An Open Letter to my Daughter on her Sixteenth Birthday

louisa sweet 16

Dear Baby Girl, I am so excited to celebrate your sixteen years of life on this earth today. Day one was a scary day for me. I held this tiny 5 ½ pound premie baby in my arms, and wondered how in the world I was going to raise her to be a wonderful, caring, compassionate woman. I was hardly a woman yet myself at only 19 years old. Most 19 y…ear olds are in college, planning their future careers, meeting Mr. Right, and getting their adult lives started. I was staring at an itty bitty pink baby girl in my arms, alone in our hospital room late at night, praying for the Lord to give me strength to help me be a good mother. Unlike most new mommies, I was starting this adventure alone. Our adventure, yours and mine, started out untraditional. And that’s okay. Not everything in life has to be by-the-book.
The greatest, most important job I have in life is to be a good mother. It’s also the most difficult and challenging. What exactly IS a “good mom” anyway? Someone who devotes their entire life, every day, every minute, to their children? Most people would say no. I think a good mom is someone who raises her children to be positive, helpful, forward thinking, contributing members of society. Our job as mothers is not to make sure our children have an easy perfect life growing up with everything you want gift wrapped and handed to you on silver plates. Our job is to make sure you live through the rough times, and learn how to celebrate the good times. And more importantly, to help you see there are far more good times than bad.
Disappointments come and go, and I promise, for the next few years, that I will help you turn around disappointments as best I can. I also promise I will be there for you when you need me, and I will do my best to back off when you want to handle it on your own. But you need to do your best to see that not every disappointment is the end of the world. Because it’s not. We’ve all suffered many disappointments, let downs, upsets, and tragedies in life. The difference is how we handle them. Handle them with GRACE. Grace is when you recognize a difficult situation, but choose to make the most of it. You don’t dwell, or complain. You move on and find the other good stuff that is happening. For every one bad thing, there’s a hundred good things. People won’t remember you for flying off the handle every time something bad pops up, but they will remember how you acted with GRACE.
Another important value to have is INTEGRITY. Always mean what you say. Keep your promises. Don’t say words unless you mean them, and don’t lead people on. A two-faced liar is just about the worst thing you can be in life. Does that mean you should tell off every person who annoys you? No. That’s where Grace comes in. I don’t tell off people at work who I don’t agree with. I use Grace and get through it/over it. Eventually.
HUMILITY is just as important as grace. Remember where you came from and who helped you reach your heights. You have no limits in life. You will reach soaring heights someday. There’s no doubt about it. But stay HUMBLE. Be here on Earth, with two feet firmly planted on the ground, and know you are smaller than the universe. Your head, however, can stay in the clouds.
You are already a compassionate young lady. You see things in people that no one else sees. You try to include people and make them feel like they belong. However, you’re still a teenager and there’s that struggle of being cool around your friends, and caring and compassionate to everyone around you. I get it. I was a teenager just 16 short years ago, after all. I struggled, too. But in the end, compassion wins out, because we are who we are. I get compliments on your genuine kindness on a daily basis from people. Everywhere I go, the YMCA, school, your sports coaches and theater directors, your friend’s parents, people you babysit for, people all around the community tell me what a kind, caring, compassionate young lady you are. That many people can’t be wrong!
I absolutely love the way you love your little brothers. You are an incredible big sister, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Again, I get so many compliments on what a great big sister you are. You have been forced to take over more of a mommy role on several occasions, and for that I apologize. I appreciate how you can pop back and forth between the two roles, and I appreciate everything you’ve done for the boys. They will look back and see how amazingly lucky they were to grow up with a sister like you. They will see how big a role you played in raising them. And they will definitely see how fun and caring and loving you were toward them. Promise you will never let anything come between you three. Adult life can be so hard on sibling relationships. Spouses, parents, children, political associations, there’s so many things that can separate siblings. Always forgive. You are lucky to have your brothers as many people don’t have any siblings. Some day they will be your only connection to me and dad and you will need to lean on them to remember us.
Dream big, chase your dreams, and don’t stop until you reach them. Don’t. Stop. That means, if God closes a door on you, find a window to crawl through. If you can’t try out for a musical right now because your life is too busy, find a window. Don’t dwell, have GRACE, and find that window to crawl through. I can’t emphasize this enough. Grace goes hand in hand with having doors shut on you. Don’t mope, don’t pout, don’t throw a fit, don’t dwell on the fact that you don’t get to do something. That door has been closed for a reason. It just wasn’t your time. Life is going to throw 5000 opportunities at you, many at the same time, many when you can’t accept them (like the vineyard for me), and many will come when you least expect them. You will figure out how to pick out what is the right opportunity for you at that moment. All the other options are not LOST, they just aren’t the door you should be walking through that day. Have GRACE, walk away, and be secure in knowing that you will survive. You are chasing your dreams, and no one ever said that was easy. Dreams are far away, and they take work, blood, sweat, and TEARS. You’ll get there. I have faith in you. I have faith because I’m your mother, and I have faith because I can see the passion in your eyes. You’re still so very young, and you have so many opportunities, and so much life ahead of you. Everything will come to you in its own time, and you need to realize that timing is everything. Don’t give up. Keep working and be proud of everything you’re accomplishing.
I love you with absolutely all of my heart. I can’t say for sure what I’d be doing if you didn’t pop into my world 16 years ago, but I know I wouldn’t be here in in this life admiring my beautiful teenage daughter. My house wouldn’t be filled with show tunes day and night, my eight-year-old wouldn’t be asking to dress up like the 10th Doctor for Halloween, my 12-year-old wouldn’t be dying to know what the next middle school musical is going to be, and daddy wouldn’t have a movie buddy to watch superhero movie marathons with. I wouldn’t have anyone to understand all of my random movie quotes, or gang up on dad with me. All that you and I have been through has made us stronger and smarter and happier. Thank you for sharing your sixteen years with me. I can’t wait to see where you’re going in life! I have so much hope for everything you’re going to accomplish. And not only me, but you’ve got hundreds of “fans” who’ve watched you grow up into the amazing girl you are who also can’t wait to see what you will accomplish!
Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Chaos Kids and… photo time

