Tuesday, August 25, 2009

my mom's version of r&r

Last week Mom came west for a visit. She's not the first guest to stay in our new guest room, and not the first grandma either, but she was our longest-duration guest so far. It's nice to have room for relatives to stay here. The last time Mom visited she had to stay at a nearby hotel.

The girls were very excited about Grandma Jan's upcoming visit. I think they would have been even more excited if they knew what was in store for them during the week.

The theme for this visit was "dessert". Honestly, I don't know when we've had so many desserts. The day mom arrived I made us dinner at home, including brownies and ice cream. The next day while the kids were at school and I was at work, mom made "special jello" she had been talking to the girls about. When John and I make jello we usually just make it plain. I sometimes put fruit in it. Mom thinks that's boring and she mixes some of the jello with Cool Whip and then makes alternating layers of jello + fruit with the cream/jello mix. Around here, that's WAY fancy. So the girls were thrilled to have that to look forward to after dinner on monday.

On tuesday my brother and his wife came over for dinner so mom and I cooked all afternoon and mom taught me to make these great pear tarts for dessert:

Then another workday for me came and in my absence my mom got busy picking some of our apples and making pie. And lasagna for dinner that night.

I've never made apple pie. John's mom makes some from our apples sometimes and both Dora and my mom make some really killer apple pies. "You know," John told mom, "there are a LOT more apples on that tree and some extra pies wouldn't be a bad idea...." Mom didn't mind the overt hint and she made and froze two more pies for us to bake in the future.

Mom wanted to go shopping to buy the girls outfits as presents for their upcoming birthdays one morning while they were at school, so we did that too.

So by thursday I was feeling pretty guilty about having taken advantage of my mom's free labor in our kitchen. We had a fridge overflowing with food from each of the previous night's dinners and leftover desserts everywhere, though those were more rapidly disappearing. "Let's go out tonight," I offered. "Someplace you like. Someplace with good seafood, or mexican, or whatever. You've been here several days and all you've done is pick up my kids from school and cook for us."

"I lived here for 15 years. I'm not a tourist, I don't need to be taken places. Let's have leftovers," mom countered. I tried but I couldn't persuade her otherwise. I was imagining the eye-rolls from her friends back home when she returned and described her "wonderful" "exciting" trip out west to see her family. They are going to think we're a bunch of dead-beats.

When I did occasionally let mom out of the kitchen, she was promptly put to work as a hairdresser. I don't know how that came about. Either she offered or the girls begged her or some combination of the two led her to put braids into their hair. Several braids. Every day. Sometimes done in the evening after a bath and then touched up the next morning before school.

Finally, on friday evening, her last evening here, we met with my brother and sister-in-law again and went out for dinner, to a place I like and my brother likes, but my mom wasn't so sure about. We went to a German restaurant with a nice courtyard/biergarten and live music.

As usual, when Brad is around he is the center of the girls' attention, and their favorite dance partner.

It was a nice warm evening and great be dining outside and we were there for hours. The food was good, the beers were large, the music was jazz, which wasn't what I was hoping to hear, personally. I really would have preferred fun German folk music, but I guess I'll get enough of that soon enough when we return here with friends for Oktoberfest. Brad knows the owners of this resturant and tried to get Erin to speak to a waitress he knows in German, which he's heard her doing a lot lately, but she doesn't like performing on demand.

Mom, despite her week's various duties of migrant farm worker, chauffeur, children's personal shopper, resident chef, and on-demand hairstylist, said she had a great visit. WE sure had a great visit. And I'm sure she's happy to be back home and I hope she is able to rest after her "relaxing" vacation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

first day x 3

Today was the perhaps the most anticipated first day of school for us so far. Reviewing for a minute, we were slightly conflicted about sending the twins to school this year because their kindergarten assessment was, um, unfavorable. But through the spring we talked to several people who know something about whether a particular kid is ready for school and who know our girls, and everyone was in agreement that they are ready, except the school of course. But what do they know?

Yesterday afternoon we went to school when they posted the class lists and the K/1 students could go to their new classrooms and meet their teachers. The twins are in separate classes within the same village (as I requested). Their classes are next door to each other and they'll see each other at least occasionally on most days, but they'll get some very needed separation.

