Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All at Once

We've got some stuff going on.

Ed's mom was here visiting last week. Tomorrow I leave for a long weekend in Utah (Hickman women bonding at Women's Conference.) Four days after I get back we leave for a British adventure, visiting Dave's family and some other touristing, including the most awesome ex-pat ex-mission companion ever in London. (So this is also a call for clever ways to keep kids occupied on a long trip.) And a week after we get back we close on our new house (here in Arlington, see picture above - it's yellow!; there will be a post about it eventually.)

Meanwhile trying to keep everyone fed and healthy, and the (current) house clean for potential renters to see. And, ahem, yes, lots of baking. So the blogging has fallen a notch or two on the Must-Do List, but I'll be back, here and there. Thanks for checking. Happy Spring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Make DC Look Good

We recently did a photo shoot of the girls with our favorite local photographer, Andrea Marie, in Georgetown.

Check them out on her blog. Be prepared to die.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Park Party

When it came to Hazel's birthday party this year I gave her two choices:

1. A small tea party with only a few girls, or
2. A big party at the park next door, and she could invite more kids.

I thought she'd at least have to think about it but there was no hesitation: PARK PARTY!
It was great to take advantage of living literally next door to a park. I figured it would be pretty easy because all the entertainment is taken care of; they just play at the park and we provide food and supervision. Which was mostly true. Of course there's the weather, and it's been an especially rainy spring this year. We only had to reschedule once and on the second try got a sunny, if blustery, day. There were no major injuries or problems beyond one friend from preschool who demonstrated her mortal terror of balloons by screaming bloody murder when she arrived. We quickly got rid of the balloon bouquets I had tied to the park entrance.

Activities were jump roping, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, soccer and "monster" with Ed.
Snacks were pretzels, strawberries, bananas, juice boxes and water bottles. Cupcake cones for the treat.

Goody bags contained 4 sidewalk chalks, a pencil and one candy-filled Easter egg.
Most parents dropped off but a few made the party a whole family thing and stayed with younger siblings to play and hang out. It was an awesome time, but I'm so glad we're done with birthdays for the year!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

EBX09 Follow-Up

It has been another unbelievably fun and successful Easter basket exchange. Not to say it wasn't without its...anecdotes.

Totally unpredictable mail service rushed some baskets and dragged others. (I think the key is to send Priority Mail; I'll mention that in the instructions next year.) My friend Margaret opted out this year due to gestational diabetes so I jumped at the chance to make TWO baskets, and the challenge of making one for her (nearly) candy-free. My beading friend Shanna went to painstaking measures to create a cherry-blossom-ish bookmark for my cousin Celeste who misses the East. Sydney emailed me for Erin's coloring to get her accessories just right.

And I think the best was when I got a frantic phone call the Friday afternoon before Easter. Gabe had driven from Culpeper to Leesburg, VA (over an hour each way) to hand deliver her basket to Marie just so it would get there by Easter. No one had been home so she'd left it in the bushes and called me to call Marie to make sure she got it. I told her, "You know hand delivery was not required, right Gabe?" She answered seriously, "I didn't want to risk the chance of being kicked out of next year's exchange! I know you have the power to do that." She knows me well...

One theme I picked up on, that many of you mentioned in letters and emails, was that you (we) made a much nicer basket for our person than we ever would have for ourselves. What a great chance to treat and be treated. What an awesome atmosphere of fun gifting this exchange created!

See for yourself:

As for me, I've got to tell you about the basket I received. I admit, I manipulated the assignments. I've been missing New York a little so I assigned myself to my friend Emily in Brooklyn, and happened to mention a few things I wanted from there. She came through and then some. Cadbury mini eggs and creme eggs, the only milk chocolate treats I like, check. Smoked almonds - lots of them - from the Turkish store on 5th Ave in Bay Ridge, check. Some awesome beads, check. Chocolate covered pretzels, almond bark, and turtle candies from another store on 5th, check. YUM! And on top of all that, THREE BOOKS I've never heard of or read! Which is good because I really need to pull myself out of the Twilight series and move on with my literary life. THREE BOOKS that all look awesome and that obviously took some time to pick out.

And all my stuff was packed in amNewYork newspaper and used-up metro cards; I loved that touch. And I almost - almost - cried when I turned one of the metro cards over and saw a magic marker "A" on the back. Emily's husband's name is Adam. Ed and I used to do the same thing to distinguish his metro card from mine in the drawer by the front door. It took me back. Emily, you're awesome.

But aren't we all? I was pretty proud of the package I sent Sydney, too. Egg timer (who doesn't need one?), Penzey's spices, Lake Champlain bunny, Trader Joe's chocolates, cookie cutters, dish towel, handmade earrings & bookmark, lip gloss, note cards, shopping tote, and my latest CD mix. Truly a package I would love to receive. What can I say?

