Friday, February 12, 2016


Judah, when people ask you how old you are, you correctly and excitedly yet shyly answer, "I'm free!". It's like you know you're growing up and you both love growing up and want to stay little (or wait, am I projecting my feelings on to you?!).

A month later I'm able to write about you turning three, because I'm just so happy/sad about it all. Mostly happy, really. I did take the plunge to admit your age in a few concrete ways that have ended up being super fun and special.

 . . . Hair cut . . . 
The day we got home from Christmas in ND, it just had to happen. So it was the first thing we did that Monday morning we went to Kids Cuts - you enjoyed watching Cars (so did your sister) as Mallory gave you what she called "a hockey cut". Score. Call me crazy, but I think you've been happier now that you're clean cut.

. . . Doctor well check . . .

Karis had fun prepping you:
"Judah, can you count to ten? Judah, is this an A or a B? Judah, can you draw a triangle?"

- 38.25 inches (66%)
- 32.8 lbs (60%)

Mary Lou said, "He has such a nice build" and she was clearly delighted in who you are. She asked if you knew your colors, so we pointed to the chalk and asked what color it was. Your answer: "bubblegum". Judah! You looked at her blankly with every question she asked you (how old are you? what did you eat for breakfast? . . . ). I laughed and told her how chatty you usually are. Ha! You calmly let Mary Lou take a look at you while you sat in my lap and she also commented on what a cuddly guy you are. She assured me you'd potty train in a day once I decide to do it (ha). Yes! I love who you are, Judah - through and through. The nurse took you to "play games" and she said most your age won't cooperate, but that you did and you also "won" the games.

I felt both light and grateful after the appointment, the reminder of these healthy & happy children. And then I also felt the happy/sad heart-sick feeling - it all zooms by so fast.

Judah, on Monday morning you brought me the book Love You Forever. You and Karis settled in my lap on the rocking chair in your room, I took a deep breath and told myself I wouldn't cry. Yeah, right - haven't read that one for a long time and by the last few pages both me and Karis were dissolving and you were sweetly making sure we're okay: "Karis-ee okay? Karis-ee better?". Started the week with proper perspective and it's beyond true: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be."

. . . going to the Preschool class  . . . 

3 year olds at our church are welcomed to transition out of the nursery and into "Mrs. Hoffner's class". So, you did it! You've been in the nursery almost every week since you were in the moby wrap, so this was a leap. You loved it and walked confidently back to me afterwards with papers in hand - you talked about play dough and friends. Oh Judah, so big!

Some things that make you YOU:

You love to build towers. Your latest is taking every book in your room and stacking them ALL against the wall - when you get up from your nap, you have to check on it and show me your hard work: "My book tower!".

You sometimes come up behind me and give me a huge hug. I melt. I think your sister is teaching you so much about how to show your love, and I know God has given you a very special heart that is strong and sensitive.

Recently you slipped down the last couple stairs while carrying your sleeping bag around - daddy ran to get you and you had your sad-trying-not-to-cry-face and then melted into our upward carrying arms. Strong and sensitive. Brave and vulnerable.

You kicked me in the face (pretty playfully during a diaper change) and then laughed - when I told you it hurt, you asked me if you could "kiss it better". And you did.

You love timers (thus so do I): "Nap timer!" "Dinner timer!" "Diaper timer!" "Time to go timer!"

You love to count! You ask me to "Count to ten mommy!" before we change your diaper. You love counting so much, it works in the way I've seen other parents use (and never understood HOW that worked?). I count to five and you can either do what I'm asking or I'll do it for you (e.g. "You walk to the car or I'll carry you" . . . ).

You still "hop to mommy!" when we get in the car, go to bed, go to the door to get ready.

You adore boots and shoes and slippers (you always have). Especially Karis's. Especially the pink ones.

