Friday, September 24, 2010


Finally, Ellie's hair is long enough to pull into pigtails!

And they're pretty cute, if you ask me.

So much to love about this pretty little girl.
Her big clear blue eyes, button nose, rosebud lips, full soft cheeks...

...just add that wavy, flipped-at-the-ends, light brown / amber / blond highlighted, all natural hair to the list!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Family Snapshot - Fall 2010

I haven't given a general update on our family in a while, so here's what is going on in the Livingston household, one family member at a time. (And let me preface this post by saying this is mainly for me and the next published blog book, for memory keeping's sake. I doubt you'll find it that interesting!)

We have been spending many early mornings at the Arboretum - when the stars align and we have good weather along with happy babies, we take long walks around the pond/lake, searching for chipmunks and collecting pine cones, acorns and leaves. When we just need a leisurely drive through the trails, we settle into the van with bags of donut holes (and maybe a coffee, but don't tell my OB), turn on Praise Baby and roll the windows down. Most mornings have fallen into the second category. Between the heat that is lingering here and my first trimester sickness and exhaustion, keeping everyone buckled in and entertained usually wins out.

On our last trip, I had to take a picture of this Arboretum employee mowing one of the fields as we drove past. I couldn't help but wonder what they think about as they begin MOWING THE ARBORETUM (do you know how big it is?!). It must take forever. I wonder if they are discouraged before they even start. (Or maybe they have their own bag of donuts in that little cab!?)

This idea/picture sort of resembles where I am at right now, so I'll start there with the updates.


While I am so thankful for our family and this new pregnancy, many weekday mornings I wake up and feel like I've been asked to mow the arboretum. Getting through 12 hours with Robbie and Ellie on my own is tough right now, and thankfully my mom has been coming over a lot to help me. This pregnancy has been very different from the last two, as the first trimester has not been especially kind! Hear me when I say I am NOT complaining - I wouldn't trade our situation for anything. I just wasn't expecting it to play out this way! And really, there is no getting used to feeling like this.

In addition, Robbie and Ellie haven't been especially healthy. Ellie got hand, foot and mouth for a week on top of cutting two new bottom teeth (which brings us to 8 teeth now!), Robbie got Croup a week later, and in the last few days he has also begun the process of cutting his upper 2 year molars. I don't know where the end of August and the first half of September went, but it passed us by in a sleepless fog. Rob and I feel like we are getting as much sleep as we do when we have a newborn, and we don't even have our newborn yet!

We keep telling ourselves we have a little over 6 months to get ready for having a third child, for Robbie and Ellie to continue to grow up and move into different phases, that we've had a lot of illness lately and it's not always going to be like this... but the reality is that these early years as a family with small children are just hard at times. We have a very active and physical 2 1/2 year old boy and a very strong-willed (where'd she get that from?) 1 year old who is beside herself that she can't walk or talk as well as she wants to. I'm thankful for the promises God gives to us as moms (and dads) to provide us with strength, wisdom, grace and forgiveness whenever we need it. I'm also really grateful for a husband and a mom who come to my rescue when I'm at my physical limit and just need to rest.

As far as the new baby is concerned, everything seems to be going well. At my last appointment, the Doctor wasn't able to pick up the heartbeat with the doppler, and coupled with a few unusual and slightly concerning things that had happened the week prior to my appointment, they took me back for an unscheduled ultrasound (my second). The baby is so much more formed than it was just 4 weeks ago, which is amazing to begin with. Goodbye blob, hello little person! But it brought tears to my eyes to see the little heart beating and to watch the baby move around on the screen, legs and arms stretching and tucking back in. We are so thankful for this third miracle and feel so undeserving. We pray for protection over the health and growth of this little one, and are still deciding whether or not we will find out the gender in November.

Rob has been busy riding in on his white horse and saving the day. He leaves the house before 6am and gets home 12 hours later, often walking through the door at the end of the work day to find a mess of toys, food-encrusted kids banging plates at the table, or a tantrum unfolding in the bathtub. He is always certain to find a tired (dare I say crabby!?) wife who is holding on by a thread. He spends the hours between 6 and 9pm washing, wrestling, reading to, disciplining, and loving the kids; waiting patiently for his dinner which usually has no trace of chicken in it and is far from the standard fare that used to come out of the kitchen at the hands of a wife who used to love cooking; picking up toys all over the house and usually cleaning up the kitchen; and on the good nights, he manages to sit on the couch for a little while with a bowl of ice cream in order to catch his breath. He never forgets to thank me for whatever I have produced and called 'dinner', always offers to pick up carry out on the way home if I'm too tired to cook, never criticizes my shortcomings especially when it comes to how I am mothering our children, and is extremely patient with me.

