Ellie's Most Jungle-y of Birthdays

the birthday tiger

the birthday tiger

Frankly, I’ve been a procrastinateypants about this post because I am not entirely OKAY with Ellie ticking off another year. Seven is sounding basically grown up right now and I don’t know what to do about that. (I can’t actually do anything about it)

Shocker: she wanted a jungle party, heavy on tigerness but no tigers were to be harmed in the making of this party!!! Like, not even the image of a tiger. This presented some challenges mostly because she was determined to have a pin the tiger style game. After weeks of back and forth (and my refusal to create a tiger game that we would then be honor bound to keep and preserve for an indefinite period of time) this convo happened:

Me, “We’ve just gotta settle it and move forward.”

Ellie, “I know I want to pin a tiger, so how about a jungle.”

Me, “Ok but you need a place to pin the tiger. That’s the beauty of pin the tail on the tiger, it’s clear where a tail is supposed to go.”

Ellie, “Well tigers go in the jungle.”

Me, “Yes but where in the jungle? Are you going to just pin the tiger on the pile of dead monkeys.”

Ellie, “YES. Let’s do that!”

And so Saoirse and Ellie drew a jungle, a pile of dead monkeys, and even a terrified monkey running away from where the tiger was to be pinned. 

...

Yeah. I don’t really have anything else to say about that 😂

3I8B1213.jpg

With each RSVP her friends specified their favorite animal and we made felt masks for everybody. I loved how into the design process Ellie was, helping me piece them and figuring out which features made a white wolf look definitively white wolf-y. As guests arrived Saoirse handed them their mask. We adapted masks from these templates because they’re basically adorable and the shapes covered the spectrum from prey to predator.

Ellie’s amazing tiger suit is handmade by  Wisps Wardrobe

Ellie’s amazing tiger suit is handmade by Wisps Wardrobe

We thought a jungle treasure hunt made sense, so once all the guests arrived I opened the first envelope. Inside: a puzzle piece revealing part of a treasure map and clue to find the next envelope and map piece. I made up little rhyming clues with the last word missing (“As soft as a pile of kittens, you’ll find this clue where we keep our _____”, that kind of thing) and they tore around the house finding the hidden clues before finally assembling the puzzle and following the map to the marked - where I had, in fact, hidden a treasure. :)

3I8B1220.jpg

This was extra fun because even Ellie didn’t know what the treasure was - I’d purchased tiny Schleich animals for each guest, according to their favorite animal. They stashed these in their jungle party bags and I delivered the news: there had been reports of pirates (!!!) in the area and Mr. Sentz had battled them. The pirates were gone, but they left behind a treasure chest! Which was the piñata. Because Ellie was Not Okay with any animal piñatas. 😂🤷🏻‍♀️ 

Marcus <3

Marcus <3

The Cake: You maybe saw this coming - she didn’t want to devour a tiger. So we went with a lemon cake and orange buttercream icing. Lots of tiers, because she stacked the tiny toy tigers and big cats high! Interestingly she wanted cookie leaves, I think inspired by my last minute decoration of Ayrton’s cake. Green sugar cookies, and I cut the shapes with a knife. She and Saoirse had a great time decorating!

I kept the party to 90minutes which left just enough time for gifts and some rambunctious silliness before pickups began. Win!

3I8B1359.jpg

Party Favors Deets - All Stashed in an Animal Print Bag

  • handmade felt animal masks

  • Schleich toy animal

  • piñata candy

  • cheetos (because she calls them cheetahs <3)

  • Cuties with tiger stripes drawn on with Sharpie - she loved doing this!

Decorations: I basically took the kids to the floral department of Michael’s and let her choose what was jungle-y, but also scored some great palm decorated plates on Amazon, leaves that we used on the table and walls, as well as this roll of leafy goodness that we suspended in the foyer for a grand entrance through vines.

3I8B1372.jpg

Family Bakes: Gingerbread Cookies

Molasses is a Christmas smell I cannot go without, and that’s how gingerbread makes it on our Bakes list every year. This year…this year was a milestone. After a brief rolling demo for Saoirse the girls rolled, cut, decorated and piped every cookie. I’ve been relegated to oven duty! Love my little bakers.

3I8B8836.jpg

Tip: use confectioners sugar instead of flour when rolling out your cookies. It provides just enough nonstick, absorbs, and does leave that dusty, raw floury taste.

3I8B8748.jpg

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
(yields 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size of cutter)

3 1/4 cups AP flour
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1 TBS ground ginger
3/4 TSP baking soda
3/4 TSP ground cloves
1/2 TSP ground nutmeg
1/2 TSP salt
3/4 C butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 C unsulfured molasses
1 1/2 TSP vanilla extract
zest of one orange

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves, salt & nutmeg.

  2. In a large mixer, beat the butter, sugar and zest together on medium speed until light and fluffy.

  3. Add the eggs, molasses and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until combined.

  4. Reduce mixer speed to low, gradually adding the flour mixture until just combined.

  5. Divide the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 2 or more hours.

  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F and line your baking sheets with parchment.

