Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spencer v. Darth Vader

Spencer, I AM your father!

Star Wars Birthday Party - Video footage

Here is video proof of my awesome husband, dressed as Darth Vader, and Jedi Master Joel as they converse. Thank you, Star Wars sound board, for your assistance. 

Backyard Jedi Training.

Star Wars Party

I took a page out of my friend Ellie's book (she also has a cluster of birthdays), and we threw back-to-back friend birthday parties for Spencer and Emma. Emma's party ended at 4:15; Spencer's began at 5:00. The chosen theme of his party guessed it...STAR WARS. 

One of the great laments of my blogging career is that I do not have ANY still photos of the party to share. But, in my defense, we did have nine 7-year-old boys running around the house with foam lightsabers. There were more pressing matters, like reminding friends that bathroom language wasn't allowed at the table and helping all the boys stay engaged in the activity at hand. (No small task! I have new appreciation for Spencer's awesome 1st grade teacher). 

Fortunately, we had Jedi Master Joel on hand to keep our rowdy bunch in line. He was AMAZING! I don't know if I've written about it before on this blog, but Joel and Spencer have a VERY special relationship. Joel is my baby brother; he comes after a string of 5 girls in the birth sequence and is followed by another 2 girls. Spencer is the little brother he never had, and Spencer absolutely ADORES his Uncle Joel. (He's been asking all week when get to come see you, Joel, but we're going to let you finish the school week first.) Joel's present to Spencer this year was to serve as Jedi Trainer at his birthday party. 

When the kids arrived, they made (decorated) their own lightsabers. This is supposed to be part of becoming a Jedi, if I understand Jedi lore correctly. If I had it to do over, I would have put this a little further down the list because battles immediately erupted. Ah, well. Lesson learned. 

The lightsabers really turned out well. The idea came from a blog, found by my mother-in-law Valerie (thank you!). They are swimming noodles, cut in half. Spencer and I prepped the hilts with silver and black duct tape. Then I precut strips of duct tape and colored electrical tape so different sizes so they could decorate their hilts and make their own "activate" buttons. 

Here's a photo I just took of the three that ended up at our house, which have been popular not only with my kiddos but also with the neighborhood boys who came over specifically to play with these.

After collecting the lightsabers and treating the kids to some pizza and Star Wars Gogurts, we headed down to the basement to see what Jedi Master Joel had in store. He had tied a cup with fishing line, which then went through a hook in the ceiling and behind a white sheet so he could demonstrate how to use THE FORCE. (I was behind the sheet, helping the force along). Joel demonstrated, explained the level of concentration and focus needed to lift the cup off the table, and then the padawans (just had to check the spelling on that one) got to try their hand at levitating the cup. Pure awesomeness.

After that, there was a disturbance in THE FORCE. Adam had rigged up a Star Wars sound board on his computer to a set of speakers. I acted as AV specialist and did my best to press the right buttons at the right time. Adam (most awesome dad EVER) came out of a storage room door in the basement dressed as Darth Vader with "The Imperial March" playing in the background. (You know...Dun, dun, dun, duh-duh-dun, duh-duh-dun).  He had even set up a fog machine for greater dramatic effect. The padawans gathered by their Jedi Master while the sound board spoke for Vader, inviting them to join him in the dark side. Joel responded in planned lapses, and they had some verbal parrying until it was time for the padawans  to run up the stairs and out back so they could be properly trained on their lightsabers. 

This part went SO well. These boys needed to be outside. They lined up, saw a demonstration of how to defend themselves against the dark side with some basic combinations, practiced with Joel, and then each padawan got to face Darth Vader himself. The training and lightsaber matches took place on the deck, which served as a stage, all the other padawans waiting below. It was most excellent. 

After that, it was time for cupcakes and ice cream. Spencer had requested not to open gifts during his party because he didn't want anyone to feel bad. Sweet kid, that one. (I get to say that since I am his mother.) After the friends left, Spencer had an additional Star Wars extravaganza opening the gifts his friends had brought. 

