Almost Three

Tomorrow morning, at 7:52, Lydia will turn three. We’ll probably spend most of the morning playing outside. I will probably make her take a nap even though it’s her birthday. Then we’ll pull together a birthday dinner that will definitely include tortilla chips. We’ll tell her birth story and celebrate that God has given us three whole years with our little Munchkin. Our Little Bunny. Our Big Girl. Our Gooselet. Our Lydia.

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Guess that Taylor Answers

And the winner is…

Girlie! For getting five correct answers (ok so four correct and two partially correct). You get a half million points. Dad T and Gramma Dexter each get 10,000 points for being good sports and actually trying. Maybe next time we’ll offer a real prize.

Here are the answers:

1. “Let’s go outside.” – D

Around out home, this is no surprise. Dan says this daily. And we all agree happily! Except for Abby, maybe. She loves the shade.

2. “I want to go inside.” – L

Spoken not once, but twice during the day (if you don’t count that she says it about fifteen times to make sure we heard her). Once to go inside our friends house and sit in a particular “little chair” and once because there were dogs inside.

3. “This is messy. Clean it up.” – L

During breakfast Lydia spilled her oatmeal. She can’t stand messes.

4. “I don’t need a nap today.” – J

Yes, that was me, not the two-year-old. I normally need a nap every day. But when a day like this is so perfectly warm and sunny and full of friends, and Dan is home, I’ll give up my precious nap.

5. “I’m not tired.” – L

Yeah, that was Lydia. She never thinks she’s tired.

6. “Ah-buh-gah.” – A

Abby. Surprised?

7. “Hold me!” – L, J, D, and A

I gave partial credit on this one. Lydia asked first. Abby “asked” in her baby language and cries. And Mommy didn’t want to be left out. Dan just said it as he copied the rest of us, but it still counts. This one ended in a family group hug.

8. “It doesn’t get any better than this!” – D

Dan, enjoying the beautiful day.

9. “I’m scary!” – L

Lydia got bit by some mosquitoes and another bug. As everyone examined her bite to determine if it was dangerous, she got pretty scared. And when she’s scared she says, “I’m scary!” For the record, the bite did not appear to be dangerous and it’s healing just fine.

10. “I’m stinky.” – J

You don’t have to spend too many days with our family to hear Lydia say this. Actually, she’ll shout it if your not paying attention and she wants a diaper change. But this time it was me, and no, I didn’t have any accidents. We were walking in the hot, sunny weather and I was starting to sweat.

Guess that Taylor

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Yesterday was the perfect holiday. The sun was shining and it was wonderfully warm outside. We had a great day visiting friends, house-hunting, walking in the sunshine, taking naps in the cool basement, and getting some necessary chores accomplished. During our visit with friends, Lydia stayed busy watching ants, playing in a sandbox, and helping move some bricks (but not really). Like I said, it was a perfect holiday.

During breakfast before our busy day began, someone said something unexpected. And somehow that launched Dan and I into a discussion of the things we each say. That turned into this game, which has now been dubbed Guess that Taylor. I thought I would invite you all to join in the fun.

Below I’ll list ten quotes, spoken by someone in the family, at some point during Memorial Day. The first person to answer all ten correctly gets a million points. Or, if no one gets them all right, the first person who gets the most correct answers gets a half million points. I’ll try to post the answers tomorrow afternoon. All submissions are valid until the answers are posted. Your choices for answers are:

D – Dan
J – Justine
L – Lydia
A – Abigail

There is only one correct answer for each quote, except for one of them, which may have up to four correct answers.

1. “Let’s go outside.”
2. “I want to go inside.”
3. “This is messy. Clean it up.”
4. “I don’t need a nap today.”
5. “I’m not tired.”
6. “Ah-buh-gah.”
7. “Hold me!”
8. “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
9. “I’m scary.”
10. “I’m stinky.”

Ready? Go! Leave a comment with your guesses.

Quilting Away

It’s been well over a year since a vision formed in my mind of a quilt for Abigail. It looks like that vision is ever so slowly becoming a reality, and I thought I would give a little update on how her quilt is coming along. Things go slowly when you’re working around two little ones, but progress is progress.

Here’s the original picture that I sat down and put together on the computer one night shortly before Abby was born. Next to it is the revised color scheme I decided on to make it more girly.

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Literally the weekend before Abby was born we went out and bought the first fabric and I got busy embroidering away…for the next six months!

