This will be a long letter, I imagine, if nothing else filled with lots of pictures. (Mommy wonders if Daddy will make it to the end.) I'm going to backtrack to the week before you took your first flight. At school, this week they taught the color black. Your teacher, Mrs. Kristie, said you had the class in stitches, laughing so hard, while doing the door pictures. You are the actor!
I love this next art project - it's a black bat. The wings are your hands!
The week that we left, your class studied the colors Green and White. I love your monster hand prints!
The teachers did a special treat with the kids for the parents. Frankenstein Feet! Your footprints on canvas! This will be part of our Halloween decor now and in the future! Love that it's a canvas for display :)
Somehow we managed to attend two O'Brien family gatherings and visit with Sally and her awesome family, all while Mommy worked late and rushing to pack for the trip.
At Livy's first birthday party, you were too cute. You hugged each other and then, Livy (who is now walking/running) shoved you, you didn't shove back. We didn't have to correct you. You just looked at her, as if thinking, "What do I do with you? You are smaller than me." The first gathering, you played with Hayden, a 5 year old ball of energy that matches your own - the two of you had a blast together! Running, jumping, hide and seek, the works!
When we went to the Forschein's, you were shy and it was late at night (Mommy had to work late to finish up billing at the law office, thankfully our friends were forgiving). You saw the incredible Disney collection (kept in boxes!) that Sally and Bruce have on display. You had no problems when Bruce asked if he could pick you up. You hoped you could convince him to let you open the boxes (didn't happen!).... You were interested in the little girls, but still shy. Then Sydney (the oldest), took you by the hand, helped you up on the chair and shared her toys with you. Instant friends! Their sweetness doesn't surprise me at all ~ generous and loving nature of both girls - runs in the family.
Anneke (love her name and the way it's pronounced), took out a book. Anneke and Daddy read the book, which was a really sweet moment. We watched as you played and Anneke said, "He is so gentle and sweet natured." You can be rough and tumble, but I think you understand the nature of those around you and try to respond in kind.
In order to help you appreciate and understand the flight, and in the hopes of alleviating you being nervous, we took you airplane watching. We pointed to the flights and said, "We will be going on an airplane soon. You will ride in one of those and go up in the sky. It might be noisy though and there will be long lines to wait in." Both Daddy and I were concerned that you might shake in fear, which you tend to do when overly excited or scared. We tried to show and explain, so you could enjoy the flight and be prepared as well.
Our flight was early. At first, you were grumpy waking up at 5:30am. But then we said, "Do you want to go on an airplane today?" You jumped out of bed! The other problem is that you expected to go on a flight right then and there! The lines weren't too bad and you were excited to see Oma, Papa and Biscuit ahead in the lines. You wanted to "cut" in front of other people and fussed when we held you back.
Daddy went through the big scanner and we did the walk through. Mommy went first and was told, "Do not turn around and do not make eye contact with your son." You followed right after. I guess they do this to parents to make sure the child is really with the parents and not someone else. I had your birth certificate in my purse, but never needed to show it.
After going through the lines, again - why aren't we on the plane already! Sitting and waiting turned into "flying" around the airport. Daddy, Mommy and Oma took turns flying around with you.
You did beautifully on your first flight! You touched the outside of the airplane before walking in. We told the flight attendant that this was your first flight. She immediately gave you a "wings" sticker. Mommy and Daddy had everything you needed ~ food, entertainment and love - surrounded by parents and grandparents. You didn't always want the window shade open though... You said, "Too bright!" The sun was rising and it was right in your eyes. The only time you screamed was when you lurched forward; your upper lip split on the tray in front of you. You calmed down quickly though.
I have to give it to Southwest Airlines - they were awesome! When you cried, they brought out some crayons and a coloring page of an airplane. Then they surprised us all with handing you a "first flight certificate" signed by all the staff.
And then! When we landed.. just about to get off the plane, the pilot offered for you to sit in his chair! How cool. You didn't have to be asked twice!
Arriving in Maryland!
While Daddy and Opa looked for the luggages, Oma brought you to where the luggage came out on to the conveyor belt. Every time a piece of luggage jumped on the belt, you were amazed. Oma caught some really cute pictures of your excitement!
Uncle Rob, Aunt Roda and baby TJ picked up Oma and Opa from the airport. You went on your first bus ride to the rental car area! Mommy said, "We're on a bus!" You said, "wheels go round and round" and you did the round and round motion with your fingers. Mommy started singing the song, "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round..." After that line, Mommy asked, "What comes next?" You said, "Horn beep, beep, beep" and you did the beep motion. You remembered the wipers, baby and mommy motions. It was cute.