You are loyal to Karis (I tell you she is teaching you how to love, and she is - because her loyalty to you is fierce). You'll ask her while we're rocking/reading, "Karis-ee, please you want to join us?" or "Karis-ee time to come down! Are you coming down, Karis-ee?" Sometimes you give her random hugs, you started initiating ideas for play, and you let her dress you as Elsa for your dance parties.

You ask us to "kiss it better" when you get hurt, and you also kiss our hurts better.

You're very carnivorous, and fave foods include meat. And meat. And meat. You throw in some smoothies, edamame, corn, applesauce, raisins, french toast, waffles, purple cheerios, "broccoli eggs" for a balanced diet.

You hum and sing to yourself, often "Twinkle Twinkle" "Jesus Loves Me", "Away in a Manger" and "ABC's". You seem to love your own company.

You're still waiting for us to potty train you (actually, every time I ask you say "NO potty train! Get an m & m?"

Your room is evolving into your own and you rearrange its contents at every sleep time: Mickey Mouse sleeping bag and blanket. One "Olaf" slipper. Lots of books either strewn around or in towers. A stuffed fox, bunny, R2D2. You sometimes sleep in bed, mostly on the sleeping bag and always right by your night light. At naptime, you sometimes empty all your drawers and lay in the middle of your clothes. Or, build "wipe towers".

You're super concerned about others' emotions, and can tell emotional facial expressions in books: "He's sad. He's okay". Or if I seem overly excited, even in a good way: "Mommy you okay?". Or if Karis gets hurt, you go up to her and say, "Karis-ee, you be okay? We pray for Karis-ee?"

You're already into "Little House" and carry around Winter on the Farm: "What is Almonzo doing?"

You love the story of Jonah, in any form: "I want please read it to me? The big whale! It's Ninevah!"

You love your friends and get so excited to see Teddy, Cisco, Micah, Liam, Mitchell.

Your language reminds me of Yoda: "Please want you to build legos . . .please want you to help pull up pants" . . .

You think about people all the time . . . you often ask, "Momma, who gave this to me?" "Where is Mitchell?" "What is Grandpa Kirk doing?"

You also ask about inanimate objects, "What is the candle doing? What is the chip doing?" . . .

You love being silly and making hilarious laughing faces - you even fake laugh just to crunch up your nose and crinkle your eyes and practically snort.

You both want to do everything yourself and want me to do everything for you (depending on what it is, of course).

You have plenty of meltdown moments, and if I can get to your level and get you into my arms, you'll sometimes bury your head and just have a good cry. It must feel so good to cry - you're so little and have such big feelings.

You carry around "Puppy Mudge" everywhere (after listening to Henry & Mudge books in the car).

You are so exuberant - when you discover something that gives you delight you run to me just bursting with joy in your face and body, wanting me to enter into your jubilation.

You have a sweet bond with your daddy, you love to cuddle on his shoulder, read Star Wars books with him, and lay on the floor with him before bed ("Daddy, go to sleep!")

You ask to cuddle, and you sometimes back up to us to be lifted into our lap for some book reading.

You main mode of transportation: skipping and galloping.

It can take a reallyyyyyyy longggggggg time to read a book because you love to ask questions: "What is it? Where did the mommy go (you're always very concerned about the mommy)? What IS that? What is the sheep doing?"

Your birthday celebrations:
The day of your birthday, Karis helped wake you up with singing! You came upstairs and had a meaty breakfast on a Mickey Mouse plate, surrounded by Happy Birthday balloons (a Mickey Mouse one, too). Karis gave you the things she picked out the day before: a little skate board, deodorant, a new toothbrush. We (gpa and gma P, Karis, mom) went to the Heritage Center in Bismarck . . . you got to watch part of Toy Story in the theater and wouldn't you know - the main character was having a 3rd birthday party! We wandered to the tree house and then found a tractor simulator (took a while to get you off that one). Panini  & dinosaur cookie lunch and home for a nap to rest up for . . . your pizza party at Grandma Carole's. You got a scooter from her and wheeled around all night, pure joy.

