Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas & New Year’s 2016

13 Jan

I better get posting about Christmas before it’s February, huh?

We celebrated Christmas first just the four of us on the Thursday before Christmas. I made chicken cordon bleu (from the deli), green beans, red potatoes, and rolls, and we drank “bubbly” (which Emma loved). Then the girls opened their presents from us, and their present from Papa Dave since it was a big box that we didn’t have room to transport from Rochester. We got them some art supplies, a few books, a bouncy buddy, and a Little People nativity set. Papa Dave bought them this treehouse with the camping buddies from The Land of Nod. Within 15 seconds of opening it, both girls were drawing on it with crayon. (Seriously…) Luckily, I was able to scrub most of it off. Their favorite present by far, though, was the box that the treehouse came in. Of course.15741131_1332807960082856_4438754616654293238_n15781037_1332807950082857_3583310463122747060_n15727286_1332807923416193_7831163184979449209_nThe next day, we headed up to Travis’ parents’ house in Nevis, arriving in time for dinner. Travis’ sister and nephew, and brother and sister-in-law were also there almost the whole time we were, so we were able to spend some nice time together. Emma and Annabelle were in heaven. They love their Nana and Papa, and Aunties and Uncle, and have a lot of fun with them. Their cousin Drew isn’t so much of a kid person at age 16. 😉

Christmas Eve (Saturday), we headed into Park Rapids to have breakfast with some friends. That night, we dressed up all fancy and attended the Christmas Eve service at Travis’ parents’ Catholic church, Our Lady of the Pines. The girls actually did fairly well, all things considering! And they were adorable in their Christmas dresses.15726473_1332807670082885_2760584912961896007_n15672976_1332807490082903_846264537335391369_n15726223_1332807436749575_6890398017756359744_n15697791_1332807883416197_1671014031762530795_n15780738_1332807703416215_2116758220268045907_n

Cousins

Christmas morning, we ate the traditional breakfast of egg bake and monkey bread, and then it was time to open presents—the time that Emma had been asking about for the entire month of December. It started off well. Emma helped divvy up the presents, and was even tasked with the job of deciding who should open a present. But eventually that petered out, and both girls ended up throwing a tantrum in the middle of opening presents. Emma wanted to do something besides open presents, and Annabelle was apparently ready for an early nap, because I ended up putting her down around 11. By the time I got back downstairs, Emma was entertained with some of her new art supplies, and the adults were able to continue our gift opening in peace. Kids!

15726344_1332807373416248_4862802626677382042_n15726258_1332807200082932_8528536388724082939_nNote that Emma is wearing a tank top and shorts, despite the several weather-appropriate, cute Christmas outfits I had for her.15697526_1332807043416281_5419901375432218552_nSo tired15672964_1332807230082929_3678291493226962891_nMmmm… chocolate15697834_1332806786749640_3627580145260719665_nEmma went “Christmas shopping” at daycare this year for Nana Beth and Papa Al, and she chose a measuring cup for Nana and a fishing sinker for Papa without our help!15672680_1332806713416314_6249755915390785047_nTravis’ gift from his sister… perfect for him15780887_1332806673416318_9097940835346127866_nMy gift from Travis’ sister… love it15747611_1332807103416275_4427022023995455069_nEmma loves all thing art

The rest of our time up in Nevis was pretty lowkey. We ate a lot of yummy food and Christmas cookies, played outside sledding and snowmobiling, the guys cut down a tree and burned some brush, the adults played some games (including Speak Out, where you put that big plastic mouthpiece in—that’s quite the game!). There was only one political (civilized) discussion that we non-debaters had to break up, for fear that the discussion would last the whole night.

We stayed up in Nevis until Tuesday morning. The plan had been to head back home Monday night but the ice storm on Christmas Day made the roads pretty nasty, so we decided to at least drive home in the daylight.

We spent the rest of Tuesday and all day Wednesday at home. Travis had work off, but wanted to work on some projects (including cutting down a tree in our front yard, which almost ended up falling on our cars, due to a little miscommunication and lack of thought on my part…whoops—but all was well in the end, praise God). The girls and I went to 321 Bounce with our neighbor friends.

