"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

sweet, silly, sassy, and six

This child.

I swear. She kills me on the daily.

Her spunk, her sass.

Her sweetness. Her wit.

Her style.
My God, her style.

I literally don't know where she gets it.

A friend asked me the other day, as we watched our kids practice for the school Variety Show, "Does Molly pick out her own clothes?" I looked up at Molly on stage. She had on a blue plaid flannel shirt, worn unbuttoned over a pink waffle-knit tee, navy blue and silver knee socks pulled up over leopard print leggings, and hot pink cowboy boots to complete the look.

"What gave it away?" I laughed.

Molly puts together outfits, not by coordinating colors or patterns, but by telling a story..."Leopards are animals and animals live outside and outside the sky is blue and at night time the stars come out and they're shiny like silver. Oh! And these boots sound like clip clop in the hallway like horses."

House Rule: as long as it's reasonably appropriate for the season, we don't pick fights over clothes. It's a mantra that goes back to Max's skirt-wearing days: In our house, we wear what we like.

And Molly knows exactly what she likes.

Especially when it comes to accessories.

She has a self-confidence and a sense of adventure that I'm not used to.
This kid will try anything.

Well...except new foods. Mealtime diversity is still a work in progress.
She recently told her class that she could eat 100 pieces of seaweed. 
Mmmkay, honey. I've literally watched her pick individual grains of rice out of her cucumber roll in order to avoid accidentally eating anything but the rice but, you go on and eat your 100 pieces of seaweed, babe.

I love her enthusiasm.

She is JOY-full.

And she is FIERCE. 
Don't mess with this one.

And if you couldn't already tell, she's also funny as hell.

Her signature joke: 
What do you call a pongomino?
A watermelon! 

At dinner one night, I was telling the kids the highlights of their pregnancy and birth stories. I was trying to describe the pure magic that was carrying them...I told them how I would lay on the couch at night, late in each pregnancy, and we would just stare at my belly, waiting for the nightly show to begin...we'd see a head bulge out one side of my belly, then a foot swoosh across the middle. We'd feel the pointy jab of a fist or knee then watch my whole belly roll like a wave as the baby somersaulted.

Evan made a face like, "Ew." Max gazed in wonder. Molly sighed happily and said, "When I'm a mommy, I'll be a mommy to my animals and I'll burn them all."

We all stared, shocked...confused, until Max, Molly's interpreter, helpfully translated: "OH! HAHAHAHAHA! She means she wants the animals to grow in her tummy instead of babies. Molly, you don't 'born' babies, you HAVE babies. And you can't have animals like babies. That's just...science."

She calls do-overs "re-overs." She still pronounces it "nuffing" instead of nothing and "free" instead of three. I find myself impersonating her voice all the time, it's so damn cute. She has this adorable way of over-pronouncing vowels and completely mixing up consonants that just kills me. The speech teacher and her kindergarten teacher assure me it's developmental...that she'll grown out of it. Is it wrong to hope that she doesn't? Seriously. Her voice is just that cute. Can just that part of her stay little forever?

The other day, I was lecturing the kids on gratitude and said, "We should all realize how lucky we are." Molly said, "Why are we lucky?" I kinda went a little nuts frantically naming all the things we have and should be thankful for until Molly again cut in: "Lucky? Like, gross?" Confused, I said, "Gross?" Max, once again, to the rescue: "No, Molly, LLLLucky, not YYYYucky!" "Oh!" Molly realized, "Lucky! Like good! Not Lucky like gross." Potayto, Potahto, I suppose.

She can't pronounce Ys....but it's been more than a week since she tiptoed into our room in the middle of the night. More than a week since she climbed up onto our bed, curled up against the curve of my back, twirled a strand of my hair around her finger, and breathed a sweet, sleepy exhale on the back of my neck.

More than a week, the longest stretch of her life, that she didn't need me to help her fall back to sleep.

Sometimes, these past few nights....I've missed her.

I knew it the moment she was born: Molly perfectly completes this trio.

At various times so similar to each of her brothers, who could not be more different, Molly embodies the widest personality range of our three kids. Headstrong, serious, and always lost in a book like Evan; imaginative, affectionate, and prone to dramatic outbursts like Max, she is the perfect blend of two perfect opposites.

