Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The "Natiffany"

Last year I really wanted to find a nativity set that Gianna could play with to help prepare her for Christmas.
I eyed that Fisher Price set and were surprised by how expensive they were.
This year I did a little online shopping and found an adorable set out of resin that was unbelievably reasonable and durable.
Aren't these guys just precious?
Gianna has spent HOURS playing with her "Na-tiffany" - and it has been touching (and hilarious) to watch.
The cast of characters include the usual Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an angel, 3 kings and a shepherd ~
occasionally joined by Diego, the dollhouse family, a purple pony and even an extra Mary and Joseph.
One of my dearest friends started a beautiful tradition with Gianna.  Each year on the anniversary of Gianna's baptism, Lisa sends her a piece of this Fontanini nativity set.  She got Mary last year and Joseph this year. I keep these two out year round so Gianna is always reminded of these important role models.  I love that they're kid-proof as well as beautiful!
How special is that?  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jelly Book - Holiday Edition

Living in Lewis Land provides a fair amount of entertainment for those who dwell here. 
This Jelly Book entry might back up that claim. :)

* * * * *

Gianna: Mommy. I want to go see Mary.
Me:  Mary? Which Mary, Gianna?
Mary from the Na-tiffany (Nativity)

* * * * *
Gianna has spent a lot of time playing with her nativity set.
One day we heard, "Hold on Jesus, we go for a ride."
Lucky little Jesus got a ride on a sheep.

* * * * *

G lined all the nativity cast of characters up in a semi-circle.
"C'mon guys.  I take your picture."

* * * * *
We were in the car listening to Christmas music.  One particular selection was orchestral.
I heard, "Oh! I was surprised. And a little scary." (scared).
"Why were  you surprised, Gianna."
"Those cymbals were crashing - LOUD."

* * * * *

At the beginning of December, I realized I needed to work on expounding upon the concept of Santa Claus when I asked Gianna if she knew what Santa brings for Jesus' birthday. 
 Her response, "EGGS!"

* * * * *
G was watching Sesame Street's Hanukkah themed show.  I was cleaning the kitchen.  I heard a very irritated little voice say,  "Mommy, I said Sesame Street!  Elmo's not here!"

* * * * *
One day Gianna's had a mosquito bite that she must have scratched during the night.  When she woke up she discovered a little bit of fresh blood on her arm. 
"Uh-oh, Mommy!  I leaking."

* * * * *
Gianna:  Mommy, I've been thinking......
Me (laughing):  Oh really?
Gianna:  Yes.  I want to go to the library.
(How old is this kid?)

* * * * *

After every song that plays on a CD, she taps her finger on her chin and says,
"Hmmm.....let's see what's next."

* * * * *
"Mommy, I so happy (that) I (am) laughing!"

* * * * *

Usually when I'm busy doing chores and G is getting a little bored she'll say,
"Hey Mommy. you wanna go to Wal-mart?"
If I say, "Not right now. Maybe later." she often says,
"How 'bout the red store?"  (Target!)

* * * * *

Gianna gets a kick out of whistling.  Like many kids her age, G's whistle is a high pitched squeal.  Her version also includes her index finger over her mouth. (No clue what that's about.) 
Iain realized that she's figured out that you can use a whistle to summon people when he took her to Lowe's and she sported one of her impressive whistles.
Just as soon as she whistled, someone turned the corner and started walking down their isle toward them.  With widened eyes and a surprised look, she said,
"Daddy!  I called a man!"

* * * * *
She started calling me "Yo-Yo Mommy"  --- for fun.
She thinks it's hilarious. :)

* * * * *

Getting ready to meet friends at the park, I noticed Gianna was warm and had a low-grade temp.  I brought her to the children's Clinic to check her ears.  Gianna informed the doctor that we were going to the park. By this time, the weather worsened and it was in the low 40's.  The doctor said, "'s too cold to go to the park."  Her response, "But I just a little bit sick."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Cookies

I promised myself that I would not make myself unnecessarily crazy this Advent and Christmas season.  In order to help honor that promise, I gave myself permission to make Christmas cookies AFTER Christmas day (technically still during the Christmas season though.)
 I may have completely passed over the tradition for this year, but my friend Michelle was adamant about continuing the tradition - especially since she would soon be leaving for THAILAND for a 27 month stint in the Peace Corp.  She and her daughter, Jessie (our beloved babysitter and friend), came and helped 'create' for a few hours.  Gianna couldn't have been more excited about this sweet endeavor.
I'm glad we had cookie time.
I'm just as glad that we waited.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Wishing you and your family the merriest little Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Lights

