Saturday, December 19, 2009

12/19/09 Birthday Party

Today was Julian's birthday party. Julian's own birthday party, with his friends -- despite his challenging actual birthday on the 26th.

After last year's "playdate party," which was fun but really wasn't his birthday party, I wanted to make sure this birthday was memorable. Julian did his own invite list, though it wasn't easy because many invitees we have no way to contact other than Julian handing his friend a paper invitation. I was surprised that the first kids he wanted to invite were from preschool, not kindergarten. We had a fairly large invite list, expecting many nos -- so close to Christmas is tricky, would most kids be travelling? In the end, 11 kids RSVP'd yes.

I did this one as simply as I know how. I didn't make anything. I bought all the food, and the cake, and hired a gymnastics guy that goes to Betsy's preschool and she used for Andrew's party too. That was tricky too -- the weather and our un-landscaped yard could be a real liability, but we got lucky. The ground was dry enough and the skies were clear, so we pulled it off.

And, I succeeded! It was a terrific party, and all the kids had SO MUCH FUN.

It worked all because of the gymnastics guy. I couldn't believe how good he was! He brought a jump house too, and I first thought the gymnastics idea would be lost -- what kid wants to get out of a jump house? But, noooo problem. They warmed up in the jump house, then he did some exercises with them, then back in the jump house while he re-arranged stuff, then back in. It was a perfect balance of free and directed play, and he was great at dealing with a large group of kids.

First, a demo of all the equipment and how to use it, starring the birthday boy.

Then, everybody go!

Even Katrina got into the action.

Julian's friend Alex from preschool arrived late, but in style!

More jumphouse time -- this time, with Mr. Nick and a set of reindeer horns.

After two rounds of gymnastics, the teacher found a great way to remove the jumphouse as a temptation: have the kids deflate it! They loved this.

But they weren't done yet. They did a game where he swung a rope around their feet, and they had to jump to avoid it.

Then they all bounced a big ball in the air.

And finished off with a dance.

(I wanted to join the dance, but this was for the kids...still, in retrospect, they might have gotten a kick out of seeing Mom in there!)

Only one way to get kids inside again after so much fun -- cake time! I tried an ice cream cake, since Betsy has found they're very popular. This one was chocolate and mint chocolate chip -- no complaints!

Though it sure was messy to cut. Luckily, I had the help of a few parents who stayed.

Later, the boys spent hours poring over a new building toy Julian got. I sure wish Gabriel would just leave Julian alone, but Julian welcomes his help, 90% of the time. I think Julian would be a lot better off without his domineering older brother, but, alas, that is his life. They (mostly) had a great time working together.

This was completely worth it. Going through the photos for the blog post today, Julian is beaming in every single one he's in. He had SO much fun. It sounds so corny, but really what makes parents the happiest is to see our children happy. That's why we do these parties, spend a lot of money and take a ton of time -- to make them happy. What is childhood for if not to have a fun birthday party?

SIX! (well, in one week). I can't believe it. My most precious Julian!


Friday, December 18, 2009

12/18/09 The Statue

Today I attended Katrina's preschool's holiday party. I love these things because the kids practice singing for weeks ahead of time, and it's so fun listening to Katrina sing at home, to herself and to us, all the time.

But not at school.

She moved her mouth for the first few words, but that was it. She looked shellshocked the whole time. I'm starting to wonder if she's actually a little shy, and doesn't like crowds, even though the indications of that are subtle. She's overall confident and social and relaxed in large groups -- not at all intimidated at the CDC surrounded by older kids for instance -- but I don't know...she doesn't thrive on attention among her peers.

It took her a while to warm up after the performance too, but a cupcake helped that along. I love the Santa beards her class made, and wore.

Waiting for her to wash her hands, I noticed that her hair is getting long in the back again. Pretty, but getting harder to handle.

I've done so, so much baking this holiday -- I love that, but I had an awful pang today when I saw other kids at the preschool handing the teachers gifts. Of all people who should get recognition and a note of thanks, it's our three teachers. It slipped off my plate this year, and shame on me. Not again.

Last day in the office today! I have work to wrap up this weekend, but then that's it for me as a contractor. I'm looking forward to some time "off" -- if being home with all three for 2 weeks is "off!"


Thursday, December 17, 2009

12/17/09 The Feast

Today Gabriel's class had an "international feast," in which every kid brings a dish representative of their culture to class for lunch, and parents are invited to attend.

I'd talk to my Mom about an easy French dessert, but it turned out that the idea was to use a recipe that the kid had to write down for homework some weeks ago. So, we made banana bread. Really, I made it, because I went to a cookie exchange party last night, and didn't have time to make it with Gabriel -- though he did mush up the bananas in a bag.

As it turns out, I did exactly what most other parents did: bring something I make at home all the time anyway. I'd have been one of the few who had to dig deep to find something representing my ancestral "culture," since the (mostly) Indian dishes that (most) Moms brought are daily fare anyway!

One Dad brought PIZZA. That was a huge hit.

Though I'm incredibly pressed for time at work, this was one thing I wasn't about to miss. I was a few minutes late though, and couldn't get the image of Gabriel's longing face out of my head, the one that was standing by the door of his kindergarten classroom, searching for me while the rest of his class celebrated the last day of kindergarten inside the room with their parents. I was 20 minutes late that day, and the guilt still follows me. Gabriel is so emotionally independent, but I've learned these things mean a lot to him, and it was important I be there. And I really wanted to be.

He insisted I sit down next to him, and when I didn't get any food, he insisted again I go get some food too. I got a little, then he got up and got me a few things he liked and wanted me to try.

