Monday, December 26, 2011

Anticipating Disney

It started a couple of months back when I was watching a television program on my iPad (that's about the only way I watch non-sports these days) and the commercial was for Disney Parks and Resorts and it was played over and over. It's rare that I really and knowingly get drawn in by ads and commercials, but this really, really, really makes me want to pack up the Gates Family (post-Henry) and head south.
I don't know who wrote the song, or who put the video together, or who the narrator is, but this is one good, effective commercial.

Christmas 2011, pt. 4, the Wrap-Up

Another Chirstmas has come and gone. Saturday we drove Grandma Laura, Grandpa Dave and Auntie Haley down to the Parkinson's in Columbus. It was a nice couple of hours of stuffing ourselves with cookies, exchanging some gifts, eating some more cookies, and then driving home in the evening.

We wrapped things up on Sunday with a slow-paced Christmas morning at our house, followed by a slow-paced lunch at Grandpa Doug & Grandma Paulette's house and then the final gift exchange with my parents, Grandma Gates and our family. When we returned home, Jenn and I started the laundary and began picking up the pieces. Lincoln watched Cars, Lydia played with her tea set, and we all cruised into bedtime.
This Christmas was a new mix of emotions for Jenn and for me. I feel like whenever someone expresses anything other than joy and excitement for Christmas that they're labeled as a humbug or there are suspicions that the true meaning of Christmas has been missed. We didn't miss the meaning of Christmas at our house, and in fact we were reminded with story books, Bible passages and prayers every day. And we certainly enjoyed seeing family that we don't often get to see. And hosting out-of-town family as house-guests and Christmas-time-guests
is exactly why we bought the house we did. And we loved seeing reactions like Lincoln's, when he opened his Cars movie: "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED! YEA!! I WANTED THIS!!! MOM! MOM! THIS IS JUST WHAT I WANTED!!!!" And we thoroughly enjoyed giving gifts to our family members (such as the antique sterling ladel with the monogramed "D" on the handel for Grandma Paulette). We can't exclude any of this and we don't want an ounce of it to be discounted.

But this was our most tiring Christmas season. Why? Because Jenn and I are getting older and because we've got kids. That's the big-picture answer. The smaller-picture answers are... Because of the sequence of events at the end of November and the beginning of December, we were feeling rushed to get our tree up in mid-December. Squeezing in gift exchanges before bedtimes, squeezing in cleaning and prepping between work schedules, nap schedules and other parties & get-togethers... and
then my getting what seemed to be the flu during the week leading up to Christmas... it was a new era for the Gates Family. None of these are complaints, just observations.

What would we change about it? It's hard to say. Do we need to change anything about it? Probably not. At the end of the day, Lincoln and Lydia had a great memory-forming Christmas season, everybody got caught up with everyone else, and, because Lincoln is standing right here, I'll ask him this question: "Lincoln, why do we celebrate Christmas?" "Because it's Jesus birthday!" he said. Sounds like another good, and successful Christmas to me.
Our prayers continue to be with Henry, who did not have a fantastic Christmas this year. His next Christmas, though, will be very Merry!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011, pt. 4

This post is specifically for Grandma Laura, Grandpa Dave & Auntie Haley.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas 2011, pt. 3

Mullen Christmas came and went and it was a fun evening at our house. The Cincy Mullens came in to join the Pheonix Mullens (Parkinsons) and Great Grandparents Mullen. We had the usual Mullen Christmas dinner: 7 layer jello, cocktail meatballs, roast beef, relish trays, loads of cookies, and eventually Daffin's chocolates.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Shouldn't Smoke

So I was reading Twas The Night Before Christmas to Lincoln tonight before bed, and we got to the part:
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
Lincoln cut in and said, "Did Santa breathe in the smoke?"

"Yes," I said.

"That's not very good for Santa," Lincoln replied in a solemn voice. It prompted a small chuckle, but he was dead serious.

Christmas 2011, pt. 2

This past Sunday was Donati Christmas. Once again, good food and company!

