Saturday, April 30, 2011

Life in the 'ville

Springtime in the 'ville is pretty hard to beat. All the trees are blooming. The Iron Horse trail is filled with bikes, trikes, trailers and hikers. Thanks to a rainy winter, the water features at our local parks are running again. The smell of barbecued hamburgers fills the air in our neighborhood. And Sideboard's iced coffee has returned. Yes, we Danville folks have it pretty good.

Who else in suburban American can boast of their extensive biking trails, green open spaces, award-winning local food, small town parades and family-friendly places? When Ben and I moved here nearly seven years ago, we instantly fell in love with this town. In just a few short months we began bumping into people we recognized on the downtown streets. Frequent trips to coffee shops and restaurants earned us first-name privileges with staff. And when we added Maddie and Sam to our family, we found out even more about our great locale.

Just yesterday we spent an hour downtown before meeting family for lunch. We hopped in and out of the library, where both my kids snagged great books and made new friends. We frolicked on the library lawn before heading to Hartz Avenue. Shopkeepers smiled and greeted us as we shopped, the cacophony of our enthusiastic entourage preceding and following us.

Maddie announced she would be having her "usual buttered noodles" to Wes, son of the chef and owners of Sideboard, before skipping over and pouring herself a glass of fruit-infused water. We grabbed an outside table while the kids ran around the old hotel plaza, "locking" themselves in the old jail, playing tag between crepe myrtle trees, and filling the air with their laughter.

This morning we'll head down to the Farmer's Market, our usual Saturday morning activity. Our favorite farmers and fishermen are like old friends, asking about the kids, telling us what tastes good this week, relishing the fair weather we've had lately. Maddie will want to pick out a new vegetable to try, or perhaps will be drawn to a rainbow-colored bunch of chard simply because it's beautiful. We'll grab samples of kettle corn and maybe even share a savory galette from our mate the Frenchman. Our final stop will be to load up on veggies for the week, plus zucchini and tomatoes for tonight's dinner.

Tonight we'll gather for an early meal with some of our dearest friends on their outside patio. Wine will be poured (harvested and produced locally), we will nosh on delicious pasta, salad, a zucchini-tomato gratin, and homemade dessert. We'll laugh and share and wonder aloud how blessed we are to have found sweet community together.

Yes indeed, we love it here in Danville.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Week

Easter Week started off with a fun egg hunt with our yellow room (preschool) friends. Our room moms did a great job organizing a fun event with lots to do!

Nicole and Maddie loved their pinwheels!

Kelly & Nicoley

Later in the week we made Resurrection Cookies. Unfortunately, we had two sad cookie encounters. 1) It is near impossible to get good pictures in my kitchen. Oh well. 2) Our cookies didn't rise, didn't hollow out, didn't become empty tombs. But they were still delicious, and since Maddie didn't know the difference, we just cracked them apart and celebrated the fact that death couldn't hold Jesus!

Easter morning Sam actually slept in, so we were waiting and waiting (so it seemed) until the kiddos could find their hidden baskets. Here they are digging into the loot!

While three of us were upstairs getting ready for church, Sam found a rogue cadbury creme egg and dove right in. When I found him, he was surrounded by the tiniest foil pieces imaginable, shoving a half-eaten egg in his mouth, galloping in circles around the living room rug. His face looked thus:

Maddie got herself dressed for church and added the leopard-print headband:

On the front step before church, we snapped some photos:

As long as is possible, I WILL dress my son in cutesy clothes. The day will be here shortly where he will dictate his fashion and until then, I will pick seersucker jackets, bow ties, and button up shirts to my heart's content.

Maddie checking out the stash of goodies from Tutu and Boppa:

Sam took such a long nap, we had about an eight-minute interval in which to find our hidden eggs in the backyard before heading to Easter Dinner at the Eakins'. But eight minutes is more than enough for two eager little kiddos.

We joined the Eakins, plus family and friends totalling 30+, for a delicious Easter Dinner. Sam checked out the pogo stick:

Susan did resurrection eggs with the kiddos:

I ran around snapping photos of the Easter cheer (and sugar highs):

Sam and KK share a moment over an open egg of jelly beans:

Tutu and Maddie, swinging away!

