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today we elected a president. 

Today we elected a new president. It wasn’t easy. It was polarizing. I had to keep my mouth shut publicly for well over 18 months (this was hard for your mama). But I am happy to tell you we were part of a movement. Our family’s candidate won. We are happy. We are also sad for the labels others will automatically assign us because of our vote. We know they aren’t true for our family. And, we know often people label things they cannot process. 

Before I know it you’ll be voting in elections. Here’s what I want you to know- 

Yes, love wins. Yes, love trumps hate. Yes, Jesus is love. But (& here is the most important part) Jesus set standards for the way we should live. He didn’t say you could pick & choose the rules like a subway sandwich lineup. He didn’t offer up his grace for all the times you know you’re breaking the rules because it’s what you feel like doing. It is not about justifying your way of living; it’s about living for what He eternally justified for you. 

He does ask us to love sinners. Why? Because we are sinners ourselves. Regardless of the perceived “degree” of sin. So, love your people. All of them. End of story. Show them kindness for it might be all they need. Remember though that love doesn’t mean complacency. Pray for those who need it (hint: we all need it).  

He also demands we serve. Everyone. So serve. But remember “serving” isn’t a synonym for catering to. You can help without giving a handout. Serve to satisfy needs. And do it with a grateful heart. 

Jesus set standards. He also set an example. Please be both. 

pum-pin patches. 

For me, Fall is a time of renewing. Of slowing down. Of opening the windows & pulling out comfortable blankets & lighting candles & being thankful my husband knows how to build a fire. And, of course, pumpkins. Everywhere you look there should be pumpkins.

Last year about this time I wrote about Nicholas’ 1st trip to the pumpkin patch. It’s a tradition my grandmother started for us when I was little & I looked forward to it for years. Even when I had to drive her to the pumpkin patch we still went. I loved it. And, I want Nicholas to love Fall traditions, too.

This year we took a bit of our own spin on the tradition. We headed south of town to  an orchard farm that had a glorious pumpkin patch – and a hayride on a tractor that go you there.

In short, Nicholas loved it. Enjoy these photos of Nicholas picking out his “pum-pin”.

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….and today you turned 2.

Today you turn 2. I’m not sure how we got here so quickly. Your story continues to be an amazing one that humbles me every single day. (Also, I would like to know who to complain to about time speeding up so fast it makes my head spin.)

You’ve come a long way in the past year. We said goodbye to physical therapists, occupational therapists, and frequent checkups at the doctors. You no longer need special immunizations that support preemie hearts & lungs & bodies. This year we heard some of the best words from your medical team : “If you didn’t know he was premature, you wouldn’t be able to tell.” Yep, you’ve come a long way. (Hallelujah.)

You did meet a new doctor this year. He fixed your ear drum & placed tubes to (hopefully) eliminate all future ear troubles. Your hearing was damaged when your ear drum ruptured but has come back full force (as has your selective hearing – which I’d never admit outside of here that you get it from me- your mama).

You have found your voice &, with it, your well-timed dry humor. Your witty retorts leave me laughing:

“How old are you, Nicholas?”

(“How old are you, mama?”).

This led to a chat about how we don’t ask mommies how old they are because it’s not nice & because you can’t count that high to which you replied “Oh. Old.”

This year we saw new faces come into our family & some souls leave this world for better places. Both of these experiences are important. It helps us learn to accept change (whether we want it or not).

During these times of change you’ve also witnessed  true “family” forming around you – some by blood (& love) and some simply by choice (these are my favorites). You have inherited aunts & uncles (& even a special Mimi & Poppy)  who you’ll never find proof of on your family tree but they are here. In your life. Because they choose to be. Embrace them.  It’s important to also remember to never bother yourself with those who choose to ignore you- it’s their choice. And, there are times now & in the future where the best thing you will be able to do is say “OK, that is your choice. I still love you.” If you can do this you will be content.

The world around you has crumbled & been broken & is defeated & tired. It’s not the world we want for you. But, even so there is still beauty & love & grace abundant. Some days you just have to search for it a bit harder.

Your daddy & I consciously surround you with people who love Jesus & work to serve Him. It’s our prayer you always keep a close knit circle of folks who love you, love Jesus, & hold you accountable to the standards He set for us.

You, Nicholas, are brave. Nothing scares you – at least not for long. You are fearless. You take my breath away at least 40 times a day with your daredevil stunts.

You are determined. Determined to figure out how that thing comes apart, how this thing works, and how to put this other thing back together. You are our little gear head – a trait you get from your daddy & granddaddies for sure.

