Sunday, March 16, 2014

Evan Michael is ONE!!!!!

Dear Sweet Evan Michael,

Today we celebrated your first birthday, though technically you turned one last night at 7:22 pm while you slept peacefully in your crib. When planning the party, I couldn't stop thinking about a sunshine theme. You are blond, fair, and a total joy and are our sunshine! And to think you've only brightened up our lives for one year; it seems like so much longer!

One year ago, I helped lift you out of my womb and onto my chest, where your sweet, inquisitive face was peaceful, welcoming, and so kissable.

At one month, your hair was full and dark and stood up on end when freshly washed. You were soft, round, and with a lower lip that tucked right in.

At two months you were spindly, a long baby boy with a receding hairline and wide, bright eyes. You smiled, and it lit up our hearts.

Months three and four your cheeks filled out, your eyes were lightening to blue, your hair lightening to blonde, and you were keeping me up all night. 

Five months brought a tiny bit more rest, as well as raspberries, rolling and rolls (weight gain for the win!)

Six months and I could hardly believe half a year was past. You were eating, trying to crawl, screaming, sitting, and exploring the world around you.

Our sweet monkey, at 7 months you were crawling, teething, weaning, babbling. It was all so much!

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8 months and you were (mostly) sleeping at night, filling our days with delight, and a cruising, determined little dude.

By 9 months I finally finished decorating your nursery. You celebrated by bouncing on the crib and putting your hands in your mouth. I loved putting you to sleep at night, so easy and peaceful as you nursed your baba and played with the tassels on your blankie.

Month 10 and you were an accomplished walker. You started shortly after turning nine months and in no time you were pushing up to a stand in the middle of the floor and using your two legs as your major form of travel. You grew chubs and were delightfully kissable.

11 months brought more walking, more talking, and more joy. You filled our lives with laughter. You spent the days being inquisitive, loud, playful, quick, cuddly, and full of energy.

And now you are one. Determined. Soft. Smart. Funny. Busy. Crazy. Full of life. Full of joy.

You walk, talk, sign, "sing," make messes, empty the dishwasher and wastebaskets and buckets of toys. You wave bye-bye and point. Mostly you make messes.

Today's party was so, so fun. I worked all week to pull it together, in all its yellow and gray glory. Of course, you noticed none of the details but it was a true first birthday. All of our friends and church family were there. Even Auntie Jennie got to come! We are so blessed that you are loved by so many.

You enjoyed poking and prodding your smash cake (aka lemon muffin with lemon buttercream in the shape of a sun).

My favorite part of the party was watching all the kids gather around for the big event. You had no idea what to do, and they were all full of encouragement and suggestions on where to start. When you didn't eat, they offered you bites. They were so delighted when you finally started eating!

And, because the party was right smack dab in the middle of your nap time, once you destroyed the muffin cake, you screamed to get out.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, sweet boy. You are such a dream baby. Our good news, our gift from God, our surprise third child who totally and perfectly completes our family. We love you, Evan Michael! Welcome to ONE!



Friday, March 07, 2014

Samuel Benjamin is FIVE!!!!!

Dear Sam,

Today you are FIVE. Holy smokes! Welcome to the whole hand club, buddy. It seems like only yesterday that you were born, the shortest labor ever, with the sweetest baby waiting at the end. Then you were one, all giggles and smiles; two, with a full head of beiber-esque hair; three was silly and crazy and snuggly; four, which brought some feisty, and now; FIVE. 

You came into this world calm, wide-eyed, and as sweet as could be.

At one year old you were adventurous, snuggly, and WAY into anything with wheels.

By two you had a full head of thick, dark hair that constantly needed cutting and the sweetest personality. 

Three brought out your mischievous side but you still had a soft, round body and chubby cheeks.

Somewhere in the year you turned four, Mr. Hyde appeared to counter your normal Dr. Jekyl. Our sweet, agreeable, laid-back guy developed a real sense of self determination.

Many years ago in elementary school, I learned that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. And so it is with you, my sweet March birthday boy. At times you are like a lion: fierce, imposing and roaring. At other times you are a little lamb: quiet, sweet and gentle. And here we are, on the day of your fifth birthday, and this couldn't be any more appropriate.

