Sunday, June 26, 2011

Party Surprises

I think I mentioned in a previous post that Zach got sick the day of his birthday party, so we had to reschedule. So, instead of having his party just a few days after his actual birthday, it was about 10 days later. We had paid to reserve the shelter at a nearby park on the date of the original party, and I really did not want to pay for it a second time. Thankfully, the day of the rescheduled party, nobody else had the shelter reserved and we could just set up and now worry about it. It's one of those things were on most days, we could probably skip the reservation and be fine, but you know the day you want to have your function there and you don't reserve it, either the park will be packed or somebody else will have reserved it and you'll be out of luck. When we arrived at the park on the make-up day, which also happened to be Father's Day, there was not a soul in sight. Whew!

So we got to the park and quickly got our stuff set up. I'll admit- I didn't put a whole lot of thought into this party. With Mike being gone the whole week before the originally scheduled party, and my parents being in and out of town, and just life in general, it wasn't nearly as planned-out as Zach's pirate party last year. But, I also think part of that is due to the fact that when I asked Zach about games he wanted to play at the park for his party, he said he just wanted to play on the equipment with his friends and not do any games, so there wasn't much to plan. And finally, since my sister Becky had a Star Wars party for my nephew in March, and my parents brought out her supplies when they came to visit, I felt like I had what I needed without having to put much thought into it.

So, as the boys arrived, we got them set up with Star Wars tattoos and Jedi robes and light sabers. Then we basically set them loose to play. We told Zach he could invite 6 friends since he turned 6, and he decided on 2 friends from preschool last year, 2 friends from kindergarten, and 2 other friends. Zach wanted to invite a girl he went to preschool with, who was the only girl at his pirate party last year, but we talked him out of it. It's tough because I definitely want Zach to have friends who are girls, but I know poor Sydney felt a little out of place last year at the pirate party, and I'm sure she'd feel the same at a Star Wars party. We asked Zach how much fun he'd have at a princess party (not much, he thought), and used that as reasoning to stick with just boys this time around. Then we discussed setting up a playdate with Sydney some other time. One little guy, Zach's best friend from kindergarten, came to the party and wouldn't leave his mom's side. Then he ended up going home. Mom was actually going to take him to the doctor, because she thought maybe he wasn't feeling well. Zach was bummed that he didn't stay. Here are the rest of the Jedis with their light sabers.

The boys really did just want to run around and play. Mike did instruct them on a Jedi obstacle course at one point, just to give a little more direction to their play.

Drew mostly jumped right in on the playing, but he felt he needed his own obstacle course since he's "just medium" (his words), so I made one up for him.

Halfway through the party we had a delicious dinner of pizza and watermelon. A bunch of six year-old boys eating pizza is an interesting thing. I definitely had a couple of thoughts like, "Well, if Zach doesn't stay friends with that kid forever, that'd be okay," like when one kid was belching really loudly or another wouldn't listen to anything Mike or I were saying. But, I suppose with 3 boys of my own, I'm destined to deal with plenty of that kind of thing over the next 18+ years.

After dinner we did our gift exchange. In the past, I've asked people not to bring gifts, but nobody ever follows that request. Or a couple of people do, but most people don't, and then the ones that did follow it feel bad because they're the only ones who didn't bring a gift. So this year I decided to do something different. I got the idea from the mom of the little boy who left the party early. Instead of kids bringing gifts for Zach, I asked that each child bring one gift, no more than approximately $10 in value, wrapped but without a name on it. Then I had Zach pick a gift first, and then he drew a name out of a cup, and that boy got to select one gift. Then that boy drew a name out of the cup, and so on. Once all the boys had gifts in their hands, they could open their present and see what they got. I had a separate gift for Drew, just a little car from the Cars 2 movie, so he wouldn't feel left out. So this way, instead of doing cheap party favors that are just junky, and instead of Zach getting a bunch of gifts, every boy went home with one decent gift. The kids loved it, and I loved it. Zach still got something, and it seemed like everyone was happy with what they got. There seemed to be a lot of water guns/sprinkler toys. Oh, and the boys could trade after they'd all opened their gifts if they wanted to. I think I will always do this from now on- I really liked it.

