We HAD to throw Eleanor a little party with friends for her first birthday. HAD to.
I know this is one of those things she’ll never ever remember, but: 1. J and I remember (and at least 90% of parenting these kids is about me), and 2. we had a tough first year together and wanted to celebrate growing beyond that.
So I made some monkey-themed invites, and we threw a little monkey party.
The power went out the night before the party (you know, when I was supposed to do all the prep!), so I decorated cupcakes and cake by candle light. I think they turned out okay anyways.
We were lucky that most of our friends could make it to celebrate E, and it’s always fun to see all of the kiddos running around the back yard while the adults attempt to actually have conversations with each other.
For decor, we stuck with simple balloons and flags (which I crafted with fabric and glue by candlelight the night before the party!). I also had a photoboard up with weekly pictures of E’s first year — nearly all of them taken cuddling the little sock monkey my gramma made for her (which is also why I went with a monkey theme). Luckily, I had finished printing the photos earlier in the week, so that project wasn’t affected by the power outage. Unluckily, I forgot to take a photo of the board, so you don’t get to see it. Imagine 52 pictures scotch-taped to a giant white board, and you’ve pretty much got it.
She was CRAZY about the balloons. (Eleanor is screaming and giggling in over the top excitement in the above photo.)
Barely ate any cake. (Don’t worry, Lilly and I overcompensated for her.)
And, we typically tell our party guests that presents aren’t necessary, but E did get a few presents and was happy to open them (with big sister’s help, of course). In all, it was a great afternoon!
Nothing like a full foot of fresh snow to keep you trapped in your house and blogging (about summer, because you are desperately behind).
We took the girls to the zoo late summer to see the new Tiger exhibit. (Lilly often tells us that tigers are her favorite).
I don’t remember much about this particular trip, other than: Lilly and I rode a camel! Lilly had asked to ride the camel on a previous zoo trip, and I asked her to wait for daddy to be along, and she patiently waited. She chose me to go with her, and Jason and Eleanor cheered us on from the sidelines. I think she enjoyed herself.
Once upon a time, in November, I wrote a beautiful and long tribute to my sweet little baby e. It was lovely. And then my evil ipad ate it, and it disappeared forever and I lost interest in blogging and who has had the time for that anyway, since our little baby e only likes to sleep with mama by her side (which is so sweet and cuddly and I feel honored to be her go-to person, but also it is frustrating and aggravating and terribly inconvenient for someone who doesn’t quite need 12 hours of sleep per night).
So, baby E, in honor of your first birthday plus a few months, here are some love notes from me to you, peppered with pictures of your real first birthday.
It’s hard for me to believe that you’ve only been with us a year (plus a few months), because it feels like you’ve always been here. You fit so normally and naturally with us that it’s hard to remember what things were like last year, before you were here.
You bring so much joy, little one. You are quick to smile, and frequently reward us with laughs or hilarious gestures. Your personality is outgoing — you are quick to interact with others, but you also seem to really love hugs and cuddles from your family.
We had a lot of trouble your first year. Not an ideal start — the hospital stay, c-section, prematurity and problems nursing then eating. You were so very very tiny! And so very strong, and tough. You laughed in the face of nearly every medical procedure we were suggested to put you through, never NEVER giving the doctors what they wanted on the first try. That made us laugh, or at least smile. You sweet, silly little thing!
Anyways, we seem to be past that all now. Thank goodness. Somewhere around 14 months, you thought it was time to eat, and just a few weeks ago, you learned that if you yell “‘NACK” very loud, we will indeed offer you a snack. You often follow it with a little rub of your belly, baby sign for “please”.
I have no idea what your first real word was. Probably “dogs” or “mama” or “dada” or “lilly”. This makes me terribly sad. I’ve missed recording a crucial moment in your life, and it’s just *gone*, out of memory, forever. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I miss a milestone, but it feels like a heavy thing for the family historian to miss a big moment in your history. What I want you to know, as I’m missing these seemingly big things, is that I am really truly trying my best to be there for the little things. Trying to pay attention to every cuddle, every sweet time you lean your head into my shoulder (melts my heart), every sweet sigh as you sleep next to me on the floor bed, cuddled into me as I stroke your chubby little baby cheeks and soft curls, admiring your long eyelashes and sweet little nose. I’m trying, little one. Your sister has offered proof that these moments will not last, and with you I want to enjoy them as I can.
(But, to be honest, if you wanted to sleep without waking every 45-90 minutes from 7pm until I inevitably give in and join you on the floor mattress, mama would be oh-so-grateful. I am burning out quickly, and need just a moment or two — or, preferably, two consecutive hours — of time to myself.)