The next afternoon we had an "office party" at Nexus, you ran around (with puppy Bear!) and fully got into people singing for you. You filled up on juice and snacks and ruled the roost.

And then a couple weeks ago we appropriately spread out the celebrations - by taking out the Mickey plates and cake mix cookies for some singing with the Dierkers. You and birthday buddy Lukas were beaming, and so were the sisters Eliza & Karis.

Things I hope you hear me say:
"I love who you are", "I love the exact age you are", "God has made you a very special child and he has a good plan for your life", "I'm so thankful for your life, I love being your mommy", "You have an amazing big sister", "you are so funny", "you're safe", "I'm on your team"

You started saying with me your baptism verses while I change your diaper, and what a powerful prayer these Words are: "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ might give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you might know Him more. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, that you might know the hope to which He has called you. His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for those who believe" (Ephesians 1:17-18).

A day in your life right now:
We never really know when you wake up, because I'm pretty sure you roll around on your floor and love being alone (reminds us of your daddy! you love sleep). We go get you by 7:30 so we have time to cuddle and read (you would do this forever it seems like, but we have to get out the door at 8 so we do our best). We get you dressed for the day (you love: "camo pants! airplane shirt! guitar shirt! lumber jack shirt!") and head downstairs (pootsie in hand). You sometimes eat breakfast right away, sometimes, "put it in a baggie, Mommy!" (french toast, "broccoli egg", string cheese, smoothie). You "hop to Mommy" by going to the fireplace and then counting to five and running to me arms for me to help you get ready for the car. You ask, "Drop off Karis? Go to chapel?" and you soak in her school's morning assembly, in my arms singing or making hilarious faces to me and saying "Hi Mommy" when you know you're supposed to be quiet. Our mornings together are so fun! You love Tuesdays at the church nursery, trips to Trader Joes ("look for Wally! Get a lolly!", and you push the little cart sometimes). Other days we often go visiting - friends, playdates, meal deliveries . . . you're a great little buddy and you love going anywhere. You often ask, "Listen Katie & Big Snow?" You enjoy your own company, and you often hum to yourself as you build towers and trains and roll trucks along on the ground (your favorite things). You chatter and ask a ton of questions (even when you know the answer) in the sweetest voice. You love to read Little Blue Truck when we wait picking up Karis around noon. You're often munching a pb sandwich on our way to get her, and when we get home I carry you right up to nap. Sometimes you bang around and sing and play and build book towers for a long time . . . Karis and I sneak peaks of you in the video monitor. We wake you up at 3 and we often rock in your chair and read and let you have a slow wake up for up to 45 minutes before heading down for a snack. You and Karis bundle up and head outside, and you have so much fun together sliding on ice, sledding, eating snow. You come in and un-bundle and have hot chocolate and then play and play. Sometimes we do a bath before dinner-time, you go through phases of enjoying it (for a while you pretended to be pooping so that we'd panic and take you out - quite the game you had there) but lately it's good times. You adore your "moose pajamas" (used to be minions, those were cute too). They're too big and so comfy and adorable, you little squishy man. Then we cuddle and read ("Read train book? Read prayer book?") and then you beg to "Watch the tractor movie!". It's a show gma gave you and it's really just that: tractors. I set the timer, you and Karis watch for a few minutes while I get dinner on the table . . . when the timer goes off, you run to the table exclaiming, "Dinner timer!". You eye your plate suspiciously, if it's familiar you devour and if not it depends (rice goes down fast. mashed potatoes are the enemy. meat always wins). Then you either dance to a piano song or sit in dad's lap for a Star Wars book. You and Karis go upstairs with daddy for "gummies! moose jammies (your very favorite)!" or "Engine Turtles!" (Ninja, your other fave). Then we all go in mommy/daddy's room - we read the Bible (you play with the bookmark) and we pray. You've started asking us to pray for people: "And grandpa and grandma and Roger and Kim and Chelsea and . . . .". Then you and daddy "go to sleep" (lay on the floor) while I tuck Karis in . . . I come back and you wind up to hop to mommy. You nuzzle in to my arms and I carry you to your room - you turn on your noise machine . . .  we rock and read the Hug a Bible and sometimes you want to give it a hug. You lay your head on my shoulder with your pootsie while I pray, and then you look at me with a little smirk and ask, "Pray for Judah one more time?" Of course. And then you lay down in my lap and I zip up your sleep sack and we sing "Jesus Loves Me", turn out the light, put you in bed, I close the door. And then, thump thump thump thump - you're out and you're happy and I'm not sure what you do in there until you fall asleep but you're pretty quiet and delighted to be in your room. And you sleep blessedly through the night, thanks to trusty pootsie and your thumb. Did I mention you love your thumb? You squishy boy, your life is a gift. I'm blessed to be your mom, and I entrust your life to the God who formed you - what joy to watch creation unfold through your life.