For as anxious as I am for the second trimester to arrive in all its glory (a ferocious appetite just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas! No more time wasted fantasizing about how to get more sleep!), I would suspect that Rob is twice as eager. And I don't blame him if that's the case. :)

So this picture below represents us right now, Fall 2010. Ha! Just plugging along.

Brother and Sister

As far as Robbie and Ellie's sibling relationship, it has been sweet to see them play more together and really enjoy it. I usually get Ellie up first in the morning, and after I change and dress her, she crawls right over to Robbie's bedroom door and reaches up for the handle. When I help her crack the door open, she gets so excited and goes right over to his bed to see him. He is also happy to see her, and I love that. I sure hope it translates into them enjoying sharing a bedroom soon... because that is what is going to happen!

They are both in forward facing convertible car seats, and they both sit in booster seats next to each other at the dinner table. Robbie hates to ride in the stroller and loves the freedom of walking, but usually eventually asks to be carried wherever we are; Ellie is still confined to the stroller until she can walk. We are destroying leggings and light colored pants left and right, as well as the toes of her shoes. She has 2 more weeks until she hits the age at which Robbie started to walk (15 1/2 months!). After that, I think it's fair to say that my patience will have run dry. She gets very mad at us when we force her to try and take steps by herself!

We are still working with Robbie on acting out towards Ellie in anger and with aggression. She takes her share of smacks to the head and gets knocked over daily. Toys are constantly ripped out of her hands. Now she is old enough to respond to him with anger as well, and usually tries to reciprocate whatever Robbie has done to her! I have to tell myself not to laugh and make sure I am teaching both of them, in the moment, what is Christ-like and appropriate behavior and what is unacceptable. I keep praying that they will grow into a special relationship with one another, knowing that they will always have their differences, feel competitive, and so on... but desiring for their bond to be strong and loyal and above all, loving and protective. I see hints of that now, as they enjoy holding hands at random times throughout the day, as they share their snacks with each other without my prompting, and as they find that they are much more entertained by playing together than they are playing by themselves.

A typical situation:


This sweet girl has a mind of her own and lots of ideas of what she wants to do! Like I mentioned already, she loves crawling and cruising the furniture and has taken to crawling up our legs and pulling at our pants to be picked up, but gets mad when we encourage her to take her own steps. She is also frustrated by her inability to effectively communicate, although every week she seems to be saying more words!
Here's her word count so far:
Mama, Dada, No, Shoe, Puppy, Bobbie (Robbie), Uh-Oh, Oopsie!, Bye-Bye, Night-Night, Behkie (Blankie), LaLa (Lovey), Down, Up, More, That, All Done, Baby, Mima, Je-Jus (Jesus), Ah-lah-ooo (I Love You) and Do-da-lo-la-loooo! (yodel, usually into an empty paper towel tube). I almost forgot about Ticka-Ticka (tickle tickle), Good Girl, Spoon, Baba (bottle), Duck, Out, and Zee (zebra).

I think she's verbally ahead of Robbie when he was her age, but it's hard to remember.

Teething for Ellie has been particularly disruptive of her disposition and especially her sleep. She goes to bed at 6:30pm and wakes up around 7am and sleeps through the night, unless she's sick or teething or constipated. We have moved Ellie to one nap during the day, and she goes down between 11am and 12pm, and sleeps for 2-3 hours. Thankfully her nap overlaps Robbie's nap now, even if just for an hour or so.

She eats twice as much as Robbie does at any given meal, and begs food off of anyone who might dare to eat in front of her. She is finally done with formula, but the process of moving her to soy milk exclusively has been long and complicated. She still requires Miralax along with any serving of dairy.

She's growing out of most 12-18 month clothes and is just beginning to fit into 18-24 month clothes. She is comfortable in 18 month pj's. She wears a size 4 diaper and size 4 shoes.

Her hair is growing like crazy and she finally got to try out pigtails for the first time in August (I can't believe I forgot to post about that - will remedy soon.) She likes to pull her bows out of her hair and try to put them in mine. She knows what to do at dinnertime when we tell her it's time to pray to Jesus, and she folds her hands and bows her head. She recognizes our immediate family members in photographs. She now lunges out of my arms for my mom when she comes over, and even pulled this stunt with Kelsey while she was home last! She loves to steal Robbie's sippy cups and try whatever he's drinking (real milk always gets a sour face reaction). She cracks me up in the bath tub with her naughtiness, splashing like a mad woman and standing up only to give us a 'look at me!' grin before being disciplined, helping wash Robbie's back, eating the bubbles, pulling the plug up on the faucet while I'm filling the tub so that the shower turns on... now you see why bath time is not exactly restful!

