Wednesday, December 26, 2007

christmas exhale

Christmas festivities started on Christmas eve with a dinner at our house for our extended family, including my visiting mom from NC and her fiance, Peter. We thought we'd do something easy and casual so we got a Honeybaked ham and smoked turkey breast as entrees but somehow, no matter how many very worthwhile shortcuts I take, entertaining is never really easy and casual. It was a very fun evening with tons of food which is always the cornerstone of a good holiday gathering. The girls were especially thrilled to see their close-in-age cousins Jacob and Brayden and they were especially, especially thrilled to be able to exchange gifts with them that evening.

It's been very difficult to look at all of those wrapped presents under the tree day after day. At various times when I turned on the tree lights, or got wrapping paper out, or we received a present in the mail, Kate announced, "It's Christmas time! Time to open presents!" to which Erin answered, "No, Kate..." and went on to explain just where her reasoning went wrong there and describe the proper present-opening time table. It never really sunk in though.

Poppy brought over a copy of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and read it to several of the kids--as many as would put their new toys down and sit still long enough to listen to it. Kate and Allison didn't do too well there.

Just as she did last year Erin wrote a letter to Santa Claus. This year she was very succinct. No embellishments, no small talk, no trying to sell Santa on how good she's been this year. She asked for a Monsters, Inc. DVD and that was it. Short and to the point, which I can imagine he did appreciate on some level given the volume of mail he must get.

Erin has been on fairly extra good behavior these past few days, especially where meals are concerned. Normally she starts enquiring about "what's for dinner" at about noon. And then, perpetually disappointed, confronts my answer with, "Are we allllllllllllllll gonna have that?" And when dinner is served she not only waits until she's completely chewed and swallowed one bite before taking another, but usually waits until she's fully digested it too. Either she just prefers her food to be stone cold, or she is savoring every morsel, or is problematically riveted by our dinner conservations, or simply likes driving me insane. Slowly. Whichever...this week she's been a compliant, quick eater. Grandma Jan has commented on her frequent clean plates, eager vegetable eating, and being the first one finished several times. I say we need Christmas every week.

"Santa" did fulfill this modest DVD request and also brought the girls a nice wooden horse stable and yard and plenty of toy horses to inhabit it. It occurs to me that when Erin is old enough to find and read this blog and understand what it means to put quotation marks around Santa's name, it will be time to have a talk about Santa.

"He" also found and couldn't resist some twin girl dolls (one blonde and one brunette) which, when near each other, talk to each other and are fairly hilarious. They are as close to replicas of Kate and Allison as one could reasonably find, or, er, a, have his elves make. If only the brunette talked about 70% more than the blonde and was a persistent contrarian they'd be dead ringers. Still, an impressive find and the twins love them. They call them "the Kate doll" and "the Allison doll". They also got a disney princess barbie doll each.

After opening a few presents and having breakfast with mom and Peter we headed up to John's parents' house for more gift-exchanging mayhem and entertainment for Uncle Jeff, which is achieved by his giving the girls some ridiculously huge present and watching them go crazy over it for the next hour or so. This year that something was a large Dora the Explorer tunnel and attached play house.

Allison admiring Grandma's tree and Kate "reading" a story to Uncle Jeff, though I don't think he was aware that he was being read to.

Then after lunch it was back home where mom and Peter started dinner preparations. Peter loves to cook and wanted to make Christmas dinner and well, John and I like to accommodate the requests of guests whenever possible.

After a terrific dinner it was time for MORE! PRESENTS! This time to and from Uncle Brad and Shadzi. And with that our 24 hours of Christmas craziness was over and Grandma Jan departed for home the next morning.

And now for the family birthday craziness on the 26th and 27th.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

nothing says christmas like garlic

This past saturday evening I took the girls to meet an old high school pal and her family to a local little kiddie amusement park that opens on weekends around christmas. The girls were actually excited to pose for pictures in front of "candy cane lane" but they still found people watching more compelling than looking my way while I took the photos. And yeah, it's been really, uncharacteristically, cold here. The hats and gloves were necessary.

They had a snow maker over one walkway:

Then we met my friends and the kids posed for pics in the sleigh they had set up:

That's my friend's son, Ian, who is only about 3 months younger than Erin. They got along famously, even holding hands and walking together for much of the evening and sitting next to each other at dinner. But as you can see, Erin has clearly reached that stage where goofy faces that ruin photos is the biggest, greatest form of fun EVER.

We did see Santa at one point but it was just too cold to consider standing still in a long line to wait to see him up close and personal-like. But we did get to visit with the most important christmas celebrities that the outing offered...Santa-ish Snoopy and Giant Yuleltide Garlic!

o tannenbaum

We were kept busy with all sorts of holiday-related things to do this past weekend. After baths one evening we decorated the tree. As with the cookies, this was the first year that Kate and Allison got to provide any real "help" with this endeavor and they were each somewhat stumped. It took Allison a while to avoid hanging ornaments on the very ends of the branches, only to have them bend over and the ornament fall down again.

