September 17, 2014

EAP — Eleven Months

Our littlest lady is 11 months old.  One month shy of a year.  Woah!

This is my last monthly update, so let's get right to it and talk about all things Annie.

First let's talk about the hair.
It's brown, thick, and a bit curly just like her mama's.
 It also always looks oily no matter how recently she was bathed.

Now those eyes.
Oh my stars, this baby has beautiful eyes.
Depending on the day, they often look grey, green, or golden.
Today they were a stunning blue green.

Ah, the attitude.
This girl knows what she wants and she will tell you all about it.
In this case, she did not want to lie on her back and take photos.

The whole package.
This month Annie weighed in at 18 lbs 1 oz.
That's above the 25th percentile, so I think the scale was wrong.

This month was so awesome.  Annie's open-mouthed baby kiss morphed into an exaggerated lip pucker.  Often when I'm talking to other grown ups, Annie will crawl into my lap and plant one on me to get my attention.  If that doesn't work, she will grab my face and pull me in for a giant kiss.  I cannot explain how much I love that.

Teensers also figured out how to put the circle in the shape sorter and slide the giant plastic coins into her piggy bank.  She's taken container play to a whole new level by now putting objects into the bucket or bag.  She loves to read books and will happily sit for six or seven now.  If she does not want to read a particular book, she lets us know about it.

Annie is a lightning fast crawler.  She's also great at pulling up, cruising, crawling up stairs, and turning around to back down stairs independently.  She stood alone for the first time just a few days shy of 11 months.

But the best thing about this month is her communication.  Kate put it best when she said, "I think Annie is finally starting to get clever!"  Our littlest girl started pointing at objects on cue.  She knows Mama, Daddo, Ella, Kate, Thusie, book, light, flower, bottle, and much more.  Her attempts at vocalization are hilarious.  She says mama, dada, ellll, makes a t-t-t sound for Kate, and meows for Mattie.  Almost every other word she uses consistently starts with the letter B: biiii (bite), baba (bottle), bye-bye (uh, bye-bye), bah...llll (ball), buh (book).  It can be hard to tell these B words apart, but bite and bottle are usually accompanied by reaching, screaming, and/or lunging (this girl is serious about food), with bye-bye there is waving, and she will point to either ball or book if we can't figure out which one she means.

Anne adores her sisters.  Picking them up from school is the highlight of her day.  She scans the crowd of kids, and her entire face lights up when she spies Ella or Kate.  She lunges forward in the stroller and won't stop reaching for her sisters until they come give her a kiss.  

When Ella and Kate are at school, Mattie is Annie's stand-in sibling.  I have never seen a cat so patient with constant kissing, ear pinching, tail grabbing, and a baby face burrying into her side.  It would be typical behavior for a dog, but it is truly remarkable in a cat.  

Annie also loves splashing in the shower, napping in her crib, rolling a ball, throwing things, and pretending to talk on the phone.

Elena Anne at 11 months.
Still an infant...for now at least.

We adore this precious girl!  It's difficult to imagine how we ever lived without her!

September 13, 2014

Ella Mae's Seventh Birthday: I Wish It Was a Movie

I wish it was a movie
And I could rewind to the start,
To the day that you were born,
To the moment that you captured all my heart.
I would play it all again
And never reach the end.
You know you mean the world to me.
I wish it was a movie.

When I was a senior in high school my dad wrote the chorus above.  I have never been able to listen to this song without tearing up, and now that I have a daughter of my own it makes me flat-out sob.  Occasionally something you read or hear resonates on a profound level.  This song does that for me.  Thanks, Papa.

Ella Mae is seven years old.  Her movie is still in its opening scenes, but I would still love to rewind to the very start an relive it all over again.  Thus far I've been a critical member of the cast, but I know that won't always be the case.  I'll always be her mama, but I won't be such an immediate part of her life in years to come.

I already wish it was a movie.

That being said, I feel fortunate every single day that I get to interact with this radiant little person.  Living in the here and now is important, and we aim to make the most of every single day.

On this day my firstborn celebrated her birthday.  We were able to let her call the shots all day long, and she loved every minute of it.  Ella chose a relatively laid-back day: presents first thing in the morning, chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, television with the family, a fancy lunch out with the big girls, a family movie in the afternoon, and pizza for dinner.  I love that she's still young enough that her perfect day is 100% family-centric.  Its highlights are featured below.

We're all awake!  It's Ella's birthday!
Yawn, rub your eyes, hold up the foam bath letter that represents your age!

Open your presents while your family watches intently.

Enjoy birthday kisses from your baby sister.

Sing "Let It Go" in your new Elsa dress.

