Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Recap + Barbie Reaction

Didn't want to leave you all hanging with that Barbie post. My iPhone conveniently shot me that "sorry you idiot, but pictures are full and sucks to be you because now you can't take pictures of your cute kids doing hilarious things" right as I was about to snap the Barbie reaction. But have no fear, backup camera to the rescue.

Grandparents were in town, so that meant we got a real date night in during the Easter weekend. On a whim, we drove to Oak Park and toured Frank Lloyd Wright's first home. We walked through the neighborhood and checked out more of his designs, hit up a few thrift stores (for more Easter basket fillers the kids didn't need) and booked an Open Table for our favorite restaurant.

In addition to Easter service on Sunday, we decorated eggs, searched for baskets, enjoyed countless treats and fun with grandparents, made cupcakes, two pies, ate tons of delicious food, tried a new restaurant together, went out for donuts (because, more sugar obvi), played at the park, visited the children's museum, pool time, had a fun spa treatment with my MIL and had a great time.

It's always serious detox when grandparents come and leave. The few days after are hard on everyone, but the days with everyone together is oh-so-sweet.

Now the baskets. I probably filled the baskets too much. But I have this gift closet I hoard gifts the kids aren't developmentally ready for (that they received as gifts), I got for crazy cheap, or got for free somehow. I stuck a few of those in there along with thrift store book scores for $.25-$.59 each, a $3 and $5 Barbie (one for each), lacrosse sticks I got for $3.50 on clearance and some chocolate from their Aunt Mansa. It totals less than $20/per kid. Next year, they're just getting books. Or maybe a pat on the back and a high five. #spoiled

whose is whose?
Before church, the kids opened a gift from the Easter Bunny (Mickey Mouse waffle maker for breakfast). I could've stopped there, because at 2 and 4, they still haven't connected that Easter also means baskets. But since they are entitled, spoiled little chickens, they got more. Not to mention the variety of gifts brought by grandparents, box sent from their Aunt Mansa and box sent from their other set of grandparents. Really, no shortage of love here. Or candy.
Baskets, spotted!

Barbie time. Here's that reaction...
That used $.35 copy of Cinderella was actually the biggest hit. We have the movie, but he never watches it. But the book, new fave. He's also a huge fan of that Harold and the Purple Crayon book, another $.59 thrift purchase that looks brand new! I love used books for the price and the green purchase (reduce, reuse!). And the book is so age appropriate.
And naturally, the hair on the Barbie doll is all ratty now (didn't last 24 hours) and they are infrequently played with. But that was a given, right? Surprisingly, Claire is the one who requests hers to sleep with, but she's nurturing and says the same for her other babies.

Other things to note: Professor Wiseman in Curious George was a male back in Curious George and the Rocket and in more recent books, Professor Wiseman is a female. Fun fact. Also, in the Barbie, I Can Be President book, Barbie does indeed become class president (spoiler alert! HAH!) and she meets the President of the United States who is a female!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why I Bought My Son a Barbie

If you know me well, you'd know I'm a moderate feminist.

Who never, ever would have considered buying a Barbie doll for her kids. Just a month ago, I spoke those words out loud to a group of friends at a party.

And here I am, a month later having purchased two of them for Easter baskets.

You see, my son has a keen interest in this "Barbecue Princess" he sees on previews and in print at the library. He sees them and their missing shoes (always, right?) in the 4-year-old-and-up area he was just graduated to at the gym kidcare. Because you know, those stinking shoes are choking hazards and also, profanity inducing to parents who have to pick them up or worse, step on them while barefoot. Just as hazardous as LEGO, and much less valuable.

Sort of.

