Mark is a Star! (what happens when a boy has an older sister)

A friend kindly gave Ellie a lot of fun clothes in her size.  Last week we were putting them away and Mark fell in love with one particular shirt .  He even insisted on wearing it! :)

001 (800x533)I think he’s quite handsome in that color, actually!

Ellie is fond of saying, “When Mark is big like me, he can wear  [my pink shoes, my fancy dress, etc.]”  I haven’t had the heart to try to explain to her that he won’t be able to wear her fancy Easter dress when he’s four because, well, he’s a boy and that’s generally frowned upon win our society.  So I usually just say, “That’s really kind of you to want to share your clothes, sweetie!” or something like that!

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“Children In Pumpkins”, The 2014 “Look! a Tractor!” Edition

As is our custom (here’s 2013 and 2012), we went to Weber’s Cider Mill Farm on Thursday evening to take pictures of our kids with the pumpkins.  Unluckily for the parents but super-happily for the “things that go”-obsessed Mark, there was a tractor moving huge pallets of pumpkins around THE WHOLE TIME we were trying to take pictures.  So we have a lot of pictures like this:

041 (533x800) 048 (800x533)Look!  Here it comes again – for the sixteenth time!

Thankfully, we did manage to get a couple good shots, mostly thanks to Ellie gamely trying to keep on smiling even when Mark was CRAZY distracted.  So, when he happened to accidentally look at the camera, Nik was clicking, Ellie was smiling, and hurray!  A picture for 2014! :)

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We also tried putting them in a different position.  It didn’t really work but Ellie tried!

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They both were kind enough to take a picture with their mama.

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Then Nik went to console himself by taking pictures of beautiful things that don’t care if a tractor is moving somewhere way off in the distance.

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Ellie and Mark each chose a gourd to take home.  Ellie thought it was fun to pretend to use it as a phone.  Mark didn’t have a clue what his crazy parents were gesturing at him to do.

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116 (800x533)the gourd? in his other hand!

And there you have it – kids with pumpkins because it’s autumn!

To all the grandmas out there, reading this post and thinking “Get that hair out of her eyes!”, I feel obligated to defend myself by saying that it doesn’t seem to bother her and she almost always turns me down when I offer to put it up for her.  So please, don’t think I’m a terrible mother! :)

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September Sewing: Ellie’s Birthday Dress

As is becoming my tradition, I made Ellie a dress for her birthday.  I found the fun paper boat fabric at a shop in Culpepper, VA when we were on our vacation in July.  I used the “Apple-picking Dress” pattern from Oliver+S.

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The pattern has some fun details, such as a double-button placket (although only the first row of buttons is functional),

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a bow at the neck (which we have to double-knot to keep Mark from untying),

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bias-bound sleeves with the most adorable gathers ever,

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and a full gathered skirt.  I chose the two-layer option.

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Even with all that, it was a much easier dress to sew than her Montana and Easter dresses, which is a good thing because I’ve had hardly a minute to sew the past few weeks.  It’s fun to be getting quicker and better at sewing clothes! :)

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Happy 4th Birthday to Our Darling Daughter, Ellie!

Today, Ellie turned four!  This morning she told me, “Mama, I can’t pick up Mark today, even though I’m four!” Clearly she didn’t grow new muscles overnight but she has grown an immense amount in the past year.

Here’s the proof!

010 (800x533)at her 3rd birthday party, early October 2013

079 (533x800)racing duckies with Grandpa, late October 2013

138 (533x800)showing off her fashion sense, November 2013

077 (800x533)Ready to nap with Puffin and Baby Jesus Puffin (not kidding), December 2013

044 (800x532)Eating pepperoni pizza (her favorite food) at Mark’s first birthday party, January 2014

009 (800x533)very proud of the snowman she built with Yiayia, February 2014

006 (800x533) (3)with Bear as her Baby finally got some hair, March 2014

EllieDress (533x800)during the family picture photo shoot, April 2014

002 (800x533)“A purse makes a cute hat, Mama!”, May 2014

023 (800x533)on the train at the zoo, June 2014 (while her brother clutches me in terror)

007 (800x533)wearing doll clothes knitted by Yiayia and doll booties sewn by her great grandmother (my father’s mother), July 2014

001 (800x534)intently absorbed in an art project, her favorite thing to do, August 2014

009 (800x532)drawing with sidewalk chalk, September 2014

Look at that grown-up girl with the long hair!  We love you, Ellie!  You delight us every day with your zest for life and your love for your family.  We can’t wait to see what the next year brings for you!

