This must be my favorite age yet, although I think I say that every stage she's in. Here are some of my favorite things she's done lately:
She'll spontaneously say "Kiss!" or "Hug!" and she wants to kiss or hug both of us. If I'm closer, she'll kiss me, and the immediately say, "Daddy?" and reach to kiss or hug him.
She shares really well, and is quick to give a toy to a friend and say "Ur turn!" to let them know it's their turn. We're having a bit of difficulty encouraging her to share her toys, while at the same time discouraging her sharing her sippy cup.
Dan calls every night from work, and he always talks to her. I give her the phone and she says, "Hi Daddy!" really loudly. It's so sweet. Sometimes he tells her to give Mommy a kiss for him, and she'll smile at me and give me a kiss. So sweet!
When we go to the library, she immediately runs to the children's section where there is a big shelf of board books she likes to read.
Every morning she wants to get in bed with us and read books....lots of them. Nothing could make me happier, although it gets a bit hairy when she doesn't wake up until 8:00 and we have to leave at 8:30.
She's learned how to throw pennies in the fountain, and a dollar's worth of pennies makes her a super happy girl.
Her vocabulary amazes us everyday...my favorite word she's saying now is "product," for the curling mousse we put in her hair. She's also saying, "sorry," "yougurt," "hold it," "your turn," "groceries," and she'll repeat anything you say to her. Even "darn," if you say it while you're playing the Wii.
Ketchup, or "dip!" accompanies most of her meals now. She loves chicken dipped in ketchup! She's been on a huge meat kick lately; it must be what her body is craving to grow.
Speaking of food, she's getting better everyday with a spoon and fork. She makes less and less of a mess all the time, and when she has to work hard to get a bite in her mouth and finally does, she beams and says, "I did it!"
She's developing definite preferences - when she wakes up in the morning, she tells us if she wants milk or water, and it's not random. If we try to give her milk with breakfast when she's asked for water, she hands it right back to us.
Miss Sassy Pants has started trying to tell us "No!" when we tell her to do something, especially if we're walking outside and tell her to come back to us. She has been testing us, saying "No," and running the other direction. Therefore, she's learned lots about spankings lately.
Her attention span is getting longer. While we were getting ready the other day, she sat in her room and played with puzzles by herself for nearly 20 minutes without changing activities. She was having a difficult time with one piece, but she kept at it until she finally got it in.
Here are some of my favorite December pictures - you can click on any one to make it larger:
Tonight was one of my favorite nights with you, and I want to write about it so we'll remember it.
Daddy is at work tonight, so it's just you and me here.
We had a good time eating pancakes for dinner and washing dishes and playing. But the best part was after all that was through. We went upstairs and you took a bath and you were so very good. I love shampooing and conditioning your curls...how much longer do you think I'll get to do that? I don't ever want you to be old enough to wash your hair by yourself.
And after you were done playing in the tub, I dried you off and we put on your lotion (you like to do your legs while I do your belly), and we read books together. I sat in the big rocker and read my book and you sat in your little rocker and read your book. It was so quiet and peaceful.
But then you got up and went into my bedroom with your book and said, "Bed?" You never do that. So I came in and pulled back the covers and propped up some pillows and we climbed in with our books. I read mine and you read yours, and every once in a while you would look at me and giggle. We read for a long time, and then we put down our books and you kissed me!! You're not a big kisser, but you gave me so many kisses tonight. I told you they were sweet as sugar, and then you said "shugr" and puckered up and made a kissing sound until I kissed you again! We laid our heads on the pillows and laughed and made kissing sounds and rubbed noses and I laughed so hard at you when you said, "hilarious."
We laid in there being silly and sweet together for almost 45 minutes. You're a toddler. You don't lay in one place for 5 minutes unless you're sleeping! It was such a sweet time, and I want to remember it forever. You're growing up so quickly, sweet girl. Slow down a little for me, okay?
Beginning before Allana was conceived, we began talking and praying about what we would do about Santa. We knew we wanted Jesus to be the focus of our holiday season, but let's be honest, we want her to experience the magic of Christmas. We were both raised in homes that "did Santa," and it caused no crisis of faith in either of our lives.
However, I (Rachael) had an experience while I was teaching that really challenged me to be careful about the jolly old man. Each year, my students composed letters to Santa as a writing exercise in December. I love all my students, but one particular year I had one particular student who captured my heart. He had a really rocky home life, and I wanted to keep him for my own. Every morning, I prayed over this child's chair before he came into the classroom. I shared Jesus with him whenever possible. My heart desperately longed for this child to know my Savior. That December, he finished writing his letter to Santa, and brought it to my desk to read to me. Part of it will forever be embedded in my memory. It said,
I have been a good boy this year. I want......... for Christmas. Santa, you are so cool. You know when I'm good and when I'm bad. You see me all the time and know everything I do. You know what, Santa? You are just like Jesus!"
NO! Santa is nothing like Jesus. Santa is fiction, and Jesus is REAL - He is the Word made flesh, come to earth to redeem us. But how easy it is for children to get these two benevolent stories confused. I have never forgotten that letter and how Satan used the story of Santa to confuse and disguise the Truth.
So we have prayed and read and talked (to each other and others) and wrestled, and came upon this Christmas season still not knowing exactly what we feel like is the right thing to do. She's still young enough that we didn't have to be specific with her about Santa, but we couldn't avoid him. We took her to see him briefly, and have spent hours playing with our Nativity, talking about Jesus' birthday.
Christmas was full of love and laughter and family and gifts and prayer. It was beautiful and amazing and as we opened gifts, we didn't speak about Santa for one minute.
We can't escape the jolly old man, and the story about Saint Nick is one worth telling. We don't mind her sitting on his lap and getting a candy cane and smiling and waving at him in the mall. But there's a greater Story to be told, and we know that for our family, our focus must be the one who gave the greatest Gift of all.
