To My Children on Mother’s Day

What a privilege it is to hold you in my arms, to have you sleeping on my chest, to already feel nostalgic for these days when I am everything you need.

What a privilege it is to be the recipient of your first love notes, the receiver of your brightest dandelions and your sparkliest rocks. How I cherish them.

What a privilege to feel your breath in my ear, for you to beg me to sing you one last song, that you learn to speak just so you can call my name.

What a privilege it is that you come to snuggle me in the night, bleary eyed and stumbling in the dark, so we can recount our adventures together.

What a privilege to trip over legos and step in squished bananas, to never see the bottom of the laundry bin. Someday you will be big and gone and I will miss these things so. Yes, even the bananas.

What a privilege to have a constant companion wherever I go. Even if that companion does require extra snacks and bathroom breaks and needs to be carried before too long.

What a privilege it is that I get to stay up way past bedtime, baking birthday cakes, wrapping Christmas presents and writing Tooth Fairy notes. To make your world as magical as you make mine.

What a privilege to be your first friend, your first teacher and your first true love.

It is my greatest challenge and my greatest joy, being your mother. There are days when it is hard. Really hard. When you ask me what’s for dinner and I could have sworn I just made you some yesterday. When I lose my temper and fear that is all you will remember about our early days together. When your heart is breaking and so mine is breaking, too, because I can’t stop the pain.

Sometimes I think that this life is not my own anymore. Because it’s not. It’s yours. And it is my greatest privilege to give it to you.

Photo by Becca of Lady and Gent Photography

Oh baby.

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Archer has grown and changed so much and so quickly. He is already definitely out of his newborn phase and so I find myself pouring over these pictures taken by Becca from his first days home with us. (He was five days old when we took these pictures, and now he’s four months old and I’m just getting them posted now because #newbaby #summer #noschool and #busybusybusy).

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I already miss his little balled fists and fishing baby lint out of them every morning. Maybe it’s weird, but I just adore baby lint. Now his hands are wide open and reaching for puppy noses and they don’t get so linty anymore. His toes are still linty, though, so I’ll be content with that for now.

I already miss when you could just wrap him up in a ball and set him anywhere – the bench of a coffee shop, the sofa, the church pew, and he’d just stay there, fast asleep. He is still a great sleeper and we’re so lucky, but now he’s too big and sprawling to be perched just anywhere. Now he sleeps in his own bed in his own room all through the night and for most naps, too. Which is of course good in its own way, but still.

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(^^^ These pictures of Steve and Archer? I die. So lucky to have them both.)

And he is just so, so sweet. He loves to giggle and I swear that when I say, “I love you” he says it back, or at least mimics the sounds so well. He loves to chat before bed and gaze up at with me with his big hazel eyes. He seems to know that talking before bed is a tradition in our house and he’s not missing out. He loves to be kissed and sung, too. And really only gets upset if he thinks that maybe you’ve forgotten him. Or if he’s hungry or tired, you know, the usual.

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And speaking of the usual, Steve likes to say that he thinks Archer is the most perfectly average baby alive. He loves all the typical baby stuff – swaddling and bouncing and shushing and pacifiers. Not all of our other children have been so easily soothed.

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For our last baby, his infancy is going by just too quickly. I’m in no rush for him to be independent just yet. So I’m soaking up the middle-of-the-night feedings when we lie curled up together, his tiny feet kicking my stomach and his hand reaching out for mine, unsatisfied until he is grasping my fingers. I’m reveling in his bedtime routine and our little cooing sessions. He’s going to be so big so soon, so I’m trying to just hold him a little extra tight these days.

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P.S. All photos in this post are by Becca of Lady and Gent Photography. Becca and her husband, Kevin, specialize in taking amazing wedding pictures, so if you’re in the market, be sure to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Things I Love about Henry (3 Years Old)

Henry. My boy.

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Would you just look at that sweet little guy. He’s so great in so many ways that I find myself at a loss for words about him sometimes. But I’ll try to come up with at least a few.

He’s very imaginative. He and his sisters are almost always pretending to be someone else. And they are always telling us who we are in their little make-believe-land. Once I was driving the kids and my sister back into town and we were stuck in traffic. Georgia and I were chatting and Henry said from the backseat, “Mom! You’re being Bullseye. I’m Woody and Olivia is Jessie.” I said, “Okay.” And he said, “No! Bullseye doesn’t talk! So you can’t talk!” Throughout the entire drive home, whenever I would talk to my sister he would pipe up and tell me that Bullseye doesn’t talk. And when he is pretending with his sisters they give each other stage directions and feed each other lines. So there’s a lot of repeating.

He also told me the other day, “Mom, my name’s Tuesday because Tuesday is the dad and I’m being the dad.” Me: “Okay. Hi Tuesday.” Henry: “No you can’t talk because you’re dead. Because you’re being the grandma and the grandma is dead.” // And the other day he said to Olivia, “Let’s play Home.” and she said no, so he said, “No, pretend you said yes.” And she did. So then they started playing Home. If only it were so easy for them to pretend to do the things I ask them to do…

He also like to pretend he is having a baby. He sticks a stuffed animal up his shirt and when I ask when his baby is going to be born he says, “Not yet!”, because, poor kid, he might think that is the only actual response to that question. He has been asking when our baby will come out for so, so long.

