Happy 4th and Happy 2nd!

The weekend’s festivities for us were not only a celebration of America’s Independence (it’s not a particularly meaningful holiday anyway for a girl who has willingly reinstated her dependence on the Brits), but also of little Miss Beatrix’s independence from my body two years ago.  (Although her birthday isn’t until Tuesday, it is, I think, worth reminding you that I was *already in labor* with her on the 4th of July, three days before her arrival!)

I’m always up for having a birthday party taken off my plate, so when my mom offered to combine Bea’s party with a 4th of July BBQ and her house, I didn’t have to think too hard about it.

The result was a fabulous day filled with laughter and loved ones, and a very tired little birthday girl at the end of it all.

Another Red Letter Day

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Three-Oh.

As if we haven’t had enough cause for celebration around here lately, today is my wonderful husband’s 30th birthday.  If you’ve been paying close attention, you might know that this milestone came and went for me over a year ago.  The months between October and March are always a little uncomfortable for me because I am two years older than Trevor for that time rather than just one, so you can imagine how much I *haven’t* enjoyed being in a whole different decade from him.  The last time that happened, when he was 19 and I was 21, he looked like this (what a cutie, huh?).  On my 21st birthday he signed my card “From Trevor, aged 19” (not so cute.)

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Trevor aged 19.

But how life has changed since then.  In ten years, he has graduated from college, gotten married, had a couple daughters, moved to a new continent and had a couple more daughters – not many people can say that!  (He was joking yesterday that now that he’s turning thirty it might be time he ought to think about settling down.)

The girls and I are incredibly blessed to have him in our lives, and I thank God daily for his love and commitment to our family.  If it weren’t for the newborn by my side who may or may not decide to stay asleep for a while, I could easily produce a top 30 list of things I am thankful for about him.  Under the circumstances, you’ll just have to take my word for it that he’s pretty amazing.

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Trevor aged 29 and 363/365.

We knew it might be tricky this year to do a full blown 30th birthday bash, given that little Junie’s due date was just a day before the big event (although, pretty cool present, right?), but I hope you’ll all join me in wishing him a very happy birthday.

Happy Birthday, Trev.  I love you!

My Girl Is Four

Saturday was Pippa’s fourth birthday.  I don’t even know what to say.  I am the mother of a four-year-old.  I am constantly looking around my life and asking myself how I got here.  I put together a little montage of Pippa’s life in honor of her birthday, in large part so that I can watch it and go, “Oh, yeah.  That’s how.”

(Click the link to view.)
View this montage created at One True Media
Four Years of Pippa

I feel so incredibly blessed to be this amazing little girl’s mother.  I can take credit for absolutely nothing about her (except for maybe the nail-biting and the curls), but I am no less the proudest mother in the world.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

At about this time last year, I was sitting in a hospital bed completely in awe of the tiny new little girl I had just met.  Beatrix arrived fast and furious, just like her littler big sister, but after days of teasing us with contractions.

I had learned my lesson when Romilly was born that no two babies are the same, and that it’s a different sort of falling in love each time, but Bea managed to throw me for a loop again.  I remember spending what felt like an eternity repeating, “What is it?  What did we have?”  over and over again before Trevor finally told me she was another beautiful little girl.  (I guess doctors aren’t used to people not already knowing these days, or else mine was still too frustrated with having not been informed in time that I was about to give birth to be bothered with details.)  My next question was, “is she bald?”  I don’t know why it was at the top of my list, but it did get a noteworthy answer. “No, not really” Trevor told me, “and her hair is dark!”  It was unprecendented.  Her coloring was completely different from her sisters’, and although her hair has lightened up some, she is still the darkest of our girls in every regard: hair, skintone, and eyes.

Then I got to hold her.  She was so beautiful.  She had none of the usual squashedness or swollenness that most newborns have.  She was perfectly formed and the prettiest little thing I had ever laid eyes on.  She had the  sweetest little nose and mouth I had ever seen on a baby.  The hormone-induced mommy love gush was instant.

Now, I’ve blinked and a whole year has gone by.  My sweet tiny girl can now say Mama and Dada and uh-oh.  She has eight teeth and can eat everything we do.  She can pull up and cruise on furniture.  She still crawls like a caterpillar, and I’m not in any hurry for her to stop.

She has a sweet cheeky personality that can totally steal the show from her big sisters, and she lights up the room every time she smiles.  We are so richly blessed to have her in our family.

Happy birthday, sweet Bea!

Thirty-One and One Day

Happy ever-so-slightly-belated Birthday to Mary!

We had a blast on Saturday evening celebrating Mary’s birthday with her and Duncan, her mom, four of five older brothers and Erica and Aidan.  Having been to another more kid-targeted party the same afternoon, we worried the girls might not hold up that well for the evening grown-up do.  Little did we know there would be a little friend there as well as huge mounds of new mulch to play in and specially chosen library books for the occasion.  There were even party favors – thanks Mrs. Magee! A fabulous time was had by all.

