Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mission Completion!

Ten days after Michael and Sophie's birthday I've decided to share one more birthday detail.  :)

The theme of their party was rockets, inspired by their love of the show Little Einsteins and that fabric I discovered.  At the last minute, like 25 minutes before family was to arrive on the kids' actual birthday for dinner and cake, I decided to whip something together to make presenting the kids with their gifts more of an event.  Or should I say more of a mission...

Are you enjoying our house in party disarray and all that shaky-cam footage?  There's more!  I started recording again after we put on shoes...

Involving family members in the reading of clues was another impromptu decision!  I think the whole thing added a fun touch to the day.  I had fun, anyway.  ;)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

3rd Birthday Party

We invited some twin club friends and friends from school to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum for a birthday party on Saturday.

Hands on Museum Party-3

I brought two of the pictures, the stars, and the "three" from the kitchen wall for decorations.  With the push-up pops (see the end of this post for details on those) and a few balloons, that was plenty to add a personal touch to the party room.

3rd Birthday Wall-14

Hands on Museum Party-4

As always, the kids had a great time with the trains, rockets, water tables, blocks, balls, fire truck, giant bubble maker, floor piano, ambulance, and so on at the museum.

Hands on Museum Party-5

Hands on Museum Party-6

Fitting with the theme of the party, Michael, Mike, and some party friends launched rockets!

Hands on Museum Party-8

At busy events like this I always wish I just relied on my phone's camera and left my big ol' one at home since chasing after kids and trying to soak in the experience myself makes it even tougher to get good photos anyway.  But even out-of-focus moments are pretty special.

Hands on Museum Party-1-2

Hands on Museum Party-2-2

"Hey, fire fighter!  How old are you?"

Hands on Museum Party-3-2

For a little while I was on my own with Soph as she collected balls in her bucket from the giant machine.  While taking these pictures, I was really struck by what a little girl she is now, by how much my babies have grown in three years.

Hands on Museum Party-4-2

Back in the party room, the kids made slime, ate snacks, and we sang "Happy birthday."  We ran out of time toward the end for presents, but that time was probably better spent playing.  Three and four year old's prefer that anyway, right?

Hands on Museum Party-5-2

Below are some of my party planning details:

Rocket Party Inspiration

I scanned this fabric for the invitations, push-up wrappers, and some signs.

Rocket Push-Up Cakes Inspiration 

Hands on Museum Party-2
Our Rocket Pops!
I made the push-up wrappers in PowerPoint using the scanned fabric.  I printed them, cut them with a paper cutter, and glued them with glue dots.

The cones I cut out of scrapbook paper (love that stuff although I don't actually scrapbook) by cutting out circles, cutting them in half, rolling them into cones and taping.  I used a dot of that sticky putty stuff for hanging things on walls to hold the cones on the pops since it's easier to pull off than glue dots.  All of that was manageable while catching up on shows after the kids' bedtime.

Brownies, Strawberries, and Cream Recipe

Hands on Museum Party-1
Our Rocket Pops (naked)
I probably should have followed this full recipe rather than finding semi-homemade short-cuts.  I bought brownie bites from Costco hoping to avoid actually baking and cutting, but they were a tad too big for the containers.  I set aside time the night before the party to trim those down, which wasn't too bad.  I also just used a can of whipped cream, but the cream cheese mixture in the recipe probably would have held up better.  Even with waiting to assemble the pops until just a couple of hours before the party, the whipped cream lost its whippiness and the brownies got pretty soggy.  The kids thought they were good, though, so whatevs!

DIY Push-Up Pop Stand

Mike knocked the stands out over a few nights after work.  He had a 4 x 4 cut into four chunks at Home Depot, carefully measured out 12 spots on each, drilled, sanded, and painted them.

We intend to reuse the stands and push-up containers in the future.  They're pretty darn cute.

We're having family over today for the kids' actual birthday.  Stay tuned for pictures of the kids riding their 3rd birthday presents.  ;)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Retro Rocket Rascals Photo Wall

3rd Birthday Wall-14

You know what's cool about record album frames?  They're 12 x 12, just like those big squares of scrapbook paper. 

