Gardening Obsession

Sooo…..what have I been up to lately? Why the prolonged silence? Well. I did it again. Another overwhelming project. I just can’t stop coming up with ideas, and I can’t keep my creativity under control, so I decided to add three flower beds, update/expand two others, and add a small vegetable garden. No biggie. Except it was. I took a lot longer than I thought it would. So any spare time I could afford was spent digging up sod, and planting flowers. Oh and watering them every night because its 100 degrees every day and it hasn’t rained in three weeks. Ugh…good thing most of the plants I used are drought tolerant.
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Russian Sage, Asters, lantana, sunflowers, ornamental grass, but the Brown Eyed Susans got a little crispy.
Here’s the deck garden that I put in last year, when I was more sane. Or maybe it was just because my baby was under a year old.
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The butterfly bush and poppies came back, but the lantana didn’t make it, it’s usually used as an annual…or so I thought. I went to dig it up and the solid yellow one had little green shoots on the root! I did lose the red and orange one though.
I re-organized it and moved a few things around. I wanted to add a few more plants of substance, and some to provide year round interest. This garden gets full Virginia sun pretty much all day, so I kept my butterfly bush and added another one on the other side. And I added some pretty grasses with pink plumes and two little lime hydrangeas. I think I also finally found some little flowers that the bunnies who live under the deck won’t eat. I have some little poppies, candy tuft, and moss rose.
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Here is the fence garden:
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Also receives full sun and mostly designed to be a cut flower garden. It is opposite the deck garden so I also wanted to to somewhat mimic it. I dug it out in the fall.
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But I was so slow in putting it together and didn’t add enough mulch that it looks a bit sloppy. Guess I’ll have to re-work it in the fall. When I design my gardens I really strive to have something in bloom in all seasons, since I love having fresh flowers inside. In the middle back are peonies, allium and iris, for the spring. Then various lilies. In the middle are some wildflowers that I got from a free seed packet and some lavender in the front that I started from seeds last year and transplanted. On the sides are some grasses, russian sage, and one of the lantana that I thought died. I bought one regular limelight hydrangea, and plan to add another next year. Sounds like a flower buffet. I have a problem.
Am I really going to keep on talking about flowers? I’ll be quick with the last two. I mean three.
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The “flag pole garden” is an old rusty flag pole that was here when we moved in. I thought it rather ugly at first, but decided it added some charm and architectural interest if I could work with it. It already had a cluster of iris and lilies around the base, but they are so over grown they are packed solid. I tried thinning them out but only made a small dent in them, there were so many. I am thinking if I can thin them out in the middle I can get some kind of vine to climb up the pole like a clematis or something. I put some iris and lilies in the fence garden and put a few more around the deck. I moved a rose bush from the front garden, hoping it will get nice and big to see it behind the iris. I added some peonies because why not, and some “artisan bachelor buttons.” Those bachelor buttons are probably one of my favorite flowers that I’ve started from seed. They are so big and productive, they last a long time, they make great cut flowers, and they have such a beautiful color pallet.
The front garden looked like this when we moved in.
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At least it had something. Some pretty rose bushes and day lilies. But the third asymmetrical rose bush on the right side really bugged me, especially since the whole house is symmetrical. So I moved it. I am so crazy. I moved the day lilies to the fence garden, because they were getting crowded out by the rose bush and I thought they’d look nice over there. So all that was left was two rose bushes and a mum, that my mother in law planted for me when she was here for Samwise’ birth. All of his other mum friends had since been moved. My husband says I move my plants around more than I move furniture around. It’s probably true. This spot gets a bit of shade from the house and the Maple tree in front, but it would still probably be considered part sun. Especially in the summer. I tucked two little rhododendrons in the inside corners, hoping they will fill out, and have a nice evergreen backdrop. I also got two cute little holly trees for the outside corners to give structure and year round beauty. In the middle is a little city-line Berlin hydrangea that will be flanked by a pair of mums, and hellebore. The mum gets it’s friends back. The boxwood in front of the porch just finish it so well and they were just transplanted from around the sides of the house. See? It’s kind of like getting free plants when you just move things around.
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Hopefully it will fill in a little more next year, and it will have a little more winter structure.
Which finally brings me to the children’s garden. Eowyn loves helping me garden, at least she started out that way, I think her attention has waned a bit since mommy gardens for so long. Anyways, it gave me the idea of making a garden especially for the kids to play in. One they can touch, walk in, play in, and most importantly dig in! I put it in on the far end of the deck. Before I started digging, there was a small bit of stone or cement peeking through the grass. As I dug up the sod, I realized it was a large perfectly round piece of cement. I lifted it up to make sure there was nothing under it, and decided to leave it there.
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I set a small saucer on top to fill with water for a “pond”, and piled up some rocks for mountains.
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There is a short stepping stone path that was a hit, and a mud pit. Here are some of the plants I used: creeping thyme, lavender, lemon balm, sunflowers, lilies, marigolds, and some more candy tuft and moss rose. Evelyn loves playing with her animals in it, and Samwise loves pouring water in it and making mud.
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The Sunflowers got huge!! Eowyn is pretending to be a sunflower.
I always knew that I wanted to do gardening when we got a house, but I have obviously really enjoyed it even more than I thought. Whew! I spent so much time talking about my flowers, I’ll have to talk about the children in the next post!
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Eowyn helping with the flower arrangements from our own fresh flowers!
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Guest Blogging

I had the privilege of being asked to guest blog over at Preventing Grace. Anne Kennedy is an amazing Blogger who spends way more time on it than I. Her wit and humor combined with her insights into scripture make her an excellent read. Also check out her devotional, Nailed It: 365 Devotionals for Angry or Worn Out People. Her work has been featured at Christianity Today, and again, and in TIME. She was also interviewed for the release of her book by the illustrious Binghamton Press. Whew, she has been a busy bee!

