Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2 minute break

We love the Muppets around here. We loved them as kids and now we're spreading the joy to our children. We introduced Dylan to them when he was about 2 years old and they started releasing The Muppet Show in DVD - he referred to it as the froggy show. We've been watching them on YouTube lately, and we've discovered Ella does a mean Beaker impression. Anyway, take a break and enjoy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

a Michigan kid trying to enjoy his Christmas present


Here is the obligatory Christmas post...I'll keep it brief since it was probably a much more fascinating event to me than to you. We had a wonderful Christmas the year. The kids are at fun ages. We're beginning to start family traditions, and the kids are able to grasp the real meaning behind Christmas. We are blessed to have all of our family close by, but that also means lots of parties - six this year plus our own Christmas morning "party". Highlights include Dylan shouting "Jackpot!" when Matt's grandparents gave him a remote control Nascar car and watching the joy on Ella's face as she helped various Nana's hand out Christmas presents (she is our little "giver" - usually very happy to share and help someone else out). Oh, and the best Christmas gift ever: the kids and I gave Matt a weasel ball.

This past weekend, we de-Christmas-ed the house...only 361 days until Christmas 2009!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

snowed in

If you live in Michigan, you probably spent your Sunday snowed in like we did. We did venture out to church this morning, but we've been home ever since. Here's how we spent our day.

Watching Curious George...
Making Christmas cookies...
Snuggling in our PJ's...
How'd you spend your snow day?

Christmas party #2

Our kids, and Ella in particular, have a sort of love/hate relationship with dogs. Since we don't have pets, they are both fascinated and terrified of them at the same time. At the Austin Christmas party last night, Ella got pretty brave with Gracie (Aunt Yesenia's doggy). Of course, Ella made sure Daddy stuck close by.
Here are a couple more shots from the night. Matt and Dylan after snowmobiling at Uncle Brian and Aunt Janet's. That was Dylan's first time and pretty brave of him to try it too - I'm sure riding with Daddy helped with that :)Uncle Chad, Ella & Tiger.

new camera

Sooo...I got a new camera. I told Matt that was all I wanted for Christmas and he was more than happy to get his Christmas shopping done just like that. It took me a couple of weeks to work up the nerve to go and actually buy the camera and then a couple of days to work up the nerve to take it out of the box. I've been using it for about 24 hours so far and we're getting along pretty well so far. I ended up with a Canon Powershot SX10 IS. Nothing too fancy (I'm not going pro or anything) but I wanted a step up from my little point and shoot. It is a slightly bigger camera which everyone tells me I won't like, but I think I'm ready for the change. Anyway...Merry Christmas to me, I guess :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Currently Watching: Friday Night Lights

If you have talked to me in the past week, you know I have a new obsessesion: Friday Night Lights. Kyle and Michelle have been telling us about this show for a while and we finally got around to borrowing their Seasons 1 & 2 DVD's. I watched a couple of episodes when it first came out but then I lost track of it on TV and forgot about it. We got the DVD's a week ago and since then Matt and I have watched 2-3 episodes every night. The first four nights we were up until almost 1am each night which was a little crazy so now we are trying to be more reasonable and only staying up until midnight (Matt has been nodding off lately though which makes me question if he's cut out for this kind of serious TV watching).

Anyway, a show that makes us act this crazy must be good. Here's the secret to what makes this show great: Matt says to me the other night, "I don't know why you like this show so much...it's about football." And I said "This show isn't about football...it's about relationships." Brilliant. Something for everyone.

We have watched 14 of the 22 episodes in the first season. 15 episodes in Season 2. We are trying to completely catch up before Season 3 starts on NBC on January 16. I know...we really should look into getting a life. We'll get on that as soon as we are done watching Friday Night Lights.

friends, fun & animal parts

Last night we had our small group Christmas party. We have been together for six years now and every year we do a white elephant exchange. I think last night's was the most hilarious yet - we seem to be getting real good at picking out awful gifts. Two years ago a new sort of tradition started when the Chapman's brought a deer leg lamp as one of their gifts. I was the lucky one who got to open it, and I'm not sure if the picture does it enough justice. It was quite literally a deer leg that had been cut off of Bambi and turned into a lamp - wired and ready for a lightbulb and everything. It was the most amazing/disgusting white elephant gift ever (and no, I didn't keep it to re-gift. It was really that disgusting).
So then last year Curt thought it would be hilarious to bring an alligator head (again, just a sawed off animal part) and rig it up so I got to open the dead animal thing. Anyway, I knew this year that I needed to find some sort of animal part to bring (it's getting pretty strange, isn't it?) I was talking about this with my parents one night and my dad said "Hey, I have two dried piranhas" (you know...because you can't just have one, you've got to have two). He very generously gave one to me and I had the pleasure of watching Charissa (the girl who brought you the deer lamp) open it last night and then her husband ended up with it at the end of the night. Finally...justice (or maybe that's revenge??)There were many other strange, strange things that showed up last night. It reminds me of how very weird these people are but also how much I love them all. They have become like family to us and I can't imagine going through life without them.

