Monday, December 8, 2014

Marlowe's Bright Birthday Brunch

We celebrated Marlowe's third birthday at the beginning of November with a brunch party!

We broke our usual "family only" rule, and changed things up with a "friends" party.  (Side note: I agonized over which of our friends to invite.  Please don't feel bad if you didn't get invited this time!  I promise that you are loved.)  :)

I didn't really have a theme in mind -- I just knew that I wanted to have a brunch and decorate with bright colors.  So, naturally, I asked the attendees dress to match the theme.

One of the problems with not having our family at the party was that I didn't get to benefit from my sister's awesome photography skills.  So for this post, you're stuck with my photos, which aren't nearly as good.  :)

Here are our guests.  I caught everybody smiling!  What a great group of kids.

For drinks, we had strawberry milk and orange juice in milk bottles with crazy straws.  The kids LOVED the crazy straws.

Here's Ava, modeling the eyeglass straws.  They didn't stay on very well, though.

And here's the food table.  For the party, having the table against the window worked out really well.  For taking pictures, it did not work well at all.  :) Most of the decorations were free, or I reused them from something else.

We had egg casserole, an apple dipping station, pancakes ....

... and THIS.  Candied bacon.  It was amazing and you need to go make some right now (FYI, I skipped the cayenne in the recipe).  Definitely the hit of the party, for the grown-ups, anyway!

For the cake, I made a stack of colored pancakes with whipped cream frosting.  I cut out a "3" with my Cricut and just laid the cardstock on the top and poured sprinkles in the makeshift stencil.

Birthday girl!  She loved her day and soaked up all of the attention.  What a special little lady.

It was a beautiful day, so the kids ended up playing outside most of the time.  We had glow sticks and silly string to play with, which I didn't get a picture of.  

Here's some shots of the other girls that day.  

Happy Third Birthday, Marlowe Grace!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cecily's Celebrations: One Year (and then some)!

Well, since Cecily is almost 15 months old, I guess it's time for me to write my one-year post about her.  :)

Sweet, sweet Cecily.  She brings such joy to our family.  Right now, I think she's kind of a middle ground between the twins and Marlowe.  She's got the sweet spirit of the twins, with the curious nature of Marlowe.

Cecily is QUICK.  Surprisingly quick.  She likes to chase me around the kitchen island, and sometimes I can barely keep ahead of her!  She started walking earlier than any of her sisters, too.  Thankfully, she's not a climber, though (knock on wood!).

She has 6 teeth so far: 4 on top, and 2 on bottom.  I love her grin.

She's a mommy's girl.  Last night, she was a little clingy, so Tony tried to take her so that I could finish supper.  She literally climbed around me, from my side to my back, like a little monkey, in an effort to stay with me.

We finally moved her out of our closet (it's not as bad as it sounds!) when she was around 12 months old.  She's in the room that she and Marlowe will share, but until Cecily stops waking up at 6 a.m. (sometimes earlier), Marlowe is on a cot on the twins' room.  It's working out nicely.

Speaking of her sisters, they all have such a great relationship with each other.  Hadley loves Cecily, so deeply that she almost can't contain it.  She likes to play on Cecily's level and make her laugh.  Leila takes on a more responsible role of helping Cecily up the stairs and watching her while I'm in the shower.  And Marlowe and Cecily are becoming friends.  They enjoy each other's company and like to do some of the same things.

Cecily Truth, we are so thankful that you are in our family!  You are loved!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Day I Needed My Mommy

(Note:  I wrote this over a year ago, and hadn't ever finished it.  Thanks to Erin Aurich, fellow twin mama, for inspiring me to post it today!)


When I was about six weeks pregnant with this baby, I made a 3-hour round trip to my parents' house with the kids with no notice, because I needed to see my mom.  I was crying when I called to say that I was coming, and continued crying in the minivan for a little while while I was driving.  My parents hugged me, took me to lunch with my sister, and the kids and I took a long nap before driving home again.  It was good for my soul.

