Thursday, July 24, 2014

The lovebug turns 1!

We celebrated Jocelyn's birthday while we were up in Pennsylvania last weekend.  I'm usually anti-cartoony themes but this summer got away from me and I needed a quick and easy idea.  I happened to glance at the little ladybug costume my mom bought at a yard sale earlier this year and that settled it.

I feel like the invitations should have said "Sorry to BUG you, but another one of our kids is turning 1 ..."  Because it seems like we're constantly celebrating yet another first birthday.  I'm sure our family is over it!  But we couldn't leave out our last!

Thankfully, we're not in to big parties, just simple times of fellowship with close family.  And although it may look like we spent a lot of time on this, it really came together quite quickly and easily, especially since I had a lot of help!

Pinterest is full of ladybug party ideas.  And a lot of them come with free printables.  I found the invitation online and just filled in our information.  My mom had some ladybug ribbon and little plastic ladybug name card holders for decoration.  The kids and I went to the Dollar Store one day and got red balloons, plates, cups, napkins, and streamers.  We also found ladybug notecards and stickers (for decorations our thank-you cards.)

My original thought was to do a red and blue color schemed, I was afraid black, white, and red seemed a bit harsh for a 1 year old birthday.  But I got this bright idea to make a table runner and when I went through my scrap box, I had a lot more black and white than red.  And so for all those "babies of the family" out there that like to complain about getting all the leftovers and hand-me-downs--this is for you, I made my girl a table runner.  She has no clue right now, but I'm counting on her looking back on these pictures years and years from now and saying, "Wow, mom.  You made me feel so special on my first birthday when you spent hours sewing that table runner!"  Yeah?  No?  Only time will tell.

But she should feel special with this cake!  As usual, it was made by Marmie.  That's her specialty and she said this one was one of her favorites!  We all thought it looked amazing!  I also brought along some cupcakes that were decorated with a ladybug kit I found at Joann's, on clearance of course.

One night I Googled ladybug theme snacks and forwarded the results to Marmie--who, along with Aunt Kylee and Miss Carrie, took on the challenge of creating tomato ladybugs on crackers and strawberry ladybugs on Jello.  She also made blueberry ice cubes to float in our cranberry lemonade "punch" bowl.

Nonnie provided a luscious fruit tray and let us change the location of the party to her house at the last minute.  And Jon manned the grill.  Our original plan was to just have pizza, but by the end of the weekend we were all craving something a bit more healthy.  So Jon made up a big batch of his famous Stern's Chicken and we accompanied it with a colorful salad.

It was a small group since a number of our family was away on vacation.  And not much in the way of festivities since the star of our show had only had one short nap in the middle of church that day.  But it was enough to acknowledge our growing girl and the special gift she's been this past year!

Julia's friend, Sephora.

Opening gifts went fast, the birthday girl barely had to lift a finger!

And now we can put first birthday parties behind us forever.  Time to focus on the next age deserving of a bigger party.  I used to think that was six, but that would be Jack this year.  And I'm just now sure I'm ready for that yet.

Speaking of numerous children and large families, another reason we came to Pennsylvania was to attend my oldest cousin's wedding.  My brothers and I only have two first cousins in the all the world.  And our two first cousins only have us three as cousins, too.  We rarely see each other anymore, so when the oldest of us, Aaron, announced his wedding, it was the perfect chance to have a reunion.

The guys. I'm slightly outnumbered.
I think the last time we took a picture of the five of us together Jared wasn't even able to stand.  We took a few minutes out from the reception to catch up and for the guys to compare facial hair (or lack of.)

Poppa and his princess.
It's funny how much more obvious all those quirky family traits become when they're staring you back in the face in the form of another person.  That western PA accent, early graying (not me, I somehow avoided that one so far!), hairlines, noses, ears, posture ... This whole "we're related" thing is kind of cool.

These two.  I have about 10 pictures like this, they just wouldn't stop.

I'm so grateful my kids have a fun pack of cousins on their dad's side.  And we're REALLY looking forward to growing my side of the family as well ... in the future ... HINT, HINT to a certain uncle and aunt ... but no pressure ... whenever you're ready.  But I'm ready, just so you know.  I digress.

