Sunday, July 28, 2013

fit for a princess.

Carly loves princesses. I dare say most 4 year old girls do. She knows all the stories. Every night daddy tells her two or three, and she is constantly interjecting with corrections and extra details. I tell her made up stories too, about Princess Carlina, Princess Quinnifer, Prince Jonathan, King Christopher, and Queen Erina. They usually have to do with rescuing butterflies or Carlina saving Quinnifer from all sorts of trouble. They always bring the biggest smiles to her face.

Yesterday, we had an afternoon fit for a princess.
A general store in a little nearby town holds a "Princess Cafe" every year. The little girls come dressed up and there is face painting, a little craft project, manicures, a gift to take home, and REAL princesses. In the flesh. I told Carly about the "princess party" but did not mention the princesses. I was interested to see how she would react, because we have talked before about how all the stories are just pretend.

My little princess got all dolled up, complete with her beautiful dress, necklace and bracelet, and a sparkly pink purse. And a crown, of course. We got the crown that week and she could be seen wearing it around town for days.

She got a kiss from her prince before we headed out.

We arrived and right as you walked in the princesses were waiting. Carly was totally starstruck. She didn't say a word at first and was very nervous during the photo ops. We moved on and she got her nails painted purple and her face painted like a rainbow butterfly. When we had done everything, they gave her a very cute necklace in a little crown jewelry box.

But Carly wasn't done. The whole time we were there she kept scanning the store for the princesses. She was captivated by them. She gradually got more brave and kept walking up and say "Hi" and just smiling really big. She was particularly fond of Jasmine, and asked her to sit down by her, which Jasmine did for a minute before more photos were required. Carly was so funny. She just stared at the princesses. For a girl who is overly logical, she bought right in to them. In the car on the way home, she kept saying "Mom, it was the ACTUAL Jasmine!" I think she would pass out if we ever took her to Disney.

It was a magical little event, and she was talking about it all day. It was so heartbreaking at the end of the day when we had to wash her rainbow butterfly off. She was so sad, and I felt like it was washing away the magic. I had so much fun with my little princess, and I hope we can make it next year with two little princesses in tow.

I have to say, when Carly was a baby I was all feminist woman-power anti-princess. There are a lot of strong woman roll models, so why let her get caught up in the princesses? But there is something special about childhood magic, about believing in fairy tales. It is funny though, because true to Carly's unique character, her favorite stories are the less popular ones, Mulan and Pocahontas, though her "most favoritest" remains Ariel. When I tell the stories, I still say that Cinderella and Prince Charming "had long talks and got to know each other and went to college and got married", but I know there is a lot of real life ahead of her, so maybe a few years of magic isn't such a bad thing after all. 

[I love this picture. I was trying to get her to smile, and right then she made eye contact with Jasmine. Hence the huge grin.]

Saturday, July 27, 2013

summer days.

More summer fun than you can stand:
  • We went to "Touch-a-Truck" where they had all sorts of cool and not-as-cool vehicles to look at. Chris and I wanted to look at the fire trucks and ambulance and the armored police tank that looked like the Batmobile, but Carly, nope, she was all about the moving truck and the school bus. She was so excited about the school bus, she jump right up into the driver's seat. "Maybe one day I could be a bus driver!" she exclaimed. Yes, maybe someday you can.
  • We broke out the Play Dough one day and Carly crafted an octopus with 8 legs and a white temple. She poked it with her finger and said, "It needs a door so people can go in." Amen to that, sister. The twins, however, smelled something interesting and saw bright colors, so naturally they both took big bites. John's bottom teeth were caked in blue Play Dough. Gag me. I banished them both and Q wasn't happy about it.
  • We've been on a board game kick around here. Carly LOVES Sorry! There was an episode of Parenthood once where they let Sydney win all the time so she turned into a bad sport. In light of that, I play with Carly 100% fair and square. She beats me sometimes and I beat her sometimes, and she's learning not to be upset when she loses. We also made up a kid-friendly version of Ticket to Ride, and I have to say I may like that one more. Way less stressful. 
  • Quinn likes corn on the cob. Like really really likes corn on the cob. Like she gnaws on the cob once all the corn is gone, and screams like you're ruining her life when you take it away.
  • We went to the City of Lansing Market. It was all sorts of fun, with pretty Michigan grown fruits and veggies, burgers with GF buns, and Belgian chocolate gelatto. Then we headed up to the state capital. I love capital buildings, and this was the second one this summer we visited that was closed. Bummer. We'll have to journey up on a weekday. 