I hate Barbie for all she stands for (or doesn't stand for at all, rather). And I'm saying that having a personal friend who I grew up with that works for Mattel as a Barbie designer. Yes, I saw the new launch of the "curvy" (ehm, normal) Barbie dolls and I didn't buy them. Why? Because they aren't appealing. They wear ugly denim skirts (and I like denim skirts!) and glasses and relatively modest clothing. That's all fine and good, but what, may I ask, is more appealing to small kids? Denim skirts or glittery tulle dresses and jewelry? The curvy variety just wasn't going to appeal. And so I left them on the shelf. I see those hitting Target red stickers pretty dang quickly. And I hate to say that I personally contributed to their demise by opting for the more popular skinny varieties.

Benjamin has been telling me he wants to watch Barbecue Princess movies. And while I tell him no, I really have no good reason to prohibit the book reading or imaginative play with the actual dolls. For all I know, Barbie might actually find herself a decent job in a spaceship or take a ride on Captain Hook's ship. It might serve her well. The movies, Benjamin knows, are for "older kids" because honestly, I can't bother to stomach the worthless plots and zero bits of moral value they provide. I just can't do it. When he's older and if he still has a love affair with the skinny lady, I'll revisit things. I try to encourage all forms of book reading, even with the plots being SO HARD to stomach.

I didn't always hate Barbie. I had a plethora growing up. One year, I even received three of the same variety at my park birthday party. I was wearing a sweet neon splotched sweater that I can vividly picture with a french braid and my brother was scowling in the background wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers blue baseball cap.

I tried to divert Benjamin's attention. I tried to tell him no. And you know what? He told me he would do it himself. At barely four, he was expressing to me that forbidding this (relatively harmless but obnoxious) doll would cause him to make poor choices against my wishes. And so I changed my wishes. I reevaluated. I reasoned. Because the last thing I wanted was for him to choose poor behavior or worse, feel ashamed of something he likes.

I had two criteria for a Barbie doll. She had to have pink and a crown. He loves both of those things and I think he'd quickly throw my investment to the birds if she didn't have that princess appeal. I also added a final criteria that she would have no shoes or removable clothing. I'm not searching for those stinking things. I bought Benjamin this ballerina one and a beachy one-piece one for Claire. I even bought some books and one about Barbie becoming President (insert laughing until you cry emoji here). Who knows, maybe by Christmas we'll expand the line to a Ken doll and some mini skinny, super tan and ripped kids. An update will be in order.

So on Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus and also, welcome the good ol' American feminist killer to our home.

Anyone else ever purchased something (they previously swore off) for their kids?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Claire at 24 Months, 26 months. How's that for being prompt?

You know those kids (ME), who always received the classic, "pleasure to have in class" on their report card? Well she's that kid (too). Her dad was also that kid, so we're at least relieved to have one of our kids following our lead.
She and Benjamin just may be polar opposites, but they love each other and I'm not just saying that. Really, they kinda have some deep attachment I'm not sure I expected from kids who couldn't be more different. Naptime just doesn't happen unless she has brother to sing her a few songs and give her and hug and kiss first.

Her first words when she wakes up in the morning usually revolve around other people or caring for them. "Buh Buh sleeping?" "Babies over dare." "Mommy happy?" "I kiss-uh you."

Kind of an emotional basketcase sometimes because she is so concerned about the happiness of her people, but such an unexpected and needed balance for our family. She has more love in her body than most people. It's her God gift.
She can count to 12 and say her HIJ's (not ABC's, hah) and sings a multitude of songs. She has vocabulary for days and is ridiculously articulate, but she can't tell one color from the next to save her life. Really, either she's colorblind (plausible but doubtful), or she simply doesn't care. Animals are also either bunnies or dogs, no matter what. Though, I did hear her mention a bear recently. Am I failing my children by not placing more emphasis on learning animal sounds? Because being in storytime tells me she should definitely know useless things like cows going "moo" and chickens going "cluck" (which is not what they sound like to me).

