Saturday, March 30, 2013

We forgot to "break"

Hello my lovely internet friends!

Spring break was this week, and I was fortunate to have hubby around for a little vacation.

Wait, I said that wrong.  It should have read, "vacation."  Yes - the air quotes are definitely necessary.  Kind of like the air quotes that belong around "maternity leave."  As if you've taken a break from work.  Ha, ha.

But I digress.

In short, we've been busy. 

Now, please let me just get this off my chest: Done is a word I don't think we'll ever apply to our house.  Maybe sometime in the next five years, but certainly not this year.  There are simply too many projects on our list, and unfortunately I'm anxious to get at least the basics covered before we worry about the finer details. 

What I'm trying to say is, this will be a work in progress for a long time.  You'll see flaws.  This is real life, peeps, not a magazine. 

But, here is a little preview of the two big projects we've undertaken this week, in between grocery shopping, diaper changing, nursing, nap-timing, bathing, and {you know}... life:

Project #1

Project #2

More to come on these.  One is much closer to being finished photo ready than the other, but we're working on it.  One thirty in the morning is only an option every so often...

Thursday, March 28, 2013


My sweet boy.  How quickly these seven months have flown by.

Logan at seven months:

I forgot to mention it, but at his six month check up, he weighed 18 lbs 14 ounces, just a sneeze shy of 19 pounds.  Just for reference: at one year, Leah weighed 18.4.  Yep.  Have I mentioned he is a chunk?  And he still has that 98th percentile head, my little genius in the making.

He wears exclusively 9 month clothing, and the 12 mo's aren't far behind.  There are a handful of 6mo jammies I can cram him into, but as I do so my brain is all fat guy in a little coat! any time I manage it.

Remember how Leah used to growl like a scary, possessed horror movie character a lion?  Logan has begun something similar.  It's not quite as throaty as Leah's was, but it has definite growly undertones.  I don't know why my little ones do this in their sixth month, but there we are. 

He is still my little screamer.  Not to belabor the point, but homeboy can really break the glass.

We're very into this book right now, and we typically read it at least twice a day.  I like it 'cause it's true. 

He isn't really into sitting up.  He's not that into crawling.  Nevertheless, the kid loves to locomote - he does it primarily by rolling (which is something Sister never really did) and spinning on his tummy.  I suspect crawling won't be far behind. 

He is the world's best immitator.  He giggles the exact same way Big Sis giggles.  He squaks as she squaks.  Don't even get me started on his super-awesome-hillarious fake cry, which for sure mimics his sissy. 

We have the best conversations on the changing table.  The kid loves to talk and laugh. 

Signs "hungry" and "more."  And also yells when you don't shovel it in fast enough.

He is much more demanding than Leah ever was.  He wants what he wants, and where Leah's desires and mine were more often than not on a parallel track, he likes to take the scenic route - whether Mom wants to or not. 

He has found those toes, and loves to snag his socks and throw them wherever he can.

He still nurses boat loads (at least 5 times every day) and eats three times a day.  I'm convinced that he eats so much because he's growing so fast, not the other way around.  Baby Doc still advises offering food until he puts on the brakes, and so I have.  New foods tried this month include beef, tomato, green onion, cheese, organic puffs (not well recieved, I might add), banana pieces (also not well recieved), cheesecake and chicken. 

His sleeping has become relatively consistent, and he sleeps from either 6 or 7 until about 3:30 or 4, when he wakes up to eat and goes back to sleep until about 6 a.m.  He naps two or three times a day, depending on how long each nap is.  He stinks at going back to sleep if he wakes, and is ridiculously stubborn about the whole institution when he wants to be. 

Blue is for sure his color.  I think his eyes may actually stay blue.  By this point, we had seen hints that Lee's eyes would turn green, and I'm almost positive we're not seeing that from him. 

Doesn't have the same aversion to strangers that Leah had, and typically warms up within a few minutes.  But, I'm happy to say, still prefers Mom to anyone else.  {yay.}

Loves, loves, loves his fam.  Particularly Big Sis.

It's okay.  The feeling is mutual.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Baby Blues

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but my baby sister isn't such a baby anymore.  In fact, she's very soon to join Club Mommy.

One of my absolute favorite memories from my first pregnancy (and, really, of my entire life) is this one:

This day was nearly overwhelming in its joy.  I'll never forget that moment when our baby went from being an abstract little human to our daughter - to Leah. 
My darling sister got to experience this very thing.

