Monday, May 25, 2009

Holiday Surprise

It is Memorial Day, and I have resolved that three day weekends are THE BEST.

Friday evening we spent a most relaxing time celebrating with the Whitakers and others at a perfect summer picnic. Vance has finished his PhD! We all left exhausted, but rejuvenated by the fellowship.

We were busy, busy, busy on Saturday planting annuals and moving perennials. Eric filled the beds with a new layer of black dirt and moved around some rocks. Shrubs trimmed, and everything watered to satisfaction.
Sunday we hung around home for the afternoon taking much needed naps, but in the late afternoon we headed over to Lake Nokomis to join some friends for another picnic. We had a perfect spot by the lake with nice shade trees and a quiet section of sandy beach. We grilled delicious veggies (and meats), played bocce ball, threw the Frisbee, and lounged around. We were all certain that we could spend every day like this!
Kristy, Anna, and Leah played lifeguard...

Hazel lived it up in the sand and water.

We brought along Eva's bat and ball, and Leah was kind enough to pitch for her.

After spending a considerable amount of time splashing around in the water, Hope requested to warm up in this stylish sarong.

As the sun sunk low in the sky, we hurried home for baths and a late bedtime with two pooped out little girls. Some of our friends decided to join us for a movie or board games, which ended up being a very late night. We fell asleep around 2 am and mercifully were not awoken until 9:30 this morning! Amazingly, we felt well rested and happy, something we attributed to a busy weekend of socialization (Eric is the epitome of "extrovert").

While Eric made waffles and orange juice for breakfast, the girls and I wandered out to the front stoop to enjoy the morning sunshine. And who should we find outside our door??? A well mannered, petite feline was baking in the warm sunlight!

This surprise reminded me a little of the last time a stray cat wandered into our lives. I think it must've been four years ago when I found a charming calico kitty curled up under my Christmas tree after a cookie exchange party. Oddly enough, these cats always seem to appear after we've hosted a particular collection of our friends. I'm just not sure what to make of it....

The girls LOVE pets, and except for Hope's cat allergy and our tiny house, we'd love to get one. So I let the girls cuddle and love on this kitty all morning. Happily, Hope had absolutely no adverse reaction to the cat!We are always thankful for the active imaginations these girls possess, and the next series of photos proves that as John Lennon said, "Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."

If you were a fly on our wall, you'd be hearing things like, "Soft kitty!" or "Mommy get it kitty. Heavy." or "My turn hold kitty!"or "I think this kitty is named Spooky." and "It is my cat, you know." (As an aside, isn't Eva's summer romper, the cutest thing you've ever seen?!?)"Hi (s)pooky." and "Where (s)pooky go?""Nice kitty!" and "I'll just hold Spooky. She is a little afraid of younger children." Spooky was even serenaded with the complete rendition of, "Skiddamarink a dink a dink, Skiddamarink a doo, I love you...""Is the kitty cozy in your blanket?" "Be gentle with Spooky."I got to "babysit" our furry companion while the girls took a quick trip to the "fountain lake."All in all, this is an incredibly kid-tolerant cat, who seems content to clean it's paws just about anywhere she sprawls out. I can't complain about that!

Leah, Leah, Jason, Anna, Aaron, and Kristy: I'm not exactly sure to whom we owe this pleasure, but your gift is being enjoyed immensely, and there is no telling when we'll be able to give her up into your loving arms!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Two record-breaking weather days in row here... today 93 degrees, yesterday 97. Calls for the kiddie pool, I'd say!Ella is on the go, finally, and enamored with the small pleasures of the backyard. No pool for this one, yet. Hazel partakes of the community water bottle. Don't you wish you could squeeze those arms?!?
Hope dips her feet in the pool. That girl LOVES the water!
Grandma Patenaude visited tonight, and we had a belated Mother's Day dinner. I tried a different (and more authentic, at least to the average Mid-westerner) tiramisu recipe. It was awesome. So glad there are leftovers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Skepticism Unfounded

The second most common question a pregnant lady is asked, "Do you know what you're having?" For the last three months, I have responded, "Not yet!" But, if you missed it in the sidebar, the big news is out.... we're having a BABY GIRL!!!

Another common question I've been asked is, "What do you think it will be?" This question has led to lots of conversations about perceptions during pregnancy. I'll be honest, I felt that this baby was a boy... along with just about everyone I came in contact with. Eva came with me to the ultrasound appointment today, and she showed visible disappointment and disbelief when the ultrasound tech checked and checked again, confirming that we "shouldn't get rid of all the clothes yet."

Honestly, though, in all the conversations about my perceptions of this baby, my gut feelings, my primary feeling has been skepticism. I felt skeptical. Such a strange word to use in regard to a little unborn baby. Truly, I suspected that something was not right with the baby or my body or that something was going to go wrong in the pregnancy. I guess I just feel like it's my turn, since I've had such ideal previous pregnancies and basically healthy babies. Then I started to feel skeptical towards the baby, suspecting that it was a boy. Having a baby boy would be great, but truthfully, I cannot picture myself being the mother to a boy. What a strange thought!