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When that was finally finished, Dan and I put our mathy degrees to good use. We sat down together one night and tried to calculate the smallest amount of fabric I would need for the inner border and binding if I was to cut the fabric on a diagonal instead of straight across. The good part is, after all that calculating, we ended up just buying the amount I needed to cut it straight across. It just wasn’t worth the risk for the few pennies or dollars that would have been saved. The better part is, we accidentally did all of our calculating based on the shorter end of the quilt (my fault) and I had to cut it all on the diagonal anyway to get it long enough for the longer sides of the quilt. So I guess our mistake saved us a few pennies after all.

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Next it was time for me to tidy up my edges. I was afraid to cut into the fabric from my embroidery work. What if I made a mistake? That was six months of work I was cutting into!

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But I put on my most courageous face and cut away.

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Lydia had fun playing with the scraps.

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Then I laid out my freshly cut fabric to get a glimpse of the quilt-to-be.

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Sewing the inner border on was almost just as scary, but once I finished I breathed a sigh of relief and laid it out again to see what the corners would looks like someday.

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Then, for the hardest part of the quilt so far…I cut out the hills and sky. I laid it all out once more to see how the colors looked and if everything was cut well enough. Looks like it might work!

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But, that’s as far as I got. I still don’t know if those curves are going to work out, because shortly after that last picture was taken we had to pack up and move. Half of the quilting supplies made it to our new place but half got put away in storage.

I’m keeping busy around here, learning piano and cross-stitching a birthday card for Lydia, but as day after day passes I get a little gloomy thinking about this on-hold project. I had hoped to have it done by Abby’s first birthday but now that’s only three months away I’m re-hoping for an eighteen-month gift.

This week we put in an offer on a house. If it’s accepted I may just wait it out to get back to my quilting. If someone else gets this house, I’ll probably ask Dan if we can dig through our storage to get my supplies. For now, I’ll just post this update so I can look back on it and be encouraged that this little vision has come so far. For someone who has never quilted before (except for a rag quilt for my nephew), I think it’s turning out pretty nicely.

Just Ask

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This girl is a lot like her daddy. She’s very independent. “I do it” has long been one of her most used phrases. And, she’s a little bit perfectionistic. Ever since she was a three pound bundle in her NICU isolette, she’s been feisty, getting frustrated when she doesn’t get things done right, the first time, by herself.

A few days ago she was having a grand time playing by herself with her umbrella stroller. She had a baby doll in the stroller, a purse over her shoulder, and was pretending to be a “big girl Lydia” who gets to drive a car and change diapers. But the fun ended when the umbrella stroller folded up and she couldn’t get it open. I was in a different part of the basement doing some for-real grown up thing, probably folding laundry or washing dishes, when suddenly I heard her sudden outburst of tears and yelling. Abby was sleeping so I snatched up Lydia as quickly as I could, raced into her bedroom and sat her on my lap.

I’ll admit, I was frustrated too, annoyed that she had to have such an outburst that could have woken up Abby when she could have just asked me for help. But I took a deep breath and decided to make this a teachable moment.

Justine: Lydia, what happened?

Lydia (angrily): I couldn’t get the stroller open.

Justine: And did you get frustrated and yell?

Lydia (sheepishly): yes.

Justine: What should you have done?

Lydia: Obey, right away, all the way, happy way? (that’s what we’re teaching her these days)

Justine: Well, no, you should have just asked Mommy for help.

Lydia: Will you help me please?

Justine: Why, of course, I’d love too.

And that was that, we headed out, I opened the stroller, and she was happily (and quietly) playing once more.

Except, that wasn’t that. I wasn’t three lines into that conversation when the lesson hit me like a brick wall. Suddenly, even as I was talking to Lydia, I could see myself having the same conversation with God. Because I, too, have gotten frustrated in these circumstances. And I, too, have had sudden outbursts with tears and yelling. It’s hard living in a basement, after all. It’s hard moving a lot. It’s hard having two little ones. And there have been times in the past few weeks when I have responded just like Lydia. So there I was, sitting on my Heavenly Father’s lap having the same conversation.

God: Justine, what happened?

Justine (angrily): Lydia wouldn’t obey. The place is a mess. This is hard!

God: And did you get frustrated and yell?

Justine: (sheepishly): Yes.

God: What should you have done?

Justine: Obey?

God: You should have just asked me for help.

Justine: Will you help me please?

God: Of course, I would love too.

