Everly Veda Turns Four

My girl is four. Four sounds so officially “little girl” to me. I have watched my daughter grow from an infant to a toddler to a preschooler, and now when we cuddle up together, I can barely believe she was ever the tiny babe I study in photographs. As the years have gone by, her birthday has been something I’ve tried to make really special and specific because it comes right on the heels of Christmas. I never want her special day to get lost in the blur of the holidays.

This year, we started talking about what kind of party she would like to have back in the fall. Everly’s very favorite bedtime story is The Princess and the Pea. We have read it together so many times that both of us can recite the words with our eyes closed. When she told me she wanted a princess party, I wasn’t surprised. The princess phase has been a long one in this house.  ”I want princesses like in the pea book and a tea party!” She told me. So off I went to figure out just what that might look like. 

Everly had been in a state of anticipation since we took down on our Christmas tree. She knew her birthday was next on the list and she could not wait to celebrate.

This year, we nixed the monster sized party we usually host for a small get together with a few of her little friends. Five girls and their mothers came over last Saturday morning to celebrate.

We hosted it upstairs in our playroom and I pulled out all of the random, mix-matched china that I’ve collected over the years. 

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I was able to reuse a ton of stuff from last year, including some of the big tissue paper flowers and the Happy Birthday banner. The tissue paper centerpiece, tulle banners and all of the fun costume jewelry came from BirthdayExpress.com. For her party, I bought some different clearance section fabrics at my local fabric store and wrapped books up to look like a stack of mattresses. I made a little pillow, blanket and ladder to complete the look. I also used the remaining fabric scraps to make the fabric banner over the window.

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Everly requested “pink lemonade cupcakes”. I’m not much of a baker  and had no idea how to make them, so I decided to use yellow cake mix and add strawberries to it. I made homemade lemon curd buttercream on top and decorated them with little gummy “mattresses” (from trader joes) and “peas” (green chocolate sixlet candies) and paper cutout princesses from Meri Meri

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I had two crafts set up for the girls. The first was a decorate your own crown  with rhinestone stickers and the second was stringing “pea” beads onto a bracelet. The girls loved the crowns but they weren’t really interested in making the bracelets. 

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I kept the menu to kid friendly foods - turkey, ham or chicken salad sandwiches, orzo and pea pasta salad, fruit wands, kettle korn, and carrots with dip. We served sparkling pink punch to drink (pomegranate juice & sparkling pink lemonade). It was so nice having the moms there because each could make a plate for her little girl and help supervise the meal. The girls had so much fun toasting one another while they ate. 

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For the grown ups, I served champagne and strawberries and we ate while the girls finished up their meals. We also had Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen tunes blasting the whole time. 

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Each little friend came over wearing her favorite princess look. It was so adorable to see them all, gathered around the table together in sparkles and tiaras. Everly’s beautiful princess dress is available here. (She has worn it nearly every day since) 

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We sang happy birthday to Everly and then gathered around for story time. The Princess and The Pea book version that Everly and I usually read is really short and to the point, but while searching around on Amazon, I found a Princess and the Pea story that had awesome reviews and gorgeous photos (here). I bought it, thinking it would be great to read at her party. Turns out it was WAY to wordy for the group and one by one, the girls wandered off to play during the story.

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About four pages in, I was cracking up that there was only one little girl and all of the moms paying attention, so I paraphrased the rest of the book as quickly as possible. They all cheered loudly as I said, “THE END!!”  

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My friend Amaree is a beautiful violinist. She is the reason that Everly has become smitten with the instrument. Amaree graciously agreed to play a few “royal ball” songs for the group and that had Everly scurring off to get her own violin so that she could play along. It was the cutest thing to have Am playing these beautiful classical songs while Everly’s little violin was scratching along next to her. At the end of the performance, both girls took a bow.

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One group picture before the fun ended. I think the moms had as much fun as the girls! We sent each little princess home with a goody bag full of jewels, a tiara pen, and a scented lip smackers chapstick. 

