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.

Camp Tikva 2016

A few weeks ago, Lydia participated in her second Camp Tikva. Abby, Paul, and I came along and sat in for the singing and some of the stories, wandered around the building, visited with other moms and little kids, and played on the playground.

Lydia did a great job sitting quietly for two long story sessions, almost two hours of just listening to “Grammy” tell Bible stories with flannel graph. But, Grammy has a gift for telling stories so well that everybody wants to stop and listen. Even Abby would beg me, “Go see-uh pictures?” when Paul was noisy and we had to step out. (Abby is in a phase where she adds “uh” onto the end of many of her words. It’s pretty cute.)

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Abby also loved the music.

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Paul loved finding different things he could play with. One day it was the empty water cooler.

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He even got to go up front once. 🙂

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And, of course, the playground was a big hit.

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Every afternoon we would ask Lydia what her favorite part of the day was and every afternoon she would answer, “The Bible stories and the playground.”

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Even Paul could find plenty to do.

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It was a tiring week for Paul. And the rest of us. Although, Lydia would never admit it. (That’s her having fun on the monkey bars in the background.)

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By the end of the week, Abby was sneaking in with the kids for the singing and stories. The “Camp Tikva Song” this year was the Bible passage James 5:10-18. Everyone sang the song a million times and over 100 kids (including Lydia!) were able to memorize the whole passage.

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So ended our busy vacation, Camp Tikva craziness. The activities ended just in time for the hottest weeks of the summer, but we’re holding up ok. 🙂 In just over a week, Dan has another week off work and we’re planning a stay-cation. Until then we’ll just be taking it easy, playing the sprinklers and sitting in front of fans!

Slow Down

Life is racing on in the Taylor household. We are busy with a lot of spring projects, and, of course, all three Munchkins. Lately I have been relearning the endless lessons of having patience and keeping the right priorities. It seems like I’m hit at least weekly with some sort of good reminder to slow down (let the laundry wait a day sometimes) and soak up some serious kiddo time. This was my reminder last night. Encouraging all you busy mamas to slow down, skip a blog post today ;-), and enjoy some kiddo time.

Little Treats

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Lydia is getting old enough now to have discussions with us. We had one recently at breakfast about “treats”. She has come to associate treats with dessert and I was trying to explain to her that a treat doesn’t have to be a small, sweet, edible snack.

A treat is anything that you enjoy, that you don’t get very often.

We listed some examples of treats and went on with our day. Since it’s November, I thought the conversation was pretty fitting. It’s fun to focus and watch other people focus on things for which we are thankful.

Of course, one of the things I’m grateful for, well three of the things that I’m thankful for are my kids. Today for your own little treat, I’m going to share some of the cute things the girls have been saying.

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Abby doesn’t say much yet. At least, not enough to get a quote from. But she does have one quoteable moment from the past week. After breakfast we were having our daily “Bible time”. I asked the girls, as I always do, what they were thankful for that day. Lydia has a handful of items she often repeats: bubbles, bread, seeing friends, and Grandma. Abby always says the same thing: Pizza (which sounds more like “Pita”). But one morning Abby surprised me with a new one, “Anju”. I asked her if she meant her friend from church and she nodded.

“Aww, Abby, that’s so sweet”. And she added “and Jesus.”

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Now that it’s harder to sneak treats without sharing with Lydia, our family has learned that she also has inherited our sweet tooth. One night when we had finished dinner and were getting ready for Bible study, Lydia informed us that she wanted a “sweet treat” and when she didn’t think we had understood her, she insisted she wanted “a little somethin’ somethin’.”

After our vacation last month, we had some leftover apple cider sitting in our fridge. Lydia consistently asked for some hot cider every single day. One evening when it looked like she wasn’t going to get any she walked up to Dan, who was sitting in the living room. She very gently put her hand on his arm, lay her head on his shoulder and looked up at him with the biggest eyes imaginable as she cooed, “I love you Daddy…” She probably did get some hot apple cider that night.

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Several weeks ago I was sitting in the living room. Lydia was on the floor playing with a doll when she looked up at me and asked, “Mom, did God, like, put glue on my head and put my hair on?”

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The other day I was having a comical conversation with Lydia trying to ask her to do something and she was not following. “Lydia,” I insisted, “use your brain.” She responded cheerfully, “Ok, but I don’t know where my brain is.”

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Our Abby-Girl

Our family had a wonderful vacation last week, our last hurrah before I finally submitted to Fall’s arrival. I’m excited to share some memories from our trip, but first I need to sort through all my pictures. In the meantime, I’ll give you all an update on our two-year-old.

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Abby is an enthusiastic, all-or-nothing sort of girl (gets it from her daddy). When she’s happy, her smile beams from ear to ear. When she’s tired she snuggles up with Dan or me and holds her hair while she sucks her thumb. When she’s mad, she lets everyone know it (and despite her early arrival two years ago, those lungs of hers work very well). When she plays pretend, it’s just adorable. When she wrestles she never gives up. You get the idea.

She is very much her Daddy’s girl. When Dan comes home from work she runs through the house yelling “Daddy! Daddy!” Sometimes she realizes part way through a weekday morning that Dan is gone and she will cry and pout, “Daddy?” I think half the reason Abby loved our vacation so much was that Dan never left us. But, I can’t really blame her since I am very much the same way. 🙂
When Dan brought Abby her birthday flower, she was smitten with it. She carried it around the house for twenty minutes refusing to put it down. It was precious.

