Sweet and seven

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Sweet Lilla B finally turned seven. I say finally because she has been counting down the days forever. She was so excited and so ready to leave the age of six behind her.

I, on the other hand, am sort of lamenting she is not six anymore. It seems an invisible change takes place when girls go from being six to seven years old. They are leaving forever the little girl phase of life. And overnight, they become girls. Or young girls. Or young ladies. Or whatever you want to call them. They are just no longer little. And it was a bit sobering to watch my baby leave her little years behind her forever.

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But all my mixed emotions didn’t hold us back any. We partied hard. Her big day began with her gift from JackMike and Julie – a long awaited for American girl doll. She was giddy when she opened it and immediately proceeded to name her new doll Emily. Emily then accompanied Lilla, JackMike, and I to a birthday breakfast. Lilla and I sat on one side of the booth, and she had the biggest (and messiest) plate of chocolate chip pancakes. JackMike and Emily sat together on the other side of the booth. Emily did not eat.

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That night, I made Lilla’s requested birthday dinner – noodles with butter. But not before she opened her gifts from us, which were a glittery purse AND… a pogo stick. She told me the day before her birthday that she desperately wanted a pogo stick. How she even knows about pogo sticks I don’t know. But I jumped on Amazon and overnighted one and it arrived for her birthday. And she was so happy. And as you can see, Bette was pretty happy for her too.

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Her party was a few days later at our favorite bakery. I discovered about five years ago that they host parties, and for five years I have been trying to convince Lilla to have it there. And finally, this year was the year it sounded like a great idea to her. We invited all her good friends, and ended up with the perfect number of ten.

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This was my first year completely outsourcing the party planning, and it was awesome. They bakery did an amazing job and took care of everything. Hats, aprons, favors, cake, icing. We just had to show up.

And it was a good thing too. We are all so tired and worn out as the school year comes to a close that if we had to spend an entire Saturday preparing for a party, decorating the house and making tissue puffs, it might have done us in.

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The girls were so cute, sweet, and well-behaved. And Lilla felt so loved. Which is all I really wanted. Homeschooling is always a balancing act, especially when it comes to birthday parties. I always have a few days of anxiety at the start of the planning process about who are we going to invite and do we have enough friends and damn, I should have scheduled more play dates throughout the year and for God’s sake, are enough kids going to be able to come to make it feel like a party? Because there is not an automatic group of friends to invite, like if Lilla was in school. But then I get it together and realize it is all going to be fine. And it always is.

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Most of the girls Lilla loves to spend time with were able to come. And what I love about the picture of them together is that only two of the girls go to the same school. All the others go to different schools or homeschool. None of them really knew each other. They just all knew Lilla. And I love that she has sweet friends from all different areas of her life. It is a blessing I am thankful for.

And I am so thankful for Lilla and the girl she has grown into. I could not be any prouder of her and I can’t wait to see what seven holds!

 

 

Celebrating the Games

One day after we returned from the beach we threw a party. A big party. A party to celebrate the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

Which is not really like me. I like throwing parties, but I don’t like having a lot going on all at one time. And having 40 people over to my house one day after arriving home from vacation qualifies in my mind as “a lot.”

But the Olympics is only every four years. And I love the Olympics. I mean, love the Olympics. When the Olympics is happening, I would watch it all day, every day if I could. So it seemed the best way to celebrate the Olympics was by inviting friends over to share it with us.

I had only one day to prepare, so there weren’t any homemade crafts or fancy decorations at the party. Which was fine with me because I hate crafts. Instead, I just pulled from around my house anything that was red, white, and blue to use. And then the stuff I needed to buy I bought in patriotic colors. I discovered that you can pretty much buy anything in the colors red, white, and blue at the grocery store.

I put Jay in charge of special ordering the cupcakes for me while I was away – white frosting on vanilla cake. I put Lilla in charge of decorating them. Can you tell?

