A Springtime Flower Party

It feels a tad weird to be writing about Springtime and flowers while currently traveling through winter weather, but Spring has already sprouted in our southern home: trees budding, wildflowers sprinkling the highways, songbirds chirping at sunrise. As Rilke wrote, “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” And so we celebrated our youngest songbird’s eighth birthday with flowers and friends, two of her very favorite things.

To keep birthday experiences simple for our home, our children only have the option for a birthday party on certain years, a year when they can opt for a party experience with friends as their gift from me and Mark. So when they choose a party, I tend to make the details special, something they will enjoy and something to remember. Olive and I had several conversations about what type of party she wanted, which left me feeling she should consider event planning one day, as they were all such large-scale, fun ideas. In the end we opted to recreate a flower market experience and allow each friend space to make their own arrangement. Blythe thoughtfully painted a sign for Olive to hang in her shop.

Since our backyard is currently a mesh of backyard projects and renovations, I asked a dear friend if I could host the party on her beautiful property in the country. We don’t have a flower market at our farmer’s market, but they are one of my favorite things to enjoy when we travel.

When the girls arrived, they each had a spot at the table, marked with a paper doily, mason jar vase, drinking glass, and paper-lined basket for little nibbles. They each perused and gathered from the flower market (set up with a lemonade stand) and returned to their spots where they had access to scissors for trimming stems and various colors of string for decorating their vases (and for marking their personal arrangement). We talked about the importance of flowers and pollinators in the world, a repeat conversation from our homeschool group’s flower study the week before.

Once the girls finished making flowers, they sipped Italian soda and filled their baskets with berries and popcorn. We sang happy birthday to Olive with mini lemon-filled cupcakes, and she opened gifts and read thoughtful notes from friends, many of which included bubble gum. The girls each filled and stamped small envelopes with wildflower seeds to take home and grow their own cutting gardens.

Although the party created quite the mess, it was a simply, beautiful way to celebrate the season. For those of you interested in hosting your own (even for adults!), here are a list of materials I used. for younger girls, it’s best to have a few extra set of adult hands available for helping tie knots and cut difficult stems. For older girls and adults, create a bit more time for the art of arrangement with helpful tips, such as how to choose colors or arrange by height and spill. Consider the audience ages and their attention span/interest levels. Most of this group preferred to simply jump right in! Either way can be fun. Enjoy!



a little tea party

olives_tea_party-14olives_tea_party01olives_tea_party-28olives_tea_party-18olives_tea_partyolives_tea_party-8olives_tea_party-12olives_tea_party02olives_tea_party-3olives_tea_party-1-2olives_tea_party-19olives_tea_party-11olives_tea_party-26olives_tea_party03olives_tea_party-25olives_tea_party-7olives_tea_party-23olives_tea_party-15Olive turned six on Wednesday, and I still can hardly believe it. To celebrate in a small and simple way, we invited a few of her friends over for a small garden party with hot tea, fresh blueberry scones (a recipe coming tomorrow), and birdhouse painting. Although I had originally imagined an outdoor table with spring flowers, we improvised when winter weather re-appeared and gathered some green life to the table instead.

The morning began with the loud clatter of pretend play together. Every once in a while, my sister and I would hear a few of them jet-setting to Asia or another discussing working at an orphanage or baking a cake for her friend–all in a dramatic plot of course–and we would laugh. Passion and imagination are such a gift in children, always reminding us anything is possible.

Later in the morning, as the girls gathered around the table, their interactions evolved into a surprisingly soft conversation and laughter over tea and eventually into the quieter focus of painting. Liam and Burke volunteered to help, originally offering to be the court jesters; instead they dressed in their bowties and Sharpie mustaches and settled to help by serving tea, food, and towels. Their generous spirit blessed me and their littlest sister alike, and by the time everyone left, our full hearts and stomachs needed naps.



“a weekly portrait of my children in 2014”

liam //Although you’re intuitive, articulate, and well-read, you love to play. I love this mixture in you and am convinced you’re going to be one fun adult someday. You made a t-shirt for me this weekend for Mother’s Day with “I {heart} mom” on the front in large letters. You plan to wear it every year. I hope you do.

burke // this week you informed me, when you become an adult, you plan to buy an old school bus and paint it white. You’ll build a bed in the back and drive everywhere, stopping in empty fields to sleep so you don’t have to pay rent. My sweet, wilderness-loving introvert.

blythe // you see order in everything, from plant life to color to time. Although I sometimes have to remind you you’re not the mother, I’m grateful for all the ways you help keep me in order.

olive // although this image was a little blurry, I had to keep it because words often fail me when I try to describe your passionate nature. One time, you were angry at my telling you no. As you stomped away from me, you stopped at the piano, lifted the lid, looked me in the eyes while you hit three low staccato notes — bom, bom, bom — then you closed the lid again and walked off. I think often words fail you, too.



F O U R!