Baby Survival Notes

I’ve been talking to a lot of friends lately who have had or are having new babies. And in said conversations have just realized that now I am the veteran. Which is really a jarring realization. And I think to myself, do I really have any useful advice to give these poor souls? Do I even really know what I  am doing? If you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, don’t read this. I don’t want to discourage you from having a baby. Having babies is generally a good thing. But I just wanted to write some real and practical advice for new moms. The kind of insight that I was hungering for as a new mom. So please read this after you are pregnant! 36weeks_0106 copy
Me at 36 weeks, first baby, because that’s when I stopped my weekly belly shots.
1 It’s not over when you have the baby: The birth is just the pinnacle of the discomfort of having a child. Think of the whole process as more of a gradual increase in discomfort followed by a gradual decrease. You suffer through the morning sickness of the first trimester. You do ok during the second trimester, but by the end of it you are noticing more aches and pains. The third trimester you suddenly pack on the pounds just when you thought you were doing so well at not gaining too much weight. And now you are a beached whale. You can’t move, you can’t get comfortable, you are constantly going to the bathroom. It’s not fun. You long for the baby to come out of you to get your body back. But alas, it will still be a long time before you get your body back and you are not living in a constant state of discomfort. I don’t think I need to go on about labor and delivery. We all know it’s not fun. This is the pinnacle though! It will still be really bad for quite a while, but at least you know things will slowly start to get better. You gradually recover from the battle scars of the delivery, and pray that you have a sleepy baby so you can heal up. You go through months of sleeplessness, and the discomforts of breastfeeding. Then, just when you think that it will never end, The Baby grows up. They suddenly become an older baby, and then a toddler. Suddenly you realize you may actually be able to have something that resembles a life again. Maybe after about a year you can even contemplate the next step to getting your body back: diet and exercise. But you will never truly have your body back. Obviously people complain about the weight gain, the stretch marks, the tummy pooch. But there’s even more than that, your hormones may take a while to get back to normal, or as close to something normal as they can. It can take up to two years for your hormones to settle down. Several wise women have told me that having a baby is one of the most Christian things that you can do. Giving up your body for the life of another. It’s something helpful to keep in mind through the whole process. 
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Little did I know what I was in for.
2 Babies cry: It sounds stupid, but really. I didn’t realize how much they cry. Both of our babies cried a lot. They both had some reflux problems and our daughter had torticollis. So they had some other discomforts in addition to the regular baby discomforts of labor and delivery,  figuring out how to be outside mommy, and figuring out how to digest food. Sometimes it feels like torture, all the crying. You feel as if you are being driven to the brink of insanity. And that is because you are. There were a few times, when when I was just so frustrated and needed a few minutes to pull myself together that I had to put them in their cribs to cry for a bit. I made sure that there was nothing wrong with them, and I tried to do everything I could think of to help them. But Nothing was working. So if you feel that way. Just put them down in a safe place. It will not hurt them to cry for a few minutes alone. They won’t hate you forever. You are not a bad mom if you do. In fact you are a good mom if you do, because you are recognizing your limits as a human being. No one can endure that much crying for that long.
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The crying continues well past the first year.
3 Do Whatever works:  To get them to sleep that is. Eventually they will naturally outgrow it, and it won’t be as big of a deal to transition away from any crutch that you give them as some people suggest. They are babies after all, you can’t expect them to sleep without some kind of help, everything is brand new. Some things I’ve heard of or done myself have been, rocking, patting, rubbing, bouncing on a yoga ball (one of Silas’ favorites), baby wearing, driving in the car (no thank you), co-sleeping, breastfeeding, bath time, letting baby be naked, singing, talking, baby swing, stroller, sleeping on tummy (gasp!!), swaddling, and shushing. Whew, makes me tired just writing all that down. Bottom line is, life is hard, especially when you are a newborn just getting used to a new body. Help them in whatever way works for them.
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Looks cozy.
We had a nice cozy bassinet for our babies to sleep in. And they used it for most of the “sleepy” newborn phase. But once the sleepiness wore off and the crying escalated, we had to find a way to get that crying baby to sleep! Our daughter had to be strapped into her car seat and swung manually to sleep for much of her first three months. By four months, she was old enough to be able to transition to sleeping in a crib. Silas, similarly, liked sleeping in his inclined bouncer with the vibrator on. And if you ask most pediatricians, they are supposed to say, no don’t do that, that that’s bad for their posture. But…it’s only a short term solution. Use it only as long as you need to. You will know when they can transition to a more traditional sleeping method. I’m sure it’s best to sleep in a bed, but you tell that to the baby who will not sleep. Which leads me to my next point:
4 Rotation: As long as they get put in lots of other positions during the day it won’t hurt them to sleep in a non-traditional position. Things like tummy time, being held upright, being cradled, or laying on the floor. They are like a little bird egg, just keep rotating them in different positions and different places through out the day. It’s good for boredom, muscle development, and the dreaded gassiness. Sometimes babies cry because they are bored, so give them lots of new experiences, sights, smells, sounds, and sensations. Just including them in your daily chores can be enough entertainment sometimes.
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Or riding a cat can be entertaining.
5 Don’t have high expectations for yourself: By that I mean, you’re going to to get run down and worn out. Try your best to follow the old saying “sleep when your baby sleeps.” It’s not possible to follow this all the time, but in general you should especially try not to have any extra projects or goals for the first six months. For me it was hard to have nothing to do but rest or sleep in my spare time, but it’s important to keep sanity or keep from burning out. You should plan for maybe showering, laundry, dishes, and food, but even then, that is sometimes too much to expect of yourself. There will be times when the laundry and dishes will be overflowing, and you are tired of eating frozen food, or take out, but just remember that this phase won’t last forever. So indulge in a nap. Even just resting and watching some Netflix, reading a book or your Bible, listening to music can be restorative. Give yourself a treat if you are having a bad day. I used to have an English muffin with peanut butter and nutella for breakfast if I had a particularly bad night. Another important note on this point, if you have friends (or a husband) who want to hold your crying baby for you so you can take a nap, take advantage of it and buy earplugs. Especially Getting Out Of The House without your baby for a few hours can be just as restorative as a nap sometimes, so be sure to schedule those times in too. Hang out with some mommy friends, go to a moms group, or a Bible study, just so you can converse with an adult.
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Is he really sleeping?
6 Don’t have any expectations For baby: Particularly in the napping or eating department. Babies go through ups and downs in both eating and sleeping as they develop. And sometimes they won’t have as much of an appetite as they did last week. But sometimes I was so set on “If they don’t have this much milk, they will be hungry and will not sleep and we will all be miserable.” Now if your baby is having weight problems or has stopped eating all together, by all means, call the pediatrician and make sure they are ok. But in general try not to get too fixated on how much that Internet site said your baby should be eating at his age. And the same goes for sleep. Those websites or books that tell you at such and such an age they sleep for this long this many times a day or eat this much this many times a day are helpful only as very very loose guidelines. And I found myself getting so angry when the baby only slept for 20 minutes when the website said it should be 45 minutes. My son was particularly wakeful, and there was a time when he was only two or three months old and he refused to go to sleep for six or more hours. He was obviously tired, and it’s so hard to not get frustrated that he won’t do what you know he needs to do. But this probably applies for at least the first five years of their lives. You can’t really control when they will eat or when they will sleep. You can do your best to suggest to them when they should and to set boundaries and to set them up for success, but it’s really not a power struggle you can win, and it will just make everyone’s lives more stressful thinking that you can. There is no magic trick that you will find to make them sleep again. Sure go ahead and try different things, but it is most likely a phase and will pass in time. Just don’t give up on offering naps or feeding. Especially the naps. My daughter is four and she has had many nap strikes in her lifetime, but she eventually goes back to napping if I keep offering them. And especially the feeding. That is important, definitely don’t give up on giving them food.
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Defiantly keeping his eyes open.
7 Schedules or Normal Life Are Really Not Possible Until at Least Six Months: Because they are so unpredictable as mentioned above it will be an uphill battle to get the kid on a schedule. This was so hard for me. I suppose if you are a go with the flow type of person you will be better prepared than I was. But I want to know what is going to happen next. I want to be able to plan. At most you can have a loose flow chart instead of a hard and fast schedule. If baby wakes, I change him, play with him, after about an hour or whenever he gets cranky, feed him, and put him to bed. The only “schedule” we had was nighttime mode and daytime mode. Daytime mode are the times that you want your baby to recognize as daytime. During these times, we talk, play, make the house bright and noisy. Nighttime mode is when you want your baby to recognize that it’s time to sleep the long sleep. We keep the lights dim if we had to do a diaper change, but other than that the lights are off. You speak very little to them, and when you do you whisper. Everything is quiet and low key. You want to clearly communicate to your baby that this is nighttime. We do not play, there is nothing worth staying up for. We eat and go directly back to sleep. Now sometimes they won’t go back to sleep. But we just kept rocking or bouncing in the quiet dark until they did. Sometimes I would even avoid eye contact and close my eyes. If it wasn’t working and I realized that I was in for the long haul, I bounced on the yoga ball in living room and watched Pioneer Woman on very low volume in the dark, just to keep myself from going insane. When baby was very little Nighttime mode started when I went to bed about 10:00pm or so. But as they got closer to six months nighttime mode got closer to 8:00pm. And by then maybe if the Lord loves you, you can have a schedule for your baby. But it still may be several months until they really stabilize into a routine.
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Is this the face of stability?
Having a baby and raising a child are tough to put it mildly. It is probably one of the hardest thing that I will ever do, but also one of the most worthwhile things. It is such a special time in life. Such a privilege to be able to take part in the precious miracle of God creating a new life. A tiny little person who wasn’t there before, is now with you. It truly is a miracle. God has entrusted this brand new person to your care. What an honor; what a joy! What a gift to watch them learn and grow, sharing in their wonder in discovering the Lord and the beautiful world that he has created for us. What a blessing to receive the snuggles and kisses of your children!

