Monday, January 31, 2011

Three Day Kisses

This week Madeline goes from five-day to three-day-a-week preschool schedule. We absolutely adore her school and the wonderful teachers there- it is a private Christian school where they memorize Bible verses every week and the Bible story lessons are integrated into the preschool education. The decision to decrease her days at the school is simply due to the fact that Madeline is getting worn out, and she has asked to be home with me more.

This morning, while I was busy getting backpacks ready and fixing Brooke's lunch, Madeline was trying to talk to me. I was listening to her, but not looking at her directly in the middle of my busy-ness. "Mommy, do you know why I want to go to school three days not five?" Without looking up, I muttered, "mm-hm". She said, "It's because I like you and like to give you kisses." I melted. I immediately dropped what I was doing and held her beautiful face in my hands while she smothered me with kisses. L-O-V-E!!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Little Music Man

Since Isaac was just one year old, he has turned just about anything you can think of into a guitar. It started with the show Imagination Movers when he would dance and "play music" during the theme song and throughout the show. We took the kids to see the Imagination Movers live in 2009- it was so adorable when half-way through the show, it suddenly clicked with all three of them that these were the same people they watched on tv every week. It was like a lightbulb went off, and they went nuts.

This was Isaac during the show. He looks so little here!

For his second birthday, we bought Isaac his own childsize guitar from Toys R Us. It is still giant-sized compared to him (he is nearly three years old and wearing size 24 month clothes.) When we visited Amy's family last summer, we went to a Mexican restaurant with a live mariachi band. I captured some pictures and video- Isaac was completely intrigued the entire time.

I know I'm his mother, so I am partial, but is he not one of the most adorable little boys you have ever seen?

 Playing his fork guitar.
Sorry- the video is sideways, not sure what I was thinking when I filmed it. Just turn your computer, I guess.
I love you, my baby boy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pride and Pain

This is the ceiling above our master bedroom. It was one of the reasons we fell in love with our house. I didn't know at the time we bought the house that I'd one day have to stare up at that same ceiling for more than eight hours, unable to get out of bed. A couple weeks ago, I woke up at 6:15am to the alarm clock. When I turned my head to roll out of bed, I screamed out in pain- I am telling you: horrible, excruciating agony. Severe spasms over my left head, neck, and back richoted up and down with every millimeter of movement. All I could do was lay there and cry like a baby. Have you ever had a charley horse in your leg? That's the only thing I can compare it to; but then imagine that charley horse magnified times a hundred, and that it's impossible to massage out- it instead just keeps coming in horrible waves with no way to prevent them. I'll put it this way- I haven't made noises of pain like that since experiencing natural childbirth. Thankfully my mom was already on her way to our house because I was scheduled to go into work that day. She took care of both myself and the kids, and I was able to eventually make it out of bed to physical therapy. The elderly, frail women in the waiting room wanted to assist me- I must have looked more pathetic than I thought. That evening I went to urgent care where they gave me muscle relaxants. (Those muscle relaxants also caused me to pass out cold in the bathroom and scare my dear husband- apparently I stopped breathing; but that's a whole 'nother story in itself.) The lowest point I experienced was listening to my baby crying for me, and literally not being able to do anything about it.

Why tell this story other than to complain about my aches and pains from that week? Because this whole painful episode could have been avoided if I hadn't been so full of pride. And the sad thing is- I didn't even look at it that way until more than two days after waking up on that horrible morning. I even had the idea in my head that the devil was trying to kick me down so I wouldn't be faithful in the women's Bible Study we had just started the day before. I was too blind to see that God Himself was giving me a wakeup call.

I'm sorry- you are probably still confused as to what in the world I'm talking about. I'll explain. The day before my entire story started, I took myself and my four children to church while Bill had to work. Though Lydia is a year old, she weighs only eighteen pounds and is still in an infant carrier. We can't fit a coat on her in the car because she won't fit properly in the seat with it on. So that morning, I carried Lydia into church- carrier/blanket and all, along with my purse and two diaper bags- all the while holding Isaac's hand and watching the girls walk in front of me. Where does pride step in to all this? Because as I watched the many people walking past me, not once did I ask them for help. I didn't need anyone's help- I was doing just fine. I could handle everything on my own- no help needed. Three hours later, we were back in the car and on our way home, unaware that I was hours away from complete agony and helplessness.

