Monday, December 12, 2011

Second Birthday

Sweetcheeks, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla —

I fell woefully behind in doing monthly updates for you, so it's been a couple of months since my last one. This weekend you turned two (or. as you like to say, "two minutes"), and I am just completely blown away by the little person you are becoming.

You know pretty much the entire upper case alphabet, and all your numbers from one through twelve. Recently, we were playing with this little wooden clock, where the numbers are on differently shaped and colored blocks. We had laid all the blocks down on the ground, and I was asking you where certain numbers were and where they go, and you would locate the correct number and put it into the clock face. We put in the two and the three, then I asked you about the six. which you found and placed with a happy grin. Then I asked you where the nine was, and you looked around you for a minute, trying unsuccessfully to find the "nine" block. Finally you took the "six" block out and turned it upside down, telling me, "nine." Clever, clever girl.

You absolutely LOVE to sing and dance, and you know most of the words to the theme songs of your favorite TV shows, like "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," "Little Einsteins." and "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." I absolutely love to listen to you singing (and humming, when you don't know certain parts) along, and you wiggle your butt and dance a little happy jig — unless you suddenly become aware that you have an audience, in which case you become suddenly a little bit embarrassed and won't perform. (This is why I have yet to get any video evidence of you in action.)

You talk SO much, all the time, just like your sister did before you. All day long I am treated to a running commentary of the day's activities, and you LOVE to say "bye bye" to things — like when we leave the house you wave and say, "Bye bye, house! Bye garage! Bye lights!" (This last is because of all the Christmas lights — another thing you absolutely adore.)

You are sweet and affectionate, eager to give hugs and kisses and "loves," and you are quite a little mother to your babies and stuffed animals. You got a little puppy for your birthday, a stuffed toy that walks and barks and whimpers, and you just love to cuddle your puppy close, carrying it around with you under one chunky arm.

This morning I took you for your two year checkup — as has been the norm with you for some time, you are WAY off the chart for height — at 38 inches, you are two inches taller than Edie was at the same age, and SHE was considered tall, too. You are wearing mainly 4T clothes now, and people just can't believe you are only turning two! I think your size and the fact that you can speak so well make people think you are older than you are.

One of the things I had been wanting to do with you by the time you were two was to get rid of the binky — you had become WAY to dependent on having that thing in your mouth, something I never had to deal with with Owen and Edie. So recently we just began to tell you that you could only have it at bedtime (or naptime). It only took a day or so of you fussing, and now every morning when I go to get you from your crib, you hand me your binky and say, "bye bye, binkie!" I know that this probably means you could get rid of the thing entirely, but I'm just so proud of you for handling the separation from the "plug" so very well.

I say this all the time — but I just feel like I have been so very blessed with all three of my sweet babies — you are a complete ray of sunshine in my life, baby girl... your smile just lights up my world.

Happy birthday, little monkey.
Love, Mama

Monday, September 26, 2011

My $500* Bedroom Makeover

I have been busy since school started up, folks. I have been wanting to revamp my bedroom for some time now, and just hadn't made the time to do it, so I decided to begin when school began, and I did — on the very FIRST day of school I got busy.

First, some "before" shots and a little info. I knew I needed to do this remodel on a shoestring, so I budgeted myself $500 for the project. Now, I am painfully aware that $500 is not MUCH when one wants to redo an entire room, but I am nothing if not creative and thrifty, so I will explain how I spent (and budgeted) my money at the end of this post.

The bedroom BEFORE, from a couple of different angles:

The furniture is some that Terry brought to our marriage, having bought it himself as a young adult. While there is nothing particularly WRONG with the furniture, it has always seemed to me a little dated and '80s-looking, but I couldn't afford NEW furniture (particularly on my tiny budget) so I decided to try the next best thing: paint and hardware. This picture shows WHY I was ready for a furniture makeover; both bedside tables looked like this on top, from many years of carelessness with coasters. (Note to readers: USE your coasters!):

The handles on the original furniture were these molded wood things that, again, had nothing particularly wrong with them but to me dated the furniture about 25 years:

Sometime in August, I decided to see what would happen if I pried one off with a screwdriver and a hammer:

The result, as you can see, was problematic at best. Because the handles were actually a solid unit that sat into a recessed hole in the front panel of the furniture, I would need to find something that would be large enough to actually COVER this hole. I searched for a couple of weeks to no avail (and was beginning to severely regret having popped this one off, since I wasn't sure I would be able to fix it and then Terry would REALLY be angry with me)... and then Terry and I took a little weekend getaway in late August, to Palm Springs. What does Palm Springs have to do with this story? Well, we stayed at the ├╝ber-chic and fashionable Viceroy Hotel, styled and designed by none other than Kelly Wearstler, and it was while relaxing in the air conditioned comfort of our room that I had my "aha" moment. The furniture in the room featured large mirrored handles. Most were VERY large (and probably custom made), but the one on the mini-fridge looked like EXACTLY the right size for what I had in mind. With that, I began a search on the Internet and, lo and behold, found exactly what I was looking for at a mirror supply company. Even better? They were on sale for $5 a pop — cheaper than MOST standard furniture hardware. 