  • The Mitten spent a week of 90-100 degree days and any thoughts of maybe moving to Texas some day went out the window. I can't take it.
  • We've had all sorts of water fun. My go-to lazy mom trick is to fill a giant pitcher and a bucket with water and give the kids measuring cups and let them go at it. Its funny to watch them, as Q and Carly tenderly take sips and water plants, while John throws it all over his face and soaks his clothes. And only a daddy would dunk his son's head, and only a John would laugh about it.
  • Our third trip to the splash pad was the charm, and the kids warmed up to the idea. It still doesn't hold their attention for too long. The park where the pad is also has a small lake, and all three of my little Michiganders prefer the lake. Its more work for mom but a lot less whining from them, so I don't mind. Quinn just sits on her knees with the water up to her armpits and doesn't move. If you try to take her out of the water she gets mad. She just wants to sit. She cracks me up.
  • One thing I love about the Midwest is the warm downpours. You just don't see rain like this elsewhere. We make sure to play in it every time. And when the sun inevitably comes out 10 minutes later, there are lots of puddles left to explore. 
  • Our complex pool is warming up, and often empty in the mornings. The poor sun-tanners don't get much peace and quiet when we're around.

  • We went to a nearby water park with some friends. It had a zero-depth pool, which was perfect for the three babies, and Carly and G could stand up in the shallow pool, plus they had life jackets for anyone to use. Two moms and 5 kids lasted FOUR hours, and we had so much fun. Quinn got to the point where she would just walk out until the water reached her chin, and push my had away when I tried to grab her. John loved "jumping" off the edge into 5 inches of water. Ever the fishy, I had to drag Carly out when it was time to go. Our wristbands were good for the whole day, so we headed back in the evening with daddy, mostly so mommy could go down the water slides. It was the ultimate exhausting summer day.

  • We have all sorts of everyday cuteness too. We paint nails, we give snuggles, we're learning to fold our arms for prayers, we wear 3 pairs of daddy's socks at once, we give kisses on our 16-month day, we look fly in our sunglasses (even if we're in a pink car seat), we give mom a workout at the grocery store, we pile on daddy, and we lament our first-ever time out.

These simple summer days make for a good life.

Monday, July 15, 2013

within the walls of our home.

Our very first home was a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in a complex called Union Square. It was just south of BYU campus, and it was ours. We were newlyweds, and it was crazy to see our wedding pictures on the wall, and our clothes in the closet, and our little tv that I won in high school on the tv stand (we kept that little tv for FIVE years, people). The previous blissfully newlywed tenants had left a vinyl quote on the wall with a big open space above it, where they had obviously hung their massive wedding picture. So, naturally, we hung our massive wedding picture there too. I can't remember what the quote said. I wish I could. We watched a lot of West Wing and Gilmore Girls. And we exchanged our first Christmas gifts as a married couple. It was perfect.

Our second home in Provo was a mansion. Literally. It was an old mansion on Center Street that was divided into apartments. We had a massive living room, a dining room, a random room that made no sense, and a bedroom, where the only AC in the place sat in the window. Our massive living room had a little alcove with a fireplace, and double doors that opened up onto a porch. We hosted a lot in that home, with that massive living room. Our kitchen, however, did not having a dishwasher, something I promised myself I'd never live without again. Once we were having an MTC party (Chris worked there for several years) and we were short on time, so we shoved a bunch of dirty dishes (they were rinsed, in our defense) in a trash bag and hid them in the storage closet. Oh, those were the days. Our next door neighbor was the actor who played Pontius Pilate in the church video The Lamb of God, and I got a little thrown off every time I chatted with him. We were a bit further away from campus, so I rode a bike to and from school and work most days. I loved that slice of mansion. I was so sad when we left it to cross the great plains and settle in Tennessee, of all random places.