Thanks again to everyone for participating. See you back here again next year for EBX10!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Easter Baskets

I look at making Easter baskets for the kids a lot like filling stockings. A little fun stuff, a little practical stuff, and a little candy - perfect! Last year I gave them tiny felt bags big enough to hold about 2-3 plastic eggs, and that was it. But this year I got sucked into the Easter aisles at Target and got them real baskets:
I've been collecting a few things here and there to put in them, but when my friend asked me last week what I'm putting in baskets, I realized I better get it all out and see if I have enough, or - more likely - too much stuff.

So in those same Target aisles I was happily surprised to see some toy-filled egg packs in addition to candy eggs. I know it's a marketing racket but I'm the target demographic and I liked them. They had Hot Wheels, Monster Trucks, My Little Pony, and Little People eggs to name a few. We love Little People at our house, so I got a pack of those:
For Christmas stockings last year each girl got a pack of Crayola twisty crayons and they really liked them, even used them up. And all our markers have been dried up for ages, so a couple of new packs of art supplies are always popular. Check out the flip-top markers - perfect for our "I-don't-know-what-happened-to-the-lid" family:
And no Easter is complete without little battery-operated light spinner things. We get them every year and they last a few months and then get broken and thrown away:
Now that we're starting to move out of tights season, the girls need dressy church socks - a perfect Easter basket filler:
And of course no Easter basket is complete without a pointless impulse buy from CVS. I opened it up and tested one - these Bunny Blasters can really shoot far! Guaranteed to get the pieces lost the same day, especially if you take them outside!
And while I don't favor the idea of loading my kids to the brim with sugar, a chocolate bunny is traditional. And if they're getting chocolate, it might as well be the good stuff. Train their palates early. I ordered a couple of these 3-inch dark chocolate "place setting" bunnies from Lake Champlain Chocolates in Vermont.
As I laid it all out and put it all together, everything fit perfectly. I'll probably also throw in an egg or two of jelly beans or maybe a Peep. I think they're nasty but the girls like them and we love Kevin Henkes' book, Owen's Marshmallow Chick, so maybe just for that.
Ed will just get a little bunny. It only hurts my feelings when I make him a basket that goes neglected, so we're all happier this way. And of course I've insured my own excellent basket via the exchange. It arrived yesterday but I'm waiting to open it until Sunday.

So I know this is probably too late to really help any of us, but maybe it can be a resource for next year. Other potential ideas of things that could go in a kid's basket:
  • bubbles
  • sunglasses
  • small toys like Ponies/cars
  • small bag snacks like goldfish/fruit snacks
  • could line it with a new shirt or washcloth instead of plastic grass - I SO don't do plastic grass
  • new toothbrush/toothpaste
  • small bath toys (like duckies from World Market)
  • packets of seeds with mini garden gloves/spade/watering can
  • framed picture to put on their wall/dresser
  • books
  • sidewalk chalk/watercolors/art supplies
  • a new special "quiet" toy for church (we have some of these Magnetic Fun sets and they are gems at church or on plane rides)
  • videos (we are on a Dragon Tales kick here, and also love The Bedbug Bible Gang)
  • music (love Justin Roberts)
  • socks of course (little ones fit in eggs)
  • band aids
  • chapstick/lip balm

What other ideas do you have? What's going in your kids' and spouse's baskets this year?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

We Wii

After I finished Breaking Dawn last week I was once again able to tear myself away from the house and participate in real world social interactions (though now, a week later, I am still trying to catch up on lost sleep.) My cousin Aaron and his wife Katy and super cutey son Reuben invited us over for a "sweet" Family Home Evening.

First, Katy, ex-supreme nursery leader, led a short lesson/discussion on what it means to be "sweet." We went around the circle and said something sweet about the person on our left. Then we moved to the table to frost and decorate a sweet treat - homemade red velvet cupcakes - yum!
Then we did a sweet activity - Wii! This activity was further evidence of our family's lag in technology. I had done one turn on a Wii once at a church activity; Ed had never done anything, and of course neither had the girls. Katy had gone to the trouble (it's actually her favorite part) to make each of our avatars ahead of time, so we were already in the system. First we helped the girls do skiing and soccer:

Ed and I also tried our hands but mostly did worse than the girls and at one point I was downright embarrassed, like I was back in high school gym class, completely athletically inept.

Then Aaron and Katy convinced Ed and I to do a little boxing. The competition was fierce, and all self-consciousness went out the window in our attempt to beat each other down.

It was super close but Ed did knock me out, and the only reason I couldn't get up is because the game is rigged. Now we'll just have to go back sometime so I can make it right. Thanks for a super fun night, Cummings!
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