Saturday, June 13, 2015

Squirrely Girl is 8!

Dearest Little Girl,

Wow! Eight years old! I am not even sure how we got here. Did I blink? The moments pass so quickly...

So often, I try to take you into my arms and find that you are all legs and arms, and it seems like almost nothing is left of the tiny baby that once fit in my palms. Other times, she is still there, wide blue eyes, joy and innocence.

This has been a wonderfully transformative year for you. Last year in school, you struggled to find your place. A few of the friendships you had were full of drama and "mean girls" that left you feeling confused and hurt on a regular basis. I struggled to help you understand that you are enough and that your gentle little heart was not a weakness, even though at times it felt like a burden. This year, with the change of classmates and a teacher who found your strengths and really helped you grow, you've had a tremendous year. You're still in search of that "best friend" that is always kind and who you can always be "you" with, but I can see how much happier you are, how you are back to yourself and the free, happy little spirit you have always been. You are such a reader this year! You finished the year with the highest AR score in the grade, and loved spending your time reaching those goals. You're still having some math anxiety--exacerbated, I think, by last years struggles. Many days have you laid on the floor to throw a temper tantrum at the thought of having to do a single sheet of homework. But truly, those moments are overshadowed by the overall change I have seen in  you this year as you have hit your stride.

Aside from math homework, and the occasional torments of your brothers, your life is full of happiness. You are still the great event coordinator--making big plans to organize the neighborhood kids, calling "family meetings," directing your brothers in whatever type of pretend play suits you. Sometimes you make me more than a little crazy with your elaborate ideas--which often lead to even more elaborate messes. But I do love your creativity and ability to round up others into your ideas.

One change this year that has been hard on me is that tween transition--the one where Mom and Dad fall from the pedestal. Where once our word was Gospel, we now find ourselves occasionally subjected to eyes rolling, disbelief, arguments, or--worst of all--those withering, hateful looks that break my heart. I know these moments are all about you learning to be your own person (with a touch of changing hormones), and an important part of your growing up, but at the same time, it's another reminder of the slow march you take towards severing the strings that bind our hearts together. Thankfully, these moments are less frequent than the moments of laughter, snuggling, talking together, and general trust you still have in us, and often followed by sweet notes of apology that almost make it worth the glares and sass.

You love singing, and acting, and art. You write your own silly songs and dream of being a "pop star." Last summer, we acted in Seussical together, you as the cutest Who from Whoville there ever was, and this year, you are preparing for your parts as fish and seagull in The Little Mermaid. You even took the lead of "Mother Goose" in your 2nd grade play, with a singing solo to boot. You are still a performer, with the ability to light up on stage for an audience in a way that fills me with a type of pride I could have never imagined before you came into my life.

I see your growth in the Gospel as well--your thoughtful questions, your desire to be baptized. (You'll be baptized in the Snake River, and there is a high level of apprehension about this, and excitement about making your first covenants with your Heavenly Father.) You like to teach Family Home Evening, you'll read scriptures as long as we let you. And though your brothers protest, you are always happy and excited to go to church.

You are such a good example to me, and so often I feel I fail you. But you are full of forgiveness and unending love. You are the best kind of big sister--patient, loving, gentle. Sure, there are moments where you can't take any more of the harassment they give you and lose your cool, but for the better part, your actions speak of the love you have for those boys of ours. So many nights, I may come to your room to find them curled up with you, listening to you read a book, or playing a game of your design.

I know I probably say this, every year, but my sweet, darling, busy, squirrely girl, you are joy. I could spend my day watching you play. There is such a light in you; it exudes happiness and wonder. My deepest prayer for you is that no one ever succeeds in extinguishing that light. It's most manifest in your laughter--oh that laugh that comes from your toes and causes you to grab your belly and buckle in two--but it's there in the way you chase butterflies, talk about your friends, tell us what you learned in Primary, eat a watermelon, and create art. You know kindness, joy, and love, and you work to acquaint everyone you meet with these companions of yours.

I am grateful every day for you, for who you are becoming, and for who you are helping me become. I am slow to progress, imperfect, and in need of grace, but you are the reminder that God loves me, else why would he have ever given me such a gift as you?

I love you, my princess. For always.

Love,
Mom


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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, to the Grasshopper

Oh, little bug. You are three! I don't know where the time went, or where the tiny little baby that was forever attached to me has gone. Instead, here is a child, with long arms and legs spilling out of my embraces.

You are hilarious. And weird. And ornery. And mischievious. And sweet. And stubborn. And goofy. And cantankerous. And snuggly. And thoughtful. And smart.

There are perhaps no words that do not, at some point in any given day, describe you. Where I sometimes have a hard time pinning down just the right word for your siblings, for you, I have a hard time limiting the list.

