Tuesday, October 8, 2013

20/21/22 Months: Gracie's into EVERYTHING!!!


What a blessing you are, my love!  Papa commented just the other day that this is the age for each of our children that has been tremendously fun....somewhere between 20 and 22 months it begins. 

Oh yeah.  And you're into everything.  EVERYTHING. Wipe and Tissue boxes, baby powders and creams, lotion, shampoo, toilets, garbage cans, dog poop, litter boxes, soap (thankfully, after all of those), laundry, drawers of clean and folded clothes (you like to wear several of Sissy's shirts as pants), the refrigerator, kitchen drawers, school supplies (you draw on everything around you - especially your face and hands).....etc.....etc....etc. I have never had a child that gets into as much. Period.

You are FULL of words, repeating most everything your siblings say and coming up with a good deal of things on your own.  Today, for instance, you found a dry rosebud, picked it up, and said "Fower, Mama! Mell fower?" as you held it up to your nose.  That is typical of the words and phrases that pour out of you all day.  "Mama, I neeeeeeed you," you cry out from your bed in the morning. (You can technically climb in and out yourself, but it is still a little scary for you, so you prefer that we or brothers get your out.)  "I stinky" is a frequent phrase.  Also, "All this (as you shake your hands in your own version of the sign for all finished when you are ready to get out of your high chair.....WHICH you now push a stool over to climb into all by yourself)" :-)

"Bruhdohs (quickly changing to Brahdohs)" and "Sissy" are your sweetest friends, but you do NOT like it if they take something away from you.  Often, you will be about a mission for a clear purpose, such as gathering blankets to make a bed for your dolly so that she can nap. If at any time during this process you lay down your dolly, in order to construct her bed, Sissy might be apt to pick her up and repurpose her.  Then....you are NOT happy!

And, ah how you love your "Dollies", or "Baby?" as you call each one of them and your stuffed animals (especially the giraffes) and your favorite blanket.  Giraffes are your clear favorite animal, and I'm starting to hear you say, "J'raffy". 

You have your "knowing" looks, in which you tuck your chin down and tilt your head to the side.  Then, there are your silly looks, for which you roll your eyes, throw back your head, bend forward and sideways, and do all sorts of turning upside down and shaking your head.  Pure silliness, you are!

Today, after getting dressed and ready to head to our church service, I told you to go show Papa.  With every step down the stairs, you said, "I cah-yute?....."Papa...I cah-yute?"  It was simply adorable.

When you see Sissy get her hair done, you want yours done too!  At first, you would simply back up towards me so that I would do your hair. Now, you know to ask for poggies (piggy tails)! :-)  "Poggies?" you'll ask. 

You are still a very good eater, and will eat most of what I make.  However, I believe that hands
down, your favorite food is still chocolate.  In this picture, you were clutching the chocolate that you wouldn't let go of.  (We were planning to make smores.) "My chocwit!" you would say, over and over! You also love to play in the play kitchen we have next to mine.  Whenever I'm cooking, you'll likely be over there cooking as well. I'm so glad I overcame my desire for a tidier looking house to live for the day a bit.  I knew you would love the kitchen, and you do.

Sometimes, when I'm changing your diaper, or getting you dressed, you start naming people in our family, as if you're going through a mental roll call.  Emet, Sissy, Papa, Mama, Kay-ub.  You have this sweet, pensive look on your face, as you stare off, trying to recall them all.

During school time, you insist on being with us nearly every minute of your wakeful time.  Occasionally, you will go off to get into some trouble on your own, but most of the time you are front and center, right in the middle of us all.  (Literally, your preferred spot, which I'm consistently removing you from, is the center of the school table. :-)  If anyone has paper and pens or pencils, that's what you want too.  If they're using math manipulatives, then you want those too.  You just want to be included.

When Papa comes home from work, or when you hear Greta bark in the late afternoon, you happily change course from whatever distracts you, and say "Papa!" You, like all of the others, adore your Papa.  And you have good reason to.  He is a fine man.

Our little nap and bedtime routine (with me, at least) is to grab your special pink and brown blanket ("Baby") with the brown silky ruffled edge and your other "Baby" (typically your "J'raffy"), though others will substitute well if the favored is missing.  We then sit down in the wooden rocker in your room and read a few stories....Pajama Time is the story unique to you, to which you raise your left elbow each time I start reading so that you can do a jig to my rhythmic words...."The moon is up, it's getting late....let's get ready to celebrate...It's Pajama Time!"

As I write these words about our special bedtime routine, I recognize that while they are fresh and current to my every day life now, there will be a time in the future when we are far from this routine of ours, and these words will jog a memory that will make us smile.  It's funny how the things we see and do everyday fade into the recesses of our memory, but how they can be brought fresh and new with a simple reminder.  This is probably why God was so insistent that His people build memorials and hold annual festivities to commemorate events.  Because, no matter how much something touches our hearts or impacts our thinking during the time of it's occurrence, with time, even the strongest of memories and experiences fade away.  It is for this reason that I blog.  I do not want these years to have been in vain!  I want to remember and to cherish, but also, I want to continue our story.  I want the paths I have walked, and the lessons I have learned as a parent to be recorded for my children, so that they can remember, cherish, or simply to learn from me.  Maybe that will simply be by way of learning how to appreciate the little things, acknowledge the passage of time, and see the bigger purpose of life in all of the small trials.  Right now, these stories are my life. Over time, these will flow together to simply be a timeline of stories.  But they will be the stories of my family. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Caleb says goodbye to Santa...

It was kind of a hard day for Mama. The questions had been coming too frequently and too often to not answer them honestly.  Before, when Caleb had asked a specific question about Santa.....I had been able to easily dodge it. "So and so says that Santa isn't real, but I don't believe it. Do you?" "Hmmm...." I'd answer. And, off he would go to play. 

As the Christmas season approaches, (you see - when Costco brings out Christmas décor in August, these discussions begin earlier and earlier) and discussions of Christmas lists and letters to Santa begin circulating among friends, just as every year, there will be those in the know who truly want to make sure their friends also understand the truth of Santa. 

For us, these discussions kicked off a month or so ago, and again, the questions began......However, it was Emet who would bring it up with the above mentioned phrase. "Mama? Is Santa real? So and So says he isn't, but I don't believe him." "Hmmm....what do you think, Emet? Do you think he's real? What do we know about Saint Nicholas?"  "Can I have a snack?" "Ok". Caleb, however, has begun to ask the real questions...."How can Santa live so long? Do you know, Mama?" "How does he afford all of those toys? Who would do that?"

So, today, as he and I were alone in the kitchen, I told him the truth.  A secretive smile crept into his eyes. He just learned a huge, big, life truth.  The tradition of Santa Clause is just that....a tradition.  Yes, it's based on a real person, who was wonderful, and very much believed in the true meaning of Christmas.  However, there is no jolly large man in a red, fur trimmed fireproof suit, stuffing himself down blazing chimneys and being hauled at the speed of light through the sky by reindeer.

Yet, along with the secretive smile was a bit of a sadness and panic too. He, too, realized that he is growing up, and sometimes it's hard to face the reality of that. 

He and I went for a long walk, a trip to the library, and ended up at Starbucks for a celebratory peppermint hot cocoa and sugar cookie.  I explained to him that it nearly broke me inside as much as it did him for him to now know the truth about Santa. I have loved this amazing stage of childish wonder and delight....having all of my children believe in Santa. I was looking forward to at least one more year of it. And, I know, that this is only the beginning of this loss. However, I wanted him to know that he could always believe me, and that I had promised myself that if ever he began to ask real questions about Santa that I would tell him the truth.  He needs to know he can rely on me for the truth.

Caleb understood, admitted to being a little disappointed, and asked lots of questions about how I found out and how I felt.  He also decided it was still pretty cool to know that Santa is Papa and Mama, and agreed to not share with any other friend or sibling.  Each child is to find out in their own time, just as he was able to. We talked, again, about the true meaning of Christmas.

