Oh Twoodles!

Dear Alice,

Ten years ago I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. Daddy and I were very upset because we weren’t trying to get pregnant. I had another year of grad school before we even wanted to think about having kids. But there we were.

As you know already, we lost that pregnancy. But before the loss and after the acceptance that I was going to be a mom, I imagined a baby girl. This is significant because up until then I saw myself as having zero kids or only having boys, but I felt a very strong feeling that there was a girl growing in my belly. Not long after my 30th birthday we found out that the pregnancy had shut down. No baby.

It would be eight years–and four more pregnancies–before a baby girl would show up in our lives.

I was convinced after Eddie and Charlie were born, that I was a boy mom through and through. I was convinced when we found out we were pregnant with you, that you were a boy. I was sure.

I was wrong.

 

I’m so glad I was wrong.

I didn’t know, Alice. I just didn’t know how very VERY much we–I–needed you. You bring such joy and sunshine and happiness to our life–to our family!

So what are you like as a two-year old?

Over this past year you learned to walk, run, and dance. You love to twirl–especially in a skirt, dress, or tutu. And you love SHOES and accessories! You call all jewelry and hair things “pretties” and you love to load them on. This weekend I painted your toenails pink and you refused the footie jammies because you couldn’t admire your toes in those. If I brush my hair, you want to brush your hair. When I put on makeup, you want to pretend to put on lipstick or blush. When I put on bracelets or a necklace, you dash to your room for one of yours. I don’t consider myself the most girly girl, but the way you shadow my actions, I see myself differently in you.

You love to sing! Every night daddy or I sing while we rock you. You have three songs you rotate through with me: Row Row (Row, Row, Row Your Boat), Sunshine (You Are My Sunshine), and Rock A Baby (Rock’a’bye The Baby). You have started singing along with us–and I even noticed you singing Row Row the other day while you were twirling in the kitchen.

You love your blankie more than any other lovie, although you love to sleep with an army of “friends.” Usually you will pair Blankie with another friend–this week it’s a Popple, last week it was Puppy–when you leave your bed. And you love books…which you know makes my heart happy. I hope you always have a love for the written word.

Babies and tea sets are still your favorite toys and your Grandma and Granny love to spoil you with lots of babies and baby accessories. Charlie and Eddie also give in and play with you because you’re so cute that it’s quite persuasive. No one can pass up a purple tea cup being handed to them by an eager two year old! Your brothers love you to the moon. Charlie is always there to play with you, and Eddie helps you with your shoes and coat. I hope they are always your go-to for when you need someone to lean on.

You may be my shadow, but you are a Daddy’s Girl through and through. When daddy picks you up from day care you are quite possessive claiming him as “mine daddy” to all who will listen. Your face lights up when you hear him come home, and if he is gone (or just in the bathroom) you will wander around with your hands out asking, “where my daddy go?” And can I tell you a secret, Alice? He adores you too. He melts when you run to him for a hug. He lives for your voice saying, “mine daddy!” I am quite sure he had no idea how much he needed a little girl either until you showed up and took our hearts captive.

Alice, your smile and giggle make everyone happy. Even though you start shy and are slow to warm up to people, your sheer joy brings light to all those around you. Your brothers were good cuddlers, but you are my hugger. You will declare “HUG! KEESES! (kisses)” before bed or before I leave for work and you will throw your whole self into squeezing my neck. You get that from your Daddy’s side of the family, you know. Sluiters and Potters are mega-huggers.

I was afraid that making it official that you were the last would somehow leave me with a feeling of sadness…a feeling of wishing for something more…a not “fullness.” But I never once felt incomplete.

In fact, now that you are here, I have never felt more intact. You complete this family in a way I just couldn’t imagine. I see your brothers differently now through the lens of a complete family–your existence makes me appreciate Eddie’s helpful nature and Charlie’s protective personality more than ever before because now I can see our whole family. There are no pieces missing.

You are our caboose–our Little Sister.

Time has never flown by so fast as it has since we have brought you three kids into this world. As you ripped open your gifts and blew out your candles all on your own tonight, I was reminded that you are not a baby anymore. You are a toddler who is absorbing everything and learning to be you.

Being a mother has been the greatest responsibility that I have ever taken on. The past two years have felt even more powerful because to raise a daughter is such an undertaking. There are a million ways to fail, but I think we can get it right, Alice.

So far, so good, my sweet love.

Love,
Mommy

There Should Be More Here

This year is getting away from me. I look back on what I’ve written this year and I am sad because it’s not more. There should be more. More Eddie being a 2nd grader and saying amazing things. More Charlie being in preschool and transforming before our eyes. More of Miss Alice,our last baby, doing toddler things.

Eddie continues to show that he has a soft heart for others. He is my little activist. He worries about kids who might not have food, shelter, or warm coats this winter. He wonders out loud about the kindness of our country and world leaders. I find things like this in his massive stack of doodle and “crafts”:

That is a football they are tossing around, by the way.

When I found a pile of winter coats, hats, and mittens that don’t fit Eddie or Charlie anymore, Eddie wanted to find kids who needed them and just give them. He didn’t want them to have to buy them at Goodwill. Because of that idea of his, our family has decided to collect winter gear at church and donate all of it to the our local Community Action House who will get them straight to people who need them most.

