Monday, January 27, 2014

Conan's First Snow

Living in Europe for six years, I have fallen in love with winter. As a Texas girl, I have always been fascinated by the snow and all those winter accessories I certainly never needed before. I have more gloves, scarves and coats than I could ever possibly need, and have loved getting to wear them during our cold winters in Germany and the Netherlands. I was worried I wouldn't have the opportunity to experience winter once back in Oklahoma, or at least the 'winter wonderland' kind I had gotten accustomed to. I was in for a pleasant surprise when we received our first snowfall in early December. When everyone else was complaining about the ice and extremely cold temperatures, I was so excited to be able to bust out my winter duds and enjoy the pure beauty of the snow-covered streets. We have continued to have quite a cold winter with lots of arctic blasts and ice storms, but unfortunately, no more snow. This early December white-out was the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit!

Conan's first snow!

Conan with his one-of-a-kind Pirate Raggedy Andy doll made by his Grandma Beckie

Our neighborhood park as a winter wonderland

The second week of December was filled with festive holiday activities. On Friday night, we attended the 965th Squadron Christmas Party. Unfortunately, it was a pretty lame event due to lots of games and not near enough dancing. Luckily, we had a great table to make the night more interesting and even ended up crashing the holiday party next door, which was playing great jams where we could break it down on the dance floor!

Squadron Christmas Party

Saturday morning, we attended the downtown Norman Christmas parade. The temperatures were still quite frigid and extremely windy, so after about 30 minutes, we called it good. We got there just in time to see a few floats and Conan's first viewing of Santa. That evening we had our church Sunday School party and were able to get to know several of the couples in our class we had been attending the past few weeks. That Sunday morning, we officially joined First Baptist Norman and are so excited to be a part of this church family. Since then, I have joined the choir and Conan has become a nursery favorite. We are so excited to see what God has in store for us at FBC-Norman. 

Norman Main Street Christmas parade

Our festive rides
Conan has not been a huge fan of bath time during his early life. This was very disconcerting for us as bath time is one of the mechanisms encouraged for soothing a fussy baby. For him, getting undressed and wet only made him more angry. Although it did get somewhat better as the months progressed, it was still never a "fun" time for him. Finally, when he outgrew the infant bath and could safely sit up alone, we could bust out the giant rubber ducky (thanks for yet another hand-me-down, Laurel!). The first time he got in, we noticed an immediate difference and when we showed him how to splash, he was all smiles and laughter. Yes, finally he loves bath time, though now he cries when we take him out. Seven months has proved to be one of the most fun and engaging stages yet!

Conan, 7 months

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thanksgiving at the Ranch

For the second year in a row, we spent Thanksgiving at the Ranch! This is one of my favorite times of the year to be here, as the weather is cooler and what little Fall there is, really starts to show. Jon took leave for most of Thanksgiving week to capitalize on our time there. As with most of our ranch visits, time is spent outdoors as much as possible; walking along the creek, spending time with the animals, visiting on the patio, four-wheeling, and lots of work projects (for Jon, at least). 

Conan, 7 months

As Laurel and Jason were not coming until the day after Thanksgiving, we chose to have our dinner on Friday. So on Thanksgiving day, we celebrated by enjoying a long walk along the creek. During this walk, I found myself thankful for so many things this year. The first being my incredible family and new baby we prayed for, for so long. I'm thankful for our health and Jon's job that provides us a wonderful life. I'm thankful for both our loving, generous and kind families who are always there for us. 

I'm most thankful for these two!

My family....

On that day, I was thankful for the sunshine on our walk and the ranch itself, which has been my home away from home and now the tradition of this historic place can also be passed to Conan. I'm so thankful to God for the many, many blessings in my life!

We ended our walk back at the barn where Conan spent some time with Goldie and Buddy. This visit, more than any other, I realized how much they've aged and frail they've become. It makes me so happy that Conan had a chance to "meet" them both, as later that week, Goldie passed away. I was absolutely heartbroken that my friend died, but was also so happy that I got to hug her one last time only days before. As the horse I loved to ride and that led me down the aisle on my wedding day, she will always have a special place in my heart. 

Aunt Mandy and Conan visiting Goldie and Buddy

Jon teaching Conan how to feed Rambo bread

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Conan with his Cha and Bumpa

As is tradition on Thanksgiving weekend, we love to have a bonfire. It was so much fun to gather across the creek with everyone, enjoy some smores and have some good 'ole country fun. 