You began crawling just before your first birthday. A month later, you were pulling up, then cruising the furniture, then the stairs. Oh! The stairs. You love them and are great at them. I am terrified that one of the other beings in our household (namely, your sister or the dogs) will accidentally knock you over as you’re climbing. So I follow you, slowly, quietly, patiently. Please remember that when I am old and need you to do the same.
Ever since you’ve learned to crawl, our house has the mess of the one-two punch that is you and your sister. Your sister can reach anything and everything. You can transport things, and love to put objects into containers, cupboards, etc. I am missing one toddler size 9 gold shoe, and I firmly believe that it was your & your sister’s collaboration that undermined any sense of organization (haha!) I thought this household had. So… our house is trashed most of the time. It’s not terrible, except that it is terrible. I strongly believe in a “prepared” environment — one that is neat and where everyone can access what they need to. I think our days go better when our house works for us in this way, and I wish, especially for your sake, that I was able to keep the house more clean/organized — I think it would really allow you to play more independently and concentrate more deeply. Also, you wouldn’t be constantly accessing and trying to eat random bits of paper, small rocks, cardboard, styrofoam, crayons, and other nonsense. While we’re on this topic: could you please stop taking bites out of full rolls of toilet paper?
Anyways. You. You love the bath, you go CRAZY when daddy gets home from work because you are SO happy to see him, you love the dogs and frequently approach them solely to put your arms around them and lean your head on them. There have been so SO many days where those dogs are just on my last nerve, and then, you. You love them so fiercely that I know I should quit the impatience and just sit and pet them with you.
Your sister and you seem to be off to a good start. She ADORES you, ADORES. You are always her “tiny sister” and she’s quite pleased to show you off to anyone and everyone. “You see my tiny sister?” She wants to hug you, smooch you, and sometimes she even thinks it’s okay if you handle her toys for a moment. You love to watch her, and demand for any food (especially cookies) she might have. She loves to rip things out of your hands. Your response is either to pick up another toy or to scream as loudly as you can until she gives it back. This works for me because I don’t have to interfere much — you two seem to be navigating object sharing as well as I can really expect a 3 and 1 year old to. You can hold your own, little one, and I love it.
You nod your head “yes” and “no”, though I think sometimes you either don’t know what you really want, or are too quick to respond and say “yes” when you really mean “no”. The head nods are helpful, more helpful than screaming/crying, and I think you’re quickly realizing that you can communicate with us better through words/actions than crying. Thank goodness, because this is a TOUGH age. There is just SO much that you want, and you have so few ways to communicate.
Your gestures include: please, thank you, milk, more, change, food, water, all done, help
Your words include: mommyyyyyyyyyy, daddyyyyyyyyyyy, lilly, doggyyyyyyy, poppy, grammy, naneeeeeeeeee, please, milk, more, barley, jezebel, up (bup), snack (NACK), cookie, done, teeth, bath, brush, help, scoot, noooooo, yoouuuuuuuu (you giggle with an exaggerated “you” when repeating “I love youuuu”), bird, and you’ll repeat just about any words we say to you
Your animal sounds include: moo, woof! (and panting), hoooooo, tweet, baa, and a tiny scrunchy nosed oink
(We celebrated you with a trip to the Children’s garden to play with the outdoor tea set and the fountains — both of which you enjoyed on previous trips as well as your birthday trip. Also, cupcakes in the backyard were a must.)
You are just the sweetest little thing, Elli P. It’s surreal to me that you’ve been with us for only a year and 1/3 — it feels like we’ve always been together. You bring so much joy to our family. You have the silliest faces, the cheesiest little grins, the sweetest little giggles! I am so glad, so SO glad that you are mine. I couldn’t imagine things any other way. And I think that our fun is just beginning, as we get to see more and more of who you are (and what you want) each and every day. Love you so SO much, kiddo.
We spent nearly two weeks in July “down the shore” — which is Jersey speak for “at the Jersey Shore”. Here are a million pictures. The shore is beautiful and I just couldn’t really resist getting out the camera and taking 3.2 million pictures of the girls.
We drove, the 14 hour trip was fine. Somehow on the way back we ended up only stopping twice. TWICE! Which was, in fact, probably a small miracle. The girls were GREAT in the car both ways, and I was surprised that I didn’t really have to break out any of the toys from the emergency oh-crap-this-is-terrible toy stash.
