Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We're on the News!

We had some excitement at our house today.

We had some bright lights in our normally purposefully darkened home(so we don't interfere with the outside light show, you know!).

There was a reporter who asked lots of questions.

And Bob was happy to spend a really long time answering them.

Melissa was interviewed too!

And though she said, "I was so nervous, I felt like I wanted to cry"...she did a fabulous job answering all of reporter Scott's questions.

Camera guy Andy was really nice too, and took beautiful shots of all the pretty lights and cute little "elves" in our home.

Our neighborhood was kind of bustling with the excitement of a news crew van parked outside for almost 5 hours!

We were all so thrilled to watch the final product on the local news channel, Fox 9, from the warmth of our library couch. With so much interview and scenery footage that was taken, it was so impressive how they condensed it into a perfect 2 minute segment on TV!

After so many years of Bob's elaborate display, this is the first time we have received some media attention. Though we are on the holiday limo service lists, I wonder if we are just too far out----we're on the metro's edge, literally---but word of mouth around town has brought more and more visitors each year. This reporter who came out said he caught wind of the story from a neighbor of his in Chaska who was talking about "a really incredible light display in Waconia" that he just really couldn't miss!

Last week, we were featured on the front page of our local paper....such a great photo!

We are SOOOOOOO hoping that this coverage will bring about some donations for Freedom an entirely volunteer run organization that does such AMAZING things for all these special needs kids, it is something that we believe so strongly in supporting.

Click the link below to see the whole news video online.....I don't know how long it will be posted!

Monday, December 28, 2009

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

The wintery blizzardly weather may have changed up our plans quite a bit this year, but it did not stop us from having a very merry Christmas celebration. Christmas Eve day was beautiful and white, covered with nearly a foot of steadily falling snow. We were fortunate to attend church early in the afternoon....and surprisingly found seats for each one of us this year. in the same row. on actual chairs. The service was wonderful. Gorgeous decor and music filled the sanctuary, as the true spirit of Christmas and the joy in the celebration of Christ's birth swelled within the community.
The roads were already becoming treacherous on our way back home, and our pre-planned Christmas Eve party was cancelled. Instead of baked ham and sweet potato casserole, we celebrated our holiday evening alone with homemade pizzas of course!
Festivities were not quite as high or engaging on our own--there was no dice game, or cribbage tournament---though we did play some games, and it took some encouragement to keep the kids away from the laptops and other normal distractions. This was our first Christmas Eve on our own in more than 20 years!

For Bethany, it was all probably a good thing.....without strangers to make her nervous all evening, she was actually quite pleasant. She especially enjoyed the twinkling lights on the tree, the dancing fire in the hearth, and the candles of the advent wreath as the we took turns reading the story of the first Christmas so long ago.

The kids went to bed at a decent hour after putting out cookies and chocolate milk out for Santa.
Tubby: "SANTA! Where are you?"

Bob and I were able to go to bed at a decent hour as well. This was the first year EVER that we had finished wrapping presents ahead of time. No cutting and taping for us at 3am this year! Whew!
The next morning, the kids found a reasonable stack of presents....not too many, not too few...this year, Santa got it just right! We enjoyed watching the kids in all their Christmas morning excitement.

Alex and Michael played some Christmas tunes to herald the Savior's birth.

It was lovely.
As was the thickly falling snow. So much snow. We could not see the lake behind our house!
We cancelled our trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house in the cities. The streets had barely been plowed, and all the freezing rain made our cul-de-sac an ice skating rink!

