Warmin’ Up for Ladder Golf

Dan’s grandparents have a dog named Lady. Lady is pretty cute, pretty well behaved, and pretty friendly. But she hates it when birds get into the pine tree outside. She hates it so much that she jumps and bites branches off of the bottom of the pine tree. Then she barks and runs in circles with her eyes fixed on whatever bird has invader “her” tree.

The Saturday morning of the Dexter Family Reunion was rainy. Lydia didn’t mind because when we got to Gramma and Grampa’s house she got to play in the puddles in their driveway. We took Abby inside and watched as Lydia splashed in puddles and Lady barked at the birds. Grampa got in some good time holding Abby, and everyone enjoyed an extravagant potluck lunch.

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Once all of that was over it was time for some serious competition. Lawn games were set up and everyone found a partner. Grampa kept score because Dexters are very competitive and there were prizes to be had. Uncle Gene and Gramma fought over who got to hold Abby.

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I especially like this picture because it captures the heat of the moment: ladder golf newbies, a devestating miss on the cornhole game, and Dan warming up on the stationary bike.

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At the end of the day Grampa rang the bell on his “train” (pulled behind a four wheeler and definitely not up to any safety codes) and the kids scrambled to get on. It was an intense ride but after the fact Lydia claimed to have enjoyed it, and no one was hurt (although we did blow a tire). Everyone was exhausted by the time we piled back into the car and it was a relatively quiet ride home.

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This is a Fun Time!

We’re back from our up-North Traverse City vacation, and, while it was far from relaxing, we certainly enjoyed our time. We drove up late Wednesday night and took off again late Thursday morning to spend our first day in downtown Traverse.

After searching hopelessly for a (free) parking space, we settled in at the library and enjoyed a packed lunch on the Boardman River. Abby watched us eat for a while, then got down to roll around in the grass.

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Then we loaded the girls into their strollers and began the long trek down town.

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Dan and I had forgotten about the relatively new water playground put in along our walk. When we got there we schemed together for a while before asking Lydia, “Would you like to play?” She was hesitant at first, but once she got a little wet she started running around squealing and laughing and having a great time.

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What happened next was rather epic. Lydia stood under the “waterfall” with water pouring down all around her. She held out her arms and yelled to no one in particular, “THIS IS A FUN TIME!”.

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By now she was dripping and shivering, so we brought an end to the water playground fun and continued our walk out to the pier to enjoy the beautiful blue water and to watch some boats.

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Then we walked a little more and came to a small stretch of beach. All of us, including Abby, felt the sand between out toes. Only Lydia ventured into the water, but we had to hold her back so she could continue to dry off. Silly parents that we were, we didn’t think to bring her a swimsuit, towel, or change of clothes.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through stores downtown, then headed back to Dan’s parents’ house for some dinner and some much needed rest.

Friday we packed into the car once more and drove all the way out to the peninsula after a somewhat spontaneous decision to pick cherries. (Some of you remember our cherry-picking adventure last year. This was far less adventurous but equally fun).

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We spent a little more time downtown and visited some of my family with an adorable new baby. Then we met up with my family for dinner on the beach. This time I brought extra clothes for Lydia and assured her I would come in the water with her and swim as deep as she wanted to go. The water was cold, so no one joined us, and afterward both girls had to be bundled up to fight the shivers.

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We spent the rest of the evening at my parents’ house chatting, while Lydia and Nana colored and played. We stayed out far too late, but everyone enjoyed their time and even slept through the night that night. 🙂

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Saturday was our Dexter family reunion, but that deserves its own post.

We’re Off Again!

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Yesterday we packed up some clothes, some food, and our girls and made the four-hour drive up North. This time we brought Dan with us too. For the next few days we’re planning on being “Traverse City tourists”. We’ll go to the beach, walk downtown, and spend some quality time with our families. Even as I write this, Lydia is having a blast with Grandma mixing colored sand and playing outside. Saturday is a big family reunion, so check back with us next week for lots of pictures of our trip. Happy weekend everybody, see you when we come back down!

