Friday, May 24, 2013

The One Where Ellie Finished Her First Year of Preschool

Oh Ellie. This little blue-eyed-beauty lights up my world.
Today Ellie had a little party celebrating her completion of her first year of preschool. She got a little certificate and everything.
It was such a pleasure to observe her with her classmates. There was a little band there playing songs for the kids and she was dancing and bouncing and singing along the whole time. She's come such a long way since we began in September. She has really blossomed into a social girl, an observer of those around her, a sweet conversationalist. My heart swelled to see the confidence with which she moved about her world.

It was a potluck party and we made cookies earlier in the day to take. She was in charge of carrying them and while I was extracting Henry from his carseat she accidentally dropped the cookies in the parking lot. While it was raining. It was one of those moments where everyone is wet and cold and I was just trying to get into the building with three little ones. I may have reacted a little too harshly to the spilled and ruined cookies. Then she said to me, so sincerely, "Mama, I'm sorry I dropped the cookies." She was so sweetly sad for what happened. And it broke my heart. I knew she wasn't doing it on purpose, I knew it was just an accident. And I didn't want her to think I was really upset about something that didn't matter. It was a little reminder of how sweet and kind and thoughtful she is.

After the party she was telling me about her friends. "I like Jonah. He's a really nice guy." And yesterday she was talking about how nice her grandma is. "I love her so much. Maybe she will come and see us soon?"

And she's so nice that she gets snacks for her imaginary friends (Beauty and the Beast). She has been very helpful with getting things for Henry and Olivia when they need them. Maybe too helpful at times (she tried to give Henry a drink of water and spilled it all over him). But she has such a kind spirit.

Last weekend she told Steve, "I just love my mama." And when they went to the grocery store she said it again. He replied, "I love your mama, too. Should we get her a present?" She said, "Let's get her an ice cream present. Or a bacon present. Or a food present." They ended up bringing me an ice cream present.

There are a lot of days when I feel like a bad mom. Like I don't read her enough books, or that I lose my temper too often. Or that I just don't have enough time in the day to meet all the physical and emotional demands of three little ones. But it refreshes my heart to know that she loves me enough to tell her dad over and over again. Maybe I'm not doing so poorly after all.

My sweet Ellie,

You are growing and changing so much. I love to hear you speak, because you can finally show me more of what is in your heart. And it is beautiful. 

It has been a delight to see you come out of your shell this year. To embrace your world and explore new territory. You have opened yourself up to sharing who you are with your friends and family. And sometimes even to complete strangers. You cast a little light everywhere you go. 

I'm so proud of you for this growth. Last year in Bible Study you didn't talk to anyone the whole time. And now you are confident enough to share your thoughts with your classmates and teachers. And your openness allows others who are shy to feel comfortable enough to open up to you as well. You bring out the best in everyone around you. 

You are always talking about favorites. Your current favorites are green trees, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and Aurora (although I have no idea why). Baby, you're my favorite. You're my favorite preschooler who is growing up so fast. Who likes to wear pajamas all day and snuggle. Who likes to help. Who fills my days with laughter. And books (books are your very favorite). 

I love you, my sweet one. I am looking forward to spending this summer with you.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The One Where Henry is 2 Months Old

This sweet little boy is two months old!

He is such a content and happy kid. He's been smiling and wiggling up a storm. He loves it when his big sisters come to play with him. And then they over-love him a little and he needs to be rescued. But for the most part, he is a pretty easy going new member of our family. Which is very nice. He's been sleeping well at night and loving to see what there is to see during the day. Ellie is always asking him, "Are you looking around at the world." He's finally getting some head control and he uses it to rapidly look from side to side, just to be sure he doesn't miss a thing. 

As is typical of Waters' babies, he has rounded out quite a bit. It's still hard to see who he'll look like in the end, but it's fun to guess. I always think it's fun to hear who people think he looks like. One day someone will say to me, "He looks just like Steve!" and then the very next day someone else will say he looks like a Filler. 

Dear Henry,

You are such a little love bug. I wish I could just snuggle you all day.