You live for connections. For friendships. For “mama” & “dada” & “min-min” (Minions) & “choo-choo” (Thomas The Train). You love to call people on the phone. Sometimes you’re successful & get someone to answer & sometimes you spend your time talking to someone we cannot see on the other end of the phone.

You are our most favorite. In the history of the world. You give us hope. And show us what true grace looks like. You are our reason for everything we do. And we are oh so terribly thankful every minute of our days for you.

Happy Birthday, Nicholas.

Now bring on the terrible 2s. (I think) we are ready for you. Wine, anyone?

Love you forever…….Mama & Dada

low country living 

We just returned from our 1st family vacation in the history of N’s life. Don’t misread this- N has been on airplanes & in several states but it’s always been in tow one of my or Andy’s business trips or to see family here or there. We haven’t taken a trip just the 3 of us simply because we can since N has been born. Until now.

We traveled to celebrate. We celebrated N and all that he is. We celebrated paying off all of N’s medical bills & the associated costs that come with a baby in the NICU for as long as we were (most folks overlook this financial aspect of family in the hospital but as someone who has seen the bills it’s there and it’s ugly….we had 16 flights alone just so Andy could get back & forth to work during our NICU stay- and doctors boarding fees for our 3 dogs for 4 months – let alone countless other “things”). 

We traveled to a place where my wonderful “damn Yankee” of a husband had never been before- Charleston, SC. We spent 4 days eating wonderful food, touring Fort Sumter, taking a carriage ride, and visiting plantations. It was wonderful (I may have at one point told Andy that this is where I belonged. He says our checkbook disagrees.)
Enjoy these photos from our trip! 

“you mine” (& other N-isms)

Now that Nicholas is learning to talk he likes to talk. A lot.  For the life of me I simply have no earthly idea where he gets this trait from!

Here are a few N-isms that run rampant in our life these days:

Ba-NAAAAN-a.

Bananas are minions’ favorite foods. At least once a day he walks into the kitchen and signs & says “Ba-NAAAAN-a peez.(please).” He will even show you where they are in the kitchen if you have somehow forgotten what a banana looks like or where they are kept (nevermind you are probably the one who bought them at the grocery store). “Ba-NAAAAN-a” is also what we call anything yellow. We have a large print of a lemonade canister hanging on the wall in our kitchen that our friend Jen took at our wedding. It is not yellow. It is “Ba-NAAAAN-a”. He will point to it, sign “yellow” & shout “Ba-NAAAAN-a”.

It rain.

Nicholas is learning all about weather. And his favorite “weather” is rain. Anytime it starts to rain he will go to the door and shout excitedly “it rain! it rain! mama, it rain!”. After the rain stops he will point outside & say “it wet.” When you ask him why its wet he will excitedly tell you & sign for you that “it rain!”. Now that we are in full summer heat & humidity here in NC some mornings we wake up & there is a bit of dew on our windows. He will point & say “it rain!”. Right now we aren’t explaining the difference because, hey we could use the rain these days & because you never know, it might rain soon.

Min-Min.

This is what we call the minions. Nicholas knows who the minions are & where they live (in the TV, the DVD player in the car, and on the Kindle). When he sees any of these items he asks “Min-min now?” (Can I see the minions now?). He doesn’t argue when we say no; he shrugs & moves on. Somedays he’ll ask a few more times as if you might not have heard him. It’s very “are we there yet? how about now? now? when?” of him.

“Hup”.

Help. As in “Can you help me open these fruit snacks I went & got out of the pantry all by myself because I know where my snacks are & I dont need your help raiding the pantry; just opening my loot.” This is also found in conversation when we need “hup”opening the play-do we will ultimately try to feed to the dogs.

“I not (k)no(w).”

This was his 1st sentence & is still a favorite. “I not know” who pulled all of the blankets out of the drawer. “I not know” who colored the wall with red chalk. “I not know” who fed my sippy cup to the dog.

You mine.

This one is my absolute favorite. When you ask him what/who things are he will usually respond correctly.

“Who is that?” “Dada.”

“Who is that?” “Dog.”

“What is that?” “Ball.”

“Who is that?” (when pointing to me) “Mine.” Even when I say “Who am I?” “You mine”. “Am I mama?” “M-hm. Mine mama.” Here’s hoping he always know I am his. And he is mine.

 

be like bob.

Nicholas loves minions. It’s an “its Christmas morning & Santa came & he brought me a hippopotamus!” kind of love.

