the little ones, lately.

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we have two VERY BIG little lives on our hands. what a fun and ridiculous phase this is (i know – eye roll – i say that about every phase). we are in the final round of preschool decisions for elinor. we are moving out of the baby phase and into toddlerhood with ridley.

i feel like the last week has been one of rapid growth. elinor had a crazy growth spurt. ridley has new teeth coming in and has experienced a developmental burst. quite literally, there are brand new things, every single day. it is amazing to watch. things change so quickly. their brains take in so much and process at such a speedy rate. they exhibit new talents and skills and points of knowledge all the time. i can’t get over it.

and then there’s the adorable relationship that continues to build between these two. they are such buds. i love watching them interact and figure things out. the rules of play. the personalities. the differences. the similarities. elinor is watchful and helpful and playful. and ridley gives the biggest hugs and makes LOUD sounds to declare his intentions and preferences and make his wishes known. they are good for each other. and the tender kisses and strong hugs keep coming.

no hitting or hair pulling or pinching as of yet…

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ridley is talking up a storm: ball, papa, mama, doggie, cat, woah, book, wah-iz-it, uh-oh, et cetera. he responds when we talk with some words and some copycat sounds and lots of expressions. he points. he turns pages in books. he makes grrrrr and vroom sounds with his toys. he identifies things. he has such a charming smile and the looooongest lashes. he nods yes when we ask if he’s finished eating or ready for bed. when i correct him, he shakes his head no while looking at the floor. he picks up papers and magazines and books and mock-reads in the cutest tones. he is dextrous and strong. he is also super dramatic and persnickety. he loves to play games and give high-fives. he stands on his own and when not prompted, will try for unassisted steps. he is strong-willed, that’s for sure. but also so kind and sensitive. he loves bopping to music. he is mesmerized by papa’s violin playing. he thrives with routine and is SUCH a homebody. and gosh, i love that about my kids. i love that they feel most comfortable and happy and secure at home. i love that they let out a happy sigh anytime we walk through the door. they like their own space, their familiar surroundings – the sights and smells and sounds – their things, their bed, their haven. and that is as it should be, i think.

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our darling elinor. three-and-a-half. what a strange and fantastic age of limbo and dichotomy. she is baby and grown up, in one body. she has wispy baby curls framing her more slender face that is rapidly losing its baby-like features. she wants to be autonomous and she wants to snuggle up on my lap with her prized blanket. she loves independent play but also wants to help everyone with everything. she tells her brother how to obey even though she hasn’t exactly mastered that for herself. she is often a walking contradiction. but gosh, is it something to watch her navigate life.

she does most things for herself now. and she always tries to help her brother with his needs too. she prayers THE CUTEST prayers. she talks to God about her heart and her hopes and plans…and always asks for “a clean heart and self-on-trol”. lately, she has been excitedly talking to God about her school and all the things she is going to learn and do.

she remembers facts and names and places. she cares for her babies like they are truly her own. she has a vivid and active imagination that i pray she holds onto for life. she knows how to make a mess – and fast. but she also takes such pride when she cleans up and sorts all her things correctly. she is my little helper. laundry, dusting, sweeping, cooking…if there is a domestic task to be done, she is there (with her trusty stepstool in tow). and she is incredibly capable. she pays attention to context and purpose and procedure. she is SO aware and absorbs every darn thing. and remembers the tiniest details from years ago.

she sings jesus loves me in perfect tune and has killer interpretive dance moves. she is joy personified. cheerful and bubbly and silly. with the best comedic timing and such wit. she’s a blast. and she challenges me and teaches me DAILY.

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blue eyes + a girl after my own heart

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we are having such a blast with ridley. i remember LOVING this stage with elinor too. they are rapidly losing their babyish ways and really coming into their own. more play. more attitude. more personality. more interaction. more of all the wonderful. ridley copies everything. he can be such a ham. he has the happiest buddha-face grin. he laughs at all of his sister’s jokes. he is a determined crawler and fearless cruiser. he likes to stand and show off his tap-dance moves. he can rock a fedora like sinatra (i am holding onto those first two pictures because if this kid ever signs a record deal, instant album cover). he eats food by the fistful. he’s mischievous. he’s flirtatious. he is the very best.

