Daily Reads


The boys (and an Evie!)

Life has changed a bit since my last post about the boys. Michael turned four, Sam made some invisible leap from toddler to little boy, and we welcomed our pup Evie into the family. Things got really chaotic really fast, but we are so happy to have this little critter! Samuel is unfazed - he is neither afraid of Evie, nor excited about her. He likes her, but he pretty much acts like she has always been here. Michael, on the other hand loves Evie and wants to play with her and hold her and run with her all the time. And the feeling is mutual. Evie is thrilled to chase, lick, be held by, bark at, roll over for, and follow the boys all the time. She is so good-natured and so playful, I sometimes can't believe how well she has fit in with our family. I feel like God hand-picked this girl just for us. There have been messes and chewed up toys (and a disgusting mouse murder just a few feet away from Samuel), but mostly she is pure sweetness in a furry little Muppet-dog body. We call her Evie Girl, and we couldn't love her more.

Michael - 4 years and 1 month

Latest skills: drawing his favorite characters, writing simple words without help, zipping up his jacket, helping me wrangle Evie and sometimes Sam, buckling his own car seat

Loves: playing chase with Evie, wrestling with Dad, playing with friends, playing outside, playing Baymax, pretending, building forts, reading, writing books (with help), having undivided attention, learning about science, movies

Best way to make him laugh: get Evie to chase him, watching Evie run around really fast, trip over something and fall

Doesn't love: 4 year old shots, being bugged by Sam, unwanted attention

Habits we're trying to break: being bossy when playing with other kids, venting frustration by yelling, taking forever to eat 

Words: "You look beautiful, Mom!" 
"My body is made up of cells. That's where my energy comes from."
Tim told him a riddle (What falls down and never gets back up?), Michael answered correctly (rain), then thought about it for a minute, and said it wasn't right because rain does go back up when it evaportates.

His spirit: passionate, a dreamer, has strong opinions about almost everything, very sure of himself, persistent, adventurous, thoughtful

Aspirations: currently doing chores and saving up to buy a Baymax action figure, begs often to return to the Shedd aquarium in Chicago so he can play in the life-sized submarine again, wants to dig up dinosaur bones in Montana this summer

Samuel - 1 year and 9 months

Latest skills: singing ABCs, counting to 13, jumping off of furniture and his truck, feeding Evie, dragging the little red chair around the kitchen to access whatever he pleases on the counters

Loves: doing things himself, being tickled, sitting in our laps to read, playing with Mikey, cantaloupe (cannamope), most foods, playing in the yard, Gigi and Papa, hugs, toys with wheels, going to Bible class

Best way to make him laugh: tickle him

Doesn't love: the vacuum cleaner, the lawn mower, sitting still in church, sitting still for movies or TV shows

Habits we're trying to break: still throwing food and drinks on the floor, disobeying Mom and Dad

Words: "I do it!" (wants to do everything himself)
"My turn!"
"Ready? One, two, fee, four, five, six!" (preparing to jump off of something)
"Look, Mom, look!" 
"Thank God Daddy and Mikey and Daddy." (saying what he's thankful for before prayers)

His spirit: thankful and appreciative (almost always says thank you, often thanks us for doing things for Michael too), concerned about others (always says "bless you" when someone sneezes, asks if we're okay when we cough, etc.), friendly, strong-willed

Aspirations: to do everything Mikey does, to do everything himself


Michael turned four

Somehow, my baby turned four (almost a month ago!!). I didn't get weepy or long for the baby days or any of that. 
I was able to just enjoy this awesome stage that is four-year-old Mikey. Everything is exciting. Everything is an adventure. It's pretty great.
 Balloons are a good way to start the day :)
Enjoying his breakfast and decorating his own cupcakes. (He requested that I let him do the cupcakes.)

In true form he dreamed up an elaborate Wall-E themed pizza party with his friends, so the weekend before his birthday we did our best to make it happen. We played some robot games, ate outside in the sun, enjoyed cake and ice cream, and opened presents (Michael was just barely able to wait for that part. Barely.). It turned out cute and really fun, and Mikey loved it.
 Happy birthday, Michael! It's a joy and blessing to watch you grow. We love you!!!

(Michael at three (party), two (birthday week), onejust born, and birth story. Ok, now I'm a little weepy.)


Evie joins the pack

This is Evie. She has puppy breath and furry little paws that make the boys (and me) turn to mush. She hops around in the grass and does that adorable thing where she bats at the air with her paws. 

Of course, yesterday she pooped in the playroom and killed a small disgusting rodent of some kind in the yard, but these sweet pictures were taken on day two in our home when she was still all sweetness and submission. One week later and she is 100% rascal. It's okay. We love her anyway.

mud, ball caps, and flowers

Our spring looked like this.


