Tuesday, April 22, 2014

november backlogs: house full of nieces

We have been blown away by how many people have come to visit us over our years here in Virginia!
Everyone has been so wonderful to us, family and friends alike. 

We had been especially eager that my brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Amy, would be able to come out with their two little girls, Abby and Bell. We knew it'd be a tricky trip for them, and it would be the first time flying for the girls! It was a big endeavor. But after a lot of talking and planning, they came our way!

They came in on a Thursday night, and we waited for them at one of our favorite pizza places, Arosto.
We could hardly contain our excitement. We kept texting and calling back and forth, anxiously awaiting their faces to peek around the corner.
Before we knew it, I spotted an Abby in a Minnie sweatshirt barreling towards the door! Squeeaaal!

We could hardly believe it was true. But, sure enough, their little voices were speaking to us and their arms were wrapped around us, and we all plopped down in the restaurant and just took a big sigh of relief. They made it! They were here! Hurrah!
There's something so indescribably wonderful about having a little person love you. I'm sure I'll get an even bigger dose of those beautiful vibes when I have a child of my own, but being an aunt is a special kind of perfect. 

I had to work on Friday, so I got up early and went to work and Dusty got to spend the day with them since he only had one class. 
They sure do love their Uncle D!

It was pretty much torture being at work and missing all the fun, so I ditched out early in order for Dusty and I to join them all at the children's museum downtown. It was so fun! Definitely better than Interlibrary Loan work, I can tell you.

The children's museum is actually quite wondrous. It's expensive, but there are several floors of fun, and I think the girls had a blast!
Abby especially loved the big colorful slides.

When we first got there we joined them in the block party room, and Dusty got right to work, building them a block house.

Needless to say, they're the cuties of the century.

Baby time moves so much faster than adult time. The last time we saw them was at the end of May, and already they had changed and grown so much. Abby could now say Uncle D instead of just Unc'D. She was bigger and better and more articulate, and Bell was running around like a monster and her little head was fuzzier and almost hairy. 
It seemed like too much to take in!

We were perfectly fine just letting the girls lead the way, talking to them and asking them about life. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? 
We built things, went down slides, inspected the faux-river contraption, played with rain, smiled and giggled and played.

They are seriously the most attractive family in the world. So much cuteness. 

That night we were going to the Turkey Bowl, which is the annual law school vs. seminary flag football game. It's usually really fun, but this year they were playing on the intramural fields (instead of the university's actual football field, which is way more fun), and it was really cold and it started to rain!

Lookit Bell's little red nose!

Abby sat on my lap calling out Uncle D's name over and over and over!
She kept cheering him on and wanted so badly to join him on the field. It was absolutely adorable.

The law school won by one point!! 
It was so exciting, especially since we had won the game the past two years in a row too -- it was only right that we get a turkey at the turkey bowl! 3 wins in a row!

The girls were actually really great for most of the night, but they ended up ditching out a bit early to wait out the rest of the game in the warm car -- it was so cold and so rainy! There was a chili cook off after the game, so once the game was actually over we all went over to the law school to eat.

Unfortunately, this started the series of unfortunate virginian events that would thus plague the rest of Chris and Amy's trip here...
When we walked into the law school, Bell was having an enormous allergic reaction -- her face was puffy and red, her nose was running, and one of her eyes was completely swollen shut!
It was such a shock, we had no idea what was going on!!

We checked around for local urgent cares and found one that was open, and I jumped in with Chris and Amy and the girls to head down there. On the way there we figured out the culprit -- we had brought some blankets from home to the game to cozy up to, and when they got in the car to head to the chili cook off Bell had been rubbing one of them on her face. It was an extra soft blanket we had been keeping on the couch, so the cats often sleep on it. Apparently Bell is allergic, but she hadn't had any reaction to them until the blanket was right up against her skin!!

It was crazy and scary and so sad, the poor thing. I can only hope she doesn't remember her time in Virginia, because I think she'd hate us! She had it rough for the rest of the trip!
I waited in the lobby and played games with little Abby and her soft bunny that she carries around with her everywhere, while Chris and Amy went in with Bell to see the doctor. They got her some medicine and we all just hoped she would sleep alright!

