Friday, March 6, 2015

The Tooth Fairy Came to Play

Well, Ellie lost her first tooth. It was wiggly for a long time, maybe a month? And then yesterday it was just hanging on by a thread and she was letting everyone see how wiggly it was. And she told Henry to come wiggle her tooth and he did and then I heard, "Mom! My tooth fell out." So now she is telling everyone that Henry pulled out her tooth. Weird. 
Before bed she made sure to brush her tooth before putting it in a little box for the tooth fairy. And she wrote a note asking for a chocolate penny. And the tooth fairy delivered. Isn't that nice of her?
Funnily enough, when this happened my mind kept flashing back to mine and Steve's first tiny apartment that we had together. And the moment when a very unexpected plus sign on a pregnancy test changed our lives and our plans forever. I couldn't even think straight for days. It was such an all-consuming swirl of emotions. And now that little plus sign is big enough to lose her first tooth.

Six years (5.5 + pregnancy, if you don't think that math works out) that have changed so much, brought so much goodness and laughter and also worry and frustration. If there's anything about being a parent, I think it's the intensity of emotion. You will never know more joy and love, but you also open yourself up to such deep concern and even pain. You have to really live every moment of your life as a mother. Theres not a lot of time that can be dulled or forgotten about or blurred behind a TV. You have to really be there for everything, the good and the bad. But that good is worth so much more than the bad. And it's this intensity that I think can make parents really wonderful people, because they care so deeply, they (hopefully) think so much about the results of their actions.

Of course this is a huge generalization about parents that isn't meant to say anything but that children are a wonderful gift and a big responsibility and I'm glad I get to be a parent to such amazing children as these. And I hope and pray and worry that I am being a good enough one. That they know how much they are loved, and also how much I care about their current and future well-being.
This girl lights up our lives. She is growing so much lately, really expanding her thought processes and problem solving. She is imaginative and creative and inquisitive. I love the baby stages, all the cuddles and kisses and smiles, but I also love this stage, of her becoming more and more the person that she will be. Developing her personality and her likes and dislikes. I just love hearing her ideas about the world. They are so free. They haven't bumped up against reality too much, so they are pure and limitless ideas.

Although sometimes she starts to say something and I start to panic a little like, "Uhhhh... where is this going?" So far, she always brings it around in the end and I can breathe a big sigh of relief. Like the other day she was getting dressed and pointed to her naked belly and said, "Look! I'm naked like the naked man!" Every child abuse article I've ever read flashed before my eyes in a moment of sheer terror as I tried to ask, as calmly as possible, "What naked guy, honey?" She answered, "The one from the story of Eve with the snake." "Oh that guy. His name is Adam." Whew. That got a little scary for a moment. 

When I ask her if she has something to tell me, the list is never ending. And often times at dinner she'll start to tell us about her dream that she had the previous night. Twenty minutes later, Steve and I are done eating and she's still telling the same ridiculous dream about who-knows-what and hasn't touched a thing on her plate. The other day she said to me, "Ok mom, I am going to tell you my dream. But it's really long. I'll tell it until Daddy comes home and then I'll tell it to him again." I tried to save us both some time by suggesting she tell it to us both at dinner, and she accepted. And it was another dinner in which she talked the whole time and no one else got to say anything. We're working on it.
Ellie, I love you and the way you are growing up, but hopefully not too fast. I pray this world is always open to you and full of adventures and laughter and love and dandelions for making wishes.

P.S. This second plus sign always brings home these ridiculous hats from preschool. They're so funny that I think they deserve a shoutout.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Olivia's Fourth Birthday Party

My mother always had a way of making fun themed birthday parties without spending very much money or using disposable things. Growing up, we didn't have the money to have ridiculous parties with plastic banners and themed tableclothes, but she always made them special. I can still almost taste the homemade calzones I made with my friends one year, and I have some great pictures of a birthday party where she let us raid her closet and play dress up with all her things. It was the thought then that made it special, and I'd like to think that I am passing that on to my children. I enjoy making them pretty party decorations, as inexpensively as possible, and then reusing them throughout the house or giving them to friends. I think we have as much fun planning and prepping for the party as at the actual party itself.