Why did I drive such a long distance to stay such a short time?  Because announcing our fourth child's pregnancy was one of the most isolating times in my life.  Yes, many, many people congratulated us with excitement and anticipation.  But, there were also many who did not share our excitement.  "Was this one an accident?"  "Four kids, four and under, huh?  Good luck with that!"  The usual montage of "you know what causes that, right?" and "you'll have your hands full!"  My personal favorites were the ones who decided to tell me about their personal lives instead of congratulating us.  "Oh, that's nice for you ... but my husband and I have decided not to have any more children."  "I/My husband would DIE if we got pregnant again!"  "We've decided not to have more children so that we can take lots of vacations."

On that particular day, I had received a discouraging note from a "friend" regarding my pregnancy.  I also had to herd my three girls to a doctor's appointment, in the snow, waking them up to get to the appointment on time, only to find out when I arrived that every single doctor in the practice was out that day and they would have to reschedule.  I felt like a sideshow, parading them through the doctor's office and back out again, with all eyes on us.  It wasn't much, but it was enough to break me.  That's when I called my mom.

That isolating feeling didn't last very long, thankfully.  After the announcement and initial reactions, things settled down, and now we just eagerly look forward to Baby's arrival with the same anticipation that we have with all the others.

Shortly after these events, I read this article about a lady who has changed her views on abortion from pro-choice to pro-life. The entire article is good, but it doesn't all relate to my post.  Here's one thing that stood out to me: "The way I'd always seen it [when she was pro-choice], the standard position was that babies are burdens, except for a couple times in life when everything is perfect enough that a couple might temporarily see new life as a good thing. ...New human life is always a good thing."

Right on.

Most, if not all, of my friends and family are pro-life.  The people who said unkind things to me about my pregnancy are Christians.  They say that babies should be valued -- the ones who are conceived by single teenage mothers, or conceived in poverty, or who are just plain unwanted.   But what about your immediate surroundings, and yes, even your own home?  I can't help but think that if all my pro-life friends truly valued all new life, some of those stinging statements about our newest pregnancy wouldn't have been said.  Furthermore, it saddens me that I have "pro-life" friends who would feel disappointed if a new, God-given life came into their family.

The next time that somebody announces their pregnancy to you, may I suggest simply praising God with them?  God is good.  All the time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cecily's First Birthday! (A Beatrix Potter Theme)

Cecily Parsley lived in a pen,
and brewed good ale for gentlemen;
Gentlemen came every day,
Till Cecily Parsley ran away.
~Beatrix Potter

My baby girl is one year old today!  One of my favorite things is to go through the day, saying things like "right now, we were calling Aunt Becky!", kind of living the day's memories.  I have such happy memories of the day Cecily was born.

There's a Beatrix Potter book called "Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes".  Therefore, it was not hard to decide what the theme for Cecily's first birthday party would be - Beatrix Potter's stories.

Here's the invitation, designed by my wildly talented sister Paula:

Here's the birthday girl, playing while we got ready for the party.  We had our traditional "family only" party at a great park here in town on Labor Day.

Since we were at a park, the only decorating I did was a food table.  I love the way this picture taken by my mom turned out! Such a gorgeous day.

We kept things simple with BLT sandwiches, a veggie tray (I'm sure the vegetables were from Mr. McGregor's garden), jelly sandwich cookies, and super cute carrot cake cupcakes, which were made and decorated by my sister Becky.  There was also supposed to be watermelon, which I accidentally left in the car.  :)  There were also cans of ginger ale (a nod to the ale that Cecily Parsley makes in her rhyme), which was covered with a wrap with the rhyme on it.

After lunch, we took some pictures and played at the park.  I love this picture of Cecily with Grandma and Grandpa Korf.  She's so sweet.

And then, cake!  No hesitation, and she cleaned up.  She's obviously the fourth child.  I was reminiscing about Hadley and Leila's first birthday -- it was the first time they had sugar!  Cecily has *ahem* had some practice with sugar already.  :)

And here are some of my favorite pictures of my family.  We are so blessed.