She repeats what you say and studies your every move. Thank goodness she's still rear facing (B wasn't at her age but she's my baby........) because she'd know the moment I popped a chocolate bar into my mouth since she is perceptive as can be.
She has no real desire to watch TV and only entertains books but she's turning a corner on her intrigue, it seems. She's just starting to take interest, but we're not sure if she's bringing us books because she thinks we like them, or because she has genuine interest in reading the contents. Losing interest in a story is pretty quick, except if it's a potty book. Lest you assume we have some potty training savant on our hands, she happily still poops in her diaper and replies "I do not" when we ask if she has a diaper that needs changing.
See that photobomber on the right? Coincidentally walking out of TJ's when we were (and I was being a mamarazzi) was the nurse who I saw during all of my pregnancies. She has talked me down from some tough stuff, that woman. Kinda special because Claire was a tough pregnancy and now she's two and dang. We are so happy we have her.
She's the ultimate helper. She wants to carry bags at the grocery store for me, help me brush my teeth and manage going down stairs on her own. She wants to be competitive and go first and copies brother's language of teasing and competition. "I want to talk!" "It's my castle, my castle!" "My help you." "No, my first!" She has her own style and is particular about selecting out clothes and pajamas, but is easier swayed than her brother, at least at this age. She's learned a bit quicker by studying his wise guy moves.
Claire is the kind of kid you know is just going to handle life well. The hardest thing about being her parent is worrying about how the world is going to disappoint her. She's just an all-in kind of kid who wants to be valued and loved and involved. She makes friends wherever she goes but is quick to make sure Mom or Dad (or Buh Buh) are close by for a quick check-in.

Favorites List (at 2 Years):
Food: Yogurt, Cream Cheese, Meatballs, Fruit
Treat: Marshmallows, Lollipops
Breakfast: Waffles, Yogurt with Cheerios inside (easier to eat with a spoon and less runny)
Lunch/Dinner: Peanut butter sandwich, mac n' cheese, meatballs, chicken nuggets
Songs: Row Your Boat, How I Wonder What You Are (Twinkle Star)
Colors: Colors? Yeah, she doesn't know those yet
Clothes: Anything with Hearts. "Zips with pockets" (hoodies). Cupcake pants.
Game: Hide and Seek, Chase
Activities: Whatever her brother is doing, people involved games/play, mothering her babies, puzzles
Obsessions: Talking (really, nonstop!), Eating, Stickers, Baby Dolls
Books: Ham (Green Eggs and Ham), any color book, any potty book, train books
Movies: Not much into the screen, but does know who Elmo is and also Elsa and Anna. She also knows "Poppins" and other characters and songs from shows her brother likes.
TV Shows: (see movies)
Toys: Those $3.50 baby dolls from Target (best!), Melissa & Doug Puzzles, Magnatiles, Target baby stroller, Scuttlebug Ride-On Toy 
Restaurant: Happy to eat anywhere. :)
Dessert Place: Dunkin' Donuts (which she can spot and call "donuts" when driving by)
Words/Sayings: "I do not like the ham!" (mimicing Dr. Seuss), "Mommy Happy?" Repeating all things and giving a play-by-play of what is happening: "Buh Buh School", "Mama brush teeth?" "Daddy sleeping?"
Dislikes: Doctors, strangers, animals attempting to approach her, people dressed in animal costumes, disappointing her people, being told no (tears ensue), baby wipes

Claire's a petite little chicken (my nickname for her, among others) that is growing her hair ever-so-slowly but won't entertain a bow on her head like ever. My feminist roots kinda celebrate that. She's 30th percentile-ish, just continuing the trend of my lightweight little ones and still a wee bit short to reach those pedals perfectly on that Radio Flyer tricycle we scored free from our neighborhood friends. I presume she'll be riding a bike before her brother at this rate, which is kind of great because he needs that boost of jealousy to get him into gear. They offer a great balance for each other and for us as parents.

She's the cautious kid and will shriek at the top of her little lungs if a moving creature approaches her (even a turtle). Dogs both intrigue her and scare the daylights out of her. She tolerates the pool while her brother will jump in the deep end just to see if you're paying attention.