kids in a tub

The other night I was working on the computer and Matt was downstairs playing with the kids when I heard giggling coming my way. I looked up and found that Matt had carried both kids upstairs in the big toy tub we keep downstairs. These pictures just crack me up. Dylan and Ella found the whole experience to be pretty hysterical. And apparently, my husband is also very strong :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

my (almost) encounter with a (kind of) celebrity

Tonight Kate Gosselin from Jon & Kate + Eight was at Barne's & Noble signing books. I convinced Katie to head out with me (really, we will do just about anything for a girls' night out). The line was incredibly long - we heard three hours just to get your book signed - so we were happy staring through the window, taking a picture "with" Kate, and then heading down to Panera for coffee. Poor lady signing books for three hours and being stared at like she's a monkey but I'm sure she's getting filthy rich in the process!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Our two year old in all her two year old glory. First, she put herself in time-out. Then she yelled "nooooo!!!" at me while I took her picture. Complete with a talk-to-the-hand pose. LOVE her.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

We finally got our Christmas tree up yesterday. We went all crazy and put it up in a different room this year. It's a tad smaller than usual because Matt and Dylan picked it out earlier this week and they claim it looked much bigger in the dark. Either way, we are officially Christmas-y around here now.

Monday, December 1, 2008


This past weekend, we celebrated my Grandma's 80th birthday. To honor this milestone, I helped put a photo book together for her filled with pictures of her with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Everyone supplied me with photos, and I stayed up late for about a week straight putting it together (while thinking, why did I volunteer for this?! :) ) The photo below that my brother Kyle makes me glad I put in those late book-making sessions:
My grandparents were born in Shanghai, China in the 1920's. They left China in 1949 so my Grandpa could attend seminary in the US and soon after the communists took over China and they were unable to return to their homeland until the late 1970's. My Grandma had four kids in five years while in the States and then left for Taiwan where my grandparents were missionaries with the Christian Reformed Church. In 1974, my Grandpa began broadcasting the Gospel (via radio) into mainland China. They eventually returned to the States, and my Grandpa pastored a Chinese speaking church in Chicago until he passed in 1988.

My Grandma's legacy is not only the lives she touched with my Grandpa as missionaries, but it's also all of us. In addition to her four children and spouses, she also has 11 grandchildren (7 of us are married), and 10 great-grandchildren (with 3 more on the way!)

Happy Birthday, Grandma! We love you!

building a snowman with my little man

Saturday, November 22, 2008


As of yesterday, I am officially done with all of my Christmas shopping (insert gagging sounds here). I really hate doing things last minute - I was that dorky kid in school who always had homework done ahead of time - and now I can actually enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas instead of feeling frantic. Our Christmas cards have arrived, and even my homemade gifts are made. I just need to get up there and wrap gifts one of these days. And dig up some killer white elephant gifts for our small group Christmas party (right, Bethany?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

moving up

I just took the plunge and ordered a toddler bed for Ella. She started a new trick this week of climbing out of her crib. Both times have been when she was in time-out, and it was pretty funny when she just sauntered down the stairs, but I'm afraid she might fall on her head one of these times.

Blogger Buddy Mindy - also known as Photographer Mindy - mentioned this bed before (or one similar - I can't remember if this is the exact same one Lucy has?) and it's from Wal-Mart and only $57 plus it has really great reviews. I just ordered it on-line and they are going to ship it to the store, so in 7-10 days Ella will have a new bed. I'll probably set it up in her room but leave the crib up so she can make the switch gradually if she wants.

I also got the letter today from church saying Ella will be moving up to the two year old room on Sunday's. This also means that she will be moving out of Baby Bay (where I have brought a baby to each week for the past four years!) and into the bigger kid rooms across the main hall. Oh my...I think my babies are growing up!

Monday, November 17, 2008

a story to share...

I'm sharing this info because this family's story has really touched me. I don't know the McNeil family at all, but I heard about them through an acquaintance from church (through the wonders of Facebook of all places). You can read the family's blog for the whole story, but the short version is that both of this couple's children, Waverly & Oliver, have been diagnosed with MPS IIIA / Sanfilippo Sydrome (see below). Their story is incredibly heartwrenching.

The person I made the connection through is friends with the couple from college and along with a couple of other friends, they are working to raise money to help the McNeil family with the purchase of a house, necessary home modifications, and out-of-pocket medical expenses. They have named this cause A Hundred for a Home and they are trying to get 4,000 people to give $100 to meet their $100,000 goal (the family lives in an area where the cost of living is high).