After opening gifts we decided to have cupcakes. It was a bit windy, so the candle in Zach's cupcake didn't stay lit very well.

As the boys were finishing up their cupcakes, our special guest made his appearance. This was Zach's face when he saw the guest come around the corner.

All the boys were excited. Drew might have been most excited.

I had set it up for Darth Vader to come to the original party, and then had to call him to cancel when Zach was sick. So then the rescheduling got a little tricky because Darth Vader was busy on Saturday, which is why we ended up having the party on Father's Day. He said he'd arrive at about 4:45 to be ready for a 5:30 appearance. When he wasn't there at 5:05, I decided I'd better call. Seems he had gone to the wrong park, so I had to give him directions from his location, and by the time he got to the park it was 5:20, and he made his appearance at about 5:55. The party ended at 6:00, so he was just in time. I guess it takes a lot of time to get all that gear on.

The boys enjoyed talking to him and asking some questions, and Zach received a certificate and was made an honorary member of the Imperial Army or something.

Here are all the boys with Darth Vader. Zach said later he wasn't that surprised that Darth Vader showed up. He knew there were some Storm Troopers at his cousin's party in March, and he had said he really wanted someone to come to his party, too, so he thought maybe this would happen. I tried to get more than just Darth Vader, but apparently nobody else was available. The guy who came as Darth Vader is a member of Vader's 501st Legion, a group of volunteers that dress up as Imperial Army members and Darth Vader and make appearances, mostly for charity work. We agreed to make a charitable donation in their name in return for Darth Vader coming to the party.

We also got individual pictures of each boy with Darth, except for one little guy who didn't want to get too close. I'm going to use those for thank you notes (another idea from my wonderful sister).

Drew was not one bit frightened by Darth Vader. He kept saying something like, "I can't believe Darth Vader's at Martin's party!" (See previous post if you need explanation on the Martin part.)

As I was directing kids for pictures with Darth, suddenly this lady jumps in and puts her arm around him and says, "Can I get in on a picture?" It took a split second for it to register and for my jaw to hit the ground as I realized this lady was in fact one of my very best college girlfriends whom I had not seen in probably 5 years. "SARAH FREED!" I shouted, "What are you doing here?!" It turns out Freedo (there were a million Sarah's, including myself, at our college, so we often went by last name) was driving through town on her way to northwest Iowa to visit her parents for a week. Freed lives in Indiana and has 3 kids- her oldest son was born 2 days after Zach, her next son was born 2 months before Drew, and her newest addition is a 6 week old daughter. Freed's brother lives not far from us, so they decided to pick up some dinner and eat it at the park. She said she knew I lived around there, and then once they sat down she thought maybe she saw me, and then she heard Mike's voice and knew it was us. To say I was shocked is a total understatement. It was fantastic. So while Zach's fever may have been a pain in that it caused us a bunch of rescheduling (and a lot of cupcakes to eat initially), I'm so glad he had it, because otherwise I'm sure I would have missed out on seeing my friend.

The party ended up being a success. The kids seemed to have had fun, and it really was pretty low-stress for me. Now I get a little birthday break until it's time to plan Jake's first party in 6 more months.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


It has been great to have Zach home for the summer, and Drew has really enjoyed having his big brother around to play with. I read recently that siblings fight an average of 3.5 times an hour, which adds up to 10 minutes of every hour. Zach and Drew are probably pretty close to that average, but it depends on the day. They do play really well and get along well for the most part. One day recently, Drew and I were talking about friends, and Drew said, "I have one friend, and that friend is Zach." My dad also overheard the boys having a conversation when he was here where Zach said something along the lines of, "...that's because I love you, Drew," and Drew's response was, "I love you, too, Martin." (Martin is the latest of names that Drew calls Zach, I am Aviva or Abiva (not sure which), and Drew wants to be called Bro. These are characters in a cool show they've watched on PBS called Wild Kratts.)

