Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas from Wales

Merry Christmas 2009
Talmage's First Christmas
Caerphilly, Wales
Spent with the wonderful, gracious and kind Abbott family
Traveling back home to California was too expensive this year, but we were lucky enough to spend the holiday with a dear family friend and her family in Wales. Jan Abbott, her daughter Laura and son-in-law Andrew (and their two children Matthew and Maddison) and her son Michael were so good to us. They gave up bedrooms, prepared meals and taxied us around during our five day stay in Wales...we are so grateful to them for loving us and spoiling us!
Readers beware--if you proceed past this point you will find a picture OVERLOAD (and I'm proud of it!) Some of them were from our camera (well, borrowed camera...ours is still sick), but most are from Laura's super sweet legit camera. We just love that girl! I'll try to let the pictures do the talking!
Oh wait, this year it was a reality! My first white Christmas EVER. Look at us walking in a winter wonderland. It was so fun!

The Caerphilly castle is the 2nd largest castle in Europe. We walked around, took lots of pictures, and marvelled at how medieval it looks!

Laura and her two munchkins took me and the boys on a walk through the center of town. What a cute city! There was a law passed requiring every sign to be written in both English and Welsh. Jim had so much fun trying to figure out how to pronounce the words.

Talmage is making progress in the moving department. He's still not crawling (or scooting for that matter) but he LOVES to stand. He was playing in this ball pit and I turned around for one second and he stood up...all by himself. It was a first and luckily my dear camera was there to document it. He was so proud of himself. Now he is standing constantly!
Ash...the picture above is just for you. You taught Jim the proper Christmas face and he is already teaching Talmage!
How could he not be excited and shocked...look at all this loot! Matthew, Talmage and Maddison definitely were on Santa's good list this year.

We wanted to share a little bit of present opening with you. Talmage is a pro!

This baby had such a great first Christmas, and he was such a good boy. He and I are both recovering from ear infections (which are miserable) and yet he was so happy and easy (yeah, you read correctly. I said Talmage and easy in the same sentence...hallelujah!) You can see those big beautiful teeth in that middle picture above. So cute!

Jan did such a fabulous job on the Christmas feast. Delicious. Yum. Amazing. Incredible.

This little guy wasn't exactly part of the Christmas feast, but look at those sweet cheeks and big eyes...I could just eat him up!
They checked all my bags and patted me down before leaving. I think they were afraid I'd run off with their babies. I won't say it hadn't crossed my mind. Especially that precious, angelic baby girl. She is so cuddly and soft and she falls asleep for anyone. I adore her!

Wales was incredible and a memory we'll have forever. A big thank you to our Welsh family and a very Merry Christmas wish to all the American's as well!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

On Sunday we let Talmage open up a few of his Christmas packages from family members. This is SUCH a fun age for a baby's first Christmas. He is such a curious little boy and loved the whole experience. He grabbed the ribbon and beautiful holiday wrapping paper. He grabbed every present out of the box (looked at it, chewed on it) and then dove for the next item. He LOVED all his gifts (and so did his Mom and Dad!) Thank you to all our family members who have been so generous. We love you and miss you all!
UPDATE: T received another very special gift for Christmas: his two front teeth (and another bottom tooth!) Yep, my baby has four teeth in that little mouth of his. If he ever sits still I might be able to supply a photograph! He is biting on crackers and bread and fruit (and everything else we give him) and he is very proud of himself. We're learning (slowly but surely) about NOT biting Mommy...pray for both of us.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

My sister Ashleigh is...

(A) Becoming a true blue Cougar Alum today (Spud style!)
(B) Making me an Aunt, Jim an Uncle and Talmage a cousin in May 2010
(C) Student teaching next semester in Idaho Falls
(D) The best sister in the world...want to be just like her when I grow up
(E) All of the above

Duh, the answer is obvious. But I'll leave the key in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last Wiggy Standing

I was the last Wiggy standing, but now I've joined the ranks of sicky's.

Here's how my morning went.
Doctor looking in my left ear says: WOW, you have a really bad infection in that ear.

(I was not surprised. I woke up at 1 am with a throbbing ear and a pounding headache. I cried and I couldn't sleep all night. I called the after-hours clinic and spoke with a doctor, who said there was nothing they could do for me until morning. "It's going to be a miserable night for you," she said. "Sleep sitting straight up and try to get through it." Really? When was the last time you tried to sleep sitting straight up with an ear which feels like it could burst any moment and head that is near exploding? Let's just say it didn't happen. I was up until my appointment at 10 am.)
And then looking in my right ear, she says: Oh, and this ear is red as well. Yes, you have a double ear infection.