Abby Update: 10 1/2 Months Old

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I know this update is late. It’s been busy around here and mostly I just haven’t gotten a chance to take pictures of our adorable Abigail. And I know you all really read these updates mostly for the pictures. 🙂

Last month I told you all that Abby was very smiley. Now I want to make it known that Abby is the happiest baby on the planet. It certainly wasn’t our doing or I would give everyone our method, because I think everyone should share the pleasure of having such a happy baby. Abby smiles almost all the time. The only times she isn’t really smiling are:

1. When she is asleep.

2. When she wakes up hungry. Or anytime she is hungry.

3. When she is being denied food at the dinner table, or if anyone takes something away while she is playing with it.

It’s true, Abby has a bit of a temper. She doesn’t really like to stay on her back during diaper changes and she will yell at you if you take away her toys. But it’s not hard to get a smile out of her even after snatching away a toy, shoe, or whatever other odd item she picks up during her wanderings.

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Abby is becoming more and more mobile. She’s still not quite sitting up, but she can rotate and roll to get anywhere she wants. Despite her active wandering, Abby has kept her chubby cheeks. She’s not as heavy as those cheeks make her look, but it makes us so happy to see her plump and healthy after such a rough start.

Abby and Lydia are best friends. One day I asked Lydia, “Who is your best friend?”, thinking she would mention one of the friends she had just seen that morning at church. She answered me very matter-of-factly: “Abigail”, and went on playing.

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When I go running, the girls hold hands. When I change Abby’s diaper, Lydia lies down next to her and makes her laugh. When Abby is hungry and crying because I can’t get to her right away, Lydia talks to Abby while she waits and Abby loves it. It’s enough to melt your heart.

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I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s not obvious in the pictures, but Abby has red hair. She doesn’t have a lot, and we’re not sure if it’ll stay or change, but right now we love her red locks. She still has brilliantly clear blue eyes, making her the smiliest, chubbiest, blue-eyed redhead in this household.

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Halfway Blessings, Halfway Thanks

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This is Part 2 of a two-part post. If you haven’t already, you may want to read Post 1 before reading on…

If you remember, we left off here:

My run involved ten minutes of semi-dodging wheelies, one sweaty hand holding my cell-phone timer, one hand scrolling through all 34 chapters of Deuteronomy before I could get to the next real song (which was a slow one anyway), and one jogging stroller running into the grass while I tried to push it with my forearms…

This was the routine that continued for a couple of weeks. One afternoon, after a 25-minute run, I was making my way back along the busy road to our home. Every ten feet or so I would have to pull off to the side of the road while a car or two came speeding by in the lane closest to me. Lydia was eagerly asking to get out of the stroller to “run with you!”, which can’t happen until we are off the busy road and closer to the house. I was hot and tired and wishing for a longer stretch between cars so I didn’t have to keep exerting all my energy to roll the girls into the grass and wait for more traffic to pass. I wanted to get home, get clean, and get some water.

Then I saw in the distance a red truck pulling a noisy trailer. I continued walking along the side of the road with my eyes glued to the truck, waiting until the last minute to pull off into the grass again. Just as the truck closed in on that particular distance when I have to turn off my path, the driver changed lanes. He turned his big truck and trailer into the left-most lane and zoomed by at a safe distance so that I wouldn’t have to pull off into the grass.

He made my day. I was so happy I didn’t have to do any wheelies or take any breaks. I just kept walking on that skinny bike lane on the side of the road. And, as I rejoiced in that little blessing I was struck by my attitude change. I was still making an inconvenient trek from the trail where I could safely run, but I was rejoicing in a blessing instead of sulking over the inconvenience.

There were so many factors about my runs that I was considering “halfway blessings”.

The stroller that allowed me to go running…but didn’t maneuver well.

The cell phone that kept time…but was hard to see and couldn’t strap to my wrist.

The charged mp3 player that gave me good running music…but a whole lot of other content too.

The running trail that allowed me to run without stopping for cars…but the distance I had to walk to get to it.

The sidewalk that made my trek a little easier…but was only five houses long.

OR

The red truck with a trailer that came zooming by…but changed lanes so I wouldn’t have to stop.

