Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Letters Part Four!

*All pictures are from*

December 2013

Seasons Greetings!

I'm writing to you from our cabin. Peter thought some time away would be good for all of us. I think he was right. It's so beautiful and peaceful up here.

The cabin used to belong to Peter's parents. Peter bought it off of them in 2010, when his mother put it up for sale.

Peter's twin sister, Kate, and her husband, Spencer, decided to join us and get away from it all. I couldn't blame them after the whole Thanksgiving Day fiasco. But, what are the holidays without family drama?

Not much has changed for us.

Peter's still a congressman. Nothing new there.

I still work as an entertainment lawyer, representing celebrities who need legal counsel, and sometimes those celebrities who cannot control themselves. I've cut back my own hours due to Phoenix and his health needs. He's doing okay for the most part, but there are still lots of unanswered questions, which means lots of doctor visits. Phoenix sees seven specialists now. Seven.

Logan's fine. I call him, "Mini Peter" because he looks and acts exactly like his father! Sometimes, when he looks at me with those brown eyes, I see Peter staring back at me, and I usually give in to his demands. I know that's not good, but if he didn't look so much like his father, I would be able to resist him.

Peter's mother, Kim, is still a big name in the fashion industry. She's already working on her Spring, 2014 collection. Peter's father, Philip, still manages his wife's business affairs.

Peter's twin sister, Kate, retired from modeling at the beginning of this year, much to her mother's chagrin. And her husband, Spencer, is still a corporate lawyer who works for the same law firm as I do. (Leah's husband, Ryker, did, too, but he works from home now, so I don't see him much at all.)

Again, as you can see, nothing really new is happening. But I can show you pictures of the cabin!

The cabin. Peter and Spencer have spent most of the morning hours fishing in this pond.

The cabin at night. Look at this gorgeous view!

The ground floor hallway. When Peter called the staff and had them get the place together for us on such short notice, they were nice enough to assemble the trees so we could spend the first few days decorating. Peter and I had the boys gifts sent to us here at the cabin. We also purchased a few things for them since we've been here.

The den on the ground floor where Peter and Spencer play cards or have scotch and cigars after dinner.

The ground floor bathroom. Kate and I have spent so much time lounging in the hot tub since we got here. It's so relaxing!

The ground floor bedroom complete with wood burning stove.

The kitchen/dining area on the first floor. We don't take all of our meals here, just lunch and dinner. Peter and I usually have breakfast at the table in the sitting room of the master suite.

The sitting room on the first floor.

Closer view of the first floor sitting room Christmas tree. This is the first tree we decorated because it is by far the biggest tree. It's a real tree, too, so we don't spend much time in here with the boys due to Phoenix's health issues. He has allergies, but they have yet to be pinpointed, so we keep him away from anything that could remotely trigger allergies.

The first floor family room, where Kate, the boys, and I retire after dinner. The boys watch television until they fall asleep, which is usually between eight and nine o'clock. Peter comes in and carries Logan up to bed. I take Phoenix up to the room where we sleep, administer his medications, and put him to bed. It's easier to give him his meds while he's sleeping. Then, I take him to his bed and sit with him for a few minutes to make sure he's really asleep. Once I realize he's down for the count, I grab the baby monitor and take it downstairs with me so I can listen in case he needs anything.

The first floor bathroom. Logan thinks the tub is a swimming pool, (I can't blame him for thinking it's a pool, it's certainly large enough, especially to a little boy), and he's been asking me and Peter to take him swimming. I may have to break out his swim shorts and his life jacket and let him swim!

The hot springs right outside of the cabin! Peter and Spencer have braved it, but Kate and I are not interested in the least.

The second floor hallway. This is probably where we will open gifts first. The boys will head straight for this tree, while Peter, Kate, Spencer, and I will have coffee and admire the view. On Christmas morning, we will go about the cabin, stopping to open gifts at each tree.

The second floor bedroom with twin beds. This is where the boys sleep, in their "big boy beds" as Logan calls them. Logan starts out in the first bed by the doorway, but when we check on them before we retire for the night, we find Logan asleep next to Phoenix in the other bed. He's very protective of Phoenix, but so are we, so he's probably learning that from observing our actions.

The second floor bedroom with a king bed, which adjoins the other bedroom. This is where we sleep when we have the boys with us because the room where they sleep is just right through the other door of bathroom. We leave the door open so we can hear them, and if Phoenix needs anything, one of us can be there within seconds. If it's just us, we sleep in the master suite. There are two loungers across from the bed, so we put a boy on each one. Since Kate and Spencer came with us, we let them have the master suite.

The second floor bathroom, shared between the two second floor bedrooms. This is where Peter or I bathe the boys. The tub isn't as deep as it looks.

The second floor sitting room. This is where we sometimes spend the next hour or two after the boys go to bed, so we can be close by if Phoenix wakes up and needs something. I like to come up here, sit in one of the chairs next to the window, and thumb through magazines while admiring the view.

The second floor bathroom. I rarely bathe the boys here because of the fireplace, the candles, and the protruding stones. There are just too many things they can hurt themselves on.

The third floor is basically the master suite and a small hallway where the stairs end. Kate and Spencer are loving it!

The third floor master bathroom. Peter and I often lie in the tub and have tea. The two teapots, tea cups, and basket of tea bags are probably a dead giveaway. The tub has whirlpool jets in it, and if you make the mistake of adding bubble bath, you will end up surrounded by a huge wall of bubbles! The toilet and the sink are on the lower level of the bathroom.

The hot tub on the third floor deck with a gorgeous view of snow covered mountains. The four of us did come out on the deck and get in the hot tub, but there's a huge patio heater to help keep us warm, and there's always the steam room if we get too cold.

