Friday, December 24, 2010

The wonder of it all

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For lack of a better word, there is really something "magical" about this time of year.  And experiencing the Christmas season with little ones makes it that much more enchanting.  For instance, when it snowed, really snowed, for the first time you can bet Jack and I were the first kids in the neighborhood out the door. 

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The first thing I did was teach him how to catch snowflakes.  He picked it up rather quickly.  I'm a proud mom.

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We found some sleds up in the attic and immediately tested them out on the driveway.  Jack was wild with excitement.  "More! More!" he said, huffing and puffing as he tried to climb up the snow-laden driveway under layers of snow clothes.  We soon graduated to the back hill and when he went down all by himself for the first time I started clapping and jumping up and down like he just scored the winning touchdown in the last 5 seconds of a game.  The neighbor kids on the next street over kept glancing our way, trying to figure out what made our yard much better than everyone else's.

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And when Jude woke up from his nap he too was enraptured by the beauty from his warm spot by the window.  He just sat and watched the snow fall ... and his brother running around like a wild man.  Then he watched Jack run around like a wild man inside the house after Mommy gave him his first sample of hot chocolate.

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Jude's had his share of the tastes of the season as well.  He just loves the Christmas tree.  I've spoken before of his habit of tugging on branches and pulling off ornaments.  You may wonder why I ever let him get close enough.  Well, it's his face, when he sees the tree.  His eyes light up and his arms start going in circles and he kicks his little legs in an attempt to propel himself forward.  I'm a sucker for indulging in what truly delights the little guys.

A few weeks ago when we first got our Christmas tree I brought him close enough to touch the branches.  He ran his chubby little hand over the needles, grabbed a sparkly bulb, yanked it off the tree, held it in front of his face, then looked up at me and broke out into a huge toothless grin.  I melted.

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And this is what I love most about being a mom.  Everything is new, everything is exciting.  Even though I'm older and have been through my fair share of Christmases.  Even though I've picked out over two dozen Christmas trees in my lifetime, intent on getting the perfect one each year.  Even though I've hung the ornaments every year and could probably tell you if one was missing.  Even though I prefer to sleep in on Christmas morning.  Even though I've had enough cups of hot chocolate that the only ones worth getting giddy about are from a little shop in New York City and contain a long list of ingredients.  Even though the little hill in the back yard doesn't really compare to the sledding trails we used to carve out of the Pennsylvania mountains when I was growing up ... Well, I get to relive each of these moment through the eyes of my children. 

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It's those boys. They make me want to do everything bigger and better. To dig my toes in a little farther, hold on a little tighter and savor the feeling a few minutes longer. They make me want to live life to the fullest, just because I know they are tagging along. It's the best feeling ever.

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So when I see Jack get a face-full of snow for the first time ... and thoroughly enjoy every freezing second of it.  Or when I see Jude fall in love with a Christmas tree during his first year of life, it makes me want to feel that way too.  To remember again the wonder of the season.

And so when I hear the Christmas story for the thousandth time, when I see a nativity scene and hear Jack point out "bebee Jee-us", when I my boys the story about a baby in a manger, and when I listen, really listen, the the words in "Silent Night" I want to feel the same way.  To remember just how awesome this story really is the first time, and every time.

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So in the midst of the lights, cookies, presents, time with friends and family ... never lose the wonder.  The wonder that God sent his only Son to earth, in the form of man.  Born of a young virgin, laid in a manger, proclaimed by angels to a group of shepherds, visited by wise men following a star, rescued from the hands of Herod, and reared by a humble carpenter.  The wonder of Christmas.  My prayer this year is "God, I want to be awed by your precious gift this year and every year...  May the story never get old."

Hoping you have a happy and wonder-filled Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to this Guy!

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Happy 28 years Jon ... or as we've been phrasing it for the last 6 years ... Happy 2 years from 30!

In the last year you've fathered your second adorable son, finished a Master's degree and started on another.  You work hard at whatever you put your hand to.  And you do everything with excellence - whether it's working on another research paper, cleaning the kitchen counters, or changing a dirty diaper.  I love and appreciate the way you do things right the first time, and you've pushed me to never settle for the status quo.

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From the first moment I saw you I knew that you would make some cute babies!  But I didn't realize then how much I'd enjoy becoming a parent with you and watching you with our two little boys.  They are blessed with a wonderful Daddy.  I know that they are going to grow up to be hard-working, high-achieving, honorable, and fun-loving young men, because this is the example they've grown up with!

I'm so proud of you, all you've accomplished, and all you're going to do in the future.  I eagerly await our next adventure together!