Thursday morning, we packed up and hit the road down to Rochester. Since we weren’t trying to get there by any certain time, we decided we could stop every hour on the 3.5-hour drive. Well, Travis wasn’t completely a fan of our many stops, but it was nice to take our time. We stopped for gas right by our house (#1), for lunch in St. Cloud (#2), at Cabela’s in Rogers (#3), and at a gas station just south of the Cities for a potty break (#4).

We arrived in Rochester just in time for dinner. My oldest brother Jeremy and sister-in-law Jen, and their two sons had arrived the day before, and my other brothers would arrive later, so it was just us, them, and my dad that night.

The four kids—Emma and Annabelle, and Jensen and Jackson—had a blast playing together. One of the cutest sights was seeing the four of them run around in circles together. Another favorite activity of theirs was jumping on the couch and building forts out of couch cushions (much to Papa’s dismay). They were also pretty wild and crazy with one of those Fisher Price ride-on toys and a little dog that you pull along behind you. Four kids is a little crazy at times!15781534_1338920992804886_5472908077247000943_n15823490_1338920989471553_969281655933574630_n15823680_1338921229471529_3041714289093367911_nOn Friday, Brian and Jill arrived around lunchtime. Chris and Meg arrived Saturday. We spent our time drinking lots of coffee, eating delicious food (frequently topped by grated Asiago), and watching animated movies that we turned on for the kids but that they didn’t end up watching. 😉 We also played outside in the ice-encrusted snow, which was great for sledding but not much else. I pulled Emma and Jensen on a sled all the way around the house, and it was a workout!15732661_10103166680174752_2259524021720836268_o15800359_10103166677405302_1021290843782300839_o15800498_10103166678178752_6830543933580665853_o15844768_10103166677744622_7747851522964179194_o15825795_1338921386138180_1443544932537754384_nThanks to my sister-in-law Jen for these great photos!

On New Year’s Eve, we opened presents in our now-traditional way (we draw names, and then try to go around and try to guess who had us), and then ate our special Christmas dinner. Everyone pitched in with various sides and dishes, and it was great! Though the orange sherbet jello salad that I attempted to make was an epic fail. Jello: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

We apparently had a little bit of trouble getting the girls down on time that night, because I was downstairs getting Emma to sleep until 11:55… though I might’ve fallen asleep, it’s really hard to say at that hour of the day. I actually made it back upstairs for the ball drop, though, and stayed up until 2 am watching bad New Year’s entertainment on TV and chatting with those who were still up. It was the first time I’ve stayed up for New Year’s since having kids I think, and it was nice! Thankfully the girls slept in the next day, and we were still able to make it to church at 10:30.

There was another snowstorm predicted to hit Rochester and the Brainerd area on Monday, so we ended up leaving Sunday night instead of the next morning. We got home around 11, got the girls to bed, and hit the hay ourselves.

Though I always love spending time with family, it was a hard holiday season without my mom (and the first). We miss her dearly, and talk about her often. My dad, as usual, bears the brunt of her absence, and through a series of miscommunications, ended up spending Christmas Day alone, which I feel badly about. A loss like this continues to reveal situations and circumstances that have been forever altered, and the best way forward is not always readily apparent.

Merry Christmas 2016!

25 Dec

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

I wish you and your families a Christmas season full of hope and joy, all because of the God-man who came to earth as a baby born in a stable.

Annabelle Lyn: 9 Months

8 Jan

Annabelle was 9 months old back on December 27 but just now had her 9-month checkup. Apparently, you have to wait a certain amount of time between shots and one of her earlier checkups got pushed back. We should be back on track now though!
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Size

At about 9.5 months, Annabelle is 19 lbs 11 oz (71%), 28 inches tall (57%) with a head circumference of 18.66 inches (99.5%!). At 9 months, Emma was 19 lbs 10.5 oz and 28 inches tall — pretty much the exact same!

