Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me

Okay, there weren’t millions of peaches. Not yet, anyway. Maybe next week? But there were millions of blueberries. And we picked like half of them. Also, who was going to tell me that Tulameen Raspberries taste just like candy? Seriously amazing. For the next few weeks I think that all my effort will have to go into getting as many of those raspberries in my belly as humanly possible. I’ll keep you posted.

Usually we go to Columbia Farms, but today we went to Sauvie Island Farms because they have the most picturesque peach orchard. It really makes me want to move to Sauvie Island and never look back. Also, they have tractor rides that can take you, wagon and all, to the farthest parts of the farm, so you don’t have to walk the whole way. It’s kind of magical.

And when we were walking on the road Henry was sure to warn me over and over again, “Mama, get out of the road! You don’t want to get hit by a tractor.” He’s very bossy lately.

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It’s so wild and overgrown there, perfect for the kids to play all sorts of games. I think they were playing Lion King. And they were trading off being different preschool friends. And, a new favorite, Henry and Olivia were pretending to be Harry and Lavender. Olivia made up those names. I have no idea where she got them from. But I love it because it sounds like an old detective show or something. “Harry and Lavender, Detectives, at your service.”

It was here that I was randomly approached about surrogacy by another mom out in the fields. She works for an agency that connects surrogates with families in need. I guess my kids must have been extra cute today. That or I was giving off some really killer baby-maker pheromones.

Things I Love About Olivia (4YO)

I’ll probably say this every year, but I can’t believe this girl is four years old now! Our previously pretty calm and cool child developed a streak for the dramatic this year. Which has brought its challenges, but it has also been fun to see this new side of her.
She is our little ray of sunshine. And these are some of the ways she lights up our lives:

1. She plays so nicely with her brother. My quietest mornings are Tuesdays and Thursdays when Ellie is at school and Henry and Olivia can play. They are both pretty content to play dolls or trains and I love hearing them talk to each other. As I write this, they are both contentedly brushing my hair in (almost) peace.

2. She still loves to snuggle. She has told me she will snuggle with me until she is six. Hopefully that’s a long, long time from now.

3. She loves ballet. Last March she and Ellie started taking ballet class. At first, Olivia had a hard time participating in the class and paying attention the whole time. Now, she is really picking up on it quickly. Her favorite move is a grand jete, a leap. Just recently they’ve had two new teachers who have really helped to expand their repertoire and understanding of the basic elements. They even start out at the barre now, which makes them seem like very official little ballerinas.

4. She is friendly to everyone. If you give her any kind of an opening, she’ll talk your ear off, even if you’re a perfect stranger. Last week we met a friend for brunch at a cafe and while we were waiting for her to arrive, another man come in to order breakfast and said “Hi” to Olivia. “Hi! Did you know that it’s almost my four birthday? I’m going to have a Rapunzel birthday with cake. ” And then a bunch more about birthdays and brothers and cowgirl boots (not cowboy boots).  At which point Henry interjected to show his boots. He’s gotta cut in somehow.

5. We started saying things like, “I love you, I’m going to keep you forever.” to each other. And she’s just shortened it so that she comes up to me randomly and squeezes me and says, “Keep you forever.” And then she shortened it even more, “Keep you, Mama.”

6. She loves her sister. They can really get at each other’s throats (sometimes literally), and they drive me crazy sometimes with their arguments over toys or clothes or whatnot. But they are also best friends. They stay up into all hours of the night talking and talking. I wish I knew what they talked about. They are always learning from each other and Liv loves to learn her letters from Ellie.

7. She’s always playing dress-up and imaging things. “Hi, Olivia.” “Hi Mom. I’m not Olivia. I’m Hiccup, see this is my viking hat.” // or (to me). “Hi Grandma. Ellie is my mom. And you’re Ellie’s mom, so you’re my grandma.” // or I’m my dad’s mom. She’s very clean and nice. And shiny.” // After the Fourth of July she would go around the house saying, “This is my firework dress. When I spin it goes Flash! Flash! Flash!”

8. She’s witty. You can’t really correct her without getting her own interpretation of the situation. She painted a picture that was just white paint smeared on a blue piece of paper at school. When she brought it home she said, “Look Mom, I painted you a picture of New York City.” “Oh,” I said, “I guess it’s kind of abstract.” “No, it’s just really foggy so you can’t see the city.”

