Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year of Blessings

As I reflect on this year I can't help but think just how blessed we have been this year. We have had trials and hard times and scary times but through it all God's plan was bigger and so much better than ours.
We started the year as a family of five. We were healthy and happy and thought we had everything we needed. But God knew we were missing someone. A little someone who would complete our family. We found out at the end of January that we would welcome another baby later in the year. It was a shock to be sure and definitely took some adjusting to and some room rearranging but in September we were so excited to welcome our first BOY! JP has been such a blessing to our family and now, 3 months into his life, I just can't imagine life without him.
We started the year healthy, although I was starting to have some concerns about Emmie's hearing. After a hearing screen at preschool we found out that she couldn't hear out of one ear and could only hear a little out of the other ear. We didn't know what that meant for her future but were so thankful that after having tubes put in and her adenoids taken out she could hear again. She even told us later that she wasn't "stuffy" anymore. We are so thankful that this was discovered before she started kindergarten and we are amazed at her ability to compensate as Paul and I were the only ones who thought something was wrong.
We started the year a food allergy free family and in April our lives were shaken up when Ruthie was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. We later found out that her allergy is more likely to cause an anaphylactic reaction. We feel so blessed that as of yet she has not had an anaphylactic reaction and that God protected her the times she had peanut butter before we knew she had the allergy. (Some hives on her face is the worst reaction she's had.) We are also thankful for the love our big girls have shown Ruthie. They never complained with their peanut butter was taken away (and they ate it twice a day some days!). They have been her champion and protectors and I am beyond proud of them for their understanding.
At the beginning of 2015 I was stressing over where to send Emmie to kindergarten in the fall. We live in a district that has school choice and so you can enter the lottery to go to school you're not zoned for. We have LOTS of wonderful magnet schools we could have gotten in the lottery for and we also have lots of really wonderful elementary schools. I spent all of January dragging Ellie and Ruthie to many schools and did a LOT of praying about what was best for ALL of our children. Even after we got our first choice I still did some second guessing. August came around and we are SO happy with Emmie's school (although I know we would have been very happy with any of our three choices). She is absolutely loving school and has many friends from preschool that are there as well and I love how close her school is to preschool.
We had a big scare this summer when the girls were in bed and Paul and I heard a horrible thud from their room. We know right away that someone had fallen out of the top bunk. In the end Ellie ended up having a fractured wrist and that was it. When we pieced together what happened we were even more thankful for just a fracture. She leaned backwards on a pillow that was over the opening for the ladder and it is very scary to think how bad it could have been if she had landed on her head, neck, or back instead of her arm. Ellie was such a trooper and was so brave through the whole experience. (Emmie on the other hand is just starting to get over the trauma.) Not long after JP was born Ellie injured her arm again. This time it was just a nursemaid's elbow and thankfully the pediatrician could fix it in the office. We're hoping 2016 is nicer to sweet Elllie!
One of the biggest events of 2016 was the flooding in October. We were so, so blessed to not have flooding at our house (and are so thankful for all our friends near and far who checked on us) but we have  so may friends who lost everything. We have watched these friends as they have faced the task of rebuilding their lives. We have been amazed at their resilience and their faith in God and their testimony of the amazing ways God protected them. Events like this really remind you that things are just things and can be replaced. It is so hard to sit and watch pictures of the devastation on the news and realize that this isn't some community hundreds of miles away but these are roads I drive on daily that are crumbling and stores that I drive by on a regular basis are under water or collapsing. These are people we know that have lost everything. I still get a knot in my stomach when I see a road caved in or a barricade or when it rains hard and we start getting reports of flooding again. Or when I drive over a river that is out of it's banks. It was hard to explain to Emmie and Ellie what was going on. Emmie is very sensitive to what others are feeling and what's going on around her and we had to take her outside and show her that we were ok. I am so thankful for our safety and the safety of our friends and community. We were so blessed to watch our community pull together and help those in need. And it wasn't just the people in Columbia who came together it was people all over the country. I had friends from all over the country that found ways to give to the community in different ways and there were times their generosity and love for the people who were hurting brought me to tears. Someone in Columbia wrote a blog post (and I so wish I could find it) that said that Columbia's biggest problem after the flooding was that people were too generous. Every time a need was expressed it was met beyond what the relief shelters could handle. What an amazing problem and what a blessing for our community and a reminder that amid all the ugliness in the world today there is also so much good.
One of the things I'm most thankful for this year is water. That sounds funny after lamenting about the flood but perhaps I should specify that I'm thankful for CLEAN water. We had to boil our water for a week (and let me tell you we were super thankful that we had water to boil because so many didn't have water at all) and it was a lot of work. You don't think about all the things you do where you might use just a little bit of water and now you have to remember not to turn the sink on to do that quick rinse but instead you have to use the boiled water. So I am so thankful for my nice clean water!
We are so looking forward to what 2016 has in store for us (hopefully fewer medical bills and more sunshine!) A year ago we never dreamed we would start 2016 as a family of 6 but now we wouldn't want it any other way....we are blessed!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Eve and Christmas

Yesterday we went to the children's service at church which was fabulous as always. After the service we came home and hung out until after dinner. One of Ellie's FAVORITE things about Christmas is our Christmas Eve tradition (she's been talking about it for weeks). We drink hot chocolate, eat cookies, candy canes, and popcorn, and watch the Polar Express. This year Polar Express wasn't on TV for me to DVR (what I usually do) and so we borrowed it from a friend but then I realized the DVD player is upstairs (and only half works) and there was no way I was letting them have their hot chocolate on the carpet. So we watched the original Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas. The girls loved them.

