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

Elijah’s First Birthday

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Elijah’s first birthday. Although I’ve shared plenty of pictures on here of our Sweet Boy, I wanted to spend this post sharing a little about who our Elijah is.

We call him Lij, Big, Elijah, and sometimes Sweet Boy. He has always been a mellow baby, and very content. When I was pregnant, he didn’t kick or move around very much compared to any of his siblings. He’s always happy to do his own thing: crawl around, eat anything he can find (more on that later), or play with anyone. I think he’s going to grow up to be a relatively quiet boy and eventually become the kind of person who, once he does open his mouth, has very wise words come out.

He’s also very strong. I’ll probably always remember turning around one morning, as I was preparing breakfast, to see one of our children (who shall remain nameless) standing on Elijah’s back. Just standing there like he was a step stool. I yelped, scolded, and got that kid off of Elijah as fast as I could, but Elijah just lay there mid army-crawl, looking up at me with an expression that said, “What’s the big deal?” He was fine, though the child on his back weighed more than twice as much as he did.

Elijah is happy to play with anyone who shows him interest. Abby will frequently entertain him while I’m in the kitchen. She’ll hug him, “tickle” him, and wrestle him, and he’s happy just to have the attention. Just about anyone we let pick him up will find a sweet, smily baby, who is, again, happy to interact no matter who you are. But when Elijah gets tired, he wants Mom. He’ll start crying if he sees me enter the room and he’ll army crawl quickly over to my feet. Just like his siblings, he’ll pop some fingers in his mouth (he prefers the pointer and middle finger of his left hand) grab on to my hair or his own, and become quiet and content once more.

But, Elijah LOVES his daddy. There’s a Frank Sinatra song called “I Only Have Eyes for You”, and, though I don’t actually know the whole song, that one line from the title pops into my head just about every time Lij spots Dan across a room. He’ll stare at him for so long until Dan finally comes over, gives him some attention and hold him. (Abby was the same way.) “Mom’s great when I’m tired, but there’s nobody like Dad!”

As far as food goes, Elijah has recently started to eat a lot. For months we couldn’t get him to eat solid food. Baby food of any flavor makes him gag. He won’t touch bananas. Avocado won’t stay down, and even if it could, we can’t get him to put it in his mouth anymore. The only toothless-friendly food Elijah likes are sweet potatoes, and he loves sweet potatoes. Of course, my one baby to skip the purees is also the slowest to get teeth. The day his molars come in will be a happy day, because Elijah will pretty much only eat what we’re eating. And he’ll only eat it if he gets to feed it to himself.

As we approached the one-year mark, Dan and I were DONE getting up at night, but Elijah wasn’t. We tried roughly a million approaches to get him to sleep better: night weaning, feeding right before bed, waking up to feed right before I went to bed, moving him out of our room, letting him cry, waking him up at preplanned times during the night to eat, and always, always, we just prayed that he’d stop getting us up. Finally, when the weather really got cold, we had to move him into Paul’s room because the room he was sleeping in didn’t have heat. Paul handled the transition surprisingly well (but he did keep asking for us to put Elijah in his crib with him, and could not understand why they had to sleep in separate beds. He also likes to give Elijah things to sleep with: blankets, stuffed animals, wooden tools, toy cars, books…). I gave up on “making” Elijah sleep through the night, and we all survived. Now we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel as he sleeps through the night more and more frequently (four out of the last six nights, not that I’m counting).

We feel truly blessed to have Elijah in our family. Every child is different. Every personality is unique. Elijah is our strong, quiet, content, friendly baby with only one major flaw. He. Eats. Everything. I know all babies do this. I know I have three others and I can’t watch him as closely as I did the others. But it’s not just that. This boy has a gift. He can find things even if we just picked everything up. He’ll sneak (yes, sneak!) things into his mouth and then hold very still whenever you look at him so you can’t tell he’s chewing (gumming?) it. Rocks, dirt, leaves, small toys, day-old food, pieces of carpet he tore out himself. This summer, the day before we went on a short beach-trip, Elijah got his hands on a small giraffe eraser. Lydia was the first to notice him coughing and ran to tell Mommy (Way to go Lids!). I quickly realized the problem was beyond me and sent her to get Dan, who was, thankfully, working from home that day. He came down and did everything you’re <em<supposed to do. But when Elijah started gasping for air and coughing up mucus and blood, we called 9-1-1.