It is so easy to focus on the half of my circumstances that aren’t what I want them to be. But how much happier it is to focus on the “blessing half”. Isn’t that true all throughout life? The grass is greener on the other side, where the stroller wheels swivel and the sidewalks don’t end. But watching that “greener” grass grow does nothing but leave me grumpy and unthankful.

Thankfulness. It’s been a theme lately, and I feel like I’m just learning the same lessons over and over again in different ways. But even as I write this I think…

I’m learning to be thankful…but I’m just going to have to learn again.

I’m so glad God doesn’t give up on me.

Halfway Blessings…

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I don’t enjoy running.

When I was in seventh grade I joined the cross-country team. I dreaded every practice. The thought that kept me going during each race was “Before I know it…I’ll be done…”, and then I would picture my water bottle and my couch. I finished the season. I stayed on the team. And I ran every race without stopping to walk. At the end of the season I was devastated when I lost my team picture and later my team t-shirt was also lost in the laundry. There was no evidence that I had ever survived the whole season or that I had even joined the team.

After seventh grade I quit running until my college days. There was gym just across the street from my apartment that I could get into for free with my college ID card. For a few weeks I walked to the gym every weekday and ran around the track. Then I came down with a cold and decided to rest rather than run. My resting continued right up through college graduation. That was my second attempt at running.

When I was pregnant with Lydia, another Mama gave me a brilliant idea. She had trained couch-to-5K after her fourth baby was born, her fourth c-section at that. What a great way, I thought to get back in shape after nine months of pregnancy. I took that idea and decided to follow the same plan after Lydia was born, and then again after Abby.

I succeeded in my Lydia-5K, but then Abby came along. Training for a 5K with two littles is a lot harder than training for a 5K with one baby and a daddy who is in school and home often enough to babysit. After a couple of false starts at my 5K training this year, Dan and I both decided my running wouldn’t be able to continue until we invested in a double jogging stroller.

So began my search. Every day I would get on Craigslist and check for a stroller that was in usable condition but within our price range. Finally, after a handful of disappointing emails and texts (Please, take your item off of Craigslist when it sells!), we paid $25 more than we wanted for a blue baby trend double jogger and I got to start my training again.

Day 1
I realized that we don’t even own a stop watch so my only timing device was my cell phone. Not ideal, but I could carry it while I ran and check the time whenever I ran underneath some shade. (The screen is too hard to see in the sunlight). I buckled up the girls and we took off for a short walk/run to test out the stroller and get my training back under way.

My long-awaited jogger has a fixed front wheel, so I have to do a wheely every time I want to turn. Since the stroller was lightweight, I didn’t think it would be a problem. Right? Wrong. Our neighborhood is all curves. The neighborhood across the street is all curves. And the neighborhood next to ours is all curves. By the end of my short run, my arms were aching. To make things worse, all the neighborhoods around are tiny one or two street neighborhoods, fine for a 5-minute run, but not practical for anything longer.

Day 2
I decided to find a route other than the neighborhood across the street. I ventured out onto the road, but that road is busy. Very busy. Semi-truck busy. And there is no sidewalk. I started the run in the “bike lane” but the first car that zoomed by at 50 miles an hour was far too close for comfort. I ended up jogging with my eyes and ears parked for the next batch of cars. Whenever some cars came I stopped my jogging, did my wheely to get off the road, and waited in the grass for the next break in traffic. All those wheelies were giving my arms a workout, but the stop-and-go running wasn’t what I had envisioned.

The good news: there was a sidewalk for the stretch of about 5 houses. Five houses of non-stop jogging.

Day 3
This time I didn’t even bother to jog for the first 15 minutes. I repeated the previous route along the busy road with the tiny patch of sidewalk until I made it to a bike trail. Then I was able to complete my run in all its glory with no semi-trucks, to stopping, and fewer wheelies.

By now my runs were up to more than ten minutes and it was definitely time to bring along some music. I was happy to find my mp3 player but disappointed to realize the USB cord was packed away in some hopeless location and the player was dead.

I was back to running without music. And you know I don’t like running.

One day I had the idea to try Dan’s phone charger on my mp3 player, and it worked. My next run was so much happier, but with one down-side: the music last loaded onto the mp3 player also included the entire King James Version of the Bible, all 1,189 chapters of the KJV Bible. Great for listening, but not while running.