He can’t wait to be a big brother. We have been telling him that first it was going to be Olivia’s birthday, then his birthday, and then the baby could come out. So when I said, “Henry! It’s your birthday, today!” He asked, very excitedly, “And now the baby can come out?” To which he again got his, “Not yet” reply. Though it doesn’t keep him from coming up with plans for the baby like how he is going to feed him and bring him toys and blankets and throw balls with him. When his socks or shirts are getting too small he tells me, “This is too small for me. Let’s give it to the baby.” He also has lots of ideas about what the baby will say. So I’m wondering how disappointed he will be that the baby will be born a helpless infant and not a talking, walking playmate.

He has named the baby “Dark Vader”. And when we finally broke it to him that the baby’s name probably won’t be that, he said, “Well, can we name something Dark Vader?”

Feb-4748He’s got the fake smile down. Which is somewhat heartbreaking because his real smile is one of the best things in my life. But it is hard to capture on camera these days. Feb-4751 Feb-4780

He’s very observant of the world. He has always been fascinated with language and talking. It seemed to take him forever to speak, but when he finally did, it was apparent that he didn’t want to talk until he kind of knew what was going on. He’s not one who likes to learn by trial and error, but more by watching and watching and then attempting. This has continued as his language has grown and expanded over this past year. He had very few things that he said incorrectly, but when he did, I was careful to not correct him too quickly or it would vanish. Because I love the cute ways he would speak incorrectly. Things like “Look Mama! I a bird! I flying!” And once when Steve was changing him, Henry was wiggling all over the place and Steve said, “Oh you are such a child sometimes!” He replied, “I not a child. I just me!” When he is presented with new words or ideas, he has to think them out. Another time Steve was helping him out of his sandy swim shorts and said, “Henry, you’re all sandy.” Henry looked down as the sand spilled out and said, “I not sandy. The house is sandy!”

And his observations of the world continue:
“I feeled the marshmallows. They were warm. And fuzzy.”
“When you have some rocks, you water them. Wsssshhhhhh! Feel better, rocks?”
“Daddy licks his hands, so I want to do that. When I stick my tongue out, that’s how I lick.” He has lots of these explanations of the world. When he says something he thinks is funny he’ll give us an instant replay of it.

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And sometimes he gets in funny moods where when you ask him to do something he says that he hates doing that. Mostly naptime and sitting at the table and regular kid stuff. But sometimes it’ll be things like, “I HATE laughing!” Or if you ask him to smile for a picture, “I HATE smiling!”

He loves to help in the kitchen. He got an apron for Christmas and likes to help with the stirring and the taste-testing, of course.

He’s a snuggle bug and he won’t go to sleep without someone singing to him. Whether it’s mom or dad or Auntie Mal. And he loves our weekly coffee dates with Aunt Georgia.

He loves his train tracks and cars and dump truck and Dinotrux. But not D-strux, because he is mean. He also loves rain boots, his Captain America shirt and hats. Also his “carmonica” (harmonica) and “Queen Car” (Lightning McQueen) and his favorite stuffies are Woggie and Sir Ostrich (and I’m not sure if the ostrich has been knighted or is being confused with siracha sauce).

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He looks up to his dad. While Steve is building the fence, Henry is also busy hitting the posts with his plastic shovel and refusing to play with his sisters because he is building. He also likes it when he and daddy wear bow ties together. And I like it, too.

He’s a sweet kid. So sweet, in fact, that I worry his little brother has a pretty big ideal to live up to. But at least the little baby will have a great example of how to be super nice and cute.

(On a side note, can I just say that I don’t like the whole potty-training thing? And not because of the actual process. It has gone pretty well for us, the usual hiccups and extra laundry have been anticipated and it’s fine. What I don’t like is that it seems to me to mark the loss of innocence. When they potty train, they are suddenly responsible and in control and in charge of something all on their own and I’ve always observed a very marked change in my children when this comes along. They are no longer a baby, and they know it. With Henry, it was hard to let go of that babyhood. He’s been a pretty cooperative little person, and all of a sudden he realized he could say no and refuse to do something. Not that he’s never said no before, but there’s this look in his eyes that says, “I’m not a baby anymore. You can’t make me.” It starts with him pointing at a framed picture in his room and saying, “These letters says no moms allowed in here.” And before I know it, he’ll be telling me he doesn’t need tucked into bed or stories read.

Motherhood is partially about loss – first of your expectations, then of the things your child does that you have come to love. With every new and wonderful thing your child learns and experiences, they lose their dependence on you. I don’t mean that it is just continually sad, because believe me, freedom from diapers is like so. awesome. No regrets there. But I’ve been observing a lot of the changes in my children and how they are growing and it catches me by surprise. And sometimes I haven’t mentally adjusted to their new needs – their needs for some independence and space of their own. They are becoming more and more their own people. It is beautiful and wonderful and I love it. But there is a part of me that is struggling to let go. To let them go confidently into the future I am trying every day to prepare them for. )

Back to Henry Bear… we love him a whole lot and we’re so glad he’s a part of our family. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Traveling With Kids: Victoria, B.C.

