Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Rewind, Part 2

As if two days of gifts wasn't enough, Christmas Day held the most exciting treat of all, as my brother, his wife, and his daughter were coming to town for the first time in nearly a year and a half. The last time we saw them, Jacob was just over a year and Kate was nearing eight months. We couldn't wait to see how things went this time around now that the kids were that much more active and would notice each other that much more. However, they weren't coming in until Christmas night, so we still had some festivities to attend to beforehand.

We slept in a bit after our late night on Christmas Eve, and then headed to North Tonawanda. We made it shortly before Christmas dinner with some of my mom's family, which was delicious as usual. Jacob was excited to see my grandma's walker, which he calls a "Zamboni". He likes going for rides on it. Here he is in his new hockey jersey...
Jacob inhaled about four crescent rolls at dinner, and then discovered his love for this creamy, fruity dessert that my mom made. He downed that quickly but took time to pose for this picture with Daddy...
No word on whether that spoon position means he's eager to tackle the Binkley family tradition of spoon hanging :) After naptime, we headed off to my Uncle Jeff's for the annual Christmas chaos. Jacob exchanged presents with his big cousin Jaxon, who he adores. He unwrapped one gift that turned out to be a plastic blade for a goalie stick, and then was led by a string to a closet that contained the rest of his gift--a full size hockey stick. My cousin Todd (Jaxon's dad) and my Uncle Jeff headed to the workshop in the basement to cut the shaft down and use the cut portion as the shaft for the goalie blade. It worked out perfectly and Jacob was so excited!
He wasn't so excited that we couldn't use them in the house that night, but they will get a lot of use come spring, I bet!! My parents left the party after the adult exchange and came back with John, Kristin and Kate, which was a treat since we weren't sure how Kate would do after a day of travel and a house full of people. Everyone was happy to see them, though I think everyone was pretty considerate about giving them space so Kate could acclimate to everything. She ended up coloring in a room off to the side with cousin Jordan (Jaxon's younger sister). Jacob joined as well, but it became pretty obvious after a bit that he was getting tired, so we headed out. He conked out in the car and went down easily back at my parents' house. The adults had a little time to chill once the rest of the contingent came home and Kate went down, but we didn't last too long either!

Sunday morning we got up early to head off to church. Craig unfortunately had to head back to Rochester to work a hockey game, but the rest of us got out of the house on time and had a reasonably good church experience. The kids were a little antsy, but all things considered it went well. Jacob even went up for the Children's Sermon for the first time ever. My mom had guts taking him up there!
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After church we got into gift opening. Two two-year-olds present a bit of a challenge, but it ended up being a lot of fun despite interspersed bits of toddler drama. Right away Jacob noticed a gift for him, a Nike basketball courtesy of the Portland contingent.
We started with stockings, and Kate was so cute with her chapstick, being sure to apply it every chance she got! Ahhh, this is why I need a girl :)
Jacob also got a cool jersey from his aunt, uncle and cousin, a cool Oregon State football jersey. As you might notice, he wore it for a good portion of the time we were there. I'll admit, it's pretty darn cool...even if it was covering up some of his cute new clothes!
The kids were tired, but we persevered and got the gifts opened. Jacob got a lot of cool stuff--more clothes, some little things, and his big gift--a real set of golf clubs! My parents really wanted to get them, and for now they're staying there. There's a driver, an iron and a putter, all in a cool bag, just like the grownups use! Jacob and Kate both enjoyed playing with them, and perhaps next year it will be Kate's turn!

Having both kids together again was a dream come true for my parents. Heck, my simple $6 gift of a mousepad with the kids' pictures on it brought my dad to tears! It was so neat to watch, and I tried to take in every minute of the fun. All of us were always on the lookout for photo opportunities, knowing that kids don't always cooperate for the posed shots and the candids might be our best shots. Here's a sweet shot while the kids were looking through a calendar of Kate pictures with my mom...
As a side note, I actually had another great shot of this scene, but I put in this one because I thought it was so funny that both kids were holding golf clubs at the time! And speaking of the golf clubs, here's another shot of Jacob (from the following day) showing his form :)
The rest of Sunday involved naps and a return visit by my mom's family for some interesting gifting. As my grandma has recently moved to a senior apartment, my mom has been diligently trying to sort through everything left in the house in preparation for cleaning it out and getting the house sold. As a result, she ended up putting together gift bags for everyone with items from the house. The kids' bags mostly had Beanie Babies from my grandma's expansive collection, and the adult bags had an assortment of notepads, utensils, ornaments, and other odds and ends. After the initial bag distribution, we all got to look through a box of additional items and pick and exchange until everyone was satisfied. It was different but fun!

Bedtime that night was a bit of a disaster. Kate needed some help to go down, and then once she was out, Jacob was loud enough at his bedtime to wake her up. Neither of them wanted to go to sleep, and it took quite a bit of time and lots of nervous glances at our dueling baby monitors before they were out. We had a rousing game of Balderdash afterward, which at least got us laughing again.

