Dear Coco, for your 5th birthday

31 May

Dear Coco,

Your 5th birthday came and went in a whirlwind of activity. Grandmothers coming to visit, parties, new jobs and new schools have had us so busy that, although I wrote this letter and chose these pictures about 9 months ago, they are only just now getting published. I apologize, but as your 6th birthday is imminent, I felt it necessary to put this one up sooner, rather than never.

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Playing in the kitchen while singing a song.

The start of your 4th year was full of exploring and learning new things, particularly reading. We began working on simple words and sounding things out, and you have progressed so much! By now you are able to read some of your easy reader books all by yourself and can sound out more complicated words all on your own. As much as you enjoy reading, you still enjoy being read to more.

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You and every other girl were Elsa for Halloween!

While your knowledge has increased, some things remain the same. Playing dolls and make believe, concocting “science experiments” or “cooking” in the kitchen are still high on the list of play, but you’ve also added in more complicated puzzles and board games, and some role playing, such as playing school or veterinarian. We also enrolled you in gymnastics over the summer, and although I don’t see a career as an Olympic gymnast in your future, you really enjoyed the classes!

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Great sense of fashion

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And adorable no matter what you wear!

During the past year you were at preschool at least several days a week where you made some great friends that we have enjoyed having playdates with occasionally. It is really fun to see you develop real friendships and I look forward to hearing about all your new friends in kindergarten. It has also become apparent that with your friends, like with us, you enjoy directing the game play and coming up with whole worlds in which to play (everyone is a princess and has a castle, and you go visit each other’s castles, for instance).

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See? More “soup” making.

Daddy and I are very lucky that you remain a generally sweet girl who still loves to hug and cuddle and shows a desire to take care of people. When one of us feels sick or is sad you like to bring us a toy or give us a hug to make us better. Oh sure, we have our rough moments, but even those are outweighed by your sweetness.

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Sweet in your Easter dress

At some point this year you and your brother went from coexisting to becoming real friends and occasional compatriots in play. Although, like with most brother-sister pairs, the game play involves princesses and superheros, monsters and fairies, evil queens and dragons. It can be quite a riot in the house, especially when one of you is casting (very loud) spells and the other is being a fire-breathing dragon! But we love seeing you play together and develop a great friendship.

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But Easter Egg hunting is way more fun in a costume, naturally.

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Never a quiet moment at our house!

Some things have remained the same, and some have changed. Without further ado, your current favorites:

Toys: Douglas, as always, remains a favorite, although you are becoming slightly less attached. And by slightly I mean a very minuscule bit.  My Little Ponies, dolls, any puppies, and legos have been big this year, and books (especially Pinkalicious and fairy tale stories). A lot of toys become ingredients in a cake that you’re pretending to bake.

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No, Coco, we can’t keep it.

Movies/TV: My Little Pony (all the time, in any way possible), Strange Magic, Harry Potter, and the Tinkerbell movies. Usually a movie watching experience is followed by a round of pretend play, where we are all different characters from the movie and occasionally have to act out scenes. But every movie is followed by a dance party while the credits play!

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You cried when we had to wash your face!

Food: Quesadillas, and pretty much anything that has cheese on it. Pasta carbonara, jambalaya, bananas and apples. You aren’t too picky of an eater, thankfully, but we still have to coax you to try new things.

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Douglas is still your best friend.

Activities: Reading, drawing, and playing make believe. This summer you loved swimming and began swimming without a floaty, plus jumping in all on your own (a major accomplishment for a girl who didn’t want to get her face wet at the start of the summer)!

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My little water baby!

You have grown so much from 4 to 5 and surprised us in many ways. I can only imagine how much different you will be next year, after a full year of kindergarten and all the new skills you will learn! I can’t wait!

Love,

Mama

Dear Biscuit, on your 3rd birthday

15 Aug

Yes, it has been a year since I last posted, but I wanted to at least keep these birthday letters going. 

Dear Biscuit,

Moustache!

Moustache!

Somehow the past year has flown by and you are 3 years old! You are a little boy with solid opinions, a Sheldon-like favorite seat on the couch, and a generally sweet disposition laced with a naughty streak. This year you have gone from talking in sentences to carrying out conversations; from diapers to going to the bathroom by yourself; from needing help with most things to doing them by yourself; from napping to quiet time.

Look at these muscles!

Look at these muscles!

The time we didn't have to put the crib back together at 4 am.

The time we didn’t have to put the crib back together at 4 am.