We've had a BLAST since we got here! We took the boys outside to build a snowman, we've shopped, we've eaten, we've been skiing seven times since we got here. The first time we went was great. We left the boys in the care of our butler and trusted friend, Jean-Luc, and we headed to the nearest ski resort. Kate is an avid skier, which is odd for someone who loves summer as much as I do. Peter's great at skiing, but he loves snowboarding more.

Before we went skiing, we did something I am good at (because I'm not the best at skiing). We went ice skating.

Ice skaters!

Then, we hit the slopes.

This ski lift contraption took us to the top of the slopes.

I can ski. I'm not nearly as good at it as Peter, Kate, and Spencer, but Kate patiently stayed by my side as I carefully navigated my way down the easy slopes. I do look adorable in my ski gear, though!

Peter and Spencer went snowboarding.


After Kate and I exhausted ourselves on the slopes, we watched our husbands snowboard until we got too cold and had to go inside the ski lodge and have hot chocolate. I called to check on the boys, who were playing. Phoenix was doing fine.

It started out as such a cold, overcast day, but it ended up being a gorgeous day!

After the guys were finished snowboarding, they came inside the lodge to warm up. Of course Peter's idea of warming up is having a glass of thirty year old scotch without any ice. He and Spencer finished their drinks and went into the gift shop. They returned with two microfiber blankets. Kate and I knew they were up to something, but we didn't know what, a man with a horse drawn carriage pulled up in front of the resort. Peter took my  hand and escorted me out to the carriage, which seated four. We took one seat, Spencer and Kate took the other. We rode in the carriage to a restaurant about two miles away from the resort, huddled under blankets and drinking hot chocolate all the way there. It was so nice.

We got to this restaurant, and it did not look like a place I would normally dine, but the food was amazing, and the service was top notch! We ate way too much. We got in the carriage to go back to the ski resort, and snow began falling, which made the ride even nicer.

The carriage we rode in!

We got back to the cabin to find Jean-Luc helping Logan and Phoenix wrap Christmas gifts for us. It was so sweet! Logan looked so serious as he fumbled with a bow, and Phoenix was singing a song he had made up on the spot. It was something like, "Yay, it's Christmas and I'm wrapping presents and there's snow, and there are places we can go, and snowmen, and Santa, and deer, and red flowers..." and he just kept going with whatever he could think to say about Christmas. Peter got it on video, thankfully.

We just put the boys to bed. Peter and Spencer are watching television in the upstairs family room. They've got the baby monitor so they can listen in on the boys, in case Phoenix needs anything. Kate, who was exhausted from the shopping she and I did, went to bed about ten minutes ago. I thought now was the perfect time to sit down and compose our Christmas Letter.

Now that I've given you the grand tour of the cabin, and told you about some of the things we've done here so far, I'll give you some updates about our lives this past year.

January was filled with appointments for Phoenix. (For those of you who don't know, Phoenix has some unknown health issues. He's seen specialist after specialist since he was born. He spent five months in the NICU after he was born. I went into labor at twenty-three weeks. The doctors at Wallace Memorial Hospital were able to stop my labor with medication, until I was twenty-seven weeks, when Phoenix decided he was ready to make his debut into the world. From that day on, our lives have been filled with appointments, medications, hospitalizations, surgeries and concerns, but also strength, joy, laughter, tears, hugs, kisses, and love from a beautiful little boy whose smile lights up a room.) We saw the neurologist, who prescribed a new medication for Phoenix to control his seizures. He has a combination of different types of seizures; absence seizures, simple partial seizures, complex partial seizures, drop seizures, (where he just drops to the ground but doesn't lose consciousness), and tonic clonic, also called grand mal, seizures. The tonic clonic seizures are the worst. I've seen him have that type of seizure many times, but it still doesn't make the next one any less scary. The medication from that visit did decrease his seizure activity dramatically.

We saw the endocrinologist. We've had no luck controlling his glucose level, which is constantly low. Everyone thought he was a diabetic due to some of his symptoms, especially the fact that he can't seem to get enough to drink. He can put away the fluids, so we were all surprised to see that his glucose was low. We have to give him glucose tablets. We check his glucose three times a day. He used to cry and run away when it was time to check it because he hates having his finger stuck, but now he looks forward to it. That's one good thing the glucose tablets have done. He will stand there with me until the machine beeps, and he says, "Do I get one of those grape things?" He's so disappointed when he doesn't have to eat one.

We also saw the ENT and the speech therapist. The ENT is pleased with the results of the surgery, which took place last November. (Phoenix had tubes placed in his ears.) The ENT was also glad to know that Phoenix has not dealt with constant ear infections like he did before. The speech therapist said that his words are much clearer, and that he's advanced in his speech for his age (which was eighteen months at that time). She doesn't expect to be working with him for much longer.

I spent the last two weeks in Milan as a guest judge on a modeling show. (That was the first modeling related job I've accepted since I retired five years ago as a supermodel.)

In February, Phoenix was hospitalized on Groundhog Day. He was showing symptoms of a cold before I had to leave for Milan, but he wasn't getting any better and had developed a fever, so Peter took him to the ER, while I stayed at home with Logan, who was now exhibiting cold symptoms. Phoenix was admitted and spent fourteen days in the hospital. We took turns spending the night at the hospital. He stayed the first night, and I stayed the second, and so on and so forth. One of us took care of Phoenix, while the other took care of Logan. (Believe it or not, I would much rather take care of Phoenix when he's sick than Logan, because while taking care of Phoenix is complicated and requires IV meds and finger sticks and more, he knows the drill and cooperates 95% of the time, but when Logan is sick, he's a tyrant, just like his father. He will scream, cry, and throw things because he doesn't feel well, then, he will hole himself up in his room, where he makes his demands from bed, and he's only three! He's Peter through and through.)

