Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Here We Come!

Ella's first Christmas was memorable and involved much travel in the Bella Minivan mobile. There are some great pictures and a few videos on the right-hand side entitled Christmas 2007 Pictures and videos. Enjoy!

We returned home from our Christmas vacation travels yesterday that brought us from Alexandria to Gordonsville, VA back again to Alexandria for a short bit, then onto Wintergreen Resort, and finally back home yesterday. Spending time with family and great friends was wonderful! In Gordonsville, VA, the Alexander and Murray families celebrated Christmas at the cozy Shenandoah Crossings Resort. Curby and Gina joined Gi Gi, Paw Paw, Katie, Ella, and me throughout the four days at the resort as we huddled into our log cabin, eating delicious food, talking endlessly while the constant sounds of football games on TV echoed throughout, and rejoicing at the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ's birthday.

After we saw Gi Gi and Paw Paw Alexander off to Reagan Airport on Friday, we got back into the Bella Mobile and headed out to Wintergreen Ski resort in Central VA to spend time with our great friends, Casey and Christy Grubbs. Their little 4 month old, Ginny (short for Virginia), and Ella are friends. They both are so cute together where they just stare at one another and ponder who in the world is that person which looks like themselves. So funny to watch! At Wintergreen we took in the scenes of Mountain living although we did not do much Mountain activity. We did not ski, but rather did the same thing we did in Gordonsville, we just hung out and enjoyed each others' company over excellent food. However, I did get to try out my new Christmas present that Paw Paw Alexander gave me: a .50 caliber Thomson Center Hawken Muzzleloader rifle. It is a beautiful family heirloom which originally belonged to Katie's grandfather. Paw Paw graciously passed it down to me to enjoy and hopefully harvest more game for our freezer. Casey and I made it out to the mountains and fired it a few times into a target. It shoots well.

Speaking of game in the freezer, Katie cooked up the first of what will be many venison meals. For lunch today, she made Venison pepper steak. Yummy! To our delightful surprise, it did not have a gamey taste like a lot of venison meat contains. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store watching her prepare the venison. It is exciting to see what I hunted actually arrive before us in the form of food for the family and good, healthy food albeit. Venison, like other wildlife, is typically leaner with less fat than store bought meat. If you have never tried venison, I recommend you give it a shot (no pun intended:-). You are more than welcome to stop by our place for some as we have over 45lbs of meat stored in our neighbor and friend Becky Brittain's freezer (Thanks for the help, Beck!).

2007 has ended positively for the Murray family! Katie starts her new job on Wednesday, my semester begins next Monday, and our beautful Ella continues to prosper and grow. I used to think it was just a cliche when I would hear parents say that they could see their kids grow up right before their eyes. I no longer believe such, as each day we see Ella doing new things. Recently, she has begun to grab toys, etc. You can see her thinking about what she has in her hands as her imagination expands. Her babbling is becoming more and more like concerted communication. Her weight and length are increasing, and overrall I am convinced she is prettier than the day before.

With her continued growth, Katie and I are experiencing new challenges in protecting and caring for her beautiful skin. She is stronger and able to fight us with more success when we try to wrap bandages on her boo boos which makes the process very difficult. Also, she is giving herself new blisters on her face, ears, and back of her head, everyday. We can't tell her to stop scratching her eyes or grabbing her ears, so we have become more vigilant in putting mittens on her hands while attempting to stop her from scratching herself. However, we are not successful 100% of the time, and therefore, blisters result. In Ella's developmental growth, she has figured out how to get the mittens off. Today during lunch we put mittens on her and while we were eating she seemed to look over at us and demonstrate how well she can grab the tip of the mittens and just pull them off. Then she just held on to them and waved them around her head, just to prove that we couldn't stop her. What is this going to say about her teen years? Anyway, it is a fact of life for EB patients and parents that blisters will occur. It is difficult for Katie and I as we can only do the best we can to prevent Ella from hurting herself. Over time, we are confident that we will rise to the occasion with fresh ideas and strategy on how to help protect Ella from scratching herself and leave the rest up to God to help protect Ella from herself.

