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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Letters to Emmeline : Nineteen Months

June 12 to July 12, 2015

Man, nineteen months is almost twenty months which is almost twenty-four months which is two years old and holy crap, am I not ready to have a two-year-old. Right now, I can still call you "my baby," and talk about "the baby," and reference having "a baby"....but when you turn two, that pretty much goes out the window and I'm stuck with a toddler. Not that toddlers aren't great (they are, so much) but babies are....well, babies. I don't know, I'm stuck in some sentimental time warp and I just want my baby to stay a baby, okay?

Despite my wishes, though, you are getting bigger and growing and learning things and fully acting like a toddler. I've talked before about how you want NOTHING MORE IN LIFE than to be a big kid like your big sister. You mimic everything she does, which is equally amusing and frustrating for her. (I can relate, Carys, I was the big sister, too.) But as she keeps telling me, "Emmeline just loves me so much, mom. She just wants to be like me!" You're two peas in a pod and I love love love the relationship you two have.

You're kind of a little hoarder and will carry around and cling to a dozen different things at any given time, but you have four distinct favorites: 1. A baby doll that your great-grandma gave you, 2. Your magnadoodle, 3. Carys's baby rabbit Calico Critter and the cradle it sleeps in, and 4. a bedtime book.

You put the baby doll to bed, feed it, share your sippy cup with it, put the paci in and out of its mouth (ugh pacis are a whole 'nother issue around here), rock it, and love on it all day long. The magnadoodle is your favorite activity - maybe even more so than caring for the dolls (although you often have both the magnadoodle and a doll at the same time). Last night, you wouldn't let go of it for bedtime, so I let you lay down with it* and I heard you scribbling away for a good 20 minutes. Scribble, erase, scribble, erase, scribble, erase. The Calico Critter baby rabbit is teeeeeeeny tiny but dang, do you love holding that thing and putting it to sleep in the cradle over and over again. The white doll is literally gray from you holding it (and chewing on it...ahem) all the time. And the book is a photo essay about getting ready for bed that ends with a picture of a baby sleeping...you leave it open to that page and pat the baby's back and say, "Shhhhh!" and "Ni-ni!" It's your favorite book, by far.
*Don't worry, the string is way too short to cause any issues and I grabbed it after you fell asleep

You love to read books, color pictures, swing on the swing, and take walks. You love swim class and dancing in the cart while grocery shopping. You really love "helping" me do dishes and put away laundry. You love taking baths and you love unrolling the toilet paper (weren't you supposed to grow out of that??). You also love peek-a-boo, which is so funny because you had zero interest in it when you were a small baby - you were like, "Yeah, I see you behind those fingers....is this supposed to be funny?" But now you want us to play all the time. You also will hide in the closet behind the clothes and pop out as soon as you hear me ask, "Where's Emmeline?" and then laugh uproariously.

What don't you like? EATING. Kid, you don't eat. I honestly am not sure how you're surviving and thriving. You nurse. Maybe that's all the sustenance you're taking in. But you literally eat like five things. Bananas. Crackers. Pasta. Goldfish. Cheese. Sometimes. And when you do eat any of those things, it's maybe two bites and then you're pushing it away and signing, "all done." You don't eat grapes or berries or any other fruit. WHAT KID DOES NOT EAT FRUIT?????  You sometimes eat peas if they're mixed with something else. I do not understand this. How are you not starving all the time???? The only things you'll always eat are frozen yogurt (actual yogurt, not the ice cream) push-ups and ice cream and popsicles. Yes, you love your frozen sweets.  BUT CHILD YOU CANNOT SURVIVE ON THEM. EAT PLEASE. PLEASE.

Your hair is staying a little lighter than Carys's (like either a dark blonde or a light brown??), and is curlier than hers was at your age. Seriously, I cannot get enough of those curls. Your eyes are starting to turn a little hazel, I think. I'm guessing they'll be similar to what Carys's are - a gray/green/blue/brown mix that changes with the light and with what you're wearing.  Your dimples are THE BEST.  And your smile might possibly be the cause of global warming; it's that sunny. We still haven't had your 18 month appointment yet...WHOOPS...so I'm not exactly sure how tall/big you are, but you're wearing a mixture of 12-18, 18-24/24, and 2T clothes.

