Thursday, July 29, 2010


Robbie has been surprising me lately with his artistic abilities. I know I'm totally biased, but the kid is already drawing (recognizable) train tracks by drawing 2 somewhat straight lines next to each other and then lots of short perpendicular lines while he narrates each one by saying "track... track... track...".

Then last week he was drawing trains! He erased the best one before I could make a mad dash for my camera, but here's the runner up:

Look closely - the big circle in the middle is the engine, the two smaller circles below are the wheels, the smaller circle at the top and off center to the right a little bit is the conductor's window, and then the track is that line running around the outside. Not bad if you ask me, but then again I'm his biggest fan.

*Love the proud grin.

The Nutley Livingstons

The events of last weekend will always be overshadowed by a great visit from Rob's brother Brad and his wife Christine (who live in Nutley, NJ). They were in town for a wedding, and we got to see them for part of Saturday and all of Sunday! We hope they come back, but won't blame them if they don't since we ended up sleeping them in the basement where the sump pump was going off every minute through the night of the Great Storm of 2010, and the temperature down there is easily 60 degrees.

We are thankful that they are so easy, and while Rob and I made sure we didn't take in any water during the storm early Saturday morning, Robbie and Brad spent time together wrestling and putting the alphabet train together.

It's always fun to play in the puddles after a good summer storm...

(I don't think Robbie could adore him more.)

Sunday afternoon the weather was beautiful so after an early dinner at Culver's (why is this the first time I've been there!?), we played outside before Christine and Brad had to leave.

Can you guess which brother is which?

I am pretty sure these two would follow Aunt Christine anywhere...

We picked clovers and tiny white flowers that grew nearby. This is a new favorite summer activity when I take the kids on wagon rides up and down the street. They hold their little weed in their chubby hands like they have just discovered the most rare, gorgeous flower they've ever seen. It is pretty cute and never gets old to me.

I looked up at one point to find Robbie taking Ellie on a wagon ride.

Aunt Christine must understand the importance of a well-worn-out little boy at the end of the day, because they ran up and down the sidewalk together several times!

And later, Uncle Brad and Robbie brush up on their basketball skills.

We miss these two so much and are so thankful for them! You guys are the best. We love you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The weekend that nearly did me in

Poor Ellie. This weekend was not the best for her.

On Friday I went to get a manicure and pedicure while my mom watched the kids (it was part of her birthday gift to me!). I wanted to be ready for my cousin Maria's baby shower on Saturday that we were hosting. When I came home, I found Robbie to be in one of his wild / reckless moods. Sometimes he gets excited when my mom or sister spend time with us and he gets a little out of control. This never bodes well for Ellie. While mom was still there, he pushed Ellie over backwards (from sitting) onto the tile floor. I had to take him into the bathroom for 'conversations' and spankings several times in a row.

He seemed to finally calm down and respond to my discipline, and after my mom left I took the kids down to the family room to play and clean up before Rob came home. While I wasn't looking, Ellie apparently made a break for the stairs. I heard a thud/crash and then Ellie's crying, and turned around to see her lying on her back at the bottom of our family room half flight of wooden stairs. I scooped her up, feeling awful that I didn't even see the fall, and consoled her for a few minutes. After she calmed down a bit I searched the back of her head through her hair for a goose egg or any sign of blood. Nothing. I figured she was fine, and turned her around to face me only to discover the enormous swelling bruise about an inch in diameter above her left eye. It was alarmingly big to me, and I called the doctor just to be on the safe side and to make sure I knew everything that I should do for her. I had no idea she had fallen face first! After observing her behavior, pupils, and checking her through the night, she seems to have come through her first really bad tumble just fine. She's a tough one.

All night Friday and into the early morning hours of Saturday, we got a TON of rain. So much so that the typical places around our house that don't handle lots of rain well were showing signs of a threatening flood. We were up at 5:30am managing the pooling water outside for hours and keeping it from coming into our home. Thankfully we were successful. However, I was unable to drive to Indianapolis for my cousin's shower as planned. I couldn't leave Rob home alone with the kids AND the flash flood warnings and forecasted rain through 4pm! It was a disappointing choice to have to make but it turned out to be the right one. Streets all over Wheaton were totally submerged under water, and our favorite park continues to be at least a 2 foot deep pond. Many of our friends have flooded basements and huge messes to deal with.

Saturday was spent here at home, and ended up being a fairly typical weekend day with the exception of Rob's brother Brad who was in town for a wedding. We put the kids to bed as usual that evening, and while Brad was at a friend's wedding nearby, Rob and I enjoyed a quiet dinner, favorite dessert and a movie.

As Ellie was still settling down to sleep, we could hear her fussing, which is typical if her daily schedule has been thrown off. But one of her cries got me up off the couch right away (if you're a mom, you know the kind I'm talking about - you just know something isn't right).

