Monday, January 23, 2012

be still my heart

holding hands, they gallop away
keepers of a thousand secrets
players of countless games

sleeping, they turn the same way
bodies spooning each other as if they were wombmates
settling in, rising together

laughing, they throw back their heads in unison
bodies lit up with glee
arms flailing, chests heaving

fighting, they madly engage
clashing for but a moment
hugging, moving on

loving, they have my heart
holders of my affection
brother and sister, taking my breath away

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Princess Birthday Party

Last Saturday we celebrated Maddie's 5th birthday with a princess party. She had decided on the theme shortly after last year's party and it managed to hold the entire year. Her requests: a rainbow cake and a pinata. Easy enough!

Some of the decorations and craft stations:

Maddie helped me make the cake layers. We added pureed fruit to coordinate the colors with the party theme: raspberry to the top layer, strawberries to the middle, and blueberries to the bottom. The blue layer also had a little blue food coloring to pump up the color. The raspberry layer was my favorite. I would love a whole cake of raspberry-flavored white cake with buttercream frosting!

I decorated the outside following a tutorial for icing roses I found on i am baker. Warning: give yourself plenty of time to peruse that site. Her cakes are AMAZING!

The pennant was an idea I saw on pinterest. I made it out of the extra crown felt and two ribbon-wrapped chopsticks. I was out of wooden skewers, so I had to make do.

 I didn't plan on making princess cookies but then I found a really cute cutter set at the store and ended up throwing together some soft frosted cookies off annie's eats. The cookies were definitely the best-flavored sugar cookies I've ever made. But they puffed up a lot and didn't keep their shape as well as my traditional Cook's Illustrated recipe. I think my children might have eaten a dozen cookies between the two of them.

My sassy little birthday girl:

At Thanksgiving my parents brought down a treasure trove of old high school and college dresses (formals and bridesmaid gowns). When Maddie caught me trying one on, she recommended I wear it to the party. I only said yes because it matched the color scheme. Perfect!

Ben and Auntie Jennie did an AWESOME job face painting all ten little princesses and two knights. The girls waited so patiently for their turn. Maddie looking on as her friend gets painted:

Claire and her beautiful Mama, Mel:

Maddie girl and her rainbow:

The girls played "boat" for a while. Of course, Miss Maddie is running the show:

Cuties on the boat:

More face painting (some said Ben and Jennie could start their own business):

Sam gets "BATMAN!!" on his face, bangs pulled out of the way (dang he's cute):

Johnny gets Batman, too:

Johnny & Ben

And then Ben got his turn. Maddie started...

Then all the princesses got involved:

The big reveal! Ben was pretty darn happy with the results, as evidenced below:

Cake! Can't belive my baby girl blew out FIVE candles this year!

And, as per Maddie's one-year request, a pinata!!

I love how Sam is raising his sword in support of Princess Maddie in the background!

More pinata pics:

And some beautiful princess friends wearing their hand-decorated crowns!
A very fun, very princess party! The easiest, smoothest party with the sweetest, best-behaved girls!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Maddie: Five Years!

Dear Maddie,

You are FIVE!!!! I can hardly stand it! My baby girl is growing up so fast. The past few months have been so magical, watching you change right before my eyes. And when I reflect on the past five years, it is truly amazing to witness how many of the characteristics you've had since the beginning continue to age and mature with you. You've always been funny, curious, adventurous, tenacious and smart, smart, smart. You dive in to each new journey with equal parts excitement and confidence. You are lovely and sweet, gentle and kind, fiery and passionate, opinionated and assertive. And we love you so much.

Like most any stage of development, there are things about you at this point that I just want to bottle up and keep forever. Then there are those things I want to box up and ship to Antarctica! But through it all, I can't possibly express how remarkable you are, and how grateful and humbled I am that I get to be your mom. In honor of your fifth birthday, I present some of the things I've just loved about this fifth year of life:

You still take naps. Basically every day. You insist that you aren't tired, you don't need rest, you'll be fine without it, etc., but inevitably, you end up falling fast asleep in under five minutes. One day last week when you insisted on not napping, I told you to stay downstairs and play quietly so Sam and I could rest upstairs. This is how I found you, an hour and a half later:

You are extraordinarily intelligent, full of wonder, and delighted in the world around you. I get the greatest sense of joy from watching you interact with life. You are filled with a desire to learn and discover all that there is to know. Just last week I received my first letter from you. I was amazed at the way you sounded out each word, getting all of the consonants and most of the vowel sounds right. We can no longer spell words around you because you are starting to figure them out! In no time at all you will be reading and it is exciting to see your skills develop each and every day.

You have a growing intimacy with your Heavenly Father. We have watched with great joy as you have grown and matured this year. You are so perceptive to the Spirit, so curious about how to learn more and grow more in tune with God's desires for you. The questions you ask, the thoughts you express, the prayers you pray--they amaze us! I could never have imagined the discussions we regularly engage in, you at just five years old! It has been our joy to see the Spirit growing in you, to see you learning to trust us that obedience is really the best way. You are a natural evangelist, unafraid to share Jesus with friends, family, and kids you meet at the park. You are charismatic and approachable, and I pray God uses the way you lead and your caring and sensitive heart to point many, many people to him.

