Praying for the Next President

The first couple of times I visited the Episcopal Church in Paris with Laura, I was happily surprised to join the congregation in a prayer for "The President of the United States and all in Civil Authority".

"O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace.

"Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will.

"Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen."

Amen.

I didn't recall a prayer like this in my childhood Southern Baptist Church. Probably because everybody just assumed everybody else was a loyal Republican and we were all earnestly praying for Reagan's protection from the Godless Anti-America Commie Democrats in our own private quiet time.

Kidding. :)

But there is an ancient and sacred honor in those words that transcends Party. Transcends Country. I hope that regardless of the outcome on November 4th, my family and I will return to that prayer and we will lift it up with millions and millions of others.

And not only that we would return to it then, but I regret that I've not come back to it sooner. I confess that I have, and have had a difficult time praying for President Bush. It is a sin of pride and anger, I confess it and I wish I could rid myself of it. As a former teacher, I listened closely as President Bush spoke about No Child Left Behind and the need for his idea of accountability in our schools. I watched as parents and administrators wrung their hands waiting for test results to see if our school had failed or succeeded in the eyes of the State. To have the President's message of responsibility and accountability front and center for several years, and to watch the same man avoid those same two words time and again; it drives me crazy.

Not to mention all this stuff.

When I do pray for President Bush, I find myself doing so out of duty and not out of genuine care and concern for the leader of our great country. I'm ashamed at that. I look back at old e-mails and see myself intentionally omitting his title, referring to him disdainfully and only as "Bush". I've noticed this recently and now I do my best to always refer to him as President Bush.

As strongly as I may disagree with his priorities and policies, he sets about them with the authority of the Constitution and with the consent of the people. I regret that I ever paid any disrespect to that principle, and whoever wins, I hope that I will pray for them often, and mean it.

Rhea Dance Party

Clara LOVES dancing.  The second she hears music – or really, a beat of any kind – she starts bouncing.  She will even do it if you squeeze a squeaky toy in rhythm!  We had a family dance party in her room tonight and caught some of it on camera.  She actually just started this straight-arm flapping dance that she does for most of this video.  The “bouncing” she normally does is only at the beginning, and then she goes into her flapping, even finding props to compliment her dance-extravaganza.  I think this is some combo version of her cousin Sophie’s one armed chicken dance and Brian’s straight-arm-50-year-old-women-at-wedding-receptions-dance.  

Don’t miss the new October post below! 

October

October is both mine and Brian's favorite month of the year…I love the changing weather and perfect temps, the leaves changing colors and the crispness in the air, the baseball world series and college football, halloween and festivals…ahhhhh what a great month! and I think it is the first month I'm actually going to get this post up before the month is over….wow!

I think Clara liked her first October, too! :)

Here she is, dressed and ready to go…can you guess who dressed her?  the contrast was actually a lot more pronounced (and UGLY) in real life.  Brian's defense?  "But it's all pink!"

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Here is Clara enjoying some avocados.  She loves anything she can feed herself!  I can't say I feel the same…  😛

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Brian and I had our ten-year high school reunion.  We graduated from North Lamar High School in 1998…so hard to believe it has been 10 years since we graduated.  I was very apprehensive, considering it had been a decade since I had seen most of the people there. But there is something about having shared such formative years with people, to have known them for 12 years of your life and shared so many things literally growing up together, that just made me want to be there.  It was SO MUCH FUN!!  We had such a great time catching up and reconnecting with people.  It was great to see so many old friends and hear what they're up to…everyone seems like they are doing well and it made me so happy!  I did, however, neglect to take many photos.  As in, I only took one picture the whole night, plus a picture of Brian and I that didn't come out very well.  I stole someone else's group shot.  In this picture are Christi (my best best friend in HS, now the greatest sister-in-law imaginable) and Nathan, a good friend who got me into a lot of trouble in HS.  ok, "lot of trouble" for me…which really isn't saying much 😉      

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Go 98 Panthers!  ha ha

I'm standing next to Rachael, who was my best friend in 5th grade and then good friend throughout…our paths have continued to cross several times after HS…she worked this last year for Family Legacy, the mission organization we went to Zambia with 3 years ago.  I love how God does that!  We actually talked to 4 or 5 people that had been or are currently at IBC, which is just crazy.  there were some great, unexpected life stories…so cool to hear what God can do in and through a person, and the places He will take them (both literally and figuratively) that we can never imagine.   We had wanted to go on a "reunion diet," but that didn't happen.  and so we were going to do a "reunion crash diet," and that didn't happen either. :D  so everyone got to meet 15 new lbs. of me, which actually didn't bother me as much as I thought it would :)  I recognized all but two people, including the one person who said, "Hey!  Do you remember my name?!"  me: "ummmm..Melanie?" and I was WRONG!  boy did I feel like a jerk!!  but why would you do that to someone?!?!!  my favorite quote of the night, however, has got to be something someone said to Brian: "why Brian Rhea!  look at you!  why, you are a sophisticated grown up man, and you were such a little sh**!"  Brian didn't know quite how to respond to that, but I thought it was hilarious.  There was only one person we talked to that didn't know he and I had gotten married and was VERY surprised – that was fun.  (while we were very good friends, we were both very different from each other in HS)  Someone else made the comment, "you know, when I thought about it, it just made a whole, whole lot of sense."  that was neat to hear, because on the surface, it didn't make any sense at all, especially to those that knew us then.  But if you looked beyond the surface, even then, it made a WHOLE lot of sense :)  poor Brian, you can't even see him in this pic – he was off to the right of us. 

