24 December 2011

Of Child-Like Celebration

We enjoyed a small and simple Christmas Eve service this evening at the church my father-in-law pastors. By way of Christmas Eve services, I would say it was just what we needed. Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. You could tell it was just right when our little 18-month-old on the second row spent the whole service dancing in his seat to the congregation's renditions of well-known Christmas carols. The end of every song was also punctuated with his enthusiastic, "Yay!" I feel it was a very appropriate celebration of the Baby we all came to worship. (Appropriate and adorable.) The ride home was filled with its own festive vibe as Micaiah led everyone in a rousing chorus of Jingle Bells. After a couple of rounds of the only carol she knows, she insisted we carry on with our own songs as she continued on with hers. And so it went - faltering versions of "Deck the Halls", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and, finally, all twelve days of Christmas, all rang through Gram & Grandy's van with a background singer happily belting Jingle Bells. Certainly doesn't get any merrier than that.

Of a Not-So-White Christmas

A couple of weeks ago, when I mentioned the holiday for some reason or other, Micaiah declared, "It's not Christmas; it's not snowing!". This was the point at which I realized an unrealistic precedent has been established in her life. For all the Christmases she is likely to remember (ie, the past two years), she has enjoyed a white Christmas. Having grandparents who live a little further north than Oklahoma has done well to increase the likelihood of this occurance for her. This year, however, the Midwest, in general, has experienced considerably less wintry precipitation than in previous years (thus far), and I fear she will learn the bitter truth - Christmas and snow are not always a packaged deal. It's sad she must learn the truth so early in life, but better to be disillusioned young than to allow oneself to become too cozy in a false assumption, right? It's kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid. Here's hoping this latest revelation comes about with few tears. I'm thinking the presents will help to ease the pain.

21 December 2011

Of Finger Wagging

We have known for quite some time that our daughter has an inordinate amount of sass.  I mean, just look at this picture:

If that's not sass, I don't know what is.

And now she has decided to employ her sassy nature at times of discipline.  A move that, maybe, isn't so wise for her and leaves me asking, "Where does this come from?!"

Yesterday, as we had guests and Little Miss was not so eager for napping (not that she ever is, but particularly not when she has others to entertain), I instructed Micaiah to put away the train she had just pulled out and head to the potty.  Rather than listen to me, she (as she frequently does), yelled, "No!" and dropped the train on the floor.  I gave her the look that says, "You're going to get a spanking when we're alone and unless you want to make it worse, I highly suggest you pick up that train right now" (parents sure can pack a lot of message into one look).

Her response was to put one hand on her hip and wag her finger at me, with a very smug smile on her face, as if to ask, "And what are you going to do about this?"

And then she saw what I was going to do about that.  And it wasn't good.

It wasn't until I wagged my own pointer while scolding her about her inappropriate behavior that I even realized where she learned it - this is when I had to explain, "This finger is only for Momma - you do NOT wave your finger at Momma!"  Since then, she has tried to sneak it out once or twice and the phrase, "Don't you point that finger at me" has been said (by me) more than I would like in this house.

That girl.

She's lucky we love her.

20 December 2011

Of Charlie Brown

After bath-time tonight, we cuddled with kids in footie p.j.'s, inhaling the soft scent of baby shampoo, and enjoyed A Charlie Brown Christmas.  While Micaiah was upset any time Charlie, himself, wasn't on the screen, Emmett's sole purpose in sitting still for (most of) the film was so he could identify Snoopy whenever he made his appearance.  Emmett did so by excitedly yelling, "Puppy!" each time the little white dog showed up.

The downside to this classic is that the beautiful message of the movie is relegated to the very end - which works by way of any typical plot-line, but unfortunately that puts the meaning of Christmas at just past our children's attention span.

Ah well, there's always next year.

19 December 2011

Of Our Cookie Factory

Because we had yet to do so this year, our family spent the evening creating sugar cookies, with the help of Aunt Dia and one of the young ladies I disciple through our youth group.  And those girls, along with our kids, were cookie-making machines.  Here's what was going on in our dining room tonight:

 Dayla and Emmett made one cookie-making team, while Krista and Micaiah formed the other.  Both did exemplary jobs.

Sometimes Emmett's fingers decided they wanted to leave a lasting mark.

 He had fun!  And, don't worry, none of that snot made it into the cookies - at least not that we know of.

 She was awesome at getting the job done.


She and Daddy made a couple of amazing cookies together!

17 December 2011

Of Torturous Toilet Training

We've been dousing our little girl in Kool-Aid lately (ok, not literally - just refilling her cup as quickly as it empties) in an effort to keep that little body needing to potty.  The more she fills herself with liquid, the further cause she has to practice what needs to be a regular skill.

