All I’ve got (new pics)

I’ve been working on some writing projects off and on for the last month or two but everything is disjointed and muddled. I don’t have much of anything pressing to say about life, which bothers me. Even with prompts, I’m coming up almost empty.

The best I’ve got are little snippets of words and pictures from our days that I post on Facebook. What started out as an outlet to practice being succinct (and honestly, get some instant gratification with all your liberal “like”s) has turned itself into a whole lot of nothing else.

It feels like I’m living in the shallow end of the pool. I’m not sure what to do about that.

Haven’t I said this all before? Oh yes, that’s right; I say it about every other post on this blog, going back for a couple years. Oy.

I have made a little progress recently by bringing all our photos up to date on our Flickr account.  Now you can find new photos all the way back to December 2015. (Disclaimer: It’s almost all kid pics.)

Until I write again . . .

 

 

Beatrice at two years

Dear Bebo,

I want to take a moment to remind you that you’re given name is Beatrice. You insist on being called Bebo, and I suppose I can’t blame you; it most likely originated from my own postpartum stupor of tiredness. And then it really, really stuck.

Over the course of your second year you went from babe in arms to a walking toddler.  I guess that’s how it’s supposed to go, but you took your time. I could tell you could’ve walked earlier if you had wanted to, but you stayed crawling well after your first birthday. You made the commitment to walk at sixteen months, and man, now you’re running to keep up with your siblings, and calling me to run along, too. Maybe you gave me that extra time as a semi-baby as a sweet, wonderful gift. I just loved that time with you.

God gave you beautiful brown eyes. Your sister has them, too, but in a different way, with a different tone. When I open the van door to get you out of your seat, I see it most then, in the natural light.  I can’t explain it, but they have a sparkle, a shine to them. I think that’s unusual for darker-eyed children. It makes me stop and really look at you, which when you are a busy mom, you don’t do enough with your kids. Yet another gift.

I see both your siblings in your face, and your Dad and I, too, but you have your own look. Ian says you are the “key to cuteness.” He’s been saying you’re cute from day one. In fact, he sings about it constantly, with the same lyric and sometimes a varying tune: “Bebo is so cuuuuuute!” He was pretty stinkin’ adorable at your age, but he doesn’t have the lone dimple, which is a pretty big leg-up on his toddlerdom of yesteryear.

Your brother is obsessed with both delighting you and annoying you. In the first few months of your second year you didn’t notice so much, and when you did, you would sometimes dance along. By your second birthday you were annoyed, would yell “NOOOOOOO!!!!!” and gave him a good slap. He would laugh and laugh. Beatrice, you have total power over that boy.  Be nice to him as you get older, even if he drives you nuts. He’s devoted to you.

You learned how to smile for the camera this year, and it’s is such a cheeky smile. Your face is small enough that all if it scrunches up–your cheeks, your eyes, and a big, memorable crease across the bridge of your nose. Before you could walk you had a wholehearted and joyful desire to dance along with your siblings to “I Like to Move it, Move It!”(played MANY times at our house), even when all you could do was crawl up to the speakers and bounce up and down with a smile on your face.

You love the bath. Early on in the year, the moment I would turn on the faucet you’d come crawling with incredible speed, then pull yourself up to the side of the tub and try to tip yourself over into the water. You’d splash and splash, and now you and Imogen fight over toys. She takes great joy in seeing how much you love the water.

You have chub like your brother and sister didn’t, and I LOVE IT. We play belly drums on you all the time. What I find miraculous is that you’re padded despite the fact that it seems you barely ate anything this year. Carbs, carbs, carbs. That’s what you ate. No fruits, no veggies, barely any meat. I would put loads of butter on anything you ate, though it’s better now. And smoothies–that’s really what got us through it. Even ice cream–you’d turn your face away and even when we’d force it into your mouth you’d spit it out. You do things on your own time.

