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Monday, October 5, 2015

Alexander Turns 2

Perspective. It's an incredible thing. Our baby boy turned 2 years old and he looks so big, so grown up. I feel like he's graduated from baby to kid in such a short time. When I think of a 2 year old, it's a milestone where we start packing away the blinking musical toys and the puffy books, the bottles and the sippy cups. 

It starts to make me sad, until I look back into the past, only about 2.5 years ago we celebrated this very event with a little girl. Now the funny thing about perspective is that when I see this picture I see a baby. She feel so much younger than I would have guessed. It gives me hope that I still have baby time left with Alex. It also reminds me that there is so much fun, spunk, development, learning and growing to be done yet. He may be two, but he's still a baby. Just don't tell him that.

Alex adores the local Children's Museum so we held his birthday party there on his actual birthday. Turns out that football season makes Sunday mornings the perfect time to visit the Children's Museum, a good tip for anyone who prefers to avoid crowds.

Little man had a great time roaming the museum with his sister and his buddies. The train table is always a highlight, as is the hollowed out truck that kids can steer and push buttons inside. There is a great sensory area with uncooked rice for the kids to play with like sand, dress up clothes and a whole market filled with fake food to pile into your shopping cart and take to the checkout counter. It's a little kid's paradise! 
The also have a great fish tank that provided this great photo opportunity for Alex and Daddy.

The most anticipated moment was the same at this birthday than at every other birthday party: the Cake. This is Alex's first theme cake, which it took not time at all for him to choose. Thomas the Train was a clear winner, and the plastic cake-topper train didn't leave Alex's hand for a solid two weeks. 

This may be the only time that day that Gretchen and Talia sat long enough for a picture

Does Alex look excited to you? We are a family of cake-lovers.
The family picture plus cake is never our best shot. Alex's thought bubble might as well be "why am I not eating cake?"
Happy Birthday little man! Two years old and ready to take on the world!

Friday, August 28, 2015

First Day of Preschool

This is a big year for the Gill children. It's Gretchen's last year of preschool and it's Alex's first. It is one of the only years that they will be in the same school. Exciting milestones all around. 

Gretchen was so excited for her first day that she made each of her teachers a "Happy First Day of School" card. Alex shared in her excitement, though he didn't start until the following day which was a source of extreme sadness when we had to drop Gretchen at school and Alex didn't get to stay. For the morning, they were both all smiles. 

We took some first day of school photos on the front lawn. The sun was extreme, as were the shadows. This is Gretchen's favorite "strike a pose" pose. It's a little bit teapot, a little bit Statue of Liberty. It's pretty darn cute.

The next morning was Alex's first day, and this was when I learned my lesson about the shadows and the sun... so we changed locations and took pictures in the back yard. After a quick breakfast shot. I love the early morning kiddo-in-pajamas look.

Now these are the first day of school pictures I was dreaming of. Big smiles, precious little ones, excited faces and two thumbs up.

One of my favorite pictures of our littles. So clearly siblings.
And as usual it quickly went from super smiles and getting along to goofing around,

To a little bit too much loving and then, ultimately, to bickering. 

But holy cow, are these two photogenic! The smiles! The piercing blue eyes! My loves going to school!

They love their school and so do we. I love this year of them being together, though the idea of Alex being old enough for preschool and this being Gretchen's last year of preschool blows my mind. Here's to a wonderful year of new beginnings and enjoying these sweet times before the "real" school experience starts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Virginia is Lovely in July

The beginning months of 2015 brought with it the dreaded news that my mom's cancer had returned. Along with this news came the seemingly insane treatment that goes along with it, a stem cell transplant in conjunction with chemotherapy, a radical procedure that takes a toll on your body. The upside is that when cancer returns like this, it is a better shot at beating it for good - and that is the ultimate goal.

I'll start with the transplant process, which takes 30 days from start to finish when you can resume to normal activity. During those 30 days you are under strict observation, generally going to the hospital daily. In addition, there are a zillion safety requirements that are designed to reduce or eliminate the exposure to germs. No restaurants, no leftovers, no fresh foods, special water, my parents had to stay in a hotel to be closer to the hospital, and the list goes on. My mom was a rockstar and considering he was the main caretaker and kept her in good health, my dad was pretty incredible too. I came to Virginia for this trip around day 25, with plans to have Gran and Poppa take my kids to Lexington so that I could care for my mom. Little did I know that she would be doing as well as she was! Instead of making broth and nursing a patient, I was there to take my mom to do all of the things she had missed out on. 

We started with reuniting with her horse, Casey:

Then we celebrated with her first restaurant meal post-treatment:

And then we spent a lovely week in Whitestone, enjoying the weather and the water and really just enjoying being with family. An added surprise was that my mom was doing well enough to see the kids for a few days! This was an extra special treat for us since we didn't expect that she would be able to see the kids this soon after the transplant.

Gretchen had a blast feeding the fishpond fish with Papa Mas, and she tried fishing - though patience and quiet aren't her strong suit.

We enjoyed our usual game of throwing snails in the water. This is a favorite year after year.

The kids had a blast, I had a wonderful time reconnecting with my parents, seeing my brothers and spending a few days of true vacation with my children. Thank you so much Gran and Poppa (along with Daddy) for keeping the kids for close to two weeks while I spent that quality time with my parents. It was an unbelievable relief to know they the kiddos were well cared for while I was able to take time with my family. I am forever grateful.