MAJOR thanks go to...
Heather and Sarah, who answered Joel's call with it became blazingly apparent that we needed more adult supervision and came right away.
Grandma (Valerie), who gave us a Star Wars cupcake set and the blog link for the light sabers. From there, we were off and running to create a truly awesome party.
Grammy (Merilee), who made Joel's Jedi costume which gave him immediate clout in the eyes of our company. He SO looked the part!
Adam, who was seriously awesome in his role as Darth Vader. 
Uncle Joel - not sure I have the words to say just how awesome you were, Joel. This was the best party Spencer EVER could have imagined. Thank you for making it a reality. You were such commanding presence, exuded so much confidence and expertise. We would never have survived this party without you!!

Here's a photo I snapped as we all relaxed in the backyard after the goodie bags were distributed and the parents had picked up their kids. Joel was letting my three munchkins duel him in the backyard. I wish I had a photo of him in his full get-up with the boots, facing off with Darth Vader. 

But alas, we were too busy living life to photograph it. 

Soccer Lovie

Last fall, we did our traditional soccer teams with a bunch of friends as teammates and moms or dads coaching. This time around, I tracked down a local company to make t-shirts (iron-ons and I didn't get along too well the last go around). Emma's team was red; Spencer's was green. Since that time, Emma has thought of herself as a soccer player. Amazing the confidence a few drills can give a girl! (Most of those drills, I was running along with her, John in tow, while Adam coached Spencer's team. My lovie doesn't do well with heat and bugs, but those have long since been forgotten). 

When my friend Emilee gave us a form for a soccer cake, Emma announced that she wanted to have a soccer birthday party to celebrate turning 5. Sounded good to me!  We pulled out the cones and a bag of balls given us by Mr. Paul, my in-laws kind neighbor who mows the lawn for our practice field and coaches soccer himself. The kids gathered at 3:00 for a bunch of soccer drills and then it was inside for cake, ice cream, and presents.

Emma invited her preschool carpool, 2 cute girls that live on our street, and a few friends from church. We had to put a limit on the list because Emma would have loved to invite everyone she knows to join in the soccer fun.  Here's a line-up of the party goers with Coach Adam, who is dressing the part in his Argentina jersey. Spencer served as assistant coach.

A close-up of some soccer friends. 

The soccer cake. And yes, I tipped all that frosting onto the cake...with 3 very eager helpers, I might add. 

This was the first time we have included friends in our "heavy, heavy hang over thy poor head..." tradition, and I loved it! It was a nice way for Emma to express her appreciation to each friend by giving them a fun wish before opening each gift. There was a strong Barbie theme to the gifts she received, but each item given has been played with and given a prized place in Emma's room. Thank you to all our wonderful friends for helping us celebrate Lovie's birthday. 

Birthday Bashes

We had a fun family dinner and party to celebrate this dynamic duo on the Sunday between their birthdays. Born 2 years and 6 days apart, by some ultrasound date calculations, they shared the same due date. (Spence was a few days early, and Em was induced the day after her official due date.) April is birthday month at our house, and while that means we party all month long, it also means that there is cause for some collaboration/consolidation so things don't get too out of hand.

Sneaky, Seven-year-old Spencer kept blowing out his candle while we sang. 

Five-year-old Emma had donned her birthday princess crown and was very poised, waiting for the right moment to arrive before she made her birthday wish.

The kids were very excited about the bounty of presents they received from doting family members. (Thank you, all!)

This is one of my favorite pictures of the day. Emma received a copy of the Book of Mormon because she had misplaced her other one. She was thrilled! Emma is not one to shy away from books containing words she cannot yet decode, and I love that this book is important to her. 
(Slipping special moments in here as they occur to me. Each night Emma uses her imagination, she tells me, to read to her imaginary class. She plays the role of teacher and, sitting in her bed, "reads" aloud to her "class" from the pile of books she keeps at the foot of her bed. She tells the stories with the pictures showing to the imaginary class so everyone can be sure to see the illustrations.)

While other birthday celebrations (family/friend parties mostly) may have their dates adjusted to fit the needs of our family calendar, there is one event that must occur on the morning of the actual birthday: 

This year, with Spencer being in 1st grade, that meant early rising for all of us so we could sneak some strawberries and cinnamon rolls with the birthday boy before he headed off to catch a 7:24 (on the dot) school bus. (Side note: the bus stop is on the same corner as the house, and Spence is quite consistent at leaving the house when the bus shows up. Amazingly, he has only missed the bus once and told me he sort of likes running for the bus each day. That would stress me out, but he's a more confident kid than I was, I think.)

