Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Boy is Five

Despite my pleas that he stop growing up, Noah turned five on August 1st.  We had an argument with the sun on his birthday eve: I commanded the sun not to set (so he could never grow up) and he commanded it to hurry up and go down.

That darn sun listened to Noah.  As he said to me recently, "Mom, you can't stop life."  Aint that the truth!

And speaking of the sun, at five years old, Noah is still my little ball of fire--meaning he can be the light of our family's universe one moment and a meteor crashing down to destroy us all the next.  Ha!  This boy has spunk, that is for darn sure.

I love him.  I love everything about him.  I am overcome when I think about the miraculous way that he joined our family.  It will never get old.  The other night he climbed into our bed and snuggled up to me, and he was all groggy when he said, "Mom, I'm your boy.  I made you a mom."  My heart burst right there on the spot.

As has been our tradition these past few years, Katie joined us for Noah's big day.  We love having her with us on the day that we celebrate Noah's birth!  Yes, Noah made me a mom, and so did Katie.  I love these two with all my heart.

We could hardly believe that he is FIVE years old!

Snapchattin' with his favorite girl

Like his birthparents, Noah is so smart, so funny, so spunky.  Here are some of his classic quotes from the past few months:

When he grabbed a toy from a friend and they were having a scuffle over it, I heard him say, "Takers keepers, Alex!"  I'm not quite sure that's how the old adage goes.

When I thanked him and Ryan for making me cinnamon rolls on Mother's Day, he said, "It was our great pleasure, Mom!"

He was so cute on Mother's Day, taking extra good care of me and telling me sweet things like, "I don't just love you one day of the year, Mom--I love you every day!"  And then the next day he informed me that it was "Son's Day," which meant that he got to do whatever he wanted and eat candy all day.  

One day when I forgot to bring underwear for him to change into after swimming lessons, I told him to just slip his shorts on and we'd grab some undies when we got home.  Offended by such a suggestion, he responded, "Mother,  I can't go commando!  That wouldn't be proper!"

When we were walking on the trail by the canyon rim, he said, "Mom!  Don't walk so close to the edge!  It's treacherous over there, and you might fall into the abyss!"

His vocabulary is huge.  It is hysterical.  This morning he asked for breakfast, and I said I was working on making pancakes.  He said, "Well, in the meantime can I have an applesauce?"  In the meantime?? Are you five or fifteen, kid?  He's like a sponge and soaks in any word that he ever hears me say.  Yes, that means that he says words like "meantime" and "abyss," but it also means that he says words like "crap."  Oops.  We are working on that!

In our family, we often use the phrase, "I love you more than my luggage" which is a quote from one of our favorite movies, Steel Magnolias.  This phrase makes no sense, but Noah has latched on to it as well, and even came up with his own variation.  The other day he told me, "Mom, I'd rather lose my luggage than lose you!" Ha!

He continues to love to build, and he astonishes me with his creativity.  He's had the same train sets and cars for years, but he always comes up with new arrangements for them and imaginative ways to engineer roads, tracks, and tunnels. 

Maybe he will be an engineer...or maybe a dentist like his dad.  When I recently asked him if he'd gone potty before bed because "it's the most important part of the bedtime routine" (which it is! because otherwise he has nighttime potty accidents!), he responded firmly, "No, Mom, brushing my teeth is!" And then he added in a sing-songy voice, "Or else I might get cav-it-ies!" Spoken like a true dentist's son!

As funny and likeable as he is, he is feisty and can be very difficult to parent.  He goes through phases where every time I ask him to do something, he says in a defiant voice, "Or what?" He wants to know what the punishment will be if he doesn't obey.  It's exhausting!  He's definitely my strong-willed firstborn.

I could write quite a list of the challenges of parenting him, but the bottom line is, I adore him and he adores me.  He is a definite mama's boy.  When Ryan was recently out of town, I slept with Noah every night, and he would cuddle up and talk to me about his worries or deep thoughts.  He asked me about Heaven and my mom.  Sometimes he would be half awake and say heart-melting things like, "I love you all the way to Jesus, then Jupiter, then around the world, and back!"

He has a tender heart underneath all his sass.  I was impressed when he said in a bedtime prayer, "Heavenly Father, please bless everyone in this whole world--even the bad guys."

One thing that I love and admire about Noah is that he can play with anyone, of any age.  Little kids flock to him and follow him around because he's so fun and wild, and he also has no problem playing with kids as old as 10.  Like, they actually enjoy playing with Noah because he's so spunky!  I've seen him play Nerf guns with kids twice his age for hours, and they never get sick of him.  He is truly a people person.