After a long wait, the paramedics came, repeated everything Dan had already done, and reported to us that Elijah would need to take an ambulance to the hospital where he would probably need surgery. I pulled the mom card (what if he needs to eat?) to get to be the one to go with him, even though Dan wanted to go. Dan graciously stayed home with the rest of the kids and I made a scary trip to Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Lij had missed his nap and fell asleep in the ambulance, which was actually a very good thing, but made for a scary ride. As I was trying to pray, I remembered some words from earlier that week, that an Elder had prayed for Elijah during his baby dedication, “We do pray for his protection. We pray that the Evil One would not be permitted to harm him.” Those words encouraged me. If our elder has been led to pray that only a few days before, and if we had faithfully shared how God had answered our prayers in Elijah’s life, to tell that God really does hear and answer our prayers, surely God wouldn’t intend on taking him from us now.

I prayed that Elijah would cough up the toy he was choking on, and back at home, Lydia was frantically praying the same thing (and that we could still go on our beach trip) with Dan and the rest of the kids. Elijah did cough up the toy just two minutes before the ER team was planning to call in their back-up surgery team (because the first team was busy). After coughing it up, Lij started grabbing all of the medical equipment, trying to pop it into his mouth too, which gave the team a good laugh and caused no one to give me a hard time. Clearly this was a baby who never stops putting things in his mouth. (And yes, we did get to go on our beach trip.)

God has been kind to us in giving us Elijah, and in protecting that Little Stinker beyond what we can do ourselves. When Elijah was born, I had always thought of him as a special gift. Elijah means: the Lord is Yahweh. John, named after Dan’s Grampa, means: Yahweh is gracious. Grace. Gift. Elijah John, you are indeed a special gift to our family. We wouldn’t trade you for anything. There’s no on like you. You remind us, sometimes daily, that God does answer prayer in big and small ways. He has protected you already when we thought we might lose you twice. Happy first birthday, my Sweet Boy. And, please, please, give us a less eventful second year!

Elijah’s Name

Today our family has the privilege of celebrating Elijah’s first birthday! First birthdays are always exciting, but this one holds special significance to us because twice in his short life, we thought we might lose Eljiah. If you haven’t heard it yet, here is the story behind Elijah’s name, shared at his baby dedication a couple of months ago.

The Epic Summer of 2017

We’re into our third month of school, leaves are falling, and the air is definitely chilly, but I wanted to share some of the memories we created this summer. I’ve been meaning to write this for months, but with four Little Ones…well, you know.

At the beginning of every summer, our church ladies get together at Hidden Lake Gardens for a retreat. I’ve made it a family tradition to bring along one daughter each year for some one-on-one Mommy-daughter time. This year was Lydia’s turn and she was absolutely thrilled about going. The theme was “Transformation” with butterflies tied into everything from the activities to the decorations to the talks. There were caterpillars and butterflies adorning the tables at lunch and, at the end of the day, we released butterflies on the top of a hill. Lydia had a blast.



Our family made one more visit to the Toledo Zoo before our membership ran out and we let the kids ride one of the carousels. Growing up, my own parents often took “carousel pictures”, so here’s to carrying on that tradition.


The first week in July we spent up North, visiting family and enjoying the Cherry Festival and Traverse City beauty. We squeezed in lots of visits, two beach days, a day at the Cherry Festival, and cherry picking. We had planned on staying in a cabin near town, but the cabin was too musty, and, since Dan is particularly sensitive to mold, we made an emergency call to my parents and decided to haul our Little Crew over there. That turned out to be great because we got extra family time and we were even closer to everyone we wanted to visit and everything we wanted to do. It was fun, but exhaustingly fun.