Yesterday I was giving Alice a bath and Cortney and Charlie were downstairs. It was very quiet in the living room; all I could hear was the TV on the news. Because I didn’t want to leave Alice alone in the tub, I called out, “Eddie?”

“Yeah?”

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Watching the news.”

“Is it boring?”

“No. It’s interesting.”

This kid. Interested in the news, caring about others, and just this month he was awarded his Duty to God awards, a hiking beltloop, and some prizes for selling so much popcorn for cub scouts. I’m just so proud of him. And he treats his little sister like this:

I was nervous about how Charlie would do with preschool. He has such a temper and a penchant for, um, stripping when he is super mad at us. But this fall at parent/teacher conferences, his teacher told us that he is a “quiet leader” who is always first to sit nicely on the carpet, follows directions to a tee, and listens so well he always has the right answer. I just sat blinking.

His tantrums have slowed considerably–in fact we only see them when he is really tired or hungry or we are rushing him. He likes to do things at his own speed, in his own way. If he is left to himself, he is incredibly mature for a four-year old.

He proudly folds towels and cleans the boys’ bathroom downstairs. He helps with food prep when he can, and picks up without being asked if you leave him to it. He also works hard to make his little sister laugh and smile.

He has become my cuddle bug lately. It almost feels like he knows he’s growing up, so he wants to keep as much little as possible by tucking himself next to me as much as he cane. He is so proud of what he accomplishes, but still wants to stay my littlest guy.

Unlike Eddie who will talk all about what kids did at recess or what kids are singing on the playground, Charlie will rarely tell me about the kids in his class–but he knows all their names. He will tell me what letter he worked on, what he learned, what station he got to do that day. He will be quick to tell me if he was able to be a helper–his favorite.

He also never wears socks if he doesn’t have to. If he comes in your house, shoes come off, but so do the socks. Every time.

My baby girl is shedding the “baby” more each day. She is definitely finding her voice around here. When her brothers are wrestling around or being loud, she puts a little hand out and yells, “TOP! BSS! TOP!” (Stop, boys! Stop!)

She asks for “milky” and “bankie” (blankie). She calls her pacifier a “boppy” just like Charlie did.  She can ask for “buks” (books) and “babees” (babies). She delights at seeing herself on video. She waves “hi” and “bye” and when the phone rings she said, “heh yo.” (hello).

She calls for “MOMMA MOMMY MOMMA MOOOOOMMMAAA!!!” which her brothers never did at this age. She has figured out how to say “Dad dee” quite regularly though too and it’s adorable the way she makes Cortney melt all over the floor with her little voice saying “hi dad dee. hi.”

My favorite thing is how her bedtime routine with me is right now. We rock and she likes me to sing. But she doesn’t know how to say “sing” so she just cuddles in and softly says, “peez, momma. peez,” and that is my cue to start singing. When I finish one song, if I don’t go directly into another (or repeat that same one), she will say, “peez,” again. Even when I think she is completely out, she will whisper, “peez,” from behind that little green pacifier of hers. When I pause and don’t get a “peez” I know I can kiss her and lay her down without a fuss.

She is our hugger, our kisser, and our fancy girl. She loves babies and dresses and pretty bracelets and necklaces and purses. She loves to imitate her brothers and her dad and especially me.

Other than her love of being close and cuddly, it’s sort of like she doesn’t know she’s little. She bosses people and demands things, but she does it with a little “peez” and hands out, you just can’t resist her! I’m doing my best not to spoil her, but my goodness! Look at that face!

These kids are keeping us so busy…maybe that is why I have not written enough. But I do regret it. I have this space and I want to fill it.

Our lives are full: Eddie is busy with scouts, I am busy with scouts as the Religious Emblems Coordinator, Cortney is busy with bowling and consistory (he’s a deacon now). Charlie and Alice are busy being little. Eddie is crazy busy getting older and more dependable. School keeps three of us busy. In fact, I just registered to (re)take the GRE (because it’s been over 5 years since I last took it) so I can apply for a PhD program next year.

But I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to post here.

Because we also have snow days like today, when Eddie made his very first snow man all by himself:

Stuff like that deserves to be recorded because look at that face! And Eddie is cute too!

A Year and a Half

My dear Alice,

This week was so very busy with Eddie and me starting school and getting Charlie ready to start next week. Cub scouts started up again for Eddie as did bowling for daddy. Things were so, so crazy. But I didn’t forget you. I didn’t forget your milestone this week.

Tuesday you turned 18 months.  A year and a half. More toddler than baby now.

You are the absolute sunshine of my soul, my love. Your personality is really starting to develop while you find your place in this crazy family of ours. You are SO expressive! Both your laugh and your cry are LOUD, but you can also do the cutest little soft whispery voice.

You are a lady of few words, but can say “Mama,” “Dada,” “please” (peez), “thank you” (thack uuuu), “shoes,” “juice” (which sounds exactly like”shoes” but we know what you want because you are standing next to the fridge when you say it), “no,” “yes,” “uh uh” (for no), and “bop” (for your pacifier).

