saint patrick’s day 2017

I have never been huge into celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, but apparently my kids are pretty into it. Ian had the day off, so we had a fun, low-key family day filled with lots of green.

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A few days ago the kids painted coffee filters green, and today they were transformed into shamrocks that adorned our windows and cupboards and walls. They HAD to be hung at 6:45am, because of course they did.

Next up were these yummy green muffins (secret green ingredient: spinach).

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Our next activity wasn’t exactly St. Patrick’s Day related – we walked down to our elementary school to register Luke for kindergarten! I gotta keep it real, it was not the highlight of the day for me. I am already apprehensive about entering into the public school system, which is completely new to me, and this initial encounter with the front office staff was less than stellar. At one point I hissed through my teeth at Ian, “you know how all of this makes me feel!” as I fought the urge to grab my kids and get out of there. I will say that the principal happened to walk by while we were there, and he was super friendly and quickly got down on Luke’s level to introduce himself, so I’m trying to cling to that bright spot. I feel a million different emotions about sending our boy off to kindergarten in a public school next year, and I’m praying that when I look back at this post in a year or two, I’ll feel quite differently.

Back to Saint Patrick’s Day.

Lunch was not noticeably green, so nothing to report there. We watched a Veggie Tales episode that tells the story of Saint Patrick, which would have been fun if not for the fact that Gracie got the theme song stuck in her head all day. She continually belted out “celery!! …ery… ery!!! Veggie Tales!” for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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Then of course there was green play dough.

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Luke has seriously been requesting green waffles since I made it on a whim last year for St. Patrick’s Day. Today was his day: we had waffles for dinner and he reveled in the greenness of it all.

Family selfies in our green attire. Um, don’t my kids look like twins?! How is this?!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

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advent this year

I’ve always loved the season of advent, though my experience of it has varied pretty widely since I became a parent. Some years it was more sweet than I ever could have imagined, like Luke’s first advent or the year I was pregnant with Gracie. Other years it was chaotic and rich with grace. This year I think we are somewhere in between. It’s been a joy watching the kids anticipate Christmas through their advent routines each day, but I haven’t felt as grounded in my own personal anticipation. Quiet mornings of solitude have been hard to come by thanks to a couple weeks of 5:30am kid wake ups (WHY, children? It’s the darkest time of the year!). Nevertheless, advent marches on, and I’ve tried my best to prepare room in my heart for the coming of Jesus.

This year I decided to incorporate four advent activities into our daily routine – each day the kids would get to take the lead on two of them, then they’d switch the next day. In the morning, we take out a new character in our nativity advent and then unwrap a Christmas book.

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This nativity calendar was a new gift, and it has been a big hit with both kids. It’s a little tricky to me, because how do you put things into order? It seems like baby Jesus should be last, but it’s a little awkward to have everyone – including the wise men! – showing up before him. Alas, that’s what we did. I think it’d be too confusing to run this calendar mid-December through Epiphany, so it is what it is. And as you can see from the picture, the kids have fun playing with it and rearranging it each day anyways.

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Also new this year is our book advent. I realized that we had accumulated a bunch of Christmas books that I put away each year, so it’s pretty exciting when they come out. I decided to make it a little more special by wrapping each one so that they could take turns opening one each day. I mixed up the order in the basket, so Luke has to find the right number each day, which is good practice for him. Some are simple board books, but they’ve all been well received. I didn’t quite have 24, so I supplemented with a few dollar store coloring books and stickers for a few days. We’ll definitely be doing this again, the kids have loved it.

In the evenings we focus more on the true meaning of advent. After a couple years of trudging through “family” advent devotionals that were still going over Luke’s head, I brought it down to a better preschool- and toddler-friendly level.

Before dinner, one of the kids helps light the advent candle(s) and opens the door on our little Precious Moments advent calendar from my childhood. Each day gives a snippet of the Christmas story – 1: “Long ago in the city of Nazareth…” 2: “Lived a young woman named Mary.” It’s perfect for little ones.

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After dinner, we read a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible. This has by far been my favorite part of advent this year. My kiddos have always had a hard time with “Bible reading” – as soon as they see their Bible, they ONLY want to read the Noah’s Ark story. Not even joking. But suddenly we’ve had a shift, and they (well, mostly Luke) are engaging in each story. A big help in that has been coloring sheets. Each day I print out a related coloring page, and they color it while I read the story. It helps to have busy hands, and Luke got interested in coloring about 5 minutes ago, so the timing has been great. Hearing him ask questions and seriously coloring his page has filled my heart. And the Lord knew I’d need that, because Luke always has a really rough growth spurt around his half birthday (December 10). His behavior and emotions have been a roller coaster, but doing this Bible reading together has been a true sweet spot. Often he wants to keep coloring after the story is finished, so I sit and color with him, which is bliss.

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Zondervan Publishing actually offered free printables for the the advent reading plan this year, so it’s been fun to use them. The kids take turns pulling the next one out of the basket, and after our reading is done, we hang it up with a little clothespin. I love the Jesus Storybook Bible because they make such an effort to clearly show how each story “whispers His name” – getting to dialogue with Luke about this, and starting to expand his understanding of Jesus’ birth has been awesome.