Speaking of that last point, you now sleep in toddler bed and have quiet time in your room instead of in the crib.The first time we tried a real bed, several months ago, went well for about 3 days. Then one night I woke up at about 4 am to find you playing in your floor with all the lights on in your room. Needless to say, we put your crib back together that night and didn’t try again for a few months. Now, however, you’re getting the hang of staying in bed all night. Quiet time, however, has been another adventure all together. It doesn’t always go over so well (meaning you come out of your room about 50 times in 7.5 minutes to talk to us or ask for help). But it is getting better! Except for those days that you really need a nap and don’t take one, then wind up falling asleep on the couch at 5 pm.

Failed attempt to skip nap #47

Failed attempt to skip nap #47

Coco loves playing with you and snuggling with you (most of the time) and you sure love to play with her! The two of you come up with some crazy games and schemes, and usually you just go along with whatever Coco suggests. Her love of pretend play has rubbed off on you, and we often have to run around the house pursued by whatever superhero or bad guy you are being at the moment. Generally you pretend to be Spiderman or Harry Potter, while we either be a bad guy or a Dementor.

Every boy needs a tractor. Even if only for a day.

Every boy needs a tractor. Even if only for a day.

Still, you often like to play on your own, bouncing balls around the playroom or reading books, or building towers out of legos. While most of your play is active movement, you still have a creative streak when it comes to stacking and building.

Who needs toys when you have packing materials?

Who needs toys when you have packing materials?

You know all your letters by sight and can count really well, with an extra number or two thrown in there to keep it fun (eleventeen and twelveteen should definitely be real numbers), and you enjoy singing us your favorite songs. Singing comes in 2 varieties: pretty and sweet, or loud and more loud.

For some reason you really love to pull the chain on the lamp

For some reason you really love to pull the chain on the lamp

My favorite part though? You are still just as cuddly as you’ve ever been.

Still love to snuggle

Still love to snuggle

In keeping with tradition, let’s cover your favorites from the past year!

Foods – Bread (you subscribe to a very high carb diet), cereal (you would eat it for every meal if I let you), pasta carbonara, and cheese. Cheese by itself, cheese on other things, and a side serving of cheese.

Oh, you asked me to smile? Here.

Oh, you asked me to smile? Here.

Movies/TV – Like last year, your sister has some influence over what you want to watch, including things like Tinkerbell, My Little Pony, and Strange Magic. But you also still really like The Incredibles and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Surprisingly (or not – you are my son after all) your favorite parts of the Harry Potter movies you’ve seen are the scary parts. Like the giant spiders and the basilisk. You never once got scared, and you will specifically ask to watch those scenes.

Mouth full of Easter candy

Mouth full of Easter candy

Riding like a champ

Riding like a champ

Toys –you’ve grown pretty attached to Twinkie lately (he was your Daddy’s toy as a boy) and sleep with him or play with him most days; Nana gave you a sword for your birthday and it has hardly left your side since then; you also love to play with any type of ball from soccer balls to bouncy balls. We can play catch with you for hours!

The serious tough guy face

The serious tough guy face

Activities – swimming, building with legos, reading, pretending to get rid of all the Dementors with your magic wand (which is really just a pencil), and riding your bike round out your favorite activities at home. You also love going to playgrounds and the Children’s museum, where you enjoy climbing everything in sight.

Happy birthday, buddy! Sorry you spent most of it in the car!

Happy birthday, buddy! Sorry you spent most of it in the car!

We love you, Buddy (don’t call you sweetie!) and look forward to seeing how much you grow and change this coming year!

Love always,

Mama

Dear Coco, on your 4th birthday

28 Aug

My dear Coco,

Hugging her pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.

Hugging your pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.

You have taught me a lot this year – I learned that I have great patience for messes, but not for puzzles; that there is always time for one more hug; and that a snuggle can cure any wrongs, especially when the snuggle is with someone as loving as you.

Jumping in the leaves!

Jumping in the leaves!

Somewhere in the course of this year you became a little girl, full of little girl opinions (princesses are the best), best friends, and favorites of all kinds (chocolate, princesses, and, like most other girls, anything Frozen). I am continually in awe of your imagination, which has only grown with each passing year. Every day you concoct some grand make believe game that we are all required to participate in, whether we want to or not. You have also discovered card games and board games, which gives us a chance to slow down and play something where the rules don’t change every few seconds.

Sassy girl

Sassy girl

Biscuit is your biggest fan. He adores you so much – he always wants to play with you, and you are generally really good about including him in some way or another. Whenever we go to the park I usually see him tagging along after you, and I can hear you calling for him to “come this way!” or to “follow me!” And, like all siblings, there are times when you just don’t see eye to eye, but I get it. I have a brother too.

