The Downstairs Bathroom is Filthy- What Joy!

Hula Girl and I have been outside pretty much the entire time she’s been awake for the past several days. And when that girl goes outside, she GOES OUTSIDE. Dirt, mud, dead grass remnants, dandelion stains, scrapes, sunscreen, sweat, and bruises cover her entire body when she comes back inside. It is awesome.

There is something innately glorious about a child outside. When children are allowed to roam and explore to their hearts’ content, it makes a very satisfying mess. Call me weird, but a hot, sweaty little girl’s head resting on my shoulder while I read a calming story to her is one of the most beautiful things about summer. To let her play, to let her exercise, to let her be a child outside- well, I wouldn’t trade it for much.

When we go out, Hula Girl usually spends her time digging in the mud, walking barefoot over the rocks, following ants, lackadaisically riding her tricycle in slow purposeful circles on the driveway, and getting absolutely covered in outdoor grime of all kinds. Mostly the kind that sticks to her superthick and insanely-difficult-to-rub-in sunscreen. Small rocks, insects, and tidbits of dead grass sink into the creases in her knees, elbows, and neckline. Dust and shreds of leaves stick in her hairline. And her fingernails are ever-caked with mud and gunk from her latest dig in the garden, the sandbox, or the empty field next to the house. Her face is always sporting some kind of debris, the kind a kid can only get when her hand unconsciously swipes at the gnats buzzing in her ear. And her hair- well, her hair is always matted down to her forehead with sweat and water from the hose. She is a picture of the grandeur and joy of childhood.

And then there is the smell. The hot, sweaty, absolutely disgusting little child smell. But since that child belongs to me, it’s one of the very best smells in the entire world. Healthy, you know? I love a child who smells healthy in the summer.

We can’t manage a bath every time we come back inside, so we stop in the downstairs bathroom and use a washcloth for a full-body sponge bath. She laughs and laughs when I sit her up on the sink and stick her feet in the cool water. She giggles with glee when I splash the back of her neck and she gets a thrill of delight when I scrub her toes with the washcloth. I so cherish the time I get to spend washing her little not-so-chubby-anymore-but-rather-muscular-now arms and legs. She squeals, “I’m cold! I’m cold!” But five seconds later she insists she needs a drink of water because she’s hot from being outside. So I slip her off the sink and dry her little hands and feet and marvel at the way she is growing.

What joy.

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Gelato 8 Months Update

Um, hi. <crickets> Well, I’ve been gone a while.

We just went through another major schedule transition this month, which accounts for my absence here. I intend to get back soon. For now, I just want to put up a quick post detailing Gelato’s last month and all that jazz, for posterity at least.

Wonder Week

Gelato is technically 35 weeks old, but since he was born 5 days late, he’s about 36.5 weeks old in brain development age. That means he’s right on track for wonder week 37, and WOW, we’ve seen it. This one has been the most noticeable of all the wonder weeks so far. He’s been showing all the classic symptoms: clinging, crying, and crankiness. Oh, and sleep funkiness. But since I understand what is happening, it’s not freakin’ me out that much. I’m just grinning and bearing it!

Physical Development

He’s so good at sitting up that we’re doing regular baths in the big tub now. Gelato especially enjoys bathing with Hula Girl. Somehow siblings make the menial tasks in life so much more fun.

He’s finally kind of on the move! On Easter morning he started moving forward across the floor. It looks like he’s swimming in the Olympics, freestyle. So funny. He has also started to push himself up onto all fours, and he’ll stay there a few seconds and rock or he’ll push too hard with his arms and move backwards across the floor. But hey, this is major progress! Of course, he can always fall back on rolling and spinning, and he does those things frequently, too!

He’s also been working on his pincer grasp. He can pick up raisin-sized crumbs (don’t judge- I have a toddler), rocks, blueberries (smooshed), and, much to Hula Girl’s consternation, felt “sprinkles” that go on her felt “cupcakes.” I don’t think he’s actually eaten any of the things that aren’t food. But I do know he’s eaten at least two blueberries. Progress. Ha!

We still have no teeth.

Language Development

Gelato’s receptive language skills are pretty good! He’s able to look where we tell him to look, find familiar objects and people when we ask him (“Where’s Daddy?”), and imitate several movements and facial expressions. He knows how to turn a page in a book when we ask him to. He smiles and laughs with us when we smile and laugh in front of him.

He has been working on saying some words. He can say “Dada” and “Mama” as well as “tat!” and “gee-gee!” Both “tat” and “gee-gee” refer to Riley, our cat (tat=cat; gee-gee=kitty). Jonathan has been practicing saying “red” and “green” with him; his approximations sound like “ded” and “dee!”

