Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Day

What I loved most about Christmas...

One More Month...

Really? We will be adding another little Fletcher to our crazy house in less than one month!

My due date is one month from today and my doctor says she won't let me go over that date. I have an ultrasound next Thursday (36 weeks) to check the baby's positioning and fluid levels and all that other important stuff. What they see will determine if we have to schedule a c-section or can proceed with my attempt to have a VBAC.

The most common question I get these days: Do you have a name for him yet?

My answer: Nope. We have several names we like, but we haven't decided. We probably won't decide for sure until we see him and I spend some time enjoying him.

Second most common question I get: How are you feeling?

My answer: Pretty good. I'm usually great in the morning and then get tired in the afternoon. I've started taking naps or resting again. My legs/feet haven't started swelling too much, but over the weekend I noticed them getting puffy a few times. My back aches, I get heartburn several times a day, and I am generally uncomfortable by nighttime. I'm also having some trouble sleeping, but last night I got good rest. Overall, I'm doing really well.

Third most common question I get: Are you ready for the baby to come?

My answer: Yes. We will set up the crib tonight. We have a car seat, a diaper bag, and clothes. I have a few more things to do to feel "really ready" (put his clothes in the dresser and organize the diapering area), but I think we would be good if he came anytime after the first week of January.

WOW! One more month. A family of six. Another precious little baby. Another huge responsibility. Another incredible blessing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Eve

Joel's cousin, Chris, came to visit us last Christmas. He had lots of fun and so did we. So, he came again this year. He arrived on Thursday afternoon and Friday we hit the ground for some adventures!
There is a new train line that comes up to our city. It just opened the first of December and will take you to downtown Dallas or all the way to Fair Park, on the east side of the city. You can also get connections and ride to the Dallas Zoo and many other places.
For a very reasonable price, our whole family can ride the train. Since it's a novelty, we did just that. The girls played Old Maid during the train ride. Asa shouted about everything we passed and the adults just sat back and talked.Our downtown excursion was meant to be a fun little trip to visit the Neiman Marcus Christmas display. It ended up being pretty cold, very wet, and a little less exciting than we hoped. However, it was still an adventure, for sure. I imagine in years to come we'll say "Remember the time we rode the train downtown and got soaking wet just so the kids could crawl through a tunnel for 10 minutes?"We were all glad to get back home and get out of our wet clothes and into some jammies. We let the kids open one of their presents. While they were sent from our church in PA, I knew each one got a pillow pet. With all the other presents from grandparents and Uncle Chris and us, I thought it would be most appreciated if it was opened a little early. I was right! The kids laid down and took naps with their new pillow pets. Then, we went to Christmas Eve service.
The kids did a nice job of participating in the Christmas hymns and candle lighting. Then, they colored their worksheets while Pastor Jerry shared a message for the adults.
Despite being VERY casually dressed*, we snapped a quick family picture. Then, we headed out for some dinner.
*We went to church in very casual attire, as you can see. Having suffered through the cold with wet clothes already, I wasn't keen on getting the girls in tights only to hear complaints about the temperatures or making Asa wear matching shoes and then watching him splash in a puddle. I also knew the service would be short and we would be going to eat afterward with a stop to look at lights to follow--more time out in the cold. So, I threw my "they must be dressed adorably on Christmas Eve" mama-made rule out the window and said "you can wear a pretty dress to dinner tomorrow". Ahhh....it was nice!
We came home and got tucked into bed. The next morning, we were all ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Parenting Post --Not At All Holiday Themed

I have discovered Google Reader. I like it! Finally I can read all the blogs I want to keep up with without taking a lot of time to do it. I can skim, skip, or read in-depth. I highly recommend it. And, if you're anything like me and still have no clue how to really use it, email me and I'll tell you what I've learned (or if you know more than me, which is highly likely, email me and tell me how you read and how you do it!).

Now, the parenting post.

I can't say it nearly as well as I think she did, so I'm just pointing you to her post. It's by Elizabeth Esther, who I follow. I don't agree with all the things she writes, but I think this post was well written. For those who don't like to click through to another blog, there are some excerpts below.

