Saturday, February 25, 2012

big boy haircut

My little man has got a serious head o' hair. I feel like I give him a haircut every month. It's like one day, every four weeks or so, he wakes up and it is obvious that it's time to get out the scissors. The hair resembles a large mushroom cloud and with his wiry, muscular little body it's like "an orange on a toothpick," to quote an amazing movie.

I usually do it myself, because, let's face it--spending $20 every four weeks on a trim is not my idea of a good way to dip into the Joyce Family Fund. Yet on a whim, I took him in for a "professional" cut this week. She was able to use the trimmers around his ears and neck, removing a lot of the mushroom-y bulk. :) And he is just the most handsome little boy, if I do say so myself.

Maddie: 5 Year Portraits

For Ben's party I rented a few lenses, the 70-200mm and also an 85mm. Last weekend I took the kids to the park and played around a bit. Neither of them were particularly willing photograph subjects, so I ended up with just a few I liked. Such is the life! Here are my favorites of Maddie, capturing who she is at this precious moment in time:

sweet & playful

 sassy & strong-willed

 contemplative and conscientious

hula girl 

best big sister

I'm in serious denial that my baby girl is FIVE. She is this helpful, smart, long-limbed creature who makes us laugh and think every single day of her life. So grateful for who she is and how she contributes so beautifully to our family and to the world around her. Love you Maddie girl!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ben's 35th

My sweet hubby turned the ripe old age of 35 today. We celebrated this weekend with a party with 50 of our closest friends and family (other than the Oregon folks, who couldn't make it, and who were missed). We celebrated with good food, fun music, roasts, toasts, a skit, a few impersonations and a couple of little munchkins. 

The theme for the party was rather Ben-centric. I encouraged folks to dress up as Ben and prizes were awarded not only for the most creative costume but also for the best impression.

Some scenes from the party:

rice krispy favors (Ben's favorite), B&W photos plastered to his name, color-coordinated signage by Mel, blue hydrangeas, white daisies and photo centerpieces, tissue poms, mocha cupcakes with more cupcake toppers by Mel.

Everyone gathered for a time of storytelling, toasting, and celebrating Ben. It was fun to hear some stories I've never before heard! Ben's dad got everyone laughing with a story about Ben having some trouble obeying growing up. John got himself laughing with a recent story involving Ben and some flash underwear. Uncle Jim got Maddie laughing by just being himself. It was such a treat to have so many of our loved ones gathered in one place to honor Ben.

One of my favorite things about the evening was the photo booth. We got pictures of nearly everyone who attended. See evidence below:

Verne and Mel, third couple down, won "Best Ben Costume" for their creative portrayal of his favorite words ever: "Totally" and "Community." Mel roasted Ben by sharing a "drinking game" she and a friend created during missional community night: every time Ben said the word "totally," she and her friend would both take a drink of their tea. Mel finished three cups of good earth tea that night and visited the bathroom twice. :)

Erin Beck (second from top, with Ben) won for best impression. She has his laugh down pat.

Such a fun, fun night! And now I am tired. A good party always ends in a good night's sleep. 

Maddie: 61 Months

Dear Madeleine Noelle,

On Valentines Day you celebrated 61 months of life as my favorite little valentina. It is with great joy that we pass each new month, marveling over how you've grown and matured, laughing at your antics, being amazed by your smarty-pants-ness, and praying for your heart.

This picture says so much about how you are: confident, assertive, single-minded, tough, a real go-getter. In Muir Woods you ran from tree to tree, climbed steep dirt inclines, tried to get Johnny to follow you, and made us all wiser with your tree facts. I absolutely love and admire how confident you are, without being annoying or overbearing. You take life by the horns, running in with joy and great excitement, not held back by anything but your own enormous expectations. And that is where parenting your heart comes in. You hate to fail. You love to conquer. We lovingly remind you that your value is not in your ability to overcome, or your courage and willingness to try new things, but in being a loved daughter of the King. We want your confidence to be Godly, to be rooted in the love of your Father and the support of your family. So keep exploring and running ahead and taking on new adventures, but remember that whether you succeed greatly or fail horribly, you are unconditionally loved.

You and your brother take off on the greatest of adventures. One of our new favorite places to hang is the "tree fort," an exposed tangle of oak tree roots that provide hours of exploration and fun. Not even the clay-like mud can keep us away (though it certainly takes a while to clean off). One thing you've taught me, dear girl, is that the adventure is always worth the mess. We don't venture into the fort every day, but it is always fun and always messy. Life is messy. I wish as a young, first-time mom I would have been more accepting of this and less worried about the mud. :) A few weeks back, parents at the park watched in disgust as I let the two of you splash, run, and lay down in the large mud puddles. But I've learned to accept the mess and enjoy the adventure.