He wasn't all business, of course. He and his table pals found a way to be silly with tortillas (or whatever these are).

I really had a good time, it's always fun to connect with other parents and see how the kids are in the class. One-on-one time with each kid is pretty rare these days, so it's a nice treat for both of us. And the banana bread was very popular -- one Indian mom even asked me for the recipe.

Tomorrow at work there's a big holiday potluck thing, and I have a reputation to maintain now with baking. I'm baking tonight, but I'm quickly getting baked out. And, Katrina's school is having a holiday party and performing songs, so I'll leave work early to watch her stand in a group and stare at the teachers and refuse to sing. And then I get to scramble to pick up all the food for Julian's party on Saturday.

I need a vacation from holidays!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12/16/09 Cookie overload!

Attended a fun cookie exchange party tonight at a 2006 mom's house...but came home and baked again for Gabriel's International Feast tomorrow. Then there's another event Friday to bake for (at work, not essential, but now I have a reputation to uphold), and then Julian's party on Saturday. Which I'm not baking for, but I still have to get ready for.

This is all a ton of fun, but that fun is being delivered by steamroller right now, and I'm exhausted.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12/15/09 Pills

Two of them today. Pills, that is. Katrina: one fuss and resistance and fit after another. Gabriel: rude, belligerent, attitude when asked multiple times to do something. Plus he got in trouble at school today, saying to a "teammate" (someone at his table) that her mother was stupid, and then that he wished she were dead. Two days lost recess for that, plus a note of apology to both the teammate and the mother. Which he refused to do tonight, so, more trouble.

Meantime, it seems our most recent top pill has retired from troublemaking, and is all about being sweet and helpful. Julian even half-jokes in response to my asking him to do something, "yes, ma'am"! It's been really fun getting to know him again; with the fortress of pestiness falling down around him, there's really a terrific kid inside there.

Now if only the other two would to go rehab.


Monday, December 14, 2009

12/14/09 Busy Monday

I haven't done this in a long time, and it's great. I zipped off to work as early as I could get there today, about 8:05, and pretty much didn't stop working until I absolutely had to leave at 4:40. This is my LAST week as a contractor, and I'm determined to wrap up this testing project and leave it complete and well-documented. But the truth is, it's fun. I know exactly what I need to do, and I enter the lab with a clear plan in my head for the next 10 steps, knowing exactly what sequence to do things in and exactly what the plan is. I sure wish I had that same vision for interior decorating. Home projects like landscaping and doing the family room have fallen by the wayside.

But, not to worry -- next week, I'll go in to work once just to turn in my laptop and badge, and then that's it. I start looking for a full-time job -- but not until after two weeks at home, catching up with home projects and just being at home with my increasingly enjoyable little brood. Julian especially has been delightful lately -- actually, he's always delightful, but lately he's not been disguising that with obnoxious resistance or rudeness. (Unfortunately Gabriel's been taking up the slack in that department.) I still have very little room for Katrina's impossible tantrums and impasses, but while they're still daily, they are tapering off a little.

I'm looking forward to having some real time at home with them soon. After an intense week this week that is.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

12/13/09 Tree Decorating

Busy, full weekend!

We hosted the 2006 Las Madres holiday party on Saturday. I think at the peak there were more people than at Thanksgiving, but thanks to the help of so many wonderful capable people, it was a relative breeze.

The party included two book exchanges, one for the 2006ers and one for the school-age kids. Many, many 2006 moms also have older "babies" who are in kindergarten; some one year younger, some older. The book exchange is popular!

Betsy and I are the only ones with yet another older child too, so Gina and Gabriel did their own book exchange. Both loved each other's books. It was all we could do to pry Gabriel off the couch later, reading his "Warriors" book.

At last year's holiday party, Julian totally hit it off with Elena, a girl his age whose younger sister, Megan, is the 2006er. Megan and Elena's mom Cris and I have become friends, and I was delighted to learn that Cris is from Rochester, NY!

Anyway, it'd been a year since Julian and Elena had seen each other, and they didn't really remember each other -- but they hit it off again just the same. They were even walking around holding hands, when they weren't running like crazy after each other. When most of the crowd was gone, they even let me get some photos.

Cris and I are already talking about what to name our first grandchild.

Though it was hectic at the party, and stressful beforehand only because I couldn't give it the attention I wanted, it was a lot of fun. I really like having so many kids happily running around the house -- that's what the house is for. They give the house life and purpose.

Today Dave had to work, so I had the three at home myself today. A lazy day after such a busy one yesterday, or it tried to be. After slapping together a hasty breakfast, I went back to sleep for a while before Dave left for work. I fell into a deep sleep, awoken by an exceedingly irritating new game of Julian and Katrina's that involves her bursting out screeches at the top of her lungs. I called Dave on his iPhone (easier than hollering down the stairs!) to apologize for oversleeping and to tell him to go to work -- but he told me he was already at work and hadn't wanted to wake me to tell me (figuring correctly that the kids would take care of that). Well, wow! The kids let me sleep for a good hour and a half. I'm liking this phase of life. Now if we can just get past the tantrums.

I could have stayed at home all day, but I knew that the kids had to get out. We took a short trip to the library, to return old books and get new ones. This was great; the boys were completely silent absorbed in their new books for two hours. Katrina played very happily, not being bugged by brothers for once.

Time to decorate our tree! They'd really been looking forward to doing this, and this time, Katrina got in on the action. She caught on to the concept of hooking things on the tree right away. They all had a great time. This is what Christmas is about!

Santa baby!