birthday party hangover

okay, so i should have posted this days ago.  but then this happened.  and that happened.  and it didn't get posted when it was supposed to. sky had a most-awesome birthday party, filled with...

screaming swimming crafting ramen noodles, hot dogs & pickles more screaming homemade vanilla cake dancing movie watching whispering and not sleeping

it was a fabulous day and evening -- one that i hope she'll never forget (especially since her actual birthday day was "the worst ever" eight-hour car ride home).

the gang...

the homemade vanilla cake...

the crafts...

the dancing (the bit about "i'm doing them a favor" kills me)...

the hangover...

hope you have an awesome EIGHT sky!!

guess who had a birthday

...while we were on our mini-vacation in south carolina? happy birthday sweet skyler!!!

thank you for being you thank you for being so unique and wonderful you are wise and soulful beyond your years you challenge me in the best ways and keep me on my toes you are smart and witty you want to wear makeup and high heels all the time you are an artist and a writer you are learning the joy of reading you requested ramen noodles for your birthday dinner a homemade vanilla birthday cake with no frosting and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream you never really know what you want for your birthday because you're content with your stuffed and hard animal toys but this year you asked for cracked nail polish, makeup and dresses with sleeves (so that you can wear them to school).

i am amazed by you and all that you are.

thank you for coming into my life.

i know your birthday was the worst birthday ever because it was spent in a car for eight hours driving home, but i hope that i can make it up to you with the best sleepover birthday party ever.

happy birthday skyler! i really can't believe you're eight!!

my muse

...turned seven a couple days ago.  and today, we went behind our house to do her seven-year-old pictures. we wiped the chocolate off her face.  threw on a quick dress that was lying around.  added a flower to her hair and a necklace.  a pair of new socks and sparkly, dirty tennies we went.

she picked flowers. and did her own thing. as she always does. i shot. and every now and then asked her to look at me. it always goes something like, sky, can you look at me. like this...just for a second. and she does. for a second. and then goes back to doing her own thing. and i keep doing mine. we just get each other that way.

skyler grace, you are an amazing, amazing child. you keep me on my toes and my guess is that you always will. you make me laugh like no other. your giggle actually makes strangers laugh -- yes, it's that great. you're wise beyond your years. you're witty. you're fabulously messy (shoe here, the other there, back pack in a different spot and jacket somewhere else)...and i love that you are (although i might not share that with you when you're a teen). you're head strong. you hear everything and inquire about everything and then soak it all in. we call you our steel trap and we tell you that you have ears like a bat. you're smart, you work hard and your teacher's adore you. you can be the girliest of girls but kick any boys butt if you wanted to.

when i asked sky to give me her seven-year-old look -- any look -- this is what she gave me (and yes, the glasses had to be a part of the look). when kiele saw the photo as i was editng, she said,

mom, skyler is so going to be one of those girls that hangs out in the clothes stores. you know, the ones who wear those big glasses and stuff.

and i think kiele might just be right.  :-)

i love you sky -- and i thank you for being such a wonderful, kind, giving, strong child. i have no doubt that you are going to go amazing places over the years!! thank you for being confident and being you!! happy seventh birthday sweet girl.

here's a few more from our time together this evening.

can we slow things down a bit...

...please?  because kiele is THIRTEEN! can you believe it? me neither. officially a teenager...and still as wonderful, sweet and good as ever.

i was looking at old photos of kiele and as i looked through the photos, memories and stories of kiele flooded my mind (that's what photos are supposed to do, right?!). in celebration of kiele's birthday, i thought i'd share a few photos and thoughts here...

sweet, sweet kiele --

you have this ability to touch people like no other. people meet you and always seem to fall in love with the person you are. i hear it time and time incredibly special you are. there has been plenty of times, especially at your schools, where strangers will stop me in the hallway to tell me what a great kid you are. my heart beams and tears flood my eyes knowing you have this gift and it comes so naturally.  needless to say, i'm one proud momma and feel so very blessed!

and i can honestly say, this goodness about you started as a baby. momma carmen watched you from six weeks old until age four. while you started as simply one of the day care children, you quickly became part of their family. and well, you thought of them as family too -- calling them momma carmen and daddy jim. while many mommas might have worried about that, i didn't; i adored it.  thanks to you, we will forever be family with one another.

after your daddy and i got a divorce, i know things were tough for you. but you were always so strong. i adored how you slept with your daddy's photograph every night for years and years. eventually it came out of the frame and was laminated (easier to sleep with that way).  over the years, it had fallen apart and was taped together multiple times (by you). one day, i tried to scan it and replace it with a new one, but you wouldn't have anything to do with it and made me give you back the old one -- the one that was falling apart, perfect and not to be messed with.  that photograph is now back in a frame and graces your nightstand, right next to your bed.

