Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Blog Post That Time Forgot

Alternate Title: Remember When Max Had A Birthday Party? No? Like, Three Weeks Ago? No? Nothing? Well, I Have Pictures. Anyone Still Interested?

So now it's been so long since Max's birthday party that I sort of feel like it's peculiar talking about it. It's like when you have an old friend that you haven't seen for awhile, so when you do see them conversation is all awkward at first until you get reaquainted, or remember that you haven't seen them for awhile because you actually don't like them very much and beat a hasty retreat. Truthfully, Max's party post is very long, and contains many pictures, and I have had trouble finding time to finish it, but I couldn't quite go on and write other, smaller blog posts with the party one just hanging there in draft form, and thus the writer's block. However, Max did have a birthday party, there are pictures and amusing anecdotes and more pictures to prove it, and we should not let a small amount of awkwardness stand between us and reminiscing about the experience. Ergo:

This was Max's third birthday party, his fourth if you count the one where he was actually born, but it was the first one that he was old enough to anticipate. He had a number of ideas about party themes, cake recipes, h'ordeurves menus, and presents, and while some of them were impractical ("I know, Mama! We will all go get me a Disneyland castle for my birthday! Is that a good idea, Mama?"), I did try to shape the party around his wishes. The most consistent and fervent of his many requests was a blueberry cake. Where he got this idea, I cannot say, but it caused me some hand-wringing. When I bake at all, which is rarely, I am a cake mix kind of lady, and blueberry cake is off the beaten path enough that there is no mix. In the end (because while this tale of my adventures in domesticity is almost unbearably fascinating, I know, we've got a lot of ground to cover, so we'll have to skim off some of the bakerly details in the name of brevity), I used blueberry muffin mix, poured it into a cake pan, and it was delicious. Max cracked the eggs for the cake. There was egg all over creation and we wasted at least three eggs because Max became overexcited by the cracking process. He was delighted. It was totally worth it.

More easily accomplished was Max's desire to have his party in the park. We did this with Maggie's party, too, and while there is always some risk in outdoor party-planning because the weather can betray you and lay waste your fond hopes, the dangers are offset by the promise of free child-entertaining and minimal mess.

While the weather didn't behave too obnoxiously on the day in question, it was a bit warmer than we were anticipating. Most of the playground equiptment is in direct sunlight, so we had to get creative to try and keep everyone entertained in the shade. My uncle Will sent this bubble machine to us a while back, and it made the perfect distraction. It does kind of rapid-fire bubbles at a break-neck pace, though, which I didn't realize until I had accidently sent a giant stream of them right up Maggie's nose.

Max took over the controls of the Bubbler, and things went much more smoothly once the new management was in place.

The last time we had a party in the park, Maggie could not yet walk or climb. Now she can. It makes the overall park experience much more -- what's the word I'm looking for? Ah, yes --stressful.

On first glance, it looks like Justin is about to smack Max upside the head, and I had this picture all printed out and ready to send to the proper authorities when I saw the soccer ball behind Max's head. What a relief.

I was not privy to the conversation that took place while this was being photographed, but 'favorite accessories' was clearly the topic.

Margarets One and Two.

Not to toot my own horn or anything (what a weird expression, by the way. Like it's better to toot someone else's horn? Gross. And that's setting aside the whole issue of the word 'toot', which is what we said in my family for 'fart'. But I really, really digress), but the cake came out pretty great. Max wanted a "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" theme, which necessitated me finding palm trees to decorate the cake, hand-polka-dotting the edges with a balky frosting pen, and baking and frosting hand-carved lower-case alphabet letters. Combined with the aforementioned blueberry batter curveball, there were many, many points in the cake-making process where tragedy could have occurred. But it didn't. The cake was baked, frosted, decorated, and transported to the park without incident, and I only had to swear twice. (Fricking lower-case letters.)

Less flawless was the candle-lighting operation. In my youthful naivety, I initially attempted to light the waxen "3" alone, and with ill-placed confidence.

