Wednesday, July 29, 2015

8 years old

You read that right, Ella is officially 8 years old.  Sunday June 21st, Father’s Day, was her birthday.  How fitting.  On Saturday we had her birthday party at Paint This, a paint your own pottery place in town.  Ella loved having all of her friends celebrate with her, and this was the first time many of them were able to go to Paint This, so it was extra special.  Typically we wait to open birthday presents after all of her friends leave.  This year, however, there was a lot of begging.  Ella wanted to open her presents and her friends wanted her to open her presents so “they could see her face.”  Thus, I caved.  Right in the middle of Paint This, among dozens of strangers, Ella opened all of her presents.  With each present I learned something very valuable…Ella’s friends know her and listen to her.  Every present was an obvious reflection of conversations they have had and activities they know she enjoys.  She received multiple dog items, several books, a Disney board game and Frozen things, and even a few Star Wars items.  Those presents did my heart good.  These aren’t just girls that Ella goes to school and church with…they are her friends.  Real friends who know enough about her that when they go to buy her a birthday present they are able to get her something that they know she will truly love.

Each girl chose one of these items to paint.  The dog was a big hit.  Apparently there are a lot of almost 3rd graders who want a dog.

Ella isn't a big fan of cake, so this year she chose a big chocolate chip cookie.  The girls loved it!

The finished products!

Sunday we got to celebrate both Ella and the best dad in America!  They chose which restaurant we went to for lunch (Lone Star Steakhouse…of course) and in the afternoon they had an Ella and daddy date to a movie (checked that item off the bucket list).

The week after Ella’s birthday was the first week of summer vacation.  We spent a lot of time checking things off of our Summer Bucket List and getting caught up on sleep.

Thanks to AJ, Ella got a Madeleine pan for her birthday, so we were able to make homemade Madeleines.  They were delicious!

We made root beer floats, which were divine!  It’s funny because a lot of our friends commented on how much they love root beer floats, yet they haven’t had them in years.  I guess it takes a kid to remind you of how awesome something is.

We started the puzzle, but haven’t finished it yet.  It had to get taken off the table, which means it has been put on the back burner for a bit.  Maybe we can take it to Wyoming this summer and Ella and GiGi can work on it together.

We even had a Silly String War!  So much fun!

For July 4th we headed to Club Mac (check that off the bucket list) to visit my cousin and her kids.  We always have a great time while we’re there.  Ella got to sew for the first time.  She made Sabrina a cute quilt.  Tuck (my cousins dog) tried to lay on it and Sabrina kicked her off.  She knows that it was made with love especially for her.

We also had another Silly String war.

When we came home we checked another item off the list by going to Let’s Dish.  If you don’t have one near you, it’s a place where you go and prepare meals to freeze.  They have step by step directions on what to put in bags, then you stick a label on it that tells you how to cook it.  When you get home you pile it all into the freezer and wait for dinner.  Ella had so much fun!

Between preparing meals they offer warm scones, fresh lemonade, cookies and hot tea or coffee.  I think the snack counter was Ella's favorite part.

The women there heard about our bucket list and decided to help Ella check something else off…they helped her make homemade lemonade.  I don’t think Ella was prepared for how tart it was going to be.  She added a lot of sugar, but it was still pretty tart.  She enjoyed it though, so that’s all that matters.

Ella, AJ and I all attended VBS (Vacation Bible School) which is always a great time!  This was AJ's first year.  He had fun, but each day he was completely exhausted.  All of that playing wears a kid out!  In fact, one day I went to pick him up and he was sound asleep on the floor in the middle of the room.  The rest of the kids were running and screaming all around him, yet he slept through it all.

During the week of VBS Grammy Janet came for as visit, as well as my cousins, Kit and Cameron.  We were all crammed into our little townhouse, but we had a great time!  It was a very special week with someone (Joe) turning 40, so there was a lot to celebrate.

Friday night, on Joe's actual birthday, he was able to fulfill a lifelong dream and throw out the first pitch at a baseball game.  For a kid who was convinced he was going to be a professional baseball player, and has a son whose room is decorated in baseball (not sports in general...just fact, just the Mets), nothing could be better than doing this on your 40th birthday.

Joe's mom was here, along with 3 of his siblings.  It was a great night out and everyone enjoyed the game.

While Grammy was in town she helped Ella check another item off of her bucket list.  They made homemade Creme Brulee.  I am so glad that Grammy was able to come help with this item because I can guarantee Creme Brulee is way beyond my cooking ability.

On Saturday night we had to celebrate Joe's 40th with a party and a 65 pound pig.

Last week Ella participated in her second Music Camp.  This year the theme was In the Big  Of course both Ella and Joe were ecstatic.

This week has been a much needed break after 2 weeks of constant activity.  We have pretty much stayed home and relaxed.  We did make time to check another item off of our bucket list.  Dinner at The Sugar Shack...a doughnut place that specializes in out of the ordinary creations.  Ella had a maple bacon doughnut, I had a butterfinger doughnut, and Joe had a chocolate berry doughnut (or something like that).  AJ just stuck with glazed.