Reunion group 

While we were there, Clara got showered in love by her Mamaw and Papaw and great-grandmas.  It was so sweet – when we got there, they were all waiting for her!  I'm sure she had a great time playing with all of them!

Dir 

Cj at mamaws 

With b parents

That next week, Brian and I went on a date night while Clara played with Mimi and Papi.  We went to Maggiano's – my FAVORITE!  yum yum!

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One evening we went to Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens – it was beautiful and the weather was perfect!  (again with the favorite month thing) 

do you like the fountain coming out of Brian's head?

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a future nature lover right here…

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Daddy and daughter…

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Then we ate at Joe T. Garcia's….mmmmm….best Mexican food in DFW!  and best patio….but we were REALLY hungry, so we went for immediate seating, which was inside. and then we enjoyed our tostadas.  and tacos.  and enchiladas.  and burritos.  I told you I love it!

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CJ and HK (doesn't HK have the best smile?!)

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Clara Jane falls asleep sometimes on the drive home from work/school.  She always looks so sweet – I hate to wake her!  You can see her nose is a little runny :(  I got sick in the beginning of October (sore throat, heavy head, fever…that fabulous number), and just a week later, Clara got it.  this was the first time she has been sick.  I felt so bad for the poor baby!  She was crying and pretty inconsolable.  It broke my heart!  A little tylenol and rest helped her feel better.  She got over the sickness pretty fast, but has kept the runny nose.  I finally took her to the doctor when I suspected it might have turned into an ear infection (rather, I was scared she had an ear infection and I just didn't realize it), but she was all clear!  I think the runny nose might be from teething.  but who knows?!  until she can talk, it's all one big guessing game! 

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Helen Kate, the cutest little cowgirl, turned 1!

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nothing like a big swig to wash down some good cake…

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this was her favorite thing to do with her tongue in October… I swear, I've never known a child who likes to stick out and curl and twist their tongue so much!

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I REALLY wanted their picture together, but 50 pictures later, admitted it just wasn't meant to be…

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believe me when I say this was the best pic of all 4 babies…

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Aunt Kristi always calls Clara "Little Applecheeks" and this week she really lived up to her name!  She wanted to play with an apple, which I let her have, and she started taking little chips out of it with her new teeth.  So I peeled the apple for her and gave it back.  She LOVED that apple!  She played with it for HOURS.  She took it with her wherever she went.  A good part of the time she was working on it, taking out little chips here and there, and part of the time she was just carrying it around like her prized possession.  The funniest part was when she would try to stand up but still hold onto the apple – not an easy feat!

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Here is another date night…you can't tell but we're at the Contemporary Theater of Dallas where we just saw On Golden Pond.  Clara is the one who had the most fun that night, though, because she got to be with the Herring's! 

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Kristi, my first-call-mom and dear friend, and hubby and three kids all took care of Clara.  What a blessing!  Kristi is also Clara's teacher on Sundays at church, which means the world to me to have someone like her building into Clara from the youngest age (and I'm not just saying that because I know she'll read this blog ;)  I've already asked if she will move up with Clara the next 18 years – ha!)   Her kids are older than CJ, but there is only about a year and a half difference between her and and Paige, their youngest.  all three kids are awesome, and I'm really hoping Paige and Clara will be great friends one day!  She is so stinkin' cute, as you can clearly see from this pic:

Paige loves clara 

You can read more about their fun night here.

Brian got a new sport/hobby!  He and Gene bought passes for a local climbing gym, got some harnesses and went for it (following a 4-minute "lesson" from the most laid back instructor ever)!  I only have one pic because my camera battery was dead, but you can see Brian making it up the wall.  Clara and I were there cheering him on (I was so impressed…I have NO upper body strength) (oh who am I kidding?  I have no anywhere-body strength!).  I think she got his genes for it, though, because she was trying to climb all over the place! 

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We got to have dinner with the Harrell's and the kids got to play together.  Dylan would make a funny sound (like a loud laugh) and Clara and Makenna would imitate him – it was so cute!

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We went to Hall's Pumpkin Farm here in Grapevine for some Fall Fun…

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the place was one giant photo opportunity 😀

I love this one of Clara and Helen Kate…crazy woman and miss sweetie pie

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Nathan really did pull the girls around – how cute!

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See if you notice anything new in this fam pic…

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After almost 29 years…Brian needs glasses!!  He has LONG wanted glasses so he was extremely excited when things long distance started getting a little blurry  (I've worn glasses since the first grade – my eyes are TERRIBLE – and that just makes me sick! :P).  They look good on him and he is already used to them – and seeing much better!   

This picture is for Mamaw and Papi…both people who actually love mowing the grass!

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Jill and I…

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We went through a Corn Maze…something I have ALWAYS wanted to do!  It was way fun, and just a little creepy.  clara loved walking through it…of course, she loves walking anywhere :) we made it out – WHEW!

