Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

By Friday morning of last week, I was emotionally spent. A friends was suffering and sick, a baby was in the NICU, both of our cars were at the mechanic, and I was about to suffer a breakdown in the front seat of our (borrowed) car when the updates started posting.

A tragedy of horrible, awful proportion. 

How do you even begin to process the murder of children? How do you focus on Christmas festivities when families' holiday seasons will be forever tainted with grief? 

Then the other status updates started. You know the ones. Gun control. Abortion. Keep God out of schools and this is what happens. Ugh. I grieved all over again for the lost state of our world.

How can you jump to politics when there are families suffering? How can you push an agenda in a time of national grief? How can you say this is God's judgment?

My heart couldn't handle it, both the trauma of what happened, and the harsh and tactless responses.

 It's taken me a while to process my thoughts, but here they are: I've learned in the deepest, darkest, loneliest, scariest moment of my life, Jesus wasn't absent. He wasn't removed. He wasn't up on some throne in Heaven, watching my suffering in judgment or satisfaction. He wasn't touting his agenda in my ears: "If only you did this, then maybe your circumstances would be different." 

True love doesn't do any of those things.

No, Jesus was there. In my hospital room. In the ambulance. By my side. In the darkest of times, my Savior showed how accessible and real and involved he really is.

So, where was Jesus when those children were suffering? The God I believe in, the Son who revealed himself to me in a hospital room, my Jesus, was there, in those classrooms. He stood between the man with a weapon and the unarmed children. 

Where was Jesus as those teachers and administrators stood up in incredible bravery? He stood with them, shoulder to shoulder.

Where was Jesus as those parents learned of their children's fates? He stood with them, weeping, arms outstretched to provide comfort and compassion.

The God I believe in, the God I serve, the God who came at Christmastime, Emmanuel, God WITH us...not only is he with us, but he empathizes better than any of us with what happened that horrible day. 

Jesus the young child feared for his life as his family fled King Herod's massacre of young boys.

Jesus the man suffered at the hands of evil men, innocently killed.

God the father lost his one and only son to violent crime.

If anyone can relate to the events of last week, can provide comfort and empathy in a time of great sorrow, it is the Savior of the world. He's not pushing any agenda. He's not standing in judgment. No, my Jesus is weeping with compassion, standing in solidarity, and opening his arms wide to a people that are hurting.

My heart is still hurting. Others are leaping to help out, springing to action. I'm still sitting here, emotionally spent. My human heart has taken just about all it can. Yet deep within, my soul still hopes. I hope in Emmanuel, God with us. It is my prayer that in this time of great grief and spiritual uncertainty, I can speak gospel truth of a God who knows, who cares, and who enters into our suffering with empathy, with love, and with his very presence.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

baby boy: 6 months pregnant

Dear Baby Boy,

You are yet unnamed, by far the longest we've ever gone without a chosen name! We can't rush these things, as we have not quite figured it out, but there is one name I've offered that your Daddy actually might just be the one.

It feels so good to be six months pregnant, two-thirds of the way there, nearly in my third trimester. Just as I finally started feeling better colitis-wise, the pregnancy symptoms are making themselves apparent. I'm tired, oh so tired. And achy. Already my pelvic and hip bones ache in the night, stiff and sore. 

You have settled into some pretty regular sleep and awake times. The hard jabs are turning slowly into more controlled, smooth movements (and my body thanks you!) Your feet still find their way to the mattress as I lay on my side at night, tap dancing away, working on those walking reflexes though you weigh less than two pounds.

I finally had some dreams about you this month. In my dreams, you were fair-skinned and light-eyed with soft, light curls around your face. I hardly could believe you were mine, considering the two olive-toned kids I've got already. But there you were, looking up at me and giving me that feeling of great, great love deep in my heart.

Baby boy, you are going to be so loved. You are blessed with the very, very best big brother and big sister ever. They can't wait to meet you! If they don't smother you with kisses and hugs, and you survive their affections, you'll be well, well-loved. :)

See you in less than three months, beloved!!



Friday, December 14, 2012

Maddie: 71 Months

Dear Maddie,

A few days ago I sent out the invitations to your SIXTH (!!!) birthday. Um, how is that possible? When did you change from a soft and squishy little toddler into this lovely, whip-smart, long-legged word maven? This has been SUCH a fun month. I feel like I'm enjoying you more than ever, relishing in your sweet personality, laughing at your well-timed one-liners, and gazing in amazement at the growing girl before my eyes.

