The Kids at Christmas, 2016


I mentioned in my last post that I was getting our Christmas cards ready to send out. They’re out in the world, and while I’ve definitely been doing some writing in recent months, I haven’t written an actual Christmas letter in quite awhile. I always love receiving them, but for some reason I haven’t been writing or sending them. One of the things that everyone seems to do in the Christmas letter is to give an update on everyone in the family and it made me wonder what I would write about each of our children right now. When I started this blog, I hoped to do a better job of recording who the kids were and what they were up to at different moments in time. But I’ve been so busy documenting our move and the house that I haven’t said very much about who they are. So here we go, a brief snapshot.


Jonah just turned four on Thanksgiving. Despite all of the times that I expect too much of him and he acts his age, refuses to listen, is stubborn and defiant, I still feel like he’s growing up far too quickly. He’s so tall, and the day he turned four he told us repeatedly that he’s bigger and stronger and insisted on doing things like carrying his birthday cake from the car to Grandma Sue & Grandpa Pat’s house, “because I’m four now and I’m strong.” He loves books and loves being read to. His teacher told me that in one of the first weeks of school, she was reading a story and almost all of the other kids were talking or doing other things and he said to her with surprise, “I’m the only one listening!”. He loves to build things, loves trucks and machines and seeing how things work, and still loves digging in the sand (it’s consistently his favorite part of his day). He’s doing great with the potty now, and really only has accidents at school after nap when he’s been sleeping a very long time.  He doesn’t show much interest in art or in learning to write (one of the downfalls of a Montessori-based school is that he can choose never to do these things if he wants). He likes music, but mostly just in the car and at home, and seems to be lukewarm about music class at school (an administrator told me that he’s mentioned that he feels his music class is for babies – he’s with the 2 & 3 year olds and most of his friends are in the 4s group). He has two very good friends at school, boys he plays with daily, and it feels to us like he’s found his tribe. We’re having them over next weekend to celebrate his birthday and we’re excited to get to know them better.

If I’m being completely honest, he’s wonderful but also super challenging. Most of the time we feel like asking him to do almost anything is a battle. He’s the most strong-willed person I know, and things go from zero to totally explosive in just a few seconds. He’s super smart (they recently gave him a test at school because of a study the school is participating in, and his “age equivalency” the average age of other test takers who scored like he did, ranged from 5.7 to 6.9 depending on subject), but has a lot of trouble with self-regulation and not getting ridiculously upset if he doesn’t get his way. If someone does something he doesn’t like or even just misunderstands him, he loses it. He’s super grouchy in the mornings, often refuses to acknowledge or greet anyone. He’s basically a teenager in a four-year-old’s body.

That said, he can be so charming and so sweet; he has incredible empathy. If I’m upset for some reason (stress, frustration, who knows…) and I’m crying, he’ll always come over to me and say “It’s OK Mama D, I’ll take care of you” and pet my head and hug me with absolute sincerity. Last night he refused to stop playing with a box of fragile Christmas ornaments and dropped it, and it sounded as if some things had broken. I was very upset and he laughed at me, which was WAY more upsetting than the fact that he’d dropped them. I basically told him that it was monstrous to laugh at someone when they’re sad or upset because you’ve hurt them or upset them, and walked away from him. He sat on a stool across the room from me while I ignored him, and about a minute later, on his own, he said “I’m sorry Mama D. Can I give you a hug?” I was blown away by his awareness and his desire to make amends. Usually we have to force him to tell people that he’s sorry. He’s still a cuddle bug, loves to sit in my lap and needs to have me cuddle him to sleep at night.

I worry a lot that we’re making all kinds of mistakes with him. Children absorb everything; they learn so much from what we say and do and I often feel that we choose the wrong battles, we yell way too much, and his explosiveness is probably directly correlated with our explosiveness. Despite the fact that I know better intellectually, I really take his disrespect personally and let it get to me. I have a lot of work to do and really want to be a better mama. I know that so much of what we see in him comes from what we model for him.


