Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The day she turned five.

Casey and I have begun to really evaluate and think about what we hope our children will take away from their upbringings in our home.  We've always purposed to be intentional in our parenting; we don't want to simply let things happen haphazardly.  With Leah turning five, it struck us that we really are at that point where she is going to have solid memories about her childhood - what will those look like?  It made us take another look at how we go about things in the hopes that we can purposefully shape what we do to have a positive impact on who she will become.

Coming up with some new family traditions - more concrete traditions, now that her being old enough warrants them - was a good step in that direction.

So, the night before her birthday, we decorated the door to her room.  When she woke up, it was to streamers and balloons hanging all around the door.

And let me tell you, she was SO excited!

We also decorated the kitchen the night before and prepared a special birthday table for her to come down to in the morning.  It was nothing elaborate, just a few little things here and there to really make her feel loved.

The Happy Birthday banner my mom and I made before her first birthday, which has subsequently made its way out every year (probably because it was a stinking lot of work, and perhaps in equal parts that it looks cool).

The chocolate cupcakes she asked for.  Pink balloons on her chair.  I dug her birth announcement out of the basement so that she could see it.  A couple of very small presents - the only ones we get her.  In our house, her big present is always her party.

My favorite new addition this year is a tradition that we called Love Notes for Leah.  The entire family spent the week leading up to her birthday jotting down quick things that we love about her.  Logan loves playing with her.  Mommy loves her heart for the Lord.  Daddy loves how she joyfully serves her family.  On her birthday, we spent the day reading a few here and there.

By the time kids get to 8th grade, I have watched with horror at how dramatically the world has chewed them up and spit them out.  So often, they have such an unrealistic view of themselves, because the world around them has torn them down and turned their gifts and uniqueness into nothing.  Made them feel imperfect and devalued.  I am not someone who believes that kids should be praised needlessly or given trophies merely for participation, but I am a true believer that part of our job as parents is to root them in their inherent value and convey to them just how loved they are, exactly as they are.  To build them up by telling them about the wonderful contribution they bring to us as a family.  And that's just what this tradition was meant to celebrate.  How lucky we are that God chose us to raise that girl, to be her mother, brother, father and sister, and what a unique and lovely person she is - just as she is.

She will have many years when the voices of those around her threaten to drown out what I have only a few years to instill: that she is loved, that she is valued, that she is worth more than rubies.  That her worth is not connected to her choices, good or bad, but is inherently and irreversibly linked to who she is as a blessed and loved child of God.

Every year, her response humbles me.

She has exactly the right attitude.  An attitude of gratitude.  Of awe.  Of appreciation and joy.  She feels loved.  Not because of things, but because someone took the time to celebrate her.  To stop and tell her that she is loved and worth loving.

Her one present - the one that I was SO excited to give her - is the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  As a lover of literature, I have treasured the days we've spent immersed in children's books.  We love Dr. Seuss.  We adore Fancy Nancy.  We read, tons and tons and tons.  But this gift marks a bit of a turning point into actual literature, and I am so stoked.  Purchasing this collection literally gave me goose bumps as I think about what's to come, and the doors that are open to us now, really for the first time.

And, of course, I again loved her reaction, that sweet, darling girl.

It was such a wonderful morning.  I just love these moments together as a family.

To cap off the day, she got to choose our family dinner.  Because five year olds have exquisite, sophisticated taste, that included: enchiladas, chips and guacamole, and orzo with parmesan cheese.

Livvy Lou helped me prepare the meal.  And she's never going to turn five.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A letter to my daughter.

My beautiful Leah,

I suppose you'll be hearing this from me each year on your birthday, but somehow it is more true as you turn five than it has been in a while: I can't believe we have reached this milestone.  It seems cliche to say it, but I blinked and we are here.

It truly seems just yesterday that I was patting and singing to you in my belly.

That we were meeting you for the first time and learning to be parents.

