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.



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!



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,


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?

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?