Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lyla's Development (2 1/2 Years)

Lyla is now 2 1/2! In the past six months, she has potty trained, transitioned to being a big sister, learned to talk more, and continues to be silly and loud and throw tantrums.

Potty: She potty trained around a month after she turned two, just like her older sister Brielle. With both girls, when they turned two, I felt like they would never potty train. And they both trained just one month after! It's amazing how it eventually just clicks!

Words: Her words have really taken off lately. She talks a lot! Not all words are understandable, but her words are becoming clearer. She says her sisters' names much clearer now. She also no longer calls her blanky a "mimi"... she now says "blank." She says "pa baa" ("potty bad") for when she has to go to the bathroom. She realized when her sisters said they had to go bad that they got taken quicker to the bathroom, so she says it everytime now. She's a smart one. Some of my favorite words she says are "jumping," "my bedroom," "baby," "my turn now," "upstairs/downstairs," and "and me."

Likes: getting her way, holding hands, ring around the rosy, talking (loudly), baby dolls, hats, blanky, running in circles, doing everything her sisters do

Dislikes: being told no, not getting her way, having something taken from her

Wake: Around 8am
Nap: Between 1-2pm, Sleeps for at least two hours usually
Bedtime: 8:30pm. She isn't sharing a room with her sisters right now, and she's so good about just laying quietly in bed until she falls asleep.

Personality: Lyla is loud, stubborn, silly, sweet, and controlling. It's often hard for me to hear her sisters in the car because Lyla is talking to herself... loudly. She is very set in her ways and struggles when things don't go the way she thinks they should. She can be the sweetest, quietest girl one second (usually playing with her baby dolls), and the next second she is screaming and kicking her legs because her sisters took a toy she wanted. It's really hard to calm her down when she gets upset. She loves to be silly and to make others laugh. Sometimes she's my sweetest little girl, and I could just sit and watch her play forever... and other times I'm on my knees begging the Lord to show me how to raise this little one.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Violet's Development (4 Months)

Oh, wow... the 4th child. It sure is hard to keep up with you, sweetheart. I already decided I would only do updates every other month for her in the first year (I did them every month for my other babies)... and I'm struggling to keep up with even that! Life! It just goes so fast.

But anyways... On December 12, Violet turned 4 months! The months sure do fly, and I have to say, I'm really just enjoying her. I'm a lot less strict in scheduling, and I hold her as much as I can (which is never enough, seriously!)

3 Months
She started giggling this month! Sweet baby giggles <3 She's outgrowing newborn clothing. She got her first cold this month. She's really a great baby. I can lay her down in her bouncer seat whenever I need to get things done, and she is content. We dedicated her to the Lord this month in front of our church family.

Typical Schedule:
4am - Nurse
8am- Nurse
11am- Nurse
2pm - Nurse
5pm- Nurse
7 or 8pm- Nurse
10pm- Nurse
(Typically up for an hour and 10 minutes before getting sleepy)

4 Months
She's getting close to rolling over (both ways), but hasn't yet! She wasn't the best sleeper, but she made up for it with lots and lots of smiles. She's a really smiley baby, and people make comments about her smiles all the time. She's ticklish under her chin, and she has a sweet little voice.

Typical Schedule:
2am- Nurse
5am- Nurse
8am- Nurse
11am- Nurse
2pm- Nurse
5pm- Nurse
7pm- Nurse
9pm- Nurse
(Typically awake for an hour and fifteen or an hour and half)
(This month was exhausting. She had a cold that was making her eat more often, and I also think she was having a growth spurt... plus, we moved). All of it combined, she was often eating 8 or 9 times a day rather than 7 like she had before. I desperately don't want to have to use formula even if it means tired nights.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Even When I Cannot See

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about how my word for 2016 is believe. It's proven to be a very fitting word.

In March, we found out we were expecting a fourth girl. I had felt really strongly that our fourth baby was a boy, and so I was very surprised. I wrote about it here, but there were a number of reasons that I believed our baby was a boy and I had a lot of emotions and beliefs wrapped up in those reasons, and it took a while to unravel them. It took a lot of looking to God and believing to unravel those thoughts and emotions and to see that a girl was what was very best for our family (and man, now as she lays sleeping next to me as I type this post, I can't imagine a life without her... I just love her).

In August, I had a home birth. I prayed frequently for this birth, and I believed that the Lord would be with me through it all ... and I also believed and trusted that this was the right birth plan for me. And it was so perfect.

