Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fun in Wisconsin!

You know you're from the upper midwest when ...
- You just had a storm with 10" of snow, and you're supposed to have another few inches the next day
- Your two year old begs for his own snow shovel so he can "shovel like daddy"
- Your town of 10,000 owns as many snow plows as the entire state of North Carolina
- Your 11 month old daughter owns a real pair of snow boots
- Work/School isn't usually canceled unless you have at LEAST 6" of snow
- Actual temperatures get below zero and the wind chills are below -20
- You know people who actually own a set of tire chains

Joshua helping to shovel

After climbing up the "snow mountain"

The finished product of 90+ minutes of shoveling

Given all of that, I still wouldn't want to move anywhere else. I really like the snow, and even though I can get tired of it by the end of the year, I would sorely miss times like this when we can all go out and play in the snow!

Joshua Quote Of The Day

Joshua: I want to do something super special with daddy
Liz: What's that?
Joshua: I want to vacuum! I want to help daddy clean!

And, he was very helpful. He helped me clean up all of the toys and clutter off of the floors, he used "Dusty" (his toy vacuum cleaner) for a while during the time I was using the vacuum cleaner. Then he decided that he wanted to use the real vacuum cleaner and did a good job of actually vacuuming up the carpet. Now we just need to find out how to keep up his enthusiasm for chores :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas from Us!

