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The beauty of this springlike January weather is that we have plenty of opportunity to exercise outdoors and soak up the sunshine. There was a bit of a chill early this morning, but by the time we started walking, it was definitely much warmer. Katie took off her sweater and jogged and walked the last full mile of our walk. We talked about how important exercise is to keeping our hearts and lungs healthy—I want to give her some of the good habits that I struggle to abide, such as daily exercise. Brother ended up falling asleep, though he enjoyed sitting up and looking around for awhile.

Here are the kiddos as we leave for our walk.

Home again, Katie asked if we could do another project out of her Giant Busy Box. Oh, yes! She decided to work on the chicken project. After coloring it, attaching feathers, and trimming it with various accessories, she decided—totally unprompted and out of the blue—to give it to her little brother as a gift! What a sweetheart! She was so excited, too, and Eric was delighted about the chicken, as well. Katie wanted to write on the back: “For Eric, Love Katie.” She told him it was for Valentine’s Day, and she said, “It is a girl chicken so that you will always remember your sister.” Wow!

 

Katie was excited to give the chicken to Eric!

 

Eric loved his first homemade gift from his big sister. After we cleaned up, Katie wanted us to hang it up in his room for him. She chose to hang it on his bookshelf so that he could see it from his crib when he wakes up. The love between the two of them makes my heart purr.

We also spent time playing with some insect puppets that Uncle Chet and Aunt Irma gave Katie for her 2nd birthday. The kiddos were BOTH laughing as I had the insects devour Katie’s princesses for lunch. Really, both of them were cracking up. I love playing with them and watching them laugh together.

Joy is watching Katie and Eric delight in one another. I am so grateful that they have each other.

With my mom not feeling well this morning and unable to watch Katie and Eric, I had to skip our Toastmaster’s meeting to have fun at home instead. We had a leisurely morning in our pajamas, and during Eric’s morning nap, Katie and I savored some one-on-one time together that we have both been craving. We worked several puzzles (one of her favorites is our United States puzzle—she loves maps and globes), and read some of our longer books that do not quite captivate Eric yet.

When it was time to pick up some of our toys, Katie asked the question mothers long to hear, “What would you like me to pick up?” Woo hoo! This is the first time she has ever asked this, and we celebrated together. I made a big happy deal of it. Clean-up went very smoothly this morning, and I was grateful.

The rest of the day we worked on art projects and with this beautiful, glorious weather, we spent most of the afternoon outside. Oh, how I love outdoor days. We ate lunch, did some art, played in the yard, watched the sky, and visited with my dad. Soaking up that lovely sunshine…

Here are some of our joyful moments today:

Katie tried on my wedding shoes this morning. She chose her whole outfit today (clothes, accessories, hair), and it is clear that she loves, loves being a girl. She was pretending to be a fairy princess with a red flower necklace of mine that I got long ago in Little Italy in New York. When I let her borrow it, I thought about how when I bought it, I had no idea that such a beloved daughter would be in my life…amazing and beautiful how life works out. We pretended the necklace was magic, and we made up a little song to go with it: “Little flower necklace/Close to my heart/All of your goodness/Please impart.” (We learned what “impart” means). It helps to have a pretend narrative going when we’re getting dressed.

Oh my goodness, my cousin Jed gave us one of the best gifts EVER! My Giant Busy Box by Alex Toys. I would give this gift in a heartbeat. There are sixteen different crafts all prepped and ready for doing—so perfect for a busy mom with a child who loves art!!! Since all the materials are present and ready for use, I get to do the fun part of teaching (makes me miss my classroom sometimes!), and Katie gets to dive in immediately. We opened the box today and were just so thrilled… We made a dog project and a tissue paper fish, enjoying the sunshine. Easy clean-up, too—since it all fits in the box. Glue is also provided, and everything is pre-cut and ready to punch out, so no scissors are necessary. Awesome, awesome gift.

Katie explains to Eric what she is making.

Katie’s tissue paper fish. So much fun for both of us (fun for me to instruct and lead, and fun for her to do on her own).

 

Then it was time for the swings… Eric’s first official swing (I had suggested it once to him a couple of months ago, but he didn’t want to be in it back then). Today he really enjoyed himself!

Katie gently swings her brother. I love that they are so close in age…I can see the magic between them, even in how they look at each other.

The swing is yummy!! Mmmmmm!

Boppa gave Eric his first taste of apple, and Eric found the food he likes best so far. Apples….yummmmmmy! Boppa cut a big piece from his apple for Eric to suck on and gum a bit, and Eric did not want to relinquish it. I had some applesauce on hand…oh my! Eric had just finished a big bowl of oatmeal, but when he tried the applesauce, he gobbled it!

All tired out…Eric is napping at this moment. He loves his giraffe, especially today. He fell asleep while we three were sitting all in a row and reading books. Joy is often so simple…

 

Today was a beautiful day in Southern California—warm, clear, fragrant with the promise of springtime. The perfect day, in fact, to celebrate Christmas with my Nana and our family.

Originally, Bill and I thought we might surprise Nana on Christmas Eve on our way to dinner that night. There has never been a Christmas when I have not spent at least part of it with Nana. When we received the call, though, telling us that Grandpa Yoder had taken a turn for the worse, we drove immediately to the hospital and knew that Christmas with Nana would need to be shared on a different day.

She left her tree decorated, and we could see it through the slider window as we all ate lunch outside by the pool today. Aunt Jenny and Aunt Anna set up the ping pong table and found a new model of the old Toss Across game, which we set up for Violet and Katie. We all enjoyed the time outside, time with family. It was still Christmas, because we were all together. Yes, the kiddos may have been in rompers. Yes, we ate sandwiches instead of prime rib. Yes, we all broke a sweat in the hot sun playing ping pong. Yet, it was just as full of the Christmas spirit as any time we’ve been together on the holiday. What a blessing to know that Christmas can truly last all year in the heart, and in the gathering of family.

