Juliet, my fair lady…

“Are you sitting down?”  I knew what was coming next.  “Stand up,” mommy urged, “and meet me at home.  It’s time.  My water broke.”  And just like that in the middle of a Monday I walked out of the office and into a fairytale.  I say fairytale because the water-breaking thing doesn’t usually happen in real life, and because there was a happy ending in which we met whimsical you.  The rest of the story involved a quirky nurse (who helped us choose your name) and a lot of hurrying up and waiting.  Mommy’s water did break, but the passage of time and a healthy dose of pitocin didn’t do much to move labor along.  Apparently, after three years, my memory disagrees with mommy’s as to whether she ever pushed or not, but one thing we agree upon about your birth story is that we had to make believe you were ours.  I don’t know what God and genetics did with mommy’s Thai heritage or my equally dark hair and eyes, because you, Juliet, are the fairest of them all.

Let the record show that you are in fact ours.  Actually, the biggest pretender of all is you.  Your imagination needs nothing more than a little plastic figurine or an empty sack or a rotted piece of bark; you will fill said toy with your personality or fill said bag with a treasure trove of ideas or–wait, why are you entertained by everything, including splintery chunks of wood?  You wander and wonder so independently.  Until you don’t.  “Daddy, will you play with me?”  Oh, Juliet, this question of yours.  It’s a precious yet intimidating invitation to enter your world and stay in character with laser sharp focus.  You monitor all pretend play for creative compliance, policing even the slightest stray back to reality: “DADDY, PLAY WITH ME!”

As much as you can get lost in your imagination, you will certainly not be lost in the dynamic of our family, despite your position as a “middle” child.  You’re pretty dynamic yourself with your high highs and low lows.  You have a knack for veering wildly from soul-crushed tears to heart-lifted giggles, and I appreciate how quickly your toddler tragedy-of-the-moment can be redeemed.  All that to say, you have a strong voice, and are sure to communicate your trials and triumphs.  Maybe “strong” isn’t quite the right word, though, for your voice these days.  Maybe more like squeaky.  Shortly after celebrating your third birthday, I got to escort you for a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy to clear out what the doctor referred to as your “mouth full of golf balls”.  You were a fan of the blanket with the warm air blown underneath and I was fond of being by your side through surgery.  I’ll never forget holding that mask to your face as your muscles relaxed and you let go of consciousness, then bouncing up from the waiting room to greet you with a popsicle.  Goodbye snoring and sleep apnea, hello soprano.

Even though you’re the only sister to undergo surgery so far, I think you’ve been sick the least.  You’re built like a tank.  Besides your apparent immunodefenses, your physicality shows up to settle disagreements, from subtle jabs and kicks to outright sitting on a sister.  I don’t know yet how this translates to being athletic and coordinated.  On the one hand, you can pedal to the metal your little tricycle, but on the other hand you are not to be trusted with an open cup of liquid.  Absolutely not.  Without fail, before you even manage a sip, a milk waterfall is certain to cascade from counter to lap to floor.  And although you are likely to cry over spilled milk, you are just as likely to express emotion with your whole self.  Sometimes you stand hunched over, arms swinging like clock pendulums, and you melt.  Sometimes you put one hand on your hip, gesturing with your other hand and furling your eyebrows, and you melt me.  Always pour out your heart–to me, to mommy, to Jesus.  Let God and his Word fill you so that the overflow is a blessing to many.

You’re not quite a daddy’s girl, Juliet, but you probably are the “daddiest” of the daughters.  I’ll take it.  I’ll take it when I get home and you come running to hug my leg.  I’ll take it when you lean in on the couch and wrap your arm around mine.  I’ll take it when I come down to kiss you goodnight and your arms are a necklace around me, pulling my face close to yours: “I love you, Daddy.”  I love you and I’m so thankful that you’re mine…


Aria Ellen (5 years): Look who’s swimming all by herself! From a 4th of July pool party to swimming in Arizona, this summer belonged to you! Your brave self took over, and you quickly became a little show off. “Mommy! Look at me!” The joy it gave us to see you shine! Your physical coordination continues to awe us— see you holding yourself up in the kitchen? You do this so easily. You taped a bell up to the top of a door frame. You climb the frame (like a monkey) and ring the bell. It’s pretty amazing. Your love for Eleanor is pretty amazing too. You are stuck on her like glue. And I just adore your huge love for her. Do you see that black and white picture? This little girl looks just like me when I was little. We look so similar, Auntie Anjuli calls you “my mirror image”.

Naomi Mariam (6 1/2 years): That smile! Finally after over a year of those teeth growing slowly into place, a kind boy at the pool in Arizona helped them along with an accidental swift elbow to your face! You were in shock and I was elated. Now, look at that darling smile! You lost a tooth at Camp Fairfield too. Grampbill didn’t know the going rate of the tooth fairy and gave you $10. This month you have been captivated by an art class on YouTube. Drawing after drawing, day after day, our wall is full of art! You love drawing!

