Thursday, September 26, 2013

birthdays in review

We made it through crazy birthday week, celebrating both girls over the weekend. I was worried that they weren't going to get any attention this year with me being so exhausted and pregnant and all that goes with it. I was wrong.

Instead of spending these next few days (or dreadful weeks) twiddling my thumbs, and eating, as we wait and wait for this baby to come, and hopefully don't have to wait any longer than that, here is a brief overview of all the birthday fun...

One of the advantages of having birthdays close together is receiving one giant, shared gift!

This gift has so far served as an incredible source of entertainment and energy outlet. Both much needed in this time of laying low. It may also be used to induce labor if I am still pregnant a few days from now.

Another advantage is the number of times the girls got to blow out candles on their cakes. Pictured below we have
     Sommer blowing out the candles on her own cake,
     Sommer blowing out the candles on Annike's cake, and
     Sommer blowing out candles on leftover cake just because she really wanted to.
I think she was confused about when her actual birthday was because for 4 days straight there was some sort of celebration happening.

Another birthday favorite was the family party. This year it included my parents and my sister and her hubby. The best part is that the birthday girls didn't miss having friends their own age at their party because they love playing with their relatives so much! This may not always be the case, which makes this season in their lives special.

Apparently I don't take pictures of adults any more because this is the best I could pull up of the family. Note those in the background...

Because we didn't think we were doing much to celebrate this year, we made a special birthday trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Definitely a highlight for both little gals. In fact, I can't think of anything else they would have rather done.

The aquarium trip included dinner out and the very first time Annike has ever been sung to in a restaurant (for that matter, it was probably the first time that she has ever heard "Happy Birthday" sung in a restaurant to anyone, let alone herself.) She was absolutely mortified. This precious little girl looked like she was about to cry as she stared at me across the table with an extremely tortured expression that pleaded, "Why are you letting them do this to me?!" Only after she started eating the ice cream did a shy smile appear.

The most unexpected birthday blessing this year came from another kindergarten mother at Annike's school. Her little girl has a birthday the day before Annike's. Within the first few weeks of school this lady sought me out to invite Annike to have a joint birthday party with her daughter... at her house... for the 6 little girls (plus siblings) in their class... with no extra planning or work from me.

I was truly touched by her hospitality and deep desire to share her own daughter's special day with us. As we had no plans this year because Momma is super-pregnant and couldn't swing a party, we agreed. I twisted her arm to let me help with a few items like party favors and some food, but for the most part we just showed up at the right time and had a BLAST at this little tea party.

The little girls all arrived after school for lunch and tea and were shuttled into a room full of dress-up clothes. I am now fully convinced that a little girl's childhood is not complete without a tea party. These girls were in and out of the dress-up room all afternoon trying on different outfits and being girly together. It was delightful to watch.

As I mentioned above, it was this other mother's generosity that touched me. She viewed this birthday celebration as an opportunity to teach her daughter that birthdays are not about Me, or about getting presents, or about being self-centered for a day. She wanted her daughter to view her birthday as an opportunity to include others, to reach out, and to celebrate lives, plural, instead of one life, singular..

The lesson was for me. I question whether I would have done the same for someone else given a reverse situation. And yet it was such a beautiful and simple invitation that she offered us, to be a part of a birthday celebration she was already planning. She showed me genuine unselfishness on a birthday - a day that I have always made a special allowance for a certain amount of selfishness. But why? Did I think that some of the Biblical instructions for laying ourselves aside did not apply to birthdays? Perhaps I did.

Still we wait for our next little one to arrive, and eagerly anticipate his or her birthday. While having overlapping birthdays was not always my ideal picture for celebrating my children, I can say that I am happy to know we will always be learning about participating in more of a collective birthday celebration than a wholely individual one.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Our sweet Sommy is TWO today!