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Good thing they are pretty darn cute!

Highlights of the Holiday Madness

I’ve been pretty busy since my last entry with some art business work and then the Holiday Madness, that I’ve referenced before. It’s like a whirlwind (Thanksgiving, my birthday, Eowyn’s Birthday, Christmas, Trip to visit family, New Years, Anniversary, and finally husband’s birthday.) Phew, after two months of celebrating, it is finally all over! No more celebrations til Easter! Here is a very brief recap:

Halloween:

Halloween came, and unfortunately it seems to be Eowyn’s favorite holiday. She was very excited, and was trying to figure out which houses we could go to to get candy, and which ones were not doing Halloween. Looking at a house with the lights on and some decorations, I say to her, “Well, that house looks inviting. Let’s try that one.” And every house after that she would ask, “Mommy is that house invited?” Then I notice that we are coming to a creepy looking house with a cemetery and a ghost with glowing eyes. I try to walk by quickly because I don’t want her to notice and be afraid. Then she stops and says excitedly, “look at the cross!” pointing to a grave, and then, “Look mommy a pretty angel,” pointing to the ghost. Haha I guess things look different through her eyes. Later that evening a boy about 7 years old comes up and walks along side Eowyn. “Are you a witch?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m Kiki.”
“Are you a good witch?” He presses.
“Yep.”
“Well, I’m not good, I killed Han Solo,” he says and then he runs away. lol

It was a good night, Samwise enjoyed Halloween this time; he rode in the stroller and occasionally gave out a Totoro roar. Much candy was had, and few tears, if any were shed.october16_0255-copy

Kiki and Totoro

Music Time:

We’ve also been enjoying some scripture songs, which are a relatively new thing to me. Basically, it’s just scripture set to music. It’s such a great idea because children are little sponges, and absorb everything, but especially songs. And it’s even been good for me to memorize and meditate on the scriptures. Plus it’s a great avenue for talking about Jesus with the kids. They both enjoy listening to and dancing to the music; they’ve got some rad moves. We really like the “Bugs and Slugs” albums, they are so much fun and so musically rich. Randall Goodgame does such a great job with them. We’ve also tried the group “Seeds of Praise.” Occasionally though Eowyn hears things a bit wrong, and so she’s walking around the house singing “trust in the Lord forever, the Lord is the rocky turtle, rocky turtle.” Instead of the “rock eternal,” I guess we are worshiping the turtle god. Another good one was “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouse squeaks.” ugh….no, it’s “the mouth speaks” not “the mouse squeaks…”

Another good one was a song that I was teaching to her during my attempt at pre-pre-school. I taught her a song to help memorize the months of the year. And the final line is “These are the months of the year.” But when Eowyn sings it, she ends with “These are the mumps of the ear.” heh.