Eleanor Jo (3 months): You know, your full name is Eleanor Josephine. But up until the moment we filled out your birth certificate, it was Eleanor Jo. And your nickname was going to be “Ella Jo.” Well, as we were filling out the form, your Daddy didn’t like the sound of his short name in your full name: Eleanor “Jo Maertz.” I like Josephine. Secretly hoping “Josie” would be another nickname option for you. As it’s turned out, no one calls you Ella Jo. You get every name but that. Mostly it’s Ele, Eles, Elsie, Elsie Belsie, Elle Belle. This month, you rolled over! On top of all that, you are interested in a pacifier! You are the only Maertz girl to like a pacifier. So far seems to work, and you sleep beautifully! And so far, you are such a sweet and easy baby. With your sisters doting over you constantly, and very little personal space, you remain content and happy! Eleanor, you are a dream baby.

Maertz Family Memories: *Maertzs, Paschalls and Ama/Papa took four days and four nights to enjoy the hot Arizona summer! It included a ton of swimming, water slides, lazy rivers, overflowing bubble baths, a Finding Nemo movie night, snow cones, outdoor spaghetti dinner by the pool, late night games with adults and Manoah, and tons of family fun. *After 20 years, our high school reunions finally came! Daddy skipped out on attending Vacaville High School’s reunion and joined the drama at mommy’s Orange Glen High School. *July 4th: with the Jungs, Tankersleys and Swifts at the Hamiltons’ resort. One of mommy’s favorite moments was sitting on top of the Broadway hill with Naomi and Aria. As dusk settled in, the three of us talked about nothing and everything. The fireworks that lit up the night sky did not come close to the giggles and cuddling that exploded inside my chest. *Girls had so much fun going ice skating with the ICF crew! *GrampBill, GG and Uncle Jim came down to celebrate our big girl’s birthday! The highlight reel was actually the special effects movies we learned how to make on iMovie.

Where it all began…

The San Diego County Fair is a special place in our story. Daddy and I met here. He had on a backwards blue ball cap and the afternoon sun lit up his hazel eyes. He had my attention. In a strange string of events, Daddy and I wandered the fair, just the two of us. I ran into a friend and decided to have a little fun… I introduced Daddy as my fiancé. This friend was so excited for us, she pushed us onto an empty dance floor with live music playing. 15 years ago, on the night we met, we danced our first dance as an “engaged” couple. It was magical. Now we roam the fair with our four daughters and it still holds so much magic.

Naomi Mariam (6.5 years): *You graduated from Kindergarten! They announced your name and our section went into a cheering frenzy. I watched you soak up the love, savor the celebration. I savored it too. *Your teeth! All I want to do is knock out your teeth. You won’t let us touch them, you won’t let us talk about them. We’ve bribed, we’ve begged, we’ve unsuccessfully tried to tie your tooth to a drone (oops). I am documenting this so one day you can see what we’ve had to look at for weeks! *You’ve been asking to be in ice skating or hockey. Bundling up four kids through summer heat to an ice rink… I’m sick thinking about it. Last week, as we were taking Aria to her gymnastics class, I suggested you try gymnastics for the summer. “Like now?” Your eyes lit up. “Yea sure!” Inside, I bought you a sparkly purple leotard and a spot in “Cartwheels”… and you bought me one trip to one activity for two girls. I’d call that a win.

Aria Ellen (5 years): *You adore Eleanor! You have a natural draw towards baby Ele. You love holding her, sitting with her, cuddling her. Mommy is so thankful for your helpful hands with baby Ele! *While you were at “camp” in Fairfield, you sat on the steps of the community pool and watched a swim teacher give a lesson to a young girl. You watched and watched and watched. When they were done with their lesson, you went directly to GrampBill, “I want her to teach me.” Just like that, she gave you quick instruction, and you’ve been swimming ever since! *You asked for help with some tricky origami. I was trying to explain “Even when we try our best… ” You looked right at me, smiled, and finished it yourself “… sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we want. And that’s okay Mommy.” From day one, you have always stunned me with mystery and wonder.

Juliet Mae (2.75 years): My big girl. You love being called Big Girl. But lately, you’ve denied us the name Big Girl, and delightfully corrected us, “No, I’m Princess Sparkly Mean Girl.” And so, your personality soars. You are so much fun. You’re confident, cuddly, if there’s a way to do something with a pinch of sassy sweet— you’ll find it. You’re independent, yet always inviting others to join you. Laughter and life, you’re full of both. *During some very unpleasant squabbling between your older sisters, you threw your fists down to your sides, leaned your little body forward and shouted “We haff to wuvvvv eachadah!” Drop the mic. My job is done.