And then we moved on.  Papa snuggled Caleb tonight, alone in our room, so that he would have a chance to chat with Papa too about his new found status of being in "the know." 

As for me? Am I glad we chose to do Santa? Sure - it's been fun. I'm just struggling, as usual, with letting go of another last.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

19 Months: One of Them

You have become one of them, little Grace.  Bit by bit, over the past month, your eyes and ears have become more and more alert to there whereabouts of your brothers and sisters: where they are headed, what they are doing, what they are about to snack on. And, as your vocabulary has increased, both in understanding and in speaking, your attentive little countenance quickly follows every detail of their interaction, and then you insert yourself into the equation. "Pahcicl!!" (Popcicle), you interject. Or, "Go side!" (Go outside).

When they laugh, you laugh. And, all the better if you can make them laugh.....which you do often. If they are headed out to the swing set with their popcicles, then so are you. When they are going to the woodshed, off you go.  Bikes and trikes? You're out there.  And pretty amazingly, they look out for you.  You are not often left behind, at least not when their friends aren't over to distract them.  "Come on, Gracie!" we'll hear them say.  Or, "Get Gracie!"

When they are coloring their states, (we are learning the states and capitals this summer), you are right up there with them at the dining room table with your pens and paper, often coloring your arms and face in addition to the paper. (Thank goodness for washable markers!)

I recently had a minor surgury on my arm, and couldn't lift over ten pounds for a couple of weeks.  Your brothers hauled you around and in and out of your car seat and crib.  You "might" have a few extra bruises and scrapes because of it, but all in all, they did a great job.

You have a stubborn, and determined spirit, and are not easily detered from your intended goal. 
This has also been the month of "My!" and "Me!" (You will notice neary everything you say ends with an exclamation point! And, this is not without intent. Those phrases that don't end with gusto are instead followed with a sly, sing-song nature and frequently end with a silly smile, your head tilting back and eyes slighly squinted at us. "Naaawwwwww" (No). Then there's the sweet little head nodding with your "Yes", though you don't lift and lower your jaw as much as you used to.  It's still adorable however. :-) And "No" (though "No" is much more often accompanied by an a frown, a poked out lip, or a shove of the arm.)  One of your favorite new little expressions is to make a face of suprise - eyes popped open to their widest, looking back and forth, and your little mouth in an "O". 

You have also started running.  Not a fast, hard run, no.  However, that forward trot that seems to exist at an angle that could be easily toppled or tripped.....and sometimes is. :-)  Many times, you will be seen wearing around your navy blue owl backpack.  And, if you aren't wearing it, odds are one of your big brothers is.....which is pretty cute too.

Words are coming faster and faster and with increasing confidence. I often ponder this stage of life - between 18 and 24 months, where a little child goes from baby speak and progresses into the many words and patterns of the preschool years. It's as if you are crossing a bridge between the stages.  I do love the little words that only a Mama can understand..."boot" (book) and "Bah ble" (Bible - which refers to many books).

"Baby" is still the name of your increasingly favorite blanket (that you now like to drag around when you are feeling sleepy....my first blanket dragger. :-)  ), in addition to your dollies (also referred to as "Dah ee"), and your favorite stuffed friends (currently the giraffes).

You love attention and being silly. No one would accuse you of being shy.  Your older siblings have been in a water awareness program this summer, and you love walking around the lawn to other families, standing right next to their picnic spot and staring at them.  When it's time for your brothers and sisters' swim session, you insist upon going to the meeting carpet with them and waiting with the class until it's time for them to go back to the pool. 

Snuggling with Mama is still a favorite past time, for which this Mama is very glad. You have started to climb up and down onto our bed and now like to crawl under the blankets right next to us and pop in your thumb.  True snuggling. Oh, Gracie.  One word continues to describe you: Joy. It was the describing word that we knew of you before you were born, and it continues to amaze us how much increasing joy you bring into our lives.  You are a bright light, Gracie.  Shine on.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Trying to capture just a tiny moment of my heart as a Mama....

I cannot begin to explain the hundreds of thousands of words living inside of my head.  "This for sure is something I'll need to blog," I'll say.  And, it will float around in my head, being added to every few days, until I assume the thought finds a remote file to place itself on, as it rarely happens that I actually sit down to write.  I've always wondered just how it is that people can keep up with their blogs.  I envy the memories they have captured.  I had many, many beautiful moments to capture too.....but I likely never will remember them. 

I have come to understand that I am a writer.  Growing up, I always assumed that statement meant that I needed to have a great list of credentials, or have written for my school newspaper and studied journalism and writing through college.  I did neither of these. 

What I now understand about myself is that my writing is how I best express my heart.....for myself, to myself, and hopefully to someday benefit or encourage my children.  Perhaps I'll even inspire someone else in their own life journey along the way.  However, writing is my form of "scrapbooking".  (Of course, I wish I did that too, and I may.......when I'm retired. :-)  )

The problem seems to be, that these children of mine are growing up so quickly.  They said it would go by fast.  Every older person I have met in the street, at the store, or at church has said time and time again how quickly it all goes by.  The strange thing is, I didn't think I would notice until it was over.......but I am noticing!  Watching my beautiful children grow and change as the weeks and months go by is nothing short of a miracle!  Yet.....yet.....somehow I want to run out and yell, "Wait!!!! Stop!!!!!!!  I'm not ready!!!!!!" 

I'll pull a book off of the shelf to read to Grace, and my mind will go racing back to reading it to Caleb.  I realize that I didn't really read it to Emet or Ru Bear.......or that I did, and that Gracie is the last one through.  Next stop....passing on to a friend, or storing away for Grandkids. Grandkids? Really? Can I be thinking such thoughts already?

It's in these moments that I'm infinitely thankful that we have made the decision to homeschool this next year, and until God leads us otherwise.  My throat closes up and I think that I don't want to miss a single moment.....of anything.  Even the tantrums. 

What about Caleb?  How quickly he is growing up, becoming a boy......a baby no longer. Second grade this Fall!  On his first day of Kindergarten, I remember him telling me that he liked it, but he would rather just be home with me.  He missed being home with me.  I wonder if he'd still say that now?  I think he might, because he's my tender boy that doesn't want to hurt Mama's feelings.  Well, at least he still likes to snuggle with me every day. 

What about Emet?  Charging ahead into life, he is! Brave and bold.....not to be left behind in any pursuit.  In my mind right now, I can look back to him and his brother sitting in their superhero underwear together on the couch tonight looking at his Starwars LEGO book, planning to somehow obtain all of the Starwars LEGOs in the world!  No more Thomas the Train.  At least he still likes Larry Boy and likes to cuddle Mama.

What about Anna Ruth?  She has been the one to bring these thoughts to me the most lately.  Her changes have been slow, but steady.  I think it's because she's the first girl.  I've noticed lately that somehow she slipped into little girlhood, and left behind toddlerhood.....perhaps without me really noticing.  Or, I did notice.  In those "I really need to blog this" moments that I have now forgotten and never captured.  She is quite a big helper to me, the nurse of the family, and one who will disappear quietly upstairs to play dollies or read by herself.  At least she still comes down in the middle of the night and crawls in our bed to snuggle. 

What about Gracie?  I don't think she is going to give me much of a chance to hold on.  I can watch her eyes and see her calculating how to fit right in with her brothers and sisters.  They love her, and she them.....and she is not to be left behind!  But she sure loves to cuddle with her Mama.

Cuddle bugs, one and all, they are.  And, I AM SO THANKFUL to God for this gift.  For, though my mind simply cannot grasp how quickly time is passing and things are changing; though my hours cannot seem to find time for the expression of my words and memories, my arms are full of my babies who love to cuddle me. 

Oh, God.....hear my heart!  There must be a greater plan you are crafting than that we Mamas are purposed here for scrambling to grasp and capture the moments whether in words, pictures, or mementos.  Surely you are etching deep within us the very purposes for which the beautiful yet painful job of mothering involves.  Surely our hearts and souls are being transformed from the experiences that our minds may not remember, even though they were those things we never planned to forget....yet never captured....and now they are gone, to us at least. 

