My Trip to the Hospital

 From December 8th until December 12th, I was at Children's Medical Center hospital with  a severe case of RSV.  Or bronchiolitis caused by RSV.  Something like that.  I let the adults figure all that stuff out, I just know I felt like JUNK!  It was so hard to breathe.  We had quite an adventure!

Mom and Dad took some pictures while we were there.  I thought you might want to see them…

Here we are in the ER at Legacy in Plano.  My nose is bloody because they kept suctioning it with a big ol' machine to open up my airways. YUCK!

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Mom and Dad were amazed at what a trooper I was!  We were there for hours!  I kept falling asleep on Dad's chest.  Here I am just chillin' on my bed…

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They kept putting this big fish that had wet air coming out of his mouth up to my face.  He was funny looking!  After four of these "breathing treatments", I still wasn't responding and it was getting harder for me to breathe, so they admitted me to the hospital.  I guess those fish just don't work on me!  

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We were transported to Children's Medical in Dallas because they
didn't have any room at Legacy.  Here I am on the stretcher.  What an adventure!!

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Then we got on an ambulance.  They let me watch a movie!  That was the best part! 
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I guess my oxygen got pretty low on the trip, so they put some tubes up my nose and I started getting supplemental oxygen.  Mommy and Daddy were so grateful for the awesome paramedics! 

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We finally got there and settled by 2 a.m.  Whew!  I was tired!  And not feeling great…mom said the only good thing about all of this was how much I wanted to be held!  It sure felt good to cuddle in mom or dad's arms.  Especially when the nurses and doctors came in because I got SO scared of them!  Here we are in the hospital over the next few days…  The doctor and nurses were taking good care of me and helping me get better, and making sure I didn't get any worse. 

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Can you believe this was the first time I was ever sick?!  I really did it up, huh?!  I was pretty miserable…I hope I don't have to go through that ever again!

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Getting the IV in my hand was the worst part -especially since they had to replace it the next day in my other hand!  Those ladies just couldn't seem to find my vein…they were holding me down and I was crying and I raised my free arm up and did the sign for "all done" but it still took awhile before they stopped.  The IV sure helped me feel a little better though!  The IV wasn't as bad as the nose suctioning, just because they did that a lot more.  boy, I did NOT like that part.  I got all the strawberries I wanted, though…that was the best part about the hospital!

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Mom and Dad were there the whole time.  Guess they just couldn't leave me! 

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When Papi visited he let me play with his tie, and he was being really silly!  I smiled for the first time in a few days, and that made everyone smile really big. 

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They kept this sensor thingy taped to my toe to keep track of my oxygen level.  They were scared I might get tired of breathing or something since it was so hard to breathe, so that always let them know when it was dipping too low!  I liked it because it glowed red- we called it my "Rudolph Toe". 

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Mom and I took a nap together…

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Everyone had to wear these masks when they came in.  They looked kinda funny! Thanks, Aunt Krissy and Mimi, for bringing Mom and Dad things from home…they were getting kinda stinky. 

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Some of my friends came and visited me, which really cheered me up (and I think mom and dad really appreciated it, too- especially all the food!)!  Here is Miss Julie.  Aunt Krissy, Mimi, Papi, Suzanne, Kim, Pastor Gary, the Harrells, Melissa and Ashton, Melissa and Addison, Michelle, Jill, Jennifer and Kylie also came.  It was so thoughtful!  Mom kept saying that God was showing us such tender mercy and she felt supernatural strength from Him through all of the encouragement and prayers dear people kept giving us. 

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This was my room for that week…

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Pastor Gary always makes me smile!  He prayed for us and mom and dad and that really meant a lot. 

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I was feeling a lot better by the end and was starting to want to play and run around again.  Mom and Dad were so happy!  I still got tired really easy, though.  They wanted me off of oxygen for 24 hours before they would let me go home.

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I got some very sweet cards and fun new animals (which I gave giant kisses to) and toys that really cheered me up! 

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My friends Pierson and Will painted me pictures! 

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Friday afternoon I was all better and ready to go home – yay!! 

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Here is one of the flowers someone gave me, and it reminds me of what our time in the hospital reminds us – life is beautiful and precious.  We're so grateful that I'm fine and I'm going to be fine. ok, I'll admit it.  My mom wrote that last part, not me :)

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Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas celebrations began on the night of the 19th with gift openings with the Swasko clan…here is Clara with her very first present.  It turned out to be a toothbrush! 

