Dear Aria, love Daddy.

IMG_9839 IMG_9637IMG_1069 IMG_9605IMG_9677 IMG_9748IMG_0293Oh Aria…

You waited to enter our world about as long as you can wait for ketchup for your chicken nuggets. As mommy squeezed her eyes shut and crushed my hand throughout the 30 minute drive to the hospital, we weren’t aware of just how close we came to meeting you on the side of the freeway. After Escondido’s Cruisin’ Grand and an uneventful dinner of beers and brats, you were somehow in our arms before midnight on Friday the 13th. In spite of not being superstitious, mommy tried but failed to convince the nurse to record your birth on the 14th. Mommy did, however, succeed in earning my admiration for a heroic baby delivery performance—so much so that I insisted you share her middle name, Ellen.

As for your first name, maybe it was inspired by mommy’s musicality, but I don’t really remember the process of arriving at it. I do affirm that it fully embodies how fun and ferocious you are. Its Italian origin is an operatic vocal solo, and you have been known to stray from whatever you’re doing to offer an a capella serenade to, well, absolutely no one. There is video evidence for your amusement someday. I also retain plenty of mental images of your hilarious antics—rolled eyes, scrunched noses, dance moves, and ninja poses. So, you’re learning to march to the beat of your own drum, but you’re not a performer or people pleaser. Nothing you do is for the entertainment of anyone else, yet you win me over every day. Perhaps more appropriate for your personality is your name’s Hebrew etymology, which I understand means “lioness”. There is a side of you that just plain roars. I once sent the rest of our family off to a Halloween carnival and stayed behind to wage war with you over finishing a not so distasteful dinner of chicken quesadilla. You went through a stage in which you were inspired by the movie Annie to pummel your older sister and lay out a Sunday school classmate flat on the floor. Fortunately we do not have video evidence of this. Spiking fevers upwards of 105, you charge around the house like the queen of the jungle.

You probably didn’t set out to make the rest of us look so normal, but you do hold the family records for slips, trips, fevers, doctor visits, ear infections, and antibiotic prescriptions. Still, we thank God that all of your injuries and illnesses have been treatable, and that you’re our resilient little girl who just runs a little hot. At the end of one really rough fever stretch in particular, you and I entered a dark, bitter, and sleepless month or two. Mommy and I had been catering to your nocturnal visits, but for the sake of my sanity after your little sister was born I committed to weaning you from your nightly need for a slumber party. Together we navigated the trenches. Sometimes you would startle me at my side of the bed. Sometimes you would just wail and I would enter the domain of your bedroom. Sometimes I’d cut you off on neutral turf in the kitchen. All I know is that some combination of encounters would happen many, many times a night for many, many nights. My persistence met your tenacity and, eventually, all was calm and all was bright again.

Each new day brings at least one predictable routine: more wardrobe changes than a Broadway show. For you, clothes (and shoes) are not meant to be worn, they are meant to be shed like a snake’s skin in favor of the next outfit or princess dress. Clearly you are bored easily, not only with the clothes you’re wearing but with whatever activity you’re doing. You can’t sit still for long, so you’re always on the move, particularly fond of swaying to and fro on the closest swing. I appreciate when your energy moves you to come alongside and join me as my task sidekick. You have an attitude of helpfulness, and together we’ve tackled screwing in a floor, putting away dishes, washing the car, and taking out the trash. Picking up the nuclear fallout of toys and dress-up clothes? Not so much.

Our home would be duller without your pursuit to be involved with everyone and everything. You are passionate, Aria. Right now you’re passionate about—among numerous other things—the trivial color of your sippy cup. I pray that someday you’ll be passionate about Jesus, about leading others, about achieving something whimsical. You’re a go-getter, and sometimes that means plucking what you want right from your sister’s hand. I hope that someday you’ll take hold of a daring dream. My guidance would be to cling to your passion, harness it, and direct it for good. I believe in your future, that it will be full of more fervor. You bring intensity and restlessness, but your goofinees is not be missed, so I believe you will work hard, play hard, and be adored by many. I’m grateful to God for how you and I have developed our own dance through three years of your life now. I love you with a passion that only you could understand…

