an advent invitation

IMG_1784Do you have very young children? Have you thought about how to celebrate Advent with them in ways they can understand?

Alex and I struggled with this question back in 2011 as the season approached. When we couldn’t find readings that suited, we decided to write our own. We wrote 24 Advent Readings For the Very Young to use in the days leading up to Christmas Day (when we read the story of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke). The readings accompany a manger scene, which we introduce piece-by-piece–in hopes of using the concrete ideas, so attainable for young children, to illustrate the abstract.

We posted the Readings on this blog in case they would be useful for other parents also as we all strive to be faithful to share the gospel with our little people. Each Advent I like to reissue the invitation–if you have very young people around your tree this Christmas, you are very welcome to them. I link to them above or you’ll find a list of the readings with links (and/or a printable PDF) on the menu bar.

As some of our young people are now getting on a bit, at six and four, we think they are at an appropriate age to begin celebrating Christ’s coming in a different way. We plan to read through The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith and hang wooden ornaments on a “Jesse Tree” together nightly. We’re looking forward to studying together how Jesus Christ was God’s incredible, gracious plan of redemption from the very beginning. I thought about making the ornaments, but it was one of those projects that I just wasn’t going to get to–so I found a lovely set on Etsy.

Whatever your plans, may this Advent be a time set apart for your family to delight in our great Savior.

 

 

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of which baby is which

I think maybe two people guessed it rightly–and this includes (very) close relatives, people. Thanks for playing–I enjoyed seeing the guesses. I also had to ask myself, if I hadn’t taken the pictures, would I be able to tell Norah, Hugh, and Walter apart. Not sure I would! Here’s the answers:

Fluffy little baby number One is our Hugh.

IMG_5016Baby number Two is Norah, that first little bundle.

IMG_1212Baby number Three? Walter.

IMG_5447And hairy baby number Four is Harriet, also known as the Chickin’ Lickin’.

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we welcome wally

When Walter was about 20 hours old, my parents brought the children to the hospital to meet him. Alex brought them up and Wally and I waited in silence for their arrival. And suddenly there they were, flushed from a cold rainy day and bringing with them a noise of great rejoicing. Alex was filming, the girls trying to climb up on the hospital bed, Hugh trying to dive onto me from my mother’s long-suffering arms, my father’s flash bulb going off like a strobe light, everyone talking at once. It was glorious and I loved it.

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Here we are, being six.

IMG_5383Hugh was extremely keen on baby and we granted him the first cuddle. As soon as Walter was properly settled in his arms, he jabbed a finger directly into baby’s right eye and exclaimed, “Eye!” very loudly. I am proud to report that Walter didn’t even notice. What followed was a hair-raising investigation of baby’s countenance. Then he leaned forward and presented Wally with a big kiss. He laid his little face right down on baby’s and gave me a big smile. After that he was mostly interested in sitting in a chair and snacking on Goldfish. Babies come sometimes, but one’s appetite is a constant.

IMG_5401IMG_5400No Goldfish required for the girls. Norah sat on the bed and held him four times in a forty-minute visit and asked to hold him eleven more. Harriet cooed over him over and over and kept trying to unwrap and inspect his little arms and legs. Their delight in him has continued without abatement the entire week.

IMG_5428My mother presented Wally with his own special Nana Quilt. She has made one for each member of the family and they are like family heirlooms in our house. Cozy, comforting, constants in our oft-changing environment. Wally’s is beautiful.

IMG_5433Twenty-four hours later Alex and I buckled Walter into his car seat (They always seem so tiny that first time on the road!). We headed home together in the cold sunshine. I loved that drive, one of life’s perfectly happy moments. And then there was a happier one, as the children came spilling from the house and leaping across the front yard, kicking up leaves and yes, all talking at once. The girls decorated the door, my father had put a huge bouquet of stunning flowers on the table, my mother had lunch in the works.

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He’s adjusting well, our Wally. He’s already started to gain his weight back and has shown a decided preference for sleeping that is always so encouraging in an infant.

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Bringing him to the bassinet yesterday I found this:

IMG_5464Welcome home, Wally.

Posted in Our Little Ones | 8 Comments

which baby?

And today, just for fun, our babies. Early in the life of this blog, when Harriet was a newcomer, I wondered if my readers–who were mostly family and friends then–could tell the two girls apart (don’t go back and cheat now, cheaters never prosper).

Now that Wally has joined us, the comparisons have begun again. For the regulars: can you tell which picture is which baby? The names are Norah, Harriet, Hugh, and Walter and I’ve chosen pictures all in the same baby chair, which is our most treasured piece of baby equipment.

