Sunday, February 07, 2016

Letter to my hazelnut: 18 months

Dear Violet,

Yesterday afternoon we were all playing outside. The big girls were helping daddy build the playhouse you three girls received for Christmas and you were playing on our little tykes slide. Up you climbed the ladder and down the slide, roller coaster arms and big smiles. Up and down. Up and down. Then you fell. You lost control and tumbled down the slide landing smacking your forehead against the concrete. I picked you up, offering hugs and kisses as I checked you over for bumps and bruises. Almost immediately after your fall you picked yourself back up, wriggling away from me, and tears still streaming down your face, and a large bruise already developing on your forehead, you climbed right back up the slide and did it all over again.

This is you in a nutshell: You fall down and before you even brush yourself off you’re back on the wagon. This tenacity, determination and spirit are characteristics I hope you never lose.  

In these last six months you have learned so much and are growing into a very independent little girl. Besides learning how to climb up steps and ride down slides, you learned to walk! And run! You can kick a ball. You can throw a ball (often better than your two older sisters!) You love to play with your musical instruments. You can stack blocks. Your favorite word to say is “sisters.” You feed yourself at nearly every meal. You’d rather sit in a booster seat at the dinner table than your high chair. You love bubbles and magnets. You love to sing and clap along with the music. You wave hello to people and blow kisses to say “thank you.” You love shoes. To say the word, to hold them, to try them on. But, you refuse to keep your own shoes on for any length of time. You love to push your pink Minnie Mouse ball in the baby stroller. You love to climb up the step stool and brush your four little teeth at every opportunity. You understand almost everything we say to you, honestly. Although, one of my very favorite things has been watching you play and interact with your sisters. You want to do EVERYTHING they are doing. Art projects, tree climbing, dress-up, and nothing makes you happier than being with your sisters, being a "big girl": just like them. 
You refuse to sit in the cart unless you have a snack you picked out from the store. It doesn't matter if we just ate, or if I brought a snack from home. Your favorite is bananas. A second favorite is cereal. 

I find you amazing little hazelnut. It warms the very corners of my soul to find that a sturdy and adventurous toddler has replaced the flimsy, helpless infant we first brought home. Everyday you make new connections that astound me. I know I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but watching you and your sisters grow and learn is the greatest gift. At the end of the day, regardless of my exhaustion or frustration, I am struck by just how grateful we are to have you three in our lives.
Grow, little hazelnut, grow.

I love you more than all the stars in the sky and all the water in the ocean.

Love, Momma

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Letter to my Bumblebee: Four Years

Dear Bumblebee,  
Last Saturday, on your birthday, you had a surprise party with a couple of your neighborhood and family friends. Traditionally, at a surprise party the guest of honor has no idea (well, at least in theory) that the party is going to happen. However, in this case, you planned the entire party: the guest list (your two very best friends, your sisters and the family friend who introduced you to surprise parties), the activity (drinking tea) and the theme (Frozen, naturally), including how you were going to walk into the surprise. The entire week before, you were so excited about THE! SURPRISE! PARTY! that you practiced your surprise face in front of the bathroom mirror many hours per day.

And the day played out like planned, your birthday morning included Daddy’s Pancake Breakfast and concluded the day with hamburger’s and French fries and a new book. It was the perfect way to celebrate four years of wonderful, darling, because it was everything you love in the world: cupcakes, people you love, a party and a controlled surprise.
You insisted on roller skates for your birthday, regardless that they are off-limits for another 4-6 weeks.  

At four you avoid washing your hair at all costs and love to sing “Happy Birthday to Me” all the time. You do not believe in sleep, and I’ll often find you happily having a dance party down the hallway at midnight. You want to wear sundresses everyday, maybe with leggings if it’s very cold. You almost never get in your car seat in a timely manner and you always forget your jacket. Pouches of pureed fruit and vegetables are your very favorite special snack. You ask to cuddle and to be read to everyday. But, my very favorite: You are the queen of spontaneous kisses.
Last week after a grumpy morning and a few days cooped up from the rains, we went out for a local hike. We tromped through the mud and rode dragons made of fallen tree logs. We fed imaginary baby dinosaurs, yelled at the top of our lungs and danced in the grassy fields. Sweet girl, I hope you never lose your adventurous spirit and your amazing creativity.