The good news was that the next day was Saturday, and a new day brings new adventures and a fresh start. 
Bell was looking much better, although she struggled with congestion and sniffles the rest of the trip. 

We had a beautiful morning downtown, wandering around the farmer's market and grabbing coffee from White Hart.

So darn cute, I can't even.

We went to our favorite breakfast place, Market at Main, which was delightful. It's always fun to share our favorite places in Lynchburg.
We met our server, Stuart, who remains an inside joke between us. He would occasionally pop up and join in on the conversation before we even realized he was there. I think he made some Battlestar Galactica references, too. He was a great server, but let's just say it wouldn't be the last time we'd see him!

We ended up back on campus to check out a little place called Kid's Cove at the big campus church. It's free, and I know a lot of local families who would take their kids there for a few hours to play and hang out on lazy and/or rainy days.
The girls had a blast, but it was quite the experience -- I can only explain the air as being thick with children. It was almost musty...it was humid. It smelled. Like feet and diapers. But, I mean, let kids be kids.
Overall it's a pretty cool place. A jungle gym, slides, a giant whale. And it's free, so smells schmells, right?
We let them play around for an hour or so and just focused on letting our bodies adjust to the stench.

That night we arranged for our friend Victoria to watch the girls so Chris, Amy, Dusty and I could all go out to dinner!! 
We always go to Jimmy's on the James with guests, especially with my parents because they love it so much, so by this time I'm sure they felt like they already knew the place by heart. 
It was so fun to hang out just the four of us. We talked about life, love, marriage, kids, God, the works. It was really invigorating and made us both excited for the chance to spend more time with them once we move back to Arizona! 
And of course eating yummy food and delicious desserts always helps.

Unfortunately, the night wasn't perfect, because halfway through dinner I received a text from Victoria saying that she was changing Bell's diaper in the bedroom and Abby yanked my hairdryer from our dresser right onto Bell's head. 
Like I said, Bell had it rough for this entire trip. She just couldn't catch a break!
Poor Bell had a big ol' swollen cut on her forehead when we came home. 
Victoria of course felt awful, but it obviously wasn't her fault. Older siblings can be unabashedly violent at times. Who knows what was going through Abby's head! Haha. I'd love to know.
I couldn't help but laugh-cry about the whole thing, because poor Bell is the sweetest thing and was just struggling with the worst experiences. I was hoping and praying that this wouldn't make them all hate traveling forever and ever. 

Once the girls went to bed we pulled out one of our many board games, because Chris and Amy are the best game friends. 
Clad in our pajamas, we made some hot chocolate, and played Smallworld: Underground late into the night.

The next morning was a lazy Sunday, sleeping in and having donuts and letting the girls sleep a little extra.
We didn't have much planned for the day, so we just let our hearts guide us.
(Which is how we ended up with the donuts). 
Heart-led, spontaneous days are sometimes the best because you end up just loving the people you're with and not caring so much about plans or must-do's or anything else. This day was probably my favorite of all. 

It became a day of parks.

After breakfast, we all got dressed and walked up the hill to our little park. It isn't much, but it's never crowded and feels very special and secluded, surrounded by trees.
It was a cool overcast day since it had been raining so much that week.

Dusty and I grabbed Abby to take her up to the park, and I stole some much-needed Auntie/Abby bonding time while Amy finished getting ready with Chris and Bell.

I also let Dusty borrow her, though, because they're already the best of friends.

Warning: this post is quickly developing into a long list of adorable park photos. So if you're opposed, go somewhere else. 

For lunch we headed over to possibly our favorite pizza place of all time, Rivermont Pizza.
It's this great little place that's semi-underground. It feels like a little basement restaurant, and is always full of couples and families. There's a second section to the restaurant that's the bar area, too, so there are fun happy hours and a lot of local people just hanging out. They have the most delicious pizza as well as one of my favorite appetizers ever, called The Schmidt (which makes me giggle, because of New Girl).

