Monday, February 20, 2012

Gold dust

A couple Sundays ago at church, Kevin and I went down for prayer after the service.  We went for quite a variety of reasons, not the least of which was all the stress surrounding Kevin's brother Michael moving in with us. 

Tamara was name of the lady who prayed for us, and she prayed so beautifully and powerfully.  Kevin and I were both crying and laughing at the same time.  She told us that the word that kept popping up in her mind was "best," and since we had also asked for prayer for our small group I immediately thought that she was going to say that we didn't have to worry about being the best at anything.  But that was not what she (and God) had in mind at all.  She said, "I just feel like God is saying he has his absolute best for you."  In my head, "OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Out of my mouth, "wow."  And then she said that she had a picture of us, and gold dust was falling on us. 

This had been the second time in just a week that I had heard gold dust mentioned in reference to something spiritual.  The previous weekend had been Holy Spirit night, and even though we weren't there I had seen on some facebook statuses that gold dust had fallen that night.  At that point I had become intrigued, so I went to google to find some more information about this.  And this is what I found..."The gold dust appearing helps remind us of the spiritual truth that God is majestic and rich in spiritual blessings."  (from The Rising Light website)

I really took to heart what she had said, and throughout the rest of the day I was certain that God is calling us to something amazing.  On Tuesday after that Sunday, I was at the bank cashing a check and when I got the cash back the teller said, "oh one of those has some glitter on it - it's special!"  I didn't really hear what she said at first, or maybe it just didn't register.  But as I pulled away from the window and went to set the money down I saw it.

Above my thumb near the 1 on the glitter.
I broke down in the parking lot and cried, thanking God for His faithfulness.  Sure, it's just glitter, not real gold dust.  But to me, it's more about the symbolism.  I love how God just speaks into my life in ways that I absolutely can't miss.

Our blessings are totally coming, and I'm all in as I enjoy the ride!

Nola is 1!

Can I just say that I have been in utter denial for about a month that Nola's birthday was coming up?  And since her birthday, I've been in denial that it even happened.  But now I'm starting to see the light.  With a year under her belt, Nola has begun to act a little different.  So much so, that I can say I'm starting to look forward to the day when I've got my boobs back to myself.  (sorry...tmi, maybe?)  Not much...a little.  Baby steps, here.  Baby steps.  I'm in that kind of strange stage where I'm pretty sure she'd be fine replacing most breastmilk calories with solid food calories, but I'm not totally ready to take the complete plunge.  And from what I can tell, neither is she.  Some days she wants to eat everything in sight every time she sees someone sit down to eat.  And other days, she's content to nurse with maybe only one meal or snack.  So, it's been kind of strange, but I'm sure it will even out here over the next several weeks.

And now for the update...

Eating:  Everything.  My girl loves to eat.  She gets really vocal and emphatic.  I have yet to find a food that she doesn't care for.  In fact, sometimes I wonder if she actually tastes anything she's eating since she just shovels it in most of the time.  And as mentioned, still nursing frequently.

Teeth:  Still at six and holding.  But with the way her sleep has been lately, I would not be at all surprised if there were a few more in the works.

New skills:  She's standing unassisted for several seconds in the middle of the floor as well as taking steps while holding only one of my fingers.  There are times where she'll be leaning up against the couch, and then all of a sudden she'll start to move away and look like she's going to take a step but then she goes right to her knees.  I'm really in no hurry for her to walk.  I'll be totally excited when she does, but I'm not ready to look at her as a toddler yet so she's free to stay my little baby as long as she wants to!  (and she knows this...we've had discussions.)

Loves:  Her daddy.  And Bubby and Sissy.  She's become a lot more attached to them with me being out of the house for three hours three days a week for school.  Kevin says she follows him all over the house and never lets him leave her sight while I'm gone.  And she loves following the older two back to their room to get in on the action.

She loves her books!


She's the cutest!

Noly-pop in the box!

Ta-da!  I'm one!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Natalie is 5!

