Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Superhero Birthday Party: The Venue

Dear Em,
This is the last of 5 post recapping your 3.5 Superhero birthday. For more, see also Superhero Birthday Party: The Theme, Superhero Birthday Party: DIY Superhero Capes, Superhero Birthday Party: Superhero Invites, & Superhero Birthday Party: The Food.

When I look back at your Superhero birthday party, it truly puts a smile in my heart. It all came together perfectly. So it may come as a surprise to you that I had a hard time with the venue. I had a bunch of fun venue ideas that either didn't fit the theme, were repeats of earlier parties you went to, or I thought maybe you & your little friends weren't quite old enough for yet.

That's when I decided on Gymboree: Play & Music (not the clothing store). I figured it would be a good fit for your age & the running, jumping, flying Superhero activities that would go along with the theme. They even have a Superhero party option, with activities designed around the theme. Along with the facility, we would have a party coordinator on the day of to lead the activities. Great, right?

Even with all that I have to say I had a little buyers remorse right after booking the party. I realized that they only allow children up to the age of 5, which excluded some of your older cousins. I also worried it might be a little babyish for you & your friends. I was bummed that we were only allowed to bring in cake & pizza (you don't even like pizza) as food. Parents were also required to participate in activities with the kids, & I worried that some parents would be annoyed by that (birthday parties at this age are a little like having a parent's helper for a couple hours, you still watch your kids from a safe distance but mostly you chat with the other parents while the kids all tire each other out). I also noticed that it was a little more costly than some other venue options. I could think of a million different things that could go wrong, but hoped it would all work out.

Once the party started, I realized I had nothing to worry about it. The kids walked through the front door, ran right to the activties on the gym floor, & had a blast from start to finish. The parents had fun participating with the kids. The Superhero theme was worked in perfectly, & the party coordinator was great! Everyone had such a blast, especially you.

You climbed, jumped, & flew like a Superhero.

You & your Superhero friends had so much fun with the giant parachute.

There were things to roll on.

You were excited to sit down for singing songs & playing instruments.

You found so many fun things to explore.

On top of the parachute was the perfect place to eat birthday cake.

It was wicked fun for me to share in all the fun with you.

They even got all the littles together for Superhero birthday pictures (which wasn't easy).

As a party came to a close, they gave all your little guests balloons to go home with (with a big birthday balloon bouquet for you), & everyone left with big smiles on their faces. You looked at me with bright, big, green eyes. "Mom, this was the best birthday party ever," you exclaimed as you watched your little friends walk out the door. It was the very highest compliment I could've gotten at that moment.

It does set the bar kinda high for next year, but I already have a few fun ideas. *wink wink*

I love you so,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cardboard & Goat Cheese

Dear Em,
If I were to list my favorite foods, bread & cheese would probably be right at the top. I feel like bread & cheese are the first things people try to avoid when trying to loose weight. So, naturally they would be my favorite foods. I mean, how do people live without cheese? It would be hard for me to go on.

While I love most cheeses, but a cheese favorite has recently emerged: goat cheese. I don't know what it is, but I would eat goat cheese on almost anything. I add it to a lot of the meals that we make. Your daddy jokes that if "goat cheese on cardboard" was on the menu at a restaurant, I would eat it. While he's mostly joking, we both know that I would probably consider it.

A few months ago I came across a list of recipes, & of course the one that included goat cheese caught my eye. The first time we cooked it, I couldn't get enough. It tasted like a gourmet meal you would get at a restaurant. We've tweaked the recipe a bit to fit what we like, & it's definitely a family favorite.

Originally found on sacramento street

- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- pinch dried pepper fakes (we like things a little spicy & will typically add a few pinches)
- can of black beans, with liquids
- 1.diced green pepper
- 1 diced red pepper
- 1 avocado
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- juice & zest from 2 limes
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- 1/2 lb chicken breast
- wheat tortillas

1. In a dry skillet combine can of black beans & liquids, coriander, & cumin. Heat at medium low until liquids have cooked out, anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Taste & adjust pepper if needed.

2. Take avocado & slice in half. Brush with one teaspoon of olive oil & place cut side down on separate skillet or grill. Let cook until lightly charred. Remove & carefully slice avocado out of skin.

3. Cook chicken on grill or in a skillet. Remove & slice into think strips.

4. To assemble tacos, place black bean mixture in the center of a tortilla, layer avocado, chicken, diced red & green peppers, & goat cheese on top. Finally, whisk together juice & zest from half a lime along with honey. Lightly drizzle over taco filling.