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Birthday Dance Style

At Home:

Eowyn asks: “where’s daddy”
Me: “At work.”
Eowyn: “At the construction site? or at the dump?”
Hmm…nope, daddy’s a math teacher…not even close.

At Church:

We have started going to a new church a while back. Eowyn loves going to church. She is always asking what day it is to see if it is Sunday yet. It’s so sweet, I do hope she continues to look forward to it. On the day that they were celebrating the official opening of the church with a champagne toast, Ewoyn winds her way to me through the crowd and says, “Mommy, were going to have a glass of toast!”

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Tea Party

 

Catechesis at Home:

It’s so incredibly rewarding doing Catechesis Lessons with Eowyn at home. Even though she has a hard time sitting still sometimes, and seems like she isn’t listening. It’s hard to be patient, but then, it’s breath taking to see her work with the materials after the lesson. As we were preparing for an Advent lesson, she spread the blue cloth on the table. She was really intrigued about the blue cloth representing the dark night sky as the earth was waiting for the light of Jesus to come into the world, and referenced it several times during Advent. She placed a small nativity scene on the shelf under the table (instead of on top), and explained that, “Jesus goes under the dark sky on the earth, but not in the wild west.” Not sure what the wild west part was about haha. Then later, she placed the little nativity on the raised surface map and said. “Jesus lives right here.” I guess she is getting something out of it after all. Sometimes, she adds funny little things as she is working with the materials, and as long as it’s not contrary to scripture, I just silently watch because she is relating to the story and internalizing it. Like the time she drove a bus load of teddy bears to the nativity to visit Jesus and parked next to the donkey. Haha, I guess she’s right though, the donkey was probably parked in the parking lot like the bus would be!

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Jesus under the dark sky on Earth.

On the trip to NY when we are about to lose our minds:

“Eowyn why are you crying?”
“Because I have toast in my belly button!”
But we haven’t had any toast…

Christmas:

Despite the above quote, which I believe was actually on the way home from a trip we made back in October, I think we are actually doing ok at this drive 8 hours with a toddler and a baby gig. We have tried leaving late in the day hoping that both the children would sleep the entire way, and have gotten burned a couple of times, so we tinkered with the plan a bit. We now leave about 3pm and let the kids stay awake for half the trip. We go as far as we can stand it on the brink of insanity, and then stop for a late sit-down dinner about 6:30. Samwise then goes to sleep pretty quickly as long as I rub his legs for about 15 minutes. Full belly, warm, dark car ride, and a leg massage = Samwise sleeping for the rest of the trip. Then we let Eowyn watch one movie and explain in advance then when it is over she will go to sleep. She doesn’t put up a fuss. We turn her Ocean Waves music on that we trained her to sleep with and she is out! As long as we get gas before everyone goes to sleep and keep the van moving, everyone remains asleep. So far this method has worked very well. Our favorite stop  for dinner: IHOP. Kids eat free, Samwise stuffs himself on pancakes and bacon. Eowyn wiggles in her seat and pretends to eat her food that we didn’t pay for. It’s a win, win, win.

Christmas is a blur, so many people to visit, and a little bittersweet, but at least there were lots of presents and lots of cookies.

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The Visitation of the Shepherds Catechesis Lesson

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New Trains were lots of fun

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Samwise getting into the Holiday Spirit

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Enjoying the NY weather.

Samwise loved sledding.

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At Eowyn’s Annual Check-up:

Doctor: Do you go to school?
Eowyn: yes.
Doctor: what is the name of your school?
Eowyn: Sunday School.

Doctor: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Eowyn: The Masked Retriever. (A character on Backyardigans who is a Zorro like character who returns library books.)

Doctor: Who is your favorite princess?
Eowyn: (no answer)
Doctor: Well do you have a favorite super hero?
Eowyn: Super Why! (a PBS show about reading)

My children’s reactions to the presidential inauguration on TV:

Samwise walks in and looks at the TV and begins saying, “Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh.”
Then Eowyn walks in, and I expect her to begin whining and crying about not wanting to watch mommy’s show, but she watches for a few minutes, and thoughtfully asks, “who is that?”
“That’s the new president.”
“What’s a president?”
“The president is the person who helps make rules for America and protects everyone who lives in America.” (Hopefully)
“What’s that?” She asks as it pans out to a wide shot of the white house.
“That’s called the white house, it’s where the president lives.”
“I want to live in that big house with a swing, a slide, a see-saw, and a tunnel.”

Becoming a Toddler

This is an entry that I forgot to post back in October!

Samwise is now regularly going to sleep on his own. No more rocking til he’s out, trying not to wake him when I place in his bed, and carefully creeping out. Nope. We started by rocking him and then putting him to bed just when drowsy or if he woke a little, I would just continue out the door, and now it has evolved to him putting himself to sleep completely on his own.

Eventually, he became so used to it that I would feed him his baba, and as soon as he was done, he would begin to wriggle about in my arms, as if he wanted to get down. So, I just got up put him in his bed and left. I remember Eowyn did this too, and I handled it in the same way and it worked. He cried a bit sometimes, but for the most part he was content to have some alone time in his crib before going to sleep.

He is also beginning to start the loop phase. He enjoys activities like taking the top on and off of a cup over and over again. He also was really into throwing a ball off the half step in the hall, watching it bounce, retrieving it, and climbing up again. This would entertain him for hours. He’s also in the noticing small things phase, such as scratching at the tiny mouse in Good Night Moon, and bringing me lint balls that he finds on the floor. It’s so funny to see him doing some of the same silly little things that Eowyn did, even though they are so different.

