2.18.2017

Betsy's First Birthday

Our sweet Betsy turned one last week! We threw very simple gatherings for Claire's first and second birthdays. She had her first "themed" party with friends at age three. Maggie definitely had more elaborate first and second birthdays; I think mostly because we were excited to finally have a good group of friends here in Seattle! We've come to realize that simple parties really are the right way to go with babies, so that's exactly what we did for Betsy. 

Her actual birthday was on a Tuesday, but we did absolutely nothing to mark the occasion. She's cut five new teeth recently and was up screaming until 3:00 am the night before, so we weren't feeling particularly festive. Thankfully, she was feeling much better by her birthday dinner on Friday. 

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Adam and I decorated the living room the night before. We put her new birthday banner and some nursery decor (shadowbox, monthly photo frame, newborn photo) on the mantel. In the garage, we unearthed some tissue paper pompoms from past parties and an old piece of chalkboard, which we used to display some favorite Instagrams from the past year. Claire was so excited to see all the decorations when she woke up the next morning that she immediately rushed to her art table and made Betsy a birthday card.

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While Claire was busy at preschool, Maggie helped choose the flowers and bake the cupcakes. They are our absolute favorite - chocolate with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. We invited all of Betsy's favorite Seattle residents to join us - her godfather, Steven, and his fiance, Megan, our friend and most gracious babysitter, Linnea, and, of course, Libby and Jon. They are the only people who have attended all of our daughters' birthday parties! Their older daughter, Paige, is right between Claire and Maggie, and their younger daughter, Eloise, (our goddaughter!) is just a couple months younger than Betsy.

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We served pizza, salad, and clementines (Betsy's all-time favorite food) for dinner. We forced everyone to watch her first year slideshow before opening presents.

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She did get to unwrap the presents from her grandparents on her actual birthday (a little people fire truck, a toy piano, and some very cute outfits) but we saved our presents for the party. Mostly because I wasn't quite finished with her quilt on her actual birthday! Besides that quilt, we gave her a Corolle baby doll, just like her big sisters' dolls that she had been coveting for months, and a little quilt for her doll that matches her own.



Cake time! This wasn't her first go around with sweets by any means. (One of her first foods was Tim Bits on our trip to Canada this summer.) But she loved it all the same. She just learned how to make this really adorable surprised face which she did constantly throughout the party.

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We had to take a photo with the birthday girl before tucking her into bed. We hardly have any photos of just the three of us!

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It's become a little tradition to go on a birthday outing. We took Claire to the ballet for her last birthday and Maggie to the circus. So, on Saturday morning, we all went to the aquarium because we remembered how much the girls loved looking at fish at Betsy's age. Well, they couldn't walk at her age, so while she enjoyed seeing the fish, she also enjoyed trying to escape from us constantly!

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How is she so big already?! She's actually quite petite, but what she lacks in size she makes up in personality...and speed. 

2.01.2017

Fall Reading & TV

Caitlin:

Caitlin Fall Reading

Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple. This is the second book set in Seattle by the author of Where'd You Go Bernadette. All the jokes about the Pacific Northwest are definitely a big part of why I enjoyed this book. Although the main character is not religious, a large portion of the plot settles around Seattle hosting World Youth Day. What's not to love?
To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Jenny Han. A cute high school romance recommended by Janssen from Everyday Reading. I started dating my husband in high school and this book made me fondly remember that time. I also read the equally enjoyable sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, and am eagerly awaiting the final book in the trilogy to be released this spring.
Belgravia, Julian Fellowes. Of course, I had to read the creator of Downton Abbey's latest novel. It takes place in London during the 1840s, when the mansions in the exclusive neighborhood of Belgravia are being built. The plot centers around old money - those moving into these homes - and new money - those who got rich building them. This novel is just as soapy as Fellowes' ITV miniseries, with just as tidy of a happy ending, but I certainly still enjoyed it.
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah. This is a story set in World War II that's perhaps just as famous as All the Light We Cannot See and certainly recommended to anyone who loved Anthony Doerr's novel. Although the prose is nowhere near as beautiful, I found the story of The Nightingale grabbed me even more. I immediately loved the main characters and just had to know what happened to them, which is why I neglected as many responsibilities as I possibly could and finished this in twenty-four hours.   

Adam: 


The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown. I finally got Adam to read this wonderful book, made even better because it's set in Seattle. It's about the very inspiring crew team at the University of Washington - you don't have to know anything about rowing to appreciate their story. He's not quite done with it yet because he spends most of his free time playing the piano, but will hopefully finish before it's due back at the library. It may have already been renewed three times...

