Monday, August 01, 2016

anna's baptism

For some reason, I decided I wanted to make Anna's baptism dress. We went pattern shopping and finally settled on one, with some modifications. I was super nervous about how it would turn out, since I'm an impatient and un-practiced seamstress, but with the help of several phone calls to my mom, sister, and sister-in-law in moments of need, it turned out OK. The inside is a bit of mess, but nobody sees that anyway.

On a Sunday evening, we went to this park to take some pictures. It had rained ALL week and it was forecasted to rain more, and I wanted to print out invitations to Anna's baptism ASAP. So off to the muddy park we went. I gave Levi instructions to play at the playground while I took Anna's photos. I scouted a mostly mud-free path to the bridge and held up Anna's skirt as she walked.

The picture above was the winner for the invite

After a few shots, I decided to get one of the whole dress. Around the same time, Levi came around from the playground and started throwing sticks over the bridge.

He walked by Anna nonchalantly, carrying a stick he'd picked up.

And this happened.

I was beyond mad. I had just spent weeks poring over this dress, trying to make it perfect, putting in my first ever zipper, and the first time we put it on her, Levi wiped mud all over the front of it! I quickly took a picture of the back and stormed the kids back to the car.

At home I ran everything under cold water, washed the dress by hand, and still the stain wasn't gone. I used some stain remover and washed it in the machine and the stain was gone, but the skirt had shrunk, so I had to re-hem the lining so it didn't stick out. 

While I was working on the dress, Anna told Sam what happened and he went to talk to Levi about it. Levi could not figure out why I was so so mad.

The next day for family home evening, I found a story in The Friend about a little girl who gets her white dress muddy after her baptism. Of course, there's a moral about how Christ can wash away our sins, like her mom can wash the dress clean. It was good to remember that we can say sorry and start again as good as new.

A few days later, Sam gave me an early Mother's Day present of a DSLR camera, so I took Anna to the Houston LDS Temple to take some photos there, but it was closed, unfortunately to clean up from some of the flooding. We took pictures outside of it, instead.


We had the wonderful treat of being able to have both my mom and my brother David's family come visit for Anna's baptism. They both arrived Thursday May 12. I let the kids stay home from school Friday to spend the day playing with their cousins. We played in the water outside, got pizza, and watched movies together. The girls made another little salon,  and played with dolls, and the boys played with lightsabers. 

The morning of the baptism was also the Ironman competition in The Woodlands and we were a little worried we'd get stuck waiting for the competitors. Luckily, we had no problem getting to the chapel, but we had forgotten the dress back home! Dave and Marcelle rushed home and back and we started just five minutes late. 

It was so nice to have our family be so much of the program. Of course I cried giving the opening prayer. Ruth gave a wonderful talk on baptism, focusing on the words of the ordinance and of the sacrament prayers. 

Sam baptized Anna and she had a nervous smile on her face. I got her dried off and dressed in the bathroom and gave her a big hug. 

The cutest part of the day was Anna singing "When I Am Baptized" with all her cousins there. Isabelle and Olivia from Ben's family, Maggie and Jonas from David's family, Noah and Moses from my cousin Marianne's family, joined Anna and Levi in singing. It's such a beautiful song, anyway and hearing all those sweet children who love each other sing together was joyous.

My mom then spoke on the Holy Ghost, likening it to a stoplight. He can tell you to go and do good things, be careful, or stop. 

Then Anna was confirmed a member of the church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by Sam. He was joined in the blessing by his Dad, his brother Ben, my brother David, my cousin's husband, James, and our Bishop, Dennis Adams.

After Levi gave the cutest closing prayer, Anna rushed over to her beloved teacher, Mrs. Landry who had come. Mrs. Landry gave her a beautiful little baptism scrapbook to keep some pictures in. Another friend who came was Katie Oed. Anna had attended her first communion a couple weekends before this. Katie gave her a beautiful cross necklace and earrings. Anna was so excited to have some of her school friends come. She wanted to share something special with them, so we bought some Books of Mormon. She wrote this note in each of them and put them in little gift bags. She gave one to her teacher, and one to four of her friends who came. I was so proud of her.
Mrs. Landry, Anna, and Darcy 

Anna's note, written with no prompting from me: This is a Book of Mormon. It has helped me learn how I should live my life. It is a friend, as well as a book. You can read some of it every day. It is my gift to you. Love, Anna

Meanwhile, Mom was serving up cake, cupcakes, and cookies to everyone while Emily "helped." (Special thank you shout out to my cousin, Marianne, who played with Emily in the hallway for the first half of the service when she couldn't sit still!)

Some other special people who came to Anna's baptism were her primary teacher Kathy Holt and her son George. George is a couple months younger than Anna and they lived in Katy at the same time we did. Marcus Bolinder from the bishopric and his family came, including Anna's soon-to-be friends from Activity Days Leah and Hemaile. Her piano teacher, Leighanna Bond came (another friend from Katy), as well as the primary president, Becky Reynolds. Darcy Derenthal who was in Anna's class at school and had been baptized a couple weeks earlier was also there with her family. I'm sure there were more and we are so lucky to be surrounded by friends in such a short time of being here.

