The Fourth

I just love holidays. Particularly Independence Day and Christmas. We have some solid family traditions. And it’s sure fun to see the kids excited about the same things we get excited about!

Our day started with some red, white, and blue crêpes. I couldn’t have the white part (white chocolate chips) because I’m eating dairy-free while nursing Sugar Plum. But the red (raspberries and strawberries) and blue (blackberries and blueberries) parts were delicious! imageimage

After breakfast, Hula Girl and I made it our goal to get festive! We painted our nails red, white, blue, and silver. Then I did the old Pinterest star-braid hairstyle in her hair. She loved it.

Jonathan took Hula Girl and Monkey Man to our city’s wet parade. Basically, it’s a giant community water fight and some people walk down the middle of it. Everyone gets SOAKED and everyone has a good time.

My mom and grandma came to visit for the day and my mom helped me with some house chores while Sugar Plum napped. We made a delicious lunch and tried to get the kids to nap.

After nap time the kids and I walked  up the street to ask the neighbors for the best location to sit out and see fireworks. We ended up spending the evening eawith almost everyone on our street, just hanging out and chatting. The kids were running wild with the neighbor kids, and they got their first taste of lighting fireworks at home. Monkey Man did not approve, saying, “Fireworks are FIRE! What if something catches fire? We need to make a fire safety plan!” Hula Girl could keep lighting fireworks all day every day and never tire of the sights, sounds, and smells. She was in heaven. Sugar Plum slept through it all.

Our favorite tradition on the fourth is eating saltwater taffy. We get several pieces for each of us to enjoy during the fireworks display. The kids begged for it all day long, and I kept telling them, “You may have one piece now and one piece later, or you may have two pieces later!” After about six times of choosing to have two pieces later, Monkey Man finally asked, “Is it LATER yet?”

We ended the night with glow sticks on our walk home. Just before heading inside, we stopped and looked up at the stars as a family. In a time when our country, which was built upon beautiful principles that we celebrated Monday, has eschewed propriety for laziness, moral depravity, and indulgence, it was a wonderful relief to look up and realize that this isn’t all there is. The best is yet to come. Hallelujah.

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Baby’s First Trip to California

My cousin got married last weekend!

My dad called me a few months ago and asked if I would like to fly to California with him to attend the wedding. My mom offered to stay here with Hula Girl and Monkey Man so Jonathan didn’t have to take any time off work. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my cousins and to visit Jonathan’s parents. So, we booked our tickets and made our plans to stay in California for four days.

In order to achieve our goal of spending time with family, we left early in the morning (REALLY early- 4:45 am!) from my parents’ house on Thursday. I was super worried about Sugar Plum’s sleep. She is my third Babywise baby, and I have worked hard to give her a good, consistent schedule all her life. Of course, she has endured many more disruptions to her schedule than her siblings ever endured, so I really ought not to have worried so much! I woke her at 4:15 on Thursday morning, and she slept a tiny bit on the way to the airport. She stayed awake all through checking in and security, and through boarding the flight. I nursed her as we took off, and she fell asleep for about 30 minutes or so. Then I moved and woke her up… and she never went back to sleep. She didn’t cry, though, so it was fine.

Sugar Plum slept REALLY well while we were at Ama and Papa’s (Jonathan’s parents’) house. We stayed with them during our visit because Ama so kindly offered to babysit Sugar Plum while we went out to see family and attend the wedding. We had a pretty major problem, though: Sugar Plum won’t take a bottle. I tried for weeks in advance, and I had Jonathan and Auntie Nay Nay (Jonathan’s sister) try at various times in there. No dice. She doesn’t cry when offered a bottle, but she just kind of chews on the nipple and looks at you like, “What am I supposed to do with this?”So I couldn’t really LEAVE her with Ama and Papa for very long. Fortunately, she is a good night sleeper, and once I got her down for the night, I could leave her and be pretty sure she’d sleep just fine.

While we were there, Sugar Plum basked in the attention lavished upon her by Ama, Papa, Grampy, and me. She didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else, for once in her life! She worked hard on rolling and got *so close*. She lit up and smiled her giant gummy baby smile whenever she saw her Ama. I got to take a couple showers and dry my hair and put on makeup… it was quite the luxurious trip for all of us!