3rd Birthday Wall-4

To turn our wall of album frames into a celebration of Michael and Sophie's upcoming 3rd birthday, I bought six sheets of scrapbook paper that coordinated with the party inspiration fabric (see below) and printed six of my favorite photos that I've taken of them in their 3rd year.

3rd Birthday Wall-2

3rd Birthday Wall-3

Surely anyone who's been in a craft store will recognize these little wooden pieces.  You can get all kinds of painted shapes.  It didn't occur to me how much of this arrangement has a "3" motif until it was up.  There are three photos of both kids, three colors of scrapbook paper, etc.  Like the other coincidental occurrances, I just thought two groups of three stars (67 cents each) would fill the spaces nicely.

We're having the kids' friend birthday party at a science museum, so I searched some rocket party ideas.  On GreyGrey Designs' blog I adored the vintage look of  the fabric on this drink tub (and the many of the party decorations, I later discovered).

So I got my hands on some of the fabric via Ebay ("Retro Rocket Rascals" by Michael Miller)...

Retro Rocket Rascals-1

...scanned it to make invitations at and some other decor (probably a future post)...

Michael and Sophie's 3rd Birthday Party for Blog

....and Mod Podged some onto a number three...

I traced the three on the wrong side of the fabric for both sides, cut little slits up to the shape, slathered the three and the fabric with the goo, and smoothed it all out with my fingers.  Some parts are a little bumpy, but that was my method.

3rd Birthday Wall-12

I originally hung the three with a yellow ribbon staple-gunned to the back and posted it here like that.  After seeing it on the blog, I realized I hated the yellow ribbon and changed it!

3rd Birthday Wall-15

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Root, root, root, for the Tigers!

We didn't intend to wait until Michael and Sophie were one week shy of turning three before we got them to a Tigers game, but that's just how it went down.  The company Mike works for has a suite at Comerica Park, and we were all lucky enough to go to this afternoon's game.  Way to set the bar, eh?



Typically Michael and Sophie get shy in new places with people they don't know, but not today!  Maybe it was the chilly weather or the unlimited junk food (well, I limited it a little),  or maybe they're just baseball fans...


At one point these two stinkers discovered they could duck and squeeze past the bars that separated one patio from the next.  They were three suites down before we caught the jail breakers!  Terrible three's, people.  Terrible three's.



As cold as it was, and as challenging as it was to keep up with these two, we had a blast!  Someday we'll have to show Michael and Sophie what it's like to go to a game and sit for more than 15 minutes at a time...without a heated space to retreat to...and a private bathroom...and a variety of snacks at arm's reach...but I'm okay with this arrangement whenever it comes our way again!


We stayed long enough to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the 7th inning and headed home at the kids' request.  Having gotten to the park well before the first pitch, I don't think that's too bad.  We got home right at bed time.  :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Terrible Three's

At parent-teacher conferences last year I told one dad that his daughter was doing fantastic, that she participates in discussions, completes her assignments on time and with care, and that if she kept up such great work I would probably recommend her for the advanced 10th grade class (which I did).  The dad smiled, shook his head.  His daughter, sitting right there with us, beamed at him and giggled.  "Have you heard this a lot today?"  I asked them.

"I've got skills, you know,"  he told his daughter and me.  "I've got parenting skills that I never get to use!"  With child care experience, degrees in education, and years of managing the behavior of adolescent students, his comment resonated with me, and I hoped to say the same one day in regards to my own kids.

But I guess my nearly three-year-old's have other plans for now.

I've heard the rumors and have taken note that "terrible two's" is a misnomer, that two-year-old's have nothing on three-year-old's when it comes to terribleness.  I've been on the look-out, and I'd say already, even though we're still technically in the two's, that we've entered that world.  Overall Michael and Sophie are still caring, playful, and easy-going kids, but there has been more refusing, more running away and chasing, more whining, lately.

The other night Michael and Sophie wanted to make it clear to us that the "terrible three's" had truly arrived.  At dinner.  In public.  At a relatively nice Italian restaurant.  Mike and I have taken the kids to many meals out going way back to when we had to request large booths to accommodate the two of us, two infant car seats, and the double diaper bag.  Having done this so much, we're typically pretty confident that these adventures will go smoothly.

