Friday, June 20, 2014

Prelude to a birthday

It's the last day of being 30.  Tomorrow I'll officially have to start saying that I'm "in my thirties."  Although I rather liked teetering on the edge of this age, I'm fairly ambivalent about the shift.  In fact, my youngest is much more emotional about me not allowing her to pound on the laptop keyboard than I am about growing a year older.

Speaking of whom, she's a dramatic one.  If she doesn't get her way (i.e. Mama won't hold her that very second) she pulls out the theatrics.  Take, for instance, this one time I tried to get her to crawl for the video camera.

Anyway, back to me and my birthday festivities.  Jon called me from San Diego a few weeks ago and said he had THE BEST birthday idea for me.  An "I can't believe I haven't thought of this before!" kind of idea, apparently.  But then he decided it should be a surprise.  I love surprises.

I also love sleuthing.  So when he mentioned, a few weeks later, that his idea was working out (insert broad smile and rubbing hands together motion), and that he had just bought tickets for something in Alexandria the night of June 13 and we would have to leave the house at 5:30 and wouldn't get back until really late ... he immediately followed it up with "don't Google any of that."  Drat.  My husband knows me too well.

So I refrained from dear Google.  Trust me, I wanted to solve the mystery so badly.  But I also wanted to be surprised.  So I endured the suspense of his tantalizing hints and half sentences for another week or so.  First of all, it was determined that Jared and Kylee would come along as part of my birthday gift.  Because whatever we were doing was going to be more enjoyable with the addition of friends - rock climbing?  Roller derby?  Dance lessons?  I needed to wear a dress.  Okay, nothing too active.  Outdoor concert?  Bad weather wouldn't impact the evening.   Ohhhh, a symphony!  But not too high of a heel.  Hmph, not a symphony.   Okay, okay, I give up.  Just tell me if I'm going to get fed.  No worries on going hungry. 

The other dilemma was childcare.  As previously stated, Joci doesn't take a bottle, or sippy, or eat food really.  And I pretty much nurse her to sleep every night.  You know.  Not exactly a prime situation for a babysitter.  Jared and Kylee were out.  So Jon put in a call to Pennsylvania.  And then went down two floors and barricaded himself in the laundry room so I couldn't listen in to the discussion.  Marmie and Poppa were all to eager to acquiesce and knowing that they were willing to drive 3 hours just to babysit my kids for one night (we obviously invited them to extend their stay) just added to the excitement of the evening.

Kylee and I (along with Joci) went dress shopping one evening.  Me, absolutely clueless, and she, trying to steer me in the right direction without giving too much away.  It didn't matter because we both ended the night completely empty-handed.  Well, other than the soft pretzel and decaf iced coffee, which helped make the attempt all the more worthwhile.

I decided to make up for the lack of dress by purchasing a new pair of shoes, high but with a good, solid heel (just in case there was dancing involved).  And I let Jack pick out a miniature phone wristlet wallet "for my birthday" since I had no idea what sort of purse would be appropriate.  We did find a suit for Jon, at about 80% off!  And around the same time I was entertaining 4 small children in Joseph A. Banks Kylee was picking out a potential dress for me a few cities away.

Friday arrived.  Jon returned from golfing and my parents, the kids, and I returned from an afternoon at the farm park just in time for massive rain storms to move in.  Joci was exhausted.  Too exhausted to allow me to move her from my arms to her crib after she fell asleep.  And since I wanted to ensure a positive evening for the grandparents, I decided to hold her.  And hold her.  And hold her.  Marmie finally came to take a turn so I could start getting ready.

She woke up 10 minutes before Jared and Kylee (and my dress) arrived and just in time to top her off for the evening and cross my fingers that she didn't get hungry again for a very long time.

Kylee came with the dress as well as a few "back-ups."  It fit!  I was just putting on earrings when Jon said to look out the window.  5:45 on the dot and there was a limo waiting outside.  Haha!  My hubby knows I would never, ever splurge on transportation.  So that's why he did it for me.

One of our neighbors peeked out the door and, "Oh, you're finally getting married?!"  The boys were dancing around the yard excited about the "big car."  We had a few minutes for pictures and so I handed the camera to my mom.

My mom is a good sport and we all joke about her photography skills (like all my headless Prom 2001 pictures).  So I feel I can post these pictures here in good humor.

Thanks Mom!
(iPhone shots for the win!)

I have a terrible habit of posing for the camera in such a way that it appears I only have one leg. :(
And here's one of my spiffy brother and adorable sister-in-law, who knows how to dress the part!

Joci was nestled in Poppa's arms, happy as a lark.  The boys were waving from the driveway.  (Julia was nowhere to be found.)  And we were off in our limo!  Let me tell you, the drive to DC is so much shorter when you're riding in luxury!