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We went to Devon's 1st birthday party.  He was born on Clara's due date (Halloween).  they get to play together at church during the week and on Sundays and love each other (as much as they actually notice each other at this age…ha!).  and I love his mom and grandma (they are adopting him) – they're amazing!  Clara was the youngest there but she ran around with the big kids.  She has NO FEAR, and she is so friendly with everyone.  I can see this being both a good thing and a bad thing! 

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Pin the nose on the elmo!

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The birthday boy…what a cutie!

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I didn't get a good pic of them together :( 

we enjoyed getting to visit with sweet co-workers — Ramona the comfort zone (nursery) director and Alyssa one of our incredible interns.

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The next day we had a "Preschoolers N' Pumpkins Picnic" with early childhood families from the church.  We brought a bunch of paint and families brought pumpkins and picnics.  I loved seeing the "creations" that the kids were able to come up with on their pumpkins!  Let's just say there were way less traditional faces and way more huge globs of gray paint (what you get when you mix ALL the colors together) completely covering (and dripping off) the pumpkins.  Clara again played with all of the older kids and tried her hardest to keep up!  The older girls (4-6 year olds) enjoyed playing with her and took care of her! 

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That evening we went to Dylan's "Spiderman" birthday party where…Brian was Spiderman!  He was a great sport about it, much to the enjoyment of adults and kids alike! ;)  The best part was when all of the kids turned on him shooting him with their silly string "webs," chasing him through the yard, and even punching him.  No one quite knew what to do…so there spidey sat, mobbed by a bunch of 5 year old boys!  I felt so bad for him, but I must admit…I was laughing pretty hard.  It was a great party – incredibly creative and lots of fun.  I'm sure Dylan felt very special, and it was special for us to get to be there!

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We really feel like Clara started "loving" us back in September and October.  She will run over, pull our hands or fingers, asking us to stop doing whatever we're up to and play with her.  She began cuddling us and nuzzling her head into us which is SO precious.  She lays her little head on mine or Brian's chest and it melts my heart like nothing else!  When she wants to be held, she gets a little whiney, and she definitely cries hysterically if you put her down when she wants to be held.  She also loves trying to tickle us and will literally chase you down and then belly flop onto you if you are laying on the floor and then laugh as she scrambles all over you.  we play back, chasing her, tickling her, picking her up.  She holds her arms up when she wants to go "up" in your arms and loves being held.  Clara "points" with her finger now – usually at nothing in particular!  When you hold your face up close to hers, she will lean in and touch her nose on yours and giggle.  Her walking has improved – she is getting a lot less wobbly, able to bend over and pick things up and keep going.  She is so funny when she wants to get somewhere fast but her body can't quite keep up.  She runs kinda spastically for a few steps and then falls.  She will stand up and keep going, then fall again, and over and over.  I am amazed at her perseverance, in walking and in everything else.  She will keep trying and trying and trying long after I would have given up. 

She is eating lots of "table food" now, including tomatoes (LOVES), strawberries (half a carton at a time…no kidding), toast with veggie spread, black beans, whole wheat pasta, and plums.  if only we ate as healthy as her… *sigh*  She babble talks a lot but still doesn't have any distinct words, or associations with her babble.  The other night she seemed to be shaking her head "yes" and "no" appropriately, but I'm thinking it was just coincidence.  Brian is convinced he heard her say "hello" when he handed her a phone, but she hasn't repeated that… 

We continue to monitor her anemia.  She is on some additional iron medicine now.  They did a more thorough blood test that required a tiny little needle and syringe to draw blood.  We had to pin her down but she didn't seem to mind it near as much as she minds getting her nose wiped (now THAT will make her howl!).  The anemia doesn't seem to be affecting her but we want to prevent any long term "physical or mental impairment" (as the brochure said ;))!  

One of her favorite "stances" that we haven't caught on camera yet is standing with both of her hands on the back of her hips.  She'll walk around like that or just stand there, chillin' like a teenager with attitude. 

This is one of her favorite moves…sticking an arm straight up in the air for no apparent reason. 

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Ta-ta friends!







Colin Powell endorses Obama

President Bush's first secretary of State, President George H. W. Bush's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and President Reagan's national security advisor endorsed Sen. Obama on Meet the Press this morning.

I could be dead wrong, but I think it's going to be an electoral college landslide. Not because of Powell's endorsement (this may not even be news in a few days), but because Obama's message continues to resonate and win over more people as the weeks go on. The opposition's attempt to portray Obama as unqualified did not hold water in the primary season and it's not holding water as we approach the general.

From the LA Times:

“I think he is a transformational figure … and for that reason, I’ll be voting for Barack Obama,”

“This is a time for outreach,” Powell said.

He said that Obama in recent weeks has “displayed a steadiness” and “showed intellectual vigor” in addressing issues as diverse as the economy and the selection of Sen. Joe Biden, one of the Senate's leading experts on foreign affairs, his running mate.

But despite his long friendship with and admiration for the Republican nominee, John McCain, Powell said he was concerned about the Arizona senator's approach to those same two issues. "I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem," he said.

As for McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, Powell said that "now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made."

The election of Obama as president, Powell said, would “electrify the country and electrify the world.”

September!

September was a great month! 