Of course, we felt very strongly that our Olympics party would not be complete without its own Olympic component. Jay and I tickled ourselves to death thinking up all sorts of horrid games we could play in the backyard – games that the parents would probably hate but the kids would absolutely love. Messy games. Sticky games. Gross games. I drew on all my skills and experiences as a former Young Life leader in planning the competition.

In the end though, I had to say no to anything involving eggs, water, or flour. Just for the sake of my house, given the number of people that would be traipsing through it all night.

The parents and kids dove right into the games. We did Dizzy Izzy, a wheelbarrow race, and a footrace. The best was watching the daddies run with kids hanging on for dear life to their legs.

There was just enough chaos in the backyard to have absolutely no idea who actually won any of them games. But we had enough medals for all the kids and they were thrilled to get them.

After the games, the kids ate a super fancy dinner – hot dogs and pretzels – while Jay cooked for the adults. His slow cooked barbecue and grilled venison tenderloin were both amazing.

The kids watched the opening ceremonies a little and only in spurts. Mostly, they ran wild. But it was okay. You can’t really expect any more or any less when there are 20 kids six years old and under at your house. Lilla was happy to serve as ringleader.

Once the adults had finished dinner, bedtimes were calling and families began trickling out. A few stayed late, giving us a chance to sit, chat, catch up and eat Elisabeth’s delicious cobbler.

It was a great evening. Most of our friends were able to come. And it is always so fun to gather together and find a reason to celebrate.

But I love that my own girls have this memory now – a memory of an Olympics party. They are very young. Bette will not remember any of it. But Lilla will – having her friends over, running around the house, and the games in the backyard. She will remember it for a long time.

And I love that this little memory is now knit into her soul. Because that is one of the points of this blog. And it is one of my main goals as a mother. To create great experiences and memories for my kids – experiences and memories that are knitted into their souls and affect who they will be one day.

I love that this party will be tucked away as a memory in Lilla’s mind somewhere. I love that she will be able to retrieve it at a later date. And I love that it will be a sweet and wonderful memory from her childhood years.

 

A Sweet Six Year Old

My darling girl turned six years old a few days ago. I can hardly believe it. All week Jay and I have been telling her stories from when she was born. She has loved hearing them.

Even though Lilla already had her big party, we couldn’t let her actual birthday pass without making it memorable. We spent the morning with Ms. Molly and Sazzy at a jump zone type place. Because school isn’t out yet, we practically had the whole place to ourselves. The girls ran and jumped and wore themselves out.

Afterward, we went to lunch, but not before Bette had to go to school. Lilla went ahead with Molly to the restaurant. Bette stayed with me.

I ran to Chickfila and I picked up lunch for her. I drove to Jay’s office. He was waiting with his car running. We quickly hugged and said hello and goodbye. I kissed Bette. We switched cars and Jay drove off with Bette to take her to school.

I went back to the restaurant where the girls were waiting. We placed our order. We waited. And we waited. Finally our food came and we scarfed it down because carpool was looming. Molly gave me her credit card. She took the girls with her and I waited for the check. I paid and then ran two errands. I went back to Molly’s to pick up Lilla. We raced to pick Bette up from school. We were ten minutes late. She was the last child there. When we finally arrived home, it was nap time. Thanks goodness.

Jay came home early and while he took the girls for a walk, I got Lilla’s birthday dinner ready. I set out flowers, balloons, and cake, all of which were gifts to Lilla from sweet friends. I picked up a crown at Target in the dollar section awhile back which was perfect for the birthday girl.

After spaghetti, we sang Happy Birthday and she opened her presents. We stayed up late watching a movie and Lilla was so tired when it was time for bed. But as I tucked her in we hugged and cuddled and she was one happy six year old.

The Purple Pool Party

Lilla has been in birthday mode for about four weeks. And for the last four weeks, she has told everyone we have crossed paths with how many days were left until her birthday. Because she had a countdown going. A countdown until her Purple Pool Party.