Now that it's summer, one of the things the boys have been into has been sleepovers.

During the school year, sleepovers are pretty much only allowed on weekends or when we have company using Zach's room, but during the summer, the rules are different. If there's nothing big going on the next day, we don't mind a sleepover. The boys do well with it, though Drew normally has a harder time settling down than Zach. I think part of that stems from Drew taking naps in the afternoon and Zach not, so Zach is much more tired when 8:00 rolls around. Last night they were sleeping in Drew's room, and I was listening to them on the monitor. After a while, I heard Zach say, "If you don't turn off the light, I'm going to go tell Mom and Dad." Then Drew said, "No, I'm going to go tell Mom and Dad." Good one, Drew. At one point Mike went upstairs and Drew had his cowboy boots on. Last week when we went to go to bed, I peeked in on the sleepover boys, and found Drew asleep with his slippers on.

One of the coolest things is that Zach is getting better and better about reading, and he can read books to Drew now. Reading to Drew builds Zach's confidence and helps Drew get even more interested in reading himself. Drew already loves books like crazy, but this makes him more interested in learning how to read, I guess.

Tonight before bed, Mike, Zach, Drew, and I were all reading together, and the first book Drew picked was an easy one, so Zach read it to us all. The second book was Frosty, The Snowman, and Drew insisted that it was his turn to read, so he and Mike tag-teamed it, and Mike read some words, and Drew "read" some others. It's so great to have kids who love books. It makes me sad to think of kids who don't get read to every day (or ever), and how much they're missing out on.

Mike and I had our tenth anniversary last week. To celebrate, we took the boys out to dinner at PF Chang's (which went better than I expected), ate outside (something I love to do), and then walked around the little lake at the mall. It was a nice night, and a perfect way to celebrate with our boys. We even got some cute pictures of them by the water.

I included this next one because I think it's funny how Jake is reaching for Drew. I was a teeny bit nervous about Zach holding Jake on the rocks next to the water, but he handled it fine and nobody fell in.

There were lots of geese in the water, and at one point we saw some people who we sort of know from our neighborhood, and they gave Zach and Drew each a half piece of bread to feed to the geese. Right after I took this picture below, that goose reached up and snatched a piece of bread right out of Zach's hand when he wasn't looking. It was hilarious.

It was one of those great days/nights where Mike and I reminisced about our wedding 10 years ago and how much our lives have changed in that time. In 10 years, we've lived in 2 apartments and owned 2 houses, had a few jobs including Mike's current job as a P.T. and small business owner, had 3 kids, owned 2 dogs, owned 7 different cars (whoa!), gained more family members than we've lost (primarily a bunch of nephews), and taken a few trips. It's been a good 10 years, and spending our anniversary with our 3 sweet boys doing nothing too special was very special in and of itself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Six and Six Months

I've been lazy about blogging lately, and now I'm behind. Last week Zach turned six, and Jake turned six months. Time keeps flyin' by.

I decided to start off Zach's birthday with some Star Wars pancakes. In our house we have two kinds of pancakes- "dad's kind" are basically buttermilk pancakes, and "mom's kind" are the thin, Swedish pancakes my family always had when I was a kid. The boys prefer my kind, and so do I, but they end up being kind of a lot of work for me, because they get eaten so quickly that I barely get to sit down for the whole meal. Anyway, I thought that I'd try something new for Zach's birthday, so I used a recipe for whole grain pancakes using wheat flour and oatmeal, and I added chocolate chips, because every thing's better with chocolate chips. They were very think and I had a little trouble getting them out of their molds, but the boys loved them. I feel really bad I didn't put a candle in Zach's pancake, but I was flustered because they were taking so long to cook and I just forgot. He didn't seem to mind, though.