He is beginning to enjoy stories now, and not just the word books. He really likes Good Night Moon and Goose needs a hug. We have read Goose needs a hug so many times now that he knows that the hug page is coming up and anticipates it by giving me a hug. Such a snuggly little boy!

He’s been working on words too. For a while all animals were “grr.” Lions growled, bears growled, bunnies growled, Mert growled…heh, but he has begun to expand out and can now make different sounds for lots of animals. I have found that with both of my babies, they can identify the animal by the sound it makes rather than by the name of the animal. I think it must be easier to say the sounds first.

And unfortunately, he is also in the phase where everything that is not tied down he feels must be moved to a new location. So the house looks like a disaster zone all the time.

Many times we sit and eat a meal and I am struck with awe at the grace that God has poured on my by providing me with a child who enjoys eating food. I will sit and try to count up the number of foods he will eat and come to the conclusion that there are more than I can count, and I breathe out praises to God.

Eowyn has been increasingly striving to find her style. She picks out clothes usually a skirt or a dress. She asks for a pony tail or two or three usually with different color bands. She still loves shoes. And talks to other little girls about what shoes  they are both wearing. She likes to wear kitty meow meow in her shirt like he is riding in a baby front carrier. She plays with baby Margaret a lot. Pretty much all day. Baby Margaret rides in the stroller, she makes rainbow lego block towers for her, She has almost all of her meals with us, and she puts her to bed at night. She even pretends to have her inside her tummy by stuffing her inside her shirt. I think it’s  cute, but it makes daddy a little nervous lol.

She also is continuing to become more and more of a scaredy cat. She shrieks at the gnats flying around her outside and tries to run away, she screamed like she was being killed when she saw a spider on the slide, and she screamed and climbed up me like a downing cat at Home Depot when we saw the Halloween display. That doesn’t bode well for trick or treating…Samwise isn’t much better though. We were cutting small holes in balloons and watching them dance around, and Samwise cried every time. Eowyn thought it was hilarious though.

When she is not mommying Samwise, and trying to control his every step, or hoarding all her toys away from him they do occasionally play together which is so sweet to see.  Mostly just running around. They like to run around the kitchen while Eowyn pushes her stroller and Samwise pushes his cart. They also play in the sand and water table together. Refereeing the sharing though is exhausting….especially since Samwise doesn’t really get it yet. Though I do think Eowyn has gotten ever so slightly better. We were going to go communist and make all toys community toys, but at the suggestion of another parent, we have begun to recognize some bits of private property. We still encourage her to let Samwise have a short turn if it’s something that is hers though. It does make for less battles, and easier reffing, though we do still have some toys that are community toys. Christmas should be fun. Maybe we should just buy two of everything.

Moving on to the Next Stage

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Samwise trying to escape the living room.

Samwise has been so close to crawling for so long…it seems like with Eowyn she just decided to up dive right into the next developmental stage and figure it out in a week. I understand every child is different and develops on their own timetable, but he has had an insatiable need for movement, and for about a month I was stooping over to walk him around by his hands all. the. time. As I sat and listened to the constant whining, I wondered if I had perhaps slightly stunted his movement by wearing him all the time up until I hurt my back and quit cold turkey sometime when he was seven months. Well this cute but very porky little boy has been giving me backaches through pregnancy, labor, bouncing him to sleep on the exercise ball, wearing him all day, and now walking him.

So I took some advice from Maria Montessori, or as she’s known around here “Maria.” Her theory on children is to provide an environment conducive to his “sensitive period.” A sensitive period is what ever developmental milestone a child feels driven to work towards, and during these stages we, as parents,should foster the child’s independent experimentation. This independence then leads to a confidence in the child’s abilities. So I decided that he needed to learn movement on his own, and not be dependent on mommy’s hands for it. I would let him pull up on me if we were sitting together on the floor, but nothing more. I put him on his tummy as much as he would tolerate, and if he just sat there and cried I moved him to a different room or gave him a different activity to do. He sat a long time with toys around him to encourage him to reach, and you know what? In a week or less he started crawling! I had been teaching him to depend on mommy to satiate his need for movement. It was so exciting to see his confidence rise as he learned how to crawl, mostly starting from a sitting position, but he also rapidly began rolling over, and moving from on his tummy to a seated position. He cries a lot less, and is able to entertain himself. He is pulling up on little tables and the couch, and beginning to cruise. The only thing is, he is a lot less cautious than his sister was. He has pushed against the table a few times, and fell backwards, and while sitting he will grab the back of his thighs and rock back on his head. He has been cruising and thrown himself when he reaches the end of the couch. I am guessing maybe it is a boy thing to be a bit more reckless. I’ve heard stories of wild little toddler boys, and while Eowyn is no delicate flower herself, she pales in comparison the stories I hear of little boys.

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Eowyn’s not so thrilled at her brother’s new ability to get her stuff…

At the same time as I am seeing this recklessness in him, he is still a little snuggler, and puts his head down on me, give me hugs and kisses. He is shy and many times will cry at the attention of a stranger. He is also starting to become more difficult to feed. Some of it may be a thirst for more independence and some of it may be just a natural decline in appetite as he wants to be crawling more, or a slight lull in physical growth, as his body focuses on movement and language. He still loves beef, but is beginning to also show a strong preference for carbs as well. I can usually get him to eat some fruits and veggies if I sing and or give him something to keep his hands away from blocking his mouth, but I am seeing him less and less opening his mouth like a baby bird.

So with all this new movement, we had to really baby proof the house. The biggest thing is keeping him from hitting his head on the tile floor. So we bought a gate for the living room and tried to re-arrange the kitchen area to make a safe place for him to play, but he still kept hitting his head in the kitchen. So for now, we will keep him in the pack and play or the jumper when in the kitchen. But I got such a thrill out of re-arranging the living room and the kitchen area. Why is that so energizing to women? I just sat back and enjoyed the new arrangement, it looked like a new house! I just get the itch to move stuff around and think to myself how this new arrangement will be so much better and make our lives so much easier and look so much more organized. But of course its all nice and clean and shiny now, but as the weeks go on more and more things will become disheveled and dirty again, and the shininess of a new arrangement will be gone until the next time I get the itch.