Number ONE  IMG_5016Number TWO

IMG_1212Number THREE

IMG_5447Number FOUR

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Posted in Our Little Ones | 16 Comments

with great joy

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Our God has been very, very kind to us

in giving us a precious son

Walter Noyes Kirk

born Sunday, 16 November 2014

at 2:13 p.m.

8 pounds, 7 ounces

We are so thankful.

Posted in Being Mommy, Events, Our Little Ones | 12 Comments

baby update, birthday week, and rainbow moe

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Many thanks to all who are praying for us and baby. I’ve been so encouraged by the comments, emails, and texts coming, and so glad to know that we are in your prayers! We are very thankful that at each ultrasound so far the baby appears to be doing very well and suffering no effects from the cholestasis. Now, unless baby arrives on his own in the next 48 hours, they will induce labor on Sunday morning. I am beyond ready to meet him and so glad to have an end in sight.

It is birthday week around here, with Harriet turning four on Monday and our little Hugh turning two today. We are making him a cake that looks like a bus and having a group of friends in for dinner. To everybody’s delight (and relief) my parents are here to hold us together and help us celebrate.

And yes, three of our children will have birthdays in the same week and the fourth just two weeks later. The two intervening weeks hold Thanksgiving Day, which is also my own birthday. Yes, this is a lot of celebrating. No, we don’t mind. We like to go big or go home when it comes to birthday month around here.

In other news, we have a fish. Why did I pick this month to adopt another living creature to care for? I do not know, people. Lately I have made a significant number of spontaneous decisions that, upon further reflection, appear to be mistakes. I can only hope this baby arrives and my mind returns to normal before I suddenly decide we need to set up the kiddie pool in the living room or rent a milk goat for the basement.

It all started so innocuously. We were studying fish in science, so I brought the children to the pet super-store to view the fish. If you are not an American, it may be helpful if I describe these places. Pets and their care are a major industry in this indulgent country and our pet shops are enormous warehouses of animals, their equipment, delicacies to tempt their appetites, their clothing and fashion accessories, and decor for their habitats. The one we visited included a medical clinic for their ailments and a salon in the rear to keep their furstyles up-to-date. (It reminded me of Harrod’s.)

The children were wildly enthusiastic about the array of tropical fish on view at this wonderland. I was letting them run about and tap on the glass and exclaim to one another when it happened. My eyes wandered to the shelves on the right and made contact with a betta fish in a plastic tub. Under it was a yellow price sticker: MALE BETTA $3.49. Really? For just three bucks this fabulous colored creature could swim about our home, creating appreciation of God’s creation in my fascinated offspring? If Hugh had begun sampling fish food at that moment or something I may have been saved. Unfortunately his behavior was impeccable (of all the luck).

“Let’s get a fish!”

I said, and our doom was sealed. The children thought this a brainwave and even the eventual discovery that survival of the fish would not be guaranteed for $3.49 unless we also spent $6 on fish food and de-chlorinating drops and $8 on a plastic fish bowl did not dissuade Mommy, who at this point had completely lost whatever mind she entered the store with.

After a lively discussion the girls named our blue-and-red betta “Rainbow Moe” with the agreement to call him Moe. And that was all the further interest they have taken in him in the last three weeks. I, on the other hand, don’t know what I would do without him. I change and dechlorinate his water, clean his bowl, feed him, and feel sorry for him as he makes slow revolutions in his tiny plastic home. “I don’t think I like this trapped-fish-on-the-dining-room table thing,” said Alex. Nor I, dear. But I have too much conscience to “forget” to feed him (weirdly, I have twice forgotten to serve Hugh this week but I’ve never forgotten to feed Moe). Yesterday he was lying very low in the bottom of the bowl and I was filled with hope that he was expiring. But today he seems to have bounced back.

On Offer: One (1) small male betta fish, red and blue. Mild temperament, non-smoker, potty-trained. Available without cost. Comes with fish food, a plastic fish bowl, and my deepest gratitude.

 

Posted in Keep Calm and Carry On | 1 Comment

cinderella, cinderella

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Today was a day we’ve been looking forward to for a while. It was time to celebrate the girls. Our Harriet has a birthday in two days and Norah in three weeks, so we planned a double birthday party for today. Perhaps we ended up cutting things a bit close to Baby’s imminent arrival–even closer than we planned! Until last night I was a bit nervous that I would suddenly go into labor Saturday and thus disappoint the girls, but I am glad to report that Baby is still inside and we had a lovely party.