Brrr, it was a cold winter!

Brrr, it was a cold winter!

In September we started you back to preschool 2 days a week. It was a rough transition – you had been home with me and your brother everyday for over a year, and you were not happy to be away from us. It took a long time, but you made some wonderful friends who made school fun for you. The switch to your new school after our most recent move went pretty well, and you’ve got a new best friend that you look forward to seeing. We have definitely noticed that preschool has been wonderful for you. Your social skills have greatly improved, you have really learned how to play by yourself, and you are very interested in learning how to read. It is also becoming apparent that you are a natural leader.

The height of fashion

The height of fashion

These improved social skills are apparent at home, too. We have real conversations about how our day went, what you like and want to do, and how things are made/work/fit together. You have a pretty extensive vocabulary, which gets put to great use between all the questions and conversations. Best of all, your sense of humor has gotten bigger as you have learned to pick up on some really important things, like sarcasm. Occasionally you decide to tell us a joke, but they usually don’t make a whole lot of sense.

Before the haircut

Before the haircut

 

After the haircut!

After the haircut!

So let’s see what things played a big role in your life this year:

Books – the Disney Princess Collections and your big book of fairy tales.

Flower child

Flower child

Food – Mac and cheese, jambalaya, pasta carbonara – you still aren’t picky about most foods, except that you just aren’t a fan of fruit. But you’ll eat almost any vegetable.

This is what happens when we let you pick your own outfit.

This is what happens when we let you pick your own outfit.

 Movies/TV – Frozen (We watched this so much that you actually managed to get tired of it for awhile. We don’t watch it so much anymore, but you still insist on being called Elsa much of the time), Tangled, and Cinderella. Not surprisingly, you really enjoy the show Sophia the First (about a princess), but also Daniel Tiger, Paw Patrol, and Wallykazam.

Fun at the beach!

Fun at the beach!

At the Monarch butterfly farm

At the Monarch butterfly farm

Toys – Douglas, of course, continues to claim the biggest part of your heart. But also dolls! You have all these Disney princess dolls that you adore and play with each and every quiet time. They’re always naked (what is it with little girls and taking off doll clothes?). Any puppy toy is immediately cherished, and lately Andre has become your snuggling companion during quiet time.

Activities – drawing and painting, playing with Play-doh, swimming, playing with the water table, any sort of pretend play. Recently we have started taking you on Daddy/Coco or Mama/Coco dates, to do things like see a movie or get some ice cream. We all really cherish these times together.

You still love painting

You still love painting

And you still love donuts.

And you still love donuts.

Having you around has made the last 4 years terrific, and we look forward to all the years we have ahead. You are a wonderful and special girl, and I love every little part of you!

Love always,

Mama

P.S. Please forgive how late this letter was. I actually wrote it right before your birthday, but the pictures were on your Daddy’s computer, and he really needed it to study for his board exams. I’m sure you’ll understand.

Biscuit’s Blanket

14 Aug

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I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to see how this turned out. Truth be told, I kind of was too! My goal was to have it finished by his second birthday, and I cut it pretty close to the wire. As in, I wove in the last ends and trimmed them off the night before his birthday. So now he has a sweet blanket that he can’t use for several more months because we live in the South and it’s summer and there is absolutely no need for wool in the summer.

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At the start I had planned on knitting a bunch of mitered squares and then sewing them together when I had enough. Fortunately, Katie convinced me to just pick up and knit each square, which probably saved me time and helped me meet my goal. Each square was a pretty quick knit, but man, it was a boring project.

When I finally finished, I did a little finagling to get the edges all lined up, then did 2 rows of single crochet around the edges to make it really finished. During the process I was afraid it would turn out a bit too purple, but the colors blended really nicely and I am pleased with the finished result.

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The important thing is that Biscuit likes it! I couldn’t work on it in front of him, or he would insist on having it draped on him or wrapped around him. I took it on our trip to the beach, and didn’t get to work on it the entire car ride, because it was tucked around his little legs while he swung them happily and patted his belly, smiling about “my own blanket.” Hopefully he gets lots of use out of it this winter, either keeping him warm in bed or wrapped around him in the car for the trip to school on cold days.

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Started: September 20, 2013

Finished: July 11, 2014 (Hey! Less than a year!)