In September, we decided we were going to sell our house. We had quite a few renovations left to do, and I knew it was going to be crazy town with young kids and a newborn and homeschooling to finish them, but I trusted the way the Lord was leading my husband, and I believed God would care for us in this time, and He did and we were able to finish them and stay sane.

In October, we went ahead and listed our home for the price the Lord put on our heart and for what we thought our house was worth even though an earlier appraisal made us uncertain about this price. We weren't in a hurry to sell, and we believed that God would bring along buyers if it was meant to be. We had an offer within two days (and a number of people on a waiting list)!

In November, the inspection and appraisal all went better than we could have hoped, and we closed on our house at the end of the month. And we believed that the Lord would provide our next home for us.

And that is where we are now... Here we are living with Ben's parents while we wait for our farmhouse. When we sold our house, we had two potential farmhouses that we were looking into. One of them was a "sure thing" as they had definite plans to move in the spring... we visited their house before listing and loved it. We were still keeping our eyes on the market just to make certain there wasn't something else more perfect, as we had no signed contracts, but we really loved the first farmhouse we looked at and were happy that we could have that house in the spring as it was really perfect for our family and as farmhouses are literally pretty much obsolete on the market in our area (the Amish snag them all up... and actually, that is who owned this first farmhouse). So, the second potential farmhouse was not and never has been a definite. It's only a possibility right now. We have talked to the couple who owns it and they know our interest... they do not live in the farmhouse, but they do not know if they want to sell it. And so with this farmhouse, we have just been praying a lot about it because the Lord seemed to quite randomly throw the potential of it into our laps, and we can't get it off our minds.

Yesterday, I sat down with the girls to read their Bible story with them from The Child's Story Bible, and it was the story of Jesus walking on the water.

Peter was filled with the wonderful power of Jesus. He felt that Jesus ruled all the world, and that He could do all things. And if He could do all things, He could even make a poor, weak man like Peter able to walk on the water.
So Peter called to Jesus, "Lord, if it is You, tell me to come to You on the water!"
Jesus said to Peter, "Come!"
Peter got out of the boat. For a few minutes his heart was so filled with the thought of Jesus' almighty power that he, too, was able to walk on top of the waves. But soon Peter looked around at the howling storm, and as his trust in Jesus weakened, he began to fear the storm. When Peter stopped trusting Jesus, he began to sink. In a panic he cried out, "Lord, save me!"

I read that story and it spoke to me. When I enter hard circumstances, I typically begin by strongly believing that the Lord will come through and that he can do anything. But as time goes on and I'm praying the same prayer a year later (or even just a month later), my faith begins to waver. I doubt myself. I doubt my God. I grow weary. It seems hopeless and impossible.

Later in the day, after reading this story, my husband came home and told me that the first farmhouse... you know, the one that was definite... that the owner told him they had decided they were no longer selling. That left us with no definites. No certainty for our future. And I realized this was my chance to look at Jesus and not at the storm howling around me... to look straight at Him and to prove that I really do believe what He says and trust in Him. I don't need to worry or be anxious or controlling because God holds my future in his hand and already has a plan better than I can create on my own (and boy, has that truth taken me a long time to learn). And this isn't the only thing I'm praying for. There are some things I am praying for right now that I have been praying for a long time. There are times I grow weary and lose my faith. But I read stories like this, and I remember God's faithfulness in the past, and it stirs me to continue believing and continue praying.

So this year of 2016 has been a year to believe... a year to walk by faith even when I cannot see. My hope is that the more the Lord asks me to believe and have faith, the easier it will become and the stronger I will believe.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bigger Than Me (A House Story)

A year ago, we started dreaming farmhouse dreams. It wasn't our intent when we moved into this house a year and a half ago. We thought this house would be long-term. Or, to be honest, I was still struggling to think of any house long-term, as I still had my heart completely set on overseas missions. But if we didn't go overseas, I thought maybe our kids might grow up in this house. So when we renovated it, we did it with that in mind. So this house is everything I love. And yet, it feels right to be selling it.

Because we are so excited as we dream about our next house: a farmhouse. We both grew up on farms, and over time we have realized we are farm kids at heart. We want to be able to have land and a big garden and animals. Sophie is a huge animal lover, and she's already five, so we realized getting a farm sooner rather than later was the best plan.

We planned to sell next spring, but ended up deciding that selling this fall was best, so we worked quickly to finish the renovation work on our current house, listed a few weeks ago, and had an offer in two days! We feel so very thankful for how smooth everything has gone so far and pray it continues to our closing date.