Vivienne and Jude are 22 months now, and are at a pretty adorable age. While we’re seeing the beginning of the terrible twos in certain moments (they both say “no way!” when we ask them to do things because they’ve learned it from Jonah), this stage of development seems impossibly charming and cute compared to their threenager big brother. That said, I have to acknowledge that I love Jonah’s independence these days. It’s amazing to know that (in most cases) if I want to bring him along for some errand I’m running, he’ll be fine and trustworthy and will make the errand more enjoyable because he’s good company. I can leave him alone to play for ages and not worry about him. There’s less risk that he’ll do something outrageously dangerous or destructive. The twins are still in that toddler phase when you just don’t know what’s going to happen, and if things get quiet you know to worry. When the three of them are alone together they can be trouble, but I love that they love one another and enjoy playing together enough to get into trouble. Jonah loves making them laugh, which can lead to him making bad decisions and modeling bad behavior for them, so that’s less amusing. They think that he is everything, which is really sweet to see.

Vivienne is super sassy. Teachers at school adore the twins, but in particular we get lots of funny stories about Vivi because of her sass. She loves shoes and hats, insists on putting on her boots first thing in the morning, and loves to wear sunglasses. She’s absurdly independent and wants to go up and down stairs without help, won’t let us help her to put on her boots (the other morning when I tried to help her, she put her hand on my chest and said firmly, “No Mama D”). She wants to put her own coat on just like Jonah (flipping it over her head). She has so little hair, but she loves it when the teachers put it in a tiny ponytail. She loves books, loves being read to, and feels a great sense of injustice if Jonah is getting a book before bed but she isn’t. She insists on joining in. She also loves playing pretend – she loves baby dolls, loves the toy kitchen at school (we’re getting one for Christmas now that we finally have the space), will offer people pretend food and tell me when her baby is napping. She’s also fiercely determined to do things even when challenged. She’s spent many an hour at school outdoors trying to ride a trike on which her feet do not reach the pedals, but the teachers tell me she is undeterred and just keeps trying. Unlike Jonah she LOVES art! For some reason she says something that sounds like “lellow” (rhymes with yellow) when she wants to color, and color she does. She will go through page after page of blank paper. She used to do big dramatic scribbles, mostly in a circular motion, carefully choosing just a few colors that all seemed to work beautifully together on each page. But recently they taught her to spell her name at school. If you ask her to spell it, she’ll shout “V-I-V-I”. What’s funny is that Jude also says that when you ask how to spell his name. Once she learned that, her artwork turned to attempts to write her name. She does tiny scribbles now, like handwriting, over and over again and will sometimes quietly say “v-i-v-i” as she draws/writes. Despite her independence she can also be clingy – when tired she wants to be held all the time, and sometimes even when she isn’t tired. She’s affectionate and gives wonderful hugs and kisses, and loves to bury her head into my neck. She LOVES music. As soon as we get into the car she shouts “I want songs!” and usually requests one. It’s often Baa Baa Black Sheep or the Muppets Mahna Mahna. She sings along to most of the songs on the Raffi album we listen to in the car. And if she doesn’t like the song we’re playing she objects loudly and continuously until it’s been changed. She’s such a firecracker, such a huge personality, and she’s super fun and super amusing to have around. She does have quite a temper, and is probably just as strong-willed as Jonah, but at this point her small size and huge personality make it cute enough that even when she’s furious we often look at each other and giggle. I know that’s terrible and that we probably need to reign things in now before she’s 12 and it’s uncontrollable, but for now I’m enjoying her spark.

