Monday, April 29, 2013

Six.

Oh my.  
Yesterday my baby turned Six. Years. Old.

It does not seem quite right that my youngest is 6.  It was one thing when Ava turned 6...I still had a little 4 year old.  It feels very different with my baby being this age.  Birthdays, while so fun and amazing, also make my heart sink just a little.  I can't help but feel like the sand is slipping a little faster through the hourglass.  These delicious years of after the chaos of babyhood/toddler hood yet before the chaos of the teen years.  I want to freeze these times.  Since this isn't possible I have to try to soak them up, each and every moment.  Enjoy them and capture the memories that I can carry with me forever.  

Captured memories from the day of celebration.

Layla's Pig Party.  

I love little girl giggles with hands on their mouths

This classic game is fun for the littlest...

And the biggest...
 
The weather delivered and my vision of little kids on a blanket in the yard opening gifts came true...



Checking things out through the sea of little girls
The party was all things pigs and pink.  Including little pig snout cupcakes...


 Happiness was just radiating from her...

My two ladies are very different kids.  Layla is full of spirit.  She came out screaming 6 years ago and continued screaming for three months straight.  The saving grace was every night she would find her little thumb and sleep solid for 10 hours.  After the months of crying ended, the years of tantrums, biting and such began.  Those ended appropriately after toddler hood, but this girl can still throw a fit like nobodies business.  This may all sound like complaints, but that is not the case.  I am in awe of her fire and her spirit.  She is strong willed, knows what she wants and fights for it.  She is outgoing and hilarious.  She is confident and not afraid to try new things.  She is all the traits I admire so much and many I wish I had.  There have been times she drives me crazy and I wonder how she can be so different than her calm, always wanting to please, sister.  But then I realize I don't want to change her or crush her spirit.  I want to encourage her to be her most beautiful self.  I want this for both my girls.  Ava in her quiet introverted way and Layla in her wild ways.  That's what makes the world go around, right?  Different personalities, spirits, colors, opinions.  My job is to help them figure out their own awesomeness.  And, they are pretty awesome if I do say so myself.
Peace.
This whole weekend was all about the kids.  Seriously.  From Friday night to Sunday it was school carnival, a day trip to Billings for Build a Bear, the Zoo and then the birthday party yesterday.  It was all a lot of fun, but I did feel like we should have gotten a special parenting award by the end of it all.  

First up...school carnival fun-
  
They do it all.  Face painting, cake walk, games, prizes.  I don't remember having school carnivals when I was a kid.  It gets a little crazy and the kids were sugared out and over stimulated by the time we left, but it's all good.  The next day we headed to Billings, which is about 2 hours away from here.  We had decided to take the girls for the day so Layla could finally make a Build a Bear.  Ava has one from several years ago and Layla has been talking about them a lot recently.  It seemed like a fun idea to make her gift more of a family outing than just gifts.  I think she liked it...
Empty Bear..

Fluffing her up...
Finished product
After an hour in this store and lunch we went to the little zoo they have.  We have been to this zoo, but I heard it had changed a bit.  Matt and I were hesitant, but the girls really wanted to so we gave it a go.  I have mixed feelings about zoos in general.  There is a part of me that finds it fascinating to get the opportunity to see wild animals close up.    There is the other part of me that feels bad for these animals locked up in unnatural habitats.  This time around I leaned toward the latter feelings throughout most of it...it all seemed a little sad.  The girls enjoyed it though and it was a beautiful day to be walking around outside.  They especially enjoyed the snow cones at the end.


It was a long day, but a wonderful family day.  Something about leaving town and spending the whole day just us four.  We aren't home so the girls aren't lost in their own play world.  No distractions of anything else.  Just us enjoying the day together.  These moments make me feel very happy and content.  The views on the drive home don't hurt either...
The Crazies.  One of my favorite mountain ranges.  I think it's the name.  
My birthday month is now officially over.  We have celebrated each of my girls turning one year older.  We have added notches on the growing wall to see how much taller they are this year.  We have sang bad versions of "happy birthday" and my babies have made their wishes on candles.  My wish for them is another happy, healthy year.  For them to continue to grow into the kind and brave young ladies they will become.  For them to be their beautiful selves.
Even my feisty youngest...

