30 April 2011

Of Playmates

One of my favorite things lately: Emmett is finally old enough to really play with his sister.  It amazes me because, in theory, he should still be in the "parallel play" stage - as in, if you set him in a room with others his age, they would not typically interact.  Each little baby would be perfectly content playing in his or her little bubble right next to their "friends". 

But when you throw a big sister in the mix, the game changes. 

Now, he chases her around and she runs away giggling.  They tickle each other.  And when they're in the car, their faces light up to see the other next to them, reaching for their sibling right away.  The two of them hold hands, play with their arms, share toys and spend a lot of time giggling.

I know these times of perfect camaraderie will eventually turn into sibling squabbles with just a touch of rivalry, but until that time we're cherishing their friendship. 

And praying that the difficult stage miraculously passes over this house.

29 April 2011

Of Becoming a Princess

About two weeks ago, I saw a magazine on a news-stand all a-flutter about the pending nuptials of a certain royal and his soon-to-be bride.  My initial thought was, "That hasn't happened yet?"  My second thought was, "So ridiculous everyone making a fuss about this - why would I even want to care about their wedding?"  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, no, I don't care, but for my entire life, I have heard the wedding of Princess Diana to her Prince, failure though the marriage was, referred to as an iconic fairy tale moment in our culture.  And I knew, as much as I wanted to resist, this joining of a Prince to a "commoner" was history in the making and someday I might regret not witnessing it.

After much internal debate about the early morning hour and the actual importance this event had in my life, then finally settling on letting my mother-in-law send us a recorded DVD a couple days later (better late than never), I was elated to receive the invitation from a friend to participate in a DVR'd (read: not waking up at o'dark-thirty) watch party.  I could have my royal wedding cake and eat it, too.  What a day!

So Micaiah got all dolled up in her fancy dress (I honestly considered wearing my a former brides-maid gown, or even the actual dress from my own big day but turned down the thought for fear of being too much a nerd), we both donned our tiaras (ok, so I had to give in somewhere) and Emmett, well, I didn't want Emmett to be teased by the other boys, so he stayed pretty casual, and we all headed over to watch a real-life girl become a princess.

At least I can say I saw it, right?  (Plus, we'll still have the DVD for posterity-sake - and so Philip can see the dress, I know it's been killing him - or not.  But he's promised me I can wear my wedding gown for him when we snuggle in to watch it together next weekend - score!)

My little princess.  The wand was a crucial accessory, of course.

28 April 2011

Of Our Little Artist

Our little girl loves to draw.  Whether it's markers, crayons, colored pencils, sidewalk chalk or her finger on the iPad, she adores creating with color.  Until today, most of her work, like that of her peers, involved primarily straight lines and unrecognizable blurs of squiggles.  When it was her turn to trace Mommy (or Daddy, or Aunt Dia) with chalk on the driveway, there were generally no other marks than the random dashes etched at certain points before it was pronounced done.  And, somehow, her work made sense to her.  And, being that she's two, it looked beautiful to us.

Today, however, while I did a little work in the church library (or tried, unsuccessfully, rather), she knelt on a cushioned chair in front of the white board, red marker in hand, and went to work.  At just the right moment, I looked up in time to see a blank circle on the board, drawn by her hand, and the pronouncement that he needed eyes (at which point, she placed two tiny red dots) and a mouth - and then, ever-so-carefully, she started at one side of the circle and drew a shaky line across.  Our daughter had just drawn her first recognizable figure.  And, like every milestone a child ever seems to make, it was like she'd been doing it all along - no big deal, Mom. 

I suppose it's because, to her, her art was always logical.  But to this concrete-minded mother, this little girl had, overnight, become a budding Rembrandt.  Someone give that girl a medal!  Oh wait . . .

This is why I carry a camera in my purse (that and the fact that I don't pay for data on my phone, so, though it has the capacity to capture a moment, it doesn't really do much from there) - she did this all by herself!

And because we like him, too, it's time for a Gratuitous Photo of our Son:

27 April 2011

Of Parental Pride

When we arrived at church this evening, we headed in to drop our children off as normal - Emmett to the nursery and Micaiah to the classroom where the Puggles gather.  The Puggles are the two- and three-year-old sections of Awanas, for those culturally unaware.  And if you don't even know Awanas, well, no worries, that knowledge has little relevance to tonight's tale.  To our surprise, all the tiny two-year-olds were gathered at the door, ready to head out to their Awanas awards ceremony.

My little girl is old enough for an Awana award?!  An award for what, I didn't know - showing up to class?  But you better believe I wasn't missing this, our daughter's first on-stage experience beyond her baby dedication at eight months old.  I was also very intrigued at the concept that these Puggles were supposed to be singing a song and doing a poem.  My daughter, who still skips words in Pat-a-Cake and Where is Thumbkin - this I had to see.

Sadly, not being forewarned, I mourned my not bringing our camera which was sitting, memory card full, on our dining room table, or even our video camera which, sadly, suffered a dead battery (or three - apparently I'm not good with fully understanding the concept of a back-up battery) recently and has yet to recover.  So I was focused on storing this away in my internal memory card.

The Puggles filed in, adorned in matching yellow t-shirts, all too big for them, which most had not been wearing when dropped off.  My little wild-haired baby girl stood proudly tall, shirt to her knees and followed silently along with the actions to the song, though never opened her mouth, beyond chewing on her tongue.  During a break, she returned my blown kiss, but otherwise was perfectly composed. 

After the painfully silent song, poem and memory verses (while there were a few words shouted sporadically by a couple of the other youngsters, none of them quite had the memory capacity for all they were requested to perform), it was award time.  My baby was getting her first medal.  And she was so proud.  There, in the center of the stage, she quietly, but enthusiastically, held it out for momma to see.  And then lifted her arm high so I could see the matching bracelet she'd been given.  Not gonna lie, I almost cried.  An award for doing nothing but going to class and playing with blocks for almost an hour, and I was tearing up. 

