Thursday, April 30, 2015

Celebrating Eight Years.

We wrapped up our birthday month this week.  Baby girl turned eight years old.

April always begins with much excitement and enthusiasm for the girls birthday celebrations.  Much how December begins with all the Christmas hype.  Also like Christmas, by the end I'm sorta ready for it to be over.  Take the tree down, put our house back to order and get back into the normal day to day.  When it comes to birthdays I have to power through.  There is no losing enthusiasm because I want to celebrate each girl full-heartedly.  And so we do.  She's my baby and deserves to be celebrated indeed.

On Ava's birthday we awoke to 6 inches of snow.  On Layla's we had a blue bird seventy degree day.  This meant a picnic lunch, playing at the park and the scavenger hunt to look for gifts was outside rather than in...

Same with the cake...

Yes, those are pigs on top of her cake.  What better way to celebrate a girl obsessed with pigs than putting them in chocolatey slop?

The warm day meant when she found her final gift we got to go use it right away instead of having to wait a month when spring time normally shows up around here... 

This girl loves her birthday.  As I tucked her in that night she wanted to know why birthdays only get to last one day.  I reminded her between the family party and her upcoming friend party we were pretty much celebrating all month.  She didn't buy it and I don't blame her.  You can celebrate all you want, but you only truly get a day.  And this is enough.  One day to reminisce about the day this beautiful soul came into the world.  One day to make it all about her.  To say yes to an extra piece of cake.  To see her sister being super nice to her all day.  To think back and feel grateful that we have had her in our lives each day for the past eight years.  To pull out old home videos and the baby book and watch her giggle as she sees herself as a baby.  And then a toddler.  And now.  I sat up after I tucked her in and read the words I wrote in her baby book.  Feeling so happy I took the time during those sleep deprived days to document what she was doing each month for the first twelve months.  To feel myself be taken back to those days as I read.  To remember the good times...her happy giggles, her first words, her giant brown eyes.  And the hard times...the nonstop crying for the first couple of months, the juggling a new baby with a busy toddler.  To see how far we've come and what she is turning into.  All those tears and tantrums were early signs of her fiery personality.  Her strong will.  The things that will take her so far in life.  The things that make me always know she will be ok because she is one tough chick.  How hard she makes me laugh and how much she enjoys making us laugh.  Her happiness is contagious.  And her love.  Oh, this girl can love hard.  She may be difficult at times, but she loves with all her might.  You can feel it in her hugs.  In the extra kisses she wants at school drop off.  Yes, baby girl will go far.  

Birthday month has been wonderful.  Exhausting yes.  I found myself the other night crashing hard.  Done with the planning, the celebrating, the cooking and cleaning (I've created little girls who request quite the birthday dinners...homemade gnocchi, grape leaves, spinach pies...whatever happened to pizza?)  Done with the emotions that come with knowing yet another year has quietly slipped by all too fast.

With all the fiestas going on some things had to go on the sidelines.  Things like my weekly mountain run and writing regularly.  It threw me out of sorts a bit.  Missing things that are only for me.  Of course I still got in my regular therapy of running and yoga, but these extras were missed.  This morning I made my way to the trail for the first time in a month.  What a difference a few weeks makes.  Suddenly everything was green...
Last time I was there it was brown mixed with mud and snow.  Today it felt fresh from the evening rain, wildflowers added color and it smelled like the morning after of my favorite smells.  It felt so good to be up there.  It reminded me that even when life gets busy, these things are important.  Even when I don't feel like writing, if I give myself just ten minutes to see if I get into I know it will suddenly be an hour later.  And, if it's not at least I tried.  Setting aside time for the things that are important.  All the things.  Family things, my things.  They all go together in the long run.

Enjoy that sunshine out there.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ten. A Celebration.

