First birthday sign

A garden/bunny-themed first birthday party

Our dear niece Isla turned one last week and over the weekend we attended her birthday party on an especially sunny, warm spring day. So beautiful, in fact, that the party was held outside! (Not something to be taken for granted in April in Chicagoland.)

My sister, Lauren, kept the garden/bunny theme simple and subtle. Here are some of the details that made this party casual yet adorable.

The spread was sandwiches, an incredible salad that included figs, avocado and roasted chickpeas, some addictive dips and popcorn.

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And bunnies!

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First birthday sign

Isla’s monthly photos lined the patio door as we swooped inside and outside throughout the afternoon.

First birthday photo collection

First birthday photo collection

Lauren made the cake — strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Isla’s smash cake was blueberry (her favorite food) and Corban enjoyed a dirt cup (“gummy worm cake,” as he called it yesterday when he mentioned out of the blue, “I liked Isla’s cake!”). Pictures of those to come in a minute.

Pink strawberry first birthday cake

There were four little ones in attendance and they each received one of these sweet bunny baskets filled with a little seed planting kit, a chocolate bunny and rabbit ears (where were those when I was making Corban’s Halloween costume?!).

Bunny-themed party favors

Look at that glorious patio sunshine!

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And pink roses…

Pink roses

The kids donned their bunny ears for an Easter egg hunt in the backyard.

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Birthday girl and her mama.

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Little Peter Rabbit in full force.

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Isla’s cousin was not cool with wearing his bunny ears or sitting still for the group photo, but no worries… he successfully photobombed it.

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Cake time.

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Step one: remove and consume all blueberries.

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Why are you trying to shove this other junk in my mouth when I see BLUEBERRIES?

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She was not into the cake. Until she was.

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And then she was really into it.

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Baby’s eye view of the remnants:

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Proof that Corban loved his “gummy worm cake.” I don’t blame him; dirt pudding is the best.

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Gratuitous Mara photo.

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And we’ll end with a look back at one year ago. Crazy how much they’ve all changed!

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Golden first birthday party

Mara turned one on September 1, so from the day she was born I knew her first birthday party theme would be easy: golden birthday!

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I made the poor girl a gigantic, glittery, gold tutu (just tied strips of tulle to a circle of elastic) and a “one” onesie (just like Corban’s one shirttutorial here — except vastly more frustrating because I had to use several layers of tulle for the letters). She also got a gold flower headband (made the fabric rose from the tulle and hot glued it to gold elastic).

In the end she was a gold, glittery mess, and had an overwhelmed blank stare on her face for the first 30 minutes of the party.

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Eventually she warmed up and forgot about the huge nest around her waist.

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The baby shower I threw for my sister back in February was gold-themed, so I was able to re-use a lot of the decorations (that may or may not have been in the back of my mind when planning her shower… nothing wrong with that, right?) including this wreath, which originally was a table decoration.

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(Re-purposed the chalkboard idea from an Oscars party story I wrote earlier this year!)

I gave myself some grace and didn’t finish (or even seriously start) a year recap photo album for Mara in time for the party. I intend to do one (since Corban has not only a first year album but a second year album, too)… but let’s be honest, I still haven’t done it. The first birthday is such a sweet time to look back on all the many milestones of the first year, though, so I still incorporated many photos into the party.

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I bought a bunch of gold frames at Goodwill and was going to display them on tables outside, but it was raining right up until the party started. Thankfully the sun came out just in time so we could be outside, but all the frames ended up on one table, like a little Mara shrine. (Complete with tea light candles that were also supposed to be outside.)

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I did a monthly photo of Mara on our tan bed sheet, which ended up looking like a gold backdrop — not planned, but worked out well for this little photo project.

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Here’s the similar monthly photo display I had at Corban’s first birthday:

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I busted out this digital photo frame Peter and I got as a wedding gift (just took six years to open it) and let it scroll through a memory card of first-year photos.

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Oh yeah… the cake! My friend Rebecca, who is a professional pastry chef and cake artist, made this beauty for us. It tasted just as good as it looked!

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I made a small chocolate smash cake (using Pyrex containers to bake the layers) and decorated it with edible gold spray paint (found at JoAnn Fabrics) and edible gold pearls.

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One of my favorite details was the flowers I picked up last minute at the grocery store. Goldenrod was in full bloom.

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Cake time!

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She ever-so-daintily dipped one finger in, licked it and repeated while we all stared and commentated.

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Big brother waited eagerly for the green light to pounce.

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We eventually had to extricate the destroyed cake from her frosting-covered hands. She wasn’t happy with that.

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Gold decorations, photos, cakes… those were the facts of the party, and they were good.

But the truth of it was even sweeter: Loved ones gathered to celebrate the first year of a sweet, sweet girl who has brought such joy to our lives. I’m still in denial that Mara is every day less and less a baby, but I really can’t be anything but grateful for the privilege it’s been to hold her close and kiss her soft head incessantly for the first 365 days (and counting) of her life. That is to say, I love being her mom.

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Her birthday celebration was also a time to reflect on how wonderful it is to have the support of loved ones in this adventure of parenthood. It’s a blessing to watch those around us love our daughter.

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(Even when she’s partied out and crabtastic.)

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(By the way, that vinyl banner is so coming out at all of Mara’s birthdays to come!)

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Party planning tips [and a paper airplane-themed first birthday party]

The end of the year was crazy, and I have a feeling Decembers will get even crazier in the years to come. It started with birthday party prep, then Christmas prep, then Christmas travel. January has been much more relaxed so far, yet somehow Corban is already 13 months old and I’m just now sitting down to share his first birthday party.

I’m no party hosting expert, but I do enjoy planning a good little fiesta. Here is an assortment of things I learned while planning Corban’s first birthday party.

 

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1) Choose a theme – or at least a color scheme – and let that guide the rest of your planning. When it comes to parties (and, well, anything creative) I get easily swept up in brainstorming. This is good, up until a certain point, when it becomes overwhelming. There are SO many cute ideas out there (if Pinterest had existed when I was planning our wedding, I think my brain would have exploded into a million vintage farmhouse-inspired pieces) so it helps to have some focus. A cute invitation design inspired my original theme idea and color scheme – airplanes; sky blue and red. Then after Pinteresting it up, I found this stamp and decided paper airplanes are even cuter and easier to pull off.

The paper airplane theme gave me good direction for decorations (hello? Paper airplanes everywhere!), activities (decorating paper airplanes), snacks (peanuts and pretzels) and little details (signs like “in-flight beverages” by the drinks, which of course included ginger ale).

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Simply using colors as a theme works well too. Light blue tablecloths, red plates and silverware, light blue decorations — it pulls the room together without much effort.

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2) E-invitations can be just as cute as paper invites. I love (LOVE) paper and also am a big fan of sending (and receiving) mail. But I wanted to keep this party fairly low key, so a mailed invitation seemed inappropriate. There are quite a few sites out there for sending e-invitations, and some of them have really nice invite designs. I fell in love with Paperless Post, which may be the next best thing to mailing custom invitations. Their designs are exquisite, with details right down to envelope liners. It’s not free, but it costs far less than mailing invitations, and for this party it perfectly accomplished my goal of sending a formal invitation in a casual way.

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3) Grocery store cakes can be just as cute as bakery cakes. Although I love to bake and decorate cakes, this party called for something a bit larger. I checked out a few local bakeries and was not too excited about the prices. While doing some shopping at a Pick N Save near our house I decided to inquire about their cakes, and ended up having a great conversation with the store’s cake decorator. She was young and seemed to really understand what I was looking for. I tasted their frosting (their buttercream doesn’t use real butter so I opted for the whipped cream frosting, which is pretty good) and went over all the details of the design I was envisioning. It helped to pull up some photos on my phone of cakes I had pinned. The result was an awesome cake for $33.99 (half sheet with a layer of chocolate buttercream filling).

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I made Corban his own layer cake (using Pyrex storage containers as baking pans) using this recipe.

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Bottom line, find the right grocery store cake decorator and you can have a fancy looking cake without the fancy pricetag.

4) Have an activity for kids, but don’t expect them to do it. We only had a handful of kids at Corban’s party, but I wanted to have a little something to keep them entertained so their parents wouldn’t have to worry about them. Folding paper airplanes seemed like an easy, appropriate craft (supplies needed: paper. (Actually, I found an old book with 20 different paper airplane tutorials that I had as a kid, so I put that out too)). I picked up some stickers from the dollar store so they could decorate them even if they weren’t interested in flying them.

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But the activity I was excited about was a paper airplane test course. I hung a hoop (embroidery hoop, actually) from the ceiling with the idea that kids (or adults) could test their paper airplane creations and try to fly them through the hoop.

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As it turns out, having a hoop hanging from the ceiling and a bunch of balloons on the floor is confusing. It turned into more of a basketball hoop. A paper airplane or two was made and decorated, but I didn’t see any flying. Actually, Corban’s birthday gift from us, a mini indoor jungle gym, was the exciting thing to play with that afternoon. That and balloons. And that was totally fine. It’s good to have a little something planned for the kids even if it’s not a kid-centric party, but don’t spend lots of time or money on it because they’re usually just as happy playing with whatever.

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5) Play with Pandora. Every party needs some music in the background. Pandora iPhone app + borrowed iPod speakers was my super simple plan for that. I spent a couple days tweaking a Pandora station specifically for the party while listening to it at work. The mix of pop, country, contemporary Christian and Christmas music worked out just fine and took no extra time to plan.

6) If you request no gifts, some people will still bring gifts, and that’s OK. We asked guests not to bring gifts because this party wasn’t really about Corban. It was about us getting together with friends, family and those who have loved Corban and supported us during our first year as parents. Our family, of course, still brought gifts, and a handful of other guests too. Some people just like to give gifts. I have trouble remembering this, but the appropriate response is “Thank you!” — not, “You shouldn’t have!” or “You weren’t supposed to!” We waited until after the party to help Corban open his presents. Opening them during the party would have just been awkward for those who honored our wishes.

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7) Hang decorations from the ceiling. Even if you’re decorations aren’t paper airplanes, hanging decorations go far in making your house look festive. I also like these pinwheels and your (now) standard tissue balls (the smaller ones look the best).

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8) The Dollar Store is a party mecca. My local Dollar Tree is my go-to place for goodie bag items (I didn’t do that for this party though), colored paper plates/utensils/tablecloths and other miscellaneous supplies. They have tons of glassware and foil balloons, too. One word of advice though: take into account quantity when shopping there. For example, their plastic silverware isn’t always cheaper per utensil (and while we’re on the subject, it’s not very high quality either – works fine for cake, though). I think that’s how they make money — some things are overpriced and others are underpriced. It takes a little experience to find the best deals.

9) Everyone loves a good photo montage. The most time-consuming part of planning this party was creating the photo album of Corban’s first year that I wanted to have displayed at the shindig. It was worth it, though, to have the completed book out for guests to peruse. I used Shutterfly because I already had a lot of photos uploaded there, but there are tons of sites that can help you create a digital scrapbook. This is also the time to put together the month-by-month photo montage you’ve been plotting all year. I took a giant frame I had bought years ago and never filled, chose a photo for each month of Corban’s first year, used Picasa to add text to the image and had prints made of the photos. Also a great opportunity to check out the familial resemblance between you and your kid by displaying some old photos of yourself.

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Peter as a toddler!

Peter as a toddler!

10) If you’re design-minded, there are free programs that can help you create logos and custom printed items for your party. I used Inkscape, which is pretty easy to pick up on if you’re familiar with Adobe Illustrator. It let me easily design things like this banner and the food tags.

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11) You can DIY a custom shirt for the birthday boy or girl for about $3.50. Expensive etsy shirts be darned! Tutorial coming tomorrow.

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12) A mini candy bar is a visually appealing way to add some extra sweets to your table without much work. I picked up some cool glassware at Goodwill, bought a few different candies in our color scheme (worked out well that Christmas M&Ms were out) and voila. I want to do this for every party from now on!

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It was kind of crunched in the windowsill.

Phew. So that was Corban’s first birthday party. I had a blast planning it, and was so happy we could share the day with friends and family who love Corban (almost) as much as we do.

Any fun birthday party themes (kid or adult) that you’ve attended or planned? Do share!

Coming soon: 13-month update, already late!

12-month update

One!  Year! Old!

And yet, life goes on as usual. Turning one seems like such a big milestone for a baby, but I think it’s actually a bigger milestone for the parents. Corban continued to do his little almost-toddler thing all week, while I found myself replaying the week before Corban was born over and over in my mind. Each day I would think, exactly one year ago today I was [fill in the blank]. 

The most vivid parallel moment for me was driving home from work Thursday night, thinking about how exactly 52 weeks prior, I drove that same route at that same time. In 2011, I was on the phone with Peter, trying not to freak out about the fact that I was going into labor. When I hung up the phone, I just drove silently, a million thoughts, lists, questions racing through my head as I wondered what the future would hold.

In 2012, again I was on the phone with Peter, but this time asking how Corban was doing, if he had eaten dinner, how long he had napped. When I hung up the phone, I drove silently, remembering the past, reliving that night 52 weeks prior, my last drive home before my baby was born, and the year that followed.

What an amazing year it has been.

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But back to the present… here’s the quick take on Corban’s 12th month:

Age: 12 months
Weight: 23 lb. 1 oz.
Clothes: 12-month and 18-month
Diapers: 
Size 3 during the day, size 4 at night
Teeth: 
Two on top and four on bottom (one new bottom tooth this month)
Sleep:
 Same as last month — asleep around 7 or a few minutes after, most often wakes up between 2 and 4 a.m., then up for the day around 6:30 a.m.
Naps: Morning nap is getting later (10:30ish) and afternoon nap is starting to disappear
Noises: Makes little “vroom” noises for cars and airplanes; no clear words yet but lots of noises
Nursing: Last month before starting to wean 😦 So, still 4-5 times a day, but that will be changing soon.
Pumping: One pumping session a day when at work (around 1 or 2 p.m.) Will probably be stopping that this week, though.
Solids: 3 meals a day plus snack some days.
Mobility: Climbs up stairs like a pro; can climb down with some help; learning to climb down from couch; no interest in walking.
New skills: Pointing, throwing a ball
Favorites: Dancing, balloons, turning pages of books, eskimo kisses, slides, plastic tupperware

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Making baby “vroom” noises with the paper airplane.

It seems like Corban’s communication skills really took off this month. Even before he was pointing with his fingers, he would stretch his arm out toward things he was interested in, or reach his arms up if he wanted us to pick him up.

He started to really quickly pick up on our actions and imitate them. I showed him how to comb his hair once, and now he wants to do it every time he picks up the comb (even if he’s not very effective).

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He started initiating games, like shaking his head back and forth (then it’s our turn to do it, etc. — yes that is a game to a one-year-old) or sticking his face in a tupperware container to play peek-a-boo.

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And I just love that he understands how books work and loves to flip through the pages, even on his own.

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Of course, it’s even better with Mama or Daddy reading, but you have to read really fast because he doesn’t like to sit for long on most pages. Exceptions are the page in “Spot Says Goodnight” when Spot is in the bathtub (playing peek-a-boo with a lift-the-flap towel) and the page where Cookie Monster is popping bubbles in this book called “Bubbles, Bubbles.”

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“Bubbles, bubbles, float on top. Bubbles, bubbles, pop, pop, pop!” We have been reading the same 4-5 books before naps, and I have all of them memorized.

We had some incredibly nice days this month (for Wisconsin in November/December), so we got a few more trips to the park in, and let Corban slide a few feet by himself (with Peter and I at both ends, of course). The boy loves free falling.

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Also loves: dirt.

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Caught with his hands dirty.

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He has become quite good at entertaining himself these days. Dirt, a ball, a toy or a good view out the window are enough to keep him content if he’s in the right mood.

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Of course, he still has his moments where he doesn’t want to be put down, and with those newly pointing fingers he can get a little bossy.

This month also brought Corban’s first real sickness. Poor baby. We did enjoy lots of snuggles that weekend though. There’s nothing quite as sweet as a soft mop of hair resting on your shoulder.

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He felt better just in time for his first Thanksgiving! After several days of barely eating, Corban feasted with us at the Thanksgiving table. He loved the turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and green beans.

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I was a tiny bit worried that he’d attack the Christmas tree, but he has been fairly disinterested so far. He did try to eat an ornament, but I was sure to put only baby-safe ornaments at the bottom.

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This bell, however, was a huge hit. At least until he started to get curious and try to pull the ringer out of the inside.

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I have felt this way at every age so far, but I am just loving where we are at right now. Corban is so curious, enthusiastic and full of joy, and it’s so much fun to be able to engage with him on a slightly deeper level now. I know it will get even more fun as he develops further.

On workdays, I don’t get a lot of time with C, but it’s still the best part of my day. As I’m trying to get him into his pajamas, he squirms away and crawls around his room in his diaper. I think he realizes it’s his last chance to play before bed, so he gets extra energetic. I’m often sucked into his happy world and end up playing with him for an extra few minutes until he can’t resist rubbing his eyes, and I know it’s definitely time for bed.

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Now that we’re at the one year mark, we decided it’s time to start weaning. He already is, technically, weaned during the day when I’m at work, so the first step is me weaning from the pump (we have a LOT of breastmilk in the freezer, so we still have a while before transitioning to cow’s milk). I can handle the idea of that, but the thought of him not nursing first thing in the morning or right before bed makes me all teary-eyed. For now I’ll just enjoy those sweet moments and try not to think about it!

On a happier note, we celebrated Corban’s first birthday with a little party this past weekend. I’ll write about it in another post, but here he is eating refined sugar for the first time:

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I’m kind of obsessive about him not eating anything remotely unhealthy, so there won’t be any more cake in the near future, but on his birthday I couldn’t have been happier to see him create a sugary mess.

So there you have it. Month 12. My son is now a year old, and it doesn’t feel any different. Unless you go back a year. Everything’s different since then. Different, but better.

Dear Corban, on your first birthday

An excerpt:

Dear Corban,

One year ago today, I held you in my arms for the very first time. I looked at you with wonder, not yet knowing the creases of your hands or the smell of your skin. I had no way of knowing at that moment just how profoundly you would change my life.

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When I look back on this first year with you, I don’t recall very many bad times. Yes, there was sleep deprivation, and there were days when leaving the house was just too big of a challenge. But when I reflect on the past 12 months, I see scenes of laughter and games, development and discovery. I see you smiling at the sound of my voice, giddy when I walk in the door after work. I hear you laughing hysterically as I blow bubbles for you for the first time. I feel your impossibly soft newborn hair, and silky, round tummy.

You, Corban, make me so happy.  It’s impossible not to feel joy when I’m around you, no matter how bad a day I’m having.

I could postulate about what kind of man you’ll become based on your current preferences and skills. You’re learning to throw (athletic?) and you enjoy pounding on the keyboard (musical?). You love being surprised or frightened (adventurous?). But when I think about your future, there is only one thing that matters. Above all, I pray that you will love the Lord and walk with Him throughout your life.

Corban James, you are a delight. God has blessed me immensely by entrusting you to me. Your first year of life has been one of my very best so far. Happy birthday, my dear son.

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Love,

Mama

One year ago today

One year ago today, I was 36 weeks pregnant. Peter and I trampled off after church with our friend Anna Sparks for a maternity photo shoot. It was cold, but we shed our coats and scampered around Mequon and Cedarburg to get some good shots in what would be my last days of pregnancy (funny how I bought some cute new maternity clothes for the shoot, only to wear them once because Corban was born four days later!)

We took some Christmas shots in downtown Cedarburg – the most festive town around here!

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Yesterday, we found ourselves, by chance, back in Cedarburg to meet up with my BFF Laura, who was in town with her mom.

Of course, we had to attempt to recreate the shots from one year ago, but this time with Corban outside my belly!

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Didn’t quite get the same angle, but close enough. Here’s a side-by-side:

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My, how quickly a year goes by. Amazing how fast babies change, how naturally one can adapt to parenthood, how wonderful it is to witness human development and how your heart can learn to love someone more and more with each passing day.

Corban turns one on Saturday. I’m sure I’ll have more sentimental words for you in the coming days as I reflect on this first birthday, but for now I’ll leave you with another photo from yesterday. We attempted to visit Santa in his gingerbread house, but he wasn’t home. Wah wah.

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