Then on Tuesday evening we had Christmas w/ the Hopwoods (photos to come), and that's right about the time I started getting sick. I hope it's the flu, because Lincoln, Lydia and Jenn got their flu shots a while back.
Grandpa Dave, Grandma Laura & Auntie Haley arrived yesterday, and Lincoln has been enjoying his time with them. We'll be having Mullen Christmas on Friday, then Parkinson Christmas on Saturday. Jenn has to work on Saturday and Monday (dislike). This is one crazy Christmas season for us. I'll wait for it all to pass before I form and share my opinions this year.

We also found out that the DMV took the wrong sized photos for us. One more reason why I am completely unimpressed with government. So we're going to have to get those retaken and submitted to our agency. This shouldn't set us back in the long run, mostly because FedEx's delays (the ones that we paid good money to them to avoid) are looking like they're going to set us back by about 6 to 8 weeks. We'll see how quickly things go in January, but it's looking more like we'll be going to China around July or August. Time will tell, though.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas 2011, pt. 1

The time between my last blog post and this one make me think of the Mark Twain quote, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." We all are, in fact, here and doing quite well. December has been jam packed with events and activities, and the rest of the month is going to finish up like the first half.

Where to begin?

Jenn and I spent an evening with friends at our ABF Christmas Party. Jenn was one foxy lady. When I got home from work and saw her looking really good in a new, very nice dress, I knew I'd have to pull out my best suit pants and tie. I think we look pretty darn good together!
The adoption paperwork is now in the hands of our agency, Chinese Children Adoption International, and it will soon be on its way to the Chinese government. This past couple of weeks has been quite the ordeal with finally getting our U.S. Immigration
papers back and then getting things to New York and back, and I can't say I'm real thrilled with FedEx on this front. But it's out of our hands now. Jenn was on task from day one of compiling our paperwork, and it's hard to imagine anyone getting to this point in a more timely fashion. Now we're up against Christmas in this country and against Chinese New Year in China. We know it's all in God's timing, but since we don't know what his specific month-and-day plan is, we're praying that things moving along quickly with the agency and the government. All in all, Henry is getting closer and closer to coming home!

We got a late start on Christmas decorating at our house this year.
You may recall that we got the ball rolling in November last year. With work schedules and nap schedules and getting her at this time and there at that time, we didn't get around to finding a Christmas tree until last weekend. All of the blue spruces had been cut down, so after some hiking around and not finding anything over 8 feet, we headed back to the barn to get a pre-cut tree. We ended up with an 11 foot blue spruce that turned out to be quite nice. Getting it to stand safely was another story. This took about a day, and we lost 2 ornaments in the process. I'm going to refrain from giving too many details here, and instead we'll leave this story to the lore and imagination of our immediate Gates family.
Lincoln finished a third round of swimming lessons and he has made great progress. He can swim 5 feet toward the edge with ease, and he's close to being able to float on his back without assistance. He is absolutely unafraid to jump in the water. Funny story: Mr. Tyler, the swimming teacher, likes to pepper the kids with questions to keep them interested and on their toes. Yesterday, he asked Lincoln what his favorite Christmas carol was. Lincoln replied, "Angels We Have Heard On High."
Mr. Tyler then turned to Autumn and asked her the same question. She replied, "What's a Christmas carol." That's right, folks. My kid's the one that rocks out to the old-school Christmas carols!

Lydia continues to grow. She's been battling a runny nose for some time now, and Jenn and I are ready for this to end. She was so congested last weekend that she woke us up every 1.5 to 2 hours on average. Not cool. She's walking with ease now and getting more comfortable with changing directions. She's also eating nearly everything in sight, though in the last 48 hours she seems to have been on a vegetable strike. I think we may have broken this, though, because when she inadvertently put a piece of broccoli in her mouth we all through a big party of clapping and cheering for her, which she thought was simply fabulous. She then ate the rest of her broccoli.

Lincoln has been coming up with some lines lately that have us scratching our head in amazement. For instance, the other day Lydia was in the bathtub and she tipped over her toy boat. Lincoln said, "Oh, look. Lydia capsized her boat." Jenn and I looked at each other and exchanged, "Did he learn that from you?" Unbelievable.
Oodles, the Elf On The Shelf, has been quite the hit this Christmas season. While we certainly have a disobedient boy on our hands from time to time, he knows that he needs to give Oodles a good reason to take a good report to Santa. Each morning he goes looking for Oodles, and when he saw him on the mantle sitting next to one of our Santas, he said, "Oh, now that's funny!"

