Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dearest Natalie,

I wanted to tell you about our day today. Not because it was a great day, but because maybe someday, when you're a mommy with children of your own (and yes, just writing that phrase made me cry a little), you'll need to know that we all have days like this from time to time. And hopefully you'll look back and remember that although some days are rough, we did survive, and found joy in every possible moment.

We went shopping in town this morning - me, you and Zachary. Zachary is two and a half, and you are six months old, by the way. :) Also, as a matter of background, you are a baby who LOVES your sleep. LOVES it. You sleep twelve hours at night, take two two-hour naps each day, and often another one-hour nap in the early evening. You only like to stay awake for about an hour and a half, MAXIMUM two hours at a time. Which is a wonderfully convenient schedule for us when we're at home, but when that two-hour-mark hits, and we're NOT at home, with your comfy crib nearby? Look out, world!

On to today's events. We went shopping. First, we went to K-Mart to get just a few things. I wore you in the wrap, and big brother Z rode in the cart, and we had a great time, picked out what we needed, quickly shopped the clearance, and checked out. As a reward for his good behavior, Z sat on a riding lawn mower by the entrance for a minute, and then we headed out to the car. You seemed a little bit fussy, so we took a break and I fed you in the car while Zachary ate some of his favorite cheesy crackers. You ate and burped and then you were happy, and tried to eat an envelope from the seat pocket and Z & I laughed with you for being so silly. :)

Then we drove to Wal-Mart, got some Subway and a small red ICEE for Z, because he asked so nicely (and also because it generally keeps him happy for 30 minutes or so while we're shopping). Again, I wore you in the stretchy wrap, and Z rode in the cart and happily slurped his red ICEE and even offered to share with Mommy! We had lots of items on our list, and we were having fun strolling through the store, chatting, singing silly songs, picking up what we needed, stopping to be admired by the other shoppers (you and Z, not so much me), choosing a million baby food jars...everything was going wonderfully. We finished our shopping and headed to the checkout line.

By this point, you were getting SO tired. I was bouncing you in the wrap, and 'shhh shhh shhh'ing you, and you were doing okay. But when I had to lean over repeatedly to put our purchases up onto the conveyer belt, you just lost it. You were crying loudly, inches from my face, while your brother was alternately taking items out of the cart, dropping them on the floor and then grabbing items off the checkout lane shelves, and absolutely everyone within earshot was staring at us. I felt so overwhelmed that I was literally reduced to tears in the checkout lane. Thankfully, once I stood up and resumed the bouncing, you managed to relax and quiet down a bit. And I was able to move the cart to the end of the lane, and remove your brother from the tempting lip glosses and candy bars.

And it took another sweet forever to check out, but we finally did. And we got in the car, and we came home. You slept in the car all the way home, and then went right down in your crib, and you're still sleeping. And your brother ate his lunch, and now he's sleeping in his bed. And the groceries are put away, and my lunch has been eaten, and I am sitting on the couch, breathing, and writing to you, my sweet daughter. So, we made it. Phew. I keep hoping these days will get fewer and farther between as you and Z get older, but so far, each time we go to Wal-mart, we seem to just surpass the craziness that our last trip entailed.

So, maybe someday, if you look at me and think that I'm a great mom who has it all together, and that surely I never had any days like you're having, you can read this and remember that EVERYBODY has imperfect, even horrible days!

And in spite of our morning, you are an absolutely precious blessing from God (and your brother is too), and I am utterly thankful that God has put you in my life and given me the privilege of raising you for His glory. I love you, sweet Natalie.


Your Sometimes-Frazzled Mommy :)

P.S. A special "I love you" to my precious Zachary, too! :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tot School - Last Two Weeks

Once again, it has been two weeks since I've posted Tot School! This past week was somewhat crazy, with trying to get into a 'camp routine', and being involved in some unexpected ministry myself! So I never got Tot School posted. So here are a million pictures of the stuff we've been up to! As I said, we've been eating meals at camp. Here's Z enjoying a peanut-butter-chocolate-graham-cracker-sandwich for dessert: (no, we don't make him clean his plate!) :)

Here he is, messy again - trying his first s'more (made in the microwave). :)

He cleaned up by playing with soapy water in the sink while (and after) I washed dishes this week.