Now, I did not initially tell Terry my intention of putting mirrored handles on the furniture. Terry tends to be a disbeliever until he sees a finished product, which has often been the case when I have begun a home improvement project. So oftentimes I don't really tell him my plan until it's kind of too late, and then he will grudgingly admit that he likes it. So when the box of mirrored handles arrived and he realized my intent, he was seriously doubtful, but by that point I had already popped off several more handles from the furniture so there wasn't much he could say about it at that point anyway. So I crossed my fingers that the end result would look as cool as I THOUGHT it would... and pressed on. 

So on the first day of school — August 31, to be precise — I dragged the first bedside table out to the driveway to take a stab at painting it. Now, a side note here; originally I intended to spray paint the furniture, but after two coats I could tell I was going to hate it. It's difficult to see in these photos, but the wood has a fairly heavy wood grain, and the spray paint was not thick enough to fill it in entirely, leaving these TINY little black dots of unfilled areas — it looked like pepper. So I scrapped the spray paint idea and switched to regular old brush-on paint — I splurged and bought the kind with the primer included. Woo hoo, big bucks! 

I was pleased enough with the end result (and its mirrored handles, shown close up below) that Terry agreed it was looking "kind of okay." I think he still was hesitant to put all his excitement into the project, but was thinking it wouldn't be a COMPLETE loss, mirrored handles or no. 

So the furniture was well under way. I painted one piece at a time, so I only had to empty out the drawers of one item at a time. I would say overall it took me about a week and a half to get the furniture all painted — two side tables, a dresser and an armoire. The headboard is the last piece to be painted, which I haven't actually done yet, because just this weekend I tackled the other big part of my makeover: the brown wall. 

I have been wanting to paint one wall in my room chocolate brown almost since the day we moved into this house THIRTEEN years ago, and Terry resisted me for many years, fearing it would make the room too dark — but the room has very high ceilings and transom windows, so we don't have a problem with lightness in the room. So I pushed and pushed, until finally he relented (but only after seeing his MOTHER'S chocolate brown bedroom wall, which she painted about four years ago). This is how long it has taken me to get this project rolling. So I brought home a bunch of paint swatches and stuck them on the wall to see what spoke to me. I finally chose a color called Wooden Swing, which is a very nice, mid-tone brown that blends well with the rest of the room. 

Also, meanwhile, I had been on a shopping spree, and got new lampshades, a new mirror, new bedding, and a new rug (where previously there had been NO rug) — pricing breakdown below. And after painting one wall brown this past weekend, here is the end result:

There are still a couple of things to finish — mainly redoing the photo layout on the wall to the side of the bed (I want to completely reorganize this) and painting the headboard (which is currently in the garage) — but for the most part it's done. And the best part? Terry loves it. 

Here's how I spent my money (and why there's an (*) next to my $500 budget in the title)
Furniture handles: 18 @ $5.05 = $90
Paint (furniture and wall): $76
Mirror from Homegoods: $40
Bedding and throw pillows from TJ Maxx: $184 
(note: the knitted throw pillow was an old pillow I had that I just knitted a little sweater for. Easy peasy!)
Rug: $150* — but technically free since I bought it with Target gift cards I had been hoarding
Lampshades: 3 @ $10 (clearance!) = $30
Mirrors for tops of side tables: $65
Glass for top of dresser: $65

Grand total: $700 — minus the $150 for the "free" rug, I spent $550 — slightly over budget, but I think I did pretty darn well. 

So... what do you think? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 21

IMG_3547, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

Oh my goodness, you have grown in such leaps and bounds in the past few weeks! Suddenly you speak in sentences! You demand things! You have a sense of humor! You feel remorse! It's hard to keep track of all the new tricks up your sleeve, but I'll try and recall a few here.

First — your sense of humor. You are FUNNY, little girl, and the best part is you KNOW it. One of the new things you do now is when I go to get you out of your car seat or stroller or something you suddenly pretend to be sleeping; your eyes are closed and your mouth is pursed with a slight pucker. Then you wait for me to say, "Oh, look! Isla is sleeping! Shhhh!," at which point you open your eyes and burst out laughing, thinking you played a trick on me.

You are speaking more and more, as I said, even using simple sentences. The other day we were looking for something, and when I asked if knew where it was, you held your two hands up in the air and said, "I don't KNOW!" Now, mind you, your speech is still not very CLEAR — this came out sounding more like "I wo WO" — but you and I both knew what you were saying. You also will call out things like, "Daddy, where ARE you?" And the best one that you say (generally when prompted) is "I love you," which comes out sounding like "I wuh woo." Makes my heart melt every single time you do it.

You also know about 8 letters of the alphabet — all of the vowels and several consonants as well. Smart, smart girl.

You absolutely adore Owen and Edie, and you get so excited when it's time to pick up "O" and "Deedee" from "cool." I'm sure that being without them for most of the day, now that school has begun, must seem odd for you, although you do seem to enjoy not having to fight for what you want. Owen recently started sitting with you on a skateboard, both of you wearing little helmets, and he wraps his arms around your middle and the two of you coast down the cul-de-sac, at which point you immediately yell for "mo mo mo!" You love it immensely when the big kids play with you, and you seem to be a bit of a thrill seeker, attempting to ride scooters and skateboards and anything else the big kids are doing.

You also generally understand when you are in trouble and you also often realize that you deserve it — I know this because when you get scolded you will hang your head and look at your toes before muttering, "sorry" ("toddy") and then you usually offer a sweet little hug, as if to emphasize that you really are sorry.