You are the most patient, loving, sensitive, caring and amazing big sister. When you entered my life, it was easily the best day of my life. Becoming your Mama was like opening up a part of my soul that I didn't know existed. But far, far greater than even that love is what I experience when I see the bond that exists between you and Sam. Just this morning as we walked into school, he grabbed your hand and the two of you walked hand-in-hand the entire way to class, happy to be with each other. You have your skirmishes but for the most part I am in awe of your ability to quickly reconcile, to come up with a solution that benefits you both, and especially at the selflessness you display. You are fiercely protective and amazingly patient with him. I know he looks up to you, admires you, desires to be around you, and learns so much from you every day.

You have an incredible zest for life and tenacity for learning new things. You will stick with a new hobby or skill until you've mastered it, pushing through frustration and managing steep learning curves. You jump into new situations, your mind thinking through each step, concentration evident in a furrowed brow. I pray that this sense of adventure and the accompanying confidence makes you a natural leader, a visionary, one who thinks outside the box and helps others to overcome obstacles. 

You are and will always be my baby girl. No matter how many times we joke about it, I know deep in my bones that you are my girl. We have a relationship that I dreamed about for years, a bond that runs deep and true. As you grow and mature, you become increasingly independent. I learn to step back more often and let you explore things on your own. I stop giving advice and instead allow you to come to me for help. But underneath the tenacity, the intelligence, the wit, the passion, the joy and the fire, there is a little girl that eventually always finds her way back to my arms. I pray that no matter how great the plans God has for your life, or how far you go, that our relationship will always be one where you find open arms, understanding, a desire to support and encourage, and a mom who is on her knees, praying constantly. 

You, Madeleine Noelle, are my joy. I praise God every day for the opportunity to be your mom. Thank you for teaching me so much about enjoying life, being generous, seeking truth, and for the constant reminder of my need for Jesus. May I always point you back to him.



Sunday, January 08, 2012

Dear Sam,

Yesterday you hit the ripe-old age of two years, ten months. With each passing week you are resembling a real boy. Your body is long and lean and muscular. You are running like a kid, no more arms and legs akimbo. You stick your hands in your pockets and laugh at jokes. It's crazy. 

I find myself looking at you so often these days and saying or thinking, "Man, I just LOVE that kid!" You are sweet and funny, engaging and hilarious, full of dance moves and robot sound effects, and best of all, full of joy. You bring such laughter to our house. Our home is brighter, lovelier, happier, and more joyful because of you, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

As much as you love your Daddy, you are still a Mama's boy. You ask me to "lie down" with you every night, patting the bed or your pillow, inviting me to stay with puppy dog eyes and "sleep me." When I leave it often involves tears and pleading for more snuggle time (if you haven't fallen asleep with your arms tangled around my neck.) You are a snuggler of the highest order. Such a love. A cuddling savant, perhaps. (A mama can dream). Tonight I lay between you and Maddie on her twin bed to surround sound of "I love you Mama!" and kisses and hugs galore. It was like the best drug one could ever imagine. Pure bliss.

Not that it's all snuggles and joy these days. You have quite a naughty streak. One day you were quiet (first alert to a problem) and occupied downstairs. I found you beneath the kitchen table with an almost-empty bag of potty-training m&ms. Your face and hands were COVERED in red, green, and chocolate brown. "CAH-NNY!" you screamed as your wild eyes found mine. And that was just one incident in a week FULL of candy sneaking. We've learned our lesson and moved the candy/cookies/chocolate to high, unreachable places. Not like that stops you. At Grammy & Papa's house it was even worse. You sunk to all-time lows with your sneaky, candy-stealing behavior. (But they thought it was pretty darn funny).

You are SO happy outside, content to run and skip and jump and play and spin away! If you have Maddie and Mama nearby, a field to explore, and a snack at hand, you are content. :) You are adventurous and brave, climbing on top of things, scrambling over obstacles, scaring us at times with your agility, ability, and total and complete lack of fear. I anticipate a trip to the ER this year with you.

More and more you speak in these long, repetitive strains of somewhat intelligible words. 90% of the time I know what you're saying. Often it goes something like this, such as when you found out we were going to play at Jacob's house: "Jake-Jake how, me." (I'm going to Jacob's house). "Yeah. Robot ha, woo-tuck hat, ba-doo ba-doo gum, robot gum, yeah." (Robot hat, fireman hat, guns). "Jake-Jake, robot ha. Jake-Jake pay me, now. PEEE!" (Jacob has a robot hat. Jacob play with me? now? Please?!!!) It is SO cute. You call Maddie Maa-Maa and the other day you were cracking yourself up (rightly so) when she was running around in the batman cape and you kept calling after her, "Bat-Maa-Maa, Bat-Maa-Maa!!" A play on words! Amazing! 

For months, I could call you just about anything and you'd allow it. "Are you my snuggly-buggly boo bear? My honey love bumpkins? My kissy-boy?" "Yeah," you'd reply. This month you really surprised me when one day I asked, "Sam, are you my little lovey boy." "NO!" You shouted, "Big, big, big, big, BIG man!" 

We are just so thrilled with the little person (BIG MAN) you've become. You are inquisitive and smart, funny and fun, loving and kind-hearted. You are all boy, all the time, preferring guns, trucks, robots and weapons to just about anything else. And I hope I never forget the way you stick tools down the sides of your pull-up, hammer and wrench and sword and gun and even baseball bat vying for space around your tiny little waist. Eventually your pull-up becomes a fall-down and we all laugh at your little booty sticking out, tools and weapons held tight against your thighs. Thanks for all the laughs, the cuddles, and the joy.