Courage in a Batman Costume

“We will let them be who they are,” we once said to each other as we talked about future children. “We will not try to make them someone they are not. We will celebrate and love each of them for exactly who they are.”

This past Sunday morning, our church had their annual Christmas service that was led by the youth and young children of our church. I love this service. It takes place during our normal 10am Sunday morning church service time rather than make it separate. It follows the liturgy of our regular morning service as well, but it is all led by the children.

Naturally, Eddie loves this service too because he loves to participate and be in front of people. He has always sung in the children’s choir, and last year he had a part as one of the shepherds. This year, he was very excited to join the mostly 4th and 5th graders as one of the narrators of the Christmas story. He read so clearly and was so brave. My heart filled with pride and love for this little boy who knows he has the gift of reading and sharing with others. It’s such an honor to be his mother and watch as our church family helps him nurture these talents.

Charlie is a much different little boy than his older brother. He is quiet–even a bit shy. He does not like to be in front of church at all. Even for the Children’s Message when the little kids go to the front to sit on the floor for a little pow wow during church. No one can really even see the kids, but he won’t do it.

In Sunday school though, just like in preschool, he is very attentive. He loves to sing and because he is so retentive, he learns all the songs and even the motions very quickly. But he doesn’t like to stand up in front of church or have people look at him while he does it.

When the children were told they were going to sing their Christmas songs in front of church and get to wear costumes, Charlie’s first reaction was, “I will be Batman!” He had been Batman for Halloween and he fell in love with the costume. It gave him such confidence to join in with other kids when he was wearing it, and even walk right up to houses to trick or treat–something he didn’t like to do in the years before.

We told him that Batman wasn’t really a Christmas costume. That the costumes available would probably be angels and shepherds and sheep and maybe a cow or donkey. He was resolute that he was going to be Batman.

On the Saturday before the program, we showed up to church for rehearsal. Eddie felt confident of his reading, but Charlie clung to my leg and didn’t want to join the other kids. We went over to look at the available costumes and he shook his head at each angel costume, shepherd’s cloak, or fluffy sheep footies. He wanted to be Batman.

I finally told him it was Ok if he didn’t want to wear any of the costumes. I wouldn’t make him. He went off with the other kids to the sanctuary for practice and I went downstairs to the church kitchen to help prepare for the Christmas Tea that was going to be served after the program on Sunday. When I came back up, I found out that Charlie had refused to practice since he wasn’t Batman.

Sunday morning came. Eddie got all dressed up in his Sunday best, and Charlie talked about how he really wanted to sing with the kids. He wanted to wear a costume. His Batman costume. He couldn’t sing if he didn’t wear his Batman costume.

So.

We let him.

He brought smiles to many faces. No one turned up their nose or made any rude comments. Everyone loved his costume because they all love my Charlie. The costume wasn’t worn for attention or because Charlie was trying to be silly. He wore it because it gave him confidence. He felt brave.

He is brave.

He stood up with the kids and sang the songs, and twirled his ribbon, and did a fabulous job.

And he knew he was loved.

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!

And Then There Were Two School Kids

I thought I was ready. I though this year would be much easier, and I suppose in a way it was. At least with Eddie.  I have to say I was super prepared as far as supplies go. I had everybody’s supply lists filled before August even hit since I knew I had surgery and then a bunch of other busy things going on in August.

New lunch box and a backpack full of supplies for Eddie and a new backpack for Charlie Bird.

I started back the week before Labor Day for staff things and getting my classroom ready. Eddie had open house for 2nd grade–the Turtle Room.

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I asked him if he was nervous or excited. He shrugged and said, “well, I know everyone in my grade, so I guess I am just okay. A little excited to see everyone, but not too much. I like summer.”

On Tuesday the 6th, I kissed my not-so-little guy goodbye and told him to have a wonderful first day, and we both headed off to our first days of school.

This is where I get to say how much I hate missing every single first day of school for my own kids. Yet at the same time I am so grateful Cortney can be there to at least bring Eddie to school…even if it is to the before school program and not right to the classroom. With Eddie, this is his third year in the same school and the same before/after program. He knows how it all works.

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He even has that first day of school pose down. Cortney didn’t even tell him to do this, he just did it because he knows…he totally knows what makes a cute first day of school picture. He barely said goodbye to his dad as he found his friends in the multipurpose room and went to catch up after a summer apart. He was good.

When I showed up to pick him up, he was actually bummed. He wanted to go to the after school program and play with his friends even more. But we went home and he let me take the traditional first day picture by the tree:

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Who is this big kid? The only way I could get him to stand there and smile was to promise that he could also take a picture of me after my first day of Year 14.

