We have quite a number of pets. Birds, fish, rats, a dog, and a cat... put together with our kids, and it's a down right zoo here some days. So when we finally let Nora get that second cat she's been dreaming about for years now, Alex had only one expression for me:

Alex making a face

Introducing Oreo Cookie (hey, it's the name she came with), our newest member of our family.

Oreo yawning

There is something unique about this cat. We had read her heart-wrenching story in the newspaper almost a year before, so when we found out no one had yet adopted her, we decided to. As you can see in the photo that follows, she is missing something...

Oreo missing an eye

She doesn't let it phase her, though, and is a sweet and perfectly normal cat in every other way.

We helped fend off the winter blahs by heading to the Como Zoo. Anna loved watching the seals and penguins. Here she is by some fish.

Anna with a fish tank behind her

A highlight was seeing the new pen the polar bears were in.

the polar bears

The two bears were playing with a tree. Watching them toss around a tree that is as tall as a person was awe inspiring.

A bear with a tree

The girls enjoyed climbing inside the pretend bear cave.

the girls pose inside a bear cave

Anna was excited to see some zebras. "That's MY zebra!" she exclaimed.

 a zebra

Corbin aped it up with a zoo resident.

Corbin and an ape

After viewing the animals we headed over to the Conservatory to enjoy some tropical paradise settings. The kids' favorite thing to do is watch the big Koi fish in the ponds.

the girls and Corbin at a fish pond

another shot of the same

Alex is quite the camera man, and shot some beautiful shots of different plants there. Here a just a few:
close up of a pitcher plant:

inside of a plant

some water lilies:

water lilies

an orchid over water:

an orchid reflecting in the water

Of course, our biggest winter event this year was the birth of Hanella. It was the coldest day of the winter by far, with the temperature in the teens below zero Fahrenheit. The story of her birth can be found here. Long story short, she was born Lee's van. Here's Ella under the warmer:

Ella under warmer

Ella's eyes open under warmer

I was in such shock over what had happened. I couldn't believe we didn't make it to the hospital!

Shannon in a daze

For months before the baby was born, Anna would tell everyone that the baby's name was going to be Blueberry, because she loves the color blue so much. Imagine our surprise when the nurses started calling Ella "Blueberry"! A nurse explained they call all babies with bruised faces blueberries. Her poor face was rather blue for the first day or so, but soon returned to a more normal color. Here's "Blueberry:"

Ella with a blue face

Ella just loved her first bath. It relaxed her so much that she drifted off to sleep amid the bubbles. To this day she still loves baths.

Ella sleeping in her bath

Another shot of Ella in her bath

Bright and early the next morning the siblings all got to come in and see their new sister. The girls were all real happy. "It's going to be a girl party forever now!" Rosa exclaimed. Here she is with her new sister.

Rosa holding Ella

Anna didn't want to hold the baby, so Nora gladly held her twice as long.

Nora holding Ella

Nora holding Ella again

Big brother Corbin thought Ella was pretty neat.

Corbin holding Ella

Big, big brother Caleb was comforted holding Ella. He had tragically just lost a pet bird in death hours before she was born.

Caleb holding Ella

Big, big, big brother Alex loves holding babies. And babies love being held by Alex! He can calm even the most irritable tot.

Alex with Ella

Sleepy Dad even posed with baby Ella.

Lee holding Ella

Mommy got to spend time with Ella wide awake. She had the deepest darkest eyes. It is not surprising that her eyes have turned dark brown.

Ella awake

Another shot of ella

Ella again

close up of Ella

Soon Ella and I can home to stay. She settled right in.

Ella at home

Here she is before her first meeting at the Kingdom Hall.

Ella all dressed up

About a week after Ella arrived we went snowshoeing at Sibley State Park. Nora was especially excited this year because she was old enough to go along. Here she is.

Nora snowshoeing

Here's Caleb and Corbin.

Caleb and Corbin snowshoeing

The gang went over a frozen pond and along some trails. Here's Nora and Corbin.

Corbin and Nora snowshoeing

They had a great time, and look forward to doing it again next year.

Once they can back to the lodge we enjoyed a picnic lunch and some roasted marshmallows. Caleb enjoyed holding sleepy Ella for a bit, too.

Caleb holding Ella

The kids all really enjoy Ella. When it's her bath time we have lots of eager little helpers! Here she is relaxing in her tub.

Ella in her baby tub

Right around 5 weeks of age Ella finally let out her first real smiles to big brother Alex. Here are some of them.

Ella smiling

Ella smiling

Ella smiling

Ella smiling

Thus ends our wondrous winter of 2010 to 2011.

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