Family

Flashback: Jim’s 30th Birthday Party

On Feb 28, my “little” brother turned 30. I’ve been to SC quite a few times in the last year to hang out with my brother, and it was exciting to celebrate his 30th birthday. Mom and I decided before Christmas that we’d plan a surprise party for him, and we had a great time getting ready for it.

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Of course, I managed to get absolutely zero photos of the whole family together – I cannot stress how quickly time passes when we’re together, and when Mom and I are secretly setting up a party it’s no different. In fact, she and I cleaned his house, decorated it (I brought a bunch of frames with photos I’d done of him and Kathryn over the years), and got all the food set up while Jim worked with Bronce and Dad to empty a huge storage unit. They made maybe four trips to the house at which point we’d pretend nothing suspicious was going on. At the last minute Jim spied some food I forgot to stash before he came in the kitchen and I think he was clued in to something going on, but it was literally minutes before people began arriving so it wasn’t a huge deal.

All in all we had about 30 people who came and hung out with us well into the evening. I really enjoyed meeting friends of his that I’d been hearing about for so long.

Mom and I thought it would be fun to get the girls matching outfits. They both had the same jacket and skirt, but different color t-shirts. I found out from Kathryn’s daycare leader (who is a friend of Jim’s and in a Bible study he leads) that for months Kathryn would talk about her sister, Eleanor. This would confuse them at daycare until finally they realized she was talking about her cousin, Eleanor. So cute… Sister Cheese and Baby Cheese, two good friends.

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Bronce and Eleanor

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Some pictures from the party, of folks hanging out. We had a great time!

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Eleanor’s Birthday Party

My birthday girl… She’s a beauty, isn’t she?

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Eleanor turned 1 year old on Monday, January 11, 2012. Because it was a Monday (even though it was Martin Luther King Day), we held the party at our home Sunday afternoon. We had everyone over at 3 – my parents, brother, and niece… Bronce’s parents, siblings, their kids, his grandmother, and his Aunt Deborah and Uncle Richard. It was a low-key affair… just some casual food and cupcakes. No games or anything silly. The only other kids present were Eleanor’s cousins Nonavea and Kathryn.IMG_0046

Cousins, enjoying themselves (Eleanor with Kathryn). I have so many great pictures of them playing together around this same basket… backs turned, intent on the toys at hand.

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Time for gifts! We opened them in the living room and set chairs all around for family to sit in.    

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Eleanor was gifted many beautiful and kind things… books, toys, some beautiful dresses, summer clothes, giftcards for Mommy and Daddy to get her some fun things, and a beautiful garnet charm (which I’ll probably wear while she’s growing old enough for jewelry!). We are so blessed to have such generous family and she enjoyed hanging out with all of them!

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I love this picture of Kathryn:

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Enjoying my two girls:

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Time for cupcakes! {In these pictures, notice on the wall behind the highchair that the weekly pictures I began when she was born are hanging on the wall. I printed each out and strung them from a colorful ribbon for everyone to enjoy. Most of the family had no idea I had done this and they really loved seeing them all!}

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We stepped outside for a family photo – this is everyone in attendance.

{Left of Bronce: my parents Bob & Jane, my brother Jim and his daughter Kathryn. Behind Bronce: his sister Lauren and her husband Rob. Behind and to the right of me: Larrry & Linda, Bronce’s parents; Bronce’s brother Spencer with his wife Melissa and daughter Nonavea; Bronce’s aunt Deborah and uncle Richard; Mamaw (the original Nonavea!)} 

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And… crazy!

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{Because I wanted to actually be in the pictures, I had a friend come do the photography for me. Best decision I made about the day! Photography by Taryn Yager}

Family Photos

I knew I’d have a friend come do Eleanor’s 1-year pictures and some family shots sometime in January, and when piecing together the details of her party I decided it would be best to combine the two events. (Which meant I didn’t have to drag my camera around during her whole party… such a relief. Those photos will be up in another post soon.)

During the hanging-out portion of her party, Bronce, Eleanor, and I slipped outside with Taryn to take some family photos. These are some of my favorites – she did a great job and I was blessed to have her there.