If the half-years are characterized by spinning off course, and the months nearest birthdays characterized by a centering, peace and settledness into one's own, the psychologists certainly have you pegged. It's as if the brightest parts of you are shining right now, like the truest Maddie was shadowed behind some of the fears, hesitations and struggles of earlier months. You are, quite simply, a joy and a delight to be around.

There is so much about you that retains that innocent, childlike faith and wonder at the world around you. For being inquisitive and questioning by nature, there are still many things that delight and inspire you, such as a tidepool full of sea glass, shells, and other small treasures. For as deep and wide as our bucket could hold, you collected things from the beach water, holding up each little gem as if it were made of precious material. I had to personally inspect each piece as you placed in gently into the bucket with the others.

If I had a dollar for every funny joke you told this month, I'd have quite a budget to work with. You are constantly saying the wittiest, most hilarious comments. As always, you're not content to hang out and converse with the kids but prefer to be right in the middle of adult conversations. Your vocabulary continues to impress us and your joy in exploring the English language brings us delight (what, with an English major for a dad and English minor for a mom).

This morning I hoped to snap some photos of you in your hat and scarf before school, because you were just so darn cute. However, against my advice, you left your cozy coat at home on a morning where the first frost covered everything around us. You were freezing and as I snapped pictures your face was cracking me up. You were not as amused, unfortunately.

Thanks for being so patient and loving with your little brother, for being so affectionate and understanding with us, and for constantly reminding us to stop and take time to talk, connect, and just be together. You are such a good fit for our family, and we're so blessed to have you.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sam: 45 Months

Dear Sam,

A few days ago you turned 45 months, just 3 months shy of four years old. And what an interesting month it's been. At the start, we were still struggling through some major behavioral issues with you. Lots of pushing boundaries. Lots of sassy talk. Lots of crazy naughty impulse control things like "water skating" on your pee in the bathroom. (Yeah, can't forget things like that.) By the end of the month, you had completely potty-trained yourself and seemed back to your normal, happy, easygoing personality. Can I just say, PRAISE JESUS!!!

I mean, I'm your mother. I honestly love you, no matter what. But it is so nice to have my sweet, snuggly, mostly agreeable little guy back. You make life so fun and funny when you're not up to crazy shenanigans. And my stomach and sense of smell thank you for finally taking charge of your body and putting all those poops in the potty. We are SO proud of you.

These days you're enjoying building things out of blocks (your teachers call your architecture skills "quite advanced), playing with your new legos (prize for putting all your pee-pees and poos in the potty!), talking up a storm, playing dress-up, and following your big sister.

Every day you prefer to wear the least amount of clothing possible. Nudey is your preference, though we won't post any of those photos here. Suffice it to say, you are expressing yourself in your clothing choices (or lack thereof) these days. If you're not going to school, your outfit of the day is usually shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, and your "army man" (camouflage) snow boots. You love those boots, and wear them any day you don't have school. Unfortunately, they smell like sweaty feet. Yeah.

This week we went to the beach, where you promptly removed your shirt, and then later, your shorts. I hesitated on whether or not to bring a beach towel, eventually leaving it behind, thinking "it's way too cold to go in the water." When, oh when, will I ever learn? The first thing you and your sister did was run straight for a pool of water, right in, up to your mid-thighs, plunging arms deep down to find shells. 

We enjoyed watching you sprint across the sand, those long skinny legs carrying you just as fast as fast can be. You are SUCH a big boy, Sam, and it kills me on a daily basis to see my baby becoming a boy. Your attitude, your abilities, your sentences, your knock-knock jokes, your singing--they all point to the fact that you're growing up. As much as I'd love to keep you small enough to scoop into my arms, I know that those days are numbered.

Every day that we take Maddie to school, when the bell rings I can count on you to call out, "Maddie! Wait! Hug! Kiss!" and she'll come running toward your beckoning call, arms outstretched. I love seeing the two of you so openly affectionate on the playground. This morning I was lucky enough to have my camera handy to grab a snapshot. One day you won't be so open with your love for each other, so I have to document it:

Another highlight of the month for me was finally getting on video one of my all-time favorite phrases: "Mama, you the best Mama in the whole world, ever, Mama." It simultaneously melts my heart and grieves me that you won't always say it, just that way. So I now have it saved for posterity. And blackmail. Just kidding. You are such a loving, affectionate, sweet boy and I never want to forget how you found the perfect way, your own words, to communicate your love to me. Thank you for teaching me the power and joy of a few words, placed lovingly together. We love you, our sweet, funny, sneaky, nudey-loving, castle-constructing, big, big boy.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

And....we're live! Hooray! Back in business! First things first: Thanksgiving. A belated post on one of my all-time favorite holidays.

