Monday, December 31, 2007
at 8:29 PM
She absolutely adores Silas and he is so sweet to her. He shares everything and give kisses freely which pleases Anni.
They even got so carried away with their hugging that the tumbled to the floor- that is some serious snuggling! Anni also loved being spoiled with attention from Aunt Annie who played hide and go seek and read books to her and Silas every second they could convince her to. Anni could not get enough! We all had fun chasing the kids, eating way too much, playing Dance, Dance, Revolution with Uncle Justin as the reigning champ (do not hate, it is a blast and you get quite a workout), game night with yelling and sweat and stress inducing favorites such as Pit and Gestures, and everyone tried their hand at Wii bowling which is actually really fun (I know, Hell must be freezing as we speak as I admit I like these video games!). We opened presents and Anni insisted on trying on one of her summer dress right at the moment: what a girl! We even got to spend some time at Jorie and Mark's new place aptly named "brown house" by Joel as they now live just down the block from Jason's parents. Jason and Justin also took it upon themselves to make the most of the tons of freshly fallen snow by building a sled course in the backyard which all enjoyed (see video for Jason's final trip down the hill). We were blessed this year to spend time with both of our families but we must say we are glad to be back at our place after almost 2 weeks of traveling!
at 3:20 PM
Sunday, December 30, 2007
at 8:57 PM
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I watched the movie Nativity Story twice in the last week and reread Luke's account of the Christmas story. This was extremely meaningful to me in celebrating this season. The commercialism, hype, and even the great things like spending time with family can sometimes crowd out my appreciation of Jesus' birth and the awe and splendor of Christmas. I think the difference between simply repeating traditions and making them meaningful is a matter of choice and prayer.
The movie was done extremely well (although Jason and I both wished the whole film was in Aramaic or Hebrew and subtitled) and it definitely helped a visual person like myself to really see what it may have been like for Jesus to come into the world. What a frightened young girl must have felt when she heard the Angel tell her that she was to give birth to Jesus, how individuals each laid down their own plans to follow God's will for their lives, how counter cultural it was for a king to come for all people and to be born in a humble and lowly place. This loses meaning without picturing the reality; it was dirty, "unsafe," raw, not at all what an earthly king would accept. I guess there in lies the distinction. Jesus was no earthly king. He came not to Lord over ruling by force but to lay down His life as sacrifice for His creation and for me in a new way I now understand that started with His birth. It was just as much a sacrifice for God to be born into flesh, as a little baby in an obscure time and place as it was for Jesus to die a terrible death on the cross 33 years later for all mankind.
I think the downside of rereading the scripture passage and traditions around Christmas is that sometimes for me I forget the profound meaning behind the ritual, words, and songs. I sing the tune and recite the words without marveling at their profound truths or make sure to attend church when the only real worship is between me and God in the quiet place of my heart. I am thankful for the things God is teaching me about Him and I want to say Happy Birthday to my King!!!
These lyrics remind me of the sacrifice and amazing promise each one of us has at Christmas:
at 3:06 PM
Friday, December 28, 2007
So much to say about the last week. Reflections on the miracle of Christ's birth and the blessing of being with family, the craziness of traveling, the tight pants due to multiple dessert indulgences, cold noses and wind burnt faces, and fabulous memories. I will post more upon our arrival back in Chicago but I at least wanted to update about Jason's family reunion. It is his extended family on his mom's side and is so named JIMIL because of Jim and Mildred (his grandparents). It was awesome to see everyone since we had not seen some of the family members since JIMIL IV back in 2002. Annikah adored spending time with her second cousins once removed (or whatever they are? this was a discussion multiple times throughout the reunion, what are Jason's cousins kids' to Anni?). Highlights of the reunion included the Haiku writing about EVERYTHING (this is a hilarious tradition as after 1 day of this you can no longer talk or think without tapping the syllables with your fingers), touching family updates since last reunion, food (way too much) and fellowship (not enough time), BUNCO tournament that Great Grandma Lower won (when I asked her "Grandma, how are you winning?" she replied "because I am really good!"), Great Grandpa Lower playing ping pong and talking up a storm (like his old self before his stroke), a really touching commissioning service for us, and the traditional talent show. Anni shined in the talent show with her dance routine with her cousins (who selected the song) as the opening act of the night. She also made an appearance later in the evening as a streaker running through the act with no pants on (a result of an escape during a diaper change). The following video is her performance in its entirety but I must say it is well worth the investment of watching it as she broke out some moves that have never been seen before.
