Maggie Grace at Three Years Old

My beautiful firstborn daughter turned 3 years old. 3. That’s a preschooler. That’s how old the kids were that I used to teach. It’s amazing how slowly and quickly time goes.

I should be filled with dread and sadness at the fact that my baby is growing up, but instead God has granted me hope. It’s no secret that Maggie has challenged us greatly at two years old. But just as we thought we would never get through to her, that nothing was ever going to work for her, we started to notice small changes. She began to verbalize feelings (“Ooh, I’m so FRUSTRATED!”) and started to understand right from wrong. These small but monumental changes have given us hope that 3 will be much better than 2. She is still a spitfire and very energetic, but we’re been able to mostly funnel it into productive activities. She now loves to sit and read or do crafts or play games. Maggie has some dear friends, who she loves and talks about constantly. Her best friend is her cousin Kailee, a sweet fact she shares with everyone. She loves going to gymnastics open house, she loves swimming, airplanes, and motorcycles. Her favorite books right now are Pete the Cat books. She knows all her letters, counts to 20 and backwards from 10, she can spell her name, and she knows the colors of the rainbow. She has a fantastic memory and I know it is going to bite me in the butt someday soon.

Sweet Maggie has a giving heart and loves easily. She is adventurous and excitable, but also kind and thoughtful. She is growing up into a beautifully wonderful little girl and we thank God for her every day.

We love you, Maggie girl, more and more each day. DSC_5744DSC_5762DSC_5763DSC_5769DSC_5779DSC_5784DSC_5786DSC_5789DSC_5793DSC_5805

Our West Coast Adventure

Summer has ended and this year was a fantastic one. We had many adventures and so many good times with our friends and family. We traveled a lot, were up north at the cabins probably 3/4’s of the weekends, and we enjoyed the local parks and water areas many times.

Our favorite tradition (it certainly is becoming one) is taking a trip to visit my sister and brother in law in Oregon. Last year,  they lived in downtown Portland and we split up our time between waterfall adventures and exploring the city. This year, we decided to rent an Airbnb near the coast and spend our time enjoying one area for a few days.

We fell in love with the sweet little yellow beach house that had enough rooms for all of us to sleep comfortably, laundry facilities, and a clean, modern kitchen for us to cook many meals together. The hosts left us deer food and apples to disperse and enjoy the mass amounts of deer that would surround the house as a result. It was a highlight of our trip and the girls were delighted to be so close to these beautiful creatures.

We spent the days at the beach and the weather surprised us by gifting us a hot, sunny day that was ALMOST warm enough to make me go into the water. (But not really, because that ocean water….brrr…) We climbed cliffs and sand dunes, watched whales, admired the sea creatures that appear at low tide, and attempted to fly a kite in true coastal spirit.

While we saw so many beautiful areas and enjoyed all the coast has to offer, my favorite part was getting to see my sister and her husband (we only see them once a year these days). I miss our conversations and little moments that we shared. They obsess over Office quotes, just as I do, and I adore watching them love on their nieces. Being with family is so good and being with them in a beautiful and inspiring place is even better. I can’t wait to be with them again!

The girls did fantastic on the trip, although Maggie struggled with her bathroom skills and Juliet took longer than necessary to switch her sleep time to PST. All in all, they had fun, we had a fantastic time, and we continue to like traveling with each other. Ha!

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To Juliet on Her First Birthday

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Our Juliet Hope,

Today we celebrate you. You have completed your first journey around the sun. You are one year old! We have been blessed to know you for 365 wonderful days. You have brought beams of sunshine and joy into our lives. God gave us exactly who our family needed at this time.

On this day last year, my water broke in the wee hours of the night. I left your big sister asleep in her bed, knowing that I would be giving her a precious gift the next time I saw her. I thought that I would struggle to accept you as the new addition to our home. That I would wish for more time with my firstborn. But the moment I saw you, I was enamored.

My labor with you was steady and calm. I repeated the Lord’s promises and envisioned you as the best reward for my hard work. I was strong and determined to meet you quickly. You were just as eager to meet us. 

You arrived around 9 am on Sunday, with our church praying for you and me. I felt that wonderful instantaneous bond to you and you immediately knew who I was. You belong with me. With us. You are a gift from God.

Watching you grow this year has brought me to tears and made me laugh with joy. You have reached milestones just a tad quicker than your big sister, I think in order to catch up to her. You adore her and she adores you. I see your bond getting stronger every day. Soon, you will be sharing secrets with her and teaming up with her. I can tell already that we will need all of God’s help in raising you two.

