Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And Then She Was Three

I feel like we've been celebrating Norah's birthday for weeks. Ever since her party a week and a half ago we've been in serious birthday mode. Since she doesn't go to school on Tuesdays, on Monday her class celebrated her birthday and I got to bring in a special snack. She wanted to wear her party dress, but I made her wear a long sleeved shirt because it was freezing. That's awesome.

I dropped her off and then returned about an hour later with snack....oatmeal cookies with m&m's. The weeks before I was asking her teacher what I could bring and suggested cupcakes. Her teacher shook her head and I said, 'oh, too much sugar?' and she laughed and said, 'no, too messy.' So, cookies it was.

I arrived to Norah sitting around the table with her class and a pink crown on her head. She was stoked about that crown.

Our big present to Norah this year was a dollhouse. Now, in my usual fashion I researched dollhouses for months and my biggest issue with most of them is that they all come pre-decorated and things like clocks, lamps, appliances, etc are part of the wallpaper. Also, most of them have a back panel to go against a wall and so you can only get at the house from the front and sides. I would have loved a Plan Toys one, but they are a little out of our price range. Thankfully, I found a great alternative from Ryan's Room. It isn't as tall as my ideal house would be, but we might end up putting it on a table or something to give it some height. She's taller than the roof right now and I hope she plays with it for years, so I think height will give it some sustainability.

Unfortunately, all of the furniture is sold separately by room. We bought 2 rooms and then I scored the rest of the furniture used from a local mom. The Tuckers provided the dolls-both a Caucasian and Asian family (so 10 dolls total). Norah's very favorite is the 'lady in the kimono.'

She was thrilled and immediately launched into rearranging all of the furniture I had so carefully set up the night before.

She got a very special present from dad....light up glass slippers.

I especially like how well they go with her Woody pajamas.

She opened some more presents including several awesome pre-school games from Bubby and a Tinkerbell movie, book, and tote bag from the Sheehys.

She decided to change into her Belle dress (yes, I know it is an Alice in Wonderland dress, don't judge) and crown from one of her cards. I told her she could have whatever she wanted for breakfast and she asked for 'pancakes with whipped cream and NO berries and milk.'

After breakfast we played a rousing game of Cooties.

Later that morning Ruby (and Pamma and Megan) and Baby Lucas (and Aileen) came over to play. It POURED cold rain all day so we offered to let the girls watch a movie (the aforementioned Tinkerbell movie). Norah was so stoked that she ran and put her pajamas on so it could be a 'kajama movie party.'

The plan to walk up and get ice cream was made impossible by the rain, so I ran up and got an ice cream cake instead.

After her friends left she actually took a short nap and then we took Lou's 4 month pictures. Of course, Norah had to be in some (ie, most) of them as well.

We figured since it was a special occasion we should at least attempt to be civilized and eat together at the table.

After dinner the birthday girl got the last piece of ice cream cake and we went on a walk to splash in puddles. She woke up this morning and the first things she asked was 'am I still 3???'

There are so many things I could say about our girl at 3. About how smart and funny and kind she is. About how she is an incredible big sister and (mostly) a really good friend. About how she asks such inquisitive questions and shares her profound (okay, profound for a 3 year old) thoughts. About how she is super emotional and gets frustrated that her brain moves faster than her mouth and body these days. About how she sometimes feels misunderstood. About how she loves fairies and princesses and dinosaurs and garbage trucks. About how she can't get enough of movies and books and stories and songs and hugs and kisses. About how she dances for us and dances with us and tells us how much she loves us every single day. About how she declared out of the blue the other day, 'I LOVE BEING A GVZ.' About how she tells jokes and laughs at ours.

But, I won't. Instead I will just say that we are the luckiest family in the world.

What a Good Sister Does

Norah likes to talk about what her "job" as a big sister entails. On the top of the list is "teaching Louie how to read." Apparently it doesn't matter that she can't, in fact, read herself. Minor detail, I suppose.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Those who have been around awhile know that sleep has probably been our biggest parenting struggle thus far. In fact, I like to think that the fact that Norah was the easiest kid in the entire universe to potty train is karmic payback for how long I have been sleep deprived. As a baby, she hated her crib and simply could not fall asleep by herself. It wasn't until she was 13 months old did she finally start consistently sleeping through the night. Of course, that was short lived. She got a toddler bed well before she was 2 (even though the "experts" say not to move them out of the crib unless there's a safety hazard, ie, they are climbing out), and then a twin bed at 2 and a half. Being in a bed rather than a crib made a world of difference and she's been an A- sleeper ever since.