Your heart is huge, so quick to forgive, loving and gentle. You care for others deeply. You notice things. You speak words of encouragement. Every person on the playground is a friend to meet. You greet everyone heartily and with great welcome and are sure to give a robust goodbye when we depart.

You are rough and rambunctious and full of life. A typical boy, you often lose track of your body and exactly where your appendages end and other people/things begin. This month at Six Flags we met the Tasmanian Devil and I laughed as I thought about how many times I've likened your crazy, frenetic, post-dinner mania to this very character yet it was the first time you encountered this name outside our four walls.

You are smart and clever. You build elaborate booby traps and forts, often designed first on paper, in great detail. Figuring out how things work is like a fun hobby of yours. Always designing, building, constructing, thinking, taking apart and building again.

You've made amazing progress in your speech this year, especially in the last few months. Miss Corrie is blown away by how much things are "sticking" and how hard of a worker you continue to be in speech. It's crazy how difficult it can be for you to articulate your thoughts, but you do so with diligence and patience that is beyond your five years. As much as I hurt for you and your inability to speak freely and easily, I also have been so refined in learning to trust God with your voice. He is refining you and teaching you things I can't possibly understand through this struggle. Perhaps some day we'll look back on these years and see clearly what God was doing in and through the struggle to communicate. But know just how much I admire your courage, your hard work, and the confidence it takes to press in to the struggle.

Today was a great day. We started with a traditional breakfast "you are special" plate, with your choice: cinnamon rolls. Then you opened your presents: a volcano kit from Maddie, robot kit and rain boots from mom and dad, a sword and bow and arrow set from Auntie Jennie. You were a happy boy. We played swords, made a papier-mache' volcano, and consumed more cinnamon rolls than necessary all before 8:00 a.m.

At preschool they sang you the birthday song, adorned you with a birthday hat and sticker, and prayed the birthday prayer (and that's where I started crying. yes, I am that mom). You are so blessed to have teachers like Mrs. Sommer and Mrs. Pelley who know and love you oh so much.

At snacktime (popsicles!) we snapped this selfie, which all the preschool friends just had to see.

After school, Daddy and a few special friends met us at the park for a picnic and birthday play date. It was a perfect park day: warm, sunny, and the place was full of friends.

Maddie had her first softball practice tonight, followed by a pizza party, so we just jumped on the party train and brought an ice cream cake to share with everyone. Yay for partying it up with a bunch of your sister's friends (and their siblings, which happen to be your good pals from school!) Who doesn't love to spend their birthday with pepperoni pizza, mug rootbeer, quarter machines, and a chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream??!!!

And now, tucked away in bed, I hear you and your sister talking about your fun day, cuddled together for a special "birthday sleepover" (also your idea). You are so much fun, sweet boy, and so full of wonderful ideas. What a great day we had today! Welcome to FIVE, sweet, spicy, super duper SAM!!!



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Evan: Months 9 & 10

Dear E,

I wish time could stand still. Nine and ten months are two of my most favorite times in the life of a baby, and you, my last baby, are making these fleeting days so incredibly enjoyable. You are, in one word, delicious.

Your soft, pudgy body is perfect for kissing and cuddling. Fresh from the bath, you are delightfully velvety. No one can resist baby in a diaper. We follow you around, waiting for our turn to scoop you up, zurbit that round belly, nibble those dimpled thighs, nuzzle in your cozy neck space.

You are walking and talking in the course of one month. A few days after turning nine months you took your first steps, 2 or 3 of them, across the room. We all looked at each other in wonder and delight, immediately followed by panic. "What will we do with a walking baby?!!!" Well, we've managed. These days you will walk across a room, 11 or 12 steps at a time, and change direction.

You say "Ah duh!" when you want to get out of your high chair, waving your hands wildly with the sign for all done. You call out "Dada!" when you see him. You look for "Da!" and pant happily to see Hanalei or your favorite pull-toy dog lying next to you. You give hearty waves goodbye and hello to your favorite friends and complete strangers. It is so much fun to see you communicating.