You would not know from spending time with her that she is bothered by her blisters. She really does not seem to care, and that is good. She is a normal, happy baby with boo boos is how we like to describe her condition. Really, we are not downplaying the seriousness of EB as a disease. It is just that it appears that rather than being painful, the EB is more annoying to Ella since her Mom and Dad have to pin her down for 45 minutes to an hour each night and wrap bandages on a good part of her body. Throughout each day we constantly monitor her affected areas and make alterations to her bandages if need be. After we are all done, she is either sleeping from being tuckered out from the process or happy-go-lucky. The time in between is spent napping, eating, or playing. Life is good for an infant:-)

It is refreshing to be back home at 5427 Taney and peer forward for a great 2008! We wish all of you a prosperous and blessed year! Thank you so much for standing with Katie and I in spirit. We can't accurately describe what your encouragement and friendship have meant to us since June 21, 2007 (and before), but let us acknowledge that we are blessed to be so loved! Our hope is that we can provide you with encouragement and love when it is needed.


Friday, December 21, 2007

The week before Christmas

Wow, we have a lot to catch you up on. Things have been busy around the Murray house.

First, Monday was my last day of work. It was bittersweet. I will miss the camaraderie in the office and all those good Wyoming folks, but I know this is the best move for our family. The office had a nice going away cake and ice cream party for me, and I also got to go to the office Christmas party after work. It was a good last day.

Second, as you can see from the picture to the right, Santa came to our house. I got a call from Joe to tell me that he had just bought a Santa Suit. So we got Ella all decked out in her Christmas outfit, put the Christmas tree up, and prepared for a visit from the big guy. I think Grammy Janet, Becky and I thought it was more entertaining than Ella did. As you can see from the video, she just kind of sat there. It was almost like she knew it was Joe in that suit. The funniest part came at the end when Joe (aka Santa) couldn’t get his fake boots off. That pleather really sticks to your skin.

Third, Paw Paw came into town on Tuesday. I know Gi Gi missed him, and we were all glad to finally have him with us. For Ella he brought 5 gold dollars. It was hysterical watching her grab them and look at them. She liked that they were shiny. There are also pictures of this. We discovered that Ella really likes hearing Paw Paw sing. I was holding her and Paw Paw was singing Christmas carols. Ella just stared at him and wouldn’t take her eyes off of him. Soon Paw Paw will be teaching Ella how to sing beautifully.

Fourth, this morning Joe officially got a new title…”Deer Slayer!” Joe has been hunting since he was 12 and this morning he finally got his first deer. A big doe. He is very excited about this accomplishment and can’t wait to get the meat. Every time Joe goes out hunting I tell him that if he gets one I’ll learn to cook it. So now I have to live up to my promise and get some good venison recipes. Luckily I know my mom has a few good ones up her sleeve.

That’s about it for now. We’re heading to PA tonight to meet Ella’s new cousin, Andrew. He’s a lot younger than she is, but he weighs just as much. Ella will appreciate her skinny genes when she’s older.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ode to Joe

It’s Hard to be Cool (In a Minivan) by The Oak Ridge Boys

Sittin’ at a red light, down around Sunset
A girl pulled up beside me in a candy-apple red Corvette
She pulled down her shades, gave me a wink, I gave her a little smile back
Then she laughed as she hit the gas I remembered where I was at

(‘Cause) It’s hard to be cool when you’re behind the wheel Of an eight passenger automobile
In a big bubble, cruisin’ down the street With Barney blarin’ and a baby seat
Hey it can be done, but I’m tellin’ you man It’s hard to be cool in a minivan.