We then decided we were indeed Minnesotans who could surely handle the travel, so we decided to buck up and go anyhow. However, upon Bob's return inside after more than an hour of clearing the driveway, and no let up of snow as we glanced out the window toward where our lake had been, we cancelled our plans again.
Once resigned to staying at home, we all got comfy in our pj's, sitting in front of the fire, putting all the new toys together. As Tubby and I were completing his new track, Bob yelled out from the other room that there was a break in the weather on the radar screen, so "Let's go! NOW!" We had a nice afternoon with Grandma & Grandpa and the twin cousins. More presents to open. Good food to eat. Laughs to be had. And special time spent with people we love.
And on Sunday, we got to celebrate a rescheduled Christmas all over again with the Zajac side of the family! A visit with the resident Santa made most of the kids smile.....though Bethany was quite leery. She screamed for about 30 minutes after this.....such trauma in her world!
We sang Christmas carols around the piano. There's not anything much more Christmas-y than that! Well, maybe the ham and sweet potato casserole. Bethany enjoyed some as well, from the comfort of her new high chair.
Yes, it may have been a bit different, but it was a very Merry Christmas this year, indeed!

Monday, December 21, 2009

YouTube Link

OK! Thanks to my very wonderful and observant sister-in-law, Erin, who discovered that someone did indeed videotape a portion of our show and post it to YouTube. Thank you so much, whomever you may be!!!

This is a video of my two favorites, "Believe"(from the Polar Express), and "We 3 Kings" by Go Fish.

But even better yet, come out and see the show in person!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Laura's Surgical Story

Hi. My name is Laura. I am 5 years old. I had surgery today. And this is my story.

My tonsils and adenoids were too big. Mommy got really scared when she listened to me breathe at night. When we were at the hotel for Uncle Jerry's funeral, she was scared there was a dinosaur in the room. When I had a sleepover in her big comfy bed after watching Christmas shows, she said it sounded like I was breathing through a very tiny straw. Sometimes I would stop breathing! My mommy got so scared when that happened.

My Mommy and Daddy talked about how I have been so tired since September. They thought it was because I had started going to school. I kept falling asleep on the couch in the afternoons. I was always saying "I'm so tired". But even when I started going to bed earlier at night, I still felt so sleepy.

In November, food would get stuck in my throat when I was eating lunch or dinner. I didn't like that, and it would make me sad. I would drink extra water, milk, or juice, and then the food could get down to my tummy.

At conferences last week, my teacher asked my Mommy if I had hearing problems. I seem to be an "auditory learner" (whatever that is), but I don't know what sounds the letters make very well. I had my ears tested lots of times when I was a baby and little girl because I had to be on a very big and noisy machine (called an oscillator) that kept me alive when I was born. I had to take tests every six months until I was three years old. Mommy said I was an "A+" student and always passed with flying colors.....when I was cooperating.

Mommy and Daddy called my doctor and wanted me to have a sleeping test. Well, my doctor took one look inside my mouth and said, "We don't need to have a sleeping test. You need to see a special doctor." She had my Mommy look at my tonsils. Mommy said they were so big that they were almost touching!

Daddy called his friend who was a special (ENT) doctor. We went to see him right away. He said that I would need surgery. I said, "No, I don't need surgery." But the doctor said, "Yes."

I was scared about having surgery. I asked Mommy and Daddy lots of questions. I was excited to get lots of ice cream and popsicles! My Mommy took me to Mall of America to get a Pillow Pet. I picked a pink pig. Her name is Anna. She is so soft! I sleep with her at night.

Today we drove Melissa and Crispy to school first. Mommy packed a backpack for me with my favorite Chipmunks book and Dora doll babies. I hugged Anna on my lap. I wore the special hat and scarf and mittens that Papa Don made for me. They make me happy. Then we drove to the hospital. Daddy is a crazy driver! He tells silly jokes too.
We walked into the hospital and Bethany wasn't crazy because she was asleep. We got to ride some elevators. My favorite one is the one with all the changing colors on the windows. We read my Chipmunks book lots of times when we were waiting.

Grandma and Grandpa Connelly came to the hospital too. They came into the play room with me to help me pick out lipsmacker flavors for my mask. We played a trick on Mommy and Daddy! I picked two flavors and they had to guess! It was hard for them. They weren't so good at that game. I picked watermelon and raspberry.

