happy birthday, jenna.

Look at this happy girl! This photo is a more than a few months old, from the Spring, so you've changed a bit since then, but it captures your spirit so perfectly.
While your little hands still feel so tiny in mine, I see very clearly how much growth comes between age two and three. Your baby features have faded away, making room for longer legs, beautiful, wavy hair and eyes that look more and more like your big sister. In fact, most days, people ask me if you are twins, which gives me all the feels.

Like most three year olds with big sisters, your language has exploded. You ask good questions, and you looks us in the eye when you do. We talk about all sorts of things, but mostly, about what we're doing after breakfast, or after the park or after your nap and most importantly, what's for dessert after dinner. There is always so much we are always looking forward to. And even with your newfound vocabulary, let's hold onto 'hang-a-burger' - said in your thickest East Coast accent - for your favorite 'hamburger.' I hope we never forget this one.

Another Jenna'ism that we especially love is your care and keep for babies, real and pretend. When a baby is near, you are not far behind. While your older sister is off solving pretend world problems, you can be found tucking a little one in blankets, or warming up a bottle or singing a happy tune to calm a sleepless baby doll.

Even with your recent maturity, which feels like it appeared overnight, you manage to remind me that you're still my baby. I'll never turn down the chance to rock you in my arms, push you in the stroller, tickle you for a deep belly laugh, sing you to sleep or wrap you up like a little burrito. It is in those moments and because of your sister and you that I find myself slowing down more, discovering joy in  what most would call ordinary moments and am humbled with gratitude when I take the time to really recognize them as extraordinary.

Your sweet little singing voice that hums to the beats that seem to dance whimsically through your only head, creative dance moves, laser focus with legos, cheerful play with your sister - intermingled with bouts of WWE-like moves - all bring such happiness to our family. Your smile, though. It's magic. It's just about my favorite thing in all the world.
I love you, sweet Jenna Bean. Happy third birthday.

Photos by the gifted Siri Berting



The beautiful thing about blogging is that as long as you can hang on, this page will hang on, too. For me, this is really a space of celebration and joy, of everything from the everyday to the biggest of days, just like today.
photo by my amazingly talented friend Siri Berting
To my biggest girl, I want to say happy birthday. You're five! We've been counting down the days since the calendar flipped to 2016, and it is with so much love and happiness that we honor you today.

When people ask me how I feel about having a five year old, the truth is that it's hard to remember life with you as anything but this very age and very grown-up season. If I stop to remember our first moments together, I am struck by the same surge of light and energy that joined our world on the day you were born. Five years later, that light and energy has stayed with us, for it is you that warms up every room, shines on me when I need it most and fills my soul in ways that no one else can.

With every birthday, I am reminded to thank you for making me a mom. Thank you for helping me work on humility. Thank you for helping me find my giggles. Thank you for showing me deep down, what really matters.

In the early days, when it felt very hard for me to leave you, I remember observing moms and daughters obsessively, wondering when the days of sacred, shared looks and giggles and outings like mani/pedi dates would be our thing. In the trenches, as a young mom, days like that looked out of reach. So far away. 

And yet, it's here. Those what-felt-like fairytale days are here. While I will always look fondly on the newborn days, where we are, right here, right now, is where we are meant to be; practicing writing letters and words while we cook dinner, braiding hair for ice skating lessons, rolling out our yoga mats, kicking the ball around with your dad after dinner, slurping popsicles, being brave and discovering a love for the water, lots of questions, lots of pretend play, lots of give and take and mostly, lots of patience and love for your little sister who wakes up to spend her every minute following every move you make.

On your last day of pre-K, your very favorite teacher told me that you were a bright light in her life. You reminded her to be soft, gentle and to love, always. My hope for you today is that you feel that gentle, kind love in the same beautiful way that you share it with others.

Happy birthday, sweet Mari girl.


happy birthday, jenna.

Jenna Bean!

Happy second birthday, sweet girl. What a fun week it has been.

They say time flies, but wow, does it. It's too cliche to say that it was just yesterday that I carried you on the inside, but it's true. Yesterday, you were such a baby and today, you are a little big girl.
They also say that the second does everything faster than the first. I don't know if that's indeed the case, or if my mind is just that fuzzy that I can't remember, but one thing is constant in child raising: these first couple of years are hard. But, I've found that most things that require work are the very things that fill up our minds, bodies and heart in the most beautiful of ways. Ways that you didn't know even existed. And, that, Jenna, is what you do for me, every day.

Your happy, belly laughs, funny faces, sweet singing voice, tiny dance moves and oh-so-good kisses and hugs bring me such joy. When I describe you to others, I say that you're my ray of sunshine. You're kind, loyal, fiery and funny. Even with your unique personality, you are a lot like your older sister, and I love that about you.

I have so much gratitude for all that you are, and all that we have shared over the last few days, getting to celebrate your milestone. My most favorite memory of your second birthday is this: watching and listening to you sing "happy birthday" to yourself and blowing out your own candle without help from anyone.
Oh, the balance of watching you grow and become independent with wanting to stop time. It's a never ending gift that I will treasure every single day of my life.

Happy birthday, lovie.


source list: rainbow painting party.

Mari was a huge little helper for her fourth birthday, and it was so fun planning it with her. Like her mama, she had a very clear and simple vision for her celebration: painting party with friends. With rainbows.

Twist my arm.

