Sunday, May 21, 2017

Four Incredible Years


I can still remember standing on the left side of the congregation at First Family Church singing Kristian Stanfill’s One Thing Remains with tears streaming down my face. This state of emotion was almost guaranteed anytime his song came on five years ago. Five years ago our hearts yearned for a child to have and to hold. Five years ago in 2012 our hope was growing weary as we had been trying to have a child since 2008. Singing and meditating on Stanfill’s lyrics brought hope and reassurance of our God who loves us through any high or low in life. He loves us so much that He sent his son to die in our place – that is an amazing kind of love. We knew that no matter what, child or no child, that God’s love for us would hold us up.

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
Yes, one thing remains.

Your love never fails,
It never gives up
It never runs out on me.
 
We are so grateful to serve a God who is bigger than our trials and mountains that we face. He has it all under control – we have to learn to trust in His plan and timing. Fortunately for us, His perfect timing came in October of 2012 when I found out I was pregnant; and two weeks later that it was with twins. We were elated and thanked God for these blessings. Now these two little blessings are on the eve of their fourth birthday. FOUR! That is nearly as long as we prayed for them – which has gone drastically quicker than the years of praying and waiting. Nonetheless, we are amazed daily at the miracles that walk, dance, run, and jump around our house.

 We often play music in the background at home and we also have it on in the van when going to and fro. In the past couple of months Grace and Kalei have been requesting to listen to One Thing Remains. They picked up on the lyrics quickly and joyfully sing along in the van or in the house. My favorite memory thus far of them and this song is when they chose to put on a show for us in the basement. Cole, Bo, and I eagerly awaited this show and had no idea what it would all entail. Kalei burst onto the scene standing on a brown pillow as her stage and began signing, “Your love never fails it never give up, it never runs out on me.” As Kalei sang, Grace danced and twirled around and even stopped to get high-fives from the crowd. When Kalei’s solo was over it was Grace’s turn to take the stage on the brown pillow. She proceeded to also sing, “Your love never fails it never give up, it never runs out on me.” Kalei spun around and showcased her dance moves while Grace sang. I about melted. As I sat there on our couch it was surreal to see the song that we sang, meditating on, and praised God with had come to life in front of our eyes. When Grace and Kalei concluded their shows we told them just how awesome and special the song is to us. Now, when it comes on or they request to hear it they often remind us, “This is the song that you sang when you were praying for us to be born.” Needless to say, we love some Kristian Stanfill around here.
 
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On the eve of their fourth birthday I was curious to hear what the girls think of each other. I asked Grace, “What do you love most about your sister, Kalei?” She responded, “When she makes me happy.” I asked, “How does she make you happy?” Grace said, “When she listens to my ideas and when she talks to me.”

I asked Kalei, “What do you love most about your sister, Grace?” She responded, “That she lets me play with her.” I asked, “What do you like to do with her?” Kalei said, “I like playing with the princess castle with her.”

They are best friends, yet very different and unique. Their responses to the questions I asked showcases their personalities pretty well. Grace prefers to be the leader and make up most of the games they play together; while Kalei is more flexible and goes along with the flow easier. I would say 80 percent of the time they play together nicely, while the other 20 percent there is a feud of some sort. The conversations they have while playing crack me up. They are creative and have big imaginations; it is fun to see how the make believe together. Differences aside, they both love their sister, and truly are best friends.



I love birthdays! Tomorrow we will celebrate Grace and Kalei from sun up (because why would anyone ever sleep past 6:30 anyway?) to sun down. They have requested a butterfly cake – so we will see what I can pull off!

We are so grateful that God chose us to be the parents of these girls. They fill up our hearts with joy day in and day out. Praise the Lord for answered prayers.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” – Genesis 18:14

 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21







Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry

It is interesting to me that the only time I see or hear the word merry is in conjunction with Christmas. Pairing a word that carries so much spirit and joy naturally belongs with Christmas.

I cherish the moments when Grace and Kalei merrily play together. Just like any adult, their merriment meter varies with their attitude, growth, food intake, and amount of sleep. For twins who are with each other 24/7, the merry times outweigh the quarrelsome times. One of my favorite lines that they recently have been saying is, "when I get bigger like a Mommy, I can do that." Of course, this phrase comes after I tell them they are not old enough to do something (i.e. put on makeup, drink coffee, etc). I get a good chuckle every time they say it.