Hoping your family had a blessed Easter week! Praising God for new life, for the work of his Spirit in our sweet Maddie, for baptism week, and for all the love and care he shows us through his people.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save!

Friday, April 22, 2011

out of the mouths of babes

Last September, Maddie prayed a simple prayer, giving Jesus her "whole heart." Eight months later, we see all kinds of evidence of the Spirit at work in her. It is absolutely amazing and really, quite indescribable to hear your Maddie, my own child, speak truth and to see the sanctifying work of the gospel in her life. A few weeks ago she decided to be baptized, and as we enter the week of her public declaration of faith, I felt the need to write down some of the things we've seen and heard over the past few months.

A few days ago Maddie said to me, "Sometimes when I feel like I want to make a bad decision, there's something in me that tells me I don't have to do it." I explained that as the Holy Spirit, which she received when she prayed to Jesus, and the Spirit's job is to help guide her in truth and help her make good decisions. She turns to me and says, "It's just something God gave me. I don't have to make bad decisions. It's just inside me."

Also this week, her sweet friend Nicole took scissors to her own hair this past week, resulting in a new, short style. After speaking with Kelly, Nicole's mom, I talked to Maddie about how she could come around her friend at school, love and encourage her so she wouldn't feel embarrassed or uneasy about her hair. On the way to school, after telling Maddie how important it would be to support her friend, Maddie says to me, "But, Mommy, Nicole is a precious child of God. Nothing can change the way I feel about her! I will tell her that her hair is amazing and I love her no matter what!" These are not words that I fed her, but her very own understanding of God's unconditional love for his sweet child Nicole. I can't even describe the joy that fills my heart that these two sweet best friends can speak truth to each other at only four years old. (It's only in the past two years that their own mothers have learned this way of loving and speaking truth to each other!)

After Sam's birthday party I was walking around, cleaning up, popping balloons and throwing them away. One balloon started drifting away and I grasped for the string as it headed toward the stairs and up to the ceiling fan. I was frustrated and hurrying around, and when I couldn't make it to the balloon in time I barked out, "Stupid balloon!" As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew there would be an intervention from a certain four year-old girl. Sure enough, she ran over. "Mom, did you say stupid?" Me: "Yes, but sometimes when Mommy is really frustrated she says things that aren't right. I was really feeling upset that the balloon got away and now is all tangled up in the fan." (Hear the justification?) Maddie wouldn't let up. "You don't have to say stupid. God doesn't want us to say things like that, even if you are frustrated." She was right, just like that, the Holy Spirit swooped in, pushed my pride and self-justification right out of the way, and allowed me to admit my sin and ask for forgiveness. Truth from my child's lips, once again.

And to finish on a humorous note, the other night at small group I cut Maddie a small piece of the fruit tart Phil had provided. She decided that it was too small to really appreciate its goodness, and asked for more. I hushed her and reminded her it was bedtime. Verne, aka adopted grandpa, asked me quietly if he could give Maddie his piece to enjoy the next day. I smiled and assured him it could be so. Maddie's face lit up as she leapt into Grandpa Verne's arms, showered him with kisses, and then accompanied me upstairs. I sang her songs and then started to pray, as we do each and every time she gets in bed. Maddie interrupted, saying she'd like to pray also. The prayer went something like this:
"Dear God, thank you so much for this day. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for the cross, for dying for us. Thank you that you help me, Jesus, to make good decisions. And, God, please help Verne to remember my fruit tart. AMEN!"

Sweet Maddie, we are so proud of you. We are in awe of the work that God continues to do in your tender, gentle, passionate little heart. Even on our roughest of days, I take such comfort in knowing that God is great, he is in control of your life and he is working his will and his ways to produce fruit of all types in your life. We are so honored to be your parents and to walk through this life as disciples together.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mother's Day Post & Giveaway

Do you read Wendy's blog? Have you read her book? Wendy is awesome and she has an awesome giveaway going on over at her blog. You should check it out!

