Thursday, April 6, 2017

Twos, Terrible or Terrific?

Because some of the days with a 2 year-old are hard (can I get an Amen?) Because some days ours cries for an hour because his waffle gets broken and he NEEDS TAPE to repair it. Sometimes he melts down because I make him wear underwear instead of going commando. Other times he has the classic breakdown over the wrong color sippy cup (thanks Dad for making it such a priority to teach him his colors!) Or, like many of us, once the train is gone, the book is finished, the walk is over, or the candy is swallowed, instead of remaining grateful for the joy it brought him, he loses his mind wanting more. I could go on...

But instead of harping on the downside of the Terrible Twos, I'd rather highlight the awesomeness of the Terrific Twos, 'cause this age can be pretty great too. Somehow he knows when I'm at the end of my rope with his ridiculousness, and he does something precious or hilarious to convince me not to give him away.

So, here is the current highlight reel in photo and narrative form: 

Isaiah has learned to say "Bless you," when people sneeze, but most regularly and adorably he blesses himself when he sneezes. The other night he had just fallen asleep and I was carrying him to his crib when he sneezed and said "Bless you" without even opening his eyes or waking up.

Potty training is usually good for a laugh.
Since January, when my grandparents came from Iowa for a visit, he's been regularly saying "Bubby Daddad," their nicknames. Sometimes pleadingly, other times matter-of-factly. The frequency continued to increase as their next visit, this past weekend, approached. One night I was trying to sing him a bedtime song, but he shot down every song I tried within a few notes.

"Jesus loves me..."

"Hush little baby..."

"The wheels on..."

"Old McDonald..."

"Well, what do you want me to sing?"
"Bubby Daddad Song!"

So, my mom wrote him a 3 stanza "Bubby Daddad Song" complete with a repeating chorus, and he asks for it every night!

Although he says "No," a lot, when he says "yes" to something he says it with contagious enthusiasm, "YESSSS!"

His vocabulary is huge, but his pronunciation still leaves something to be desired, so all hard C or K sounds are still T. Such as "Mommy's tooties are nummy!" Recently, we were at Noahs' Ark, our churches indoor playplace, and we had it all to ourselves. I was sitting with Paul, when Isaiah came up to me and managed to explain that there was an airplane under the playset and he needed help getting it out. I couldn't reach it with just my hand, so I put Paul down and went in search of something long to help me retrieve the crashed plane. Sticks and bats were scarce around there (probably so kids can't hit each other) so I ended up with a plastic cucumber and recovered the downed aircraft.

Later that afternoon, we were back at home and Isaiah dropped a crayon under the couch. Right away, he went to the playroom and came back with a drumstick, saying "Tutumber!" and rescued the lost crayon. Now, every time he needs to reach anything he says "Tutumber," finds a long-ish object, and we quickly forgive him for whatever tantrum he's recently put us through because he's just too cute to stay frustrated with for long.

Silverware can make for good tutumbers in a pinch, or should I say in a pickle.

He LOVES helping make and eat muffins, sometimes he can't even wait till they're finished. He was supposed to be mashing these "nummy 'nanas." Apparently, they were too nummy to mash without sneaking a few mouthfuls.

Today, he ate all the tops off of his baby muffins before later going back and finishing them. His look, "Isn't this how everybody eats baby muffins?"

The other day, I was feeding Paul, and Zy was getting impatient and probably a little jealous, so I told him to go get a book and I would read to him. He brought be back a rhyming Bible, patted it and said, "Jesus." Then he went back to his room and returned with another Bible and said "Jesus. Match!" He loves a good match. Since, most of the book doesn't talk about Jesus I was so touched that he recognized Jesus is the central character, and although it will be a long time before he understands it, that every word points to Him in some way. Together, we looked through the Bibles for pictures and stories about Jesus, and he stopped at a drawing of a lamb, and pointed out, "Jesus." Oh, my heart... he's listening!

The sweet, wonderful, magical moments always outweigh the tough ones, even if they don't always outnumber them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Beauty of Second Borns

Our first child wasn't exactly our first born, so whatever significance birth order holds for children and parents is a bit complicated in our family. When we gave birth to our first giant son, we had already surrendered our free time, and learned many of the lessons parenting teaches you about your own selfishness and flaws, through our teenager.

