Paul at Four

Four years ago, late at night, our Little Man was born. Our first son.  Our first take-home baby.  And the first baby I got to hold the day, the very moment, he was born.

It’s fun to watch how kids grow into their nicknames.  We started out called Paul “Big Guy” and “Little Man”, and he is!  Paul is confident and independent.  He’s not afraid of “big people”.  He’s not afraid to be alone.  He knows what he likes, what he wants, he makes his plans, and he carries them out.  For Christmas we got him a backpack.  Most Sunday mornings, while Dan and I are after the other kids to get ready, or while we’re busy helping them get ready, Paul will pick out clothes, dress himself, and pack his bag for church.  He makes sure that bag is full and we have shown up Sunday morning to find that he’s packed a change of clothes and shoes (for sports, like Daddy), a toy wagon, cars, football helmet, and (probably our favorite) about eight baseballs.  Oh, he likes to put his Bible in there too.  It’s not really his Bible, but an orange New Testament that he found and declared his own so adamantly that no one has tried to change his mind.

Paul gets his “Little Man” look, in part, because he studies men around him and imitates them really well.  He does this especially with his Daddy and loves helping to “fix things” around the house.  He also does this extremely well with sports.  Paul loves sports, but especially baseball.  Basketball is probably second and I’ll have to ask him if he prefers football over soccer.  For his birthday Paul only asked us for “lots of baseball stuff”.  He wanted baseball pants, socks, a belt, and a bat.  And he got them all.  The socks and belt are orange, of course, because that is Paul’s favorite color.  He wears the baseball pants every day and when they go through the wash, he will sprint to the dryer the moment it buzzes to dig them out and put them on.  He’s also designated certain articles of clothing for certain activities.  He has basketball shorts (blue and green), and soccer shorts (the orange ones with the blue stripe).  We splurged on our vacation last year and bought him a Cubs shirt at a Cubs baseball game.  It is probably the only t-shirt we have every spent money on for Paul, but it’s gotten its use.  He wears it almost as often as his baseball pants.

But, for how independent he is, Paul is still a good brother.  He and Elijah often melt my heart as they sit side-by-side on my lap or in a stroller, both sucking their fingers and holding my hair, their own hair, or each other’s hair for comfort.  Paul loves to chum around with his sisters and lately has enjoyed snuggling up with Abby as she “reads” to him.  Other favorite games include wrestling, pretending to be puppies, anything involving water, and running around like crazy while hitting imaginary home runs and sliding into home plate.

Paul is incredibly silly and he is incredibly sweet.  He often makes himself the clown for others to laugh at.  He is also quick to give hugs and kisses, and ask to hold his baby sister.  He cannot stand to see others in pain.  If someone has to get a shot or have a sliver pulled out, or anything that looks like it might be painful, Paul is often more distraught that whoever is actually hurting.

Paul still loves his music.  He has since he was an infant.  That was the motivation behind getting him a drum for his birthday last year.  This year my parents got him a small guitar.  Every morning when we practice our Bible verse songs, Paul busts out his drum or guitar (or both!) and plays along enthusiastically.  After church, he’ll often climb up on stage, playing with any instruments anyone will let him touch.  Or he’ll bring his own guitar and lead some imaginary singing.  He was devastated when we told him he couldn’t bring the guitar to Bible study yet, but he’ll still lug it around to church and get it out whenever we give him the ok.  When Paul is having a particularly hard time with something, I can almost always calm him down by holding him and singing his long-time favorite: Jesus Loves Me.

We love you, Paul.  We love your charisma and we love your charm.  We love your passion and independence and courage.  And we love your soft, sweet heart.  Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Hannah’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Hannah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

When I was thirteen weeks pregnant, I had a surgery done to help keep Hannah from being born super early. During surgery, the doctor tied two stitches through the cervix to add extra support. This helped the boys make it to 35 weeks (Paul – 35 weeks and Elijah – 35 weeks and six days) and we were hoping for similar results this time around. During my other pregnancies, those stitches were not removed until after my water broke and I was in labor. It was a complicated and painful removal that I was dreading.

Due to a number of circumstances, I saw a variety of doctors this time. Finally, one doctor asked, “When is the plan to remove the stitches?” and I answered, as I had always been told, “Thirty-seven weeks”.

“Really?! That surprises me!” she answered. The doctor continued to explain that cerclages are difficult to remove during labor (which I already knew!) but not nearly as difficult to take out before labor. She suggested removing the stitches as early as my next appointment, and I was 33 1/2 weeks at the time. So we scheduled the next appointment for 35 weeks and two days, fully expecting to have our baby that very day.

