Ben without his bear

18 06 2014

For the past two days at FBC’s Vacation Bible Camp, Benjamin has clung sturdily to his bear as he walks out to the van. The nursery workers tell us that he carries his bear everywhere in the nursery.

Today, he forgot his bear.

The following is based on what Steve related to me:

Someone asked Benjamin, “Hey, where’s your bear?”

Benjamin got very, very sad, and started crying loudly. They had to go and bring him to Steve. Steve carried him back to the nursery, comforting him.

One of the play tunnels was set up, and Steve asked Benjamin if he’d like to play in the tunnel. Benjamin crawled inside halfway, sat down, and stayed there, slumped over, lip sticking out, tears still welling up in his eyes.

Steve told Benjamin that he had to leave. Benjamin started crying loudly again! Steve said it was the saddest that he’s ever seen Benjamin.

Eventually the crying was soothed with a chocolate chip zucchini cupcake that Bri shared with him, and everyone was very careful not to say the word “bear” in his hearing again.





In which I get a marriage proposal and redeem the reputations of all Chinese people

28 05 2014

I haven’t blogged in a few months – and for that matter, when I was blogging two months ago, I was still catching up on LAST YEAR’s events. There are no guarantees that I will ever “catch up,” but I’ve decided that I’m just going to jump again and do what I can!

Which brings me to about a week and a half ago. Our internet went down at home, so I biked over to Common Grounds, a lovely local coffee shop with free internet. I hung out there for a few hours and then packed up to bike back home. As I got to my bike, a homeless man was sitting outside the coffee shop window.

I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with homeless people — as in, I will turn my head to acknowledge their existence instead of staring fixedly away — ever since our church started hosting the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter and I actually hung out with homeless folks. So instead of ignoring him, I nodded politely at him and bent to unlock my bike, when he startled me by saying, “You know, I’m from Chinatown.”

I replied, “Um… welcome to Davis!”

“I’m the most famous poet in Chinatown. I’m the most famous poet in the world,” he continued.

I said, “Pleased to meet you.”

“I’m an Irishman,” he continued. “Did you know that the Irish and the Chinese built the railroads?” He continued on to share some various railroad-building facts.

At this point, I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to be leaving right away. I settled into a comfortable standing position, and we chatted about railroads, Chinatown, his friend who gave him a free bottle of vodka, where he was from (Sacramento, but he’s been in San Francisco for a while), and why he was in Davis (he was stuck there).

“Is there any way,” he asked, “that you could get me a train ticket to San Francisco? I’m just so stuck here. If you could just get me a ticket to Richmond – I have a BART card that I can use from there.”

Well, as a matter of fact, I had installed the Amtrak app on my phone to use for a recent business trip. I looked up the fare for Davis to Richmond, and it was around $20. “I can do that for you,” I said, and bought the ticket on my phone, marveling at the wonders of technology. I put the ticket under his name and wrote down the confirmation number for him. He happened to have a handful of local maps, so I found the Davis map, circled his current location, and drew an arrow for where to walk in order to get to the Amtrak station.

Michael kept saying, full of emotion, “You don’t even know. You don’t even know how wonderful you are right now. Thank you, thank you. Oh, you are just an angel.” He actually started crying a little bit. “I would marry you. I love you.”

I laughed and said, “Thank you, but I am already married.”

“Well, he’s a lucky guy, let me tell you. You are just an angel. I am never going to say anything bad about the Chinese EVER AGAIN. I love the Chinese. I love China. I don’t care what anyone else says, I am going to tell them that the Chinese are the best people there are.”

I said, “Well, technically my parents came from Taiwan.”

“I love Taiwan, too. I love them all. I love you.”

I was a little worried that in his slightly intoxicated state, that he wouldn’t remember to go to Amtrak. Even though the train ticket I bought was for 7 pm (it was now 3:30 pm), I said, “Hey, Michael? If you could just stay put here, I’ll get my husband to come and give you a ride to the station. Would that work for you?”

