Last night was night two of the kids being in Folsom with Grandma. The night before consisted of a romantic evening full of Kevin working on the garage renovations and playing X-Box and me cleaning the bathrooms and closets. Last night neither of us was totally into going out but we went out because we felt like we should; what a waste to stay home on a night where we have a free babysitter! So off to the Hibachi grill in Gonzales we went. It was my first time to any such place and I loved having an option right there in our little parish. The decor was perfect and when we walked in they asked the question we expected "Would you like to sit at the grill?" Why yes, of course we would! We were seated right and had an organized (American) waitress. There were other people there but they weren't right next to us. At first. We were there five minutes when the waitress asked a young lady if she would move to sit on the other side of her family, thereby freeing up two seats at our grill seating area. There went the single chair spacing between me and another person. Have I mentioned that I don't like to sit on top of other people while I'm eating? This applies to my own family, much less people I don't know. This was a test of my comfort level. Isn't one of the joys of having your kids gone being able to not have people in your space? Yet here came another couple and they were to sit next to me. They were very nice looking and smiled sweetly but didn't start talking like we were friends. We soon found out, however, that it was the man's birthday. He was embarrassed (as I believe all men are required to be per the Man Handbook) when his girlfriend pointed this out to the waitress and later the chef. It was a night of excitement... Kevin caught his flung vegetable perfectly but alas, I did not. Our chef was the perfect Oriental stereotype. I wonder if he REALLY talks like that or if he's out of some Hibachi training school? And who on earth decided making balloon animals for children with a hot grill in front of you was a GOOD idea? Also, how do you find people that can cook and make balloon animals? The sushi was great and the food was yummy. I learned how to make fried rice. Then it came time to sing happy birthday to the birthday boy. For the first time in my life I sang happy birthday to someone sitting a foot away from me and we got all the way to the "Happy Birthday, dear______" before I realized I had no clue what this man's name was. I knew he had gotten his girlfriend a dog (Chug- very cute) but not his name. You can't say "Happy birthday dear randommanatmytable" so we all paused. It turned out his name is Muffin. So happy birthday, dear Muffin! I did not expect to eat dinner with you but I am happy we got to help you celebrate your birthday. I will think about you as I eat my leftovers today. I hope that you get a lot of use out of your crown made out of a balloon.
Today's little road trip was a whole 120 miles (round trip) to downtown New Orleans. In May we bought a membership to the zoo and the aquarium; one trip to each and the membership pays for itself and we have already surpassed that. Kevin had to work (those pesky year-round jobs!) so it was me, the boys, and Lila on our way to the aquarium a.k.a. the fish museum. We listened to what seems to be our favorite family song (if you don't count Daddy) "Tonight, Tonight" by Chelle about eight times and the rest of the trip was Lila Songs (those awful kids CD songs). We coasted into New Orleans traffic free, had no trouble parking, and nary a complaint from any of the children. It was so smooth that it was almost eerie. I thought surely something would go wrong (aquarium closed, for example) but nope, it was a perfect little adventure. Lila wanted to go without her stroller (I agreed) and she stayed by my side. The boys also followed all rules and never got separated from us, which I am absolutely paranoid about. It was really an amazingly delightful trip. We loved all of the usual attractions, like the penguins, the sharks, and the otters and Lila LOVED the play room. The only issues were that feeding the stingrays is more exclusive, you have to wait in a longer line and if you come in right behind a daycare (like we did) you will find out the stingray exhibit is sold out. However, that was trumped by the success of the new bird exhibit. The boys loved going into the bird addition and buying little feed sticks ($1 each and we only needed one). The birds were easy to coax onto the sticks and Carson and Cullen enjoyed getting birds to choose their sticks above those of the other children. When we finally left Carson mournfully said that he was really going to miss his bird. Poor Carson feels very deeply, for better or worse! If you're almost 12, almost 10, and 3 what is the perfect meal to end your morning of fun? No, not Drago's, not Mittendorf's... it's McDonald's. We zipped into a McDonald's on Veterans and we all decided that our perfect outing was completed by McDonald's actually serving our order with NO mistakes. I loved listening to Lila have her Blueberry Muffin toy talk to the boys' Star Wars Toys and say "I a girl! I a girl" and then later sing Jesus songs. To me, the perfect ending was that Lila did not sleep in the car but instead saved her nap for home, giving me my few hours of freedom that I treasure. What a gift of a day and it's not even over yet!
