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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

being thankful

There was really so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

First of all Sandi had a short break! 

Secondly, we are all healthy and intact.  Our little family of four has so much to be grateful for and amazed by.

Third, and this one grows every year as I grow older, we have the most wonderful families.

We spent Thanksgiving day on Beals Island with Sandi's family. Her mom puts on a massive spread for 22 people and makes it look easy.  We help even though she could do it blindfolded with one hand behind her back and tap dancing while whistling Dixie.  My favorite part of the day is actually the cooking and preparing more than the actual meal, and having the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on the TV. We laugh and drink coffee, consult the master list, tell stories, play with the kids and no one has anything else to do but cook food!
There was a lot to do to get ready for the big meal.

There was a table to set. Maya was very serious about her job folding napkins and placing utensils.  We all ended up with forks, knives, teaspoons and tablespoons so we were ready for anything that came our way.

Ironically, I was stuffing cream cheese into celery which I detest.

Ella played a rousing game of Hungry Hungry Hippo with Tia and Uncle Brock.

There was some drinking to be done.

And some couch sitting as well.
Ella had practiced being a dentist by spending the day wiggling her loose tooth.  I have never seen such determination in that girl.  She is brave AND tough and had her sights set on knowing if the Beals Island Tooth Fairy is more generous than the Hampden one. (She is.  Who is surprised?)
There was even a potato rocket to launch.  (Don't ask me.  Brock's from up north and I guess there is a lot of time to play with PVC and hairspray and and come up with fun things to do with the overabundance of potatoes.)

Mostly there was just so much damn love.

I'm not sure the conversation going on between Kenna and Kris here but it looks important.
Ella was joyfully overwhelmed as she considered her pie choices.

Sandi's dad, Dwight, (the main man in our girls' lives) openly talks about his empty nest and how he wishes he had "a whole charge more kids."  He was a happy man to have the chaos of having everyone at home.

Then on Sunday we were off to my sister's house for Thanksgiving with my family.  From the loud crowd of 22 to the very energetic crowd of 9.  Our families are different in a lot of ways but love is the resounding theme.

Ella informed Sandi that we needed to bring the bounce house.  "It is a Thanksgiving tradition,"  she told her.  Who knew?

My sister and I have a tradition of making pot pies with all the left overs.  We've only gotten more serious about the tradition as time has gone on.  We watch people's portions carefully to be sure there will be enough to fill the pies.  Kathryn even bought me a new pie dish this year.  Yes, she is that kind of wonderful sister that everyone should be so lucky to have.

(I am ashamed to admit that I failed to take any pictures this holiday which means there are none of Sandi, because she was on the wrong side of the camera, except this pathetic one with her reflection in the window.)
Toferky pot pie. Yum.  The secret ingredient?  Cranberry sauce.

There was even a sighting from Jasmine and Cleopatra,

and a very affectionate Snow White.
The kids felt they needed to work off some of their Thanksgiving indulgence so after some amazing chocolate peanut butter pie my sister made, they hit the treadmill.
What a lucky bunch.

For all my family, original and adopted, for all my friends who are like my family, for our great house, a basement full of wood and yummy, healthy food to eat....I am grateful.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

birthday parties, the need for valium and crossing the cake barrier

On Friday, I got to step behind the curtain and learn the secrets of cake making.

My friend Melissa, a self-taught master of extraordinary cakes, knew of my want to learn cake decorating and offered to teach me on Ella's birthday cake.  Considering that she is a busy mom, student and has two jobs, this was no small offer of her time and talent.

I decided on a fairy house cake for Ella, since she is forever making them in the garden. With Melissa's direction, I made the cakes, filled them and froze them (top and bottom separately) and brought them to her house for a lesson in carving, frosting, rolling and affixing fondant, stabilizing cakes with wooden dowels, dying coconut and a whole bunch more.

And the end result? Seriously more amazing than I would ever have even hoped for.

Because Ella's birthday was on a school day and Sandi was in Portland, we decided to have "Ella's Birthday Observed" over the weekend when her party was.  This meant an entire day of dual parental attention and adoration, special treats, presents and a party to boot.

Ella went to sleep Friday night saying, "I can't wait to wake up and see my balloons and open my presents first thing just like Maya did."