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{A huge thanks to my photographer friend, Taryn Yager}

Perdido Key

For about a decade I’ve been vacationing in Perdido Key, FL. It started when my college girlfriends frequented a condo owned by one of their parents and has continued long since losing touch with that friend. Bronce and I have been to Perdido nearly every year for vacation.

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This year since I’m working part-time and can work flexible days, we were able to get away for a whole week. Eleanor had been to the beach before (our trip in the spring to Charleston) but this was the first time she’s really get to spend time down near the water. We invited Bronce’s parents to join us for the first few days so we had some extra hands to corral the little stinker, and it was a big help. With us all at the beach, we took up a lot of room.

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Eleanor hanging out with her Mimi.

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Down at the water we popped up Eleanor’s canopy and borrowed a sheet from the condo to create this little play area. Because our rental included fabulous beach chairs and one of those giant umbrellas, we relocated the umbrella to cast a shadow over Eleanor’s whole play area.

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Quickly I realized that she didn’t like the feel of sand on her hands or feet, which meant she happily stayed on the sheet and played without wandering around anywhere. Score!

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Most mornings Bronce (and his Dad) would head down to the beach to fish. You can see Bronce out in the surf in the picture below. Storms the week before had created this strange channel along the beach separating the crashing waves from the beach where our chairs were.

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Bronce caught a number of fish including whiting, a giant flounder (caught our last day… we weren’t sure what to do with it but I’m sure it would have been fabulous if cooked properly!), and this moray.

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Here’s a sweet picture of our family taken on the 11th floor balcony of our condo.

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Little Miss hanging out at the beach:

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Me, snuggling with my Bug in the sun.

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Bronce, dancing her toes in the surf. The water was pretty cold until you got used to it, so she wasn’t much of a fan.

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Baby Girl and her Daddy

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Out to eat. Shrimp Basket!!

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The condo had a wall of mirrors. She was obsessed and kept “kissing the baby.” I’m sure the maid service was thrilled when we left and they had to clean all that glass… oops.

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The last night we went on a long evening walk. As usual, Eleanor snuggled up with me in her carrier and we took some pictures as a family.

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You might have missed…

I put up some posts that were a little (okay, a lot) late. You might have missed them in your feeder, I’m not sure if Google Reader and the like catch old back-dated posts.

Eight Month letter to Eleanor

A weekend with family in South Carolina

Baby Girl’s 9-month Letter

Nine Months

As each of these month-a-versaries passes, I’m more shocked by the passage of time. My little girl is growing up so quickly! People have been stopping me in stores for months to let me know that it would happen quickly, but I’m constantly reminded just how BIG you are! Doing some newborn photo shoots lately has reminded me of how tiny and squishy you once were… You’re still my little girl, of course, but you’re just getting so big and learning so much all the time!

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You’re ringing in this month with seven teeth. I’m not even sure when the last two appeared… Somehow you went from five to seven seemingly overnight. 

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You’ve got such a personality, too. You’re beginning to get very vocal (lots of mamamamama and dadadadada… and yes, the “mama” came first! Good girl!) and love to chatter at us all the time. You’re hilarious in the grocery store, chattering away at the groceries and checking out all the people around us. I find myself repeating “she never meets a stranger!” and it’s so true… You’ll smile, laugh, giggle, and awkwardly stare at just about anyone.

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You’ve been standing up for months, but I feel like you’re getting so much closer to walking! You cruise around and climb through the craziest obstacles. Your daddy likes to put you in “predicaments”… meaning, he’s always putting things in your path to confound you and see if you can figure out how to get through. I know he thinks he’s being silly, but I think it’s actually helping you learn how to get around better as you navigate those various pillows, chairs, toys, tossed blankets, etc.

Your new favorite thing is to play in the pantry while I’m cooking dinner. We have a few of these water gallons on the floor and you enjoy knocking them over and scooting them around.