A couple recent reads made me think of you . . .

From Plan B by Anne Lamott:
"Parents grieve as their babies get bigger, because they imagine the cannot imagine the child will ever be so heartbreakingly cute and needy again. [her son] is a swirl of every age he's ever been, and all the new ones, like cotton candy, like the Milky Way. I can see the wonder of the toddler, the watchfulness of the young child sopping stuff up, the busy purpose and workmanship of [older ages] . . . "

And this line from a recent fave book of your's really sums it up:
"And the snow
while it is here,
reminds us of this:
that nothing lasts forever
except memories."
(Snow, Cynthia Rylant)

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Word(s)

(still to come, the 12 days of Christmas. And admitting that Judah is 3. But for now, gotta get down the now):

Keeping the tradition of framing the new year around a word . . . this time it's a phrase:

Love in Action. 

I spent some time in December reading through 1 John, and it just hit me. Especially 3:18.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth. This is then how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

And then of course on the drive back to MN after Christmas, that was a highlighted verse on a random radio show.

And then, days later I read these quotes (in The Happiness Project):
"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by . . . every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love"
- St. Therese of Lisseux

So there it is. Simple but not.

And to turn 180 here, the lighter side, some 2016 so far:

I've been just laughing lately. January must be for laughing. After picking up Dad is Fat at the library I was almost in laughter tears reading the intro. In the library. People were probably wondering. I read a page here or there while the kids are playing, and I've realized I laugh harder when I read it in their presence. Comedic truth is hilarious when your watching the subject.

Dance parties. I've been going through my "hit songs" piano book with the kids . . . as I write this, Trevor just got done singing along with me to "Everything I do, I Do it For You" (lots of history there, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is one we watched while dating. You know, 20 years ago. WHAT?!). Karis told him he was singing too loud. This has quickly become a new tradition - one song after dinner, Karis dances and Trev takes a break in the wing chair and Judah either dances or brings a Star Wars book to Trev.

More dance parties. Trev recorded himself singing "That's My Daughter in the Water" and the kids love playing it on their CD player and dancing (Judah prefers wearing Karis's pink slippers. Obviously).

Living, growing things in the house (besides children). We were given a lily plant by neighbors (from their wedding), Trev was excited to have something green and alive here. And then one grandma gave us a fairy garden (it grows grass and beans) and another grandma and indoor Amaryllis plant. And so, Karis has some things to take care of (besides Judah).

Small randomness. We were driving down 169 one day to drop some things off a ways south, and I wanted to do something fun with the kids after the driving but didn't want to drive any more . . . and then, we passed the Depot coffee shop, right by where we used to live. Oh my word, the kids loved it - CARAMEL MILK! On a comfy couch. And all sorts of things to get into and adults to disturb! We didn't overstay our welcome, but it was a huge score for simple treats and memory lane.

