29 November 2012

Of Pausing to Remember

While meandering through my day, I stumbled upon this little video posted to Facebook:

Watching sent shivers through my skin and, eventually, brought tears streaming down my face.  And I felt absolutely ridiculous - crying at a crowd of people singing in the mall?  Really?

I could not peg down what was so emotional for me in this display.

"Because this is how it should be."

I felt the words in my soul and knew them to be true. It was for this we were created.  To bring glory to God in all places, among all people.  Not to restrain our chorus to the church pew or the kitchen counter (where I am most found singing in our home, if at all), but to declare Him to the world in every situation in every way.

This is how it should be.

His people.  And those who don't even recognize Him as Lord.  Stopping to acknowledge His name.  Pausing our busy lives to worship, right where we are.

Oh that I would be so bold.

27 November 2012

Of Becoming a (Little) Man

A sight to see around our house lately is our little two-year-old coming into his own.  Where once he parroted his sister and then began mimicking her words with his own twist, he has now branched out completely.  He has his own thoughts, ideas and desires.  And he is not so bad at expressing them.

The concept of a talks-a-lot big sister not letting her little brother speak for himself?  Not for this guy.  He'll shout to be heard.  Literally.

In addition, this little guy is all boy.  While, yes, he still asks to wear his sissy's headbands or colors with the pink crayon, we also find ourselves saying (much more than we ever have to with our little girl), "No hitting!"  Because hitting, pushing and kicking are just his ways of playing, conveying frustration and being an annoying little brother.

Don't get me wrong, he is also very loving - willing to share his chocolate with me when I ask or putting his arm around his sister at dinner or giving his little brother just-because kisses or snuggling with Daddy during TV time.  He definitely has a sweet streak - it just sometimes gets out-shone by his ornery side.

It's such a pleasure to watch him grow and realize he truly is becoming a little man.  Oh that we would raise him right.

1,000 Gifts:
1052. Duck, Duck, Goose with six adults (four of which are 50 or older), a pre-schooler, a toddler and an infant
1053. Extended weekends
1054. A kitchen built for entertaining
1055. Beautiful Thanksgiving weather
1056. The smell of fall in the air
1057. Family traditions

Thanksgiving Weekend:
Playing outside with Grandpa - Joey's first time in the tree house.  I love how it looks like the brothers are conspiring.

This is how we found them when Mom and I returned from our laidback version of Black Friday shopping.

Bowling for the first time.  They loved pushing the ball down the slide.

They even both beat Daddy the first game (then again, he didn't have the aid of bumpers).

Love tiny bowling shoes.

Tickles from Grandpa.

So proud of him for branching out and trying something new at Pops. The fact that it was mock Russian makes it that much better.

Getting Duck, Duck, Goose instructions.

Love her giggles.

Iconic Pops photos

Loved our family time.

Sights of the Season:
We open one Christmas-related book or movie every day of December leading up to Christmas.  Love seeing these under my tree!

Joey's "First Christmas" ornament - perfect!

20 November 2012

Of the Splash Zone

Two boys, sitting in waist-deep water, facing each other in the tub for the first time.

The big one raises his hand, high over his head, and brings it down with sheer force, sending water over the two of them, as well as the Mommy seated on the stool nearby.  Worried about the little one's reaction to sprays of water in his tiny face, I begin to scold the elder, while watching the face of the younger, prepared to console.

I hear a high-pitched squeal and begin my words of encouragement, but before they escape my lips, the squeal is accompanied by a giggle and two little white teeth shining out of a grin.

He loves it!

Tentatively, an itty bitty hand lowers to the surface.  Can he re-create this?

Before he tries, big brother brings down his hand again.  A bigger splash.  A bigger laugh - out of both of them.

The littlest bring his own arm down a little stronger and is rewarded with the smallest of sprays.

And so they go, back and forth.  Splashing.  Giggling.  Filling the floor with water and the air with laughter.


Doing what brothers do.

And a Mommy enjoying every moment from the splash zone.

1,000 Gifts:
1044. Witnessing a little boy's problem-solving skills
1045. Quiet time at the library
1046. A husband who will drive across town to turn the key in the ignition
1047. Leftover queso
1048. The way water splashes, covering a face
1049. A hard-working husband
1050. The adventurous spirit of our youngest
1051. Ice Cream for dinner after the kids go to bed

19 November 2012

Of Getting Out the Tree

This evening as we jumped the gun on our Christmas decorating, it seemed as though the amount of involvement by various members of the family has truly grown exponentially.  While last year we had an excited, but still not really understanding, three-year-old and a brand-new toddler who wasn't interested in much more than crawling around the greenery, this year brought an exuberant four-year-old with a plan and a penchant for hanging ornaments (our tree actually lacks the clustered effect one might expect by the decorating abilities of two children under the age of five), and a two-year-old who could not wait for it to be his turn with every new piece of memorabilia adorning the branches.  I mean, he was into this thing - much more so than I believe his sister was even last year.

Of course, there was also the little crawler who was relegated to his spot in the corner, just watching the action, but when he was let loose, he was ecstatic by all the glimmer and flair.  With a ten-month-old opening gifts next month, I think this will be, by far, the most fun first Christmas in our family.

In any event, I'll declare this season gets more fun with every passing year.

1,000 Gifts:
1037. Two kids bent in the dirt
1038. The two of them, working together, to rip open a letter from their cousin
1039. Chicken on the bone
1040. Memories hung on a tree
1041. The little guy, standing in his crib
1042. How excited they get to see their little brother
1043. How thrilled he gets to crawl after them

15 November 2012

Of My Future Grandchildren

Scene: I am walking three kids to the car in a fairly deserted and complacent parking lot - but recognizing a teachable moment (as in one that won't get my child run over for making the wrong decision but knowing they need to learn before that happens), I order them to stop running, stay close to me and stay close to the car.  I then kneel down to have a rational conversation with my four-year-old . . .

Me: "I know there are not many cars in this parking lot, but we still need to be very careful because we don't know when a car might come and these cars are a lot bigger than you and could crush you (now realizing I may be getting too graphic for a four-year-old but also not wanting to end with a simple, "and you could get hurt" because paper cuts hurt, cars are a little more serious) and then you could get dead."

Micaiah: (not too fazed) "Yeah, and when I get dead because of the cars, then I will see Jesus."

Me: "Well, yes, and we want to see Jesus, but I don't want you to see Jesus until you're old and wrinkly and have had lots of kids and grandkids."

Micaiah: "And when I am big like you, I will have kids!"

Me: "Yep, and when you're big like Gram, you will have grandkids.  And when you're big like Grandma Veta, you will have GREAT-grandkids and I don't want you to see Jesus before that happens."

This lovely scene led to a great fascination with the idea that someday she will have her own children.  Also, it led to the realization that her children will call her little brother Uncle Emmett - but for lack of anyone else, she will be marrying Joey.  And they will have lots of "different kids".  And they will have a little girl named Kylie, "just like my cousin."

And these are the things we learn through one teachable moment in the parking lot.

1,000 Gifts:
1032. A calm evening out with the family
1033. Gingerbread House ice cream
1034. Thanksgiving preparations
1035. A Christmas suit for my toddler
1036. Rice scattered everywhere - signs of good times for our children

14 November 2012

Of Keeping the New

Last week, as I attempted to dress three children for a photo shoot with their aunt that was supposed to take place at 10am, for which I was hoping to arrive by 9:30 so as to allow more actual photo time, I scrambled to find three pairs of socks, pull on three pairs of pants (ok, four if you include mine - and that was important to me), tug on shirts, locate jackets and secure shoes.

Meanwhile, the children had been bathed and were eating breakfast.  And as I scuttle to and fro that middle son of mine has pushed off his shoes, tugged off his socks and run happily to play.

Frustrated, I demanded, "Emmett!  Stop taking off your shoes!"  Because anyone who has ever put tight shoes on a squirrely toddler will tell you, it's not fun and it's not quick.  We were behind and this shoe thing was not helping.

