Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Walk In The Park

We are very fortunate to live in an area of town that is within walking distance of several beautiful locations. We happened to take a stroll over to the Brucemore Mansion the other day, and I brought along my trusty camera just in case any opportunities presented themselves.  :)

There are really beautiful flower gardens there that were actually designed by the same person who designed Central Park in NYC!  We were thrilled to discover several Monarchs fluttering around on their way down South.  :)

Look at this girl!  She is growing up before my eyes . . . 

Four going on fourteen.  <3

Exploring the gardens while Peaches hung out with Mama in the stroller. 

I told them to see who could get me first.  I am so. sad. this picture blurred!

This picture makes me giggle.  Pretty much sums them up!  One, prim and proper, and one, not so much.  ;)

When did she get so TALL?

This sweet girl was so happy to be lying outside under the trees.  She LOVES to be outside!

That face melts my heart.

Seriously.  Sometimes I love these kids so much my heart could burst.

These two have really become best friends.

Levi really loves to tell "Lidd-ee-uh" about all kinds of things!

I am so blessed.  <3

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One Of Those Days

Today has been one of those days that makes you want to cry.  Or laugh.  Or both.  Sometimes at the same time.  It's been a long day.  You know the kind.

It was a sneaky day, because it really started out fairly well.  I got a decent amount of sleep last night, well, comparatively anyway . . . and greeted the day with faith-filled optimism.

And then it was breakfast time.  You could almost hear that rubber hitting the road.  ;)  Levi was following me around the kitchen begging "I want MEEEELK-shake!!  I want strawberry MEEEEELK-SHAKE!" (we call Kefir strawberry milkshake at our house.  haha)  I reminded myself that love is patient, and kind - and responded calmly "that's not how you ask, Levi."

Of course, we repeated this process about 15 times before he was seated at the table happily with his breakfast.  Scrambled eggs, "breakfast cookie" (one of those organic Aussie bites from Costco, those things are amazing!), and raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.  I thought this breakfast looked delicious!  Levi, on the other hand, proceeded to complain that "I don't like scrambled eggs!  These are yucky!"

Ugh.  Mealtime battles.  AGAIN.  No matter, I said.  If he doesn't like it, really, doesn't like it, I can commiserate.  I used to loathe scrambled eggs as a kid too.  He ate all the other stuff, and I let him off the hook after three bites of eggs.  Okay, breakfast hurdle cleared!  I get Julia bathed, dressed, and down for her morning nap.  On to packing up for "park day" as the kids call it.

Some sweet Mom friends all meet at a park one day a week throughout the summer, and pack lunches, and hang out while the kids all get to enjoy each other and the park.  I'll be honest; I look forward to this every week, but today, it felt like a lifeline.  With Nate traveling, I have not had another grown-up in my house to talk to for a lot of days.  ;)  Needless to say, I was as anxious as the kids were today to get out the door.  I looked at the clock - 9 am.  We were all supposed to meet around 10.

I got the kids dressed, and judging from the cool, cloudy weather, decided not to put their bathing suits on them quite yet.  The park has a splash pad, but I wasn't sure we would be needing it today.  :)  I started packing lunches, and right in the middle of salami and provolone, Julia woke up.  That girl has impeccable timing.

I went in and decided it had been long enough that she might be getting hungry, so I sat down in the rocking chair in our bedroom to feed her.  This morning Olivia and Levi decided that it was a good time to run around the house screaming with the dog (apparently a.k.a. the "poof monster") who was going to "fire" them.  Their screaming is keeping Julia from eating, because she's trying to see what on earth is going on over there, so I admonish the kids to use inside voices, and if they want to be in the room with me right now, they need to sit.  Olivia will always jump at the chance to sit on my bed and talk, but Levi was off playing by himself.  He came back in the room a few minutes later, and Olivia said "Wevi, what's that black stuff stuck to your leg?"

If you have toddlers in diapers at home, it probably won't take three guesses for you to figure out what she was talking about.  Especially after she got down off my bed to sniff said mystery substance on her brother's leg.  All for Mama to observe from the rocking chair while feeding the fussing baby.  Laugh/cry moment number one!  I laid Julia down to survey the damage.  It wasn't pretty.  Down his leg, and all over my bedroom carpeting, with a lovely trail on the floor in the hall, the rug, he got it EV-REY-WHERE.  So gross.  The clock says 9:45.  Well, we won't be there at 10 today.  Oh well.

