Madeline (9) loves art and decided to teach her little 4-year-old sister how to do an art project inspired by Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Thomas was taking his nap and Rachel was over at the grandparents’ house, and I was actually able to snooze a bit (I was still in recovery mode from the dreadful stomach virus) while they were busy at work. Madeline knows I have a blog and has been asking if she could write a post, so I suggested she share with readers how she created this artwork.
Welcome, Madeline! (She started typing this on her own, but her hands grew tired so she asked me to type while she narrated. This is all in her words with the exception of the “tsumommy” definition.)
Hi – my name is Madeline as you know and I already know that you know about me so let’s get started.
Things you will need:
Two sheets of watercolor paper
Watercolor paint and paintbrushes
A white crayon
Colored or designed paper of your choice
1. First, grab a piece of watercolor paper. Color the piece with white crayon until you think it’s pretty much covered.
2. Choose watercolor paints that are a wintry color like blues and purples, and paint the entire piece of watercolor paper. Once you’re finished painting the paper, dab it with a paper towel to spread all of the paint around (make sure paint is watery and light because if it gets too dark, it won’t look like snow; I had this problem with Mary Elizabeth’s). Allow it to dry and move onto the next step.
3. Use your patterned or plain paper to cut out different types of buildings – some big, some small, some narrow, some large, your choice.
4. Once the watercolor paper you painted is dry, cut out big snowdrifts for your background and glue some of them onto a second piece of watercolor (Mom’s addendum: regular card stock paper would work for this step as well) paper. Add buildings, and then layer more snowdrifts on top.
5. Now comes the fun part! You may cut out any snowy image you would like such as snowmen or trees or traffic lights – anything you would like – and glue onto your scene. If you have more leftover snowy paper that you painted, you can cut out snowflakes or snowballs and make it look like there’s snow on the buildings.
6. Allow picture to dry. (Don’t wake up Mommy to show your masterpiece. Wait until she gets up.) Oh, and be sure to clean everything up, so there’s no chance of a “tsumommy.”* Just a warning.
*A tsumommy is what we jokingly refer to as a mom who crashes into a room and is inclined to go a little crazy over messes.
Here’s what M.E. and my finished products looked like:
My big girl has been nine for awhile now. We’ve just been busy, partly with schlepping her around to soccer practice and games. It’s been a sacrifice for the family, but she loves it and has never once complained about soccer or even the plyometrics she has to do during practice. Without further ado, I present her annual birthday letter:
I’m not sure if I can call you my little girl anymore. Daddy and I were recently watching some old video clips from when we first moved here. It was just three years ago, but watching you bounce around on the footage (remember how we used to call you Hopping Cricket?) with your shorter hair, softer features, and baby voice makes it feel like a lifetime has gone by. When we arrived in our new home, you were a little girl. Today I look at you, and I see a young lady. Of course, you’ll never stop being my sweet, little girl (no eye-rolling allowed, Missy!).
You’re annoyed with me right this very minute because I found a trail of your clothing on the floor and so I took your book away. “It’s not even my bedtime yet,” you argued. Tough luck, little lady. Welcome to the real world.
In all seriousness, you do sometimes roll your eyes at Daddy and me, but it’s more of a joking gesture and there’s even a hint of affection because you almost always grin at me once your eyes stop dancing around. Besides, I’ve realized I eye-roll right back at you. It’s like we’re having an eye roll contest. Watch out. From what I hear from Gaba, I was a professional eye-roller back in the day.
We do joke around a lot, and you never fail to make me laugh with your great sense of humor. Just the other day you had me chuckling when we were driving home from soccer practice. You had your first big tournament this year. Your team is very young, and you guys don’t have any subs so it’s been a bit of a rough season. You’ve lost more games than you’ve won; yet, you always leave the field with a big smile spread across your face. Well, you were telling me how apparently your team was ranked second going in to the tournament.
“Really?” I said. I don’t think I sounded too incredulous.
“I know,” you said. “The other teams must be horrible.”
You said this with not a hint of regret or disappointment. You love soccer. You love your soccer peeps, and it’s not about winning to you. It’s about enjoying your time on the field.