A few months ago, Steve and I were thinking about doing a babymoon, or in some way, one last hurrah before our next little one arrives and all that gets more… challenging. At first we thought we’d go just the two of us, but we realized that our three oldest are really at this golden age for adventuring. They’re good at listening and following instructions (i.e. not wandering off into the street or just disappearing somewhere), and they love to adventure and try new things. We wanted to soak up one last family vacation just the 5 of us, before a new little one comes along that, at very least, requires more equipment to travel with.

Having loved our trip to Victoria last spring, we decided to take the kids there. It was a place we know we enjoy, but have already explored, so if we didn’t actually get out much, we wouldn’t be heartbroken. Plus, you have to take a ferry to get there, and ferries are pretty magical. Of course, we got the more magical ferry experience on accident. We planned to drive to Port Angeles and take the Coho Ferry across, about a 45 minute voyage. But after booking our AirBnB apartment (non-refundable), we discovered the Coho was out of commission for the week of our trip. WHAT!!!??!?! I guess I wasn’t aware you could just not have a ferry running. So in a panic we had to discover other options and were fortunatley able to find a ferry that sailed from Seattle and was over a 2 hour journey. More expensive (=less fun for adults) but more time on the water (=more fun for kids).

The Victoria Clipper, sailing from Seattle, presented another issue. It only sails once a day, at 8 am from Seattle, and at 5 pm from Victoria. Which meant that we would have some time on the bookends of our trip in which we would be without a place to keep our things. So we decided that instead of the adults carrying a larger suitcase, each person was going to have to carry their own backpack. We packed only the bare essentials and headed off.Feb-4305^ Daddy and Ellie on the Victoria ClipperFeb-4338^ Our first stop: the fountains outside of Parliament
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Feb-4361^ So much of Victoria was under construction, but the cherry blossom trees were in bloom!
Feb-4371^ Naptime was an important part of the day. Being 7 months pregnant, I had no complaints about this.
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Feb-4429^ I think this will always be one of my favorite pictures. Love these boys so much. 
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Feb-4579^ When we decided we’d be taking the kids, we knew we’d end up spending more time in the condo then if it were just the two of us, so we decided that the view and feel of our AirBnB was important. I’m so glad we chose this one. Gorgeous views, easy access to everything we wanted to see and do. And the hostess had a record player that got very, very loved as the weekend drew on. So loved, in fact, that now we have a record player of our own.
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Feb-4477^ Side note: These windows had such amazing light… I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make Steve snap some pictures. AHHHH. I want to live in this apartment forever. Not even joking. And with the way this election is going…Feb-4892
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Feb-4826^ Before our trip, I gave Olivia the option of choosing to have a birthday party or to go to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel while we were in Victoria. She chose Afternoon Tea, so we did just that. It was pretty magical, and they even gave her an edible “Happy Birthday” sign. Such fun when you’re almost five years old.Feb-4927^ Here they are with their backpacks on our last day. We had a five hour chunk of time to kill, so we wandered around the city, ate some waffles and some fish tacones (that’s a cone-shaped taco in case you were wondering), watched the boats and sea planes and picked up our stash of hot chocolate and coffee from Murchie’s (because they make our favorite). The kids did pretty well carrying all their own things, so I think we’re ready for a family backpacking-through-Europe trip. Feb-4936a

Feb-4937^ We gave each of the kids an allowance for the trip. They could spend it on whatever they wanted, but once it was gone, it was gone. Olivia saw a sparkly mermaid doll on the Victoria Clipper so she saved her money the whole time in order to get that on our return trip. Ellie picked a journal and pen from a stationery store that she loves. Like a lot. When we took a breather outside of Parliament on our way to board our ferry, she got right to work on her journal, writing important things like, “I love my sister Olivia because she plays Anna and Elsa with me.”

In the end, I’m so glad we took the kids with us for our babymoon. There were some moments when I had to take my expectations into check and remember to be flexible. Fortunately, Victoria is full of the nicest Canadians, so we always felt welcome. The kids are already begging to go back, and they can’t stop talking about that ferry.

And now we’re off to make scones and drink tea, in anticipation of becoming ex-pats. Cheers!

P.S. For some of our favorite places to eat and explore in Victoria, see this post. 

Things I Love About Olivia (5 Years Old)

Olivia. Liv. Livvy Bug. Girl-Girl. We love her a whole lot.Feb-4610

Feb-4637There are so many things to love about this girl as she grows and changes and becomes her own person. She certainly has a dramatic flair, and yet she has a tender heart of compassion and kindness for everyone around her.Feb-48571. She is always practicing using big words. I frequently hear things like, “Oh. Peeling this orange is so exhausting.” or “I was just like panicking and panicking. The sun was too bright when we went out for recess!”
And I love hearing the way her mind latches on to things and tries to make sense of them out of context, like those big words. Or when she told me a couple of months ago, “My birthday is close to June’s birthday.” “Who is June?” I asked. “You know. He made the whole world a better place?”  “Oh! You mean Martin Luther King, June-ior.” “Yeah.”