The day came and Dan and I left the kids with Grandma while we headed to the office. I had been having painful contractions for ages and we were excited to meet our baby. In the office, another doctor expressed his hesitancy at removing the stitches so early. Then he checked and realized I was dilated to three already and decided to send me right to the hospital to have the stitches removed so that I would be there if labor took off quickly.

We made our way to the hospital and began a very frustrating afternoon meeting with various nurses and doctors and waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Despite our doctor’s phone call, the doctor on duty didn’t want to take the stitches out. It was too early. She never met with us but left us in our room to wait until the shift change. The shift change came and went, and our new nurse came in to introduce herself and tell us that she had no say in the decision, but that the doctors were arguing about what to do.

Finally a doctor came in, sat down, and began to explain in her best calm-down-the-flustered-pregnant-lady voice that I was too early. It was too soon to remove the stitches or we might go right into labor and have a 35 1/2 week preemie. We, of course, were fully prepared for this, expecting it actually. We discussed and argued. I didn’t want those stitches to tear through my cervix. I didn’t want to have to go through this whole afternoon all over again. Nope. She was firm.

However, I had been having contractions since I had arrived, and because I was “so” early, they wanted to keep me in the hospital for further monitoring of preterm labor. We argued this point more firmly. I had been having daily contractions for weeks. We didn’t expect to burst into labor that day, but were hoping to get those pesky stitches out before that actually happened.

The doctor wouldn’t budge, but sent us home with dose #1 of a two-part steroid shot for Baby’s lungs and told us to come back the next day for the second dose.

Twenty-four hours later I was back at the hospital, standing stunned in triage, because I had come in for my second shot and the nurse had told me to change into a hospital gown and get settled for some nice, long monitoring because I was having contractions before 37 weeks. I frantically texted Dan asking for backup, and “What do I do?!”. He hurried up to the room (I did not put the gown on) and we explained our situation as politely as we could, insisting that we did not want to spend another afternoon sitting in a hospital room. (Dan also brought in all four kids and didn’t try to manage them very well, just to make our point a little stronger.) Thankfully, the nurse kindly gave me the shot and sent us home.

The weekend passed and we set up a plan with our doctor to remove the stitches the following Monday (36 weeks, 0 days) in his office. We found babysitters and headed in for attempt #2. The procedure, which has taken anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour during and after my other labors, took probably 3 minutes. It was mildly uncomfortable, but so quick, and, just like that, we were on our way back home, wondering when Baby would come. The contractions started, picked up, then tapered off over the next several hours while we had dinner and played games with our babysitters. By 10:00 things looked pretty uneventful and we sent our friends home and headed to bed. We were amazed as day after day passed and no baby came.

On Thursday morning, I slipped on some ice and fell rather gently, into a seated position on the ground. Aware that you’re supposed to call if you fall during pregnancy, I called my doctor’s office and was sent back to triage for four more hours of monitoring. It’s not hard to imagine what happened. When the doctor’s saw that I was preterm and having contractions  (36 1/2 weeks, a record for our babies), they told Dan I would be advised to stay 24 hours for monitoring. He firmly opposed them. “My poor wife does not need to be kept up all night in the hospital for contractions that she has been having for weeks!”. The hospital visits were getting old and the longer we stayed, the more frazzled I became, constantly at odds with every medical person we met. After three hours I was ready to beg them to send me home, stressed out, tired, wanting a nap in my own bed. They reluctantly agreed, and my last thoughts before my much-needed nap were about how bad I felt about arguing with the nurse and, probably, ruining her day.

By Friday night I was in significant pain, between the almost constant contractions, and a bigger baby than I’d ever carried before. She was entirely on the left side of my body, something every nurse we met with pointed out in amazement. The grumbly part of me was adamant that this was more uncomfortable than any “normal” pregnancy because I had just as much baby but only on one side. The trying-to-be grateful part of me sympathized with twin moms, because they have just as much baby on each side. The preemie mom in me was thrilled to be a couple days away from term. The pregnant mom in me wanted Baby to come out already.

Sunday afternoon, after a meager snacky lunch, I took a delightful nap and woke up to my water breaking. I spent the next hour in the bathroom waiting for Dan to get someone to watch the kids and prepare to leave. I was so excited, talking to the kids, asking them to help in various ways. Everyone was running around, guessing when Baby would be born, making all the preparations. My water broke at about 4:30 and by 5:30 we were in the car munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches our baby sitter had sweetly thrown together for us on our way out the door.

