a children's halloween

 decorating done by my children

decorating done by my children

 costumes sewn by elisabeth!

costumes sewn by elisabeth!

 elisabeth's pumpkin

elisabeth's pumpkin

As you can gather by the captions, my children really took charge of Halloween this year. I had a lot going on with work deadlines and bronchitis-that-may-or-may-not-have-been-pneumonia (according to my doctor, so we treated it like pneumonia just in case, I never got a chest x-ray to confirm), so we decided early in October that Elisabeth would sew the costumes (she wanted to, anyway). She is awesome at sewing and did an incredible job! My sewing machine broke on her mid-way through and needed to go into the shop (it was overdue for a service, anyway), so we had to borrow my sister-in-law's VERY different machine to finish up, and she did a great job adjusting to the unfamiliar equipment!

I was excited that my crew agreed on theme costumes again this year (last year was a Halloween-Christmas mashup that I never posted about here), and Peter Pan is an especially fun theme. Of course people are always confused about one member of the group, so this year, no one seemed to realize that Elisabeth was Wendy Darling. 

I took more photos but this is all I had the patience to edit online (still waiting to repair our iMac with all my actual photo software on it). I am so proud of Elisabeth's work on these costumes, and her patience both with the process and with hovering (and occasionally nagging) younger siblings. 

I was also excited that these costumes turned out to be very affordable! We used lots of coupons and sale fabrics, and we already had all the notions, thread, elastic, etc., that we needed on hand. 

Patterns used were McCall's 3051 for Wendy, Simplicity 7784 for Peter Pan, Simplicity 2872 for Tinker Bell (I really liked this pattern's take on the fairy costumes—rather than a literal translation of the Tinker Bell look, it loosely applies it to cute dresses, which really expresses my costuming "philosophy", if I have one, that costumes should give the impression of something more than look like a literal copy of it), and Simplicity 9844 for Captain Hook, which you can see looks about 1,000 times better when made than it does on the pattern envelope. It is so cute and John is my only extroverted child, so he was quite into the entire process of dressing up and parading around the neighborhood. He got tons of attention and soaked it up! We couldn't find the old pirate hook we had from Nova Natural many years ago, so we ended up having to pick up a plastic one at the last minute. 

Anyway, altogether we had a great Halloween with much merriment, and I was so happy that my children took a lead role in decorating, costuming, and pumpkin carving this year. As bittersweet as the whole growing up thing is, it is a joy to see the traditions we have set up really being owned by them as they get older. 

Happy Halloween!

Two years old!

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 Newborn

Newborn

 First birthday

First birthday

 Sun suit that deserves its own post

Sun suit that deserves its own post

 Out for ice cream last night

Out for ice cream last night

 Birthday traditions first thing this morning: birthday ring and presents!

Birthday traditions first thing this morning: birthday ring and presents!

 This afternoon, pre-cake.  

This afternoon, pre-cake.  

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 Dairy Queen ice cream cake because he has a summer birthday! 

Dairy Queen ice cream cake because he has a summer birthday! 

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Today this adorably funny toddler is two years old! How can that even be?! He is the happiest, most expressive (oh, the faces he makes!), silliest, toddleriest  toddler we've ever had. I'm in love with his curly hair and rosy round cheeks and the mischievous glint in his eyes. He has our hearts, this "Big Buddy" of ours, so beloved by all of us.

He loves to give kisses, and then applaud right after. He loves to makes hilarious growling and roaring sounds. He loves vehicles of every kind, so very much. He loves to put on and take off shoes, especially shoes that are several (many) sizes too big. He loves to eat good food—lots of it. He loves to play vacuum (really loves it). He loves animals and delights in holding Alice (our kitten).