Following the meeting and greeting with the new teachers we joined the ice cream social outside and saw some old friends and made some new ones. Erin and all of her old buddies compared notes on who was in what new class in what new village, and she visited her K/1 teacher of the past two years.

This morning, each of the girls was bright-eyed and chipper and raring to go.

Erin was particularly enthused. "The summer break should be loooooonnnnnnnggggggggerrrrrrr," she whined, sounding quite teenager-ish. "I don't want to go back to school toooooddddddddddaaaaaaaay." By contrast, on most previous school days she has been my most cooperative morning person by far.

But I did manage to get everyone fed and into the car and here they are as we approached the school, showing off their new backpacks (Erin's isn't new, but it was washed. Aside: those Lands End backpacks sure hold up well. This is year 3 with hers--not a rip or tear anywhere so far.) And a shot near the front of the school.

Erin, now in second grade, lines up in the morning in a new area of the school, on a separate playground from the K/1 students. "Do you know where to go to find your lineup?" I asked her. "Um, yeah. Puh-lease," she answered. And she went off on her way without a look back, and on the way to the K/1 lineup area I reminded the twins of where the nearest girls' bathroom is to their classrooms (always an important bit of info). And then Kate and Allison lined up in their respective classroom lines.

Being in a new situation without her sister right next to her seemed to be getting to Kate a little.

She frequently gazed over to Allison, who usually wasn't paying attention. Kate gave me 4 or 5 goodbye hugs in the 3-4 minutes we stood there. Allison just waved and was more preoccupied with the goings on around her.

I got a shot of the kids settling into Allison's classroom, but didn't get a good pictures of Kate's and by the time I got over to Erin's class the door was already closed.

I ran a couple of errands today and sat at home for a little while and then at lunch time came back to the school to begin some volunteer work I arranged for yesterday, and that took the rest of the afternoon until dismissal.

Allison and Erin had a great first day. Allison was raving about everything and reported making two friends already. Erin likes her new teacher. Kate said she didn't make any friends and never will because she "will always only play by myself." I think Kate is used to dominating, Allison in particular. Now that she's "on her own" there is going to be some adjustment time needed, but it's clear that Allison is already digging the independence.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

got flowers?

Danielle is our former nanny. We hired her towards the end of my twin pregnancy, anticipating that I could handle twin infants mostly okay, probably, maybe...but entertaining a toddler at the same time seemed really, really difficult to juggle. We found Danielle and she began working in our home 3 days per week for the 5 months I would be on maternity leave with the twins, though her duties were primarily looking after Erin.

Erin instantly loved Danielle (we all did actually) and after the 5 months we didn't want to let her go. I went back to work 3 days per week and Danielle continued coming to my home on the other 2 days, when I was home also. Her role as mainly looking after Erin changed once the twins were about a year old and no longer nursing. She became my all-around kid helper and extra set of eyes and hands which made going on all sorts of excursions with the 3 kids much easier. Three years later, when Erin started kindergarten, we finally let Danielle go, and she became a nanny for another family with twins.

She still babysits for us occasionally and comes to my girls' birthday parties. Early on, when she still worked for us, she introduced us to her new boyfriend, Jacob. Years later she came to our house to tell us she became engaged. We went to her housewarming party when they bought their first home, and she asked my girls to be flower girls in her wedding. Though they've never been to a wedding before, they were thrilled to be chosen for this assignment. They knew they'd have new fancy dresses and thay they would spread pedals around, and that's about it. They've been talking about this day for the entire past year.

The wedding and reception was in Jacob's parents' very nice backyard, with an adjacent vineyard.

Some pictures before the wedding:

I knew the kids were old enough to understand their directions, sprinkling the fower pedals only where and when they were supposed to, and I knew they would be cooperative. They wanted to do a good job for Danielle. I was most worried that one of them wouldn't be paying attention and would fall into the pool.

A picture with the bride and groom (the kids Danielle currently cares for were in the wedding also):

And after dinner the girls kicked off their shoes and enjoyed compliments on their performance from many other wedding guests, and they got busy with some dancing into the night. And though only one of the girls managed to make it to the end of the evening with their special fancy dress still fully intact, no one managed to fall into the pool.