Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ordway Family Christmas Letter 2012





Dearest Friends & Family,                                                                                                                                                                

As I sit here in front of our cozy wood stove fire, my heart is full. The Christmas tree is aglow with twinkling white lights, ornaments hung helter-skelter in odd clumps on the branches, and the plastic nativity set is scattered around its base.  Our littlest beauty, Grace, is sound asleep in her crib while the eldest three have made camp at the base of the boys’ bunk bed, surrounded by fortifications constructed of foam chairs, pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals galore.  A few creaking floorboards and three excited little voices coming from two piles of blue, and one of pink can be heard in the living room of our little farmhouse as they chatter and giggle about enemies and spies. Yes, such is a picture of our life right now, and what a beautiful life it is.  If any sentiment resonates with me this year, it is that of thankfulness.  


“KB”, our Caleb (age 7), finished his first year of school – Kindergarten, and embarked upon his second – First Grade.  Though he changed schools between the two, he has done well at both, in fact, having recently won the first grade spelling bee!  It has been fun watching him go from forming words to fluency in reading over the past year and observing him put together various pieces of logic and math from daily life.  However, all of his stuffed animals are still of utmost importance to him, and though he has begun to be a little more self-conscious to his outward responses publicly, he still loves to watch Veggie Tales and the like in the privacy of his own living room, laughing and giggling throughout.  Most importantly, he desperately wants us to snuggle with him and tell stories each night…..something neither Jason nor I are eager to give up anytime soon.   He is our tenderhearted boy with a tough outer shell and requires much patience from his parents!  But strong is his heart, and if we all stay the course, he will be a fine man someday. 


“Emet, my Emet” (age 5), is a thoughtful and helpful little soul.  He continues to grow in mind and stature and is frequently mistaken for Caleb’s twin….A large boy he is!  He has flourished in “Friday School Kindergarten”, our home school Co-op.  He loves the classroom time, and a chance to pack his lunchbox and carry a backpack.  He is working hard on his letters and numbers, putting together words and writing birthday letters to his stuffed animals.  There are a few words he still mispronounces, and we might be a tad guilty of not correcting him, in holding on to our little boy, but by and large, he is growing out of the preschool years and preparing to move into the world of Kindergarten. Emet is also our budding chef, and not only loves to help in the kitchen, but also loves creating recipes of his own…and to his credit, he comes up with some pretty incredible combinations!  He has a true talent!  


“Ru Bear”, our Anna Ruth (age 3), is a passionate and fiery one.  She can be as sweet as sugar, full of laughter and giggles, or as stormy as the deep blue sea.  She definitely can hold her own against her older brothers, who do give her quite the run for her money.  She is the apple of her Papa’s eye and spends most of the time he is home by his side or on his lap.    Her vocabulary has increased from simple sentences pieced together at the beginning of the year to a full vocabulary of ramblings, missing “R” and “Th” and “V”s which are replaced by “W” and “F”s.  “Whew Awe We Gowing?”….”NO NOT!”….and “I Luf you” are things we hear frequently from our little Ru Bear, in addition to her sing song little voice chatting away to her dollies and friends.  She can frequently be seen toting around two or more dollies and loves to rock them and put them to bed.  


Our Gracie, (age 1), is a true joy.  Our entire family is delighted daily by her winning smile, adorable dimples, twinkling, bright eyes and happy countenance.  She holds her own to be sure, not allowing herself to be left behind in any situation. But, for the most part, she is full of laughter, and increasingly, silly antics.  Knowing she is our last, it has been both a joy and a sadness to see these stages pass for the last time in our family.  However, we are looking forward with great anticipation at the new adventures we have before us.  


As for Jason and I, life remains full.  Jason spends many hours at Columbia West Engineering, his workplace of nearly 10 years, and we took the big step of becoming partners this year.  I have been working hard at being Mama to my four little ones, and in my spare time, (which is very spare indeed!), I have been trying to write more in my blog and have started a kitchen blog and Facebook page, Mama Ann’s Kitchen, to capture some of the fun my kiddos and I have in the kitchen and demo the Demarle Flexipan product I have long used and now distribute (our Disneyland fund). :-)


We are blessed beyond measure by a large group of dear friends and family to share our lives with.  I can’t even count the number of times a need has been met, or babysitting provided for an appointment or a much needed date night.  However, more often that not, we all find ourselves gathered together as families spending time together…..which may include 15-20 children and 12 or so adults.  The memories we are making are full of laughter, noise, and a good share of small arguments over various “mishaps”.  Negotiation and teamwork skills are already in full swing.  Because of both our life stage with little ones and a life of friends and fellowship, our house isn’t always as tidy or spotless as I would hope…..nor is the car vacuumed or the laundry complete.  But life is full, and life is good.  I truly wouldn’t change a thing.  


Friends, if you’re reading this letter, you have been a part of my life in some capacity over time.  Times change, and things rearrange, but a friend will never lose their spot in my heart.  May God bless each of you in this rich season of the celebration of His Son’s birth.  May you enjoy and treasure each moment spent with family and friends, storing the memories away in your heart for a rainy day and preparing the way for new and lasting traditions.  