Our Valentine's Day celebration took place in the hospital cafeteria. They served a breakfast buffet for dinner, something Wallace Memorial Hospital does once a month (is it sad that I know this), which consisted of heart shaped eggs, heart shaped pancakes, heart shaped sausage patties, heart shaped Canadian bacon, heart shaped waffles, and fresh fruit cut into little heart shaped pieces. Our friend, Steve, who was working that evening (he's an oncologist) joked that the cardiology department was boycotting the hospital cafeteria because whoever made the food did not use the correct shape of a heart. He also brought us three sugar cookies which were shaped and iced like an actual heart, and even had different colored icing piped on them to look like veins and arteries. He said one of his colleagues made them and brought them in for Valentine's Day. We ate our cookies and took the third one up to Phoenix, who ate that cookie like it was his last meal.

Leah, Tallullah, and I got together on the 25th to throw Daisy a surprise party at the tea room for her 26th birthday. Daisy's doing so much better. She's still in remission. She's gained some weight back, and her hair has grown and is now touching her shoulders. (She can't wait until it's down to her waist again.) She looks amazing, and happy. She showed us pictures of her then five year old son, Declan. (She and Steve adopted him. He's lived with them since October 31st, 2011.) She loves being able to be a mommy again, and as Tallullah puts it, to do "Mom things". We had such a nice time. Then, Leah had to get back upstairs to Ryker. His father had a heart attack two days before Daisy's birthday. I had to get back to Phoenix and see about him.

March consisted of more visits to the doctor for Phoenix, concerning his hospitalization, and a referral to the pulmonologist after another struggle with pneumonia, which thankfully did not require another stay in the hospital. His visit with the endocrinologist was better this time. The glucose tablets proved to be working. More tests to follow.

March 2nd was Paul's twenty-seventh birthday. Peter, Ryker, and Steve took him to his favorite BBQ place to eat, then, they went to a boxing match.

March 11th was Ashtyn's second birthday. We took the boys over to celebrate her birthday.

On March 31st, Peter and his twin, Kate, celebrated their twenty-seventh birthday together. Phoenix wasn't feeling well that day. He had a seizure, so Peter and Kate went out to dinner together to celebrate while I stayed home with the boys.

We took the boys to the church Paul and Tallullah attend for Easter Sunday. They looked so cute in their little suits and ties! After service, the church had an Easter egg hunt. It was the first time the boys participated. They had fun. Phoenix found more eggs than Logan! Logan kept stopping to eat the candy he found in them, or pocket the money that sometimes fell out of them.

On April 10th, Peter and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary by taking a weekend trip to LA. We spent the week lying on the beach or poolside at our hotel. My brother, Braxton, and sister-in-law, Rhiannon, stayed with Logan and Phoenix at our place.

April 26th was Tallullah's 26th birthday. Daisy, Steve, Leah, Ryker, Peter, Paul, and I took her to that new extreme sports place. Tallullah's very adventurous. She was climbing rock walls and flying across the place on the highest zip line, and having a great time!

On May 3rd, Logan had his first visit to the dentist. He was very good during the visit and did everything the dentist told him to do. He's NEVER that docile. He must be learning from his brother. His dental health was excellent.

After the dentist visit, I picked Phoenix up from the house, and took him and Logan over to Zane and Zephra's birthday party. Peter was out of town that day, so he couldn't make it. Zane and Zephra's birthdays are a day apart, so Paul and Tallullah throw their parties on the same day. They both had a great time.

June 12th was Daisy and Steve's third wedding anniversary.

June 27th was Ryker's birthday, so the four of us went over to their house to hang out in their backyard, which is a private beach. Peter, Ryker, Steve, and Tallullah surfed, while Daisy, Leah, and I sunbathed as we watched them. Paul took all of the kids to hunt for seashells. That consisted of his own two children, Zephra and Zane, Steve and Daisy's two children, Declan and Ashtyn, Leah and Ryker's oldest twins, Hannah and Katherine, and their youngest twins, Madeline and Gregory. Paul helped them find shells. Then, he got them all involved in building a sandcastle. Logan and Gregory kept begging to act like Godzilla or King Kong and destroy it, but instead, Paul built them a city out of sand, and let them terrorize it. He even made little people who looked like they were running! The kids had such a good time.

We went back over to Leah and Ryker's house and spent fourth of July having a barbecue on the beach.

July 21st, Phoenix turned two years old. We threw him a Blue's Clues party. He loves Blues Clues, and he's so observant. Peter will sometimes bring bagels home from the bagel shop next to the airport, and he will hide them, but the minute Phoenix gets up from his nap, he will ask for a bagel! How does he know that? So I'll get him an Asiago cheese bagel. He eats half, and I eat the other half.

Phoenix had such a good day that day. He ate a full meal, something that's rare for him. He ran around the house with Logan and their friends, which consisted of Declan, Ashtyn, Zephra, Zane, Hannah, Katherine, Madeline, and Gregory. They were all running through the house giggling and squealing with delight. But that night was a different story. I woke up around two in the morning to check on Phoenix, and he wasn't breathing very well. So I called an ambulance and woke Peter. By the time we got to the hospital, Phoenix was fine. They went ahead and kept him that night to monitor him. The next day, they ran some tests, but they could find nothing. They referred him to an allergy specialist. I'll just add that doctor to his list. Poor guy sees enough doctors as it stands now.

In August, Logan started preschool. Phoenix could have went, but I'm not ready to let him go yet. Logan seems to enjoy interacting with his peers. Once he's awake, Logan can't wait to go. He asks, "Is it time to go yet," every five minutes!