We continued the party later that evening, with a big pot of chili and tea party leftovers with family. 

The next morning Everly draped herself across my legs and looked up at me. “Mama,” she said, “yesterday was the best day of my life.”

While all the princess party decor was fun, I know the real reason for her joy was being surrounded by so many people that love her. What a wonderful day to celebrate our sweet girl.

Happy Birthday Everly Veda!

Love,

M

 

I am way late in blogging about our Christmas, but with all this glorious time off, I’ve found it harder than ever to sit down in front of the computer. As I write this, it is Sunday night and tomorrow marks my first day back at work since the day before Christmas eve. 

Our list of places to be over Christmas was extensive. Brent and I both come from divorced families so there are a lot of stops to make so that we can have Christmas with each of our parents plus our extended families. 

We were thrown a curve ball this year when the kids were diagnosed with RSV the day before Christmas eve. It was a nasty virus with both children running fevers for five days and terrible coughing fits that would wake them up at night and caused Everly to throw up.  It pretty much shut us down over Christmas. We didn’t go to Christmas eve church service, or the live nativty or to see the Gainers at the annual Chicken and Waffles brunch on Christmas day. We had to cancel or postpone visits with family and so we spent several days nestled in at the house and making the most of our quarantine. 

But not even a respiratory virus could put a damper on the kid’s excitement over Santa’s visit. We put out cookies and milk and for the first time, tucked both kids into the same bed to fall asleep. When my brother and I were small kids, we always slept in the same bed on Christmas eve. We would stay up until late at night chatting quietly with anticipation and excitement. Even when we became teenagers, Wayne would sleep on the floor of my room so that we could continue the tradition. I sort of hope that Everly and Arlo might do the same as they grow up. 

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Everly had a few specific requests from Santa this year: A pink violin topped her list, followed by an American Girl doll and “lots of shoes”. Santa and I decided Everly was still a little young for an America Girl doll - they are expensive and she’s not entirely out of the “strip all her baby dolls naked and occasional give them a crayon face makeover” stage.  So Santa picked out this much less expensive baby doll instead and Everly was just as happy with her on Christmas morning. 

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Arlo really wanted a bigger, balance bike. He loved his Chillafish Bunzi so much last year, Santa bought him the bigger, BMXie from the same brand this year. It was a huge hit! He also got a robot, a super hero costume and a new play helmet (he’d been wearing his bike helmet as part of his “motorcycle man” costume for months)

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After a rough night of coughing, they both slept later than usual. I had time to get up, put on water for coffee, turn on the Christmas lights and some Christmas music before they started to stir. Is there anything more joyful than the excited faces of children on Christmas morning? I think it surely must top the list. 

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This is a bit blurry, but I was impressed with how seriously Everly has taken this whole violin business. She carefully places it in and out of its case and loves to carry it around on her back. Seeing the way she has treated her violin has convinced me that maybe she is on her way to being ready for a fancy babydoll after all.

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Policeman Arlo patrolled the house all morning. 

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While the screech of a violin is certainly one that takes some getting use to, she has taken it out several times each day to “play” it. My friend Amaree is going to work with Everly on holding it appropriately and learning how to draw the bow across the strings. 

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Putting on all her pink at once. New boots, New dress, New Violin. 

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After presents, I cooked a mini brunch for our family of four. It was a quiet Christmas day, but we came to realize that the silver lining was in the slowing down of everything. There was no where to rush off to and so we spent the entire day just playing with new toys and eating well and relaxing. 

That was a theme over and over for us in 2013. Let go. Give up control and just embrace the circumstances for what they are.  It was a hard lesson to learn sometimes, (especially for me) but here we are, entering a new year feeling more versatile and fluid than the one before. I think in the long run, that lesson was probably my greatest Christmas gift.

Love,

M

A Haircut Story

I proclaimed about six months ago that I was “NEVER EVER EVER” going to cut Arlo’s hair. I bristled at the mere suggestion of it. I considered the fact that my son had curls at all a stroke of genetic luck. Brent and I had stick straight hair as kids and so I just assumed any of our offspring would have the same. 