I take him upstairs to change him, including a new outfit, and go back into my room to give Julia her pacifier before continuing to clean up the minefield all over the floor.  After everything was sufficiently disinfected, I wash up and get back to lunches.  Julia is still fussing, so I ask Olivia to go in and talk to her while I finish getting things packed up.  I come back in to find Olivia hiding purposely in a corner where Julia can't see her to avoid any implications of sisterly affection.  Awesome.  I am struggling to be patient at this point, and avoid saying something snarky about what a loving thing that was to do.

By the time I get lunches, diaper bags, and park gear out the door, kids buckled into carseats, and back out of my driveway, it is pushing 10:45.  Why is it that trying to get 3 kids out the door is like herding cats with your arm tied behind your back?  Not every day, sure, but today - it felt like I was trying to move out of my house!

We arrive at the park, and I start getting Julia into the baby carrier so that I will be able to carry her, and have enough free hands to carry all the stuff.  I have the older two kids waiting in the grass as I walk around to the back of the van to get one last thing.  Our van has automatic doors, and I had just pushed the button to close the side door.  Not two seconds after I am behind the van, I hear a bloodcurdling scream from Levi.  I drop what I had in my hands, and run over to find his left hand latched into the door.  I quickly get him free, and soothe the sore fingers on his chubby hand with kisses.  Never mind that I've told him a thousand times to keep his hands away from the doors.

It was just a short walk from the van to the picnic table where everyone had gathered, but as soon as I got there, Julia spit up all over the place.  Because I'm wearing her, it goes straight down my shirt, and all over her front too.  I had set the bags down in the grass, and as I bend to fish out a burp rag, I notice a big 'ol Daddy Long Legs sitting on the edge of the diaper bag.  *shudder*  I tried to shoo it off with my sunglasses, and instead it crawled into the diaper bag.  That was just the first of many, as I later discovered.  Oh dear.

Neither Olivia or Levi thought it prudent to wait for bathing suits to play in the splash pad, so at this point I concede that they are getting baths when we get home regardless, and decide to just let them play.  However, changing them into their suits was supposed to be my reminder to put sunscreen on them.  Whoops.

We leave the park to head home for nap time, and I get the kids all bathed and dressed and ready for their naps without incident.  I'm starting to regain some semblance of Mommy confidence!  As lots of Mommies can attest, nap time is the time for sanity to reappear (most days).  ;)  I get them settled in, and remind them that they are not to get out of their beds, or play in their beds, or make loud noises, etc. etc.

Levi does not heed Mama's voice.  Sometimes I think that kid likes getting disciplined.  Finally after the third time and he's still being disruptive, I decide to cut my losses and just make him go to bed early.  Better than him waking the other two who were sleeping.  I scolded him again, and told him that if he must stay awake, he would be doing it on the couch downstairs where he couldn't disturb his sleeping sisters.

Then, for a few blessed moments, I sat quietly, ate my lunch, and collected my thoughts.

The day suddenly took a turn for the better.

I decided that after nap time, we were going for Chinese food.  Because, you know, that would make the day seem . . . happier.  And I was too tired to think about cooking dinner.  haha

So we did!  And the kids loved it.  Olivia kept saying "MMMM!  This is my favorite dinner ever!"  Then they both asked for seconds!  I guess sometimes it really is more fun to eat something when it's not the same old stuff your Mom makes.  ;)

As soon as we got home, before we even went into the house, I rounded everyone up for our evening walk.  It was a beautiful evening.  We saw a deer come bounding out of the woods, and run up ahead of us a little before pausing to eat some of the mulberries that had fallen on the path.  Olivia was thrilled to have also seen a bunny, and she picked me some clover and declared that today was "flower day".  She handed it to me with an "I just love you so much, Mommy."  Win.

We were out at that magic hour when everything was bathed in golden light, and my heart felt lighter too.  I was pondering something I'd heard very recently: even on days like this, it is essential that I remember that God is on his throne.  He is sovereignly in control of the circumstances of my life no matter how difficult or even petty they may seem.  Jesus goes before me to prepare the path for my feet, he walks beside me as I mother my children, and he comes behind me to clean up my junk when I don't get it right.  I am not alone.