He often shows me what he would like me to do by moving my hands the way he wants them to go. He is playful and busy and so very good-natured. Although he can still cry louder than any baby I've had, he is almost always happy, which is a gift. (Until he isn't, and then watch out!) He is often singing to himself and he's a delighted side-kick to his older siblings, most especially that teenage sister of his (who sometimes uses him as an ice breaker with other girls her age who like to coo and fawn over him and his smiling eyes and curly hair).

His world is one of delight, and he has brought so much of it to our world, too. I praise God for him every day! 

We still call him "Babyjohn" although he's really more and more  "BIG John"  every day. 

Happy birthday, beautiful John Peter. We love you so—and more each day.  

xoxo, Mama 

13

 Newborn

Newborn

 First birthday

First birthday

 Age 1

Age 1

 Second birthday  

Second birthday  

 Age 4

Age 4

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 Age 5

Age 5

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 6th birthday

6th birthday

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 Age 7

Age 7

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 8th birthday

8th birthday

 First Holy Communion

First Holy Communion

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 California

California

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 9th birthday

9th birthday

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 Age 10

Age 10

 Arwen costume

Arwen costume

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 11th birthday

11th birthday

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 Bobby soxer

Bobby soxer

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 12th birthday

12th birthday

 At Camp W. 

At Camp W. 

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 Recital

Recital

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 First in her heat at state (red cap & black shortjohn suit)

First in her heat at state (red cap & black shortjohn suit)

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 13th birthday, with a bad head cold

13th birthday, with a bad head cold

Today our wonderful, amazing Elisabeth Grace is 13 years old. it hardly seems possible, and yet we are so ready, too. 

I think a lot about the ways I have fallen short and, yes, failed as a parent over the last 13 years. I worry about the ways my own baggage has come to rest on the shoulders of my daughter at times—when I see my perfectionism, anxiety, or hot temper flare up in her. I grieve over the ways our hopes and dreams for our family, when we were so much younger and just starting fresh with our first adored child, have failed to come to pass. 

But then I spent a few hours today looking through pictures of her—these, and so very many more—and I see the evidence of a joyful childhood, of a happy little girl coming into her own, developing interests and passions. I see a girl who is a leader, who is caring, compassionate, kind, funny, and brilliant. She is both very innocent and very, very wise. A few weeks ago, she told me that she thinks people rush through their lives and make risky decisions because they are afraid of facing the idea of death. I thought this was so profound, something I hadn't really thought about before. 

She is generous, often spending her own money on things for her siblings. For example, she recently bought a scooter for Fiona so that Fiona could ride on her own scooter with the older kids.  

She is responsible and so helpful around the house. She is wonderful with John, which is such a gift when I need to take care of other things.  

It's incredible to imagine that the sweet, silly baby that she once was is now this thoughtful, mature young lady—and all the amazing things she was in all the years in between. Creative, imaginative, stubborn. An extraordinary child, an extraordinary teen.  

As my girl now stands in adolescence, ever so gently closing the door on the large part of her childhood, I know that it was a beautiful childhood that we made together—Elisabeth, her father, and I.  

The mistakes don't matter so much as I think. I am so grateful for the gift of this incredible, beautiful human being.  To know her is a privilege, to be her mother is a true gift.  

I love you so much, my Elisabeth. 

Nine years old

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Almost 3 weeks ago, my sweet James turned nine! I've been meaning to get a birthday post up sooner, but just kept being distracted by other things.  

James is such a wonder at nine. He's really helpful and mature, very thoughtful and sensitive. He is also still quite a challenge in a lot of ways, but I think there's a real chance that what we view as challenges now will be strengths later in life. The very things that make him hard to parent will also serve to make him independent. He has a lot of integrity. He's a very hard worker and so sharp! I'm really proud of my little gentleman.  

I remember turning 9, and feeling quite grown up in so many ways. Somewhere there's a picture of me looking so poised and wise on my ninth birthday, and I think James has many of those qualities. Despite being the little brother of one, he's the big brother of two, and over time, I feel like he's shifted into more of an "older kid" role in our house (rather than just being "one of the little ones"). He's very responsible and conscientious. Recently he cleaned up our entire main level when Elisabeth and I were both sick, the house had been neglected for four days, but I needed to teach cello lessons anyway. He did a great job! He really surprises me sometimes!

