Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

We decided last minute (um, like yesterday) to continue our tradition of a New Year's Eve party. We've done it for seven years now, but it gets harder and harder every year as kids get older. 

So this year, we decided to fool the kids and count down to 8:30 instead. I'm tellin' you, 8:30 is the new midnight. It was perfect. We ate lots of goodies and played some minute to win it games and then, as the clock struck the golden hour, we blew our horns and popped our confetti. Actually, we skipped the confetti part this year as it is illegal to sell pop-able confetti in Iowa. Who  knew!? Next year I'll plan ahead and hop the border to Illinois beforehand.

Our party was attended equally by adults and kids and I think all had a good time. Including Kate, who apparently had a bit too much milk to drink. 

She recovered quickly. 

She and Miss A, however, thought the chaos and noise was a perfect distraction to enable them to loot the cracker plate. They made out like bandits. 

2013 was a year filled to the brim and I know 2014 has a lot of good in store. 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas time

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
Families drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

Christmas time was truly wonderful this year. Quieter and colder than Christmases in the past, but still full of friends, family and love. 

We sent lots of Christmas cards to friends and family far and near. We keep moving, so our stack to send keeps growing. But luckily, we are blessed to hear from loved ones from many walks of life. Sending Christmas cards is one of my favorite Christmas traditions and the cards we receive are my favorite piece of holiday decor. They stay up long after the tree and other decorations come down. Mondays are always great mail days in December. 

We loved having Ryan home this year. Thanks to mandatory shut down at John Deere! 

Christmas is always full of wonderful music. I am the accompanist for our chruch congregation's choir and I had a stack of music to prepare for all month. I loved it. The Monday before Christmas, we participated in a multi-family musical evening. Lots of people performed various instruments (Leah even rang some bells!), we all sang carols and I got to perform Sleigh Ride with my friend Haley (who also used to play with her mom). It was such a fun night. I hope to make it a tradition! 

Christmas Eve we made a delicious crab dinner (can it be Christmas Eve every night?). We left food for the reindeer outside on our deck, watched a movie as a family and then tucked the girls in. They didn't fall asleep until 11pm and it seriously made my heart soar. Two sisters, giggling in their room, speaking their own language to each other, both so excited for Christmas morning. They did finally fall asleep and Santa came! With our help, he set up shop in the front room and hung the stockings on the couch (married for 10 years and we still have never had a fireplace!?). 

In the morning, the girls were ecstatic to receive their gifts. Leah got a horse (named Apple) and she loves to pet it. Kate got a kitchen that is sure to get plenty of use. She currently uses the water dispenser as a soap dispenser and then cleans her hands in the sink. Pretty clever if you ask me. Kate was our official present-hander-outer...and after all that hard work, she made it known that she would not continue until her morning banana had been consumed. Once fed, she was happily playing with toys (and their boxes) again. Leah was thrilled to see that the reindeer found the food she left for them. 

Christmas afternoon we had our friends the Oakes over for a delicious ham dinner and enjoyed a quiet evening with them. 

Church was cancelled the Sunday before Christmas due to bad weather, which was a let down because it's always one of my favorite Sundays. Luckily, the musical program I had prepared for for months was actually performed the Sunday before that. And, we got gussied up the following Sunday instead, so we really just lengthened our Christmas celebrations. Never a bad thing.
It was simple and perfect and we were spoiled out of our minds. We are so grateful for our multitude of blessings and our incredible family and friends all across the globe. We are grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ and for the time we can all take to celebrate His birth at this time each year. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas card 2013

2013 brought a year of change for the Layton family four. 
With everything we were blessed to do, it certainly wasn't a bore. 
Ryan graduated from Tuck in June with an MBA. 
John Deere is where he works...and where he will hopefully stay!
Maren continues to do her thing, just in a different place. 
Iowa is where we moved, and so far it offers a slower pace. 
Leah turned six this year and still loves going to school all day long. 
She continues to teach us daily how to be brave, patient & strong. 
Kate is no longer our little baby, she talks and walks and climbs. 
She makes us laugh and smile, and keeps us on our toes at all times. 
Running the Boston Marathon for Rett was a turning point this year. 
We weren't able to finish, but felt comfort from friends & family dear.
We send our love and well wishes and hope the coming year is great. 
With love from the Laytons: Ryan, Maren, Leah and Kate

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snow (Sun)day

Church was cancelled this morning after a decent snow storm last night...that nestled onto a layer of ice. When most families in our congregation have to travel at least 20 minutes to get to the church building, and we all have to cross state the state border on a bridge across the Mississippi into Iowa, it just isn't worth the risk. 

So, it was declared a snow Sunday. Normally we don't play outside on Sunday, but we had to clear our driveway. So...while mom shoveled, dad took the girls on sled rides around the yard. And we gave and received service by helping our neighbors shovel and accepting their service when they came by with their snow blowers!. 

I have to admit, it definitely beat wrangling a squirmy Kate during three hours of church! 