Annabelle is wearing 9-12 month clothes and size 2 shoes. She has tiny feet and hands just like Emma did, but a big noggin!
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Eating

As of 9 months, Annabelle has figured out how to drink with a straw and bite down on a sippy cup so there is hope for weaning her someday! I plan to keep nursing until at least a year, probably even longer. I think 18 months is my cutoff point though.
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But before I can wean her, Annabelle needs to start eating a lot more solid foods! Ever since Thanksgiving when she got a stomach bug and we backed off the solid foods for a while, she has wanted nothing to do with them. She’ll eat a teething wafer here and there but refuses yogurt now and only tolerates a few bites of other purees she’s previously liked. Now that the holiday mayhem has died down, I’m going to focus on giving her more variety to see if she likes something else.

Annabelle did get two new teeth this month, so that brings her up to six! She got one on top and one on bottom to the left of the middle ones (when you’re looking at her). I would think that the right-side ones wouldn’t be far behind but who knows.
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Sleeping

Because of teething, that stomach bug and a nasty, crudy cold with horrible cough and congestion, this past month has been the worst nighttime sleep of Annabelle’s life for both me and her. Most nights, she’s been up 2-3 times. Some nights, it’s been 4 or more. Thankfully, I can just nurse her for 15-20 minutes and put her back down but it’s still hard having my sleep interrupted that many times. Unfortunately, the week of Christmas when we were down in Rochester was the worst week of all. Annabelle had a horrible hacking cough and couldn’t go more than an hour at a time between fits. And Emma had a cold that triggered her (what we think is) asthma. And Travis was wheezing and sneezing from his cat allergies (even though my parents haven’t had cats for years and got their ducts cleaned). And we were all in one room. It was awesome. So needless to say, I would appreciate a break from sickness and teething!
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On the bright side, Annabelle decided on her own that she was ready for the crib. A few nights when she was really congested, she took a couple hours to get down for the night and fussed whenever we put her in her swing. So finally, out of options, we put her in the crib and let her cry for 10 minutes. (I generally don’t do “cry it out” when they’re sick but we didn’t know what else to do.) She fell asleep and slept in there the whole night! And the rest was history. I am floored by how easy that transition was. We still do use the vibration pad in a pinch because it really helps lull her to sleep but even that isn’t a necessity like it once was! We did have to order a new one though because she burned out both the vibration on her swing and a vibration pad.

One benefit of Annabelle being sick this past month has been all the baby snuggles. Travis and I both (but him more than me) have gotten to rock Annabelle to sleep — something she hasn’t let us do since she was a newborn! Travis has especially loved it because it just creates a bond.

No matter how poorly Annabelle sleeps though, she always wakes up happy and smiley. Nothing gets this sweet little girl down! (Except maybe bonking her head.)

She still takes two naps a day, for about an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
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Development

Annabelle still has no interest in crawling, scooting, moving, rolling, whatever. She loves the jumperoo still and enjoys sitting up to play with toys. But she does not like her belly and does not appreciate being put on her hands and knees. Annabelle still tips over a decent amount while sitting up so we make sure to put pillows behind her. She’s not pulling up on her own, and can’t really hold herself up in a standing position either (she’s steady if we help hold her up). Our pediatrician has recommended that we get her evaluated by the Paul Bunyan Education Coop (same organization that evaluated Emma for speech) for delay in gross motor skills so we might do that. It’s free, they come to our house and we’ve had a good experience with Emma’s speech therapy.
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At 9 months, Annabelle’s favorite things to play with are:

* Things that fit nicely in her mouth for chewing on, like spatulas and teething rings, made of silicone, rubber, plastic or metal (so, everything)

* Things that crinkle or jingle, like plastic or metal keys on a ring or chain — she likes to slap them against her leg to make noise

* Sippy cups filled with water (mostly just for chewing on)

* Anything that looks interesting and not like a toy, including paper, phones, baskets, boxes, straws, food containers and lids, tablecloths, glasses, plates with food on them (not interested in eating it though), and pens. You can’t leave anything within 2 feet of her or she will grab it!