“Yes. I love you. I love him too.”

“Okay, cool. Don’t move, okay?”

I unlocked my bike. As I biked over the overpass, I called Steve to give him a heads-up and have him get the kids in the car. Ten minutes later, I pulled into our driveway, threw my bike into the garage, and ran inside to grab some granola bars, new socks, and a bag of chips to give to our new friend. Steven had gotten his brand new little Travis Credit Union piggy bank that he’d gotten from Celebrate Davis the night before (where lots of vendors give away free stuff) and put a dollar and some change in it, wanting to give it to “the homeless man.” We drove back over to Common Grounds, and I hopped out.

And found a pile of newspapers and an empty cigarette box, but no Michael.

I looked wildly around. Did the police come by and take him away? Did he wander off?

I got back in the car and asked Steve to drive and see if we could find him. We drove down Cowell to the Amtrak station. Note that this was a Friday afternoon, i.e., when every car in Davis is out trying to get on the freeway, and we hit every single red light (and some multiple times). We saw one homeless man with his dog lying down in the shade, several college students at the bus stop, and one sweaty-looking woman walking in the hot sun. But no Michael.

(We did see our friends Alex and Jada pulling into Dutch Brothers, and texted Alex to see if she could get Steve a Kicker Freeze. She invited us to their house to meet their new puppy.)

I asked Steve if he minded going back to Common Grounds so that I could ask around to see if anyone had seen Michael. So we turned around (getting the Kicker delivered to us in a drive-by pass-off) and crawled back to the coffee shop parking lot.

I went inside the coffee shop and saw someone sitting by the window. Gathering together my courage, I asked, “Hi! This is kind of random – but there was a homeless guy sitting out there. Did you happen to see him or see where he went?” The guy answered, “Actually, I did see him. He came in here with his bottle of vodka to go to the bathroom, but I don’t know if he left or what.”

I checked the bathrooms. Empty.

I went to the front counter and asked, “Hi! There was a homeless guy who came in here to go to the restroom. Did you happen to see where he went after that?”

“Oh, we pointed him toward the Amtrak station. So he went out walking that way,” they said, pointing to the direction we’d just drive from.

Hm. I went back out and asked, “Steve, do you mind if we drive back just one more time?”

Back we went. Cars. Red lights. No homeless man.

“Well,” I said, “I guess there’s nothing else we can do. Hopefully he makes it.” We decided to drive to Alex’s house to meet the puppy.

So here’s the deal. All this time, we’d been driving through the parking lot to go towards the train station (red). This time, we just stayed on Cowell Blvd to head toward Alex’s house (blue). So that’s when I saw him.

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Actually – that’s when I saw it – the distinctive striped bag that Michael had been carrying, on the bike path (see orange spot on the map above). And then I saw two legs, sticking out of the bushes, and a bottle of rum next to the legs.

“STEVE!” I cried, “That’s him!!! He passed out in the bushes!!!!”

Steve muttered, “You’re killing me,” but he made a U-turn at the light, pulled over, and went over to the legs sticking out of the bushes. After shaking Michael awake, he walked him to the car – supporting Michael around the waist because he literally could not walk straight. I climbed into the back seat of the van, while Steve helped Michael get into the passenger seat.

Michael, who hadn’t dropped a single inappropriate word in my conversation with him, chose this moment to make up the difference with my children in the car. “I love you guys so #@$*ing much,” he said. “I’m sorry – I’m so @&#*ing drunk.” He continued in this vein for a while. “That Chinese girl – she is the nicest girl. Man, I am just so @^#*ing drunk.”

At the Amtrak station, I helped Steven give Michael the goodie bag and piggy bank. “Oh, you’re just a sweetheart,” Michael gushed. “I just love you.” Steven looked back stoically. Steve led Michael into the Amtrak station while I stayed in the car with the kids.

Several long minutes passed.

I finally texted Steve, “Everything okay?”