Survey says.....
It's a.....

Almost exactly one year after the birth of our son, my sister and her new hubby (ah, honeymoon.  Birth control?  Ain't nobody got time for that!) will welcome a baby boy into the world.
Greyson Milo Carter:

We can't wait to meet you.
P.S. - this is so my favorite way to announce gender.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An open letter to parents: We're on the same side

So here's the thing: I love being a teacher.  Most days, I come home feeling like the work that I do is meaningful and important. 

But I will also tell you this: in all honesty, I can't tell you how often I feel like parents are ruining our profession. 

Let me just describe a conversation that I had with a parent today.  To frame this, the kids have had 8 days solid in school to work on a research project.  I have provided books and websites for them to utilize.  I have allowed them to bring their electronic devices to class to help gather further information.  I have done sample presentations and provided examples of the posters for kids to see what makes a quality presentation.  And, I have let them work.  On nothing but this project.  For 8 days.  With no other homework. 

Today, they were asked to pull it all together on posterboard so that they can present tomorrow. 

I have one group with no posterboard and no research or materials brought to class.  I decide to have the kids call home to inform their parents of this, so that hopefully they will have a chance to turn it around. 

I call the kids up to my desk, and SweetPea is visibly mad.  He doesn't want to have to call his mom and tell her that he doesn't have his stuff together.  He gets all kinds of sassy and rude, telling me with teenager 'tude some things he probably shouldn't have said.

The phone call goes like this:
**Ring ring** Mom answers the phone. 

Me: Hi, Mom, it's Mrs. Strassner from your son's language arts class.  Is this a good time?  Great.  I'm calling because I wanted to let you know that SweetPea has had 8 days in class to work on a project, and unfortunately his group doesn't seem to have much done.  I usually let kids make this call, but SweetPea was pretty upset and I wanted to let you know that he said X in class, and is having some difficulty being respectful.

Mom(agressive): Wait a minute, they're working in a group?  And they don't have anything done?  So tell me, what is being done about the rest of the members in his group?  Why does he have to work with kids who aren't doing anything?

Me: Well, I'm going to let SweetPea tell you that.  He was allowed to chose the group he would work with, and asked to chose carefully since the people he works with would affect his grade.

SweetPea gets on the phone.  Nods several times.  I go about helping the rest of the class, and before long, he is tapping me on the shoulder. 

SP (grinning smugly): My mom wants to talk to you. 

Mom: I can't believe that this project is due tomorrow and you are just telling me about this now?  Didn't you notice that they were behind before now?  Why wasn't I notified that he has an assignment to turn in?

Me: The assignment sheet was handed out last Monday.

Mom: And you expect that he is going to bring it home?

Me: Well, he is in 8th grade, so... yes, I do. 

Mom: Well he didn't.  I don't understand why you wouldn't contact me when my son isn't being successful?  None of the teachers at this school are willing to help him!

Me: I am letting you know now, so that he doesn't fail the project.

Mom: Yeah, the night before it's due.  What help is that?  I had to meet with the Vice Principal and the math teacher to discuss her "communication skills," (ooh I could just hear the air quotations, even on the phone) and I'm not afraid to take you on too!

Me: If you feel that would help SweetPea, I'd be happy to meet with you.  But I have to tell you, I think your frustration is with your son, not with me.  I've provided everything he needs in order to complete this project, but the trouble is, the only person who can actually do the work is SweetPea.

Mom: My frustration is with both of you!  Nobody in this damn school is willing to help!  You all talk about teaching him responsibility, but nobody gives enough of a shit to actually teach him!  He did just fine in elementary school, but since we got to middle school, it's been out of control.  "He has to be responsible for his own work.  He has to keep track of his grades."  I've heard it all before. Now we'll be up all night doing your stupid ass project.

Annnnnd, scene.

There are many three things I wish I could go back and say:
1) I am always happy to have an open dialogue.  However, I draw the line when you start swearing at me.  Would you cuss out your kid's doctor?   I'm guessing not.  Don't cuss out your kid's teacher, either. 

2) You mentioned that you've been hearing the same advice for the past three years?  TAKE IT!  We don't tell you that your child needs help learning responsibility because we hate him and want him to fail.  Exactly the opposite.  We like your child, and we want him to be successful.  We tell you this because, if he keeps going down the path he is on, he won't be successful and we don't want that to happen. 