She is so full of love and life.  And, those big brown eyes turn me into a puddle of mush. I am one lucky mama.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's the Funny Moments.

It's been a funny week.  Not funny as in "ha ha", but just a few funny things going on.  For example...eating chocolate sprinkled donuts on a random Wednesday morning.

Just a few sprinkles on there huh?  That's what happens when they let you put your own on.  You go crazy and smash it in the sprinkle bowl a little deeper to get as many as you can on.  Matt has been raving about this donut place in town that makes homemade fresh donuts.  I am not a donut fan.  I think it's because I prefer to have my dessert after dinner, not with breakfast.  However, I was intrigued to see if this place was worth eating fried dough and candy before 10 am.  We found ourselves with a bit of free time after we both took some time off Wednesday morning for Ava's class musical.  I thought this the perfect time to check this place out.  Here's what I found out:  
1.  Fresh donuts are, of course better than ones you get at the supermarket.
2.  A hippy dude who owns a donut joint is a very cool guy indeed.
3.  When the kid behind the counter tells you that you have to get a chocolate donut with sprinkles if it's your first time there, you do as you are told.
4.  Putting your own sprinkles on is fun at any age.
5.  You will crash from all that sugar approximately 2 hours after consumption.
6.  I still don't really like donuts.

Just as much as I thought I wouldn't be indulging in donuts this week, I didn't think I would say I made a tutu one night.  But, I did...

Cute, huh?  I didn't just get a wild hair and decide to make a tutu one night, there is a story behind it.  Although it may be funnier if I simply said I made a tutu one night.  Maybe because "tutu" is such a funny word in itself.  Anyways.  A couple friends from work and I are participating in a "Color Me Rad" 5K run next weekend.  This is a run where you basically get paint thrown at you throughout the run and end up a hot mess.  We decided if you are going to end a hot mess, you might as well start as one, hence the bright tutu's we will be wearing.  It was all very Project Runway...going to the fabric store to choose our colors, cutting  and knotting and creating the masterpiece.  They were kind of a pain (cutting what felt like 100 strips of tulle = not so fun), but they turned out cute and we had a lot of laughs making them.  The run is going to be a riot.

I mentioned before Ava had a musical in her class earlier this week.  They do one each year, with their individual classes.  The teacher takes volunteers to sing solos, which my quiet girl would never do.  However, the teacher also requires each kid to at least speak into the microphone.  I like that she does this...it encourages those who may be too shy to volunteer to still get the opportunity.  Or in the case of Ava, to force a little public speaking.  Ava practiced her lines, but was not excited about doing it.  She told me how nervous she was.  And, she had to open the show by welcoming everyone.  I was a little nervous for her because I'm pretty sure she gets this aversion to public speaking from me not Matt.  I expected her to go up and say her lines as quietly and quickly as possible.  I underestimated her.  She may have been scared, but she was cool and calm under pressure and delivered.  I was such a proud mama.

Onto my other baby...little miss Layla has a birthday coming up this weekend.  Two weeks really is the perfect time between their birthdays.  I need the one week to recover from the planning and baking from the first party and then a week to plan and bake for the next.  That is what I've been busy doing this week.  Lots of baking...
Chocolate cupcakes that will be turned into little pink snouts for the party and purple rice krispy treats for her class.  They don't really look purple in the picture.  I do think making rice krispy treats are kind of cheating when it comes to treats, but they are for a bunch of kindergartners and I don't think they'll be doing reviews at the end of snack time so I'm good.  There's also been some crafting going on in preparation for the pig party...

I have found the pig theme to be quite adorable.  Lots of pink.  The girls read these "Pinkalicious" books and I've always wanted to do a Pinkalicious themed party.  Neither of the girls have been on board with that, so the pig party has been the closest I can get so I'm making sure there is pink everywhere.  It is going to be a good time.  And, fingers crossed, I think the weather is going to cooperate for an outside party.  Toes crossed too on this one.