Two weeks ago you fell and broke your arm. You cried for a few minutes, and avoided using your arm, so the next morning I made you an appointment for an x-ray. At the doctor, when recounting the story, you told her: “I just tripped. I just tripped over my own two feet.” You were so brave and so calm in the midst of a very challenging afternoon. You were articulate in telling your story. You were so polite while even in great pain. I saw you a bit different in those four hours. You were mature, no longer my baby, but I saw glimpses of the woman you will eventually become. As we sat waiting for the cast to dry I declared a new family rule: Anytime you have to have a cast you should go out for a treat afterward. Would you like a scone or a milkshake? I asked. And you pondered momentarily, “Momma, can I get both? Please Momma? Look at my arm cast.”

And so, I saw you again, just as you are: my negotiating little three year old.

Three was cuddles and tears. Three was crazy outfits and strong opinions. Three was stories and books, chalk and paint, scraped knees and colorful bandages. Three was temper tantrums and hours of pretend. Three was dress-up and imaginary friends. Three was made-up songs and play-dough. Three was independence and dependence.
Oh how I love the sparkle in your eyes and the smile on your face

I wonder what adventures four will bring: I can’t wait to find out. I love you more than all the stars in the sky and all the water in the ocean.

Love, Momma

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lily Girl is FOUR

Yesterday was Lily's birthday. In lieu of a babybook, I ask the following the following 20 questions to my birthday girl (starting with the third birthday). You can see last year’s answers here. So, this afternoon while doing a ABC dot-to-dot, I asked the following questions: 
  1. What is your favorite color: pink
  2. What is your favorite toy:  our dollhouse
  3. What is your favorite fruit: avocado and bananas
  4. What is your favorite movie: Cinderella, Peter Pan, Inside Out, Frozen
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: dresses
  6. What is your favorite animal: a moose
  7. What is your favorite song: “Happy Birthday to You” (Note: This has been a favorite in the past month or so as she has been celebrating many friends’ birthdays, plus her own. But, really rather than a song she has been obsessed with listening to the Stories Podcast.)
  8.  What is your favorite book: Sophia the Second (Note: She received this as a birthday present yesterday, which means that we have read it approximately 15 times in the past 24 hours.)
  9. Who is your best friend: Simone, Karly and Daisy
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: daddy's pancakes (Note: this tradition started during my marathon training. Daddy makes pancakes on Saturday morning while I go on my long run. As a child who thrives on routine, this cannot be deviated from and I am okay with that.)
  11. What is your favorite lunch: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
  12. What is your favorite dinner: pizza with pineapple (on Friday nights we make pizza and watch a movie together as a family. Basically, it's our favorite night of the week). 
  13. What is your favorite snack: a smoothie
  14. What is your favorite dessert: ice cream cake  
  15. What do you sleep with at night: my rainbow brite/starlight pillow pet 
  16. What is your favorite thing to play outside: to climb trees (Note: she currently has a broken arm, and this has made her a bit grumpy that she cannot climb the tree out front for another couple of weeks. Second Note: She did not break her arm tree climbing.) 
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: hamburgers and french fries with ketchup sauce (Note: and it was a success!!)
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: a famous ballerina space artist 
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: to Lake Tahoe!
  20. What is your favorite game: hide and go seek and Rainbow Brite (Note: basically an ongoing elaborate game of pretend and dress up) 
    Yesterday in your Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday dress at your surprise Frozen Tea Party with a couple of your favorite friends. You planned the entire party for me, including the surprise. You even practiced your surprise face several days before. It was basically the cutest thing ever. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Nine reasons I love my daughters right now

1. Violet loves to play ball. All. The. Time. When Daisy was this age, I always had a bag of board books with me. Now, I always make sure we have a ball.