Every year I have grand ideas about Christmas cards and how on top of things I will be. Visions of gorgeous cards all sent dance in my head...Well, life always has a way of setting in and I usually find February has arrived and I realize Christmas cards will have to wait until next year.
This year, however, my decision not to send them out is a bit more intentional. Oh, I love to get Christmas cards. I've been enjoying having personal items in the mail over the past couple of weeks, instead of just junk and bills. I love opening up the cards and seeing all your sweet smiling faces, and my refrigerator is getting filled up with the most up to date pictures of family and friends near and far. Especially since having kids and far flung friends, I've come to really appreciate the visual reminders to think about, pray for, teach names, and contact more regularly the people that are important in our life. Kudos to you if you've already sent out your Christmas cards, and if they're still in progress I look forward to receiving them!
But, for a couple of reasons I've decided to go virtual on my Christmas letter and holiday cards. First of all, it seems to make the most sense with all our busy, hectic, and cluttered lives to simplify and use the form of communication we all check most. That way each of you can see our letter if you choose, but you don't have to wonder if you should keep it out of some sense of duty to our frienship. ;-) (Maybe that's just me, but I'm sentimental and have a hard time throwing out something from a friend/family member until an "appropriate" amount of time has gone by.) It's also a nice, green thing to do. Less waste, less chemicals used in the printing.
Secondly, our church is participating in Advent Conspiracy this year (if you haven't heard of it, check it out) and I've really loved the message. The main theme. Spend Less. Give More. Love all. Worship FULLY. I've been trying to focus on giving relational gift--gifts of presence, not presents and to really think about the meaning of the season. Each of us is urged to give one less gift this Christmas, and to share what we would have spent with those less fortunate--reaching out to the forgotten, the least of these, living like Jesus. However, we don't buy that many gifts. I was having a very hard time deciding what or where to cut since we're usually really modest about gifts and this year are really only buying gifts for the kids (and even then, not going crazy). We're not even exchanging Christmas gifts between ourselves this year(that's another post for another time, don't worry, we're still celebrating with each other, but more of that presence vs. presents thing). But, I realized that this was one way I could spend less and still give more. I can still share what's going on in our lives at Christmas-time, while at the same time putting what I would have spent on cards and postage to work bringing hope and light (the true message of Christmas) to the hurting.
I'm hoping you all understand. We love our family and friends, we're excited to share this year's happenings, and we hope to see as many of you as possible as soon as possible. So without further ado, here's the happenings of the Slager crew in 2008, 12 months of Christmas style. :) Merry Christmas!
Whew 2008 is nearly past and it seems it was just getting started! Here's a peek into our life each month of '08.
Our year started off in a big way. Though we'd hoped to welcome our second baby in 2007, Lydia Elise was born January 8 at 12:29am, weighing in at 8lbs. 1oz. and making Joshua a big brother. We spent the rest of January settling in at home, celebrating Joshua's 2nd birthday and introducing Lydia to family and friends.
In February, our family grew again, sort of. Joshua received his first pet, a red Betta he named Michael. He's a great pet-owner and still enjoys feeding him daily and is greatly amused by water changes. Madison continued to be "blessed" with record snowfall (we got over 100" this year) and Joshua became Daddy's snow-clearing helper. Lydia was also dedicated and we were able to spend some time with Gigi and Papa (Slager) here in Madison.
March brought our first long car trip with two kids. We traveled back to Michigan and Indiana to celebrate Easter with both sides of the family. It was so nice to finally make introductions of Lydia to extended family and to see many family members we hadn't seen for nearly a year. Lydia started sleeping through the night (briefly) and smiling and giggling and in general working her way even deeper into each of our hearts.
We finally were done with the snow in April and able to get back out to enjoy all that Madison has to offer when it's not frozen solid. We took trips to the zoo, the park, and in general spent as much time out in the sunshine as possible.
In May our family began a season-long adventure. We were able to get a garden plot on campus where James works and we started a small vegetable garden. It was so much fun to watch the growing process through the eyes of a two year old and to get to expose him early to where food really comes from. Thoughout the summer we enjoyed the time to get out and work the soil as well as many fresh vegetables. All the work was worth it to see Joshua's exuberance when he found produce that was ready to pick!
June took us back to Michigan again, this time for the wedding of James' younger brother Justin. Joshua was a ring-bearer and James a groomsman, so we were busy with wedding festivities, but still found time to see the other side of the family as well. In addition to the wedding June was filled with berry picking (and eating!), lots of trips to the park and fun in and around Madison with friends. We also participated in a CSA share in an effort to do more local eating and Joshua loved picking up our box each week at a local farmer's market.
Lydia began sitting up on her own in July and trying to locomote soon thereafter. Joshua found his new favorite haunt, the Middleton Splash Park, and we spend many warm days throughout the rest of the summer running and splashing there. Mommy was charmed by it too, because it kept our busy little guy entertained and had the added bonus of being FREE! July was also memorable because it marked the milestone that every mother dreams of from the first dirty diaper: Joshua finished POTTY TRAINING!!!!!!!!
August brought many mobility advances for Lydia. One of my favorite questions to Joshua during this time went something like this. Liz: What does baby Lydia do? Joshua: She crawls...she cruises...she climbs stairs. That's right our little princess accomplished all of these feats in rapid succession and reminded her mommy every day that a house she thought was baby-proofed was not completely so!
September was a month filled with family. After an extended Labor Day weekend back to Michigan we returned to Madison with my dad and youngest brother (the kid's extra-special Uncle Stephen) in tow. We were blessed to have them with us for just over a week and they offered their time and talents helping James accomplish several projects around the house that a busy father of two kids under 3 can usually only dream about. We also enjoyed a fun-filled weekend at the end of the month with Slagers, soaking up the last few truly warm days of summer.
October found us in and around Madison for the most part, but we did enjoy a mini-vacation to LaCrosse where both kids went on their first hike. We also enjoyed several trips to the orchard and pumpkin patch much to Joshua's delight. Hands down, his favorite happening was the chance to ride in a real-live fire truck with a fireman (at a fire-safety week open house) and he's still talking about it. Lydia's big moment came when she found the coordination and balance to take her first steps. Both kids had a blast trick-or-treating as well and Joshua's excitement over it just makes me look forward to Christmas more.
November brought an end to the outdoor weather, but for the most part Joshua has kept himself happy and busy inside for he's into blocks and books like never before. He's a great conversationalist these days and keeps us highly entertained with the things he tells us. We're amazed every day at the things he knows and understands. Lydia spent November honing her walking skills and trying to keep up with big brother. My big change for the year came in November, when I decided after 3+ years of nannying part-time it was time for me to focus entirely on our kids.
Our December has been a fun one so far, filled with the childlike excitement and wonder that only kids can bring to Christmas. Joshua is eagerly counting down the day to both Christmas and his birthday and anticipating all the fun and surprises those will bring. Lydia just got her first tooth last week and she's also becoming quite verbal. In addition to Daddy, Mama, ball, and bye-bye, our little Miss Independent is treating us to a chorus of "No!'s" everytime something doesn't go as she'd like. We'll celebrate Christmas here at home, then it's off to Michigan for 10 days of Christmas and birthday celebrations before we bring on 2009!
Our year has been a busy one, but we're so blessed and are looking forward to what the New Year will bring. May each of you have a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!
Love, James, Liz, Joshua, and Lydia