We have just three weeks left of summer. Or, as I prefer to say to the kids "We have THREE WHOLE WEEKS!" Seriously, you can fit so much fun into three weeks. I planned to start the fun today but I kind of dropped the ball on that unless you find physical therapy for Carson, laundry, closet cleaning, and (yes more) tea parties to be award-winning fun. We did Shrinky Dinks but I was grumpy so I think if fun were a mathematical equation my grumpiness may have negated any possible fun. Here are some of the things we thought of to do the next few weeks for fun. I hereby challenge myself to do it! Hopefully I will do a better job than I have done with my New Year Goal of learning the African countries (hey, the year isn't over yet!)
1. Blue Bayou (again)
2. Dixie Landing at night
3. The New Orleans aquarium
4. The Audubon Zoo (again, this time we'll do their splash park)
5. Bluebonnet Swamp (since I was bad and didn't sign them up for their usual swamp camp)
6. My parents' house in Folsom
7. I also really want to go to Jefferson Island; this one I am not sure about. Can I handle all three kids there by myself?? Of course I can barely handle them at Wal-Mart by myself...
The first two will be done without Lila because she impedes our fun. The rest we will do while she isn't at daycare. After all, as Carson conceded this morning, she IS part of the family. Uh, yeah. Thanks for the genius news flash.
The fun will start tomorrow. Along with my diet. Seriously, I mean it.
One part of Lila's birthday party that did not get a mention were her presents. What kid doesn't love presents? Lila is a little reserved in groups. Actually, she's a little reserved around all humans. We think of her as that performing frog from LooneyToons... never performing around others, but always around us. "Hello my honey, hello my darling..."
I was kind of mean because I told her that if she didn't interact with her party guests at all then she wouldn't be able to play with her presents. We talked about playing on the slide with her friends, saying hello when they arrived, etc. It worked because, although it was subtle, I did notice her trying to be a little friendlier than usual.
When it came time to open presents I was as excited as she was... dresses! bows! jewelry! baby dolls! What mom doesn't love those? My friends came through with the cutest things. Lila got an adorable monogrammed tee shirt from her friend Isaac. A couple of precious towels (she didn't have a single monogrammed towel- what kind of a bad mom am I? Below are some of the homemade things my friends gave. They are amazing and their presents were too!
Bottom of bow hanger/holder (what do you call those things??) from Jenny, who SAID she wasn't crafty. Monogrammed towel from Denise! Lila noticed and loved the polka dots on the lettering.
Sorry for the un-rotated shot! The bow hanger again.
Cathy's needlework on the swimsuit cover-up
The mermaid on the cover-up; well-timed since we now LOVE mermaids.
The necklace Cathy and her girls made!
The cover-up and towel combo.
Towel from Cathy. Cathy is the queen of creativity; did I mention that?
When home during the day we say prayers two times. Once when Lila takes her nap and once when she goes to bed at night (her dark nap, as she says). Sometimes Carson or Kevin will join us but usually it's me and Lila laying in her bed and, after we read a pile of books, we say prayers. She prays for her brothers, me, and her daddy. She prays for her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and any friends she has seen of late. She prays for all of her brothers' friends ("thank you for ALL my brothers"). She prays for her teachers and the children at daycare. We usually pray for "babies, people who have babies, and people who want babies", which started when I had several friends with tough pregnancies. She also prays for her her birds and owls painted on the wall... "Thank you for that owl, and that owl, and that bird, and that bird, and that bird...". One thing she has never forgotten to pray for is our dog Jake, who died this past December. She prays for "my baby dolls and Jake"- always in that order. Today was the funniest/saddest one ever. She concluded her prayers with a command that she screamed at the top of her lungs "AND GOD, GIVE ME MY DOG BACK!" If it were only that easy.