  7. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough evenly just over 1/8-inch thick. Cut into shapes, re-rolling the dough as needed. Move the cut cookies to the baking sheets and decorate with sprinkles and/or just bake and ice them!

  8. Bake for 8- 10 minutes, then allow them to cool a few minutes on the sheet pan before transferring to a cooling rack. Decorate cooled cookies with icing.

3I8B8966.jpg

ICING:

2 C confectioners sugar
2-3 TBS milk
1/4 TSP vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, only adding as much milk is needed to achieve piping consistency.

3I8B8953.jpg

What they’re wearing:

Ellie: Fin & Vince forest henley, Fin & Vince suspender skirt, bows by Chloe Jean bows

Saoirse: Fin & Vince forest henley, Fin & Vince Mabel dress, bows by Kate Elise bows

For the Love of Christmas Clothes

A roundup of the kids’ Christmas clothes - knits and non knits alike :)

James’ Christmas Eve outfit: mittens by Fin &amp; Vince in honeycomb, pom bonnet by Briar Handmade, overalls by Fin &amp; Vince, milo boots By The Humble Soles (use code cathlins10 for 10% off your Humble soles order)

James’ Christmas Eve outfit: mittens by Fin & Vince in honeycomb, pom bonnet by Briar Handmade, overalls by Fin & Vince, milo boots By The Humble Soles (use code cathlins10 for 10% off your Humble soles order)

James’ Christmas Day outfit: stripe lap shirt by mabo kids, overalls by Fin &amp; Vince, Star sweater by rylee &amp; cru, milo boots By The Humble Soles (use code cathlins10 for 10% off your Humble soles order)

James’ Christmas Day outfit: stripe lap shirt by mabo kids, overalls by Fin & Vince, Star sweater by rylee & cru, milo boots By The Humble Soles (use code cathlins10 for 10% off your Humble soles order)

Ayrton’s Christmas Eve duds: OeufNYC Santa hat, Fin &amp; Vince honey stripe alpaca sweater, Fin &amp; Vince pine suspender pants, The Humble Soles Rama soft sole shoe (note: you can use code CATHLINS10 for 10% off at The Humble Soles)

Ayrton’s Christmas Eve duds: OeufNYC Santa hat, Fin & Vince honey stripe alpaca sweater, Fin & Vince pine suspender pants, The Humble Soles Rama soft sole shoe (note: you can use code CATHLINS10 for 10% off at The Humble Soles)

Ayrton’s cozy Christmas Day outfit: Pine Fin &amp; Vince kimono cardigan, Mabo Kids organic cotton lap striped natural/chartreuse, Zara knit overalls, Briar Handmade Juniper pom

Ayrton’s cozy Christmas Day outfit: Pine Fin & Vince kimono cardigan, Mabo Kids organic cotton lap striped natural/chartreuse, Zara knit overalls, Briar Handmade Juniper pom

Saoirse’s Christmas Eve outfit: Fin &amp; Vince honey stripe alpaca sweater, Fin &amp; Vince suspender skirt, Briar Handmade Manhattan pom

Saoirse’s Christmas Eve outfit: Fin & Vince honey stripe alpaca sweater, Fin & Vince suspender skirt, Briar Handmade Manhattan pom

Saoirse’s Christmas Day cuteness: The Humble Soles Maya t-strap, Fin &amp; Vince forest gauze collar blouse, Fin &amp; Vince flax stripe knot dress, bows by Kate Elise. (note: you can use code CATHLINS10 for 10% off at The Humble Soles)

Saoirse’s Christmas Day cuteness: The Humble Soles Maya t-strap, Fin & Vince forest gauze collar blouse, Fin & Vince flax stripe knot dress, bows by Kate Elise. (note: you can use code CATHLINS10 for 10% off at The Humble Soles)

Ellie’s Christmas Eve splendor - the girl loves RED! Piupiuchick ombre cardigan (note, this runs big! this is a size 4y on my wears a size 8y kid!), Mabo Kids crimson gauze gemma dress, Young Soles London t-bars

Ellie’s Christmas Eve splendor - the girl loves RED! Piupiuchick ombre cardigan (note, this runs big! this is a size 4y on my wears a size 8y kid!), Mabo Kids crimson gauze gemma dress, Young Soles London t-bars

…and Ellie wore on Christmas Day on Christmas Day on Christmas Day… more red :D Fin &amp; Vince red alpaca stripe sweater, Fin &amp; Vince hazelnut suspender skirt, tassel hat handmade by Knittybutton/Ali Tong, Young Soles London t-bars,

…and Ellie wore on Christmas Day on Christmas Day on Christmas Day… more red :D Fin & Vince red alpaca stripe sweater, Fin & Vince hazelnut suspender skirt, tassel hat handmade by Knittybutton/Ali Tong, Young Soles London t-bars,

…Let’s call this a Christmas bonus? Both my girls can wear this one :D Fin &amp; Vince forest gauze collar blouse, Fin &amp; Vince suspender skirt, hat handmade by Knittybutton/Ali Tong and bows by Kate Elise