Jude is so easy going, so laid back, and just so happy-go-lucky. He’s sensitive, cries easily when knocked over (for example), but never seems to get very angry. Every once in awhile when he’s thwarted we can see the two-year-old approaching, but for the most part he’s either just happy or briefly sad. He’s the one of the three who is that stereotypical toddler who is always touching or getting into things that he shouldn’t: dirty things, dangerous things, electrical things, anything with buttons or switches, whatever it may be. He is always interested and always where he shouldn’t be. He likes a lot of the things Jonah likes: cars, blocks, playing in the dirt, but he’s also much more into playing pretend than Jonah ever was. He likes baby dolls (less than Vivi, but enough) and the toy kitchen at school. He loves slides, bouncy things, and ride-on toys. He and Vivi both love climbing on things (they have a climber at school) but Vivi has always been the more advanced climber (he’s also heavier and generally less nimble). He’s a total cuddle bug, loves to be held and cuddled all the time and has his two fingers in his mouth most of the time. He likes books now (he didn’t when he was younger) and will ask for them, but mostly likes the ones with things that move/flaps that open, and will often wander away mid-book if it’s one without. He doesn’t show much interest in art, but loves to sing and listen to music and will dance easily. He and Vivi both love animals – they love to spot them from our windows or when we’re out and about, and Jude will say “meow meow” or “woof woof” in the cutest voice. He has such an adorable giggle and is a super easy crowd. It seems like he’s smiling about 97% of the time. Both Jude and Vivi love to play games with people – the sort of thing where a pattern of you-do-this then I-do-that repeats itself over and over and they can predict what will happen and just laugh and laugh. Oh, and if Jude is playing with something and it’s time for bed he’ll often object, until I say “say night night to the balloon (for example)” and suddenly he’s fine and saying “bye bye balloon!”

I feel badly that Jude’s paragraph is so short compared to our other two, but the truth is that he’s the least complicated of the three. I knew it would shake out that way before I wrote a single word about any of them. They’re so unique and interesting and fun in combination with one another. I’m excited to see how they continue to grow, how their interests evolve, and who they all become. I also wish that they would all slow down a little. Last night I tucked in sleeping Jonah before I went to bed and marveled at how big he looks, especially in bed. There’s something about seeing them completely still that accentuates their growth for me. I need them to stay little for awhile longer, it all just moves too quickly.

*all photos in this post by



Snowy, lazy Saturday mornings


Last weekend would have been our first weekend in the house, but because we had to go to Detroit for K’s parents’ 40th anniversary, and because we decided to drop by the downtown Holiday Parade first (underwhelming – I think that NYC has ruined parades for us), we haven’t really had a weekend at home yet. When I say a weekend at home, I mean a weekend in which we have nowhere to be at any specific time, and we can wake up and stay in PJs and just be present.

Last night I sealed and stamped our Christmas cards (I’m getting them out early this year because our change of address is on them) and as I sat at the counter it occurred to me that I’d normally listen to Christmas music while completing this task, but I wasn’t in the mood for it yet. I was excited to get the cards out, but the time didn’t feel quite right for holiday tunes. Then this morning happened. Last night was a night of musical beds (although I slept through most of it, apparently, which I feel somewhat guilty about). I woke up with Jonah in our bed and Kristin mysteriously absent. When he noticed the sliver of outside visible below the shades, he gasped. “Mama D! Look what I see! Snow!” The kids have spent a lot of time at the windows today, and I’ve been smiling so much. Immediately I felt like putting up Christmas lights, and Jingle Bell Rock is playing as I type (before that it was the Ghostbusters theme, because Jonah, and families are about compromise). Jonah has been sweet to the twins today, even going to get them both step stools so that they could see out the living room window with him.

I love this house so much. I just keep walking around with this sense of wonder and amazement that we get to live here, and how perfect it is for us. A night or two ago Kristin said “I’m so glad we didn’t get the Treehaven house” (the house we put an offer in on before this one, and lost). For ages I’ve heard friends make similar comments, that all of the houses they lost were clearly not the right ones, and I’ve always assumed it was revisionist history. Now though, I think that I finally understand. It really does feel like this house is so much better for us than any of the others we considered.


We have some truly wonderful neighbors here too. Our next door neighbor just came by with her 11-year-old niece (who brought books for the kids and played with them so lovingly), and our neighbor across the street saw Kristin’s car parked on the street one night after 11 p.m. and wrote a long note to public safety explaining our mistake and asking that we please be excused from any ticket (we didn’t get one!).

I can’t wait to get our Christmas tree and to put up lights on our bushes outside. That’s the kind of thing I’ve dreamed of doing for so long. Here’s to many more sleepy weekend mornings in this house, the house that Jonah announced that he wants to live in forever.

Home Sweet Home


We are finally, after so much waiting and hoping that it would all feel worth it, living in our new home. We moved in a week ago Monday, one day before America made one of the worst decisions in recent history and we were suffocated by rage and despair as we watched the election returns in our very own living room. It’s been a pretty heavy time for Kristin and I even though we’re so happy to be in this home, so we’ve been juggling a complicated bunch of incongruent emotions.

