Daily Reads

5.26.2014

I just can't believe how quickly this year is going by. The next time I write one of these posts, Sam will be one! Our little Sam - he isn't little anymore. He's over 20 pounds, 29 and 1/4 inches, in size four diapers and 12 month clothes. He has four teeth and his chubby thighs have started to thin out (a little bit). His eyes are deep brown and his hair is very blond. He has a dimple in his right cheek and he smiles easily. When he's especially happy, he gives us "the Muppet smile", a huge open-mouthed grin (see eight month photo above).

It's so fun to compare Sam's personality now to his personality as a newborn. In some ways he hasn't changed, like how he is happiest when he is interacting with the people he loves. And the way he still loves music - bobbing his head and sometimes "singing" along. But he surprises me in other ways. I had him pegged as passive and calm, a classic "laid back" second child, but in the last few months he has shown us that is not the case. He's assertive and he does whatever he has to do to be heard/get what he wants/keep up with Michael. He's strong and determined, which makes him a handful these days, but most of the time leaves us smiling proudly. He's no longer happy to go tearing around the kitchen in his walker. He wants to be on the floor crawling and getting into cabinets, so we've fenced in the playroom and kitchen to keep him contained while I cook.

He's talkative - babbling, yelling and trying out new noises all the time. He says "Buh-buh" (Bubba (Michael)),  "Dada", "Mama", "Nigh-nigh" (when he's tired or wants to nurse), "Bah" (ball), "Bababa" (bottle of water), and he will roar like a lion and baa like a sheep. He claps and waves and the other day he told me "bye bye Mama" and waved. He also hums when he's really enjoying his food. Michael used to do that when he ate (and still does sometimes!) and we get such a kick out of seeing Sam do the same thing! He loves food. He eats everything we give him, and now that he has four teeth he's chewing a little bit which is really cute. He still nurses in the morning, and to go to sleep, but he seems to be losing interest in nursing during the day. He's just too busy. All he wants to do is explore. He's crawling, pulling up, and cruising a little bit. He has even let go when he's standing a few times, and then plopped right onto his bottom. We've caught him climbing the stairs too.

He loves: Michael, Daddy, Michael's toys, balls, music, having his cheeks nibbled, playing in the bathtub and the pool, exploring new places, riding in the stroller, chasing and being chased by Michael, strawberry yogurt, riding on his bus, getting tossed around by Daddy, being tickled, having his back and arms scratched, and nursing to sleep.
He does not like: being still for diaper changes, being strapped in to his carseat, having his nose wiped, napping at the same time as Michael, and being held by unfamiliar people.

Happy nine months, Samuel! We love you, so! xoxo
(And just for fun, Michael at nine months. Oh, the heartache.)

4.15.2014

Three

Dear Michael,

You're three today! It doesn't seem possible, but here you are, so grown up. You have changed so much over the last year. Let me see if I can put into words a little bit about you....

A stranger might describe you as shy, but we know better - you are talkative and playful and affectionate most of the time, but when you feel uncomfortable around new people or in uncertain situations you get quiet. You are reserved with your affection and slow to form your opinions - you take your time to decide what you think about people and what you want. Once you have made up your mind you aren't easily swayed. You are thoughtful and careful, and suddenly aware of so many dangers in the world. There are things all around you that are scary to you, but I watch as you deliberately confront all of them - venturing down the big slide, picking up creepy bugs, crossing the high beam in gymnastics class, visiting a new bible class by yourself, poking at a new food until you work up the courage to taste it, quietly talking to new people. I know just how you feel, sweet one. You are so much like me as a child. I know that you don't like being scared of things, and my heart bursts with pride every time you decide to face a fear. You are brave.

If someone asked me to describe you in one word I might choose "creative". Your mind is powerful, little one, and your imagination never rests. You are always telling stories, or asking us to tell stories to you. You build things and play pretend games constantly. You love to get lost in good movies and books and you always play them out in real life and assign roles to all of us too. You love music, and you love to sing along and dance. Your Dad has made you a special mix of all your favorite songs and we all love it - they're all precious to us now, because you love them so much. You don't miss details, and you remember everything. I'm in awe of your mind, and a little intimidated too.