You are an incredibly easy baby, which for months made me feel a little guilty, until I embraced the fact that 3 1/2 is where my kids really get tricky, and so I'm just going to sit back and really soak up the next few years. You go to sleep without a fuss or tear. You wake up in the happiest of moods and will sing quietly to yourself for a looong time, allowing me to linger in bed and enjoy the sweet sounds that drift out of your room.

There are plenty of days where I miss nursing and the closeness of having you next to me, yet I've also found this great delight in a child who falls asleep so easily on his own, who reaches for his bed with joy and relief, who needs no more snuggles from Mama when sleepy. You are plenty snuggly the entire day, happy to be held close, and so I don't ever miss out on an opportunity to snatch you up and hold you tight. We took some long hikes this past week, and you were so content to ride in the ergo, holding on tight. You only grew antsy when you couldn't see your siblings, and would throw your body weight around to spot them.

You are a fearless explorer. You mastered going up the stairs in a day, and within a month you learned to lower yourself down, slowly, on your belly. You quickly discovered which child locks are faulty and will give way to a cupboard full of forbidden treasures. You enjoy sitting in and emptying the dishwasher for me. You are intrigued by the spinning clothes in the washer and dryer and have found the buttons that make noise (thank goodness for child locks on those!) You mouth everything but don't swallow anything but food. A true third child your life is surrounded by little lego parts, marker caps, doll shoes and playmobil weapons but you've learned to pass them by.

You are officially out of your infant seat, having surprised me by towering in the 99th percentile for height at 10 months. You weight 21 and a half pounds and have a full head of blonde hair, much like your brother's thickness and texture at this age. 

You love to eat! You are sort of finicky about baby food pouches these days, throwing aside those you don't really care for (followed by liquid splattering unbelievable distances across the floor). You prefer finger food and will chow down on meat and cheese, broccoli, whole apples, and even bite at raw veggies.

Your Daddy has threatened to go in and wake you up nearly every night after we've put you to bed. He says he's "baby crushing" you. :) You're just so much fun that we hate when your day is done. We want to play with you and be entertained by you. We scoop you up with delight, throw you in the air, delighting in that deep belly giggle. 

Thank you for bringing so much unexpected, undeserved love and joy into our house. I can't imagine a more perfect third child to complete our little family. You are a pure, delicious delight and I am so, so grateful to God every day for your life.



Sam: 58 Months

Dear SamGino,

The only way to describe the love between us these days is like the force of a strong magnet: when turned the right way, we attract and cling together with ferocity and devotion; but when turned the wrong way, we repel each other with matching ferocity and frustration. It's maddening, this love and this season. 

When you are sweet, the whole room is lit up with your smile. Your words flow out like a soothing stream and coat those around you with kindness. I've seen you reach out to your sister in her distress with such generosity of spirit that it instantly soothes her spirit.

When you are snuggly, there is no warmth like the coziness of your sinewy little body. Pure muscle, you melt like butter into the arms of someone you adore. You love to have your back scratched, your limbs massaged, your hair tousled. 

Your mind is amazingly creative and you can spend endless hours making the most incredible things out of legos. You have started looking up things on youtube and creating them with laser focus and quick-moving fingers, finding the right pieces faster than I can even register their shape.

Yet, when you are mad, it's as if the room stands still. You erupt like a volcano, spewing words of hateful lava in a destructive path around you. The angry words that come out surprise and shock me.

When you don't get your way, you reject any form of consolation and storm off, slamming doors, throwing toys, destroying order and wielding chaos like a weapon of war.

A project gone wrong is a project waiting to be stomped on, ripped apart, thrown across the room, often accompanied by frustrated tears.

For the first three and a half years of your life, you were a sweet and easygoing little guy. These days you are still sweet as can be, yet with a whole other side that comes out like a dragon unleashed. I pray for the wisdom to parent you well without being overwhelmed in the intense moments. I encourage you to make mistakes, to try and fail, to reach out with no assurance of reciprocity, and stand back a few paces to see how things unfold.