Earlier this week was a kind-of anniversary for Matt and I.  April 24th 1997 is the day we started dating.  Is that what kids are calling it these days?  Dating, going out, hooking up? Whatever you call it, it has been 16 years of togetherness!!!  Does that not sound crazy?! I remember so well sitting in my dorm room, 619 North Hedges and Matt kissing me for the first time.  I was a smitten kitten and have been since.  I was totally kidding when I told Matt the other morning that 16 years sounded too long and maybe we should just call it quits.  Sometimes my sense of humor is messed up.  
 
Aww, puppy love.  What babies we were.  And, I'm pretty sure that's a hemp necklace Matt has on.  And, I had at least 6 earrings in my ears.  We've come a long ways.

I'm looking forward to a weekend of celebrating my baby girl turning 6.  No trace of toddler hood or pre-schooler left.  It gives me a slight sadness.  She's my baby.  I will try to not be all mushy about it and simply celebrate the beautiful day she was born.  Who am I kidding...I'll totally be mushy about it.  That's what us mamas do.

I end with a moment I captured this week.  Just a girl and her dog...


Happy weekend to y'all.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Ramblings.

I'm a little sleepy tonight so forgive me if this is a little scattered.  We went out with our neighbors last night and even though we didn't get home late, I proceeded to chat with our babysitter, aka...my sister, until midnight.  This morning as I was going through the Monday morning routine I was regretting my lack of sleep as well as the third glass of vino I had at dinner.  Oh well.  

To start things off, Happy Earth Day...


We decided to brave the chill in the air with a stroll to the park after dinner to enjoy this Earth day.  The sun was out, but it was not warm.  Still feeling very winter like around here, but supposedly their is a warm up coming our way so maybe I can stop complaining about weather for awhile.  If it really does get nicer, I'll be ecstatic because it means maybe, maybe we can have Layla's upcoming birthday party outside this weekend.  This would be fantastic because there will be an extra handful at her party because little miss social butterfly has some class mates coming to her party.  Speaking of Layla's birthday Ava has been a busy girl making her sister a gift.  She told me she had a great idea, but would need a little help.  Always happy to help and encourage with the making of gifts I was all about this.  Ava then told me she wanted to make Layla a stuffed pig.  Hmmmm.  Now, I wish I had amazing sewing skills and daydream about being on Project Runway making fabulous clothes, but it is not something that is actually a part of my skill set.  I can sew on a button or do okay with the occasional Halloween costume, but I am no seamstress.  There was one point this past year I thought about trying to make curtains for our living room and Matt very nicely discouraged this idea, thank goodness.  Ava was really excited about the idea so I thought despite my reservations we would give it a try.  How hard could a little pig be?  It turns out, Ava has some pretty good sewing skills...

Maybe she'll be my little fashion designer.  She was so proud of her work and I can't wait to see Layla's reaction when she opens it.  

Between the sewing activities we had a very busy weekend.  It all began with Friday night date.  I love, love, love the nights Matt cooks date night dinner.  But, (there's always a but, right?!)  he is such a messy cook.  I kinda clean as I go when I'm in the kitchen and if it gets too messy in the midst I have to stop and clean up a bit.  Matt, on the other hand, uses every pot and pan, every piece of counter space and it pretty much looks like a disaster when all is said and done.  For example...

It must work for him though because dinner was spectacular...

He went with Indian food...not something either of us cooks often.  He made a red curry with basmati rice and homemade flat bread.  It was delicious.  Different than the usual pasta type dishes I usually gravitate towards on date nights.  I get stuck in food ruts sometimes...this was a very nice departure.  

My sleepiness is clouding my creativity, so I'm just going to throw down a few more happies from the weekend and call it a night.

1.  Cousin Time.
Friday after school I had my little nephew Jacob with me to pick up the girls.  They didn't know I was going to have him and it is always a happy surprise for them...

We then proceeded to head across town to meet Kim and Greg at their bus stop and threw a couple more cousins in the clown car...
Good Times.

2.  More Birthday Celebrations.
We spent Saturday evening at Matt's parents celebrating both girls birthdays with them.  This always means a lot of food, spoiling of the girls and lots of fun.
New Bday jammies!