Mary and I have been best friends since we were five.  Neither of us had sisters (I didn’t get any until I was 15, and she was overrun with brothers), so we were the closest thing each other had, and I daresay we enjoyed each other more than many real sisters do!

So, in honor of Mary’s big 3-1 celebration, I present to you my top 1-3 things I love about her:

  • She loves books and the library.  I want my kids to hang out with her a lot just to absorb this quality.
  • She babysits for us!  Only a couple of people are brave enough to take the girls for the evening and let us go out *before* the girls are in bed.  Mary and Duncan are among them.  You guys are so great!
  • She threw me a surprise baby shower… in Scotland!  This girl rallied my Scottish friends who knew nothing of this crazy American notion of baby showers behind my back, and then flew over to attend the party.  She even threw me a decoy party with just the two of us a few days beforehand so that I would be really surprised.  And I totally was!
  • She also flew over (help me here, Mare) three (?) other times, including the time when she single-handedly prepared Thanksgiving dinner in my tiny apartment with none of the appropriate cooking instruments and a frozen solid turkey, while I was at work all day (imagine them not giving me Thanksgiving off!)
  • She lost about 70 lbs (maybe more?  I’ve lost count.)  Are you applauding?  I am so proud of her!
  • She’s making me walk sixty miles with her for Breast Cancer in October.  Are you booing?  (No.  Just kidding. She’s not really making me.  By the way, I’m still waaay a bit low in the sponsorship department.  Do you see that big hot pink button in my side bar???)
  • She is a self-esteem guru.  Mary sends herself flowers every year on her birthday, because she deserves them.  I love it!
  • She whisked me away last year to Lancaster to celebrate our 25th anniversary.  This is us sitting at “the kids’ table” at our B & B.  It was so totally fun, even though I was seven months pregnant.

  • She wore pants under her dresses when we were in kindergarten.  She was the most adorable girl I had ever seen.  After kindergarten she went to Catholic school and had to wear dark green tights.  Those might have been even cuter.  I was totally jealous.
  • She remained my friend even though I cried when we were six and she got her first Cabbage Patch Kid (a preemie) because I was so jealous.   I already had two Cabbage Patch Kids.  They were not Preemies.  Once again, not my finest moment.

  • When something strikes her funny, she laughs until she cries.  Like the time my mom did my laundry for me while they were visiting me at college.  It wasn’t that funny.
  • She’s been faithful to me through the years even when I haven’t been the best friend to her.
  • She’s been there forever, and I think she will be there forever to come.

I love you, Mary!  Happy Birthday!

I’d Like to Propose… A Roast!

PhotobucketActually, I’d really rather not, but this Sunday is my father’s sixtieth birthday party, and apparently it falls to me as the firstborn to mock him mercilessly in front of all of his friends and family on the big day.

I agreed to this weeks ago.  I had asked my stepmother, Debbie, what I could do to help with the party preparations, and at the time I felt like I’d gotten off lightly when she asked me to do this.  After all, she could have asked to make potato salad for 50 or something.  A  speech?  No problem.

Until I sat down to write it.  Now, I’m imagining delivering this thing to an audience including my 80-something-year-old grandparents, a handful of my dad’s cousins whom I haven’t seen since I was ten, and my 12-year-old sister, and I may well be doing it while holding a baby or two – there is just no anecdote funny enough for this situation!

So, I’ve decided to give it a practice spin here, not least because I feel more inclined to blog this afternoon than to work on this speech.  Here goes.

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Anybody who knows my dad knows that he is just the guy to have around in a lot of situations.  If you need someone to tell you which house to buy, or to listen to a funny noise your car has started making, or to turn an end table into a coffee table, Bruce Gilbert is the man to call.  If, on the other hand, you need to drive to the airport during rush hour and want someone to keep you company, you’d probably better ask someone else.

My dad has many interesting ideas about driving, and one of them is that it is *always* preferable to be moving, even if it is in the exact opposite direction of where you’re trying to go.  This means that he will often do a U-turn on Buck Road rather than sit through even one light.  If he has no choice but to sit at a traffic light that has just changed, you will almost certainly hear him say the words, “The *full* red!”

He also truly believes that road signs are intended for less capable drivers than himself.  To him, a stop sign means “Glance Around and Slow Down Slightly If Necessary”, and he thinks “No Thru Traffic” should be followed by “Unless You Grew Up In This Neighborhood.”  Traffic laws do not apply at all in the snow.  And, in general, the answer to any driving rule that is contrary to what my dad wants to do is: “But I’m Bruce Gilbert!”  In fact, that is probably exactly what he said to the cop who found him hiding in his shed after trying to escape a speeding ticket on his motorcycle.