…Let’s call this a Christmas bonus? Both my girls can wear this one :D Fin & Vince forest gauze collar blouse, Fin & Vince suspender skirt, hat handmade by Knittybutton/Ali Tong and bows by Kate Elise

Our Curated Toy List

….or Super Awesome Minimalist Whoever Perfect Everything Beautiful Toy List

Know what we’ve noticed about minimalist toys? It’s not always about minimalism as it is about beauty. We like to buy things that are beautiful - especially for our children. So often these toys are designed to appeal to us, parents, more than our kids - and it is temptation in a sleek, Scandinavian, wooden toy everything to just buy those items because we want them. Then they sit on shelves unused…so we buy more beautiful things. :D

With 4 kids ages 1-7, here’s our list of not exactly minimalist, but *curated* toy ideas - toys that get played with the most, toys that span age groups, toys that kids just like - and toys that can be beautiful. We’ve grouped them into categories as needed, because sometimes it isn’t about the specific item but the genre of play, and you’ll notice the common denominator is imagination. :)

Elephant grass basket from Wild Creek Co, Felt food from etsy, swords from Sarah’s silks

Elephant grass basket from Wild Creek Co, Felt food from etsy, swords from Sarah’s silks

Dress ups

Dresses, hats, wings, crowns, ears and tails - our kids play dress up every day. That’s some good mileage. Sub category: Weapons. These are a must for boys, but don’t assume your daughters aren’t into - the first light sabers to enter our home came via my daughters. That said I’ve bought countless guns and swords and axes and shields for my nephews. The ones you’ll both like? Sarah’s silks silk covered foam swords. They’re sturdy, lightweight (no grievous wounds have yet been inflicted), and chew-able for the 1 year olds. Wooden guns are also attractive and guaranteed fun, though less so when Ayrton inevitably hits one or all of us in turn over the head with it.

Toy animals:

Every child loves to pretend with animals, so whether it’s an ark set, a small growing collection of wooden animals from Holztiger or Ostheimer, or favorite animals captured realistically by brands like Schleich, toy animals go the distance.

Play kitchen and food

This is not a “girl toy” any more than being a chef is a “man thing”, so don’t shy away from this one for your sons. Kids love to mimic, and if you’re home prepping food for them like we do, they will want to pretend to cook and eat. This is also an easy toy to buy a pretty version of - or pull off an IKEA hack like Elizabeth! I filled ours with felt food from a talented mom shop, and later picked up wooden pots and pans. This is another one that gets played with every day - Ayrton is feeding my a felt carrot fresh from the oven right now!

noah the dog from cuddle and kind, schleich elephant, thomas and friends track and hiro engine, hape xylophone

noah the dog from cuddle and kind, schleich elephant, thomas and friends track and hiro engine, hape xylophone

Things That GO

Trains, track and trucks. I once saw a Dad tweet that his son’s “dump truck brings all the girls to the yard” and he’s not wrong. Every kid I’ve ever met enjoys trains and trucks and track building on some level. They might not dig into it as much as other kids (my first born was very into anthropomorphizing trains*, my second born loves track building), but this is a solid across ages and siblings buy.

*and robots. and basically anything mechanical.

Dolls/Action figures

Baby dolls and cuddly toys, yes, but there comes an age where dolls as an avatar become significant in play. My daughters love dolls to dress up (think Hazel Village, Lavender and Linen) as well as action figures like Rey and Voltron. It’s true that once you leave the likes of small handmade creations behind things get less…instagrammable. But I really love how you can hand a kid, particularly a boy, an action figure from Star Wars or literally just about anything and even if they’ve never seen the associated movie they’re down. What? Masked guy with sword, you say? I’M IN. Green guy with gun? YES. Love that.

wooden blocks, hazel village doll, create a story cards from wild creek co.

wooden blocks, hazel village doll, create a story cards from wild creek co.

Building STUFF

Wooden blocks! Keva! DUPLO! Magnatiles! Those crazy but kinda awesome Tumi Ishi blocks! Having something to build and create with is always a hit - and while we all love our classic wooden blocks I gotta say that Magnatiles are beloved around here. If you’re looking to expand beyond wooden blocks they’re well worth it.

Musical instruments 

We’re a music loving people, and having a basket with some instruments has always been big time noisy fun times for all the kids. Also, if you or your kids are at all musically inclined, get them a decent ukulele! Our daughters are able to hold and support a ukulele, as well as play chords and songs. For when the child’s size guitar isn’t quite tiny enough! :)

Arts and Crafts and Creative Supplies 

Our favorite. Markers, scissors, glue and paper - this does not have to be complicated. I keep drawers with supplies that the girls can reach and access at all times for crafting emergencies (and some extra exciting drawers in what we call The Mischief Closet that have beads and googly eyes and pipe cleaners and stamps and paints oh my!). I will not sugarcoat this for you: my floor is, at any given point in time, a mess. A REALLY BIG MESS. Paper scraps, crayons, marker lids, whatever it is - a craft usually happens here before breakfast and they don’t stop until we send them up to get ready for bed. If a box arrives at our doorstep I can actually SEE the girls flip the “What can we cut that up into” switch. From story cards to knitting sets, anything that inspires or encourages their craftiness or creativity, is a-ok with me!

