Last week, I spent some time collecting bits and pieces of our Mila girl at this memorable stage of her babyhood, nearly fifteen months and counting. Mila is not the mild-mannered, shy and soft-spoken little girl I pictured when I was pregnant with her. No, Mila lives life big in all ways - when she's happy, she makes all those around her feel it, too, and when she's mad, well, she makes all those around her hear it! I often describe her as all-or-nothing - it's either high or low when Mila is concerned. And because a fifteen month old has a way of orchestrating the general rhythm of our days, our Easter weekend was quite characteristic of our little bunny's personality. Easter Sunday morning is always wild around our house, as tradition is we head to Allison to join my family for their Easter service. And when you wake up at 6:30, spend a good half hour digging through Easter baskets and taking lots of pictures of my bed-headed children in their Easter jammies, well, things get a little rushed. At 8:20, five minutes after we planned to leave, I am literally scavenging through the house, throwing diapers, extra clothing, cheerios and stickers for church, bunnies, egg pails, and memory cards in any bag I can find, feeling quite thrown together. But then I see Mila trot through the house wearing her new white saltwaters, holding her dress in her hands like a little lady, I pause and drink her in. I can literally feel my heart stop a little as I watch and I smile all the way to church, running in with giggling kids as the bells chime in the background.
We arrived just as the pastor asked the congregation to stand and sing and we scanned the pews for my family. Then, bags and babies abounding, we made our walk of shame to the very front row of that church. I could feel the eyes of every local staring at the back of my head, hopefully smiling at how big our children had gotten since last year, and not shaking their head at the two transformers Cruz clutched in each hand. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and smiled as I belted the words to He Arose, watching Mila bouncing daddy's arms out of their sockets from the corner of my eye.
I didn't hear a whole lot of the sermon this year, but feel pretty confident that I was forgiven as I'm pretty sure I worked harder than the pastor himself to keep my children occupied and quiet during one very long hour (and five minutes, but who's counting). Things got a little hairy when they started fighting over the only pencil in the pew, and when Cruz marched up to kids' sermon. Mila wanted to join him, and we caused a near-uproar when Beau attempted to keep her in the pew. He then let her inch her way out to the center aisle, giving her the go-ahead to try this several more times throughout the service. They ate through one bag of cheerios, one bag of goldfish, two small boxes of raisins, and I'm confident I could have used three more. Needless to say, it was a long hour, but we made it to the benediction before Cruz had to potty and Mila had to roam. Everyone behind me (aka, the entire congregation), commented on how well they did, so I took that as a compliment and wiped the sweat off my brow without anyone noticing a thing. I was a little stressed, but also realized how relaxed I've become as a parent. Three years ago, I would have taken a kid out the minute I heard a peep. And now, I shove their faces with fruit snacks and let Mila carry around a pencil.
We headed to Mom's house after church and the three eldest cousins immediately started running laps through the house. Mila fell on the concrete and skinned up her little knee, smearing blood on her dress, her daddy's shirt, and Papa's pants. She screamed hysterically until Beau offered to take her for a drive to put to her sleep. At one point, I noticed Taylor, the once baby of our family, standing in the very corner of the living room, I think shaking in fear. It got pretty real for awhile, the kind of real that makes you stop and really question why we bother to put so much work into these holidays we yearn to celebrate.
And then, just like that, you see it. You catch a glimpse of Mila standing on her tiptoes from the porch, watching her oldest cousins and brother in sheer delight as they run from tree to tree, laughing and soaking up the warmth of the sun on their cheeks. You watch Cruz carefully line up every plastic egg and count them one by one, only to repeat the process with every new egg that lands in his bucket. You notice Grandma's porch step a little more full as Mila is old enough to earn a place amidst her cousins, and you are soon flooded with flashbacks of every year before, every cousin photo shoot we struggle and laugh through. You fill your plate with Mom's signature potato salad, or Grandma's carrots, and smile as your own daughter seems to make them her favorite, too. You watch them run around, watch Mila smile and squeal and string a purse on her arm, announcing a confident "buh bye" over and over again, and you feel that familiar lump rise in your throat and your heart feel like it could literally beat outside your chest. It's the excruciating, extraordinary love you feel as a parent. A love much like our little girl's personality, made up of the highs and lows, and a love that could only come from the risen Savior himself. Nothing on this earth could create something so heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and with every year I'm blessed to be a mom, I learn to dig in and live richly in it, through the highs, the lows, and all the in-betweens.
Our highs, lows, and in-betweens of our Easter weekend. Well, mostly the high parts. :)
We kicked off our weekend with our very first dinner party in our new house. Grilled fajitas and pitchers of margaritas, flaming kahlua bananas over ice cream, with a kids' pirate dress up show as our entertainment. They'd head downstairs for awhile and soon appear dressed in yet another ensemble created from Cruz's treasure chest of dress up clothes.
Saturday morning, we enjoyed the sunshine at Arnka farms, playing with baby goats, nuzzling fuzzy headed baby chicks, and and eating chocolate chip cookies as we waited our turn for the swings. I loved this sweet little farm and the simple entertainment it had to offer. It was the perfect way to spend a very relaxing Saturday before a very busy Sunday. The kids slept all the way home and we detoured through Lowes to pick up a couple of rocking chairs for our front porch.
Saturday afternoon, I organized a little egg hunt in our house, and prepared one egg-cellent supper for the kids. Beau and I enjoyed chicken marsala and vino while the kids were entertained with a dozen plastic eggs filled with all their favorite finger foods.
Our night ended with bubble baths and bunny jammies, a Wisconsin win, and two perfectly arrangement Easter baskets ready for their recipients.
Easter Sunday, to be continued...