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target shooting and ghost wars – what a combo! 

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Clara got her very own chair from Aunt Krissy and Uncle Eric – what fun!

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and Brian's favorite gift…a make-your-own-beer kit!  this should be interesting…

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We finished packing and got in the car…for Colorado!  We decided to drive through the night to make it easier on Clara.  At midnight it turned to December 20th…and our five year anniversary! WOW!!  5 years with my best friend and hero…words can't describe how deeply grateful I am to God for giving me Brian, and me to Him.  I know I don't deserve him and yet he loves me anyway.  He is the most amazing husband and father imaginable and I can't wait for the next 50 years!

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It got COLD!  you can see here it is only 7 degrees!  it stayed in that range the whole week.

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our little angel sleeping…almost there!

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yeah, the last hour was really ROUGH!

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Here Clara is about to walk in and touch snow for the very first time in her life!  how exciting!

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we weren't going overboard with excitement or anything…there's only 3 cameras and 4 adults in this picture afterall…

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whoa!  there she goes!!

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and she likes it!!

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Clara had lots of great things to keep her warm (thanks Jones' and Lindsay's!)…including her little deer suit from Aunt K and Uncle E…sooooooo cute! 

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we got to play lots and lots!

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Going sledding!  See Brian with his legs up in the air??

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The champion sledder!!  they were having contests to see who could go the farthest the fastest…  and Dad won farthest…but I beat Brian at fastest! YES!

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Clara liked walking around as soon as she got the hang of it…its not near as easy as normal ground!                        

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the whole fam!  our toes were turning to ice at this point…

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relaxing!  this is what I spent most of the week doing…reading the Twilight Saga!

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lots of NCAA on XBOX…Brian taught me how to play and I was really getting into it! I also brought "Dummies Guide to Football" because I am determined to FINALLY learn how it all works.  I think Brian was kinda surprised at things I was learning…I've done a good job of faking it for a long time. 

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Clara got this precious plastic nativity play set from her great-aunt SuSu and great-uncle Birdy.  The whole week we would tell her the story of the first Christmas using it and she loved playing with it!  She learned where Mary and Jesus went and could put them in place.  She would also walk around the house with Mary and Jesus and sucking on their heads…and giving them big kisses!  Here she is giving Jesus a kiss.  Talk about bringing tears to a mommy's eyes! 

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Cooking!  We were basically snowed in most of the week so we all took turns and had fun cooking up Swasko-worthy feasts!

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Christmas Tradition…all the girls watching "White Christmas".  It was Clara's first time to join in and that REALLY brought tears to my eyes! 

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Watching one of my all time favorite scenes – "Sisters".  My sister and I must have re-enacted that 400 times when we were little…

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Clara thought it was soooooooo funny to put on any of the adult gear.  Someone would put it on her in one of the bedrooms and say, "Go show everyone!" and she would laugh and toddle out all proud, just waiting on the reaction.  It was so funny how much she knew she was being funny and silly. 

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She also had a nativity book that she loved to read!  I fervently believe that people are never too young to be able to know and connect to God…even if they don't understand it as fully or deeply as they one day will.  God can speak to anyone!  One of my most ardent prayers for her is that one day, she won't be able to remember a time that she didn't love God, or know that He loves her completely, unreservedly and unconditionally. 

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Back out in the snow!  Like Mom's "Snow-Blob"?

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We shoveled out a path down to the lake…I have never ever seen so much snow in my life!!  They usually get an average of 19" the whole month of December, and in six days they got 37"! 

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Giving Aunt Krissy a kiss!

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Brian and I up to our waists in snow!

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He just dunked me, so I'm going after him!

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and yet…what was I thinking??  He got me again!  See my feet sticking out before I'm buried?! 

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buried in snow!

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view of the balcony…the snow is up to the window!

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happy 5 years!

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Brian, Eric and Kristi went skiing one day. (they wanted to go more, but because of the snow storms, the road up the mountain was only open one day!)  They had SO MUCH FUN!!  It was pure powder EVERYWHERE which made it a really different experience than they had ever had.  There weren't many people there and they got to do lots of different trails and try lots of new things.  I'm glad I didn't go because it was below 0 most of the day and I HATE the cold! 

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Brian is one of those black figures…I think the one at the top about to come down!

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Christmas Morning!  Clara got a stocking full of treats!