My dad and I made plans to see his brothers and my cousins on Friday afternoon. We drove about an hour away to visit and have a barbecue. I took Sugar Plum over there to meet everyone (she made special friends with my cousin’s eight-year-old daughter, who is just the sweetest thing ever and loves babies so much!), then I drove her back to Ama and Papa’s house for bedtime. I went back to my uncle’s house to visit with family some more  (another uncle and several more cousins showed up then–hooray!), and then we drove back to Ama and Papa’s house for the night. It was a lot of driving but it was SO worth it. Family is extremely important to me, and I am very glad we had the opportunity to reconnect, at least a little bit.

Saturday was the day of the wedding. I worked on getting Sugar Plum good sleep during the day so she’d sleep well during the evening, when I left her with Ama and Papa. Unfortunately, the afternoon didn’t quite work out as I had planned, so when I left for the wedding, I was not sure how the evening would go. But I knew it was only one evening, and even if she stayed awake until midnight, at least she was with someone who knew how to care for my baby! (Jonathan’s parents are awesome grandparents! I couldn’t imagine better grandparents for my kiddos than the ones they have!) Lo and behold, Sugar Plum ended up waking up around 8:00 for part of the night. Ama gave her a small bottle, which she chewed, and rocked and snuggled her for a while before putting her back down. She went back down without a peep, and was out like a light for the rest of the night.

Now for the reason for our visit: the wedding. It was a superfun wedding. It was wonderful to catch up with (almost) all my cousins on my dad’s side– I haven’t seen any of them in over five years! The location was a small building in the middle of downtown LA. My cousins had decorated with tulle and lights and beautiful flowers, but it definitely was not overdone. It was a great mixture of hard and soft elements (thank you, Tim Gunn, for bringing awareness to this juxtaposition, haha). The food was AMAZING. They hired a street taco vendor, who doled out hundreds of delicious tacos during the evening. There was a small cake, but most guests satisfied their sweet tooth with a vanilla glazed donut instead. Yummo.

Even better than the decor and the food was the company. My cousins are just so cool. The last time I saw most of them was when I was still in high school. Getting to know a family member again as an adult is such a rewarding experience. It is really fascinating to get to know about each person’s unique interests and pursuits, and to witness the maturation of someone you’ve known since you were born. I would imagine it’s a similar situation as when siblings grow up and hang out for a while again. I am excited for and proud of my cousins and most, if not all, seem quite happy with where their lives have led them so far. There is NOTHING like family for comfort, entertainment, and encouragement. We had such a great trip and loved getting to know you better.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for making the trip happen. Thank you, Ama and Papa, for your hospitality and for the babysitting. Thank you, K&K, for getting married and providing a reason for us to get together. Love you all!

He Loves Me!!! (I think)

Today when I was laying Gelato down for his afternoon nap (which he hasn’t started yet…half an hour later… grrr…), I covered him with his blanket, and put his owl next to him. Then he said, “Bunny?” so I laid his bunny next to him as well. Then I said, “I love you!” And he said… wait for it… “Wow-voo!”

Now, “Wow-voo” could mean owl. He might have been wanting me to show him his owl. But since he usually says, “Ow-wool,” and since I had already shown him his owl, I am choosing to think he parroted my “I love you.”

And yes, I know he was just parroting and that a 15-month-old doesn’t really LOVE me yet, in the way that he can express with words. But I know that he loves me, and it’s so sweet to hear him tell me he loves me. Sweet boy.

Wow-voo!

Venturing Out on her Own

I recently had a friend remind me that she sends her kids out every day to play alone in their backyard. I got to thinking about it, and I realized that I played out in my backyard alone while I was growing up. And so did pretty much everyone I know. I did a poll on Facebook and within the first few minutes, I had several responses; everyone said they let their kids (Hula Girl’s age and even younger) go out in the backyard alone to play. I got to thinking- why haven’t I done this!??!