As Philip and I slipped out to attend our actual class, we met up with our proud Puggle in the foyer and gave her a giant hug as she showed us her medal close up.  What a moment.

It wasn't until we arrived in our own classroom that I remembered - I carry a camera in my purse.  Battery charged only days ago, memory card nearly brand new, it had been slipped back in my bag just yesterday for moments such as these.  Apparently I'm really good at thinking ahead - now if I could match my thinking-in-the-moment skills to the other I'd be set.

So here is a post-ceremony photo of my little medal-earner (I'd like to pretend her hair doesn't look like this most of the time, but, sadly, those curly locks are hard to tame and most attempts to style them only end in lost barrettes when we retrieve her from class, so, it's true, many times I just let it be - although it doesn't always go this wild - thus, please excuse the unkempt appearance):

If she's old enough for an awards ceremony, she's clearly old enough to drive.  Or so Daddy thought, apparently.  Here she is guiding our car down the street:

At home, she shared her awards.  Emmett was given her medal and Daddy was allowed to borrow the bracelet.  So self-less, that girl.

26 April 2011

Of Checking In

Emmett had his nine-month well-baby check-up today.  For those of you trying to count on your fingers, let me just save you the trouble - he is actually ten months old.  Momma just got a little behind in setting up the appointment. 

To prepare Micaiah for the appointment, since she'd be going, too, I explained that Emmett would get a shot and it would hurt a little but he'd be ok, so when we got there, she explained to the receptionist: "He gonna get shot.  He gon hurt.  He get band-aid."  At least we're all on the same page.  Well, except for Momma, who, apparently was wrong, no shots today - but they did draw blood, so Micaiah didn't feel like Mommy lied to her, which is important.

And little guy was a brave man - he cried, of course, when they stuck the needle in, but after a few seconds, he sniffled his tears away and sat courageously on Mommy's lap, waiting for them to get enough blood (however much that is) before they took the needle out.  He did let a few wails go about halfway through the process (he had the slowest-pumping blood I've ever seen) and Micaiah announced firmly, "That's enough!" indicating to the nurses that it was time to let her brother go.  Unfortunately they didn't listen, but Emmett did calm down knowing his sissy was on his side. 

Between the blood, the x-rays (to be sure his hips were aligned correctly, considering he doesn't really stand - turns out he's just lazy, so no worries there) and simply getting weighed (which apparently made all the other baby patients cry this morning, but not my man), everyone was quite impressed with our little guy's composure, taking it all in stride.  No biggie - he seemed to say - I totally get x-rayed every day.

So, besides the standing thing, which we're going to encourage his working on, everything's great.  Weighing 22lbs and measuring 29 inches he is in the 75th percentile for his age - a little less of a chunk than his sister was at this point, but weighing just a tad more than his brand new cousin who was born this very afternoon.  At 8lbs, 13 oz, she has a little catching up to do ;)

25 April 2011

Of Tea

Thanks to my couponing ways, I was able to snag six boxes of Iced Tea bags for a total of $0 this past week (and, quite frankly, I could go get more if I were really eager) - that's a total of 144 family-sized tea bags.  And I hate tea.  But when it's free, it's free.  My initial plan had been to donate the boxes either to a tea-loving friend or even the local Rescue Mission.  And then I remembered, my husband actually really enjoys a nice glass of sweet tea and, being that all the grocery-carriers in the area have stopped selling his preferred brand of prepared tea as of about a year ago, his tea taste-buds have only had the chance to dance when McAlister's hosts its annual Free Tea Day - which, in case you're unsure of the meaning of the word "annual," happens only once a year. 

My man deserves better than that. 

So I decided it was time his wife did a little work to get him what he loves.  After finding the perfect Sweet Tea recipe on allrecipes.com (why, yes, I do use this website for everything, even something so seemingly simple as Iced Tea) and then debating on whether or not the recipe meant six regular-sized tea bags or six family-sized (which seemed a bit excessive for one man), I finally gave up and called my dear friend and former college roommate.  And then called her back about five minutes later when I forgot the steps she told me, because apparently "Boil water, add sugar, soak tea" is a bit complicated for me (Thanks, Tiffany, for being available for my tea recipe needs!).

So far he is on his second batch since Saturday.  I'm thinking he maybe feels loved.

Meanwhile, I, being the non-tea-drinker I am, had not taken in the aroma of freshly-brewed tea in nearly six years.  I find it fascinating how one whiff of the leaves brewing in sugar-steeped water instantly carried me back to the International room of Nizhni Novgorod University, enjoying tea break between Russian lessons.  My version of "enjoying" involved half a glass of sugar and half a glass of hot tea: mix thoroughly, maybe add more sugar.  I was so grateful the day I received a package in the mail which included hot chocolate mix from a wonderful friend.  Tea breaks got a lot more bearable that day. 

Meanwhile, my Russian host-mother never could understand how I never drank a glass of liquid in her home (tap water not being the best choice) and, yet, that tiny kitchen, with a T.V. in the corner and me being squished on the cushioned bench along the opposite wall by my host family, cornered with no escape beyond crawling over the table (which I never did), enduring hours of a Brazilian soap opera dubbed in Russian and a horribly melo-dramatic (from what I gathered of the raised voices and endless tears) "romance"-based reality show called "Dom Dva" will always be the second onslaught of memories to assault me with that one tiny stream of tea-infused steam. 

I suppose, then, this iced-tea making business does a little something for my man and a little something for me.  That's what I call a win-win-win (although I'm not sure who the third winner is - the tea maybe?).

24 April 2011

Of a Cleansing Rain

I don't ever recall a stormy Easter.  Every Resurrection Day memory I possess involves a cloudless blue sky, radiant with sunshine, declaring the glory of our risen King.  My bones chill in memory of bright Easter mornings when the warmth of the shining sun did not quite radiate the atmosphere to my skin, but always the sun was there.