Natalie is a big 5-year-old girl now!  For the last year or so, Natalie has been asking when she gets to go to kindergarten.  And every time she asks, we tell her she'll go when she was five.  So I woke up on her birthday wondering at what point she would ask me when she gets to go to kindergarten.  We didn't even make it to 10 o'clock. 

Excitement for kindergarten: established. 
Ability to wait: undecided.

I had a conference with her Head Start teachers this past week.  And as we would expect, she is exceeding all their expectations of her.  I went to her class on her birthday and brought some pictures of her as a baby and some playdoh and cookie cutters for each kid to take home.  (They don't let you bring any food products into the school, so I was forced to think out of the box.)  Everybody had a blast, and it was so fun to see how Natalie interacts with her friends at school.  The teachers commented to me that in all their years of teaching, Natalie was one of very few kids to have something planned for her birthday at school.  I love when I get the opportunity to make my kid feel special!  Literally every single kid wanted to sit next to her, and I know that was not only because it was her birthday.  Every time I drop her off, they all say, "Hi, Natalie!"  And she comes home every day with some sort of picture or trinket that one of her friends has given her.  I hope that is because she's being a good friend to everyone, and from what I saw on her birthday it is.  I'm so proud of my smart, loving, sociable little girl.

Nat's stats:
height and weight to be announced after her well-check (appointment date tbd as well...oops.)

her brother and sister
her teddy bear, Harvey
chicken nuggets
PBS kids shows
riding the bus
coloring (lately, on the walls...not so happy about that!)
writing her name, first AND last...thankyouverymuch
visiting her daddy-daddy's house
being the boss (especially of her brother)
ice skating and swizzling
planning future events
correcting her brother's pronunciation (the apple didn't fall too far from this tree)
picking out her outfits
playing house
"rice krispies with no milk but sugar"
beanie weanies
writing letters and sending them in the mail
getting postcards from Grandma
building castles with legos

Does not love:
most suppers
sleeping in
being told what to do (at home.  At school she does beautifully...guess I should be glad)
misplacing her stuff

She is such a beautiful little soul, and as much as she challenges us, we are so thankful for her.  She truly loves and cares for her siblings, and she always wants to help.  Can't wait to see what this year brings!
My beautiful girl...she's growing up so fast!

Trip to Chicago

For Natalie's birthday this year, I wanted to do something a little different.  I've been more focused on giving my kids experiences rather than stuff.  So in the spirit of having new experiences, we took a train to Chicago (at 6 am...yikes.) and spent the day at Shedd Aquarium.  Nola had given me an absolutely awful night (read: one hour of sleep) the night before, so I knew it would be an interesting day to say the least.

Looking out the window

Grandpa taking a nap

Grandma checking out the sights

The two happiest kids on the train...well three.  You can see the smile on Nola's cheek.
 The train ride went quite smoothly.  Thankfully, the attendant in our car was nice enough to let us take up a couple of the seats they had reserved for working out of so that we could all sit together.  I think Nathan slept a little, and Nola and I nodded in and out for much of the trip.  When we got to Union Station, the mad dash to street level began.  And Nathan wanted nothing to do with it.  At that point I was already re-thinking our decision to do this.  But Kevin was able to talk him into cooperating pretty quickly, and off we went.  We had to walk a few blocks to get to the bus that would take us to the Aquarium.  It was pretty brisk, but not nearly as bad as it could have been in early February.  Finally we made it to the bus, and the kids were thrilled at getting to ride a "city bus" as they call it. face.  Clearly I was already tired.

So we made it to the aquarium and put all of our stuff in the lockers and made our way up to see the all the fish.  Our tickets to the aquatic show were for like 10:20, so we didn't spend much time looking around before seeing the show.  This was definitely a highlight for everybody.

Taking a breather before heading down to the aquatic show

Checking out the belugas...somehow Natalie was terrified of the sea lion housed near the stairs.

Some shots of the aquatic show.  Please excuse the blurriness of these photos.  They allowed camera use as long as there was no flash, and unfortunately the low lighting made for less than perfect shots.