LAvender and Linien doll, tiger that cathlin needle felted for ellie

LAvender and Linien doll, tiger that cathlin needle felted for ellie

Note 1: “Outside toys” are another beast, mostly self explanatory (bicycle! soccer ball!), and the out of doors itself often suffices. :)

Note 2: Board games are a Mega Big Deal in our house, and so are another post for another time…

Getting our Christmas Tree

The annual outing to go find a Christmas tree is always one of my favorite parts of Advent. Growing up my 6 siblings and I always played hide and seek among the trees while my parents spent ages finding the perfect one. They were super choosy about the process. So naturally now that I’m the grown up I’ve basically become them. This year the first snow storm of the year hit just as we were driving out to the Christmas tree farm. It was like the weather was also getting in the mood and I was LIVING for it. James loved the snow and the trees. Even tried taking a few steps in the snow until he realized it was wet and then demanded to be held the rest of the trip. :D

We went with a Blue Spruce this year which I’d never gotten before. They have such a lovely hue to their needles but LET ME TELL YOU they are prickly!!! Next level sharp. I think I got cuts on my hands trying to put the lights on. So I guess that’s one way to keep your child from pulling the tree over their first mobile Christmas season: make it a death trap of spike needles. It does look lovely though in our living room.. I love all the rest of the furniture pushed together to make room for it. It gives the whole house a cozy feeling that I love so. What are your Christmas tree traditions? Do you cut down your own or skip the cold and go for one you can keep all winter?

-Elizabeth

Our Favorite Books - December

Elizabeth’s Picks

  1. The Fourth Wiseman - I’ve linked my favorite illustrated version of this one!

  2. The Story of Holly and Ivy - This is just the cutest little story about a little girl and doll that I loved as a child and may or may not have/definitely did cry while reading as an adult.

  3. Letters from Father Christmas - This is a non negotiable. Everyone needs this. Be sure to get a copy with Tolkein’s original letters and illustrations.

  4. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever My mother used to read this to us every year after family worship and we laughed uproariously every. single. darn. time.

  5. The Gift of the Magi Another one that we read every year at Christmas eve. My mom always cries. And we always tease her about it. And now I do the same.

Cathlin’s Picks:

  1. Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree - silly story about a too tall Christmas tree and its ever-shrinking top - the girls get a laugh :)

  2. The Tale of Three Trees - it’s just great. And I get teary-eyed in the nice happy way.

  3. Christmas Day in the Morning - A really sweet story with beautiful illustrations. Resonates more with 5 and up in my experience.

  4. The First Christmas by Enid Blyton - Tells the story of that first Christmas through the lens of Mary and Joseph. I do have a gripe I gotta get outta the way: page 13, Mary expresses sadness and is a little complain-y about the journey. We don’t know they were sad or how she reacted to the task - but we do know it was hard. Mary was a very impressive woman, so while I’m sure we can all think “well YEAH I’d be pretty bummed, too!” we don’t know that was her take… Ok, I’m done now. It’s a cool book. Ha!

  5. Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown - The girls have always been fans of The Big Red Barn by MWB, so this was an instant favorite. Honestly anything with optional animal sounds (any page with animals) goes over big.

Christmas Bonus - the girls were shocked that we were limited to FIVE books and since it’s Christmas I thought I’d squeeze in two more:

Ellie’s Bonus Pick: The Nutcracker by The New York City Ballet, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

Saoirse’s Bonus Pick: How the Grinch Stole Christmas - chalk it up to my amazing voice work. ;)

Ayrton’s Bonus Pick: The Animals on Christmas Eve - This is a Little Golden Book with a counting element, and the sing-songy rhyme of it is fun with the littles. I have the warm and fuzzies about reading this to them when they’re 0-3. <3

I like this bonus idea, I’m gonna give more too!

6. The Legend of the Candy Cane - this version in particular has my favorite illustrations.

7. The Christmas Kitten by James Harriet - straight up adorable. James Harriet in general is always tremendous but this one is especially great.

8. Peter Spier’s Christmas - One of my favorite illustrators of all time and this is one of his best. The one I linked is $$$ but keep an eye out on eBay or used bookstores because it’s amazing.

9. Last one,. Getting too excited around here. The Doll’s Christmas by Tasha Tudor. another perfect little girl book. Though warning the dollhouse in the illustrations is may spark lessons about coveting… Fair warning.

10. Ok actually I have no chill and also OCD and couldn’t end on 9 instead of 10. Petunia’s Christmas by Roger Duvoisin. Trust me gonna be a favorite.

Princess Kitty Cat Fairy Arty Party of Fantastic Wonderfulness

Saoirse, my second daughter, master of dress-up and dancing and songifying our life and pretend and crafts and foregoing dessert because art needs to happen at that very moment yessir, has been planning this party for 364 days. Actually, even after it was over she was asking when it would happen - because surely, with a party this amazing, it doesn’t just end, does it?