So, when the tech informed us of the gender, I felt relieved. And again, when the ultrasound was done and everything seemed normal, I felt more relieved. I guess I'm still working through these strange feelings of things not being quite right though, because I wouldn't be at all surprised to receive a call from the midwife group informing me that something was askew.

But lets just enjoy the happy news for now- we have THREE LITTLE GIRLS- what fun!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Birthday Bash

The birthday girl experienced her *golden* birthday at the ripe old age of four! Someone mentioned "golden birthday" a few months ago, and Eva has not let go of the idea. Another big idea came into her head via the US Postal Service. One day several months ago, we received an advertisement for the Rainforest Cafe in the daily mail. It was a colorful ad, targeted directly at Eva. It pictured kids at a birthday party, entertained by a larger than life green frog, watching a sparkler light up a volcano-shaped chocolate cake. On the other side of the flyer, there were coupons offering freebies for birthday kids. Our birthday girl can't read yet, but she has very good word-picture association skills, and an intense interest in birthday parties. Right away she brought the piece of paper to me, explaining at length what a magnificent birthday destination this would be for her *golden* birthday.

Well, with the recent hubbub of getting our house ready to sell, my fear of showings (I mean, my fear of cleaning for showings), and Eva's extreme excitement over the rain forest destination, we decided to go for it. I looked forward to no dinner dishes, no games to be orchestrated, and a memorable afternoon.

As it turned out, we still held part of the party at our house, and we didn't end up getting the molten volcano cake. And, we're not planning on selling our house now... but I did really enjoy the lack of dirty dishes!

The events started at our house with gift opening. Grandma and Grandpa Spears and Jon and Erin arrived, bearing armfuls of gifts. Here are just a few of the treasures-
Out of the gigantic bag came a doll stroller and a pack n play. A highchair and swing were added later. Thanks Auntie for the (big) toys!

Grandma Patenaude sent a box of "school supplies" in the mail. We've already dug into the paints and the numbers workbook!Grandma Spears had many smallish gifts up her sleeve, but this was the most fun to unwrap. Who can resist a box circled by miles of gold ribbon??? Inside the box was an adorable dress and nightgown that Grandma sewed for Baby Susie. Receiving the award for strangest gift was a package of macaroon cookies and four food-safe markers. I'll have to post pictures of the coloring-on-food experience we had on Monday.

Other big gifts were the 1st ever Polly Pockets to grace our home (after much begging and pleading) and the baseball bat, tee, and glove.

We had snacks on princess plates while we played after opening gifts- Eva chose cheese-its, fresh pineapple, grapes, and blackberries. Yum!

After gifts, we headed to the Mall of America and the Rainforest Cafe. For those of you who don't know, we boast the largest shopping mall in the USA, 10 minutes from our doorstep! It is quite the shopper's paradise, I'm told.

The Rainforest Cafe is not known for having amazing food (Erin had to send hers back!), but it is an awesome kid destination. Hope and Eva were mesmerized, albeit a little frightened, by the thunderstorms, howling monkeys, and chomping alligator. There were huge fish tanks throughout the restaurant with everything from eels to blow fish. Although I don't think Eva knew what to expect, she was far from disappointed. Everything pleased her, right down to her dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and french fries. She got a free birthday sundae, and of course the inevitable crowd of singing (bellowing) wait staff that come with it. What an experience!

We picked up the final present of the evening at the mall, and Eva's response was priceless. She has been yearning for a piggy bank like her cousins Hannah and Sarah for a long time. I called their mom last week to find out where they got them, but she wasn't sure. I was sad, since I knew the only thing Eva really, really wanted was this ceramic white piggy bank. But, in a providential moment, I saw the exact one she wanted at a store in the MOA the night before the party. The clerk at the store was so eager to please, she even wrapped it up super cute when we picked it up before dinner. As Eva was opening it, she cried with total and complete delight, "AT LONG LAST, MY OWN PIGGY BANK!"She immediately requested the coins from every one's pockets, and has been earning a dime or a nickle each day this week for doing her chores. She is saving up for more Polly Pockets, I'm told.
We returned home after dinner (no rides at the indoor amusement park this time) for cake and ice cream. You can imagine my relief when the birthday cake order switched from "Tigger" to a "rose garden." Last year the request was "Pooh," and I was thankful to avoid the food coloring headache we all experienced after eating it!
And finally, I leave you with the quintessential birthday picture, the candles being blown out. I think this party was my most enjoyable kid birthday yet. Eva was so happy, so cooperative, no meltdowns of excitement... and no dishes to be done :)!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