Gelato also enjoys making lots of bubbly gurgly noises. He blows raspberries, rolls his tongue around while saying, “aaaahhhh,” and generally drools a lot while just sounding like a happy baby. (Hula Girl is always thinking it’s okay to chastise him for spitting at the table. I have to remind her that he’s only a baby and even though toddlers aren’t allowed to spit at the table, babies are. How unfair! 😉 I’m also having to remind her that Mommy and Daddy may tell Gelato what to do, but toddlers aren’t allowed to do that.)

Nourishment

Gelato is still nursing 4-5 times a day. Most days it’s 4 times/day. (See “Sleeping/Schedule” for more details.) He still nurses well. We have had no issues with nursing other than a few bouts of soreness from biting or a weirdish latch. I am thinking some teeth might pop through soon.

We are doing really well with baby-led weaning. Gelato has just figured out how to keep his hand in front of/in his mouth to hold his food in there while he chews it up. We have had far less food falling back out, and his diapers hold evidence of a much larger solids intake (can I take a moment to just say THANK YOU to whomever it was that invented the diaper sprayer?!?!?!). He still doesn’t seem to really like pears, but he likes pretty much everything else we give him. So far, he has eaten: chicken, egg yolks, mango, pears, peas, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, waffles, bread, pancakes, rice cakes, oatmeal, hummus, avocados, bananas, apples, ham (for Easter), asparagus, muffins, pasta, cheese, and more. I can’t seem to make my brain think of anything else right now.

Sleeping/Schedule

We are still having early waking every single morning. It is still driving me crazy. I guess Gelato is just an early riser. I think I have found that he needs to be in bed between 6:30 and 7. Too early, and he’s awake between 5:30 and 5:45. Too late, and he’s awake between 5:45 and 6. If I get the sweet spot, he sleeps until about 6:15. I do need to start logging his bedtime/awake times for the next few days to check this theory, but I really feel like he’s just an early riser, plain and simple. Fortunately I am a bit of an early bird myself… or these early mornings would be way more brutal than they already are.

A week into this month, Gelato decided he was ready to be on a 4-hour schedule. He had one day where he slept through to 4 hours between feedings. Then he went back to 3 hours the next day, 3.5 the day after that, 3.5 for another day, then he moved to 4 and that’s where we’ve been ever since.

We’re still working to figure out the last “cycle” of the day. He doesn’t sleep late enough in the day to drop his third catnap, but he doesn’t take that nap (or at least, he’s only taken it once in the past 11 days… but who’s counting?). I would just say the nap’s officially dropped, but since he’s in the wonder week, I have been attempting to do the 3rd nap every day anyway.

Another issue we’re facing is that he’s waking sometimes in the middle of the night and he will.not.go.back.to.sleep.without.nursing. (See the 4-5 feedings/day mentioned in the previous section.) I know he COULD sleep through the night, every night. But we haven’t had him cry it out. I have been too afraid of him waking Hula Girl. We actually plan to have him cry it out and get rid of all night wakings as soon as his wonder week is over. Or maybe sooner. I have a hard time convincing a super sleepy Jonathan this is what we need to do when I return from nursing Gelato at 3:45 a.m.

So, here is what his schedule typically looks like (parentheticals are times when he DOES take the catnap):

  •  6:15 wake
  • 6:45 out of crib, nurse, start making breakfast, get Hula Girl up
  • 7:45 breakfast, sibling playtime
  • 8:30 nap
  • 11 wake, nurse, independent playtime, go for a walk
  • 12 lunch, free play time
  • 1/1:15 nap
  • 2:45/3ish wake, nurse, one-on-one time with Mommy (so rare!), “baby activity”
  • 4:45/5 attempt catnap
  • (5:30) up, dinner
  • 6:15 (6:45) bath, bedtime routine
  • 6:30 (7:15) bed

Personality

Even with the wonder week and fussiness, Gelato is a happy guy. His favorite thing to do is to be held facing me so we can fake laugh back and forth. He has a crazy deep voice and he laughs like, “Huh, huh, huh!” It’s so funny. He’s very inquisitive and he enjoys studying things- his sister’s movements, the way a box opens and closes, the holes I’ve poked through a lid, the way Riley’s tail swishes (so tempting), or the way a drawer pull swings in its brackets. He can use his little fingers to manipulate small objects and will do the same motion over and over and over… to make sure the outcome is the same every time? … to practice making his fingers move the same way? … not sure why, really, but he does. He is a very independent player most of the time and does not mind just rolling around exploring in the room while I read to him and Hula Girl or help Hula Girl clean up or whatnot. As always, he’s just a laid-back kid. I have a feeling that when he’s a toddler, he will test me a LOT… not because he’ll be obstinate or willful, but just because he’ll be so involved in what he’s doing he won’t hear me telling him to stop or he’ll be so active he won’t remember what I said about jumping on the couch eighteen hundred times yesterday! 😉 All in all, he’s a very very very fun little person and it’s a delight having him in our lives.