Yarn: Knit Picks Worsted Chroma, colorway Rainbow; Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted, colorway Cloud

 

Pie #6 Peach Pie

11 Aug

Let me tell you, this is possibly the ugliest pie I have made in a long time. It’s so bad it reminded me of the schoolyard chant: U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly! Seriously. So, here are some tips to make your pie less ugly than mine turned out:

Tip 1. Try not to bake a pie while your two children are running around the house like crazed lunatics and attempting to hit each other. This will only lead to rushed baking, which, when attempting a lattice top, will result in spectacular failure.

Tip 2. Use enough water in your crust. Don’t make it dry like me, then give up because your children are screaming like banshees and your nerves are so frayed that your have reached the defense mechanism of completely ignoring the noise and hoping for the best.

Tip 3. Have patience, and work slowly when rolling out your dough for the lattice. Don’t be distracted by the hoard of goblins tearing through the house and calling for immediate attention and incessantly tormenting you and each other.

Tip 4. Don’t just give up, decide to patch it all together badly and, in an act of complete cessation of caring, CRIMP THE EDGES WITH A FORK. Every southern pie baker alive or dead fainted when I brought that fork out. I just know it. I’m almost ashamed to show you pictures.

But I will – and to make it even uglier, I’ll use bad pictures from my iPhone. I’m pretty sure they’re even fuzzy. That’s how much I gave up.

Uneven lattice, CRIMPED edges. It's a mess. But a tasty mess.

Uneven lattice, CRIMPED edges. It’s a mess. But a tasty mess.

Fortunately, Ugly here decided to redeem herself by tasting glorious! If I could justify eating pie for breakfast today, I would. Maybe I can justify pie for a snack.

Possibly it looked better like this.

Possibly it looked better like this.

Okay, now that you have some handy dandy tips on how to make your crust prettier than mine, here is how to make a tasty filling for you crust.

Peach Pie

3 cups sliced, peeled peaches (about 5 or 6 peaches)
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs grated ginger (optional, but it’s a worthy addition)
2 Tbs cornstarch

At least it set up nicely and didn't turn into a wet mess of goo.

At least it set up nicely and didn’t turn into a wet mess of goo.

Here’s an actual helpful tip for peeling the peaches – Boil them whole in a huge vat of water for about 2 minutes, then dump them straight into an ice bath until they have cooled. The skins will then just peel off like wet paper, no need for a knife. Easy peasy.

Mix all the ingredients up in a bowl, then pour it into the pie crust. Add your lattice, or crumble top, or a solid crust top, whatever makes your little heart tick. Sprinkle a little extra sugar on the crust top.

Bake at 350F for 30 – 45 min or until the filling is bubbly and the top is a nice golden brown color.

It was so ashamed of it's ugliness that it refused to sit still for a picture.

It was so ashamed of it’s ugliness that it refused to take a decent picture.

Eating it warm over vanilla ice cream is really the ideal way to enjoy peach pie, but it’s just as good at room temp or out of the fridge. And even if yours turns out as ugly as mine, it will still taste pretty dang good.

Dear Biscuit, on your second birthday

4 Aug

Dear Biscuit,

Somehow, another year has passed and you have moved from toddlerhood to little boyhood, and it is an exciting and occasionally alarming stage in our house. Although you are no longer a baby, you are still cuddly and loving; rarely do I get a chance to sit down without you (or your sister) climbing into my lap. I love it!

Never a dull moment!

This past year you have gone from walking to running and jumping, galloping, and attempting to do forward rolls. The last one still eludes you, but you have reached a high level of proficiency in the rest. In fact, the only times you are really still and quiet are when you are sleeping. Which, I might add, has improved leaps and bounds! At some point this year you finally started sleeping past 5 am! Now you reliably sleep to past 6, which is a miracle, and you wake up happy – no more standing in bed yelling for Mama to come get you immediately.

Yes, rocks need hugs too.

If you aren’t actively moving and running around the house, you are probably playing. Toys are still a big part of your life, but you also love playing with Coco and tend to chase her around the house. Whether this is something she enjoys or despises varies from day to day, but you always love to chase!

You like to “help” bake.

Not only are you active in body, but your little brain has been really developing this year. You can speak in full sentences (although it’s still a language that only we can understand), recite your ABCs (you tend to get hung up on K – H I J KKKKKKKKKK L M N….), identify a few colors, and count to 10 pretty reliably.

Playing in the leaves was a fall favorite.

 

Look at you go!

