Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas Eve and after a long drive back to Pittsburgh last night, Sophie woke up this morning, ate breakfast, and just spoke her longest sentence yet. She is repeating it like a mantra.

"I can't wait open presents.  I can't wait open presents!"

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Sophie!

Dear Sophie,

Two already?!  How did that happen?  Just today I was recounting the story of how we packed up our entire house and moved two states away when you were only three weeks old.  Telling that story makes me feel like superwoman, and also like I might be a teensy bit crazy.  Why would someone voluntarily do that?  But I digress.  When I was talking about that time period, it didn't seem all that long ago.  Yet when I look at you, in all of your spirited, toddler glory, there is no denying that you no longer even remotely resemble that newborn who travelled to Pittsburgh with us two years ago.

Sophie, let me begin by saying that you possess a lively spirit.  All someone has to do is look in your eyes - at the way they positively glow when you smile, or when you're being chased, or when you have just stolen something that you know you shouldn't have - and your exuberance for life is abundantly clear.  But this spirit also means you have a strong opinion on, well, almost everything.  At home, you're not shy about letting us know when you feel something is not going your way.  Oh the squealing sounds that you can make!  I feel certain they would rival a stuck pig.  In other people's care, though, you seem to be slightly more amiable.  At church, where you play three morning a week while I work, they ADORE you.   They tell me of your kindness, your empathy, your intelligence, and your enthusiasm.  And I believe them, for I have seen these things too.  But they do not believe me when I mention the squealing, Sophie Grace.

You never stop, and while I know people say this about most little kids, it seems even more true for you.  You conquer physical feats that continue to surprise and amaze me; walking down steps with no railing, climbing up slides, hanging from tree branches, turning every curb into your personal balance beam, outrunning kids older than yourself, and once, climbing out of your crib when you were not happy about being placed there for a timeout.  Thankfully, that feat has not been repeated.  I will not be at all surprised if you excel in a variety of sports later in life, my little monkey.  You love to sing, to dance, to jump (you'll follow me around sometimes, saying "I hopping!" over and over again), to color, to swing, to read.  But most of all, you love to do whatever your sister is doing.  You're learning about sharing, though we've got a long ways to go.

Some of my favorite things about you are the way you'll read books with me, almost always finishing a sentence if I stop.  I love the concern that you show when anyone else is upset, frequently being the first to comfort your sister.  I love the way you sing every word of "Silent Night" and "Jesus Loves Me" with me when I am putting you to sleep.  I love that you sleep almost twelve hours at night and still usually take a two hour nap during the day.  I love that you have a passion for footwear, often changing your shoes several times a day before settling on yellow and pink polka dot rain boots.  I love the way you giggle, the way you frown, the way that you yell "I gotch you!" after you tag me.  I am so thankful that God chose me to be your mommy, and I will always, always be there for you.  Happy second birthday!



Monday, September 17, 2012

Emily's First Camping Trip

Dear Emily,

We just got back from your first ever camping trip, something we had both been looking forward to for a long time. We originally thought of camping in the backyard, but finally decided to just do it right and go real camping, which brought us to Ohiopyle state park. We set up camp, put on our adventure hats, and set out to find some fun.

Our first adventure was to Cucumber Falls, which looked a little dry this year, but still very nice.

We dipped our feet in the mighty Youghiogheny, and watched a few kayakers take on the rapids.

Next we went into the town of Ohiopyle to see the sites, walk along the river, and visit the famous Ohiopyle falls, which is much more impressive in person.

After a long afternoon of adventures, we went back to camp, where you learned how to build a fire, which you thought was pretty cool. However, once the fire was lit and roaring, it took quite a bit of coaxing to convince you it was OK to get close. This was worked out fine while you helped me prepare the potatoes and I did the cooking. After dinner we stretched our legs with a quick drive to Baughman's rock, and then back to the campground as it got dark. Your extreme caution regarding the fire became a problem when you wanted to roast your marshmallow for s'mores (something you had been excited about the whole day), but did not want to get within arm's reach, stick's reach, or arm+stick's reach of the fire. Eventually, we worked it out, and you had a great s'more. After that, it was off to the tent for stories and sleeping. It was quite chilly outside, getting down to the low 40's, but we stayed cozy warm in our sleeping bags and blankets.

The next morning you and Emily (your new favorite doll) had power pancakes with me before our hike.

You were quite excited about hiking, especially reading the signs and finding things in the woods. We hiked from our campground over to the Great Allegheny Passage trail and Ferncliff Peninsula Natural Area, which was quite a long hike for you (you got a few rides on my shoulders to get up some big hills at the end).

