Saturday, May 07, 2016

What I hope to teach my daughters

Tramp through the woods, climb up mountains and sink your feet into the sand. Breath in salty air and watch the waves crash into the shore. Banish gremlins. Dance with joy. Remember that the right person can make any situation fun, but know that the right person can be - and always is - you. Remember that the world is full of magic, and you can have as much magic as you want, you just have to believe. Connect - to yourself, to others, to the world. But, always know that the best thing you can do with your life is to feel and to love.

Cultivate gratitude, the way you cultivate a tomato plant or a strong caffeine habit. Practice joy. Hone your focus. Develop patience. But, most importantly, love yourself.

Revel in the simplicity of life. Fresh, in season, still warm from the sun, fruit. Remember how the rain feels as it falls across your face. Take in the breathtaking beauty of a sunset, or the shapes made from a streak of vibrant purple paint. Feel the way air fills your lungs. Spend time among trees. Admire their height, run your hands over the crinkly bark, admire at their deep, sturdy roots, feel their silky leaves. Marveling among the trees reminds you that the world is magic.

See the world. Travel to far flung places into the far corners of the earth, but also see other parts of your world - a new park or a small street you've never visited before. Celebrate different cultures, understand differences of opinions and rejoice in the variety of life. We were each created to be unique and special.

See the best in people. This brings out their best. Believe someone is amazing and they become amazing. If that amazing eludes you remember that life always works out. It may not be exactly what you planned or anticipated, but with enough time, even the most devastating event can be the best thing that happened to you. If you keep moving, and looking up, things get better.

Do what brings you joy. Every day.

Believe that life is a playground.

Believe that we are all connected by God's grace and love. He made the world a magical place with turquoise waterfalls and starry nights and created us with a bright spark of internal strength, which allows us to handle the tough stuff, love deep, and do our best work.

Believe in leprechauns and glittery fairies and unicorns and elves and that Santa Claus truly does exist.

Believe that love is all around. You just have to tilt yourself toward it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The books we like to read

We've been reading up a storm lately, while we are big readers here at Chez Stars - it is possibly a combination of the stomach flu that hit our house, rainy weather and a streak of really great titles that has propelled us to crazy new levels.

The Worst Witch: This was meant to be a independent read for Daisy, and I only read the first chapter out loud to the girls, but then we couldn't put it down...so, we just kept going. It's a fun and sweet and we love the magical fantasy element. 

The Secret Garden: I loved this novel as a child, and I have a beautifully illustrated version that we have been reading from. At church (and preschool!) the girls have a "secret passageway" from the main building to the parking lot with a space they call "their secret garden" and thus, the reason for the reading of this book. Daisy and Lily love it. The first few chapters were a bit intense (apparently I blocked out the entire reason why she was living with her Uncle in the first place), but now they love it. 

I am #1: Sacagawea: Daisy has been fascinated with Sacagawea since she first read Fancy Nancy and the Book Report when she was a mere two years old. I have learned much about this amazing woman in the past four years. We both enjoyed this book and the subsequent conversations about life as an Native American women. In the after notes, we learned that there are more statues in the United States of Sacagawea than any other women, and Daisy wants to try and find them all. Along with another biography about her. Apparently, the obsession isn't over yet. 

The Princess and the Giant: I have loved all the books by this author. The illustrations are adorable and whimsical, the rhyming text is playful with a fun twist on a classic fairy tale.

Interstellar Cinderella: Cinderella has long been a favorite in this house, I both love it from a classic Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tale perspective and from a cultural perspective as it's one of the more popular fairy tales retold in many difference countries from China to Iraq to Native American to Greece and Poland. The girls have loved all the versions that I've read to them, of course, the Disney versions being the most popular, especially with Lily. So, it's really no surprise that this has been a popular choice. I do like that in this version Cinderella is a take-charge mechanic that doesn't need a prince to rescue her. She rescues him.  

Peter and the Wolf: We've been reading the story, listening to the music, we watched the Disney version one wet and windy afternoon.

SuperFudge: This is a special read aloud just with Lily. She asked for a special Mommy read aloud, and I never turn down a chance to snuggle up with my little jumping bean. 

Ollie the Stomper: One of Violet's favorite reads are the Gossie and Friends books, and of course, this has quickly become our morning read, our nap time read, our before bedtime read, and any other time in-between read. 

When Breathe Becomes Air: I've been seeing this pop up everywhere and frankly, I thought it just sounded depressing. However, between my personal connection to a thirty-five year old young husband and father who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and all of the amazing reviews, I thought I should give this a chance. This has turned out to be a beautiful book and I cannot believe that I waited so long to read the poetic words. I found this to be thought-provoking and beautiful. Sad, yes, but life-affirming and spectacular as well.

America's First Daughter: I just started this, so admittedly I'm only on chapter 2, but so far I'm hooked. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and the American Revolution is my favorite time period, so it has that going for me. I love the unique perspective and so far, it has completely captured my attention (like, I'm ignoring the huge laundry pile on my couch and the stack of essays to grade to keep reading this).