You shrug your shoulders if we ask you a question, which is especially funny because you do it even when you know the answer. You put your hands out when you want something. For instance if you see I have my phone you will put your little hands together. Sometimes you will even add “pees” and tilt your head to the side because you know I am weak for your cuteness.

You love baths, but hate water in your eyes. You love the beach, but hate the sand. You love to be outside, but do not enjoy grass in your toes.

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You love to be busy and helpful. When daddy makes a meal, you want your apron on too! When we pick up toys, you are quick to help. When I wipe you up after a meal, you want to wipe too. You put your dirty clothes in your basket every night, throw things away that you find on the floor (usually crumbs and bits of things your brothers have left behind), and you bring people their shoes. You know where things go and do not like then to be out of order. Just like your Mama.

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When your brothers were little (and even now to some degree, especially Charlie), they shadowed daddy all the time. Wanting to help fix things and wear a hat. Charlie still helps daddy mow the lawn and put things together. But you are my little shadow. Watching how you comb your hair, or play with the old makeup brush I gave you, or even wear my slippers around the house is like holding up a mirror to myself.

When I scold your brothers, you stand next to me with your little hands clasped behind your back like you are my wing woman. When I am in the bathroom doing my hair and makeup, you stand on the other side of the gate demanding a comb and makeup brushes and jewelry too.

You carry your baby the way I carry you. You give her kisses and giggle the way I kiss you until you giggle.

You throw all your things in your little purse, put it over your arm, and wave bye bye the way I do each morning before heading to work.

And while you’ve been doing this awhile, it still surprises and delights me everyday. After momming two little boys, having a little girl who wants to do what I do is lovely every day. It’s also a giant responsibility. I think more of the words and tone I use. About the way I talk about myself. Of course I think of these things with the boys too, but raising a girl who already wants to be just like me…well, it makes me think of what I hope for you and how I can model that in my own life for you to see.

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You are cute. You are the littlest. You are the only girl. And let’s face it, you may be a bit spoiled. You are used to getting your way. So when the answer is “no”? It doesn’t go over well.

The lip comes out, the brows furrow, and sometimes there are even tears. You will cross your arms over your chest, and at times you will stop your little feet. Daddy and I don’t give in, but sometimes your brothers do. They love you and think you are just the best thing. Eddie even calls you “Sweetie” more than he calls you “Alice.”

Charlie almost exclusively calls you “Beans” or “Beansy”. Both both refer to you as “Beansy Girl” when they are calling for you. I guess your nickname of “Alice Beans” has stuck.

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You love girly things in a way that actually surprised me. We have lots of “boy-type toys” in this house. Eddie would play with whatever when he was little, loving both dolls and trucks, the play kitchen and blocks. Charlie is a poster child for the boy stereotype with his obsession over dinosaurs, blocks, and trucks. You are my little girl stereotype. You have access to any toy, and over and over you gravitate toward the pink things: dolls, strollers, purses, tea set.

But that doesn’t mean you leave your brothers and their toys alone. Oh no.

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You have mastered the art of “Little Sistering”. If Eddie has his DS out, you need to sit and watch…which means you will eventually put your feet on him, touch the screen, and annoy him until he puts it down and play with you or he gets mad and leaves you.

If Charlie is building something with mega blocks, you have the notion that it is your job…your duty, even…to knock those creations down. Because clearly Charlie can’t be having fun if you aren’t there to destroy what he as built so he can start all over again. I think you think you are doing him a service.

They love you so much, Alice. You will find that Eddie is your confidant. He will listen to you and be by your side always. He will try to cheer you up and be there when you need a hug.  Charlie will be your defending. Not that you won’t be able to fight your own battles, but Charlie will have your back. He will be prepared to jump in whenever you need him. You have the two best big brothers a girl could ask for. You will always be loved, heard, and protected when you need it.

My sweet Alice…having you as my daughter is one of the biggest honors I have ever been given. You are my joy. I just love watching you grow and learn and be your biggest cheerleader.

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So my beautiful blue-eyed girl, never stop staring down new things. Don’t let the world tell you that you can’t be serious and that you have to smile all the time. But don’t be afraid to laugh and cry and stay expressive because it’s what makes you so very lovely.

I love you more than words could ever express.

Momma

Mirror

So often

I see reflected in my children

that of which I am ashamed

in myself.

yelling

anxiety

unkind words.

I am SO over you right now!

I can’t deal with you!

Get out of my face!

JUST. LEAVE. ME. ALONE!

these reflections are so clear

but occasionally

those effigies shine

kindness

grace

forgiveness.

I love you.

These are for my brother.

I forgive you.

In those moments

I am

assured that

it’s going to be ok;

They

will be more

than Ok.

mirror

Spring Break Day 2

I woke up today to Eddie again. This time it was 9:30 and he was saying, “Mom! Dad says he needs you to get up because Charlie just barfed!”

Not really a good start to the day, although I did get to sleep in, so I suppose there is that.

Upon flying out of bed, we both realized Charlie’s throwing up was probably due to a lot of drainage, and not a tummy bug, so while cleaning up the madness was still gross, we at least were pretty sure we weren’t going to be dealing with barf all day.