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Eowyn seems to be going through another language development, she is talking constantly. And she is coming up with some funny stuff. She squeaks her toes in her wet sandal and says that it sounds like a frog, with a little gleam in her eye waiting for someone to chuckle. She tells me that she is hungry and that her stomach is growling, which she demonstrates by making a sound like she is clearing her throat, and swings her belly back and forth. She did this once, and I chucked, so now she does it all the time waiting for a response. She tells jokes now too. Like she sings “row, row, row your refrigerator.” Or whatever other silly objects she can substitute in for boat, like clock, baby or door. She giggles and looks into your eye waiting to see your reaction. She struggled to climb up into her car seat the other day and triumphantly declared, “and the crowd goes wild!!” Joe and I were completely unprepared for it and lost it…haha.

But she’s not all fun and games all the time, as much as she feels joy at telling jokes, she feels the sobriety of situations as deeply as the silly times. Like the time I made her some peanut butter toast for breakfast and forgot to cut it in quarters before serving it too her. “This peanut butter is too big.” she declared. When I apologized, she replied, “That’s so disappointing.” Or the other day when I was removing some dead flowers from a vase on the table, she realized that they were dead,”just like Jesus.” We’ve been spending a lot of time outside, and she was running across the yard the other day yelling that the bees were getting in her eyes. I finally realized she was talking about the cloud of gnats that fly around your head, and tried to explain to her that first of all they weren’t bees, and secondly, she can’t out run them. She gets nervous when Mert, our cat, goes outside and yells out to her “Bedado, bedado!” Which is her translation of “cuidado” or “be careful” in Spanish. And finally, she went on a monologue at the dinner table about how she needed cold water in the swimming pool to make her cut on her knee better. She just kept going round and round saying the same thing very seriously and shuddering each time she mentioned the cold water.

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Spending time outside in the pool!

And finally, I wanted to run a brief update on my gardening adventures. Since living in apartments for quite a while I have wished that I had a lovely little assortment of flowers right outside my door, to cut and bring inside and arrange in a little vase here and there around the house. So when we bought the new house, I was so excited at all the open space to plant flowers. The yard is basically a blank canvas waiting to be cultivated. So, even before we officially had the house, I was drawing up plans for what plants I would plant where. I know, it was a dangerous game to play, potentially increasing my disappointment if we lost the house, but we didn’t 😀 So I decided that I wanted to try to make a little cut flower garden off the corner of our deck. I bought seeds online to get more bang for my buck. And I am pretty new at this, but one warm day, back in the spring, I thought my little seedlings would like some sunshine, so I brought them out on the deck, but I left the plastic over them that I had been using to keep them moist. But that was a big mistake! I ended up steaming them because it got so hot under the plastic with out ventilation. So I started over, and this time they lived! I cleared out the sod with some help from my Mother in Law and from Joe. And we found all sorts of treasure in our yard! It’s so much fun seeing what you can find in your yard, and even more so with a house that was built in 1890. Although, it’s fun to imagine, we probably didn’t really find anything all that old.

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Here is all our treasure! Special items to note: My Mother in Law found a Sheriff badge in the center left of the picture. I found a dinosaur in the top center and ring near the bottom, and on the left is Joe’s fork from Thailand used my the original owner of the house. (At least, that’s what we decided it was) And a lot of beer bottle caps and rusty tools.

As I went along merrily planting my seedlings, and few larger flowers from the store, all my hard work was getting chomped right off in the night. And I think I finally know who the culprit is: the little bunny that lives under our deck! He munched the mums, bleeding heart, and peony, and he even ate every single one of the cosmos and delphinium! So I put some wire around the peony and the bleeding heart to save the more expensive plants. Thankfully,he seems to be leaving alone about half of the stuff though: the lantana, lavender, butterfly bush, button mums, and the bells of Ireland. The poppies initially got eaten down to the ground, but have grown back twice as large, and have been since untouched. Maybe the don’t taste so good after they get bigger. Some of the plants that are being eaten are supposed to be poisonous, and not attractive to wildlife, but I guess no one told Mr. Bunny. But anyways, I guess there will be some trial and error involved in figuring out what is safe to put out and what will be eaten. My flower garden right now doesn’t look that impressive, but maybe later in the summer, I’ll take a picture . But for now, here is the front garden that was already started when we bought the house. I gave the rose bushes a little pruning back in February when they started getting new leaves, and now they have just filled out so beautifully!

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More than Halfway

So We made it past six months, in fact, we even made it past seven months! Before six months its a lot of drudgery; sure they are cute, and sometimes cuddly, but at least for the two babies I have had, they are a lot of work, a lot of crying, and little reward. Things get a little easier after six months as they get into a stable routine of sleeping and eating, you can actually see and measure all the new things they are learning and their little personalities really start coming out. He’s sitting up very well on his own by now, no more flopping over. But now he has his sights set on walking. No, not crawling, crawling is for babies. Of which Samwise is not. At least, that’s what he thinks. Put him on his tummy, he just lays there and cries. Sometimes he will try a couple of times to get his legs under him, but then he gives up. I really think he could crawl too if he actually tried. He is so strong, he can hold himself in a standing position if he has something sturdy to grip. He’s scooted on his butt a few times. He’s also tried going from sitting to crawling and banged his poor little nose on the floor…And so, all he wants to do is have someone hold his hands to help him walk around the house, which is really hard on my back since he is still very short. It is so cute to see him start playing with Eowyn though; he will chase her around the house and shriek at her, as she runs and giggles. He walks up to people with his big slobbery mouth open and rams his face into you to show affection (I think).

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Backing up!

