Friday, January 20, 2012

A Shocking Lack of Doldrums

Usually by this point in the winter I'm bemoaning my life, the weather, and the interminable long-ness of January. But not this year, strangely. It probably has something to do with (a) fantastically balmy weather, and (b) planning fun things for later in 2012. My current happy mood may also be related to that extra cup of coffee I had this morning.

The biggest treat coming our way is a week long vacation in California. Not until the fall, but since we're using my in-law's time share, we already had to figure out when and where we were staying. Very generous, my in-laws. I was hoping they'd come with us, but it didn't work out. On the bright side, my parents are planning on joining us, and they are super helpful with the kiddos and just all around fun.
The motivation for this trip is Disneyland. Anna's been asking to go forever, and we wanted to make the trip before the magic was gone. I think we're too late for that, but it will be fun anyway. I love those tea cups.

We're also thinking more seriously about buying a minivan. I shudder at the gas prices, but I don't think our sedan is going to be a good fit for us much longer. There's just not enough room. With two car seats in the back picking up play dates is out of the question and it's a nearly impossible fit when my folks come to visit. (Currently, I wedge myself into the third seat in the back. A tight fit.) So, there's that decision in the pipeline.

Strangely, my mood seems unaffected by my lack of sleep (again suggesting that extra coffee may still be in my system). Anna can't seem to fall asleep (or stay in her bed) until 9ish, and Isaac is up and crying during the night. Thus far, as I've mentioned before, we've been bringing him into our bed. But his co-sleeping habits are becoming obnoxious. I want him to just grow out of this, but so far it isn't working. Should we do something, or do I continue looking and feeling like death warmed over? If I wasn't so tired I bet I could think of a plan.

I may also be in a good mood because of our return to routine. Anna is still enjoying preschool, despite frequent claims that "I like being at home best." (Why?! There's no one to play with here and you spend half the time fighting with Isaac!) I'm trying to mix up the extra-curricular activities, so we switched to dance class for Anna and a library story time for Isaac. I was hoping to get Isaac into soccer for the summer, but it seems he's too young. A shame, since he's got a wicked kick.
A slight change in routine may also underlie my positive outlook. I hesitate to mention this since it's horribly domestic and likely uninteresting. On the other hand, it also takes up a lot of my time so why not mention it? Have you guessed? It's house cleaning. I used to divide up the chores over two weeks, tackling most of them when Anna was in preschool and Isaac was napping. But now Isaac isn't napping with regularity. So I'm trying to do everything in two days every two weeks. So far it's been pretty freeing - I find I have more time to hang out with the kids and my attention is not so divided. We'll see if I can keep it up.

A final excuse for my positive mood: numerous conversations with actual adults the past couple of weeks. Things can get pretty mundane, and with all the demands (big and small) I find it hard to have a decent conversation with Jon, let alone anyone else. I've been quite thankful for the friendships we're building here. I just hope and pray we can stay in the area for a long long time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Birthday That Was

On my to-do list over the holidays was catching up on this whole blog thing, updating links, etc.

December zoomed by and suddenly it's January. Practically the middle of January, and here I am finally.
Although it has long passed, I do think Anna's birthday is worthy of it's own post, so I'll focus on that right now. We'll see if Christmas 2011 gets similar treatment.

First I'll describe what we did for her birthday party, and then just an update on my lovely girl herself.

I should mention that Anna's party was a few days before her actual birthday. Thus, I shouldn't have been surprised when she asked for another party on the actual Day. Next year, I'll try to be a little clearer about what the dear daughter ought to expect.
I think we had about eight guests in total, and I did a lot less decorating than last year. I went with more a generic theme in terms of games and decor, although encouraged the guests to dress up. So I guess it was a Costume-y theme.
For activities I set up a bunch of stations. The most popular (Jon's idea, of course) was the Balloon Tent. We set up our two-man tent in the living room, stuffed it full of balloons, and then I wrote some numbers on a few of the balloons. Along with just bouncing around inside, the kids could also trade a numbered balloon for a piece of paper clothing to play "Pin the Item on the Gingerbread Girl." (I cut a big gingerbread girl out of cardboard - fast and efficient and cheap.)
Another stations had paper dolls, so I guess the costume theme came out in a few ways. There was also a touch-and-smell station. I had 10 paper bags, five with things to smell (e.g., banana, lemon, soap) and five with things to touch (e.g., cheerios, Play-do). They guessed which bag had which item. Finally, there was a hunt for chocolate coins, which had to be collected in order to move to the last station: a pinata.

Once the pinata cracked, the kids gathered up the goodies and it went into a communal bowl to be divided up later. I ain't no fool. I did learn one important lesson: stick with the plastic bat. One child used his light saber to whack the pony, and that was all it took. At least he was the last to take a turn.

I elected to have Anna open her gifts when her friends were present. My feeling is that children enjoy giving their gifts (I know Anna does) and it's a good opportunity for the recipient to practice graciousness. But it didn't go as well this year. I think Anna and her cohort are at the age of greater sensibility than sense. We'll hold off on the gift openings until this changes.

Somewhere in there we made our own ice cream sundaes, there was general merriment, and a good time was had by all. Afterwards, I succumbed to a virus that had been haunting me that day, collapsing on the couch unable to move for about three hours. But Anna's party didn't stop, since Jon took her and Isaac to her favorite McDonald's for dinner, to give me a chance to recuperate. A banner day for my best girl.

So now she's five, and if you were to ask Anna what that means she'd say "I get to chew gum!" Everything else changes with degrees and is harder to pin down. Luckily, thanks to somewhat obnoxious kindergarten application forms I've been tackling, I've been thinking a lot about who she is and how she's changing. Here are few highlights.
Intellectually, the most noticeable thing about my girl is her vocabulary. I sometimes forget how remarkable this is about her, but she really does have a great command of the language. She'll throw around phrases like, "That wasn't wise," or "The cold chills my bones," or she'll start talking about sarcophagi and hieroglyphs, which I can barely spell. Alas, this hasn't translated into an interest in reading. At least, in learning to read from me. No rush. Once she picks it up, I think there will be no stopping her quest for knowledge.

Dressing up and imaginative play are still Anna's main thing. She has strong ideas about her clothing, and it takes every ounce of my effort to get her to wear pants and a jacket on a cold day (leggings and coats "don't look pretty" apparently). She's still a socialite, and success at any playground depends on whether she can find a friend, male or female. She's uber-patient with Isaac (as in, she doesn't pummel him one-for-one), and can put on her mothering hat when she feels like it. She cooks and bakes to her own tune, and is gaining a decent understanding of flour-sugar-butter ratios, etc.

I think Anna has a good deal of self confidence. Maybe too much, actually. She likes to try new things (as long as she's the one that suggests them) while still enjoying the comfort of the familiar (how many times has she heard "James and the Giant Peach? "Infinity," she would answer). She loves to dance, make up silly songs and jokes, and stay up way too late. Lately she's been using my old Fashion Plates and spool knitting, which has been fun for me, and learning to ski, which will eventually be fun for Jon.

So, five is a good age. For everyone.