It was so nice to have my parents here for the week. My younger brother Joe joined us on Wednesday. We spent a lot of time resting, shopping, visiting the tree fort, and enjoying each other's company. For Thanksgiving dinner, we hosted at our place (a tradition!) with everyone contributing to the meal. In attendance: my mom and dad, brother Joe, Ben's mom and dad, sister Jennie, Eskedar & Zenebe (family friends), plus us four. It was perfectly lovely!

Maddie's handmade gravy boat decorations:

Almost there...

my little carnivores love them some turkey legs:

A post-dinner walk involved close-ups with local fungi:

Zenebe, Maddie & Eskedar:

A beautiful, wonderful, glorious day! Thankful for sunshine, family, friends and more than enough food for our bellies. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

a question for the bloggers

So it's been pretty quiet around these parts. I'm sort of lazy and sort of protesting. You see, when I went to post my Thanksgiving photos, blogger told me I had run out of free space. Now I actually have to PAY to keep blogging. Ugh. I'm a stay-at-home Mama. We raise support. This has been a fun, free outlet for me for many years. 

So my question is, how do I make just enough money to keep this blog thing running, so I don't have to pay to post pics? I don't want to sell my soul to the advertising devil, but I'm open to any suggestions you lovelies might have on where to start as I venture into this new world.

Comments, please. XOXO

Monday, November 19, 2012

Remicade part 3: Thanksgiving, treasures & joy

In the past week, I've teared up multiple times when thinking about all I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. I could barely get through sharing with some folks at church that I was thankful for my health (sob), and the perfectly formed baby in my womb (tears, sob, choke). I have SO MUCH to be grateful for this year. I mean, honestly, only Jesus--only my savior--could take me from an unconscious, horribly sick wreck to joy-filled, pregnant, and healthy in eight months. 

Today I was driving home from a remicade infusion and I heard a story on the radio about an anonymous donor who left a piece of art at a Federal Way Goodwill. The staff thought it trash,"across the board they thought it was ugly." (from They wondered why anyone would want it.

But one employee, someone familiar with art, recognized the artist's name, Salvador Dali, and was curious about the attached letter of authenticity. She did some research, and looked more deeply into this piece of art that others were quick to discard. And it seemed, actually, to be of value. Great value. An authentic, signed, Salvador Dali etching. Crazy.

It reminded me of a few stories in the Bible. Jesus himself likens the kingdom of God (following Jesus, living out his ways here on earth) to a treasure hidden in a field. The world sees only an empty field; yet one man saw potential, dug deep, and found a treasure of incomparable value. He sold everything he had in order to purchase the field, knowing the great value beneath the surface. (Luke 13).

God sent his son, the Messiah, to the world. It wasn't what anyone expected. He wasn't a handsome, strong, powerful man born into a kingly position. Isaiah 53:2 prophesied that Jesus "had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him." The Bible tells us he was born to a poor, unwed virgin. In a stable. He worked as a carpenter under his father. He wasn't anything special according the world's values. And yet, and yet...

I know that some of you who read this blog read skim my illuminations, my wordy posts about faith and Jesus and his love. It's easy to disregard something that seems to be total junk. But it is my hope, my prayer that like the employee at Goodwill who looked into things a little more, like the man in the story from Luke 13 who digs deep into a field, in search of treasure, that you might do a little of your own research. 

I believe that our God, Jesus himself, desires to reveal truth and make himself known. I trust that if you dig deep, if you do the research, if you look at the life of this simple yet perfect man, you'll find something incredibly valuable. Of greatest value. (If you have any questions about where to start, I'm happy to give you some starting places).

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my savior. He's not just saved my soul, but he saved my life this year. He's given our family new life in the baby that dances in my womb. He's restored my health (than the Lord for modern medicine!) He's restored my hope in his people and his church, not because we are perfect, but because he perfectly loves us, wants to be known, and wants us to dig deep into who he is. He is a treasure that will not disappoint.

