Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"when they're five"

One day, when the twins were just a few weeks old, I was walking across the parking lot of the local Target with the girls in their double infant stroller. A woman, walking in the opposite direction, looked at me and them and stopped. "Oh, my," she said. "I've got twins too. Don't worry, it gets easier...when they're five."

And here we are.

I have to disagree that it's easier now though. Back then the twins just ate and slept and needed their bottoms wiped, though they needed a lot of each. Nowadays they're fast and hard to catch, they talk back and complain about what's for dinner. Not everything has changed, though.
"Mama, Daddy! I need help! Come here! I used up all the toilet paper and I STILL have a messy bottom!"

And Kate still gives me this look:

It's sometimes hard for me to believe, but we've survived five years with the twins, or rather, they have survived five years with us.

The girls' birthday was this past saturday, a convenient day to host a party for them one would think, but then for some reason it became the day where everything in the universe was happening.

On their birthday was the first day of German school for the fall semester, our elementary school was holding it's annual fall family fun day, a good friend of mine who lives in Alaska now was in the area and hosting a big BBQ with tons of old friends, and my department at the hospital was holding it's annual end of summer family picnic. I made a decision early on to decline all non-supremely kid-oriented invitations. We really needed to go to our first day back at German school, but other than that, the twins got to call the shots.

I decided against trying to have their party that day since many of the likely invitees would want to go to the big school event, so their party was scheduled for sunday. On friday night the girls informed us that they really wanted to go out to breakfast at their FAVORITE restaurant on earth, IHOP, before German school. No problem. And I brought two kinds of cookies with us on saturday to the school so that they could share them with their new class and have a mini-celebration. Their teacher, fortunately, was the same one that they had last year and was more than happy to comply. "The kids all sang to us in German AND in English!" they later explained.

I asked them what they wanted to do that afternoon and they did in fact want to go to family fun day at the school, which started at 4:00. We went home, had lunch, they opened presents from us and all the cards they'd received in the mail and later on we headed there. They had a great time with the games and activities and then per their request, we went to dinner at a restaurant that would rank in their top five I'd say--Applebee's.

It was a busy, action and sugar and present-packed day, and their real party was yet to come, and just because we didn't have enough to do in the weekend, I let a colleague talk me into doing a 5K walk with her in the morning before the party.

Last year Kate's broken arm put a huge wrench into the birthday plans I made, where I planned s single party for all three girls, but at a place you can't go if you are wearing a cast. So that got cancelled and I didn't have enough time to plan a replacement since we were packing and moving into an apartment. After our move last year, we did go to Disneyland in early october and we tried to make up for their cancelled party by doing the birthday-related special activities that the park offered.

This year I decided the twins and Erin probably would appreciate their own separate parties. The twins and I came up with a zoo theme for theirs. For the backyard I reserved a giraffe bounce house (one of Kate's favorite animals, ever) and decorated with alternating colors of green streamers in the family room and playroom and out on the deck to kind of look like vines and such. I got animal print balloons and zoo animal plates and spread out dozens of cheap little plastic toy animals (the kinds that you buy in bags like army men) on all of the tables.

Our party was after lunch so I only served snacks and cake and drinks. I couldn't really think of what would be good zoo food so I served veggie snacks (which, along with some cold cuts and cheeses, was more for the adults) and fruit and put out bowls labeled Gorilla Munch (popcorn), Seal Snacks (goldfish crackers), and Bear Biscuits (animal crackers). John was disappointed in my incomplete alliteration.

The kids were having fun in the bounce house and with our play structure and with coloring their own animal masks.

And then my surprise entertainment showed up--a woman and her 6 performing parrots. The kids were in the midst of other things, all running around and being as loud as could be and I didn't know how I'd round them up and get them quiet enough to pay attention to anything in particular, when the woman suggested she just bring out one large parrot first and start to talk to the adults about it and sooner or later the kids would realize what was going on and come over.

After a minute or so, as the adults got photo opportunities with the parrot, Erin noticed what was going on "Hey everyone! Look!" she shouted and pointed while running around the yard, going kid to kid like Paul Revere on his mission, "A bird! A REAL bird! Right over there!"

And almost all at once all the kids got quiet and rushed over to see while parrot lady's husband set up the stage on the lawn.