You are such a delight in all of our lives, little one. Every day brings new adventures, and each day I try and remind myself what a blessing each moment with you (and your siblings) is.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Three thousand two hundred eighty-five

DSCN1759, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Owen,

3,285 — that's the number of days (give or take) that you've been alive on this planet. That many days ago, I had just given birth to you, shortly after midnight, after going through a preposterously long and intense labor. And from the moment I laid eyes on you, I was enchanted.

From the very beginning, you gripped my heart so completely, you, with your little bald head and sweet disposition, and I have delighted in watching you grow over the past nine years into a delightful, wonderful, intelligent, sensitive and kind little man.

You have continued to amaze me with your intellect and thirst for knowledge. We discovered after this year's state testing that you read at a sixth grade level (and you only just started third grade) and you excel even more in math. You love any kind of games that involve using your smarts, and this summer we introduced you to the fun of Yahtzee, and you get such a thrill out of playing it.

But you are also a very typical 9-year-old in so many other respects as well... you love video games and any kind of new technology (like our family iPad or playing on the Internet). You are generally pretty good about trying most foods and are open to new things while remaining stubbornly resolute about others. You eat a crazy, inordinate amount of ketchup. You love chocolate.

This summer, you went back to surf camp, and though you began the week a little apprehensive of the experience, you jumped headlong into it, embracing and challenging your own fears, and now it's all you talk about, asking Daddy when is the next time he will take you surfing.

You are a fantastic big brother (most of the time) to your two sisters, being pretty nurturing with baby Isla — though you and Edie sometimes butt heads, too... I suppose it's because you two are closer in age. But you are also kind to her as well, and you generally give her a sweet hug and kiss goodnight, and you are always there for her if she is sad or gets hurt.

As for me, I delight in watching you most when you are deep in thought, because you are prone to do so, and I find myself wondering where your imagination has taken you this time, or what profound thoughts are running through your head.

Recently you asked me when you could have a cell phone, to which I replied that you would not have one for a VERY long time, like high school. Then you asked if it could be an iPhone, and I laughed and said no, probably not. You sat in the back of the car thinking it over for a few moments, then you said, "Well, you never know what the future holds, Mommy." Sage words, my friend. Sage words, indeed.

Nine years ago you made me a mommy for the first time. It has been the most incredible nine years of my life, little buddy. I love you so!

Love, Mommy

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kids Room Swap

Everyone who knows me knows that I love a good home improvement project. The pics in this post are to show what I've got myself up to earlier this year: swapping the kids' bedrooms.

When I was pregnant with Isla, we didn't know whether she was a boy or a girl, so we waited to do much to the kids' rooms before knowing what the eventual dynamic would be (two girls or two boys). At that time, Edie was in the smaller of the two kids' rooms, and Owen had the slightly larger one. Once Isla was born, of course, I realized that at some point the girls should have the larger room (since they have to share) but I was too busy and tired to tackle it immediately, so I crammed the girls into Edie's already-smaller room, and figured I'd wait until I really wanted to make all that effort. (And I do mean CRAM — Edie's old daybed took up nearly the entire wall opposite the crib (which we had to pull down from the attic), leaving NO room for her beautiful dresser — which meant it got relegated to live INSIDE the closet.) Both rooms would require a major overhaul, so I wanted to make sure I was ready to deal with the mess.

In the spring of this year, I decided to tackle the project, first basically emptying Owen's room of everything except his bed and dresser (and piling ALL that stuff on the floor of my own bedroom, up against the walls!) and began patching and painting, choosing a soft, buttery yellow for the girls' new domain. After a couple of weeks of mess, the girls' room was complete, and they moved into it, all excited about their girly retreat.

Owen's room would have to wait a couple more months, so there was a period where he lived with his furniture in a pink and white bedroom, because circumstances and outside events meant we had to wait just a bit before finishing the project. There was a deadline, though: I knew that I would be having my dad out in late June to build a custom loft bed that would really maximize the space in such a small room, so that meant I wanted to have the room painted and ready before Dad got here. So sometime in mid- to late-May, I began working in Owen's new (old) room (see below), painting the white wainscoting a warm taupe and wallpapering two of the walls with an awesome surf-inspired grasscloth (which I had actually purchased years before with every intention of installing it Owen's OLD room and never got around to it — of course, now I'm glad I didn't, since it's so perfect here!). The result is a super-cool surfer boy's domain that Owen just loves. See below for pics of the rooms, in several of their incarnations:

Room 1: Owen's New (Old) Room:

Owen ORIGINALLY had this smaller room as a baby, hence the pastel green color on the walls. In this picture below he had just turned 2 and had just gotten his new BIG BOY BED (which is actually one of a set of bunk beds that were my mother's when SHE was a kid, and then my brother's when we were growing up — I painted them dark blue and distressed them for Owen. Unfortunately, I did not take pics of my refurbishment project for this bed). I was also about two months pregnant with Isla in this picture.

Below is how the room looked after Isla was born (Edie's daybed, not seen in this pic, was across from Isla's crib at this point) — this is also very similar to how the room looked when EDIE was in the same crib.

Here is a different view of the room, after we moved Owen's stuff back into it this summer, but before we had gotten rid of the pink walls...

