Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tis the busy season!

It's that time of year! And, I'm afraid my neglected little blog will have to remain neglected for awhile longer. My task list is insane right now and it is only filled with the essentials. I still want to squeeze in there some seasonal baking and projects around the house. We'll see.

But, there are a couple of things I have gotten done. First, we took our family photo on Sunday for our Christmas card and I think today I'll actually get the cards ordered today. Go me!

Here's our smiling faces!

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If I was a little more adventurous, I would have used this picture for the cards...

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... but I didn't.

Have a wonderful Advent season! I actually bought candles for our Advent wreath yesterday. Next on the task list is to find it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A day in the life

I always find it interesting when another mom blogs about what a day in their life is like. Of course, these bloggers are amazing, interesting women who balance homeschooling at least twice as many kids as I have while free lance writing for magazines, raising chickens, writing a book and baking homemade bread daily. In other words, their lives are not only more interesting than mine, they are also much more efficient and capable than I am at running their lives. So, for whatever it's worth, here's a peek into the life of a somewhat frazzled, inefficient mom whose only goal each day is to somehow make it to the end of the day without any major catastrophes while maintaining the ability to smile at this crazy/wonderful life. 

Here's what I noted happening on a Friday in September when the kids didn't have school because of parent/teacher conferences.

I began the day by sleeping in and nursing Clara.

7:15 Get out of bed.

7:30 Breakfast of cold cereal for everyone.

7:55 Get kids dressed.

8:10 Blackmail Jonathan into picking up his room. He can't go to a playdate with a friend until it is done.

8:45 Leave to drop Jonathan off at a friend's house.

9:20 Arrive back home. Blackmail Elizabeth into vacuuming Jonathan's room. When she's done, she can watch Dora with Gustin.

9:30 Sit down to nurse the baby.

9:37 Remember that it's been awhile since Gustin went to the potty. Remind him to go.

9:38 Realize that I reminded Gustin too late.

9:55 Finish nursing and put Clara down for nap.

10:00 Get Gustin out of his poopy underpants and stick him into the shower. The mess is too ridiculous to attempt to clean up with wipes alone.

10:15 Start episode of Dora.

10:20 Start baking cakes to take to our Living Matrimony group meeting that is tonight and includes a potluck. I want to get them into the oven before Clara wakes up.

10:23 Clara wakes up

10:25 Notice that the entire house smells like poop. Ugh, I forgot to wash out the poopy clothes. Look at the clock. They'll have to wait until later.

10:26 Mix up cakes (with Clara in my arms) and get them into oven. Realize they will be done 5 minutes after I'm supposed to be leaving for the parent/teacher conferences at school.

10:50 Feed the dog. (Jonathan forgot before he left this morning)

10:55 Wash out the poopy clothes.

11:00 Realize there is not time for a shower this morning. That's what I get for sleeping in!

11:05 Feed Elizabeth and Gustin a snack.

11:10 Get Gustin dressed (he's been running around naked since the shower).

11:15 Grab a snack for me and tell Gustin to stop head-butting the baby.

11:16 Realize I never gave Jonathan his prescription medication this morning.

11:20 Pack all the kids into the van, pull the cakes out of the oven and head to parent/teacher conferences at school. 

11:40 Conferences. They go great! My kids are geniuses and perfect angels. Ha ha.

12:00 Pick up all the puzzles that Gustin dumped out on the floor in Elizabeth's classroom during the conference with her teacher.

12:15 Head to sonic for a treat of slushes for the kids and a Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper for me.

12:30 Gustin spills his blue slush all over himself.

12:45 Get home, clean up Gustin, prepare and eat lunch.

1:20 Send Elizabeth and Gustin upstairs for quiet time. Nurse Clara.

1:45 Lay Clara down for her nap.

1:50 Browse a few blogs.

2:00 Laundry.

2:30 Quiet time is over. Snack time for the kids.

2:45 Water the vegetable garden in the backyard.

3:00 Read a couple of books to Elizabeth and Gustin.

3:30 Clara wakes up.

3:34 It starts to rain outside. Love it!

3:48 Catch the dog up on the table eating some scraps left there from lunch.

3:50 Eat some dark chocolate.