I used to have a souped-up hotrod, Man I spared no costs
284, four-on-the-floor, headers and dual-exhaust
About the time the family came, well, that’s the first thing that went
The preacher said, “for better or worse,” Now I know what he meant

(‘Cause) It’s hard to be cool when you’re behind the wheel Of an eight passenger automobile
In a big bubble, cruisin’ down the street With Barney blarin’ and a baby seat
Hey it can be done, but I’m tellin’ you man It’s hard to be cool in a minivan.

Now, I wouldn’t change my life a bit I’m a lucky man I know
Just wish my wife and kids could fit In a ’67 GTO.

(‘Cause) It’s hard to be cool when you’re behind the wheel Of an eight passenger automobile
In a big bubble, cruisin’ down the street With Barney blarin’ and a baby seat
Hey it can be done, but I’m tellin’ you man It’s hard to be cool in a minivan.

Come on boys, Can I hear an amen It’s hard to be cool in a minivan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Bella Mobile Arrives!

You ask what is the "Bella Mobile?" Answer: A Pacific, Sky-blue 2008 Hyundai Entourage Mini-van.

Yep, you read correctly. Last night, we purchased our first, ever new car as a married couple (and, even when we were single for that matter).

Since Ella was born, we knew the time would come where the need for a family car would arrive. In the last few months, it has become evident that such a need was transitioning into a necessity. Katie traveled the last two weekends with Ella and Gi Gi to a friend's wedding, and to her sister-in-law, Gina's, baby shower, and both trips were over 3 hour drives. Those of you who have kids know that kids travel with an enormous amount of gear (pack-n-play, bags, clothes, toys, etc.) Our small Toyota and Saturn, although great for mpg, just were not cutting it.

When my 1996 Saturn failed inspection last week, we knew the time had arrived to pull the trigger and see what the Mini-van market looked like. A few months back, we were on the brink of buying a SUV, but then realized that with our large extended family visiting so often , a 7 seater-Mini Van was the way to go. On Tuesday, I stopped by a Hyundai dealer in Alexandria, and liked what I saw in the Entourgage.

The Entourage is the similar model to the Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna--to the untrained eye, they are twins except that Hondas and Toyotas have a few more bells and whistles and cost 10-15K more. The Entourage received terrific safety, performance, and overrall reviews. Most importantly, the sales guy wanted to earn our business and offered us a deal we could not refuse at an afforded monthly payment price.

Hence, Katie and I strolled over to Hyundai of Alexandria in my '96 Saturn (for the last time in that car), and took our mini-van for a spin. Katie will brag to all that she was the first one to drive our Entourage. We were laughing when we saw that the odometer read "5 miles." Wow, it really was a new car!

We had our reservations about buying a new versus an old car because conventional wisdoms is such that it makes more sense to go with a pre-owned car for devaluation purposes. Yet, our research showed that mini-vans are a unique market--minivan purchasers do not relinquish their minivans as often as purchasers of other makes sense, since most minivan purchasers are in our situation (parents with young kids). They typically drive their minivans until they die. Hence, the pre-owned market we found showed minivans with less than 20-30K miles with a sticker price in the $18-$20,000 range. Well, the Entourage was offered to us at not much more than that price. Plus, they offered a great 10yr., 100,000 warranty on major repairs. All this to say, is that we went new and love it!

We quickly named our mini-van the "Bella Mobile," since Ella is the one who got us thinking about a minivan and the color of it matches the color of Ella's beautiful, bold eyes.

We look forward to having you take a spin in it with us!

Note: This is not a commercial advertisement for Hyundai, and we are not receiving any incentives to blog about their products. Heck, though, if you are in the minivan market, we suggest you give them a look.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tis the Season for school to end

Finals are over…let the partying begin! Joe had his last final on Monday. Now I get to adjust to having him home at night, and Ella gets to adjust to not having his nose in a book all day. It’s nice.