The other day someone asked how old my daughter would be turning when I mentioned birthdays.  I replied that my oldest was turning 10 and a couple weeks later the younger would be 8.  The woman told me to "Enjoy it now before it all changes."  I've had this happen before...every parent has.  While pregnant everyone tells you to get ready for no sleep with a newborn.  As they approach their second birthday everyone warns you about the terrible twos...and threes.  There's been several years we've had the relief of no unsolicitated advice.  However, as we creep towards the tween years I begin hearing it again.  The warnings of the terrible things to come with having a tween and teen child...what, you have a girl? Oh, that's even worse.  It really bothers me.  First of all you can't help but then worry about it.  You're coasting along, enjoying this ride of parenthood and then bam, someone says these things and you wonder if you really should be worried.  Of course I know things will change, they have constantly each year of my children's lives.  New steps, new developments.  But, I don't want to watch  my ten year old and think one morning she's going to wake up some terrible tween.  I want to just love her each day as she is and figure things out as we go.  

The sleepless nights of newborn babes were tough.  Walking around in a haze during the day, dreading the evenings because you knew it would be a night of broken sleep with a crying baby.  Yet, it was also the most peaceful times.  The middle of the night when the rest of the world was dark and sleeping...holding my babies close and soaking them up without distraction.  

The toddler years were trying.  There were times I thought I was going to lose it when putting a screaming Ava back into time out for the fourth time in a day (and if it was Layla more like the tenth).  Times when I was willing to try anything to get them to eat just a nibble of a vegetable and not only macaroni.  Yet, these years of two and three were the funniest times.  Girls learning more words each day and saying the cutest things ever.  Ava calling her sister "Layla Flaith" because she couldn't say Faith.  Oh, and the giggles!  There is nothing like the contagious laughter of a three year old.  

As we approach each chapter in childhood there will be tough times along with beautiful moments.  I will choose to look for the good and focus on that.  Yes, puberty may be hard.  Heck, I still feel scarred from it sometimes.  All I can do is love them through it all.  So when they come home, they know they are loved and home is a safe place.  

I can also choose to stop this cycle of people feeling compelled to point out the negatives.  I can tell the pregnant friend that the moment they hold their precious baby they will be forever in love.  I can tell the mother of the two year old to remember to write down the hilarious things they say so you can remember it when they are older.  And, although I don't have a teenager yet I can tell them to be gentle with their daughter who is going through a rough time and see the beautiful young woman she is trying to become.  I will tell myself to know that even though it seems crazy how fast this is going I still have many years to enjoy my children...they aren't turning into scary monsters as they get older.  They are growing into  who they are supposed to be.  We simply get to love them and help shape this.  Rather than think about what this woman said to me, I will think of the other comment someone told me years ago.  When my girls were still babies.  A co-worker, who had an older child told me to not be sad about each stage that passes because with kids, it just keeps getting better.  

The reason all of this came up is obviously because we are deep in birthday month.  The reason it gets me a little fired up and emotional is because it really does seem like yesterday we were here...
That face kills me.  Seriously, I can't handle it.  
Birthdays really get me going.  I have spent much of the day reflecting on the moments she was born.  I remember it all so well, I won't bore anyone with the details.  It was a moment of such clarity for me.  Matt and I had been floundering through our twenties.  Moving from city to city, job to job.  Trying to find where we belonged and what we should do.  Unsure if where we were was the right place.  Then Miss Ava entered our world and it all made sense.  It didn't matter where we were or what we were doing.  We were now a family of three.  This girl has taught me so much.  About being kind.  She has the gentlest heart and loves deeply.  About not worrying what others think.  She's independent and does her thing.  About being a good person.  She gets sad when she sees litter and doesn't like it when her sister stomps on ants...this girl could change the world. I cannot believe we have had the privlige to have her for this past decade.  

So now we celebrate.  We started her birthday week with a party with her friends.  Our little fish wanted to swim so we headed to the hot springs...
Then home for pie...