You've started talking about God and talking to God, recently. When we eat lunch on the porch you like to walk out into the sun to talk to God. "Here I am, God", you say. You talk about Jesus, too, and how, in your words, we should be "kind and loving like Jesus". We're growing a garden and you are so delighted that God makes the seeds grow into plants. You love to "check on the plants" several times every day and water them in your boots and cowboy hat. I can't wait until you actually get to pick the fruits and vegetables and eat God's good gifts! When you are scared at night you ask me to pray about it with you, and this always comforts you. There is no line between the visible and the invisible, for you, and your faith is a wonder to behold. I pray that you are always so sure of God's love and protection over you. I pray that you will always marvel at His hand in creation, and that you will never hesitate to walk into the sun, look up and talk to Him. If we get anything right, I pray that we will foster this faith that is in you.

You love to have adventures. In the yard. In the neighborhood. To the store. On the road. Anywhere. You love to be outside all the time. You are in the trees, in the grass, barefoot, covered in dirt and grass, and supremely happy when you are outside. You always play the hero and you always stop along the way to pick me some flowers. You want to be funny and you are always watching to see if you make me smile and laugh. You want a pet. You have asked for a cow, a horse, a dog, a cat, a duck, and a lizard. (You have a fish named Nemo, but he is not as fun as you had hoped he would be.) You love Sam, or "Sammah" as you call him. You two crack each other up. You love to hug and smile and talk. You splash each other in the tub and you even share your toys sometimes. He's so blessed to have you. 

I feel at a loss to try and put you into words but I will say this: sometimes we'll be enjoying a meal together, or listening to some good music, or traveling with you and it will occur to us that you are the kind of person that we like to hang out with. That, Michael, is one of the happiest feelings I've ever felt. I know we will have plenty of differences over the years, but I pray that you will always talk to us the way you do now, enjoy good food and music with us, share adventures with us. Knowing you brings us so much joy, Michael. How could we have known three years ago what a smart, creative, cool person you would be? I can't wait to see what God has in store for your future, sweet boy. We love you completely and forever. xo 

4.14.2014

A bug party for Michael

For his third birthday, Michael wanted to have a bug party. (Specifically, he wanted a bug cake with a bird swooping down to eat a grasshopper and he wanted to have hot dogs. I think we did a good job of giving him all that and more! :) We kept it pretty simple - we invited friends from church and playgroup to come for lunch and cake. For favors I picked up some bug houses from the dollar tree and each child got to fill their bug house with dirt and grass and dig for (fake) bugs in a little bug pit we made. We used face paint to give bug tattoos, played in the yard, ate lunch, had cake and ice cream, and opened presents. It was short and really sweet. Michael loved it and his friends had a good time too.

Special thanks to my Mom and Dad who took care of Sam, helped with the party, took lots of beautiful photos, and freed us up to give our attention to Michael and our guests. Thank you so much Mom and Dad! We love it that we can share these special times with you! xo
The rocket from his Daddy - one of his favorite gifts :)
I couldn't resist putting these two in a basket with the balloons.
Corny, but so cute!

2.21.2014


Little Sam turned six months old earlier this week. And right on time, as if he'd gotten some sort of six-month-old memo, he got really assertive and started trying to crawl. He's grabbing everything, showing some temper, and just generally speaking up about things. It's so fun to see this side of his personality emerge, though sometimes I miss my laid-back little guy. He's changing so much every day. The fact that he is our second hasn't dampened the excitement for Tim and me - we get so excited about every new skill, every sign of growth. It really is a miracle every single time. At night, in the dark of his nursery I hold him close and sometimes I can feel him growing up. It would be a desperate, heart-wrenching thing, except that it's such a blessing to see him thriving and growing into himself. We're so thankful for him. We love him so much, and every day we marvel at this new little person who has joined our family.

He's still calm and patient, smiley and friendly. He loves to laugh, and Michael can almost always get some good belly laughs out of him. He loves Michael and lights up when he has his attention. He's still a good eater - nursing 6 or 7 times a day and eating oatmeal cereal, pears, apple, banana, prunes, avocado, peas, sweet potato, carrots, and spinach. He naps well - in his crib or the car, sometimes while we shop. His night sleep is still pretty erratic, but sometimes he sleeps up to 8 hours at a time. He's in 9 month clothes and size 3 diapers. He babbles and squeals almost all the time. No teeth have popped through yet, but they seem to be close on the bottom. He's happiest when he's playing with Tim and Michael, dancing around to music or rough housing. Other favorites: being tickled, patty cake, singing songs, playing outside, being naked, playing in the bathtub, crinkly books, and his stuffed horsie toy. The only dislikes: having his nose wiped, and the tags on his high chair straps.