You babbled this last year, and you certainly weren’t a quiet child, but you didn’t really start talking until closer to two. The doctor said you should be saying some ridiculous amount of words (23?) by a 18 months, which your siblings never did. Nevertheless, we took you to a speech therapist at Children’s per the doctor’s recommendation. You were an absolute delight to the therapist; you played farm and ball with her and she showed me you were actually trying to say quite a few words, you just didn’t have them down yet. It was not worry; by two you were chatting away. Now it’s full sentences and you hold your own against the rest of us loud, opinionated chatterboxes.

You have always been a super snuggler. Imogen can stealthily sneak into a lap without anyone noticing–that’s her talent. You announce your presence as you climb up, and make sure no one tries to take over your spot (sometimes by force). You would babble and talk and grab my face to make sure I was listening. If you were tired you’d lay your head on my shoulder and stick your thumb in your mouth. I have LOVED that.

In fact, for a few months after you turned one, we had really special moments at the start of the day. You’d wake up before the other kids, and I’d still want to sleep, so I’d pull you out of bed, get back into our big bed, and lay you on my chest. You’d snuggle in, your head in that shoulder-spot, still and quiet. These were best moments of your second year for me, bar none. I will not forget them.

That phase has passed and you’re a ball of energy now. Towards the end of the year when I knew you wouldn’t sit still on my chest, I’d leave you in your crib for a few more moments of wake up for myself. You would start bouncing up and down, thumping pretty loudly. You’d chant, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” with increasing volume until I’d finally come and get you.

One of the first phrases you started saying was “NO WAY!” Again it started with me–a silly thing I’d say to you when you’d kick me during diaper changes. You laughed and then started saying it back.  But then it was “NO WAY!” to a lot of things, sometimes in silliness, but later on in defiance.

As the youngest, you’ve picked things up, including Ian’s obsession with Star Wars. You started humming the Imperial March at about 20 months. I could hear you during nap time alternating between that and your “NO WAY!”s. Geesh.

You love books. If I couldn’t find you or hadn’t heard from you in a while, I’d peek into your room and find you on the rocking chair looking at books quietly. As your language developed you would chat to yourself, your intonations going up and down, as if you were actually saying words.  This went on for a few months, but now you want me to read the books to you, and you anticipate what’s next in your favorites, which include all of Sandra Boyton’s hippos and cows. I think it’s meant to be.

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To my surprise you expressed an interest in the potty not long after you could walk. I’d set you on the big toilet and you’d even push, proud of yourself and saying you peed. I’d have to coax you off the toilet. Then one day your actually did pee. And you did it a few more times. I didn’t commence potty training (you may be ready, but I’m not quite yet), but I am hopeful for our future efforts.

You grow in personality and tenacity and smarts every day. I don’t want to dive into your third year, though months of it have already passed by. That’s for another time, and there’ll be lots more to say. For now, I’ll just say it’s getting better and better. You have made your place in our family. Everybody loves Bebo.

You were a surprise, Beatrice. Truly a miracle, coming into the world at the most perfect time, but also at an uncertain and honestly scary time for me and our family. But I can’t imagine a day without you–back when you were a newborn in my arms, a snuggler on my chest, and now in the chaos as your siblings show you the way (and when sometimes you give them a piece of your mind).

Keep growing into yourself, Bringer of Joy. There’s so much more of it in you to come!

Love,

Mommy (dum dum dum, dum de dum, dum de dum)

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Here is Beatrice’s second year in pictures, in chronological order starting with her 1st birthday and ending with her 2nd.

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Labor and birth photos, Jessica Ribera

Back in July I had the privilege of taking photos during my friend Jessica’s labor and the birth of her fourth child, Bran Raphael Ribera.

My first goal was to take as good of photos as I could (duh). Bran coming into the Ribera family has a special story and I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up documentation of his entrance.

Second, was to capture the mother. My underlying desire in all that has to do with pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum is to lift up that magical woman at the center of it all. And being how in this case that mother was a dear friend, it made this experience all the more fun and special.

I hope the Riberas (mainly Jessica) enjoy a little walk down memory lane. And I hope the rest of you get a glimpse of how incredible labor and birth is.