Many Blessings,


Ann, for the family


Jason: (360) 909 0892, Jason@columbiawestengineering.com
Ann: (206) 290 7359, jaordway@hotmail.com, GourmetToGerber.Blogspot.com, MamaAnnsKitchen.Blogspot.com  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Year Old: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Ah, my dear sweet Grace.  As I sit here nursing you, I know our time together in such a bond is coming to a close.  I'd like to think it will go on forever, but as the seasons of life change from one to another, such things do pass.  But not just yet.  Not yet.  This Mama and her baby girl are not quite ready.  I know we'll have many beautiful times together from here forward.  I'm simply clinging to the now and the recent past.  It is a habit of mine, you know, one I'm working on. 

It is now two weeks past your birthday.  I think I've had a hard time sitting down to write this blog....this final month of the first year. It is hard to finish something sometimes when it means closing a door.  Yet...isn't that what life is all about? Walking forward....being where you are at while you are there, then looking ahead and taking each day as it comes.....celebrating and learning from the changes we encounter.  Growth.

And you are growing faster than I can imagine!  Tall and big.  You're easily fitting in 18 month clothing and some 2T shirts and dresses!  Was it only a year ago you were in newborn clothes?

In your third month, I wrote:

"I am reminded of the description of St. Nicholas in Twas the Night Before Christmas.....fitting for our Grace Noelle: 'Your eyes - how they twinkle - your dimples so merry, Your cheeks so like roses, 
your nose like a cherry.' "

Oh how true this remains of you! You are a bright star!  When you smile, the world seems to light up, and then on seeing our reaction to you, yet another level of brightness shines forth.  Unbelievable you are......dimples so cute, countenance so bright, eyes so sparkly.  Twinkle Twinkle Little Star indeed.


You are standing alone now, without the support of furniture or cabinetry.  In fact, the day before your first birthday, you took your first steps, alone, in the center of our kitchen. From squatting you rose up.  Caleb and I saw you, and then, with a gleam in your eyes and a brilliant smile on your face, you stepped forward again....then again.  We were beyond excited, and the more excited we got, the happier you became.  Emet came running down from upstairs, and Sissy started crying in the living room because she had missed it.  And you did it again, for each of them as they entered, and again for Papa that night when he came home.  Now, having more than two weeks passed, and seeing the infrequency with which you do this, I know you did it for us....for each of us.  As crawling is much more expedient, your few steps are typically followed by lowering down to a rapid crawl across the floor, though you will grasp even one finger and walk, quite surely, beside us.  But the minute we let go, down you go. 

I simply cannot adequately express the radiance in the countenance of babies and their families when such milestones occur. There, in those moments, is no shame or fear of public display.....no timidity, simply an excitement proclaiming - "Look at me!  I'm doing it!", or, "I can't believe I'm here to see this!"  And, this simply begins the childhood quest for praise and attention.  It has, of course, been occurring since your wee months, but as you begin to speak - you will ask for it....seek it.....and as your Mama, I will do my very best to quench your every need to have your little tank filled with love and praise.  

To be truthful, I might have confused you a bit, for I had left my planner at Grandpa and Grandma B's house at Thanksgiving and went a few days without it (NOT a good plan for your Mama.)  So, the day prior to your birthday, the kids and I sang happy birthday to you, put on the birthday hat at breakfast, your first birthday shirt, and we headed out the door to Caleb's school honors assembly.  After sitting down and sharing your first birthday news with those sitting around me, Papa soon arrived to point out that that day was not, in fact, November 29, and therefore NOT your birthday!  I quickly took the onesie off to save any further embarrassment. So, perhaps you had been holding out to take your first solo steps until your birthday and I confused you.  Or, maybe you just wanted to be the first in the family to walk.  Either way, you were our youngest "first stepper!"   

You are certainly one to hold your own.  You will not let us leave you alone without voicing your opinion, and loudly at that! When you are finished, you will cross your arms back and forth across your body, and when you want something - anything - you clap your hands, then extend out your arms in front of you, bending almost backwards at the elbows and clasping your hand as in the "milk" sign.  Lately, you have been shaking your head from side to side and have begun making silly faces - just to be silly.....squinting your eyes closed, then opening them again to see us, of course, staring at you and smiling!  You are quite a ham.

I look down at you in your crib, Grace Noelle, and I am amazed.  I see a baby that stretches, barely fitting your crib from side to side.....when just a year ago, you were so tiny and small when we first laid you there.  I see your growing, shiny locks of blonde hair - still short, but so much more than the downy fuzz that covered your head a year ago.  

But more than all of this, I see a future....I see you in a year, and then two, three, four, five and six from now, in the same way I have seen your brothers and sister grow before my very eyes.  All of the stages and joys that lie before us. I see the ending of the season of childbearing for me....and while that creates a sad feeling in my heart, a reminiscent one....it also creates a hope and anticipation for the joys of moving forward as a little family - growing and learning together, planting our roots like mighty oak trees, growing deep in the nourishing soil....learning as a family to love, give, and serve; creating traditions and beautiful memories that will last our whole lives long, and will become, for you, the foundation of your lives....becoming together a mighty lighthouse in a dark world.  

