Friday, January 2, 2015

The Top 4 Moments from Christmas 2014

Greetings blog readers!  So glad you've decided to join us in 2015!  We've got so many good stories from Christmas to share with you that I considered breaking this into two posts.  Then I had a realization and I said to myself, 'Self, you know you'll have every good intention of writing a second Christmas post but then life will resume as usual and the chaos of day-to-day life will impede your good intentions.'  So instead, we will have one really long post just bursting with fun pictures like this one:
 Ah yes - we got to meet Leanne's new gentleman friend, Mike.  But more on that later...

On Christmas Eve, our family set out towards Mama Hop's house.  It's about a five hour drive and with little ones, that is a daunting prospect.  But we mapped it out around naps and we planned some stops to eat and to use the restroom, and it wasn't bad at all.  We even dropped in on Travis' grandparents along the way.  All of my grandparents are deceased so I always tell Travis how blessed he is to still have such vibrant grandparents.  Our children are fortunate to be able to get to know their great grandparents.  And much to Merryn and Josie's delight, Travis' grandma even had some "delicious" (direct quote from Josie) Christmas cookies for them!
 Grandmas and cookies go together like peas and carrots.  When we arrived at Mama Hop's house, she offered the girls their second helping of Christmas cookies.  Mama Hop even made hers to resemble her Siamese cat.  Merryn was impressed, although, Josie looked a little skeptical:
 Mama Hop and Aunt Leanne got right down to business doing what grandmas and aunts do while Travis and I took a load off and sipped "egg nog".
 On Christmas morning we woke up and put on our glitzy Christmas attire and we took some pictures before said Christmas attire got wrinkled, stained, and torn.  As usual, my children were perfectly posed little, one out of three will have to do:
 After mass we got down to businesses opening Christmas gifts!
 There's nothing quite like the excitement and joy that kids exude on Christmas!
 There's also nothing quite like the pride Leanne takes in distributing the gifts she bought for everyone.  Look at this - she painted a vase especially for Mama Hop:
 This is one of my favorite photos from Christmas.  Leanne presented Travis with new socks, proudly announcing that she worked hard and paid for them with her own paycheck.  She was filled with as much pride and enthusiasm as if she was handing him the keys to a new Mercedes.  No gift from Leanne is complete without a hearty helping of Christmas affection.  No Siree - nothing says "You're the world's best brother-in-law" like new dress socks and squeezing the life out of him.

The next few photos are devoted to Lydia.  If there is a Guinness Book of World Records entry for "Most Smiley Baby," her picture should be next to it:
Lydia loves the holidays.  Heck, Lydia loves every day. 
 She blooms where she's planted and she welcomes each day with a pleasant outlook.  She is a joy to have around...with the exception of one liiiiiitle vice...
She has an affinity for hair pulling.  You never know when she's going to strike nor who her next victim will be.  But watch your back because she's coming for you, with a vengeance!  Let's see how long it takes Travis to notice that the next assault is taking place right under his nose...
 He can't help but be oblivious to the complicated dynamics of hair; heck, he hasn't had hair for a good decade.  And just look at that lock-tugging grin that Baby Lydia is sporting.  She's quite proud of herself! 

After we opened gifts, Travis FaceTimed with his brother and then we had the kind of delicious prime rib feast only Mama Hop can create!  I didn't take any photos of the meal because we were too busy inhaling our food to stop and photograph it.
Though our visit with Mama Hop was brief, it was lovely!  It was nice to get out of the condo and be in a spacious and festively decorated home.  While it's hard traveling with children, it was worth it. 
Now on to the second half of our big, fat, Christmas blog post. 
My Top 4 favorite moments from Christmas 2014:
 4.  Merryn spreads Christmas cheer at the condo: During her recent visit, Mama Hop gifted Merryn with an "art box" (a box full of art supplies).  She also taught her how to cut out paper snowflakes and other fun things.  Merryn has been diligently working on her handwriting so she decided to merge these two interests and make homemade Christmas cards for the fellow residents of the condo.
Merryn made a custom card or each of our neighbors, carefully writing a personal greeting on each one.  Then she would prance down the hall and tape the cards to the residents' doors.  A couple days before Christmas, our doorbell rang and it was "Mr. Don," the elderly gentleman who lives next door.  Mr. Don said "Which one of you made me the Christmas card?"  Merryn proudly took credit and Mr. Don handed her a gift bag filled with peanut brittle.  Merryn beamed.  I did, too.  It was apparent that Merryn had added a bright spot to Mr. Don's Christmas.  Upon our return from Mama Hop's, we discovered that several other residents had left gifts and cookies outside our door for the girls.  No doubt, a little construction paper with a child's scrawl can put anyone in the holiday spirit!
3.  Josie spreads Christmas cheer at church - The seven of us attended Mass together on Christmas morning and there was an older woman sitting alone in the pew behind us.  Josie was really fixated on the woman.  At first, Josie reached up and grabbed the lady's hand while she was kneeling.  It turned into Josie lurching over the back of our pew to wrap her arms around the lady's neck and kiss her cheek!  As I apologized and tried to pry Josie off the lady, she said "No, it's fine!  My sister has special needs.  Your daughter just made my Christmas!" 
I grew up watching Leanne have this type of impact on people - her warm smile and friendly greetings could melt a heart of stone.  It's almost as if she has a sixth sense, detecting when people need a little extra affection to boost their spirit.  In my experience, this extra dose of charisma is frequently found in an extra chromosome and it is just one of the many gifts that our chromosomally enhanced friend's possess.