We took a few photos outside the church and then headed home to party!

We had pizza and fruit and veggies and chips and left-over brownie-topped cupcakes from Anna's birthday. Noah was a hit with all the girls, of course, who dressed him up and chased him around. 

It was all too soon that everyone had to rush away to other events, but Anna sure needed a break!

She had a very exciting day and I know she's pleased with her decision. I'm glad we had plenty of time to talk and prepare for this. We had some wonderful conversations before and after her baptism and I have no doubt she will continue to be thoughtful and purposeful in how she chooses to live her faith. We love our Anna!


Sometimes, I'm going through photos, trying to delete duplicate-looking ones or blurry ones or stupid-face ones, but then I get to a series like this and think, "How do I choose?" It's not like I really need 7 pictures of Emily sitting in the same place, wrapped in the same towel, but she has a different adorable smile in every one. Curse you technology for paralyzing me with such decisions! I would have been so much more productive if I'd been born fifty years earlier.

PS- Want to make the decision for me? Weigh in below. It's so much easier to make objective decisions about the cuteness of other people's children.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Anna turns 8

What a special big birthday! We've been talking about turning 8 and being baptized for a long time with Anna, and I'm confident that she was as well-prepared as she could be. I'll share more about her baptism in another post, but here I'll just talk about her birthday and Anna at age 8.

I told Anna that since we'd be having lots of other celebrations, I wanted to keep her birthday party small and simple. She invited her three best friends from her class at school and they ate pizza, played outside, danced, and made candles and lip gloss together. We have loved these girls. They are kind and creative and encouraging and have been the very best thing for Anna.

Anna requested brownie topped chocolate cupcakes for her birthday and I was more more than happy to oblige. They really are so good.

The weekend before Anna's birthday, Van and Ruth came down to celebrate Anna. Somehow I can't find any pictures from the weekend, but it was great. They gave Anna a scrapbook kit and the Lea American girl doll that Anna had been wanting since it had caramel colored blonde/brown hair just like hers. On Saturday morning Anna attended her friend Katie's first communion so Levi got some special Grandparent time. After lunch at Panera, Anna played dolls and worked on some scrapbook pages with her Grandma while Levi and Grandpa played games and read books. For dinner we went to Macaroni Grill (I forgot how great a place that is for kids!) and talked and ate and colored. The waiter thoroughly embarrassed Anna by singing an Italian Happy Birthday in an operatic voice. She wouldn't even look at him! Sunday and time to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa came too soon.

On Anna's actual birthday, she opened presents before school, brought donuts to class, and ate lunch with her teacher (and hero), Mrs. Landry. 

Here's a bit about Anna at age 8:

Anna just keeps growing growing growing in so many ways! I am amazed at all she learns and does and creates. This year she handled moving, making new friends, adding new sports, and carrying more responsibility at home with grace and (usually) good humor. She helps out daily with Emily, singing, reading, or playing with her as well as actual care like feeding, dressing, diapering, and getting Emily up from naps.

I can usually trust Anna to completely get herself ready for school and bed (please refer to the post about Levi to know just how invaluable this skill is to my sanity). She took care to make sure her homework was done each week to the very best of her ability, even up to the last week of school when I was encouraging her to write "blah, blah, blah" on her paper and hand it in. "What can they do? Fail you?" only received an icy glare.

Anna loves to be goofy. She loves to use silly voices, make up crazy what-if's, and is dipping her toes in the waters of sarcasm (this we're trying to nip in the bud). She often gets the giggles with her friends or at something funny her Dad does. She is a world-class eye-roller. We joke that Anna came into the world bum first and has been shaking her booty in our faces ever since.

Anna thrives at school, loving the praise she gets for her good work, her good example in the classroom, and her creativity. Anna did a poetry unit at school this year and I was so impressed with some of the things she wrote. Each poem would have about one line in it that really captured an image or gave the topic some depth. She loves writing and hopes to be an author someday.

This year Anna did gymnastics in Grapevine, cheer leading tumbling here in The Woodlands, and swim team. She also had piano lessons throughout the year. She's been doing gymnastics for a while and mastered a back bend and a one-handed cartwheel this year. Swimming was new and hard. It was late in the day when she was already tired and required new muscles and skills. One night, Anna broke down crying in the car. We talked about how brave she was for trying something again and again even though it was hard and though she was embarrassed at being behind her peers in skill. Ever since that night, Anna ran confidently into swimming knowing she was a brave girl and that practice was the only thing that could make her a better swimmer. I love watching Anna and seeing how strong she is. I envy her good posture ;) She is proud of what her body can do and I am, too.

Anna also did piano this year and has started to really love it. Her teacher was just starting out her business this year so we didn't have a recital, but we look forward to that next year. Anna does not enjoy performing, no matter how good she is, so it will be a good stretch for her.