Sometimes I get so focused on trying to accept the circumstances God has placed me in, trying to just obey what He wants me to do right now, that I forget how much He really cares. Now, the past week had already gone much better, ever since my summer sausage incident. But I have been earnestly putting this lesson into practice daily sometimes hourly. And God is helping me. Every day. Every hour. And the best part is, He (unlike me) never gets impatient with my asking. He never has to stop washing dishes to wipe his hands. He’s always there, instantly, ready to help.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

And Yet I Will Rejoice

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There has been a reoccurring pattern in the life of my family that goes something like this: Dan and I prayerfully make decisions and plans and then watch as God totally changes them. To some extent, this is true of everyone, but in the past year or so for our family it has seemed kind of extreme. Housing. Jobs. Babies. Not to mention the little things in life.

I haven’t been handling our “temporary” housing situation very well lately (I put temporary in quotes because that is another one of our plans). Maybe it really is a difficult situation, or maybe it’s just that there have been a lot of difficult situations and I’m getting burnt out. I’m not sure.

One of the agreements to our living in this basement (in the home of a family from our church) is that every Tuesday our church hosts a Bible study. Here. In our little “temporary” home. Combined with the Bible study we normally attend on Wednesdays this makes for two very late nights in a row.

Well, this week the Bible study turned out to be a very good thing. Between conversation and prayer, I was reminded (for the millionth time and I know I’ll need it again) to rejoice.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So it was as the clock approached 11, the last stragglers were about to leave, and the girls were very sleepy. I was encouraged and had a new resolve to rejoice and trust that this crazy, windy road God is taking us on is not without purpose. And then, as if to test my new resolve, Lydia threw up. I had given her a couple of slices of a summer sausage during snack time and, as we don’t normally eat pork or sausage, the combination didn’t treat her very well.

We said hurried goodbyes and I cleaned up the floor while Dan cleaned up Lydia. I’d say we handled the episode relatively well and soon enough Lydia was tucked in watching an inning of baseball with Dan while she fell asleep. I set out a (literally) midnight snack for Dan and I to enjoy together so we could actually have a few moments to talk before going to sleep. Just as I was about to take my first bite, Lydia threw up again.

Well, we made it out ok. I was still rejoicing and lighthearted despite the surprise attack by that summer sausage and we finally got to go to sleep. Dan was up at least once more with Lydia during the night but I didn’t know that until morning because a couple of hours after resting my head on the pillow I found myself running to the bathroom wishing I hadn’t eaten that sausage either.

It was bad. The sort of bad where you spend an hour in the bathroom just praying your stomach would surrender and empty itself so you could go to bed in peace. But, do you know what? By God grace I kept rejoicing.

I think if you could have been there (I’m glad you weren’t) to see me and hear my thoughts, it might have been almost funny. I was sick and in pain and tired and completely convinced that God loves me and is going to use this all for good. I may have even been smiling there in the bathroom at two in the morning. It was crazy. Knowing trials have a purpose, even if you don’t know what the purpose is, makes them so much more bearable.

The next day we were well enough to eat some breakfast, at least a rather bland breakfast of plain oatmeal, bananas, and tea. By Wednesday night we were all well enough to go to our own Bible study. And so far I’m still doing well in my new resolve. I know this is a lesson I’ll have to learn again. And you’ll probably hear about it when I do. For now I will keep on rejoicing, trusting God’s good plan, and staying away from summer sausage.

Abby Update: Eight Months Old

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Weight: 13 Pounds, 7 ounces

Abby is a lot like me. First of all, she looks very much like my baby pictures. The only real differences are that my eyes were not so blue and my hair was not so red. Although, Abby’s hair seems to be a little less red these days. It’s hard to tell because there’s just not too much of it.

My mom always told me that I was very adaptable. I don’t know about that now, but with all of our packing and unpacking and moving, Abby has displayed some adaptability of her own. She just eats when she’s hungry, sits in her bouncy seat, and smiles at anyone who will take a moment to give her a grin. She is very content and really, a very “easy baby”. The only exception is that she still usually gets up once a night. Again. But sometimes she’ll sleep nice and long and she still takes regular naps, so we’re doing ok.

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Abby has officially found her thumb. And, like me, and Lydia, Abby sucks her left thumb. It brings me great happiness to hear the sound of thumb-sucking echo through our basement home as the girls nap.

Abby is also ticklish, and, like me, she doesn’t like being tickled. It’s so cute to watch her try to fight it as you tickle her tummy. She lets out little resistant grunty giggles, but she’s so ticklish that she really can’t resist very long.

