a third birthday party

Untitled

Untitled-1

Untitled-4

Untitled

Untitled-3

Untitled

$Untitled-2

Untitled

Untitled

our little eleanor turned three yesterday and we had a fiesta to celebrate complete with a taco bar and diy pinatas. it was so nice to see her and so many other little people playing in our backyard (just what we envisioned when we chose our house). it was a wonderful day with family and friends! at the end when i was laying with her in bed i asked her if she had a good day and what her favorite part was. eleanor answered, "it was great. my favorite was playing with all of my friends." then mama cried.

the e and diamond pinantas were made from this diy. eleanor's flower crown was made from this tutorial. eleanor's dress is from here. the papel picado flags were found here.

two years old

i realize these are not the best photos and are in fact blurry but these two images show her, just as she is, fun, goofy, and a true joy!

goofball

>>>listening to music as we often do and when a song she deemed worthy of dance came on she ran to her toy basket, grabbed her tutu and sombrero and insisted we put them on (this has become a regular occurrence and music and dancing are now synonymous with dress up)

goofball

>>>twirling


an update on our first born

stats
height: 37 inches / 94 cm
weight: 29 lbs / 13kg

the other night as i rocked eleanor to sleep, humming the same tune i've hummed to her for the last two years, i thought about how quickly it has all gone by. i am so happy to see the independent little girl she is becoming but a part of me longs for and wants to cling to the days of her being my baby.

our little girl has grown up so much in the last few months. she is such a great big sister and takes her role very seriously. she loves to help with felix all the time, even when i would rather she didn't (no, eleanor, he doesn't need to be force fed your milk.) the other day she laid next to him in bed, put her arm around him and said, "i love you brother." i about died. she is the most loving child and always wants to give hugs and kisses. she love to hold hands and tries to with just about everyone. she is also very sensitive and empathetic. she cries almost every time she has to say goodbye to someone. i hope she never loses this love for others.

it makes me laugh that i was ever worried about her speech since now it feels like she never stops talking. i suppose this was my first lesson in never comparing my child to another, they all learn differently and at their own pace.

some of my favorite things she says:
a donkey says, "meat-ball"
"what doing mama?"
"i do it." (all the time)
whenever i tell her we're going somewhere, "felix come too?"
"shopping target mama"

her favorite color (much to my dismay) is pink. her favorite books are, "for just one day" and "if you want to see a whale". her favorite food is "breakfast!" her favorite animal is "animal cookies!"

dear eleanor,

for two years now you have shared your smile, your laugh, your goofy antics, your facial expressions, and your incredible love with us. you taught me and continue to teach me how to be a mother. you have made me into the woman i always hoped i would be and for that i am incredibly grateful. you were the first to teach me that my life could be about something bigger than myself and i am so happy that through you we are able to see the world differently. you are the light in every room my dear girl and we are all lucky to know you. it is my keenest wish that you always know how much you are loved and cherished.

love,
mama

birthday weekend

our weekend was spent prepping and celebrating eleanor's 2nd birthday. all week leading up to sunday eleanor would see the things i was making and point and say, "birthday." i kept telling her that her special day was sunday and telling her how many more sleeps before we would celebrate. when sunday morning arrived i was just as excited as her to watch her experience all of what we had planned to make the day special. we came downstairs to streamers hanging in the doorway. eleanor loved running back and forth through them. we continued our tradition of birthday pancakes with a candle and the first on many, "happy birthday" songs.

then it was time to head to washington park for her party. i had made coleslaw, potato salad, and a kale and green been salad to go with the fried chicken we were picking up. there were animals on parade wearing party hats, lots of balloons, kazoos, and colorful paper garland to decorate. we couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. the weather was beautiful and we sat in the grass and ate and played. after cake (carrot) the kids played in the fountains while the adults visited and relaxed. on the way home eleanor began singing, "happy birthday to you," and i knew that we had succeeded in creating a great day for her.
i'll share an update and letter to eleanor later this week. until then here are some photos from our day.

color

grandma and felix


kazoo

Untitled-2

daniel and jonathan

lucy

alistair

Untitled-1

carrot cake

more photos here

21/52 and five things

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013."