Sommy, you have a contagious joy for life that is transparent. Even strangers enjoy watching you and I have seen you bring a smile to many sullen faces. This is a gift that I believe you will cultivate in your life and use to bring glory to God. I love your sweet nature, your sharing heart, your nurturing side, the way you bonded to me at such a young age, your musical ear, your great concern for those you love when something has gone amiss, your chunky thighs and round face, your fake smile for pictures, your clear green eyes that understand so much more than we know, your unabandoned excitement at the simple things in life, your laughter, your uninhibited emotions (if you are feeling it, then we know it), and I love the way you want to mimic all of the "big" people in your life like your sister. I especially love that every night before bed you like to hear a list of all the people in your life who love you, including that "Jesus loves you". Please never forget how vastly you are loved, and by so many people.

Two is such a fun age! And a hard age. But I love you with all my heart in a way that can only be supernatural. God must have designed it this way on purpose. I will borrow from an old nursery rhyme to describe you, my spunky daughter. The saying goes:
"When she was good, she was very, very good. 
And when she was bad, she was horrid."  
Despite the major stinker moments, you are SO FUN most of the other times! And I really do think if you learn to eat more food more of your cranky moments will be replaced by joyful ones.

Happy Birthday Sommer Christiana! May this next year be a life-giving, character-growing year.

Friday, September 20, 2013

39 weeks

39 weeks today!

39 weeks and my clothes must be shrinking in the wash. I am positive the shirt I am wearing today fit me last week without showing off my midriff or the stretchy top panel on my maternity jeans.

39 weeks and I am doing a lot of parenting from the couch... which unfortunately, doesn't work as well.

39 weeks and I am officially not cooking dinner anymore. Alright, if you know me well you know that I stopped a few months ago, but it seems like 39 weeks is an appropriate time to claim it. Officially making frozen meals and take-out for the next few weeks.

39 weeks and my belly button is still an inny, not an outy. Well, you can call it flat, at least. I suppose it is nothing to brag about.

39 weeks and I am still trying to kick a cough left over from a headcold that my kindergartener brought home from school last week. She seemed unphased by the virus, but it knocked me flat and I haven't quite been able to get up again.

39 weeks and my doctor told me I should buy cupcakes to bring into Annike's class for her birthday instead of make them. I cannot tell you how very difficult it was for me to grasp this idea, and I went back and forth on it at least 10 times. I really wanted to bake them and decorate them so cute, and making them myself seems like the economical thing to do. Would I be disappointing my daughter if I didn't bake them myself? The answer is definitely no. She and her classmates loved the cake pops I BOUGHT, and at a dollar each for a class of 11 students it really did not break the bank. I shouldn't sound so surprised that my doctor was right.

39 weeks and we are in the middle of mad crazy birthday week, with Annike's on the 19th, Sommer's on the 22nd, and Baby due to make an appearance any day. My biggest challenge is resting enough because there are soooo many other things I need (want?) to be doing.

39 weeks and I am slow. Oh so slow. Heaven forbid I walk out the door and forget something because it delays us by 8 more minutes as I amble back and forth from the car to the house and around the house looking for whatever it is. We are late. For everything.

39 weeks and I am more in love with these girls than ever before... and so excited to add another little someone to the family!

In these final days before Baby makes his or her grand entry into our lives I need to ask any and all for your prayers. I have done this with each of my other pregnancies and been SO blessed by the results seen and felt almost immediately in my life. I want to thank you now for anything you offer up in prayer for me. Here are a few specifics...

  • Health - A healthy baby and a healthy Momma are the most important outcomes!  Please join me in praying for this.
  • Rest - My sleep is  interupted I am often awake for two or more hours in the night... so frustrating because I am simultaneously exhausted. Pray that I can sleep well, and that during the day I will know when my body is telling me to get back on the couch.
  • Timing - One of our biggest anxieties is making it to the hospital in time. My babies come fast and we would like prayer for the timing to be perfect, as only God can decide. I was also 2 weeks past my due date when I had Sommer (which was one of the most tedious and exhausting things I have ever done) and I would love to not repeat that.
  • Decisions - We have some big decisions to make in the next week... like a name for our child. Yes, we have procrastinated making that decision. We are also faced with the option of induction because of my speedy labors. Pray for us to be wise!

Thank you. Thank you thank you. I am so grateful for your participation in this big event in our lives. And while I am spending some extra time on the couch this week, I would love to pray for you too... so let me know what you need whispered up to heaven and I will petition right along side of you!