Happy Birthday Love!
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To celebrate the big day ...
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The boys and I had a crafty morning:
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Yes, I made my own card too ... What can I say, I didn't make it out of the house this weekend to get a card. :(

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Jack's message to Daddy, I translated:
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To round out the "pregnancy craving dinner theme" I decided to whip up some chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing.  You should have seen Jack's face when we lighted the candles and starting singing "Happy Birthday" ... until he realized we weren't doing it for him.
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Sometimes, in moments like these, it's hard to keep a straight face.
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Fortunately, it's easy to right a two year old's world.

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I would say it was a fun day, but that would be stretching the truth.  Jude fussed through the entire dinner (that I ate with one hand), and Jack (who decided he'd rather lay in bed and talk to himself for an hour and half instead of taking a nap this afternoon) was a bit emotional.  When he started throwing food at the birthday boy we had to draw the line.  Needless to say, both boys went to bed extra-early, Jon's been enjoying a quiet, peaceful evening of do-nothing ever since and I have been happily procrastinating on doing the dishes!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The most wonderful time ...

... of their short little lives.

Can I just say I'm thoroughly enjoying my two boys' ages right now?  Jack's been 2 for two months and I keep waiting for things to go horribly wrong, keep waking up wondering "Is this the day the terrible twos are going to hit?"  But it's just not like that.  If anything, he's getting a bit easier.  I've heard from numerous other moms that 18 months was actually more difficult.  And I'm starting to think that is the case with Jack.  It definitely was a rough patch for us, but I haven't yet decided if that was because of his age ... or because we introduced a new baby brother.  Only time will tell.

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For now, we're thoroughly enjoying this guy.  He's hilarious.  I just had no idea how entertaining life could be with a 2 year old.  He's moved on from just words to two and three-word sentences.  And he copies everything you say, right down to your tone and inflection.  He's also started doing what Jon calls "attribution".  There may be a real name for it but I don't know.  Basically, he spouts off a list of names tied to an object i.e. "Jack's soup, Mommy's soup ..."  or "Jack's chair, Mommy's chair, Daddy's chair, Jori's chair..."  He's big on Jori's chair.  My friend Jori came over for lunch once weeks ago and Jack's been saving her seat for her ever since.

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After numerous opportunities to practice it, he's mastered the term "sorry" which comes out sounding like "saree" or more typically "Saree Mum".  He also always adds a head pat or hair stroke to it.

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Our pastor used to emphasize the importance of "waking up happy" to his kids.  If they didn't come down to breakfast with a smile on their face they had to go back upstairs and try it again.  It would appear that Jack is a natural at this, as long as you don't get him out of bed too soon.  He's definitely a morning person, and makes it obvious by chirping, in an exceptionally high voice, "Morning!" to everyone he sees.  "Morning Dad, morning Mom, morning Jude!"  It's hard to be grumpy if you share your morning with Jack!
 
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We also think he may have a future in news reporting since he's very good at alerting everyone to current events.  i.e. "Jude burp" or "Baby crying, baby crying!" or "Where Daddy go?  Daddy work" or "Mommy potty ... Mommy flush."  To borrow a phrase I saw on Facebook, if you want to get information out you can use a telephone, television, or tell a Jack.

But the best part of it all is that he's finally, FINALLY figured out how to say "I love you."  Okay so it's more like "lub you" but after waiting for 2 years I'll take it! 

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They say that kids thrive on routines, and that the best way to establish good sleeping habits is to have a bedtime routine.  So we do this little thing for naps and bedtime where I let Jack pick out 3 books, I crawl into his little bed next to him, we pull the blankets up over both of us, and read some stories.  Then I get out of bed, tuck him in, and then we pray and give kisses goodnight.  If it's naptime Jude is usually there and he too must participates in the kissing.  So that's my routine but Jack likes to add to it.  The same thing.  Every.  Day.  First he refuses to get under the covers and makes me manhandle him onto the center of the bed and hold him down to tuck him in.  Then he insists that I kiss Monkey as well as himself.  But of course he doesn't make it easy to get kissed in the first place.  And then he always, always pretends like Monkey is going to fall out of bed.  And then I always, always have to say "Monkey, get in bed and go to sleep."  And then Jack giggles and I say goodnight and shut the door and he always follows up with some sort of murmur because, even at 2, Jack likes to have the last word.  It's funny, these routine things and what we end up getting ourselves into.

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At almost 8 months, Jude has quickly learned how to make himself heard over his boisterous older brother.  We're in the yelling, jabbering phase right now.  It's funny, but can also be inconvenient.  Like when you're trying to have a conversation with your husband and you have to pause because Jude's "bla bla blab, blab, blabbing" is drowning out your voice.  He falls asleep talking and wakes up the same way.  He just doesn't stop.  He started saying "Mama" and "Dada" a few weeks ago ... and then stopped.  No amount of dancing, smiling, chanting, etc. can get me to squeeze it out of him, and the one video I did happen to catch was interrupted by a phone call.  I'm sure he'll pick it back up again in a few more weeks.  And his laugh - love it!  It sounds like a courtesy laugh, but it's genuine folks ... and well worth working for!