The way she's nurturing and caring for her people makes us believe she might make a perfect nurse. She might be a lefty and her utter disregard for colors is comical as she can tell me details about how to do laundry using correct vocabulary, but the blue shirts from the red shirts are totally lost on her.

We're enrolling her in 2yo preschool just two days a week starting in August. It's the same program Benjamin attended and I think she'll just love it. From there, she's really the kid you can throw in any educational environment and she'll adapt and thrive based on her interest to please and keeping the standards she has set for herself intrinsically. She's Type-A for sure, a pleaser and a rule follower. Benjamin is a Type-B rebel who follows no rules. But somehow, she's softening him up and bringing a little healthy competition to the table.

I remember vividly telling the OB 26 months + 1 week ago to just get her here alive. I didn't care how, but I needed her here and alive. We're pretty dang lucky to have her to complete our family of five. <3 p="">

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Dual Pool Party Bash Celebrating Two and Four

I didn't actually think about their birthdays being back-to-back months as something awesome. But when they are young, it turns out you can take advantage of a dual birthday party. Pay one fee. All the friends are the same anyway (at this age) and you only have to plan one party.

It was pretty sweet. I sent out an Evite, paid the YMCA $185 for 1hr of pool rental with 1 lifeguard, locker room + 1 hour in the party room with friends for dinner and cake. They supplied pizza for 12 kids (which is apparently FIVE large Domino's Pizzas and Honest Juice boxes, a tablecloth, napkins, plates, and a party host to setup, help, and clean up). We added in two more Costco pizzas (totally unnecessary given how much they supplied) and a Costco sheetcake, bringing the grand total to like $225.

And bonus, we had 2/3 of a large cake left and a whole Costco pizza, which then became our #fatkid indulgences for the rest of the week.

I bought some party favors as well along with pool toys, so the price was probably closer to $250. I threw a bunch of little birthday squirt toys in the pool and each one had an attending child's name on it, along with some filler shapes and things. I also bought some (really lame) bird dive toys that just ended up being the things the adults had to retrieve when the whole thing was over.

I try to only include the very most flattering photos of myself. 
The favor for each kid was a Buzz Lightyear bag filled with 2 markers and some individually packaged Crayola Model Magic I found on Amazon. I used the same party favors for his school gift to classmates, as special desserts aren't an option. I'm kind of obsessed with the stuff. Like kinetic sand, I might like it more than my kids. Good thing, because we have like 50 of those little packages left!

Benjamin and Claire wanted to place the candles on their cake themselves, so I just let them. I didn't anticipate them wanting to put on all the candles in the package, but hey. It was their party and it made them happy. Same cake, but Claire put on her 2 and Benjamin put on his 4. I bought a cool Buzz Lightyear and rocket candle at the Wilton tent sale last summer and then promptly dropped and broke Buzz's head off when I got home. I melted him back on and he was back in business.

Decorations were just some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse hanging party streamers above the kid's table that were leftovers from our California celebration with family. Throwing a party somewhere other than your home is brilliant because cleanup and planning is a snap. Noted for all years to come.

B and C have birthday heads that hang from the mantle all month + birthday countdowns! 
On Benjamin's actual birthday, I decorated his doorway with streamers and stuffed a bunch of balloons in his room after he fell asleep. Instead of excitement when he woke up, he was matter-of-fact about telling me there were a bunch of balloons in his room, complete with a confused look on his face. We had cinnamon rolls with 4 candles for breakfast, followed by a day of bday crowning and favor giving at school and an afternoon at a local ball factory/play zone where we went down tall slides and shot foam balls from cannons for about 2.5 hours. We completed the evening with dinner out at Noodles and Company, per the birthday boy's request.

Three birthdays in three months is no joke. And that, my friends, concludes birthday season. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Benjamin at 48 Months

This kid has been anything but easy since he was about 13 months old when he stopped eating food. And so here we are at 48 months and still wondering how he eats enough to sustain life.

