Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One Year

I remember when we first moved here and I wondered what it would feel like when we had been here for a year.  Back then, it seemed soooo far away.  I was sure that we would feel like veterans once all that time had passed.
But now that I'm on the other end of that year, I find that I definitely don't feel like a veteran.  I still get lost.  I still have to ask for advice from local FB friends.  I still haven't settled on a favorite dentist for the kids, though we do have our pediatrician nailed down.  We haven't even tried any optometrists, yet.  I don't have a preferred grocery store.  And there are loads of people at church that I don't know.
But, whatever.
My home feels like home.  And that's what really matters to me.
Sure, there are a million and one things I want to change/fix around the house.  But since we only have time and money for a couple projects a month, those improvements are moving at a snail's pace.  But after a year, at least it looks a little bit like we're making progress. 
But the great outdoors, our great outdoors haven't needed any help from us.  We fell in love with this driveway at the very beginning, in all her lush, green vividness.
We have at least one of each of the seasons under our belt.  And though it seems the rule for this state is that each and every season is 'unusual' in some way, at least we have a better idea of what to expect.
 Spring sneaks up on you around here.  One day things are dreary and dead, and within a few days everything is bursting forth.  Rainstorms come in all shapes and sizes.  And they hurry spring along as if they are as impatient for her rebirth as we are.
 Summer rolls in lazily, trailing a plethora of mosquitos and heavy humidity.  The rainstorms continue, but provide little relief from the moisture in the air.  Summer also bring a cornucopia of life.  The frogs, squirrels, spiders, wasps, caterpillars, cicadas, rabbits, turtles, bees, mice, beetles, owls, and snakes come out of hiding.  Along with those pesky, overabundant mosquitos.
And just when you think you can't survive any more summer days, fall slips quietly into the woods, clothing them in glory.  There is a crispness to the air that is almost tangible and quite invigorating.  Our first fall was absolutely amazing.  But now that we know what winter brings, I think autumn will now forever feel somewhat bittersweet.  But fall is the best time of the year to spot such things as bears and deer.
Winter dresses mostly in grey, drab colors.  She is barren and offers little beauty.  Except when it snows.  Snow doesn't often linger very long, and it rarely accumulates so we have to rush out to enjoy it while we can.  The schools around here are awfully accommodating in that regard.  They almost always cancel school when we have even a few inches of snow.  My theory on that is that it's due to a combination of geographical, cultural, and infrequency factors.  All I know for sure is that I'm glad I don't have to make the decisions, the curvy, hilly country roads really are quite treacherous, and I LOVE SNOW DAYS!
It feels really great to have been here through all the seasons.  And I look forward to witnessing them change time and time again.

Fairy Adventure Party

 I have a soft spot for fairies.  I admit it.  Not so much the Disney variety, but the 'real' fairies.  The ones that inspire entire cultures to create intricate legends to explain their behavior.  The ones that intimidate societies into dedicating bridges to them and who then refuse to pass over without acknowledging the said fairies.  The ones that inspired the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, and Cicely Mary Barker.

When Shaggy and I took a trip to the Isle of Man a few years back, I was delighted by the way their culture embraces fairies.  And with sights like this everywhere, it's easy to see why they feel that way.
Yep, I like fairies.  And I love the way my littles believe in them, and the magical quality they lend to games and imagination.  R is pretty sure in her knowledge of fairies.  She knows what they sound like, and look like, and what they think.  I find so much joy in participating in that belief with her.