Alamo had a car ready, but just as Daddy got the car seat, the lights on the dashboard went off as we started the car. We opted with another vehicle and received a nicer, newer vehicle - yeah! It was easy to rent a car seat, rather than try to lug it through the airport system.
We met up with the Grimball crew - Oma, Opa, Aunt Roda, Uncle Rob and cousin TJ at a Korean Restaurant. TJ was such a doll - Mommy has seen lots of pictures but it was the first time to see her nephew! He was sleeping happily.
The food was great - they cook it right there at the center of the table. You enjoyed the beef, very tender. AND... you liked Mommy's purple drink. You said, "Share Mommy Please." Meaning you wanted ALL of it.
Aunt Roda was super cool. Oma and Mommy really wanted a picture of you holding TJ. Most new Mommies would be really worried about a toddler holding their child. Aunt Roda was calm and reassuring and welcomed you to hold her precious son. In one picture, you look as though you are thinking, "What if I drop him?" Incredibly sweet pictures! Many first things on this trip - it's the first time you meet your cousin (2 1/2 months old) and first time that you held a baby!
Your aunt and uncle have a HUGE backyard. You loved going out there and running around. I think if they put a tent in the backyard, you would probably stay outside the entire visit! Only thing, we learned that there's a prickly bush and you went through it - Daddy and Mommy ended up plucking the tiny thorns out of your shoes and socks. You didn't go through that area after that - but it didn't stop you from running around in the backyard during our visit!
You liked running around inside too... but OUCHIE - you were running back and forth and slipped on the rug, landing chin on their brick fireplace making a really big boo boo.
You calmed down and Aunt Roda brought out two things to make you happy - chocolate (huge Hershey kiss) and her stethoscope! You love pretending to listen to the heartbeat and saying, "Breath" but you don't like putting the stethoscope into your ears.
Oma was in her glory - her two grandchildren; she loved every minute of being with both at the same time. It was so sweet to see the love she has to share. Oma encouraged you to help feed TJ, but you were a little nervous about doing so.
Kisses for your cousin
That evening, Aunt Roda and Uncle Rob turned on the karaoke machine. I think it was a tie between Roda and Greg being the best singers. Your Aunt Roda has a fantastic singing voice and Daddy was right on the beat - he can sing great when he is serious about doing so. Uncle Rob was a trip and had a lot of fun with the songs and can do really well too! They actually got Mommy to sing and no glass broke! Opa even joined in on the fun - love it when he sings to country, old songs and especially The King - Elvis!
The next morning, we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Anyone who knows my family is probably groaning at this point. Yes, it's true, we had to go there at least once, right?
We couldn't ask for a prettier day to drive to the Amish country.
Not a sign you see in New Orleans.
In the Amish store, you are holding a toy camera. Mommy loves this - maybe you have the Shutter Bug gene too?
Daddy asked Mommy, "Could you become Amish?" No!
We went on an Amish tour of a house and then some of the property. Here are some interesting facts we learned:
Amish babies all wear dresses when they are first born - boy or girl.
Amish go to school to the 8th grade and are taught by teachers who are 8th grade educated. They learn just enough German to follow the sermons (which are said in the German language).
Amish believe in Adult Baptism - not baptized until the person is between 18 to 21 years old. If the Amish does something "against an Amish rule" before baptism, the person is not excommunicated. Excommunication only happens after the person is baptized and officially part of the Amish community. (At the age of 16 until baptism, Amish kids are allowed to go to movies, which breaks Amish tradition - this allows the kids to "get it out of their system" before committing to the Amish community.)
There is a "founder effect" in the Amish community... of 250,000 Amish population, it is born from 200 families, creating odd genetic issues.
Typically a person might think the Amish do not enjoy modern conveniences - wrong! The Amish shop along side of you and buy modern technology such as mixers, washing machines, etc - but instead of using electricity, they bring the technology to a special Amish citizen who converts it from electric power to fuel/gas. So, hmmm... they like technology just not electricity!
The Amish do not put faces on their dolls - for the same reason they don't like their pictures to be taken.... only God can create a person and the person's face.
There is no community church. In every Amish home, there is a special room created for service. The Amish families take turns on which house the service will be at and it's a really big event. The Amish do not have service once a week - but rather once every two weeks.
You can recognize an Amish home from the street by the dark green shades - we saw some!
The Amish will never fly an American flag, because they don't think of themselves as belonging to a country, but rather belonging to God.
