be his first Christmas and he won't be "small" like he is now. It is just so bittersweet to think that every first with Jack is a last for me.

Of course, right now I am listening to him coughing into the monitor so I know it is going to be one of those nights where I wonder why in the world we even thought we could handle one child.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It was a busy weekend so I have no energy for words

In an attempt to not write anything meaningful, I present pictures of the children from the last two weeks.  Actual blog post with words and everything coming tomorrow since I am officially on vacation for the next 2 weeks.

Avery has started asking for her picture to be taken in the morning before school. I think it is hilarious and if she actually cooperated and smiled for the camera it would be great. This candy cane was a treat for using the potty before school. It is the last time she will ever get a candy cane that early in the day. Matt said it was a complete mess before they made it in the door at daycare.

We moved on to pretzels the next day (to avoid the candy cane mess) and she was still really cooperative when it came to the potty. I am hoping that we no longer need diapers after the Christmas break. She is hit or miss right now.

This is a message to Aunt Tina--really love the FHS dance shirt and hope to get more of those in the future. (hint, hint)

Oh, right, Jack. Here he is eating an ornament from the Christmas tree. I am sure there is a choking hazard in there somewhere but it was cute and I needed to take a picture rather than take it away from him. You know, priorities.

I just can't wait to see what he does on Christmas morning when he sees that there are presents that he actually gets to open.

Avery and Olivia show off their new CDs.

I had better quality pictures but this was the only one that I could get both of them smiling without a huge amount of glare. It really is time to learn how to use photoshop.

Kissing Uncle Josh to thank him for her charm. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Just Jack

one week. look at those bird legs! Matt was afraid that he was going to be a scrawny little guy. HA! Little did he know how fast Jack would grow. 8 pounds 10 ounces and 21 inches long.

one month old. wearing a sweater vest that Lindsey and Jason sent him.

2 months old. This is when he really just started growing like crazy and it shows.

3 months old. He found his thumb really early and knew exactly how to use it!

4 months old. Those eyes started to really brighten up.

By 5 months it was clear that he was going to keep his blue eyes and happy disposition.

6 months. Smiling a lot more and keeping control of his giant head and upper body. Also sitting up, although you can't see that here, and rolling all around the house.

7 months old. Drooling like crazy. He has 2 bottom teeth and is working on those top ones.

8 months old. Just easy. Happy all the time and cooperative in every way. Doesn't care what we put on him or how we pose him. Such a good baby. He is doing the army crawl and one top tooth has come in.
9 months. Seriously. How does the time fly so fast? I feel like we just brought him home. He is crawling around and getting into anything he can. He now weighs 24 pounds 13 ounces and is 31 inches long. According to today's well check appointment he is in perfect health.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"He Does Exist!"

This is my paraphrase of a true story our pastor told at church 2 weeks ago. Our church sponsors a Thanksgiving lunch for those who are in need. We also deliver to folks who are unable to leave their homes but are still in need of a meal on Thanksgiving. Obviously this is a large undertaking and requires a lot of volunteers who are willing to give up most of their day on Thanksgiving to serve others. 

The person in charge of the event wrote our pastor to tell him all about the success of the day. She spoke of the 300+ people that ate at the church and then many more who received meals at home. 

One woman was assigned 3 houses to deliver food to. When she called to let the last family know that she was coming with the food they told her that they unexpectedly received a meal from a neighbor already and would not need the food from my church. Not knowing what to do, the volunteer returned to the church and told the person in charge that she had 2 meals left over. The leader told the woman that if she drove around for a few minutes she would probably find someone on the street in need. While the volunteer was a little shy about doing that, she agreed to drive around the area just in case.

Only a few miles away from the church she came upon a park where she saw a woman and a boy sitting at a picnic table. She told herself to be brave and got out of her car to approach the two people in the park. She asked them if they would like some Thanksgiving dinner compliments of my church. The boy couldn't believe it. He tapped on the box and asked if there was turkey inside. The volunteer said, "yes! Of course. Turkey, dressing, the whole meal!"

The boy looked at his mother and shouted "God is real! He does exist! I prayed that He would give us turkey for Thanksgiving and He did!"

The volunteer couldn't believe what she was hearing. Apparently the woman had left her husband after he beat her son. She had nowhere to go and didn't know what to do. The volunteer called 911 for her and was able to get help for the woman and boy. She returned to the church to share the story.

How amazing is it to see God's work? What a wonderful gift that she shared it with our pastor and I just couldn't pass up the chance to share it with you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some Holiday Pictures

Not surprisingly I have filled up the hard drive with pictures. Matt is going to move them all to the external hard drive tomorrow so I don't have tons of pictures of the house, but here is a sampling. 