I would love to win the Mother's Day swag and so I'm linking up by answering her questions. If you read the blog, you know that I love my own mom, aka Grammy to Maddie & Sam. (Stick through to the end for another giveaway!)

1. What is your best childhood memory with your mom?
This is a tough one. I have lots of memories. For some reason, right now I'm remembering a funny moment when my mom went to change the water in the fish tank and it crashed to the floor, sending water and fish flying. We had this one black fish with bubble eyes and she picked it right up with her hands and tossed it into the kitchen sink, into a sink full of dish water. That fish totally survived the ordeal and I remember thinking my mom was so awesome.

Another favorite memory was when she planned a surprise birthday party when I was eight years old. I came home with my best friend Jenny and she told me that before we could start playing I needed to clean up the big mess on my floor. I distinctly remembered that I had cleaned my room, and I was so eager to play with Jenny that I ran in, and to my great surprise, tons of my friends leapt up and yelled "Happy Birthday!"

2. Was she consistent in her discipline?
I'm sure that she wasn't, simply because we can never be fully consistent as moms. It just doesn't happen, even as much as we wish it to. I do remember that she had specific rules and boundaries but they were fair. I don't remember much discipline, but she assures me that my own daughter is much like myself and we spend *a lot* of time disciplining at this house. This makes me grateful because hopefully Maddie will remember the good things and not the consequences.

3. Did you ever make your mom cry because you were unruly or disobedient?
Um, yes. Probably multiple times. Though it was a group endeavor. I'm sure the three of us (I have two brothers) gave her a rough time, a lot of the time. I remember one specific time I really hurt her feelings. It was in 8th grade. I spent a lot of time at a friend's house who was pretty rude and disrespectful to her mom. After a while, it rubbed off on me and my mom came to pick me up from a sleepover and she was wearing a pair of my earrings (we wore the same size shoe and also shared a lot of jewelry in those days). I said in a rude voice, "Nice earrings, Mom." The look on her face is imprinted in my memory. I had hurt her so deeply, and once the words left my mouth I couldn't take them back. Respect is so important, and as a parent, when I feel disrespected it is the hardest thing for me to take. Sorry, mom, not only for that moment but for countless others where I didn't honor and respect you.

4. Do you remember any of the special things your mom did for you?
Mom always made special days feel really special. On birthdays she would either make our favorite dinner or let us pick our favorite place to eat out (fajitas at home or Pancho's for dinner). She was always available to talk. Always. Both she and my dad were very approachable and I felt like I could be honest with them and know they loved and cared for me even if they didn't agree with my decisions or actions.

When I started my period at school, my mom went all out to make me feel special and to celebrate the transition to womanhood (if you will). Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed, she showered me with love, took me shopping, gave me a Hershey's chocolate bar and drew a bath so I could relax.

She also made lots of fun desserts on special occasions, like chocolate pudding or heart-shaped cakes for Valentine's Day. I was always so excited to peek in the fridge and see something for us to enjoy later in the day.

5. Did she teach you anything really significant?
Where can I even start? Everything significant I know and believe came straight from my parents. They are such wonderful, awesome, incredible people. The most significant thing she gave me is my faith in God. Without Jesus, I would have nothing in this world.

The second most important thing she taught me was to always treat people well, to extend love and care to every person I met, regardless of whether they were popular or not, beautiful or not, powerful or not. This was the BEST advice I ever received, and it made my high school years so much easier. I just never felt the need to look down on someone or belittle them because they were different, strange, or difficult.

There was one specific person I knew who was very hard to love. I showered her with as much goodness as I could muster even though she was horribly abrasive, harsh and unreceptive. Years later, after we had graduated high school, she contacted me. She shared how much she appreciated the fact that I never stopped treating her kindly in spite of how she reacted. I immediately told my mom, because I owe that all to her.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

If you made it to the end, you are rewarded! Leave a comment answering one of these questions about your own mom and I'll send you a handmade card you can give her for Mother's Day! It's that simple! One lucky winner will not only get a handmade card, but a $20 gift certificate to Starbucks to load up on go juice (aka caffeine, tea, coffee, whatever gets you through the day).