Wonderful winter weekends. One weekend for Grandpa Jim's 95th birthday (wow!), included a McD's date for kids with J & C, and fairy garden assembly with Gma L.  Another weekend was me leaving on a children's leader's team retreat (amazing) while Karis got strep (awful) and grandma and grandpa were here to help hang out and be with Judah while K was at the doc with daddy. So grateful. Oh, and they got to watch the Bronco's win together. Oh, and while I was gone Trevor reorganized some of "my" kitchen (and I had to put some things back, sorry honey - because let's be real, like it's "your" garage, it's "my kitchen". Yes, we're "traditional" like that and it works).

Good movies watched. When Marnie Was There. A good old re-watch of Dan in Real Life (still love it). In the middle of The Legend of Arietty.

Shoveling. The kids love shoveling (well, the novelty is wearing off already, but it worked when it counted. Thanks minions).

Donut date with D & M, Judah & I loved the quality time together at Yo Yo (and the marshmallow donut, so fun to watch him decide).

Christmas party date. Why not have the work Christmas party at the end of January? Super fun, we found a quiet corner table and talked to the same people the whole time (introvert side heaven - lots of people around but quality connection with a few). Refreshing to be out with my hub on his turf.

No tech time. Instituted by my wise husband (who is on technology all day). I'm on technology in hyper snippets throughout the day and so this is probably the biggest change for me - and so good. We sit in the toy room on the wing chairs and talk. Imagine that! Refreshing.

Keeping it real. Not without reality here, plenty of it. One day Karis fell into my arms saying, "I just don't like when I'm not perfect". Preach it, girl! We are here to teach other about Grace, and I'm grateful. We are all making mistakes around here, and giving Grace and trying to receive it (that, to me, is the hardest part). Trevor is navigating lots of change at work. I remain a thermometer to my family and still needing reminders of solid ground. Always trying to pay attention to our habits of relating and living together. And yet just chill out and enjoy the ride, right?

What I'm reading/recently read: The Middle Place, Dad is Fat, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, Jane of Lantern Hill, War & Peace, As for Me and My House, Notes From a Blue Bike, Plan B

What Karis is reading (more like what we're reading together): The Hundred Dresses, Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Five Dog Night, Fun in the Sun, A Bear Called Paddington, Hans Brinker (picture book)

She's busy sounding things out and soaking in language and trying out words - love it.

What Judah is reading: Snow (Cynthia Rylant), A You're Adorable, The Story of the Snow Children, Love You Forever, Otis, Bedtime Rhymes, Little Blue Truck, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, Jonah Golden Book

What Trevor's been reading lately (oh my word, get ready):
Prometheus Bound, History by Herodotus, Lords of the Sith (Star Wars),  Thucydides: The History of the Peloponnesian War, Plato: Statesman

A little reading not-coincidence, stories (specifically ones around the kitchen table . . . 
Paying attention to reading the same thing in two different places in one day . . .

From A Little Salty to cut the Sweet (this book ends with a chapter called "That Whole Table Thing is Pretty Symbolic, Y'all" and she is HUGE on family togetherness around the table)
". . . you stay with it, and you get after it, and you love each other, and you forgive each other, and you keep coming back to the table. And once you're there, you sit down, and you settle in, and you remember. You share your stories. The table is where He links the generations, where He prompts us to join hands and bow heads and remember and laugh and pass our stories back and forth to each other . . .  as we share our stories with those people God has specifically ordained to walk with us on this side of eternity - and they share their stories with us - we see the sacred in the ordinary. We see the profound in the mundane. We see the joy in the day to day. We see the hand of God writing a much bigger story - a story of rescue and redemption and hope and glory. Right here in the middle of the hilarious and the tragic and the sublime and the sad. We have to share our stories with them (our children). We have to write them down, we have to say them out loud, we have to put away our phones and close our computers and linger at the table long after the meal is over. We have to make much of what God has done in our lives and what He continues to do . . .after all, why in the world would we keep our firstand experiences with His faithfulness, His grace, His kindness, His mercy, and His joy to ourselves?