The parrots performed all sorts of tricks: basketball, bowling, riding a bike, roller skating, raising a flag, opening a can of soda, putting mini groceries into a mini shopping cart on a shopping excursion, and of course talking and singing. One parrot did this rehearsed banter back and forth with the trainer which was fun to hear. The kids were pretty much enthralled the entire time. I've never seen so many small children so quiet for so long.

My brother brought his little dog over for the afternoon and per the trainer's request he was kept off to the side and on a leash. He was really interested in the birds though and he barked at them periodically. After Chimmy barked, the parrots barked back, which kept confusing the trainer about where the dog actually was, and if he'd gotten loose and was near the birds.

At one point the bright, large multi-colored parrot climbed down from his perch and came around from the table and started to come near the kids. All at once they squealed and pointed and shouted. "He was coming after your goldfish crackers," the trainer explained. "That's one of his favorite snacks."

Kate and Allison got to be the show special helpers, holding props and feeding little treats to the birds too.

After the show all the kids (and an uncle or two) were given a chance to pose for a picture with the parrot of their choice.

A little while after the bird show was cake time. The cake was a lion's face made up of chocolate and white cupcakes, with a twin's name on each cheek.

We lit the candles and sang to the girls individually, giving each a chance to feel like the center of attention and blow out their candles on their own.

It was a great party, if I do say so myself. The twins had a really fun, special day and weekend, and even I found having a bounce house in my own backyard irresistible.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

mom, dad...i'm gaelic

Last weekend we all visited the local, gigantic, annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games. I took the kids and went last year for the first time--this year John agreed to go along, though I think he thought the idea was kinda silly. Silly? C'mon now, where else can you go to listen to a rock band featuring bagpipes?

There were craftspeople making and selling things everywhere. This man (a Scottish immigrant) was carving celtic symbols into stones. He talked a lot and had much longer stories to tell about various stones (both already carved and not yet carved) than one would really think possible. I wasn't quite sure why anyone would sit and carve celtic symbols into stone and I was less sure why people would buy them.

These people were all dressed in costume from, I don't know, some past century or another. The idea here was you go up and talk to the people and ask them about their clothes and their furnishings and so forth and they'd tell you about that period in history and how people lived. The girls thought they all looked too strange to approach and speak to though.

As we walked around a few of the friendlier, more outgoing participants managed to get the girls to talk to them, and even pose with them for a picture.

After a while the girls got more curious about the displays and props.

Next we watched some sheep dog trials and then visited and petted some Clydesdale horses, visited some handlers with their birds of prey on display, and then watched all the different Scottish clan representatives march in to the area where the games would go on later in the day.

It took quite a while for everyone to march in, I couldn't begin to count the number of family clans represented there. We saw and waved to John's "clan" representative and then when the ceremony concluded we wandered over to the clan tent area and we found John's.

Once we got there John seemed more enthusiastic about this whole festival than I expected him to be. He signed us in and met the other folks who stopped by, and we all met the clan organization representative who we saw in the ceremony and they talked a little about where each of their families originated. The girls thought it was neat to be reminded of where their name comes from. Kate and Allison wore shirts with their last name and family tartan on them, which was met with lots of positive comments in the clan tent and throughout the day.

And on we went, to look at all the people dressed in a way that fit right in around there, but would gather a lot of stares if they were anywhere else that day. "Daddy should be wearing HIS kilt!" the girls observed a few times.

And we watched some of the pipe and drum bands compete:

As they did last year, the girls had a great day. There was so much to see and do, and though there were some vendors selling meat pies and fish & chips, the girls opted for hot dogs and ice cream, which always help make for a successful outing.

We went to a children's area where the girls all played some old Scottish games for prizes, like ring toss, darts, and the always popular "Haggis Toss":

And golf, of course. Opa would be so proud, I told them.

Lastly we watched older kids compete in highland dancing , which I didn't get a picture of this time around, but I did last year:

Erin asked, "Do the girls have to wear their hair up in a bun like that?" "Yes," I told her, "it's part of the outfit and it keeps their hair out of their face while they dance."
"I'm going to learn Scottish dancing and dance on that stage when I'm older," she advised me, "But I have to wait until my hair is long enough to put in a bun." At least she has clarity on the amount of time and work that's involved.

We were at the festival for more than six hours and we never did make it back over to the main arena to see the actual Highland Games, John reminded me as we left, right after we stopped back by that celtic stone carver and selected a stone for our front garden area. Thoroughly useless, but somehow kinda cool we concluded. As for seeing the Highland Games, ah well, there is always next year. Plenty of time for John to get a family clan kilt of his own.