Heres how a princess kitty cat fairy party shakes out: firstly you need a focal point. Cue the enormous piano box we stashed, then carved up with windows and drawbridge, add a dash of Saoirse’s Dark Side and you a get a dungeon add-on - with rainbow unicorns on the exterior. The girls spent an entire weekend painting this beast. We ran out of paint. you should’ve seen their faces when I explained that we were entirely out of paint, as though they didn’t know such horrors could befall them - and at such a tender age.

Add in a metric poop ton of paper flowers. All the various bunting you’ve hand made and stored in the Birthday bins? Yeah let them hang that, too.

Paper Flowers

tissue paper
string
scissors

  1. Accordion fold a stack of tissue - at least 6 sheets, I prefer 12 for a full size bloom. (To make the yellow centers of the white flowers, I added a 1/4 size sheet of paper on top of the stack)

  2. Crease the accordion in half and tie some stringon the crease. Trim the ends into a half circle shape for a pretty petal.

  3. Gently separate each sheet, pulling up and towards the center.

Bout the craziest thing I did for this party was decide to make felt party hats. I couldn’t help myself - they’re SO CUTE. I found a template over here and kinda just ran with it. Ayrton’s was the only one I got to exert any creative control over, though, and much to my dismay my daughters preferred the store bought fluffy poms to the hand made little tassel ones. I don’t have a sewing machine and these were still pretty easy to knock out with hand sewing - though I used felt glue for Ellie’s tiger stripes.

Face paint. Not optional. Get the kit that comes with stencils because you’re going to have kids sitting there expecting real artistic genius in 15 seconds total while they alternately wiggle and give you The Stare of Utmost Skepticism. “How did you land this gig anyway?” their gaze, leveled at your soul, shakes loose all your parenting fears. “I don’t know! The nurses just let me LEAVE the hospital with A BABY!!” you cry. The Masters didn’t have to put up with this kinda grenadine fueled nonsense.

That’s the segue I’m using to get to punch. Pink. Fizzy. Sugar. Fruit. 🙌🏻

Pink Princess Punch

1 bottle maraschino cherries
1 liter strawberry flavored sparkling water
1 lemon, juiced

Combine in a punch bowl or pitcher, bonus if you serve into cups with the rims dressed up in pink or purple sugar crystals.

Dragonfly Wands

1 bag candy coating (I went PINK)
8 pretzel rods
16 in tact pretzel twists (may the force be with you)
Sprinkles

(allow to set on parchment or silpat)

  1. Melt the candy coating, then dip the rods and add some sprinkles

  2. Dip the twists and attach to the rods, add sprinkles (you’ll want to work quickly)

Crown Cookies

Sugar cookies - this is my go to recipe.

A crown cutter - I found this one on Amazon

Sprinkles for decorating.

Note: I opted to color the crowns yellow because IMO “pink” when browned around the edges is not…yummy. The slightly burnished look of yellow works better.

The Pink Princess Cake

Saoirse, being a visual arty sorta gal, determined that she wanted the exact cake ont he cover of her Pink Princess Cookbook. I did not use their recipe, not being so wild as to go into untested cake waters for The Birthday, but instead used my chocolate cake recipe and frosted it with a pink vanilla buttercream. Topped with some sugar gems and a tiara - poof!

THE ACTIVITIES

Princess Wands

wooden dowels
wooden hearts (craft store)
ribbon
rainbow sparkle duck tape
hot glue
paint and brushes

  1. Before the party attach three ribbons to one end of dowel with the duck tape. Hot glue the wooden shape (a heart for our girl) over top the end edge of the duck tape.

  2. Give each kiddo a few colors of paint - I find it helps to limit it to three globs per kiddo otherwise the littler ones end up with a brown wand.

note: I use the crayola washable paint, which comes in this handy multi pack of glitter paint.

second note: Saoirse’s “best buddy” is her cousin Louie, who was a knight for this occasion. We found him a glow stick sword at the dollar store and made a shield from robust cardboard for him to paint.

Piñata

Dragon piñata. The kids went on a quest to slay the dragon. Bought it at Walmart, filled it with her fave chocolate. Nuff said. Be sure to soak in the ambience of our unfinished basement. Gave the whole dragon slaying endeavor a real renovation underway, Anthro of yesteryear kinda vibe. Er…

Pin the Dragon on the Castle

We found this huge plastic princess castle wall decoration at the dollar store - win! The girls had the idea to hang it and then they cut out and colored a dragon for every guest that they had to try to pin on the tallest castle turret. Victor got first whack at the piñata.

Party Favors. I admit to having some thoughts about party favors, mostly stemming from how much stuff I have to sneak into the trash around here on a regular basis without the addition of mysterious plastic objets… but that’s for another time! The birthday hats, the princess wands, crown cookies, candy dragonfly wands and piñata haul, were their favors. I didn’t hear any complaints, but then the tiny people round here are very forgiving. ;)

Happy birthday, Saoirse!!! We are so grateful God knit your into our family!