We didn't decorate much outside our home this year.
Inside looks great - but the outside -- well, we opted for sanity instead.
A big part of the reason we didn't decorate is because NOBODY would EVER look this side of the street, since our amazing neighbors, 'The Griswold's' as we affectionately refer to them, completely DECK THE HALLS.
Santa's sleigh and all the reindeer, too.  It fun to look at from our home, and an added reason why we're not even going to try. :)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
After we celebrated my brother's birthday at my parents' home yesterday, we decided to take Gianna to look at Christmas lights. 
"Let's go find some more!" was the exclamation of the night.

We heard that there was one house in our town who had their light display set to music on a radio station.  We waited quite a while to get close enough to see the house, but it was well worth it to see Gianna's reaction. 

I wish we would have gotten to slow down a bit at the Nativty, but the drive-by was enough to excite Gianna.

The best light show came from the spactacular moon which happened to be rising at the time of our little light tour.  Gianna is quite obsessed with the moon, so she was pretty excited.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And nine....counting Rudolph

A few weeks ago, our Story Time at the local library, showcased a couple from Arkansas who write and perform children music...Terry & Brian Kinder.  When we walked into to our usually familiar surroundings, Gianna actually got VERY nervous.  She had a death grip on my hand and looked like she'd seen a ghost.  She's usually very comfortable and animated during Story Time, but not that day. The performance was so darn cute, but Gianna hardly participated.  The other adults got tickled but her shy behavior.

I bought the Kinder's Christmas CD to listen to in the car.  Later that day, Iain took Gianna to run errands.  He happened to catch Gianna in the rearview mirror doing the motions to the reindeer song.  Turns out she knew all the words and motions to all the songs.  Turkey.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"NO" - a 'yes' in disguise!

No.  It's a tiny little word yielding a tremendous amount of power.  It can be frustrating to hear and frightening to say.  It can be an ending or a beginning.  It is mostly perceived as negative, but can be the gateway to many positive things.

I know you are thinking that this post will be about my two year old's use of the word, but it's not.  It's really not even about the word -- just the meaning behind it.

Let's rewind many years to session of spiritual direction.  I was working in ministry.  I was stretched thinner than I had ever been and was seriously suffering from the 'Need to Please Disease."  All the things I was involved in at the time were wonderful ways of giving to others....but I was miserable.  I just couldn't figure out a fix.  I felt obligated, required and called to 'do good' (and probably to 'look good' by 'doing good.')

Well, my spiritual director questioned my need to say 'yes' to most everything that was asked of me.  I was a little confused, because I really believed I was doing the right thing and that I was making God very proud.   "No." seemed so harsh and negative and shameful to me.  I will never forget her words to me...

"Ah, Maria.  It is "no's" that give much more meaning and power to each of your "yeses." 

Even though I've come such a long way since that dismal time in my life, I continually have to be reminded about that truthful nugget of wisdom - especially now that I must be a model for my daughter.

Lately, I've had to use my no's quite a lot. I expected to be filled with guilt and maybe even a touch of shame. I've been surprised to have found quite the opposite. I am filled with relief and peace.

One example was a recent choice to participate in a women's study circle - one of the few things I've done for myself lately.  It got so stressful and frustrating with my husband's increased work schedule, other unexpected issues coming up and figuring out how to parent my challenging two year old.  I backed out. "No."  I had to give myself permission to quit something I'd started. I looked at all the busy moms of many kids who were able to keep that commitment - and sighed.  Then I took a deep breath and got over myself and then found peace.  There will be time for that in another chapter of my life.

Another 'no' was to a ministry - serving on the Board of Director's of the Pro-Life Agency largely responsible for our adoption.  It started out a do-able commitment, which snowballed into a consuming effort.  There was major guilt involved in this one.  ("But you're helping to save babies!" someone told me. Ugh.)  I mulled over this one for a while, prayed about it and finally realized that there was one baby that I was given TREMENDOUS responsibility for....MINE!  I chose to stay home so I can be here when she needed me, when she was sick, when she was going through rough stages, so I can enjoy every bit of her.  It became clear to me that my 'no' was a YES in disguise.  It was near impossible to feel guilty about saying yes to my family. 