He started kindergarten this week, and he is loving it.  I decided to send him to an alternative kindergarten at the local college because he just barely turned five and their curriculum is much more hands-on, outdoor, and play-oriented than traditional school.  So far he's come home covered in mud one day, paint the next.  He's told me about weighing things on scales and building houses out of blocks.  He is having a blast.  The teacher in me is wondering if he is going to learn to read, write, and sit still this year...but it's only been one week, so I don't want to get concerned yet.  At least I know he is learning to love school!

Here he is, with bedhead and groggy eyes, so excited for his first day!

Can you believe kindergarten starts at 8:00 a.m.??  I mean, the sun is barely rising here!  But I'm happy to report that somehow we made it on-time every day last week.  I'm giving myself a fist bump.

People keep asking me if I am sad about him going to kindergarten.  Truthfully, not even a little bit.  It's only three hours a day, four days a week--so it's basically glorified preschool.  He loves it, and I love it.  It's a win-win.

After kindergarten on his first day, I took him on a special lunch date to KFC (his request, obviously) and we conducted a five-year-old interview over macaroni and cheese.  I will never forget how cute he was, excitedly chatting after his first day of kindergarten.

I love when we get to have one-on-one time.  He liked talking about himself so much that he kept insisting I ask him more questions. ;)  So here is our lengthy but fun interview:

Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Everybody!

What is your favorite color? Orangish-reddish

What is your favorite show? Ninjago, that you never let me watch (said with a scowl)

What is your favorite outfit? My pirate shirt and some black soft shorts

What sport do you like best?  Mountain biking

What song do you love?  "Everything is Awesome!" but not "Doh Doh" because Sal has asked to listen to it too many times!

What's your favorite cereal?  Life

Who is your best friend? Callum and Alex

What do you want to be when you grow up?  I can't decide that one yet--maybe a policeman.

What is your favorite book? My Earth book.  I call that one the Bapa book because it's so big!  Too bad it's so long that I never get to read it all.

What are you really good at?  Playing with Legos

What is your best memory?  Going to Disneyland with Mom and Dad, when I got to be the boss for the day.

What would you buy if you had $1000?  289 fragile Polar Express trains

If you could have a wish, what would it be?  That we could go to Lego Land every single day!

Who is your biggest hero?  There are no heroes in this city!

I'm not talking about superheroes.  A hero is someone you love, admire, and want to be like when you grow up.  Oh, that's easy.  Callum!! (cue heart melting)

What do you like to do best with your friends?  Play with them, mostly.

What makes you feel sad?  When I go on a mission because then I won't get to see my family for a very long time.

What makes you feel happy?  When I can someday build a humongous train layout in the living room of our house--or maybe I should build it at Grandma's house!

What makes you feel scared?  When Dad showed me that stupid dog from the Sandlot movie.  And now I can't sleep and I'm cranky!

What makes you feel angry?  When I want something and no one gives it to me.

What makes you feel "in the middle"?  (Noah came up with this question)  When I have to leave home and it's my first day of school.  I'm excited, but I'm also not super sure about it.

What are your thoughts about your first day of kindergarten?  Ms. Bridges is really nice!  There are lots and lots of toys and blocks.  And in science, we got to weight peanuts!

Why do you love Mom?  Because she's so pretty all the time!

Why do you love Dad? Because he wrestles me a lot!

Why do you love Sister?  Because she's so cuuuutee!  Too bad she bites me all the time.

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?  Fun!

I agree, Noah--you are super fun!!  I am beyond grateful to be your mama, and I am looking forward to another year of living and learning with you.

In the words of a very smart and spunky little boy I know, "I love you all the way to Jesus, then to Jupiter, then around the world, and back!"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Birthday Love Letter to a Wild Sweetheart

My Darling Sal,

On the night of your second birthday--after a busy day of ginormous balloons, princess tiaras, and buttercream frosted cakes--I sat down to write a love letter to you.  This is my tradition, I do it every year, so I opened my computer and fully expected the swell of adoration to come washing over me so I could write.

But I waited and waited, and the feeling didn't come.  All I felt was exhaustion.

Perhaps this is something that I shouldn't admit in a birthday love letter.  Perhaps I should skip over the weariness of motherhood and get right to the sweet scene of you blowing out your birthday candles.  But I tell you the truth because one day you will be a mother.  And you will know what I mean when I describe this exhaustion.  Sometimes, you will simply feel overwhelmed and tired, and you might feel guilty that you don't feel all-consuming, gleeful, giddy love for your children all the time.

I want to tell you that it's normal.  It's normal to be exhausted when you have little ones.  It's normal to feel so utterly depleted at the end of the day that the thought of writing a sentimental love letter is just too much.