Until today.

Today, for the first time in months, Oklahoma has once again experienced precipitation, and, even better, in liquid form (as opposed to the crystallized water we received at the beginning of February).  And rain, even, that I don't remember seeing the likes of since the day Emmett wasn't born - the day we nearly swam home when released from the hospital after fourteen hours of labor which dwindled to nothing and a baby still inside.  The day my dad pronounced our son would have had to be named Noah if he had, indeed, emerged into this downpour.

This day, however, this day near the end of April, ten months later, was not one of false hopes.  Instead, these renewing rains gave new promise to the sun-scorched earth and a reminder that our risen Savior has washed us clean, soaking us deep in his blood poured out.  And the life that remains may not be an endless parade of sunny days, but the storms are always for our refining and refreshment.

Thank you, Lord, for your Life rained down.

23 April 2011

Of Egg Hunting

We attended our church's annual egg hunt this afternoon.  I was nervous for the fact that the hunt was scheduled in the middle of prime nap-time for our kids.  The question of how their moods would look was anyone's guess.  In preparation, Emmett-man laid down a little early, making it tough to leave on time.  Have you ever tried to wake a peacefully-snoring baby?  It's nearly impossible - not for their lack of responsiveness but because it takes a lot of courage on the heart of the waker.  Who wants to be the horrible one to disrupt such a beautiful rest?

While his dreary eyes upon our arrival at church definitely showed his recent awakening, he did fairly well seated on the grass in the middle of the hullabaloo, decked out in his "Baby's First Easter" onesie, fingering the plastic eggs handed to him by Mommy and Daddy while his big sister eagerly filled her bucket between stopping to greet her friend, Gavin, and proudly showing off her loot.

But the greatest moment was the train ride. 

After all five of us (Aunt Dia, too, of course) stuffed ourselves into the tiny train car, pulled by the small tractor-turned-engine, we were off, the breeze blowing Little Emmett's hair.  And with no prompting on the part of Mom and Dad, our little guy, recognizing, even through his still-groggy eyes, the fact that we were racing (at the speed of tractor) past a sea of on-lookers (who, for the most part were not doing much on-looking), decided to put to work his newest-acquired skill (as in the past couple of days).  He lifted his tiny hand and rotated it up and down while repeating, "Ba, ba, ba,"  being sure to wave farewell to all he saw.

And for the record, Micaiah loved the train, too.  Her smile as we dis-embarked was absolutely priceless.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I'll say it now: I love these kids.

 (This picture is simply thrown in for good measure - she loved eating the cookie she drowned in sprinkles all by herself.)

22 April 2011

Of Fear

I'm not sure if it was the leftover emotions from the thought, "Who died?" (because, honestly, when your pastor jogs onto the platform during the middle of the Good Friday service and begins whispering in the music minister's ear, cuing an end to the orchestral opening to the next number, before turning to face the audience with a grim look, it's difficult to think of any other source for such concern), but I've never cried about a tornado warning before.  It is true, however, tornadoes happen to be one of my biggest fears (this is where I take a brief detour to counter the theory, widely held by Oklahomans, that we, as those used to such storms, are typically fearless when threatened by raging funnel clouds [and the delusion that such lack of respect for the storm somehow makes "us" cool]; I am of the firm belief that we, having witnessed the destruction possible by such meteorological phenomena either first-hand or by proxy, should actually be more acutely aware of the danger invoked, but maybe that's just my overly keen sense of logic coming into play).

When I was younger, residing in Nebraska, just a little further north up tornado alley, I may not have enjoyed the idea of my dad watching out the front window rather than joining the rest of us in the basement, but I did, overall, think tornado warnings were kind of exciting.  It was an excuse for the whole family (except dad, of course) to gather downstairs, pull out some board games and ride out the storm.  A nice break from the monotony of day-to-day (you know, the rat race rut of a fourth-grader).

Since becoming a resident of Oklahoma and, more importantly, a mother, however, my views have changed a little.  One reason being that we no longer have a spacious basement decked out with Life, Scrabble or Yahtzee, but rather a crowded storm cellar with no circulation and little illumination, other than the candles we light, which does little to abed the over-heating issue.  The other being that the threat seems a little more real down here.  Besides, I have a lot more to lose.  And I'm not talking about the house.

Therefore, tonight, as the congregation was instructed to head calmly downstairs, to one of the safest locations in town, I had one thought on my mind.  I just needed to hold my babies.  Thus, I'm not sure it was the storm itself which triggered the spontaneous leaking of my tear ducts, but, rather, the thought that somewhere in that building, where a tornado may hit any second (no, I'm never melo-dramatic, why would you even think that?), were my precious little ones, confused and possibly scared.  There was nothing I wanted more than to hold them in my arms.

Of course, while the younger did seem a bit bewildered and grateful to see his mama, Micaiah wasn't much for the being held in a parent's arms.  After all, she was in a room with a toy kitchen.  What else could she need?

Oklahoma born and bred, I suppose.

21 April 2011

Of Tickles

Our son loves being tickled. And I love the way he squinches (it's a technical term, you may not have heard of it) his chubby neck, even when he's tickled on his belly, though it's the back of the neck, really, that's his weak spot. Grazing that one little spot will get him pulling his head in like a turtle in his shell without fail, always accompanied by a giggle, of course.

Not only does he get a kick out of a good tickle, he's learned how to bait his daddy into a good round of tummy attacks. Yesterday during lunch, while Emmett reclined on the love-seat with Daddy, he reached his tiny hand up to grab Philip's nose. Philip responded by giving Emmett's belly a good squeeze. Little man would give a good belly laugh and reach his hand back up toward Daddy's face again. And so the cycle continued. That little guy just couldn't get enough.