*** post update on 9/21/13 - I had a restful night's sleep for the first time in a long while!  Due to the rain drizzling outside the window last night? Probably not. I am convinced it was due to one or two or more extra prayers lifted up.  Thank you! ***

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Happy Birthday to my sweet 5-year-old!

I can't believe it has been 5 years since I held your precious little 5 pound 12 ounce body in my arms and wondered what kind of person you become, and if your skin would ever not hang off of your knees like that.

Five years later your are just the right size, and I have fallen in love with your detailed imagination, your love of anything related to animals, the way you use sweet words with your little sister, your silly faces, your lack of vanity and love of comfort, your excitement about learning, your enjoyment of time spent outdoors, your excellent vocabulary, your stellar dance moves, your tow-headed grey-blue eyes that are quick to absorb the world around you, your sweet singing voice, your wild "project" ideas, your gentle spirit, and your simple yet brave faith in Jesus.

I love you Miss Annike May!

Friday, September 13, 2013


I have plenty of experiences in my life where I am struck by disappointment in the rudeness and entitlement and self-promotion that seem to govern the attitudes of our culture.

However, late into my pregnancy, I have found renewed faith in humanity's ability to be kind. Throughout this pregancy I have instead experienced compassion and gentleness and patience, often from complete strangers. It gives me hope for the world my children will grow up in. It helps me believe that kindness is still a general value in America.

Crossing the street as a pregnant lady with two kids in tow seems to bring out the compassion in drivers who previously would have sped by. People offer their spot in the grocery store line to me, insisting that I go ahead. Friends have randomly dropped off dinner, or picked up my house, or watched my children. And with another fast labor likely looming ahead, I have a long list of both good friends and casual acquaintances who have offered to drop anything at any time of day to help me get to the hospital from our somewhat remote location. It is refreshing. It is encouraging.

A more specific example happened in the grocery store recently. The grocery store sees mothers with their children on all kinds of days - good ones, bad ones, stressful run in and run out days. It is the one store we can't avoid just because we are having a bad day. On this particular bad day Sommer started with the most horrid screechy screaming stereotypical of a spoiled 2-year-old having a tantrum - usually someone else's child's tantrum. In this case, unfortunately, it was not someone else's child. It was my extremely stubborn and hungry child who refused to snack on grocery store goods or sit in the cart. We were in the process of abandoning a full cart of food (something I have only had to do one other time in all my 5 years of motherhood) when one of the grocery clerks took compassion on us and offered my kids some sweets and treats they did not deserve. These were goodies that they don't hand out to every child who comes through the store. It took all my self-control not to start crying on this woman's shoulder simply because someone showed me kindness instead of judgement. God bless the people who work at Trader Joe's. We managed to make it out of the store with our food.

This week, while out and about shopping for some birthday presents, Sommer was playing with a display of small stuffed animals. An elderly lady, who I guessed to be in her 80s, insisted on buying her one of fuzzy white kittens. I tried to refuse, partially because it was unnecessary, partially because the last thing we need is another stuffed animal in the house, and partially because I don't need Sommer thinking that she gets to takes every toy she likes home with her. But something about this lady's demeanor told me that allowing her to purchase the kitten would be a blessing to the both of us. It was something she wanted to do for us that came from a genuine place of kindness in her heart. Her sweetness and her interest in doing something kind for no apparent reason is what encouraged me. (Aside: this act of kindness is probably unrelated to my pregnancy. It is far more likely a result of Sommer's disarming ability to charm complete strangers. Either way, we were blessed.) 

I have also had plenty of awkward belly rubs from strangers, and been the brunt of many tactless comments about how my hands are going to be so full soon, and I have people everywhere who want to make conversation with me about my pregnancy and my kids and their own experiences, which is often poorly timed because I am trying to make it out of a store in a timely manner before my children spiral out of control.

But through it all, I have a great sense that these strangers do these things, tactless or not, because of a genuine interest in my life. Something about seeing us roaming around triggers a desire to reach out, and to be kind. I admit it could be pity, but I believe it is more like a glimmer of unselfishness that surfaces. That these people have kindness pent up in their heart and they are looking for a way to express it.

