Our darling Gabriella turned three years old last week and we sure have enjoyed celebrating her! We had a special day with just our family on her actual birthday... Matt, Oliver and I walked into her room at 6:30 in the morning all wearing funny hats and singing "Happy Birthday" to her. We also made a trip to get some Sprinkles cupcakes with Granna... always a big hit! She was o-so-excited about getting presents this year. She's at the age where she knows what goes down when it's your birthday! She was also very excited for her "Arts & Crafts" birthday party that we had on Saturday. Fun times!
We were privileged to have some of my family from out of town come up and stay with us for the weekend too! So that made our celebration even more special.
Our big three-year-old!
Awesome cake made by my friend Ashley
Making our shaving cream craft
Happy Birthday to you!
Birthday princess and her cake
She wanted to open her gifts while sitting on the table like her friend Georgia got to at her birthday party... :)
Getting pretty with one of her new gifts!
We finished off the weekend with our 3rd annual Gabriella's-birthday-weekend-visit-to-the-State-Fair-with-my-family. And here's Big Tex to prove it...
Sisters sporting our "Trust for the Dust" bracelets to remember our cousin Dustin who is still in the hospital recovering from a serious car accident
Also supporting the Cowboys... to no avail
A tired birthday girl
Gabriella - we love you, your adorable personality, your fun-loving nature, and your caring spirit. We are so blessed to have you in our family and can't wait to watch you grow and become the woman God created you to be.
After many "are we there yet" chants from the back seat (and one emergency potty stop), we finally made it to Indianapolis and to Dan and Stephanie's beautiful home. The last 30 minutes of the trip always seems to be the hardest! They had made us a wonderful dinner and it was so nice just to be able to relax at their home and go to bed early that night. The next morning we headed out to the Indianapolis Children's Museum which is one of the best museums I've ever been to. Here are some pictures of the kids playing!
Oliver assisting the balls to climb up the ball machine. He stayed here a while and really enjoyed watching this even after the rest of us had moved on.
Gabriella driving a tractor! It really moved just by turning the hand crank. Some pretty amazing physics going on there to allow a 2 year old to make that thing roll!
Digging for dinosaur bones
Exploring the dinosaur habitat
Dress up time!
Hanging out with Uncle Dan in one of the wonders of the world - the Colosseum
Who's ready for Halloween?
On Saturday, we drove to downtown Indianapolis to see Buddy the dog compete in the Wiener Dog Races at a German Festival. His owners were a bit nervous... and Buddy did eventually make it CLOSE to the finish line where unfortunately he became too distracted by the many treats laid out there. It was fun to watch!
We got to spend some time playing games (they are big fans of Ticket to Ride), watching the Texas Rangers, and seeing what their lives are like in Indy. We loved playing at Uncle Dan and Aunt Stephanie's house and hope to get back up there again soon!
Brothers ready to cheer the Texas Rangers on to a playoff victory
We had to drive back to St. Louis to catch the train again. While there, we had the privileged of meeting up with my sister Megan and her family for dinner before we caught the train as they were in town visiting her in-laws. We got to see so many people on our trip and are so blessed to have such a loving family!
Earlier this week, we returned from our big train/road trip across the Midwest to visit Matt's brother Dan and sister-in-law Stephanie in Indianapolis. A few months ago, I looked into the possibility of taking the Amtrak train to visit them. I scoured their website, had many long phone conversations with their customer service people, and picked the brain of some friends who had made the same trip, all trying to determine if this was something that would work for our family of five. We decided to go for it and booked our round-trip tickets from Dallas to St. Louis! That's as close to Indianapolis as we could get by train because of where the rails run, so from there we rented a van to drive the rest of the way to Indy.
We left mid-week after much anticipation! We packed our suitcases, some backpacks full of new toys to entertain the kids on the train, and hoped for the best. The train left from Union Station in downtown Dallas so we headed down there after lunch. The kids were very obedient and excited and we didn't have to wait in the station long before the announcement was made to head out to the tracks to meet the train!
Waiting for the train
We boarded the train around 3:45pm and were off! We had reserved the Family Bedroom and the kids were excited that they would get to sleep in bunk beds (which did have a strap that connected from the side of the bed to the ceiling so no one would fall off - which made mommy happy). The seats converted into beds and Oliver and Matt slept on the top bunks, and Gabriella and I slept on the bottom bunks (Melia got to share a bed with me).
Heading out of town... while Matt listens to the end of the Rangers playoff game!
The train had a dining car and lounge car both of which we visited many times. We had dinner on the train which was a neat experience... watching the landscape pass by as we ate. They had booths like a regular restaurant and the meals were included in the price of our ticket. The food not very good though :( But everything was a new experience which, fortunately, my kids love! They were happy to eat their chicken nuggets and spaghetti and meatballs and have their chocolate ice cream for dessert.
Bedtime was easier for some than others. Let's just suffice it to say that our darling middle child is too social for her own good. But after a few hours of fighting it, she too drifted off to sleep. Melia slept like an angel all swaddled up. We were all up bright and early at 4am though as the excitement of the ride woke them early. I didn't sleep very well either (stops and starts of the train, 3:30am potty trips with our newly potty trained daughter), so I was more than happy to stop trying to sleep and get up with the kids. We had some sweet moments all cuddled in my bed talking about silly things... like who do you know that snores and "Mom, do animals sleep?" A very sweet moment.
We arrived in St. Louis around 7:30am, and were so happy to get to visit with our friends the Szymanski's who had recently moved there from Dallas. Eric was kind enough to pick us up from the train station and take us to get our rental car. Then we got to spend a few hours at their house!! The kids loved playing with their toys and their friends Jeremiah and Kaylie, and getting to stretch out and run after being in the train all night. Matt and I enjoyed getting to shower and clean up a bit after wearing the same clothes for close to 24 hours.
Our silly kids posing for a picture
We were so happy to get to reconnect with them, introduce them to Melia, and see their new home! They kindly fed us lunch and sent us on our way. Next stop Indianapolis. Stay tuned for more from our trip...
"Look at all that hair" is the comment I've definitely heard the most when people see Melia. From day 1 this has been her number #1 feature. Everywhere I go people stop me to exclaim this statement to me. And for good reason. And so, today I say to YOU: "Look at all that hair!"
Working toward something and accomplishing it is a rewarding process. To watch your child finally achieve something that they (and you) have been working hard toward for a long time is an ever MORE amazing feeling.
Today (and for the past 5 days) our darling daughter Gabriella has been potty trained!!! She decided on her own to do it - which in my opinion is really the only way to do it. Other methods we tried with Oliver left us all stressed and disappointed. So after having achieved success with Oliver this way, we employed the same method with Gabby. Oliver was 3 1/2 (a little later than average for boys) and Gabby is not quite 3 (a little sooner than average for girls). Basically, we asked her when we noticed she was going or needed to go if she would like to go on the potty. She would routinely said no. We've been doing this for months with no stress. If she said no, we said we'd try again later. So we just instructed on how the process was to happen when she was ready without ever forcing her to go. She had never even gone ONCE before Saturday when she announced she was ready to go potty. We took her then, and about every 30 minutes that day and she had all successes. She was FINALLY ready. There have been maybe 2 accidents total in the last 5 days and she announces to us (and her teachers at school) when she needs to go.
We have given her a lot of praise (and some candy rewards) and she thrives on both. She got to have her Meme and Pepe here visiting that weekend to tell them and got to call her other grandparents to tell them too. Exciting times!
We still use "bye-bye" and "night-night" underwear (Pull ups) for now, but I don't see us having to do that for long because she is staying dry. Way to go little/big girl. What an accomplishment.