The other night at dinner, you sat by my side — not necessarily a coveted position these days because you tend to use your neighbor more for a napkin than a conversation partner  — but this specific night, you gently leaned into my left ear and whispered, “Mom, I love you more than meatballs.” I hugged you and laughed aloud, repeating this same phrase back to you and remembering a few weeks before when you had run into the kitchen announcing so matter-of-fact-ly, “sometimes Oli be funny.” It’s so true. Sometimes Oli be so funny, like the expressions you make while you tell a story or the way you stand with your hand propped on your hip. Other times Oli be so angry, like when I wake you up from a nap. I usually shake your shoulders a little and jump back to protect myself from your flailing limbs. You even added the H-word to your vocabulary this year, at times trying out the phrase “I HATE you!” while throwing a tantrum. It doesn’t really work to get your way though. Only time-outs. Sometimes I find you doing pull-ups on the playground or dangling from the hang bar in your closet or hidden up on the shelves in my closet or the pantry. “I’m just doing my exercises,” you say. You’ve been training for something since your infancy, although I’m still not sure what. Sometimes, Olive, you want to be six like your sister or sixteen with make-up or twenty-six with heels — “I’m the boss,” you inform us, and I think that’s not difficult for any of us to imagine someday. But not today. Some days you want to be a baby again and climb into your cousin’s exersaucer or jumper or play-yard; “you’re not a baby anymore,” I have to tell you. “But you’ll always be my baby.” And you love it, widely grinning at this anomaly. You are brave, Olive. Sometimes you show your bravery by climbing the tree tops or jumping off of diving boards or easily conversing with new people, and other times, you show your bravery by sleeping/living without a paci like you learned to do this last winter. Of course, having a thumb helped with the transition. (Wink.) I love you, sweet girl.

This year, when I asked you what you wanted for your birthday, you replied (on three different occasions) : “I want a drum set like Morena (from the Fresh Beat Band — your favorite show) and a fish.” Well, we couldn’t swing the drum set for several reasons, but Dad and I did get you a Betta fish for your fourth birthday. At first you wanted to name him Bethany, an endearing gesture, but after I told you maybe we already had too many Bethanys in the family, you decided on Memo George Douglass — not be mistaken (as I did) with Nemo, Memo’s friend, the cartoon Clown fish. It’s hard for me to believe our family has really grown beyond the infant/toddler years, and with your fourth birthday I feel a chapter of our family life closing. Thank you dear one, for ending these years with such gusto and enthusiasm! I love you so. And today, sweet Olive, I celebrate you. Happy birthday.

Olive, age 2

I must ask this question a dozen times daily, and here’s the snapshots to show why. Why silence is not necessarily a good thing in our home. Why Olive at almost three still requires 15 hours of sleep each day and a stuffed monkey leashed to her back and my arm when in large public spaces. Why putting your precious or dangerous things “out of children’s reach” is never quite enough.

a colorful commendation

Dear Blythe and Olive:

As your crayons, markers, and paints, we wanted to commend you for the passionate and endless ways you have used us. Most art supplies are created, packaged, and fated to be sent to homes for ordinary purposes such as coloring books and construction paper. The majority of paints have an even darker fate: a home where the mother puts them away in a cupboard out of the children’s reach. Can you imagine? But not you. When your mother tucked us away, you faithfully retrieved us, spreading paint all over the blank canvas of your body, carefully reaching between your toes, and even the bottoms of your feet (to make sure we painted the floor when you walked). Genius! You, Blythe and Olive, knew the world needs color, and your mother must have recognized this too. Why else would someone paint their house in shades of white and light neutrals or have entirely white bedding, except to create a place for us, the tools of your artist expression, to shine? Even when she and your dad insist they intended the blank spaces of wall and cloth for their own beauty and design, you know better. Yep. You joyfully persevere in full force, swirling with varied intensity all over those forsaken places. And when they repaint the walls or use those horrid Magic Erasers, it increases your resolve to start again or try a new space, such as the windows, your clothing and toys, and of course, our personal favorite, the interior of your mom’s car. We, your loyal art supplies, want to reassure you: we value this, even when your parents do not.  And of course, we will highly recommend you to our relatives, the permanent and even more versatile art supplies, who can thrive well beyond the Magic Eraser.

With deep gratitude,

your washable art supplies

p.s. Forgive us; we should have included your mother’s make-up in this letter as well. In lieu of our oversight, we’ll include a lipstick-used-as-paint picture. I don’t think they’ll mind.

p.s.s. Blythe, we’re sorry. Your parents had “discovered and dealt with” all of your projects before we could document them. We’ll try to arrive more quickly to scene next time.



{this moment}: Olive’s first haircut


{this moment}: A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. (inspired by soulemama)


happy first birthday olive.