August 29th was Steve's birthday. Peter got this fabulous idea for he, Ryker, and Paul to take Steve to Vegas. I won't go into details, but I was not surprised when Peter got them all kicked out of the casino.

September 4th was Logan's third birthday. He walked around declaring that he's a "big boy" now. He's just like Peter. You could see how proud Peter was when Logan informed him that he was now a big boy. We had a "big boy" party, with a "big boy" theme, which was sports cars. Logan loves sports cars, just like his father. He already wants a Porsche. I have no idea what I'm going to do with him and he's only three! The gang came over, and the kids played. Then, it was time to open gifts. Logan was thrilled to see the  "sports car" that Peter got him. He  got in and took each of his friends for a ride around the backyard! I didn't expect him to share it, but he did.

September 10th was Leah's birthday. Daisy, Tallullah, and I took her to the tea room, where we had an elegant tea party complete with Petit Fours, fondue, and all sorts of other goodies.

October came, bringing with it my birthday and Halloween. The week of my birthday, Peter took me to Tahiti! We spent the majority of our time in our thatched roof hut that is poised on stilts above the still blue waters! It had a private sun deck, and glass floor panels so we could see the Ogle Technicolor reef fish! One of the awesome things about being there was getting breakfast delivered from a traditional dugout canoe by Tahitian women wearing fragrant leis! We went on a shark and stingray feeding tour. I was a mess, but Peter loved every minute of it. We partook in a couples Tahitian massage, explored the heart shaped Moorea, sampled traditional Tahitian dishes, such as breadfruit, taro, Poisson Cru, which is raw tuna marinated in lime juice, and coconut milk. we visited a pearl farm, which I thought was awesome! Tahiti is famous for its black pearls, but not all of them are black. They can come in shades of blue, gray, bronze, green, and aubergine. We took a boat ride in Bora Bora among the Mt. Otemanu. It was gorgeous!!! We saw Polynesian dancers, and I gave it a try. I caught on really quickly, but Peter said he had more fun watching me than participating. We got on the plane to head home. As soon as we were free to move about the cabin, my husband told me to close my eyes. He placed a box in my lap, one last surprise. I opened the box and saw the necklace. Peter bought me a gorgeous strand of black pearls for my birthday. He said my eyes lit up when we were at the pearl farm. He spoils me so. I got with the girls for a day at the spa a few days after I returned home.

For Halloween, Logan wanted to be "like daddy". Peter was thrilled! And the best part was that he was home in time to go trick-or-treating with us this year! (Last year, I took them by myself, which wasn't easy because Phoenix had a seizure halfway through the night, and Logan was disappointed that we had to go home.) So I put Logan in his little black Easter suit with the red silk tie, and found him a small briefcase to carry around. Phoenix wanted to be a lion, like Logan was last year. I let him wear Logan's old costume. He looked so cute in it! He was walking around, yelling, "RAWR," in his cute little toddler voice. It was absolutely adorable. It was one of those nights where nobody would ever know that Phoenix was anything but a normal, healthy little two year old boy.

While we were out with the boys that night, we saw one of the nurses who took care of Phoenix last time he was in the hospital. Phoenix recognized her, because he ran to her, hugged her tightly, and said, "Thank you!" He's such a polite little boy! (Logan, on the other hand, is a different story. We have to remind him of his manners. One time, we were out somewhere eating with Paul and Tallullah, and Logan burped really loud. Peter asked, "What do you say?" And Logan replied, "Nothing." Of course, Paul and Tallullah thought it was hilarious! I wanted to die right there. And Peter was angry. He kept on until Logan finally said, "Excuse me.")

November started out with Logan coming home sick from preschool. Peter and I caught it. Phoenix didn't, which was a miracle! So the three of us spent the second week of November lying around the house, feeling miserable. Leah and Ryker took Phoenix during the day each day. (Leah's a doctor and well aware of his needs, so I don't worry about him so much when he's there.) He had a blast playing with Hannah, Katherine, Madeline, and Gregory. By the second week, we were all feeling better, and things were fine until the holidays began.

Paul and Tallullah celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary on November 9th.

Thanksgiving was when the real drama took place. Peter's parents came to New York to spend the holidays with us. Peter and his twin, Kate, were really hoping they wouldn't. If their father, Philip, had came by himself like he did last year, that would have been fine, but when their mother, Kim, comes in, there's ALWAYS drama. She's a clothing designer, very high maintenance, and nothing Peter or Kate do is good enough for her. Kate's not thin enough, and Peter should have chosen a career in the fashion industry, because according to her, that's all he knows. She's never proud of them. (She's always been like this, too. When Logan turned one, she came over for the party, changed everything, and invited people we didn't know!) So when they decided to come in for Thanksgiving, I knew there would be drama. I just wasn't prepared for this year's drama.

Kim announced that she and Philip would be having Thanksgiving in their upscale Manhattan penthouse apartment. She insisted we attend, but I had already planned our Thanksgiving in advance. My brothers, Julian and Jericho, and their wives, Melissa, and Corinne, were coming in from Boston, and Kate and Spencer were coming this year, since Spencer's parents were going out of town. Peter informed her of this, and let's just say the fan was hit. It finally ended with Kim stating that we weren't welcome, and Peter and Kate getting plastered while playing pool in the billiard room.