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our Princess, On Her Throne

Lydia is obsessed, seriously! I feel like she spends about oh, one day, mastering a skill and it's on to the next. She's defintely our little miss Independence. The world better watch out because here she comes. Currently, she loves sitting on the potty. For the record, I'm not even interested in trying to potty train her, I don't think there's any use for at least another 6 months, and in all reality probably more like 18. However, that fact does not in the least diminish her enthusiasm. Every time she's in the bathroom she begs to sit on the potty. If she doesn't think you're getting the message she goes to the side of the toilet, reaches down and picks up the jr. potty seat and tries to lift the lid to place it on the rim. She then proceeds to sit there for several minutes and look around like she's the coolest thing since, well, ever. As you can see from the pictures it doesn't matter one bit to her whether she's clothed or unclothed, and she's never had any "successes" but you better not deprive her of her right ahem, opportunity to have a turn! She's also very into her toothbrush. Again, not that she really has need of a toothbrush. She'll be 11 months old tomorrow and still doesn't have even a single tooth poking through--but you know, that's no reason to miss out on toothbrushing fun. Basically, anything that Joshua does, Lydia wants to do too.
A final indicator of how our little princess thinks she is almost-1 going on 3: Yesterday James was watching Lydia while I was running errands and Joshua was napping. He had her on the main level with him and turned around to pick something up and found her on her way down the 4-stair drop to the family room STANDING UP. So, apparently she's decided she's way too cool for going-down-backwards-on-her-knees, she's now on to the oh so safe walking down the stairs. This truly makes me uneasy, but she's pretty resilient and when she tumbles, trips, or otherwise fails at whatever she's trying to accomplish she picks herself up and tries again. And really, who can resist this face!
Look out my fellow Americans when Election 2044 rolls around, this one has spunk!
And, just because it's cute--here's a picture of Joshua all snuggled up right after his nap and his new haircut. Also a bonus, finally a picture that is horizontally oriented. We seem to have almost all vertical shots these days, they just seem to capture action better!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Very Thankful

I'm listening to the sounds of laughter coming from the bathroom as I type. James is giving the kids their bath, a time both he and they enjoy enormously, and which always provides a little "me" time.

I've been planning to get this post out all weekend, but we've truly been having such a great weekend as a family that I just haven't felt like stopping to write. We've really not done anything that exciting, just spent time together doing things that needed to get done. We put up the Christmas tree and decorations (much to Joshua's delight!), but beyond that the things we've done around the house have mostly been necessary chores. It's been relaxing to have a long weekend with no place to be, no traveling to do, and no real agenda. As part of living a greater distance from family we always have to make the decision about whether the trip is justified by the time we'd be able to spend with family, James' work schedule, etc. At least for right now in our life we've decided that Thanksgiving is a holiday that won't include a trip "back home" for us. With Thanksgiving always stranded on a Thursday and James being one of few salaried employees in this country that are required to work Black Friday it just takes too much vacation time for not much family time. So, we've kind of adopted it as a holiday just for the four of us. We're more than happy to welcome any of our long-distance family and friends that are willing to make the trip, but it's nice to not have to think about packing, fighting the traffic and adapting our travel to the kids' schedules, etc. We've done a variety of things over the years, a couple of years we celebrated with local friends, we've had the pleasure of hosting each of our families on occasion, and this year we participated in a somewhat different tradition.
With the world-class University of Wisconsin in town, Madison is home to many international students pursuing degrees, completing fellowships, or participating in visiting scholar programs as well as a number who call Madison their permanent home. While most of us born and raised in the US don't think about it, Thanksgiving is a relatively unique holiday by world standards. For many of the individuals newly arrived in Madison it is also a somewhat strange and isolating one. So for years our church has hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner at church and invited church families to participate by bringing the food, serving, cleaning up, or hosting tables for our international guests. We chose to do the latter and we really enjoyed it. We were joined by three PhD. candidates from Eastern India, none of whom had been in the US for a Thankgiving holiday before. It was interesting to explain what we do, what we eat, and why to someone who doesn't already just know what is expected. Our kids really enjoyed it as well, and Joshua is still talking about having lunch at church with our "new friends." I don't know if it will become a tradition, but it is certainly something we will consider participating in again throughout the years.

Looking at Thankgiving from a new perspective was refreshing. It is so easy to think a lot about the Turkey, the relatives, the parties, the food and spend very little time reflecting on how truly blessed we are. All we need to do is look around the world and realize how truly privleged we are to live in such comfort.

Life certainly has it's disappointments and sorrows, but from a global and historical perspective alike we are have so much! And yet, many times I get lost in what I don't have, or what could be going better, or the small discouragements of every day and completely forget to be grateful to the one who provides it all. I should be filled with gratitude for the family with whom I have been blessed, the country I call home, the food that is never lacking, the shelter from the cold, and the clothes that cover my body. I too often take for granted the blessing of laughter and hugs, the sound of little feet and equally tiny giggles that fill my days, and the constant love of my wonderful husband and the support of a great group of friends. This holiday season I hope to be more intentional in thanking God for these incredible blessings and reaching out to those around me to share some of that same joy!