6:30am at Nonnie and Poppie's--Jon and I woke up to kid's voices outside and found our oldest three wandering the grounds in pajamas, looking for birds and deer with binoculars.
Oh yeah, the kids.  Well, we left the oldest three with Nonnie and Poppie that day.  A HUGE thanks to my in-laws for taking on that chore.  I don't know what it is about Pennsylvania trips, but typically my kids are CRAZY misbehavin' the entire week before.  And last week was no exception.  Jon and I were, dare I say, eager (??) to spend a day apart.

Photo Credit: Poppie

Photo Credit: Poppie

You can imagine the kind of fun the boys have been having with these inflatable "bats" this week.  I think one of these nights they may just "disappear."
Nonnie and Poppie accepted the challenge head-on--taking the kids to the county fair, wearing them out in the pool, playing in the yard, grocery shopping, and finishing it all off with a bonfire and marshmallows.

Photo Credit: Nonnie

Photo Credit: Nonnie

Photo Credit: Nonnie
Julia loves it when Nonnie braids her hair.  It's been 4 days and I was finally able to convince her to let me brush it out.
All in all, it was a lovely summer weekend in our favorite home state. We don't take these trips for granted, especially since we were *this close* to spending this week moving in to a new house in Boston--me unpacking boxes and boxes and Jon starting his new job.  Suddenly, packing up a family of six for two days in the next state over isn't such a big deal!

It's tough being a princess. 
And we appreciate the shorter drive to visit parents as well.  Especially when that drive involves a very fussy now-one-year-old, her princess of a sister who wakes up screaming approximately every 20 minutes whenever she's sleeping on long trips, and her two big brothers who fail to notify their parents they need a potty break until approximately 3 seconds before they NEED that potty break.

Reading her gift from Uncle Micah -- "Happy Birthday Baby.  In other words, I attempt to read and she flips the pages as fast as she can!
Yes, we love Pennsylvania.  And we love coming home.  It's just the in-between stuff that gets a bit tricky!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tomorrow's Toddler

Reading: Okay, so it's not really reading, but I got the Homemade Flour cookbook out from the library and it's soooo inspiring!  I think I wanted to make at least 95% of the recipes in it.  But first I'm going to need to go on a grain shopping spree!
Watching:  Those who follow my Instagram may have noticed my birthday gift from my big brother, all three seasons of The Young Riders.  This was my favorite show when I was growing up.  It's about the beginnings of the Pony Express and was probably my first introduction to the wild west, event before "Little House on the Prairie" and "Oregon Trail."  I know I was only 6 when it first started but I still have distinct memories of some of the episodes.  And considering they're over 25 years old, Jon and I were both pleasantly surprised to discover that it's "not cheesy."
Listening to:  Jon and I watched "Ragamuffin" this week and I've had Rich Mullins songs going through my head ever since.  I think my favorite is "Hold Me, Jesus."
It was a year ago.  A year ago today that I spent all day using my kitchen to its fullest potential.  I think the hours before my babies' births are some of the most vivid in my mind.  They are so full, expectant, for lack of a better word.  And July 20th was no exception.  I thought I was so busy back then, with three little ones.  But looking back, I spent an entire day cooking (and I watched a movie simultaneously that night).  It's been a year since I could dedicate an entire day to hanging out in my kitchen.  No, a year ago I wasn't that busy.

According to comedian Jim Gaffigan, if you want to know what it's like having four kids, just imagine that you're drowning ... and then someone hands you a baby.

But this girl.  We just love her so.

I mentioned before about her name meaning "cheerful increase."  I admit, there were many days when it seemed like that was much more a statement of faith than of reality.  Let's be honest, sometimes life with four under six isn't all that cheery.  But I doubt we'll remember the specifics in a few years.

Nope, in a few years our most vivid memories will be this smile.

