Friday, July 31, 2015

love letters

Dear Em,

"I know I should take cover, hide inside these four walls

But baby I surrender, it all
'Cause you're a force of nature

Look at what you've doneI can taste the danger but I don't wanna run"
- Force of Nature by Bea Miller

The rest of this song doesn't really apply to you, but I loved the phrase "force of nature." It's so you. You are a bouncing, twirling, bounding, running, crashing, jump first-think later type of gal. You are forever falling down & bouncing back up with a thumbs up & an "I OK." You may have fractured your ankle, but even putting you in a cast hasn't slowed you down at all. You're still bouncing, twirling, & running circles around us- except you're doing it with a cast. The other day you tried to climb up onto the your cast. That was where I finally put my foot down.

When most people think of weapons, 5 year olds wearing cast probably don't come to mind...but they should. You are dangerous with that thing. I'm pretty sure before you get the cast off your foot, we will probably all need casts as well the way you accidentally run into us/kick us/step on us/fall on top of us with it. You are another accident waiting to happen. Ha!

I love you so much, my little force of nature. For a little body, you pack a great punch.

I love you so,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our Mediterranean Adventure: Your Own Adventures With Grandma & Papa

Dear Em,
So, I spent quite a few posts recapping mine & Daddy's fun (& long) European trip. You may be wondering what you were doing during that time. We love to travel, & we go on trips frequently- both with you & without you. I have always wanted to go on a Mediterranean Cruise. I figured it would be the best way to see as much of coastal Europe as I could in the shortest amount of time. I also knew it wasn't an ideal trip for you. Multiple days spent looking at old buildings & statues wouldn't be much fun for you.

Before we booked our trip, I checked with Grandma & Papa to see if they were available & willing to watch you. Lucky for us, they would be returning from a cruise of their own days before ours was scheduled to depart, & they were excited to spend the twelve days with you (we really are beyond blessed with the support we have from all your grandparents). I quickly booked our trip without doing a whole lot of research, excited that my dream vacation was becoming a reality & knowing you would have a blast with Grandma & Papa.

I then spent the next several months in a state of growing anxiety over the fact we were abandoning leaving you for 12 days.

First, I realized that communicating with the outside world from a cruise ship is complicated & crazy expensive. Then I factored in the time change (& the fact we would be traveling through different zones during our trip). Then I considered our jam-packed, excursion booked schedule. I also realized that our trip was right around the same time you would likely have end of the year activities planned at school- activities that we were probably going to miss. It was then I began to both panic & feel like I was the worst mother in the world for traveling so far away from you for so long.

How the heck were we going to talk to you while we were on our trip? Every trip we've ever gone on, we've skyped with you at least once each day. There's no way you could go 12 days without hearing from Daddy & I...& no freaking way I could go without my Emma's cute, little voice.

My first priority before we left for our trip was making sure we had a doable communication strategy. I purchased a call/text cruise plan & small European data plan from AT&T for a fraction of the cost of the Royal Carribean internet plan. We had enough talk minutes/texts/data that we could talk to you every other day, text throughout the day, & email each time we were in port. Since we wouldn't be able to skype, Daddy & I prerecorded videos for you to watch each day. I had outlined scripts, & we used props. In each video we recapped what our daily activities were, talked about what you had planned for your day (we had a rough school schedule), said our prayers, & told you how much we loved & missed you. I also had put 12 rubber bands on the door knob of your room at Grandma & Papa's house. Each day in our videos, I told you to take one rubber band off the door knob. This acted as a little countdown to when Daddy & I would return. It was tough not seeing your adorable face each day, but I was happy knowing you could see ours in your daily videos.

We also tried to involve you in our trip by gifting you European themed toys & books. On the first day of our trip, you came home to a big bag of gifts waiting for you after school. You opened the bag to find an Around the World Coloring Book (you colored in the countries as we made our way through our trip), a World Atlas (a way for you to learn about the places we traveled), & a World Puzzle. Then as we traveled throughout the 12 days, you opened up gifts with books that went along with our adventures (i.e. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the WorldAdventures of Bella & Harry, Madeline & the Cats of Rome, & Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina- because Fancy Nancy loves speaking in French).

Honestly, I could have planned none of those things (actually, I probably planned a little too much), & you would have been great. Grandma & Papa had so many fun activities planned for you. Your days were filled with amazing adventures. I expected you to sound a little weepy each night we called you, but your voice was full of excitement as you recapped all of the things you had done & seen. You had no problem listing your three favorite things for us at the end of each day. Daddy & I breathed a huge sigh of relief every time we talked to you. You were too busy having fun with Grandma & Papa to miss us too terribly, & we were so thankful for that. It was easier for us to enjoy ourselves knowing that you were having the best adventure of all.

We did miss your school music concert, & you were pretty bummed about it. Luckily Grandma saved the day by filling in for us. She promised you that she would send us pictures & video, & that made it OK for you. The pictures & video she emailed us put such a smile in our hearts. We watched them more than once during quiet moments of our trip.