Sibling Relationship

I added this category because I feel like the two of them actually have a relationship now. It’s not just Hula Girl smothering him and cooing over his latest achievements. He has really started to interact with her and she expresses to me at least fifteen times daily how much she loves him, how much she wants to play with him, and how fun it is to have a little “bo.”

He watches her every move. He tries to copy her to the best of his ability. Yesterday this led to him pouring a measuring cup full of cold water all over his legs (kids were playing with a bowl of water and “scoops” on the kitchen floor), but he dipped that thing back in there and tried again!

He screeches or fake laughs to engage her in a screeching or fake laughing “conversation” across the table.

He bounces up and down in my arms when we go upstairs to get her up from her bed in the morning and after naps. As soon as I open the door, he lets out a shout of glee and screeches until she says, “Hi, Buddy Boy!”

He pulls himself up onto her lap. (She helps him sit up all the way, and then she sings songs or says nursery rhymes with hand motions and guides his hands, just like I did with her when she was little.)

He cries when she leaves the room.

I feel so blessed to have two children who love and care for each other the way they do. I KNOW that many siblings, especially at this age, do not get along and/or end up hurting each other (accidentally or not). Hula Girl has never hurt him, and I have never heard her speak one jealous word against him, barring the occasional, “Gelato doesn’t need to get up from his nap. You can let him cry a while so we can finish this book.” I know we are bound to have scuffles in the future, but I really do hope we can continue to grow our family’s sense of respect and kindness as they get older. It is just so lovely to see them enjoying each other. I’ve really started to see a lot of that in the past two weeks, and now I believe all those folks (like you, KATE!), who said that a sibling is the greatest gift I could have given Hula Girl. Love.It.

10 Tiny Things I Love about being Married to my Husband

Hey, Random! Just thought I’d throw these out there since I’ve been thinking about some of them a lot lately! Thanks, Jonathan, for being you!

10. There is always ice cream in our freezer, even though it’s never in our budget.

9. I never have to get my own water for my nightstand.

8. My feet stay nice and cozy any time we’re watching Dance Moms together because I can just shove them under his legs. He doesn’t mind.

7. He never questions my need to purchase anything. He knows I am frugal and trusts me to make the budget balance at the end of the month.

6. I don’t have to take the trash out.

5. My inner goofball comes out more than ever when I’m with him. We’re talking, making faces at myself in the mirror. And he never tells me to stop!

4. He likes to make our children laugh.

3. I never have to get splashed during bath time– he takes bath duty for both kids! (Oh, how I despise getting water on my skin!)

2. My house is decorated for all holidays. With gusto. And he’s not happy unless there’s pink on Valentine’s Day.

1. He lets me talk for hours after bedtime, even if it’s just about silly things.

BONUS- he listens.

To My Hula Girl: The Past Seven Months

Dear Hula Girl,

Your baby brother is seven months old today, and you are starting your day the exact same way you did on the day of his birth. Grampy is here and he is reading to you on the couch after the two of you enjoyed a special breakfast of oatmeal with honey and chocolate chips. I remember that morning seven months ago very clearly. We had called Grammy and Grampy the night before and asked them to come down to our house because we were pretty sure it was going to be time for us to go to the hospital. I went for a long walk early in the morning and then sat down on the couch watching you and Grampy read. I took several pictures of the two of you snuggling together under the quilt that your great aunt Anne made for you. Then I went upstairs to rest for a while… and then it was time to go to the hospital! We said goodbye to you and gave you lots of hugs and kisses. You had no idea what was about to happen; you were just excited to spend the day with Grampy.

Back then, you still seemed so very much like a toddler. You were two days away from being 26 months old- still a very young two-year-old. You were unable to dress yourself at all, you were unable to reach things on the countertops, you were unable to brush your teeth, you were unable to reach the sink without a step stool. What a difference seven months can make! In the past seven months, you have grown physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Daddy and I (and all of our friends and family) are constantly amazed at the new things you can do and the incredible things your mind dreams up.

Now you can get dressed completely by yourself. You do need help getting oriented sometimes (those arm holes are tricky- they like to hide behind your back!), and it’s not uncommon to see your waistband rolled over on itself. But you can do it!

You can reach everything on the countertops. Everything. And if you can’t reach it, you’re learning that you can get creative to make a way. This is scary for me. Your daddy was a climber, and you seem to be following in his footsteps! In fact, the other day I found you in the bathroom sink, squeezing toothpaste onto your toothbrush. Well, at least you hadn’t eaten all the toothpaste (another current favorite pastime of yours).