From Kitchen Table Wisdom
"The more we listen, the clearer that Story becomes. Our true identity, who we are, why we are here, what sustains us, is in this story. The stories at every kitchen table are about the same things . . . Stories about God. In telling them, we are telling each other the human story. Stories that touch us in this place of common humanness awaken us and weave us together as a family once again."

- "We're so blessed this car was taken care of so well! Grandma and daddy took such good care of it" (mini Trevor - she will take good care of her things!)
- "Did Jesus REALLY die on the cross? "
- "Is tucking me back in the favorite part of your night?" (I hope it's okay I said yes, even though at 3am I'd rather keep sleeping. Sweet tender girl)
- "Is the teria in your back?" (asking Gpa Kirk about bacteria, while cuddling with him on the couch in the middle of a fever)
- "Mom, I just don't like pushing trucks around like Judah does. It just looks really tiring" (HA! I'm doing some reading on the psychological basis for these differences, so we had a quick chat about that)
- "Mommy, are book clubs important?"
- "I can't wait to go to the hot lock!" (church potluck)
- "I gotta go work on my bacteria" (what she now calls the place behind her rocking chair . . . always evolving)
- "Mom, Judah got into my bacteria and instead of yelling, I just asked him to keep his arms down at his sides!" (HA!)
- Karis LOVES babies. Loves them (pic below). She's practicing for all the cousins she'll have soon!
- She's really into telling time, amazing to watch her make sense and take ownership of it
- Her new stations include taking care of mini dolls . . . feeding, napping, setting up a play pen. Pretty adorable
- "I made an ice rink in back!" (indeed, found a patch of ice and loved sliding on it)
- "Can you play the 'vitamin in D'?" (Canon in D - hilarious)

Judah jabbers: 
- "Where did the blue car go?" (can we please stop talking about this?)
- "Wa wa wa wa wa wa what IS that?!" (asked about everything)
- "What's Totoro's mommy doing?" (lots of questions about mommies - where are they, what are they doing. Adorable)
- "I made a choo choo train! CHOO CHOO!" (while at a friend's home for tea - the train was made out of stools. There was also a pillow tower. He also played hide and seek with their cat and went into our hosts bedroom un-invited)
- "What is it doing?" (said to anything, including inanimate objects like food, books, toys)
- "I have to disobey mommy!" (in such a sweet voice and doe eyes - so hard to keep a straight face)
- "You want please read it to me?"
- "I want to go potty training - get an m & m!"
- "I want my monkey hat, mommy! Climbing to get my monkey hat!"
- "Go inside, mommy" (sincerely, wanted me to go back inside while he played in the snow)

Monday, February 1, 2016

"Still, Still, Still"

Let's just pretend that it's "Still, Still, Still" Advent . . .  because as I hit that little "publish" button, Advent is now a memory, and how I love memories. They simmer and I savor. I love to think about the good times, what we've learned, how we've grown. The perspective time gives, the way things do work together for the good, the way usually the "cream rises to the top".

Something significant happened here on Dec. 3 . . . in the form of a car accident. About 2 minutes after it happened and I realized we were all okay, I thought about how I craved a simple Advent . . .and how this might force us further into that hope. It was horrible (and yet in the grand scheme of accidents, probably not awful). But to me, horrible. Hit and run at a 4 way stop, impact on Judah's side, turned us around, Judah's air bags went off . . .and, we were completely unscratched. Car totaled, we had not a mark. Maybe sounds Pollyanna-ish, but for sure the Graces and Mercies that followed far outweighed any harm caused by this rattling event. I could go on and on (and I just might). And again, memory can be a beautiful thing sometimes, when I choose to focus on the Redeeming ones. Ready? My best friend and her 2 littles were right behind us . . . sweet Marissa watched it happen, Becky pulled over. She helped me with Judah (who, mercifully, was upset for a short time and then settled into his car seat for at least an hour). She prayed for me. Trevor zoomed to us. Amazing police men. We were completely unhurt. The friend who was supposed to come over that morning has also been in an accident and her empathy over the phone was a gift. It was a clear and sunny day, chilly but bearable to stand and figure things out. Trev was able to drive the car home. Insurance -wow - we know our agent (her wife is an acquaintance of mine through a play group, wild) - kind people, new car seats, doctor check ups, some chiro care. Our sister in law loaned us her car for a week, Trev bused/biked and he was pure grace and mercy to me over and over. Connecting with family. The day after I met a dear friend for coffee and she pulled monster cookies out of her purse - I had burned some to a crisp earlier that day, so I just laughed at that simple but significant-to-me gift. The mercies went on and on, including Trev's parents were already selling a car and we were able to use the total loss coverage to purchase.