at 7:27 PM
Friday, December 21, 2007
We are headed out for Jason's family reunion today but had to leave you with this little medley of Christmas dancing. Merry christmas!!
at 9:18 PM
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Along with 2 other stir crazy Moms (Kim and Laura) I went to Kohl's Children's Museum again today with Annikah and their kiddos Ava and Joshua. We all needed to get out of the house (especially Laura who has been dealing with poor sick Joshua- see his face in the picture below for evidence that Laura is going nutz!) Although we had broken conversations while chasing kids around and probably spent as much time in the car as at the museum I am thankful I have girlfriends who understand me at this crazy stage of life. Anni spent most of her time in the water room, having a tea party and playing with the dolls, and to no ones surprise in the dancing room shaking her bootay and waving the ribbon. Here is to a quick morning and happy kids= happy Mamas!!
*also, I finally figured out how to change my settings and now anyone can post comments- I hope!
at 4:10 PM
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Anni and I went out to Oak Park to see Jamie and Persis today. Jamie was my college rommie and she lives all the way out in Seattle but we always make it a priority to see each other when she is back in town visiting her folks. It was especially fun to see Anni and Persis interact and run around together although Anni was a bit of a bully today getting 2 time outs for pulling hair and general meanness to poor Persis who was a bit taken a back by it. Anni is usually pretty sweet so I will blame her behavior on her newly emerging top teeth (at least that makes me feel better about it).
We had a blast trying to hold conversations amidst reading books, making animal noises, and attempting to get the kids to eat their lunch of fruit and cheese when there were cookies in plain sight on the table.
Maybe Anni's appetite was spoiled by the Cheerios we were freely handing out. Anni acted like the lil' o's were dark chocolate and was double fisting and slamming them back(probably just because Persis wanted them)! Persis was incredibly endearing as she smiles so sweetly and quotes her Peter Rabbit book loudly "Stop Thief" which sounds nothing like the words but you can clearly tell what she is saying by the intonation. She is also points to anything and everything with her middle finger which I find hilarious. We also enjoyed rousing rounds of "where is your______?" (hand, nose, eyes, etc). But Miss Persis impressed us all with her vast knowledge of the skeletal system as she proudly showed us all where her collar bone was. Although when I asked her "where is your femur" she looked at me blankly and went back her book. I guess you had to be there but it was pretty amusing as you can tell from our laughter in the following video. We even managed to get some prayer in that was interrupted by kid noises and laughter from us but that is reason enough to praise God for our happy and healthy kids. I am posting pics and a video for Persis to watch at home as Jamie said she is a faithful blog video watcher. Enjoy Persis! Anni & I thing you and your Mama are pretty cool chicks!!!
at 8:45 PM
You know the classic Christmas story......baby Jesus is born in the barn and then Santa rides his helicopter over to wish the family well. Santa's identical twin also decides this party is too killer to miss and jumps in his sleigh. To everyone's suprise Mickey and Winnie the Pooh show up and bring the baby gifts. Just for kicks the whole happy clan rides the ferris wheel on the roof! I love that story, it never gets old.
at 11:26 AM
Monday, December 17, 2007
So you are now 15 months old and as I was watching you sleep today I wished I could tell you someday all about your little self at 15 months, I want to freeze a snapshot of your little being right now and share it with you later. There is nothing especially fabulous about being 15 months old except that I am in love with this age and you at it. So here is a few things I want to remember about you at 15 months.