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But of course…the thing she wanted most was the banana!  (it is the first thing she goes for, as you can see here)  I wonder how many years she'll go for the fruit over the candy or toys??! I'm thinking those days are limited!

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a microphone – woohoo!

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on a walk…

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Sled Train!!

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There is a picnic table  near the house by the lake… my, Kris and I walked out to it so we could jump off and into the snow!  Here we are standing on the table…

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Jumps and Fall!

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Just to show how much snow we had gotten in just a few days, here is a picture of Eric doing the same thing in the same place a few days prior.  And other years we've been there, there have just been a few inches on the ground, so you can see MOST of the table and benches.  Craziness! 

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Family Picture!  Christmas 2008

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Watching the sunset….

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Singing Chrismast Carols…another family tradition!

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Eating at Farrago's…favorite in Pagosa!  mango and goat cheese quesadillas, portabella sandwich…yum!  and local pumpkin beer!

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playing with Papi and all his cool lights…

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Our House…Eagle's Loft #7051

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Clara loved going up to the loft and throwing things off…hopefully this will not transfer back home!

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Clara finding new places to perch…

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view of the mountains from the living room

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now driving home… because of the conditions, we had to go back during the day on the way home – I'm sure you can tell why!  It was all white for the first few hours, but the matrix did great!  What a great Christmas!

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December

We rounded out the year with a quick December!

Clara loves loves loves playing outside.  All day long she runs to the back sliding door or the front door and taps on it whining.  She'll even find her shoes and bring them to you and look up with big, beautiful pleading eyes that are just begging, "please will you put my shoes on and take me outside?"  After the very first time that we left our back gate to take a walk in the woods, every time she goes into the backyard she automatically runs (toddles) over to the gate and starts pulling at it. So out we go into the woods and the trails through there…

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Down the trail we go!

whoa…gotta check something out…

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She wants to see and explore everything!

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Clara also loves playing on her little fort that Mimi and Papi gave her for her birthday.  She can climb and crawl and slide all over it!  Thanks Mimi and Papi for so much fun!

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There are little openings all over it and she laughs and laughs poking her hand through them.

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Early in December was the Women's Christmas Dinner at IBC.  For the first year I didn't decorate a table but just went and enjoyed.  It was so fun to get to spend a special night with such special girls! 

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with beautiful Kim, a kindred spirit and woman I adore and look up to above almost all others.  She inspires me in every area of my life…

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and my bestie Suze…an amazing mommy, friend and woman of God! 

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The following weekend was the annual Village Christmas Party.  It was the first time we didn't have the babies while we were all together!  It was such a fun night with great food, good AND terrible gifts, and lots of laughs…  there was only one problem. 

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YUM

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Jill gets her award…she deserved it.

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Since Brian and I didn't put up a Christmas tree, we had to take a picture in front of the Rhode's tree :)

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So the problem was…while we there, Clara was sick at home with Aunt Krissy and Uncle Eric.  We had no idea she was as sick as she was and we felt HORRIBLE!  When we got home she had a temperature of 103.5.  That was a long night, and poor Clara was miserable.  She continued to get worse and by Monday night she was admitted to the hospital, but that is a story for another post! Here is one pic…

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Life basically stopped for 2 weeks while we were in the hospital and then while Clara recovered at home (I was terrified to take her out anywhere after we got her home because her immune system was so depleted).  But the other highlights of the month were my mommy group Christmas party, which was basically Kim blessing all of us with the most thoughtful night and gifts, an Early Childhood Ministry Christmas party at Gary's house, which was fun to get to just "hang out" with good friends and volunteers without all of the craziness of Sunday, and the "Grand Opening" party for the Harrell's light show, which kicked off the "Christmas Season" with lots of cheer and special reminders of what the season is all about. 

Here is the little bean trying on her dad's shoes…she LOVES shoes – her own and others'.  She is always wanting to try on a new pair!

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A few months ago I blogged about her love for putting her bucket on her head and walk around.  This wasn't a one time or even one-week deal.  It is an all the time obsession.  She loves being a bucket head!

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It's funny when she tries to go into her fort with it…she can't figure out why she can't get in and just keeps banging her head trying to walk in! 

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Then it was time for Christmas!  That will be a separate post, too.

