Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Merriest Christmas

December has been such a wonderful and joyous month this year! We have marked the days until Christmas by following a great advent reading from SheReadsTruth and found fun activities to get us in the mood. Our first adventure was going to see the lights at the zoo. Jon wore Eli in his backpack carrier and donned his bear suit for the chilly occasion. It was about the only time we had cold weather so we were quite excited.

Then when Jon was on Christmas break, we went to the bowling alley at the Bass Pro Shop (yes, I'm serious) with a few friends for some fun. Elias was unfortunately a bit overstimulated by all there was to see., poor guy. But for Jon and me, it felt so great to get out and do something fun and different and silly. It had been a while.

For the first time ever, Jon and I spent Christmas away from our parents' homes and had a quiet celebration on our own. When we lived in Virginia, traveling between our parents' houses was not a difficult task since they were only about 2 hours apart and traffic was minimal on Christmas day. Now that we live in Memphis, we had to choose between either 30+ hours of driving, or 4 flights plus 4 hours of driving in order to be home for the holidays. With Elias in tow, neither of those options felt very feasible. It was strange to be away, but it was by far the most relaxing Christmas either of us have had in a long, long time. Elias even slept through the night from 7:30pm until 7:30am! Glory!

Jon made a Strata for breakfast, which is a tradition in his family. Then we each opened our stockings. Eli even opened a few gifts on his own! He was more excited about ripping and eating the paper than actually seeing presents, of course. But it was so fun to watch him squeal and squawk in the midst of his new toys.

The day was filled with relaxing, enjoying the end of our advent reading, a long walk, and eating delicious food. Jon was a cooking machine and made quite the feast for dinner.

The day after Christmas, the weather went from unseasonably warm to just plain ridiculous. 80˚ in December?! We decided that if it feels like July weather at Christmas, then have a "July in Christmas" party. We broke out the hawaiian clothing, grilled brats, and sipped on margaritas. It was hilarious and such a blast, even if it did feel so out of place in the midst of the holidays.

The best thing about the past couple weeks has been that Jon is home with us. Normally, Jon is off to work before Elias even wakes up and only gets about an hour or 2 with him in the evenings. Winter break has absolutely spoiled us. I just LOVE watching these two together. It melts this mama's heart into puddles.

Now, we have a whole new year to look forward to. 2016 has been a huge year with so much change and excitement for us. We survived an ice storm, traveled a bunch (Richmond, Chicago, Louisville, San Francisco, Oxford) moved into our new house, and welcomed our son to the world. I'm excited to see what is in store for us next. Cheers to a new year and new adventures!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fall 2015

Fall was mostly a whirlwind of visiting and visitors. Much of the family had still not met Elias yet, so we fixed that. Here comes another long and photo-heavy post in an effort to finally catch up for lost time and record some memories before I forget the best details.

Jon's mom came to visit! It was so good to have here here to spend time with E. Plus, Jon and I were able to take our first date since Elias was born. We hosted a yard sale, explored Memphis some, but mostly relaxed and enjoyed one another's company. This is one loving and devoted Nana right here. Eli absolutely loved her and she loved him right back. I only wish we had taken more pictures of the time together, but we were too busy laughing and having fun.

In mid-September, Jon participated in a Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer. He dressed dapper, met a few other motorcyclists in the area, and had a great time. It was so good to see him get out and enjoy his motorcycle more after a long hot and humid summer made riding feel more like torture.

I had my annual work conference in Richmond in early October. It was a great opportunity to travel home and introduce Elias to so much of our family and friends. Jon took some time off of work to watch Elias and we all ventured to Richmond for a week. The flights there were great and Eli slept like a champ. But then the fun began!

We visited with my family first where Elias was finally able to meet his aunt Jessica and spend time with his Mimi and Grandpa. He was particularly excited to discover that Grandpa had procured a motorcycle for him (for riding when he gets bigger, of course. And with lots of protective gear. And in a bubble.)

Then, we visited with uncle Bryan, aunt Bailee, and aunt Becca. We were able to go out to dinner to celebrate Bailee's birthday and really catch up.

The rest of our time in Richmond was a whirlwind of conferences, quick visits with friends, zipping around, and completely throwing Eli's schedule out the window. Oops. But it was worth it to see friends. Goodness, we had missed everyone so very much! But clearly, Eli was the star of the show while we were home. It's alright, Jon and I were not offended.

One of the highlights of the trip was a gathering at Will and Marla's house on our last night in Richmond. We had a potluck and got to enjoy good friends, good food, and some more new babies!

After we returned home, we were all a mess. Sleep did not come easily and made for quite a few grumpy days. Plus, teething was starting to set in some for Eli. This photo about captures our feels.