He loves to watch Sesame Street and Barney, and often repeats songs he learns from them. Here he is dancing with Barney. :)

His aunt sent him this 'Light-a-queen' dry-erase board, combining two of his current loves, so he's enjoyed drawing on that.

erasing is hard work...
We played with Z's Flip Along Fun book this week - I don't think I've posted about this - but I won it in a giveaway a couple of months ago! It is such a fun learning activity!

Each page has different animals on it, doing a different activity, and you make a story with the animals you choose - also, you add the animals to make the right number, and learn about math while having fun! For now, we usually play 'match the animals' - we find a page we like on the right, and then look for the animals that make up that picture, then read the story. :) It is a rather ingenious book, I would recommend it for teaching pre-math and early addition!

As always, Z loves to play with his Melissa and Doug underwater animals puzzle:

One morning, we had a 'bike wash' on the porch. He enjoyed washing his bike/trike with a wet rag and a bucket of soapy water. And, yes, he's wearing a pajama shirt. Every day he asks to wear his favorite Thomas the Train pajama shirt 'around da house'. So this one day I let him.

washing the bucket very carefully...

Z practiced cutting this week - so far, he uses both hands to cut with his little scissors, but he occasionally tries to use just one hand. He helped me cut some coupons off of a pop box...

and then I let him go to town on this Oriental Trading catalog, he had fun with that for about ten minutes - a nice, quiet activity!
We counted along with some goldfish with Zachary's Goldfish counting book. (Um, except we only had the goldfish's cheaper cousins, the whales, so they had to do. They worked fine.) :)

We did some painting, on the porch.

Z's favorite part was rinsing his brush out and watching the rinse water change colors. :)

We made a robot - you can find the instructions here - he is cut out of a cereal box, wrapped in foil, then we glued on wiggly eyes & taped on the arms & antennae. Also, Z colored on the foil with markers, but it didn't work well - I would let him use Sharpies if we did this craft again. With close supervision and no clothes on. :)

As part of the summer staff, we all got these cool glasses from a friend - well, Z broke his, but Natalie won't wear hers, right? So here we are, showing them off. :)

My Two Tots

I SO love watching my little ones interact - it is just SO fun!!! Here is Zachary swimming his new fish bank from his aunt in front of Natalie. She is raptly watching him, as usual. Also, her totally adorable headband was MADE by her aunt for her - SO cute!!! :)

And here is Zachary tickling his sister! :) Awwwwwwww.... :) She loves this, too, obviously!

My Tiny Tot

Well, my tiny tot is six months old now!!! (insert loud sobs here) For her six-month-birthday, I asked Z what he thought she would want to do or have, and he said that he thought she would like to wear a crown. So we made her a pink construction paper crown, and here she is - happy half-birthday, Natalie! Does she look happy enough?

She is a very happy girl. She rolled all the way over here by Zachary's tools, and she is thrilled with herself!

She also went 'swimming' (dipped her feet in) the pond this week, which gave Mommy an excuse to take this picture of my little chunker in her swimsuit. And she totally hated the cold pond water.

And here's one last picture of my happy little muffin!!! Such a cutie! :)

To see what other people are doing for Tot School this week, head over to 1+1+1=1!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's Officially Summer!!!

I said at one point that I was going to try to share more about our camping ministry this summer but I guess I really haven't so far! I've been so busy AT camp (and home) that I haven't had time to write about camp! :) Well, we had two wonderful work groups here last week, they helped with all kinds of projects around the camp, and we served them meals. I just went up to camp to eat meals and visit with the staff and visiting teens, and I helped my hubby with a couple of office projects from home. Up until this point, Natalie hasn't really had very much of a schedule in her day, but with the set mealtimes of camp, it will be helpful for her to have a routine, so we worked on adjusting her to that, and after about 10 days now, it is going really well.