In Tennessee we found a spacious two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. I managed to get a full-time job on campus, with benefits and the works. To us, we were bringing in the bacon, and life was nice. One bathroom was decorated in UT decor, with bright orange bath mats with big white Power T's on them, and a shower curtain covered in little orange Power T's. The other bathroom was blue and brown. It was in the blue and brown bathroom that Chris and I stared in silent amazement at the plus sign on my pregnancy test, and it was in the Power T bathroom that I have the most distinct memory of puking up chili dogs a few weeks later (who eats chili dogs while pregnant? rookie mistake). A few months of praying after that plus sign, and I decided to quit my job when baby came. In preparation for a significant income cut, we moved into a smaller apartment. A smaller apartment when we find out we're having a baby? Yep, that's us.

But this smaller apartment, that place was precious to me. We decorated the small second bedroom in pale teal and pink and we waited for the big event. I continued working until 2 days before having Carly. I would work all day and come home and fall asleep instantly. Chris would wake me to eat the dinner he had prepared, and I'd go right to sleep afterwards. It was that smaller apartment, apartment 8D, that we brought our first baby home to for the first time. Chris was in his second year of his Masters, and I was nursing, so we had a deal that I would do those newborn nights. He slept on a sleeping bag in the living room floor. It was in that little apartment that I went storming into Chris crying and saying "I don't know what's wrong with her!" and his daddy touch would calm her down every time. It was in that little apartment that we enjoyed the Winter Olympics, the World Cup, and watched the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. Carly rolled, sat, crawled, and walked in that apartment. When we moved out, headed to Michigan of all random places, I watched 1-year-old Carly run around the empty space and I couldn't believe how far we'd come.

We have had exactly 1 home in Michigan, and we've now been here nearly three years. I have literally not lived in a home this long since I was 16. When we moved into this spacious, three-story townhouse, I was flying high. A washer and dryer in the basement, 2 large bedrooms upstairs, open living room and large kitchen. Carly's room was adorable, with a sky blue accent wall and lots of pink, purple, orange, and yellow. The three of us had a good thing going, and plenty of room to stretch our legs. You all know what happens next. When we brought the twins home, our home got instantly smaller. In the last few months they have shifted fully from babies to actual humans, and we are bursting out of our walls. We were so close to moving to a little rental house with 3 bedrooms and a fenced in backyard. I wanted that house so bad. I was decorating it in my mind. In the end, we couldn't take the financial hit. One more year, we keep saying. We can make it one more year.

We recently moved all the kids into the big bedroom. The results on sleep patterns has been somewhat catastrophic when combined with teething and our trip to Chicago. We're exhausted, but we're forging ahead, adjusting here and there to new routines and trying to sleep train a couple of spoiled toddlers. But you know what is wonderful? Waking up in a bedroom. Chris and I have been sleeping in the unfinished basement, and the last week of waking up in a room with walls and windows . . . magical.

Our three years in this home have held more blessings and challenges then we could have ever anticipated. Our big kitchen is a favorite dance floor. Our open living room is more of a playroom that happens to have couches. Our carpets are pounded by six little feet and covered in spilled sippy cups and crunched crackers. Our walls have been marked by crayons and wiped clean by magic erasers. While we have long grown out of this home, the prospect of leaving it tugs at my heart strings. It has been good to us. We have a very special brand of chaos, and this home has been its protector. Because while there is screaming and tantrums and the most perfect time-out corner at the bottom of the stairs, there have been bedtime prayers, tickle fights, Sunday naps, first steps, high-pitched giggles, splashing bath times, and sloppy kisses.