2. She likes to tell everyone, everywhere all her plans. On our trip to Victoria we stayed in an AirBnB condo on the 7th floor. Every elevator trip she was sure to tell everyone in the elevator everything about her plans. How she was going to go to High Tea at the Empress Hotel. And how we were on our way here or there. At the end of the trip, we ended up on the elevator again with someone who we had already shared with. He asked her, “So, how was your High Tea?” And she seemed genuinely shocked. “How did you know about that?” Because you tell everyone everything. That’s how.
While Ellie is the real strategist of the trio so far, Olivia certainly makes plans, too. For her birthday I gave her the option of having a birthday party or going to the aforementioned High Tea. She immediately chose High Tea. And I think she was quite pleased with her decision, which made me very happy. I love experiential birthday celebrations. I think she’ll probably remember the experience and how special it was much more. Our day together was full of so many special moments. The girls were dressed in their fanciest dresses and we were served three tiers of treats with our tea. Olivia loved that there was a “Happy Birthday” sign made out of white chocolate for her to eat. And they could see our ferry, the Victoria Clipper, from the hotel, which was also very special. Getting to choose her special day made her feel so grown up and important.
She also likes to plan things for school. She’s had her show-and-tell planned for weeks. And the other day she told us, “It’s Happy Hats day at school so I need to wear a happy hat.” We had never heard of this event, so were pretty sceptical, but she seemed so sure, so we let her take a hat, but said Daddy would bring it back if it wasn’t really Happy Hats day. When she arrived at school, proudly sporting a blue felt cloche with a flower, she was suddenly downcast. “I really thought everyone would be wearing happy hats!” Turns out, she just had the day wrong, so she still got her Happy Hat day the next week. 
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Feb-47073. She’s the best sister. (Henry wouldn’t really cooperate for these photos, but she loves him, too.) I love to hear them play together. Ellie is getting to the age where sometimes she leaves to play with another friend and it is so hard on the little ones to be left behind. Everyone’s just happiest when they can all be together. And it works out nicely because there are usually 3 central characters in most of the storylines that they like to make believe they are a part of. Current obsessions include movies like Home, Tangled and Frozen (still). I guess Henry doesn’t have enough sway yet to get them to play DinoTrux with him. Speaking of which, they love to quote all the lines from these shows. They only get to watch movies or TV on the weekends, but they certainly seem to have a knack for soaking up the lines.
The other day we were talking about how it’s time for her to learn to pedal a bike since she’s been doing such a great job on the balance bike. After some back and forth on the subject she declared, “It has a low probability of success!” (-line by Oh from Home)

4. She loves to sing. And she usually sings very well. Although sometimes she gets the lyrics wrong, which only makes it more adorable. They’ve been obsessed with Home lately so she is always singing the songs from that. My favorite botched line so far is, “I keep falling. I keep falling for you. Like the rainfall. Like a candy bar.” (Instead of canon ball. But hey, I’ve fallen for a candy bar before, I understand the sentiment.) And she can sing a heart-breaking rendition of “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story. Gosh, we’re going to be raising some dramatic kids.

More fun lyrics include: “It’s the circle of life. And the moon destroys it.” and “I’m like a shooting star. I can’t go far.”

5. No matter how big she gets, she’s never lost her love of cuddling and being touched. She loves to get massages from Aunt Mallory. And when I asked her what she wanted to do on her special day of no school she replied, “Never un-snuggle with mama.” That made my heart happy. There’s a lot of love of adventuring and doing in this house, but I love that this one always reminds me of the importance of just being. Of just holding each other. I feel so rushed sometimes with our crazy schedule that it’s hard to carve out the time to give her the space to just never un-snuggle, but I sure do love that she is so vocal about her need for it. She is the one who reminds us to slow down and enjoy being present with each other.

Before her first day of preschool I asked her if she wanted to get a new outfit for her first day of school. “No,” she replied, “I just want to stay home and pick flowers and make ‘Liv and Mama’s Famous Pasta Sauce.'” So of course, we did just that. I love that, given the choice, she will always choose the more thoughtful, more intimate option. She doesn’t need many things to be happy, she just likes to enjoy people and being loved on. I hope that when I grow up, I’m just like her.
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6. She is so compassionate. She always notices other people and their circumstances. When her siblings get in trouble and maybe lose a toy or go to a time-out, she is the one who gives them her own special stuffed animal, or goes to check on them in time-out to see how they are doing. She has great concern for anyone who isn’t feeling well or needs some extra love. When Henry visited her classroom and took part in Pre-Kindergarten for the day, she gently showed him around her classroom, showing him how to sit criss-cross-applesauce with his hands in his lap at story time. She let him sit by her to paint and read him a story. She’s not bossy, but rather invites him in to everything she’s doing and makes him a part of the class. Which is the same thing she does at home. She’s the perfect bridge between Ellie and Henry, creating the atmosphere where all three can get along contentedly. Feb-46887. She is so funny. She is always cracking us up with her jokes and funny comments. And this funny wide-eyed look she likes to give when she’s goofing off. She is usually pretty enthusiastic about life and whatever it is she is doing. I love that duality in her, a love of adventures and silliness, combined with a perfect contentment to just be at home, doing nothing but spending time together.