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Clara added a few words to her vocabulary – "hi" and "snow".  She hasn't said "snow" since she was surrounded by it, so I don't know if that still counts, but I'm going for it.  She really drags out the "hiii-eee" and it is sweet.  She eats and eats and eats – it is crazy how much that little girl can put away!  It isn't unusual for her to have an entire can of pears (or peaches, etc.) and a peanut butter sandwhich and a thing of yogurt and a cup of steamed veggies for lunch.  I've looked up several times just to make sure that is ok and it is!  She completely stopped using bottles and went to sippy cups 100% of the time.  She began a complete obsession with bananas…she would eat 100 a day if she could.  Brian seriously looked into planting a banana tree in the backyard, just to save us a trip to the grocery store every other day! (we try and limit her to 2 a day) She calls them "baaa"s.  She knows where we keep them (even when we move them to a new hiding spot) and will go there with her hand reaching up just repeating, "Ba, Ba, Ba, Ba".  She also really loves chairs – especially little ones that she can sit in.  She drags things around that she might be able to plop down on and goes for it! 

YAY December!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Swasko Family, Thanksgiving Dinner

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Let the feasting begin!

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This is a Christmas dress my mom made me when I was just about Clara's age…and now she is wearing it!

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Clara's first Thanksgiving dinner…she had it all – tofu patties, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffing…and she ate ALL of it!

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Out on a walk with Papi…

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Reading with Aunt Krissy…

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Playing…

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Football is a Thanksgiving must…

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wheelbarrow ride!

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Guess what all of these grown ups are doing?

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Watching Clara swing!

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This is the answer!  in case you read my november post…THIS is why Clara always makes the "I don't know! where? or who?" gesture…Mimi always makes it with her! 

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Rhea Family, Thanksgiving Lunch 

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Mamaw and Papaw and their grandkids

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Piggy face!

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the most adorable nephew ever…

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two generations of great Rhea men…

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we won't discuss this one.

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Playing with Ace at the Daniel Gallery…

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Date night with the siblings…

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Thank you Lord, for so many sweet blessings!

Clara Turns 1!

My first birthday party was so much fun!  All of my friends were there, and so was all my family!  I can't believe I'm 1…it was a great year!

We had my party in Zone, Jr. at the church.  Mom said this room would be perfect because there is a giant squishy mat over the whole floor…I guess she thought we might be falling a lot!  Here are some pictures…

Uncle Eric, Papi, and Gene set up the ball pool…

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Here I am in the ball pool with Dylan – that thing was COOL!

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Whoa!  The bounce house was really funny…it felt weird and made me giggle!

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I had lots of help feeding me my lunch…

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After playing for awhile, it was time for the CAKE!  I had never had anything like that and it was YUM-MY!  Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me.  I didn't quite know what to think of it but everyone clapped at the end and I knew what to do then!  So I started clapping, too! 

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Boy, that cake was GOOD and MESSY!

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Here I am doing one of my favorite things – playing with Mimi!

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It sure wears you out to be the birthday girl!

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Next, we opened up presents.  Everyone was so sweet and gave me way too much! 

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Thanks everyone for your sweet words and gifts and most of all, your love and care!

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Pink!  I love Pink!

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My first purse – YES!!

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I also got my first doll – can you tell I am excited? 

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Unwrapping is the best part!

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Now…back to playing!!  WOOHOOO!

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Sophie and I thought it was funny to play in the puppet house…

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Me and Devon

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Drew!

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Helen Kate…

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My two grandpas…they're the BEST!!! 

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Makenna!
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all the Dads hanging out…

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Here mom is with Kristi…I head mom say about a million times this past year, "I don't know what I would do without Kristi!"  I guess Kristi is really good at being a mom…all I know is I like playing with Audrey and Paige!  Whatever advice Kristi gives must be good because I've had a great first year!

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Me and Aunt Krissy – and one of Papi's awesome decorations!

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My Rhea family!  Mamaw and Papaw, Great-Grandma, and cousins Aidan and Sophie…

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and of course, Uncle Larr and Aunt Chris!

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November

wow…november was so long ago!  but I am DETERMINED to get caught up!

These pictures are entitled: Blueberries: One Thing I will Never feed Clara Again While Outside of a Bathtub.

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She was, quite literally, dyed blue for the next few days.  Her cheeks looked like they had bruises on them and I was so scared someone was going to report me to CPS!