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Don’t judge. I looked cute when I left the house in the morning. Then it was somewhere around the surface of the sun hot and humidity was around a million percent.  And our building does not have AC. So no, by 3:45pm, I was not looking so fresh.

Before I could wrap my head around Eddie and I being back to school, we found ourselves at open house for preschool…for Charlie Bird. The Fish Room!

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I feel like this is where my back to school adventure hit a curve in the road. I knew it was coming; I mean I bought the backpack with dinosaurs all over it! But holding his little nervous hand as we looked around what will be his classroom this year, my own tummy did flip flops for him.

You see, he is my brave, courageous, tough Bird. But he is very VERY cautious about change and new things. He is careful. And he gets overwhelmed and too much at once shuts him down.  We were very close to complete shut down at openhouse. It was…a lot.

But the last thing we did was check out the playground, and just like that, his smile came back. He knew how to “do” playgrounds. He was comfortable again. And his confidence came back. And he assured me preschool would be great.

This week was his first day. I was a wreck all morning knowing I couldn’t be there to hug him before he went. Yes, he had hugged me, put my face in his hands, and said, “Mom mom it will be a great day!” But I was still so nervous for him. Again, Cortney was able to meet our daycare provider at school for drop-off to give Charlie some last-minute hugs and encouragement.

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Of course he also got a quick shot of our Bird before he went off as an official preschooler. (That is his friend from daycare. They are not in the same class, but they do get to ride to and from school together. So that is fun).

When he got home, he came in the house and the first thing he said was, “Mom mom! School is AWESOME!”  I wanted to cry I was so excited for him.

He even let me take his picture by the tree.

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Tuesday morning I told him to have a great day at school and he smiled and said, “I will have a great SECOND day of school!”

Then his teacher sent me this:

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I mistakenly thought Back to School would be easier this year because I had been through it with Eddie three times already. I thought Charlie starting Preschool would somehow be easier because we had been through it with Eddie and knew what to expect. I learned that it doesn’t really matter. Each first day is a new first day. A new milestone. For Eddie it wasn’t as emotionally difficult, but it was still an adjustment to see him so easy and relaxed about going off without us into the world.

For Charlie it was much more emotional than I prepared myself for it to be. Preschool is a big milestone. It’s the first day of all first days of school. It’s the very start. And for my Baby Bird, it means he’s now not a baby. He’s Charlie now (although at open house he did tell his teacher he likes to be called Charlie Bird).  He goes into the world and learns things without me there.

Yeah, it doesn’t get easier.

But here we go…two kids in school. And one mom.

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 4 & Charlie’s Tummy

I was not wrong about them getting up early.  Lord help me, they were up by about 6:15am. The good thing is that Cortney was up and getting ready for work so I heard nothing until he left. Then all the things were VERY IMPORTANT and required my immediate intervention and attention.

I believe I was waving the white flag and crying by 9:30am.

Did I mention I am not good at the stay-at-home mom gig?

There was no pee anywhere but in toilets today and no vomit, so there is a bright side, I suppose.

The boys were…”brotherly” today. They would find something to do and do it nicely for about ten minutes. Then there would be shouting followed by things being thrown, maybe a punch or kick or something. Then the tattling. Then the separation and refereeing while trying to contain the situation.  Then the lull. Then they find each other and something to do and it all repeats. About 30 times in one hour.

Alice is usually my little bright spot, but she was a whiney, clingy mess today. Girlfriend sat outside the bathroom door and had an all out cry-fest while I peed today.

Parenting these kids can be challenging. I know I’ve said as much about Charlie in particular. And lately we have been a little concerned about our little Bird.

Today I took him to the doctor.

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You see, our little guy has all but quit eating.

I know, I know. He’s four. Picky eating is a phase.

And that is what we said too…two months ago.

But our little guy has also been acting out even more–to the point where we are a little nervous he might hurt one of us in his fits by throwing something or hitting his brother. He’s even bitten Eddie pretty hard.

Cortney and I constantly talk about wanting to be aware of signs that something is wrong with our kids without jumping to the doctor over “normal” things and being helicopter parents. Doing the right thing constantly feels like a little dance on a very thin line.

So we gave it some time.

After all, Cortney had been a very rage-filled kid himself and went through a phase where all he would eat was hot dogs. He’s fine.

But after more than a month of Charlie’s eating going from only cheese sandwiches to practically nothing but chocolate milk, we felt we needed to reach out to the doctor. Our doc is our family doctor. We all go to him because we really like his no-nonsense attitude and that he doesn’t just push tests and meds at us in lieu of really listening. So when he said he would like to see Charlie ASAP and not wait the eight weeks until his well-child, we made the appointment.

