Sunday, December 30, 2012

of Fun-Dip and simple Christmas miracles

The tree is down.  Everything Christmas is put away, except my Sara Groves O Holy Night cd.   Fisher Price keeps invading my living room, but as long as the boys aren't squabbling, I'm okay with that.

We've spent the last week or so staying up late and sleeping in. We've had our fill of homemade fudge, and I taught Bubby how to smoosh the peanut cookies "just-so" with a fork.  I dropped out of Advent crafts and activities the last three days, and I grew weary of the picture taking earlier than that.  I started to feel guilty about that, but quickly got over it. The last thing I needed was to become legalistic about Christmas activities.

Our Christmas was quiet and simple and beautiful.  Christmas Eve was not so much. We attempted a service at a different church, and they weren't very Christmas-y. Plus, Bugaboo cried for the first twenty minutes in the soundproof parents' room, so what was the point of staying? The church also gave my children FunDip.  It was in their activity package for the six and under crowd. Apparently they wanted their sanctuary covered in cherry flavored sugar because our car was covered in blue raspberry dust on the way home.

Thankfully, Christmas was easy, just as it should be. Slowly watching the boys open presents, french toast casserole that was ah-maz-ing, assembling toys sent by grandma, making a lasagna instead of big turkey dinner, friend stopping by to eat and play and relax. It was all good. I have told a few people, "This is the first Christmas in about two decades where I did not cry."

And that is a sort of a Christmas miracle of its own.

*Just a couple more days on vacation mode. Preschool starts again on Wednesday. (And all God's people said, Amen!)
(I love how imperfectly perfect this picture is. My kids are not morning people.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

since I don't know quite what to write

I have so much to say, yet nothing really to say. Therefore... a peek into our simple week here.

Bugaboo attempting (again) to get into a present Papa sent from California.
Have I mentioned that this sweet little boy is doing better and better getting from the floor to standing up all on his own?  We cheer big every time it happens. Then he smile or claps, and I get teary-eyed. I've been doing that a lot lately.
Christmas cookies - mostly decorated by Bubby.
We got behind on Truth in the Tinsel - so I adapted and did this 3 year old friendly nativity. I'm realizing what type of mom I am this holiday season - one who likes some routine with flexibility and the ability to wing it quite a bit.
Bubby the morning of his preschool Christmas program/party. Lots of cute photos and video of that day that I won't put on the blog since it includes other people's kids.  I will say that I have the cutest kid in that class.
Mr. Potato head made his way from Auntie Lisa and Uncle Adam's house to us - and the glasses are always the best part.
Picture I chose not to feature here - the one of the moment yesterday when my 3 year old had climbed completely naked - into his brother's crib at naptime after he decided to pee near his own bed.  When I asked him later why he took his clothes off, his reply was, "I just like naked."
linking up for the first time with InstaFriday

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Four years ago between Thanksgiving and Christmas a mall shooting took place. I do not remember the name of the murderer. But I remember the name of my childhood friend. Maggie.  Maggie who along with myself and three other friends danced and sang to New Kids on the Block in Amanda #2's backyard, who rode bikes up in a large group to the Dairy Queen on some summer days, and who played kickball and tag until all of our mother's called us in when the sun went down.

And so I choose to remember students and teachers who are someone's childhood friend. Today I continue to pray for the families and friends of these, who I will now call by name because they deserve that dignity.

Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female (age 6)
Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male (age 7)
Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female (age 6)
Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female (age 7)
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female (age 6)
Dylan Hockley, 03/08/06, male (age 6)
Madeleine F. Hsu, 07/10/06, female (age 6)
Catherine V. Hubbard, 06/08/06, female (age 6)
Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male (age 7)
Jesse Lewis, 06/30/06, male (age 6)
James Mattioli, 03/22/06, male (age 6)
Grace McDonnell, 11/04/05, female (age 7)
Emilie Parker, 05/12/06, female (age 6)
Jack Pinto, 05/06/06, male (age 6)
Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male (age 6)
Caroline Previdi, 09/07/06, female (age 6)
Jessica Rekos, 05/10/06, female (age 6)
Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female (age 6)
Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male (age 6)
Allison N. Wyatt, 07/03/06, female (age 6)
Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female (age 29)
Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female (age 47)
Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female (age 52)
Lauren Russeau, 1982, female (age 29)
Mary Sherlach, 02/11/56, female (age 56)
Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female (age 27)
(Thank you, JoAnn, for reminding me how to pray with this list.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

in which I deal with my real fear of Santa

Once upon a time there was a little girl. 

