Hello again, everyone! Well, it has been impossible to stay up on blogging this last month or so...it seems my average is 1 post per month, which is still better than none! Besides, with the length of my posts, 1 seems to be plenty! :)
I FINALLY took some more pictures of Maiya (besides the ones from the first day that Ella saw her at home after bringing her home from the hospital). She is SUCH a sweet baby, and Ella is the very proudest sister! Here is a photo of Maiya wearing the sweet little dress that my Aunt Martie made for her...oh, so soft and dainty! I love the photo on the 2nd row, with Maiya looking scared to death, and Ella looking THRILLED to be holding her. This is a pretty typical scene in our home...Ella being overly excited to kiss and hug Maiya, and Maiya trying to be as tolerant as she can.
We had some fun things take place this past month. But first, a little over a month ago, on December 31st, we celebrated Jared's 30th birthday! Whoa! I married an old man, huh?! We went to his brother's house in Ephrata, Washington, for New Year's Even, and had potluck festivities with his parents, aunts, uncles, and some cousins! Of course, celebrating Jared's birthday on New Year's Eve is always fun...and we are never short of festivities!
Just a few days into the New Year, we took Ella up to Grandma and Grandpa Lybbert's house in Quincy, and Jared, Maiya, and I drove down to Portland for the weekend. We had a small Trade/Gift Show to attend there, and it was also a great excuse to see the Stegall Family. Steve Stegall is my old boss in Skagway (lives in Oregon in the winters), and he is an amazing artist who works with wood, carves fossilized ivories (wooly mammoth, and fossilized walrus ivory), and is a fabulous rock hound. His family is currently renting a home in Canby, just 30 minutes south of Portland. We stayed with them, and they treated us to some wonderful healthy home-cooked meals. They sure know how to eat right...natural, organic, and fresh! You should check out Steve's artwork on his website (http://agatheringofspirits.com/)...he is an extremely talented artist, and I love his wife, and twin teenage daughters. They used to be little girls...but they have grown into beautiful women!
In addition to seeing the Stegall family, we also managed to buy a MINI VAN!! You read that right...we finally decided it was time to expand! We have loved driving our Saturn Wagon for 3 1/2 years now. The Saturn was a great purchase on eBay for only $2100, but since we bought it in New Jersey, we paid $3200 including the shipping. Still, that was a steal for the nearly-perfect condition, and low miles. We discovered that there are MANY more used cars for sale in the East...probably due to the concentrated population? Who knows! So, anyways...after driving home from Alaska this summer...we decided that driving in that Saturn was not going to cut it anymore. It was a great size for us up to that point, but adding another child, and our growing need to transport business items back and forth, it just wasn't going to work anymore. So, we decided we would drive the Saturn onto the ferry in Bellingham this Spring, and take the 3-day ferry up to Skagway. The problem with that, is that it would cost us nearly $750 EXTRA (more than gas for a car to drive up) each way, to and from Alaska this year. We contemplated it, and decided we'd rather put that $1500 towards a larger vehicle that we could drive all the way to Alaska...and save the money in future years. So...we found an AMAZING 2001 Pontiac Montana minivan for only $4,000 (we talked the seller down!), and with less than 85,000 miles on it. (Now...trying not to stray from the order of events...I will mention that 3 weeks later we managed to sell our 1996 Saturn Wagon for $2500, which meant that upgrading to the 5-year-newer van, with HALF the miles, only cost us the $1500 that we would have thrown away taking the ferry! What a deal!)
When we returned for Portland, Maiya developed a really bad eye infection. Shortly after she was born we realized that her left eye was a little bit goopy. As we later learned, this is because she had a clogged tear duct in that eye. Then, thanks to (most likely Ella's) dirty (boogery) fingers, Maiya contracted a viral infection in her eye. Because of her eye not draining properly, it meant that it was a pool of liquid just ripe for infection! Anyhow, you can't do anything about viral infections...and we assumed we'd just let it pass its course. HOWEVER...it got VERY bad, and a week later I gave in, and finally took her to a doctor. He told us that it she had gotten conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) on top of the viral infection. So, he gave us antibiotic drops for her eye, and noted that I could use the same drops on my eye (since that morning I woke up with an infected eye, as well)! Her eyes cleared up several days later with the drops, but mine never improved (which means mine was simply viral), and then Jared got it a few days later, as well. We had to let our viral infections "pass their course"...and were left with awfully itchy and drippy eyes for about a week. Thankfully, Ella never caught it...whew!
We managed to drive to Quincy (2 hours north) all but one week in January...which meant that we didn't get a heck of a lot accomplished, except for in that one week! We used that last week to spend hours and hours getting orders ready for our second trade show, in Seattle. It snowed a ton that week, which is extremely unusual in Tri-Cities, Washington (lovingly referred to as the "Banana Belt of Washington" by Jared's Dad). Here is a photo of Jared trying to chip away a layer of ice under the snow on our van (Ella is to the right of the van, but very well disguised in her "snow bunny" suit)!