I guess I’m some kind of crazy overprotective mom. I know I am, actually. I don’t let my kids watch TV (although that’s mainly because of all the research that says it’s bad for kids). I don’t let them do Halloween. I never used the word “scared” or “afraid” until Hula Girl needed that word to describe how she personally felt because I didn’t want to plant ideas in her head. I edit books as I read out loud so that the characters say much nicer things to each other than the author really intended. I keep my kids at home with me 99% of the time, because I am terribly distrustful of the big bad world and I want our schedule and routine to be carefully observed.

Don’t get me wrong- I have a pretty solid plan for how I’m going to loosen up and grant more freedoms and expose my children to the not-so-nice aspects of life. But for now, I have decided that coccooning them away and keeping things positive is the best I can do to give them a strong foundation of security, love, and self-confidence. They are free to have big emotions in their small challenges without a lot of influences from the world around them telling them they’re not good enough, smart enough, big enough, loved enough, or brave enough.

Back to the backyard. I have never let Hula Girl go outside alone. Ever. Any time she’s gone out, I have been there. Part of this is that we have lived in houses with no privacy fence. This especially bothered me at our old house, where the man who lived across the utility easement behind our house was on the registered sex offenders list. We have no registered folks around our new house, but we still have just a wire fence- our neighbors to the right and left and anyone passing on the street behind our house has a full view of everything that’s going on in our yard. On top of that, we live in rattlesnake, tarantula, scorpion, black widow, brown recluse, and wolf spider territory. Oh, and our area does not require dogs to be fenced- we have several neighbors whose dogs roam free. Can you see why I have been worried about sending her out there? That means she’s never gotten to explore completely on her own. She has never been able to just tune completely in to whatever drives her fancy because I have been there talking to her. And I have never been able to just get a bunch of housework done without a “helper.”

My friend Katie sends her kids outside in the backyard, alone, a couple of times each day. And do you know what?! I have always been amazed at Katie’s seemingly remarkable ability to balance so many aspects of her life without DYING of exhaustion. How does she do it!?!?! She sends her kids outside!

Now, you guys all know me, and you know I’m a huge fan of involving the kids in whatever I’m doing in order to instill a good work ethic and to teach them how to do stuff. But I can never find the time to REALLY clean the house or get all the laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away. There are always a million other things to attend to, like helping a certain princess put on her costume or keeping a certain little wild man from destroying his sister’s block tower, all accompanied by higher-pitched-than-you’d-ever-imagined-possible shrieks and whines- some gleeful, others complaining, but always super loud and wow-that-popped-my-eardrums-high. So, I got brave.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, I spent about 45 minutes walking the perimeter of the fence and canvassing the rest of the backyard looking for potential issues with snakes, dogs, or spiders. I kicked away spider webs, I got rid of the giant tumbleweeds in the play area, and I looked for holes in the ground (there were none, thankfully). I also looked for any other kinds of hazards and cleared out some sharp metal things (the people who lived here before us had two little boys who littered the ground with their broken, discarded Matchbox cars).

Then this morning I told Hula Girl that I was going to let her play outside all by herself like a big girl and that she had to stay out five minutes. I brought out her chalk, her shovels and pails, and her bike helmet. I told her she was allowed to do whatever she liked, as long as she stayed in the backyard (like she could even open the fences anyway, but you never know). I reminded her that if she needed me, she needed to come to the patio door and knock. I opened the kitchen window so I could hear her. I set a timer for five minutes.

I thought she’d whine and call for me and ask me to come out. She did. For about thirty seconds.

I thought she’d stay right on the patio and maybe pull out her chalk. She did. For about thirty seconds.

She PLAYED like I have never seen her play. I did dishes as I watched her explore, drag her toys around, bury things in the dirt, and fling rocks all around. When five minutes was up, I opened the door and asked her if she was ready to come in or if she wanted to stay out. She wanted to stay out. 10 minutes later, she wanted to stay out longer. 10 more minutes… 10 more minutes… 10 more minutes… She ended up staying out 45 minutes before I told her we needed to come in so I could read to her before room time. I ended up doing dishes, sweeping the kitchen, planning preschool for the week, calling a friend, and drinking a cup of coffee!

We are planning on putting up a privacy fence around about half of the backyard. We’ll dig it down about a foot so hopefully that will keep most snakes out. Until then, I won’t let Gelato out on his own (especially not with the giant playset he loves to climb) and will be super cautious about letting Hula Girl out. But I do think this will be a wonderful new addition to our daily routine.