I got to wear special pajamas. The nurse took my blood pressure and checked my temperature. I was a little bit worried. My Mommy and Daddy had to wear special gowns and hats. They looked silly! Anna stayed with me the whole time.

Mommy and Daddy's friend, Chris, was one of my doctors. He stayed with me for my whole surgery. He helped me sleep and stay safe. He made sure I didn't hurt anything. He is a nice doctor. He saw me when I was born, too! I was glad he stayed with me. Mommy and Daddy said they were so glad, too.

My surgery took 20 minutes, but I don't remember anything. My dad said "chickenbutt" when I was falling asleep. I said "rooster". That was the joke we were saying when we were driving! When I woke up later, I said "rooster" again. My Mommy and Daddy were happy I was waking up. I don't remember saying these things. But I guess we all were smiling about it.

My Daddy gave me a purple popsicle. My throat hurt. My nurse took too long to get the medicine. I asked why it was taking so long for her to come. My Daddy wanted to go get some for me. The medicine was really icky. But it helped my throat feel better. I put some ice on my neck. Mommy sat in my pocket on the bed so we could snuggle.

Mommy and Daddy brought me a present. It was a giant princess balloon and little Alvin and the Chipmunks toys. Grandma and Grandpa brought me a Hello Kitty balloon and some Fancy Nancy books. And a bear, and a pig, and a bird-thing. I opened them at home and Mommy read the books to me. We thought of some more fancy words to use later.

I wanted to play in the play room with the toys, but it was time to go. My surgery was so fast that I didn't have time to play! The nice lady gave me doctor stuff for all my brothers and sisters to play with at home. Daddy pushed me in a wheelchair.

My throat hurts a lot. The medicine was icky. Mommy said I was acting crazy and they couldn't make me sit still. I wanted to run around, and my eyes looked small and strange. I couldn't rest or sleep for the whole day. I ate lots of ice cream. Daddy bought me lots of ice cream and popsicles. Alex bought me lots of ice cream and pudding. Alex bought me a smiley face balloon and some pretty pink flowers. Pink is my favorite color! Mommy said she will be my personal penguin for 6 days.

I don't like having surgery very much. But I am OK. Mommy and Daddy say I am so brave.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Crabby 7 Month Birthday

Bethany is 7 months old today. At 7 months she is:

~Still pretty crabby. She is happy for the first awake hour of her day. And then it is back to her normal crabby self. Honestly, I don't know if I should be worried that there is something seriously wrong with her, or if it is her "Empress" personality. *sigh*

~Loving sitting up. She likes to spend a lot of time in her Bumbo, but even more so likes to practice sitting up on her own. Crispy has been her biggest helper in this endeavor, and you can often find him taking her out of whatever contraption she is in, and bringing her to the middle of the floor for sitting practice time.

~Getting even stronger. She spends much time in her exersaucer spinning around with her legs and manipulating all the toys. On the floor, she gets to wherever it is that she wants to be by rolling, and creeping. There is nothing that she can't accomplish.

~Wanting our food. She stares at us intently as we eat, and wants to be a part of the fun. However, she has no interest in actually eating the stuff. After one taste of rice cereal, she refuses more. Her favorites are pumpkin pie and ice cream. But her funniest little episode was one day as we all were sipping celebratory Icees after the kids' Christmas Show, she was beside herself with pride when I allowed her my Icee with straw to use. She didn't use the straw for drinking, but merely chewed on the end, happy as a clam, thinking that that is what big people do, sitting around with straw ends in their mouths, and now she was one of them. Silly girl.

~"Crying and screaming, and just being Bethany"(that is the answer I just got from the kids when I asked them what she is doing these days....see, it's NOT just ME thinking these things!).

