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!

Birthday Reflections

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A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 28th birthday. Of course, birthdays are always a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect. I went for a jog one day as my birthday was approaching, and on my way out of our driveway I passed some crocuses that had sprouted up in front of our house. It got me thinking about spring, and seasons, and life. I started to go through the whole “seasons of life” analogy in my head.

Spring is a time of new birth. The flowers spring up as the snow melts. The grass turns green again and the birds return from their winter vacations. There is a lot of rain and a lot of growth. There is Easter and all of the reminders of the new life we can have through Christ.

The spring of life is the season children are in. There is a lot of growth, lots of learning, and wonder, and messes, and fun. For those who grow up in a Christian home, this is when they first get to hear about Jesus and the new life they can have in Christ. There is so much activity during this season, and so much work, and so much to look forward to.

When Summer comes along, there’s lots and lots of sunshine. There are summer vacation plans, and beach outings, and work in the garden. There are flowers and animals everywhere you look. There are holidays and picnics, and lots and lots of baseball. Most people just love summer.

Summer in our lives is also full of life and busyness and fun. There are dreams to dream and work toward, there are years to look ahead to, and there are lessons in following the Lord. During summer most major life decisions are passed and we’re settling in to “normal”. For those of us blessed with children, these are the years we get to watch them be young, invest in our families, and enjoy the time we get to have living under one roof together.

Fall has always been my favorite season. Things cool down and slow down after summer activities wrap up. The leaves change into brilliant colors before falling off their trees. The harvest comes in and we get to celebrate with lots of good food and Thanksgiving.

In the fall of life we get to slow down a little (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking as I’m in toddler-season right now!). At least the busyness changes. We can enjoy the richness of our lives so far and thank God for the blessings we’ve enjoyed. For those following the Lord, there will hopefully be a harvest by now! A harvest of souls, led to Christ; a harvest of children turning into adults; a harvest of dreams saved for and fulfilled; and a harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives.

Then, there’s winter.

Now let me tell you, this is the part where I would often get stuck. I spent two years in Arkansas and the winters were dead, brown, and cold. I’ve spent many winters up North where the winters are bitter cold and bitter long. People seem grumpier, heat bills are higher, and my hands always get dry. Thinking about the end of my life as a winter season was just never appealing to me.

But as I was jogging and thinking on these things, I started to rethink winter. I decided instead to focus on the end of a calendar year. I LOVE the beginning of winter. It starts with the Thanksgiving feast and celebrations with the people we love most. Then there’s a whole month of excitement and build up toward Christmas: a celebration of Jesus come to us. There are quiet, snowy nights covered in the brilliant, glittering snow. There are festive days filled with Christmas music and Christmas baking. The house is decorated and everyone stays in more as the nights get darker sooner, but it gives me a good excuse to snuggle up and read quietly by the fireplace. Winter is peace and quiet, contentment and anticipation, fullness and joy.

Winter in our lives can be like that too. We enter a potentially quieter, stiller season. We can’t burn as much energy running around like we did in the summer, but we can learn and grow, and teach others. We can sit back and see the wonderful things God has accomplished in and through us. We can celebrate our walk with Christ and our anticipation of going home, going to meet Jesus.

I wrapped up these thoughts as I wrapped up my jog and walked back down the driveway to my waiting family. On the way inside I picked a crocus to put in a jar of water. Lydia, always full of questions, quickly inquired why I had picked a flower and I sat down to dinner to share with my family the thoughts I had during my jog. And I left that crocus sitting on the table as a reminder to enjoy this season as I celebrate another year.

On His Feet

Paul is closing in on one year, but before he gets there I needed to give an eleven-month update!

This month Paul was up to 20.4 pounds. Compared to his sisters at this age, he’s HUGE. And doing a lot more too. I remember at 11 months when Abby army-crawled for the first time. Paul is not only army crawling…

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He’s getting up on all fours…

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And standing.

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For weeks, Paul liked to crawl over to our fireplace and push up on the ledge. He’d stand there in a sort of push-up position for a long time. Then he figured out how to pull up on things and now he’s really standing. He has yet to take any steps while holding on, but he loves being upright and almost as tall as Abby.