Here is an update on Grace & Kalei’s world of likes/dislikes:
  • Arts and craft time. We have attempted to do an advent craft each day. Grace tends to stay longer to work on coloring her page just right, or to fully saturate glue into each corner of her pink construction paper. She is definitely more of our perfectionistJ Kalei likes to make one or two lines on her page and then flits off onto something new. She is definitely more of a free spirit. 

  • They do not like to be told, ‘no.’ Then again, who does? As toddlers who cannot reason very well (or at all), this makes for some interesting scenarios when they do not get their way. For example, Kalei’s meltdown rant consists of stomping her right foot while saying, ‘no, no, no.’ When Grace is throwing a fit she stomps her feet back and forth while back pedaling. Quite humorous when watching; not humorous when trying to parent and teach emotions and how to deal with them.
  • Wearing a dress DAILY. This is the exact opposite of any childhood memory I have of wearing dresses. I am doing my best to embrace their love for all things 'girly.' This includes putting on tiaras, princess slippers, and carrying wands around the house. 

  • Grace does not like her food to touch, and she will strategically eat on thing at a time. Just the other night we had chicken ravioli and she requested that I take the chicken out of the ravioli. It is also a hoot to watch her eat a panini. You can imagine how she disassembled the sandwich. At least she does eat it:) 
  • Playing hide and seek. Numerous times during the day they will ask Cole or me to come hide with them. The best is when they want me to hide with both of them under the covers on their bed, and no one is here to find/seek us. They are still getting the whole concept of the game figured out.

  •  Kalei does not like help when brushing her teeth. In fact, tonight she had a major meltdown because neither Cole nor I could help her brush her teeth. She kept saying, ‘me do it.’ She displays such an independent nature for a two and a half year old!
  • Taking care of their baby dolls. One of my favorites is when Grace puts her baby to sleep for a nap on her bed. This is only possible if she covers the baby up with all 27 of the blankets she can find. Another favorite is watching Kalei strategically swaddle her baby in a swaddle sack and give her a ride in the stroller.
  • Movie night. We have started incorporating this into our weekends. We all love the big screen in the basement, popcorn, and extra snuggles on the big brown couch. 
  • Building towers. They like to make them into castles and use their little people to scale the walls. Sometimes they even do relay games with the blocks. Of course, the best part is knocking down the towers.

  • Taking care of their baby brother. They are such sponges. I have to smile when I hear them say things like, "here you go Bo," "it's ok Bo, "what do you think Bo?" These are similar phrases I use with him and when they interact w him they are like little parrots. Kalei is still obsessed with Bo's head. I bet she kisses/sniffs his head 50 times a day. The poor little guy has no personal space! Grace likes to give him hugs, which sometimes leads to her knocking him over. She is so sensitive - if he falls and starts crying she runs off sobbing because she feels bad. A recent imaginative find for them was piling all of their blankets in their closet and they told us they were going on an adventure. They invited Bo to come along too:)



Bo is a merry boy. I thank God daily for giving us such a happy, content baby. He is most entertained when in full view of his sisters. My favorite Bo face is when he registers that he looks at me and does a full body smile – this is when he smiles and shakes his head back and forth while leaning back. Too cute. Among his newest accomplishments is being able to sit up. It amazes me to think that he is already at this developmental stage. He just started to find his voice – so fun! He said, “DaDa” for the first time yesterday. Cole was beaming from ear to ear. So far in the realm of solid foods he likes to eat sweet potatoes and peas.   In light of teething - he has two bottom teeth and what looks to be two more coming in! He has been such a trooper with cutting teeth, though. Since he started teething he wants to put all things in his mouth, especially skin! Beware of extra ‘kisses’ if you are near him:)




Cole is in his ninth year of teaching PE at Indian Hills Jr. High in West Des Moines. He keeps busy with coaching 8th grade girls/boys basketball, 10th grade baseball, and piloting his first year of coaching 8th grade archery. Being an avid Hawkeye fan he is naturally pumped that they are going to the Rose Bowl. He had a blast getting to watch the Hawks play in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. Although he is kept busy with teaching/coaching, we know his heart is with us; he eagerly jumps into his role as Daddy as soon as he walks in the door.  Grace, Kalei, and Bo are so fortunate to have such an amazing Daddy.