A few things that hit home to me:
  • EE says she doesn't have time for theories, debates, and methods; she has too much laundry. She then says "It must be nice to have so much time on your hands that you can actually care about crap like that."
  • Then she says she used to be one of those. And, it all sprang from her insecurity and a deep need to prove herself and and a longing for affirmation.
  • She says kids need love more than anything.
  • She says she doesn't want to live for others, including her children. But, instead she wants to be happy--and challenges the idea that moms can't seek their own happiness.
The reasons I love this post:

  • I spend way too much time reading about those exact theories and doubting myself and my abilities and whether I'm doing it "the right way".
  • I don't spend enough time doing the laundry (or the other things that I know would help my home run more smoothly and actually be productive).
  • I know that often times I assert my convictions forcefully because I feel insecure in them or else feel I have to prove things to someone else. I want to be someone who lives her convictions in quietness and allows my life to speak for me (while only speaking if asked). This is a huge work in progress for me, a people pleaser.
  • I have always asserted that I want to be a mom who loves her children and honors God with parenting, but who doesn't want to lose who I am in my children. I want to still pursue what makes me happy, have a great relationship with my husband (apart from my kids; after all, they'll be grown and gone from our home one day), and realize I'm valuable despite what my children do (or don't do). I think wrapping your life up in your children means you depend on them for credibility as a person and their success makes you either successful or a failure.
So, hop over the read the post if you have time and inclination. Or, just consider this my post on parenting.

Ah, freedom.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in the Making

The kids enjoyed helping make some gifts this year.
We made blankets for 2 sets of grandparents. We get to see the other grandma in another month--yeah! She's coming for the little man's arrival. Her present isn't done yet.
I picked a gift to give that the kids could help make because I think it makes them more special. Plus, I never know what to get our parents that will bless them. It's really hard when you live far away from your folks because you don't get the passing "oh that's cute" or "I could use that" comments. Who tells people those things when you live far apart?
So, we made blankets. These are super easy to make, but they definitely required some energy. I had to lay out the fabric on our front living room floor and then scoot my bottom around the perimeter making cuts.These days it is more work to crawl around on the floor than to just go buy something at the store.
Then, the kids and I tied off all the strips.
Let me say, it was a labor of love. My dad is an athletic director and my stepmom watches the football games, so we made them a football blanket.
My mother-in-law loves the Dallas Cowboys (always has, even though she's always lived in northern PA). So, we made them a Cowboys blanket.
And, what do you do with the little scraps that are left over from trimming the edges? Well, you let your 6 year old become a designer and fashion belts and scarves, of course. Then, you dutifully model them!
(I absolutely LOVE that Asa is wearing a "scarf" he made in the picture above. Go back and look! He didn't make it into too many pics because he wasn't the best at tying and would get frustrated.)

Merry Christmas Eve

God wrapped in flesh...He appeared and the soul felt its worth...a thrill of hope...He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger...Let all within us praise His holy name

--a few words from the song "O Holy Night"

May you marvel at Emmanuel, God with us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Dilema

One reason I think my blog has been so quiet these last few weeks (aside from sick kids, pregnant mama, and all the activity of the season) is that I've been wrestling again over the whole issue of "Santa". I am not doubting our decision to tell our kids the truth at all. (You can read about how we handle Santa here.) What I've wrestled with is how I see Santa pushed so fervently on my kids from everyone else and yet a "be careful what you say" when it comes to talking about Jesus, especially in schools.

Rylee goes to a public charter school. I don't expect the story of Jesus to be taught to her at school. But, I also wasn't prepared for how much they push Santa and all the secularized pieces of Christmas.

A decade ago I remember hearing things about schools having "holiday parties" or "winter celebrations" or winter/holiday break instead of Christmas Break. There was a push to take the emphasis off Christmas because not all students celebrated Christmas. This was met with opposition, but I understood it. In fact, I'm not offended at ALL when someone in a store says "Happy Holidays" to me; I like it!

This year I was struck by how much Santa was included in Rylee's school and just how adamant some teachers are about him being real, reindeer, elves, etc. (even when a kid says to them "Santa's not real"). I think I've decided I'd just rather them call it a holiday party and be totally generic than to skew Christmas so much--being adamant about the lies--and only include the parts that have nothing to do with Jesus.

I'm probably sounding very cynical. I vacillate these days between a rich adoration of the Christmas story and irritation at the way it's been covered up with so many other things. For me personally, this is the most wonderful time of the year --because I ponder the Christ-child, Emmanuel, God with Us, for a whole 4 weeks in earnest. I want to be able to accept the 'other stuff' without being frustrated. But, alas, I'm human and have a flesh. I want the love of Jesus that I celebrate to so penetrate my heart that I'm not at all frustrated with those who don't see it or have it or celebrate it, but that I will have absolute love for them all.

