Monday, December 16, 2013

Surprises and Secret Elves

Packages are a very rare thing down here.  First of all, it's insanely expensive to send them, and 2nd, you never know when they'll actually make it.  We've set a time frame of about 2 to 8 weeks.  There's no rhyme or reason.  
Jen mentioned that she was sending a little package off to us for Christmas, and I refused to believe that this huge box that arrived 6 DAYS LATER was from her!  I had to dig into it to really accept that somehow it was real.  The very best part was that she had put all sorts of fun things for us to do to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas.  A couple of them being the tree above (she knows we just do a little Christmas forest down here with all of our fake little trees because it's illegal to cut a fresh one) and the Christmas countdown paper chain.  Suddenly the kids were ecstatic for Christmas.  It was just what we needed. THANKS SO MUCH, Jen.  Can't tell you how perfect this has been!
As we finished off our chain and hung it up, the kids decided to write all of our names down and put them in a hat.  Whichever name we picked, we would be a secret elf for that family member for the month of December.  Doing little acts of service for that person.  They were beyond thrilled with their idea.  
They were running around, whispering and giggling as they were coming up with things to do for their secret someone.  Only to be revealed on Christmas Eve, whose name they had picked.  I was cleaning up the kitchen one evening and Jake came in with the biggest grin ever.  "Mom!  Come look in your room!!"  And then he whispered, "Come here."  He motioned for me to follow him.  As I walked into my room, I saw that someone had gone to a LOT of effort to make our California King size bed.  He was jumping up and down now giggling with excitement and had me get right next to his ear.  "Don't tell anyone, but I have YOU!!!"
Never wanted to let go of that hug.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

First Family Bowling Trip

Have we really never been bowling as a family before?!  It was hard to believe, but sadly, it was true!  Because Luke's birthday was on a busy weekday, we were planning on going out as a family to do something fun the weekend before his big day.  Since I ended up in the hospital, it threw all of those plans out the window.  We needed to have a carefree outing together.  Since cutting our Christmas tree down is always a tradition the weekend of Thanksgiving...and that is against the law in Chile...the kids decided going bowling was a nice second choice :)  

 Feeling pretty grown up.
 Some of us were a little more competitive than others.
 Some of us thought it was so awesome just seeing that ball roll down the lane and celebrated when a single pin went down. 
 One of us really liked his shoes that were 4 sizes too big but it was all they had.
 Check out Jake's new found talent!
Bumper Bowling in Santiago, Chile.  Sometimes it's still hard to believe :)
We finished off our day with a little frozen yogurt and I'd say it was pretty much perfect!

Dia de Gracias!

I had the chance to go to school and throw Kate's class a little Thanksgiving party in the morning.  Even though it's an American International School, this is one of the holidays that isn't observed down here.  As I taught the students from around the world about our American Thanksgiving tradition, I felt so much gratitude and pride in our country for observing a day to reflect on all of our blessings.  Some of these students are extremely privileged and have grown up feeling very entitled. I explained what it means to be grateful and then had them created a Thanksgiving tree for their 3rd grade classroom.  Loved hearing them in all of their different accents share some of those blessings.  

In Everything Give Thanks.

We'll be happy if we do!  

 By the time the kids and I got home from school and I made my last couple of pies, it was time to feast!   As soon as Joe walked through the door, we headed right back out! I think we had a record number of gringos and friends celebrating Thanksgiving at the Hamilton's this year!  Did we hit 70?  If not, it was really close.  We tried our best to make it feel like home with all of our pumpkin and spices that we've imported and saved for this special day!
  Here was just some of our "family away from family" who helped ease the homesickness expats tend to feel during this time of year.
 Tracy McQueen, Karen Whitt, and Kristy Miller
 Gaby Vinas, Nicci Price, Anne Johnson, me, Tracy Mcqueen, Karen Whitte, Kristy Miller, Laura Hamilton
 Kate and some of her girlfriends, Maci, Larissa and Celeste
 I found Jake thoroughly enjoying himself upstairs with a few good friends
 Joe, Luke and Ron Caudle
An attempted selfie of the 3 of us!  

Happy Thanksgiving!  Grateful for these wonderful friends.  So very grateful for our family and loved ones.  We missed you today.  And love you more than you know! xoxo

Little Luke is a BIG 3 year old!!!

