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On Christmas morning, the Little Girl opened these new blocks from her grandparents. Her first question was, “Do we have a basket for them?” Bless her. She wanted to know where they belonged even before she played with them. If only that were an indication that she would actually put all of her toys away where they belong. Acknowledging the system is a start, right?



We all survived Baby Girl’s birthday party. We shoveled out the house (the main level, at least) and I finally came to grips with the fact that preschoolers don’t need gourmet meals. Apparently, something short-circuits in my brain when it comes to birthday party planning. I can’t handle the pressure. My rational mind can’t seem to overcome the panoply of “shoulds”.

I think I should:

  • identify a theme for the party
  • make the invitations by hand to fit the theme
  • send the invitations with several weeks’ notice
  • make all of the favors (and fit the theme, of course)
  • make the house spotless and inviting to kids, all at the same time
  • provide fun and stimulating games and crafts (did I mention the theme?)
  • serve healthy, homemade and delicious food
  • make the cake from scratch

Instead, I slapped together invitations 5 days before the party. No games or crafts. As for lunch, I added peas to the mac and cheese. That’s healthy, right? I ordered the cake. Couldn’t even muster cupcakes from a box. Sigh.

I managed to put a small amount of effort into the favors. I made a batch of play dough and some blank books.


The books were just A2 folded cards from Paper Source and halved printer paper for the pages. I pamphlet-stitched them together with waxed linen thread. Fancier than is strictly necessary for the under 5 crowd, but a satisfying project nonetheless.

Before people started to arrive, I was hanging up Baby Girl’s fabric bunting (I made it for her 1st birthday and hang it up each year). Baby Girl pointed to one flag and with mild displeasure in her voice asked, “why did you do that to my shoes?” Huh? It took me a second, but then it dawned on me that she recognized the Alexander Henry print. She just couldn’t figure out how I had gotten the animals from her shoes onto the fabric bunting.


Quite an eye, that girl! No wonder she is so good at Memory

I was greeted yesterday morning by a small and very funny girl announcing, “Mommy, I’m these many today!”


It was a bittersweet moment to admit she was right.  Three?!?  How can my little peanut by three already?  Somehow the warm bundle I wore everywhere has become the epitome of independence.  She is a self-proclaimed Big Girl, with strong opinions about everything, especially regarding what she wears.

Fortunately, the mama-made clothes are often on her short list.  For her birthday, I made her a new Oliver & S Tea Party Sundress.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love this pattern.  The instructions are clear and easy to follow.  The details are clever and produce a tailored garment, yet they are simple enough for the advanced beginner.

IMG_8831 IMG_8832

The printed fabrics are “Just Dreamy” from Riley Blake Designs.  The green is a Kona cotton.  Now that I’ve traced the pattern, I may just have to sew a couple more.  I think she’ll like that.


Happy birthday to my silly, little peanut!  You may be getting bigger, but you will always be my Baby Girl.

As the school year was coming to a close in June, the month of August looked a lot like the Illinois horizon – stretching on forever without many points of interest. Color me shocked that it has flown by so quickly. I guess an unexpected change in jobs and a big road trip helped repaint the landscape a bit.

The big kids start school next week and I’m trying to reform the way I deal with lunches. I hate to admit that the kids ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks and a piece of fruit for 90% of their lunches last year. I’m not one to make lunches the night before. I really don’t like the texture of sandwiches that have been in the fridge, so I never think to make them for my kids. After reading about Melissa’s plan for school lunches, I was inspired to expand my lunch-making repertoire this year.


After dispensing far too much mental energy (with a hefty dose of financial guilt), I went ahead and ordered LunchBots. I got an Uno and Duo for each. They are really nice. The Uno is the perfect size for a sandwich. The Duo just right for a couple of sides. They both fit in the kids’ lunch bags, with room to spare.

But what about what goes in the bags? Good question. We made a list of main course ideas. Some of the kids’ choices, like tuna salad sandwiches, will need to stay cool.  The lunch bags we have are insulated so I think we can handle that. We’ve included rice and tofu as an option.  We’ll have to see how the kids like eating their rice at room temperature. Given their crazy love for rice and tofu (including a song and dance) I am guessing the temperature should not pose too much of a problem.

I’ve also been trying out some recipes for treats that might find their way into lunches. So far we’ve tested and approved PB balls and homemade Lara Bars. Next up on the to-try list is baked oatmeal.

We went to back-to-school night and saw the new site.  The kids were excited to see teachers and friends and the school looks great.  They are so ready to be back and I am looking forward to the return of routine.  Let’s hope I can get the hang of a new lunch routine, too.

