Saturday, July 30, 2016

Favorite toddler toys.

Doing baby/toddler reviews is probably one of my favorite things! Here are some of Norah's favorite toddler toys:

-Magna-Tiles- These are pricey but so worth it. It's also worth it to spring for the big box (which is what this link is (100 pieces vs. 32). When I taught preschool, these were by far the most fought over toy. They work very well for both genders and a lot of ages. Norah is still a big young for them- she still likes them, but she just stacks them all together instead of building things. I'm excited to watch her grow into them and build things later! They also maintain interest for a long time, which is amazing.

-Kid O Pattern Stacker Toy- We got this at this amazing children's store in Sioux Falls and I really love it! We previously had the Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker, which was good, but it just didn't withstand the test of time to me. The paint was chipping off all over and it was wooden. I like this one better because it's plastic and super durable. Babies can put them in their mouth all they want and it won't chip or break, or older kids can use it to make designs, practice patterning, etc.

-Learning Resources Jumbo Uppercase Magnetic Letters- I've actually researched magnets for a long time, because it's hard to find ones big enough that aren't a choking hazard, that are durable, plastic, and won't break. These are great! They are big enough for little hands, and are great for working on all kinds of skills- letter recognition, letter sounds, beginning spelling words, etc. They have lowercase letters too! Norah definitely needs to grow into these, as we have been practicing letters but she doesn't really know any yet and basically right now they all just end up in a scattered pile on the floor. Every time I put them back on our magnet board hanging on our wall, I tell myself letter exposure is a good thing, even if she doesn't get it!

-LeapFrog Learning Friends Preschool Play Set- Norah got this for Easter from her aunt and uncle, and it's one of her favorite toys. I figured she would enjoy it, but it's probably one of her favorite toys! She will play with it independently better than a lot of other things. I love it because it simulates a lot of what actually happens at preschool, so it's preparing her without her even knowing. There are a lot of different musical sounds/stories that play, and there are different settings, like free play, story time, music time, etc. Each animal actually has it's own personality! I think this is good for Norah because she has pretty bad separation anxiety and I think she will have trouble going to school, just like I did, so this is a good toy to help her with that! 

-Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Cube- Norah has enjoyed this for awhile now. It's very developmentally appropriate- there are 12 shapes, which is more than most other shape sorters have, and it's hard enough to be a challenge but not so easy they can do it quickly.

Funny story, it actually is challenging because there is a parallelogram and a diamond, and they are both yellow and shaped very similarly. Norah was getting frustrated once because it wouldn't fit it, when she had the wrong one, but it was so close and looked so similar! It's good to practice names of shapes too!

-Ikea Animal Finger Puppets- Norah has these finger puppets, along with a few other kinds, and is just getting to the age where she enjoys putting them on her fingers and practicing animals/sounds. They are also really nice for diaper bags/travel since they are small!

-Learning Resources Stacking Shapes Peg Board- Norah's version is older (hers are all circles) since we got it from a retiring teacher, but she loves it! There are many things you can practice with this- shapes, colors, counting, stacking, patterning, etc.

-Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Scoop Set- This is one of Norah's favorite things in her kitchen.

-Green Toys Tea Set- This set is such nice quality and so durable. Norah loves to serve tea!
-Melissa and Doug Pots & Pans- Norah got these for Christmas, and they are a favorite. She will sit there and make imaginary food for a long time. She loves to put the pans in the microwave (in her play kitchen), fill them with water in the sink, and stir. She will stir, which is just her rattling a spoon around in the empty pot, for so long and then look to proud and give me a taste. They are also excellent quality, and fun that the look so real.

-Hot Wheels Cars- Whether you are a boy or girl, Hot Wheels are just a classic I think. Norah loves driving them around. These are also a perfect diaper bag/travel toy!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Big news: We're doing foster care!

Wow, what a title. Yes, it's true!

We haven't shared this news with people besides family and close friends, but this part of our journey has been unfolding behind the scenes for awhile now, so we felt it was time to share as the time of it actually happening is getting closer. Here's how it came about:

I have always been interested in adoption. I feel that works well with the gifts God has blessed me with in teaching/kids, helping others, and empathy, and has always been a desire of mine. I believe I even wrote it on a list of qualities I wanted in my future husband when I was about 12. Woah.

(In case you aren't familiar with our back story, Kley and I have been married for 6 years in August. Our first year was in Minneapolis while I finished school, then we lived in Des Moines for 3.5 years while Kley went to law school and I taught preschool, and we have lived in small town NW Iowa since Christmas 2014. We have one daughter, Norah, who will be 2 in October.)