Friday, April 15, 2011

giveaway details

Remember my giveaway back in February? Well, I finally saw my mother-in-law Bonnie and got her package delivered, so now I can show my creations to you!

15 handmade cards in all:
5 - 3x5 cards
6 - 5x7 cards
4 - 3x8 cards

Some of the details:

I did a turquoise and pink theme. Every card had turquoise and/or pink incorporated. Some had shiny elements, others were more flowery. There were even some modern graphics mixed in.

It was fun to get into a hobby again, get crafting, and spend time making a blogoversary gift for one of my readers. Thanks to all who continue to read and visit the ol' blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maddie: 51 Months

Dear Maddie-Lou Who,

Tonight you came down the stairs in your polka dot nightgown, hair disheveled and eyes sleepy, and climbed on the couch between your Daddy and I as we watched Idol on DVR. You sat for a few seconds, blinking silently, until you smiled sweetly, kissed my arm, and let us know you'd be hanging out for a few minutes. Though the day's shenanigans had left me feeling like the grinch at bedtime, how could I say no when with a simple little look you make my heart grow three sizes?

And that, my dear, sums up the past month of life in our house. One minute you make me absolutely crazy with your sassiness, bossiness, and constant tattling. The next minute you make up a song about Jesus, tell a story just so, or kiss your brother gently and sweetly, melting my heart and making me fall deeper in love with you. Four is at times impossible and others, impossibly wonderful. This motherhood business is hard work, no getting around it.

You have an opinion on just about everything. You love to share your thoughts, feelings and perceptions of the world with us, whether we are listening or not. You are constantly talking, morning 'til night, telling stories, singing songs, admonishing bad behavior, recalling memories, talking back, giving feedback, speaking your mind, and tenderly loving.

You are positively hilarious, making me laugh multiple times a day. Just today, I was singing the song "I will change your name." You asked me, "Why would Jesus change his name?" I explained the song is about God's love actually changing who we are, for example, from broken to confident. You thought for a minute, then asked with no hint of jest, "Well, maybe he would change my name to Maddie Toilet Joyce?"

Earlier this week we were going fishing and your Daddy asked if you wanted to pray and ask God to help catch some fish. In the sweetest voice possible, you asked that God would help us catch one million, one hundred fish, just like he had helped Peter and John.

This week I've had a bad cold and yesterday was especially rough. As I laid on the couch with my tissues nearby, you brought me a plate of fruit (washed and peeled). You also made Sam breakfast, poured yourself a drink of water, and covered me with a blanket while I napped. Every twenty minutes or so you would check in, see how I was feeling, and softly touch my head with your hands. My goodness, you will be a wonderful Mama someday.

It's hard to believe you're almost through with your second year of preschool. Next year it's pre-K, five days a week! You will be in heaven having school every day. You are such an eager, disciplined learner. You soak things up like a sponge and practice skills over and over until you've mastered something. These days you love to draw people, flowers and scenery. However, you are somewhat of a perfectionist, ripping entire pages out when they aren't quite right, throwing your hands up in frustration, and yelling until we figure out a plan for trying again.

There are so many things I love about you right now. You are funny and engaging, smart and loveable. You are kind and gentle, forgiving and gracious. You make friends everywhere we go and constantly reach out to kids who are crying, hurting, or sad. Your prayers are heartfelt, honest, and spirit-filled. You are incredibly patient and unbelievably kind to your brother, who is constantly trying to make your life crazy.

You are such a delight, and though most nights I am tired beyond belief, it is with great joy that I wake each morning to your talkative, curious, happy little face. Thank you for reminding me the importance of learning each day, loving with one's whole being, asking the important questions, and dancing whenever possible.



Monday, April 11, 2011

Samuel: 25 Months

Dear Sam-Sam,

First of all, let me just say that Spring Break left me all discombobulated! I forgot to post your update, then I missed 10 on 10. Who knows what else I forgot last week?!

Of course, my brain could just be a little fuzzy considering the mental distress I've been experiencing. Because you see, in the past month, my sweet and tender-hearted little man woke up and discovered he was TWO! It was as if someone walked into a room in your brain, found the switch labeled "Age: two" or "Terrible Twos" or maybe even "Agent Destroy" and flipped it to the on position. It's been a crazy few weeks.