Daniel 4:37-- "And those who walk in pride He is able to humble." I didn't choose to humble myself, so God did it for me. He chastens those that He loves, and He most definitely loves me. I'm determined now to break down that obstacle of pride even more than ever (not that I'm boasting!!) While laying there in pain for hours on end, I forced myself to pray and give God the praise, even when I didn't understand why. "Sometimes you praise Him first, and then you feel it later."--Beth Moore. I didn't know it at the time, but God was using this experience to show me an area of my life that needed attention. Sad thing is- I had this exact same painful episode one year before when Lydia was an infant. It too was caused by me not wanting to ask for help when I needed it. I wanted to have it altogether, and I believed that including not needing help. I didn't learn the lesson then, so I got a do-over. Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to discipline me as you do.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hook Me Up

Amy and I made a deal last year that we would hold each other accountable to learn how to knit. We both ended up failing each other- neither one of us are knitters. But recently, I ordered a hat online for Lydia.
 It kind of looks like a headband in this picture, but it is indeed a hat. It reignited my desire to learn to knit (I later learned that this hat is actually crochet, not knit) so I went to the bookstore this afternoon and bought a how-to-crochet book, yarn, and hooks. I have spent the past three hours holding my hands in a cramped position...
and here is what I finally ended up with.
Please don't judge. I'm proud of my sad little string of yarn. A very generous friend of mine has agreed to come over next week to help me out. Naive little me imagined Lydia wearing a fancy new hat as soon as Monday. Go ahead and laugh, you won't hurt my feelings. I won't, however, give up on the dream of Amy and I sitting poolside on our cruiseship in a few weeks, crocheting up a storm.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lydia's First Steps

Lydia is getting closer to walking! She is braver by the day. I finally captured a step in action, just before she sat down.
I know- it's blurry, but you can tell she is stepping forward- hands free! It is so adorable to watch. She will be 13 months tomorrow- unbelievable. All my babies seemed to walk right around 13 months. I just watched the video from when Isaac first took off walking- he was so excited for himself that he couldn't stop laughing the entire time. I am sure there is a way I could transfer it from facebook to here, but I can't figure it out. FB friends- if you want to see it, just go to my videos and you can watch it there. Can I just reiterate for a millionth time how much I love my babies?!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Random Thoughts

I'm having writer's block tonight, but I don't want to ruin my running blogging streak, so I'm going to present some random thoughts floating around my brain tonight.

1. I am in love with Scrubbing Bubbles automatic shower cleaner. It used to take me an hour to deep-clean my bathroom (an improvement from the two hours it took during my pregnancy with Lydia) and this neat little invention cuts out about 20 minutes of that time. I am a tad disappointed that there are just normal soap bubbles and not the cute cartoon ones from the commercial.
2. If you make dinner that includes crescent rolls, children will gobble it all up with no complaints. You can make crescent pizza, crescent dogs, and crescent mexican rolls. I've never tried the generic brand- are they just as good as Pillsbury?

3. I am determined that by January 2012, I will be making nearly everything homemade, and buying nothing prepackaged or processed- all the way down to no more boxed cereal or pasta. (Which creates a dilemma for random thought #2.) I'm taking it step by step- if I do too much at  once, I'm afraid I'll just give up. My plan is to eventually take one day out of each week and spend the entire day cooking/baking/freezing, so all the week's meals are ready to go. I'm getting some great tips from the book Miserly Moms.

4. I have a secret that I'll finally be able to reveal in a few days, but I'm ready to burst in the meantime. And no, I'm not pregnant. And neither is my sister.

5. When I think toward the future, I don't get nearly as sad thinking of my daughters growing up as I do when I think of my son as an adult. I know my girls will always need me for "girl talk", but what if Isaac decides he doesn't need me? Bill says that is ridiculous, and deep down I know he's right. I won't be the type of mother in law who believes her daughter in law has stolen her son (frankly, that is just gross if you really think about it) but I do hope he will always want to be a part of my life. I pray for my children's future spouses all the time, and I'm doing my best to raise him to be the best husband and father he can be.

6. I'm just days/weeks away from weaning Lydia. (She doesn't know this yet; Bill asked who was going to let her know, and I told him he could.) I say all the time how I'm just ready to be done with it, but a small part of me knows how much I will miss that piece of our relationship. It's something only the two of us share, and there's really nothing else like it.

7. Nearly every Sunday I have someone ask me how in the world I manage to get all the kids ready and out the door- the question is raised more so if Bill happens to be at work that day. In a nutshell: 1. I give all glory to God because without Him I would be a crazy loon. 2. The girls pick out their own outfits and dress themselves. This is a mixed blessing in that I never know what they will come up with. Also, showers are always done the night before. 3. Isaac doesn't usually care what he wears, and I can dress him in a minute flat. His hair is kept short enough I don't have to do anything with it. 4. The kids watch an episode of a tv show while I shower/dress/makeup/hair. I have it down to a science, and yes, can accomplish it all in a half hour. 5. Breakfast is kept simple, and no fooling around allowed. Each child cleans up their own dishes and wipes down their part of the table. 6. In the last 15 minutes before we are out the door, I wake up Lydia, dress her, nurse her, and feed her cereal. She eats fast. While she is eating her cereal, the older three get on their coats and shoes, and get inside the car. The entire process is like a well oiled machine.