It began with Labor Day.  That weekend we got some things done around the house, which felt GREAT.  (believe me, Brian lovesit when I get on one of my "kicks," as he likes to call it.  and if you believe that, you don't know Brian.)  We also went to the lakehouse after church through monday and my parents and eric and kristi were all there.

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Kristi and I didn't have the smoothest transition swapping the Jet Ski…

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Clara looooves playing with the dishwasher and with Mimi!

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this was her favorite face to make in September…lips "kissing" and nose scrunched up like a little pig.

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Laid back in the hammock…waving "hi"!

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That week brought the annual Fall Kick-Off and Appreciation event for volunteers in Children's Ministry.  We got to honor some of our amazing volunteers and the night was such a blessing and encouragement – definitely for me, and hopefully for them.  There isn't a group who deserve it more.  They are a constant inspiration to me and I am so grateful to God that I get to serve with them.  This is David and Cheryl Hume, who were honored as the Adventure Zone recipients.  They are an amazing, generous, giving couple who have been teaching 2 year olds (and ministering to their whole families) for over 7 years. 

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We also honored a couple with a "Lifetime Achievement" Award and we gave it to Frances and Keith Clark, who all the kids (and us!) call Mamie and Umpa.  They have taught for almost 15 years and just pour their heart and soul into loving on three year olds.  What has been neat to see is that kids that they taught as 3 year olds return as "classroom helpers" that they disciple and train, and then go on to lead their own classes!  They really have made such a humongous impact and it is really cool to see the difference that it makes. 

no pic :(

Next Saturday, we had fun taking care of Rebekah and Brendan so their sweet parents could go to Six Flags and ride the "big kid" rides – a cause we are passionate about ;)  We walked down to the playground near our house – it was CJ's first time at a playground! 

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This is all we saw of Brendan at the playground…

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I think this was the first of many trips to the playground!

Here is another shot of the pig face…

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Here is a good shot of the bottom teeth coming in.  They showed up during August, and then one on the top started coming in during September. I'll show two pics for comparison :)

Here is a photo from August 29th…notice the bottom teeth barely coming in:

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and here is a photo taken on September 10th…look at the difference already!

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I've already talked about her walking in another post, but just after her 10 month birthday, she REALLY started walking!  By the end of the month, she could get around pretty well.  Craziness.  She is SO CUTE walking…it has a definite dinosaur feel to it – I can't explain it.  I think it is the way she totters and holds her arms up and has her little potbelly sticking out.

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I had a very yummy lunch with my dear friend Kristi and her two precious girls…I was trying to remember if it happened in August or September so I went to her blog only to discover that it was at the end of JULY. :P  It feels like it was just a few weeks ago…sigh…this year is going SO FAST!  wayyyyyyy too fast!  it was sweet because her girls fed CJ her bottle.  Paige is just over a year and a half older than her, but thinks she is SO MUCH older than the little baby.  It was so cute!

Herrings and CJ

Dad turned 60 (YAY!!!) back in June, but we just (FINALLY) celebrated his birthday this week.  It was the first time we were all able to be together (and realized it).  It was a surprise party and he sure was surprised!!  (he had been giving us a hard time about how bleated his birthday was getting…it was turning into a running joke).  We had it in Grapevine one of the nights he and mom were in town.  It started at our house with 60 things posted around the walls of things we love about him. 

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an easy list to make! :D  He is one of the most caring, hilarious, giving, generous, strong, sensitive (to others) people I've ever known.  He can make anything fun, and is always concerned with helping others.  He can make anyone (and goes out of his way to) feel special and cared about. 

Then he started getting presents.  He got 10 gift bags, each witha box of caramel corn each.  He was really excited about all of the presents, until he started opening bag after bag of popcorn…!  He loves caramel corn, though, so we knew he'd be happy in the end.  ;) 

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the last thing he opened was the first clue in a scavenger hunt.  The scavenger hunt took us all over Grapevine.  Each clue had to do with some memories with him or about him. 

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He found the clue!

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Clara Jane was REAL excited about the scavenger hunt.

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The last clue took us to a restaurant where we had dinner and opened another present – 60 of our favorite memories with him.  Those were fun to read and reminisce and laugh over. 

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Then we went to Speed Zone and rode go-karts.  Dad is CRAZY GOOD at go-karts.  I am still not sure how he passed me coming from so far back…?!?!  I say I let him do it because he was the birthday boy, but really…I never let up on the gas. 

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And THEN, because he was 60 and we just HAD to continue the celebration, we went to see Batman: Dark Knight on the IMAX screen (ok, mom, CJ and I went home)…amazing.  He opened more presents in the parking lot while we waited.  It got out at 12:30!  What a night!    

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The very next day was Kristi's 27th birthday.  Brian also left for San Antonio that day for work.  The rest of us went to a new vegetarian restaurant (woohooo!) to celebrate.

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And when I say "new" I mean, "they didn't know what they heck they were doing yet".  We waited for our food FOREVER.  I think this picture of Clara sums up how we all felt…

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She was so sweet, though!  Even though we were there for two hours and WAY past her sleeptime, she just sat there, eating her multi-grain puffs.  she wanted Aunt Krissy to have a great birthday! 