When I went into her room I found her screaming and saw her leg twisted around the crib rails. It looked as if she had been dangling her right leg out of the side of the crib, then tucked her foot back into the crib through the next slat, and somehow wiggled it into a position that was totally binding since she was laying up against the side. After a few seconds of gently trying to untuck her foot to free her leg, I realized that I was nearly helpless and possibly hurting her. My heart started pounding and I and insistently yelled for Rob. I could only imagine that her leg would be dislocated after we got her out of this mess, if it wasn't already. It was a terrible feeling until Rob and I were able to free her, and it took both of us to lift her and work her leg out of the rails. We gently checked her leg after she calmed down for bruises and sensitivity to pain, and moved it around. She was fine and went back to sleep a few minutes later happy, as if nothing had happened.

I hate these moments as a mom though, being so shaken up over the safety of your baby. And to have two back to back like this (the fall down the stairs and then the leg through the crib) sandwiched around our attempts to keep flood waters out of our home... it was not a restful weekend!

But I am so thankful that God saw fit to protect Ellie in these situations that could have ended with greater injury, and am reminded that I can't protect and shield her from everything that will inevitably come along. It is a daily exercise to place my children back into their Father's hands and trust that He loves them even more than I do and will watch over them as He sees fit and best for them.


(*Please know that we have of course tried every type of baby gate for our stairs and nothing fits our home, short of having something custom build and permanently fixed onto our bannisters.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not what I was expecting

July - you surprised me this year. You're supposed to be a fun month, but you turned out to be a lot of work.

First the fun stuff!

We've been keeping cool by playing on the back deck in the kiddie pool, as well as using the ice bucket to dump water down our shorts.

Playing outside is a lot of work, and sometimes a buddy just needs to rest his sweet head on a hard piece of plastic.

Mimicking mommy and aunt kels, who only participated in the kiddie pool with toes.

This went on for a good half an hour.

An immediate fan of Giant Peach Iced Tea, like his momma.

We've had a lot of fun teaching Ellie things this summer, but Robbie has had the most success. He is currently trying to expand her vocabulary by yelling in her face "T-T-TRAIN!" and "B-B-BOOK!".

Something fun my friend Suzi and I have been doing is our own sort of VBS for our boys. She has an awesome book that guides you through a bible passage and related activity for young children. This set of pictures was taken during the story of Noah's Ark. We had the boys decorate the outside of a tupperware bin with paper and drawings (ha!) of the animals Noah gathered into his ark. Then we hid stuffed animals around the room and the boys gathered them into OUR makeshift ark! It was adorable.

The boys decide to pile into the ark along with the animals.
Eli got the short end of the stick (being the first one in).
You can see he is less than thrilled, poor guy!!

Suzi closing the time in prayer. This picture is evidence that it's never too soon to engage your kids in prayer and bible study. Look at these 2 boys!! Precious! And totally participating.


A few weeks ago we started to introduce Organic Whole Milk (cow's) to Ellie's bottles. She immediately started to show signs of a continued allergy and after a trip to the doctor for her various reactions, we were told to abandon cow's milk. We knew the chances of this happening were pretty good, so we went back to all formula bottles until her system could settle down. She had diarrhea among other things, and I chalked this up to the milk situation. But it DID persist for 3-4 days after we had abandoned milk...

About a day before she was back to her normal self, Robbie came down with diarrhea too. And it lasted for 7 days. He was miserable, and the worst part was that he developed terrible diaper rash early on. Every diaper change was torture for him, and after a day or two I resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going anywhere for more than an hour at a time (read: bare necessity trips to the grocery store) because the best thing for him was to be sprayed down and soak in the tub after each poop. We went through 2 tubs of Desitin in one week, between both kids.

I do realize that I'm talking an awful lot about poop right now. Do I feel bad about that? Sort of. But I'm going to keep going, and you can feel free to just stop reading at any time. This is our life. :)

On day 4 of Robbie's illness, I took him in to the doctor to have his bum examined. They prescribed a cream in case he had developed a yeast infection. A few days later, the diarrhea stopped but his rash transformed into something new. The nurse on the phone said he should be seen. Back to the doctor... if you're keeping track, this is visit #3 in 2 weeks for the Livingstons. We walked out with a prescription for 2 more creams, one of which cost more than you really want to spend on something you put on your bum. Desperate times...

During that week we did everything we could think of to ease Robbie's pain. ("Robbie has pain!" he would say to us through tears.) The best thing for him was to run naked outside, so we did a lot of that.

Ellie is always good company out on the deck.

This picture below is evidence that the Lord protected her from illness - she's taking a swig out of Robbie's sippy cup mid-illness. There is just no way to keep your kids from touching or sucking on a sick sibling's cup or toy.

After a little sand snack.