That’s just how you approach life. The glass is almost always half-full. Things could always be worse. You have a way of reminding me to look for the light when I find myself groping around in the dark (and griping about it, too). You get knocked down, and you get right back up again. Really. You’ve taken a ball to the face hard several games; yet, you shake it off, smile, and get back to playing. Once, you even snagged possession of the ball, dribbled it down field, and scored a goal all immediately after the ball had smacked you hard right in the face. You’re tough.
Let’s see what else there is to share about you right now. You’ve got braces on the top and bottom now. You have such a lovely smile. You’re tall for your age and athletic, too. The boys at school are always picking you for their teams during recess. I know because I sometimes volunteer to help out, and you’re frequently the only girl out there playing hard and holding your own.
You’re stubborn. You like to be in charge. You lead more than you follow, but sometimes I do sense that things bother you more than you let on. “I’m not sensitive!” you’ll firmly tell me when I ask you if it hurt your feelings when someone called you a brace face. Or you’ll say, “I don’t care.” And oftentimes, I don’t think you do care, or you know that the person who may have called you a name is wounded on some level and that you’re above all that. I love your confidence and how things don’t rock you to the core much. I’ve often thought you are more self-possessed and confident than I am even now and certainly more so when I was 9 years old. I was (am!) the sensitive type. Teasing did hurt my feelings. I wasn’t so sure of myself and desperately longed to fit in when I was younger. You want people to like you but not at the expense of being your own person. I admire your resilence and your willingness to be yourself; however, I also do want you to know that it’s perfectly normal to care or to be hurt by others’ name-calling or zingers. You don’t have to grow skin so thick you don’t feel anything. Be yourself, yes. But don’t be afraid to open up to me either or to admit that you’ve been hurt. And just because you don’t like pink doesn’t mean it’s wrong for other girls (um, like your little sister Mary Elizabeth!) to be drawn to very girly things. I do love it that you can look graceful in a dress one minute and then be hurling a football across the air the next.
I’m sure I’m going to get more eye-rolling at this point, so I’ll move on. We went birthday shopping and had to get size 12 corduroys for you. You can wear some of my shoes depending on the style. I suspect you’re definitely going to be taller than I am in a few years. Your hair is thick and has a mind of its own; it’s a lot like you. Like I mentioned previously, nearly every day you make me laugh with your spunk and matter-of-fact approach to life. Just last week I put your snack for school in a brown paper bag rather than the reusable bag I usually use, and you said, “Oh, you’re going all old-school on me.”
When you had your recent slumber party with a few friends, you came in to the kitchen at one point and sighed and said, “I’m a little overwhelmed. I think I’ve met my match when it comes to being a control freak.” I grinned and stifled my laughter, knowing it was hard for you to relinquish control to a strong-willed friend of yours.
I agonized over ending homeschool and sending you to school, but I see how you’re thriving, how you’re a little light to others (“Mrs. L says we are the clay, and God is the potter,” you remind me periodically), how much you enjoy being around other kids, and how you tell me everything about your day. You’re not afraid to be your own person, to read books, play soccer, and to bring flowers to your teacher. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss you terribly. The house is definitely a little too quiet and less lively without my Hopping Cricket. I also miss your help with all the littles. You really do have a gift with interacting with younger children. I was not nearly as nurturing as you are when I was your age. I was more worried about sitting at the grownup table whereas you’re content to play with the little ones and help take care of them. You used to want to be a marine biologist and an artist. These days you want to be a teacher.
Your heart is so generous. We were recently getting ready to go to your soccer tournament and for some reason everyone was pining for Daddy. Mommy was relegated to shark chum. We had to take two cars because we weren’t going to keep everyone out at the fields all day, and no one wanted to ride with me. You started getting into Daddy’s car and then paused for a moment. You then hoisted your soccer bag over your shoulder and headed in my direction.
“I’ll ride with you, Mommy,” you said. You sweet girl you. I’m not going to lie. I was so happy to have your company. I was even happier that your heart was receptive enough to know that it would make me happy to tag along in the minivan with me.
You’re so good to me. When I made your peacock birthday cake, which most definitely looked homemade and was not Pinterest-worthy or anything, you beamed with admiration. “That is so amazing, Mommy!” And I think you meant it, too.
