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he’s FIVE.

Sweet Lionel,

I keep saying that I can’t believe that you are turning FIVE, and my reason for that is I can remember when you were born. I can remember holding your tiny body close to mine, heartbeat to heartbeat, so utterly taken with your little self.

And now, sweet boy, five years later, I am still so very taken with you.


Your kindness towards your brother, especially, is so tender, and your love for him – and the way you include him in all of your play, and even in your sports endeavors, too – is inspiring. I pray that your heart continues to bloom as you grow.

Your smart little brain works hard each day to dream up amazing ideas, which will suit you well not only in kindergarten this fall, but also in life.

As I prayed over you last night, thanking God for you on the eve of your fifth birthday, I said that I am honored to be your Mama. With each word I lifted up to God, your kisses on my cheeks grew more frequent, and goodness, I felt so blessed in that moment.

Each day I share with you, Lionel, is one of my best days, simply because you are one of the best things to ever come into my life. Being your Mama is the greatest adventure of my lifetime.

Here’s to FIVE, Honey Bear.

xoxo,
Mama

three things i say too often, and one thing i need to say more.

L-Cymbals-October-2016

this morning, i was walking out of my bedroom after getting dressed, and i see a blur of blue flying through the air.

i knew instantly that disaster was imminent.

as the blue ball throttled my coffee mug and sent it flying to the floor, sending raindrops of salted-caramel-mocha-flavored coffee literally EVERYWHERE, i took a deep breath, anticipated the terrified and shameful reactions of my oldest son, the ball-thrower…and i decided to smile.

he was expecting me to yell, to chide him for playing ball upstairs (a no-no in our house), for not being careful.

but i smiled.

looking down at the mocha-colored coffee splatters, his eyes grew even larger. “it was my fault, Mama – it was an accident. i’m sorry! i’m sorry!” he blurted out.

and then he looked up and saw my smiling face…and his mocha-colored eyes returned to their normal, inquisitive state, and he smiled, too.

“i know, buddy. it’s okay,” i responded, reaching for the paper towels. “can you please keep your brother out of the kitchen while i clean this up?”

“i will, Mommy. i’ll do it!” he said, a sense of pride in his big-boy voice as he readied himself for a big-boy task.

* *

as i was soaking up coffee with paper towels, my bare knees mocha-colored from my failed attempts to dodge the coffee on the floor, i thought about the way that i responded to this morning’s disaster.

i want to always be this kind of mama.

the one that understands that accidents happen, that kids are sometimes terrors that leave a mess in their wake.

the one who SMILES in the face of disaster.

the kind of mama that thinks about her response BEFORE SAYING ANYTHING to her sensitive and tender-hearted child who, with a swift kick of a ball (and excellent aim, mind you) broke the rules.

so, in this spirit, i bring you three things that i say too often, and one that i need to say more.

  1. “we need to be careful/gentle.” i’ll admit – i even uttered this phrase this morning during the coffee incident. but here’s the thing: sweet L is now four, as much as i hate to recognize it, and his uncontrollable toddler limbs are no more. in their place are capable, strong, focused, and (most of the time) gentle movements that take him to far-away places and that help him to achieve great things. in other words, even though accidents happen, or even though he may be doing something risky, like jumping from the second-to-last step or kicking a ball upstairs “where mama’s pretty things are,” he knows to be careful; we’ve taught him well.
  2. “your brother is smaller than you are.” just like L is aware of his own body, he is also aware of his little brother’s capabilities and size. even though i remind him often, particularly during moments of tackling and wrestling and rough play, to be careful with Q, i tend to forget that A) he is being careful, and that B) our Q-bug is, more often than not, the aggressor, the initiator, the culprit.
  3. “you’re a big boy.” i say this phrase in two distinct ways – A) to applaud him for excellent behavior or achievements, such as learning how many letters are in his first, middle and last names, or being kind to his friends, and B) to encourage him to behave better. i’m bringing up usage B) here as something that i need to say less often, though, because i’m noticing that i chide him for what i deem to be childish behavior with this phrase. for instance, last night as i was putting L to bed, he revealed that he wasn’t tired and that he didn’t want to go to bed. when i reminded him that it was bedtime, he began to cry (bedtime has been quite the struggle lately, which is a different post altogether…). my response to his tears was, of course, to snuggle and offer comfort, but i also uttered this phrase – “you’re a big boy.” however, in this moment, my use of the phrase seemed to emphasize (to me at least) that it’s not okay for big boys to cry, which is far from true. i don’t want him to think that having or attaining “big boy” status means that emotions need to be locked up tightly inside and not shared!
  4. BONUS! here’s what i need to say more often: “it’s okay.” it’s remarkable how much value i place in hearing these words myself – from Jordan, my parents, my colleagues, my friends, etc. – yet how little i utter or share this sentiment with others, and especially with my children.the phrase “it’s okay” offers with it a comfort and a reassurance that is unmatched by any of the phrases that i overuse above. what’s more: the meaning of “it’s okay” – whether it’s “i see that you’re struggling, but i’m here” or “your actions or feelings are not something that i’ll hold against you” – is exactly what i am trying to teach my children to offer to others.