We love you so, sweet Samuel. Happy six months! xoxo


2.18.2014

Michael


It's been almost six months now since Samuel was born and Michael's world was changed overnight. I've been focusing on (sort of) keeping up with Sam's growth, but I haven't written about Michael in a long time. A couple of days ago it hit me how much he has grown and developed in these months - especially since Sam's arrival. It's just amazing! He's turned into such a little man. So, here's a long-overdue post on our Michael.

He'll be three in two months. I just can't believe it. I feel like he just turned two! It's been an intense year. He's opinionated and not easily influenced when he has his mind set on something.  But his sweetness, his huge imagination, his energy and his exuberance bring us so much joy and laughter, I almost forget about the hard times. I guess that's the way it is at two - the highs are high and the lows are low. Sometimes I don't know if I want to cover him in kisses or kick him out of the house! I keep reminding myself that the world needs strong-willed people, and one day his temperament will be his greatest strength. For now, we try to err on the side of patience and understanding when he is being difficult, and I think that's been a good approach. He gets better at expressing himself all the time and he is slowly outgrowing the whiny/tantrum stage. Thank goodness.

He's been in a big bed for almost a year now. He doesn't use a booster seat, but prefers to sit or kneel in a big chair at the table. He likes to cut his food with a (butter) knife. He's getting brave about food again - lately he has even started eating spinach and brussels sprouts. He likes to choose his clothes and he can dress himself (but still needs help with buttons and zippers). As soon as we were finished traveling for the holidays we started potty-training and he learned very quickly! He's only had three accidents to date, and he is usually dry after naps and in the morning. (Skittles and Ninja Turtle underwear are powerful motivators for this boy.) He loves to put on his boots and help his Dad work outside. He hangs up his coat and puts his shoes away when we come home, he helps set the table, and he loves to help us cook.

He loves to imagine and pretend. In fact, at any given moment he is usually in the middle of a pretend scenario involving his favorite animals and characters (monsters, gorillas, characters from books and movies, etc.) He sings songs and does the voices of his favorite toys to act out little stories. He prefers running to riding in the stroller, so he runs and picks up treasures on our walks. He loves books and he can identify the letters in simple words and sound them out with a little help. He seems to have given up the afternoon nap and will read and sing and play happily in his room for a couple of hours instead of sleeping. He sings and dances to his favorite songs. He still sleeps like a champ at night, even with his little brother crying next door.


I think that has been the most remarkable development; seeing him become a big brother. Michael loves Samuel so much, and he has loved him from the moment they met. He has been loving and kind and nurturing toward Samuel every single day since he was born. I can't think of a single time when he has acted jealous or unkind toward his brother. When Samuel cries, Michael comforts him. When I ask Michael to play with Sam, he stops what he's doing and shares with his brother, happily. He sings to Sam. He knows how to make him laugh. He hugs and kisses him all the time. He wants to share his food, as soon as Sam is ready. He struggles with kindness and sharing with everyone else, but not with Sam. He has extra reserves of love for his little brother. It makes my heart burst to see this tender side of him. (Sam loves it too - Michael is his favorite person. More on that in another post!)

He's still very cuddly and affectionate with me, and I don't take it for granted. Every day he becomes more of a "big boy" and I know this snuggly stage won't last. He asks me to dance when there's music playing. He tells me I look pretty, and he likes my perfume. If I wear a long dress or skirt he smiles a shy smile and calls me a princess. When I'm sad he hugs me and tries to make it better. If he sees a flower he picks it and gives it to me. He has such a sweet heart and we love him to pieces.

11.18.2013

Samuel


I can hardly believe it, but it's been three months since our Samuel was born. It's bitter and it's sweet, watching the little ones come to life before our eyes. My heart aches for my tiny Sam, just born, with his velvety little head, his fuzzy ears and shoulders, squeaking his little squeaks. But, every day brings new growth and new joy, so of course we all love to watch him change. This time around, my newborn experience has been marked with gratitude and enjoyment. I'm obsessing less and appreciating more than I did with Michael. I have loved these first few months of getting to know Sam and watching him grow. He has been a constant joy to us. We're just so thankful that he is part of our family.

