The Last Day

Today marks the end to a very cherished period of my life, the value of which I will never precisely put into words.  Almost exactly eight years ago to the day, Jason and I arrived in Vermont, ready to make our life here and start on two pretty grand new adventures: the arrival of baby Jackson and a brand new career for Jason.  Ever since that day, I have spent every waking moment of my life putting my children first, building a life for them that was happy, healthy, well-rounded, exciting, safe, and loved.  I created this blog to document all the little details I knew would escape me as I got older, and as a place to share my photos.  From it grew my photography business, which kept me up late and busy on weekends, but every weekday from then to now has been about me and my three amazing kids.

This period isn’t about to end, not exactly, but the period of my life as exclusively a stay-at-home mom is.  I have always missed being a teacher, even while I knew that the three most important students I would ever have were right here in my home, and that providing them with a strong love of learning and school and books was the greatest foundation I could ever give.  Now, however, when Hannah is heading to preschool in the fall and my days at home with kids would be decreasing every year, I felt it was time to think about myself, and my career, again.  I am an awesome stay-at-home mom, but I’m pretty lousy at the domestic side that comes as a stay-at-home wife.  I don’t like (and also basically can’t) cook, and I have no interest in learning.  I have two degrees that are collecting dust in my storage unit, and it’s about time to dust them off.  So when the opportunity arose to apply for a job as the librarian at my kids’ school, I jumped at the chance, even though it means going back to grad school and the end to my days home with my babies.  And (alas!) an end to this blog, which I think will bookend nicely, starting with the days awaiting becoming a mom up to the final days at home with my kids.  Because even though I have loved being home with them more than they will ever know, and am so incredibly grateful to Jason for making the sacrifices necessary to make that happen, I have a need to be more than this.  My girls need to see me in the workplace, need to know that not only am I fun and loving, I am also educated, brave, and smart.  They all need to see me following my dreams and working hard to achieve them.  And they get to see me, literally, once a week (if not more!) at the library at school!  I get to continue teaching my own kids, and get back to teaching others’, in one of my favorite places in the entire universe–the library.  The manner in which the stars aligned for all of this to work out is astounding, and again, I am thrilled it worked out so well.

But….there’s one thing that I forgot to mention.  My baby, my girl.  My last little one, Hannah, will not get her full allotment of time at home with Mommy, and even though I know all of the zillion great reasons why it’s okay for her to be in preschool (She’ll be three and a half! We love her teachers! She’ll be in the same building as me in the afternoon! She’s ready!) my heart does ache a little thinking that today is literally the very last full day that I will spend home with my baby, ever.  After tomorrow the two biggest wild things will descend upon our house for summer vacation, and this blessed time for just us two will be over.  I had more than most and those days meant more than I ever dreamed possible. They taught me how to be a mom, and how to love these little people and show them that nothing matters more to me than them, no matter what.  I would only have taken a job if it meant I could still be supremely involved in their daily lives, but the small, quiet, comfortable, moments of my everyday life with them as babies is over.  Tomorrow is the last day of school and I am helping out at field day, then Jackson and Emmy will be home for the summer.  Today is my last day at home with my girl, just me and her, and after the summer, life as we know it will have changed.  All of this is for the very good, but I cannot believe that this time in my life is done.  It makes me want to run upstairs and go snuggle Hannah as she naps, and just breathe in every precious reason that she is her.

So you know what?  That’s what I’m going to go do.

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A Tale of Two Parties

My darling creative, sparkling, wonderful Em turned six last month, and she is so loved it required two parties!

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The first party was for three of her friends after school on her actual birthday.  Em is an artist through and through, and to celebrate that each friend celebrated her inner artist!

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We got a little excited about these invitations…there was a little extra glue going on.  But it was all Em’s idea and she was super creative with how she wanted to decorate them!

When the girls arrived after school, there were art supplies waiting for each of them at their seat.

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Each girl painted her own picture on her canvas, and then we filled cupcake necklaces with sand art.  They all loved it and the time flew by!