Annabelle is very tolerant of other people holding her but if she’s tired or hungry, she wants mommy. Several times, she’s been mildly fussy while others are watching her but once she spots me, she loses it. She has also started reaching/lifting her arms for me to pick her up.
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Other things that happened this past month:

* Annabelle’s second trip via airplane, this time to Denver
* Annabelle’s first Christmas!
* Annabelle seeing and feeling snow for the first time (not a huge fan) and taking her first sled ride around the yard (no pic, Mommy fail)
* Annabelle started using consonant noises and said “mama” as her first word! She got on a roll for a while but then stopped. Now she says “dada” a lot.

And that’s Annabelle at 9 months!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

May you and yours have a joyous day celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Christmas Thoughts: On Memories

22 Dec

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Some of the best memories I have from my childhood are from the Christmas season.

I went to a Lutheran school through 8th grade and each year, the school put on a Christmas program. Each class spent hours rehearsing songs and a verse to recite. Finally, the big night arrived. It was exciting to see my classmates arrive in our classroom, outside the context of class, all dressed up in their Christmas outfits and dresses. We marched into the packed gym single file and each sat in the chair we had been assigned several weeks earlier. For the first time, we saw the whole program come together with lights, acting and music — and we each did our part to make it magical.

On Christmas Eve, my parents, three brothers and I ate a special dinner, the highlight of which was almost always meat fondue. We each had our two color-coded skewers and we drank “cold duck” (sparkling juice) in the wine glasses with the gold rims and berry garland that we had accumulated with copious trips to Arby’s.

After dinner, we opened presents in the living room by the Christmas tree decorated with white lights and handmade, memory-filled ornaments. A model train encircled the bottom of the tree, whirring quietly past the dimly lit ceramic houses of Dickens Village. I don’t remember the gifts, or even what I wanted, but I remember being together.

After presents, we went to the 10 o’clock candlelight service at church. The snow and cold at such a late hour made the trek brutal, but none of us ever questioned it — because it was just what we did. The hall of the Sunday school rooms was lined with winter jackets, their arms stuffed with hats and mittens, and small puddles of melting snow as the women and kids exchanged snow boots for dress shoes, and the men removed their rubbers.

Most years, at least a few of us couldn’t help dozing off during the service because of the late hour and comforting atmosphere, but once they started lighting our individual candles, row by row, in anticipation of the last song “O Holy Night”, we shrugged off our sleepiness and sat up straight. We lifted our voices with the words of the classic hymn as the glow of hundreds of candles flickered on the red brick walls and stained glass windows.

Christmas Day, we often got together with my mom’s brother and his family who lived in our town. Sometimes we went to a movie, sometimes we just hung out with us kids playing.

After that, we drove up to my grandparents’ house in Ada, Minnesota. We always arrived at night but we still stumbled out of our conversion van half-awake to sit at the kitchen table for cookies. Grandma Dee always had cookies — Captain Crunch cereal and marshmallows covered in almond bark and peanut butter, and “macaroons” (the no-bake cookies made with cocoa) were our favorites. And in the morning, oh man, we ate slices of homemade cinnamon bread and strawberry jam. There was nothing else quite like it.

Being the only girl, I was spoiled with my own bedroom while my brothers had to fight over a single couch and the floor of the living room. My room had a single twin bed and a fiber-optic flower that slowly faded from one color to another, working its way through the rainbow.

Many years, for the Christmas celebration with my dad’s parents, I put together a short Christmas program that included readings from the gospel of Luke and a handful of my favorite Christmas hymns. Together, we focused on the true meaning of Christmas before opening presents.

The rest of our stay at Grandma Dee and Grandpa Norman’s house was spent playing video games, Rook and 3-13, pool tournaments on the table they had in their basement (until they replaced it with a ping-pong table after the flood), and hide and seek with a wheeple. My grandma also had a box of old clip-on earrings that I loved to play with.
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At some point, we’d head over to my mom’s parents’ house in Hendrum to spend the day with them. My cousins from Rochester were often there and the minute we arrived, we’d race out of the van and bolt for “The Fort,” a small closet located in the wall on the second flight of stairs from the main level to upstairs. You could lock it from the inside, so whoever got there first could control who entered, and who didn’t. And you could only fit about 3 of us kids in there at a time so it was an elite group.

