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!

I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

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! 🙂

 

 

Playdates, Playdates, Playdates Galore!

Since the end of Hula Girl’s dancing career, I have been working overtime to try to get her engaged in unstructured social events with her peers. We have had three official playdates and we have several more scheduled in the near future. I am determined that she will go back to dance class someday (she keeps telling me she will be ready to go after Christmas) and that when she goes she will interact with the other ballerinas and she will have a good time. So there.

Our first playdate after that fateful day was with a set of twins who attend our library’s storytime. They are about a half-year younger than Hula Girl. They have beautiful names and even more beautiful curly locks. It’s hard to tell them apart because their mom dresses them the same, but one of them is just slightly taller, so that helps. They really enjoyed the dress-up clothes.

Hula Girl has about 25 complete outfits for dress-up, thanks to my mom, Walmart’s post-Halloween sales, and my old across-the-street neighbor, Karen. She absolutely adores dressing up in her tutus, wings, tiaras, and shoes. She also really enjoys princess dresses, wands, and Fancy Nancy slippers. She is usually wearing at least one part of one costume at all times.

I recently put together a “closet” of sorts for her dress-up clothes. I built a PVC frame with a rod across the top for hangers. Then I made curtains for the whole thing out of a shower curtain that I got on sale at Ross. It took me about 2 hours, total. And it’s PERFECT. I will have to post a picture.

Anyway, the twins really loved dressing up! We had three little princesses, some cowgirls, a nurse, a mermaid, fairies, and cheerleaders in our playroom that day. Hula Girl is very excited to have another playdate with them soon.

Our next playdate was with a friend of mine from Bible study. She has two girls who sandwich Hula Girl age-wise; one is turning five soon and one is turning three. (She also has a cutie little three-month-old boy who looks just like a Butterball turkey! I love babies who haven’t lengthened out yet but are chunky and heavy already. So roly-poly and just plain squeezable!) Those girls came over and took over the playroom! They sat right down at the play table and served up a play feast in the kitchen! The elder girl, in particular, was great with Hula Girl. She invited Hula Girl to play, gave Hula Girl the pink plate/cup/silverware, and just interacted so well with her. Hula Girl was absolutely intrigued with this girl who is so brave and so talkative and NOT afraid to just play! There was a good deal of dressing up during this playdate, as well! The girls also got to have a treat of hot chocolate with their snack. I loved their manners, their imaginations, and their mom!

The last playdate we had was this week on Thursday. We went to the home of the same family, and another friend joined us. There were four little girls, one little Gelato, one little Butterball, and a teeny weeny 6-week-old baby girl in the house. Seven children, lots of giggles, and Hula Girl had SUCH a good time. She was afraid to go into the playroom for a while, but once she realized the other girls were very friendly and that Mommy was going to sit and talk and admire the BABIES the whole time, she became braver. I overheard her asking one of the littler girls (who is a full year younger than her) to play with her. That little girl is very similar in temperament to Hula Girl. She is very timid around others she doesn’t know yet, but she is boisterous once she gets to know someone. I have played with her at her own house a couple times, and she is just a sweetheart. (That little girl will be in Hula Girl’s Sunday school class tomorrow, so I am hoping that will help Hula Girl adjust!)

We are scheduled to play again with some other friends next Thursday, and we continue to go to storytime on Tuesday. I also had a babysitter come this morning and watch the kids while I went grocery shopping. My goal right now is to put Hula Girl in situations where she HAS to be social with lots of people besides me. She has been doing really well with it, and she tells me every time, “I want to stay with ______ a long time next time! I had so much fun!” I just wish she’d keep that in her head long enough to be brave from the beginning of every situation!

Sudden Snuggler

Gelato at thirteen months plus a week and a half or so:

Oh my goodness, is Gelato a snuggly little guy these past two days!?!?! This is a HUGE exciting thing for me because that little boy does.not.stop.moving.or.hold.still. Ever. But the past two days he has been clinging to my leg and burying his face in my shoulder and giving my arms huge sloppy kisses and trying to bonk his head into my face at any spare moment. It’s SO cute. Yesterday it wasn’t so cute because he was also crying and whining a lot. He’s getting a couple of teeth. But today they weren’t bothering him so much, so I got a lot of goofy grins and happy squawks instead.