Now my run involved ten minutes of semi-dodging wheelies, one sweaty hand holding my cell-phone timer, one hand scrolling through all 34 chapters of Deuteronomy before I could get to the next real song (which was a slow one anyway), and one jogging stroller running into the grass while I tried to push it with my forearms…

TO BE CONTINUED.

I promise I am going somewhere with this. It’s a lesson, and a good one. But baby nap times only last so long, I have a counter full of dishes to wash and two loads of laundry to fold so you are all going to have to bear with me and wait patiently for the next post which will contain the rest of the story…

Snuffly Quotes

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Last night, after Lydia was all tucked into bed, I heard her crying, “I don’t want to be snuffly. I don’t want to be snuffly!”. This morning she assured me that she was no longer “snuffly” because she was only snuffly when she was sleeping.

In case you don’t speak “Lydia”, allow me to translate. We’re sick. Snuffly-gooby-runny-nose-sick. So, rather than write an Abby update today, I’ll postpone that for when she’s looking a little less…snuffly. But in the meantime, I’ll share some encouraging and though-provoking quotes that I’ve read lately on the topic of difficult circumstances.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
Helen Keller

“If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”
Charles Spurgeon

“God’s ways of answering His people’s prayers is not by removing the pressure, but by increasing their strength to bear it.”
DL Moody

“O Lord, by all thy dealings with us, whether of joy or pain, of light or darkness, let us be brought to thee. Let us value no treatment of thy grace simply because it makes us happy or because it makes us sad, because it gives us or denies us what we want; but may all that thou sendest us bring us to thee, that, knowing thy perfectness, we may be sure in every disappointment that thou art still loving us, and in every darkness that thou are still enlightening us, and in every enforced idleness that thou art still using us; yea, in every death that thou art still giving us life, as in his death thou didst give life to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Phillip Brooks

Playgrounds and Fountains

Last week, as the Fourth of July approached, we had no plans at all for how we would spend the holiday. When we woke up on Friday, we still had no plans (to my knowledge). So, after Lydia got up, Dan read to her and Abby and then told me his idea for how we would spend the day. As it turned out, the day ended up being full and fun, a perfect holiday and a wonderful start to Dan’s three day weekend.

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After breakfast we packed up the diaper bag and headed out. First stop was just a drive-by of a house we though we might want to take a look at. It turned out to be no good, so we were glad not to waste our time scheduling a real viewing. We stopped at a nearby park where Lydia burned off some energy and practiced hanging from the rings. Abby chilled in the grass and looked super cute while she was at it.

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When we started to get hungry we loaded back into the car and drove by another house and decided not to schedule a viewing for that one either (it was right on the highway and the traffic was just way too loud). Then we pit-stopped for lunch outside. We happened to be right next to a Meijer, and, as watermelons were on sale this week, decided to add watermelon to our dinner menu for later that night. Dan picked out the best melon in the store and Lydia had an exciting ride on Sandy.

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I think it was about this time when Dan changed our plans a little and we spontaneously decided to visit downtown Plymouth. We spent some time there last Labor Day, before Abby was born, and had a good time so we decided to repeat the adventure.

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Something you may or may not know about me is that I’m pretty good at taking selfies of Dan and myself…except when you can see the reflection in the window behind us. 🙂

One of the places you must visit if you’re ever in Plymouth is the fountain. So we did. Lydia loved it and probably couldn’t remember that she had visited the same fountain less than a year ago.

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Maybe we’ll go back every year and take a picture of the kiddos at the fountain.

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After the fountain, we made our way over to a quiet grassy area of downtown Plymouth set aside to celebrate our freedom and remember those who have sacrificed for it. We reviewed our nation’s wars, danced in the grass, made some friends, and showed Lydia the cannon. Abby just smiled and watched with those clear blue eyes of hers.

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The last time we were here I lost and found my camera. This visit someone stole my purse.

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I got it back though.

We wrapped up our outing by another visit to an old favorite playground. Even though we went to this playground almost every day last summer, Lydia didn’t remember it at all. It’s where we took the much beloved “tunnel picture” of Lydia.

