Sunday, December 30, 2012

H Fam Sight Seeing Part 7 - Arlington National Cemetery

Greg's sis arrived on Friday to for her usual holiday visit! Yay!

Greg & Jake picked her up at the airport, stopped off in Crystal City for lunch, then headed to Arlington National Cemetery.

Greg and I got to check it out this summer when we were here housing hunting (what a crazy weekend!). We knew she would really like it, and Friday it was going to be in the 40's and sunny while the rest of her stay would be more so-so. So it was a good time to check it out. Jake doesn't nap anymore and he's getting older where he understands the meaning behind things. So he went too! I stayed home while the younger two napped.

They got there just in time to hike up to the top to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and was able to see the Changing of the Guard. I was so impressed this summer when we saw the solider standing guard, but we didn't know until after the fact about the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Greg said that Jake was just as impressed and interested as they were! Jealous and proud that my six year old got to see that before I did! Click on the above things and read about them, so very interesting!

He was even doing an imitation of the ceremony when we got home!

It was a peaceful day at Arlington National Cemetery....

There is a Wreath Laying Ceremony that takes place mid December to adorn the cemetery

On the way up to the Tomb of Unknowns

A guard coming to relieve the other

The Changing of the Guard

And now this soldier will guard until the next Changing of the Guard

Cavalry was there for a funeral

A good view of DC with the leaves off the trees

The Eternal Flame

I highly recommend everyone sees this at some point in their life!

There's no mistaking the meaning of this place. Just inside the iron gates where 4 million visitors enter every year, a sign spells it right out:

"Welcome to Arlington National Cemetery, Our Nation's Most Sacred Shrine. Please Remember: These Are Hallowed Grounds."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Middle Man turns FOUR

I can't believe it... last weekend my middle man turned FOUR. How in the heck did that happen??

I remember his birthday like it was yesterday. I was driving Greg and his mom crazy because I simply wasn't ready to go to the hospital. Finally when I couldn't talk and the contractions were 5 minutes apart, AND Jake was up from his nap... I was ready to go to the hospital! By that point we were in the middle of a snowstorm and we were in FRONT of the first snow plow clearing the road. What I really remember is that I wanted to break off the door handle every 5 minutes, I'm so stubborn ;)

They escorted me straight to the birthing suite as soon as I got there and Evan Joseph arrived a few hours later! He was a week early, but a whopping 9lbs 3oz... so I'm glad he arrived early, ha ha. He was Mr. Sweet Cheeks!

OMG I want to go back in time and cuddle him again!

He had a very clear idea how he wanted to celebrate his birthday since Jake just had his birthday two months ago. Poor kid, he's creative and inventive... except when it comes to something Jake has done before, he likes to do the same.

We woke up to breakfast and the table filled with gifts from us and those sent from family.

Let the birthdaying begin!
Jake picked out the Firefighter outfit on his own for Evan
Quite a haul fireman!

Then it was off to Chuck E Cheese!

All three of them when straight for this passive roller coaster ride thing
It's funny to see their faces
Again... a glimpse into the future??
The only one he really liked ;)
Having funny! Even if sporting a forced smile
Jake loves this game, just like Daddy!

So Evan... lining stuff up!

After naps he took the birthday money he received to Target and combined it all to get the biggest lego set yet! Which took quite a few hours to build!

LEGO Police Station

Then we went to Red Robin for birthday dinner!

Back home to wrap up the day long festivities with cake! Greg's birthday is 6 days before Evan's so when we got Greg's cake from the store on Monday... Evan saw the perfect cake for him... a cheesecake covered with fruit. This kid LOVES fruit. But of course when Greg made his traditional "night before birthday fun run to get balloons, cake, etc"... they didn't HAVE it. They always have it. So he got this one...

The forced smile returns...

Evan was esstatic BUT he just ate the fruit and the frosting (he's not a big chocolate cake guy... that's Jake and Greg). All that mattered was that he was happy and it was a good day.

Ah yes, there we go! ha!
 He's just excited because he's one year closer to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... this kid is one big hurry to grow up... has been since he was born!
"The trick is growing up without growing old."
- Casey Stengel

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Snowman Pudding Cups

Jake had his class party on Friday. It was nice. It was the third time I'd been in his class that week! Love Greg having the rest of the year off so I can spend time in Jake's class.

I had done the game for the Halloween Activity, the craft for Thanksgiving, so I volunteered for the snack for the Holiday Party. Since it was the first day of Winter (and boy did it end up feeling like it too!), our theme was snow/snowmen.

I had seen this idea for Halloween with mandarin orange fruit cups (click pic for original blog post). Thought about doing a snowman face onto pudding cups.

No store I went to even had that many (24) vanilla pudding cups for sale at one time. So I just purchased small clear cups and was going to make the pudding myself. It'd at least be a little healthier too, and I'd know for sure that no eggs would be in it (there's a child with an egg allergy in the class). I ended up getting white chocolate because it's whiter than vanilla, vanilla is yellowy.