The Amish do not have Internet or phones.
The Amish do not believe in playing musical instruments, because it is a form of self expression.
An unmarried Amish girl wears a white apron to church. When she gets married, the dress under the apron is made by her in any color of her choosing, but still the white apron over. So, basically, no special wedding dress. The married Amish girl wears a black apron over her gown. The Amish do not wear wedding rings, because they say all they need is God's blessings, not the sign of a ring. Amish only are allowed to marry after they are baptized into the Amish faith. After the man is married, he never shaves his beard.
Amish will never own a vehicle, but they will accept rides from those with vehicles and will hire people to drive them places. See this fact, along with using our modern technology, seems.. well... hypocritical!
That said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE their needlework. We couldn't afford the $ 750.00 hand made quilt, but we did buy a pillow that converts to a throw. And we had a great time on the property taking lots of pictures!
Sorry, I took a picture - Amish behind the cash register.
Oma showing the baby cloths used for both boys and girls.
Family picture - growing with Love!
Oma at the teacher's desk!
German and English
On the drive out, we saw Amish working the land. We were driving too fast to take a picture. Daddy was so sweet, because he knew Mommy wanted a picture... he turned the car around and Mommy took pictures - pretty good considering he couldn't slow down much!
Daddy pointed out to Mommy the sign on the barn - it's supposed to ward off evil spirits. Mommy thought it was pretty!
Our next stop for the day was an apple orchard. We pulled into the apple store and you tried every type of apple slice sample. You love the freshness of the apples and I'll be honest - so did everyone else. I think we are all spoiled to the natural sweetness of a freshly picked apple - it was unbelievably sweet!
But before we picked apples straight from the trees, you stopped for some pictures of fall leaves!
Pumpkins and Apples - both in season for the fall!
Sitting in an apple tree
Reaching for the apple!
You loved the fresh apples. You ate this entire apple - we heard the "crunch, crunch, crunch" until it was gone!
Full belly - falls asleep.... you can see your chin scratch... :(
Having fun with Oma in the backyard at home.
Oma teaching you the big boy swing.
Aunt Roda and Uncle Rob had a gift for you! An apron for when you help Mommy and Daddy in the kitchen. Aunt Roda was impressed when you showed that you knew what/how the different kitchen utensils were used for.
The next morning, you were dressed and ready... to relax... in TJ's crib! What? You wouldn't stay in your own crib!
Daddy let Mommy pick the restaurant. Mommy picked what she knew Daddy would like - bbq. They had books for kids. This one had a 3D glasses to look at pictures in a book.
We had some time before the hotel room was ready for check in, so we went to a Discovery station. You had a blast. Lots of rooms for Science, Space, Cultures...
But the room you liked the most was the Dino Room. You dug in the sand for bones. Interesting that the toy dinosaurs did nothing for you. You seemed to know to dig for the bones.
Daddy could only convince you to leave by saying, "Come see the planes!"
When we said we had to leave, you cried. There was a race track too!
Eventually we did make it to the hotel room. You chilled out. Daddy said it was a good hotel (Country Inn and Suites). They had a hot breakfast every morning. And fresh cooked cookies, 24 hours a day. You learned how to ask "for chocolate cookies" very quickly. You also knew exactly where our hotel room was located!
Rehearsal Time! You, sweet boy, are the ring bearer for your cousin, Deanna and her fiancé, Burkley - two beautiful souls!
Gregory, Daddy, cousin Michael
Beautiful wedding venue - Caboose Farm land
Holly and Mommy
Groom and Ring Bearer!
Wedding venue is in the woods and you lead the way!
Groom, Bride, Gregory
Giving a leaf to Zuzu, one of the two flower girls.
They said, "Guests, pretend that you are sitting here."
Running to Mommy!
Deanna's mom and dad walked her.
You cried until Mommy was called to where the bridal party lined up. Mommy's "new duty" for the wedding day was to stay back with the bridal party to keep you happy until you walk down the aisle.
At the rehearsal dinner, you, Zuzu and Juliette ran around and played together. Everyone remarked how great it was that ya'll enjoyed each other. You liked the stewed turkey and we went back for seconds and thirds, because you were eating up a storm!
Wedding Day! Breakfast at the hotel. Mommy put the napkin on her head and said, "Silly hat." You wanted to wear it too and you took it a step more by making a "silly face" to go with the silly hat!
Getting dressed for the wedding!
At the "Jefferson house" on the farm land by the wedding venue. You put yourself in time out. You were cranky, because you wanted to be outside... only it was 51 degrees (with a low of 30) outside!
