Abby’s Fourth Birthday

This month, Abby turned four.

So let me tell you all who our Abby-girl is.  She is the most enthusiastic, life-loving little girl I’ve ever known.  I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again and again for the rest of our lives, but Abby is an extremist. When she’s happy, she beams.  When she’s disappointed, the world IS ending.  Her meltdowns are epic.  Her naps are deep.  And when she wants to be loud, she’ll hurt your ear drums.

Abby had to get some shots recently.  Imagine a small room in a doctor’s office.  Abby is curled up on my lap with tears in her eyes.  Lydia is sitting next to us, covering her ears and singing (loudly) a made-up song about how everything is going to be ok.  The nurse is quietly singing Abby a little song about what she’s doing.  It’s not actually time for the shot yet, but Abby is curled up tightly on my lap, clutching her favorite stuffed pig in one hand, and screaming at the top of her lungs.  She continues to scream, even when I tell her it’s not time yet, until the “pokes” are done.  But, the moment Abby was done, she had a sweet little smile once again, tears in her eyes, and was proudly clutching her new stickers as if she had just won a medal.

Abby appreciates food.  One morning she greeted me by asking, “Where’s Daddy?  What’s for dessert?”  Her favorite foods are hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and ice cream.  In fact, we let her pick out one meal for her birthday and she waffled between these choices for about a week.  But all hope is not lost for her future dietary choices.  When Abby doesn’t like the meal I make, she’ll happily ask for three bowls of salad instead.

Abby receives compliments like a pro.  You know how some (many) people shrug off compliments because they’re humble or don’t know how to respond?  Not Abby.  If you tell her you like her dress or that she has pretty eyes, she’ll look up at you with sparkling eyes, a closed-mouth grin, and big cheeks in a way that will make you either compliment her more or try not to giggle.  She’s just that cute.  Dan and I took her to a toy store to let her look around and see what she might like for her birthday.  The conclusion: anything.  Just getting a gift makes Abby’s day and she’ll keep that gift with her all day, whether it’s a sticker, sunglasses, stuffed animal, face paint, tiara…you get the idea.  It was so cute on her birthday to watch her reactions when we sung her, “Happy birthday”, and it was even more adorable to hear her later in a different room singing to herself, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…”

Lydia and Abby are your typical young sisters.  They often don’t get along.  But within the past few months they’ve surprised me.  There are moments of every day when they can play happily together.  They get so caught up in their make-believe worlds and later come to tell me all the stories of what they’ve done.  Usually Lydia is the one in charge, deciding what they play and who’s who.  Abby is usually the princess, bride, or ballerina, and Lydia is the one doing Abby’s hair, picking out her clothes, and putting pretend makeup on her.  Abby also often “has a new baby” and Lydia is Abby’s doctor.

Abby gives the best hugs.  We call them Abby-hugs.  She squeezes tighter and tighter with impressive strength.  And, though her hugs are wonderful, she is less of a snuggler than her sister.  But she is more of a wrestler.  Dan likes to play-wrestle with the girls, but I usually sit out, so whenever a family comes over to our house, Abby wants to know if the dad will wrestle her.  If he’s not big on wrestling, she’ll go for tickling instead.

While Lydia learns things in big jumps, Abby is more of a slow-and-steady-type learner, but what stands out in her is her ability to love.  Since Dan and I tend to be pretty academic people, this has really made an impression on me.  I’ve seen that a person’s love can win you over.  In times when I’ve been overwhelmed and crying, Abby would approach me and ask, even when she didn’t have many words, “Mommy, why are you leaking?”  She’ll tell me now that she doesn’t like it when I’m sad or angry, and if I am she’ll ask, “When will you be happy again?”  She’ll stay by my side until I assure her that I’m doing well again and then she’ll run off to go play some more princess.

Taylor Christmas Letter 2016

Well, my Friends, I am back again for anther edition of the Taylor Family Christmas Letter. For those of you just tuning in, I am the much Beloved Christmas Moose, back again to update you on the Taylor Family Happenings from this memorable year. Ready? Here we go…

(The pictures you will see were all taken from the Taylors’ afternoon-long, pathetic attempt at a family picture. I say pathetic because they did not get one successful shot, and because they accidentally pointed the camera too low to include me. I was on top of the fireplace mantel. Ah well. Family pictures with four Little Ones are literally impossible.)