This year, for Olivia's fourth birthday party, we went with a kind of Tangled theme. Mostly because I could envision cute, homemade decorations. And I thought it would be cool to have a Flynn Rider "Wanted" poster piñata, which we had.
^^ I designed the invitations and had them printed at Staples. I'm kind of obsessed with watercolor backgrounds right now. I want them everywhere. 
 ^^ After I made some of these tissue paper flowers for the girls' room, I thought they would make really great party decor. These purple and pink ones won't go to waste after the party, either. The purple flowers are going to Mallory's new apartment and the pink ones will be added to the girls' flower wall downstairs. The tissue paper for these cost $12, with a 20% off coupon at Michaels. And if you can believe it, those flowers are just taped up with what I am convinced is the greatest tape in all the world.
 ^^ I designed the menu for "The Snuggly Duckling Pub" and had it printed as an engineering print at Staples. We served all foods you might find at a German pub. (Because Rapunzel is a German fairytale. I really like to go with the theme): bratwurst, pretzels and a winter vegetable medley (which was a surprisingly big hit - it tasted delicious - but of course, most things taste delicious when they are baked in butter and garlic), royal fruit salad (this perfect fruit salad, using only yellow and purple fruits, in true Tangled colors), kettle corn and chocolate cupcakes with a buttercream frosting.
 ^^ This cake is possibly the best one I've ever made. It was amazing! I used this 3-tier cake recipe to make one 4-inch, 2 layer cake for Olivia and two dozen cupcakes for guests. (I absolutely love this recipe, which I also make my own version of here. It's so good, and when you've found a good thing, why change it?) I frosted the cake and cupcakes in the morning so that by the evening the buttercream had a nice crunchy layer on it, which I love. Melissa was so kind to give me some just in time!
^^ The candle is one of those standard ones you can find in the baking aisle of most grocery stores, but I painted the middle with glue and sprinkled it with gold glitter, because, the color scheme. I'm into it. 
 ^^ I made these floating lanterns, a la "At Last I See The Light" scene out of tissue paper, string and battery-operated tea lights. They look so cute in person. These will stay up for a while, and then, sans tea lights, they will be part of the playroom's new dollhouse scene. More on that later.
 ^^ I used a box to make this piñata. I cut off one end and paper-mached it to make a part that would break, because I didn't have time to make the whole thing out of paper mache. It was wrapped in white wrapping paper with "Wanted" signs taped on. It was filled with gold chocolate coins as the reward and the kids hit it with a frying pan, just like Rapunzel uses against Flynn.
^^ And I can't forget Steve's favorite part of the party, this sign that hopefully says something about apple juice for kids and Logyard IPA in German. He was very excited when he looked up the word "logyard" on Google Translate for this. (If you actually speak German, please do not be offended at our inability to.)
As always, Olivia's favorite part was the chocolate cake. It was my favorite part, too. Well, and the flower wall and floating lanterns. Those were also spot-on.
She's one of the best people to throw birthday parties for. She gets really excited about all the decorations and the cake. When she saw the lanterns she said, "Wow! They are so beautiful, mom!"

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Things I Love About Olivia (4 Years Old)

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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The One With the Things I Love Henry (22 Months Old)

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.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The One With the Fruity Valentines (+ Free Printable)

Every year when Valentine's roles around and my kids want to give out those licensed Valentines from the grocery store I try to talk them into something more fun and creative. And this year we finally came to an agreement when I designed these little cards and we washi taped up some little paper bags of cuteness. Also, I love puns, especially fruity ones, as you can see. 


"You are simply sub-LIME and I like your smile." is my favorite. Also, "Hey you, ORANGE you cute!" I was really hoping to find a peach graphic so I could say, "you're such a peach and I'm glad we're friends." But alas, I didn't find a peach graphic. Maybe next time.


You could put really anything inside. We gave mini homemade cookies (like these Frosted Brownie Cookies) to our friends, because everything is better when it's mini. But their school has a weird rule about not allowing homemade things for events like this, so the girls packaged theirs up with little Valentine's erasers or chocolates. I think these would be the cutest with flower seeds inside or even Sour Patch gummies or other fruity candies like Starbursts. (If you are going to put in something baked like brownies or cookies, I suggest wrapping them in clear plastic wrap first, or the oils will bleed through the paper sacks.)

Of course, you could attach these to ziplock bags of actual fruit for a healthy snack! Except maybe not limes... I don't know how well those would be appreciated.

I made the design using graphics by AF Studio via their Octavia Font on Creative Market. (Can I send a Valentine to Creative Market? I love them so.) Watercolor textures used for the fruit names are via Watercolor Texture Pack.

And guess what? I made all this into a free printable for you! Isn't that so nice of me? You know, just in case you're procrastinating about Valentine's Day and your kids are expected to bring something on Friday. You can get it here. Just download, print on white cardstock and cut along grey lines, then every 2 inches to separate each card (final product should be about 2x3.5" - standard business card size). Tape onto something cute, or just sign your name and you're good to go!

