Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Look Whoooo's Four!

What could be better than chocolate feathers?  On a crooked owl cake?

I know!  I know!  A party where you get to look for birds, and pretend to be birds, and then you get to eat a bird.

This was our first official birthday bash for R.  Her first two were family affairs.  Her third one was more like "There's the ball pit.  There are the cupcakes.  I'll be over here taking care of a newborn."  So I wanted to do something special, personalized just for her. 

I saw this owl cake idea a while back on, so it's been lingering in the back of my mind, just waiting for the right time.  And when I connected it with the fact that R has always loved to fly around the house pretending to be a bird and to build nests for herself out of any materials (most often clean laundry and bedding) available, a party theme was born.

This is the giant nest we built last month out of the plethora of tree trimmings we had laying all over our yard.  The owl costume idea I stole from  It's mostly hot glue, with a few felt feathers thrown in.  You'll never guess what R is going to be for halloween this year. 

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that we are able to do all homemade costumes.  I'm feeling much more ambitious than last year.  Besides, I'm trying to save our pennies so we can take the kids to Disneyland sometime before the world ends.

The invitations turned out really fun.  I think I liked them more than the cake, which is saying a lot.  And the best part is that they were totally my idea.  Shocked?  Yeah, me too.  I am the queen idea borrower.

The idea stemmed from a photo idea.  Surprise.  Surprise.  The above photo, in fact.  I glued it to the front of a card and printed, "Guess whooo's turning four!"  Then I used a paper trimmer (you could also use an exacto knife) to cut through the photo and the card so that a flap opened up to reveal the photo below.  Or part of it, anyway.  Plus the birthday girl's name.

Inside, it read:  And guess whoooo is invited to the party!  Yoooo are!  Come to the (insert last name)bird sanctuary on Saturday (insert date and time).  Be ready to flap your wings, eat some worms (not real ones!), go bird watching, and have lots of fun with your feathered friends.

Feel free to steal all my ideas.  Heaven know I've done it too many times to count.  And it's a rare thing that most of the ideas for this party were my own.

The cake is two bowl cakes stuck together to make an oval.  I think I might have made mine overly tall.  He almost tipped over on multiple occasions.  But fortunately, the bamboo skewers and the cardboard circles kept him steady enough.  Not straight, but steady enough.  Barely.

Slivered almonds for the breast feathers and shaved chocolate (chocolate bar meets veggie peeler) for the back and side feathers.  Dried pineapple rings for the circles with junior mints for the eyes.  Pretzel sticks and green coconut for the nest.  And the beak is a caramel bugle.  K and S were gracious enough to help me find one that was the perfect shape, and then they ate most of the discards.

They were inspired enough by my big owl that they wanted to try making their own smaller versions.  I think they did a pretty good job.

Shaggy remarked that the owl looked VERY surprised.  I probably would too, if I were about to be carved up and fed to very small children.

I even remembered to get myself in a picture. 

R was expressing concern over the fact that the owl's hair was on fire.  Love that face.

We braved the heat so the kids could play in the giant nest, pretending to be birds and eating worms.  They liked that part.

Then we handed out binoculars (made from toilet paper tubes glued together and painted), and a birdwatcher sheet with photos of the things they were supposed to find around the backyard.

I found these cute little birds at Michaels.  Didn't have any idea what I was going to do with them until a few weeks before the party.  But it turned out to be a really fun bird hunt for the kids.  They also found a little nest with fake eggs and a few other bird related things.  But they loved the basket filled with large plastic easter eggs the best.  Because they got to keep some.  They were extra thrilled when I told them that they had surprises inside and they had to crack the eggs open to see them.  I had placed toy birds and bags of jelly beans inside the eggs, then hot glued them shut, and painted them to look like robin eggs.  Some of those eggs were hard to crack!

I think this has to be one of my all time favorite party guests photo.  It makes me smile.  They LOVED those binos--and made good use of them, too.

Once the heat got the better of us, we retreated into wonderful AC land where we cooled off with drinks and an owl story.  The Littlest Owl, about a baby owl whose family is not sure he'll ever learn to fly.  But he does, even in the midst of a storm.

 So we handed out handkerchiefs and let the kids run around the house while flapping their arms, trying to achieve lift off.  Nobody succeeded, but there was a lot of giggling.

But surprisingly, the activity that they stuck with the longest and that generated the MOST giggles, was the classic Duck, Duck, Goose.  Of course, being 3 and 4, they didn't follow the rules very well, but that certainly didn't stop them from enjoying themselves.

The birthday girl had a great time.  Even though most of her gifts came from either the attic fairy or ebay.  But what does she know?  They're new to her.

 This girl has the greatest surprise face ever!

She's so happy to be growing up.  She even told me that when she gets a little bigger, she's going to not do bad things anymore, ever. 

I love her earnestness.  And I wonder what, exactly, is her definition of a little bigger.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Language acquisition is such a tricky thing.   It's repetition, repetition, repetition.   With a whole lot of experimentation thrown in.   Which is the tricky part, but also the fun part.