One night, my parents took the three big kids and Dan and I got to go on a free VIP Cherry Festival date.


My sister and her family came too. 🙂

The girls looked so sweet all tuckered out from the fun.


One of my favorite moments from the trip was relaxing under a cherry tree after a morning of picking cherries. We had packed a lunch, and we just rested there eating our picnic and enjoying some time together.


Ever since last year’s family Christmas photo attempt, I’ve taken to a new philosophy: capturing life as it really is. Tears and all. (Some say you can’t have too much fun. You can. This is what it looks like.)


Papa entertained the kids for a few minutes while Dan and I unloaded the car.

A couple more visits…


Our kids love the children’s parade because…candy. For once-a-year tourists, they’re getting pretty good at snagging the candy. Even Paul caught on this year.




Toward the end of our trip we realized that the kids really only wanted to go to the beach. We tried to squeeze in a little more time there on our last day.





And then it was time to head home. The next day was our Church Picnic followed by a busy week of Camp Tikva (our version of Vacation Bible School).





Every year the kids learn a large Bible Memory passage set to music. Those who learn it and can recite it for their counselors get a prize. Lydia was so excited to get her prize on the very last day.

Once we recovered from the craziness of having a week of vacation followed by Camp Tikva, I gave Dan his first-ever day off. We sent him out of the house to have a day alone to read and pray and bike and think. The kids and I had a tea party lunch and played games.



Lydia lost her first tooth. And then her second.

And I raced in a triathlon. This was actually what made this summer so epic for me. Every other summer since Dan and I got married has had its share of difficulty (pregnancy, NICU stays, temporary living situations, working crazy hours, etc.) so this summer felt epic to me. With Dan’s help and support (and weekly babysitting help from Dan’s mom), I trained four days a week to be able to complete a sprint triathlon (1/4 mile swim, 14 mile bike ride, 2 mile trail run). I could write a whole post on this, but I just don’t have time. In short, it was SO FUN but also so hard. I definitely would like to do another one someday, but I think Dan’s going to have to do one first. I was by no means near the front of the pack, but I didn’t come in last place either, so that was good enough for me. The goal was to get back in shape and have fun and both of those goals were accomplished.





After the race we spent a day at our church camping trip. Then we stopped for ice cream on the way home. Best ice cream stop of the summer.

Since our kids so desperately wanted more beach time in Traverse City, and since I feel like they’re deprived not living ten minutes from the beach (like I did), we planned a sort of last-minute beach trip to the West Side of the state.

We found a family-friendly bed-and-breakfast and had a wonderful stay. Getting to eat breakfast, play in the pool, then go to the beach definitely brought smiles (and good sleep) to all of our kids.










Shortly after our beach trip, we embarked on a long-awaited vacation in Pittsburgh. What’s in Pittsburgh? That’s what everyone would ask us, and we honestly didn’t know. We knew we wanted to visit a big city, just our family, and our first pick was Boston. We decided Boston was too far away to drive with these kiddos, so we looked at a map and picked something within driving distance.

On our way down (and back) we stopped at Brandywine Falls in Ohio. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the falls, perfect for the short break we needed.

We fell in love with Pittsburgh. The amazing city views, welcoming old neighborhoods, incredibly hilly winding roads, three rivers, a million bridges, and tons of fun things to do. We visited a science museum, children’s museum, parks, play grounds, unique restaurants, and a natural history museum. We stayed at an old apartment building that had been renovated and converted into hotel suites. One of my favorite parts of this trip was waking up in the morning, eating a casual breakfast together, taking our time getting ready for the day, and talking about the fun we had planned.






We also took the kids to a Pirate’s game, starting with batting practice. The evening turned out to be WAY too much fun for our family to handle, but batting practice sure was fun. Each of the kids got a baseball while the Cubs were practicing.