But Grace, you are so much more than simply the fourth child, the last to pass through the growing years in our home.  You are a miracle in your own right.  Beautiful, charming, and full of life.  You are cherished by your family and all who encounter you.  You have a winning way about you that makes you unforgettable.  

May you grow in Grace, sweet little one.  Grow in the beauty and Grace for which you were created.  You are amazing, cherished, and above all, are a precious child of God.  

Grow on, little Grace.  Grow on!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The best Christmas tree ever...

There would have been a time in my life when I never, EVER, would have looked at our Christmas tree this year as worthy of praise.  A somewhat misshapen tree, far shorter than I would have liked due to our short farmhouse ceilings.  Ornaments crammed far too close together and in no good pattern or order.  Plastic, shatterproof balls hung in heavy balance on the bottom branches.  A hastily scribbled paper angel, made from a paper plate, topping the tree.  No, our Christmas tree would never grace the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine. 

Yet, as I sit here alone in our living room....lights off and enjoying the glow of the twinkling white lights, I can't help but think back on the events of today.
...Of tromping in the rain through the mud, searching for just the right $10 tree.
...Of watching the boys with their Papa, sawing away with pride at the trunk that was soon to fall.
...Of hearing the repeated question over and over...."Is it time to start decorating the tree yet?"
...Of seeing the expressions of delight as they reached into the ornament bin to evoke memories of Christmases past.
...Of remembering that everything with their names or marks makes a place for them in the family.
...Of keeping in mind that each poorly glued, hastily cut paper ornament is a source of their pride.
...Of watching Anna Ruth pick out all of the Thomas Kincaid houses, for which she clearly demonstrated awe and delight, and gently carrying them to the tree, where she would hang the heavy ornaments ever so precariously on the end of the small branches.
...Of hearing the crack of ornaments, once considered precious, treasured objects.....collected over time from various jaunts and travels....as they bounced to the ground, breaking off this piece and that.
...Of seeing the big, sad, frightened eyes as they realized they had broken something considered special....though they had tried their best....the ceramic bagpipes from Scotland, the little Thomas Kincaid cottage....the bell with the Christmas scene.
...Of realizing these little people were experiencing great joy and wonder from holding these tiny treasures in their hands, and felt a deeper disappointment than I when the object slipped from their hands.
...Of bending down, tipping up chins, wiping off tears and reassuring their precious little spirits, and mine, that everything would be ok...and that those ornaments were just things.  Just stuff.
...Of giving hugs, restoring spirits, and walking them back to the ornament bin to try once again, with a good chance of further mishaps.

Yes, there would have been a time when this tree would have been an eyesore to me.  But no longer.  It has become more beautiful to me than diamonds....more precious than gold.  There will come a day, when I won't have these little hands helping me or tears to wipe away....when no one will consider placing five ornaments on a single branch.  I'll be able to have crystal icicles and glass balls to my heart's desire.  And yet....I'm not sure I'll want to.  It may just be that I always hang a paper ornament or two and Emet's little angel on the top of our tree....or at least his child's.  

What I have in my family now is a time of tradition, of wonder, of memories and joy, or stories and "remember whens"......all surrounding the mutual gathering and decoration of our little tree.  And when those precious memories drop to the floor in a pile of rubble?  Well, I then have a chance to touch and mend, to speak directly to the core of a wounded heart, assuring that little heart that it will always have a home and a safe place in our family.....to remind that little spirit what is important in life, and it's certainly not a fragile piece of painted ceramic.

And that life treasure....I wouldn't give up for anything. In fact, this might be the best Christmas tree ever.....Well, at least so far. :-)



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

11 Months: Into everything!!!




Ah, how the Autumn of your first year is upon us, Little One.  Too soon, you will be a year old!  As a Mama, I’m trying to overcome the melancholy of leaving this stage of parenting behind with the joys set before us.  Viewing each day not as a last but as a new beginning.  Yet….yet….with each little outfit and blanket I tuck away…..with each little shoe that no longer fits, I find a moment of pause in reflecting on what that little object has meant, on who has worn it, and it sends me back through Memory Lane.  

I have been struck, as of late, with how quickly the passage of time occurs.  It’s not in the days, but in the months and years that it passes.  Days seem to be about routine occurrences, then before you know it, a month has passed, and twelve into a year. I guess part of our job as parents is to find the joy in the daily routines, because that's the stuff life is made of.

As for you, Gracie Noelle, you are a gem!  What a sparkler you are!  So full of life and exuberance.  Not one to be left behind, you will voice your objection loudly when we leave the room, or call down to us when you are ready to be out of your bed.  We no longer can share snacks or Costco samples without giving them to you as well, or that voice of yours will be heard loud and clear!

Rare is the time when you look at us without your large, dimpled smile immediately following often accompanied by that ever so slight upward twitch of your brows.  You are so hard to resist!  I seem to have a special trigger with you, for if you are at all hungry or tired, seeing me makes your happy countenance turn to a look of angst and panic as you immediately crawl towards me or bounce in your little chair. I think you and I will both have a hard time when it is time to stop nursing.  (Which we have always referred to in our family as "Nursy Nurse"....and you seem to call "Na na".)