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But no one can make Abby’s face light up like Dan. When he gives her his attention she gives him the biggest, cutest smile you’ve ever seen. There was a period of a couple of weeks when Abby liked to stick out her tongue all the time. It was a little weird, I thought. But one time Dan just reached out and gently grabbed it. She thought that was the best thing in the world and continued to stick out her tongue in a way that made it look like she was fishing for Dan to grab it again (and he did).

As I wrap up this post, Abby is sitting in her bouncy seat chattering away: “Ehhha, ah, wah, huhhh, ayahhh, huhh, huhh, aieeyabubu”. She is more adorable than words can possibly describe.

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Tips on Moving Efficiently

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I can’t believe we’ve moved four times in one year. That on top of spending three months in the NICU with Abby and Dan switching jobs. In Lydia’s short life she’s already lived at five different addresses, and that’s if you don’t count her first six months of life spent in the hospital.

You might think that with all this moving Dan and I would be experts at the process, but that’s not really the case. You see…

Move #1: I was pregnant with Lydia, but took lots of time packing boxes. Some sweet girls from church came over to pack my entire kitchen, and the youth group moved us. Three days later I had Lydia and Dan’s parents and grandparents came down to unpack us. It was months before I even started organizing anything.

Move #2: I was pregnant, with Abby this time, and the members of our Bible study offered to move us. I, once again, did a lot of the packing, but as far as the moving went, I didn’t lift a box. This time I was able to do a lot of unpacking, but eventually Dan’s mom did come down and helped me with my kitchen.

Move #3: This move was because a moldy condo was making our family sick, so it was sort of an emergency move. The ladies from our Bible study came and packed us in one night and just a few hours at that. Some of the men in the Bible study did all of the actual moving the following weekend. And as for unpacking, we never did get to do it. The short-term solution was furnished so our stuff mostly just stayed in boxes.

Move #4: This move happened a week after Abby was born, and as I was recovering from the c-section, I didn’t help with it at all. Dan’s mom packed whatever needed to be packed and the youth group moved us again. They unpacked my kitchen. A couple weeks later, Dan’s mom and aunt came down to unpack us.

Move #5: This brings us to our current move. We evacuated our home with only a few hours notice. The basement where we are staying is furnished, so once again, a lot of our stuff was headed for storage. We packed as quickly as possible and are living on meager belongings while trying to keep the rest in boxes. The easiest things about this move were that we didn’t have a baby in the hospital, I wasn’t recovering from labor and delivery or a c-section, and I’m not pregnant. The hard thing was that we did it all with a baby and toddler in tow.

All that to display that we are not moving experts. But we have picked up a few tricks to optimize the time and money involved in the gruesome moving process.

Don’t pay for boxes.
Did you know you can walk into any GFS and ask for boxes? Sometimes the pickings are meager, but sometimes there are some really nice boxes just waiting to be broken down. Almost anytime we’ve gone, we’ve been able to snatch enough boxes to fill our car. We never bother to break them down, we just fit what we can. If you’re planning far enough ahead, you can have as many boxes as you need. Since we’re always making last-minute moves, we usually run out of boxes and have to get a little creative.

Oh, and don’t worry about only grabbing big boxes. We took whatever was available and found the little boxes great for certain kitchen items, office supplies, or even food.

Mark ’em up.
Label boxes. It only takes a couple of seconds and later you’ll be glad you did. I try to label boxes with the room and a brief description of what’s inside (ie – “Kitchen Spices”). If there’s an item you might need right away, label that too (“toilet paper”).

Use what you’ve got.
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Don’t use up big boxes to pack away suitcases and duffle bags. Fill those up too! Just make sure you don’t put anything in there that you’re going to need urgently as you can’t just write on these with a permanent marker the way you might with free boxes from GFS.

Pack with towels
When it comes time to pack the kitchen, wrap up breakable items in your bathroom towels and wash cloths. It’ll save the boxes you’d need for packing linens and it’ll keep your fragile items from breaking during the move.

Keep important items handy.
There are certain items that you’re going to need when you get to your new location. Keep that in mind during packing so that items are either left out or clearly labeled and you know where to find them. Some that we find important are:

Bedding (clean and ready to use) – Before you know what happened to moving day it’ll be late and all you’ll want to do is go to sleep. The first thing you should do when you get to your new place is make up the beds.