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Would you believe I woke up to meet another little Moose-calf in the Taylor household? They never even told me they were expecting! But out I come, out of my box in the closet to join the family in putting up Christmas decorations, and there was the most adorable little Baby just nestled up in Justine’s arms! If you’ve seen pictures, maybe caught a glimpse of the Little Guy snuggled up and sleeping…you have seen nothing. He is SO cute. Just wait until you see him with his little eyes open wide. Adorable.

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Along with writing a traditional Christmas letter, this year I have been delegated with the task of including an update of Elijah’s first month, because yesterday was indeed his first month birthday. Lij, as the family most frequently calls him (pronounced as the middle portion of E-Lij-ah) was born on November 20, bright and early. He flew through his tests and procedures and was happily discharged and sent home two days later, November 22, two days before Thanksgiving and four days before I came out of my box (Yes, they got me out a day late this year). However, Taylors like to break the medical odds and in true Taylor fashion, Lij tested positive for borderline congenital hypothyroidism. It sounds worse than it is. While hypothyroidism (low activity of the thyroid gland) can be very serious, Elijah has a very mild case and is already taking special medicine to keep everything right where it needs to be. As long as he takes his medicine, like the good baby he is, he shouldn’t have any symptoms.

Elijah weighed five pounds and eleven ounces when he was born, and at his latest appointment was up to six pounds, ten ounces. The first couple of weeks were slow going because he was just too sleepy to eat very much. Most parents want their babies to sleep more. Justine was trying earnestly to wake him up. Elijah even sleeps at night, much to Dan and Justine’s surprise and delight. Sure, he gets up every 1-3 hours, but three out of every four nights he’ll go right back to sleep after a diaper change or a snack. He is a content Little Boy and everybody in the home loves snuggling him.

And, I might be speaking too early, but as I was writing this update I saw the Little Guy roll over for the very first time. (Although he was sort of on his side to begin with.) Way to go Little Man!

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Well, as adorable as Elijah is, I just can’t spend my whole time writing about him. Next up is P-Man. That is: Bud, Buster, Buddy, Butch, Butchems, Butchcake, Stinker, Rascal. Paul. He’s a cutie too, and always up to something. This year Paul set a new record for the family by taking his first steps at 16 months old. He spoke his very first words during one of Dan’s softball games this spring, “Hi Daddy!”. Aww. Some of his other words are: baseball, Mama, Daddy, baby, Leeya (Lydia), Lijah, no, and sock. He loves wearing his shoes everywhere he goes, except in the car, where he loves to take them off. He still needs two naps a day, sucks his fingers when he gets sleepy, and enjoys being held by his Mommy. He loves to be outside in the warm weather and hates being outside when it’s cold. He will hold his little brother and give him kisses and sing him songs. He absolutely loves to wrestle anyone, but especially his Dad. Recently he found the drawer where Justine keeps her oven mitts, and now he likes to dig those out and put them on before finding Dan and punching his legs. He is all boy and super sweet all at the same time.

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Then there’s Abigail. Abby, Abster, Abs. She’s a little fireball and whatever she does she does ALL THE WAY. If she’s happy, she’s irresistibly sweet. If she’s angry, everyone from here to Detroit knows about it. She doesn’t let her big sister push her around. They are the very best of friends, even if they don’t realize it yet. Together they love to play house, wedding, and princesses. Lydia is always the bride or bridesmaid and Abby is the “Wedding Girl” (we don’t know what that is yet). She is three, but if you hold up your three middle fingers she will tell you that she is not that three. She is the pinky-ring finger-middle finger three. Abby always calls Paul by his nick-name “P-man”. She thinks Elijah is “so, so cute”. She likes to do school with Lydia, which involves coloring in a coloring book or tracing in her special tracing book which she calls her “cat book” because of the cat on the cover. She is learning that napkins are not called “Backins”, but she still calls toilet paper “paper toilet”. Abby is funny and sweet and learning and growing a lot this year.

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Lydia (Lyds, Lydnacious, Munchkin) started school this year and loves it. Her favorite parts are probably math and art, but everything else comes in a close second. Lydia is almost always pretending: pretending to be a mom, pretending to be a grown up with a sister that she is always visiting, pretending to be a princess, or pretending to get married (to Dan). She is incredibly creative with her outfits (regular or dress up) and becoming more and more aware of what she likes and doesn’t like. Today she was sharing her list of foods she doesn’t like (spicy peppers, onions, celery, mushrooms, and sort of baby carrots) and does (tomatoes, cucumbers, burgers, pizza, cheesy noodles, ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate brownies, and chocolate). If you ever are lonely, you could use a Lydia in your life. She loves to be together, loves to snuggle, and can always find something to talk about with lots of questions included. She has an insatiable desire to play with her Daddy; read stories; and, at Christmas time, make tea, turn off the lights, and snuggle in the living room by the Christmas tree. She is quick to love, quick to forgive, and learning how to be a Big Helper to her Mommy and a Loving Sister to all three of her siblings.