The Boy was diagnosed with strep throat on Monday.  He started his antibiotics, but couldn’t go to school Tuesday, since it hadn’t been the requisite 24 hours.  Hubby stayed home and they spent the day painting part of the coop, working in the garden and playing board games together.

At one point The Boy asked, “Daddy, do you know what B.D.I.T.W. stands for?”

“Umm, I don’t know.”

“Best Dad in the world.”

To think, this is the same child I was ready to ship to boarding school last week.

The birthday girl requested a yoga mat and she wasn’t disappointed. Unfortunately, the other two were VERY disappointed. Disappointed that they did not get a yoga mat and that their sister was not planning to share. The morning after was ushered in with yet more strife over the yoga mat. Yes, I am very happy that you are so enthusiastic about yoga. Now, please stop trying to kill each other over the mat.

In a somewhat atypical move, I went and bought another one. I foolishly thought that it would help. It looked promising at first. Joshua was willing to give Sarah a turn or make room on the mat to share with her. Lizzie was less willing. Joshua then started to freak about how unfair it all was that he was sharing but Lizzie wasn’t. Sigh.

Sunday night, a friend of Lizzie’s stopped by to bring her a birthday present. Did you guess? It was a yoga mat! Same brand and color even. Brad and I unilaterally decided that we should keep the yoga mat and redistribute the wealth. Fortunately, Lizzie saw the wisdom in that plan.

Lizzie and Joshua are both in yoga club at school this month. They asked if they could take their mats to school. With a vision of Joshua unfurling his mat in the bus or some equally obnoxious situation, I decided they each needed a bag for their mats. I was trying to figure out the math in my head (never a good thing) for a tube shape. Before my brain started to ache too much, I remembered seeing a pattern in Simple Sewing. Lotta saves the day!


Whipped these up in about an hour total. I did end up making a run out to the store for the cord and cord stop, but the fabric was from my stash. I had visions of using cuter fabric, but the utilitarian fabric seems to make more sense given the fact that they will be dragged around by grade schoolers.

Maybe I should take up yoga and make a cute bag for myself. I can borrow Sarah’s mat. I’m sure she won’t mind sharing. 🙂

Although Sarah is none too shy about asserting her two-ness, she is by nature pretty sweet and funny.  The rapid expansion of her vocabulary and her budding sense of humor help make her immensely fun to be around, much of the time.  I can’t count the number of times a day Brad or I will turn to the other and say, “Man, she is so funny!”

Sometimes when we stop to appreciate something funny she has said or done, I recall a vague impression of Lizzie at the same age.  Like a soft whisper in my ear.  Lizzie was equally funny and sweet, but my memories of that time are cloudy, at best.


When Lizzie was 2 1/2, I was engulfed in a thick fog of antepartum depression.  Instead of appreciating the sweet gestures and funny comments, I was busy thinking of how to get out of this parenting gig.  As soon as the baby is born, I thought, I’ll run away.  I was fully convinced that Brad and the kids would be better off without me around.

Fortunately, I was able to join a support group for women suffering depression and anxiety during pregnancy.  The support of those women and the midwife and social worker who facilitated the group was a godsend.  They helped carry me through to Joshua’s birth and during a “reunion” meeting, they recognized the continuing struggle of postpartum depression and urged me to consider meds, in addition to the talk therapy I had already started.  Sadly, the support group is no longer facilitated through the clinic, due to budget cuts and lack of grant money.  (You probably don’t want to get me started on that topic.)

Sarah is a gift to me for so many reasons, but she has helped me recall sweet moments from an otherwise bitter time in my life.  For that, baby girl, I am very, very grateful.


Sarah’s language acquisition has taken a slightly different trajectory than her sister’s did.  (What was that about being a third child?)  When Lizzie was Sarah’s age, we made her language development into a party trick.  “Say, ‘epistemology'”.   What can I say?  We are geeks.

With Sarah, it is not hard to see who has the most influence on her language and it isn’t her over-educated parents.

  • Whenever she sees something related to Star Wars, she yells “Obi!”  (as in Obi Wan Kenobi).
  • What child can resist talking about poopy diapers, especially when it makes big brother laugh hysterically?
  • She has been known to refer to a person as “guy” or “dude”.

And then there is Lizzie.  She’s moved far beyond parroting our 10 cent words.  How do you respond to questions like these?

  • “Isn’t sex a bad word?”
  • “What is the difference between Methodists and other churches?”
  • “Everyone can go to heaven, unless they killed someone, right?”
  • “What about if someone commits suicide?”

Most of these left me sputtering and incomprehensible.  (You might have thought someone asked me what newspapers I read on a regular basis.)

Anyone have a copy of the parenting handbook?  I think I could use some backup here!