you say both "na" (no) and "yeah" (yes) and use them to express what you want and you have strong preferences! You always say "na" in 3's to make sure you get your point across.
you love giving kisses to Mama and Papa
you insist on walking everywhere, and be walking I mean tearing through every place we go, no more carts or strollers for more than 5 minutes.
you greet people with a sweet "hi" and sometimes repeat it insistently until the person replies and smiles at you
you have really started testing us (mostly Mama) and get time outs when needed. I have to turn away during these time outs to prevent myself from cracking up as you stay in your little corner but scream out protests about being put there.
you are using your signs more than ever and communicate very well.
your favorite foods are avocado, chips and salsa (the dipping part), banana, watermelon, & anything they are offering as samples at Costco or Trader Joe's
you open the fridge and get your own milk sippy
you bring your wooden train to Papa when you want him to play with you (you never bring this to Mama)
you love reading books and bring us books constantly, you also love the library so much that everyone there knows you (you hugged the security guard and the librarian gave you a book to keep)
you actually just started sleeping in the car- 3 times now you have fallen asleep in the car- who knew!
you LOVE to dance and crack us up in public when you hear any music and start busting a move. You recently added twirling until you lose your balance to your repertoire of moves.
you are very affectionate and give real hugs to us, it is the best feeling when your little arms squeeze our necks.
you just started making some animal sounds, so far you have cow and monkey down but Mama likes to confuse you by adding in sounds for animals that really do not make sounds like giraffes & turtles "dop dee dough"
your favorite song right now is "2 Little Dickie Birds" from your music tot class, so random but you love the motions. You also love "This Little Light of Mine."
you are growing & changing everyday and I am proud to be your Mama, it is a privilege and honor God has given me.
In Love, your Mama
at 4:29 PM
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Today after church we took Anni sledding. I think we spent more time bundling her up "I can't put my arms down" style then actually sledding but we had to take advantage of the snow. Her adventurous side came out and she laughed and smiled while we sailed down the hill with her. She also loved watching the older kids run into each other, yell, and laugh. Yeah for freshly fallen snow!
at 11:20 PM
Thursday, December 13, 2007
at 3:55 PM
On Tuesday Anni & I went out to the burbs to visit my Mom and Grandma. My Grandma is in town because my Grandpa fell and broke one of his vertebrate and so he is in a nursing facility out near St. Louis until he feels well enough to go home. My mom jumped into action and helped them and brought my Grandma to Wheaton so she could help her. My mom is an only child and has a lot on her plate in making sure my grandparents are cared for. I was glad we could go out and visit and at best try to help a little or at least offer a cute pint size distraction from everything.
Especially since Anni has taken to running at the speed of light I have had many instances where I want to run and hide and not claim her in public because of the path of destruction she leaves behind but yesterday was different. I had one of those days where I was so proud of the little human Anni is becoming. Too often I focus on the minor annoyances throughout the day but raising her is truly an amazing gift. I get to see her grow in her understanding of the world. I witness her sweetness and her sense of humor. We drove out in the morning and while I was feeding Annikah breakfast my Grandma was sitting next to her at the table and trying to put her socks on. I was handing Anni things and did not see my Grandma was struggling to reach her foot and pull the sock on. Anni turned to me and started signing "help" over and over again. I finally realized that she wanted me to help Grandma get her sock on. I was amazed that she could piece together all those things and communicate so clearly to help someone else. We also went to an assisted living community (Windsor Manor) to get a tour as we think it is time for my grandparents to move into one. I am praying they will embrace the idea, adjust quickly, and love it! I cannot imagine coming to the point in life where you need to move, sell your home, you stuff, and change so many things about your life. I suppose life cycles and all of us will need to make similar decisions at one time, decisions made with not many choices. I hope I have the foresight, courage, and strength of character that my grandparents have to see the need in my life and respond.
