Friday, December 7, 2018

Happy Birthday James!

Dear James,

Happy birthday, sweet boy!  I can’t believe you are five.  You’ve grown into such a little man this year:  thoughtful, focused, imaginative.

It’s been so fun to hear you learn to communicate even more this year.  You have a grown-up voice that you use for explaining things; you love to tell us about what you’re doing.  You make up so many words, though, that it can be hard to figure out what you mean. You build amazing things out of duplo--for a while it was saws, now it’s ferry boats.  It’s been the year of “Why?” You love to learn how things work and ask lots of questions, sometimes even in the middle of a story I’m reading. (When you’re curious about something or asking “why” you tend to scrunch up your nose.)  

I love your imagination.  One day this summer you threw a stick in the canal and watched it float down: “da freighter is on a hunt!  It’s a find da bad birds and kill da birds.” Another day you were spraying the lattice around the patio with the hose, and you and Emily were yelling: “Spray dem!  Spray da bad sojers in da fence!”

You’re fascinated with lawn and yard care.  We moved this summer and you’ve been somewhat alarmingly enthusiastic in trimming (or removing) bushes and trees.  I’d give you an assignment and you’d come back and ask “What you don’t want next?” You enjoyed the garden this summer, especially harvesting peas and digging holes; you really loved getting to tear out the corn when we cleaned everything out after frost. You quickly discovered that there’s a small tree here that you can climb; for most of the summer there was some assortment of tools, ropes or buckets in and around it.  Daddy built you a sandbox and you spent many happy hours there. The little pool went by the wayside when you figured out that you could fill the sandbox with water.

You got to help a little with the house remodel and since then you’ve been fascinated by tools, measuring tapes, anything building-related.  You observe so carefully and are really good at imitating what you see. You love getting to help Daddy and building things together. Daddy’s taken up archery and you have joined him; he built you your first bow early this year and you’ve gone through a few versions since them.  Once I showed you a new arrow: “Oh. (long pause) It’s most amazing.”

One day you asked Daddy “Do you know know to build a battery-powered weedwhacker out of playdough?”
Joe: “I’m not sure how...”  James: “You will have to check on your phone.”

You’re a sweet affectionate boy, regularly asking for “mummy hugs and ‘nuggles”.  I love seeing you and your sisters grow in your relationships; you and Emily are learning to get along quite well.  You’re so protective of Maddie; “I’m consterned about Maddie and the stairs!” was a fairly common line before Maddie learned to navigate them.  She does frustrate you when she wants to be in the middle of your toys, or the hole you’re digging (she thinks holes are for climbing in), but you go to her for hugs when you’re sad.  

You say thank you and no thank you and are so grateful if we get you something fun.  Recently I gave you your dinner plate before I dished up salad and you said “Sanks for giving me no salad, Mom!  I really don’t like salad.” Once I called out the window to check on you and you said “Dere’s a beautiful rose I wan’ show you!”   This summer we were out for ice cream and when we were going to leave you said to me “I’ll carry your water…(I reached for my purse)...I’m gonna carry your purse too.

Lots of imaginative play from you and Emily this year; favorites are either pulling all the cushions off the couch to make something or other (I think it’s a ship today, based on the bomp-ing sounds I hear) or playing moving truck in your room.  Many times I’ve come up to find your bed full of all kinds of things, stacked precariously.

Still my music boy: “I will play the trumpet when I get big. Now I play the broom.” (I think it was a bassoon.)  One morning this year ago you woke up, sat up in bed and started playing scales on the kazoo. For a while everything was a drum set--boxes, food, overturned crates, sideways tricycles, etc.  Daddy made you drumsticks out of dowels to spare the Lincoln logs. You improvise songs very loudly, with made-up lyrics about whatever you happen to be thinking about; sometimes you accompany yourself on the piano with equal vigor.  