Eleanor Jo (2 months): *I {heart} AD: Abu Dhabi. Our Middle East souvenir in her Middle East Souvenir. *You started smiling! The joy to see your joy erupt! *You are a dreamy baby. I can leave you in the arms of your 5 year old sister for a good while and you are content. Over and over I feel myself bracing for a turn towards tricky… and yet you remain so easy and effortless (minus the loss of sleep— but even that hasn’t been terrible). At six weeks I started putting you down for more regular sleeping intervals, and you did great. After 45 mins up, you were ready to go down again. And at 8 weeks you even slept “through the night!” (6 hours straight!) *Do you see that passport picture? Half the passport office watched. Me, Daddy and three darling sisters hovered over you, making an absolute spectacle. And just as the agent was about to give up, you looked!

Maertz Family Memories: *Daddy loaded up all three girls on the plane, and took them up to GrampBill and Gigi’s camp! For five days and four nights you girls got spoiled! A Jelly Belly factory tour, a boat ride to Angel Island, swimming, ice cream, kite flying, and tons of summer play— you guys had the best time! And Mommy enjoyed her own vacation with baby Eleanor! *Ballet recital for Naomi and Aria— another darling Friday night where my heart soared to see you shine. *Trip out to San Elijo with the Woodalls. *Kristin Rinehart and her crew. *Baby sprinkle tea for Jamie and her fourth baby boy. *A morning with Brenda. *A quick playdate with Natalja and her three darlings. *Irene was a nice familiar face for a few mornings. *Swimming, dinner, and s’mores at the Paschalls. *Keri and her crew joined us for lunch and gelato. *Swim at Hillary’s with her crew. An afternoon with them here for play (she cooked me dinner!), In-N-Out picnic at Double Peak Park. *Mommy’s first trip to Trader Joe’s with four daughters. *Katie and Matt spent their five year anniversary with us! *We held our breaths for another chance to get our family overseas— and another oh-so-close attempt. But when you consider insider politics, 3/11 actually isn’t that much of a chance. *At Northrop Grumman, Daddy’s manager was trying to help another manager find more quality people for his team… she gave a ton of names, and ended with “You can’t have Joe.” Your daddy is so good, people are fighting over him at work. 🙂 *Ama made you custom mermaid blankets!


With tags still attached

I’m in a club. In this club, families either have all boys, or all girls, but not both. It’s a bit of an unexpected club. And if you’re in it, you get it. We do not grieve what we’ve been gifted, nope. Not. At All. It’s a crazy lucky club to be in, and I really mean that. But I think it’s okay to grieve what we don’t have. And for me that’s a son, and all the experiences that come with having a son. Seven years ago, when discovering the gender of our first child, Joe and I bought two outfits: one girl, one boy. One daughter after another, I’d see this unworn baby boy outfit in the box of newborn clothes, smile, and think: one day. Finally after our fourth and final beauty was born, seeing this outfit didn’t make me smile anymore, it made me uncomfortable, it made me cry. I knew it was time to let go of it, tags still attached to that dream. God met me in my story. He gave me a friend named Brooke who is in this club too. She has two boys. And when I got pregnant with my fourth girl, she got pregnant with her third boy. We got each other. We understood. But her pregnancy took a very scary turn, she gave birth to her baby boy at 23 weeks. Little Cru Samuel was born 1lb 12oz. For 128 days, Brooke’s heart and hope laid tethered to machines and tubes in a NICU. And this week, finally, at 7lbs 7oz, Brooke took her heart and hope home. God nudged me in her story. I took time to wrap it up pretty with cloth and twine. And at her shower, she held up the outfit. She knew. With big tears … “Seven years ago, I bought that outfit for your Cru Samuel, I just didn’t know it yet.” God knew I needed a friend to understand. God knew I needed a special little boy to have this. Cru Samuel is that boy.

Eleanor Jo (One month): Oh baby girl! You are such a good baby. You eat and sleep so easily. You are a dream. You add so much joy, laughter and fighting. 🙂 That’s right, your sisters can not get enough of you that they are constantly fighting to hold you, stand closest to you, kiss you first. *You have curls in your hair Eleanor! Before you were born mommy had a hunch you’d have dark features, with curls. *At six weeks, you started smiling! *You went on your first adventure! You and mommy traveled up to San Francisco to cheer on Daddy at his State Department interview. No one would have even known there was a baby on the plane, you slept the entire time. *And for your first trip to Disneyland, you slept the day away, even stayed asleep through the fireworks! Nicknames: Ele, Ele Bell, Eles Bells, Elesie Belsie, Ellie, Ella, Ella Jo, and a four syllable El-le-a-nor.

Juliet Mae (2 years): Do you see how cute you are? So. Dang. Cute. I love your little smile, your personality. You are fun. You are independent. You play great by yourself. You have a great imagination. You love playing with the little characters and their castle. You create a fabulous little world. *Everyone asks how you’ve been doing since baby sister’s been here… you’ve been great Juliet. You’ve reverted by sleeping more, you take naps. You sleep everywhere, and you snore so loud! You love your little sister. Took you about a month, but you came around. You get so excited to hold her, you wait your turn, and then when she’s in your hands, your interest lasts for about 20 seconds. *We had a little turkey episode this month. Your lunch found its way up your nose. You put turkey deli meat up your nose. Nothing would get it out. Then at bedtime you sneezed. All better.

