Monday, December 31, 2012

December catch-up #4: Lila's Birthday

This year for Lila's birthday, we continued the birthday traditions from the last two years and we started a new one!  We started Lila's birthday with our annual trip to get birthday donuts.  (View last year's video here to see just how small she was last year!) 

Hey, Richard Dreyfuss! What are you doing photo-bombing at John's Space Age?

Then we went to see Santa.  Last year we didn't have to wait at all because we went on a weekday.  This year, Lila's birthday fell on a Sunday so there was quite the line, but they gave us a card with a time to come back to the line and there was a free carousel to ride while we waited and some other activities so it wasn't bad at all.  Lila, Lambie and Mommy rode the carousel (it was veerrrrryyyy slllloooooowww):
And soon enough, it was our turn to wait for Santa.  Lila watched as the kids in front of us sat on his lap:
 Before I unveil this year's picture, let me jog your memory of the last two years:
1 year old: terrified

2 years old: nervous trepidation

Oh how I love the first year's picture.  How perfect is that look of terror on Lila's face?  Classic.  This year, when it was her turn, she flat out refused to sit on his lap, so this was our "Lila with Santa" picture for the year.  One can only imagine what her level of cooperation will be next year.  This may be a very short-lived birthday tradition.

After Santa, we took Lila to Fritz's which we hope will be a new fun birthday tradition.  For you non-Kansas Citians, Fritz's is a greasy burger joint where the schtick is that trains bring you your food.  Tracks run the perimeter of the restaurant and the train stops at each booth to drop your food on a platform that lowers down to your table.  Lila was enthralled.  So was her daddy.

Such a good-looking pair.  My favorites.
After lunch, we took Lila home for a much-needed nap and spent the rest of the night playing at home. It was a fun day for my big three-year-old.  I can hardly believe she's three.

Here's her year three video that her awesome Daddy made her.  (Click here to see last year's video.)

Our December catch-up continues tomorrow with a recap of Christmas celebrations.  See you then!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December Update #3: Lila's Friend Party

I have been dying to share the party favors for this year's party, but I wanted them to be a surprise for her guests (or really more for her guests' mommies!) so I didn't want to share them until after her party!  

We had a small friend birthday party for a few of her buddies.  I asked Lila what kind of party she wanted and she kept saying, "A Minnie Mouse party."  Which baffled me because her only exposure Mickey and Minnie Mouse is a water bottle her Nana gave her last year so I'm not sure what she meant by that.  I opted to give her a few suggestions so I thought about what she was playing with the most and I suggested a Mommy-Baby party to which she replied enthusiastically, "Yeah! Yay! Yippee!"

So a Mommy-Baby party it was!  We limited invites to her friends we play with the most and had a total of 8 girls invited.  I created this little invite and had 4X6 prints made at Costco so I spent about $2.00 on the invite plus postage.
I also created this little Thank You with the same design:

(Email me at makewayfortheawesomekid (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like me to create a custom invitation or holiday card - I'm running a new client sale $10 for a custom design with a free Thank You version.  I'll send you a jpeg in whatever size you want and you can have them printed at your favorite photo printer.  100% of sales go in our adoption fund!)

The party was a hit!  My parents hosted again (our little house would have been a bit crowded with so many little girls and their parents).   I brought all of our doll beds and strollers and tables, etc and bought size 1 diapers for them to use to change their babies' diapers.  The girls played with their dollies for a bit and then we played a pin-the-bink-on-the-baby game that my mom made:
She's talented, no?
I will admit, there were some tears involved.  Apparently some children didn't understand the concept of the game.  There was also some blatant cheating (ahem, Layla Adams), but what can you expect from 2-5 year olds?  In the end, the girls were more interested in taping the paper binks to their babies' mouths which was just as well.

We tried a group pic, but you know how that goes when there are multiple children involved (we were sad that Ruby and Afsana couldn't come):
From left to right: Emmaus, Camille, Lila, Mira, Layla, Emri and Josie

 And then it really fell apart:

Ah, memories.

I spent the weeks leading up to the party working on the party favors.  I hand-stiched each little girl's name on little pink purses and I made little mommy and baby finger puppets for each of the girls.  I made the finger puppets to look like each of the little girls and asked the girls' mommies what their daughters' favorite colors are and made the dresses out of that color.  I was so proud of how they turned out!

