Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

nine months

  9 months 2 

At nine months, Nolan is...

* 21 lbs and 7 oz, 28" (though his daddy says he's really 29")

*funny, sweet, affectionate, a little bit obstinate, and loving

Goofy guy web

(Is that the funniest grin ever? Sometimes he'll talk out of the side of his mouth, ala Bill Murray in Caddyshack and he totally cracks me up.)

New fav web 

*becoming more and more of a boy and less of a baby. I have a friend who says you know your boy's not a baby any more when you stop wanting to eat his toes. Sorry, Nolie, but you have stinky toes:-) For whatever crazy reason, this just makes them more adorable to me.

Joy in a biscuit web 

*enjoying feeding himself, especially mashed potatoes and anything he sees his big brothers eating. The biscuits that were once SO exciting are now more of a dropping toy.

Mastery web 

*playing...really playing now. I find it a little startling. It is so clear that he has intent and purpose in his play now---and wants something and not others. I guess it's been happening slowly over months that he no longer just wanted to put toys in his mouth.

Nolie and seanie web 

*adored by his big brothers. When he wakes from a nap, I can't beat them to his crib. They live to make him laugh, and, for now it seems, he lives to demand whatever they are holding;-) There is a bit of arguing over their different interpretations of Nolan's baby talk. "Aaaa" is for Aidan, "Awww" is for Sean. But they of course hear every sound he makes as an "aww' or long "A".

Nole at 9 months web

*has two new teeth (or did they show up last month?)...without his front teeth, he has a bit of a vampire look going on.

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of baking, shopping, card-writing, planning, and packing. I took these photos last week when he turned 9 months, and uploaded them before we left Utah...but haven't had a chance to post until now, from Illinois. Nolan has been fighting a bug, with a random fever over the last week, and there have been numerous moments when I thought to myself, this is why Christmas centers around the image of a infant: so that mothers who are overwhelmed with a mile-long to do list will put down whatever task is at hand and cuddle their babies, knowing there is no better way to celebrate this season.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

As one of six sisters, I have a fondness for all things sisterly, including all the Dillow sisters' blogs. Elizabeth Dillow is a scrapbooking guru, and has read more children's books than anyone else I know on Good Reads. Her blog offers up humor, photos, nostalgia, kiddo stories, and most recently a bit of a challenge.

At Thanksgiving she wrote a post about Mia McDonald, a five month old baby in Washington state, who recently underwent a heart transplant. Mia has a long road ahead of her, but according to her family's web site, was finally able to go home last week.  I really encourage you to click over to her mom's blog. It is uplifting despite the challenges they've faced, features great tunes. John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me" is one of my favorites. And I love her Quote Wall which featured this keeper: "Okay, put the cookies away, the brownies are almost done..." :-)


As you can imagine, the medical bills are overwhelming. Friends of the family have created a web site, Help Baby Mia, to raise money. There are giveaways and auctions, and a very simple way to give via Paypal at the top of that site. I love how Elizabeth put it:

"I thought it would be nice if everyone reading might consider donating a small amount of money to Mia's medical fund—maybe $1 per member of your family. Every small amount would help, I'm sure, and Mia will benefit from the kindness of strangers...No one has much extra cash this year, but everyone has a little room in their hearts for a baby who is learning how to live with her new one."

I have personally benefited from the kindness of strangers. Here are the stories of two specific angels whose names I don't know.

One was a short Hispanic man who pulled over in a very beat up Toyota on the Interstate in Oregon. It was 6:30 am, pouring rain and I stood next to a flat tire, all dressed up in my schoolteacher clothes as semi-trucks sped past. I didn't own a cell phone and didn't expect anyone to stop. I opened my trunk and found nothing. I remember being slightly relieved because I wouldn't have known what to do with any of it anyway. Then this man pulled over. 

Mr. Scott, my esteemed colleague who knew me and my distrust of strangers so well, said afterward that the man was lucky I didn't have a gun. Even when he offered me his cell phone, I used it to leave his license plate number on Brian's voice mail, just in case he kidnapped me. He didn't know any English;  he did, however, know to lift the cover in my trunk to reveal a spare tire and some tools. He changed my tire without a word. I tried to give him the $20 I had on me, but he refused. In the rain he took the time to pantomime that I would need to drive slowly on that spare. I got in my car and cried in gratitude, amazed that anyone would stop and help paranoid ole me. And then I thought of my dad, who annoyed my mom on many a roadtrip by stopping to help someone on the side of the road. I remember him saying, "I just hope someone would do the same if it were one of my kids." So I think of that man as the angel my dad sent.

The other story is too long to tell here, and too unbelievable anyway. Here's a brief sketch: the city of Birobidzhan, a day-dreaming girl carrying the master keys to a university, a vile garbage container, two apartment buildings without plumbing, and an angel with a fishing rod. Enough said.