This week is our senior staff training - our counselors and senior staff are here this week, training for the summer and getting to know one another. This is always my favorite week of the summer - meeting and getting to know the staff is always such a blessing - they are always so sweet to our family, including Z and Natalie, and I love that our kids have so many opportunities to interact with great college and high school age 'kids'. :)

So, the plan was for us to continue just going up for meals and helping from home when we could, but because of some extra things going on this summer, my husband has a LOT on his plate. So he asked me for help. The bottom line is that I will be helping to organize the Monday morning youth camp registrations (as I have done for the last three years). This will require me to leave the kids with a staff member a couple of hours during the week, and for a couple hours on those four Monday mornings. Not a big deal, right?

Well, as I was reviewing the list that I had written of 'helpful tips for youth camp registration' and remembering how I had joyfully written it at the end of last summer, looking forward to handing my job off to someone else so I could stay home full-time (and not having to do registration - my least favorite part of my job - anymore), I started to throw myself a pity party. Then I took my annoyance out on my hubby, which is always so helpful, isn't it? (sarcasm...)

Anyway, God pulled me out of that pit, and gave me a good couple of hours in the office yesterday morning with an amazing friend who is volunteering her time (and also leaving her kids) to come and help with registration and office duties at camp. He helped me to feel like I am getting a good start on getting things organized for Monday's senior high camp registration, and thankfully He helped me to remember most of what I learned over the last three summers (I think). Natalie slept the whole time, and Z had a great time with one of our staff members who does a great job with kids, and he adores her.

And do you know what the greatest benefit of working yesterday was? Today. I was supposed to go to the office this morning again while a friend watched my kids, but something came up and she and her husband left town suddenly, so I found out that I would be staying home today. And it was wonderful. Working just a couple of hours yesterday reminded me what a privilege and a joy it truly is to be able to stay home with my babies every day. So I guess maybe God is giving me this opportunity to gain perspective, and also some (more) empathy for working moms who wish they could stay home. And after getting over my initial grouchiness, I truly am glad to be involved in the camp ministry again, though in a different way than I thought I would be. (and, honestly, I wrote this yesterday, and today as I was cleaning bathrooms and thinking about it, I realized anew that it isn't nearly as big of a deal as I made it out to be.)

In other news, Z went down the camp's big waterslide with Daddy this week, and he was SO cute at the bottom! I wish I had taken a picture! He went under the water briefly at the bottom (in a life jacket), which scared him, and when he came up and Daddy held him, he was so funny. When we asked him if the slide was fun, he kept saying, "My face went in the water. My head went in the water." but then he said he would go again, 'later'. :) I'm thinking that next time we're at the beach may not be 'later' enough for him... :)

Our kitchen staff, grounds crew, and chapel staff come tonight (some have already arrived!) and stay until tomorrow, so it will be fun to meet them and get them on board for the summer!

Hope you're having lots of fun this summer, too, and God is blessing you with new perspectives and lots of learning opportunities! :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

When You're the Second Born... either learn to sleep through tantrums and loud two-year-old songs in the hallway outside your room or you don't sleep much. get a lot more knocks on your innocent infant head. :( hear the word 'gentle' a LOT, mostly not directed at you. sometimes end up nursing with a Mr. Potato Head hat sitting on the side of your head or a Mr. Potato Head ear stuck in your ear (gently, of course).

...your mom doesn't always remember when or if she changed you. have three people to love and hug and cuddle you instead of just two.

...the world doesn't ever revolve around just you. get the benefit of parents who have been through this before and are a little more relaxed.

Love you, my sweet second-born! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tot School

-Zachary is currently 30 months old-

We had a lot of fun with Tot School this week!

We have been doing No Time for Flashcards' Summer Reading Challenge! Here is the list of (well, some of) the books we read last week:

John Deere Tractors Wheelie Book by Parachute Press & DK Press
John Deere Loaders Wheelie Book by Parachute Press & DK Press
Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs by Sandra Boynton
Lots of Opposites (Sesame Street) by Christy Webster
Johnny Tractor by Ertl
Bob's Birthday by Diane Redmond
Lazy Days Go Away by Ron Eddy
Baby Bop's Counting Book by Mary Ann Dudko
Big and Little by John Stadler
Fisher Price All About Tools by Susan Hodges
Barney's Hats by Mary Ann Dudko and Margie Larsen
Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

Z and I both have tractor and loader wheelie books and the Johnny Tractor book memorized, we read them over and over, SO many times!!!