It was supposed to just be a pool party. But when we sat down together to sort through her bathing suits and pick one out for the party, she chose purple. So based on that wardrobe decision, the party became the purple pool party.

The day started out rainy and I considered canceling, but decided we were just going to have the party rain or shine. As the day progressed, the weather cleared up and it was bright and sunny by the afternoon. We set everything up in a cabana room near the pool and I had lots of sweet helpers so we finished quickly, without any stress or last minute worry over forgotten details.

We invited old friends and new friends and all the kids immediately jumped in the pool. The only problem was that the pool was absolutely freezing. All the kids, who were so eager to go swimming, were only able to endure the water temperature for about 15 minutes before they had to hop out, wrap up in a towel, and warm up for a little while.

When everyone had had enough of swimming in freezing cold water, we came inside for snacks and cake. Lilla was very specific about her cake. In years past, I have ordered elaborate pink creations. But not this year. Mom, I want characters on my cake this year. Characters, okay?

So she got characters. I tried to order a Tinker Bell cupcake cake, but it served like 50 people and I didn’t exactly need 50 cupcakes with only 15 kids coming. I ended up ordering the Disney Princesses cake which Lilla just loved. I will always remember the look of quiet happiness on her face, as she sat surrounded by her friends, when we brought the cake out and sang to her.

Bette had a ball. For some reason, the cold water didn’t bother her one bit, which meant poor Jay had swim with her. She happily swam and snacked and devoured her cupcake along with the other kids. She wasn’t loud and didn’t yell and all the attention was on Lilla, exactly where it needed to be.

After cupcakes, the kids ran around and a few, but not many, jumped back into the pool. The parents gathered up all their gear and kids and slowly trickled out, off to their next party or spring activity. When our last guest left, we cleaned and packed up and were ready to head home in no time.


And we had to get home. Because there were more surprises for Lilla after the party. Surprises that took a lot of negotiating and convincing on my part with Jay. But surprises that I knew would just knock Lilla’s socks off. And they did!

 

The Red Birthday Party: Part 2

It wasn’t until after Bette’s first birthday party last year that I realized my big mistake. When we brought the cake out and all forty people sang happy birthday, we sang to a child who couldn’t hear one note or word of what we sang. I had completely forgotten she was not able hear us. Which made me laugh at the time.

But that is what you do as the parent to a special needs child. You create environments that are as normal as possible so your child feel doesn’t feel different from everyone else. I did it unintentionally last year. This year, it was intentional.

It was a really sweet party. Not too big. Not too small. And rather low key.

Everything was finished before the first guests arrived, which is not what usually happens. Usually, I am still trying to get a few last things done as guests are walking through the door and in my panic I start ordering people around. On more than one occasion my brother has said, Would you just chill? 

It helped that he and cousin Alex came early. Two extra pairs of hands were a big help in getting the last few details done as party time neared.

We had a few out of town guests. All our other friends came from around town. And there was lots of family.

The weather was so nice that everyone gravitated to the yard. Which wasn’t really my plan. It was supposed to be more of an indoor party. But it was fine because it saved my house from tons of mess, not to mention the red icing and strawberry jelly that was coating all the little hands.

The munchkins played. The adults chilled. And we all snacked on pita rolls, cutout pbj’s, chips, and cheese and crackers.

After everyone had eaten, we brought out the lopsided cake. Bette was so happy when the cake came out and we sang happy birthday. Can you see it on her little face? Just pure delight.

Of course, what kid isn’t excited about cake? All the kiddos lined up to get a piece, but then Lilla instructed them all sit down and hand delivered slices to our guests. Jay pitched in to help so we could speed the process up just a tad.

After we handed out favors and all our friends left, Bette and by Bette I mean mostly Lilla opened all of her presents. And for the rest of the evening, the girls played with all the new toys and worked the sugar high they were on out of their systems.

And then, it was finally time for bed. They both went to sleep so happy and with full hearts.

I love days that end that way. Because it means deep sleep and happy dreams and that there is peace in their little souls.