Thank you Katie for helping me see the value of outside alone time! 🙂

 

 

Changing Tastes…

I love how fast things change as a young toddler develops. A couple weeks ago, I posted Gelato’s 14-month update. Now that he’s 14.5 months old, so many things are different! In just two weeks!

I want to capture his interests right now so that I can remember him THIS way. He is such a funny little guy!

Gelato does not like Baby Beluga any longer. If I bring it out, he says, “No, Bu-ga! No, Bu-gah!” He pushes the book away. He was really into Margaret Wise Brown’s I Like Stars for about a week and a half. That’s all he wanted to read. He’d say, “Stars? Stars? Read-ee? Stars?” But now he’s so over it. He also had a couple days of being really into “A B C?” Which stands for Dr. Seuss’ ABCs. That book is old hat, so he has moved on to a book called Who’s Hiding? It’s about a mama owl who is looking for her baby, and Gelato LOVES opening all the flaps. He calls it, “Ow-el? Ow-el?”

He loves to wear necklaces. My little guy just adores necklaces. He walks around with about five of Hula Girl’s dress-up necklaces (think pink pearls, sparkly blue beads, purple butterflies, etc.) strung around his neck. Fortunately Hula Girl inherited about a million necklaces from our neighbor before we moved, so there are plenty of necklaces for both children. He will come down the stairs, walk to the dress-up “closet,” and stand there saying, “Neck-iss? Neck-iss?” until I finally get him some. Never just one. If he can’t wear a necklace, he will find his special blue ribbon and drape it across his shoulders, behind his neck. If it falls off, he will stop and pick it up and re-drape it before moving on. I think this is such a silly and cute little phase. I kind of want him to keep it until he’s four or so.

Gelato loves apples. Like, apples are his very favorite food. He will walk around with an apple in his hand and eat the entire thing, down to the core. I bought him an apple in the grocery store a while ago just to keep his tummy from eating itself alive while I rushed around getting last-minute ingredients for our (very late) dinner. The clerk thought I was nuts for buying him an apple, saying, “He’ll never eat that. You should get him chips or something.” When I went back through her lane 15 minutes later, he had eaten about half his apple, and she was pretty much in shock. “He did eat the apple? That’s amazing. I have never seen a kid eat an apple before.” Um, what? Anyway, apples. He also likes applesauce. He calls it, “ap-poh AHS? Ap-poh AHS?” Today he found an applesauce cup in the fridge just before lunch and asked for it. I told him he could eat it at lunch, and let him wander with it a bit. I was surprised when he wasn’t following me and whining about eating it. When I stopped to look at him, I saw he had bitten a hole in the foil and was slurping it through like a smoothie. “Mmmm, Mummy! Mum! Mummmy!!!”

I am currently weaning Gelato. He used to nurse four times a day: 7, 11, 3, and 7. I have slowly dropped one feeding a week, so that now he is only nursing at bedtime. Next Friday will be the last day I nurse him. I am so sad about it, but so happy all at the very same time. I love that I have nursed both my babies until 14.5 months old, but I really feel like that’s about my limit. 🙂

Gelato is a little independent guy. He does not want to be held or pushed in a stroller; he wants to WALK. He doesn’t want to walk with me, though, so he tries to wander. Too bad for him when he tries to wander and I don’t let him. He can also be a bit disobedient at times. ‘Tis the nature of the age, I suppose. He is truly a toddler now- when I tell him to come, he grins, turns, and RUNS the other way. Goober.

All in all, Gelato is just a delight. Still.

Oh, and one more story. The other night Gelato was told a firm, “No, you may not throw your food off your tray.” I removed his dinner. Hula Girl clapped and shouted, “Hooray! [Gelato] got his first consequence!!!!!” It was hilarious.

Gelato’s First Sentences!

Well, he’s hit another language explosion time, or so it seems! Gelato spoke in two full sentences today, along with the thousands of one-or-two-word phrases he usually uses.

I had him outside on the swing. He looked at me and said, clear as day, “All done swinging.” I asked him if he wanted to get down and he said, “Yes.”