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And if the pictures don’t make it clear, yes, she is our little red-head. She’s a little blue-eyed-red-head with a huge smile and even bigger personality. She is very much a homebody who prefers spending time with Mom and Dad above anyone else, and when she does get out it takes her quite a while to open up and be her charming self. But if you do get the privilege of winning Abby’s affections you will be sharing in a sweet treasure indeed.

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Trains and Dinosaurs

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It’s been a couple of weeks now, but I promised I’d share a report from our staycation, so here I go.

After our visit to Plymouth, we gathered up our munchkins and headed out for a day on a farm, including a used homeschool book sale. Our favorite part was getting to see the animals. Lydia loved petting the bunny and watching the ducklings. We like to call them Ducklets. Lately I’ve been thinking about the way baby ducks follow their Mommy around in a little train. I’ve been wishing it was that easy going places with little people. Ours tend to scatter in all different directions rather than follow their parents in a little row.

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The next and biggest event of our staycation was a trip to Greenfield Village. It was Abby’s first time and Paul’s too, and for the rest of us it was only our second visit. I wanted to watch the glass blowing, Dan wanted to see Edison’s buildings, Lydia wanted to watch the train, and Abby wanted to eat some sweet potato tots. Paul just wanted to be carried around all day.

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In the end, Dan got to see his buildings, Paul got to be carried, and I got to see my glass blowing. The girls loved the playground. Abby never got her tot, and Lydia’s first glimpse of the train made her cry (too loud). But in time, we figured out how to enjoy the train. We even stayed late to watch it go by one last time.

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The last successful voyage was over to Ann Arbor to look at the dinosaurs and animals in the Natural History Museum. As always, the dinosaurs were a big hit. We splurged and ate out at a restaurant, only to learn that it’s not worth it to buy the girls a $9 plate of food to share. Abby will definitely throw it on the floor. Lydia will complain that it doesn’t taste good, and in the end they will enjoy the $2 fruit cups from Seven Eleven much more than the $9 plate of restaurant food. Lesson learned. After our lunch and museum visit we trekked over to the Ann Arbor Arboretum for a little walk in some nature. We found a bench in the shade and sat to rest for a long while. I think that time resting on the bench might have been my favorite part of the whole week!

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The last outing for our week was to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. It was an epic fail. Dan and I don’t really enjoy art that much, but when you throw in a needy baby, a very loud toddler, and a high energy preschooler, we really don’t enjoy art. So, another lesson learned: dinosaurs – yes, paintings – no.

In all I’d say the staycation was a success. We learned a little, had some fun, and ran around enough that we were ready for a normal Monday once Dan started his job. Getting regular meals, naps, and playtime does our family good.

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.

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’re Going to the Mountains

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A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to the mountains. It was inspired by a book of Lydia’s and by her incessant chanting of “We’re going to the mountains!”. We don’t always do everything our almost-three-year-old tells us to do, but in this case, we did.

We packed our bags. They included: a toy camera, sunflower seeds and raisins (trail-mix, of course), hats, scarves, and a baseball glove and ball. We loaded up the car and headed out.

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Little brother and Abigail had a few arguments during the drive and there were a few “Are we there yet?”s, but it wasn’t too bad in all. We listened to music, read a picture book, took turns driving, and avoided taking a single bathroom break. Abby slept almost the whole time and we managed to make it all the way to the Grand Himalayan Alps in what really felt like just a few minutes.

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Since Abby was still sleeping, we decided to just leave her in the car. Please don’t judge our parenting decisions. The parking lot was practically empty anyway.

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Then we headed out to climb the biggest mountain we could find. We took a break about halfway up on a nice grassy plateou, where Lydia took a short nap. Then we resumed our climbing.

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Near the top we had a close encounter with a bear. By ringing a bell and shouting at it, we managed to scare him away. Then we ascended the very highest peak. We stopped to munch on trail mix and enjoy the view.

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No one felt like playing ball just then, so I guess it was good that we had left our bag in the car with Abigail. Lydia didn’t take any pictures either, but I brought my camera along so that turned out ok too. After soaking in all the beauty surrounding us from that height, we made our way back down the mountain and back to the car. Abby was safe and sound and still sleeping. The drive home felt longer but was actually shorter. lydia made good time.

It was a great trip. I know not everyone has the time and resources to drop everything and drive to the Alps, but, for those who do, I highly recommend it.

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Abby Update: 4 Months

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Weight: 8 pounds, 9 ounces

Tomorrow Abby will be four months old. In the 82 days she spent in the NICU, she gained a total of 2 pounds, 13 ounces. In the 41 days she has spent at home she has gained 2 pounds, 13 ounces, exactly the same amount of weight in half the time. I thought that was pretty cool.

Abby is doing great. She eats about every three hours, but recently started sleeping about 5-6 hours at night. In the mornings she likes to sit with Dan as he works for an hour or two from home before going in to work (to avoid traffic).

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During the day Abby mostly just sleeps. She started smiling a couple of weeks ago and is her smiliest early in the morning. During the evening she has another “awake time” but that one is usually not a very smiley time for her. She loves to be held as much as possible and worn in a wrap with Mommy during the day.

We have come up with a lot of nicknames for Abby. Aborigine, Aboriginal, Abbs, Munchkin 2, and the most recent: Abigus. Abigus originated when Dan put her swaddle on like toga one morning. Super cute.

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See? Abby’s favorite way to play is when we poke her in the nose. Dan figured that one out, but I’m not sure how. If Abby’s in a decent mood, that’s the best way to get a smile out of her.