I trust these things to you, Oh LORD, because I cannot fathom them.  Tears stain my cheeks as I am called time and time again to "Let go" of another precious last with my children.  Even the little things move me to tears.  I receive inexplicable joy and simultaneous pain in seeing these moments pass before my very eyes, knowing that even the most precious ones, I will likely not "capture". And, even if I captured every moment.....would I miss them all in the attempt? Would I ever simply "be" in the moment and not trying to get behind it, whether in word or on camera.  I struggle with that as it is.

For those who have read my blog.....if only you knew!  If only you knew how many more precious moments and memories have occurred within the walls of this little, loved home.  If only you knew how God has so greatly transformed my mind and heart as a mother.....how much I have been humbled, and yet how much I have been raised up.

I think I fear sometimes, that, when it is all said and done.....when the last little one has left home, that I will want desperately to remember, and I won't be able to. And so, I simply must trust that you, God, have a greater purpose than I can understand, and that you won't leave me wanting when I am in need.  You haven't so far, and so I can trust that You won't then either.

Oh, God......to You, I leave this writing....to your Purpose and to your Glory.  I barely know how to process it all. My words will simply never be enough.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

18 Months: Abundant Joy

Oh my, Gracie. What a month this has been! You have simply blossomed, turning further and further away from your recent days of babyhood and charging headlong into toddlerhood....smiling, grinning, and being silly the whole way.
At almost exactly 18 months to the day, you began repeating most words we would say to you.  Sometimes they sound like what we said, and sometimes they don't.  But, it's clear you are listening closely and repeating them back to us. 

Your little (or not so little) personality is continuing to develop too.  Gracie is NOT to be left behind!  You smile, flirt, hold your hands up be picked up and held.  There are simply so many ways you bring joy to each and every moment.  And you are so very loved by your brothers and sister.

Though you love your brothers and sissy, if you are not in the mood to be picked up, flung around, or talked to within inches of your face, you have begun to give them your frown, loudly say, "No!" and push them away.  This has also started with a little friend, about 5 months younger than you, if he infringes upon my attention when his own Mama isn't nearby.  You literally position yourself between him and me and push him down if he begins to stand up as if coming towards me.  I've also seen you take a bite out of sissy a couple of times when she hasn't heeded your push and loud warning.  Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be a habit......so far, at least!  

You LOVE to dance.  Love, love, love it!  It's as if you can't even control yourself when music starts to play, and the first thing you do is raise up your left elbow and cock your head to the side with a sparkle in your eye and an open mouthed smile on your face. 

When you are approaching your brothers and sisters as a group, you will sometimes put your arms both behind you and bend forward a bit. It's as if it is your natural response to wanting to be part of a group.  You'll also throw both arms back and bend over when you are being stubborn too

The little words and phrases we are hearing constantly are "Papa?", "No!" "No?" or a playful and musical "Nooooo." "Mama.  I need you." is still a big one, and "Bye!" is becoming super clear. "Cheeeeeese" is what you know to say for the camera.  "Than kyow" (Thank You) and "Cheese" (Please) and " Men" (Amen) is coming around more frequently after our prayer times. And given your propensity to eat, and eat a lot I might add, you really love the word "Moe!" (More) On a good day, it is "Moe Cheese"! We see you pointing on saying "Dat one" (That one)or "Dis" (This) a lot.  Many of your words are becoming recognizable, "Shoe?" "Boo?" (boot). You, like your brothers and sister, seem to use a question for every word, as if you're checking to see that you got it right.  You'll attempt all of your brothers and Sissy's name, "Eh met", "Aa Ooh" "Cay eh" but there still unclear enough that I'm not sure I have them quite right....especially late at night, hours after I've heard you say it last.  When you pick up a piece of garbage or old food to eat, or when we're changing your diaper, we always say "No, don't touch, Gracie.  Yuckies!"  You repeat back, "Yuckies?" then sometimes repeat "Yuckies" and nod your head knowingly. 

And speaking of yucky, your favorite past time seems to be playing in the toilet, or fishing things out of the trash!  You also like to help Mama clean things, and seem to like to combine all of these activities.  Just last week, while in a public restroom, I was helping Anna Ruth to wash her hands.  In the moment I was distracted, you had taken a paper towel, dipped it in a (thankfully flushed) toilet and were washing your face with it. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  The day before, you had reached into a public toilet (again, thankfully flushed) with your thumb, and instantly shoved it in your mouth! Again last week, I was upstairs cleaning a potty accident of your sister, while you were downstairs using a cup from the kitchen to scoop water out of the (yep, you guessed it)....toilet and were flinging it out and into the bathroom.  Some days I simply want to pay someone to pressure wash the inside of our house with bleach. Or, perhaps we'll wait out this beautiful (yet challenging) stage of parenting, and then move....leaving all of our possessions behind. :-)  Knowing how sentimental I am, however, I don't think either of those options will be as easy for me as I know jokingly proclaim.

One of my all time favorite things is still when you shake your head yes. You now shake it from side to side for no, so now an up and down shake most definitely means "Yes."  Sometimes, you'll accompany it with a "Yeah"...but oftentimes still, you respond immediately but silently to my questions with a simple head shake. 

Now that you are crawling up and down stairs with ease, you have this cute little habit of turning around and backing up towards the top of the stairs on your hands and knees.....dangling one leg over the top.  It's adorable!

One of the excitements of your month has been the addition of a beautiful red play kitchen to our living room / kitchen area.  A couple of years back, I was blessed to encounter a woman who was selling the very children's kitchen I had only dreamed about for a reasonable price.....the vintage Pottery Barn red set. In our small house, with my current shelves and décor, we didn't have room for the whole set, so it was out in my craft building, collecting dust and flies.  One day recently, it dawned on me that both of my girls were at a point where they would love to play in this kitchen and would enjoy it very much, but only for the next few years. Would I leave this kitchen in the outbuilding? Or, would I sacrifice my home décor, perhaps inviting some extra mess into the living area by bringing in the toy kitchen.  The latter idea won out, for my heart couldn't stand to not have you girls using your beautiful kitchen!  And, I'm so very glad I did. 

You are absolutely thrilled with the kitchen, and are over there making food and treats for everyone much of the time you are downstairs!  And, this is no great surprise considering how much you love to eat!  The other day, you ate 6 bowls (SIX) of black bean soup, and second and third helpings are commonplace with your favorite foods.  I'm starting to find a few things you don't like, such as cantaloupe and watermelon, but they are few and far between.  Your all time favorite treat seems to remain chocolate, and you recently had another "incident" of getting into a bag of chocolate chips.  (This is becoming a pattern....despite the precautions we have taken.) 

You have a new fascination with the strawberries that are coming from our garden, though you don't seem to mind if they are green or red.  But, oh, when Papa points out a red one....you are on it like a duck on a June bug.  Ah....Mama's good girl.  :-) 

On the last day of school for Caleb, we went to Luke's Legocy Carnival to honor the memory of Luke Jensen, a little boy who died of Leukemia, and to raise money for the Children's Cancer Association.  We had a great evening of fun as a family. One of the things your siblings and I did last year was to get our faces painted.   I had assumed that we wouldn't get yours done this year, thinking you wouldn't sit still and would immediately wipe off your face. However, at the last minute, I decided to go for it. 

It was definitely one of those turning points for me in my assumptions of where you are at in your little mind.  As soon as I put you on the stool, you sat perfectly still and allowed the lady to paint your face, almost leaning into her as if you were very much enjoying the experience of being trusted to be a big girl.  When she gave you a mirror to see yourself, and you looked and looked at it.  Not once all evening did you touch it or try to rub it off in the way that you often instantly remove barrettes from your hair.  (Though, even these you are beginning to leave in if I allow you to choose it, then show you how it looks in a mirror.)  You are growing up, Gracie!  So quickly!!! Before long, we won't even remember you as being a baby anymore.  You'll just be a little person.