Then later this afternoon, he and Hula Girl were bonking each other around in the kitchen cabinets (a very frequent pastime, unfortunately), and he got offended by something. He came crying to me and said, “Hold you? Up!” I thought it was so sweet that he said, “Hold you,” because that’s what I say to him when I pick him up- “Do you want me to hold you?” Aw. What a listener.

I have really been able to understand exactly what he wants and needs all day for the past few days. His communication is getting insanely clear. And his enunciation is so very well developed. And his little voice is just so sweet. I wish he could sound like he does forever. Well, until he gets married or something. 🙂

Hula Girl and her Buddy Boy

Hula Girl absolutely adores Gelato. She calls him her Buddy Boy. And he loves her, too. He walks around the house calling her name, “Wa-wa!”

Every morning when he comes in her room with me to get her up, the first thing she says (quite loudly) is, “Hi, Buddy Boy! How was your sleep?” (Forget you, Mommy!) He grins all huge and toddles across the room as fast as his little sock feet can carry him, always leading with his tummy. They bonk heads as he crashes into the side of her bed and they giggle in each other’s face. Then he opens his mouth and plants it on her eyebrow and she shrieks, “Mommy! He’s giving me a kiss!” Every single morning.

Hula Girl likes to sing a little ditty about Gelato. It goes something like this:

“Oh, Buddy Boy!

You’re my Buddy Boy!

I love you so much, Buddy Boy!

How I just love my Buddy Boy!

Oh, yes, I love yooooouuuuuuu!” 

When we were in California, Jonathan and I took Hula Girl to the beach one day while Gelato stayed with Ama and Papa. We arrived home and the very first thing that happened was a glee-filled sibling reunion. Gelato came out of the bedroom and saw Hula Girl standing there next to the fridge, and he ran over to her and threw his hands up to her shoulders (haha, like she could even try to pick him up) while laying his head on her chest and saying, “Up! Up!” He was smiling like he’d won the lottery the whole time.

Today on the way home from the doctor’s office, Hula Girl said, quite out of the blue, “Mommy, [Gelato] is my little brother. He is my Buddy Boy.”

It sure must be great to have a sibling. I hope these two will stay close forever. What love they share!

Hula Girl Sponsors a Sister

Hula Girl is so excited tonight because she got to choose her “Sponsor Sister” today.

We talked a lot about children in other areas of the world who don’t necessarily have the love of a mommy and a daddy; who have to do a lot of really hard work at home by themselves because their parents are struggling to make ends meet; who have to skip meals on a daily basis because there just isn’t enough for the family. I assured her that we can help those children. I told her that one of the ways we can do that is to teach them about Jesus and to provide money to take care of their physical needs.

Jonathan and I sponsor several children through Compassion International  and we’d already decided that our kids would each get their very own special “sponsor sibling” when they were old enough. Compassion doesn’t introduce kids to the program until they’re three; so three is the age our kids need to be in order to have a close-in-age-to-grow-up-with child. I have been meaning to choose a sponsor child for Hula Girl, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. I am so glad Hula Girl was able to help me choose her child.

Her specifications were: “I want a sponsor SISTER, Mommy. Not a sponsor BROTHER.”

My specifications were: close in age to Hula Girl, lives somewhere we’d be excited to visit in the future, preferably in the same country as one of our other sponsored children

We opened up Compassion’s website and then opened Google Maps so I could show Hula Girl where her sisters live. There were two girls in the final round- one from the Philippines and one from Peru. She chose the little girl who is just shy of a month older than her, who lives in Peru. (We already have a little boy in Peru, too, so YAY!) She chose Yuleysi because she has pigtails and because Peru is closer to where we live than the Philippines is!

After we added Yuleysi to our sponsored children, Hula Girl said, “Now what do we do with my Sponsor Sister, Mommy?” I told her we needed to remember to pray for Yuleysi every day and that Compassion would send us a picture of her along with some more information about her and her family. When we receive the picture, we will put it up on Hula Girl’s wall with the other pictures of her family members. I told her she can draw pictures and we can write letters (and-she was THRILLED about this- emails) to Yuleysi, and that Yuleysi will write back!