The underlying reason for this extended trip was scary and hard to process, but it resulted in a healthy mom and a wonderful visit.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Robinson Reunion in Lexington

Gran and Poppa have retired to a lovely piece of property in Lexington, Virginia. We love going there, our kids feel right at home and the summer weather is much more tolerable than we get here in Texas - so naturally we wanted to share it with lots of our friends. From high school. With their families. It was a large group of chaos and fun.

 Poppa was a big hit with the "big" kids, tractor rides for all! 
I went to Robinson High School for 2 months of 8th grade and all of my 9th grade year (thank you ExxonMobil relocations....) but Jon was there for all of his middle school and high school years - and the friendships he started in those awkward high school days have become some of the closest, long term friends that we have. I am lucky enough to have had a year together with the same people, and even more fortunate that I could fall back in step with this crew so many years later. We are also lucky enough to have added spouses and quite a few children to the mix, each addition making the clan bigger and better. This, however, was the first time since Jon and I had children that we were able to all convene in one place. The only local-to-Virginia family missing was about to have their own baby... so naturally we'll have to do it again! 
There is a great hike down to the river straight from the back yard. We were an ambitious crew to take all of the kids, it's a pretty intense hill on the way back. Most did great, there were a couple of falls, we only did it once...

Matt and his mini-me hiking along

Gretchen and Anna are less than a year apart and you would have thought them kindred souls. Granted, they are at this fantastic age where you can become someone's bestest friend in the whole world on your first meeting, but I believe that they will start up again the same way whenever we get to see each other next. They're both silly, energetic, loving and willing to get dirty. Also, totally comfortable with their own style.
Due to the rarity of our get-togethers, every adult was attempting to take approximately 1,000 pictures. Maybe some kids are into that. Most are not. Natalie is DEFINITELY in the don't-take-my-picture-you-can't-make-me-smile category. This was my most proud parenting win of the weekend. Through pure trickery, we went from leaning away from the big kids....

To kind of enjoying participating in the game....

To a true blue smiling photo. Here are all of our "big kids", at this stage big is anyone over 3 years old.

Adam was rocking on the tambourine
And then there are the "little kids". These sweet boys, so calm, so easy, so little! I think Alex is the oldest at 1 year 10 months in this picture.

Then the grand finale of photographs, trying to get the entire children brigade. This was not easy. So much so that there are no pictures after we took this one, everyone was burnt out. I love their little personalities showing through. Gretchen and Anna in front, Gretchen being a little silly. Natalie reading. William and Hudson in charge of babies, Luke is completely chill and Hatcher is ready to crawl away. Alex just wants his toy back, he's also eating something out of his right hand. Adam is giving the, "I'm in the picture, but I'm not gonna sit on this chair" mischievous face. I love it. What a joy to have so many friends under one roof. How amazing to have a second generation of little people to carry on the friendships. Huge shout out to Gran and Poppa for comfortably hosting this massive crew! No matter how hard it was to capture, I'm so thankful that we have documentation of this incredible weekend together. Let's do it again as soon as possible!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stateside Fourth of July Turkey Fry

We capital-L Love visits from Uncle Ted and Aunt Kyra and we were so excited to hear that they wanted to come and visit us in (gasp!) July, we wanted to be sure and show them a good time. To start with, we wanted to continue the tradition of frying a turkey on the Fourth of July. Admittedly, this tradition made more sense when July was in the middle of winter in Argentina, but it's too fun not to continue. Even though it's triple-digit hot in July. Lucky for us, the Newhooks were just as willing to keep the tradition going. They loaded up their car with 2 kids, a full turkey fryer and accompanying items, band instruments for a late-night jam session and drove the hour up to our house for the night. Have I mentioned how much we enjoy the company of these friends??

There are a couple of things you can count on in Houston, in July. 1) It will be hot. 2) It will be humid. The thing that you cannot depend on is the weather, it is completely erratic. 

So a day that starts out like this:

Can turn into this - in the blink of an eye. 

But don't worry, it returns to a bright, sunny, hot day before you can say "Fourth of July Turkey Fry"

Seriously, we were in the pool enjoying a lovely day, the traditional July turkey was nicely frying in the corner when the weather turned and a complete downpour with accompanying lightening and thunder stopped everything for 45 minutes. Thankfully, Ted was willing to risk life and limb by holding the largest umbrella ever known over the fryer to keep the turkey going and avoid a fire-filled disaster. We thank him for saving our home, and our turkey.
We were all smiles throughout the day. It was great to have members of our family, our long-time friends and our new neighbors all in one place. The day was made even better with take out food from Corkscrew, hands down the best brisket and pulled pork that I have ever had. 

Alex enjoyed some personal attention from Aunt Kyra

The littles kept themselves busy with bubbles
There were enough adults to go around, but Aunt Kyra was the preferred choice for bedtime stories
The night ended with a jam session, which is always a highlight for us. Jon was rockin' it out on the box drum, a great addition to the band.

The rest of the weekend was a real treat for us and the kids. Aunts and uncles make the best kind of visitors! Uncle Ted spent time being hilarious with Alex, I mean, who wouldn't crack up at Mr. Potato Head's glasses on little Nemo?!

And the monotony of the same game over and over again didn't seem to touch our visitors. The bean bag pick up game was Alex's favorite for the weekend. I love how little he looks in this picture. The bean bag totally envelopes him, such a little peanut.

The patience of someone who lays to let ALL of the matching game cards be placed on them, only to then hilarious stand up and let them all fall to the ground, that is something that only an uncle has. I hope I'm not blowing his cover, but Uncle Ted is patient, fun, hilarious and a favorite among this nice and nephew. Thank you, Ted and Kyra for visiting, and we are now counting the days until your next trip to Houston.