here's the oh-so-loved-perfectly-taped-together picture of kiele's dad, scanned a couple years ago.

and baby marston, who was named that from the very beginning. you loved him so much (yes, he was a him). it breaks my heart that he's now packed away in the back of your closet. i took this series of fictional photographs when you were eight. now this day is a reality and i sit here with a lump in my throat, wishing i could stop time for a bit or at least slow it down. (larger version here)

you are the best big sister ever.  even though there is a six-year spread between you and sky, you've always played with the little ones often and so well.  you've now started to really enjoy your private space and time, yet you still let the little ones in to share with you (most of the time).  they adore you beyond words. and you have set and continue to set such an amazing example for them.

i found the three of you like this in the backyard, so many times. each time, i would look in awe...cherishing how well you played together.

i will never forget the day your cochlear implant was turned on and you could hear...i mean really hear, for the first time!  you were so brave during the surgery and the recovery.  the moment you heard water run in the bathroom for the first time and you came running to tell me was magical.  you have never used your disability as a crutch and my guess is that you never will. i love how you don't hide your cochlear implant and how you are proud of who you are and what you've overcome and accomplished.

being a military family, i always worry about you when we move every couple years -- a new school, making new friends, etc. but i shouldn't, as you seem to do amazingly well each and every time. you seem to always find a very special friend wherever we go.  and after we move, even at a young age, you worked hard to keep that friendship going despite the many miles between the two of you. you haven't been with nat since 2006 and your friendship is still a strong and cherished one.

i truly cannot believe you are thirteen and i thank you for thirteen incredible years. you have taught me more than anyone and your goodness is inspirational to all. you have a special something and i truly believe you're going to make your mark in this world (and it will be one great mark, for sure). you see the world so wonderful; i often joke that you see the world as nothing but rainbows and roses (and maybe some horses). when i describe you to others, i usually start with, she's rather angelic. and i really mean that!!

you are obsessed with horses and want to be a large animal veterinarian when you grow up. you even have $800 already saved up to buy your first horse after college. you dream to one day live on a ranch and own lots of horses. hmmm...maybe you'll even be the next big horse whisperer. that wouldn't surprise me one bit!

i wish you the happiest 13th birthday and hope that all your wishes come true -- this and every year. i love you sweet kiele. more than you'll probably ever realize!

thank you for being you...and for being so absolutely amazing! photo above, of kiele and i, taken by untamed heart photography

and while this post is already really long (deservingly so), i close with a poem that kiele wrote the other day:

my own secret forest is filled with dreams.  everyday, after school, it calls my name.  the wind whispers kind words and the flowers wave hello.  the clear bubbling brook, with silver fish, is inviting.  the birds chirp cheery songs, with glee.  i follow the stepping stones down to the brook.  then i jump onto the fallen tree...and walk across.  the long green grass, with colorful wild flowers, tickle my feet.  along the brook's sand bank, i skip some stones.  then is see some deer and follow them, deeper inside the forest.  trees with blooming flowers float in the breeze.  i pull some weeds out and feed them to the deer.  i hear the squirrels chatter and watch the butterflies flutter.  the sunset comes beaming through the forest, with it's beautiful colors.  lightning bugs begin to show themselves with their bright lights.  i catch a few and dance around.  the moon arrives and glances at the brook.  i know it's time.  i let the lightning bugs fly away and say my good-byes.  my time has come to leave.  but my smile remains, for i know i will be back soon -- very soon, to play in my secret forest once again.

happy birthday!

happy 5th birthday ryder! oh my baby is five.  how did that happen?

ryder, i love you with all i have to love. and seriously cannot believe that my baby is now five and a big boy. thank you for being a good, kind, caring big boy. i love that you have manners and respect adults. i love that teachers share,

he's such a sweet boy.

you engross yourself in make-believe play just as well as your sisters, but with legos, super heroes, cars and playmobil. i could sit here and listen to you play like that for hours.

i can't wait to see where gymnastics takes you. you are strong and powerful and in a class with boys 2-3 years older than you. last monday, i knew you weren't feeling well, when you walked instead of ran your laps. when i asked you if you were okay, you shook your head yes and no, but said that you wanted to continue doing gymnastics. i let you. the minute you came up after the lesson, white as a sheet, i knew something was wrong. and within 30 seconds, you puked everywhere. only to puke again in about 10 feet away and slip and fall in it. while i was mortified that you puked so much, twice, at gymnastics; i was proud that you love gymnastics so much, you wanted to continue on, even when you weren't feeling the best. (although we did have a big long talk that you really shouldn't do gymnastics when you're not feeling so good). :-)

you learned how to ride a bike at 4 1/2 with barely any help. now, you long for a skateboard. and try soccer and football. and we can't wait to watch you do both.