Our suspicions were confirmed when he stepped on the scale. He weighs 37 pounds. Only a pound more than last year, but he’s grown an inch and a half. He is still within the standard deviation on his growth chart, but coupled with some of his behavioral things, our doc was glad we came in.

Also like his father, Charlie is not a big talker about his feelings. If something hurts, he is likely not to tell us unless it’s bleeding or dangling off his body. So there is a very real chance his tummy could be bothered and he won’t tell us.

As a baby, he had reflux (and never cried about it because he’s iron man, apparently), so the least invasive thing to try is some reflux meds. There is also the chance he would have an allergy or intolerance, but without any rashes or respiratory stuff, that is also hard to tell without him complaining. To find that out would be more invasive and uncomfortable.

There are also some chances that he has some emotional stuff that is causing him to not want to eat and to act out. If that is the case, he may need to do some therapy, but it was suggested that we find out as much about how Cortney acted and what his mom and dad did as we can.

And it’s possible it’s all just normal four-year-old with a strong personality middle child stuff.

That is the one I am hoping for.

Charlie was a brave, good little dude for the doctor, so we stopped for a cake pop on the way home and he insisted on getting one for his big brother too.

He was very cuddly and lovey with me for the rest of the day. I know he knows I am worried and he is doing his best to show me he loves me.

It’s hard to be four. It’s hard to be in the middle. It’s hard to have big feelings.

Today was a challenge.

Tomorrow will be better.

Tomorrow is new.

 

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!)

Lego Crazy!

I knew it would come. I wish I could say that prepared me, but it didn’t. Knowing doesn’t always equate to preparedness.

The minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew the day would come when our house would be invaded by Legos.

First it was Duplo. Both of my boys enjoy getting the Duplo sets, but the real fun was seeing if you could use every single block in a tower or stack of some sort. I have had to get increasingly larger bins for the amount of these chunky blocks, and it seems already that Alice loves them too.

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Then came Eddie’s first “real” Lego set. He was only four and the set was too hard for him to put together himself, so I did it for him. At that age, the fun wasn’t yet in the building, it was in playing with the finished product. That is where Charlie is now. He got a Lego Junior set for his birthday last week–a road construction truck and road blocks. While he wanted to sit with me and watch and put the wheels on, he really just wanted me to hurry up and snap it all together so he could spend time blocking the “road” for his other toy cars so his new Legos could do construction.

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Eddie, at almost seven, is now into Lego for the joy of putting them together. He looks through the catalog that arrives each month and carefully circles each set he is interested in that he knows he has a chance of getting (he is savvy enough to know no one is spending $300 on a dang Lego set for him). He is at the awesome age where he loves to tear open a new set and carefully follow the directions to put it together, but he doesn’t just put it on a shelf when he is done. He actually plays with it.

It’s not surprising then that some of the first shows he discovered a few years ago were the Lego Shows on Netflix. He absolutely devoured them. In fact, what he knows about Star Wars is all based on what he’s seen on Lego shows (and Angry Birds). He about died of boredom when I tried to show him Episode 4. Apparently he is not ready for actual actors yet…just animation.

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But hey! That’s Ok because Netflix now has Bionicle: The Journey to One and Lego Friends: The Power of Friendship. He has watched all of the Bionicle episodes…twice. He even checked out the Lego Friends because gender stereotypes do not apply to him. He says it’s pretty good.

Oh, and not to be left out, Charlie has enjoyed the new season of Dinotrucks. That kid sure does like his dinosaur/truck hybrids.

So what are you watching and/or building?

Hooray For FOUR!

Dear Charlie,

You are FOUR! We have been talking about this birthday for about a month now. You have been SO excited to be FOUR! It means all sorts of new things for you: swimming lessons, preschool, and a big kid bike! Unlike Eddie who worried about all of those things, you are SO EXCITED!

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You are the quintessential middle child, my dear boy. It is extremely fitting that your nickname is “Bird” because as the middle child, you certainly do give the entire world “the bird” with your take-no-shit attitude toward life. While it drives us completely batty at times, this personality trait has potential to serve you very, very well as an adult.

As a four-year old it looks like huge rage fits, throwing things in frustration, and telling us constantly that you do not like us. However as soon as you start crying, you reach for your dad dad or your mom mom, needing the comforting arms of those who will love you unconditionally–no matter what you say or do out of anger. We are trying to guide you, sweet boy, to use your words and to choose safe, un-hurtful ways deal with your big feelings.

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Your new fish that you named Charlie Bird Fish.