When we arrived at his door, Spencer had already snuck out of bed, dressed, and crept back under the covers so as not to spoil the birthday breakfast arrival. Here he is holding his 7 candle.

Rinse and repeat for Emma's birthday breakfast. They both wanted poppable cinnamon rolls, strawberries with sugar on top, and eggs. 

Emma with her 5 candle. 

These are kiddos worth celebrating!

Noticing the little things

A few things of note about Johnny.

1. He is an active boy and does not fear head wounds. He hurls his little body over obstacles, convinced that he'll come out alright on the other side. This exasperates his parents (he's already had stitches once; no desire for a repeat on that one), but you do have to admire his pluck and stamina. 
2. He is a builder. Loves to construct Geotrax and Thomas train tracks.
3. He is surprisingly coordinated. Always a physical fellow, John really enjoys riding his little trike in front of the house. He easily gets on and off, pushes with his feet, and drags it by the handlebars if a hill is too big for his little legs. I never have to carry his bike unless it's time to go inside, in which case I usually carry the bike and a very resistant boy.
4. Just noticed this one today while playing cars with Johnny. He is quite meticulous. He was picking cars up from a pile and sending them down a Little People ramp. He would twist his little wrist as he picked up the vehicles so that as he placed them on the track, each car was facing forward to go down the ramp. I thought it interesting to note the seemingly effortless coordination he applied to accomplish this small feat.

The line-up

Taking the time today to notice some of the little things I love about you, John-John.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Through Spencer's Eyes...

S and E are at school, and John is trucking around the main level with a lego horse going, "Neigh!" and stopping intermittently to pretend feed it from his plate at the little table or have it gallop up and down the piano keyboard.

I am going through school papers in an attempt to sort through the piles that inevitably multiply in the kitchen over a busy weekend. Here's a transcribed gem from Spencer that must be recorded.

All About My Mom!
My mom is nice.
She has blue eyes.
She is 6 feet tall. (Wow!)
She weighs 600 pounds.  (Really??)
She is 30 years old. (31, but I don't mind that he stopped counting.)
Her favorite food is mint chocolate ice cream. (Right on, kiddo!)
She likes to read. (Yes, I do!  Every snatched minute I can.)
She is really good at keeping track of stuf. (sic)
I help her cook. (And I love it when you do. Spence is an expert salad-maker. He also sets the table as his family job.)
My favorite thing about my mom is she gives me presents at christmas. (I love that, too, Spence.)

Such a gem.

He also made me a cute portrait where I am bald but wearing a hat. Underneath the hat is a writing assignment, which goes like this:

Dear Mom,
I love you because you make dinner for us every night.

There was more, but it got erased so it could fit under the hat. SUPER cute. I got some sweet cards on Sunday from Spencer, Emma, and John after church. S and E had "love you because you make dinner" as a recurring theme. I'm glad they get the message that I do these daily tasks because I love them.

John is getting rocks out of one of the planters, and I can tell by smell that it's time to change a diaper. That's all for now, folks. Time to get back to mothering.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

This Mother's Day, I was treated to breakfast in bed. In keeping with tradition, the whole family joined in for the feast.  I had stirred a bit too early and was sent back upstairs to await the presentation of the breakfast, but that ended up fitting the script for the morning; Emma had searched the bookshelves for Fancy Nancy's Marvelous Mother Day Brunch (which we last read months ago), and our morning mirrored theirs quite nicely.

 Spencer and Emma picked flowers from the garden to place on the tray. This was Spencer's idea, and he and Emma executed the plan while Adam was making the cinnamon rolls.

The two smaller vases are full of their findings. The larger bouquet came special delivery earlier this week along with a beautiful note from my amazing hubby.

The note reads:

Easy to love this man of mine. Since I was quickly shooed out of the kitchen this morning, I couldn't snap a photo of the activity going on there, so Fancy Nancy will have to suffice.

Emma came up to keep me company while we awaited the breakfast presentation. While we waited, she insisted on getting fancy and showed me the pages of her book to demonstrate her meaning.

Emma got all dressed up in her Sunday dress, paired it with a headband and insisted that we could not begin until she had her ring in place (a recent acquisition from Friday's wellness visit to the doctor where she got a shot, a finger poke, and 2 prizes for her endurance).