I am in my third year of staying home with our kids. This job is rewarding, challenging, and humbling all at the same time. I have learned that my merry mood can sometimes be altered as quickly as a tantrum erupts:) 
 At the end of the day there are always moments that capture my heart that easily make it all worth it. In the middle of it all I am beyond grateful for the three miracles the Lord has granted us. I have started doing some personal training again at the YMCA Healthy Living Center. It has been a nice mix up in scenery for me where I can interact with people and also tap into my passion for fitness.

I was recently listening to a podcast by Chuck Swindoll. The premise of his message was about John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." As I ponder the true meaning of the Christmas season I am speechless when I think about how much love God has for every single person in the world. I was moved by what Augustine said, "God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love." In the big scheme of things, if I were the only person in this world, God still would have sent Jesus to be born in a manger, live as a man, and die on a cross for my sins. He loves me THAT much. The best part about His story is that Jesus loves each and every human being THAT much. Now that is something to be merry about. 

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Cole, Chelsey, Grace (2.5), Kalei (2.5), & Bo (6 months)





21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:21-23

Monday, August 3, 2015

The New Normal

Three years ago at this time Cole and I were strolling through Dr. Seuss land at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. We watched as children were easily entertained by The Cat in The Hat ride. At this point in time we were going on four years of trying to have children; we longed to be able to take our child/ren to a park someday. Little did we know that within three years we would be blessed with three children. My, has our landscape changed! Three years ago I was hopeful that the Lord would grant us one child at some point; I would have never guessed that we would be blessed with three in three years. 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21

Bo joined the team on June 5th, and he has been the perfect addition to our family. I am so thankful he is a happy, healthy boy. He seems to be a good mix of both Grace and Kalei when they were newborn babes: he likes to sleep longer stretches like Kalei and he likes to utilize his vocal cords when upset like Grace;) Opposite from the girls, he likes tummy time, sleeping in a swaddler, and dislikes being strapped in his car seat. Which means my new place in the van is right next to him. Cole is getting used to the vacant co-pilot seat.

Our 'old normal' consisted of Mommy spending all day with a Grace and Kalei. I got to pick them up, hug them or kiss them whenever they or I wanted to. I was able to drive them to the store just the three of us, and we were able to play outside any time of the day. I cherish and love every second I had with just the twins. 

In the trenches of our new normal, Grace and Kalei have been good with Bo. They tend to want to be around him by touching/smelling his hair, holding him, or kissing him. 


There are also times when their big blue eyes look up at me and demand, "Mommy put Bo in his rocker." They still love Mommy to hold them and snuggle them.

The toughest scenario is when I am nursing Bo and they both have to go potty. I know as a mom I am supposed to be able to multi task like a champ, however, I have learned it is probably not best to try and nurse a baby while trying to pull pants down and assist a two year old in the bathroom! This (potty training) has been the hardest part of our transition from two to three kids. Unfortunately, they both regressed. We figured this may happen, but hoped it would not last long. We are hoping they are on the upswing of having less accidents each day. 

In addition to being more independent by going potty in the big girl potty, Grace and Kalei have shown us how they definitely have a mind of their own. For example, I have started keeping a tally of how many times I have to ask them to do something before they finally comply. Before complying I typically see them A) ignore me, B) run away or C) throw a complete tantrum. It takes a prayerful mindset to stay patient with children, especially two year olds. I like what my friend Tammy recently said about parenting, "Before you raise your voice to your child, first whisper to God." This is great advice for me to follow daily. A verse I readily cry out to God is from Galatians chapter five – the fruits of the spirit. Being a parent is so rewarding, but also challenging. My prayer is that I can display these character traits daily.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

The twins’ personalities are becoming more pronounced, as well. For example, Grace will organize her books in a line on the floor and Kalei will eagerly knock them over.