So, it wasn't much of a stretch to have a fairy party for her birthday this year.  Plus, it helped that we've done fairy stuff before and had things on hand.
Since R is not content to be a strict girly-girl, the party needed to have a definite element of adventure to it.  She loves adventures.  So, we came up with a story that the guests could work their way through during the party.
The invitation said, "My dear fairy friend, I bring you some very grave news from the Enchanted Briar, where I live.  A bad wizard has cast a spell and imprisoned the good fairies of the Briar.  My powers are not strong enough to fight him alone and bring peace back to my land in time to celebrate my 6th birthday.  I need your help!  Please meet me and my dearest friends from across the land at the Briar on Saturday.  Send a message as soon as possible to let me know I can count on your help.  I do hope you can come.  Your friend, R of the Enchanted Briar."
Six was the perfect age for this party.  Some of the girls we invited were breathless in anticipation of helping the poor, trapped fairies.  I was such fun to watch!
We started out with K leading a class about fairies.  She asked the girls what they knew about them, helped fill in the rest and wrote it all down on a white board.  She still loves to play teacher every once in a while.
Then we went outside to send some messages to the fairies.  The kids whispered into bubbles and sent them flying so the poor, trapped fairies would know that help was on the way and they shouldn't give up hope. 
It must have worked, because when the kids came back into the living room, they searched high and low for an unusual object.  And they found a Harry Potter book which had a secret compartment inside which contained a magnifying glass and peepholes which let them see magic.
Now, before you roll your eyes and think about how over the top this may seem, I should disclose the following information.  The peepholes were prisms leftover from an old science party.  When you look through them, it refracts the light and looks like a rainbow.
Like this.  K was very curious as to weather she could take a photo through the prism.  So she tried it.  I'd say it worked well!
At some point before this fairy party, I dug through our party box to see what I could use up.  I lucked out.  I also lucked out that Shaggy had to take a class where he had to create fake objects to hide things in.  He cut out the insides of a thrifted Harry Potter book which was the perfect hiding spot for the party.  He also molded an epoxy sea shell from a real shell which was featured later in the party and convinced these little girls that magic was indeed returning to the land because of their intervention.
With the help of their newfound ability to see magic, they found a tiny fairy door which had a tiny, fairy postcard hiding behind it.
I assigned my budding sculptor, S, to create this door out of clay.  She did a great job, didn't she?
Thanks to the help of our party guests, the fairies had regained their ability to communicate with the human world.  The magnifying glass came in handy, since the fairy postcards were itsy bitsy.  Obviously.
The first clue led the fairy friends to our garden marigolds and wands.
I had looked into buying wands, but they seems a little pricey.  Besides, we have a plethora of perfect whittling sticks around our property.  So we broke out some pocket knives and got to work as we were sitting around the campfire one night.  The big girls had done a little whittling at girls camp, so this was a good chance for them to practice that skill.  The only problem was that K sliced her thumb open during a quick moment of distraction.  She probably should have had stitches, but she really, really, REALLY didn't want to go get them.  And I'm not sure how we would have paid for it, so Shaggy dusted off his EMT skills and patched her up.  It took a little while, but healed cleanly and well.  I suppose there is some benefit to blogging so long after the fact.  I can add details like that to the post.
With their newfound wands, Shaggy led the girls in some wand practice.  He had them in stitches.  As usual.  I secretly wish one of my children would develop a love of videography so that moments like this would be captured by more than still shots.
Then they all played freeze tag for a little extra wand practice.  They were not about to let Shaggy move an inch!
Their final wand test was administered by S. 
The challenge was to change this real sea shell into a magical, fairy shell by saying the proper spell and waving their wands at the had S had hidden the shell in.
This is what their faces looked like when they succeeded:
They were pretty amazed!
After that, they went on a magic hunt, searching high and low for signs of magic.
They found a little fairy house in the woods, but the fairy was asleep and could not be roused.  (She's actually our kitchen fairy that Shaggy gave me as a gift some years ago.  She explains why the kitchen is often such a mess.)
Kudos to S once again, for making the mailbox for me.  I think credit for the toadstools goes to Shaggy and K.  I love, love, love living with all these creatively talented people who are (somewhat) willing to do my bidding!  The log base of the fairy house was a lucky find as we were cleaning up around our property.  All we needed to do was add a cone roof and some moss.  An hour with a glue gone and viola! fairy hut.
Fortunately, there was another fairy postcard in the mailbox to direct the girls to their next magical find. 
They didn't have to go far.  Just across the driveway to the trail that leads to the frog pond.  After a little prodding, they spotted this high up in a tree.
It was the magic that the bad wizard had bottled up.
Now that the fairy friends had found it, the fairies were much closer to freedom.
 The girls ran back to the fairy house to check on the sleeping fairy, and lo and behold! there was a different fairy.  And she was awake.  They were getting pretty crazed with excitement by this time.  They could sense that they were so close to succeeding with their challenge of freeing the fairies.
There was yet another postcard in the mailbox, which told them to follow the trail of pixie dust magic.  The glitter was slyly sprinkled by K and S while the party guests were distracted with the bottled magic in the tree.
 It led them to a secluded spot in the woods where the fairies were being held captive.
 And who were finally set free.
Whew!  I think it's been ten times harder writing this up than it was to actually have the party.  But I do owe a huge shout out to Shaggy and my big girls for all their help.  K and S love getting ready for parties and can always be counted on the enthusiastically fill gift bags, or make favors, even help run party events.  And all told, I think I only spent 40 bucks on this.  The fairies in the jar were a total find (thanks to a tip from a friend) on clearance for $1.  And it's awesome knowing that now we're pretty equipped to have another fairy adventure party when B is old enough.  Too bad for her if she doesn't want one.  ;)
Since the fairy friends were so successful at freeing the fairies from the bad wizard and bringing magic back to the Enchanted Briar, they were invited inside to celebrate.  They had to use their wands and say the spell that would allow them entrance to the celebration room.
Once the paper was torn down, this is what they saw.  Well, sort of.  Some of those things weren't on the table anymore because they'd been part of the adventure outside.
I can't tell you how many times I've used those laminated fairies that I made for S's fairy party years ago.
In gratitude for freeing the fairies, the girls each got a bag of fairy jewels and candy to take home.
And naturally, no party of mine would be complete without a cake!
Six is a good age.