As a result of playing with your big sister's toys and eschewing your own, you have pretty amazing dexterity and motor control - you can put together pretty tiny toys and manipulate small items with ease. You can complete simple wooden puzzles and spear peas with a fork and peel off stickers the size of your pinky nail. And then cover all available surfaces in those stickers.

We went to two weddings (where you ate way too much cake and where you wore a koozie on your foot like a sock at one), we went to lunch with your great-grandparents at Mahoney State park and stayed to paint ceramics (which you loved), we went to dad's work family picnic at FunPlex (you did not want to get out of that tube!!), we went to the zoo a few times (and I took you both on Skyfari, which you were totally blase about), we celebrated the fourth of July (you loved throwing those poppers on the ground, and fireworks didn't phase you in the slightest), celebrated Carys's fourth birthday (again with too much cake!), went to Junkstock (where you stole my strawberry lemonade), went to the Children's Museum (you love that playhouse so much), and went on about 100 walks to the park (where you insist on swinging the entire time). You got to see relatives you haven't seen in a long time: your aunt Kimberly, my aunt Mary Jo, and your dad's aunt Nancy and his cousin Marisa.

At Junkstock and a wedding

At FunPlex

Riding Skyfari and at the zoo

At Ana and Jacob's wedding, snagging some cake during the cake cutting

Fourth of July

Painting at Mahoney

That long-awaited word explosion is finally starting to happen, I think. Slow going, but you're adding new words - or at least sounds that approximate words - all the time.  You've started saying "bup!" for "up" and "da ooo" for "thank you" and "ish" for "fish." You say "da ooo" at the same time as signing it - a sign you picked up from daycare, since I was a terrible mom and didn't sign that with you. You also sign "please," "all done," "eat," "milk," and "more." I keep meaning to teach you more signs, but....well....life. And second kid. Sorry. I'm still a little worried about your lack of words and sentences, but I honestly think you just would rather observe. You'll probably be dropping complete sentences on me any day now. I think you're really starting to get frustrated with not being able to verbalize your wants and needs, and maybe that will be a big catalyst for adding even more words? We'll see!

We went to an allergist about some hives that you've been having, and don't really have any answers. The blood test came back negative, but they explained that there could be a million reasons for a negative result even if you are allergic to something, so if you are allergic to something, we don't know to what yet. However, your liver enzymes did come back elevated...twice...so we're waiting to get in to a gastroenterologist to see what they say about that (the appointment isn't until September). I'm not too worried since the levels weren't off enough for them to send us panicking to the ER or anything, and you're a pretty healthy kid, growing and developing pretty much on schedule, so if something is wrong, I'm sure it's minor. (KNOCK ON WOOD) I'm refraining from Dr. Google for now, lest I convince myself it's Liver AIDS or stomach cancer or something.

Oh. And I almost forgot. YOUR TEMPER. Lord almighty, do you have a temper, girl. It's so funny...and a bit alarming in terms of what it means for me in the future (what will you be like at 16??). When you get mad, you react immediately at level 100. You go straight to throwing the offending item or pulling hair or grabbing, and it's hilarious/frightening because you do it with a totally straight face. Luckily, only your rage is large. The time frame is not and you're over it within a few minutes. Your actual tantrums are pretty rare and short-lived, thankfully.

Love you so,


(P.S. Sorry, Carys, about this picture of you...but this isn't your letter, and Emmeline looks cute, so I guess it's more sorry not sorry.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Carys's Fourth Birthday : Camp Carys!

For about 10 months, starting from the day after her last birthday party, Carys wanted a Julius Junior party (which I was going to merge with rainbows to make it a little more generic). Then I suddenly realized, "Oh, shit! Her party is in eight weeks!" - AKA that time period known as "Crap, better get planning!" So I verified the Julius party theme. Yes. Still on. Let the serious Pinning commence. The first step to any successful party, right?