Since my mom was here to help out while Mike was out of town for a week, she took Zach and Drew to the zoo on Zach's birthday. It was a hot, sunny day, and they had a good time. Drew asked me all winter and spring if it was warm enough to go to the zoo yet, so he was pretty jazzed to get the opportunity last week to finally go again. Jake and I hung out at home and ran a couple of errands. That night we went out to eat at the club, and since Zach was getting a free sundae for his birthday, Drew got to have a special treat, too.

The boys could pick just about anything to be on their sundaes. Zach wanted M&Ms, Oreos, and caramel, but Drew just wanted sprinkles and a cherry on top. They gave him 3 cherries, which really made his night!

Zach didn't really want to pose for this picture, but he was a good sport about it.

Mike was set to return from Washington, D.C., late Thursday night. However, because of some bad weather all along the east coast, his flight was delayed and ultimately canceled, so he did not arrive home until Friday night. Zach's birthday party was scheduled for Saturday afternoon, and Friday afternoon Zach started complaining of a headache. He ended up having a low-grade fever, and we decided we'd just wait to see how he was in the morning before doing anything about his party. Saturday morning he woke up feeling great, so I baked the cupcakes for his party. Mike, Drew, my mom, and Zach went to Zach's baseball game at 11:00, and I stayed home so Jake could nap and I could frost cupcakes.

Zach made some catches,

and had a hit,

while Drew happily ate a snack. (Sorry about the blue font- can't change it.)

They returned from the game with Zach not feeling so great, and after finding out his fever had returned, he took some ibuprofen and went straight to his room and took a nap. After a tiny bit of hemming and hawing, we decided that we had to cancel the party. What a pain. I had it all set up that Darth Vader would be there, I had paid to rent the park shelter, the cupcakes were made and frosted, etc. But, we knew Zach wouldn't be able to enjoy himself if he was sick, and we didn't want to get all the other kids sick, so we had to do it. Zach woke up from his nap feeling good, at least until I told him we had canceled his party, and then he started crying. I felt terrible, but I know it was the right thing to do. We still had the grandparents over, so at least Zach got a little bit of a party, and I was able to reschedule the party for this weekend. It was good we did cancel it, too, because at some point either Saturday or Sunday, Zach's temperature spiked to almost 103 degrees, and on Sunday he took a 3 hour nap. Obviously he had some sort of bug, and I would have felt terrible had we passed that on to any other kids.

A few pictures from the family party:

Trying on the new life jacket from Grandpa Kevin and Grandma Cynthia, so he can go fishing with Grandpa.

Opening a bat and baseballs from Aunt Sandy, Uncle Will, and Anders.

A cool new scooter from Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Dick.

Blue again- no idea why that happens or how to fix it, and I don't care enough to waste my time trying to figure it out.

Drew loves Zach's new Buzz (from Grandma Linda and Grandpa Curt) as much as Zach does. And Zach loves the Y-Wing fighter Mike and I got him. I got it back in March, which shopping for Drew's birthday present, because it was on sale for half price.

Drew was also happy to show the new Francesco car he got from Grandma Cynthia and Grandpa Kevin. Francesco is in the Cars 2 movie that comes out in a couple of weeks. (We've read the book, so I feel like we already know the main plot of the movie as well as the characters, and often when Drew is riding his bike, he is Lightning and I am Francesco.)

Zach doesn't look like a sick kid in this picture. Even though he hardly ate any dinner (homemade pizza- you know he was sick if he didn't eat much of that!), he did eat a cupcake.

I like this one just because it has all 3 boys in it.

Now for Jake. That kid is so stinkin' cute, but I am soooo ready for him to nap better! I know it was this way with Drew until sometime between 6 and 7 months, so I figure things will change any day now (fingers crossed). It's common for Jake to take a 40 minute nap, then wake up unhappy but unwilling to go back to sleep. Then about 2 hours later he needs another nap. It makes it very difficult to go do anything, because usually in that 2 hour window Jake also needs to eat, and often times so do Zach and Drew. I'm feeling a little sad, thinking about the freedom the boys and I had last summer to go spend hours at the pool, and right now, that just isn't an option for us. Plus, it's hard to get anything substantial done in 40 minutes, and I think if Jake would sleep longer, he could have longer awake periods, and we could all have more fun.

