happy birthday, jenna.

Jenna Bean!

Happy second birthday, sweet girl. What a fun week it has been.

They say time flies, but wow, does it. It's too cliche to say that it was just yesterday that I carried you on the inside, but it's true. Yesterday, you were such a baby and today, you are a little big girl.
They also say that the second does everything faster than the first. I don't know if that's indeed the case, or if my mind is just that fuzzy that I can't remember, but one thing is constant in child raising: these first couple of years are hard. But, I've found that most things that require work are the very things that fill up our minds, bodies and heart in the most beautiful of ways. Ways that you didn't know even existed. And, that, Jenna, is what you do for me, every day.

Your happy, belly laughs, funny faces, sweet singing voice, tiny dance moves and oh-so-good kisses and hugs bring me such joy. When I describe you to others, I say that you're my ray of sunshine. You're kind, loyal, fiery and funny. Even with your unique personality, you are a lot like your older sister, and I love that about you.

I have so much gratitude for all that you are, and all that we have shared over the last few days, getting to celebrate your milestone. My most favorite memory of your second birthday is this: watching and listening to you sing "happy birthday" to yourself and blowing out your own candle without help from anyone.
Oh, the balance of watching you grow and become independent with wanting to stop time. It's a never ending gift that I will treasure every single day of my life.

Happy birthday, lovie.


source list: rainbow painting party.

Mari was a huge little helper for her fourth birthday, and it was so fun planning it with her. Like her mama, she had a very clear and simple vision for her celebration: painting party with friends. With rainbows.

Twist my arm.

Like we always do, we started with some favorite items from Shop Sweet Lulu, designed some fun invitations and plucked all of the art supplies from Jo-Ann, much of which we had on-hand at the house, which saved some $.
Here's the full list of sources:

+ Paper Source: plum invitation cards / blossom envelopes / liner / 100% white cotton savoy for the watercolor paper
+ Shop Sweet Lulu: party hats / stripey strawscandles
+ Jo-Ann: paint / brushes / paint palettes / kraft letters / mini-aprons / iron-on monograms / rainbow ribbon
+ Party City: napkins / rainbow face tattoos / rainbow dash face tattoo for the birthday girl
+ Old Navy: mint party dress; Etsy Shop Once Upon A Design: rainbow iron-on letters
+ Food trays: leftover from last year
+ Becker's Bakery and Deli: donuts for the win!

By the way, Eddie's actually the real inspiration behind the kraft letters. Months ago, he took Mari and her cousin Carson to Target and for an afternoon activity, picked up acrylic paint and some wood letters. Mari loved painting "M" so much that she wanted to do it again with her friends.

For the party, we did prime the letters with white tempera paint in advance so the kids could paint with light colors. It was a quick project, and because it was just a messy base coat, Mari actually primed all the letters herself. All I had to do was really minimal touch-up. Also: sponge brushes rock.

This party was easy on the prep and fun to host. And, we still have paint leftover for days. A repeat play date would not be out of the question.


rainbow party of five.

Let's get back at it, shall we? I wanted to share a few snaps from Mari's fourth birthday celebration, but before I do, I'll let you in on my secret sauce that has put some peace back in the planning process: small parties.

When I was pregnant with Mari, one of my favorite people in the world tipped me off to the rule of 1:1, when it comes to kids parties. Meaning, for every birthday, you get to invite as many friends, and therefore, this year, Mari got to invite four.

We started this tradition last year for the third birthday, and so far, so good. To make just four little invitations vs. the alternative gives me some serious serenity, and freedom of time to get creative with personal touches, like hand-watercoloring and DIY envelope linings.
Small party planning also keeps the cost down. This year, we got the girls painting on kraft paper mache letters, which was an easy, quick and fun activity to bring them together before lunch, using lots of supplies we already had on-hand at our house.
With just five girls (well, 6 if you count Jenna), lunch and a play date party is very do-able in our tiny beach house. After exercising our right brains, we ate some of Mari's favorite things off of last year's lunch trays.
And, really, all the girls really want to do when they're together is tear apart the dress-up clothes, dance around the house and eat cake, and that is exactly what Mari had in mind. Her pick was a rainbow sprinkle donut tower and homemade strawberry milkshakes to top-off the gathering.
What a fun little group! Later this week: party sources. I promise that this source list, I will post!



Mari girl,

As I sit here in a quiet living room among some of your favorite things leftover from a full day of play, after a very full celebratory weekend, it finally hits me that just last night, four years ago, your dad and I checked into the hospital. We spent our last several hours as a twosome anxiously awaiting your arrival, riding through waves of adrenaline, exhaustion, pain and hope.

Through most of your long labor, we watched soccer on the television. Women's soccer, to be exact.

Four years ago was of course 2011, and it was Women's World Cup time. I was comforted by the very familiar sounds of play-by-play of girls playing the game we love so much. Which, is something you can say to a four year old like you, and you understand. This summer, for the first time, you really rooted for girls. You waved the American flag with cheer. You told me you like watching girls play more than the boys, and that someday, you want to be like those courageous champions.

You have dreams. And, maybe they do change by the minute, but you have them. And that, my four year old, makes your mother's heart smile.

As for your kind and caring heart, you are something amazing. I beam the most when I watch you with your sister. When you ask me repeatedly, "can I wake Jenna up, is it time?" Or when without having to even ask, you bring your best friend her lovie when she needs it most. It's like you're inside her head, or mine, for that matter, and you are always there when we need you.

I'm grateful that when you are so, so, so tired, you will still fall asleep on me. And that you save certain moments just for your dad, like bike rides and breakfast at your favorite spot. And that you love some things with all your heart, like hearts and rainbows, living room dance parties and ice cream.

You are my sweet girl who has given me more joy than you will ever know.

I love you more than the moon and the stars and the sea.

I love you more than all three, my big four year old.

Happy birthday.


holiday birthday sparkle.

Before we jump into the most wonderful week of the year, I wanted to quickly share a few snapshots from Jenna's first birthday party that we hosted last week. For all of you with December loved ones, you can clue me in on how to differentiate the birthday to the holiday for years to come, but with all the sparkle and twinkle in the air, pops of black, white and gold were on the menu.
Just a family affair, which means a house full of six cousins and one big sister, we ate from giant pots of homemade chicken tortilla soup with cornbread muffins, drank and were merry over Christmas cookie decorating after diving into birthday cake; Ina Garten's coconut cake that is now my all-time favorite cake. In the world. I'm done searching.
Most party supplies (including frosting tubes) came from - you guessed it - Shop Sweet Lulu, with some Amazon purchases for cutlery and to-go soup containers. Becker's Bakery gingerbread men saved the day. Invitations were a DIY job, using Martha Stewart glitter dust, glue and Paper Source envelopes and liner kit.

I've kept around much of the decor all month long, and will do so into New Year's Eve. Gold is so good that way.

Merry, happy everything!


jenna bean.

Sweet Jenna Bean,

When it rolls off my tongue, it sounds like "jelly bean," which is what we have called you since the day we brought you home. Of all your nicknames, it's my favorite because it's so accurate. Everything about you is one happy, sweet jelly bean.

You don't know this yet, but you will: birthdays are such a gut check. They are good at getting us to pause and take stock in this life. I'm overcome with such joy when I think about what you have brought to our lives in just one year, and how far we've come.

This first year is such a marathon sprint. With your patience and deep belly giggles, you've allowed me to slow down, loosen my grip and make mistakes, and attempt to do it all with a bit of grace. You've made me tougher on the outside but so much softer on the inside. Pregnancy hormones have nothing on you.

It's so very hard to describe just how magical you are, but if you can take the warmth of this Christmas season and multiply it 365 days, then you might have an idea of the light and love you share with our family every single day. You are my daily dose of twinkle lights, all year round.

Just the thought of your happy smile makes me crumble with such gratitude that you are mine.
Happy birthday, my big one year old.

I love you forever.

Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law who captured these moments and my heart at Jenna's first birthday party with her cousins last night. 



I suppose if I wait long enough, there will be something burning in my head so much so that I just have to write it down. So, here goes.

With Jenna's first birthday just a few weeks away, I find myself drifting back to one year ago so many times throughout my day, especially when there are moments in time, that each season, get repeated.

Right now, for instance, as we approach Manhattan Beach's official holiday season kickoff tonight, I go back three years when I was in the very first week of my pregnancy with Mari and so sick to my stomach that I can almost taste it. And, on the flip side, to one year ago when I was blissfully near the end of Jenna's pregnancy that I could see the finish line in the distance, even though just walking the streets of MB was enough to tire me out for the rest of the week.

And, so, with these seasons that come and go, my hope is that I can always remember, feel and taste moments past, the good ones and the challenging ones; that there was once a Thanksgiving when I dropped an entire sheet pan of warm and gooey brownies into my sister-in-law's oven because I was so jittery and newly pregnant; that nursing my new baby with the glow of twinkle lights from the Christmas tree is so magical that it defines miracle; and seeing my Mari's mind, for the first time, start to process these little people and why we really celebrate Christmas.

These memories also provide such perspective; there are some seasons where things just don't get done, and you do what you can, and I'm not just talking about the holidays.

In the last few months, I've admittedly struggled to get to this white space and write. Reminding myself that that's okay has been something I've done only with the help of my family; they've taught me best to do my best at what I want and can do, and that's enough.
Even if I still think that I'm going to make dozens and dozens of sugar cookies, because this is the year that I'm making cookies to enjoy all season long. And that is something that every year, must repeat.

One of my favorite (and only!) photos of just the girls, from our family trip to Lake Tahoe, back in September.