There was just enough wind, coming from just the right direction, that the matches kept blowing out before they could ignite the candle. Reinforcements were called in. Quickly, we divided into three groups; Group A took turns trying a variety of match-lighting flourishes, Group B formed a human shield around the cake, trying to keep the wind at bay, and Group C stood at the periphery and laughed.

We did eventually get the candle lit, but the wind blew it out long before we were finished singing.

In the end, we pretended that Max had blown it out, applauded him roundly, and served him a piece of cake before his suspicions could crystalize.

Blueberry Chicka Chicka Boom Boom cake. It's my new signature recipe.

In a piece of news completely unrelated to this picture (which kind of speaks for itself, I think), Maggie's new favorite activity is chucking toys in the toilet and then flushing it. To date, three baby dolls and a plastic turtle have been removed from her custody pending extensive cleaning, and the only reason we still have an unflooded bathroom is that she has so far chosen items that are too big to flush down. I really hope she turns her life around soon, for the sake of her filthy plush children. And turtle.

At first, Max had his own dish of cake, but when the paper bowl fell on the ground and got dirty, he decided to skip the middle man and eat cake straight from the pan.

And then, of course, we opened presents.

Max was understandably daunted by the prospect of unwrapping so extensive a pile of loot.

Luckily, Max's dad, who is secretly Superman (okay, so I exposed the secret. You know what? It was time. I'm sick of the deception, okay?!), stepped in to help.

Max kept wanting to stop opening presents, and just play with whatever he had opened last.

We called in a coach to help Max keep his focus.

Obviously, the strenuous task took its toll on the boy, but I think he's better for it.

Max first saw the movie "Toy Story" while we were in Canada, and he has been sort of obsessed with it ever since. He and Gramps found a Buzz Lightyear doll in a thrift store on one of their jaunts, and Granny and Gramps got him a corresponding Woody for his birthday.

After the party, Woody was tenderly fed some cake. He then joined in Max's nightime routine -- he put pajamas on with Max, he had his teeth brushed, he kissed everyone good night, and he curled up in bed with Max. Eventually, Max decided against sleeping with Woody, because Woody is quite pointy. I was just as glad. Something about Woody's frozen, toothy grin strikes me as alarming.

The day after the party, Max took his first nap in a month. For four hours. Being three makes you tired, I guess.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Uncle ... Tom? Thomas? T-Man?

We're still working on the name thing, now that you're officially Max and Maggie's uncle. Have a happy birthday in the meantime. Cheers!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Auntie Jessi

We all love you ever so muchly, and wish you enormous amounts of birthday glee.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Technical Difficulties

I have been trying to upload Max's birthday party pictures, which include the fabled blueberry cake with the even more fabled (fableder?) hand-carved lower case alphabet cookie decorations. Sadly, however, Blogger seems to be getting revenge for my recent inattention by appearing to upload my pictures, and then eating them when I try to publish. I will sweet-talk Blogger into forgiving me and be with you shortly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Which Max Attains Magic Number Status

However many children Ian and I are lucky enough to have, and however much we love them equally and uniquely and wonderfully, Max will always be the baby that changed us from Chelsa and Ian into Mama and Dada for the very first time. And for that, I will always, always be grateful. Max, I am so glad that you made me a mama, and I am so awed and humbled and filled with joy that you made me your mama. We have loved every minute. Happy 3.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Auntie Jill!

I know that many things have changed for my sister Jillian recently. She has a new husband, a new name, a new life as a student and a wife and a woman. To me, however, she will also always be that rosy-cheeked little baby who used to throw her diapers at my head to wake me up in the morning. I love you, Jills, and I hope that your birthday is joyous.

Friday, September 12, 2008

T Minus Twenty Five Hours Till Party Time

Max requested a "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" birthday cake this year. As a result, I am currently hand-carving sugar cookie lower-case alphabet shapes to decorate the cake. If you ever doubt my love for my son, gaze upon my floury eyebrows and doubt no more.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Yeah, But I Have A Good Excuse This Time

Over the years I've been blogging, I've had a few people, here and there, express admiration for the fact that I have managed to keep updating so consistently even with two young children and an active life full of diapers and pureed sweet potatoes and whatever other rich and rewarding activities I engage in. And I always responded, humbly and with a self-deprecating wave of my noble hand, that it is relatively easy to write a paragraph here and there if you are a stay at home mama, because you can take advantage of nap times to get your blog on. And then, Ladies and Gentlemen, the unthinkable happened. Max stopped napping.