Afterwards we read about the birth of Jesus from their Jesus Storybook Bible and then wrote letters to Santa, sprinkled the magic reindeer food and they headed off to bed while Santa got to work setting up Christmas!

Christmas morning they slept until about 7:15 (we actually had to wake Ruthie up because the big girls were ready to get up and JP slept through the whole thing. We got up and did Santa and ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then the Rainey clan showed up.

As you can see, Snackee cups were the hot ticket item at our house this year. The girls have been talking about them for MONTHS and were so excited to get them...Santa had even filled them up with water and a snack!

Emmie got a dress, a Barbie toy she wanted, and a snackee

Ellie got a snackee, Pocahontas, and a Pocahontas book

Roo got animal hand puppets, Cuddle Bear, and a snackee

JP got some black and white books, bibs, and plates

We all LOVE to watch Franklin open his presents. He gets soooo excited!

Both girls were very excited to get new Billie B Brown books in their stockings.

Gran and Grandaddy (aka BOO!) came and brought Uncle Ben and (soon to be) Aunt Ruth with them. We were so excited that Ben and Ruth came to spend Christmas with us this year!We opened presents and then my mom fixed a delicious meal (steak, twice baked potatoes, and salad..yumm) and Grandaddy churned some cookies and cream ice cream! Since it was about 80 outside it was a perfect day for ice cream!

Roo is a giant!

Ruth had JP laughing and it was sooo cute!

Ruth and Ben took a video of their plane taking off and the girls were fascinated.

Paul got not one but TWO purple shirts from my parents.

The girls were very excited about getting Inside Out

JP was pretty excited about his oatmeal...1 more month buddy!

Each of the kids got 1 big present from us. These were definitely the presents that I was most excited about and I was super excited for everyone to get them! (JP's present was a set of about 60 blocks...they're not pictured...pretty sure he was napping again by this point.)

Emmie - Barbie house. Emmie wanted to ask Santa for a Barbie Dreamhouse but after looking up the price online I told her that I didn't think Santa could bring it this year (plus she told me really late in the game so I didn't have time to hunt down a good deal.)  However, I later found this "Barbie" house which is actually a very similar one to a friend of hers. She was soooo excited!

Ellie: tent. Ellie immediately went and got her pillow and blankets and the girls have been having a great time "camping" in the tent.
Ruthie: trampoline. I came up with this on my own because Ruthie loves the trampoline at My Gym and she has sooo much extra energy. I thought the trampoline would be a great solution for getting some of that excess energy out. All of the girls have loved the trampoline and I think we've finally gotten to the point where they're not fighting over it constantly.

Ruth also had a BIG surprise for me and the girls. We had to close our eyes...

And when we opened them we all had flowers and a card.

She asked me to be a bridesmaid and the girls to be flower girls. We are all so excited and honored to be a part of Ben and Ruth's wedding!
Then Uncle Ben got to tell the girls that they were going to fly on an airplane to come to the wedding. Oh my goodness they are beside themselves with excitement...they been obsessed with flying since Ben moved to Arkansas.
We were able to visit with everyone for the rest of the afternoon before they headed back to Greenville.

Ben hanging out with his nephews. I think they're plotting against me.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dear Ruthie