The other day I put some Christmas lights around the railing of his top bunk, and when he found his room lit up he said, "Hey, Dad! I was really surprised when I walked in my room, and I made this face!" And he proceeded to show me his surprised face. It was really cute.

Jenn and I are looking forward to hosting the Mullen Family Christmas for the first time. It definitely a change in tradition, where Christmas was at Great Grandpa & Grandma Mullen's house for decades, but if anyone is up to the task of putting on a good Christmas and receiving the torch from a prior generation, it is Jenn.
Last evening I took two of my small group middle schoolers to Urban Vision to do some small, odd jobs in preparation for their Christmas Store. This isn't the space to get into all of the details of Urban Vision or their Christmas Store, but suffice it to say that this is one very neat, special mission organization and event. They've got things figured out and are doing a good thing for the North Hill area of Akron. Brandon and Zac, the two that went with me, had been on the Chicago Mission Trip with Edge, so they know what serving others is all about, and it was a good evening to share with them. Afterward, we went to dinner together and had lots of fun.

Christmas is in 10 days. Yikes! We wish you a Merry Christmas...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Polar Express 2011

Lincoln went with Grandma Paulette & Grandpa Doug on the Polar Express last evening.
This is the story of the evening:
Santa asked what Lincoln wanted for Christmas.
Lincoln quickly answered, "Socks."
Santa smiled and said said, "That's a new one for me! Would you like a toy car or truck for Christmas?"
Lincoln replied, "No, socks."

On another note, we received the documents from Immigration that we needed! This is a big step. Now Jenn gets to go to Columbus and finalize our documents so they can be submitted to the Chinese Embassy. Henry's one step closer to Ohio!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving, Take 2

Thanksgiving came and went. We had a very low-key dinner at Grandma Paulette & Grandpa Doug's house with Grandma Gates and Aunt MarySue. After dinner we played Scattergories and Lincoln was in charge of the timer and letter ball.
Last evening we had a second Thanksgiving Dinner with our good friends, Josh & Maria Tollefson. They drove in from Johnstown, PA, for the weekend and we had a great evening, especially after the kids went to bed!

Jenn is off at work this morning and Lincoln, Lydia and I are playing with things around the kitchen while I finish straightening up from lots of cooking and food prep.

It's also been wall-to-wall Christmas music. While we'll never be as Christmas-Crazed as our friends Zach & Kristen (this is two mentions in one week!), we're doing our best to build anticipation with Lincoln. Wait until he sees his Advent calendar next week!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! We have so much for which to be thankful. Particularly, when Jenn and I think about what Henry is doing today, it's awfully humbling to think about our circumstances. This is the first Thanksgiving where Lincoln can start to understand just what Thanksgiving means. This has been a neat series of conversations with him.

Certainly a portion of our thoughts are with Auntie Em & Uncle Jeremy. They went to New York City for their anniversary trip to take in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Hopefully they'll see more balloons than OWS-Loonies.
Yesterday was an odd Wednesday in that Jenn worked (she was off on Monday). Also, Kristen worked at CFVC, which is unusual. The reason why I lead with this is because the Myers have been into Christmas 2011 for some time now, and she had it set to Christmas music in the treatment room. I've been purposely avoiding all the Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving because I don't want to be sick of it all by the time mid-December rolls around. But I started getting into the songs, and along the same lines, I was really getting into the Christmas spirit. This, combined with Lincoln's coming excitement about the season, is going to make for a fun Christmas.

And now Jenn's preparing some Thanksgiving Dinner food in the kitchen and listening to Christmas music. I glad I didn't hear Christmas music in the treatment room in October!
Last evening I met up with my high school buddies at Fischer's. In attendance was Speas, Flaker, Jeff, Lyle, Bob & Bish. Blasts from the past, I tell you. It was good to catch up a little bit. Life has definitely pulled us in different directions, but our friendship is still there. We recalled some funny memories, and that made for a good time.