He texted back, “No! Look up greyhoud info please.”

“???” I replied.

“Discover?” He wrote.

“Amtrak,” I responded. I was so confused.

Steve came back out.

So apparently Amtrak only allows passengers with government-issued photo ID. Since Michael did not have photo ID, even though we bought a ticket for him, he was not allowed to get on the train! They refunded our ticket and suggested that we look into Greyhound.

I had a frustrating few minutes trying to use the Greyhoud website on my phone. The nearest station was in Sacramento, and this original errand of mercy was starting to be a huge hassle. Steve did not want to keep the kids in the car any longer, much less drive in Friday traffic out to Sacramento.

After some tense talking with Steve, I finally decided to offer to drive Michael out to Sacramento in the morning, if he was willing to hang around. I found him inside the Amtrak station at the plexiglass window, yelling at the station manager, “EXCUSE ME! SIR! I WANT MY TICKET! WHY AREN’T YOU TALKING TO ME?”

I touched him on the arm. “Hey – so there’s a problem.” I explained the photo ID thing. “So – we can give you a ride tomorrow morning if you don’t mind waiting.”

He said, “What?! I don’t want to wait! I’m done waiting! You know what, @%#* all this!!! Today is my day to die!!!!”

He stormed out of the Amtrak station, right toward the train that was sitting on the tracks.

Son of a Nutcracker! I thought, He is going to run in front of the train!!!!

I rushed out after him, grabbing his arm. “Michael!” I cried. “Hold on! Let’s figure something out!”

Seeing as how he was a foot taller than me, he simply had to shrug me off. “No. It’s my day to die!”

He walked right onto the open doors of the train.

And the doors closed (they had just given the final call), and the train went off to Sacramento.

And that was the abrupt end to my story.

(Amtrak doesn’t check for tickets at the doors, but the conductor goes through during the ride to check tickets. Presumably Michael would get thrown off at the next stop in Sacramento.)

I still feel somewhat traumatized by the whole experience. What would have been the best or right thing to do in this whole scenario? Davis doesn’t really have “emergency homeless aid” places, nor do I know of any specific organization that is able to help a very drunk man get to where he wants to go. Steve pointed out that even if we could have gotten him to Richmond, would he really have made it to San Francisco?

And this brings up all kinds of questions about helping the homeless long-term. With this specific man, short of “adopting” him, was there anything else we could have done to help him toward any level of success in his life?

I don’t know the answers, and I’m not sure if I will ever know. And I’m not sure what I would do the next time a homeless man or woman asked me for help with transportation. At least I will check to see if they have photo ID before buying an Amtrak ticket!

And also, I have a husband with the patience of a saint.





Visiting Brian and Lucy – six boys in the house!

5 03 2014

Friday 12/27

Matthew wet his bed in the middle of the night. After changing his jammies, we let him sleep in our bed. But at 2:30, he woke up crying and saying his tummy hurt. Luckily, I had a container on hand so he was able to throw up into the bucket instead of our bed. The poor guy dry heaved a few hours later. He didn’t have a fever at all, though, so I didn’t think he had the stomach flu. My guess was that he swallowed a bunch of the flouride from yesterday’s dentist appointment (he was foaming and drooling like crazy, I wish I had taken a picture) and that upset his stomach.

So we left a few hours later than intended, but we piled in the car and headed down to visit Brian and Lucy!!

Matthew and Steven brought hats.

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We grabbed a Starbucks breakfast on the way. Benjamin got a pretzel.

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Steven said it was “too bright” and rigged up a jacket curtain.

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Eventually the boys fell asleep.

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(I guess it was still too bright for Steven.)

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We arrived in Santa Rosa and got to introduce Benjamin and meet Nolton for the first time!!

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We  hung out for a bit while the boys played.

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Then we headed out on a grand trip to the coast! We stopped by Wildflower Cafe, which is renown for their yummy baked goods. Funny moment – Grayson saw the inside of our car and asked, “Why is your car so dirty?” I said, “I guess we’re the kind of family that has dirty cars.”