And, naturally, the rest of us were tickled by his amusement and his teaching himself cause and effect.  What a cutie.

20 April 2011

Of Re-defining Beautiful

My sister and I had a conversation once about how we do our best thinking in the shower - I suppose it has to do with the fact that this is the one place (for those of us "regular people" who aren't fancy enough for such things) where we are completely empty of technology or any means by which to distract our attention.  There is no T.V. to drown out our thoughts, no phone calls or books to read.  Just us, our shampoo, and our brains. 

Thus, yesterday, I was in my "think spot" gazing at my painted-purple toes and my mind began to wander.  Why do we, as women, feel the need to paint ourselves varying colors?  My toenails, granted, just make me happy - it's not that I think they're any more beautiful when they're purple or green or blue, just more fun.  But what about my face? 

Having done no technical research (I was in the shower, mind you, google wasn't exactly at my finger-tips), I pondered the realization that once upon a time someone decided a woman with long, dark eyelashes was beautiful.  So they created a way for all women to have luscious lashes.  And then someone else fell in love with the look of faintly rosed cheeks, so they created a way for all women to re-create this natural blush.  And so on until all women within a certain social standing were buying every product on the market in an attempt to emulate the ideal beautiful.  Have you ever noticed that the gorgeous ones out there, when all made-up according to beauty standards, tend to all look the same?  And then, in those ultra rare moments when we see one of these goddesses off of her mountainous throne, face stripped of its faux features, we see she looks nothing like how she is portrayed on a daily basis. 

And society has taught us this naked face is simply not beautiful, or, at least, not as pretty as it could be, if she would just enhance things a bit. 

Have I ever stopped before to consider what an insult this is to my Creator?  To tell him, every morning as I mourn my invisible eyelashes and strive to make them pop just a little with a small touch of mascara, that what He made wasn't good enough.  Good effort, God, but let me help you out a little; I'll show you what real beauty is.

What a slap in the face. 

He has made an array of beautiful masterpieces and we, the ignorant masses, are running in and throwing spray-paint on his work of art - feeling not good enough because we don't look like the person next to us, not realizing that it's the uniqueness that defines our beauty.

So, right there in that shower yesterday morning, I decided this daily offense to God had to stop.  I dried off and marched right past the drawer of my vanity (interesting name for our bathroom counter, isn't it?), not stopping for a little touch-up.  Believe me, it was a big step. 

This morning, though, knowing I was preparing to see all of my friends in Bible study and feeling as though my eyes just look so dull with those invisible lashes, I struggled just a little, with wondering if I really was beautiful all on my own - just the way God made me.  I realized just how much I hide behind the dark paint on those tiny hairs attached to my eyelids.  You wouldn't think such a minuscule mask would make much difference, but oh, how it does.

I was reminded of the verses in 1 Peter: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight" (1 Peter 3:3-4).  One of those verses us good Christian girls thinks is just so sweet and then we re-assure ourselves that as long as our inside is pretty, it doesn't hurt to make the outside pretty, too.  It's just a reminder, really, that we need to be sure we have that gentle spirit under our gold jewelry and fancy hair.  And I'm not saying that is necessarily wrong.  I'm just knowing the Spirit has convicted me, personally.

Because here's what happens.  We hide behind our outer beauty so it softens the blow a little when our insides aren't quite up to par.  When we rely entirely on our quiet and gentle spirit to be the beauty others see in us, when our outside isn't painted and our hearts have to speak of the natural beauty with which God has equipped us, there's a lot more pressure.

So here's to throwing out the crutch and living God's beauty - gentle and quiet on the inside, and beautiful the way He made me on the outside.

(This is the song that came to my mind as I pondered all the above sentiments.  Please disregard the animated vegetables for the time-being and allow the truth of the words to soak into your inner-most being.  God knit you together in your mother's womb - and He has called you beautiful.)


19 April 2011

Of Signs of Growth

This guy . . .

Has got six teeth (nearly).  And he ate green beans tonight (don't worry, they came from Grandma's garden, hand-delivered by Gram this weekend - aren't they wonderful?) straight up, not even pureed.  What a big boy.
Get a gander at those teeth (the fifth and sixth are tougher to see, they're on either side of this bottom two teeth) [click to see to see it larger]:

And this girl . . .
Three weeks ago, she couldn't get a sip from the drinking fountain at church without a boost from mom (which wasn't easy with her brother on one hip, but somehow it worked).  Last week?  She got a drink all by herself.  And she didn't even have to stand on tiptoe.  See those legs?  There's not even any baby fat left.  Where did my baby girl go?!

I'm working on a theory that they switch them out every week in the church nursery.  Because those are not the kids I brought home from the hospital - those kids couldn't even hold their heads up, let alone eat green beans or drink from the water fountain.

And yet, I'm enjoying the process of seeing them develop.  I suppose, if I had to face the truth, I'd probably get bored if they remained stagnant at this age for all of eternity.  At the same time, though, it would be alright if the days and weeks would slow just a smidgen.  I'm trying to soak it all in and this rapidly moving clock is not helping the process.

18 April 2011

Of Great Kids

As Philip and I semi-frantically (we were hurried, but not stressed) prepared food for a gathering I hosted this evening, we enjoyed one of those precious moments.  When Mommy and Daddy are both set to a task and our babies just want to be near us, though are comfortable not being on top of us (you parents can understand this, I know).  Emmett sat in the middle of the kitchen, not getting into trouble, per his customary ways, but just watching his parents hustle back and forth across the kitchen.  Then his sister sat down next to him and, after smothering him with hugs and kisses, pulled out a book and began to read to her brother, "Once 'pon time, a girl and a puppy . . . hahahaha!"  It was just about the sweetest story we ever heard. 

These are the moments when we look at each other and say, "We have great kids."  (For the record, we also say this phrase, nearly without fail, every night as we think back on the day together.)