She probably believed in Santa for a small portion of her life. She doesn't remember it very much - just some Santa photos and maybe a letter. Of course there were the presents under the tree with his name on them. There was never a "come to Jesus" meeting about Santa - she just spied her parents wrapping presents one night, and that was the end of it. No big deal.

But this little girl grew up. And somewhere along the way she was lied to time and time again about much bigger things than Santa or the Easter Bunny. She vowed she would never lie to her children. Her kids would never wonder whether she was trustworthy or not. 

And then she had two little boys that she loved more than anything in the world.  Her promise to be a truth-teller, a protector of fragile hearts became even more important. She felt the weight that every decision she made could impact the two of them for eternity.  This was not quite what she had expected.

Somehow this December she was given a gift. A gift of freedom and of grace. A gift from her heavenly Father, assuring her that He trusted her with these precious boys, and a new insight. The Santa-issue was more about her own trust-issues than anything else.  He kept reminding her through the words of others, through Scripture and through His Spirit that what her kids saw each day in her life was the truth they could rely on. She could let them experience Santa in a way that fit their family and keep a balance.

You are not going to screw them up by allowing this in their life.  Let go of your fear. Trust Me, and let your boys enjoy everything they can while they are still free from the worries and burdens of life. I gave them imaginations - let them use them.

So she and her husband took those sweet boys to see Santa.  As luck would have it, Santa just happened to come right up to her three year old in line. It was a precious moment. And that little-girl-turned-mommy's heart felt everything good about Christmas. Then she stored it up as a treasure, in similar fashion as a mother must have done two thousand years ago. A little later in the day she simply whispered, Thank You, Jesus. Another weight lifted.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

a day late and a dollar short - MSM

Yesterday was catch-up day on our Advent activities.  Do you see those hands for our countdown wreath? Notice anything about one of them - how it looks like an amphibian footprint or something?  Also, do you notice the squarish shape of some of the fingers on the other hands?

I didn't even try to fix them for our wreath.  This is how they were traced. And then we stuck them on the wall. And I was happy.

But before that, I was a little annoyed with the activities yesterday. That kind of defeats the purpose of doing the activities. So I embraced the funkiness of these fingers, and I let go of the fact that my three and a half year old put the Joseph ornament next to the angel instead of next to Mary.

Some year the Advent activities may be worthy of a Martha Stewart award (who are we kidding? Probably not.) But this year the purpose is just to be together, to do something together, and to learn a little along the way.

So I'm letting go (Again. Daily.) of my perfectionistic tendencies. And that's why I'm okay with posting this a day late.  Somehow Advent is teaching me different lessons than I thought it would this year.

joining with Shannan for Money Shot Monday.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

a simple birthday

We were still recovering from illness on Bugaboo's birthday.  Therefore I cancelled our plans to celebrate with some of our local friends.  I doubt they would have cared that my house didn't get vacuumed this week, but I had no energy left to make a cake or snacks or entertain. Plus, our birthday boy was still not in the greatest mood for company.

So The Hubs picked up four fancy cupcakes on the way home from work, and we ate them after dinner but before cards and presents. Then we piled in the car (because I was a bit stir crazy from  two weeks of various illnesses at our house), and we looked at Christmas lights.

I felt a bit of mommy-guilt that this birthday was so boring, but we aren't in to big and fancy around here anyway. Many of the people around here who love him asked about him today at church or said hi to him in person.  He is loved. We are loved.   And most of the people who would have spent time with him on his actual birthday will come to visit at some point in the coming weeks anyway.

So no more mommy-guilt because even with the unexpected circumstances, it was a lovely birthday with my three favorite guys.