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We went tide pooling. I don’t remember the name of the beach.

This one spot had all these hermit crabs crawling around.

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Matthew decided to just walk across a watery area instead of going around.

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We found cool mussel shells.

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Here are those hermit crabs again…

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A snail still in the shell:

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We found a starfish and paused to pet it.

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There were a few anemones.

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Remember how Matthew waded through the water? Here he is, upset that his feet are wet.

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Family picture of Brian, Lucy, and their three boys!

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View from above as we were heading back to the car:

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Then we headed to Doran Beach, which is an idea place for kids to play in the sand.

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I took an inordinate number of pictures of Benjamin – first, because he was awfully cute wearing Steve’s hat, and second, because I’m trying to get a good beach picture to go up with the other ones we have of Steven and Matthew in our bathroom.

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I took a lot of pictures of Nolton, too.

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You can see the sunset coloring the hills orange and pink in the distance.

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We headed back to Brian and Lucy’s, and Grayson and Linden gave us a violin performance!

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The two little boys, listening.

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We put all the boys to bed, then stayed up late chatting with Brian and Lucy. The next morning, we had a delicious overnight french toast from Lucy’s kitchen and headed back home. So delightful to finally spend time with our good friends!





Dentist

3 03 2014

Thursday 12/26

Happy day after Christmas from this cutie!

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We were amused by Steven and Matthew’s method of playing with the trampoline. Matthew would hide underneath and Steven would jump up and down.

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Steve and I cleaned out the fridge, finally! Steve had the brilliant idea of using the vacuum to get all those crumbs that collect at the bottom of the drawers before I gave them a good scrub-down in the sink.

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We took down our Christmas tree – the earliest we’ve ever taken it down before! But we knew we had a busy weekend coming up and that we wouldn’t have any time to do it. (As it is – I am writing this on the 3rd of March and our Christmas lights are still up!)

I took the boys to the dentist; we now have to go to Woodland. The two patients fell asleep! They were so tired, they didn’t wake up until I physically lifted them out of the car seat and stood them up!

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This was Matthew’s first official dentist visit! I had to sneak in to get a picture of him sitting there like a big boy.

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Then I headed back out to the toy-filled kids area in the waiting room with Benjamin. “Cheeeeeese!”

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Some other kids were coloring and Benjamin decided he wanted to, too.

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Both boys came out with good reports!





Merry Christmas!

28 02 2014

Wednesday 12/25

Last Jesse Tree devotional drawing:

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We made another fire in the morning and lounged around, reading and wrestling and cuddling.

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Then Steve and I said “hot” or “cold” to help the boys find Baby Jesus. Matthew didn’t really understand the concept of “hot/cold,” but Steven found it.

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What was really precious was that the boys were so excited about Steve’s present, they brought his bag to him and excitedly helped him pull out the different components.

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First, of course, was the lights-and-sounds Christmas pop-up card.

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The boys (and I) had picked out puzzles, books, and activity books, labeled with specifics for daddy dates.

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We decided to let Benjamin go next and have his present – a lights and sound toy where you can drop balls into the top of the chicken and it runs out.

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He LOVED it.

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Then the boys wanted me to open my present, which was an embarrassingly large box, decorated with Sharpie by all the boys.

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Steve had ordered me a bunch of books, a new journal, markers, and a make-your-own Advent Calendar, from my Amazon wish list!

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The boys’ presents were hidden under blankets. Steven’s was a new [used] bike!

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And Matthew’s was…

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… a trampoline!

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Fun times for all the boys!

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After the main presents, we took a break to sing happy birthday to Jesus and for the boys to play with Joe and Jenni’s present – fake snow!

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I gave Steve golf balls, using his youth group nickname.

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Then we had stockings!

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I’m not sure why Benjamin was upset…

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… but everything is better when you have chocolate and pretzels!

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We cleaned up, and Steve’s family came over for Christmas brunch. Benjamin discovered oven mitts.