I went ahead with our catered Thanksgiving dinner. Black Manor was decorated accordingly. I made a few side dishes, Spencer brought his famous bread pudding. (Kate can't cook. Her mother said that was something "the help" did.) My brothers and sisters-in-law brought all kinds of food and desserts to our house. Dinner turned out great. We were sitting in the formal dining room, chatting away. Everyone fussed over the boys and how big they had gotten. And in the middle of dinner, the doorbell rang. Our butler, Jean-Luc, was our guest for Thanksgiving dinner, so Peter got up and answered the door. It was his mother and father. Peter brought them in. His expression was one of anger. Peter's mother, Kim, began her dramatic speech about how we did not invite them over for dinner. Philip hung his head, embarrassed. Kate was scared, and Spencer looked as angry as Peter. Julian, Melissa, Jericho, and Corinne, looked uncomfortable. Once the speech was over, Peter escorted his mother out of the room. We could hear shouting, but we couldn't make out what was said. Philip apologized for his wife's actions and left the room. I apologized to our dinner guests profusely. I was angry and embarrassed. (And before you ask, no, I'm not putting this letter in their Christmas card! They get a picture of the boys and that's it.)

Peter called the staff in Colorado and asked them to get the cabin ready for the weekend, and after Kate and I came back from our Black Friday shopping trip, we headed to the cabin. Peter's mother was angry that Kate and Spencer chose to come with us instead of spending the rest of the holiday season with them, but I can't blame either of them! I'm surprised Peter and Kate are as normal as they are after growing up in such dysfunction!

So here we are at the cabin. I think this was the best decision we could have made, getting away for a while. It has definitely done Peter and Kate some good.

I hear Phoenix crying through the monitor, so I must close for now.

I certainly hope everyone has had a great year, and a wonderful, drama free, holiday season!

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year,

Congressman Peter Dylan, Gabrielle Olivia, Philip Logan, and Phoenix Ryan

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Letters Part Three!

*All pictures are from*

December 2013

Merry Christmas

Forgive me for being so late getting these letters sent out. This month has been very busy. Paul's baby sister, Annie, is getting married on Christmas Eve, so the majority of this month has been spent helping her get last minute plans in place!

(Annie's engagement ring!)

Alaric, Annie's boyfriend of four years, proposed to her on Christmas Eve, 2011. He originally told her he was unable to make it in for Christmas that year. He had her gift sent to her and instructed her not to open it until Christmas Eve. So Christmas Eve came, and Annie opened the gift. Inside was a note that read, "Close Your Eyes." Annie closed her eyes, and when she was told to open her eyes, Alaric was standing there. He got down on one knee, and he proposed! It was the most amazing thing I ever got to witness!

We are all so excited for Annie! I just can't wait to see this wedding, and I'm not a huge wedding person, but  I've been with her throughout the planning, every step of the way! Annie's going to look so beautiful!

The wedding starts at eight o'clock tomorrow evening. I'm so excited!!!!

(Annie's dress! Dreama says it's perfect for a Christmas Eve wedding.)

(The reception hall, decorated and ready for tomorrow's wedding!)

(The wedding cake!)

When did I become such a girly girl, you ask? I think it's because of all the time I've been hanging out with Dreama, her daughters, Allison and Ashley, and our sister-in-law, Annie.

Aside from the wedding, we've been busy prepping for the holidays. Paul and I finished our shopping for the kids two weeks ago. I had some time to myself yesterday to go pick up a few last minute gifts for him. While I was out, I also purchased birthday gifts for Leah's oldest twins birthday. All four of her children have a birthday this month. Her identical twin girls, Hannah and Katherine, their birthday is on New Year's Eve.

And now, I will give you some updates about us and our families.

Paul and I are doing great. We celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary in November. We have fallen in love with each other all over again. We renewed our vows on our anniversary. We were going to do it in November of 2011, but I wanted to do it when Daisy could be there. I took Paul's last name, sort of. I am now Tallullah Wallace-Harris. Paul also took on the "Wallace-Harris" last name. He said if my maiden name was that important to me, then it was important to him. He's such a sweetheart! He still completely annoys me. He tells the worst jokes, he follows me around like a lost puppy. He never takes anything seriously. He's always singing songs with the kids instead of helping them with their homework, and he's so messy! And I love him. I love everything about him!

Our children are growing up way too fast! Zephra turned eight on May 2nd. She's in the third grade now, and she loves it. She's made a lot of friends. She's always got some birthday party or sleepover to go to nearly every weekend. She's such a social butterfly! She must get that from Paul's side of the family because I'm nowhere near being a social butterfly. I like hanging out with my three girls, Daisy, Gabrielle, and Leah, or my family, which includes Paul's family. I consider them mine, too. Paul's a social person and he loves to entertain people, but like me, he has a small circle of friends. Zephra is still as headstrong as ever, something she gets from me for sure. We still go head to head at times. She is so much like me that sometimes I want to lock her in her room until she calms down. She has my temper, which can be rather explosive. She speaks her mind, just like me, but she also fights for those who can't fight for themselves. We were recently called to the school to talk with her teacher and the principal because she popped a bully dead in the face! (I can't help it, but I was so proud of her. Paul was, too. I didn't tell her that, of course, because I don't want her going around and punching kids in the face.) He was picking on a second grader, and she marched over and told him to stop or she would hit him. He said no, so she hit him.The principal said that the boy has been a model student since Zephra hit him! (Again, so proud of her.)