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Justine has her hands full this year, as strangers love to tell her. She likes to think that full hands and full days make for a full heart, and she has been basking in the joy of it all this Christmas. This summer felt like one big, long wait for Baby. Now that he is here, Justine is soaking up his Little Newbornness as much as she can (while still taking care of the rest of the pack). She also loves teaching Lydia. All year she has focused on being a Good Mom and being grateful. She finally found a satisfying healthified toffee bar recipe, an accomplishment that can only be trumped by successfully taking all four kids to Elijah’s doctor’s appointment last week. (They are a handful!) Other than homeschool and Baby, the highlight of Justine’s year has been spending more one-on-one time with Dan. She, like Lydia, loves to spend time together.

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Dan started a new job working as an Artificial Intelligence Computer Scientist on the Autonomous Vehicle for GM this year. So far he has been enjoying the challenging problems at work, despite a longer commute and even earlier mornings. He still loves to work out in his (unheated) garage gym, even on the coldest and windiest winter days. This spring he joined several young men from church on a Softball team, and this summer he spent many Sunday afternoons playing baseball and soccer. Dan has also tackled several home repair projects this year including roofing his garage and rebuilding his old shed. He can’t wait until Paul and Elijah can tag along on his projects, in his gym, and on the baseball field.

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As for me, it was a good year snuggled up in my box. I have never had the privilege of seeing a Taylor Baby so freshly born, and, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, he sure is cute. The others are too, and even more so this year as more of them can say my name and give me hugs. I just love when they suck on my antlers.

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Well Friends, so wraps up another year for the Taylor Family. They, and I, wish you a blessed Christmas season and a very happy new year.

Yours Truly,

Christmas Moose.

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Baby #4: First Trimester Pregnancy Update

In case you missed the Instagram announcement, Dan and I are excited to be expecting Baby #4 sometime this fall/winter. Our due date is December 19th, and our doctor has high hopes that we’ll make it to 37 weeks this time (a TERM baby!) which would put Baby’s birthday around the end of November (November 28th).

At our initial doctor visit, I was less than six weeks along but we could see a tiny little heart beat pulse on the ultrasound machine. I’ve never had an ultrasound that early before. It was hard to recognize our little girl/guy.

The first question everyone asks when they hear the news is: “Are you going to find out this time?” You may know already, we found out ahead of time that Abby and Lydia were girls, but we waited to be surprised with Paul. I loved being surprised and Dan didn’t mind the wait, so we’re waiting again this time. I guess you’ll all just have to wait with us. I have an inkling suspicion that it’s a girl, but, for the record, I’ve been wrong with every single baby so far. 😛

So far, this pregnancy has been the most difficult, with more nausea and food aversions than my other three. Then again, I’m also chasing around three Little Ones this time and I don’t get nearly as long of naps. I’ve been particularly disgusted by lentils, and for several weeks I couldn’t tolerate most foods. There haven’t been a ton of strong cravings, mostly little ones: ice in my water, nectarines, and simple sandwiches with tomato, mustard, and lettuce. I’ve felt well enough to handle breakfasts, but then I’ve been unable to eat much of anything come lunch time. After nap time I’ve felt the worst, and I usually haven’t felt better until after the kids are in bed. Then Dan teases me while I make whatever sort of dinner sounds good to me at the time. Lately, I’ve had a humongous craving for cottage cheese.

I had my second prenatal appointment at eight weeks and everything looked good. (That’s the ultrasound in the Instagram pic.) My third appointment was at twelve weeks, but Baby was measuring closer to thirteen. That was also my pre-op appointment for a minor surgery performed a week and a half later. It’s the same surgery I had with Paul, and the procedure that will hopefully help me carry this baby even longer. My next appointment isn’t until July 12th (17 weeks).

So, other than the difficulty eating, this pregnancy really is flying by. The kids keep me so busy and our summer is just so full of activities, that right now I’m distracted enough that I’m not counting the days. I’ve been trying to cook and freeze meals here and there, but it’s been nothing compared to last time because I’ve been struggling to cook much of anything anyway. Hopefully we won’t really need those freezer meals until after Baby is born!