3) Your child takes his cues about what is appropriate and inappropriate from you (yes, even at 14).  If you treat me like I'm the problem and don't deserve to be treated with respect, your kid will, too.  When a teacher calls to try and help your child, be on the teacher's team.  Even if you disagree.  If you feel strongly about it, schedule a time to talk with the teacher in private.  In front of your kid, you MUST treat me as if you and I are allies. 

The reason we don't come running to parents every time we give out an assignment is that it is our job to help kids begin to manage their own affairs.  These kids are four months away from starting high school, which means that they are going to be asked in very short order to begin making decisions that will impact them for literally the rest of their lives.  Wouldn't you prefer your child to have a little practice on that front?  Even if he makes a mistake and has to face the consequences?  Couldn't we use that failure as a teachable moment, so he does things differently next time and doesn't make even bigger mistakes with even bigger consequences?

"We'll be up all night doing your project."  Boy, oh boy.  Can I begin to address how wrong that is?  It's not MY project, and it's not HER project.  You know who's project it is?  The kid's.  Just as it is the kid's grade, and the kid's decision to put his effort into it, or not.   

I guess everything I'm raving about has already been addressed here, so in some ways I'm just beating a dead horse.  This is a tough old profession, let me tell you.  Most days I absolutely love what I do, but encounters like this really wear on a person. 

Not to mention, it makes me really sad. 

Because the truth is that in this scenario, I'm not the loser no matter how many times mom threatens me or cusses at me.  The truth is that her child - the one who one day will have to face the music without any clue how to do so - is the only one who really loses.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On fighting, oversharing and the first year

Dear Newlyweds, First-Time Pregos, and New Moms:

It's been said that most couples fight about two things: money and sex.

I'd hate to speak for all married couples, but given that we've been at this togetherness thing for a decade and have taken two turns on team baby without ever once having appeared on Maury or Dr. Phil, I'd say that the advice below can be taken without any gigantic grain of salt.

Fights?  They happen. 

Probably, they happened first in your first evolution of living together.  The whole I worked all day and came home and still did two loads of laundry and made dinner, so by-golly you're going to do the dishes! fight that has more lives than a cat and many more faces. 

This fight will probably follow you forever.  Whatever form this fight takes, there will always be dishes - literal or figurative - standing between you and a perfect marriage.  Come to grips with it now, sister, because if marital perfection is your goal, you're going to be disappointed.  Hard.

This fight will certainly rear its ugly head once the kids come a-poopin' in the middle of the night.  Something they don't tell you about having a newborn?  It's not just the newborn part that's hard.  And it is - hard, that is - but sometimes that hard goes on a really, really long time.  Long after the "newborn" has gone out and the "baby" has taken over. 

A wise woman once told me that it takes about four months to settle in.  She's totally right.  Four to settle in, six to really have it under control.  Largely because of the lack of sleep, but also other things.

Like not being cleared from the doc for three months.  No exercise.  No relations.  As if anyone with two small children has the energy for either in the first three months anyway. 

You won't go on dates because you'd rather be home to put the baby to bed, especially since the baby already stays under someone else's care 40 hours a week.  Some time, somewhere very unexpected, you'll be going about your work day and suddenly be overcome with longing for that baby and his pretty smell and soft head.  It will bring you to tears, and you'll struggle to go back to whatever else you were doing - as if it were one-onemillionth as important as what you've left behind at home.  As long as this is the case, you won't go on dates in the evening.  Trust me. 

It's tough to explain what happens between a husband and a wife when you're no longer the most important thing in each others' lives.  Casey often tells me that I'm his favorite person in the whole world.  I don't know if it's the hormones or of moms are just built this way, but with a new baby in the house, I can't honestly return that sentiment. 

You couldn't have told me all of this before having Leah.  It's one of those have-to-experience-it-for-yourself kind of deals. 

We fought a lot the first time through.  About so many things I thought my head would explode.  Perhaps not "a lot" by others' standards, but certainly by our own.

Not so much this time.  This time, we knew it was coming.  We knew to expect that we would no longer be the center of each other's world.  That a baby would sleep in our bed the better part of four months.  That I would be in no way romantically inclined for six many, many months.  That life doesn't just take a backseat to the new life you've created, it's in the backseat of the last car in the Rosebowl Parade.