Kate was mostly fascinated and frustrated with the hooks. I handed the kids ornaments with hooks already on so they could go straight to the fun part, but Miss Kate always had to remove the hook, then spend forever trying to get it back on. It took her so long to get them on in fact that she usually asked us to hang the ornament after she finally managed to get it together.

Erin was pretty much a pro at everything. Except she'd hang a whole cluster of ornaments in one small space and get annoyed when we spread them out.

Success at last. Now what?

Then, at long last with the tree finished and only a few dozen hooks lost in the carpet for our bare feet to discover over the course of the next few weeks, it was time for a nice group photo before bed. Doesn't that sound like a nice idea girls? Give me some good smiles!


Nevermind. Go to bed.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Public Service Announcement: It's fine to approach a stranger and ask if her kids are twins. On behalf of all parents of twins, I declare that to be okay. But in my experience, it's best to just end the questions there.

stranger person A: "Are they twins?"
me: "Yes."
stranger person A: "Are they paternal?"
me: "No, they're girls."

stranger person B; "Twins!"
me: "Yes."
stranger person B: "Wow! One brunette, and one is soooooo blonde. One is so much bigger than the other. That one looks much more like you than the other one does. So, they're identical?"
me: "Ah......sure."

stranger person C: "Oh, are they twins?"
me: "Yes."
stranger person C: "Yeah, my husband's brother's wife's cousin has twins, so they, like, totally run in our family. Do they run in yours?"
me: "Yes, they run everywhere."

stranger person D: "Oh, twins!"
me: "Yes."
stranger person D: "Who is the 'evil' one?"
me: "Nancy Pelosi."

stranger person E: "Oh my, you have triplets!"
me: "Ah......sure."
stranger person E: "But that one is so much taller and bigger and more mature-looking than the other two!"
me: "I'm doing an experiment. I feed that one more."

stranger person F: "Are they twins?
me: "Yes."
stranger person F: "Are they natural?"
me: "Apart from the hair dye, blue contacts, and teeth whitening, yes."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

flour power

Last year Erin spent a very memorable morning at Grandma's house making christmas cookies with her and as soon as it became apparent to her that christmas season was upon us she starting asking us when Grandma's cookie factory was going to start up again. I mean, this stuff is critically important. We had dinner with John's folks last week and Erin made sure to remind Grandma that a cookie-making date had to be set sometime in the very near future. Last year the twins were really too young to participate but this year they took part too. John took the girls to Grandma's house while I did some errands so I don't have my usual play-by-play to relay. But I think the pictures say it all.

John says the decorating got pretty humorous. One reindeer looked like it was riddled with silver buckshot. That gingerbread man below, right, looks like he's being swarmed by bees. After the fact, Dora told me she spent quite a bit of time quartering raisins so they would be a more appropriate size for cookie eyes or buttons, but when she turned her back on Kate for a minute and the whole bowl of carefully diced raisins were all used on that one, poor, gingerbread man.

One little star had a giant pile of red sugar sprinkles on it, so much so that it was tough to find any cookie underneath. And who says Mickey Mouse or Santa or gingerbread men need two (and only two) eyes anyway.

So all in all they "aren't much for pretty" but regardless, the girls had a really wonderful time and were very proud of their creations. Many of these were brought home and my verdict is: delicious.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

cheesy time

In preparation for lunch today:

Me: "Allison, what would you like for lunch?"
Allison: "A cheesy sandwich."
Me: "Kate, what do you want for lunch?"
Kate: "A ham sandwich."
Me: "Do you want some cheese on your sandwich too?"
Kate: "No. No cheese, just turkey. It's not cheesy time now."

Sunday, December 2, 2007

penguin weekend

Back to life as usual following our terrific vacation but all week my mind kept wandering back to all the fun we had, and to the funnel cake with strawberries and whipped cream which I waited for all week and ultimately never got to enjoy. Sweetly, John asked if he should find a funnel cake source near home, but no. That's an amusement park only sort of dessert.

Disneyworld is on the kids' minds too. "When are we going back?" asked Erin about ten times so far. "I think we should go back soon. Maybe next summer."

"We'll go back in a few years," we responded.
"A few YEARS? Like, how many? That's a long time!"
"Unless you get a job and save your money for a trip sooner than that, yes, it will be a long time."

When I picked Erin up on friday she was beside herself with excitement because THIS was the weekend...THIS weekend she got to take Patty Penguin home with her. Erin's school mascot is the Penguins, Erin's class has its own penguin and each child takes it home for a weekend and documents (in photos and in writing) their adventures together in a journal that travels with Patty. So each child can read about Patty's previous adventures, and then add a page of their own.