Last year we were just moving into this house and didn’t know many people, so there were no birthday parties. Next year (and those following) remain unclear. This was our year. The girls were extremely excited at the special privilege of being allowed to share their birthday party. When they heard that one of their guests would be having her birthday this same weekend they pleaded for her to be included, too.

IMG_5187Six and four are a big deal. They had no trouble agreeing on a theme–it had to be Cinderella. They are into princesses, and this is still the only Disney movie they have ever seen. I was glad, because it’s pumpkin season!

IMG_5168We found a white pumpkin and I carved it to look like Cinderella’s coach for a centerpiece. We also started the party with decorating our own little pumpkins with colored glitter (spraying the pumpkins first with adhesive).

IMG_5173They turned out really beautiful. Speaking as a mother who has avoided glitter crafts like infectious disease for all six years of motherhood, it was Worth It. (We sent the pumpkins home with the girls, along with party bags with pencils, princess chapsticks, little blue packages of tissues (it’s cold season, people!), fruit strips, and one ring pop. Because we just don’t need all that candy, right??)

Cinderella isn’t just a pumpkin story, it’s a shoe story. I found little clear plastic shoes to fill with blueberries at the girls’ places at the table, and we played games involving shoes. I painted a poster of Cinderella’s foot and we played “Pin the Glass Slipper” with a blindfold and high heels cut from transparencies.

IMG_5203We also did a “Match the Shoes” relay outside and pinned cloths to a clothesline for another relay.

IMG_5263IMG_5267The girls had a lunch in the dining room of finger sandwiches, veggies and dip, fruit served in bowls decorated with jewels, and cupcakes.

IMG_5167A talented friend helped me frost the cupcakes on Friday afternoon and decorate them with shoes and golden glitter.
IMG_5177All of the children approved.

IMG_5248It was a special day and a lovely crowd of precious girls that gathered to celebrate. I’m so thankful for these two wonderful daughters!

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Posted in Events, Make Do and Mend, Our Little Ones | 2 Comments

prayer request

My children attend Awana at the church on Wednesday nights. Norah is a Spark, Harriet is a Cubbie, and Hugh is a Puggle though he is not yet two. Norah loves being in Sparks. Recently her class had their annual Crazy Hat Contest. Tired though I am, I was determined not to be the bad mommy for this one. In the afternoon Norah and I designed a glorious white straw chapeau, trimmed with a hilarious abundance of silky blue ribbon in an oversized bow. We finished the hat with the top off a pineapple in the kitchen fruit bowl. She looked stunning, in a Carmen Miranda sort of way. It was raining, so Alex carefully shielded Norah wearing The Hat with an umbrella across to the church–and returned with the hat ten minutes later. The Crazy Hat Contest, he said, was next week. Norah entered Sparks in all her bonneted glory–alone. “She looked a little forlorn,” he said. “She kept looking around for all the other hats. But there weren’t any.”

Parenting fail #9832. To make it worse, the following week we were all sick with a virus and had to stay home. No Hat Contest. We had the virus for an entire week and I was hit the worst. After four days of it, my blood pressure and pulse shot so high I had to go the hospital for an IV and to check on baby. He’s okay for now–but three days later something else developed.

I have been diagnosed with something called obstetric cholestasis. Basically, it means that I itch intensely all the time. And the worst is, there are some serious potential risks for baby. I have to have an ultrasound every three days to check on him, and the hospital will induce labor as soon as he reaches 37 weeks (in about ten days) so as to protect him from a much greater risk of stillbirth after that point. This is my fourth pregnancy and this is the most serious complication I have ever experienced. The thing about the nausea and the sciatica and the other things I have dealt with is that they do not harm the baby. Now, baby is in danger. I have to live each day of the next two weeks knowing that all the time. Please pray for the safe arrival of our little boy, praying readers. And pray that his mommy will be strong in faith and trust God, whatever he brings.

Posted in Being Mommy, Our Little Ones | 20 Comments

of holding a miracle, deep inside

IMG_4603 I packed the hospital bag the other day. Our baby isn’t due for at least a month, but it gave me a constructive focus for my nervous energy. I have a lot of sciatic pain at the minute, which makes sleeping difficult, so I usually lay awake half the night. Something about three in the morning makes one’s thoughts repetitive, have you ever noticed that? It’s like the brain is too tired to fuel new journeys for the train of thought, so the train runs on a circular track. After a week of nights of the train stuck on the “what would I do if I was in labor right now” track I finally packed the bag. I haven’t packed a hospital bag of this sort since 2008. In England I was always home within a few hours and could probably have brought just the carseat and a camera. Packing was surprisingly easy after doing it in my head 74 times.