We don’t watch much TV in our house. Not because I have some soapbox about how bad TV is for kiddos that I stand on.  We don’t watch much because well,  Nicholas isn’t all that interested in it. He knows how to turn it on & off & can even pull up Netflix but usually he  will watch it for 5-10 minutes & then get up & wander off to some new adventure. But, not with the minions. The sound of the minions singing the Universal theme song sends him into full blown dancing mode.

And minions (or any cameo a minion might make in a movie) cause Nicholas to freeze where he is & just watch in amazement.

If you know anything about the minions franchise (I know more than I ever thought I would need to know), there are lots of them. Each of them has a name & a backstory & their own little personality. They all have 1 goal at the end of the day though: to serve their master in whatever way He needs. Sometimes the minions clean the house, sometimes they babysit, sometimes they make “super cool spy weapons”. In any way they can, they serve. And they do so with happy hearts.

Nicholas has a favorite minion: Bob. When he sees Bob on screen & he squeals “bob! bob mama!”. (Bob is also the minion plush toy he is watching the movie with in the video above).

A bit on Bob – Bob is short for Robert. He is the only minion with 2 colored eyes – known medically as hetereochromia. (Its a tribute to rocker David Bowie – the creators of the minions who were obviously big fans.) He is the shortest minion of the whole tribe. Bob is a kind-hearted minion.  He has a child’s point of view of the world – never counting anyone out & always doing something out of love for someone else.

In one of the Despicable Me movies he is one of the minions who, when a little girl’s stuffed unicorn is disintegrated, fashions one out of a baby bottle brush & some googly eyes. He delivers it with the price tag still on it (how very Minnie Pearl of him). And in another movie, when the villain is punished for her ways, he stops to give her a special gift he had just received since he knows it will bring her a bit of joy in a time when she has just lost the battle.

He never gives up on people. He puts their happiness ahead of his own. He lives to serve. He needs guidance from his fellow minions sometimes as his innocence can get in his own way. But he always has good reasons for stumbling while trying to help. If only we could all say we always had good intentions as adults – sometimes its not the case.

I guess I’m writing this here so, one day, when Nicholas is either a passive aggressive teen who knows everything & I know nothing (I hear these teens exist – I was NEVER EVER one of them – just take my word on this – definitely don’t ask my mother) or when he is struggling with life in general he can think back & remember the mantra “be like bob.”. Be kind-hearted, seek to spread happiness, & serve others. Especially when they don’t deserve it. So, in short – be like bob. Even when others fail you, be like bob.

 

a king, a sheriff, & a hawaiian shirt.

At school this month, Nicholas has had several “spirit” days. Andy tells me we are practically the only child in our class that participates but, by golly, you tell me there is a day with a theme & we will be there. In costume. Ready to play the part.

The 1st day was “King” day. We went as KING of the NICU. This was a HUGE hit throughout the school.


The next day was “western” day. So, naturally we went as the “king” of the west: a sheriff.


And, just the other day this week was “hawaiian shirt” day. Yes, we are a 21 month old. Yes, we do actually own a hawaiian shirt that fits. So, we wore it. And, as you can tell by the photo below we were in a rush to get to the luau school.


 

a boy & his flag. 

Nicholas has a new favorite “thing”. I can’t call it a toy because…well, it’s not. But he loves it and my heart swells every time I see him with it. 

His new favorite thing is the American flag. I kid you not. In the past week he has been on the lookout for flags. Everywhere. 

 (He can’t quite say “flag” appropriately yet so as much as we try- the “l” sound is still hard for him. Embarrassing at times? Perhaps. But we try & correct and move on. And thankfully those who have heard it are so enamored with why in the sam hill a 21 month old is so excited about the flag that they ignore him mispronouncing the word.)

On Saturday morning we decided to go with daddy on one of his “it’s Saturday & so we must go to Home Depot today” weekly runs that he is all too famous for. We hopped on one of the shopping carts with a race car attachment on it. 

By the way I don’t know who thought about adding that contraption onto a cart but I think I speak for a lot of mamas when I say Thank you. You bring me sanity. Between that and the free cookies at Harris Teeter I might as well be at the spa. 

As we were waiting for daddy to find the hose bibs, connectors, pipes, and other “dad” things N & I perused the store. As we turned the corner into the patio section N started to shout & point “Mama. Flag! Flag mama!”. I quickly spotted the display & said “Yes, buddy you can have a fLag.” I pulled a 78cent flag out of the display and handed it to him.

