Thursday, November 1, 2012

September 2012

Fall is family season here. As the weather cools down and the leaves begin to turn, we find our Florida family members migrate north to escape the heat for a while and visit. This month was no different. We were blessed to be visited by both David's brother Brian, his wife Amy and their son Zachary and my Mom. There were way too many photos from each trip to do them justice here, but these two are my favorites from each visit:
Caleb giving his cousin a ride on the train.

Granny kisses!

Fall also brings extra yard work to prepare for winter. Over Labor day weekend, we weeded a large flower bed that had gotten out of control. Caleb filled up his big sandbox bucket and took load after load to our yard debris pile for us. I think he may be ready for his own small garden patch next year!

Caleb's language has really been developing hand in hand with his play times. It's inspiring to see first hand why play is such an important part of child development. One day, Caleb said "green block" as he chose one to "cut" my hair with. He likes to make the "Bzzz" sound of clippers. Then, later when I was swinging him in the tree he wanted to swing high enough to touch the leaves. He kept trying and asking "touch, touch". When I said I couldn't push him high enough he kept asking for "daddy, daddy". So precious.


He also began "reading" books to himself this month. He did an especially great job reading the Pat the Bunny book! The minibook inside was the most amazing part. He opened it up said "tock, tock, tock" on the clock page, "BIG" (for the soooo big part), "nummy" for the food, and "shhh" for the sleep. I can't believe we're already at an age where we can both sit on the couch and be reading different books.

Caleb has been learning to share mommy this month with an adorable little boy, also named Caleb who I'm watching 2 days per week. It's definitely been an adjustment for him.We've seen a few new-sibling-on-the-scene type regressions like wanting to chew on everything or be fed with a spoon. Still, I think he also secretly likes having a baby to take care of. He loves to bring Baby Caleb puzzles and toys to play with. After a few days of having little Caleb over, my Caleb looked at him, pointed, and said, "Buddy!" It was priceless.

This isn't actually him acting like a baby. That's a "banana" he's eating as he sits around the lego table he asked mommy to build. He's using the single duplos as "people". I love his imagination!

Two Calebs. Buds.
For my part, I have really enjoyed having two little ones to snuggle with. I was definitely intimidated by watching two, but for the most part, it's been easier than expected. It's amazing how much confidence two years of parenting experience has given me and Baby Caleb is one very happy, chilled out little guy. It's made me even more excited for the day we add a second Gainey, either via birth or adoption.

Caleb said his first prayer this month. He always asks the two of us to pray at each meal and at night before bed, but one day, he wanted to pray too. So, in repeat-after-me style we helped him pray, "Jesus. Thank you. Amen." Simple and from the heart.

Like any house with a toddler in it, we have our ups and downs. Like most toddlers, Caleb thrives on routine. He loooves to know what's coming and know what is expected of him. He tends to stick to routines very rigidly, which is typically nice for us as parents. For instance, we recently started putting him to sleep with a blanket. We told him he needed to stay under it to keep warm. He loooves his blanket, and once he's under you'd think it was a lead-weight immobilization device. He doesn't stand up again until we come and get him. He falls asleep faster and we're going to save on the heat bill this year! Score for Mom and Dad.

On the other hand, that same rigidity can create some challenges. Not all the routines he sticks to are ones we create. For instance, he got into a night time routine of running away when David said it was time to get undressed for bath time. Being the first time rookie parents we are, we thought it was cute at first. A little game of chase before tub time (all the seasoned parents are snickering). Now, it's a full blown battle to make the transition from dressed to naked. Our usually compliant guy got in the routine of disobeying and now he's having trouble breaking out, even though it's clear he doesn't like how things are going either. We've been working on it and it's slowly getting better, thankfully for us all!

At the very end of September we celebrated David's birthday with funfetti, wonderful friends and minigolf. I still want to pinch myself every time I really stop and think about the wonderful man God has blessed me with. It's easy to take each other forgranted. I'm so thankful for birthdays, anniversaries, and all the other times that make us stop and really think about the joy the other person brings to our lives.

Best Buds

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just One Letter

About two weeks ago, we got some sad news in the mail. Remember my friend Mugendi? His family decided to leave the Compassion International program unexpectedly last month. After 3 years of practically perfect attendence at the Child Development Center and even more letters than usual exchanged this past year from both of us, Mugendi suddenly stopped attending. I could have never imagined how sad I'd be to receive this news. There really is a Mugendi shaped hole in my heart.