Maybe I'm more prickled by it because I have a 6 year old (and two 4 year olds) who I want to teach and train about Jesus' love and she keeps hearing other adults she trusts tell her Santa is real.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating Christmas

We have been incredibly blessed in the ways we have received support since joining staff with Gospel for Asia three years ago. Along with those who graciously support us each month (or quarter or year), we receive one-time support sporadically.
Then, there are gifts that come! WOW. Our church family in Pennsylvania sent us 2 large packages last week. I opened the boxes to find presents for each of my kiddos and a few gift bags. Joel and I also received gifts. The kids are very excited about the presents that got tucked behind our Christmas tree, but because the gift bags were somewhat 'open', I allowed them to go ahead and see what was inside. (Chocolate covered pretzels, gummy bears, and mini PB cups!)

We can't even begin to tell you how special it is to us that the children Sunday school classes at New Love got gifts for our children! A part of our hearts are still very much in Pennsylvania (where we lived for 5 years before Texas), and to know that they still care about us as much means the world!
Rylee had her class party on Friday, then got out early from school. I'm not the room mom this year, but I said I would help with this party. We planned several activities for the kids and they seemed to have a blast. We played a hot/cold game hiding a gift bag and the kids rang jingle bells when they got close. Then, we had stations and the kids colored wooden ornaments, decorated sugar cookies, did stamps/word puzzles, and made reindeer food. They enjoyed pizza and punch before the party was over.
On Saturday we took the kids shopping for gifts for each other. We've never done this before and it was awesome! We have been talking a lot about gift giving and why it's a part of Christmas. We felt the best way to really have them grasp and understand was to actually do the shopping for others. They were busy earlier in the month helping make the gifts we sent to some grandparents (that post will come later), but this time they each got $10 to spend on each sibling. They were hilarious to watch. And, what do they like to do when they're done?
Read.
Our kids were invited to make gingerbread houses on Sunday with Auntie Pam and Uncle Jim. We miss our grandparents very much since they all live far away. God has been gracious to put older adults in our lives to love and dote on our kids through the years. The kids made houses while Joel and I ran a few errands, then we came back and all enjoyed pizza.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Silence is...Quiet

I like silence.

Sometimes.

But, my blog has been waaaaaay too silent!

Why?

Well, let's see. Sick kids, pregnant mama, Christmas preparations, running a house with 6 people in it (we had a live-in house guest for the last month), laziness. Yep, that about sums it up.
So, what have we been doing? Hmmm...
I honestly thought I wouldn't have anything to post because we haven't done much. Umm, not true! My days just keep running together so I forget how full life has been.In early December Joel and I took an official tour of the hospital where we will be having baby boy within the next 6 weeks. Then, on December 12th, the kids took their sibling tour. They were cute to watch. They looked in the very empty nursery. Babies don't really go there often; they stay with their mamas the whole time (which I love). And, Rylee said with a little surprise, "You mean, my mom's going to sleep here? [answer: yes] Well, who's going to stay with us?" [nurse: I'm sure your parents have that planned.] uh...yeah, we should get on that! What else have we done? Well, do you see that funky looking wooden square thing pictured above? It's called a Learning Tower. They are crazy expensive. Just google it. Basically, it's something you can use so your kids can stand at counter height instead of using a chair/stool. Joel found this one at a resale shop nearby for $40 and knew it was worth much more. So, he bought it. I just listed it on craigslist this weekend and made $35 on it. Yeah, I'm that person. I could have made even more, but I wasn't crazy about keeping it in my garage (along with tons of other things) any longer. We also got the kids new beds and are trying to sell these.
We have changed their beds/bedrooms more than any other room in the house. [When we moved into this house just 2 1/2 years ago, the girls had a twin and crib, then a queen and crib, then just a queen, then bunk beds, then these two twin trundle beds, now a low loft and sort of bunk that will one day be a very low sitting bottom bed in an L shape. Does that make sense?]
Asa had a crib, then a twin trundle, and now the same low loft bed as the girls. Here's their new beds. (Asa has been in the girls room until this weekend. He'll go in there again as we have company for Christmas. Then, he'll be back into his room until the baby is ready for the crib. Then, Asa will join his brother once the littlest one is sleeping through the night. Is that confusing?)
Soon a crib will be joining Asa's room and a changing table will take up residence in a corner of my bedroom.