In that hour, contractions hadn’t started and I was expecting another 5 1/2 hour labor. I insisted over and over that Dan stop at Chipotle on the way in to get us some food for after the delivery. He, sweet husband that he is, kept asking if I was sure, saying he felt bad leaving me in the car that long. The contractions picked up. Dan bought the burritos. As I waited for him to come out, I wondered if that decision had been a mistake. Even my speedly labors didn’t usually get this serious so fast.

We made it to the hospital, but I was mid-contraction when we pulled up to the door, so we waited it out. Meanwhile, two women were standing in the entrance watching and pointing. I seriously wanted them to go away. I was already in too much pain to have a conversation, even a brief one. They stayed. When I waddled up to the door, I learned that they were the doctors just coming on duty. “One of us will probably deliver your baby” I was told. They sweetly called up to triage and got me all checked in so I didn’t have to do a thing. Then they got me a wheel chair and left me with Dan.

In moments, we were in triage going through my long medical history with the nurse. Moments after telling her we were hoping for a natural delivery, she looked at the monitors and said, “I don’t like your baby”. (To be honest, I become quite a sarcastic little Mama Bear when I’m in labor, so the thought that immediately popped into my head was, “What do you mean you don’t like my baby?!? I don’t like you!”. Thankfully, I’m also shy and would never say a thought like that out loud, I think.) . She went on to explain that our baby’s heart rate was “flat”. The rate wasn’t changing during a contraction like it should. Baby could be sleeping, but something could be wrong.

Despite all my preparations, all my reading, all my logic, I was ready for them to wheel me into a c-section and save that little baby. Thankfully, Dan was clear-headed enough to ask a few questions and give me some advice. In minutes I had changed my position, Baby had woken up, and the heart was doing what they wanted. We were back on the path to a smooth delivery.

The nurse left us in the room to be monitored and we remained in triage for the next 45 minutes. Labor was getting intense. I kept telling Dan, “I don’t think I need to push yet, but they should probably get back in here”. I was seriously wondering if we were going to deliver that baby in triage without a nurse or doctor in sight. At 7:30, they checked me and said I was dilated to 6. Then they took my to my labor room. I must have been in transition at that point, or at least close, because I can’t remember if they wheeled me or if I walked. I remember saying there was no way I could walk at that point. I remember them offering me a stretcher. I remember going back in forth about what I wanted. I think I walked, but I honestly can’t remember.

We came into our labor room and our jaws almost literally dropped when we saw that we had the same nurse from the day I had fallen, the same nurse we had argued with for so long, the same nurse who’s day I had ruined. I hadn’t expected to ever see her again and there was an awkward moment for, I think, all of us. I went to the bathroom and came back to bed, answered a few questions, and asked for a big bean bag. Up to that point, I had just laid on my bed on my side, relaxing through the contractions, but now things were too intense. I climbed on the bed, and flopped, belly down, onto the bean bag between contractions. I had been telling Dan for a while, “I don’t want to do this.”, and “I just want this to be over”. He knew I was close and kept encouraging me in all the sweetest ways that I can’t remember anymore.

I had started to feel some pressure from the baby descending that only lasted as long as the contractions, so I hoped I was close. As soon as I was on the bed, they checked and said I was at seven, but almost eight. Things were so intense and I desperately wanted to be done. I was discouraged, looking at the clock, thinking about how a five and a half hour labor was still more than two hours away. “I don’t know if I can do this”, I thought, and “Oh God, help me!!!”, and those were my cues that I was almost there.

At Dan’s guidance, and the nurses agreement, the doctor was brought in. I was aware of Dan and the nurse talking, could hear every word, but couldn’t show it. I was in a zone, in a fog. They told me to turn onto my back (from all fours) to be checked again, but as I turned I felt that unmistakable and irresistible urge to push. I didn’t really push, but my body pushed for me. I knew my eyes were bulging out of my head when I looked up at Dan, so I shut them quickly (lest he laugh at me, which I couldn’t stand the thought of at that moment). He said something along the lines of, “Justine, if you can just wait a little…”, but there was no hope of that. I didn’t know if I had ever made it to ten, but every involuntary part of my body was pushing that baby out. Before I made it to my back I felt Baby’s head coming out. I was eager to not tear for once, so I tried my hardest to stop the pushing and count to ten. I made it to three, cheered my heroism, and pushed. A moment later it was over, they were placing her warm, wet body up into my arms.