 There's not much cuter than a Katers in her snow pants and hat...
even with her trademark scowl.
 Kate is not known to keep quiet when she wants in on the action.
 The piles on the side of our drive way are climbing to the sky!
 Finally her turn...
Sharing sisters.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter Concert

Leah participated in her elementary school's annual Winter Concert today. Each grade sings 2-4 songs in addition to a performance by the band and orchestra. I was extremely impressed by the caliber of the performances - especially from the music teacher who accompanied every single song! 

The kindergarteners sang Up on the Housetop complete with Santa hats and beards and they also sang a song about puppies that was really darling. Each student had to bring in a stuffed toy puppy. I'm not huge on stuffed animals, so Leah doesn't have many, but I remembered that a puppy was one of the three stuffed things I owned as a little girl, so I searched through my childhood boxes and found the puppy that I used to keep on my bed!

Leah did a great job. Though she can't sing, she does communicate with her eyes and she did so great looking at her pictures each time her class had a part. I was actually really impressed with her accuracy! 

Nice work Miss Leah!!
 Leah walking to the stage with her fabulous morning para, Mrs. Stoneking
 Singing Up on the Housetop
 Looking at her picture cards as her class sang "Yip Yip Yip" (their puppy sound)
Smiling when she found us in the crowd!

Ward Christmas Party

Tonight was the annual Christmas party for our ward (church congregation). We have made some really great friends in our ward here and we are so grateful for that. It was fun to get together during the week to celebrate the season. 

A delicious ham meal was served (I have a serious love for ham) and a barbershop group serenaded us for the first half of the evening (I also have a serious love for barbershop music...I'm not kidding). I was in heaven! 

And to top it off, I got to listen to the music distraction free. Obviously kidding. I was at the back of the gym wrastling these two little ladies. They sure have some sweet dance moves.

After the show and dinner, we decided to let the girls have a visit with Santa. 

Apparently Kate would have rather been tortured by water boarding? She screamed and screamed and promised me that next year, if we don't make her see Santa, she'll actually sit quietly during the entertainment and she will kindly eat the food she is given. Lesson learned. 

If my Christmas cards hadn't already been printed and mailed, I would have seriously considered this one as a candidate. 

Ward party success. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chicago in 48 hours

When we moved to  Iowa, one of the top items on our to-do list was to find Leah a new neurologist. We made an appointment with a nuero in Chicago recommended by a few fellow Rett families, but when I made the appointment in August, his first availability was in December! I guess that's a sign of a good doctor!?!? We hoped so. 

And then, since we were driving 3 hours to get there, we decided to make a quick weekend out of it. So, after a quick commute, we stopped at IKEA, then made our way to Rush for the appointment. Where we got lost once or twice. Then had a lovely appointment with the neurologist (who we like very much so far). Then got lost again. Then we had Leah get some blood drawn (she is a full fledged champion at this). Then we got lost again (Rush is huge!) Then we waited in a waiting room for an HOUR to get an EKG. When I had finally had enough, I went out into the (deserted and slightly dark) hallway to figure out what the hold up was...and a nice gentleman working in one of the only lit offices told me that he was pretty sure everyone else had gone home. It was "Friday afternoon after all, ma'am". 

I will spare you my thoughts. 

So, we packed up and left and made our way into the North Bridge area of Chicago where our hotel was. We got settled as quickly as we could, then bundled up to walk a few blocks to Rainforest Cafe to eat. We initially wanted pizza, but with our delay at the hospital, we knew the girls wouldn't last waiting for deep dish to cook at a restaurant. And they loved Rainforest. Win win. 

Then we bundled up again and took them out to Michigan Avenue to see the shops and the lights. It really was a magical place, but the magic was lost a little in the chill. Those little ladies were troopers. So was Ryan clomping along in his big, fat boot. 

When we got home, we had a late night facetime with grandma and grandpa Layton and then went to bed. 

In the morning we had breakfast at the hotel where Leah was pleased as punch with her fancy pants pancakes and Kate thought she was the bomb dot com to be using a big fork. I didn't have the heart to burst her bubble...

And then we made our way about 30 minutes out of the city to meet up with our friends the Fosters. They took us to their community's Christmas celebration. We got to see a reindeer (named Snowflake). 

Jolly Old St. Nick met his jolly match. 

Not Kate, Leah! 
Kate didn't like the red/white suit...but she did like the red/white candy the man in the suit gifted her with. 

After that we had a tractor ride that nearly sent us to our graves and then made our way back to the Foster's house to have some delicious chili and just hang out. This picture sums it up perfectly. And Kate and Olivia aren't in it because I'm certain they were off participating in toddler shenanigans together. They are trouble. Cute trouble. But trouble. 

We made a stop at Trader Joe's before we headed home. Obviously. 

Other than the waiting room fiasco, it was a fabulous 48 hours in Chicago and we will be doing it again. Hopefully on a warmer weekend next time.