He’s been expaning his vocabulary starting with the traditional Kovac baby “rah, rah, rah, rah…etc.” Eowyn said this a lot too 🙂 then he added, “guh.” Just “guh,” no repeating on this one. Next he has been saying “kkkuh” especially when he sees Mert, I wonder if he is trying to say cat! The most recent one has been “mmba, mmba, mmba,” and he slapped his belly over and over while saying it. I think he is trying to do the sign and say mommy! I repeated it, and he did it again with the vocal and the motion! So exciting; nothing gets a parent excited like hearing those first mama’s and dada’s! And finally, every time he hears someone cough, he follows with his own fake cough! lol…

I’ve talked before about how impressed I am with his eating abilities, especially compared to Eowyn. He loves meatballs, mongolian beef cooked in the crockpot, cheese, yogurt, avocado on craker. He also likes crackers of all varieties, a staple baby food group, some fruits, and toast. And of course he is still doing well with the fruits and veggies pureed smush. Eowyn is so good with him, she loves to help feeding him by giving him a cracker or his sippy. She has even fed him from a spoon a little bit. She gets so into interacting with him while he is eating that it is just one more stumbling block/stalling tactic to eating her own meals. She plays with him, gives him his pacifier, scolds him and tells him what to do and how to play all the time. She loves going in his room to greet him when he wakes up. It’s so cute to see her mothering he toys too. She has never really gotten into dolls so far, but she likes taking care of Kitty Meow Meow and has been playing a lot with her baby Margaret Doll too.

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Mongolian Beef, Rice, and Peas.

She also likes pretending she is a snake a lot lately too. She scoots along on the floor going, “sssss” Most of the time she is a snake when she brings her cup or bowl to the sink. She has enjoyed all the gardening work we have been doing lately. She loves watering the dirt, and making little ponds, and she has enjoyed watching the seeds grow and learning a little bit about plants. And because I am crazy I have been digging up sod in my spare time (back before it rained for two weeks straight.) and she would come over and asking, “did you find more dirt?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Then she would say, “Wabo, mommy, wabo!”
Wabo, being her version of “bravo.”

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Even Mert has been getting brave and coming out.

Samwise has gotten bored with most of his little baby toys, and mostly enjoys playing with the larger toys, and dumping baskets of things into his face, and taking two objects and colliding them together. I remember Eowyn dumping toys on her face a lot too. So I’ve tried getting a few of the early Montessori things together for him too like discovery baskets, threading rings on a peg, some found objects, puffballs in the wipes box (a tired and true classic). He’s also enjoyed things with moving parts like our activity cube and the spinner on the front of the walker. A lot of this stuff are things that Eowyn still likes to play with so she has been having a harder time with sharing lately…I can’t wait till he actually can move. I’ll be refereeing all day.

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Playing in Eowyn’s little pond she made.

Speaking of discipline, Eowyn has been working on a mural in the living room:

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But wait, there’s more!

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So yeah, over all things are staring to go more smoothly. Oh and the other day, I even went to Home Depot with the two of them by myself! It actually went pretty well too. Samwise sat in the front seat of the cart and just stared. He didn’t even make a peep until right before we went to the check out. Taking Eowyn to the potty was a little challenging but maybe there is hope that someday soon, we will be able to do something besides stay at home all day.

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Wow! What a nice little photo model!

Easter Celebrations

Which brings me to the Easter Report. This year, we decided to stay home for Easter. It’s a lot to pack into one week with traveling, celebrating, and visiting everyone, plus having such little ones – it made more sense to have a less chaotic celebration here. But, the week before Easter we had a surprise visit from Grandma and Nana!! Evelyn was so excited to see them, and we are all always happy to spend some extra time with them. The weather was so nice, much nicer than any March in NY, complete with spring flowers blooming and warm sunny days. We spent a lot of time enjoying the peaceful beautiful outdoors. We went on walks and sat out on the porch. The only thing to complain about was the wind! Is it always this windy here in VA? I don’t remember it being that windy last summer/fall. I’m thinking that maybe it is because I am used to being nestled down in the valleys between the rolling hills of upstate NY. But anyways, they spoiled everyone with gifts and Easter treats, and for me, doing dishes and making dinner.

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Hanging out on the porch with Nana.

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Everyone Taking a Walk.

Then a few days later on Easter we had two more special guests. A very dear friend of mine and Joe’s from college and her little boy! We don’t see each other much since they just got back from two years in Ireland, and now are living out west. But she just recently realized that a relative of hers lived not so far away, and wound up visiting for Easter! What a treat! Eowyn was excited to have a little boy to play with and was even very good about sharing her toys, even though she cried after giving him a turn with her toy…It was so much fun to see them running and playing outside together, and gave a sweet little foretaste of having two little ones who can run and play together. Eowyn was practically frothing at the mouth waiting for the Easter Egg Hunt this year, and as soon as the gates opened she was off! It was not long before she had found her allotment of eggs and had to be told to slow down and perhaps “help” the little one find his eggs. But once the little guy discovered the confections which lay within the plastic eggs, he was much more excited to find a few on his own before Eowyn scooped them up for him. They sat together in a pile of empty plastic egg shells and ate as many treats as they could before the grown ups called a moratorium on the festivities. When we had dinner,  this new little friend was such a good little eater, that I think he encouraged Eowyn to try a few things that she would usually be disinclined to. “Yucky” things such as mashed sweet potatoes, which I thought turned out pretty good!

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Eowyn “helping.”

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Wagon Ride was a hit!

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Little Guy liked Joe for his tractor and the goldfish crackers 😉

And Finally, we did a photo shoot of the little cuties all dressed up!

Paschal Narrative Lessons

Alright, went off on a tangent there, but seriously, I have been busy. Besides feeding and encouraging my children to sleep, I have been preparing for Easter. And because I am crazy, preparing for Easter this year involved painting peg people for Catechesis Lessons. So now, we have the 12 disciples, Jesus, the three women at the tomb, two Roman soldiers, and a donkey. Now all I would like to do for next year is to procure settings for the three of them.