We picked flowers, told jokes, threw sticks in the river, took in some breathtaking views, and just enjoyed God's creation. You even told me: "Daddy, I think God's creation is really good over here".

By the end of it all, you were tuckered out. We got in the car for the drive home, and as soon as you finished your peanut butter sandwich, you announced you were going to take a nap. A few minutes later, when I pointed out a nice view, you said "Are you talking to me? I'm trying to take a nap". I quickly apologized. Over an hour later, you woke up and announced that you were only halfway done with your nap.

Even though it was only one night, we both had lots of fun, and I really enjoyed spending quality time with you. When we got home, we both agreed that we should go again. I hope this is the start of many more outdoor adventures.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Isn't Over Yet

It's been a busy few months here at the Plantinga household, and we've neglected to keep the blog up to date on all sorts of things from vacationing in Michigan with the kids (and in Hilton Head without the kids), to visiting Kennywood, swimming lessons, Emily's first day of school, and a slew of other things that I am probably forgetting.

Tonight was a warm September evening, and it wasn't anything momentous, but it was special.  It was special because we all ran outside after dinner, forgot about the dishes and spent two hours running around truly enjoying one another and the last of the warm weather.  I may not have written about some of our milestones this summer, but we'll probably naturally recall many of them.  Nights like tonight, though, would be easy to forget.  So instead, here are some pictures.

 This girl can really catch some air.  
Sure to make grandmothers everywhere a little queasy.
 Dancing in the backyard, such an expressive little girl.
Her bright smile is because she just completed a somersault on her own.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Day to Remember

This past Sunday was definitely a day to remember in my book, one that I had been looking forward to with anticipation for weeks.  And it didn't disappoint.  The day started early, as I had to set my alarm for around 5:30 a.m. in order to battle traffic and road closures to make it to the start of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  I had trained hard for this race, and was planning to run a lot of it with my awesome friend, Sara.  We started off fast (too fast, as it would turn out) and cruised along at a stellar pace for the first 8 or 9 miles.  Sadly, the combination of sunshine + warm temps + hills eventually took their toll and we both slowed considerably in the final miles.  Also, mile 12 was totally uphill.  That's just cruel, course designers!  I had really wanted to finish in under 1:50 and despite passing the 1:50 pace guy on my sprint (okay, fast jog) to the finish line I clocked in a few seconds over that.  Still, I had a blast and my time was significantly faster than last year.  Now to attack my PR of 1:44...

After the race, I drove home, showered, and ate and drank as much as I could cram in before getting in the car again to drive to Hershey, PA to meet my favorite band, Lady Antebellum.  I am so glad that you don't have to stand up to drive, as my legs were definitely protesting all the movement at this point.  I stopped to pick up my sister (who offered to come along the night before a final exam - who is this person?) and we hit the road again.  I was able to meet all the members of the band, ask them a few questions, and just hang out for a bit.  They are amazingly wonderful, and the whole experience was one I will not soon forget.  A big shout out to Eric and my mom for covering childcare for the girls so I could make this happen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Moment

A conversation between Emily and I on the way to school today:

Emily: "Mom, I want to be both when I grow up."
Me: "Both what, honey?  I don't understand."
Emily: "Both a mom and something else.  Like have a job."
Me: "That's great honey.  I think you should do that someday."
Emily: "Yup, I am going to be a mom and a ballerina.  I'm going to have lots of beautiful tutus and my kids will come and watch me dance every night."

And there it was, one of the moments that makes my heart burst with love for my oldest daughter.  Having kids is so hard.  Each day brings challenges and mistakes and exhaustion.  But everyday I get at least one moment like this one, and I don't know how or why, but it makes all the other moments worth it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


This morning when Emily walked down the stairs after waking up in the morning, I was awestruck by how big my baby is getting.  This happens occasionally when I'm not expecting it. I'll glance over and suddenly be close to tears as I look at her, blown away by how beautiful she is, or by the sheer size of her.  The other day I was folding laundry, looking at her pants and wondering how they fit her legs.  They seemed impossibly long.  This girl and I, we've had our share of battles lately.  Perhaps a taste of what's to come as she gets older, I'm not sure.  She has a strong will, she pushes a lot, and I push back.  She tries my patience on a daily basis it seems, but sometimes when I look at her face, that all fades away.  She's simply perfection, my Emily.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Pursuit of Patience

I am not a patient person by nature.  I wish that I was, and I envy people whose patience is seemingly endless, but I'm not.  If you asked my family and close friends, I am sure they would agree.  But one of the lessons I've learned through parenting is that there are times you are forced to be patient.  If you don't, you end up losing your cool about a dozen times an hour because it has taken your child longer than necessary to get dressed, or you watch your child make yet another mess just as you finished cleaning up the last one.