Fancy Nancy's mother couldn't have been happier than I was this morning. It was a picture perfect way to start Mother's Day.

Surrounded by the people I love.

I really did feel special today. 

Sweet Spencer served the cinnamon rolls.

And a BIG thank you to the man who made this day possible. I love being a mother with this father by my side. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Library Day

I love the peace, the quiet that comes on a ride home from the library. These two book lovers were completely absorbed in new literature for a time, at least. John was initially captivated by a Virginia Lee Burton book, "Choo-Choo" while Emma was focused on reading "Samantha's Surprise" from the American Girl series.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Johnny turns 2!

My little Bubby turned two years old.  (Below he demonstrates both ways of holding up two fingers. Most often he goes for the "gun" approach as seen on his left hand, but he surprised me by pulling out the traditional method on the right just before I snapped this photo. His shirt reads "I'm've been warned!")

He's a Cinco de Mayo baby, and we started the day with a party in true Adam and Marie Wride family fashion: breakfast in bed. Long ago, we decided that it is far too lonely to eat breakfast alone in one's bed, so we have made it a family event. The birthday boy (or girl) gets to sleep in while others rise early and prepare a breakfast tray. Then we all sneak upstairs, light some candles, and waltz into the bedroom with a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday to you!" It's a great way to start a birthday.

With Spencer and Emma's birthdays being just before John's, he was well-prepped for this family tradition. As soon as we were within range, he blew out his two candles, and we feasted on homemade cinnamon rolls, eggs, and yogurt - lightsaber Gogurts to be exact.

The remainder of the celebrating we put off until today, Sunday, when we invited extended family to join us for a birthday dinner, cupcakes, ice cream, and presents.

We had a special stake meeting today for church, and during that meeting John asked me repeatedly to draw "Neigh! Neigh!" This is a regular occurrence, and I responded by drawing the same line drawing of a horse all over the photocopied hymn paper provided to those of us who sat in the hard metal chairs at the back of the gymnasium. John loved it. On a whim, I thought it might be fun to arrange the cupcakes in the shape of a horse and decided to pipe that same line drawing over the top of them. Cupcakes make an unforgiving canvas, and I am no artist to begin with, so here's what I came up with:

My mom asked what it was.
Celeste offered to let me in on a cake decorating class she plans to take.
I had to explain to John that it was a horse. "You know, John, 'Neigh!'"
Cake decorating fail, but at least the cupcakes themselves were a hit!

John blew out the candles as soon as they reached the table and before we had finished singing. We relit the candles, so the two year old got to blow them out twice. Here's a photo of the second round. Love that Spence is ready "help" little bro, but Emma the enforcer has things well in hand.

After that, it was time for presents. We convened to the family room, and the kids saw to it that the traditional present-opening chair was in place. (Not sure how that became a tradition, but S and E felt that was very important for their present-opening last week and let us know it.)

Heavy, heavy hang over thy poor head...

What do you wish this person with a bump on the head?
*This fun little tradition came from Adam's family. It gives the receiver of the gifts a chance to offer kind wishes to the giver.

Birthday wishes from Johnny:
For Grandma - ya (love)
For Grandpa - ball
For Laura - choo choo
For Grammy and Papa - wawa (water)
For Aunt Janet - happy
For Mom and Dad - kiss
For Uncle Joel - nigh-nigh

John is sure happy with his: Thomas the Tank Engine train set, Thomas book, college/mission money, swimmer's robe, Chuck the talking/moving truck, doggy book, lift-the-flap book, life jacket, alligator stuffed animal, and Jr. Mints. John-John sure loves being in this awesome family.

Thank you for coming and sharing in the festivities.  John was thankful in his nighttime prayers for each of you by name (with a little help from Mom so we didn't forget anyone).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Size Matters Not

This morning, we are off to distribute flyers for a local food drive. I encouraged Spencer to put on his running shoes instead of Crocs, to which he responded, "I'm actually glad you asked me to put on my running shoes, so I can show you how fast I've become. I've really improved." (The "p" in "improved" reminds me of Daffy Duck. Hard to talk with two front teeth missing.)

 Then he launched into a discussion of who the fast runners are in his class, and Emma joined in.