You are feeding yourself, grasping your food in between your thumb and forefinger.  If you have control of your bowl and spoon, each of those items goes into your mouth and sometimes some of the food too.  Watching you eat can be comical!

If we come next to you during your food time, you almost always offer us some of what you have, appearing so delighted with yourself.  Sometimes though you will take it back at the last minute and eat it yourself.  :-)  

I had guessed you'd be walking by 11 months.  Well, I was wrong, but you do pull up and stand every chance you get: the dishwasher, bread basket, bed, coffee table, couch.  And once up, you'll walk along things and even sometimes transfer from one to the other.  

 




In the meantime, I am simply relishing your crawling stage.  I love seeing your little ruffled bottom swing from side to side as your hands and knees slap-slap across the floor.  Now typically, you will be crawling to somewhere you are not supposed to be.  You have a particular affinity for getting into garbage cans and playing in the toilet.  :-/  And, as the wood stove is now a daily part of our home life, we are working to keep you away from the bricks.  Again and again, you will head over towards the wood stove.  Again and again we say "No".  Typically, you will immediately turn and look at us, then swing your arms side to side in your "all finished" sign, sometimes shaking your head no.  Then....you will do it again.  Yikes.  So, looking forward....perhaps respectful, but stubborn?  :-)

Everything within your grasp goes into your mouth, and you have eaten wood chips and little bits a plenty.  Pulling up on the bread basket yields a bunch of bananas, and you have also recently discovered the pantry and emptying cans of baking cocoa and bags of chocolate chips.  Ah yes, a little girl after her Mama's own heart! 

I don't think fear will be what holds you back in life.....you plow forward without fear of consequence.  (But, when you do have a fall or bump, the pathetic little face you make as you cry and look for Mama melts my heart.) Determined is the word that describes you best. 

I commented just tonight at dinner how you now feel so much a part of our family.  As we sit and eat, you interact with us - watching your brothers and sisters, flapping your arms, drinking from your sippy cup, and otherwise enjoying your dinner.  

Playing Pat-a-cake is probably your favorite game to play.  When we start it up, your face instantly lights up and you clap along.  Your siblings love to play with you then excitedly announce that you are clapping along, asking us to watch.  And, in the past few days, Peek-A-Boo has become not only a game you smile and laugh along with, but you have begun hiding behind things and popping out as well. 

When you are happy and feeling silly, you will shake your head from side to side with a big, huge grin on your face.  Then, you stop, and look - waiting for all of us to cheer and laugh.  Hmmm...might you be our family clown?  

You love to sing.  Oh what sweet memories we'll have of you singing along with the family or during night time lullaby's.  Your precious little voice joins in, even if words are not being sung.  Ya ya, Yie Yie, Ahhhh a Nah nah nah nah.   

Though the days of you snuggling on my chest for hours are long gone, when sleepy, and especially when rocking, you will lay your little head on my chest and rest.  Ah, even a moment of this is like food for my very soul. 

Of all the things that describe you right now, Gracie, probably the biggest and best description of you is "Loved".  You are loved, cherished and adored by your family and most of all by the very God who made you....just the way you are.  And what a beautiful creation that is!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Life Lessons from a Blackberry Bush

The entry into this season of Fall has been an intricate dance between the warmth of late Summer and the chill of early Fall. The further into the season we have traveled, the more we've had the characteristic chilly mornings, but by noon time, the days are warm and sunny August like days.

Yesterday, while on a walk, Emet and Anna Ruth wanted to stop by the "Snake Tree" to search for snakes.  While they did so, I walked over to a blackberry bush and found, to my delight, a juicy ripe berry just waiting to be picked!  How odd, to be picking a blackberry in October, I thought.

My mind went back a few short weeks to the last time I was picking blackberries, out in our yard with Anna Ruth, Emet, and Grandma Marion.....

It was a glorious Summer day, and all of us were thoroughly enjoying the day.  The boys were, if not great contributors to the winter stores, were certainly filling their bellies full in between runs to their secret fortress down by the creek.

Gracie varied between being in the Ergo carrier on my back, and napping in her room.  Sissy mostly stuck by our side, also filling her belly and decorating her face. 

It struck me, at one point how blessed we were to be filling up buckets of berries for free from our own yard.  People actually pay for blackberries, and here we had a treasure trove at our disposal.

The longer we picked, the more I recognized the principal of "the Grass is Greener", for just out of reach were the largest, juiciest looking berries of the whole field.  Always just out of reach!

At one point, I heard a shriek of panic.  I looked down at my side to see Anna Ruth, having continued to move towards the blackberry patch just out of reach, was surrounded by snarly blackberry vines and was seemingly trapped in this new jail of her own making.  "Mama!!  Help me! I'm stuck!" she cried out, tears streaming down her little cheeks.

Within the moment of a glance, I perceived that she was not trapped at all.  Rather, though big, thorny branches surrounded her front and sides, the path behind her was free and clear. The only action she would have to take to escape would be to walk backwards.