While adoption had always been on the back burner of my mind, I hadn't specifically thought about foster care. We started talking about it when we moved here. I was feeling drawn to it first and I kept thinking about it, but Kley wasn't feeling called, so we didn't talk about it for awhile. We both felt that it was very important to be on the same page, so if he wasn't feeling it like I was, then we weren't doing it/the timing wasn't right.

Foster care kept coming up to me/us in our devotionals and in some studies our life group did about spiritual multiplication and sharing the Gospel in your marriage, and it kept coming up. Kley started bringing it up a couple times on his own, without me saying anything, and we started talking about it. We both felt like this was something God was calling us to, so we started taking steps to make that a reality (I'll talk more about that later). I will always remember the conversation we had in the car after life group one night where we both knew this was it and we were doing it.

Now that I am staying home, I was really praying when we moved here about what I could do with my time and our home that would be of eternal value and that would share His name. We really wanted to find a way to tangibly and practically share the Gospel with others and use our time and gifts in ways that made a difference eternally. That looks different for everyone based on God's calling for you, but for us, we feel we can do that through foster care. It's very scary, but also brings a sense of peace to be obedient, even though it will be challenging at times. We know it will be stretching and consuming, but we've been feeling really convicted that we aren't supposed to life an easy life as Christians. If serving Him isn't hard sometimes, then we are doing something wrong. Serving Him should expand us. Foster care will be hard, yes, and it will be demanding, but we know we are called to do this and we want to be obedient and faithful. He has been so faithful to us and we know He will give us the strength we need.

So, for now, we are still in the process of making it official (we have to take lots of classes), so it will be a couple months until we actually could have children in our home, but the intense part of our classes is underway, so we are excited and anxious to learn a lot. We are becoming certified for foster care and adoption, but in the foreseeable future we are not actively pursuing adoption. We want to be certified for it because we would like to do it someday and want to be ready in case we would have a situation in which a foster child became available for adoption.

We will keep you updated, but wanted to share the initial news! We absolutely do not share this news as a "pat on the back" to us in any way, because that's not what we are looking for. It's actually really scary to post because we know some people's responses might not be overly positive- because there is a lot of brokenness involved with foster care and it's tough. The most common question people ask in response to the news is, "Are you so excited?" Truly, the answer to that question is no. It's quite scary with a lot of unknowns, but we need to follow where He leads. We were talking to friends who are taking the class with us (which is a huge answer to prayer to have people to talk to about it that understand!), and she said that there is nothing about foster care that is actually attractive, there is a lot of hardships involved, but if Jesus were here on earth now, He would be doing something like this. I thought that was beautiful, because serving others often isn't attractive, but His sacrifice for us was so complete and selfless, that we know He will give us the tools we need. We also share the news because we have to be very selective in what we can tell others, so we wanted you to know that we are doing foster care so you know what's happening when "random" kids start to come live with us. I use quotations around random because it will appear that way, but we have been praying for whatever kids will come into our home for months already, and know that His placements will not be random at all. Whenever we get a child, we aren't even supposed to call them a foster son/daughter, we are just supposed to say that a friend came to live with us. So, we wanted you to know now because we can't disclose much information later.

What a journey!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wedding family shots.

Here are some family shots we got at Karlie and Zack's wedding!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Norah- Twenty One Months.

Norah, watching you grow up is a true highlight! We are so thankful for a happy, healthy girl. Being your parents is a huge blessing. We love you!

Schedule/Eating: Norah's schedule is the same, and I'm excited to report that as it's wonderful! She sleeps from about 10-9 and naps from about 1:30-3:30. She has three meals and a bedtime snack. We have to push her to eat breakfast, but she eats a pretty good lunch and supper. Her favorite food is still cheese. She also enjoys goldfish, fruit snacks, noodles, strawberries, and watermelon as other favorites.

Developments: A big accomplishment this month is that Norah is regularly pooping on the potty (almost every day!). We are so excited! It's still a mix of her telling us she has to go and us noticing the signs and asking her to go, but most times she goes on the potty. She even does pretty well going when not at home, but she only likes to go for Kley or I and is scared of the automatic flushers in public restrooms. For how young she is, we think it's an awesome milestone! She gets an M+M after she goes and she loves that. We are hoping to try more potty training in the fall after our many summer trips are over.

One of Norah's favorite developments this month was that she learned to jump on two feet. She loves to do it, and it's adorable to watch. She only gets about an inch off the ground, but she tries so hard! Norah has grown a little in playing independently this month, and will even sometimes go into another room and play by herself for a little bit, usually with her toys in the living room or reading books in her room. For awhile, I didn't know if that day would come! Norah loves to be close to us, which isn't a problem (most of the time), but we know independence is good for her too.