All in all, the 12 days of separation seemed like it was surely harder for me than it was for you...& that's just as it should be. You had gotten to have an incredible vacation with Grandma & Papa, & we all couldn't be happier to be back home all together. Plus, you were really thrilled to receive the souvenirs (most of them your favorite...candy) I had collected for you as we traveled from country to country.

I came home expecting to have extinguished the travel bug. Instead, my eyes were opened to so many more places I want to travel. I think with all the talk of travel & all the European activities you were gifted, your eyes were opened too. We have talked about one day taking you to some of the places we visited or Paris or Ireland or a tropical island...but that can wait. For now, we're happy to be home. The only trips we have on the agenda are short & domestic...& will be spent as a family of three.

I love you so,

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Butterfly Birthday Party: The Invites

Dear Em,
Just as promised...4 weeks ago, I'm going to recap your Butterfly Birthday party in a series of posts on Wednesdays. We'll continue with the invitations. These were my favorite birthday invitations yet, & I think that's because you had a hand in designing them.

I went to Etsy, my go-to site for birthday party invites. I typed "Butterfly Birthday Party Invitations" into the search bar. There was a huge selection to choose from. I narrowed it down to five or so of my favorites, & then I asked you which ones you liked.

At first you were all about color rather than design (you're always all about color). Once I explained to you that we could probably change the colors around, the invites from Lucky Plum Studio were your very favorites (& I think they had been mine too). They were almost perfect for you from the start. The invites were mostly pink, & the writing of your name would be in a sparkly gold (two of your favorite colors).

All we had to do was ask them if they could give us purple butterflies. Yenny was so wonderful to work with. We had beautiful butterflies in a mosaic of purple colors in no time. You were thrilled with the final result & glad that you had been a part of the process.

It was the perfect way to set the theme of the party. If only everything else had gone as beautifuly & easily!

I love you so,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We Really Are Gardeners...Kind Of, Sort Of

Dear Em,
We have a flower & vegetable garden this year! It didn't happen exactly how we planned. You probably think that our attempt at growing flowers & veggies from seeds was a great success. It wasn't. I was so excited about giving those seeds life, I probably over watered the heck out of everything, & only about a 5th of our seeds sprouted anything. To correct my over watering issue, I mostly stopped watering the plants that were growing. That killed almost all of the sprouts we had...except for one that we think might be a zucchini...we're not really sure.

So, how did we create a fantastic flower & vegetable garden? Well, Nonnie & Papi came to the rescue. We've had a small square patch of land in our yard that was probably once a garden. Since we moved in, it's been an overgrown patch of mess. For years Daddy said he was going to make it a garden, & for years it sat in our yard like an eyesore. Last year Uncle Jared cleared it out. He took out the sharp, metal posts that lined it & the weeds that filled it. By this June, it was filled with weeds again.

That was when Nonnie & Papi stepped in. I shared that I wanted to create a garden, but I had no idea what I was doing. I wanted a mix of plants in the patch of land & also in planters. I was willing to start new with the planters each year but wanted plants in the ground that were low maintenance & come back each & every year. We went to Home Depot & Nonnie picked out so many flowers & plants of different heights & colors, there were people in the store that thought our three (yes three) carts were Home Depot displays.

Nonnie & Papi pretty quickly agreed that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to creating the garden. I would try, but they kept saying, "here, just give it to me." I mostly just bank rolled the project & sat around & watched them work their magic.

The only thing they really trusted me to do is to place the step stones that would become our walkway to the hose. They also let me lay out the mulch. Ha!

Next we added some planters. While Nonnie was the one who did all the planting, at least they trusted me to decorate our planters. Every year we've painted planters for your teachers. This year we finally made some for us.

We bought a tomato plant & placed it in the middle of our garden. Then we added a barrel planter (to hide our septic access) that Nonnie filled with basil & cilantro & flowers (& what we think is a zuchinni we started to grow from a seed). Lastly, I purchased a vertical planter (it wasn't as large as I thought it would be & I just purchased a second one that we will put up next year) that Nonnie filled with peppers & herbs & zucchini & eggplant. 

It's the best kind of garden for me, because I don't have to do anything to it. Nonnie waters & prunes everything, & I just enjoy the sight of the flowers & taste of the herbs (& hopefully eventually the veggies). Between our new patio & our amazing vegetable & flower gardens, our backyard has become a fun oasis that sometimes I can't believe is ours.

I love you so,

Monday, July 27, 2015

First Bike Ride On the South County Bike Path

Dear Em,
Don't let the title of this post fool you. You've been on the South County Bike Path tons of times, but last month you biked along on your own bike for the first time. We had been pulling you around in a trailer since you were two. Last year, I sold the trailer during our yard sale. We knew you would be growing out of it soon, & you had a bike of your own. We mostly rode our bikes around our neighborhood last year. At first, you were pretty shaky on the bike. A year & a half later, you love showing us how fast you can zoom around on your bike.

Nonnie & Papi were up for a visit, & it was a cloudy day. It was too chilly for a beach day, but I wanted to do something active outside. So, we decided to go on your first solo bike ride on the South County Bike Path. We would go at your pace, & go only as far as your cute, little legs could take you.

