Friday, December 30, 2011

Eleven Blessings

As we look forward to another new year, I can’t help but look back at the blessings that 2011 has brought. There is so much to be thankful for, but I am sharing eleven blessings of mine.

11. Healthy kids, healthy parents... something I hope I never take for granted.

10. Two toddlers who are becoming more and more independent with each passing day. (Most days this is a blessing!!)

9. Eight hours of sleep at night! No need for explanation here.

8. The reestablishment of Friday date nights! This used to mean dinner and a movie or a trip to our favorite wine bar. These days, I am happy to settle for a Red Box rental and a big bowl of popcorn!

7. A brand new cousin for Jake and Lilly! What a blessing it is to watch our family grow!

6. Friends. I cherish all of my friendships. I love that I have friends I get to see every week who are going through the exact same phase of life as I am. I enjoy catching up with the friends I don’t see every week but wish I did. I would be lost without my older friends who have raised kids and love to share their wisdom with me. I miss my dear friend who moved to another state, but I am so glad that she is always just a phone call away.

5. Another year at home with my kids. The first year I stayed at home was sort of a no-brainer. The cost for childcare for two infants would have been equivalent to my teaching salary. The second year has been a bonus! We are so blessed that God provided such an awesome opportunity for Cody to grow in his new business, and allow me to experience the joy of watching Jake and Lilly grow and learn more about this world every day. I am so proud of Cody’s leadership not only at work but also at home. Proud, yes. Surprised, no. I knew when I met him twelve years ago that he would be a very involved and very loving Daddy. In our house, 5:00 (when Daddy walks through the door) is a sweet, sweet time!!

4. A whole year of firsts. First teeth. First birthday. First plane ride, carousel ride, Ferris wheel ride, train ride, golf cart ride, swing ride, and wagon ride. First “big people” meal. (Jake’s still perfecting that one!) First Music class. First sleepover at Grammy and Pop’s house. First Valentine’s Day. First Easter egg hunt. First Mother's Day. First Father's Day. First Fourth of July celebration. First steps. First colds. And many, many more firsts to come!

3. A marriage that takes a ton of hard work but is so worth every ounce of effort. I can’t say that our marriage has not been affected by having two babies enter our lives a year and a half ago. I would be lying if I said that we never argue or disagree. We are both first-borns, so the fact that we butt heads from time to time is just a given. Throw two kids into the mix and you’ve got a million different things to debate. I would say the hardest thing for me has been the realization that two little people are now very conscious of the discourse that bounces back and forth from Mommy to Daddy and vice versa. Our kids have brought so much energy and joy to our family, but they have also forced us to compromise, to communicate more clearly, and to put each other first. I want my kids to know that Mommy and Daddy love them, but I think it is just as important for them to know that Mommy and Daddy love each other.

2. Family. We are so fortunate to have close relationships with our parents and siblings. This year we were able to reconnect with family members that live miles and miles away. We look forward to many more visits in 2012!

1. My salvation. Life is just too hard and too messy to live without Jesus.

We wish all of you many blessings in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in Cat Spring

Our Christmas in Cat Spring was a boisterous one! With four kids unwrapping gifts with simultaneous speed and gusto, there were times that I felt like I was moving in slow motion. That must be what it’s like to get old…. Everyone else who’s younger moves so incredibly fast that you swear you’re not moving at all!

The kids always have fun spending the night at Grammy and Pop’s house! Next year, there will be one more kid on Christmas! Kandis and Ryan added Kate Anne to their family yesterday! We are so proud to have a new little niece!

Pictures of the Christmas festivities coming soon......

An Eventful December

This month has been a busy one! We always love spending time with family during the holidays and this year we had my aunt from New Jersey come visit for a week in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had so much fun when she was here, and I know the kids hated to see her leave.

Here are a couple pictures of Lilly with Aunt Debbie.

And here is Jake…. being Jake! No one but Daddy can hold him or give him loving!!

On our trip to the zoo, we pet every single animal in the Children’s Petting Zoo. My camera ran out of batteries, but I did manage to get a few of the kids with the goats.

We rode the carousel and found out that Lilly has a hard time moving on once the carousel stops. She threw such a loud temper tantrum, (the kind that involves kicking, screaming, and real tears) that I thought the poor old man running the ride was going to let us ride again for free! The same thing happened when we rode the carousel at the mall two days later. However, the wise lady running that particular carousel offered each kid a pony stamp as they left the ride. Lilly bought it hook, line, and sinker!

The following week Cody had a day off so we took Jake and Lilly to the Aquarium downtown. After touring the one in Grapevine last month, they were in their element! We rode the train through the shark tank and went around and around on the Ferris wheel.