Robbie is still a sweetheart, even when he's feeling awful. So quick to give his little sister a kiss on the forehead.

Do these pictures call to mind the Garden of Eden to anyone else!?

Towards the end of that sick week, we went to Wisconsin for Joey Larson's baby dedication (see last post below). I wanted to photograph my sketch before giving it to the Larsons, and was having a hard time finding a place that gave me enough natural light.

I thought this was funny. Ellie doesn't like to let me out of her sight and stays pretty much within arm's reach of me during the day. Jailbreak!

The day after Joey's dedication was my birthday, and we celebrated by staying home with Sickie and having a cookout with my family. My mom, dad and sister came over with an entire birthday meal prepared, and we enjoyed an Armbruster family traditional meal of Steak Shish-Ka-Bobs, salad, bread, and birthday cake! That morning Kelsey had come over with my favorite Starbucks drink and donuts for all of us, and we ate my birthday breakfast on the deck (so Robbie could be nakies, of course!) and had a great time just being together. Flowers delivered from Rob's parents as well as my brother Collin who lives in Indiana topped off the day for me.

And now I'll leave you with a few images of a typical day around here.

And this was after I had completely picked up all the toys that morning... TWICE!

I wouldn't trade it (even the poop) for anything.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The future is full of hope

My godson Joseph Bradley is a special little boy. (Do you know him?)
His parents are some of our very best friends.
He carries in his name the legacy of his late uncle.
And as his daddy proclaimed on his dedication day, he will now be looked to to carry on the Larson name... the only one at this point who can for the next generation.

We all gathered in Wisconsin to celebrate his dedication day this past weekend, and there wasn't a dry eye in his grandparents' living room, as the pastor covered Joey in prayer and reminded us all of our hope in Christ... the very room we gathered in years ago to mourn Brad's transition from life on earth to life in the presence of our Almighty God. Both grandfathers spoke of life, hope, faith, death, and resurrection. Of our role in Joey's life and the lives of all of the little ones running around the room in that moment.

It was beautiful, and God was so present and I believe glorified. What an honor to watch our sweet friends declare to their family and close friends that they will raise their children to know the Lord! It's an awesome responsibility God has given to all of us, not only to be intentional about the way we raise our own children but our active involvement in one another's families for the sake of the Gospel. I see the ways that God continues to pour out his blessing on our friends and all of our children, and I am so thankful to be a part of their lives.

Well not only is Joey precious but he is inspirational, and I decided to gift the Larsons something that would hopefully be meaningful and would always remind them of Joey's special dedication day.

I dug around in my art closet for my 2B, 6B and 9B pencils and was pleased to also find a blank sheet of Rives BFK and a kneaded eraser that wasn't completely black. Then late one night while everyone slept, I went to work. I sketched from a gorgeous professional photo that was taken of Joey shortly after his birth, which made the process much easier. And I was pleased with the result (thank goodness)!

{click if you want to enlarge photo}

Thanks for including us in Joey's dedication in such a meaningful way.

Deuteronomy 11: 18-20
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates...

Friday, July 16, 2010

I love this.

This is the most beautiful thing I have read in quite a while... A post by Ann (click here).

Grab a tissue. Don't say I didn't warn you. :) Have I mentioned that this is my new favorite blog to visit? Unbelievable.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

glo·ri·ous (adj) 1. beautiful in a way that inspires wonder or joy

The context for this blog post is that it is currently 1:30pm on Tuesday afternoon… showering may or may not be on the agenda today, I just consumed Sunday’s (wilted) lettuce-and-onion salad because the house is too messy everywhere to create another mess just to feed myself, Ellie is having continued reactions to milk which culminated in an urgent trip to the doctor yesterday around dinnertime to rule out something called a ‘super-infection’ in her diaper area, Robbie has a stomach bug, both kids have diarrhea and bums so raw they scream at the sight of a wipe or the Desitin tub - yes, we have a tub of it - and Rob is out late tonight for a work function (are you a young mom? Did your heart just start to race too!? Haha!).

The Spirit is alive and well. I can testify to this fact simply because my heart has been pricked so many times in the last several weeks I think I might start bleeding out if He keeps it up.

I have been contemplating what life in Christ is supposed to look like, for my family and for me as an individual. The more I think about it, read about it in Scripture, observe it in those I know, and dream about what it COULD look like in my own little, growing family, the more I am sure of this.

It involves slowing down. It involves simplifying. It requires a willingness to do the hard work of pursuing only what is most important and what promises to satisfy. It calls me to be honest about shedding that which is unnecessary and a hindrance.

I have been mentally mapping out what I want life to look like. Not which rug I’d love to have for the family room or the perfect drapes for our bedroom. I’m talking about what I want to be looking back on when I’m on my deathbed and pondering how I spent the time I was given to bring God glory and share His incredibly hope-and-grace-filled gospel. Who knows when the comforter of that deathbed is going to be pulled back, inviting each of us in? So I’m getting to work now.