My advice?  Don't fight about it.  It happens, and it won't always be this way.  Give one another lots of grace, and lots of hugs.  And maybe those homemade "coupons" for a time when your body parts no longer leak or sag and you're not as likely to be interrupted by a little whimper over the monitor. 

Shortly after the first birthday, when those tiny ones become almost-legitimate people, things go back to normal.  It's a new normal, but a ridiculously-over-the-top-Lance-Armstrong-on-steroids-awesome kind of normal. 

And "perfect" marriages don't just survive things like this, they thrive and get better because of them.

Why I'm a food snob (and think you should be too)

There is quite a hot debate right now over an unexpected source: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  (What about war?  You scream.  Or clean water?  Or women's rights in third world countries?  Who needs those, says I!  Let's talk powdered cheese.)

Here's the thing: I don't give a lick about the blue box.  To those who like it, I say go for it.  Is it good for you?  No.  Will it kill you?  Probably not.  Does it contain all kinds of preservatives and other icky stuff?  Um... yathink???  Don't tell me you were laboring under the delusion that any cheese made by man or beast is that color.

My beef (so to speak) is with the people who have an issue with this.  To you, I say: GET OVER IT!  And more importantly, like anything else - no one is forcing it on you.  Want to hear a better option than whining about dye in what is clearly an overly-processed food? 

Hold on, this suggestion is going to rock your socks off:
Make your own!

That's right, I said it.  Want to know how long it takes to make macaroni and cheese that isn't pre-packaged?  About 7 seconds longer than it takes to make macaroni and cheese that is.  Instead of lodging all kinds of complaints, why aren't we educating people about how to avoid the blue box altogether?  No offense, Kraft, but we can do better. (See below for recipe overload.  You're welcome.)

Cue the soapbox, because I feel even more strongly about jarred baby food. 

It's not that I'm against it, exactly.  It's just that - like the choice between Kraft and mac and cheese made with, well, cheese - given the choice between two alternatives, one is (to me) an absolute no- brainer.  I feel the same way about breastmilk and formula.  If you can, you should

Riddle me this: have you ever actually tasted the jarred stuff?  Or read the labels?  I know that with the growth of the organic industry, enormous strides have been made to keep the unpronounceable chemistry terms out of baby food, but c'mon... wouldn't you rather know exactly where it came from and exactly what's in it?  You and I both know that good foods go bad.  Even under the best of circumstances and intentions... if it's in a jar, there has to be something else in there that keeps it from doing what nature intended. 

It's not that I'm opposed to all of that forever.  Will my kid eventually eat McDonald's?  Sure.  But Baby's brain grows faster in the first year than at any other time of life.  Ever.  Isn't that something worth feeding, and feeding well?

The other thing is, it's easy.  Like, really, really easy.  Honest. 

If I invest about four hours over a weekend, I can feed Logan well for two weeks solid.  Or, I can spend an hour or two here and there replenishing my stocks or offering more variety.  There is no need for fancy-shmancy recipes (although I do absolutely adore this book.  I highly recommend it, as it's filled with not only good recipes, but also tons of information about nutrition and development), just a really good hand blender, a steamer and a few icecube trays.  With those things as allies, you literally can't go wrong. 

In terms of the cost, I admit that I haven't done a side-by-side comparison.  I don't know that I'd even know where to begin on that front, because I have no idea what a "serving" actually is.  My little man can down three icecubes-worth of food, but what that equates to?  No clue.  I know that babies cost a lot regardless of which route you take, and that I'm lucky enough that I don't notice the increase in my grocery bill when I purchase extra fruit and veggies for pureeing purposes.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that it would come out roughly equal in the long run. 

I recently had a conversation about jarred baby food with a colleague of mine at school.  I asked him if he used the jarred stuff with his two kids, and he looked at me as if I'd just asked if the sky were blue.  "Of course!  My wife and I both worked while the kids were little." 

I get that.  And I work, too.  And frequently have to single parent while Hubby is out of town on business.  I understand the demands on every minute of time.

To me, though, I just can't help but feel like this is an important investment to make in your child's life.  I wish someone would cover this in birthing and new-parent classes, so that at least people know that the option is out there, and that it's nowhere near as big a deal as you might think. 

We can do better. 

In that spirit, here are a few super easy recipes.  30 minutes or less, minus cooking time on the beef stew. 