Once I got Charlie changed into what he called “something warm and comfy”, I used the bathroom and made myself some coffee. Just as I was sitting down, Cortney goes, “Nice. It’s snowing.”

Lovely.

I made the comment that I was sure it wouldn’t stick.

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Then we got like six inches of snow. That stuck.

This is a joke, right?

The day wasn’t all snow and vomit, though.

Charlie painted some dinosaurs he got for his birthday. He was ridiculously excited and focused. That was a peaceful ten minutes.

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I spent a good two hours in the boys’ closet pulling out all the clothes that are too small for Charlie to be divided between two of my baby nephews. I had mixed feelings as I pulled out clothes that both of my little dudes wore. I smiled as I folded them and tucked them into bags for two little guys who won’t fit into these clothes for another year at least. I was a little sad to send more little man clothes out of my life. I’ve said it before: I do not want anymore babies coming out of my body, but man. I sure do miss tiny little dudes.

Allegedly I hugged some of the jammies and sniffed the Dreft smell on them before placing them in the bags.

When I was done, though, there were two tubs gone from their closet (which is still a wreck and on my To Do list for later in spring break, but I can’t get rid of toys with them home. ahem.)

We also packed up the jump-a-roo today to give to my baby nephew, Max. Closing some baby doors today, man.

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Cortney got groceries today while I fell asleep on the couch during the Little Kids’ nap time. Eddie watched something dumb on Netflix. After nap, Eddie invited Alice to play blocks with him.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I love watching her big brothers play with her. They play so differently with her than they do with each other. They are so protective and so intent on trying to make her laugh and smile. Yes, they get frustrated when she tries to play with their stuff uninvited, but if it’s her toys, they are all about her.

And she looks at them like they are miracle workers. Like they are the ones who hung the moon and placed the stars in the heavens.

Of course ten minutes after Charlie got up from nap (yes, he still naps for about two hours every day. He is four. My kids need sleep), it was loud up in here. It was the witching hour and by the time they went to bed an hour ago, Cortney and I thought our patience was going to pack its bags and get out.

Whew.

I know they say “the days are long, but the years are short.” Today was one of those long days.

I did finish reading my book last night, though. So I started Far From Home by Na’ima Roberts. It’s the last of six my students will choose from to read for book clubs after break. I’ll post about all six when I am done with this one!

Tomorrow is Sunday…and my birthday party at my parents’ house! Yay!

(and I still have to finish my birthday post with all the books that were donated!  We passed my goal of 38 and hit 42!)

One Year Down, A Lifetime To Go

Dear Alice,

I started writing this the night before your first birthday, but I kept deleting everything. Nothing I seemed to type here seemed like the right thing–the right way that I wanted to tell you about this first year of yours.

It was perfect.

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Eddie’s first year was difficult, and looking back at what I wrote to him, I can see it between the lines. I didn’t come right out and say it, but that first year was hard and in lots of ways just sucked. It was the postpartum depression, not Eddie, of course, but man. That first First Year was tough.

Charlie’s first year was emotional. He taught me I could be a good mom, even with postpartum depression. He healed me in a lot of ways, which is what I told him in his first year letter. I remember being very sad when he turned one. The second First Year was better.

Your first year has been free of postpartum depression, and WOW, what a huge difference that makes. I not only enjoyed you, but I enjoyed being your mom.

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Alice, I was a whole mother for your first year. I was here. I was present.

I often wonder how long babies remember their baby-ness. Do you still remember being born? Do you remember being a part of me? Do you remember how our hospital stay was downright relaxing? While I missed your daddy being there in the evenings, there was something nice about us being alone after 7pm. We had our dinner and watched some TV together. We chatted–girl talk.

Each night around 9pm, the nurse would bring me my evening snack and some hot water so I could have some tea. I had you out of your little baby aquarium cart thing more than I ever did with the boys. I had you out and unwrapped on the bed, counting your little piggy toes and smootching your little hands.

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Once we came home, Daddy noticed immediately that I was different than I was with your brothers. I asked for help easier, but I was also eager to feed your and hold you and do “mom things”. In fact, I didn’t whine or complain about middle of the night feedings. I may even dare to admit that I liked them. You were a good little eater and sleeper–really you still are.

And what a cuddler! From Day One you were right at home in pretty much anyone’s arms! You have your favorites, of course. Daddy would say you are a Momma’s Girl through and through, but you perk right up when Daddy is around. You love Renae and Carolyn and of course your Church Oma, Nancy.

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Today was your one-year well child appointment. You remain our tiniest child being only in the 85th percentile (Charlie was always closer to 90th percentile and Eddie was almost always near the 100th) at twenty-two and a half pounds.

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Like Charlie, you are very content to play on your own. However unlike both of your brothers, you play with toys the way they are designed to be played with rather than just throw or pound them. Putting things in things is your current favorite, so the purses you got for your birthday were great gifts for you!

You’re not walking yet, but you are a cruising machine! You can zoom around the furniture and around me and Daddy–boy do you like to crawl all over us like we are playground equipment!

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Speaking of climbing on us, you love to touch us. You reach for us, you hug, you give kisses, and you clutch our shirts and pants in your little hands. Your brothers never did this. You sit on our laps in church and prefer to be touching us somehow at home.