Ok, so I need some advice. Ella is almost 6 months old and is still not sleeping through the night. We don’t know what to do. Usually she will sleep for 4 hours (sometimes 5 or 6 on a good night) then after that she wakes up every 2 hours. We think she might get all worked up from her bandage changes then has a hard time settling down, but even when we don’t change her boo boos at night she still won’t sleep through the night. And we thought that maybe she was hungry and once she started eating solids it would help. Not so much. And most of the time she won’t even eat when she wakes up. She just keeps the bottle in her mouth for a couple seconds until she falls back asleep, or we just pick her up and bounce her and she goes right back to sleep. The Dr. recommended moving her into her own room (we are paranoid parents so Ella was still sleeping in our room until about 3 weeks ago), so we did that and it hasn’t helped. We can’t do the typical suggestion of giving her a bath at night to calm her down. So we don’t really know what to do. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

So God has answered another major prayer! I’ve shared before how working in DC hasn’t been easy on us as a family, and Joe and I have worked to make the adjustment. Even my office has bent over backward to accommodate me, but it just wasn’t working. Well, I have gotten a new job right here in Alexandria. My new office is exactly 1.1 miles from our house (I turn left then turn right). I will be working as a lobbyist for the American Diabetes Association and I am SO EXCITED!!! I will be getting 2 hours a day back just by not having to commute into DC. I will still do a lot of my work from the hill, but hopefully I can avoid rush hour traffic (no more sitting on 395 for an hour just to go 9 miles). I officially start at the beginning of the year, and my last day with Senator Barrasso is December 17. I am taking 2 weeks for Christmas vacation. God has really answered a huge prayer request with this job. He is so good!

So I’m wrapping up my last week here with Senator Barrasso. I can’t believe that it has been almost 5 years. It has been such a pleasure working for both Senator Thomas and Senator Barrasso, and I loved having the opportunity to represent Wyoming here in the US Senate. I will miss my office and all of the Wyoming connections, but “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Thus, it is time to move on to the next adventure.

Lastly, we have new December 2007 photos and videos on the right-hand side.

Blessings to you all this Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rockstar Ella

Our Daughter is a Rock Star! We went for Ella’s 5 month check up last week and it was proven that Ella is a rock star. First, she gained 5 ounces in a week, so she’s up to 13 lbs 10 oz. Second, when the nurse gave her the vaccines she whimpered just a little bit and that was it. She didn’t burst into tears or scream for her mom and dad. She just whimpered out of a bit of discomfort, then started playing with her block. We dressed her and left and that was it.

As Joe mentioned, Gi Gi is back in town to help with Ella while Joe takes his finals. She has the morning shift and Metti has the afternoon shift. I kept trying to prepare Ma that she wasn’t going to be able to get much done. Ella likes a lot of attention and it’s hard to get a lot done in 15 minute increments. Monday was Gi Gi’s first day on the job and I think she found out exactly what I was talking about.

Over the weekend Gi Gi, Ella and I got to go to a wedding in beautiful Hot Springs, VA. My good friend, Linda Rouse, tied the knot at a resort called “The Homestead.” This was very fancy, to say the least. We pulled up and Ma and I, being the country bumpkins that we are, had no idea what to do with the valet parking. We just sat there and stared at each other. And I’ve never been to a hotel where we didn’t have to carry our own bags. The wedding was beautiful and the reception was a ton of fun. Gi Gi took care of Ella so I could go to the reception and dance the night away with my friends. Poor Joe was home with his nose in a book. I missed my dance partner, but he did what he had to do.

The only bad part of the weekend was that Ella, for some reason, had a hard time sleeping. She went to bed at a normal time, but woke up at 3 am crying. She cried for 3 ½ hours before she finally fell back asleep. Sunday night she didn’t sleep well again. She was up about every hour. Last night was a bit better. I’m convinced she’s getting her first tooth. Ma and Joe think she just has a cold. All I know is that she’s fussy, drooling a lot, and has a runny nose. Then again, she has been on some pretty strong medicine, so that might have a part to play. I guess only time will tell.