Thursday, December 19, 2013

A White Christmas

What can you do when you're surrounded by Sub-Saharan African heat in December and your 3-year-old dreams of snow?  Spend a few minutes on Pinterest, grab a few supplies, and make some! 

This afternoon Savannah and I mixed up some cloud dough (8:1 flour to baby oil), headed out on our little veranda, tucked Nathaniel into a stroller to see all the action, and got creative.

First we used a silicone muffin pan to make fun shapes.


 Then we smashed the shapes for the pure joy of smashing.

After much squishing and smashing I flung some white powdery fun into the air and started a full fledged snowball fight! 

Much giggling and chasing ensued and even Nathaniel had a good time watching us.  In the end we were absolutely COVERED in "snow", but a fast sweep of the porch and a wet washcloth erased all evidence of the winter wonderland.  

Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Coming back to the USA

Why is it so difficult to pack with a toddler around?  Maybe because of all of the wonderful "help" you get :-)

  Savannah "reorganizing" a suitcase just for me :-)  lol

Before we left Bissau I made and wrapped up two more busy book pages as surprises for our little two-year-old on the four day journey back to the US.  The first one was covered with buttons and had flowers that buttoned on and off and a little fabric lined pocket they could tuck into.

She loves numbers and counting almost as much as she loves hiding and buttons so I combined them all in this cute little peek-a-boo page.
The buttons are the same color as the felt flaps.

I also whipped up this little bag out of some adorable bandanna fabric from my Grandma to keep the busy book in.  For some reason felt seems to attract dust and I knew that getting shoved into all sorts of bags in our journey would not improve matters :-)

As you can see the pages kept her occupied for many hours on our long long trek :-)  What a precious little girl!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Antidote to Guilt

Guilt.  What a conniving little thief!  The past four days of frantic packing have seen our two-year-old watching more shows than she’s ever watched before :-)  Elmo, Lady and the Tramp, Baby Einstein, Veggie Tales, you name it, she’s been enjoying it.  Don’t get me wrong, she hasn’t been in front of the TV 6 hours a day or anything like that, just a whole lot more than normal.

I know she’d rather be running around outside or playing a game with her mommy; but at 7 months pregnant, with meals to cook from scratch, bags to pack, and an entire apartment to clean out… well, I’ve had other things overflowing my plate.  The thing is, it’s just a week.  Life has phases, and this is a busy, busy one.  I know that, but still I feel guilty.  Every day, every double click that starts another show, giving me just enough time to pack a suitcase or clean out a closet or wash a mountain of dishes – guilt!  

This morning my friend Janera came over to help me pack.  We’re leaving tomorrow and right now we’re at the end of the road, find a spot to stick this, don’t forget about these 12 essential things, phase.  My friend was eager to help, but I was getting so frustrated by spending longer to decide and explain how and why and where things needed to go than it would’ve taken for me just to do it myself.  Meanwhile Savannah was busy unpacking every box I packed, so I started another show.  Guilt.  Guilt looking at my child, sitting on the couch; guilt looking at my friend, clueless as to how to help.  Guilt.  

Then inspiration!  I turned off the show, turned to my confused toddler and said, “How would you like to go run around outside with Janera?”  She jumped off the couch and ran to get her shoes with my friend Janera right behind her, laughing.  I smiled and got back to work in the kitchen.

About an hour later I heard the sweetest giggle and looked out the window to see Savannah and Janera having a great time.  Savannah was running and jumping and laughing and Janera was right behind her, cracking up at Savannah’s antics.  Right in that moment I felt freedom.  Everyday is not going to be endless hours of story time and imaginative play with my toddler, with decadent meals simmering on the stove of my immaculate kitchen, especially with another little one on the way.  I don’t usually think like that.  But in times when I’m stressed out, when guilt rears its ugly head and that image of perfection taunts me, I need to learn to let go so that I can make room for gratefulness.  

Playing in her room with Janera about a month ago.  Yes, she is inside her toy box, and yes, pretty much every toy she owns is out :-)

When I heard my daughter’s glee I remembered how grateful I am that Savannah has so many people who love her and want to be part of her life.  How grateful I am that she will have memories of friends on different continents.  How grateful I am that she gets to travel around the world and consider it normal.  And in order to make all of those things a reality in her life there are going to be times where I’m crazy busy and she watches more shows or where a friend runs around with her outside.

Smelling flowers in an African jungle.

Feeding her pet deer.

So here’s my decision – from now on I’m not going to let guilt rob me of gratefulness.  I’m not going to focus on the things that my children won’t have and miss the wonderful blessings that they do have. 

My sweet girl giving kisses to her pregnant mommy :-)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ready for Travel With a 2-Year-Old

Over the past week I’ve been combining my free time and my crafting powers to create a few fun new toys and activities to occupy our busy two year old on the four day journey by car, boat and plane from West Africa back the US.  

Today, during my Sunday afternoon creative time, I took a handful of bright popsicle sticks and some velcro dots and made a simple, portable, activity just perfect for Savannah’s busy little hands and imagination.

She saw me making them and she just had to get her hands on them.  Look at all of the fun shapes we made!