First Month of Thankful

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It has already been more than a month since I started keeping track of a blessing-a-day, and what a month it has been! Little did I know when I started this project that I would wrap up my first month living in a new home and house-hunting. The past week has been very busy with last minute packing, moving, cleaning, rearranging, and unpacking, but I’ve managed to keep my resolution so far and I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I’ve been learning along the way.

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1. I am so very thankful for my husband and kiddos. Can you tell? The munchkins make it in to the majority of my pictures and even the ones that don’t include a munchkin usually represent a moment that did involve one or both of them. While two little ones make life busy and sometimes overwhelming, I certainly am grateful for my girls and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Not clean floors or grown-up conversation or free time or sleep or anything else! As for Dan, I’ve been resisting the urge to write down “Dan” or “time with Dan” or anything of the sort, saving those ones for special days. No repeats allowed, you know.

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2. I love weekends! I actually keep a journal and during my quiet time each day I try to write down at least three things I’m thankful for. One Friday I looked back and realized that “Friday!” was making the list over and over (exclamation mark and all). I love Fridays because once Dan comes home from work, he doesn’t leave me until Monday. (I do not love Mondays). Saturdays are my Dan day. Sundays are nice too, but with church we spend more time talking to others. My “Fridays” haven’t made it into a picture yet because it feels too easy. I’m trying to make myself be specific.

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3. The real lesson I’ve been learning is that it’s just not enough to be thankful for one thing a day. I can quite vividly recall fuming in frustration one afternoon. I was standing in my kitchen looking out at the messy living room, upset that the day had gone so terribly. There was not a grateful bone in my body as I stood there and this lesson hit me. It wasn’t working. Not that day anyway. And I realized that it’s not enough to make a little list of blessings, even if you do it every day. I want my life to be one of continual gratitude and joy, in each moment, in each difficulty, trusting God and rejoicing in the blessings He’s given me. I am learning to count my blessings and trust God’s long-term plan. It’s not quick or clean or easy, but I can see that God is making me a more grateful person. But I always come back to the place where I am so thankful that it’s not based on me at all but on what Jesus did for me. I’ll never be good enough. This project is just another way that God is showing me I’m not and never will be. Thank God I don’t have to be. He is.

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And so wraps up one month of twelve. One month closer to my 27th birthday. One month behind me filled with little happy moments. Eleven months to go.

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“We Got To Love One Another”

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During lunch the other day Lydia and I were discussing Easter.

We learned that Good Friday is when we remember “Jesus died” (imagine an adorable two-year-old voice saying that part). Easter is when we remember “Jesus alive!”. I went on to inform Lydia that on Sunday a lot of people will be saying “He is risen” and the proper response would be “He is risen indeed!”. Suddenly Lydia beamed a smile and said, “Plam bracks!”.

“Plam bracks!”…

“Plum bracks!”…

“Plan tree?”…

She was so excited but I didn’t know what she was talking about. We puzzled together for a few moments before I figured it out: “Palm branches!”.

“Yes, we got to wave palm branches on Sunday because it was Palm Sunday.”

I have always enjoyed the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. I set aside my current Bible reading to slowly read through the last week of Jesus’ life in Luke, starting with Palm Sunday. It’s a time to remember, reflect, and be thankful.

I have always enjoyed the Good Friday service. When I lived in Arkansas for two years I was disappointed to learn that the churches in the area didn’t do anything for Good Friday. Here in Michigan I enjoy Good Friday: the hymns, the communion, the story of the cross, and the quiet way everyone leaves knowing that the next time we see each other will be in joyful celebration.

This year I’m remembering and celebrating Good Friday and Easter with a new joy: the joy of teaching the wonderful story to Lydia. We picked up The Very First Easter from the library on Saturday and each day I read a couple of pages to Lydia. There’s a lot of writing for a two-year-old, so we’re spreading the book out to last until Easter Sunday. After our two-pages, we look at the rest of the pictures in the book and I tell her the story.

We’re learning a new memory verse this week too:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ lay down His life for us. And we ought to lay down out lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16

I tried to put it to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and it sort of evolved into it’s own song. The only problem is that Lydia sings, “And we got to lay down our lives…”

I don’t know how much she gets just yet. But she can remember that Good Friday is when “Jesus died”, she can remember waving the “plam tree” on Palm Sunday, and she can say with enthusiasm “Jesus alive!”. And she’s learning that “We got to love one another”. It does this Mommy’s heart good to teach my girl some truth and celebrate together.

Happy early Easter. He is risen indeed!