I'm sure I will look back on this day in ten years and wish for the time when my day was only filled with cleaning up messy diapers, and spit up, and battling nap times.   Yet, I don't want to miss this.  There are heart issues here that require training too.  I am raising up the next generation and training them up in faith that they will prayerfully belong to Jesus someday.  This is no small thing!  I love my children, and I have always wanted to be a Mommy, but it is hard. work.  Beautiful?  Yes.  Rewarding?  Beyond a shadow of a doubt.  And day in and day out, through the mundane and extraordinary, this is where the battle is being wrought.

As I tucked my slightly sunburned, rosy cheeked little loves in tonight, and breathed in the faint smell of baby soap on their skin, I pleaded with God again to draw their little hearts to himself.  These days when I am overwhelmed, exhausted, and not as Christ-like in my parenting as I would wish - I ask him to redeem my failures, and use them for his glory.

I listened to the kids singing their "night-night song" Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . . 

Yes.  Always, yes.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Spring Happenings

What a beautiful, blessed Spring it has been for our family.  We have been busy!  :)

The biggest bit of news, as most of you know, is that our sweet Julia Elise joined our family on March 9th.  She was born at 11:13 am, and came in at 7 lbs 6 1/2 oz, 21 3/4" long.  She was my smallest baby yet, but the longest of the three!

Meeting their baby sister for the first time.

Being a family of five has been an easier transition than what I anticipated, but it has also presented several challenges I had not.  By God's grace, I am learning!

Going home from the hospital as a family of FIVE!

Although it has taken everyone getting used to exercising a little more patience, the older kids have not shown an ounce of "sibling rivalry" but instead have been absolutely smitten with their new baby sister.  Olivia especially, has been so sweet to watch.  She has become so "grown up", and has been a good helper to me!  She regularly asks to hold Julia, and she has also helped with feedings.  :)

Be still, oh my beating heart!
I have been counseling myself to keep the little things the little things, and focus on REST.  I'm not sure why it has taken me three babies to figure this out, but I know myself as a Mama by now well enough to know, if I run myself into the ground, everyone else in the family will end up paying for it.  Naps are not just a luxury - they are a necessary part of healing after childbirth!  Those early days of living in newborn fog were much easier to navigate with an eternal perspective: in eternity, what will matter more?  That I was diligent with my dishwashing?  Or gentle with little hearts in the midst of my exhaustion?  And yet, through my (many) failings, God is always faithful.

First time in a carrier!  Close to Mommy's heartbeat.
So, we took it extra slow the first month or so, and Julia has woven herself down deep into all our hearts.

Nate has been anticipating for some time now the end of his time at Verizon Business.  With the company consolidating his department, he has been waiting to receive word of his official "end date".  That finally came in a meeting at the end of March, so he will be staying with the company through the end of the year (God willing), and then moving on to something new!

In the meantime, he will be on standby, as it were, for a possible company strike out on the East coast.  Being properly prepared for the work should a strike occur, involves a week of training near Washington DC.  So there is a lot of travel he will be looking forward to!  

He had taken over my paper route (USA Today) for me full time after Julia was born, but the company recently downsized its carriers, so the paper route has completely gone away for good!  We are both excited about the fact that this means more sleep!!  We were in a different season when I accepted the position as a carrier, and our family has gone through lots of changes since then.  What began as a creative way for me to contribute to the family income was starting to feel like a burden.  We are thankful for God's mercy in making the decision to be done for us. 

Daddy's also getting pretty good at being a lap juggler.  ;)

Olivia Grace:
My big girl turned four the day we brought Julia home from the hospital.  She has matured so much in the last few months!  I am so thankful for her.

She still loves all things ballet, and she sleeps with her cherished bunnies, although they are starting to tag along less frequently throughout the day.  :)  She makes cozy beds for them to sleep in while she's playing.

She received a pair of "puddle boots" as she calls them, for her birthday, so we look forward to rainy days!  So far, there has only been one mishap with a face plant in the mud.  :)

She is starting to enjoy her role as "big sister" and takes it quite seriously.  She has taken to tutoring Levi in his letters, and she "reads" stories to him often.  It's neat to see their friendship blossoming!

Why are you taking my picture at breakfast??
She is quirky, and funny, and she loves to act silly.  She's still my sassafras - and she has plenty of sugar AND spice.  

She has an amazingly compassionate spirit for someone so young, and I can't wait to see how God develops that!

