Two.

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Happy birthday, JP!

I cannot believe we have a two year old. How did that happen?! Although toddler nap schedules/meltdowns can make outings challenging, we still managed to get out the door for some birthday fun. In the morning we went to EnterTRAINment Junction, the largest model train display. They also have a kid play area, which JP thoroughly enjoyed last time we went. This time, though, he was totally into looking at the model trains. John-Paul loves anything that GOES, but trains and trucks rank on the favorites for this guy. On our way home from Entertrainment Junction, we grabbed some pizza. After his afternoon nap we headed off to Mass for Abigail’s baptism (more on that at a later time) and celebrated this big guy’s life with cake after Mass! What a joyful day celebrating our little one’s lives.

JP at two…There are so many things I could say about who JP is at this moment in time. I know I’ll end up leaving some things out, but here are a few highlights:

John-Paul has a servant heart even in the midst of toddlerhood. He helps me unload the dishwaher, change the wash to the dryer, rake leaves, sweep, vacuum. Whenever I ask him to help, he is excited to do so. We’ll see how his love languages unfold, but we may have an acts of service boy in the making. John-Paul still likes to run and wander off, but is getting better at listening to us and allowing his to re direct him. He loves to laugh along with us, and will run in from another room if he hears us laughing. The play place at Chick Fil A is his jam. Also, 100% in love with road signs with the crown jewel being stop signs. Every time we go for a walk he tells every stop sign “hi stop! and as we pass it “Bye stop!” and often requests that Josh lift him up to touch “the stop.”He loves to read, and has a particular love for Calvin and Hobbes and Curious George. I often catch him quietly looking through books by himself. He can play with his trains for hours. He has even taken to “sharing” his trains with Abigail, and brings them over for her to look at. His vocabulary grows rapidly everyday, so it’s hard for me to keep track of my favorites…but right now i love when he signs and says “sunshine” and “stars” and “cold” it is too cute. He is obsessed with “Toffee” (coffee) and will gladly sip the last drops from my mug if given the opportunity. With his growing vocab, JP is also starting to put together phrases and concepts. For instance, he will tell me that the sunshine is “all gone” and then will follow that thought by saying “dark, cold”. JP loves the My Smart Hands aka “Happy Hands” videos and could watch them on loop for eternity (he really has learned so many words and signs by watching them and it’s fun for us to do together!). All sweets are called “Keek” (cake) by JP.

I could go on and on…

the bottom line is that we are so crazy about him. We have our hard days and forming his conscience is challenging, but the hard looks miniscule in comparison to the joy he brings and how good he really is. I often say he has a chocolate heart because he is just sweet. This morning I told him “I love you, JP” and for the first time ever he replied “love mama” and later this morning he told me “love sissy.” He gives us hugs and kisses all the time and loves to snuggle when he isn’t on the gogogo. Ah! JP we love you, sweetheart. You are good and kind and wonderful and we are so proud of the boy and big brother that you are growing into. I’m so blessed to spend my days watching you learn and grow and love. I love you forever, dear son!

I thought…

I thought that I’d have an all-natural, no intervention birth and then I didn’t. And it was still beautiful.

I thought we’d never get the hang of breastfeeding, but after weeks of pumping, exhaustion, tears, lactation consultations, nipple shields, nipple butter and some growth….we made it through and I’m still breastfeeding at 12 1/2 months.

I seriously thought that I would never stop leaking milk all over my clothes when I even THOUGHT about nursing John-Paul. But eventually that stopped and my laundry pile was a little smaller and my clothes less wet.

I thought I’d never be able to breastfeed with ease in public places, but we do now and it ain’t no thang.

I thought to myself, “How will I ever, ever, ever manage to cook and clean and do anything else besides sit on the couch and take care of John-Paul?” But as time goes on, we’re able to balance more.

I thought we’d have to lug him around in that ever-awkward-to-carry infant carrier forever and ever and ever, but that stopped. And he’s outgrown his first carseat.

I thought I couldn’t be more thrilled than I was when JP first smiled…but then each milestone proved ever sweeter.

I thought I’d never get the hang of the wrap or the sling, but with some good youtube videos and an extremely kind stranger at Target…I can wear JP.

I thought that I just might die when I had to fly alone with John-Paul across the country. It was exhausting, but we did it! and then we flew alone again 2 more trips out west.

I thought I wouldn’t know what to do with JP once he outgrew his rock’n’ play. Where would I put him when I cooked or needed to do something? But he outgrew it and we adjusted.

What about when he outgrew his bumbo? His Johnny Jump Up? His exersaucer? What would I do with him then? (I didn’t learn it the first time) We adjusted.

I thought teething would never end, but after four long months JP finally caught a break. And we got a little sleep.

I thought that it would be so long until he sat up, and sometimes it certainly felt long…but he sat up and changed my life by being able to sit in the grocery cart.

I thought I’d never see an 8 hour (or please, just six) stretch of sleep again in my life, but recently we’ve had a much more tolerable sleep schedule. Thank you, son.

It seemed like forever until JP learned to “crawl” (it was a slither for a couple months…) but now he’s so quick and I can barely go into the kitchen without him crawling off into some mischief.