That was all a moment. All one big, restrained push. I never made it to my back, but delivered in a kind of seated position. Later Dan told me his version. Only the nurse had gloves on when Hannah was born, so the nurse was the once to deliver her, which made her day, I’m pretty sure. She’d never delivered a baby before. The umbilical cord was wrapped around Hannah, so as soon as she was born, the nurse unwrapped it, causing her to sort of “flop” onto the bed. Then they handed her to me and we all found out she was a girl, which was a shock to me, as I thought she was a girl all along, and I’ve always been wrong before. 😀

The doctors and nurses in our room exclaimed over how cute she was, and assured us that they don’t say that to everyone, and guessed that she looked big enough that she might be over six pounds. When they weighed her an hour later, we found out she was closer to seven, and we got some funny looks when Dan and I exclaimed, “She’s HUGE!”.

And so, Hannah became a part of our family. After a couple days in the hospital, we were discharged together, my third take-home baby. She was our first take-home girl, our first baby who didn’t need jaudice treatment, and our biggest baby by far.

 

 

Hannah Grace Taylor
December 16, 2018
7:57 PM
6 pounds, 12 ounces
20 inches long

Elijah Turns Two

Last month, shortly before Thanksgiving, we got to celebrate two years of having our sweet Elijah with us.

Elijah is my Sweet Boy, as I’ve called him since he was a newborn.  He really is sweet, gets along with everyone, and is completely adorable.  It wasn’t hard to find cute pictures of Elijah for this post!  He’s always smiling for the camera.

Elijah loves to help.  He loves to throw things in the trash or sink, help me move laundry into the dryer, and “sweep”.  We’ve probably lost a lot of forks due to his helping! It’s certainly not uncommon to find random items (socks, cups, spatulas…) in the trash.  He also loves to make messes, and flashes the cutest I’m-so-proud-of-myself smile when he gets caught.




But, Elijah does have some weaknesses.  First of all, he doesn’t need much sleep.  This could be related to his ongoing thyroid treatment.  (We’ll find out more about that in a few months.)  But, no matter the reason, Elijah gets up early.  He used to stay up late.  He used to get up during the night.  We finally broke those habits, but, alas, now he won’t sleep past 6.  He wakes up ready to go and screams until we get him (or the whole house wakes up).  As soon as he is up, he’s chipper as anything and toddles around the living room chattering to himself and admiring the Christmas lights.  It’s not uncommon for him to crash before he makes it to nap time, and I find him sleeping on the couch, in his high chair, or sometimes even in my own arms.

Elijah also has a strong will.  When he doesn’t like dinner, when he’s told, “No”, or when he can’t communicate what he wants, he gets angry.  He’s so cute, sometimes we can’t help but laugh, but we try hard to end the tantrums as we’re able.  He usually recovers pretty suddenly, often when there’s food involved.

Elijah tends to get himself into trouble.  There was the terrible time he chocked on a toy when he was not-yet-one, but he’s always finding himself in similar situations.  He’ll climb up somewhere and get stuck.  He’ll find all sorts of household items that he shouldn’t play with (anywhere we go!).  Sometimes the situations he gets himself into are so funny, I don’t know whether to help him out first or stop and take a picture.



Elijah loves to eat. I mentioned that he’s chipper in the morning, but that’s only after we give him his early morning snack.  Sometimes that’s followed by a late-early-morning snack, then breakfast, a mid-morning snack (if it’s a good day), lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and a dessert (which is frequently some sort of fruit).  Any tears, for any reason, can usually be ended with a snack.  This boy loves to eat.


Elijah loves his siblings and loves to be a part of whatever is going on.  Whenever Dan asks the kids if they want to do something fun or eat something yummy, he joins in the rest of the family, raising his hand and yelling, “ME!!!”.  He’ll play happily with anyone, or just by himself, but is only starting to learn how to respond when he’s told to share.  One of his favorite things to do is wrestle with Dan in the evenings.  He also gets excited anytime anyone is going out of the house and will eagerly bring his shoes over and insist on coming along.  (It’s hard to say no to that!)



Elijah is quiet.  He’s always been quiet, or at least, I’ve always seen him as a quiet person.  By quiet, I don’t mean he can’t be loud, but that he’s not much of a talker.  He doesn’t like to say words when put on the spot and he doesn’t like to say things unless he knows he can say them correctly.  Still, he’s picking up new words frequently.  When I tell him, “I love you!” and he repeats back, “Wuv ooh!” it just melts my heart.