The quirky ways that preschoolers find to communicate truly amaze me.   So I am usually in no rush to correct them.   Even though that is appalling to a handful of people I know.   Who can be vocal about their opinions.

But since they are not raising my children, I mostly ignore their criticism.   And enjoy the creative ways my little ones express themselves.   R has a whole arsenal of words that she has either made up or altered.   I love them all.   And I have thus far encouraged her use of them with no attempt at correcting her.   This language creativity is so short lived.   I want to enjoy every moment, every syllable.   Besides, I don't have to share her with the world.   Not yet.   Not for another whole week when she starts preschool.

For now, she's mine.   All mine.   And I will cherish that.

When R is hungry, she asks for a girly bar (granola bar) or a chupe (lettuce leaf).   When she is bored, she goes to find a bud (older brother or matchbox car--these are interchangeable) to play with.   Or she finds her 'puter (computer) to type with.   Or she lingers after a bath for a little slip-n-slide.   Or she makes up stories in which bad guys make a cameo appearance every single time.   Or she finds her ninjer bag (purse) with bracelet and toy lipstick to make herself a pretty ninjer.   When she wants to walk with us to take the other kids to school, she insists on wearing her back sack.   And on the way, she is sure to look for penny mennies.   When she's tired, she likes to sleep in the cotton (on the cot).   She said she had so much fun the night she did that.  Slept in the cotton, that is.

Sometimes she sees squirlers in the trees out in the wide, wide worlerd.   And one day a handicapped bus parked in front of the house.   She heard her siblings talk about it and came to give me a report.   She told me there was a handy-candy bus parked outside.   And later, when Shaggy came home, she reported to him that the handy-dandy bus had come to our house.

Tonight at dinner she informed us all that she can jump over the water all the way up to space.  Even when she's holding a bunch of peoples.  And later, she told us that she had used up all her bad power.  How?  By bouncing all day and night.  (She recently inherited one of those ride on bouncy balls from the attic fairy.)

These days she is always waving her arms around and sushing us because  "Wait!   I have to tell you sompin!"   Or,  "Shhhhh!   Shhhh!   Shhhh!   It's my turn to talk!"   Even when she is interrupting.   Of course, with seven people in the family, someone is pretty much always interrupting someone else.

When she says clap, it sounds like she's saying crap.

She is vocal and opinionated and decisive.   She is not possessive.   She is unbelievably excited to attend preschool.   Which is an unbelievable relief to me, considering my last preschool experience.

When her older siblings were getting ready to attend the first day of school, R got ready for school, too.   I thought she did a pretty good job.   Back sack?   Check.   Hair combed?   Check.   Ninjer bag?   Check.

Clothes?   Ummm . . . well, we have a week to work on that.

School Days

Starting school went fairly smoothly this year.  No baby born a few days before.  Minimal anxieties.  J worried a little that his second grade teacher might be mean.  But after meeting her, and after telling him about a hundred times that WE thought she was nice, he let that worry go.  Of course, he won't talk to her much, but it IS just the beginning of the year.
The other worry that he let stick in his brain was about pencils.  Whether he was supposed to bring his own or get some at school.  This actually caused him more angst than the idea of a mean teacher.  Might seem silly to us, but that's how anxieties sometimes work.  Like a broken record playing an illogical fear.  Over and over again.
So he brought some pencils from home AND got some at school.  Now he's good to go.  As long as there's no talking involved.  That fear will take a little longer to conquer.

This girl had no worries.  Just high hopes that she would get a really fun teacher for sixth grade.  A hope that was fulfilled.  Her teacher is great.  He expects a lot from his students but he's funny and exciting.  She loves being in his class.

But apparently, school and band and GATE and lego robotics and sewing club or garden club or whatever club she decides to join this year wasn't challenge enough.  She had to try out for the volleyball team.  She's never really played volleyball.  But she made the team.  The B team.  So she gets to go to all the practices to play against the A team and to all the games.  She only gets to play if the opposing school also has a B team.  She's pretty excited.  And she gives us daily updates on the expected arrival of her uniform.  She comes home every day with a beet red face.  An unfortunate tendency she inherited from me.  107.  In the sun.  Playing volleyball.  We're holding our breath for cooler weather.

If you looked at a picture of K from a year ago, you'd hardly recognize her as the same girl.  Or, at the least, you'd think that several years had passed by.  The expansion of her palate has totally changed her look.  The braces are doing wonders for her teeth.  Her eyebrows have grown in again.  Last year she looked like a kid.  But this year, suddenly, she's a young woman.  Beautiful-- inside and out.

She loves being in eighth grade.  She loves getting A's, so she studies hard.  She loves earning money, so when she was offered a chance to work in the cafeteria, she jumped at it.  8 bucks an hour.  A lot more than I made for my first job.  And I was a lot older than 12.  Maybe she'll take me on a trip with all the dough she'll be rolling in.  80 to 100 dollars a month!  I wish I made that much.

So, three down.  One to go.  For this year, anyway.  R has to wait all the way until September to start preschool.  She can't wait.  Baby B isn't quite ready for school just yet.  Unless it's the school of malcontentment.  Or an academy for screech owls. 