We again took Ella to Grandma & Grandpa Lybbert's house, and we started the adventurous journey to Seattle. I say "adventurous"...because with the weather being so bad, it was quite interesting. We had planned on leaving for Seattle on Friday morning, in time to get to the show at noon. However, living in Eastern Washington, we have to go over a very high mountain pass in the middle of the state, to get to the coast. The major pass, Snoqualmie, had been closed on and off for the few days previous, due to avalanche and snow control. It had been snowing a LOT, and more snow was on the way on Thursday night and Friday morning, so we realized we needed to get over a mountain pass asap (before more snow fell)! So on Thursday we dropped off Ella, and immediately left to find a way to get over the pass. The northern pass (Steven's Pass) was closed, along with Snoqualmie, so we had to drive south through Yakima and go through the White Pass.
The pass turned out to be surprisingly clear from ice and layers of snow. We got through the pass without any incidents, however, when we got to the other side, we took a small road north to cut over to the major highway leading up to Seattle. What we didn't know is that the side road took us up a terribly snow-covered road in the mountains! Within 10 minutes the road up got so bad, we thought we might have to turn around. Jared's theory, however, was to keep going until the van could no longer keep going. I was convinced that we'd come to a standstill at any point, considering we were having a tough time going up the hill...but he managed to keep us moving for all 60 miles of that road. By the end of the road, Jared was a wreck, and I was a wreck just dealing with HIM being a wreck! The roads didn't bother me, because Jared is so capable and such a safe/cautious driver...but the roads strained his patience...and he strained mine! :) At the end of the weekend, when returning to Quincy, Snowqualmie Pass once again closed before we managed to get there. So, on the return trip, we took Steven's Pass, which was just beautiful. Here is a picture taken up there (not by us) of what the artist calls "snow blobs"...which is somewhat what all of these mountain passes looked like after the weekend! To date, Snoqualmie pass has received over 400 inches this winter! Holy cow! (I write this with a chuckle...thinking of my sister, Lara, who lives in Atlanta, and had church canceled because of a DUSTING of snow)
Anyways...we went to the Seattle show with Maiya, and since strollers aren't allowed, I strapped her in a front carrier for the 2 1/2 days we were at the show. Going to the trade shows is a lot of work (both physically and mentally), but is very rewarding. It seems that there are miles and miles of booths (such as these), where businesses display their wares in hopes that you will buy. We were prepared for the first year ever, and were able to hand our current vendors orders for this coming summer. They were so thankful for the organization, and so were we! We also found many new products to carry, and many possibilities. For all those of you who wonder what the heck we do all winter long (since you may find it hard to believe we do anything but sleep and watch movies), my challenge to you is that YOU should try figuring out how to spend $140,000, and YOU would be quite busy, too! We have carried over 9,000 different SKUs (that all must be entered in our POS system by hand), and have worked with over 130 vendors so far (and will likely be adding 20-30 more vendors this year). If we make a bad purchase, we end up losing...and I won't even mention accounting for all of the purchases and sales afterwards...the record-keeping involved, etc...(oh wait...I just mentioned it)!
Just like the Seattle show, Maiya got a lot of attention. It's funny how nearly ever woman who saw her would ooh and ahh. Also, the salespeople would talk to you about the baby in an effort to start conversation, and keep you looking at their products for a longer period of time.
So, I guess you can say we are looking forward to Alaska, again. Not necessarily ready to head back just yet, but when we're buying products, and imagining new displays, suddenly we're excited to be there, and see how it will all come together! Our apartment lease ends on April 5th, and we'll go spend a few days at Jared's parent's place in Quincy, and then we'll head up to get there by mid-April! We will be installing wood laminate flooring this Spring, finally getting rid of our terribly stained white carpet installed by the previous tenants (so dumb)!
Also, on a random note...Jared and I have pretty well decided that we will become full-time RVers in the Fall. We plan on selling our Alaska travel trailer at the end of the summer, driving back down here, and picking up our new 5th wheel direct from the factory. We found a dealer who will give us the 5th wheel (ordered directly from the factory with all of our specifications of colors, and options) for well under the retail price that everyone else offers (try up to $18,000 less)! So, we'll have to sell our lovely new van in less than a year (which we can probably sell even for a profit...since we got such a steal!), and purchase a dumb passenger diesel truck (I say dumb because they eat gas even more than minivans...but what do you do?!). We are tentatively planning on driving down to Rockport, Texas, for next winter. It is right on the coast (about 30 minutes north of Corpus Christi), and has heavenly winter temperatures! Here is a photo of our future 5th wheel living room, with the exception that instead of the booth dinette set, we will get a table (with an extra leaf) and 4 chairs. It has 4 pop-outs (versus our ZERO now!). We like the interior colors in this living room, and there will be 2 bedrooms (master and a bunk/children's room in the back with 3 beds and its own entertainment center). And we'll also have a large standing glass-door shower! WOHOO!! Such a change from our miniature 1/4 size bathtub (that Jared can't stand up straight in). Although the trailer is only 4 feet longer than what we have now, having more privacy with individual rooms, and having the 4 pop-outs will probably make it feel twice the size of our current one! Something to look forward to all summer...and waiting until the fall will really make us appreciate the new amount of space we will have!