Compassion gave us all the answers they could. The staff isn't really sure why Mugendi's family is leaving the program. It could be that they need Mugendi's help around the home or in the marketplace or simply that as he's gotten older, he's chosen to no longer participate. Typically, at least 2 home visits take place to attempt to remediate the situation before a child is removed from the program roster so we feel confident that every appeal has been made that can be.

On our end, there's only one thing left to do. We get to write a "final letter". Assuming his family hasn't moved by the time it arrives, it will be the last piece of mail delivered to him from us. From what we hear, he'll likely keep it for at least the rest of his childhood, along with our other letters. That's weighty. There are so many things I wanted to write more about when he got older, and now...I have one letter.

One letter to tell him what a special young man he is. One letter to remind him that he is made in the image of God, that poverty is not what defines him. One letter to share scriptures I hope he never forgets. I wrote that letter this afternoon, tomorrow I'll put it in the mail, and in all likelyhood that will close Mugendi's chapter in our life.

Compassion offered to match us up with another young man Mugendi's age in Tanzania, but we aren't ready. Both of us fervently hope that Mugendi will be one of the 10% or so who return to the program after a brief hiatus. I am however, slowly accepting the fact that this may not be the case and, if not, would love to sponsor another child again. I know we'll probably choose our new child the same way we chose Mugendi.

We sorted by "longest waiting child" and looked at photographs until one spoke to us. Today, just to see how many children are "longest waiting" (waiting for sponsorship for more than 6 months) I did a quick search. I was astonished to see that 29 children have been waiting over a year for sponsorship. They are mostly from Indonesia and Honduras.

Likely, these children are in the same situation Mugendi was in when we became his sponsors. They've signed up to be part of a newly opened Child Development Center and are just waiting to be sponsored. They may already be receiving services like food, education and spiritual formation or they may still be waiting. I don't know. What they are definitely not receiving are letters of encouragement and caring.

If you'd like to consider sponsoring one of these children, just follow this link:

If you want to read more about why I'm a big fan of the work Compassion does click here:

It takes 2-3 months for mail to travel to Mugendi's village in Tanzania and 2-3 months for reply to make it back here again, so don't expect any rapid updates!  While I mourn our loss of connection to Mugendi, I know God's plans in his life are much bigger than one American family. I have complete confidence that "he who began a good work in [him] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

August 2012

Parenthood makes you say and do a lot of things you never could have imagined saying or doing. Here are a few from my month:

-Explaining to my toddler that daddy (his hero) eats broken muffins (and watching him devour the previously tragically, inedible muffin)

-Eating after my toddler. The thing I said I would never. ever. do. Yes, I have joined the ranks of moms who think, "I can't waste that entire muffin! It's only got 3 slobbery bites missing!" I've even lowered myself to unscrewing the lid to his water sippy and taking a swig or two on really hot days at the park. What has happened to me?

-Coming up the basement stairs to find my toddler holding two pieces of something, crying "broke! broooooke!" and suddenly realizing he's holding the two halves of the "child proof" door handle that is supposed to protect him from opening the basement door and hurtling down the stairs onto a slate floor. Nice.

Other random acts of adorableness:

Caleb has starting calling his stuffie Grover "buddy". It's sooo precious to watch him take him into the high chair or read to him saying "buh-dee!, buh-dee!"

In fact, this has been the month of two syllable words. They've included: "yeh-woah" (yellow), "double" (as in him trying to repeat me saying "double trouble" so funny!), and "muh-nee" (money).

He's become mommy's official kitchen helper on Saturday mornings. When I compare it to these precious moments, sleeping in seems over-rated : )

Caleb loves to practice "writing".
I wrote the one that actually looks like a letter, but the other marks are his.

Practicing correct pencil posture.

As much as I love seeing Caleb interested in "academic" things like writing, I treasure even more getting to watch his imaginative play develop. He spent almost 30 minutes playing with boxes of pasta one day!

Setting up his "house"

Standing inside it

Lining them all up

"I've got them right where I want them..."

"Ah-BOOM-Ba!" (as Caleb would say)

Caleb is also starting to enjoy dress up. My parents kept a well stocked dress up bin for me, which I loved, but he seems to be doing just fine with things around the house for now : ) Something to think about in the near future though!