4:00 Jonathan comes home, dropped off by his friend's mom.

4:05 Nurse Clara.

4:30 Finally time for me to get a shower. Look for Clara's walker that she usually hangs out in
while I shower. Finally find the walker outside on the back patio, soaking went from the brief rain shower. Pull the highchair into the bathroom to contain her instead. Quick shower.

4:50 Cook dinner for kids

5:15 Eric gets home from work.

5:20 I get dressed, put on make up, etc so I will look presentable in public.

5:40 Leave for Living Matrimony.

6:00-9:00 Pot luck, great speaker, nice time catching up with friends while the kids stay at the church's childcare ministry.

9:25 Arrive home. Brush teeth, jammies, prayers, kids to bed.

9:45 Watch an episode of Lost with Eric (our new addiction, we're on season 1).

10:30 Crash in bed.

And that's it. A fairly typical day in our crazy, messy lives and I wouldn't change a thing about it (except maybe the dog stealing food off the kitchen table)!

Friday, October 29, 2010

You go, dude!

Eric is the den leader for Jonathan's cub scout den. They begin every den meeting appropriately with the pledge and a short prayer. Now that the boys are a little older, Eric has been letting a boy lead with a prayer of his choice, traditional or spontaneous. It's very cute to hear what 8 year old boys come up with when they choose to do spontaneous prayer.

After a very scientific selection process (eeny meeny miny moe), Jonathan was chosen to lead the prayer at a recent meeting. He solemnly walked up to the front of the room and began -

"I believe in God the Father Almighty..."

Yes, he chose the Apostles' Creed! That little rascal (No, actually a rather big rascal these days. He's growing like a weed!) never ceases to amaze me!

But, don't think this is proof of some deep level of piety in my child. He just wanted to show off by saying the longest prayer he could think of!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The things people say!

Eric and I would like to have more kids (but this is not a pregnancy announcement!). Honestly. I really can't imagine never holding a newborn again and, besides, it just feels like our family is not complete yet; if we stopped having children now, it would always feel like someone is missing from our home.

But, even though we are open to life and sincerely hope that we are blessed with more children, I still have some fears about having another child. Some of the fears are silly or rather superficial and others require serious consideration.

1. As I've mentioned before, the big passenger vans scare me! Can I please have a boatload of kids without having to drive one of those humongous things?!

2. Each pregnancy is physically and emotionally getting harder. Nausea, exhaustion that lasts the entire nine months, pain!, difficulty sleeping, difficulty sitting, difficulty walking, difficulty breathing, you get the idea. The postpartum phase hasn't been the most fun either (I am much, MUCH better now, by the way!). These fears are real and I'm working them out through prayer, support from my husband and through trying to plan ahead and prepare for these difficulties before I get completely overwhelmed.

3. I think my biggest fear (and probably the least rational) is of the comments that people make to those of us with larger than average families.

I'm a shy and very non-confrontational person and I really don't know how to handle other people's rude, inappropriate or nosy comments. It seriously stresses me out!

For instance, the typical "Are you done yet?" question. When people ask this question, they usually only want to hear one answer: yes. You can see it in their eyes. Sometimes I want to give them their "yes" just so that will be the end of the conversation and then I can be left alone. But when I say, "Not necessarily" or "I don't know what God has in store for us" or even a vague "I don't know, we'll see," it throws them off and they get very uncomfortable and often very defensive about their own choices. Then I have to listen to long explanations about why they're "done" or how they're "done" or how insane it would be for them not to be "done." And, in the mean time I try to smile and nod and give the necessary "Oh..." or "Uh-huh" while trying to find an exit to this uncomfortable conversation.

The other reactions I get to my "No, we actually wouldn't mind having more kids" response are complete shock and they walk away in a stunned daze or I get the "Oh, that's right, you're a good Catholic" reply. I really don't know how to respond!

Then there are the people who don't ask me if I'm done, they tell me I'm done.

"You have four kids? You're done."

"Aww, you have 2 boys and 2 girls. You're done."

"What a beautiful family you have! You're done."

Huh?

I'm on a bit of a role here so please hang with me as I continue.

