Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Life These Days: Kyleigh Edition

Well...Kyleigh's post has been started several times....since January actually....but never gets too far.  Partially due to Kyleigh herself who does not really allow for me to sit and type....anything coherent anyway. :)  It seems to be a pattern lately that I think something is a first for her, only to remember that she's done it before.  But I think the difference these days is that she's actually aware of what's going on so she's really experiencing it for the first time with some say in the matter!

So this winter she decided that she did NOT want to go sledding.....and yet, after a few times going down the hill anyway (poor kid has so many others deciding for her!), she seemed to change her tune, and we ended up spending quite a while out there!

I'm pretty sure she was baffled by the whole snowman-making process, but she joined in anyway!

            Much like Levi, Kyleigh loves to be my little helper.  Every time the dishwasher is open, she's ready to grab things and put them away.  I have to make sure I'm paying attention, otherwise dirty dishes end up getting put away...

             Here, she had Levi join her where we tend to have them sit or stand in time out.  They got quite a kick out of themselves!

Kyleigh is still all about her babies!  We can't go anywhere without one these days, and she loves to join in the fun of sitting in their crib or stroller :) 

I love this age when they're figuring things out.  When she tries to sit in the barbie car that she can barely fit one foot into....or when she uses the remote control on a little matchbox car! 

She's quite the skilled piano player as well.....she will not be outdone!

And of course...like her daddy has taught all the others...Kyleigh is no exception...always hiding, tricking, being silly! 

Most often, during school time, Kyleigh wants to join in.  Sometimes it's hard to modify for a 1.5 year old :)  But it's always fun to do some kind of art! 

It's amazing how much this girl likes to eat.  Really, she takes after Levi a whole lot more than anyone else!  She may resemble her oldest brother, but her eating habits are like night and day (thank goodness!!).  As soon she sees anyone with food, the binky comes out and she opens her mouth like a little bird! 

For Christmas, each child received a coupon for an experience geared towards them.  We took Kyleigh to Kidz Kastle for hers since she'd never been only been as an infant.  Of course she quickly became possessive of the two babies there :)  I think she enjoyed it!! 

She still thinks her big sister is the coolest girl around, and definitely has her wrapped around her finger!  Since she typically only hits or LICKS the screens, I tend to say no, but Keira so patiently sat with and helped her and she was so proud of herself! 

She definitely loves her kitty, and incorporates her into play time often.  Surprisingly, Chloe has been a good sport....sometimes I'll see her sitting with a bowl of ice cream, or one of Kyleigh's other specialties :) 

It didn't take long for her to demand a turn walking the neighbors dog.  She knew just what to do after watching the others....how is she already this big?!!

                 Just one of the gang now.....I love that she loves to play with her siblings!

Aside from playing with her babies and barbies...which she takes very good care of I should note....she's an Elmo, Minnie, Shawn the Sheep loving girl :)  She LOVES to be outside, constantly demanding someone put her boots on, followed by requests for a hat and gloves (she just may be found outdoors in a hat and gloves in the summer as I'm not sure she will hear of going outdoors without them!).  She can often be found chewing, or requesting, gum which she has been doing for quite some time already and seemed to instantly understand.  She loves to make a mess, but is pretty happy to help clean up too :)  Her little personality entertains us all and I truly thank God daily for blessing us with such a treasure! 

We love you Kyleigh Princess!  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Life These Days: Levi Edition

      Well...it was just as I predicted.......

                                                                        Day one :)

    Levi received his first cast and has adjusted very quickly!  Just having had a huge restriction placed on him, he waved and said goodbye to everyone in the various offices we passed on our way out.  We had a second doctors appointment right after, and Levi proceeded to do laps around the office, holding on to the wall or various pieces of furniture.  When he had that down, he began climbing over the tables.  We were quite the entertainment....or maybe those were looks of disdain? ha!  Though he expressed his frustration occasionally that first day, and hit the cast in anger, declaring "no more," by day two he had clearly moved on.  They sent us home without any supports and the promised wheelchair never came.  Thankfully, Levi's PT from school is amazing and after looking through some storage, came up with several options.  She also, very intelligently, referred to them as Levi's special MACHINES, which totally appealed to him of course.  He was so proud...and soon protective...of his machines!  However....they very quickly became unnecessary..just some additional toys to play with....to hang his tool bag on :)

Or use while spinning on the scooter board?

