Chag Purim Sameach

Spring is a very festive time for Jewish holidays. In the lead up to Purim, there are a number of themed dress up days. Last Friday was “dress up as your favorite character” day. As might be expected, Gloria chose to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Micah then decided that he wanted to be the Wicked Witch of the West. This was at 7:30AM, about a half hour before we had to go to school. Lauren and I had a quick brainstorm at the breakfast table, and whisked Micah into some of Gloria’s old clothes plus a black T-shirt of mine. For the final touch, Lauren put together a quick witch hat out of construction paper. He was a hit at school drop off time.

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Yesterday, for the actual day of Purim, the kids were supposed to dress as Purim characters. Gloria chose Queen Esther so that she could wear the crown she made at school. Micah was originally going to be King Ahasuerus, but then over dinner decided he wanted to be Haman instead.  Fortunately we had some advance warning this time and I followed these helpful instructions to make him a three pointed hat. Again we got out the black T-shirt, my grey shoe laces for a belt, and with a moustache flourish our little Haman was ready to go. Micah was really excited to be the “bad guy”, running around yelling “I’m the bad guy! I’m the bad guy!” At drop off Micah’s teacher commented that Micah was making his way through the list of super villains this week.

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This morning culminated with the annual Purim carnival. The gym is converted into a festival of bouncy slides, face painting, games, and balloon artists. And the kids get to play all day in their pajamas.

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There’s No Place Like Home

In late June we sent out a save the date for Gloria’s fourth birthday party. Gloria has been obsessed with the Wizard of Oz since December 2014 and we wanted to capitalize on her interest before it passed.

To give ourselves some buffer after Ezra’s due date, we scheduled the party for this past Sunday, a week after Gloria’s actual birthday (and, as it turned out, also a week after Ezzy’s bris). Gloria put on her “Dorothy dress” and her “ruby slippers” and we had an invitation photo shoot during Micah’s nap.

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We were originally going to have the party at a nearby park, leveraging its jungle gyms and water features for party entertainment. Unfortunately, the forecast called for rain and we had to update the party location to our house (there’s no place like home!). Which meant in addition to preparing treats and decorations we also had to come up with some party games.

With the big kids in bed at 6:45PM, it was time to get serious on our party prep. It’s amazing what you can do when you forgo sleep for a night (which our newborn had been giving us lots of practice with over the past two weeks). Here are the steps we followed to put together a Wizard of Oz themed party for a four year old.

Step 1: Prepare some games

We researched some game ideas online. After sifting through a number of ideas, we decided to prepare two games. The first was Pin the Heart on the Tin Man. I zoomed in on the head and shoulders of a picture from the movie, and created the rest of the tin man from a roll of aluminum foil and a nature stick Gloria picked up outside a few days ago.

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The second game was Melt the Witch. Lauren painted a wicked witch on a poster board using washable tempura paint. We’d fill water balloons the next day for the kids to melt her.

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For party favors, we printed out some Wizard of Oz themed coloring and activity pages, tied them into scrolls with yellow ribbon, and finished them with our extra themed cupcake rings.

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Step 2: Thematic treats

Fortunately our kids all have summer birthdays so we have no shortage of fruit available. We put together a rainbow colored fruit plate with strawberries, oranges, pineapple, kiwis, blueberries, and purple grapes.

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Some of the few thematic items we had ordered in advance was cupcake liners and rings. As part of her late night trip to QFC, Lauren also found a pack of rainbow candy on sale, so we used those to top half the cupcakes (freeing up some of the rings for our aforementioned scrolls).

We made some white cake batter and lemon buttercream, and Lauren used the cupcakes as a warm up for the main cake-decorating event.

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Step 3: Stay up late decorating a thematic cake

Each of the past two years we made Gloria a Hello Kitty cake, this year we were liberated from that labor. Instead (because we are sometimes crazy) we decided to recreate the Emerald City. We started with this image from the movie and proceeded to make an array of colored buttercreams. We progressed from the sky with a few clouds, to the yellow brick road, the Emerald City itself, the fields, and finally the poppies. We finished the cake just before 1AM, then we had to clean the kitchen.

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Step 4: Wake up, have coffee, decorate the house

Fortunately we had done a little bit of advance planning and purchased a themed balloon set that included a particularly impressive rainbow balloon. Uncle Shawnie and Amanda used sidewalk chalk to turn our front porch into a yellow brick road. Yellow arrows led guests down the garden steps to the backyard (assuming it didn’t start pouring).

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Step 5: Welcome guests, play the games

Finally, party time. We let the kids mingle and snack for a half hour, and then started the party games. First the kids lined up for Pin the Heart on the Tin Man.

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At this point it had started drizzling outside, which was the perfect atmosphere for Melt the Witch. The water balloons were a little challenging for our preschool crowd, so we upgraded to cups of water (from a bucket of course).

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Step 6: Eat the cake!