I'll follow up sometime soon with an update about Cecily's latest happenings.  Until then, happy birthday, sweet Cecily!  You bring so much joy into our lives!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Happy Engagement-versary! (Our Engagement Story)

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day that Tony proposed to me!  (I think I mentioned before that we couldn't remember what day it was.  Thankfully, my mom keeps a diary and looked it up.)  This weekend, we are looking forward to leaving the kids with my parents and going back to the same exact place where he proposed, for dinner.

Tony and I have had a lot of entertaining stories in our lives together, and our engagement is no exception.  Though, in this case, I am the one who is entirely to blame for having anything other than a typical one-knee-she-said-yes story.

On July 26, 2004, Tony drove from Kansas to Colorado to attend the wedding of his college friend, Wes.  (I was living in Kansas City and didn't join him.)  After the wedding, he drove another 3.5 hours to my parents' house, and stayed the night.  I wasn't told what kind of conversations had happened during his stay, but I knew that no boyfriend would drive 3.5 hours out of his way just to say hello to his girlfriend's parents.

Apparently, the assumption that he had gotten my Dad's blessing started some sort of ridiculously unreasonable countdown clock for me.  We saw each other once after that, probably a week after Tony talked to my parents, and I had a terrible time.  I wondered if every place was THE place and prepared my response accordingly.  I wondered if he had the ring, and if so, did he pick a good one?  I was on edge practically the whole time, trying to act like nothing was different.

Well, he didn't have the ring, and he didn't propose.  I finished my job in Kansas City and went to spend a couple of weeks with my parents before going back to college.

There are a couple of side stories that I wasn't aware of at the time.  At this point, Tony had ordered the ring and was waiting for it to arrive.  He had chosen the marquise cut.  While researching diamond cuts online, he found a website that matched shapes to personality types.  According to the website, the personality matched with the marquise was "dramatic" and "opinionated" and "fiery".  Then, when Tony went to pick up the ring, he locked his keys in the car and had to have a friend come rescue him.  Yeah, he probably should have just walked away while he was ahead ... :)

So, on the weekend of August 7th, Tony drove to Colorado again to spend a weekend with me.  He had the ring hidden safely in his car.  Since he wasn't familiar with the area, he didn't have plans about where exactly he would propose, but knew that he would do it that weekend.  On Saturday night, we drove to Salida for a date.  We ended up at a coffee shop called Bongo Billy's.  We ordered coffee and wandered out to the riverside deck.  Because there was a band playing inside, the deck was empty except for us.  We could see the mountain near town, and the usual white "S" had been replaced with a glowing red heart.

Tony quickly realized that this was the perfect place to propose.  All he had to do was figure out a way to go back to the car for the ring without making me suspicious.

I also quickly realized that this was the perfect place to propose.  But I also remembered how terrible our previous time together had been, with me constantly wondering, and never being able to just be in the moment.  Instead of waiting patiently and demurely for whenever he decided to propose (you know, like a normal human being), I thought sharing my anxiety would help me relax.  After all, it had only been two weeks since he talked to my parents; surely my expectations were too high, and he wasn't going to ask that night.

"So, I need you to know that I've been expecting you to propose for a couple of weeks now.   Every time we go someplace romantic, I wonder if it's going to be the place, and then it isn't, and I get disappointed.  Basically, any time we go anywhere, I'm going to be wondering if it's the time and the place.  And I just needed to tell you that because I really want to enjoy tonight without constantly wondering when you're going to do it."

Tony stared at me.  He said, "FINE."  And he got up and left.

Alone on the deck, I felt horrible.  I sat hunched over with my face in my hands.  I wasn't letting my (hopefully) future husband have control over the thing that he was supposed to have control over.  I didn't even know where he had gone or when he would come back. Five of the longest minutes of my life passed by.