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Clara and I went to the Ft. Worth Zoo with Jill and Nathan, Julie and Drew.  I was SO EXCITED.  isn't that just one of those things you dream of?  to take you kid to the zoo?!  I can't say that she really noticed the animals, but she did seem to like being there and I think maybe she was in to it…maybe???  see if you can find the orangutan in this picture…

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Clara checking out the gorillas…

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We went into a bird atrium that had birds flying all around.  We got a seed stick and the bird would land right on our sticks and eat!  Clara was really fascinated by the birds and kept trying to grab them!  

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Clara loved the penguins!  (and ooooo did it feel nice in their house!)

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Brian was gone all weekend, too, with work and I hated it – I just missed him so much!  But I was so happy for him – he was loving everything he was learning and enjoying San Antonio.  Saturday night sounded really cool eating really good food on the roof of a hotel overlooking the Alamo.  The best part of being apart is coming back together – it always makes me so grateful for him and remember even more how much I love and appreciate him. 

Brian went to the Monday Night Cowboys Football game against the Eagles.  The final score was 41 (Cowboys) – 37.  It was a CRAZY awesome game!!  ok, I'm taking his word on it, because, while I had it on, I couldn't really get into it.  I know, what is wrong with me?!  and why can't I like teams that are actually good?!  but I even heard the sportscasters saying that it was the "perfect" football game because it had everything you could want in a game.  So, he had fun and I was glad :) 

We had a date-day and went to the Impressionist Exhibit at the Kimball that included a lot of works from the Art Institute of Chicago…breath-taking! 

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My favorite (that I hadn't already seen in Chicago) was probably Renoir's "Two Sisters" .  I've never been a big Renoir fan, and seen this a dozen times before on posters, placemats and the like and not thought much of it, but in person it was absolutely staggering.  The color was gorgeous and mesmerizing.  

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Brian's favorite (of things he hadn't seen already – Van Gogh's "The Bedroom" and "Self-Portrait" would have been up there but we saw those in Chicago a few years ago) was Paris Street Rainy Day, by Gusatve Caillebotte.  It was HUGE (83 1/2 x 108 3/4in)!  He loved the color scheme and the scale- it was a lot to take in.  He used this painting to teach perspective so many times, so it was really cool to get to see it in real life.  

Afterwards, we walked around Sundance Square in downtown FW.

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and enjoyed happy hour at the Flying Saucer…

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…before checking out the movie "Burn After Reading".  funny!  thanks Mimi and Papi for taking care of Clara!

They had lots of fun playing…here is Clara playing on her favorite new toy – a plastic storage box.  Mom said she spent ALL DAY climbing up and down it.  Doesn't that sound like fun?!

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My 29th birthday was the next week, and it was a good one!  It was the first one Clara was here for, so how could it not be awesome?!  Brian was actually out of town – he left on Monday and got back about 9 on Wednesday night (my bday).  He was in Chicago for work and had another few good days of learning lots.  On Tuesday night, he went to the Sears tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  He called me from the top and sounded like a little kid!  It was apparently a very cool experience.

(the view)

Searstower

He also went to Millennium Park and enjoyed checking out the urban art, including "Cloud Gate" (aka "the bean").  He was really moved by this sculpture.  I asked him to write up a summary of his experience and this is what he shares:

We've been really fortunate to see a lot of great art on our trips and at various exhibitions that have come through Dallas, but there have been only a handful of times where it felt less like viewing a piece of art and more like an encounter with something transcendent. Seeing a Van Gogh in person for the first time (Daubigny's Garden), Pollock's "Number 31, 1950", the Modigliani's at the Kimbell's Montemarte exhibit, and now I can add Cloud Gate at Chicago's Millennium Park to the list.

As with any artwork that someone claims to be transcendent, pictures cannot do it any kind of justice. This is especially true of this sculpture because it is physically interactive. As you approach it, the curved reflection creates a slight illusion that you're almost walking in place. You aren't getting any closer and the all of a sudden you're upon it. And even as you reach out to touch the surface, you feel like you might lose your balance. I was at the Park on a perfect night and the reflection of the skyline on Cloud Gate took an already incredible city to a new height. It's probably an overstatement to call it flawless, but my encounter with it was. I stopped to take it in, walked away and found myself returning, not ready to really leave.

When we were hiking through the Grand Canyon several years ago, we took turns listening to Sigur Ros' "Takk". If you don't own it, buy it, but it don't listen until you can press play as you're watching the sunrise. That music will make everything more beautiful. So, for the same reason that we would want to stand on a ledge looking in to the Canyon while those songs were in our ears, I found myself scrolling through my iPod to find "Takk", approaching the sculpture and being changed.

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AND, thanks to the twitter and facebook, Brian hooked up with an old friend, Josh. Susan, Josh's wife, saw Brian's twitter as a facebook status update that mentioned Chicago, and texted him to say that Josh was ALSO in Chicago for work at the same time (they live in Atlanta).  So they connected and got to catch up, all thanks to technology. 

Before he left, he set up a scavenger hunt for me, with sweet, rhyming clues that led to presents along the way.  He designed it so that one clue led to something at the church, that led to something at home, then back again and so on.  this forced me to keep waiting and thus spread it out over the three days he was gone – very clever, and I'm not good at being patient!  but it was worth it.  Picking him up at the airport was the best part of my birthday though!! 