Norah enjoys counting and knows her numbers, but counts in random order. We have been doing some group times with Ainsley (a friend we babysit), where we learn a letter, number, color, and shape each week, and she has started remembering a few of the letters. She loves identifying animals and their sounds. You can tell she is remembering more things and will bring up things that happened days/hours ago or something we told her would happen.

Words: We've been calling Norah a parrot because she is copying words so much. Her language skills are impressive and always improving! A few people have told us they think she is talking a lot for her age, which is a good thing! Her favorite words are dada, mama, baby, funny, troll (dada taught her that- troll as in a joke), amazing, car, truck, outside, airplane, and lawn. She loves to say her friends names- Ainsley, Lottie, Nana (Savannah), and Josie. She loves to watch the neighbor's dogs and say their names (Marley and Lula for Talula) when she sees them or their cars pull up, because she knows that means they will bark or come outside. She also started combining thank you and you're welcome and now just says, “Tank (thank) you, welcome!” all together and it's so cute. She also likes to point next to her and say, “Sit down.” when she really wants our attention/to be by us.

Favorites: Norah loves to be outside- definitely a favorite. She likes to go to the park, and I'm convinced she knows the way there. If we are walking around town, she will tell me which way to turn, and she's done that from several different locations. She likes to swing, go down the big slide at the park, play in the sandbox, help water flowers, and pick up sticks in the yard. She loves to “help” with the laundry, whether that's when I'm actually doing it or going in there and dumping it all out/putting it back in. She usually cleans it back up though, so I'm not complaining, she just mixes all the colors together. Norah has met a few new babies recently and loves to hold them. She was very sweet and protective of them at the same time. She loves to watch a video on our phones or the iPad whenever she can sneak a chance! She's obsessed with outdoor sounds, whether that's a motorcycle, airplane, or lawn mower, though the mower is her favorite. She will run around yelling, “Lawn!” and want to see out the window.

Norah, you're the best baby in the world and we're so glad you are ours!

She wasn't smiling with her mouth open, so this was after I asked her to show me her teeth. I guess tongue and teeth both start with T. Good effort, Norah.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Zack and Karlie's wedding!

My sister got married! Even though it wasn't my day, it was really one of the best days of my life too because it was so fun to celebrate Zack and Karlie and to watch them be so happy. The start of a Godly marriage is truly a beautiful celebration!

Getting ready!

Love my sister! She's wearing the same Bride tank I wore on my wedding day.

Beautiful dress with a neat hanger. She looked absolutely stunning.

What a gorgeous bride!

Getting shoes on.


All the bridesmaids.

Her bouquet was beautiful too.

My mom and sister. It was fun to watch my mom enjoy the day too!

Norah was the flower girl! We were pretty skeptical as to if she would make it down the aisle, but she ran down and it was the cutest thing ever. She did perfect! Way to go, Norah!

The recessional- so happy!

Love my mom's face.

We got to see our favorite Stephanie at the wedding!

First dance.

Congratulations Zack and Karlie! It was a joy to be a part of your special day. We love you so much and are so excited for you!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cutest sibling reactions to baby.

British boy finds out he's going to be a big brother- This seriously might be the cutest thing you ever watch.

Brother sings to baby sister- He sings to her, "You are so beautiful to me" and it's so sweet.

Big brother cuddles with little brother- He doesn't want to let go.

(This is not a pregnancy announcement, they are just so cute! I hope Norah adores her siblings one day.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

My sister Karlie's bachelorette party/rehearsal dinner.

My sister got married and it was amazing and wonderful. We had a packed few days in Des Moines celebrating, but it was all so much fun. It was truly a joy to watch Zack and Karlie get married!

While there, we met my friend Lauren for lunch. We've known each other since 2nd grade, and now it's so much fun to watch our daughters together! 

Our photo attempt went well, as you can see.

They were very interested in each other!

For Karlie's bachelorette party, we went to an Italian cooking class and learned how to make gnocchi. It was fun! The lady leading it, Alessandra, is from Italy and she was spunky/funny. It turned out well, thankfully, as she told us the funny stories of all the "disasters" that could possibly happen while making it.

Happy bachelorette party, Karlie! Fun to celebrate you! It was also her birthday that day, so we had lots to celebrate.


After the cooking class, we went and got coffee (because Karlie loves coffee), and then headed back to my parent's house for a sleepover. Here's the little snack table I decorated. (Also, we watched Father of the Bride and there was at least one person who hadn't seen it, so I take great pride in introducing her to such a life staple.)

The next morning we all headed out for pedicures/manicures. Relaxing!


Rehearsal dinner. Zack's parents did a great job of decorating- it was a coffee/book theme, because while they were dating they met weekly over coffee to talk about the book they were reading together. It was adorable and meaningful too!