Our little Christmas tree. I have had it for years because it was small enough for our apartment and when we moved into our house we liked it because it fit in the room without having to move all of our furniture around. I would love to have a real tree but my husband has allergies so out of respect for his lungs, I go with the fake one. Begrudgingly. 

Our stockings are hung on the mantel. Jack's is different because it says "Jack's first Christmas" on it. He will have one like the rest of us next year. (this comes up quite a bit when people come over so I thought I would point that out) 

Jack's first Christmas! I can't wait to see how he reacts to all the paper and boxes (because we all know how these kids operate. They don't care about anything but the boxes just to frustrate us)

The silver ball was a gift from great family friends when Avery was born. They get them for their grandchildren and so it was very special to have them send one for Avery in 2006. I love ornaments that were sent from friends so I will highlight some others below. The Disney bride and groom ornaments were from our honeymoon. 

My friend Amy sent this ornament to me last year for Christmas. She made it herself which makes it extra cool.

See that martini glass? That is from Lauren this year. And while I haven't been able to drink since 2005 thanks to babies, I will make sure to catch up in 2009! This ornament reminds me that I am just 3 months away from feeling like a big girl again. 

My friend Michelle gave me this ornament a few years ago. She lives in Ohio and we don't see each other as much as we would like (which would be every week!) but we talk often and we are always thinking of one another. This ornament reminds me that she is never that far away.

These two clowns make the whole house feel festive all year long. The things that come out of Avery's mouth just make us laugh every day. 

I will post some pictures of other decorations around the house as soon as I clear some space on the hard drive. oops.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Just Made a lot of Women look Amazing in their Husband's Eyes

In case you were wondering, Matt agreed to be Joseph. There were three conditions:
  • I couldn't take any pictures of him at the event. (so there are none included here)
  • I wasn't allowed to tell friends to come watch. (damn. but my friend Micha did make up for this by sending a timely text message as we were putting on our costumes.)
  • I have to go see some stupid movie that I don't want to see. (which I don't think is that fair because I only asked him to spend 20 minutes doing something he didn't want to do.)
So on Friday night, we all showed up at church to participate in the live nativity. I had been gone for a week in El Salvador (which I will discuss at another time) so Jack was super excited to see me when I got home. Maybe a little too excited because during the show he kept trying to nurse. In front of everyone. I spent most of the 20 minute "performance" trying to make him sit up because he kept leaning back with all his strength so that he could root around. 


And speaking of 20 minutes, it didn't exactly go as planned. I had promised Matt that it was only 20 minutes but when we walked out into the stable and sat there "acting" for a few minutes we noticed that things couldn't possibly be going as planned because nothing was happening. After about 5 minutes of sitting there amongst some live animals (sheep, goats, a horse that was playing the part of a donkey), the person in charge of the event came out and told us that they were having technical difficulties and we would need to come back and start over. 

Matt was thrilled.

So we went backstage and waited around for a few minutes while they tried to work out the technical issues.  This is when things started to go downhill for us because Avery, who had been patiently waiting with the other angels, was losing her patience and only wanted to be with us. But we were the Holy Family so it didn't really work from a historical perspective to walk out holding both the baby Jesus and an angel. We were just trying to respect the historical accuracy of the event so we really couldn't give in to her demands. I mean, I have heard the Christmas story about a hundred times and it never once mentioned Mary and Joseph having a toddler together in the form of an angel before Jesus was born. So we left her on the hip of some poor unsuspecting shepherd while we started the show again.

Finally Matt, Jack and I went back out to the set of the stable with the live animals. Unfortunately for us the goat didn't realize that the show had paused and he should probably stop eating the hay because after about 3 minutes on "take two" of the show the goat puked right behind Matt. Then the angels came out to stand behind us and the little girl who was supposed to stand by the goat refused (on account of the puke, I assume). After that Avery started crying out for Matt to hold her. He tried ignoring her because her request just didn't make any sense in the context of the stable scene, but she wouldn't let it go. Matt eventually let her sit on his lap so that people in the audience could actually hear the narration.

(Meanwhile Jack is trying to nurse during this whole thing. Every time I sat him up he thrust himself backwards and leaned right in. I am sure I had saliva marks on my "Mary" outfit. I feel bad for the woman who had to put it on after me.)

So if you rolled up to my church on Friday night around 6:30pm you saw Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus trying to nurse over Mary's outfit, an angel sitting on Joseph's lap and a goat that puked up hay. I'm sure the folks there to watch felt exactly like they were back at that stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. 

So ladies... you're welcome. I am sure that I have made it so that you can pretty much get away with anything you ask of your husband because if he ever refuses you can just recall the time when I convinced Matt to dress as Joseph in front of a bunch of strangers, some farm animals with weak stomachs, a crying kid, and a baby that missed his mama while she was away.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh Just Forget It

Look, it just isn't going to happen. Those two kids are not capable of both looking at the camera at the same time and smiling. And frankly, I don't think my marriage can handle many more of my attempts to capture these precious angels on film to share with distant relatives and far-away friends. Every morning after they are dressed and ready for daycare I make them get together for another futile attempt at a picture worthy enough to mail out. They are always in a good mood and each of them are happy to smile. Just not at the same time. 