Zane turned four on May third. Did I mention he is four now? I can't believe he's four!!! And he's the male version of me! He looks like me, but acts like Paul, and he's a daddy's boy. (Both of my children like Paul more than they do me, but I think it's because I'm always the bad guy. Paul doesn't want to discipline them, he wants to make them laugh, and hug them, and give them cookies, and let them stay up an hour later than they should, but he does discipline them when they do something major. I know he hates to have to discipline them, but it's for their own good. He had to ground Zephra last week for lying. I could tell it hurt him, especially when her little bottom lip started to quiver. I felt bad for both of them.) Zane's so tall for a four year old, too. Most people assume he's Zephra's age. I call him my little vampire because he would rather sleep all day. He does not like to get up for preschool in the mornings. He gets that from me. Before I had children, I would throw things and verbally assault anyone who would try to get me up before noon, except for my dad, because he would pick me up, carry me to the bathroom, and throw me in the shower, fully clothed if I didn't get up. Paul has felt my wrath upon waking me before noon, but now that I have children, I have to get up. I have no choice in the matter. So I endure Zane's tantrums each morning, (Zephra used to be the same way before she started school. Now she gets up each weekday. The weekends are a different story.) Anyway, back to Zane. Zane, like his father, tells the same corny jokes. He rarely takes anything seriously, except for his sleep, and he's messy! I tell him to clean his room, and he replies with, "This is my room, and I like it this way!" (Paul taught him to say that, by the way.) I decided that Zane has a point, so I compromised. I don't force him to make his bed, but his clothes, shoes, and all but one toy have to be put away. I also make him clean up his messes in other areas of the house, and he's actually good about that. (Zephra, who was also messy, has now become as neat as a pin since she has friends over most of the time. She doesn't want them to think badly of her.) Zane really is a good kid. His preschool teacher says he's so quiet and well behaved. We've never had to go to school over Zane, yet. Paul says to give it time.

Zayden is two years old. His birthday was in July. He looks just like Paul. He has Paul's red hair and his biological mother's brown eyes. Zayden is such a sweetie. He calls me, "Mom" and wants to snuggle in my lap, and I'm perfectly fine with that. Zayden's story is a bit complicated, and rather than share what was a tough situation, I have decided to forget about it and put it behind me. What I will say is that Zayden is a lucky little boy because he has two mothers who love him very much. That's all anyone needs to know.

My parents are still going strong. They celebrated their thirty-first wedding anniversary in March. Mom is doing great. She's had several surgeries to repair the damage done from the accident, but the results were good, and she's showing significant improvement. She's able to do more, although Dad still fusses over her for the most part. Dad's fine. I worry about him taking care of Mom, Troy, and Scout, when he's home from college, plus working full time at the Wallace Architect Firm. We've all tried to talk him into retiring, but he won't hear of it. My oldest brother, Zack, has convinced Dad to cut his own hours, which is good. Zack has taken over some of the things Dad used to do there.

Zack turned thirty-three in January. He and his wife, Sarah, who will be thirty-two on Christmas Day, and their son, Captain, who turned eight in September, are good. They celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary on the twentieth of this month. They still live in town. Zack and Sarah have been a great help to our parents. I'm glad they stuck around.

My brother, Noah, is getting along well. He turned twenty-eight on June 2nd. This time of year is difficult for us, but more so for him. Ever since our brother, Liam, who was Noah's identical twin, died (December 11th was the third anniversary of his death), Noah hasn't been the same. Arissa, who was Liam's fiance, has helped Noah greatly. She and Noah have taken refuge in each other. They have been seeing each other for the last two years. They're inseparable, and they say they're just friends, but I will be surprised if they don't end up together.

Scout started college this past August at the age of sixteen. He graduated last May. (He skipped eighth grade.) Our parents were not sure if he was mature enough to handle college, but he's proven them wrong. He will be seventeen on April 10th. And my youngest brother, Troy, turned eleven in November. His birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, so my parents had his party the day before.

Paul's family is doing well this year. He and his mother are becoming closer. They have both worked hard to repair their relationship, and it's paying off. Paul visits his mother once a week. He takes her to lunch, and they hang out, sometimes with the rest of the family, sometimes alone. Ever since Paul's father died, Paul's mother has been rediscovering who she is. She tried the whole "acting like a grandmother" thing, but she found out that she's adventurous. She takes Paul, his brother, Jeff, Annie, and Annie's fiance, Alaric, and all of the grandchildren to the family fun center. She plays paintball with Paul, Jeff, Annie, and Alaric, while Paul's brother, Keith, takes the younger ones to do something less dangerous. (Keith is so not adventurous!)

Keith, his wife, Dreama, and their children, Allison, Ashley, and Adam, are having a great year. Paul's brother, Jeff, who has Downs, is still living living with them. Annie lived with them as well until about six months ago, when she put the down payment on a cottage in Denver. (Keith and Dreama bought the cottage as a wedding gift to her and Alaric, but they won't find that out until Christmas Day!). Keith and Dreama just celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary in October. Keith turned forty on September 15th, and Dreama turned forty-two on the 16th. Dreama's a psychologist, and Keith is a business tycoon.

Allison is seventeen now! She will graduate high school May of next year. She and her boyfriend of two and a half years, Nicholas Glassman, spent the summer in Los Angeles, California. Nicholas, who's twenty, runs his father's sister company there. He's a business major at UCLA.

Ashley is seven. She's a sweetheart. She's on the honor roll at school, and she and Zephra are such close friends. They've been inseparable since Keith and Dreama came here to New York to spend the holidays with us. (They live in Denver.) 

Keith and Dreama had their first son in April of 2011. Adam turned two on April 5th this year. Keith is thrilled to finally have a son. Adam is adorable! He has Dreama's auburn hair and blue eyes, but he is as shy and as quiet as Keith!

Jeff is twenty two. He wants to get married to his girlfriend, but Keith and Dreama don't think that's a good idea. They did turn the attic of their six bedroom Victorian home in Denver into an apartment for him. Dreama thought it was a good idea for Jeff to feel independent. And Jeff has really done well. I think he's trying to prove that he can live in an apartment by himself. He keeps the place clean, he's cooks his own food. He's even had Keith, Dreama, and the girls "at his place" for dinner. Annie and Alaric are great with Jeff. They take him and his girlfriend out on double dates, which is really sweet. Jeff says that he feels like such a grown up now. (I think Jeff is my favorite! I remember the first time he saw Zane, he cried. He said, "Is that my nephew?" And I told him it was. And he asked if he could hold Zane, and at first, I was reluctant, but Jeff has been so good with Zane. They're buddies now. Jeff is probably the most precious person I have ever met. He's great, really.) He invited me and Paul to come to dinner at his house for New Year's Day, so we are! I can't wait, honestly!