We had the added bonus of visiting Jason's maternal grandparents the Lowers as they live there as well. They eased all of us by praising the place and hurrying us through as they needed to get ready for a special dinner that night. Anni was at the place for over 2 hours and she was fabulously wonderful the whole time. I usually brace myself for the worst; tantrums, disobedience, and general craziness but she surprised me with her sweet spirit. She danced to the woman playing piano in the foyer, drank from the apple juice fountain about 12 times, pressed all the buttons on the elevator, followed us through long hallways, and ran from person to person smiling. Her smile was infectious and the residents lit up when she was around. She was getting a little restless toward the end and since highlighting the paper and herself was no longer amusing in the small office we were in I took her out to see the giant Christmas tree in the entry way. She instead ran straight for the h'orderves and stuffed 4 cocktail wieners into her mouth as various residents laughed, pointed, and encouraged her.
After getting back to my parents house and eating dinner and playing Anni sat on my Grandma's lap looking at books and enjoying her milk. I could not hep but smile and inside feel pride at the sweet girl I am a part of raising. It was a good day.
at 1:24 AM
Monday, December 10, 2007
I found Anni sitting in the front room this morning next to the Christmas tree trying to eat the huge candy cane*. It would actually probably be more healthy if it was real (I'll take sugar over scary Bisphenol A, phthalates and DEHA) but I had to snap a couple photos before I took it away.
*in case someone out there thinks I actually purchased this monstrosity (similar in my opinion to the blow up polar bears riding sleds I see in front yards everywhere) it was a gift from a student when I taught 8th grade, come on can't I get a gift card or something?
By the way I was thinking of starting a campaign against those blow up things, anyone with me? I am publicly stating that if any candidate speaks out against these things they will have my vote :)
at 12:02 PM
Friday, December 7, 2007
Ok, completely ridiculous but mildly amusing. Check us out as elves!
*this link was originally sent by J's mom Rhoda- thanks for starting the elf chain!
at 1:59 PM
Last night Anni's tot music class at Touhy Park "performed" for the Lake Shore Nursing center residents. By perform I mean dance around and vaguely remember any motions and words to the songs they sing every week (they are all 18-36 months) while all the moms and dads made complete fools of ourselves. It was so cute to see the kids get excited about the people clapping for them and it was special to see the residents laugh and light up when the kids were around. After our little songs they had punch, chocolate milk, and cookies for us as well. So sweet! There was also an adorably sweet soul named Marty who wheeled himself around from child to child giving them little small toys he had collected from a plastic bag. This was just what I needed to get into the Christmas spirit.
at 11:05 AM
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I have been babysitting a few days every week to earn some extra money and at first I was worried about Anni adjusting. I knew it would be a good cure, or at least help her "only child" mentality (i.e. "I get everything I want when I want it cuz I am the only one"). The first few days were rough. She would scream if I even touched the other child which as you can imagine it is a bit hard to care for a baby without touching him or her. I would even try to occupy her or distract her but no luck, she has me down, she knows my every move like a little CIA agent. She would start to get agitated if I even looked like I might help the other baby. I was thinking about this today because Anni is totally past this and now loves when the other babies come over. I do not even remember when this happened but I am grateful. I asked Anni this morning, "do you want your friend Zella to come and play?" and she replied "yeah!" and nodded her head and went to the front door like Zella was coming right now. How cute! Yesterday Jonah came over and played and she had a blast chasing him around the house. Today Zella came and they snuggled and read together and fed each other food off their respective lunch trays. It is awesome how she has adjusted and I feel good about the lessons she is learning: that Mama cannot only help her and sometimes she needs to wait, that we need to share, that playing music and dancing is always more fun when accompanied by friends. I have also learned a few things about myself from this experience. I can handle cleaning up after two kids (I said I CAN, not that I like to), there is a HUGE difference between boys and girls, Anni can adjust and handle new and different situations, she also is sweet and caring with her friends (of course, she has her moments of MINE! but overall), I am resourceful and can find ways to make extra money while still being at home with Anni. I feel a great sense of responsibility that others would entrust their precious kids to me and I also enjoy talking with other moms and hearing their challenges and joys. The other moms are great and so flexible and giving. I am inspired by their ways of mothering and I feel like I am richly blessed by sharing with them. Zella's mom has inspired me to be more green and think through living out what I say I believe about caring for the world God has created and Jonah's mom is very in touch with who she is and allowing herself the freedom to express that. I can learn a ton from both of them! Zella's mom Manda researched and wrote an article about birth that is very eye opening as well. Motherhood is this weird, bizarre, wonderful thing that pretty much levels the field in many ways. No matter how smart you are, how much experience you have we are all new at this gig and all desperately want to do what is best for our child(ren) and our family. Discovering what that is is a vulnerable path but I am glad to share it with other women I know, successes and failures, challenges and joys, tears and laughter.