So that’s what we are doing this year, with Luke at 5.5 years old, and Gracie at almost 3. I’m excited to see how our celebration will grow and evolve over the years!

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adoption finalization – five years later

Around 2am this morning, Luke called for me, as he does most nights. He wanted to move to “daddy’s bed” – weeks where Ian works the late shift make this boy crave extra time with his daddy. So I settled him with Ian and crept off to the guest room to get more sleep.

As I lay awake in the middle of the night, I thought back to this day five years ago: Luke’s adoption finalization. I was up at the same time, feeding Luke a bottle. After he finished, I jumped in the shower and got ready for the day. Luke was born a few hours south of here, so that was where we had to go to finalize his adoption. It was an early morning for sure, but an exciting one.

I remember being nervous about how Luke would do – putting him in the car so early, and having to stop on the way for another feeding. We pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and fed him in the car. He was so super smiley and happy – it’s one of those moments that I’ve tucked away in my heart for forever. I remember his soft jammies and his fuzzy bib. His gurgly smile and bright eyes. I remember thinking that no matter if he screamed in the courtroom, this was our happy boy, giving us the gift of a perfect family moment.

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Now that baby is five. I was never sure how or if we would celebrate his finalization anniversary each year. We have always been open with Luke about his adoption, but thus far he hasn’t been super interested. And that’s fine. We’ll keep bringing it up now and then, so if/when he is ready to explore that part of his story, he’ll know that he can ask us.

So today I remembered that special day on my own, and thought about how far we have come. How we know our boy so much better than we did back then, and how we’ve grown into parenthood with him. Often friends or family say something like “God knew you were the just the right parents for him.” So often I feel unsure of how to parent our bright, spirited boy that their statement feels untrue. But I do trust that God wanted to call us to grow into the parents that Luke and Gracie need us to be. The promises that we made in the courtroom five years were just the beginning of this calling, but it was a day that will always be tucked away in my heart.

 

 

we have a five year-old

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How this boy got to be five years old, I don’t know. He was SO excited about his birthday this year. He had his first “kid party” with some of his friends from preschool and church. We had a “wild animal” theme (no surprise with this kiddo), and everyone had a blast. It was just Ian and I leading a dozen kiddos through animal activities, so I didn’t have time to take any photos!

We made him a lycra hammock for his swingset, because he loves the ones at his OT sessions. He and Gracie love it and have already spent a lot of time hanging out in there.

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On facebook I posted this on his birthday:

5 years old! I don’t know what is crazier – how much you have learned and grown into the boy that you are now, or how much I have learned and grown over the last 5 years in being a mother to you. You are a flame that burns brightly – sometimes it’s a flame that dances joyfully and lights up the world all around you; other times the power of that flame overwhelms you. My own flame tends to remain pretty steady, and you’ve challenged me as we’ve learned how to tend to your fire; rejoicing in your zest for life and your love for others while learning when and how to quiet the flame when it grows too large for your little body and mind to handle. We are in this together, and we learn more together every day. Happy birthday!

It’s a work in progress, learning to parent this little boy who is so different from myself. The day after I wrote this, he had his party. His party that he had been counting down to for a month, and talking about even prior to that. His party that he had planned and wished for and was SO excited for. And I think it was close to everything he imagined. He was so happy to be surrounded by all his friends.

His pure joy is electric, his smile is contagious, and his giggle is one of my favorite sounds. His highs are so high; they are thrilling. And of course the flip-side is that his lows can be pretty low. We knew he would come down pretty hard from his party, and he did. There wasn’t even much sugar involved, but the excitement of it all took a toll on our sweet boy, and the rest of the day was one big roller coaster of emotions. No amount of hammock time or running on the track or reading on mom’s lap could make it right. The day finally ended with him laying in bed, a cool washcloth on his forehead, surrendering to sleep as Ian sang “Trust in the Lord,” the song we’ve sang to him at bedtime since he was an infant.

This last year of him being 4 was hard. 3 was hard. 2 was hard. His feelings are so big, and sometimes his body sends him mixed signals about things. We are learning alongside of him how to regulate these feelings and sensations. I am thankful for his occupational therapist, and the great insight she has into what may be going on inside his little body. And immensely thankful for the grace that Jesus has granted me as his mama, and for the work that he has done in my own life amidst these challenges.

I do see so much growth, and so much potential – I feel like we may be at a turning point in his development. Or soon, anyways.  I feel relieved that he can do one more year of preschool; I want him to go into kindergarten feeling confident of the skills he will need there. Most of his classmates wrote on the cards they included with their presents – seeing their wobbly handwriting made my mama heart sink a little bit. Not because I’m sad that Luke isn’t there yet, but because I know that he notices that they can write their letters. He told me one day that he knew he couldn’t go to kindergarten because he didn’t know how to write his name (I know, not true – clearly something that another kid told him) and he said it with such sadness. I’m glad that he’ll have another year to practice skills like this that seem so difficult for him.