Aria Ellen (FIVE years!): You are FIVE!!!! This blows my mind. How time is flying by sweet Aria. I have a new descriptor for you. You are magical. The depth you feel things, sense things, express yourself. You are magical. And celebrating your fifth birthday was magical. This birthday you were all about face painting, PJ Masks, bacon, the color blue, pinatas, pointed toes, beanie boos, climbing things, and a scooter that shoots fire. *A few times each month, you still come over to our bed during the night..”Mommy, until I’m a mommy can I sleep here?” *Do you see yourself sitting on those boxes? Mommy made you wait to open them… for three days you sat there, waiting for your birthday. *Aria. You are so strong. You always have been. With your strong arms, you climbed up our rope swing! The only thing that stopped you is you got scared of heights! *After you got your face painted at Disneyland, you were so happy. The way you walked back to meet your sisters, it was like you were walking on a cloud of happiness and rainbows. My heart exploded as I saw your joy spill over.

Naomi Mariam (6 years): Out of the blue, “Daddy, Mommy, you are the best Mommy and Daddy I’ve ever had. God made you perfect. I love you so much.” Then you ran over and gave me a huge hug. Then with your arms, you squared me off to gaze deep into my eyes, just to let me know that you meant it (I adore you). *Do you see that picture at Disneyland at night. Before the parade started, you gave everyone your own show. Confidence comes naturally to you Naomi. *Juliet was crying because she couldn’t get out of her car seat. You jumped in, “You’re not left out sweetie, you’re a part of the party.” Never not including. I love your big heart Naomi.

Maertz Family Memories: *Joe flew to SF early to get settled for Orals. Backup came in the form of GG and GrampBill, Uncle Jim and Auntie Melissa. On Monday, GG and GrampBill held down Purdum Palace with the three big girls. Eleanor and Mommy set off for the San Francisco skies. San Francisco gave us another hold your breath moment. Daddy went after the dream to become a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department. A big moment met with big disappointment. Which only confirms the desire. And so, we wait… and continue dreaming. Highlights of SF: staying at a fancy downtown hotel, good food and great times with Daddy’s college roommate Jon Pan. *Family trip to Disneyland! To think that there was a time Daddy and I were terrified to take two kids here. As we’re pulling away from Anaheim with our 6, 4, 2 and 2 month old, fireworks exploding in the 10pm sky, I lean over to Daddy “We are nuts. We are totally and completely nuts. Can’t wait to do it again.” *Family BBQ with Levi, Rachael, Wyatt and Ace! *Maertzs host a Maneevone Mother’s Day. Daddy gets mommy a N A J E necklace for Mother’s Day. *Katie Eaton comes for a morning, with dinner. *Mother’s day breakfast at Naomi’s class– muffins, a song, manicure and makeup! *First family dinner out and about at Phil’s BBQ. *Children’s museum with Paschalls. *Playdate with Carter. *Sweet Amanda, Mayburys, Ramlis brought dinner. *Growth Group at Nok Thai. *Birthday Party for our big five year old, complete with Piñata and donut cake. *Malina flies into town for one night, Samuel’s birthday. In Maneevone style we storm his soccer game with big big cheers for the birthday boy. *Maneevone sisters stay up until the very early hours of the morning, doing what sisters do best. Love. *Memorial Day weekend we host a band family gathering. This evening brings all the feels, as this season (just shy of twenty years) is coming to a close. *Naomi and Aria sing for Mother’s Day at EFCC. You two are very comfortable on stage.

An April Fools indeed.

I should have seen it coming. When the doctor gave me an option to pick your birthdate, I jumped all over it. 4/8/16 at 8pm, perfection. I’m smiling now, just thinking about your perfectly picked birth date.

April 1st, my sisters and I started the day in typical April Fools tradition, a good joke on my mom. Everyone was in on it, including Leonie, who was traveling in Germany. Oh how the joke backfired on me. It was Friday afternoon. I only had a few hours until Daddy would be home from work, and Mrs. Menconi was all set to watch you girls that night. Daddy and I were headed to an “escape room” and dinner out to celebrate Uncle Sam’s birthday. But by 3pm, I was seriously second guessing participating in a locked-in-a-room event. I remember calling Kaiser and telling the nurse about my 5-8 minutes apart contractions. She said, “I certainly don’t think it’s a good idea to be locked in a room. I can hear it in your voice, it sounds like you’re scared. That’s usually a good indicator you should go to the hospital.” I was scared. Scared that this baby was coming on April Fools!