Speaking of the cake, you also were such a good sport when I showed you the destroyed remains. Fortunately, we had already shared the cake with friends, and you’d made your birthday wish, but around 3 am I discovered Thomas noshing on the cake. He’d dragged a chair over the counter, figured out how to open the Tupperware cake caddy, and was using a knife (scary!) to cut pieces. So the next morning this was all that was left of your beautiful cake:
You were very understanding and laughed right along with me (he also got in to some of your Halloween candy that same nocturnal eating frenzy, and you were a good sport about that, too).
Oh, more evidence that you’re growing up: I’m not always Mommy these days. I’m sometimes “Mama” and occasionally even “Mom.” Be still, my heart. When did you get too old to always call me Mommy?
I have a friend who says you’re 9 going on 30. That’s about right. You hate to miss anything and want to be a part of the adult happenings. But it’s not just that. You say very adult things sometimes. One day not too long ago I apologized for an unfair outburst directed at you and Rachel. You sat down beside me and rubbed my back for a minute and said, “There’s nothing you can do to take our love away or to earn it.”
My eyes get all watery just writing that and reliving that tender moment. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for sharing your sunshine disposition with me, with all of us.
Here’s a less serious anecdote illustrating your precociousness. The teacher who is in charge of the pep rally squad of girls was trying to recruit you while I was within an earshot. You thanked her and then promptly said, “I’m not really built for cheerleading.”
I’m sure she thought you’d heard that from your parents or from one of your friends, but you came up with that yourself.
I love you so very much, Madeline. These past nine years have been such a joyful, amazing journey. It’s hard to believe you’ve gone from an I-refuse-to-sit-on-the-potty-and-poop-despite-an-adult-dosage-of-Miralax-or-go-to-sleep-ever-toddler to an I-refuse-to-not-be-myself-even-in-the-midst-of-my-peers-young-lady. I once was a poop doula, a micromanager of your everyday minutiae. Now I’m having to take a step back and act more as a consultant. Luckily, we still have ample time for hugs, back rubs, and cuddling while reading together. I hope that never changes.
Madeline, you are funny, beautiful, athletic, brave, a total bibliophile, a lover of blue, a carb monger, goofy, nurturing, kind, energetic, loud, optimistic, creative (you’re currently working on a Thanksgiving play), and an absolute joy to raise. I thank God every day for the privilege of being your mother. You make me so very proud.
Happy 9th birthday to a lovely, young lady who will always, always be my little girl!
Dear Mary Elizabeth,
My sweet, sweet girl, happy (belated) fourth birthday. I’m not as quick at getting these birthday letters out any longer, but that’s just because we’re so busy enjoying life (and spending time out on the soccer fields watching your big sisters play)! You’re also very busy accessorizing. My goodness, you are quite the fashionista. Why leave the house with one sparkly headband when you can wear two or three?
The other day you told me that you didn’t like my hair. Later that same day I tucked it into a messy French twist of which you approved. “Now you can stay here with me.” Prior to that you’d wanted me to leave the house to take Rachel to soccer and have Daddy stay at home with you (you approved of his hair apparently). Sometimes, too, you’ll tell me that you don’t like my outfit, but most of the time you provide quite the ego boost for me. “Mommy, you look beautiful!” you’ll say. Or you’ll admire my shoe selection or a piece of jewelry I’m wearing.
Each morning you get yourself ready all by yourself (and you almost always match). In fact, if I try to help or gently guide your fashion choices, you become quite agitated. I’ve got this, Mommy! Now that the weather is turning warmer, you usually choose an airy dress and slip into your new flip-flops adorned with crocheted purple and turquoise flowers.
You’re a fairly easy-going kid, but a bad hair day is cause for a major meltdown. Seriously, if I don’t make sure all the bumps are smoothed out when I’m putting your hair into a ponytail, you throw a fit. Just recently I was watching you play on the playground while your big sisters were on the soccer field, and there was an older girl who was being a little rough with the younger set. At one point, she plowed over you as you were trying to slip down the twisty slide. Well, you popped up with a red, scrunched up face and stormed over to me. I expected to you say that she had hurt you, but you glanced in the direction with narrowed eyes and then told me, “That girl messed up my hair.” People ought to know better than to come in between M.E. and her hair!