When Isaiah joined us, we weren't young nor terribly na├»ve, but we didn't know anything about babies. So we read the books, and then ignored them, 'cause holding Isaiah all the time was way more fun than being Babywise. Plus, parents of firstborns or exclusively littles, have a lot more freedom in their schedules to stick to sleep-eat-wake routines than parents of busy middle schoolers who have to taxi them around like it's their job. Sleep experts, please explain how I'm supposed to keep a baby awake in the car while escorting my daughter to practices, games, friends' houses, etc.

So, in some ways Isaiah was not our first born, mostly in that he did not have our full and undivided attention. And, although there's a 12 year age gap, Angie is no longer an only child, as she's had to learn to share her parents, her stuff, and her schedule; in my opinion, some of the biggest benefits of having a sibling.

But then, along came Paulie. There's no confusion that this guy is not a first born or an only child. Jon is a second born among many first borns, so he has a special affection for Paul in this way.
If Isaiah had to be flexible based on his big sister's schedule, then Paul has to be fluid, or whatever's beyond flexible. When I was pregnant, Jon would come home at night and ask if Paul had been moving, and I'd have to stop and pay attention to him for the first time all day. Counting fetal kicks was not high on my list of priorities with a toddler, a teenager, and a job. Now, that he's here, when people ask how it's going with a newborn, I usually answer, "The newborn's easy, it's the toddler and the teenager that keep me on my toes!"
I took this picture to contrast the differences between our first born, Isaiah, and our second born, Paul. The main difference you see here is that Baby Paul is sleeping. Isaiah didn't (still doesn't) do much of that. Not only is Paul sleeping, but he's not sleeping in my arms, or anyone's arms for that matter. He isn't sleeping in any moving seat such as  a rock-n-play, car seat, or swing. He isn't even swaddled. He is flat on his back, and miraculously he fell asleep that way, no one held him, bounced him, or nursed him to sleep. He's also using a pacifier, a feat his big brother never mastered.

Paul sleeps through commotion like a champ. Not just the white noise of the vacuum cleaner, but the cacophony of an unruly toddler fussing at the top of his lungs or banging on anything within reach. And just this week, Paul took a bottle from his Bula (grandmother), and since then from his daddy, something Isaiah has never done once in his life. If this keeps up, second-borns might be my jam!

Now the challenge, of course, is to try to keep everything even. Angie and Isaiah have had years of photos and blog posts to memorialize their time with us. Paul has a baby book just so he doesn't feel left out. He gets random blog posts comparing him to his siblings when I get a few spare moments.

If not being the center of everyone's universe all the time helps non-first-borns not to feel entitled to being the center of the universe all the time then...would that we were all second borns. If I didn't know better, I might think Jesus Himself was a younger sibling.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


These boys are the sweetest! I can't wait to see their friendship develop over the years.

I just want someone to look at me the way Isaiah looks at Baby Paul.

From what I hear, the tables will soon turn and Paul will look up to his big brother and idolize his every move. But for now Isaiah can't get enough of his tiny friend. All day, he wants to stare at him, touch him, and look out for him.

Just as I was typing this he said, "Baby Paul hungy," (not a typo.) Then he climbed up in my lap and tried to type saying, "Helps you."  This kid!
Zy wanted to join Paul in his "house" before even getting out of his pajamas or having his breakfast blueberry face wiped off.

I can't wait till they can play in the bath together, that'll be a game changer!

Paul can't even nurse in peace without his brother nearly smothering him.

Isaiah's 2-year check-up and Paul's 1-week weight check.

My prayer for these two is that in both joy and adversity they will be lifelong friends that can turn to each other for anything. Lord, may their differences complement each other as their loyalty grows deep and strong. May they learn from one another lessons we as parents can't teach them, and might they remind each other of the lessons we have already taught them. Jesus, help them to serve and love each other like You do.

My lap and heart are full!
Daddy's arms are full too!

I predict that in the not too distant future, Isaiah will be hollering, "Mommy, Paul's touching me!" So for now, I'll cherish these moments where Isaiah doesn't want to leave his side, and Paul can't get away, or complain about it. 

"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." - Proverbs 17:17

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2 Years of True Love

This guy can make the gloomiest day brighter, or he can melt down at the drop of a hat. Yep, he's TWO! And we LOVE our fun, feisty, fragile little guy to pieces!

At his 2 year check-up he had finally caught up on all his motor skill milestones. Every previous check-up I was all, "Uh, he still can't hold his head up and he's like a year old, is this gonna be a problem?" (Only a slight exaggeration.) But just as our sweet pediatrician, and every seasoned parent out there had said, it would all work out, and it did. So, now he climbs on things and gets into trouble with the best of his toddler peers.
He blew out his candles effortlessly!
His weight is still on the chunky end of the spectrum, his head continues to fly off any traditional charts (I think these charts are overdue to be revised), and his height is hard to determine as he'd have to remain still for a few seconds to accurately measure him.