That said, what I wouldn't give to have lingered 3 more seconds or left the school 3 seconds earlier . . . to have my blue car back . . . to not be receiving insurance & police calls or filling out paperwork or trying to figure out if we should keep going to the chiro . . . or feeling like every car is coming at me . . . or the triggered anxiety that I sometimes have to face head on . . . or hearing the kids continue to make sense of it all when I'd rather not talk about it.

And I wonder - we were so very unhurt and provided for, and wow the people who aren't and are hurt and are having to use every bit of insurance they have. Well, we receive the Grace. And feel more awareness for those whose reality from accidents is different.

Well, moving on. December was a quiet and meaningful season here. Especially in retrospect.

A couple songs that marked the season 

Still, Still, Still. 

King of Heaven Come Down

Making Stations
Karis makes "stations" (her term) all around the house and I love it. The latest is of course surrounding the Christmas tree . . . her creation evolves every day with more chairs, more paper, more books, more stuff. Stuff. Lots of stuff. Her room - lots of stuff, lots of stations.

I Say No Mommy! (that's much better)
Oh Judah. He loves to contradict me (if I say the sky is blue today, he responds "No Mommy sky not blue!"). So, if I say "Stop. Speak kindly please" he'll respond, "Hi, Mommy! That's much better" (after hearing me say "that's much better" over and over). I love that boy so.

Playing in Carseat boxes
Well, thanks insurance, for the beautiful new car seats! And of course for the boxes, what fun.

Decorating School
Part of the inward hunkering down helped me choose quieter things this season. On a morning I was supposed to go to the church for a narration study that I love, people were decorating Christmas trees at Karis's school. Our besties were there and it ended up being a highlight of Advent - we found a cozy basement room (BASEMENTS. Did you know I love basements? I do) and set up a tree and watched our littles run around and watched our bigs come and go in the rhythm of their school day. Thank you spontaneity, sometimes you know best.

Belated Celebration
Happy 30th b-day, little brother (way late and not at Valley Fair as promised. Next year?). Tiny Diner, Bogart Donuts, Bryant Lake Bowl, getting candy at Uncle's office. It's clear that Uncle Drew's (very belated) 30th b-day celebration was the most fun for Judah. It was a sweet morning of having some little S. Mpls adventures together, happy happy birthday!

Some old time reading . . . after Heidi I leaped into Robinson Crusoe:
"I spent the whole day in humble and thankful acknowledgement of the many wonderful mercies . . . which my condition was attended with, and without which it might have been infinitely more miserable."

Oh, that was timely. Thank you, Robinson.

Celebration of Carols & Lessons
This is a tradition at Karis's school (their version of a Christmas program) and the time was memorable, beautiful, special. Grandma N & Grandpa K & Drew & Mel were there (thankfully Judah listened to Mel's instruction for "shhhh"!). We sang and celebrated and then continued the weekend with an early Christmas here with grandma's meatballs and an afternoon viewing of Frozen (after a morning of play at Eden Prairie Center that included a quiet Barnes and Noble coffee date for me and Trev. Early present!). Oh, and Friday morning we did Nicolett Island Inn breakfast and a run around Macy's Santa Land for Judah. So festive.