Jon revealed the rest of his surprise from the comfort of plush leather seats and mood lighting.  We were off to The Carlyle Club for dinner and a show by Doc Scantlin and his Imperial Palms Orchestra - a group that does songs from the 20s and 30s, mainly.  I had never heard about them before either.  But you can read more here.

Our limo dropped us off at the front door and we walked the red carpet into the club - a classy art deco theme.  We had a front row table and just enough time to order and finish dinner as the show started.

This is us dancing, in case you can't tell...
Unfortunately, it was super dark in there.  And none of my pictures really turned out.  Except for this one of Jon holding one of the roses they passed out to the most romantic slow dancers in the club ... or maybe just to every couple in the club.

Anyway, can I just say that dancing is not dead?  Seriously, as soon as my kids get a little older and independent I'm signing Jon and I up for lessons.  We were probably two of the youngest couples there, but I saw so much skill from these "older" couples out on the dance floor.  There was a guy that could have been my grandfather out there who was tearing up the dance floor with his swing and tango moves.  I was a wee bit jealous.

I'm sorry to report that I did not capture on video the part of the evening where Chou Chou (think Marilyn Monroe + Betty Boop) sashayed to my husband's side, removed his glasses so they wouldn't get foggy, and gave him a personal serenade.  Believe me, I wish I would have!

If you're further interested, and to make up for my lack of video quality, you can view this collection of clips from pretty much the same show they did for us.  Oddly enough, I think one of my favorite performances was the Creole Love Call (minute marker 3:47.)  It's one of the strangest things I've ever heard.

I absolutely loved the show!  It was like nothing we've ever done before and I'd be happy to do it again (although Jon says not to expect as much for my birthday next year.)  We've been talking a lot lately about putting our money towards experiences and making memories rather than "things" and he hit the nail with this one.

Chou Chou stopped Kylee and I in the lobby to applaud our "style" and thank us for coming.  She says they don't get many "young people" at their shows and it's nice to see some of our generation.  Now that's quite a way to celebrate getting older, don't you think?

Our limo driver picked us up and we rode away in better style than the band members themselves.  We were all exhausted and thankful to have someone else driving us home so we could relax and recount the evening.  About 15 minutes from our house the limo jerked to the left, we all fell out of our seats and rolled around the floor while horns blared all around us.  There was a car driving the wrong way on the highway!  And we just missed getting hit.  Our driver, Harold, apologized profusely and we thanked him for keeping us alive.  It also kept us awake for the remainder of the drive.

I came home to find Marmie in the chair with a snoozing Joci laying on her chest.  The kids were great, they said.  Joci didn't eat but she didn't cry either.  And when she fell asleep on Marmie, she was too afraid to try to lay her down.  And so she sat there for over 3 hours holding a sleeping baby.  Now that's a dedicated babysitter.  And while a night out "in the club" with my love was certainly THE BEST birthday gift I could ask for.  Being able to leave my Fantastic Four at home with two wonderful (and free!) babysitters is a very close second!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

All Grown Up

We are in full-on summer mode over here, complete with swim suits drying all over the back deck, giving in to the AC by 4pm, and regular "tick checks" every night before bed.

Of course, summer mode also means mama not being able to enjoy a morning with only two babies.  It means attempting to run errands and buy groceries with 4 kids.  And it means trying to come up with creative ways to fill our time on these numerous "home days."

 Summer also means eating dinner outside on the deck.  And those of us still left eating dinner (i.e. Lia) being entertained by puppet shows!

But before we get to meat of our summer schedule, let's talk about how we got here.  Enter: preschool graduation!

That's a proud graduate right there!
First, it started with Kindergarten registration.  I made Jack tag along--dressed him in his best, slicked back his hair, and promised to stop for a Slurpee on the way home if he was on his best behavior.  Turns out, Kindergarten registration is a table, two folding chairs, and a pile of paperwork in the school lobby.  So my soon-to-be-Kindergartener was immediately put on "do everything you can to keep the baby happy" duty while I tried to fill out forms as quickly as possible.  He earned that Slurpee and then some.

The next step was a parents-only orientation.  This was much more promising.  I feel a little better about this whole sending-a-kid-to-school thing now after having heard from the teachers, principal, and guidance counselor.  And getting to visit the school twice now has certainly helped.  Later in the summer Jack will have a conference with his new teacher and we'll get a sneak peek at his classroom.    So I'm gratefully setting aside any further anxiety about that development for a few more months down the road.  For now, we're enjoying the final days of our preschooler.

We celebrated his "graduation" on the last Friday of May.  There was a picture slideshow that had me forcing back tears.  It was the music.  (If you're ever suffering from dry eyes have a listen to "Let Them Be Little.")  Then the graduate themselves sang us some songs.

And then our little boy received his certificate.  Following the ceremony was a time of "refreshments."  I can't say that word without laughing now.  Apparently they mentioned the "refreshments" to Jack at school, because it was his most-looked-forward-to aspect of the day.  I once mentioned that I needed to pick up some grapes to take to the ceremony and he got very upset and said, "NO!  Not grapes.  You're supposed to bring refreshments!"