When you were born, it was physically difficult for me to be away from you.  I had to force myself to let other people hold you, or take my eyes away from your squishy cheeks and scrunched expressions.  You were a marvel to me; a miracle.

Although the separation is more requisite these days, the truth is that I am still so very enamored of you.  There are days when you challenge me to my very core, but it is no overstatement to say that watching you grow and experience the world is the greatest joy in my life.  

This year has been a particularly significant one for you.  From smiley, delightful baby, to curious, inquisitive toddler, and now into a little girl who is amazing in so many ways.  You are empathetic.  You are thoughtful.  You are brave.  You are so compassionate; your soul aches to heal the hurts in the world and in others.  You see with such clarity things that others miss: possibility, beauty, and the treasure that is a sincere and full-hearted faith.  

You have wild, curly hair that refuses to be tamed.  You love to sing when you are supposed to be sleeping.  Your heart reaches out to the Lord.  You adore your baby sister, and are consistently good and patient with your brother.  You are my little mother, and love to care for everyone, whether they be real, imaginary or plastic baby dolls.  

You encountered your first genuine struggles this year, as you have had to deal with the frustrating reality that you simply can't be good at everything, all the time.  I know that we will continue to battle this perfectionism you come by so naturally, because you and I are very much alike.  I also have faith that the same determination that drives you to excel will be a transformative strength as you walk this long journey called life.  And we'll both work together to learn to give ourselves a little much-needed grace.  

Can I tell you a secret?  

I love being your mommy.  

Okay, you're right... it's no secret.  I tell you all the time.  It will always be true, no matter the path that lies ahead of us.  Two things you'll never lose as long as you have breath in your body - and even long, long after - are the love of God and the love of your momma.  Those two constants cannot be altered.  I pray you will embrace them both with as much enthusiasm and joy as you do today.  

So much love on your 5th birthday, and everyday.  I am so much better for having spent these five years with you.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

60 days: Update

Okay... it has officially been 60 days since I began my weight loss and exercise program.

Are you ready for this?

I'd say it's going pretty well!  

I am down a grand total of nearly 24 inches.  As I have mentioned before, I'm not keeping track of my weight loss.  Weight is such an insignificant factor for me... I can lose a ton and look completely different without changing my weight very much, and I did not want to be discouraged.

It has been so, so wonderful to watch the changes in my body, attitude, strength and energy.  I am getting so much stronger!  My endurance is up, and I'm really beginning to recognize the person I'm accustomed to seeing when I look in the mirror.  Obviously, at only 7 months old, Miss Olivia is still nursing away.  I'm a little bit apprehensive as to whether I am actually going to see much additional change after this point, but I am so proud of myself.

And, it's worth noting that for the first time EVER while still nursing, I am in my pre-pregnancy pants.  I tried them on this morning, and they fit.  Nicely.  That's a little crazy to me in the best kind of way.

I know that I still have a long way to go, and the truth is that I may just never fully get back to my "before."  I am actually completely okay with that - I have had three babies, have a husband who loves me and am exactly where I want to be in my life.  This program has been so wonderful for me because it has given me 20 minutes a day to reclaim who I am, and do something that's good for me.  I have fallen so far off of my own radar over the past nearly five years, and I've come to the realization that it is important for me to be important - even if it's just for the time it takes to do these exercises.

That little bit of self care is the biggest gift I can give myself, and probably my children, too.

So cheers to those almost 24 inches in 2 months.  I do not miss you!

Friday, February 27, 2015

To prove they're not locked in the basement, I give you exhibit A.

It is my sincere desire to someday write down all the various reasons we've chosen to homeschool.  My masters is in language acquisition and brain development from birth through adolescence (which sounds all fancy, but the truth is that I'm just as perplexed as everybody else by kids and their weird behavior), and it is worth a separate post to discuss just how much I love the curriculum we've chosen to utilize and why.  The short answer is: it just resonates with me from my nerdy, brain-development perspective.