You were the most adorable biker I'd ever seen, with your pink bike helmet & handlebar pompoms. Your baby doll sat in the basket of your bike. You would shout to her to push the go button & then you would pedal your legs as fast as you could. You pedaled like a champ.

At the two mile mark, I suggested we turn around. You were super bummed. You weren't done biking yet & wanted to go farther. I explained to you we still had to bike all the way back, & you agreed to turn around. All in all, you biked about 4.5 miles & had a blast. I was so proud of my adorable biker.

I'm so glad that you loved our little bike trip, & that it's an activity that we can share as a family. We will definitely be making tons & tons of family bike trips along the bike path in the future. Thanks for being my little biking buddy.

I love you so,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Love Letters

Just a few hours before you broke your ankle...

Dear Em,

"You're a grand old flag. You're a high flying flag & forever in peace may you wave. You're the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free & the brave."
- You're a Grand Old Flag, a song that you learned in PreK, this year, & have been happily singing ever since

Almost a month later...I'm recapping our fun & impromptu Independence Day. It was the holiday weekend that didn't go at all as planned, but was still a blast. It was also the weekend you broke your ankle.

Our celebrating started on July 3rd. The whole Haeussler family was visiting from Ohio. We packed everyone into 2 cars & headed up to Pawtucket to catch a Pawtucket RedSox game followed by fireworks. I had bought the tickets months in advance. We had nearly front row seats, & I was excited for Trey & Dane to see their very first fireworks. We happily took a picture, our two families together with the giant Paws standing outside of the stadium.

Except that apparently I accidentally bought front row seats for July 2nd. Major fail!! The guy scanning our tickets was super nice. He had three standing room tickets for the July 3rd game he was willing to give us & encouraged us to see about getting standing room tickets for the rest of our group (it was practically a sold out game).

I couldn't believe I had made such a dumb mistake, & I left it up to the Haeusslers. We could purchase standing room tickets & see how we fare with three small children in tow, or we could head back home & make our own fun in the backyard. Worried about possible rain the next day, we all decided to make the most of the clear skies we had & opted for fun in the backyard. So, 10 minutes after we arrived in Pawtucket, we headed back home.

The look on poor Trey's face broke my heart. "You mean, we're not going to get to see the baseball game?" The look on his face was so innocent & solemn. We brightened his spirits by checking out a firetruck (it was his favorite number...3!). Nonnie, you, Trey, & I loaded into my car. We stopped at Walmart on the way home. I put you & Trey in the cart, & we literally flew down aisles, grabbing candy & ice cream & fireworks as we did. You & Trey giggled & yelled "faster!" the whole way.

By the time we got home, Daddy had already gotten the fire pit going. You kids ate ice cream & candy & roasted s'mores. Then Daddy put on the best Rhode Island backyard firework show that could be bought from Walmart. You & Trey sat together & watched the show together, & in between fireworks, the two of you ran around with sparklers (it was one of the cutest things I've ever seen).

"Thanks, Auntie Julie, for saving the day," Trey yelled excitedly with s'more & ice cream residue all over his sweet face. You kids went to bed LATE & happy...& I felt a little bit better about buying tickets for the wrong baseball game. We had a pretty perfect night.

I woke up the next morning to find our Independence Day wasn't going to be rainy & dreary like the forecasters had predicted. We had planned to go to a parade early that morning but thought it might be wiser to let you kids sleep after the late night you had had the night before. Instead, we had a leisurely morning- well, as leisurely a morning as you can have with three small & loud (but totally amazing) kids running around. Aunt Jayme french braided our hair, with colorful red, white, & blue streamers.

We headed outside in the afternoon for BBQing & backyard fun. I had picked up some festive hats & pompoms from the grocery store. Although they were pretty clearly 4th of July hats, you & Trey called them your cowboy hats & ran around saying things like "howdy partner" & "how're you doing, mam."

Since we didn't wake up early enough to join the parade that morning, we decided to walk around the neighborhood & make our own parade. When none of our Independence Day plans work out, we just make new fun plans. Your best friend, Savanna, joined us. You & Savanna sang You're a Grand Old Flag most of the way. After walking halfway around the neighborhood, Trey asked Nonnie when we would get to the parade. When Nonnie informed him this was the parade, he jumped out of the wagon- big smiles & flag waving- & yelled "Happy 4th of July" for the rest of our "parade." It was pretty cute & really hilarious.

We ended the night in the backyard with more fire pit, fireworks, & sparklers. 

Except that at some point, you became miserable. You had a flurry of fun around you, & you were whining & crying. Exasperated (& not realizing you had broken your ankle earlier), I shouted. "You are surrounded by fireworks & sparklers & your friends. Why can't you just be happy?! That's it. You're going to bed!" Sigh. And that's how our Independence Day celebrations came to an end. Almost nothing worked out exactly the way I had planned for it to, but it was amazing all the same (except for the broken ankle) mostly because of the precious moments we got to share with some of our favorite people.

Let's make a pact. Next year, you try really hard not to break any bones, & I'll try not to end our fun weekend of celebrating by yelling at you & putting you to bed...also, I will try to buy our PawSox tickets for the right day. Deal?

I love you so,

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