2. Lily has the most amazing imagination. The stories she tells me are increasingly elaborate - and always based on the fairytales and myths that I stuff her head with. The other day she spent all day pretending to be fairy sprite sneakily changing out the porridge and other food items for Zeus and Hera in their cottage; made entirely of candy.

3. Daisy has just started reading chapter books silently. She now ALWAYS has her nose in a book and plops herself down where she is. Even in a window and door showroom.  (Sophie Mouse is her current favorite series).

4. Violet has decided that she wants to be just like her big sisters. I am not allowed to carry her; she walks. This means that it take approximately four hours to go to the library and Trader Joe's.

5. I am a big believer that you need to parent to each individual child, and the way I parent Daisy is completely different than how I approach parenting with Lily. But, I am loving the process of helping Lily gain and exercise independence in certain aspects of her life. My girl is a force to be reckoned with. This makes me so unbelievable proud.

6. Violet says cheese when I take her picture. Oh my stars, I cannot take the cuteness.

7. Lily has been more and more resistant to afternoon naps. But, every once in a while she is so exhausted that she curls up in my arms and falls asleep. It is always that heavy, deep slumber of a child who knows they are safe.

8. Violet LOVES music. She dances anytime she hears music come on by wiggling her hips and turning in a circle. It always makes us laugh. When the music is over she claps and bows.

9. Daisy plays the piano so gracefully and she is working so hard on new songs and scales. It's amazing to watch her find her passions, and not to be deterred when something is tricky or hard. She doesn't shy away, but faces the challenge head on. I love seeing this part of her personality develop.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let freedom ring

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. - Jimi Hendrix 

The email was brief: Did you see the news about Paris? The girls and I were reading in Violet's room. I immediately turn to my CNN app, and see the horrible devastation that attacked Paris flood my screen.

"Mom," Daisy says, "I count seven American flags on this street. Why are there so many flags, is it America's birthday again?"

I immediately remember the days significance. Of course, I remembered when I woke up, unable to forget the horrors after reading new articles of remembrance, but after spending the morning running around Fairyland with Daisy's Kindergarten class, I blissfully forgot.

Daisy is hitching a piggyback ride. It's almost one, triple digit heat, and we are wiped and are walking the half mile home to our house. We're hungry and thirsty, as we drained the last of our cold water on the 45 minute bus ride back from Oakland.

"No, it's not America's birthday. Remember that's July 4th. Today is a special day of remembering. A day of celebrating the courage and bravery of our first responders: our police officers, our firefighters, our military. Fourteen years ago, on this day, September 11, thousands of people died in America from an attack that was in New York City.  That's why our neighbors are hanging their American flags. It was an event that defined my generation. It was an event that changed the way our nation worked. It changed our future."

"One day", I tell Daisy, "you will learn about September 11 in your history classes. One day I will show you pictures of the event, and one day Daddy and I and others will tell you stories of where they were on the day the attack happen. One day we'll take you to visit the memorials, but today what is important for you to know is that we have freedom. We are thankful for our first responders, our firefighters, our police officers. We are thankful for the military. We are grateful that they gave their lives to protect ours."

My girls are obsessed with everything French. They want to take French language classes. They can find Paris on a map. Lily wants to see the art museums. Daisy wants to eat cheese in the park by the Eiffel Tower. They love to watch the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame and listen to the French songs and stories on repeat in the car. It's not just Paris, my children want to see the world. They long to visit China and Russia. Daisy wants to see the beaches of Costa Rica and walk with the penguins in Antartica. Lily wants to see the Peter Pan Statue in the Kensington Gardens and rub her hands over the Anonymous Writer Statue in Budapest.

I want to tell them about this devastation in Paris. I want say something concrete and useful. But, instead I put down my phone and look at my beautiful girls. I hug them and kiss them and hold them in my arms. I tell them to always remember that life, all human life, is precious.

One day my girls will learn about violence. They learn about anger and hate. I wish, I wish that I could protect them from those things forever. I know that this is unrealistic becuase this is the world we live in. But, what I do know is that I can show my girls, and teach my girls to love. I can shower them with comfort, compassion and love. I can show them kindness. I can teach them empathy. I can demonstrate tolerance and acceptance and peace.

