Friday, August 31, 2012

Cleveland Trip, Days 3 - The Zoo!

On our second full day in Cleveland, we went to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  Our kids are some big zoo lovers, and because we are Nashville Zoo members we were able to get into the Cleveland Zoo for a very discounted price.  Even better!

The first animal we saw was my favorite - the koalas! 

Jack tried so hard to hear Henry and David with these Kangaroo ears, but I don't think it worked.

I don't know why this picture cracks me up, but it does!!  We were playing on the big treehouse when I got a text from Joyce.  She and Sarah wanted to know if they could join us at the zoo - I was so happy for them too!  We were all excited to see them again, and I'm so glad we got to spend more time with them.

Doesn't David look thrilled here?!

Katie immediately knew what to do with this little photo thing.  She just stuck her little face right in and cheesed it up.  

Here's Sarah and Katie.  Katie is giving me a big "DAAAAA!" which is what she yells when she's excited.

And everything Sarah did, Jack wanted to do too.  Sarah's found a friend for life in that boy.

We spent a lot of time at the polar bear (which you can barely see under the waterfall behind us).  I love this photo that Joyce took!

And I LOVE this one of Katie and Sarah!  

David was all about climbing on every rock he found and wanted me to take his picture each time.  He was very well behaved and, in fact, I probably am long overdue for a post about how much David has changed in the last six months or so.  It's a lot of pleasant changes, and the zoo day was a great example of that.

Jack spent a lot of time at this rock jumping off and climbing back on.  He also made one of those pressed pennies when we first came into the zoo, which he was throwing off of the rock.  Into the mulch.  Do you see where this is going?  He lost his penny, and he was so upset.  Henry swooped in and saved the day when he gave Jack his penny.  

These little monkeys had a great time.  Katie really likes the zoo.

This cracks me up, because I feel like Sarah looks a little irritated with Jack.  I'm not surprised, because he was with her CONSTANTLY that day.  He showed her everything there was to see, shared popcorn with her, and talked to her all day long.  She was so sweet with him.

Katie looks a little rough here, but Sarah looks so great!  What a sweet day we had.

More rocks . . . He tried to scale a completely vertical wall of rocks.  Um, no.

We were all very impressed with this elephant.  It's made out of Duct Tape.  It took 130 hours and over 5,600 feet of Duct Tape to make, and it weighs 300 pounds.  I'm pretty sure Henry wants to make one.

After we saw the animals, Katie and Henry headed back to the car for a little rest with Chris.  It was quite hot at that point, and we had been at the zoo for about four hours.  Sarah, Joyce, David, Jack, and I all headed to the rainforest.  It was really a neat place, and the boys loved it.

Perhaps my favorite part of our trip to the zoo was seeing Jack with Sarah.  It gives me such pride to see him interact with people.  He is so wild and crazy, but he is also incredibly sweet and caring. I couldn't help but think several times while we were with Sarah about what he will be like with Katie as she gets older.  

He had lots of questions for Sarah about her trach scar.  Joyce was so great about answering them, and I hope he was respectful with the questions I didn't hear!  We had such a great day, and I hope we see Sarah and Joyce again soon!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our Road Trip to Cleveland, Days 1 and 2

Last weekend we went to Cleveland, which is about 10 hours from Nashville.  I won't lie - I was a bit nervous about 10 hours in the car with four children under nine.

Especially when this happened, less than five minutes after we got on the road......

The kids were AWESOME in the car!!  Perfectly behaved - I couldn't have asked for them to be better.  I had come prepared with {lots of} snacks, dollar store toys to give them when they got bored, books to read, and movies to watch.  They each got a toy at the start of the trip and didn't need or want another!  They were so fabulous.

Flat Stanley came with us, which Henry was very very excited about.

David and Henry both had their Nintendo Ds in the back of the car, and they were taking pictures like madmen with them.  I think David took something like 200 photos between Nashville and Cleveland.  Of things he saw on the side of the road.

There's not a whole lot to see between Tennessee and Ohio, but it's an easy drive.  Jack's favorite part was seeing a "Wonkavator" in Cleveland.  It was an elevator that was on the outside of a building, but Jack swore it was a Wonkavator and talked about it all weekend.

Katie was amazing in the car also, perfectly content to look out the window, take little catnaps, read her books, and play with her little toys.  She is such a good girl.

And yes, she and Jack are really this sweet together. Sometimes.

By the time we got to Cleveland, it was close to midnight.  (We left at noon, because I worked a half day, and Cleveland is one hour ahead of Nashville time.)

We checked into our hotel and quickly fell asleep.  And I have to say, sleeping in one hotel room with six people wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be.  The boys all slept on the couch (which pulled out), Katie and I slept in one double bed (and she only fell out twice....) and Chris (LUCKY CHRIS!) slept in a double bed by himself.  Everyone was so pooped by the end of the day we all quickly fell asleep.