At work, my friend JenJen had plastered little hearts that she got lots of people to write sweet notes on all over my cube and had the song "Amazing Love" playing on REPEAT and hidden in the office when I came in.  I HATE this song!  which she knows…which is why she very cleverly hid the CD player so I couldn't find it.  It is a great song but it gets stuck in your head and I've just heard it WAY too many times…it is one of the kid songs we do and they LOVE it so I can't cut it.  Or I SO would.  It was funny, and sweet, and overwhelming, and I really appreciated her thoughtfulness. There were cards and gifts there, which was surprising and fun.  

the next week my family went to Anamia's (yum mexican) to celebrate – Clara even wore her little Mexican dress for the occasion.  It was a great time together! 

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three generations!

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it doesn't take much to make me happy – new big cups – I am SO EXCITED!!  I LOVE drinking out of big cups!!

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isn't she the cutest thing ever?

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get Mimi!

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September was ALSO the month for Drew's 1st Birthday!  (wow…few birthdays this month?!)

I remember very vividly the day he was born.  What a joyous day!!  I went to the hospital in the morning, and got to be with Julie for a while as she went through labor, and then waited in the waiting room until he was born.  Getting that news was indescribable!  and then seeing that precious little baby we had been praying for for so long was unbelievable!  I just remember that he had so much hair, and he was so tiny, and my heart just sang!  It is hard to believe he is a year old.  It has gone so fast!

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awaiting his cake!

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Look at my handy man! ahhhh…the best kind of Saturdays…pancakes, College Gameday, and getting stuff done around the house…

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Clara loves tofu.  Can't you tell??

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I took this picture to show how dirty she gets in one day.  This picture does it absolutely no justice at all.  She has all sorts of food, dirt and dust on her – I've already taken off her pants they were so dirty!  (I'm sure Paige never got them this dirty when they were hers! ;))  Just call her PigPen.

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Clara walking meant I saw a lot more of this in September…

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She loves checking out the whole house…

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One day she was playing in our bedroom and she decided to get in the laundry basket…  yes, she spends most of her time at home naked.  ironic that she is on a pile of clothes, huh?! 

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We got to hang out with the Harrell's – eating good pizza and playing Rock Band.  Brian was, of course, all over this.  If we were all 15 years younger, Brian and Bret would have an AMAZING garage band.  ;)  I, however, don't need to be given another mic anytime soon.  It was fun to see the girls almost playing together… so sweet! 

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the band…

The band 

Go Dylan!

Dylan  

We went to the lakehouse the last weekend, and it was just our little family this time.  The weather was PERFECT and we just relaxed! 

We had an EPIC Bocce tournament.  I won the first game, Brian won the second, and the third game came down to the very last pitch.  I'll let you figure out who won (you can see the balls and the white target ball just a few feet in front of Brian).

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Our #1 Fan!

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going for a walk…

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Our little 10 month-old…

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another one of her favorite toys this month ended up being…her umbrella stroller!  She LOVED to push that thing around and play with the straps!

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Do not be fooled by this…she does not like to read.  she is only holding this book because she likes to gnaw on them.  Brian and I still have our fingers crossed, but our hope for a book-lover is fading fast… 

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this is what CJ does while I'm working from home…

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She also started "clapping" at the beginning of September – quite a fun trick!  She continues to have such a sweet, happy spirit.  We are having so much fun with her and just can't imagine our life without her.  I just never dreamed it would be like that!  We've been giving her more solids, like cheerios, tofu, banana, and avocados that she can feed herself.  That will entertain her for hours, and she loves it!  oh, but what a mess. :)  She eats 4 -5 times a day (solids 2 -3 times a day) and naps 2 -3 times a day (for 2 – 3 hours).  She goes to bed between 9 and 11 and sleeps until 8 a.m.  She is getting a little more sad when we leave her somewhere, but she will still go to just about anybody, and always has a smile for anyone that wants one.  Her favorite things to do are walk outside, get tickled by Dad, and play with anything new.  She plays peek-a-boo by pulling things over her face and then ripping them off – how that makes her laugh!  She loves it when you play peek-a-boo, too.  Her hands are getting great at manipulating objects and passing them back and forth from hand to hand.  One of her favorite games is to take an object and put it in your mouth (like a small plastic ducky).  She loves to put that in my mouth and then pull it out.  We even had a family ring going one night, where Clara would take it out of Brian's mouth and put it in mine, and I would put it in hers and then Brian would take it and put it in his.  I'm sure this sounds VERY weird, but it was making her giggle a lot, and it felt like we were playing our first game together!  It is fun to see her get more and more interactive. 

We're looking forward to a great October!

August!

well, it's about time, huh?!!

August was SO BUSY and I'm just now catching up. But it was a great month!

Unfortunately, our camera messed up when we transferred the pictures, and so we lost photos from about a 3 week period :( I am SO VERY SAD!!! Three weeks of Clara's life, just gone. I am, however, EXTREMELY grateful that it was just three weeks worth – I realize it could have been a lot worse.