Case in point: clay mud balls!

You constantly surprise me. Just when I think you won't pose for a Valentines Day photo, you go and strike a beautiful ballerina pose, graceful, elegant and long-limbed. It seems that every time I look at you these days, I'm looking at someone who can't possibly be my baby girl. You are so grown up! As we sit down each day to read books, you amaze me with your ability to sound out short words and use the clues on the page to figure out the more difficult ones. Your face lights up with joy and pride as you  discover new ways to use your brain and we couldn't be more pleased with how hard you work at sounding out words and spelling, too. (Though we do have to be careful with our own spelling, now, because you are Always. Listening.)

This weekend you've been running on fumes, having stayed up late many nights, woken up at regular morning hours, and foregone naps. Yet you are shining through, proving to be helpful and generous, kind and thoughtful. Just yesterday morning, functioning on less than 8 hours of nighttime sleep, you made me breakfast (peanut butter on toast) and cleaned up your own mess without being asked. I praised you like crazy and then you got to work, thinking up all kinds of things you could do to help me out. It was one of my favorite mornings yet. Then, yesterday afternoon, you slept from 2 to 5:45!!! Poor girl, catching up on your midday Zs! By the time you woke up, you were ravenous and in a fabulous, well-rested mood. We stayed up late, watching movies, eating leftover rice krispy treats, and just enjoying one another's company. It's so fun having you as company.

So as we embark on this next month in your fifth year, I pray you know how greatly you are loved, how proud we are of you, how capable you are of doing good things, and most importantly, we pray that you always rest in the love of your Heavenly Father, who couldn't possibly be more pleased with you than he already is. You are such a delight and a treasure. We love you, Maddie girl!



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentines Day Recap

Our Valentines Day 2012 was a hit! We started off Monday morning with my littlest valentine off to a Purple Room party, handmade cards in hand (not because I'm some awesome mom, but because at 9:30pm the previous night I realized I didn't have 1) any valentines, or 2) the snack I was supposed to bring to the party the next day).

Kelly was volunteering in Nicole's party that day and when she peeked in at Sam she wanted to run in, scoop him up, and cover him with kisses because he was just being so darn cute in class. Good to know I'm not alone in my Sam-crush.

I set up a little photo booth with my new props (door prize from the photography class! Woo-hoo!) for the kiddos. They were somewhat willing subjects. I think I got four sort of clear shots. :) Anyhoo, the props made them excited for about 4 minutes:

Valentines Day morning started with these cute little personalized mailboxes (Target dollar bin find! Yay!), heart pancakes with homemade berry syrup, and grapefruit halves.

They played with these mailboxes all day. Such a hit!

Maddie's mailbox (too much red and pink to get a good color balance. oh well):

The last-minute valentines I made for the teachers:

Good ol' Papyrus blank notecards with a heart glued on. :) Signed by my valentina:

Who also greatly enjoyed the little mailbox:

Not too bad for hand-poured. :)

Hearts for all my sweethearts!

The breakfast scene:

That afternoon we met our friend and neighbor Danielle and Asher for a playdate at the park.


Valentines evening, housemate John watched the kiddos and Ben and I went out to dinner at Esin. Oh my. SO DELICIOUS! Our starter was a hearty bowl of mussels in broth with ouzo and a plate of gremolata-topped frites. You know how I love french fries! For our entree, we split a braised pork shoulder over squash & bacon hash and a pan-seared salmon fillet with oyster mushrooms, shaved broccolini, yukon gold potatoes and leeks in a savory mushroom broth. Dessert was a passion fruit tart with meringue and blood orange syrup. One of the best meals I've had in a long time.

Happy Valentines Day to all my beloved readers!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Random Things Bouncing About My Brain

The $69 I spent on Maddie's birthday present (art class through town) was worth every. stinking. cent. She made two 24x36 pieces of art that are positively breathtakingly beautiful and ready for framing. She also made a sculpture. But I like the paintings best. 

More adults should have dress-up birthday parties. Planning our outfits for our friends 60th birthday/white trash party was really, really fun. (But what does it say about us that we had to purchase some things for the 80s parties but we had everything we needed at home for the WT one? Are we WT?)

Missing from the picture below was my cigar and enormo can of beer (that I accidentally took a drink of and then almost barfed because I detest beer).

 Oh, and I absolutely adore Jenn. She is a true friend.

Every month I try to take at least one picture of the kids in front of the door to track the progress of their growth. They are so stinkin' cute. And lovable. And naughty. And kissable. And just plain stinky. But they're mine. The End.