at 5:20 PM
Do you ever have those moments where you have a meltdown and cry for no real reason but about a ton of issues all at the same time? I had a moment (ok 60 moments) like this last night.
I think it was all at once dealing with the depression I feel about the winter. As I reflected about it and talked through it last night with Jason I really do feel isolated in the winter. I thrive on being out, on sunshine, on meeting and seeing people, on laughter, on hustle and bustle, and noise. I feel trapped in the house and I think that sent off a rush of emotions. I also always struggle with this duality present in my life since having Anni. On the one hand I love being at home with her. I would never want to miss out on all the amazing things she does and all the time we get to spend together, growing, discovering, and learning but at the same time I desperately miss teaching and working with kids and people. I miss getting dressed for work, being a professional, striving to achieve in my roles, and getting accolades for doing so. It is hard to feel a sense of accomplishment being at home. I know she is learning and growing and being entrusted with her care is the most important thing I will ever do but last night that just felt like a soundbite from Oprah. Sometimes I wish I had something more measurable, more concrete, more definitive. Emotionally, I also struggle with having one foot in Africa and one foot here, so to speak. I know as we prepare to leave we need to withdraw from things here, we need to be preparing ourselves spiritually and emotionally and practically it takes a ton to get ready to move half way across the world. I love my life here and although I feel confident in God's plans the thought of leaving my life here is tough. I think all of that just hit me at once. Poor Jason he never saw it coming but was awesome to reassure me that he appreciated what I do to keep our house a home. That makes it much better. I prayed this morning that God would give me new eyes to see the role He has for me at this moment and that I would find fulfillment not in what I do but who I am. I was encouraged by this passage:
"Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way." Col 3:17 (the Message)
I hurt and I heal. I cry and laugh. I feel stretched to grow and I am thankful.
at 5:08 PM
Sunday, December 2, 2007
a guide to free/&/or cheap activities you can do if your toddler drops one nap and is driving you crazy
Annikah is transitioning between two naps and one and by transition I mean making our lives as miserable as possible by instead of taking two blissful at least one hour naps she now takes one maybe 40 minute nap (we are hoping this will get better soon).
As you can imagine trying to keep her entertained in our place has become a challenge.
Of course if it was summer this list would consist of one suggestion: go outside but since freezing rain and general misery abound outdoors here is a brief list of things we did this weekend out of desperation to keep Anni amused and us sane.
*torture cat by chasing her with remote control car (Jason thought this one up and Anni belly laughs)
*go to Target and ride sample bikes around until joy kill worker tells you to stop (Anni prefers the little tricycle while Mama likes the mountain bike)
*venture to Kohl's Children's Museum which was free for us (thanks Mom!) and chase Anni in and out of every room there.
*spend Jason's per Diem (read here NOT OUR MONEY) on trip to Starbucks for peppermint mocha's and again Anni runs amok entertaining the guests, she even earned the title "junior Barista" to which I replied "does that mean we get a discount?"
*read every book in the house at least 3 times, sometimes in bizarre accents, sometimes singing..
allow Anni to touch every "ball" in Christmas displays and generally run amok through stores, then take L home
So, maybe these ideas will inspire you or make you stay indoors and laugh at us. Either way that is a sampling of our weekend and we welcome tips on remaining sane through the winter!
at 9:45 PM