Happy Birthday Rylee!

Pictures will follow-but for now  I will share my birthday letter to Rylee.  I keep files on the computer with letters to each of our children that I write them from time to time.  My hope is to print them all out when they turn 18 and give them their ‘books’ so they can look back and see the story of their life through the words of their mama.  It is really special for me.

My beloved oldest daughter,

You are six years old today. I can hardly believe it. Six years ago yesterday I was enjoying my baby shower, opening piles of presents and feeling a little strange but just figured it was normal. Shortly after I got home from that shower, my water broke. The next day you were born. They whisked you away and said you’d need a little help upstairs. A ‘little help’ turned into a 5 weeks stay in the NICU. You struggled with breathing, were nearly taken to Children’s in Seattle more than once, every step of the way something went wrong. Eventually extensive damage had been done to one of your kidneys. Your blood pressure was sky high. It was so scary.

The day we took you home was terrifying but wonderful. We had come home empty handed and cried by your crib many nights before. To have you there with us was so indescribable. We were forever changed by your entrance into our family. You made us a mama and a daddy. You brought love from our hearts that we had never known before. You drew us together in the most intimate way as we clung to Jesus and prayed He would spare your life many times over.

When you were 3 1/2 years old again we faced great challenges and fear and again God protected you and walked beside us as you endured a major surgery to have your non-functioning but very sickly kidney removed.  They could not guarantee anything but hoped that having it gone would bring your blood pressure down to a safe level.  We held our breath and at day 10 post surgery it started coming down.  Soon it was normal and you were able to be free of medications for the first time in your life.  We rejoiced and a few weeks later God gave us another little brother for you.  Kyler James was born and you adored him from the moment you saw him.

This year has been so exciting for you. You asked God for a sister and you believe with all your heart that He gave her to you. You still tell people that. And it is true. He knew your hearts desire and He gave you a sister to call your own. She is everything you hoped for and more. She shares your pink girlie room. She loves to hear your voice and to be held or touched by you more than anyone else except for me. You love to dress her, change her and hold her. She is almost too heavy for you but you still manage. You hold her on your left hip just like I do. It’s quite a sight!

You have an amazing, inquisitive spirit. You have great questions and want to know everything about everything. You have an innate nurturing heart that spills over into everything you do. You took 3 foot tall plastic Christmas angels on a walk around the culdesac recently just so you could take care of someone. It is one of your greatest qualities. You are keenly aware of your surroundings. You don’t miss anything. You love naps, hate mornings and stay up as late as you can all perky and chatty just like your daddy.

I love that you are the first child God gave me. I love that you are not alone, that you always have a playmate around. I love talking with you. You have the most contagious laugh ever. It is an infectious giggle really. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. You are one of my favorite things in the world.

I love all that you are. Happy Birthday Rylee Jeanne!

Love,

Mama

Festive Fondue

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It was sure fun to have Isaac tonight.  Not only did they drop Isaac off before they headed out for some dinner, they also dropped off a fondue set and the makings for some chocolate fondue for our dessert.  It was delicious!  I was never much of a fan for fondue, but after tonight, I can see how it would be good fun from time to time.  One of our favorite restaurants is The Melting Pot, which is all about fondue, but I never really thought about having one at home.  After we ate our dinner we made the chocolate concoction and busted out the fondue.  Unfortunately, little Kyler did not eat his dinner so he could only look on with a forlorn face for the ages.  Thanks for coming over Isaac, we had a blast!  And thanks to your folks for the fondue, it was scrumptious!

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Sweet Kyler looks on...with his dinner in front of him untouched 🙁

Look out Ronaldinho…

…here comes Kyler sporting some of the soccer line from Xara.  (Thanks Charissa W!).  I am not sure if he is going to play like Ronaldinho, but he is definitely looking the part in his new gear.  We are excited to get all our kids involved in soccer this year.  I coached Rylee’s team last year and had a great time.  We will see how it all works out but for now, check out Kyler in his latest duds.

Absolutely scrumptious!
Absolutely scrumptious!
Check out that form!
Check out that form!

Valentines Day Fun

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Happy Valentines Day everyone!  We have been talking about what love means all week with our kids.  In fact, at the beginning of the week, Karissa painted the tree that you see pictured here – “The Tree of Love.”  Each time the kids did something loving toward one another, we would write what they did on a heart and put it on the tree.  Things like “Caleb encouraged Kyler and told him that he was a great treasure” or “Rylee encouraged Caleb while he worked” were the types of things that made it to the Tree of Love.

This morning, to kick off the valentines celebration, Karissa put together a great scavenger hunt for the three big kids to do.  She wrote up clues and put them around the house.  It was fun watching their little minds think through the clues and figure out what is “big, green, has wheels, and stays out side.”  They had a great time and enjoyed the balloons and fun things they got in their valentines bag.

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Tonight, we have the pleasure of watching little Isaac while his mama and daddy go on a date.  They watched our four while we went out the other night and so now it is our turn to watch their little one.  It is always fun having Isaac over because our kids just enjoy his company so much.  And now that he is crawling, it should be extra fun for everyone!  Perhaps Audrey will be inspired by her younger cousin to ditch the army crawl for good and go with the full crawl.  Our Valentines Day has been delightful so far and we wish the same for yours!

Just Heard Thursday

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We thought we would start a weekly posting of the funny things we heard our kids say.  It is a rare day when at least one of them doesn’t say something that catches us off guard or causes us to laugh.  We figured you all might get a kick out of some of these things as well.  All of you with kids know exactly what we are talking about and probably could write your own post about the funny things you heard, so go ahead and let us know about it; we would love to read what your kids are saying.  Here are a few things we heard around our house recently:

Caleb – “Mooooom!  It smells like a delicious stinky diaper in here!” (Caleb, smelling a certain package that Kyler delivered in his room, wanting to solve the problem but was trying really hard not to be rude about it.)