But with a house that is pending, it's hard to not start thinking a lot about that farmhouse. We had decided ahead of time that we would move in with Ben's parents until we found the right farmhouse. We didn't want to rush as this may be a house we live in for many, many years. But we've been checking the market for a couple months just to see what's out there, and there has honestly been nothing that meets what we are looking for. There are two potential houses that we are looking into that may be for sale in the next six months. But at this point, they aren't for sale so they are just dreams and possibilities. I haven't become overly anxious about it, but I realized I was starting to worry about it some. If there has been nothing on the market for months that meets what we are looking for, will we be looking forever? And I really love these two house potentials, but what if neither works out and we have to settle for something that is less great?

The other day I was thinking on all of this, and the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that this is much bigger than me. This is much bigger than just a house. At one point, just a couple of years ago, we planned to move to Papua New Guinea to live in a small house in the middle of the jungle, and we were so excited to do so because we wanted to share the gospel with the people of PNG. And the other night the Lord reminded me that this is no different. Our goal is still the same in many ways. We want to share the gospel with the people around us. For now, the Lord has closed the door for Papua New Guinea. But at the same time, He has opened the door for Warsaw. And so, these are our people. The house that the Lord has planned for us is with a very specific purpose. A purpose of placing us where we will have opportunities to meet and interact with and live among people who need to know the God of the universe. Because whatever house we buy will send us down a path in life that would be very different from a path of buying and living in a different house.

I believe God gives us passions and talents and jobs and interests and tastes for a purpose. My husband has a talent for fixing up homes, we both have an interest in old farmhouses and acreage and farm animals, and we have a home church and job that we are committed to that keep us near the town we currently reside in. And all of those things narrow our house search greatly. And from there, the Lord works in other lives to put the right house on the market at the right time for the right price so that we can be exactly where we are supposed to be at the right time in history. Isn't it all so very incredible and overwhelming when we really think about the way the Lord orchestrates history? It's all so much bigger than I can even comprehend. And so, I am reminding myself of that today. Buying a new house is much bigger than me. God has an agenda that is much more crucial than mine, and He won't delay in carrying it out. And because of that, I can wholly trust that God will provide the perfect house for us at just the right time.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Violet's Development (2 Months)

Two months with this lovely babe <3 She's such a blessing! I typically do these updates every month, but I missed last month, so I'll be doing a two-in-one update in this post :)

First, some pictures to show you how much she's grown :)

Even though it's so nice when they sleep all the time and through everything, I love when they become more alert and more interactive! She certainly has become more interactive this past month. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are some month-by-month updates from the first two months.

1 Month

In the first month, Violet started smiling. She actually smiled super early... at 6 days. She is for sure my earliest smiler :)
She weighed 6 lbs 2 oz at her 2 week check-up which was up 5 oz from birth weight, which was excellent.
She nursed well from birth, and she has also been a great sleeper. From the beginning, she has been able to do a 4-5 hour stretch between nursing at night, and she even did up to 7 in the first month!
She struggled with pooping, and I often had to help her because she'd get uncomfortable. She went over a week without pooping!

Typical Schedule:
4am- Nurse
7am - Nurse
11am- Nurse
2pm- Nurse
5pm- Nurse
8pm- Nurse
10:30pm- Nurse
(Awake for 50min-1 hour and then down for nap)

2 Months

In her second month, she continued to smile and started smiling more! We love smiles!
She has started trying to talk to us, and she sometimes does get sounds out! Mostly she just tries though, and it's so sweet watching her move her mouth!
She learned how to poop without needing help this month :) Yay! I'm celebrating poops on a potty with my two year old and poops in a diaper with my baby. #ohmotherhood
We found out at her 7 week check-up that she had only gained one pound in 7 weeks of life which is on the low end, so my midwife gave me a list of things to do and came back a week later to check her weight again. By 8 weeks, Violet was up to 7 lbs 7 oz, meaning she gained 11 oz in one week! I am so happy that I am able to continue exclusively breastfeeding. It was a stressful week for me though. I felt like my body was failing me and really had to work to combat the lies. I never had a problem with my first two babies gaining weight. I had problems with Lyla, but not until she was a bit older. And now Violet was so young, and I was already having problems. It was disheartening, but I listened to my midwife and ate fatty foods, drank lots of water, and pumped... and had lots of prayer warriors on their knees... and the Lord was kind and she is gaining well now <3 Thank you, Jesus!
Violet recognizes her family now and smiles at us, even when we aren't talking to her but are simply looking at her! After Mommy, she seems to have taken to big sister Sophie the most. Brielle loves holding and being with her the most, but I think B is a bit too much for Violet sometimes.
Violet has gained good head control this month. When I hold her against my chest, she loves to hold her head up and look around. She's not nearly as floppy, but she still does have to be held with gentle care :)