If we are rehearsing you’re usually on the sidelines, playing or conducting.  Your musical interests tend follow along with whatever Daddy and I are doing. For a while choirs were the thing; you built risers out of blocks and marched all your people up and down over and over.  You also set up at least one orchestra in the living room, with chairs and (toy) instruments on each one. You’re also quite fond of coats and ties; clip-ons, bow ties, real ties. You’re the only four year old I know who can correctly tie his own tie (thanks uncle Michael).

We’ve started doing a bit of school together; letters and numbers, mostly.  You’re picking it up quickly and I enjoy hearing you talk about things: “what plus is dis?” or trying to figure out the letter sounds in a word.  Not long ago you came to me and told me seriously that Monkey’s numbers inside him were going backwards (I think this referred to his age, since we’ve had more than one talk about why you aren’t going to be a baby again).  We do Bible time together most mornings. You’ve memorized a handful of Psalms and other verses just from repeated reading, and you ask for your favorite Bible stories; lately Noah, Saul, and Jesus stories. I love to see you slowly grasping more and more spiritual truth.  

You’re such a big little boy.  I am so glad that you still love to snuggle and am treasuring these days.  You’re a wonderful gift to us, James. We’re so glad we got you.

Love you forever,

Friday, August 10, 2018

Happy Birthday Maddie!

Dear Madeline,

Happy Birthday, baby!  You were born a year ago in the middle of the afternoon after a quick, slightly crazy labor.  We brought you home that same evening, to the extreme delight of your siblings.  I can’t believe you are one already!  You’ve brought us so much joy this year.  Here are some of my favorite things about one-year-old Maddie:

You are funny, spunky, usually happy.  You love your siblings and try to be close to them if possible, sometimes to their dismay if it lands you in the middle of their toys.  You’re always so happy to see Daddy.  You also love your grandparents.  Grandpa is a favorite of yours and when Grandma M came home from a recent trip you were so happy to see her that you snuggled with her.  (You haven’t been much of a snuggle baby unless you’re super tired...there is just too much to see.)  

You are very clear on what you do and don’t want to eat.  I rarely even try to spoon-feed you anymore; you prefer to feed yourself.  You calmly but determinedly refuse when you aren’t interested.   You love scrambled eggs, most breads, and banana and adore berries.  Meats and savory things aren’t so appealing right now.   You cut your first teeth at 8.5 months, a good two and a half months earlier than your siblings, and now you have four; a cute little lopsided grin, since your top two left teeth came in together instead of two top center.  

You can be hilarious.  Even as a baby you tended towards glee when one of your siblings started to cry….but sneezes, especially Daddy’s, made you cry.  You love people; don’t like to be alone and don’t seem to mind crowds.  You ham it up when there are others to watch you; lately you’ve been blinking slowly with a huge grin.  We have this game where you alternate shaking your head and “nodding” along with the person holding you, but since you can’t figure out nodding you just wiggle your whole body.  It’s so cute.  Sometimes, especially when you’re tired, you get disgruntled and make outraged noises, glaring at me.  

(trying to put your hat on by yourself)

You are just getting mobile; finally crawling and going everywhere; you want to be right in the middle of the action.  If crawling isn’t fast enough you have a funny lopsided scoot; crawling on one knee and one foot stuck out to the side.  You pull yourself up and just started to let go and stand by yourself for a few seconds!  You like carrying little things around; Duplo candles and plastic baby spoons or play utensils are your favorites.  You’ve held onto them through mealtimes, naptimes, play time...sometimes I know you’re coming because I hear your toy clicking on the floor as you crawl. 

You’re figuring out words: “Daddy”, “see” or “I see” with the cutest little lisp, especially when you want my phone.  You recently started saying something like thank-you. “Ni-ni” is for bye-bye, good night or all done.  Sometimes you babble conversationally and it’s adorable.  I think I heard you say Emily the other day, but you don’t seem to want to repeat it for me.  You also have some terrifyingly loud sound effects that you tend to pull out when James is being a vacuum.   Like your siblings, you love music.  When we start singing you light up, waving your arms and bouncing.  Sometimes you sing along.