9. She loves to adventure. When her teacher asked her class where they wanted to go on a trip, most kids said Disneyland and Olivia said New York City. I do love that kid. And when I asked her what her favorite thing was that she did when she was three, she said it was going to OMSI to see the dinosaurs.

10. She loves music. She got a ukulele for her birthday and it’s barely been out of her hands. She can’t even hold it correctly, but she plucks away and makes up her own songs. Steve is really good about introducing the girls to new bands. I’m always hearing them say things like, “Dad, can you play us the new new song stuck in your head? Not the new song, the new new one.” Somehow, this makes sense to all of them and he knows which one to play. Some of her favorite songs are Honey (Magic Man), Radioactive (Imagine Dragons), Synesthesia (Andrew McMahon), Way Back When (Grizfolk), Everything is Debatable (Hellogoodbye), Mona Lisa (Brad Paisley) and Wagon Wheel (Darius Rucker). If that’s not a sophisticated playlist for a four-year-old, I don’t know what is.
11. She loves people. She is always asking after her friends and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. She is pretty keen to cuddle up to anyone who will give her a lap. She’s also the perfect person to take to sad events like my grandmother’s funeral because she lights up a dim room. It’s hard to be sad in her presence for very long. And when she hears sirens of any kind she says to me, “Mama, someone is hurt. We should pray for them.” And then she does. She also told me, ” “I like God. God is really my favorite.”

12. She likes to pretend to be a baby crab and pinch people. “You’re daddy crab and I’m baby crab. Pinch! Pinch! Pinch!”

13. She has peculiar eating habits. She is a self-proclaimed vegetarian. She is always telling us she doesn’t like meat. Which is usually fine because we don’t eat a lot of it. And her favorite part of her birthday party for the past two years has been “eating cake.” No wonder we get along so well.

Basically, she’s one of the absolute best humans I’ve ever known and I look forward to seeing her grow and learn and become the person she is becoming. So far, it’s a pretty wonderful person.

We love you, Olivia. Now and always. We’re going to keep you forever.

Things I Love Henry (22MO)

This might be my favorite time of Henry’s life so far. I guess there are a lot of favorite times, but he’s just so fun these days. He’s sweet and cuddly and rambunctious and adventurous and just the best. Here are a few of my favorite favorites.

1. His language has exploded recently. In what seemed like a short amount of time he went from barely saying, “Hi” and “Guggles” (for the cat) to suddenly saying, “I like milkshakes [and] car-car, Mama.” and “My car-car is ‘keen’ (McQueen)” or “I want boots, Dada.” It’s all pretty marvelous to hear what is going on inside that gorgeous head of his. Recently he’s caught me off guard with, “Daddy’s a (at) work.” or “I want go school [and] park.” Meaning that he actually wants to park at the school where we wait for his sisters.

2. He is so snuggly. He loves to cuddle with me and dad and Mallory especially. And he comes running at you full-speed when you first walk in the door. And when we leave somewhere, like grandma’s or a friends’ house, he goes around and hugs everyone goodbye. It’s the sweetest. He wants to “nuggle” all the time. I love it. I hope he always does.

3. He loves “Guggles” and all “gagas”. “Guggles” is what he calls our cat, Snuggles, who, despite her name, is not all that snuggly (anymore). Poor Snugs Mugs has not been the happiest cat since coming to live with us in Portland, but ever since Henry has started playing with her she has been much better and much less whiney. She lets him use her tail as a leash and follow/lead her all around the house. And when she walks away from her food dish he picks it up and carries it around after her. And usually trips and falls and spills it everywhere. But I can’t be too made because it’s so cute. “Gagas” are all dogs and boy, does he love dogs so, so much. Maybe we should get him one someday. Or maybe not. I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of responsibility.

4. He is such a sweet helper. He is very good at putting things away when asked and generally trying to help out wherever he can. I was worried that as the baby he would be, well, babied, and would be hard to convince to participate in the cleaning. But he’s doing a great job. Just yesterday he spilled some water, went and got a towel, cleaned up the spill, and replaced the towel without being told anything at all. I didn’t even know he had spilled until I asked what he was doing and he said, “Bottle spill.” I asked him to pick up all his books the other day and came back and they were all cleaned up. He’s better at cleaning right now than his sisters. Ha!

5. His, “Hi Mama” is maybe my favorite. It’s so high-pitched and adoring, as if I’m the best possible thing there is. Ever. You know it’s really true what they say about how a mother will never know love like that of her son. I love the girls so much, I get the girls, but there is something about being adored by my son that just doesn’t compare. He’s my best boy and the love I feel for him sometimes threatens to break me in two. It almost hurts to love someone so much. And then be reminded that someday he’s going to leave me. You know that Kenney Chesney song, “There goes my life”? That’s how I feel whenever he walks away from me.

6. He’s so thankful about everything. His “Mank-ou, Mama,” is so sweet, I try to just give him things so he’ll say it. But it’s not just about giving him things. He’s thankful for riding in the car, getting dressed, having his teeth brushed. One time I gave him an ice cube and he said, “mank-ou” over and over again for about five minutes.

7. The girls buckle themselves into their carseats, so after we’ve loaded up I ask, “Ellie, Olivia are you buckled?” and he volunteers, “I buckled, Mama.” (Which of course he is, because I buckled him.) But I still love that he says it.

8. His favorite book is the “The Curious Garden,” by Peter Brown. We brought it home from New York (it’s a story loosely based on the Highline Park there). I love that without fail he brings that book to me to be read before bedtime every night. I don’t know why he likes it so much, but it makes me so happy that he is developing his own preferences and tastes.

9. He lays on the floor to play with cars and trains. Sometimes I’ll find him completely prostrate on the ground, head on an arm while the other hand plays with the motor vehicle. It’s like he’s tired but can’t stop being a boy.

10. Why have I not mentioned the boots? He is OBSESSED with boots. All day, everyday, boots, boots, boots! He has three pairs, and he is almost always wearing one of them. There was about a month of time when you could not take him 3 feet from the bed without his demand for his boots. He is super into accessorizing, too. He loves hats and jackets and gets pretty picky about which ones he is wearing when headed out. But I have to say, he’s got a great sense of style so far. So that’s nice.

11. I’m with Ellie when I say that I like his “zjoom” and his “rawr”. She wanted to write him a note that said, “I like your zjoom and rawr.” Of course she does. It’s the cutest thing there every was.

12. He’s got some pretty funny “no”s. I like to ask him, “Can I keep you forever?” and he says, “NoooOOOO” in a sing-songy and very lovey way. Which I think is actually a code for yes, so I’ll just go ahead and make arrangements for him to never leave, ever. He’s mine.

13. His laugh. I would learn to do backflips to make him laugh. It’s the best sound that has ever fallen on my ears. It’s perfection. It’s infectious. I have never loved a sound like I love his laugh. I hope it never goes away.

14. I’m probably starting to sound like a crazy person for how much I adore these menial things about a 1-year-old. But we’ve come such a long way and I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the whole world. I want to keep him forever and ever. And I’m so glad he incites that kind of love in me.

This stage is my favorite. It’s so wonderful. All you mamas of little babies that are having a hard time with the sleepless nights and the incessant feedings, I’m telling you from here that it is soooo worth it. Hang in there. Hold your little one tight. Soon they’ll be laughing and saying funny things and these memories of frustration will fade in the insurmountable joy they bring as they grow and become more and more themselves.

You’re pretty wonderful, Henry Bear. I’m going to keep you forever and ever, whether you like it or not.

Georgia’s Winter Portraits

So the nice thing about having a gorgeous sister who is a senior in high school is that she offers lots of opportunities to practice senior portraits. When we visited at Christmas it snowed and I love pictures in the snow, so pictures seemed like a great idea. Plus, hanging out with Georgia is pretty much the best.
 
Isn’t she such a babe? And she’s so kind and smart and strong to boot.  It’s so good to see her grow into this confident, thoughtful woman. I hope she comes to live in Portland for college so that my daughters can have another wonderful role model. I would be proud for them to grow up to be like her. 
 

Love you, Georgia. Like, seriously, a lot.

Hello, 2015

Everyone does these “looking back on the previous year” posts, and so I’m going to do one, too.

2014 was a great year. A hard year and a wonderful year and a year of adventure and simplicity and enough. Really learning that I have enough. That I am enough.  I think that over this past year I’ve gained a better perspective on myself, all my faults and talents, of my job as a mother and a wife, learning to accept that there are bad days, that I have a bad temper, and then praying for peace as I approach each situation.

Each New Year’s Eve we spend a little time as a family reflecting on the past year, and telling each other things we have loved most about each one throughout this past year. Usually the kids don’t pay much attention, but this time, whenever it was someone’s turn to say what they love about Ellie, she turned so intently to them, soaking up every word of love and encouragement they had for her. She was so eager to know what her family loved about her. It melted me a little bit. To see her growing into this person, a person who is so kind, compassionate and also passionate, who is knowledgeable and lovable and loving.

My kids, in general, have been especially grand this year. Henry turned from a very cranky 9-month-old, to a more well-adjust 1-year-old. I feel like we understand each other a lot better now. And now he’s the perfect “littlest” for our family. He’s learned to talk so much since the Christmas season! I guess Christmas is a great time to encourage talking because then he can ask things like, “I want candy cane.” and “Please help stuck.” about his new toys. He’s super snuggly and goes around hugging everyone all the time. It’s the best. My favorite thing he does is when he climbs up into my arms with a toy and then just hangs out there as long as he can, fully enveloped in my arms, fully content to be beside me.

Olivia is our little light. This past year has brought on a more uneven temper for her. But she is still our snuggle bug who just wants you to be with her. I always say to the kids, “I’m going to keep you forever.” and she has started saying it back to me randomly, “Mama, I’m just going to keep you forever.” She is so imaginative and bright. There is always a new story playing in her head. She loves to sing and draw and practice her letters. She is the perfect intermediate child, playing so well with the cars and trains and also the dress-ups and princesses. She and Ellie can certainly get on each other’s nerves, but it is always clear that they love each other very deeply. They are always taking care of each other and reporting on the other’s needs and talking for hours into every night. (Which always makes me curious as to what they have to talk about for so long? I need a Go Pro or something to figure that one out.)

And Ellie. Ellie is my star. When Henry was littler and more, ahem, difficult, she had to take on the role of caring and getting less care of her own. I feel terrible, being the older sister myself, and knowing that she was taking on too much responsibility because I needed her help. Her needs grow less and less tangible and immediate, and so the ones who are crying for food or sleep get taken care of first. But when she started school again this fall we began reading chapter books every day. I’ve read A Little Princess and Little House in the Big Woods and we are almost done with Little Women. (And perhaps we should break out of the “Little” titles – 101 Dalmatians, Charlotte’s Web and her Kit books are next on the queue). How I have loved this time with her. Definitely there are afternoons where I’m just tired and don’t want to read to her, but it’s the one time of day that is just hers. She snuggles up to me and we read and talk about what we are reading and then you’re bound to hear me reference the books we’re reading a little too often. Mallory can attest to the number of times I’ve started a sentence with, “Well, in Little Women“…. I have really seen her blossom during this time together. Ellie is becoming so thoughtful, changing more and more to have her own thoughts and ideas. She is creative and pays attention to the details of things. She loves and listens and laughs readily.  And she cares so deeply for her brother and sister. She never wants to grow up (which she reminds us of daily) and I never want her to.

I am learning more and more each day to be patient, to let the little things go, to realize that I don’t have the perfect way to do things, to let them be kids because they don’t get to be for very long. I have embraced imperfection a lot more this year, learned to not apologize if my house isn’t always clean, because we’re living and loving and being here, and it would be a shame to interfere with all that for cleaning. (Although we do clean sometimes. Usually before people come over, because my mother taught me that was the polite thing to do. And also, it’s gotta be cleaned sometime I guess. But if you drop by unannounced, do not be surprised if there are toys and laundry everywhere.) My motto recently has been, “The secret to a fabulous life is to live imperfectly with great delight.” So what if I just cannot be organized and creative at the same time? So what if I can’t make up my mind? So what if I sometimes say the wrong thing? So what?

I think we live in a world bent on perfection, or at least the facade of perfection, but really, it is the anomalies, the outliers that bring beauty. Someone photographed on Humans of New York Instagram said, in reference to her boyfriend, “I love everything about him. The good. The bad. Everything.”  At first is struck me as odd, loving the bad about someone. But as I’ve thought about it, that’s what love really is, isn’t it? Accepting and opening up to someone completely, flaws and all. Loving them because of their flaws, instead of in spite of them.

One of my favorite speeches of all time is by the comedian Tim Minchin. He’s got a lot of great advice in there, but one of the things I like most is when he talks about defining yourself by what you like instead of what you don’t like. I think there can be a tendency to say, “I don’t like this or that,” and that can become what people know about you. But wouldn’t it be better to be known by what you love? What you’re passionate about? “Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.” And by stuff, he/I don’t mean actual tangible things like clutter or whatever, but stuff like art or serving or teaching or loving. Let’s be pro-living, pro-being, pro-people.

So this year, I have no resolutions like “exercise more” (because if I feel the need to do that I should start that day and not wait for a new year to come). Instead, this year, I want to just embrace. Embrace life in whatever way it comes to me. Embrace imperfections in myself and others. Embrace beauty and hope and pain. Embrace life in all it’s bumpiness, all it’s rough edges and quiet strength.

Around here, our little family can’t get enough of life. We’re always trying to squeeze in a little extra by talking late into the night or having a pizza movie night or singing Frozen karaoke until our ears bleed. We’re going to keep doing that this year. Not waiting for special occasions to throw a party or show affection, because our whole life is a special occasion. Today is our someday.

Georgia’s Senior Pictures II

Because she’s my sister and she’s so pretty, Georgia got two photoshoot sessions. She wanted to do some with a flower wreath, so my mom made her one. These were so much fun to take! We went out to Sauvie’s Island because it’s very picturesque out there.
And somewhere around midnight as I was editing and compiling these, I realized that some of the very first pictures I ever took were of Georgia wearing a flower headband when she was five or so. On a borrowed Canon with the help of a family friend who showed me the ropes even when I don’t think I could have possibly had the understanding of how to really operate a camera (on film!). It was a weird deja vu moment. But what can I say, the girl can rock a flower headband.

Georgia’s Senior Pictures

My gorgeous sister, Georgia, came over to Portland for the weekend to get some senior pictures taken and so we could watch Planes: Fire and Rescue at the Drive-In. She’s so beautiful and has that natural model quality, which made it extra fun to take her around to different locations for pictures. Since she’s my sister she was a great guinea pig for trying out new photoshoot locations and we went to the Hawthorne District for these ones. (Have you explored much there? It’s super cool.)

Isn’t she just lovely? Not only is she beautiful, but she has such a strong and steady spirit. She’s funny and kind and sincere and I always enjoy her company.  She has all the ambition and optimism of a senior, but she also has dedication and passion and I know she’s going to go far. That’s cliche to say, but really I mean that she is just such a great person that no matter where she goes, she’s going to go there with grace and dignity and tenacity. I really admire and love her.

Jude Tesla

 Sometimes I have no words. No words and only photographs.

I love this new mama like a sister. Seeing her grow into motherhood with grace and thoughtfulness is a great privilege. And her baby boy is a little love bug. I’m so happy I get to be a part of their lives.

(And then dad came home. He’s pretty awesome, too.)

Some of these pictures are getting scooted up to the top of my all-time favorites list. Love these three so much.

Things I Love About Olivia (3 Years)

On the day before her third birthday, Grandpa said to Olivia, “Tomorrow is your birthday. You’re going to be such a big girl.” And she replied, “But I am always going to be my mama’s baby.”

Oh yes, baby girl, you always will. Even when you are big enough to have your own baby, you’ll be my baby. That day will seem very weird because you will be all grown up. And even now three seems too big. I wish I could hold on to you in this stage for just a little longer. But I can’t. So, instead, I’ll try to remember everything about you that I love so much.

This past year with Olivia has been truly wonderful. There are so many things to love about her. These are just a few of them:

1. The way her eyes squint until they’re almost closed when she is really, truly smiling.

2. She loves dresses so much that she has to wear multiple dresses at a time. One is never enough.

3. She is always singing. Always. And the lyrics are hilarious. Sometimes she actually knows all the words to a song surprisingly well. But then she’ll start singing “For the first time in forever” (from Frozen) and instead of singing “For the first time in forever there’s nothing in my way,” she sings “there’s noooottthhiiinnnngggg in my hhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrttttttttttttttttttt!” And today she was singing a song about Lightning McQueen getting his wheels checked. I asked her what her song was about and she said, “It’s called, ‘The Pit.'”

4. She loves Lightning McQueen more than anyone has ever loved anything. Okay, probably not really. But she does love him. She has to carry a little Lightning McQueen wherever she goes. And her Auntie Mal even made her a Lightning McQueen princess dress for her birthday – so she can combine her two favorites: princesses and cars. Not many little girls are so lucky!

5. She loves her sister. Their conversations and the way they play together brings me endless joy. They so often play so nicely together. They make believe all the live-long day. They sing songs together. They dance together. They read books together. They play dolls together. They run around in circles and drive me crazy together. When I set their plates on the table they switch them so each can have their preferred color. They bring each other blankets. They always refer to each other as “sweetie.”

6. She refers to everyone and everything she loves as “my ______”. “My Henry is hungry. Can you get him a snack?” // “Am I going to the beach with my Papa?” // “When is my Mal coming home?”

7. “Glumps.” Ever since watching Frozen, Liv has had an affinity for gloves. Or mittens, since they don’t really make gloves in her size. She’ll wear them anywhere. And even if she only has one, she is happy. And she always calls them “glumps.” Which is way too hilarious to correct. Although one day she was having a meltdown because she couldn’t find her glumps. Every time she asked me if she could have them I would giggle at her calling them “glumps.” And that just made the meltdown that much worse.

8. She is a whirlwind. She is always dancing and spinning and twirling. I think I’ll look back on this time and remember her as a blur. A blur of light and laughter and delight so pure and untainted that it glows with possibility. I can tend to get weighed down by existential angst. There are so many terrible things in this world. So many worries I have to deal with as a mother, as an adult, as a conscientious human being. The weight of it can threaten to strangle me. And then she rushes by. A stream of glowing, glittering purple dresses and crazy hair. Grey-green eyes that are always filled with delight. Lips that are always smiling, a belly that is always laughing. Hands that are always loving. If everyone could be like her, this world would be a much better place. She makes me want to be better. To love more and care less about things that don’t matter.

9. She loves her daddy. They’ve always had a special bond. Steve has been traveling a lot for work lately. After a few days of him being out of town I’ll here her sigh and say, “I miss my daddy.” It breaks my heart and makes me smile at the same time. I’m glad she loves him so much. And when he finally comes home, she curls up in his lap and doesn’t get down for anything for a very long time. Ellie and Henry get distracted long before she does.

10. She is always pretending. Many of our conversations go something like this: “Olivia, sit at the table to eat lunch.” / “I’m Merida ack-shlee (actually).” / “Okay. Merida, sit at the table.” // Olivia: “Okay.” // or “Good morning, kiddo.” / “Can you call me ‘sweetie?'” / “Good morning, sweetie.” / “Good morning, mama. I love you.” // “Hey mama! I’m Elsa. Can you be my fairy godmother? Can you make me a sparkling dress?”

11. She has a quiet confidence about her. She is not loud, but she is strong. She is smart. She is not afraid. She is comfortable with who and where she is, almost all of the time.

12. She is content. When her great-grandma asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “Nothing.” Later she said she wanted some dresses. Because she loves dresses. Of course, when the presents did come she loved them, too. And carries as many as possible with her wherever she goes. But she didn’t demand them. She doesn’t need them to be happy. We did something right with that kid. (Or maybe we had nothing to do with it. I don’t really know how these things work.)

13. She loves cake. Her main concern regarding her birthday was when she was going to get her cake. I made it extra special by making her cake Cars themed. I stayed up late Saturday night to make it for her party. It reminded me of three years ago when I stayed up half the night giving birth to her. (She was born just before 2 am on March 1st.) This end result wasn’t nearly as cute, of course, but she loved her cake so very much. I would stay up a lot of nights to making something that made her light up like she did to see her Lightning McQueen cake. (Plus, I like making cakes anyway, so it’s a win-win for everyone.)

14. She is thankful. She thanks me for every single thing I ever bring her. Like lunch. Or a blanket. Or if I find a misplaced toy. And when we had a special pizza and movie night for her birthday (Cars 2, of course), she said “Thank you, daddy, for my special movie night,” over and over again.

15. She is very helpful when it comes to choosing the correct words for things: “Look, dad, these are my princess dresses.” / (Dad:) “Oh, that’s cute.” / “No, it’s not cute. It’s beautiful.” // or, last week at the beach: “Look, mama, a duck!” / (Mom:) “That’s actually a seagull.” / “No, I’m right. It’s a bird.”

16. She likes to pretend to be a baby. Sometimes I find this quite aggravating, because her baby voice is hard to understand. But it always reminds me how quickly this time is passing. How soon she won’t ever talk in a pretend baby voice and this stage will be gone, just like that. It reminds me to snuggle her while she’s still little, kiss her while she’ll still let me. If I could keep her from getting any bigger, I would. But that would mean that I would miss everything wonderful about who she is growing up to be. And I suppose I wouldn’t want that at all.

She is an exemplary human being. Steve told me a while back that he hoped to be more like her. She isn’t moved by trivial things. She is content and confident, gracious and kind. I’d like to be more like her, too.

Happy Birthday, my Livvy Bug! Let your light shine brightly. Let your feet hardly touch the ground. Wear as many dresses as possible and laugh until you can’t anymore. We love you so impossibly much and look forward to each and every day with you.