4 or 5am- Nurse
7:30 or 8am- Nurse
11am- Nurse
2pm- Nurse
5pm- Nurse
7 or 8pm- Nurse
9 or 10pm- Nurse
(Awake for an hour and then typically sleepy)
(On the week where we worked to get her to gain weight, she often started nursing 8 times a day- sometimes even 9. I'm a sleep trainer, but I realized I needed to let that go to get her to gain weight. We are back to 7 nursing sessions on most days, but occasionally she'll nurse 8. I pump once or twice a day on top of that.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

As Far As the East is from the West

I've realized something about myself this past year.
It's not something I love about myself.
I've realized that I know very little of true grace and forgiveness.

As I interact with my girls each day, I am always learning things about them and about myself. Wow, does God teach us and humble us through our children!

A month ago, I was sitting on the couch nursing Violet, and Sophie and Brielle came down the stairs and started talking to me. I looked up and gasped.

"Sophie..." I began slowly and calmly, "Did you girls cut your hair?"

Sophie responds just as slowly in the affirmative.

I proceed to cry (we'll blame it on postpartum hormones) and then Sophie cries and runs and hides and Brielle just stands there really confused. Sophie cut just her bangs. Really short. Like, non-existent short. Brielle cut her bangs too, but not as short, thankfully. But then Sophie also cut her hair around back and gave her some real choppy layers. My sister was able to fix up Brielle's (even though I was sad her hair had to be cut shorter and I don't prefer bangs)... but I just had to suffer with Sophie having really awkward bangs for a little while (they are currently still awkward).

I know you're all wanting a visual, so here you go:

(Before the fix up)

(After Brielle's hair got fixed up)

So anyways, you're probably all thinking it's not that bad, but it was really sad for me because hair takes a while to grow back, and I loved their pretty hair. So after all the crying and hiding was over, I sat down and talked with them. It was all Sophie's idea. Supposedly Brielle had a string that they couldn't get out of her hair, so Sophie had the "great" idea to cut it out and then they just kept cutting. I told them that people go to school to learn how to cut hair, like their Aunt Nikki, and that they are the only ones who can cut their hair. They listened and said okay, and we hugged. And Brielle even came down the stairs later and said, "Sorry, Mom, sorry," and gave me a hug, even though I swear she still had no idea what she had done wrong.

So that should have been it. It was over. We talked about it, they said okay, they apologized. Done.

But I was faced with those short bangs and choppy hair every day after that, and I found myself continuously wanting to make comments about it ("It's hard to get your hair back because you cut it." "Your hair looks silly right now because you cut your bangs so short." "These pieces keep falling out because you cut them." "I'm really sad you cut your hair. I miss your longer bangs." "I still can't understand why you would think cutting your bangs so short was a good idea.") Seriously, the list could go on of all the thoughts that ran through my head of what I wanted to say about their hair. And unfortunately, sometimes I wasn't good at keeping them as thoughts, and I blurted them out.

And that week, God just alarmingly reminded me of how far my heart is from His. I thought of Psalm 103:12: "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." 

I thought of all God has forgiven me of. He has forgiven me of things much worse. He has allowed me to lay them at the cross and leave them there. He never shames me. Instead, He holds me up and reminds me over and over again that I am forgiven. I am free. I am loved. I am redeemed. The girls only cut their hair short one time. There are sins that I do over and over again, and God forgives me over and over again. And continuously loves me. He calls me His own!

*sigh* Oh, to learn that love. Oh, to learn that grace. Oh, to learn that forgiveness.

Though I hate my fallen heart that is still so far from being like Christ's heart, I am thankful that God patiently teaches me and never gives up on me. And I am so, so thankful that He removes our transgressions from us and doesn't label us by them. He gives me a new name and sees me as His child, and He loves me far more than I deserve. Hallelujah!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Homeschool 2016: Sophie Starts Kindergarten

Last week, we started our first official year of homeschool. Last year, when Sophie was a preschooler, we did some homeschool work, including teaching her how to read. And of course, in many ways, I have been homeschooling Sophie for the last five years. But this year, she is a kindergartner! So we are officially doing this thing called homeschool. I am beyond excited about it (most days), and she is as well!