In the big open kitchen sits our kitchen table. We were given our table 6 years ago in Provo by a family friend who had (I think) 6 kids. It was old and marked up then; well-loved, if you will. They wanted to keep most of the chairs, but gave us two. That would be great, as we would surely get a new table before we needed more than two chairs. Six years later, and that old heavy table has moved to several homes in three states in different regions of the country. It is now covered in even more marks . . . paint from Carly crafting, marker from calendar scheduling, food coloring from cupcake decorating. It has the history of two families stained in its grain. It now has 5 chairs around it. Two are the original matching chairs. A third is painted in bright colors with designs and flowers. It was painted by Chris's late grandfather for Chris's sister, and is now Carly's beloved chair. I don't believe I will ever bring myself to paint over it. The final two chairs are $6 Walmart folding chairs. Yesterday they held two highchairs. Today they held two booster seats. Time really does move too quickly.

This table and set of mismatched chairs is a complete eyesore in my opinion. I have been saying for 6 years that we would get a new one. But it never even came close to a budget priority. A few months ago, a family moved in for a short time a few townhouses down. There were five kids in the family, a combination of half and step siblings. There was a dad and an aunt and a grandma. We are far from perfect, but it was obvious from the way the kids talked and behaved that they had a drastically different lifestyle than Carly. One Saturday we were playing on our back patio when the kids came by. They were mobbing the water table, leaving little room for the babies, and I was getting frustrated. The oldest girl, about 8, peeked through our glass back doors. She spied our table and 5 chairs. "You have a kitchen table?" she asked. "And you all sit around it?" Chills shot down my spine. My heart broke for her and I replied, "Yeah. Yeah we do." Her little brother piped up, "We don't even have a table."

That girl didn't noticed that our table was old. She didn't noticed that it was covered with marks, or that we had 5 crazily mismatched chairs. She noticed that we sat down and had family dinner together. And we do. Most nights, we do.

We don't do a lot right. I often feel we are kind of making this thing called life up as we go along. We have three kids and we're still in school. We scrape by. We live in homes that are too small, and do crazy things like sleep in sleeping bags in the living room and in unfinished basements. But our too small homes, I hope, always have the spirit in them. There are prayers and scripture study and on a good week maybe even a Family Home Evening lesson. In a regional conference of our church a few months ago, a speaker said, "What happens within the walls of our homes gives our children the strength to go outside those walls." These walls are sacred to me, and I pray that the laughter, the teaching, the play, the learning, and the praying that goes on within them will make our kids the good, strong people we hope they become.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

color run fun with my lil' hun.

Carly and I enjoyed the Color Run in downtown (the first time I typed that I typed "Downton" and couldn't figure out why it was underlined in red. Oh, Matthew!) Lansing today. Carly was not originally scheduled to run with me. I was going with a few friends, but when I took her to pick up my packet last night she was enthralled by the fun atmosphere and asked to race with me. After repeated extensive explanations that the race would be long (5K) and they would throw color at us ("But its not nice to throw things at people!"), she still wanted to go. We went with my friend Nichelle, and she was kind enough to go at a three-year-old's pace. Moms are good like that.

The race started right in front of the Capital building and with the huge crowds in the required white shirts, it was quite the sight. Carly did pretty well. Who knows how long it took, but we completed our 3.1 miles with a mixture of running, walking, dancing, piggy-back rides, and riding on mom's shoulders. I did a little running with her on my back, and woah, it is not for the weak. I think my arms got more of a workout than my legs. Along the way we also ran into some other friends who we were hoping to see, and Carly got to run a bit with her little friend. They were quite cute. 

The color points were at every kilometer. There would be a big arch and loud music announcing it's presence, and as you ran through race workers would squirt colored "food grade" powder on you out of big bottles. The first color was pink, and Carly got an entire face full. Thankfully I had had her wear sunglasses. She was laughing about it, but from then on she asked "to go in the middle" so she wouldn't get quite the same experience. We completed the race sufficiently covered in a rainbow of powder, and then headed home on towel-covered seats.