Then, I saw him climb back up the stairs to the deck.  He walked over to me, pulled out the ring box, and got down on one knee.  Instead of feeling joy, I felt ashamed.  I told him that he could wait for another time.  He replied, "It doesn't matter to me how or when I propose, as long as we get married."  He actually had to convince me that this was something he had been planning to do that night, not something that I had forced him to do. In the end, of course, I said yes.

Over the next weeks/months/years, my guilt about ruining his perfect proposal opportunity came and went.  I felt sad that we didn't have a perfectly romantic engagement story to share with our kids and grandkids.  I wondered if Tony would have proposed at all if he had known that I was going to open my big mouth. But every time I started to feel bad, I remembered something: Tony picked the ring shape for somebody "dramatic" and "opinionated" and "fiery".  He knew who he was proposing to, long before he actually did it.  And, boy, am I glad he took that risk.

This is the morning after the proposal.

This is our "what did I just get into???" faces.  I think Tony's face might have a little bit of actual panic. ;)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Leila's Life: Five Years

Today's post is dedicated to this lovely lady, who, just 28 minutes after her older sister, also helped introduce Tony and I into the wonderful world of being parents, five years ago.

Just as I noted with Hadley, as I read through Leila's Life, Leila is only becoming more of herself: extroverted, talkative, imaginative, feminine.

Leila's girlishness is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about her.  Dresses or skirts are the only way to go.  Leggings are a possibility, but jeans "aren't soft enough".  Pink and purple crayons get the heaviest use in our house, and usually those crayons are coloring unicorns, ponies, princesses, and butterflies.  As I write this, I can hear her acting/singing out something in her room during rest time - she wants "Monster-y" to get into the carriage to go to the castle.  Even the masculine characters get a feminine touch.  :)

As a complement to being a total girl, Leila has some natural athleticism.  In ballet, swimming lessons, and roller skating, I noticed that Leila caught on and advanced quickly.  We got a small indoor trampoline with a hand rail for Christmas, and Leila does all sorts of gymnastics on it.  She's also perfecting her headstand.

Something pretty significant is no longer with Leila, though.  Her dear friend Lavender, after gaining several holes, has been retired to Leila's memory box.  Lavender has been replaced by a white unicorn with a pink mane, so all is well.  :)

Like Hadley, Leila also got glasses and did preschool this year.  The twins will be attending a nearby public school for part-time Kindergarten this year, and they are SO excited.

And I think that's where I'm going to wrap it up!  Happy 5th birthday, Leila Elaine!  You make our hearts so happy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hadley's Happenings: Five Years

I'm late for my yearly update, but late is definitely better than never.

It's been half a decade since Tony and I became parents!  Having kids is one of the best things we've ever done.  And it all started with this beautiful little girl, born 28 minutes before her sister with the same DNA, five years ago.

As I read over Hadley's Happenings from the last five years, I realized that Hadley is becoming more of the person that she has always been.  She's introverted, she's quirky, she's imaginative, she's thoughtful and kind, she is an amazing sister.

In the last year, Hadley started and finished preschool, ballet, and swimming lessons.  Of course, she is wildly gifted in all areas (I might be biased!).

One of her favorite activities is still coloring.  She can spend hours at a time, coloring at the dining table.  She's very precise and her drawings are intricate.  (This one is a little wrinkled, thanks to Marlowe hijacking it, but it's still one of my recent favorites.)

In the last year, Hadley also became a big sister again.  She dotes on Cecily.  When Cecily was a tiny baby, Hadley was the person that could make her giggle the most.  She and Leila fight over who gets to sit in the car seat with the best view of Cecily.  Just today, Hadley asked me if we could have more babies in our family.  :)

Also, in the last year, Hadley got glasses ...

... and tried roller skating for the first time.  She had a natural knack for it and would love to go again soon.

Happy 5th birthday, Hadley Luella!  You make our hearts so happy.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Motto: Babies are Good

If you ever get into a conversation with me about family size, you'll find out my simple motto: babies are good.