I wouldn't have it any other way. This is how God has made you, and he knew what he was doing when he made me your Mama. I wish at times I could soothe you more easily, such as when you were a baby with a boo-boo that I could gently kiss away. But the reassurance is more nuanced now, and my words and affection can only do so much in your burgeoning independence.

I love you, my sweet and ferocious boy. I'm so thankful for how you continue to amaze me and stretch me simultaneously. 



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Madeleine Noelle: Seven Years Old

Dear Madeleine Noelle,

You are SEVEN years old now. Seven! Someone once told me that the odd numbers always seem the most unbelievable, and I think it's true. "Seven" just sounds so old. And if I could sum up the last month, I think it would have the title Seven: Sweet, Sassy, Spirited Sister.

photos by the amazing Becky at

First, your sweetness. You are just filled to the brim with love. You always have the kindest words to say to people, genuine and encouraging words that show how much you notice. When people are encouraged by you, their faces light up and their steps get bouncier. You just have this great effect on those around you and it is a joy to watch!

After months and months and months of the most amazing behavior, we entered a new season of sass. Oh, the sassiness!! It is one of the most difficult things for me to endure. I think it's the element of disrespect, maybe, or the attitude of know-it-all-ness that comes along with the sass, but it just really gets under my skin. I know that you are trying out a lot of new sayings and things you learn at school, and it's just part of enforcing our own family boundaries, but, Girl! We are so ready for this season of sass to pass.

With your brothers, these two dichotomous characteristics come into play. I can't imagine a sweeter big sister to Evan. He feels safe with you, he adores you, and his whole body lights up when you come near. It's like he has another little Mama who attends to his needs, hears his cries, speaks so sweetly to him, and sacrifices for him. I absolutely love watching you interact with him; it moves my heart so!

Then there's Sam. Man, oh man, you guys fight like cats and dogs these days. It's relentless. At times I find myself saying things I can't possibly believe just to stop the madness. All those things I swore I'd never say?? Totally using them. "I'll pull over and stop this car right now!" "Quit being a jerk!" "Would you talk to your teacher/friend like that?!" I'm really hoping this year things turn around and we find some more peace in how we all relate to one another.

Your birthday celebrations were a lot of fun. This was a "no party" year so we had a small family surprise for you at Chuck-e-Cheese over Christmas vacation. Grammy, Papa, Uncle Joe, Uncle Ben & Aunt Michele plus all your cousins were there. SO MUCH FUN! I couldn't imagine liking such a place, but seeing you so thrilled just made my heart leap for joy!

Back at home, your birthday was a great day! Auntie Jennie sent you flowers and a stuffed bear to school. The boys and I brought In-and-Out for lunch. We planned a special family dinner (you requested seafood and Brussels Sprouts). 

The day after your birthday we had a small playdate with five friends. You all drank strawberry chocolate tea and enjoyed tea biscuits and cookies.

Your joyful, imaginative, exuberant spirit brings us all such joy! We are so lucky to have you in our lives! Every day we thank God that you are growing in his image, and this year we are especially grateful for how you are growing in hearing God's voice in your life, learning to be comforted by Jesus in moments of distress, and how you are more quick to apologize and seek reconciliation. All these things are evidences of God's grace and work in your life! We love you Madeleine Noelle!



Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sam: 57 Months

Dear Sam,

My little buddy, here we are in December, the end of another year, another month closer to your 5th birthday. It doesn't seem possible (other than the frequent additions to your ever-growing "wish list" of things you want to get). It seems like just a few Christmases ago that you were pulling ornaments off the tree, unwrapping wrapped presents with those pincer fingers, and gnawing on a turkey leg with just a handful of teeth. Now you're riding a bike, writing letters, reciting Christmas poetry and singing Christmas songs I didn't teach you. How the years go by so quickly!

all photos in this post by the incomparable Becky Fisher of Wurzbach Fisher Photography. How I love her and the way she perfectly captured you, my sweet boy.
Of course, there are the times that I wish would go by a little more quickly. Take this past month, for instance. Your Daddy described it perfectly: "It's like they (you and your sister) drank a big bowl of naughty."You've been soooooo difficult. The kind of naughty that drops me to my knees in desperation. I find myself fighting for you while at the same time fighting you. I'm broken in prayer and I'm broken in spirit. I'm poured out and tapped out. This is what makes motherhood so hard! It's like my heart is out there, walking around on two legs in the body of a four year-old boy, all the while being dropped and scarred and bruised, all in love. I know you love me, I know you desire to obey, but for reasons I can't yet see or understand, right now is just really hard.