We concluded as all good birthday parties should, with a feast of sugary treats on Emerald plates. Micah was especially into the cupcakes.

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Mardi Gras 2014

Last Sunday afternoon we hosted our annual Mardi Gras party. We didn’t have the energy to put together an extensive menu this year, but we did serve the classics – Hurricanes, Jambalaya and Lauren’s new cast iron cornbread recipe. We had a few more little ones attending this year, but it was still manageable. Gloria was showing off a variety of beads, and trying to put some on Micah as well. And of course, everyone enjoyed the king cake! 

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Cheeeese

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“My favorite colors are pink and purple!”

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Keegan, Owen, and Micah having some guy time before busting into the king cake

Mardi Gras 2013

Yesterday we threw our annual Mardi Gras party, with special engaged guests Vidya and Akshay in town. It was our pleasure to shower them with king cake sugar highs, endless supplies of jambalaya, and evening entertainment from our Globug.

As always, we dug out our collection of beads and masks for the celebration, though this year our munchkin took a much bigger interest in the array of colors. Gloria REALLY enjoyed playing with beads and the little jester “babies” – at one point she disappeared, and then walked back into the kitchen with 5 sets of beads around her neck and a multicolored hat on her head!

We also had a new addition to the party – Mark and Tracy’s four month old Cameron. Gloria was enthralled with the little guy; she kept shouting “baby” and giving him kisses.

While we could not hope to compete with last year’s menu from Grandma Lynn, the fare seemed to meet with Gloria’s approval. She ate two whole corn muffins and a big plate of jambalaya with sausage and chicken!

Sifting through the beads
Exploring the array of beads

Adjusting her headband
Making sure the headband is perfectly set around the curls

Mardi gras princess
My duckies and I are ready to party

High fives
Yay, you’re getting married!

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Some juggling entertainment for you before I hit the sack

Cajun Jambalaya

Courtesy of Lynn, our Louisiana native, comes this family recipe that we make every year for Mardi Gras.

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix (rice and spices)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • Hot sauce
  • Worchester sauce
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1.5 pounds sausage (I recommend Uli’s Cajun Chicken Andouille)
  • 1 pound shelled jumbo shrimp
  • 1 pound boneless chicken
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • Lemon pepper

Directions

  1. Marinade the chicken in apple cider vinegar and sriracha for a few hours.
  2. Grill the peppers, sausages and chicken until they have nice scorch marks
  3. Slice the sausages into thick pieces
  4. Cut the peppers and chicken into thick cubes
  5. Boil the water in a dutch oven
  6. Add tomatoes and their juice, Zatarain’s rice and seasoning packs, garlic, Italian seasoning, and bell peppers. Stir, return to a boil, cover pot, reduce heat and simmer until rice is at the desired texture. The water should almost completely cook out and leave the rice moist but not wet
  7. Add shrimp, stir well and simmer until the shrimp turn white (should just take a few minutes).

Gloria Highlights, Week 74

There was much excitement and confusion in our house this week, as Gloria decided that she was done with her morning nap and we scrambled to figure out the new normal. It started on Thursday, when our nanny told me that she heard Gloria stirring and talking to herself on the monitor for much of her two-hour morning “nap.” Uncertain whether this was a real schedule change or just a fluke, I tried to put G down for her morning nap at the regular time on Friday, but she wasn’t having it – and, truthfully, she just didn’t seem tired. We rescued her from her crib and she was up until about noon, but it still took about 30 minutes of crying and consoling to get her down. We realized afterwards that Gloria’s one-nap schedule needs to include a pre-nap bottle, even though her two-nap schedule had only post-nap bottles. Things were still out of whack on Saturday – Gloria slept in on Saturday morning (until 9am!). Since we had some slight suspicions that she might be getting sick (I have a cold), we let her sleep rather than attempting to wake her, but then her whole schedule was thrown off. We did much better on Sunday and now I think we have the new routine figured out. We may be slow, but we do eventually learn.

Gloria thoroughly enjoyed her second Hanukkah, and she recognized all of the symbols from her PJ Library Hanukkah counting book, which we have read many, many times. By the seventh night, she really wanted to get involved in the candle lighting, so Kenny let her hold his hand and they used the shamash together to light the seven candles. I was nervous about this but it worked out fine. Then on the eighth night she stole the shamash out of Kenny’s hand and I had to swiftly blow it out.

Kenny ordered a sweet Hanukkah gift for mommy and baby to share – a board book called Mommy Hugs, the companion to the Daddy Hugs book I bought for Kenny’s zero-th Father’s Day. It’s Gloria’s new favorite, and she likes to rub noses with me for hug #1 (“nuzzle-wuzzle wake up hugs”) and for some reason she gives me a big fat adorable kiss for #8 (“who made this mess?”). It’s amazing how she can now recognize and point out most of the objects on a page – on the cover page of Mommy Hugs she can easily point to the dog, shoes, backpack, sun, and bear when asked. In general I can teach her the name of an object once and she gets it from then out out, even if the representation is quite different in a different book (the trees in Mommy Hugs look quite different from the trees in Ten Sparkly Spots but she recognizes that both are trees).