As we meander our way through this season of Advent, we remember another woman who's 'no' gave meaning to her ultimate YES. The 'no' was to her own will....her own plans.....her own dreams that she had for her life.  That YES became our Savior.

My prayer is that we can all still ourselves enough to know what we are called to say no and yes to.  Happy Advent.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Visit with Santa

The company Iain works for held their Children's Christmas Party last weekend.  Gianna was quite excited about the special guest. 
When the children were gathered near the stage and Santa was announced and entered from the back of the room, Gianna left the others and ran to meet him.  She was quite the little groupie.
When she had her turn to talk with him, the conversation quickly turned to her shoes.
(When she is excited to see someone, she always talks about her clothes and shoes.  Nervous chatter, I guess.)
I just love this next picture.
I would love to know what she is saying and what he is thinking. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Napping House

I fell in love with this book years ago and couldn't wait to share it with Gianna. She LOVES it. Gianna often "reads" her books when she's by herself. Some time around Halloween, Iain caught her on video. I'm posting this in hope that her two day Nap Strike will end quickly and without incident. :)

And yes - she says, "I so cute." at the end.  Lovely.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Advent Wait

When I was little we never saw our Christmas tree during Advent. Never. The tree would magically appear in our front room on Christmas morning lit and completed decorated and surrounded by shiny packages and gifts. It was magical, and frankly, I don't know how my parents ever pulled that off.  It was impressive.

When we moved from New York to the South, we were more than surprised when we realized that many, if not most, people put their trees up the day after Thanksgiving (or before!)  That was a foreign concept to me.  I just love the Christmas decorations, but it seemed that people were overlooking Advent and jumping straight to Christmas. I was adament that I would carry on the family tradition of waiting to decorate.  Maybe I became a tad bit judgemental of that practice of decorating so early.....until I became an adult.

As an adult I was so excited to have my own Christmas tree and have collected beautiful ornaments over the years.  When I was single I'd wait to week of Christmas to decorate.  Because I was working long hours, I was exhausted, WAY behind of Christmas shopping and that week ended up being so stressful, that my focus on the true meaning of Christmas was compromised.  Plus, it was a lot of work only to be taken down a couple of weeks later. After a few years of doing that, I was frustrated and wanted to give in to the temptation of decorating early.  I was really conflicted because I didn't want to sell out and subscribe to the whole marketing madness that seems to lose the entire focus of these two holy seasons, but I wanted to really enjoy the season.

A few years ago, I really had to think things through.  The holidays were a depressing time for me.  I wanted to be married and have a family and it seemed that's what this season was centered around.  I often felt frustrated, sad and forgotten.  And then on top of that I was denying myself the small pleasure of sprinkling my home with lovely and nostalgic surroundings.  I thought, discerned, prayed - and this is what I came up with:  The season of Advent is about waiting and preparing - not about home decor.

My entire adult life has been an intense practice in waiting.  I've waited for clarity in terms of a career. I waited during a long (unchosen) vocation as a celibate, single Catholic woman in ministry for the vocation I longed for in my heart - marriage. And that was a LOOOONNNNGGG wait.  I waited to become a mother through miscarriage, subsequent infertility and an adoption roller coaster. Those are some of the bigger ones, but there have been MANY lessons in waiting for me.

And the key about Advent isn't just about the wait.  It's about what is WITHIN the wait.  I believe God hides Himself in our times of waiting - and when we embrace the wait, learn to wait well, and prepare our hearts --- it's then that we embrace God - and allow Him to embrace us.  And even though we associate typical waiting with anxiety - there is a special peace learning to embrace our waiting and to be still enough to find God there.

I saw this video this morning and thought it was magnificent reflection and challenge about Advent.

And this Advent, we are still waiting. We have recently decided to move, so there is waiting involved in the many unkowns in that realm.  This year's wait also involves God's revelation wheter or not He will grow our family.   I haven't blogged much about our adoption updates this go 'round but have recently updated our adoption blog. Somehow I think waiting and surrendering control go hand in hand.

I'm chuckling as I read this post, because my home is still decorated for fall. Even though I've given myself permission to jump into the holiday decorating earlier ~ I've also given myself permission to not be too driven to make it happen. Things have been busy, and it will get done, but I'm enjoying letting things go and doing the best we can without stressing ourselves out.