Jason’s parents rented a sweet house just a few blocks from the beach, and it was really a perfect size for all of us! And so close to Jason’s aunt, cousins, etc, so there was much socializing with family that we don’t get to see very often. Jason’s college-aged cousins Lauren and Emily were a HUGE help to us, and Lilly and Elli loooovvveeeeeddd their big girl cousins. It was also cool to see Lilly play with her cousin Maezie. They were pretty sweet running around playing “long long long hair” with shoelaces tied around their heads and trailing behind them, blowing bubbles on the porch, or digging in the sand and splashing in the water. The two girls got along really well, and that made the week so enjoyable.
My kiddos loved the beach. I’m not sure that my pre-child self could have sat at the beach for 10 days in a row, but since “sitting at the beach” with kids = not at all sitting, unless Eleanor is nursing or sleeping on me, this was a welcome break. I actually managed to finish an entire book while E slept on me — and it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve actually read an entire book without losing interest or being interrupted by other activities.
I will say that I hit my limit on sand a few times… there’s nothing like a completely sand-covered baby snuggling up to you, getting sand all over you… in your bathing suit when you nurse her, on your face as her little sandy hands grab at your cheek. Ugh. It sounds sweet when I type it here, and I never thought I was really like that, but ugh. SAND EVERYWHERE is just more than I can do.
The girls LOVED the sand, though. Elli P loved crawling in it, eating it, just running her fingers through it. And she especially loved it when we’d bring her buckets of water to splash in and pour over herself. I don’t think she was as sure of the water – unless someone was sitting in front of her to block/ease the waves, she seemed a little nervous about it. Understandably.
Lilly had fun building in the sand with cousins – or actually she had fun SMASHING whatever castle you’d try to make. And of course digging in the sand is great, especially when the cousins dig GIANT holes that are bigger than you! So fun to climb in!
One evening, we dressed the girls in white and took them to the beach for pictures. They posed politely for a few pictures, and then it somehow turned into a trash-the-dress shoot, with Lilly and Maezie running into the ocean in their dresses. And actually those pictures are even better than the posed ones — there’s something about the unleashed JOY of these kids when they’re doing something so very fun.
We also visited the boardwalk a few times for pizza (mine without cheese — I think El has a dairy allergy/sensitivity/thing), caramel popcorn, ice cream, etc. I was so SO surprised that Lilly went on some of the rides at the boardwalk – she is usually a very hesitant kid, especially when something is new or involves motion. Her aunt & cousin were kind enough to take her on some of the rides, and she seemed to really love it! She even braved her first rollercoaster, daddy by her side! I’m so very proud of her for trying something new!
Our friends visited from Philly for a day, and that was great. Our girls played together really nicely, and though it was overcast and a bit cold, we had a great time at the beach and boardwalk! It’s always nice to see friends that we’ve had such a history with (Jason has known them since high school!), and fun to see friends turn into parents, little ones playing sweetly together.
Jason and I also managed to escape by ourselves a few times. It’s really strange to suddenly be able to eat a meal without interruption, or to not worry about whether anyone else has to use the bathroom while you’re out. Of course, we end up talking about the girls the entire time. They are so sweet and happy and wonderful that I sometimes feel guilty for feeling like I need a break. But! Having family around is a great excuse to leave the kids with loved ones and to shower/use the bathroom alone. And, hey, if I can work in a morning or two of sleep, that is like a trifecta of wonderfulness. Certainly traveling anywhere with little ones is more work than just being home, but it’s worth it to see the relationships that the girls are building with family, and to grab any of these little breaks as they come. We are so glad that we had the opportunity to spend time with family this summer, and the location (the beach!) really couldn’t have been beat. Just a perfect location for the ages/interests of our girls right now!
I don’t really understand how it’s possible that I am the mother of a THREE year old!
This girl brings us SO MUCH JOY. We are so very thankful that she is ours.
At three, our little Lilly has a HUGE imagination. Everything is princesses, singing, her daughter (who constantly runs away and needs to be tied to her with a rope – and yes, she came up with this on her own, and YES it is so very embarrassing to walk through Target asking Lilly to tell her daughter to stay in the cart, or yelling “daughter! come back!” or tying the rope on the cart just a little tighter so that daughter doesn’t run away. Also, I don’t know where she gets the idea to rope her daughter to begin with — this is not something we do at home! ). Outside, we play in the playhouse — ahem, the PRINCESS CASTLE — and we have to put our pretend princess dress, glass slippers, earrings, and crowns on, and then we grab sticks and we’re OFF TO FIGHT THE DRAGONS! Lilly usually ends up fighting them with her own fiery breath. More recently, she’s been asking to play princess school, and I get to be the teacher. I suppose this is good training for when I really begin to do some schooling activities with her this fall.