S: A__ is the fastest runner in my class.
E: Is he the smallest one who came to your birthday party?
S: Yes.
E: How can he be the fastest if he is the smallest?
S: Size matters not. Emma, it's like Yoda. He's the smallest, but he's also the best.

 So you see, Star Wars has an explanation for everything.

 *Of note: we most definitely did make light saber noises while cutting into our General Grievous pizza last night. John ate voraciously, consuming three of the four extremities: two jowls and an ear. Spencer said it was the best dinner ever made in Loudoun County. Today, Spencer and John were running around as clone troopers (in a new costume Spence got with some bday money), and Emma had a jedi robe on. We have celebrated Star Wars day in fine fashion. Love embracing the passions and interests of these cute kids!

Picture proof:

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the Fourth be with you

I am blogging using an app on my iPhone. We shall see if this helps me keep a little more current.

Here is how we are celebrating Star Wars day. A little General Grievous pizza, idea from Recipe Shoebox. Happy May 4th!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Christmas too good to forget...

Christmas 2011 was quite spectacular, and lest I forget some of the great moments, I am following up on a resolution made many times over to chronicle our lives on this blog. These picture folders have been sitting on my desktop since the beginning of the year, and, motivated once more by a recent Relief Society meeting, I am blogging once more.

 First of all, a joke that circulated around our house this season: What do you call the day before Christmas Eve? Answer: Christmas Adam! (Get it...? Because Adam came before Eve.)

Christmas Eve morning found us in full preparations to move Christmas (presents, clothing, toiletries, air beds, sleeping bags, and children) from one Wride home to another. The entire Wride clan was joining together and Grandma and Grandpa's house, and we didn't want to miss out on the fun. True to tradition, we came with plans to spend one night and then ended up hanging out in the basement for many more so we could enjoy late night games, movies, and fun with Adam's family. Once we were finally loaded, we headed over meet up with all the cousins for the Polar Express Party, a recent Wride tradition.

The kids all boarded the Polar Express "train," each clutching their golden ticket and ready for adventure. After following Grandma around the kitchen, hallway, living, and dining room with the Polar Express music blasting and each kid taking a turn blowing the train whistle, they settled in for some fun.

But first, an expert conductor had to punch their tickets. Grandpa masterfully punched JOY in each ticket.

The cousins took turns throwing "coal" into the firebox of the Polar Express.

John was a little stressed at the sight of an entire clan of Wrides looping the house with train whistles sounding, but he was all smiles when it came time to throw a ball through a hole. Other unpictured activities: candy trains (think frosting and all the confections you could imagine carefully placed on paper plates), a mega gingerbread house for the adults to decorate, and hot cocoa so think it tastes like melted chocolate bars. Yup, this Polar Express party is a keeper! It's the perfect way to spend the day while waiting anxiously for Christmas Eve to arrive.

With the onset of evening, come the famous Cummings chimichangas. Melinda was frying up the good stuff this year.

There were lots of helpers in Grammy's beautiful new kitchen. Grandpa Bezzant comes out for Christmas, and I love getting to visit with him over an extended holiday. Grandpa always does enough loads of dishes to last him a year, and then comes back and does it again the following year. He is one hard worker, good conversationalist, and altogether lovely fellow. Sarah (also pictured) is such a spectacular aunt and pays special attention to John, which he loves. Those two are buddies.

Look how much table space there is in Grammy's new kitchen. Perfect for a Cummings family feast!

This is a magical music box purchased at the Kennedy Center that shows scenes from "The Nutcracker." The stage rotates to show the different scenes, and it kept John, Emma, and Trina engaged for an impressive amount of time. We love our Trina; she is one awesome aunt and playmate. Thank you, Aunt Janet, for sharing this very popular treasure.
Here are my three wise men, dressed up for the Nativity play. (John, Adam, Spencer). The beards, dug up from the catacombs of basement dress-up, cost Adam an allergy attack later that evening, but I think it was well worth it. They certainly looked the part.

And a cast photo: John, Adam, Sarah, Melinda, Dan, Heather, Spencer, Emma, Joel, Trina (back to front, left to right).

*Ok, family, help me out here. What did Dan say during the Nativity that had us all irreverently chuckling? Something about taxes...

 An action shot of wise man, Spencer.

The most angelic shepherd I have ever seen.