(you were so happy when everyone sang Happy Birthday to you)

You are such a gift to us, Maddie Rose. We’re going to have so much fun together as you get bigger; there are so many beautiful things to see and share!  So glad that we get to be the ones to watch you grow.  I pray that you grow secure in our love and Jesus’ love.  Happy birthday!    

Love you forever,

Photo credits to the wonderful Auntie Sarah

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Emily's Third Birthday

Dear Emily,

Happy third birthday!  You are a little sunshine girl; such a gift to us.  You’re so caring and empathetic....spunky and vivacious when you’re comfortable with people; quite cautious when you aren’t. Here's a little snapshot of three-year-old Emmy:

You’re my shadow and helper.  You don’t like being too far away from me and you love helping with whatever I’m doing.  You help me “smash” eggs in the morning for scrambled eggs and pull up a chair to help me (or lie with your blankie on the kitchen floor) while I’m cooking.  You’ve become quite good at folding towels and washclothes. You were my big helper with putting in the garden this year; some things got buried rather deeply but you loved it and I’m so happy to see you loving the outdoors.

You are surprisingly articulate.   I love the way you open your eyes up big when you’re telling me something exciting and your little grown-up voice and unique phrasing. (“I tumbled!”; anything warm is “cozy”.)  You’re always saying “When I was a little girl…” or that anything in the past happened “last year”. You told me recently, rather sadly, that you were “worried about da new house” (moving has been a big transition for all of us).   The other day we were eating snacks; you took a goldfish cracker from your bag and tossed it on the ground: “Dat was a old dead one!”

(when you saw your "pink house cake" for the first time)

You notice so much; a new outfit, if I change my nail polish.  You love pretty things. Anytime you see me with any kind of product for my lips, you want some: “Lips on?  Lips on?” (The other day you tried to introduce Maddie to “lips” but she thought it was something to eat.) For your birthday party you said “I want lips on--sparkly ones.”  You want to try out my make up; recently you saw me putting on mascara and said “Is dat scary for you, Mom?” You also love to have your toenails done and find it rather sad when the “polish” wears off.

You’re very aware of your surroundings. You like things in their places and it’s disturbing to your soul when things change too much or are disordered.  If I don’t say “amen” after a prayer, you are rather distraught. “I smell something!” has become a regular refrain. (Once it was “achully James” and once... “it’s my feet!”)  I gave you Swiss cheese a couple of months ago and you said “It comed into my nose! I want lellow cheese.”

Your imagination is amazing: I got a few books of artwork from the library a few months ago and was looking at the pictures with you and James after naptime one day.  We were looking at a two page spread of a winter scene, noticing details. You said “I’m cold!” and I went to wrap you in your blankies, but you said “I’m cold from the picture!”.  Then we were talking about a man who was using a pickaxe on the ice and you said “I don’t like dat noise”. What noise, thought I? ”Dat noise he is making. I will dus stay close to you.”  

You’re still a little music girl.  You sing to your babies, play your (toy) violin with appropriate movement, like to play along when I’m playing the piano.  You typically request “violin songs” when we’re going to listen to music. You also loooove stories. You always want more and I don’t think we’ve ever read so many to you that you didn’t want another.  The Little House, Madeline, Kim Lewis’ll sit and snuggle and listen. You're also quite the little baby mama. For a while you kept the entire collection of dolls in you bed.

You and James have both been asking more questions about Jesus lately. You love to hear all of the verses of Jesus Loves Me and ask specifically about the part where He washes away our sins.  It's so exciting to me to see your awareness of spiritual things grow and to watch Jesus reach out to you.

You and James are getting to be good friends.  It’s so cute to hear you playing and conversing together.  You were sitting on the patio step eating dessert the other night, looking thoughtfully at the huge trees along the canal behind the house.  You said, pointing at the sunny blue sky, “Look at dat shooting star up dere!” James, a minute later: “I wonder if we walk fru da trails if we will see a moon coming up...”  You love Maddie and watch out for her; you’re quite vigilant to make sure she doesn’t get too close to the stairs, sometimes to her dismay. I can’t wait to see the relationship you two develop as you grow.  