I share all of this because I have been deeply blessed by little things throughout this pregnancy. And I am asking myself, Why does it take a pregnant woman with kids to bring out the kindness in strangers?

Perhaps if we all just made it a priority to treat others as if they were in some sort of delicate state, offering help just because, exercising great patience for no apparent reason... perhaps many more people would experience the kindness of strangers.  If we took great interest in their lives then the world would indeed become a better place. Just a thought....

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, 
just as in Christ God forgave you."
Ephesians 4:32

Sunday, September 8, 2013

getting dirty

We have grass in 90% of the backyard, but my children like to play in the one sliver of dirt in the back corner by the fence where we haven't bothered to landscape yet. They dig in it and add water to it and carry it around in buckets and sometime they even roll around in it. We call it their special "dirt patch" and it provides more entertainment than any of their toys ever have.

Once upon a time I claimed that Annike didn't need a bath very often. Then we had Sommer. Then they discovered dirt.  Now they take baths an awful lot. Usually because of dirt under the fingernails, or in their hair, or some sticky streak that has run down a chest and collected dirt.

In the dirt patch are some lizards that visit periodically. Annike, feeling pet-deprived, began building pretend habitats for the lizards and carrying around an empty terrerium. She kept roly polys in it for a while, but that wasn't satisfying her. Eventually she ended up with 2 baby blue-bellied lizards that were named, in a stroke of 4-year-old genius, "Lizzy #1" and "Lizzy #2". I insisted they would be kept outside, and she could keep them as long as she was willing to feed them. Why do mothers bother with these futile words?

Six hours after the cage was moved into the house for the first time, BOTH lizards went missing. They did turn up a few hours later when Papa emptied out the cage and discovered them buried in the dirt on the bottom. I soon found myself catching flies with a cup instead of swatting them, then lowering them gently into the cage. I caught ants and beetles and roly polys and hunted for wormy apples in our orchards to feed the lizards. We were going for a variety of bugs because we weren't sure what was edible, but it seemed to me that these tiny lizards could only eat the bugs that were also small enough to squeeze through the air holes in the roof of the cage, so was I really just adding critters to my home instead of feeding lizards? I felt a little indignant about it all because I am supposed to be a mother of GIRLS, so don't I get to avoid bug-catching, lizard-feeding, filthy fingernail scraping duty?

But you can't be afraid to get dirty in life. Life is full of things we never pictured ourselves doing. We avoid the dirt because it means extra work later... a bath, or a good scrubbing of something or someone. Or we avoid it because we don't like the way it makes us feel being dirty. I never want my life to be about keeping a white t-shirt crisp and ironed. Good clothes can be washed, and good stories are seldom clean. It is all part of the adventure.

We can't be afraid to dive into the muck in someone's life either. People's lives are rarely sparkly clean. Instead they are full of junk, full of garbage hidden below the surface, full of dirt. Mine included. Getting down into the dirty in someone's life often involves extra work. It involves loving people in a less than perfect state. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes a willingness to get dirty myself. But in the end it is all part of the adventure called doing life with others. And I never want to be afraid of it.

My girls aren't afraid to hold lizards, or catch bugs, or get dirty. And I hope one day that they aren't afraid to dive into the dirt in the lives of those they love. Hopefully with the idea of getting cleaner in the end. Because the dirtier we get, the better it feels to be clean.

We did have to release Annike's lizards after a few weeks of allowing them to reside in her room. She cried fat silent tears as she said goodbye to them, but put on a brave face because she knew it was the right thing to do. We weren't sure they were actually eating anything that we put in the cage. Unfortunately, we were only able to release one of the lizards as the other one had completely vanished. Better not to ask when or where it may have escaped... we will imagine that it is not running around my house and mysteriously ended up outside.

Life is sometimes sad, sometimes dirty, but never dull. And we are aren't afraid of what it holds.

P.S. The dirt in the back yard may be one reason that my children never have any clothes on... we have discovered it is easier to hose them off than to change outfits every hour. It is a system that works for us and helps us enjoy the dirt a little bit more...

This one was Sommer's favorite: a "fwoggy" that shared the terrerium with the Lizzys for a few days.