Do things like this still bother me on occasion?  Sure, but I'm slowly learning to let go.  One of the reasons I know I need to grow in patience is because I can hear the tone in my voice when I speak out of frustration and impatience with my children.  It makes me cringe.  And what's worse is that sometimes, my frustration has nothing to do with the child I snap at.  For example,when Sophie is going through a particularly needy, clingy phase where even disengaging her to go to the bathroom by myself is an ordeal, I am much quicker to speak harshly with Emily when she accidentally spills her milk.  Is it fair?  No.  Is it human nature?  Maybe, but I so badly want to be better than that.

As often happens when I struggle with something in parenting, I find help and a little perspective by drawing a parallel from my faith.  When I examine my own life, how frequently and how badly I screw up on a daily basis, I am beyond thankful that I serve a patient God.  A God who is always waiting to welcome me with open arms despite my transgressions.  So my prayer is to slowly become more like my God, who "is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love" (Psalm 103:8).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Fever

(Before I begin this post, I offer my apologies for this neglected blog space.  I don't know how it started, but the posts weren't getting done, and then I wasn't sure what I wanted to blog about, and well, things snowballed.  I've decided to begin with a post of pictures, because that seems easy enough, and then go from there.)

This week is spring break for Emily and Sophie, as both preschool and MMO (which stands for Mother's Morning Out) are closed.  Not such a big deal, except that it means I am not working much this week, and instead of only lining up activities and adventures for two days, there are many more hours to fill.  So, spring "break" isn't very aptly named for this momma.  Blessedly, the weather has been pretty good, and we are spending a lot of hours outside swinging, sliding, and generally just enjoying the warm sunshine on our faces.

Sophie isn't intimidated by anything, and will go down the smallest slope to the tallest slide!

Emily occasionally practices her dunking, much to the delight of her father.

"Oh no, no one is open, now what do I do?"
Always the little fashionista, Emily swings in style.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Children's Museum

Yesterday I took Emily to the Children's Museum for an afternoon of fun with Daddy. We had been looking forward to it for a while, and occasionally Emily would tell me things like "Daddy, sometimes I just can't sleep because I'm thinking a lot of things about the children's museum". Part of the fun was getting to ride the bus on the way there and back, which Emily got quite excited about. The museum turned out to be even more fun than the bus, and had new exhibits since we'd been there last.

Waiting eagerly for the bus.

Crawling through the giant tires in the garage room.

Emily climbed the rope net all the way to the top without getting scared (unlike last time).

We made a wheel to roll down the track.

The water room was once again a BIG hit (despite some wet socks and shoes).

Emily overcame her fear of the giant tunnel system and discovered it was lots of fun.

The only exhibit that was a bit of a dud was the craft workshop where the two of us spent fifteen minutes wandering around wondering exactly what we were supposed to make until we decided to just go ride the virtual car again. We agreed that Mommy could take Emily there to try some crafts some time. It was a great afternoon, and Emily told me when she went to bed that she was thinking about the museum so much she just couldn't fall asleep. Somehow, she was tired enough that she still did.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fader Fundraiser Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

On May 6, 2012, I will be lacing up my sneakers to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. And while many of you know that running is one of the things I love best, you not be as familiar with something else I love: the Fader family. Eric and I first met Jason and Heather Fader when they came to live with Eric and I briefly in the fall of 2000 in Ann Arbor while they were searching for a more permanent home. Heather is the sister of one of my best friends, so Eric and I were more than happy to have them be our guests for awhile. They have been dear to our hearts ever since, and I can say with complete sincerity that they are two of the people whom I admire and respect most. They live out their faith and their calling with such dedication and joy!

Here is a bit more about their story:

Both Jason and Heather Fader sensed that God was preparing them for medical missions even as children— Heather in Wisconsin, and Jason in Kenya, where his parents were medical missionaries.

In 1995, Jason and Heather first met in a general chemistry laboratory at Calvin College in Michigan. They were married shortly after graduating in 1999. Then, while Jason was in medical school at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, Heather completed a Master of Arts in Teaching and began teaching high school chemistry and Spanish. They moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2003, for Jason’s residency in general surgery. In 2005, their daughter Anna was born, and in 2009, they adopted Abigail from Ethiopia. It was also in Ann Arbor that they met two other families from their church who similarly felt called to medical missions. The three families decided to begin
working together to serve God as one team.

