The Past Few Weeks

I am a little behind on blogging, as you can tell. Here are some pictures to catch you up on our family’s activities over advent and the holidays. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years. Happy 2012!

As we do not have an official nativity, Jedidiah had the idea of making one out of popsicle sticks. It actually turned out pretty well!

We celebrated our friend Seth’s third birthday at a fun play place…

We had our first snows of the year (both of which melted very quickly)…

We waited and waited and got extra-excited about seeing grandparents, and we enjoyed making silly faces in general…

We did crafting, crafting, and more crafting (pictures to come).

We rode an AMTRAK train to Arkansas…

And, we had a memorable and very merry Christmas with my family (highlights from the trip are coming up in the next post)…

We also had a delightful New Years celebration with a few other families. Our celebration was complete with a countdown, confetti, noise makers, and sparkling grape juice – all at 8 pm!

Sweet Morning

This morning turned out much differently than my daily plan laid out for me. We had scheduled a retired teacher friend from church to come over and do some learning activities with the kids. The house was in need of a “cleaning blitz,” that’s what we call it when we all work together to quickly tidy up the whole house. We worked hard and had everything presentable just in time, but our friend had not arrived, yet. I sat down on the couch with a stack of newly borrowed library books, and we began to read while we waited. Twenty minutes later, I decided I had better call our friend to make sure she was still coming. It turned out that she had completely forgotten, not realizing it was already Thursday. I felt myself relax. It felt like a gift really…a clean house, a whole stack of new books to explore with the kids, and an open morning.

We spent a long while reading, and then Jedidiah got the bright idea that we should make cookies. It was only eleven in the morning, but, hey, why not? So we worked together and made snickerdoodles, cookies that remind me of my mom (I think, because her grandmother used to make them for her?). While the cookies were baking, I made some spinach quesadillas, a simple favorite. The kids actually gobbled down the quesadillas before they began asking for cookies. Jedidiah really and truly said (after biting into his quesadilla), “DElicious!! Mom, you’ve gotta try these! They taste like cake!” And later, he shouted an enthusiastic, “Yumm-O!!” After the quesadillas, we all enjoyed each other’s company and the tasty cookies we had made together. The point is, that a free morning without any chores tugging at my brain is a rare occurrence…a chance to be fully present with these little ones changing and growing so quickly right before my eyes. A gift. And, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

And, just because, a few sweet pictures of my dear kiddos earlier this Fall…

 

 

Oh, and the spinach quesadilla “recipe,” in case you were interested…

Ingredients:

Corn tortillas

Fresh spinach

1/4 cup chopped onion

1-2 cloves minced garlic

Oil or butter (whichever you prefer)

Soy sauce

Cheese (shredded – I used mozzerella, but whatever you have will do)

This “recipe” will not have exact amounts. I just eyeball everything and make more or less depending on how many people I am feeding or how much my kids are eating. First, in a small pot, saute the onions and garlic in oil or butter until the garlic begins to brown. Then, add spinach (I usually just fill my small pot to the top, since it cooks down so dramatically). Add a teaspoon or so of soy sauce, and a very small amount of water, if necessary. Cook until the greens are wilted. I’m going to assume that you know how to cook a quesadilla in a skillet. I usually cook the quesadillas in a little butter, because I think my kids need the fat & it makes it taste super-yummy. I simply put a corn tortilla in the pan, sprinkle some cheese on it, spread a little of the spinach mixture over that and then top it with a second tortilla. Seriously, my kids LOVE this recipe, and I love that it gets them to eat spinach.

Growing a Giving Heart

One of my deepest hopes and prayers for my children is that they will have giving hearts, that they will be aware that there are people in need and that they will take joy in giving sacrificially to them. This week we celebrated Martinmas, a holiday that I just learned about this year. Martinmas is a Catholic holiday honoring St. Martin and focused on giving to others in need. We learned the story of Martin together – how he cut his coat in half with his sword to give half his coat to a beggar who did not have warm clothes. We also talked about the passage in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that when we give to the least of these, we are giving to God. This year, for the first time, I have seen Jedidiah really grasping the meaning of the message of giving. He even shared his coat with his friend Soren after hearing the story of Martin!

And, even more beautiful to see, he has been wanting to give to children who do not have as much as we do. For about six months now, we have been eating beans and rice for dinner on Tuesday nights to remember our hungry neighbors throughout the world. We take time to pray for hungry children and for our Compassion child, Keren. This week, we received the World Vision catalog with Christmas gifts for people around the world – moving pictures of children holding chickens and goats and ducks. Jedidiah was absolutely enamored with the idea of giving these kinds of gifts to children in need.

This whole thing triggered my memory of the program “Operation Christmas Child” sponsored by Samaritan’s purse. This organization asks people to fill up shoeboxes with small gifts to be sent to children all over the world to open on Christmas. I looked at the website (http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Pack_A_Shoe_Box/?hometab) and discovered that the boxes are due next week. I told Jedidiah about this idea, and he was beyond motivated. He decided that he wanted to make a box for a little boy his age. We printed off the instruction and “BOY” label. We went shopping at Target, and I let Jedidiah select the items to put in the box. When we got home, he was insistent that we wrap and pack the box right away. We read in the instructions that we could include a letter, our picture, and our address, with the possibility that the child might write us back. Jedidiah was thrilled by this possibility, so he had me help with that right away, too. The whole box was complete and ready to send less than an hour after getting back from the store. Jedidiah carried the box around talking about how special this was and how a little boy was going to get a good Christmas present.