(Did I tell the doctor that maybe my sinus infection wouldn't have turned into a double ear infection had they seen me on Monday like I requested, and treated me for the sinus headache of the century? Instead, the doctor I spoke too on Monday said, "You'll be fine, just wait it out a few days." I should've told her, but I didn't.)

This is my favorite part. The doc says in one breath: Your eardrum could explode at any time. It will be very painful and a lot of stuff will drain. Regardless, you will have limited hearing for the next 2-3 weeks. OK, pick up meds next door and have a great day.

In and Out. Case closed.

So, I've been bumming around the house all day. My sweet hubby stayed home from school to take care of Talmage (and be my personal nurse) so I could relax and heal. He made lunch and dinner, played with, fed, changed, entertained el nino, and cleaned up the house. He's such a good husband and I'm so grateful for him.

Just FYI: My ear drum did burst, and who knew all the crazy stuff that would come out. Yes it was painful, but it still feels full of stuff so maybe it only half way exploded?

I still feel awful (I'm really looking forward to the meds kicking in), but at least I've had lots of time to admire our new holiday cheer decor (from the couch)!

Did we trick you? This is our home-made Christmas tree! We bought a few branches for super cheap and used clothes pins to attach them to our living room lamp. We had so much fun putting it together and we LOVE it. I know we'll ALWAYS remember this Christmas tree.

Fresh oranges. Homemade Christmas chain. Pine cone decorations and vanilla candles. Who said you can't do Christmas on a budget?

Socks on the radiator. I mean, stockings on the mantle.

Our own nativity set. (Inspired by the best new video on Take a look!)

The boys putting together the Christmas chain.
It's beginning to look, and feel, a lot like Christmas.
I love this season and all it represents.
This truly is the season of Christ.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Paris Day 4

December 12, 2009 (Happy Birthday Jordan!)

Adventure #1: Sainte Chapelle

This was high on our list of things to do for Friday, but as you already know it was closed. James was really disappointed. He had never been to this church (I obviously hadn't either) and he was really looking forward to seeing the floor to ceiling stained glass. Saturday we decided to try one last night, and lucky for us it was open! This gorgeous place of worship did not disappoint. We marveled at the gorgeous stained glass that was created so long ago. I know you can't see it in the pictures, but each different section of glass tells a story about the life of the Savior. It was beautiful.

It was floor to ceiling stained glass throughout the whole room!

Talmage loved looking at all the colors. What a well-cultured little boy!

Adventure #2: Paris University

The University of Paris does not allow visitors to enter their premises. Guards at every entrance check ID's and even students can't enter if they don't have their badge. Well, James REALLY wanted to go look around--so he pulled out his Cambridge student card and approached the guards. They must have been impressed by Jim (or by the fact that he attends Cambridge) because the next thing I knew he was walking into the big doors of the University. Talmage and I stayed outside and ate yogurt together. He came out after a few minutes and reported that it was pretty boring inside--just hallways and classrooms. I guess we're spoiled by Cambridge's beautiful courtyards and greenery!

Adventure #3: Montparnasse Cemetary

Another Phantom of the Opera must see! This cemetary was designed by Napolean and is an architectural masterpiece. You don't see headstones over these graves, you see whole houses and buildings. It was fascinating. (I hope you don't think it's weird that we chose to hang out at a cemetary on our last day in Paris!)

Adventure #4: Musee de Orsay

Again, this museum was closed on Friday--boo! Saturday we tried our luck and were victorious! The building used to be a train station so the ceilings are high and there is a huge, gorgeous clock on the wall. It's very open and spacious and had a very inviting feel.

Side comment on Paris National Museums/Monuments--In April, a new law was signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy that allows all residents of the EU who are under 26 to enter national museums and monuments for free. That's right--FREE! So all these things we went to: Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre, Musee de Orsay, Versaille...all FREE for us. Isn't that beyond sweet. It makes visiting France on a budget much, much easier!

Back to the Musee de Orsay...awesome!

Underneath my feet was a scale model of Paris around the Opera House.

What a sweet boy!

Look at that happy family in a super cool Paris museum.

Which face looks the meanest?

Hey Dad, look! The painting I gave you for Christmas is up in this museum. Impressive!
Mom...your Monet painting was also in the museum. Cool, huh?

Adventure #5: Au revoir Paris

This trip was so much fun! It was sad to say goodbye to that beautiful City of Lights, but we will forever cherish the amazing memories we have of dazzling Paris.

Our last family photo in Paris!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paris Day 3

December 11, 2009 (Talmage's 9 month birthday!)