The wonderful part of those big feelings is that you LOVE big too. You are quick to hug and kiss and cuddle up next to us. You love to hold hands or play with my hair. Touch soothes you, my little buddy, and I do my best to offer my lap, my arms, or the spot next to me on the couch whenever you want it.

the requested "train cake" for the birthday boy

the requested “train cake” for the birthday boy

People love you, Charlie. You are cute, charming and are such a helper. In fact you often refer to yourself as a “helper boy,” and you are not wrong. You want to help clean, cook, and pick up. We gave you a new big boy bike for your birthday and you do NOT want daddy to put it together without you.

A STAR WARS BIKE

A STAR WARS BIKE

So who else is Charlie at age four? You love to play alone. With just a few random toys, you will sit by yourself and make up little stories and scenarios forever. But you also like to play with Eddie. You two have huge imaginations and when you are getting along–which, let’s face is not all the time these days–you guys create forts and obstacle courses and booby traps and whole worlds. Eddie is bossy, but he’s creative and if what he has imagined sounds like fun? You are in!

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You are also quietly smart. At four, you know all your letters and most of their sounds. You can count to 20, and you’re getting pretty good at telling time. You like to build things with blocks, Legos, and Mega blocks. Trucks and tractors are your jam, and a couple of your prized possessions are your new pair of binoculars (which you call ‘noculars) and your net (which you tell us is for catching butterflies).  You love dirt and being outside. You also love animals.

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You want things to be perfect. You enjoy crafts and coloring and building–but if it doesn’t look just right then you get very VERY angry and throw one of your famous fits. You also do not enjoy being watched while you do something. You get agitated and you quit. Being the center of attention is not your thing. I do not relate, but I can understand. And don’t worry…daddy can relate. Some day you won’t cope with it be throwing a fit and finding a corner to cry in. You will grow out of that. I hope.

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Another fun fact about you: you are not a fan of clothing. You sleep without a shirt most nights and when you are super mad? Off come your pants.

If given the choice, the only food you would eat is cheese sandwiches and candy and chocolate milk. And since we can’t make you eat, you generally survive solely on dairy products. It’s not ideal, but at least you’re not starving.

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Last month you had your first experience with the stomach flu. You barfed on your {top} bunk twice. It was gross. So then I moved you to the couch and I slept (ok, I laid there) with you and every time you woke up, I was there to hold you and your bowl and rub your back.  You never cried or complained. You only told me you were so very thirsty…and that you wanted your firefighter hat.

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My dear little Bird…four is going to be a series of wonderful adventures for you! And while I know change is something that is hard to navigate feelings for, we will work together to make it great! I promise I will always be here for you–whether you need to snuggle up or just giggle about toots–I can make that happen.

You are such an important part of our family. I hope you always know that. No one can fill in the spot of Charlie Bird Thomas Sluiter…not even a fish with the same name.

I love you, Bird Bird. Always and forever.

Love,
Mom Mom

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. 

Getting Crafty

averyaustin

I am not a crafting kind of mom. But of course I have two little boys who LOVE to do crafts.

This usually means when they ask if they can do crafts, I get out paper and crayons. The end. They can do their crafts at school/daycare.

Sometimes I let Eddie “do crafts” during his little brother and sister’s nap time. That means stuff is everywhere and I get hives. There is no rhyme or reason, just scraps of supplies everywhere.

 

When I heard about Avery & Austin I thought it was the perfect idea! You get a box delivered to your house with everything in it for a “perfect play date:” a couple crafts (with everything you need right down to glue!), a healthy snack for two, and a cute hostess gift.

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The November box had a photo theme. Each boy got to assemble a wooden model camera and then paint it (wooden model kit even includes sandpaper! and Avery & Austin supplied wood glue and acrylic paint AND brushes).

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Then there were cardboard frames to decorate with stick on leaves. They even came with magnets so you can frame pictures on the fridge when you are done.

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There were little speaking bubbles to write on too with a wood dowel–a prop for all the fun pictures that would be taken. Charlie asked me to write “help” on his. It was appropriate.

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OMG my hair. This is what “pj day” looks like in Sluiter Nation.

I mentioned a healthy snack. Eddie wasn’t a fan, but Charlie–my uber-picky eater–devoured his bag and most of his brother’s bag. WIN!

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I have to say, I had some reservations. Even pre-planned crafts scared me a little, but it took up a huge chunk of our morning, created almost no mess (that’s right, even with paint!) and the boys loved it! They were so excited to put together a planned craft rather than have me just shove crayons and paper at them.

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We had fun! And I can’t wait until the December box! It will be perfect for a day over Christmas break!

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I am an ambassador for Avery & Austin, but I do not have to create blog posts. I just did because A) I am trying to post every day in November and B) We really had a great time with the crafts. I was truly impressed.

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