Kenny and I had early functions to attend on Wednesday and Friday evenings, so we hired Gloria’s regular nanny to come and watch her. Wednesday night marked the first time that Gloria ever had her bedtime routine and put down administered by anyone but Kenny or myself. It went fine, although Megan did need to go in once and soothe her after putting her to bed initially.

Tooth brushing is still a bit of a challenge, but it’s getting easier as Gloria learns that resistance is futile. Some days she’ll even open her mouth for us! The Brush, Brush, Brush book has been a huge help. The munchkin is still gnawing on her fingers in the sites where the left canines are expected; hopefully they are close.

Even though Gloria took her first steps last week, she’s still not that interested in walking. She’ll walk a little, but mostly we need to prompt her, and she’d still rather hold onto a hand or finger when she walks rather than walking unassisted (Kenny likens this to the magic feather from his favorite childhood film, Dumbo). When we do this, she’ll hold on and say "walk, walk, walk" (really "wah wah wah") while she walks forward – it’s ridiculously cute.

Snazzy new sunglasses
Trying on some snazzy new shades

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Hanukkah gifts from Grandma

Hello Mr. Skate
Hello, Mr. Skate

Gloria Highlights, Week 73

The big news of the week is that Gloria took her first steps on Thursday! She walked about 5 steps to mommy in the kitchen:

Gloria practiced more unassisted walking throughout the weekend, but is mostly interested in walking assisted while holding one of our fingers in her little hand.

Gloria’s verbal skills are also improving – this week she said “oof” when we point to a dog, or “mow” if we point out a cat. In other communication, she’s doing her own personal sign for “bunny,” which consists of her clutching tufts of her hair where her bunny ears would be. She’s also learning some basic potty skills and is getting better at anticipating a pee episode by signing potty or diaper change.

Last week’s dentist visit has instantly made us hard core about brushing Gloria’s teeth morning and night. We also have to follow the brushing by applying child fluoride rinse with a q-tip. We’ve been trying to get what assistance we can, including acquiring a brushing board book that has worked wonders for other toddlers. The first few days were quite difficult and involved a bunch of tears. Things are slowly improving though – by Saturday she actually opened her mouth for the toothbrush (then shut it quickly after the brushing started).

Chanukah started on Saturday night. Candle lighting is trickier this year, as Gloria is very interested in reaching for the flames. So far we’ve limited her to pointing out the candles, and she is getting used to the tradition of lighting candles and singing songs. As soon as we’re more confident she won’t grab the top of a lit candle we can let her help with the candle lighting.

On Sunday we had some friends over for dinner, including their kids aged four and two. Gloria loved playing with Anders and Piper, and she was even fine playing with them and Uncle Ramon when we weren’t in the same room which was a rare treat. After a solid dinner, G also ate a whole sugar cookie (elephant-shaped, her favorite), which we think contributed to her fussy bedtime, though it could also have been attributed to the slightly later than normal put down at 7:30. Tonight was also a bit of a battle, which I think is a bit of hangover from last night’s late bedtime.

Bath time
Gloria’s crazy hair – when those curls get wet they are below shoulder length

Reaching for Chanukah candles
Attracted to the Chanukah candles

Opening presents
Yay, Chanukah presents from Grandma and Grandpa!

Reading Mommy Hugs
Story time with mommy

Making a mess
Look at all the toys I dumped out of this box!

GlowRoom, Thanksgiving Edition

Our little photo editor was extremely prolific during the long family weekend. Here are her favorites (again, unedited originals on the left, Gloria’s edits on the right):

Book reading old book reading new
We should be reading in monochrome

Lavoie ladies before Lavoie ladies after
Our tres generationes should be en blanco y negro

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Let’s not be distracted by the pink accents here

Playing with Shawnie before Playing with Shawnie after
Uncle Shawnie, that Movember look works better in sepia

Zoo before Zoo after
The penguins behind us have grey tongues, so I think we should too

stacking containers before Stacking containers after
This stack looks more impressive in black and white

Boom!

This weekend Uncle Shawn introduced Gloria to a new game that has quickly become her favorite pastime. He took sets of blocks (or yogurt containers, or anything else around the house) and stacked them up tall. We’ve done this many times for Gloria in the past, and Glor-zilla knew to come over and knock the tower down. However, when she did so Shawn would exclaim “Boom!” and Gloria would giggle uncontrollably. It was super cute, and one evening we caught the process on video. First Lauren caught this exchange:

Then, as is wont to happen lately, Gloria saw Lauren video-taping and grabbed the phone from her. She then replayed the video, and reenacted the destruction. I was lucky enough to take this meta-video of that new game.