Recently, however, she's started to really protest her 8:00 pm bedtime. It doesn't seem to matter if she's napped that day or not or how much physical activity she's had. Five minutes after the books are read, stories are told, songs are sung, and kisses are doled out, we hear her door creak open. She has a wide variety of explanations....has to go potty (she knows we are never going to deny that one), she's scared of a "creaky" noise in her room, she's hot, she's cold, she's thirsty, she saw an alligator, or she's JUST NOT TIRED. She came out one night and discovered that BVZ and I were eating chocolate pudding and I don't think she will ever forgive us.

By her bedtime, I am so done with the day and all I want is to eat dinner and watch one of the Real Housewives or Teen Mom. I offered to let her read books by herself, but that didn't work. I threatened to not let her watch Word World the next day, but that didn't work. I offered a fun day of her choosing the next day, that didn't work. I tried to be honest and told her that we had a long day and were exhausted and just wanted to freaking eat dinner, but that didn't work. I may have even cried a little. I may have even yelled a little too (just a little), but that didn't work either. Thankfully, once she's asleep she's good until at least 7:00 am, when I wake up to her little face at my face asking for breakfast.

My only consolation is that I know we aren't alone in our struggle, as evidenced by the New York Times Best Selling Book, "Go the F@ck to Sleep." Click here to hear it read by Samuel L. Jackson. (Not work or child appropriate, btw). I am in hysterics every time I hear it. My favorite line might be, "You're thirsty? That's BULLSHIT. Go the f@ck to sleep!"

So, it should be no surprise that I have been thinking a lot lately about Norah's struggles to sleep as a baby and get to sleep as a preschooler I have realized how very similar she is to me. We have the same circadian rhythm. In my ideal world I would sleep from about 2:00 am to 10:00 am. I start to feel a little sluggish by about 5:00 or 6:00 pm but then I get a second wind around 8:00 pm and it is physically impossible for me to fall asleep before 11:00 pm, even if I am dog tired. I struggle to fall asleep most nights and I have to have ideal conditions (can't be too hot or too cold, I need white noise, etc.) I have an incredibly hard time sleeping on vacations, in hotels, etc.

I think in her ideal world Norah would sleep from about 10:00 pm to about 9:00 am. Obviously this doesn't work with preschool and work schedules, but I think it's why she has such a hard time winding down and going to bed at 8:00. When she says she's JUST NOT TIRED, I believe her. This past week I have experimented pushing her bedtime back to 9:00 pm and it's made a world of difference. Of course, it isn't ideal for any adult time, but at this point if she is put to bed any earlier she's up and down and up and down for hours and everyone is just getting mad and frustrated anyway. It may change when it gets dark earlier, but for now we are just going with it.

On the flip side is King Louis. He has been a great sleeper since he was born. My theory has always been that the first 3 months you are in pure survival mode and a slave to the baby. Because they are still so neurologically immature, they eat when they need to eat and they sleep when they need to sleep and you hold and comfort them when they need to be held and comforted. Lou has been really consistent from the beginning and would wake every 3 hours to eat (and barf) and then go back to sleep. As he's gotten older he has stretched out those night time feedings and as of about 3 weeks ago he weaned himself off of the last middle-of-the-night feeding, and has been sleeping from about 8:00 pm to 5:00 or 6:00 am. He still has a bad night every once in a while, but it's usually due to an upset tummy, I think. He's a better napper than Norah ever was as well.

We haven't vastly changed our approach, so why did we get sleepers on the opposite end of the spectrum? I attribute it to 3 things: 1) Norah was breastfed and Louis is not. The fact is, breast milk is digested much faster and I think Louis is content for much longer because he isn't as hungry as she used to be. 2) We are home a lot more now. In the early months and weeks with Norah it was hotter than hell and we often were out of the house most of the day to escape our hot house. I also had way more anxiety and sought out the company and guidance of other new moms. As a result, Norah napped a lot on the go and never really got into a consistent or predictable nap routine. Louis naps around the same time every day, usually in the same place. 3) They are just different kids. Norah is like me (intense, opinionated, and controlling), and Louis is like BVZ (mellow, relaxed, and content). Those personality traits are reflected in the way that we all sleep.

Of course if I have learned anything these past 3 years it could all change overnight. For my sanity's sake, let's hope not.

Yesterday I changed a disgusting diaper and then set Lou in the crib so I could wash my hands. I put Norah "in charge" and asked her to entertain him until I got back.

I was probably gone a minute and a half and this is what I found when I returned. So, now she wants to be in the crib....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Piece of Cake

Norah's first day of school was on Monday. She didn't really sleep well the night before-I think she was nervous. I didn't really sleep well the night before either. I was for sure nervous. I didn't think she would cry or get upset when I left, rather I was concerned that she would be really quiet and shy. I worried that she wouldn't tell her teacher when she needed to pee.

Here she is right before we left, with Bear and her new mouse lunch box.