It didn’t take long. Daddy came home to me breathing through contractions on the couch, and mom running around our home packing up a hospital bag. He was just as shocked as I was. And just like that, Joe and I were watching the sunset from the hospital room. The doctor announced I was 4cm along, and in the next breath she said “You’re having the baby tonight.” That’s when I laughed out loud. Joke’s on me!

Eleanor Josephine: April 1, 2016. 9:44pm, 20 1/4 inches, 7lbs.

From day one, you brought a whole lot of laughter… may it always be.

Juliet Mae (2 years old): Welcome to the big sister club Juliet. You’ve jumped into this new role pretty well. That top left describes your initial feelings, but ever since, you have loved her so sweetly. You’ve regressed into taking naps again. But that’s not going to get any complaints from your sleep deprived parents. *While on our hike at Daley Ranch, you fell down. And once you’re down, sweet girl, you’re down. There is no recovery with you. Once in a bad mood, almost always in a bad mood. For the rest of the hike, we called you “Big Yeti.” You didn’t mind it. But your preference is “Big girl.” You will often correct Mommy, “No, I’m Big girl.” *At Easter service, you and your sisters sang “Hosanna” on stage. Afterwards you said, “The stage makes me happy.” It really did. No shy bones on stage for you. *Naomi said, “When I grow up I want to be a Queen.” Aria said, “I want to be a Princess.” You said, “When I grow up I want to be a fish.”

Aria Ellen (just shy of 5 years): Oh Aria, you love your new little sister. I mean , REALLY love your little sister. You cannot get enough of her. One morning, after Eleanor “decorated” our sheets, I stripped the bed and started some laundry. When I came back, I found you holding her. You are darling Aria! And a real helper to Mommy. Even at 4 years old, I can trust you to hold your baby sister for long periods of time. You are a natural with babies. *You are so coordinated Aria. So coordinated and so strong. This month you started climbing the door casings all the way up to the ceilings and doing pull ups on our fireplace mantle. Pull ups. Your physical achievements never cease to amaze me.

Naomi Mariam (6.5 years): You’ve got to be the world’s friendliest 6 year old. While at Daley Ranch you shouted to some hikers “Come join us (at our picnic) if you want to!” And while mommy was struggling to walk, I told you that you could go ahead with Daddy and your sisters. You said “I don’t want you to be alone. I’ll walk with you. I want to keep you company mom.” While we walked together on the hike, you started singing worship songs at the top of your lungs. Made up songs, from your heart to God. “This world is so beautiful! Thank you God for the mountains! We praise you!” It was so darling. *Juliet was crying because she couldn’t get out of her carseat. You climbed up to her and reassured her: “You’re not left out sweetie, you’re a part of the party.” *You’re very empathetic. To Daddy, “I’m really sorry for how hard you have to work. I know how you feel.” *You told Mommy, “I love you more than anything, even more than an iPad.”

Maertz Family Memories: *Doctors released Eleanor and I to go home on Sunday, April 3rd. Ele had a blow out in our “take home” outfit, so she went home in a diaper and bow, that’s it. Once we got home, the girls had chalked welcome home notes all over our sidewalks and welcome home pictures were all over the walls. Once we were all inside, they gave baby sister a tour of our home. It was so darling and so surreal. *When GrampBill and GG arrived into town, we all enjoyed breakfast brunch at Copa Vida. And while the girls explored the San Diego Children’s museum, Mommy got a haircut/pedicure on what was supposed to be your birthday: 4/8/16. *Daddy, GrampBill and Paschalls headed to Dixon Lake to feed ducks and have a hike. *First family outing to Snooze for breakfast and the playground at Del Mar Beach, then a quick stop at 7/11 for slurpees ended with a woman tripping over Juliet, hitting her head, and an ambulance rushing her off to the hospital. Scary. *Ava’s 5th birthday party. *Janneke Baby Shower. *Growth Group here. *Joe enjoys a Padres Game celebrating Andrew and Sam. *Family Brunch at 1204 Birch Way. *Chick Fil A and Kid Ventures with all four girls. *Sleepover with the Heinrichs! *Amie/Tins come and join us. (Sweet Amie came to meet Ele at the hospital.) *We hit Costco as a family of six. *Thankful for the many kind friends who brought dinners: Keri, Elisa, Paschalls, Erin B, Kate J, Brooke, Boticas, Davids, Jamie S, Bucks, Hefners and Ama many times.

The pink robe.

The pink robe. I remember two things about it: My mom bought it at a store called Walker Scott (which was a big deal because my mom rarely bought things for herself), and she played Rook in this pink robe while she waited very patiently for me to be born in the winter of 1978. The mere mention of this robe sends my heart into a bit of a patter. Maybe because… one, it’s gorgeous. And two, in some of the earliest memories of my mom, this pink robe was her morning silhouette. But somewhere around grade school this robe became more of a retired icon… a gem that found its resting place in my mother’s closet. As I opened her shower gift under the twinkling lights, a beautiful giant pile of puffy satin pink fell into my lap. My heart fluttered. “I labored with you in that robe,” my mom shared. “I want you to have it, I’ve always wanted you to have it.” I went home that night and did my best to organize gifts into their proper new spots.  I draped that beautiful pink robe over a hook in our closet, ready to grab and pack for the hospital on April 8th. We’re carrying on the tradition.