I've been sorting and washing baby clothes. Very exciting! I used a gift card from sweet GFA ladies and got a snap 'n go stroller off craigslist last week (plop your car seat right into it; very cool; always wanted one of these before). Yes, I use craigslist A LOT. Sold/selling: learning tower, Asa's head/footboard, girls beds. Bought: 2 low loft beds, stroller. That's just what I've done in the last 2 weeks. I {heart} craigslist and buying/selling used items!
We attended Jenna & Asa's Christmas performance at preschool on Tuesday night. It was the sweetest script about the colors of Christmas. Green and red - everlasting life and the blood of Jesus. It's absolutely precious to me to hear my kids grasping deep truths through fun ways.
We also put up some outdoor decor. Joel made the nativity set and we got these big lights from a friend. Our icicle lights were borrowed earlier in the year and we didn't get them back until late last week. The house would be prettier with those lights, but I don't know if we'll end up hanging them or not. With 70 degree weather coming to visit for the next 3 days, we will probably take advantage and add to the glitz.
Oh yeah, Rylee's school performance was back on December 2nd and then that weekend we tried to enjoy the downtown festivities. The kids each took a turn tubing down a snow hill...then we left. They were melting much faster than the blown-in "snow".See what I mean? We've done a lot more than I realize. I just haven't taken time to tell you about any of it.

Now I have. And, as I was uploading photos of the kids' new beds, guess what? I found about 4 other things to blog about just in the other pictures that were on my camera. Oh, my!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Belly Shots

I'll be 33 weeks tomorrow. (Like the sweats? They are my favorite attire. They have paint stains from many days at home spent doing projects around the house.)
This little guy loves to move around. He gets the hiccups almost daily. They can get annoying, but his moves never do. Well, only when he jabs me in the ribs. I get "false" contractions every now and then, something I never experienced with either of my 2 previous pregnancies. I have heartburn at least every other day, if not more frequently. My back gets tired by the middle of the afternoon. I haven't really started swelling much, which is good. I'm still sleeping pretty well; praise the Lord!
I get a few questions regularly, so I thought I'd just answer them here.

1--It's a boy.

2--No, we don't have a name yet. Yes, we have some options. Yes, we'll probably not know until he's born and we see him. I've asked some family to send me some name info and no one has responded. That makes it a little harder to pick/plan.

3--I'm hoping to have a VBAC. I'm praying that my body will go into labor completely on its own before his due date. My doctor won't let me go past my due date, so she said about a month ago.

4--I'm having the baby in a hospital. I think birthing centers are awesome and would love to do that, but having had a c-section with the twins I want to be in a hospital just in case.

5--We're pretty ready. We have a few things yet to get as far as equipment goes. I'm excited about a few things that will be 'new' to me this go 'round...using cloth diapers, a Moby wrap, and a snap 'n go stroller to use with our infant car seat. (I used cloth w/Rylee for the first 3 months with a diaper service. It wasn't the greatest experience because resources were pretty limited--income and people in the know. I have some close friends here who all use cloth and they are not only loaning me diapers, but they know tons about the process.)
Asa and I on a 'date' for the GFA Christmas party last night. The girls have strep throat so Joel graciously stayed home with them so I could get out of the house. I had a great time with my little man. He is one sweet boy!

Got a baby question? I'm kinda in the mood to talk baby stuff. Fire away. (or tell me your stories)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent: Real Mom style

Lofty goals.

I set them. I get frustrated when I cannot attain them.

I try to live by grace. I work hard to extend it to others and I try valiantly to give it to myself.

Last year I had lofty plans. (This will get you to all our posts about Christmas in years past.) I made a list and we were going to do so many fun activities. I wrapped Christmas books and we opened them. We did our very best to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It was great! I declared it "the best Christmas yet"!

This year, I started a list. Then, I stopped.

My list included things like: drive around and look at lights, visit a live nativity, attend staff Christmas party, participate in school performances, pick gifts from the GFA Christmas catalog, shop for family gifts, make grandparent gifts, etc. I thought we could do an activity every day. I thought of several ways we could 'reveal' the day's activity.

Then, reality hit me.

Nothing really happened, per se. I just realized I didn't want to even have a list. We're still doing pretty much all those things on the list. But, I don't have a list anymore. For me, a list means you have stuff to do. I don't want to feel like we have to do those things. And, I couldn't figure out the best way to reveal each activity. Plus, some activities take more than one day.

Instead, I have had sick children. I have been tired. Instead, I have just aimed at having better conversations with my kids and taking each day as it comes.

Instead of wrapping the Christmas books this year, I just have them set out. The kids have had a blast looking through them and reading the stories. (Rylee can read--yahoo!)

