Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One-Two, Buckle My Shoe

I realize it's several months after her birthday, but I needed to celebrate my little Lulu being 2! She continues to be fiery and passionate in every area of her life. The little poem about sugar and spice and everything nice was written about her. Especially the spice! Don't be fooled by that demure little face in the picture. If you ask her to make a face she will give you several poses displaying a wide range of emotions. All of you better get your picture taken with her because you will be able to say you knew her when she becomes a famous Broadway actress, a stand-up comedian, a race car driver, and the next Marie Curie.

She is incredibly independent. Her sister is two years older than her, yet she insists on doing everything her sister can do. "NO I DO IT!" is heard often around our house. She can put on her own socks, shoes, and pants using nothing but her own willpower, and the only time you will see her quietly focused for more than 30 seconds is when she's attacking the buttons on her sweater. She will either button that sweater herself or perish. She also potty-trained herself. I wasn't going to attempt this project until after our newborn was sleeping through the night, but sometime this summer she just decided she was done using diapers. She also decided around 11 months that she was perfectly capable of using a spoon herself.

Her joie de vivre is like electricity. Someday it will be channeled properly and will light up cities with joy, hope, passion, and love. However, during her toddler years, we find ourselves daily electrocuted! I pray every day we will make it out alive and heading somewhere near the right direction!

Lucie not only looks exACTly like Jon's baby pictures, but she embodies his wacky nature in female form. If she has a choice between something zany and something normal, you have to bet she will chose the former! Or if a zany option is not available, she will create it. Her favorite color is orange. Not pink, not purple, but ORANGE. She was fascinated with ants this summer and would follow them around on the sidewalk being careful not to step on them. She'll wear a bucket on her head around the house, her face deadpan, until someone notices her. Her favorite literary characters are Curious George, Frog & Toad, Winnie the Pooh, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and (ugh) Elmo. Her favorite numbers are 11 and 12 and I'm pretty sure she learned how to count just so she would have an excuse to say "eleven" and "twelve." Whenever she says her ABCs she does it as fast as she can, usually while running. Sometimes she gets stuck on the letters H and I and repeats them throughout the rest of the song. It's not surprising that she frequently turns up her nose at my hotdish, but warmly welcomes all of Jon's spicier (he would say "flavorful") dishes, and asks for the extra dash of black pepper whenever daddy has it. She hates cooked carrots and will pick them out of her food, but she doesn't mind raw carrots (I think it's because she's allowed to walk around while eating them).

She wants desperately to express herself, and she is frustrated by her own developmental process. She wants to tell you ALL about what she's thinking and feeling and seeing and doing and hearing and wanting and needing, but she can not form the words correctly enough for her audience to completely comprehend. This results in the throwing of many toys and tantrums. Abigail is often asked to interpret (and she is very good at it!) She can climb tall ladders and goes down the big slides at the park with no help. She often camps herself in her sister's bed which is the top bunk with a book and her Pooh bear.

She is incredibly relational. Abigail is her best friend and when they're getting along they take turns playing the most ridiculous games. When Lucie is feeling particularly mischievous she usually takes it out on Abi, and she harasses her to no end. Her other best friend is her little brother Jonathan. Wherever Jonathan is, Lucie is too. She holds him, pets him, kisses him, and loves on him. She piles his baby toys on top of him so that just his face peeks out. One of her favorite activities is "cuddles on the couch." Her favorite word is "WHY?" and she has the best sniffer of anyone I know. She can sniff out an animal cracker in my mouth from across the house faster than I can swallow it.

I've taken to calling her my little "ginger snap" because she's spicy and sweet at the same time, and yes, she has a bit of snap to her. (Read "sass") She makes me laugh, she makes me cry, and she makes me proud of her every day. I just adore my little Lulu and I love the role she has in our family!

(P.S. To Lucie's future husband: we have begun praying for you. Trust me. You're going to need them.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Atta Boy!!

I know it's been three weeks, but our little guy hasn't been formally introduced! Meet Jonathan Richard Gill, Jr! He was born Friday, September 23, at 11:10 pm, weighing 9 lbs 3 oz, and measuring 22 inches long. (For those of you unfamiliar with baby lengths, that's pretty long!) He was officially "early" if you can count 50 minutes before his due date as "early."

Here's the layout of the labor story for all you collectors of birth stories (i.e. every mom in America):

Wednesday, September 21: I had my 39-week appointment at my clinic. I was seeing the midwives who are on call at our hospital (Fairview - UofM). And although I had been having contractions on and off for the past 3 months, I was only between 1 and 2 centimeters at my check-up. Not that that's bad; I was just hoping that with all the contractions I'd been having that I'd be at 3. I chuckled with the receptionist when I scheduled my 40-week appointment. We both hoped I would not have to show up for that.

3:30 pm, Friday, September 23:
A set of contractions were starting again. They were similar to the sets I'd had the week prior: short, weak, and sporadic. They would be anywhere from 2-5 minutes apart, but not strong enough to be worried about. I called my clinic and the midwife on-call called me back and told me to wait it out a bit, but not to underestimate how quickly things can progress. Well I did wait it out for a while at home. I called Jon to start wrapping things up at work and head home. I also called my friend Karen to come over and take care of my girls while I labored (I didn't realize how difficult it would be to keep my girls occupied and fed while having progressive contractions!!!) And I called my beautiful mother-in-law to come over to my house after she got off work to watch the girls that night.

6:30 pm: My contractions finally started to regulate and were strong enough that I was confident they weren't going to disappear upon arriving at the hospital. So Karen and my girls prayed for me, and Jon and I left for the hospital! On the way, I was preparing to be disappointed. I knew I wasn't very far along. I had been laboring all afternoon, but I could just tell. Sure enough, they measured me and I was at 4 cm. Then Kris (my midwife) stated cheerfully, "You're having this baby tonight!" My disappointment melted into excitement! Yeah I was! I might have 6 cm to go, but this was it! It might be tonight, it might be tomorrow, but I was going to meet my son very soon. So I spent the next 3 hours bouncing on the exercise ball, sitting in the tub, and roaming the halls. All the while, my coach & hubby rubbed my lower back with a tennis ball, brought me juice & ice water, sprayed my tummy in the tub, held my hand in the hall, and was the quiet support I needed so much.

