Dear Peanut and Munchkin,

Last Saturday night, a “polar vortex” blew in, dumping snow on us and basically shutting down the entire metro area. Even church services were cancelled Sunday morning, and that’s never happened as far as I can remember.

We haven’t set foot outside for the last two days due to temperatures in the single digits — and negatives! — with wind chills that put us in the frostbite danger zone. We’ve found ways to keep busy, though. We’ve allowed you to do some running in the house, and the indoor snowballs Uncle J and Aunt J sent for Christmas really came in handy!

It’s supposed to start warming up today, and we’re definitely ready! Temps will still be below freezing, but they’re supposed to continue climbing to just above freezing by the end of the week. We’re looking forward to an opportunity to play in all that snow!


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The Christmas Story by Munchkin, Age 4

Jesus was born and He was in the manger, sleeping. And Mary was watching over Him and wise men came and gave Him presents. And shepherds came to look at Jesus and see Him, too. And they loved Him. And they praised Him.

The End

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How we decorated the Christmas tree with Advent devotions

Dear Munchkin and Peanut,

Munchkin used her charming wiles to cajole Daddy into putting up the Christmas tree in early December this year, much earlier than last year. As a liturgist, Daddy has been reluctant to begin anything related to Christmas before Christmas itself, wanting to focus on Advent instead.

Munchkin is very persistent. And I pointed out that even our churches were decorating and putting up Christmas trees during Advent. So Daddy relented.

We put the lights on as soon as it was put together and started adding ornaments, too. But it was slow going since we had to choose which ornaments were safe for you to handle, then help you place them on the tree. Of course, you wanted to play with them, too, so we placed the same ornaments on the tree over and over. The tree was still sparsely accented when it was time to get ready for bed.

We planned to get back to it relatively soon, but we wanted the whole family to be together. That proved more challenging than expected since Daddy is so busy this time of year.

In the mean time, we continued reading our Advent devotion book, which includes an activity for each day. I’d forgotten how many of them suggest putting something on the Christmas tree. Gradually, the bare spots were filled in, until last night, I put the skirt down under the presents mailed by family and friends.

It’s a fun representation of our family, as well as reminders of what we talked about throughout Advent. Maybe next year, we’ll leave plenty of room on purpose.


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Say Yes


Dear Peanut and Munchkin,

Early in our parenting career, Daddy and I decided that we would let you explore and do as much as possible, taking a “what would it hurt?” approach.

I’ve been straying from that a lot more than I would like. I mostly say no to things that feel like too much work or that I just don’t want to do, like going outside to play when I’m tired or letting you sit in my lap when I’m feeling “touched out.” The problem is I’m exhausted most of the time, which also leads me to get “touched out” much more easily, too.

The activity for our Advent devotion a few days ago was to write on a piece of paper something we could do before Christmas to give of ourselves, then hang it on our Christmas tree. I wrote “say yes.” I explained to you that I can’t say yes to absolutely everything. It is, after all, my job to teach you what is right and keep you safe. And saying “no” sometimes is valid since putting you first 100% of the time would hurt me before long and be a disservice to you. But I could compromise more often than I do.

So I’m making an effort. Munchkin has reminded me a few times. And I try to remember that this time together, when you are so small and want to be with me, will pass far too quickly.


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Pets are family, too: Phoebe

Dear Munchkin and Peanut,

Phoebe is very sweet and cuddly, and her fur is extremely soft. She hides from strangers and loud or unfamiliar noises (e.g., the ones you frequently make), but she loves being petted and will curl up on or next to us for as long as we allow. She was also the first to warm up to you as babies, giving us thrills of excitement the first time she settled herself on the bed next to each of you.

She also has a terrible habit of choosing not to use the litter box.

But Phoebe was Daddy’s cat; he had a strong emotional attachment to her before we even met. I couldn’t ask Daddy to get rid of her, so we tried many different types of litter until we discovered her favorite, which of course was the most expensive.

Phoebe is also meticulous, grooming herself for hours every day, more so than the average cat. She requires her litter box to meet the same standard of cleanliness, and punishes us if we slack off. But even with an immaculate box filled with pricey litter, we were still having issues. The veterinarian eventually prescribed a daily anti-anxiety medication, which finally seemed to get the situation under control.

Then life got hectic.

After Peanut was born, we were having trouble juggling an infant and a toddler, regular household duties like cooking and laundry, as well as two cats and a dog. We missed medication doses and feedings. We didn’t keep up with Phoebe’s litter box and didn’t always notice when the dog needed to go outside. We were cleaning up pet messes left and right, and we felt we weren’t being fair to the animals. After much soul-searching and debate, we asked Lola and Lolo if they would take the dog and started looking for a new home for Phoebe. We felt Tybalt was too old to adjust to a new home, and figured we could manage one relatively low-maintenance cat.

It crushed us to admit our failure. We anguished over parting with them but believed it was the right thing to do.

When we didn’t find any family or friends who could take Phoebe, we started debating no-kill shelters and rescue groups. The problem was her anxiety and elimination issues; we worried she would just languish in a cage.

Months passed as we searched for a new home for Phoebe and discussed options, and we gradually began to feel more capable. We eventually decided we could keep Phoebe, despite her problems. We brought the dog home, too.

Now we’re glad we didn’t give Phoebe away. She’s part of the family, and sometimes, a purring cat in the lap is just what the doctor orders.


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“I’m going to name my daughter Snowfall because her clothes will all be white. Even her pajamas. Well, maybe those will be a different color. Isn’t Snowfall a pretty name?”


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The Big Bed

Dear Munchkin,

Earlier this week, after the lights had been out for quite a while, you piped up for the umpteenth time.

“No more talking.”
“But this is the last, last thing. Please, Mama?”
(heavy sigh) “OK. The. Last. Thing. What is your question?”
“Is this a King size bed or a Queen size bed?”
“This is a King size bed.”
“Munchkin, we agreed that was the last thing. No more talking.”
“No. More. Talking!”
“But I wasn’t finished with my QUESTION!”
(heavy sigh) “OK. Finish your question.”
“Are we going to get another bed? Because this one is only big enough for one adult.”

(flabbergasted silence)

“Munchkin, that is a different question. I already answered the last question for tonight. We can talk more about it tomorrow. Time for sleep, now.”

Yep, it seems our brilliant solution of switching to a King was short-lived. All four of us fit fine for a few months, then you started sleeping in your own bed pretty much every night. But a few weeks ago, you began coming in around 5-6 a.m. and waking everyone up as you clambered into the bed. And there is no getting your brother to settle back down in the morning. Once he’s up, he’s UP. So we’ve been moving you into the big bed during the night as a preventive measure, and about the half the time, we just have you both go to sleep in our bed to begin with. Of course, you’ve both grown throughout the last year. After a week or so of trying to hang on to a sliver of space, Daddy has once again taken up residence on the couch.

Next big idea: bunk beds. Hopefully before your next birthday.


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