Friday, November 16, 2012

baby boy: 5 months pregnant

Hello Sweet Boy,

What a fun month it's been! We got to see you, an experience which brought your Mama such joy and relief and peace. I wasn't even quite aware of the anxiety I was carrying, way down deep, until I felt that rush of joy in seeing your perfect little body. I was walking in trust that my Father has given me a gift in you, but I've been holding it so loosely, also at times mucking through the swamps of fear. Those early months of your life I was so, so sick, and I didn't know what that meant for you. Yet here you are, perfectly formed and perfectly healthy, a boy who loves to wiggle and dance.

I knitted you a hat this month, a little blue number with soft nubby yarn. I can't wait to see your face and whether you resemble your siblings! Will you look like your brother (your profiles are so similar)? Will you be determined and driven like Maddie or more laid-back like Sam? Will you be born with a full head of dark hair like both of them? So many questions that will require patience.

 19 weeks

Your most active times of the day are late at night, when I sit down to read stories to the kids and when I stretch out on the couch to watch tv and rest. By this point I felt Maddie and Sam mostly on my side, feet tap-dancing away. That happens occasionally with you, but mostly I feel you way down low, tickling and tapping and knocking at the door to the womb: "Hi there! Just reminding you I'm in here, waiting to get out!"

22 weeks

I'm changing your monthly updates to occur on the 16th, your updated due date. I'm milking those two extra days for all they're worth. :) All along I've been shooting for an earlier DD, considering we know precisely your conception date. 

Thanks for rounding out our family. We're so tickled at the thought of meeting you, so grateful for this unexpected yet greatly desired gift. Thanks be to God, who has continued to delight and surprise us. I keep joking that considering our track record of surprise (the pregnancy, the fact you're a boy and not a girl), that I wouldn't be surprised at all if you ended up red-headed and blue-eyed. Anything is possible, sweet boy, with our creative and loving Father.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Maddie: 70 Months

Dear Madeleine Noelle,

Wow, seventy months sounds really, really old. I can't believe that you're almost six! That seems impossible. Here I am, six years later, expecting another baby and reminiscing about my first pregnancy, when everything was new and exciting and joy-filled. I cried throughout the holiday season as I looked forward to your birth, counting myself blessed to know what it must have been like for Mary to be nearing the birth of her own baby, expectant and hopeful. Becoming your Mama was everything I'd hoped for and more. You are such a blessing to me.

You're a blessing to all of us, really. You are smart and witty, full of one-liners that keep us laughing. You are totally a Daddy's girl. Just this morning, like almost all others, Sam crawled in to snuggle with me, and you scrambled up on Daddy's side to linger in his arms as you woke up. Long after Sam and I came downstairs, I could hear you sharing thoughts with your Daddy, giggling and whispering and soaking up every last second of the time you had together. It was a joy to watch the two of you jogging together at the Fun Run, hand in hand, conquering those laps together. You had slowed your pace in order to encourage your little friend, a girl you've grown to love in the past two months. It warmed my heart to see how you come alongside of your friends with love and grace and kindness. Again your teacher remarked to me this month what a kind and compassionate heart you have, and what a joy it is to have you in class. For this, for Christ alive and growing in you, I am so, so grateful and blessed.

Then there's your relationship with Sam. You two are tight as tight can be. There are moments when I think you might kill each other, but for the most part you are exceedingly patient, loving and gracious with him. You are SO quick to forgive him, even when he's really hurt you or damaged something valuable. We could all learn from you in this regard, how you place relationship above all else. 

You are patient and loving in how you listen to him and encourage him to use his words. I know how hard it is to wait when words come easily, but you are learning to allow him the time and space to express himself, even if it means having to hold your thoughts. There are many times you are able to translate things for us!

The two of you enjoy many of the same things. I love to watch you do art together every day, sometimes sitting together for hours coloring and drawing and making all sorts of books and pictures and pieces of art to hang around the house. Sam watches every move you make, mimicking your projects and copying your ideas, but you don't seem to mind. You encourage and help him, showing him the correct order of the letters in his name, giving him ideas.

When you found out you were having another brother, you didn't shed a tear or waste a precious second, but launched into big sister mode, thinking of all the ways you could help out and imagining all the things you are going to do with your new sibling. You can't wait to get your hands on this baby boy, and have asked repeatedly whether you'll get to visit him right away, right after he's born. And that moment--the picture in my heart and head of our first gathering as a family of five--is what brings me unspeakable joy. Like you, I can't wait for all of us be be united together.