She loves to play with her Fisher-Price Noah's Ark, her teapot and kitchen, doll house, and of course, Robbie's trains. She is particularly fond of creating sound effects during her play, and can be heard chomping as she pretends to eat pizza, sipping on an empty tea cup, and making a chug and whistle sound while playing trains. She is so funny to me!

She and Robbie both share a love for The Polar Express movie, and get excited at the same part (when the train comes into view of the Northern Lights and a fast-paced song starts up), kicking their legs and letting out squeals of delight. In this rear-view mirror picture I snapped while we were pulled over on the side of the road at the Arboretum, she is captivated by the Polar Express.


Hello there, haircut! It was getting pretty shaggy and so we went extra-short this time.

Robbie is growing like crazy too, and is in 2T shirts but his long legs demand 3T pants! He is also in 3T pj's. He likes his baseball hat to be worn backwards. He wears a size 8 shoe and is still in size 6 diapers. (Potty training has its place and time, and as far as I'm concerned it can wait until he's good and ready.)

He can now remove clothing and shoes by himself, drinks out of dixie cups at night before bedtime, and brushes his own teeth (although I get a good scrub in because he's just starting to have morning breath if I'm not careful).

Funny things he can be heard saying:
"Hi, boy!" or "Hi, girl!" - to strangers and kids at the grocery store
"Robbie hold a dollar bill!" - anytime I get out my wallet to pay for something
"George Washington" - when asked who's on the dollar bill he's holding
"Barack Obama" - when asked who the president is
"Mommy's ah-zausted, cover mommy with a blanket" - when I stop and lay down on the couch while he's playing nearby in the family room
"It's the Polar Express, Ellie-girl!" - when I turn on his favorite movie
"My God is my Dad/Train! So strong and so mighty..." - to the tune of 'My God is so Great!' He thinks it's hilarious to substitute wrong words into songs he knows.

He also:
- likes to list everyone who is with us on a particular outing
- is starting to use "I" and "Me" instead of "Robbie"
- has figured out how to jump, and has remained our expert somersault-er
- asks to kiss the baby (my belly) before going to bed each night, not something we have asked or encouraged him to do
- has explained to me that it might hurt a little bit when the baby comes out of my belly button (?!?!?! No idea where he came up with this, it has never been discussed in his presence before!)
- is becoming a picky eater, or maybe his appetite is just decreasing overall
- cannot help himself and collects rocks wherever we go. We keep a vase in the kitchen and gather all of his rocks now, so that they don't linger in the car, stroller, his pockets, etc.
- loves to stall at bedtime, and sometimes lays awake quietly in his bed for several hours
- had his first lunch out with Mima by himself, and she said he was extremely well-behaved
- loves strawberry milk and requests sprinkled donuts
- is intent on teaching Ellie his favorite words ("Ellie, say TRAIN! TRACKS! RAILROAD CROSSING!...")
- really loves his sunday school class at church, and anytime we put a collared shirt on him he asks if it's Sunday and if he's going to church!
- can recite most of the Mo Willems Pigeon books to us, and it's hilarious - must get a video of it up on here for you to see.
- thinks every train he sees is going to "College Avenue Station!"

It goes without saying that we are so thankful for these sweet kids God has given to us, and the things He is teaching us through them as we parent them. They are exhausting days for sure, but we are so blessed and wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Missing the best sister ever

Kelsey went back to Taylor at the end of August, and on the morning of her drive back to school she spent some time with the kids and I (and mom, too!) at the Arboretum. We had so much fun with her this summer, and she is such a help to me with the kids when she's around. Not only do I love her, but I have discovered that I really need her in a lot of ways too. And not just as a babysitter, but that is definitely a huge perk!

This guy loves his aunt just a little bit.

Insisting on riding between the kids' massive car seats, no doubt on a pile of goldfish crumbs and leaky sippy cups with magna doodles crowding her feet. She's a saint.

We didn't cry too hard when she left us in August because we knew she would be coming back soon. Last weekend Kels had an interview at a PA school in Downer's Grove, and we got to spend a rainy Saturday morning and afternoon with her. We played with the kids, watched the rain and listened for thunder, gave them baths, read the Pigeon books by Mo Willems over and over, ate lunch, and then ditched both kids in their cribs while they napped to go get pedicures. I also painted her nails 'Lincoln Park at Dark' and am so jealous that she can pull off dark purple/black nail polish.