You don’t have any “real” words yet, but you repeat “Da da da da” over and over when Daddy is around and “Ma ma ma ma” for me–again, the boys didn’t call me anything this early. You clearly know your “Da da” and “Ma ma”. When you see your brothers you repeat “Dee dee dee” which I think is because Eddie and Charlie both end in the “eee” sound.  Your laugh and squeals are breathy and adorable.

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Having a daughter is like nothing I ever thought it would be. If I am laying it all out here, I have to admit that I was hoping you would be another boy. I felt confident and comfortable with boy children. A daughter scared me. People told me I would love it. They said it was just “different”.

They were totally right; it’s different. And I have tried and tried to find the words to describe that difference, but I can’t. I will say it’s wonderful.

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Your giggle, your scrunchy nose, the way your suck on your tongue and lips when you see someone eating cake because you want some too…it’s all just so wonderful.

It’s hard to say how lovely having a little girl is without it sounding like it’s not equally awesome to have your brothers. As the cliche goes, it’s apples and oranges; they are both outstanding fruits. I was living with a bunch of apples. Wonderfully juicy, sweet glorious apples.

And then I was given my first orange, and I was hooked.

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Oh Alice, you have changed me. If Eddie made me a mom–and a fighter, and Charlie healed my broken parts, you changed me.

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You help me see that every single day has something happy about it. I smile every day because of you. I smile because of a million other reasons too, but you, baby girl. YOU. Your hugs and happiness it just…it’s YOU.

YOU, Alice.

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I admit I cried on your birthday. Not until after you were in bed. I really, really enjoyed your day. And more so, I enjoyed your first year. The tears were bittersweet. They were happiness mixed with just a touch of sadness that the baby days are over. But truly, they were mostly happy.

I am so happy you are ours.

I am so happy that you are on the verge of walking.

I am so happy to see you every morning and that you come home from daycare to me every day.

I am so happy that your brothers love you so.

I am so happy that you have eyes for your Daddy.

I am so happy you and I are “mother/daughter”.

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Alice, your first year has been one of the best years of my whole life. You have completed this family in more ways than just being the last baby. We are whole because of you.

Thank you, my dear daughter.

Thank you for being ours.

Thank you for being you.

I love you so, SO very much.

I can’t wait for the rest of your life.

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Love,
Ma Ma

Her First Party…and His Fourth

I’m still processing my feelings about Miss Alice turning one today, so I will show off her (and Charlie’s) wonderful birthday party instead.

Saturday was the big day! We have been planning it for quite some time. In fact, I knew before she was born that her first birthday party would be Alice in Wonderland-themed. Charlie’s was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed and Eddie’s was Rock Star-themed (although in retrospect, if I was sticking to their literary namesake, I should have done a Winnie the Pooh party, but rock stars are way cooler).

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We also knew that we wanted to combine Alice and Charlie’s parties since their birthdays are only a week a part. No one really loves to give up a few weekend hours for a child’s birthday party, let alone do it two weeks in a row for the same family. And if we are really honest here, I don’t love throwing parties. I love creating memories for my kids, and I like coming up with ideas, but the actual execution of it is exhausting. I get all stressed out that no one is having fun and that my decorations are dumb–I know, I know. Ridiculous. But there it is.

Alice in Wonderland Party

So back to Wonderland–I made a Pinterest board a full six months ago, but nothing about the party was Pinterest-worthy, so if you came here looking for some amazing stuff to pin, look elsewhere, friend.

This was simply a fun day for my kids–a celebration that we made it through our last First Year.

Alice in Wonderland Party

Which way to the party?

We had the party in the Fellowship hall of our church because there is no way we could fit a bunch of party people in our little house. It seemed sort of fitting to celebrate the youngest two in the place we came back to after Charlie was born. Not to get too mushy or to dwell on the subject in this post, but this church has brought us some of the best friends we could ever ask for.

Alice in Wonderland Party

I outfitted the tables with blue table clothes the color of Alice’s dress (tutu) and flowers I made myself. They even have googley eyes–just like the wildflowers in the story.

Alice in Wonderland Party

I also decorated with playing cards and some Alice in Wonderland confetti I found on etsy.

Alice in Wonderland Party

Alice in Wonderland Party

People made their own sandwiches. I got the little signs as a free printable from a website on my Pinterest Board. The cutie straws were another etsy find.

Alice in Wonderland Party

The cake came from The Holland Cakery. I showed them a picture I found on, you guessed it, Pinterest. And they made it happen!

Alice in Wonderland Party

It tasted as good as it looked! One layer of chocolate and one of vanilla. SO YUMMY! But more about the cake in a minute…

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I had some craft tables to keep all the kiddos busy. One table had stuff to make flowers on it, one had Alice in Wonderland coloring pages, and one was to make crowns (for the Queen of Hearts) or hats (from The Mad Hatter). Lots of kids were walking around in stylish crowns…and some parents were too!

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After a good lunch, it was time to open presents. I had BIG plans of going every-other between Charlie and Alice and keeping track of who gave which kid what.

HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Present-opening became a survival test. I was just thankful for my sister-in-law, Liz, who started grabbing wrapping paper and shoving it in the trash bags I thought to bring along. And to Cortney for taking a million pictures.

It started out nice…

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But soon the small people started to overtake our space…2016-03-05 12.14.06 2016-03-05 12.14.09

And the mess…oh my the mess!2016-03-05 12.18.17

And then Charlie caught me in a net.2016-03-05 12.37.52

It was so fun, though!

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After gifts it was time for cake. Cortney got video somewhere of all the singing. We didn’t get a good picture of the birthday kids with their cake, but we did get some action shots of them enjoying it!

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Interestingly Charlie got messier than the newly-minted one-year old.2016-03-05 12.55.26

It was a good party. I didn’t get to talk to everyone or hang out. I didn’t get to sit and relax. I really didn’t get to soak it all in. But I know it was a good party because this is what the craft tables all looked like…

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It was our last First Birthday party.

We survived one last Baby’s First Year. Whew. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about that, but I will let them be for now and say this: I am glad that party is over. I will not miss throwing first birthday parties. But I will miss that first year. It was a very, VERY good one.

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Doing the dishes is the universal sign for: The Party Is Over.

On to the second year (and Charlie’s fifth)! Learning to walk and talk and run! Charlie starting school and learning to read and cut in a straight line.

Big things in this next year. Big BIG things.

Thank you to all our friends and family who were there for us. I’m not talking about the party–although THANK YOU for coming and celebrating our kids–but through all of it all. It really does take a village. 

The Day You Were Born

My Dear Alice,

In just a few short days you will be a whole year old, and I just realized that I never wrote down your birth story.

It’s not that it wasn’t a wonderful, miracle day–in fact it may have been one of the most happiest days of my whole life! I suppose what they say about the last child is true–time to do things like write about birth stories and create baby books gets lost. I know it’s almost a year late, but I still wanted to put your birth day in writing–to make it “blog official”.

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The day before your arrival. SO EXCITED!

It began super early, just like with Charlie, since I had the first surgical appointment of the day and had to be there for pre-op stuff at 6:30am. We dropped your brothers off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house and gave everyone hugs and I tried not to cry out all the dang emotions welling in me, and daddy and I were off to the hospital.

I waddled in the front door with all my stuff and checked in. I was just so happy that I was going to meet you! I wasn’t nervous or afraid since I knew how it would all go. Daddy and I went into the little pre-op room where I got into my gown and they took some blood and did some other testing stuff.  Daddy and I talked and joked and were very laid back and just all around excited about you. Knowing you are our last baby, we tried to soak it all in–even the part about my gown being hooked up to a cooling vent system so that it puffed up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Eventually they were ready for me. They gave me the stuff that is supposed to make the acid in my stomach less acidy. I told them I would probably barf it up; and I did. The operating room was freezing, just like last time. They gave me an extra blanket to keep me warm. This time they didn’t fasten my arms down to the bed if I promised not to go grabbing my guts.

They brought daddy in just in time–like always–he was dressed in scrubs and had a funny hairnet thing on. He came in and sat on the same stool he did with your brothers and held my hand, rubbing his thumb back and forth over my hand and smiling his nervous, worried, excited smile. The one where he sort of bites the inside of his bottom lip. There is pride in his eyes when he smiles like that.

Your birth was the easiest by far. Eddie’s was an emergency C-section and everyone was quite hurried and nervous. I was sick, Eddie was in trouble and already sunny-side up in the birth canal–it was difficult and very traumatic. Charlie’s was supposed to be simple, but he was very high up in my rib cage and had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Everything turned out fine, but there was a LOT of pushing and pulling that left me a bit nauseated.

You, my dear, were easy. You weren’t too high or too low. You weren’t in any odd position. They took you out and we heard your little cry and it was glorious. Because I had a bit of doubt the entire pregnancy that you were really a girl, I asked, “It’s a girl?” And they said, “Yes! You have a girl!” I laughed. Oh the unexpected joy that phrase “it’s a girl” has brought me since the ultrasound at 20 weeks!

first selfie with mommy

first selfie with mommy

Once you were out and they were sure you were Ok, the doctors went to work putting me back together. My doctor made the comment that my uterus looked good enough to handle one more C-section and both your dad and I said, “NO!” and then laughed. You are our last baby, sweet Alice. As soon as you were ready, Daddy and the docs took you up for all your testing and to wash you off. They finished up my stitches and staples and wheeled me to the recovery room. I was there less than the normal hour because I was wide awake, feeling great, and very eager to see you!

As they brought me up to my room, we passed you and daddy in the nursery. You were still getting all set up! Daddy had the biggest look of surprise on his face! I still let him give you your first bottle since it was sort of tradition with your brothers, but oh how excited I was to get to hold you in my arms! I know I’m using a lot of exclamation points here, but that is exactly how everything felt in those minutes–set you in my arms? EXCLAMATION POINT! Put my nose against your face and smell your hair? EXCLAMATION POINT! Hearing your tiny newborn squeaks and sighs? EXCLAMATION POINT!

birth is exhausting...for you and daddy!

birth is exhausting…for you and daddy!