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You’re eating really well. We give you lots of finger foods to try out, but you’re still a lover of purees. I’m trying to break you of that habit as much as possible so you won’t be weird about textures. I try to share part of my plate with you wherever we go so you get used to lots of different tastes. You’ll try anything, which is encouraging. And by “try”… I mean “smash it around and smoosh it in your hair”… but that’s good too.

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You play HARD. You’re awesome when it comes to playing by yourself. We’ve expanded your play area to the whole den (we jam the ottoman into the wide doorway to the hall and pull kitchen chairs up between the recliner and the kitchen) and you’re all over it. You push toys around, toss them out of your toybox, sit and “read” books (meaning: chew the covers and yell at the pages), and love to cruise around the couch looking for one of the real tv remotes or my cellphone to grab and chew on.

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You’re not really sleeping better… in fact we’re about to start working on your nights hardcore. Waking 4-7 times a night is just not cutting it, and while I don’t mind nursing you in the night, the constant night-waking is just too much and not necessary.

You’ve started this cute thing where I put my head near yours and say “bonk!”… you lean forward and tap your forehead to mine. Each time we bonk foreheads I say “bonk!” outloud and you just giggle and giggle!

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The week before you turned 9 months, we went to the beach. You had a great time! The condo floors were tile, which freaked me out the whole time as I was convinced you were going to bash your head, but you loved it and they didn’t seem to bother your little knees. I’ll write more in another post, but you did a great job down at the beach, too. You weren’t too keen on sand so you stayed on our towel/sheet and played with your toys in the shade, only stopping when daddy took you on long walks down the beach.

Girlie, you’re amazing.

Family Weekend

The first weekend of October Eleanor and I traveled with my parents to Central, SC where Jim and Kathryn live. Bronce couldn’t make it (bummer), but we were determined to enjoy the weekend together and have a good time. We headed over Saturday morning, picked up my brother and niece, and went to a neighboring town’s fall festival. It was a great way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon.

I have quite a few sweet pictures like this from various trips, but there’s just nothing sweeter than Kathryn holding the hands of her Daddy and her Papa.

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Mom and Kathryn, watching the festivities.

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There was a big square dancing demonstration followed by some line-dancing. Obviously I had to show Kathryn my awesome moves. We’re stomping away…

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Mom found this airplane for Kathryn at one of the booths. I remember these from when I was little… made of really light wood, you put the pieces together in pre-cut slots and the plane actually flies decently well when thrown straight. Kathryn never really mastered it, but she had fun swooping it around.

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Mom and Dad… Grandee and Papa… with Kat

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Fairy Wings

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Painting Pumpkins

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Papa with his littlest granddaughter. Eleanor did a great time out in the heat and had fun.

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Love, love, love this shot of Kathryn. The “cat” face-paint isn’t the best, but man does she look cute!

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After church Sunday morning we headed for a local Chinese restaurant for some lunch before the Knoxvillians hit the road and headed back home.

“Kathryn, are you cold?”

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Me with my sweet girls. Kathryn says they’re sisters. I love that.

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Mom with her granddaughters.

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Jim and Kathryn. Man, they’re not afraid to be silly together. It’s the sweetest thing to see them trying to out-crazy each other. Jim looks weird, so in my opinion he wins.

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The family together (minus Bronce). Sweet memories.

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Family

Lately, I’ve given a lot of thought about what makes a family (and what breaks it, but I’m not going there). We’re thankful to be surrounded by lots of people who have chosen adoption to build their families. I love that family can be created where there is no blood relation. Bronce and I have been blessed to gain family through adoption, through marriage, and {perhaps the best way of all…} through time and intention.

We spent some weekends traveling in June to visit some family. We spent one weekend with my brother, Jim, and his daughter, Kathryn. We spent the next weekend in Nashville visiting our best friends and old neighbors, the Adams family. Both of these groups are family to us for different reasons.

Eleanor travels well in the car (she’s a rockstar, seriously), but has decided she won’t nurse anywhere but at our house. As a result, both trips took place over the course of separate Saturdays – 4 hours there and 4 hours back to visit my brother… 3 hours there and 3 hours back to visit the Adams the next weekend. Here are some of the great memories we made:

In South Carolina it was HOT. Like, 95 degrees hot. With an outdoor excursion being either an hour drive away or unshaded, we opted to head to the nearest Chic-Fil-A to play on the playground with Kathryn. It ended up being perfect!