One day I will emerge from my status as pathetic older sister and not ask her to wrap birthday presents for me, will actually mail Fall care packages to her instead of handing them to her when she comes home to visit, and will attempt to repay her kindness somehow by taking sweet care of her little ones one day.

We love you Kels! You are such an awesome sister and aunt. (See you again in a few weeks!?)


All this box needs is some packing peanuts and postage to New Jersey. :)

They've found that it's fun to hold hands in between the car seats in the car and also in their booster seats at the kitchen table. Why not show your affection in the box as well?

I may leave this huge ugly box in our family room for a while. It's like having a (slightly negligent) babysitter.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's going on?

Recent grocery shopping trips have yielded the following items:
Cap'n Crunchberries cereal, the big tub of French Onion Dip, an accompanying family size bag of Ruffles, Starburst Red Favorites, too many pints and varieties of flavors of ice cream, brown sugar pop tarts, Totino's Pizzas (I just gave it away, didn't I!?!?!), 3 different kinds of cheese, candy corn and frozen mozzarella sticks.

We are averaging 3 trips a week to Dunkin Donuts and 1 or 2 to McDonald's.

I feel like I've been eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda at the same time for nearly two months.

The sight and mere thought of raw chicken makes me gag, as does brushing my teeth and lingering in a hot shower for too long.

In a moment of desperation, I quietly snacked on Goldfish crackers during the church service this morning.

I cried last week when I spilled the milk.

A sleeve of crackers has made its home on my nightstand.

I'm going to need a new Lilypie ticker.

And if you haven't pieced together what's going on over here yet, then it might help to know that Robbie has taken to shoving toy trains and pieces of track down the front of my shirt in an effort to 'share' his toys with the new baby!

Friday, September 17, 2010

On wanting to run away...

I think that God has been gently nudging me in a new direction and I thought I'd share it with you - maybe you have already learned this or maybe it will encourage you as a new thought. But in the end, I don't want my writings to misguide you, so I decided a follow up post to my thoughts about 'wanting to run away' (found here) might be good.

As the Lord has been changing our hearts and desires to center more on knowing Him and living by His Spirit, we were aware of some of the things that needed to change in our home -our routine, choices regarding time management, entertainment, budgeting, etc. Along with that process came a frustration with just how much noise and distraction there is to weed out. The desire to pursue God more intentionally and throw off the things that are hindering us led me to the daydream that it would be so much easier to just cash in the chips, start over somewhere else, and find more solitude in my environment (you know, the 4 bedroom split level in the country!).

But God has been revealing to me that living a life that brings Him glory isn't done in isolation. Tucking myself away someplace where it's safe, pretty, and spacious might bring physical rest and audible quiet to my life (relatively speaking, of course, with a 2 yr old and 1 yr old!). But I was struck this week by how completely selfish the idea actually is. It abandons the concept of community, it is focused on my own comfort, and it provides more of an escape than a solution to anything at all.

Maybe we are right where He wants us for now. We are fighting to live in the center of His will, while good things all around us try to pull our attention away from what is best (and certainly while things that have no place in the life of a Christ follower also present themselves as temptations). I think peace and quiet and relative ease in making real-life, everyday decisions that have a kingdom perspective are luxuries we are not promised when we read Jesus' own description of what following Him will cost. Why do I think it should be any easier for me? No matter where I might run, or what I might try to run from, my own sin and the fallen state of our world will follow on my heels.

What I want to do instead is focus on running toward what God has for me, and for us as a family. And along the way, whatever we need to do to stay focused on that journey He lays out for us is what we will try to do, by His Spirit (and Lord-willing). We won't throw in the towel and cry about how hard it is, about how "it would all be easier to deal with if only...". Today, here, in my present circumstances, this is where God wants to meet with me, change me to be more like Him, and then use me. When I look at it from this perspective, it's right where I want to be.

Certainly no place I'm desiring to run away from.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I think we can do this


Update: For those of you who are asking, I think the gummy vitamins are probably what is best to purchase I saw these bottles in Jody's blog pictures so I know they take that kind. Here is what I have found: Target has the best deal so far - "Up & Up Children's Gummy Vitamins", 190 vitamins for about $9.50. Walmart sells a Disney brand princess theme gummy vitamin too, 180 vitamins for $10.00. (You don't have to get these quantities, they just end up being the best price per unit when you break it down.)