For those of you who might enjoy an Advent meditation, I found this article about knowing how to wait.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sayin' the darndest things (Jelly Book vol 4)

Here's another Jelly Book entry...

* * * * *
Gianna is obsessed with the moon.  She talks about it constantly and when she spots it (even during daylight hours in the faintest silhouette) she yells, "MOON!" and then proceeds to distinguish whether it is a full, half or crescent moon."

One evening the big, beautiful, yellow harvest moon was rising in the Eastern sky.  She gasped when she saw it.  "A FULL MOON!" she exclaimed.  And then she said, "It's HUMONGOUS!"  (Thanks, Sesame Street, for your word of the day.)

* * * * *
I couldn't wait to show her the full moon this past Sunday.  We showed it to her at my parents' house and when we got home she stood in our driveway and gazed upon the very bright moon with adoration.   It was cloudy but the moon was still visible and the wispy clouds were whizzing by. I noticed her head following the fast-moving clouds.  Her eyes widened and she looked up at me,
"We spinning!" she whispered.

* * * * *
Gianna pointed out a spider the other day and said, "Look, an arachnid."  Well, she says 'arachnic'  but it still cracks me up that she knows the term. (An arachnid is an insect with 8 legs - i.e. a spider....just in case you don't happen to watch Sesame Street. :) 
* * * * *
Iain brought Gianna into the living room following her nap.  She was tickled about Max's (dog) new haircut.  "He's so tiny!" she squeaked.
She hadn't really noticed me in the room yet and once she did I said,
"Gianna come say hi to Mommy."
Her response:
"I don't wanna talk right now."
(I guess we're getting little adolescent glimpses sprinkled throughout toddlerhood.)
* * * * *
About a month ago, Gianna began a new routine when she goes to Time Out.
Once she arrives at the designated spot, I usually ask her,
"Do you know why you're in Time Out?"
She's ALWAYS can name the offense that sent her there.
Once I walk away, she uses the most precious voice she can muster and says,
"Mommy. Mommy?"
"What, Gianna..."
"Really, Mommy?  You sure? You SURE, Mommy?"
"Yes, I'm sure Gianna."
Melts my heart - but not enough to release her from serving her time. :)
(I really have to get it on video - without her knowing.)

* * * * *
Me;  "Gianna, would you like to come help me in your room?
"Gianna:  "Ummmm......maybe not."

* * * * *
There are words that Gianna used to say beautifully six months ago, that she is now having trouble with.  It's interesting and pretty funny.
She has an oversized doll named Penelope.
Now she can only seem to call her Pimpully.

We have discovered the best way to get a quiet ten minutes in the afternoon or evening is to give her a popsicle.
Now when asked if she'd like a special surprise she says,
"Oh a popsasticle!"
Apparently the extra syllable is impossible to remove.

This morning she asked for a hammaburgen.
She used to say 'hamburger' quite easily.
* * * * *
I told Gianna we were on our way to the park to see Benjamin and his Nanna, Ms. Katie.
"Katie from church?" she asked.
"No, not that Katie, Gianna.""Katie doctor?" she asked again about our friend in med school.
"No, not that Katie, either."
"Oh, a DIFFERENT Katie." she finally surmised.
"That's right, Gianna. She IS a different Katie."
"LOTS of Katie's!" she exclaimed

* * * * *
Our  neighbors (The Griswold's, as we call them) put up there massive collection of outdoor Christmas decorations in mid-November - included a life-sized Santa sleigh.
Figuring she'd be curious, I thought I'd introduce the Santa concept.
"And do you know what Santa will bring on Jesus' birthday?" I asked.
"EGGS!!!" she excitedly replied.
Seems like we have a little 'splainin' to do.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Project with Auntie

My dear friend, Anita, was my maid of honor at my wedding.
She has been a most precious and faithful friend over the span of over 25 years.
Anita (or Auntie, as Gianna knows her) lives in Houston and came in town for the Thanksgiving holiday.  She called ahead to say that she had a gift for Gianna and a project that the two of them had to finish making together.

Auntie's sachel of goodies mesmerized my little munchkin.
She brought Gianna her first pair of children's scissors (we're going to hold off on thanking her for that one! ha), glittery flowers and nifty set of crayons.

Gianna was SO excited to participate in this crafty endeavor.
"More projeck!" she kept saying.