Even though some moms looked at me like I was trying to show off or be an overachiever... I promise this is soooo simple. Nothing I do is complicated... I don't even get to go to the bathroom alone or eat something all to myself!

First take a black sharpie and draw on dots for a snowman face. Then I went back with a tiny paintbrush and used orange acrylic paint for the carrot nose.

Then I made the pudding and filled the cups! Cute, no?

I also had toppings of granola, crushed Oreos, and crushed candy canes. I picked up black spoons so they'd be the shovels.

Did they go over well? Um, much to my embarrassment, NO. I had a lot of kids tell me they *HATE* (we don't allow the boys to use that word, we tell them to try to think of a better way to say something like that) pudding. Lots of them just plain got thrown away. This is reminding me of my Bread Bunnies (foxes) that I made for Jake's preschool class last Easter. But there were a few that certainly liked & enjoyed it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Along with the world my heart breaks

Since Friday I cannot stop crying. It'll just hit me at a random moment and the next thing I know I'm sobbing.

Like the parents of the Sandy Hook kindergartners, I have lost a child. No one should ever have to bury their child. No one should ever have to pick out a child size casket and make funeral and burial plans for a little person that is suppose to see you go first.

Of course the situations are different, I don't presume to relate my situation to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Grant Andrew was born with life threatening medical issues. We lost him at 8 weeks old, he had never even left the hospital. We knew his passing was near and we were escorted to a nice cozy little room (sort of like a living room). We wrapped him in a blanket that had been used by the other boys, we both sat together and held him in our arms and I sang him his last lullaby. The nurses and doctors were so kind, the whole floor was quiet, even the other NICU babies. While peaceful, it was so heartbreaking. However, today, I am thankful for how peaceful it was.

Then my heart breaks into a million pieces and think of those sweet babies in that classroom that did not get that peace. Their last minutes were of unimaginable fear (did they cry out for their mommies and daddies?), and horror (to witness that horror unfold around them to their little friends). Then as if my heart can't break any further... I think of those sweet babies' parents. I never truly considered myself "blessed" to of been with Grant during that time (I felt it was my duty & I was bound by love, but it's not something I would ever say I felt blessed by)... but now I see it so... that's what parents do... we see our children through things even when it hurts the worse. But those parents were robbed of not only their irreplaceable children... they were even robbed of being able to provide comfort and love in those last moments. I really was blessed to have those last moments with Grant as scary and heartbreaking as it was... it was peaceful and full of love. Not full of fear, violence, chaos, and sadness.

My oldest, Jake is also in Kindergarten so I guess compound that I can only see his little class with their precious faces so excited to be growing up and learning... I'm a mess. Then I feel selfish, how can I be a mess? What about those lives that will be changed forever. You never get over a death, sometime time can make the hurt less... but something like that... there's no words for it.

Every time he does something today all I can think is the parents of a kindergartner just like him who will never experience that again. I got to check on him in his sleep last night, pull up the covers and give him a kiss. Twenty little beds were empty last night, when just that morning little people so full of life and wonder popped out of them ready to start their day.

How does one ever reconcile with that? I feel so small, helpless, and useless. How can someone get that sick and demented? Why choose the littlest ones that no idea of defending themselves, scrambling, pleading, hiding, running, etc... how could you ever HATE yourself and life that much? I don't understand it. All I know is that I have a huge sharp pain in my heart, as does most of the nation and some of the world perhaps. I know I'm not alone, I just hope those parents know that as well. What a horrific time for them. How can we ever pull good out of something like this?

**Saw a wonderful idea for honoring those 20 sweet babies... do 20 Random Acts of Kindness! What a perfect idea to pass on feelings of love, caring, and goodwill during a time we've seen so much violence, fear, and immense sadness. What if every single person did this in the nation or even the world. For in a time when you think "what can I do"... maybe that would be a good start. Random Acts of Kindness can involve monetary exchange... but there's also plenty things that don't require anything else but effort, thoughtfulness and your smile. I'm going to try it! I get rather wrapped up in my world of managing three young boys right now... it'd be nice to peek up out of it all and feel just maybe I can make a slight difference. Maybe you can too.**

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Christmas decor in VA

The one thing about moving is you will use your stuff differently. It's really notable in the Christmas decoration!

Our home here in VA is about half the size of our Texas home, but definitely bigger than the townhouse in Chicago. So our holiday decorating has certainly morphed over the years! Plus I gotta tell ya... with only moving 5 months ago and all the craziness with Jake starting school, etc... we tried to just keep it simple. I didn't get our neat all of our stuff. With 3 boys, there's not much time to devote to anything but them. The movers didn't like that the packers left our Christmas stuff in the Rubbermaid's so the day off they DUMPED them all into a big wardrobe box and "padded" it with our Christmas lights. So I'm sure you can figure out how all that worked out... most of the lights did not survive. It was such a mess to unpack.

Then on top of it all we all got the stomach flu the same weekend we were trying to decorate... so without further due here is the H Family Virginia Home decorated for Christmas!

Let's start in the dining room! Each of those painted ceramics in the china cabinet was painted by Greg's Grandma. We have lots from her, I stuck mostly with Santa's this time.