Daddy found some binoculars and you were happy again!
Guests arrive by hay ride!
Meeting the flower girls at the venue.
Father of the Bride, holding back the tears.
Groomsmen walking to the venue!
Mommy's cousin, Alex, was the officiant. He did a fantastic job!
Bridesmade's arrived - in a hay ride!
Girls' jackets are off, but you wanted your jacket left on.
Mother of the Bride!
The wedding director is pointing in one direction for you to walk and you are pointing in another!
Starting the walk
You did great - walking all the way to the rows of chairs... then you got to the last row of chairs, right before where the bridesmaids, groom and groomsmen are waiting... then you turned back around and started walking quickly away! The groom, Burkley, called your name, knelt down and opened his arms to you. You went back - so sweet!
Mommy was a nervous wreck on how you would do going down the aisle. Every said you did a great job. You made Mommy and Daddy proud.
Next three pictures were saved off of Facebook. Deanna, with her husband and grandmother.
They belong in a wedding magazine!
You can't find a sweeter couple. They are so in love, so beautiful together. This is the wedding of their dreams and we are so blessed to have been a part of it!
There was a cocktail hour on the second floor, then we went down a spiral staircase to the main reception area. (At the rehearsal dinner, it was "American style" and at the reception it was Brazilian - Burkley's mom's heritage. The food was great and you liked the Brazilian steak!)
Deanna and Burkley will make awesome parents!
Oma getting her hugs in
Aunt Roda and Uncle Rob enjoying the celebration.
A song came on, Daddy picked you up and started dancing. I walked up and joined in. You wrapped your arms around us both. Mommy is grateful that Holly took Mommy's phone and captured the moment.
TJ getting lots of love.
Oma's two grandsons - in her glory!
Morning after the wedding, I think you ate about 7 strawberries!
We arrived at another farm house - this time it's the farm where Holly lives. The people who own the farm land were kind enough to offer us two bedrooms to stay in the main house for the night. They have three dogs on the property. The below dog is one of the "working" dogs - he herds the sheep.
They have two young bulls on the property too.
Holly had lots of art supplies! Yeah!
And books - cool! Sweet bonding time.
The next morning, there was pretty frost on the ground. Mommy soaked in the cold air and pictured the property covered in a Christmas card snow scene.
Holly reviewing wedding pictures
Pictures are a little out of order here.. this was the second day on Holly's farm land. We went to a restaurant Cheeburger Cheeburger. When Mommy opened the menu, you pointed to the hamburger. Then you waited a moment and pointed to it again. Mommy asked you twice if you wanted a hamburger and you said "Yes!' It was delivered in a car box, which you totally loved. You ate the hamburger and you drank about 50 percent of the yummy chocolate shake.
I sure hope Holly sends a list of children books that she has, they are fun!
This is Gunner - he is ultra friendly
Chickens, roosters, turkeys
and two barn cats - who loved you.
The cats followed you like a pied piper
Sheep - cool to see and there are more that we saw when walking the farm land
I wonder what type of tree these leaves belong to - they have heart shapes.
Daddy said, "Bed Rock!"
Inside the main farm house, the owners, Peter and Elizabeth, have hatched eggs
Gunner is a friendly dog, but when the cats stayed by your side, I don't know if Gunner was jealous or protective, but he kept a close eye on the cats! He didn't care if the cats came near us, but he was protective of you.
Sheep herd in the distance
Long walks on the farm land means Daddy holds his sweet son on the walk back.
We had a late flight home. No surprise, you whined about the lines. We can all appreciate that, even if we can't whine out loud too. You were happy to get on the airplane and looked out the window. I don't know if you understood how high in the sky we were though. About mid-way through the three hour flight, you fell asleep (so did Daddy). Back in New Orleans, we woke you up, which lead to some fussing. The lady behind us said, "Oh wow, I didn't even know there was a baby in front of us." That's how well behaved you were on the flight!
The next morning, Mommy asked you, "Do you want to go to school today?" You nodded, "Yes" and then jumped out of bed to get changed for school. This week - school color is orange!
After school, we took you to the park. It was such a pretty day.
It was a fun-filled family adventure. You did beautifully at the wedding and it was such an honor to be a part of Deanna and Burkley's celebration of love. It was wonderful to meet TJ in person and give hugs. Farm animals should be second nature to you after all of the experiences you have had. We're grateful for family that allowed us to stay with them and give you bonding time.
Mommy wonders how much of this trip you will remember...