Eric was able to take his first “generations” picture. The four of us have been together before, but we had yet to all be pictured together. I remember on that last visit with Grandpa Yoder at his home in November, it crossed my mind to take a “generations” picture…but I didn’t get around to it that day, and I thought “We’ll have another chance soon.” I wish we had one of all four of us, like we do for Katie.

Eric met Great-Aunt Jenny today. If Eric had been a girl, we had decided that he was going to be named “Jennifer” after her.

Eric and his great-grandmother, June Mitchell.

Learning how to play Toss Across.

How fortunate we are to have had this day together, to make these memories. In a life where we must say goodbye to those we love all too often, happiness is taking time with one another while we have each other here.

Gather your joy in your family, and celebrate the love that spans generations and years.

I am starting to catch up on some of my recent pictures. Here is a little peek at what the kiddos have been up to!

Yesterday morning we put on a ballet, so Katie decorated her brother in a costume.

Katie puts a crown on Eric.

Oh, to be the little brother! I used to dress my little brother up, too. Privileges of being the older one!

In the past couple of weeks, Eric found his feet.

Feet are fun!

I remember when Katie discovered her feet…time goes way too fast!

Katie and I discovered a “new” park—all the play structures in our neighborhood are in the process of being replaced with newer models. We had fun!

Today we had chores and errands to do: grocery shopping, laundry, etc.

Katie likes to use the little shopping cart at the store to help me shop!

Katie ponders which beans to buy (we needed both black beans and pinto beans today).

Katie likes to look at the cards in the card aisle.

After picking out produce, we headed for check-out.

Katie was proud of herself and felt like a big girl today. Not only did she help with all the shopping and crossing out the items on our list, but she picked out her outfit all by herself today: dress, hairdo, shoes, accessories. She loves the freedom to embrace options and choices. Big girl!

The kiddos and I had a playdate this afternoon at my friend Sana’s house. I have met few people as genuinely open and welcoming as Sana is, so full of light and so able to incorporate anyone into the natural good flow of energy through her home. It is a true spiritual gift Sana has: bringing others into her good word. The busyness of her home is a happy busyness. Children play and learn; there is a freedom to be oneself. There are many things to learn from Sana…

She is a connector. I first noticed this when I met her in Toastmasters and then from reading and editing her blog. She is the kind of person everyone loves to be around: positive, non-judging, uplifting, sincere, comforting, gracious.

Sana reminded me today of how important and beautiful it is to connect with others. Life is brighter, more creative, and honest when we do. Some of us will work on our ability to connect all of our lives; those, like Sana, who are graced with the natural gift of it, can teach us how. I think it starts with authenticity, and using one’s authenticity and warmth to bring out the best in other people.

Katie, and Eric, and I had such a fun day! I want so much to write more tonight about the way that the Universe gives bits of light to us in the forms of people, and we have only to listen to uncover great truths. Yet I am needed elsewhere at the moment by one of my children. So, until next time, thank you for connecting with me, my friends who read these words.

Let us gather our joy by connecting with others and bringing out their inner lights.

This past year, I became a believer in love at first sight. Before Eric was born, Katie had plans for him to live outside in the fort of her swing set (or glued to the ceiling of the laundry room, her words). Yet from the moment she first saw him, I witnessed a bond develop between them that I know will last their whole lives. She immediately kissed him and held him when she came to see us in the hospital, and her eyes shined with love. She has been loyal and true to him ever since, making up songs about how much she loves him and patiently sharing her mommy and waiting her turn for things that she never had to wait for when she was an only child.

Eric loves her in return. The magic between them is tangible. They both want to see each other first thing in the morning. I am so glad they are as close as they are in age, because they will have the chance to be in the same phases of life together: both teenagers, both in college, even both married and having children. Katie says she never wants to live far away from Eric. To see them together is to see sweetness embodied. He laughs and laughs at her three-year-old antics and expressions. My main goal as a parent is to foster this between them, so that they will always have each other even when I am one day gone.

Of course before Eric was born, I wondered about how Katie would feel sharing her toys. To see her willing and generous heart has been a blessing. Even baby toys that were her favorites, she shares. She includes Eric in our imagination play: he was Mr. Smee this morning. She shares her figurines and princesses and blocks.

It helps that some of Eric’s Christmas toys appeal to Katie, too. Some of those toys Santa picked very intentionally so that Eric could share them and offer reciprocity (like a set of duplo Legos—he can’t play with them now too well, but he can share them and it offers him an “in” to mix with Katie’s Legos later, if technically he owns half of our total Legos). Santa addressed some of their toys to both of them. Santa is not above a little strategic planning to foster the bond. 😉

This morning, we took out our Mega Blocks. Katie has a pink set from her first birthday, and Eric got a fire truck with primary colored Mega Blocks from his grandparents for Christmas. We played together, building a boat, and then I helped Katie to build a tower. “We have twice as many blocks when we share, don’t we?” I emphasized. “Let’s see how high we can build the tower now!”

We managed to build it a little bit taller than Katie’s height.

Eventually it toppled! Time to start anew!

Dressing for the day, Katie and Eric had another sweet moment. Katie shared her “cozy” with her little brother. The “cozy” is the blanket around here. Extremely important. I have to sneak it away sometimes just to wash it.

Eric seemed to know the significance of having “cozy” put on him, because he got a HUGE smile!

Sweet Eric face, so happy to be with his sister.

So, love at first sight does exist, it turns out. I might never have believed in it, except to see it in its pure form: between two little siblings, so pure in their childlike bond.

I gathered my joy through the love between my children today, and I am thankful.