DaddyIMG_9899IMG_9846 IMG_0294  IMG_0157IMG_9887  IMG_0203IMG_0260 IMG_0241IMG_9633 IMG_0230Aria Ellen (THREE YEARS OLD!!!): Everywhere we’d go, you’d hold up three fingers, and announce to the world “I three yeahs oh.” At Disneyland, you would hold up your fingers and initiate with complete strangers “I three yeahs oh.” You spread joy to everyone! On your actual birthday, it was incredibly hot and windy, Santa Anas were in full effect. We picked up birthday balloons from Auntie Malina and it took everything to prevent them (and you) from flying away! We escaped the heat and fled to a water park in 4S Ranch, only to see a huge bellow of smoke signaling more San Diego fires a hill away. We did lunch at your favorite place, “Chick fa ways”, and for rest time we watched Annie in the parking lot. On our way to ballet, you fell asleep. As we drove back into 4S Ranch, everyone was being evacuated due to the fires, so we escaped 4S Ranch and took our 20 doughnut holes to the Paschalls. Together with the Paschalls and Knudsens, we rounded up 9 kids, sang you a big song (with Manoah’s 7 year old candle) and called it a birthday party! You could not have been happier! We we could not be happier with YOU! Happy third birthday beautiful! You add so much fun and laughter to this family, we love you Aria!IMG_9746  IMG_9654IMG_1067     IMG_9801IMG_9930 IMG_0077 IMG_1070IMG_0336 IMG_0172Naomi (4.5 years): *You are a brave girl! At Disneyland you and your Daddy charged off to Matterhorn and Space Mountain together, and you didn’t bat an eye. You loved it. I’m not sure what you loved more, the ride, or being big enough to ride. *You spend hours drawing each week. Our pens are running dry. You like drawing Elsa and Anna, both happy and sad versions. I was surprised, and amused perhaps, when you started drawing your princesses with boobies. You’re very observant sweet girl! We drew pictures to send to GrampBill, and you insisted on writing his address on the envelope. It was iffy at best, but you were so proud of yourself (see above). You mailed and addressed your first letter at age four! Bless the USPS, they figured it out, and GrampBill actually got your letter! *You are really into your goal chart. You love earning hearts and you’re really good at it! You know what else you’re really good at? Trying new things. You’re a champ. Thankful for your adventurous spirit. You’re comfortable in the unfamiliar and eager to learn new things!IMG_0482  IMG_0091IMG_0379   IMG_0417IMG_0384 IMG_0386 IMG_0027Juliet (9 months!): Juliet— you explode with joy! You are so much fun! When you hear the word bath, you dart for the bath tub!  You can hang with your big sisters in the bath, and splash the water better than either of them. You love the water.  You also love eating! Have we mentioned this too much already? You love eating. I will often feed you just as much as your sisters, and you’ll demolish your dinner and polish off your sister’s leftovers. You are a food eating baby dream! Your body lunges for people and excitement.  You want to be a part of the action. Your little body just figured out the whole crawling thing, and you’re loving your new found freedom! You also found your groove. You dance! It’s darling seeing your whole little face light up, and your body bob away to the music!IMG_0049IMG_0096 IMG_0220IMG_9761IMG_0283IMG_9939 IMG_9718IMG_9825Maertz Family Memories:  This month was a lonely, isolating one. The month started and ended with sicknesses, everyone got sick. Juliet kicked us off with Hand Foot Mouth (oh joy), clearing up just enough for a wonderful Aria THIRD Birthday celebration day at Disneyland (!!), then Aria with a low (101) fever only to clear up on her third birthday (!!!), then the whole city shut down for three days due to fires (Joey’s work shut down for a day!), we had a beautiful Saturday with nothing to do (glorious), and played at Flood Kearny Sunday. That same day, Aria spiked a fever, and it kept spiking. At the doctor on Monday got an ear infection diagnosis, but the following two days didn’t improve, and we were back at the doctor on Wednesday. With a 105 fever, Aria held the cheeriest of dispositions, and sweetly let the doctors probe and poke away. This viral infection spread to Juliet on Friday and Mommy lost it on the back deck with all the sicknesses. Through it all, you girls remained a joy. The hardest part was needing to cancel all of our outings with friends, no MOPS, no ballet, no going to friends’ homes, no having friends over, rough. On Memorial Day the sickness finally cleared (!!!), we filled up a $10 baby pool and had a Maertz family party in the front yard, complete with flying flags, popsicles and Jambox music. The end of this month is definitely when everything got interesting. Juliet and Mommy headed off to Montana for time with Shelly (and a fantastic rendezvous to a log cabin in Big Sky!). GrampBill and Aunt Peggy loved on Naomi and Aria— with trips to Moonlight Beach, the Reuben H Fleet museum and IMAX, and EscoGelato! The girls had the best time! While you girls gallivanted all over San Diego, Daddy endured dark ominous rain clouds and sleepless nights in Washington D.C. After months of preparation, May 30th finally arrived. This highly sought after Oral Interview with the State Department is an achievement in and of itself—  but this one day simply wasn’t his day, and he came home to a house full of girls whose hearts exploded in pride for his first attempt accomplishment. Let’s just say, three grandparents slept really well that Friday night, May 30th, knowing that three granddaughters were staying put!                                                     IMG_9744 IMG_1062IMG_0349 IMG_0406 IMG_1071 IMG_9903IMG_9953 IMG_1063IMG_9791