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I remember thinking that 7-9 months was my most favorite age when Jack was little, and I'm reminded again of just why this age is so cute!  Jude is terribly interested in what's going on around him, whether it's his big brother running around in circles or Daddy's glasses or Mommy's hair.  He simply wants to know more.  His favorite spot to sit right now is next to the Christmas tree.  He's already attempted to open one of Jack's gifts and he's a pro at removing ornaments. 

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If he was mobile, he would be "in to everything" but for right now, he's just in to everything within a 1 foot radius.  And I constantly underestimate that radius and his curiosity.  Like the night he was sitting in the Bumbo on the counter while I was making dinner.  I turned around just in time to watch him fling an entire plate of Christmas cookies unto the floor.  I tell ya, I'm worried about this kid.  We asked for a walker for him for Christmas in hopes of keeping him contained, and not walking, for as long as possible!

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I've read that babies realize their mom can leave the room (and not come back) at around 29-30 weeks, which would explain why he started crying whenever I would walk away a few weeks ago.  But lately he's been pretty good at independent playtime ... as long as he remains upright.  He has a horrible habit of reaching too far for a toy and winding up flat on his face.  And recently the two boys have started playing together on their own (and without injury).  And I know they're not old enough to truly interact or reap the full benefits of being brothers, but I'm enjoying these moments nonetheless. Jack's much more aware of his little brother's needs, and we've had plenty of opportunities for lessons on sharing.

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I'm relieved to say that at 8 months Jude is still nursing strong.  Breastfeeding got very difficult with Jack around this time, and though we stuck it out after that I don't think my body ever fully recovered.  So I was a little anxious when things started heading that direction with Jude about a month ago.  But we've pushed through and we're back to healthy, hearty eating habits.  I finally gave up feeding him before I went to bed and he's happily slept straight through, so now we're down to 4 feedings a day and typically 12 hour stretches at night, although Jude-bug definitely has his fair share of early mornings!

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But every hero has his tragic flaw, and this little guy's is most definitely naps.  Thankfully, I think we've finally moved past the 45 minute intruder, although now we often deal with a new foe - the 60 minute intruder.  If he does decide to go longer he gives me about 1.5 hours and ocassionally busts out a full 2 hour sleep session, but very rarely.  He's also dropped the third nap, just won't take it anymore.  And this is the appropriate age for that, but since he's only sleeping a total of 2-3 hours during the day ... well, let's just say evenings have gotten a little rough around here!  As in, I end up holding the baby through dinner and then giving him my undivided attention for about an hour until he eats again at 6.  Last night, the only thing that made him happy was watching the musical nativity scene go around in circles.  Two nights ago, it was me holding the vibrating teether in his mouth for 30 minutes straight (and no I don't think he's getting any teeth ... yet!).  The night before that, it was playing songs on Jack's xylophone. He typically falls asleep when I nurse him, and then is wide awake with a second wind by the time we're done.  Since I know he's tired I put him to bed right after he's finished eating, but we can hear him kicking and jabbering up there for a few more minutes before he finally falls asleep.  I'm sure it's just a phase, I'm just hoping it ends soon!

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They're both such sweet, wonderful boys. And little joys to have around.  In the words of my mother-in-law, I just want to put a brick on their heads and keep them this way forever, but I'm sure there are some other favorite ages to come down the road.  I just hope we don't reach them too fast!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hall decking

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There's this thing about moving, this constant stretching and flexing of your decorator muscles.  You learn to be adaptable with your furniture and open minded regarding your wall art.  Because just because those three framed sailboat pictures looked great in your former guest room, doesn't mean they're going to work in the new one.  And although you may have had an uncanny affection for the black and cream swirled shower curtain, it just doesn't pull through for you in a green bathroom.  Or maybe you ended up with a couple hundred square feet that you never had before and no way to fill them.  Been there.

Well it's the same way with Christmas decorations.  We pulled out the several tubs that used to overwhelm our Beach Nest with yuletide charm and realized the impact was much less significant in our Burb Nest.   Now I personally feel the worst time to buy Christmas decor is the weeks leading up to Christmas, so I tried to curb my enthusiasm and just work with what we have.  We cranked up Bing Crosby's Christmas albums and spread out the cheer, a little thinner than in year's past, but just as delightful.  Welcome to Christmas 2010 in the Burb Nest:

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We'll start with the tree.  Our best one yet remember? We got several compliments on it from our party-attendees, which was lovely since it cost a small fortune.  We decided to put the tree in the front room because it has a big empty spot where I was hoping to put a piano, a dream that will likely remain unfulfilled.  Plus I'm all about seeing trees from windows and this is the best place where strangers walking by can catch a glimpse of our masterpiece. I adore Christmas trees because I love looking at the ornaments.  There's always a few with special meanings or funny stories, and you can learn a lot about a family by studying their Christmas tree.