Our boy is so exuberant and social that most people don’t realize his own personal challenges. As his parents, we get to see the full spectrum, of course. Over the last few years, I’ve seen a change in how I view his behaviors and emotions. For so long my internal reaction was often, “why can’t he just…” whereas now I often – not always, I’m not perfect! – feel empathy towards him and think, “it looks like he needs…” Instead of wanting to shut down and distance myself from him, my mantra is “get closer.” And it has really paid off in our relationship.

So here’s to this next year of parenting a 5-year old. May we grow more, reach new stages, and find meaning and joy in this season.

gracie’s first two weeks

At 5:50am on January 21, 2014, we became a family of four.

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Our sweet Grace Katherine entered the world.

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Her birth was perfect. I had a few issues after she was safely in our arms, so we ended up spending a night in the hospital. It was cozy and peaceful, and soon enough we were headed home.

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The next days included lots of cuddles and rest and gazing at our Gracie Kate.

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Luke spent a few days with Opa and Oma, then came home to join us. I was amazed at his instant adoration and love for his baby sister. It feels like magic to watch them cuddle, and to constantly hear his little voice say, “hi little Gracie!”

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Grace is quite adorable,  I do believe.

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She spends most of her time sleeping, as a new baby should.

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I wasn’t sure what it would be like to have a baby in the winter, since Luke was a summer baby.
Turns out it is super adorable when they are all bundled up.

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Grace is pretty easy-going thus far. She puts up with her older brother’s loud and invasive affection, as long as she gets lots of cuddles from mom and dad.

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She unknowingly joined the 12th man mania.

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We are adjusting to being a family of four. It feels like stretching – sometimes it feels just perfect, like when Luke wants to drink his bedtime milk next to Gracie. Other times it feels like a huge change that takes some getting used to. We are working it out, this little family of ours. Ian took some time off, and we are treasuring this time together. And we are thankful – we never expected to grow our family this way, and Gracie fits in just perfectly.

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a baby shower brunch

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A couple friends and I threw a baby shower brunch for our friend Morgan a couple weeks ago. It was so much fun to put together, and Mo got some great stuff for baby Jonas. I’m so excited to meet him – probably only a few more weeks! Here are some photos before the party got started…

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The yummy spread.

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End of summer flowers from Ian’s garden, candy-coated sunflower seeds and pumpkin muffins.

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Jenny made a super yummy quiche from the Colophon Cafe cookbook.

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I’ve really wanted an excuse to buy paper straws… They were perfect for the orange juice-fresca punch!

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Mini bunting.

luke’s birthday book

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Yeah, I know – Luke’s birthday was over three months ago… Sometimes it just takes me awhile to get around to posting things. Today is actually a special day for our family: the one year anniversary of Luke’s adoption finalization! So it’s fun to have a Luke-centered post (wait… aren’t most of them these days?!).

One of my favorite bloggers and authors is Amanda Soule. I love how crafty she is, and I especially love how she works to instill a spirit of creativity in her family. Her youngest daughter is only a couple weeks older than Luke, and she happened to blog about the fabric birthday book that she made for her.

I read that post when it was less than two weeks until Luke’s birthday. I pondered it. I realized that my boy would LOVE that – at that particular stage, he loved books and his absolute favorite thing in the world was seeing photos of himself.

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I had a lot going on in those two weeks, but heck, Amanda Soule whipped hers out the night before her daughter’s birthday – why couldn’t I?

I’ll tell you why: a) I am not Amanda Soule. b) I do not possess the sewing skills at even half the level that she does. c) I care too much about my husband to go completely crazy.

So I only went a little crazy. I did do most of the prep – chose the photos, wrote the captions, bought the fabric – but realized that the smart thing to do was to wait until I had more time after Luke’s birthday.

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My goal was to finish it before our family vacation in July, so that Luke had something fun to look at in the car. Well, as things normally go, I was whipping it out the night before we left. So Ian did get to deal with a little crazy.

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It’s shorter and smaller, mostly for my sanity. There are pages about when he was a newborn, his grandparents, and his favorite things to do. And there are definitely sewing mistakes, but as I kept telling myself: this book is for a one year old; he’s not checking the stitches. Overall, I love how it turned out.

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And Luke, he adores it!

Checking out the book during our family vacation in July.

The details:

  • I used a printable photo fabric from the craft store – I think it was actually this one. You just run it through your inkjet printer, let it dry, rinse it and it’s ready to go! I was a little nervous about it, but it worked just like it said it would. Some of the photos did get a little faded after the rinse, but I was pleased that nothing looked smeared – even the typed captions are crystal clear.
  • I chose three fabrics (I just picked up some fat quarters and cut them down) and created a page spread out of each (so once I ran the binding down the center, each fabric had 4 pages to it). Each page spread had a layer of light quilt batting in it to give it some weight. I just ran a couple seams down the middle to bind the three spreads together.