It has been a great summer so far, and we’re looking forward to many more adventures!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Bucket List

I have a friend with 7 kids (yes, feel free to gasp) and every year her family does a summer bucket list.  Year after year I think, ‘We really need to do something like that,’ and year after year we don’t do it.  So this year I decided it was time.  We’re going to do our own summer bucket list.  Ella and I sat down and talked about several activities that she wanted to do and things I thought would be a lot of fun for her.  We created a list, colored, cut and taped it to the wall, and here we are.  Tomorrow is Ella’s last day of school and summer break officially begins!

I suggested that for the last day of school we hit up Sugar Shack for dinner (it’s an awesome doughnut place).  Ella, being the logical one, said that they are having doughnuts at school so she thinks it would be a better idea to eat something else for dinner.  2 doughnuts in 1 day is a lot for a kid.  In her exact words, “It would be crazy town in our house!”  We’ve decided to order Chinese food instead.

As you can see, most of the activities involve learning how to cook something.  Since cooking is Ella’s latest passion, she has a lot of items she wants to learn to cook.  The problem is that most of these items are beyond my cooking level.  Crème Brulee…really?  Madeleines…you want me to cook a French cake?  Homemade lemonade…sounds easy, but is it?  Don't worry, I've got Root Beer Floats covered.

The Butterfinger Pie was my addition.  I had one at a restaurant in Maryland and it was heaven on a plate.

This first week of break will be spent at home.  I'm sure we'll check a couple of things off the list and it will get the summer started on the right track.   Today we're heading to Target to pick out a 500 piece puzzle and some Silly String.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Power of words

I learned at an early age that words have power.  My mom was a communication professor and my dad was a vocal music professor.  Both made their living with words and the power and emotion that comes from them.  So it’s no surprise that early on I learned to use words and inflection in my speech.

I’m not sure what has happened, but somewhere in the past several years, this skill seems to have gone by the wayside.  Bullying has become stronger than ever.  Either the kids don’t see the implications of their words, or they simply don’t care.
I will be the first to admit that there are times I have diarrhea of the mouth.  Words start pouring out of me before my brain can comprehend what I’m saying.  As soon as it registers what I’m saying, I try to shut up.  Instead I often just keep talking as I try to cover up and make excuses for what I just said.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Age has played into my favor and I feel I am getting better as I get older.  I am getting a grip on managing my mouth and am learning the importance of thinking before I speak.

That said, I can say with certainty that I have never been a bully.  I was never known as someone who said unkind things to others.  People have feelings, and I have tried very hard to be nice to everyone.

The other day Ella and I were having a conversation about the importance of her always telling me and daddy the truth.  I wanted her to know that she can come to us with anything and when we ask a question it’s important for her to tell us the truth.  I emphasized that she always needs to tell us if someone makes her feel uncomfortable or acts in a way she thinks is inappropriate toward either her or her brother, and I especially emphasized how important it is for her to tell us if someone says something unkind or is mean.

After I said my little speech I could see the wheels turning.  Finally she said, “Mommy, something happened awhile ago that I forgot to tell you about.  I was going to tell you, but I forgot and just now remembered.”  I braced myself.  This could either be something really big that needed action, or something really minor that was only important in her 7 year old mind…either way, how I responded to this was going to set the tone for the future.

Ella: “A few weeks ago a kid called me a name.”

Me: “What did he call you?”

Ella: “He called me a monster.”

Insert complete heartbreak.  I choked back the tears.  How could someone say something so cruel to my beautiful, sweet, kind daughter?  Ella would never hurt a fly…I know she wouldn’t do anything to prompt such a harsh word.  And where were his parents?  Why didn’t they correct this behavior?

I stopped and looked Ella directly in the eye.

Me: “You are not a monster.  You are my beautiful, sweet girl who is kind and loving.  Monsters are in movies and are ugly and mean and scary.  You are NOT a monster.  You know that, right?”

Ella: “Yes, I know.”

We talked about the situation a bit more, then I thanked her profusely for telling me and told her how proud I am of her and what an amazing and loving girl she is.

I realize that this boy is someone we don’t know.  Ella didn’t know his name and says she hasn’t seen him since.  We don’t know his parents and the likelihood that they read this blog is slim to none.  But I wanted to write this for one main reason…to ask all of you to please talk to your kids and grandkids (and anyone else who will listen) about the power of words.  This incident happened several weeks ago, yet the power of that word…monster…has remained with Ella.  It has been buried deep in her heart.  When she hears the word in a book or sees a monster in a movie, she goes back to that interaction and sees herself on the same level as the horrible creature being displayed.

They say that it takes 10 positive words to cancel out 1 negative word.  Teach your children to focus on the positive.  Show them how to be one of the 10 positives because you never know how many negatives a child is hearing.