The insanity tantrums that were hours upon hours each day have sort of become a thing of the past, in part due to his nonstop talking. Not only can he communicate well, but he has the best vocabulary and is so expressive. If this kid isn't in theater, I'm going to be super surprised. 

His very favorite movies are Mary Poppins and Cinderella but he's kind of all talk (literally, all day long) because he very rarely actually watches either movie, especially in entirety. He prefers just watching Step in Time and talking at length about the mean stepsisters and how they "tored Cinderella's dress and that's STOP behavior." (His preschool follows a social emotional curriculum that refers to behaviors as Stop or Go. He's very quick to point out when others are having Stop behavior, natch.) 

He's still very involved in the swimming pool and we're all about keeping it that way. We visit the YMCA pool probably 2-3 times each week just to get our hour of swim followed by a 15 minute warm shower. They're so spoiled. Don't tell the drought ridden Californians. 

Preschool is actually one of his favorite places to be, when last year it was a fight to get him there. He's obviously quite engaged, despite his complete and utter disinterest to write letters on paper. 

He's definitely does his own thing, but I wouldn't necessarily consider him a leader. He has no interest in following other kids in play, but is still very quick to interrupt and steal toys out of jealousy. He always has his eye on what others are doing (so you know, he can take what he thinks belongs to him). He's a legit negotiator that keeps me on my toes with sharpening my own negotiating skills.

He loves his sister something fierce and really does engage and play with her at home. He's bold and daring and really funny.

Favorites List (at 4 Years):
Food: Peanut Butter
Treat: Chocolate, Candy
Breakfast: Cinnamon rolls or Waffles (staple)
Lunch/Dinner: Peanut Butter and some carb
Songs: Step in Time, Let it Go, Frere Jacques
Colors: Pink, Red (or whatever you have that he wants also becomes "but that's my favorite color!")
Clothes: Mickey Mouse Superhero Cape Shirt (I bought size 5 for backup because, obsessed), Crocs, Specific Pair of Mickey Pajamas (despite having 3 kinds, only likes 1)
Game: Hi Ho Cherry-O Disney Edition, Hide-and-Seek (if only he'd hide somewhere different each time!)
Activities: Science experiments, cooking with Mom in the kitchen, playing superheroes with Dad complete with capes, swimming, playing with the iPad, reading books with us, building forts
Obsessions: Castles, Princesses, Superheroes, Magic, The "Horn" (Matterhorn at Disneyland that he's 2 inches too short to ride), Airplanes
Books: Disney Anthologies, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Super Mousekefriends, Cinderella, Little Red Hen (love that Classic!), The Day the Crayons Quit (finds peach crayon hilarious)
Movies: Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Minnie-rella, Dr. Seuss, Peep and The Big Wide World (big laughs)
TV Shows: Super Why, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That
Toys: Building Towers, Random kitchen utensil, special rock, Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks
Restaurant: Chipotle (by name), Noodles & Co.
Dessert Place: Forever Yogurt, Dunkin' Donuts
Words/Sayings: "Well...", "Eventually...", "I'm big enough because I'm four.", "I'll be two inches and then I'll go on the Horn", "Well then I'll get it myself", "I need to talk!"

He's definitely his own person and always has been. He doesn't fit the typical niche of young kids, so it makes me wonder what life will be like as he grows older. As a mom, I'm actually surprised how much time I spend worrying about his future. Will kids give him a chance? Will he make friends well? Will he fit in or struggle with finding his place? Will he find a career that suits him and makes him happy? Will he meet someone who loves him unconditionally forever? While I struggle to embrace his interests sometimes, I love him big and know these fears are really because this rainbow baby saved our lives in the time we needed him most, and I just want him to have a world that loves and accepts him. 

*He's literally wearing the Mickey Superhero shirt and Mickey PJ's in every picture. 

(I'm planning to get one of these up for Claire, but I'm already a month late and figured it made sense to just post his since his birthday just passed last week.)