As we conclude this Christmas season, we think that we have figured out the solution for our family. We're not going to demonize Santa, but we are going to exalt our King. We're not going to spend one minute fussing about those who "do Santa," but we are going to spend every moment possible celebrating the birth of a Savior. So the question, for us, isn't what to do with Santa. Who really cares? It's trivial compared to dedicating our lives to showing our daughter and the rest of the world what to do with Jesus.
On Thursday, I got to slip away for a while and have lunch with some of my favorite friends in the world. Having a meal with them is always one of the highlights of my trip home...it is so refreshing to me; I love that we can always pick right up where we left off, even if we haven't talked in weeks or months. I know these women genuinely care for me and pray for me and support me - what a gift they are in my life.
Well, as we show up at the restaurant, my friend Debbie Carnley hands me a package. Now, it's not customary for this group of friends to exchange gifts, so it kind of panicked me a little at first. Then she explains that it's from her husband Tony. Now, if you don't know
Tony, let me tell you that he is one of the sweetest, funniest men I know. He looks all rough and tough and he's got the most tender insides you can imagine. Tony & Debbie are two of the most wonderful, loving people you can know. They have raised two sons unbelievably well; we have much to learn from them.
So, I open up the package from Tony to find a gorgeous painting of Allana. He painted it from the picture on our Christmas card, and captured her right down to her rosy lips & soft curls. It took my breath away & made me cry. It was an amazing gift; something I can never repay nor reciprocate.
Everyone in the family freaks out about this painting - we just can't get over how beautiful it is and what a treasure it is for Dan & I.
My wheels immediately start turning on how we are going to get it framed. Custom framing is so expensive....we're on a tight budget...in my head, I'm trying to figure out what we own that I can sell when we get home to pay to have it framed.
Enter Dan's aunt. Her name is Sharon Robertson, but we call her "Sis." She's Dan's mom's identical twin sister. She and her husband have been a huge part of Dan's life, and mean a lot to him. They come over for dinner that same night, and ooh and ahh over the painting. She volunteers to run it by a framing shop the next day...she knows someone there (she knows someone everywhere) and thinks she might be able to get us a good deal. She takes the painting and promises to call us the next day with a quote.
Nothing. We get nothing from her except that it's way out of our price range, as we expected. She tells us that she's going to try one more place she knows and then bring it back to us if that doesn't pan out.
Today (Saturday), we all met out at Dan's grandaddy's house for lunch to celebrate Christmas. I ask her how much the frame shop quoted her; she wouldn't tell me exactly but said it was ridiculous. We have a wonderful day with 4 generations of the Ruddy family, and as we're all finishing opening gifts, she brings out this big package for the "people who travelled the farthest."
You guessed it, Dan's aunt and uncle and mom and dad paid to have that gorgeous painting custom framed for us.
It's too die for. I'm posting a picture of it for you to see, although it doesn't do it justice.
We are so blessed. Obviously this was a huge financial gift to us, but it was more than that. It began as a precious gift of love from a dear family friend, and was completed as a gift of love from dear family members. What could be better than that?
We're busy this morning getting ready to go to school, and she is talking her head off! This morning alone, she has said, "ridiculous," "no sir," "hilarious," "dokey (as in okey dokey)," "good job," and "happy feet."
This child amazes us. I think we're going to have to watch what we say around her. Dan better quit telling me I'm being ridiculous. She hears everything.
Our little downtown area here in Wake Forest is like Mayberry. It's quaint and sweet and has several neat little shops and restaurants. When the weather's nice, one of our favorite things to do is walk around downtown.
Today was the annual Wake Forest Christmas parade, and the quiet streets of downtown were FULL of people! It was lots of fun, and Lana really enjoyed it.
She looked darling in a dress her Aunt Nik & Uncle Bro bought for her before she was even born, with a precious bow that our friends Ben & Laura sent her for Christmas.
However, she fell and scraped her knee getting in the car, and it almost ruined our day. She usually shakes off boo-boos pretty quickly, but this one got the best of her. It was really quite sad. She would point to it and cry and say, "Hurt! Mommy, Daddy, hurt."
Nonetheless, we headed downtown and got in line at Shorty's. Shorty's Famous Hotdogs are amazing - really. Dan eats 3, and Lana and I both eat 2. When you come visit us, don't let us forget to take you by Shorty's. The line was super long, but it was definitely worth the wait.
We met our friends Ashley & Nick, and Crystal and her two boys Garrett and Mason for the parade. We are so grateful to have such sweet friends to make memories with here. Allana loved the parade! There was music and dancing and candy and animals. She waved to everyone and said "Hey!" and even danced a little bit. The only things she didn't love were the clowns and the loud horns on the firetrucks. She didn't cry or anything; they just weren't her favorite. We had to leave a little early so Dan could get to work and Lana could take a nap.
Today, I am grateful for my cheap linoleum floors in my rented house. I am truly grateful that I don't live in my own investment, with really nice tile floors in my kitchen.
Today, Allana colored with markers. She loved the blue one in particular, and although she would use a little yellow or green or pink, she preferred blue. She liked to color big strokes across the page, and then she tried coloring in just the corner. She tried coloring with more than one marker at a time. This went on for almost an hour.
Of course, there was marker everywhere! It was all over her, including the bottoms of her feet. It was all over me, including the tops of my feet! And it was all over the floors.
And when she was done, I wet two paper towels and she and I worked together to wipe up all the marker on the floor. It came right up.
And I realized as we were down on the floor cleaning together that if those had been really nice tile floors, I would not have let her color with markers today. I would have been too worried about it staining because that's just how I am, and so she and I would have missed a really neat time together.
I love my linoleum. It made me a better mother today.