Overnight Bag – toiletries, pajamas, clothing for the next day

Diapers and Wipes – if you have little ones

Cleaning Supplies – I know everyone thinks they’ll be unpacked before they need to clean, or at least I always did. But one day you move, then you get busy and don’t finish unpacking, and next thing you know your bathroom is moldy (not that that’s happened to us once…or twice…)

Important Papers – whether it’s a social security card, medical records, or your tax returns, there are times when you’re going to need these and you’ll want to know where to find them, especially if you’ll be house-hunting (like us!) or are dealing with insurance companies while your preemie is still in the hospital on a feeding tube (don’t get me started on that one!)

Toys or Books – Again, if you have little ones. Something has to keep them busy while you unpack.

Food and Kitchen Necessities – I usually end up pulling out a pot or two, serving spoon, a bowl and silverware each, water bottles, cutting board and knife. Sure, you could just eat out until you’re unpacked, but that’ll cost more. And, you could just use disposables, but that would cost more too.

Dish Soap and Sponge – If you decide to go with the real dishes and homemade food route…

Computer and Camera – So you don’t have to take a break from any important emails, or from updating your blog, in my case.

A Wooden Spoon – This is Dan’s absolute favorite all-purpose kitchen utensil. If I want his help in the kitchen, there must be a wooden spoon handy.

Bag up closet clothing.
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We learned this trick when we ran out of boxes during Move #3. Instead of painstakingly folding up every item in your closet, grab some kitchen draw string trash bags. Rip a hole in the bottom center of the bag and stick a bunch of hangers through the hole. Pull the bag over the rest of the clothes and stuff everything in as you draw the bag tightly closed. Tie shut. Now you’re good to go. These won’t stack as nicely as boxes, but when you get to your new house you can stick them right in the closet and rip the bag off. It’s so easy, it’s worth the unstackability. And if you use white bags you can even label them with the correct closet.

Keep Things Simple
Unless you have some weird circumstances (like us) where you’re storing items for an extended period of time, moving doesn’t have to be complicated. Just box things up as well as you can and get them unboxed as quickly as possible so you can enjoy your new home. Things don’t have to be pretty and if you have to mix items from different rooms, that’s ok too. Even if you’re not on a time crunch, there are too many good things in life to waste away hours packing things perfectly.

Be ok with a Little Chaos
You might have clutter for a while. You might even have to put the beautiful “just because I love you” flowers from your husband in a free North Face water bottle. It’ll be ok. The mess will be cleared up soon, and even if it isn’t, the world won’t end over a little clutter and the flowers will still look beautiful.

I’m preaching to the choir here though because the clutter around here is driving me crazy. It’s likely that the girls and I will be escaping for a week up North at some point, especially if this chaos continues for much longer…

Well, that’s all. Happy moving. And if you want to give somebody a really nice gift, offer to pack their kitchen.

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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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Munchkin Update: 2 Years, 11 Months

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Can you believe this kid is going to be three next month?

We can’t. Our Lydia is so energetic and spunky. It makes her quite a handful, but it sure is a fun handful. She loves to…

Wear her pajama pants on her head to pretend like she has long hair.

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Paint and create.

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Attack her Abby with their stuffed bear.

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and she is just. so. cool.

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This past month was especially, well, special, when Lydia learned about Easter. It has been sweet for us as parents to talk to Lydia about Jesus and see her start to respond in an understanding way as we tell her the stories. We have had a lot of fun teaching her Bible verses to song and then letting her sing them for anyone who will listen.

Lydia still calls Qdoba, “Dobah-kah” and she still calls spaghetti, “swabahgee”, but maybe that’s because Dan and I do too. She reminds us of the simple pleasures in life, like wearing sunglasses every single time we get in the car regardless of the time of day (or night), or saying “Wheeeee!” whenever we drive around a long entrance ramp to the highway.

She loves to see her friends, “the peoples”, at church. And after an exciting event, she likes to tell the story of what happened over and over again giggling the whole time.

Despite her bundles and bundles of energy, she still likes to snuggle with Mommy, especially when she’s tired or gets hurt. One day I was trying to get Lydia to finish a carrot stick and I told her she was like a “little bunny”. So “Little Bunny” has become a new nickname for her. She frequently tells me she’s my Little Bunny. She calls me “Big Bunny” (Dan too), and Abigail “Baby Bunny”. But sometimes when I ask her “Are you my Little Bunny?” she tells me, “No. I’m Lydia!”.

She’s our munchkin, our little bunny, our big girl, our Lydia. And she’s almost three!

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