~Liking her siblings.....a lot! She thinks these kids are hilarious! Well, "hilarious" for Bethany is a relative term. She will smile and squeal at the funny things they do, and especially likes the smaller kids: Tubby, Laura, and Crispy. Something about Crispy, especially, nearly always makes her smile. He had her actually laughing one night by making silly raspberry noises. I even got a little on video, as that is such a rare occurrence around here!

~Is 15-1/2pounds, and 25-1/4 inches long. That is 50% on the non-preemie-fied growth chart. Way to grow, girl!

~Is sleeping well at night from 10pm to 4/5-ish in the morning, but can only manage to stay asleep for 30 minutes at a time during the day. It is as though there is something wrong with her sleep/wake cycle, and she simply can't make it through that first transition after 30 minutes. This is what I contribute to some of her crabbiness, and she only gets worse and worse as the day goes on. By dinner time, I am ready to move out. Alone.

~Is still loving the sling. Thank goodness that this still works. Without it, none of my other children would ever get dinner. EVER. She especially likes the cozy fleece one we use at the hockey arenas(where she also likes the cooler temps). And I have been fortunate to make it through most of the kids' concerts and Sunday church services with her slinged to me, as long as we have that nukkie too!!!

~Is adorable. With all of her challenges, spark, and fire she brings, she is still certainly a beautiful, adorable little girl! Alex goes so far as to say, "Bethany is the most perfect baby ever/in the world....she is just misunderstood." Well.....fine, I suppose. But I can certainly say, without a doubt, that we love her so very much!!!

Making a List...

Thanksgiving has come and gone with wonderful blessing of family and friends. As we now find ourselves in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus and closing in on the doorstep of Christmas Eve, it seems appropriate to make a list to see what needs to yet be accomplished.

*Running the annual Christmas Light Show-CHECK! This has been running beautifully since the day after Thanksgiving. Gorgeous, wonderful, so incredible. The amount of time Bob puts into this is staggering, and he hope he thinks it is worth it...I know that countless people in the community appreciate it!

*Setting up the Christmas Tree-CHECK! The kids and I got right on that project the day after Thanksgiving. I had so many little eager helpers this year that I did not put up a single ornament (I just may have moved a few to better locations on the branches)!

*Hanging up the Stockings and other Decorations-CHECK! Really! It is not only done, but had been completed before the first day of December rather than during the last weekend before Christmas which is more typical.

*Display of the Advent Wreath-CHECK! This is the prominent centerpiece on our (clean!) kitchen table, and has been set out since the first day of advent. The kids and I made this wreath last year at our church's advent celebration gathering. It is such a special and meaningful piece of Christmas decor in our home. I just love it. Actually lighting it with prayer and reflection every night? Sadly, we still need to work on that part.

*Application of the Advent Calendar-CHECK! Our advent calendar with all of it's felt pieces tucked neatly into their day-by-day pockets to be applied to the birth of Christ scene has begun it's story as it hangs from the front wall in the foyer where no one can miss it. Unfortunately, because of it's prominent place, it falls victim to Tubby's little toddler paws nearly daily, and the older kids find themselves restarting from scratch each day.

*Visit Santa-CHECK! We got to do this right away at the Glencoe Christmas Light Show reveal the day after Thanksgiving. With a countdown, hot cocoa, and pictures with Santa, the kids were able to request their desires, and the rest of the community got to be wowed by Bob's light display. What a fun show!

*Sledding and Playing in the Snow-CHECK! Though it was much too dangerous to play outside during the snow day, the kids bundled themselves up well enough to play in the sunshine the following day. Sledding into the fence at the bottom of the hill is fun for them....I prefer opening the gate at the bottom and trying to avoid hitting the many trees located in the wetlands. Laura was a great big sister as she helped Tubby down the hill. This year, Tubby's legs were long enough for him to walk up the snowy hill on his own!