Speaking of toothpaste, you got a new toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste when you visited the dentist in January. Since you had just received a new toothbrush for Christmas, I told you you could use your new one in March. On March 1 you were clamoring for your new toothbrush and toothpaste even before you got out of your crib in the morning! You are still so very excited about your new toothbrush, and you love to brush your teeth. I make sure to brush your teeth first, just so I can get all the germs out, but you love to “practice” for very extended periods of time afterward. I think you’d probably watch yourself brushing your teeth for an hour or more if I let you. It is good that you have taken my advice seriously and learned not to swallow your toothpaste. Now that you have “real” toothpaste (it actually contains fluoride), I have had to watch you very carefully. You do like to eat toothpaste. What kid wouldn’t? Toothpaste nowadays tastes like candy.

So many other things have changed, too. You have grown three inches taller. You have lost a lot of your baby padding. You have learned to speak so very well. Your mind is full of creativity and your imagination is just exploding. You are getting less wary of others. You are learning to play with other children rather than just watching from the edges. You express your feelings and you work so very hard to make sure we understand you.

At night when Daddy and I tuck you in, we have a very specific routine. We read you a story, I carry you to bed, we turn off the light, you put “Mr. Sun” to sleep, Daddy prays, I pile your Daisy bear and your blankies on you, I say goodnight, Daddy says goodnight, and then we leave. When I carry you to bed, you tell me what you are that night: a big big big jingle bell, a big big big pumpkin ball, a big big big flower, or a big big big pearl. If you’re a jingle bell, we sing “Jingle Bells” of course! We always stand and hold each other in a family circle while Daddy prays. When I say goodnight to you, we blow a kiss, sign “I love you,” say, “I love you,” and then when I say, “Goodnight, Little One,” you respond, “Goodnight, Little Mommy!” So funny and so sweet. And of course, you always remind me and Daddy that you want to have your pink vitamin and some milk in the morning. Just in case we forget to give you your milk that you’ve had first thing every day for the last 33 months straight.

The very best part of seeing you at this age is observing the way your heart is opening up to the wonders of God’s creation, and to the glory of God as healer, maker, friend, helper, and Lord. It gives me joy beyond measure to hear you pray when you’re nestled in your cozy crib at night and Mommy and Daddy have left the room. Your sweet voice speaking your almost-three-year-old concerns to God in the darkness melts my heart and makes me certain that God’s got some big things in store for you. I wish I could tell you to trust in Him the way you do now for the rest of your life. That will be your decision to make, but nothing would make my heart gladder than to know that your relationship with Him is one of utter dependence and peacefulness that comes from casting all your cares on Him.

Oh, my girl. I am so proud of you and the big lessons you’re learning. You are sweet, funny, nurturing, exuberant, inquisitive, and joyful. You are never quiet for long. You have energy enough to power New York City for fifteen years. You throw your heart behind every little thing you do- whether it’s dragging Grampy’s suitcase to the front door (while calling, “Doooooon’t fooooooooooorget yoooooooour waaaaaater boooooottle!!!!”), having a breakdown because I moved your Candy Land piece a half-inch, or squirming around to find that ever-elusive armhole. You’re passionate, lovely, honest, and beautiful. I am so blessed to call you my daughter and so very thankful that God chose me to be your mommy.

Love,

Mommy (a.k.a. Daddy/Ms. Clavel- what can we say? Your imagination dictates that I am several different people all day long, depending on whatever game you’re playing at the moment!)

Gelato-4 Month Update

Yep, they all said it would happen. The second child syndrome- Mom wasted all her energy on documenting and fawning over the first child’s “firsts” so the second child has no pictures, no dates, and no mementoes to prove he even existed apart from big sib. Well, Gelato, you are not the exception to the rule. Sure, I have some great shots of you throughout your life. But they’re basically all of you doing the exact same thing- lying on your back and looking up. You just do it so cute!

Plus, you haven’t really done much else yet. I am not going to make this a compare-you-to-your-sister post, but let me just remind the readers: by 4 months of age, Hula Girl was proficient at rolling both ways, grabbing on to toys, playing with her feet, and was well on her way to crawling and sitting up. Little Man, on the other hand, has rolled a grand total of maybe 10 times in his life (always front to back), can hold toys that are handed to him (actually, he did work for and grab onto a toy today during tummy time), doesn’t know his body exists beyond his hands and ears, and slumps over like a little ol’ grandpa any time we try to sit him vertical. 🙂

That’s not to say he’s not reaching age-appropriate milestones. We had his 4-month checkup yesterday and he actually tested at 5 months 3 weeks according to the pediatrician’s development “test”. I circled yes for everything up until “pushes body up with arms fully extended” and “swallows purees off a spoon”. Poor little guy. He hasn’t even had a chance to try purees- he never will! We’ll always have to circle no on that one! (We will be using Baby-Led Weaning again with him.)