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Kyler – “Watch me.  Kyler is Superman!” (as he jumps off the arm couch, over his mama, and onto the other cushion.  We have another dare devil in the house and right now he’s talking in the 3rd person on a regular basis)

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Caleb – “Dad’s going to be the dragon…we need to go get his superpowered underwears!”

Like mother, like daughter

As I watched Audrey snack on a cracker this afternoon, I was inspired to dig around for some of my baby pictures.    I edited mine of Audrey to  black and white.  I was amazed at the comparison:

Bath baby one...
Bath baby one...
Bath baby two
Bath baby two!
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Snack time going once...

Snack time going once...
Snack time going twice...
Baby legs, custom fleece diaper cover-what decade is this?
Baby leg warmers, custom fleece diaper cover and oh my those thighs-what decade is this?
Look at those tub decals...and thighs!
Look at those tub decals, nice stripes and rolly polly thighs-what decade is this?

I am usually quick to joke about how funny/crazy people are about who a baby looks like.  We actually have some running jokes on the matter in our family.  But this was too fun for me not to share as I was cleaning that I had some of my old baby pictures in the kitchen.  If only my chubby thighs still looked as cute as they did back then…at least we know where Audrey gets it!

A progresson caught on film

Audrey and Isaac enjoyed their first bath together.  Our tub is usually full of little people but a few nights ago there was room for a cousin.  This is what ensued:

Loving the tub time
Loving the tub time
Loving hanging out on the changing table together
Loving hanging out on the changing table together
Isaac decides to pinch Audrey mid-photo and she is visibly heart broken
Isaac decides to pinch Audrey mid-photo and she is visibly heart broken
teary-eyed, thumb-sucking, red-marked-where-he-pinched-me Audrey
After the pinch: teary-eyed, thumb-sucking, red-marked-where-he-pinched-me Audrey

All pinching aside (I’m sure it won’t be the last time!), having babies 6 weeks apart and living close by to my sister is one of my favorite things of all times.

Goodbyes

I woke up this morning and the first thought in my head was “If only I could blink and skip today and have it be tomorrow.”  It was a fleeting thought but an honest one nonetheless.  We are always learning something, whether we want to learn it or not.  I’m gaining a little more understanding of what life looks like when I say yes.  Not yes to everything but yes to God.  Yes to His ways.  Yes to His leadership of my life.  Yes to His plan instead of mine.

See if I had been able to blink and skip today or any of the past few weeks of growing sadness knowing a very good friend would move far away, I would have missed so much.    I would have missed several fun playdates with our kids, a chance to stay up late and pack boxes, getting to spend hours obsessing over a photo book that had to be just right, a final trip to Costco and the delight of throwing a goodbye party in their honor.  I might have missed out on a few good crying sessions too.  When I knew for sure they were leaving, I felt my heart split.  Part wanted to ‘check out’ and distance myself and ease the pain of goodbye.  The other part wanted to dive in and make the most of the weeks left and make sure I didn’t miss any chances to end well.

I’m sure I missed some chances but I did my best to treasure the time together.  But when today rolled around, knowing after the big party we’d say our goodbye, I took a deep breath and trudged through tears and a sad heart.  I was grouchy to my daughter all morning, so much so that even though we were late to ballet I pulled over (I cried all the way to ballet) and brought her up to the front seat and hugged her for a long time.  We both needed it so much-it really didn’t matter when we got to ballet.

This all goes back to saying yes. It means saying yes to pain.  When I choose to let God expand my heart, it means my hurt will expand too.  That’s just the way it is.   Saying yes for me means opening my heart up to life.  It meant saying yes to another baby who would be Audrey Rose and would delight my heart every single day for 264 days straight.  It has also meant saying yes to schooling our kids at home when sending them out the door each day would be much easier.  It means choosing life giving words instead of those that tear down when I talk with my husband at the end of a long day (still working on this one!).

All this to say, I am glad to have experienced the day in all it’s fullness.  To have watched my friend for 5 hours while people loved her, hugged her, shared with her and said goodbyes.  To have cried more than once and laughed nearly a dozen times at all the children running around the house.  There is something wonderful about feeling life deeply-both the joy and the pain.   I don’t think it’s possible to have one without the other.   And I am thankful for each one.

Struggling to say goodbye means we have loved enough for it to actually hurt when someone leaves.  If it was never hard to do then it would mean we hadn’t given fully of ourselves to begin with.  I want to give fully.  I want to care enough for other people that it’s sad when they go.

I will miss you Kristin.  I will miss knowing that someone (besides my own family) would drop anything to help me in  any way at any time if I needed it.  You and Tom have given so generously of yourself to me, to my children, to our family.  We love each of you.

A Tale of Two Teeth

I might be a bit biased, but that is a cute smile!
I might be a bit biased, but that is a cute smile!

Audrey is just about nine months now and has already acquired some major life accomplishments.  She can “army crawl” as fast as any Marine.  Although she chooses not to use them to eat any food, she has two teeth ready to take on an 8oz fillet from Ruth Chris.  I don’t have any official stat on this one, but I am pretty sure she has ridden in more baby carriers than any other baby in the history of the world.  Audrey has also brought endless joy to her each of her siblings.  Most of all she has her Mommy and Daddy wrapped around her little finger, but that didn’t take much more than a smile.

Exciting times

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Karissa and I are excited to share with you all that Sojourn is now being developed.  You might have already noticed the link to Sojourn in the blogroll, but you can check out the site here if you are interested in finding out more information about this new community being created.  The website is not quite finished yet, but much of it is up and running.  Karissa and I would appreciate your prayers for this new venture.  If you would like, you can also enjoy my newest blog entry.