21/52
21 months old


five things about eleanor:

1. she says, "love you" now
2. sitting next to her on the couch and holding hands, she began gently rubbing my hand with her thumb
3. she makes us espresso (seriously watch this)
4. she is obsessed with bike rides. the minute we go outside she runs to the shed and says "bike" and if our ride us too short (it always is) she cries
5. yellow is her favorite color (today)

21/52
3 months old


five things about felix:

1. he makes the loudest gulping noises (has since he was born)
2. he laughed for the first time this past weekend and he flirts with his eyes
3. he is always moving and now rolls from his belly to his back
4. he talks to us all the time, he has a lot of stories to tell
5. thinks eleanor is the greatest!

art in the bath

water color


water color

i'm not sure where i first saw this but the idea of water color painting in the bath seemed so genius to me that i couldn't wait to give it a try. eleanor loved every minute of it and was occupied for a good hour decorating our tub. (win #1 for mama) then came cleanup and it couldn't have been any easier. (win #2 for mama) we then had a morning bubble bath which is always a treat for my water loving child.

water color

water color

18 months

18 months old

frederik meijer gardens

guess what happened while we were waiting for baby brother? eleanor turned 18 months! these photos were taken on saturday, the last day that eleanor was an only child, the day when she officially grew up. we took her on a special date to the frederik meijer gardens and sculpture park where she ran around bright eyed looking at all the beautiful plants and butterflies. i am so glad that we had this day with her and these photos that capture her beautiful spirit. my baby girl is no longer a baby. she is full on toddler and having an infant around makes her seem that much more grown up.

language: e is finally speaking. it seems as though it happened overnight but in the last two months she has gone from saying 2 words to almost 20. i love hearing her little voice as she points to her brothers face and names his features, "eyes, nose, mouth." most of her words are in english but about 25% are in flemish and she is comprehending everything said to her in both languages.

play: e loves music and is such a dancer so last month we started a kindermusik class. it is so great to watch her develop amongst the other children in the class, interacting with the teacher, listening and following instructions, and dancing her little tush off. we've also been going to the aquatic center weekly to play in the splash zone which is such a wonderful way for my water bug to get some indoor winter play in. we can't wait for it to warm up a bit so we can spend some time outside. eleanor is still a little bookworm and we read many many many books everyday. she also loves to color and we spend time daily either drawing pictures with crayons or on her chalkboard wall.

eleanor is such a big helper. she loves to be a part of mamas everyday activities, helping load and unload the washer and dryer or dishwasher, swiffering the floors, feeding the dog, grabbing diapers to help change felix. i am so grateful that she seems to derive so much pleasure from things that help me. granted, it takes a little bit longer to do those activities, but i believe that the learning far outweighs the sacrifice of time. i look forward to watching her as she continues to become the helpful big sister.

18 months old

our little lady has the brightest and loveliest of personalities. we are so lucky to have her in our lives and our family. i know that throughout her life she will be a light to everyone she comes into contact with. being her mother is the greatest gift i've been given and the 18 months we have had with her alone have been the best of my life. now onto the next chapter for eleanor and for us as a family.

more photos of our day at the gardens here

making valentines

valentine crafting

i'm not sure what i was thinking when i decided that crafting valentines with paint with a toddler was a good idea but... oh and how about i don't put her smock on her before we start? needless to say our crafting turned out to be a bit messy and yes, there was red and pink paint on her shirt and in her hair. but boy did we have fun!

crafting with a toddler is a lesson in patience for me. it's so hard to not want to control the outcome and just to let her explore and figure it out. but it is worth it, to see her face light up, her eyes get really big, and to hear her say "ooh" as she dipped the tp roll into the paint and stamped it on the paper. after we were done making a few valentines for a few family members it was a paint free for all. i let her go to town with her hands in the paint mixing the colors and making art. i think she was pretty proud of her work!

valentine crafting

valentine crafting

instructions for heart stamped valentines here

plans

sensory play

one of the rituals i have adopted that has helped to keep things simple and to keep our spending in check is weekly menu planning. for the last several months a portion of my sunday is spent browsing my cookbooks and planning out our meals for the week and then compiling my grocery list. sometimes i deviate from the plan and switch up the days (super dangerous i know, this mama likes to live on the edge). but in all seriousness i have benefited greatly from this routine.
1. it's easy
2. i spend less $
3. i waste less food (we devote at least one night for eating leftovers)
4. i get to spend quality time with my cookbooks (they are like family to me)
5. i get to experience the incredible gratification that comes from crossing things off a list
6. it's another way for me to care for my family.

so after completing my list for this week i began to think about other parts of my life that could benefit from planning. one of my goals for the year is to be more intentional about my time with eleanor. to be honest there are times throughout the day when i and i'm sure she is bored. i want to make sure that i am creating an environment for her to learn, to be creative, and to play but sometimes i am at a loss. when she reaches for the iPad or iPhone i feel as though i am failing her. i know that these are a part of her world and that there are times (8 hour flights) when they come in handy but i also know that they are exciting in part because it's what she sees mama and papa doing. and so i am making some resolutions. i will not be on the computer when she is awake (she was napping when i wrote this) and my phone will be used minimally.

