Monday, March 14, 2016

A birthday skating party

One of the best parts about having a big girl is watching her do big kid things.

I know, that sounds a little hokey, right?  But it's true.  She'll always be the first, so each and every phase will be a new and amazing step for both her and our family. 

She chose roller skating for her birthday this year.  And it was totally new, and totally amazing. 

And, because it was at the skating rink, it was also a little hot, sweaty, sticky and smelly... but mostly, it was amazing. 

We did something of an early 90's theme, with bright neon colors and accessories straight out of a Wham! video.  

The cake, per birthday girl request, was Oreo through and through.

Just like with ice skating last year, I was worried that the kids would have a miserable time.  This was Leah's first time roller skating, and I was very unsure about how things would go. 

Luckily, everybody had a wonderful time, whether they skated or not! 

Strike a pose was definitely on the agenda that day for our birthday girl.  She's got a little Madonna in "Vogue" on the brain!

I can't imagine why.

What can I say?  I'm a sucker for that happy face.   

She had a wonderful time at her party.  We love the opportunity to make these moments special.

Happy birthday to our wonderful, wild and lovely six year old.  We love you!

And, because it's always fun to remember what brought us here: 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A letter to my daughter.

My wonderful Leah,

Someone wiser than me once said that the season of parenting is full of long days and short years.

As I watch you in the days leading up to your sixth birthday, I am aware of how long your arms and legs have become.  How confidently you move your body, without the wobbly or tentative movements that characterize little ones.  I notice the way your face has thinned, your eyes have become more earnest, and that it has become more difficult to spot traces of the tiny baby face I used to see all the time.

Your words are wise.  You are thoughtful, bright, and talented.  You know your mind and hold fast to your convictions.  You can ride a bike without training wheels, read a book without assistance, add and subtract or recite the presidents and spout Bible verses from memory.  You know and can do so many things.  Real things that leave me breathless with wonder at the beautiful girl journeying to the woman she will become.

Six is a serious number.

I sometimes try to picture what the years ahead will bring.  Will you be skinny and athletic like your mom as a pre-teen?  What will your voice sound like when you squeal that you've passed your drivers test?  How tall will you be when you cross that stage in your cap and gown?

These are the mysteries that lay before us, my beautiful girl, that only time can unravel.  But there are a few things I hope for you as you step into that future.

I hope for the kind heart I see in you to remain firmly in place.  Keep it; nurture it.  Don't ever turn your back when someone is in need.  You are sensitive to the pains of the world and the aching you find in others, and I can see already that God is calling you in mighty ways to bless and serve.  You are a cheerleader at heart; quick to celebrate the successes of your siblings and your friends, to offer an encouraging word, to believe in those who do not believe in themselves.  This is a powerful, necessary and severely undervalued gift.  Grow in it.

Don't wait to be perfect.  You won't be.  Not ever... and it's okay.  Although you are capable of so much and I always want you to do your best, if perfection is your goal, you will be continually disappointed.  Satisfaction isn't found in perfection, it is found in the lessons you learn and the mountains you overcome in the midst of imperfection.  It is found in realizing that you can do something today that seemed impossible yesterday.  It is cultivated by stepping out in faith to do the right thing even when that is terrifying.  He doesn't call us to be perfect; only to be willing.

Choose joy.  Happy people aren't that way by accident.  Every day, despite all circumstances, you have a choice to make about how you see the world.  Will you be burdened by the difficulty of life?  Or will you let the happy robin hopping across the lawn bring a smile to your face?  Little things are big things, when you see them in the light of God's glorious purpose and grace.  When you take time to notice what fills you up with beauty, goodness and delight, the process of living is just so much more fun - even in difficult times.  I hope you always choose joy.

Live from a place of being deeply loved.  And deeply known.  And always accepted.  Remember that you are uniquely gifted by someone who loves you and wants you to be fulfilled.  Someone who prepared ahead of time good things for you to have and be and do.  Live an abundant life out of the overflow of that love, understanding always that you are valued and valuable just as you are.  And when life gets tough (and it will) and you feel alone (and you will), there is a place where you can come to be heard, understood, lifted up and refreshed.  That place is called home.

Leah, you are a blessing and a joy.  Even when my days are long, I am so aware of how fast these years are going.  I am so happy I get to be here to watch you struggle and succeed, to love and live and laugh and grow and change.  I hope we will be friends, just as we are now, for all the days of our lives.

Thank you for the gift of being your mom.