Anita decided to turn Gianna into a little Indian for Thanksgiving.
Here they are working diligently on her costume. 
And here's the finished "projeck".....
....stylin' little Indian girl, wouldn't you say?

Any guesses as to what she's doing here?
Thanks for teaching her that Indian call, Auntie.
She hasn't stopped yet! :)
(You can expect a lengthy phone message with that special little yell, Auntie!)

We really can't thank you enough for spending time with our little girl, for giving her such a fun experience and for loving her like one of your own nieces.  You have to know that you're on the top of our list of blessings we are thankful for!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ernie & Bert

A few weeks ago, Gianna started really having fun in the land of imagination....including an introduction to imaginary friends.  Her first two she already knew --- Ernie & Bert, of Sesame Street fame.   Riding in the car, pretending to hold their hands, making room for them in her chair....the whole bit. 
Just before this little fantasy play started, I happened to find these little hair clips that a girl I know makes.  What great timing.  I just thought they were clever and cute.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A new baby...

Iain's brother just became a daddy for the first time.
Their little bundle of joy is the most perfect addition to our family.
We are so happy and proud to welcome our very first niece.
And now Gianna gets to be a big cousin.
We hope we get to meet little Madeleine soon.
We would just hate to miss out on that 'fresh from heaven baby love!'

* * * * * * * * * * *
Now we just have to work on making Madeleine the big cousin....
....and Gianna a big sister.
Prayers welcomed!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The BIGGEST Little Fan

We are BIG Laurie Berkner fans in Lewis Land. 
I discovered her music about six years ago while babysitting, and unlike a lot of muchkin music -- it has never gotten on my nerves. For about a year now, Gianna has been watching Jack's Big Music Show which often features the music of Laurie Berkner.  And for about a year, Gianna has been asking for her on a daily basis.  When she was just learning to talk, she'd summon Ms. Berkner's music by calling, "Button!"  Now she just says, "Mommy, wanna listen to Laurie Berkner?"
 Well, my little Laurie Berkner fan got quite a thrill this past weekend.
Her mommy found Laurie's fan page on Facebook and discovered that The Laurie Berkner Band (who plays mostly in the northeast and west coast) had added another concert date to their Austin, Texas!

We bought tickets and planned on making a little family trip out of it - until we realized a scheduled outtage at Iain's job would be prolonged and he would be unable to make the trip. :(
That wasn't going to stop me though!
I called one of my dear high school friends living in Houston and asked her and her adorable four year old daughter if they wanted to join us for a girl's weekend.
Even though they weren't familiar with Laurie Berkner, they said yes.
Thankfully my husband though ahead and bought an extra ticket.

It really worked out beautifully.
G and I drove to Houston on Saturday to spend the night with Deborah and Katelin.
It was so precious to see these little girls interact with each other. Both are only children so they each got a rented sister for the weekend.  They actually could pass for sisters, too.
Don't get me wrong, there were times when Gianna pushed the envelope like a typical two year old and Katelin tattled like a typical four year old - but overall they were pleasant and precious.

I got some matching turtle necks for the girls...
...and added a little 'groupie love' on Gianna's.
Even though G was nap-less by the time the show started, she mustered enough awe and excitement as she gazed upon the empty birthday-party-themed stage for the first time.
When the show began, I think Gianna was a little caught off guard.
The awe and wonder was priceless.
Each time there was a quiet moment and Laurie was talking, my spirited little two year old shouted requests of her favorite songs... 
And let me just say, that Laurie Berkner is not only a creative, dynamic, gifted musician and performer ~ but she has UNBELIEVABLE stamina.
When I watch her videos on Nick Jr., I'm always impressed that she sings, plays the guitar and dances for two or three minute stretches.
Watching her in concert was AMAZING! 
For 90 minutes straight she sang, played and danced (like serious jitterbugging!) with no intermission.  Kudos to Laurie.  She earns every bit of her paycheck.
I cannot say enough good about this lady and her talented band and crew.
They certainly provided this little girl and her mommy with a wonderful weekend and special memory to treasure.

* * * * * * * * *
We went back to Houston after the concert and spent another night and morning with our sweet friends.  On Monday they took us to Pump it Up where Gianna wore herself out before we got on the road to go home. 
We are so grateful to the Dennings for their warm hospitality and their precious friendship.
Even though it wasn't the family trip we planned, it turned into an unpexpectedly wonderful time with our treasured friends.
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