Within several days of having his first cast put on, Levi was walking around unassisted.  I had gone to pick him up from children's church and there he was...walking, without his cane, or holding onto anything....and he then proceeded to walk in circles...seemingly in his own little world....like, yes, I can do this!  He's incredible!

When he gets tired, we often find him lounging in the play room, working his crane :) He is such a character!

             These two are becoming partners in crime.  Note the mischievous grin on Kyleigh and the "we're not doing anything" look on Levi's face.  I love that they love each other!  They are so comical.  Levi loves his "tyleigh" as he calls her....but I'm not sure he looks up to anyone as much as "daylo" (still his name for Caleb).  More and more I see him doing the things that Caleb does....always carrying around a backpack...always asking for his big brother, and wanting to be sure he's included in what Caleb is doing.  It's precious.  

             One other thing I've noticed lately, along with Levi's progress in speech, are his manners!  Unprompted....he's always thanking me, saying please....it's so sweet.  In the picture below, Meme is reading them a book via skype.  As she reads a favorite, Levi was able to finish the sentences.  It may not seem like a big deal, but it SO is!  He is so smart and has come so far this year.  I am seeing more and more growth, even with some major challenges in school this year.    

              Levi, as always, has quite the imagination!  The wheels are always spinning....he pays such close attention to detail and then mimics in his play.  And then, sometimes, it's a combination....like the cook/worker/doctor below :)  It's so fun to watch him play, especially when he doesn't know you're there!

          And though, this too is much the same, I have to include it in his addendum.  His best buddy, Luke, who has faithfully poured into his life since before he was even home.  I'm so thankful for their special bond and the role model he has to look up to!

            It's hard to believe this big boy is the same little munchkin we met four years ago.....We love you so much Levi!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Life These Days: Caleb Edition

            A couple weeks ago I had a facebook memory pop up that made me stop and think....and question it's accuracy!  It said something about Caleb enjoying his last few days as an only child....only four years ago......four years?  I feel as if I can hardly remember what it was like to just have one child....but as I spent the last week sitting beside this sweet, little, very sick, boy, I kept thinking about that post.  It seems like many more than four years, but the memories started to flood back to the times of our little trio.  We did a lot of movie/TV watching this week, but when even the TV wasn't helping to take his mind off the discomfort, he'd just talk to me.....about anything and everything.  We talked about some of our memories...I love the sweet smile that appears when I talk about him as a baby...that smile that says "I feel special"....and you can't help but smile at those precious memories.  But mostly we talked about now.  All of the things that are exciting and relevant in the life of a six year old boy.  Excuse me, I mean six and a HALF year old boy....that is currently very important to include.  And in some ways that number seems so big.....He seems so big....but there's something about being sick that brings out the "little-ness" in even big boys like him :)  The cuddling...the neediness.....not being able to leave his side, because a moms presence really can make him feel better!

          When the kids are babies...or in our case, when they're first home.....I tend to keep a log...of milestones, firsts, memorable moments.  But as they grow, or have been home a while....that tends to fade.  So, here's a little addendum, Caleb, to your log....it's been a while :)

          Between homeschooling, and the library being right across the street, we tend to be at the library often.  So on a recent trip, Caleb applied for his very own library card.  He was SO excited. I could tell he felt so grown up.  Actually, I'm pretty sure he told me how "big" he felt!  He put it in his very own wallet (another grown up thing to have) and is so proud that he can borrow books without my help.  So very sweet.  I still have my first library card.....it's cracked, and says my old last name....but I refuse to trade it in.  I'm sure his will get as much use as mine has over the years!

         A while ago, Caleb started taking an interest in Karate.  He was doing soccer at the time, but as the season ended he was adamant that he wanted to try something different....maybe basketball, or karate.  We waited until after the holidays and when he hadn't wavered in his decision for a while, we signed him up for karate.  I'm not sure if this is "his thing" or not, it's still too early to tell, but it is a lot of fun to see him learning new things.  I love watching him in class......there were a few times where he made a face towards me while stretching as if to say "ahhhh this hurts, I want to stop!!!".....but he pushed through it.  I've been really impressed with his efforts so far, and I think it's sweet for him to have his own thing!  We'll see though....time with his little friends is pretty much on the top of his priority list these days, and he's not always thrilled about having to pause the play time in order to go to class.  Of course once he's there, he enjoys it, but I'm not sure what will win in the end :)