We began the month by going to the Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees game with the Parks. They were given some amazing tickets down on the first base side, just 16 rows up (we could see our "regular" seats like little dots way up high) and very generously shared them with us. Those of you who know us well, know Brian LOVES the Rangers and has been following them very loyally since he was a little boy. And of all sports, I enjoy baseball most of all (primarily because I can understand it, and it is laid back, and family friendly). So this was quite a treat for us, to see them playing the Yankees! On top of that, it was THE MOST EXCITING GAME I HAD EVER SEEN! Brian even said it was the most exciting game HE had ever seen (and that is actually saying a lot more) and we got to be there! There were several lead changes, AMAZING plays, ron washington got thrown out, Brian had a few funny exchanges on behalf of our whole section with a drunk, loud Yankee fan behind us, and then, with the game tied, it ended with a walk-off Grand Slam in the bottom of the 9th! it was such a fun night! and for us Rangers fans, those are few and far between, so we must relish them 😉

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Brian was HAPPY at the end! Everyone was going crazy and giving high fives!

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Clara continued to work on her standing and walking skills. That girl can MOVE! She loves to get around and explore – she always wants to check out something new and has NO FEAR. thank you so much, Paige, for her awesome walker and music table – she looooooves playing with them! what a blessing they have been!

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She LOVES climbing up the stairs! and she can go up them pretty fast. of course, she has no idea that standing up and flinging herself down them would be a bad idea, so the stairs are definitely not mom and dad's favorite toy. We have taught her, however, that she can only go up the stairs if one of us is with her. It is so cute – she will go over to the bottom of the stairs in the living room and turn around and wave, begging for us to come over. It was exciting because it was the first thing we "taught" (saying No and sometimes a little swat, then redirection) her that she was not allowed to do, and she really got it! (though she does NOT like being told "no" – her little face screws up and she wails, sometimes flinging her little body on the floor in utter despair. but even though she doesn't like it, she still obeys!)

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being told "No."

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sad…must throw body on floor…

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Clara loves playing with her daddly!

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She started "getting us," too when we would "get her" with tickles or tummy zerberts. It is the cutest thing – she crawls over and flings her body on you, and then nuzzles her head into your neck, just like we do to her. It is so sweet that she is trying to play back!

We went to the Botanical Gardens in Grapevine and took 9 month pictures of Clara. Here are our faves!

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My hair looks funny here because it was still wet! But I like this one because Clara and I are sitting in the same place Brian and I had sat a little less than a year earlier when she was still in my tummy.

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this one just cracks me up, because Clara was cracking up so much…

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Clara "getting" me

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Here is Brian at work. We got to go and check out his new office! Here he is at his desk…

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and in the center of the main room (it is an open-office space),he is standing where they have "lightbulb meetings" to brainstorm ideas…

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and here he is where they have "fireside meetings"….

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He is LOVING his job and so glad and grateful for making the change from teaching.

We also went to a Rangers game with Children's Ministry. It was fun to be there with church friends and hang out with our good friends the Harrells and other sweet families. we sat in the home run porch area and realized that if we sat in the area below the scoreboard behind left field, we would have sat in every area of the park. So on our way out, that is where we sat! Our pics from home run porch were some of the ones lost, but here we are in our last area of the park. We made a HUGE comeback and tied it up 8-8. Clara enjoyed wearing Brian's cap as a rally hat (inside out) but sadly, we still lost.

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Clara's friend Rebekah (5 years old) decided she wanted to spend her allowance money to buy Clara an outfit. How sweet is that?!! Her parents chipped in a little extra and she bought her this cute little outfit!

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We celebrated my parent's 37th (WOW!!!) wedding anniversary with Dad taking everyone to the Melting Pot. The Melting Pot is a really nice fondue restaurant and we had so much fun! There are four courses and I think the cheese one is my favorite (even more than the chocolate desert one…I know, can you believe it?!!). the "traditional" gift for 37 is "alabaster" (I'm so glad it wasn't 38, because you are supposed to give "beryl or tourmaline" and I have no idea what the heck those are… I guess I have a year to figure it out) and so we gave them a whole bag full of "white" items in place of the alabaster…frame, candles, vase, refrigerator magnets, measuring cups (I was kinda grabbing anything all white), etc. It was a fun experience with only a little use of the fondue sticks as weapons (you have to expect a little of that when it comes to Swasko's and possible stealing of food).

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More swimming!  We checked out the other pool in Grapevine with some friends and it has a great kiddie pool, but decided we like Dove Pool because it is right down the street! 

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Here are the "village" babies playing on a Thursday night (we get together with 3 other couples each Thursday for home group/accountability/Bible Study).  Clara and Helen Kate…

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CJ and Drew boy

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August also brought the end to our "Pantry Challenge" that we started back in June. We were seeing how long we could go just by eating the things already in our house, with no eating out and no trips to the grocery store. The answer was, about TWO months! of course, that doesn't count about two weeks when we went on vacation and obviously had to buy groceries and eat out, or "special occasions" like eating out (thanks Mom and Dad!! :D) or a meal was being provided elsewhere (like volunteer training at church, etc.). But, we made it! I made things from scratch I had never made from scratch (like calzones) and got kind of creative with some recipes (hmmm…what kind of soup would it make if we just put all of these cans into a pot and cooked it???). We probably could have gotten even more creative there at the end, but we were SO ready that we finally gave in and restocked! It was good to use things that had been sitting there for a long time and now hopefully we won't let ourselves get back in that place!