and surely i can spend as much time planning out activities for the week as i do planning meals. now i am not a teacher and so "lesson" planning is a bit foreign to me. i do however have something invaluable, i know my daughter, and i have a deep love for reading. and so to begin my quest i consulted a few books, blogs, and pinterest. i made sure to leave plenty of time for free play and activities outside of our house like a visit to the aquatic center, to the library, and to playgroup. some of our activities are as simple as filling a tub with soapy water or cornmeal but after watching eleanor play in that tub of water for a good hour today, never growing tired of it, i couldn't help but feel proud of all that we are learning together.

i hope to continue sharing some of our weekly activities here and welcome any ideas. and for anyone interested i love this book, and this one too and am wishing for this one.

there are also many wonderful blogs out there but here are a few of my favorites:
montessori ici
modern parents messy kids
bonbon mini
how we montessori.

winter wonderland

cheese


i was just stating my disappointment with this "michigan winter". i mean i bought snow boots for goodness sake and i was really hoping to wear them. not that digging cars out of the driveway is high on my list of desirables but i was expecting lake effect snow and so far, nothing. and then it happened, the snow came, and it hasn't stopped since. despite the fact that my car is not made for this kind of weather i love it! i don't appreciate folks that are always complaining about the weather. i am so grateful to live somewhere where i experience all of the seasons and where my children get to explore and discover their world covered in sand or snow. thank you michigan for giving us a truly beautiful winter wonderland and for giving me a reason to wear my sorels.

in the last four days we've only ventured out of the house twice but we did manage to head into our backyard yesterday for a bit when the sun came out. eleanor has seen snow before but this was her first time playing in it, discovering it. she cracked me up in her puffy snow gear, waddling through the yard, laying down in and eating the snow. i can't wait to take her back out!

yum

3/52

3/52

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."

spending time reading books in her tent

sinterklaas

dear sinterklaas
eleanor left her note to sinterklaas by her shoe with a carrot for his horse and a beer for him.
we'll see if he comes to the house tonight...!

15 months old

15 months old!

where has the time gone? three months since my last eleanor update...and a big three months they have been. i feel like e has grown leaps and bounds in terms of development. she comprehends so much and expresses herself in so many different ways it's hard to believe.

stats:
height- 33.5in. (100%/off the charts)
weight- 24lbs. 5.2oz (85%)


15 months old!

15 months old!


behavior:
we have entered what i am assuming is toddlerdom. eleanor has a will and she would like us all to know it. she is not afraid to let us know if she isn't getting her way either by crying, arching her back and becoming limp, or by clenching her jaw. there have been a few occasions of biting but we seemed to have nipped that one in the bud (hehe pun intended). we haven't experienced any massive tantrums but there have been moments where the whining has me unhinged. when she gets into a fit over something i've been letting her, telling her i understand that she's upset and that if she needs to cry that's ok, mama is here and will be when she's finished.

food:
eleanor is fully weaned! for about a month now she has been drinking two cups of whole milk a day and no more of mama's. surprisingly this was a fairly easy transition for both of us and i have been enjoying having the tata's to myself for a few months before the little guy arrives. e has become proficient at feeding herself with a spoon and she takes such pride in it. there are sometimes where she ends up wearing quite a bit of what she's eating and others where she gives up and just goes in with her hand but overall she's doing well. she still eats nearly everything we put in front of her and typically favors high flavor, ethnic food. vegetables are harder to get her to eat some days so i keep those organic veggie pouches on hand for days when i feel she hasn't had enough.

language:
eleanor still isn't talking and it's getting hard not to compare her to other kids. i know that research shows bilingual children to be slower to talk so we are trying to stick to what we are doing and just let her move at her own pace. the cool thing is that she understands and responds to both english and flemish. she knows all of her body parts in both languages, lots of animals in both, and responds to commands in both. how much her little brain holds is remarkable.

15 months old!

play:
e loves to read. her favorite books right now are little owl lost, don't let the pigeon drive the bus, and 10 little rubber ducks. we must read those three books at least 5 times a day each. she also enjoys puzzles. her favorites are two with animals and one with stacking shapes. once we moved past the eating crayons stage it opened up a whole new activity for us. eleanor loves to color and we spend some time every day drawing a picture or playing on her chalkboard wall.
we recently joined the aquatic center here in holland and twice a week we go to the preschool splash zone which is basically an indoor water gym. the first time we went e was timid and held my hand the entire time. the second time she walked right into the water and i spent the next hour chasing her around. it's nice to have an indoor activity for the winter.

cuddles:
eleanor is such a love bug! she gives the best hugs and kisses. i cherish every moment that she lets me snuggle her because i know that there will come a time when i will long for it. she has also started doing "neus neus" which is just a flemish version of eskimo kisses. at night when she's ready for bed i usually sway with her and sing a song. lately she has been making the "mmuah!" sound while i sing in anticipation of the kiss i always give before laying her down. it kills me!