And then before I could even think he was standing up, scooching around the couch and responding to things we said.

I thought I could imagine the love I’d feel for my child before we had John-Paul, but I realize now I couldn’t fathom the depths of the love I’ve felt grow each day since we found out we were pregnant. John-Paul stretches my heart to contain love I never knew was possible. Sometimes it’s easy to look back and think, “Gosh life was so much easier before we had a kid!” and it’s true, life was much easier, much more convenient. This last year has pushed me to many limits, and I often still feel overwhelmed, anxious and very uncertain about what the heck I’m doing as a parent. Even though many days I have dark circles, greasy hair and feel exhausted…life is full with John-Paul. He gives our family life and deepens our love. Through his total dependence on us, he challenges us to be less selfish, more giving. John-Paul, we are thankful for you!

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Mr. John-Paul Goes to Washington

A couple of weeks ago we headed south to Washington, D.C.. A while back Josh signed up for the DC triathlon, and around the same time his Uncle started working in a position that allows him to give tours of the White House. We had a blast visiting with our family – staying with Josh’s Uncle, another Uncle happened to be in DC that weekend and Josh’s cousin also did the triathlon! And of course, getting to see the White House was a real treat. The first year I went to DC was a year after 9/11, so White House tours were no longer allowed (same case for my subsequent visits). We’re so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and enjoy the richness of our nation’s history in the capitol city! JP, you look like you just sat through a filibuster, but we hope you enjoyed it as much as your baby self can. Can’t say we didn’t try to give you some culture!

(almost) one year later.

Last night Josh, JP and I went to the Lantern Tours at Penn State. Last year they hosted them on Halloween, so that little outing ended up being the last time Josh and I went out on the town without a little one in tow. As we walked around last night, it was fun to think of the past year and how much our lives have changed. Instead of just wondering, “where should we get coffee before the tours?” we now think about things like “Do we bring the stroller? What about all the stairs? Where will we leave it? What time should we go so JP doesn’t get cranky and lose his mind?” And things like balloons and the Nittany Lion mascot all of a sudden seem awesome because we have a kid (although there were MANY adults that were thrilled to pose for photos with the lion).The Lion Ambassadors hosted the tours a month earlier than last year to, I think, have warmer weather for the event. So these photos are almost a year apart. And although we must consider a hundred different things when going out with JP, life has certainly changed for the better.

Adventures of a Seven Month Old

John-Paul should…

Get a Delta credit card and cash in on some frequent flyer miles. He made his third flight to the Twin Cities to witness the marriage of John and Christine Goerke. Christine is a dear friend from Grand Forks. She has one of the kindest, purest, gentlest souls in all the land and reuniting with her (and Amanda!) was a breath of fresh air. John and Christine’s beautiful wedding filled our hearts with joy. Watching them embark on this new season of life made our summer! Leaving the reception, I had tears in my eyes because I have so missed close friendships while starting over in a new place. Being far from the friendships where I grew up, leaving behind friendships to attend 3 different universities, moving away from best college friends, leaving dear ones in Grand Forks…it’s hard on my heart (sorry JP, I’m hijacking your 7 month into a mommy update). Keeping up with long distance friendships is tough when I’m also trying to be present in the new places that I live. But being with my sweet GF friends reminded me that balance between staying connected and staying present is important. Friends are precious.

While in Minnesota, we went up to Bemidji and visited Jackie and Grant. We stayed at their cabin once before, when Josh returned from his deployment. Oh the good times! We sat out by the lake, went for a boat ride, sipped wine and enjoyed alllllllll the catching up we had to do. From wedding stories (congrats Madeline and Carson!) to long discussions about youth ministry and sharing about John-Paul…And laughs. Many laughs! What a blessed visit.

Unfortunately, there were weather issues when we went back to the MSP airport. Our flight got delayed so much that we missed our connection and they couldn’t rebook our flight for two days. It was a stressful moment and an exhausting end to the trip. But we’re so grateful that Christine’s parents took us in for a couple days. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Thelen!

After we finally got home, we had a day of recovery and then a drive up to Albany, NY for Father’s Day and Josh’s first triathlon of the summer. Everyone made it home (except for Dan! We missed you!) and good times were had by all.

John-Paul has…

6 teeth! SIX! We are just waiting on two more bottom teeth, and the gums are already swollen there so I’m guessing he’ll have all 8 by 8 months. (or at least I hope so, we could really use a break from teething!)

Gone for his first swim. He started out a little unsure of the water, but seemed to enjoy himself by the end. Josh hopes to keep up his swimming lessons so they can do a relay triathlon together.

Been to two weddings and gone on three round trip plane rides

Developed a little bit of stranger danger…but not consistently.

Started taking longer naps most of the time

Decided that rolling from his stomach to his back is something he is not interested in doing. He just stopped a while back and hasn’t picked it up again? Weird?

John-Paul loves…

Green beans, scrambled eggs, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, yogurt and strawberries and cheese

Jumping in his jump-up

The Raffi song “Ducks Like Rain”

Scratching and pinching my face

Sleeping in the car