Those of us not in The Fort amused ourselves by playing card games and spying on the people down on the main level through a hole in the upstairs bedroom floor, meant for allowing heat to travel from there up into the room.

I don’t remember opening gifts there. That’s not to say we didn’t — I’m sure some gifts were exchanged. But it was never the focus — more of an afterthought. What mattered was being together.

All of my grandparents are gone now, and have been for several years. And with me and my brothers having spouses and our own children, Christmas looks quite a bit different than it used to. But we’re still making memories together, and I hope that my girls will look back one day and have just as many wonderful memories of Christmastime as I do.

Christmas Thoughts: On What’s Important

6 Dec

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is watch cheesy Christmas movies. Lifetime and the Hallmark channels are gold mines for these, but we don’t have cable. Luckily, Netflix has quite a few of these movies too – and most of them, I haven’t seen before.

Like all cheesy movies, the plot lines for each movie are pretty similar. There’s the guy or girl who has gotten sucked into living for fame, money, or success, and lost sight of what truly matters (friends, family, true love). They end up having an experience that lasts only a few days (whether it’s going to their hometown, seeing an old flame, spending time with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to) and it reminds them of all that they’ve forgotten. They have a change of heart, make things right, and the movie ends. Aw, so happy.

I think the reason why stories like that appeal to me is because at my core, what I really want is to slow down and connect in meaningful ways with those around me.

Instead, I far too often prioritize the things I can check off my to-do list or the things our society says are valuable.

The Christmas season is full of fun activities — baking cookies, mailing and receiving cards, singing in or attending concerts, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and home, and viewing light displays. And there’s this notion that enjoying the season to the full means Doing Stuff.

Doing Stuff at Christmas time is fun, but not when it comes at the price of your sanity, health or relationships. How many years have I let my to-do list and grand plans of festivities set the agenda and stress me out? Too many.

So the past couple of years, I have been earnestly trying to let go of my perfect plans for the holidays — even the spiritual ones like our Jesse Tree — and instead focus on walking in step with God. This means a few things for me practically:

1) I declare that nothing is necessary.

I don’t have to bake cookies. We don’t have to put lights up outside. We don’t have to attend a holiday concert, lights show or go sledding.

If we have the time and desire to bake cookies, great. If we forget the dough has to be refrigerated after being made and then we try to speed things up by freezing it which just makes the cookies impossible to roll out for cookie cutters, we can just bake them normally.

Or if we plan on tromping out into the middle of the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree but everyone gets the flu Thanksgiving weekend so we end up buying one from Menards again, that’s ok.

When inconveniences and setbacks happen, I take them as hints from God to slow down and look around, and to remind myself, “Embrace slowing down. Embrace doing less. Embrace life as it really is.” Christmas festivities are fun, but what really matters is who you do them with.

2) I say no when I need to.

It’s hard for me to say no to fun things. Especially around the holidays. Especially when a bunch of my friends are going. I was invited to a cookie exchange this year but I know that making that many cookies will stress me out. So I declined.

I also have “said no” to social media for the months of November and December this year. I plan to do a separate post on this in January but for now, I will say that it has been so. refreshing. to just BE with my family instead of being distracted by notifications of what others have posted, or by what moments in my day are “worthy” of social media. I am most likely going to return to Facebook and Instagram in January, but my involvement will be very decreased from before.

3) I prioritize the right things.

My three most important roles in this season of life are, in order: follower of Christ, wife, mom. I am a firm believer that when I spend time with God in the morning, play with my girls instead of just moving them from babysitter to babysitter while I get stuff done and connect with my husband at night instead of getting stuff done or going straight to bed, I am a happier person. My to-do list has to include quality time with those I love, not just tasks I accomplish in a flurry of activity.