And here is Owen's new loft bed (custom built by my dad — I helped — based on this one I found online). Notice the new taupe paint on the wainscot and the grasscloth wallpaper, along with the awesome limited edition signed Eddie Vedder ukulele tour poster given to Owen by Uncle Chris.

Room 2: Edie and Isla's New Room

(Somewhere I have pics of this room from when it was an office, but I won't bother showing you those here.) This "before" pic is actually from when Owen FIRST moved into it (before I set up his bunk bed when he got a little older) — I can't seem to find a pic of it with the bunk bed set up! Anyway, you can see the before pretty well here. Note the blue (single) bunk bed, and watch for it a little later...

And here is the opposite wall "before"...

Here is that same wall, now, with Edie's bed and Isla's crib side-by-side. (Note Edie's bed... look familiar? It was Owen's old bunk bed, the blue one, refurbished by me a nice bright white. Next I have to finish refurbishing its twin so that when Isla is ready to move out of her crib in the next year or so they can either be set up like this, side-by-side, or possibly as bunk beds, to give the girls more room to play.)

And here is bookcase wall, with the girls' dresser fitting beautifully into the space next to the book shelves and no longer relegated to suffer hidden in the closet. (Please ignore the messy shelves... The girls need to filter through some of their stuff.)

All three kids are happy in their new rooms, as am I — as much as I love a home improvement project, I love them even more when they're all finished!

Now, what can I work on NEXT? Hmmm....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 20

Beach Baby, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

You are now 20 months old, and are just so full of new tricks I don't know where to begin! With Owen and Edie, I always liked to say that we never had "terrible twos," instead it was more like "terrible threes." The independent antics and acts of imperious demanding didn't really start young. But with YOU — you are already well into what I would call your "terrible twos" — and you aren't even two yet!

That is not to say that you aren't still an inherently sweet and adorable child — you are, very much. When you give your sweet little kisses and come to me for cuddles, you are just about the sweetest baby ever. But you have also begun to perfect the art of The Tantrum — big, walloping displays of anger, impressive and terrifying at the same time, due to their volume and severity.

I have heard it said that the youngest kids in a family learn to fight early for what they want, because the older ones will always stake a claim first, being bigger, and I would say that this is true for you. Woe to the older sibling who has decided to take something that you wanted for yourself — woe to us ALL, in fact, who must listen to your shrill shrieks and see the way you flop onto the floor, facedown, kicking your feet in defiant anger.

But I don't mean to make it sound as though this is all there is to you, because that is SO not the case. You are sweet and curious, a mischievous imp with a delightful sense of humor. Your vocabulary continues to grow, and you enjoy singing songs, though most of the time you're just following along with the beat and the inflection, while not actually singing real "words." And you definitely get worried if someone in the house is sad or upset, turning into a little mother hen, clucking and patting your away around the person with a look of intense sincerity on your face. It is these moments I truly try and capture in my memory, the sweet delight that is YOU.

I love you, baby girl!
Love, Mama

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 19

Isla and Pop Pop, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla —

What a whirlwind month we have had, little girl! A couple of weeks ago, you awoke with a fever that continued to rise throughout the day and resulted in our first (and I hope LAST) febrile seizure. Apparently, when the body's temperature changes so dramatically in such a short time, these types of seizures are common, but it was certainly the most terrifying thing I have ever been through, as a parent.

After a trip to the ER, we learned several days later that you had a UTI (after the culture had a chance to grow, in the lab), and by that point you were still spiking fevers, so your doctor recommended an overnight stay in the hospital, for a dose of IV antibiotics and a kidney ultrasound.

Never have I felt so helpless as I did in that week, when you were so sick. On the way to the ER, I held you on the gurney in the ambulance and looked at your fevered face, so slack and lethargic. You will never know the terror that gripped me in those moments, how utterly powerless I was to make it all better. I hope you never experience the knotted fist of anxiety that clutched my gut like a vice for those several days. And watching them poke and prod you in the hospital, with needles and catheters, was torture — both for you and for me. You were so scared and you kept looking at me to make it all better, and I cried nearly as much as you did.

It's a real eye-opener, that kind of an experience, and one that makes me so thankful that I have been blessed with three beautiful, healthy children. I cannot imagine how other parents, with kids who are sick a lot or even all the time, even make it through the day with that kind of pressure looming over them all the time, praying for a good day, for a good test result, for good news amid the bad.

Lucky are we, and blessed besides. You are fully recovered now, and back to your old tricks, although we've been warned of the possibility of a higher risk of febrile seizures in the future, now that you've had one. So I continue to count my blessings that, for now, all is well.

I love you so very much, my little monkey.

Love, Mama

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Monthly Newsletter: Month 18

Future's So Bright, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

Last week you passed the one-and-a-half mark, an impressive milestone in and of itself. I think in some ways you are more like a 2 or 3-year-old, so I forget that you are still just one! I think having an older brother and sister definitely make you feel the need to keep on your toes, and you have no problem holding your own when the other two are around, that's for sure!

You recently had your 18-month checkup, and you are still WAY off the chart for height, so it's another reason, perhaps, that you seem older than you are. You are tall and gorgeous — and amazingly cute and funny as well. The language barrier is becoming less and less of an issue as your vocabulary continues to grow. You are curious and clearly intelligent, and just an absolute delight to us all.