I ditched ALL craft projects. Last year sealed the deal for me: Megan + crafts = not a good idea. If it involves cooking or food, we can handle it. In fact, that's on tap for today.

Our Advent readings have been a little scattered. I'd say we average reading 4 nights each week. We use a little book I grabbed at Mardel's last year. It's super duper short. One night the kids drew pictures of angels, but most nights we just talk after we read.

We have continued our discussions about Santa. We have really stressed that it's not so much that "Santa isn't real" (which is what immediately comes out of their mouth) but Santa is like any other make-believe character (Dora, Spiderman, Disney princesses, the American Girls). We emphasize, however, that Santa is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, who loved Jesus very much. We talk about the spirit of giving and why it's a big piece of celebrating Christmas.

Thus far, I think we're all enjoying our Advent season, except the sick part (Asa has had an ear infection and Rylee has strep throat). We keep talking about waiting for Jesus. We talk about hope, peace, joy, and love.

I think our home is pretty full of those things.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Showers of Blessing

My sweet sisters at GFA hosted a double baby shower for me and my friend Jenna on Saturday. We are both pregnant with our 4th and we're both having a boy.
We had an evening shower that was decorated with penguins and polar bears. It was lovely!
Quite a few women helped in the planning and preparations. (These are just a few of them--Christy, Teressa, and Summur.)The cake was made by Lorrie. Isn't it just amazing? I absolutely LOVE the penguin sliding off the igloo and the polar bear walking on ice.
We also had a hot chocolate bar. Guests chose white or regular hot chocolate and then added goodies like white chocolate chips, milky way chunks, whipped cream, peppermint pieces, sprinkles, marshmallows, seasonings, etc. It was delicious!
Our family was showered with gifts to prepare for the arrival of our son. While I have many items from having 3 kiddos already, there are still quite a few things I gave away or sold over the years. And, having a new baby requires some consumable necessities, like diapers, baby wash, and baby lotion, which we were blessed to receive.
My girls had a good time and loved helping me open the gifts! I think it was a sweet treat just for them to be included. Over and over they said "Oh, I can't wait for my brother to come!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Week

All 3 kiddos had the entire week of Thanksgiving off from school, so I decided it would be a great time to go visit my aunt and uncle in Louisiana. We are so blessed that they live just 3 hours away from us. I've wanted to live near them all my life. Unfortunately, I don't make the trip often enough!
The kids and I headed out Monday morning and had a super easy and fun drive. Our friends Heather and Paul gifted us with a portable DVD player when we were moving from PA to Texas. That little piece of equipment has been an incredible blessing to us over the last 3 years!
The drive was really pretty. I took pictures of the slight hills and colorful trees to show Joel. His complaint with Dallas is how flat it is. He grew up in northern PA amidst rolling hills and lots of trees. The only landmarks near our home are water towers, the dump, and Prestonwood Baptist Church.
While we were in Louisiana we got to have lunch with my Uncle Donnie & Aunt Barbara (my mom's cousin & his wife who I haven't seen in 6 years). We also went to visit my Aunt Peggy and her husband Ken (also a cousin to my mom). I haven't seen Peggy in about 13 years, though they get our family's newsletter and know all about our kids. It was lots of fun to see them and catch up in person.
My aunt Linda had all sorts of ideas about things we could do that would be fun for the kids. It was such a blessing to me. She took us to Chuck E. Cheese's, which was a HUGE hit! We talked about going to the childrens science museum, but decided it wouldn't be worth the money given the time we had.
We always enjoy my aunt Linda's cooking and this trip was no exception. My kids cleaned their plates the first night, which was a major thing in my book. (Dinnertime is usually riddled with "eat your food!", "okay, enough talking and eat", "yes, you have to eat that", "no, not two more bites, eat it all"...etc. So, I was very proud when they all finished their lasagna, green beans, and salad with no complaints!

They also love to play with Aunt Linda and Uncle Bud's dog Tigger.
It was such a great trip; I can't say that enough! (By the way, Uncle Bud is my mom's brother, in case you were wondering.)
We had a relaxing Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, then went to the Galleria Mall on Friday to watch their tree lighting celebration. They do an ice skating performance with someone dressed as Santa coming out at the end. After we left the mall, we headed to the cheap movie theater and watched Toy Story 3. It was lots of fun.We managed to also get some Christmas decorations up over the weekend. Asa got sick on Friday night and had a fever all weekend. On Monday we found out it was an ear infection, so he's all better by now. But, having a sick kiddo and being 7 months pregnant caused me to move a little slower in the decorating department this year.