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And of course, colorful cupcakes!

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It was a really fun way to celebrate her actual birthday and she felt super special.  She felt even more fabulous that weekend, when all our family came up for her family party, this time an animal theme she designed all her own!

The cousins loved the animal masks, and the girls all wore matching dresses made by Nana.  It was so adorable to see them all together!

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Em used our many Schleich animals to decorate her cake and Nana and Papa’s house, and there were plenty of “party animals” to go around!  Her ideas for animal touches were so fun! I’m glad I let her help decorate this year instead of trying to surprise her as usual.  She really knows what she wants, and her vision is always great!

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Including these creepy-eyed stuffies (not my favorites but my kids LOVE them) in lieu of goodie bags for the kids!  They were such a hit!

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Em knew exactly what she wanted for food as well, and with some creative wording, she was able to get all her favorite foods at the party!  Such a smart lady.

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Em remembered how Papa orchestrated a scavenger hunt for her presents last year and made a request for another go round.  He obliged and she tracked down all the amazing gifts bought and made for her, including a professional easel handmade by her Auntie Amanda.  What a lucky lady to have such a beautiful day!

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Mmmmm….and a yummy cake made by Auntie Jenny.  Loved by so many, this precious girl.

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Happy birthday, dear Em!  You deserved every minute of happiness from your celebrations!

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A Chat With My Former Self

You’d think by the time the third kid rolled around, JDubbs and I would be prepared for everything three-year-olds have to offer.  Temper tantrums? Piece of cake. Potty training? No sweat. Transition to big girl bed? Nailed it.  Taking away her Binkie? Um…  I said, Taking away her Binkie?  Well, you see…it’s like this…

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Oh boy.

Like most new parents, we came into this parenting thing with some preconceived notions of how our kids were going to be raised and how they would behave.  We would never raise our voices and we would never say things we would regret.  We would only empower and uplift them at all times, and we would never lose our patience or be one of “those” parents who give in to the iron will of a toddler.  We would parent them as we saw fit, and they would oblige.  Because when it comes to parenting, it’s all a matter of consistency.  Am I right, Former Self?

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Reality: parenting is consistently inconsistent.  Consistently confusing.  Consistently hair-raising, exhausting, rewarding but still confusing, inconsistent and evolving.  Just because you raised one child does not mean that you have any idea what to do with the next.  Or the one after that.  Because these little people do not come with instruction manuals, and they come with a whole lot of independence, opinions, and the beats of their very own (and very loud) drummers.

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Yes, Little H was a great sleeper as a baby.  Yes, she was super easy-going and was down to just follow along on the coattails of Brother and Sister’s lives, spending way more time in her carseat than doing Tummy Time, eating way more take out that organic homemade baby food.  Yes, she transitioned to a big girl bed like a champ and has been peeing in the potty for months.  The perfect third kid.  Flexible, adorable, and fun.

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But then the beat of her own drummer kicks in and girlfriend has a lot of opinions that don’t necessarily jive with what we were expecting.  Won’t even consider pooping in the potty.  Has become standoffish and grumpy to friends she has known her entire life.  Has opinions about whether or not she’ll take a nap today or ever and she definitely insists she still needs her Binkie.

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As with our other two, the Binkie Fairy made her appearance shortly after Little H turned three, leaving a gift behind and the promise that naps would never again happen in this house.  For a while, JDubbs and I were strong.  Two weeks in fact.  But in those two weeks Little H stopped napping, incapable of soothing herself to sleep, spent half her days with her entire hand in her mouth and became an overtired, exhausted wreck.  I wasn’t looking so great myself. Something had to give, and apparently it was her immune system.  Soon after we took her Binkie away she came down with both a sinus and an ear infection, probably from being so run down.  And this three-time Mommy said, Enough.