Every since you were a tiny baby, you have had this face that is just a hoot to watch. The emotions and thoughts that run through your head tick across your face like so many frames in a moment of film. It is so easy to read your feelings, see the workings of your mind, as they scroll across your face. The furrow of your brow, the sideways glance, the flick of the corner of your mouth, the flare of your nostrils--all these things happen here and there, every moment across that lovely, remarkably expressive face of yours. Micro-expressions testifying of a storm of thought beneath it all. As you gently move from toddler-hood to childhood, I can see this characteristic begin to fade, and yet I hope that always a glimmer of it will remain.

You are very much the same way in personality as your face is in expression. You are many things, constantly changing things, a wide spectrum of things from this moment to the next. You love your brother and sister with deep affections; moments later you delight in their torment. (If there is a bully in this family, it is most certainly you, my darling.) You lash out as you test your independence to do things on your own; just as suddenly, you are sweetly asking for help. You sometimes hit; you quickly apologize. You claim to be the boss; you are equally likely to tell everyone that you are the baby. In one moment, you smile and laugh; in the next, you weep and gnash teeth. Part of this, of course, is that you've spent the last year being two, but part of it is also, I think, just who you are--I often say that when you do something, you do it all the way. There is no half-heartedness about you. Only fire and ice.

Like your siblings, you are verbally precocious. You talk a great deal and turn phrases in a way we rarely expect. You are an excellent mimic. Though he detests it--and the two of you often find yourselves in a row over the matter--you love to copy your brother. You repeat his words, mirror his play, and follow him around with absolute commitment, even when it leads to him erupting in anger. And oh, how you love your big sister. There have even been times, after sustaining a minor injury or a particularly upsetting loss (in your world, perhaps a denied cookie, or an end to your screen time), where you will choose Ainsley over me for your comfort. And yet, you love them both, calling out their names in excitement every time they come home from school.

Your relationship with Daddy is more complicated. He is a great deal of fun. He's most excellent for playing pretend or getting into tickle fights. But, let's be honest, he's second fiddle to me. Your older siblings never had quite the same kind of favoritism toward me as you do...and it would be dishonest to act as though I don't relish it just a little. You are my "maybe baby," and I admit to letting you get away with more than your siblings, taking longer to say good nights, indulging you in your babyisms. You still take a bottle, because I just can't stand the heartache that comes when I tell you no. You still wear a diaper--because you are a stubborn little beast with zero interest in or currency to convince you to try learning the potty.

Watching you play is one of my favorite things. Unlike your brother and sister, who feel the need to "direct" one another through every line or action of their play time, you play much more spontaneously and amuse yourself with considerable more ease. At times, you have even been toy-less in the car and resorted to making different voices for each of your hands, and then acted out a scene between them. You love to play fighting and ninja games. But you also love to whip things up in your play kitchen, drive toy cars around the house, put Mr. Potatohead together and pull him apart all day, and act out scenes for him.

I think, thus far, you are my most musically attuned child. You insist on a song every night, and nearly without fail, you request "Dinos Marching" (which is a poor, four verse adaptation of "The Ants Go Marching"). You sing along and snuggle as I sing. Another thing I love is that when I make up silly songs about what we are doing (which is regularly),  you love to try to sing along. You easily pick up the note progression and where the song is going, and then watch and listen to pick out the words as they come.

You've been accident prone this year. This year you sustained a couple of good knocks to the head, a nasty burn (as a result of you knowing better and refusing to trust Daddy when he tried to keep you away from something hot), and an eye patch. All of this, I think, is a manifestation of your growing independence, and probably that all-or-nothing tendency you have.

This past year, I left my job managing full time, and though my job was flexible before and allowed us a lot of time together, I am relishing the ample time we have now, the fact that when I am with you, I am WHOLLY with you, without distractions from tenants or phone calls. You've noticed this too, and commented on how you like to be with me a number of times. Those moments are my greatest paycheck. You're my little buddy, and we do it all together: play on the floor, watch shows, grocery shop, sing songs in the car. Your being a "mommy's boy" has, in many ways, made me a "Simon's mommy," but I love the opportunity to be with you, experience your joys and heartaches, and watch you become a whole person.

In some ways, you are a challenge, in others, I feel I parent you with great ease. I love this period of our lives, when you sneak into my bed every night, throw your tiny arms around my neck with frequency, look up at me with constant and unmatched love and admiration, just you and me a while each day while the big kids are away at school. I know it will pass all too quickly, and hope I can tuck away all the sweet moments that make this period of our lives special. I am grateful every. single. day for you.

Thank you for being you, and for choosing me as your mom. I love you!

Love,
Mom


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Little Bird Turns Six!

To my darling Little Bird,

You are my absolute favorite kindergartener in the entire world. To be honest, this year has also been one of my absolute favorites with you. You are positively delightful in every sense of the word. You ooze the magic of childhood from every little molecule. The sixth year of your life marked some sort of change in you that has been nothing short of remarkable. From my perspective, it seems that all the frustration of your previous years has finally begun to melt away. You are articulate, as you have always been, and in addition to that, I think you've reached a point where you don't become so overwhelmed by all those big thoughts and feelings of yours as you used to. You are suddenly able to express yourself--your worries, your wonders, your wandering thoughts. They all come tumbling out of you in that same wordy way they did before, but with an added sense of self and confidence that wasn't there before as you struggled with the great big world happening inside your head.