I have decided a few things. I want our home to be a place of refuge, where God’s Holy Spirit is always present and moving and welcome. I want my marriage to be a testament to the fact that God uses ordinary people to display His glory by allowing them to experience His love, respond to one another with humility, intentionally offer grace, pursue marital faithfulness, and be partners in serving God and others. And I want my kids to come to know the God of the Bible and fall in love with Him to the point that they give Him every aspect of their lives.

I also want to be personally ready at any time to answer the call God might have on our lives. I want to be able to hear His voice and recognize it.

After I laid my sick babes down for their naps a little while ago, I picked my way through the minefield of toys otherwise known as the family room and sought refuge in my backyard with my pathetic little lunch. I bowed my head and closed my eyes and invited God into my day and the mess I keep seeming to make out of things. I was putting a (small) stake in the ground with my decision to be quiet and value what little opportunities I have for solitude, even if they come in the form of lunch on the deck. I am beginning to learn that it’s a poor choice (for me) to forfeit time alone with a God who wants to spend time with me, and exchange those precious sacred moments for frantic attempts to clean up the exterior of my life (take a shower, pick up toys, etc.). I’m not saying that those things shouldn’t happen, but what I am saying is that for me, those things must take a backseat when God calls me into solitude and I’m finally able to hear Him.

It’s time to start actually following Him when He calls me. Even if it’s just into the backyard for a talk (for starters).

Mostly it means that my heart and mind need to be trained on Him every moment of the day. But practically, it has also meant adjusting a few more things in our lives. We’re keeping the TV turned off, with the exception of a few sporting events and the occasional children’s show that aids in my ability to cook dinner. We are thisclose to canceling cable. I’m very mindful of what the kids are hearing and seeing (and thus, absorbing) every day, and we try to make Bible reading and related activities (acting out a story) a priority. We pray together and we teach Robbie how to pray. I’m beginning to explain to him that we want to offer praise and worship to God, and why, and how to do it. We are teaching him how to encourage others and how to show appreciation (with those words). Mostly, I’m evaluating what I model to both kids by my example, and I’m feeling convicted at every turn.

Play dates are no longer a daily occurrence. We are not rushing anywhere if we can help it. We are taking our time to enjoy the summer together, to learn how to play nicely with our sibling, to appreciate all that God has given us simply within our family and our home, and to seek Him above all else.

And like today, little miracles are happening all around us. I discover God waiting for me on my back deck, of all places. I hear Robbie singing along to “Here I Am To Worship” in the car. I recognize my own children’s daily emotional and spiritual needs and key in on what is required of me to meet them. I am more aware of the ways I could be serving my husband and offering him the love and respect he deserves from me. I enjoy thoughtfully preparing (mostly) nutritious meals for the family God has given to me to care for, body and soul. I am discovering that there is an opportunity to worship God in everything we do throughout the day, from eating to playing to making financial decisions to where my mind runs when it’s idle. How I respond. The things I make plans around. The things I put my hope and trust in. Who I put my hope and trust in. I am so aware of how little I have been worshipping God lately.

I’m adjusting to how counter cultural this attempt is, even in Wheaton, Illinois. There’s no blending into our cultural landscape if we are pursuing Christ with everything we have. And so we return to inviting God into the moments of our days that make up our lives, and pray that He is glorified in us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

For him, with gratitude

My best guys, playing in the summer rain yesterday after dinner before tucking in early for bed.

My camera's been acting up, and at first glance I was annoyed that it hadn't focused properly during this little shoot as I attempted to capture a sweet moment.

And then I took a closer look and realized that these photos aren't accidental, but truth-telling. They are a perfect representation of our lives right now. (And they are unedited.)

Everything around us can be moving, busy, unclear, and difficult to manage... but I have been blessed with a husband who is constant and unmoving through it all. (And handsome to boot.)

Rob is my anchor, my best friend, the one who wisely counsels me when I've lost my way, who always protects, provides and cares for me, and never gives up on me. He is calm when I am worked up, and farsighted when I can't see past what is right in front of me. He challenges me and faithfully walks through difficulties with me. He pursues God with me. He encourages me to dig deeper and think harder and run faster towards life with God. He appreciates my strengths, marvels at my gifts, puts up with my terribly irritating flaws and is patient with my pitiful weaknesses. Robbie and Ellie were not only created in part by him, but they ARE partially him in their personality, their mannerisms, preferences, tendencies, and strengths. I would be lying to say that I'm not jealous of that fact. I love knowing that they will always carry around their father inside of them, that God weaves us together as a family in different ways with relationship to one another. Husband to wife. Father to son. Mother to daughter. Brother to sister. What a miracle.