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One More Time and Then No More (after 1,459 days)

Ellie turns four on Monday. Early in the summer, we started talked to Ellie about weaning and she declared to us that when she was four, she wasn’t going to have nursing anymore.  Frankly, I’ve been ready for her to be weaned for close to a year.  Clearly, however, she wasn’t and it was just easier to keep on nursing (that whole inertia thing) rather than try to figure out the right words to say to help her be OK with weaning any earlier.

This week, we’ve been talking every day about how her birthday is coming up and that means no more nursing.  For the past year, she’s only nursed once a day, at bedtime, and only for about five minutes.  Clearly, that’s not much nursing but it has been important to her and a clear way of marking bedtime.  She has decided that she wants lots of cuddling at bedtime instead of nursing and that she wants to cuddle “usually with Baba and sometimes with Mama.”  So that’s the plan – lots of cuddling to meet the love and comfort needs that nursing used to fill.

I can’t say that I’m all that sad about Ellie weaning.  (See my “ready for a year” comment above.)  However, it is hard for me to imagine being with my precious daughter without her needing to nurse.  She was a voracious nurser from the very beginning despite our struggles and continued to nurse really enthusiastically up until I started to cut her back when she was close to three.  When my milk came in after Mark was born, she would be so excited to nurse, she would lie on her bed at bedtime, kick her legs up and down and shout, “NURSE! NURSE! NURSE!”  She had nursed dry (i.e. gotten no milk) for so many months while I was pregnant with Mark that I think she had forgotten that milk was part of nursing!

Tonight she told me that she liked “warm milk” (i.e. Mama’s milk) better than “cold milk” (i.e. cow’s milk).  I’m sure she’s going to miss nursing too but it’s been fun to see her giggling with glee at being so grown up and OLD (because four is SO OLD) that she doesn’t need nursing.

She’s my big grown up girl who loves to nurse and will love to cuddle and who is turning into a teenage. Yesterday, she told me, “You are totally wrong and I am totally right!!!!!” For the record, I was right and she was wrong.

024 (800x533)She really loves chocolate ice cream! :)

And so, we have one more time of nursing together and then, oddly, I’ll only be nursing one baby (who really isn’t a baby anymore himself) and I’ll have a grown-up girl who amazes me every day with the questions she asks and the things that she knows and the vast emotions that stream out of her.  And we won’t have nursing to help with calming those emotions at night before bed and so we’ll have to learn, together, how to process them in other ways.  And I’ll always be grateful for my girl who gave me the gift of four years of “milk and love flowing from me to her.”

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Ellie Learns How to Use a Knife

A couple months ago, I realized that I was letting Ellie get behind on her knife-using education (i.e we hadn’t started yet).  So we began with chopping rhubarb for rhubarb crisp bars.  She is now IN LOVE with using a knife and doesn’t let me get away with chopping vegetables for dinner without her.

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We’ve discovered that using a serrated steak knife works best for her.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and rhubarb are all good candidates for almost-four-year-olds to cut.  I usually prepare the sticks (of cucumber or zucchini for example) and them let her chop them into pieces.

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She’s pretty picky about the way she likes things too.  The other day, I left the seeds on the cucumbers because they were small pickling cucumbers (with very small seeds).  I came back a few minutes later to find Ellie painstakingly slicing off every seed.  “We don’t eat the seeds, Mama!”

003 (800x533)zucchini, as chopped by Ellie

For Ellie, using a real knife to cut real food for our real meals is a way for her to feel useful and needed in our family.  It’s also a pretty great way to feel powerful and in control, something that’s usually in short supply when you’re young.  For me, Ellie’s knife adventures are good “letting go” practice.  I have to give up my perfectionist tendencies towards perfectly uniform vegetable pieces.  I also have to practice trusting her, in this case that she’s not going to slice off her fingers.  I figure it’s good practice for all the things that we are eventually going to have to let her do (like drive a car, gasp, faint, fall over.) As a bonus, I don’t have to all the dinner prep by myself anymore! (Plus she’s busy so she’s not pestering her brother while I’m trying to make dinner.)

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If This Isn’t the Craziest Way to Take a Nap…

…I don’t know what is!

002 (800x534)This is not the only time I’ve caught him sleeping this way! :)

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