Right now it seems that your favorite person (aside from me) is your sister, "Deedee." When Edie is not home, you ask for her often, saying, "Deedee?" and you'll point at the door to the outside. If I say, "Edie isn't here," you'll think for a minute, then say, "Byebye?" (As in, "Edie's gone bye bye?") A few weeks ago I made a comment to you one morning about a half hour before it was time to pick up Edie from school, and you came and took me by the hand and pulled me to the door, where you smacked your hand on it and exclaimed, "Deedee! Bye bye!" You were ready to go!

You just might be ready to truly begin potty training — more than once you've paused in what you were doing, clutched your hand to your diaper and looked at me intently. When I asked you if you needed to go potty, you nodded, and together we ran to the bathroom, but we haven't yet made it in time. But the interest is definitely there.

Another funny new development with you is at bedtime. Generally I put you to bed before the older two kids, and although you are always very quiet when I put you to bed and never make a fuss, there are many nights when, by the time I am tucking Edie into bed, I get in the room to discover you are still wide awake! And suddenly, once Edie is lying in her own bed across from you in your crib, you think it's party time, and you grasp the top of the crib and jump up and down while giggling and squealing. Even Edie, who think it's funny, has had to come out to me more than once and say with a big sigh, "Mommy, can you PLEASE make her go to sleep? She's keeping me awake!" You just think it's so great to share a room with your big sister, I guess.

And in the mornings, you, like the other two before you, are generally as good as gold, and will play contentedly in your crib until someone finally comes in to fetch you. What a dream baby you are... what a lucky mommy I am.

And though you are still rather stingy with your kisses, you will frequently come over to me and wrap your arms around me and give me a quick snuggle, tucking your head in close with a sweet smile, before running off again to goodness knows what adventures you are getting into now. And those little sweet embraces are just enough to melt my heart, sweet, sweet girl.

I love you! Happy one-and-a-half birthday!

Love, Mama

Friday, May 13, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 17

Corn on the cob, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

A few days ago you hit the 17-month mark, and it's a sign of how busy and chaotic we are these days that I am only just now getting around to posting about that milestone.

It's hard to believe you're almost one and a half... Just this morning I was changing your diaper and thinking to myself how big you've gotten, and how amazing that only a year or so ago you were this tiny little peanut baby who cooed and gurgled at me with the cutest little dimples.

Now, though, as one of the two older ones happened to mention (can't remember which one it was now, Owen or Edie) — it's like you're a "real" person! You talk and run and play and laugh and do things you're not supposed to and give kisses and hugs and climb stairs and oh, so many other things!

You LOVE Dora the Explorer (much like your older sister did at around your same age) and her super cute cousin, Diego. In fact, those are two of the words you now say regularly. Here is a list of the words currently in your vocabulary repertoire:

"Doh" (Dora)
GoGo (Diego
BellBell (Tinkerbell)
Mo (more)
Hi! (or "Hewo!")
Isla (which you pronounce Ay-ya)
Owee (Owen)
DeeDee (Edie)
Night night
Bobby (bottle)
Mimmy (your satin blankie)
Nack (snack)
Bah (bath)

Can't think of any others at the moment... but you are definitely beginning to become more vocal — and even when you aren't using actual words, you grunt and point until we finally figure out what you want.

You have also recently learned how to climb up onto both Owen's and Edie's beds, as well as the couch — I don't mind this ALL that much, since you have also figured out how to get down — but sometimes you think it's a great idea to get up there and walk around, and I'm terrified you're going to stumble and fall head over heels over the side. So now I have to know where you are at all times (not that I didn't need to know this before, but it's a little more critical at the moment).

You have also learned how to come back down Jacquie's staircase, on your bottom scooting down one step at a time, which is a great relief, although, again — sometimes you think standing up seems like a great idea, so we still have to watch you like a hawk.

And you are just so delightful and sweet, giving sweet little kisses and hugs that make me want to squeeze you to pieces.

The picture above was taken on Mother's Day, and we had given you your own little pile of corn (already remove from the cob), which you ate quickly and heartily — and then proceeded to point at Jacquie's as-yet-untouched corn cob — so she handed it to you and we watched in amazement as you at the ENTIRE COB, slowly turning it this way and that so you could make sure you got every piece of corn off of it. It certainly kept you busily entertained while the rest of us ate our dinners.

Thank you for blessing my life so much, little one — my sweet little imp.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


S I X, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Edie...

Six years ago today you came into the world and changed our lives completely: our first daughter, Owen's first little sister, you have blessed us with your sparkling personality and exuberance for life.

You, my dear one, are the quintessential middle child, sweet and affectionate yet secretly possessing your own brand of star quality. You love to sing and dance and play and crack jokes and make the GOOFIEST faces ever — such silly faces that my friends all can't wait to see any pictures any of us might snap of you and your friends, because you nearly always have some hilarious expression on your face. I can honestly say your completely bubbling personality is not one that many people get to meet every day, and I truly hope that it stays with you throughout your life. It will take you far, THAT I can promise you.

The picture above was taken of you this very morning, before heading off to school. When I asked you to pose for a picture wearing your fabulous knitted crown (the one I made for your third birthday), the first pose you gave me was the Mona Lisa one, where you tilt your head and give me this tight-lipped half smile, with one shoulder pressed upwards towards your cheek. It's a very stilted pose, and it's one of your favorites, so it makes it difficult for me to get a truly great candid shot of you, but I managed... I told you to yell out "Stinky socks!," which you did with great gusto. I think that's the thing I just love the most about you — your total exuberance at embracing any task. You are, in a word, delightful.