Pretend play and imagination is big right now, and you continually tell us that you are a superhero; your favorites are Superman, Captain America, and Mr. Incredible. Thanks to your daddy’s influence, you are also a budding fan of the Ninja Turtles, or the Ninna Tuddas, as you call them.

Deep in thought.

In January of this past year you started daycare a few days a week. I’m not sure who it was more rough on, me or you! After 18 months of hanging out with you everyday I was sad to not have you around! It took awhile, but we’ve both adjusted, and now you happily roll into class and are starting to make some friends at school. You are learning to share and not steal, and, although we are having a problem with pinching lately, you always tell us you are sorry when you do.

Snack time!

I don’t know who you get this from (yes I do, but it’s not nice to point fingers) but you are a flirt! You do this super adorable thing, mostly when around girls, where you cock your head to the side, smile a little closed-mouth smile, and batt your eyelashes. Once you’ve caught her attention, you either smile bigger and wave, saying “hewwo!” or you laugh and run away. You’ll be a heartbreaker, my boy.

See, more baking “help”

There are some definite favorite things in your life:
Books – The Three Little Pigs, Curious George – I am so tired of reading these books that I’m tempted to hide them

I have no idea what this was about.

Food – Pasta, mac and cheese, quesadillas, peanut butter sandwiches, chicken, pizza, and cheese. Lots of cheese. You aren’t picky in general, but veggies can be a challenge, and usually get left on the plate.

Somehow, you both still fit in there!

Movies – Frozen (your sister has a little influence in the movie choices, but you always, always, ask for Frozen first) and The Incredibles. You also enjoy some TV shows on occasion: Little Einsteins, Daniel Tiger, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

It’s a hard life for a little guy.

Toys – You never connected to a toy the way Coco has to Douglas, for which I am grateful. But you do love your Pirate Ship, Coco’s Anna doll (from Frozen), cars and trucks, and playing catch.

Recently you’ve gone through a shirt-hating phase.

Activities – Playing with the water table, swimming, blowing bubbles, drawing, and chasing everyone around the house, including the cat. You love to ask us to “be Marshmallow” (also from Frozen, do you see a theme?) and then we chase you around the house too. Basically, we do a lot of chasing.

Shoulders, Daddy, shoulders!

All in all, it has been a wonderful year, full of changes and fun. We all love you and adore you, and I hope that, as you grow, you never lose your sense of wonder or your love of cuddles.

Happy birthday, Little Man,

Love,

Mama

Pie #5 – Peanut Butter Pie

24 Jul

Let’s take a moment for some honesty here, y’all. This whole pie-a-week thing is just not working out on my end. The problem is, we are having a hard time eating all this pie. For reasons unknown, my children aren’t particularly fond of pie, and goodness knows GP and I don’t need to eat a pie a week. Sure, I could share them with my neighbors, but neighbors are a recent development on our street.

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

So let’s cut this back to a pie every 2 weeks or so, mkay? Mkay. Do not be dismayed. They will still be sugar filled concoctions, sure to send you straight into a sugar rush, and exceptionally delicious.

Without further blathering, here is the next installment, a favorite from my mother-in-law. You know it must be good, because even the children eat it.

Moar pie!

Moar pie!

Peanut Butter Pie
For the crust:
1 sleeve of graham crackers, pulverized with either a food processor or a rolling pin, depending on how much aggression you need to work out that particular day.
1 stick of butter, melted

Mix together and press into your pie plate. I did a bad job, because I have never made a graham cracker pie crust before and because an almost-4 year old was “helping,” aka getting in the way and making things needlessly harder. Bake at 375 for 8 min, the let it cool.

Not so lovely crust

Not so lovely crust

For the artery-clogging filling:
4 cups whipped cream or cool whip. I made fresh whipped cream because
ever since I read the ingredients on a package of cool whip, I just can’t bring myself to eat it.
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1.5 cups powdered sugar

Mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar, then add the peanut butter. Fold in the whipped cream, which is the most horrible step ever because it requires patience, which is not easy to come up with when your children keep trying to eat it all while you are trying to mix it together.

Folding time!

Folding time!

So then, pile it into your crust. Technically, the filling is enough for 2 pies, so you could make 2 and either share or freeze one. Or, you could pile it all in one crust and have the most overfilled pie ever. Or you could do like I did, and put a few scoops into some ramekins for an afternoon snack. But sure not to do what I also did, which is to accidentally drop a ramekin, only to have it break and dump filling all over the floor you just mopped the day before.

My assistant.

My assistant.

Sprinkle some mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts on top, then put it in the fridge for a few hours until it thickens up. Easy peasy!

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