Juliet Mae (2 years): *A beautiful little freckle appeared on your face this month. Left cheek, at the start of your cheek bone. Can’t wait to see how that adds to the character of you. *On Palm Sunday, you insisted on joining your sisters singing Hosanna on stage at church. Not a single hesitation, you charged up the stairs, and front and center as the youngest kid (by far), you shined. Later on you shared “The stage makes me happy.” * It’s hard to see, but in front of the Paschalls’ blue front door are your shoes. Perfectly placed side by side. At two years old, you take your shoes off all on your own. In fact you are a bit of a shoe monitor at our home, “Ake youh soos ahhf”(Take your shoes off). You bring your Asian ancestors great happiness. 🙂 *Your hands on your hips (bottom left). It happens often, and I honestly adore it. You have a fun sparkly sass Juliet. You have a hands on hips stance, and an eye frowl(?) that means serious business.

Aria Ellen (almost five!): *We enrolled you into Kindergarten! That last sentence still blows my mind. We enrolled you into a few lotteries, and unlike your older sister, you’ve been drawn for almost all of them! Lucky girl. Now, to figure out where you’re going come August. *One night, long after bedtime, you pranced over to our room. Why? You wanted Mommy and Daddy to see your “stick the landing” pose, that’s all (center right). We adore you Aria! *Look at that bottom left picture. You are gifted, love. Or as I sometimes say, “you came out of the womb with pointed toes.” Your ballet teacher pulled me aside this month— “She has a gift. Movement comes so easily for her. She just gets it. She and I are going to have a lot of fun in years to come.” And sure enough, your movements are so impressive. At a park, you climbed a pole while wearing tights. You are so strong Aria!

Naomi Mariam (6 years): *Naomi, you are growing up so quickly and so beautifully. Your kind heart, your delightfully inviting character, your deep care for others. I love every part of you. When people ask me how I’m feeling about adding another little into our family, I smirk with confidence… “We’re going to be fine, I’ve got my Naomi.” It’s true. Can not wait to see you shine as a big sister to three. (posted on Instagram on 3.28.16). *You got your first report card Naomi. Your math and reading are scoring high marks, love— we are so proud of you! It just comes so easily for you, and you enjoy it. You love school. *You also love jump roping a lot. It’s what you do most at recess. *While sitting on the toilet, Daddy passed by and you said “Hey Daddy, hang out with me in here. I love when you’re around.” And so he did. *You had tacos for the first time. You devoured them.

Maertz Family Memories: March is for family visits. Shelly flew into town for work and mommy got lots of catch up time with an old college roommate, as did Uncle Micah, Auntie Katrina and their three (Letta, Elcho, and baby Margaret), Ama’s siblings (Uncle LeRoy Redding and Auntie Mary Ellen Kubo), and Auntie Malina & Auntie Mary. A very spontaneous family reunion! And GrampBill bought a last minute ticket and flew down when Mommy was 38 weeks and struggling, waddling along in late pregnancy. Just after we picked him up at the airport, we enjoyed a beautiful dinner at C-Level together. He took you girls everywhere and gave mommy hours off her feet. Bless him.*Mommy enjoyed meals at Banker’s Hill Pub and Grill and C-Level with Shelly. *Children’s Museum with the Kubos! Saturday trip to the Poway Farmer’s market! *Mommy’s iron levels dropped to 8, so she took many trips to the hospital for iron infusions. *Daddy and you girls joined the Paschalls on a hike up Battle Mountain. *On Palm Sunday, all three of you sang your hearts out on stage. You guys are naturals. *Celebrated Manoah’s 9th birthday at his football game, best cheering squad around. *A simple and beautiful gathering of friends and family in the Paschalls’ backyard to celebrate the coming of our 4th! *Growth group girls surprise me with a night of gifts and words to honor the coming babe. Such a gift. *Park and ChickFilA with Amie and Tins. *Ama helps out tremendously as the days get harder and the nights sleeplessly longer. Baby girl’s clothes are organized, crib is up, itty bitty diapers, pretty new bows, we are ready. All we need is a baby.