After a little rest, we called Grandpa and Grandma and they came with your brothers. When Charlie was born, it was important to us that Eddie meet him first. So when you were born, we let Eddie have the day off school and come with Charlie to meet you before everyone else. Both brothers were excited and proud, but when they cautiously entered our hospital room, they also became so tender and loving.

This guy has not stopped smiling about you yet!

This guy has not stopped smiling about you yet!

We were in the hospital for 4 days and 3 nights. Every minute was wonderful. I know, I know…how can that be? I was recovering from major surgery and I was exhausted. But you know what? The stay in the hospital has always been a favorite part of having a baby for me. It’s like we are cocooned from the entire world for those days. And the nursing staff? Forget about it! They are amazing. Took such good care of us, right up to bringing me some hot tea each night in the 30-45 minutes before you went to the nursery and I went to sleep.

We had enough visitors to keep us from getting bored, but not so many that we were overwhelmed. That was good.

At 8 lbs 4 oz, you were our most dainty baby. In fact you were under 8 pounds when we brought you home! Astonishing and tiny as far as Sluiter babies go! You actually wore newborn clothes for about a month! When we got you home, you barfed on your jammy and we didn’t have another one to fit you, so daddy had to go to the store and buy a few newborn sized ones.

Your going home jammies! Such a pretty girl in blue!

Your going home jammies! Such a pretty girl in blue!

From that very first day, I have not been able to take my eyes off you or suppress a smile around you.

Your birth may have been planned, but the serene, perfectness of it all was an added bonus. Your entrance into the world was one of the very best days of my whole life, my sweet girl. You perfectly complete our family.

Thank you for being you.

I look forward to celebrating your first year this weekend with our family and friends.

And of course getting as many snuggles out of you as possible!

I love you, our little Caboose.

Mommy

One Month Shy

My Dearest Alice,

Eleven months.

As I type this you are lying on the floor next to me eating your bottle. Ok, you are playing with it and waving at me and kicking your feet and making all sorts of chatting noises. It’s adorable. You are adorable.

baby alice

the tippy toes. always the tippy toes.

And you’re almost one. Just one month shy of being a whole year old.

I told Eddie that in only one month you would be one year old, and that I couldn’t decide if I was sad or excited. He said, “MOM! It’s EXCITING! Getting older and bigger is so fun! She will get to do new things and learn and grow…oh and eat CHEESE!”

I replied, “But we will be all done with little babies. No more babies in our family. That is a little sad, right?”

“Yeah,” he said thoughtfully, “it is a little sad. I love little babies. But Alice is so fun. And it’s just super exciting to grow up.”

Eddie knows what he’s talking about, Alice. (Remember that. Eddie is a good guy for talking to when you need to talk something out.) I miss your fuzzy baby head, it’s true. But my goodness! There has been nothing more wonderful than watching you learn and grow each day.

Baby Alice

Trying to squeeze past so you can touch the TV.

Let’s see…so you are standing next to ALL THE THINGS and you like to push that little activity table in the photo above. You get SO! EXCITED! about pushing it that you sit and just laugh and laugh once you get it across the room. You have started pulling to standing next to me and daddy and then letting go to balance on your own. The problem is, you fall when you start laughing at how AWESOME! YOU! ARE! I keep asking you if you think you are going to walk at your birthday party. Of course you just giggle. Stinker.

Your crawling has gotten so ridiculously fast that you are starting to scuff the knees of your leggings, jammies, and pants, and your little knees turn red if you’re just in a diaper or onsie.

You wave and scrunch your nose when you smile and clap hands and attempt to give high-fives. You love everyone and rarely fuss. You cuddle when you’re tired. You crawl around saying, “mum mum mum mum” or “da da da da” until you find one of us. And you laugh out loud when you see Eddie or Charlie.

Baby Alice

you play so differently than your brothers

I am one of the last people to ever support gender stereotypes–you probably know this–I mean, you play with cars and trucks more than anything else because that is what we have and who cares? But you play with toys so much differently than your brothers do.  You play…like a girl. I mean that in the most positive, factual way. Where the boys would sit and just smash toys together or throw all the things, it’s like you instinctively know the purpose of the fire truck is to roll on it’s wheels, so you push it back and forth in front of you. And that rattles are meant to be shook, so you shake it. The shape “cookies” go in the musical cookie jar, so you put them in, dump them out, put them in. No one showed you how; you just did it.

Baby Alice

This is trouble, right here.

Recently it’s become clear that you understand the word “no”. Most things we tell you “no” about you listen! It’s amazing. You used to want to pull all my books down. We have told you “no” and now you don’t. At first I was relieved. This was how Eddie was too. But then you discovered the TV. You are not allowed to touch the TV. When you try, we tell you “no”. You shake your head at us and continue to touch the TV until we redirect you. Seconds later, you’re back by the TV shaking your head “no” and smiling and touching that dang screen. The lower right corner is filled with tiny finger prints. As you can see, your need to get to the TV has even taught you to CLIMB. This is something Charlie did at your age too. So now I am worried.

Eddie was (and still is) a rule follower. If we said “no” that was it. Charlie was (and still is…sigh) a rule ignorer. If we say “no” he either does it anyway or throws a fit.  For awhile you were following Eddie’s path, but that TV has too much draw for you and just for that you are like Charlie. “No” is not an option when it comes to you and the TV.