Until she had a dream about monsters, and then it was a monster party. 

That lasted two days, until she talked to my sister (her aunt Kimberly), and they talked about camping. Then suddenly she wanted a camping party. While I loved the idea, I assured her she could go camping with Kimberly even without a camping birthday party, because I wanted to make sure that it was what she really wanted. As much as you can be sure with a three-year-old, which is pretty much not at all. However, she didn't change her mind. I told her I was going to sit down right. that. second. and buy the first party supplies so that this was the last chance to back out, and she told me in no uncertain terms ("Mom, I want a camping party, please stop asking now.") that she was sure. 

I was pretty excited about this turn of events, because we camp a lot (see: my Camping with Kids post), so we had a lot of things we could use around the house already, and both girls have kind of a nature/hippie component to their bedroom decor, so we could shop our own house for party supplies. (You can check out the Pinterest board I made for this party where I stole many of the ideas from here.)

And can we just take a minute to appreciate real parties with real kids? I love Pinterest, don't get me wrong, but those aren't real parties. Like 99% of kids' parties don't involve party planners and thousands of dollars and renting fancy venues. They are great for inspiration (and by all means, if you can afford that, GO FOR IT! I'm legit jealous!), but realistically, they are far from feasible for most of us. For this party, the goals were: cheap, easy, cute, and lots of fun for the kids. 

Invite front/back

I set up this stuff up on the entryway table. We already owned everything except the "Welcome to Camp Carys" sign, which I modified from an existing one I found, and the mossy 4 (just a wooden "4" that I covered with moss using spray adhesive).  Oh, and the "Don't Blend in at Camp" sign is from a Mini-Boden catalog received a few days before the party (it's like they sent it just for me).

I had to print out this series of pics. They make me laugh so hard. Such a cheeseball.

The favors were MY FAVE. Although I owe every other adult there an apology for the whistles. My bad. But the kids loved them. And that's what counts at a kid's party, right? (If you're throwing a similar party and want to skip the whistles, we also considered these bug finger puppets or these compasses, which I REALLY wanted but they were sold out when I was ordering.) I found a pack of Shrinky Dink paper, so I printed out a little "Camp Carys" logo and wrote names with Sharpie, then shrunk it in the oven to make a little keychain. Each kid got a whistle and a flashlight...

....as well as an adventure hat from Oriental Trading Company. These were awesome - we've used ours at the zoo and on walks and I heard from other parents that their kids love wearing them as sunhats! (The whistles and flashlights are laying on the leftover moss from making the "4".)


We ordered these huge campsite signs from OTC as well, and I couldn't resist making a corny "outhouse" sign.


I've had people write her well-wishes every year. I can't wait to have her go back and read them years down the road.

A "Do Not Feed the Bears" sign on a box of Teddy Grahams. We owned the bear already (I'm pretty sure it was actually a Christmas decoration purchased at like 90% off after the holiday).

Another of the camp signs, plus a cool cardboard 3D tree puzzle we already owned. The mints are from OTC and featured the little camping icons, but I don't see them listed anymore (their inventory turns over so much that if I can find it on Amazon, I'm linking to that instead). We scattered already-owned, forest-dwelling mini beanie babies and plastic lizards all over the house, and also bought a big bag of play bugs to use as decor as well. I let Carys decorate with them; hence the haphazard-ness. The terrarium and the little bird/nest bowl that's holding the toothpicks we've had for ages. That's a pound and a half of chocolate rocks in that white bowl. The blue bowl just has that classic popcorn trail mix - popcorn, M&Ms, peanuts, pretzels. And then fruit because that's delicious.


I love these wooden sporks (advertised as forks, but BONUS they were totally more like sporks and everyone knows that sporks = camping) and birch tree straws. Perfect for the theme plus CHEAP so total win-win. Hi squirrel! 