The other day we were driving around, you and I, and you were back there in the seat behind me, chattering away, waving your hands out the open window and asking me random questions. At one point you said, "Mommy, is magic real?" And I knew the question was stemming from the idea of magic as presented in the Harry Potter books (by the way, we are two chapters from the end of the fourth book), so I said no, magic wasn't real, at least in the idea of a person waving a magic wand around and casting spells.

But what I didn't say — what I couldn't really explain to a very literal 6-year-old — was that magic IS real, and is all around us. There is magic in watching a little girl show me the tooth that just fell out, her eyes wide as she contemplates the tooth fairy's imminent arrival. There is magic in watching a toddler giggling as she swipes at bubbles being blown into her face. The thrill of a twirly skirt. The way the setting sun shines through a child's golden hair. The times when three siblings play together without bickering. When an older brother takes his sister by the hand with sincere and genuine affection. In the kisses given so sweetly at bedtime... all of this: MAGIC.

Thanks for making my world so very magical, sweet sweet girl. You have truly cast a spell on me.

Love, Mama

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I hate it when we fight. I hate when I become so frustrated with your actions (or inaction) that I develop what is far beyond an acceptable level of "inside voice." I hate the way we both get red in the face when we are angry with each other. I hate that you were mad at me when I dropped you off at school, hate that you felt the need to brush aside my goodbye hug with a shrug and a frown, hate that I walked away from you knowing you were scowling at my retreating form. Hate that I didn't turn around once more to look at you before I left.

You can be so proud, so determined, so STUBBORN. You have always been that way. Even as a little tyke, when you'd get in trouble, you always got angry at me getting angry at you. It's so true that each child needs to be dealt with in different ways, depending on temperament. Your sister is one to get so very sad and remorseful when she's in trouble, but not you — you simmer with anger and injustice, letting it brew inside you like a pressure cooker, and the only way I know how to deal with that is to walk away, to let you come back down to earth on your own. Because you always do. Once the heat of the moment passes and you've been left on your own to think and contemplate and consider, you emerge, fresh-faced and placid and apologetic, willing to listen and talk and discuss.

You have no idea how fiercely I love you, how much I WANT for you, how strongly I would fight to protect you. The older you become, the greater my fears grow about all the things I can't shield you from, all those outside influences that will only grow in number and magnitude as the years go on, as you come under the influence of other kids, other sources. I can only hope and pray that I have taught you, when the time comes, to make good choices, to do what is right and true.

So I am sorry our morning got off to such a bad start. Mommys aren't perfect — I am far from it, I know. But I am doing the best that I can... and I will always strive to do better by you. I love you, sweet baby boy. I hope as I write this that the moment is already past for you, forgotten, that it hasn't ruined your day. And I hope when I see you later on that you'll give me one of those great hugs like only you give.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 16

Spaghetti!, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

Yesterday you hit the 16-month mark, and you are growing and changing in such leaps and bounds, it's hard to keep up!

You are so similar to Owen and Edie at this same age, in so many ways — namely that you are friendly and outgoing, quick to laugh and eager to cuddle and give hugs and kisses — and yet, you are entirely your own, too. In what I believe is typical for many younger siblings, you really don't talk much, but you sure can communicate! I can tell a lot from your funny little grunts and gestures, fist clenches and expressions. You aren't limited by your lack of speech in any way, little lady!

But you DO have a few words that you'll say with regularity, and these include "mommy," "daddy," "jacquie," "isla," "ball," "night night" and a smattering few others. You will increasingly (and accurately) answer yes or no with little nods or shakes of the head, too, so that if I ask you a question about something you are wanting, you are able to answer with a sweet little grin on your face.

You also now give REAL kisses, meaning an actual little pucker and a smacking sound with your lips, as opposed to the big, open-mouthed wet kisses you used to plant on us. You are still somewhat stingy with your kisses, and won't often give them when asked, but then you'll just surprise us by coming over to us, smacking your lips in little kissing noises, kissing us sweetly and then running off again to continue whatever you were doing before. It's enough to make my heart melt.

I've been noticing more and more the distinct part that birth order plays in the personalities of all three of you kids. Owen, as the oldest, is definitely a nurturer and is also something of a worry-wart, always fussing about things that could go wrong and worrying about the "what ifs," and always wanting to make sure everyone is taken care of.

Edie is displaying a crazy amount of awesome middle child tendencies, being the "star performer" in our midst. A recent trip to the dressing rooms in Old Navy provided her very own runway down the center aisle, from which she had to strut wearing every outfit we were trying on and then, upon reaching the end nearest the mirror, suddenly striking a fabulous pose with a flip of her hair and a sassy expression.

As for you, we are all agreed that we think you are the good time charlie of the bunch, and it won't surprise us a bit if you turn out to be the one who just wants to get a good laugh out of a crowd. You are so laid-back and easy going, charming and sweet, and quick to giggle with a gutteral depth that is awesome to listen to.

I know I've said this before... but you are the best little bonus baby I could ever have asked for.