John F. Kennedy once said, "Our most basic human link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal." These words still ring true today, in fact, now more than ever. I want to teach my children that there is infinitely more that binds us together than separates us. And I continue to teach my girls that love is the only response to hate.

Some days motherhood seems like an overwhelming job. I need to be brave when I am afraid. I need to show compassion when I am angry. I need to give love when I am mad. But my hope for the future is that my children know a world fueled by love and peace, acceptance and tolerance. I want my girls to go to school without a worry about shooters on campus. I want my girls to travel the world without the worry of violence. I want my girls to know a life without terror.

I do not think this is an impossible dream because there is no amount of hate that can drown out love.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

6 Happy Things

"Think of all beauty still left around you and be happy." - Anne Frank 

So, embarassingly enough I started this blog post all the way back at the beginning of October, and now it is almost mid-November. As per usual, the fall is usually nuts for me: it's my busiest semester and usually my busiest season for freelance work. These past few months has been even more so with a total of 12 semester units, three fairly involved grantwriting clients, and marathon training. This means lots of terrible essays, Saturday mornings out on the Iron Horse Trail, Sunday afternoon lesson planning and a often 4:30 am wake-up calls to squeeze in grant writing. That being said, I am finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel: the great class countdown has begun, it's taper time for the marathon (only two long runs left!) and the grant deadlines are winding down.

And so, with keeping of the theme of late, I have five more happy things:

1. The other day it started raining. The girls were playing inside and all of the sudden we heard the classic sounds of the pitter-patter of the rain. Lily, looked up and realized it started raining and ran outside barfoot, shouting on her way out, "I'm gonna play outside. I want to play in the rain." Before I could even react she was singing and dancing and playing in the rain. Barefoot and all. I couldn't help but smile.

2. A few weeks ago, Daisy and I went on a big girl date to meet Chelsea Clinton. We read sippits of her book, It's Your World,  together and we enjoyed looking at the pictures. We talked extensively about how kids can empower change in the world. I explained that she was the President Clinton's daughter. "First Daughter! I say, isn't that cool? She grew up in the White House, you've been there, look. Here are pictures!" She was throughly unimpressed. Then I explained how she went to Stanford University. "Wait Mom." Daisy stops me, "Wait, Stanford? That's where I'm going to go!"

3. The girls and I have been reading Pippi Longstocking. I LOVED Pippi as a child. I love the magical world she lives in: a world of horses on porches and goofy strength. A world of pirates, gold coins and childhood best friends. A world of where a freedom of mind and a freedom of will is celebrated.I loved reading the books as a child, and I love that I get to re-read the adventures with my own crazy girls.

4. Violet has started to walk. Her way of learning to walk was so different from her sisters. At first, it was a step here or a shaky step there. But, sometime in the last few weeks has has started walking with so much more confidence. She walks across rooms and dances in circles and laughs and giggles and claps for herself. I love that she is her greatest cheerleader.

5. Buddha Bowls. I am obsessed. So delicious, so satisfying and so easy to make.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Maybe it's just magic

On our way to school we talk about how the earth rotates around the sun giving us seasons. We talk about gravity and how the the Sun's gravity pulls on Earth and the planets around the sun, just as Earth's gravity pulls keeps us on the ground. "Nope", Daisy says, discounting my answer, "maybe it's just magic." Then Lily asks me about the tooth fairy. How does the fairy KNOW that Daisy's friend lost a tooth? And then we start talking about languages. People in Spain speak Spanish and people in China speak Chinese and then we move to Emperors and Kings and ancient dynasties. We talk about Papa and how we could fly a plane halfway across the world and then we talk about Grandma and her brand-new knee. We talk about how we've never seen a fairy, or met a real-life princesses, and how we can make a rainbow and why do markers run out of ink, and how tree leaves change colors, and... and.. and..

And we're walking along, answering three hundred questions a minute, listening to the amazing connections of these little minds, thinking about how the whole world seems like maybe just a little bit magic to them. I kind of understand because these three amazing little girls of mine seem just maybe, a little bit like magic to me.