Annie, who's twenty, is so happy! She's been caught up in her wedding plans. She's such a sweet person. She has been walking around, well, more like floating dreamily, with a huge smile on her face.

Paul's sister, Roseanna, the oldest at forty-two, and her daughter, Jaiden, who is twenty-three, are doing well. Roseanna is still single, but she's been seeing a really nice man for the last two years. She brought him in last Christmas to introduce him to us. He's a few years older than her, and has a daughter who's twenty. She and Jaiden have been like sisters since the day they met. It's good that Roseanna has a nice guy for once. The last one was very mean to her and Jaiden.

As I mentioned earlier, we have been getting ready for the holidays. See the pics below.

(Our newly redone living room. My sister-in-laws, Dreama, and Annie, helped decorate.)

We put up our tree on December 1st. Paul wanted a real tree this year. I was concerned about how Zephra would react because she has allergies and asthma, but she's done well. The kids had a blast hanging ornaments. Keith, Dreama, and the rest of the family came over to help us decorate.

(Our newly redone dining room.)

 My father and his triplet brothers, Turner, and Harper, came over, painted, and totally redid the dining room for me two weeks before Thanksgiving. I love the color! Paul, his brother, Keith, and my brothers, Zack, Noah, Scout, and Troy, hung the stars and snowflakes that Dreama, Annie, and Allison made, above the dining room table. Keith, Dreama, and the rest of the family, purchased the pillows and Christmas decorations for the dining room. Dreama, and Annie, and my nieces, Allison and Ashley, and Aunt Amy put the place settings on the table. That was my Christmas present from them to me. Uncle Harper and Aunt Isobel purchased the table, chairs, the new place settings, and the white doors, and Uncle Turner and Aunt Amy got us the fireplace. Uncle Turner helped Dad install it.

(Our family room, where Paul, Zephra, and Zane will fall asleep on Christmas morning, among wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes, and bows, while I clean it all up.)

We have a fake tree in our family room, where Paul spends most of his time, watching his huge television. He and the guys usually get together and watch most of the games here. They watch the first game of the season at Ryker's house on his television, which I think it's the same size as ours, and they watch the super bowl at Peter's because he has a theater sized screen at his house, complete with reclining seats, and a huge buffet of food. It's almost set up like a sky box, you could say.

We helped Keith and Dreama decorate their home here in New York. We also helped them decorate their Victorian home in Denver. We spent Thanksgiving with them and decorated on Black Friday. (The pics of their place were taken at their New York home.)

(Keith and Dreama's living room. I love the ice skates on the tree.)

(Keith and Dreama's kitchen. I love their kitchen.)

(Keith and Dreama's sitting room. Dreama has such a great sense of style. Sometimes she makes me wish I was less of a tomboy.)

We got to see Annie's new place. It's gorgeous, and somewhat bigger than I expected to be a cottage.

(The foyer at Annie's cottage.)

(Annie's sitting room. The wood burning stove makes the cottage smell so wonderful!)

(Annie's Dining Room/Kitchen.)

(The downstairs bathroom of Annie's cottage.)

(Downstairs, spare bedroom.)

(The utility room. This is Annie and Alaric's little dog, Honey. Alaric got Honey as a gift for Annie three years ago, but he had to keep her at his house. Now, Honey lives at the cottage with Annie, and Alaric when he moves in. Half of his stuff is there now.)

(I think this used to be a barn, but it was converted into some sort of rec room or living area.)

(Bench in the rec room.)

(Annie and Alaric's family room upstairs.)

(Annie and Alaric's bedroom.)

(The upstairs bathroom.)

Annie's cottage is so cozy! I loved being there! I can't wait to go back and visit.

My brothers and I went over to help Mom and Dad decorate their home for Christmas!

(My mom and dad's dining room, where we will have Christmas Dinner this year!)

The dining room is the focus of our visit there, so Mom always goes all out. Paul, the kids, and I have Christmas dinner here every year. It's a tradition. My brothers pop in and out throughout the day. We sit and eat. Then, we eat throughout the day. Then we eat more.

(The family room at my mom and dad's.)

The family room is where we gather to watch Christmas movies after dinner. We usually lie around like beached whales and fall asleep. That's Dad's chair by the fireplace, where he will fall asleep with all four of his grandchildren piled on top of him. The men usually fall asleep first. My dad is the first to go, then Paul, then Zack, then Scout. Noah's usually in the lead, managing to stay up the longest. Then, there's the snoring competition, judged by the women, usually me, my mother, Sarah, and Zephra. Paul snores the loudest, so he usually wins. And what's worse is he's usually sitting beside me on the couch, so I can't hear the Christmas movie we were trying to watch in the first place. Dad comes in second place. He will wake himself or one of the grandchildren with his snoring. Zack's usually in third place. Troy takes fourth place. Noah and Scout do not snore, but Scout talks in his sleep, so I feel sorry for his college roommates. He has talked in his sleep from the time he was a toddler.

After our corporate nap, Mom and Sarah serve coffee and dessert. Then, we reluctantly stagger into the front room, trying our hardest to wake up.

(The front room.)

The front room, or the sitting room, is where the gift exchange takes place each year. Most of those gifts are for the grandchildren. My parents take that whole, "spoil the grandchildren and send them home" thing very seriously. Gifts are handed out to Captain, Zephra, Zane, Zayden, and my youngest brother, Troy. Then, Dad gives me, my brothers, Paul, Sarah, and Arissa an envelope with a check for $500.00 each. We get a few homemade gifts from Mom, but the focus is mainly the grandchildren and Troy.