Ok, so here is something I am going to participate in, and I WOULD LOVE for anyone who lives in this area to join with me! Jody Landers (TELL ME you know who she is!) is putting together a suitcase of vitamins for children in Sierra Leone who are malnourished. Read about her partnership with them HERE. Warning: I'm directing you to more stories and pictures that will break your heart and leave you wondering why we are given more food than we could ever eat and small children are falling off of benches because they are hungry and exhausted. (It only takes me picturing my own sweet Robbie and Ellie on that bench in the same situation as these other precious little ones and I'm undone. Like, ugly-crying.)

I'm going to use some of our grocery budget to gather vitamins to send to Jody to add to her suitcase. I wonder if you would consider doing the same? I'll keep my eyes open for sales and deals and let you know what I find locally so that we can stretch our dollars. I'm going to plan on boxing up and sending whatever I can, and hopefully whatever YOU are able to gather as well, on September 25th so that it reaches her by the 29th.

I am having a hard time feeling like I can make any sort of impact on the incredible amount of hunger and poverty in the world. Don't you think this is actually something that we can all do, though? It's so simple. It could really nourish these small children too. I can't ignore the opportunity.

If you want to drop off children's vitamins at my house up until the 25th, I'll leave a box on my front porch and empty it each night. If you don't know where I live, email me ( and I'll send you my address. I want you to do this with me so badly that I'm even going to volunteer to drive to your house and pick up whatever vitamins you are able to buy! Let me know how I can help make this something that is easy for you to participate in.

I would love for a big box of vitamins for the children of Sierra Leone to come from DuPage County, a place where we have been blessed so richly that we can't help but give out of our abundance. It is only by God's grace that we aren't sitting on (or falling off of) that bench next to our littlest brothers and sisters, in their same position.


Jeremiah 22:16 (New International Version)

16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?"
declares the LORD.


Ps. I would love for those of you who aren't local readers to participate as well! On Jody's blog she mentions several ways you can donate vitamins or send money towards the purchase of vitamins. Please consider?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have been over here a lot lately, having my heart broken for the poor. I think what Compassion International has been doing through the trips they lead is just amazing. I have 'followed' 3 different bloggers who are well known in the Christian (online) community as they have traveled with Compassion groups to various countries (India, Guatemala and El Salvador) in the last year. And every time they have gone and written about their trip each day on their individual and already-established blogs, I feel more burdened for the poor and have a growing desire to get more involved in what God is doing around the world.

But Ann's experience and writings have just shattered me. I think you'll be as moved as I was if you go back to the post right before she leaves on her trip (found here) and read each post she's written since. If you don't have the time though, be sure to at least read her latest post (you can click here to get to it).

Oh my. How can we not be changed by this?

The words that undid me...


Do the eyes of God see extravagant wealth in Guatemalan shanty towns, these desperate hands clinging to Him like a belt wrapped around the waist, their hands full of the treasure of Him — do the richest live here, and I just can’t see?

Do the eyes of God see sickening poverty in the manicured burbs of the impoverished self-sufficiency of Atlanta —
do we live the lives of lack, so full of ourselves and our stuff that we aren’t ravished for God?

Where’s the real pit?


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where did my glam go?

This morning it was time to rotate my shampoo and conditioner. The ladies who are reading this know what I am talking about - when the kind you've been using for the last few months seems to be losing its effect? So I dug through my product bin (ok, one of my product bins) for a half used bottle of shampoo and hoped for a matching bottle of conditioner. Bingo.

It wasn't until I was lathering my hair in the shower that I noticed which bottle I had chosen.

Blond Glam.

Which immediately made me laugh out loud.
(So THAT is where my glam has gone for the last year or two.)

I think with one kid, it's still semi-possible to pull off put-together. With two, it takes effort and alone time while getting ready.

But with 2 ages 2 and 1? I would like to contend that it's nearly impossible. The concept of alone time while getting ready is something I have stopped pining for.


And these are the deep thoughts rolling around in my head today. Happy first day of September - which in my mind kind of marks the first day of Fall. I celebrated with a pumpkin spice latte (oh yes I did!) and we drove through the Arboretum with the windows down, taking in the sweet smell of last night's rain. I am so excited for jeans and sweatshirts and long walks in the chilly air. We are on the cusp of the best season of the year. I just might have to celebrate by doing my hair AND makeup one morning this week.


Also, contributing to my inability to send summer out looking glamorous is this sick little lady. Within 24 hours of playing in the church nursery on Sunday she came down with hand foot and mouth (and a double ear infection, which I won't blame them for). I keep telling myself that at least no one's vomiting - that is the absolute worst in my book. But the poor thing is refusing solid food, wincing as she eats yogurt and jello, and moans all night long. We feel horrible for our sick little lady. How is it that she still rocks that darling look with broken sleep and open sores in her mouth!? (My hero.) ;)