More cake.  I don't think we are going to finish all of Ava's desserts before I start baking Laylas.  I'll keep working on it.  
3.  Impromptu Outings.
We had no real plans for Saturday.  When I was out on my run that morning I got a text from my dad inviting us up to their river house.  Sounded like a good time, so we loaded up in the car and met them there.  Bonus, my sister and her kids were there too.  We weren't there long, but long enough to relax and chat and let the kiddos play.  Play and taunt the puppy...
"Mokie!!!!  Come Mokie!!"

And, then they would run as soon as the pup came running over...
Except Ava...she always had love for Mokie.
4.  First World Problems.
A co-worker brought this book to the office full of all the "problems" we have to suffer in our country.  Things like...


They totally cracked me up.  We are so spoiled and ridiculous here and I love how it made fun of that.  Sarcasm is big in our family, so this book was right up our alley.  And, I couldn't help continuing to throw around the phrase "oh man, first world problems" throughout the weekend.  I think Matt's over it.  I still think it's funny.

And, I'm done.  This was pretty lame, but I couldn't not write this evening.  Even in my tired state it just completes my day.  Now, it's off to bed.  

Hope your week is happy.    

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy.

This week I've been in a bit of a funk.  I think it's because it feels more like we are in the middle of January than the middle April.  Daily snow showers and cold temps are bringing me down.  I thought the week of warm weather we had over Easter would hold me over the cool spring I knew would still come, but it didn't.  The wind, the grey skies and the snow...I'm so over it.  Everyone is.  It seems like any small talk I've had this week at work, at school pick up, at the grocery store...all leads back to talking about the crap weather and the longing for spring.  I know, I know, the moisture is good, blah, blah blah and it'll be helpful for fire season but I am o-v-e-r it.  

It's interesting to me how something like the weather can have such an effect on people.  Maybe not everyone, but for me it really does.  I found this out when we lived in Portland.  I knew going in to that experience it was one of the rainiest places in our country but didn't think it would matter.  Wrong I was.  It was an awesome city, but living under a constant grey cloud had me longing for even a snowy winter Montana day because the sky would still be bright blue with the sun out to warm your face.  This is why spring here is always a little tricky for me...it teases us.  A hint of a warm day here, poor little tulips popping up only to be covered in a wet snow the next day.  The hope of actual spring still weeks away.  Grass starting to look a little green, but the trees still totally bare.  I have to be honest, it causes more thoughts of living someplace warm creep into my head.  I have been thinking like that this week and then one night Matt and I watched this documentary, "Happy".  It was all about what causes happiness in people all over the world.  I found it so interesting.  Apparently 50% of being a happy or unhappy person is genetic.  I thank my parents for giving me good happy genes because I like to look at the glass half full.  40% of happiness come from yourself...doing things you enjoy, solid relationships and social situations and having compassion and helping in your community.  Only 10% comes from what you do, where you live and how much you make.  I have always believed happiness does not come from having a successful career or making lots of money, but was a little surprised how little actually contributes to that.  It got me thinking.  If living someplace warm would add to the 10% of my overall happiness, but would take away of 40% of the being around family and friends, is it worth it?  

Hmmm.  Sounds like a math problem.  I feel so fortunate to live around my family, to have the girls grow up with their cousins, have close friends that we've spent years building memories with.  I know how much all of that adds to my everyday happiness.  However, on day 10 of this stupid cold front I'm ready to pack up the Uhaul and head south...leaving snow pants and snow boots behind.  I guess what it really comes down to is I think it's time to move forward with my plan to move all our friends and family to a remote island somewhere and all just live there.  That would take care of the 40 and 10% of my happiness, right?

It was an interesting documentary.  We can't watch anymore food documentaries because after the last one we watched I completely changed the way we eat and basically cut out an entire food group.  Don't want to risk having to cut more out...what if it said wine and sweets were bad for you?  I'd have to take my chances, thank you very much.  