If one more person asks me "so, what are you doing for your summer off?" or "How are you enjoying your summer off" I will need to correct them. I am enjoying my summer with my kids and we are doing many fun things. However, do not confuse this with being "off". That sounds a little too much like a resort vacation filled with pedicures (I haven't had any), and novels by the pool (not in my world). I am lucky if I even get to switch the TV to the channel I want to watch, much less lounge around. As any stay-at-home mom will tell you to be home with your children is not akin to a resort vacation. It is work, just a different kind of work than the traditional job. There are many days where it would be easier for me to be at work. Here are some reasons why:
1. Other people's children listen better to me than my own
2. I can go to the bathroom by myself. Not often, albeit, but at work no one asks me "What are you doing?" or "Can I come in?" when I go to the restroom. If they invaded my privacy the way Lila does I could press charges. A few days ago I locked the door and the next thing I knew I saw her little fingers slipping under the door and she used her monster voice to say "My fingers see you privacy!"
3. I get dressed every day and no one wipes their cheeto hands on me.
4. I don't have to fix breakfast or lunch (Kevin does breakfast on work days since I am gone before the kids even get up)
5. I can pretend that my house is clean while I am at work. It may not be but I have a wonderfully active imagination.
6. I eat better when I am working.
7. I talk to more grown-ups plus I like the people I work with
To add balance, here are the good things about summer:
1. No papers to grade
2. Tea parties twice a day with Lila, Buzz Lightyear, Monster Baby (a Pokemon doll), and any number of naked Barbies and baby dolls
3. Swimming, sliding, Blue Bayou (the place I love to hate), the beach
4. Road trips!
5. Doing laundry before midnight
6. Icees and snowballs
7. Listening to the boys chatter with their friends as I drive them to and fro. My favorite last week was when a friend told Carson "I have always wanted to know how dogs and cats get married. They have babies but how do they get married?" to which Carson replied "They don't get married they just mate." Oh, to be so wise...
8. I love my kids and being home with them during the summer is a blessing. It's just not "off" in the standard sense of the word.
It is so hard to believe that our little Lila-Pop has turned three. We were able to have her Lollipop birthday party on her actual birthday, which was fun and very efficient, in my opinion. I did my preparations for her party a little at a time... I made large lollipops in May when I had a little extra time the last few days of school. I made large wrapped "hard candy" one night when Kevin took the boys to the movie. I sewed little pennant banners here and there while Lila napped and before I knew it I had quite a few cute decorations! I got some adorable decoration and food ideas from Glory and her Glorious Treats blog, which Laura shared with me. Glory's ideas were fantastic and easy to duplicate. Others came from a cute article in Parent's magazine that a childhood friend, Kristin, sent me when she heard what I was doing. The cake idea came from a student (thanks, Keri!), who texted me the photo from her little sister's candyland birthday party and also told me all about their own great projects at her party.
The cake is a whole little story/bit of drama in itself. I ended up having the cake itself made at Target and I did the fun part (the decorating!) myself. It was one of my smartest decisions when it came to the party; a time saver and a money-saver too. In fact, it was a money saver even before I got it for free (yes free, minus the thirty minutes of stress I "paid"). Baking a big cake isn't cheap when you need to buy things like the cake pans too. When I showed up to get the cake (five hours after it was supposed to be done) they had overlooked it and not done it at all! I was calm (really, I was!) and the people in the Target bakery worked hard to make it right. They pulled a lady out of the Starbucks section who could ice cakes and had her ice a cake to my specifications (all green!) and had it boxed up less than thirty minutes after I had first asked for my cake. That's customer service; it's not just about being perfect but making it right when things aren't done properly! That being said, I think the cake was a hit and Lila, before drifting off to sleep for her nap, listed it as her favorite thing. Yes, even before presents!
We had several good friends attend Lila's party with their precious boys and girls and of course enjoyed some family time too. You can't have a Phillips party without a few cousins there to join in the fun! The water slide was the final touch and enjoyed by all. That thing was the tackiest but best investment we have ever made for the kids when it comes to summer fun. The hoses are duct-taped on but it works and provides so much fun.
The secret star of the party was our deck, recently completed by Kevin. It had its grand debut today for the party and really made the party easier. It was nice having so much space to set things up outside and so many places for people to sit. We have true seating for ten but the various ledges make great seating for little ones with their legs dangling! It was wonderful having it done before the party. He worked very hard on it and I loved being able to really use it.
Hopefully these photos will show how sweet our birthday girl and how well some of the ideas I borrowed turned out. Thanks to all who could attend and to all of those who helped in various ways!