I think that's enough random babbling. If you have an idea for a next blog post, please tell me. Tomorrow is another snow day, so I hope my kids say or do something clever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Childhood Dreams Fulfilled

I'm running out of childhood dreams. Two out of three of my young daughters have their ears pierced before age 30, and they are both enjoying their ballet lessons. I now carry a pink Precious Moments Bible to church every Sunday, thanks to a Christmas gift from Amy. I'm sure that most people assume it's one of my girls', but nope, it's mine. (As I told Amy- I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ!) As for a shared childhood dream that Amy and I could be related, only time will tell- but let's just say there is definite  signs of potential chemistry between our beautiful children.

As for my most recent childhood dream fulfilled? It traces back to when my sister and I used to pour over the American Girl catalog and pretend we were shopping. We'd pick out our dolls, accessories, furniture, and clothes, and then add up the total. My favorite dolls were Samantha and Elizabeth. My mom bought us several of the books, and I would read them over and over again.

Then, a couple months ago, a catalog arrived in the mail. Brooke, Madeline, and I couldn't put it down. We picked out our favorite dolls and chose the cutest matching pajamas. As the girls played upstairs, I ordered their favorite dolls to arrive in time for Christmas. That evening, I showed Bill what I had ordered earlier that day, and then happened to casually mention in passing that my favorite doll growing up- Elizabeth- was being discontinued after December 31st (while supplies last.) I suggested that we buy it for Madeline. Bill said, "No- you bought her a doll already." What about Lydia? Bill asked if I would let her play with it. Well, no, not for a couple years. So, he said no to that too- we couldn't give her a gift and then tell her not to play with it. I suggested we buy her for Brooke's birthday. Again, no- she didn't need another doll just a few weeks later. I panicked a bit- I was running out of options. So, I said- what about for me? He looked at me like I was a loon. "For you?" Well yes, I'd let the girls play with her (if they promised to take care of her and not mess up her hair) but she would be mine. I even offered to return the Kitchen Aid mixer he bought for me, wrapped under the tree. Again, no. I was beyond disappointed, but I know my husband well enough to know when I've reached the point that a matter isn't worth discussing anymore.

Christmas morning, I was elated to give my girls their dolls. Madeline and I squealed with delight after she opened hers(wait- that was for her pillow pet...) We had opened all the gifts, when Bill reached under the tree and said, Hey- Santa left something for mommy. I wondered what in the world it would be, honestly having zero clue- I have to interject something real quick- up to this point Bill had never surprised me anything. I have a knack for figuring things like this out. I can even go to Hallmark and predict which card he will buy me. Back to the story- I ripped the paper off, and a beautiful blond doll was staring back up at me. I immediately choked up. I know- I'm a grown woman, and it's a doll, but my wonderful husband secretly ordered her, had her shipped across the street to our neighbor who wrapped it for him, and then he snuck it back over to our house Christmas Eve. Seriously, if that isn't romantic, I don't know what is. I am married to the best man in the world.

The girls play with Elizabeth and help me take care of her. At first I kept her in the master bedroom, until even I was creaped out by her constant presence in our room. So she now sleeps with Brooke and Madeline. I'm hoping that Julie and Kit will be able to join the group one day soon. Anyone want to hop a plane to New York City's AG store sometime?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Into His Arms

Every night Madeline ends up in our bed around 5am or so. Bill eventually takes her back to her own bed, but not before they get their snuggles in. It reminds me of when I used to sneak into my own parents' bed at night, and my dad was too big of a softy to say no. I ended up in their room so often because I used to have recurring nightmares all the time- nightmares so vivid I can replay them in my mind even to this day. In one of the dreams, it felt as if I was awake laying in bed, and I could hear my name being whispered over and over again, the volume increasing each time until it was so loud and evil-sounding I would jolt awake. Another dream involved Bill Cosby (I used to love watching The Cosby Show) sitting in a department store with a group of children. I wander away from my mom and decide to sit with them. Suddenly I realize that I can't physically move and I'm trapped there.