A special occasion called, My Mom Came To Visit! just happened. It was a happy unexpected surprise. The two oldest Chaos Kids were in the musical Guys and Dolls Jr. this past weekend, so my mom thought to herself last week, “I want to see my grandkids in that musical. I think I’ll drive from Wisconsin to New York, by myself, with one broken wrist, because I miss my grandkids!” And that’s how the special occasion happened.

After the musical was over with we needed a big “last day grandma’s here” celebration. Namely, we needed Sunday brunch at the vineyard where I’m a part-time assistant chef. And since I didn’t have to do the assistant cheffing this weekend, we Brunched! I’ve been wanting to get the Chaos Kids to the vineyard for pictures on their gorgeously landscaped 40 acres. Due to time and activities and the fact that I’m running the kids to at least 4 or 5 activities a day… I put it out of my mind. I thought, “maybe fall… with all the pretty Northern New York fall colors in the background…”

So here we are, having gourmet brunch, living the life, surrounded by the prettiest view one can imagine. I decide it’s the perfect time to finally get my photographs. I mean, Chaos Louisa looks beautiful, Chaos Hunter is handsome as always… and Chaos Drew is spiffily dressed in his grunge shorts and Metallica t-shirt. What better time to get my Chaos Kids all together for a Christmas card photo?! Right?!

The following is what takes place during a “normal” Chaos Kids photo shoot. Be warned… it ain’t pretty. There are things that may shock you, but this is real life here, people!

crazy chaos collage

1. Chaos Louisa decides her “little brother’s” lap is where she will perch for her photo, and Hunter approaches refusing to put his shirt back on.

2. A scramble to gain control of the shirt and either A) give it back to mom, or B) run away with it, ensues.

3. Possession of the shirt changes hands a few times.

4. They believe they are ready for their group photo and think Hunter doesn’t need his shirt on to proceed.

5. Hunter is now cradled in his siblings arms, sucking his thumb, and they feel this is a good enough shot.

6. After Chaos Mommy denies their claim, the kids make one more mad scramble for the shirt and…

7. end up in a pile. on the ground.