You bring us much joy, Emily Grace.  I’m so glad we got you and that I get to see you grow up.  You are loved and precious.

Love you forever,


Photo credit for all the good ones: Sarah Morgan Photography

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Family Update 2017


Friends and kindred, inlaws, outlaws, and otherwise:

Greetings and salutations!  Joe’s off with his brother and some friends tonight and—having settled the children and the house—I am here with tea, treats, and laptop in hand, prepared to update you on the life of the Langemanns in 2017.

For the first several months of the year, Joe spent his time off renovating our kitchen and bathrooms with new cupboards, counters, and backsplash tile.  Our dates for those months pretty much consisted of midwife appointments, a quick coffee and (another) run to Home Depot.  I absolutely love the finished products!  Working in a beautiful kitchen is good for the soul and the bathrooms feel like a ritzy hotel.

This year Joe developed quite a passion for longbow archery.  He found a local range, shoots often with my dad and/or siblings in my parents’ yard, and regularly finds some small accouterment to add to his setup.  I love it; it’s so him.  He’s still working in sales at The Deck Superstore and really likes his job.  The commute is a little crazy from our home right now (looking to move this year!) but one advantage is that he’s made his way through several audiobooks in the course of the year.  He’s a wonderful dad and I love seeing him on the floor with the kids, creating amazing things from blocks, Duplo, Lincoln logs, etc.  

I have no trouble keeping busy these days.  Caring for the family, creating yummy and healthy meals, keeping the house (usually mostly) tidy.  The kids and I get out for walks just about every day (current setup: double stroller and Ergo) and in summer make good use of our local pool.  I still love to read and set a record for books read in 2017, thanks largely to a new Kindle (a having-a-baby gift from my hubby), making reading while holding a baby much easier.  I’ve made great use of the library e-book service.  I participate in music as I can...Joe, seeing that rehearsals and concerts made his normally steady wife “buzzed”, kindly worked things out for me to play with the Colorado Young Sinfonia through the end of the 2016/2017 season.  I loved those evenings of focused work on some wonderful music.  Recently I’ve been playing piano for worship at church.  It has been a long time since I did any church music; it’s good to be back.

Both of us participated in Bold Reflection in the spring.  Our summer concerts were special times, especially since the group took the fall/winter set off.  We’ve missed BR but were able to join our church choir in the same capacities: Joe sings and I’m accompanying.  Figuring out how to include music in our lives with three small children is a bit interesting, but we are so grateful for opportunities (and numerous family babysitters) that allow us to make it happen.

Yes, three small children!  Madeline Rose was born on July 28, 11 days late.  She was welcomed with great love and relief by her parents and with great enthusiasm by her siblings.  Maddie is a sweet, laid-back, happy child and loves her older siblings.  She rarely cries but has a whole collection of sound effects (including an ear-splitting screech) that communicate quite effectively.  I am really loving this baby stage the third time around.  I’m not nearly so worried about things like “will she sleep through the night” (probably, eventually) and “oh no is she acting normal” (yep)  and much more aware that this is a short and special season of life.  I love our nighttime snuggles.  Her middle name comes with a funny story...we had a name for a boy but couldn’t settle on a girl name for a long time.  We kept coming back around to Madeline and finally, in the last week or two before she was born, we decided we’d better come up with a middle name just in case.  Problem was, we were totally stumped.  So we put it to our families (via family text) and generated a whole slew of suggestions, including Belle, Ursula, Viola, and...more.  Auntie Erin saved the day and Madeline Rose it is!