You experience the strange world of childhood in a fully committed way. You're never worried about growing up or being viewed as a kid. Everything is a wonder to you, and your world of childhood imagination IS the world. You're hysterical and say things that shouldn't possibly come out of a five year old's mouth--a vocabulary that rivals most adults' and the ability to turn a phrase or idiom in precisely the perfect way make me sometimes forget that you are only five. And then, there you are, playing with your action figures, or weeping over a skinned knee and suddenly I am reminded of your age and tenderness. When I think back on my perception of childhood, I think it must have been ever so much like yours. As I watch you play--your joys, your frustrations, your games, your trust, your carefree spirit and the way you simply find happiness and let the bad roll off you--I think so much that this is how I remember my very young years. You remind me a lot of me...or at least how I remember me...and it's a feeling that brings me a joyful familiarity.

There have been some hurdles this year. We've worked in a big way on your anxiety, which now seems so distant. You've made some major jumps in your learning. You read remarkably well. (A few days ago, you asked for help with a word in a book. The book was The Lord of the Rings. I said perhaps we should choose an easier book, to which you informed me you'd already read the first six pages...) You love math. (Sometimes, when your sister is working on her math, I have to chase you off because you like to shout the answers to her.) At the same time, as Kindergarten has proven much too easy for you, and we've not had much luck in getting any appropriate acceleration or differentiation, you're becoming lazy. This worries me, as I want you to continue to love learning in the way you always have, without becoming hyper, distracted, or bored. You've mastered your temper in the last year, mostly, which is a concern I've had. But you have really figured out how to calm yourself and your worries. I am so proud of you for this, because I know it can be hard!

Your relationships with your siblings are ever changing. You still adore your big sister, but are struggling with the phase you are entering with her--the one where she wants to leave you out of the play at times, especially when friends of her own are near, and where suddenly the little brother is "annoying." You love weekends best, because it means you can sleep in her room, but are hurt the worst when she doesn't want to play with you. When it comes to your little brother, there has been a great transformation. You still fight in the way I suppose most brothers do, especially where he just wants so much to do all you do (which often entails taking your toys), but at the same time, I see you try to encourage him, teaching him to do things, playing with him. There is nothing I love more as a mom than seeing my children care for one another, and I have gotten to see that so much more this past year.

With the change from five to six, there is an independent streak that is hard for me as a mom. Your sister went through it about the same time, and it's so bittersweet. It's really the first major shift socially, as you turn from the family (ME!) as the center of your universe, to your peers. I love that you have friends you are crazy about. I love to hear stories about them, tales of cops and robbers (is it silly that I adore the fact that it's still called "Cops and Robbers" as though the game itself is a throwback to a simpler time?), bridge building, jungle gyms, and races. And at the same time, I hear in those stories a widening circle of relationships that will only grow over the years I have left with you, where I hold but a single space of many in your heart. Already, you are less "mine."

You are so joyful. Surely, there are the temper tantrums, and the disagreements over TV time and whether you will eat your dinner and clean your room, but ultimately, those are only moments and exceptions. You are affectionate. You love to hold my hand or gaze into my eyes with those big round brown cow-eyes of your own. You like to snuggle on the couch, and more nights than not, you still find your way into my and daddy's bed and wedge yourself in to take up as much space as can be made available. You are a pleaser.  You get a great deal of joy from making others happy or receiving compliments. You nearly always share your treats and goodies with your siblings, even if the favor is rarely returned. A while back, you wore your suit to church and were told you looked "like a handsome missionary." Each week since, you've taken extra care of your appearance and asked if you look like a missionary. You remember compliments like that for a long time, but are never to happy to rest on them. I see the way you like to continue to earn the privilege of praise. You take pride in being the kind of person who deserves it.

You are very funny. Quick witted and good-natured, your jokes are full of kindergarten-level silliness and higher-level word play. You love to read joke books and share the punchlines with anyone who will listen. In addition to joke, this year, you are into Pokemon, Skylanders, Legos (and how!), Minecraft (even though you've never played), Superheroes, Scooby Doo, and Star Wars (even though you've never seen it). You love playing chess, which Daddy taught you to do this year. A day rarely goes by that you aren't begging someone to play, and you even play against the iPad at times. You love having your back scratched and your forehead rubbed. You love wrestling and riding the bike Daddy taught you to ride this year. You love to climb up trees, but are afraid to climb down. You sing songs, but only when you think no one can hear you. You are sometimes naughty, but never with malice. You are often sweet, and always with intent. You forgive so quickly, and I need forgiveness so often.

You are a thread attached to my heart. You bring me so much joy. So much. And I love to stop and watch you. Just watch. Because you are so small and so big and so...everything. It's hard to explain this fleeting, eternal, loud, silent love I have for you. Glorious you.