Then there was another dream- one that seemed to recur the most. I'm running for dear life, and a man is chasing me, trying to grab me. It's as if I'm in a dark hallway with nowhere to go but forward or backward- there is no scenery, just blackness.

When I was five years old, I realized that Jesus died on the cross to take my sin away. I sat on the floor of my bedroom and asked Jesus to come into my life and be my friend forever. (I actually ended up asking Him to save me umpteen million times until the concept of His saving grace sunk in and I realized that once He came into my life, He would never leave. But hey, I was five years old- give a kid a doctrinal break.) I was witnessing to my friends when I was as young as six years old, even being bold enough to raise my hand in the middle of class to talk about Him. If you knew me at this age and remember my crippling shyness, you can grasp how amazing it is to me that I was so bold. I miss the fearlessness that has faded over the years.

The last time I had the dream of the man chasing me, it wasn't a nightmare anymore. As I was running, I suddenly stopped. I turned around and held my arms up high. The Man ran up to me, picked me up, and held me tight. I was no longer scared, and felt completely safe.

If you are still running, stop. Turn around, and hold your hands up high. He's waiting to hold you, and He'll never let you go.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pierced Ears? No Drama, Please!

During breakfast a few days ago, while eating a bowl of cereal and drinking her milk, Madeline suddenly burst into tears. When I asked her what was wrong, she sputtered out "My ears are pierced but I didn't want them pierced and you took me to the store but I didn't want them and now I want to take them out." Tears fell down her cheeks into her lap.

Now, I am a compassionate mother- I hate to see my children in pain, and I comfort them in any necessary situation. But in this moment, all I could do was roll my eyes and bite my tongue. I looked at Bill and said, "Why in the world is she bringing this up now?"

A short back story before I go on: My wonderful father who I dearly love had an insane rule that my sister and I could not pierce our ears until we were 13 years old. I was so scarred (I don't think my dad reads my blog, but just in case,  Dad- I'm joking!!) that I decided my own daughters would never have to wait. I always told Brooke and Madeline that anytime they wanted to have their ears pierced, all they had to do was ask. So one day at the mall, when Brooke was four years old and Madeline three years old, they both asked to have their ears pierced. This request was without any forced subliminal messaging or persuading. I made arrangements with a store to have two women ready that afternoon so both ears could be pierced at the same time.

The girls were so excited, and had they at any point decided to change their minds, I would have been ok with that. Sad and disappointed, of course! But I'm not going to pin my child down while someone sticks a needle in her against her will. Well, I take that back; I have done that. Immunizations are a necessary  pain though- saves lives, ok?

So, my dear Madeline, before you grow this idea in your head that mommy forced you to get your ears pierced and you decide to seek out therapy, here is evidence from that day. Your adorned ears are adorable, I might add!!


And after: 
Ok, so you are bit ticked off here in this picture. But you were smiling less than a minute later. And you never shed a tear.

Brooke's before: 

And after: 
That night, the back of Madeline's earring came off, and she had to go in the next morning to have it repierced. But that event was not forced either, nor were tears shed. Being a mother means being imperfect, but Madeline- please remember: I love you, and you are beautiful whether you have pierced ears or not! (But I'm glad they are!)

Eyes of Peace

I was relaxing (if that's a word you can use twenty hours after giving birth) in my hospital bed, waiting for Bill and my mom to arrive. It was about 9am and they were going to be bringing me those scrumptious cinnamon and raisin biscuits from Hardees. Madeline was in the nursery, so I was soaking in the alone time. My amazing pediatrician, who I had known since Brooke's birth a year and a half before, then walked into the room. I smiled at her, and my heart immediately sunk to the pit of my stomach. She was smiling too, but mother's instinct told me something was very wrong. As she began telling me all the positive findings of the newborn exam, I couldn't hear her. I was impatiently waiting, and I wanted to yell, "Get to the part that is making your face look all funny!!" Then she told me. She found something wrong with Madeline's eye. She knew the name of the genetic disorder, but needed to do some more research before she could tell me more. From what she could remember, babies could fall anywhere in the spectrum between normal sight and complete blindness in the affected eye. The medical name rung a bell to me from my PA training, but I couldn't remember much more than that. Coloboma of her left eye- her pupil looked like a keyhole, and would for the rest of her life. The doctor promised she would research more back at her office and fax me some information.

I immediately felt the fear rise up inside me. No, she would never die from this, but blindness in one eye? This was heavy. I called Bill, and told him with a shaking voice that there was something wrong with her eye. I hung up the phone and cried out to God. I don't remember my prayer, but while praying, I immediately felt supernatural peace overcome my body. I couldn't explain it, but the fear was completely gone. Yes, my baby may be blind in her left eye, but God would take care of her. He knit her together in my womb, and the "mistake" that caused the deformity of her eye before I even knew I was pregnant was not a mistake at all. God had never removed His protective hand from her.