But as the months passed, and his hair grew wilder, I began to soften to the idea. Arlo wears his hair back in a hat most of the time anyway, which helps keep it out of his face- but the longer it got, the more I found myself chasing him around with a hairbrush in an attempt to battle his crazy bed head. Every so often Arlo was mistaken for a girl. It never phased us, but when Arlo turned to a little girl on the playground and said, “I NOT A GIRL!” with a little scowl on his face, I began to think that maybe a haircut was in order. 

We pulled the trigger right before Christmas, taking him to Bottega, an awesome salon in downtown Raleigh that is owned by a girlfriend of mine. I kept running my hands through his sweet curls as we waited to be called back. I also worried about how Arlo would handle getting a haircut - I didn’t know if the experience would freak him out- so we talked a lot about what he could expect beforehand. 

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Heather, our stylist, set him on a little elevated seat and explained every part of the process to him. “This is your superhero cape” she told him - and when she turned the clippers on she said, “This sounds kind of like an airplane.” and let him touch the handle before she put it against his head.

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Arlo did great, watching the entire process with interest. We planned for him to wear his new cut down, but just for fun, she styled it up in a pompadour with a little sea salt spray and the hair dryer. We kept laughing that he looked like Macklemore!

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Arlo really loved his new haircut. He kept looking at himself in the mirror and smiling. Everly declared, “Arlo is SO handsome!” and to reward him for being so well behaved, we took them both out of frozen yogurt afterwards. 

It was hard to imagine him without those trademark curls, but now that his hair is short, I’m so glad we did it. I think it’s amazing how he looks so much older with short hair- so much like a little boy than a sweet baby. I took this shot of him a few days after Christmas and it just makes my heart want to burst:

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The day may come when he wants to grow his hair out long again. Perhaps those sweet baby curls will still be there, or maybe they are gone forever. I try not to think about the latter. I’ll always love that wild halo of blonde curls that was so synonymous with my son for so long, but I think his new big boy look is just one of many ways he will grow and change in the new year. 

Love,

M

Hey hey 2014!

Happy New Year! I’ve been slacking on posting over the holidays for a number of reasons but I figured I’d just skip over all the cute photos of my kids in their Christmas pajamas (I’ll get to those later!) and share these photos from New Year’s Eve. 

It’s not the night I had planned on - Brent and I were planning to celebrate with a night out at a friend’s party, but he got hit with a 24 hour stomach bug that left him in bad shape until about 6pm New Year’s Eve night. 

Most of our Christmas plans were also thrown out the window due to the kids coming down with a nasty case of RSV, so by late afternoon yesterday, I put my now familiar “let’s make the best of it” hat on and got to work on a big pot of chicken soup (Brent agreed it was my best one to date!) We just figured we’d settle in for a laid back New Year’s Eve at home. Arlo, who had avoided a nap all day, fell soundly asleep at 6:30pm while playing and slept right on through bedtime.

Around 8pm, I looked over at Everly and said, “Why don’t we dress up anyway?” I had spent the entire day in yoga pants, scrubbing the house top to bottom in the hopes of keeping my children from catching whatever it was that had Brent in bed all day. Everly’s eyes lit up at the suggestion and we spent the next thirty minutes picking out outfits together (her dress was a gift from Santa, who must have had an inkling she’d need an outrageous party dress) and putting our hair up in big party-worthy hairstyles. As I was putting on bright pink lipstick, she stood on top of the toilet seat watching me and asked, “Mama, can I wear some too?”  She is usually right up underneath me as I get ready for work in the morning and I always meet her requests to wear lipstick with a suggestion that she wear a little of my clear Burt’s Bees chapstick instead - but I just wanted last night to be a “yes” night, so I agreed to let her wear some. 

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Once we were all dressed up, Everly poured us big glasses of sparkling cider and we took a couple of pictures. She kept saying, “We have to go somewhere! Where can we go? People need to see our outfits!” It was so precious.