Long ago, when you were just born and I saw those big eyes taking in the world, taking me in and filling me up, I chose the nickname "Little Bird" for you. I chose it because of a Carl Sandburg poem that filled my head when I first met you and fills me again every time I write these yearly letters for you.

[...]
love is a little white bird
and the flight of it so fast
you can’t see it
and you know it’s there
only by the faint whirr of its wings
and the hush song coming so low to your ears
you fear it might be silence
and you listen keen and you listen long
and you know it’s more than silence
for you get the hush song so lovely
it hurts and cuts into your heart
and what you want is to give more than you can get
and you’d like to write it but it can’t be written
and you’d like to sing it but you don’t dare try
because the little white bird sings it better than you can
so you listen and while you listen you pray
and after you pray you meditate, then pray more
and one day it’s as though a great slow wind
had washed you clean and strong inside and out
and another day it’s as though you had gone to sleep
in an early afternoon sunfall and your sleeping heart
dumb and cold as a round polished stone,
and the little white bird’s hush song
telling you nothing can harm you,
the days to come can weave in and weave out
and spin their fabrics and designs for you
and nothing can harm you–
unless you change yourself into a thing of harm
nothing can harm you.

[...]

You are my "Little Word, Little White Bird."

I love you.

Now, and always.

All my love,
Mom


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Monday, January 26, 2015

January 2015 Stitch Fix Review #1

 This is a review of my first Stitch Fix order. I don't get any compensation from Stitch Fix for writing this review, but the post does contain referral links. If you sing up and order through my referral, I receive a credit (thank you!) and you'll get a link for you to earn credit if your friends sign up, too!

I've been dying to try Stitch Fix for months and months since I first heard about it a little over a year ago. I did some extra work and saved my pennies up to finally order one.

If you're unfamiliar with Stitch Fix, the premise is this: You fill out a style profile, and a personal stylist picks five items just for you. They are shipped to you, to try on in the comfort of your own home. Decide what you like, and send back the rest. Shipping is included both ways. There is a $20 charge for the service, but if you make a purchase, that $20 is applied toward anything you choose to keep. As a mom in a pretty rural area, this is such a great idea for me!

To even shop at a place like Kohl's or JCPenney, I have to drive 45 minutes, and even then, we only get the "mini" version of these stores, with a very limited selection. Even the Target in town is a mini! The idea of affordable, hand-picked, designer clothes shipped straight to me is really appealing.

This was my first time trying Stitch Fix, and so I tried to be as detailed as possible with my style and needs. After 3 kids (and a considerable Dr. Pepper habit), I have a serious mommy-tummy (read: muffin top), and have some limitations because of my religious affiliation (no sleeveless shirts, no mini skirts, etc.). I laid those needs out, emphasized my love for bright, outfit-making pieces, and then left my measurements. It's a pretty small space for the note, so I edited several times to be as concise as possible.

I also created a Pinterest board with style ideas specifically tailored for my Stitch Fix stylist. And then I waited. Anxiously.

On the day my Fix arrived, my youngest, unfortunately, was sick with the stomach flu, so I had to wait until Rob came home to tag me out. The anticipation was killing me! Even then, it took most of the day to try things out because the little guy needed me more than my Stitch Fix did.

I apologize the cell phone photos aren't great. I didn't anticipate writing a review, but wanted to do it after the fact. And yeah, I have crazy "my two year old is sick today" hair. But, it's cool. He's worth it.

When you order a Stitch Fix, you not only get items of clothing, but a note from your stylist and a set of styling cards to help you see how to style the pieces they sent. I could tell from the card that my stylist, Melanie, had put some thought into the items, and I was excited about that. I was a little disappointed in the colors, as everything was darker than I had hoped. But I was still looking forward to it, as I know a number of women who have said that it's worth trying things on, even if you think you will hate them.



The first thing I saw in my box was leopard print. If you know me, you know that's all I need to be happy. It was a super soft, funky infinity scarf. I loved it. I knew that if only one thing was staying, this would be the one. (Alena Fuzzy Leopard Scarf, $34.)

Next up was this Harley Mixed Material Cardigan ($58). I actually loved almost everything about it, except one detail. I wasn't totally sold on the color. Even though it isn't even February yet, I am ready for some COLOR! This is the kind of thing that I'd go gaga for in September, but after all the gray Idaho months, I'm just not up for more black, brown, and grey.

Even then, it was really tempting. It was amazing quality, incredibly soft, and the fit was perfect. I especially loved the detail at the shoulders. I asked Rob what he thought, and he asked, "Don't you have one just like that?" To which I said, "Noooo...I'll show you my other textured draped cardigans." As I brought out the huge pile, I thought to myself, "This alone should probably answer my question," and that thought was confirmed when I walked in the room to show Rob the enormous pile and saw the look on his face. So, back it goes.  Even though it's lovely... And I might regret it...



