Advent Traditions

Last Christmas we started talking about the meaning and significance of our families’ holiday traditions. We thought about which traditions were important to our family, which ones we wanted to practice with Zach.

One tradition we started is marking the advent season. I grew up with an advent calendar that look like this:

The Christmas before Zach, my mom offered us Christmas items from my childhood to take home. This was one of them. This year, every morning, I ask Zach if he wants to move Santa on the Christmas Tree. He gets excited, I pick him up, he grabs Santa out of the pocket I describe by the picture and we move it one over one. All along he has been working on his numbers and holiday vocabulary. (Once a teacher always a teacher). We felt like this was a great first step. With little ones, waiting for Santa and presents is teaching patience and then the celebration is even sweeter when the day has come.

Luke grew up with an advent wreath. Our version looks like this:

We bought this advent wreath last year. Luke grew up catholic, and every Sunday the month of advent they would light the candle(s). We chose a acrylic/wood wreath stand that includes scriptures and pictures of the different elements of the nativity story.

Right now we are not lighting the candles (toddlers and fire are a bad combo) but the wreath is prominently placed in the center of our dinning room table. This is not a tradition I grew up with. I will be learning through the years alongside Zach the importance of each candle, what it represents, what we are emphasizing each week.

Together these calendars represent the beginning and end: a timeline of a tradition. It begins with excitement and impatience, waiting for Santa and Christmas presents. And will end, as Zach gets older, with participating in the anticipation, the waiting and longing, for what the word advent really means:  “the arrival of a notable person and/or event”: the nativity.

Whatever traditions you, your friends, and/or your family, are celebrating this holiday season, we wish you Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

A Toddler Christmas Tree

“Having kids changes everything”. I don’t know how many times I heard this before we had a kid but as much as I’d like to roll my eyes: it is very true.

Luke’s family owned a Christmas tree farm for several years when he was a child. The past six or so winters I have been learning how to spot “the perfect tree” to cut down.

At the tree farm this year we found three trees in the first half hour that were pretty good. But of course Luke wanted to venture to another section to find that perfect tree. I reminded him this year we have a toddler, who is cold and tired. We had to change our expectations. (No tree is truly perfect.)

As Luke cut down A pretty good tree,  Zach and I explored the store and ate butter cookies. By the time we were back on the road, tree on the roof, Zach was fast asleep.

After nap time we got out the decorations. Growing up I was the tree decorating perfectionist: the lights and cranberries had to be strung with equal spacing and tucked wires didn’t show. A balance of large and small ornaments had to be evenly dispersed.  (Yea, I annoyed the whole family I’m sure).

But now we have a toddler. This year I had to separate our breakable ornaments from the wood, metal, fabric, or plastic ones. All breakables went back in the box.  Zach was happy to be able to help, handing Luke ornaments to go on the tree. We used candy canes and fabric or paper snowflakes to fill in gaps where larger breakable ornaments would normally be.

We also decided that we cannot expect every visit this holiday season to: restaurants, stores, houses to have a baby gate, box, or barrier around their trees. We chose, even though it’s the harder route, to teach our son to use his eyes, to point at ornaments, to smell the tree.  Teaching him that touching is not an option was hard the first weekend. After several time-outs, Zach now rarely touches the tree. Luckily, only a few candy canes we lost in the process.

The tree is good, the decorations realistic and what matters most is we had a great time together. This year Luke and I discovered, if we set aside our past expectations, how we have always done it, we could enjoy this Christmas with our toddler. Toddler tree and all.

 

 

 

Our Toddler-18 months old

 

A few week’s after his birthday, Zach started walking.  Now he is climbing, dancing, running, and spinning in circles.

Our little man LOVED being outside this summer and fall. Any chance he got he was collecting pine cones into his grocery cart, hiding under his play gym, and riding around in his little yellow car.   And recently he’s discovered puddles are for jumping and stomping.

we just learned to climb into a chair by ourselves

His vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds. He knows body parts, several colors, a few numbers, and many animal names too. He uses sign language, and sometimes words to say please, thank you, hurt, and help. He’s now adding seasonal vocabulary such as snowman, and Santa in the mix as well. All summer he would point at something and say “wassdat?” Recently he has started saying short sentences- “I get wet”, “throw it away”, “run over shoe” and is parroting everything we say, and sometimes what we do.

Zachary loves to read books and brings them to you when he wants to cuddle for nap and bedtime. He is also beginning to show an interest in puzzles and games. Luke taught him a basic matching game using face-up pictured tiles. The next day he proudly handed me two hot dogs, a match.

Since the beginning of July, Zach has been going to daycare half day three days a week so Mom can work. (more on Mom’s work later). He adjusted to it quickly and loves playing with other kids. One day I went to pick him up for the gym’s playroom. I told him it was time to say bye-bye and he looked at me, said bye-bye to me, and went on playing with the toy vacuum.