Anna has always had some pretty big emotions and this year she learned how to respond to them much better. We talked about the connection between her gut and her brain and how being hungry can make you cranky or being angry can make your stomach hurt. A couple weeks before her baptism, we had a wonderful talk about how God is pleased with us when we desire to believe and judges us by the desires of our hearts, even if our actions aren't always what we hope them to be. She told me she had prayed about the Book of Mormon, felt peaceful, and believes it's true. 

A couple weeks after her baptism, we were reading the scriptures like we usually do at night. Afterwards, I found Anna crying in her room and she was so worried about how mean she had been to Levi that day. I told her, "This is wonderful! You are feeling the Holy Ghost. He is whispering to you that maybe you didn't make the best choices today and nudging you to do something about it." She asked, "How come I didn't feel bad right after I was mean to Levi and only do now?" So we talked about how the scriptures open our hearts to feel the Spirit and hear what God has to say to us. We talked about the steps of repentance and after she apologized to Levi, we prayed together. It was a sweet and special moment with my tender girl. 

I love her so much and can't wait to see what the next year brings for our Anna Sophia!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Levi turns 6

Levi got it into his head at some point that he was going to have all the food at his birthday party remind people of nature because his birthday is in the spring time. By the time I made him nail down a menu, his entire plan consisted of sausage links (for logs), pretzel rods (also for logs), pretzel sticks (for sticks), and broccoli (for trees). He also wanted a chocolate cake (for dirt) with lots of different colored flowers on it. I ran with the rule that my kids seem to love their birthday parties no matter what happens, and made some pancakes, sausage, and fruit for a birthday breakfast party. 

Afterward, we painted flower pots, did an obstacle course in the back yard, planted seeds in the flower pots, and played with light sabers until the boys got so aggressive there was shouting and crying and we took them all away except for the two Emily refused to give up. We explained her exception to the boys by saying, "She's a baby."  Those with younger siblings understood, and those without fumed until distraction finally won out.

Levi had a wonderful time and felt very loved by all his friends.

While the boys fought each other, Anna and the girls made a little picnic spot with a blanket and shade and pretended to be sisters. 

Here's a little bit about Levi at age 6:

He still loves Emily like crazy and she thinks he's about the funniest person alive. He loves to make her laugh by throwing himself onto the bed or couch. They love to wrestle together. They share a room and Emily doesn't like to go to sleep until Levi's in there with her. They both love to dance to loud music, chase each other, and fight with light sabers. 

Levi lives in a wonderfully imaginative world in his mind. We sometimes get peeks into it with the pictures he draws or the sound effects he's making or the stories he tells us, but often he's content just to lay on his bed or the couch and ponder what it'd be like to be an x-wing pilot or a cheetah or live inside a video game. Sometimes this interferes with tasks like eating, going to school, doing chores, or going to the bathroom. We're trying to find a way to help Levi do the things that need to be done in the grown-up world without crushing his creative spirit. 

His kindergarten year has been a learning experience for all of us. He had a wonderful teacher in Dallas who understood Levi, and his two best friends were in his class there. He'd been excited about O.C. Taylor since Anna started there two years before. He could not wait for kindergarten! So when we moved at Thanksgiving, it was much much harder on him than I expected. He had trouble connecting with the kids in class, and his poor teacher was overwhelmed by a flood of new and high-needs students coming in right a the holidays. It was a rough transition, but by the end of January, Levi was a little more comfortable and his teacher had more time to respond to his needs.

His teacher (thank goodness for her!) just chuckles at him. She often tells him he has a camera for a brain since no matter how little attention he's paying to what they're doing in class, if she asks him any question he always knows the answer. She's been great about trying to find books and activities that will engage him. I love that she doesn't punish Levi for not finishing work in class or not paying attention. She understands he's not trying to be impertinent, he just wants to be somewhere else.

In April a new boy moved into the school and he and Levi became fast friends. He's a nice kid and they play very well together. I've been looking into homeschooling or private school options for Levi, but nothing has felt just right yet, so we may give public school a try next year again. 

At home, Levi loves to play Legos, wrestle, and "do electronics." His favorite games are Stratego, Scrabble, Sorry, Sleeping Queens, and the Angry Birds board game. On the computer he likes to play Wild Kratts games and Duck Life Games. On the iPad he likes Minion Rush and a 3-D block builder. 

He loves to give me hugs and snuggles. He loves to read. We're reading Harry Potter together. He likes to read Calvin and Hobbes comics before bed and often quotes them to me when they fit the situation. He makes me laugh all the time and makes me crazy all the time. He can be so sweet and funny. I love to watch his skinny little body when he dances. But he's also super stubborn and there's very little that motivates him other than getting his way. 

He's also very sensitive to the spirit and his teachers and leaders in primary all tell me they love to hear what he has to say and are surprised by his insights. Levi really understands the gospel and I love it when he applies it to his life. 

We all love our funny Levi!