Levi Jeffrey:
Oh my.  Levi.  <3  My son is ALL BOY.  He is the definition of mischief.  He has no respect whatsoever for the laws of physics, he loves to make noise with whatever he can find, and he just has to know what is behind every door, cupboard, and other forbidden places.  ;)

The "whoops, I got caught" face.  Yes, that is cocoa powder.  :)
He is testing his independence, along with the boundaries that Mommy and Daddy have placed, which makes for lots of interesting confrontations.  Although, sometimes he tries to corner me with those dimples and long eyelashes.  ;)

Big boy haircut!
He is also one of the most joyful kids I know.  You can't help being around him without smiling.  I think perhaps God has a career path in theater planned out for him, because he loves to be exceptionally dramatic.  Usually when it involves something not going his way.

"I'm a BEEE-ear!" (Even though it's a lion costume! Ha!)
In typical boy fashion, he is currently obsessed with anything that has wheels!  Trucks, trains, cars, oh yes, and airplanes.  They have landing gear that counts for wheels, right?  :)

He is extremely verbal for a little one his age - he can carry on full conversations!  Maybe we have his older sister to thank for that?  

He was telling me "It's my BIRF-DAAAAAY!"
He turned two the end of April, and for his birthday this year, we gave him his most favorite thing.  TRUCKS!  He had a truck cake, truck decorations, and even a truck banner that spelled out "Happy Birthday".  He was one pretty excited two year old.  :)

And his most favorite person in the whole wide world right now, is his Daddy.  :)  Although, I admit, I am a bit envious, it does my heart good to see his whole face light up when he hears his Daddy come home.  He's almost a celebrity!

Ah.  I love that kid.  <3

Our Springtime has been full - and the last few months have felt more like years in some ways.  We are learning and growing as a family, and God is molding and shaping.  Though it sometimes hurts to be held to the fire to be made more pliable, I am thankful that I can rest in knowing I am in the good hands of the Potter, who is fashioning me for his perfect purposes.

Grace and Peace,

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Snow Day!

There is nothing like a good snow day to renew my love of Winter.  Sitting inside with a cup of coffee, my crochet project, and a good sermon were an excellent way to spend this morning.

We have only had a few measurable snowfalls this Winter here in Iowa, but this one was absolutely perfect snowman building snow!  Olivia has been waiting all season for a chance to build "Olaf" the snowman.  :)  She was elated to wake up this morning to a fresh white wonderland.

I absolutely love being able to feel like I live inside a snow globe - especially when I don't have to go anywhere.  The only disappointment today was that the weather meant missing church, and then of course because it's Super Bowl Sunday, we aren't able to enjoy the company of friends this evening either.

Although Nate's work schedule dictates that he has to work the audit schedule on the first of the month - every month, regardless of holidays, weekends, etc - he is blessed to have the ability to work from home.  Today that was an extra gift!

He took a break for a while this morning to go out and shovel, and the kids went out with him for a few minutes.

This was Levi's first time tromping around in the snow himself, and he absolutely LOVED every minute!

Even after his little cheeks were bright red, and his ankles were all wet, he still cried when we brought him inside.

He kept sticking out his tongue as the snow was swirling through the air, and saying "taste it!"

Then he actually put his mitten in his mouth, and was apparently pretending to "bwush teeph!"

My silly boy.  <3

Olivia is a snow baby at heart.  She is her mother's daughter.  ;)

She just kept running around the yard giggling non-stop.  It was adorable.

Then she wanted to help Levi run with her.  They got a few steps in before he toppled over like a big, blue Weeble.

And of course, no snow day would be complete without Sadie the Wonder Dog . . . 

I think of all of us, she loves the snow the most.  :)  She was helping the neighbor clean up the fallen branches in his yard.

Although, this is her favorite thing to do in the snow.

She's like a big, snow-mole.  She tunnels face first, and then comes up snorting like she's laughing.

I love that dog.  She makes me giggle.

Daddy even came over for a minute to gather up some snow for snowball making.

As of right now, we have between 10-11 inches, and it's still snowing!  The wind is blowing pretty hard too, which makes shoveling an uphill battle.  Despite all that, we have been blessed with a wonderful day of family time.

I am so thankful that my children are able to appreciate the beauty in God's creation - as well as his majesty in the storm.  Olivia and I just recently read the story of Jesus calming the wind and waves out of her "Jesus Storybook Bible", and she was talking about how the wind listened to Jesus' voice, because He was the one who made it.  Precious lessons for a precious girl.

May you be safe and warm today, and if you are somewhere tropical and warm, try not to be jealous.  :)