The photos displayed are just some of my favorites.  View all photos on my flickr page.

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Painting by Elizabeth VanSnellenberg

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Photos taken with a Nikon D60, 50mm lens.

Photos from 2015

After several recent posts I’m realizing my theme, at least for now, is 2015. I guess I’ve gotta catch up.

I had so much fun taking photos in 2015, so here are my most favorite. I will say that for me, in my novice photography skills, the best photos are mostly ones of luck. Very few include the right lighting, depth of field, or focus. But I hope that I’ve caught the moment or the person, and the skills will hopefully sharpen as I practice.

Jason has been the encourager of my interest in photography, but he’s also been the technical man; educating me (and reminding me again and again) what aperture, shutter speed, etc., mean. He has helped me take the image I can see with my eye and use the tools in my hands to try and make that picture happen.

Jason even took a few of these photos, which makes me excited because it means I’m actually in some of them!

Enjoy–though I guarantee you won’t have as much fun looking at them as I did being in the moment and capturing them.

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These photos were taken with a Nikon D60, mostly with a 50mm lens.

Ian’s seventh year

I took this photo of Ian back in November, at his seventh birthday party.  I call it “The force is strong with this one.”

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I love this guy so much.

Now here’s a haphazard compilation of my favorite moments/comments/observations from Ian’s seventh year.

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Ian killed it at Halloween this year. He was truly the best Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi EVER. I thought it was a bit strange that he insisted he be this version of Luke, which is not common (Pinterest does not give a lot of ideas for six-year-olds who want to be the dark, brooding and intense Luke who almost goes evil). But being the amazing, creative mom that I am, we were able to totally get it together.  He looked awesome! And if you know him, you know Luke in black is a good fit for his personality.

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A few months ago I asked Imogen to sit in Ian’s seat in the van, as we had to rearrange for some reason.  She flipped out and said, “I don’t want to sit back there, it SMELLS SO BAD!!!” I assumed this was just her being weird (she does have an incredibly acute sense of smell and eres on the dramatic side).  The whole ride she kept complaining about how gross it was and that Ian’s “stuff” was back there.

Later, as I was cleaning the van out I realized her wailing was totally legitimate. In and around Ian’s seat were molding apple cores, stale popcorn, trash of various sorts and ages, and a water bottle that was probably nasty inside (I didn’t look or smell for verification). It was like a teenage boy’s bedroom. I will not ask Imogen to sit back there again, and I really should apologize to her for being so dismissive of her concerns.

I can only imagine what Ian’s teenage bedroom will look like. Note to self: If Imogen ever gets into deep, deep trouble as an adolescent use “cleaning Ian’s bedroom” as a consequence.

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I love how Ian’s glasses are too wide for his face and they constantly slip down on his nose.  When he looks up from Legos or a book he peers over his glasses like an old man. And when he’s annoyed or mad, it’s even funnier. I know this is probably terrible for his eyesight, but it’s so amusing I’m not going to do anything about it right now. Plus, I don’t want to pay to go the optometrist.

Speaking of glasses, I think we are on Ian’s third pair this year. Zenni keeps our previous orders on file, so all I do is click “purchase” and a new pair of his trademark red and black specs comes in the mail a week later.

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I love how I have to bug Ian to get up off the library floor and get his books checked out so we can go. And I love how he reads all the way home, and then stays in the van long after everyone else has gone inside, immersed in some Star Wars book.

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If you look closely you can see Ian reading under a book light. This was the first time requested to read in bed. I was thrilled!

Speaking of books, Ian is obsessed with the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary (“Updated and Expanded!” he would say) he received from Vavu and Vava for his birthday. I can’t get the kid to put it down or get it out of my way. Every day he’s telling me “Did you know that in 2011 they made a Republic Frigade, a Battle Nabu Starfighter and Vulture Droid? And in 2012 they made the best set ever–the X-Wing Starfighter!,” No, Ian, I didn’t know that. But now I know. And we can eat dinner. Or do school. Or you can go pick up. Or you can go somewhere else and read that stinkin’ book.