I feel deeply moved to see my sweet boy caring deeply for another child he does not even know. Even now, tears come to my eyes as I remember him carrying his box around the house for each of us to look at one more time. I know it is a small thing to put together one gift, but I hope this desire to give keeps growing as he grows. But for now, I am just thankful for this moment when he chose to care, to give, to love. Here he is with his finished box…

Two and Half (A Little Late)

That’s my girl! In this picture, she has on FOUR skirts, two of them tutus. She turned two and a half last month, and here is what she’s up to:

-She changes her clothes pretty much constantly. I cannot keep an outfit on this girl! Getting dressed is literally the first thing that she thinks about when she wakes up in the morning. A bathing suit is almost always the first layer, and the combination usually includes a tutu. Josh talks about “layers of cuteness.” If you help Lilia undress from her extravagant outfits, you will discover the many layers of cuteness that she has amassed. You might find wings, then her shirt, then another secret shirt, a tutu hidden under a skirt, tights, and almost a always a bathing suit (most likely the polka-dotted one) under it all. It would be easy to be annoyed by Lilia’s dressing habits, but, quite honestly, I love it. I love that she is free and confident and cute no matter what she wears. I love that she is learning to be independent, even in the little things. It’s a joy to see her express herself and delight in life. There are moments when we have to insist that she wear a certain thing, but we can usually explain the reason why and she is willing to concede.

-Lilia is talking up a storm. She’s not as outspoken as her brother or as some of the older kids, so you might have to get her by herself to hear what she has to say. But, trust me, she has a lot to say! Her words are not as clearly spoken as her brother’s were at this age, but they are getting clearer all the time. Some of her new expressions are “cool!” and “oh, man.”

-She has lots of good friends and plays well with other kids. Her best buddies are Seth, Soren, Delaney, and Kylie. But, this week she declared that daddy is her BEST friend. (You gotta know he was pleased about that one!)

-Lilia is still a master at mimicking. She does just about everything she sees her bubby (brother), mommy, or daddy do. She carries her purse with her everywhere, with her phone and keys tucked away inside. She also takes great care of her baby (thanks to the great modeling of other mommies in our community) – she nurses her baby, puts her baby to bed, changes her babies diaper, and wears her baby in a sling. This morning Lilia did an artful job of putting on mascara, which she found in the cabinet (I’ve moved that to a higher cabinet, now).

-Lilia is working on her fine motor skills, learning to fasten things, color in objects and shapes, putting on her own socks, and making balls and “snakes” with play  dough.

This morning, Lilia and I had a rare morning with just the two of us. Jedidiah was (and still is) at the Museum of Science and Industry with some friends. Lilia was sad for a few seconds that she did not get to go to the “science place,” but she cheered up quickly when she thought about having fun with mommy. The whole time, we said things like “no bubby – just mommy and Lilia!” and “bubby is doing science, and we’re doing fun!” We had such a lovely time. We picked out a treat together at the store, we went shopping for boots, and we went by the furniture store to show off the new boots to Josh. (A funny side note: The shopping trip was a spur of the moment decision after dropping off Jedidiah, so neither Lilia nor I were looking our best for this outing. Lilia was wearing her classic wild attire, complete with multiple shirts and the polka-dotted bathing suit underneath. And I was wearing some clothes I threw on to get us out the door quickly. Lilia also had some leftover make-up on from her charade this morning. All that to say, I think we were quite a sight. Oh well, we had a blast!) Lilia immediately discovered some polka-dotted rainboots (“just like my swimming suit!” she announced). We were there for snow boots, but it was a buy-one-get-one-half-off day….so, we got rain boots and snow boots. And, we just HAD to go show them off to her best friend (her daddy)! When we got home, she fell asleep in my arms and is now crashed out on the couch. I really could not be more thankful for my sweet, quirky, happy, lively Lilia! I praise God for the gift of her in our family.

 

PS – Lilia just looked at the photo at the top of the post and said, “I wanna wear THAT!”

He Earned It

Jedidiah has been taking karate (Little Dragons) now for several months. He was really excited about taking the class, but Josh and I were not sure if he would want to stick with it long-term. We decided to wait for awhile before buying him a “gi” (the white karate uniform). The instructor gave Jedidiah a belt to wear over his regular t-shirt, but he has been one of the only children in his class who did not have an actual gi. Josh and I decided it would be better for him to earn his gi than to just get one from the beginning. So, after earning stickers on a chart for several months, Jedidiah finally earned this exciting privilege. Here is our very excited boy showing off his gi and one of his karate moves – “rising block.”

 

By the way, the stripes on his belt were also earned. His sensai gave him each of this for doing well on different skills and for cleaning his room every day for a week without being asked. This class has been so good for Jedidiah!

 

And (not to be undone), here’s Lilia showing off her untrained karate moves (in a bathing suit, of course)…

Bed Bug Update

I mentioned several weeks ago about our long struggle with bed bugs. On Wednesday of this week, we had our ninth (you read that right, NINTH) bed bug treatment. The one before this one happened about a week before that. That eighth treatment was very thorough but focused only on the kids’ room (Lilia is the only one who gets bites). Max, the member of our apartment crew who did the treatment, had us empty out the room, as if we were moving. We left only the bare furniture. We dried every piece of cloth in the dryer for a full cycle. We washed every toy with bleach and swabbed items with alcohol that could not be submerged in water. We put all of the kids’ books through the oven at its lowest setting for one hour. Then, Max used the harshest chemicals and afterward “knelt down to pray over it all” (his words). Two days later, Lilia had a bite or two for a couple of days, but it was much less than we experienced before. This week, Max and Josh took apart Lilia’s entire bed and did find some tiny holes in the bed frame where bugs were hiding. We emptied the room of all but the furniture again, but we did not re-sterilize everything this time. Max sprayed the room Wednesday morning, and Lilia has not had any more bites since then! We are feeling hopeful. We need to have four to six weeks of no bug sitings or bites before we are declared “bed bug free.” Thank you for your prayers for us through this three-month-long saga.

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