Friday, December 7, 2012

for your second birthday

Dear Bugaboo,

You're still under the weather, and it's your birthday.  That doesn't seem quite fair. It has been a long couple of days for both of us. One of the perks is I got to spend most of the days (and nights) snuggling you on the couch, much like I did on those nights your first several weeks at home. You slept on my chest because that was the only thing that worked for your reflux.  I don't miss the late nights or the sore neck, but I do miss the one-on-one time.

You have taught us so much already, especially in this last year. You have taught us to pray, and I think more importantly, you have taught us how to ask others to pray. You have taught us to be persistent and to persevere. And you have taught us how to have joy in the simple things.  Each milestone has been worked for, prayed for, and fought for. Then they have been celebrated by our family and people who are like family.

There have been obstacles and unanswered questions this year. But more than that - there have been smiles and stories and songs. Lots of songs.

You have a gift, little boy, to draw people in. Whether it be your crazy hair or your sweet smile, you teach people about hope and faith and family without even saying a word.  I am so proud of how hard you have worked this year, and I am so lucky to get to be your mommy.  Happy second birthday, sweet boy!



(Last year's letter is here.  Birth story is here.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

MSM - what a genetics test can't tell you

Genetics called today.  The recent tests came back with the same answer as the previous tests.


I sighed with relief as I talked to the genetic counselor on the phone and wrote down the date of our next appointment.  Then I went to my room (by some miracle the call came at naptime), and opened my journal to pray and cry.  We are still left with questions and no answers.

Tonight I sat down to do Money Shot Monday, which I almost didn't until I read Shannan's confession on her post. I found this picture from this afternoon - since I am taking daily pictures of our Advent activities.  Here he is waiting for big brother to finish helping me clean up our mess.

My  Bugaboo. 

I don't need a geneticist or neurologist to tell me what I already know. He is one of the sweetest kids in the world, and he has been working so hard. I couldn't be prouder than I was tonight - when he finally (successfully) went from sit to stand all by himself without assistance from a person or an object.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

the truth about putting up the Christmas tree

I've already confessed on here that I can be a little bah-hum-bug about the holidays.I love almost everything about Christmas (except out-of-control consumerism and The Elf on the Shelf. Sorry! He creeps me out!) Yet I get out of sorts this time of year, too.  I  am a professional at having unrealistic expectations in some areas of life.  

For instance, we put up the tree on Thursday, and parts of the evening were not Hallmark Hall of Fame movie inspiring.  For awhile all I could think about was how, other than the tree, I only own four or five small Christmas decorations. Then that spiraled me into thinking about our small house. Then came the reminder of how after seven years I still haven't really decorated anything in our home for a few different reasons. That thought made me start feeling sad and cranky and......

And I don't want to be like that. I don't want to play the comparison game at Christmas or any other time of year.

So I'm choosing to enjoy this season for what it is and what it means to us.

I am looking forward to seeing it all from my boys' eyes - especially our three and a half year old because he is enthralled with it all.

My non-crafty-self has prepped, and we joyfully started our Advent activities this morning.  I don't have a Martha-Stewart-ish interactive calendar, but from my own head and from some ideas I spotted online, we are making things our own. I purchased Truth in the Tinsel a few weeks ago, so we did that reading and ornament. I incorporated the word of the day from that onto our hand-print wreath/Christmas countdown. We also opened a gift - The Jesus Storybook Bible - which we will also use during Advent (and beyond).

(This is our modified version of  an idea I found here)


The holidays are never perfect. Our crafts won't look like other mommies', but that's okay.  Our house isn't decked out, but my (almost) two year old is fascinated with WALKING to touch the ornaments on the tree.  (That walking thing is kind of a big deal around here.) Honestly, there are things I want to change that I can't about my circumstances. But I can always choose my attitude. Why wait for a new year to make changes?  Here we go - Merry Christmas to me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

of love and vomit

I picked up my youngest child from his crib this morning. He was covered in vomit. I cleaned him off and then put him in the tub and cleaned some more.  The smell still lingered, though disguised pretty well by the Johnson & Johnson's with which he was scrubbed.

As I held him close today all I could think of was how much I loved him and how much I would clean the puke off every day if that is what I needed to do.