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We watched the NYE coverage on tv for a little while and then she convinced me to make cookies. I let her squeeze out an entire bag of frosting on to the tops of them and half a container of sprinkles, while I sat on the countertop watching her enjoy herself.

By 10:45, she was exhausted and fell asleep in a matter of minutes once I wiped the remaining pink lipstick off her face.

Brent and I settled into our own bed at 11:45 and waited for the countdown. We heard little foot steps in the hallway just before the ball dropped and Arlo came racing into our room. With literally seconds to go, we lifted him into the bed between us and the three of us counted down from ten and said Happy New Year! 

I was so happy that my sweet little boy got in on the New Years Eve action too - if only the very last of it. I fell asleep last night with Arlo’s cold toes pressed against my legs as we listened to the boom of fireworks exploding outside. 

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Time and time again, this life reminds me that in order to make the most of it, I have to stay flexible. So often I am learning to just let go of what I hope will be and enjoy what it is - more often then not, the unplanned parts of my life are the most enjoyable.

Wishing you all health, happiness and blessings in the year ahead. 

Love,

M

A 2013 Photo Collection: Mylah & Everly

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As much as Natasha and I love one another, it is often our girls who push us to put our busy lives aside and take the time to just be together. Mylah and Everly hound us incessantly to see each other. The way they greet one another every single time they meet is like watching puzzle pieces snap into place. They run at full speed, arms open and calling out in high pitched joy. Two parts of a whole, finally reunited.

I don’t know what the years ahead hold for them and I can only imagine all the ways their friendship with change and shift as they grow up - but I am certain they will always love each other in a way few people ever get the chance to experience. They were sisters to one another even before they knew their own siblings.  One day they will realize what a gift they have been given - to know another soul so thoroughly, to love them so tremendously from the very start of your life. 

Love,

M

Getting our Christmas On

I figured I’d knock these all out in a single post. We have been Merry Christmasing it up left and right lately. December is kind of a weird month- I look forward to it all year, the traditions, the time with family and friends, the joy it brings to my children - and yet, it still feels kind of chaotic and fly by the seat of our pants. How do we do it all and still slow down enough to enjoy it? I don’t think we’ve found the balance quite yet.

Polar Express Night:image

One of our favorite little traditions of the year is Polar Express night in our house. I think I’ve documented it nearly every year on my blog- Brent took me to see Polar Express on our first date, and so every year on that anniversary, we watch it again. This year, we made a big tray of our favorite snacks for dinner and threw down a bunch of blankets and just snuggled up together. (Now, this… this was a moment to slow down and savor.)image

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We even made hot chocolate with marshmallows and served it during the hot chocolate scene in the movie. That was far and away Everly’s favorite part. 

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Meeting Santa:

We go to Logan’s, a local nursery that puts on a gorgeous Christmas Family Night event, every year. All kinds of kid friendly crafts, and performances from local school children - with the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap. No long mall lines, no charging for photographs, and Santa spends as much time as needed with each child. 

We wandered around for awhile and this was the moment that Arlo spotted Santa through the window in the next room:

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2013 goes down as the first year in the Jordan house that no one cried on Santa’s lap. Arlo needed a little reassurance and wanted to hold Brent’s hand - but he talked to Santa and both children told him what they wanted this year.

Everly asked for a baby doll and a violin. Arlo asked for a bicycle and a robot. 

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Preschool Christmas Program:

(Note: I know it’s weird to blur other kid’s faces - but I just don’t know if their parents are ok with me posting their photo)

Everly and Arlo spend their Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the sweetest church preschool in our neighborhood. It is such a warm, loving environment and they are thriving there.

Yesterday, each of them stood up with their classes and sang a few Christmas songs. My shy Arlo sang the words and did all of the hand motions. 

Everly committed to her performance with full body motions. ( I was a little nervous she was going to knock the sweet little girl next to her in the head with her elbows) Her joy and energy was so precious. 