If you look you'll see the Peppermint Candy Dome I made last year for Adventures in Mommyland's Dollar Store Craft in which I was a guest poster!
Dining Room Table
The beautiful bouquet on the table was sent to ME from Greg on HIS birthday. I've just been having a rough time lately. Always slightly sick, stressed out to the max, and a feeling very overwhelmed in general. So my thoughtful husband sent me flowers & chocolates. It was quite a pick-me-up!
The stairway upstairs between the dining room and living room (I need to give a home tour don't I?)

Then my Christmas Village!

Now we move into our little family room. It's in the back of the house and too small for a tree, BUT it has the fireplace! Finally ordered personalized stockings since we know our family is complete!

Aren't the wonderful!?
Keep it pretty simple with just garland, lights, and a complete pretties stuck here and there.

Got this little reindeer when I hosted a Christmas Decor Exchange Party with my Mom's Group in Texas! That was fun!
Took down our painting (in orange and blues) and hung up a wreath.

And here's the 2012 Christmas tree... um, yah... 1/3 of the lights are out. So frustrated about that. It happened last year too. Was such a small section that I just put a new strand over it. But I fear this is going to require more work than that. Boo.

Overall, we're nice a cozy and pretty much ready for the holidays! Just don't ask me about shopping ;)
To see the previous years decor please click on the years... 2008, 2010 mantel, 2010 tree, 2010 deck the halls & 2011

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Yet Another H Family Road Trip!

This year for Thanksgiving we headed back to the Midwest! Before I get too far into this post, I must tell you... we've "misplaced" our camera. I'm not ready to declare it lost yet, but uh..... anyway this will be a wordy post. You've been warned.

First I had to get over my guilt of pulling Jake out of school for 3 days (only one of which was a full day). I know it's just kindergarten, but I want to make sure they grow up thinking school is important. Fun stuff just can't trump school. Ok, so got over that.

Then was originally going to fly... bah... the costs, limited amount of stuff we can take, AND not having anyone to take care of the dog... we decided to road trip it!

We left early Saturday morning, it was a great drive. I've never seen the Pennsylvanian countryside... I adored all the farms. Most were all well kept, red, and working!

We overnighted in Cleveland. Got to visit with family that came from Toledo, OH to have dinner and hang out. It was so nice to see them, and the boys received a cool gift... walkie talkies. We did stop for a quick playground play and view of Lake Erie.

Found out along the way that Jake gets carsick like I do. I cannot ride in the 3rd row very long. We put Jake in the 3rd row (Evan is usually back there) of the Suburban because he can do more stuff for himself. Thought it would be better to have Evan up a bit closer. Well about 3 hrs in we're on the side of the PA turnpike getting Jake some fresh air and Greg switching carseats! Sorry buddy, I know the feeling!

Sunday took us to Chicago! We're big ole "how many states have you been to" dorks... so at one point we're right next to Michigan so we popped up there for lunch, lol! Just so all the boys could add a new one to their lists ;)

We arrived... SICK. I was battling a nasty cold that I caught from Luke before we left. Then Jake caught it from me. Nothing says HI like bringing germs with ya!

I got to see some friends I hadn't seen in 4 years. Did our usual Charming Charlies (that Greg calls "jumping jacks") shopping trip with my sis-in-law. Did date night with his siblings. I even got almost 12 hours of sleep one night. Fantastic. The boys got tons of spoiling by Grandma and Grandpa.

On Friday we headed south to my hometown in Indiana. It was nice to only have a 4 hour drive that time. We stopped at the cemetery to give some love to baby Grant. Then onto my Grandma's where we ate and visited. Had a Thanksgiving lunch the day then we had to hit the road to start our trip back. On the way out we had a wonderful visit with Luke's birth mom and her family. I think we're all really blessed at it feeling so natural and easy.

Then... Evan started to get sick. We overnighted in the middle of Ohio (took 70 home instead of the northern route we took in going to Chicago). Sunday was a very bad day. Soon as we hit the PA Turnpike, it became a parking lot. Evan was pretty sick with his cold and in being so sick it caused a few accidents. At one point we were stuck on a tollbooth ramp where 8 lanes turned into 3 that turned into one to get off the turnpike... Evan had to go. So I climbed in the back, put a nighttime pull up on him in case he didn't make it. His pride was so damaged and he was crying. Traumatic for everyone. Then another time we got stuck in traffic, got off because Jake had to go (even though everyone goes twice at each stop we make)... there was nothing at this exit... so they all ended up going behind a bulldozer at a construction site. YES. That's us! The boys thought it was hilarious, and it was the crowning moment of the day. BUT we still were NOT home. Finally made it home at 8pm. We had been on the road for 12 hours.

That is one sure fire way to feel more settled in a home you've only lived in for 4 months... leave for 8 days and battle hellish traffic to get home. Home Sweet Home, I tell ya!

That's it! That's all I have for ya! This weekend we unearth the Christmas stuff... that the movers were mad about how the packers packed it and they repacked it. Doubtful I'll find it all, but it'll be another typical adventure! ;)