 You are determined and willful, knowing what you want and when you want it. I know this will make you into a decisive and strong young lady so even though it brings many battles and struggles into our relationship, I keep gospeling myself, remembering to temper my words, resist the urge to enter into the fight, and help you express yourself responsibly and respectfully. It's a really, really hard balance. I want you to be someone who is capable of expressing the most difficult of thoughts and emotions in a way that is true to who you are but gracious and understanding of others. I see both of these characteristics in you, truth and grace, and yet at five and three-quarters you are just beginning to learn how to weave the two together. And I am learning how to guide you through it, while growing myself in my gracious listening and respect.

You are adventurous and brave, full of spectacularly huge ideas. Like your Daddy, I'm sure you will have all sorts of goals and plans for your life. I can't imagine where the world will take you, but it brings me great joy (and puts a lump in my throat) to think of all that awaits you. I can see you traveling the world to bring compassion to the broken-hearted. I can see you daring to jump off bridges into deep waters. I can picture joy and intentionality and passion and a zest for life. All of these things exist now in a small body that houses a big mind with big hopes and plans. It is my hope that in the next twelve years and odd months that we can instill in you all you need to be a person that makes the most of this short, blessed life. 

 Watching you learn to love Kindergarten has been a slow but rewarding process. Those first few weeks were SO difficult. I hated sending you off with tears in your eyes. I struggled each and every morning as you questioned me with sad eyes and a hurting heart. I breathed a huge sigh of relief on the weekends, when you awoke with joy and peace knowing you would spend the day at home. And our patience and diligence paid off, sweet girl, because now you LOVE school and school loves you. It is so fun to watch as you learn to read. Your Daddy and I marvel at how you are picking up clues and learning to ride out the tension of not being perfect at reading. As you are learning to be patient with Sam and his communication, you are also learning to be patient with yourself. And this is WAY more important to us than the fact that you are reading.

Welcome to 70 months, my sweet, sassy, marvelously made girl.


Friday, November 09, 2012

Sam: 44 Months

Dear Sambino Zamboni,

What a month it's been! You've taken me to the highest of heights of love with your snuggles and loves and questions about life. You've tested the depths of my devotion with your naughty, sneaky behavior. You've fallen asleep in my arms and fought me tooth and nail as I forcibly held you in my arms. Welcome to three and a half.

I know this fierce determination and will is birthing a new independence. As you teeter off-balance, you will regain your center with newfound skill and a sense of who you are. But it's so, so hard to live out day-to-day. It's like Jekyl & Hyde, good & evil, the coyote and the roadrunner all in the same little boy. If it's hard on me, I can't begin to imagine what your little mind and body must be going through. I just wait and pray (and pray and pray), knowing that God is doing a work in you. This is part of becoming who he's created you to be. In the meantime, I get sanctified. :)

Immediately after finding out we were having another boy, my next thought was: another cuddler! You are the loviest, kissiest, snuggliest, most affectionate little fellow. Just today before Maddie ran into her classroom you yelled out, "Maddie! Hug! Kiss!" before running into her arms for one last love before Kindergarten. A dad standing nearby clutched at his heart and sighed, seeing such love! For several weeks you've been asking for extra "nuggles" at night and it is my joy to tuck in beside you, one little boy wiggling in my arms, another moving around in my belly. The two (and a half) of us barely fit on your bed, spooned together, laughing and "nuggling" and enjoying the last moments of the day. I've been trying to be really intentional about taking the time to love on you and not see it as "my time." A few extra minutes means both of our love tanks get filled up.

You are growing in your ability to communicate, which is making for some fun and funny conversations. There's no getting around a statement like "Me no want kisses right now, Mama! How 'bout a high five! Or a hug?" In the car yesterday, we had a long, crazy conversation about moving. You pointed out a "for sale" sign on a house, then asked, "How you hold a house?" (Thinking, how do you pick up a house and take it home after you buy it?) Once you figured out a house stays and a family moves, you decided you wanted to buy a house that comes with lots of legos. We had a long talk in which you determined the following: you want to buy a house in Hawaii, and if we take all our legos and the people we love, you'll be set. Hawaii + legos + friends & family = Happy Sam. 

Speaking of communication, apparently you're writing your name now. We have not worked at all on letters at home. You're doing letter recognition at school, but using capital letters. Your teachers are quite impressed that you figured things out, all on your own. Your lowercase "m" and "a" totally impress me. You're amazing, bud! There is so much going on in that brain of yours. 