Calling you delightful, Olive, seems like a drastic understatement or cliche (sadly, words limit us at times to describe the full measure of a person), but you are indeed delightful. You are quiet, except when you squeal/scream from your high chair to get someone’s attention — the downfall of signing, I suppose; someone must be watching you at all moments to respond promptly, an impossible quest in our circus of a home. Still, when you approve or want to say “yes,” you clap fervently with approval. Banana? Silence. Turkey? Silence. Milk? Applause. I love it. You roam our home as freely as the hens in the backyard, swish, swish, swish, gliding the wood floors on your butt, peeking around corners and into crevices, looking silently for a new secret thing or space. Your favorite place still remains your brothers’ room where you’re bound to find some tiny treasure to put into your mouth or dump onto the floor. You love the trash and the toilet in particular, two disgusting pleasures. Fortunately, you never want to eat or taste the trash, only to displace it. Piece by piece. This last month, you started walking and began a new venture in climbing, mostly book shelves and step stools, and in spite of falling off of one bathroom stool thus far, you have yet to stop (a third reason you are banned from bathrooms). Needless to say, I’m grateful for a one-story home and doors.

Each of your siblings adores you as much as we do. In spite of their occasional lab-rat mentality toward you — “But she’s having FUN playing in the toilet water I just peed in! And it’s FUNNY!” or “It’s OK if I hold her feet in the air because she’s STILL holding onto the coffee table with her hands.” or the catchall, “But, Mom. Look! THIS means SHE LIKES IT!” — they adore you, mostly doting on you with kisses and hugs and rides and safe play. You return their affection with plenty of laughter and applause, of course.

In short, we love you. We enjoy you. And we’re all so glad to be in a family together with you, Olive. Today, we celebrate you: happy birthday, Sweet One.

This year, Nina came down to celebrate your birthday with us, but we had to change plans when Liam, Blythe, and I woke up with a stomach bug. Thank God Nina was here. Fortunately, we celebrated you the next weekend; unfortunately, Nina couldn’t come back. Still, she gave you plenty of hugs, kisses, and tickles while she was here. Below are some pictures from your big evening (thank you, Aunt Kristen!): warm spring air, grilled chicken and avocado, clementines and pears, birdhouse painting, billowy tissue pom-poms (you can find out how to make them here), lights, and of course, your favorite part, white coconut cake (although you could have skipped the candle).


















almost four weeks later.


Blythe woke me up the other night at some point between Olive’s 10pm and 2am feeding asking if I could put on her pink cowboy boots (the same ones she’s pictured in below). She then proceeded to heave them onto my bed where I had been sleeping (oh precious sleep!) only moments before. This means that in her drowsy stupor, she actually had to rummage through her dark closet looking for these boots before walking into my dark room to deliver them. This, along with her daily questioning, “can we go somewhere? I don’t want to go home,” can only mean one thing: we have officially been “cloistered” in our home too long. All the rain lately hasn’t helped either. So, on Friday, I decided to pack up the kids for my first solo outing in public. Yep. That’s right, alone — you see the desperation here? (I realize that I’m not the first mother to venture outside of her home with four children in tow, but I know from the awkward “are you crazy?” stares I receive when in public, there must be some sort of lunacy involved.) Due to the weather, the park was not an option, so we went to the local Barnes&Noble, where I immediately bee-lined for the cafe — this WAS an event after all. While ordering my tasty treat at the counter, I hear the man behind me heartily chuckling. When I turned to see what about, he gestured toward my sons who had apparently picked up the latest SI swimsuit edtion found right at their eye level, but instead of ogling the scantily clad beauty on the front cover, they were practically drooling over the M&M ad on the back of the cover and discussing which color they liked the best. The man was right: this was funny. “On second thought, let’s add one of those gigantic-pastel-sprinkled sugar cookies to the order and put the M&M magazine back on the shelf.”

                                     bohemian rhapsody

Honestly, the last few weeks have been relatively wonderful. Exhausting (what life with a newborn isn’t?), but wonderful. Thanks to my mom and Pam who each stayed for a week and the benevolence of several friends who have brought us meals and/or gift cards, this transition and recovery has seemed to be one of the easiest thus far. Liam, Burke, and Blythe adore their little Olive, alternating who gets to hold her or “help” take care of her, generously showering her with frequent kisses and hellos, and of course the perpetual ” I love you, Baby Olive.”  The boys created a song to sing to Olive when she cries (I tried to get it on video, but the battery was dead, and the other time we were in the car.); it goes something like, “It’s ok. Yeah, it’s ok for you to cry. It’s ok for you to cry, even in the sunshine. It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok for you to cry.” Blythe, who almost exclusively refers to her baby sister as “MY baby Olive,” mostly sings the alphabet, aka “the ABCDs,” to her (and sometimes as a bohemian with a microphone as seen above). We’ve found her on two occasions in the crib with Olive trying to “help,” but that quickly lost it’s appeal when she realized this type of helping came along with a pop on the butt.  They are all pretty fascinated by the fact that I produce milk. Fortunately, the only analogy to milk-related items or animals so far was from Liam saying, “Mom, you’re like a giant bottle!” Son, you have no idea.

As for Olive, she’s taking this crazy family in stride, accomodating all of our carressing and noise, and for the most part, she still spends about 20 hours per day doing this:


At almost a month old, I can’t complain.