This past month we took you on your first little adventure to Seattle and the Boeing Museum of Flight. You were great and we had a lot of fun. I hope that you always like to go on adventures with us. And eventually you'll go on adventures all your own. And that will make me simultaneously very happy and very sad.

You've been so awesome and I'm really enjoying cuddling you, trying to catch your glance and get you to smile your big, wonderful smile. When I get you up in the morning you beam at me and it melts my heart. I love being the person that can make you so excited. As a mom there are a lot of days that are hard, and I often feel inadequate for the task. But for you, right now, I'm all you need. And that's a pretty cool feeling.

And you're just what I needed, too. It has been a rough year for this family. Having you finally with us has helped me to see the beauty in each day, the treasure that is each moment I get to spend with you. The possibilities that lie ahead make the hardships of today worthwhile. I love you for reminding me of that.

I love you so much, for so many things, baby boy. I can't wait to hear your little giggle. I know it will be soon.

Love, Mommy

Monday, May 20, 2013

The One With the Peanut Butter Stuffed Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

The girls and I have been having a lot of fun baking together lately. They're finally at the age where they can be somewhat helpful, or at least not totally destructive in the kitchen. And they really love to do the stirring and the taste testing. You know, the important stuff.

It was possibly the cutest moment in my life when I was cleaning up or something and I heard Olivia saying, "Look! That's Olivia. That's me." And she was pointing at her reflection in the Kitchen Aid bowl. My heart almost melted. Seriously.

It just doesn't get much sweeter than this.

Anyway. On to the cookies.

Is it just me, or are peanut butter cookies sometimes too peanut buttery? Just a bit overwhelming in their peanut butteriness? Well I do. So when I saw that someone stuffed their chocolate chip cookies with Nutella, I thought that using peanut butter instead would be a pretty stellar idea. And it is. It makes the cookies peanut buttery, but not overly so. They're just about perfect if you ask me.

We've been making my grandmother's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe a lot lately. It's highly addictive, and just ever so slightly more "special" than regular chocolate chip cookies. Adding a little peanut butter to the middle is just the right touch.

Peanut Butter Stuffed Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies

Preheat oven to 375*
  • 1 1/2 cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 package (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips (or half a package of milk, half of semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • Peanut butter

Sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and almond extract. Mix in sifted dry ingredients. Stir in oats, chocolate chips and nuts. You may find the dough easier to work with if you refrigerate it for half an hour to an hour before moving on to the next step.

To stuff the cookies, take a tablespoon of cookie dough and roll it into a ball. Use your thumb to make an imprint in the cookie dough, creating a little crater. Scoop about a teaspoon of peanut butter into the crater and then cover the peanut butter with another little bit of cookie dough. (See pictures of this technique used for Salted Caramel and Chocolate Chip Cookies here.)
Place dough balls on a greased baking sheet and b
ake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! I'm quite certain you will!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The One With the Seattle Trip Recap

Well, it all started a couple of weeks ago when Ellie said, "Can we pack our suitcase and go to a hotel?" That girl has a little wandering spirit just like I do. And I'd like to nurture it.

The last several months have been rough around here - lots of good, lots of bad, lots of busy. And then Steve took his belated paternity leave and was sick with strep throat a good portion of the time. It just seemed like maybe it would be good to get a weekend away, just our family, on a little adventure. So we cashed in some of Steve's Marriott Rewards points and booked one night in Seattle. We ditched our chores and left the lawn unmowed (sorry neighbors!), got our traditional Starbucks and hit the road.
The drive up was a little long because of traffic, but Olivia kept it light by singing her rendition of the little monkeys song, "Little monkeys jumping on the street. One fell off and bumped his feet. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said no more monkeys jumping on the street."