Tomato, cauliflower and carrot with basil
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 head cauliflower, stems mostly removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
2 or 3 fresh basil leaves (or a few dashes dried basil)
Put the carrots in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-8 minutes. 
Meanwhile, melt the butter in another pan, add the tomatoes and saute until mushy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and cheese until melted. 
Oh yeah... I added green onions to this, because I'm wild like that.  And also?  Yes, it looks like cat puke.  But it tastes de-lish.  For reals.
Puree the carrots and cauliflower with the tomato sauce and about 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid.
Yield: about 24 icecubes
Broccoli and Cauliflower in Cheese Sauce
1 head broccoli
1 head cauliflower - all stems removed
Steam the cauliflower and broccoli for about 7 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, make cheese sauce as follows:
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Cup milk
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Melt butter in hot saucepan.  Add flower and mix until chunky.  Add milk a little at a time, stiring constantly until sauce thickens.  Add cheese and nutmeg.
Puree together until smooth to desired consistency.
Yield: about 24 icecubes
Beef Stew
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 tspn Paprika
1lb stewing beef
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or water
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
Any of the following: celery, mushrooms, corn, peas (others?)
Heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic for 3 minutes.  Mix the flour and paprika together in a small bowl and toss the meat in to coat.  Saute in oil until browned.  Pour in the stock, add desired vegetables and herbs.  Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for about 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender, adding more stock if necessary.  Puree with as much of the cooking liquid as desired.
Yield: 24 icecubes
And, if you're not convinced yet, there are at least a dozen recipes as complicated as: peel, chop, steam, blend.  Apples, pears, squash, carrots, not to mention the no-cook baby food (I'm looking at you, avocado)... even Casey can do it.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese (unabashedly stolen from another blogger - you know who you are, with my gratitude!)
1/2 lb elbow macaroni (bonus points if it's whole wheat!)
3 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
5 oz evaporated milk
1/2 tspn hot sauce
3/4 tspn Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tspn yellow mustard
6 oz Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Cook macaroni according to package.  Drain, return to pan and add butter, cheese.  Whisk together remaining ingredients, stir into pasta and heat over low.  Stir continually for 3 minutes.
The best part is, it's totally customizeable.  Don't have evaporated milk?  That's cool.  Use the kids' whole.  Don't have Worcestershire sauce?  Use a dash of soy, or nothing at all.  There are no rules here, and you can't go wrong.  Kraft, eat your heart out
Bragging rights?  Those are optional. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reading is good for the soul.

Let's do a little framing, shall we? 
Time: 5:12 p.m.
Mommy: Cooking dinner
Logan: Awesome mohawk
Location: Bumbo.  Kitchen island.
Toy of choice: Bathtime book
Attire: Missing one shoe
Seatbelt?  With legs this chubby, we don't need seatbelts.  We're self-containing.

Not too shabby for a Monday.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Going green

Do you like green eggs and ham?

We did. 

But we probably won't again, 'cause it was a lot better in theory than in practice.

Eating food that looks alternatively like snot and spoiled meat? 
That's love.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birthday wreath {a tutorial}

Have I mentioned that I'm all about simple, easy projects?

I knew I wanted Leah's invitations to include her holding a number three. I'd already purchased and painted this for the invites, so it was a natural thing to reuse in the decor.

I also wanted something hanging above the buffet, and this idea seemed to fit the bill.

Here's what you'll need:
::Foam wreath of desired size
::Tissue paper
::Glue gun

Step 1: Cut the tissue paper into 1.5 inch strips, and then into squares.  Don't worry, it doesn't have to be perfect. 

Step 2: Working from the inside out, glue the tissue paper to the wreath, alternating colors

Step 3: Continue alternating until the wreath is completely covered. 

Here's where I went wrong:  I should have done the entire circle, front and back.  And, I should have gone back to fill it in even more to really make it fluffy.  It looked pretty good as it was, but because it was 11:30 at night and I had to work the next day, I gave up too soon.

Step 4: using the glue gun, adhere the number to the foam wreath.  Attach a ribbon to hang.

I'm a big fan of the way this all came together!  Tissue paper, to the rescue.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Birthday party in the making

Details.  My favorite part of every party. 

Mostly because it's these details that swim around in my brain like goldfish circling their bowl for months in advance.