And so, on the night of your birthday, I shut my laptop and went to sleep.  And in my bedtime prayer, the feeling came.  The awestruck swelling in my soul--the awe that I get to be your mother.  I get to see you grow and learn and become every day.  On my knees by the side of the bed, I smiled into the mattress as I thanked God for the beautiful little birthday girl in the sparkly crown and red-checkered dress.  I thanked God that you are mine.

Today is a new day, and I have a few moments of quiet to come back to this birthday love letter for you.  I want to tell you all about the things that I love about you as a two-year-old.

I love your little voice.  You have started talking so much in the past few weeks.  People comment on your little voice all the time because it is low and raspy--so unusual for a girl your age.  Maybe you'll be a growly alto like your mom and her sisters.  Ha!

You actually do love to sing, and as you walk around the house, you sing the ABCs, Popcorn Popping, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  You also sing along to the music in the car, and your favorite song is "Doh Doh" as you call it (Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars--it starts with a guy singing, "Doh, doh, doh" hence the nickname).  You screech, "Doh doh!" every time we get into the van until I turn it on. (Oh the screeching!  You are definitely a determined little lady!)

Your vocabulary is exploding lately, and it's so fun.  When you sneeze, you say, "Bless you, Mom!" even though you are the one who sneezed.  You pretend to talk on the phone and have entire conversations with your favorite babysitter, Ashlyn, using that plastic purple phone.   One of your favorite things to say is "Oopsie daisie!" when you make a mistake. And just this week, you started counting to ten.  I love hearing all the new things you have to say every day. 

When you see babies, you shout excitedly, "Hold eeeeet!  Hold eeeet!"   Like your mama, you love a snuggly baby and grin from ear-to-ear when you are holding "it." Ha!

You love to pray and always ask to be the one to say it when I put you in your crib at night.  I lay you on your pillow, and then I kneel beside the crib and say each line slowly.  You fold your arms but keep your eyes wide open and smile with self-satisfaction as you quietly whisper the last word of each sentence that I say.  Then at the end you shout, "A-men!!"  It is the sweetest.  And the highlight of my night is when you stick your nose between the crib bars and ask for a nuzzle before I leave the room.  Rubbing noses with you and giving you a little kiss is a perfect way to end the day.

I love your bedhead and your sloppy pigtails when you wake up from a nap.  I love how much you adored this birthday card from your Bapa and carried it around the house with you saying "Bapa!  Bapa!"over and over and pointing out the animals:

You are a diva and a girly girl.  You are obsessed with princess dresses and shoes, and you love getting into my makeup.  You came out of my bathroom the other day looking like this, and you thought you looked very lovely:

You are a fashionista with your leopard print swimsuit and signature straw hats that you insist on wearing everywhere!

You also love diva sunglasses, and you yell, "Bright! Bright!" and ask for them every time we go outside.  Ha!

You love being the center of attention.  On your birthday, you insisted that we sing "Happy Birthday" to you about five times, and you sang along, loud and proud, and blew out the candles with gusto each time.  That will probably be one of my all-time favorite birthday memories of my children. 

You are a handful.  You have so much energy and spunk--you are much crazier than your brother Noah was at this age.  You want to try everything and you are super independent.  If I try to help you take your clothes off before a bath, you yell, "No, Mom!"  You want to do things yourself.

You are joyful and mischievous--and not obedient at all.  You almost always have a naughty little twinkle in your eye.  

You climb on everything.  You love to find ledges and walk on them--like the edges of sidewalks or  planters.  You have really good balance and can also climb the tall ladders at the playground.  Future gymnast?  You've started hanging upside down from the handles on the roof of the van and shouting, "Monkey bars!" Ha!  I am always amazed by your strength.  Maybe because you only weigh 23 pounds, it's easy for you to do these acrobatic moves. ;)

I mean, is this normal??

Yes, you only weigh 23 pounds. Noah weighed more than that when he turned one!  You are 10th percentile for height and weight--tiny but feisty, strong, and loud.  You know what you want in life, and you holler until it happens.  We usually let you get away with it because we are suckers and we are tired and you are too cute for your own good.

You adore your brother, even though he teases you constantly and you two fight like cats and dogs.  Aren't you too young to be fighting already??  I must say, sometimes when it's only 8:30 a.m. and you two are already shrieking at each other, I feel like I'm gonna lose my mind.  But then the other day I was giving you a bath, and I had to go grab a towel so I asked Noah to watch you for a minute, and as I was leaving the bathroom, I heard you spontaneously say to him, "Hi, Noah!  I wuv oo, Noah."   My heart melted.  Especially since I've never heard you spontaneously say "I love you" to anyone, not even Mom and Dad.  I hope you and Noah always look out for each other throughout life!