I was curious to know if Patty was male or female. Erin insists female, but the truth has been tough to ascertain. Like "Pat" of Saturday Night Live, I think this name was chosen to be purposefully ambiguous.

Patty picked quite a weekend to come to our house, lemme tell ya. He/she's been one bored house guest. Well, what can I say. If he had come our way a little sooner we could have taken him (her?) along to Florida. This weekend we had three kids with colds and some household errands to catch up on.

Erin did take Patty along to her swimming lesson:

And she/he joined us and John's parents for dinner on saturday night. We went our for Texas BBQ but I guess Patty didn't like the menu. No fish.

It occurs to me that it would have been funny to FedEx Patty to Trish (Auntie Trish to the girls). She is always travelling for business and it would have been hilarious to return the journal with photos of Patty in unexpected locations. Like that gnome on those Travelocity commercials. Ah well. The mundane will have to do. I did Tivo "March of the Penguins" for the girls to watch with Patty, you know, just to help him/her feel at home here.

Tomorrow he/she goes back to school with fresh stories and pictures from Erin to share. And it's a good thing too. Benjamin Franklin observed that "fish and visitors stink after 3 days." For penguins I think that's especially accurate.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

much ado about disneyworld

Our week at WDW exceeded my every expectation. Apart from the hour delay departing initially, everything airport and airline-wise went smoothly. The twins behaved markedly better then they did while travelling to Hawaii last June (if we weren't travelling over the pacific ocean at the time the plane probably would have landed and we would have been kicked off). But the individual little 2-inch screen video players that John acquired from Jeff who picked them up in China earlier this year, and an additional 16 months of maturity made all the difference in the world. And it's hard to know which contributed more to the improvement.

For anyone not familiar, there are four different, huge disney parks in orlando, and also two waterslide parks (one of which is closed in winter and the other we didn't consider going to with such young kids).

We first stayed at the Animal Kingdom lodge on the border of that park and had the "african savannah" outside our windows. The kids discovered that they could watch many of the animals right from the there at various times, but not when I finally decided to take a picture from our balcony of course.

We organized this trip with some friends from New Hampshire who have a 6 year-old son...old pals of John's whom we rarely get to see these days. Definite highlights at AK park were the Lion King and Nemo shows, and the safari ride.

Cutler and the girls, Erin in particular, got along very well. She found his dinner conversation especially charming that first night.

The twins ogling the genuine gingerbread carousel near the restaurant on our first night, and our group checking out the fireworks at Epcot after dinner:

The next day we headed to Epcot and the girls loved the Nemo ride and aquarium. On our second evening we had dinner in a restaurant inside the aquarium and the kids enjoyed watching the divers feed the fishes.

The tree in the AK lodge lobby:

And finally after three full days at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and MGM, we changed resorts the the Polynesian, right outside the Magic Kingdom and spent our final two days in there.

The Nile River Guide asked the twins to drive the Jungle Cruise boat for him:

Additionally, the girls were made "guest conductors" on the railroad and got to yell "all aboard!" over the loudspeaker while wearing the conductor's hat. In fact, even though it was a very crowded week there, so many of the employees went out of their way to talk to the girls and give them stickers or cards. Also, thanks to the Fastpass system, we didn't wait more than about 20 mins to get into any attraction.

Kate was her usual contrarian self much fo the time. "I don't WANT to get in the stroller!" "I don't want to get out of the stroller!" "I don't WANT to go on a ride!" "I don't want to get off the ride!"

Flashback: Erin at A Small World Disneyland at 18 months old and at A Small World at WDW:

All this fun is exhausting:

Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream:

On our last park day some friends who moved to Ft. Meyers a few months ago joined us in the Magic Kingdom. Their 4 year-old son Cameron and Erin are old pals:

We did three "character" meals over the course of the week...meals where characters come around to each table to say hello to all the children and pose for pictures with them. The girls LOVED these and the most anticipated meal was the lunch at Cinderella's Castle I arranged, where the girls got to meet each of the Disney princesses. A dream come true for Erin. Each child was given a wand and a wishing star and the fairy godmother led them in a "wishing ceremony".

The girls really had a fantastic time--there was so much for them to see and do and we did our best to take as much in as we could. We kept the kids up and in the parks too late on several occasions, but we just HAD to stay to see fireworks, or the electric light parade, or whatever else was going on. And they ate more than plenty of ice cream. was a vacation and what's a vacation without dessert every night? Surprisingly, fresh fruit and veggies were available for all the meals we bought for them so they really didn't have a week of solid junk food, which I thought might be the case.

Five days in the parks was just enough but next time I'd like to stay even longer as this experience has changed me from fairly disney-neutral to a disney fan. John and I talked about when our next trip might some point when everyone is tall enough to ride on everything is a minimum requirement. I think it will be several years before we're back but hopefully we'll squeeze in a Disneyland trip before then.