We made it to our hotel in the early afternoon and loaded up all the babies in a not-at-all-ridiculous-looking train of strollers and checked in. Ellie was really looking forward to the hotel room, but with the promise of adventure we were able to lure her away and into the beautiful Seattle spring day. We headed to Pike Place Market and just strolled around. It was a little crazy because everyone was waiting for the fish throwing, but we made it through and bought a little painting of the Seattle skyline for our collection. We actually ran into an old UP friend in the market (small world!) and she had just come from ice cream, which the girls had been asking for, so she pointed us in the right direction and we took a little break at Cupcake Royale. Ellie requested pink ice cream, so she got strawberry, and Olivia wanted chocolate (girl after my own heart). Steve and I split a scoop of the Orange Hibiscus Sherbert and Washington Hazelnut Brittle with Salted Ganache. Deliciousness. I would highly recommend it if you're headed that way.

While sharing our ice cream we decided to pick up some pizza on the way back and eat it in the hotel while watching TV, as this would make the girls very happy. We looked up Italian Family Pizza and spent far too much time discussing the geometry and economics of two smalls versus one large pizza. We eventually decided to go with the large and set off in the direction of prize. When I arrived to pick up our order, the chef, a real New Jersey pizza chef who runs the restaurant and makes all the pizzas with his wife, opened the oven to reveal a gigantic pizza. Yeah, we hadn't really taken that 2 foot diameter into consideration. When it was fully cooked, our pizza was placed in the largest pizza box I've ever seen and we had to trek the rest of the way to the hotel with it. Along the way we received multiple offers for assistance with our outrageous pizza. People called out from passing cars asking where we got the pizza, where the party was, etc. Basically, our pizza got cat calls. And it was worthy of them. It was delicious.

After dinner while watching TV (a very special treat), we got the kids ready for bed. Ellie got to sleep in a big girl bed, which was a tiny little bed that pulled out of a chair. She was too excited to sleep and we had to redirect her to her bed several times. The bed was so narrow that she actually fell off many times during the night and had to sleepily climb back in. Despite this, she still told us, "It is fun sleeping in my big girl bed that is a chair." Oh honey, I also have an affinity for beds that pull out of seating furniture.
On Sunday, we went to mass at St. James Cathedral, which was full of the nicest people. It's a beautiful church. After mass we went to see the Space Needle and then headed to the Boeing Museum of Flight. I had been there when I was in Jr. High and loved it. Since Steve and I share a love for airplanes, I've always wanted to take him there. It turned out to be just as cool as I remembered and the girls loved it, too. They rode in airplanes and checked out models of the International Space Station. We toured a retired Air Force One, one of the planes used by JFK, Johnson, and Carter. It's very cool. And we went on a Concord Jet. Let me tell you, those things were built for speed, not comfort.

We all enjoy museums so much. And explorations of any kind. Olivia has asked every day since then if we can go to the museum and see airplanes. And Ellie keeps asking if we can get her blankie and get in the car to go to an adventure. I do love those two.

It was a pretty perfect weekend getaway. The best combination of adventure and down time. The kids were all well behaved and funny and the food was delicious. Steve and I kept looking at each other and saying, "We have a great life." And we do.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The One With Garrett Kent Rall

My sister-in-law, Annette, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy one week ago today. Garrett Kent Rall was born on May 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm, weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measuring 19 inches long. His dad, Ethan, is deployed in Afghanistan right now, but he was able to see the whole thing via Skype. Also, he's the tiniest baby I've ever held.

He's exactly seven weeks younger than Henry - which I think will be pretty fun when they are older. Right now, of course, it seems like such a huge difference! Henry all of a sudden looks ginormous compared to a brand new tiny one. 

Annette showing Ethan his son. 

 Carly meeting her baby brother.

Congratulations Annette, Ethan, and Carly! He's wonderful!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The One With Annette and Carly

My sister-in-law, Annette, had a baby boy a week ago. And my other sister-in-law, Emily, is having another baby boy in August. There will be three new Waters boys this summer! I think that will be fun!

A few weeks ago Annette asked me to take some pictures of her and her daughter, Carly, before her baby shower. She's just about the tiniest pregnant woman ever, so believe it or not, she was 34 weeks when I took these!

We went to visit her in the hospital when her son was born and were there when Carly met her baby brother for the first time. It was very sweet. I'll share pictures of that tomorrow! (Two posts in one week? What???)
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