I found him 'reading' on his own this week, too! :)

We drew with chalk, sorted his MegaBlocks by size (how many pegs on top of each block) and shape - rectangle vs. square, and we played with some dollar-store 'floam'. In case you've never given dollar store floam to a two-year-old, let me warn you that this is absolutely an OUTDOOR activity!!!

I forgot to include this activity that we did last week, so I'll put it here. Z is watching this video about Noah's Ark - it comes with a book, and it's an interactive storybook that reads the words of the book out loud - there is even an option where you can read it aloud with the TV & just press the button to hear the words you don't know - it's so neat. Obviously Z isn't to that point yet, but he enjoys watching the video (and there's a song and some trivia games on the DVD, too). It also comes with a programmable remote, but we don't have a DVD player, just my hubby's game system, so the remote doesn't work for us. :(

Z did some Kumon workbook pages this week - here he is drawing some rain over a snail with an umbrella. :)

For our craft this week, we did dandelion painting! Last week, we made a field of dandelions - this week we used yellow dandelions to paint with instead of brushes! And we painted outside- why have I never thought of painting outside???? It worked really well! For supplies, you get to go dandelion hunting again, and pick several yellow dandelions this time. Then you need some paint, and I let Z pick two colors - he picked yellow and purple, and I put them on a plate. Just dip the dandelions in the paint and paint on a piece of paper! I thought it would be cool to do something similar with Queen Anne's Lace sometime, too - I'll let you know if we do that. :)

checking out the colors on the dandelion 'brush'. :)

We did a color scavenger hunt this week - can't remember where I found this idea, but it's a great one - I just pulled out 3 pieces of construction paper, red, blue and green this time, and had Z find things that matched the colors - he did awesome with it! I suggested a few things at first and he put them where they belonged, then he got up on his own and grabbed the red tractor wheelie book, and put it on the red paper! He picked up the green & blue frog teether, too, so we put it half on green and half on blue and discussed why we did that. He had a lot of fun with this, and we will definitely do it again!!!

We also discovered Z's new favorite website this week -! I have had this on my list to try for a while, but just hadn't checked it out - but it is great. It really helps with phonics, and they even have a whole preschool/kindergarten curriculum available that teaches kids to read through phonics. The games and activities are fun and really educational. They have activities that a newly 2-year-old would enjoy, and things that even school-age readers would enjoy! If you have a pre-reader, I would definitely check it out. We have been working on phonics for a really long time, but I think this site is really helping Zachary 'get' the concept - as we were walking to camp this morning, he saw a pipe, and was saying, "Pipe, pipe, pipe, puh, puh, puh, Pipe! P says puh - Puh puh Pipe!" I was super excited. :)

Just for fun - Z in a box. :) Actually, I really want to make a 'Let's Go-Kart' - if any of your kids watch Sprout on Saturday & Sunday mornings, you know what I'm talking about - but I was trying to see if this box would be a comfy car - as you can see, it wouldn't. But it's cute anyway. :) Also, our toys were all piled everywhere because of an issue with our carpet - it got wet & we had to replace it - but our new carpet is really nice and soft! :)

We had a picnic at a local park this week, the one with the big curly slide, which Z loves. :) It was fun. Natalie swung in a swing, and I got this cute picture of her (notice Z on the left going high!)

So of course I had to take a picture of Z swinging, too. :)

My Tiny Tot

My tiny tot is almost 6 months old - couldn't somebody please stop time??? Waaaaa. Ahem. Excuse me, I'm back under control now. Here's my Natalie sitting in her highchair, with her new sippy cup. She likes to chew on it, and doesn't do much else with it, but it's cute to see her with it.

She is eating her rice cereal and some oatmeal baby cereal quite well now, and she had her first taste of sweet potatoes this morning. Though she was unusually fussy today, which could be due to teething or maybe the sweet potatoes upset her stomach, so I may hold off on those and switch to something milder like squash or avocado. Any recommendations?

And here she is playing on the floor, all smiles. She loves to kick, and was rather excited that she positioned herself to kick this bucket of blocks - she was playing with the handle with her feet. :)

To see what others are doing for Tot School this week, head on over to 1+1+1=1!