Today I watched you run across the Kinder playground, and I couldn't believe my eyes: my baby boy, my three year-old, ran across that pavement with long, long strides, fast and furious. Your legs looked a mile long as you chased after (and nearly kept up with) five and six year-olds. There was determination and joy on that face as you sprinted after your "friends." I love that you are brave enough to join in the roughhousing of 7 and 8 year-old buddies, and at the same time gentle and tender with the "babies" you meet. Though you are strong and capable, you have a sensitivity that is admirable in a three year-old. I keep waiting for the day you punch a toddler, mimicking ninja play, but you've got it figured out thus far.

You can be so darn naughty but then you turn around and amaze me with your intelligence, your affection, your joy and your gentleness. You can kick over your sister's toy and then turn around and share the biggest piece of your candy bar with her. You can threaten to "punch [me] in da face!" when I deny you something, then lovingly stroke my arm, my face, and tell me "you da best mama in the whole, whole wo-wold." God definitely knew what he was doing in giving me you, wonderfully and fearfully made Samuel Benjamin. Sometimes you scare me, and sometimes you overwhelm me wonder. But most of all you bring me great, great joy. I love being your Mama.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

grateful: sixty plus five

This Monday, my sweet Mom had a birthday. This year we are not only celebrating her marvelous sixty years of life on planet earth, but also five years of being cancer-free! Praise God for life, new life, and life on the other side of cancer! My dad threw my mom the loveliest party, with forty of their closest family and friends. My grandma, my aunt Cheryl and I all helped with a few extra details and the decor. The color scheme was pink (for breast cancer) and brown. The kids and I flew up Saturday morning in order to attend the festivities and spend a few extra days loving on my mom.

Some scenes from the party...

My grandma picked out 25 of her most favorite photos of my mom growing up, everything from baby photos to awkward school photos to dates with my dad, wedding photos, and early motherhood shots. My aunt put them all together on cute pink paper, attached to skewers, which we placed in the center of pink flower arrangements. I borrowed the "vases" (pint & quart mason jars) from friends and spruced them up with a little brown and pink grosgrain ribbon. My dad ordered a beautiful, delicious chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Yum.

My kids were especially excited to spend some time with their cousins. At the restaurant, there was an extra, empty room adjacent to our dining spot where the kids were able to run around, dance, twirl, pretend, etc., long into the evening. It worked out perfectly!

Maddie with her oldest cousin Grace:

Lizzie, Elijah & Sam:

We were so blessed to have all our favorite people gathered in one room to celebrate my mom.  It was like a big family reunion, and so great for me to catch up with people I love who've been in my life, praying for me & supporting my family since we were babies. Nearly everyone we invited was able to make it, though we did miss a few cousins and sports families who had late games. :)

My younger brother Joe and family friend Rich:

A great moment where my Grandma (seated) was telling my mom (standing) a story about the night she was born:

Apparently my grandpa was a little nervous/excited on his way to the hospital on the night my mom was born, because partway there, with my grandma in heavy labor beside him, he slammed on the brakes, nearly sending her through the windshield. Once they recovered, he apologized and said sheepishly, "Oops. I meant to turn on the windshield wipers." 

My mom and her mom:

My older brother Ben & our sweet Dad:

Lots of love for Grammy!

After a delicious meal, and some amazing service (seriously, a super job by our neighbor and friend's restaurant), we had a time of toasting and sharing stories. I was so completely touched by everyone's kind words about my mom. I had something prepared to say, but there were literally SO MANY stories that I chose to listen instead. My folks have a longstanding, amazing reputation among their friends, church & community, and for good reason. They are outstanding people.

Mom, if I had shared that night, I would have said:

This morning, as I was vacuuming, I was thinking about this baby in my belly, a new little boy to love, and how my own family would be much like that I was raised in. One sister & two brothers. Though I pined for a sister when I was younger, I wouldn't have changed anything. I believe that being the only two females in the house gave you and me an incredibly close, meaningful relationship. In that moment, I was so excited for what this meant for Maddie & I. I hope and expect that we will have a relationship like the one I share with you. I can only pray that she respects me as much as I respect you!

Becoming a mom has given me such a love and respect for not only who you are, but all you did for us. In moments where I'm not sure what to do, I think of you and how you would handle the situation. I rely on fuzzy memories and the solid foundation that you established with your constant, gentle, encouraging instruction. 