And she has some pretty funny things to say: “Henry! It’s a special day! You get to sit by me!” //  “My childhood was a long time ago.” // On our way to the car one day she sneezed and then said, “Mom, I’m allergic to my brother!”

Feb-4789And finally, An Interview With Olivia:

Favorite Color: Pink and purple.

Favorite Animal: A giraffe. Because they like to gallop.

Favorite Toy: Jessie. And also the phone. And my Rapunzel toy.

Favorite Stuffed Animal: Talentod, Sea Sparkle and my kitties. And my foxy pillow. Because my foxy pillow is snuggly.

Favorite Food: Sushi!

Favorite Song: Hello and all the other songs by Adele.

Favorite Activity: Snuggle.

Favorite Memory of the Past Year: Going to High Tea and eating the birthday sign and the chocolate cup and all the special treats. Going to Murchie’s and sharing the special treats around in the circle. We went on the ferry and I loved that part. I like when we went to the lake house and swam with my flower floaty.

Who is your best friend?: Amelia. I like playing with her.

What do you want to be when you grow up?: A doctor. A baby doctor! And then I’ll check your baby!

What are you looking forward to about being 5?: Playing with my kitties. I don’t want to go to kindergarten. I’m not ready for it.

Anything else?: I like to eat ice cream and pizza! And I like in Canada when I saw lots and lots of water fountains.

She’s the best. And I’m looking forward to another year learning from her and laughing with her and snuggling her. So glad she’s ours.

A Little Winter Break Recap

On Christmas morning Steve and I made our usual festive breakfast (chocolate croissants, bacon, parfaits and scrambled eggs). Steve was very proud of his scrambled eggs and told the kids, “You’re going to love these. They are cooked to perfection in bacon grease.”

A few minutes later Ellie piped up and said, “Dad, you were so wrong.” Dad: “About what?” Ellie: “About these eggs being delicious. They. Taste. Horrible.”

They didn’t really, but her comment about them made us all laugh. She still had to eat the horrible eggs before getting her chocolate croissant, because even on Christmas morning, life requires that you eat the horrible eggs first.

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I guess she’s been a bit dramatic lately. On New Year’s Eve we had some friends over to roast marshmallows for s’mores in our fireplace (best new tradition I can think of!) and play card and board games. Ellie got Uno for Christmas, but she was sad she hadn’t won a hand yet. She was next to our friend Annie in this particular round and Annie kept sending her skips and draw twos of out necessity. So Ellie turned to her and said, “You are the worst person to play this game with.” So I guess Annie doesn’t get to play Uno with us anymore.

 

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Oh, and I should mention that it took two different shoots and so many pictures to get this one where everyone was cooperating for the Christmas card. There was a moment in the second shoot where they all kept saying, “Mom! Next year there will be four kids in the photo!” And I just kept thinking… “This is the last year we are ever doing Christmas card photos…” if three is this hard, let’s just plain forget four. So, there you go. No Christmas card pictures for a few years. But we love you all.

Popcorn CrownsWhen Olivia sat down next to Henry at the breakfast table the other day she announced, “Henry! You know what? Today is a special day. I get to sit by you!”

She also likes to sing A Whole New World. But she gets the lyrics a little wrong. “I’m like a shooting star! I can’t go far!” It seems that maybe we should tell her how shooting stars work.

And when she finally got some real snow to play in while we visited my family in Idaho, she broke right into “Let It Go”. As anyone would.

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The snow was nice and powdery, perfect for throwing.

And because he’s way too cute not to get a shoutout, here’s Henry being a super hero. Also, when asked repeatedly, he said that his favorite part of Christmas was putting up the snowflake wall. Which was when I hung snowflake ornaments by fishing line along one of our walls. Occasionally he picked up a snowflake and handed it to me. Great Christmas memories in the making.

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Oh, and of course, our biggest news of Christmas break is that we found out Christmas morning that we are getting a baby…
December-3825BOY! Yay!

I think Henry will really enjoy having a brother to keep him company. And boys are just the best. As are girls. I guess now we can look forward to being an even split. Can’t wait!

We’re Having Another Baby!

I usually don’t share stuff like this on my blog for some reason, but this time I had to because I have to write down all the hilarious things my kids have to say about it.

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We waited to tell our kids about baby number four until we were ready for everyone to know. That turned out to be a good idea, since it is now all they can talk about. We showed them a sonogram picture after dinner one day and when they realized it was a picture of a new baby, they were elated. Ellie had a squeal of delight and excitement caught in her throat and she wrapped her arms around my neck and whispered in my ear, “My wish came true!” It was one of the best moments of my life.