after all, how can i preach kindness and teach grace-filled behavior without offering it myself?

well hello there.

this is my first post in three-and-a-half months, and i’m not even sure what to say. so, hello there!

i suppose that i should catch you up on life in these parts. in short, we’ve been soaking up all that life has to offer, and i’ve been trying to focus on living life instead of documenting it – hence the radio silence over here.

but, i miss writing about our lives, and i miss sharing our little part of the world with all of you, so here i am.

all about L

first, our sweet L turned 4 in June, and he had a memorable baseball-themed bash at our local park. all of his dearest friends and family came to celebrate the big ‘4’, and we sweat and soaked up the opportunity to be amongst kiddo laughter on the gorgeous (albeit windy) day outside. we ate some concessions-themed food in cute little red-and-white-checked cardboard baskets (baseball theme!), we opened gifts (our boy’s toy collection continues to burst at the seams, which made Goodwill donations even easier this year – yay for sharing forgotten toys as we acquire new favorites!), and we even played a game of t-ball, which was a fascinating and wildly entertaining way to close out the festivities.

L-Hockey-Fall-2016

speaking of t-ball, our boy had his first season of organized sports this summer, and he LOVED it. he loved his purple Hawks jersey (go Hawks!), he loved hitting and fielding (playing pitcher was his most favorite; even though pitchers don’t throw the ball in this t-ball league, pitchers often see the most action on defense), and he especially loved his coach…Daddy.

we’re now in the midst of L’s first soccer season, and he adores that as well. he already has four goals to his name, as well as countless steals, assists and, of course, foibles and fumbles. but he couldn’t be having more fun, which is all that matters to the Mama of the house.

lastly, in semi-big news, we added a dog to our family…for about 18 hours. unfortunately, we’ve discovered that L (for sure) and (most likely) Q are allergic to dogs…and we aren’t talking stuffy noses; instead, our boys coughed and coughed, woke up with itchy and red eyes, and had buckets of snot making it difficult for them to breathe. so, despite our love for the adorable, perfect, sweet sweet SWEET Golden Retriever that we brought home (we called her Millie!), we returned this sweet dog to the family who had been caring for her in hopes that she would find a new home. we know that she will be a wonderful pet to her new forever family.

we do have hopes that perhaps the boys will outgrow their allergies, as many individuals that we know have experienced. we are also very, very cautiously investigating the opportunity to bring a hypoallergenic dog into our family. we are visiting friends in a few weeks that have a Schnoodle (Schnauzer and Poodle mix), and we’ve heard that Golden Doodles shed much less than Golden Retrievers, but we aren’t ready to make the financial – or, frankly, the emotional heart – investment yet.

all about Q

our sweet Q has been replaced by a stubborn, insistent, “i do it myself” child who is, to put it nicely, challenging to parent these days. however, he still has that killer smile, so he’ s largely walking all over us as we grapple with this new reality. of course, we should have expected this turnaround, as our beloved L also sported quite the stubborn streak around 18 months of age, but my Mama memory (and, ahem, my heart) sure wasn’t primed for this transition.

i have all the feelings for the baby stage of my boys’ lives, but when they hit the toddler phase, and the “i love you’s” give way to the “noooooo’s,” i begin to lose my mind a bit. in short, attention Jord: #weneedmorebabiesinourhouse.

Q-Baseball-Summer-2016

despite the arrival of his attitude, Q is one of my favorite humans. he is saying more and more words (and complete sentences, as of the beginning of September!) as the days pass, including a few of my recent favorites:

* “i block,” which is only uttered when Q, engaged in a football or wrestling match vs. Daddy and L, makes a killer block like he’s in the NFL

* “i OK,” which he says every time he coughs, trips, sneezes, falls…the list goes on…

* “Lionel?” which is said…all the time. he LOVES his brother and always is actively seeking him out, whether it’s to play cars, to watch iPad (which Q is also obsessed with – thanks, Blippi), or to wrestle

lastly, Q’s love of water knows no bounds. we visited a local water-park as summer drew to a close, and while L wavered between courage and caution when it came to slides, waves and fountains, Q couldn’t get enough. “wa wa” is a frequently-uttered phrase in our household; i can’t wait to get Q into swimming lessons.

what’s new with Jord and me

Jord and i snuck away for a long weekend in July to celebrate the bachelor/bachelorette parties of our friends. we left the kiddos with the grandparents and drove to Wisconsin, which is becoming our new favorite state – it’s just so pretty, guys. i wanted to buy every little adorable old house on every street corner in the small town of Hartford, where the parties took place, as well as in the neighboring town of Ceaderburg, where the bachelorette and her girls partook in some delicious wine (i only bought two bottles, but i’m totally regretting not buying a whole case while i was in town). we also had our very first batch of Wisconsin cheese curds, which will definitely not be our last – YUM.