In a moment of clarity, I saw such a picture of humanity.  How often we walk forward, focused on something out of our reach, something, perhaps, that is not even intended to be ours.  To the detriment of our own well being we plow forward until one day, we look around to find ourselves surrounded by the thorns of this circumstance of our own design and we feel trapped.  But yet, there is freedom.....freedom that we can't even see or perceive because of our focus on the tangled mess that surrounds us.  Sometimes its as simple as taking a few steps back....just stepping away from the situation to assess.
As I looked down at my little girl, I was inspired by her childlike trust and innocence.  She instinctively knew that I was on her side, and that I would help her.  Thankfully, in this case, it was just reminding her of a simple path backwards.  However, it reminded me that my own Heavenly Father is also on my side, and when the brambles seem as if they will overtake me, He will be there to help me step through the mess, if only I call out. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

10 Months: A picture of determination

Determined.  That's the word that describes you this month, Gracie.  Constantly moving forward....advancing to the next thing.  Everything before you seems to be your next challenge, and if you see it, you go after it.


We took at family trip to Cannon Beach on your 10 month birthday.  I had wanted you to wear this little beach outfit in the sand, and while I had envisioned you sitting in one spot flapping your arms and grinning....instead, you seemed to have the sensory experience of a lifetime.  I couldn't get you to look up and smile once!  You flung, dug, and crawled the entire time....and loved every minute of it!


You're not walking alone yet, but if we hold your hands, you will walk along underneath us, and you do love to walk along the coffee table. In fact, I'd say that is your favorite place to be, as typically it is full of "treasures" left behind by your siblings, Mama, or Papa for you to spill, fling, or eat.

As Fall chills are just around the corner, we're gearing up for wood stove season around here, and thus training you to stay away from the bricks.....a lesson that must be learned in this old farmhouse.

If there was some type of built in volume control on your voice-box before now, it has broken.  Your voice now pierces the air with yells, screeches, and Aaahhhhs.  Voicing your displeasure with your lack of food or patience with staying in your high chair seem to be your most frequent dialogues with the family.  It probably doesn't help that your big brothers play a game with you where they walk away from you until you scream, then they come running back.  Parenting a fourth child does have it's challenges, for sometimes it seems like I'm working backwards!  However, I wouldn't trade a minute of these precious sibling interactions for anything.  You're well loved if nothing else.  Ru Bear loves to sit right next to you, "sharing" your cheerios and blueberries in the morning.  And all of your siblings want to hold you and carry you around, each minute of the day!

Speaking of your voice, you love to sing.  We'll be singing in the car, and you'll join in with "Ahhh ahhh ahhh ahh...".  It always seems to coincide with the music, and it does occasionally make it rough to have a conversation in the car, as you are almost always "singing"!

Your actions are beginning to be much more like a little person, and less like a small baby....less flapping and more clasping and clapping of your hands. You shake your head from side to side and roll around your eye balls....then stop to see if we are watching you.....and of course we are.  Then, you give us your big dimpled grin and do it all over again.

You love to share cheerios with us, sometimes offering....then quickly sticking it in your own mouth with a playful twitch of your eyebrow and a quick smile.  Peek-a-boo remains a favorite as well.

You can hardly be laid in your crib without immediately rolling over and pulling right up on the side.  At nap time, you'll instantly cry the moment your little back hits the mattress, but in more determined times, you simply pop right back up.  You pretty much have to sit yourself down, then eventually tip over with tiredness....alone in your crib.  But, in the meantime, you have your stuffed friends to entertain you, as you examine each part of them.  (Unless, that is, you have pitched them out of your crib.)

I can hardly fathom the amount of food you eat, and you're basically eating everything now.  By the time I walk away to begin fixing the other children their meals, you have finished what I originally gave you....cheerios, oatmeal, yogurt, cheese, egg yolks, avocados, steamed carrots, frozen blueberries, bananas, and little bits of bread and meat comprise most of your meals. And, you have recently added Annie's "Bunny Snackoos" (as your sister calls them) to your list of snacks for a treat during morning walks.  It no longer works for us to not feed you when we eat.  The minute you see food, you start to whine, and a high pitched squeal is to soon follow!

Your thickening hair is a shiny blonde that shimmers in the sun, and now that we're walking most mornings, I have seen the back of your shiny head a lot in the beautiful early Fall weather.  I love to look down and see your shiny head and your little hands clasping the bar in front of you, toes curled...possibly all together.  No, we really haven't moved into sock season yet, and on only one outing have we put you in shoes. I'm eating up all of the baby stage I can in the few short days left of this glorious weather.  By the time we emerge into next Summer, you'll be walking and shoes for an outing will be the norm.  

With the closing of Summer comes the closing of the baby season of this Mama's life.  Yet I know that what lies before us is a great adventure that will be filled with many new and unexpected joys.  I'm trying to have open hands in the process, not clenching hard to what's in my grasp now....but opening my palm for new blessings to be placed there as the old ones pass on.  So for now, this Mama is enjoying those little baby toes spreading and scrunching in the sun, each day more that I can see them!

I love to kiss your puffy cheeks and see your face instantly light up all over, dimples popping in your big, open mouth grin.  Your two front bottom teeth are the only ones to make a showing thus far....so the days of teething are yet ahead.

One of my favorite things is to watch you crawl, your little bottom wagging back and forth as you head with focus and determination to a specified location.  A present favorite for you in the kitchen is the bottom of the stairs.  You've successfully made it up one stair a couple of times, but have fallen both....and while you continue to reach and contemplate, you don't seem eager to repeat the same fall.