Good thing we aren't setting any precedents.

Naturally we set the alarm for 3 a.m. to get up and blow up the helium balloons. (Do other people do this?) Then back to bed until 6:30, some family snuggle time in the big bed, where for once no one had to run off to some task or responsibility, then  downstairs to find exactly what she had expected.

It's true, birthdays in our house are definitely holidays in and of themselves.

We always give a small gift that the non-birthday child can enjoy.  This year it was fuzzy cleaning mitts because they are really into cleaning.  (Not the helpful kind of cleaning.)

We spent the morning making waffles, snuggling on the couch, reading, being entertained by Maya our personal jester, and playing nail salon.

I also let Ella put make-up all over my face including, and I'm pretty sure I get a mom gold star for this, MASCARA.  I went out to put some party stuff in the car and waved at a woman walking her dog. She didn't wave back.  And then it hit me... I look like a circus clown.

Ella really wanted to wear her new birthday outfit to her party.  Sandi was concerned about the immodesty of roller skating in a skirt and so she fashioned Ella some "shorts" out of a pair of Maya's size 18-24 month tights. 

I'm telling you Sandi and I each have our strengths and they are not the same. 

As a wonderful birthday treat, our niece and nephew came over to hang out with us for a few hours before the party. 
I love this picture because Makenna looks so bad ass with the lip gloss.  It also highlights the physical differences of these girls.  Kenna, who was 2 in July, is the same size as Maya.  At her well-child visit last week Maya ranks in the 25th percentile for size and Kenna is a tank so I guess it stands to reason.

Then out to lunch to Pat's Pizza (Ella's choice) before her party.

For her 7th (going on 13th) birthday, Ella decided to have her party at the roller rink.
Along with 500 of her closest friends.

Seriously, the place was PACKED.  There were SEVEN birthday parties happening. 

I will confess, I don't love kid's birthday parties in general. There is usually a time when I hit my stimulation threshold and I want to flee the building.  My own children's parties are no exception.

The problem is I hit the threshold before we even made it through the door.  There were hordes of people trying to get into the building, kids everywhere, people falling down on skates, crying children and a constant need to track down the "party specialist" so they could unlock the party room.  Yikes.  I felt like I needed a Valium or a drink.

I put on skates so I could skate with Ella and while I was standing on the carpet talking to my sister, a kid fell into me from behind, hitting me without warning in the back of my knees and taking me down to the floor.  This did not help my stimulation issue.

Ella was psyched to get a riding helmet from Tia and Uncle Brock!
(I'm not sure what Maya was by the look on her face.)

Ella had fun, but she didn't want us to sing happy birthday to her and she cried a bit when we did.  (Should we have not?) She didn't want to go in the prize machine, an honor bestowed upon the birthday child and cried even when we told her that was fine.  She told us on the way home that there were too many people and it was really hard to find her friends.  That made me sad and relieved because I don't think we will have to repeat the anxiety inducing experience again.

We took the rest of her gifts home to open.  It was so clear that people know her so well and got gifts so well suited for her. 

Including this lovely Hello Kitty shirt from the Smith's.  I told Ange to walk in to Target and pick out the shirt she thought was ugliest and get that one.  Ella LOVES it.

The girls also enjoyed their sucker pops.  Ella's was a very classy ring she won in the arcade....

while Maya went with something more along the gangster route.

I collapsed into bed with exhaustion and relief from putting two birthday parties on in 3 weeks. 

Despite the crowds and the crying,  I think (hope) Ella had a good day.  In true Ella form, she was sad when we put her to bed because her special day was over and it would be so long before there was another.

I told her she is lucky her birthday is so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas because special days abound (more so than, say, if your birthday is in March).    But, alas, she does not let go of things easily and she has looked forward to this day for about 6 months. 

As we were packing the kids up to leave yesterday, a tween girl came up to me and said about Maya, "Oh, she is so cute."  I looked around at our little family and my chest burned with a mix of gratitude and love for them, for US.  I remember being a kid and looking at families where the kids and parents seemed happy and I would be overcome with jealousy. 

And here I was, a thirty something mom helping my kids into their coats, my beautiful partner by my side and I could see, as if from the outside in, just how blessed we are.  This is our family, one we have created from the ground up, fought for, forgiven for, compromised and sacraficed for and loved more deeply than we thought possible for.