Our Favorite Books - November

Bright idea month number 2! Here’s another round of our favorite children’s books - in time for some Christmas shopping? We think so, but we might be part elf…

Elizabeth’s

  1. Seven Silly Eaters - I dare you to read this and not laugh.

  2. Oh Were They Ever Happy - A tricky one to find as it’s out of print but if you ever do find it BUY IT because it is A GEM.

  3. Christina Katerina and the Box -Another all time favorite of mine. Perfect for those imaginative little ones especially if you’ve just gotten a large box in the mail. ;)

  4. Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears - I actually love all the Mr. Putter and Tabby series but this one is especially adorable and fallish. Also I’ve read it about 1000 times to my little sister and still love it so there’s that.

  5. Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel - Victoria Lee Burton’s illustrations are just perfect in this one

Cat’s

  1. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World - A family favorite - all the more so because the girls take it as canon that one does need to get milk from an English cow.

  2. Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert - Beautiful book for Autumn - the girls love it for its special pages and artwork, I also love its sneaky educational leaf identification.

  3. Each Peach Pear Plum - The girls (particularly at pre-k age) love finding the characters in the illustrations

  4. Ada Twist Scientist - Much like Rosie Revere, Engineer this one gives me feeeeeeeeels and I can’t be alone! We’ve got a couple of feisty STEM loving daughters and have experienced the frustrations (you’ve done what with the WHAT now??!!!!) and wonder that goes along with intellectual curiosity.

  5. Over in the Meadow - Adam played and sang this to Ellie when she was a baby, and this is easily Saoirse’s #1 book to grab off the shelf. It has everything for her: illustrations, singing, sweetness and snuggles.

A Letter to My One Year Old on Their Birthday

Dear Ayrton,

The thing to know about any first birthday party is that this party wasn’t for you. You did not care. At best, you might one day look back at pics from the day and think, “Huh. Nice party.” No this party - the First Birthday Party - was for mama and papa, older siblings, family and friends.

And this first birthday party was so much of that and more, bubs. This party was the miscarriages, Ellie, Saoirse, and then… surprise. I mean, as much as our third baby and 8th pregnancy can be a surprise. (Oh, Ayrton! What a wonderful surprise you have been from the beginning!) And I think I surprised myself with how BIG i wanted to make your party. How much I wanted to draw everyone close that has helped us through the darkest of times, who has prayed for you, who has given so much to us of their time. Because, buddy, you are sooooooooo loved - and yes this party wasn’t for you but it was very much about you.

And you did get to eat cake.

We treasure you, your very deliberate and messy kisses, your boldness, your determined cheerfulness, your fierce affection for all living things, your wolf howls, and all the Ayrton things we’ve yet to discover.

Love you and love you,

Mama 

Food for our Wild One:

  • Shortbread hedgehog cookies dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in chopped pecans

  • peanut butter acorns covered in dark chocolate

  • chocolate bear paw cookies

  • pesto rolls

  • pumpkin cake with ginger snap crumble and maple cream cheese frosting

Don’t Waste Your Miscarriage

Following multiple early pregnancy losses it was six years into our marriage before my husband and I carried a baby, a daughter, to term. After that another loss, this time further along, then our second daughter. Then another miscarriage when we thought all was well, and less than a year after that our son was born. All three of my children are “rainbow babies” - conceived in the months immediately following a miscarriage - and all of my pregnancies are marked by extreme nausea and vomiting. By the grace of God I can thank Him for what He has done in my life through these trials. I have learned the deep love of Christ through these things, I have seen His glory in the gory sorrow of an emergency room and in the precious head of a newborn son.

I can think of few times in life when more grace and graciousness is required than when grieving. Maybe this is my first time out of the house and I'm trying to live life as though it's normal and your words or hugs bring things crashing down. Maybe I’m surrounded by small-talking friends and I can hardly breathe and would give anything for you to acknowledge the pain.

Grief wants to be selfish, grief fights back against grace and graciousness with tooth and nail. It's exhausting, and I owe y'all an apology. I’m sorry for being anything less than gracious.

And so, since this is not my first grief rodeo, here is what I’ve learned.

If you are grieving don’t read "what [not] to say" listicles because they will only help you to justify frustrations and hurt. Friends that read "what [not] to say" are doing so because they are crippled by the fear of saying the wrong thing. Because they love you. Friends that don't read "what [not] to say" are doing so because they are going to tell you what's on their hearts. Because they love you. More than just an exercise in futility, these lists are a temptation to bitterness, to feeling wronged, to count grievances and to put yourself on a pedestal ungraciously dismissing people as not being capable of understanding what you are going through. Grief is so stinking selfish, and selfishness doesn't need lists it needs a kick in the shins.