So I do the only thing I know to do, which is to press on. To press into Christ, who is my blessed assurance in a world of constantly fluctuating emotions, momentary obedience, fleeting desires and changing affections. It is so good that HE alone is unchanging. I need a little of that in my life right now. And even though I mess up each and every day as your mom, I hope that I can somehow point you to the perfect parent, the unchanging one, Jesus whose affection for me and for you never changes.

You went from a balance bike to pedaling a bike in the course of an afternoon. After months of prodding from your Dad, you finally made up your mind to ride a big bike and off you rode, without hesitation or issue. Your Dad, bless his heart, ran alongside you all afternoon, despite it being Thanksgiving and having just eaten a large meal. Your smile and confidence was visible from far down the court as you rode your little heart out! Can't wait until Christmas morning, when you get your very own first big boy bike!

Your new speech therapist noticed right away what a talent you have for art and for building (both with great intention and precision). You've been known to throw away many a drawing because it didn't quite meet your expectations. One night this week you figured out "HO" was what Santa says and proceeded to fill, I don't know, twenty pages with HO after HO. You were SO PROUD of yourself and I didn't really have the heart to tell you about wasting paper. You are doing a lot of prereading, using context clues in books, remembering phrases, recognizing letter combinations. It's so fun. I'm excited to see all that Kinder will hold for you next year. Every time we go to school to get Maddie, you remind me that you'll be there next year. 

As part of Advent, we spent some time the other night praying and listening to God. After a moment of waiting, you said, "I asked God how humans are made and he said, 'In my image.' Then I asked him how babies are made....but he didn't answer." I laughed all night about that one. You are incredibly funny without even trying. I love it. You also are so generous with your Advent chocolate. Every night, without fail, you eat one bite of your chocolate and give the other half to your Daddy. Heart officially melted.

This month we had our family photos taken. You were quite the handful. We had to bribe you with M&Ms to get you just to hold still. I was worried that none of the photos would turn out because you were so much more interested in finding stick "guns" than you were in sitting still. I kept reminding myself that the photos capture a moment in time, not just a perfect, smiling family. When the photos came back this week, I found myself drawn to all the images of you. There you were--smiling, sweet, hands folded, eyes sparkling. These photos are such a gift, because they remind me that deep behind the crazy, chaotic, frenzied boy that is characteristic of these recent weeks is a sweet, gentle, generous boy who is a love. And I'm so thankful for these frequent reminders in the midst of it all. 

Thanks for letting me be your Mama. I love you, Sambino.



Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Nursery

Evan is truly a third child. Here it is, eight and a half months after he was born, and I'm posting pictures of his room. Of course, Evan spent the first half of those 8 months in our bed, so technically, I'm only four months late. :) 

Shortly after ordering a bunk bed for the big kids, we realized that Maddie's room wasn't exactly the right size or shape for such a big bed. So the bunk bed went into Sam's (smaller, but better suited for a bunk bed) space and you were left with Maddie's previous digs and our original nursery. I didn't want to repaint. I didn't want to get new bedding. And, I had a very specific item I was working around. So it took a few months, but I'm really so pleased with the results. 

When my beloved grandma Evie (short for Evelyn) lay dying, I came across this gem in a closet in her house: Grandma's handmade baby quilt, used by my dad and both his brothers. I wasted no time in snapping it up. It's trimmed in a perfect baby blue satin that is softer than silk. The cotton backing is deliciously cozy and also so soft from years of wear. The multicolored animals are hand sewn in a black blanket stitch onto the quilt. I absolutely love that I have something made by my grandma, for her babies, that I was able to pass onto my last baby. It is the centerpiece of the room. It is also sweet that I started to refer to Evan as "Evie boy" without even intending to use my sweet grandma's nickname. He loves this blankie. Every time I lay him in the crib and layer the quilt on top, he reaches down and tugs at the satin, rubbing it between his fingers as he drifts to sleep.