You have constantly surprised us this year. You arrived earthside as dark as your sister, then your hair fell out and came back with a red tint, but then it lightened up and now you are as blonde as your aunt! We anticipated a calm, demure, and sensitive personality from your infancy, but you have developed into an emotional and loud risk taker. I can’t wait to watch you keep growing.

You currently love: music, cheese, climbing, Mama, making faces, sleeping without a sleep sack, playing in water, baby dolls, taking every single toy out of its container, making noises with your mouth, pulling hair, waving, and feeding the dogs.

You have been to two oceans, on seven plane rides, the tops of mountains, and to the Caribbean. You have seen wild monkeys and whales. You have had countless playdates and zero sleepovers with anyone but mom. You have finally slept through the night twice this week and are officially night weaned. You practiced walking for a month, but I am now pleasantly surprised to see you walking around the house confidently. You say “mama, dada, Mah (Maggie), Lay (Leia)”, your favorite song is “Old MacDonald” and you sing the “eeieeio” part. You are now in size 4 shoes and I think you’re going to have big feet like your sister.

I may not have been able to give you as much attention as your sister received as a baby, but I certainly feel like I get to love on you and cherish your babyhood more because I appreciate it so much more than I did the first time. Your sweetness and attachment to me has been nourishment to my soul. You are so loved by everyone around you. We are blessed to be called your family and to see you grow into the person God is shaping you to be.

 

Happy birthday, Jules!

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I’d Choose You Again and Again

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Father’s Day is here again and while most of us moms think “isn’t every day the day that dads get to sleep in, get food made for them, and get others to shop for them?” While it’s probably true in many cases, there are so many reasons to celebrate the dads in your life.

While it is becoming more discussed in our society, we have barely scratched the reality of the importance of fathers in raising children. Take a gander at this NPR interview that cites startling statistics about the “Fatherless Generation” . Fatherless children are more likely to be poor, to drop out of school, and to self-harm. It’s incredible the effect fatherhood has in a child’s life.

I have to admit, more often than not, I am bitter about my husband’s “freedom” – such as not having to get up in the middle of the night to breastfeed or not having to clean up the vomit or not having to change a million diapers during the day. I am selfish and often wish we could trade places for a bit.

The truth is that I couldn’t handle being a father. My husband is a dedicated provider, who challenges himself at work and who sacrifices daily to ensure that our family has everything we need. He puts us first pretty much all the time. He is the fun parent. He is the one who chases our toddler around the house and throws her up in the air. He’s the one who does anything to get our baby to laugh. He is the one who comes home and greets me with a kiss and makes me feel loved every single darn day.

My daughters’ father has a very important job and I have no desire to take it on. God gave us the perfect man to lead our family and to raise our two girls. I never want to take him and his effort for granted.

Happy Father’s Day to the one I chose to raise my children and the one who God chose for our family.

the dawn of summer

there’s a sweet spot of summer and i think it comes at the very beginning. when the long tentacles of winter are not so long gone that you forget how miserable it was just weeks ago. when you look outside and realize you don’t remember when it happened, but the grass is a vibrant green and the trees are full of leaves. when the birds wake you up in the morning by chirping outside your windows and the sun’s rays are peeking through the blinds at 5 am.

the sweet spot of summer is when the kids first get out of school, running into the warm sun with the arms wide open. when the lake water is still cool enough to make you draw a quick breath, but refreshing on the eighty degree day.

the sweet spot of summer is when you spend the day outside and forget to eat at the normal meal times because the day seems to be hourless. when you eat fresh fruit like you never have tasted anything so good in your entire life. when your feet are constantly dirty from never wearing shoes outdoors.

the sweet spot of summer is remembering your beautiful childhood and the details that you forgot but can easily recall. the part of your life that can continue on and on as long as summer does.

 

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Six Months of Juliet Hope

There’s nothing like realizing your baby is days away from being seven months old to inspire writing her six month update!

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Jules was just shy of 16 lbs and about 23 inches long at her last appointment. She still has just two teeth on the bottom. She’s not a huge fan of most solid food yet; she prefers the milk! We are trying to sleep train her in her crib, but she still prefers snuggles near mama. She is SO close to crawling and can do an awesome looking plank. She is really proving to be a mama’s girl with a sweet and sensitive personality. She rocked her first international vacation and is definitely a beach bum babe! Maggie loves to love on her baby sister and Jules cannot stop smiling and laughing at everything Maggie does (even squishing her!) She is such a wonderful part of our family. God knew we needed her.