First brain freeze! David and I were giving him sips of a smoothie at Panera. Just as I was about to warn David I thought Caleb needed a break, Caleb turned bright red, grabbed his head and let out a big yell. He recovered quickly and of course, had no idea the smoothie was the culprit and began demanding more. It was sad, but also a little funny too ; )

Another food first: Sloppy Joe! Shout out to Papa on this one : )
Recently, when I give him a choice between "time out" or "obey" he's been replying, "Bay! Bay!". He still only obeys about 70% of the time he claims he's going to, but it's a big improvement over immediately saying "GUNG!" (his word for "yes"...don't ask me why, because I don't know!) to the time out.

Colors clicked this month! It started with blue and yellow and, once he understood those concepts, he mapped on several more rapidly! He can recognize and say the words (in a toddler, but understandable fashion) for the colors: blue, yellow, green, black, brown, orange and purple. White and pink are recognized but not spoken. He won't even attempt to say red. Why? Again, no idea!

As Caleb's comprehension has continued to increase, we've begun reinforcing his Sunday school lesson throughout the week. So far we've read/sung/talked about the Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Son and the Lord's Prayer. He's beginning to understand that the Bible is a book about Jesus (not about sheep, despite his love of making the "baaaaa" noise : )

Last night, after David finished praying, Caleb was talking about our prayer time ("Mommy! *folds hands* Daddy! *folds hands* = Mommy and Daddy prayed). It seemed like the perfect moment to help expand his comprehension of what prayer is. So I said, "Yes Caleb, Mommy and Daddy prayed. Who did we pray to?" I didn't expect him to answer, but after a long minute of obvious deep thought Caleb yelled out "Jee-Juh!" Yes, son, that's right, we pray to Jesus.

Doing a morning devotional with Daddy
On the last weekend in August, we headed to the small town just north of us for the annual Corn Festival. It was huge! We only walked half of it and I was ready for a nap afterwards. We did the usual festival things- found some crafty gifts for friends and family, ate fair food and topped it off with homemade vanilla iced cream topped with peaches. The later was Caleb's favorite part. He has no shame screaming "Ice! Ice!" for ice cream : ) I love getting to make these special memories with my guys!
There were just a few people...

Old fashioned icecream churns!

"I want some of that you guys!!!"
Right after this, David had a 3 day trip that we expected to be no big deal because it was so short. It was however, the first trip that Caleb was able to realize, in advance, that daddy would be gone for a few days. We've always explained it to him, but this time he understood and made it clear he was not happy. After much reassurance, and a wonderful library book called "When Daddy Travels", we got through it. A month later, he still asks if daddy went to work in his car or got on a plane (using the noises for kinda have to speak toddler to understand him...).

All-in-all it was a great month, but there's no doubt about it, our little guy is growing up fast!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writing with Rose Colored Glasses

There seems to be a new trend for articles to criticize moms for using blogs and social networks to create a false, overly positive, inflated picture of their family life (if you need evidence, just google "Moms use Facebook to brag"). While I have certainly been on the "I wish I had it all together like she seems to" end of things, I've noticed that I also emphasize the positive moments from our month in my writing. 

Things are not sunshine and rainbows all the time here. There are days I hand Caleb over to David the minute he gets home and go lay down for half an hour because I'm so exhausted, touched-out and ready for a break. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I'm selfish. Sometimes I'm lazy.

So why don't I write about that? Sometimes I do. But, for me, those times are not a defining moment in our week, month or even the day. I feel like those difficulties should be assumed in motherhood, and that it's not necessary to use ink to dwell on them in every single post. The people I see on a day-to-day basis are certainly well-versed in stories of me falling down and getting back up again in this parenting journey.

It makes me sad to think that by choosing not to write detailed descriptions of those hard moments, I might make another mom feel less-than. I try to only write about what I want to remember 20 years from now; about things that build up my joy in motherhood. Not surprisingly, this doesn't include the time I yelled at my toddler to JUST. WALK. UP. THE. STAIRS.

So please, can I make an appeal? Give the mom friends in your life the benefit of the doubt. Assume their job is hard, that they do fail, and give them the freedom to rejoice over the beautiful moments without accusing them of deliberately trying to present a false impression of themselves or their children.

