We’ve been trying to plan a trip to Charleston for a while now. With Doug, Michelle and Madison having moved back there from Denver, Brittain has been beside herself wanting to see her cousin. Dan and Doug started talking about us making a trip there for New Year’s weekend and we knew we were going at first mention to Brittain. It was really going to be a perfect trip because Dan’s parents were also going so we would have built-in babysitters if we chose to live it up on New Year’s Eve. And from what I heard it was going to be some kind of party.
As it got closer to the day we were supposed to leave, we started having second thoughts about making the trip there. Both the kids had gotten sick and although Brittain was feeling a bit better, Coleman had gotten some kind of stomach bug. We finally had to make the decision that it wouldn’t be in ANYONE’S best interest to load us all up for a 5 hour trip in the car. Brittain was crushed, to say the least. Turns out it was meant to be…Connie and Roger had to cancel their plans to go just a day before they were supposed to leave because Michelle got sick, too.
So here we were now with no plans for New Year’s. It’s funny to me that we ever wonder what we’re SUPPOSED to be doing on New Year’s Eve now because it’s SO OBVIOUS! We are SUPPOSED to be with the Parkers! We carried on the tradition, but this year we added a couple more to the mix with Coleman and Livi.
Brittain and Ava were only children for so long I wondered how having the new siblings in the picture was going to affect them. I don’t want to say that they’ve been spoiled, but as far as attention goes, they’ve gotten ALL of it. But, it just goes to show you that they are just as wonderful as I knew they were because having their siblings in the picture now has only made them sweeter. They LOVE them and actually choose for them to be around.
When the Parkers’ arrived I got these few shots of all the kids greeting each other:
I’m sitting here laughing tonight as I’m writing this blog post. I’m thinking back to a previous post I made in 2008 called The Hugging Bully. First, I just can’t believe how little Brittain and Ava are. And second, I laugh thinking back to what they were like back then. Brittain was so afraid of everything. And Ava, while having good intentions, just came on a little too strong for Brittain’s taste and as you will in those photos, Brittain was NOT all about it. So here we are on children #2 and from what I see now, it looks as if the roles are reversed. This time, though, I have no worries about how this friendship will be. They may not see eye to eye right now, but I have no doubts they will become the best of friends in just a few short years.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but Coleman LOVES to eat. It’s been an adjustment for me since Brittain has been a picky eater from the very beginning. This kid will eat whatever you put in front of him…and also WHENEVER you put it in front of him. These pictures cracked me up. It didn’t matter that Coleman had just finished eating a large amount of food, when he saw that Livi was eating (it didn’t matter what it was) he wanted in on it.
My favorite set of pictures. My kid loves him some food and you will tell that he was quite confused at what was going on here:
The evening wouldn’t have been complete without Coleman spitting up all over himself.
The party pictures. You will notice that there’s someone missing. Coleman wasn’t ready this year to party with the rest of us. He stayed with his regular 7:30 bedtime knowing there would be plenty more years to stay up way past his bedtime.
Also, once you get to the full group pictures, note that I have stared at these pictures and I still haven’t figured out where my legs are. I look like I am merely just a torso.
What was supposed to be the most “tame” Christmas yet somehow took on a life of it’s own. The idea started with the fact that we are outgrowing the downstairs, so we had the idea to finally redo the upstairs to make the entire thing a playroom. It wasn’t that easy, though. It took a LOT of convincing because Dan wasn’t quick to give up what has been the “Men Den” since the upstairs was finished. But finally he gave in and the work began. And there was a LOT of work because the great ideas kept coming and we kept wanting to do them.
We had several of those moments, as all parents do, when we realized to just what lengths we were willing to go to for our children’s happiness. For the weeks leading up to Christmas I don’t think either of us were in bed before 2 in the morning. And sweet Brittain…because we were working up there, we had to close it off completely to her. She never complained the first time and even put a STOP sign on the door so that any of her friends that came over would also know it was off-limits.
Fortunately, when we took on this project, we knew we weren’t in it alone. There were people who stepped up to help us make the upstairs into what we envisioned. Dan’s parents were over on weekends, spending the WHOLE weekend helping us with beadboard, bulletin boards, a chalkboard, a whiteboard… We also found out that a woman who works with my mom was an artist and could paint anything. When I found that out, we hired her and she began working on a fish/ocean mural for one of the walls upstairs. On the weekends, our house was the place to be. You would rarely ride by and not see 4 or 5 cars in the driveway.
As we got closer and closer to Christmas I got more excited. I was so tired, but it didn’t keep me from imagining Christmas morning and seeing Brittain’s reaction to her new play area. At the last minute Dan and I decided that we wanted to have the family there for Santa time. It wasn’t something we had done before, but EVERYONE was excited and because so many people had helped us to make it what it was, we wanted to share it with all the people we love.
When the morning arrived it was all I had dreamed it would be and more. We timed it perfectly asking everyone to arrive at 8:30. Brittain woke up at 8 and because she already knew we were awaiting the arrival of the rest of the family, she never became impatient that she wasn’t able to go up to see what Santa had brought for her. Instead, she had a “check-in” table for everyone that arrived, signing them in with a name tag and also giving them their homemade stocking that she made.