And then Olivia said, “Congratulations!” and it was so grown up and funny that it made us laugh. They are very, very excited to be big sisters again. Henry is coming to understand that it’s a baby human and not a baby fish, and when asked, 3 out of 4 times he says he wants a sister. The girls also want a sister because then the baby can share a room with them, or at least that’s what they think.

Over the next few days, they said some great things about the baby.

Ellie: I didn’t know you were pregnant! I just thought you were eating a lot!

Ellie: So, when are we going to open a memory box and blue or pink things come out so we know if the baby is a boy or a girl?

Olivia: Can I feel the baby? Can I listen to the baby? I heard the baby crying. It wants more food!

Henry: Is it a baby fish?

Aunt Brynn: Henry, do you want a brother or a sister?
Henry: A sister.
Aunt Brynn: And what should the baby’s name be?
Henry: TARZAN!

Other baby name suggestions include: Ariel, Megan, Flynn and Rapunzel.

I asked Olivia for a bite of her pizza and she declined, but then I said the baby was hungry and she handed it right over. And Henry gave me lots of bites of his pizza, too. So yeah, I’m going to be using that one a lot.

Also, before you go, this note that Ellie has been writing for everyone. She was giving them out at Friendsgiving and then later she said, “I said “I love you” to Spencer. And I don’t even know him very well!” I think after that experience she might differentiate her notes a little bit. But still… this is the best.

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In case you can’t read Kindergartenese, this note says, “I love you. Did you know that my mom is pregnant with her fourth baby. Xoxo Ellie W. Xoxo Olivia S. Xoxo Henry C. Love Ellie W. Love Olivia S. Love Henry”

Things I Love About Ellie (6 Years Old)

A week ago my firstborn child turned six. I think that makes me a real-life grownup or something. Ha!

Wait a minute! Does that say 6? 6!!! How did that happen? Will I always wonder that?

My goodness, but this girl has grown into such a lovely person this past year. I marvel at her a little more each day. You know I always thought I’d be so sad that she isn’t a baby, but every day I enjoy her more and more. I think she makes a really wonderful person, and I love seeing her grow and change and learn. I love that I can talk to her about things and she actually gets it. Like we’re having a real conversation between friends. I love that she can grasp abstract concepts. Everything about this stage of her life is fun. Well, almost everything. She’s also very obstinate about things. But also very lovely.

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She went off to her first day of kindergarten just a couple of weeks ago. There was a last minute change and she ended up with a teacher she hadn’t met before that day. I thought maybe she’d be a little timid about that. But she marched right in, put her backpack away and plopped herself down next to the neighbor boy, Oliver. She was glad for a friend, that’s for sure. I marveled at her confidence. She’s come such a long way from her first social experiences. We attended a Bible study that met once a week for 3 hours and after the first year her teachers said to me, “You
know, Ellie hasn’t said anything this whole year.” I don’t think any of her teachers nowadays have the same experience. She has a lot to say.

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We couldn’t have a big birthday party for her this year because our August and September have been NUTS (all caps). I felt terrible that her birthday had to be the thing that got a little bit taken away. When I asked her if it would be okay if we didn’t have a big party for her she said, “Yeah, that’s fine. As long as everyone still gives me all my presents.” So you know, she not materialistic at all. (High five, me.)

She also had some very specific ideas about her cake. We can’t always have parties, but darn it, we will definitely have a ridiculous theme cake, no matter what. She asked for Octonauts. I thought that would be easy enough except that the little figurines are ridiculously expensive. Why, Amazon, why? Well, I approached her about changing the theme and she said, “Okay! Let’s do a Frozen cake. No wait! An Octonauts cake that has water and then a land part and that part can have Aurora. And a Frozen castle with Anna and Elsa!” And I was like, “Let’s just go back to our original idea.” So we did.

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Blowing out 6 candles on her Octonauts cake.

But in the end, I think she enjoyed it very much. In fact she said, “Best Birthday Ever”, although I’m not sure that if she was referring to the low-key dinner we had at her favorite restaurant, Burgerville, (I know…), or the fact that her grandma got her a complete Anna costume for playing dress-up. We’re talking a cap with braided hair wig attached, a beautiful dress and Anna’s boots. It is the Real Deal and she loves it so, so much. Also, she got a scooter, and even though she scoots along with 18 inches of space between her two feet (and no amount of help from us is going to convince her to do otherwise), she is so excited about it.

(A friend also sent us some of these biographies of famous women and they are awesome! I think we’ll have to get a bunch more in the future. The girls love Malala, as they should. They also regularly use words like “Yousafzai” and “Mingora” (Pakistan, the place Malala was born), so you know they’re super geniuses.)

A few other favorite things about Ellie:

Famous : She loves calling things “Famous”. The other day she asked me, all doe-eyed, “Hey mama, can we watch a movie? Will you make your famous brownies? And your famous popcorn?” Didn’t know those things were famous, but cool. We’ve made buckets of marinara sauce these past few weeks to keep for the whole year. And she has been really helpful with peeling the tomatoes and stirring and stirring so carefully. She’s very invested in that sauce and so when it came time to label it, I labeled it “Mama and Ellie’s Famous Pasta Sauce.” Because it was very famous to her, even though not a human tongue had tasted it. (We did later, and don’t worry, it was super delish.)