But I think about that day.  The day when ALL of my little ones will be in school.  I have to have a little mind candy to help me through the rough days.

Sweet Summer Days

Summer was more interesting this year.  Even though the pictures in this post may not portray it.  There's only so many I can cram into one post, after all.  But we really did more than just play in the water.  We took advantage of free movies and plays.  We went to the park, we went on some day trips.  We had lots and lots of playdates.  And lots of quiet time at home so the little Irish princess could stay on her sleep schedule.  The welfare of our entire family seems to revolve around that little girl's sleep schedule.  So we tried our best to work around it and still have some summer fun.
We spent manyafternoons at the local pool.  We did it so many times that the packing of the picnic lunch and the applications of sunscreen became second nature.  Still a pain, but a manageable one.  It's surprising just how long it takes to get 5 kids ready to go to the pool.
One evening we were supposed to be going home so B could go to bed.  But the other four were having so much fun playing some game that involved either kidnapping, or saving R.  Sometimes both at the same time.  So I kept pumping snacks into Baby B and had fun with my telephoto lens.  This photo makes me laugh.  It's like some terrible B film called 'Attack of The Goggled Ones.'
I don't think my kids realize that they can swim without goggles.  The whole closing-your-eyes thing--not for them.
B was pretty demanding in where she wanted to go.  I was thrilled to have, not just one, but two baby holders for these pool trips.  Saved my sanity on many occasions.
I can't say that I'm all that crazy about pool trips.  I think I'll like them better when the kids are all older and know how to swim.  Not to mention apply their own sunscreen.  But the kids love the pool.  And there's no way we could survive the summers here without it.
We even managed to talk Shaggy into coming with us a couple of times.  Which was no easy task.  He doesn't simply dislike the pool.  He dreads it.  But the kids begged and begged and got their way.  A daddy to roughhouse with at the pool.  Dads are good like that.
And towards the end of the summer, after we had endured multiple fevers and flu's and vomiting, and I was we were tired of going to the pool so much, we set up our trusty inflatable pool in the backyard.  It made naptime and swimming time simultaneously possible.  Lovely.  And no sunscreen was required thanks to our giant, shady trees.  Sweet relief. (I really do hate putting sunscreen on, in case you couldn't tell.)
The watermelon we were cooling off took a few trips down the slide.  Can't imagine whose idea that was.  *Eyeroll*
It took B a while to warm up to this pool.  Probably because I didn't sit in it with her.  But after a few tries, she managed to relax and have fun.
And when the inflatable pool got too boring, (It's all relative, isn't it?) we broke out the balls.
Which made the pool more fun, even for me.  Colors!  Colors!
 When it sank in that summer was truly about to end, we spent some evenings out front (where we actually still have grass) playing in the sprinkler.
 This was a new experience for B.  I'm not sure she liked it all that much.
Here's to wishing you had a sweet summer, too!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Life Through Rose Colored Goggles

K has had these goggles since she was 5.  Through them, she has seen her way from the doggie paddle to the butterfly.  From beginner swimming lessons to the swim team.  With them, she has pushed through illness, fatigue, and extreme heat.  And developed a nice tan and muscles she didn't know she had.  With these rose colored goggles, she has become a swimmer.

Although if you asked her why she won a first place ribbon for one of her summer league
swim meets, she would probably tell you it was because she painted her toenails red that day.

This is how sports superstitions are born.

You overlook the years of lessons and the hours of practice and the fact that your whole entire family braved the extreme heat to come cheer you on.  And you focus on the feet.  With the red toenails.

Maybe next year, when she joins the swim team, I will buy her some new goggles.  I would prefer her to give credit to a lucky new pair of goggles rather than red toenails.  Although, the red toenails would never get left at home on accident.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


What do you get when you combine a new lens and a birthday?

Something wonderful.  A photo explosion.  What else?
I realized just the other day that I am a tortured soul.  I am driven by the pictures in my head.  The pictures I feel compelled to create.  This is one my exhausted mind formed about 6 months ago when I was longing for all the sleepless nights to be over and done with.

I usually try to quickly quash any ideas that come to me that are quite so labor intensive.  But the idea of B turning one (and sleeping through the night) was so very enticing that I allowed the idea seed to grow.  And grow.  And grow.  And this is the result.
I love them all.  Too many to post, probably.  But I just couldn't narrow them down any further.  20 years from now, I'll love them even more.

And yes, I made another cake.  Just for B to smash.  And for me to take pictures.  The portraits I've seen online of these cake smash sessions are so fun.  I had to try it.  This was my last chance, after all.  Carpe Diem.  Which actually implies a whole lot more spontanaity and a whole lot less prep work.  But, oh well.  It was worth every minute.
I love these two.  One where she's looking for her belly button.  And the other where she put cake on her head.  I'm not sure why she puts food on her head, but she does it fairly often.  Looking for her belly button--that's a common occurrence as well. 
My white vinyl backdrop has now officially earned its keep.

And yes, we did eat a lot of that smashed cake when she was done.  It was chocolate, after all.  J was of the opinion that it tasted even better than unsmashed cake.  I think I might have to agree with him on that one.