I believe these were real people who chose, in those moments, to be angels and help someone they didn't know. They asked for nothing in return. You and I have a chance to be angels for the McDonald family, and we don't even have to stand in the rain or climb into a gross pit. I hope you'll take the opportunity.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Welcome Christmas

08 advent our house web 

A big thanks to those who responded to my last post and shared their similar frustrations or anxieties. It always helps to know you are not alone. My advent spirit has arrived in full force now; how could it not in a house with three little boys?

We went to two places that advertised a visit with Santa this weekend, before finally finding him at our third stop. Aidan told him, "Santa, we've been looking for you everywhere!"  He had a lot to tell him, all about the alien chamber he's wishing for (and which I hope Santa has connections for because it seems to be sold out EVERYWHERE), and how we'll be at his grandmother's house this Christmas. Sean was a little shy, just in awe. I didn't get any good shots, but this blurry one captures the moment:

Santa 08 web 

We watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer one night, and they've been singing it ever since.

Aidan picked Christmas in Noisy Village as our book on Friday night. Don't think you can read that one without getting into the Christmas spirit. Last night it was The Snowman, which doesn't have any text, so we took turns telling the story. Made my heart so happy.

Busy weekend. Aidan went to a friend's bowling birthday party--note to self, we need to take the boys bowling more. He loved it.

Aidan bdy prty web 

About 20 of us met at Zax for pizza and beer. 10 kids under age 8 at their own table = chaos. But it was a good, crazy kind of chaos. They all watched the light parade from the bed of Brian's truck (best view and best way to corral them!). Wish I had gotten a shot of their faces when Santa drove by in a fire truck at the end of the parade---but by then I was snuggling with Nolan and not willing to trade him for a camera.

2008 light parade web

I realized a couple things this week, lessons I am sure to relearn again and again this season. The cliche--inch by inch, life's a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard. If I pay attention just to what is in front of me, what I need to do today or just in this moment, it is always doable,  enjoyable. I get overwhelmed when I imagine all that needs to be done, when I get ahead of myself. AND especially when I start worrying about other people's expectations. Have to let all that go.

More and more I realize that it is my job to create joy, an atmosphere of joy, for our sons. That is all they really want---to sense that we are happy, to have our attention, to tell us stories and play together. Simple things really.

I heard this prayer read today and it struck a chord. Especially that line about seeking "quiet spaces". Hope you enjoy it too.

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We, who have so much to do, seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"

-Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Above video is from Advent Conspiracy, with a hat tip to Stacy Julian's blog.

Where is my Christmas spirit?

I'm having a hard time finding it, and I NEVER have a hard time finding it. I'm one of those annoying ones who love Christmas carols all year round. I love the excuse to bake. I love the smiles and greetings strangers give each other at this time of year. I love houses all lit up and all the traditions I described last year.

Maybe it's because for the first time in five years or so, we are traveling at Christmas. Not just traveling, driving. With three boys. For three days. Each way. We will probably spend more time in the car than we will with either of our families. And December is just not the best time to visit Chicago.

And I can't complain because this was my idea ----I had to campaign for months to get Brian on board. I wanted our boys to see their cousins. 

Brian has already hung up the outside lights and has none of my ba-humbug-ness. Perhaps because he doesn't have to do any of the Christmas shopping. Other than for me. And I'm easy to please (if he reads this, that is sure to make him laugh).

Now I can't see putting out last year's advent calendar when we won't be here for the last half. I stole the idea from Kelli Crowe last year---look how she's made it even cuter this year:


Instead of focusing on what we'll miss here at home and what we won't do, here's what I will do:

*steal an idea from Melissa Deakin using our stash of Christmas books as a sort of advent calendar.

*read Borg's The First Christmas along with Angie and I hope that will renew my Christmas spirit.

Aidan's advent wreath web

*light the candles on the advent wreath Aidan made at "church club"---and give thanks for women like my friend Kathy that gathered the supplies from resale stores and made it happen!

*resolve myself that we probably will disappoint both our families by not doing all the things they'd hoped to squeeze into our visit, and focus on our sons, making sure this visit isn't a rush of coming and going and sitting in traffic.

*see my dad meet and hold Nolan for the first time.

*meet two new nephews and see our niece Maria for the first time since she was a wee infant.

*go to Christmas mass with Brian's mom and all our boys.

*listen to Liam Neeson read The Polar Express while we drive through through Nebraska. And then again through Iowa. And maybe a few more times.

*watch "It's a Wonderful Life" this week since it probably won't happen on Christmas Eve this year

*focus on a few handmade gifts rather than the never-ending shopping/online ordering.

*remind myself that our time here is limited, and our time with family in Chicago even more limited, so keep my sense of humor, let things go, and relish being able to hug everyone in person.

*and know that next year, we'll get a real tree again and have Christmas at home.

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