Next up on my reading list: Murder on the Orient Express, All the Light We Cannot See and potentially a re-read of the Harry Potter books (to get ready for this summer's new release!) 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A letter to my sweet Monkey girl

Dear Daisy,

Several days after Christmas we started talking birthdays. It’s really no surprise with Lily’s birthday and your birthday within the first eight weeks of the year. We talked about how we wanted to celebrate, what types of cake we wanted and if there were any specific birthday gift requests. A few days later, over breakfast one morning, you asked if you could have a tree for your birthday, a tree to plant in the community.

We had been learning and talking about trees. In school you were observing the changing of the tree in the courtyard, drawing and noting when the leaves changed color. You were scientists writing facts and drawings in your observation journals. At home we were talking about trees providing shelter for squirrels and birds and bugs. We read books explaining how trees produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the environment. We walked the neighborhood talking about which trees had the prettiest new blossoms.

I think this perfectly sums your personality: unbelievably kind, generous, curious, inquisitive and ready to make the world a more beautiful place. In the end, we had a tree-planting birthday party. We picked a Red Dragon Japanese Maple Tree for the meditation garden at our church, and with your friends you got your fingernails dirty digging, planting and watering the tree before diving into a chocolate cake at the nearby park.
Daisy, these days you are a wonder to behold. Besides the amazing gift you gave our community, you are also mastering the art of storytelling. You are constantly making books and writing stories. Creating skits and plays for you and your sisters and friends to act out. You live straddling two worlds: a world of dragons and princesses and fairies and unicorns. But, you also live in a world fueled by logic and precision. You are passionate about science and facts. You like order and absolute truths. I have to say that while I love the world of pretend and make believe, it’s been amazing to see these two worlds of yours merge together.

Honestly though, part of your ability to merge these two worlds is powered by your younger sisters. They are very much still enthralled in the world of make-believe, and the three of you love to play together. Whether you are exploring in your secret garden, or having a tea party with pirates, I watch the three of you together and am just left in awe at the relationship that you are forging. The three of you are building a friendship that I sincerely hope will endure for many, many decades to come. There is something special about sharing a childhood that creates a bond, which really cannot be broken. I genuinely hope that you enjoy experiencing life together for the rest of your days.
Daisy, sweet monkey girl, I hope you always have kindness. I hope you always enjoy storytelling. I hope you always appreciate your sisters. And I hope you never lose your creativity.

I love you more than all the stars in the sky and the water in the ocean. To me, I love you, just doesn’t seem powerful enough.


Love, Momma

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Monkey is SIX

Today is Daisy's birthday. In lieu of a babybook, I ask the following 20 questions to my birthday girl (starting with the third birthday). You can see Daisy's previous answers, here, here and here. So, this afternoon while she and J built with her new Roominate Dollhouse I fired away: 
  1. What is your favorite color: yellow 
  2. What is your favorite toy: roominate (Note: She received this yesterday from a friend for her birthday - and Daisy is IN LOVE. It's basically building a dollhouse through circuit building. But, she also loves playing with her dollhouse and riding her scooter and roller skates).
  3. What is your favorite fruit: watermelon 
  4. What is your favorite movie: Kung Fu Panda (Note: She is still obsessed with all things Asia.) 
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: rompers 
  6. What is your favorite animal: zebras. elephants. owls.  
  7. What is your favorite song: (Momma's Note: She didn't really have an answer for this. She pretty much loves all music and audiobooks. She, too, loves the Kids Stories Podcasts, and she has a playlist of relatively soothing songs that she listens too at night sometimes and she's learning "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" on the piano.) 
  8. What is your favorite book: Any of The Adventures of Sophie Mouse or Owl Diaries chapter books 
  9. Who is your best friend: Sadie. Karly. 
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: a bowl of Cheerios    
  11. What is your favorite lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Luke's cheddar clouds, fruit 
  12. What is your favorite dinner: quesadillas or cheese pizza or grilled cheese. (Note: basically anything that is heavy on the cheese is her favorite)
  13. What is your favorite snack: popcorn; grapes 
  14. What is your favorite dessert: rainbow sherbert  
  15. What do you sleep with at night: blankie  
  16. What is your favorite thing to play outside: in our playhouse or to ride my scooter
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: roasted cauliflower grilled cheese, salad and roasted sweet potato "chips" (and we will have leftover cake from her birthday party yesterday). 
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: an owl scientist 
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum (Momma's Note: this is where the obsession with all things avian started) 
  20. What is your favorite game: sorry

This girls amazes us daily with her creativity and kindness. For her birthday, she wanted to donate and plant a tree for her community to enjoy, and yesterday at her birthday party, she and a few friends planted a Red Dragon Japanese Maple Tree. We are so fiercely proud of this girl and we love her golden heart. 

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.