He has also been really cuddly with Hula Girl, which she EATS UP. Girlfriend is HUGE on touch (Pretty sure it’s her #1 love language), and it’s killed her that he doesn’t like to snuggle very much. She just wants to hold his hand and cuddle him like she did when he was little- but he doesn’t want anything to do with it. But the past two days, he will literally run into her and topple both of them over just so they can roll around and cuddle. He even came over to her bed at her naptime just to give her giant kisses on her eyes and nose. She about died out of sheer bliss.

Gelato’s second favorite activity is talking. Little Man talks all day, every day. He greets me with, “Mo-neen!” when I walk in his room. He wants to “wa! wa! wa!” everywhere we go. He grabs his “oos? oos?” and wants me to put them on his feet for him. He brings me “boo!” and wants me to “read-ee? read-ee?” He tells me when he’s “Hun-ee,” and wants to “EAT! EAT! EAT!” He hears a “doggy” saying, “Woof. woof. woof.” He tells me when he wants some water to “dink, dink, dink.” He can mimic anything we say and he spontaneously says new words every single day. Along with the words listed above, here’s what I can think of off the top of my head: [sister’s name], door, closed, open, ball, truck, car, toys, dance, happy (SO cute), night night, nurse, cup, spoon, rock, horse, phone, bye, banana, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cheese, apple, applesauce, did it!, help, Mommy, Daddy, Riley, gentle, tickle, peek-a-boo, Ama, Papa, fan, noise, shh, climb, up, down, swing, swim, inside, outside, potty, tub, teeth, stop, and go.

Gelato is ACTIVE. He is a huge climber, and I tend to let him climb. If he can get up, he can get down. It takes a lot more time and infinitely more coaching to get down. But I let him do it. Two days ago, he climbed up to the top of our inherited playset in the backyard. Just wait until I show you a picture of that one. The rock wall (?!?!?) he climbed is over six feet tall. Kid’s thirteen months old. And he climbed to the top of a sixish foot rock wall. Ridiculous. (I need to point out that even though I LET him do this, I was also holding my hands about 2 centimeters from his body the entire time. I didn’t touch him, but I was READY. He does not get to adventure out on his own… yet.)

We’re still nursing. Gelato actually skipped two nursings one day when we were in California because Jonathan and I had taken Hula Girl to the beach (another post) and we left Gelato with Ama for the day. He did really well with it. Didn’t drink any milk, drank a ton of water, but still took good naps. I am pretty sure he’s never going to really like milk that much. Fine by me. He LOVES yogurt and cheese. And there’s always ice cream….. ha!

Gelato is still not much of an eater. Although I say he has foods he LOVES, he only eats a small amount of them compared with the amounts his sister ate at his age. Some days he surprises me, like yesterday when he ate two whole adult-sized pancakes plus a cup of blueberries for breakfast. That’s like a week’s rations, folks. Even when he’s acting cranky and whiny and says he’s hungry and wants to eat, he usually eats about a 1/2 cup of food altogether and then he’s done. He’s a pretty small little guy, I guess, but to see how much he does and compare that to how much he eats makes me worried he’s not getting enough. But I don’t push it. I just offer whatever we’re having and if he doesn’t want a lot, he doesn’t eat a lot. He sits at the table with the family and we wait until everyone is done. He has good manners and doesn’t fuss to get down. Usually.

Everyone always comments on how happy he is. He truly is happy, and he has this little squint wrinkly nose thing that he does when he’s trying to get people to smile back. It makes him look like a total goofball, but it’s adorable. Everyone smiles then and comments on how cute he is. Even when we were traveling to California and we’d been up since 5:45 am and he had to sleep in his car seat on the airplane and in the car, he didn’t cry once all the way through the shuttles, trains, cars, airplanes, airports, rental car offices, or on the drive to Ama and Papa’s house. (He also met and wooed a Swedish girl who looked the part- white blond hair, slim, beautiful. She was about 25 years old and she let him play with some animal app on her iPad. It had music [his third love] and he thought that was GREAT. The only word she knew in English was “dance” and boy did that come in handy. Gelato danced to the music and she laughed and cooed away in Swedish. They kept each other company for an hour in the rental car office. Thank you, Swedish girl!)

Gelato in three words: energetic, opinionated, happy

I love having a son.

Oy, Today.

You guys. I just have to take the opportunity to say that today is a nightmare.

Lots of stuff going on that I had under control but suddenly found out wasn’t in my control at all… but it’s now up to me to fix it. (Wow, that’s vague and confusing.)