Receive muddled comfort graciously, and don’t be so brittle that people are afraid to handle you. Because people *will* say the wrong thing. People will talk when you want silence. People will be silent when you want them to talk. People will hug you when that physical contact is enough to knock you off the emotional tightrope. Because they love you. Yes, there are "wrong" things to say, "wrong" times to talk, and times when words - any words - are desperately wanted, and it can all, frankly, be pretty irrational, and it doesn't matter. The love of people mourning with you deserves better than lists and bitterness.

Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief - He knows grief better than any of us. Christians in Him might be clumsy but they are His body and we are all being shaped - we should let Him work on us without accusations. The awkward comforter is growing in Christ as much as the one in grief may be, so don’t occupy yourself with looking inward and measuring feelings, but turn your gaze to Him. 

Look outward. Don’t be afraid to walk alongside another mother that is going through a miscarriage while your grief is raw, you have more to offer her now. Don’t be afraid to walk alongside a pregnant friend that is concerned for her baby, you know her fears. You have carried your child for the days God determined and you are a mother now. You will feel pangs of sorrow when you hear pregnancy announcements so recognize that for what it is: grief over the loss of your own pregnancy, not grief over the news of your friend’s pregnancy. You aren’t pregnant anymore, and that is a terrible sadness, but they are not pregnant with your baby. Rejoice with them for the pregnancy that is theirs.

Let your miscarriage change you. Let the grace crush you. When you are grieving the temptation to sin is thick around you, and you are given a strenuous workout. Use those spiritual muscles and don’t let sin cloud up your circumstance. Instead get strong enough to one-punch it. Congratulations, God has given you too much to handle! Now lean into him, he wants you to.

Be Brave. Your miscarriage is not a statistic. It is not part of the 20%. It didn't happen because X number of pregnancies end in loss. Likewise you cannot take comfort in statistics in future pregnancies. Do not fear, but trust in the Lord. This is a gift: miscarriage reminds us that we are always in God’s hands.

Be grateful. The Lord loves you, He loves your child and He grieves with you. Don’t miss the opportunity to give thanks. Particularly before our firstborn, I didn’t understand exactly what I was aching for. I was missing something, but it was sorrow without specificity. That first loss after we had a child, we were confronted immediately with what we were missing - and she gave us zerberts. We could see in every laugh, feel in every hug, exactly what we had lost. But we could also see one hundred fold how much we had been given both in her and the little ones gone on ahead of us. It is an enormous blessing to be given a child, an eternal life, even if our time to nurture that life is painfully brief. God made this child for you. He made this loss for you. Death is the enemy, but you don't “win” by having a full term healthy pregnancy, you win by dying in Christ to your sin.

Strong emotions shape you one way or another. Your grief is making you into something. Let it make you more Christ like.  

SaoirseToes.jpg

Halloween Costumes

Back when Ellie had her fist Halloween I whipped up a Sandra Lee style semi-homemade Ewok costume, because tiny space teddy bears + my baby girl = cuteness. Obviously. By the next Halloween, when she was nearly 2, she had opinions and wanted to be Super Ellie - so we made that one to her specifications. And from that point on it was our thing: we were going to be making Halloween costumes. There was a three year affinity for robots stretch (Eve from Wall-E, then Wall-E, finally R2-D2) followed by 2017, the year I birthed a sibling on Halloween instead of a costume :D

Here we are, emerging on the other side better, stronger, more SUPER. Saoirse wanted to be Super Girl, and since she’s more or less gone along with Ellie’s costume whims in the past Ellie jumped on board and chose Wonder Woman. I suggested Thor for Ayrton and was met with DC vs Marvel derision, so we opted for a fellow blondie: Aquaman. 

Thing is… I’m not a seamstress, I’m an artist. Prior year’s costumes were largely sculptural and just made sense to my brain. This year was a big leap for me - particularly since I don’t actually own a sewing machine? These costumes are hand-sewn, intermittently glued (when we got down to the wire on the local Fall Carnival which was move to September 22 this year :)). All this to say, if you are a seamstress and my process seems hilarious to you, blame the artist. 

The Aquaman costume is built on an orange onesie and green pants. I made a repeating scallop pattern that seemed a good scale for Ayrton’s swoll baby bod, then cut out somewhere between 9 and 10 million scales from felt. Then came the most challenging part of all the costumes: felt, while nice to cut and never worry about a raw edge, has zero give. After trying three different iterations I accepted my fate: I had to attach each scale one by one, overlapping them by half so that when his little tummy stretched there wouldn’t be massive gaps. After that I was feeling my oats and decided to add some brushes of the metallic bronze paint to some of the scales, which I think added some nice depth. Bonus: when he sits down he looks less “fish scale armor” and more “adorable fluffy owl”.

The Aquaman belt was made from a faux leather upholstery material that I cut, sewed an “A” and some velcro on, and painted bronze. Protip for kids costumes and belts: always have a fastening point or two on the base costume to limit the belt slipping. Their tummies are massive when they sit, disappear when they stand, and they have no waist (and mine have no buns)! :D 

I made the little green boots and gauntlets from green felt from templates I drew to incorporate a fin shape. A double layer of felt added rigidity, but you could use a stiffening spray if you feeling FANCY. Elastic in the wrist portion holds them comfortably in place, and then some velcro in the fin section to keep the upper part fastened. 