Yesterday was torturous.  There were many outfit changes and floor cleanings and a couch cushion cover thrown into the laundry.  Today was better.  We had one accident and one definite success (I consider her showing initiative in this department to be a success - following our leading is a nice step in the right direction, but someday she'll need to know to go to the potty when Mommy and Daddy aren't there to tell her to do so).

What will tomorrow hold?  We shall see.

God is definitely using this season of our lives to teach us patience.  I have seen a lot of ugliness in myself in my never-ending frustration in this department.  As I broke down in tears yesterday when my daughter simply would not learn, I fell into a shallow pit of despair.  I felt utterly helpless.

She didn't care.  Nothing could make her care.  We could talk to her all day long.  We could spank her until we were all red.  Nothing was making a difference.  The only results were a frustrated and angry family all-around.  And she doesn't deserve that.  None of us do.

She asked me, yesterday, after the above scene of sobbing and letting go, "Mommy, do you like me?"

If that doesn't break a Momma's heart, I don't know what does.

God has used this time to break me and remind me that I am not always the one in control - nor should I be.

And so we wait.  We encourage.  We discipline when necessary.  But we will always love.

16 December 2011

Of Completing the Task

I have very exciting news for everyone:

The church library is hereby complete and ready for its Grand Opening in January!

I'm not sure how many people realize just how exciting this day is for me, but for those of you who may not realize, I began my training to learn how to do any and all of this process over two and a half years ago.  While I have had many a hiatus since that very beginning, work has been done since then - sometimes with the help of magnificent volunteers and sometimes with none.

For the last three to four months, at least, I have gone in (as much as I was available) two to three mornings a week (most often with kids in toe, which always makes a task more interesting, if not hair-pullingly frustrating) to take the to the work of organizing nearly two thousand books, first in one order (the order the computer wanted to print their spine labels, which was not necessarily the most logical for library organization) and then in the final order.

I have gone through the labeling process of each of these two thousand books three times (the first time with bar codes, when initially entered into the computer, the second with spine labels and the third with spine label protectors) and have stamped every single one with the name and address of our church (well, almost every single one - I did have some help).

And now, dear friends, now it is done.  And this library - my blood, sweat and tears (mostly the latter two) will be opening before this tiny little one arrives.


(Please pardon the blurriness of these shots, but my actual camera was at home, so I had to go with the video camera, which has no flash.)

You can't tell, but those labels at the tops of the shelves list which call numbers are on each shelf.  They make me happy.  Plus, just knowing those books are in order makes me want to do a dance of victory.

This little mobile shelf for the children's books is also a source of happiness for me.  Isn't it just too cute.

(Also, please ignore that some of the books look haphazard as they fall over - I don't actually have bookends yet.  But that will NOT stop me from opening, so we're just dealing with it.)

13 December 2011

Of Angels

Micaiah's conversation with Daddy at the dinner table tonight:

"An angel came into my room and told me, 'Caiah, don't be afraid, there are no monsters in your closet.'"

I'm not sure how much of this statement was seasoned with her frequent hearings of the Christmas story, with the angel telling Mary, and later the shepherds, to fear not, but either way, we're intrigued.  

12 December 2011

Of Babies

It was a busy baby-birthin' day in our family.  No, not for me (this one's still got some cookin' time left on it's little biological clock!), but after hearing about their admittance to the hospital last night, I received word this morning that my newest niece, Miss Nella, was born at 8:51am - weighing a whopping 9lb, 5oz and measuring 21 inches in length - Whoa, Nellie!  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Then, after Facebook-stalking Philip's cousin (the original Angela in the family), who went in for induction early this morning, all day, we finally heard of her arrival via C-Section not too long ago (I'm sure the wait was much more difficult on those actually involved, rather than those watching closely via status update).  And, as my mother-in-law stated, today was the day of big babies as little (or not-so) Evalynn beat my niece by a solid 6oz - weighing in at 9lb, 11oz and measuring, also, 21 inches long.

Whew!  Glad today wasn't our day - and praying February brings the day of small-ish babies.

Congratulations to all the families who grew in number today!

11 December 2011

Of Christmas - the "Right" Way

I've struggled for the past couple of years, as the weight of the responsibility, as mother and wife, for such decisions has really begun to press upon me, with how to celebrate Christmas the "right" way.  What traditions will we take on?  What customs will we skip?  How do we really impress upon our children, and ourselves, the true significance of our celebration?

I know it sounds empty in our culture today to say I'm sick of the commercialism of the holiday.  For we hear that everywhere and yet under the trees of all of us who say that are still a plethora of wrapped packages.  Our stockings are still hung by the fireplace with care and our children still ooh and aah over the blinking lights on the tree and on their brand new toys.

But I just don't know what to do these days.

I am not opposed to gifts - only because that's my love language and I do like an excuse to show others I care by giving them that just right wrapped something, not because I feel I have to or because I desire something in return.  But is making the giving (and receiving) the focus of this "Holy Night" really the right thing to do?  Clearly not.