Next up was a pair of Just Black Dean Ankle Skinny Jeans ($78). I've seen other bloggers rave about these jeans, and it's totally justified. They are awesome. They fit great, just the right amount of stretch. The rise is just high enough to cover the mommy tummy. Again, this one came down to the fact that I already own a pair of jeans that is almost identical, and I couldn't justify them for the price. So they went back.

Item #4 was a Kut from the Kloth Neville Floral Print Blouse ($68). It was a "no" the second it was on. I WANTED to love it. I absolutely adore florals, but this was pretty dark. On top of that, it is sheer, and has long sleeves, two details that aren't usually my favorite. The price tag was high for such a lightweight shirt. If I'm going to spend that much on a shirt, I better REALLY love it, and this blouse didn't make the cut. Plus, it was a bit big in the sides, with sleeves that were about 4 inches too long. However, I did really appreciate that this was a piece that showed that my stylist was being thoughtful, and for a first Fix, I thought she was doing a good job trying to hone into what I like. 




The last piece was something else entirely. This was the Moon Collection Kira Abstract Dot Print Blouse ($48). I liked the print, but I knew I wouldn't be crazy about the fabric. 100% polyester that just felt like cheap costume fabric. To top it off, when I pulled it from the box, nearly every hem had threads from frayed edges hanging out. Already, I knew there was no way I was paying $50 for a garment with so many quality issues. 




And then...when I put it on...well, as I said to some friends: The only problem with this blouse was that they forgot to send the red foam nose and the unicycle....

Straight up clown attire. Worse, I looked like Violet Beauregarde as they rolled her out of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. This was definitely headed back to the Stitch Fix racks.
It was so bad, I actually challenged myself to find a way to make it wearable, because there had to be SOME way to wear it...or else why would it even exist? (Also, can you see how terribly crooked that hem at the bottom is? Just...no...)


I thought about it a while, trying to come up with an outfit with pieces already in my wardrobe that resembled one of the styling suggestions. I came up with this, and it really was a whole new blouse! 



I no longer hated it. In fact, if not for the quality/cost issues, I may have been tempted to keep it. But, I recently left my job and am currently only working one or two days a week, with a complete reduction in the near future. So a professional piece of clothing is definitely not on my list of "needs," especially when we'll be losing some income. But I was pretty shocked at how easily the blouse was transformed into something great, just by trying out the styling suggestions. So impressed, I decided to try those suggestions with the other blouse. 


And wouldn't you know, the same thing happened! Suddenly a piece that had been very "blah" turned into something more! 



However, even with the new look (which I loved!) I couldn't overcome the fit and cost issues with this one, and so it remained in the bag to be returned.

Moral of the story?
Try your Stitch Fix items with the styling suggestions!!! 
It made a huge difference, and the pieces really came to life.

Overall, I kept just one item. I have a referral credit from way back when I first found Stitch Fix and started asking around about it, so my total cost for this Fix was just $9.

I'd like to give it another go sometime, as I hear Stitch Fix just got all their spring items in (bright colors!), and I think that with a little feedback on these pieces, my stylist can totally nail it next time!

Have you heard of Stitch Fix? Want to try it?
What do you think about the pieces they sent in this Fix?


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Monday, June 23, 2014

To the Women Who Mourn

I want to say a word (or more...brevity has never been my strongest suit) to those sisters who are grieving over the excommunication of Kate Kelly.

Eons ago, my very first (and quite wonderful) visiting teaching companion said something in a lesson that has stuck with me for a great many years. She said, "The best way to prepare for future ordinances and covenants is to keep the covenants you have already made."

We need you. There is room and love enough for you in God's Church. You have gifts and talents and beauties to share with us, and we need YOU and the threads you bring to the great tapestry of our faith.
The answer now may be "No," but that doesn't necessarily mean "Never." Saints across the globe prayed for many years for the expansion of the Priesthood before, and they continued to live the gospel and prepare for future ordinances and covenants by keeping the ones they had already made. In the end, their lives were blessed, joy expanded.

Others left, deciding that they were not willing to wait on the timing of the Lord, and in addition to giving up on their existing covenants, they lost the opportunity for future covenants (and their accompanying blessings).

I do not know whether the Priesthood will ever be expanded to women. And frankly, I can be happy either way. But I know that God lives, and that He loves each and every one of us, and that He has a plan of infinite beauty and joy for each of us. I know that there is a prophet who guides us. I know that accepting the Lord's will (and His timing) is sometimes painfully hard, but part of our purpose on this earth. I know that because of the covenants I have made with Him that I can live with Him again. And, if ever the time comes that I can enter into other ordinances with Him, that will depend entirely on my work to keep sacred those covenants I have already made.

I deeply feel for those women who struggle with the question of their place before God when it comes to His Priesthood. I don't feel in any way that the consequences that came down were about the question, as questions are one of the most important tools we have to draw nearer to the Savior. In spite of all that's happened, the church today is the same church it was yesterday, and your covenants still tie you back to the Lord. So please, stay. Share your testimony (because when it feels weakest--another friend taught me--is often when you need to share it most); pray for peace; exercise the priesthood already within you; and keep preparing by keeping those covenants which you have entered into with the Lord.