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So what if she is three? She didn’t start taking a Binkie until she found a rogue one under the changing table when she was one.  So what if we took a stand and said we’d stick to it?  Little girls have to sleep, they need to not stick their hands in their mouths after walking through their siblings’ elementary school (probably reason #2 she got sick, actually).  Mommies need their babies to nap while they do things like run the book fair and apply for new jobs.  Everyone needs to sleep and be happy and wake up rested.  There is a time and place to take a stand, but now is not that time.  So back off, Former Self–I know a little more than you do.

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The presumptuous childless person I used to be would shake her head with judgment and say, She’s going to regret that and JDubbs’s pre-fatherhood self would reply, We’ll never give in like that. It’s all about being consistent.  And then we’d go spend a carefree afternoon at the beach drinking margaritas because, oh yeah, our pre-children selves lived in San Diego and had money and time and energy to burn.  Those two had no idea what they were in for.

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No excuses, pre-baby Self.  I thought I knew it all.  I thought being a mom would be the most gratifying, fulfilling experience of my life, and to an extent, that is true.  But what makes it so gratifying is that I am so much more accepting of my flaws.  I now know that I do not need to be perfect.  I will lose my temper, choose the easier road, pick my battles, feed them fast food, let them watch too much TV while I catch an extra half an hour of sleep on the weekend because I am only as good a mother as my body allows.

I have a feeling that once summer comes, with adventures galore and siblings at home, Little H will catnap in the car and her nap will become a fond memory.  Maybe her Binkie will hang around in the evening for a while, but one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to beat myself up about it or punish her for it.  Every one of my children have been different, uniquely blessed and presenting unique challenges.  For every dollar I saved on diapers when she potty-trained early, I will spend five more on braces when she’s thirteen.  But you know what won’t be on my radar then?  Her Binkie.  You know how I will remember these last two months together at home?  Nostalgicially, blissfully, practically perfect.  And my Former Self can judge all she wants, but this mama really does know what her babies need.

Enjoy that Binkie, Little H.

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And Then She Was Three

Over the weekend, something pretty wonderful happened.  This little one turned into a big girl.  Little H is three, and she has the spunky and silly personality to show for it.

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She had a lovely, fun-filled, delightful birthday morning.  We got a late start because we were so busy having pancakes before Daddy went to work, opening presents (two books and the Air Patroller from Paw Patrol!), and picking out the perfect birthday dress (not entirely a tomboy, after all!).  We went to Morning Garden and shared apples and buns with friends, Mommy finished knitting H her very own little kitten, and planted wheatgrass.  Then home for lunch and a nap so when the big kids were done with school, our adventure could continue.

After school (and many birthday hugs), we went to Lego Club at the library, where Little H continues to amaze me with her creations.  Apparently I need to let her use our Legos at home more often!  Then we went over to Pizza Chef where we met up with some friends (mostly Jax and Em’s friends from school, but they are such sweet kids, they make Little H feel like one of the gang).  She truly felt loved and very special!

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This was just day 1 of a three-day celebrating extravaganza.  An epic Paw Patrol party with family was up for the next morning, as well as a sunshine-and-fun-filled Sunday morning outside.  On her actual birthday, though, Little H felt the love from near and far, with family and friends.  We are lucky to have this precious little girl, but she is sure lucky to be so loved as well!

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Happy birthday to our darling baby girl!

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A Tale of Two Sisters

Once upon a time there was a very little girl who wanted so much to be like her big sister.  She wore her sister’s old nightgowns that had been outgrown, even when they came down to the very tips of her toes.  She wanted her own hair to grow long like her sister’s and tried to style it like hers during the day, regardless of how crazy her hair looked before bed.  She wanted to sleep in her sister’s bed every day for nap and every night while sister played in their brother’s room next door, hoping she could get a big sister cuddle before they fell asleep.  They were very best friends and Little Sister looked up to Big Sister ever so much.

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Their mommy loves having two girls and loves that the two sisters enjoy sharing a bedroom, whispering deep into the night and waking her up with their laughter early in the morning.  But Mommy wasn’t ready to let the little sister grow up too fast; after all, she was the last baby and dear to Mommy’s heart.  So Mommy kept her locked in her tower as long as she could, but the day arrived when even Mommy had to admit that her baby girl wasn’t a baby any longer.

