Yes, I did a lot of knitting this year. There are other projects completed during this holiday season that are not even represented here (such as a baby hat for a friend's unborn child, another child's hat for a friend's daughter and such). But I am not the only one who was busy creating gifts. My sister made a family of Monsters:
To see my family represented in Monster form in closer view:
I think you should be able to figure out who Dave is and who I am. The Pumpkin is Pink and Lovebug is yellow/orange. The Monsters were a hit with everyone, but I think Lovebug may have been the most excited out of all of us. She saw her Monster sitting on top of her present and grabbed for her immediately, ripping her off the package, and promptly putting her in her mouth. Now, that's love!
I just left Lovebug's room. And my eyes are a little moist.
In the last couple of weeks she has taken huge milestones in her gross motor skills. She had been starting to lag in development, but as babies often do, she suddenly began crawling on all fours, could sit up on her own, and also pull herself to standing. The standing thing is still very new, and when she's up, she is never sure how to get herself back down.
She was in her bed screaming. Again. She had pulled herself to standing, but of course, did not know how to get back down (have I mentioned the word 'again' yet?). I finally relented and went in there to find this petite little girl standing in her crib clinging to the rails, her eyes barely managing to peek over the top bar with tears streaming down her chubby little cheeks. When she saw me a sudden wave of relief washed over that precious little face and a small smile began to spread, revealing her two little teeth (the second one brand new). I picked her up, changed her diaper, restarted her lullaby music, held her against my chest, and began to rock with her while standing. She sank her little head into my shoulder, clinging to the owl I had knit for her just prior to her birth. The owl that kept her company in the NICU when I could not. She was still and hushed in my arms and completely relaxed. She felt safe and secure and happy.
It is this moment that I wish I could put in a bottle and pull it back out whenever I need it. I want to be able to relive this moment with my Veda when she yells and screams at me that she hates me or tells me I am being "so unfair" when she enters her surly preteen years. I want to relive this moment when she gets her heart broken for the first time and I realize there is nothing I can do to make her feel better. I want to relive this moment when she leaves the house for college, graduates, gets married . . . I will always want to have this moment with my baby back.
But I cannot bottle this, or any other moment, and take it back out whenever I need to or want to. I only have my memories, which I can transcribe into words. And these words can be recorded in writing that may live for years and years. This is the only bottle I have, and I hope to keep filling it.
For Sylvia's second birthday she received a set of bunk beds from her Grandma and Grumpy. A few weeks after her birthday Dave had the day off work and he put together her new bed, while I took the girls to the mall. I had been talking to Sylvia about her "big girl" bed for a while to get her prepared for her transition from crib to twin bed. But no coaching was needed: She was SUPER excited when she got home and saw her new bed.
Since then, we have been playing "Find Our Child" each night when we go in to check on her and change her diaper. She loves her bed, but she also loves her new freedom. These are a few of the places/ways we have found her sleeping in the last couple of weeks:
On this day in history, in 2004, Dave and I had been married for one day. I was coming down with strep, and we were surrounded by our wedding presents from the day before. Today, six years later, I am recovering from bronchitis and we are surrounded by laundry. But on both days we were/are sitting by our Christmas tree:
Our original tree had been purchased the morning of our marriage by Dave and his best man, Dan (his cousin). It was a pre-lit, multi-light tree that stood 6' tall. After our wedding reception we began to head to our awkwardly shaped, third floor apartment located in Heritage Hill of Grand Rapids. But as we approached the interstate I realized we had left the quintessential Christmas tree decorating cd back at the Baert Baron Mansion (where we had been wed). We made a quick turn-around and after safely securing Merry Christmas (recently retitled White Christmas) with Bing Crosby, we headed home (my new home), and decorated our first Christmas tree.
Our current Christmas tree stands 7.5' tall. It is not pre-lit, and I wrestled with the three strands of lights I put on it for quite a while yesterday afternoon-- after Dave had to make an emergency trip to buy more lights. I tripped over cats and baby toys and had to keep reminding the two-year-old that Christmas trees are for looking at and not touching. But later in the evening, after both children were finally in bed, we popped in old Bing and decorated our tree together. Earlier in the evening we watched the video of our wedding ceremony during which I realized three things: 1. Our pastor was long-winded in prayer. 2. I was gorgeous back then. And 3. My love for Dave was overflowing, just as it is now.
We had another Christmas tree in between that first one and our current:
This is the tree that saw us through our last apartment. It is about 3.5' tall, takes only one strand of lights, and was perfect for our little living room with its multitude of bookshelves. This tree was used during our last Christmases as a family of only two. Those were special days together and comprise probably the most relaxing period of our relationship to date. We were very comfortable living with one another in tight quarters, we were both in good places vocationally, and we had easy access to a great coffee shop downtown. We had three cats, three birds and three fish, but were contemplating adding a human to the mix. It was here that our journey toward parenthood began.
I am not sure when this little tree came into our home, but I seem to remember it sitting on our dresser in our spacious, third floor, over looking downtown apartment. While my love for Dave was abounding and our relationship strong, I most closely associate stress (and then subsequent freedom) with this time in our relationship. I was working a job that was slowly killing me, and I came home from one of the worst working days ever on a Saturday in November. I told Dave that I needed to quit. This is one of the largest leaps of faith we have ever taken as a couple. I was the primary breadwinner for our household. Dave had been unemployed for much of the year and was currently working an hourly wage job with unreliable hours. But we both agreed that I needed to be out of my current situation. We went to the calendar and circled a date six months down the road and agreed that I would be done with my job by this time. We began to down size everything and I was able to quit two months ahead of schedule. While our finances were painfully small, we were both much happier (and healthier).
Perhaps this was a remarkable turning point for us. It was here that we both knew our priorities would always include relationships at the top. We knew that time truly beat out money and that happiness could be found by instilling love and energy into friends, family and most importantly, each other.
Guess what? We are still painfully poor, but we are remarkably happy and love radiates from this house. It is seen in the smiles of my children, the hugs between Dave and his girls, and the late evenings talking with my husband. It is evident in the toys strewn about, the crayon marks on the cupboards, and a dinner table covered in crumbs. Our animals are content and our door is always open to welcome anyone in. I love this life, and I love my husband for deciding to head with me on this journey.
We live in the country and have a little zoo: Three indoor cats (Audrey, Edgar, and Orange), too many outdoor cats, and our little parrot lovebird named Duncan. Our daughter, Sylvia, was born in October 2008; our second daughter, Veda, was born in January 2010; and our third daughter, Guinevere "Evvie," was born November 2011.