In light of all this, it is a good thing that my Dad has an uncanny way of surviving dangerous, potentially life-threatening incidents.  He has fallen off a roof, crashed a motorcycle and skidded 20 feet on his back, and tipped over a 25-ton backhoe and yet he has hardly seen the inside of a hospital.  (I’m sure Debbie wishes she had the same superpower!)

But having a dad who is a little bit of a rule-bender and a little bit fearless made growing up in this house so much fun.  No one else’s dad would climb into the rafters to fetch an escaped balloon, and then do a handstand while he’s up there.  Just for fun.  No one else’s dad would take everyone for rides in a trailor attached to the lawnmower at their birthday parties.  No one else’s dad would drag the hose up through the house and saw a hole in the bathroom door in order to decisively win a water fight that started with a tiny splash of dishwater.  My dad is just cool.

But what was cool when I was little doesn’t always seem so cool now that I have children of my own.  A favorite pass-time among the dozens of kids who seem to live here is to take a yellow plastic toy car all the way up to the top of the hill and ride it all the way down.  The object of the game is to end up as close to the cliff as possible.  (Yeah.)  I imagine that my dad invented this game and taught it to them.  While I was in the hospital last summer having Beatrix, my dad and Debbie had the girls for a day.   I learned a few days later that while my dad was casually chatting with a neighbor, Pippa, who was not quite three at the time, had taken the yellow car halfway up the hill and was barrelling, totally out of control, straight toward a tree.  Fortunately, the neighbor noticed and asked if she should be doing that just in time for my dad to dive in the way and stop her.  Pop-pop is no longer allowed to babysit.

Still, I owe a lot to my dad.  I have him to thank for my quirky sense of humor, and my ability to quote movie lines in any situation.  (“It was like he was wearing a suit.  An… E(d)gar suit.”)  I am also thankful that he and Debbie are always so willing to take in strays, whether they be cats or recently immigrated families of four.

Daddy, as much as I don’t want to be around when you cut a board too short or discover a new scratch on your truck, I love you and I wish you a very happy birthday!

***

Okay, so I need to flesh out some of the stories and work on the transitions, and I’m totally going to lose my nerve on some of it, but we’ll call it a first draft anyway.  What do you think?  Too mean?  Too nice?  Constructive criticism is welcome.  In fact, I’d be delighted if I woke up tomorrow morning to find a complete re-write in my comment box.

And of course, the real question is: What am I going to wear?!?

Visitors, Parties, and Sickness, Oh My!

Whew!  I don’t know if I’ve ever been more grateful to come out the other end of a weekend.

After two days straight of cleaning, washing, shopping and otherwise preparing for their arrival, I am happy to report that Trevor’s family got here safe and sound on Saturday night. All five of them! This visit, we have Mum, Dad, and Nathan as well as Grandma and Auntie Audrey, who haven’t been here since our wedding! That’s ten people staying in our wee four-bedroom Cape Cod (you do the math.) It’s a good thing we like each other. So far the sleeping arrangements seem to be suiting everyone: every time I ask Auntie if she’s *sure* she’s comfortable on the mattress on the floor of the playroom she says, “Oh, yes, Dear, it’s absolutely marvellous! I’m taking it home with me.” Oh, how I love her. Nathan might not be enjoying the sofa quite so much, but he’s certainly not complaining about it, and you can handle anything for a week, right?

So, yesterday was the big day:  Beatrix’s dedication and Romilly’s birthday party.
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(Trev’s mum with Bea, and Trev with Ro)

I haven’t actually counted, but let’s see… there were 27 people in my house yesterday! (Remember my house? The tiny little Cape Cod? Yeah, same one.) And it was really fine. I’ll do it again, I think. (You know, not next week or anything. It’s like labor, you have to give yourself time to forget.) Ro held up like a trouper through the endless present-opening (thank you, everyone!) and when she finished, we chose one toy to get out of the packaging and play with before her nap. Do you know, as soon as she got the toy in her hot little hand, she slid off Trevor’s lap and went running to share it with her sister, saying “I need my Pippa!”? I just love that kid. She’s definitely my favorite.

As you can probably tell from the picture of her, the poor birthday girl has been hit with the plague that’s been making it’s way through the toddler Sunday school class, and by the time they went to bed, Pippa was suffering, too. It seems to be mostly a coughing, snotty sort of affair, but when Pippa coughs too much she often gets gaggy and ends up throwing up. So she did a bit of that last night and then took herself off to bed (you know things are bad when a three-year-old does that!) At about ten o’clock we heard her cough some more, then cry a little, and then silence. We let it go rather than wake her up by checking on her. When Trev went to bed a bit later, he peaked in their room as he always does, and found her *covered* in puke vomit hmmm… is there a nice bloggy euphemism for this that I don’t know yet? How on earth do they fall back asleep after that?!? We did our best to clean her up with a warm washcloth, changed her top, and put a clean towel between her and the mess on her bed, but really, short of a bath and complete change of bedding, there wasn’t a lot we could do for her. And she was just *so* fast asleep.