Then Hula Girl said, “Mommy, will you draw her picture on this card so I can keep it in my room now? I want to pray for her now.” So I drew the world’s worst sketch of a little girl with pigtails and wrote, “Pray for Yuleysi” and it’s sitting up on Hula Girl’s dresser, right where the light from her Gro-Clock illuminates it. Hula Girl is thrilled.

I really hope the two of them communicate often, and more independently as they get older. Our family will sponsor Yuleysi as long as we possibly can, and we hope Hula Girl (and all of us) will get the chance to meet Yuleysi in person one day.

But really, my main goal in all of this is for both girls to get a little bit of Jesus. Giving and receiving love. That’s what it’s all about, right, folks?

Three Years Old, Hula Girl Style

My little Hula Girl turned three about a week and a half ago. I have been putting off this post just because there is so very much to put into it. But I figured if I don’t do it now, I might forget all the great stuff I wanted to include. So without further ado, I present Hula Girl at three:

Vitals/Medical-

She weighs 34.5 pounds and is 37.75 inches tall, which puts her in the 75th percentiles for both height and weight. This continues to amaze me. Again, Jonathan and I are NOT TALL. So silly.

Her eczema flared up a while back when she went camping. The air was just so dry there. I also think it had something to do with her sleeping in a brand new sleeping bag that I hadn’t washed yet. Other than this incidence, we haven’t dealt with eczema in a very long while.

She had a couple ear infections and colds this winter. She is just not good at being sick. She is not gracious about it at all. She doesn’t just want to lay on the couch and watch movies. She wants to play games, read, snuggle, and basically be all up in my business 24/7. I can totally relate- I still call my Mommy (and cry!) when I feel sick.

She seems to have some kind of breathing/coughing thing that gets irritated in the wind or smoke or when she has a cold. The recent and current fires in our area have really wreaked havoc on her little respiratory system. She’s been waking up several times at night and first thing in the morning coughing really awful-sounding coughs. Poor baby.

Eating-

She is becoming pickier. Over the last couple months, she has actually started to show pickiness, which she has never done before. I think it’s an age thing, because really, what kid likes yellow squash and cucumbers but not zucchini?? I think she just decided she doesn’t like it. And that’s fine. We give her what we are having for dinner (I make sure to include something I KNOW she will like) and she must taste everything on her plate. She tells me every meal, “I must taste it, but I don’t have to like it.” If she wants more of something, she must have at least tasted everything else on the plate. Today she had large helpings of corn and applesauce for lunch, but I insisted on her tasting her cottage cheese and potato first. No big deal. We are just continuing to make no issues over meals.

On the positive side, she is very into fruit of all kinds, except bananas (I can’t blame her on that one- I hate them!). She really loves bread of all kinds. She requests cupcakes, candy, and hot chocolate at least twice daily. She has those treats only on very special occasions, but I guess she figures it never hurts to ask! She has recently been into soup and will actually eat it; this is something totally new to her. Before the age of 3, she never ate soup at all. Macaroni and cheese continues to be the reigning champion in the “foods Hula Girl likes” category.

Sleeping-

She is needing less and less sleep. I have heard that some kids start to skip naps here and there right around this age. Hula Girl has skipped two naps in the last 3 weeks. She just lays awake in bed, singing and talking quietly to herself. Except yesterday she got up out of bed, moved her potty over to stand on it and turn on the light, grabbed her bulb syringe, and was walking in circles sucking out her nose when I found her 45 minutes into naptime. Le sigh. Fortunately on days she misses her nap, we have been able to implement a very early bedtime and she has gone to sleep with no problems. She is averaging about 12-13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period these days, which is a significant drop from the 15-16 she was getting a year ago. She has not experienced any bad dreams/fears yet. This morning she woke up screaming because her toddler rail had come off her bed and she almost fell out. But other than that, her sleep is still deep and undisturbed, for the most part.

Activities-

Hula Girl has started ballet classes. She looooooves ballet. We practice all her steps at home, day in and day out. Poor Gelato has had to learn how to do first position, and he can’t even stand up on his own two feet yet.

Storytime is still big in our lives. We go every Tuesday, and Hula Girl just loves it. We’re to the point where I remember doing these exact same crafts about a year ago… but she doesn’t. It’s her experience that counts, anyway.