My sad boy woke up too early from his nap. I want him to watch TV so I can keep resting. He is not impressed with my suggestion.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

July 2012

What's in a name? Now that Caleb is officially 2 years old, I began wondering how to title these monthly updates. Would I just keep counting months and eventually be writing the post Caleb: 72 Months Old? What if, by God's grace, we have more children? Would I then be writing blogs entitled Caleb and Child X: 72 and 31 Months Old? So, I decided that this month, I'd switch to writing a monthly update about our entire family, titled with the month and year.

This is the same system I used to update the family back in the Pre-Caleb Days. Times have changed however, and we know who the real celebrity of this blog is. So fear not, despite the name change, we will keep the details of our boring adult lives to a minimum : ) So, without further ado, here is the scoop on what life is like as a 2.1 year old...

Just after Caleb's 2nd birthday, my college room mate Corali came up for a visit.Caleb loved having a new reading buddy and showing her around Gettysburg. I loved getting to "talk teacher" and catch each other up on all the news in our lives.
Lunch at Dobbin House (circa 1776) in Gettysburg
Caleb is loving his new pal

A bubble pops on his nose

Caleb's speech continues to develop at it's "slowly but surely" pace. This month he added the words "dip" (aka ketchup!) and "gun" (as in a water gun) to his vocabulary. Of all the 40 words child decides to pick up easily, one of them is "gun". He is such a boy!

This month he also picked up the word and concept of "both". He loves to inform David and I that we are both brushing our teeth or both using a fork. Best of all is when Caleb and Daddy are both doing the same thing : ) His face lights up like the sun as he shows how he can vacuum or sweep just like daddy.

 Another popular word this month was "hide". We've had lots of storms and Caleb calls thunder "hide" since he can't see the source of the sound. This led to what I think is the coolest story (and new word) of the month:

One night, we were putting Caleb to bed during a bad thunderstorm. He's not afraid of lighting per say, but he does need to talk about it...alot. He says, "hide!?" "hide!?" and "BIG!"as he points to the window. We nod and reassure him that this is all normal.
This particular evening, he was talking to us about the thunder and I was reminding him that God controls the thunder and lightning and that God loves him very much. Then, David prayed over him as he does each night. He finished his prayer by saying, "In Jesus name, Amen. Caleb then looked up and said "Je-Juh!" with so much joy. It was beautiful to hear those little lips say that name for the first time.
 I should have probably put that story at the end, because everything else pales in comparison! Here are some more mini-highlights from our month:

Caleb knows the difference between "big" and "little". During play-doh time he had a blast putting big and little "eggs" in the "nest".

He's learned that Target gives out a sticker to tots in the checkout line and points to his chest to remind me each visit. He also says a great "thank you" that makes mama so proud :  )

At the end of Moo, Baa, Lalala the author asks, What does baby say? Caleb now answers, "No!" Yup, that about sums it up : )

We made a special trip to the  library because Caleb asked for the same book (Blue Hat, Green Hat) 3 days in a row by pointing to it's picture and exclaiming "BryBry". How can I refuse that kind of request?

Caleb "read" his first page from a story this month from Blue Hat, Green Hat. On the page with the shoes, he said "Two, two, two, OOP!" Adorable!

Mr. Big Boy had two major "growing up" milestones. He got his first trim and ate his first PBJ.

Hair before. I trimmed a little off the back earlier in the month, but the top and sides had never been cut!

Caleb is helping out, of course.

Hair after. Still plenty of curls, but short enough to stay out of his face.

What was left of his first PBJ. He ate the entire jelly side : )
As most of you saw on facebook, this month was also the first time Caleb crawled out of his crib. In case you missed it, here is the verbatim status update I posted 10 minutes afterwards
Well, it finally happened. Caleb released himself from crib-captivity after nap. I always imagined it would happen with a loud thud, followed by tears and a gentle, but firm reminder not to climb from myself or David. Instead, it was silent, my only warning was the click of a door knob turning seconds before Caleb flew into the room and wrapped himself around my legs, joyously, apparently unaware anything unusual had taken place.
Two year olds are learning machines! While it certainly has it's challenges, I find the teacher inside of me coming alive as Caleb begins to remember and assimilate more and more information each day. I'm amazed at all the mini-lessons that fit into one brief morning.