How we do vacation

Our final babymoon, and let’s be honest, likely our final getaway for a long time. Three glorious days and nights, just the two and a half of us. I like how we do trips Joe Maertz. The process of deciding a vacation is almost just as fun as the vacation itself. We have a madness to our method, and I think we can both agree, our method is always a bit of a game. This trip was no exception. You started by throwing out seven possible babymoon destinations and then we took turns eliminating one destination at a time. I know you, I know you’re strategically playing me, but that’s the best part, cause I’m playing you too. It’s our game. The list began: Cabo, Catalina, Idaho, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Sedona, Vancouver. Those were my options. One by one, we eliminated destinations with our interests in mind, skillfully guessing what our opponent’s next move would be in order to strategically get our top destination to win. After we tossed out five destinations, it was down to Santa Barbara and Sedona, and it was your turn. Well, you got rid of my favorite, Santa Barbara. Sedona won. Here’s the irony: After playing out our big game, neither of us were that excited about Sedona. I did some research, and by research I mean I text some friends. Even painted in their best light, Sedona sounded meh. We hoisted white flags and very quickly started over. Part two of the game. I carry the baby, I call the shots. Your new options were Palm Springs or the oh-so-close-to-home Rancho Bernardo Inn. Wouldn’t you know it, Palm Springs won. Together, in the sun-shiniest of days, we did nothing but lounge around and enjoy quiet. A dream come true— a weekend of quiet with my Joey, and a rumbly tumbly 34 week in-utero baby, in Palm Springs.

From the Middle East to Palm Springs, this baby girl is going to have a thing with deserts.

Naomi Mariam (6 years): *You surprised all of us with one very gutsy move. You told me you were ready to lose your tooth. So I very nonchalantly attached your tooth with floss to the front door and started recording a video on my phone. I really did not think you’d actually do it. You shocked us both! You slammed the door, and your front tooth went flying out of your mouth! I absolutely exploded with joy! I love celebrating you Naomi! You did it! *Upon entering the shower one evening, you let out a giant “Ahhhh. Now this is a dream come true.” *During baking class, you didn’t enjoy mixing and measuring as much as you enjoyed bossing, ahem, reading the directions and telling us all what to do. *You got your first report card and MAP testing results! Naomi you nailed it! 96th percentile for reading and math. So proud of you!

Aria Ellen (4 years): *You see that pink purse you’re holding up there? It’s filled with about $1.75 in coins. You very strategically bring this money to Phil’s. Of all things, the mini toy vending machines have your heart. And now our money. *You continue to amaze us with your coordination and strength. You flip upside-down on the rope swing, with your toes pointed of course. You love flying down the hill on your scooter! You are tough, with bruises and scrapes all over. Can we say active? *You visited our room in the dark of night, complaining of a stomach ache. In the next second, you barfed all. over. me. The only silver lining in this story is that I caught all of your barf entirely in my shirt. All of it. You could say I took one for the team. The next day, while at Baskin Robbins, you were halfway through your bubble gum ice cream when you walked it over to the trash can, and threw it away. “It’s too sweet. If I eat too much my tummy will hurt and I’ll barf.” *While we were driving, almost to our street, Daddy told you “Hey Aria, who said you could unbuckle?” In perfect Aria: “But you’re unbuckled.” Daddy had no response.

Juliet Mae (2.5 years): *Big news this month— you are sleeping in a BIG GIRL BED!! Last month we got you the bed and assembled it, but you really weren’t too keen on the idea. This month, all that changed. You love your big girl bed. And are you ready for this? You stay in bed!!! You don’t even try to get out of bed. It’s bizarre and incredible at the same time. We kiss you goodnight in your big girl bed, and that’s where you stay until the green light turns on! We are in awe. Now, can we talk about how loud you breathe at night? *You are obsessed with getting dressed and changing clothes. It’s a constant drive-us-crazy-all day request from you. “Mommy, I caynge?” *Out of nowhere, you asked Daddy, “Hah wah wahk today?” (How was work today?). Juliet you are sooo cute and sooo dang talkative! Another day I told you that Aria was sick, and you responded “I weeewy wike Awia. Yea, see so bootifuw” (I really like Aria, yeah, she’s so beautiful). I just love your heart Juliet. It shines.

Maertz family memories: *One of my favorite days this month. After church, we headed to Phil’s BBQ for lunch, and after a quick run home, we were off to the zoo (our season passes were about to expire)— a spontaneous, beautiful, wonderful day!  *For the fifth time in six months, I killed our car battery. I just have a knack, what can I say. Unfortunately, the compromised battery left GrampBill and GG stuck in the Sprouts parking lot with you three girls. *GrampBill and GG came into town, loved on you guys while we enjoyed our quiet getaway! *We got reimbursed by the state for our water-saving yard efforts (!!!) — it worked! *Lunch with Leonie, Ama and Papa for a spontaneous President’s Day! *Girls night out at Brother’s Provisions to celebrate my and Krissa’s birthday! *Joey became a real man, he bought a lawn mower. *Week night painting with Leonie for our birthdays! *Hosted Denny, Lauren and Autumn for a weekend. Easy and real company, the best. *Uncle Jim and Auntie Melissa stayed a night with us while they searched for homes in San Diego! So fun to have them close by and enjoy spontaneous “sleep-overs”. *Celebrated Leonie’s and my birthday with a family Super Bowl dinner here! *Bit of a scare this month, a $6,000 scare  (thankfully completely covered by insurance). Woke up with a tingly left cheek, blurred vision in my left eye, and a numb left arm. A quick call to Kaiser got me almost immediately admitted into Palomar Hospital. After seven hours of monitoring and an MRI (which involved my and baby’s first trip in an ambulance), all looked fine except my glucose. I failed my glucose test. H o r r i b l e. This mommy is very dependent on her sugar to get through the day, and big changes have to happen to get my glucose under control. Horrible!