 

We love you, sweet Juliet! ❤

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How to Enjoy Paradise When You Have Babies: Barbados with Littles

DSC_0028We recently vacationed on the beautiful island of Barbados – a place known for the bluest waters, the friendly people, and their rum industry. One of the best parts of our vacation was that we were able to take our daughters along with us.
When I was researching the island, there was a lot of info for honeymooners or couples, but not a ton of advice for children, especially young ones like ours (under three). So here are some reasons why Barbados is one of the best places to vacation with children.

  1. Friendly locals – the Bajan locals were amazingly accepting of tourists. We had so many comments and friendly gestures from locals and other tourists alike. Maggie made friends everywhere, but played the most with a local girl on the beach who was with her father. Maggie hung out with them for most of the morning; enjoying running in and out of the waves with the slightly older girl. The father was very helpful as he would stand by the girls in the water and spent time conversing with us. We didn’t meet anyone who left us with a bad impression!

2. Low crime rate – there may be different opinions on this, but have the perspective that there is no habitable place in the world with zero crime. Wherever you go, be smart and alert. The biggest issue we had was peddlers approaching us, but my sister-in-law said it was so mild compared to Jamaica. The sellers are pretty polite and will take a kind “no” very well, as far as we saw. One day we were exploring a new remote beach area and were approached by police to make sure we were safe and to give us advice about staying in safe areas. I’m sure if you go looking for danger, it’s there. The general rule is to follow the same safety guidelines we have here in America.

3. Many kid-friendly activities – even though the island is thought of as a paradise for lovers, I found it quite easy to bring the girls along on whatever activity we had planned. We did bring our own car seats and rented a car. That simplified our adventures and allowed us the flexibility of driving right to the hotel if someone was  crabby. We took the girls on a catamaran cruise for five hours and had a blast! The cruise lines are outfitted with toddler life jackets, but we brought an infant one from home. We cruised with El Tigre and had an absolute blast. The crew was so considerate and fun; the director of the cruise hung out with Maggie for a while, gave us ALL of the towels to make a bed for Juliet, and made us feel like family. Maggie got to swim in the ocean while we snorkled for a bit, so we say she swam with sea turtles even though they were hiding at the bottom. Overall, we loved everything we did with the girls and are glad that they got to experience it with us.

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As with everything in life, there is a learning curve and this trip definitely taught us a couple things.

Don’t bother with a stroller through security. We found out quickly that it is way easier to put both kids in carriers so we could be as hands-fee as possible. Maggie escaping from the stroller and throwing everything on the ground while trying to get through security was not fun. Honestly, if we did it again, we would not bring the stroller and probably bring a utility wagon that would work well in the sand. There aren’t many sidewalks in Barbados and even where there are, I would prefer my kids close to me.

Prepare to have your kids nap on the go. Our kids napped all places – the car, the beach, a boat…I hate wasting vacation time inside a dark hotel room waiting for my kids to wake up, so our kids were forced to nap wherever they dropped.  Bring their blanket or lovey wherever you go and they will be so tired from the water and sun, they will sleep well. Believe me, it’s worth it. They’ll get back to their regular nap schedule when you get home.

Relax. Things aren’t going to go perfectly. Kids are going to have meltdowns. Just do your best and don’t expect too much of your kids. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant one night with our friends and Maggie was screaming and trying to run away, so I took her for a short walk and distracted her. There’s only so much a toddler can handle. Bring a bag of small toys or drawing tools to occupy them during waiting periods.

Pack as little as possible. We packed four of us into two carry-ons and a backpack. We spent $10 on laundry one time at the hotel and it worked pretty well. You could also just wash your clothes in the sink. It’s hot and you’re going to be in the water most of the days anyways, so you won’t need a lot of clothes. It’s worth it to not have to lug around a ton of bags to and from the airport.

DO YOUR RESEARCH. As you should do before you travel anywhere; Barbados has some rules that aren’t common. One is that one must wear a cover-up while out in public (no walking the streets in a bikini) and another is no camouflage (I don’t know why, Ii just know it’s on a big sign in the airport). Things that may not be in the front of your mind as your thinking about vacation, but you should always be aware and respectful of the culture you’re visiting.

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That’s all I have to say about beautiful Barbados! I hope I get to visit again soon.