I hope each of you enjoyed your weekend, wherever it took you and that you all join me in truly remembering all we have to be thankful for. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How I Feel...

I found the following words (letter, song, prayer?) on this blog I was browsing earlier and it perfectly expresses how I feel as I parent through these very all-consuming days of childhood. Hard, busy, but worth every minute!
You are...

No matter how it seems sometimes
behind my weary eyes and sighs,
I love being with you.

You are perspective and pure joy.
You are bringing me to my knees,
exactly where I need to be.

You are beautiful, just as you are.

You are me. You are Daddy.
You are yourself, and that's my favorite part.
You are ours. You are His.
You are light and grace and warmth,
all wrapped up in skin and bone.

You are forgiving and unconditional.
You are examples to me of how to live.
Because you are everything I may have forgotten.
Things all covered up by the hardness of living.
freedom, joy, peace, are.

You smell like it.
You live it.
You exude it.
You are love.
They say I'll want these days back,
They go all too fast.
But I'm starting to realize I won't.
No, not the days.
I admit they're too hard and I'm tired.
I won't want the days.
But these tiny versions of you?
Yes, I will certainly miss those at times.
And I may even want you back this way.

But I'm looking forward to new versions of you,
to learning more of who you are.

More than all of that,
the looking back and the looking ahead.
I want to be here with you today.
With who you are, right now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daredevil Climber

Lydia, the Daredevil Climber, just like her brother.

And here is a video of Lydia walking from about a week ago. She has progressed a LOT since this point, but it is always fun to see how quickly they go from one skill to another.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tagged Again--sort of.

I was tagged in a blog game last week by my friend Rebecca. According the the game, I'm supposed to tell you all 6 random facts about myself and post a random picture. However, I'm terrible at these "random facts" type things--they're too wide-open and I overthink them! So, I saw this on another blog I was reading last week and it looked more defined, and should still provide you with facts you probably don't already know. Enjoy!

1. What is your husband's name?
James Wesley
2. Who eats more?
Usually him--but there are days, especially when I'm nursing or pregnant (which for those of you who are curious has been all of the last 42 months!)
3. Who said, "I love you" first?
He did, whispered it in my ear as we were saying good-night and I didn't even realize that's what he'd said until he'd already left!
4. Who is taller?
5. Who is smarter?
That's a good question--we haven't really ever settled on it ourself. "Depends on the topic" is probably the best answer.
6. Who is more sensitive?
Me, definitely
7. Who does the laundry?
Usually me, but he's really great about helping: if he sees that it's piling up or knows that there's a load in the washer or dryer he'll switch it over or help fold!
8. Who sleeps on the right side of the bed?
Me (if you're looking at the bed)
9. Who pays the bills?
Me again.
10. Who cooks more?
Definitely me--but he's learned a lot over the past five years and could do it if he needed to now.
11. Who is more stubborn?
In most cases me, but we're both pretty stubborn (and so are the kids, shocking, I know)
12. Who is the first to admit they are wrong?
Usually me--but I'm also usually the one to press the issue that I'm right.
13. Who has more siblings?
That would yet again be me. I have 3 younger brothers, James has 2 younger brothers
14. Who wears the pants in the relationship?
Let me start by saying I hate this question! I guess I'd say we share a pair? Again, it just depends on the issue who makes the final call.
15. What do you like to do together?
We love to travel (but haven't really gotten to do so since the kids came along), read, hike, and talk about life and current happenings. In all honesty, we mostly end up watching movies or TV together these days since we're too tired/busy to do much else, but we enjoy that too.
16. Who eats more sweets?
James. I eat more chocolate though.
17. How did you meet?
We met my freshman year of high school at a youth event that both our churches were participating in. But, it never once crossed my mind during high school that we might be together. We were increasingly better friends throughout the years, especially once we started attending the same college, but again we just friends for the first couple of years (for real, not just one of those things people say-- he dated several other people during that time). I knew I was interested in him before he realized he was interested in me--I'd really given up on anything ever happening right about the time I found out he liked me!
18. Who asked whom out first?
James asked me out during the summer between our Sophomore and Junior years of undergrad. After knowing each other for 6 years prior to dating our courtship moved pretty fast. We got engaged after about 6 months and were married a year after beginning to date.
19. Who kissed who first?
James kissed me first and then I kissed him back, and well...we've had a lot of practice since then. ;)
20. Who proposed?
James again--he asked me while on a ski lift during a ski trip with his family in Ontario. I'm definitely a novice skiier, but I was so dazed, happy, giddy once we got off the lift that I took a wrong turn and headed down a black diamond. James did a great job getting me down safely, but it was a bit unnerving. (How's that for a metaphor for life?) And yes, for those of you wondering, that does mean that my darling husband carried a ring around all day in his jacket pocket while downhill skiing!
21. His best features and qualities?
I love his eyes. :) Best qualities, he's patient, fun to be around, compassionate, and intelligent. Beyond all that, no one could ask for a more loving husband or father. I am so blessed!!!!