When it comes to homeschooling, the sticking point to most of the world - of course, always - has to do with socialization.  Which always makes me laugh a little, because... well, they're kids, not dogs.  And mine are definitely not locked in the basement, but that too is a post for a different time.

For now, I'll just relay that one of the greatest things about this program is that we have a cohort of absolutely wonderful people that meets once a week.  Mondays, then, are for more "traditional" school in our world.  The community aspect of this program is just phenomenal.

School is from 9-12, and in that time they do science experiments, learn new memory work in 7 subjects (timeline, history, geography, English grammar, math, science and Latin), play games to review past memory work, study art or music and give prepared presentations in front of the class.

In this photo, they're memorizing facts from the timeline of the world.  Today: Lincoln's war between the States, Reconstruction of the Southern States, Dominion of Canada, Otto Von Bismark unifies Germany, Boer wars in Africa, the Spanish American War, and The Progressive Era.  Of course, they have no real understanding of what these individual events mean or their greater significance in the world's history. That comes later. For now, we're just memorizing.

Her teacher is Mrs. Wilson, and she is absolutely fabulous.  Truly gifted as a teacher, and a wonderful example of Christ.

Each of the events has a hand motion to accompany it.  Because - nerd alert! - any time you engage multiple senses, your brain is more likely to translate the information into long term memory and you're more apt to hang onto it.  I know, I can't help it.  It's right up my alley.

Um... not to mention, like a layer of fudge on an ice cream cake, it's just awesome.

Here they are laying on the floor learning Latin.  Yes, this is how we amuse ourselves in my household.

It is just so wonderful to see what these kids can do.  They really know this stuff, too.  I am continually blown away by how much they know and can do at such young ages.  Because... well, who doesn't want to march around a classroom singing about how NATO was formed to resist the spread of Soviet communism?

If that's not your idea of fun, we'd probably better not be friends anymore.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Just February life.

 Home made Sunday cinnamon rolls.  Some pink tulips that made me happy.  An Elsa bathrobe.  And maybe some Halloween jammies.  We're rebels like that.

Not to be forgotten, our sweet Livvy Lou.  Rocking the I can't wait for spring purple.

A little furniture climbing, with a side of pirate "ARRRGGGHH."

A happy girl who's almost five.  Sigh.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A tale of two vacations


My continued yearly nemesis.  It never gets any easier for me... this is a time of year that I just can't wait to be done with.  The weather is cold - and not the delightful, cozy, warm sweater kind.  The chaffing, icy, cooped up indoors going nuts waiting for spring kind.

Soooo... spring?  Yet?

I have heard, however, that there is a land of eternal spring, and, with apologies to the country of Guatemala, who I do believe hold the "official" title, we were invited to go there by some wonderful family.

I am referring of course to Florida.  OH YEAH.  Sunshine state, here we come!

Miss Olivia is turning out to be quite the little world traveler.  First Hawaii in October, and now Florida.  That's exactly twice the plane rides the others have taken in their lives.  This being the first, in case that was unclear.

That's right, we've never, ever traveled by plane with the kiddos before.  I was a bit apprehensive, but it was all made much less so considering Casey ended up flying with us - which was NOT the case when we booked our original flight.  Two parents + three kids = totally manageable.  Besides, they never cease to amaze me with their level of awesome when we're out and about.  The only down side was the amount of snorting and sniffling and hacking on the plane.  I wanted a bubble for the kids.  It was gross.

Naturally, the first thing we did when we arrived in Florida was to play outside.

We were warned by the natives that it wasn't exactly hot yet...

...but seriously?  People, we're from Colorado.  71 degrees is clearly hanging by the pool in just our undies and sunglasses weather.

And if the pool isn't heated?

It ain't no thang.

Of course we had to take time to visit the ocean.

I'm reminded of all those stories about how difficult it is to be the middle child, and I definitely feel for mine.

Both girls have been to the pacific ocean... we went to California when Leah was about three months old, and Miss Livvy got to go with us to Hawaii.  But for our sweet little Logan, this was his very first ocean experience ever.