as with every stage we've reached thus far i can proclaim that this one is my favorite!

a nook for eleanor

a nook for eleanor
a new tent

sunday was a stay in your pj's all day kind of day. we started by sharing pumpkin pie pancakes for breakfast while we watched cbs sunday morning (also known as my church). we then spent the rest of the day enjoying the little nook that we made for eleanor. we drew on her new chalkboard wall and read books in the a-frame tent stijn and i made for her yesterday. it's funny how this small nook made it really seem like a home here. i sat watching her scribble on the wall and thought about all that that wall would see; soon there will be a second name written on it, our children will practice writing their abc's on it... i can't wait to see how their imaginations develop as they draw, write, and express themselves in this space.

and please excuse eleanor's hideous pajamas; they were the only ones i could find over 12 months with footies.

it happened overnight

photo

it happened overnight. or perhaps it's been going on for the last 13 months and i just caught up but my baby girl grew up. this weekend i looked at her and suddenly she was a toddler. after taking this picture and then looking at it every 5 minutes last night thinking that she looked 3 years old i started to look through my phone at the last 13 months. those first weeks with her, our move to the u.s., the growth of her hair from a mohawk to a mullet, her first steps...she is growing up and once there is an infant around again it will become even more apparent. i love this little lady and the person she is becoming!
oh, and look, pigtails!

12 months old

12 months old

dear eleanor,

my baby girl, you turned 1 a few weeks ago! i can't believe that our first year is already behind us. as i've said before, time has flown by and at the same time it feels like you've always been with us.

12 month stats: height-32 inches (100th percentile!)
weight-21 lbs. 7 oz. (9.7 kilos) and (72nd percentile)
teeth-11!

food:
you're such a good eater! you'll eat almost anything and you really like to try to feed yourself with the spoon. it can be quite messy as you have the spoon in one hand and your other hand in the bowl with food covering our hands and face but i enjoy letting you explore and learn. and well that's what paper towels are for. your favorite food is still any type of fruit and cheese. you would eat both all day if i would let you. you love indian food and you eat it quite spicy. we took you to my favorite sichuan restaurant and gave you tripe and all kinds of other crazy foods and you ate them all up. i love that you are such an adventurous eater! we started weaning a bit, introducing cows milk and going down to two breastmilk feedings a day. you seem to be fine with it and i am still enjoying those two times a day when it's just you and mama feeding quietly.

12 months old

doings:
you are such a lover. you give kisses and hugs that make this mama's heart melt. when i first lift you out of your crib you always snuggle into my neck and hold on tight. those moments are some of my favorites.
you love animals. any book with animals in it is your favorite. when we ask you how a lion goes you let out a big growl that is so cute. we're working on the other animals too but for now whenever we ask you about a cow or a dog or a pig you growl...we'll get there.
you're mimicking everything. you often pick up my phone, hold it up to you ear, and begin fake talking (mouthing words that only you know). when i put my makeup on you love to pick up a brush and rub your face with it. you're a long way from the days of makeup but i think it's so fun that you want to do what mama does.
you are fearless! you explore your world with no reservations. and you my dear are a little monkey climbing on everything! yesterday you pulled one of your big blocks over to the desk to stand on it to get up higher. these moments are always a bit difficult for me as i want you to be safe and understand that certain things are dangerous but i don't want to hinder your adventurous spirit or stop you from being creative.

as with every other stage and milestone we have hit in this first year this is such a fun time and i love watching you become the little person that you are. you have such a strong will and yet such a loving, friendly personality. we're looking forward to the next year and all that it holds for you, our dear first born.
12 months old

weekend bits

parties

we traveled to cincinnati this weekend for a weekend full of parties. first up on saturday was the first birthday of our little eleanor faye. we had a lovely day with friends and family and gifts galore. eleanor loved every minute of it...except the cake! i couldn't believe it myself and actually wondered if in fact she is my daughter but she just wasn't interested. she did however love the singing of "happy birthday" and the many times it was sung to her. i guess she didn't want her birthday to end because she stayed awake until 4am!

sunday was day two and party number two, a baby shower for my dear friend emily. we had a nice brunch and her soon to be son was gifted many books from the lewis carroll shelf award winners.

the only major disaster was that i realised all to late that our camera battery was dead and the charger back in holland, michigan. so we had to rely on our phones to capture some of the special moments. hopefully eleanor won't hold it against me.

with all the decorating and cooking and baking and celebrating i am ready for a nap but it was such a great weekend and i love hosting parties for the people i love.

a day at the zoo

a few photos from our trip to the lincoln park zoo.
there is something so cool about looking at tigers and gorillas
with a big city all around you.
and it's free! how is that even possible?


lincoln park zoo

zoo

lincoln park zoo