Star Wars!
A highlight for Trev that needs to be mentioned. Rave reviews from this fan and I hope to see it with him soon.

Early Celebration ala Karis
Karis spent much of Advent busy in her room making presents for our little family. She made notes to remind us that the Tuesday before we left for Bismarck is the day we were to open these gifts. The day came, we enjoyed a candlelight meatball dinner (thanks grandma Nancy!). We gathered in the toy room for some piano and singing, and she brought down all the gifts. Lots of baggies, each with a piece of paper labeled "present" inside. We were warned that some were to borrow, some were to keep. They were chosen with creative care and I for sure melted watching her hand us our gifts - a hand-sewn dog for Judah with his initials. A bag of quarters for me to use at Aldi (I've been without/losing mine occasionally!). Rubber duckies. Other miscellanea from her room. We usually do Epiphany gifts (3 simple ones - sometimes an experience instead of a tangible), but we gave the kids the books we'd gotten - Mr. Popper's Penguins for Karis. She squealed, to have her very own copy. That sweet girl, exploding with joy. Judah got Animals of the Bible, he didn't squeal. We ended with ice cream and appropriate parenting gushing and mushi-ness.

More random Memories:
- Judah loves "Oh Christmas Tree", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and reading Christmas in the Barn
- Do you wanna build a snowman? Of course! Daddy will help you
- They both love dancing while I play carols on the piano
- This year's fave Christmas books for Karis are Peter & Lotta's Christmas and Christmas Tree Memories
- Judah's are Room for a Little One, Christmas is Here, Christmas in the Barn
- Together they love turning off all but the Christmas tree lights and dancing to a CD of Canon in D or the Nutcracker
- Being home. We were just home a lot. We talked on the way back from Thanksgiving about keeping things simple (hello, car accident forced that on us in some ways) and inviting people into our home. We enjoyed time with a random co-worker of Trev's here for Elk, dear neighbor framily over for meatball dinner and candlelight Advent readings, more framily for a Sunday hang with treats and talk
- "Gym day" with dear friends, kids ran off energy while moms talked each other off the ledge of holiday hyperactivity
- Watching for our Christmas lights to come on outside
- Spending a snowy cold morning at precious Eliza's dance recital
- Evening candlelight devotions. The People Walking in Darkness . . . Have Seen a Great Light!

To be continued . . .The Twelve Days of Christmas (cue music)

- "Oh, I just love your car so much!"
-"Momma, did the police men write a note to the governor about your accident so he can know about it?"
- "Isn't it just so magnificent! I just really want to try to draw this doll house" (after reading Becky's Christmas)
- "Judah, that's enough!"
- "All right, we took off all our wares!"
- "It's the grand finale!"
- "Judah, Karis-ee has to go to school, and you get to go on a date with Drew-ey!"
- "Judah, Karis-ee made you a DOG! Do you like it?"
- "The lights came on!"

Judah Jibes: 
- "Mommy's car got a scrape!"
- "Little man helped mommy!"
- "Mommy was sad in blue car"
- "Becky pray mommy"
- "Mommy pray Judah" (before bed now, and he nuzzles in and doesn't seem to want to let go . . . )
- "Toast casserole!" (he loved a recent french toast casserole)
- "No mommy! Sky's not blue!"
- "Grandma Grandpa come Christmastime!"
- "Daddy at spaceship!" (mis understood "car dealership" on our way to pick up Trev)
- "I say NO MOMMMY! Hi Mommy. That's much better"
- "Ahhh, I think . . . change diaper!"
- "Ahhhh, I think . . . pray for Judah one more time!"
- "We go on Drewey date!"
- "I poop at other table at restaurant"
- "It's Tiny Diner!" (while pretending to cook. Ha!)
- "Mommy where are you? Mommy what are you doing?" (in cutest voice)
- "What are you making, Mommy?"
- "Where are we gonna go, Mommy?"