Evenings like this

Our Trunk or Treat outing was a success. We decorated our trunk with a Red Flyer wagon, mums and pumpkins. We roasted our veggie dogs. We handed out obscene amounts of candy. Corin and daddy went on a hayride while Lina and I fielded the stragglers. And our kids were absolutely the cutest and best costumed there. You should believe me, because I am clearly an objective source on the matter.

But, really.

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We aren’t members of the church that hosted the event and don’t know too many of the Mother’s Day Out parents yet, but both kids had a blast, which made it fun for us. That’s one of the great perks of parenthood; you get to enjoy this stuff through your kids’ eyes. Thank God for evenings like this.

Introducing the new Sharp Family Chariot

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That’s right; it’s a minivan. And man, do I love it.

Yes, we were one of three – count them, three – white Honda Odysseys at Mother’s Day Out pick-up time today (four if you count the gray one).  And yes, I realize there is now zero chance I will be mistaken for anything other than a mom for the foreseeable future, whether my children are riding along or not. But the thing is, I am a mom. And I really do love my slightly-scratched-up ’08 minivan, for more reasons than you want me to list. Corin also loves it. He thinks automatic sliding doors are a clear indication we have arrived, and he’s waiting anxiously for our first road trip to test the DVD player.

Negotiating the purchase of our new vehicle in the final minutes before picking our kids up from school turned out to be just one hectic moment in a week full of them. We’re taking things easy this week after fabulously exciting visits from Mimi and friends from Florida and a much-anticipated wedding of very dear friends. We do have a Trunk or Treat event tomorrow, however, and I will absolutely be sharing the obligatory photos of my costumed children (an angel and a cloud, if you were curious).

You think there’s any chance I can keep my still-coughing-up-a-lung son from gorging himself on Halloween candy over the next few days? No? Ah, well. ‘Tis the season.

That sweet face – 2 years

I promised some time ago to do an update on Lina’s milestones at two years old. I’ll get to that in a moment.

We’ve been a little crazy trying to get fully settled into the new home now that the old one is finally sold. I do a lot of craigslist buying, which means a lot of running all over creation to look at furniture that may or may not be a reasonable option. My worst experience so far was the woman who told me her couch was in good to excellent condition, stood me up for one appointment, and then on my second try showed me to a couch that had been utterly destroyed by her four children and claimed to just now be noticing the stains. For all its faults, craigslist has allowed us to buy a lot of decent quality furniture on a very tight budget. The solid farmhouse dining chairs were a Goodwill find, although I have yet to get them refinished. Ultimately, I find it very rewarding to piece rooms together from bargain finds. There are a lot of dream projects that will have to wait for a later time, but we’re at least gradually leaving behind the “just-moved” look.

And now, to Lina. Our sweet girl is 25 months, and I owe an update on her progress.

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At two years, Eline:

  • Is fiercely independent. She does not want to be told what to do, and she does not want help doing it! Her “leave me alone” gesture has become very familiar.
  • Speaks and/or signs about 50 words and tested in the low average category for expressive language. She tested a little lower (slightly below the average range) for receptive, due to challenges with things like following simple directions.
  • Crawls at warp speed, pulls up with ease, walks quickly pushing a toy, and has stood independently for up to five seconds, but has yet to take independent steps. Her physical therapist says all the strength and skills are there – she just has to work up the motivation and confidence to try it. She seems to be more focused on language development for now, which is okay with us.
  • Is a fantastic sleeper, putting herself to sleep for at least a two-hour nap in the afternoon and 11 1/2-plus hours a night uninterrupted.
  • Was 24 pounds and 32 3/4 in. long at her two-year checkup. She wears mostly 12-18 month and some 24 month clothes and size 4 shoes.
  • Is starting to come out of a very picky eating stage. She is gradually eating more veggies and fruits again, although the veggies usually still have to be snuck into her food or wind up being cleaned off the floor by the dog. Her favorite foods are cheese (a word she signs and says often), pretty much any kind of bread, avocado, beans, banana, watermelon, snacks like crackers or nuts, and anything sweet. Throwing food is still a real problem, and mealtimes are terribly messy affairs. (See exhibit A below.)
  • Drinks very well from a cup but is not able to effectively use a spoon or fork. She does try to get a little food in her mouth with a utensil occasionally, which is progress from the days when every utensil went straight on the floor. She refuses to let anyone else feed her, which contributes to the ridiculous messes. (Oatmeal? Beans? Again, see exhibit A below.)
  • Will stack two blocks before losing interest and knocking the tower down. Can manipulate stacking toys (like the classic plastic rings on the peg) very handily. Has gotten much better about placing objects in a container rather than just tossing them across the room. Throwing is still a problem, however.
  • Has shown some improvement with hair pulling, although it continues to be a major challenge, particularly with new people or in new or overwhelming environments. I can’t tell you the number of children and adults she has terrorized with her hair grip of death, accompanied with what we affectionately refer to as her “rebel yell.”
  • Loves books. She’s pretty good at entertaining herself and will often be found surrounded by a pile of books, pretending to “read” one to herself. If you sit on the floor, she is likely to get a book and crawl into your lap to be read to. Her attention span can still be a challenge, but with encouragement, she will sit through a complete story. She can identify and point to a fair number of animals or objects, and will often grab my finger and use it to point to objects in a picture.
  • Loves her brother and tries to imitate him at every opportunity, although she’ll also push him away if he appears to be encroaching on her story time or any activity she doesn’t want interrupted. (Corin adores his sister. He often goes into her room in the morning before I’m even out of bed to talk to her and be near her. He certainly picks on her and bullies her, but he usually loves to have her near and is visibly proud of her when we’re in public. “Lina is two,” he’ll announce to anyone who looks at her. Yesterday he made up a song with the lyrics, “My sister is awesome.”)
  • Loves to be tickled, cuddled, kissed and played with. She has this way of wrapping her arms around my neck and melting into me that just about stops my heart every time. She blows kisses and lights up with the best smiles, and you can’t not laugh along with her giggles. She has a great sense of humor and makes the funniest faces, including a new one lately that involves a nose wrinkle.
  • Is very attached to mommy and daddy but has mostly gotten over separation anxiety and will go to other people, especially familiar family members or friends, without a fuss. She may still cry when I leave her at Mother’s Day Out or therapy, but it’s usually very short-lived.
  • Adores music and will usually clap or dance along. She knows the motions to several songs (“The Wheels on the Bus,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It”) and has recently started trying to sing them herself.
  • Seems to really enjoy Mother’s Day Out one day a week, although she naps much less, if at all, while she’s there.
  • Is curious and active and can find trouble in a hurry. Yesterday, she opened the changing table cupboard and discovered the box of trash bags for the diaper pail. She had every bag pulled out of the box and flung around her room by the time I discovered her. She loves to pull the covers off the HVAC floor vents; we’ve lost at least one toy that we know of down the air duct.
  • Is generally a happy, funny, spunky, affectionate kid.

I was rocking Lina before her nap today and realized I have to stretch to fit her head under my chin. Her growth and milestones happen more slowly than for many typical kids, and, as I’ve said before, that sometimes makes it easy to forget that she’s still growing up very fast. I feel such pride in her as we work hard on her next milestones. What a gift, being her mother.

 

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Black beans for lunch, or a scene from a horror film?

 

The gods we have made

A good friend posted this link earlier today: How American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage. It is well worth the short read. It got me thinking about some broader issues.

Our society is struggling with a very serious expectations problem. It’s not just parenting; it’s life. For your first clue, look no further than the continually expanding expense and ritual associated with weddings and baby showers. From the get-go, we set up the expectation that marriage and parenthood (and on a lesser scale, other life accomplishments and milestones) will bring us bone-deep happiness and fulfillment. We get the message they are SUPPOSED to. So what does it mean when marriage and career and parenthood turn out to be really hard?

As a commenter on my friend’s Facebook post mentioned, it’s very similar to the problem of body image. We are comparing our lives to an unattainable, airbrushed ideal that doesn’t exist. I think previous generations may have understood better than we do: life isn’t about the perfect marriage and perfect family (or perfect house, etc.). It’s about making wise choices, working really hard, and living according to a guiding set of principles and values.

I find my purpose in serving a God who loves me passionately. He asks me to pass that love on to others. When I put my focus there, it keeps the rest of life in its proper perspective. My world isn’t shaken when the kids are driving me nuts and my husband and I argue. Life is hard! We can save each other a lot of heartache by being honest: marriage and family are so important, and yes, there is fulfillment there. But they will not supply your need for purpose and meaning. They shouldn’t have to, because the authors of the parenting article are right: That’s when we elevate these institutions to the status of religion.

We’ve gotten a warped picture of happiness. We need to unplug, stop comparing, and stop straining for an unattainable ideal. Happiness is a choice we make because we believe in things bigger than ourselves, because we find purpose in serving larger ideals, and because we understand what really matters. I think deep down, we all know this, but we get lost in the beautiful illusions of perfection. It’s okay to have lovely family photos and to honor the joy we take in loved ones (and careers and hobbies…). But I’m pleading with you, friends: Don’t look to these things for purpose. It will leave you frustrated, empty and depressed. There is a better way to live. There is ultimate contentment in knowing a deeper purpose and keeping everything else in its place.