Cole and I had to hold back laughing as Kalei pointed to Grace's book piles and said, "I want to knock them over." We told her that is not kind. And she replied, "I WILL knock them over." This scenario ended up with Kalei (finally) knocking them over when we weren't looking, Grace in tears, and Kalei apologizing. Apologizing occurs frequently, especially when they think they need to have what the other one is playing with. 

What has been fun to hear is the increase in conversations between Grace and Kalei. Many of them are directed by Grace trying to run the show;) Kalei is more of a free spirit and does not mind playing independently. They truly are the best of friends and enjoy being together.



Bo has been such a sweet baby. His smile and dimples just melt me every time. There is something different about snuggling a baby boy…the best way I can describe this attraction is that it is like I am back in junior high and staring at a boy that  I have a crush on. I just love staring at him.


His preferred napping spot is right next to Mommy or Daddy. Thank goodness for baby wearing! Having a hand or both hands free is essential with toddlers running around.


Another piece to our new normal has been the increase of time Cole gets to spend with just Grace and Kalei. They love taking special one on one trips with him to get ice cream
J Our new normal would not flow smoothly without the teamwork and support of my loving husband. He has been awesome on all fronts. The answer to all of these questions has been a resounding, “Yes, I would love to.”
 "Can you take the girls to the store?"
"Can you get up every morning and take care of the girls?"
"Can you go buy me a donut?!"
"Can you walk with Bo even though he may cry in your face?"
"Can you change Bo's dirty diaper?"
"Can you tuck the girls into bed?"
"Can you fix us supper?"
He is a patient and loving father and husband. It has been a joy seeing him bond with and take care of our children.



And finally, here is a snap shot of my new normal on a daily basis. 

Bo is content after eating with Mommy, Grace is ready to cover Bo with any blanket she can find, Kalei is bouncing off after sniffing Bo’s hair, and then there is me – smiling with my arms full and heart joyful as I embrace my new normal. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Changes

When I truly stop and reflect on my life up until this point, specifically my life when trying to have a child/ren, that portion seems just like yesterday. This past week was especially near and dear to my heart as it was National Infertility Awareness Week. My heart goes out to anyone who is undergoing the struggle of infertility. If this is you, please know that you are not alone. I thought it was
uncommon for people to have infertility problems until I was one of the statistics. Once I was a part of it – I realized that MANY people struggle to have a child. The journey to parenthood was certainly a season of growth in my life. I am thankful for the extra time Cole and I had together and time we had to grow closer to the Lord. In the end, I will always be a ‘statistic’ in the struggle with infertility, however, I am beyond grateful for the blessings of life that God granted us in our twin girls.

On the flip side of struggling to have a child – the Lord once again left me speechless when I became pregnant in October without any sort of medical intervention. My first thought was, ‘Wow, that happened fast.’ My second thought was, ‘Oh my word – the baby and girls are going to be very close in age!’ My third thought was, ‘Praise the Lord for blessing us so quickly and thank you for showing us once again the work of Your mighty hand.’

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

I realize a Praise to the Lord should have been my first thought! I was truly speechless and in awe of the timing, especially with my track record of over five years trying to have the girls. Carrying this baby has been different in many ways than carrying twins. First of all, since the girls happily expanded my uterus – it feels as if this little boy has all the room in the world to MOVE ALL OF THE TIME. The second and most obvious difference is that this time around I am pregnant while taking care of toddlers. It never dawned on me how much I squat/bend down to pick up a child, a toy, a thrown sippy cup, dirty clothes, dirty diapers, and on and on. All of these simple day to day tasks have become more noticeable to me the larger I have gotten! I am not na├»ve to think that life will be ‘easy’ with a newborn and two toddlers. I know that there will be many adjustments for all five of us to make. I cannot wait to meet this little guy and to see the look on Grace’s face and Kalei’s face when they get to hold their baby brother.

Miss Grace and Miss Kalei; oh, how they have captured my heart. It is hard to believe that they are nearly two years old.