Jack's teacher, Ms. Sherry, wrote the sweetest, funniest letter to us about our "wonderful son" and "how animated he can be."  We laughed out loud when she said "I literally had to make an occasional request for him to stop talking just so I could have the chance to continue helping other classmates.  Jack loves to tell his stories and share his knowledge and experience with all of us at school."

Jack and his teacher, Ms. Sherry.

Yup, we're all pretty confident Jack will have no problems socializing in Kindergarten.  She also assured us that he's strong academically and loves to learn!  So I'm hoping, with those two areas well under control, we can use this next year as an opportunity to teach our little guy how to keep his hands to himself!
Ms. Sherry had her hands full with these boys!
As for Jack himself, he's completely thrilled with becoming a Kindergartener.  He said he'll "probably be a little nervous." But other than that, he likes to toss the K word into conversation regularly throughout the day--what Kindergarteners eat, what they wear, how they play or ride the bus... he's all over it!

As parents, they suggest we don't talk about being nervous, or about how much we'll miss them while they're gone, or any of our thousand other misgivings.  So I'm working REALLY hard on that.  But since we'll be well beyond this point when Jack someday reads my blog, I'll go ahead and divulge here.

I'm a mess.

Just thinking about spending 7 hours apart, 5 days a week, from a very significant portion of MY HEART tears me to pieces.  Part of me doesn't want to do it, part of me secretly harbors plans to NOT do it.  But the rest of me, the biggest part of me, knows it's going to happen.  Deep, deep down I know that school is going to be GREAT for Jack.  I know he's going to be a smashing success.  But if for some reason I'm wrong.  Or if someday we're living somewhere with a school that's just not working, you can bet I have a few ideas in my back pocket.

But for now, we're going to embrace public school Kindergarten.  And in these final 10 weeks or so before we cross that bridge, I'm soaking up every second I don't have to share this incredible little boy with someone else.  June, July and August--he's all mine.

So while I'm dealing with all these "goodbye preschool, hello Kindergarten" emotions, wouldn't you know it, Jack goes and loses his first tooth.  Well, loses might be a stretch.  I missed the main event because I was upstairs putting Joci to sleep.  But I have a feeling a certain daddy was a little anxious to yank his first tooth.  And a certain 5 year old was very, very brave about the whole ordeal.  By the time I got my littlest off to dreamland, the tooth was out and Jack was nursing a (very bloody!) hole in his mouth.

Of course, he promptly informed us that the Tooth Fairy is NOT real.  Really, where'd you get that from?  "Just try," we told him.  It can't hurt.  So, unbeknownst to me, Jon and Jack put the tooth under his pillow just to test the theory.

And you know what happens next.

Two very tired parents went to bed just as we have always done since our little boy arrived five and half years ago.  And of course, two very tired parents were rudely awakened at 6am by a little boy stomping in to our room with a "See! I told you.  The Tooth Fairy didn't come!"

He was back in his room by the time I realized what had happened.  I sat up in bed.  I may have thrown an elbow at my husband (this was pre-coffee, who knows what I did).  And I hissed (because Joci had snuck into our bed an hour earlier and was sleeping soundly beside me), "Jon, how could you forget!?!"  And so Jon, just now realizing that this whole Tooth Fairy business fell under his list of responsibilities, stumbled back into Jack's room to assure him that the Tooth Fairy probably had a busy night, will surely visit at SOME point (not about to make any more promises here!), and that he should go back to sleep.

Thankfully, Jack's not one for waking up early.  He's also a very hard sleeper.  So 10 minutes later I had convinced Jon that he needed to go make things right before the other two (who are early risers) woke up.

Problem solved.  I'm not even sure if Jack remember the whole pre-dawn ordeal because by the time Jude and Julia were jumping on his bed that morning his tooth was gone and four shiny quarters were in its place.

Speaking of the other little dude, he's having a hard time transitioning to a summer wardrobe.  This is him every day right now, long-sleeved shirt, shorts, and socks worn up to his knees "soccer clear style."

The other early riser sporting Daddy's hat.
And by the time Daddy came home from work that day we had heard all about how Jack's tooth fairy is a boy.  And he rides a dragon.  And carries a bag full of quarters.  And Jude is positive he heard a dragon open the window that night.  And Jack just doesn't know how he slept through it all because he never sleeps! 

Phew.  Crisis averted.  The Tooth Fairy (or is it a Fair-er if it's a male??) is back in our good graces.  For now.  One tooth down.  Only 79 more to go.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.  I'm already racking my brain for mini-dragon accessories for the next time.  I'm thinking maybe some chocolate sprinkle poop by the open window will be necessary? Anything to keep my mind off what I'm going to pack for school lunches in a few months.  Don't worry bud, the Tooth Fairy team is going to make it up to you!
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