I'm not going to officially "tag" anyone, but I would enjoy reading this about any of you who just read my story! :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Praying 7x7

You might have noticed the new button on the sidebar of my blog. For most of the past year, I've been reading Angie's blog. It began as she shared the story of her sweet Audrey, born with severe disabilities and taken to heaven to be with Jesus the same day. Her writing has inspired me--oh to have that kind of faith in the midst of such a difficult and heartbreaking time!

Her writing since has mostly focused on her other three sweet girls (as well as the ministry opportunities that have come out of sharing Audrey's story) and the challenges of being a mom that loves Jesus and passes that love on to her children. If you've never checked out her blog, you should definitely do so, but be warned--her writing is so fresh, funny, and yet insightful that you'll probably become addicted, checking back frequently to make sure you don't miss anything!

Anyway, enough about this great blog and back to the button. Recently Angie challenged moms reading the blog (as well as other readers who might not be parents, but have specific kiddos they're praying for) to be intentional and pray over your children in seven specific situations throughout their days each day of the week. I love this approach! It's scriptural, but it's also tied to events in your day which act as triggers. I've often felt since having the kids that I don't know where I'd put a devotional and prayer life anymore, yet never have I had such crucial and precious "prayer items." :) So join me if you wish, click on the button to link to Angie's post with the verses and situations and to read her much more inspiring post on the topic. As for me, I'll be praying... as often as I can remember. Hey, I'm still working on this!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Where does time go? Why is it that when you're waiting for something it seems to crawl, but when you're trying to savor the moments it goes way too fast. I can hardly believe I'm writing this, for it seems just days ago that I was a VERY pregnant girl starting this blog to keep you all posted on the arrival of our new baby.

Well, that "new" baby officially joined the ranks of the walking this past weekend! Lydia's been taking steps for several weeks now and will walk quite long distances if you hold just one hand, however, as of Saturday she's now walking between us and across rooms, not just the occasional step to an item just out of her reach.
She is sooooo proud of herself and so are James and I. By far the most fun to watch, however, is Joshua. He's become a little coach all of a sudden and he's always close by to clap for her, encourage her, and in general make a big deal when she attempts something new. It makes me smile inside everytime no matter how stressful the day when I see them interacting kindly.

There are a lot of less than encouraging moments when raising babies and toddlers, but nothing can prepare you for how precious it is to see those little people you created and care for expressing their love for each other. I'm also amazed that seeing your kid acheive never gets old. The pride is new each and every time, no matter if you knew it was coming or not. The excitement I'm filled with over Lydia's first steps is the same as that for Joshua's--though not as fresh as Joshua's over seeing Lydia walk. I think if I had 100 kids I'd be just as in awe over how quickly they grow and change and what individuals they are.
So, my baby becomes less like a baby everyday and I just want to hold on to the moments because I know if I blink she'll be climbing, chatting, and heading off to school...

Here are some pictures and video of her new skill. Sorry for the really short video, we had to use our camera since we lost the upload cable for the videocamera and when we started taping she decided she wasn't in the mood to walk anymore, so they're less impressive than her actual skills.

Trick-or-Treat 2008

Whew! How did it get to be November already? Sorry for the long blogging absence--I'd give some great reason about all the things we've had going or how we've been sick or any of a number of things that are true--except none of those are the reason I haven't writting sooner. Quite simply, I just haven't gotten it done. That seems to be a problem with a lot of things these days, on the nice days I want to be outside enjoying it all and on the gloomy days, I totally and completely lack motivation. So, there you have it...complete honesty.

Whatever the reason I haven't been blogging, it's certainly not because I have no material for posts. Quite a bit has been happening around our house these past couple of weeks. Joshua has been asking for months (since Easter really) when it would be trick-or-treat time. We've pacified him by letting him try on his costume and telling him that once the leaves all fall down it will be time again. So, imagine his delight last week when we told him Friday was the day!

He didn't even have to wait all the way until Friday, for on Thursday we had a little halloween party with the moms and kids from my small group from my mommies group (similar to MOPS, but through our church). He had tons of fun being in costume and painting mini-pumpkins with the rest of the kiddos and if anything was even more stoked for actual trick-or-treating.