We've started to change you out of your 12 month clothes and into 18.  I realize now, as I put away your big sister's clothes that you will likely be in some of them next year.  And then, it will seem but a moment ago that you were in the baby clothes.  And so it goes.

The start of the Fall season is upon us.....my favorite season of all, for it begins with the anticipation of all of my babies birthdays, bringing us into the season of Thanksgiving and then celebrating the birth of our savior, whose birth your name celebrates:  Grace Noelle, meaning "Grace.  Born on Christmas Day."  I look forward to the next months as we enter the crisp air and the fall baking, with you crawling by my feet and pulling up at my leg as I move about the kitchen.

I love you, Little Grace.  Grow on, Baby Girl!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Emet and Mama's First Date

Ah, the things we learn about people when we take the time to study them, removing them from their ordinary position within the daily grind, and setting them free to be their own, best self in the setting of their choice.

For the past week, Emet has repeatedly asked "How many days is it again until our date night, Mama?"  Since his big brother's date to the trampoline park, that has been Emet's goal, but when the time came and Mama's knee was not in any shape to be jumping on a trampoline, Emet decided he still wanted me to be his special date and selected a place where I could play along side him.  (God bless that little boy of mine!) The decision was made....off to Chuck E Cheese's we went.

"C'mon Mama!  Let's leave for our special date!" he kept saying as I tried to tie up the loose ends of the dinner I had begun for the family.  Papa took our picture in the yard, and the minute we hopped in the car, Emet...in his sweet, but knowing voice, said, "Oh wait!  Where are Caleb, Anna Ruth, and Gracie?  Oh, yeah!  They're not coming on our special date!"  And truly, I believe this night away from his siblings is just what he needed to make his little spirit soar. 

Emet was quiet the whole drive down, but the minute we pulled up to the parking spot right in front of the door that seemed especially for us, he could hardly wait to get out of the car.  He raced to the door, and just before he pulled it open, he looked back at me and sweetly said, "Thank you for taking me here, Mama."  Can a Mother's heart melt?

We ordered our food and sat down, Emet proudly carrying his new "upgraded" kids cup - a plastic cup with a big Chuck-E-Cheese head, which apparently comes with free refills forever.  Perhaps this will prove to be a good investment for our grandchildren....a family heirloom of sorts.  He asked me to sit right next to him. So there we sat, he anxiously awaiting his very own personal sized cheese pizza and happily sipping one of six glasses of soda, and me contentedly munching away on baby corn from the salad bar.  Ah.....bliss.  :-)

Once we finished our meal, Emet asked if I would watch while he climbed around in the overhead play structure.  I did, and then we headed over to purchase our tokens.  As the coupon we brought wasn't valid at that particular location, (figures), I was pleased to find such a nice employee who found one for me.

Fifteen dollars exchanged for ninety tarnished gold tokens, and we were on our way to fun.  We wandered around playing this game and that, but much to his Mama's delight, Emet seems to be as interested in the Skee Ball game as his Mama.  He would say things such as, "OK, Mama.  OK.  Just one more time on this game, then we're moving on!  OK?!"  Repeat several times.  Move on.  Come back. Repeat.

Some games were genuinely fun....like shooting hoops, or aiming to shoot water at blinking objects for points.....or holding on to the monkey's vibrating hand grips until you can't stand it any longer, or, I would argue, Skee Ball.  Other games, such as the treasure wheel, largely resembled casino gambling and were dominated by adults spending countless tokens on them.  (OK - I can see how Skee Ball might fit into this category as well, seeing how Emet and I could not seem to step away.)

Emet was a true delight, and what an encourager he was!  "Oh, good job, Mama!  You're doing an awesome job getting points!"  When I would say, "Well, this game isn't as good as my last one" he'd return, "No!  Just look at all of those tickets you've gotten!  You're doing awesome, Mama!" Or, when we went back for one of the many soda refills (Root Beer, Root Beer, Diet Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Orange Soda, Diet Pepsi) , he said "Thanks again for bringing me here, Mama" in his sweet, quiet voice.

At the end of our time, we fed the tickets one by one to the ticket muncher....all 251 of them, then headed over to the store to carefully select our treasures.  In the end, Emet picked out a blue rocket for himself and an orange one for Caleb, sweet tarts for all, and a twizzler.  Yep - that was the end of fifteen dollars of tokens and 1.5 hours of ticket earnings.  Emet seemed pleased enough with his new found treasure, however.  He was quiet in the car for a bit, then said a little sadly...."I was going to pick out a rocket for Sissy too, but....I didn't."  I assured him that I would be willing to pitch in a dollar or two for a treat for Sissy at our next stop, Fred Meyer, where we were headed to purchase a Hot Wheel - his choice.  He ended up with a metalic green car, and Sissy with a baby bottle with disappearing banana juice.

Coming home far past bedtime, we snuck upstairs to brush teeth, change, and get ready for stories and snuggle.  I read him I'll Love You Forever, and I Love You the Purple-est, then snuggled him close and traced on his back.  Finally, after prayers were said and I tucked him in, I saw him hopping out of his bed to grab his Hot Wheel.  "Good night, Mama.  I love you," he said.  "I love you too, Sweet Bug.  God bless you, Dear Bug."