Come what may, it's the best way to be ready for it.



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Monday, February 10, 2014

To my son, on his fifth birthday:

Little Bird:
Happy Birthday! FIVE!
You sir, are like a new kid this year. It's been exciting and fun, and heart-wrenching and bitter-sweet.

The biggest development of the year is that you started school in earnest. I never thought I'd send you to full day school before Kindergarten, but it has been a truly wonderful thing for you. At four, you were already reading and writing and doing addition and subtraction, and a mistake with your previous preschool meant we needed an alternative. I knew you'd be unhappy doing nothing, and with my work schedule the way it is, I knew I couldn't devote enough time to your learning. So, we entered you into a full-day Montessori school. It has been such a great experience. You are reading so well independently, your math skills are fantastic, you have made great strides with your anger, and have just blossomed in your learning and your thirst for knowledge.

This year, from four to five, you have learned a lot about keeping your temper, reasoning things out, and understanding consequences. Sometimes those lessons are hard, but you are growing up into a sweet and responsible kid. All the baby is out of you now, and I'm learning to see glimpses of who you will turn into. I absolutely adore all that you are.

Some ways to describe you:
Imaginative--you are in one of my very favorite stages, where you like to take me along on long, detailed imaginings and "what ifs." Made up animals, inventions, adventures--they are all happening in that big, beautiful brain of yours and often come spilling out in a flood of excitement. You have become increasingly talkative this year. If I ever have the chance to be alone with you, I can rarely get a word in edge wise as you excitedly tell me about your ideas.

Sweet--You are sweet as sugar! Your love language is definitely words of affirmation and acts of service. If I tell you what a sweet kid you are, if I do something helpful for you, or offer to make you something special, you light up in a way that is uniquely yours and pretty much makes all the dull/hard/exhausting moments of being a mom completely melt away. You can smile up at me and tell me I am the best mom ever in a way that just gets deep down inside and tells me how much you really believe it. You offer to brush my hair or hold my hand and tell me things you like about me. Admittedly, we butt heads from time to time, but so often it's because I forget that you need first and foremost to know that you are loved and to understand that I have your best interests at heart.

Perceptive--You have a way of reading and reciprocating emotions. This is sometimes the biggest blessing, and sometimes the heaviest of curses. When we get it right, when I am engaged and attentive and loving, you return so much more back to me. When I am tired, short tempered, or overwhelmed, you have the ability to amplify those emotions until both of us are crying in time-out. I've often said that your sister made me a mom and you have made me a better mom, and in a lot of ways this is still true. You are the one that has me reading parenting books, asking friends for advice, and overanalyzing my actions and plans. And that's okay, because as you have always done, you have helped to change me into something better than I could have hoped to be without you, and the moments when we get it right make all the rough patches a blessing.

Smart--oh, child. You are smart. When I started you in preschool this year, I told your teacher that you were already reading and doing basic math, that I had wanted to start you in Kindergarten early, but was unable. She "Uh-huh"ed me, as I assume many teachers are used to being told by parents how their children are exceptional. A week into school though, she asked me to stick around after school because we needed to talk about you. She showed me all you had done, that you'd blown through the books and spelling she had offered you, and that she was shocked at how far ahead you were. "Kierra," she emphasized, "he is SO. SMART. I don't know if I've ever had a 4 year old like him!" I didn't say "I told you so," but I sure did think it. :) You latch onto knowledge. You're still little, but your learning is big, and I truly hope that will always be the case.

Strong-willed--There is nothing that is true in this world, unless you say it is so. I recall an argument you and I had this year about whether the sun was shining. I, of course, could clearly see that it was. But you, on the other hand, had some reason to disagree. I finally relented, and to be honest, the words, "Okay, boss, if you say so..." are kind of common in our discussions this past year. It's been known to cause a few screaming matches between you and your sister, or you and your school buddy, this inability to change course of yours. However, I hope it turns into a tenacious desire to achieve your goals and to find the answers to the questions you'll ask.

Compassionate--You are really learning to have empathy for those around you. Though you never like the lesson, and you have a tendency (don't we all) to lay blame with others, you are learning the value and healing of a true apology. You love animals and babies and are gentle with them and you think about how others would feel in various situations. I love your thoughtful, gentle heart and your intense sense of justice.

Cantankerous--Oh, my darling. You are still my little "Grumpy Gus." A lack of sleep brings out a monster in you, and you are, at times, the poster child for "the Hangries," but this year you have also learned a lot how to balance yourself and work through those big emotions. Yet another sign, I reckon, that you are becoming a "big boy."

HILARIOUS--This is probably a by-product of your intellect, but you know how to work with words, play to your audience, and have a great sense of timing. And you love it. You LOVE making people crack up. Admittedly, much of your humor revolves around bathroom humor still, but you also have a sharp little wit that is as surprising at times as it is hysterical.

