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    Keep them little.

    I turned 40 this year. And that can only mean one thing: if I'm getting older, my kids are too. So in my new decade here's how I hope to slow down time just a little bit.

    I've always had a little joke with the girls about staying little. It started when Natalie (my older daughter) was 4. I love age 4. Gracie is 4 now, and it has been amazing to see that, yep, right on time at exactly 4.5 years of ages I am ready for her to stay little. So, I will say, "girls, can you stay 4 & 7 and never get any older?!" And they'll say back, "But, mommmmy we caaaan't! We have to get older!" And I'll say, "OK, you can turn 5 & 8, but THEN will you stay there!?" And they giggle and we go over each year for like 10 years until Natalie's 17 and I am ready to cry.

    I have to be honest, I was not one of those sappy baby moms drooling over every birthday and boohooing that maybe I should have another. I am not much of a baby mama. My babies didn't sleep, my hormones didn't agree with labor and delivery, and while I cherished all of the neat milestones that happen so quickly at that age, I never had any desire to go back.

    Until age 4. Kids at about 4.5 (let's let the old tantrums wear off first) are like a pint-size present all wrapped up with a cherry red bow. And as they days and months pass we moms get to open them slowly, revealing the little people they are going to be. And if that's not enough there's the practical side.

    Let's be honest, they are fun to hang out with now! We can take long walks without a stroller. We've ditched the diaper bag! They can buckle themselves up in the car, and we're off! Ready for any adventure (and for kids even the smallest thing can be made into an adventure!) and I do not want to miss a day of it.

    So, I'm thinking I'll just adopt my silly joke into my new parenting mantra: keep them little. Here is how I plan to do that:

    See them -- really see them. Everyday. You know how when you got married someone told you to step back at your wedding and actually watch it, for a few minutes, as an outsider. So that you would be able to rememer it? And enjoy it, without getting swept up in the business of it? I am going to do that here. Once a day. So that I am sure to remember these moments. I want to take snapshots (with my camera and with my mind) of the mundane: the girls swinging and holding hands walking to school, Gracie's serious look when she's drawing and her silly look when she's performing. Natalie with her nose in a book. The splash of the bathtub and the snuggle with daddy after work at night.

    Be grateful & share my gratitude. I've been taking a picture each day of what I'm grateful for. I plan to show the photos to the girls, and discuss with them why I am so grateful for my life. And I'll share special details about why I am so grateful for them. Like, Gracie's hard working way she loves to tidy up. And how Natalie comes over and kisses my arm and says "mama" so sweetly.

    See the world through their eyes. Put myself in their shoes, looking at school, homework, friends, the world, as they would and making decisions while always taking into account their perspective. For example, if something simple seems hard or something easy seems scary, I am going to see them in that place and listen to them fully.

    Keep it simple. I know overscheduling is a hot topic in parenting, and I am not here to say my kids are bucking the trend to becoming over-involved. In fact, I love to learn, and I love to see my girls learning something new. So, we have a healthy dose of ballet, gymnastics, Brownies & religious school on our schedule. But I do see the pure joy of a wide-open afternoon with nothing to do but play imaginary fairies or horses in the wide-open prairie (er, backyard) with her sister. Also, I plan to offer up simple activities that re-center the girls after a busy school week.

    Shower them with affection. Hugs, kisses, sitting on laps, and rocking with a book might be little kid things, but I am going to hop in and cherish them for as long as possible.

    Read together. For Gracie, her beginning days of reading are all still so fun and exciting. For Natalie, her learning to read days are a distant memory. I have actually been missing sharing her books with her. So recently we decided to read the first Harry Potter book together. It's great because she reads and I close my eyes and listen. I hear the story, but I also hear her voice and I know that no matter how old she gets she'll always be my little girl.



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