We had an appointment with a pediatric ophthamologist just a few days later, and in the days leading up to the appointment, I was more worried that Madeline hadn't pooped than I was about her eyesight. While the doctor examined her eye, knowing that in the next few seconds we would have the answer, my heart never sped up once. It was in God's hands, and I was satisfied with that knowledge alone. "She has vision in this eye- it is likely purely cosmetic." My mom and I were elated- thank you Jesus! I praise Him to this day that He spared her sight, but I would have praised Him even if He didn't. Madeline had to wear an eyepatch a few months later, but she has since been released from her routine ophthamology appointments. I still am concerned that she will be teased as she gets older, but she loves her unique eye, and I catch her staring at herself in the mirror as I walk by the bathroom.

I've experienced similar circumstances that have brought me to my knees in prayer before and since then- it is part of being a parent. My church is doing a women's Bible study with Beth Moore's series called Breaking Free. This week we looked at some of the benefits of a relationship with Christ, and one of those is peace. Here's a quote from Beth: "Peace comes in situations completely surrendered to the sovereign authority of Christ. Sometimes when we finally give up trying to discover all the answers to the "why's" in our lives and decide to trust the sovereign God, unexpected peace washes over us like a summer rain. We sometimes lack peace in far less strenuous circumstances because we are not as desperate or likely to turn them over to God."  When we are confronted with something so much bigger than ourselves, we cry out to God and completely surrender the situation to Him, like I did in that hospital room. But in the little things, like a newborn who won't poop, we try to handle it on our own, and not let the Prince of Peace reign in every area of our life. It's a daily commitment I make, but I don't always succeed. God, may I continue to surrender every part of me to You, and to remember Your promise of peace in all areas of my life. "...and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
She takes my breath away.

Homeless Smiles

This morning before church, I snapped some pictures of my kiddos. Bill and I didn't roll out of bed until 8:15am, but we all still managed to be dressed and ready  to go by 9:30am. I looked at how scrumptious the kids all looked, and decided an impromptu photo session was definitely needed. Isaac even volunteered to join in- no crying or wailing involved!

Brooke was distracted by her balloon.
Then Isaac wanted a picture of just himself and Lydia.
I'm not sure why he seems to always put his arm across her for pictures. Keeping her still?

Then, Lydia's turn.

 It wasn't until we got in the car that I looked in the background of the picture below. Remember the Homeless Dyson blog post?
Lydia's dress was a gift made by my awesome friend Stephanie, and the hairbow was made by Amy (who else?). God gave me girls, and I enjoy making the most of it! Lydia is wearing shoes now- I haven't attempted footwear for her in a few months because she always chewed on them before- but lo and behold, she loves to look at these and keeps them on. (Can you tell I totally get into the whole "I've got girls!" thing?) Also, in case you are wondering, this photo shoot didn't even make us late for church. Bill and I are considering getting a new camera with a good lens- I have no formal teaching in photography, but fingers crossed that a more professional-type camera could help camoflauge a tiny bit of that fact. If you have a good camera and love it, please tell me about it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lydia Kate's Candy Shoppe Now Open!

Welcome to Lydia Kate's Candy Shoppe, now open to celebrate her first year of life! Are you ready to walk through the Candayland gameboard? Grab your sweet tooth, open the door, and walk into Peppermint Forest.

Inside Peppermint Forest, you are greeted with newborn photos of the birthday girl. Wasn't she a beautiful newbie?? God has blessed us beyond measure.

Be careful as you leave Peppermint Forest and climb past Gumdrop Mountains, leading you into Gingerbread Forest.

Here you can make licorice and fruit loop bracelets, and decorate gingerbread men!

Now enter Lollipop Woods, where you can color sheets of the Candyland characters, and decorate treat bags. Don't forget your toothbrush party favor!

Now on to Chocolate Swamp- filled with red velvet cupcakes (thanks Steph!) ice cream toppings, and of course, a chocolate fountain. My talented friend Laura made the beautiful signs throughout the house.

I made the banner above the window out of scrapbook paper.

We are almost to the end! The part you've been waiting for...
Candy Castle!!!

Made from scratch, with lots of love. 

My birthday girl! Amy made her dress and bow.

Lydia Kate- you are such a blessing to us. Your little personality is already blossoming- you love following your sisters and brother around, "talking" up a storm, and are attempting your first steps. I am so excited to see what the next year will bring!!