I was reminded tonight that my second born son Emet is an individual with a rare and beautiful spirit, and I had a chance to see the true character and humanity of my son.

I could plainly see that he, even as a child, has temptations that pull at him and lure him aside.  Though he wanted to move on from that Skee Ball game, it kept drawing him back, time and again.  Life has such lures as well, and it is my job to help train him up to be strong in his convictions and in the building of his character....so that his ability to avoid such traps is based on a habit of strong morals and character, just like his Papa.

I also was able to see how Emet is very appreciative, helpful, and wanting to encourage. He comes along side and doesn't insist on his way, but is willing to compromise and support in others decisions.  He offers assistance, but doesn't insist if he is turned down.  He is always looking to help and do his best, even if in his almost five year old state, he can be clumsy and slow.  He is trying his very best....all of the time.

It's hard to see each others' unique and special traits sometimes as we all struggle to find our way in the midst of a family dynamic....positioning among the siblings, defending your ground.  Date nights go a long way in providing refreshment, reminders, and insight into an individual...for Jason and I or our kids.  What a gift I received tonight.  All I had to do was show up!

I love you the blue-est, Emet.  I love you the blue-est.....just like you want me to. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Nine Months: Athlete in Action



Nine months.  Wow.  This year is going by so fast.  But, as much as I try to cling to all of my precious lasts with you, you entice me on to the next step with your sparkling smile and exuberance.

I think my favorite part of this stage is seeing you crawl from point A to point B, with a focused look of determination on your face.  There is always an object you are aiming for, frequently to insert directly into your mouth!  If we distract you for your attention, you will sit and turn to us, happily flapping your arms at your side....as if you anticipate it might help you to fly...making the sound Aah...Aah...Aah.  Then, back to business you return.

You have officially transitioned from pulling yourself along the floor to crawling on hands and knees.  I remember thinking that the day Papa and I were leaving for our anniversary trip might be the last time I could get a video of your doing your army crawl.  Yesterday I had a brief glimpse as you and Anna Ruth (who was being silly of course) pulled along for a few paces.

You are like an Olympic athlete in training, crawling with focus, pulling up, creeping along the side of the table, and as of yesterday, attempting to take a step or two along the coffee table holding on with only one hand!  That part panicked you though, and after your three consecutive steps, you looked at me with a panic stricken face and cried until I came to rescue you.  (I love to rescue you, by the way, and I love that I'm the one you want to do it!)

You've also had your first tumble down the stairs....the inevitable, but much feared fall, for which we are very grateful you suffered nothing but a fright.  And considering your new found delight in pulling up, you've been experiencing several hard bonks to the head from slamming into things as well.  Poor baby!  I wish I could put padding around everything. 

Everything is going in your mouth these days.....even food sometimes.  :-) Crayons, bits of paper, sticks, dirt, shoes, and toys. We are all trying our best to stay two steps ahead of you, picking up what may have been dropped by the many little hands that live here.  Despite my tendency to cling to your baby stages, this is one stage I will be relieved to pass through!

This month saw your first pancake breakfast with the family. And...heard your first words?!  We could have sworn we heard you say "Nana" (banana), "Eme" (Emet), and "Bye Bye" in addition to, of course, "Mama"...which you say ALOT....especially when hungry or in distress. 

Your voice is much more full and rounded out now, and you certainly put it to good use!  You also seem to be doing the "more" sign, even though we haven't worked very much at all with you to do it.

Laying you down in your crib results in you immediately turning back over and sitting up, often crawling to the edge of the crib and pulling up on the railing......especially if your big sister is over in her bed (not) sleeping!  Then, you two will smile and giggle at each other long past when nap time should have commenced.

And speaking of giggles, yesterday I put the two of you girls into the bath together.....I think for the first time.  Anna Ruth continually dumped water on her head, and oh how you two giggled! Which...of course made Emet and I, who were watching, laugh all the harder!

Another good way to get you to smile and giggle is by playing Pat-a-Cake.  I can't quite tell if you enjoy it yourself, or if you simply love to watch us being silly.  

Due to our busy summer schedule, you have been missing your morning nap, so the afternoon nap has been a long one, frequently accompanied by a great deal of fussing as you cross past the point of exhaustion.  In these moments, though, you are so much more likely to simply want to be held and snuggled by Mama....something I don't take lightly.  I'll take all the snuggles I can get.

Your hair is continuing to fill in, and do I see a little curl at the ends of your hair?  The twelve month clothes we moved into just last month are starting to be a little snug.  You must be growing like a weed!  I'm starting to believe that the little pumpkin costume all three of your siblings have worn for their first Halloween will either have to be skipped by you, or worn as a shirt.  It was a little small for them too!

I love to watch you interact with your sister as you both stand or sit in front of the doll house or toy kitchen, grabbing at toys.  If you have infringed upon Anna Ruth's property at all, we will hear her burst of crying and her haughtily proclaim..."Naughty Gwacie!"  Oh boy....  :-)

When Papa comes home at night, your little face lights up to see him and hear his voice.  And, as he takes you upstairs to rock you and put you to bed, you wave bye bye from the stairs to the rest of us. 