Gelato is 16 pounds 4 ounces, up 4 ounces since I took him about a week ago. That means he’s actually on trajectory to double his birth weight by 6 months. Wowza. He’s in the 75th percentile for weight. He’s 25 inches long, in the 50th percentile, and his head is back up into the 50th percentile as well. Basically, he’s growing along his growth curves nicely.

He is healthy in every way. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, chest, hips, skin. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check. The doctor noted that his top two teeth are definitely moving down through the gum; it’s only a matter of time until we see those little pearly whites. I will be sad, again, to see my baby get his first teeth. I just adore those gummy baby smiles so very much, and once they get teeth, it’s like they grow up SO much SO fast and the sweet infant days are gone forever. I think my heart just shed a tear in preparation for Gelato’s first tooth breaking through.

I really am hating having him grow up. It is flying by so fast, too fast. I remember just being so darn bored with Hula Girl because she couldn’t DO anything at this stage. But now that I have a toddler who does it all, I am rather enjoying the do-nothingness that comes with the infant stage. I am SO glad this boy isn’t light years ahead of his peers. Who needs to roll when Big Sister just fetches toys for you? Stay still, Little Man, there’s no rush.

I will, however, be glad to have a 12-hour sleeper sometime. I definitely took that for granted when Hula Girl was the only little munchkin boppin’ around the house. 12 whole hours to rest, relax, enjoy my husband, pig out on popcorn and ice cream (without having to share it or do “duck-under-the-kitchen-counter-while-she-sits-at-the-table-so-she-can’t-see-you-take-a-bite-of-that-cookie” maneuvers), and sleep.

This boy’s sleep is taking a LOOOOOONG time to iron itself out. But we’re getting there. Right now, we’re basically doing this schedule (within 30 minutes)

  • 6:30 wake, nurse, lay in Mommy and Daddy’s bed laughing and squealing and talking
  • 7:30 nap
  • 9:30 wake, nurse, independent playtime, possible sibling time, read books, some tummy time
  • 10:35 nap
  • 12:30 wake, nurse, tummy time, outside time (unless it’s FREEZING), lots of physical activities
  • 1:40 nap
  • 3:30 wake, nurse, sibling time, read books, hang out
  • 4:40 catnap
  • 5:20 wake, family time
  • 6:00 bath, lotion, jammies (all with Daddy)
  • 6:30 nurse
  • 6:45 bed
  • 10:00 dreamfeed (I take him out of his crib and nurse him without waking him)

SOMETIMES he has a middle-of-the-night feeding… other times he sleeps until our waketime in the morning. I can’t WAIT for this to get consistent.

He is in the middle of a wonder week. I have definitely noticed it for the past week or so. He has been waking 45 minutes into his naps and has not fallen back asleep easily. This is common during this stage, but it’s hard on me when I am trying to keep things normal for Hula Girl while balancing his needs as well. It’s extra hard because Gelato will not fall back asleep with ANY kind of help- he will not be rocked to sleep, he will not sleep in his swing, he will not take a pacifier. So it’s either let him talk/play/cry in his crib until the next feeding time or get him up early and hope we can adjust somehow. We usually opt for the second choice  because I can’t emotionally hack it when I have to listen to him crying and Hula Girl whining (another post, coming later tonight).

Nursing is going well regardless of his crazy sleeping habits. If I am not sure he’ll be  hungry enough to eat in the morning (due to eating in the early hours, close to our waketime), I just have to get him as soon as he stirs and nurse him while he’s drowsy. Then he’ll eat.

Also, I am still doing a partial elimination diet. I tried introducing wheat and soy a couple months ago- that didn’t go too well. His arms and legs got some eczema. However, I’m not sure if it was diet related or if it was because we had just switched his soap and lotion (we switched back). Anyway, his skin is all cleared up again (has been for a month) and so I decided to try introducing something else. This time I tried dairy. I had lasagna (with rice noodles) on Sunday night, and so far things seem to be going fine! I’m going to eat some cheese again tonight and if he’s still doing okay by the end of the week, I’m going to get myself some yogurt this weekend so I can munch on that next week. If dairy goes smoothly, I will try the soy again. I will keep wheat for last. I am very excited to eat something terribly delicious again soon, though. Like cheesecake. Mmmmm.

Anyway, let me share something else with you. I may have written it somewhere in a previous post, but even if I have, it’s worth restating. My friend Jennie once posted on her blog something that her mom said. It was something like, “As a mom, you will love your daughter so deeply it will hurt and then some. But you will have a crush on your son.”