This goes back to her thoughfullness.  One friend doesn't like chocolate and one can't have dairy.  Ava racked her brain to come up with a dessert everyone could enjoy.  Even though I know she would really have chosen a chocolate-full-of-dairy cake.  But, don't worry I took care of her later with a double chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate runs through it ice cream.  
Make a wish baby girl...
I couldn't figure out who stole the ay from our cake. A blue paw gave away the culprit...
The day of Ava's birthday it snowed several inches here in our valley.  It didn't bother me as much as an April snowstorm normally would.  Maybe because we never really had much snow in winter so I wasn't as over it.  Maybe because I know how very badly our mountains need the moisture to prevent summer fires.  Or maybe because the birthday girl was so happy to have a snowy birthday.  We took advantage by cramming all their favorite winter activities into a couple hours after school.  Sledding, building a snowman, having a snowball fight and drinking hot cocoa in the snow fort we built.  Phew.
It was a very good birthday for her.  We spent a lovely evening eating all her favorite things, opening gifts, watching home videos of when she was a baby and feeling so very lucky to have had this girl for the past decade.  

Here's to many, many more.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Weekday Getaway.

On Monday things looked like this...

Today, on my run up the mountain things looked like this...

This is Montana for you.  April showers always come in the form of snow rather than rain. We deal with it.  This year it feels much easier because we basically had no winter.  I can totally handle this.  

Luckily the two most beautiful days of the week were the ones that Matt and I were out of town.  Monday morning we dropped the girls off at school and headed west three hours to my other favorite Montana town.  It wasn't for a birthday or anniversary celebration...simply an opportunity to leave the babes with grandma and get out of town together.  Once we pulled off the interstate we thought we'd take advantage of the gorgeous day and made our way up their popular hiking trail that overlooks the university.  Missoula does not have mountains like Bozeman does so it was more of a stroll up the hillside.  Regardless it felt good to get out, move around and feel the sunshine on our faces.

After, it was time to find a lunch spot.  Our only requirements were that it was on the sunny side of a street, there was outside seating and cold beer.  One of our favorite Irish pubs fit the bill and we sat down for a leisurely lunch watching all the good people out and about working on a Monday afternoon.  Something about taking a Monday off to goof off is pretty great.  Sometimes in the middle of the week on a nice day I'll notice people downtown dining outside and I feel a bit jealous.  I thought about this as we sat there so I could fully appreciate the moment.  

We strolled around a bit after that...basically just making our way to our favorite brewery.  It's nothing fancy...kind of a dive actually.  The way any good brewery should be.  In Bozeman all the of the breweries feel bar/restaurant like now and less about enjoying good beer on torn up bar stools with nonsense plastered all over the walls.  Thank goodness Missoula keeps it weird.  We took our torn up bar stools and sat near the open door where we parked ourselves for a couple hours.  Life is good.

That evening we headed out to hear the band that we actually had gone to Missoula for.  We were really only there for the opening act as he is one of Matt's favorites.  It was pretty perfect...seats right up front in a fairly intimate venue...good food...great music...and the bonus?  I ran into the singer near the restrooms, talked to him long enough that Matt came over and realized who it was.  We got to chat with him for awhile and Matt ended up with a t-shirt...I decided this all worked out so well that I'm calling it his birthday weekend.  I know it's not until June, but hey, nothing wrong with being early.  

The next morning we reluctantly made our way home.  I'm always sad to leave after some great one on one time with Matt.  Fortunately about half way back I get so excited to see the girls that I focus on that instead.  Missoula is always a good time.  I won't gush too much about the town because I recently submitted an article for Distinctly Montana about all the things I love there and it should be up on their website later this week...I don't want to be redundant.  

But honestly, you know it's a cool town when you see this walking down the path, headed to the river...

Love it.

Time to gear up for a busy few weeks.  April is our birthday month...Ava first up and then two weeks later it's Layla's turn.  We are busy in party planning mode.  I love birthdays.  

Happy snowy Thursday!