So, we re-locate two socks and two shoes and put them back on.  I scurry to find that third jacket.  I return to find that same boy in socks.  No shoes.  Trying to work himself out of the jacket on his arms.

"Stop taking off what I have put on!"

In this exasperated moment, I had clarity of thought to recognize these very words as ones I could just as easily have heard from God Himself - in fact, I'd dare say it was the Holy Spirit who pointed this out to me, saying, "Are you hearing yourself?  Why, then, do you continually take off what I have put on?"

And I recalled right there in the Scripture where we are commanded "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24, ESV).

Too often I am that child, the one God is trying to dress in the new manner, holy and righteous as He, preparing me for the tasks ahead.  And there I am, stubborn and obstinate, ripping off the new (or maybe even doing so more subtly, simply slipping off what still feels a little uncomfortable at times, what hasn't been broken in), in favor of the old, the easy - the harsh words, angry tones, bitter spirit.

And all the while He's there, pleading (in a much more patient manner than I tend to display with my own children), "Daughter, stop taking off what I have put on!"

Since that moment of epiphany as I hurried the kids to the car, I've noticed a change.  As I strive to keep on the new, the old is what suddenly feels out-dated, uncomfortable and stiff.  I find myself, after years of trying it back on to see how it fits, finally ready to throw it out - because goodness knows I don't dare desire to see my children wearing this hideous monstrosity.

I think I just might like to keep this one - this one He has put on.

1,000 Gifts:
1026. Three children in my lap for story-time
1027. Following the Spirit's leading in service
1028. Twister with my littles - this old body ain't what she used to be
1029. A refreshing time with girls
1030. Keeping on the new
1031. A sick Sunday morning which meant lunch snuggled in Mommy and Daddy's bed - for everyone!

Photos from Sunday:
Joey's baby dinosaur face.  Makes me smile every time.

Brother kisses are the best.  Especially when they're unprovoked.

13 November 2012

Of Nine Months with Joseph

Our littlest guy celebrated nine months of living yesterday.  He celebrated in typical fashion - by living life as a nine-month-old, which is exciting enough, in itself, when there is still so much world to discover.

At this point one might normally be able to say he has been out of the womb as long as he was in it, but considering our little Joey stayed cozily tucked up inside me for a ten-day extension, we won't be able to say that until Thanksgiving (which is now nine days away, what?!).

Considering all the development which occurred in that first nine months and ten days of existence - proceeding from a tiny fertilized egg into a being with a beating heart, arms, legs, toes, fingers, eyelashes and a soft dusting of hair, 9.5 pounds of squirmy, squishy, sleepy baby - it's hard to imagine any more miracle packed into so short a time.  Yet the nine months following his exit into our world have had their fair share of milestones.

He now has two teeth to boast of and even saw the scissors to his hair for the first time this past week (just for a little over-the-ears trim, nothing major).  On top of using his hands and knees to transport himself wherever he would like to be, his new favorite is pulling up to get a closer look at all that used to be out of reach - like his brother's lollipop or Mommy's laptop.

He loves to giggle, grin, and, recently, wave "bye-bye."  His tongue is his favorite toy, as he sticks it out (and in) in rapid succession, like a giant lizard, flips it over and under and all around works it for all it's worth.  When he's sleepy, lately, he resembles a baby dinosaur, opening his mouth wide, tongue partially out, squawking for all to hear - sometimes a yawn is involved, other times not.  When he's sad or hungry and wants my attention, he cries, "Mmamamamamamamaaaa!"

He is, by far, our most exploratory baby, often getting lost in one room or another before Mommy even realizes he's missing (blame it on being the third child).  He loves finding new things and, of course, trying it all out in his mouth, feeling it out with that favored tongue.

He alternates between being a most amazing sleeper (13 hours or more) most of the time and spurts of waking Mommy at 4:30 in the morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  He is our only so far to not have completely given up that early morning feeding, but I always know when it's growing time.

Considering when we first met face to face he was capable of little more than gazing, sleeping and eating - unable, even, to support his own head - I would say he has accomplished much in his, as yet, short little life.  Looking forward to seeing what else our little Joseph Peter has in store for us.

Just to give a visual to a little of the above:

1,000 Gifts:
1018. Micaiah, picking up her baby brother
1019. Joseph investigating his sister's face while she sits placidly, watching television
1020. Emmett kneeling to kiss his sissy's face, wordlessly and randomly
1021. Watching a favorite show after a long hiatus - still a favorite
1022. Preparing for a new resident
1023. Finding just what we need at just the right time and place
1024. "Look, Mommy! He's standing on his feet!"
1025. Being pronounced "Super Mommy" by my beautiful daughter

09 November 2012

Of Following the Rules

I have rules issues.  As in, I seriously need/like rules.

I think I don't - I like to pretend, because I am fiercely independent, that I don't like to be told what to do.

It is a lie.

I need structure.  I need guidelines.  I need painstakingly clear directions.

Lest you think I exaggerate, you need to know I have had no less than three different teachers, in three different states of our nation, in three different stages of my life who have disliked me on varying levels for my need to clarify.  One praised me the day I asked my first "smart question."  One scolded me in front of the entire class, telling me she'd put more restrictions on her open-ended project if I really wanted her to (though it was perfectly clear this would be a punishment).  One e-mailed me the Webster's definition of the project I was to complete, because I clearly didn't understand enough to not ask.

I'm not kidding.

I have a deep fear of doing something wrong, of earning disapproval, so I map out every detail of what's expected (and somehow meet disapproval anyway).

Only today did I realize this is where things work well for me in the kitchen.

After all, what is cooking but following a step-by-step guide for creating something delicious?  My obsessive need to read, re-read and then check again on each individual stage of the baking process lends itself very well to producing the desired result.

I can cook because I can follow directions.  Because I need to follow directions.

And I like to cook because it's the one thing left in my life with clear-cut instructions - and tangible evidence of my ability to follow them.

It's the one thing left, after the meaningless trophies, the cheap certificates, the cap and gown, that rewards me for following the rules and gives opportunities for open praise.  No one sees the clean bathroom, the folded laundry or the sometimes-behaved children and says, "Well done!"  But they bite into a soft chocolate chip cookie and the appreciation is lavished.

Only one more deep insight unlocked for me today into my own psyche.

I think there's something wrong with me.

1,000 Gifts:
1010. The bright orange of freshly pureed pumpkin
1011. Open windows
1012. Rewarding my children
1013. Re-living fond child-hood memories through my little ones.
1014. Preparing for a weekend of catching up
1015. The bright colors of fall leaves
1016. Pinecone turkeys
1017. A sink-full of bubbles and tiny hands to appreciate them

A product of yesterday morning's photo shoot with my lovely sister-in-law - I feel this photo captures the essence of my crazy life.

07 November 2012

Of Potatoes

"I haven't blogged in a really long time."

"I was thinking that, but I didn't want to say anything."

"I just don't know what to blog about."


"Blog about potatoes?"

"Yeah.  Our kids seem to like them; they made a lot of jokes about them."

[Side note: the kids had been exchanging "jokes" with Daddy for the duration of dinner this evening.]

"Like what?"

"Knock. Knock."

"Who's there?"


"Potato who?"

"Knock. Knock."

[I was now beginning to expect an "Orange you glad I didn't say 'potato'?" ending to this saga of a joke.]

" . . . I'm not doing this. . . . sigh . . . Who's there?"

"Echo potato!"

"Echo potato who?"

"I don't know, that was Emmett's joke."

This is probably a "you had to be there" kind of moment, but the image of my two-year-old spouting out this clever joke he made up amid Daddy's knee-slappers pretty much sent me over the edge of tired hysteria this evening.  Man I love my kids (and their Daddy, too).

1,000 Gifts:
1002. Leaves of varying colors 
1003. Bubbles blown in the sunshine
1004. Tiny hands trying to catch said bubbles
1005. Cries of "Yay!" coming from their room (and for who knows what reason)
1006. Dinner-time comedy
1007. A whole weekend of just me and the kids - and enjoying every minute of it
1008. A Slumber Party 
1009. Bantering with my husband