Bell slept in her car seat all through lunch, so the five of us just sat and enjoyed the place.
We also saw -- guess who? -- Stuart, who apparently works two restaurant jobs!
When we walked in, Chris did a double take, like, wait -- was that Stuart??
When we asked our waitress she confirmed that a Stuart worked there, and he eventually came over, which was super awkward. 
"Hey, so...are you following me, or...?"

The Schmidt is a delightful invention. It's a giant homemade pretzel, with a strange but delicious cream cheese concoction and marinara sauce. It's absolutely delicious. 

Once we were full to the brim with pizza and conversation, we decided to try out another much bigger park which was close by!
I had been texting my friend Allison to find out her favorites in the area, which is how we settled on Riverside Park. 
We drove up and knew right away that it was the right choice. It was a cool overcast day, and the park was huge and beautiful and totally empty. 
Abby was on cloud 9!

We just let the girls lead us for the rest of the afternoon.

I know I'm totally biased, but they are seriously the cutest little girls in the history of the world.
I love Chris and Amy as a couple, as my siblings and as my friends, but I also just love that they got married because they produce extremely adorable offspring. 

After playing around in the train-themed play area for a good long while, we decided to take one of the walking trails and explore the rest of the park. 

Abby was completely enamored with the crunchy, colorful leaves. She loved to bend down and pick out her favorites, and give them away as gifts. 
We still have little dried and crumpled fall leaf pieces in various trays in our apartment as a result of her little generous spirit. 

This particular part of the trail overlooks a giant bridge of train tracks. It was a really gorgeous lookout point. It looks like we're a lot closer to the edge than we actually were, but we still kept a close eye on the girls and it was admittedly a little dizzying if you got too close!

It was extremely sad for Abby to leave the park, but we eventually got her into the car and said goodbye to the fun day. She fell asleep right away, which is a sign of a well-played afternoon!

We stopped by Caribbean Snow on the way home for some snow cones. The perfect ending to a wonderful playful day!
Abby was still sleeping in the car, so we sat at the picnic tables and slowly ate our snow cones in the cold, giving Bell a few bites here and there.

Once we got home, we all got in our PJ's.
It was really funny because the entire time they were visiting, our two cats were hiding. They hardly ever came out. I think this is maybe the only time I was able to get a picture with Abby and one of the cats, while they were still frozen in fear and not dashing away to safety. 
Abby was actually great with them, so I'm not sure what they were scared of! Maybe they witnessed the hairdryer incident. 

We had bought the girls a bunch of fun toys and stickers and things from the dollar store before they came, so they living room was stocked with coloring books and fun little trinkets for them to play with.
Abby loved the stickers.

I was also able to introduce Abby to starfruit, which was one of my absolute favorites as a kid! I would always ask to get them whenever I'd spot them while we were grocery shopping. 
It was fun cutting up the fruit and showing her the star shape, then letting her munch on them. 

That night marked another tragedy of the visit -- Abby spent the night throwing up.
I'm still really unsure why and how this occurred, but she was sick, and Amy and Bell were both not feeling well, so that Monday was just a mess of pajamas and sickies. They also got hardly any sleep, being up with Abby so much the night before.
Abby felt okay Monday morning and even ate breakfast, but she spent their last night throwing up, too! It was pretty bizarre. I think by that time they were pretty ready to have the flying-home part over with, and get back to their own home and their own beds!

I still had to work that Monday, but once I got home we still had a fun last night.
Amy is an amazing photographer, so we decided to trade off taking pictures for each other so we could have a nice picture for our Christmas cards. It worked out great!

Behind the scenes of family photos.
Blissfully unaware of life with children.

November 19th dawned bright and sunny, and I postponed going into work so I could say goodbye.

I was remembering the horrible goodbye we had to endure the last time, over the summer, when we pulled away from their house, us sobbing and them sadly waving as the tears fell to the ground. It was one of the most potent goodbyes I've ever had!
But this time around, the goodbye was surprisingly happy and hopeful. Six months is a long time, but at the end of that time, the long-distance relationship will be over for good! We could officially begin the final countdown. It was the last goodbye!
So with that, we waved and smiled and let them drive away, knowing the days would shed easier than tears and would lead us back to their door. 

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