Thanksgiving Dinner’s favorite foods: stuffing and mashed sweet potato

Zach has almost all of his teeth now and is tall enough to reach counters. He is built like his Dad and is in 18 month pants but 2T shirts. He has had four haircuts already, the most recent one right before Thanksgiving.

He has been practicing using his fork and spoon, but if he is really hungry he will use his hands. Zach is definitely a toddler and has his food preferences, goldfish crackers and applesauce seem to be steady staples.

Zachary loves airplanes and all things in the air: clouds, birds, helicopters, stars, the moon etc. If we are outside during the day he will hear a plane or bird in the sky and point up. He has great eye sight so often he will spot it before we do. He also begs us to take him outside at night to watch the stars and moon.

The most recent interest is in trains or “choo choos”. He sat through almost all of Polar Express over the Thanksgiving weekend, his first full length movie.

The church nursery says he is very busy and into everything. To which we say yes, yes he is. That is our little toddler.

 

Fall Fun

This Fall has been full of fun festivities.

To start off, we bought Zach a red wagon in September. This is an ATW red wagon: it’s got big wheels so we can use it out on the property. Zachary loves it.

He enjoys being helpful, collecting sticks for kindling out in the front yard and on the property. Rides back and forth to the mailbox have become part of the daily routine.

As hinted above: we installed a fire burning stove in our family room this past September. Our only source of heat otherwise were electric floor boards which is a little expensive for the size of our place and for how cold it gets in the winter. Plus, if I haven’t share this already, we live on a timber farm, so we have plenty (and I mean plenty) of fuel. Zach has learned quickly to stay away from the stove-it is HOT! (We have also put up a baby gate around it.)

At the beginning of October my mother came to visit and Luke and I got the chance to get away from our 6th wedding anniversary to the coast overnight. We didn’t know it, but it was actually the cranberry festival down in Grayland, so on our way out of town we checked out the festival.

We have also enjoyed a very dry Fall which means beautiful fall foliage. Day after day we have enjoyed wonderful hues of red, yellow, and orange leaves. Perfect for fall outings.

Speaking of which, at the end of October we went to Zach’s first pumpkin patch with my MOPS group! It was a cold foggy morning but that meant we had the patch and farm all to ourselves!

Each kid got their own snack, pumpkin coloring page, a tractor ride through a themed country farmland, and to “pick” their own small pumpkin for the low price of 5$ .

The adults were offered hot coco and cider and a place to warm up by the fire while the kids went on the tractor ride.   My grandmother was here to visit for the week and she loved being of the outing, even if by the time we took pictures Zach was grumpy and cold. But the whole thing was about an hour, perfect for a toddler outing.

The next week was Halloween. Our church does a large Harvest Festival inside with prizes, balloons, games, and inflatables. Zach dressed as a seahawks football player (a hand-me down outfit) and Mom and Dad dressed as his fans in seahawk gear.

Highlights of Zach’s evening included: getting a blue balloon all to himself, playing a game and winning candy (aka one packet of gummy lifesavers), and going down the large inflatable slide with Dad.

November has flown by with work, house projects, and preparing for the holiday season. We are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving weekend with Luke’s parents this year: resting, eating great food, and enjoying quality time with each other.

Hope you have all had a great fall and wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The discipline of Thankfulness

I love that this time of year, fall is by far my favorite season, it represent change and reflection: time to cozy up and rest.

During November, I see many people doing a daily post on social media of what they are thankful for.  I think this is awesome, and if you can keep it up all month even better.

I’ve learned for me, this is not a November activity. I need this to be a year round practice. Every Single Day.

Before bed, instead of thinking about tomorrow’s busy schedule, or what is left on the list from today. I try to think of one hand: 5 things I am grateful for, from that day:big, little, anything.

This changes my perspective. It is how I stay focused, content. That is how I find peace to rest at night, and joy with the next day.

Now, please notice the word “try” above, this is not always an easy to keep up. I can tell when I get out of  practice. I feel a rising gloom-cloud of discontentment and resentment. All of a sudden I hear a voice complaining or whining, and it takes a while to realize: that’s me!  The gloom-cloud, that voice, they are  my blinking yellow caution lights that I need to get back into the discipline of thankfulness.

That is what it is: a discipline. I have to do it, everyday, always, to keep my focused, on what is going well and on the big picture. I get so caught up in details,  n the tasks in my organizer, the stress of my current circumstances or season, that a discipline of thankfulness keeps me in check.

This discipline reminds me not to get caught up in what the media says I want, or need or should do. Not even caught up in my unrealistic expectations of myself and everyone around me. It reminds me of what really matters in life. (Which is ultra-difficult to do this time of year).