Out to brunch as infants
Even our particularly stressful meals out have been manageable, and more often than not, on our way out of the restaurant, an arm reaches out from a nearby table to stop us, to compliment us on our well-behaved children.  I didn't realize how inclined people were to do that before experiencing it, and I appreciate the encouragement.

Then Michael let out a yelp at this Italian restaurant on Saturday, and in true monkey-do fashion, Sophie joined in the fun.  They kept this up for a minute or two, and our usual tactics of occupying, quieting, and correcting behavior had no impact.  Then the food came, and the kids filled their noisy mouths with ravioli as Mike and I exchanged looks of exasperation.

At a large table behind us, a work group was celebrating someone's going away.  I know this because there were speeches and mild shouts, and an overall atmosphere of letting down one's hair.  It was comforting to know that, although their outburst surely hadn't gone unnoticed, my kids at least hadn't exceeded our neighbors' decibels.

But in a booth in the opposite direction I noticed an older woman with gray hair in a braided bun and a generous martini sitting alone in a small booth reading her mail.  I did worry that Michael and Sophie might get riled up again and disrupt her evening.

And riled up they got, loudly demanding bites of our meals, refusing to eat more of their own, pulling their straws out of their cups repeatedly, splattering milk around every time and giggling devilishly.  I eventually picked Michael up and took him to the entry area.  We sat down and I told him how much I love going to restaurants with him and Sophie, how they usually follow the rules so well, and we have a fun time.  He agreed.  This is when I winged it.  I told him there were three rules for restaurants: 1) eat your food, 2) be quiet, and 3) listen to Mommy and Daddy.  I had him repeat them back to me.  We talked about the choices he had made so far and the choices he would make now so we could keep eating at restaurants.

In the middle of our little talk I heard more yelping coming from Sophie back at the table. She was in Mike's lap when we came back, and I sat beside them with Michael in mine.  I told Sophie that Michael and I were just talking about how much we like going to restaurants, like the one with the train that runs around the ceiling and the one with the fish tanks where we get breakfast, but how they have to follow the rules if we're going to keep going out like this.  I asked Michael to tell Sophie the three rules, and he did.  I told both of them to look around at the other people at the restaurant, that being quiet is how we are nice to them, that we're helping them enjoy a good dinner time that way.  They seemed to be taking it in.  At this point the server returned with Mike's credit card.  He had gotten the ball rolling to wrap this particular meal up pretty quickly.

To my surprise, on the way out the door, an arm reached out.  The woman with the martini stopped me and said, "You have a beautiful family.  My daughter is a clinical psychologist, and she would have loved this."  I don't know how much of what had gone on she could have heard, but she looked me hard in the eyes and said, "You are a good mom."  Best. Compliment. Ever.  You can see why I'm getting all wordy with this post to savor it.  It meant a lot more to me than the positive comments that come after easy meals.

Out to brunch last spring
As the challenges build now and in years to come, I suppose I should try to appreciate these opportunities to stretch my parenting legs.

Happily, though, Michael and Sophie were able to tell us the rules for restaurants at lunch with our parents the next day (see, we eat out a lot), and they behaved beautifully.  I'm not kidding myself, though, that this particular problem is solved or that I actually know what the hell I'm doing.  I'm sure this is only the beginning, and I really ought to study up!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Out the door photo shoot

On the way out the door to Easter dinner, I stopped the kids on the deck to try to get a few pictures.  They were wearing sweaters that their Grammie's aunt made for them before they were born, the lighting was pleasant, and I've been relying far too much on my phone's camera lately.  It seemed like a good time to practice a bit.

Easter Porch 2-1

"Hold up your Easter toys!" didn't get the gleeful result I was aiming for, but I kind of love this anyway.

Easter Porch-2

I cropped a few to 851 x 315 as potential Facebook cover photos.

Easter Porch-3

Easter Porch-4

The one above was me trying to catch Sophie giving Michael a kiss.  The contented look on his face as he waits for it and the way she looks like she's telling him a secret made this the cover photo winner.

Easter Porch-5

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