OH.MY.GOODNESS. It is so true. I have the biggest crush on this little guy. Perhaps it’s because he looks so much like his Daddy? Maybe it’s because he has the qualities I have always admired so much in others (mild-tempered, easygoing)? Maybe it’s because he’s just so darn sweet? I don’t know what it is. But I cannot tell you just how much happiness is squeezed into my heart whenever I’m with that baby boy. It doesn’t hurt- it just makes my heart feel glad. I am so thankful that God allowed me to feel that way about this child- what a blessing to rejoice SO MUCH in someone five or six times daily!

He really rounds out our family, and I think all of us have little crushes on him, even Hula Girl. Several times a day, I hear her saying, “I just YOVE [Gelato]!” Melt.

Huzzah for the State!

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young lad named Jonathan. He dreamed of becoming a therapist so he could make a small difference in this hurting world. Young Jonathan had a little wifey, who worked hard as a teacher. Neither Jonathan nor his wife had a lot of money; they lived a very small life so they could stay out of debt as much as possible. In fact, due to all their scrimping and careful planning, they were able to pay off his wife’s student loans during their first two years of marriage, on a teacher’s salary and Starbucks hourly wages.

Jonathan decided to pursue his dream by attending Denver Seminary and earning his master’s degree. In order to do so, he set out to borrow quite a bit more money. Two years later, he graduated. It was just after the birth of their baby girl, so Jonathan quickly found a job where he could use his degree and support his family on just one salary. His wife’s dream of being a stay-at-home-mom came true.

However, due to his relatively small salary and their relatively large student loans, Jonathan and his little family continued to live small. They drove old cars, they didn’t buy new clothes, they never splurged on anything. Jonathan and his wife cut their own hair and learned to live on $80 per week for groceries. Mind you, they did not really mind this lifestyle- simplicity suited them. How much more enjoyable their lives had become because they were able to focus on the things they truly loved- reading, spending time together, gardening, and so forth. Every little “extra” seemed like a big deal to them and they were able to enjoy small gifts that much more. They were not in want.

Then one day Jonathan learned about a special program run through the government of his state. He learned that he worked in an under-served area, and that he was eligible to apply for a student loan repayment program which would possibly pay off all his student loans given he agreed to work in an under-served area for three years. He applied and he and his wife waited and prayed and asked their family and friends for prayers as well.

And then on December 7, 2012, the 4-month mark in their son’s little life, they learned that Jonathan’s student loans will be paid in their entirety by the state government program. Jonathan and his wife have that entire chunk of change that they have been putting into loan repayment every month to spend elsewhere. Effective immediately. And all the people in the household rejoiced, singing, “Huzzah! Huzzah for the State!”

We’re gonna start looking for a new car this weekend.

Don’t worry, we’re not rushing into things with the car. We’re not absolutely desperate, but if you looked at the cars we do own, you might think we kind of are. But we know what we’re looking for, and a ballpark figure of what we want to spend. We’ve been planning since, oh, June or so, so we’ve done a little bit of research. Now the fun begins!

If you know of anyone looking to get rid of a 2011 or newer Toyota Highlander, or you know where to get a good deal on one, please let me know. 🙂

Hospitality

Jonathan and I just listened to a recording of the message delivered this Sunday by my old friend, who is now the pastor of my home church from childhood. The kind of hospitality and life-giving relationships that Ben (Pastor Ben? Pastor Brooks? How do I address him now? I literally grew up with him! He’s always been Ben to me!) spoke about really got to my heart.

Ben told the (fictional) story of a couple who joined the church, then joined a “Kingdom-Life Group”. The Kingdom-Life Group was a close-knit, fully-invested group of families who were “all up in each other’s business” in a good way. They all had a huge heart for the Lord and were keenly interested in living the way the apostles and believers did in Acts. They met frequently to break bread, pray, hold each other accountable, study the Word, and worship. But they decided to take it a step further. They were intentional about hospitality and missions. They wanted to get out into their neighborhood and win others for Christ. And they did. They hosted parties, they prayed, they went on walks with the intention of meeting specific neighbors. They were warm, inviting, caring, and, well, weird. Weird in a good way. People knew them, they knew their message, and even if they didn’t believe in the same things, they wanted to have a part in what was happening with those “Christians.”

Jonathan and I got so excited about that idea… but then we realized we’re kind of a long way from that kind of thing. Which was discouraging.

We’ve moved a lot since we were married. And then we made a lot of excuses. So, no, we really have no church that we call “home”. We don’t know many other young families who love Jesus and who are teaching their children to do the same. Heck, we haven’t even had either of our children dedicated yet. Yes, it is terribly sad. Yes, we have totally dropped the ball. Yes, we are heartbroken over the fact that we got so lazy.

