Toby Gets Cuter

I know, how is that even possible, right? :)  But I figured that there are plenty of people out there who want to see pictures of our rapidly growing little boy, so here they are.  He is starting to smile a bit and doing well with his tummy time, but no real new "skills" other than that.  

Always loved on by his big sister:

Chillin' with daddy:

Assisted in tummy time by his brother and sister (who seem to enjoy tummy time more now than when they were Toby's age...)

Displaying his new quilt from Mimi!

Look at how cute I am!


Mimi and Bapa!

Sorry for the late post.  Eric's parents, aka Mimi and Bapa, arrived May 6 and their arrival coincided with the end of our vacation.  Our blogging thus had three strikes against it:  classes (and homework) restarted, visitors, and sadly, the death of our Gateway computer. Fortunately we had already purchased a new MacBook, which Eric's parents carried out for us, so you could say that it was good timing.  Getting all our files transferred over and figuring out how to manage our photos has taken some time, however.

All that aside, we had a great time for the two weeks they were here!  Malgre le meteo (despite the weather), we were able to find a few nice days for small trips to Conflans and Annecy, both blogged about in the last year.  And then, time was spent just playing, eating, laughing, sleepovers at Mimi and Bapa's "house" (guestroom in the next building over), etc.  Maggie and Ben especially enjoyed special time with their grandparents, and we're sure Toby did as well although he did not express it as such. :)

Time spent together is especially precious when you don't get to see each other much.  We are grateful Eric's parents made the trip to see our world here in France.  It's harder to say goodbye when the next visit may be two years away...but that makes the time we do get even more important.

Mimi and Bapa with 3 out of their 7 (soon to be 8) grandkids!  And the only two male McLaughlins of the next generation 
Tobias Timothee meets his namesake 

The kids got a kick out of wrestling with Bapa.  Or sitting on him, as the case may be. 

Family picture from our hike up to Conflans.  By far their nicest day here! 

A little break for Curious George with Bapa and the kids 

Maggie and her Mimi in Annecy 

Mimi and Bapa brought Ben a new umbrella...both kids enjoyed using their umbrellas in the 100m between our house and the building where Mimi and Bapa stayed 

We miss you already...


Happy Birthday Mom: Photos of Virtues

Today is the 58th birthday of my mom, Sharon McLaughlin, one of seven children, mother of 4, grandma of 7, wife of a very busy man and elected public official, skilled interpreter for the deaf, talented and tireless quilter with an excellent eye for color, follower of Jesus who accepts his love knowing her shortcomings.

As I combed through my photos, looking for some of my mom, I realized how much they personified different personality traits, so they are here to give glimpses of my mom's character for those who do and do not know her.

There is, of course, an innumerable collection of equally-awesome family photos.  I am now a father of three, and I am just beginning to feel the incredible work and commitment that parenting requires.  I may be only feeling that now, but for many years, I have appreciated both of my parents' commitments to their kids.  We were never made to feel that we came second to any aspect of their personal or professional lives.  We were first. We were loved.

My mom championed my education.  It didn't come effortlessly.  She worked with my teachers to individualize my education, which eventually led to me skipping 6th grade.  She created "positions" in the school plays and the school choir for me to get involved at school, playing the piano.  She cared greatly about this.  I am proud of my public school education, yet I must admit that, without her efforts, it may have gone quite differently. 
college graduation
I like to imagine the courtship of my parents.  My dad, with his nomadic childhood, and even more nomadic naval career, meets my mom, who had lived her whole life in the twin cities, and couldn't believe that he would go "camping" without a tent.  However, married they were, and she moved far away to Tucson to make it happen.  Shortly later, they head out to Anchorage, Alaska, where I was born.  And ever since, she and my dad have embodied a love for adventure that each of their kids has benefitted from, and certainly shared as well.
with Maggie outside Juneau, Alaska
 These two pictures are the beginning and the end of medical school.  What is obvious about them is the contrast of my temperament and hers.  It is very difficult to get me exuberant.  My mom is exuberant as a primary way of being happy.  And though I am very different, I need people like this in my life, and I'm grateful that my mom is one such person.  She gets excited. 

My mom is an excellent seamstress, and she has been quilting as long as I can remember.  Her creations are numerous.  They are beautiful and they are creative.  Below is the quilt she made for Maggie, before knowing if she was a boy or a girl, and it's easy to admire how she managed such a nice gender-neutral quilt, without just going yellow.  I don't quilt, but I think I have "more than the average male" share of decorating and design skill, and it certainly didn't come from my dad.  =)

This picture was taken years ago in Colorado.  My mom thought the fountain machine at a gas station was very interesting, with it's ability to mix-and-match flavors, and she wanted me to take a picture of it.  For me, this picture represents all the things that she wanted me to do, but I didn't want to.  Some of them, like this one, are now amusing memories.  Others were crucial and central parts of my life growing up.  I'm thankful that she is like this.

This is a picture of my mom's longsuffering in regards to the silliness of her family.  There are many such pictures, with everyone goofing off, and my mom deigning to be in the picture, despite the fact that she is obviously not feeling it in the same way.  She's a good sport. 

4 years ago yesterday, my mom and dad became grandparents.  They care deeply and well for our kids.  Thus far, and for the foreseeable future, my kids live very far away from them.  This is difficult for us as well, but it is also due to choices that we made.  My parents made no such choice, which creates a unique difficulty.  Despite the fact that this is very hard, they do not waver in their support of us.  I am thankful for this.

This picture was taken in 2010, when my parents came to visit us in Kenya.  My mom is here with Rose, the lovely lady who cared for Maggie.  Within about a week, my mom knew things about Rose that we did not.  She would sit down with her, have chai, and ask her tons of questions about her life and family.  My mom does this very well.  This lack of hesitancy in personal relationships is part of what makes her so capable of communicating with people that have disabilities.  I admire this in her.

As seen here, we have benefited from the hospitality of my parents on numerous occasions, and I grew up with example after example of hospitality from my parents.  I hope that we can emulate this.

Happy Birthday Mom.  May God bless you this year, more and more.


Four Years // One Month

My first baby turned four years old today.  Wow.  I still remember every detail of May 1, 2009...the day I became a mom.  Maggie has grown and hanged so much, and despite not being perfect, she's a pretty awesome little kiddo.  I am continually amazed (and occasionally worn out) by her curiosity and intelligence. She loves books and puzzles and movies, jumping on the bed and coming up with play activities for Ben, and lately, demonstrating her big sisterly affections for Baby Toby by "doing favors" for Mommy and holding Toby while expressing her desire to teach him how to walk.  As in, today.

Thus far today, the day has consisted of breakfast in bed (a tradition it seems safe to start at the age of 4) with scrambled eggs and pain au chocolat:

 Birthday presents (a Hello Kitty watch from Aunt Jena and Chunkle Brian shown here):

 And a little birthday party with two friends...lunch and cake!  (small parties seem to work much better for our sensitive and easily overwhelmed daughter)
 Happy Birthday, sweetie!

Not to be outdone, it is Toby's one month birthday today!  He helped out by sleeping during most of the festivities.  Yesterday's pediatrics visit he showed off by weighing 11 lb, 6 oz.  Yikes!  The French doctor looked stunned.  Good job, buddy.  Now convert that into sleeping all night long. :)