We took an inclined railroad up Mount Washington and ate at an Italian restaurant with a beautiful view. And we took a few now-classic “take it like it is” family pictures.



And then there were more museums…




Our last day there we made it to the River Walk, something I had on my list of things to do. When we got to the “water steps” we had to hustle to keep the kids from jumping right in (which would have been a lot of fun if the weather had been warmer!)



And so wrapped up our epic summer. We gradually have made our transition into fall and are currently enjoying the school year, colorful leaves, and lots of apples and pumpkins.

🙂




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.

This Crazy Kiddo

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Lydia turned six at the end of May. She had been counting down to her birthday for over three months. Several days each week she would update us on what she wanted to do for her birthday, who she wanted to have over, and what presents she wanted to receive. When the birthday weekend finally arrived, we had a lot of birthday and start-of-summer fun. We took her to a toy store to pick out a toy to buy with her birthday money, got ice cream and pizza, and spent much of her actual birthday at the playground. She constantly reminded us to sing and say “Happy Birthday” and begged me to make her a “birthday balloon” (a balloon with a smiley face drawn on it). She got pink roses from Dan and went on her second-ever Daddy-daughter-birthday date.

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Lydia has also been asking regularly if it’s warm enough to play in the sprinkler or go to a pool. Since the first day of spring, it’s been hard to keep socks or shoes on her feet, not to mention a coat. She loves playing “house” outside and is so proud that this year she’s big enough to climb into our tree house all by herself.

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Lydia loves to play pretend, dance, and snuggle. She is always dressing up as a bride or asking to “play princess” with Dan, which is not exactly his favorite game. 😉 She loves any hands-on activities and anything “special”. Bridal showers, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and get-togethers are sure to put her on her best behavior because she’s just so happy. When she learns it’s a significant day, for any reason, she’ll wonder why we aren’t celebrating more. For example, she asked why we weren’t having a fancy breakfast or a special dessert for groundhog’s day.

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Kindergarten was a breeze for Lydia. Thankfully (for me) she picks up on things really fast. Really, the best way to teach Lydia is to not teach her but let her watch others do the task. When she gets it in her head that she wants to try, she usually can succeed. This has worked well with laundry, cleaning up after meals, serving food, and even math lessons. I can get her to learn a lot more by doing a lesson half myself and letting her do the other half, than if I explain a concept to her and ask her to do the assignment alone.

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Gift-giving might be Lydia’s top love language. She loves to make “gifts” for people – homemade construction paper cards, simple cross-stitch pictures, cut out pieces of paper, and bouquets of flowers (dandelions or violets, usually) picked from our yard. She also loves receiving gifts. When she was struggling to do her reading lessons with a cheerful attitude, we discovered small prizes work wonders to get her motivated. And now that our library has started their summer reading program, Lydia has been reading at least a book a day to win her prizes, when it was always a struggle to do a page or two in her reading lesson book.

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She’s always been our most verbal child, so it’s no surprise that Lydia is almost always talking. If we had the patience and knowledge to answer all of her questions, she would be a genius. On ANY topic, Lydia can rattle off 5 questions without taking a break. Usually her trains of questions come to an halt whenever Mom or Dad have to ask for a break so we can focus on something or give attention to someone else. Lydia also has a very good memory. She has memorized over 100 Bible verses (with desserts as the most effective incentive). The other day we were listening to our daily news radio program during breakfast and one of their regular promo segments started playing. She recited the 30 second promo pretty well right on top of the program.

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This year is Lydia’s turn to accompany me to our church Ladies’ Retreat for a Mommy-Daugther date and she’s pretty thrilled. She’s been looking forward to her turn ever since I took Abby last year. Her memory is pretty incredible in that way too. For example, about nine months ago we took Lydia to a dentist appointment. They told her that she would earn a stuffed animal prize if she could stop sucking her thumb for 30 days. She stopped that very day. Last month I took her again and she got her prize. The next day I found her sucking her thumb after eight months without it! Dan and I had to explain that the point was to stop altogether, not just stop for eight months to earn her prize and then start again.