She is the black and white seeds within the yin-yang of her brothers.
Equal parts Column A and Column B, creating her own, beautiful Column C.

She completes us.

Lesson Learned:
To my baby of babies...

As a parent, observing the effects of the passage of time on all of my children is bittersweet. Watching you grow, though, is the hardest of all. As I snuggled beside you at bedtime last night, I whispered to you, "This is the last time I'll snuggle with my 5-year old girl!" But it's more than that. Starting today, I'll never have a 5-year old child ever again. As you outgrow each stage, our whole family outgrows it with you. You are our bookend, our final chapter.

I love this stage you're in now, though. This sweet spot. This big enough to hang (reasonably well) through late bedtimes and long road trips. Old enough to run around outside with the neighborhood kids but young enough to still come and find me for a boo-boo kiss. You've discovered the magic of reading and you can tackle just about any craft project independently. You are gentle, you are brave. You are tenderness and light. You are humor, you are grace, you are persistent determination.

You are capable.
You are strong.
You are enough.

Beautiful girl.
Beautiful soul.

Happy birthday, my love.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Winter Woodland Critters Birthday Party

Think she was excited about her big day?

You bet she was.

We Do Birthdays in this house. We spend months planning, weeks preparing, and one frenetic, frenzied, glorious day celebrating the Birthday Girl or Boy at a party of their dreams.

Truly, birthday parties in our house are works of our kids' imaginations, merely brought to life by their parents. When, just after Christmas, Molly suggested an animal-themed party for her upcoming birthday, I did the calendar math... throwing an elaborate at-home celebration in the midst of house showings and packing don't mix. So, we had our very first ever Destination Birthday Party.

A Winter Woodland Critters Birthday Party
at Wildrock

Wildrock is the Nature Play and Discovery Center where I run the early childhood field trip program. On 28 acres of land, including a 3-acre fully enclosed nature playground, Wildrock is an animal lover's birthday party dream-come-true destination.

The barn at Wildrock has nature play invitations on permanent display, including these nature-themed story stones...

a den-building area...

...a tent and campfire for pretend play...

...as well as sensory tables with natural materials, fairy houses, and woodland creature figures to play with, meaning that a birthday party here naturally plans itself.

Not knowing what the weather would be like on a day in mid-February, however, I created a few additional activities in case we needed to stay indoors for the bulk of the party.

We had a make-your-own bird feeder station...

and a giant mural of a snowy forest.

The kids were invited to stamp animal tracks through the snow.

But, because central Virginia weather is completely insane, it was a beautiful sunny day, nearly sixty degrees!

Naturally, the kids spent nearly the entire time outside on the playscape.
There was PLENTY to do!

Creating in the Art House

Fishing with magnetic fish and poles at the fishing pier

Trying on fox costumes and butterfly wings on the stage

Mixing up recipes at the Nature Kitchen

Exploring the stream

And climbing to the top of the giant salamander in our log obstacle course.

Party Dads on Patrol
Somehow, after about an hour, I was able to drag the gang inside. 

I think it was the promise of treats that swayed them...

The party fare included cheddar bunny crackers, popcorn, grapes, and pretzel logs that Evan helpfully stacked to look like firewood. We had hot cocoa and cider to drink and, for the special birthday treat, Molly requested sugar cookies.

This was the most fun I've ever had baking in my entire life. When Max opens his bakery, maybe I can convince him to hire me as the resident sugar cookie decorator. 

Because we didn't have globs of buttercream frosting to hold it in place, we had to get creative with the candle....

I don't think she minded too much.

The kids sat so nicely around the table enjoying their treats. I was struck by how grown up they all seem all of a sudden. Especially this girl of mine...

After treats, it was back to playing in the barn and on the playscape until the party's end. 

The goodie bags each had a mini notebook which I had labeled "My Nature Explorer Journal," a mini pen, a bouncy ball, and a laminated Take-a-Hike Scavenger Hunt card I made. The kids can take the cards and a dry-erase pen on hikes to have a reusable game to play to keep them engaged and occupied on the trail.

It was a wonderful winter woodland critter filled day and we loved celebrating this amazing SIX-year old!

Happy Birthday, Molly!