He was so happy. I mean kid on Christmas happy. He waved that flag through the store while we looked for Andy. When folks would stop he would wave his flag and say “FLAG!!!”. Folks laughed. I laughed.

After we had shown practically everyone in the store our flag we found Andy. And we went to checkout. I took the flag to have it scanned so we could pay for it & Nicholas screamed “Not my flag mama!”. After we paid for it I gave it right back to him. 

He held it all the way home. (Try putting a 21 month old who comes from 2 stubborn parents in a car seat when he wont let got of his flag.) He ate lunch with his flag. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t nap with this flag. He was only satisfied when it too laid down for a nap. He asked for it as soon as he woke up. He ate snack with it. He & I had a “falling out” (read total meltdown) when I explained the flag doesn’t take baths so it shouldn’t get wet while you take yours. It went with us (in our car seat) to our godparents house for dinner. And yes when we came home it had to go to bed just like we do. 

You would think he would’ve woken up this morning and have forgotten about his 78 cent flag. Well, friends you like me would’ve been wrong. After church he wanted to know where his flag was. We ate after church hot dogs with our flag. We put our flag down for a nap before taking our own. We got up, shared our snack, and watched a movie with our flag. 

We could learn a lot from Nicholas & his flag. Love. Gratitude. Comfort. Respect. He might not know exactly what he is cherishing right now in that 78 cent replica but I’d like to think in a few years he’ll be just as in love with the red, white, & blue as he is today.

Enjoy these few photos of a boy & his American flag. 

we lost a shoe.

We lost a shoe. Just 1. I cannot find it anywhere. And, I am about to lose “it”.

We had it 3 hours ago in the church parking lot. It was sitting nice & quietly beside its other half. Andy asked me what shoes to put N in for church when we arrived (I’ll explain this exercise in a moment) & I said the church shoes. Not the school shoes. As I type this perhaps I’m realizing I might have hurt the school shoe’s feelings so 1 just got up and stomped off in full temper tantrum (I’ll show her!) mode.

Socks are a whole other ballgame. Socks & I have fought epic battles since the beginning of baby time in the Szapacs household. 1st, I couldn’t find socks small enough to fit N’s feet. (Hey, you try finding socks for a 2 pound kiddo – trust me, there’s a market there.). The smallest socks I could find came up over his knees. He was 6 months old before newborn socks actually looked like socks on him. Then, socks started to walk off. First, it was sneak attacks: leaving during laundry time. Or in the dead of night. Then, they started disappearing during the day. One time Nicholas was sleeping in his boppy. He went down for a nap with 2 socks. He woke up with 1. I still haven’t found that blue & white striped sock.

Nicholas takes after me in that he doesn’t like wearing shoes. Or socks. We’ve learned the hard way do not put shoes & socks on before leaving the house. Its futile – they will not last. Not even 5 minutes. As soon as Nicholas gets in the car he is pulling them off himself (& throwing them I do not know where) or he sticks his foot out & says “mama.mama.mama.mama….” until you take the socks & shoes off his feet. So, we’ve learned to carry the footwear to the car & put it on once you get to where you’re going.

That’s what our well-laid plan was today. Get to church, put socks & church shoes on & head on in. As we were putting shoes & socks on I saw the school shoes. So did Andy. They were (I’d like to think) relaxing comfortably on the seat. Resting for their next big adventure. And now, 1 shoe is gone. Vanished. Poof! Disappeared.

I’ve taken the car apart. Pulled everything out of the diaper bag. Made Andy go look (thinking it would be like when you lose your car keys – laying right where they should be you just can’t see them sitting there in plain sight because you’re convinced they aren’t where they are supposed to be). Nothing. Nada. Only 1 lonely shoe. Missing its mate.

The mere mention of shoe shopping made Andy launch into one of his “how much with that cost?!” episdoes. It will cost what it costs, dear. Do you expect our child to toddle into school with no shoes? Thats the only option I see at this point if we don’t go buy school shoes. Let me remind you that I am from the South – you don’t wear your church shoes to school for goodness sake! (MEN.)

So, off to the shoe store Nicholas & I went. (side note: it takes a special person to work in a toddler’s shoe store. I am not nor will I ever pretend to be one of those people. God bless them.) We bought a new pair of school shoes. The blue & bright green. They’re so bright I can see them in the dark (which is important when I’m fairly certain they, like their sock friends, will try & escape in the dead of night).

We may have also bought 6 more pairs of socks – I am betting the 6 pairs will disappear by Friday.