Monday, September 24, 2007

the party, party, party

Sunday was the girls' collective birthday party. This is the second year in a row that I've planned a late september outdoor party and the second year in a row we JUST missed being rained out. Last year it started raining about a half hour after the party ended, this year it stormed and poured pretty much all day and into the night on saturday. Sunday was dry all day but overcast. Again, without a Plan B anywhere in sight, we lucked out. September isn't usually a rainy time of year at all, apparently unless you've planned something like this. I think I better quit while I'm ahead.

I've heard that for children's birthday parties you are supposed to take the child' age, add one, and that's how many kids you invite. When I was talking about this upcoming party at work I was reminded of this several times, right after the "*gasp* you've invited 25 children! Are you crazy?" Perhaps, but I don't believe this is the strongest evidence for it. We were fortunate enough to have a couple of Erin's new kindergarten friends, the twins' daycare friends, and the many pals from my mom's group that all of the girls have known nearly all of their lives, along with all of the local family members there to celebrate the day with us. It was a big crowd and a fun day. One friend even brought her one-month old son along, the first opportunity for many of us to meet him.

We reserved a park picnic space and Erin helped me pick the jump house. A princess castle, of course.

Uncle Brad took video, John barbecued, Grandma and Poppy made mounds of fruit salad, we served picnicy food and ice cream pops and cake. Everything turned out fine, some things turned out amazingly well. The first great surprise was the face painter I hired, sight-unseen, from an entertainment agency's website. With so many kids I wanted to provide something else to do besides the bounce house, but then again would young children want to wait their turn and sit still in the middle of a party? I really wasn't sure how this would go over, and furthermore I was expecting someone to draw little unremarkable hearts and rainbows like you see people doing at the county fair or something. But what we got was an actual artist, and wow, she was incredible. Take a look at just a few of her creations:

After the first one or two she did a whole crowd of kids rushed over to get in line and/or watch the process.

That butterfly design was very popular. Kate liked watching but didn't want to be painted. Erin wanted to have a princess on her cheek and gave the artist very specific instructions about what the princess should wear.

The other wonderful surprise was the cake, made by a mom friend of a friend, who makes special occasion cakes as a hobby from home. I just let her design whatever she wanted and she described to me over the phone what she would create so I kind of had mental image, but still, when she arrived at the park with this I was totally amazed. Erin asked, "Is that real?" And I don't blame her for wondering. After all, it very obviously bared absolutely no resemblance to any cake I've ever made.

The top layer was white cake with fresh strawberry filling, the bottom was double chocolate, and all of the decorations were edible. Though it was kind of a shame to have to wreck such a beautiful creation, it was delicious! All in all a successful party I think. Happy birthday, girls!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

hiking and heels

This morning the twins and I joined some friends for a fun hike through the hills of a large park nearby, which the girls always enjoy visiting because of the farm located there and pushing the girls in a double stroller is a good workout for me, made tougher all the time. I swear these girls weigh more than they did when we hiked just last week. It was a bright, clear, cool morning, but clouded up as it warmed up and we moved into the early afternoon, looking a bit like it could rain, but it didn't.

Once we reached the farm the most strenuous part of the hike was done and all of the kids got out of the strollers to check out the animals. K&A petted a friendly barn cat and greeted the goats and sheep and rabbits and chickens, but nice as that was Allison was annoyed that there weren't any cows and minimal attention span Kate kept suggesting we "go find something else".

Julian (orange vest, about 10 months older than the twins) was the leader of the day. He decided when to run or stop or sit, what tree stumps to climb on, what items on the ground needed investigation and the twins followed right along with everything. Julian's usually dominating older brother was at school and we could see he enjoyed being the big boy of the group for a change.

I formed a carpool with two other moms at Erin's school. They pick Erin up on my workdays and I pick up the girls on my days off. Here is Erin with her best friend at school and carpool pal, Maia, this afternoon. She's in kindergarten also but a different class, but no matter, they play together at recess and lunch every day. Maia is adorable, funny, and smart and Erin talks about her constantly.

Back at home Erin organized all of the new princess shoes. We were at costco last weekend and the twins saw this set of six shoes and were absolutely beside themselves. As John walked away from the shoes they (seated side by side in a huge shopping cart) both kept their arms outstretched toward them and shrieked over and over about their need for these shoes. I've literally never seen them act that way in a store before. I tell them, "no, we don't need that" and that's usually the end of it. Perhaps some things in life are worth completely falling apart about. I wouldn't have thought ugly plastic shoes with disney princesses on them would be one of those things, for anyone. At any age.

I wondered about rewarding behavior like that, but, well, Grandma Jan did send us money for a birthday gift for them, so we gave in and I hope I don't regret it. John's mom has two pairs of shoes just like these at her house and there is always a battle over them. Now there is plenty for everyone and as you can see, they are thrilled with them.

I've concluded that the point of wearing heels isn't the fashion statement as much as enjoying the sound they make on the tile or hardwood floor.

Friday, September 14, 2007

if you're looking for culture, you've come to the right place

A bit of really bad microbiology humor because streptococci are still making their way around our house. First, it was Erin. Then just as she was about done her treatment course and a full week had passed, Kate got sick. Now Kate is just about done with her treatment and has been very much improved for a few days, and beginning last night it got Allison too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

birthday girls!