So now we’ve got to be crazy-intentional. We ARE going to be attending church, starting this Sunday. First Advent Sunday of the season. Seems appropriate. We ARE going to step out of our comfort zones (including being nervous about missing naps, etc.) to stay at church and meet some new people each time. We ARE going to find out how we can host a small group in our own home (is that selfish? I just figured we can’t really afford a babysitter, and it would be easy to put the kids to bed by 6:45 and then have the group arrive at 7). We ARE going to raise our children in a church, in a community, and hopefully, if all goes well, in a Kingdom-Life Group of our very own.

So I guess we’re going to be taking all the right steps… just maybe a bit out of order. ‘Cuz the first thing we’re going to do is open up our home and practice some good old-fashioned hospitality. Starting December 15.

This morning I woke up with a hare-brained idea. I said, “Hey, would it be okay if I decided to invite some of our friends from Storytime over for a Christmas party this month?” It kind of blew up from there. Now we’re hosting a Christmas Cookie Decorating and Reindeer Games Party. And we’re expecting at least 10 families.   In our teensy weensy little home. That is half-filled with Goliath’s Christmas tree. Wahoo!

The whole point of this get-together, for me at least, is to get to know the names of the moms I see week to week. Huh? Yeah. I know that she’s Gracie’s Mom, and she’s Adam’s Mom. But I don’t know their real names. I don’t know anything about them. In fact, just by handing out the invitations, I learned that one mom’s husband works on the railroads in Minnesota, so she’s alone with her little girl day in and day out. I am betting that mom could use a little friendship. I would never have known. (Ironically, I have yet to learn her name. Whoops.)

I kind of want to establish a gathering place. My home is never spotless. My home is rarely even tidy. I can’t cook very well. My husband will have to be home if you want coffee, because I don’t know how to make it. But I can heat up water and soak a tea bag. And my couch, albeit old, is cozy. And the living room smells like Christmas. So yeah, I can handle this. In fact, I’m craving it. Give me a reason to keep things tidy! Give me a reason to try a new recipe (but give me grace when it’s a disaster!)! I can’t wait to welcome folks into our home. I hope one day my children will feel strange when we don’t have someone new in our home for a week. I just want to create a space that is welcoming, comforting, and serene. I want people to feel loved, served, honored, and relaxed when they enter our home.

Yee-haw. I just found my mission. 🙂

Not a Baby Anymore

I took Hula Girl swimming on Saturday. It was the first time we’d gotten out of the house, just her and me, since Gelato graced us with his presence outside my belly. So overdue, and so much fun! We went to the pirate pool at the Y, and I wasn’t sure if she’d be hesitant at all, since we haven’t been there in months. But nope! She ran right in, no qualms, and had a blast.

On the way home from the Y, she was talking kind of randomly in the back seat. Suddenly, she got quiet and then said, “Mommy? I am not a baby anymore.”

No, Little, you’re not. And that kind of breaks my heart, to be honest.

Her obsession with all things “toddler” has grown and flourished lately. She grew over an inch in one month, which meant that suddenly, all the fall and winter clothes that fit her in September no longer fit. I culled through her dresser and pulled out anything smaller than a size 3T (!- she’s not even two and a half!!!). She watched me and commented, “Those things are too small for me. Those things are for babies.” Then we went shopping and bought her three new pairs of pants (sparkly jeans, khakis, and stripey fleece) the next day. She proclaimed them “toddler pants.”

She also likes eating “toddler” food with her “toddler” fork. She likes reading “toddler” books and wearing “toddler” shoes (which reminds me, I need to go through her shoe bin as well- her feet are ginormous these days). She likes sleeping in her “toddler” crib (not sure how it is ANY different from a “baby” crib, especially since it’s the SAME ONE she’s been sleeping in her entire life… but, hey…). And she especially likes the fact that she’s the toddler and Gelato’s only a baby.

We often talk about how she can do so many cool things that he can’t do because he’s just a baby. Things like walking, running, jumping, eating, singing, reading, and so on. But lest you feel worried that we’re playing favorites, let me inform you that Hula Girl is doing her very best to teach him how to do all the things she likes to do. I showed her how to “bicycle” his legs and arms to make them strong for walking and running. I showed her how he likes to lift his head when he’s on his tummy, to get him ready for sitting up, swimming, and other skills. I showed her how to gently pat his legs while she’s singing her ABCs to him. I showed her how we can prop him up so he can sit and read with us. She looooooves being “in charge” of him. And he’s not going to be able to get away with anything. Something tells me we’re going to have a lot of discussions related to tattling in our home in the next few years. 🙂

Yes, Hula Girl is growing up. She amazes me with her thoughts, words, and actions. She seems so much bigger and more mature than she was when Gelato was first born. I suppose she really is- after all, now she has the 2-year molars and new pants to prove it. I’ll leave you with her astounding question from this morning: “Mommy, what’s on the back of those mountains over there?”