This month you and I said goodbye to our beloved "Nursey-Nurse", or "Na na" as you sometimes called it. I've said that phrase now with four children.  Wow....that was hard.  I knew it was coming, as we were down to one feeding each day, but as I had hoped, I didn't know the last time was my last until the next day. I had fed you as usual for our morning feeding in my bed.  Afterwards, you sat up to play.  The next day, I was sick in bed and hoped that the children wouldn't bring you down to me to nurse.  When you did come in the room with Caleb, instead of lifting your arms up and starting to whimper for me to lift you up in bed, you happily held up a half graham cracker your brothers had given you and offered to share it with me.  Then, you happily toddled out of the room.....coming in from time to time to offer me another bite.  I pondered in my heart that day, the previous day might have been the last, and that perhaps it was time - especially since we had had a pleasant experience the day before and didn't know the end.  The next morning, I hopped out of bed before your brother brought you in......the following day we babysat for a friend and had left the house early in the morning, and then, it was over.  For a week or so, it was hard for me, as my body was still prepared to feed you and it was a little uncomfortable.  Then there were a couple of mornings when you asked to snuggle, then pointed and pulled at my nightshirt.  Those times were hard. I simply had to redirect her, saying "No, no, Gracie.  All finished." She understood that, but wasn't very happy about it.  Me neither. 

 It's been two weeks since Tuesday June 4th.....our last day of nursing, and we're doing ok.  I try not to let myself think about it, though sometimes if somebody asks, it makes me choke up a bit.  The emotions I have experienced as a mother have been surprising sometimes. Before having children, I didn't think would ever be so emotionally attached to things.  I had it all planned out based on good reason.  I would, of course, nurse my babies until they were exactly one year, but then I would be done.  I didn't realize how much that special snuggle time would come to mean to me......how deep that bond was between us......how symbolic the act of nursing is to the attachment between mother and child - the dependence, the trust, the tenderness. I could go on. 

For me, saying goodbye this time, was even more significant.  I had held on for a few months longer than I had in the past for the mere fact that this was to be the very last time I would ever nurse a child. This season of my life, that of being a mother of young children, is passing.....the baby stage is now past for us.  Intellectually, and even in my heart, I know that beautiful and new stages lie ahead for our family.  Yet, letting go is always hard....regardless of how much you know or trust the future. 

Your new little security is your blanket, which you call "Baby" and also your stuffed giraffe, also called "Baby".  If we only pick up one or the other, you will turn and point and say "Baby!!" until we get them both.  At this point, both items can be subbed out for replacements, though if it is up to you, you will choose those.   It will be interesting to see how this progresses over time.  Your thumb is still your ultimate comfort and pops in when you are getting really sleepy, when we rock in the rocking chair, and when we lay you down in bed.  It's looking pretty battle weary, but it's hanging in there! :-)

My Little G,  I could write about you for hours, and have already done so!  You are growing and changing before our very eyes, and we love you so.  You are truly our joy.  We love you, Gracie!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

17 Months: No!!!

Well, we've arrived....."No!" is your new favorite word, and you use it frequently. "No!" can be said with a playful smile, a determined spirit and strong voice, or an angry voice accompanied by a little swat at whatever is near you to hit. "No!" can also mean, "Yes."  In any case, it seems to be your favorite word.  Just today, you responded with "I Mama" and a little nod yes when I counseled you that "Yes, Mama" was the proper response.  Oh how my heart melted just a bit.  I have heard those words emerge with each of our children, but each time, they are a special treat.  Firsts are always special.  You'll still nod your head up and down with your mouth opening and closing as well to indicate yes.  And....I love that. I wonder if it will be something you continue into your childhood.  I hope so. 

Oh, and if ever there was a girl who loved shoes.....you are the one! You probably spend a great majority of your free time trying on shoes.  Sometimes one....other times two....someone else's.....your own.  It simply doesn't matter.  But you do LOVE shoes!  I'll even catch you glancing down at your shoes from time to time, as if to admire them.  How you make us smile, Gracie! :-)

The other words we hear frequently are near and dear to my Mama's heart....."Mama, I need you. 
Need you."....typically drawn out when crying as "Mama....I neeeeeeeed you.  Neeeeeeeed you."  Last month, it was "Knee you, Mama. "  Whatever the words, I love that it's me that you need.  Your Papa has always been the natural nurturer of the two of us, so often the other kids would be comforted by Papa, with little complaint. But not you.  It's me you want.....me you reach for, even when in Papa's arms. You'll often walk up to me with your arms held high, wanting to be held.  And when I lift you into my arms, you rest your little head on my shoulder, sometimes sucking on your thumb, sometimes shoving your arms down in front of you as if to nestle in as close as you can get.....sometimes just holding onto me.  It is one of the greatest gifts I can imagine.  I am so glad to be wanted by you.  I'm happy you need me.  I am so much more patient with this than I would have been in the past and am thankful for this change in my own heart.....the realization of how quickly time passes and these brief seasons end.

You love to snuggle and cuddle, dollies and stuffed friends, and recently blankets. Burrowing into them and cuddling in your sweet head.  I love to see it. 

"My" is another of your favorites now.....and means "Mine" or "Me."  And, slowly, the words are becoming more clear and distinct. You have started to point at things and say their name with a little question as if to receive confirmation from me if you're a little unsure...."Shir?" (Shirt) "Shoe?". If you are sure, however, there is no question.  It is either said with excitement or assuredness. For instance, when you point to Greta, you say "Dog" and nod your head down.  Today, on exiting our car at a friend's house, their chickens came into view and you excitedly exclaimed "Ducky!!"  To your credit, there were two ducks there as well, though I'm pretty sure you were pointing at the chickens. :-) 

You do say, "Thak You", changed from "Dah Koo", but it's mostly doled out when you want to.  Please is still "Cheese".....and you definitely say "Cheese" before any photo opportunities....any time I say "Look at Mama" in a sing-song voice.

You can now climb up......and down....the stairs. The down part has been happening for the past week or so.  In fact, the first time might have indeed been the time that you decided to climb out of your crib, also as a first, after I had laid you down for a nap. Then, down the stairs you came and into the living room where I was sitting with a friend.  You stood there for a while as we watched you, and I know you were speculating what we might do.  Finally, as I stood up, you started walking towards the back door and pointing to it, indicating you wanted to go outside with the rest of the kiddos.  No luck for you! Back to bed.   I had heard a strange little cry a few minutes before you came down, so I assume you might have been a little frightened in getting out of the crib. You haven't tried it again. :-)  However, the stairs are another matter.  You seem so pleased with yourself each time you descent the stairs.  And, you do it just like your big brother Emet did.....starting about 2 feet from the first stair, you turn around and crawl backwards, reaching your leg out until you reach that first step.  It is adorable! 

Coloring is a new thing for you.  The picture at the top was taken only a few days ago, and it was the first time I had seen you laying down, crayon in hand, and coloring.  Well, a couple of days before, you were at the table "coloring", but it turned out to be mostly on your face.  Thank goodness for washable markers! :-) 

And you are about as silly as they come.  A real ham.  With your frequent "No's" and your silly sunshiny smiles, we have dubbed you The Sassy Sunflower. You have an unmistakable gleam in your eye that shows you are fully aware you are delighting us with your happy smiles and sunshine.  You love to cock your head to the side and smile, looking up at us, then tuck in your chin and chuckle.

As a wonderful illustration of your valiant spirit, you have never been intimidated by Greta, even after she moved from the annoyed yet patient family dog of infants to the snarling family dog of "children who should know better than to bug her". When she growls at you, you simply growl right back, no matter how many growling snarls she brings on.  And, we love that about you.  I finally got that on video today, even though it was Papa you were growling at - not Greta!

Music is your absolute delight. I'm not sure you could hold still if you tried.  The very minute music comes on, your left elbow lifts up, as if it's going to send you into your musical twirls.  You are not shy at all about your dancing! You may well be headed for Broadway.