From top left: Afsana, Emri, Emmaus, Ruby, Layla, Camille, Mira (I hadn't made Josie's yet)

We are so grateful for the friends Lila has in her life!  Both Afsana's and Camille's Mommies have been my friends since elementary school and I can't tell you what it does to my heart that our daughters are now friends!  Maybe some of these girls will be celebrating their daughters' birthdays together in a couple of decades!

Tomorrow I'll share about Lila's actual birthday.  Hope you'll stop by!

Friday, December 28, 2012

December update #2: Lila's Family Birthday Party

As I said, we opted to scrap the open house party we've had the last two years in favor of a family party and a friend party for Lila since she actually has friends now that she's so big.  We also opted to spread out Lila's parties over the course of a few weeks which I'm not sure was a good move.  On one hand, it spread out the craziness, but on the other hand it sort of turned December into the month of Lila which, let's face it, probably isn't great for the kid's self-perception.  I'm hoping by the time she's nine, I'll have figured out how to do her close-to-Christmas birthday in a way that makes her feel celebrated while also not making her think she's the center of the universe.

So, December 4th my parents hosted Lila's family party.  We chose December 4th in part because it was one of the few days off my mom had from her new job, and then her job switched up her schedule without warning and she ended up having to work.  And to make matters worse, she got off almost four hours late.  She was so sad and I was so mad at her stupid job.  Boo!

But despite that hiccup, it was still a fun night.  When Lila saw the presents she said, "Can I help open those?" and then was delighted when I told her she got to open all of them because they were all for her!  

She had some enthusiastic helpers:
Cousins RJ and Addison
 And then she had the most giant cupcake and ate the entire thing:
All rules go out the window on your birthday.
Lila got awesome gifts!  The Husband built Lila a stage (you can see it hiding under the blanket in that first picture) and Nana gave her a microphone.  Her cousins made her a tutu and her other cousins gave her some fun dress-up clothes - all of which Lila put to immediate use:
You may have also noticed the Abby Cadabby slippers Aunt Jess gave Lila.  Those were inspired by a conversation Lila had with the Husband a few weeks earlier.  Eric had asked Lila what she wanted for Christmas and her answer was, "Slippers that fit me."  She had been trying to wear her slippers from the year before and they were too small.  I kind of loved the simplicity of that request.  Aunt Jess (and Uncle Kyle) got her those slippers and a really fun, twirly princess nightgown.

My parents got her a cowgirl hat and pink sparkly cowgirl boots (which have been a clothing staple ever since) and my grandparents got her a Bitty Toddler doll that looks like her who Lila named "Lucy" after her friend, Lucy.  I l-o-v-e-d my American Girl doll (still have her and plan on giving her to Lila for a future birthday) so I was so excited for Lila to get her first American Girl doll.  The Bitty Toddler dolls is perfect for her because it's still soft like the Bitty Baby, but it has cute hair and looks like Lila!
She wanted Pop to pose with her for this picture.
 The gifts were such a hit that the next morning, she immediately put on her cowgirl boots and hat and found her baby doll as soon as she woke up.  She walked into our bedroom like this:

I was pleased with the creativity of the gifts - all encouraged imaginative play and creative expression and none of them felt like just stuff for the sake of stuff.

And they all have been played with often since her party:
I love the rock star stance here.  And the outfit.  Who needs pants, anyway?

Buddies Lucy and Oliver came to visit and tried out the stage.  I love the look on Oliver's face.
Baby Lucy taking a nap
That weekend, we had our annual family pictures taken.  Lila was not all that enthusiastic about the pictures initially because we had to wake her up from her nap to go get our pictures taken.  But with a small bribe (bribery = valid parenting tool), we talked her into a better mood and she did really well for the most part.  Toward the end she kind of lost her steam:

We hope to be able to share some of the photos soon!  In the meantime, check in soon for December update #3: Lila's Friend Party!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December catch-up #1: Getting our tree

Once again, we have quite a bit to catch up on after our month of celebrations!  So, just like last year, I've got a couple of posts in the works.
We'll start by doing some time-traveling and going back to December 1st when we made our first trek to the Christmas tree farm.  I know it seems silly to be talking about getting our Christmas tree now that Christmas is already over, but I mostly want to just record the memory for future years.