And it's true.  They have their not-so-great moments, but the two of them are, on the whole, pretty darn amazing.  And they're mine.

17 April 2011

Of a Perfect Love

I don't have very much to say tonight, except for this - there is a wonderful harmony when a marriage is functioning as it should. 

A partnership between two hearts; a feeling that we are truly working toward the same goal at the same time.  Not a push and pull of who can avoid the most responsibility, but a bowing down of both to the needs of the other.  When he is the leader and I am the follower, simply trusting in his leadership and knowing he has the best interests of myself and our children at the heart of all he does.

It's not always like this.  Which is what makes days like today a true treasure.  A perfect moment in the midst of imperfect lives.

Life, and love, the way God intended.

16 April 2011

Of Being Let Go

As previously mentioned, I spent the last day and a half with a good-sized group of women from my church at the Oklahoma Ladies' Retreat.  What I failed to mention was that, aside from trying not to cry like a baby while missing my own, I was technically the group leader for our church.  I say technically because I still find it difficult to grasp that anyone would put me "in charge" of a few grown women who are, in actuality, perfectly capable of caring for themselves.  Nevertheless, I was the one who coordinated travel plans and facilitated group discussion.

The only thing I really feared was any semblance of a repeat of last year's plumbing issues which would end up falling on my shoulders should sewer water begin flooding the cabin - again.  What I kept tucked in the back of my mind, though, was if anything went terribly wrong, I always had back-up in the form of our wonderful pastor's wife, Jamy, the one on whom this role typically falls.  In an effort to let go of shouldering the responsibility of full leadership for all women's events, Jamy has begun delegating and, somehow, the task of ladies' retreat fell to me. Yet, thankfully, she still participated as a regular attendee and fantastic support system.

I began to realize quickly, though, that Jamy is serious in her loving role of mentor for those of us rising to the task.  To nearly every piddly question I attempted to pawn off on her, I received the response, "It's up to you; you're the leader!"

I got the message.  The training wheels were off.  Yes, she was still close by, ready to catch the bike if it fell, but I was pedaling this baby all on my own.  Eventually I stopped asking.  I knew what she would say.  And, instead, I made a decision on my own.  And then another.  And then I asked for help with the next, but I'm learning. 

And with every step, as she pushed me off on my own, there was always the encouraging shout from her spot behind me on the pavement,  "You're doing great!  Keep going!"

And that, to me, is true leadership.  Someday I'll be there.  Hopefully.

15 April 2011

Of Missing My Babies

Today I am off on our annual Ladies' Retreat through the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.  Honesty alert: this was actually written yesterday - which, as I'm writing it is "today," I'll let your mind stew on that for awhile.

My first retreat after the birth of Micaiah, truth be told, was rough for me.  I thought I could handle it, truly, I did.  But as I awoke on Saturday morning without a baby to snuggle and my husband close by, I found a spot to be alone and the tears streamed down my face.  All I wanted was to be home and home was two and a half hours away via church van (and on top of my not being comfortable commandeering an 11-passenger van, I don't think the other 10 ladies left with no form of transportation would have appreciated my doing so).  I felt like a fifth-grader at sleep-away camp for the first time.

Of course, I pushed through the feelings and survived the rest of the morning until arriving home more than a few hours later.  But I was more than ready to see my baby girl when the time came.

Here's hoping I'm holding together a little better this year.  Just yesterday (or "today" - wink, wink), I took a long look at my bubbly little boy giggling with his Daddy and already felt my homesickness welling up. 

This coming from the woman who had no problem leaving her one-week-old first child with Gram and Grandy while she went on a date with her husband.  Apparently my apron strings have selective levels of tightness.

14 April 2011

Of Giants

Our new favorite game involves Mommy playing the role of "Giant" as I grab Micaiah, sling her over my shoulder and gobble on her belly.  At that point she yells, between fits of giggles, "Save me, Daddy, save me!"

After Daddy successfully dashes after us around the house and succeeds in gaining custody of my prisoner, I go after the littler one.  The tactic for his rescue involves Micaiah being the diversion, via chasing or tickling, while Daddy pulls the little guy from my arms and they all run laughing to safety. 

Tonight, after the usual fare, Micaiah mixed it up a bit by deciding to be the giant for awhile, which called for Daddy to whisk Mommy away after being chased for awhile. 

Daddy is always a good rescuer to whoever is in peril. 

13 April 2011

Of Talking to Ourselves

I love to talk to my babies.  Being that Emmett hasn't quite made the linguistic advancements that his sister has (being 21 months behind her seems to make a difference), my conversations with him, when not resting on his ever-intriguing mono-syllabic babbling, rely heavily on my telepathic abilities to fill in the gaps for his side of the dialogue (and, then, of course, my vocalizing both ends of the conversation so everyone feels involved).

Below is an actual transcript of this morning's "getting dressed" discussion:

Mommy: [Holds up a shirt covered in a print of tiny jungle animals] "How's this?  Is this man enough for you?  Considering it's a onesie, probably not so much, huh?"
Emmett: "Mommy, it makes me look like a little boy!"
Mommy: "Well, that's good, considering you are little boy.  And let's face it, the time is limited when you can pull off the tiny animal print, so you might as well take the opportunity while it's still ok to button your shirt between your legs."

And that's real life, my friends.  Speaking truth to my son since 2010.

12 April 2011

Of Stages

I've heard it said, and I've repeated it here before, that when it comes to kids, every stage is your favorite.  I suppose those veteran parents really do know what they're talking about.  Because just when you think it couldn't get any better than this, they go and grow up just a little bit more. 

Lately I've really begun to appreciate Micaiah's vocal prowess.  Her ability to communicate in full sentences and actually hold a toddler-sized conversation is so much more entertaining, even, than the two-bit words and pieces of thoughts which used to flutter from her lips.  Now begins the "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" stage.