Some of their high lights at 23 months old include:
-          Sleeping in their own big girl day beds. For the first week nap time to them was code for ‘play time.’
-          They shout out ‘potty’ and are practicing going potty in their big girl potty chairs. They are not potty trained yet – in my dream world this will happen before baby arrives.
-          Pumped about their new play set that Daddy built them just today!
-          Loving to play at the park. One would think they would like going down the slide the best. One of their favorite things to do besides swing is to climb up and down the stairs.
-          Singing. I love that they like to sing. Their favorites are ‘Happy Birthday,’ ‘Tomorrow,’ and ‘Let it Go.’
-          Dancing. They will bust a move to music playing; however, they have gotten very picky about what song is on. Grace’s typical line is, ‘New one.’ Meaning she insists on a new song!
-          Merry Go Round and Horsey. They love spinning around and bouncing up and down. No one plays these games better than Daddy. 
-     Trips to the library to pick out new books and sit in the reading house, of course.
-          Taking care of their baby dolls and dressing up with their purses, necklaces, and bracelets.  
-          Starting to have an opinion about what clothes they have on – already! They truly are girls.
-          Repeating. They have been putting sentences together and repeat nearly anything we say – which could interesting!












Even though they are not quite two yet - I have seen plenty of glimpses of ‘two year old behavior,’ so that part of it is not hard to believe. What keeps coming back to me are the lines I have heard from many a parent, ‘It goes so fast!’ Or, ‘Don’t blink – they will be in school!’ I just want them to be little for as long as they can. I want them to run to me because ‘Mommy makes all things better.’ I want them to snuggle for as long as possible. I want them to ask Mommy to read them books. Although many things will change in the next few months, the little girls that Grace and Kalei are becoming will always be my little babies.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflect

Christmas is a great time to reflect upon the blessings bestowed upon us. This year there certainly are not a shortage of blessings to be thankful for.

Grace and Kalei continue to light up our world day by day. I asked Cole what a few of his high lights were for the year and he simply said that each day is a high light – and he is right. As many of you know, children grow up way too fast and change by leaps and bounds daily. It has been delightful to watch them progress from babies to toddlers. It kills us not to call them babies anymore – but at heart, they will always be our babies! Lately we have noticed that Grace and Kalie repeat just about everything we say – or at least try to. They play together well, with a few token arguments here and there. They also have learned how to give hugs and kisses. It warms our hearts to see them initiate a hug with each other! They love reading books, especially anything with Elmo in it. In the basement they love their new slide and tunnel, and playing with their baby dolls. Their new game is saying, '1, 2, 3, Go' before running or zooming down the slide! At night time they get a kick out of running in their ‘unnies,’ or diapers, until bath time. This is when the silliness and giggles really come out!





 

Cole is in his eighth year of teaching PE at Indian Hills Jr. High in West Des Moines. The stories he brings home continue to bring humor to my day. He also enjoys coaching 8th grade boys and girls basketball in the winter and 10th grade baseball in the summer. He is an avid Iowa Hawkeye fan, and eagerly has shown his love for the Hawks with the girls. When they see football on TV they get excited and say, "Hawkeyes!"

I continue to stay home with the girls and am loving my new full time position as Mommy. I enjoy subbing once and awhile where I get a quick ‘fix’ of my former life as a teacher. It is a good reminder of what I will see when I re-enter the field down the road. I am also watching my friend, Emily's son this school year. Calvin has brought much joy and fun to our days playing together. The girls giggle with excitement when they get to be with ‘Cawvin and Emmy.’




Another blessing we are eagerly awaiting is the birth of our third child in June; we are thrilled! It is amazing to see God’s hand in our family’s growth. Prior to conceiving, I had my doubts about my body being able to produce a baby with zero assistance – God showed me! The girls will turn two May 22 and the baby’s due date is June 17. It will be fun to see the girls interact with their new brother or sister.

Lord, you are my God;
    I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
    you have done wonderful things,
    things planned long ago.  – Isaiah 25:1

It is comforting to know that The Lord planned all of these wonderful blessings for us long ago, and that He still smiles when they come to fruition in the present time. It is at Christmas that we reflect upon God’s ultimate blessing to us: His son, Jesus.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

May you and yours have a happy and joy filled Christmas!

Love,

Cole, Chelsey, Grace, Kalei, and Baby