Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4th Birthday Party

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We weren't planning to throw birthday parties for Michael and Sophie with friends every year, but their enthusiasm for others' parties lately made me want to give them another of their own this year.  I'm thinking we'll take it on a year-by-year basis.  Maybe next year we'll do something just as a family.  Maybe not.

The Party Plan

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I considered the typical locations and really liked the idea of a paint-your-own pottery kind of place.  However, the cost for such parties is pretty steep, and you can only invite a handful of friends before the price goes up even more.  With two kids' friends to include and twin friends among them, a limited guest list can get tricky.

I found myself staring at our gloriously empty living room, envisioning:

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We rented a couple of kids' tables and 18 chairs from a party rental business ($48), bought a bunch of supplies from Oriental Trading and Dollar Tree (roughly $200 for games, decorations, crafts and so on), and got lesson party planning.

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The general theme was spring, so I bought some bug activity books.  Those were intended to keep kids busy as we waited for everyone to arrive, but most kids went right for the playroom instead.  The books were cute enough as table decorations and favors.

The main craft was painting flower pots for spring flowers or herbs (bought seeds for favors at the dollar store).  At the tables we had the pots, sponge stamp brushes, and bug stamps.  I asked Michael and Sophie's grandmas to give out squirts of two or three colors to each kid on paper plates.  I gave a few ideas to the kids, but tried not to get too teacher-y and let them just have at it.

I did get some photos of the kids getting all crafty, but we'll keep those just for us.  I loved seeing the guests get into it and make some masterpieces (Michael and Sophie's are below)!

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Above is my supply table with paint, extra pots, baby wipes, smocks, game supplies in bins, and prizes and favors in baskets.

Some Decorations and Details

Our record wall is up again in our dining room and I added photos of the kids and the wooden four.

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I made the photos with a combination of Photoshop (to black out the background--these were from our family Christmas photos) and the photo editor site Picmonkey to add the borders and bugs.

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My mom made the cupcakes, just like the pink and blue ones she made for the baby shower four years ago but all green this time.

I made the pinwheels using a tutorial like this with a little adaptation.

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Instead of using pins, which just didn't sound wise for kids' snacks, I used sturdier and easier to see metal brads.  I punched five holes in the paper for the brads to easily slide through.

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The ends of the brads wrapped snugly around the sticks (for candy making).

I went with the theme and chose one-sided bug scrapbook paper rather than the not-quite-right patterns on two-sided paper.  Two-sided would have been pretty cute, though. 


The kids played three games.  The bee and flower beanbag toss game is from Oriental Trading, a bit of a splurge ($15), but it can be played with long after the party.  

For Pin the Tail on the Bunny, I made two rabbits by tracing two mixing bowls, connecting them and drawing ears.  I let the Michael and Sophie at them with their finger paints and patterned roller brushes, then cut out the bunnies, glued them to another poster board and had them laminated.  The kids at the party stuck the dollar store pom poms on with the that gummy stuff for hanging posters.

We played these games after painting the pots while we switched the tables into cake and ice cream mode (changed the tablecloths, mainly).

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After cake and presents we played the third game, the party event Michael looked forward to the most.  We bought a bunch of plastic bugs from the dollar store and hid them around the backyard for a bug hunt.  I gave each kid a paper cup and sent them running to rid our backyard of the spring pests.  It was a good ending to the party as it gave the all kids time afterward to play on the play set and enjoy the gorgeous spring day.  

The families took home painted pots, Annie's Cheddar Bunnies, and seeds (forgot to keep track of those bug activity books to send home--woops!).

Thank you to everyone who came and celebrated with us!  You helped make some great memories for these four-year-old's.

Monday, April 14, 2014


This is probably the coolest date in 2014, don't you think?

It also happens to be Michael and Sophie's fourth birthday.  Four on 4/14/14.  Pretty cool, huh?

You know what's also pretty cool?  Big Wheels.

Sophie Big Wheel

Michael Big Wheel 2

They were a gift from Mike's parents and were a big hit yesterday, a gorgeous spring day.  The weather was ideal over the weekend.

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Michael Big Wheel

Like this first Big Wheel ride, there are a lot of details that should make this birthday a memorable one for these two.  I'll surely post more in the coming days about the new (to us) backyard play set and the party we had at home with friends.

As we look toward a fun-filled future (or at the duck Uncle Joe spotted on the roof of the house across the street)....

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Michael Duck 2

I hope Sophie and Michael's memories of these celebrations bring smiles to their faces for years to come.  They will certainly do that for me.

To the moon and back, buds.  Have a happy, happy, happy, happy 4th birthday!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sharing My Birth Daughter With My Twins - My Messy, Beautiful

While I knew I had made a mess of my life, the news was too much to feel even upon hearing it from a medical professional.  Doofus boyfriend and a few pals beside me, pamphlets on adoption, abortion, and parenting now in my hands, the full weight of being pregnant at fifteen would not settle upon me.


The messy truth became less avoidable a few days later when I heard my mom open the letter I had taped to her bathroom mirror at the other end of the house.  At the sound of her pained "Oh, no...," the air shifted.

But it was really that night when I finally let the mess envelop me.  The day had been predictably tense and had fallen away, my wish to have an abortion established, plans to see a doctor and to at least look into adoption agreed upon, the full scope of my predicament still only hovering through dinnertime and into the evening when all had gone quiet.

I sat in the living room late with the hum of summer bugs outside open windows, my sophomore year of high school nearing, the rest of my family off in their own rooms, my mess cracking open.

The sobs heaved my chest, and my head pounded with tears as I finally took in the disappointment and uncertainty, the inertia, the trajectory, the impossibility of ever going back to some other reality.  I was getting to know my mess and my place in it, and I was taking a beating from within.

As if I were a little girl shaken by a nightmare, my mom found her own place in the mess.  I don't remember the words she said.  They didn't matter as much as her leaving her bed and just coming to me, hearing me and joining me on the couch, knowing it was time to love me through this.

With that support in the coming days, I was able to envision not just enduring, not just surviving.  Ultimately I felt a peace come over me when I imagined an open adoption, a new direction for my own life and hope for some others.

Sixteen years after that moment of peace, I found myself on the phone with my mom, crying again about uncertainty, a new reality, and needing some support as I imagined yet another new direction, one that included not one baby on the way...but two.

Michael and Sophie don't know these stories yet, of course, or the countless others that have unfolded over the last twenty years since my birth daughter was born.  They remember a few breakfasts with some family friends, but visits with my birth daughter have become fewer as her young adult life (a college sophomore) has become fuller.

Being a presence in my birth daughter's life has been beyond a pleasure, but making an open adoption plan, showing up for events, and requesting visits has always been driven not just by my love for her but by a desire to keep the truth near her and approachable, to spare her the experience of learning The Big Story one day.  The truth would just be in her.

I want to spare Sophie and Michael the same.  They turn four next week, and I have committed myself to starting some preschool-appropriate conversations with them in this new year of their lives.  (I am open to advice on this, by the way.  If anyone reading this has tips, please share!)

Over the coming months I intend to bring out pictures, to be open to Michael and Sophie's questions, to begin easing them into this aspect of their mother, of their family.  I am not certain how far these conversations will go, but I know it's time to nudge that door open a bit.

Beyond sharing my truth, our truth, is a bigger point.  When the days come when I am by Sophie and Michael's sides, loving them through their messes, I want them to believe me.  I'll tell them that within every mess is a greater beauty than they can imagine.  That truth will be in them as well.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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