One of the reasons we ended up going with this particular school is that it offers both a part time and full time program. She's only there in the morning 3 days a week right now but will obviously go full time when I go back to work. We can drop her off anytime between 7:00 and 9:00 (so nice when you have to get to work), and the kids can either play outside on the play structure/sand box or do art projects, play puzzles, etc. in the classroom. At 9:00 the "structured" part of the day starts (it is still a play based school), and they have art, letters, music, pretend play, cooking, etc. Then at noon they eat lunch and at 12:30 the half day kids go home and everyone else naps or rests until 3:00 (and then it's free play until 6:00).

We got there at about 8:45 and she and Bear played in the sand box for a bit. Teacher Rana got there at 9:00 (before 9:00 the kids are supervised by aides), and she immediately took Norah and introduced her to all of her classmates. I left at that point and I got a hug and a kiss and a 'bye, mom!' When I returned at 12:30 to pick her up she gave me a huge hug and kiss and told me she was happy to see me.

Rana said she was a "piece of cake" and it was though she had been there for months. Rana said she was delightful and talkative and participated in all of the day's activities. She played with the other kids and made friends. She went potty, ate her snack, and ate her entire lunch. She left Bear in her cubby until lunch time (I was shocked). No tears, not a moment of sadness and she apparently told Rana all about Louis and Ruby.

I asked her if she would tell me what she did at school and she kept telling me, "maybe later." It probably took the rest of the afternoon, but she eventually told me that she: sat at the top of a slide and rolled a ball to a boy at the bottom of the slide, rode a tricycle, sat in a circle at story time, made a fish in art, sang a song about a shark and a whale, ate a banana for snack, and held hands with a girl named Lily. She also told me that a girl named Sophie cried the whole time and an unknown named boy peed his pants. This seemed pretty accurate, as there was a crying girl and a boy in his underwear in the classroom when I picked her up.

Here's her fish:

I thought for sure she would nap after such a hectic morning. No dice. I think she was too wound up.

No school on Tuesday so instead we invited Ruby (and Baby Lucas) over to run through the sprinklers.

Norah was so happy to see her. She was dog tired after lunch and actually agreed to take a nap. She was grumpy and punchy and BURST into tears and cried hysterically, to the point where I couldn't even understand what she was saying. Finally I got out of her that she doesn't want to go back to school and wants to go to Ruby's house instead. Broke my heart, but I am sure she will be happy and excited again tomorrow.

A Few More

Suzy is an incredible photographer and took these gems on Saturday. The look on Norah's face just about makes my heart explode.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Dad Day, BVZ

It has become a bit of a tradition now to take these pictures for Father's Day. I can't believe how much Norah has changed in just a year (BVZ keeps the frame at his office so I never see it...the hair is hilarious). We have had a low-key day so far with breakfast bagels and a morning at the park. We are still recovering from birthday extravaganza yesterday, so we are laying low. The post about the party should be up in 14 years because of how long the pictures are taking to upload.

Love you, BVZ.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's a Birthday Fairy Wonderland

Norah's birthday party last year was so much fun that I knew I wanted to do something similar this year. I asked her what she wanted at her party and she said she wanted a magician. I looked around online for a while but all the kid-friend magicians I could find were for a bit older (think elementary school) crowd. She's so into princesses right now and playing dress up/acting out various Disney movie plots. But even though I love her (and Lou) more than anything in the world, I just couldn't bring myself to throw a princess party. It just isn't in me. I was searching on yelp and my local mom's club and came across this company. I watched the video (OMG!), read all the reviews on yelp (5 stars), and was instantly convinced this was the theme for our party.

The yelp reviews were glowing, but all had the disclaimer that when you call or email to get information or book a party, the owner and employees are in "fairy character" and that can throw you off a bit if you aren't prepared for it. Oh yes. They are in fairy character. Which involves a lot of giggling, saying "wink" and "smile", and other various pixie behavior. However, as soon as I let Norah watch the video and saw her reaction when I told her a real, live fairy was going to be at her party, I was beside myself from happiness. I am such a sucker.

Anyway, we have gone to a handful of birthday parties where, in lieu of a traditional "goody bag" the host has given the kids something cool and reusable like a water bottle, or paint kit. I knew I wanted to do something that the kids would (hopefully) be able to play with again and again. I figured magic wands would be perfect and so while Stephanie was in town I had her make them. Now, I consider myself moderately creative and I have good ideas now and again, but I am really impatient, which makes me a less than stellar crafter. I tend to get a little sloppy, which is why I could never sew anything. Stephanie is the exact opposite and is meticulous and patient. We got wooden dowels, a ton of ribbon, and colored foam. Steph did all the ribbon gluing (there was a lot) and construction of the wands. I cut out the foam stars, drank wine, and tried to explain to her the allure of the Real Housewives.

I need to get some better close up pictures of Norah's wand (and the few we had left over-we made extras), because I could not have been more pleased with how they turned out. I put them in a vase on a table outside with a sign asking people to take a wand of their choice. I think the kids really liked them.