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It was almost dinner time and I had to go for a run (to keep up with my 5K training), so we called it a day and headed home. After a successful 20 minute run we had another picnic outside followed up, of course, with Meijer’s best watermelon. It was a full, fun, and wonderful day. As the sun set, Dan and I picked out old patriotic favorites to play on the computer for Lydia, then we really called it a day. No fireworks for this family! Maybe next year.

A Lesson from Almond Butter

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A couple of weeks ago Dan and I started buying almond butter. Our peanut butter consumption is at an all-time high, and almond butter is healthier than peanut butter, so we finally made the switch despite the price difference. Now we alternate between almond butter and peanut butter.

Lydia loves it. She calls it just “butter” and asks for it every day when we’re eating breakfast. Yesterday morning we were having some oatmeal when she asked me for “butter in a circle”, which means she wants me to draw a circle on her oatmeal with the almond butter. Circle drawing is easy with things like honey or ketchup, but not almond butter. So, she got an almond butter “glob” instead.

She strategically spooned the glob into her mouth without getting any oatmeal in the process and asked for another “glob”. I told her no.

She had a minor breakdown before I explained she could have more almond butter after she ate some oatmeal. Almond butter is, after all, much more expensive than oatmeal and we’re not going to eat straight almond butter for breakfast. Lydia shoved one spoonful of oatmeal into her mouth, threw her spoon into her bowl, and demanded more “butter”.

Again I told her that she had to eat more oatmeal, and the scene repeated itself. She was, as I had instructed, eating more oatmeal, but this wasn’t at all the attitude I was hoping for, so I started to explain,

“Mommy will tell you when you can have more. I just want you to eat your oatmeal until Mommy decides you should have some more almond butter.”

But even as I was talking, God was taking my words, turning them around, and directing them back at myself. (again)

How many times have I been waiting for something that I really want? And I pray to God and ask Him for it.

And God tells me, “Not yet.”

So one day goes by and I ask again.

“Not yet. Just wait.”

And another day, another breakdown. “God, I can’t wait any longer, I need it now.”

“Not yet. I’ll give it to you when you should have it.”

And the scene repeats itself.

Then this moment happened and God said, “I will tell you when you can have more almond butter what you’re waiting for. I just want you to eat your oatmeal wait until I decide you should have it.”

How many times have I waited impatiently like Lydia and even demanded what I want? A baby. An apartment. A job for Dan. A baby to come home from the NICU. Or sleep through the night…the list could go on.

God opened my eyes this morning to see in a new way that I need to always, no matter what the issue, wait until He decides the timing is right. It was such an easy lesson to recognize, but, oh, so hard to do.

One thing I do know. Most of the reason I denied Lydia almond butter was because of its price and our budget. God is not denying me anything because of its price or His lack of funds. His timing is for the best.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:25-26

Pretty Quilts and Measuring Spoons

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This Saturday a couple of young ladies from church hosted a bridal shower for our friend, Rachel. Rachel and Peter are a sweet couple from our church who have known each other for years and will be getting married this August. It has been such a joy and a privilege to watch them grow from friends, begin a courtship, become engaged, and now anticipate their wedding. We are so excited for them!

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Dan totally saw it coming all along.

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After some snacks, a group of girls from church sang, “May the Mind of Christ My Savior.” They did a great job singing a beautiful hymn.

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Our Pastor’s wife, Rachel’s future mother-in-law, gave a little talk. A big part of the talk was expressing our church’s excitement for the couple and telling Rachel how much we love her.

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Then it was time for presents!

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There were lots of kitchen items. Here, Rachel was telling everyone that she had just opened some measuring spoons.

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Rachel is very sweet and thanked everyone for their gifts. This is her “thank you face”.

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Her grandma framed a picture of a mountain in Alaska. Peter and Rachel plan on traveling through Alaska for their honey moon, and may even go hiking on the mountain pictured.

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One of the last gifts Rachel opened was a very special quilt made by a family friend.

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And, believe it or not, the next gift was another quilt made by another one of Rachel’s good friends.

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Congratulations Rachel! We are looking forward to your wedding in less than two months!