His joy is contagious! Unfortunately, often so is his angst.
He got his first professional haircut this year, clearly the stylist enjoyed it more than he did.
It's a special season full of novlelty and wonder as he discovers new skills all the time, tries out new words every day, and practices counting, letters, and colors with adorable errors.

But in all the newness, the most important thing that's rocked his little world recently, is of course becoming a big brother!

Fortunately, he has a really great role model on big siblings in his sister, and he's taking after her already.
We love you, Isaiah Brantly Charles. Your charm is irresistible, your humor keeps us in stitches, your gentle kindness helps us overlook your tantrums. But even if your moods swung low more than high, we'd love you to the moon and back, 'cause we've decided to. Because although you make it pretty easy, loving you is really a choice. And we will choose it for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Paul's Name Story's a Bit Less Intense Than His Birth Story

Our newest bundle of joy, Paul Jonathan Charles is named after two of my very favorite men, my grandfather and my husband, plus a whole lot of others who are really amazing as well.

Between Jon and I, we couldn't think of a single "Paul" we didn't like, we could barely think of any we didn't really love and admire. Is that a weird reason to choose a name for your baby?

Here are just a few of our heroes that inspired us to name our son Paul.

Dr. Paul Scott is my beloved maternal grandfather. My whole life I have been blown away by his selfless serving attitude. Even the rare moments he takes for himself to watch the news or work on his abundant garden are so easily cut short by the request of another for a true need, or even a simple whim, without complaint of the interruption. He constantly takes care of others before giving a thought to himself. His humor, gentleness, hospitality, intelligence, love for languages, thriftiness, and generosity are just a few of the traits we wouldn't mind if he passed down to his namesake and great grandson, Baby Paul.
Dr. Paul hasn't met Paulie yet, so here's a shot of me passing him a pumpkin from his abundant garden a few years ago (appropriate as I like to call Baby Paul, "Pumpkin.")

The New Testament Apostle Paul in the Bible is a second hero of ours, who nicely complements the Old Testament prophet Isaiah that his big brother is named after. When we were choosing a name for little Zy two years ago, Jon and I read through the book of Isaiah to help us decide. This time it was lovely to read through the Pauline epistles and be reminded of Paul's beautiful insights and encouragements to the churches he wrote to, with continued inspiration for us to this day. Here are the few quotes from Paul's writing we chose to frame for little Paulie's nursery, in hopes that they will speak to him throughout his life.

Here's Isaiah's print that shares a wall, and Isaiah's name story from two years ago. 

There are a number of other Pauls we love and respect. Two of whom are dear missionary friends serving overseas.

Paul Hoffman was my pastor, mentor, and beloved confidant as I served in Bolivia for three years. He led our church, challenged me daily to grow in my faith and walk with the Lord, and most heroically runs an orphanage for sick babies, Judah Quy with his wife, Kristin. Their family continues to grow in size and love as they add children through adoption, proving everything he preaches he truly believes and practices. His sacrificial life is evident to all. 

Dr. Paul Evans and his wife Alicia are sweet friends of mine going all the way back to vet school, 13 years ago. Over the past few years Jon has also had the pleasure of getting to know and love them. Last year, Paul sold his share of a vet practice, and they moved their family of five to Zambia to serve with Christian Veterinary Mission long-term. Their honesty, transparency, dry humor, and sweet nature are truly endearing. 

Regarding Paul's middle name, my Jon doesn't go by Jonathan often, but I do love the name. There's a tradition in Jon's family, going back to Baby Paul's great great grandfather, to give the firstborn son the father's first name as a middle name. We broke with that tradition with Isaiah Brantly, but are making it our own with his brother. Since Jon is a second born among a family of firstborns, he has a special place in his heart for the second baby. So we chose to honor Paul with Jon's name.

We'll never know if Jon would always have been as relational with any other name, or if David's friend Jonathan, in the Bible's 1 Samuel, influenced him to be the trusted friend that he is to so many. Either way, we hope Paul Jonathan will be as wonderful at serving, helping, listening to, and loving others as his daddy. 

"The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself." -1 Samuel 18:1

By naming him after so many great men, we don't mean to put too much pressure on him toward greatness, but hope to honor those men, and point Baby Paul Jonathan toward virtues we respect and would love to see in him as he grows into the unique man of character God intends him to be.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Birth Story... Cause Oh My Word!