And those four teeth.  I thought for sure another tooth or two would make an appearance after we got back from the beach, but no.  Apparently that dramatic week was all a hoax.  Despite only having four teeth, she manages to grind them all.  It gives me the chills.  She also does this thing where she protrudes her bottom jaw.  I was freaking out about her possibly having an underbite and had dreams about her having to wear some sort of headgear or something when she's older, but Jon has assured me that her teeth seem to line up normally when she's relaxed.  So I have no idea what this chimpanzee jaw is all about.

That jaw!

Loves the kitchen, just like her mama!
And I'm going to go ahead and claim the victory in the sleeping department.  Since coming back from the beach she's only woken up in the middle of the night a handful of times, and at least twice were due to her very loud sister.  I don't know if I'd say she's sleeping through the night, since 5:00am isn't exactly morning for me, but I'm more than grateful for these longer stretches.  She was contentedly spending that final hour in the morning sleeping between Jon and I but lately she's decided not to go back to sleep and rather to crawl all over us, knock things off the bed stand, and attempt to nosedive off the bed.  I've been wanting some sort of accountability for getting up earlier in the mornings.  And now I have it!

And naps.  Oh, sweet naps.  She's taking two REAL naps a day.  In her crib.  And although she still cries when I initially lay her down, it only lasts a minute or so.  Wonderful things are happening now that I'm baby-free for a few hours a day.  Like I'm keeping up with the laundry.  I even mopped my floor three times this week.  Not that that's a good thing.  I really shouldn't have to mop it more than once, but you know, that whole four kids thing...

Love watching their little friendship grow!
The little lady is still very much a mama's girl.  She starts getting anxious if there's even a stranger in the same room, let alone one that tries to make eye contact.  But we're still able to leave her in the church nursery.  And she's still fast asleep when I go to pick her up.  So we're working on it.

And when we're home, and it's just our family, she's definitely becoming more and more confident.  Sometimes we even hang out in separate rooms for 20 or so minutes at a time!

Budding bookworm.
You can tell she's growing more and more interested in the big kids.  She follows them around the house and loves when they play games with her.  And we all love to hear her laugh.  Or, when she's really excited, bang her heels on the floor and spin a 360 on her bottom.

We're seeing little glimpses of her personality, and of course, she's a spunky one.  Her favorite activity is to sit at the top of the stairs and throw anything and everything she can get her hands on down the steps.  Her other favorite activity is to open the pantry, pull herself up into the bottom drawer, and find all the glass bottles (she specifically steers away from plastic.)  Then she sits on the floor and bangs the glass bottles on the tile until mommy comes to put an end to it.  And when that happens, she finds her way to the dishwasher, her new favorite seat.  Never mind that someone may actually be trying to get in and out of the it.  And never mind that it's usually holding a puddle of water.  When the dishwasher is open, Joci is there.  Which is why I've resorted to putting off the dishes until she's taking a nap.

Let's see, she also likes to open and close the sliding screen door, play in the toilet (yesterday I found her swirling all the kids toothbrushes in the toilet water), empty the trash cans, and climb up the back of the couch, bang on the window, and then nosedive back down onto the cushions.  I'm a little concerned that this particular child missed her in utero dose of inhibition!

And now she can climb up on her sister's bed all by herself!
And as usual, I'm this hot mess of being utterly torn that I'll no longer have a "baby" in the house and so excited that she's growing and developing.  I'm sad that she soon won't need my help to fall asleep at night.  And, at the same time, giddy that it won't be long before both girls can share a room, as well as secrets and giggles before bed.

She has her daddy's knack for talking out of the side of her mouth.

But most of all I'm just thankful.  Thankful for this past year of growing and stretching as I learn to mama my four.  And so thankful for this sweet girl.  Another J-babe but still different in her own right.  With her whispy bleach blonde hair that curls when she sweats, and her elf-like ears, twinkly eyes, chimpanzee jaw, Chicken Run smile, and breathy laugh.

We survived!  ... Joci has no idea what we're cheering about.
She's ours, and she's her own, and she's such a testament not only to God's love and creativity, but also to His grace for the mama of babies and their siblings who's trying to figure it all out that first year of life.  Tonight, I'm a little sad that we cross over that year mark.  But tomorrow we'll look back at that line with huge Chicken Run grins.  Because not only did we make it, but we've still got a lot to smile about.
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