Anyways...on Monday we celebrated Ava's real birthday...
Getting some help from sister
We woke up to a blanket of snow (8% less happy).  I knew we all had limited time together for the day because of work and school so we got up a little early, everyone got ready and we took our girl out for breakfast before we all went our separate ways for the day.  Years past I've brought treats in to Ava's class for her birthday.  This year Ava told me she would just take them in the morning and I didn't have to.  Break my heart.  Apparently in second grade mama's aren't invited to this celebration.  I love the budding independence, but still makes ya a little sad.  Not for long though, just the week before she asked if I could "Please, please come on her class field trip and email her teacher right away because not everyone could go"  I'm still wanted.  After the school day I thought we could go to the park, but again our lovely weather had other ideas.  Instead, we stayed warm inside with a tea party...
No crust less cucumber sandwiches at our tea party...Cheese & crackers and Pop Rocks.  That's just how we roll.
  
The girls love having tea parties after school and we don't do them very often, so it was a treat.  We put on our pearls and say fancy things like "Would you like some milk for your tea?"  in British accents.  Maybe next time I'll have them call me "Mum".  That would be fun.

Not much else was planned for the evening.  We had Ava's special birthday dinner and then chocolate cheesecake for dessert.  She didn't know I made it and asked for a piece of her cake from the party for dessert.  The smile on her face when I walked out with a cheesecake with candles in it made the extra work of making it so worth it.  
Have I mentioned how much I love this girl?
After dessert we had a few gifts for her to open.  We try not to go crazy with gifts for the girls.  We have a big family so they end up with so much anyways.  I also really try to instill the idea that having a lot of material things is not what is important.  Of course, it's fun to have toys and things but I believe in quality not quantity.  I also think experiences and memories can be as great as gifts so instead of having Ava just open gifts, I made up a scavenger hunt for her to find them.  This is fun for all, myself included.  I love coming up with rhyming clues to send her all over the house.  I blame it on too many Dr. Seuss books.  
The hunt.
First gift sent her out in the cold...

Then to the closet...


Final gift was back outside...I was optimistic the weather would warm up.

It was a good birthday for her.  I think all the attention Ava was getting became too much for Layla because at one point she had a total breakdown and had to go to bed.  It's tough being the younger sister and having your birthday second.  These last couple weeks have been all about Ava and I think Layla was over it.  No excuse for the crazy tantrum she threw, but I was kinda happy to put her to bed early.  It gave us the last hour to spend with just our eldest.  When Ava turned four she got the Dr. Seuss book "Happy Birthday To You".  It is one of my favorites and I pick it for her bed time book every year on her birthday.  We finished it just in time for her to officially turn eight.  7:47pm.  We counted down and I gave her a big birthday kiss, tucked her in and felt very grateful for my baby girl.  

Happiness can be a funny thing.  You can feel it so strongly and easily at some moments and then really have to search for it in others.  Sometimes I wish I could walk around in a constant state of bliss, but that's not realistic.  And, rightfully so...I don't think you can truly appreciate those happy moments unless occasionally you feel the low moments as well.  I try to remember that when I find myself in a funk.  It's okay to feel like that once in awhile.  Then you have to use the 40% of happiness that you have control of and go find your happy.  Find the good.




Sunday, April 14, 2013

Eight.

The past few days have been full on birthday and the actual birthday has not even happened.  Tomorrow my girl will be turning eight.  EIGHT!!!

I know it is so cliche, but I just can't believe how quickly the time has gone.  Eight years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  This was all the more evident as we caught glimpses of baby Ava on the home videos I had on in the background during her party.  I love pulling out old home videos and baby books each year on their birthdays and really reminiscing.  Soaking up the memories and keeping them fresh in my mind so I never forget.  A birthday is a perfect time for this type of thing.  Thinking back to holding my Ava for the first time.  Knowing my life was forever changed for the better.  It seems like just yesterday I was rocking her back to sleep in the middle of the night, singing her Christmas songs because I didn't know the words to lullabies.  Watching the videos yesterday took everyone back down memory lane as we got to see all the kiddos as babies and toddlers and think back to those days of diapers, bottles, sleep deprivation and with that, happy, happy times.  I'll only say it one more time...how quickly it all goes.  From this adorable, chubby smile...

To beautiful young lady...

Same infectious smile and good nature.

I find birthdays somewhat bittersweet.  Sweet because I am grateful each year for healthy, growing children.  Bitter because it means the time is slipping by.  Also sweet because I love me a birthday party celebration.  In hopes of getting off the mushy train with all the memories talk I'm gonna talk party time.  