Grow on, little Gracie...Grow on!  We love you so. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Caleb & Mama's First Date

It's funny how things occur to you as a fresh idea, as from no where.  I'd like to think it has something to do with the many requests for wisdom I send up to the Almighty.  In any case, this "date night" idea was one such of these ideas.  I presented the idea to Jason, and we both agreed that we wanted to give each of our four children some one-on-one time to look forward to that is planned and controlled entirely by them.  There are no distractions or unplanned holdups due to the wants and needs of their siblings.  The general plan is for Papa or Mama to take out one child per month on a mid week, evening date with a budget of around $25. 

Caleb, being ready to start school next week, was chosen to be first....and he chose me!!!  For several days he pondered his choice for our date - bouncing back and forth between the Jungle at Kids Club and the G6 Airpark - a trampoline extravaganza.  Meanwhile, the other children plotted their upcoming dates as well.  Emet has a fairly good grasp that he has another month to wait, while Anna Ruth asks every day, several times, if it is time to go see the princesses.  (She and I will be going to see the Disney Princesses on Ice in October.  It may be a long two months until then! :-) )

The big day arrived, and after Papa arrived home and we had finished dinner, we headed out for our big date!  Caleb brought along two of his stuffed friends, one for each of us.  (I had Toto the bear, and he had Monkey.)

I asked him if he wanted to swing by Costco first to pick up some construction paper for school.  He was quiet for a minute, so I assured him that it was completely up to him.  After thinking for a bit, he said "Well....I think I'll pass on that tonight."  "Ok" I said, "this is your night, so you decide where we go."  As I glanced in the rear view mirror, the sparkle in his eyes and the slightly turned up lips told me he was pleased of this fact.....and enjoying the freedom of being in charge and in command of Mama's attentions.

I think both of us were a bit intimidated on entering the G6 Airpark.  Other than the check in area, a snack bar, and some places to sit down....the entire warehouse was filled, wall to wall (in fact - up the walls!) with connecting trampolines!  We paid and ventured in.

You know that feeling you used to have as a child where you are overcome with delight and joy? I'm sure my expression matched Caleb's in that we were both almost giddy with the pleasure of this new, fun experience.  It was the kind of thing one might anticipate in a strange dream, being able to run all over a sea of giant trampolines, bouncing and flinging yourself about.  Caleb and I mostly stayed near each other, bouncing on connecting trampolines.  For the longest time, we bounced and grinned at each other, full of exuberance.  I was taken back to those first dates with Jason, once we were past the awkward first few, and we could really just let loose and have fun together....before the realities of life played into our time thoughts....when our relationship was all about dating and building the foundation of a lifelong friendship.

And then it struck me.  I may have day to day, even minute to minute, interactions with Caleb at this point in time, but to build a long and lasting connection will take effort and focus.....just like it does with Jason.  And, it's never a job to be "checked off", for all relationships take ongoing effort.  I don't get an automatic "in" just because I'm his mom.  As we continued to bounce, smiling at each other, my mind was filled with thoughts.  A time will come when outside influences will begin to take a larger piece of his thinking.  I want to be a primary influence in his life....one that he trusts to come to for advice and discussion....but I'll have to earn that spot.  And nights like this one, I believe, are the building blocks for such a relationship.  I found myself hoping that we could repeat this night sometime.  I know he'll probably alternate back and forth between Jason and I, knowing Caleb and his caring, sensitive spirit, but I'd love to be his date a couple of times a year.  What?!  That's it?  Only a handful of dates before he's a teenager?!

We left the main bounce area and headed into the foam pits.  More trampolines from which you could launch into giant foam blocks supported by, of course, more trampolines!  We would insert little breaks every now and then during which we would sit on the couches and review our pictures and videos from the night so far...him catching his breath and me resting my rapidly weakening knees.

Finally, we figured we'd had enough, picked up a tall extra caramel, Caramel and Cream Frappuccino from the Starbucks drive through for Caleb and sneaked into our house.  Papa and the other kids were still watching a movie, so Caleb and I climbed up on top of Mama and Papa's bed with a stack of Origami paper and an instruction book I've had since I was a little girl that my own dad had brought back from Japan for me. Mind you, when I was a little girl, the instructions were intimidating to me, so I never attempted it.  However, I'm so glad I've kept it all of these years!  Caleb has been so fascinated with building complex paper airplanes as of late, I just knew he would be fascinated with Origami.  And he was.  I was amazed by his ability to read the folding diagrams and make sense of them. 

Sure enough, one lantern, one fox puppet, a You Tube instructional video, and a paper crane later....we felt quite accomplished, changed into our pjs and were ready to head up to his bed for a story and snuggles. 

I read I Love You the Purplest to him, and he loved that the Mom in the story was called Mama....just like me.  After that, Caleb asked if I would tell him the story of Hansel and Gretel....not Papa's version, Hansel and Gretel the Two Cows...but the real version.

Then, as we turned out the light, Caleb said, "Mama, what was your favorite part of our date night?  Mine was jumping on the trampolines."

"Mine was just being with you, Caleb" I said "...just being with you."