For our China dossier, we needed some recent pictures of us doing things as a family so we invited my parents to come be our photographers as we went Christmas Tree hunting.
Family picture: check!

Lila and Nanny pretending they live in the forest.
Once we got there, however we realized that the trees were twice as expensive and half as pretty as the ones at Home Depot or Lowes so we basically used the Christmas Tree farm for the backdrop of our pictures and then went to Home Depot to buy a cheaper, prettier tree.

There's that giddy "I found The ONE" look the Husband gets on his face when the trees speak to him.

We opted to set up and decorate the tree the next day because we had the annual Elf Party to get to that night.  Our friend Jordanne hosts a party every year during which we watch the movie Elf and everyone brings their favorite kinds of sugar (candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup!) to enjoy.  Lila was in heaven.  I handed her a plate full of sugar and she looked at me and said, with awe in her voice, "This is all for me?!"

The next day, we decorated our tree.  Lila did the honors of putting on the first ornament.  Isn't she the cutest?

Here he is in all his squirrelly glory, the first ornament.
 And then she did the honors of placing the star on the top of the tree:

 It wasn't all that successful:

 But we figured in out in the end.  Ta-da!

Check back in tomorrow for a post about Lila's family birthday party.  This year, we opted for a friend party and a family party rather than the massive open house parties we've had the last few years.  I think it was a good move - can't wait to share pictures from her friend party in a few days!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Letter to My Daughter: Year Three

Dear Lila,

At the dawn of your third year, you were cocooned in toddlerhood - still in diapers and your crib, your words were barely intelligible, your gait was labored.  You needed me to dress you, buckle you, carry you.  And slowly we watched you morph from toddler chrysalis into the beautiful, independent butterfly of a little girl you are now.

You shed your babyhood reluctantly, often telling me that you didn't want to be a big girl, you wanted to be a baby.   And part of me pleaded inwardly, Just let her stay a baby!  She doesn't need to be potty-trained! She doesn't need to sleep in a big-girl bed!  She can keep her bink!  But that's one of the beautiful bittersweet things about motherhood: watching with pride as you learn and grown and succeed in your efforts and mourning the little steps you are taking toward someday leaving my care for good.  So I watch the joy you feel in your accomplishments and the way you beam at our praise and I keep my own intimate grief private so that all you see is pride in my face.

I often remind myself that when you are 15 and slamming your door in my face and plucking your eyebrows to thin lines and preferring your friends' company over mine, I will reminisce about you as a three year old and consider you quite small.  This helps me to soak in the wonders of three-year-old you instead of spending all my time bemoaning the loss of newborn you, infant you, one-year-old you, toddler you.

At two years old, I thought you were so big - so far from the sweaty squishy babe I rode next to in the backseat, hovering over your car seat while your dad drove 8 MPH the few blocks home from the hospital.  But now, your length astounds me.  Your legs!  Your hair!  I hold up your shoes and think, there's no way her foot is that big!  Two years old seems so small to me now!  I wish I had soaked in the baby-ness of two and I am determined to soak in what is left of it at three.  15 is just around the corner.  I see it already in the foot stomps and groans you so willingly hand out these days.  I call you my little teenager.

You have done so much growing up this year.  And these days we are putting you to bed knowing that this time next year, there will be two little bodies to tuck in for sleep.  You pray each night for a little sister.  I have tried to get you to consider that you might have a brother, but you refuse to entertain the thought. "No," you said matter-of-factly, "a sister."  One night you prayed in a sing-song voice, "Jesus, I want a SIS-TER!" and I thought, Jesus, this is clearly matters to her! and I began to pray for a sister for you, too.  We shall see.  And we will be delighted either way, of course.  

These days, with thoughts of Baby #2 on the way or perhaps already born, I watch you play and think about what we will lose of you as you transition from Only to Oldest.  But I'm just as quick to think of what we will gain.  We love imagining the kind of sister you'll be.  You dote over babies.  You let out this "awwwwww" sound whenever a baby appears.  I can't imagine where you learned that! (It was me.)  I think you will be a hovering mama hen, wanting to help, to hold, to cradle, to smother with kisses.  I imagine I will say, "Lila, give her some space!" hundreds of times a day.  Neither you nor we can wait to have need of that phrase!  You will be an awesome big sister.