I don't think I ever told this story here. A few weeks back I was overwhelmed, tired, spent from the week. Ben had to work almost all weekend, but John took the kids for the morning so I could go for a long walk/hike/run/prayer time. That's how I roll. I honestly feel closest to God when I get out of the house, plug some praise music in my ears, and get time just to clear my head. After a long hour of confession and prayer and crying and thanking God for loving me in spite of all my control issues, dependence on myself (hence the exhaustion), selfishness, and idol worship (food, others' opinions of me, presenting a good front, etc, etc), I heard God say to me, "Do you know how much I love you?" and when I rounded the bend, this is what I saw:

How awesome is that? An entire rainbow that was actually a double rainbow (can't see it in the picture). I started laughing out loud. I mean, what kind of perfect God, ruler of the universe, who sees and knows all, and listens to me as I barf out all the crap that's in my heart, shows his immense love for me in this amazing, enormous double rainbow?

Friends, if you don't know the love of God, ask him to show you. An important lesson from that Saturday morning: He already knows all the nasty, horrible, crappy, selfish, evil things we've done. He knows all the crap we're going to do. And he STILL LOVES US. If that's not good news, I don't know what is.

Next random thought. When my favorite 50mm lens isn't taking super crappy and out of focus shots like this:

it's falling apart. I mean, literally, the whole front section with the glass lens falls right out of the back part. I'm lucky it hasn't shattered the number of times it's fallen right out of the camera. Ugh. And just in time for my FIRST-EVER photography class, which I'm super pumped about. I mean, Becky and Rachel take AMAZING photos and I want to learn from the pros. But my lens is not cooperating. Blah.

I still take naps with my kids. This particular day I was held captive by the arm of a sleeping superman. I enjoyed every minute of it.

My baby boy, who has been my napping buddy since he was born, is going to be three in less than a month. I mean, look at that little guy:

And now he runs around and climbs up tall structures and talks in sentences and gives kisses. My heart. My uterus. They're talking to me.

Last random thought: My hubby turns 35 next week, halfway between my little guy turning 3 and my big girl turning 5. Number savants, unite! That is one awesome birthday number conspiracy!

Adios, amigos. Have a great weekend. Leave your own random thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Samuel: 35 Months

Hey Little Buddy,

This month is best summed up in an incredible dichotomy of personality types: all sweet or all sneaky. At times you are absolutely the snuggliest, sweetest, most well-behaved boy ever. At other times I find you hiding in a closet, under the covers, or beneath a large piece of furniture with all kinds of verboten items: gum (or the whole gumball machine), candy, chocolate, Maddie's things, my things, you get the point. There is so much sneakiness going on in that little brain of yours.

Then there's the constant tripping, falling, crashing, banging, daredevil-type behavior, effects seen in the photo below:

You're kind of a clutz these days, and your war wounds are quickly becoming regular preschool teacher conversation starters: "Wow, Sam. What happened here?" This particular set of scabs was from tumbling face-first down a slide at school and then skidding across the rubber padding. Ouch. All the moms gasped at that one. It was pretty bad.

We dressed you up as a white trash baby for our friend's 60th birthday. You took to the role with unpredictable aplomb. Not five minutes after arriving you had kicked off your (one) boot and grabbed a rifle. Not ten minutes after our arrival you dropped trou, took a poo and then left your poopy diaper laying in the middle of our friend's lawn before running off nekkid, poop hanging from your booty. Yep, a regular ol' white trash kid. Proud of you, son. (You also carried around a baby bottle filled with orange soda. I thought it was pretty clever, personally).

But if anything sets this 35th month of life apart, it's the constant changing of dress up outfits. I remember well when your sister wore a different dress each day. You, my friend, change frequently from doh-doh man (superman) to boat man (pirate) to blast off man (astronaut) to nigh man (knight) to hee-haw man (cowboy). There are sound effects and weapons that accompany every persona. It is a sight to behold. You and Maddie love to play doh-doh man and doh-doh baby. One day last week you donned your doh-doh family costumes as we ran around outside, leaping over wet puddles in a single bound. It. was. awesome.

All in all, I often pinch myself at the joy of being your mom. You are a dream child: sweet, kind, caring, affectionate, creative, intelligent, clever. You greet your sister each time you're apart with two hands on either side of her face, a tender kiss, and a hug. You fill our lives with an inordinate amount of laughter; it seems we're always smiling or giggling at something you've done. Thanks for teaching me to savor the funny sayings and peculiar outfits, to slow down and look for the perfect ba-doo ba-doo gun stick, the joy of discovering new delicious treats, and most of all for teaching me what it's really like to parent a boy-child. You are so fun, buddy.

Next time we do this, you're three. Stop it. Right now.