[Side note: As creative research for this post I just asked Ian which Lego Star Wars sets were made in 2011 and 2012 and he listed them all of for me by memory. He’s actually not reading the Star Wars Visual Dictionary at this moment, but this is only because he got a fresh stack of books from the library. He also just read this post and pointed out that “Nabu” is actually spelled “Naboo.” I wouldn’t want to get that wrong.]

On the Legos subject, Ian is absolutely, hands down, the best Master Builder I have ever met. And I’m not just saying of the seven-year-old kind. He comes up with incredible stuff. He will select a new set partially based on what pieces come with it so he can create something else he’s already been thinking about.

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Here’s the display he created for the HEE’s Expo event:

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Ian spent a good portion of his seventh year in this coat. For some reason once he puts it on, he doesn’t take it off, regardless of whether he’s in or outside. And he keeps the hood up a lot of the time.

After it’s second season in use, that coat is really getting too small, which makes him look even more comical.

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Every once in a while Ian asks me to snuggle, usually before bed time. It’s like wrangling a giant, large-footed baby who has every muscle flexed. But I still love it. I call him carpet head because man, that kid has got some thick hair!

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The other day Ian said, in front of both his sisters, “I love Imogen and I love Bebo, but I love Bebo a bit more.” I waited to see if Imogen was offended and she didn’t seem to notice, so I think I just changed the subject.  Then yesterday Ian gave Imogen a big chunk of his chocolate bunny and said, “I’m giving this to you because you’re the best sister ever.” Imogen responded with, “Well, it was mine anyway since I gave it to you as a gift.” I suppose this is a good example of the rise and fall of their affections for one another (and what a typical day of their living and playing together looks like).

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This year has been wonderful as far as chores are concerned. Ian rarely ever whines about emptying the dishwasher, folding his clothes, or picking up. I LOVE IT. He’s not jumping up and down to help out, but I appreciate his logic; if he gets the work done he has more time to play and do what he wants. Fine by me.

What he does whine (and yell) about is doing school.  He’s a great student and he’s super smart. Once he gets to work and applies himself I think he feels encouraged and enjoys learning. But almost every week day I say, “Okay, we’re going to start school now” and he flips out. Like backtalk, sassy, yelling, awful-face reaction. It’s like I’m looking at my angriest self in the mirror.

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One day was particularly bad and so his journal entry topic was selected for him: to apologize to his mom and explain how he thinks it made her feel when he yelled at her. He begrudgingly went about his work, but less than ten minutes later he approached me with this:

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In case you have trouble reading this, I will translate. It says, “I’m sorry I yelled at you Mom. I think it made you sad. Do you forgive me? Are you ok?”

I asked him to read it to me and when he got to the end he choked up. And then he got made because somehow he’s learned that being tender and vulnerable is not a good thing (maybe from me? just a thought . . .) Anyway, I snagged a hug and told him I loved him before he ran off.

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Ian has become an even better gift giver than he was last year.  His Christmas gifts for others were so perfect.

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I can’t help but comment that Jason looks like a crazed lunatic in this pic.  And there’s Ian’s old-man glasses!

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And lastly, Bebo with the lamby Ian got her with his Awana bucks.

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I think I may have mentioned before that we sponsor a seven-year-old boy from Haiti named Gregory through Compassion International. We do this, in part, so Ian can connect with another child his age who lives somewhere vastly different, and who needs God’s love in some very specific ways.

Ian has participated over the last few years in writing letters, drawing pictures, and sending little gifts to Gregory. But a month ago we received a letter that Gregory’s father had died. Because his mom died several years ago, he is now a complete orphan. When I told Ian he got overwhelmed and started to cry. Then he pulled himself together and ran off with a sense of resolve. He grabbed all of his saving and giving money and wanted to give it to Gregory so he “can be happy again.”

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Ian sending his letter off to Gregory.