It's been an amazing year. And YOU are an amazing kid! I'm so grateful for everything you are and the chance to be your mom. I love you, my sweet Little Bird!

Love Always,
Mom


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits."

One fun fact about the school up here is that they have the an apple orchard up here that is one of the most diverse in the US, with varieties as old as the 1600s, from all over the world. We take a trip (or two or three) every year to enjoy the crop.

I love the way the kids whoop and holler about the apples they find, the vinegar smell that permeates the air later in the season, the mystery waiting in every tree when so many varieties are waiting to be tasted.

Enjoy a few photos from our recent excursion!

{Yum!}


{Ladybugs taking cover at the stem.}

{Little Bird says, "This is my little friend!}


{Unfortunately, the pears were off limits for data collection.}


{Brother and sister, so excited!} 



 {Enjoying the spoils.}


 {Daddy does the climbing and the hard work!} 


{But big sis does the lifting!} 



 {Sharing together!}


 {What?!? No more eating apples!}


 {Oh! Just kidding? Phew!} 


 {Apples!} 


{Too much fun and delicious apples...}


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Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter, on her Sixth Birthday

Dear Sweet Squirrely Girl,

Happy Birthday, my darling! This year, you are six. SIX! This year has been like a whole new world, and I think it's because you have really entered the WORLD. No longer does everything in your life revolve around home and the little existence we carve out together; you go to school,  you make friends, you experience things I will never witness or be a part of. Thankfully, our little family is still the center of your world and everything else you experience is still in the peripherals, but this is the year that I have begun to see this delicate world of ours is already beginning to tilt.


Your father and I have spent the few weeks before your birthday teasing you, telling you that you mustn't, no CANNOT, grow up. We informed you and your brother that no more birthdays are allowed, and you would therefore be five forever. This, of course, led to a great deal of despair, and wailing over the complete unfairness of the parental unit you were dealt, until we finally relented and explained that, regardless of our wishes, time marches on. And how it does, my sweet.



This has been a banner year for you. Perhaps, the biggest event of the year is that you started Kindergarten. This was both terribly exciting and a bit heart-wrenching for me. I love the excitement you had, the way you were so brave, with just a touch of nerves showing through. I love watching you learn. I've been amazed at how much you have come to know this year. You went off to school knowing your letters and most of their sounds, and you have ended Kindergarten as a reader. I feel so much joy and pride when we sit and YOU read ME a book. This change from non-reader to reader is as mysterious and miraculous to me as the metamorphosis of a butterfly. You do math too. And draw so beautifully now--your people have arms, legs, smiles, hair; your flowers have petals and your houses have windows. You LOVE your teacher. I have to admit, there have been times when I've been a bit jealous of the amazing Mrs. D--her ability to coax that learning from you and your trust in her teaching. But because of all she's done for you, I love her too. And in spite of my constant reassurances to you that you will love first grade and your new teacher just as much, I feel a little bit of that anxiety you feel as well, wondering if another teacher could possibly ignite that fire and show such care for you as well.



You have a best friend. A "best best best best best friend." And it's not me or one of the dorm girls, but another little girl, like you, who loves the land of make-believe and dress-up and princesses and dragons and rock stars as much as you do. You play inexhaustibly. I love that you are learning the ropes of friendship and the discussions it brings up, the additional layer of preparation for the real world it gives you. I'm not crazy about the sassy way you have learned to speak back, or the concepts you pick up which I wish we could keep away a bit longer.  I feel dread too, in this transitional stage of our lives, knowing you will lose her at some point and knowing that the first heartbreak so many little girls experience is the loss of a best friend to distance.


You are growing in the Gospel in a sweet, and beautiful way. Your prayers have become more thoughtful and sincere. You ask deeper questions. You encourage your brother towards reverence and have started teaching family home evening on occasion. You have a sweet little testimony and enjoy the lessons you learn at home and in church.


You are in many ways much the same as you have always been, and with the way time continues on relentlessly, I am so grateful for the consistency of your personality:
You are charming. Your big blue eyes and dimples and sweet thoughtfulness catch the affection of everyone you meet.

You are contemplative--you ask big questions and listen to the answers.
You are sensitive--you are still so scared of so many movies and shows, and you are affected deeply by bad news you might hear about. (For instance, our pug Titan died this year, and though he hadn't lived with us for 3 years, you wept as though you had known the daily comfort of his presence.)
You are thoughtful--you like to do things for others that know will make them happy: draw pictures, sing songs, make presents.

You are flighty--you travel from activity to activity, never caring to put too much effort into any one thing. We bought you a ukulele for your birthday, and though I think you'd have a great deal of joy from learning to play, I won't hang my hopes on you applying enough dedication to be a maestro.
You lose things--I don't know if this is a "you" thing or a six-year old thing, but you cannot keep track of your shoes, your backpack, your "favorite" toy of the moment.
You are silly--you love getting people to laugh, and lately this silliness takes form of making funny voices and funny faces, or trying out hysterically terrible impersonations of songs or movie scenes you know are funny (though you may not always know why).