So, is Elijah ready to be a big brother?  Well, I’d say he was pretty much born ready.  Paul has always demanded my attention, even when Elijah was a newborn, so Elijah learned to spend less time with Mommy.  Or he learned to share.  Or he learned to be happy with Dan.  When he does get to be with Mommy, he often still has to share with Paul. It’s not uncommon to find both boys perched on my lap together, one on each leg.  He still loves his snuggles though, and I love the moments when I get to snuggle him, even if it is only at 6 AM.




Abby’s 5th Birthday

This month we celebrated Abby’s fifth birthday. (For the record, she has officially told us that she prefers “Abby” over her other names like “Abigail”, “Abs”, “Abster”). Abby chose to celebrate with pizza and ice cream (with Grandma and Grandpa) after a day at the hands-on museum, and then homemade pizza bagels for the “day of” celebration. It was fun to watch Abby take “center stage”, as she usually is shy and quiet and content to sit out of the spot light.

First of all, you all must know that Abby, sweet and quiet as she is, is strongly opinionated. She loves what she loves and lives with zeal. And one of her biggest loves right now is pigs. Real pigs, cartoon pigs, stuffed pigs…pigs. For her birthday, we got her a pig backpack and a big stuffed pig to sleep with. (She already sleeps with her special Christmas doll, her little pig stuffed animal, and her stuffed Elmo – all previous gifts from all different people). Anytime we have any kind of pig sighting, Abby is sure to look over and Dan me with a great big grin. It’s adorable.

Abby is sweet. She has a gift for playing with Little Kids and is my go-to-girl when I need someone to “keep Elijah back while I open the oven” or “see if you can get Elijah to stop crying”. Just last week we were at a baseball game and she came up to me and said, “Mom, you don’t need to watch Elijah. I will watch him so that you can just watch the game”. (She is five, though, so that really only lasted a few minutes, but it was sweet all the same).

Abby is also my little helper. She loves to help me do…anything. Often on days when she naps, she’ll ask me, “When I get up, can I help you do whatever you’re doing?”. And she does! She’ll bring me ingredients from the fridge, put things away for me, or does whatever little job I ask her to do. She also has a daily chore of wiping down the dining room table, which she almost always does quickly and cheerfully.

This year, Abby is tackling kindergarten. She’s technically a little young for kindergarten (by 10 days), but we’re plowing right along. She shocked me last year by starting to sound out words at a younger age than Lydia, so this year she’s learning to read, doing a little handwriting, and beginning some organized math. She LOVES school work, especially workbooks, and begs me to do more and more pages, often more than I can say “yes” to. (On the second day of school, she finished my allotted first three weeks of handwriting!)

Abby is not picky when it comes to having fun. She loves surprises and she loves any outing. Any little gift makes her smile and she keeps her treasures all together somewhere (currently in her new pig backpack) and guards them with zeal. Some of her favorite treasures right now are new sunglasses (in a case), a spiral bound notebook and pencil with an eraser cap, and a couple of toy necklaces she got with her birthday money.

One of the sweetest things, though, that I see Abby do, is play with her siblings. She has a little bit of a peace-making ability, and will usually be the first to give up something to make someone else happy (sharing some of her meal with Elijah after he finishes, sharing stickers with Lydia, and even giving up some ice cream after a birthday-date with Daddy so everyone could have a taste). During the boys (and my) nap time, she loves to play with Lydia, and together they plan weddings and parties, dress up, and pretend travel, school, and restaurant. Sometimes Lydia reads to Abby and sometimes Abby pretends to read to her brothers.

We’ve lately noticed that she’s a little peanut gallery, making hilarious (although, not necessarily on purpose) comments to some of Lydia’s more dramatic episodes. One day Lydia was trying hard not to cry in the car, but she just couldn’t control herself. Abby was sitting quietly, sucking her thumb. She popped the thumb out and piped in, “Try sucking your thumb. That’s what I do.” Then she popped her thumb right back in as Dan and I tried not to laugh (for Lydia’s sake).

Abby has always been a smiler, and she lives her life passionately. When she’s happy, she beams. When she’s tired, she sleeps hard. When she’s excited, she can’t contain herself. It has been so fun to watch Abby grow and learn in the past years, transitioning from a baby who couldn’t eat, to a toddler who couldn’t talk, and now to a spirited five-year-old who is eating, talking, and learning to read!

Lydia at Seven


This May, Lydia turned seven.


Almost three months have snuck by because 1) I had some technical issues with the blog and computer, and 2) these (5!) kiddos keep me busy. But here’s an update on our Little Miss Lydia as a seven-year-old.


Lydia is spunky, energetic, sweet, fun, outgoing, enthusiastic, inquisitive, sensitive, persistent, and observant. She loves to do fun things, eat good food, and be with people all the time. She observes everything around her, picks up on others’ conversations, and asks a ton of questions. She learns quickly, eagerly tackles new projects, and loves looking forward to things.