While walking the hall, Jon turned his head to a room we had just passed. "I hear a baby crying!" he whispered to me. Moments later a charming "Twinkle, Twinkle" melody chimed softly throughout the wing, sweetly announcing the arrival of new, beautiful child. We both teared up. "We're going to have a little baby tonight, too!" I clutched Jon's hand.

10:00 pm:
I was at 6 cm. Yes, I was progressing, but it was slow. I had already been laboring for 7 hours which put me at less than a centimeter per hour. At this rate it would be the wee hours of the morning before we got anywhere, and no one knew when my water would break. I was still in good spirits, smiling and cheery. "I wish I could just fast-forward to the end!" I joked with Kris. We discussed what to do next. She said I could either continue along at this rate, which was fine, or they could break my water. Well, I knew that would speed things along, but it would also increase the intensity. Since I was still upbeat and feeling pretty strong, we decided to break my water.

"Whoa," I whispered to Jon after my next contraction. A dozen thoughts crowded my head: that's more like it, now we're getting somewhere, I almost forgot how painful this was. Fear tried to creep in, but God was there with me. And Jon was holding my hand. The nurse came in and Jon whispered to her, "I think she's turned the corner. Tell the midwife," I considered an epidural at this point. I knew I could handle this for a while, but what if this lasted for hours and hours?

11:00 pm: "You are almost there! You're almost at 10!" Kris announced. I looked at the clock. One hour had passed since they broke my water. Are you serious?! Already?! You mean I progressed 4 cm in ONE HOUR?! I couldn't believe I was there already! I had prepared my heart to wait all night. Jon had even told his mom not to wait up, that the baby would be born tomorrow. 5 minutes later Kris was cheerfully exclaiming, "Push already, Brenda! Push that little guy out!" My reaction: "Are you serious? Already?!"

11:10 pm: I pushed for 2 1/2 hours with Abigail. I pushed for 11 minutes with Lucie. Jonathan was born with three pushes! And suddenly, there he was! All tiny and warm and perfect! And boy could he cry! I couldn't believe it; this amazing child in my arms had been kicking me like crazy the day before. Jon cut the cord and announced the birth of his son! He was beaming with pride. After they stitched me up, my new little baby and I nursed for as long as he would stay awake. This was the part I had been looking forward to for so long. Welcome to our family, little Jonathan!

So what are we calling him? Not Jon, Jonny, or Junior. But almost anything else is fair game. Jonathan, J.R., J.J., Little Jon, etc. Great-Grandpa Richard (for whom Jonathan's middle name is christened) might call him "Ricky," though that does give us a Ricky and a Lucie in our family...you got some 'splainin to do! Lucie calls him, "Jommajinsh," and I'm sure that will morph into some neat nickname! We'll see what sticks!

Thank you to everyone who has helped us in this transition! Three is definitely a handful - but I'll write about that in another post! We are so happy to have our little boy! He's already Abi and Lucie's favorite little "toy." I'm so excited to watch my family grow! Thank you Lord, for your blessings upon blessings! Here's one very thankful mama in love :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ready to Meet You

Hello my little lion heart :) This is your mommy. I've been carrying you around for 9 months, reading about how you're developing, feeling you move inside me, watching my belly grow with each passing week. I have fallen in love with you and I haven't even seen your face. I don't know if you'll have dark hair, light hair or NO hair, but I do know that God Himself has formed you and knitted you together to be a wonderfully unique little boy. I don't know if you'll be laid back, adventurous, or reckless, but I do know that God has fit you for plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. With baited breath I wait for the moment when I will hold you in my arms. I can't wait to start treasuring the moments of learning who you are and who God made you to be.

I was afraid for a long time of the trial I would have to face in order to meet you. It's not an easy or even remotely pleasant task to pass through childbirth. I believe I was "ready" for labor with your older sisters because I was so weary of being pregnant. I didn't care what I had to go through, I just wanted to be DONE being pregnant. This is not a bad thing by any means! I was ready, they were born, and my life was gloriously changed! But with you, my little man, I don't feel the same agony of being full-term. This scared me at first, because I felt without the desire to be UN-pregnant, I would not have the desire to go through the rigors of childbirth. But do you know what? God did something amazing in my heart. He has taken away my fear and replaced it with love. I am willing to pass through the waters and through the flames for you. I'm not doing it for me, I'm doing it for you, and God will be with me. And when it's over, I'll have the greatest reward for any trial any person has ever had to endure. I will have you, my son. There is no greater joy than knowing that.

So here I wait patiently for the Lord to give you the signal. He'll tell you when it's time. I hope it's soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Morning Visit to Italy

Yesterday, as I was lying on the couch trying to ignore a few pesky contractions, Abigail was thinking. I don't really know what she was thinking about, but she was pondering something. And as any of you who have ever had a conversation with a four-year-old can attest to, she ended up saying something both off-the-charts random and heart-wrenchingly sweet all at once. She looked up at me with those Precious Moments tear-shaped blue eyes, her blond curls pulled back into the most adorable pigtails, and her quizzical brow to ask, "Why can't we go on a airplane and visit Aryn?" Aryn is her cousin, a few months older than her, whose dad (my husband's brother) is in the Navy. They are currently stationed in Naples, Italy. She then asked if we could go to the store to get the plane. I told her airplanes live at airports, and we would have to buy a ticket, which to get to Italy are very expensive.

"And," I added, "you wouldn't want to fly by yourself would you? You'd get lonely. And they don't let mommies with big pregnant tummies on the airplanes."

"But I want to visit Aryn at her house," she sighed. I know, sweetie, I do too.