On motherhood

Before and after this, there are accomplishments. Awards. Degrees. Tests passed. Jobs offered. Promotions given. Papers published. Goals reached. Mine for the taking, and keeping.

But in this strange, sweet stretch of my life there is no credit for my work. There is no public praise. My efforts are sometimes rewarded with hugs from tiny arms. "I love you"s spoken in sweet baby breath. The laughter of little boys. But these treasures are gone like a mist the instant they appear. Poof. No proof. I cannot hold on. Hard as I try, I cannot pile them up and keep them.

Every day I write an epic story in disappearing ink. Holding. Feeding. Cleaning, diapering and dressing. Encouraging. Drying tears. Instructing. Teaching. Prodding. Planning. Thinking ahead. Anticipating their needs. Teaching them to anticipate their needs. Reading. Pretending. Imagining. Comforting. And feeding and washing and dressing again. When I do my job well, all that's left at the end of the day is two little boys clean, fed, and tucked safely into bed. The work, and their growth, is unseen by everyone but the Lord. It all falls away. The only thing that remains is them and their precious hearts. And the next day we begin again.

To the casual (ignorant) observer I am losing years, and one day will have nothing to show for this time I spent at home "just raising kids". There will be a yawning gap in my resume and a noticeable lag in my professional skills. Sometimes I worry that playing in the yard or cuddling on the couch, or reading the same book for the fiftieth time is not the best use of my time. And by my old selfish standards it isn't. But it's the best use of their time and reminding myself of that soothes my pride and calms my worries. For the first time in my life I work purely for the good of someone besides myself. Only the Lord is here to witness my work. But He will hold on to them. He will keep them. This is no accomplishment. This is the care of souls.


the boys

I can't believe it's been three months since my last post about the boys! In some ways they have changed so much in that time, but a lot of that change is sort of intangible. Let's see if I can put some of that into words....

They've become more like peers in the last few months. Each one wants the other as soon as he wakes up. Sometimes they play so well together and can't stop laughing with each other (usually over something naughty like Sam picking his nose or somebody acting up during a prayer). Of course, they've also started bickering quite a bit too, and sometimes I have to separate them or command them to ignore each other - didn't expect to arrive at this stage so quickly.

Michael continues to grow up before our eyes. He becomes more confident all the time, easily navigating social situations that would have sent him running for our arms just six months ago. He used to shy away from attempting new things in school for fear that he wouldn't get it right on the first try. He still struggles with this from time to time, but a little encouragement and the successes he's had over the last several months have done wonders for him. He loves to write, read (sounds out many words on his own), loves to count and do his preschool math workbook, and he's really proud of his hard work when he's finished. It makes us so happy to see that seed taking root in him. He has a couple of good buddies at church, and it's so precious to see them hugging and talking and playing. He also notices the girls and occasionally talks about which one he will marry (he thinks giving a girl flowers is how you marry her - oh, my heart.) Lately he's wrestling with some very heavy stuff like growing up, death, and heaven. We try our best to give him gentle, direct answers, but it's heartbreaking to see his innocence slipping away. On the other hand, the other night he smiled and said "after my life I'm going to fly up to heaven with God" and it was all I could do to choke out an "amen". This is a whole new level of joy, seeing him develop faith.

Sammy has changed so much in the last few months, too. Right after Christmas he decided to stop nursing. He was already falling asleep on his own, and he has continued to be a good sleeper (except for a few very rough patches with teething and sickness.) He's at that cute stage where he'll rattle off an entire story complete with facial expressions and hand gestures, but we'll only catch some of the words. He's a good communicator, though, and he's assertive about making sure he is heard. He answers most questions with a firm "no" and it's safe to say that he has entered the "terrible twos" phase.

Here's a little more about them:

Michael - 3 years and 10 months

Latest skills: snapping, blows his own nose, does simple addition, sounds out words, wants to do most things without help

His spirit: thoughtful, careful, independent, tender-hearted, imaginative, adventurous

Words: "I'm thinking about being a deep sea diver when I grow up."
             "You're my best mom I've ever had."
             "Why did the tissue dance around? Because somebody put a boogie in it!"