We called Compassion that day and made a special donation, and Ian and I prayed with the customer service rep on the phone. I asked Ian, “Are there any bible verses that you think would encourage Gregory right now?” He shrugged at first, but then decided on Psalm 23, since he had just memorized it. So I wrote it out on a piece of paper and Ian colored on it. The Compassion rep confirmed with me that it will be translated so Gregory can read it himself.

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Speaking of Psalm 23, here is how I haphazardly tried to explain it to Ian when he was memorizing it several months ago. It was a fun conversation. Having to explain life in simple terms is really good for my soul, and I hope it’s good for him, too.

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It’s been a smattering of things, and I wish I had some heartfelt, God-inspired words directly for Ian this year, but I don’t. I’ll just say I’m so very happy to be his mom and to have shared another year with him.

I love you, Ian bo bee-an. Here’s some more great pics of you this last year. You’re still pretty cute, even though you’re so old now.

(In chronological order, starting with Ian’s 6th birthday and ending with his 7th.)

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Painting by Elizabeth VanSnellenberg

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I suppose I’ve got to start somewhere so I’ll start with today

First I was going to write about our amazing summer. Then time passed and it was going to be about Ian turning seven.  Then a recap of our happy and full 2015. And Beatrice’s birthday passed over a month ago, and still nothing.

Ugh. I’m not sure if my writing muscles are just really atrophied or I’ve got complete a block.  Or I’m just busier or happier doing other things.  Or I’m stumped creatively. Or maybe it’s all of those things.  I don’t know.

I do know writing has always been a part of my life in some form or fashion and that I will regret not having documented memories in this season (especially when it is such a good one!).

So, I’m just going to get going with something simple.  Here’s some random smatterings of what we did today, mostly unedited and unfiltered.

For starters, I stayed in bed way too late and even coaxed my children into snuggling in bed with me. This was possible because yesterday they spilled water all over the TV and it’s accoutrements and I unplugged everything so TV was not an option.

I always end up frustrated with their bounty of energy, but I still invite them to snuggle anyway. Why can’t they just CHILL OUT and relax after they’ve clocked a good eleven hours of sleep in their own beds??? I expect the older two to be able to, since Beatrice can and she’s two years old. She parks herself right on top of me and plugs her mouth with her thumb. Then she proceeds to listen to me kick the the other two kids out of the bed for fighting or kicking me in the face, or something else equally as annoying. And then she’s got me all to herself!

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Us snuggling (but some other morning).

I made up for the lazy mom start to the day by making a fabulous green smoothie with all kinds of goodies in it. The kids sucked it down and Beatrice, the pickiest eater that ever was, even asked for seconds. And this time I snuck in liquid whey and they didn’t even notice. Boo yah!

Afterward Ian sat at the kitchen table and wrote in his journal and did his math without whining (another score!). I’ve been working this week on consistency in our school work time, especially because he doesn’t have HEE classes for mid-winter break. We are on day four (of five) and I’m seeing progress with the ‘tude. Of course next week everything will change when our schedule fills again, but at least for a couple days I can feel like an effective homeschool teacher.

While Ian did his school work Imogen folded her clothes in a reasonable amount of time and with no whining. And then she put her clothes away in her dresser. This is MIRACLE upon MIRACLE. As the Bible says, “Train up the child in the way he should go, and later he will not depart from it . . . ”

Speaking of teaching your children to be successful and productive citizens, I am very haphazardly potty training Beatrice.  I don’t even really want to put that statement out there because it sounds like I’m somewhat committed, which I’m really not.  I asked her if she wanted to go pee in the potty (since she conveniently had taken her diaper off and was running around) and she said “Why yes, of course, I thought you’d never ask!” and then sat down to pee.  That was Wednesday.  She’s gone in the potty four times since then. At any given time of the day she may or may not be running around naked, “potty training.” This is not-so-serious business.

I have to laugh at myself because I very distinctly remember the night before we started potty training Ian.  I was a nervous wreck. We had this huge plan to NEVER go back to diapers. Hah! Potty training that kid was the WORST. I thought it would never end and I cared way too much.

After school and chore stuff I got dressed at the early hour of 10:45am so we could go to the chiropractor. I woke up this morning with practically a lion’s mane going on which, after a few hours, had tamed down to a nice bushy wave. You can’t plan perfect bedhead.  It’s something that just comes down like manna from heaven–except it only comes down once in a great while. And then at least one part of my appearance was awesome for a day, and with no effort on my part!

We had some sun this afternoon, and so I went outside (it’s rare, I honestly don’t go outside as much as I should). I’ve been trying to make an attempt to say yes to the kids when they ask for individual play time, so I joined Imogen in the play structure and we played house. Toward the end I was getting tired and the sun felt so warm and nice, so I pretended to be sick so I could lay down.  Imogen got out her doctor’s kit and saved my life. Then I played the doctor and saved hers. That was a nice little happy ending.

I never could get the TV plugged back in so I put the kids in front of the computer and suggested they watch something new. Ian got all whiny about it. I’ve decided Garfield is lazy and a glutton, and I’m tired of him. So, they ended up watching a new version of Inspector Gadget, which I suggested. Whine, whine, whine. I told Ian I liked it as a kid, maybe he would, too.

I went into the bedroom to work on my bible study and it didn’t take but a minute and Ian and Imogen’s laughter was echoing through the whole house. Apparently they liked it. I keep thinking of Steve Carell’s face as Inspector Gadget. I haven’t seen the movie but I have a feeling he uses his pronounced nose and goofy glare to really play up the character. Wait–maybe he didn’t even play Inspector Gadget? I really don’t know. These are just things I think about.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to pass the time, knowing that Jason wasn’t going to be home until after the kids were in bed. Some days it goes by faster than others.  I really wanted this week to be a slow one where we could bum around the house and not be anywhere special, but after a few days I suppose it’s making us all a bit restless. The minutes ticked by.

Eventually I threw plate of taco chips covered in BBQ pulled pork and shredded cheese (aka “fancy” nachos) down on the table for the kids and then fed them ice cream. Actually, the box said it was a frozen dairy dessert.  It is a bit concerning that a product can’t officially call itself ice cream, but not concerning enough for me to not give it to my kids. I have very little parenting shame these days.

Lately Beatrice has been saying “Daddy, wrestle!”, even when Jason’s not around, and the other two were asking to play their favorite roughhousing game with me tonight, so I obliged.  The game is entitled Meaty Thighs.  I’ve been playing it with Ian since he was pretty little. I pretend to be the Meaty Thigh Monster, and I go to sleep.  All the sudden I get hungry for, well, meaty thighs and attack them for my routine meal.

They all think this is an AMAZING game. I like it’s predictability and that I’m particularly good at being a monster. Unfortunately Ian is getting tall and wirey and his thighs aren’t so meaty anymore. It’s like they need to be put in the slow cooker for a very long time. Beatrice, on the other hand, is a smorgasbord of thick and marbled meat!

The game eventually turned into a pillow fight of which I lost and fell dead in the hallway.  Ian believed himself to be victorious and didn’t even seem phased when I later told him I faked it and let him win.

Now the kids are supposed to be in bed and of course they are up here in my face at 9 0’clock.  Ian says, “I have a cool animal fact. Did you know that baby koalas are the size of a jelly bean when they are born? They are that small. That’s even smaller than Bebo. It’s like you could eat them.”

The kitchen sink is empty, the table is mostly cleaned off, and I *think* the kids are finally asleep.  I’ve ironed and picked out Jason’s clothes for tomorrow and all I have to do is make his lunch.  Geesh, I sound like his housekeeper and his valet (but not as emotionally erratic as Mr. Bates . . . okay, maybe I am). Bates aside, I refuse to get up at 5:30am and dress Jason.  That’s where I draw the line.

Oh yeah, and I’m his parent, too, since I guess I’m waiting up for him. He’s out way past curfew!

It’s nice to write, however much of a rambling it is, and it’s also nice to realize that today was a pretty great day. I am thankful this is like many other days we have had in the last year–which I hope I eventually get around to sharing about.

 

 

 

Imogen’s fourth year

Dear Imogen,

This morning I woke up and heard feet padding into my room.  I knew they were yours, because they sound so much different than your brothers. “Happy Birthday,” I said, in a soft, sweet voice. The look on your face made me think you’d forgotten entirely that today was your big day. But no, you said you remembered. And then of course you crawled into bed and we snuggled for at least a half hour.  Ian and Beatrice just kept on sleeping, which I think God planned as a gift for both of us.

Immy, you are the best snuggler in the entire world.  Yes, your sister is gaining on your territory, but you don’t really see that yet, and plus you’ve got four years of crawling into laps and twirling my hair already piled up in our memories.  On weekend mornings when your dad and I are still in bed, you know to go straight to his side of the bed curl up under the covers next to him.  Being a snuggler himself, your dad is in heaven.  He knows even now to soak it up because it will eventually end, as you get older and more grown up.

Your dad and I went on a bike ride last weekend and we spent most of the time talking about you.  Who are you?  How can we love you?  How can we shepherd you?  Are we doing that? Are you getting lost in your brother’s shadow? What will the next years be like, when you hit grade school and then adolescence? Will you, God forbid, be snuggling with someone else?  We want God to help us see you–that was the grand conclusion to our conversation.

But, to be inconsistent, let’s talk about your brother for a moment.  No one can forget him.  You two have an interesting and sometimes intense dynamic.  Well, let’s just say his end of the dynamic is intense, yours is free-flowing, unruffled, and flexible–for the most part.  As the years pass, these attributes of yours will drive Ian INSANE. I almost don’t want to say it, but I will–revel in it!  It’s good for him.  Just don’t get too proud.  We all have our own struggles, and this could easily be one of yours.

It’s not all bad with Ian.  You have a special way of lightening him up with your silliness.  You lighten us all up.  I know I’ve said it before, but you’re just so goofy.  That hasn’t changed in the last year. You still get the potty talk going at the dinner table, which we try to promptly shut down. You let your brother chase you around the circle that is the fireplace and laugh and laugh. Sometimes, though, all the sudden, you get a determination about the chase and actually want to win.  And you pass him.  You’re gettin’ fast girl.  And Ian’s mad!

Speaking of speed, you are riding your bike amazingly.  You spent a lot of time on the skut this last year, cruising along.  Now, I send you off with your brother down the street, knowing you can fully ride your big girl bike on your own. You are very good about watching for cars.  Ian always has your back, too. And I do love that you still need me for at least one thing–clipping your helmet on before you run out the door. You don’t even want me to pull the hair out of your eyes when I do it.

Besides bike skills, you are a great dancer.  You never turn down an opportunity to cut the rug with Ian when he turns Pandora on in the living room.   In fact, when we’re at church on Sundays you’ve gotten in the habit of sneaking out of the pew and dancing in the aisle.  And we sit in the front, so everyone can see you.  We have shooed you back next to us, keeping you confined between Dad and me.  I was concerned you would be a distraction to others who are trying to worship. But recently I’ve been thinking that maybe we should just leave you be.  Maybe you’re a picture that people need to see on Sundays.  You’ll break all us frozen chosen out of our frigidness!  My heart is happy thinking about that.

Joy, Imogen.  You are a joy.

You are also a wonderful helper.  You daily remind me that what I’m doing is not about a checklist, but about learning and being together. You are like your dad in this way.  I am learning from you, but I must admit, I struggle because my agenda is so stupidly important to me.  Still, you know nothing about that, so you pull the step stool up, ready to bake bread or stir the oatmeal.  Whenever Grandma T is scheduled to stay and I clean the bathroom in preparation, you are right in there persistent with a “Can I help, Mommy?” Yes, Imogen.  You can spray the entire bottle of cleaner onto the mirror.  This is learning life.  And you’re getting the mirror VERY clean.