Jake is army-crawling all over the place. Its' really fun to see his curiosity in action now, as he motors around from one place to the next to check things out. He loves to touch my painted toenails, and he's very interested in vents as well. Today he discovered a doorstop he could boing, and he liked that, too, just like Zach did as a baby.

Jake was doing well with solids, and I even make some of my own baby food for him. He was doing great, but lately he hasn't been doing as well. I think part of the problem is that he's tired in the evening from not napping well, and so he doesn't really focus well on eating. I just started trying to give him some fruit in the morning, too, and that's been kind of hit or miss. Today it went pretty well, I think. He still isn't doing great with a bottle, which is frustrating. It means that I am never away from him for more than 4 hours, and I'd say that's even a stretch! I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I was away from him for even 2 hours. Most weeks I'm away from him mostly just to go to kickboxing class or to go for a run, and lately it seems like life is too busy to squeeze much of either of those in. But look at those baby blues- they do melt my heart.

Zach and Jake have such a sweet connection. Jake's face lights up when Zach talks to him. I know it's delusional to think they'll always have such a sweet relationship, but I do hope that the age difference between them is great enough that they will not fight much. I don't particularly remember fighting with my sister Sandy as a kid, and she and I are also 6 years apart. I suppose when Zach is 16 and Jake is 10, Zach probably won't have much time for Jake, but we'll see. For now, I'll watch with a happy heart as Zach and Jake bring each other joy. Wow- that sounds sappy.

I really cherish any pictures I can get of all 3 boys together, especially if I can get one of all 3 smiling, which is no small feat. This one of all 3 in their jammies is pretty decent, even though they're looking over at my mom instead of at my camera. I just love how you can see they all have the same hairline.

This one kind of cracks me up because Drew looks so pensive, or like he's posing like someone years older than him would do, but I really don't think he was trying to pose. Jake's face is funny, too.

While my mom was here, I was able to get a couple of good pictures of her and Jake.

In addition to army-crawling, Jake is also now sitting up like a champ. It's nice to be able to set him down on the floor and not worry too much about him falling over. He's not very graceful about getting down if he wants to go explore, but that will come.

To take these 6 month photos, I enlisted Zach's help, which is definitely why I got these huge smiles. I LOVE these pictures, and I love knowing that Zach helped produce those humongous grins. That is one little guy who really loves his big brother!

At Jake's 6 month appointment yesterday, I found out that he weighs 15 pounds 10 ounces, which is exactly what Zach weighed at 6 months. Drew weighed 17 pounds 10 ounces at 6 months. What's odd about that is that Jake was the biggest at birth and Drew was the smallest. I'm kinda bummed that Jake hasn't doubled his birth weight and that he's gone from the 70th percentile at birth to the 17th percentile at 6 months for weight. He was 27 inches long, which puts him in the 68th percentile, and also makes him the longest of the 3 boys. So I guess he's long and skinny. He doesn't look skinny to me, and the nurse practitioner wasn't really concerned about him not being bigger. I guess at least he's gaining weight. We just don't have big kids in this family, and I'm okay with that most of the time.

This all reminds me that Zach also had his 6 year check-up last week. Try not to fall off your chair in shock, but he's not big, either. Zach is not quite 45 inches tall, which puts him in the 37th percentile. Weight-wise, Zach was 43 pounds 6 ounces. Back in November he was up to 44 pounds, but when he got so sick this past spring, he dropped 5 pounds and is just now catching back up. It seems like my boys eat really well, so I don't know why they're always on the small side. I guess they have kick-ass metabolisms, like their dad. Lucky boys!

One last picture- Grandma Ruth and 3 of her 6 grandsons. It was great to have my mom's help while Mike was gone. Zach was really sad that Grandma would miss his Star Wars birthday party, but he was very happy she was here for a whole week. My dad had been here for a couple of days, too, before heading back to Colorado to check on the house and get some stuff done, and that was fun, too. Thanks for coming and especially for all the help!!