Love, Mama

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 15

munchkin cheeks, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

You recently passed the 15 month mark, and I am a few days late getting this posted because our lives are such an amazing whirlwind these days, it's amazing I have time to get anything done.

You are an absolute delight in all of our lives, little girl. You are all sweetness and light, at once impish and mischievous and affectionate and charming. One of the sweetest things you do is "give loves"; I'll crouch down and say, "Isla, can you give me loves?" And, when you are feeling up to it (because sometimes you just shake your head with a cheeky grin when you don't feel particularly like "giving loves") you will come to me, your arms outstretched, mouth open for a big wet kiss and hug me close. And sometimes... the BEST times... you will just spontaneously come over to me and wrap your arms around my legs, looking up at me with a sweet smile, and then you'll toddle off again, the urge to "give loves" satisfied.

One of your WORST habits these days is screeching at the top of your lungs. I mean, it is literally ear-piercing, and you mostly do it when you are in your high chair and we are all sitting down to eat. I think you like the fact that Owen and Edie laugh at you when you do it, which makes you do it all the more. But it is so bad that you have actually been given time outs in your crib because of it. so that the rest of us can eat dinner WITHOUT our ears ringing painfully, thank you very much — and then you cry woefully at the indignity of being sent to your room when you had been having so much FUN!

You are also now quite good at taking directions. I can point to something on the floor and ask you to pick it up, and you usually will do it, or I can hand you something and say, "Take this to Daddy (or Owen or Edie)" and you will do so, big grin plastered on your face because you are such a great helper! Sometimes, however, you are a little TOO eager to "help," and your help is often a hindrance... but I delight in watching you, so pleased with yourself to be engaging in such big girl activities.

Owen and Edie have begun spring sports, baseball and softball, respectively, and as a result, our lives are a constant refrain of shuttling to and from practices or games, amid other things like Daisy meetings for Edie and CCD classes for Owen, plus homework and life and, oh yeah, that crazy project I just decided to embark upon that involves swapping yours and Edie's room with Owen's — an undertaking that has created such havoc in our home that I currently look like one of those people on those hoarding TV shows, so much stuff is piled haphazardly throughout the house. But you and Edie nowhave a new room, a butter-yellow confection that is all airy and light, and you slept there last night for the first time, the two of you, both of you thrilled with the new arrangement.

By far, the thing I notice the most about you these days is how much you just want to be WITH people. Last night as I was reassembling your crib in the new room (since no, of course it can't just fit through the door, that would be too EASY — I had to disassemble and reassemble instead), you were bobbing around me, alternately picking up allen wrenches and crawling amid the myriad crib parts, and you kept attempting to sit on my knee, which made my job just that much more difficult... but I loved it all the same.

I hope that you always want to spend time with me, my sweet, sweet girl. Thank you for blessing my life.

Love, Mama

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 14

Imp, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

This post is just a few days late, as our lives have gotten into the full swing of post-holiday, back-to-school and spring sports madness. With Owen and Edie both in sports (baseball and softball), our days and weeks are exceedingly full and busy. And you — you are just along for the ride.

You seem to think everything is a new adventure, and you happily tag along to wherever we need to be, fairly content to squawk and babble and take it all in.

Your newest adventure is that, at last, you are completely and truly WALKING. You're still just the tiniest bit unsteady, particularly on an uneven surface, like the bare grass, so it's definitely an adventure, but each day you get a little faster on those little feet of yours, and you follow me wherever I go throughout the house. And I think with the freedom of walking has come a new sense of mischievous discovery, and I often find you searching through the drawers and cupboards in my bathroom or dropping things into the toilet with glee. And when you are heading somewhere that you know you aren't supposed to be, and I follow you and say, "I'm gonna get you!" you squeal and giggle with delight and try to walk a little faster, which inevitably makes you stumble and fall.

We have decided that, of all three kids, you are the most independent-minded. Where Owen and Edie would parrot us and repeat things we would say or ask them to do on cue, you instead smile a cheeky grin and manage to look cuter than ever. If we ask you for hugs and kisses, you RARELY give them — you'd rather wait until you haven't been asked, and then spontaneously come over to me and lay your head on my knees and wrap your arms around my legs, preferring instead to give them to us on your own terms... which makes those spontaneous little hugs all the sweeter.

I know I say often how I feel so blessed to have gotten my little bonus baby, and I thank God every day for the miracle of you.

Love, Mama

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Harry, Revisited

So followers of my old blog (before its untimely death from file corruption last year) may remember that when Owen was a kindergartener he and I spent several long months reading through all the Harry Potter novels. He has since become an avid reader with a vivid imagination, a fact that pleases me no end.

Well, now that Edie is in kindergarten, I decided to do the same thing with her— so most every evening we plop down on my king-sized bed, the three of us — Owen, Edie and I — to read a chapter and discuss what has been happening so far. You'd think Owen wouldn't want to sit through them again, but he's having as good a time listening to them again as I am having reading them, and it's interesting to see him listening and absorbing the information in a new way — being two whole years older than his first go-round.

And miss Edie, well... she seems to be enjoying them quite as much as Owen did, though I am very careful to review the previous night's chapter before beginning the next, asking her questions to make sure she's been paying attention.

