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Dear Zianne

    Dear Zianne (four years)

    Dear Zianne,

    I look at you and see myself at four years old. Light blonde hair, large vocabulary, very social, always twirling in a dress or reading a book.

    The resemblance, both in looks and personality, is uncanny.

    Our similarities drive me crazy yet stir deep sympathy and adoration in my heart.

    I sigh with exasperation as I beg you to wear leggings rather than a sundress on a chilly fall day. But then I crack a smile, because I despised wearing pants throughout my youth. I don’t think I wore jeans until sixth grade. Every day after school, I would put on my fanciest dress and prance through the neighborhood pretending to be a princess, a teacher, or an orphan adopted into a rich family.

    Now you are the one with constant outfit changes, running into the living room with a different ensemble every five minutes. Long dresses, short dresses, skirts over dresses, tutus galore. But never pants, unless they are worn under a dress, of course.

    Your demeanor is so much like mine. I declared you an extravert when you were four months of age, and I was not wrong. You are highly social, confident, a lover of conversation. I told you the other day I admire your willingness to try out big words. You had just told me something was “educational,” although it came out sounding more like “vocational.” You tell me when something is “hilarious” or that you are “disappointed.” You are barely four, but sometimes you sound like a ten year-old.

    I love the things we have in common, but I also want to celebrate the ways we are different.

    You are sillier than me. I think you get it from your dad.

    You love school like me, but you aren’t quite as studious. You rush through your tracing without precision and your letters fly all over the page. You would rather paint than write. I’ve never seen anyone who loves art as much as you.

    You might be more outgoing than I was at your age. You are never bashful. Always assured. You know what you want and you seek out friendships. Sometimes you’ll even seek out friendships for me. At dinner, you’ll tell me, “I met a lady for you, mom. I think you should be friends with her.”

    You are always eager to get out the house and explore public places – the gym, the library, a restaurant. I was more content to stay home as a child, but you want to go, go, go.

    You are a beautiful mix of your dad and me, and yet unique and vibrant in your own right. It’s a joy to watch you grow and learn. I look forward to another of year of seeing you blossom. I think it’s time to surrender to the outfit changes and simply delight in watching you leap and dance and twirl your way through life.

    Love you always,



    Zianne’s Ballet Birthday Party

    The other day I was interviewing the girls – where I just informally ask them a series of questions and listen to their answers… “What’s your favorite movie?” “What’s your favorite food?” “What’s your favorite thing to do with grandma?” And so on…

    Then I asked Zianne, “What is something mommy is good at?”

    And she replied, “Celebrating birthdays!”

    It made my heart so glad. There are many things I don’t excel at as a mom. I don’t like playing silly games. I don’t like messes. I will probably never homeschool my girls, because I don’t have the patience.

    But when my kids think back on their childhood, I hope they recall: The house was clean and orderly. Dinner was almost always homemade. And my mom sure made our birthdays special.

    Because if there is one thing I’m good at it – it’s birthdays. I think I get it from my own mom.  I remember all our birthday traditions growing up. Donuts for breakfast, lasagna and homemade chocolate cake for dinner, no chores for the day, and getting to ride shotgun in the car all week. There were also presents and birthday parties… the big and the small acts together reminded us that we were loved and cherished. Our lives were special and worth celebrating.

    I want my own daughters to feel the same way. They pick breakfast, lunch, and dinner on their birthdays. I take them on fun outings. I put together gifts they will adore. This year Zianne woke up to a big basket of new art supplies waiting for her on the kitchen table. She chose Chick-fil-a for lunch and also requested chicken nuggets for dinner. I acquiesced to redundancy of nuggets to make her day special.

    And whether we gather a few friends or a big crowd, I always throw my kids a party. They pick the theme, with little influence from me. It’s not always Pinterest-worthy, but it’s special for them. So far our parties include: Rockin’ Robin, ABC, Jelly Bean, Beach Party, Gold Bug, and now…


    Zianne requested a ballet birthday for months. A friend from church is a ballet instructor, and I thought it would be so fun if she could come give the girls a little lesson. I was able to rent a studio and the whole outdoor play area at our neighborhood YMCA, and it out worked perfectly.