Shortly after Clara was born, we were at mass and I had to take her to the bathroom for a diaper change. As I was finishing up a lady came in who I recognized as a Eucharistic minister but had never actually met. She obviously recognized me as well and started up a conversation.

"So, you had a little girl?" she asked.

"Yes!" I said as I held up my baby girl and beamed with motherly pride.

She goes on to say, "That's nice! You know, when I saw that you were pregnant I told my daughter 'Oh Lord! She's having another one!'"

I think my jaw completely dropped at that point and I didn't hear the rest of what she said. I mumbled some vague response and then got out of the bathroom as fast as I could!

I recently attended a talk by Cathy Garcia-Pratz, a Catholic author, speaker and mother of ten sons. She is a beautiful, faith-filled and wise woman. At the end of her talk I asked her how she dealt with people making comments about the size of her family.

Her response surprised me.

She says when people say mean or inappropriate things to her she looks them in the eyes and smiles and says, "What a tacky thing to say!" This way instead of her having to go on the defensive about the size of family God blessed her with, the rude person has to decide if they are going to defend their tacky comment. Maybe next time that person will think before speaking.

I have yet to call someone out for being tacky as I am usually too shocked, upset or uncomfortable to form any words of any kind. I really need to formulate a standard response so I don't feel so completely lost when I get dragged into these conversations, especially as our family continues to grow. My husband has all kinds of snarky comments that he's just itching to say, but people don't say these things to men. We women take the brunt of this verbal abuse.

Anyone have any suggestions, comments or stories of your own to share? I'd love to hear them!





P.S. Here's a example of one of Eric's snarky comebacks. A friend of mine was recently in the grocery store with her three young boys and an older woman came up to her, put her hand on her arm and said, "I'm sorry," referring to her three kids standing there in ear shot. My friend was shocked and more than just a little hurt at such a comment. When I told my husband the story he said my friend's comeback should have been, "You don't need to feel sorry for me. I've taught my children that it's inappropriate to say such rude things to strangers in public."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This and that: A picture post

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I posted last! Life is going way too fast! So, how about a quick catch-up picture post.

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We've got two kids playing soccer this season. We've only had one game so far and I can already tell that keeping up with the practices and games is going to be a real juggling act. The biggest problem is that I want to see every one. I love watching my kids play and it kills me when Elizabeth's game is at the exact same time as Jonathan's. I wish I could be in two places at once!

Here are my soccer stars in the "action shots" that they requested.

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Apparently naps are hard to come by in our house and kids have to grab them wherever they can get 'em!

Clara didn't make it to the end of our morning walk

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The photographer who took our family portraits also took a few with the girls dressed up in her frilly skirts and headbands. While all the pink, tutus and feathers are not exactly my style, a certain 6 year old girl loved it!

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She was 6 months old in this shot. My she has changed since then!

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Miss Clara. 8 1/2 months old.

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She is now a girl on the move. She crawls on all fours and just started pulling up. She's everywhere!

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Yoga baby

The faceoff
She found the dog.

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One more thing, but this time it's a video. Try not to laugh as you watch this. I dare you.

video


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 surprising things about me

Sweet Shannon tagged me for this fun meme. So, here we go! 10 surprising things about me:

1. In 4th grade I was a part of my little Catholic school's choir (which is amusing because I am a lousy singer!). That year Pope John Paul II came to the U.S. and one of his stops was in San Antonio. Our little choir auditioned and was chosen to sing before the big outdoor papal mass! It was an incredible experience and is my earliest memory of our beloved John Paul the Great.

2. I've mentioned on this blog before that I'm a nerd, but I don't think you all know the extent of my nerdiness. I was valedictorian of my high school class and I graduated from college with a 4.0 in mechanical engineering. Yes, I was the girl with no life who spent her Friday and Saturday nights studying! Actually, that is one of my few regrets. I wish I hadn't spent so much time worrying about grades/scholarships/internships/etc. and instead spent more time building relationships in college.

3. I really enjoy modest fashion and home decorating. At this point in my life I don't have much time to shop for dresses or the money to buy the furniture I drool over in a Pottery Barn catalog, but I really have fun when I do get the chance to go clothes shopping (maybe 2 or 3 times a year!) or when we pick a new paint color for a room.

