Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Daddy-Daughter Dance

Oh, my heart. I could hardly stand it to see my big girl, all dressed up, ready to go on a date with her Daddy. It was one of those nights that will forever be imprinted on my Mama's heart. This age is just so uniquely wonderful; Maddie is loving and generous, affectionate and gentle. The kindness of her words are like a salve. She has been such a love and it was perfect timing for her to receive love from her Daddy on their special night.

And now, for the photo extravaganza:

My sweet girl, with a few simple requests: mascara, blush, and braids. :)

I picked up her dress at a local consignment store. I loved it so much. A perfect blend of sophistication & sweetness that made her feel grown up but kept her looking like a little girl.

What may be my new favorite picture of my two loves:

Lee & Lily picked up my family for pictures, dinner & the dance:

Happy friends:

A bunch of Daddies and girls met up for dinner at the Peasant and the Pear. Maddie ordered Steak & Frites but basically just ate the french fries (she's my girl!) Then they headed off to the Girl Scouts-sponsored event, where they enjoyed a night of dancing, crafting, and getting loved on by their doting Dads. Such a fun adventure! Already looking forward to next year.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ships Ahoy: A Shower for Evan Michael

This past Saturday, some of my favorite women gathered to celebrate the pending arrival of our newest little sailor, baby Evan. My lovely friends (and party planner extraordinaires) Kelly, Mel & Susan threw the most fun, beautiful, coordinated shower. It was such a wonderful time of blessing. (All pics by the incomparable Mel).

The invite:

Beverage table & Mel-designed banner:

My beautiful, talented, wonderful friends and hostesses:


 Other fun details:

Delicious food!

Fun party favors (who doesn't enjoy a muffin in a jar?)

Moi, feeling delightfully full of yummy brunch (and full of Evan, as well):

Scenes from opening gifts:

itty bitty converse socks. love.
reading a note from my friend Bridgette: sweet, encouraging, and the gift of a housecleaning--totally my love language!
My lovely hostesses gave me a juicy velour sweatsuit: this Mama will recover in comfort and style. Holla!

My girls & I:

T-Minus three weeks until the due date; hopefully we'll have a baby in two, if all goes according to plan. :) Thank you to my wonderful hostesses/friends and all the sweet ladies who showed up to shower Evan with love. So grateful for our loving, gracious, prayerful community who bless me over and over and over!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nesting: Simplify & Organize

I've been sick for so much of my pregnancy, I just haven't been able to keep on top of things around the house. Other than a brief stint with steroids (remember the Prednisone Projects?), the only "nesting" going on around here has been the kind that involves making my bed cozy. 

But gratefully, I've been feeling better for two weeks now. And somewhere between feeling better and having more energy, I've found myself in the middle of a lovely nesting instinct.

A few weeks ago, I put together a list of all the things I wanted to tackle before Evan arrives. And in the past week, I've been able to check everything off:

1. Clean out & organize closets (3)
2. Organize kids' toy cabinet
3. Clean out & organize kids' toys in garage
4. Sort & organize baby boy clothes
5. Wash co-sleeper

1. Clean out & organize kids' clothes in closets
2. Clean out & organize kids' clothes in dressers
3. Sort & organize toys in kids' rooms

As of today, I've finished it all!! I'm SO glad! It feels awesome. In all, I filled about 12 bags of things to donate (old clothes, baby clothes I didn't need, old toys, etc.) and about 5 bags of trash. Because I had tackled the kids' closets a few months back, there wasn't a ton of work to be done, but nonetheless, there is more room everywhere now.

First I tackled the downstairs closets. The laundry room shelves house cleaning products and all the kids' art supplies. I was able to throw out a lot of old coloring books, half crayons, markers without ink, etc. I also organized all the supplies by category into various bags and bins. Sam helped me out by crawling behind the washer and dryer to retrieve trash, dryer lint, and other objects that had fallen.

in progress...
The pantry closet needed some serious organization. It holds a little bit of everything: pantry staples, extra kitchen gadgets, serving dishes & platters, my camera stuff, paper goods, games, and liquor. I threw out a ton of old napkins and paper goods, as well as donated a bunch of serving pieces I haven't used in years.