You are a performer--I love watching you dance because there is such a transformation that comes over you when you know you have an audience, but you also love to sing and run and leap when no one is watching.





You are sassy--you've always had a sassy, defiant streak since the day you were born, and it certainly remains. It's turning into a pre-teen sort of sassiness, something I'm not sure if you've come about naturally or if it is something you've learned from your peers. Thankfully, your finer graces usually win out, even though we do have to endure your defiant shouts of "no!" and crossed arms.


You are a great sister--you love your brothers and you mother them. At times, this causes problems, like when you boss your brother to the point of arousing his anger (in fairness, his anger is often easy to kindle), or when your baby brother lets out banshee screams because he doesn't like someone interfering with his plans for mischief. But for the most part, you are amazingly helpful and loving with them.

Some things you love this year:

Music: Adele--anything, Mumford and Sons' "The Cave" (you and your brother will play this on repeat FOR-EVER); Ellie Goulding's "Lights;" Five for Fighting's "100 Years;" Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds;""Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (we read The Wizard of Oz this year) and "The Rainbow Connection," and from primary, "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and "I Love to See The Temple."

To Eat: Candy. Always you have loved candy. You also have a thing for cauliflower and sweet peppers this year.


Your baby brother: Oh, how you have delighted to have a baby brother! You have been such a proud sister from the beginning. You love coaching him, teaching him how to crawl, walk, laugh, clap. You read to him and sing to him. In the days I have been writing this letter, he has started to call your name, always after you walk away from playing with him, he'll call to you up the stairs or through the door. He adores you and his favorite part of the day is when you come into my room where he sleeps, talk to him in sweet tones and carry him off to play with you. I love the love between you.

Your bigger little brother: While this relationship is somewhat more volatile, there is still such a great love between the two of you. The gap between you two is widening as you shift this year from family-centric to peer-centric, but there is still much fun to be had. Unfortunately, not a day goes by where the two of you don't have some sort of explosive disagreement (which almost always goes something like this: he does something he shouldn't or that you don't want him to; you put on your bossiest voice and attempt to correct his behavior; he resists; you insist; he either screams at you or hits you; you erupt into emotional tears). Thankfully, not a day goes by that you two don't roll in hysterical laughter together as well. You two are into body humor these days, jinx, and elaborate pretend games like superheroes, animal rescuers, princesses and knights, and detective. I know the impending years and gender difference will continue to spread wider over the next few years, but I hope that these years of friendship and joy will lay a strong foundation for the other side of that valley when the gap narrows again.

To work: Emptying the dishwasher, sweeping, and cooking dinner. You always want to be helping in the kitchen, and admittedly, this is the place I LEAST like getting help. I'm working on that. You've also learned how to do your laundry and are getting better at this. You have the same problem as me though--you'll wash it and sort it, but folding and putting away are never any fun.


To watch: He-Man and She-Ra--Your father introduced you and your brother to the hero of his youth, and you both became instantly enthralled.

To play: Barbies, dress-up, princesses, and make-believe. Happily, you also enjoy a game of cars or superheroes, but your world is first and foremost, a "pink" one.

To read: Amelia Bedelia--you think her antics are hilarious, and I love watching you deduce the misunderstandings that she is known for. Elephant and Piggie--these Mo Willems books leave you in stitches. I am absolutely gaga for the hysterical laughter that these books bring out in you.


Things you definitely do not love this year:

Bedtime, but this has always been the case. You are somewhat better now, if I will indulge you in a story and any number of lullabies.

Cleaning up your messes--oh, how you weep and wail at the mention of cleaning your room or the piles of toys you have a tendency to leave out. I try to make this a more enjoyable experience, but it's hard when you collapse to the floor at the suggestion that you need to pick up.

The bus ride home from school: In theory you like the idea, but you are the last off the bus and it makes for one tired kid by the time the long ride is over. But I sure do love meeting you at the stop after school and enjoying those few minutes the two of us have to talk and enjoy one another.


As always, the simple descriptions and generalizations of the past year hardly do you any justice at all. And as always, it comes down to the simple fact that every single day, I am more in love with you than the last. Even though it is hard to see you grow up, to feel the long expanse of your body that once fit into my palms, it is also a delight. Every day I put the "old you" to bed and know that I will never have that same little girl in my arms again. But every day when you rise up and come to me, I get the "new you," and no matter how relentlessly time marches on, the loss is worth getting to know the person you are becoming. You are truly a glorious being. You are so vibrant that you reflect around on others. I am full of so many shortcomings and misgivings and so blessed to be your mother. Somehow, you are quick to forgive me of those shortcomings and make me feel better than I could ever hope to be. I'm so grateful every day for the blessing of being your mother and the deep spring of joy that comes from such a title. I love you my darling, darling love, from the depths of my soul. Thank you for being you, and for sharing another year with me!



All my love,
Mom


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