Here Clara is at her 1 year check-up with her doctor, Stephanie Rutherford.  Her check up went great!  She was 23 lbs., 9 oz. (on October 28th) and 30 inches long.  We LOVE Dr. Rutherford and her nurse Casey! They are so incredibly sweet and have taken such good care of Clara this year!

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Mimi came and played with Clara at the church for a few hours before she had to go home…

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The weekend of Halloween we went to the lake house.  We originally had planned on going camping because the weather was so gorgeous, but totally chickened out.  We decided with a one year-old, that might not be the best plan.  I am SO glad we decided that!  We still got to enjoy being outside, though, by taking a day trip to Daingerfield State Park, about 30 minutes from the lakehouse. 

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There is a hike around the lake that we attempted.  Clara's idea of a "hike" is not so much moving forward towards a destination, but thoroughly exploring every little rock, twig, leaf and piece of dirt within a ten foot radius of wherever she is on the trail.  Needless to say, we didn't make it very far, but it was so much more fun watching her explore and get so excited about everything she was discovering…at least, it was once we gave up all hope of actually getting anywhere ;)!

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After awhile, she decided we were having way much more fun walking than she was riding in the carrier and was DONE with that. 

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Nothing like hangin' out with Dadley…

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Here she goes exploring…

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Time for a picnic!

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And now…more exploring and playing!

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Lil' treehugger :)

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I can't even begin to describe how much this girl loves being outside!

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It was a wonderful day outside immersed in beauty, but we were happy to get back to the lakehouse…where Clara found something super fun to play with: a shoebox!

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It's juuuuuust the right size!

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This was her favorite face in November.  It cracked us up everytime! (especially with the accompanying "Ahhhhhhhhh" sound). 

Don't believe me?  Check it out!

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ok…back to the post…. :)

mmmmmmmm….smores!  this was the night that Tech beat t.u.  I've never felt so conflicted on who I wanted to lose more. 

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And then…the day we had been waiting for and excited about and anxious about for the past 4 years…November 4th, election day.  I woke up with Hope and looked forward to what the day – and the next four years – would hold.  I will let Brian blog about that day in a separate post.

I'll just include a few pictures of our party.  We put up our flags and streamers and had themed food: purple punch (for unity!), George Washington apples, Samuel Adams beer, Barack-amole (guacamole), Yes-We-Queso, and black bean tamales (I'll let you figure that one out).  Kristi and Eric came over (pretty much our only Democrat friends that live around here) to celebrate with us and watch the returns come in.  Brian and I laughed that it was one of the very first elections that our guy actually won (we live in the 2nd most Republican-populated county IN THE NATION).  It was so exciting!  And especially exciting to think of what is to come!  

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We went to a marriage conference that weekend that was really cool – gave us lots of good discussion!  The following weekend I went to the Right Now and FUSION Lead Now Conferences that were held at IBC.  Even though I was sick (bad cold), I still went to about half the sessions because I just couldn't stand to not hear Erwin McManus, Margaret Feinberg, and Francis Chan speak…it was so cool to see in real life these people whose writings and ideas had so inspired me.  I am still so sad that I missed Don Miller and wish I had just taken some more Dayquil and gone for it!  I am still mulling over some of the things that McManus said. 

In between, Clara got her first busted lip!  We were over at our friends the Weaver's house, and Clara fell on a step and hit her lip.  I felt so bad for her!  It swelled up pretty good.  She also fell in their driveway and skinned her hand and finger for the first time.  I think we decided they should come over to our house next time, instead ;)  Their kids are just a little older than Clara and they are SO SWEET to her!  It is precious to see them playing with her and trying to help her.   

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And then she got a nice scab for a couple of weeks…

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Clara got her very first fork and spoon.  She loves to use them as musical instruments and she loves to hold them in one hand while shoving food into her mouth with the other hand, but hasn't quite got the hang of actually using them as a fork and spoon yet.  But she'll get there! 

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These are my favorite times…

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Just a week after the election, we had another great reason to pull out the blue star ribbon and flags…our good friends and my boss the Lindsay's became U.S. citizens!  They are originally from South Africa, and have been living in the U.S. for over 10 years.  It was awe-inspiring to hear them describe the swearing-in ceremony, where people from dozens of nations were represented.  What an incredible country we live in!  And it was thrilling to get to spend such a special night with them.  We met them and another couple to celebrate at Red Hot and Blue – appropriately American BBQ! 

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Clara loooooves playing with Rebekah!