I'm not sure he was quite prepared for just how intense it was going to be!  They both enjoyed the waves for about 4/10ths of a second before the tide came in and knocked them over.

Fortunately, soaked looked pretty good on them!

And, once they were wet, it was a bit of a free-for-all from that point forward.

Of course, I couldn't let the day go by without giving the little one her moment...

...which of course made me all nostalgic for that other time a little miss put her sweet baby feet in the wet ocean sand for the first time.

You might be wondering about the fact that the outfit is the same.  Total accident.  Far be it from me to remember the outfit Leah wore when she visited the ocean for the first time and intentionally pack and put Livvy in the same one.

That would be crazy.  This is just coincidence.

It was such a great day.  Truly, one for the books.

The next day, we went to a local park to play.  It was fun, but we didn't last long because Logan wasn't feeling especially well.

(And no, the kids aren't torturing Livvy.  This is just what happens when Mommy puts her down.  No, I'm not kidding.)

It was really fun, but after nap that day he woke up with a fever.  Which, 24 hours later, Leah, Casey and I had too.

Because somebody in all that sniffling, snorting mess of people on the plane had the flu.  And after about two days in Florida, so did we.

So that definitely put a damper on our visit.  Truly, we are so lucky to have such wonderful family, because I don't think there is anything worse than having house guests from out of town gift you with the flu.  (Luckily, though, maybe because they'd had flu shots - or because higher doses of vitamin D give you stronger immune systems - they didn't end up catching it.  Just the Colorado Crew had that delightful fun.)

We did a lot of laying around, wheezing and coughing after that.  And were read to and cared for by our fabulous family who should have been running screaming in the other direction.  God bless them.

On the last day of our visit, we did take a drive down to Key Largo for dinner, but everybody was still feeling pretty terrible.

The scenery, on the other hand, did not disappoint.

We had everybody cleared by the doctor, and thank the Lord little Olivia's flu shot kept her feeling well.  We put masks on the kids for the flight home and despite everything they did an absolutely awesome job.  They could not have been sweeter.

We cherished visiting family, and enjoyed our time when we felt well, but I can't say that it was the greatest trip.  I can't remember the last time I've felt that badly, and to top it off I felt just as guilty as could be that we brought that junk to our loved ones after all they had done for us.

On the plus side, though, it gives us a great excuse to visit again.

And so, February, as I say every year: we cannot be rid of you fast enough!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Weight loss update: 30 days

So, you guys?

Remember how I said that I was going to be making some personal changes with regard to exercise and weight loss?

I started the year the largest I've ever been.  Maybe not the heaviest, I don't really know, but what I do know is that the weight was very stubbornly not coming off.  Even more stubbornly than it's been in the past.

I was big.  I was squishy.  I was just plain out of shape.

Fortunately, I found an exercise program, one that lets me work out for just a few minutes a day at home, and I've been doing it ever day for the last month.

It has been so energizing to get up every morning and invest 20 minutes in myself.  To tune out the needs of everybody else and let ME take center stage.  I can't tell you how long it has been since I've re-claimed that privilege for myself.  Actually, that's not true.  It has been somewhere in the vicinity of about 4-5 years, since shortly after Leah was born.  Yes, that's as sad as it sounds.

Most often, it is me and the tiny one who jumps happily and (mostly) quietly in her bouncer long enough for me to get my work out in.  Sometimes I'm joined by my big early risers, who always cheer me on or do the moves with me.

The best part is that I feel better.  I have more energy.  My body is more flexible and strong.  In all, I'm getting back to feeling like the person I've always known.

But here's the second best part:

I have lost 15 inches off my body in 30 days!

6 months post-partum, and I'm well on my way to getting back into those coveted skinny jeans.  For, like, the first time ever.  This is a big deal, folks.

After having been gone all month, Casey came home and saw the changes.  I do believe his exact words were, "W-O-W!"  Because, well, he's a good man.

I changed my font at