    The party started with ten tutu-clad girls in their ballet lesson. They hopped and twirled around the studio for 30 minutes or so and ended their lesson with ribbon dancing to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” before taking a bow. Valerie was amazing. She wore a huge tutu and got into character. I’m pretty sure the girls thought she was a Disney princess, because they bashfully hugged her before the lesson started and requested individual pictures with her at the end.

    After the dance portion of the party, the kids ran around on the field outside and we served treats. Zianne requested a rainbow cake, which I whipped up the night before, and a friend of ours made adorable tutu-shaped cookies. After we filled up on sugar, the kids attempted to demolish a giant piñata. It’s a good thing a few big brothers came to the party, because it turns out preschool-age ballerinas don’t excel at piñata-hitting, and the baseball skills of the older brothers were put to good use.

    I love that Zianne is getting old enough to recognize the love and care that goes into celebrating birthdays. It’s not about the decorations or the presents, but I hope the time and effort put into the festivities always assure my children that they are adored by their parents and by the Father above.



    Tutu napkins and ballet banner

    Talitha’s white tutu (we’ve had this for over a year and it’s holding up so well)

    If you’re local to Southern California:

    Amazing cookies by Twinfully Sweet

    Piñatas Villafan (custom-made, huge piñatas for $18)




    Pregnancy (Zianne Eileen)

    This is post one in a three-part series that documents each of my pregnancies. I wanted to capture my memories of these child-bearing years before they become too hazy in mind…

    Dobson Ranch

    Zianne Eileen…

    Strawberry lemonade. It was a long, hot summer in Phoenix. I actually enjoyed being pregnant in the summer because I could wear tank tops and flowy maxi dresses all the time. Sometimes I would just float in our pool with my bikini and giant baby bump. However, I got into the bad habit of stopping for all kinds of sugary treats when I was running errands around town in the scorching sun. I would go to Wendy’s multiple times a week for strawberry lemonade and Frosty ice cream cones (yes, often ordering both). On days I didn’t go to Wendy’s, I would indulge in Italian Sodas at the local coffee shop. It took me the first year of your life to break my sugary drink habit. I don’t indulge in such beverages often anymore, but when I do, I think of you.

    Limping. I will always think of my pregnancy with you as perfect, except for the two weeks I couldn’t walk at the very end. I pulled a ligament in my hip on an extreme nesting weekend. Micah was out-of-town for work and I decided to repaint your dresser and do way too many other physical tasks at 37 weeks pregnant. I stayed up until 2am two nights in a row and woke up Sunday morning unable to walk. I remember the extreme pain of trying to roll over in bed, sitting on the edge of my mattress in the morning for a full five minutes, trying to will myself to stand up through searing discomfort. I remember walking to my grad school class on Monday afternoon (my last grad class ever) and arriving 30 minutes late because I had to limp so slowly across ASU’s huge campus. I remember hobbling to the front of the church to take communion a week later. And I remember stumbling around downtown Phoenix one night because I insisted Micah and I use our free tickets to a Diamondbacks game, even though the feeling of my hip was sheer torture. I even remember walking on the treadmill with my injury, because my  doctors told me it was totally normal, just my “hips spreading for labor,” so I told myself I should continue exercising to be a healthy mom. Finally, finally I went to to the chiropractor and she confirmed that limping and extreme pain are not actually a part of full-term pregnancy. With a few adjustments and a lot of ice, she got me walking again without wincing. It was a good thing, because at 39 weeks, I still had over two weeks of pregnancy to go with you, my late baby.

    The smell of rosemary mint shampoo. It’s not my regular shampoo, but I took a small bottle of it to Australia where you were conceived. When we got back I continued to use the bottle until it was gone. Whenever I smell rosemary-mint, I think back to those earliest weeks of being pregnant… and all those feelings of expectation and uncertainty as I wondered who you would be and who I would be as your mother.