"I tell you what: Mommy will build a plane in our apartment, and we'll take a trip to Italy tomorrow morning and visit Aryn on the computer, what do you say?" Oh this was going to be fun!

She nodded enthusiastically. We drew a picture of an airplane on our calendar to remind us, not that she would need reminding. She talked about it all night! And the next morning we ate our oatmeal and got dressed quickly and gathered in the bedroom to "pack our bags." I instructed the girls on what they could pack in their carry-on and what they couldn't. They each packed a baby doll and a book in their backpacks, but I told Abi she'd better leave her plastic fireman's axe at home. She looked at me like, "why would I bring that anyway?" So I gave them their tickets and we prepared to board the plane!

The girls went through security with minimal problems (they both set off the metal detector, but it was just Lucie's belt buckle and Abi's flower barrettes). Then, proceeding to their gate, Lucie located our destination on the globe: Italy!

Playing their flight attendant, I took their tickets and showed them to their seats complete with 5-point harnesses! After giving the pre-flight instructions about exits in the event of an emergency (remembering that the nearest exit could be behind you!) we took off!

I served a beverage choice of apple juice or water, and then a snack of popcorn with craisins. The in-flight movie was Tom & Jerry, highlighting "Neapolitan Mouse." We watched for Aryn, but we didn't see her in the streets of animated Napoli :)

When the movie finished (through which the girls stayed strapped in the WHOLE time, even after I told them they were "free to move about the cabin") we watched a YouTube cockpit tour. Abi observed that the cockpit was small and they had small windows. Lucie liked all the light-up switches! Then we flipped through a book and saw how the world looks from an airplane. We located lakes, rivers, cities, farms, and oceans. I pre-screened an airplane landing videotaped from over the wing (I wanted to make sure it wasn't a crash landing) and we strapped ourselves in again for our bumpy landing :) Both girls earned their "wings."

We ate at an Italian restaurant while we "toured" Italy via our honeymoon photos. The girls munched on cheesy pasta while learning about the old buildings in Rome, the white beaches along the Mediterranean, the leaning buildings in Pisa, the Alps in the north, and the streets of water in Venice. Abi could not believe that people there didn't have cars, but drove around in boats instead!
After they finished their pasta, they got a Kinder egg for dessert! I found them in the back of my cupboard, which I believe my dear mother-in-law got for my kids some time ago. I explained that this is a treat that Aryn gets to eat, just like we like to eat Twizzlers and M&Ms.

Lucie got a little dragon inside her egg!

Abi got a little alligator!

After lunch we set up the computer to receive a call via Skype from Aunt Julie and Aryn! The girls sang the ABCs together and Lucie showed Aunt Julie how she can count (3, 11, 12, 11, 12, 11, 12, THE END!). Both mamas sported their respective bumps and held their daughters as best they could in their non-existent laps :) All-too-soon it was time for Aryn's bedtime and Abi & Lulu's naptime. We said "I love you" and "Arrivaderci!" And we returned back to Minneapolis with happy hearts! We had a very nice trip to Italy and back, all in a few hours!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Father's World

I've always been an outdoors woman. I'd rather be out in nature than stuffed up inside. I grew up playing in the creek beds dodging cow pies, climbing on rose quartzite boulders rubbed smooth from when the bison herds used to roam the prairies, skipping stones while my dad fished a hundred feet up the pike, swallowing lake water from splashing so much, camping with my family and feeling closer to God and His creativity than ever. My most intimate memories with both my family and my Lord have been while enjoying nature together. I married an outdoors man. And together we've shared many adventures we fondly remember with a twinkle in our eyes. A twinkle that says, "that was an amazing experience and we probably should have died or at least have been severely injured."

One such adventure that comes to mind took place in the Italian Alps at the end of our honeymoon. We decided one morning that we wanted to take a walk. Maybe up that mountain there. We didn't really have any intention of climbing the whole thing; we only packed one bottle of water each and a light lunch. Never-the-less we climbed all the way up a barely marked trail which included a 100-foot-climb on a metal-rung "ladder" up a cliffside. We ran out of water 3/4 of the way up the mountain (and it was HOT and HUMID). We had not "trained" for mountain climbing, so we were relatively out of shape. We just decided to do it. But God was with us. He gave me courage for the scary ladder. He provided a natural well for us right around the time we ran out of water - a well so deep and pure, Jon couldn't even tell where the surface of the water began. He gave us an easier, faster path back down the mountain and just enough daylight & strength to reach the bottom safely. We look back on that experience thinking, "No one knew we were up there; if we would have gotten hurt, no one would have found us for days. We barely had enough food and water to sustain ourselves. We were not adequately prepared. But WOW we saw amazing sights. WOW we saw the glory and wonder of our Maker's hands. And WOW we experienced the provision of our Father who took care of us while we enjoyed His creation." We look back at that adventure with over-flowing hearts.

We had another adventure this morning. Since moving to our neighborhood, we've always wanted to canoe Minnehaha Creek. It's a gorgeous, windy, well-preserved stream that meanders through the western Metro area from Lake Minnetonka all the way until it empties into the Mississippi under Minnehaha Falls. The logistics of canoeing the Creek have always held us back. For one, we don't have a canoe, so we figured we would have to rent one for a few hours. Two, we'd need to have two cars at two separate locations, one for the drop off, and one for the pick-up. Three, we weren't really sure of our Creek-meandering skills via canoe, so we didn't really want to embark on this adventure with kids in tow. Four, the Creek has to be at the perfect depth for navigation to be optimum. If the Creek is too low, we'll get stuck on sand bars. If it's too high, we will have to portage around all the bridges. Well, finally all the pieces fit together: friends of ours were willing to lend us their canoe & gear for the day, Jon drove one car to our pick-up site and ran back for his morning run so we wouldn't have to make 10 trips with 2 different cars, my parents had the kids for the week, and the Creek was quite high so as to go over the sand bars and rocks, but low enough for the canoe to get through most of the bridges. So we embarked boldly into our adventure!