You are not to be left out by your brothers and sister, and
want to be with them at all times.  You do not appreciate when they head out of doors without you.  And, every minute they are inside the house, you are with them playing and interacting.  And, how you love them!  You'll come up behind them when they are sitting on the ground and give them a hug, laying your head on their back or shoulders. Just yesterday morning, after you finished nursing, you looked over me to see Anna Ruth laying on the other side of me in our bed, still asleep.  You crawled over me and laid on her, giving her a hug.  She sleepily wrapped her arm around you and patted your back.  It's times like those that make my heart simply melt.

I know that before too long, you'll be talking, being sassy, and being 2....(and in our house age 3 seems to be a similar experience!).....full of joy and annoying little habits that drive your siblings crazy.  However, at this age and stage, everyone is still fully in love with you.  (Though Anna Ruth has started down the path of tattling and getting angry with you.)  Still, however, she loves you dearly.  And, though I believe the two of you will have many hurdles ahead in learning to share and get along, I think she'll always have a special place in her heart for her "Gwacie."

For some reason, you love to get into cough drops and seem to find an endless supply of them.  You must have found a secret stash of them somewhere, but they are multiplying like loaves and fishes! I am thankful that you seem to most often bring them to me, as if to check in to see if you can have one, even though I'm pretty sure you know you're not supposed to.  I wanted to write this down, because I wondered today if I would remember that about you.  Often, the little things that children always do are forgotten as they fade away.  And, this is a fun little memory.

You are growing and changing, right before our very eyes, Grace. As we have planned for you to be our last child, we are watching each minute with a sharp focus.....seeing change, and saying goodbye to another precious last time and time again.  At times, it seems more than my heart can bear.  Yet, somehow I know that there is a greater hope.  I know that time is not going, it is coming.....and that which is before me is going to be better than that which is behind, even despite hard and painful times that are part of any human existence.  However, that is hard to grasp when all I know for sure is that which I can hold within my hands......and that which is ahead is yet unknown. I wonder how many Mama's ponder life like I do?  How many of us are sharing the same thoughts? 

As a follower of Christ, this defines much of my existence, and I have seen it prove true in my own life over and over again.  Yet.....yet......it is still a concept that is hard to grasp for the human mind and heart, and so I struggle on. 

But, oh Gracie - in your sweet, pure innocence, you don't struggle with these concepts yet at all.  You simply charge forward, growing and changing as quickly as you can, living life to each moment's fullest.  Nothing holds you back but Mama's hands for nap time.  :-) 

Charge ahead, sweet Gracie, charge ahead.  Let nothing hold you back as you come into the fullness of who God has made you to be.  We love you!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Treasure in a Sticky Wrapper

I am in process of 100 projects of trying to reduce clutter, purge un-needed items that a family of six living in 1150 square feet simply cannot support, all the while trying to maintain the basics of living (laundry, dishes, homework, etc.) while not being home.  In other words, there is no forward progress on any one project, and we've been doggy paddling just to get through the week with laundry and food.  Food for each day....and clothes for each day, and that's about it!

My car is messy.  MESSY.  And, full of clothes, toys, bags, garbage, and items from a "haven't been at home at all" type of week. 

My house is messy, cluttered, and unkempt. I am sitting now on my unmade bed, staring at piles of laundry that need to be folded. 

And, as much as I'd like to say that this is an odd week out, it's more normal than it is not. Do I love to live in a mess?  Am I the carefree sort that just isn't bothered by clutter?  NO!!! I would LOVE to live in a Martha Stewart magazine or a Pottery Barn catalog.  Cleanliness and order create a sense of calm and peace in my heart.  However, no matter how hard I try....the slime, grime, clutter and goo of this stage of life overtake my ability to stay on top of them.  Rather, I should say, they overtake my ability to stay on top of them with the time I have allotted to them given the life we live. 

Because, when I hear of a friend that's frantic for help cleaning her own home due to an impending inspection that evening......or a friend that needs babysitting for the evening......or a friend who needs help going grocery shopping due to a recent surgery......I want to be there for them, and I don't want the life that is so controlled by my own schedule of orderliness and peace that I cannot reach out and help my friends.  For, I am certainly not only on the giving end of this.......our life has been a circle of friendship and support. 

Yet, as I carried my sleeping Grace in from the car this afternoon, I was overcome with thankfulness.  It was one of those moments where I felt so full of joy and gratitude from head to toe that it caused a pain in my chest.  I wouldn't trade my life in for anything at all.  The little hands that nestle into mine.....the little fingers that grasp mine....the little voices asking for night time snuggles or nap time back scratching......little books being thrust towards me for reading.....little boo-boos that need kisses.....tears that need wiping.....small crackly high voices that join with mine in song and lullaby....sweet prayers....hands that "help clean" and make bigger messes.....feet that track in mud as the voices they carry proclaim the amazing thing they've seen or done out of doors.  Watch me!  See me! Hold me! Love me! 

All of that may sound exhausting to some.  Truthfully?  It is.  At times, it is absolutely overwhelming.  Yet, it is beyond beautiful.  It is a treasure that, though fleeting in time, will always be a part of my life and of who I am.  It is a treasure that is shaping me and refining me in all of those characteristics that I would hope to have.   And, while another may only see a sticky wrapper, I am blessed to have the treasure inside as my own.

.......even if occasionally my bare feet stick to the floor. :-)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

16 Months: Metamorphosis

There was a period of about 2 days this past month in which we witnessed the beginning of a metamorphosis.  Your words, actions, interactions and absolute silliness broke out of the cocoon.  It was as if we had witnessed a complete transformation.  By the end of the month, you had added in some tantrums as well! 

You point at things and speak with determined words, even if we cannot understand most of them yet, but you will repeat the same phrase over and over.  Your sweet head nodding continues, and has become your best form of communication.  You will point to something and nod your head yes to indicate that is indeed what you are hoping for.  If we don't soon catch on, the loud, frustrated sounds will soon come. :-) 

Your "Please" sounds like "Cheese!" (oh - and you say "Cheese" when smiling for pictures too! :-)and your "Thank You" is "Dah koo".  Then the pointing and nodding yes. It is so cute! It is so cute!

I can picture you as I write this, sitting in your hanging high chair and pointing to some food object I am frantically trying to prepare.  Your appetite mirrors your eldest brothers.....endless.  It is fun to see all of the food you eat! And, you are not at all picky, and will happily munch on those foods none of the rest of your siblings will touch....such as mushrooms - cooked or raw, or those for which they will at least grumble.....such as sautéed greens.  You don't seem too fond of cantaloupe or almond milk, but so far - those are the only two things I've noticed you don't care much for. 

I so enjoy seeing you interact with your siblings.  You definitely want to be a part of the family and are not at all interested in being left out!  You listen when we talk to you, and always respond by either your nods, garbled words, or actions.  If I tell you to take Sissy's hand, you reach for it.  You will put something back if told, or deliver an item to the garbage can.  (Though sometimes, you will make it all of the way there, then turn back around and return with it!)  Last night, Sissy was jumping up and down and saying "Look at me jump!"  I asked you if you could jump too, and you immediately started to bend at the knees and try.  Your little feet never left the ground, but you got the bending and squatting part.  It was adorable. 

And, oh how you are walking around now.  So sturdy and with such purpose! Typically, you are headed for something.....always reaching, picking up, opening, grabbing, playing in.  Your favorites at home are the baking cupboard and the toilet (ugg). You are constantly on the go and getting into things! Yikes! 

Papa taught you how to smell flowers on Easter Sunday.  I hope to always remember you bent over in your little Easter dress simultaneously holding, pulling and smelling the daffodils outside of the church building.  And, it was so fun to see you hunting with your siblings for Easter eggs in our yard after dinner.  You held your own little bucket and loved finding eggs, though you would frequently unload some of your eggs into Anna Ruth's bucket.  You didn't seem to mind at all. :-) 

You are silly as can be, and love for us to see you doing something we perceive as funny or cute - like when you climb into a box, or sit down on a stool.  As soon as you notice we are smiling, you put on your silliest, grin face, cock your head to the side or throw it back (depending on your mood), and smile away.  Then, often you'll stop and take a serious peek - just to make sure we are still delighting in you. 