Emily turned 2 on July 2.  She’s the best imaginable mixture of sweetness and spunk… impossibly cute and so articulate.  She is a caring little mama for her babies; a small collection of dolls and a blue teddy bear that she calls her sister.  (If you hear one of us refer to Emily’s sister, it’s typically not Maddie we’re talking about.  It’s the blue bear). I regularly find her singing one of them to sleep.  She loves to sit on the counter while Mommy works in the kitchen (“Hop you on da counter? Hop you on da counter?”). She picks up on emotions when we read stories: “He sad!  He happy!”.  I love her wonderful response to music.  She gets so excited, moving, dancing, and occasionally exclaiming when it gets too intense.  Earlier this year she was obsessed with the violin.  Anything could become a violin: two pieces of tomato, goldfish crackers, toys, tubes from the vacuum.  Grandma had pity upon her and got her a toy violin for  her birthday.  She sings with great abandon and sometimes hilarious lyrics (“Who in da world, da Lord is come.”).  She certainly has her ideas about how things work, or should work.  On the way home the other night she wasn’t super impressed that I was driving instead of Daddy (who wasn’t even in the car): “Dat’s Daddy’s driver right now!  Don’t use it!  Can you scoot over?”

James turned 4 in November.  He’s getting to be such a big boy.  Loves playing with Daddy and building things, digging outside, playing with his aunties and uncles.  He’s all about construction equipment right now.  I walked in his room the other day and he had a whole construction scene set up; Lincoln logs dumped all over and front loaders and dump trucks to load them into.  He’s so creative; he’ll create expanded versions of toys (hooking a couple of trailers together to become a car carrier, or using a stethoscope as part of a leaf-blower) and comes up with wild and crazy headgear.  He’s also a musician boy.  Conducting, singing all the time...sometimes his own songs and sometimes real songs. If I’m playing the piano he comes up with some kind of drum set (container, two Lincoln logs) and just sits and bangs away along with me.  I’m amazed by how much he picks up.  He and Emily both sprinkle their conversation with references to songs and stories: “I see da light from above!” “I’m digging da celler of da new town hall!’.  

It’s been fun to see the relationship between the two of them develop.  This year they’ve gotten better at playing together peacefully for stretches of time longer than two minutes and it’s so nice.  This exchange from July nicely sums the mixture of sweetness and insanity around here... James: “Look at you!  You’re. So. Pretty.” (about one minute later) “Say bird poop, Emmy!  Say bird poop!”  They also sing together….recently I heard (very loudly) “Blow up, blow up, blow up de ark!”

Joe and I celebrated 5 years of marriage in September.  We are so blessed to share life together.  We’re working out how to live well in this stage, how to nurture our kids and our marriage and care for all the practical stuff.  The intermix of the two can be a little funny.  Today we had a lovely date, talked about organization and routine, and then went to Costco and got crate-happy.  Over a dozen crates later the toys are well-organized, at least…

As usual, our travels were some of the highlights of our year!  The usual Morgan family trip to Buena Vista in February was wonderful as always.  In May, Joe and I flew out to Washington and spent a few nights in a fishing town on the Pacific coast!  First time I’d seen the Pacific ocean.  We had a lovely time together and spent as much of it as possible down on the beach.  In October we made our annual trip to Michigan.  It was one of our best vacations ever, long drive notwithstanding.  We spent a few days on Lake Huron in a lovely little cottage right on the water, relaxing and enjoying the beauty as a family.  Then we headed down to my grandma’s, where most of the rest of my family met us.  I’m telling you, bringing a slew of babysitters on vacation is highly recommended.  The kids loved the water, the sand, and the time with Grandma Noni and it was a wonderful relaxing and bonding time for all of us.  It’s been such a gift to be able to spend these times with my grandma each fall.

We have been given so much.  Obvious things: a home, love, family, friends, music.  And the deeper things: God’s care.  Grace.  A hope that doesn’t change.  Attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah was a highlight of my Christmas season; the truth and hope contained therein is so refreshing and grounding for me.  It helps me to take a step back and see that no matter the craziness of the world or the anxiety of life and the having of three small children, God’s story is bigger and the ending is good.  Deep security lies in that and I am so grateful.  We are also grateful for you, our dear family and friends.  (Especially the ones who babysit).  Wishing you a wonderful 2018!

Joe, Rachel, James, Emily and Madeline Langemann

all the good photos by Sarah...