2.  Leanne introduced us to her new gentleman friend - Ok, so I'm not supposed to push this issue as far as Leanne's "boy friend" (two words) is concerned, but I'm nothing if not pushy and Mike is such a dreamboat that I'm ready to kick off my heels and dance at their wedding reception already!  Where did Leanne meet this new friend of hers, you ask?  Well, on the van to her day program of course.  Remember a few months back when we told you about the diva and her van butler (to read that post, click HERE)?  At the time we didn't have his permission to blog about him so we concealed his face and identity. However, we told his mom about the blog and she is all in favor of us letting our readers get a glimpse into the wonderful world of Mike.
Everyone should be fortunate enough to get to know Mike.  He is kind, considerate, friendly, smart, and a complete gentleman.  I loved every minute I got to spend with him.  I even filmed a few of our conversations, including a really insightful chat we had after Mike announced to me that he has Down syndrome. 

"I love Down syndrome"

Mike's remarks about Down syndrome and the positive attributes people with Down syndrome possess, reminded me of another blog post.  In this post (click HERE, Mom) I reference this article written by George Will, whose 40 year-old son with Down syndrome was celebrating a birthday.  Mr. Will discusses his son's "gift of serenity" and "underdeveloped entitlement mentality" saying that if his son is happy exactly as he is, who is anyone else to consider him inferior?  It's not uncommon to encounter the phrase "suffering from Down syndrome."  And to anyone who mistakenly believes this notion, I'd like for you to meet handsome Mike, pretty Leanne, and smart Josie.  There's not an inkling of suffering in sight! 
1.  Working girl struts her stuff - This year, Leanne got a job at a café that's in a large office building.  This job is a big deal because it provides Leanne with an opportunity to utilize her talents, acquire new skills, and interact with the community.  Not only does she earn a paycheck but she also receives an intrinsic payoff; pride that results from demonstrating her abilities.

I was dying to see Leanne in action so Travis and I drove out to the office building that houses the café and we waited for Leanne to assist us.  Travis was parched so Leanne fetched him a cup and filled it up at the soda machine.  Then she wandered over to the cash register.  Travis and I exchanged skeptical glances - counting currency has never been a strength of Leanne's - not to mention all of those complicated buttons!
Slowly and methodically, Leanne entered the sequence of keystrokes required to successfully complete the transaction.  I was in awe.  Of all people, I should know not to underestimate my sister by now.  My astonishment was quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of pride and I literally floated out of that building so eager to recount the story for my mom!

That's my sister, y'all!  She knows how to use the cash register!  She.  Is.  Amazing!!!! 
We hope all of our blog readers enjoy a healthy and prosperous 2015!


  1. Love it! Especially the part about Leanne's job. My cousin has Down Syndrome and is in grade 10 this year. This gives me hope and confidence that he will have a job someday too. :)
    I just love your beautiful family. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. Happy new year!
    From snowy Alberta, Canada

  2. Love the New Year pic/card. We have a young man in our area who has DS. He has worked at the local hotel restaurant for years. He drives a small pickup truck and is very self sufficient! My niece with DS has a job of some sort. Of all the odd things, my 5 year old son is into black and white westerns. I was reading up on Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans Rogers. They had a daughter with DS, and they were among the first to show the world that children with differences are worthwhile people!! Sadly, she died at age 2, I believe it was. That is precious about Merryn and her cards and Josie and her hugs. :) Lydia definitely has a contagious smile!

  3. Such a wonderful Christmas! I'm so impressed with Leanne, working the cash register! What an accomplishment! Beth was out of work for 3 years and when she finally got her job at Little Caesars a couple years ago, it changed her. She became more confident, outgoing... it was one of the best things to happen to her. Now, she's praying for a boyfriend. :)

  4. I think Ms Josie is a bit smitten with handsome Mike! What a great Christmas. Happy 2015 to you all!

  5. Great post! Sounds like Christmas was a wonderful time spent with your family. I especially loved the part about Leanne, her boy friend (two words!) and her job. I truly hope that my Owen can find his own love and a great job that tests his skills and abilities. Happy New Year!

  6. What a catch! I love the video! Thanks for sharing!

  7. This is my fave blog post ever. So much goose-bump and smile inducing goodness. Happy New Year to your gorgeous tribe. P.S. Leanne ROCKS!

  8. Happy New Year to you and your lovely family from a loyal, long time reader! Cheers to gorgeous Leanne and Mike!

  9. This post made me cry by the time I got to Leanne working at her new job. My tears were extremely happy tears though. I love your family, and I think Mike is the perfect boy friend. ;)

  10. I agree best blog post! Happy tears also! I am heart warmed at least till the end of January!