As a grandma, I marvel at how you are able to love with such grace and tenderness, while still maintaining respect and utilizing every moment to teach. You are still the most gifted teacher I've ever experienced in action and you continue to inspire me to love my kids and teach them the way they should go.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a follower of Christ, one who is selfless and humble, content to serve without recognition and love without expectation of reciprocation. You and Dad are the best parents I could ask for, and have established for me and my brothers a lasting legacy of love, servanthood, grace, instruction and compassion. I am so grateful for you in my life, I am so grateful that God gave me you as a mom, and I am SO grateful that you are cancer-free and enjoying life to the fullest! Happy Birthday to a strong, courageous, encouraging, loving friend and mom!!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

HalloWEEn 2012

Dude. Halloween. I'm sort of into it, but mostly not. I like seeing my kids dress up. Super cute. I like all the other cute costumes. But the super scary/trashy/inappropriate costumes? Not so much. The really awful decorations everyone puts up? Ugh. The over-emphasis on all things Halloween at the store and in the school? So over it. Apparently public schools are totally okay with plastering evil things all over your kids' worksheets (hello bats, skeletons, ghosts, haunted houses, etc), yet come Christmas if Santa or Jesus is mentioned, well, look out. Okay, stepping off soapbox. Sorry.

But, despite my Halloween Grinchiness, we still celebrate. I think there are ways to accommodate the Halloween hullabaloo without going overboard. My kids won't have creepy costumes, but I enjoy letting them dress up. We love to decorate, but more along the lines of leaves, pumpkins and gourds. And it's fun to celebrate the holiday with friends and neighbors. You know we're always looking for an excuse to get together with folks and enjoy good food!

We started the day with a parade at Maddie's school. I had to get Maddie to K at 8:30, drop Sam down in town at 8:45, and then rush back up to the school for a 9:00 parade. The parking lot at Maddie's school was C-R-A-Z-Y. Oh my goodness. If there had been a fire, well, God help us, because no firetruck could have gotten up that hill, or into the lot, or to any curb. Every single square inch of lot and curb space was taken. I found ONE spot in the upper lot that wasn't taken, a compact spot that was made even more compact by the over-the-line parking of the minivan on my left. I drove straight in, my front right tire right up on the curb! A lady laughed at me as I squeezed my pregnant belly out in the small space between my car and the one next door. But hey, I didn't have to park illegally or double park or just give up (I saw all three!)

Yep, I took a picture.

Parade: Started by three 5th graders playing a tuba, clarinet and drum, playing the ultimate fight song:
Bum Bum Bum Ba-dum
Bum Bum Bum Ba-dum
Bum Bum Bum Ba-dum
(or in my head, "SHS!" for Sandy High School, and then "Go, Fight, Win!" I was a cheerleader for many years, a long time ago).

Next came the Kinder classes, followed by each grade in subsequent order. I waved at my Jessie cowgirl and laughed with joy at her friends. Then I walked across the field to grab a few more shots, shoot a quick video, give my Jessie girl a kiss, and sneak out. The Grinchiness started early, seeing that parking lot and knowing that under no circumstances did I want to be in my car when everyone else was departing. At 9:22, I was in my car, backing off the curb and out of the parking lot. No traffic. Awesome.

Picked up my little buddy, helped him into his Buzz costume, and we ran some errands downtown. Here's Sam with his best "Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!" pose:

After school I took the kids out to lunch. They asked for sushi! Crazy palates (that just so happen to coincide with my pregnancy cravings). They split an order of tako sushi. Aka octopus. Again with the crazy. Then we shared tempura veggies, soup, salad, and california rolls. Jessie and Buzz Lightyear were perfectly behaved (four different employees commented on their good behavior and appetites. So proud). Then we headed home for Halloween naps. Both kids slept quite a while. It was nice.

I spent most of the afternoon working on the hors d'oeuvres for Mel's Halloween Bash. I made these for the grown ups, but with puff pastry instead of phyllo (holla! trader joes!) and then I did nacho puff pastry appetizers for the kids. 

Puff pastry: cut in 3x3 inch squares. Stuff each square into a greased muffin tin. To center, add a dollop of salsa-flavored refried beans and a healthy pile of shredded mexican blend cheese. Cook at 350F for 15 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown and cheese is melted. Let cool 5 minutes. Whip together some sour cream and taco seasoning, to taste (I used about half a packet for 8 oz. of sour cream). Chop up a couple of green onions. Remove appetizers from pan. Garnish each with a dollop of the seasoned sour cream and a few green onions. Serve! Easy peasy nacho cheesy.