She is very sensitive, and has a big heart. She does not like being told no, and she does not like hurting others and then having to “make it right”. We ask her to “make it right” instead of forcing “sorry” — there is so much more she can do to fix problems than just a “sorry” and this has gotten her to think out of the box a little. Also, we’ve come to realize that she needs to DO something to make it right before she’s ready to say “sorry” – a hug, getting a bandaid, whatever; and once she’s done something for you, then she’ll throw out that little sorry, and I’m fairly certain she means it. I was really impressed the other day — we had friends over and her friend fell off the swing. Lilly immediately said, “I know! I’ll get a bandaid!”, and I think this is because we talk a lot about what we can do for people when they get hurt (whether it’s accidental or a purposeful action — luckily in our case it is rarely purposeful).
Lilly tells us often “I love you!” It’s pretty amazing.
Lilly seems to have missed out on the toddler tantrums. When she does cry, we’ve found it effective to either empathize (“I know you feel sad when mama tells you no, but we simply don’t eat cookies for breakfast”), or if the crying is a bit more persistent, just repeating what she says does the trick (“you want a cookie. you said that you want a cookie.”) until she calms down (she still doesn’t get the cookie… can you tell that cookies for breakfast is a frequent request?). We’ve also learned that if she’s acting out/annoying, she’s usually 1. tired, 2. hungry, or 3. in need of some hugs. Knowing this makes the few times that things do get crazy MUCH easier to resolve.
She’s a great eater and a TERRIBLE sleeper. TERRIBLE. (one more for emphasis) TERRIBLE. She no longer naps. We hope she’d just sleep 12 hours at night, but occasionally, she likes to take 2 hours to go to bed or wake at 3/4am and be SO AWAKE AND HAPPY AND PLAYFUL for like 2-3 hours before falling back asleep. It’s insane, and none of us really know what to do about it. And actually, this happens once week/fortnight, and otherwise she mostly sleeps through the wee hours of the night, which is a HUUUUGGGEEEEEEE improvement over last summer/fall/winter/early spring when she’d wake several times in the night screaming for one of us. We decided to move her bed into baby Ell’s room, and that made a huge world of difference. I think our sensitive girl may have felt a bit left out since mama and Eleanor were sleeping in just the next room. Also, it’s a bit easier to consistently walk her back to her bed when I’m in the room. And actually, she sometimes comes to crawl in bed with me first thing in the morning and cuddle for a bit before we start our day, and that is really sweet.
My favorite thing about Lilly at this age is her enthusiasm. She’s overwhelmingly thankful and excited for the littlest things — “Mama, can I be Cinderella?’ “Of course, Lilly” “OH! FANK YOU! FANK YOU MAMA!” It takes so very little to make her happy. She can entertain herself in her own imaginary world for hours… that is, until it’s time to put Eleanor to bed, and then she’d like to be in the same room thankyouverymuch. She is so fun to just watch and I’m often very entertained by what she comes up with!
So, of course we had to throw a tiny shindig for our favorite three year old. The theme? Princesses, OBV. We invited just a few friends, most of whom have kiddos Lil’s age, and mentioned that the kids could wear their fave royal clothing if they were so inclined. I made a cardboard castle complete with paint sample card flags (Jason likes to say that if they start charging for those, it’ll be my fault! I’ve used them for a few projects recently… ). Lilly styled the orange flower pot out front!
We had grilled food, and Lilly helped me make some fruit wands (thank you, pinterest!). I cut slices of watermelon and let her use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out smaller pieces. Then I showed her how to put grapes on a skewer and top them with the watermelon slices. And she worked for about a half hour, but she also ate for a half hour, so I didn’t get very far until she left the table to play outside!
And finally, the little princess needed a princess cake. A few carefully placed oreos and frosting- and sprinkle-covered ice cream cones made this little cake look a bit more festive, though next time I’m not sure I’ll go with bright blue frosting — blue everywhere!
Our little princess was quite pleased with her little party! (Not as pleased with the blowing out of candles — she recruited Jason to help her on that one).
The invites to her royal ball were also castle themed (of course!):
(The party info is underneath the drawbridge.) These were quick and easy, and I discovered Lilly’s love of glue sticks when making these with her.
All in all, ’twas a wonderful little royal ball. I think the kiddos had fun, and we had fun catching up with our fellow parent/friends. And we’ve gotten SO MUCH MILEAGE out of that cardboard castle this summer!