4 Years Old

Dear Eva,

It is your fourth birthday, and you are so proud of growing up. It seems like the last few months have marked a clear line between your toddler hood and your expanding big kid identity. We are enjoying this transition so much. Six months ago, you spent a lot of your time testing our wills and examining boundaries, in such a manipulative manner too. As a three year old, you always attempted to present your desires in a logical method or at least to convince us that you were making a "wise" decision. "No mom, it was my choice to pull Hope's hair. You shouldn't spank me because it was my choice." Or, "Mom, it is your fault that I got out of bed. You didn't leave the door open enough." We were entertained to see you practice your future-attorney skills and try your hardest at grown-up discussions, but it did get wearing after awhile. Now days, your understanding of right and wrong and your desire to do what's right outweighs the need for excessive arguments. It blessed me one morning a few weeks ago when you woke up saying, "I feel full of God today. I'm going to ask God to help me be kind to Ella." Your heart is sensitive and desires to obey Mom and Dad and to obey God. We overhear you regularly singing spontaneous songs of praise to God for sending Jesus, for caring for you, for always being with you. Your desire to serve Mommy each day is such a wonderful help and blessing as well. Just today I asked you to get Hope out of her highchair, take off her clothes and bring her to me in the shower. You cheerfully did as I asked, gently caring for Hope through every step. I was impressed by the servant heart that God is giving you, and thankful that I have such a wonderful helper for an oldest daughter!

Your social identity is expanding as well. You are always talking about your friends and planning adventures with them. When you meet new people, you no longer make ridiculous noises or awkwardly try to get attention (as you sometimes used to do). You've figured out (most of the time) that people enjoy conversation, and you eagerly engage with friends and family in discussing the latest events... This week I overheard you telling Grandma Spears about swimming lessons and your highly adored instructor Brianna, as well as conversations with old ladies in the check-out line at the co-op, and today with your pediatrician. You pine to play with the neighbor kids across the street, pretty much every afternoon.

Speaking of the pediatrician, your stats might be important to you when you grow up. At four years old, you weigh 37.75 pounds, and are almost 40 inches tall. That lands you squarely in the 50th percentile. You wear size 4T clothes, and size 9.5 or 10 shoes (which I suspect might be closer to the 100th percentile...blasted genetics!). When the doctor asked you what you like to eat today, you responded with, "Macaroni and Cheese, broccoli, and carrots." Your vision was 20/20, and I could tell that you really enjoyed showing off your knowledge of letters on the vision chart.

School is becoming very important to you, and you seem to be looking forward to homeschooling, even though we haven't made our final decision yet. You know all your letters, upper and lowercase, and you like to practice the sounds the letters make. Reading is just around the corner for you! In fact, if I was more faithful to encourage your reading, you probably would have already started. You love to "read" to Hope and baby Sylvi, repeating the words of board books and other simple picture books. Hope loves this too! You can write your name, do simple addition, and you love to problem solve doing puzzles and mazes. We recently bought a 70 piece My Little Pony puzzle at the Arc, which has become your favorite, though you usually want me to do a few pieces too. Your favorite read-alouds have been the American Girl books, The Boxcar Children, Charlotte's Web, Fairy Tales and Fables, and the Jesus Storybook Bible.

You're a girl after my own heart, with an absolute love of the outdoors. You spend well over half of your waking hours outside lately. You ride your pink tricycle, draw on the sidewalk, play "Santa Claus" on top of the playhouse, gather worms and bugs, and compete in imaginary races up and down the sidewalk. Daddy and I have been surprised at an apparent talent for batting a baseball. The first time I ever tossed a ball at you this spring, you swung a golf club at it and nailed it! For your birthday, Grandpa Spears gave you a tee, a glove, and a new bat and ball. Of course you spend tons of time each day whacking the ball around the yard!

You still spend tons of time in your pretend world, dressing up as Laura Ingalls, a ballerina, and playing mommy to your babies. Often you tag Hope as your husband and drag her along on dates or for a picnic in the living room. Hope is also your patient when you get out your doctor kit and begin checking her vitals. You both seem to really enjoy playing "Drive thru" with the playhouse outside. You adore Hope and often shower her with kisses and hugs- though sometimes you also like to give her a competitive push or trip.

Other things we love about you at four: You often steal away with my phone to call Daddy at work, just to chat. He loves getting calls from you. One night a few months ago, we woke you up from an apparent nightmare. When I asked you what you were dreaming about, you wailed, "I want to win the race!" You already have that competitive Patenaude nature (a blessing and a curse, I'd say :). You still change your clothes many, many times each day... leaving lots of picking up to do each night, but you're getting efficient at putting clothes away. Your favorite outfit seems to be your yellow tiered skirt with the purple sequins or your denim capris with a t-shirt.

I think this is a pretty good snapshot of you as you turn four. We are so thankful for you and love you so much. You are by no means perfect, but we very much enjoy watching God shape you into a delightful little person. We pray you are drawn more and more to Him in your 5th year!

love, mommy (and daddy)