You are super dramatic in your facial expressions.  It is hilarious.  When you see a mashed up banana or something, you will screw up your face into the cutest grimace and say, "Ewww, gross!"  I can always tell by the look on your face exactly what you are thinking, whether it is disgust, joy, love, anger, or sadness.  I love how expressive you are.

You started riding your tricycle this month, and you love it.  You have to wear a backpack so you can reach the peddles because you're so short.  I can't get enough of my little urchin on her bike:

You fill my life and my heart with joy, Sally. Yes, you are a menace (as we still lovingly call you), but overall, I think I am a much more relaxed mom than I was when Noah was little.  It feels great to see that I am maturing and becoming more patient as a mother, more able to enjoy my children and savor the stage we are in.  You are at a needy age right now--where you can't/don't really play by yourself, you hang on my leg all day, and you make huge messes--but when I start to feel really frustrated, I remind myself, "This is a stage.  The hard parts of this stage will pass, but so will the perfect parts."  In those moments, I try to just stop and get down on the floor and look into the eyes of my wild, beautiful, urchin-angel, and soak in every bit of your insane cuteness.

I love you, Sally Grace Nielson.  Every night, not just on your birthday, I thank God that you are my daughter.  Yes, motherhood is exhausting, and when you are a mom there will be some days when you just have to go to sleep and look forward to a fresh start in the morning--but it is so worth it.  Someday you will be a mother, and only then will you understand just how much I love you. 

Thank you for being mine and for filling each day of my life with your wild sweetness.

I love you, to the moon and back.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Oregon Coast with the Nielson Clan

We went straight from the DR to a family reunion on the Oregon coast.  Yes, the timing was crazy, but we couldn't bear to miss out on either event, so we endured exhaustion and made it happen.  I thought Noah would be in meltdown mode with all of the traveling, but he actually did great.  Sometimes I think I underestimate my kids or decide in advance that things will be hard for them.  I'm trying not to do that so much!

The reunion was so much fun.  Sometimes when we are all together, the little kids just fight and make things pretty miserable (there are eight of them under the age of five), but they did so well during this trip, and it really was a perfect time.  My mother-in-law rented a beautiful home with a view of the ocean (and a hot tub out on the deck--score!), and we spent a lot of time on the beach as a family.  The water was bitter cold, so we didn't swim, but we played in the sand, flew kites, searched the tide pools for starfish, played Slammo, and flew kites.  It was just so relaxing.

As always, we attempted to get a photo of the grandparents with their brood of little ones, and as always, this is how that went:

So we decided to hire a professional. ;)  We had family photos taken on the beach one morning, and I just love the colors and the way they turned out.  The Oregon coast is stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful. And I love all of these people so much!

Ryan and his siblings.  A group of stunners right there!

I love this one of the little cousin besties, and of course my peanut Sally is losing her pants even though they are size 12-18 months.  Ha!  These girls are full of fire and spunk, though they look pretty stinkin' sweet in this photo:

Uncle Tanner is such a good sport to put up with eight littles who all want a piece of him.  It gets super loud and crazy at these reunions, and he is so patient with all of them.

And finally, BEHOLD!  Not all of the kids are looking at the camera--but hey, none of them is crying, which is truly a miracle, so we will take it!!

And speaking of the grandparents, one afternoon the little kids wanted to stand in the surf and let the cold water wash over their toes, so Grandma stood with them for almost an hour as they watched the waves come rolling in.  I couldn't believe how long they wanted to stand like that!

Can we just talk about their cute Grandma for a minute?  This woman is incredible. Looking at the photos of her with the grandkids almost makes me emotional.  She just loves them so much, and they are so lucky to have her.  We all are!  She planned this entire vacation so the family could be together, and she prepared for the trip while also watching Sally for us while we were in the DR.  She drove with Sally (who is not a good traveler) for 12 hours so we could meet up with them there.  There is no end to what she sacrifices for us.  She made all of the little girls matching dresses for the family photos--yes, she sewed them--and she bought them all festive 4th of July outfits for the big day. I am so grateful for her and for the memories that she makes happen for our family. She brings us all together, and she makes everything special for us.

The entire event was planned for Gordon's 60th birthday, which was the 4th of July.  Sally had t-shirts made and we celebrated with patriotic cake, birthday dances around the house to the Mickey Mouse Happy Birthday song, and of course fireworks over the ocean that night.  Magical!!

I am beyond grateful to be a part of the Nielson family.  We will always treasure the beautiful time that we had with them in such a beautiful place!