It's not even the big knee-slappers, but just the way a little communicator packs all her thoughts into an expanding vocabulary astounds and amuses us every time.

Tonight, after Philip and I enjoyed a night on the town (for serious, we actually went all the way to the City - I wore my fancy dress and all) while a dear couple from church enjoyed our babies, we packed the kids back into the car and headed home.  We asked Micaiah what she did and, excitedly, she told us all she could remember.  It went something like this.

"I see the dog and it get me and I, 'Aaaah!' and he go 'way.  I slide and I swing and I ride the horsey [which I'm assuming refers to the saddle-shaped swing I noticed as I don't recall seeing any animals other than the aforementioned canine] and 'Hee-Haw!!!' and I 'Wheeee!'"

Such was the night in the eyes of a toddler.  Again, not earth-shattering, but if you could just hear her say it, it's one of the cutest things.

In addition, we recently acquired The Beginning Reader's Bible (which we give two thumbs up, in case you were curious).  My favorite part of reading selections to her every night are the little boxes labeled, "Pray the Word of God" and include verses from Psalms.  Every evening, I ask her to repeat the verses after me.  Hearing that tiny voice form the words of Scripture never fails to melt my heart. 

Are they sure the next stage is even better than this?

11 April 2011

Of Green Beans

If you're looking for something meaningful, you may want to try back tomorrow.  I'm not making any promises for the future, mind you, I'm just saying don't look any deeper into the following tale than is necessary, and, trust me, to dig into this one, you'll be fine with a toothpick.

Philip's grandparents are farmers.  This is actually true on both sides for him (May I interrupt this otherwise meaningless meandering to briefly mention that I always dreamed of having grandparents who lived on a farm.  Many of my favorite books growing up included a farm, and I was always jealous.  So, believe me when I say, inheriting two sets of farming grandparents was a minor highlight to putting that ring on my finger.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming), but, while Nenaw and Papaw raise cattle, Grandpa and Grandma throw in a working of the land to produce fruits and vegetables, as well. 

Literally since our wedding day, we have been showered with the fruits of Grandma's garden.  Corn, plucked, shucked, de-cobbed and frozen for future use; jellies made in the kitchen of the very home in which Grandpa was born (though the food itself doesn't date back that far, don't worry); and green beans, harvested and canned by Grandma's loving hands.  All these have graced our table, but the green beans have darn near been a staple.  Until I ran out of the most recent batch.

Now all that remain in my pantry are empty glass jars waiting to be re-filled.  Meanwhile, I've come to realize that my family must find another means of ingesting vegetables until the time when we see these wonderful loved ones once again (loved, mind you, for being who they are, not merely for the bounty which they so graciously share).  This evening, therefore, after steaming frozen store-brand green beans in the microwave to be blended for Emmett's consumption, I set aside a few for those of us who enjoy solid foods to have alongside our own meal.

I issued Philip (a known hater of all things green, anyway, but a lover of Grandma's beans, naturally) a warning, "These are not Grandma's green beans . . . and they taste horrible."  He sighed.  We both knew that the day we became parents, or, rather, the day our daughter began sharing our food, was the day we needed to grow up and eat what was good for us, whether we liked it or not, for the sake of a good example.

The two of us dug in, silently detesting the squeaky chewiness of the "vegetables" on our plates.  We encouraged Micaiah to do the same.  Unprepared for the horror to come, she popped one bean happily in her mouth and it promptly came shooting back out.  To make a long story short, we made the best of a bad situation all around and even little girl did pretty well for awhile, but by the end of the meal, I spent a solid half hour convincing my daughter to swallow the last five green beans on her plate. 

My son, a lover of all things food, was the next to try these atrocities and he came to agree with the rest of us.  The little man threw a fit and finally refused the last four bites before we, weary chewy-green-bean-haters ourselves, threw in the towel and let him move on with his life. 

Philip's final word on the matter, "I'd like to sue that company for mental distress."

All that to say, we miss your green beans, Grandma (and, well, you and Grandpa are missed, as well).

10 April 2011

Of Personalities

It took my son learning to crawl for us to see his adventurous spirit.  It would appear, now he knows how to get from here to there, the same blocks and wooden trains with which we have encouraged him to interact for the past 9.5 months(ish) don't really seem to cut it anymore. 

The non-crawling leash has been cut and this boy is a mover.

My being non-imposed toward movement due to a virus that continues its refusal to move on, keeping up with this little man, teaching him where he is and, more importantly, is not, encouraged to incline his tiny knees, is getting more and more difficult.

We're working on it, though.  And the friction between a mommy who is having difficulty chasing a crawler and a daddy who is doing his best to keep an entire household running (which, by the way, he is doing excellently), can sometimes boil up a little higher than necessary.

Little girl, meanwhile, seems to have noticed the issue and has done her best, in these rare moments, to tread lightly and act as peacemaker.  During a particularly tense moment, I heard my daughter say, "Mommy, no yell!  Talk to me.  (whispers) Look at me.  (Mommy gazes into her eyes.) Talk to me."

Wise beyond her years, I tell you, wise beyond her years.

And, as you may guess, nothing diffuses a tense moment like a soft-spoken toddler.  We're doing better to mind our words and she is now reminding us not to yell at her, either.  She's going to be trouble, that one.

09 April 2011

Of Praising Through This Mist

It would appear that my body didn't remember what it was like back in February and I, once again, have contracted Strep Throat.  I wish it would have asked me, I would have let my body know it was a bad idea, but since when does this old thing listen to me?

Thereby, my absence yesterday (and, might I add, I believe my husband did a stellar job of filling in, but I could be biased) was followed by an early morning (and by that I mean 9:30 - which is early when your rebellious body wants nothing more than to continue to lay in bed while it beats drums in your head and your throat screams at you with every swallow) visit to the AM+PM clinic to endure a throat swab which confirmed what I already knew and get myself a Z-Pack ASAP.