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(This is the best shot of the bunch of Everly’s class- they were mostly blurry and I don’t know how to work this dang camera well enough to shoot in low light)

Afterwards, I snapped a few photos of them outside the school. A random little story about the green sweater Everly is wearing. Her great grandmother and aunt bought it for her when she was an infant. It has grown with her and she has worn it multiple times every year at Christmas. The arms are getting shorter every year, but I hope I can squeeze her in one more year.  It is certain to be one of those treasured pieces that we keep forever.

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Arlo in that bow tie and chucks slays me every time. I’m so proud of these sweet kids of mine.

Between this Sunday and New Year’s Eve we have six more Christmas functions to attend- it’s the busiest time of the year - but also the most wonderful. Here’s to a month of joy and chaos!

Love,

M

Arlo Says…

Arlo: (Said in a dramatic superhero villain voice) “Never! Wa ha ha!”

His answer whenever we ask him to do any of the following:

Arlo, eat your dinner.

Arlo, put your toys away.

Arlo, can mommy have a kiss?

Arlo, time to brush your teeth.

Tags: Arlo says

Everly says…

Brent: “Everly you can’t eat that cupcake until you finish your dinner.”

Everly: “But I just want to tell it one thing.”

Brent:”Ok?”

Everly: (straight to the cupcake) “Mommy loves you! Don’t worry, I’ll be right back.”

Tags: everly says

Drive the Thrive: SuNica

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We are forever attempting to make the Christmas season more about the birth of Jesus, about family, and about giving  - and less about STUFF.

It’s an incredibly hard battle and one we are guilty of caving into - but with every year that has passed, we’ve gotten a little more focused and a little better at finding opportunities to teach our children about the true spirit of Christmas time.

Despite our best efforts, our house still feels over run with toys. Instead of more tangible gifts, we always ask our families to invest in our children in some way -  in dance or music lessons. Or even better, to help grow their hearts as givers.

For Christmas this year, Everly and Arlo’s Nana and Papa Wayne are sponsoring a child through SuNica in their honor.

We know some of the members of this organization through our church and what they are doing in the lives of children and families in Nicaragua (the second poorest country on our side of the hemisphere) is amazing. Their holiday campaign is called Thrive, which is all about helping 56 kids in a trash dump community gain access to Education and Discipleship.

$35 a month covers their school costs, a uniform, school supplies, extra curricular activities, and invests in a college fund.

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Tonight we will sit down with our children and share with them the mission of SuNica. We will talk about the importance of giving and about how instead of keeping a gift for themselves, they are bringing joy to others by helping children have access to a quality education. At this age, being able to see the children they are helping will be more impactful, so we look forward to spending some time together learning about the little ones featured on the SuNica website and their facebook page.

Brent gets to see the SuNica team in action next month as he will be traveling to Nicaragua as part of a team of volunteers. I hope to share some of his experience here on the blog.

In the meantime, I just wanted to use the greatest tool I have, this blog - to help share the SuNica Thrive campaign and the powerful work they are doing in the lives of Nicaraguan children.

Love,

M

Giveaway: $300 to Minted.com

Minted.com has been our go-to for announcements and cards for years now. I love their wide array of designs and how easy they make it for me to select and order beautiful Christmas cards to send to friends and family. One of my favorite features on their site is the ability to upload a photo and then quickly scroll through all of their designs with our family’s photo as the example. It makes choosing a favorite so much easier! Minted.com also allows you to upload your address list and will pre-print the names on your envelopes for free!

Minted is generously giving away a THREE HUNDRED (US) DOLLAR gift certificate to one lucky Dear Baby reader - with that kind of money you can not only get your holiday cards but some beautiful art prints for your wall or custom party supplies for your next birthday bash!

I’ll draw a winner tomorrow afternoon. To enter, leave a comment below with your favorite Christmas memory (Can I just tell you how much I love reading your comments and learning more about the people who read my blog!) Tumblr readers must leave a comment through disqus to be counted.

Good Luck!

M

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