Family Read Alouds: 

Fall Read Alouds

Gooseberry Park, Cynthia Rylant. The only book on this list that I didn't read at all because Adam read this aloud to the girls before bed each night while we were on our trip to Canada last summer. He says it's about a dog who saves a family of squirrels after a winter storm. It was actually one of his favorite chapter books from early elementary school.
The Milly Molly Mandy Storybook, Joyce Lankester Brisley. A charming collection of stories about a little girl's adventures in her early twentieth century, incredibly quaint English village. I'm so glad I found it on the Read Aloud Revival book list.
The Children of Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren. By the author of Pippi Longstocking, this series centers around the hilarious adventures of six Swedish children - three families living on farms next door to each other. This was Claire and Maggie's favorite read of the fall.
Happy Times in Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren. Well, actually, maybe this was! I think the children's escapades are even more hilarious in the second book of the series. There are several more books about the noisy village, but these are the only ones readily available in the United States.
Merry Christmas From Betsy, Carolyn Haywood. The four reprinted Betsy books were the first chapter books we read aloud to the girls last year. Carolyn Haywood wrote many more, a few of which are available through our library. This is a collection of Christmas stories taken from all of the books, perhaps the most memorable being the time Betsy's baby sister arrives on Christmas Eve and is thus given the name Star.
Saints For Girls, Susan Weaver. Maggie's godparents gave her this compilation of vintage saint biographies for Christmas. It doesn't really count as a chapter book, but we read about a different saint before bed each night until we settled on a longer read aloud. Spoiler alert: Charlotte's Web!

Television:

Fall Shows

The Crown. I eagerly anticipated this show since I first learned of it. I think we watched three episodes in a row the night it came out! Adam agreed to watch it with me and enjoyed it much, much more than he expected. Our favorite episode was the one about Churchill's portrait, but there were so many moments we loved. The trip to Africa and the coronation were particularly beautiful. The only part we didn't buy was the end of Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend's engagement, which makes sense because that's not actually how it went down. I'm very excited that Matthew Goode will be playing her husband in the next season. And I loved reading Bishop Barron's take on the show.
Madam Secretary. We caught up on the first two seasons of this show on Netflix just in time for the third season premiere. Now we have to watch it a week at a time, with commercials. First world problems! We love the McCords' marriage and escaping into a world where all the world's diplomatic problems can be solved in forty-five minutes. It's the optimistic opposite of Veep, which we also love. We watched Designated Survivor over Christmas break - we didn't enjoy it nearly as much but we really, really want to know what happens.
The Good Place. Oh, man, this sitcom by Michael Schur, the creator of Parks & Rec and Brooklyn Nine Nine, is seriously the best. Ted Danson plays a celestial being who works as an architect and designed a new neighborhood in "the good place," where only the most worthy humans end up in the afterlife. Kristin Bell plays kind of a jerk who somehow got there by mistake. It's just so hilarious and well done - I really hope it gets renewed for a second season!
This is Us. I have been watching this one on my own while sewing and editing photos and such. It's definitely not Adam's type of show. Basically, it's like Parenthood except way better and with less talking over each other, but if you don't want to cry at the end of every episode, it's probably not the show for you. 
Bunheads. I'm glad I watched the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix (definitely enjoyed Emily's story arc the most, then Lorelai's, then Rory's) but I'm mostly glad that it introduced me to Bunheads. It was created by the same writer, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and stars Kelly Bishop, who plays Emily, as well as many of the character actors from Gilmore Girls. Kirk returns as a fantastically pretentious barista. It's about a ballet studio in small-town southern California and sadly lasted just one season. You can find the episodes for free at Free Form, which is apparently ABC Family's edgy new name.
Speechless. This is a sitcom about a family with a child who has cerebral palsy. The actor playing him really does have cerebral palsy. It seems very true-to-life while also being very, very funny. Minnie Driver is particularly great as the mom fighting for her special needs child. We've also enjoyed American Housewife, another new ABC sitcom, although perhaps not quite as much.

Claire and Maggie have been obsessed with Clifford this fall, finally breaking their very, very long Daniel Tiger streak. On that note, though, I loved this interview with Mr. Rogers in which he tells Daniel's very surprising origin story.

1.20.2017

Looking Ahead to 2017

Vintage Happy New Year

The first thing on my agenda this year is making Betsy's baby quilt for her birthday at the beginning of February. I've finally got all the fabric cut out, so now it's time to actually start sewing! 

In February, we plan to switch the girls' rooms around. Currently, Claire and Maggie sleep in two cribs-turned-toddler-beds in the nursery. Betsy sleeps in a pack-n-play in what we used to call the guest room because it has two twin beds. For a while, we would just move the pack-n-play into our room when we had guests, but for the last couple months Betsy has done terribly when sleeping with anyone else. We've just been limited to air mattresses in the living room or playroom when we have visitors and our bedroom situation doesn't make a lot of sense. 

Claire and Maggie will move into twin beds and Betsy will move into a crib. We'll just leave the other crib in the nursery, set up as a toddler bed. Mostly because we have nowhere else to store it and we'll probably need it again in the future. But also we're hoping that at some point Betsy will sleep much better with others and we can have Claire and Maggie bunk with her when we have guests. One could sleep in the spare toddler bed and one could sleep on an air mattress. 