I went with a pretty simple color scheme of navy and light blue with the PB Kids Madras bedding. Then I added some handmade buntings (my first. I'm pretty stoked about their cuteness). And I ordered the name banner from CM Handmade. It all came together this week and I'm just thrilled with the results. We've got an etching by Daddy, an antique dresser from Tutu & Boppa's house, and handmade bunting on one side of the room...

Baskets of books and toys and your own stuffed animals on another...

A hand-me-down crib with your new and old bedding, and a couple more buntings!

Evan likes it (even cutting those two top teeth, which means the thumb never strays far from the gums)!   Thanks for joining us for this tour of the nursery!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Evan: Months 7 & 8

Dear E,

You are the only child whose update happens to fall on the right day this month. Congratulations! Who knew adding you to our family would make my days so much more full? I can't remember the last time I had a whole hour and a half to sit down and blog (hence the cobwebs around this here blog). Nonetheless, I will persist in my goal to keep things updated. I so enjoy looking back at the baby years on this blog, laughing at the similarities and marveling at the differences between my three babes.

At 7 months, you were already an accomplished crawler. You had two teeth, which made their appearances on 9/26 and 10/11. You were babbling away, saying: Ba, Ma, Da, and MMMMMMBah! Grammy & Papa were lucky enough to witness your first time crawling one morning on facetime. It was so fun that we were able to share that all together!

Also at 7 months we started weaning, as per the doctor's suggestion. Mama started feeling sick again and inflammation was rearing its ugly head when we decided to try cutting back on the breastfeeding to see if it helped at all. While it was such a hard decision emotionally, I knew that we have a strong, snuggly bond and my breasts were no good to you should I end up in the hospital again. After just a few weeks, I started to improve drastically. You basically weaned yourself from the last two feedings (night and morning), taking the bottle like a pro and still giving me lots of affection. I'm so grateful. Though I'm sad to be done with nursing forever, I'm so proud that we made it past seven months, considering how much trouble you had latching and gaining weight at the beginning. Through it all, I was able to nourish you and I'm thankful for a body that gave you its best.

Even though it took you nearly seven months to sleep through the night, you are by far the easiest baby to put to sleep. We just lay you in your crib (or put you in the ergo, or in your carseat), and you just drift off to sleep. No crying, no protesting. It's as if you relax completely just knowing sleep is on it's way! You sleep anywhere and everywhere, in hotel rooms, in strange beds, in the car, on planes. You transfer so crazy easy. You'll fall asleep in your carseat, wake up when I take you out, let me put you in a fresh diaper, jammies and sleep sack, then put you back in your bed. It's really so nice and so helpful.

Your big blue eyes are constantly grabbing my attention, and the attention of others. You are smiley as can be, attentive, curious about everything, and SO CUTE. Every time you see my face for the first time you light up and your body gets excited and you crinkle up your nose and I just want to squeeze you. It's such a joy knowing you. You really are a remarkably lovable baby.

At eight months you are pulling up to a stand, cruising all surfaces, letting go with one hand, then two, and balancing as you slowly squat to the ground. You are SO strong and determined. Boppa predicted you'll be walking by the end of the year. Yikes. I'm sure you will. 

Now you can climb the stairs (I've caught you three times now trying to go down, face first). You are saying Ga Ga Ga and what sounds like "Hiiiiiiii." You are trying so hard to do the sign for Doggy (panting) but usually you just get a head bob going. You are working on your top two teeth and enjoying all kinds of table food that you feed yourself with those handy pincer fingers. So far you've loved everything I put in front of you, other than those pesky peaches!

You are such a joy and a delight to all of us. We can't imagine our lives without you! Happy eight months, Evan Michael!