(Disclaimer: this is not a hint at the future size of our family.)  :)

Babies are just good.  Jesus loves them.  They bring happiness.  They're full of joy.  They're beautiful.  They're perfect.  They make us closer to God.  They bring positive change by forcing us to slow down, to savor the present, to put another person before ourselves, to work on the Fruits of the Spirit, to not be selfish.  On and on.

Even positive change isn't easy, though, and sometimes, those positive changes only come after struggles. Fussiness, loss of sleep, loss of personal space, loss of time, chaos, loneliness, feeling like you don't know the answer.  The struggles can be so hard that they leave parents thinking, why would I ever choose to put myself through that again? Why did we have children in the first place?

I'm here to tell you why.  Because babies are good, in so many ways.

I don't always practice what I preach, though.  I've written before about how Cecily was not the easiest newborn.  Not the worst, by any means, but definitely the hardest of our children.  Currently at eight months old, she is sleeping through the night, nursing less often, and is a generally happy baby.  But every once in a while, she likes to remind us that she's still in charge.  Especially in the ridiculously early hours of the morning.  On the morning of the pirate birthday party, she woke up ready to play at 5 a.m.  Tony and I took turns going to her and trying to convince her that it wasn't morning yet.  Pacifier offers were met with shrieking protests.

While Tony was with Cecily, I was laying in bed, praying.  God, please just give us a break this morning. Give Cecily more sleep.  I'd like us all to be rested for the party, and right now half the family is definitely not rested.

That's when I got a little dose of my own medicine.  I spout my "babies are good and bring positive change to their parents, especially through struggles" opinions all the time.  Yet I was being incredibly selfish.  How can I expect to see the good in my child and begin to change for the better if I'm not willing to go through a few struggles along the way?  So, I got up, brought Cecily into bed, nursed her, and snuggled with her for those extra minutes before anybody else in the house was awake.  And you know what?  It was good.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fifth Birthday Pirate Parrrty!

Can you believe that these three kiddos are turning FIVE in the next few days?

I took their first picture together when they were only one month old...

... and they had their first birthday party together.

And on Memorial Day, I got to throw their fifth birthday party!  This is the first time that Hadley and Leila chose their theme by themselves.  The only option, in their minds, was a pirate party.  They're big fans of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  So, away I went, on a pirate-themed mission.

Update: I forgot to include a picture of the invitation!  

Here's the beverage table!  The banner is an original of mine.  Melissa took the cake (again!) with her amazing pirate cake balls, and she also made eye patches for the kids to wear AND found that awesome pirate ship at a garage sale!  Friends of ours loaned us a fake cannon (not pictured) and a couple of treasure chests from their own pirate party.  If you look closely at the next few pictures, you can see that my mom turned the tablecloth into a treasure map, as well.  It was so fun to see her working with Hadley and Leila, turning their treasure map item suggestions into reality.

And here's the food table!  My mom amazed us even more by free-hand drawing the anchor chalkboard.  I made the anchor garland on the front of the table.  The red-striped table skirt was a random thrift store find.  It's actually a bed skirt that I cut into two pieces to use on both of the tables.  My favorite thing on the food table, by far, was the watermelon shark that Paula helped with.

Oh, and I was also pretty amused by the menu I came up with: peg legs (chicken drumsticks), salty sea dogs (hot dogs), watermelon shark with shark bait inside (fruit salad), cannonballs (grape tomatoes and black olives), Pirate's Booty, and hidden treasure cookies (cookies with Rolos baked inside).

And here are some of my favorite shots of the party.  Our parties are "family only", so all the cousins had a great time playing together.  We had a kids' treasure hunt and an adult treasure hunt.  The birthday kids got floor puzzles from Grandpa and Grandma and played with them all afternoon (they're laying down on them in the fourth picture down).

Five years already!  I love watching my girls grow.  I love being a part of this silly family.