And then Hula Girl is tired and cranky and… three. For those of you without children, here’s an FYI- “terrible twos” are a flipping walk in the park when compared with the “curious threes.” Ever read a Curious George book? That monkey is three. Except somehow everyone always thinks his bad choices are cute in the end. Scratch that from reality. No one thinks those choices are cute, nor do they produce an “Aww”-worthy ending. Ever. Just sayin’.

To top it all off, I am finally giving in to the fact that my son is not a big sleeper. Yes, it has taken me 11 months to admit it. The cause? HE SKIPPED HIS MORNING NAP. Hula Girl NEVER skipped her morning nap. She didn’t even skip her afternoon nap until she was like 15 months old, and then I just stuck with it and she kept napping twice daily until 18 months old. I have never ever in a million years imagined that my second child would ever skip a nap like that. The average age for dropping to 1 nap (in the Babywise community, anyway) is 15-21 months. I was hoping for at least 15 months with him… but he rarely sleeps full naps twice daily anyway. He just needs less sleep. And that is just NOT cool.

Ramble ramble grumble grumble. Today stinks.

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. 🙂

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yup, me and seven of my good friends. Can you believe it?! I have SEVEN friends whose birthday is the same as mine. Yowza. However, I do not have the most common birthday: September 16. So that’s good, I guess.

Anyway, I’ve been absent from posting for quite some time because we have had a whirlwind of adventure around here.

Jonathan was asked by his supervisors to attend the Love and Logic conference to become a trainer for their facility. It was a 3-day conference and I was terrified to attempt single-parenting for the duration of that conference, so I decided to take the kids to my parents’ house so I’d at least have help for bedtime. Several firsts happened there; namely, Hula Girl slept in a big bed for the first time (and stayed in it all night, albeit waking several times), and Gelato slept through the night from his dreamfeed until our first morning feeding. Unfortunately, Hula Girl woke five times that night, screaming, so I wasn’t able to relish the sleep. Also, Gelato hasn’t slept through the night again since then, and in fact, he’s getting worse. So. Frustrating.

Moving on.

On the 13th, we celebrated my grandma’s 90th birthday. We threw her a surprise party, and she just loved it. Of course, we had to have ninety candles on the cake- it was definitely glowing. Then my grandma allowed Hula Girl to swipe the frosting off the cake with her finger and eat it… gross. I am still not sure exactly how much cake Hula Girl consumed that day.

That evening, Jonathan’s parents arrived from California for a week-long visit. It was wonderful having them here! Gelato was really thrown off his sleep game by our “vacation” and the first few days back were really really hard. But since Ama and Papa were here to take care of Hula Girl, I was able to focus on Gelato and be consistent with him where I needed to be consistent. So now he’s back to pretty good naps. Thank goodness. I will be writing a separate post detailing Ama and Papa’s visit.

Saturday, I threw Jonathan a surprise party for his golden birthday. He turns thirty this month, and since his parents were in town, I wanted to celebrate a bit early. I have never been able to keep anything a secret or a surprise from him before, but I worked really hard on it this time and he was totally unaware! Our across-the-street-neighbor made a Quidditch pitch cake with golden Snitch cake pops, all the decorations were gold, and I stuck with gold-themed gifts. Hula Girl and I even painted our toenails (and my fingernails) with gold glitter nail polish. It was fun!

Sunday, Jonathan took Ama and Papa to the airport and then we spent the afternoon and evening settling back down into our little family-of-four routine.

Today I have worked hard to just get right back into Hula Girl’s and my regular routine. We had milk, read books, ate breakfast, did chores, colored, read more books, had roomtime, went outside, had lunch, and now she’s down for her nap. This afternoon I will be taking her outside in the backyard so she can have a bunch of free play time out there.

I am hoping to get my little Gelato man to sleep longer tonight. That would be the ultimate birthday gift. I. am. so. exhausted.

 

Catching Up

It’s officially fall here, folks. Today’s high was 54°. When Hula Girl and I went outside to play on the swing, the wind chill was 36°. Yep. Chilly.

I wish I had posted on Monday. We had a perfect day on Monday. Perfect. I loved my children like mad because I didn’t even have to think in order to get through the day. Hula Girl was on best behavior, she was well rested, and I enjoyed spending every moment with her. Gelato slept well for all his naps and was cooing and smiling up a storm. Ah.  The good ol’ days.