From 2009 to 2011, the Faders and their team served at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. Jason and the other physicians in the group cared for patients and also trained and discipled Kenyan interns and residents. During those very fulfilling two years, the team added two more doctors to their numbers and explored options where they could continue teaching medical trainees in a long-term setting.

The whole team feels called to move to Burundi, in Central Africa, to be the clinical teaching faculty for medical students who attend the medical school at Hope Africa University. These eager students have had no permanent faculty since the medical school began in 2006. This is an opportunity of tremendous potential to train and disciple African medical students who will be the leaders of this underserved, impoverished, post-war nation.

Of all the many worthy causes to support, I find myself first and foremost wanting to invest in the Faders and the McCropder team.Jason and Heather told us recently that the entire country has a total of nine surgeons! Can you imagine that?! Talk about being able to fill a great need! However, given our current financial situation (Eric in school full-time and me as a mostly stay-at-home mom to Emily and Sophie) we aren't able to support them financially as much as we'd like. So instead, I am pledging to fund-raisefor them while I train for this half marathon. I think of them often while I run, and the good work that they are committed to doing in the Lord's Kingdom.

If possible, would you prayerfully consider making a donation to their cause as I run to raise awareness of their good work? As little as $1 per mile that I will run (13!) would be so much appreciated.

To donate on-line, just visit this website:
Or, if you would prefer to give or send me a check, you can make it our to World Harvest Missions with Fader in the subject line. I can make sure you get a tax-deductible receipt.

Thanks so much for considering! Please let me know if you have any questions.



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Tis the season to make resolutions, and though I don't often find myself jumping on the bandwagon, there is something appealing about a fresh start and a clean slate.  And so I've decided to make some resolutions of my own this year.  Not knowing how many I can stick to for the duration of the year, I've decided to list several in the hopes of accomplishing at least one or two!

  • Track all of my 2012 runs (with the help of
  • Drink a minimum of 16 ounces of water per day
  • Take a multi-vitamin daily
  • Organize our home spaces so that we can better enjoy them
  • Spend more time in God's Word
  • Tell my husband and my children how much I love and appreciate them on a daily basis
  • Stop biting my nails

Whew!  That's a lot to tackle!  Feel free to ask me about my progress and help keep me on track. :-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday!

Dear Emily,

Happy fourth birthday to you, my big girl! I don't think I'll be able to put into words exactly how much I have enjoyed this past year of your life. Three was an excellent year for you. You morphed into a beautiful, independent, creative, silly, articulate, inquisitive, and caring girl. You learned how to play on your own so well, to make up stories, and to transport yourself into your own little world. For the first half of the year three, playing with your doll house was your absolute favorite thing to do. You love to role play, and I can't tell you how many times we hear you say "okay, you be the little girl and I'll be the mommy" or some variation of that throughout the day. You have turned animals, trains, pieces of food, and even different sized sticks into family members. The second half of this year was all about the crafts, as we learned how much you adore creating pieces of artwork. You can spend hours each day at your craft table, and though we've surely killed our share of trees this year, you delight in all of your new creations. You love drawing families, and even began to illustrate your own books, telling your dad and I what should go on the pages.

This past year you also began attending preschool, and you just love it. You like the structure, I think, and you are quite fond of your teachers. I have yet to hear a negative thing about any part of the experience. You have learned to write about 90% of your letters, you can recognize them all - uppercase and lowercase - can count to 20 (still occasionally skipping a number), and can recognize an alarming number of words by site. You love to be read to, and you also like to read your books to us. You can spell and write your own name, of course, but also mom, dad, and a handful of other words. You blew me away once when you nonchalantly came up to me and gave me a card with my name on it that you had written. You also are using new words all the time, and often correctly. Although one incorrect use that continues to make me smile is when you whine in frustration that Sophie is "recognizing" your projects.

In addition to surprising me daily with how much you know, you constantly blow me away with how much you care about others. You are so very observant, and are deeply affected when anyone else is sad or upset. When we are reading, you study facial expressions, and will ask me why someone in the story is upset, or frustrated, etc. based on how they look. You are normally so great about sharing with your sister, and wanting to make her happy. She is going to have a great role model in you, I am quite certain. You are also learning more and more about God, and beginning to have a relationship with Jesus. Your prayers are very full of energy, that's for sure! And your questions blow me away. The other day we were driving in the car when you asked, "Mom, how does God see everyone at the same time?" You are so eager to figure out how the world works!
You are still a little shy, and pretty cautious of new situations. Your least favorite part of the day is going to bed, but obedient creature that you are, once we can wrestle you into your pajamas and your bed, you always stay there.

I have loved getting to spend this past year with you, Emily, and I am so honored to be your mommy.

Te Amo, Emily!