We had such a wonderful holiday with Laura and Ryan. It was only 4 full days, but they were 4 very full days!
(Blog note: should I go back to previous posts and upgrade them with photos and comments? I'm tempted, but their unusual brevity says something on its own, so I guess I'll fill in the blanks here.)
(Photo note: the drastic difference in photo quality is because Ryan took most of them. Even when he's just snapshotting with a point-and-shoot, the talent and skill shines!)
First, we started off with Julian's birthday party. I kept the invitees to a small group of kids who Julian knows well, either from Tonya's and Las Madres, though I probably could have gotten away with another year of inviting my friends and making it a big yakfest. But the time of year calls for a small, controlled situation (hah), so we only had three other of Julian's peers there, plus siblings.
It worked out really well, despite my dishwasher disaster (it croaked for good the night before, so we had to round up and install a new dishwasher the same day -- and did!). I'd wanted to have some games, but just ran out of time to prepare for them. As usual, it wasn't necessary.
(The only blemish was at the very end, when all the kids were playing outside and one guest started crying that Gabriel had hit him with the bat. I saw Gabriel standing near him in a threatening pose holding the bat, and asked him what happened, and he flat-out said that he had. I didn't wait for the excuse and sent him straight to his room, though of course, there is no "straight" with him. He refused, I sent for Dad to carry him up, and he went spitting and hurling threats at me. I think even the most pacifistic anti-spanker would have wanted to give him a good whack on the rear end for his rude talk!)
A note about the cake: I tried my new Giant Cupcake pan for the first time, and had all sorts of technical problems! Each side of the pan bakes at different rates. The deep side can hold an entire batch of batter by itself, but then puffs out too far. Any detail in the shape of the pan is lost when it's covered by frosting. I'm a supremely amateurish cake decorator (fortunately, a giant cupcake is a goofy idea to begin with, so the lopsidedness randomness actually worked).
Finally, serving it is a challenge. This time, I lopped off the top and served it in slices to the kids, and all the Moms on diets (which is all of us all the time) had the bottom part. But, the giant cupcake did have that OohWow effect on the kids, and that's what I was after.
Four years old! (well, in four days)
We'd had some grand plans for things to do while Laura and Ryan were here, but one has to calibrate "grand." No one is better at relaxing, or better to relax with, than our fabulously well-adjusted in-laws. Much time was spent lounging around in PJs, unshowered, with no particular schedule.
That's my perception of it, though of course in reality, there is very little actual lounging with the kids around. Katrina made sure to keep my stress levels high, my teeth gritted and my nails bitten with her grumpiness and high-maintenance, which fortunately everyone else tuned out. Ryan spent an unprecedented amount of time playing with the boys outside, taking them to the little park down the end of the block, reading with them, playing with them on the floor. Laura and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, as she indulged my new cooking habit, and I continued to discover the depth of her foodieism and cooking experience.
In the end, we never made it to the light show, ice skating in San Jose, decorating ornaments, making a gingerbread house or gingerbread cookies, making stockings...but since I'm on my 3rd would-be-toddler, I know that those things will be easier to do in future years when we don't have a crawler and a 7PM time bomb.
Of course, some things had to happen. A trip to the BMX park was a must, though a large mud puddle foiled Julian and his tiny wheels.
Hanging with Ryan afterward.
I had a hankering for a good run on Christmas Eve, and thanks to family support, I was able to do so with relative ease-of-mind. It was a beautiful morning, so we talked about all going to Rancho San Antonio for a short hike -- or should have been a short hike. It took a lot of effort to keep Julian going, so we had to stop a lot, but Katrina wouldn't tolerate much of that, so Dave went ahead with her in the jogging stroller. Gabriel happily tottered along the whole way, though he pooped out at the end.
It was fun for me to run, go home, take a shower, and turn right back around to go back to one of my favorite places on earth. I don't walk there often these days, it was nice.
These boys were ON all day, and they were wiped out by the end of the day!
Christmas Day, after a huge breakfast and gift-opening, everyone needed to get OUT. So everyone except Dave (who indulged in a great nap) went down to the little park at the end of our neighborhood.
I actually haven't seen the boys ride on pavement in a while, and was very impressed with Julian especially. I've come to expect a certain skill level from Gabriel, but Julian comes up with new things all the time. He was practicing a "sharp" turn that Ryan encouraged him to do, and even swooped around with his feet on the bar.
Julian doing his "sharp turns":
Incredibly, the boys don't run into each other (often):
Later, the boys ran Ryan down with many rounds (Gabriel kept count) of Hide-and-Seek.
The boys totally scored with gifts! Some wonderful games, some really special books, and musical instruments. Ugh, I shouldn't even try this, because I'm bound to not mention something really special. We gave Gabriel his much-anticipated Snap Circuits though, and he predictably loves them. It made me feel so good when he looked at me and said out of the blue, "Thank you so much for Snap Circuits, Mommy." Boy, when he wants to be sweet (not usually in the Top Ten of his qualities), he does it Gabriel-style: all-out.
The kids hang out. Thanks to Aunt & Uncle distractions, the boys weren't bugging Katrina quite as constantly.
I think this is the first year I've ever made a genuine Christmas dinner. Some poor planning meant some shopping-scrambling, and a huge push in the afternoon to get everything done. It couldn't have happened without Laura doing over half the work, and all the consultation and company-keeping. What fun! Of course, next year I'll make the dessert the day before, and oh yeah, buy a turkey ahead of time, hel-lo! Better planning also would have made up for many of the inadequacies of my kitchen, but conversely, my future new kitchen will make up for my poor planning, since I'll have six burners, two ovens, and a whole lot more space. But nothing will make up for Ryan the Clean Machine -- he is fast, efficient, and resourceful.
(For the record, we brined and roasted a 15-pound turkey, made sage-walnut-fig stuffing, bagged stuffing, steamed cauliflower, spiced carmelized cauliflower, braised leeks, braised Dutch Gold potatoes, spiced cranberry sauce, and maple pecan pie.)
Two years ago, I was filled with Christmas spirit and happily indulged in every cliche I could get my hands on. My youngest child was almost 2, and I was enjoying that "coming up for air" that many Moms experience when shaking off the last bits of baby phase. There was new relief at Gabriel's growing out of his peak difficulty, and of course Julian was an ultra-angelic toddler. I was really able to enjoy them and do holiday things with them. I started to look forward to things like family-wide bicycle rides (not yet anticipating the future role of bicycles in our lives).
But a few weeks later, the bomb dropped, leaving me with a black eye and a new due date. Last Christmas, my memory is of just coming out of being in pain all the time, not sleeping well, still remodeling, and dealing with an unsoothable, if very smiley, moderate-to-high-maintenance baby. And remaining shock that we were back to babies.
This year, perspective set in. Though Katrina has been pretty difficult lately, I know that toddlerhood is around the corner, and kidhood looms not so long beyond that. Based on past experience, I know that all her strong personality traits that I'm steeling myself to endure again in a toddler will manifest themselves in wonderful ways when she's older. I can look at Gabriel and see her future, even as she reflects his past. I still couldn't completely relax and just wallow in holiday spirit this year, and I wish I could have spent more time with the boys, but these are practically nits when I think of all the cheer and joy and fun we all had -- and will have even more of in the future when all three can really participate.
I hope I can get it together to scrapbook this holiday. It was really special.