Monday morning we got the kids bundled up and headed out to play in the snow. Jacob hasn't done it very much (maybe not since last year), so he was a bit hesitant. But once he got out there, he warmed up to it a bit. Of course, each kid had a tough moment with their first taste (literally) of snow. Kate was running up and down the snowy sidewalk when she wiped out and fell face first into fluffy snow. Then Jacob went on a sled ride and Grandpa steered him into a bit of a hill that caused him to fall off the sled, again face first into snow. But after a minute of crying he was fine and took a liking to shoveling. I think he was excited to do something that his favorite book character, Brady Brady, does. Brady Brady plays hockey and has a rink in his backyard, which he has to shovel off. So, Jacob thought he was cool because he was shoveling like Brady Brady!
As a whole, we were thrilled about how the kids interacted. They both shared very well and were very nice to each other. Kate was pretty much enthralled with Jacob, always wondering where he was. She asked about him when we were sitting down to dinner, when she woke up, and apparently even said his name in her sleep! Too cute. It made the days we were there so much more fun and infinitely less stressful than they could have been if sharing or jealousy became a problem. After all, Jacob is used to having Grandma and Grandpa to himself, sleeping in the crib there, and generally being the center of the universe when we visit. But he shared the spotlight very well, much to my delight, and even slept well in the pack and play and ate meals without much drama. Here's a cute pic of them together, and in case you're wondering, that's Jacob's goalie helmet (that looks like a football helmet) that came with his hockey dress-up set. He likes putting it up on his head like goalies do when they take a water break.
One benefit of Jacob being so used to my parents is that I think his comfort with them was encouraging to Kate, who was understandably cautious. She sees my parents on the webcam quite often, but seeing them in person was a bit different. This picture below was a breakthrough moment, as both kids played with Grandpa on his iPad. Kids love this one fish application, where fish swim through a virtual pond and any touch on the screen creates a splash that scares the fish away. It was so cute, and hopefully one day I can post video of it.
After Monday naps, we headed off to Great Grandma Ellman's apartment for a visit. It was an eventful visit. We took the kids down the hall to the mailboxes, and they LOVED running down the halls. We also enjoyed seeing the birds in the mini-aviary they have (particularly because Kate let me hold her--and can I say what a big difference eight pounds make? Lifting a 30-pound child is starting to get hard), and had to corral the kids a bit on the way back because they were running and screaming like crazy! I will say, though, how sweet it was to see this one old man smile as he heard the screams, remarking that he hadn't heard that sound in a long time. Sigh.

Once back in the apartment, we got a halfway decent photo op when both kids sat on one of the Beanie Baby benches...and yes, Jacob is still wearing the jersey, still holding a hockey stick, and still wearing his winter gloves because he calls them his hockey gloves.
Kate got her turn on the "Zamboni" after seeing Jacob take a run. It was ridiculously cute!
And here's Jacob on Great Grandma's mobility chair, which was another favorite spot...
Craig came back from Rochester that night, and the four of us headed off for an evening of beverages with our cousins. It was nice to have some adult time, and even better that the kids slept beautifully after the disaster the night before.

Tuesday was our last day there, and we had the pleasure of a visit from Jacob's little friend Nora. You may remember her from Easter weekend, when she was such a good girl finding Easter eggs and sharing not only the eggs, but a number of her toys with Jacob. She is getting to be such a big girl, and it was fun to see the kids together again, now nine months older. Jacob and Nora had fun playing with this animated snowman my mom has (who, sadly, has lost his voice), and then moved on to this music-playing church in the living room. They liked tinkling the little bell in the steeple. We also found out that Nora's going to be a big sister!
Later in the day, Jacob's willingness to play with Grandpa once again gave Kate the courage to do so, and she loved getting this ride...
In the evening my parents brought up one of my brother's favorite toys, a ride-on toy named Ollie. John was particularly skilled at riding him, while other kids fell flat on their faces (me included, apparently). He could fly down the driveway no problem, despite the fact that any sort of tip forward sent Ollie and his occupant falling on their faces. Seriously, this toy would never be approved today. Kate took to him right away, sitting on him just like John did and rolling around the house like it was second nature. Amazing how genes work. Oh, and have I mentioned that Kate is the spitting image of my mom when she was that age? It's crazy. She looks a lot like John and is gaining more of Kristin's features (beyond the eyes, which she already has), but I can't get over how genetics work. It's one of the reasons I was so excited to have a niece or nephew on my side.
After dinner that night, we packed up and headed out. It was sad to leave, but I knew it would feel good to get back to our house. It had been a few busy days of living out of suitcases and sleeping on an air mattress, so it was a nice enticement to think of sleeping in our own beds! It probably helped that the whole crew was coming to visit us the next day, though! More on that in the next post...

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