I was initially hesitant, but I'm so glad Carly came. She was so fun and I think she had a memorable time. I just love that she is getting to an age where I can share things like this with her. I've always said she is my BFF. It only becomes more and more true as she grows.

Oh, and excuse me while I'm "that mom", but our local news station was asking people to send in pictures of the Color Run, so I sent in the adorable shot above that Nichelle took. And Carly's cuteness was so undeniable, they posted it on their Facebook page. She's pretty much famous. I'm expecting her to make me rich some day. (And no, she's not quite 4 yet. I rounded up a month.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

how to: have a fabulous fourth.

I just love the 4th of July. I had such wonderful Fourths growing up in the great state of Idaho, and as every July rolls around, my heart hurts that I am not there enjoying BBQ and fruit pizza and the Biggest Show in Idaho (if you're from Pocatello, you are reading that in the appropriate radio announcer voice). Fortunately, my formative years and my few years of motherhood have left me with a few keys to any All-American celebration.

1) Pre-celebration is key. 

In the days leading up to the 4th, we made patriotic cupcakes, ate patriotic popsicles, painted flags, and dolled up our nails in the red, white, and blue. While I was painting Carly's fingers, Quinn ran right over and sat down and stuck her toes in the air. Needless to say, she sported the most adorable festive pedicure over the weekend. On the third, Carly woke up to a new stuffed puppy (to share . . . ) and a United States puzzle. I had a similar puzzle growing up and loved it (#nerdalert). We did the puzzle during naptime, and we reviewed all the states and know and love people that live in quite a few of them. Carly found Michigan right away and put it right in it's place. As for the puppy . . . Carly spotted it at the mall and talked about it all the time. I found it on Amazon for a fraction of the price, but her birthday seemed too long to wait. A patriotic ribbon made him the perfect festive surprise. I told Chris I wanted him to have a fun name to go along with the holiday, but I was struggling to come up with one. And, folks, this is why I married Chris . . he came up with the perfect name. Carly just loves cute little POTUS.

2) Wear your [patriotic] heart on your sleeve.

If you've been around a while, you know I'm a sucker for a holiday outfit, but the 4th takes the cake in my book. Between my MIL feeding my addiction and my raiding of the 4th of July section at a consignment store, our trio was well-outfitted. Quinn's sailor dress is a personal favorite of mine. She also had a star necklace and red, white, and blue sunglasses that she rocked on the 4th. Did I mention she loves accessories? All three of my American sweethearts looked adorable throughout the week. I can keep dressing them in coordinating red, white, and blue until Labor Day, right?

3) Enjoy America's pastime. 

We had the unique opportunity to go to an MLB game the afternoon of the 4th. Chris's uncle organized a bunch of family members to go. Chris's uncle, however, is a White Sox fan and we found ourselves on the wrong side of the tracks. You have to understand, Chris takes time every evening to check 7 different levels of the Chicago Cubs organization. We no longer have cable so he watches the little dots pop up on the computer screen to see what is going on during games. He is one of those people. But a pro baseball game is a pro baseball game, and we had a lot of fun enjoying the game with family (and without kids!). Unfortunately, it was hot and the game was initially very boring. But the shade moved over us, we consumed a full-sized helmet full of ice cream, and, wouldn't you know it, the game ended in the 9th with a walk-off home run. An all-American ending, to be sure.

4) Fireworks, of course.

I love fireworks. I mean, I seriously love fireworks. As a kid we'd walk from our house with my dad down to the local fairgrounds and sit right under them as the exploded above us. I have such wonderful memories of that. But late night fireworks with three small children in a busy crowded place? Not my cup of tea. Luckily, every year we somehow manage to enjoy fireworks, and this year, Chris uncles came through. The night of the 4th, Uncle Pete put on quite the show, bright and loud and beautiful (and probably not all that legal). John was loving it and clapped and pointed excitedly. Quinn was a bit nervous but still watched with great interest. I'm assuming Carly enjoyed herself, as she sat on a hammock with approximately 10 of Chris's teenage girl cousins. It may not be the Biggest Show in Idaho, but it filled my babies' eyes with wonder, and it filled my heart with pride and joy, and that's what its all about.