        On Christmas Day, Caleb received an extra surprise gift.  Something he's been waiting for....a loose tooth!  It didn't take long for it to fall out, and he was SO excited.  It's so much fun to see him enjoy these milestones.  We get frequent updates about his first grown up tooth coming in, and there are now quite a few moments where we all wait in great anticipation as he checks to see if another tooth may be lose :)

       I love to watch the growth in school as well.  Though we've had our challenges this year, it's amazing to watch your kids gain new understanding and even surprise themselves with their achievements.  I've noticed a lot of increased creativity with Caleb this year (taking after his daddy, thank goodness!)....I'm such a "make it like the example" person when it comes to projects...but Caleb has started adding his own touches, sometimes even changing things quite a bit.  When we do experiments, he has endless ideas of what else we could try...and "what if....."  "I wonder if we did this, what would happen...."


    Today we decided to check out some old home videos from when Caleb was Kyleigh's current age.  They both got such a kick out of it....(as I cried ha!)....I couldn't help but feel like I was watching someone else's life gone by....it couldn't possibly be that I'm now the one looking back at what seems to be a lifetime ago.  How precious are those memories.....and these current days will soon be distant memories as well...but for now, I get to savor and enjoy them!

 You're definitely not a little baby anymore sweet Caleb....but...of course, you'll always be OUR baby!  Love you big boy! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Christmas 2016

         Well, this just shows how behind I am on just about everything.  It's a little while past Christmas at this point, but here in our home, the Christmas tree is still up!  I feel like we're in denial that it has already come and gone.  I always love this time of year....Thanksgiving and the advent season.....all of the preparation and being more purposeful about giving and remembering all that Christ did for us in coming to this earth.  This year wasn't quite the same, with so much going on in our family, but we tried to uphold some of our traditions.  And we truly did enjoy them, however different they were this time.

      We worked for quite a while on some homemade Christmas gifts for those at the nearby nursing home.  The first time we went, we had brought gifts for one person....a woman they said didn't really have any family.  But as we walked past all of the others, we knew that the next time would be different.  So each time we go, we try to bring a little something for everyone that we can.  As the kids made different crafts, we'd put them aside and wrap them.  We ended up having more than enough for those that we saw this year, and it was such a joy!

Shirley is our favorite....I love the way the kids so easily love on her.  She's never been too talkative, but they don't mind.  We learned so much more about her on this visit.  We had no idea, but she's actually from England!  And she has five daughters who live all over the country!  She was so sweet....we brought her gift to her first (the kids made sure she was given extra! :)  and when we went to say goodbye before leaving, she had candy canes for each of us.  Everyone is always so thankful and appreciative, but I am sure we are the ones reaping the blessing.  It's definitely been something that is out of my comfort zone, but I would strongly suggest it!

We also started an advent devotional with the kids.  Each year we try to do a new experience so we tried The Donkey In The Living Room.  We modified a little, but it was cute.  The kids had fun finding the hidden "presents" each night that went along with the story, and then adding them to the nativity scene.  It could really be done with your own nativity set (feel free to ask about it if you'd like to try it!)

On Christmas Eve my parents host a breakfast for all the kids and grandkids.  It's a special tradition that we all look forward to.  She uses the "What God Wants for Christmas" kit with the kids which is always so much fun.  I love how excited they get, even though they know what's to come!

For the first time we were soooo close to having all the cousins together....here they are minus one!

            The kids chose their gifts for Jesus through the Gospel for Asia catalog online.  Each year, Levi and Caleb have selected animals....it was always a very quick and easy choice for them.  But this year they were more serious...taking their time and wanting to look through and weigh their options.  Caleb wanted to buy water filters and bibles.....it was so cool to see how important he felt this was.  We've been (slowly) going through a devotional that really shows them how others live...and we did an experiment with dirty water a while back.  I could tell it really impacted him, and when he saw that he could provide a family with clean water, he was all for it.  Levi selected tools this year!  Right up his alley for sure.....it had caught his eye when I scrolled quickly through, and he had me go back until he found it.  He was adamant, he was choosing the tools.....tools that could change a family's life.  Such a blessing!

We enjoy sticking with the three gifts based on the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus.....an experience, a need, and a want.   I love that it helps us be more thoughtful in selecting their gifts....and we have some special times together to look forward to in the coming months!

This was Levi's "gold gift" this year.....made by daddy from some scrap wood :)  

He was thrilled :)  And his big brother was so happy for him ( I love that!)

Kyleigh and her gold gift :)  She went right into mommy mode haha

And Caleb with his....serious business figuring this thing out!

On Christmas day we were able to be all together for a little while....a gift for all of us :) 

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Gift

      I think this is the longest I've gone without writing.....it's been impossible to do so in many ways.  There's so much to say, but I never feel I have the right words.  Sometimes silence is best.  But I love to look back and see where we were....what I was learning...what God was doing in our lives.  The last time I wrote things were so hopeful....we had seemingly turned a corner.  That's not to say we're hopeless now, but yes there have been days of feeling so.  I could never express how thankful I am that my hope is not found in the circumstances of my life, or my current feeling.  There are days when the despair weighs heavy, but it does not remain.  God is so faithful and His promises never fail.  Many verses have come to mind throughout these past months....some shared by encouraging friends and family, others as I've searched God's word for hope, and others return to my mind that I memorized long ago reminding me how important it is to hide His word in our hearts.  Even now as I type, I hear the words of Psalm 30 echo in my mind......"weeping may stay for the night, but JOY comes with the morning!"

Speaking of joy 😊..........

Yesterday was such a gift.  For the first few hours of the day, I honestly couldn't stop my eyes from filling up every few moments.  I could just sense that God was giving us this amazing gift....a glimmer of hope, a reminder of His good gifts to us, rest, joy, precious memories being made.  I was finally able to get some pictures of all the kids in their Christmas outfits.....and it may have been the most fun we've had taking pictures...challenging as always, but so much fun.  And somehow I was able to have a few moments to go through them and it inspired me to record some of our recent memories as we prepare for Christmas......

And at this point, I'll never get cards made and out in time....thank you so much to those who have thought of us, we love to receive your cards and updates.....for this year, again.....this is the best I can do.......Merry Christmas from the Cruse Family!

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The day after Thanksgiving is always a busy one here as we make Christmas crafts to decorate rooms, and then begin the adventure of decorating the house.  The kids are always giddy, and I am just as excited to watch them enjoy everything! 

It was serious business! 
Kyleigh joined in the fun this year!

And of course turned her snowman into a bracelet :)  She's obsessed! 

Levi and his final products
           Levi worked so hard on his crafts.  He sat there for the longest time, diligent and focused.  He was the only one to make all of the crafts I had planned for.  It was amazing to watch him!  This little boy is full of surprises :)  I wish his teachers at school could have seen him!

                Caleb worked hard too, but he just wanted to get to the decorating!  One of his favorites is hanging lights in his room and finding places for his creations to make his room festive and fun!  Oh, and decorating the tree of course.....and putting the train together...and....okay just about everything!  He talked about this day for the entire week prior :)

And so it began....
Kyleigh putting her first ornament on......
Then dropping it.....

and putting it on again.....x 3, she was too funny! 

              We let them each pick a new ornament each year so they were excited to show them off and find a special place on the tree for them.  Well....the boys were....Kyleigh was about done with the day at this point!

           Caleb was quite opposed to putting any of Keira's ornaments on the tree without her, so when she came home for a few hours one day, we made sure to enjoy some more decorating with her!

And of course the watching of Christmas movies began.....

         The past couple of years we've tried to visit the people at a local nursing home around the holidays.  Last year we brought them homemade ornaments and it was such a blessing to walk around and visit with them....to hear some of their stories, and to bring a smile to their faces.  We weren't quite sure what to make this year, so we're working on a variety of different crafts.  Here's Caleb hard at work during school time, making flowers.  It was quite a challenge, but he worked hard!  I think he'll agree it was worth it when he sees how happy it will make someone.

       This little lady is 18 months old now.....she's loving all the Christmas fun, and I'm continuing to love dressing her in all these cute things!  She's truly like a little doll!

Though their meme so nicely bakes cookies with the kids each year, Caleb wanted a second round.... 

                                                               *                    *                  *

           And, back to our sweet day yesterday....and these sweet faces that I love so much!

I thought I'd never get her to stand still, but she went right over, before anyone else and posed!  Weirdest thing.  It didn't last of course and before I knew it she was walking towards me and then backwards to the tree over and over in a fit of giggles.  

She brings so much joy to our lives......with just as much energy as the others and keeps up with them for sure!  Though she doesn't say much with her words yet, her personality says it all.  And when you have your siblings wrapped around your finger, all it takes is a loud shriek to get what you want!   

She won't leave her crib without her binky, babies and bunny blanket.....and they often tag along wherever else we go!  She's also still a mommy's girl....and though there are those rare occasions when I wish she would be okay with my leaving her with someone else for a few minutes, I truly love it.....and I'm cherishing these moments because they are gone so quickly.    

Thankfully this beautiful girl still lets me take her picture without giving me a hard time!  She woke up this morning to one of her favorite things....snow!  It brings her back....to good memories....and to being young....she was SO excited!  She had a Russian lesson first thing in the morning, another huge blessing, and then began helping me get everyone ready for pictures.  She's one of those people who can see a need and fill it without having to be asked....pretty rare if you ask me!  

The past few months have been a roller coaster.  As I look at these two precious daughters of mine, one of the things I wish the most is that I could have met the needs of one as I am meeting them for the other.  The affects of that not happening are just devastating....and while I wish that a couple of years full of love and constant reaffirming would take them away, it's just not that easy.  
The trauma endured is too much for anyone to bear, never mind a child, and one at such a vulnerable, difficult age.  We are trying to take it one day at a time....and a day like today was such a blessing and gift...to watch her enjoy herself, to feel loved....and peace.  I think she treasured it as much as I did.  

Yes, this pretty much sums up Caleb.  Before we could take any "real" pictures, he requested that he take some super hero pictures.  I love the way his personality comes through in his pictures! 

The past couple of months I have noticed so much maturing from this boy.  Just in the witty comments he's made, or his attention span in school....and of course the physical growth spurt that seems to happen each year at this time.  Lately he's been so much more serious about God in his life as well....it's so sweet to have spiritual conversations with him and see him understanding more and more.  Though with growth comes more independence as well as the ability to reason and challenge boundaries, I still see the same sweet heart in this boy that he's always had.  The tears that come when a sibling gets hurt as he sympathizes with them.....using his awana money to buy things for everyone in the family, or giving something to a friend because they didn't have one.  Those are the things that make me most proud as a mom! 

Levi also had his own ideas about what picture time should look like.  And from the moment I mentioned it, he made sure to remind me repeatedly that Fudge Pup needed to be included.  I love that he loves this dog so much, it is truly a special bond they share!!   

This boy is truly one of a kind!  I'm so thankful for him, for all that God has shown me through him, and for the joy he brings.  He continues to face so many challenges, yet this sweet smile remains.  School is proving to be increasingly difficult....it wasn't just the transition to something new...it's so much more....and though we are doing our best to find the right answers for him and his teachers are working so hard to advocate for him, my heart breaks for him as he struggles.  And then at our regular checkup for his feet we get the news that he will once again need casting....weekly....followed by surgery again.  And I just want to say ENOUGH!  But as with everything else, he will just go with the flow....taking whatever comes....blessing the doctors, nurses, patients waiting with his smiles, hellos, silliness....and teaching me as always.....

        They humored me for long enough and were more than ready to change again for the snow!

They had a blast!  Levi spent a great deal of his time shoveling the backyard :)  Forever a worker that boy!  Keira wanted to spend time with Kyleigh...I told her that I would take her but she told me that she wanted to experience it with her.  So sweet.  Caleb had a blast with his friends!  

When they'd had enough and the little ones were napping, Keira and Caleb gathered art supplies and worked on some Christmas surprises together.  I loved their excitement as they whispered and planned, thinking it was the greatest thing ever that I couldn't know what they were doing.  We all had dinner together and went to a Christmas show at night.....I truly couldn't have asked for a better day at a better time!  

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And though the seemingly perfect weekend ended on quite a different note....I am reminding myself that my understanding of these circumstances is so very limited.  I see one small piece of the puzzle and God sees the finished product.  So I am trying to be thankful....even in this....in what seems like the worst case scenario.  Because so far....no matter what I've experienced in life....God's ways have always, ALWAYS been for my good.....always been best.  Not easy, but for our good.  Isn't that what we try to tell our children.....we're doing this for your own good....we have your best interest at heart!  They surely don't see it that way in the moment....I'm trying to choose it in the moment! 
Please keep us in your prayers....especially these four sweet faces...... 

 "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow." James 1:17