I love you always,

xoxo Mommy


Friday, March 4, 2016

Spring time and School things

I am always so relieved when March arrives.  There is a palpable sense of hope and warmth that rolls in along with the sunshine.

We always feel it.

The days are passing more quickly for us, but we are loving our more relaxed schedule.  I don't have much that is remarkable to report...

...just the beautiful...

...extraordinary ordinary that is our days.

We're hard at work learning about reading, math, geography, ancient history and Latin.

And playing with dinosaurs.

We learned about types of volcanoes, and even made our own (SO FUN!!!).

It was an active volcano, for the record.  

Which, tragically, wiped out all the dinosaurs. 

To the very great amusement and delight of all.

We love to color.

And to write.  

And sometimes we even love to take a break and get away from it all.

It's a pretty great life.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Valentines Day 2016

Valentines Day in our household isn't typically a big deal.

February is the month out of the year I struggle with the most.  But I am working on it!

There is just too much to be grateful for right now, and I am finding myself acutely aware of how quickly the days slip by.  So, in that spirit, I'm making conscious choices to celebrate, slow down, and savor these moments in the midst of our busyness.

We spent the days leading up to Valentines writing each other love notes, designed and cut out by the kids themselves - although obviously we helped with the writing of Logan's cards.

The morning of Valentine's Day, I got up early and made a run to Dunkin' Donuts, decorated the table and laid out the cards.  The kids had little mailboxes, in which I put confetti and chocolates.

The kids were so excited to see the table!  I love mornings when they come down the stairs, still bleary-eyed and mussy-haired, but so adorable and enthusiastic in their excitement.

Even I had a card that had been lovingly put together by the littles and their daddy.

Which was such a nice surprise!

Although Valentine's will never make my list of favorite holidays, the most important part is taking time to intentionally choose joy, celebration and memory making for my little ones.  To stop and ensure that they know just how loved they really are, as they are, and to build our bond as family and as friends.

To help them build a firm foundation, secure and rooted in the love of God and family.

We love because He first loved us!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The day she learned to read

There is something truly wonderful about these short, dark, cozy winter days. 

That's not my usual tune in February, which is far and away my least favorite month for exactly the reasons above: the days are short, dark, cold and devoid of beauty. 

Unless, that is, we choose to find it.  To go after it.  To create it.  

It has been a season of learning and discovery for me.  Or, perhaps more accurately, a season of uncovering, dusting off and remembering truths I used to know and have forgotten.  

Life is too short to live even one month devoid of beauty.  

Beautiful things are happening in our house.  In the midst of chilly winter days, our hearts and minds have been ablaze with a world of words.  We've delighted in the simplicity and hardships of  life a hundred and fifty years ago through they eyes of Laura Ingalls.  We've smelled the kitchen in the Ingalls home, we've shared their trials and worried over whether Pa would make it through a blizzard.  
It has been wonderful to spend our days together, over a pile of legos or a coloring book and a cup of cocoa, sharing stories of heroism to feed our imaginations.  To explore, at our own pace, music, poetry, art.  To study Latin.  To revel in history and ancient cultures.  To sing through math and geography.  

These are the blessings I get to surround myself with during our long winter days indoors.  

There are so many moments that I am excited and inspired on this wonderful, bizarre journey where the children never get on a school bus and the house is never clean.  

One of the very most gratifying things - like, ever - happened recently. 

My big girl learned to read.  Not to sound out, which she has been able to do for a long time.  Not recognize a sight word here or there.  Not read a short sentence or stumble through a long one, full of choppy hesitation.

Read. All fluent and grown up like, from a book with chapters in it that she picked up and purposed to read... and then she did.

It was pretty amazing.

I know that all children will eventually learn to read, so it isn't the act itself that filled me with such emotion it actually brought me to tears (although the thought that my baby is a reader is pretty incredible.  Why does time move so quickly?!).

No.  It's the thought that I was fully present for each part along the way, offering encouragement and soothing frustrated tears and even offering a (hopefully) gentle push when it was called for.  That this is the first of so many hills we will conquer together, side by side.  That I have the privilege of watching her struggle, keep trying and succeed.  That it will be me to help her through the next challenge (tomorrow).

Her proud, happy face tells the whole story of how she felt about it all.

I forget sometimes how foreign and unnatural this way of life can look from the outside, and how the I'd never have the patience for that!s and but what about socialization?!s can role in and mount up so powerfully against something that is truly so simple.  Not easy, but simple.

