Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Parties, Parties, and More Parties!

A weekend of parties was a glaring success. And not too hot either. I was far too busy to take any pictures, so thanks to Lih-Lan for this one of Angelina.

We had the kids party in the afternoon, with assorted kids of assorted ages. The bounce castle was a HUGE hit, as was the kiddie pool and sandbox. I now have sand all over the house.... Angelina had tons of fun. My favourite moment was the birthday cake (which said "Happy Birthday SuperNina*) the look on her face when she realized everyone was singing for her was priceless. She's heard it before, but it still makes her soooo happy.

We had a short transitional period and then the rest of the party began - we invited everyone without kids for the evening, and those with kids to stay, but it also gave a chance for those who weren't really into the evening thing to leave early. For this we joined forces with our neighbors - now that we have a gate, it's so easy. And then their neighbors also opened their gate, so it turned into a 3-house party. They had a band and dunk tank which was tons of fun. It was also 7 yr old Wiley's birthday party, so there were a ton more kids who showed up at night. Our house ended up being the more kid-oriented side and also a somewhat quieter pocket for those to talk, while the grown-ups centered around the band, with the bigger kids in the dunk tank. It was a mass of kids and people wandering around, and at one point very chaotic, but everyone had a great time.

We followed up the next day with another birthday party, this one for 5 yr old Lily. It was a pool party which was just perfect!

Now I'm done with birthday parties for awhile....

(the cake decorator called, unsure of the spelling for "superNina" - apparently she thought it was supposed to say "superNINJA")

Friday, July 17, 2009

More Happy Birthday Time

Angelina's birthday party is a little late this year due to trying to coordinate with neighbors and not overlap with too many other birthday parties. We decided to do a join Annual Summer Bash + Angelina AND Wiley's birthday party. Smart me thought we'd have an afternoon "kids" party so all the adults without kids wouldn't feel obligated to participate in the kid-party or bring her a present. So now, we have TWO parties: one in the afternoon and one in the evening. All the afternoon families are invited to the evening (and everyone's welcome to the kid part if they want to), but it still means planning for two parties in one day, which is a lot of work! Food for kids. Food for Grown-ups.

We'll have a bounce castle and the kiddie pool. Our neighbors will have a dunk tank and live music. And we'll both have more food and drink than we can handle. And have I mentioned it's been 100F+ here lately?

As for Angelina, she thinks her birthday lasts forever. Thanks to packages arriving from assorted friends and family across the globe, we keep finding boxes on our doorstep. Excited child she is, she was even thrilled when the coffee we ordered arrived. She picked up the box and kept saying "My present! My present!" not wanting her to be disappointed I explained it was coffee for Papa. No.....it was a present for her. She opened it and exclaimed "Wow! For me!" (it is colorful)

Yesterday I went grocery shopping for the party, and came home with things like punch. Conversation ensued:

Angelina: "Mommy, open it!"
Me: "No, honey, it's for the party."
Angelina: "My party?"
Me: "yes, your party is on Saturday."
Angelina: "Happy Birthday to you" (singing.....) followed by her "blowing" - like she was blowing out candles.

Needless to say, she's excited.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Live in the Moment

A friend of mine posted this. I felt it was too good to not post here - as a reminder to myself, especially as a new baby arrives and our lives become an even bigger adventure.

All My Babies Are Gone Now
By Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow, but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education -- all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations -- what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did" Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language -- mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I include that here.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Very Special Day

In addition to celebrating her birthday on our last day in Switzerland, Angelina got to spend extra time with Granpapa. Though she'd visited him nearly every day, and entertained him in his hospital room and later rehabilitation room, this was the first day he went out on a wheelchair outside since entering the hospital more than 3 weeks before.

Of course, she wore him out, but then she usually wears all of us out.

Le famille Allegrini and Ferrari

Making friends with Ton Ton Phillippe

To fully appreciate this, you have to realize that this took 2 weeks to occur. Angelina is super friendly and talks to everyone. With kids, she will take their hand without hesitation, like she's known them forever. With adults, she's friendly - saying hi - but keeps her distance.

Each time we saw Phillippe, he'd try to get Angelina to be friends. She was having none of it. She'd shy away from him (and all adults pretty much, except Granpapa whom she saw weekly on Skype so "knew" better).

The morning we were leaving, Phillippe met us at the airport. Fredo had gone off to return the car so it was just Angelina and I with him at first. Suddenly, they became best friends. She was no longer interested in Papa, she only wanted to hold Ton ton's hand as we strolled through the airport.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A little bedtime reading with Papa

and a little piano playing.....
She loved Granpapa's piano and wouldn't stop "making musique"

(Marcel, I promise she wasn't playing with her feet. She put her foot up there just as I took the picture, but took it right back down!)

Happy Birthday To Me

Angelina is having the birthday that never ends. Thanks to friends and family scattered all over, new presents keep arriving.

Nanny sent her a bunch of dresses. She calls this one her "Happy Birthday Dress."

We also had a birthday party the day before we left Switzerland:

She of course loves presents, what kid doesn't?

Our problem now is how to teach her that she shouldn't expect presents every day, and not to be greedy about it? She's grateful at least. Somehow we'll figure out how to make a big deal out of her birthday (which I think is justified, since every one needs one special day per year) without making it all about presents.

Monday, July 06, 2009

A visit to the Aquarium

This is a little out of order. Back in May we took a trip to Corpus Christi, desperate to see the beach. Due to a rainy morning we went to the Aquarium, which was well worth it. We saw all sorts of sea life and got very well splashed by dolphins.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Happy Birthday Mundie Pie!

From this......

To SuperNina!

You can already see in her eyes in that first picture that despite the trauma of birth, how strong-willed our Angelina was destined to be.

I still get emotional on July 3. I wonder if that will always be the case? Three years ago our excitement of labor starting turned to fear once she was born and later to joy when we brought her home.

Three years later, this child, whom most of the medical professionals didn't think would survive, is more full of life than just about any child imaginable. She's the kind of person who lights up a room just with her presence (sometimes that's not a good thing.....like when you'd like her to be just a little bit quiet). But we remind ourselves that it was this vivaciousness, this fighting spirit, this strong will that got her through those first weeks. I will forever be grateful to that spirit (and to the many medical professionals who helped her through those rough first weeks).

Happy 3rd Birthday SuperNina!

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