Etc. (We do a lot of the same stuff. Swimming, playground, walks, learning activities, and so on. I just don’t feel like reiterating the content of my entire blog over the past two and a half years.)

Big Sister-

Hula Girl is a fantastic big sister. Her “little Bo” could not be more spoiled or adored by an older sibling. She is constantly talking to him, bringing him toys, and following him around cheering for him. Today he climbed all the way up the stairs and she was right next to him the whole way, saying, “Yay! Another one! Good work, Yeedoo Bubba! Yay! I am so proud of you!” Her enthusiasm over his achievements is absolutely heartwarming.

She is only very slightly jealous of him when Jonathan comes home from work. If Gelato does something cute and both Jonathan and I respond, Hula Girl will be guaranteed to do the exact same thing within about three seconds. Unfortunately, adorable things that area done innocently and sweetly at 10.5 months old are not so adorable when done purposefully and LOUDLY at three years old. But really, this is the only time we see any kind of jealousy.

Personality-

If you were meeting Hula Girl for the first time, this might be your experience. You might walk into our house and see her hiding behind the chair or behind me. You might greet her only to have her grunt out a muffled, “Hi.” You might come sit in the living room and talk to me for a few minutes. Then you might play with Gelato for a bit (who would likely have crawled into your lap and started trying to give you ginormous slobbery baby kisses by now). Suddenly, Hula Girl might come over and tart talking to you, then rope you into playing ponies, then do a puzzle with you, then sit on your lap and bring you book after book after book after book after book… Then you might be told that you are not you anymore; rather, you are an otter. Or a bear. Or a mouse. Then you might be called “Big Mousie” for the rest of your visit/life. And you might be expected to answer a lot of questions about mice, such as what mice eat and where mice live and how mice crawl and why mice like cheese… And if you decide to play hide and seek with her, well, let’s just say you ‘ll have a best friend forever. And I won’t stop hearing your name for weeks after you visit.

She is slow to warm up. Very. But once she’s comfortable, she is impossible to keep quiet or busy elsewhere. She must be part of the conversation at all times, leading us to have to enforce the “interrupt rule” and bust out the phrase, “It is none of your business.” She is very smart and it is therefore fun to talk to her and hear what she has to say. She has a lot to say. All the time. She is inquisitive to the power of annoying. She loves to learn, talk, discover, discuss, pretend, and ask questions. Her brain is fascinating.

God, Jesus, and the Bible-

Hula Girl absolutely loves Jesus. With all her heart. I hope hope hope and pray all the time that her love will turn into a lifesaving relationship with him in her future, when she understands more. For now, she sings praise songs at every quiet moment, prays out loud for everything from her “ouchies” to the fire ants crawling across the sidewalk, and gets a kick out of repeating her memory verses for anyone who will listen. She requests to hear Bible stories frequently and she emulates the way other people show their worship during church (finger pointing, hands outstretched, dancing in the aisles, etc.- she tries them all out).

The other night she pointed to her chest and said, “Right here, under my skin, it is brown.” I asked her why it was brown. She said, “Because God is in here and he wears brown.”

For Posterity-

I read a blog whose author reminded me that I wanted to do a questionnaire each year around Hula Girl’s birthday so some of her thoughts and ideas could be preserved “as is.” Today I asked her these questions at lunch. Some of her answers were funny, some were profound. None of them were surprising, coming from my little compassionate happy Jesus-loving girlie girl.

1. What is the meaning of life? I don’t know.

2. What do you want to be when you grow up? A mommy.

3. What gives you the most happiness? God.

4. When do you feel most loved? When I’m happy.

5. What are you afraid of? Tigers. (This was said after MUCH hesitation- it seemed like she was racking her brain to think of ANYTHING she might be afraid of. We don’t usually discuss fears simply because she hasn’t expressed any as of yet. I am interested to see how this changes in the next year or so.)

6. If you had one wish, what would you wish for? A boat.

7. What is the funniest word in the world? I surely do love you!

8. What is the hardest thing to do? Button my coat.

9. What is the easiest thing to do? Zip my coat.

10. What is the best thing in the whole world? God. No, I know what it is. Going to Heaven.

11. What is the worst thing in the whole world? When you don’t feel good. 

12. What makes you mad? When you cry.

13. What is the meaning of love? I love you! I love you!

14. If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it? I would put it in my flamingo purse. Actually, where is my flamingo purse? 