Sometimes, it seems like the third child really gets the short end of the stick.  All the things we were so careful and meticulous about with #1 have long since been relegated to the back burner with #3.  For example:

Staring solids:

  • Lizzie started solids on the day she turned 5 months old.  I took nearly a full roll of film’s worth of pictures.
  • Sarah started solids sometime before she turned 1 year.  When?  Couldn’t tell you.  I did take a couple of pictures.  If I could find those, I’m sure I could tell you when it was.


  • I could tell you how old Lizzie was in months until she turned two.  Without missing a beat.
  • I’m lucky if I can tell you Sarah’s birth date without stammering.

Well Child Check Ups:

  • I kept careful records of when Lizzie’s appointments should be, which immunizations she’d had and the various percentiles in which she fell by height, weight, etc.
  • Turns out, not only did I forget an appointment for Sarah’s immunizations, I forgot two of them.  Doh!

Although Sarah has definitely suffered the fate of 3rd child syndrome, there do seem to be advantages to being #3.  After years of accumulating enough toys, puzzles, books and games to fill a store, I have learned to be more prescriptive when it comes to gifts from family.   I’m trying to be more intentional about what comes into our house.  I think about where it comes from, how it is made, how long it will be used and where it will live in our wee, little house.  Some might question my sanity, with all the thought and research that goes into gifts for a two year old.  I will defend myself and argue that the results are quite lovely.

I’ve been wanting Sarah to have Waldorf doll for a while.  I was planning to make her one.  I had priced kits and even considered signing up for a class.  Then, reality set in.  With relatives asking what they could get for her birthday, I let go a little and decided that a doll lovingly made by someone else would be just as good, if not better, than one made by me.

I’m sure I read about The Q’ewar Project somewhere in the craft blogosphere.  Between the mission of the project, the fact that they are made by hand and the wonderful materials that are used, I was 100% convinced.  The turn around from Tiny Bird Organics was amazing.  The doll is also amazing.  The body is stuffed with wool and is dense, with a nice heft to it.  The outer clothes are all handspun, handknit alpaca.  As Lizzie said repeatedly, “she’s beautiful”.

The best part about the doll?  Sarah loves her!  She opened up the package last night after dinner and said, “wow, da-wee”.  She then spent the better part of the night undressing, dressing and cuddling her.   Sarah went to sleep holding her new “da-wee”.  This morning, Lizzie brought up her doll bed from the basement, so Sarah has been very busy tucking da-wee into bed.  She’s also made sure all of her favorite books have been read to da-wee.  So very, very sweet!

See, being #3 isn’t all that bad.

Six years ago today, I was checking into the hospital for the 2nd time that week. Earlier in the week (Tuesday), I had been having contractions and was hopeful that the baby was coming. Of his own accord. Otherwise, I was scheduled for induction on Thursday. I was not looking forward to being induced. What was the urgency, you ask? Was it significantly past his due date? Concerns about health? Nope. It was insurance. Brad had been laid off from his teaching job and our insurance was ending 8/31.

On Tuesday, we got to the hospital and I was admitted. My contractions weren’t getting any stronger. We walked. And walked. Nothing. I was started on pitocin. The contractions stalled out completely. (Hmmm, that wasn’t supposed to happen.) Lather, rinse, repeat. We tried again on Wednesday. No luck. This baby was comfy and not going to budge. We called it a day and rescheduled the induction for Friday.

I went home and slept for 13 hours. I was exhausted from the ordeal and depressed at the thought that I would have to face it again. Even more depressed that I was subjecting myself and my child to this because of money, or lack thereof. (Go ahead, ask me my opinions on health insurance reform.)

Friday morning we went back to the hospital. I was so certain the baby was NOT coming that day, that I left my bags in the car. Once again, I was hooked up to monitors and pumped full of pitocin.

I guess he was ready to meet the world that day. Seven hours after checking in, we had:

Joshua Rivers Neuhauser

He quickly picked up the nickname Happy Buddha.

Since then he’s added the monikers Mr. Mayor and Mr. Personality.

On the one hand, I live my life confounded and frustrated by his behavior (all action, no impulse control). On the other, I can’t help but smile and acknowledge he is clever, funny, outgoing and creative.

Although he lost the chance to have a birthday party (he hit his sisters a few too many times), he doesn’t seem to be missing it. In addition to multiple Lego sets he received from grandparents, we brought down the mother load of Legos from the attic. Brad spent time sorting them by color into drawers of a CD-turned-Lego storage unit.

Although not as exciting as thousands of Legos, I couldn’t resist buying this print for him from Paul Chung‘s Etsy site.

For a child who claims “rice and tofu” as his #1 favorite meal of all-time and is currently obsessed with super heroes, how could I not buy it?

Happy Birthday, Buddy! Hope you enjoy your Lego-induced birthday high. Olive Juice!