Dear Ruthie,

Two years ago we welcomed you into the world, after much anticipation about whether you were a boy or a girl! When we went into the hospital to have you we still didn't have a girl name picked out. We were down to Rose or Ruth but as soon as we saw you we knew you were our Ruthie! You have been such a wonderful addition to our family and you bring us immense joy. You have a BIG smile and a BIG heart and you also have recently developed a BIG two year old attitude (you love to say no and no mama)!
Ruthie one of my favorite memories of you is when we brought you home from the hospital, We set you on the floor in your carrier. Your big sisters gathered around and your eyes just lit up! You were so, so happy to be part of the world and part of our family. You were very aware of your sisters from day one and you have always wanted to be right in the middle of what they are doing.
One thing I know Ruthie is that no one will ever be able to tell you that you can't do something. "Can't" just isn't a part of your vocabulary. If you can't reach something you figure out what furniture or toy you can rearrange and stand on to get it. When you couldn't get outside you learned to crawl through the doggy door. You are so determined and so independent. I loved watching you learn to walk. Every night after dinner you would get down from the table and practice walking in the den. You didn't do it much any other time of the day and you never wanted us to help you but every day you walked a little better and you learned on your own and you were so proud when you finally became a walker!
This year was a big year for you. You learned to walk and talk. (It's now very hard to believe that only a year ago you hardly talked and in fact didn't make much noise at all!) You were diagnosed with a peanut allergy and we're pretty sure you have a citrus allergy too. You went from a little baby who just sat in my lap quietly to a toddler who is affectionately  known as Taz or the Tornado around our house! You moved into the big girl room this year which you've LOVED (the rest of us not as much since the child who once went quietly to bed every night now parties late into the night). Both of your sisters now go to school 5 days a week and you miss them so much when they're gone.
The biggest change for you this year is that you became a big sister! I was so worried about how you would handle the transition because we'd always treated you like the baby but you did amazingly well. From the day "PP" or "P" was born you have treated him like he's your own personal baby. You are so sweet to him and overall you are surprisingly gentle. You spent the first month of his life following him around with his blanket and pacifier which was so cute! You still bring me his pacifier if you find it laying around in the house. I just know that you and "P" are going to be big buddies and I can't wait to see what kind of adventures you will have together. I can't tell you how happy it makes  me to see how much you love your brother.
Ruthie you love to sing and dance. Your favorite song right now is Holy, Holy, Holy. You like to read books. You loved the pool this summer. You adore swinging. You love going to My Gym. You love to play with your sisters' toys (you don't need to play with baby toys because you are NOT a baby).  You love babies and other children. If there's a baby anywhere in the vicinity you will find them, point them out to me at the top of your lungs, and you want to pat their feet. You spend a lot of time fighting with your sisters over toys but do pretty well sharing with other children. You want to be a big kid so badly. Everyday when we drop Ellie off you go into the class, answer the question of the day, and "sign in". You're pretty sure that you can do anything the big girls can do and you get so mad if people tell you that you're too little.
You have an infectious smile and paired with your curls people just fall in love with you. You are so, so friendly and you say hi to everyone and you love to give hugs. When we left your last allergist appointment we were around the corner checking out and I heard the allergist tell his resident that kids like you remind him of the reason he went into pediatrics. You are just full of joy.
Ruthie I hope that you always believe that you can do ANYTHING and never let anyone tell you that you "can't". You are the epitome of the Shakespeare quote "though she be but little she is fierce".  I hope you keep on smiling because you light up the room when you smile. I hope that you always take on life head on and at full speed. I know that there are big things in store for you sweet girl and I can't wait to see you tackle life and all its ups and downs. Most of all Ruthie I hope you remember that no matter what hurdles life throws at you, your family are your biggest cheerleaders and we love you no matter what. You have sisters who are your fiercest protectors and you have a brother who I'm pretty sure will be your constant companion and partner in crime and you have a mommy who loves you forever and a daddy who's heart melts everyday when you come running to meet him at the door and give him a big hug and kiss.
We love you Roo Roo and can't wait to see what 2 has in store for you!

1 year old


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Activities

We have been busy getting ready for Christmas around here!

Paul was tasked with the Santa visit this year. One of the local girl scout troops did a breakfast with Santa at Spring Valley Pres and since I was working I sent Paul and the 4 kiddos to get pictures taken. Bahahaha. He said it went really well...after Ruthie got over the heart attack she had when Santa walked in!

The first Sunday in December our church had its children's program. The first year you can participate is in kindergarten and so Emmie was over the moon excited to get to be part of the program. She practiced her songs for weeks! We were so proud of our little sheep! (Although she was a bit disappointed that she didn't get to be a donkey?!)

That same Sunday I took the big girls to see Dance Theater of Columbia's production of Babes in Toyland. It was so good and the girls loved it! One of the best things about DTC performances is that the girls know so many of the dancers and they love finding the dancers they know. (Also that's the last picture of Emmie with all her baby teeth...she lost her first tooth on the way home!)

A few weeks pervious we went to the Babes in Toyland breakfast and the girls were able to meet the characters and take pictures with them!

We caught up with Little Bo Peep on the way out and Ellie was so excited to get a picture with her...two Little Bo Peeps!

Last Wednesday the children's choirs at church performed at a retirement community. They did a great job and the little cherub choir was so cute. They got to use the bells so my girls loved that!

I love this picture of Ellie holding her bell correctly!

(I didn't get much of Emmie because I was having some recording issues with my phone)

On Friday Ellie had cookies and carols at preschool. She practiced her songs all week and was so excited that Paul's parents and my mom were able to come! Ellie did a great job and loved every minute of her performance!

Ellie and Mrs. Jessica, one of her teachers

Emmie also had her school Christmas party on Friday so my mom stayed to keep the kiddos while I went to the party. I picked up a sick little girl after school on Monday and was worried she would miss her party but her fever finally went away Tuesday night and she was back to normal Wednesday!

I was so excited that I could go to the party because usually I miss stuff like this because I have everyone else in tow. I loved getting to spend time in Emmie's class and meet all her friends and talk to her teachers! The kids made a craft, decorated cookies, and ate lots of Christmas goodies!

One of Emmie's best friends at school

We started off our Christmas vacation on Monday with some gingerbread house decorating with friends! Little Emerson and Henry came over and the kids had lots of fun decorating their houses and eating two tons of candy!

Emmie's house:

Ellie's house:

Ruthie's house:

Ruthie got sidetracked pretty quickly by the eating of the candy but she did love getting to decorate a house this year like the big girls!