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy 4th Birthday James!

(Only two months late on this one!  Here's James' 4th birthday letter.)

Dear James,

Happy Birthday, my four-year-old boy!  Wow, it’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since we met you.  I remember when Daddy carried you over to me after you were born.  You were so little, but alert.  Today, you’re growing into such a big boy.  You’re thoughtful and caring but so full of crazy energy that sometimes I don’t know what to make of the combination.  (We’re working on crab walking and kicking the air to get rid of all that as to protect your sisters).

This year: you love watching the summer lawn care crew and often imitate them...leaf-blowing, trimming the edges, trimming the trees (though we try to prevent you from doing actual damage to the bushes outside), raking the new rock that Daddy put in.  You’re also quite enthralled with construction (“descutchin”) equipment: road work, dirt moving, etc.  This summer the city resurfaced one of the roads near us and you’ve been steamrolling things ever since.  (We try to keep the water usage part of the process to a minimum.)  Just now there’s major earthmoving going on near one of our favorite playgrounds and you’ve been watching carefully and then coming home and recreating what you see.  I’ve caught you with a scissors, wanting to cut off the bucket scoops of your front loaders to convert them to forklifts, just like the big one you saw.  Helping Daddy is another favorite activity....especially when you get to go to “Depot Home” and maybe even the toy store.


Stories are a big part of your life these days.  It’s so fun now that you’re old enough to sit and listen to a whole story instead of just flipping through the pictures.  For a lot of the year your favorite book was Dr. Seuss’ Go Dog Go (please beware, innocent parents, of this book).  You and Emily randomly ask “Do you like my hat?”  to which the only proper answer is “I do not!”.  Unless it’s your party hat, in which case of course I love it.  It’s not unheard of for you to wake up saying “Get up!  It is day!  Time to get going!  Get up!  It is day!  Time to get going!”.  More recently, we've been reading Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel.  (relief...a book with a plot.)  You now dig the cellar of the new town hall at the ball diamond, on the beach, through the rocks into the dirt off our patio.  

You’re a sweet big brother to both your sisters (though recently you’re asking for another new baby and have made it clear that you’d like a brother: “two Emmys and two Jamesies!”).  We have a couple of precious videos of you holding Maddie, talking to and about her: “It’s okay, Maddie!  Don’t worry!....look at her liddow toes….she’s getting big like me!”  You also tell me when she’s upset: “your baby’s crying!”  You keep track of Emily and the two of you are getting good at playing together.  You get concerned if she gets too close to the edge at the playground and the other day she was lagging behind us as we walked; you went back and took her hand to help her.  You’ve also been known to attempt to reprove me if you think I’m not being nice to Emmy:  “No!  Let her do that!” (Oh my.)

Music is such a big part of your life.  You sing all the time, sometimes songs we’ve taught you and sometimes your own creations, often having to do with leafblowers, snowblowers, etc.   You and Emmy sit at the piano and sing together--often Holy Holy Holy or You Are My Sunshine.  Great Is Thy Faithfulness is another recent favorite and a must-sing every night.  You love watching music videos--your current idea of a movie is an orchestral or Bold Reflection concert-- and you enjoy hearing mommy play and daddy sing in the “plior” (choir) at church.
Your grasp of language is pretty awesome.  You have words that you use for things that nobody else can figure out.  Some we’ve deciphered the meaning to...some we haven't.  You say “I’m gonna plennon you!” and talk about “jego bugs”.  You were going around “shooting” people by pulling an imaginary string away from them and we finally figured out that you’re actually “starting” them like you would a lawn mower.  (See below.)

You are a wonderful mix of sweet, sensitive little boy and exciting ball of energy.  Sometimes in the morning you come out, all sleepy, with your blankies and climb in the big chair with me while I finish up my reading.  I treasure our quiet snuggle times.  You’re so precious and I can’t wait to see the way God works in you and guides you.  We love you, Jamesie.


All pics from our wonderful Michigan trip; courtesy of Auntie Sarah.