Here are six things I love about this girl of mine.
1)  Her passion.  Except when it causes her to fall apart.  But the rest of the time it's fun to watch.
2)  Her willingness to believe.  In fairies.  In Christmas.  In all things magical.
3)  Her kindness.  Especially when it's directed towards her adoring little sister.
4)  The way she can turn anything into an epic imaginative adventure game.
5)  How much she loves animals.  Of all kinds.
6)  The way she makes friends wherever she goes.

Tea Party

So, my whirlwind child has turned 3.  During her newborn days of sleeplessness and relentless crying, I doubted this day would ever come.  Through my fog of exhaustion, I couldn't see how we would ever make it to the point where she slept through the night, much less simply asked for what she wanted.  This child has been a joy, no doubt.  But she has been tough.  She was never flexible enough to just go along with what the family needed to do.  Nope, not her.  She demanded that we bend to accommodate her.  Which we did in order to preserve my sanity. 
So, yes, I am glad she's three.  Sure, I miss her slobbery kisses, her warm fuzzy head, the occasional morning cuddle, and the way she drew our family together with her antics.  Sometimes.  But would I go back and do it all over again just to experience those things one more time?  Nope.  Pictures and memories suffice for me.
I should probably use this post to write about how much I love this girl.  I'll get there, but first I had to take a minute to bask in the gratitude that she has outgrown the whole phase where she cries like the world is ending.  A hundred times, day and night.
Honest.  I am honest.  I have adored my babies.  I've had fun with them.  They've made me laugh more times than I could count.  But I am ok with the fact that we are finished with that period in our lives.  I am content to move beyond nursing and diapers and baby carriers and high chairs and strollers and baby spoons and chokables. 
I defy anyone who says that they 'loved every minute' with their kids.  It simply isn't possible.  But before you assume that I don't love any of the time with my kids, just remember that I am honest.  Possibly more honest than I should be.
I try to gather the good moments, and find joy in them.  I endure the horrible moments, and try to find some humor in them afterwards.  It may not be a formula for wining mother-of-the-year, but it works for me.  Because when I take all those good moments, and those horrible ones, and even all the ones that fall somewhere in between, it adds up to something amazing.  It adds up to motherhood.  Which I chose wholeheartedly, even if I didn't know what I was getting into.  And I am grateful for the journey. 
My baby girl has turned into a little person, full of curiosity and outrage, eagerness and affection.  She watches everyone around her to help her understand the world and how she should react to it.  She's sharp as a tack and demanding as all get out.  There is no standing on the sidelines for this girl.  She insists on being right in the thick of it.  All the time.  She is my constant shadow, my little sidekick.  Unless any of her siblings are around, in which case she'll ditch me in a heartbeat and only come back when she's hungry.  They are so much more fun.  Simple truth.
When I pull her into my arms and call her my baby, she corrects me.  She is not a baby, she's a kid.  And she's right.  She isn't a baby.  She's my baby.  I am happy to let her outgrow her true baby days, but I will never let her outgrow the simple fact that she is my baby.  I sometimes try to explain to her that K is my baby, too.  But she just gives me a look that plainly says, "That makes no sense, Mommy."  And then I let it slide. 
Someday, she will understand.
Until then, I'll mark the passing of her years with cake, frosting, color and joy.

Though I can think of many, many more, here are three things that I love about this girl.
1) Her frequent and spontaneous hugs.  They are simply the best.
2) Her quick mind and the way it grasps the smallest details around her.
3) Her boundless imagination.  Because it makes life so very interesting.
Happy birthday, baby girl.  And even though you ask on a weekly basis if it's your birthday yet, you will have to wait until next year.  And no, we can't get in the van and drive to your birthday and then come back.  Although that is quite an imaginative solution to your dilemma.  Some things you just have to wait for.  Until next year . . .