And so, so worthwhile.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


How big is Livvy?

SO BIG!!!!

These are the days that I know I'll look back on with deep nostalgia and fondness.  It seems so strange to think that the first time we went through the 18 month phase, it was four and a half years ago and there was only one. 

I remember with such vividness: her adorable personality.  That cute little laugh.  Her sassy, sweet way of taking on life.

It is absolutely incredible that we've been through a second round

and are currently enjoying our third delightful child at a year and a half.  How is that possible?

From easiest baby in our family to most difficult toddler, Olivia is by far the most high-maintenance at this age.  She is needy, clingy, absolutely insistent on getting her own way and never stops yelling pretty much all day long.  The child wears me out more than any one else, past and current.


She is also funny.  And snuggley.  And enthusiastic.  Joyful.  Strong-minded. Silly.  And so, so, so loving.  She makes me laugh, and has me absolutely wrapped around her little fingers.  I have the best, most exhausting time being her mother.

It struck me as I struggled to find any photos of Livvy to put in this post, that she is actually the primary one responsible for their lack.  Because it's really difficult to carry around an 18 month old, maintain a home, school children and take photos.  It's the kind of thing that can be done in one's imagination when planning any number of overly-ambitious activities that sound good in theory: history of baroque-era music, pottery making and astrophysics for my five year and three year old?  SURE!  The beef bourguingnon is in the oven and the house is flawlessly clean, so why not?

Yeah.  Like all those other comically mythological things up there - most laughable?  The idea of a clean house.  Snort.  - photos of my youngest daughter have gone the way of bigfoot and loch ness: they're rare, hastily captured, over or under exposed and too grainy to really make out for proper documentation purposes.

Oh well.  We'll keep trying for the money shot.

At 18 months, Livvy is doing rather spectacularly with her motor skills.  She is awesome at using a fork and spoon at meal times.  She walks, runs and climbs with dexterity.  One of her absolute favorite things to do is pick up small items like beans or puff balls and transfer them into some sort of container.  She can sit forever and do that.

She loves to dance.  She grooves and sings every time the music comes on.  And every time she sees Elsa, Anna, or hears anything remotely connected to Frozen, she sing/yells "LET IT GO!!!" at the top of her lungs.  The words don't come out precisely, but it's very clear what she's singing just the same.

She still hates to have her diaper changed.  That has been true since she was a baby.  The other two got over it by the time they were about 6  months old.  This one?  She's going to hate it every step of the way and will probably be my youngest out of diapers.  That's my prediction, anyway.  She already tells me, in her crying, whining voice, when she's gone poop and needs to be changed.

She adores wearing her hat, mittens, and shoes, and will bring them to me at random intervals throughout the day to have me put them on.

It doesn't really matter if we're going outside or not.

She loves to play with playdough, and of her own accord will get it from its place in the dining room buffet and bring it to me, insisting that I take the lid off so she can play with it.  If I won't, she will often content herself just to stack and re-stack the playdough containers.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when we start school.  I always use a song to call the kids and start the day, Uptown Funk being one of our current favorites.  They inevitably dance and run around the kitchen island as fast as they can, and Livvy is absolutely adorable with her little body and chunky legs, grinning and trying to keep up with the big ones.

She gets so excited when she sees me after any time away - the rare occasion when Casey is home and I get to go to the store by myself, even sometimes after nap or in the morning.  She shouts, "MOMMA!!!" and runs to hug me with the most wonderful, joyful enthusiasm.  Then she'll lay her little head on my shoulder, pat my back and sigh contentedly.  It's really the best.  And quite a shame I don't have more opportunities to get away and enjoy the homecoming!

She gives the greatest kisses, complete with a loud proclamation: "MM-WAAAH!!"

Olivia loves her brother.  She will follow him and does such a great job playing.  He's a little bit on the rough side - though I know he tries hard, he's limited by his three year old boy capacity - but she tends to hold her own.  Quite often, she bosses him around when they play.  Plus, she has a scream that could break glass, so it's good self-defense.

She is a wonderful sleeper, thank goodness.  She's really high-input during the day, so it is a huge blessing that she doesn't need much from me at night.

Little Livvy can be quite a tough nut to crack.  She's picky, she's strong willed, she doesn't compromise.  She is the first of my kids to have any jealousy related to how much time Mommy spends with another.  Or to scream when someone won't share a toy.

But, in spite of it all, she is just the most delightful, fun little girl.  We are so very lucky that we get to call her ours!

I changed my font at