He started swimming on a team (rec center league) in January and absolutely loves it. Soccer and baseball were both fun but he hasn't wanted to do them again. Swimming, though, has proved to be a good fit for his temperament, just like his older sister.  

James is also very articulate about his feelings and is so good at setting boundaries about his need for rest or time to himself, again, both traits I think will serve him well in his life.  

I love you so much, Jamesy! I'm so excited to see the person you grow into! 

Two birthdays

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Yesterday I turned 37, and today my sweet Fiona Catherine is 6! We've been enjoying intermittent heavy snowfall over the two days, which we both love. Most of our other birthday plans have been postponed due to weather, which is kind of ok because it prolongs the celebration just a bit longer!

 

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I'm a little speechless that this sweet baby is now a big six-year-old girl. It's so wonderful and bittersweet all at once.  

 

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From that golden morning when she was born to this happy sixth birthday, she has been, and continues to grow into, a quiet, confident, gentle, so very funny, bright, humble, honest, and tender girl. she has always seemed like a flower to me, delicate and yet so resilient, too. Everyone always says this, but I really feel so blessed and deeply fortunate to get to be her mama. To carry her in my body, and to get to know her in all the quiet moments of childhood that mamas do, as well as the many joyful and ebulliently loud ways, too. She is so very precious to me. 

Happy birthday, my little lady!  I love you so!

in which i realize i am george bailey

It's a Wonderful Life has been my favorite Christmas movie since I was nine years old. Always sensitive, always concerned with suffering and justice, this film has always revealed something very true to me. George Bailey doesn't "do his duty" and put others before himself with some giddy sense that it's fun to do it. He does it because it's the right thing, even though it's hard. He never wanted to run his father's business or stay in his small town or protect his alcoholic uncle or see his wife and children live in an old dumpy house. But he did those things anyway, because he loved people—his family, his community—and he couldn't walk away from them even when it would have been convenient to do so. And of course, in the end, the people in his life rallied around him when he needed them.

Now, I'm not saying that I've sacrificed myself in any way near to what George Bailey did. But I will say that my community has rallied around me in the most blessed of ways this month. There was a day a couple of weeks ago when we received in the mail several gift cards from friends far and near, including a very generous anonymous one. With tears, I sat down and looked at the abundance with which we have been showered by so many people, and I looked at my husband and just said, "I'm George Bailey—we're George Bailey."  

We have been so richly blessed, so cared for by so many people. We couldn't have provided a magical Christmas for our children this year, and others stepped forward and did it for us. My gratitude is almost inexpressible. So, if you are one of the many, many people who have helped us this year, thank you so very, very much. And if you are one of the many more people who have been cheering for us and holding us in prayer, thank you as well.

This Advent was amazingly blessed. We were able to keep it in the most prayerful and anticipatory way yet, and I was really excited about that. And Christmas is a blessing that just keeps giving. 

A few people have asked me about how we celebrated this year. It was pretty simple and quiet and I loved it. We attended Christmas Eve mass in the evening, forgoing the loud, hot, overstimulating "children's mass" and pageant, and were so glad we did. Quiet carols and candlelight were a more peaceful way to end the season of Advent that we'd just observed. There were a few handmade gifts for some of our extended family members. We hosted Christmas Day brunch for my family at our house, which was really wonderful and simple. It was only the second time in 15 years that we haven't dashed out on Christmas Day, and it made for a lovely change of pace, one I wouldn't mind repeating! I like to host things even though it's a lot of work and I'm rather high strung. Snow on Christmas Day and lots of board games and books in the days since have rounded out what has been one of my favorite Christmases ever. I have never felt so blessed. 

Christ is born!