Belugas during the show

Belugas doing tricks for treats

More beluga shots

Sea lion portion of the show

The screen behind the tank was new since the last time I was there.  Very pretty!

A girl from the audience helping with the dolphin part of the show

Nathan and Grandma taking it all in
After the aquatic show, it was time for a 4D version of "Happy Feet."  Just to demonstrate how behind the times I am, I had no clue what 4D actually means.  Turns out it means 3D picture, vibrating seats, squirting water when characters sneeze, and other generally terrifying things to Miss Nola.  So we skipped out on that, but Kevin, my parents, and the kids stayed and thought it was awesome.

This is the unhappy/terrified look she had on her face the majority of the day.
Then we went downstairs where the kids got to touch some starfish and play with another exhibit that was a model of various anemones and stuff like that.  And then we took a peek at Nathan's only request of the day: penguins.  I don't have any idea what made him ask for penguins, but I was so happy to oblige his request.  He could have stayed there to look at them all day, I'm sure.

Up close to a starfish!

Walking through the starfish exhibit

Natalie took a peek too!

He was way more thrilled than he looks, I promise.


Swimming penguins!

This guy looked like he was running things.
 Then we saw my favorite little specimens of the day.  The JELLIES!!

The lighting in the tanks was just beautiful...

...all fanned out...

My dad said these were the kind of jellyfish in "Finding Nemo"...

...and he's the science teacher, so he would know!

How can anyone argue whether or not there's a God with such beauty like this?

Look closely and you'll see hundreds of baby jellies, all smaller than your pinky fingernail!

These little guys were a stage above the ones in the last picture.

And these were the full grown jellies of that species.

These guys moved around very quickly compared to the rest of the jellies we saw.

These were a gorgeous lavender color... beautiful!
Then we spent time going through the Wild Reef exhibit where there was a tide pool as well as a large room that was set up to look like the inside of a fishbowl.  We were able to see fish from all sides including over our heads!

Yes, this crab is really as big as he looks.  I had to look closely to see that it was alive!

The serene.

Stingray tank!

 The kids had been looking for Nemo ALLLL day.  My mom finally pointed him out (the picture above), and Nathan said, "No, that's his dad!"  Then the kids decided that he was, in fact, Nemo.  Phew.

Love the color of these little guys!
After that, we wrapped up our trip by waiting for a feeding in the main tank as you first walk into the aquarium.  The kids munched on popcorn and explored each of the rooms dedicated to different regions of the world while Nola and I took a much-needed break on the benches by the big tank.

Nola and I sat and watched the fish (and Nathan) go by

Then they went off somewhere and found a boat.

Row, row, row your boat...

Something creepy...wasn't there for that explanation.
Turtle who was hurt by a propeller and has a floating behind as a result.  So funny to see her swim around like that!
This creepy looking eel has cataracts as my dad found out...

...he was one of Nathan's favorites.
The diver who did the feeding came down to feed this eel first, and it didn't go well.  He wouldn't even swallow the fish when it was put in his mouth, and the diver looked pretty concerned about him.  Hope he makes it to fishy heaven!

After we were all thoroughly exhausted, we gathered our stuff and bid the aquarium good-bye.  As we walked outside to the bus stop, we realized that we had just missed a bus.  So Kevin had the brilliant idea of checking out the cost of one of the cabs sitting in front of the aquarium, and surprisingly it was only $2 more than our bus fare.  So we all piled into the cab for another memorable experience.  The kids are still talking about how they took "a train, a city bus, AND a TAXI!"  So I guess they loved it.

We experienced about a 45-minute delay for the train back to Champaign.  And despite some pompous and grouchy station workers and TSA officials, we made it onto the train in one piece and with few meltdowns.  Some nice napping took place here and there on the way home, and the kids were still wiped out when we finally got home.  All in all, a wonderful experience.  I'm so glad that my kids had such an amazing time, and I hope they remember this for a very long time!

And ever since Natalie got to have a train ride for her birthday, Nathan has requested a rocketship ride for his.

I'll have to get back to you on that one, buddy.