Friday dawned bright, sunny, and WARM. :) It's been in the mid 40's to low 50's for much of the latter half of October, so 65 felt balmy. So much nicer than last year when his nose was dripping and hands were freezing as we walked through the neigborhood. From the second Joshua woke up he was asking if it was time yet, and even though he knew it wouldn't be time until after his nap he could barely settle down to sleep because of his great excitement. So, when he woke up we ate an early dinner then headed out for some serious trick-or-treating action. After going to some houses on our street we met some friends in their neighborhood and Joshua and two of his best buddies (as well as their little siblings) walked around for the next hour and a half or so. What a big difference from last year. They all did their own walking the whole time, they walked up to doors and knocked, said "trick-0r-treat" and "thank-you" and navigated back to their waiting parents all in a polite and orderly fashion. It was really cute to watch their excitement

However, as exciting as Friday was, and despite the fact that we have way more candy in the house than we'll ever allow him to eat, it's left our little man wanting more. He's asked at least once a day to go again, and everytime he sees a house with the porch light on he wants to stop and ask "for a treat."

Lydia took her first Halloween all in stride. She loved to be part of the action and didn't seem to mind being in costume at all, even though she's usually really opposed to hats. She rode in the stroller and looked all grown-up holding her own pumpkin bucket for the most part. She's not old enough to really get the idea, but watching Joshua with all the candy made her realize it must be something good. She's now obsessed with picking up suckers and putting them in her mouth wrappers and all. She thinks we're really mean parents to prevent her from actually eating them and let's us know quite vocally how she feels about the injustice of the matter. She thinks whatever big-brother does she should do also.

But enough about our trick of treat experience, here are the pictures you were all reading through my post to find! ;-) Without further ado, here are Elmo and Mommy's little lamb, and also a beautiful bumblebee. (Joshua received a costume from each set of grandparents for his first halloween, so Lydia was born with what every girl wants, wardrobe it was a bumblebee for the party and a lamb for trick or treating.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Photos from Early Fall Fun

I'm trying something new. So, we'll see how it works. I know a lot of you would like to see more pictures than I usually put on the blog. So, for those of you out there who like to see LOTS of pics of the kids, this post is for you. If not, check back later for a more "traditional" post.

This past weekend Joshua got to experience what might be the highlight of his life so far. As are most little boys at this age, he's really enamored by truck. Big trucks, little truck, garbage trucks, semi-truck, fire trucks, etc. So, when one of the local fire departments held an open house this weekend for Fire Prevention Week, we knew we needed to go. Well, not only did they let you look at the trucks, sit on the trucks, and give out plastic fire helmets, they also were giving fire truck RIDES! I was so proud of Joshua, he said he wanted to take a ride even after he saw the long line and he made it. It took over 45 minutes of standing in line waiting his turn, but he was as patient as any two-year-old can be, even though it pressed into what would normally be naptime. The looks on his face while we were riding indicated that it was worth the wait as well. :)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall is Here!

Fall is here!

On the top is our front-yard tree, and below it is our neighbor's maple tree. The colors are just gorgeous, and we have had a week of fabulous weather. We are certainly enjoying this time of year, and making the most of it! We've been apple picking a number of times, and we go on walks almost every day. Plus, the farmer's market has been a fun experience this time of year, and we are still enjoying all of the fresh local produce.

For me, these couple weeks of the year have got to be my favorite. Wonderful weather, everything is changing. The heat of summer is behind us, and we can look forward to the winter activities soon (but not too soon). We all love getting fresh apple cider and making fresh donuts to go with it.

We all hope that everyone is getting a chance to enjoy this time of year as well!

Happy Birthday Liz

Happy Birthday Liz!

Today is Liz's 26th birthday, and the 5th one that she and I have celebrated together.

Joshua and Lydia and I are very happy to be able to celebrate another year with her.

On Friday I came home from work early (with the flowers you see above) to spend some time with her, and then we went out to dinner at a nice Italian place downtown while we left the kiddos at a friends house (This was all a surprise to Liz).

Then this morning I made a birthday cake with Joshua (Birthdays are not complete without a cake and candles), and we'll be having it later today once it cools and we can decorate it.

We all love you Liz (Mommy)!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A day in our life, as seen by a two-year old

Joshua loves to take pictures. He'd love it if we let him use our nicer camera--but he knows we have rules about that. He always reminds me that "Gigi lets me take pictures" but that "only Mommy and Daddy touch ours."(DSLR) He does on occasion get to use our point-and-shoot that we use for take-along, event type picture taking and he enjoys it to no end. He'd probably take pictures all day, every-day if we let him. Perhaps he has a career in photography in his future...or as you see in the pictures, maybe not! :)

I love how focused he is when he's taking pictures!