To My Grown-Up Baby

Dear Hula Girl,

You will always be my first baby. The first baby I smelled in the middle of the night while patting and rocking you gently back to sleep. The first baby I dressed up in supercute albeit ridiculous outfits for trips to the mailbox between naps. The first baby I watched develop and grow. The first baby I fretted over, cried over, prayed over, and loved over and over and over and over. There will never be another first, and I am so glad my first was you.

Your hair is getting long now. It is long enough to get all tangled when the wind whips it while you breeze about the backyard, shoveling piles of dirt and rocks and splashing in the water table. It is long enough to need a brushing when you wake up from a nap all sweaty and groggy. It is long enough to be blow-dried all shiny and fresh in the evenings after your bath. That hair of yours- it’s been tricky throughout your life. When you were a tiny baby still in my tummy, you had a ton of it. It even showed up on the ultrasound! When you were born, we realized it was only long on the back of your head. You had a mohawk for months and months, except for the bald spot that got rubbed off from sleeping on your back. When the bald spot was gone and the rest of the hair filled in, we couldn’t figure out whether your hair would be red like mine or blond like Daddy’s when he was a little boy. Now we can see it’s blond as can be. It looks lovely with your eyes. You know, you cut your hair recently. Right down the middle of your head, on the top, where your mohawk used to be. Perhaps you were trying to give that part of your head the chance to sport the shorter hair for once? Regardless, it was so sad and you cried your little eyes out when you saw what you had done. Don’t worry- I’ve kept the hair for you; your beautiful shiny wispy baby hair.

The other day you told me you want to be a Mommy when you grow up. You said you want to have five kids; 4 girls and 6 boys. I hadn’t the heart to tell you that 4 + 6 = 10. Sweet girl, if you want ten children, I will think you are nuts, but I will help you and give you advice and take your children for you when you just need a break to go to Starbucks for a while. Because, my Love, sometimes I feel like I already know what ten children would be like. And there is just one of you and one of your little bro. Just you wait until your little ones start walking and talking and asking, “WHY?” I promise I will giggle with you and let you vent, but remember that I will also remind you that payback is sweet. Just sayin’.

My little Chickadee, your love for Jesus is amazing. You stop to praise him in the midst of your day, several times each day. Any time you hear of any problem, whether it be dirty dishes or psoriasis, you tell us we need to pray about it. I hope you keep that faith and that your faith does not disappoint you. Daddy and I are working very hard to be good examples for you so that you can see what a life of faith might look like. We hope you like what you see in us enough to want that for yourself. If for some reason we have failed in this, please forgive us and remember that God is bigger than us and he will overcome even our multitudes of failures. If we disappoint you, know that God will not do the same. We’re working hard to do it right, but forgive us for the things we get wrong, for I’m sure those things are many! Above all, I pray that you will one day give your heart to Jesus, fully and completely, and have great joy in the knowledge that you really will be going to Heaven one day. You are so very interested in Heaven right now and to you, it’s the ultimate dream vacation. I really hope to see you there someday!

I am so privileged to be your Mommy and to know that people will compare you to me for the rest of your life. I love being playful with you and I will always enjoy being your mommy otter, beaver, bear, mouse, snake, bee, deer, and any other animal you could ever decide to be. I hope to make you proud someday the way you make my heart proud every time you talk about how much you love your Jesus or your brother or your family. I want you to know that people will tell you you look like me for the rest of your life. Well, my Chicken, that is FANTASTIC NEWS. Because, seriously. Your Mommy looks good. Shiny hair? Check. Blue eyes? Check. Freckles? Check. Dimples? Double-Check. You and I have all kinds of great attributes. We are lucky little duckies and don’t you forget it. But make sure to always brush your teeth, because bad breath will really kill the image. 😉

Well, my little Honey Bun, I just love you so so much. I can’t wait to get to know you even better as you grow up. I enjoy you immensely. And I am SO thankful that you’re you. Love you love you love you. Kiss.

Mommy

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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