8. Chaos Mommy overrules all monkey business and the shirt is back on Hunter’s little body. The Chaos Kids have seated themselves and are ready for a photo to be taken. Hunter believes that holding up Devil Horns is necessary for the photo’s success.

9. Chaos Drew lets Hunter know that it’s not appropriate and he should just look at Chaos Mommy so we can get this over with.

10. Chaos Hunter sees a bug and runs off… leaving his older siblings to ask him politely to get his behind back here so we can be done with this photo shoot already!

11. Chaos Hunter flashes a peace sign as his way of communicating that he’s all about love, not war, man.

12. The Chaos Kids are finally… <sigh> seated and awaiting their most perfect photo yet. Chaos Drew believes that being a smart alec will help in the photo’s success.

13. Yes! A perfect photo at last! This Chaos Mommy is beyond excited!
(Upon further examination it has been found that Chaos Drew’s eyes are indeed… closed.)

However…. after over FIFTY! Yes, FIFTY attempts, Chaos Mommy is happy to report that there is ONE picture that is worthy of a Christmas card. One. Out of fifty.

<sigh> Chaos Mommy wonders if the pretty Northern New York fall colors are going to be worth it.

And I’m not even going to show you what the whole family photo looks like. But somehow my husband, The Sarge, has decided that he doesn’t need to stand *with* the family in order to be included in the annual family photo.

Chaos Twisted Minion Cupcakes

minion cupcakes 4

I guess you could say that I’m jumping on the “Twinkie Minion” bandwagon. Except that we do not yet have Twinkies on our shelves, so I jumped on the “other brand golden cream filled cake Minion” bandwagon. They are just so cute, though! I couldn’t resist. We’ve been quoting the movie (DM2) non-stop since we saw it.

I actually had a dream the other night that prompted these cupcakes. I dreamed that I was in a grocery store and it was absolutely urgent that I find Twinkies to make Minion cupcakes for my son’s birthday. All the Twinkies were sold out, except for two smashed boxes. The grocery store clerk offered to sell them to me for a discount. I seriously thought about it, but had to run off to my first day at a new job (not quite my dream job, though!). I told him I would come back after work if he would hold them for me. I have no idea if I ever went back and bought them! But when I woke up the next morning, I knew what we were doing that day!

minion item list

This is what we went out to buy: Little Debbie Cloud Cakes (henceforth known as golden cream filled cakes, or “GCFC” because I’m an army wife and we talk in acronyms), Smarties, black cake icing, and… strawberry jam? Yup.

My Minions have a bit of what we call the “Chaos Twist”. If you’ve seen the second movie, you may already know where I’m going with the jam!

purple batter

My vanilla cake batter is dyed purple. To get this shade I added about 6 drops violet, 2 drops blue, and 1 drop red. This gave me a good purple color. Again, if you’ve seen the second movie, you probably see where I’m going with this. If you haven’t seen it then… um… *spoiler alert* !

minion insides

Anatomy of my Chaos Twisted Minion Cupcake, presented by the handsomely cute Chaos Hunter: GCFC Minion on top with his Smartie eyes/goggles and black cake icing accents (I used my own decorating bag and #2 tip for the accents). Blue buttercream frosting. Purple “Evil Minion” cupcake. JAM filling!

hunter eating minion

Chaos Kids Approved!

minion cupcakes

We made a whole little army of these fellas. Conquering Evil Minions, and looking adorable while they do it!

minion cupcakes2

minion cupcakes 3

We boxed them up and sent them off to our favorite gymnastics coaches at the local YMCA. I’ve been promising them cupcakes for months now, and these didn’t disappoint! They were quick to put together and looked super impressive. Also, the Chaos Twist made them slightly different from everything else that’s out there.

Maybe when actual Twinkies hit the stores, I’ll try my hand at making some Evil Minions!