4. Eric and I have had a dream to live on a few acres in the country since before we were married. I want a huge vegetable garden, an herb garden, a small orchard with a variety of fruit trees, a cutting garden, lots of flower beds, and plenty of room where the kids can run, run, run! Only the Lord knows if or when it will ever happen!

5. I think about baby names all the time. A long time favorite that Eric has always vetoed is the name Jane. I love that it is a plain, simple, no-nonsense name. It also happens to be a saint's name as well as the name of my favorite author (Jane Austen) and my favorite heroine (Jane Eyre). I would so love to have a baby Jane!

6. There is one thing about being open to life that scares me. The idea of having more children isn't too intimidating, though the idea of being pregnant with all the suffering that comes along with that state does make me a little nervous. But my biggest fear is... I don't want to have to drive one of those gigantic vans! Bring on the babies, just don't make me drive a 15 passenger van!

7. I'm not the type of person who gushes over babies. I love my kids dearly, but I don't do baby talk and I don't squeal and go ga-ga over every baby I meet. I've heard women say that they don't know if they are meant to be mothers because they don't gush over other people's babies. I want to set the record straight: Gushing over babies is a personality thing, not a measure of how good a mother you will be.

8. For years I've had a "one day" list. As in, "One day I want to...." On that list was that one day I wanted to take a photography class. Well, I never have taken a class, but I sure am glad that I jumped in and did it anyway! The other things on my "one day" list include learning how to play tennis and the piano. Given what a blessing my photography has been, I think I really need to make doing the rest of my list a priority!

9. My second toe is longer than my big toe.

10. I was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) when I was little, but somehow it corrected itself (which isn't supposed to happen). My dad says that's it's proof that miracles really do happen!

If you guys are up for it, I tag:

Blair at Blair's Blessings
Lillian at Smithflections
Veronica at the little way
Christine at Good Company
Jill even though her blog is private :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On a lighter note...

Thank you all for your kindness, encouragement and support in my last post. Just the process of sharing my struggles alone has been so cathartic and healing as has reading and rereading of each of your comments. I really can't express how grateful I am, especially for the prayers!

But, I also can't stand to have such a downer of a post at the top of my blog anymore. So, here's a couple of things for your viewing pleasure --

At story time at our local library last week, the librarian played this short video:



Now that you have that song stuck in your head and that your kids keep begging to watch the video over and over and over again, please don't hate me!

And for a little dose of cuteness:

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Because no post is truly complete without a picture of Clara!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The post I keep putting off

I've been wanting to write a post about my postpartum struggles for quite a long time now, but I always chicken out. Once I sit down at the computer with time to write, I start getting scared and end up wasting my time just clicking mindlessly around the internet.

I always appreciate reading posts by women who honestly talk about their struggles. These women sharing their hearts and exposing their weaknesses are such an inspiration! They let me know that I am not alone. I am not weak. I am not inadequate. I've always wanted to do the same for other women on my blog.

But something always holds me back.

Part of it is that I don't want to post something that is nothing more than a gripe session; nor do I want my blog to be full of negativity. I want to celebrate the great blessings God has given me! But, the fact is, growth only happens when we struggle, not when we're sailing along blissfully and contentedly. And, the postpartum periods of my last two pregnancies have been times of intense struggle with so much of my energy being consumed by just keeping my head above water, that I don't know if I'm really growing any in the process.

I've never felt so out of control in my life. I'm so tired of feeling angry, frustrated and overwhelmed almost all the time. I'm not a happy mother to my children. I'm not a pleasant wife to my husband. There is so. much. guilt.

Ugh! This is so hard to write! My eyes are filling with tears (again!) as I type this. It hurts.

I pray that God will make some good come of all this bad. I pray that my children will forget the angry mommy and will only retain the happy memories. I pray that my husband will continue to have patience with me. I pray for balance. I pray for the ability to distinguish between wants and needs. I pray for wisdom and perspective.

I continue to hope and trust in the Lord. At least this depression has not deprived me of that.

And, I continue to thank God for my many blessings and for the deep down Joy that has not abandoned me despite all the pain.