Who, me? Two?

You've started testing the waters to see just how much and how far you can go. You are running away, running into the street, hitting, pushing, throwing things, and basically doing the opposite of whatever it is we happen to say. I watch as you run up to Maddie, steal something from her, and run away, face in a large, wild smile, legs pumping just as fast as they can carry you away.

Taking you places has become somewhat of a chore. I look down for three seconds at a park and you are off and running down a path, 50 yards away. I tell you to be kind to your sister and catch you whack her over the head with a large stick. You walk up to kids twice your size and shove them over in the sandbox. Oh, yes. You do.

But in just a few short weeks, you've also learned a great deal about consequences. After spending a few days (literally) in time out after time out, you learned to stop. At some point when I yelled out "STOP!" you started just plopping down on your bum, wherever you happened to be. If at first you disobey, I will yell out "Uh-Oh, bad decision," and you'll slowly make your way back to my side. You understand that obedience equals playtime and pleased Mama and disobedience means uh-oh and time out.

It's also as if you woke up in the past month! All of the sudden, you stay up later and wake up earlier. My late sleeper is now rising before 6 a few times a week! Sometimes when we put you in your crib at night you will stay up for a while, calling to us, singing, or even running laps around your crib. One day during nap you wanted to "sleep" with your hammer. Bad idea.

But mixed in with the sleep shenanigans have been a few blessed days where you woke early from a nap and spent the next hour (or two!) sleeping blissfully in the crook of my arm. It is such an unexpected joy to find you awake but still tired, crabby and cuddly, and carry you back to my bed where you snuggle in tight, place your arm around my neck, and fall back asleep within minutes. During those snuggle naps, you will awake with a start, scan the room, find my face with your gaze and your hand, then drift back to sleep. Pure Mama joy.

Luckily for us, you've maintained your sweet demeanor and affable personality. You are helping out more and more around the house, taking joy in little tasks like clearing your plate or picking up toys. You are great at following directions!

You are using more and more words each week (many of which are indistinguishable to anyone but me), even combining three words for extra emphasis, or when you really, really want something. "Tea, Mama, peee (please)!" "More, Mama, peee!" "C'mon, Mama. Come with me!" Just today you really surprised me when you walked past your dirty diaper, wrapped up and ready for the trash, and remarked to no one in particular, "stinky poo-poo." You call lots of things "poo-poo," and Susan tells me get used to it. Potty talk seems to be a certain second language for you Y chromosome types.

Another manner of language in which you are especially interested is food. Anytime we drive by a McDonalds, Burger King or In-and-Out, you say "BURGER!" You can recognize a "cookie" from yards away. "Cake," "cocoa," "popcorn," the list goes on and on. I find it hilarious that you've rarely been to fast food (and don't even really eat it when we go), but can recognize the branding.

You continue to love tools, tractors, motorcycles, fire trucks and trains. There are few phrases that elicit the volume and expression that "All aboard!" brings out in you. The construction going on behind our house is of constant interest and excitement.

You and Maddie are at times two peas in a pod, at others as different as different can be. You are either hot or cold, loving your sister and wanting more of her or wanting nothing to do with her. Poor Maddie; I guess she's getting an early lesson in the mystery of male emotions. You are either effusive in kisses and affection or hold back with ferocity. "NO!" you scream when she attempts to hold your hand. But when you wake up and she is still napping, you call out sweetly for your Mah-mah or Mah-mee, hold up your hands like "Where did she go?" and pine for her until she finally comes out of her room. When it is time to pick her up from preschool and I ask if you're ready to go get sissy, you jump up from whatever activity you're engaged in and beeline for the car.

You've started to notice things like letters (and start singing the alphabet song, though it sounds more like ah-ee-ah-ee-oo-ee-ah) and families (shouting out "Mama!" "Dada!" and "Baby!" to the ducks at the park). You love to sing songs and ask for specific ones before bed, nodding or shaking your head as we decipher your requests. "Tee-too, tee-too tee-toh tar" (Twinkle, twinkle little star) is your favorite at the moment.