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Paul also likes to get into things…making my job a little harder. His favorites are dirty diapers (while I’m changing Abby’s diaper) and the toilet. Yup, he’s a boy. Other boy things he likes to do include chasing the vacuum cleaner and climbing on top of Abby whenever she’s on the ground. He’s watched Daddy wrestle the girls enough to know that the person on top is the winner.

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Paul’s gearing up for baseball season too. He’s thrilled that the weather is getting warmer. We had our first outing to the playground this month and he desperately wanted to get down and crawl all over everything. It was wet, so we had to keep him in our arms that time, but he was super observant, taking everything in.

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In fact, Paul is often observant. He watches whatever is going on in a serious face, preferring to be in Mom’s arms whenever it gets close to bed or nap time. But if you get down to his level and start a conversation, you are likely to see his little grin. Keep talking and he’ll flash you a huge toothy smile (two front teeth now). His hair is getting pretty shaggy, and he’s due for a haircut soon, but right now we are enjoying his bed head after naps too much to cut it just yet.

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Paul is a content and happy baby. Often before going to sleep he’ll just keep looking at me and giggling. When I put him down he lets out some protests but willingly goes to sleep without too much of a fight. With our late night and early morning feeds, he pretty consistently lets me sleep non-stop in between.

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He loves to eat and play and I just know he’s going to have a ton of fun this summer when we start spending more time outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started walking within a few months, and I’m sure he’ll be hitting baseballs with his dad not long after that!

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2013 Carlson Family Reunion

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This weekend, we had our first ever Carlson family reunion at my sister and brother-in-law, Christina and Matthew’s, house. Everyone arrived Friday night for hotdogs, s’mores, and reminiscing around the campfire. Most spent the night in tents in the back yard, but Dan, Lydia, and I slept inside (pregnancy privilege!).

Dad started a fire, Dan oversaw with the hatchet, the ladies chatted and watched the kiddos, and soon everyone had eaten a hotdog or two (or three, in the case of Lydia).

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Lydia went to bed earlier than everyone else, but before she did, she had a chance to play with her cousin, Colten. They played in the sandbox, shared a toy truck, and threw the football back and forth with Dan.

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The next morning we all got up and went for a short walk to McDonald’s for some breakfast. On the way back to the house, we ran into Matthew, who had been given the morning off from working on the farm.

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Once we had all made it back to the house, and the kiddos and pregnant mommy took our potty breaks, we loaded up the cars to go to a nearby park and ball field. Dad, Matthew, Dan, and Tim spent the rest of the morning and into the afternoon playing some baseball, much to Dan’s delight. Steph and Nate’s dog, Alice, joined in on the fun. And Christina, Colten, and Lydia took their turns as well.

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Meanwhile, my mom, Steph, and I were hanging out over on the playground with Baby Coby and Colten and Lydia, when they weren’t off playing ball. Lydia developed a game that involved picking up dirt and pouring it on everyone’s feet, and kept herself entertained for quite a while.

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As the ballgame wound down a little, some of us headed over to a nearby farmer’s market. My mom bought a jar of pickles to go with lunch, and Christina and I shared some incredibly juicy and delicious peaches.

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Then it was back to the house where the ladies prepared meat and veggie packets and Tim grilled them to perfection.

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As Lydia took a nap, the rest of us spent the hottest part of the day swimming in Matthew and Christina’s pool. I’ve been wanting to go swimming for ages, so this was my favorite part of the reunion! When everyone had cooled down sufficiently, we moved back into the shade for a few rounds of Catch Phrase.

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The cousins played some more with Colten’s toys. Colten couldn’t understand what we were all doing just sitting in a circle when there was a bat and ball to play with.

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Lydia grabbed the Boppy and wanted to know why she couldn’t hold Coby.

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And Coby just sat and looked cute.

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Soon it was time to pack up and head home. We made it home, tired and happy, just in time for a late supper. Overall, I’d say the 2013 Carlson Family Reunion was a great success. We’re hoping to make it an annual tradition.

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