little belles is one!



it has already been nearly 3 months since annabelle had her first birthday! we had a small little party in our backyard, which we covered in black and red decorations. mom and prasad, who were up visiting, helped with the kids so i could spend way too much time decorating little ladybug cupcakes for the guests.

i made a separate little cake for annabelle, also decorated as a ladybug, so she could do with it what she pleased. i was putting this cake together, smiling at the memory of jacob and his first birthday cake. i remember him testing the frosting with one finger, realizing it was something not to mess around with, and, wasting no more time, plowing face first into the cake. i am laughing at this as i'm painting annabelle's ladybug cake with red and black frosting. i'm imagining how her chubby little cheeks will look after she nosedives into her carefully decorated cake. i have already mentally dressed her in the full-sleeved bib (courtesy bees) and placed the highchair out in the backyard, where i know we can hose it off afterward. i was ready.

we manage to gather all of our guests around our little bug and sing happy birthday to her. cameras are flashing, kids are grabbing for cupcakes, the wind is blowing the bloody candle out, and annabelle is just taking it all in. i proudly set the long-labored over ladybug cake in front of her and step back, grinning in anticipation of the nosedive.
she looks at me.
she looks at the cake.
she looks back at me.

i'm still grinning, but can feel the corners of my smile starting to sag a bit.
she looks at the cake. she looks at me.
i stop grinning. i point to the cake. "look, annabelle! try it! it's yummy!"
she looks at me and starts to whine. reaches up to me with one arm. pick me up, mama. this isn't fun at all.
i swipe my finger through some icing and try to get a little on her mouth. i'm positive that once she gets a taste of it she'll go nuts.
she turns her mouth down and gets that look. both arms are now reaching toward me.
i see the look building on her face and i can feel all the people waiting around us. waiting, with cameras poised, for that classic 1st birthday cake dive. that cake dive that EVERY kid does.
except for mine.
the frown turns to a yell which i suspect will rapidly become a blood-curdling scream. she pushes the cake away and, red- and black-stained hands turned up, reaches to me again.
get me OUT of here, lady!
my shoulders slump. the crowd lets out a sigh. the baby starts crying. i look around, smiling to all the cameras and grandmas and grandpas and friends.

but then i realize, this is the beauty of family and friends. they don't care about the "perfect birthday shot." (most of them, anyway...) They just want to see this cute, sweet little ladybug enjoy herself on her birthday.
so out she comes, down to the floor, and far away from all the little ladybug cupcakes and decorations. she heads back inside, where she is most happy, and spends the rest of the night laughing and playing and crawling and squealing.
you can't beat that.


time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking... and don't we all know it. it is already almost halloween (please somebody tell me how that happened), the weather is (finally) turning colder, the days are getting shorter and summer is now so far behind us.
it's about time i wrote about our last trip of the summer, to the fernow cabin in the mountains of flagstaff, arizona.
i have been wanting to write about our trip to arizona for so long. it was so much fun. the 14 hour drive ended up not being as bad as we thought and the time we spent out in the wilderness in that little tiny cabin was unbeatable.
it all started in prescott, a cute little town with a beautiful town square where we managed to get out of the house by lunchtime ... once. you can imagine how easy it is to go anywhere with a group that includes 7 adults, 6 children under the age of 8 and 3 dogs. we were quite the sight.

we did drag the crew through a couple of thrift shops, per tradition, but that was the extent of our adventures in the three days we were in prescott.
after a few days of civilization we were ready for the wilderness. we hauled the gang out to fernow, the old ranger's cabin in the forest. the last time we were there was in 2004 and there were only 2 children along for the ride (3, if you count annika in cat's belly). makenna, who was 3 at the time, nicknamed fernow "the rain cabin" because of a little rainfall we had one day that year. now the name will stick forever, thanks to day after day (and night) of rain. we did manage some sunny days as well, though, and none of us minded the rain too much. we did have to cram ourselves inside the creaky cabin walls a couple of times, but for the most part we dealt with the drizzle and hid on the porch or under the easy-up when necessary.

our days out at fernow started in the late morning with dad's cooking (he makes the best pancakes ever) and would eventually turn into a hike or walk of sorts. this, of course, could only take place after one kid napped, then another would need to nap right when the one woke up, the we would have to spend an hour packing up food, sandwiches, crackers, drinks, fruit... then another hour figuring out where we would go, then, just when 6 people were ready to walk, the other 7 were grabbing a jacket, going to the bathroom, changing a diaper... getting that group out the door was quite the feat! but we managed!
this, naturally, only left us with an hour or two to walk/hike, but we made the best of it. the kids walked for miles (mostly without complaint) and loved taking turns walking the dogs. the most exciting part of any of our walks was finding a "cave" (i use the term loosely) to play in. the kids could spend hours in there. the most amazing thing in all of this is that we had 6 kids, ranging in age from 11 months to almost 9 years, and they ALL managed to play together! annabelle didn't take part in too much of what the others were up to, but the other 5 played all together all the time. it was just wonderful. in fact, i think the 5 of them behaved better than any of us adults!! just kidding. sort of...

anyway, in the late afternoon we would all kind of do our own thing. us little bidwells would usually nap, steph and cat would take the big girls on a walk of sorts, the boys would read their magazines, nap or go accompany the girls on the walk, the littlest kids also napped, and poppo would go for a run. then we would somehow manage to make dinner for 13 people, we would eat and drink by the fire, put the tiniest kids to bed and keep the others up to roast marshmallows and sing campfire songs, accompanied by dad's guitar.

most of the family would trickle off to bed and cat, steph and i would stay up into the wee hours drinking wine, talking and hanging out.

we just had the best time. i can't wait to go again next year, despite anything i may have said in the meantime! :) i loved for the kids to be outdoors constantly and using their imaginations to play all sorts of games all day long. there were no phones, computers or electronics of any kind out there and, really, it was bliss.