Once I really get into a good pattern, this thankfulness overflows through out the day into compliments and affirmation for my family and friends. The words come out naturally and unrehearsed because I’m already thinking of them, already thankful for them. But I know they need to hear it, just as I do.

One hand-five, things, to be thankful about everyday.

How about you? How do you practice thankfulness?

 

End of Summer

We are well into October and I realized  . . .  it has been a few months since I have posted. eeek! It was one busy summer (and now fall). I promise I will share some of what has made it all so crazy busy soon. But until then I know I am well overdue to share about the end of our summer.

In August we went camping. It was not only Zach’s first time but also Kira’s.  Nap and bed time routine was a bit rough. But Zach loved spending so much time outside in the dirt, playing with sticks and climbing in and out of the tent. Kira enjoyed being outside with all of us but definitely fought the idea of sharing the campground with others.

We had a great campsite tucked away, plus it had a place we could set up my hammock. Thankfully our campground did not have a burn ban, so we were able to do hot dogs over the fire and Zach tried his first bite of S’mores (he only shared one with Mom).

On one day, we drove up a long windy and bumping forest road to an amazing view of Mt. Rainer. At the top, we hiked along an old forestry road with amazing views.

On another day we took Kira home so we could explore Mt. Rainer National Park. We drove ALL of the southern end and around several campgrounds. That day we had a picnic lunch at Paradise, the top point with a lodge, visitor’s center, and great views of Mt. Rainer. While there we went on a short hike along the meadows to a small waterfall. It was a good first camping trip since moving back to the west coast.

We spent Labor Day weekend and NaiNai and Papa’s and went to the Portland Zoo. Zach enjoyed the underwater view of the seals and sea otters and got a chance to pet rabbits, a tortoise and a few goats at the petting zoo. Later in the day we watched the Elephant show, the giraffes, and saw a few other safari animals. It was a great family outing

At the end of August, we attended the jump start for our church’s young family group. They had several inflatables up in the gym for the kids.  Zach LOVED the bounce house and slide so much he barley ate dinner and went straight back to it! He is such and active little man.

Now fall activities are in full swing. This year I am helping out as a table leader at MOPs. So, Monday nights Zach and I go to the church while Luke is attends Forestry stewardship classes. And now starting in October every other Sunday we are apart of a young family ministry small group as well. We are happy to be settling in and getting involved in our local community.

More on how our little guy is doing coming soon too!

Hope you all had a great summer and are enjoying the changing of seasons.

Fourth of July Vacation

This year we spent the fourth of July with my parents in Florence Oregon drinking coffee, eating cookies, staring at the lake, and catching up.

But we did have a few other highlights:

On the fourth of July we walked around downtown Florence to see festivities but after a wet walk we went to Moe’s for chowder.

That night back at the house we had hot dogs, corn on the cob, chips and made a homemade berry cobbler for dessert.

We decided not to go to the fireworks show downtown. It was too late at night for Zach who had had a full day. But we did watch some in the distance and a few from docks on the lake.

Last year Zachary was too young for a boat ride, but my mom was prepared with a life jacket for this summer. We got him all set with sunscreen, swimsuit, hat, sunglasses, and even let him try on the life jacket before heading down to the lake. We decided for his first boat ride he would sit with Grandma in front of the tandem kayak while Grandpa steered and rowed.

Zach was very calm on the ride around the banks of the lake. On the way back to the house, my mom held onto him tight as he enjoyed putting his hands in the water.

The day after, we went on a dune buggy tour. Rushing across the sand in hats and sunglasses, we learned about the wildlife, vegetation, lakes, and how the sand forms with the shifting winds. We also watched ATV’s doing doughnuts and revving engines across the hills and around corners.  Zach enjoy it all but the bumping and rolling near the end, led to a short nap on the drive back.

On Friday, we went to the shore of a neighboring lake.  Luke went swimming while the rest of us played in the sand. Zach did get in the water with Luke in the shallow area, swimming happily but shivering at the same time.

That night, Luke and I were blessed with a date night to ourselves. We went to a new Hawaiian fusion place for sushi, then saw the newest Marvel movie, and finished our date with BJ’s ice cream downtown as sunset. It was the best date we have had in a long time.

On Saturday morning my Mom and I went to get a pedicure downtown along with coffee. When we came out of the salon we were greeted by very sunny skies. We decided to stay for a few more hours before heading home.

So my parents took us only a half hour or so away up a windy road. We parked at a little cove hidden away behind carved out of the rocks. Zach was excited to explore and took off walking for the ocean. We put his water shoes on and guided him towards the tide pools. There with his Dad, Grandpa and myself, he was introduced to sea anemones starfish, hermit crabs, barnacles, oysters, and other sea life hiding the small pools in the rocks. He loved sitting in these shallow pools and watching the tiny fish and shrimp scuttle by.

We left my parent’s place after dinner getting raspberry milkshakes on the way home. It was a great trip.