I think I'm going to skip the long, drawn out part of the letter about our year and all of the boring stuff. Instead, I'll highlight the important months.

  • February, Ryker's father had a heart attack. (He's doing so much better now.) February was also Daisy's birthday. She turned twenty-six. She's doing great! Not only did we celebrate her birthday, we celebrated her second year in remission. The second year anniversary happened on March 11th, which is also her daughter, Ashtyn's birthday.
  • March, Paul turned twenty-seven on the second. The guys took him out for BBQ and then to a boxing match. March 11th was Ashtyn's second birthday, and Daisy's second year in remission. We went to help celebrate Ashtyn's big day. 
  • March 31st was Peter and his twin, Kate's birthdays.
  • April 26th was my twenty-sixth birthday. We went to an extreme sports place with all of my friends. I had such a blast climbing rock walls, riding zip lines, and paintball! The girls and I beat the guys in a paintball match.
  • May 2nd was Zephra's eighth birthday, and May 3rd was Zane's fourth birthday. We usually do their parties together since their birthdays are a day apart and they both have the same circle of friends. The party went well. 
  • Leah and Ryker's third wedding anniversary was the 29th.
  • June 12th was Daisy and Steve's third wedding anniversary. 
  • June 27th was Ryker's 26th birthday. We went to his house and spent the day hanging out on the beach, playing volleyball, surfing, and lounging around on the beach.
  • July 4th was also spent at Ryker and Leah's on the beach, doing most of the same things we did at his birthday party. 
  • July 12th, Zayden turned two. He had a great day! 
  • July 21st, Gabrielle and Peter's son, Phoenix, turned two.
  • August 29th was Steve's twenty-sixth birthday. The guys went to Vegas. I had a feeling that was not a good idea. Since we starting going to church, things have been different at our house, and I mean different in a good way. Paul didn't want to go and gamble, and he quit drinking since alcohol ruined his father's life, and nearly ruined ours. He almost didn't go, because he didn't think Vegas had anything to offer. But I talked him into going, mainly to help Steve and Ryker keep Peter out of trouble. So what do you do when you go to sin city, but you don't drink or gamble? You eat! And you check out the lights. Since Ryker is such a foodie, he and Paul hit all of the five star restaurants. They spent every free moment in the hotel gym burning calories. They also walked around the city at night to check out the lights. Paul was somewhat disappointed in Vegas. I have no desire to go, really.
  • September, school began for Zane for the first time. He attends preschool. He's learned so much already, but Zephra always tells him what she learned each day, so he's picking it up from her. 
  • Zephra started the third grade. Like I mentioned before, she loves school. She gets up without a fight now, and she's excited to tackle each day. 
  • Peter and Gabrielle's son, Logan, turned three on September 4th.
  • Leah's birthday was September 10th. We took her to the tea room. It's tradition for us ladies to start out with a party at the tea room and move to another location of our choice.
  • October was Gabrielle's 26th birthday. Peter took her out of town for the week, just the two of them. When she returned, Daisy, Leah, and I, took her to have a day at the spa! 
  • October is also a big deal for the kids because of Halloween. Paul and I are not comfortable with the idea of Halloween. Our church has other activities for the children to participate in where they can still dress up and get candy. The problem is that Zephra wants to dress up as a zombie, or something equally gross. Every single year, I ask, "Zephra, what kind of costume do you want?" Her response is something like, " An ax murderer," or "A cheerleader with her arm hacked off." So we have to sit her down and talk to her and explain to her that she can't wear something like that to church. This usually ends with her shouting and Paul trying to calm her down. In the end, we can convince her to change her mind, although this year, she was dead set on being Darth Vader, so we gave in. At least the costume isn't bloody or gory. Zane usually chooses a superhero costume. He was Batman this year, and Superman last year.
  • November 20th was Daisy and Steve's son, Declan's sixth birthday, but he was so sick, so the party was rescheduled for the thirtieth. 
  • Thanksgiving was okay, as okay as it can be when your oldest is sick, your middle child falls down and hurts himself, and your youngest is at his mother's. (We all missed Zayden so much!) Zephra had a cold. She was feeling miserable and cranky. She sat with her little arms folded and didn't want to do anything. Zane was running through the house with Troy and Captain. When they came to the dining room when we called them to eat, Zane, who was in his socks, ran in, slid across the hard wood floor, and slammed right into a chair. He cut his nose and ended up with a knot on his forehead. Paul immediately scooped him up while I grabbed some ice for his forehead, and Sarah ran into the bathroom and got some things from the medicine cabinet to clean and bandage him up. He cried for a good twenty minutes. We weren't sure if we should take him to the hospital because he would not calm down, but his cries turned to whimpers, then eventually quieted. I took him upstairs to my mom and dad's room, and put on cartoons on their bedroom television. Paul brought up a couple of plates of food. He fed Zane off of his plate, and Zane was hungry, which was a good thing. Paul went downstairs to take his plate down. I stayed upstairs with Zane and watched over him. He fell asleep ten minutes later, due to the adrenaline crash that followed his traumatic experience. I snuggled with him and ended up falling asleep. Paul woke me an hour later with the news that Zephra had spiked a fever. So we took her home and put her to bed. Zephra was well in time for Declan's birthday party on the thirtieth, but Zane had caught what she had. Paul stayed behind with Zane, and I took Zephra and Zayden to Declan's party.
I've told you about December and the wedding plans, so I guess I'll wrap this up. I need to get the kids to bed. Tomorrow is the big day!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

With Love and Appreciation,
Paul, Tallullah, Zephra, Zane, and Zayden