The trident I sketched a shape for, cut out x4 on yellow felt and joined the top together, leaving the bottom center section open for joining the staff. The staff is just rolled felt, so while it’s a bit bendy it is likewise de-weaponized and chew-safe. Priorities amiright. 

The Super Girl and Wonder Woman costumes use a base of a blue leotard and faux leather blue pants. You better believe I snipped the leo bottom because no way was I making the 3 year old pull off her whole costume for every potty trip. (she did anyway :D ) The Supergirl symbol I cut from red faux leather upholstery material, doing the teensy cut outs because we like the yellow field behind. Those I joined and then attached at only a few points to her leo to allow for stretch.  

Both the cape and skirt I sewed from red velvet, with velcro at strategic points (shoulders, on the skirt for the belt to affix to). It was the first circle skirt I’ve made so that was fun and also punctuated by frequent texts to my friend Kate. Like Aquaman, the belt was cut from the faux leather and painted with bronze metallic. Tiny deets: a black stretchy headband is a must for our little Supergirl! 

The BOOTS oh man the boooooooooooooooooooots. These were nearing Aquaman fish scales level fear for me. I tried a couple prototypes and they just weren’t working. I was cursing my lack of cobbler experience, the collapse of the guild system, asking Adam for advice and giving him serious side eye whenever he dropped knowledge. Finally, I settled on three pieces: a shaft with velcro up the back, a half sole for a sneaker to slide into, and an upper that I molded over the sneaker sewing to the sole and then each side to the shaft joining the three together. Wonder Woman’s boots are made the same way, with the addition of a piece of the leather that I’d painted metallic silver and cut in a tapered arrow shape.

With the exception of those sweet boots, Ellie’s version of Wonder Woman is inspired by David Finch’s design. Because let’s be real…most Wonder Woman costumes are neither age, season nor battle appropriate. While Ellie and I were image searching and sketching ideas she was a bit disbelieving of some of D’s Amazonian get-up, dismissing it as “not very fierce”. Fierceness is a highly valued quality around here. :D

Let me tell you about the WILD HAPPY DANCE I did when the individually sewn on leather pieces for the chevron armor actually matched up perfectly along the back closure!!!!! I mathed my hardest, and the mathiness paid off. All of the remaining armor pieces are individually cut, painted and sewn, with some pieces stacked (like the W) for depth.  The silver stars are from the same leather, just painted silver. Deeeeets win the day: I stitched a 1/2” loop of leather at the back top edge of the armor for her to slide her sword and shield into so she can carry those on her back while she runs around defeating candy.

The belt pieces are cut and sewn together painted, then painted with bronze with a little loop she can open and close to carry the Lasso of Truth (gold braided rope FTW). The skirt is 4 separate velvet pieces - bedecked with two more of the silver stars -  sewn into the belt. Note: the back piece is only attached by half. The other half has a piece of velcro along the top to fasten inside the belt - the velvet overlaps so this creates a continuous skirt look with a belt that she can put on. You could opt to just make a velvet triangle skirt standalone with elastic at the waist. 

The gauntlets are 4 separate pieces sewn together to give that layered armor look, with velcro to fasten. The Wonder Woman headband is faux leather, painted, with elastic at the back. I sewed on a red star to finish!

So…why do we do this? Because it’s fun. Because they wear them All The Time. Because they love it. Because I love them. It is a little wild - but then we love them pretty wildly. :D

Our Favorite Books - October

We had the bright idea to share all our favorite children’s books with you and then realized that would be a book in itself so we decided we’d limit it to ten recommendations each month. That way it’ll only take is 20 years to go through all the favorites. Good plan right?

Elizabeth’s

  1. Hurry Hurry Mary Dear (One of my favorite autumn books. Hilarious and the illustrations are so fun!)

  2. The Little House (May or may not have gotten emotional reading this one before.)

  3. Tikki Tikki Tembo (Trust me gonna be a fav.)

  4. One Morning in Maine (True story my parents forgot to tell me about losing teeth until after I lost my first one. This book helped. Also the illustrations are crazy good as well.)

  5. Millions of Cats (Another favorite growing up. Simultaneously super weird and adorable a.k.a. kids love it.)

Cat’s

  1. The Biggest Story A family favorite “condensed Bible” - can read a bit at a time or in one sitting (Ellie’s preference). Well done and beautiful.

  2. Rosie Revere Engineer I consider this one a “future classic”. I get teary-eyed reading it every dang time!

  3. Carl’s Birthday I grew up with the Carl books and am super pleased the girls find them hilarious! Timeless mischief.

  4. My Father’s Dragon a great read-aloud or early reader. Adventure! Dragon! Fruit!

  5. The Birthday Monsters Sandra Boynton is beloved around here, but not all Boyton is created equal. The Birthday Monsters is top shelf Boynton. (with James and Ayrton both turning 1 in October, tried to slip a few birthday themed ones in!)