Even though the weather had been insanely hot the past few days with dewpoints in the 80s and temps in the upper 90s, this particular morning was perfect. Still humid, but overcast. As the canoe sat on the dewy grass, Jon took my hands and we prayed over our trip. We put in 4 miles upstream from the Falls. The current was strong (which I admit, frightened me at first) and took us through level I and II rapids swiftly in the beginning. It was amazing to see my beloved Creek from this viewpoint. As the Creek slowed down near Lake Hiawatha, I felt like I was part of a Monet painting at his home in Giverny. Then the Creek widened up and as we drank in the beauty around us, my heart worshiped God. In the mountains I saw Him in His majesty. Here I could see Him in His tenderness and gentleness as He must have appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

At one point I asked Jon, "Are we still in the City?" only to look down and see an orange construction cone buried in the creek bed. "Yup!" he laughed in response.

There were some less-than-glorious moments, as well! Low-hanging branches gave us many a mouthful of leaves, cobwebs, mulberries, and strange insects. We killed close to a dozen spiders during our trip who landed in our canoe and crawled up our legs (ACK!). There was one footbridge that was so close to the surface of the water that we had to lie down in the bottom of the canoe to get under it! But we never had to portage! About a half-mile from our end point, we started to hear the rumbles of thunder. It was actually incredibly romantic hearing the stream and the coming storm orchestrate together. I was so thankful to share this time with my husband and my God. We pulled into the end point before the Falls and Jon hoisted the canoe up onto the platform. We could see the gathering darkness and suddenly felt a bit of urgency. Jon went to fetch the car as I took our supplies out of the canoe. As I was unbuckling the seats I heard the sirens for Hennipen County start blaring. I looked up at the now very unfriendly clouds, and almost smiled. I knew we needed to hurry, but I also knew that the storm wouldn't hit until we had the canoe back up on the car and we were safe inside. We worked quickly to tie the canoe to the rack on top of the Volkswagon, and sure enough, just as Jon made the last of the hitch knots to secure the canoe, we felt the first rain drops and the wind kicked up. We jumped into the car as torrents of rain cascaded from the sky. As we drove the car through the flooded streets, we mused about the timing of this storm. We knew that this adventure was God-given. We could see His hand in every stroke of our paddles. We knew He was also in the timing of the storm. Maybe He hurried the current a bit to enable us to reach our destination in time. Maybe He slowed the development of this front in order to let us get to safety before we were caught in the storm. Maybe He gave us a little extra urgency in our packing this morning so we put in the Creek at 10:00 instead of 10:30. Whatever the case, God knew the plans He had for us, and He took care of us as a father takes care of his children.

Since becoming parents, we've had few such adventures (taking our almost-2-year-old to Central Asia while being 7 months pregnant was one of them) but they are more stressful. When we were climbing the mountain, it was just us: two adults. Now we have these little precious ones who trust us to take care of their every need. They aren't going to realize they will be hungry in an hour while we're on our hike, so Mommy remembers to pack a snack or two. They don't think about how it will be chilly and maybe rainy when we get to higher elevations, so Daddy packs sweatshirts and an umbrella. And because Mommy and Daddy have planned so carefully, their children enjoy themselves. And their parents enjoy watching them discover the world around them. I get it now. Seeing Abigail's face light up when she sees a beautiful flower or hearing Lucie squeal when she sees a duck makes me want to show them more; it makes me want to love on them more. That must be how God feels when He takes me out into His fields, His mountains, His streams, His spaces. And He's already done the planning. He just wants me to enjoy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Art of Staying In

I recently attended a bridal shower where our gifts were supposed to help the newlyweds in their new life together. I had a burst of creativity and bought them some items for a "Stay-In Date Night." It included a box of kettle corn, some gourmet cocoa, a great 2-player game (which I knew the groom was very fond of), and a card filled with instructions on how to keep dating your spouse without spending oodles of cash. I thought I'd share these thoughts with all of you, so you can also benefit, and so you can share your dating-on-the-cheap tips with me! So without further ado, here is my very piddly experience on "The Art of Staying In."

Anyone will tell you the wisdom of "continuing to date" after you're married. But dating is expensive! I feel Jon and I have a practical understanding of the art of staying in (this also cuts back in babysitter pay later on)

1. First of all, make an inventory of things you like to do together (or learn together) that can be done indoors. Nerf ball wars? Learning foreign languages? Puzzles? Then invest in some of those items. *Note: Although movies are nice, remember very little interaction is expected, so reserve these for the "my brain is fried but it's only 8 o'clock and I don't want to go to bed yet" nights.

It should be noted that the reason I specify "indoor activities" is because we have kids and can't leave the house unless they're along or we pay for a babysitter (which either ruins the whole "date" part or ruins the "cheap" part). If, however, you do not have kids, then your range of motion widens infinitely. Shoot for the moon, y'all.

2. Indulge a bit! Remember you'd be spending way more if you were going out. So maybe break open a bottle of cheap wine, or stock up on treats you wouldn't normally give into for these special occasions.

3. Two-player games. If you're a board gamer, make sure your games are suitable for TWO players. Jon and I started out with tons of games, but they were all party games. We have begun to invest in games that can be played with 2 or more gamers.

4. Dress up or Dress Down. There's no law that says just because you're not going out that you can't get dolled up! In fact it's kind of nice to slip into a summer dress in January and sit down for a good logic puzzle or game of Yahtzee! Conversely, the joy of staying in is you can be in your jammies and sip your cocoa in comfort.

5. Don't forget about the "spicy games." Nuff said!

I hope this is helpful those of you who are either newlyweds or more seasoned veterans in the marriage game. Dating your spouse IS important, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to do it :) Please share with me YOUR creative solutions to dating on the cheap!