He's gotten a lot better at keeping the lens free of fingers, but sometimes in still creeps in.

Heads are optional, as you can see. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Surpise Visitor (or If One Elderly Woman is nosy, just imagine living across the street from 100+)

Ok, this will probably be a bit of a rant, but bear with me. And, I know, it will probably be funny to me in retrospect, someday--in the far distant future. Right now, it is NOT funny at all and truly very, very scary to me!

Here goes:

Yesterday was a busy, albeit typical Wednesday. The morning dawned rainy but the weather quickly cleared, by afternoon it was mild--sunny, mid-70's, perfect late Septembe weather. How does this relate? Again, bear with me.

We had some groceries to pick up before heading to my friend's house to watch kiddos for the afternoon. Lydia had woken a bit later than usual, so wasn't ready for a nap before we left. So, since the timing wasn't going to work for her to nap in her own bed, I hoped to be able to push her though the grocery trip and put her down once we arrived at our destination. No such luck, she fell asleep in the car between the grocery store and our friend's and woke VERY shortly after the car stopped, netting maybe 15min. on the generous side. Still, I figured no biggie, I'd just put her down a bit later and she'd take a longer than usual 2nd nap, again didn't happen, not in someone else's bed--she slept for ~20-30 minutes and then refused to sleep again the rest of the afternoon, waking at about 10 minutes to 2. SO, by the time we got ready to leave at 4:45 she was a mess. She usually sleeps between 2-3 hours during the day and shortly before 5 she's had less than an hour.

As you can imagine, she quickly fell asleep in the car and slept our entire trip home. When we arrived at 5:15 she was sleeping soundly. She didn't even stir as I got Joshua out of the car, so I did what any self-respecting parent would do, but what it turns out is HIGHLY IRRESPONSIBLE (gasp) even NEGLECTFUL. I made sure she was safe, I opened a window, and I let her sleep in her carseat, taking Joshua into the house, where all of my windows were open.

Now, in case you haven't actually been to my house, you'll need a few notes for the rest of the story to make sense. We don't have a garage--the people who lived in the house before us converted it into a playroom/family room. So, our driveway literally goes all the way up to our house, but no garage. The car is parked no more than 18" from the front flowerbed and less than 6" from the front door. It is in clear view from my front window, front door and family room window. Also, across the street from our house is a large building of senior citizen apartments...

Anyway, on with the story. I've left Lydia sleeping, buckled safely in the carseat, since she desperately needed to get at least one nap that lasted longer than 20 minutes, and since she's VERY close to me, and if she wakes up and makes any noise I can hear her. It's not my preferred location for her to sleep, but my kids don't transfer from one place to another while sleeping. They could be in the deepest sleep possible and if you so much as unbuckle a buckle (or usually even open the door) they wake up instantly. No, transferring them to the house is not a viable option. So car sleeping is not something I let them do often, and it's not preferrable to me, but it's really close, we live in a very small town, and did I mention that our driveway is super close to our house and that I can hear any noise from the car in my livingroom? All that being said, we consider ourselved to be fairly responsible parents, so even though we would have been able to hear her if she woke up, either James or myself continued to go out every 5 minutes or less to make sure she was still sleeping and still safe. On one of my trips out at around 5:40 I found her just starting to blink her eyes and look around, so I took her out of the car, brought in the groceries and my purse, and started nursing her while James and Joshua finished up dinner.

This is where things get ugly. Joshua finished his dinner around ten to 6 and went to the front window to look out as he often does. He loves to watch for garbage trucks, construction equipment, mowers from the lawn service, and of course the at-least weekly visits of emergency vehicles across the street. (I did mention that we live across from quite a number of seniors, right?) So, when he mentions that he sees a police car, we don't really think anything about it. We tell him that's cool and he runs and opens the front door to watch. Not subtle, but hey, he's 2.

We do think it's odd that the car stops directly in front of our house--when they help across the street they usually park on the other side, and if setting up a speed trap they like to park behind the bushes across the street. But, stranger things have happened, so we continue on with out lives and Joshua continues watching from the open front door. James went out side to shut the door on the car (which I'd apparently left open in my hurry to get back in to nurse Lydia after getting the groceries out) and the officer got out of the car and approached him.