The best part about it, though, is that Edie — who has always been fantastic at "imaginative play" when playing on her own — has begun to introduce new characters in her play. The other day I heard her speaking with quite a good version of a British accent (since, when I read the books, I try to read all the dialogue in character, accents, voices and all), saying things like, "Oh, hello, Neville. We were just talking about Transfiguration." I'm supremely happy that she's quite enjoying the books, too.

And, like before, the deal I made with her was that she could watch the movies after having read the books. She's seen bits and pieces of most of the movies before, on DVD, when Owen has been watching them, but has never had such a keen interest in the as she does now. We plan to watch the second movie this weekend. And the best part is that Terry — who has never read the books (blasphemy!) and only seen the first movie (heresy!) — has agreed to watch the movies with us as we go along, so that by the time the final installment is released in theaters this summer, he can be caught up and actually see it with us.

I know that I am blessed to have such smart kids — and when I get excellent feedback from both their teachers about how well-spoken and well-read they both are for their ages, I can't help but feel a huge burst of pride that I have had something to do with that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monthly Newsletter — Month 13

pretty baby, originally uploaded by JenSig.

Dear Isla,

Today you are 13 months old, and just as delightful as ever.

I find myself often sitting back and taking stock of this still relatively new family unit of ours, this party of five. It is a vibrant and boisterous bunch, yes, and so full of love and happiness I feel like my heart can hardly bear the weight of it.

I watch the three of you — you, Owen and Edie — and marvel at the changes in you all, and get such a kick out of watching you reach each milestone, remembering when Owen and Edie did it first.

You are just as easygoing and laid-back as Owen and Edie were — perhaps even more so, if that's possible — and yet you are also definitely your own person and have your own opinion about things. You are at times imperious and demanding in that egocentric way unique to toddlers, pointing at things you want and grunting out, "Dis? Dis," then getting angry when you don't get it... but you are also sweet and loving, freely giving out kisses and hugs (but only when it suits YOU to do so — you rarely will do anything on command).

Christmas was fun this year with you, though you were funny with the presents — I thought sure you'd get a big kick out of ripping off the paper, but you daintily picked at an edge of the paper until someone (usually Edie or Owen) came along to help rip it off for you. It was a little bit of sensory overload for you, I think, but you handled the experience well. YOu also really loved the new playhouse I made (see previous post), and crawled in and out of the doorway opening countless times while it was set up.

I was talking recently to another parent of three, and she was saying that she really felt the third child has a unique perspective on the world around her, because she is around other children almost all the time — those brothers and sisters are built-in playmates! And I would have to say that's true for you... Owen and Edie certainly love playing with you and making you laugh and cuddling with you — almost as much as YOU love it, I think.

As for you... you are very TALL — taller, even, than Owen and Edie were at the same age, and neck and neck with Edie in weight at age one. But you are lagging in the mobility department: you still don't walk! You have taken, at most, three or four wobbly steps, but you infinitely prefer crawling or, funny as it is, walking on your knees (which is adorable and hilarious at the same time). I also think you have fewer words than Owen and Edie did (though honestly, it's difficult to remember these things)... you are just the tiniest bit cautious, and that's okay. It might be the one thing you inherited from me, since it's clear you don't LOOK like me. I was a cautious child, too.

And, like Owen and Edie, you LOVE your blankie (which, true to form in our household, is called your "mimmy") — so much so that you point and grunt for me to get it for you, and once you are holding it, you lean into it and cuddle close, burying your face into the satin and sighing with happy delight.

I don't know what I did to deserve you — all of you — I love you so much I can hardly stand to think of NOT having you here... my little bonus baby.

Love, Mama

Friday, January 7, 2011

Welcome to Casa 158

(Click the picture above to watch the slideshow. You can even hit the little corner button with the four arrows to make it fit your computer screen.)

So I decided back in November that I wanted to make a playhouse out of felt with a pvc pipe frame for the kids for Christmas. I started with a mountain of felt, worked diligently on it any chance I had when the kids weren't around (namely when they were at school or in the evenings after they were in bed), and voila! The result is Casa 158. (the numbers are the ages of my three kids.)

I'll be honest and admit that a lot of the adorable ideas here were culled from other places on the internet. The idea for the corn and the tree with the apples and the entire garden on the back wall came from here. (In fact, this was where my initial inspiration came from.) But I decided to make mine to fit a PVC pipe frame (instead of a kitchen table, as hers was), so mine has a pitched roof. Also, I decided to finish off the interior of mine as well, like the one here, so we have a fireplace with vases where a little homemaker can put some flowers culled from the front window box. Also. the frame above the fireplace is open on one side, so the photo can be replaced with another or kids' artwork or whatever floats their boat.

I made each piece separate (sides and roof) and they tie onto the PVC Pipe — however, after seeing the kids play in it for a while, I MAY go ahead and stitch the roof to the sides. I had thought it would be easier to assemble/disassemble this way, but now I'm not totally convinced, since it comes untied and skews off slightly. So I may be doing some modifications to it in the near future, but overall I am very pleased with the result. And I even had enough time to decorate the house for Christmas, with little felt Christmas light bulbs in a strand around the eaves, and a wreath for the front door.

This was definitely a labor of love, but the kids loved it so much when they woke up Christmas morning and discovered this delightful playhouse in the living room. In fact, Edie spent the entire day inside it, pulling in her blankie and a pillow and relaxing in there with her Nintendo DS and some snacks. She even watched a movie on TV from inside its walls, watching through the window!