Up until this week, anytime I would ask if you are my little baby, you would nod and rest your head on my shoulder for a snuggle. Just this week I asked and you shook your head no. When I asked, "Are you Mama's big boy?," you nodded. A little part of me cried inside. Then you wriggled out of my arms, climbed on a high bench, and jumped off, landing squarely on your own two feet. You laughed and trotted off, my baby on his way to becoming a boy. I couldn't help but smile.

Love you, my big, big boy!



Saturday, April 09, 2011

Spring Break: Staycation Fun

Why go on vacation when you can staycation? We have so many fun things to do around here, and decided to make the most of our days off this week. Operation Spring Break: to keep the kids busy, wear them out, and see as many friends as possible.

Monday: Hap Magee with the Eakins (and lots of other moms we know!)

Imagine our surprise (and the kids' pure joy) when the water came on at 10:45 a.m. Kids in swimsuits and undies ran around the park, ecstatic to be out in the sun, even if it was pretty cold.

Sweet Kayla was one of the cold but fearless cuties who braved the shade:

Tuesday morning we hung out with the Holbrooks and Eakins in the morning, enjoying the play house, water table, and a wee bit of nudity before calling things off. What is it about those girls, getting together, and eventually shedding their clothes? And why does every play date end in a consequence?

Tuesday afternoon: playdate at the Loughnanes

Maddie LOVES her some babies. This girl could not get enough of those twins, kissing, hugging, stroking soft heads, and putting in pacis. Oh my, what a little love she is.

Wednesday morning: the plan was to stay home and catch up on housework. At approximately 8:15, I was ready to lose it. Luckily the Eakins were up for a bike ride downtown for treats and a trip to the library.

Seriously, how cute are these five with their little donuts?

Wednesday afternoon: play date back at the Holbrooks, this time including the Larson girls. Noticing a theme here? My personal goal over Spring Break was to see as much of my friends as possible, without our kids hurting each other. :) We enjoyed lots of outside time, including a play dough extravaganza:

Thursday: the plan was to go to the zoo, but the weatherman was calling for rain so we hit Superfranks instead. It was crazy, plain and simple, crazy. Here's a single shot from the morning:

Thursday afternoon we had tea parties outside. Maddie is quite the tea pourer, as demonstrated below:

We also took a trip to watch the construction happening behind our house. "Bang! Bang!" goes Sam. "Hi! Hi Man! Hat! Hat! Hi! Bang! Bang! Bang" goes the nonstop talking little boy. Poor construction guys. As if there isn't enough noise in their day. Well, at least it was worth twenty minutes' entertainment!

Springtime brings the most incredible clouds. Loving it!

Thursday night: Daddy/Daughter Date Night

I don't know who was more excited, Maddie or Ben. They were giddy with love for each other. Maddie picked out a dress so she'd look "lovely" on their date. So, so sweet. A trip to Amici's for dinner, Esin for dessert (Maddie enjoyed an entire coconut cream pie, all by herself), and Lunardi's for Easter balloons. What a loved girl!

Friday morning Ben took Maddie and Tyler Holbrook fishing at Lafayette Reservoir. Sam and I hung at home and then did a little summer shopping at Kohl's. I spent $70 and saved $150. Seriously, how does that even work?

Friday night: Easter cookie making! Maddie was very serious about her glazing techniques:

Eventually all of us joined in and made some delightful little bunnies, chicks, lambs and eggs:

Saturday morning: Tilden

Feeding the animals celery just never grows old. Never.

Sam was more interested in the tractors, farm tools, and running around like a crazy person.

A trip to Tilden warrants a turn on the Carousel:

waiting in line (I love finding photos on my camera that I didn't take. I especially love this little guy and how he is hanging on to his Mama).

All set to go!

Tickets $2 a piece or 7 for $10. Easy choice. Two extra bucks to ride a second time and score some photos.

Saturday night: Daddy back to work, preaching away!

Spring Break is officially over! But it was a fun week. I'm exhausted. The kids have been waking up before 6 nearly every day and we've been going like mad. Time for a cold drink, some smoked ribs, and (almost) bedtime.