We all get to go home together and have each other forever. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

turning 7

There is something hauntingly sad about the last day your child will be six.

Even if you can see that she is already seven. 

When Ella was about to be born, Sandi and I were just about dead with excitement.  My OB had set an evacuation date of sorts for Ella due to my having Type I diabetes. If she was not born by the 39 week, I was to be induced. 

The start of week 39 was on a Tuesday and, having produced no baby, I was to call that morning to find out if there was room at the inn so I could be hooked up to the Pitocin drip.  Sandi and I spent Monday twiddling our thumbs, packing and repacking our stuff (the cd player! the lotion! ha! what a joke!) and making chocolate chip cookies for the labor and delivery staff. 

But alas, Tuesday was a busy day for the legitimately laboring and so I was told to stay home and wait until Thursday since my doctor didn't work on Wednesdays.  I remember that day being so melancholy.  They might as well have told me that I wasn't going to be having the baby ever by telling me I had to wait two more days.

Wednesday morning, days off be damned, I woke at about 4 am in labor.  We were at the hospital around 6 and I spent the next few hours experiencing pain-free hypnobirthing labor.  (Bahahahahahaha!!!!)  More like, I rolled around, moaned and vomited and that cd player, the massaging of the feet and the aromatherapy never made an appearance.

 By 10 am I was ready to push.   I remember looking at the clock and thinking, by noon I will be holding my baby. Sandi's sister, Kristi, said that at 11 The Price is Right came on and she thought, this baby is going to be born during the most exciting hour of television.

We were both wrong.

After 3 hours of hearty pushing, Ella wasn't making much progress into the world.  Finally, Dr. Lebowitz had to affix the vacuum to her head and suck her out.  She had a reluctant start (especially compared to Maya's astonishing 4 minute delivery).  A third degree tear later, I was finally holding my solid 8 pound 9 oz baby in my arms.

And Dr. Lebowitz said, "You two are the ones who brought in the cookies?  No one EVER brings us in cookies."  He said all this as he stitched me up.  At least we were known as the cookie bearers instead of the lesbians.

And now, seven years later...

There is so much to love about Ella.  She adores animals, her family, processed food, clothes and sometimes even her sister. She has a big heart, cares a lot what other people think, always wants to know what is coming next, loves to snuggle and cuddle and still has her beloved security blanket and she sucks her thumb when she's tired.  She has lost three teeth, has just crossed the 50 pound mark and can turn Pandora on her favorite station on the stereo. In the past few months she learned to read, roller skate, ride horses and swim in the deep end.  And she kicks ass on the monkey bars. She has chores, and allowance and gets to stay up later than Maya a few nights a week. 

Ella is a rule follower, a distracted dreamer and a creative thinker.  She often lacks self-confidence and bravery unless she is absolutely certain of her skill and surroundings.  She is, as my mother has always said, discerning.  She is thoughful and often wise, making me wonder if she has an old soul.

Her favorite vegetable is celery.  Her favorite food is french fries, although she will lie and tell you its soup.  She won't eat anything with nuts in it and if you put crumb topping on a muffin, she will nibble it off and leave the rest.  The only cheese she will eat is sharp chedder. She doesn't like milk. The only bagel she will eat is blueberry from Bagel Central and only with a smear of cream cheese. And to be fully inconsistent, she goes crazy over cheesecake. She doesn't like breakast much, unless it comes with a side of syrup and she prefers the synthetically made Log Cabin to the pure maple syrup. 

Ella is nothing if not complex.

This week, an early dismissal from school while Maya was still in preschool gave us two and a half hours for a Momma and Ella date.

We went to lunch at the place of her choosing for lunch: the Weathervane for fish and chips.

Then dessert at Frank's bakery where she was allowed to choose ANYTHING she wanted.
She chose a cinnamon roll for herself and, without prompting, asked if she could get Maya a chocolate donut.
Then to the mall to shop at her favorite store with the allowance money burning a hole in her sequin be-jeweled purse.

Happy birthday to our big little girl.  Born November 17, 2004 at 1:15 pm. We are so lucky you chose us.
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