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oh, mademoiselle elinor. these are the days that crack us up and make us crazy. she has been full of funny-isms (and i will share more of those later). she is TOO DARN SMART. she is witty. she is interesting. she is bright. she is effervescent. she is sensitive. she is complex. she is tough. she is hilarious. she is empathetic and kind. and she is just a cool kid.

what a joy to watch her grow. to develop preferences and opinions. to watch the world around her, absorb, analyze, communicate. childhood is a remarkable time. there are days that are a total delight and easy-breezy. we have fun. we play and learn and engage and laugh and converse. i instruct. she obeys. she is my sassy and amazing little sidekick. she asks to sit on my lap and read all the books. she helps me in the kitchen. she thanks me for playing with her and tells me she loves me sooooo much, just because she felt like being sweet. she requests her “floppy hat and book for making lists” as we walk out the door for a market run (that’s my girl). she makes me smile and tickles me so and brings such fullness to our life. all is well.

and then, there are days that are a battle. her will against mine. elinor against the world. she uses her intelligence in all the wrong ways. she tries to manipulate. she pushes back. tests boundaries. she dodges. she negotiates. she willfully-knowingly-purposefully-whole-heartedly disobeys. it feels like one thing after another. on days like that, we feel like our entire existence is solely to act as disciplinarians. we have to be on it. stop what you are doing. you need to wait. patience. obedience first. be kind to others. that’s not for you. be aware of your surroundings. take care of your things. maintain a helpful spirit. don’t squish your brother. careful. be brave. sometimes, it is a no – sometimes, we don’t get what we want EVEN if you ask nicely BUT you always have to ask nicely. ask Jesus for self-control. manners, my dear. i sound like a lunatic. i sound like a broken record. i sound like a total parent. and then, the day passes, the storm clouds dissipate, and normalcy returns. she is a handful. but with full hands come a full heart.

childish ways

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having children is a profound thing. and a humbling thing. there are so many sweet and light and lovely moments. but there are also exceptionally weighty realities.

one of the greatest blessings of raising up these little souls is that their existence helps me to better understand the relationship of my Heavenly Father to His children. and it helps me understand my nature.

when i lay out ALL the toys and distractions and fun things for ridley to enjoy, a smorgasbord of entertainment and pleasure. i give him whatever he could want. i sit on the floor to play with him. i tell him that he can take his pick of objects, he can have it all. but that cable plugged into the wall over there? that’s the one thing that’s off limits. do not touch. and then, without fail, he makes a beeline for the taboo item. it is then that i understand that urge, that nature that is at work within us. that nature that was at work within adam and eve in the garden and is still at work. that nature which, in spite of having it all, wants to pursue the one thing that is off limits and not good for us.

when elinor is going and going and running herself ragged and i tell her that it is best to slow down and take a break – regroup, recalibrate, relax but she resists and then twirls herself into a wall and ends up in an emotional mess on the floor. it is then that i understand why God commands us to rest. why He instructs us to walk with Him by the still waters so that He can restore our soul before destruction or distraction or clumsiness can overtake us.

when the little ones get a cold and all they want to do is sit in my arms and snuggle. those remarkable and rare moments of quiet and rest and nothing and just being held. i find myself enjoying those times. almost being grateful for the cold that came upon their bodies and gave us that special time together. and that sounds terrible to say but then i think, no, it’s okay to be grateful for those times. those moments are sweet. and they are a necessary part of life. life can be busy. days can be full. and children’s bodies are always on the go. buzzing away. onto the next thing. they are not inclined to being still. it takes an external force, a strange occurrence, a peculiar circumstance to make them stop. but isn’t that just how i am as a child of God? sometimes it takes something jarring or sickening to make me stop and allow myself to be held by my Father. and i am sure that while God hates to see me sick or sad or tired (or whatever the adult equivalent of teething is) just as i hate to see my little ones like that, i’m sure that there is also a part of Him that savors that time. breathing a sigh of relief that we have ceased our striving and are allowing Him to gather us up in His arms, frail and sick as we are, and hold us near. still. peaceful. safe. wrapped in His loving embrace. sometimes, pestilence and plague and famine and wars come into our lives because they draw us nearer to Him. they slow us down so that He can sit with us and care for us. acting as a balm to our weary and harried and ravaged souls. and what a cherished time that is.

may He continue to use my children as instruments of instruction and grace – in my life and in the lives of others.