Like we always do, we started with some favorite items from Shop Sweet Lulu, designed some fun invitations and plucked all of the art supplies from Jo-Ann, much of which we had on-hand at the house, which saved some $.
Here's the full list of sources:

+ Paper Source: plum invitation cards / blossom envelopes / liner / 100% white cotton savoy for the watercolor paper
+ Shop Sweet Lulu: party hats / stripey strawscandles
+ Jo-Ann: paint / brushes / paint palettes / kraft letters / mini-aprons / iron-on monograms / rainbow ribbon
+ Party City: napkins / rainbow face tattoos / rainbow dash face tattoo for the birthday girl
+ Old Navy: mint party dress; Etsy Shop Once Upon A Design: rainbow iron-on letters
+ Food trays: leftover from last year
+ Becker's Bakery and Deli: donuts for the win!

By the way, Eddie's actually the real inspiration behind the kraft letters. Months ago, he took Mari and her cousin Carson to Target and for an afternoon activity, picked up acrylic paint and some wood letters. Mari loved painting "M" so much that she wanted to do it again with her friends.

For the party, we did prime the letters with white tempera paint in advance so the kids could paint with light colors. It was a quick project, and because it was just a messy base coat, Mari actually primed all the letters herself. All I had to do was really minimal touch-up. Also: sponge brushes rock.

This party was easy on the prep and fun to host. And, we still have paint leftover for days. A repeat play date would not be out of the question.


rainbow party of five.

Let's get back at it, shall we? I wanted to share a few snaps from Mari's fourth birthday celebration, but before I do, I'll let you in on my secret sauce that has put some peace back in the planning process: small parties.

When I was pregnant with Mari, one of my favorite people in the world tipped me off to the rule of 1:1, when it comes to kids parties. Meaning, for every birthday, you get to invite as many friends, and therefore, this year, Mari got to invite four.

We started this tradition last year for the third birthday, and so far, so good. To make just four little invitations vs. the alternative gives me some serious serenity, and freedom of time to get creative with personal touches, like hand-watercoloring and DIY envelope linings.
Small party planning also keeps the cost down. This year, we got the girls painting on kraft paper mache letters, which was an easy, quick and fun activity to bring them together before lunch, using lots of supplies we already had on-hand at our house.
With just five girls (well, 6 if you count Jenna), lunch and a play date party is very do-able in our tiny beach house. After exercising our right brains, we ate some of Mari's favorite things off of last year's lunch trays.
And, really, all the girls really want to do when they're together is tear apart the dress-up clothes, dance around the house and eat cake, and that is exactly what Mari had in mind. Her pick was a rainbow sprinkle donut tower and homemade strawberry milkshakes to top-off the gathering.
What a fun little group! Later this week: party sources. I promise that this source list, I will post!



Mari girl,

As I sit here in a quiet living room among some of your favorite things leftover from a full day of play, after a very full celebratory weekend, it finally hits me that just last night, four years ago, your dad and I checked into the hospital. We spent our last several hours as a twosome anxiously awaiting your arrival, riding through waves of adrenaline, exhaustion, pain and hope.

Through most of your long labor, we watched soccer on the television. Women's soccer, to be exact.

Four years ago was of course 2011, and it was Women's World Cup time. I was comforted by the very familiar sounds of play-by-play of girls playing the game we love so much. Which, is something you can say to a four year old like you, and you understand. This summer, for the first time, you really rooted for girls. You waved the American flag with cheer. You told me you like watching girls play more than the boys, and that someday, you want to be like those courageous champions.

You have dreams. And, maybe they do change by the minute, but you have them. And that, my four year old, makes your mother's heart smile.

As for your kind and caring heart, you are something amazing. I beam the most when I watch you with your sister. When you ask me repeatedly, "can I wake Jenna up, is it time?" Or when without having to even ask, you bring your best friend her lovie when she needs it most. It's like you're inside her head, or mine, for that matter, and you are always there when we need you.

I'm grateful that when you are so, so, so tired, you will still fall asleep on me. And that you save certain moments just for your dad, like bike rides and breakfast at your favorite spot. And that you love some things with all your heart, like hearts and rainbows, living room dance parties and ice cream.

You are my sweet girl who has given me more joy than you will ever know.

I love you more than the moon and the stars and the sea.

I love you more than all three, my big four year old.

Happy birthday.


holiday birthday sparkle.

Before we jump into the most wonderful week of the year, I wanted to quickly share a few snapshots from Jenna's first birthday party that we hosted last week. For all of you with December loved ones, you can clue me in on how to differentiate the birthday to the holiday for years to come, but with all the sparkle and twinkle in the air, pops of black, white and gold were on the menu.
Just a family affair, which means a house full of six cousins and one big sister, we ate from giant pots of homemade chicken tortilla soup with cornbread muffins, drank and were merry over Christmas cookie decorating after diving into birthday cake; Ina Garten's coconut cake that is now my all-time favorite cake. In the world. I'm done searching.
Most party supplies (including frosting tubes) came from - you guessed it - Shop Sweet Lulu, with some Amazon purchases for cutlery and to-go soup containers. Becker's Bakery gingerbread men saved the day. Invitations were a DIY job, using Martha Stewart glitter dust, glue and Paper Source envelopes and liner kit.

I've kept around much of the decor all month long, and will do so into New Year's Eve. Gold is so good that way.

Merry, happy everything!