Baby Alice

Such a dainty eater

You are still a very dainty eater. Not exactly picky, but definitely more choosy than your brothers ever where. You also don’t throw food everywhere like they did, although you have a tendency to blow raspberries when we feed you baby food when you determine that you have had enough. That’s gross, Alice. Your favorite foods are fruits (just like your brothers), but you will also eat sweet potatoes/yams, chicken, turkey, summer sausage, but not ham or beef. You also like a french fry here and there, but not tater tots or other potatoes. And you dig bread, but not corn muffins.

Baby Alice

Taking a ride

My favorite thing about you is how you make people smile. You have a smile that lights up your whole face and brings joy to everyone who sees you. Seeing that smile every morning sends me off into my day with light in my heart. Coming home to your face every day brings peace to my soul.

People want to be around you. They want to hold you and talk to you because you always smile. You always emit joy and laughter that is so pure, so innocent. You are a constant reminder of what true love and light looks like. While I know that you will not always be this happy, I hope that the delight you are able to bring to this world always radiates from you.

Baby Alice

Smiley Lady

I hope that you always smile at everyone because your smile is a true gift from God. Just this morning in church, I watched as people reach out to touch your little hand, your place their hand on your back or head. You smile and give their soul what it needed.

The past eleven months have been something very new to me. It has been a long time since I could find a bit of joy in every single day, but I believe that it’s been possible over the past year because of you.

While each of my children has brought a different gift to my life, you have been a joy-filled balm that I didn’t even know I needed. It is truly an honor to be your Mum Mum, a privilege to be the arms you turn to when you need solace and love.

Baby Alice

11 months old!

I love you, my beautiful daughter. Thank you for completing our family. Next month you will be one, but for now we will celebrate eleven months of wonder.

Love,
Mum Mum

perfect 10

My dearest Alice Katherine,

You turned ten months old this past week.  Double digits. Two hands. Ten.

If you're not moving, it's because you are sleeping.

If you’re not moving, it’s because you are sleeping.

Over Christmas break you decided to start checking milestones off your to do list. You were just starting to crawl and pull up to your knees last month. Now you are pulling to standing next to pretty much anything. You cruise along the furniture and the other night you crawled on top of your brothers’ humidifier to peek into Eddie’s bed at him!

To most people, you are just doing your baby thing not too differently from your brothers. Daddy and I see the little differences though. For one, you crawl with your feet up in the air. It’s so funny! Your brothers wore holes in socks and slippers because their feet dragged behind them when they crawled. You put your little feet up and crawl this way and that with your little booty wiggling behind you.

It is getting near to impossible to get a non-blurry photo of you...unless you are sleeping.

It is getting near to impossible to get a non-blurry photo of you…unless you are sleeping.

You play differently than your brothers too. Most times, you can sit in the same spot for quite a while playing with what is around you. You don’t need anyone to sit next to you constantly (like Eddie did) and you don’t pick things apart (like Charlie did). In fact, you seem to know what toys are for and play with them accordingly. For instance, you will spend thirty minutes putting the shapes in and out of the shape cookie jar thing we have. Your brothers just threw them.

using cups to put things in. over and over and over.

using cups to put things in. over and over and over.

You are finally starting to warm up to eating some food rather than just bottles. Baby food is still just sometimes, but you will eat graham crackers and townhouse crackers, the occasional pretzel stick, bananas, and apple pieces. You even had a french fry last night and was a fan. You also like chicken, but scrunch your nose at ham and broccoli. Tonight I’m going to see how you feel about meatloaf.

all the sass

all the sass

You are the happiest, smiley-est baby in the entire world. You wake up happy. You go to bed happy. You chuckle at your brothers and your daddy. The only time I hear whining is if you are tired and want to be cuddled or you are hungry. I say this every month, I know, but it amazes me how joyful you are. Always.

I have gone through some yucky days in the past month, my love. And one of the only things that keeps me going is your scrunchy smile. You’ve also started waving, clapping, and giving kisses. You love to cuddle, but you are a mover too. You are all the most wonderful things a baby can be all wrapped up into one sweet Alice.

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While you’ve always been “chatty”–making lots of sounds all the time–lately when you are sad or looking for cuddles you will repeat “mum mum mum mum” and when you are happy and looking for someone to see you doing a new “trick” like clapping or an old one like “so big”, you repeat “da da da da”. It’s beginning to seem like you are starting to differentiate between “mum mum” and “da da” as people too.

You are very into grabbing noses and looking at me until I say, “nose”. You got a few babies for Christmas and there is one in particular you like to hug and give kisses to.

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This first year is going so quickly. In just two short months we will be celebrating your very first birthday. I wish I knew why babies had to grow so fast–I already miss your fuzzy little newborn head. But you know what? Watching your scrunchy nosed smile and your discovering new things every day is such a joy.

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We love you so much, Miss Alice Beans–or “Beansy Girl” as your brothers call you. You bring smiles and love and happiness to our family every day.

Rock on, sweetie pie. Rock on.

Love,
Mum mum mum

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