I did not stop loving him because of the mess, but I couldn't let him stay that way. To ignore it would have not been love.

Monday, November 26, 2012

out of the lunch rut - Money Shot Monday

This weekend I ate the most incredible fruity chicken salad sandwich at a cute little restaurant in my hometown.  Let it be known that I don't even LIKE chicken salad - everything about regular chicken salad grosses me out.  But I took a risk and ordered something that even with the label "chicken salad" sounded good because this restaurant only makes delicious food. The risk paid off.

Fast-forward to this morning. I was very productive. Two grocery stores. Laundry. Regular mommy-stuff. And my mission - to find a recipe for this chicken salad I had seven hours away.  Nothing on Pinterest seemed exactly like it. So I took aspects of two or three of them plus my memory of what else was in the dish and TA-DA - a new lunch alternative.

It is very tasty. The picture taken via my phone is not great. But trust me. It is delicious. Now if I could just find the recipe for the amazing wheat-berry bread, I'm in business. For now I will eat it on crackers.

Amanda MacB's spin on the Fruity Chicken Salad:

1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken - cut or shredded (I did not measure - just cooked up a few frozen boneless skinless chicken tenderloins)
large handful of red grapes - cut
1/3 cucumber - diced (not sure if what I think of as the difference between cut, diced, and chopped, is accurate, but oh well)
1/2 large granny smith apple - chopped
1 handful of dried cranberries
1/2 handful of pecans (I added these just before putting on crackers, but the choice is yours)
1/3 cup mayo (I hate mayo - hate it - but it is a necessary component it seems, and I don't hate it as much any more)
1-2 tablespoons honey (I'll be honest - I just drizzled this all over until it seemed sweet enough)

Mix all ingredients together in large-ish bowl.  Cover. Chill for a few hours.  This was great at lunch, but even better tonight once it had relaxed all day in my fridge.

Serve on crackers. Or a croissant. Or wheatberry bread if you are lucky enough to have some.

linking up with Shannan for Money Shot Monday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

of footsteps, Play-doh, and thankfulness

We went home for Thanksgiving - and by home, I of course mean the house I grew up in from age eight on. It was a semi-last-minute decision. We avoided traffic by travelling on Tuesday and Saturday. Our youngest travelled fairly well - which meant we avoided the usual 6 out of 7 hours of crying in the car (one way).

I left my camera in Missouri. I was a bit stressed about the weekend because I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays that occur from Thanksgiving through Valentines. A big part of me wanted to stay home and clean out closets and toilets.  Another part of me wanted to fly to Arizona to relive my best Thanksgiving ever with an assortment of people who do not share my blood but feel like family.  But we made the trip, and I am glad we did.

I consumed half a pan of sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows in a thirty-six hour span of time. I slept in my mom's somewhat redone (but still waiting on Ty Pennington to finish the job since she was left in a lurch) basement where there are no windows. Therefore the boys and I slept till 8, 9, 9:30 every day. That alone was worth the drive. Sleep is my love language, if you didn't know.

My oldest chased his fur-cousin and was also introduced to CandyLand and Hi-Ho-Cherry-Oh.  My mother, lifetime hater of Play-doh, brought out a deluxe Veggie Tale Play-doh activity set. Apparently one's opinion of Play-doh changes when one transitions from Mom to Grandma. 

The rest of the weekend? We celebrated a second birthday a couple of weeks early. And we watched my sweet Bugaboo walk. He walked around my mom's house. He walked around Mimi's with his great-grandma and great-great-grandma watching.  He walked in his braces and special shoes, AND... he walked in his bare feet and in his footie jammies!!

Each lap around the living room reminded me how far he has come.

Each step made my heart beat thank-You. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

wild thing - Money Shot Monday

It is rumored that bath time calms most children. But not my boys. Perhaps it's because my oldest runs around naked for a few minutes afterwards. Perhaps it's the wrestling and zubba-ing that occurs once the footie pajamas are on. Whatever it is, it was wild around here for at least thirty minutes after bath tonight.