Reorganized and cleaned out pantry closet

The coat closet was easier--I sorted the winter scarves & hats, donating things we never wear. I organized and sorted our coats.

The kids' toy cabinet wasn't bad--mostly I pulled out a bunch of old plastic toys that haven't been played with in a while. I donated some puzzles, books and games that my kids have outgrown.

Ahhh....there's even empty space!
In the garage, I sorted & organized all the baby boy clothes into bins (6-12 months, 12-18, 18-24, etc.) I pulled down the co-sleeper and gave it a good scrub inside and out.

I went through the dress-up bin and other kids' toys, removing the old stuff and placing in donation bags. Then I organized the toys into bins of weapons, outside sports equipment, blocks, tea set, books.

Upstairs, I removed all the clothes that are too small for the kids and sorted into donation or "save for Evan" bags. Sam caught me in the process and claimed back some pilled long sleeve shirts that are his "favorites!" The same thing happened with some jammies (size 3!)

I also dumped out and organized all of the toy bins in their rooms (Sam has one big toy bin, Maddie has an organizer with multiple bins). Because I tackled it back in the prednisone era, there was mostly organization, with just a little bit of tossing out.

Probably the thing I was most excited about was Maddie's "everything" drawer. She has one drawer in her dresser that keeps treasures, jewelry, "important" papers, projects, and the like. But it's basically a catch-all and it was FULL of junk. I dumped everything out, recruited Maddie to pick out all the change for her piggy bank, tossed out lots of little plastic crap and dried-up flower petals, and ended up organizing the drawer into hair accessories, treasures, with some extra room for little electronics, fish food, etc.

Once everything was done, I went ahead and washed all the bedding again and vacuumed everything thoroughly. And now, as I sit here on the couch, I'm tired, sore, and having lots of Braxton-Hicks. Might have overdone it a bit, but it sure feels good to have some organization to my home! Yay for nesting!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

In Memoriam: Paz Joyce

Last week we lost a beloved family member, Paz the Betta fish. Paz was a blue velltail with purple, red and turquoise markings. He leaves behind his good friend and owner, Madeleine, along with her family Sam, Becky & Ben Joyce. 

Paz came to live with the Joyce family on Maddie's last day of Pre-Kindergarten. Maddie worked hard for over a month, feeding and taking care of Hanalei in preparation for taking care of her own pet. She proved to be a responsible owner, feeding Paz regularly and reminding her mom to change the water in the tank.

Paz had a couple brushes with death, surprising us all by living a good nine months. The first close call involved a jealous little brother who removed Paz from his tank, placed him at the bottom of a book basket, and then piled books on top. Paz was found, several minutes later, after Sam's confession. Upon retrieving Paz from the bottom of a large, heavy pile of books, it was discovered that Paz was still moving. After being returned to his tank, Paz was okay other than a few missing tail fins.

Over Christmas, a casual yet unfortunate oversight led to Paz being left alone in a cold house, without food, for about a week. When the family returned, he was found a little shell-shocked and perhaps cold and hungry, but still swimming. After a quick warm-up of his tank and some much-deserved brine feed, he bounced back.

The eventual cause of death is unknown, but Paz proved to be a tough fish. He is missed by Maddie, who remembers him fondly for his bubble kisses and happy little peeks from inside his pineapple home.

In memory of Paz, Maddie wrote and illustrated a book about his finest qualities. The book was read at his memorial service in the Joyce backyard. Buried in a small tupperware decorated by Maddie, he was lovingly lowered into a sacred spot in the garden. A prayer was said and hugs were given.

Paz: a good fish, a good friend. You will be missed.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baby: 8 months pregnant

Dearest Evan Michael,

You have a name! (Insert happy dance here!!!!!) It feels nice to be calling you something other than "baby." We're so excited to meet you, and now we're in the final stretch. Less than a month until your due date. And Mama is sooooooooooo glad.

The belly is reaching gargantuan proportions. The button has completely popped. You are "done" baking and ready to join our family. At your last checkup, your heart and size were measuring perfectly. Somehow, in the miracle that is pregnancy, you've been spared and protected from the range of maladies that have plagued my poor body since July.