I am also not opposed to not doing gifts - in fact, at times I feel I'd really prefer it.  But that is not my decision to make alone and I refuse to be the Gift Nazi - "No gifts for you!"

So, what do I do.  How do I do it right?

I realized just today that this Christmas season isn't about a "right" or "wrong" way of doing things.  It's not about guilt.  It's about worship.

And learning how to "do Christmas" the right way should be no different than working out how we do our lives.  Because, as Christians, aren't we to be in constant reminder of Who Christ is - allowing Him to reign supreme, especially over the worldliness that ever threatens to take over?  Not just at Christmas, when we ponder His birth, or at Easter, as we appreciate the sacrifice, but in all things, at all times (Colossians 3:17).

This struggle between the worldly and the Divine is not just a December dilemma.  Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

So, here's my answer, for now.  We will worship Christ always.

This Christmas season, as with those past, and those to come, I am learning so much about Christ and His purpose on this Earth.  And this learning, this focus on our Savior, will always be my greatest joy at Christmas.  We will spend time with family, we will give tokens of our love, but never to extravagance or to the extent of breeding greed.  We will sing carols - both "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night."  We will delight with child-like wonder at the joys the season brings, but we will not allow the simple joys to be swallowed by the worldly gimmicks or glimmer.

And, always, we will worship.

10 December 2011

Of Spinning Our Wheels

I know I sound like a broken record, but you can trust me, it's even more annoying for me to still be talking about potty training as a process than it is for you to be reading about it - again.

I look around and see Micaiah's friends who all potty trained in different ways and at different times, but for them, the process is generally regarded as complete.  Sure, they may still have hurdles, such as naptimes or night-times - I honestly don't know their routines.  But I know they can go to church in their underwear and come home with it dry (as a general rule).

I still can't trust Micaiah to do that.

Because we still can't trust her to tell someone when she needs to go.

She goes when we ask her to - and even then, only if she's in a good mood.

Which is why the latest tactic is to try as hard as I possibly can to keep her in a good mood regarding the potty - so she'll at least go when she's asked.

Yes, I know, that's generally considered the rule - make it a positive experience.  And that's what we tried the first six months (or eight months, or who knows how long, really), and then, as not necessarily the most patient parents in the world, we let our ugly sides come out.  We saw her stubbornness - the fact that this overly intelligent three-year-old knows the process and chooses to to ignore it out of spite and sheer independence of will (as in, she won't go in the potty for the simple fact that she knows it's what we want) - and we bit back.

So, now we're back to the patient route.

Because we just plumb don't know what to do.

Unless potty training boot camp is an option.

It's not, right?

08 December 2011

Of Blue's Clues

As a new tradition this year (thank you, Pinterest), we have wrapped all of our Christmas children's books (and a few movies) and the kids get to open one every day until Christmas.  They love taking turns between being the one to open the book or place the small wooden ornament on the felt wreath as a part of the advent calendar my mother-in-law made for Philip years ago.

Tonight was Emmett's turn to unwrap the story (this has also been wonderful practice to be sure he's ready for the big day at the end of the month - he totally has this process down!).  However, he seemed less interested in his tale of the Nativity than in the Blue's Clues storybook he hijacked from my box of books waiting to be prepped for the shelves of the church library.

Rather than eagerly seeking a green-wrapped present under the tree, he sat next to his pilfered tale, pointing to the blue dog on its pages, declaring, "Boo-Boo!" (that's as close as he gets to pronouncing the title of his apparent favorite show - thank you, Netflix).  Then, he would bob back and forth singing proudly, "Boo be boo be Boo-Boo!" to the correct tune of the show's theme song.  He may have some work to do on his lyrical presentation, but this boy can definitely sing a distinct melody (he also has "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" down quite nicely - so much so that his sister starts to sing along when he starts babbling the tune).

Our children definitely earn their musical talent from their father (rather than their musically-declined mother).

06 December 2011

Of Rosemary

I love how effective our olfactory nerves are at conjuring forgotten memories.  As I stirred my ground turkey with mixed vegetables for the base of my Shepherd's Pie this evening, I was unexpectedly transported to the dining room of the dorm in which I stayed for the first half of my semester in Russia junior year.

I was standing in the hall outside the entrance, waiting my turn in line as the aroma of dinner wafted out the door.

I was seated at a small table for four, surrounded by walls painted a bright yellow with orange trim in a sad attempt to brighten the room in a way the dim bulbs overhead could not.

I'm going to have to guess Rosemary was a key ingredient to much of the cooking in those Russian meals that semester - as this was one of few recipes I've found which uses the herb, and I strongly doubt it was the pepper or steak seasoning that brought about such a journey down memory lane.

At least I now know which spice jar to turn to when I'm feeling homesick for Mother Russia.