Have a fancy luncheon with your mama and sister.

Take  photos on the Prom.

Smile in the sunshine with your little sisters.

Ella Mae is such a vibrant entity that it's hard to encapsulate her on the page.  She defies description in so many ways that the best I can do is list a few things that stand out to me in this moment.

At the age of seven Ella Mae...

...longs to have something of her own.  A pet is at the top of her list.  She would settle for a seedling.  But after watching her slowly torture a spider plant to death by dehydration last spring, I am reluctant to give her any actual responsibility.  I solemnly swear that I will give this child a bit of earth when we move to the United States and have a garden that is larger than a postage stamp. an avid reader.  Today (a Saturday) this girl read four books: a Flat Stanley, a Captain Underpants, a Boxcar Children, and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.  This is a blessing and a curse.  While I applaud her for reading voraciously, the child leaves books all over the house.  She gets distracted by books mid-task.  I send her upstairs to wash her hands and half an hour later I find her halfway through a 100+ page story with dirty hands.  I fear I was the same way when I was her age.  (Sorry, Momma!)  I'm paying for my raising with this one!

...requires quiet time.  Ella loves friends, family, and socializing, but she needs time to herself each day.  She is an introvert in the truest sense: she feels energized after having some time alone.  What once feared was worryingly antisocial has come to be one of my most loved personality traits.  I appreciate and respect Ella Mae.  She knows who she is and she knows what she needs. composed and self-possessed.  This girl has more self-control than many adults I know.  She thinks things through and masters her emotions.  This is not to say that she is dead inside.  Her emotions are strong, she wears her heart on her sleeve.  It is blatantly obvious when she feels out of her depth.  But, remarkably, even when she is feeling devastated or hurt or alienated or confused, she gathers herself and moves forward bravely.  She communicates well.  She loves deeply.  I am so dang proud of this girl for so many reasons, but this aspect of her personality makes me more proud than anything else.

...loves cats.  Remember Felice?  And all the school work featuring cats (and guns)?  The child is STILL all about the kitties.  She told me today that she is "going to marry a boy who does not have cat allergies."  God bless my future son-in-law.  He will be surrounded by fur babies.

...does not like like to be rushed.  Ella moves through the world slowly.  She gets distracted easily when she should be focused on a specific task.  As a person who values efficiency, this is an issue where Ella and I constantly butt heads.

...adores Elizabeth Kate and Elena Anne.  She is kind.  So very kind.  She speaks to her family members politely, she treats people well, she is even beginning to demonstrate empathetic behavior.  I am constantly blown away by her interactions with her sisters.  She adds to our family dynamic in a beautiful, integral way.

Photos from the 7th of September 2007 to 2014.
I cannot begin to explain how much I love this girl!

Seven YEARS old.  I don't know where the time has gone, but I know that I've embraced every minute.  The good, the bad, and the silly.  Your mama loves you, Ella Mae!

September 3, 2014

First Day of School 2014

My big girls started school today!

Elizabeth Kate, Year One — Ella Mae, Year Three

You may have noticed that Ella's uniform has changed considerably.  Now that she's a big Prep School Year Three, the summer dresses are a thing of the past.  It's a white button-down blouse and tartan kilt for summer.  (I'm trying not to think about how the winter uniform involves a REAL TIE!  Nick is going to have to teach Ella and me how to manage that one!)

Sweet sisters.

Kate is super excited to move up to Year One, but she's also a bit sad that she won't see Ella on the playground, at lunch, and during assemblies.  She has always had her sister in the same building, so this is a completely new experience.

This big girl is so confident and self-assured!

This middle lady is ready for a new challenge!

As always, my greatest hope is that they come home with smiles on their faces.  There is nothing this mama loves more than knowing her girls are all happy and thriving.  I feel so comfortable that our little school gives them an environment to in which they can grow and learn in such a lovely way.

August 31, 2014

Pizza and Pyjamas: Ella's Seventh Birthday

My firstborn knows her own mind.  When I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday party, she said she wanted a slumber party.  I told her that slumber parties required a lot of planning, and she responded by making me this list.

She learned from the best.
Nothing makes me happier than a well thought out list!

After discussing this list at length (and compromising on a few details), I realized that Ella's plan was a good one.  We set a date, ordered invitations, went shopping for party favors, and...that was it!  Party planned!  Seven sorted!