He surprised us and came into the world three weeks early. I had mild contractions all day and didn't think much of them. Then, I had strong contractions all night and started to wonder if I was in labor. By lunchtime the next day we knew he was on the way. We took Michael to a friend's house and checked in to the hospital. In some ways the labor was easy - I had long breaks of up to 10 minutes between contractions - but the contractions were very strong and by the time I delivered him I had been in labor for over 30 hours and had only an hour or two of sleep. The doctor broke my water at 8:00 and at 8:09 Samuel was born, perfect and screaming mad. (I was screaming a little bit too. I had a botched epidural, and by the time I delivered my legs were dead numb and the rest of me was not. Just like a corny movie, I remember yelling at the end, "Get him out! Get him out!" Ha!)

I am certain that no matter how many times I give birth, I will always be overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude when I meet my new babies. They laid him on my chest and he was smaller than Michael was at birth. He had a different cry too. His little head was perfectly round and he had a different nose. I was astonished by all the things that were unique about him, and yet he was so familiar. I felt like he had always been mine. 

He's a good sleeper, praise the Lord! He loves to nap in our arms, or in the sling, or in the car. And at night he will sleep for 10 or 11 hours in his crib and only wake once to eat. He's calm and patient. He's happy and he loves to coo and smile and laugh when he's face to face with us. He loves Michael and watches his every move. He loves music - especially jazz, which makes his daddy so proud. When we put on a record he sits up straighter, breathes faster, and he often coos along. He loves to snuggle. He loves to be naked. And he loves to be outside. There are so many things we love about him - I can't even begin to name them. But I thank God for everything about him. The child I prayed for. My sweet Samuel.

11.04.2013



A few weeks ago I learned that my favorite teacher had passed away. The news made me sad - she had been dealing with cancer on and off for at least twenty years, and left behind many grieving friends and family - but it also got me thinking about what made her so special among all the gifted teachers I've known.

I met her in 1994. I was a quiet, lanky little freshman, new to my school, and not confident of anything except (maybe) my ability to sing. I came to her office during lunch to audition for her choir - her best choir. I must have looked like a ten year old to her (I looked like a ten year old to everybody) but I will never forget the way she spoke to me and looked me in the eye, as if I was another adult. She handed me some sheet music, told me to look it over for a minute, gave me a pitch and had me sing. At the end of the piece she looked over her glasses and complimented me ("Very nice job, my dear!"), thanked me for coming by, and told me that the choir list would be up in a couple of days. No wasted time, no fanfare, no fluff. Just a few moments of kindness and a fair tryout for a timid girl.

I got into her choir, and for the next few years I had the privilege of spending an hour in her class every day. I loved that hour. Because I got to sing and make beautiful music with my friends, yes, but there were so many other reasons. In the world of immature judgements and social games that is high-school, her classroom was a peaceful oasis. She just wouldn't tolerate meanness or child-like behavior. Everyone was part of the team. Everyone's time was valuable. Everyone's feelings mattered. I only remember her losing her temper twice, and on both occasions one member of the choir had disrespected another.

Her classroom was a place of consistency. Other teachers were funnier or more flamboyant, but her appeal lay in the fact that she was always the same. Fair. Honest. Straight-forward. Kind. Every day we came to choir was the same routine - announcements, warm up, chipping away at learning new pieces of music one section at a time. She expected us to pay attention and work hard every single time. When we slacked off she didn't let it slip. And when we did a good job she told us she was proud. And we ate it up. We, fickle, too-cool-for-school teenagers needed her consistency, the structure of her high standards, and the warmth of her quiet approval. We loved her for it.

On top of it all, she made it her business to open our eyes to life beyond our little town in northern Montana. My teacher chose music that took us all over the world - to France, Italy, the deep South, Israel, Africa, and Broadway. We sang Gershwin, the Beatles, and old spirituals. Latin, Hebrew, French, and German. And we traveled. She loved to have fun and she arranged for us to go on a retreat every fall and a tour every spring. We saw musicals, ate in good restaurants, rode ferries and roller coasters, laughed and joked, and all along the way we performed. I think she must have enjoyed spoiling us on these trips. I like to think that she was proud to show us off, and maybe she felt like we were her kids a little bit. She even pranked us once - the whole choir - by secretly teaching our parents one of the songs we were performing, and then having them run up on stage with us during a concert. We were completely shocked! She got us good.

These are only some of my happy memories from her class, and I am only one of hundreds and hundred of students she touched. So, it was no surprise that after her passing there was a huge outpouring of love and appreciation. If you had asked her she would have said she never did anything outstanding or noteworthy. But my dear teacher lived a quiet life of hard work, love, kindness, and fairness. And one day at a time, one person at a time, she wrote a beautiful story.