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Jim and I got in the slide and played with Kathryn while Bronce hung out with Eleanor and talked to us from below.

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Kathryn and Eleanor were adorable together:

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They fell asleep in the car holding hands.

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We hung out at Jim’s place for a while and went to a riverwalk with the girls on our way to dinner. We took some great family pictures there.

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The next weekend we visited the Adams family in Nashville. They lived on our street when we moved to Spring Hill in 2004. A neighbor introduced us and we completely hit it off. They’re our best friends in the world and we have a bond with their family unlike anything else. When they adopted their boys 4 years ago, we were present at the ceremony. We were thrilled to realize that we were headed to Nashville on June 18 exactly 4 years after they adopted them – so we got to celebrate Adoption Day together! Kindra and I spent some time away from the house with Eleanor, but due to the dreary, rainy afternoon, we all spent most of our time gathered together in the den of their home. As a fun bonus to our visits, their house is the exact same floorplan as our old Spring Hill house, so it’s fun to see how they’re making use of the space with their growing family.

These pictures of Kindra and Jason with Eleanor make my heart smile. They last saw her in early March when she was 7 weeks old. They were so excited to see her and hold her.

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Kindra is so beautiful here. I think Eleanor is going to look like her with dark hair (I assume E’s blonde is only temporary) and bright blue eyes.

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They boys posing with Eleanor.

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Chris is totally enamored with her. Like… wants to hold her all the time, wants to play with her, took pictures with his camera (and showed her the results, naturally)… He’s super sweet with her.

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A yummy ice cream cake to celebrate Adoption Day.

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Family portrait:

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Wait, that’s more like it…

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Just the girls.

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Just a Sunday afternoon

One of our favorite things to do with Eleanor on a lazy weekend afternoon is to head downtown. We love to break out the stroller and wander through the Market Square area of town – a great “mall” area with lots of shops, restaurants, and ice cream places. On Saturdays we enjoy the farmer’s market and browsing the artisans’ wares, but Sundays are a quiet lazy day downtown and much more laid back.

Today, we started with an early dinner at Tomato Head, a lovely organic restaurant known for its pizza and salads. Here are Bronce and Eleanor hanging out while we waited for our food:

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After lunch we got some ice cream and wandered around. Randomly some guys started dancing… no wait, make that tap-dancing… on the stage in the middle of Market Square. It was the strangest experience. About 6 guys in trendy jeans and t-shirts who looked ready for bar hopping got up on the stage and started doing tap dance routines while a photographer took photos of them. They were incredibly talented, but seemed so out of place. It felt very West Side Story, like they were going to start singing at any moment.

Anyway, here’s Eleanor trying to get my ice cream. She smashed her hand in it a few times and we made a real mess, but it was fun.

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Bronce wanted to wander around Mast General Story for a while so I entertained myself by trying out various hats on Eleanor. She was not impressed but we thought it was funny.

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When Bronce wandered downstairs to check out some outdoor stuff (no elevator, so we were stranded upstairs with the stroller), we decided to take some self-portraits.

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And last, here’s Eleanor giggling while Bronce kissed on her.

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Tooth!

Baby girl started cutting her first tooth last Sunday allofasudden. We were sitting at a late lunch celebrating Father’s Day with my inlaws. She was at my feet beside the kitchen table, trying to get out of chilling in her bouncer, when suddenly she started screaming bloody murder. I assumed she was hungry (it was about time for that) and took her to a bedroom upstairs where she proceeded to shriek for about three hours. In between the bouts of yelling we managed to get home, but only an occasional ice cube stuffed in a washcloth would provide any sort of relief (she wanted nothing to do with the frozen teethers). Monday morning?… tooth!

Ohmygosh, is that just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

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Friday afternoon she started screaming again so we figure the second one is coming soon.  She’s such a sweet girl, I hope she doesn’t start biting when she nurses… eek.