After our Thanksgiving meal, we had a little photo session out front in the effort to try to get an updated family photo for our Christmas card. This proved to be quite difficult with a busy baby, but Laurel did a  great job getting a photo alongside her helper Jason, who was making funny faces for Conan.

We also had a photo shoot for the boys. They looked so cute and Christmasy and these photos were used for phone covers for the grandparents' Christmas gifts. Braxton absolutely loves his baby brother and cousin and is so sweet and gentle with them both. 

It was yet another successful Thanksgiving week at the ranch with beautiful weather and fun times had by all. As our family continues to grow, I'm so thankful for the ranch as a place of family togetherness where lots of memories are made. Let the Christmas craziness begin!

Wurstfest - A little German fun, Texas-style!

In early November, we spent an action-packed weekend in Austin to celebrate Jon's birthday. The festivities included a trip to New Braunfels on Saturday to attend Wurstfest and on Sunday, we spent the day at a music fest in downtown Austin. We enjoyed not only lots of time with the Blues, but also reconnecting with some of our GK friends in Texas. 

Growing up in Texas, I had always heard about Wurstefest in the large German community of New Braunfels, but had never attended before. Over the past 6 years abroad, we've so enjoyed celebrating both Oktoberfest and Oktoberfeest (the Dutch version) and when the Fall rolled around, we were both aching to bust out our lederhosen and dirnld. Luckily, the date of Wurstfest coincided perfectly with our Austin trip, and we were able to dress in our German garb with a Texas twist - wearing cowboy boots!

Proudly showing off her sausage
Laurel and Braxton dancing away

Happy Birthday, Jon!

I didn't really know what to expect from this Fest, but was pleasantly surprised! They had three different beer halls, all with Texas/Bavarian music, lots of German souvenir stalls, and plenty of authentic German food (to include lots of wurst, hence the name of the fest). The weather was gorgeous so when the kids were getting a little restless in the beer hall, we meandered outdoors and sat along the river while sipping our beers. 

The Clough-Blue clan

The Germany crew

Margaret and Brandon drove up from San Antonio to spend the day with us and we had so much fun, as always, hanging out with them. It was so surreal to be celebrating all-things-German in Texas together, after being in Germany together for the real deal! Needless to say, we were quite the hit dressed in our authentic garb. We were stopped on several occasions to be asked where we got our outfits and even had the New Braunfels paper snap a pic of our group. 

On Sunday, Jon and I planned to spend the afternoon/evening at Austin's FunFunFun fest downtown. It's a great music fest of mostly rock bands and one of our fave from back in the day was there, The Dismemberment Plan. They hail from Northern VA and even attended the same high school as Jon (though many years earlier). Though he has seen them many times during his high school and college days, I've never had the chance as they only recently got back together and started touring again. When he found out they would be playing at this festival on his birthday weekend, he knew that would be the perfect way to celebrate it. Beforehand, we had brunch with the Blues and snapped this cute pic of the boys. 

Fun, Fun, Fun Fest

The Dismemberment Plan

Jon on the FunFunFun Fest sign
We had so much fun people-watching at the fairground and simply taking in the music fest vibe. And of course, the highlight was being able to see the D-Plan and sing along to all their songs. The Blues were oh-so-sweet to watch Conan so we could have this time together to celebrate Jon's birthday. That night, we met up with Missy for dinner at the Domain. This was our second opportunity to meet up with her during one of our Austin trips, and unfortunately would be our last as she returned to the NL later that month. We so enjoyed being able to visit with her on Texas soil, and though we will miss her being close by, I'm so excited for the many adventures she and Chad have ahead during their extended time abroad. 

Austin truly is such an incredible city and we look forward to our weekends here so much. Whether we're exploring the nature parks, bar-hopping downtown, shopping on Congress, or trying out new restaurants, there are always a plethora of activities to keep us busy. Though we would love to live here, we at least get the next best thing - family that does! Thanks, Blues, for making our Austin visits so wonderful! Can't wait until the next one!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fall and Halloween Fun

Late October brought extremely mild and beautiful weather to Norman. The weekend before Halloween, I ran the Monster Dash 5K. Jon's still injured, so he watched Conan so I could run sans stroller. Participants were encouraged to dress up and afterward, they had a costume contest. Awards were given for the top 3 individual and group costumes. We decided to pull out our "old faithfuls" from the costume bin, and went with Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. To include Conan with our theme, we made him the woodsman who saves Red at the end. We managed to pull out 1st place and were even featured in the Norman newspaper. How's that for only living in Norman for 3 months?!