This morning at 7:15 AM, I faced the ineveitable aftermath of the night before, and gave Pippa (and Romilly, who is never to be left out) a bath.  Seriously, I thought I was going to have to shave her head.  I haven’t had to clean up something so foul-smelling and unaccommodating since the time Gulliver ate a stick of butter.  But, we persevered, and I’m happy to report that (by some miracle) she is a picture of health today and we’ve had a lovely day with the family.  Sadly, we did suffer one casualty: Pippa’s little musical ducky that she has had since she was a tiny baby was unsalvageably covered in sick.  She doesn’t know it yet, but he’s out with the birthday party trash.  I’m home now with the napping littles while Pippa and the gang celebrate President’s day with a trip to Valley Forge.

So my house now looks pretty much how it did before I started cleaning four days ago, and the girls’ room still smells a little funky, but there’s nothing like a whirlwind weekend to make you appreciate the status quo. Even when the status quo involves *double* the already large number of people living under our little roof!

Romilly, This is your Life! (aka Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!)

Two years ago today (give or take – we were in a different time zone), you, Romilly Alice, came bursting into the world.

It was about time. You were due (whatever that means) twelve days earlier, but I had felt quietly confident that you would arrive even before that. After all, my first baby had been on time, and it’s usually the first one that’s late, right? So after eleven days of waiting and feeling increasingly foolish for not having had that baby yet, I waddled into the midwife’s office. “If the baby doesn’t arrive by tomorrow,” she told me, “we really should just check that it’s still okay in there, and if you want, while you’re at the hospital, they can start an induction.” Well, I didn’t want an induction, and apparently neither did you. The contractions began.

Two AM the next morning, your Daddy and I arrived at the hospital. I had hoped to last until 8 AM, when we had an appointment for monitoring and possible induction scheduled anyway. Wouldn’t that have been handy? Once again, you had other plans. We got to the hospital at almost exactly the same time as we had when your big sister was about to arrive. She had taken another 13 hours to make her appearance from when we arrived at the hospital, so we fully expected to be in for a long night. Twenty minutes after we arrived, you were in our arms.
PhotobucketWe were checked in to the hospital (barely) and we were holding you.  Just like that.  We were totally shell-shocked.  The extra twelve days of waiting had done nothing to prepare us for the whirlwind that was your arrival on this earth, and we just sat and marvelled.

You were not a boy, as we both thought you would be for no particular reason. And even more startlingly, you looked *nothing* like your sister. (Now people ask us if you are twins, but that night, in the hospital, you were definitely yourself and no one else.) You were probably just as startled to look up and find me staring back at you. Your speedy delivery had left me no time to put in my contacts, straighten my hair, or apply a much-needed bit of make-up for the inevitable post-baby photo shoot, so this was us:

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A week later you landed yourself back in hospital with RSV. It was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. I worried, on top of everything else, that we would be starting all over again at finding our groove as a family when you and I got home after 6 nights in the hospital, but you were such a part of us all already. Pippa hadn’t been allowed to see you at all while you were on the ward. Would she even remember that she’d had a sister? Did she think we’d sent you back for good? I tested the waters with her in the lobby of the hospital as the nurses were getting ready to discharge you. “Pippa, Romilly’s coming home today!” I told her. At just seventeen months old, she only said a handful of words, but when I said that, her eyes lit up as she looked at me hopefully and signed “baby” by rubbing her tummy. You have been best friends ever since, and I have had the pleasure of watching that relationship unfold.

At the tender age of six months, you became an immigrant.  Uprooted from your homeland of Scotland, you spent the next four months of your life sharing the basement of pop-pop’s house with your Daddy and sister and me.  It was there that you earned your reputation as the smilingest baby *ever*, and I know that you were sorely missed when we moved into our own home a year ago.

Your second year, too, has been full of surprises and adventures.   While most newly-one-year-olds were focussing at least some of their attention on learning to walk, you were never one to give in to peer pressure (long may it last!).  You turned your attention to other things, namely eating and talking.  Dare I suggest that you’re your mother’s daughter?  The day that you did decide to walk (one day before you turned 16 months old), you did it as though you’d known how to do it all along.  You did, didn’t you?  (Cheeky thing!)

Now, you bring laughter to our home all day long. You have a soft heart and a sweet silly side. You make the best faces. Your Daddy and I delight in watching you become the woman God has made you to be, and we pray every day that we will do the job He calls us to do in helping to bring that about. You have been one wonderful surprise after another since even before you were born, and I am so blessed to be the one you call Mommy. I love you, my sweet girl. Happy birthday, Ro-ro!

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