Wednesday isn't the easiest day of the week to have a birthday. We both work and I work late, but I sent the twins to daycare that morning with cookies for everyone and I made a cake for them night before so when I got home we had a mini-celebration.
They opened some little toys from Grandma Jan and the presents from us--a LeapPad game system for each (Kate got orange, Allison got yellow. Having the same, yet different, is fairly important). And they each received a sheet and blanket set for their beds (same, yet different, again).
We have a more elaborate party planned in a few days for them and Erin as well. We'll see how many years we can get away with this three-for-one party idea.
John's comment, as one of them was having a typical melt-down in another room, "I'm sure glad we're past those terrible two's."
Yes-sir-ee, it's all smooth sailing from here on out.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

girl train

Erin: "Look what I drew, mama!"

me: "That's great. What is it?"

Erin: "It's a girl train!!!! See--it has flowers and hearts and the board is already pink. It's a girl train 'cause I don't know if any boys would like a ride on it."

i think i can count to four

John's sister Sue and husband Derik and baby Lucy were in town this week so we had some fun with them during Erin's school days. One day we went to a park on a warm morning so the kids could play in the water, which is much more fun if you keep your mouth as wide open as you can.

Another day we went back to the children's museum where Allison sat at the feet of Clifford "the big red dog". Someone really stretched the boundaries of their imagination with that one.

They actually had a big section of the museum set up like, ah, I'm guessing, Clifford's hometown or something and the twins thought it was fun to get the be the postmasters and get all the mail for the town arranged and into the proper slots. It looked as organized and efficient as a real post office, actually. I wonder if they are hiring.

In the art room the girls all enjoyed painting. Lucy somehow managed to get half of her head painted purple. I wonder how that happened.

By the end of the week Sue and family left and John's older sister and her two sons arrived from Oregon so we had the whole family at our house on saturday for a BBQ and some birthday cake (a week late for Terri, 3 days early for Kate and Allison).

Saturday was also Erin's first chinese class. Erin learned some mandarin in preschool. Over the summer I had all the girls take spanish. When that session ended I asked Erin if she would like to take more spanish classes or chinese classes and she chose chinese, and her buddy Quinton was already signed up to start "chinese kindergarten" for two hours each saturday. So I signed Erin up and the session started this weekend. According to the flyer for this school the classes are bilingual, but when I got there with Erin I was greeted by lots of surprised looks and told to go to a large meeting room where the organizers of the class will be giving all the parents and kids an introduction and greeting. "Oh, speak chinese?" a staff member asked me.
"No, I don't."
"Hmmm." She said, looking puzzled. Because as I soon found out, the introduction was given in chinese and everyone else in the room understood it. A staff member came over and started translating for me and we had to sit in a non-air conditioned room for a half hour listening to this and Erin looked miserable. Then we separated and went to our respective classrooms. Quinton's family was out of town so he missed this first class.

Erin's teacher showed the kids where to sit and then immediately began the lesson. In the first five minutes she went through numbers 1-10, colors, parts of the face and body, and several animals and there was no english spoken at all. Contrary to the info we'd received, this wasn't bilingual, it was full mandarin immersion and my head was beginning to hurt. But Erin didn't want me to leave so I stayed for the whole 2 hours.

At a break a couple of parents told me this is really a school for kids who speak mandarin in the home and the school is here to expand and reinforce vocabulary and pronunciation, and writing the characters. Yes, I'm getting a clear sense of that.

Still, after Erin got a little more comfortable, after the first half hour, she began participating and actually picked up the words and identified things when the teacher asked much faster and more accurately than most of the other 5 kids in the class, who were all chinese. Her teacher was really surprised, and so were the other parents. I remained completely lost.

At the end of class Erin was given two books with readings and songs to practice (with me!) at home. Give me a break, I can't make sense of any of this. I must have heard Erin's teacher (and Erin) count to ten about 25 times yesterday but I still couldn't get past four. I'm not the one taking chinese, I don't want to do chinese homework and more than that I really can't help her practice and pronounce these exercises. My head was really beginning to hurt.

So I emailed the school today and despite Erin's relatively good first class I think this is not the language program for us. If I have to be involved to this degree then we're going to have to do a language I can wrap my head around. I think we'll be looking at spanish again.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

strep and stealing and stircrazy

This hasn't been the best of weeks around here. Erin became quite sick (and still is). She's had a fever and a bad cough and respiratory congestion since wednesday and now the fever is gone and has been replaced with a disproportionately large amount of yellow-green mucous for a person of her small size. We got the culture results this morning--strep throat.

She missed three days of school. This made for an extra fun thursday, when the twins are home with me anyway, and since they're feeling fine they would have enjoyed going to parks! or water fountains! or the zoo! or anywhere except this non-air-conditioned house while it's 100F outside (and 85 F inside) listening to Erin hacking away. They were absolutely bored silly and were terrors all day. They wouldn't nap, but they would yell and scream. So after the failed nap attempt the one outing I thought Erin could handle was a brief trip to Target in the early afternoon to get a few things and bring about a much-needed change of scenery with AC as a bonus. But K&A were as unruly and loud there as they were at home, only now I was a bad, tired parent with bored and/or sick kids with tons of witnesses. So maybe that wasn't the best idea.

Back at home as I was preparing dinner K&A got into fight #52 for the day and as I ordered them to separate corners of the house I noticed that Kate got very quiet. I looked in her room, not there. Looked in my room:

Erin, meanwhile, though feeling pretty bad was usually very pleasant.

A calmer, post-bath moment later that night.

Then to top off the week my wallet was stolen from my office on friday. What fun. John, that lucky duck, is taking refuge in Oregon for the weekend.