you are an artist just like your sisters and can draw for hours. you write your letters well and are trying to put letters together, to make words. you're ready for kindergarten.

while we transitioned you into your own bed, with our move to KS, you discovered that if you sneak into mom and dad's bed in the middle of the night, mom will move over most of the time. (aye!).

you didn't transition well to the cold weather kansas brought us.  i had to force you to wear long sleeves and pants.  and then for the longest time, you rolled your pants to your knees.  you don't wear socks...ever, which drives me crazy because you have the stinkiest tennies.  most of the time (even in 20 degrees), your coat consists of a hoodie.

your daddy says i spoil you. and i probably do, although i'll never completely admit it.

i am proud of you. i can't wait to see where the next few years take you.

happy, happy birthday big boy!!

p.s. thank you for letting me take five-year-old photos of you.  and thank you for wearing your daddy's shirt from when he was a little boy, for the pictures.  you melt my heart.


on a completely different note...

steve did not make XO.  i know those letters mean nothing to most non-military, but let's just say XO is kind of like the next step for one day becoming a commander.  what does that mean?  it means that steve will not be an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) commander and instead will follow a different track; it kind of opens the doors to other paths in the navy.  many believe that this is a great thing--more options, less deployments, less time away from the family.

we're hoping to find out more about steve's assignment options next week.  some places that steve has mentioned are staying here another year, san diego and tampa.  BUT, we could very, very, very well end up going to somewhere completely different.  i think after steve talks to the detailer (the assignment man) next week, he should have some specific choices.

this phase of not knowing is tough. i really just want to know.

welcoming 40

yep today is the day...fabulously forty!  and i hope it's ready for me because here i am.  it's been an amazing 39 years and i'm thankful to be alive and healthy (i've certainly had my fair share of moments that i'm surprised i lived through). in my 20s and early 30s, i was afraid of getting older. dreading it actually. but not anymore...i look forward to each and every year, grateful for the previous, as each year we are blessed with, is truly a gift. i woke up this birthday morning to a breakfast of eggs and bacon and a fabulous forty fritter (see pic below).  i also had a number of cards waiting for me, a birthday message drawn by the kids on the kitchen window, 40 roses (see other pic) and a second bouquet of beautiful flowers at my desk (the place where i spend most of my day).  yep...absolutely fabulous! not sure what is in store for the evening; however, i do know we're "going out".  steve's parents are in town from NV, for a couple days, and i'm thankful to spend this time with them.

in anticipation and celebration of 40, i began working on a bucket list a few weeks ago--40 things that i hope/wish/want/long/desire to accomplish.

so, in no specific order, here we go. my bucket list... 1. teach my children what is really important in life 2. sponsor a student 3. sail the Americas 4. backpack through Europe 5. have a solo exhibition 6. ride a train 7. go on a roadtrip with no predetermined destination 8. take a cooking course 9. run a half marathon 10. learn to play the guitar 11. go white water rafting 12. go to oktoberfest in germany 13. study a foreign language 14. visit all 50 states 15. attend and graduate of fine arts program 16. volunteer, together as a family 17. build a habitat for humanity home 18. give back at every stop as we sail the Americas 19. don’t ever forget to say thank you and I love you 20. visit and help maggie doyne in Nepal 21. photograph an orphanage or children in need 22. watch my children grow up and fully support their doing what they love (no mater what that might be) 23. own an mid-century modern home 24. keep in touch with my kids (at least once a week), after they leave our house 25. start a parent support group 26. present at a national DHH convention 27. make a difference in someone’s life (i mean really make a difference) 28. celebrate each and every day 29. heal my past 30. get dreadlocks 31. embrace aging 32. make a video for my children 33. read for 30 minutes every day 34. learn about all the different religions 35. tell my husband how much I love and appreciate him each and every day 36. never go to bed angry 37. send a handwritten note to each person that has inspired or supported me 38. take sign language courses with kiele 39. remember and recognize birthdays 40. truly and deeply appreciate

and i leave you with this beautiful message written by erma bombeck...

if i had my life to live over i would have gone to bed when i was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day. i would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. i would have talked less and listened more. i would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded. i would have eaten the popcorn in the "good" living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. i would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. i would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. i would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. i would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more while watching life. i would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. when my kids kissed me impetuously, i would never have said, "later. now go get washed up for dinner." there would have been more "i love you's." more "i'm sorry's." but mostly, given another shot at life, i would seize every minute, look at it and really see it, live it, and never give it back. stop sweating the small stuff. Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what. instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who DO love us. let's think about what God has blessed us with. and what we are doing each day to promote ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, as well as spiritually. life is too short to let it pass you by. we only have one shot at this and then it's gone.

ETA:  look what i just opened.  the kids made me...a camera!!  such a treasure!  iphone pic of sky and my new camera.