Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ballerina Birthday!

Today we celebrated Maddie's Birthday with a

Four of her friends joined us for twirling, dancing, playing, eating and fun!

the ballerina cupcakes

favor bag close-up

ribbon dancers

magic cookie wands

Nicole and Maddie start the dancing off right, dressed for the occasion

Claire bear

Story Time: Ballerina for a Day
(note some moms having issues with the stretching)

the Birthday Ballerina takes a moment to herself

Ballerina Nicole

Ballerina Kate

blowing out the THREE candles!

pretty excited about cupcake time

and then, not so excited about the "holes" in the cupcake, left behind by the candles, a classic "three moment"

everybody loves a cupcake!

Ballerina Kayla

yum yum!

and finally, presents!

Thanks to Melissa, Susan, Kelly & their fabulous girls for a fabulous time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Dear Madeleine Noelle,

Three years ago, at 11:21 a.m., you made your quiet, sweet entrance into this world. You were pink and round with a full head of thick, dark hair. You blinked at us with those big eyes, charmed us with your dimpled chin, and won your way into our hearts in just moments.

Two years ago, you turned one. You were spirited and funny, loving, sassy, busy and hungry all the time.

By the time we cut the cake at your party, you were more than ready to dig in.

One year ago, you were hardly a baby anymore. You seemed so big, with your expansive vocabulary and endless chatter. You loved to dress up in fancy clothes and stay that way all day. You enjoyed playdates with friends and outings to the park.

We spent many hours outside, going for "ature" walks, collecting treasure, splashing in puddles and finding creatures. We whittled away the last few hours as a family of three, awaiting the birth of your baby brother.

And today, my sweet girl, you are three. No longer a baby or toddler, but bona fide, big B, big G, Big Girl. You go to school, attend "ballerina class" and even ride a bike. (That is the sound of your Mama sighing. This is going way too fast).

You still love all things "fancy" and dress up almost every day. You are quick to notice someone's accessories and comment appropriately. All princesses are friends or cousins to you; they are to be admired, adored, esteemed, imitated.

You are a born leader. You love to direct, lead, and engage others in play. We try to curb the bossiness and encourage leading by good example. It is clear that you have a charismatic and winsome nature that others respond to and we pray that your enthusiasm and love and compassion will encourage others.

You are amiable, making friends with everyone from a toddler on the playground to the "lovely-haired lady" at Target. Everyone we run into is greeted with, "What's your name? I'm Madeleine Noelle Joyce. That's my baby brother...." You are incredibly conversational and love to engage in long, drawn-out talks about anything and everything--homelessness, what trees are made of, jewelry, flatulence, friends.

You are gentle and kind-hearted. Your brother is the joyful recipient of much love, affection, and good deeds. You are quick to rush to his side when he is hurt or upset. You love to pick out toys for him to play with. Last week when I was sick in bed with mastitis, you climbed into the sheets ever so gently, climbed up by my head, ran your palm down the side of my cheek, and offered sweet words of love and tenderness. As your understanding of God has grown, you routinely ask for and offer prayers of healing.

You are always up for an adventure, whether trying a new food or hopping in the car to drive to a new location. You greet each new activity with excitement and joy. Though you no longer ask each morning, "What are we doing today?," it is assumed that the more we have planned, the happier you are. A true extrovert, you thrive in the presence of other people.

You are intelligent and observant. The questions you ask are thoughtful and demonstrate a keen interest in things. Many times you surprise us by bringing up a topic days, weeks, or months later, looking for clarification or deeper understanding. Last week when it was so cold your Daddy told you you couldn't wear a princess dress unless you wore leggings underneath. The thought of wearing pants with your dress was just too much and brought out the dragon beneath that generally sweet demeanor. Days later you posed a question to your Daddy, "Is it cold in Heaven?," to which he responded, "No, Maddie, it will actually be the perfect temperature all the time. Not too hot, not too cold." After a few moments of reflection, you said, "Well, I won't have to wear leggings under my princess dresses then."

In the past year, God has taught me so much about who you are and how to be the parent you need. Above all else, one thing has been perfectly clear: I am to provide as loving, encouraging and secure a home as possible. I am to speak words of love and affection into your life each day, grounding you in the knowledge that no matter what, your Mama and your Father in Heaven will always, always love you.