Lydia is a people person. She loves activities where we get to be with people: church, Bible study, gymnastics lessons, open houses, camping trips, dinner dates, babysitters, and the list could go on. Once a week, Dan takes one kid out on a daddy-daughter or daddy-son date for some one-on-one time. Lydia loves it because it’s something to look forward to, she gets to be with Daddy, and she gets a treat.


Maybe this goes along with being a people person, but Lydia is extremely verbal. Last year we took a trip to Toledo and Lydia literally talked the whole way there. She told stories, sang songs, and occasionally asked a question, but didn’t usually wait for an answer. When she gets excited, she talks more (gets that from her mom). Lydia already knows a lot about the difference between being an introvert and extrovert (because we’re opposites) and she knows how to give me space when I need it. But, when I’m up for it, Lydia always appreciates doing one more thing together, hearing one more story, or getting one more (long) snuggle.



Lydia is a sponge. This year she’s taken off on her reading and will read anything she finds lying around. For a day or two after we visit the library, we can hardly get her to do anything other than devour every single book we brought home. Then she asks me to read them to her too. She loves to read to me and she loves when I read to her. She’s also been learning piano (via hoffmanacademy.com) and she does extra math practice for fun (via khanacademy.com). She asks tons of questions. In fact, I started keeping a list of her questions. Once a week, during school, we learn all about all the things she wants to know. My current list includes: windmills, food born illnesses, branches of the military, how to play chess, how bikes work, how toilets work, ants, state versus federal politics, and our family history. I don’t come up with these ideas. They really come straight out of her mouth.



Lydia is a ball of energy. Maybe that’s obvious from what I’ve written so far. Looking back over the past few paragraphs leaves me feeling tired (and she’s not even with me right now!). But Lydia is also incredibly sweet and forgiving. She hates to be separated from others physically or emotionally. Sending her to her room is torture, telling her she can’t go to an activity is worse, and having a broken relationship with someone is the worst of all. She has a strong, but soft heart, and it hurts her to see others sad.


It is amazing to look back at Lydia’s life, all the way back to her first days in the NICU, and see her personality shine through from Day One. God has given us a precious gift in this little seven-year-old, and we are looking forward to see where He takes her in the years ahead.

Paul’s Third Birthday

“What should I write in Paul’s birthday card this year?”,  I asked Dan in the middle of our spring break vacation to Georgia.“Put something in there about his spunk and charisma”.Paul is spunky and charismatic, ferociously loyal and stubbornly independent.  And he’s entered into the threes.  And we’re enjoying them so far. 🙂

Lydia is a people watcher.  She likes attention and praise, but she’ll watch what other people do and imitate them.  Abby is a follower.  She’ll sweetly follow just about anyone, anywhere, doing anything.  Paul is his own man.  He struts around like he’s in charge.  He takes matters into his own hands.  When he gets an idea in his head, nothing can stop him.  He’s adorably independent and doesn’t care if anyone is leading or following.He’s also super cute.  😀He loves the colors orange and blue and he’s obsessed with baseball.  He picks little items and obsesses over them for a while, bringing them in the car, to the dinner table, and even to bed.  Some of his little obsessions over the past year have included: his little orange New Testament (which was really mine and I never offered it to him, but he declared it “My Bible” and was so persistent that no one bothered to fight him), a plastic toy crow bar, a parrot puppet, my kitchen tongs, a whisk, and Elijah’s long-abandoned pacifier. Despite all his independence, Paul gets overwhelmed the most easily out of our four children.  In those moments, he sits on my lap, holds my hair in one hand, sucks his two favorite fingers, and periodically looks up and me and says, “Hi Mommy”.  As soon as his basic needs are met (food, sleep, and some snuggles if things are getting to overwhelming) he’s back to his confident self.