I’ve always saved cute cards and little pieces of boxes that had characters on them that Savannah liked.  I gathered up a few cute ones, a bottle of wood glue, and some plain old popsicle sticks whipped up a few puzzles.

A tried and true activity that I’m also bringing along is her sewing kit.  She loves to slide all of the buttons onto the string and then slither her button caterpillar around making hilarious ‘caterpillar noises’.

I’ve also got two little Sesame Street sticker books and I’ve been working on a few new pages for her beloved felt busy book.  Before we go I’ll wrap everything up and tuck all of her new little toys into my carry on to be revealed at different times along the way :-)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Savannah's Busy Book

If I had to choose one word to describe my two-year-old over the past few months it would be ‘busy’.  She’s full of energy, but it’s not really the hyperactive, running, jumping all the time kind; she just always needs to have her hands and brain engaged.  

She loves to line up her toys, stack all sorts of objects into “beautiful block towers”, take things out of one container and put them into another, to zip and unzip, snap and unsnap, button and unbutton.  She also loves take her little toy animals and people and make up hilarious little scenarios, and her favorite ones involve mommies and their babies. (Can you tell she spends most of her time around a pregnant woman?)

This year for Christmas I wanted to make Savannah a special present and that’s where I got the idea for a busy book.  I created a Pinterest board (isn't that how all good projects start?) and scoured the internet for ideas.  I mapped out about 20 pages to make, and then ordered some felt, snaps, rivets, and glue online for a friend to stick in his suitcase.  My supplies arrived in the beginning of December and I dedicated Savannah’s naps and my evenings to creating a fun book for my daughter’s busy little hands.

In the end I did not get anywhere near 20 pages done, but I’m actually glad I didn't   She LOVES the 7 pages I made and plays with her “special book” pretty much every day.  I made the book so that it’s really easy to add new pages and I’m planning on expanding it a page or two at a time for special presents or as a surprise on long trips – we seem to have no shortage of those in our family!

I didn't use any patterns for any of the pages or pieces, which meant cutting every shape and number freehand.  I also didn't use my sewing machine because I didn't really know how to get all of the tiny pieces of felt just right with it and because I wanted to use cute blanket stitches, so every stitch is hand sewn.  I had a ball summoning all of my creative energy and whimsy and my dear daughter couldn't love it more!

 Page 1 - A rainbow puzzle that velcros together

Page 2 - Flowers with petals that velcro on and off and tuck into the pocket.  In a tribute to one of my favorite kids books I added a very hungry caterpillar and a beautiful butterfly.

 Page 3 - Shapes that match and snap and tuck into the pocket from an old pair of jeans.

Page 4 - A zipper pocket made from bright African fabric filled with double sided strips that can snap together into chain links, letters, shapes, or even end to end.

 Page 5 - Buttons that slide back and forth on ribbons with different shapes on the ends.

 Page 6 - Savannah LOVES ladybugs so this page has three little babies that can come in and out of the zipper pouch and even tuck under the mommy ladybugs wings. 

 Page 7 - Snapping balloons on ric-rac stems.

I've already got a button page done for our trip to the US in March and I'm hoping to add another one before we go, so stay tuned for more busy fun :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More than I do!

When I was pregnant with Savannah I never worried about how she was doing.  She was safe in my belly, growing every day, snuggled in tight.  When we lost our second baby last May, my world was changed in so many ways.  I mourned the loss of our tiniest Atkins - all of the potential of who he or she could’ve grown to be and the ways our family would’ve been changed.  It helped to know our precious little sweetie was in the best place possible, and even though I would not have the privilege of knowing the little one now, we would have eternity to spend catching up.

Ever since the beginning of the new year I’ve found my thoughts wandering to the new tiny life growing in my belly.  Our second baby’s due date was December 25th, and as that day came and went, my thoughts turned to the memories I have of Savannah when she was new – her rounded little back, her tiny features, and even nursing her around the clock. 

Snuggling my tiny newborn early in the morning

I love our newest tiny blessing, and even though I’m in well into the 4th month with a nicely rounding bump, I find myself wondering.  Wondering if the baby is ok, if I’ll have the opportunity to hold and nurture this little one, if this pregnancy will end with empty arms and another tender place in my heart.

I shared struggle with a good friend and fellow missionary yesterday.  She was so truthful and encouraging, and as I read the words in her email one truth jumped out at me - God loves my children more than I do.  Sometimes I act as if that’s impossible.  I plead with the Lord as though I need to bargain with Him for their welfare.  I forget that their creator, sustainer, and savior does indeed love them more than I could ever imagine.  Before they were ever mine, they were His, and long after I’m done raising them and they leave my home they will still be His precious children.
Me and my big girl on Christmas Day

Of course I still long to be the mother of many children; to love and cherish them and raise them to know and love the Lord.  I long to know this little one; but last night as I lay down to fall asleep, one thought drowned out all others – God loves my children more than I do.  As I let that truth sink in deep I felt a little kick, and another, and another, and another.  I hadn’t felt the baby move for sure for several weeks, and as tears of joy rolled down my cheeks I knew that no matter how much I love this child, I’ll never even be able to imagine the depth of God’s love.  No matter what happens, my children are His precious sons and daughters and they belong in His hands. 

Singing with my sweet Savannah