Meanwhile Matt is in the background yelling something about it being 8:15 and needing to leave for work. I'm not exactly sure what he is saying because I am too busy bribing Avery with "special treats" (ranging from an m&m to a cookie when I am really desperate) to hear what he is yelling about. He needs to get his priorities straight. This is for our Christmas Card. We must not fail.

Christmas is so stressful. 

Here are some samples of the 75 pictures I have taken since last Thursday.

This one is close. You'd think that I could just live with this but Jack is looking at Barney on TV rather than anywhere near the direction of the camera.  And Avery is kind of squishing her face with her shoulder. 
In this one I am pretty sure Avery just pinched him because she has somewhat of a guilty look on her face and he is starting to cry, which is completely out of character for Jack. Look at the way he is looking at Matt. It is as if to say, "dad, for real. these women are just impossible to live with." Avery's tightly closed lips indicate that she totally did something wrong.
Then they resort to those thumbs. The thumbs are actually the biggest problem of all. Here's how it normally goes when I am trying to take pictures: Avery is willing to play along and smile for about 3 shots so it is all about getting Jack to cooperate. Normally he has his thumb in his mouth so I take it out and get him to laugh. It works! He thinks it is funny! So then I return to the camera and by the time I look through the viewer the thumb is back in his mouth. damn. Next I get Matt, my impatient sidekick, to remove his thumb while I keep my eye on the two of them to get the shot. That's when Avery starts sucking her thumb and I might as well just forget it. 
These pictures of Jack are usually taken before Avery decides to participate in the photo session. Usually once I start taking pictures of Jack she decides to join in. 
But also I take them because he is cute. Thumb sucking and all... Plus he will always wear whatever we put on his head. It's such a change from Avery who immediately pulls off any hat we put on her because she hates us.

And the thing is, Avery can be cute when she wants to be. She likes getting her picture taken and can be quite fun.

Another attempt at a group shot. This time Jack is looking at Matt who was trying to get them to both smile. And let's not fail to notice that his pants are a little big and have ridden up higher than his bellybutton. This works for the over 60 crowd but it isn't really suitable for our family card.

I don't even know what to say about this one. I mean, can you imagine opening your card from our family and having THIS fall out to the floor? For goodness sake. It's ATTACK OF THE HEAD. Dang German genes. 

So that's it. Time is up. I leave for El Salvador on Tuesday morning and I have produced nothing worthy of sending to friends and family. I think we will just have to make a card with separate pictures of the kids and send that off. It was a good effort. I had fun trying. No one was seriously hurt (since I caught Jack as he was falling off the couch) and we were only slightly late to work every day (EVERY. DAY.) while I was taking pictures. 

I still haven't checked the mail in a few days because I know that there are Christmas cards in there. Perfectly put together cards by friends and family that have it all together. I am sure there are letters with lovely stories of what they have been up to this year (something I will not be including in mine because the thought of having to string together something coherent about how the year went for us kind of makes my stomach hurt). 

(and it isn't like we didn't have some newsworthy events this year. I mean, Avery got glasses in January and then Jack was born in March. Matt had his annual trip to the Indy 500 in May and then turned 30 in June so a few friends showed up to help him celebrate! We celebrated our 5 year anniversary this summer. My brother's family came to visit in July and then I went to Vegas with friends in September. But that is kind of where it ends. And frankly, is it all that newsworthy to say that I went to Vegas? Do you know how many people go to Vegas every year? Maybe I could mention my new role at work which requires some travel to rather fun places and means that Matt has to play the role of both parents while I am away. But I don't know if that is card-worthy information. You see what I mean? Stomach ache.)

I love getting cards from friends and family, particularly when the card includes a picture so we can see how the family has grown or changed over the last year. I have a lot of friends that have had babies this year so I look forward to getting pictures of the little ones. And if I am really being honest, I especially love when people send letters stating what they have been up to during the last year. I can usually tell that a letter is enclosed by the thickness of the envelope and I save those cards for last so I can spend some time reading all about the last year. It makes me feel close to those people since we can't be physically close all the time. The pictures generally stay up on our refrigerator or on our picture board for the whole year (or longer) and I have every Christmas card I have received in the last 5 years saved in this Christmas box that gets put away when all of the Christmas decorations are taken down. It is a special gift to have so many friends and family members to love.

Maybe I should just send out this year's picture of Avery with Santa. It certainly shows how much she has grown since last year....with her longer curly locks and glasses.

The 2008 Santa photo with Avery. She is nothing if not consistent.