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We had been counting down to Easter for the duration of Lent since our Advent Calendar went over so well. I didn’t do any special lessons, but I tried most days to read about the life of Jesus, pray, and to mark off the days of course. Sometimes I would have a Montessori-like Practical Life Lesson for afterwards, such as:

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Planting Seeds

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Washing Windows

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Sweeping Sand

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Painting a rock with water

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And the Classic, Pouring Water

We started our Holy Week with a Palm Sunday Lesson, which technically is not part of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd curriculum, but I guess we’re not following it strictly. I searched around on Etsy and came across a plain wooden donkey that could seat a peg person. We constructed an arch out of blocks to represent the entrance to Jerusalem, and I made palms and robes out of felt. For the actual presentation, I read an account from a children’s Bible, and then read it again, and used the materials to act out the story, and then read it a third time asking Eowyn to use the materials to follow the story, and asked a few “wondering questions” at the end as she was working with the materials.

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She particularly loved lining up the palms and robes to make a road for Jesus, she even wrapped the robes around some of the figures and had them take them off and lay them down. At some point the ladies were parachuting down off of the arch. When I asked what they were doing, she said that they were going to a party for Jesus. I guess it probably was kind of like a big party.

Next, we did the Last Supper or the Cenacle. So I had to make twelve disciples. When starting out, I told myself that I needed to just make simple figures maybe two designs just painted with different colors to differentiate one character from another in order to not spend hours painting peg people. Well, I should have known myself better than that. Of course I ended up researching each of the twelve disciples and tried to match their personalities to various designs.

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From the left: I based Jesus’ design on James Tissot’s Jesus, but I added a blue stripe which in Judaism symbolizes divinity. Next is Peter and Andrew (fisherman design 1), James and John (fisherman design 2), Phillip (Jewish citizen design), Bartholomew (lawyer design), Thomas and Matthew (Romanized Jewish design), James the Younger (Jewish citizen design), Thaddaeus and Simon (Zealot design), and Judas (lawyer design). I always try to make my figures not look European by using medium to dark skin tones and more ethnic looking clothing.

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As I did the presentation Eowyn was very focused, much more than usual. She is sometimes a little difficult to settle, but the presentation really seemed to have grabbed her attention. She had each disciple eat the bread and drink the wine, and when I read about Jesus being arrested and crucified, I put the cross on the table, and then I lit two little candles, and we sang “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” It is so special to hear her little voice sing these words of profound truth, as I pray she is pondering them in her heart. During her free time, she held up Jesus to the small cross in the center of the table, and said “look, Jesus is on the cross.” It is so exciting to see her begin to connect things and build a foundation for (by God’s grace) a lifetime of faith.

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And Finally, we did the presentation of the Empty Tomb. I really wanted to have a nicer tomb this year, but it just didn’t work out the way I had planned it, so I used some materials from the Easter Garden I made for her when she was very little. Just a little terra cotta pot tipped on it’s side and covered in play-doh. But I did make three women and two Roman soldiers to use, as well as the angel from the Nativity set, and Jesus from the Last Supper set. I read from Matthew 28:1-10 and showed her the story of our Lord’s Resurrection. It came a couple days late, but I don’t mind extending out our holidays. They are such important days, it seems a shame to try to constrict all the celebrating to one day. Besides that’s how all of the Old Testament Holy Days were celebrated.

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Since then, she has randomly asked for me or Joe to read out of the Bible twice, and not the children’s Bible or the Storybook Bible, she insisted it was the real Bible. “Read about baby Jesus” she asks. And “read about Jesus having dinner.” There are no words to describe my joy at consenting to those requests.

These Lessons from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd have been such a blessing to our home. It has given me a way to learn how to talk to Eowyn, and soon Samwise, about Jesus. It gives us a template that we can use to talk about God every day (or at least most days). Even if it isn’t a special lesson with meticulously prepared materials, we have a special space to go to to remind us to pray and read the Bible. If I can let those things become part of their routine, I think that it is one of the best gifts that I can give them.

 

Foolishness

So when was the last time I really wrote? Oh yeah, after Christmas…I guess I have been a little bit busy. Probably because making sure two little ones eat and sleep properly comprises all of my time. Seriously, no one around here would ever eat or sleep unless I make them do it. They are both too busy, or just plain don’t want to. Eowyn for obvious reasons, but even little Samwise too. He never wants to sleep, and always cries when he figures out that I am putting him to bed. Plus he hasn’t been trained yet to fall asleep by himself. And while at six months he is doing great with his bottle, it was a long six month road to this point. He was so fussy about taking his bottle, There were points that I would be swaddling him, bouncing on and exercise ball and shushing non-stop, just to get him to have his bottle. But at least he is doing pretty well with solids now that he has started them. The way I talk to people about him makes him sound like an eating machine, but really I think he is probably average, but compared to Eowyn, he looks like an eating champ. He will try anything though (even carpet shards), so we’ll have to be careful when he starts crawling that he doesn’t try things that he shouldn’t, like small toys and other bits that are laying around.

Lately, I’ve been thinking how their behavior mirrors my own and other adults in spiritual manner. We are too  busy to spiritually feed ourselves by reading our Bibles, or by going to church. And we are too busy to slow down and rest in God through prayer. We go through life spiritually hungry and deprived of rest, because we think we don’t have time. But we are foolish because without those things we will die.

And then, like the baby sampling pebbles and coins, sometimes we want to try things that are not food at all, things that will kill us spiritually, like sin and false religion. And sometimes we survive on spiritual junk food if no one tells us that it’s not good for us, like bad theology, and weak churches. Children need to be shown what is good for them because they naturally want what is not good for them. They would destroy themselves or at least make themselves sickly and miserable without the discipline, guidance and care of a parent,  just as we adults do the same without the guidance of our Heavenly Father.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Proverbs 22:15), but also for the adult, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Thank God that he has not left us to our own devices, that he does not hide away and watch as we go our own way and wander down the path of sin and death. Thank God for his clear and loving instruction – that’s the Bible.

For me, having children has been a great mirror for self reflection and an insight into the general condition of the human heart. Perhaps that is one reason that God has chosen for human kind to start off as babies and to mature so slowly.

On that note, maybe I should read my Bible and pray today.

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Samwise, after a not so good feeding, deflecting his peas.