I went into Hugh and his baby brother’s room and opened the top drawer to find two little onesies and a sleeper or two to bring for baby. I picked up the tiniest, softest blue pajamas you’ve ever seen and folded them in a little micro-stack for the bag, lining up two tiny sleeves and two tiny legs and bending the bitty waist. And without warning I was struck with the incredible miracle that is a baby. Holding that little sleeper in my hand and feeling the kicks and pokes of my son deep inside me, it was suddenly astounding to me that God crafts each unique child and brings them into the world in the way he does. Sometimes we can take it so for granted, this beautiful, continual creation of life. After all, it’s a miracle that happens 375,000 times per day.

And I can get so caught up in the pain and fatigue of pregnancy that sometimes I lower my gaze to that and forget the tremendous, indescribable privilege of carrying a child.

I made a scene at the 22 week ultrasound. I had just come through 15 grueling weeks of intense nausea and then a month of travel and exhaustion. It was a lowered-gaze kind of of day. Then the technician surprised me by suddenly putting a picture of my son’s face on the screen on the wall. I had never had this kind of ultrasound before, the 4D kind. They didn’t do this for my first in Boston; they don’t do these in England. I don’t know if I’d ever even seen one. I didn’t know what was coming. And suddenly, there he was. Curled up, his little face resting on one tiny hand. I cried. That’s no blob of tissue. That’s my baby.

I remember a conversation I had with my husband during the worst of the nausea last spring. He said something about how he wished it wasn’t so hard for me. “I would trade places with you in a second!” I said. And then instantly wanted to snatch back those words. “No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t!” I wished so much I hadn’t said it, hadn’t implied even for a second that his is the more blessed place. Because it isn’t true. No one ever gets to experience the miracle like we mothers do. It is a precious gift, a soul-rocking experience granted by God alone. I watch my body swell to nearly 200 pounds (you read that right), I struggle to cope with the nausea and fatigue and pain–and every bit of it is worth that astonishing moment when my baby appears and makes his first sound.

 

Posted in Being Mommy, Our Little Ones | 6 Comments

the boy cave

IMG_4860I painted a wooden car and wooden door hanger ($2) from the craft store with acrylics–it says “Hugh and” (the “and” because I haven’t filled in his little brother’s name yet). The reverse side is below.

IMG_4846Hugh’s prized possession is little red metal double-decker bus we bought him in London in 2013. This stands on his bureau (whenever it’s not gripped in his sticky little paw or being carried around town). We used to have a black metal London taxi as well, but mislaid it somewhere in this house. After much strenuous searching for it to complete the room (who, me, anal?), I have at last given it up. I think Hugh might have flushed it, there have been several suspicious flushings. I know Hugh likes to launch things this way–once I arrived just in time to snatch the girls’ prized plastic baby bottle from the fast road to the sewer. Oh, well. Though the room has a road theme, I focused particularly on buses and taxis. I painted a basic bus for Hugh and a taxi for his little brother on blank white canvases.

IMG_4853IMG_4852Baby’s name to be added below the taxi. I hung these over their beds–Hugh’s with a big “H” painted black with white road lines. I have his brother’s initial, also painted black with white road lines, to add when he arrives.

IMG_4855I know the curtains aren’t ideal, I just only wanted to buy something that I can take with me when we move continents next year. The blinds were broken in Hugh’s room so we’ve never been able to make it dark in there, so I decided to buy the versatile gray curtains I’ve wanted for a while and just use them in here until we leave. I took down the mint-green valances that were over the windows. The rug (plus three cars) was our birthday present to Hugh when he turned one, and all I had to add was a basket of truck books for his nightstand and find him some bedding.

IMG_4858I couldn’t believe it when I saw this duvet cover at IKEA for $15. “Do you think he’ll notice it?” I asked Alex, when I put it on the bed. Folks, he’s obsessed. He went bananas when he saw it, yelling, “Bus! Bus! Tractor! Car! Bus!” and he repeats the performance all over again every morning when he wakes up. Which makes me so happy.

IMG_4840The mat on the end of the bed is our changing table (seriously changing tables are on top of a long list I’ve titled “Unnecessary Baby Paraphernalia”).

IMG_4848I painted a few other things for over the bureau and made another origami mobile for baby. Norah and Harriet both had birds, Hugh had turtles and fishes and frogs last year, Baby boy gets . . . (you guessed it) trucks and buses and cars. Super simple ones, too, as the complicated ones I attempted all flopped (and, frankly, who has time for origami?).

IMG_4851That’s the boy zone, in all its glory. I know it’s not that pulled together, design-wise. But that doesn’t seem to bother Hugh at all.

Posted in Keep House and Carry On, Make Do and Mend | 1 Comment