I didn't post a birth story per se for Isaiah. I wrote a few notes about how it all went down in his baby book, but didn't want to make him feel too bad about his entry into the world, so I didn't go into many details of the horrors.

I don't know why we even have "birth plans." We didn't exactly have a "plan" this time, but we had a playlist of music ready for labor, some Jim Gaffigan stand-up comedy to distract me during early contractions, and hopes of getting into the birthing tub at the hospital before things got too intense. Jon would have liked to trim his beard and I wouldn't have minded getting a shower and looking presentable for those all-important first photos either. Ha! God must just laugh...

Because I'm an elderly 36 years-old, my OBGYN didn't want me to go past 40 weeks. We convinced them to hedge a tad and give me two days beyond my "due date." Jon had two very busy MBA night classes for the 5 weeks leading up to my due date, February 9th, ending in a final exam going till about 9:30pm that night, but then he had a week off school and could take a week off work. So, I really didn't want to go early. The Lord graciously did let us have that part of our plan.

On Friday, the 10th, Jon went to work and I started with the natural induction wives' tales while I finished up nesting around the house and wrapping up work. We went for a walk that sunny afternoon. Then headed out to Bonefish for some Bang Bang Shrimp, which worked with our firstborn, it seemed extra spicy this time. When we got home my parents, and aunt convinced us to try Castor Oil (Yuck!) to take advantage of the last few hours before I'd be shot up with Pitocin which was kinda the opposite of our "birth plan." I took 2 doses of 1 tablespoon of the laxative by 9:30pm. With my parents in the guest room to take care of the kids for the weekend, assuming we'd be headed to the hospital early in the morning for the induction, Jon and I finally hit our pillows just before 11:30pm, with no signs of labor, but some rumbling in my tummy.

At midnight, I woke up with severe abdominal pain and went to the restroom to see if the Castor Oil was moving things along in the way it's originally intended. It was, but the pains kept coming and when I stood up, the liquid I assumed was probably urine when I sat down, kept coming too. So, after about 3 contractions and some more confidence that my water had definitely broken, I woke Jon up. We had just gotten undressed an hour ago, but we scrambled between contractions to get redressed and gather our things. I think Jon had a hard time believing me when I told him about the start of each contraction so he could time them--they were already averaging 2 minutes apart!!

He called the hospital and told them my water had broken, they said to come on in, but to come through triage or something to get checked before they admitted me. "Tell them how far apart the contractions are!" I shrieked.

When we got to Norton Suburban, at 12:46am, we found a wheelchair, and I screamed as he pushed me through the check-in area. We had to stop to give the desk my social security number. Jon couldn't remember it, so I yelled it out in front a full waiting room. Whoops!

I guess they took me seriously at this point, cause when they found out my water had broken they let us go right back to a room. Things were so intense we didn't even make it to our intended 5b, but ended up in room 1a because it was closer.

I had been begging for someone to get the anesthesiologist since the parking lot, I wanted an epidural STAT! Annoyingly calmly they said they had to check me, get some blood work, and start an IV first. Turns out, they don't always get their plans either.

I was 9cm dilated and ready to push before they could get blood work or an IV. My doctor didn't even make it over from Baptist East (5 min away maybe) even though she ran a red light!

After barely an hour from start to finish (and only 21 minutes in the hospital) of agony, howling, and asking for an epidural, at 1:07am we met our little Paul Jonathan Charles! At 9lbs 11oz, he tore me up, but slightly less than Isaiah did. So, the next hour and a half was pretty miserable as the doctor's repair job took longer than Paul's demolition. Poor kid didn't come out unscathed either as his rapid entry into the world left him bruised and a bit traumatized. Part of the rush was that his heart rate was dropping in utero, so Jon didn't get to catch or cut the cord like he'd "planned" to. We were denied delayed cord clamping cause Paulie needed to get stimulated quickly to get his heart rate up. But after he recovered, we got some extended skin to skin for a couple hours, which was good for both our souls.

At 3:30 or 4am we were transferred to our Mother and Baby room. The nurses checked on us and we settled in. At 5am, a phone started vibrating, and I was all "Who is calling us at this hour?!" We identified the source as my phone in my purse. And as it kept buzzing, it hit me: it was my alarm. It was time to call the hospital and get ready for my induction!
Um, we won't be needing that alarm, or that induction, we're holding our baby now, thanks!!