And also, Terrifying. I have realized that I say things are “terrifying” quite frequently. But, in my defense, I’m usually talking about things that are actually terrifying, or at least close to it. Ellie just likes to say everything is terrifying. “Yesterday I was eating an almond and I got an almond skin stuck in my teeth. It was terrifying. And then I decided I’m never going to eat almonds again.” Good luck with that one, kid. We pretty much live off of nuts in this house.

Music lover: We went to a wedding last weekend and she went up to the DJ and requested a song. It’s kind of obscure (“Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora) and so he had to find it for her. Then he asked her to come over and put on the headphones to make sure he had the right track. He did and he played it later for her and she was elated. It was pretty wonderful.

She got a ukulele for her birthday, a pink one that looks like Olivia’s purple one. So now they are a band and they sing and play together. It doesn’t sound like too much yet, but maybe someday. I think she’s going to start piano lessons this year, and I’m very excited about that. She loves music so much. Her favorite songs are “That Thing You Do, (from the movie by Tom Hanks)” Frozen songs, “Tarzan Boy” (Baltimora), “Highway Don’t Care” (Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift), “Dreamers” (Savoire Adore), “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” & “Circle of Life” (from the Lion King), “Too Much” & “Paris” (Magic Man).

She also likes to go around randomly shout-singing, “THIS WILL BE!” from “This Will Be An Everlasting Love”. But she always stops after the first three words. Ha!

She says lots of funny things:

E: (Holding a wad of cash, a rare occurrence in our house) Can we take them somewhere?
S: What, like, stargazing or something?
E: No – I mean… I want to buy shoes!

At her rest time, for the past couple of months, she has been listening to the New Testament on audio CD. It’s pretty great because she is getting to know those stories really well. And it’s wonderful when she says things like, “We used to walk in darkness, but now we walk in light because we have Jesus.”

But sometimes things get a little screwed up. We were eating breakfast the other day when she said, “The Pharisees didn’t want to use forks, because they were afraid the people would stone them.” I asked her, “Forks? Are you sure.” And she was like, “Yeah, forks.” And then I remembered. “Oh. They didn’t want to use force. Against Jesus. Because the people liked Him so much, but the teachers of the law didn’t like His teachings.”

She’s such a big sister. Sometimes she takes on a little too much responsibility in that role, and is always panicking when I let go of the stroller for one millisecond or freaking out if someone walks in front of her scooter because she doesn’t want to run into them. It’s sweet, but sometimes I have to remind her that keeping everyone in line is my job, and her job is to be a kid and enjoy life for now.

But she’s so great as a sister. She and Liv really love each other a lot. Once, when Olivia was sleeping upstairs because she was sick, Ellie came upstairs after bedtime crying and saying, “I’m trying to sleep and I have nobody and I’m too lonely.” Of course, she’s also come upstairs complaining because Olivia crawled into her bed, fell asleep, and is taking up too much space. So there’s that.

She also said to Steve, “Dad, I know you like love, so I like to love you a lot.”

She’s been learning to use clocks and tell time. The elementary version of this is that we tell her things like, “You have to rest until four-zero-zero (4 o’clock)” or “You can’t watch Saturday cartoons until seven-three-zero.” One morning, in the beginning of learning this she came up stairs at 8 am and declared, “I decided to stay in bed until two-zero-zero.” Steve replied, “Okay, we’ll see you in six hours.” She returned five minutes later to say, “I decided six hours was too long.”

And just to stroke my own ego a little, I’ll include this quote from a few months ago:

M: Ellie, I love the way you listen attentively to my words when I talk to you.
E: I think your words are wonderful, mommy.

(Weirdly, she doesn’t always think my words are so wonderful when I’m asking her to clean her room. Strange.)

There’s so much more I could say about her. As she grows and changes and becomes more and more of her own person, I find it harder and harder to express all that in my own words. But gosh, I love it.

And now some of my favorite pictures from the past year.

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She’s marvelous, this girl.

Places: Lake Cascade, Idaho

In case you didn’t get overloaded on vacation pictures via my Instagram, here are some more! Aren’t you so glad? I know you are. We spent last week swimming and playing at Lake Cascade in southern Idaho. My grandparents invited us to stay at the lake house. It’s so beautiful there. I love taking my kids to one of my very favorite childhood places. It’s amazing to see them enjoying the same things that I was fortunate to enjoy, and still do!

We were lucky to be escaping the ridiculous Portland heat. Goodness gracious. I am not cut out for 100 degree temps anymore. Seriously. I felt like Henry, who keeps saying over and over again, “I’m Olaf. I’m melting.”

And the water this year was incredible. It’s never been so warm! Lake Cascade is a reservoir created by glacial run-off and rain fall, so I think that because there was hardly any snow this year, the water was never that cold to begin with. I know all the skiers at Brundage and Tamarack were disappointed, but it worked nicely in our favor this summer. IMG_5433

Lake House-0670^^ these are my grandparents, Bud and Ellie, with the girls. this is where our Ellie got her name. and Henry Campbell is named after Bud, whose full name is Merle Campbell, and also after my brother, Charles Campbell. It is their lake house that we visited, and it is always lovely to spend time with them, which doesn’t happen nearly enough.Lake House-0989^^ I found a picture of my sisters and me with my grandma from 20+ years ago… and I was happy that my grandma thought it would be fun to recreate it. Lake House-0630

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House Love-0705^^ we always make a stop at my father’s place in mccall, idaho. they have delicious milkshakes!Lake House-0736-2^^ my cousins, hailey and wyatt, are the same ages as my kids and they get along so well! the five of them had a sleep-over together in the attic after a very long day of swimming and s’moresing. Lake House-0758-2^^ henry was quite the celebrity when we snacked at ice cream alley. but seriously, who could not love those adorable little lips all blue from bubble gum ice cream. Lake House-0911

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Lake House-0889^^ most of the days were just all about the swimming. with intermittent breaks to eat and maybe watch a movie. it is summer vacation after all. Lake House-0887

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Lake House-0907 BWand then came the fireworks!Lake House-0943-2^^ the sunsets on the Fourth always seem particularly spectacular. we like to bundle up (to keep the mosquitos at bay) and watch it while we wait for fireworks. // lake cascade is my absolute favorite place to spend the 4th of July. I love the boats coming in while the sun set. I love the fireworks reflecting off the water as their echoes boomerang through the canyon. and then the boats return, glowing and sparkling in the darkness as amateur fireworks go off all over the lake. it’s pretty magical. especially when you get to take it all in with your favorite people in the world.Lake House-0927 BW

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While we were watching the fireworks, Olivia exclaimed, “OOOHH! That one had hair!” and Henry remained mostly quiet until he blurted out randomly, “Hi, Firework! How was your day, Firework?” Isn’t he so polite?

(If you want to see a timelapse I took of the sun setting, the boats coming in and the fireworks from Donnelly, Idaho, check out the video here: Fireworks Over Lake Cascade.)

Where does your family like to vacation? Do you like taking your children back to your favorite places?

On a Memorable Childhood

I spend a lot of time paralyzed by the fearful question, what will my children remember about their childhoods? I see families on Instagram or the Interwebs who seem to be having a non-stop party with their kids and I think, “Oh no! We stayed home all day!” Sometimes there is just a lot of pressure to create magical, blissful childhoods for our offspring, and while that’s all well and good, it’s impractical. A lof of life is just regular. Just the normal stuff you always have to do like chores and school and laundry or playing with all the regular ol’ toys you’ve always had and not getting new ones.

But in all this regular real life that we have here, I hope they remember singing and dancing and laughing a lot. My children are currently in their playroom, lights off, the karaoke Frozen soundtrack turned up way too loud with strobe lights going, running back and forth and laughing maniacally. I want to tell them to stop because, my ears. But then I don’t. Because maybe this will be one of those things they’ll remember. “Remember when we used to have dance parties in our playroom that was really a finished garage? What was that soundtrack we always listened to?Oh yeah, Frozen. Man, Frozen was great.”IMG_3961

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The other day Steve and I took our kids to Little Big Burger. It’s one of our favorite places, mostly because they have French fries made with truffle oil. Truffle oil, people. It struck us as funny that our two-year-old has eaten French fries made with truffle oil. I didn’t taste anything that exotic until I was a teenager at least. And here my toddler thinks it is a regular thing in life. Crazy. They love sushi and edamame and eating grilled cheese sandwiches in school buses turned into restaurants.  I hope they appreciate LBB and our love of taking them to try new food.

I hope they remember their bed-stick*. And Talentod and Piglet and Woggie (the current reigning favorites of the stuffed animal kingdom). And watching Cars every other movie on road trips because it’s the only movie Henry ever picks when it’s his turn. And I also hope they remember cheering for Lightning McQueen every single time, even though they must surely remember the outcome of this movie. I hope they remember that I let them play in the dirt all summer long and didn’t care too much that the house was always filthy as a result. I hope they remember plopping down in an overgrown field of strawberries and eating until their clothes were stained and their tummies were full.

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* One morning we came downstairs to find that the girls had pushed their beds together. “It’s our bed-stick! And look! When we are laying down and going to sleep, we can hold hands!”

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They won’t be able to remember me as the mother who never yelled. It’s a little late for that. But I hope they do remember that I read them Calvin and Hobbes comic strips and made breakfast for dinner more regularly than not. I hope they remember lazy morning snuggles and adventures with friends and eating out of our garden and picnics in the flower castle.

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^^The Flower Castle beginning to bloom. It is a collection of trees in the park by our house. Inside, there is an open area that has great space for a ballroom, stables and sleeping quarters. It’s pretty wonderful.

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We may not live at Disney Land or anything like that, but darn it, we have truffle oil fries. And that should really count for something.