Meanwhile, the weather was finally starting to cool off some and Jon suddenly began teaching again. He had begun a new job as a Special Projects Manager for a charter school organization and the need arose for a teacher to take on one section of a humanities class. So the first half of the day, Jon teaches English and Social Studies to 7th graders, and the second half of the day he resumes his normal responsibilities. So far, it's been both a wonderful and exhausting experience. He loves being back in the class room and only teaching part time is better for our schedule... but teaching in any way takes a lot out of you.

We had the pleasure of a visit from Jon's Dad and his wife, Reg in mid-October. They stayed with us for a few days and were able to not only experience some of Memphis, but also some of Eli's teething. :/ I wish he had been in a bit better of a mood for them, but over all I think they enjoyed themselves. We even went to (part of) a Grizzlies game! Eli was not having fun with the babysitter so we only saw a little bit. But it made us so happy to Dad and Reg love Elias so much and get to interact with him now that he's a little more alert and aware of things. The whole concept of your parents now being grandparents is such a hard one to grasp. But something about watching them with Eli feel like one of the most special things. We cherished every moment.

With the end of October comes Halloween. Normally we don't get all that excited about Halloween, but this year we got into it. An opportunity to dress our infant up super cute? And an opportunity for my husband to indulge in some life-long geek dream of dressing up as Star Wars characters? YES. I am pleased to introduce to you Han Solo, Princess Leia, an Ewok, and an AT-AT walker. Poor Mac.

I was dressed almost entirely in bed sheets (flat sheet robe, pillowcase buns) and, Mac in cardboard, and Eli was in a bear costume with a brown t-shirt on his head. But hey, we made it look good.

Elias learned how to sit up! He was very proud of this new skill and wants to be upright at all times now. This means he's getting in a fair share of highchair time to give our arms a break. He often takes this time to watch us cook and sing/squawk at us. Another favorite passtime is helping Mama with laundry. Sort of. This mostly consists of grinning at me and smelling/eating the clean items.

He started getting fairly mobile and rolling around more consistently, too. No crawling yet, but we are just fine with that for now. He also started dropping naps so he is awake for longer stretches of time. This is both really fun challenging. We are able to do more activities with him now (like go hiking in the forest in a bear costume). But he also needs a lot more entertaining and activity to keep him content. He is taking in so much of the world and wants to see it all... and put it in his mouth. Preferably right now, pleaseandthankyou.

Jon's aunty Ronnie came to visit next and spent a few days with us. She had never been to Memphis before, so it was a treat to show her some of our favorite places and restaurants. Elias seemed to adore her and giggled at her many kisses and tickles. We (finally) learned our lesson that Elias will no longer sleep in his carseat while we are out at restaurants, so we may have had to leave two places early for a nap to occur. Oops... However, we really did enjoy our time together and had so many good conversations about all manner of things.

At the end of November came Thanksgiving. In the morning, we ventured to the Martin's house for the second annual cinnamon roll breakfast. We stuffed ourselves with yumminess. Bacon and sausage in abundance! Because who doesn't need carbs, meat, and fat before they go eat more carbs, meat, and fat? We enjoyed a lovely walk afterwards to prepare for the main event: dinner.

For the fourth year, we have celebrated with our friends, the Shelleys and the Wrobels, with a few others joining in as well. We have hosted the last 3 years and really enjoy making the turkey. It has become Jon's piéce de résistance in a way. This year, he did a really amazing beer brine and it came out absolutely divine. We also were able to use our new china set, which was passed down to us from Jon's grandmother. It made for quite the beautiful spread!

Another exciting note about Thanksgiving dinner was that Eli was able to participate at the table for the first time. He tried solid food for the first time ever, and was quite excited about it!

Sweet potato was a hit! I had expected him to spit most of it out and not really eat any, but he surprised me by chowing down and even tried to take the spoon himself. Hooray! He has since been eating everything we throw at him and eager for more. Except carrots. No dice on those. So far he has tried the following: sweet potato, banana, avocado, carrots, asparagus, egg yolks, mango, butternut squash, broccoli, salmon, and a few spices like ginger and cinnamon.

The day after Thanksgiving, we decided to run an errand or two and Elias fell asleep in the car. Given that he typically hates his carseat and rarely does this, we decided we should just keep driving until he wakes up. We ended up an hour south in Oxford, MS for a spontaneous day trip. Best idea! Oxford has a really quaint little town square with great shops, book stores, and restaurants. Even better, all that was decked out for Christmas complete with horse and carriage rides. Since Oxford was the home of author William Faulkner, Jon decided to pay him a visit and have a little chat.

We finished out the season by setting up our home for Christmas and are hunkering in for the winter and holiday season. Except it's been in the 70's and not very wintery at all. Sigh. At least it's cozy in here! I love how our home looks at Christmas time and love watching Elias experience it for the first time even more. We are staying in Memphis this year and having our own little family Christmas, so it feels particularly special.

Now that I've finally caught up, I'm hoping to stick with blogging more regularly again. Apologies again for the lengthy post. Whew!

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