*Making of the Chex Mix-CHECK! and CHECK! or rather, CHEX! The kids had a snow day during the blizzard warning we had last week. It was cold, windy, and downright nasty outside. We celebrated the day off with Chex mix and hot cocoa, stirred with mint candy canes hanging from the Christmas tree which St. Nick had just left for us days before. Two batches do not even last through one day at our house. We made another batch over the weekend to celebrate the completion of the kids' Christmas show at church. Leading us to.......

*Christmas Show/Concerts-CHECK! We are just about through with these for the season. Alex started it off with his college concert at MSU. So fabulous! Grandma ? held Bethany in the back of the auditorium so that I could enjoy my son's concert without worry. That was so much appreciated! Melissa was my concert buddy, and she listened intently, wondering what instrument she would like to play next year. She has been thrilled to be learning how to play the recorder at school. She and Laura put on a recital of their own a few weeks ago, complete with invitations and special seating!

Alex and Michael were part of the high school Yuletide Festival which was a massive 3 hour long concert in the gymnasium under mood lighting and holiday decor. Both boys play trombone in the two jazz bands which entertained people as they made their way to their seats during the pre-concert show. Actually, I think Alex plays trumpet in one of them. You know, he plays so many different instruments, I had to keep checking the program to keep them straight! The rest of the concert was good, and it was fun to watch my boys play so well. The last song was sung by the combined band and choirs together as candles were lit around the entire auditorium. It was beautiful! Grandma C was lucky enough to come out to this show.

The Children's Ministry programs, JAM and Jelly's, performed in their annual Christmas musicals. The kids have been rehearsing every Sunday evening since September, including many, MANY, extra rehearsals in this last week. In the end, it is all worth it, with a very nice, sweet, and entertaining display of very enthusiastic children. This year was Laura's first, and she was brave enough to even be a part of a dancing ensemble. In the show, "Hotel Bethlehem", Melissa was happy as a bell-girl, and Crispy was a bold shepherd who even sang a surprise solo, as he was the only Shepherd to remember to begin singing!

Jonny is finishing off the concert series this week with a band concert and a choir concert on two separate evenings. He had a small solo at the beginning of one of the pieces that were performed. And he is our first child to be in choir, so this will be a new adventure for us. But now that he is in the more challenging jazz band, I look forward to the spring concert when he can really shine!

*Attending Holiday Parties-CHECK! We had a super fun 8 HOUR LONG poker party at Uncle Billy's. These people are some good poker players! Jonny ended up coming in 4th out of 14, while Bob came in 2nd, Michael 7th, Alex 8th. The little kids and I left at 10pm, for our hour long drive back home, while the die-hards all stayed until 2am!!! All other parties will have to be declined this year due to family life(i.e.surgeries, broken bones, gosh, we are a mess over here!)...but hey....everyday here is a party!!

*Watching Christmas Specials on TV-CHECK! This has been one of our favorite things to do lately. I can get 6 kids snuggled up in my nice warm and soft bed as we watch a fun Christmas show before bed. Ahh....this is some sweet family time!

*Buying of the Christmas Gifts-CHECK! Boy, when you don't have much money to spend, it is surprising how quickly this task is accomplished!

*Wrapping of above said Gifts-well....a few. But hey, that is a few more than last year! No matter what, it seems as though each and every single year, Bob and I are up until 3am each Christmas Eve wrapping ALL of the gifts. No matter how hard we try, we just can't seem to get this done ahead of time!

*Addressing Christmas Cards-Oooooooo....bad......I haven't even ordered any yet. Why not? Hmm....I don't really have a precise answer for that. Being overwhelmed by everything else may just be the reason.

*Baking Christmas Cookies-yikes!....none done yet.....ok, I can DO that.....let's see, just gotta find a little bit of time here.....

*Creating Christmas Menu and Cleaning House-oh, know, I really thought I was doing well here, but I am now starting to get just a little bit stressed from what is yet left to do. But it will be OK, it always is, every year, no matter what, or how things end, whatever gets done, and what does not, for Christmas, after all, is "the most wonderful time of the year!"