What a difference a year makes. Last January, Great Ama and Thom were just hitched in our backyard, we lost baby Lantern at 10 weeks, and we got the news that Daddy didn’t move forward into the final stage of the State Department, the coveted and highly competitive Oral Assessment. Contrast that to now. We lost two wild and wonderful souls when Great Ama and Thom passed together into Heaven on Christmas Eve (accidental carbon monoxide poisoning), mommy is bursting with life inside her womb (little sister is coming soon!), and Daddy passed into the final stage of applying for the State Department, he’s going to Orals in May! What a difference a year makes.

Juliet Mae (2.5 years): *Oh sweet one, how we love your emerging personality! It’s so joyful, creative, smart and fun. At Auntie Elisa’s and Uncle Mao’s wedding, you not only walked cute and confidently down the aisle, you dragged your little ring bearer buddy down the aisle with you! There was no guessing who was leading who. *And just like that you are getting bigger and getting so much older. You wear size 3T and 4T and you act like a three year old! *This month it was time. Not because you climb out, or any real reason… it was just time. Time for your move to a big girl bed. And as there is excitement to see a new season begin, emotions are stirring… embracing and grieving the beautiful changes of growing up (cue watery eyes). Sounds like a good time to have another baby. *You ate three slices of pizza at dinner! Mommy ate three slices of pizza that night too, and she’s pregnant.

Aria: *Do you see how strong you are? You dragged Juliet through a good portion of the Salt Lake City airport! Boy did we have a scare at this airport. At the end of the moving walkway, your strength left you, and you weren’t able to get your suitcase over the yellow bar. Instead it fell, and so did you, and so did the next 6 people. In one giant pile at the end of the moving walkway, people were falling on top of each other, and you were at the bottom. People did everything they could to jump over the pile of 5-6 people and their luggage, but it was all happening too quickly. I somehow managed to leap over the side of pile with Juliet and yank you away… it was really frightening. I really wonder if you’ll ever get on one of those again.*You have found your interest in the piano! Playing Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday! *Girl, you have a beautiful heart of helps! You love to help! You really love it. It’s a common occasion for you to make your bed, and everyone else’s bed too! *You are very surprising to me, Aria, my girl of mystery. Sometimes you take your sweet time to warm up, and other times (cue story) like at Auntie Leonie’s school, you happily volunteer to sing songs and do cartwheels in front of the 30+ high school students! No shy in you! You were good, and you knew it. A beautiful confidence. *You still visit mommy’s and daddy’s room at night. One night in particular, at say 2am, you waltzed in and approached our bed with the most graceful spin, a spin at 2am! We love you Aria!

Naomi: *You have found a new addiction, MineCraft. *Naomi you are playing the piano with two hands! You will often just sit at the piano and play for the joy of playing, making up combinations of different notes and hearing what works, you’ve discovered how to create chords! It’s mind-blowing. *Do you see that sweet girl sitting in that little green chair? You organized your family to sit around and play a game similar to “simon” where we have to repeat a clapping pattern that you create. Just as you were about to create your pattern, you closed your eyes and said aloud, “Okay, come on brain, more heart, and ready.” I just adore you Naomi. *You are reading like a champ! You got assigned to the highest reading group in your class. And your math, wow. So impressive. *Of all your sisters, you are the most open minded about food. You will try anything. And you do in the sweetest way. After trying some garlic smothered tater tots you gave us your big eyes and said “Whoa! It’s like chocolate cake, it’s sooo good!” We all laughed. I just love you.

Maertz Family Memories: The day of Great Ama’s and Tom’s funeral, Noelle fell ill, which meant Sam was no longer able to read the eulogy at the funeral. One hour before the service, the responsibility fell on Daddy— and he nailed it. With perfect sentiment and a very honorable delivery, he made us all proud. *We enrolled you girls in WeeSing choir at EFCC, you just love it. Our current schedule: Monday Labs & Choir, Tuesday Gymnastics, Wednesday Baking class & Ballet, Thursday MOPS. It works for us. *Playdate with Keri and Gary at Highland Park. *A weekend getaway with the Growth Group girls in Laguna Beach! Just as lovely as it was the year before. *Visited Auntie Leonie’s classroom at Steele Canyon High School. *Celebrated a rainy 38th birthday lunch with Leonie at sushi, and “13 hours” and dinner at Burger Bench with my love. Simple, easy, perfect.