And so last night as I tucked you in, we ended our day like we often do, lights off, snuggling beneath your covers, me praying over you and speaking words of affection and love into your ear. Last night it was, "God, I praise you for this sweet almost-three-year-old girl. She is a gift from you to me, a gift I get to enjoy each and every day. Amen. Maddie, I will always love you. Always! There is nothing you can do that will make me stop. I will always love you." As I spoke, you ended your day as you often do, a sweet smile making its way across your face as you basked in the love being poured out. Then you turned to me and said, "Mama, you are my forever friend."

Always and forever your friend, your greatest admirer, and,

Your Mama

Friday, January 08, 2010

Ten Months

Dear Bubba,

This was one of those months wherein you changed a lot; there are so many things you can do today that you couldn't last month! You are changing into a busy little boy with such an engaging personality, and there is nothing we love to do more than to just sit and watch you as you go through your day, exploring your little world.

One of the most fun things about the past month has been seeing your personality really come alive. There have been a few hilarious developments, one of which is whistling. While you go about your busy ways, your mouth works its way into a perfect little "O" and when you inhale, a whistle comes out! It is hilarious! And you do it all the time! You also love to blow raspberries, but you do it only with your bottom lip. You suck in your top lip, push out your bottom one into a pout, and blow. You especially love to employ this trick when we are all seated at the table, looking from person to person as if saying, "Aren't I hilarious?"

About a month ago you also started dancing. When the music starts playing, whether from Maddie's "boom box" or the computer, or even Mama's amateur beatboxing, you love to bend and straighten your legs in short, sudden little movements. Your face lights up and you will get your head and shoulders into the groove, too. Then there are your funny faces, such as your "fake smile," where you crinkle up your eyes, lift your cheeks, all for comedic effect. Nothing makes you excited like an audience.

We spent a week at Grammy and Papa's house for Christmas, and I would venture to say that you spent 95% of your time cruising around their circular coffee table. You went from just taking a few steps here and there to cruising the furniture non-stop. You hardly wanted to crawl! Now you will push things all around the house and you love to walk holding onto our hands. At this rate, I would say you're right on target to start walking at ten and a half months, just like your sister. Boy, is my world about to change!

Despite your busy, crazy, moving-all-the-time tendencies, you still manage to be the snuggliest of boys. Some of my favorite moments are those last few minutes before putting you down to bed in the evenings. As your eyelids grow heavy, I love to plant kisses on your sweet, soft cheeks. Each time I kiss, your face widens into a little smile, and with your eyes closed you will lift your hand to my lips, looking for a kiss on the palm of your chubby little hand.

You bring such joy to our lives. We love watching you as you grow and change and become your own little person, funny and engaging and uniquely you. Your sister, Daddy and I just couldn't be any more in love.



Tuesday, January 05, 2010

portrait of a ballerina

When planning for Maddie's 3rd birthday, I decided to enroll her in a dance class. To know Miss Maddie is to know that she loves to dress up, twirl, dance and move around. After talking it over with Melissa, we put Maddie and Kate in dance class together. At the studio, we laughed over who was more excited about the class today, the girls or the moms!

In "Twinkle Stars," the girls will learn the basics of ballet, tap and jazz. Today they did lots of group dancing, copying the teacher's moves such as heel and toe taps, swishing their feet, marching, jumping, and twirling. They also worked together on the bar for a bit. Then the teacher had the girls line up against one wall and take turns doing moves across the floor. It was fun to see the different little personalities as they made their way across the room. Some lingered, watching each move in the mirror. Others danced with precision, copying the teacher's moves exactly. Some just whizzed across the floor, in a hurry to get to their friends on the opposite side! For their grand finale, the girls jumped over a bear, spun around in a hula hoop, and then made a little bow. The last five minutes they got to dance around the room, freestyle.

Maddie did such an amazing job! I fought back tears a few times, amazed at what she was capable of doing and her delight in dancing. She had no trouble whatsoever following directions and did just about everything the teacher demonstrated!

Here are some photos from our fun day:

All dressed up and ready to go!

Practicing a move for class

Twirling in the hula hoop

Overjoyed to be in class with so many pretty ballerinas!

Dancing across the floor

Doing a little bar work with Kate after class

Saturday, January 02, 2010

4 Christmases, Vacation, 1 Gift & A Birthday

We celebrated Christmas four times this year: on our own, with Ben's family, with my immediate family in Oregon and with my extended family at my Grandmother's. Below are some favorite moments from our holiday season.