A few thoughts on prepwork:
1) Invest in a few tools.  I LOVE my paper cutter.  Best $25 I've ever spent.  Also important?  A 2-inch scalloped punch and a 1.5 inch circular punch, available at any craft store.  Years off my life instead of cutting 24 tiny circles.
2) Always, always, always practice before the big day.  Otherwise, you too will have ugly frosting that didn't set properly and chunked coming out of the frosting bag.  Stupid butter that didn't cream.
3) Set your table ahead of time.  That way, when people show up 30 minutes early, you're not scrambling to pretend like you have it all together.  You actually have it all together. 
4) I prefer colors to an actual theme.  Themes get kitchy.  Colors tie everything together without being too over the top.

The How To's

Sooo simple, so effective.  I drew inspiration from these, but I like to DIY because they're super easy.  I have a digital scrapbooking program called My Memories Suite, which I absolutely love.  For the first two birthdays, this program was enough.  A rectangle here, simple circle there and my 2inch punch and, bada-bing, instant party. 
The program was still good for a few things.  These turned out pretty cute:
But otherwise, the program had about run it's course.  Not that it's bad, it's just that I've outgrown it.  I've learned enough and come to need more than simple circles.

Enter Casey and Photoshop. 

First: Use google images to search for a desired background.  This is the free method.  For a small price, search "digital papers" or find them on Etsy in your desired color or pattern.  I am absolutely enamoured of this - the possibilities are endless!

Second: Set the paper as your background.  Then, add elements as desired on top of the digital paper in 1.5 inch diameters.  The scalloped punch will cut out 2 inches, so you'll have the bordered effect you see below.
Another way to do this would be to scallop punch just the 2-in background, and use the 1.5-in circle punch to cut out the message.  Then use foam glue dots (another favorite of mine) to adhere the two together for a multi-layer look.  I didn't have time to do this one, but it's awesome.

Third: Let's talk fonts.  Standard fonts will only get you so far.  Fortunately, there are LOTS of free options.  I'm especially loving this one, and the whole website generally.  They install easily, they are super fun, and they're free.  I'm so all about free.  I used this on the milk bottles.  Also free, also completely adorable. 

Last: After they are printed and punched, use lollypop sticks and adhere the topper. 

One final thought: It's easy to get carried away with birthday parties.  I know that my daughter doesn't care if she has personalized milk bottles with striped straws I spent hours searching the internet for.  And all the rest of those details that kept me up until the wee hours for days in a row?  She could take or leave, so long as there's cake.  I had to double check my motives this time around - who was I really doing this for? 

The truth is that, although I do love this stuff, that moment when she walked downstairs, awed by the birthday - her birthday - took my breath away.  Brought tears to my eyes.  She felt special.  She felt grateful.  That's why I do this.  That's why I spend hours designing and cutting out stupid cupcake toppers. 

She may not remember this birthday, but as she grows up I hope she'll remember feeling like she had a mother who loved her, and deeply wanted all her birthdays to be special ones.  That day three years ago?  It was the most special day of my whole life. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Leah 3.0

At three:

Leah is potty trained!!!  We justbarely made it under the wire - she's been potty trained all of about four days, and is still new enough to it that she'll have an accident if we're in the middle of something overly-stimulating.

She has a pretty incredible vocabulary, and frequently says things that show a mastery of language for someone so little.  It has been a long time since she has left any words out of her sentences.  She does tack on -ed to some irregular past-tense verbs (like bited instead of bit), but there are very, very few. 

She pronounces her letters properly, although some of her Ls and Rs come out as Ws (I'm Weah Madeline!), and somewhere along the way she learned to say "dery" instead of "very." 

She recognizes several words when they are written, and recognizes all capital letters and numbers up to 10 automatically.  She also knows the sounds each letter makes (with the exception of vowels, which are tricky since they make two sounds!) and can tell you what letter a word starts with.

She loves to read, although she doesn't have a favorite book right now.  She likes "The Spirit of Christmas" (even though it's March) and "The Bear on the Motorcycle," which is a story in a children's anthology we have.  She also likes Ferdinand.

She wears size 8 shoes and all 3T clothing. 

She recently learned to jump, which was a huge accomplishment for her since she couldn't figure it out despite much effort previously.

Her hair is still wild and unfortunately curly, but now long enough for pony and pig-tails.  (WAHOO!)  She's never had a haircut since, well... she just got all that hair like yesterday.

She looooves to sing and dance. 