P.S. Jon and I are so nerdy. Some of our staying-in projects include learning Uzbek, doing crosswords and other brainy puzzles, planning trips, any of a dozen different games, and (recently) creating our own World-opoly board. No, you do not have to be as nerdy as we.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Look Out World!

Our "Little Mister"

We are proud to announce that coming this fall, we'll be adding a little man to the family! We are definitely excited to have a little guy running around, off-setting some of the drama and estrogen that will be coursing through the family as the years progress. Yes, even I, who was afraid to ever have a boy, am excited to welcome a son into the family. You have to understand, we are not just having any boy. We are having a GILL boy.

For those of you who don't know, my husband is the oldest of three. Three boys. Three strong, charming, intelligent, handsome, witty, and adventurous kind of boys. Three wild, crazy, machete-throwing, blender-melting, garage-fire-starting, driveway-fire-starting, house-fire-starting, two-story-couch-jumping, two-miles-from-home-while-still-in-diapers-wandering kind of boys. So you can see where I might be a little anxious about beginning the next generation of "Gill boys." However, I have a few factors in my favor:

First, this boy has two older sisters who will tattle his naughty antics as fast as he can think of them, so there ain't nothin' that this guy is gonna get away with. Don't believe me? You must not have ever played with little girls. Second, HE IS HALF ME. While I do possess an adventurous nature, I also inhibit a great deal of caution and cause-and-effect rationale that may have been somehow erased from my husband's DNA. So our little boy has a 50/50 chance of inheriting a bit of think-before-you-act personality. (By the way, this trait can also be learned, so even if he doesn't inherit it, all is not lost. He will just come out of boyhood with double the scars and double the concussions).

Third, I am more confident in my mothering skills. While I am preparing for the differences in mothering girls vs. boys, I am not necessarily fretting about the same sort of things first-time-moms do. He may eat bugs, skin his knees, fall from a tree, lose a finger, fall face-first into the swimming pool - all before his first birthday and I'm probably not going to freak out too much. Maybe this is God's gift to me. Though I only have 4 years of parenthood under my belt, I've done a LOT of "on-the-job-failing" (I read that phrase in a book and I'm going to steal it) and have learned a lot from my mistakes. I'm fairly confident that my sweet two-girl buffer has readied me to raise a boy who grows into a God-fearing, risk-taking, compassion-giving, ever-learning kind of man. You know, a Gill man :)

P.S. Major kudos to my mother-in-law who was not given a sweet two-girl buffer. She's made of a sterner stuff I think :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's Go to the Movies!

Everyone remembers their first trip to the movie theater! My dad tells me his first movie in the theater was to see Davey Crockett and that he fell asleep half-way through it. My sister's first movie theater experience was Sleeping Beauty, and it's been one of her favorites ever since. I saw 101 Dalmations, and though I don't recall my emotions regarding the film, I have a few vague recollections of the experience of being in the theater. I remember the screen being big, the sound being big, and the room being big. With the walls draped in scarlet tapestries, I felt I was in a very important place and I remember feeling very honored to be there.

All this being said, I've been putting off taking Abigail to her first film in the theater for a while for two reasons. First, I wanted her to be old enough to perhaps make some memories of her first movie. Second, I've been waiting for the right movie to come along. Certainly there are hundreds of "family" movies or "kid-friendly" movies that come out every year. But I'd argue that the majority of them are full of nothing. In fact, I find that even the movies that are rated G often have subtle adult themes. Even if they are "squeaky clean" there is often no memorable plot or moral, and the kids are often bratty, rebellious, and model terrible behaviors. As a parent, I come down a little hard on movies that are made for kids. That's why it's been so hard for me to find a movie that I can trust will be of good character without having to preview it. The Disney-Pixar movies have been excellent in moral regards, but I feel they're still a little too much for Abi's sensitive heart to take in just yet (she asks me to fast-forward almost the entirety of Sid's house during Toy Story and we skip the Tom and Jerry cartoons that have the bulldog with the sharp teeth in them). I realize I'm a rather HARSH judge of today's "family" movies, and I'm okay with that. I'm not judging what others take their kids to, and goodness knows we have plenty of "twaddle" on DVD in our cupboards! But I do want Abigail's first movie in the theater to be special, and something that I don't come away from feeling icky about.

SO! I've been getting excited hearing that a new Winnie the Pooh movie will be coming out - the first "big screen Pooh adventure" in 35 years. She knows and loves all the Pooh characters and (and so do I!) so I think AT LAST I've found the right fit for my girl. The movie comes out July 15th, so we'll probably go to see it for her birthday in early August! I feel I can trust the Winnie the Pooh characters to not fall TOO far out of line :)

So I'm curious! What was your first movie in the theater and what do you remember about it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Quickening!

I'm about 16 1/2 weeks along in my third pregnancy. Yesterday I witnessed the miracle of what many call "the quickening" or when a mother feels the first kicks of her baby in the womb. This is my third child, but the miracle of this moment never ceases to take my breath away. I think this moment especially blessed me due to the various circumstances transpiring that day and throughout my pregnancy.

Since getting pregnant with this little precious one, I've battled a fear of miscarriage. Several close friends tragically lost their little ones just before or just after I learned of my pregnancy and my grief for them transferred into fear (and guilt) over my own pregnancy. I mourned with them, but I realized (with the help of my husband, friends, and the grace of God) that I should put my hope in the Lord and not to give up on my own baby. Since then I have spoken God's word of Truth over this pregnancy - that God's plan for us is for good, and not harm, that my hope is in the Lord, and that His ways are higher than mine.

We've also been experiencing a battle of health insurance. Without going into all the details, our insurance was dropped at the end of February, just after my first appointment and the hearing of the heartbeat. I've refrained from going to my monthly appointments because I didn't want to get billed until our insurance was stable again. We had received the worst of the news (the denial of health coverage for the family) yesterday morning. Yesterday evening God blessed me with the first kicks of my little one. As I sat there holding my little belly I thought about my God. He is the one who knits this child together, He is the one who holds his or her future, and He controls not only the time when he or she will come into the world, but also how it will be paid for. I am overwhelmed with joy thinking about the life inside me. Doubts and fears may swirl about us, but the Lord is our Rock. And our child is in the most loving hands imaginable.