I’m not sure if anyone could have the “proper” reaction to what she saw upstairs. Even I, who had just seen the finished product the night before, couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it on Christmas morning. But in addition to the whole overwhelming factor, there was also the peanut gallery (haha) that were staring Brittain down waiting to see what she would think. It was so sweet when she went into the tv room where she saw the mural, and the tv and the bean bags…she simply turned to me and just started hugging me. I don’t think I could have asked for a better reaction. She went on to see her ready made classroom at the other end of the upstairs with 2 bulletin boards, a huge chalkboard, a huge whiteboard. Then Pappy and Aunt Susan gave her her teacher desk and Gramy and Papa uncovered her 3 student desks.
After Brittain saw the upstairs we moved on to brunch and then to open the gifts from Dan’s parents. I will just tell you that it took Brittain a full 3 hours to open all the gifts from them. To go along with her upstairs classroom, Connie went crazy and gave her EVERY school supply she could ever want. In fact, she has multiples of every school supply she could want. If you look in her cabinets upstairs you will see boxes of crayons for multiple students, paints for multiple students, markers for multiple students. It’s an actual classroom, no doubt.
Brittain was so excited about her classroom that she could hardly wait to decorate it. We could hardly get her to finish opening all her gifts. When she finally finished, she and I headed upstairs and unpacked all her supplies and decorations. It took us a few hours, but we got it just right. Once we finished hanging everything I stepped back and got goosebumps. We had been working so hard we really hadn’t stopped to look. I said to Brittain, “Oh my gosh, Brittain. Step back. Look at it.” She took a step back and just stared. And then she said, “I think I’m going to cry…happy cry, that is.” It was so sweet. I took this picture with my phone at that moment:
Cecilia and Matt had gone to Boston this Christmas to be with his family, so we waited to celebrate the day with my side of the family until the day after Christmas. It was actually really nice not to have to rush from house to house. Especially with Coleman this year, there was no way he could go without a nap, so the timing of everything was much easier.
Christmas Day was so much fun that I wasn’t sure if anything could top it, but having my family all together was just as wonderful as it always is. Even with all the drama in all our lives (it seems), everyone came together in love and celebrated the day. Brittain certainly had a blast…and honestly I didn’t have such a bad time either.
While there are days when I say that statement and start laughing as if I’m a crazed idiot from the funny farm or the wicked witch of the west, this year (at least so far) I really do feel this way. Coleman obviously has no understanding at all for what day is very quickly approaching us, but Brittain understands more this year than ever before. And “understanding” translates into the most well-mannered, even-tempered angel of a child that you have ever seen. I really hate to see the holiday come and go for this reason alone.
When talk of Santa began, there was a clear interest that sparked, but it wasn’t until Dawson (Brittain’s Elf on the Shelf) arrived shortly after Thanksgiving that everything got kicked up a notch. Of course I have to give myself a shameless plug and say that if it weren’t for me, Dawson wouldn’t be a part of our family and that part of the excitement of Christmas wouldn’t exist. Fortunately, even after the phone call I received from Dan where he said, “Did you know that thing is $30? I left and didn’t get it. Plus, that little dude is creepy. Why don’t we just buy a freaking regular elf?” Dan, oh, Dan. Don’t worry, he begrudgingly purchased the all-too-expensive, creepy dude elf and of course has loved every second of finding places to hide him each night and seeing Brittain’s face light up each and every morning when she goes to find him.
This year we made some STRONG suggestions to Brittain that she needed to ask Santa for some things for the upstairs. After 8 years of being in this house I finally talked Dan into giving up his “Men Den” (what man needs an entire floor of a house all for himself?!?) So, the upstairs is now a big playroom and it’s going to be awesome. What started with bean bags developed into a play area that we’ll easily be able to put our kids in so that we can go back downstairs to start drinking (just kidding). But seriously, Santa apparently thinks that Brittain has been a VERY good girl this year. He’s putting up a wall-sized chalkboard and whiteboard and 2 big bulletin boards. He’s even bringing a brand new plasma t.v. (mainly so it’s out of reach of baby brother). Especially in the last week, time spent on making the upstairs sparkle for Christmas morning has been more than any of us have slept. But what’s that saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? Yeah, that’s where I am right now. For now I’m focusing on my children’s faces on Christmas morning and the joy that will give to all of us who have been blessed to have them in our lives.
Haha…you thought that was the end of this post, didn’t you? You thought wrong. You know this blog isn’t just about the good. It’s about the bad that goes along with it because while growing up has it’s wonderful advantages (the kid thing alone is an advantage I never knew would be like this), there are stresses that threaten to make me lose my faith and focus on the negative in my life instead of the positive. Sometimes it’s hard to push through and there are definitely days I want to curl up in a ball, close myself off from the rest of the world and give in to that “will things EVER get better?” feeling. I’m pretty sure this is why I go to church every Sunday, though, and listen to the words we should all live by. I’m doing my best, just as we all are with the tribulations we encounter in our lives.
Fooled you again. I want to leave this post so everyone has the warm and fuzzies, so I will leave you with some of Brittain’s Christmas letters. They are sure to warm your heart.
Brittain’s letter that she gave to Santa. You will see that she asked for a T.V (teve), a Lalaloopsy doll, bean bags (ben bags) and a desk (desc). The top says “bear Santa” and she told him while she was in his lap that she accidentally put a “b” instead of a “d”.
This one says “The Elves are working until Christmas Eve”
“Dear Santa, can I please have a elf on the shelf if I am good.”
“Dear Santa, thank you for giving me a elf on the shelf.”
“I love Rudolph. I love all the reindeer. Dear Santa, I have been a good girl. How is Mrs. Claus. I want a Lalaloopsy doll. I want a TV. I want a bean bag.” And she now signs her name with her first and last name and her initials. Brittain Gill BOG