It’s hard to capture Paul’s personality in just a few words.  He’s so unique, friends with everybody, and acts very cool.  He’s an endearing little trend-setter.  He’s also surprisingly bright. I say surprisingly because Paul wasn’t very quick to start talking.  He still doesn’t say a ton, but he picks up on things easily and often surprises us with what he knows.  Often I’ll ask the girls to do a task or tell Paul we can do something fun (play baseball or go outside, usually) after we finish a chore.  The girls are slower to help and often get distracted, but not Paul.  Paul is all business helping set or clear the table, sweep, or put away groceries.  In fact, he often jumps in just to be helpful without my asking or mentioning any incentive.  And, though he’s still learning, his helping often is actually helpful, even doing things I’ve never taught or consciously shown him how to do.Last year we were struggling to get Paul to speak.  We would ask questions, read stories, point at the pictures or facial features and ask him what they were.  Nothing.  Then, on some random day, he would start spouting off all these words we never knew he knew.  He’s sharp, for sure, but doesn’t like to show off.Even though Paul is not the youngest, he often ends up being the one who gets his way.  “Orange bowl”.  “Music on”.  “Watch baseball!”.  “No, Abby!  Off the field!  Lydia, play baseball with me!”.  He’s so confident, insistent, and cute, that once we understand what he wants, he usually gets it.Oh, and Paul loves music.  He loves the singing at church and he loves instruments.  If we let him, he likes to hang out up front when church is over by all the instruments.  He latched on to Lydia’s toy drum from when she was a baby and it has become his.  We got him a real box (cajon) drum for his birthday and he loves dragging it around the house to play while the girls dance, music plays in the computer, someone is singing, or we have a guest over playing a ukulele (which also fascinated him). So there’s a glimpse of our three-year-old in a nutshell.  He’s really and endearing little boy everyone should get to know. We enjoy having him around immensely.Happy birthday Paul!  We love you!

Fur Rendezvous 2018 – The Taylor Offerings

Last Friday our family got to enjoy one of our big events of the year: Fur Rendezvous.  In addition to the first showing of Eljiah’s video, this year featured Dan’s first ever act in the show.  (You can watch the other kids’ videos here and here.)

Below our the two Taylor acts from this year’s show.  Enjoy!

2017 – In Pictures

I take a lot of pictures.  This spring, as I was trying to figure out how to find time to get everything done that I needed to do, it occurred to me that I don’t do anything with the pictures I take.  They sit on the computer and never get looked at or enjoyed.  I don’t have time to regularly upload to Facebook, so nobody ever really sees them.  I resolved to put my pictures to a little better use.  One idea that I tried this week, was picking out favorite pictures from the whole year and putting together an end-of-the-year video we could watch as a family on New Year’s Eve to remember the highlights from the year behind us.  We had a special time last night watching this video and then thanking God for the many blessings He gave us over the past year.

So, here’s our year: 2017, in pictures.

Taylor Christmas Letter 2017

Hello Friends,

Christmas Moose here, wishing you all a lovely Christmas season, and ready to fill you in on the last year in my Happy Little Home.

First things first.  For the first time in many years, the family got me out of my box ON-TIME.  We had a wonderful day listening to Christmas music, eating leftover Thanksgiving food, and picking out a Christmas tree to deck our living room.  For some reason, the family didn’t think to bring me along to pick out a tree.  I’m not sure why as my moose-background qualifies me to be an excellent tree-picker-outer.  Ah well.  The family came home with Lydia’s top pick for a tree, and though they had a little trouble getting it up straight, it sure makes for a lovely view from the fireplace mantel.  There seems to have been an extra amount of dancing this year, Christmas music filling our halls, and, now that the Little Ones have figured out how to turn on the Christmas lights, they are on all-day, everyday.  Not that I mind.  Now, I know you’re all happy to hear all about me, but I must move on.

Starting with the youngest…Elijah John is now one year old.  He’s an adorable Little Calf and he is strong.  He muscles his way around the living room, sneaks around the tree, and gets right over to the lights faster than you can say, “Antlers”.  He’s pulling up now, babbling, giving hi-fives, and can handle being wrestled by his older sisters.  He likes to put things into his mouth, but hasn’t choked on any pine needles yet.  Oh!  And he can climb!  He started climbing the stairs this month, adding to Justine’s list of regular prayer requests for his safety.  He’s cute and sweet and, though it’s a bit early to tell, I think he’s going to be one smart little kiddo.

Paul (two-years-old) is his own moose…I mean, man.  He struts around like he owns the place and isn’t afraid to be different.  While the girls follow in each other’s footsteps, Paul doesn’t mind marching to the beat of his own drum, asking for a different treat than everyone else, or walking around barefoot regardless of the weather.  He always has a favorite toy he obsesses over for a few days: a wooden puppy, cloth book, toy car, football, or even a kitchen item (metal tongs, recently).  He’ll carry the item around all day, sleep with it, bring it to the dinner table, and on any outings.  He’s learning to talk more and more, and, now that Dad sits by him at dinner, he’s learning to stay in his chair without crying, even when he doesn’t like the food.  He still loves his mommy and anyone who’s around much will see Paul sitting in Justine’s lap, sucking his fingers and holding his own or her hair for comfort.