We even rode the carousel AFTER I made Cody promise he would take Lilly. To my surprise, she was a perfectly polite little girl, waving bye-bye to the pretty sea horse when the ride was over. Go figure!!!

A New Christmas Tradition

This year my side of the family decided to change the way we spent Christmas together. For the past few years we have simplified the whole gift giving thing by drawing names, setting a $100 limit, and purchasing gifts for that one person. We keep it a secret, so it’s always fun to see who drew who at the big reveal on Christmas Day. This year we combined all of the money we would have spent on each other and adopted a family from KSBJ’s Giving Tree. We were able to give Christmas to a single mom and her three kids. We have all done our own different type of giving in the past, but there was something really awesome about our whole family coming together, and as my brother, David, put it, “trading in our Christmas for theirs.” We did all the planning, shopping, and wrapping together as a family. Even Jake and Lilly were a part of it. They had a blast as Uncle Jay raced them around in the stroller in JCPenney! (That stroller has never seen speed like that, and I’m pretty sure I saw Uncle Jay stop several times to catch his breath!!) I was amazed at how much we were able to give to this family…. Definitely a “fishes and loaves” kind of thing! The one thing that has stuck with me is how blessed we all felt as we gave. It was one of my most memorable Christmases!

Here is a sweet snapshot of Jake and Lilly in front of the tree on Christmas Eve. I am so happy to report that the tree survived the entire Christmas season with not so much as a strand of ribbon out of place! I seriously underestimated their self control. Now if I can just keep Jake’s hands out of Lilly’s hair…..

"Dad, I know you want to take my picture in front of the Christmas tree, but I'm pretty sure that Mom said not to touch the tree or even think about touching it. I'm almost positive that my back is touching it right now. Don't tell Mom.... or Santa!!"

Momma and Lilly

Jake and Daddy in matching cowboy boots

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Christmas Story

It’s always been a tradition in my family to read the Christmas story on Christmas morning. With just a few days until Christmas, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Luke, reading the same verses that I’ve read year after year. I guess as you go through life and your experiences change, you discover new things that you’ve never thought twice about in the past. This morning Luke 2:19 seemed to stand out to me.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

I looked up the word “ponder,” and this is what I found:

Ponder: to weigh in the mind; to think about; reflect on; to consider something deeply and thoroughly; to meditate on

Maybe this verse caught my attention because as a new mom, I tend to do this often. I ponder the absolute joy my two children bring me every single day. I think about all the plans God has for each of them, and I can’t wait to see how their lives will bring Him glory. I consider how hard it was to wait on Him to give Jake and Lilly to us, but I recognize how in the waiting, I learned so much about Him.

I wonder how much different it must have been for Mary. After Jesus was born and the shepherds came to worship him, telling of the angels that appeared to them in the fields, Mary must have been overwhelmed by the faithfulness and love of God. She never said a word, but instead pondered all of the amazing things that had occurred, and kept them safe in her heart.

When Jesus was twelve years old, his mother and father lost him in Jerusalem. I can’t imagine how Mary must have felt when they couldn’t find him. They searched for their son for three days before finding him in the temple, discussing theology with the scholars and teachers. I don’t know about Mary, but I would have been so angry and scared and thrilled and relieved all at the same time! If this had been either Jake or Lilly that I had lost track of, I’m not certain if I would scream at them first or grab them and never let go. I’m sure Mary went through her terrifying list of “what if’s” during those days of searching. When Jesus commented about being in His Father’s house, neither Mary nor Joseph understood what he was talking about. But as I kept reading, again in Luke 2:51, I found Mary pondering all of this:

“And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.”

She treated these experiences as treasures, which she stored up and protected in her heart. I realized something else this morning. Mary did not grasp the full meaning of all of these things at once, but eventually, over the course of thirty years, she did. She came to realize that her son was the Messiah, who came as a Lamb (very fittingly in a dirty barn with stinky animals) to sacrifice His life so that we might be saved and inherit the kingdom of God which none of us are worthy to receive. Unlike Mary, we get to read the entire Christmas story in a matter of minutes. We can read of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection and connect the dots very easily. Mary had to wait a lifetime to see the true purpose of her Son’s life unfold.

Like Mary, I’ll be pondering the reason we celebrate Christmas this week. I’ll remember His faithfulness. I’ll cherish the blessings He’s given to me. I’ll think about how much He loves me even though I don’t deserve it. I’ll ponder how much different my life would be without Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


My two “sweet little messes” are 17 months old today. I really can’t think of another way to sum them up…. “Sweet,” of course they are, but both are absolute “messes” in their own unique way. Below are their top 17 new skills:

17. Rearranging the pantry. Yesterday morning, they were caught taking cans of soup off the pantry shelves and hiding them in random places in the house.