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We had a fun date night that Brian planned…a "Progressive Dinner" on Main Street in Grapevine.  We started with drinks at a wine bar, then moved on to dinner at a really cool bar called Willhoite's, and then were supposed to have dessert at a bakery, but we were loving Willhoite's so much we just stayed…so I can't say that we really "progressed" that far!  Afterwards, we went to the viewing area at the airport and laid on a blanket watching planes go over above us. I'm pretty sure the other couples there were in high school…not really sure what that says.  It was very cool!

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The rest of the Swasko's had taken care of Clara while we were out, so when we got back, we took family pictures for her 1 year birthday-since she would be turning 1 the next day!

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oh poor girl, she has no idea what kind of family she was born into!

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And then that miraculous, wonderful day was there…Clara was ONE YEAR OLD!!

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I took her to the church for her class, and came into their room at 9:45.  We (her teachers and I…the kids were definitely clueless) sang "Happy Birthday" and I hugged her tight..and cried, tears of happiness and gratitude.  What a precious, perfect gift God had given us. 

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Forward facing car seat now!

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I'm going to do her birthday party in a separate post. :)

So…I never imagined that the first time i would ever go toilet-papering in my life would be as a 29 year old grown woman…at my boss's house…with church staff.  Heck yeah we did.

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Clara, on the other hand, got a much earlier start than me. Please don't report me to CPS.

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Our Children's Staff had a surprise party for Gary and Heidi to celebrate their new American citizenship.  It was way fun, complete with hot dogs, poppers and heartfelt, loud (and some might even argue bad) renditions of "God Bless America" – like the 4th of July in November!

Clara's great-Uncle Wesley (Brian's uncle) made her a rocking duck, and she loves it!

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November was a really neat month in ministry.  Things slow down a little having gotten through the craziness of promotion and the start of the new year, and we're able to tackle some of those big projects we've been wanting to get to.  One of those was starting curriculum in our nursery ministry area (birth – 2 year olds).  This was something I'd been wanting to do for awhile, and it was so incredible to get to be a part of making that happen.  We planned lessons, prepared rooms and activities, and trained teachers, and it was so exciting to see them and parents getting excited about it, too.  So now, from the very youngest age, kids at Irving Bible Church will be learning that God made them, loves them and wants to be their friend forever.  It drives me nuts how many people (even churches!) dismiss preschoolers because they don't think they can "get" it yet… the only reason they're not learning is because someone isn't willing to share it with them.  These kids are so capable, and it is powerful to see even 1 and 2 year olds loving God and loving worshiping Him, and beginning to believe, forming that foundation for faith.  My prayer for all of them is that their testimony one day will be, "I don't remember a time I didn't love Jesus…"

And as much as I was loving work, it was time to take a week of vacation, and had the MOST PRODUCTIVE WEEK EVER!  It was such a GREAT feeling!  Brian and I do good on a weekly basis just to keep up with the basics – laundry, groceries, cooking, cleaning – which doesn't leave a lot of room for those big projects that just seem to pile up.  So that week I was able to clean out/organize the garage, my closet, Clara's room (putting away all of her "baby" items…sniffle sniffle), a couple of kitchen drawers and cabinets, my car go clothes and shoe shopping, get ready for CJ's party, paint the guest bathroom, organize our pictures, do Christmas shopping, put together her baby book and a few other things (I had a 4 page To Do list).  My mom kept Clara one day while I hit 17 stores for various errands!  I was also able to take Clara to the park and play with her all I wanted, which were the best parts!  I never thought I could enjoy a vacation like that, but it was very oddly satisfying to cross things off of my list and to get to bless Brian…does this make my metamorphasis into an old fogey complete?! 

Here we are playing peek-a-boo…

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As you probably remember from the buckethead video, Clara loves wearing the bucket on her head…and baskets…and pretty much anything that isn't a hat or bow.  We'll just be sitting in the living room, and in she walks…bucket on head.

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I love this profile pic of Clara (even though she will probably hate me for it one day) but I just love how she sticks out her little belly.  It literally leads her around – she walks with it stuck out in front like she is being pulled by some invisible string out of her belly button.

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Clara wanted a snack, so she found one.

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Note: full bag of cheerioes making a sea around her

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We decorated the church for Christmas!

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I heard that high-waisted pants are coming back in style.  Clara did, too.

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She loves playing the piano her great-grandma Rhea gave her!