Food was really simple. For the kids I made platters of sandwiches-both turkey and cheese and PB&J.

Come to find out later, Norah spent a good deal of time "sampling" the goldfish crackers, which involved taking a handful and putting most of them back. Sorry.

Here she is with her wand, which had a special silver glitter top.


I got the butterfly toppers from Etsy. They came in a flat package and all I had to do was bend the wings up. They were technically edible (some kind of potato starch), but didn't taste very good.

BVZ gave me a hard time because for Norah's first party I made no-sugar cupcakes and pressed apples to make my own sweetener. For her second birthday I made (sugar filled) homemade vanilla buttercream cupcakes. For her third birthday the actual cupcake came from a box and the frosting from a can. It's all downhill from here, baby.

I picked up this giant balloon on impulse when I went to buy ice that morning. It looked good but I am not sure Norah even noticed it was there. The boys, however, were obsessed with it. I think Baby Kevin carried it around for a couple of hours and then by the end the older boys were playing some variation of touch, and then tackle, football with it. By 2:00 pm it had gone to the great balloon heaven in the sky. I figured it was a small price to pay for so many little guys sitting through a fairy party!

We were so lucky that GG came down for the occasion. She got in a few snuggles with Louis before everything started. We were even luckier that Pamma offered to take care of Lou during the party so our entire focus could be on Norah and the festivities. In retrospect, it was the best idea ever. There is no way either BVZ could have tended to his baby needs without being gone from the party for extended periods of time (so, thank you Pamma!)

Grown up food (Costco sandwiches, fruit, chips, etc.)

Drinks. We really debated whether or not to have beer/wine. We are definitely the kind of people who serve beer and wine at a kid's party, but we weren't sure we wanted to be the kind of people who serve beer and wine at a 10:00 am kid's party. We ended up leaving it out of the cooler but making sure everyone (ie, the dads) knew where the fridge was just in case.

Another shot of the wands. The laundry basket is for the book collection. We did the same thing we did last year and asked people to bring a book to donate in lieu of a gift for Norah. We ended up with some very sweet and thoughtful gifts for her, as well as a nice collection of books to donate.

Simon and Michele were the first to arrive.

Ruby and Norah were beside themselves waiting for the fairy to arrive. We wouldn't let them go out front to look for her, so they had to be satisfied with waiting on the back step.

Norah and her future boyfriend Sean.

Still waiting.

She's here! Miss Jingle arrived right on time. Girlfriend was decked out.

She set up and we had to literally hold them all back from pummeling her.

Baby Kevin couldn't possibly be more awesome.

The start of the show. Now, the magic show involved some story about how birthday girls get a present and Miss Jingle was searching through all of her stuff for the present. She had a variety of different animal puppets to help her look (they were pretty realistic looking and she held and moved them in a way that, from a distance, made them look like actual alive animals). The show lasted for about a half hour and I thought there was no way they were all going to stay interested for that long. But, each and every one of them was captivated until the very end. I was pretty impressed with the fairy. She wasn't overly gregarious, she was actually quite calm, but she had a great command of the kids and they were mesmerized by her.

This would be Norah booking it away from Miss Jingle when she saw the box of "mice."

It ended with the eventual reveal of the birthday present (a small stuffed dog).

Next was face painting.

My gorgeous butterfly.

Miss Jingle was a very fast and very good face painter. She made suggestions to the kids, but also took all special requests. She would paint on any part of their body they wanted and by the end she had done butterflies, a princess, a train, a dragon, a lizard, a panda face, a giraffe, a sports car, lightening rods, and a hippo.

Pamma with her girls.

A rare shot of me with my birthday girl.

Norah and Miss Jingle. Her third "event" was supposed to be balloon twisting, but we had so many kids and they asked for some pretty elaborate face painting and so we had her go ahead and do everyone instead of stopping and doing balloons. I was totally okay with this and actually sort of relieved as I am a little scared of balloon twisting. I don't like the noise and I am super paranoid of the popping.

Miss Jingle left, still in character. One mom was getting something out of her car and saw Jingle skip down the street even though no one was watching (I guess just in case a kid saw her). I really appreciated that little touch. It made me laugh to think about the alternative...her ripping off her wings and lighting a cig as soon as she left the backyard and I appreciated the effort to keep the magic alive the entire time.

Next up was cupcakes. Norah blew out her candle the instant BVZ lit it.

The kids ran around and played some more and then it was time for naps. Norah no longer just hugs people goodbye, she kisses them. On the lips if they let her.

Lou made a couple of special appearances.

The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too windy (I had feared both). We lay outside the rest of the afternoon under the tent, because someone was way too wound up to take a nap.

See how tired she is? Still no napping. Instead a cuddle with her "Miss Jingle Dog."

It was a great day and I shockingly loved every second of a fairy party. I can't wait to do it again.