On December 19th - Caroline's three month birthday - we left town for Mississippi and Christmas with our families. I was a little nervous about the eight hour car ride. Up to that point her longest stay in the car had been about 45 minutes!
This angel did great! We stopped once to eat in Georgia and then picked up Oliver in Birmingham and ate again there. She slept the whole way to Senatobia and then opened her eyes for about two seconds once we got to my parents' and slept until the morning! At this point she'd been sleeping through the night (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.) for less than two weeks. I was so worried all our "sleep training" would be messed up, but it never phased this girl.
Sis and her girls were already there and the girls were SO excited to see Caroline when they woke up. We'd done a lot of FaceTime but nothing beats being there in person! Elizabeth Magee took her role as biggest cousin very seriously and wanted to help with every bottle. Makes my heart melt!
They may kill me for posting this but it's a moment I want to always remember!
Mary Thorne and EM were so eager to help Caroline "play" with her activity mat from Siggi & Granddaddy. We were waiting on Thomas and Laura to get in before we opened gifts (and finally let EM call Thomas around 9 a.m. - we figured he couldn't get put out with her!) to see where they were. Even though they had to wait on their gifts, they wanted Caroline to go ahead and have her's - I thought that was just beyond sweet. Poppy was a little less interested in the baby!
It's really difficult to get a picture of four under four! This was the best we could do!
Mary Thorne really wanted to hold Caroline all by herself so she and I snuck off to the living room where her sisters couldn't push in on her time!
And a few minutes later Net came to meet Caroline. I can't look at this picture and not tear up. Net had been waiting three LONG months to get her hands on this baby. She apparently showed up fully dressed for the day at 6:30 a.m. and we were all asleep!
Making up for lost time. At this point in time this is the only way Caroline would nap in the morning - in someone's arms! After nap we all went to the park to play. Our cousins met us there.
Ivy proved to be the baby whisperer - I guess it's all her work with ranch horses in Wyoming - Caroline went right to sleep in her arms!
And when Laura and Thomas arrived we all settled in for some serious Christmas-ing. But first we tried to get a picture of Net with her great-grands. We were all standing around trying to direct these four girls and I had something hidden in my pocket that I quickly slipped in front of Caroline:
Can you read it? The sign says "BIG SISTER."
Net has no idea what the sign says or why everyone started laughing and crying! I'd told Sis earlier that morning, and I so wish I had her to get a picture of everybody's reaction. It was quite delayed as they processed what that meant! Fortuntely, no one had a heart attack :-) After stuttering out, "are you pregnant?" my mom proceeded to cry off and on all day. My dad took one look at my sister and said "she knew!" It was the most perfect surprise. Mom couldn't believe she had been with me just the week before and not guessed. Although, she said she noticed that we had wine left over (that never happens!) and she did keep offering to take me shopping (I was hiding a baby bump in very awful big t-shirts)!
We finally got around to the group picture...
Mary Thorne is all wild-child until she gets cuddly.
The next morning Uncle Thomas broke out his old Lincoln Logs and showed MT and Poppy how to build a log cabin. I love that my mom saved our favorite toys (I take partical credit for this as there is a whole section of their attic with a sign that says, "Kara's toys do not through away." As Sis and Thomas tossed their toys I added their favorites to my pile in the attic).
First visit to Net's house! Later that day we met our dear family friends Tish and Ellen!
We went to deliver Christmas happies and met Aunt Lucile - Caroline's great-great aunt. She also got to meet Lucy and Kathleen while we were there visiting!
One morning Margaret and her girls came over to play. It was fun to catch up!
Note the sweet bald spot. This was at its most prominet time. I worried so much about this bald spot and now it's just about gone away and I'm going to miss it!
Wednesday morning Ryan and I got up bright and earlier and hit the road to Jackson to see some friends. We had so many people we wanted to see but knew because the weather was going to be iffy we needed to keep it short.
First stop was in Madison at the Blackards. These are such dear, special friends. We've been friends since 2003 when they were newlyweds and lived next door to Ryan in Oxford. I was with Kristen when the doctor called to say that she didn't have the flu but was pregnant! Witt is now 10 years old!!!
This sweet child - I can't show her face - is their foster daughter who they are trying to adopt. She's been with them since she was just a few months old. I'm so glad that Caroline will know other adopted children -- it's a bond I think these two will share!
And you know you are good friends when your friends' parents are also your friends! Mr. Blackard, a.k.a. 'Pa,' had to come meet Caroline too.