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So Daddy broke the littlest girl out of her tower and she was free to come and go as she pleased.

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And of course, she was delighted.

Now big sister can tuck her little sister in every night, and they can pass books and stuffies and secrets back and forth across the room like big girls do.  And the baby only naps in her big sister’s bed during the day because she misses her, not because she has something little sister does not.

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And without a doubt, they all grew up to be lovely young ladies inside and out and they both lived happily ever after.

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The Second Child Loses A Tooth

This little beauty is growing up. Em lost her first tooth!

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There are no photos leading up to the event because she didn’t tell us it was loose until it was practically sideways.  Definitely not ready for her closeup! But it popped out on the drive down to Massachusetts for her cousin’s birthday, and with all the ensuing commotion, I forgot to take the requisite her-holding-her-tooth and gaping smile shots like we did when Jax lost his first tooth a few months before.  Second child syndrome in full effect.  But I did some photos of her unlocking our fairy door so the tooth fairy could come in!

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(poor Second Child…maybe Mommy could have given your hair a once over before your Tooth Fairy photo? Jeez!)

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With the door safely unlocked, the Tooth Fairy visited that night and brought Em a beautiful golden dollar in her special tooth fairy pillow.  Even though I don’t have the photos to prove it, she was thrilled!  Maybe I’ll get a substitute shot the next time she loses a tooth!   Poor Second Child!

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Commencement

Monday was Jax’s first day of 1st grade, and to say he was thrilled would be a vast understatement.  He has never been ready so quickly or so enthusiastically to go anywhere before in his life.

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I think part of it was the shirt, which he chose and I allowed, even as I nicely asked for a new shirt, just for the first day.  But if he is going to grow into the independent soul he is destined to be, I suppose I can let the kid pick out his own clothes.

All five of us dropped him off and escorted him to his classroom, but it was more because we wanted to celebrate him and be part of the commencement of something so great, not because he needed any hand holding.  Hugs were perfunctory and joyful, but I still savored mine.

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Every day since I have heard a litany of reasons why 1st grade is so much better than kindergarten, from one student being named The Big Cheese each day (he is waiting his turn with bated breath), to the fact that he can read as many books as he wants! at rest time, to the new special pencil his teacher gave him and so on.  The second morning he climbed into bed to snuggle me and said, “I don’t think I need breakfast today, Mom.  Let’s just go right to school.”  Willing to miss a meal to get to school faster? 1st grade really must be a special place indeed!

Em had a short orientation yesterday and her first full day was today.  I am counting the minutes until I pick her up to see what I hope is a glowing face bursting with exciting news.  She asked to take a shower this morning rather than a bath last night so her hair would be “extra bouncy,” and picked out a very sparkly outfit all on her own at Carter’s, with her brand new Frozen backpack.

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Again all five of us made the trip to school, and we walked together into school, holding hands in the parking lot, everyone’s backpack filled to the brim with necessities (including Little H’s, who insisted on putting some snack and a juice box in Em’s old one so she could bring one, too).

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Jax gave us a quick “Bye!” and hurried into his classroom, then we went into Em’s room (which we know and love because it was Jax’s last year) and helped her get settled, which beyond a little hand-holding, she didn’t really need.

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After hanging up her backpack and putting her lunch in the correct spot, a friend asked her to join her to do Play-Doh, and with an extra hug and a smile, she ran off to join her.  JDubbs and I looked at each other and realized our work was done.  We have shaped them into the sweetest, smartest, bravest little people we could, and now we have to let them grow.  Watching Jax happily writing at his desk across the hall and Em shyly talking to her tablemate next door, I think we did a pretty great job.

Oh, and meanwhile, this one and I have been having a very lovely day together.

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Time for Little H to get the spotlight she so richly deserves! A new beginning for everyone!

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