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After eating, we opened presents. Steven got a Chia pet, Matthew got a Mr Potatohead “Hot Potato” game, and Benjamin got cars. Steve’s parents also got them coupons for Grandma/Grandpa dates (which are a nice present for Steve and I, too!).

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Then Steve and I realized that we’d forgotten to give Matthew his other present – a Money Savvy Pig! It’s a plastic piggybank with compartments for saving, spending, investing, and giving.

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We hung out to watch Steven ride his new bike!

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That night, we had Christmas dinner with my family at Angela and Albert’s. They gave the boys books – the “Can You See What I See” books that they love!

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Christmas Eve

27 02 2014

Monday 12/23

Jesse Tree devotion:

 

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First day of vacation! I took this whole week off. Sadly, Benjamin woke up at 6 am screaming. I got up with him, but then Steve let me take a nap from 8-10!

After I finally woke up, I hung out with the boys. Benjamin was pushing a laundry basket around, very cutely.

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And he “read” books at the table.

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The boys were excited about vacation, and they wanted to “read 100 books.”

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Including this boy:

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I don’t remember why Benjamin was throwing a tantrum at this moment, but here he is doing his best floor-laying-down tantrum.

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And… here is another tantrum because he didn’t want to walk when we got to Joe and Jenni’s.

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Once inside, Benjamin demonstrated that he could climb up on the stool.

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And then he threw a tantrum because we wouldn’t let him climb the stool again.

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We sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

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Benjamin got a fox sweater from Joe and Jenni! All the boys immediately started singing, “What does the fox say? Ding ding ding ding ding!” Even Benjamin said, “Dee dee dee!”

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They got me a beautiful new journal! I was quite excited about it.

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Tuesday 12/24

Christmas Eve Jesse Tree devotional:

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Time for our annual Christmas Eve hike! We went to Berryessa.

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Look at this cutiepie!

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The boys did great on the hike.

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We took a family picture in the dry riverbed.

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We hiked down to the cheese house. Benjamin climbed around to the side and then excitedly started to jump into Steve’s arms.

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But instead of leaping out, he stepped out and fell straight down in front of Steve’s waiting arms. Luckily he was not hurt, but he needed a lot of snuggles to make up for it.

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It was a beautiful day, other than Benjamin’s fall.

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On the way home, Benjamin pretended to sleep. See that little smile?

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Matthew fell asleep. And drooled.

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Steven fell asleep, too. But Benjamin stayed awake the whole time.

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That evening, we headed to the Christmas Eve service.

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Benjamin finally fell asleep on the way home from the Christmas Eve service!

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We had a fire and hot chocolate with the older boys.

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Then we put the boys to bed and Steve and I hid baby Jesus, the last piece of our Advent Nativity scene. In the fish tank.

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After Steve and I prepped the presents for the morning, we made a bed of blankets in the living room and brought the boys out, asleep, to join us.

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More Christmas lights

26 02 2014

Saturday 12/21

Jesse Tree devotional for the day:

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Steve had his free time and I had the boys, who were kind of being punks. I said, “Let’s have a good day! Can you be cooperative?” Matthew said, “I will be a wittle bit sad but that’s okay.”

I took the boys to the Farmer’s Market. On the way home, Benjamin and Matthew fell asleep!

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In the afternoon, Steve took a nap and the boys played with the neighbor girls. At one point, Steven came into the room and then Abby came in, too – while Steve was asleep!

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In the evening, we headed out to Sacramento to meet up with Steve’s parents. There was a beautiful sunset.

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We went to KFC to grab dinner, first.

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I don’t remember why Benjamin was crying in the corner, but here’s a picture of it:

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We headed out to Dove Court to look at Christmas lights with Steve’s parents.

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For the record… Benjamin has both top eyeteeth in! I’d missed them, although Steve said they’d been there for a couple weeks.

Sunday 2/22

Here are some pictures from home group:

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