I am slowly getting my smile back; and, my laugh has surprised me a time of two with an unexpected appearance. Things will get better. They are getting better. This is just a season and it, too, shall pass.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Clara's new toothy smile

She cut 6 teeth in a little over a week. Her entire smile/face/look changed so quickly that sometimes I think I hardly recognize her!

Smiley

She's almost 8 months old now.

Serious

Sigh... they grow up so fast...

Friday, August 20, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 10)


---1---

Yesterday was the first day of school! This summer went so incredibly fast it almost feels like we never had one. We've slipped back into the normal school routine like we never left it -- and it feels good.

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---2---

Can I just say that I love our kids school? Cause I do! Of course it is far from perfect, but it has been such a blessing in our lives. I love the teachers and principal that care, the small class sizes, that there are only two classes per grade, that God is talked about all day long, that they start the day with both a prayer and the pledge, I could go on and on. Eric is on the school board so we get a rare glimpse behind the scenes and that knowledge has assured me even more that my kids are in a good place.

---3---

I'm still loving my new elliptical! Right now I'm focusing on creating a habit of exercise rather than intensely pursuing fitness, but I'm already seeing results. I've lost 3 pounds (every little bit counts!) and my knees feel so much better. I had some injuries to my knees during high school and regular exercise definitely reduces their lingering effects.

---4---

I'm reading a new book: Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. The premise is that women most desperately need love while men's greatest need is respect; but, neither men nor women are very good at supplying those needs in a way their spouse understands. I'll be sure to report back when I've finished it!

---5---

Elizabeth is toothless! Well, she's missing her top front teeth at least. She lost the first one months ago and there is still no sign of a permanent tooth and the second one popped out the day before yesterday. I have a feeling her smile is going to have a giant hole in it for quite awhile!

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---6---

It's still blazing hot here in Texas, but we've started doing some fall gardening. Our fall tomatoes and squash are planted and I added some zinnias to our front flower bed that will probably last into December. I'm really starting to look forward to the cooler weather, baking, more time outside playing and tending to the garden that fall promises.

How I love bubbly bokeh!


Prettiness in a pot

---7---

And, finally, a couple more pictures because you know that I can't help but share. Here are my girls (before Elizabeth lost her second front tooth):

My girls

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Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Playing with light

While we were on vacation in July, there was a night when I did not sleep well. Between Clara waking up and the rats making scratching noises in the ceiling and who knows what else making all kinds of crazy noises outside, I did not sleep much at all and almost cheered the rising of the sun because that meant the long, long night was over. I was up before everyone else in the house (we stayed in a house with 20 of our relatives) and so I went out and sat by the lake in the quiet and watched the sun come up. It was glorious! I think I was up for a full hour or so before Eric and Clara joined me. (That never happens normally. Eric is an early bird and is regularly up hours before I am. He voluntarily sets his alarm for 5:00 am everyday. That's nuts!)

By now the sun was well over the horizon so I went and grabbed my camera and snapped a few pics of my sleepy eyed daughter and husband. I've seen some gorgeous portraits on flickr that were taken facing directly into the sun, which creates some dramatic sun flare. I thought I would try the technique myself.

My husband & baby

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I don't know if technically I did it right because it required a lot of photoshop work to make these pictures look decent. But I kind of like the effect.

Here's one more shot taken in the beautiful early morning light, but this time without the flare.

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What do you think? Do you like the dramatic, sun flare style of portraiture?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Clara mirror picture

Clara is long overdue for some more mirror pictures (see her entire collection here and here). But, it's been getting harder to take these pics. For one thing, she is getting so big that it is much harder to get both of us in the frame. It amazes me how tiny she was in the first few pictures I took! Here's a reminder so you don't have to click through to the link:

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Clara at 5 days old

Here she is now -

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Clara at 7 months

I'm also having trouble getting sharp photos. I can't imagine why, but I seem to be getting much more blurring from camera shake.

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Oh, yeah. That's the reason! Clara now grabs at anything and everything in her reach and tries to eat it. Including cameras!

She's also recently cut 6 new teeth (in a little over a week!), is now sitting and can army crawl like nobody's business.