Prayers are Powerful…

…in more than one way.

Just want to share a quick anecdote about my children.

As you all know, Gelato has been really really struggling with 45-minute naps. Meaning, he is not sleeping through his transitions, which makes it really difficult for all of us when I need to go assist him to get back to sleep but his sister is desperate for me to push her five more minutes on the swing. I then feel like I can’t spend the full 7 minutes I need to spend with him (really, that’s all it takes to put him back to sleep, seven whopping minutes) and I rush it so he doesn’t get fully settled, and I end up sprinting up and down the staircase, likely leaving both of my offspring extremely confused (“Why won’t Mommy just stay with me?”) for the next half-hour while I try to parent both at once.

Needless to say, it has been my constant prayer that Gelato will learn to sleep through his transitions. Hula Girl has witnessed me, on several occasions, drop everything and say a prayer out loud, usually along the lines of, “Lord, please just help Gelato go back to sleep!”

Today when Gelato woke at his transition in his first nap, Hula Girl was on the potty. I heard her finish up, then she started back toward the kitchen. Then she stopped and I heard, “Yoad, peese hewp [Gelato] go back to yeep. Thank you, Yoad. Amen.”

My heart was overtaken with awe and the realization that what I am modeling daily really really does become her habit. What a great reminder to stay the course with grace, integrity, and above all, reliance on God.

Y’all should see her fold her little hands and bow her sweet-smelling head at the dinner table every night. Even while she’s peeking and occasionally unfolding her hands to “sneak” a bite of her favorite dish, she’s so innocent and precious. Sigh.

Things are “Falling” into Place

This weekend was great! I feel like I’m nesting. I didn’t do any nesting when I was pregnant with Gelato, so I guess now’s as good a time as any. Better, in fact! It’s fall, for one, and therefore I can light my pumpkin spice candle and bask in the scent of autumn goodies all day long without feeling like it’s forced. And I feel better than ever since Gelato was born, so I will be able to actually keep up the tidiness, cleanliness, and accomplished-ness.

Here’s what I did this weekend: got all the laundry done; deep cleaned the whole house; took Hula Girl on a “girls’ shopping adventure” (gotta get those groceries!); got Gelato kind of on schedule again; read a lot of a new book from the library; watched Dance Moms, America’s Next Top Model, and Project Runway (what can I say? I like quality entertainment); and went with Jonathan to get the car. Woohoo! The only thing missing was that I did not get to do Hula Girl’s curtains. I have been wanting to sew her actual curtains to the blackout liners that are currently hanging in her room (yep, we’ve lived here over a year- I really need to get on this!), but I didn’t feel like busting out the ol’ machine. Guess that will have to be a later-this-week-or-maybe-next-month project.

This week we’re having several different dishes for dinner. Different in our house means anything that’s not been frozen for a month. So, no lasagna, no casseroles, no macaroni and cheese. Okay, we are having mac’n’cheese next Sunday night… but it’s comfort food! Anyway, some of the things on this week’s menu include turkey chili, creamy chicken penne, and manicotti. Of course, I won’t be able to actually eat any of these dishes… but at least Jonathan and Hula Girl will appreciate the change.

It dawned on me today as I was nursing Gelato that I haven’t wistfully thought back to the days of having only one child in a while. Having two kids is my new norm, and it feels pretty darn normal! We’ve made it through almost seven weeks now, and Hula Girl is starting to show signs that she’s not going to be messed up for life by the addition of a brother. Gelato is starting to show signs that he might actually sleep through a nap again someday, and maybe even continue to stretch out his nights! Jonathan is starting to show signs that he’s learning to balance work/family/gym (let’s hope he gets to go to the gym more than a couple times this week, for his sake). And I’m feeling just pretty optimistic about our little family’s future. As hard as it has been to add a second child to our family, I have been much more able to just enjoy him than I was with Hula Girl. A short nap or a quirky schedule doesn’t send me into a tailspin the way it did with her. Let’s be honest here- of course these things bother me, but I am much better equipped to just let it go and try again the next time. I have seen evidence that one faulty day is not going to ruin every part of my child’s future. 🙂

I think this weekend was just really good for me psychologically. I feel caught up. I feel organized(ish). I feel like I’ve struck on a healthy balance of control and go-with-the-flow. And now I have some extra time to plan fun activities with Hula Girl, my in-laws’ visit and the festivities surrounding that, and my Christmas decor. Yes, I like to plan my Christmas decor months in advance. I will be making a lot of new decorations this year. I had planned them for last year but was too sick with morning sickness to follow through.

YEE-HAW! Jonathan just brought in another box of fall decorations. I gotta go.

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