Life isn't peachy yet.  In fact, it kind of feels like a playback of yesterday, but I press on - kind of.  Meanwhile, Emmett-man was a crankier version of himself today and I feared the worst.  Because I would take this bear of a virus any day before one of my kids had to deal with it, knowing I could do little to alleviate this extreme level of discomfort. 

So far, so good, though.  Diaper rash, it would seem, causes crankiness, too, so we're still praying this is all we have to worry about.  And considering others are dealing with much bigger trials in their lives than a sore throat and an unhappy bottom, I'm giving praises for our blessings.

08 April 2011

Of Being Sick

I should start this post off by saying this: This is not your usual author.  Angela is sick this evening, to the point of not feeling up to coming up with a post.  As such, she's left it to me to come up with something for her blog.  Unfortunately for you, I agreed to do it.  I apologize in advance and I promise to encourage her swift return tomorrow, health allowing.

Today I made an attempt at teaching Micaiah one of the many joys of being small and relatively less... old than I am.  I showed her how to somersault.  Or I tried, at least.  The lesson consisted of me telling her to put her hands and head on the floor, and then I lifted her legs over her head.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, she didn't get it after the hands-on tutorial, so I decided to give her an example.

Here's the part where I realized that there's a reason you don't see people beyond the age of 10 doing somersaults (gymnasts and their ilk notwithstanding).  After a short trip up and over, my feet met her slightly open dresser drawer and a container of wipes.  Not to mention my back and shoulders had an argument with the floor.  There was no permanent damage, aside from my pride, but let's face it.  I was doing a somersault for my two-year-old, that didn't really come into play much.

At least Emmett crawled over to check on me... or pull on my shirt, I didn't stay on the ground long enough to find out.  I hope I'm not stealing Angela's thunder too much here... but the little man is becoming quite mobile.  I'll have to be more careful about when I set the bag of dogfood back in the house.  I had to wrestle away not one, but two pieces from his tiny fingers.  Not only can he get across the house in 45 minutes flat (I'm kidding.  He's much faster.  He just gets distracted), but he can find every crumb or crumb-like item on the floor and manage to chew it up before you can get to him.

So between a somersault that left me feeling old and chasing an almost 10-month old around and scrambling to get non-edible, yet bite-sized tidbits away from him.  I'd say today wasn't all that bad of a day.  There is this one negative part about someone being sick, but she'll be okay.  Hopefully tomorrow she'll be feeling great again so that I won't have to cover for her and you won't have to endure further ramblings from me.

07 April 2011

Of Fighting to the Pain

My brother, in a recent blog post, challenged believers to not only be willing to die for Christ, but, even more so, to be willing to live for him.  This is such a painful reminder because, for many reasons, it seems so much easier to do the former.

When we die for Christ, our firm stand for Who He is and for the Word of His love is our final act.  A resounding glory and testament to the source of our faith.  We do not find ourselves remaining on this earth to "live with the consequences" of our unwavering solidarity in Christ.  A martyr, instead, travels directly from his final battle in Christ's name to the arms of his very Savior.  There are no stops between.  A death for a cause and eternal life at the throne of our Creator.  How beautiful.

But when what follows after our stand is not an earthly death, but life, a life wherein we have lost our pride and all we have built for ourselves has come crashing around us, this seems, often, a fate worse than death.

Much as it is stated in the famed The Princess Bride, a fight "to the pain" is not even comparable to death.  As Christians, a battle to the pain for our Savior leaves us with perfect ears to hear the mocking, the insults, the unanswerable questions of faith which leave us broken, crying out to God, the only source of healing. 

A life lived in unwavering commitment to our Christ is one we hardly recognize, for it is difficult to find in our neutral society.  One where it's ok to wear the name, as long as you don't play the game too hard. 

This is why being a martyr seems so easy at times.  I know how to die for Christ - say the word in the right place and it's all over.  But how do I live for Christ; truly, whole-heartedly, live?  That is a question which is, decidedly, more difficult to answer.

06 April 2011

Of Growing Old

"I think this place is too hip for us."

That's what my husband said when we left Pink Swirl this evening.  True, the glittery tables, hot pink walls and posh white (faux) leather furnishings were definitely not how we'll be decorating our living room anytime soon, but sometimes, just sometimes, I like to imagine I'm still young and cool (well, okay, let's not pretend I was ever cool) enough to hang out where the "hip" kids are. 

Then I realize we're the only ones silently cursing the lack of high chairs and realize maybe he's right.

It's also been an interesting feeling lately when I find myself watching my annoyingly cute Disney shows (my "guilty pleasure") and relating more to the parents than the kids.  'Tis a sad day, indeed.

When did I get so old?  I'm willing to bet it was the day I gave birth to my first child.  Or I suppose I could date it further, to the morning that second pink line showed up on the little white stick.  

Either way, I'm here.  I suppose I might as well embrace it.  Next stop: mini-vans and mommy-jeans.  (And my teenage self finds it sad that the above actually sounds really nice).

05 April 2011

Of Hair

I just knew, from the moment I learned I was growing a boy in my womb, that he would have a head of hair, just to spite me and the fact that I had to wait a whole two years before I could stick a barrette on the head of my darling girl - and even that only stays for (maybe) ten minutes before sliding right out.

Sure enough, out came my Emmett with adorable stick-straight hair poking out all over.  From the first time I saw him, that precious hair (besides the obvious anatomy structures) has been what distinguished him as a boy.  It just has that little-boy look to it.  And I love it.

I love the way it feels, soft and fuzzy, after a bath; how it glitters with hidden flecks of gold when the light hits it just right; the way it sways loosely when we dangle him upside down and he giggles away; I even love the little baby comb-over we do in the back to hide his bald spot.

