Saturday, December 27, 2014

christmas cheer

I think I have said this for the past three years, but being a parent is even better than being a child at Christmas. With a toddler and two "big kids," this year was full of fun, wonder, excitement, anticipation, sprinkles, sugar, and love. I love the traditions we are building with our children...Christmas Eve mass, The Night Before Christmas reading, waking up at home with a set of grandparents to share the day with, Santa, presents, baking and decorating a birthday cake for Baby Jesus. These sweet moments are such treasures. Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from our sweet day.

fun with Papa and Nana on Christmas Eve

Santa came! Behold the madness!

Happy Birthday, Jesus

can't wait to add another little one to the celebration next year

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

o holy night

My favorite conversation with Barnes & Frances occurred tonight in the bathroom during Christmas Eve Mass. Unprompted, unscripted, unrehearsed. It sums up Christmas so perfectly that there is truly nothing to add. Out of the mouths of babes, my friends.

Frances: "I'm glad Baby Jesus came."

Barnes: "I'm so glad he came tonight."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

christmastime is here

Call us pagans, but at Christmas, we go all in. Of course we read the Christmas story...we talk about Baby Jesus and Mary and the meaning behind this precious holiday (in fact, Frances is currently in love with Mary). But we also take part in all the non-religious fun. The tree, the presents, the crafts, the elf on the shelf (ours is DeeDee), Santa, reindeer, carols with literally nothing to do with Bethlehem.

I've read lots of opinions on this, and I totally get the people who refuse to celebrate any secular aspect of the holiday. But for us, we love it all. We love the manger AND the sleigh. Our Mickey Mouse ornament hangs right by our angel. We talk about how Jesus got three gifts, then we allow our children to receive some insane multiple of that on Christmas morning. And I think that's okay. Because the thing is, it's still all about love.

It's pouring our love all over our sweet kids, with intention that is easier to make time for during this season than at any other point on the calendar. It's watching friends and family give of themselves to our children, through time and attention and gift. It's the wonder of seeing our oldest two begin to learn about the joy of giving. And every year, every day, it's about using this season to point our kids' hearts and our own toward the love of our Father. About telling and retelling the captivating nativity story. About hearing my children point to the empty manger this morning in mass and ask where Baby Jesus was, and explaining that the world excitedly waits for His arrival on Christmas Eve. It's using our meager ability to love to reflect God's perfect love for us, and relishing in this magnificent season with which we have been gifted.

Merry Christmas Week! May you and your family, however you celebrate, be filled with love and warmth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

the smiley face

Every morning, without fail, B&F ask for an art time. And they aren't just satisfied with a box of crayons and some paper....they want a planned-out, project-oriented art time. I know this doesn't sound like a huge deal, but I am absolutely not a preschool teacher. I do not have endless 3-year-old projects tucked away in my brain, and am often not brave enough to delve into the mess that comes with many pinterest projects. But I try. I try to come up with something fun and engaging every morning, not just because they love it so much, but because I truly believe that kids learn through play.

We don't spend a lot of time doing flashcards in our home. In fact, the only "flashcards" the twins have ever had were used to identify the Disney character on them instead of for the intended name-the-shape game. No offense to the moms out there doing flashcards--you do what works for you. But for us, I am firmly planted in the "we expect too much out of our children at far too young an age" camp. I don't want my 3-year-olds feeling the pressures and anxieties of academia yet. There's plenty of time for that. For now, we learn through playing trucks and kitchens and dolls, and we learn through art time.

But as many of you know, I have a bit of a competitive side. Since having kids, my need to "make the grade" has quelled substantially, but it still flares at times. When someone posts a video of their kid, just a few months older than mine, reading. When someone oh-so-humbly brags that their 2.5 year old can write all their letters. When someone notifies us that their 4-year-old has been invited to apply for early admission at Harvard. Sometimes I freak out a bit. Am I doing a terrible job? I mean...I'm a stay-at-home kids should probably be to chapter books at 3. Why are we spending time gluing this silly looking penguin together? We should be reading and writing and memorizing! They seriously just used the penguin's feet as its eyes! I am definitely failing here!!!! Less playing more learning!

But those freak outs, those comparisons, are all about me. I am never actually worried that B&F aren't doing well enough. They are geniuses! Truly, I believe (as every parent should) that my children are exceptional. My fear of failure has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. So we keep playing. Because that's what we have determined, through research and gut-instinct, is best for our children. And then, in their own 3-year-old way and through God's precious grace, they do something that assures me we are doing just fine.

At parent-teacher conference (yes, for the older 2s class), I asked about making smiley faces. I said we had worked on it to their complete disinterest, and I wondered if they should be able to draw one now. The teachers said absolutely not...many kids much older still wouldn't intentionally put the parts of the smiley face together. A few weeks later while out to dinner, the kiddos were drawing. And Frances drew a smiley face. A literally perfect smiley fact, with eyes, nose, mouth, hair, and ears. Then Barnes followed suit, with another perfectly recognizable face. Y'all...I know it sounds tiny, but those two precious drawings were balm to this mom's sometimes weary soul.

When we become parents, we give up so much of who we are....but not everything. I still have my quirks. I still have my irrational need for achievement. And those sweet smiley faces were one of my favorite achievements to date.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

and baby #4 is......

a boy!!!!!!!

We are so thrilled to add another precious son to our family. Frances was temporarily confused, as she had decided the baby was a girl, but all is well now and everyone is looking forward to meeting this newest little one in May.