I was a notoriously poor napper as a child, and I outgrew my naps almost immediately after outgrowing the womb. Ian, however, according to his mother, was still napping in kindergarten, and I kind of thought that Max was going to take after his dad in this respect. However, in the last three weeks, he has napped twice. Two times. He will still ask to go lay down at nap time, and we will get all settled, and he will be quiet and still just long enough for me to think, maybe he's not really outgrowing naps! Maybe it was all just a crazy phase, brought on by school starting and too much vacation and -- and then I'll hear his little voice.
"Mama, this is really weird. I'm not tired. I'm getting upset. I think I'm going to go to the living room. Do you wanna come with me, Mama?" and that will be that.
What this means, folks, is that the window that I used to have open in my day for blogging, reading, cleaning myself or my environment, eating, breathing, etc. has been firmly closed. Max is coping with his new found awakefulness by making much with the crabby. He does not like to wear diapers. He is not interested in underwear, and if he were, it certainly would not be the underwear that I chose for him. He dislikes food, and he also dislikes being made to wait for the food that he refused to request and will most likely refuse to eat. He goes to bed earlier, which is good, but the hour before he goes to bed is now so utterly and all-consumingly fraught with emotional outbursts that the extra time we have after he goes to sleep at night is mostly committed to recovery. I recollect parents at the preschool describing the transition from napper to non-napper as a challenging one, and I recollect being amused by how their faces would fall when I would report that nope, their child had not slept that day, and I would like to collectively apologize to all of them for my lack of sympathy on their behalf. I know that Max's body will adjust to his new schedule, and that the rest of our lives will fall back into place and we will get a new routine going, just like we do every time any one has any kind of developmental leap. Max will not always be as prone to tears and outrage every God blessed minute as he seems to be right now. But Good Grief.

In other, possibly related news, Max and I started off a new school year last week. I work two days a week, six hours a day. Max comes with me, and Maggie stays with Ian. Maggie cries every time I leave, which makes me feel excruciatingly terrible, but Ian assures me that she is quite cheerful when she is not actually looking at me leaving, and they are having a delightsome time together bonding. Max loves school, he loves that he has a lunchbox and a backpack and sporty new Lightning McQueen shoes. He is learning the rules and routines, and it has been fascinating and wonderful and heart wrenching and anxiety-producing to observe him as he learns to be social and to take his own place in a group of peers. In theory, I am also bringing Max one day a week without me, so that he learns independence and self esteem and whatever else. We kicked the experiment off last Wednesday; I dropped Max off, said goodbye (he looked alarmed but didn't cry), went to the grocery store with Maggie, and returned to pick Max up an hour and twenty three minutes later. I walked around the corner toward the yard, saw Max sitting in the sand area with his back to me, and thought, "Oh, good. He's playing! I wonder if he even noticed that I was gone!" And then one of the teachers said, "Look, Max! Look who's here!" and Max turned and started slooowwwlllyyy walking up the path towards me, his little face crumpling and an hour and twenty three minutes worth of tear tracks painted on his cheeks. "Maaaammmmaaaa!" he wailed, looking and sounding utterly bereft and betrayed, and threw himself into my arms. I feel like that expression on his face is going to poke me right in the heart every time I think about it for the rest of my life.
Less melodramatically, Max did recover quickly, especially when he learned that I had purchased him a guilt-induced juice smoothie at the store, and he was quite cheerful the rest of the day. Every day since, though, he has asked me if "we are going to preschool but it is not a day when you go away but it is a day when you stay?" Today was supposed to be round two of Operation: Max goes solo, but, predictably, he is taking a nap right in the middle of what is supposed to be school time, his first nap in what feels like twenty gajillion years and exquisitely timed. I haven't quite decided whether we will go late today or wait until Friday. I will keep you posted, as best and as promptly as I can in these trying times.