But this is real life so do I always prioritize quality time like I should? No. I get sucked into what I call “task mode.” I hate quitting a project in the middle so I stay up too late, or let the girls fend for themselves (with supervision). But I don’t beat myself up for failing; I just begin again. Everyday, every moment is a chance to do things right, to live how I really want to live.

Swimming against the tide, of both society and my natural tendencies, will require a concerted effort. But it’s worth it. Because just like those cheesy Christmas movies show, we lose out on life when we lose sight of what’s most important.

Christmas 2014

6 Jan

{I accidentally published this post prematurely, with no photos. Here’s the revised version!}

This was the first Christmas that we were able to spend with family, without traveling 1,000 miles! It was nice.

On Christmas Eve, Travis worked until around 2:30 and then we got the car loaded up so that we could head up to Nevis right after the church service at 4. The service was nice, but crowded! We sat in the overflow area and watched the service on a TV. But we still got to light candles while we sang Silent Night.

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We made it up to Nevis by about 7 and ate dinner. Travis’ sister Carolyn and nephew Drew were there when we arrived, and his brother Matthew and his brother’s girlfriend Diana arrived later that night after we had gone to bed.

We haven’t completely decided on what we’re doing for gifts each year for Emma (and future siblings) but this year, we did the “Something to Wear, Something to Read, and Something to Play With” approach. So we bought Emma some fleece pajamas, three of the Bear Snores On books (it was a pack through Scholastic), and a tent/tunnel. Since my family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, but Travis’ did Christmas morning, we’re thinking about doing one gift (the Something to Wear) on Christmas Eve, and the rest Christmas morning. So that’s what we did this year. Emma opened her pajamas Christmas Eve, and the rest Christmas morning. Though she got so many presents from Travis’ family that she totally lost interest in opening them!

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On Christmas morning, Emma actually slept in until 8, which I think she has done 3 or 4 times in her entire life. That was very nice. After we all got up, we ate breakfast (monkey bread!) and then it was gift opening time. We went around in a circle opening one gift at a time so it took a while – maybe another reason Emma lost interest. But we got some great gifts. I received some maternity yoga pants, a couple serving bowls and a platter, dish towels and a couple of candles. Travis got a buck call, winter hat, and a couple flannel shirts. And Emma’s haul was play food and dishes for her kitchen, a Sit & Spin, a couple books, 4-5 pairs of fleece PJs, some new clothes, 3 new puzzles, a memory/matching game, and a few other toys (plus the tent we bought her).

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The rest of that day was pretty relaxed. We played some Pictionary on the Wii (seriously, so fun), Trivia Crack on our phones, and ate a ton.

The next day, we went to see Penguins of Madagascar at the Hackensack theater. We actually didn’t take Emma (G&G stayed back with her) – we saw that movie because the other options were meh (and I personally love animated movies). It was really cute and fun! Even Travis said that it was better than he expected it to be.

That night, Travis, his dad Al, Matthew and Drew set their old tree fort on fire. The trees it was built on were all dead, and the fort itself was falling apart, so they wanted to get rid of it. And what better way than burning it? They cut down 4-5 other dead trees and stacked them underneath the fort. It was quite the bonfire. Emma liked watching the sparks fly off into the night sky.

We stayed up in Nevis until Emma’s naptime on Sunday, and spent our time just hanging out. Emma took a very short ride on the snowmobile – she didn’t mind it during, but when we put her back on the snowmobile to take a picture, she freaked out:

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Emma also took several wagon rides up and down the driveway, swang in her swing and went down the slide of G&G’s swing set. It was nice that it wasn’t crazy cold outside. After Emma went to bed, we played Apples to Apples, Scattergories, and Nerts (a version of Solitaire). Emma slept really well while we were up there – almost every day, she took a 2-2.5 hour nap and only woke up once at most at night. It’s such a relief when we don’t have to fight her for sleep away from home! (Now if only we didn’t have to fight her for sleep while AT home.)

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And that was Christmas this year! (We saw my family for New Years, which I will recap separately, soon.)