I wanted to pass along the info in case you are touched and want to give and so that you can keep this family in your prayers.

Sanfilippo Syndrome is a recessive autosomal genetic disease. Children with Sanfilippo Syndrome are missing an essential enzyme needed to breakdown and dispose of long sugar chains in the body called mucopolysaccharides. also known as GAGs. Because these sugar chains cannot be broken down and disposed of they accumulate in the cells causing progressive damage. Babies and young children with Sanfilippo Syndrome appear normal, but symptoms begin to appear with age as more and GAGs build up in the cells of the body. There are 3 stages to the disease. Stage 1 the child begins to lag behind peers and begins to display difficult behaviors. Stage 2 the child losing his/her language, becomes hyperactive, chews on everything, and has sleeping difficulties. Stage 3 the child slows down, becomes dependant for all mobility and loses the ability to chew/swallow. There is no treatment or cure for Sanfilippo. Life expectancy varies.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dylan!

Four years ago today, we were at the hospital waiting for the pitocin to kick in so we could meet our baby boy (Dylan was much more cooperative at his ultrasound). We found out on a Friday that we would be going in on Saturday to be induced, but we kept it a secret :) I remember sitting around that Friday night watching TV and trying to process the fact that we would have a baby in our arms in less than 24 hours.

We knew to expect a baby boy when we had Dylan, but he is our first child so that entire part of becoming new parents was completely new to us. He was a pretty big guy - 8 lbs, 8 oz - and I remember Matt peering over him while Dylan got his first bath and Dylan greeting him by shooting a stream of pee on Matt's face :) Dylan was such a good baby, so easy going and such a good sleeper!

Our little man turns four today and I think I might have to stop calling him my baby one of these days. He's growing up in so many ways, and while a mother always misses those baby and toddler days in some sense, I'm very much enjoying the person he's becoming and the conversations we can have. He's starting to ask a lot of the "deep" questions - questions about God and about life and about how everything fits together.

There are days where we butt heads, and I've told Matt and my mom before that sometimes I swear that I'm his least favorite person in the world because he acts up for me in ways that he doesn't for anyone else. My mom also reminds me that he loves me more than anyone else. I guess the mother/son relationship has its own set of complications!

Dylan is our Dilly, our Little Man and we love his sometimes quiet, observant way of looking at the world. He doesn't rush into things, and he's more cautious than his crazy sister. He loves to be surrounded by the people he loves, and he likes certainty and the security that comes with it.

Happy 4th Birthday, Buddy! We love you!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ella!

Two years ago, we were just going to the hospital to be induced for Ella. We didn't know she was a she because she had been very uncooperative during the 20 week ultrasound much to our dismay. I remember going to the room and seeing two little knitted hats laying out - one for a girl and one for a boy - and being so frustrated that I still didn't know what this baby was and we were hours away from delivery!! I secretly wanted the girl hat because it was super cute :) Anyway, we did get the thrill of finding out the gender on her birthday, and I remember very clearly those few seconds after she was born, waiting for the doctor to say "it's a girl!"

I remember being in the hospital and processing that we had a little girl, a daughter. To me, it's a humbling experience because the mother/daughter relationship can be so complex but also so wonderful. Matt came back to the hospital on the second day (I let him go home to sleep after we have babies...he would stay if I asked him to but I've never asked because if I were him I would much prefer our nice cozy bed to the hospital chair that pulls out into a "bed" ;) ) and he looked kind of stunned. I asked him what was going on, and all he could get out was: "I'll have to give her away someday." I think he's still processing that...

We sure do love our little Ella around here. Somehow the nickname "Mooka" has stuck for her, and we are all equally parts fascinated/terrified of her (just kidding...but I wouldn't recommend getting in her way).

Happy Birthday, Ella!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

fall photos

My blogger buddy Mindy is starting out in the photography biz, and I asked her to take the kids' "year" pictures last week. We went to Spring Grove Park on one of the last nice days of fall, and the kids had a good time tromping through the leaves while Mindy followed them around and snapped pictures. I just got back them all back today, and I'm so happy with the way they turned out. All the colors are beautiful and I think she really captured the kids' personalities - all those little looks that I see through out the day are now captured on film! Here are a couple of my favorites (I'll post the rest on Facebook).

Observations: #1 - my kids' tongues hang out of their mouths A LOT. #2 - my stubborn 3 year old is turning into a fairly cooperative 4 year old; my little baby is turning into a sometimes terrible 2 year old (Dylan did better than I thought he would, and Ella wasn't as into it as I would have liked. All in all, I declare it a success.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

birthday wishes for Daddy

Tomorrow starts a big birthday week for us around here. Matt's birthday is Sunday, Ella's is Wednesday, and Dylan's is Thursday. Today, I helped Dylan make a card for Matt on the computer. I asked him what we wanted to say to Daddy on his birthday and gave him a few ideas to get started (what do you like to do with Daddy, etc.).