When Papa drives in the driveway after work, you now shriek with excitement and bang on the sliding glass door, yelling "Papa!!!  Papa!!!" at the top of your voice and then clamor to be included in the mass of children exiting the house to drive in with Papa.  Papa now waits for you to come, and you either sit on his lap and get to drive in, or sit on one of the laps of your big brothers.  I love this little evening routine. 

When it's time for you to nurse right before bed, you will bring me the Boppy and my nursing cover, then try to climb up in my lap and ask for "Na-Na"....a name you made up on your own.  I've had several Boppies over time, but the one I've used the last couple of months was my only Boppy when Caleb was born, the soft blue fleece Boppy with the white clouds.  It's as if we've come full circle.  I've nursed you longer than all of your siblings now, and it will be coming to and end soon, but Mama is having a hard time saying goodbye to this stage of life, and so - on we go....for a little while. 

At bedtime, as one of us carries you up the stairs, you love to give big, slobbery, open mouthed kisses to everyone.  Not always with your tongue out anymore, but sometimes still! :-)  And you love to wave goodbye to everyone with your big dimpled grin.  Papa likes to read you your storybook Bible and Good Night Moon.

Your little thumb continues to comfort you.  Our attempt at putting a bandage over the sore, puffy skin didn't last long, but it hasn't cracked open yet.  For your sake, I hope it doesn't. 

What a joy you are, Gracie Noelle.  Before you were born, we kept having the name Joy come to our mind.....but it didn't seem to sound just right with Grace.  Perhaps it wasn't that your name was to be Joy, it was that God was describing you!  And a true joy you are indeed, Gracie Noelle! We love you, Little One.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2012 in Review

The ending of an old year and the beginning of a new is somewhat like sitting at the very bottom of at the edge of an unknown.  It's funny, because I sometimes wonder what we would do without a calendar system.  Would we think in years at all? And, as a Mama of 4 little ones, even my attempts at wrapping up a year end post end in April not December! And no, this won't be well written or witty, though I may openly share it.  It's simply me, as I think.  It's a Mama trying her best to capture her life and memories in this stage, which is only this stage for now, and as I've learned, will too rapidly be behind me. So, in trying to find my place in the big role of life, I write.....for the memories....for the wisdom, and for perspective for myself, for others, and most importantly, for my children.

As I sit here well into 2013, desperately trying to finish gathering pictures and thoughts, for many of the things captured here are now long past, my mind reels back over the past year.  What defined last year?  What can I say that will forever remind us of our little family, and of each of our children? What mattered? What spoke to us or made an impact? Most importantly, what did we learn in this journey called life?


Well, first off - our year started with a family trip to Disneyland with Grandpa and Grandma B.  It was our first big vacation with the kids - anywhere other than visiting family. We had created a "Disneyland Savings Chart" and had told the children that while we had free hotel and airfare, we'd still need to come up with money for food, park tickets and expenses. We broke the chart into blocks of $1000, then into blocks of $100 and finally into $10.  Each time we'd save $10, the children could fill in a block so that they could see the progress we were making towards our goal.  While $1000 is more than a child's mind can practically comprehend, $10 is definitely something within their realm.  And, before the children even knew we were close to our goal, they asked Santa for money to help the family go to Disneyland.....not spending money, mind you (they clarified this point)....just money to help pay for us to get there.  I must say that was a proud Mama moment.  One day, when doing the budget, I came across a bank account I had transferred $1700 to a few years back, then had literally forgotten about it.  That was the exact amount that remained for us to be able to take the trip!  I'll never forget the day the kids found out we were going.  I had stayed up late the night before filling in the remaining blocks, and when the boys returned from a slumber party, Emet immediately ran to the fridge where we kept the chart and said...."The chart's all filled in!!! Do we get to go today?!" It was fantastic.

And, if it weren't for Grandpa and Grandma B being there, well, we might not have had much fun at all.....alone with a newborn, and a 2, 4, and 6 year old. However, they were there and we all shared a wonderful time.  We brought along our double stroller, The Bob, and Gracie would nap in the stroller several time a day.  We'd leave the hotel at about 10am.....and get back at about 11pm - five nights in a row.  Ru Bear would typically crash by the end of the day and spend the last hour or so sleeping in the stroller and grab a catnap or two during the day.  The boys? Well, they might have been tired but they were in Disneyland!!! and didn't want to miss a moment of it!  We'd take turns staying with Gracie and the stroller, and occasionally she'd come along in the baby carrier, The Ergo.  Somehow, we managed to select the one off season week in February that was FULL of international travelers, so it was a rather busy time in Disneyland.  But, we still had a magical time, all of us fully absorbing the magic that is Disney.  And, it was magical indeed to see the genuine awe and delight on the children's faces....everywhere they looked, and especially at night seeing the parade. Another thing I don't think I'll ever forget is how the boys would hold hands, on their own.  It was as if in the great crowds of people, they felt a bit insecure and stuck to each other like glue. 

Now, if it weren't for free airline tickets from my years of travel for work, miles I had saved for just such a purpose, we likely would have flown Alaska Airlines and taken a non-stop flight.  Instead we flew through Denver, changing planes with our 4 children and 6 carry-on bags.  Not a good idea.....unless free....and even then, it comes into question.  Without going into too much detail, I'm sure my memory will be triggered someday by recalling our return flight's first leg, going through a long security line with 4 grumpy, sleepy children (two crying and screaming), having to have all of our bags checked (due to the plastic salt and pepper shakers that apparently resemble weapons). By the end of the line, I was nearly crying....then was greeted by an unfriendly agent who scolded me for not having the right end of the ticket in my hand as I was attempting to hold children bags, purse, food AND the tickets.....and then being gently chided at the end of the two flight day that we should have asked the ticket agent to check our bags at the door.....for free. Ah.....despite missing the Magic, home was a welcome sight. 

Caleb Finished Kindergarten

There once was a sweet boy who loved his first teacher, "Mrs. Prince", very much. He had lots of friends, and girls who admired him.  And his favorite subject was recess, most of which was spent playing chase and Star Wars pretend games with his good friend Wyatt.  Come June, though excited for Summer at home, he was sad to say goodbye to his class and his teacher and certainly shed a few tears.  A boy after his Mama's own heart, this one.

And for Mama, it was a bit rough.  After all, Caleb was my first one to leave the nest, though he didn't flap his wings much, and made sure to come back and snuggle in his nest with Mama, Kindergarten marked the bridge.  It was the bridge from the world of a Mama at home with all her babies, to a world of school, activities, sports, and increasing independence.  We haven't dabbled much yet in the sports and activities. I have no desire to throw into chaos the one hour of sanity we have together at home during this stage of life.  I need margin. Those things will come soon enough.  


Ah, and Summer.  Though it may not be our last of such summers, it was definitely the first year the boys were old enough, together, to be allowed to play down by the shallow summer creek with their friends.   The old fence separating our side of the yard from the creek has a secret passageway (hole) in it surrounded by briers and trees.  Oh the fun that they had down by the "Secret Fortress".....crossing the "bridge", a low tree branch that spanned the narrow creek, jumping across (and sometimes in), sneaking around in the low hanging trees and bushes.  Many a time, I would silently creep part way down from the house just to listen to the boys laughing, yelling, and making warrior sounds with their friends down at the Secret Fortress.  I can almost still hear them as they run and play, foam swords (weapons) stuck down the back of their shirts and hung from belts and bead "neck-a-laces" they have slung crossways across their chests. Often, I'd hear the laundry room door open and hear the thud-thud of their feet as they ran up to their room to find "golden treasure" (gold colored plastic jewelry and plastic gems from Disneyland) to be buried outside in the yard.  And, whenever we went any place where they saw a shiny gold object, whether plastic or not, but fake in all cases, it was a challenge to convince Caleb to not spend his every last Quarter cranking through the vending machine to collect "treasure". 