05 December 2011

Of Pregnancy (and its Quirks)

- When I'm pregnant, I pull out my giant body pillow, the kind that's shaped like a candy cane and just seems to hug me, to keep me from rolling to my back when sleeping.  The thing takes up so much room in bed, he has become his own character in our pregnancy journeys - his name is Fred.  When I get out of bed umpteen times a night (you pregnant/previously pregnant ladies hear me), I always snuggle up to Fred facing the opposite direction I was when I got out.  Every time.  It does not matter if I just re-positioned two minutes ago, I always face the opposite way when I snuggle back up to Fred.  I have no idea why.  But I've tried not to and I just can't.

- One of the great things about being pregnant: not having to worry about "sucking in" for the last 4-5 months.  For just a short time, I have an excuse to have a pooch - and besides, it's not like it's going anywhere no matter how hard I try to tighten up those ab muscles.

- I love it when my baby gets the hiccups.  I started giggling in church yesterday, which was somewhat inappropriate when the pastor was preaching on the severity of the Garden of Gethsemane in the course of Jesus' life.  And there I am on the front row with a perma-smile on my face because of my baby's rhythmic hics.

- When I have a baby in my body, I have Braxton-Hicks ("false" contractions) a LOT.  Last night I was getting them so frequently, I started timing them (even though I knew, at 31 weeks, this baby wasn't going anywhere).  Is it any wonder I've gone into the hospital with "false labor" for BOTH of my previous children?

- Another great thing about pregnancy: you never a button or belt to undo on your pants, because they all just stretch on and off (which is nice when you're visiting the bathroom about 30 times a day)!

There are so many fun/crazy/quirky things about pregnancy (at least as far as mine have gone), but I'll just leave it that for now.

04 December 2011

Of Her Big Performance

Tonight was a rite of passage for any Southern Baptist child (not to alienate any other denomination, this is simply the one with which I have had most direct contact, so I know it to be true here, whether or not it might be elsewhere):  it was her first time to file onto the steps of the sanctuary stage to sing her little heart out for the congregation (although, being that this was during the evening service time, the "congregation" was mostly limited to friends and family of the other pre-schoolers and kindergarteners performing alongside/after her).

As we arrived (a little late) to her classroom for practice, another little boy was having a difficult time leaving his mother.  To encourage him, the teacher told him, "We need our best singer!"  At this Micaiah announced, "Teacher, I'm here!"  At least I had assurance she wouldn't be facing any confidence issues on that stage.

She had only two songs to present: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and "Jingle Bells".  Truth be told, she seemed to have a better handle on the latter, but her practicing this on Sunday nights in children's choir definitely helps me understand why she seemed to have such a grasp for the lyrics as we read through a book based on the song earlier in the week.

I was so proud of our little girl, standing in front of everyone, not exactly singing, but at least paying attention and not causing a commotion - which is about all you can ask of a three-year-old in the church choir.

Now it will only be a matter of time before she's dressed like a donkey wreaking havoc on the peaceful manger scene while the Christmas story is read in the background (as was the scene directly following the performance of she and her peers).  Oh, how it flies.

Our Little Performer  (Please pardon the quality.)

03 December 2011

Of Snuggles and Tickles

Best moment of today:

Watching Emmett and Micaiah snuggle with Daddy as we enjoyed Disney's A Christmas Carol.  The moment lasted about that long - a moment.  Turns out neither of the little ones has the patience for a full movie quite yet. But it was sweet while it lasted.  The tickle-fest that ensued between the smallest two was also quite adorable (at least from the outside looking in - I'm not quite sure how it felt being the play-mat stuck in the middle, but Philip seemed okay, really).

01 December 2011

Of Reaching the Goal

And the moment we've all been waiting for . . . . (insert drum roll here) . . . .

We are the parents of a full-blown toddler!  Woohoo!!!

Okay, so maybe it's not quite as big as other moments people may be waiting for, but it's a pretty big "tada" moment for us.

Though I still have to carry him from the car to the door when we go out (are you kidding me?  It is not warm enough to wait for toddler-sized steps out there), the fact that I can set him on his own two feet when we get inside wherever it is we're going and he will stay on his own two feet?  Priceless.

Within just the past week he has given up on crawling almost entirely.  In fact, after crawling up the stairs at church just yesterday, he made it a few more paces on the top landing on just his hands and knees before he seemed to come to himself and realize, "Hey, I'm on level-ground again, what am I doing down here?"  And up he went, to biped mode.  

He can walk just about anywhere he wants to go, with no tipping over, and doesn't even require a hand to hold.  

It's true that the big hurdles these days are cracks in the sidewalk or the gap in the elevator door (might as well be a canyon for his refusal to step over it), but he's working on overcoming his fears.  The important thing is, our boy walks.

I love it.