Good Morning

It is 9:30 in the morning
And I feel like I have accomplished nothing
But I am showered and dressed
And I ate plenty of breakfast
And the kids are dressed
And fed
And Z has had his devotions
Though I have not yet
And Barney has been watched
And the day’s first load of laundry is spinning in the washer.
And after breakfast the camp dog, Sammy
Came into the yard
And Z wanted to go see him
And I almost said no, automatically,
Without even thinking,
But then I thought,
Why not?
And Z went outside to see Sammy.
And the door was left open
And Sammy came inside to see me and Natalie
And he went back out promptly
And we shut the door
And he drank out of some rainwater on the porch
And Z thought that was so funny.
And Natalie enjoyed her first taste of sweet potatoes
And then puked it all over my shirt
Because that’s what babies do.
And Sammy left to do what dogs do.
And it is a rainy-ish morning
And everything is wet
And Z wanted to wipe off his bike and ride it
And I almost said no, come in, it’s wet,
the dishes are piled up to the sky,
But then I thought,
Why not?
So I gave him my dishtowel,
Probably needs to be washed anyway,
And he wiped everything on the porch.
And he was happy.
And he slipped on the wet porch
And landed on his back
And his clothes are soaked up the back now
So he wiped himself with the towel.
And now Natalie is laying down for the first nap of the day
And Z is riding his bike again
And I need to do my devotions
Before I tackle the mountain of dishes
And figure out what we should do for tot school this week.

What are you doing today?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Love and Respect

I had the privilege of speaking at a bridal shower a couple of weeks ago, and was able to share about a burden that God has been laying heavily on my heart lately - wives respecting our husbands. God has brought a wonderful marriage book into my life that has revolutionized how I view my relationship with my husband - it's called Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Since God has given me this platform as well, I thought I'd share my (edited) devotional here, too.

A godly marriage is such a blessing. It is so amazing to see how God puts two people together who complement each other in so many ways, and are able to serve Him more perfectly as a couple and eventually, as a family, than they would as two single people. Marriage is a gift from God. That may be very easy for you to remember right now, but, far in the future, I hope, there may come a day where it might not be so easy for you to see things that way.

1 Corinthians 7:28 says that 'those who marry will face trouble' - meaning that you will have troubles in marriage. That doesn't sound very encouraging to a new bride, right? Well, maybe it doesn't now, but someday when you and your husband have an argument, maybe it will encourage you to remember that it is completely normal, and that even the Bible says that we will occasionally have troubles in our marriages. That's because every human relationship, including that of a husband and a wife, is made up of two sinners. Sinners saved by grace, but still sinners who occasionally act selfishly.

Ephesians 5:33 speaks of how husbands and wives should treat each other. The husband's responsibility is to love his wife and cherish her. The wife's responsibility is to respect her husband. Loving comes naturally to us wives. But respect is AS important to our husbands as love is to us wives - when we disrespect our husbands in the way we talk to or about them, it is a slap in the face - in their minds, it is just as if we had said, "I don't love you." So it is important for us to know what respect is. The dictionary defines respecting someone as: holding them in high esteem or honor, and showing regard or consideration for them. We expect our husbands to love us unconditionally, and we are commanded likewise to respect them unconditionally - not only when they 'earn' our respect.

I remember very clearly one time, before my Hubby and I were married, I was complaining to his mother about something he had done that had annoyed me. She told me then that the most important thing she had learned over the course of her marriage is that a wife should NEVER speak negatively to others about her husband, because this disrespects him and hurts him so deeply. I will never forget her telling me about this principle - she believes it so strongly! Now, whenever I am tempted to complain to others about my husband (or to join others in complaining about our husbands), I always remember her words. (Sidenote - this is also why I choose not to use my blog as a platform to bash my husband - that would be so hurtful and disrespectful to him!)

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote a marriage book called Love and Respect, which teaches how to apply this principle of unconditional respect for your husband in your marriage. In this book, he takes this principle even one step further- he says that it is our responsibility to THINK the best of our husbands. Think about it - if negative thoughts about your husband are not filling your head, they can't accidentally come out in conversation.