I can't believe how fast she is growing up!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Catching up #6: New Toys

Eric and I have recently decided to reevaluate our priorities (something about having a new baby in the house always tends to lead to these type of discussions ;). One thing we decided was that we need to make the time for exercise.

The exercise bike that I've used fairly regularly for the last ten years is wearing out. Eric has tried a number of different exercise routines: walking, running, working out at a gym, etc. He's figured out that his favorite form of exercise is using an elliptical but that it would be so much easier to do it at home instead of at the gym.

So, we bit the bullet and bought an elliptical machine. When Eric bought it the penny pincher in me about had a cow. He sent me an email saying he had found an awesome deal on a high quality machine for $400. Only I read the email wrong. It actually said that the elliptical was $400 off, not $400 total.

Now that I'm no longer having heart palpitations from the cost, I'm loving the elliptical! It's so smooth, gives me a great workout, and I love watching the calories burned counter go up and up throughout the workout. It's a really great motivator to push just a little harder.

Our other new toy is a Roku instant video player. We've been watching all kinds of documentaries, movies, kids shows and TV shows instantly through Netflix. I totally love it! We don't have cable or satellite, so I love the access to content from the History Channel and National Geographic Channel. We are a houseful of nerds so I think our instant queue is filled with every documentary on space or NASA that was ever made!

But, it's also allows me to watch my latest guilty pleasure. I've just finished Season 1 of The Office and am now plowing through Season 2. This show is hilarious! And, who couldn't love the relationship between Jim and Pam. It's too sweet! Since the big kids aren't here this week it's been nice to be able to put on an episode so the house isn't so quiet. The only problem is I'm becoming an addict. If I go for more than just a few hours without seeing an episode I start to get the shakes!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Catching up #5: Gustin

Gustin. There is so much to love about this little boy. He laughter is contagious and his syntax is too adorable: "Not I don't like it, Mama!" He so loves his baby sister and can make her laugh like no one else. He's energetic, passionate and intelligent.

He's also very confident and afraid of nothing. Those are great qualities in life in general but a terrifying combination around a swimming pool. He thinks he know how to swim. But he actually doesn't. Not even close. Freaks. Mommy. Out!

He also has a bit of a stubborn streak. We've been potty training for the last month (this is my third attempt in the last year to potty train him) and he still has a long way to go. I so want to give up again, but Eric's been (daily) encouraging me to stick with it. I'm so weary of cleaning up accidents. But he'll get there. Eventually. Right?

In the mean time the battle training continues.

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I feel the same way Little Mister.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Catching up #4: Miss Clara

Clara reached another milestone last week.

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She got her first tooth!

See, you can see it... right...

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... there!

She's the first of my children to get a first tooth on top. In fact, I think she'll have 4 top teeth before she ever gets a bottom one. The next three top ones are all lined up and ready to make their debut any day now.

Something else about Little Miss Clara - I think she may be our very first extrovert.

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This little girl absolutely adores attention and constantly smiles at and flirts with anyone who will look her way.

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She also loves to make us laugh. She will sit and wait for someone to look at her and then as soon as they do, she will do something to try to make them laugh. If she succeeds, she'll continue doing her act for as long as she has an audience. She has quite of collection of different squeals at her disposal as well as her daddy's favorite: the cat sneeze. I wish I could catch it on video because it is too funny. She makes a sound that is exactly like a cat sneezing and it always cracks us up. I think she could go on for hours!

Catching up #3: Birthday Party

Elizabeth's 6th birthday party was last weekend (less than 48 hours after returning from vacation, not the best planning on my part). We kept it simple; a backyard party with sprinklers, kiddie pool, bubbles, water balloons and take out pizza.

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All the activities and set up had to be simple, though, because her birthday cake was not.

Elizabeth and I combed through Bakerella's website and she picked Hello Kitty cake pops for her party. They are completely precious but also very tedious and time consuming to make. My attempt is not nearly as neat as Bakerella's, but my six-year-old approved and that's all that matters.

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Cake pops in progress.

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The finished product.

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Aren't they too cute?!

In the end it really was worth all the work. Elizabeth had a fantastic day and so did all her little friends and the smiles on her face were priceless!

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Elizabeth and her best friend.

Happy birthday, Sweetie!