Our hotel had breakfast in the lobby-ish area every day, and the kids loved it.  As did I, because it was easy and free.  And the kids felt like we were "eating out" because it wasn't at a table in our room.  I will miss it when they are not so easy to please with so many things.

(We stayed at the Hyatt Place in Independence, and it was great.  It was super clean, beds were comfy, and the staff was very friendly.  The pool was great, and the hotel was very easy to find and get in and out of.  We would definitely stay there again.)

Saturday, after breakfast, we went to JEllen's House of Fabric to meet Sarah and Joyce.  We were all very excited to meet them.  Joyce and Sarah collected Coins for Katie in their store, and I had no idea until there was a post on Sarah's blog about it.  They, with the help of their fabulous customers, collected over $500 for us when we were fundraising.  It is so important to Chris and me that we teach our children to be thankful and appreciative, so we packed it up and went to Cleveland to meet the people who worked so hard to help us - strangers! - bring Katie home.

Sarah is a fantastic girl.  She has a wonderful sense of humor, and she and Jack hit it off right away.  She was so sweet and loving to Katie, sitting on the floor with her, whispering in her ear, hugging her, and tickling her.  

Katie was a little shy at first, which I was so happy and surprised to see.  When she first came home she would run around new places like a crazy woman checking everything out and would immediately go to anyone she saw.  She did not do that, and was in fact a bit timid.  This is so promising to me.  She did warm up quickly, and she was very excited to check out the AMAZING store that is JEllen's.  

If you live in the Cleveland area, please support JEllen's.  Not only is the fabric delicious and the selection enormous, Joyce is fantastic.  It is so important to support local businesses, and Joyce is a local business owner that gives back to other people in so many ways.

You may notice Katie is wearing several outfits in these photos.  Joyce gave her two amazing dresses from her store, and Katie didn't want to take them off.  She wore two dresses at the same time for the rest of the day because she liked them so much.

Sarah also made pillowcases for the boys, and they are so cute!  She knew we have two dogs, so each of the boys got a pillowcase with dogs on them.  What a thoughtful gift!

It was so great to see Katie and Sarah together.  Although we just met Joyce, she and their family have been a huge inspiration to Chris and me as we adopted Katie.  Sarah graduated from high school, goes to work every day at her mom's store, gives back to the community, and is an incredible young lady.  These are all things we want for Katie.  To see a 23 year old girl with Down syndrome who is doing the things we want Katie to do give us so much hope and promise for her future.  I am so lucky to have met Joyce and have started a friendship with her.  She is such a warm, caring, thoughtful woman.  I hope that the friendship between our families will continue to grow, and I know we will go back to Cleveland to see them again!

Flat Stanley made an appearance at JEllen's too!  Sarah had never heard of Flat Stanley, and the first thing Henry said when he got in the car was, "I know what I'm going to do when I get home.  Send Sarah a Flat Stanley book.  I just know she will love it!"

We said goodbye to Sarah and Joyce, and we headed over to see some other friends.

Next, we went to see Jason and Eileen and their two children Madeline and Jack.  I used to work with Eileen many years ago, and then I nannied for their oldest child Madeline.  I made the mistake of telling the boys that Madeline was my "first baby", which then led them to believe that she was literally MY baby, and I had to backtrack and explain that our adoption journey did not come full circle!!  That was an amusing conversation....

I didn't take many photos, as Eileen and I were too busy chatting.  They have a beautiful house, and their kids are so big and different now!  They are great kids, and were so lovely to my little ones.  Little Jack l.o.v.e.d. "big Jack" as he called him.   And he's still talking about playing with Jack and how great the basement at their house was.  It's the little things.

We had a great time catching up and the kids loved swimming in their pool.

Katie and Jack absolutely loved playing the piano with Jason.  

And I mean loved it.  So much so that I actually, for a fleeting moment, considered having a piano at our house.  I said fleeting moment.

{And I should note that Jack just saw this photo of him playing the piano and said, "When can we go back there again?  I loved those people.  I really want to go back there.  I wish we lived there."}

Someday buddy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Road Trip Weekend - A Sneak Peek

We took a little road trip last weekend to Cleveland.  
I know what you're thinking.  
"CLEVELAND?!  Who takes a road trip to Cleveland?" 
 "A road trip with four kids?  Are you crazy?"  
We heard both.  

I'm pleased to report Cleveland was great, and I will have more to say about that in another post.  And the four kids?  Rock star little road trippers.  Truly fabulous.  We got home late last night and our house is awash with bags that need unpacked, clothes that need washed, a refrigerator that needs filled, and things that need put away.  And I need to work today.  However, I thought I'd give you a few sneak peek photos of our weekend with wonderful friends, both old and new.