Adventure #1: Place de Vosges

The oldest square in Paris, Place de Vosges is beautiful and very impressive. There is a big park in the middle with a children's area, benches for reading or eating lunch, and pathways to take a nice stroll.

Adventure #2: The Genius of Liberty statue by the Bastille

I won't lie and say I know the history or significance of this statue. We were walking to our next destination and it was big and beautiful so I pulled out my camera and made the boys pose. Really though, aren't you impressed?

Adventure #3: Notre Dame

Notre Dame is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. The ceilings are SO high and it was so cute to watch Talmage's eyes keep going up and up. We tried to capture a picture of him arching his entire back (I had to hold his head for support) so he could take it all in, but unfortunately he hides from his paparazzi parents! It was a priceless moment.

Adventure #4: Sad faces (STRIKE!) and sympathy lunch

Do those faces look happy to you?
We came all the way to Paris and a good portion of the monuments/museums on our to-do list were closed because of the strike.
Pompidou Center: CLOSED.
Notre Dame Towers: CLOSED.
Sainte Chapelle: CLOSED.
Concergerie: CLOSED.
Musee de Orsay: CLOSED.
Do you understand now why those faces looked so sad? We decided to drown our sorrows in a delicious lunch at a french cafe. It was fun...and helped ease the pain! ;)

One thing I noticed immediately about french cafes is that all the chairs at the table look out to the street. I guess it's like dinner and a movie--they find their entertainment in watching people come and go. I think anyone on the street looking at these two would also be thouroughly entertained. Talmage can really never get enough food!

A sandwich of his own.

Adventure #5: Fashion Show at the Galleries Lafayette
We scored tickets (free, I might add) to an awesome fashion show in a super swanky designer department store in the heart of Paris. I came across some articles and blogs about free things to do in Paris, and thought a fashion show was fitting! I did my research and sent a few inquiries, and before long received an email saying we could come to the fashion show.

I took a few pictures, shown below, but they don't do it justice. I did, however, get a small video of one of the walks down the runway. Now you can say you've been to a Paris fashion show as well!

After the show we walked around the store, admiring the clothes, and more importantly the ginormous, gorgeously-decorated Christmas tree. I love Christmas, and I was in heaven!

Adventure #6: The Louvre
The Louvre was at least 100 times bigger than I was expecting. I don't really know what I was expecting...but it definitely wasn't that big! Below is a picture of Jim in the courtyard of the Louvre. The building is so ornate and gorgeous (I know I've used that word a lot in my descriptions of various sights in Paris...but they really are!) I loved it outside and I loved it inside.

This glass pyramid is the entrance to the museum. Cool, huh?

See, the three of us have some pictures together. I'll get them whatever way I can!

I was really impressed by the BIG paintings. Really, how is the possible. I have so many questions, and if you have answers, do tell. Do they paint the picture with a ladder, or do they walk on their painting? If the latter is true, are they bare foot? Do they start with a little painting and then blow it up? I'm at the largest museum in the world, and I'm curious about scuff marks! So maybe I'm not an art junky, but I still really like the big paintings!

That, my amigos, is the REAL Mona Lisa. WOW!

This is actually the metro stop under the Louvre, but I'm counting it under this adventure. Cute story of our Metro experience. A little girl, probably about 5 or 6, was intrigued with Talmage. She asked me his name (let's remember that I don't speak French, luckily my smart hubby translated) and was touching his nose. He was equally intrigued with her and would grab the buttons on her coat, or her fingers, or her hair. She would squeal with delight! The train cleared and she went to sit by her mother on the other side of the train. It was getting late, and Talmage was tired and hungry. He had been such a good boy all day, but he started to fuss. Before I knew it, that little girl was back by my side. She touched Talmage's nose again, and offered him the button from her coat. She entertained him for the rest of our journey...he was all smiles for her. Now if that doesn't pull on your heart strings, what will! I'm grateful for that sweet little girl on the Metro!
Adventure #7: Christmas Market, Take 3
We went to the same Christmas market lining the infamous Champs Elysees all three nights we spent in Paris. Christmas markets are huge in Europe (I hear the best ones are in Germany) and this one was very impressive. I loved the feeling in the air around the market. I loved seeing all the children playing. I loved eating all the delicious treats!

Dinner for Jim and Talmage (well, snack for Talmage. He had already had a full dinner but he just can't resist!): Tartiflette
Dinner for me: Munich Sausage with spicy mustard and grilled onions.

And for dessert...a crepe for me and a big nutella-filled donut for Jim.
Once again, YUM!