Jord-Sara-Fall-2016

in other news, we’re doing well with our budget plan, thanks to Financial Peace University. we’ve had to put a bit of a pause on our additional payments to our debt as of late, due to some uncertainty with my contract negotiations at my day job (i teach English at a local technical college), but these stalls in extra payments are allowing us to more readily afford a new roof on our home – it’s funny how God provides!

both Jord and i are experiencing times of busyness at work, so we relish the opportunity to soak up time with our boys and with each other. one new thing that we’ve been doing lately: we’ve been playing board games together (L’s newest favorite is this, which he purchased with his own money that he earned doing chores around the house and from his birthday; Jord and i are OBSESSED with this game). we also recently added this game to our collection, and we’re anxiously awaiting a break in our schedules to play it.

big (and little) home updates

speaking of a new roof…we learned this summer that our roof experienced significant hail damage during a storm in the fall of 2015 (yes, almost an entire year ago). we had an insurance adjuster come out to survey the damage and estimate replacement costs. during this process, we learned that our homeowner’s policy had an ACV (actual cash value) stipulation, which, in simple terms, means that when something is damaged, our policy only covers the actual cash value cost, not the full replacement cost. SO, long story short, if we want to claim our roof damage and replace the shingles, we would have to pay out a bit of money in order to replace our roof. luckily, we’ve worked with an excellent contractor who’s been tirelessly appealing to our insurance company for more comprehensive coverage of our damage, and our out-of-pocket is significantly less than we initially anticipated. so, in the next few weeks, we’ll have a new roof installed!

Front-of-House-Updated

i’m also way behind in updating you on a few little tweaks that we’ve made to our home in the past few months. i’ve completed a phase I makeover of our upstairs bathroom (i’ve had a post on this drafted for MONTHS). these inexpensive updates have made such a difference in the space, and i hope to share it here soon – i just have to find time to clean the bathroom (HA) and then snap some photos.

we’ve also moved L into his own big boy bedroom downstairs (as mentioned here), and we’ve reorganized Q’s room to better suit him. i have also painted a dresser from my childhood to use as storage in Q’s room, hung a few more items around the house, and officially traded (with my brother and his girlfriend!) our black 4×2 Expedit in exchange for a distressed dresser.

what’s coming up

we’re headed out on a few mini vacations this fall and winter, mostly to bigger cities in neighboring states to take in a baseball game, go shopping and/or see friends. but this December, we will also embark on a Black Hills (South Dakota) family vacation with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, and their new Yellow Lab puppy, Copper.

we’re excited to cozy up in a cabin with snowy mountain views, to play board game after board game, and to (hopefully) teach sweet L how to ski, all while soaking up time as a family unit. it’ll be my family’s first real getaway in a very, very long time, and we know that introducing our boys to the magic of the mountains in the wintertime will be an experience that they won’t soon forget. in short, we couldn’t be more excited. hopefully, we’ll recreate moments like this, except with four people (and no babies – sob!) in the photo:

Hills-2012

that’s all the news that i have from our world – what’s new with you?

four.

Lionel-Conner

Sweet Lionel Conner,

it’s hard for me to believe that four years ago, almost to this very minute, you joined our sweet family. time has seemingly evaporated since the moment in which i first met you, so much so that i have begged you in recent days to be 2 years old instead of 4. “you can’t go backwards, Mama,” you said to me, giggling at the prospect of turning yourself back into a baby. i tell you frequently that i still remember when you were a baby, and though i’m sure that my mama hormones have me forgetting all of the hard times, i recall your baby self as such a joy, Lionel.

but your sweet self today, Lionel, at age four, is joyous in a totally different and wholly fulfilling way. you are hilarious, yet kind; just yesterday, when i asked you who would win in a contest – Mama or Daddy – you quickly said “Daddy,” and when Mama’s face fell, you said, “but you can be the champion, Mama – Daddy’s just the best.”

you are precocious and stubborn, sometimes to a fault; your brain is full of ideas {“i don’t like showers. i’ll like showers when i’m a Daddy”}, and you, like your Mama, want things just so, which is especially evident when you play sports {“baseball players stand, Mama, not sit”}.

your little life is full of so much joy, Honey Bear, and you radiate that joy to all of those around you.

you are so, so loved, Lionel Conner.

all my heart,
Mama

{photo by Creative Kindling}

a bedroom decision: a big-boy room for our big boy.