You are smart and kind.  You are aware of others and want them to be happy.  Your emotional intelligence has grown leaps and bounds this year and it is such a relief to be able to reason with you a bit as we discipline you.  You have never-ending "why?" questions and you notice EVERYTHING.  You are beginning to think deep thoughts and you will ask me questions that reveal the places your mind has wandered.  Sometimes I am speechless with wonder at the things you say.  Other times joyful and surprised laughter bursts from my very heart at your cuteness!

Recently you have played this little teasing game with me.  You say, "I want to be someone else's girl!" and I argue with you, "No way! I won't let you!  You'll always be my girl!" As we argue back and forth, a sly grin creeps around the corners of your mouth.  You want me to fight for you.  You love that I want you for mine and mine alone.  You are beginning to really grasp the hold you have on me.  You are beginning to see the power that you have as the One I so desperately love.

Today, in a fit of rage, you called me "stupid."  I watched you work the word out, you tried it a couple of times and stumbled over it, "No, Mommy! You're stoop- you're stoop- YOU'RE STUPID!" Then you were silent, staring at me.  Waiting to see how your words landed.

I calmly led you to your bed for a time out.  I told you that, in our family, we never use that word when we talk about other people.  I asked you if you knew what it meant.  You said no.  I asked you if someone had said that to you.  You said yes.  I asked you who.  A friend at school.  My heart broke for you because even though you didn't know what it meant, you knew it's intent.  To hurt, to wound, to express anger or frustration.  You had felt those things when your friend said it to you.  And in your frustration with me this morning, you wielded your new-found weapon at me.  And I saw a bit more of your innocence fall away.

But even that is bittersweet.  Because with every lesson you learn about how hard and broken this world is, there is a matching lesson of our Good Lord's goodness and holiness and His plan for redemption.  My prayer for you is that you will choose to use your life to be a part of God's on-going plan to make wrong things right.  And in order for you to be able to step into that, I need to be okay with you feeling the weight of the wrongs in this world.  I can't protect you from everything, though I should like to.  But I pray there is a holy fierceness in you that emerges as you encounter injustice.

And Lila, there is so much injustice in this world.  Your birthday this year was especially bittersweet.  Two days before you turned three, twenty families lost every future birthday with their children.   These children who were the same age as my "big kids" as you call them.  My heart felt a deep pang of grief as I tried not to see my students' faces in the faces of those children who were killed.  My soul ached as I tried not to see my own face on the faces of the mothers who were learning their babies were gone.  Mothers who probably looked at their six year old on Thursday and thought, "How is she so big?" and Friday felt the gut-wrenching reality of how very small she was.  And for me, three years old didn't seem so big after all.  And I found myself whispering the words I know so many saints were whispering with me, "Come, Lord Jesus.  Bring us home.  Rescue us from this shattered world."

But Lila, this world is beautiful, too!  Our Good Father has given us a world full of beauty to love and enjoy.  You remind me of that.  You gasp in excitement at the simplest things: "Lila, do you want Mac and Cheese for lunch?" Gasp! Macaroni and Cheese!? Yay! Yippee!

Today, God blanketed our part of the world with crisp, glistening snow and you delighted in the reflected shine it cast on our windows all day.  In fact, you scaled the window like a monkey to get a better view of our crystallized yard and scared me stiff!  (Perhaps I need to invest in gymnastics lessons?)  Your innocent awe of our world reminds me of one of our favorite good-night songs:

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Lila, I know that with each year I will grieve the fading things I love about your infancy even as I welcome with joy the sweet and surprising nuances of your emerging character and personality.  And I know that each year will bring with it difficulties that reveal our world's brokenness and strip away your child-likeness that Jesus told us to recapture for ourselves.  Whether they are small intimate pains of hurtful words from your friends, or deep, gaping wounds inflicted on society as a whole, my prayer for you is that you would be protected wherever possible and when that is not possible, I pray that Jesus would be quick to turn your thoughts to His promise that He has overcome the world.  I pray that you keep your joyful awe of the simplest things: the sunlight, the morning.  And that I, your Mommy, would remember to thank God for each day I get to spend on this earth with you as my girl.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise and elation! Praise every morning!
God's re-creation of the new day

I love you, my big three-year-old.

Love, Mommy