After breakfast, Caleb might work on his gross motor skills in the sandbox as he scoops and dumps dirt. He'll hone fine motor skills while coloring or in his play kitchen as he "cuts" food. Later he'll practice identifying his new favorite number (TWO!) as we read a book (two shoes! two cats! two, two, two!),  and receive a brief road safety lesson as we walk to the mail box. It's incredible how much he soaks up each day.

Why yes, that is yogurt he is finger painting with. Notice the lovely wall decoration as well? : )
He's also sharpening his skills in the "entertaining his parents" category : )

I know I tend to sum up all these monthly updates by saying how blessed I feel, but it's true! I don't think I will ever cease being thankful for each day we're given with him and the joy we have in being his parents.

Oh...and since I said these were going to become family updates from now on...I guess I should mention I turned 26 this month : ) My boys made sure I had a special day, starting with Caleb (and thus me!) sleeping in and David cooking me breakfast. Thanks guys!!!
Caleb helping me ready my card.

Clearly enjoying mommy's birthday breakfast!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Visiting the M Family: June Edition

We just spent a wonderful weekend visiting with the M family at our house, so I thought it was about time I finally finished the draft on our trip to their house earlier this summer. Not only did we have a blast hanging out with them, but Dave and Christine made sure to plan in some special adventures that made it feel like a real summer get-away. 

We arrived the Friday before Caleb's 2nd birthday party. It was Caleb's first long distance ride alone in the back seat. He was a champ all 3 hours and didn't need mommy to go back even once! Dave and Christine welcomed us with an amazing grilled salmon and shrimp dinner. Yum!

Saturday morning, Caleb decided to wake at 5:15am. It was every bit as painful as it sounds. It made me thankful that we're all old parents now and had gone to bed around 10p the night before. Despite the early wake up call, we still didn't get everyone ready to leave for strawberry picking until around 8:45. That's toddler time for you : )

Caleb wants Elias to open his belated birthday present, but decides he needs a little help. Elias does not amused by this intrusion.

The farm where we went picking grew several different types of strawberries. After taste-testing, the "Early Glow" variety were the clear winners. Their season was almost over so we did a lot of picking through rotted ones to find the ripe ones, but it was worth it. Caleb was even able to help!

So. Grown. Up.

Daddy's helper

Elias getting a taste of a very fresh strawberry.

Our final adventure at the farm, bee extraction. Great teamwork guys!

We brought the boys back for naps and they were both snoozing by 11. After they awoke, Dave and Christine took us to an Italian deli/grocery to pick up subs (which were incredible!). We ate picnic-style at a nearby park and the boys wore themselves out.

What's a family photo without a dinosaur in the mix?

Elias looking too cool in his shades.

We came back to the boarding school where Dave and Christine live (yes, they live in a school, how awesome is that???) and let the boys cool off in the pool. Needless to say, they went to bed early, completely exhausted. We didn't waste those evening hours of course. David and Dave bonded by beating Super Mario Brothers together and Christine taught me how to do a perl stitch in knitting.

Splashing in the pool.
Another great way too cool down. Some of the strawberries we picked may have ended up in Dave and Christine's ice cream maker.

Sunday morning, Caleb slept in slightly more, and woke at 5:45. David got up, while I finished sleeping. I woke up around 7:30 and remembered it was Father's Day (face palm moment...). I gave David his card and promised I'd make it up to him next weekend (which I did). Being the amazing husband and father he is, he wasn't upset at all and told me he was only "doing what you do everyday". *Swoon*

We all headed to protestant service a little bit later. Afterward, David, Caleb and I explored some neat looking shops in the area. We took Caleb into one of those hands-on kids' places. Apparently little ones under 2 get in free! Caleb had a blast playing in a firetruck, riding in a toy helicopter (which he wanted to go "up, up!") and splashing his hands in a rubber-ducky lazy river. On the way back to the car, we found a neat coffee shop and bought a bag of beans as a souvenir.

After Dave and Christine got home from Mass, we put the boys down for naps and ate lunch (which involved Sonny's Sweet Sauce, so you know it was amazing). Our little guys didn't sleep long so we took them over to a pond on the school's campus and let them throw rocks in the water, which they were infinitely amused by.

After a little more visiting time, we packed up the car and headed home. Caleb was so worn out from his fun weekend, he slept most of the way. We made a lot of wonderful summer memories. Thanks Dave and Christine!