So, I finally got around to making a baby announcement, and getting it printed. If you look REALLY closely, you might notice my mistake. Look closely, and take a guess: "Maiya Lynn" should be "Maiya Lyn"...of course, "Lynn" would be more normal, but she's named after Jared's mom, Marilyn, and therefore "Lyn" is the correct spelling! I'm ashamed...shouldn't a mom know how to spell her own daughter's name? Maybe she'll never notice it in her scrapbook...HAH!
Ella recently received a surprise in the mail from Nana (my mom!). .. a quilted book that illustrates the "Monkeys jumping on the bed" song. This one, however, is the "Funky Monkeys" jumping on the bed! Ella LOVES that "song" (I suppose it's more of a sing-song rhyme)...thanks Nana! Don't you love Ella's pose on the left, with the book upside down? And on the right is a picture of Ella being her goofy self. Have I ever mentioned how FUNNY she is? She has SO much personality, and she LOVES to come up with funny clothing combinations! Nana forwarded on a box of hand-me-downs from a sweet gal in Kansas who has been dressing Ella since she was 6 months old. Ella had so much fun putting on all of the new clothes...some of them are SOOO cute! So, Ella put together a goofy combo of old and new. The socks she got at Christmas from Nana (who gave her a big bag of socks that she desperately needed!), the shoes are new hand-me-downs, and too big for her now, and the warm suit she is wearing is WAY too small for her (but was great for walks and hikes in Alaska during the summers)! She was running back and forth in our apartment, saying "I'm a dinosaur!" She remembers everything...I must have called her "Barney" once in that outfit...and explained to her that he is a dinosaur. Doesn't she remind you for Barney?! So much personality!
About a month ago, we caught Ella in the act of doing something very funny (yet, again). I have mentioned before that Ella has a life-like baby doll that she got from her Grandma & Grandpa for Christmas. Well, after Christmas, we noticed that Ella began putting Maiya's diapers on her doll. She puts them on, on her own, and straps them on perfectly each time. A week after this start, after I changed Maiya's diaper, I noticed Ella running to the bathroom to dump something in the trash. I went and looked in the trash, and saw that there was a PERFECTLY CLEAN diaper that she had taken off her doll, Emma, and had wrapped up, and trashed. She had it wrapped up just like Mommy & Daddy, pulling the straps tight in a ball to keep the dirty diaper closed. Suddenly I realized this wasn't the first time she had done this, and we began to have to watch the trash for clean diapers, and sneak them out when Ella wasn't looking. What a goof! Oh, and Ella is SOOO good at changing diapers. So, she is allowed to help change Maiya, and she does a very nice job. Sometimes she gets upset at Maiya, however, because Maiya's leg kick Ella away. Maiya is a very strong kicker (a future soccer player, I'm sure)!
Another thing Ella loves is her "I am a child of God" crown that she colored in Nursery at church. She wears it around the house all the time, and even insisted on wearing it into Costco once. What do you do? For this picture, I had to fix the sunglasses for her, because she INSISTS that they go upside down. :::sigh::: What do you do with a 2 1/2 year old that knows more than you do? Oh, and on another funny note...we taught her to say that she is "TERRIBLE two and a half" when anyone asks! Hehehee...are we bad parents? Her 3rd birthday is in about 6 weeks, and she knows it is coming up. She looks through our family calendar on the wall, and points out the picture of her on her birthday. She has informed us that she is getting a new "Puter"...which means she is trying to convince us that is getting a new COMPUTER. Can you believe this kid?!
That's it for now. We are headed out to Philadelphia on Valentine's Day for the American Craft Market Show. It is a show nearly twice the size of the temporary booths in Seattle (AHHH!!), and each vendor is actually an artist who makes their products in the US...such a rare thing, nowadays! We will have 2 days packed full of walking UP and DOWN the isles with Maiya strapped in a front carrier. Ella will return to Grandma's house for the weekend, and get to ride Grandma's school bus 4 times! Ella LOVES the school bus, and she LOVES going to Grandma & Grandpa's house!
WHOA...this is a LONG post...but at least it's a post! :)