A frequent request was to shoot arrows at the old hay bale next to the woodshed - something for which permission must be granted first by Papa or Mama.  They also loved building forts in the bedroom with blankets, foam chairs and stuffed friends or playing indoor games.  One of their favorite made up games is called "Carnival" in which they set up their room with little figurines and home made targets.  They always come and get me and invite me to the carnival, complete with pretend tickets.  I'm given a Nerf Gun and told to knock down the figurines.  There are rules about how many tries I get (they are typically quite generous), and prizes to select from if I win.  It's always fun to see how hospitable and welcoming they are when I come into their self constructed event......generous and encouraging.  It makes me think, "Maybe they are learning something after all!"

Swim lessons showed a turning point as well.  Caleb, who struggled with being fearful and timid in the water last year finally "clicked" and turned into quite the little fish.  Emet never did share his brother's fear of the water, but is still working towards swimming with his legs back instead of straight down....which only allows him to "swim" a few feet before stopping.  Emet may well be made of lead, as heavy as he is!  He is our sturdy boy, that's for sure!

Night time routines included reading our Bible and Devotional and beginning the Swiss Family Robinson story, that is until the Advent Season when we temporarily switched to our much beloved and anticipated story tradition.  This year it was Tabitha's Travels.  Then, snuggles were to be had - oftentimes with three little ones and Papa in the bottom bunk, Emet's, listening to Papa's telling of "Hansel and Gretel, the Two Cows"....started one night after Mama told the real Hansel and Gretel story, which Papa didn't know.  When Papa went to snuggle them the next night, they asked him to tell the story, but instead of doing so - he created his own rendition, which doesn't at all resemble the actual tale, but rather includes the characters of Caleb and Emet, Neighbor Ned, Farmer Bob, Mr. Frank (our actual neighbor), Fenster Needlehosen, Hansel and Gretel (the two cows!), and a few others, which neither Jason nor I can remember at present! The previous year, it would have been requests for scratch or draw (which they still request) or 100 questions by Caleb, but this year the big snuggle request is always for Annie's Adventures or Hansel and Gretel the Two Cows.   Oh the adventures those kids have in these stories!  Always to include character lessons and great excitement.  Annie's Adventures is the story of me growing up, which I tell in third person.....they prefer it that way. I've asked. :-)

Fall and Winter
Though she did spend time with them in the Summer, Anna Ruth really seemed to begin tagging along with the boys in the Fall.  She is always trying to keep up with "bruders", and she is certainly no wimp!  Well....that is until she needs something....then she's quick to whine or call out grievances. 

Perhaps it was Caleb's heading off to 1st grade,
his first year of full time school, and at a new school - Firm Foundation Christian School.  It's a school just 5 minutes down our own street.....a welcome change from the 20 minute cross county commute we were making twice daily.

Anna Ruth was naturally pushed to spend more time each day with Emet, as he and Caleb weren't off playing.  And, overall, Emet truly stepped up to the plate of being the eldest at home. He is responsible and helpful and willing to play with Anna Ruth.  However, over time, he grows more and more impatient of her three year old tantrums and behaviors and easily wears thin, calling her out....."Anna Ruth!!!  Mama...!!!"

Emet, likewise, moved up in the world. Though he is not yet in traditional school, he had been with his Sunday School teachers for the past two years.  "My Rossiters" he called them.  We had long cherished the tradition he and Mr. Rossiter had together.  Emet would stop about 50 feet from the door, and wait for Mr. Rossiter to come to the door and see him as he was greeting students. Emet would run across the room and throw himself down onto the floor of the classroom.  Mr. Rossiter would do likewise.  After observing this for nearly a year, I did finally get a video of the spectacle I hope to long remember.  He sure had an attachment to these great people, and we'll miss having him in that class.  But, being a big strong five year old now, he hardly belongs in a three year old class anymore. 

The children and I also joined a home school co-op called "Friday School", that both Emet and Anna Ruth really enjoy.  I'll never forget Anna Ruth asking each day if it is "Fwiday School" today. And Grace did just fine in the nursery, and seems to anywhere she goes.

Fall simply melted into winter for us, as it always does.  School leading to the anticipation of our families birthday season....the children making their list of birthday and Christmas wishes for them and each other, planning their cakes and parties, deciding which birthday cereal they will choose for their special day and where we will go to dinner.  It begins on October 25th with Emet, then November 2 is Caleb, November 7th is Anna Ruth, and in the middle of all of this is our annual Operation Christmas Child tradition.  Following Thanksgiving and our final birthday celebration with Gracie on November 29, we get caught along with all the world in the joys of celebrating Christmas.  Somehow we made it through all that and landed on the other side of last year, here in January!  I haven't even yet sent out my 2012 Christmas Cards yet! (Though I plan to, even still!) 

If there is any theme from the year that jumps out on me over and over, it is that of friendship.  We live a life so abundantly blessed with friends and fellowship.....so much so that I believe we are probably rare in our connections with others, and I truly wouldn't trade it for the world.  I love that our kids will have memories of friends, fellowship with other families, and great fun.  And, to be sure, they will certainly have a jump start on relationship building and working things out!  Any time you have 15+ kids of various ages combined is sure to be interesting!  They do fairly well though, all things considered.

It's also a blessing that those of us with 4+ kids can experience date nights or go to Doctor's appointments and the like without having to sell our house to do so.  We simply give and take in that department, and we all know each others kids well enough at this point to be able to fairly easily step into the supervision role for those children......and conversely as parents to be able to relax and have fun, knowing our kids are well loved and cared for.

We've been part of our Sunday School class for about five years and met with a Small Group Bible Study for nearly four, so these people have become some of our dearest friends.  We get together any chance we can get, and laughter and great food abound. I know that for everything there is a season, and I can't imagine as children get older and schedules get more full with school and extracurricular activities that we will always have this luxury.  However, if I'm learning anything over time, it is not to fear the loss of a season....but simply to rest in it, knowing that the next season of life will have it's share of beauty too.  I remember 10 years ago when Jason and I were newly married how we thought we'd never have friends!  We couldn't have imagined the wonderful friendships we share today, yet part of arriving to this time of life required the letting go of that season (home, friends, work) and moving to yet another unknown.



On the order of purpose, I think I have come to terms with several things this year. 

First of all, this has been the year of coming to a peace with my home.  So much so, in fact, that we have stopped looking at houses altogether and actually want to stay here, until God clearly moves us in another direction.  For years, I was stuck in a place of semi-discontent.  While I tried to make the best of it, really, I couldn't wait to get out of our home and move to someplace bigger, newer, nicer.  However, with much prayer and contemplation....it has become clear to me that there is great purpose in us staying here.  The children absolutely love it - every aspect of the yard and the inside too! And, I have come to love the fact that the creaking floors and close confines let us experience fully these early childhood years.....allowing us to partake in the giggles and wrestling, the bumps and thuds that come from the rafters above.  We also all remain together in our space, instead of spreading out to this room and that.  And in this stage, I love this.....even if it occasionally means that I do appreciate a break! I have begun to get rid of home decor that I have hung onto for years, just waiting to be used when we, of course, moved!  Now - we are clearing out those attic closets with hopes to create "secret rooms" for the children.  What child wouldn't love that?!

Beyond the house, I a beginning to see some direction in my writing. I've known for years that there was writing in my future.  I've felt that strongly in my heart, but haven't known the what or how of it all.  Ever since I had that revelation, I've kept this blog....but it's truly only my life journal.....for us...for our children....and though I don't mind sharing it with others, that is certainly not it's primary purpose.  Besides, everyone needs a place to put down their thoughts "edit free".  As I'm still trying to work out the details with God, I guess I'll write more on that later.  But the many thoughts coming to my mind all center around the things that are dearest to my heart and my general skills and abilities.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised there, eh?  This may come as a shock to me later as I read this, but over time, I haven't always followed my heart....I've spent a great deal of time trying to be good at the things I wasn't gifted in.  And, of course, while I did glean some things here and there - I have found those pursuits to have been rather meaningless.