Ava's artist party was a big success.  By this morning I found myself so very tired from all of the planning, setting up, cleaning up, baking and cooking.  But, it is so worth it.  Especially when I could tell how much fun my girl was having.  A look at the party fun.

Pre Party...

The cake turned out!  I usually have great visions of what the cake will look like.  More often than not, it turns out looking like a kids craft project.  Maybe that is why this one worked...it was supposed to look like a craft project.


Kids Craft (and take home gift!)  A bucket with their first letter initial glued on it for them to decorate.  

All kids love to paint so this was perfect because we had a wide age range- 2 to 13.  And, it was so inexpensive...buckets were from the dollar store and letters were in the half of bin at Michael's.  Bonus!

Paint brush rice krispy treats...

These were the treats Ava wanted to take to her class for her birthday so we made some extra for all the party guests.  Again...something that I imagined cute in my head turned out cute in real life.  I'm getting good.  

Then it was time for the party to begin.  
Very serious birthday girl

Little Miss Graci

I said it was fun for all ages...even my sister had to get in on the action.

Another very serious artist
We had one game planned...blindfold art.  The girls picked one thing each person had to draw.  You were then blindfolded, given a marker and had to draw it on a big piece of butcher paper.  I had hopes to hang it on the fence and have everyone outside.  However, Montana had different ideas and there was a snowstorm, so it was moved to the garage.  It was a lot of fun for all.  

And then it was present time!  When all the kids were younger, the gift portion was always a bit chaotic.  Trying to open them as fast as they could before younger kids tried to open gifts that weren't theirs.  Now, it is so much calmer.  Ava opening cards first, actually reading them and then going in for the gifts.

Jacob was so excited to give her his present
Jae reading the most creative story about the fairy berries gift.  Love Greg's face in this shot
And, then of course came the birthday cake and homemade chocolate ice cream.


The party did not end with the cake.  My girls both wanted different things for their birthday parties.  Layla wants to invite all her friends from her class.  Ava wanted just her cousins (we consider our friends Dru and Graci cousins so they are in that group) at the party and wanted Greg and Kim to stay for a slumber party.  So, after everyone else left it was just the four littles.  I know they aren't really the "littles" anymore, but I will always think of them that way.  We made pizzas, they played and then they all snuggled in Ava's room and crashed out after the exhaustion of the party.  (Wait, that was me).
Slumber party time...
Twin PJ's


I tell you what...there is something about these kiddos...



And, then of course there's this kid..


They all just melt me.  

For Ava's actual birthday tomorrow she will be at school and I'll be at work.  Part of me wants to have us both play hooky and go spend the day together.  The responsible part of me knows you can't always have your birthday off and she might as well know that.  However, she can drag it out for a week like I always do for mine.  Therefore the celebration will continue tomorrow despite it being a boring old Monday.  She requested homemade gnocchi and bread from dinner.  I think I'm setting the standards a little too high around here...what's wrong with going out for pizza?  I did also make her a cheesecake this morning...one of her favorites.  I know she already had a birthday cake, but she has to have something on the actual day and I can't bear to have her blow candles out on a cake that is already half eaten.  And, I am never one to complain about having too many desserts around the house.  I want their days to be as special as they are.  

One party down and now it's time to start thinking about the next.  It's a little unfair...I always have a ton of energy in the beginning of April for birthdays.  By the time Ava's is over, I'm not quite as ambitious.  I'll just give it a couple days and then I'll be ready to jump into the next one.  We'll be going from an artist party to planning a pig party.  I don't know where Layla's love of pigs has come from but that's all she wants her party to be is a pig party.  Not a lot to work with, but I'm starting to get a few ideas.   I'm thinking pin the tail on the pig and little pink cupcakes with two black jelly beans so it looks like a snout.  They look cute in my head...time will tell how they'll look in real life.  

I still can't believe tomorrow my baby will be eight.  Freakin crazy.  

Happy Day to my baby girl.

Funny face shot to wrap things up...
I'm not playing on my phone...just trying to have the video ready for singing!