You can also be a bit of a drama queen, to be honest.  You strike a pose like a true supermodel.  How do little girls already know how to do that?  Do they come out of the womb with that skill? You like to overdramatize many minor slips and stumbles (you’re also a bit clumsy).  You care quite a bit about whether we are sympathetic to your plight. One time I was clearly not paying attention to you and you practically grabbed my face and said “MOMMY, DO YOU EVEN CARE THAT I’M HURT?!?” What an injustice! But, we do our best to give you kisses and rub the pain away, without aiding and abetting what’s inconsistent with reality.

Over the last year, we’ve discovered that you have quite a love for animals and are really very good with them.  We call you the animal whisperer.  Sometimes you wander off in the house somewhere and if I haven’t heard from you in a while I know you have crawled up on our bed and are laying next to Lizzie. You gently pet her and she lays there, mostly comfortable with your presence.  She will walk up to you and rub her body against your legs, which makes you smile.  Imogen, you may have even entered into Lizzie’s circle of trust which is VERY small.  Consider this a lifetime achievement.

You’ve also come to love our neighbor dog, Sunny.  Sunny’s owner, an elderly gentleman named Herb, religiously walks his very energetic dog at least twice a day, right past our house.  When we first met Sunny she would jump and get excitable whenever any of us would approach her.  Now, whenever Sunny sees you she sits down and holds perfectly still and uses all her might to calm herself. She won’t act that way for anyone else. She has learned that you have such a gentle way with her and that you give the best pets!  You almost always run out to meet her if you see her through the window.

You still have a magic act that has carried over since you were practically walking.  It’s called disappearing, and you’re still very good at it. At school, the playground, Costco.  We look away and poof, you’re gone.  At least you’re able to recognize Costco employees by their name tags and will happily approach one to tell them you can’t find your mom.  You aren’t scared, you just figure it’s about time to show back up again. This is why I regularly try to have that talk with you where I crouch down in your face and say as seriously as I can, “Imogen, if someone approaches you with candy or tells you they have puppies they want to show you, DO NOT go with them.  RUN TO MOMMY!” You nod and say yes, Mama. But I still worry.  You’re easygoing and personable and innocent. You’re brother, on the other hand, would give any stranger the stink eye and yell at them to stop talking to him.  You are both so very different.

So I pray for you, that you would stay soft and welcoming, but also be protected.

I suppose I should say that you aren’t entirely innocent. In fact, over the last year we’ve had many conversations about the difference between truth and lies.  Could it even be that the other day you looked me straight in the face (in tears, in fact) and lied to me?  And it was so convincing that I believed you.  I’m trying to tell myself, even still, that you didn’t remember things correctly or you were confused.

Nope, you are deviant, Immy, in your own way.  May the Lord help us help you.  Us Haggards may be a lot of things, and we may even deceive ourselves at times, but we want to walk in the light and tell the truth. Your dad and I fumble through trying to explain to you how important this is.  That the Truth sets us free, and that lies bind us.  This is hard for a four-year-old to understand, I know.  Lying seems like a good way to avoid or defer consequences.  I am with you, it’s very tempting!

You need Jesus, Imogen. You need Him when you feel goofy or your dancing the aisles of church.  You’ll definitely need Him when your brother gets in your face and tries to control you. Then there will be times when Beatrice will steal snuggles away from you, or as a teenager some boy will want snuggles from you– you’ll need Jesus then, too.. He will be arms around you, He will remind you of your innocence and yet also teach you wisdom and shrewdness.  He is your Truth, Imogen.  There is no one, nothing else, that is as true and real as God.

May the Lord captivate you and show you how truly captivating you are. May He be the sweetness and the hugs and the deep-down knowing that you are loved to the utmost depths. May He be the Person you find when you run off, and not just in some store, but down some sad or scary or rebellious path (which you will, because we all do, in our own ways).

Whatever happens in your life, Jesus is writing a good story for you, Imogen. And we are enjoying being a part of it! May He bless you and keep you, my beautiful doe-eyed girl.  May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, and give you peace.

You love it when I give you that blessing at bedtime, I hope you still love it when you’re old enough to read this.

Love, Mommy

Here’s Imogen’s fourth year in pictures, in chronological order.