5) Swim. A lot.

Uncle Pete and Aunt Laurie were kind enough to offer up their pool to us on the 4th, and we crashed them again on the 5th. The kids were all outfitted in festive swimsuits, and we spent hours eating yummy snacks, drinking cool beverages, eating popsicles, and swimming swimming swimming with cousins. Carly and John are little fishies. John would dog-paddle all around the pool. And when you sat him on the edge he would jump right back in to your arms. Carly played with cousins, and soon became a pro at jumping off the diving board. Quinn was more of the beach babe type, walking around looking adorable and dipping her toes in once in a while to stay cool.  

6) Get some rest.

After our disastrous hotel stay in Holland in May, we had a lot of anxiety about our holiday trip to Chicago. But we must have worn those kids out, because they slept great in the hotel. They did so great that we extended our stay a night. Not to say we weren't all still quite exhausted, but hotel living wasn't as bad as we expected. It was a bit wild. Every night the kids were bathed and put in jammies at a different house, then the drive to our hotel put them to sleep, and we had a carefully orchestrated dance to keep them asleep and get them up to the room without leaving anyone unattended. Chris and I run quite the show. I do have to say, I wish when I left my house every day I would come home to freshly cleaned and made beds and towels.

7) Diversify your entertainment.

After two days of swimming, we decided to mix it up and headed to a nearby zoo with grandma and Aunt Becky. I am used to our little Lansing zoo, so this zoo seemed quite large. The issue with a large zoo is the animals are harder to see and the walking between animals is further. We went to a dolphin show while there, which was fun but needed a bit more jumping and a bit less talking. The best part was definitely the ocean aquarium, with rays and little sharks and big fish and a giant eel . . . and air conditioning. We're aquarium people, I think. But we had a great exhausting afternoon with grandma and Becky, and we did, in the end, see polar bears.

8) Family.

While the family I grew up with is 1600 miles away, the wonderful family I married into is just a hop, skip, and a jump from us. We are blessed to be so close to Indiana and Chicago, where Chris's family and extended family live. Every morning during our trip started at great-grandma's house. Known by many as "Baga", her home is full of food, dogs, Moose Tracks ice cream, soda, cozy couches, orders of Aurelio's pizza, and cousins. It was a magical place for Chris growing up, and has since become the same for me. What a blessing it is for my kids to be able to toddle around there, chasing doggies and exploring the backyard. Chris is the oldest cousin by quite a ways, and the gaggle of young girl cousins I met 7 years ago are now beautiful teens and women. Carly just loves them all. On day 2 of the trip, I asked her what she wanted to do and she relied, "I want to play with all the girls!" All of our family was great at entertaining the kids, meaning mom and dad got a bit of a breather here and there, and the kids got spoiled rotten. Not to mention grandma and papa, who took the brunt of the force the kids can cause, and made our weekend a wonderful one, while making theirs an exhausting one.

9) Remember the reason for the season.

I suppose one of the reasons I'm such a 4th of July buff is that I'm a history and politics nerd. What a blessing it is to live in this country. You can say this or that about a president, about Supreme Court rulings, or laws being passed. But there is such beauty in all of it. Beauty in the mountains and rivers and rolling hills and endless miles of open plains (maybe?) and the big cities and the little farm towns. But also beauty in the branches of government, the check and balances, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence. So much beauty in the history, and evidence of a divine hand that led the creation of a country where freedom could find new life, and the Gospel could be restored. I am so grateful that this is my home, so grateful for the comforts I have been provided, and so grateful to raise my family here.

We had a truly fabulous 4th.
We hope you did too.