Happy Day of Love and Chocolate and Snail Mail! (It's my favorite.)

Additional sources:
Mini paper bags - 3x4" (shown) or 4x6", available at most craft stores

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The One With the Valentine's Frosted Brownie Cookies

If you've known me long enough, you know that I like Valentine's Day. A lot. A friend of mine theorized that we are all very fond of the holidays closest to our birthdays, and maybe that's why I like it so much. Or maybe it's because Valentine's Day is a good excuse to break up the bleary wintery days with pretty notes and chocolate and heart confetti. And to try to talk your children out of store-bought valentines in exchange for complicated handmade ones that are not going to turn out as you are currently envisioning. Sigh. 

But let's get to the point. I made these cookies for Superbowl as a little test. And they passed the test. So I think I will be making more and sending them as valentines to friends near and far. And so should you. Or you could just make some and eat them all yourself. That would also be a good idea. 


Frosted Brownie Cookies
Makes 12 large cookies. Adapted from Sweetapolita.

For the Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups high quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Frosting
  • 1/2 cup high quality milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup high quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
Sprinkles of Choice (I like these.) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a double boiler (heat proof bowl in a pot of water, 1 inch deep), melt the butter and 1 cup of chocolate chips over medium heat, being sure not to let the water boil or spill into the heat proof bowl (if water gets into the melting chocolate it will cause the chocolate to "freeze" and be unusable). Stir every so often until melted and smooth. 
Meanwhile, use a fork to sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Set aside. 
In another bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to this and beat together on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 increments, beating on low between each increment. Finally, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out six dollops of batter and place two inches apart on baking sheet. These will spread in the oven, so be sure to give them plenty of room. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have a cracked appearance. (Do not overcook or the cookies will dry out and taste chalky.) Let cool on pan for 10 minutes, and then on a wire rack for another 10.  Repeat to make the last six cookies. 

After the two batches are cooled, make the frosting. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup together, stirring occasionally until smooth. Use a knife to spread the frosting onto one half of each of the cookies and then add sprinkles generously.



Wrap them up all prettily and send them to everyone you love. I'm sure they'll like them.

P.S. These cookies are very rich, so you don't need to send a whole batch to each person.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The One With the Famous Women Dress Ups

 On Monday, the girls had "Dress Like a Famous Person Day" at their school. I would not be convinced that a Disney princess counted as a famous person. I'll give them that some of the princesses are based on real people who did do things for which they deserve fame. But Ellie wanted to be Aurora. And Aurora just took a one hundred year nap and then got kissed. Not very fame-worthy, in my book. 

So we came up with different famous women to emulate for this day. You know, so they can be all empowered to be strong women who know that they have value and are smart and talented and that their minds and hearts are more important than their looks. And all that good stuff. 



When I suggested to Ellie that she could be Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, she actually got very excited. We are reading (and almost done with) Little Women right now. And Ellie keeps asking me to read the part where the dad comes home to everyone who comes over to our house. She thinks it's a lovely scene. 

She has a hard time pronouncing "Louisa" so she just said her name was Jo March, since Little Women is semi-autobiographical and Louisa was the real life Jo of her family of four sisters. 

I made Ellie's skirt using this tutorial and then we paired it with an Old Navy blouse and jacket. I was glad to put that fabric my grandmother gave me to good use. It's kind of perfect for this occasion. She was very proud of it and wrote in her notebook all day like a real author. 


Olivia got pretty excited about being Amelia Earhart and liked to tell everyone she flies planes over oceans. She borrowed her outfit from Henry, who is lucky and always gets cool pilot gear. Olivia was so excited to be Amelia that I even convinced her to wear pants for the first time in about two years. It's usually only leggings and dresses for that girl. Also, she is lucky because she is tiny enough to fit into a 2T pilot's jacket. She's just itty bitty. 


I'm glad that in the end they had fun dressing up as women of substance. Women who matter are just as fun to pretend to be as pretty girls with good singing voices. Maybe I should create a dress up line of costumes for historical super-heroines. Boys can have Batman, we'll have Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie. Yes. I think that would be fun. 


One last picture of Ellie showing all her beautiful baby teeth. One of those bottom ones is loose now and I'm panicking a little. I don't want her to start loosing teeth. And not only because teeth really gross me out. But also because then she will be a real Big Kid. 
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