The start of the Monster Dash 5K

Post-race photo

The next week, I visited the TG Farms pumpkin patch with a moms group from church. It provided the perfect photo op for Conan's 6 month picture. How is it possible he's already half a year?!

Fall is here and I'm a half-year!
We were so excited to have our first Halloween back in the States in over 6 years! Jon had so much fun decorating the outside of the house with jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and skeleton bones. On Halloween, he dressed up and enjoyed passing out candy to all the kiddos. Though Conan was in bed before the trick-or-treaters came by, he did pose for a pic in the Jon-crafted costume made especially for him. Though it's a bit lopsided, Jon did an outstanding job making this costume free hand. He puts me to shame in the crafty department!

Wearing his home-made lion costume from his daddy

Front of the house all halloween-ed up
Fall in OK is absolutely beautiful with the array of colors in the changing trees. As our backyard is full of trees, it's such a lovely time of year at the house. We took a couple pics of the backyard to capture this beauty and our growing boy.

Visitors to OK

Shortly after getting moved in and settled in Norman, OK, the visitors started pouring in. Jon and I were worried that once we moved Stateside, no one would want to come and visit us anymore, but we were wrong and had so much fun with family and friends who came to see us in September and October. (And a special thank you to our first visitors; Beckie, who came our first week in Oklahoma to help us with Conan, and also my parents and Mandy who came in July when our household goods arrived. With their help, we managed to get completely moved in (to include pictures hung and clothes organized in closet) in one weekend!).

In September, we had the pleasure of hosting the Spencers at our house for four days. Nick gets to recruit at OU twice a year, and Kelly and the girls usually join him to experience an all-things-Sooner weekend. As they are both OU graduates, they relish the time to come back to their alma mater and visit all their old hang-outs. It was a great opportunity for Jon and me to learn more about Norman through two people who have such a passion for the city and university. Allison and Charlotte are absolutely precious and were so very sweet to Conan. He loved all the activity and busy-ness they brought to the house.

Three cuties!
When Allison saw my Pip Studio tea set, she asked if we could have a tea party and I said of course. Every 30 minutes from that moment, she asked me when we could have our tea party. The next day, I brewed some Harrods tea and we enjoyed a mini tea party together talking about the weather and other appropriate topics. It was a whirlwind time together and, as always, I wish I had more pictures, but am so grateful for the time we were able to spend together and can't wait until they return in the spring!

Tea party fun
Immediately after our return from Hawaii, Beckie came to visit again, just in time for Conan's 5-month birthday. A few days later, David joined her and Conan had the opportunity to meet his grandad for the first time. Needless to say, they both were pretty enamored by each other.

Cooking breakfast and making the famous Clough cheese biscuits
The weather was superb and as usual, we managed to get David and Beckie to help us with some yard projects. We did spend an afternoon touring downtown OKC, walking along the river and visiting the land run monument.

OKC land run monument

Relaxing in the hammock on a beautiful October day
The following weekend, the Wards came to visit from Dallas. Aaron and Jon were roommates for 3 years in college, and despite Jon living all over the world, they have done an outstanding job keeping in touch. Other than short visits here and there in Dallas over the past several years, we have not had the opportunity to spend much time with Aaron and Molly. They just had twins in July and were eager to visit us in Norman for an overnight for some much needed catching up. It was a great opportunity for the babies to meet and to see how much their oldest, Owen, as grown.

Tex and Click + babies

 It's still so bizzare to me to see these two with kids, considering the stunts they used to pull in college. I spent a little too much time trying to keep them out of trouble (unsuccessfully!). I'm thrilled we'll be so much closer to them for a few years and look forward to some more reunions!

At the end of October, the Blues came to visit! We had been looking forward to and planning for this weekend for so long and were so excited to have some time with them in OK. The weekend was cut short due to Jason's mom tragically and unexpectedly passing away after complications during a bypass operation. They had to rush back to Texas after only a day to be with family. We were so saddened by this loss and hope their next visit will be much more un-eventful. 

Before receiving the upsetting news, we did manage to enjoy a full day together exploring campus corner and later that evening, attending the downtown Norman Fall Festival. Costumes were encouraged, so we dug around our costume bin and made sure everyone at least had on a silly hat. We loaded up on the bikes (all three kids in the bakfiets) and rode downtown. 

There was trick-or-treating outside the storefronts for the kids, tons of arts and crafts stations and blow-up fun houses. Braxton, I mean, Spider-Man had an absolute blast!

Thank you to all our visitors who have come to see us and we look forward to hopefully many, many more in the future!