The guests wound up being a bit different than Ella originally planned.  Florence and her family were still away in Spain for the summer and we met a new classmate after this list was created.  In the end we had Zara, Emma, Emma, and Evalyn.  Ella has such excellent taste in friends.  I cannot say enough about how sweet these little ladies were.  I would gladly adopt any of them should their parents decide they've had enough.  :)

Party favors were a bit of a compromise.  Flip flops are easy, but I felt that blankets were a bit much for seven-year-olds.  Ella wanted to get each guest a book, but she tactfully observed that it might be difficult since reading levels vary widely at this age.  I suggested putting a bedtime reading light in each guest's party bag instead of a book.  They could use them at bedtime and select and appropriate book from our shelves.  Assorted American breakfast cereals (with more artificial food dye and GMO ingredients than you can shake a stick at!) were purchased from the commissary.

I decided to keep food as simple as possible.  We ordered pizza (one cheese, one double pepperoni) from Papa John's and served it alongside carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, and celery sticks.  The cake was Shay's delicious lemon bundt cake recipe modified into a three layer cake.  I used lemon glaze between each layer and a vanilla buttercream on top.

Plan in place!  Let's get this party started!

Six pairs of the cutest toes and raggedy flip flops on earth!

Ella works on her flip flops.

Kate models the finished product up close.

Ready to eat some pizza, veggies, and cake!

Big lights out, reading lights on.
It was a fab way to wind down at bedtime.

Early the next morning Annie is dying to see what the big girls are up to.

Emma, Emma, Zara, Kate, Evalyn, and Ella.
Precious girls!

I love that Ella Mae knows exactly what she wants to do, and I am so happy that at this age it's so easy to make her dreams come true!  This slumber party (our first ever!) was such a success.  With three daughters, I'm sure there will be many more to come.  :)

August 29, 2014

Let's Get Physical: Swinging, Climbing, Rowing, Swimming, and Field Hockey

Nick took our bigs to the park earlier this month while I stayed home with a napping Annie.  He came home incredulous that our kids could not swing.  That's right, our 5- and 6-year-old were incapable of swinging without being pushed.  (I did not chime in that they are also unable to ride bicycles without stabilizers.  That's a completely different ball of wax.)

I could list a hundred reasons why we don't work with our kids enough on gross motor milestones, but they are all just excuses.  It all boils down to one thing: I don't enjoy teaching those skills.  I will guide them through phonics, numeracy, and topic work all day long, but my patience wears thin when it comes to things that are super physical.  I'm not sure why that is — I'm sure it says something about my character — but I would much rather leave that stuff to someone else.

Thanks to some critical advice from Matt in Germany, Kate learned how to pump herself on a swing.  About a week later, Ella got the hang of it too.  (Let the record show that this was the first ever skill Kate acquired before Ella in real time.  Such a huge accomplishment for our middle lady!)

Little swingers.

So proud of themselves!

We made our last summer trip to Cattle Country and decided to give the climbing net (the self-proclaimed largest climbing net in Britain, no less) another go.  (The previous time Kate was too scared to try it and Ella climbed up about four steps and refused to go any farther.)  This time Kate climbed up five steps (because she is five years old...duh) and Ella went to the top, through the window, and back down the other side!  So proud of my Bitzy for accomplishing such a tremendous feat.

She's just getting started people.

Ella went through that "window" and made her way over to give me a high five on the way down.

That same day Nick decided to take the bigs to the pond for a quick canoe trip.  (Annie was not allowed aboard the vessel.  She is far too untrustworthy.)  

Kate wins the award for most awkward paddling form of all time.

By the end Kate had gotten the hang of it.
And this swan was so proud he decided to put on a show.

This year Ella starts competitive field hockey in school.  Since Nick and I have no idea what field hockey is about, we sent her to camp over the summer.  She loved every minute of it and is super excited to start hockey in school.

She's gonna be a hockey player.

Last but certainly not least, Ella and Kate both took summer swimming lessons.  On the very first day they each accomplished something completely new: Ella did the backstroke for an entire length of the pool and Kate dove to the bottom of the 4-foot area to retrieve an object.  At the end of the week they each earned badges.  Ella got a 25-meter badge and Kate got a 10-meter badge.  Well done, ladies!

Even though August got off to an inauspicious start in terms of the gross motor skills, both Ella and Kate came a long way over the course of the month.  So proud of these little toots for strengthening their bodies, trying new things, and learning new skills.  

Next up: riding bikes without stabilizers.  :)

August 21, 2014

We Are Not Dead

An entire month of inactivity.  This state of blog neglect is unprecedented.

Even though I haven't posted in ages, the PJ5 are alive and well!  We've been enjoying the summer holidays and I have tried to spend every possible minute soaking up this precious time with all three girlies at home.  

Over the next few days I plan to knock out a bunch of posts about everything we've been up to in the last month.  Check back every so often and eventually the list below will be a list of links.  

I've got titles, people.  This is happening.  

EuroTour in Belgium, Germany, and France