5. Enjoy.

The original recipe didn't call for the peppers or the chicken, but I wanted to add veggies & your daddy wanted to add protein (I think it's just as good without the chicken). Your daddy doesn't really love goat cheese & will eat the dish without (Gasp. How could you take out the most important ingredient?!). He says it's still wicked yummy. You prefer your black beans without spices, don't like your avocado cooked, & would prefer none of the different foods touch each other. Clearly, we all have very different ideas about how the meal should be prepared, but at least it's still a meal we all eat & love.

Plus, it will keep me from eating goat cheese & cardboard.

I love you so,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Little Reader

Dear Em,
When you got out of school for the summer, had a mental list of things I hoped we could work on together. One of them was to work on your attitude, & we're still taking things day by day with that one. Some of the other things I hoped we could practice together is writing, sounding out letters, & reading one, two, & maybe three letter words.

We're still having so much fun making rainbow words. So far we've worked from APPLE to KANGAROO. You've been so excited to pick out a word each day & show us all your finished work. The rainbowed pages have filled every inch of our refrigerator. You and Nonnie have also been working on letter sounds & sounding out words (we're so fortunate to have such an excellent teacher spending the summer with us). You've been so excited to learn, & I've been thrilled to come home & hear all about what you're learning each day.

Then the other day I got a video text message from Nonnie while I was working. I was sitting in a parking lot when I hit play. It was then that I watched you read your very first book. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to you sound out the words. I was overflowing with pride & shock simultaneously. Wasn't it just yesterday we brought you home from the hospital? Is it possible that our little girl is reading?

Of course, it was a very short book. Grandma & Papa had gifted you a set of BOB Books for Christmas. While each book is filled with sight words, you were also sounding out the words you hadn't memorized by sight. The storyline wasn't exactly exciting. I'm pretty sure it mostly consisted of one character sitting, another character sitting, & then both characters sitting. That didn't matter to me. At that moment it was the most precious & amazing book I had ever heard, because my little love was the one reading it.

When I got home, I couldn't wait for you to read the book to me, & you surprised me by reading two of the BOB Books (each equally thrilling in storyline). Since then you've also read a couple others. You get frustrated when you come across a word you don't immediately recognize, but you're working to sound each word out.

At bedtime the other night, I asked you if you would read to me. "No Mommy. You're supposed to read to me. It's my bedtime, not yours," you told me matter of factly. You finally agreed, & it made me realize how much I'd been looking forward to this. I'm so excited about what we'll read together in the future (I have a mental list of books from The Chronicles of Narnia to Nancy Drew to The Baby-sitters Club I hope we'll read together). I hope you'll always hold a love of books & reading.

I can't even begin to express how truly proud of you I am as I watch you take each new step. You simply dazzle me.

I love you so,

Thursday, July 25, 2013

making a splash with other littles

Dear Em,
You're an only child, & if all goes as planned will remain an only child (I'm told by at least 50% of the people I talk to that we'll change our mind, but so far so good). You're also the only grandchild on both sides of our families. Sure, you interact with other littles at school, but you spend a lot of time playing with adults or by yourself.

When we bring you to the park or the beach, you almost hungrily look for other children to play with. It makes my heart kind of sad, & I find myself feeling a little guilty about it. I try to fill the possible void with fun adventures with your little friends (like this, this, this, this, & this).

Plus, while we don't have any littles in our immediate family, your daddy has a big family with tons of amazing cousins who have sweet, little kids. Last week we headed to Grandma & Papa's house to cool off in the pool, & you were thrilled to find cousins to play with. They seemed just as excited to spend time with you. There is a little bit of an age gap. M & A are 7 years older than you, but they didn't seem to mind.

You asked M if she wanted to jump off the diving board with you (3 weeks ago you were petrified of jumping off the diving board & now it's all you want to do). The two of you spent the next two hours jumping into the pool together. You two must have jumped more than 75 times. Every time would go about the same. You would both plug your noses & make a big splash as you jumped. You surfaced first with a huge grin across your face. As soon as her head surfaced, you met her with excitement. "Hey M! Want to jump again?" "Sure," she would say every time with such a sweet smile. It made my heart melt as I watched you two play.

After a while, A wanted to join in on the jumping fun & all three of you made a splash.

All the adults laughed as we watched the spectacular jumping. Grandma asked me if I was getting baby fever seeing you play with other littles. I just smiled as you all played so sweetly together. Nope, no baby fever. I don't see room in my life or heart for another child of our own, but I feel so very fortunate that we have family & friends that you can enjoy these precious moments with. Even though you're an only child, you don't have to feel like the only child. I couldn't really ask for anything more.

I love you so,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Superhero Birthday Party: The Food

Dear Em,
What is a Superhero without food to fuel the super-ness? Unfortunately, our birthday party venue limited our food choices (it was really the only negative we experienced with the venue but more on that later). We were only allowed to bring pizza, cake, water, & juice boxes. While it definitely simplified things for us, it was kind of a bummer. You don't even like pizza. How do you throw a birthday party without being able to include food that the birthday girl likes (I had asked if we could also bring fruit but the answer was no)?