Today we received good news on our insurance, so don't worry about us. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

Both Abigail and Lucie had their Half-Birthdays in February. We don't celebrate them, but I do like to take inventory of what my kids are accomplishing, what they are liking and disliking, and what they are learning at this phase. When they're this little they're still changing by the hour, so a 6-month inventory seems a little underachieving, but well, I've tried.

While Abigail at 3 1/2 isn't boasting of brown paper packages or wild geese that fly with a moon on their wings, she does have a capacity to relate to you her favorite things. In an intimate chat with her a few weeks ago while walking around Lake Harriet, I was able to gather these details of her personhood.

Favorite color: Pink. No surprise. (although she specifies that she prefers light pink over dark) Favorite song: Mighty to Save (from Hillsong). I hope this tops her charts for a while.
Favorite TV show: Sid the Science Kid on PBS. She even has her own microphone and magnifying glass and she explores and investigates just like him. I love it!
Favorite movie: Beauty and the Beast. She's starting to get into the princess thing - I think Belle happens to be a nice role model.
Favorite food: Mac N Cheese. Again, no surprise. I'm hoping her tastes will mature as she does.
Favorite game: Chutes & Ladders: Princess Edition. But this is because the playing pieces are little plastic princesses and she likes to take them out of the box and play pretend with them.
Favorite subject: Math. She likes "letters" also, but she must feel more confident in her math skills. Go for it, girl! She also loves science (for reasons mentioned above).

Favorite book: When asked this question she looked at me quizzically and stated matter-of-factly, "ALL the books, Mom!" I looked through our books to see if I could spot a book that is more loved than the others, but after scanning over 100 children's book titles in our little collection (yes, easily more than 100) I came to the same conclusion. She really loves all the books! They all get equal amounts of reading time and she could probably recite them all to you word for word. She recently has been interested in reciting nursery rhymes to Lucie.
Favorite animal: Is this even a question? Goats. Goats are her favorite animal. Which will clue you into the fact that yes, B the Goat is still very much a part of her life!

And now for Lucie. At a year and a half, she can't relate to me what her favorites are. But it's pretty easy to tell where her obsessions lie!

Favorite color: Actually, she hasn't shown a preference yet. I tell her it's purple because purple is awesome.
Favorite song: She loves Twinkle Twinkle, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, ABCs, and the VeggieTales theme song. She'll dance and wave her arms and sing along with anything that has any semblance of a melody. She carries a tune quite well; from a musical standpoint, I'd say she hits her intervals better than any 18-month-old I've ever heard.

Favorite TV show: She watches whatever Abi is watching, but like any almost-two-year-old, she especially enjoys Elmo's World.

Favorite movie: She doesn't really sit through movies yet, but she is pretty crazy about VeggieTales. At least the theme song part :)

Favorite food: It was one of her first words: CRACKER. Graham crackers, soda crackers, cheesy crackers, really anything crunchy. She would also eat all the cheese in my kitchen if I allowed her.

Favorite game:
Peek-a-Boo, chasing, and playing catch. Definitely more kinetic than her extremely focused sister.
Favorite book: Five Little Ducks and the Curious George Anthology.

Favorite animal: Ducks (and all related foul: chickens, songbirds, geese, etc. They're all called "Quack-Quacks") and monkeys. But mostly dogs. DOGS DOGS DOGS.

Favorite octave: Super-sonic. Especially when she doesn't get her own way. We're working on correcting that.

So there's my girls in a nutshell. And although they have plenty of differences, the two are starting to play more and get along like sisters do (best friends one minute and worst enemies the next!) I pray their relationship deepens as the years go on!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Mouths of Babes...

Here is a smattering of some of the funny stuff that's been coming out of our kids the past few months. (Disclaimer: many of these stories concern only Abigail. She's the one that says stuff so far.) Enjoy :)

Abi: (while driving her car) "You wanna drive the car, daddy?"
Daddy: "I'm too big for that car!"
Abi: "You drive a big car. Daddy drives the blue car. Abi drives the little car. Maybe when you a big girl, you can drive the little car, too, daddy!"

Abi: "Don't step in the puddles, daddy. Only jump in them!"

The story of Jonah, according to Abigail: "Once upon a time, there was a man named Jonah and Jonah talked to God and God said GO TO NIVENAH. But Jonah didn't want to go to Nivenah so God sent a BIG FISH who swallowed him up *HOMP* And Jonah stayed inside for TWO WEEKS. And then the whale turned Jonah INTO A FUZZBALL!"

Mom: "Abi, do you know what this is called?"
Abi: "It's the tower in Paris, where Madeline lives!"
Mom: "That's right!! Do you remember what it's called?"
Abi: "Um...the...Awful Tower!"

Driving by an office building Abi noticed how seamless the windows were around the building. "That building has no doors!" she exclaimed. "How do people get out?" Jon asked her. "Through the windows," was her reply. Naturally, Jon then asked, "How do the people get in?" Abi threw her hands up in the air in her best Superman impression and shouted, "WITH THEIR CAPES!"

Daddy: "Abi, what are you doing?"
Abi: "I'm hiding!"
Daddy: "Hiding, eh? Where are you hiding?"
Abi: "Right here!"

We were discussing how to give and receive compliments one day. I told her that when you compliment someone you say something nice about them, like how kind they are, or that you like their eyes or hair. At dinner that night, Abigail practiced giving compliments to us. "Mama, you have pretty eyes," she told me. "What a nice compliment, thank you Abi!" I responded. Then she turned to Jon and said, "Daddy you have nice h..." I watched the gears turn in her head for a second before she blurted out "HEAD!"