Surprisingly, I was actually feeling sort of anxious and sad as we prepared to leave my parents’ house. It had been SO hard moving in with them and trying to figure out how we all fit in that space, but by the end I was actually pretty content. I’d loved having my mom around to do crafts with me, the kids were happy in the space, I loved the view of the night sky from their yard and the view of downtown Kalamazoo from their balcony. My mom even said that she was going to miss us, which was a lovely surprise. The kids loved having Gigi and Papa Doc right there, and I knew that they would miss them each morning. Something about leaving felt like the end of an era that may have been somewhat unwelcome at the start, but which was an important and meaningful part of our journey back home.

Part of my fear had to do with the new sleeping arrangements. For a year now, Jonah has slept with me, or I’ve slept with him I suppose. I can’t even explain how that began exactly, because he’d been sleeping independently before that. Regardless of how we got there, that’s where things were, and Kristin was sleeping with the twins. We’d been preparing Jonah for a major change once we moved into the house, but we weren’t at all sure that it would go well. He knew that he and Jude would share a room and that Vivi would have her own room. The first night it was a challenge, but surprisingly it wasn’t a total horror show. Now that we’re a week and a half into the transition I’m pleased to say that things feel fairly good. Jude has actually struggled the most, and as of last night he’s sleeping in Vivi’s bed with her instead of in his own bed in Jonah’s room. That seems to calm him a bit more, and results in more sleep for all of us. Jonah and Vivi have been champs with the whole thing, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

The kids really love our house – they especially love the basement because it’s 100% their space, as evidenced by the fact that it looks like this most of the time.


I’m actually surprised by how quickly we’ve all begun to feel at home here. It really feels like our home; there’s been virtually no period of getting used to the space (well, I suppose you could say that we had roughly three and a half months of getting used to it, but it’s all a matter of perspective). That said, it does feel like we may be unpacking boxes for the next thousand years or so. Kristin keeps reminding me that it’s only been a week and a half, and that we haven’t even had a true weekend yet because we spent last weekend on the east side of the state for K’s parents’ 40th anniversary. Sometimes though, it feels like I can spend a couple of hours sorting through crap and feel as if I’ve made no rewarding progress whatsoever. There was something lovely about having access to so little of our junk for three months. Now that we have it all back, we kind of wish it were gone again (see basement photo above).

Very little in the house is “after photo ready” so to speak, but my desire to post some photos is keeping me from giving up on the unpacking. So I don’t have a whole lot to show you right now. The half bath, however, is pretty much done and we’re really pleased with it. If you remember, it looked like this when we started:


My dad pulled out the sink and toilet and replaced the hardware, we had new mosaic tile put down, I painted the walls with paint that we’d originally selected for the kitchen but never used, I painted the oak mirror with a white enamel, and we chose not to put the medicine cabinet back up. We chose new sconces and my dad put them up, and he put the toilet and sink back in for us. We took down the blinds and I applied a privacy film to the glass so that we could still have some natural light from the great room while providing a bit more privacy. Eventually we’d like to hang some sort of art in here, but for now there’s nothing on the walls. It’s so much more us and such a pleasant surprise project that we hadn’t intended on tackling.


We didn’t paint the trim or the ceiling, so those are still cream, but that can wait. The bulbs in the sconces are a bit much (LEDs are no joke), so we may need to downgrade the wattage a bit so that no one is blinded when they flip on the lights. We’re so thankful for my dad’s handywork, in fact he’s put in a crazy number of hours here since we moved in. I know that we can’t call him every time we need something done, however, so I’ve been trying to follow along and learn.

We had a couple of good friends over last Friday night, which was sorely needed companionship at the end of a rough week, but also an important milestone in our journey. We have a space where we can host now! And our kitchen and great room feel so well suited to it. I’m hoping to become much better at hosting friends than I’ve ever been before. I look forward to taking more photos as things get unpacked and every corner isn’t full of boxes and paper and chaos, so I promise to do that. For now here’s a photo of the great room sans furniture, but with our lovely new floor finally complete.