I will definitely shed a tiny tear when I have to take scissors to that boy's adorable locks.  But for now I simply let it run wild and loose, just like my little crawler himself.

04 April 2011

Of Busy

I had one of those mommy moments today.  One of those moments when I see myself in my daughter and it makes me want to weep from sorrow at the innocence in her words which reflect my failure as a parent.

While riding in the car, she tossed her Glo-Worm to the floor and declared, "I don't want my baby."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.  You don't want your baby?"

"No, I'm busy."

There was a distinct stabbing in my gut.

When we arrived at home, her all in fits because we didn't get to visit the park as she had hoped, I encouraged her to retrieve her baby, to carry it into the house and she screamed, repeatedly, "I don't want it!  I'm busy!  I'm busy!  I don't want it!"

Is this what she hears?  When I listen to myself say, once again, "Not right now, baby, Mommy's busy" or "Mommy can't, sweetie, I'm busy,"  is this what she hears?  "I don't want my baby."

I would cry myself to sleep tonight nursing this wound if I wasn't able to remind myself that by the grace of God, I can be renewed.  I can step out of this shell of busy and embrace my life, a simpler, more joy-filled, purposeful life.  Away from "busy."

May I be more cautious with the words I leave lying around in which my daughter can soak.  I mourn for my failures which she may find herself repeating.

Redeem this mess, O, Lord, and begin a new cycle in me - one of appreciating those I love and savoring the un-busy.

03 April 2011

Of Tidbits

Today's happenings . . .
  • After three weekends worth of travels, we finally made it to church again.  Like a breath of fresh air.
  • We are officially the parents of a crawler.  Our little guy has finally learned to coordinate his hands and his knees and is raring to jet-set around this house.  Vacuuming daily?  Check. 
  • Everyone napped at the same time.  Most everyone woke up well-rested.  The youngest member of the family, who may have been rudely awakened by a screaming sister (see below) was not quite as content as the rest of us to find himself no longer asleep.
  • Philip (whom I referred to as "The Baby Whisperer" when I our children were newborns and would instantly fall to sleep on his chest after wriggling unhappily next to me) has proven his merit as The Toddler Whisperer as well.  While our daughter, who slathered herself with sunscreen after awaking from her nap a tad early, was plopped into the bathtub screaming, per her most recent routine, Philip looked her in the eye, encouraged her to take a deep breath and had her playing with a ball in the tub within minutes.  By the end of the bath she was happily giggling about the ducky which squeaked when squeezed.  Reason #9853 why I am glad I married this man.
  • My husband made chocolate chip pancakes for dinner.  #9854.
  • We taught Micaiah to play Old Maid.  While there are handicaps allotted for her age, of course, she actually did remarkably well.
  • I had the pleasure of hearing Micaiah yell, "Fi, Fi, Fo, Fum!" while playing "Giant" with her Daddy while I put Emmett in his P.J.'s.  That girl always knows how to make a momma smile - whether she means to or not.
  • There was a good amount of tickling, wrestling and happy screams for a solid ten-fifteen minutes before bed-time.  File under "Moments Treasured."
A day well-spent.

02 April 2011

Of Spring

The dawn of April invited along the true birth of spring.  Gone already are the lion days of March, clinging with the final, bony fingers of winter to the bitter chill of the clouded air.  For two blissful days now, I have enjoyed the spreading of a thin blanket over grass, newly green, only recently recovering from the harsh farewells of the previous season.  My chubby-thighed son sitting his plump, diapered bottom atop the blanket and grasping greedily for the final thin blades of a dying yellow. 

Micaiah, too, is eager for this new season of warmth and brilliant rays of sunlight.  Days lie ahead of running in the yard, chasing iridescent, quickly dissipating bubbles as they dance along the airy afternoon.  She spreads her wings, imagination soaring as she tweets her beautiful bird-song.  Quickly changing her mind, her legs begin a gallop; her mouth opens in a hearty, "Yee-haw!"

And I, I lay on my back, soaking in the heat of the dying sun as twilight gleams.  My son, still resting on the bright green blanket, pounds on my chest - reminiscent of an unnecessary performance of CPR. 
Yes, son, I feel it - in this moment, I am truly alive.

01 April 2011

Of Being an April Fool

When I was younger, my parents got a thrill out of duping their intellectually inferior little ones every April 1st.  Whether it was making my sister cry out of fear my dad would lose his job, terrifying us into thinking we would have to walk all the way to Pizza Hut when our car had "run out of gas" or making my sister cry by telling her she couldn't go to Girl Scout camp (or some such event), they got a kick out of their brilliance.

It wasn't until they made my sister cry and my brother angry by shoving cream pies in our faces that they finally gave up the ghost and swore off all future semblances of pranks against their children.  Apparently we weren't very good at taking a joke.

Even though they declared the end of an era, I continued to keep my guard up every year following, just in case.  I couldn't believe my prankster of a father would so quickly give up his old ways.  True to his word, though, he has not attempted another cry of "April Fool's" since that fateful pie-in-the-face day during my fifth-grade year.

In college I tried to hold on to his jokester ways and pass along the fun.  It wasn't until someone gave me a little taste of revenge did I realize I still, apparently, can't take a joke (Thanks, Tiffany, for opening my eyes).

While I, for the most part, have learned to be comfortable in my own skin, confident in who I am, it would appear one of the shreds of insecurities which remain would be my extreme discomfort at finding myself the butt of anyone's joke.  You can ask my husband, being laughed at is one of my biggest pet peeves.

It would appear I have passed this insecurity on to my daughter, as well.  For some reason, every time she uses the potty, she always gives me the most stern and annoyed of faces, declaring angrily, "It's no funny!"  And before you can ask, I do not routinely laugh at my daughter in the bathroom.  I have no idea why she feels the need to yell this every day.  It's just another of her quirks.

So, there you have it.  Next time you visit, don't laugh at the girls of the house and you'll be just fine.