Anyway, along with this room switch-up I want to hang some art on the blank wall in the big girls' room and hang some different art in the nursery. This will also mean changing some art in the playroom and redecorating the mantel. I realize that means nothing to anyone except me. 

Lent starts on March 1st. Two years ago, I spent Lent deep cleaning our house, tackling one room a week. And...it hasn't really been deep cleaned since. (I'm talking like dusting base boards, scrubbing out the fridge, washing the exterior windows, etc.) So I plan to tackle that again. Claire's fifth birthday is in March as well. She's decided she wants a "Little Mermaid singing party." 

During the Easter season, my sister will be visiting from her orphanage in Honduras! I'm ridiculously excited to see her. In May, we've got our big trip of the year planned. We're going to fly to Denver to visit some dear friends, drive to Tulsa for Adam's sister's college graduation, drive to Houston to visit his family there, and then fly home. I may also be ridiculously excited to visit the Pioneer Woman's new restaurant while we're in Tulsa. 

We have so many other trips we'd love to take over the summer. Too many! It would be really fun to be in Victoria, British Columbia for Canada Day, since this year is Canada's 150th anniversary. There's going to be a total solar eclipse visible from Salem, Oregon at the end of August. We should decide if we can attend either of those events really soon, because I'm sure accommodations will book up quickly. There are also a couple out-of-state weddings we'd love to attend. Most importantly, we want to visit my parents in Eastern Washington at least twice. Maybe for Claire's spring break in early April, Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Thanksgiving? We're committed to taking our kids camping at least once. We haven't been camping since we were small children, so we want to keep it very low-key to start with - just an overnight at a state park thirty minutes from home.

Project-wise, my next priority is making our yearly photo book and Betsy's baby album. We also have two half-finished projects in the garage that we really, really, really need to complete because our garage isn't that big! We've got the wood frames built and the batting/fabric cut out for some pelmet box window treatments for the main living areas - we just have to assemble and hang. We've also removed like 80% of the chipping paint from the kids' picnic table - next up is stain and poly. Other projects I'd love to tackle...

- Replacing the black IKEA dresser in the nursery with the white version
- Picking up another dining chair while at IKEA so we have an even number again
- Repainting our kitchen and bathroom stools
- Repainting our coffee table
- Repainting our end tables
- Planting more flower bulbs

Well, hopefully we'll get to at least of couple of those. I'd love to work on a few sewing projects too. I really enjoy making dresses for the girls and I have enough fabric leftover to make a dress like this for Claire in a larger size, so all three sisters could be matching. I also made these cute little dolls for Claire and Maggie when they were one. They were fun to make and turned out really cute...but the girls don't play with them much. Should I make one for Betsy?

I have a Pure Barre class pass that expires at the end of May. I need to go at least once a week until then to use it up. My local studio stopped offering 8:00 pm classes, which makes attending on weeknights challenging. I'm going to try the 8:30 class tomorrow morning instead. When Betsy transitions to one nap a day (which I hope isn't until preschool ends for the summer) I plan to join the Y again. Our location has two childcare rooms - one for babies and toddlers and one for children over three. I hope Betsy doesn't mind being separated from her big sisters! She is by far our most outgoing baby though and, honestly, her sisters spent most of their playtime trying to keep away from her admittedly destructive behavior.

Before I know it, September will be here and Claire will be starting kindergarten. (More on our schooling decision soon, once we've officially got everything figured out.) No matter what option we go with, our life will certainly be more scheduled than it is now. Maggie will turn four in October - she's already dreaming of an "Alice in Wonderland tea party." Her and Claire already have our family Halloween costumes figured out too - characters from Peter Pan. We shall see if they change their minds about either of those in the coming months. Sometime next winter (maybe over Christmas break?) we'd love to spend a couple days at Suncadia, a resort in the Cascades that has ice skating, snow tubing, sleigh rides, etc. Oh, and perhaps the most exciting event of the year will happen at the very end - Allison will be done with her two years of missionary service! 

1.16.2017

Eleven Months With Betsy

Eleven Months Official

Likes: 
Chewing on toothbrushes. 
Climbing on stools and the fireplace hearth. 
Riding Dumbo and the Mad Hatter tea cups at Disney World.
The soft dolly and xylophone she got for Christmas.
When Daddy puts her to bed, although Mommy is still preferred.

Dislikes:
Having her first stomach bug.  
That she's not allowed to rummage through the trash and compost bins. 
When her sisters don't let her interfere with their pretend play. 

New Tricks:
Standing on her own.
Blowing kisses.
Playing toy whistles. 
Signing "all done."
Taking several steps in a row. 
Sleeping through the night most nights. 

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Here are some more pictures from the last month:

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For comparison's sake, here are Claire and Maggie at eleven months old.