16. Turning the TV off and on. On when they want to watch one of their videos; off in the middle of Mom and Dad’s show.

15. Pointing to body parts. Eyes, ears, nose, head, hair, mouth, teeth, feet, toes, hands, fingers, and the one they love more than anything: belly button! (A word of caution here: Do not let Jake point to your belly button unless you think having a ruptured spleen sounds like fun.)

14. Opening doors, then slamming them…. Over and over and over and over!

13. Cleaning up their toys…. sometimes with such force and aggression that the toys end up ricocheting out of the toy box.

12. Helping with the vacuum cleaner… which really only amounts to holding the cord and finding ways to get in my way, to which I respond by vacuuming around each child.

11. Operating light switches. On-off-on-off-on-off-on-off-on. Repeat with second kid. If I am carrying either child, I plan my path through the house according to the least number of light switches I must pass by in order the reach my destination. If they see it, they have to touch it!

10. Making animal noises like: “Woof, woof;” “Moooooooo;” “Meow, meow;” and their absolute favorite: “Rooooooooaaaaaaaaar!!!!!!”

9. Becoming “poop-conscious.” Instead of relying on the sense of smell in our house, now our two toddlers walk up to us and start tugging on their diapers (sometimes Jake will even say “Poo-poo”). Before they learned how to pick which parent would be responsible for changing the dirty diaper, we had a rule: you change one stinky diaper, you are exempt from the next one. Now, Cody and I hide to avert being the “selected parent” when it a certain aroma is evident. Of course, this only applies on the weekend. On weekdays, I get the privilege of changing every single poopy diaper, which can range from 2-6 on any given day!

8. Throwing trash away… in the trash can. This has been a wonderful new discovery! Now instead of bringing me every piece of dust and every speck of fuzz off the floor, Lilly will march right to the trash can and throw it away! But the other day, just as I was clapping my hands, encouraging her for appropriately using the trash can, Jake takes my hair clips out of my drawer and makes the decision that they belong in the same place as Lilly’s unwanted pieces of dirt and fuzz. (Note to self: Work with both kids on determining which items fall into the trash category.)

7. Waving bye-bye to Daddy. Not sure if this is a new skill. I guess it’s more like a sign of maturity that neither kid flops their body on the floor and screams without ceasing when Daddy leaves for work in the morning. (OK, so Jake was the only one who ever did that.)

6. Building towers with blocks. Let me rephrase that: Lilly builds towers with blocks; Jake knocks the towers down.

5. Using crayons. Now I did not specify how they use crayons. Sometimes, they use crayons to create beautiful scribbly pieces of artwork. Most of the time, I’m going to be honest, they use the crayons as a midday snack!

4. Unplugging. Jake has been into plugs for the past couple of months, and has recently decided to teach Lilly everything he knows about the subject. Now, thanks to his good instruction, the CD player goes silent, right in the middle of the ABC song. No, it’s not a malfunction or a low battery issue; it’s Lilly with the plug in her hand, yanking it out of wall…which leads me to my next new skill.

3. Using the term “Uh-oh” in context. When I forget to put the gate up at the bottom of the stairs, both kids will sing a chorus of uh-ohs until I realize my carelessness and correct the problem. When Lilly throws food from her highchair, Jake looks down and says “Uh-oh.” When my favorite book end gets broken (by Jake) for the third time, Lilly comes to tell me, “Uh-oh!” The first one up in the morning lets me know when the other sibling is awake, by saying “Uh-oh,” in such an urgent manner that I often feel like I need to sprint up the stairs to rescue them from their crib. (The same thing happens at naptime.) My favorite use of the term “Uh-oh” has got be when one (take your pick because they are both guilty in this area) pulls all the toilet paper off the roll. When I discover the child responsible, standing in the middle of the white fluffy mess, they immediately admit their own guilt by shouting, “Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh!”

2. Starting the dishwasher. Again, thanks to Jake, now Lilly also knows how to change the cycle, choose “Added Heat,” “Extra Rinse,” and even set the delay feature so the dishwasher goes off four hours later.

1. Kissing each other goodnight. This is the sweetest thing I have ever seen… in my life. I’ve had days where I wanted to literally rip my hair out in clumps and lie on the floor and have a kicking, screaming tantrum right along with them. Then at bedtime, I witness one of my children walking up to the other and in all their innocence, they exchange very slobbery goodnight kisses. It’s these precious moments that get me out of bed the next morning, ready to do it all over again!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bad or Good?

BAD Hair Day or GOOD Night's Sleep?
The jury's still out on this one! I couldn't resist this crazy-hair photo opportunity!

But evidently, snapping pictures this early in the morning is a recipe for a BAD mood!!!
If Lilly could talk, I'm sure she'd be saying,
"Mom, PLEASE put the camera away! This is so embarrassing!"