Abi: (looking in the mirror making faces) "Look at my eyebrows! They're getting sad!"

Abigail writes a poem about Lucie:
She don't wants a barrette,
She wants a headband.
She don't wants a headband,
She wants hair!

Abi to Lucie: "Look at your big tummy! You have a baby sister in there! And look at your big bottom! You have a baby brother in there!"

Abi to Uncle Jay: "You're squeezing me like a juice box!"

Abi: (holding a remote to her ear) "Oh hi, Uncle Matt! Can we come over to your house this weekend? Oh your house fell down? Well, I guess we can't come over..."

Abi: "Will I be 3 again after I'm 4, Daddy?"
Daddy: "No, you'll never be 3 again. You'll be 4, then 5, then 6..."
Abi: "And then 7, and then 8, and then 9, and THEN I'll be 20!!"
Daddy: "Yes, I'm sure that's how it will go..."

Mommy to Lucie: "Lulu, you little stinker! You took your mittens off!"
Abi: (quite indignant) "No, Mama, she's not a stinker; she's a precious girl!"

As we returned home one day from running errands, Abigail became more and more excited to see her little goat lovey "B." She even started to call to him from the hallway. "I'm home, B! I missed you! Where are you?" We were all taking off our coats and shoes in the entryway when Lucie shot off into the house still wearing all her winter gear. "Lucie, come back! We have to take off your coat!" we called after her. A few moments later she returned holding B! She proudly presented it to her big sister who thanked her with a big hug :) I live for moments like this!

Lucie was attempting to put her blocks in the shape sorter. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get the star to fit into the square hole. She looked at the box for a second, then simply took off the lid and placed the block inside the container! I think that's what you'd call thinking outside the box and inside the box at the same time :)

One day in the hallway, our neighbor Gladys gave the girls each a dollar. Later on I told Abi we could go to the store and pick out a toy to buy with her dollar. "Or mom," she said, "I can give it to someone who doesn't have any moneys or a car or a house." "That would make God very happy," I told her.

Abi rearranged all the letters in an alphabet puzzle, so I decided to sing Lucie the newly arranged "C, X, I's." She looked at me funny at first as I began, "C, X, I, M, L, Q, J..." Then half-way through the mixed-up alphabet she began protesting, "Noooo! NOOOOOOO!" violently shaking her head. Apparently, this is TOO much outside the box...

Abigail was playing with her Angelina Ballerina mouse who came with real clothes. I noticed she wasn't wearing her little ballet slippers, so I asked Abi about them. She replied, "Well, one of them is lost. I can't find it. And the other one is missing." HA! (We did eventually find both shoes.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Definition of Passive Aggressive

For those of you who live in Minnesota, you may not need a definition. For those of you outside our state, you may not know it, but being passive aggressive runs in our blood, just like blond hair, blue eyes, and skin that burns even in the winter time. People often associate passive aggressiveness as "Minnesota Nice." We aren't going to come right out and tell you you're a pain in the butt, but we will ignore your phone calls and purposefully not invite you to the potluck. If you are also passive aggressive, you will pick up on these hints and stop being a pain in the butt. HOWEVER, if you are not passive aggressive, you will not pick up on these hints, and the tension will mount and mount until...until you have a story like this one:

Once upon a time a rural Minnesota girl who was your typical Minnesota-Nice, passive-aggressive type fell in love with an atypical "just tell me how it is and quit beating around the bush" Twin Cities boy. They got married and all was well for a while. The girl vowed to try to be more assertive and the boy promised to try to pick up on her signals. But one can't change how they were raised to deal with problems overnight. Or even in 4 years.

One day Minnesota Girl was fixin' breakfast for her curly-haired daughters and herself (who was not quite great-with-child). They happened to run out of FOUR boxes of cereal at the same time! Girl thought, "I can't put all these boxes in the garbage at the same time! My husband is so faithful to empty the trash, he will be upset that it is full already this morning. When he wakes up and tries to empty his coffee grounds into the garbage with his eyes shut, the grounds will spill all over his feet and he will be very put out." So Girl placed the boxes neatly on the counter as a silent reminder for him to take them out with the next full garbage bag. And Twin Cities Boy certainly did wake, empty his coffee grounds and fix his breakfast with his eyes closed and didn't see the boxes sitting there through his eyelids.

Days passed. The boxes remained. The garbage was taken out several times and still the boxes remained. Girl found this curious. "Maybe he has grown accustomed to seeing them on the counter here and has adapted to their presence. I will put them somewhere he will see them and surely he will take them out with the garbage." So Girl took the bags out of the boxes and scattered the boxes on the floor. "There! He will step on them and take notice!" She nodded and went on her way.

But alas, when she came into the kitchen later on, the garbage had been emptied, but the boxes were kicked neatly under the cupboard overhangs to clear a path.

Girl inwardly seethed. "How can he not see these boxes? I have done everything to bring them to his attention outside of actually telling him about them! Drastic measures must be taken."

On their day of rest, Girl collected the boxes and coolly stacked them on Boy's office chair while he sat in it. Boy looked at Girl incredulously. "What is this?" he asked, clearly offended. "These are the empty boxes that have been waiting to be taken out with the trash for over a week. Maybe now that they are on your chair, you will remember to take them out."

Boy, in his great wisdom, said nothing to Girl, but requested a bag for them and placed them in the hallway for near-instant removal. This act of love on his part brought her to realize her lack of assertiveness. She repented of her passive aggressiveness. But we'll never really know what Boy's thought process was when he kicked the boxes under the cupboard overhangs.

The End.

Monday, February 28, 2011

NEW Adventures in the Life of Brenda #13: My Trip to Aldi's

I noticed I had this post drafted but never published. So I finished it for your reading enjoyment. So, yeah...enjoy :)

After 3 days of scraping by without milk, bread, fruit, eggs, noodles, meat, or (most devastating) MAC N CHEESE, I finally wrote up a grocery list and committed myself to getting groceries no matter the cost. We were in Chanhassen for the morning & early afternoon visiting with family so I decided that when Abigail woke from her nap we'd leave and I'd pick up groceries on the way home. Thus begins my tale of woe.