And Bugaboo's crazy hair - the hair that has done it's own thing since the day he was born?  Just as crazy right after bath. This hair, this stinkin' adorable hair, has made him almost-famous around these parts. Strangers at the grocery store want to touch it, older moms in elevators share their stories of their own grown-up-babies' hard to manage 'do's, and well-loved friends can't resist trying to snuggle our sweet boy with the wild hair.

By the time I go to bed it doesn't matter that Bugaboo cried for two hours this morning, and then goobered up my pajamas trying to settle into sleep tonight.  All I can think of right before I close up my computer and put my head on my pillow each night is that I love my crazy-haired-boy so much my heart overflows, and I love his opposite-haired-big brother just as much.

linking up with Shannan for Money Shot Monday

Thursday, November 15, 2012

for November 16

Dear Papa,
You have been gone for three years now. Sometimes it seems like longer, and sometimes I forget you are no longer here. Many things have changed, though some are the same, but I'm sure you know all about it from where you are.

There are times when I'm talking with Mimi on the phone when I almost ask to talk to you or ask how you are doing.  I miss our weekly phone calls. I miss the funny emails you would forward, even though I confess, I didn't read every joke one you sent. You sent a lot when I was in college. I did always read the ones where you wrote your own words.

I miss you asking me about Herman, and I miss you reminding me to check my oil. I miss the care packages filled with homemade Christmas cookies, and I miss the way you would sneakily hand me some gas money when I would be home for a visit.

In my garage I have three pieces of wood from your workshop. I still don't know what I want to do with them, but I know someday I will figure it out and be glad I said I'd take them.  Right now I just like the way that every once in awhile I catch their scent as I walk in the house, and I am instantly transported to the basement of your green house on 21st Avenue. I miss being a little kid watching you carve and getting to sweep up all the wood chips. And I confess that these days I am a little bit glad I have the scar on my left hand from the Thanksgiving when I played with your knives.

This week I painted Christmas cards with the boys.  There were some Santa pictures we made, and as I was painting on eyes and smiles, I remembered how you always had Mimi paint the eyes on your Santa carvings.  I sat at my kitchen table this week, once the boys were in bed, and I cried because I wish you could see your great-grandsons' Santas. You would love them. I wish you were here to play with Cole. Sometimes I can almost hear you laughing about the crazy things he does. I wish you were here to meet Grady.  You would say, "He's a beautiful boy, a handsome boy," just like you said about his big brother three years ago.

Tomorrow I will wear your Illini shirt, and I will once again make homemade chicken and noodles. Next week we will hang your ornaments on the tree, and I will keep missing you in those moments, too. 

In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
With love,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

crafty or crazy or a bit of both?

 This weekend was delightful, filled with just simple things that all weekends should have. Beautiful weather, a trip to the zoo, watching movies at night with my footie-pajama-wearing boys ... delightful.

 The beginning of this week, however, has been a bit rough due to my youngest's extreme crankiness for known and unknown reasons.  On Thursday my oldest has minor surgery. And I am prepping to facilitate a Sunday school lesson on "praying for our children." All of this amidst the normal stuff of laundry and meals and diapers and such.

So what did I do today?

I took my two young children to Hobby Lobby to purchase craft supplies (because I have none) for our advent projects coming up soon. Slightly crazy since Hobby Lobby has the smallest carts known to man, and Bubby was bit upset he could not ride in the basket.  (I am going to use Truth in the Tinsel this year with Bubby. I am pretty excited even though I am not a crafty person. Hence the lack of craft supplies in my home.)

Then I did something even crazier.

After nap and before dinner the boys and I made Christmas cards.  This involved paint and their handprints.  Have I mentioned they are three and one?  Did I mention I did this by myself at the kitchen table? Have I mentioned I don't craft?

And all three of us had fun. (Well, Bugaboo tolerated it.)

One might think I was mother of the year until I tell confess that I also fed my children Taco Bell for dinner. And the huge pile of laundry in the basket? It didn't get put away until almost bedtime. (And that laundry had been in the basket for two or three days.)

But I am happy, and I am already in the Christmas spirit much earlier than usual. I tend to lean more on the bah-hum-bug side of things. Perhaps, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes today.