For instance, you may notice that one person in this family enjoys their coffee:

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Or that plastic photo frame Christmas tree ornaments were very popular in the late 80's:

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My aunt got us one of these guys each year in the last decade.  It's one of Jack's personal favorites because it's an owl.  I'm not sure why, but he's really into owls lately.  Whenever I get a text or voicemail on my phone it makes this little chirpy sound, which apparently sounds very much like an owl to my 2 year old because he walks around the house saying "Owl, owl" everytime my phone goes off.

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This is one of my favorite ornaments, when you press a button it's a recording of 2 month old Jack laughing.  The first time I listened to it this year I got tears in my eyes.  I'm so that mom.

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One year my mom made Cabbage Patch caricatures of her 3 kids.  Since I was taking dance classes at the time mine was a ballerina.  Several years later one of the eyes fell off.  It's a big family joke now that my ornament only has one eye since I'm technically legally blind in my left eye.  Real funny huh? 

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Then there's this hot number.  Ow ow!  I bet the kids are going to be fighting over who gets to hang this one up in about 10 years or so ...

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Onto the rest of the house, on our coffee table are the "peace" candle holders.

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And in case you think I'm crazy for placing candles at the hand-level of a 2 year old ... they're electric tea lights! 

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Kid proof... or so I thought.  Looks like our budding engineer got to this one!

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Since we have an actual fireplace and mantel with hooks this year (!!) our beloved bookcase has turned into a "throw all the leftover Christmas decorations here" place.  It doesn't flow very well, but I haven't had time to really think it all over anyway.

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In the dining room, we opted for a tablerunner this time around, it's much easier to keep free of smudgy hands but unfortunately doesn't work so well for peek-a-boo.

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One thing we (read Jon) did break down and buy was a small Christmas tree for the den, since we didn't want it to feel left out.  It worked out well for stocking stuffers too since our stockings aren't really meeting the need at this point.

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These are the pine cones we collected in our Virginia Beach neighborhood 2 Christmases ago.

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And this was a gift from my brother Micah a few years ago.  He usually puts it together for me each year at Thanksgiving, but I was on my own this year.  And I had to do it, and re-do it, 4 times before it finally looked right.  Uncle Micah is definitely the artist in the family.

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And of course we had to do something for the kiddos.  I saw some adorable garland in Land of Nod.  It was pretty pricey, and I knew I could replicate it myself.  So I did.

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Jack enjoys pointing out "kiss-mus tee" and "fosty".

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The mistletoe we bought our first Christmas together was a bagful of mistle crumbles this year, so we quick picked up a replacement at 5 Below.  Here's hoping this one gets more of a response than its predecessor. 

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Apparently having a yard means decking that out too.  Jon had way too much fun hanging up lights.  Actually I think he gets a bigger kick out of organizing the cords and outlets.  He's rigged up all our Christmas lights so that they turn on with one click of the remote.  It's very convenient.

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And it wouldn't be Christmas with a houseful of boys if we didn't have an electric train.  Jack is probably too young for this, and Jude definitely is, but their Dad thought it was an essential addition.  And of course Jack just loves it.  He's constantly asking to play with "choo choo."  I personally, do not find trains that much fun.  You put it together, watch it go around in a circle, and then spend more time fixing it than actually "playing" with it.  Must be a guy thing.  We obviously get a lot of use out of this bad boy since we've only had it two weeks and already had to replace the batteries twice.

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Now, some of you have asked how Jack is handling all the "touchables."  Well, it's surprisingly going much better than last year.  We've been working on "first time obedience" in our house lately.  And although I'd much rather Jack not touch certain things at all, if he immediately stops when I say "no" I think that's pretty good.  Actually, it usually goes like this:  Jack touches ornament, Mommy says "Jaaack", Jack waves finger and says "No, no!" to himself.  So yeah, I think he gets the idea.

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We did have a problem with him opening gifts in the very beginning, but after 3 incidents - one which involved Jack half-opening Daddy's gift, and then running to the office and throwing it at Jon when I said "Nooo, that's Daddy's!!" - I think he's finally caught on.

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 Jude, on the other hand, can't keep his little paws off the tree and gifts.  It's easy now, but I am dreading the day little Sticky Fingers here goes mobile. 

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Something tells me the tree-gate will be back in full-force come Christmas 2011!
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