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Some of my most precious memories of Lydia lately have been our one-on-one times together. Sometimes Lydia will snuggle up next to me during nap time and play with my hair while she listens to an audio book. Occasionally Lydia helps me cook dinner, peeling carrots or stirring vegetables as they cook (that’s her favorite because she feels so grown up working at the stove). I try to remember to give her snuggles, hugs, and tickles whenever my hands are free because my hands are so often full, I’ll go days without a Lydia hug if I’m not intensional. (Don’t worry about her being deprived though, Dan picks up the slack. Lydia is quite gifted at sneaking into his lap whether he says it’s ok or not!)

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Little Man Turns Two

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It’s hard to believe Paul is already two years old. He is. And, when he’s not being shy, he’ll tell you he is.

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“How old are you Paul?”

“TWO!”, he’ll answer with a grin as he holds out his thumb and pointer finger to show you.

It’s cute. He is adorable. And he had a really great birthday.

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Before Paul was born, Dan and I joked that we needed a boy. Our girls like their snuggles from Daddy. Several months ago, there was so much fighting over who would sit on Daddy’s lap during Bible time, we had to set up a schedule. So Dan and I would joke that we needed a boy who wouldn’t need the snuggles from Daddy, a boy who would snuggle Mom instead. And do you know what? Paul is the snuggliest little two-year-old I’ve ever met. He wants Mommy to hold him during every meal, whenever he’s tired, and whenever he’s unsure about something. Paul is incredibly sweet and loves to help. Lately he’s enjoyed taking his bib off, bringing it into the kitchen, and throwing it into the sink. He usually does so in the middle of a meal, but it’s still adorable. He also likes to help with laundry, by pushing the wet clothes into the dryer as I put them down on the dryer door. Then he slams the door shut, usually before I’m done. He also likes to shut the dishwasher for me, while I’m still loading it. 😀

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Paul also likes to help set and clear the table. He’ll spot a condiment in the fridge and put in on the table and then come back for more. He’s choices don’t often match the meal (mustard when we’re having tacos, for example). When the meal is done and the girls are delaying as much as they can before clearing their dishes, Paul will walk back and forth, grabbing whatever is left on the table, and throwing it into the sink or trash (not always the right one).

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He’s also a Little Rascal. He’s cute and he knows it. He’s not afraid to cock his head to the side and give you his sweet “emoji” grin when he’s up to no good. He loves to wrestle, but doesn’t like to lose, and isn’t too old to run to Mom for a hug when he doesn’t win. He loves balls and bats, and toys or pictures of animals that growl. (He likes to growl.) Paul loves to be outside and will often grab his shoes and point to the coat closet to tell you he wants out, but he hates the cold and will stay inside whenever it’s below freezing.

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Like Abby, Paul has been slower to start talking. Recently we started using sign language for some basic words at meals and he’s picked up on those pretty well. Even more recently he has started picking up more words and putting words together. Here are some recent favorites:

Bible/Baseball – “Bay-Bul”
“No”
“Coat”
“Bye Nana” (after I got off the phone with my Mom the other day)
“Night Daddy”
“Thank You”
“Hold” (me)
Elijah John – “Lijah John”
Lydia – “Lee-ya”
“Car”
“Nose” (He finds it hilarious to say “nose” and point to your nose.)
OK Google – “Okay Gool” (which he says into my phone whenever he can get his hands on it)

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Paul loves being a big brother and hasn’t had much trouble adjusting, but sometimes he gets jealous if he sees me holding Elijah (or anyone else) when he wants to be held. Overall he is a great older brother who loves his siblings, snuggles his Mommy, and wants to be just like his Daddy.

We love you Little Man! Happy Second Birthday!

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