Loves: playing with his friends, school, Bible class, reading, making up stories, running, playing tag, books, movies, painting, playing outside, gardening, Ralph the Mouse (the books and his stuffed mouse), talking

Best way to make him laugh: slapstick, funny voices and faces, tickling, running from Sam

Doesn't love: being put on the spot, chaos, lots of noise

Habits we're trying to break: losing his temper, throwing things when he's mad

Aspirations: to go to Paris (he actually talks about this a lot)

Samuel - 1 year and 6 months

Latest skills: running smoothly, going up and down stairs, using a fork and spoon, gargling and spitting after he brushes his teeth

His spirit: happy, content, sweet, likes to share (most of the time), likes to play rough, gets a kick out of annoying Michael sometimes

New words: thinks it's funny to call me "Meemaw" (Mommy inverted), dee-don (donkey), nack (snack), more please, poopie, hold you, boom (to describe any type of injury), tee-go (tickle), prayer, yellow (usually used in the right context), flower, car, truck, Dear God (with hands folded to pray), excuse me, yeah, okay, all gone, sit down, sings some ABCs, crocodile, "cuggle" (cuddle/snuggle and read a book)

Loves: playing with Michael and Daddy (running, wrestling, laughing), dancing to music, hearing Daddy play guitar, his cowboy boots, wearing hats, running around naked after his bath, eating, playing outside, reading books, snuggling, being hugged and kissed

Best way to make him laugh: tickle him, nibble his cheeks

Doesn't love: the vacuum cleaner, visiting new Bible classes, sitting still or being quiet in church

Habits we're trying to break: throwing toys at Michael, hitting Michael, high-pitched shriek that annoys Michael

Aspirations: to climb onto every flat surface in the house


Jet lag

waking up from a nap in Rome

One last post about our trip, because I haven't quite beat this horse to death yet. Ha! But this is kind of important stuff, particularly when traveling with kids. And I need to write it down because ever since I had my kids my memory doesn't function anymore.

So, jet lag. (Or is it jetlag?) I was prepared for jet lag to ruin the first several days of our trip (our precious few days in Rome.) I spoke to our pediatrician about giving the boys melatonin on the flight to ease the transition, and he didn't recommend it, so we had a drug-free flight and jet lag experience. And it wasn't quite as bad as I expected! Here's how it broke down: we left the states around 7pm and it got dark shortly after we took off. We fed the boys dinner, changed diapers/went potty, and had them both dressed in soft comfy clothes they could sleep in so as soon as the cabin lights were turned off they could go to sleep. It took a while for Michael to settle down, but eventually he fell asleep in his chair. Sam had a more difficult time, mostly, I think, because he didn't have his own chair and couldn't get horizontal. As soon as the sky started to brighten, Michael woke up (he got about 3 hours sleep) and Sam was already awake (having slept about 2 hours.) For the record, I got none. Sam demanded constant bouncing/rocking/holding and Tim was not feeling well. So, the boys got some sleep, and we parents had a rough time. Was it a fun flight? No. But my imagination had me prepared for much worse. No one got airsick, no one cried incessantly, there were no loud tantrums, and the boys woke up happy and ready to take Rome, so overall I think it went pretty well!

We arrived in Rome around 10, and we were checked into our rental by 12 (boys still awake, and a little cranky). We walked to a pizzeria in our neighborhood and had lunch. It was delicious but the boys made it hard to enjoy. They were tired and not really hungry, so Tim and I ate fast, then got the boys home and right down for naps. We all napped for a couple of hours, but at 4 we opened up the shutters, let the sun flood in, and forced ourselves to get up. This was key! Especially in those first few days, we tried to be in the sunshine as much as possible to help re-set our clocks, and it really helped. Anyway, we all woke up pretty sluggish that first afternoon, but we had a snack, got out and started walking and had a really great evening.

The first night did not go as well. Both boys were awakened by a loud thunderstorm around 11 (just about the time they would wake up from naps at home) and had a hard time going back to sleep. Sam had an especially hard time, but after a couple hours of nursing, bouncing, and patting he finally went back to sleep. The next night (and for the rest of the trip!) Michael slept like a champ. Sam had trouble sleeping through the night, though, during the entire trip. During those first few days I think he woke up hungry in the middle of the night, and I always nursed him, and Tim spent hours rocking and patting him, but as the trip went on I think he was just scared about being in unfamiliar places and he got dependent on us snuggling him back to sleep. (It was exhausting. Luckily, as soon as we got home he went back to sleeping through the night again.) So, there wasn't much quality sleep for Tim and me, and that was a bummer, but it didn't ruin the trip. We got busy making memories, and that distracted us from our weariness (most of the time). 

The flight home was a little trickier because it was a day flight and the boys were awake and bouncing around the entire time, except for one quick cat nap for Sam. (At one point, I felt sure we had been flying for like six hours, so I checked the flight tracker and we had been flying for less than two hours and Sam was already stirring from his one and only nap. That was a sinking feeling.) But, with a whole lot of snacks and iPad and laps around the airplane, we made it home and had a very smooth transition back to Texas time. Both times we flew, we tried to stick to these rules:

1) start eating and sleeping in the new time zone as soon as you get on the plane

2) if it's day time, get out in the sun as much as possible and be active (as if kids give you any choice about that)

3) nap at naptime, but then get up and do something

4) if you or your offspring wake up in the middle of the night, keep it dark and quiet 

Jet lag resources we used: here, here, and here.