So, we worked around it. The first thing we did was schedule the party for 10am. We knew if we gave you a hearty breakfast (your favorite meal of the day), you'd make it through the party without getting hungry for a real meal. The second thing we did was make sure the cake was special. We hoped the cake would distract you from the fact you didn't care for the other food option.

I had a dream. In my mind I pictured an adorable & delicious Allies donut Superhero cake. The Superhero would be a girl, of course, with blonde hair & pink outfit. I knew you would be thrilled. You've loved all of your Allie's Donut cakes (here, here, & here), & I knew this one would be just as special to you. Your daddy called a week before your party to order the cake, but they were back ordered for the next two weeks. How is that possible? I was super bummed as I said goodbye to the perfect cake in my mind.

While we had to change our plans, Daddy insisted your cake would still be special. Although we had run into issues in the past, we decided to look into a cupcake cake from Stop&Shop. Daddy asked if they could make it Superhero themed. They explained that they don't freehand illustrations, but could screen-print any non-copyrighted photo. Daddy thought we could just find a photo online. I had a more fun idea.

You & I had a little photo shoot in our backyard, & the ladies at the Stop&Shop bakery were thrilled to print your cuteness on your cupcake cake. When Daddy picked the cake up, we couldn't wait to show you. You "ooohed" as you recognized yourself on your 3.5 birthday cake. Then you did something we didn't expect. You stabbed your index finger into the cake to see if it was real. Until all the littles ate up your cake later during your party, your cake was individualized with an Emma-sized finger print (thank goodness you had reached out for your leg & not your face).

It wasn't what we had originally planned, but to me, it was better. It was the perfect Superhero birthday cake. It was easy (no cutting, because it was cupcake cake). It was yummy (kid tested & approved). It was one of a kind & special just for you.

We brought pizza strips (an RI delicacy). They were a yummy treat for everyone else, but as suspected, you didn't want any. In the end it didn't matter that pizza was the only other food served at your birthday party. Everything ended just before lunchtime, & we took you & your little best friend for lunch & ice cream sundaes at your very favorite spot: "Newport Creamy" (aka Newport Creamery).

You may not remember the food we served at your 3.5 birthday party, but I will forever remember your finger print & the smiles on your face as you shared sundaes with your best friend.

I love you so,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

it's the little things in life

Dear Em,
When I was young, it was hard for me to appreciate the little things when the big things seemed to hold all the glitz & glamour. The little things seemed boring & my dreams were filled with big, big things. I still do have dreams, but to be honest, owning a home with my little family in my very favorite state fills me with a happiness I can't describe. Things like new light fixtures excite me. It would have seemed incredibly normal & boring to me as a child. It's funny how my perspective has changed with each new experience.

What has me giddy & smiling from ear to ear today? I was able to fix my hair & get ready for the day in my very own bathroom! To many, that wouldn't seem like a big darn deal, but to me I could do cartwheels all over our backyard.

You see, a few years ago when we renovated our upstairs bathroom (otherwise known as my bathroom), we bought & installed a beautiful KOHLER brushed nickel medicine cabinet. I loved how big the mirror was & that it was mirrored on the inside of the cabinet as well. Unfortunately, the medal hinges started to go & the front mirror looked like it was going to wobble off after six months. When the front mirror did dangerously break off, I just lived without the front mirror for almost a year. I fixed my hair & put on my make-up with the mirror that sat behind all the things that filled our medicine cabinet.

It started to get a little embarrassing when we had people over. Because I loved how it looked & functioned, & because I thought it was a fluke that it broke, we bought the same medicine cabinet this spring. The new one went in & looked pretty & worked well for all of one day when the hinge broke & the front mirror seemed like it was going to fall off as well. That's when I did what I should have done in the first place & looked at the online reviews. Apparently the poor construction of our medicine cabinet was a huge problem for a lot of people. I was frustrated & bummed. I love, love, loved the way ours looked & worked when it was working, but it was really a piece of crap & I knew if we bought a new one that was just going to fall apart too.

So, I set out to look for a replacement that looked similar, was of sturdier construction, & had better reviews. I finally found the perfect replacement medicine cabinet, but it was out of stock for a month. When it was finally in-stock, I ordered it from Home Depot. We picked up the box from the store, took the new cabinet out of the box at home, & found that the mirror was broken. Augh. Back to Home Depot we went to return the broken one & order a new one. Of course by the time we got there, it was out of stock again. I felt like I couldn't win.