When they handed me Isaiah 2 years ago, the first thing anyone said was "He's so alert!" Paul seems a little more chill as we've barely seen his eyes open in his first day of life. His feet almost didn't fit on the ink pad for the footprints, and newborn clothes are almost a joke.

Overall, the moral of the story is, you probably don't need to try ALL the wives' tales in one day. Unless you really want to risk having your baby in the car or in the hospital parking lot. Also, for the second time in a row, Bonefish Bang Bang Shrimp for the win!

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" -2 Corinthians 9:15

(Reasons for the name post to follow soon)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Potty Training for Over a Year

This is by no means a tutorial on potty training, the title should tell you that much. But if I had one tip for other mothers out there, it would be to get serious about potty training when you're 9 months pregnant. This may seem counterintuitive due to the exhaustion and all the necessary bending over, but if you're both having accidents together it sure helps bond you through the process. :)

When I posted the picture below in Isaiah's 9-month blog entry over a year ago, I was hoping to follow-up with some thoughts on how Elimination Communication had turned into Early Potty Training, but I'm not sure that was really our case.
At about 18-months of age, he was almost using the potty exclusively for a bit, and telling me with a nose scrunch when he needed to go (he made this up based on me sniffing his diaper to see if he was dirty.) But then we traveled a lot for my CVM Region Rep role and got him out of his routine, plus he got a cold, making the sniffing/nose scrunching more difficult.

REGRESSION IS REAL, folks! I didn't believe kids would really just lose a skill they had learned, but I'm a believer now! As we continued to passively train him by putting him on the potty after he woke up and when he looked like he needed to go, it didn't really lead to him holding it or giving me warnings like before, so I decided to opt for active potty training.

First, he picked out his Big Boy underwear. He chose fish, or as he calls them, in possibly the world's cutest mispronunciation, "Fooosh."
He liked them so much that he insisted on taking them out of the package in the store.
Deciding between his 7 designs was too much work so he often wanted to wear more
than one.
I had seen Martin Luther King Day weekend coming up and had noticed our schedule was unusually clear, so I asked Jon if he'd help me use those 3 days to potty train Isaiah before the new baby comes (the laundry of 2 littles in cloth diapers sounds overwhelming.) He reminded me he had to work on the car, but other than that he could help. Jon's morning with the car, ended up being the majority of the three days, to no avail. While I was sequestered in the house staring at our toddler and wondering when I was going to have to scurry him to the potty.

We did all the normal things you read about in the 3-day intense potty training methods, except for use a timer. We picked up some toddler books at the library on underpants and big boy potties (he loves books), added some juice to his water to entice him to drink more, and got some motivating treats for him. I stopped putting him in onesie style shirts and picked out all the tops that don't snap at the bottom, which was a small selection as I've loved onesies dearly since he was born, but they don't lend themselves well to quick potty trips. I also moved a bunch of his pants, socks, and all his underwear downstairs to the level with hardwood, where we camped out the whole weekend, to avoid accidents on the carpet, and unnecessary trips up the stairs for my hugely pregnant self. Seriously, if I'm pregnant much longer Jon's going to need a three day weekend to install an elevator.

On Day 2 or 3, I opted to ditch the pants and underpants until further notice. We started a fire in the fireplace to keep warm and let him run around commando to cut down on laundry.

He didn't mind a bit running around in half his birthday suit, but his big sister may have been a little traumatized by all the nudity.

His biggest motivators were: flushing the toilet, candy corn (beating out M&Ms, fruit snacks, and chocolate covered raisins), and marking a little chart in one of his potty training books. This last one unfortunately, has confused him about when it's okay to write in books. Ugh!

During his nap I was putting him in a cloth diaper, because the only thing harder than walking up the stairs this pregnant is changing crib sheets! On Day 4 an hour into his nap, I heard him say "Wet" (his word to tell me he needs to go) through the monitor, so I went to get him, but found he had taken off his velcro diaper and peed in the crib. At least he knew he wasn't supposed to go in his clothes... Velcro was a rookie mistake on my part.

Since we didn't do the strict timer method (putting him on the potty like every 10 minutes) because... sanity, it's taken more than 3 days, but sanity is worth it. We're now about a week in, he turned 23-months old today, and he's nearly accident free.  He even took his nap in his underpants today! Praise the Lord.

Here's to praying he doesn't regress again when the baby comes, but fully expecting it's likely. Also, are we the first parents on Earth to potty train our toddler before sleep training him? 

"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6