It's been a rough pregnancy, to say the least. From six to fifteen weeks, my colitis was awful. I was losing weight, losing blood, and growing sicker with each day. A scope early in my second trimester showed moderate to severe disease and so we had to make some tough decisions. I went right on steroids and soon after started remicade. Within several weeks, my colitis was under control, thank goodness. I started to put on pregnancy weight (no problem after that 1st trimester, LOL), and you continued to grow.

The steroids had the pleasant secondary effect of keeping all my pregnancy symptoms at bay. For 8 weeks I didn't have any joint aches or morning sickness. But when the prednisone stopped, the nausea and pain returned.

And then cold and flu season hit. In the last two months, I've had: a cold, the stomach flu, the flu, a sinus infection, a raging case of molluscum contagiosum, a full-body rash, and cysts. ALL ON TOP of pregnancy nausea and barfing plus the pelvic pain. Let's just say that Mama is MORE than ready for this season to end.

In the midst of all this sickness, my heart has suffered some. I wonder why such pain and sickness is necessary to produce a little baby. I wonder why God chose our family to have another baby. Yet even in the questioning, my faith has grown. I am in awe of the miracle of growing yet another little Joyce baby, and the ability of my body to sustain life while struggling so with sickness. I wonder at God's plans for you, little gift, as though you were unplanned in our eyes, all your days were written in God's book before one of them yet has come to be. If He is able to create and sustain life amidst all the outside struggle, it makes me ponder deep in my heart the life he has for you out here.

One of our prayer partners likened this pregnancy to growing our little church plant. It couldn't be a more accurate metaphor...a very difficult path with twists and turns, sickness and hurt, wonder and awe, hoping for new life at the end of the road. As my belly swells with your growing body, our hearts swell for our church. Each difficulty is balanced out with a blessing or grace. Just when things start to get really hard, something makes us stop and smile and give thanks.

Some days I don't know how I've gotten to this point. I'm grateful God has given me patience with myself as we sit and wait for you to come. I'm grateful for your big sister, who every day surprises me with joy and humor and love. She did a lovely portrait of us (above) on my valentine, a very accurate portrayal of just how big we are these days.

I'm thankful for your little brother, who despite his many three year-old tendencies, always has gentle snuggles and loves for me at the end of the day. He reminds me that I have yet another snuggler on the way, a little body to hold and cuddle and love each day.

I'm thankful for your Daddy, who works hard, plays hard, and has such big loves for our family. I'm so glad you will have an example of what it means to be a man of integrity, of love, of passion, and of pure, life-filling joy.

Yes, Evan, when it comes down to it, my new $3 clearance shirt from Target perfectly sums up how we feel about our 3rd baby: love, love, love. Can't wait to hold you in our arms!



Thursday, February 14, 2013

Maddie: 73 Months

My little love,

Another month, another thirty days here and gone in your sweet little life. Six is such joy, really. You are full of fun and curiosity, you are smart and creative, you are sweet and loving. I feel so blessed to wake up with you each morning, excited for what the day has ahead.

These days you are writing lots of wonderful, inventive stories. Yesterday you put together a lovely piece about a ladybug in trouble, saved by a bee and eventually married to a hippo. It could seriously be a kids' book: The Unlikely Love. You sound out words and construct complicated sentences with words like "suddenly" and "rescued." You are reading full sentences, sounding your way through complicated, multisyllabic words.

You are still, one hundred percent, your Daddy's girl. You ask to go fishing on your days off, to watch "Moonshiners" in the evenings after dinner, and any moment you can spend talking to, sitting with, or loving on your Daddy is pure, sweet, joy to your soul. He delights in you, and you in him. I'm so glad that you will grow up with a Daddy who showers you with love and affection, with absolutely no doubt as to your value, your belovedness, your treasure as his daughter. 

With every reminder of how beautiful, precious, and unique you are, your earthly Daddy points you to the truth of your infinite value in Christ, who has made you a co-heir with him. As you continue to grown and mature in your faith, we work diligently to remind you of the grace, acceptance, and joy found in your savior. So, so, SO thankful that I have a wonderful partner in your Daddy to help me do just that.