Already Worth It

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Before I was ever a Mom, I had a conversation with a mother of four. She was telling me about a friend of hers who had recently had her own baby and “would already do it again”. She was encouraging me because we had recently announced that we were expecting our first baby.

Now anyone who has a baby goes through some period of pain, especially those who choose to have an all-natural birth or who have to have a c-section (I can’t speak for those who take any other route as I’ve not experienced them myself, but I’m assuming they have their fair share of pain too). However, once the baby comes, the pain passes and the new mom enters a new state of euphoria at the joy of welcoming her new baby into the world.

For us, the “labor pains” last much longer, extended through weeks and months in the NICU before we finally get to bring our baby home. But, even with the labor pain, the painful time of separation, and all the difficulties that come along with a NICU baby, I just wanted to let everyone know it has already been worth it. Our long hospital stay is over (sometimes I still can’t believe it!) and it feels like an old dream or a distant memory.

Every long night spent apart from our baby, every frustrating day of weight loss, every minute spent apart from Lydia while we were in the hospital, the messy house, the infrequent sleep and meals, the stress of dealing with a hospital change and new nurses, doctors, and practices…

Having our sweet little blessing at home for the past 17 days has already made it all totally worth it.

Potty Training Update

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I had no idea that potty training was such a big deal! Thank you to all who have given advice, ideas, prayer, and encouragement since I recently mentioned our first attempt at potty training Lydia. Here’s the full report on how the week went.

Day 1

The method we decided to use involved letting Lydia go diaper-free all day for three days. Because of the current setup of our home, this required Lydia and I to stay in the bathroom all day, whenever she was awake. After breakfast we headed to the bathroom and brought the laptop with us. To pass the time we would listen to Adventures in Odyssey, watch my sisters latest vlog posts, and click through Swagbucks videos (Swagbucks is a topic for a whole different post, but if in the meantime you happen to decide you want to join, please feel free to put me down as a referral). The day wasn’t as long or difficult as I had been dreading, but it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped.

Lydia either doesn’t go to the bathroom very often or she was holding it in. She had about four accidents all day. Each time I would quickly put her on the potty and explain that we go in the potty. By the end she was saying “woops” if she had an accident and even said “Potty!” once right before she had another accident later.

For lunchtime, naptime, and once Dan got home, I put a diaper on Lydia and she promptly went in the diaper, like she had been saving it up all along.

Day 2

Tuesday morning was similar to Monday, but the time passed more slowly. Much to my dismay, Lydia had her first accident while I briefly stepped out of the bathroom to bring her some watermelon. Later, she had her first real success, but she had been asking to sit on the toilet for so long, I’m not sure she really realized when she actually had to “go”. Nevertheless, we celebrated with a short break outside and some raisins, which Lydia absolutely loves.
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Lydia stayed in the bathroom for lunch and ate while sitting on the toilet. She went in the toilet again, but she had been sitting there for a while and I’m not sure she was actually learning anything. She filled her diaper at naptime.  When Dan came home we decided to continue the training by just putting pants on Lydia without a diaper. She wet herself during dinner but obviously was unbothered because she had no reaction whatsoever and sat there until she was done eating and we cleaned her up.

Tuesday night was my breakdown. I didn’t see any progress, was questioning if I was doing it “right” or just confusing Lydia by putting the diapers on her occasionally. I was bored in the bathroom and not looking forward to another whole day of the same.

Day 3

Wednesday actually seemed like Lydia was making a little progress. She would say potty throughout the day, sometimes right before she went and sometimes when she didn’t appear to need to go at all. She was walking around like she had to go for long periods of time and I suspect she was just holding it in. This day she started crying when I put her on the potty and kept asking for me to put a diaper on her. We were both unhappy by the time Dan got home.

Wednesday night we had Bible study so it was on with the diaper for the rest of the night and Lydia seemed very pleased.

Where do we go from here?

While we’re not declaring our three-day attempt a complete failure, it also wasn’t all we had hoped. We suspect Lydia is (at least developmentally) too young to recognize very far ahead of time when she needs to go. However, we don’t want to confuse her by completely throwing in the towel. So lately I have been asking her throughout the day if she needs to go potty and then sometimes I put her on the potty regardless of her answer.

What do you think?

I have heard from a lot of moms already, but what do you think? I guess I’m not exactly looking for criticism on what we have already done (I’m sure there were lots of points where we did it “wrong” and could have done a lot better), but rather some ideas about what to do next. We’re really ok if Lydia doesn’t potty train for many more months, but don’t want to confuse her by just going back to diapers and forgetting the potty altogether.