She can spontaneously write the letters L, M, C, O and A.  And they're legit, too.  Not perfect, but impressive considering she's just three.

She knows all her basic shapes - triangle, circle, square, rectangle, oval, and anything with more than four sides is an octagon.  She recognizes and can complete patterns. 

She is the world's best big sister. 

She is a pretty picky eater.  How I raised a picky eater, I'll never know.  Maybe it's genetic (I'm looking at you, Casey). 

She has recently begun watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and that is her new favorite show.  She still likes Caillou, VeggieTales and SuperWhy, and that's about all she is ever allowed to watch. 

She is extremely particular and slightly OCD about the way things "should" be.  If you change words in a story or song, she will call you on it.  If you mess up whatever order she has for her toys, you're sure to get an earful. 

Naps from about 12:30 to 3:00 every day (although some days those naps are a lot shorter or nonexistant, she's usually a really good sleeper). 

Goes to bed at about 8 and almost always sleeps through the night.  Recently, she has begun having bad dreams on occassion that wake her up, but they're pretty infrequent.  We've been sooooo lucky on the sleep front, I never really realized what a great sleeper she is. 

She loves to play mommy right now.  She is always changing baby's diaper, feeding her baby, pushing "him" in the stroller or shopping cart or putting him to bed.  My personal favorite is when she says that she is nursing baby, and she puts him under her shirt... heehee. 

She is so loving, so sweet and so unbelievably generous.  She loves to help, and is an amazing caretaker. 

We are so lucky that this little lady is part of our family.  We couldn't have asked for a better gal.

To my beautiful daughter

My wonderful child:

What an incredible year this has been for you.  Just one little year ago, you were an only child.  You lived in the house where you were born.  You slept in the same crib where your little head first rested. 

Now, you're a big sister.  You sleep in a big kid bed.  You're witty, wise, kind, generous, riotously funny and the all-around best girl I know. 

Two was a difficult year for you.  Perhaps not by everyone's standards, but certainly considering the easy child you always were.  Your daddy reminded me often that they don't call it the terrible two's for nothing.  You had to try on a bit of independence; a bit of rebellion.  You had to knock things off the table just to see what would happen.  It wasn't especially easy on either of us, truth be told.

Through it all, though, I know that the core of who you are is kind, generous and caring.  You are truly the sweetest girl I have ever met, and more often than not, one of the most attentive and obedient.

It is my greatest joy to watch you as you grow.  Until the day you experience it yourself, you'll never know the overwhelming elation I felt on the day I knew you were coming.  When I first saw you, I was absolutely overcome for the love of you.  And, even though it isn't always easy, the truth is that with each day that passes I grow more thankful and amazed that God chose me to be your mommy.

I don't think I'll ever get used to it. 

The sight of you, mussy-haired from sleep.  The trill of your little girl voice as you share with me the many things you know and the opinions you're developing.  Your eyes that light up in awe and excitement at so many things.  The way you ask me to snuggle with you just one more minute at bed time.  The way you whisper conspiratorily, "I have a secret to tell you... I love you!"  I wish I could keep you little forever. 

As you begin your third year, please know that you have a mommy who loves you very much.  Who is very proud of the wonderful little person you are.  Who strives each day to be better than the day before; to be the kind of person who is worthy of such a gift as you.  Who is humbled and blessed by your presence in my life.

You are capable of so many things, my beautiful girl.  I hope you never forget that you are limited only by the expectations you place on yourself, so dream big, my big girl.

And, whatever choices you make throughout your life, you will always have a very loud cheering section.

I love you to the moon and back,


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snow or no snow, birthdays happen.

When she woke up this morning, my beautiful little girl came down the stairs.  She took a long look around.  She sat at the dining room table and looked at all the decorations.  Her eyes lit up, but she stayed pretty quiet.

When she finally spoke, she took a deep breath and said, "wooooow, Mommy.  It's so beautiful!  This is all for me?"  It was a question spoken with the full wonder and magic of a three year old.

Have I mentioned how much that child melts my heart?




There were four pregnant women in my house today.
Eleven children under 7.
Dozens of pancakes.  24 cupcakes.  Three candles. Six inches of snow.
And a ton of laughter and joy.


Despite the snow, it was one of the warmest days we've had in a long time.
You know those days that just take your breath away?  That make you remember how lucky you are?  This was definitely one of mine.

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