In anticipation for the upcoming softball season, we've been practicing in the yard: throwing & catching, fielding grounders and pop-ups, batting. You are naturally athletic and surprise us with how quickly you catch on to things. You can easily hit a ball off the tee and when pitched to. You mastered the art of getting your mitt down and in front of the ball in just a few tries. Not that softball is without its get frustrated when we correct your batting stance. You're convinced that after you hit the ball and run the bases, our job is to field and then chase you around all the way to home plate, without getting you out. 

Because you are a perfectionist, and SO hard on yourself, we try to be light-hearted and gracious when it comes to learning new things. You are not a fan of being corrected, even when we gently remind you we've been playing baseball a long time and you are just learning. When one thing makes you mad, we just move onto something else. So far you have totally exceeded our expectations when it comes to teeball. Hopefully when a coach gets involved you'll be even more eager to learn. :)

Your art is creative and full of detail. You draw ladies in elaborate dresses and fanciful accessories. I love seeing the things that you come up with, because I know that they are all your own. No one is showing you how to draw these things but they are just coming from your own little heart, and I love them so.

Happy Valentine's Day to my first little love. We're so thankful that the 14th of every month is a reminder of the joy it is to be your parents. We love you and we're so thankful for the joy, creativity, and inspiration you bring into our lives!



Thursday, February 07, 2013

Sam: 47 Months

Dear Sam,

When I reflect back on this season of your life, the thing that will stand out most is your ability to switch between sweet-as-sugar and mean-as-heck. You possess the ability to bless and curse with that little mouth of yours, and it all hinges on whether or not you're getting your way. Oh, the doozies we've heard just this week: 

"You the bestest, most wonderest Mama ever!"
"This is the worstest day ever, and it's all because of you!" 
"God not real. Jesus no love me."
"God, you the besest God ever in the whole world, Jesus, ever."
 "You the worstest Mama in the whole world, ever, Mama."
"No, not tomorrow. Tomorrow I go to college and get real life."

Needless to say, it's been a challenging month. It's so hard to not get pulled down by the harshness of your words, yet so easy to fall in love with the sweetness that comes out in your kinder moments. We continue to pray that you will be able to express anger without hurtful words, to share your discontent without disrespect. To hear your repentant little prayer tonight before bed was like a salve to my weary soul after a day spent disciplining over and over.

Speaking of words, you've added a few songs to your repertoire in the last few months. You seem to enjoy singing the same lyrics over and over, reveling in the mastery of complicated words, strung together. On any given day, we can hear you joyfully belting out Jingle Bells, Popeye the Sailor Man, Oompa Loompa, or Spiderman. And each of these songs has the uncanny ability to cement itself firmly in one's brain, to be played on repeat moment after quiet moment throughout the day. So thankful for your mastery, but ready for some new choices.

We've been talking more and more about the upcoming arrival of your little brother, all in hopes of preparing you for what will be a big transition. You've expressed excitement, a desire to help out, and all sorts of plans for what you can teach your brother: how to ride the balance bike, how to build with legos, how to dress up like a cowboy/fireman/construction worker. You love to kiss my belly and talk to the baby. 

Most days lately we lie down for nap time together. I'm trying to eke out as much cuddle time as I can with you before the baby arrives. That, and you are having a harder and harder time falling asleep during the day. I fear you're trying to give up your naps, right at a time when I need them the most! Yet you're always up for a snuggle, and you love to be as close as possible to me. Early in the mornings, you approach my side of the bed, wait patiently and quietly for me to invite you up, and then tuck in tight next to my body, your head right beside mine on the pillow, grabbing my arms to wrap them around your body or put my hand beneath your cheek. Other times you snuggle up and use my belly as a pillow, or tuck your small curled up frame in the nook behind my knees. I treasure these moments, the quiet times where your closeness reveals the intimacy and comfort you desire most. They store up in my heart, preparing me for the day ahead.

My second-born, my first boy, how I love you! How I desire for you to be at peace, to work through whatever battles you are currently facing that cause such turmoil and anger in your little body. Beneath those harsh and hurtful words is a sweet and snuggly little guy, gentle and sensitive, who is trying desperately to figure out life and change and emotion. I pray that I can gently yet firmly establish the boundaries that help keep you safe and guide you into the next phase of boyhood. I pray that your spirit would be receptive to my love and discipline. I pray that God would show me the best way to be your Mama.

Love you,