Dr. Eggerichs explains how this principle plays out in his own life in this quote from page 22 of his book: "I have decided to believe that my wife, Sarah, does not intend to be disrespectful. Oh, she can be nasty at times, but that isn't how she truly feels in her heart. I know she respects who I am deep inside. And Sarah has decided to believe that I do not intend to be unloving, though I still hurt her at times with my comments or attitudes. She knows that in my heart I love her deeply and would even die for her." When we remember that our spouses really do have loving hearts and good intentions towards us, it is easier to discuss what's really bothering us, forgive them for the ways they have hurt us, move forward and grow in our marriage relationship and, consequently, in our relationship with God.

So I'd like to challenge you tonight, as you begin your marriage, begin on the right foot. With God's help, you and your husband can both put each other first, and choose to love and respect each other unconditionally the way God designed. And when you do, God will be honored. And you will be the happiest couple in the world.

So I have a challenge for all of us married ladies tonight - myself included. Think of something about your husband that you respect - maybe something he does for you and your family, maybe a character quality that you admire about him, just anything that you respect about him. Go give him a kiss, tell him you love him, and then tell him, "I respect you so much because ________." And see how he responds. Let's all revolutionize our marriages with unconditional respect for our husbands, and let's start tonight.

Tot School

We had a busy week last week - a day at the zoo (so fun!) and some other appointments gave us some busy days! It's hard for me to get motivated to do Tot School on weeks like that, when I'm so behind on housework and everything else, but we did some things anyway - I didn't spend a lot of time taking pictures, so I'll just mention some of the activities we did - we read a lot of books (as always- this is Z's favorite activity while N is nursing, so we have several reading times each day), we drew with chalk, we practiced writing with our wipe-off writing book, and we spent Saturday up at camp, eating meals, and helping to hang up some pictures. The weather was rainy over the weekend, but the rest of the week was pretty nice, so we spent a LOT of time outside as well. We found a pool in the creek near our house where several fish live, so we have been feeding them a few bread crumbs each day, and there is a snake (ACK!) who lives right by the pool, which is gross and scary, yes, but we did find a half of a shed snake skin near there, and looked at that, so that was neat.

So, now on to the pictures. :) We did go to the zoo on Tuesday - Z loved seeing all the animals (except the lemurs, which were TOO LOUD). Here he is watching the gorilla, just moments before the lemurs scared him out of his wits.

The giraffes were so close to where we could stand! He loved watching them!

I have a boy who loves music, and he loves playing any instrument he can get his hands on - he loved this wooden instrument at the zoo. :) Each plank plays a different note, and you get to whack them with rubber sticks.

He made these letters into a 'tree' on the fridge. :)

And, for our craft this week, we made a field of wildflowers. I got the idea here. Here are our supplies- real wildflowers (possibly the most fun part for your child is the wildflower/weed hunting), glue, green marker, green strip of construction paper & blue piece of construction paper.

using scissors to cut grass on the green strip - he is just beginning to practice with scissors - he attempted to hold them like Mommy, but it didn't work so well, so we resorted to using two hands. :) After this, we glued the grass along the bottom of the blue paper.

Next, we used our green marker to draw stems and some leaves for our flowers.

Next we used a paintbrush to paint on the glue - possibly Z's favorite part - he LOVES glue.

Next, we stuck on the dandelion fuzz and the other wildflowers we collected.

And here is the finished product - so sad that our forget-me-nots (my favorite little bloom) didn't show up at all!!! :(
Z was a big boy at the park this week - he went up this big ladder and down this big slide all by himself!!!

My Two Tots

Z is loving that Natalie is getting big enough to interact more and be more a part of our family activities! I usually try to sit down with both of them and read a book together at least once a day - N loves just being with us, and it's so fun. :) She also seems to love music, and loves to hear me sing, so that's sweet. Z attempted to feed her some cereal this week, I think he thought that was more fun than she did...
He also 'helped' her enjoy her Johnny Jump-up, which she loves. :)

My Tiny Tot

She is just getting so big - she can roll over both ways now, and loves to be on the living room floor on her blanket - but only if other people are around! She does not like to be by herself, and is entering a phase where she likes to be with Mommy & recognizes that other people are NOT Mommy!!! We are practicing sitting up, though she's still a ways from that, she does enjoy practicing. :)

To check out what other people are doing for Tot School this week, check out 1+1+1=1!