CHRISTMAS #1: Joyce Fam

Christmas Eve "Eve" -- our own family tradition to celebrate on a day that Daddy doesn't have to work. Hooray for fondue!

Sam opens a gift while Daddy gets some snuggles

Somebody LOVES opening gifts

All boy--he loves to hammer!

One of the top gifts of the year: an electric toothbrush! Dentists are sighing everywhere.

CHRISTMAS #2: Add on Tutu, Boppa, and a couple of Aunties
Christmas Eve morning Ben's parents, Auntie Jennie, and Auntie Eskedar came over early in the morning to shower the kids with love and gifts! Such a fun time! We spent all day together, opening presents, playing with toys, going to church, and enjoying a crab dinner.

A new bike from Tutu and Boppa!

Busy boy

Resting after the opening extravaganza

And she's off! On her own! (sniff, sniff)

CHRISTMAS #3: In Oregon with Grammy & Papa, Uncle Joe, Aunt Michele & Uncle Ben, and Cousins Grace, Lizzie & Elijah

Maddie was beyond thrilled to see her cousins. They played hard together all day, disappearing for significant amounts of time, relishing each other's company.

Uncle Joe, aka Jungle Gym Joe, is officially one of the best and most patient Uncles ever. He was tireless and selfless as he played non-stop with five very rambunctious nieces and nephews.

Hamming it up for the camera

Enjoying her accordion from Uncle Joe the morning after

"Reindeer" on Mom & Dad's farm: herds of elk periodically roam the property.
Awesome, huh?

Farm girl follows Papa on their way to feed the cows

CHRISTMAS #4: Extended Painter/Hames Family at Grandma Mimi's House

Maddie could hardly contain her excitement at getting more time to play with cousins!

Not in focus, but you get the picture.
This was after ice cream.

Enjoying walking the property as a family. Just enough snow to feel like Winter.

My snow angel

Frozen earth. I love it when these icicles form in dirt.
It feels great when it crunches beneath your feet.

My parents live on 33 acres. Since I was a child there have been Herefords (beef cattle) and Jimmy, the shetland pony, who is as old as I am. This is a very fun part of my upbringing to share with my suburban children.

I edited this picture to crop out a piece of "reindeer" poo stuck to a stick. We were on an adventure, tracking the reindeer by following their tracks in the snow and their droppings along the way. Very fun!

It was a cold and windy day. Samuel was all wrapped up, riding in the front pack on Ben, our very own baby bunting. Those rosy cheeks are just too much for me. Mwah!

We rested for a minute on a fallen tree.

Snow! It started falling on Tuesday morning, coating everything with a gorgeous dusting of white. These are the rhododendrons in my parents back yard. The rhodos in the front reach
two stories high. Amazing.

CHRISTMAS GIFT: A date to McMenamin's Edgefield, a fun and funky local establishment specializing in converting old buildings and properties into bars, pubs, hotels
& all-inclusive locales. (This particular property offers lodging, three restaurants, a spa with saltwater soaking pool, pizza and pool hall, movie theater pub, golf course, winery, distillery and 7 or 8 little bars, each with their own character).

Miss Ruby herself greeted us in our spacious hotel room. I splurged on their biggest room (which was still an incredible deal) because most of the rooms are European style, lacking their own bathrooms. The building is a converted Poor Farm dormitory.

We enjoyed live music inside the Edgefield Winery. It is a long, L-shaped room surrounded by stainless steel wine vats and barrels and barrels of wine. That night we listened to a couple of musicians play old-time bluegrass and fiddle tunes. Some of the happiest music I've ever heard!

It was really an amazing venue.

At the top of the property is a small, wood-paneled distillery with a large wood stove in the middle. It is incredible--warm, cozy, inviting, and on that particular night, nearly empty save for this snuggly couple. Ben sampled their 13 year Alhambric Brandy, just released.

The views from our room were gorgeous--part of the brick building to the East, the water tower to the South, snow dusting everything.

The Power Station, aka the Pub, where we had dinner Tuesday night.

The West entrance to the main lodge.

A BIRTHDAY: We have another tradition of celebrating Maddie's "Oregon" Birthday with my family while visiting at the first of the year.

Cupcake details

Little brother and Uncle looking on

Sweet Papa kisses for the Birthday Girl

Phew! You made it to the end! ;)