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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I was cleaning out and packing up some kitchen drawers one day – taking out things Clara used as a baby but doesn't anymore (small bibs, small bottles, etc.) and making room for sippy cups and toddler dishes – and Clara discovered a bag of pacifiers. I tried desperately for awhile to get her to "take" a pacifier, but she never would. I'm glad now that she never got attached to it, but in the moment, would have gladly accepted future attachment-issues for in-the-moment self comfort! what was funny is that, because she never really used one, she didn't know what to do with these. She liked playing with them, but she kept putting them in her mouth wrong. It was so funny!

sideways:

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crooked:

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upside down and carrying another one…she drug these ALL OVER the house for several days:

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We also went to a Rangers game with Larr and Christi (wow, was this the month for baseball games or what?!). the game itself wasn't very good, but we loved getting to be there with them! what would have been a major bummer turned into a great memory! all of the pics, however, lost :(
August was crazy time because I was doing two jobs – my new one as the Early Childhood Director and my "old" one as the Adventure Zone Director, while also interviewing candidates and hiring a new AZ Director, and preparing for "Promotion Sunday" – the day all of the kids move up to their new rooms and lots of new volunteers are (hopefully) recruited, trained and in place. It made for a few 70-80 hour work weeks and so it was a little nuts.  Brian was amazing through out (especially considering he was also starting a new job) and my three best friends even came up to the church several times each, lugging their kiddos with (CJ had a playmate – it worked out great, since she also spent a LOT of time at the church in August) to volunteer their time and help me get rooms ready, open house stuff made, resources sorted and organized, etc.  I was so grateful for them!  It was tempting to just hire someone so the position would be filled, but I was trying to be very prayerful through the process and wait on the right person.  We did hire someone and she is AWESOME!!  It has been very weird to turn over the Adventure Zone.  It was definitely time – as much as I love it and am so passionate about it, I had kind of gotten in a rut, doing the same thing for 4+ years, and knew that ministry needed fresh eyes.  But it was still "my baby" for those years and a ministry I care very, very deeply about.  It is hard to "trust" it and those volunteers I love so much to someone else.  But I can't think of a better person to hand it over to than Melissa, and I'm so grateful for her heart and her willingness to serve God in this way.  And, of course, I'm still very much connected to the AZ in my new job (though I do want the new director to feel like she has ownership over the AZ so I'm finding that balance).  Then Promotion Sunday happened and we transitioned for a few weeks and by the end of August, I was fully the Early Childhood Shepherd and no longer the AZ person.  It has been fun, and a HUGE growing and stretching experience – and I'm sure it will continue to be, in a wonderful way.  I've been rejuvenated and re-energized, and it is very exciting – there are so many things I think we can be doing to be an even more effective tool for God in the lives of these precious little ones and their families, and look forward to seeing some of those things happen. 

In the middle of it all, Clara Jane had her 9 month check-up!  It went Great!  She checked out healthy and well, and Dr. Rutherford was pleased with her growth.  I can't remember how much she weighed (22 or 23 lbs?) or how long she was; I will have to ask at her next appointment.  I do know she was still off the charts percentile-wise, so the nickname "Tubs" sticks for a while longer! ;)  She got a few vaccinations and had her blood tested for iron.  We got those results a few days later and it showed that she is slightly anemic. :(  so we are supposed to start giving her an iron supplement and retest in a month.  Having her blood taken is awful!! :(  they pricked her little foot and kept squeezing and squeezing – she didn't like it to say the least. 

Here she is playing in the pantry!

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Here she is playing in her exersaucer!

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Have a great month! 
 

Clara and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Have you ever read, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"?  Well, I had my very own version today. 

First, I pitched a few fits that were so bad I flung myself backwards and screamed (I was already sitting so it wasn't too bad, and mom helped break my fling back with her arm)… I was REALLY upset I didn't get my way.  I guess it is good to learn early that I have boundaries and don't always get my way, but it sure is a hard lesson to learn! 

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And then I fed myself breakfast and got REALLY sticky!  Here I am eating food that I previously spit out and stuck to my tummy.  YUM!

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Wow, it sure is hard to get the food to go in my mouth (and stay there)! 

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I was such a mess Mom decided to give me a bath in the kitchen sink- what fun to splash and play!!

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Afterwards I was crawling around and found a bottle that Dad had left out from the night before…good thing it was empty!  Why did Mom take it away so fast?  I love bottles!

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Next, I found one of the coasters that Mom made at one of her bridal showers.  They're very special to her, but I thought they would make a fun toy, so I carried it into the kitchen and threw it against the tile floor.  What a cool sound it made when it broke into a bunch of pieces! 

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Mom came running, but not before I could pick up a piece to put in my mouth and cut my stomach and cheek.  It didn't hurt but Mom felt HORRIBLE and was VERY MAD at herself for leaving the coasters within reach! 

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Now I'm taking my morning nap, and I'm sleeping really good.  Just like Alexander's mommy told him, my Mom told me, "Everyone has a bad day sometimes."  I think she was telling herself that, too!