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She likes to turn the music on and then dance to it…she has a new dance where she kinda half-sways, half-twitches in each direction – soooooo cute.

She loves playing with her Dad!  She laughs and laughs when he flips her upside down…

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Thanksgiving was the next week and I'll just make a separate post of that :)

Perhaps the greatest new development this month, and possibly so far yet, was that she started giving kisses.  Nothing can make my heart soar like getting a kiss from Clara!  The first time she did it was the night of her birthday party.  She got her first baby doll from cousins Aidan and Sophie, and when she was playing with it that night she leaned over and gave her a kiss…we were stunned!  It was so sweet!  It was like she knew that is what you do with babies – give them big ol' kisses!  So of course we started asking for kisses then.  She is a lot more stingy with us than plastic dolls, pictures in books and stuffed animals, but still…we'll take whatever we can get.  She also LOVES giving kisses to other babies.  Even before she would really give us kisses, she would go after her friends Helen Kate, Nathan and Drew.  Talk about making our hearts melt!

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She lurched out of my arms to try to give Drew a hug…

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November rounded out with the start of Advent.  We had an event at the church to kick off the season of preparing for the coming of the Chirst.  It is an experiential, family-oriented event, and it was super neat.  It was the first time Clara was in church with us, and it felt so right and so whole.  I loved it.  After the short service, everyone was dismissed to the Town Square (common area) where lots of different interactive stations were set up.  I was in charge of the Live Nativity one, which turned out to be pretty cool, even with the alpaca-dressed-like-a-camel ;) 

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Clara liked the live nativity, too…

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Winding evergreen branches through a wreath, to symbolize everlasting life and the green symbolizing hope and new life…

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November was a big month for the birthday girl.  She started pointing and gesturing for things very well.  She wanted to read books more often, which really excites us, though still no more than a few pages at a time.  But she will come over with a book and hand it off, then turn around and scoot backwards until she plops down in your lap.  Here is Aunt Krissy reading to her:
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I can't believe I haven't written about this yet:  she said her first word!!  On Saturday, November 1st, several times very deliberately and very clearly said, "NO".  I couldn't believe THAT was her first word!!  What in the world?!!  I have said "I Love You" about a bajillion times more than i have said, "No," yet there it was…her very first word.  I don't think that bodes well for our future!  At first I wouldn't believe it, but she said it while shaking her head and even doing the hand crossing gesture of "no," and it was in response to not doing or wanting something…she KNEW what she was saying. *sigh*

She has been saying "mommy" and "mama" and "daddy" for awhile, but she doesn't associate those with only us.  In fact, I think she thinks "mama" means "person" or "me" because everyone she points to she says "mama" and LOVES to point to herself and say "mama" (imitating me, of course). 

By the end of November she was also saying "Hi," which she normally drags out for two syllables. 

Another gesture she picked up was in response to any question like, "Where is your cup?" or "what happened to your toast?," she raises both hands up like, "I don't know! who knows?" it is so stinkin' cute and I have no idea where she got it from, because we didn't do it very often (not like we have done the signs for "please," "thank you" and "more" a jillion times that she has NEVER repeated).  

That was our month! 

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Come See My Park!

This is the park near my house.  I love to play in it!  Do you want to visit?

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First we have to go swing!  I reach my arms up and whine…

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Push me higher, it makes me laugh!

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Now it's time to climb!  That is my favorite part.  I could climb all day!

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Watch me go across the bridge.  Aren't I a big girl?  Why does mom stand so close to the edge?

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Time to go down the slide.  Whoa!  It goes fast!

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Mom laughs a lot when I go under the slide.  I don't get it…something about lots of static electricity…

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Whew!!  I'm tired now!  Sometimes its nice to just take a break on the side…

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Thanks for coming to visit my park today!

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Christmas Fun!

If you are are looking for the best lights show in the metroplex, head on over to 216 Timber Ridge Lane, Coppell, TX at Bret and Jennifer Harrell's house.  Bret has choreographed their Christmas lights to 9 different songs and it is AMAZING!!!  Brian and I were just laughing out loud and then gasping the whole time.  It was truly magical!  You tune your radio to 92.3 FM and you can hear the music that goes along with the lights. 

This year (this is their third year), they are collecting toys for kids at Children's Medical Center in Dallas.  If you go, consider taking a donation as well!

For more information, go to harrellchristmas.com

Have fun and Merry Christmas!!