Mel's party, was, of course, a huge hit. I took only two pictures, of the two littlest Halloween friends:
cousins Whoopie Cushion Luke & Jack-o-Lantern :)

After a delicious spread of appetizers and taco soup (holla! Mel makes awesome taco soup!), we headed back to our place to trick-or-treat with our neighbors and friends. Here's my kiddos, ready for some candy and chomping at the bit! "Where's Daddy? Let's GO! Dave said to be sure we stop by! LET'S GOOOO!!!"

Buzz, Jessie, & Pumpkins

We only trick-or-treated our cul-de-sac plus two others in our neighborhood (not even hitting every house) and our kids' bags were FILLED with candy. And Sam's legs were tired. 

One of the things I do like about Halloween is seeing folks' personalities come through. Case in point: our super nice, humble, quiet neighbor was dressed as the Grim Reaper. Awesome.

Zee French Peintre & The Grim Reaper

Tim & Melisa (fun neighbors/Ben's beer-brewing buddy) had us back to their house with another family for cupcakes and dirt pies. Sugar. Nom nom nom. I think, all night, that I was aware of, my kids only ate two pieces of candy plus part of a cupcake and a few bites of dirt. Not bad.

We rolled home after 8, did some serious tooth brushing and face washing, then I laid down with the still-wired kiddos until they finally dozed off (or was that me?), about 9:15. 

Today (the day after Halloween) has been a hot mess. Not sure if it's just a coincidence, or the lack of sleep plus the extra sugar and hype, but Sam has had so, so many consequences today and both kids are full of sassafras. Hmmm...glad it's another year until the next Halloween.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Remicade, part 2

Last Friday I had my second infusion of Remicade (aka rat protein, aka wonder drug, aka inFLIXimab). As with my first infusion, it was super easy. No side effects, no problems, just 3 hours of me sitting in a recliner, blogging, knitting & instagramming. Not a bad life.

A few pics from my second infusion: 400mg of Remicade administered into my vein over the course of two hours, a poster in the hallway reminding me of all the germs infesting my body in the hospital where I receive my immune-suppressing medication (cruel, cruel irony that I have a bad cold as I type this), and my reward for having a needle placed in my arm during the lunchtime hour: falafel sandwich from Falafil King near the hospital. :)

All in all, it's been a smooth process. I'm thankful to be feeling better. My bloodwork still indicates that there is inflammation in my body, but my physical symptoms indicate that healing is indeed taking place. Since starting prednisone and then remicade, I've gone from losing lots of blood and going to the bathroom upwards of 10 times a day to normal, 1-2x/day visits to the bathroom. No more joint pain, no nausea. The only pregnancy symptom I'm experiencing currently is heartburn in the evenings. I'm feeling quite good.

Thanks for all your prayers and words of encouragement! Keep praying that the drug does its job and sends my colitis into permanent remission.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is it a him or a her, a ma'am or a sir? Part 3!

You can read about my previous gender reveals here and here. For our third baby, a surprise gift from God, I thought it would be fun to do a surprise reveal with the kids. This morning we had our 20-week ultrasound with the perinatologist and it was as perfect as perfect could be. I set up our secret reveal and waited for the kids to come home from school. Here's their sweet reactions:

Here's how we did the reveal:

They were both tickled, to say the least! I was afraid Maddie would be a little disappointed because she was hoping for a baby sister, but her response was classic Maddie: "I was expecting to have a baby sister, but I always wanted a healthy little baby brother! We're going to have another baby boy!" Sam kept picking up the little pumpkin and kissing it. They are seriously so sweet.
 And now for some ultrasound love! It was a perfectly wonderful experience. After our scare with Sam, I was afraid to be too excited about this morning's appointment. But as soon as the tech got started, she quickly assured us with "perfect" this, and "perfect" that. Everything measured easily and normally, much to our relief. As I sat there marveling over each amazing little detail, I completely forgot that we were also there to find out the sex! God had answered every prayer of my heart for a healthy baby. So much to be thankful for!

Perfect little profile:

Perfect little foot:

Perfect little left hand:

Perfect little smile:

Perfect little human being, growing inside my body! I keep saying to myself (in my best Rapunzel voice), "There's a PERSON in my BELLY." Crazy. And here he is, dancing away:

The Joyce family is over the moon! Thanks be to God for the incredible gift of the newest little pumpkin in our patch! And now, to think of a name. Stay tuned...