I've written before about it, but I am using a homeschool method called Charlotte Mason. If you're interested in knowing more about it, you can read my blog post about it here, but the very best way that I can explain this method in a nutshell is to say that it is a relaxed rigorous approach. I know. That's basically a complete oxymoron. But, it expects a lot out of the child while also recognizing that a child is a person and an individual who needs to play and who learns best when he or she is understood and cared well for.

With that in mind, here is a layout of what our days will mostly look like:

After getting dressed, making our beds, eating, cleaning up, nursing the little babe, and taking care of the 20 mishaps and interruptions that can happen in a morning, we begin our day at the kitchen table. I have no set times, but the hope is to begin this around 9am. At the table, we do our Bible time. We begin with prayer. We wrote prayer requests on popsicle sticks, so we each choose one of those and pray for that, but we also have a family member of the day to pray for (i.e. We pray for Brielle on Wednesdays). After praying, we read from Catherine Vos's The Child's Story Bible. I love this children's Bible and highly recommend it. When we finish reading a chapter, we then say our verse together. We are working on Psalm 23 this month, and Sophie also has a verse each week that she learns for her Wednesday night church class. I want this time to feel sacred and important (I'm not sure if anything can feel sacred with a two year old who is loud and potty training, but we're trying)... so we light a candle during this time, and I expect them to stay in their seats and listen.

When we finish with our Bible time, we move to the couch for our "Morning Basket" time. I have a rotation during this time, so we don't read the same thing every day, but this time, depending on the day, includes poetry, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, character development, hymns, folksongs, poetry memory work, and Spanish. I let the girls be wilder during this time, although I do expect them to all stay in the room :) 
Here are the books we use:
A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa
The Llama Who Had No Pajama by Mary Ann Hoberman
Nursery Rhymes:
Fairy Tales:
The Tasha Tudor Book of Fairy Tales 
The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Character Development:
The Children's Book of Virtues By William J. Bennett

For Spanish, we aren't using a book this year. I am just teaching basic greetings and will use TPR (total physical response) to teach objects and actions.
I am using Ambleside Online for our hymn and folksong schedule.

When we finish with this time, I then work on the three Rs with Sophie (reading, writing, arithmetic). The other girls don't have to be present during this time, but they pretty much always are. For reading, I am working on building Sophie's confidence as well as her word recognition. Last year, we went through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It was good, and Sophie learned a lot, but she isn't reading easily and with confidence still, so that's my aim for this year. One of my plans is to help her recognize more sight words. I have quite a few games planned to help her with this that include fine motor skills and large motor skills (jumping up steps, hop scotch, leaping little toy frogs). We will also use readers to give her practice in reading. 

After reading, we move into our math work. I am using Math U See, and Sophie has loved it! She has even been asking to do extra lessons (which I gladly agree to). 

After math, Sophie works on writing. She knows all of her letters, but she is a sloppy writer. So my goal this year is to help her write nicer, to understand when to use capitals and lowercase, to write on a neat line, and to get those darn lowercase b's and d's facing the right direction :) She enjoys practicing her writing. We will use the chalkboard to practice letters, but I also plan to have her write her Bible verse out each week and to write letters to friends and occasionally write about a book we are reading. During this time, Brielle has been asking me to help her work on her letters too. She has never been invested academically in the way Sophie is, and I haven't pushed it as I know she will learn when she's ready... but since she has asked, we have been working on letter recognition with her. She currently only knows B :)

We also plan to do nature study. This will include reading books about nature, taking walks, playing outside, doing nature crafts, and finding new and interesting plants and animals and bugs outside. 

That concludes our day-to-day activities, but we also will be doing some extras. Sophie is taking a music class this fall that will teach her about rhythm and musical notes and instruments. It's a pre-piano class that she takes with 4 other kids. I'm excited that she will get an intro to music as well as have social time. She's my social bug :) Sophie and Brielle both are continuing to take swim lessons. And every other friday, we are doing a co-op with my friend and her daughters where we will do songs, memory work, nature walks, tea time, crafts, and art and composer studies. We also are avid readers, so we will read other books for fun, and I plan to always have a chapter book that we read together at night. We just finished Black Beauty :)

This is a journey that the Lord called me to a year ago, and my prayer is that I will continue to let him guide me on it. I know that I will grow and learn this year just as much as Sophie does!