Today I was struck yet again with how very sporadic the early baby days, weeks, and months can be. As soon as we hit our “groove” in the earlier part of this week (hey! We beat the 45-minute intruder!!!!!!), today was crazy because Gelato is now experiencing Wonder Week 8. Basically, his sleeping, eating, etc., are going to be “off” for a few days because his brain is experiencing a huge developmental leap. So yeah. We had a perfect little 3-hour schedule happening for a few days… and today he ate every 2-2.5 hours. It’s not like his naps were short, either. That’s what kills me. With the 45-minute intruder, I felt confident letting him fuss or helping him get back to sleep because I know a 45-minute nap is just not long enough. However, with his naps today, I had no justification for trying to let him/help him fall back to sleep because each time he’d been sleeping for over an hour and a half. That is a decent length for a nap! So when he woke early, I went ahead and got him. We ended up adding a feeding and a nap today. Ugh. SO not my favorite thing.

Also, because of Gelato’s unpredictability today, Hula Girl’s schedule shifted. She didn’t get roomtime until 5:00 this evening… and that was just crazy. She needs her morning roomtime in order to make it to lunch happily. I have made it my personal goal to ensure she has roomtime in the morning tomorrow.

Can I just put another little complaint out there (in the hopes that some of my BW mom friends will chime in)? I have been doing everything by the book since Gelato was born. I made sure we got full feedings. I woke him every three hours during the day, every 5 hours at night. He was on track- sleeping 5 hours at night during his fifth week. Then he regressed during his 6-week growth spurt and we haven’t seen a nighttime stretch longer than 4 hours since. Some might say that I should drop the “dreamfeed” (his 10 p.m. feeding that I wake him for) but even if I do that, he still wakes around that time. And after his late evening feeding (around 10ish) he consistently wakes every three hours afterward. Feed him at 10? He wakes at 1 and 4 a.m. Feed him at 11? 2 and 5. He is so stuck on eating every 3 hours!!! So I try letting him sleep. He’ll wake at 10:30 or 11:30. And wake every 3 hours after that. BAH. By 8 weeks, he’s supposed to be able to sleep 7-8 hours at night. If you ask any pediatrician, babies can “sleep through the night” (general definition of that is about 6 hours) by the time they’re 12 pounds. My kid passed 12 pounds about 2 pounds ago… and here we are. Awake every flipping 3 hours. What am I doing wrong here?!!??!?!?!?!?! Vent over.

On the bright side of things, Hula Girl is getting funnier and funnier and more sophisticated in her conversational skills lately. She has started giving out step-by-step directions. “Here, I will show you. First you… Then you….” So funny to hear her describing things like how to put her blankie in the proper corner of her crib! It’s also a great experience to finally have a child who is able to express every thought she has in her head so that I can actually understand her the majority of the time. Some of her thoughts are supercute due to the fact that she’s two and can’t conceptualize things yet. For instance, yesterday we were talking about how my grandma turned 90. I said, “Isn’t it amazing that Great Gramma is 90 years old today? Do you think you want to be 90 years old someday?” She said, “Yes! I want to be 90 years old. And Great Gramma will hold me!” So I guess 90 years old is actually destination where your loved ones will wrap their arms around you and hold you. Hm. Might not be too bad after all!

Gelato is developing in his own little baby way. He has discovered his little hands and is perfectly content to sit and suck his knuckles all during his waketime. He’s learning to laugh and to use his consonants. He’s good with /g/ these days. He also likes to squeal, coo, and gasp. But his laugh is the best. I also enjoy his willingness to just sit and stare into my eyes while smiling his gummy little baby smile. He knows his Mommy. And I love that.

Something else I want to make note of for my own future reference (as if I could ever forget) is the differences in the ways my children smell. I swear their scents match their personalities. Hula Girl has always had more of a “sharp” smell to her. When I nursed her I could smell her sharpness mingled with the smell of the milk. However, Gelato has more of a soft, fresh smell. I have also not noticed the scent of the milk when I nurse him. That’s probably because he gulps it all down faster than I ever imagined possible.

Jonathan and I have gotten into Grey’s Anatomy. We just finished season 1 tonight. So far, it’s an okay show. Nothing to write home about. But we will continue to watch, because we are deprived of the ability to actually leave the house much. Here’s hoping it gets…better?

Well, it’s 10:00… time to do the dreamfeed. Let’s hope we don’t do another feeding at 1 and 4! Maybe my littlest man will surprise me!

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