Abigail (four-years-old) is the sweetheart of the family.  She loves to be snuggled, gets sleepy more often, and likes to make people happy.  She will share with her siblings and gets so happy when she gets to skip nap time to play with Lydia. When they play, Abby is the princess/bride/ballerina and Lydia is the one helping her get ready and presenting her to the family.  Abby smiles shyly and lets Lydia be the spokesperson, but she loves to dress up. Abby is learning her letters this year and is working on memorizing her third Bible verse.  Abby is slower to learn new things than Lydia, but when she learns them, she quickly becomes more independent.  She has been known to clean the whole living room so she could have room to play, or find a blanket and snuggle up in the glider for hours when she isn’t feeling well.  Abby is often humming and singing, especially the two Bible verses she already knows and affectionately calls, “my verse”.  She has a fiery temper which she is slowly learning to control, but she also has a fiery love for life and fun and her smiles are always making everyone around her so happy.  She is also the little fish in the family and loves all things water.  Do not expect Abby to walk near a puddle without marching right over and stomping in it at least once.

Lydia turned six this year and started first grade.  She learns incredibly quickly, which is good, as the school day is often interrupted by diaper changes and nap times.  She is learning to pay attention to God’s voice and obey.  Lydia’s appetite for playing (especially with her Daddy) is insatiable.  She loves being read to and doing fun activities.  Lydia is always asking, “Can today be a fun day?”.  Some days the family goes out (without me) and visits a museum or walks downtown somewhere, eats out, and calls it a fun day, though I can’t imagine any family truly having that good of a time without their Christmas Moose.  Lydia thinks every day should be a fun day.  Every meal should be special.  And there should always be dessert.  After Elijah started trying to choke on everything, her school prizes were removed from the house (choke-ables, the family calls them) and she is now rewarded by earning enough “points” for her work to watch an episode of Mister Rogers with her siblings.   I can’t say I mind.  The kiddos gather together and Elijah crawls laps around them while they all sit mesmerized for half an hour listening to the show, then they spend the next week acting it out over and over again.  It’s pretty cute.  Lydia never outgrew the “why-stage” and can ask a million questions without taking a breath.  She is strong-willed and independent, but still loves to feel close to her parents and even her siblings, and can’t stand going to bed without being on good terms with everyone (and saying goodnight and giving hugs and kisses all around…twice).

The year has been full of ups and downs for Justine.  January started off with a newborn.  February found the family falling into a nice groove, but then March turned everything upside down.  It was a rough end-of-winter with not enough sunshine, sleep, or health in the home.  Springtime brought sunshine and led off an epic summer full of happy family memories.  Fall was a process of getting back into routines and fighting for more sleep. Why these babies don’t sleep is a mystery to me.  Moose calves just don’t have that problem, I guess. Justine has been embracing simplicity this year, and especially this winter, reevaluating her to-do list and canceling item and item that aren’t actually necessary.  She’s setting aside computer or phone time to engage the kiddos and tackle the few items she has left to-do this year.  I must say, it’s a heart-warming sight to see her sitting in her favorite chair each morning with the Christmas lights on and a mug of hot tea or coffee.  Her Bible is kept on my mantle lately (where the Little People can’t hurt it) and each day after reading, her thoughts, burdens, to-dos, and worries are laid out before the Lord then left for Him take care of.  The highlights of her year (beside becoming a tri-athlete) have been prioritizing her family and letting a lot of other things go, growing in closeness and unity with Dan, and seeing God work in the hearts of her children in some big and little ways.

This fall Dan celebrated his first anniversary working on the autonomous car for GM.  After months of the family praying that he wouldn’t have to drive so far to work, with no obvious answer in sight, his boss suddenly gave him an immense increase in freedom to work closer to home in addition to one day at home each week.  Unlike any moose dads I’ve known, Dan is an incredibly involved father.  He tucks the kids in each night, chats with them about their day, answers their questions and prays for them.  He leads family Bible-time each night, reading the Bible and asking or answering related questions.  He asks the kids about their days, takes them outside to sled and build snowmen, and stays up-to-date on what their learning in school.  He has been realizing more and more how important it is to invest in the family and let other things go, especially as he observes and hears from older dads in his office who haven’t done so and regret it now.  Dan plans the best fun days, treats his children with love and attention, and showers Justine with love in all five languages.

It’s been a delightful season in this warm home, and along with the Taylor family, I wish you a beautiful Christmas celebration in the coming days and the happiest of New Years.

With Love,

Mister C. Moose