But as much as you love to tap into your feminine side, you’re a feisty one who isn’t afraid to dig in the dirt for bugs or to get messy (very messy) while crafting or playing outside. You play hard. You’re brimming with joie de vivre. Life is fun and exciting, and the world is a beautiful, magical place. You’ll admire a bright green inchworm you discover in the front yard just as much as you take pleasure in the muddy earth after a hard spring rain.
You’re a very caring big sister to your little brother as well. Thomas adores you and especially likes to wrestle with you. You giggle when he collapses on top of you. Even though he’s more than two years younger, he only weighs two pounds less than you. He’s a tank while you’re a willowy, little thing. But you keep up with the big girls. You don’t let a skinned knee keep you down. You’re quite the speed demon on your balance bike. The grandparents are always impressed to watch you cruise quickly down the driveway with a wide grin spread upon your face.
You love rhinestones, wearing jewelry, having your nails painted pretty colors, reading books together, drawing, wrestling with Daddy and Thomas, playing house (you’re the mommy, and I trick you into putting your baby – me – to bed), baking with me, avocados, tomatoes, lollipops, telling me secrets (which usually revolve around nursing), spending time with your best bud Will, cuddling up at night and during quiet time (“Put your arm around me,” you insist every time), loving on Layla (recently, you tried to ride her. She’s a big dog but not that big!), singing and dancing, making goofy faces, and eating. “I’m hungry!” You say that at least twenty times a day.
Oh, and you’re quite the monkey. You’ve always loved climbing and can scale a tree quickly. In fact, a few weeks ago I was washing dishes after dinner when Rachel ran inside out of breath and shouted, “Emergency!” Now I admit I wasn’t all that alarmed because you guys tend to think a broken piece of sidewalk chalk is an emergency, but then when she told me you were at the tippy-top of a magnolia tree, I decided to take the situation seriously. I still thought she was probably exaggerating because the magnolia tree close by is a tall one. Well, I walked outside and there you were, waving down at me and beaming at the very top of the tree. My heart hammered in my chest, but I kept my voice calm because I didn’t want you to panic. I just kept thinking of Pollyanna becoming paralyzed after she tumbled from a tree. But I watched you skillfully and with surprising alacrity make your way down. Once your two feet were safe on the ground, we had a serious talk about the dangers of climbing tall trees, and I made sure not to mention how much your climbing ability impressed me. My goodness, you made it look easy, but you’re a little girl, not a monkey, so please be safe!
My darling daughter, I love everything about you. Your girly-girl ways remind me of how I was at your age, and I have a feeling you’re going to have quite a shoe-hoarding habit one of these days. But what I love the most is your chutzpah. I had plenty of that, too. Gaba says I wasn’t afraid of anything, which explains why I’d hop a huge horse and not think twice about galloping across an open field. Now that I’m a mom myself your fearless can make me nervous. You’ll be swinging from a branch, and I’ll say, “Just be careful. You could get hurt.”
“No, I won’t,” you say with confidence that quickly morphs into plain, old stubbornness as you continue to swing more quickly despite my warnings.
Yup, there are days when your fiery spirit drives me crazy – like when you throw a tantrum because I won’t let you wear a sleeveless dress (no jacket, thank you very much) when it’s 40 degrees outside or when you refuse to help clean up the ocean you just created by spreading out every single baby blanket we own (and with four kids, that’s a lot of baby blankets) on the floor even though your ship has beached itself for the day. Yet, I know your tenacity will serve you well. You’ve got plenty of sugar and spice, but you’re like the chocolate laced with cayenne pepper – sweet with quite the kick.
Four is going to be a magical year. There’s so much more to discover – and so many new hand-me-down dresses to add to your closet, you lucky girl you.
For your birthday we graced you with a crown, and you were a princess for the day. But even when there are no sparkling tiaras, pink cakes, or presents at your feet know that you are beloved.
I thank God for delivering your peanut self – all 5 pounds and 14 ounces of you – four years (and a few days) ago, and I look forward to watching you grow, climb trees, strut your stuff in new chic ensembles, and savor the good life!
I love you just the way you are, Birthday Girl!
P.S. Who makes the better princess?