Luke was p-r-e-t-t-y happy on November 26th, when he came downstairs and found tons of little balloons and stars hanging from the ceiling, a "letter sign" just for him hanging above the door (It was a happy birthday sign, but he was more thrilled to point out, "There's my letter H!!!  There's my letter A!!!"), and a birthday chair decorated especially for the big guy.
And when I'd ask him how old he was now, he'd say with such fluctuation, "I'm free (3)!!!  I'm not a baby, Mom!  Don't worry!"  He loves to tell me not to worry about plenty of things.  And then he always gives my kisses and loves afterwards.  
Melts my heart every. single. time.   
He even loves to sit at the window and tell Lucy not to worry too, when she's whining because she wants to come inside.  He gets right on the floor as she scratching at the door, and puts his face right up to her nose and sing-songs through the glass, "Don't worry, Woocy, I'm right here.  It's OK, Woocy."  And then he'll turn to me and say, "Woocy is such a nice doggy.  She wuvs me." 
So here was our attempt at a chocolate cake with letters for the big guy.  We ate a couple while we were making them, so the "E" cupcake letter is a little sad.  But the most important part was that Luke took one look at the cupcake letters AND then the letters on top of those letters, and was so thrilled he couldn't wipe off that grin.  
Funny how I had to force myself to get going this particular morning, but as soon as I had my good morning hug from the birthday boy and saw some of these smiles, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  If my heart could have gone into overdrive with love that day, it did.  Love for Luke.  Love for Jake.  Love for Kate.  Love for our Baby Blue.  Love for Joe.  Love for my Heavenly Father for giving me this life that I'm living.  And as I was feeling the immense love I have for them, my heart burned with the knowledge of their love for me.  I was so happy.
I reassured the family that my tears were happy ones that day.  And we went right on celebrating.  Luke was finished reading his letter cake.  He was ready to dig in!
He tried a little before we had a chance to light the candles that the kids put in for him. 
 Couldn't get mad at the kid, it was his birthday!!!
And then we got to sing :)  Always nice to have a brother close by to help you do most of the work!
He completely approved.  
Then it was time for presents!  If I had known what the outcome would be, I probably wouldn't have gone to the store that day with the kids to pick out toys for him!  Of course, then we wouldn't have had our sweet Baby Blue Berryhill moment with the Christmas wrapping paper, when I felt him so near (see my previous post "Little Tender Mercy").
Everything always works out.  
We got home, and Kate said she wanted to find a few more things for Luke to open.  She was very thoughtful about the whole thing, and went through all of our school stuff that was already in our office, to find the perfect gift for Luke.  
She cleaned and wrapped a dry-erase book that we had for practicing writing letters.  It was the 2nd present Luke opened, and it was also his last.  He wanted nothing to do with the other wrapped packages. 
"MY LETTERS!!!!!!!!"  And for the rest of the evening, he sat with Kate as she helped teach him how to trace his letters.  
Jake about had a hernia as he tried to get Luke to open up the rest of his gifts.  It was simply inconceivable that he would let packages go unopened.  But Luke didn't care.  One perk this year that Luke's birthday is so close to Christmas!!!-  I took the presents and tucked them away to be presented again in another month :)  Nice!!!
Three years ago, "Little Luke" was 5 pounds and struggling to survive.  Now he's as big as most of the kindergartners in Jake's class. 
 He can throw a fast ball and mean tantrum every now and again (thankfully that phase is starting to come to a close as he realizes that big 3 year old's simply don't act like babies)
but will run his lanky run with his cute cheeks bouncing, from wherever he is in the house and will shout as loud as he can to welcome you home when you walk through that door.  "I give you wuvs!!!!!"  And then grabs your legs before you have a chance to bend over and showers your pants with peanut butter, spaghetti sauce or popsicle kisses and hugs.  I love my stained clothes. So does Joe.
We love you so very much, Luke. You make our world such a happy place.
Happy Birthday!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spending Some QT with KW

 At the Zoo...

and in the kitchen :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Little Tender Mercy

Three days after we got home from the hospital, I woke up to get the kids off to school, and Kate and Jake came downstairs and looked around and then looked at me and in complete and utter shock.  "Where are the decorations, Mom?!!!  It's Luke's birthday!!!!"
It's true.  It was November 26th.  It was Luke's 3rd birthday.  And normally, birthdays in our home consist of plenty of decorations and at least 1 banner of love that gets put up to commemorate the big day.
The walls were bare.
I realized at that moment, that even if I didn't feel like it, I needed to get out of my jammies and go through the motions of feeling good, and then maybe it'd actually happen.

"I promise when you get home, the decor will be up, and we will have a fantastic evening to celebrate Luke."  I kissed away their worried glances and sent them off to school with Joe.

I took a shower, got dressed, and put on makeup for the first time since Friday.  I couldn't cry today.  Today was about Luke and the only tears I'd be shedding would be happy ones for our little miracle that joined us almost 2 months early, 3 years ago.  And so I got to work.  The balloons were hung from the ceiling, the banner and signs were taped up, the special birthday chair was decorated and the "cochat cake wif letters" was in the oven.

We had asked Luke weeks before what type of cake he would want for his birthday.  All he said was a chocolate one with letters.  Luke's life revolves around letters.  He eats and breathes and sleeps letters.  He simply can't get enough of them and doesn't want to play or do anything that doesn't have the ABC's involved.  Since my oven down here is so temperamental when it comes to baking, I try to always go small--mini bundt cakes instead of my big ones--cupcakes instead of cakes--they always come out so much better.  Half black half gooey is fun once in a great while to remind me where I am, but not for special occasions.  So, I went for cupcakes.

I went to pick the kids up from school, and we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some Gummi letters to top the cupcakes with.  (So grateful for that easy solution thought up by Jake!!!)  They also wanted to pick out presents for their brother.  After paying, we took the gifts over to the service desk to have them wrapped (a total perk of living in Chile--free wrapping always).  The lady looked at me and said, "Regalo o Navidad?"  Is this a regular present or for Christmas?  I told her it was a regular birthday and she picked out the paper and got to work.  A man came by to help her, and the next thing I knew, she was scolding him for getting out Christmas paper to wrap the present she had handed him.  He looked at me and held the present up to ask me if I wanted him to redo it.

I took one look at the present and tears flooded my eyes.  For the little gift that I had picked out to give to Luke, was wrapped in baby boy Christmas angels.  I smiled through my blurry vision and said, "No, esta perfecto."  It was just a little extra love for me at that moment.  My baby was close.  I felt him.  Maybe it was even his way of saying, "This one's from me to my big brother Luke."