Here's the priceless result:

Happy birthday, Daddy! I love you ‘cause you play cars with me and you lay with me and you go for walks with me. Thank you for doing trick or treat with me and for going to the ‘Hamas. I love you so, so much. Thank you for loving me and for loving my baby sister and for loving everybody. And thank you for loving God and Jesus.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

seven prayers (from audreycaroline.blogspot.com)

Moms (and Dads): a post worth reading on Angie Smith's blog and then doing. General idea: seven prayers to pray during seven events throughout your child's day. I'll go ahead and list them here for anyone too lazy to click on the link:

1. When they wake up: "Let the morning bring (child's name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You. Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul." (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)

2. When they are getting dressed: "Therefore, as God's chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others. Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her). And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)

3. While they are eating: "Teach (child's name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength." (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)

4. When they go out of the house: "(Name of child), do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Adapted from Romans 12:2)

5. While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child) clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior. Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)

6. When they are going to bed: "The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

7. While they are sleeping: "I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing." (Adapted from Ephesians 2:14-16)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Here are a few vacation highlight photos. Vacations tend to be most interesting to the people who are taking them, so I'll try not to bore you with too many details :) The kids held up pretty well for being dragged around theme parks and then a cruise ship for days on end. We saw a lot - it wasn't too busy so October seems to be a good time to visit. Dylan got a kick out of seeing the characters; Ella liked them from a distance but not at all up close. We spent time in all four of the Disney parks (1st collage) and then spent three nights on the Disney Wonder (2nd collage).

Monday, November 3, 2008


I've enjoyed seeing everyone's Halloween pictures either on their blogs or their Facebook accounts...thought I'd share our Halloween shots too. We were on vacation this year, so it was a different sort of Halloween but the kids were still able to do a little trick or treating on the cruise ship. Dylan was a soccer player along with cousins Isaac and Nicko - my parents picked up these outfits when they were in Spain earlier this fall. Ella was a cheerleader - if you know anything about me you know that I was a cheerleader all through high school and then coached for three years before we had kids. I just can't help influencing her costume "choice" while I can :)

More vacation pictures coming soon...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zoo Goes Boo!

This morning, Katie and I took the kids down to the zoo for Zoo Goes Boo (the guys were at the MSU/OSU game). I've never been there for this event before, and we ended up having a really nice time. The weather was perfect, and they had tables set up around the zoo (usually sponsored by a company) that were all handing out candy, books, coupons and other goodies. It was a little crowded but it wasn't terrible. The event goes next week Friday and Saturday too if anyone is looking for a little family fun.

Dylan dressed up as a lion and Ella was a frog, however, these aren't their "official" Halloween costumes (Dylan wore the lion costume last year and the frog was a random clearance item that my mom had lying around). We will be in Florida this year so I wanted costumes for them that they could wear in warm weather - Dylan is going to be a soccer player and Ella will be a cheerleader - but I was glad we had some warmer alternatives to wear today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bring The Rain

I have been reading this blog now for a while - Bring The Rain. I'm not even sure how I found it in the first place. I stumbled upon it and I haven't been able to stop keeping up with it since. The author is Angie Smith whose husband is Todd Smith (from the group Selah). They have an amazingly painful, amazingly redemptive story which includes the miscarraige of their first child and the loss of another daughter, Audrey Caroline, due to problems with her kidneys (they also have three girls - Ellie, Abby and Kate).

Today, October 15, is the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss. Angie encouraged readers to post if they had lost a baby so that she could pray for them and we could all remember. I checked back tonight and there are over 1500 posts. As I read through some of them, I was overwhelmed by the pain and sorrow of these women. I have not lost a child myself, but I have friends who have experienced this loss.

When I delivered Ella almost two years ago, we found out soon after she was born that there were problems with the placenta that could have caused serious complications for both her and me. I remember my doctor saying to us, "You have no idea how happy I was to see a pink, healthy baby. Many times those babies are born still." It took me a while to process how close we might have come to losing to her.

I know many of you who read this are mothers yourselves. Please keep all of these women in your prayers.

Frederik Meijer Gardens

Today we were able to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens with our friends Katie*, Drew and Emily. Katie and Bryan have a family membership and they are also able to bring a guest with them each time. I haven't been to the Gardens since Matt's senior year high school prom which was TEN YEARS ago. It was fun to see everything they have to offer - the children's garden was obviously a big highlight along with the GIANT horse (above). My favorite sculpture is this one below. The name of it? Mad Mom. Love it.

*And yes, I have more than one very dear friend named Katie. This Katie and I go back to junior high when both "liked" the same guy. We quickly got over the guy and agreed to swap Michael W. Smith tapes for the weekend. The rest is history. True story.
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