On the "dessert table" we had her cake and some cupcakes, as well as s'mores three ways - s'mores trail mix (mini marshmallows + teddy grahams + mini pretzels + M&Ms), s'mores dip that was totally delish (marshmallow fluff + chocolate frosting swirled together with graham crackers, strawberries, and Nilla wafers for dipping - I'm pretty sure I invented this so YOU'RE WELCOME), and traditional s'mores. The "Live in the Sunshine" print, the mini nest, the white mini tree, and the little wooden bird we already had. We got two of these adorable mini lanterns to use both as decor for the party, and to use later when we camp.  

I put out some sunscreen (my favorite kid-friendly sunblock), bug spray, and glow sticks since it was the middle of a hot July day. Stay safe out there, yo! Plus more beanie babies (my grandma gave us a huge bag a few years ago) and a plastic snake.

I couldn't resist this wall decal (which I taped onto a canvas we already had to make it stand up like this). The giant pinecone was a gift from my sister, who shipped it to Carys from California a few months ago. And another of those red lanterns.

I also hot-glued a bunch of pinecones to a piece of twine (and then put a piece of gold glitter tape on top to cover the hot glue). I actually had WAY MORE plans involving pinecones (a wreath! scattered on tables! as little card holders!), but someone CHRIS!! threw out a bag containing three week's worth of pinecones that I'd been collecting. And the perfect stump that I found to use as a cake stand. whomp whomp sad trombone

I put together a little scavenger hunt for the kids to do - just stapled the sheet on a lunch sack and threw a crayon in the bag.  Since most of the kids attending weren't readers, I used things that could easily be represented with an image.

When they completed the scavenger hunt, they got a couple camp tattoos. Always a huge hit with the kids.

We also had two other activities for the kids: sun art, using 8.5x11 sheets that I cut in half (be prepared to print directions for this, and don't forget a dish of water to finish developing it!), and paper foldable binoculars that actually work (shockingly) well. I mean, for paper bonoculars, anyway. The binoculars were a HUGE hit; the kids loved decorating them with stickers and crayons and then using them outside during the scavenger hunt. Chris redeemed himself from the pinecone debacle by getting really cute stickers for this activity from Hobby Lobby (10 husband points earned; level up!).

I set my parent's old tent and my old hiking backpack up in the backyard, and the kids had fun running in and out of it and "hiking" around with the backpack. And of course, bubbles. I just bought a cheap 12-pack from Walgreens and set them out. Multiples of bubbles are KEY.


A few more in-progress party pics...

I told her if she made that face I was putting it on the blog. 
You have to follow through with these consequences or they never learn.


I had the sandbox with the kinetic sand out in the sunroom and I'm pretty sure there was at least one kid playing in it every minute of the party.

Cake and present time!

I don't know what I did as a parent to make her this way (probably nothing) but she was so genuinely pleased and excited about every present and card. It was so gratifying to see that in your kid, especially at this age.

Watching a four year old open presents is truly a thrilling experience for the adults in attendance.

Well, for some of them.

Carys has been begging my mother-in-law to make her a mermaid tail she can wear in the bathtub and she delivered!

With her aunts and uncle (my siblings).

As the party wound down, I let her put on her tail in the kiddie pool.

These two pics kind of make me want to bury my head in memories of the last four years and cry.

Emmeline is chill as f*ck.

And a more few of the birthday girl because she's cute. Oh - I made her shirt and Emmeline's shirt with iron-on transfers. I got the shirts on sale at Old Navy for $4 each (serious score) and then bought some iron-on transfer paper and made the design in Photoshop. I'd seen a similar shirt on Pinterest that I used as inspiration. I randomly found the exact same fire that they used on the shirt when I searched for "camp fire clip art black and white," and then distressed it and the text in Photoshop with this tutorial. (And I made Em's say "Tiny Camper" instead of "Happy Camper"). I almost put her name and age on the back of the shirt, but I wanted to be able to hand it down, so left the back plain.


And ending with this bug picture because relevant.