He informed James that ONE OF THE NEIGHBORS HAD CALLED, letting them know that we'd arrived home about 20 minutes prior and had left one of our children in the car, and they should really check it out. Of course, privacy restrictions being what they are, he couldn't identify the neighbor, but know that the neighbors on one side of us weren't home (and has an obstructed view of our driveway, meaning they would literally have had to set up a lawn chair on the property border and started timing) and the neighbors on the other side cannot see our driveway from their house at all. The "neighbors" across the street on the other hand... So, one of the (presumably) little old ladies across the street felt the need to report us as neglectful to the police for leaving a child safely strapped in her carseat, on a mild day, with proper ventilation, and frequent parental checks for less than half and hour! When we explained that she had been sleeping and we didn't want to wake her he said he understood and after collecting James' name and some info promptly left to go on about his day, but left my world shaken in his wake.

I've already felt like I lived in a little rat-lab test cage when talking with the (mostly) nice, sweet women across the street. I've had comments like, "oh, I watch you coming and going every day from my balcony--I live up on the third floor" or "is the room with the blue curtains your son's room" or "where did you go last weekend" or even once (at 10AM, same day--I'd been home the whole time) a knock on my door to "let you know you got a package about 9am and wanted to make sure you knew." They've asked me what we were going to do with our old car three days after getting a new one, when I was due (while pregnant with both kids),whether my child is potty-trained yet, when the kids' birthdays are, and what I do, what my husband does, etc. I've tried to be sweet, believing all the questions to be well intentioned. I know they love to see the kids and I know how lonely older people can get (my grandma is in her late 80's and has lived alone for the past several years) and I really try to be gracious. But, I've felt like I'm on display. And now I feel like my privacy has been invaded, that I my autonomy as a adult questioned, and my right to make the decisions I feel are best for my kids challenged. I've been left wondering if I really am a good mom, or if I do put my children in danger and now feel like I have to be perfect and live up to someone else's standard. I'm on edge when the phone rings or there's a knock on the door, but I literally don't think I could give an ounce more of myself to my children, and I would NEVER do anything to put them in danger. I would not even hesitate if I ever had to choose between their well-being and my own, and this has left me feeling robbed of my innocence as a parent, questioned as to my parenting skills, and judged by some nosy busy-body (who I realize, probably thought she was doing the right thing) as guilty without ever even being consulted. Would it really have been so hard to walk across the street and talk to me, at least meet me and my kids and see us in action in person before making such a drastic decision? Furthermore, what will keep this person (or one of the many others) from doing it again--I'm terrified now that it's happened once over something that I (still!) don't see as a big problem that it could repeat itself. I don't feel safe to parent in my own home and that's a feeling I hope none of you reading ever has to feel. I feel like I live in my very own BigBrother house now where everything I do or don't do is on display and will be judged by everyone who's watching. I feel like cutting off all contact with the people across the street, but that would only harm those to whom my children truly do bring joy and smiles and probably make the rumor mill grow even more!

I could go on and on (and as you can see, already have) but it wouldn't serve a purpose. I really am left with nothing else new to say... So, there's my story...and when granny stops you in the store today to offer off-base and unsolicited parenting advice, just smile and nod, and think of me and be glad she didn't CALL the COPS!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watch them grow, but don't blink or you'll miss it...

We went to pick apples the other day, which has become something of a fall tradition for us. We usually make 2-3 trips to the orchard throughout the fall and enjoy lots of fresh apples for eating, as well as lots of yummy baked goods, and home-canned applesauce throughout the winter. Joshua remembers last year's apple picking fondly, and he's been asking everytime he eats an apple all summer when we can pick apples again. It's quite hard to explain to a two year old who's in the process of eating an apple that there are no apples available to pick!

My kids have had a nasty cold all week, and by midweek we were suffering from cabin fever from being inside--however, where can you take your under-the-weather-kids that you're not going to run the risk of making a lot of other people sick in the process? With the perfect weather I decided on the apple orchard, much to Joshua's delight. So, the kids and my younger brother (visiting this week from MI, yay!) picked apples while I took pictures.

While snapping pictures, I realized this was one of the few things we have photos of Joshua doing each year. I can't believe it's his third season in the apple orchard already--and it's crazy to look at the pictures of Joshua from last year and think that Lydia will be that big next fall. I thought you might like to see some shots from previous years, in addition to the pictures from this week.

Anyway, the weather and the changing seasons have me a bit nostalgic today--where does time go?

Joshua, Fall 2006Look how tall I am, Mom!

Yum, Yum!
Content to sit and munch

Joshua, Fall 2007

No wagon this year, I can do it "by self"

"So, Big" (And, I realize, the only year he's facing forward)

Lydia and Joshua, Fall 2008

My newest apple baby (no, I didn't really let her eat a whole apple)

Look at him grow...

Back to the wagon, now pulling it himself