L-Q-Shared-Bedroom-Wide-Shot

since completing the space before Q’s arrival in November 2014, our boys’ shared bedroom has been one of my favorite spaces in our home. the paint color {Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue} is a calming almost-neutral blue that changes from day to evening. the vinyl triangles on the wall have such an impact, especially for so little money. but most of all, the idea of my two boys dreaming away in the same space delighted me.

however, when it came to actually living out the reality of this idea, we hit a few snags.

first, a note on breastfeeding Q, since this definitely impacted our choice to move L into his own room. in December 2015, while i was on holiday break from my full-time job in higher education, i worked hard to wean Q during the day, so that he was only nursing in the evening and during the night. this helped immensely with my supply issues that i had shared before, as instead of pumping at work to try and provide bottles of breast milk for daycare the next day, i was only nursing in the evening and 1-2 times during the night.

after a few weeks of that routine, i weaned Q a bit more, so that he was only nursing before he went to sleep {between 7-8 p.m.} each night. i would nurse him to sleep, and then, once he was settled and sleeping soundly in my arms, i would transfer him to his crib, where he would sleep the duration of the night. this continued until mid-February, when we officially ended our breastfeeding relationship after 15 {mostly successful} months; since i nursed L for 15 months, i wanted to hit that same mark with Q.

after weaning Q completely, we began laying Q down, awake, in his crib in order to establish a bedtime routine and to help him to grow comfortable falling asleep on his own. during the first week or so of this transition, we had L fall asleep in Mama and Daddy’s bed, so that Q could adjust {we did our own variation of the Ferber check-and-console method, which also helped baby L to learn to feel comfortable falling asleep on his own} to this new bedtime arrangement. Q adjusted within two weeks to this new routine, and he even seemed to relish being laid in his crib, snuggled up with a soft blanket and his beloved Mickey Mouse {he loves to suck on Mickey’s nose as he falls asleep!}.

so, after Q adjusted and would put himself to sleep consistently, night after night, we began conducting L’s bedtime routine {a few books, apple juice and prayers} in the living room before laying L down to sleep in the boys’ shared bedroom.

in short: this did NOT work.

both of our boys are snore-makers, and L is a rather restless sleeper, meaning that he often kicks off his covers, turns and rolls in his sleep, and even mumbles or talks from time to time. these factors compounded with both boys in the same bedroom, and L and Q would wake each other up numerous times throughout the night, which resulted, come morning, in not only two sleepy and cranky children, but also two exhausted parents.

in an effort to make this work, we tried multiple variations of this bedtime routine: we tried putting L down to sleep first. we tried putting both boys down to sleep at the same time. we tried snuggling with L in his bed {while Q was already asleep in his crib} to help our oldest to fall asleep quicker and more quietly. sadly, nothing worked.

so, out of desperation {and utter sleep deprivation}, we decided to move L into a “big-boy room” downstairs {what was formerly the guest room/third bedroom/Jord’s video game zone}. even though i had determined long ago that no child of mine would sleep an entire floor away from me, his Mama, until he was in elementary school at least {a vow that makes me laugh hysterically now}, we found ourselves, just three weeks ago, painting walls and moving furniture up and down the stairs, and planning decor.

L’s “big-boy room” is nearly completed now {and we can’t wait to show it to you…after we hang some curtains and a few more decor items}, but after living with this arrangement for just a couple of weeks, here’s how we know that this decision is working for all four of us:

  1. our littlest, Q, sleeps SO much more soundly – he’s sleeping up to 12 hours each night in his crib without a peep!
  2. L wants to show off his “big-boy room” to anyone and everyone that comes over to our house. in short, he’s so delighted to have his very own space.
  3. apart from a few exhausting nights when our dear L was feeling under the weather, he’s done remarkably well with adjusting to sleeping downstairs. the first few nights, he asked us to stay downstairs while he fell asleep, which we were happy to do – after all, our lower level makes us quite happy – but as soon as we heard him snoring away {or, more likely, as soon as we finished that night’s episode of House of Cards – NO SPOILERS – WE AREN’T DONE WITH SEASON 4 YET!}, we’d head upstairs to bed ourselves.?
  4. finally, apart from feeling sick ourselves these past few nights {go away, allergies!}, Jord and i feel like we are {finally!} sleeping soundly. while there are times when we wake up in the night to check on the kids, especially if we hear L stirring or calling out for us {and thankfully, we can hear this pretty well – our bedroom is located right above L’s}, we have our bed to ourselves again, and it’s such a blessing.

up next: the reveal of L’s big-boy room! until then, check out this mood board of sorts on Pinterest to get a design sneak-peek.

{photo by Creative Kindling}