Most importantly, Caleb entering the first grade as been an enormous reminder of the passage of time.  Huge. And, I'm gently prodded once again to be here.  HERE - present both mentally and physically during these brief hours I have with my children at home with me.  They seem endless, but they are oh so brief!  I'm clinging to them....I love them....and yes, I need a break and a maid.  Sometimes I get both (thanks Mom).....sometimes I get neither.  But, I love my life regardless. 

What I hope to always remember.....the things I've loved

 - Inquisitive, pondering look with one slightly raised eyebrow..."Hmm...."
 - If I look sad or disappointed, he'll often be extremely in tune with my feelings and ask "Why do you look sad, Mama?"  
 - Tender spirit hiding beneath a tough exterior.  I'll never forget the time he lost his brand new Pirate Mickey Mouse sweatshirt in Disneyland in the bathroom.  As soon as Grandma asked where it was, he raced back in with Grandpa to find it missing.  Grandma said he shrugged and offhandedly said "I don't care..", but later when I questioned him....he broke down into heart wrenching sobs....deeply sad over the loss of his new sweatshirt.  When I had bought the boys the sweatshirts the first time as a surprise, he said "You're buying us these? Wow! Thanks, Mama!"  He seemed truly grateful, knowing how much they cost.  After he lost the sweatshirt, he went without the next day, shivering without a coat. Jason and I decided to purchase him another one, knowing how important it was to him.  He was nearly moved to tears when I pulled his new sweatshirt out of the bag, having a true heart of thankfulness and quietly saying, "Thank you for getting me a new sweatshirt, Mama"...with a sweet, tearful face.
 - Fits of rage, throwing his head and arms back and stiffening his body when asked to do the simplest things...."OK!!!" He looks like he is about to blow a gasket or hyperventilate.
 - and following this, the looks of chagrin that pass over his face as he reads our night time devotional when it talks about controlling your anger and being nice. :-)
 - He recently lost all of his toys and things to his anger, to be earned back by twenty acts of showing kindess and love to his family. I must say that the family time we've had playing games together since then has made this a great benefit.  Oh, and seeing the boys play with toys long laid aside, such as the Lincoln Logs - which now are built into houses built around catapult traps and lines of catapults (or what he calls catapults anyways)
 - the ever so slight little change I'm starting to notice in his voice here at years end...I'm getting a glimpse of that voice of the future that will no longer belong to a little boy
 - the fact that there is a couple of words he still says wrong, makes me happy - "Libary", "Extercise", "Ridiculus", "Conputer" for instance

 - Papa calls you his Mighty One
 - his graciousness  "And by the way, thank you for getting x, y, z"
 - his "new recipes", wanting to make us coffee in the Keurig
 - his quick attitude towards service, "Emet, can you..."  "Sure! Yes, Papa."
 - asking for something (like candy) he knows we'll probably say no to with a smile, and then an obedient, "Ok, Yes Mama" if we say no.
 - general exuberance...."Oh yeah, Baby"
 - love of "Brown" (ratty little brown puppy he's had since birth) and his other stuffed friends
 - Emet's servant's heart, always asking if he can help in the kitchen, wash dishes, help me make something, and last but not least - he loves to make you coffee in the Keurig
 - going to get wood, 5 and 6 loads even all alone, while brother is in school. They still do it together on weekends.....what a hard worker he is!
 - Emet's excitement about doing his chores to move over magnets on his new chore chart.
 - his elaborate stuffed animal displays he creates when making his bed, most notably "the singing Christmas tree"
 - and you will always, and forever be, unstoppable....it's your genuine, tender smile.  It will always work in your favor
 - and then there's the "Smoulder", which you picked up from Disney's Tangled movie. :-)  That's unstoppable too - though it elicits a bit more laughter. 

Anna Ruth:

 - our little dictator, the "Ru-tator" we have coined her...."I am NOT the Rutator", she tells us! :-)
 - most frequently has a slightly angry look on her face and is in the process of demanding something or telling on "bobos" (or bruders)
 - oh, but when she smiles...it is either a glorious laughter like little bells ringing.....or a sweet closed lip smile that pulls up her beautiful cheeks.  It's as if she is in a state of complete contentment. 
 - Not using "R" or "Th"....sometimes still "S" is missing  "Nuggle me!", but as the year progressed, she has picked up her "S" more and more.
 - "Da Boys....", "Bruhdows", "Gwacie No-ay-al"..."Papa No-ay-al" :-)  
 - "Bes Fwen" is "Kwistian"; Although no one can make her light up like Austin.  They have been friends since before birth...and they get so excited when they see each other, it's contagious!
 - this little girl loves her dollies.  Especially when she is away from home, she'll be seen in the nursury carrying around or rocking 3-5 dollies at once.  She takes very good care of them....occasionally nurses them (when Mama is nursing...though she has done this less as the year has gone on), and as the year ends - likes to change their clothes alot (with assistance).
 - Delightful, melodic giggle
 - Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Make Oh's Man....Shut it in the oven fow Gwacie and me....Yay Gwacie! to which Gracie immediately glows happily and starts clapping.
 - "Ah-knee da Pooh"
 - Peanut butter an samwhich
 - Yow siwy!
 - I love the sweet little smile you have on your face
 - I luf you too, Mama
 - You look pwetty too, Mama (with the sweetest ever smile on her face)
 - Doe (though)
 - Ending sentences and thoughts with "So..." - I'm gonna mawry Kwistian, so....
 - her sleeping bag is her "Bean Bag", and she loved to participate in her first official "camp out" with the boys and Papa on the living room floor.
 - bwestkist (breakfast)

 - Ru Bear has created the habit of coming downstairs sometime in the middle of the night and crawling into bed with Mama and Papa.  (She always goes to Papa's side).  Neither of us are in a hurry to have her stop though - her sweet, cuddly self....and we now know how quickly time passes, and how this too will only be a short season.  Eventually, it will stop on it's own.  

 - At years end is beginning to be a huge ham!  She will squint her eyes closed then pop them open and look at you.
 - You're starting to indicate you understand us....almost always responding to our question by gesturing, vocalizing something "Wah, Yah" and nodding yes stiffly. 
 - She will shake her head yes with a stiff, forward shake of her head, and will also shake  her head "No" from side to side.
 - She is taking a few tentative steps out into the room....I have seen up to 4....but typically, she will only venture from point A to point B.
 - Popping the worlds biggest dimples with the cutest, open mouthed smile you've ever seen.
 - A big smile with her tongue sticking out shows your happiness
 - A huge open mouthed smile with your whole tongue out - you are beyond excited and pleased with yourself!
 - Wah (sort of sounds like yeah) ....with a smile...of course! :-)
 - 1/2/13 You took several steps today....as if you almost preferred the idea of walking to crawling.  Before today, you have gone several days without taking steps....then 4-5, skip a day, 4-5 more...but today - you have done 5 steps or so several times!
 - 1/6/13 - Today's the day!!! From this evening on, you will likely be walking more than crawling. Something clicked tonight, and over and over again you walked across the kitchen to to and fro.  Tomorrow may be our last 1/2 and 1/2 crawling day...(sniff, sniff)....and onto the great adventure of life!
 - And here we are at the end of January, the time I've taken to put together my notes to capture in this blog, and you are pretty much a 95% walker now.  Every now and then, we'll see you bear crawling under the table, or crawling from point A to point B, once you're already on the floor playing.  However, when you fall over, you immediately get back up in that spot, and you are getting more steady and quick by the day.  Every day for the past week, one of us at least has said, "She's a walker!" :-)

Little family, I love you so.  I can't wait to see what God has for us together.  He sure knew what he was doing when he put us together.  I love you guys!