Making progress on ye olde family story.
This summer we decided to undertake another major remodeling project — we removed the flooring on our first floor and had hardwood floors installed instead. Well, by “we” I really mean “Jason removed the flooring on the first floor”. The girls and I went to Nanee and Grandpa’s house to avoid the mess. (Leaving Jason alone in the house for the 4th. I don’t know if I felt sad for him — alone on a holiday — or totally jealous — what is 8 hours of solid sleep like?)
And also, we went to see one of my fave high school friends who was in town from Utah!
And also, Uncle Robby was in town, so how could we miss that?
So we went, and we dressed in our best red, white, and blue, and watched the parade. Lilly is still a bit timid with the candy, but we made out decently anyways. Once again this year, I was all, “WHERE ARE THE FLOATS!?” I mean, I liked the candy, but it was just group after group of kids throwing candy, a few church groups with popsicles, two marching bands, a dance troupe, and old cars. We for sure needed some festively decorated trailers, some chicken wire and TP creations, and the random strange vehicle to celebrate our country’s independence. I feel like I complain about this every year, and one of these years I’m just going to need to devise a reason to enter a parade and make one myself. I hope pinterest will be able to supply me with some good ideas when the time comes.
After the parade, a little pool party at Nanee’s! I feel like I missed half the party when I was putting E down for her nap, but Lilly sure had an awesome time swimming with everyone and anyone who would get in the pool with her!!
And we rounded out the night with a visit to grandma and grandpa great’s lake house. The Yacht club has a party every year, and we took the girls over for a few games. I remember going to this party every year when I was a kid, so it was fun to take the girls. Also: they had a bounce house, and Lilly, who had just learned to jump the month before (and now JUMPS EVERYWHERE OVER EVERY LINE AND CRACK) was in bounce house heaven. She even impressed (and terrified!) me by taking on the big kids bounce house — I didn’t know if she’d be able to do the climbing, and I was worried that she’d get knocked over and hurt by one of the bigger kids in the bounce house. She seems to have a pretty good idea of what she can handle, though, and I don’t like second guessing her abilities, so I said “go for it!” during a particularly calm moment in the bounce house.
When we returned to my grandparents house, it was nearly time for fireworks! Lil curled up on Auntie Ashley’s lap for the fireworks. I think she liked them at first, and then wasn’t quite sure about how loud they were. (The same thing happened during the fireworks at Cinderella’s castle – the first few were cool, after that, not so much).
We enjoyed the rest of our weekend in Milwaukee, but as usual, it went too fast. We spent the day after the fourth on the lake watching Uncle Trevor sail. I made the world’s creepiest cake so that we could celebrate Lil’s birthday with my family. She had seen one of those barbie cakes in the grocery store and requested it since it was so very obviously a PRINCESS CAKE AND SHE LOVES PRINCESSES. So that was my plan, only I did not prepare for this AT ALL, and my grandma and I were unable to find those little doll tops on such short notice in the town nearest to their lake home. My grandma did find this doll in the basement, though, so we went with it. Lilly was thrilled. But it is admittedly not my best work. Creepiest cake EVER!
We visited the zoo with my high school BFFs and their kiddos. It was soooo fun. My love for the Milwaukee Zoo is no secret… and sharing the zoo with old friends is even better!
After our busy zoo day, we headed back to Michigan. Our trip back was the WORST TRIP YET, with Elli P starting in on the crazy crying at the halfway point, me stopping at every other exit to figure out what was happening in the back seat, her giggling as soon as I pulled her from the car seat and then screaming when I put her back into the car seat. Repeat for the next 1.5 hours. And that is when I gave the ipad to the baby. And she stopped crying and watched Frozen, and five minutes later she fell asleep. CUE BIG SIGH OF RELIEF from yours truly.
Last year’s strawberry picking was such a hit that we spent the following 12 months going strawberry picking in the living room with a basket and imaginary strawberries. So it was a total no-brainer that we had to return this year. We went to the same U-pick place again this year, and we brought Jason and Eleanor with us. The strawberries were smaller (and the weeds bigger!) than I remembered from last year, but we managed to pick enough to make mama a strawberry margarita (and Lilly her first “kiddie margarita”), and that’s really all that matters. Our picking process was only slightly impeded by two tiny hands plucking the freshly picked strawberries from the baskets and taking a bite or two before returning them to the basket, but that is part of the fun, right!?
Some pictures from what turned out to be a pretty fun afternoon: