lucy's fourth.

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Miss smiley, curly-top turned four, and we got to throw another party while we were in town! Lucy loves donuts, and sprinkles, so Desi and I got to have a lot of fun with this one. 

The night we party-prepped was the funniest. We put all the girls to bed in one room, and listened to them chatter and play until all hours of the night... and then slowly start to cry and whine when they got so, so tired. It was so sad and pathetic, but pretty darn funny, too. Samantha would cry, and you would hear the saddest, "Sammie, stop crying... Sammie be quiet!" After awhile, we had to move the baby to another room- and that's when Eliza got freaked out by the big girl bed and needed to be put in the crib, after crying on the bottom bunk for an hour. So, Eliza fell asleep in the crib, Sammie in another room, and Lucy was officially going crazy from exhaustion. She would suddenly yell out that Eliza was being creepy and moving in her sleep. But, when when we went in to the room Eliza was totally asleep. I think you had to be there to get it, but it was so ridiculous and funny, and also made me really nervous about having both of my girls in the same room pretty soon! 

So, while the girls were experiencing cabin fever, Desi and I were up all night with a movie marathon and junk food- painting banners and party prepping. We used this board to pull together some ideas, and went crazy- "Life is better with sprinkles!" We drew naked donuts on the back porch for the kids to decorate, hung lanterns from the trees, and filled a donut piñata. Instead of a cake, Desi filled three tiers with donuts that Lucy got to go pick up with her Dad the morning of the party, in her pink sprinkle dress. We also set up a donut decorating station, with colored glaze, all kinds of toppings, and plenty of milk to go around. 

The kids had so much fun! It was such a fun and pretty theme, that didn't take a lot of effort or money. I mean, every one loves donuts. I think I ate five. For real. Eliza ate a ton, while holding onto the hem of my dress most of the time- she was a little shy around Lucy's friends. But, not too shy to grab her fair share of the piñata loot.

Happy (late) Birthday, Lucy! I still can't believe she is four. Lucy was my first love- there's nothing like a niece to make you realize how beautiful a baby is. She was the one who got my clock ticking, and pretty shortly after Lucy was born, was when I suddenly felt a very real urge to have a baby of my own. And, that's why Eliza was born a year later! I love that they are close in age, and good friends.

Lucy got a real, big-girl bike for her birthday, and after the party all the kids played out on the driveway and street in front of the house. Desi lives in the house that we grew up in, so it's always so crazy to see this new generation of kids playing in my yard and my driveway. It also makes me a little jealous of suburban life, and the ease of neighborhood play- so much fun.

We had a lot of fun in Texas. The first half of the trip was all party fun, while the second half was filled with good family times. I got to stay up late chatting with my sister several nights, and we went to the best Selena sing-along at Alamo Drafthouse- complete with maracas, drunk women cursing in Spanish at Yolanda, and a real candlelit vigil during the final scene. Eliza got to spend a lot of time with her cousins, playing in the yard, splashing in the neighbors kiddie pool, and running around McDonald's clutching a chicken nugget. She spent much of the time at Grandma and Grandpa's chattering away as she played with my old dollhouse, and watching new shows on the big screen. She very intently cared for the cats that live in the backyard, always being the first to put their food out in the morning. And, she even helped Grandma make a little pink, sparkle skirt in the sewing room. Grandad took us to Fredricksburg for a day trip, one of our favorite places. And, Eliza made herself a little secret play area upstairs in the closet with a curtain, where she sat and read herself books. 

We won't be traveling for awhile, obviously. We traveled a lot this past year, and I have loved it. From March of last year we went out of the country once, to Texas three times, and to Utah four times.  It's time to step back and take care of this growing family at home for a bit. I can't see us going too far until Christmas, when baby sister will be five months and ready to make the trip. As much as I love our opportunities to travel and see family, I think I am looking forward to the remainder of 2016 to be a little less scheduled, and a little more relaxed. Isn't it funny that I can say that, knowing that I am about to have a baby? But, we Grays are a crazy, overly ambitious bunch. And, I think this baby might actually slow us down a bit and force us to focus on what's right in front of us. And, that will be Rox and Sam, Eliza, and baby sister. I can't wait.

samantha's first.

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Eliza and I spent some time in Texas, back in April, to visit my family. It worked out nicely that our trip was taken during my spring break, and happened to land on the week of both of my nieces birthdays. So, Eliza had some cousin time and I got some much needed sister time- especially when we were crafting and party prepping at 1am while watching Bring It On and eating piñata candy. Desi dreamed up two pretty magical parties, and I got to come along for the ride and help her bring them to life. 

Samantha turned one! She is such a doll. She has these sparkly eyes that follow you around the room, and she is one of the happiest babies you will come across. I hadn't seen her since last September, so it was really fun to see her crawling around, with those wispy, little curls starting to play around her face. Desi wanted to the theme to be, "She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes." Since, she most certainly does. So, she settled on a fancy Kate Spade inspired brunch, with plenty of pink and gold.

We pulled some ideas together on this board, and ordered a couple of things ahead of time. But, a last minute slumber party was in order- putting out place settings, prepping food, and hot-gluing flowers till the early morning hours. It was really nice. I don't get to spend much alone time with my older sister, since having our girls. Usually, we plan kid-friendly outings and then I spend the night at my dad's. But, these sister sleepovers definitely need to happen more often. 

The party was a huge success, even after a threatening weather forecast brought the brunch inside. We served tiny breakfast items, and Desi made the most beautiful cake. The kids all ate in the kitchen, while the adults sat at a long table in the living room. We even took turns toasting our well-wishes for the little one. It was sweet. 

Happy (late) Birthday, Miss Samantha! You are so loved.

kehoe beach.

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A few months ago, we took a little day trip out to play at Kehoe Beach which quickly became my favorite beach. It was so peaceful and beautiful, way out in the hills and hidden away. The drive was beautiful, and spotted with dairy farms with black and white cows. We stopped at a little market to buy some food to add to our picnic, which we ate on a blanket at the opening of the trail out to the beach- bread and cheese, fruit, avocados, and a happy, little girl munching away. The trail out to the beach was short and relatively flat, surrounded on either side by bright, yellow flowers and low coastal California poppies. The beach was so large that you hardly noticed your neighbors, and the sand was soft and warm. Eliza and Sam ran around the dunes covered in sea grass, while I lay on a blanket and listened to her screaming laughter. It was a really wonderful day, and one of the few non-holiday days that we actually pulled out the camera these past nine months. 

As you can see in that first photo, Eliza has become quite the acrobat. She has always loved when Sam throws her up in the air, but she freaked us out when she started pulling her stunts mid-air. I don't know where she gets this from! She will toe touch and pike right at the top, but always comes down for a safe landing. It cracks me up. She's turning out to be such a funny girl, and she loves being silly. 

A few of Eliza's sayings lately:

"I've never seen this before!"- She exclaims this at the sight of anything new. Like, it's the most awe-inspiring thing she has seen in her life. 

"I'm just a little cheenager" (teenager)- Eliza is pretty obsessed with the idea of growing up. Whenever she reaches a new level of growing it is the most exciting thing that could have happened to her. Like, finally being to ride a big kid ride at the zoo. (Poor girl is just barely 36" and can't ride anything.) She defines all friends and siblings by their level of growth, and recently learned what a "teenager" is. So, she declared herself a "little teenager." Yikes!

"Oh, I see." "Oh, yes." - This one is kind of lost without actually hearing it in person. But, her responses sometimes are just so clear and adult sounding. Her little voice just sings.

"I hurt my thumb toe!"- Once, Eliza said this after stubbing her big toe. I loved it so much. I love watching her make the most clever connections with her language and comprehension. I'm constantly surprised at the things she says on a daily basis. It's pretty fascinating trying to imagine all of the knowledge and experience these tiny human beings are gathering each and every minute of the day.

"It's very special to him/her/me."- This was a phrase we used often when she was younger to explain when things should be cared for. Like, "We don't want to take that to the park, because it's very special and could get dirty." Or, "That book is very special to Papa, so let's not play with it." Now, she uses it often with her own things and with other's belongings. She 's very serious about it.

the babies- Eliza has a baby named "Eliza Baby." We got her two years ago when we first started trying for the second baby, and wanted her to feel prepared. Eliza Baby is very special to her. Then, for her second birthday, her best friend (Sage) gave Eliza a little baby that was named "Sagey Baby." These two babies never leave Eliza's side. It was always kind of funny (and slightly stressful) that these two babies really became part of the family. They are much loved. Sagey Baby disappeared for two months, and I waited to see if Eliza would get over it and move on. But, she didn't and would sometimes cry in her bed about how she missed Sagey Baby. So, we took a trip to the toy store only to coincidently run into Sagey Baby hanging out on the shelf! And, we brought her home. These past months, Eliza's babies have multiplied exponentially. I will need to take a picture of her bed now, it is filled to the brim. And, not just with superfluous stuffed toys, but with well-named and cared for babies that are accounted for each and every night and that take up the entire bed so that Eliza ends up sleeping stuffed up against the gate. Eleanor the Bear and "Tyrah Baby" were both rediscovered baby gifts that had been sitting daintily on the shelf for awhile. And, Pinky and Ariel are both mermaids that were recently adopted on her third birthday. Yes, six babies. All loved and cared for by a very nurturing little three-year-old.

The Eliza and Sage trade- Sage's mom and I had a babysitting trade this past year each week, for when I went to work. On Monday mornings Sage came over to our house, and on Thursday afternoons Eliza went to Egbert family heaven to play with all of Sage's toys and her older brothers. It was so sad peeling her away from that house each week, she loves them so much and talks about them daily. Eliza and Sage had a weekly trade, as well. I would listen in on their negotiations, "You can borrow this for five days." Or, "You can borrow this for forever!" Eliza came home wearing a different outfit each week, and would bring it back the next. We laugh though, because it always seems like a very one-sided trade, with Eliza bringing home the most loot. Sage is a very patient friend.

"Watch this, mom!"- A new favorite that is equally adorable and annoying. (Am I allowed to say that?) Eliza loves showing off new tricks, climbing at the park or dancing in our living room. I do love it, and I have to constantly remind myself to stop what I'm doing and just sit and watch. But, let's be honest, when it is yelled 10 times in a row over and over, it starts to sound like nails on a chalkboard. Love that girl.

"Why?"- Oh, my little, curious one. She asks "why?" after every single thing I say. " I need you to clean your room." "Why?" "Because your toys are all over the ground, and I don't want you to trip and fall." "Why?" "Because I love you." "Why?"....


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I come from a family of three girls, with a mom who was an amazing seamstress. Receiving new, and often matching, dresses for holidays like Christmas and Easter was a given. Unfortunately, I don't sew.... well enough to construct an actual garment. So, instead, I spend way too long online picking out holiday dresses for Eliza. Something that Sam doesn't really understand. A girl needs every excuse to get a new dress. And, I have always loved looking at photos and remembering the year of that particular dress.

I've been trying to be a better mom, lately. A big part of that is not feeling the urge to always say, "No." Eliza has so many very strong opinions about a lot of things- especially when it comes to clothing. These past few months I have successfully let go of my control of her attire. I still buy her clothing, obviously. Which means I don't purchase things that I don't fully support as a parent. But, Eliza has dressed herself every day for quite awhile now, and I stopped trying to fight it. It feels good, actually. It cuts out a lot of the day-to-day stress, and it has really made me realize that this girl is her own being. She comes up with the best outfits, so original and so Eliza. I don't even fight things like wearing a sweater when it's cold, because she will realize that she's cold and ask for one. It's so liberating! That's been my overall goal as I prepare for this second baby. Letting go. Let it go! It really doesn't matter. And, she needs to be a kid.

The only thing is when I buy her clothing that I love, but that she's not into, it just never gets worn. And, the same (weird) dress or shirt that I cringe over gets worn three days in a row. So, I have to then stop buying clothing for myself and start thinking about this little fairy princess. She likes pink. She likes poofy. She swoons for sparkles. And, she is obsessed with graphic tees. If I take her shopping we will spend hours trying on shoes and clothes in the middle of the aisle (no modesty, she just strips down and pulls it in). And, then there might be some tears if I don't get her something ridiculous or expensive. So, I still have to go get things on my own- I just really try and look through her glitter-filled eyes and find something she will love to wear.

So, for Easter I got her this pretty, cupcake of a dress and she was so excited. I was nervous because pink is pink to Eliza- ballet pink is not pink, coral is not pink... only bright, hot pink can receive the highest honor. But, when she woke up Easter morning, and this puffy dress was laid out with her Easter basket she squealed and I felt like a super good mom. Score!

We had a lovely Easter. I can't remember a lot about it, except that we went to church and I was feeling so grateful and blessed to have my beautiful family and this little tiny one in my belly. We had an Easter egg hunt with friends earlier that week, but still had a mini one in our yard on Easter Sunday. We had dinner with friends, and I believe Sam made a roasted chicken- which was amazing. Eliza cracked cascarones in the yard that my dad sent from Texas, and there was confetti all over the garden for weeks. 

thousand palms oasis.

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One of the coolest things we did while out in Palm Springs, was visit the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve. You drive out of the city for a bit, until you literally see an oasis of palms just nestled at the foot of the hills. It was a sight. I've just never seen palm trees like this- so wild. You only ever see neatly manicured palms in front yards or lining the California roads. But, these palms were ruffled to the roots with thick, shaggy branches, creating a beautiful and somewhat prehistoric atmosphere. You walk among them along these wooden boardwalks, while the branches cast this orange-ish dusty light. Eliza sat on Sam's back, reaching up to touch the branches, and sending cheeser smiles back at me whenever I pulled out the camera. (Which is a first, since she usually scowls when I try to take her picture.) We walked over to the oasis and let Eliza run around for a bit. It was a really cool stop, and I wish we had a little more time to explore before we got kicked out at closing. 

The biggest surprise was how cool the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was! It was a bit pricey, and seemed like a tourist trap. But, it was really totally worth it. This massive tram takes you from the floor of the Coachella Valley to the top of San Jacinto Peak, all while rotating (whoa). It was interesting to be down in the heat of the desert, and ten minutes later breathing in that crisp, cold air while throwing a snowball. We didn't have a lot of time before the last tram came back down and I wasn't feeling up for any steep climbs, but Sam took Eliza around to play for a little bit and they explored the area. There is actually a lot to do up there if you make a day of it. Just a winter wonderland in the middle of the desert.

So now I really wish that Palm Spring was just a bit closer to us. Like maybe half the drive time? That would be great. We would be there every other weekend. Palm Springs, you treated us well.