It can be a long 20 minute drive back to Minneapolis from Chanhassen, especially if your baby decides to serenade you with her rendition of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (which is what I might assume a cat on a hot tin roof would sound like). It is excruciatingly slow if your baby is screaming as you creep along the Crosstown at a snail's pace in the midst of an endless snake of brake lights. As I inched through Edina passing exit after exit, I began to plan out alternate routes to Cub - anything to get off the highway. I got off on Penn and while waiting at the stop light, I had an epiphany. I looked to my right and there, in stately majesty, was a Lund's. I sighed. I knew I would probably spend ten to twenty bucks more by stopping here than at Cub, but Lund's was HERE and Cub was not. So I turned toward the overpriced (but at least they bag your groceries for you) grocery store. As I was driving toward it, I saw that just south of it was an Aldi's. Hmm, I thought, I've been meaning to check out an Aldi's and see what all the fuss is about. And by fuss, I mean my Aunt Marie lecturing me in her kitchen while she waved a green pepper and a paring knife around in my face. It was also the store we were told to recommend to the refugees when I volunteered with World Relief. So I pulled into the Aldi's parking lot and took in my first impression of the place. It looked smaller than I was expecting, and didn't look very organized. But that makes sense; organization and flashy signs cost money. This is one way to keep the costs down. So I unbuckled Abi and lifted Lucie's carseat out of the carrier and we walked to the store.

Oh, the carts are outside. I'm going to have to wear gloves to push this thing! It's freezing out here! I thought to myself as I plopped Lucie's bucket seat into the front basket. I pulled on the handle only to rattle and disturb my entire row of carts. It was then that I realized that the carts were locked together, and the only way to unlock your cart was to pay 25 cents. This might not seem like a big deal, but for someone who pays for every purchase with plastic (yes, even to buy stamps!) it's hard to find actual money in my wallet. In fact I could find no moneys in my wallet.

I unlatched Lucie from the basket and herded Abi back to the car. Thoughts ran through my mind of just packing them up and leaving, but I was here, I should at least dig through the car for a quarter. Lo and behold we found one under the driver's seat. Who's judging my messy car now?! I inserted my quarter, unlocked my cart, and took my brood inside where we were at least flooded with a wave of warmth.

Now whenever a person visits a new grocery store, they must allow time for the search. Because you're not going to know where anything is. But at least you usually know what you're watching for. Noodles = green Creamette boxes, Mac N Cheese = blue Kraft boxes, etc, or if you're into the generics, you'll at least know your Market Pantry box of spaghetti will be next to the green Creamette box. However, I was unaware that Aldi's brands were ALL ALDI'S BRANDS. There were no green or blue boxes to guide me. I had to read every. Single. Label. And there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the layout of the store. Let's see, I'm looking for pork n beans. This aisle has mops, tortillas, hula hoops, canned soups, dish towels, and fruit juice in it. I guess it could be in this aisle...

Then it turned out that they didn't even have everything I needed! You mean I'm still going to have to go to Cub so I can get taco seasoning?! I was starting to get at tad peeved. I stood there in line, my peevishness in its infancy stages as I waited to check out. Then I noticed something. That lady just put all her food back in the cart after checking out. She's going to have a tough time getting all that food in and out of her car! I puzzled to myself. Then it hit me: there were no bags for the groceries.


Peevishness maturing...into adolescent stage...I searched for a logical explanation. Of course, well, it makes...sense...to cut cost a company should charge the consumer for ones bags...but it seems so...so...COMMUNIST.

Then it was my turn to check out. I lowered my pride and paid for 6 bags for my groceries. I have failed to mention that aiding in the escalation of my emotions was my infant who was probably cooked to medium-rare in her car seat (mostly red with anger) and my toddler who closed up shop on obedience for the day somewhere in the hand soap and cookie aisle. Who could blame them?! I had just spent an hour in the grocery store moving at a snail's pace at their cranky "I WANT DINNER!" hour.

But Aldi's wasn't done. There was one last surprise that they were holding out on. One final straw for this camel's back.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," the man said as he handed me back my Visa. "We don't take credit cards."

I stared at the man blankly. In a moment, my mind screamed, "You don't take credit cards? Where are we?! The Turkish Bazaar? Even booths at the State Fair let me use a credit card! Heck! I paid for Girl Scout cookies with plastic! You mean to tell me that a chain grocery store in the 21st Century does NOT take credit cards?!?!?!" But the moment passed and my face remained blank as my little heart surrendered, waving a tiny white flag before the cashier. Of course they wouldn't accept credit cards. Of course they wouldn't.

I almost dragged my children dejectedly out of the grocery store sans groceries after an hour of shopping, but then - AHA! I remembered. By a miracle of God and because of his supreme mercy (no joke, I would have melted into a pile of goo if God had not shown His mercy on me in that moment) I reached into my diaper bag and what should I find but a dust-covered, cobweb-filled check book. Do I ever carry my checkbook with me? Never. How did it get in my diaper bag? I'll never know. But it was there nonetheless, almost glowing with an aura of victory.

"What's the date today, and what's my total?" I asked the cashier with a look that said who has the upper hand now?! I was thinking of my savings, knowing I would have spent between $60 and $70 for this same cart of groceries at Cub. Oh the savings! I could hardly wait to hear the total...

"It's the 9th of December today, and your total is $63.75," he stated back to me in monotone. Like a robot. A robot with the upper hand for infinity.

I rolled my bought & paid for groceries out to my car, stuffed my little screamers into their car seats, returned the cart, got my quarter back and promptly stuffed it under my seat where it belonged. I looked up at the glowing sign and made a solemn oath: I will never shop at Aldi's again. Shaking my angry fist, I added just for emphasis: NEVAH!