At this point my frustration level was starting to peak. We had no mirror in our bathroom. How do you live without a mirror in your bathroom?! I searched the internet & found the medicine cabinet available from Wayfair. Not only was it in-stock, it was less expensive than Home Depot, & was scheduled to be delivered in less than a week. Hooray! There was light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately the medicine cabinet we ordered broke before even leaving the warehouse, & it was again out of stock. We were put on backorder for a month, & then the new shipment of medicine cabinets was delayed. BUT then at last our medicine cabinet was delivered to our house! I could almost hear angels singing. And then your daddy's drill was dead & we couldn't install it. Seriously, at this point I was starting to wonder if I was being punked. I think I might have cried...a lot.

After probably almost two years of living with a broken medicine cabinet & 3 months of living with no medicine cabinet/mirror in our bathroom at all, last night our medicine cabinet was finally installed. I'm a little afraid to even touch it for fear of breaking it. I think it's fair to say I've been dreaming about the day we would have a working medicine cabinet/mirror, & now that it's here no one can wipe the smile off my face.

So, these are the things my dreams & happiness are made of these days. I'm telling you, it's the little things in life.

I love you so,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Your First (& Second) Double Sleepover

Dear Em,
What's a double sleepover? Your Aunt Andrea has a best friend she grew up with. One night I was sitting at the diningroom table with the two of them. Your Grandma showed us a note she had found from when they were much younger. In the note they listed ten reasons why a double sleepover was a great idea. I guess your Aunt Andrea's best friend had slept over the previous night, & they were hoping for a repeat. It was beyond adorable to see the ten reasons they had thought of & written out as young little girls.

Your daddy says he never got a double sleepover, so I think he is a little jealous that you got your very first one at age 3.5 a few weekends ago. Your very best friend S slept over two nights in a row, & spent three fun-filled, busy days with us.

It all started with a neighborhood parade.

Followed by a fun BBQ with pool swimming.

We left the BBQ pretty late. After a bath, the two of you watched a movie with popcorn until you fell asleep. Scratch that. Little S fell asleep ten minutes into the movie. You were too excited about a sleepover with your best friend to fall asleep, & told me you weren't tired.

The next morning we hit the beach.

After the beach there was another bath, some Dels, barbies, dress-up, & dinner followed by backyard sprinkler, trampoline, & swing-set fun.

Your daddy set off a backyard firework spectacular for you two, Nonnie, & I (Papi even watched with us via skype).

We ended the night with the same movie & popcorn. This time little S made it through a whole half hour of the movie before falling asleep. You surprised us all by actually falling asleep twenty minutes before the end of the movie. I carried you both up to bed, & neither of your stirred at all.

The next day we enjoyed swimming at Grandma & Papa's pool & another BBQ at a friend's house. You two ran in the sprinkler & filled up a whole driveway with chalk drawings.

You spent most of the day looking like a little sleep deprived mini zombie. We weren't surprised when you fell asleep 30 seconds into our drive home.

You slept through me dropping little S off at home. When we pulled into our own driveway, you cried. "Where's S?" you whimpered. We explained that S had to go back to her family. You were devastated, but a little too tired to function. You didn't even put up a fight as we put you to bed.

The next morning you woke up, asked when S was coming over, & announced you were ready for another sleepover. I smiled. Especially as an only child, you truly enjoyed your days of playing with your best friend. You were devastated to be without her, & it broke my heart. I think, to you, your first double sleepover with your very best friend was equivalent to a weekend at Disney World at this point.

Sooooo, being the amazing parents we are (to you at that moment anyways), we decided to do another double sleepover the next weekend...

Little S was dropped off at our house on a Friday night. After some playing we went out for Dels, made our own nachos, & fell asleep to a movie.

The next morning we headed to Southwicks Zoo.

We headed home for a brief rest & some dinner.

Thank goodness for the short rest, because right after we headed to the Warwick Mall for Splash at Jordan's Furniture (so fun & so free!).

Then we headed North to Providence for WaterFire (also fun & free).

We changed the two of you into your jammies before leaving Providence to go home, & it's a good thing we did. I don't think I've seen you so sound asleep since we spent our magical day at Disney. I took you both out of your car seats, brought you into the house, & carried you up to bed without either of you stirring at all.

In the end, I don't know who was more exhausted, the adults or the kids. I do know you & I both went to bed before 7pm on Sunday night. You were in a mini zombie-like state, but you were a happy minizombie. You got to have "the best day ever" 3 days in a row two weekends in a row. You had precious moments with your very best friend, & I know you're both looking forward to the sleepovers & double sleepovers ahead. I hope you two will be friends for always, & one day you will sit at our dining room table & laugh as you remember all of the fun childhood memories you'll share together.

I love you so,
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