And then it was time to head to DeeDee and John Eric's. We got to meet their brand new twin boys, John and Charlie, and they got to meet Caroline. It killed me that I couldn't be there when the boys were born!
I'm taking a guess Charlie on the left and John on the right. But I could be wrong!
Well this sofa is holding a lot more people than they last time I sat on it (which was just about every Friday night for many years).
Sweet Jane and her babies --- she is the BEST big sister.
It was hard to leave, but tornados were set to criss cross the state and we spent a hair-raising trip back to Senatobia listening to the radio. None were set to come near us but you never know! We drove by our old house and then made a quick stop at Thomas and Laura's. And when we got back --- more introductions with great-grandparents Mama Jean and Papa Carrel. Although their great-grandchildren have re-named MJ "JeanJean." Not cool.
Caroline is great-grand #9.
Guess what we just told them?
This girl and her daddy -- total adoration on both ends right here. It's amazing that Caroline looks so much like Ryan. Even people who know she's adopted always comment that she looks like him.
Christmas Eve morning means it's time to make Norwegian Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast on Christmas Day. It's always extra special when Mama Jean is there to direct! Can you believe that about one month before this picture she fell, broke her hip and had a hip replacement? She totally amazed all of us in her recovery. She was determined to make it from Tuscaloosa to Mississippi for a Christmas with Caroline!
Mid-morning we headed over to Ryan's parents' house for Christmas with the Paulk side.
We kept using the same sign! It never got old!
That night we headed to the church I grew up and and we married in for the Christmas Eve service. I think I boo-hooed through the whole thing (this may have been a theme of the week!). It's my absolute favorite Christmas tradition.
My parent's gave me this copy of "The Night Before Christmas" for my first Christmas. We have a copy at home, but it's not the origianl version. Several key things have been changed! I'd pointed this out to Ryan a few weeks before, and I don't think he believe me. For instance, on the last page, Santa says "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night." On our new fangled version it says "Merry Christmas." And the line about "I in my kerchief and ma in her cap had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap" is updated to "settled our heads." That's just not right! And is it sad that I just knew all that off the top of my head???
Anyway, I boo-hooed through this too.
Elizabeth Magee was very concerned about how Caroline would tell Santa what whe wanted for Christmas since she couldn't talk. I assured her that I had told Santa. She then wondered how exactly I knew what Caroline would want! I'm glad to report that Caroline has seemed very happy with her stash. And the Care Bear may or may not have been more for me than her.
Christmas is exhausting! I think by Christmas Day Caroline was over the week. She slept most of the day - it was very anticlimatic for me!
Showing off my loot :-) Ryan finally relented and listened to Sis for what to buy me for Christmas. Last year, poor guy was so busy he did all his shopping in the hospital gift store. I may not ever let him live that down (especially since there's this thing called the internet where you can shop 24/7 and from anywhere!).
And the fun continued when Uncle Buford and his family came over. We were all feeling a little lost without Net to host us for Bloody Mary's and cheese straws on Christmas morning. Thomas and Laura "stole" her away and she spent a few days in Jackson with them.
Warren and Aunt Carole
West (who keeps getting taller), Ivy, me, Uncle B and Ryan
And we'd just told them the good news!
Mom and I spent the day making Julia Child's "Beef Bourguignon" and prounced it more and more French as the day wore on. Ryan and I went for a walk and I think we all napped at some point. It was a very relaxing day!
And the next day we had to start heading home. Ryan had spent a large chuck of the week duck hunting with this brother and nephew, Eli.
You know it's warm when the duck hunter is in shorts! I wish we had a picture of exactly how packed our car was at this point. And as we were about to leave, my dad found an iron table and chair patio set (exactly what I've been looking for) by the side of the road that someone had thrown out. So we had that strapped on top of the car. We may have resembled the Beveraly Hillbillies!
We made it to Birmingham and spent the night. It was nice to break up the drive and so great to see these sweet girls again. I told Poppy that Caroline had never seen cartoons and I wasn't sure if she'd like them. She very quickly said, "Aunt Sis, Baby Caroline loves cartoons." It got her an extra episode of Paw Patrol!
Elizabeth Magee got this doll for Christmas and an Ole Miss cheerleaders outfit for it. She wanted to wait on Baby Caroline to get to her house to take the doll out of the package so they could all three have on the same thing! Thanks to Holly for passing on this outfit to us!
Pepe and Scout had a lot less room on the ride home!