Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Few Things on Halloween (with bonus videos!)

Not that this comes as a surprise, but Halloween is a big deal in the little kid world. I think the schools are just so happy to have a holiday without any religious conflict (arguably.) I'm not crazy about the holiday myself, but have a reasonable tolerance for its milder side - pumpkins, costumes, and candy. When things get gory, creepy or overly spooky I turn off.

Like my neighbor, who has some kind of zombie chainsaw massacre all set up in his front yard, and which we have to pass walking to and from school each day. Thanks, man. Luckily the girls don't even notice it anymore, due to another neighbor on the walk who has a giant inflatable black cat in their yard - seriously, it is as tall as the house - with sharp teeth, red eyes, and yellow claws. When the wind blows, as it often does in October, the cat looks alive, like it is about to pounce on us, and even I am freaked out. Ginger named it Scary Skip. Again, thanks man.

But mostly it has been a fun couple of weeks. As mentioned in the last post, there was the church party - a simple way to have some fun and see everyone's costumes. Here's the pumpkin we (Ed) carved. We put a rainbow clown wig on it and won "Silliest" in the contest. I spent some time trying to come up with a great couples costume for me and Ed, but most retail adult costumes are hoochie, and I didn't have time to make something, so togas was a default. I want to think of something better, but still easy, for next year. Suggestions? I have more to say on costumes further down.
Friday was really the BIG DAY for us because both girls had school parties, and had to take their costumes. Friday morning we took Hazel to school, came home, and Ed took Ginger to her school while Poppy and I walked back to Hazel's school. We sat in her classroom while they sang us the cute songs they've been learning. Then the moms left and spread out around the block and waited while all four kindergarten classes paraded by in their costumes. So cute. They all had plastic bags and we handed them candy as they went by. It's hard to hand out candy and take pictures but I managed a few. Poppy was a trooper, as it was the first truly chilly day we've had this fall.Then we hustled home, fed and changed Poppy, and headed over to the preschool for Ginger's thing. Parents gathered in the gym and the classes filed in and sat in the middle, facing parents. The music teacher - a gem among gems in enthusiasm - led the kiddos in a Halloween sing-along showcasing all the songs they've been learning this month. I have got to get the playlist; some were fantastic and most I'd never heard before. Then the parents - this time I was toting my 20-pounder asleep in her carseat - went outside and lined up along the sidewalk, again awaiting the costume parade. Here is the music teacher. In case you're wondering, she is "Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate" (which Ginger sings below.)That afternoon I recorded the girls each singing one of their songs.

Friday night was the PTA Halloween party at Hazel's school. Ed took the older girls. They were tired of their costumes so they just delved into the dress-ups and wore whatever. This, to be precise: While they were gone, I bought myself a few precious minutes to unload the dishwasher by sticking cups on Poppy's feet.And finally, tonight they are having a blast handing out candy and pretzels to the trick-or-treaters that come to our door. Again, dressed up from the dress-up bin. That rainbow wig gets around. Honestly, I think passing out is as much - or more - fun for them, especially when they see kids they know.

I know this post is like, forever because of all the pictures and I ramble, but a final word on costumes. They are hard for the uncreative! My mom gets all the credit for Queen Hazel and Mary Poppins - she bought their dresses and Ginger's hat at Unique (best thrift store ever), and sewed Hazel's cape and Ginger's red waist thingy. I think the best costumes I saw this year were:
Baby - Yoda
Kid - Cookie Monster and a Peacock (two different costumes)
Family - Star Wars crew
Couple - Dorothy and Scarecrow

The costumes I hate the most are muscle-y Transformer-y things, and I'm not just saying that because I don't have boys. I am equally sick to death of all princess-fairy blah-blah-blah costumes. We walked a fine line this year with the Queen but next year I will think and plan way ahead, planting seeds deep and offering way different options. I am not creative, but others are and the internet is a wealth of help if I just take the time.

So how did Halloween go for you? What were the best costumes you saw? Any serious candy meltdowns? How about unusual events or traditions? It was a good year. I actually wish it was on Sunday more often.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I haven't been on here for awhile. I've had a few things going on, most of which are over now. Phew.

Phew, Hazel's fall break is over. It was fun while it lasted. Two weeks of kindergartner energy was put to use - a visit from the England cousins, a trip to the zoo, a day at Grandma's, park runs, dentist appointments, and many TV shows, art projects, and baking sessions at home filled our time.
It was good for her to see what the rest of us do while she's at school; dropping Ginger off at preschool was especially hard for her, being the one that drops off and then runs Mom's errands, which is what Ginger did for two years. But we also got her one of those big kindergarten workbooks so she could keep up her reading and writing progress. I also taught her alphabetical order and two-digit subtraction so she stayed busy. But we're all glad she's back in school.

Phew, Ed's hunting trip is over. He was gone for eight days, which I think is the longest he's been gone since before we left Colorado, since before we had kids. It was extremely difficult for me to be supportive of the trip this year, with Poppy not sleeping well, three kids on my own day and night for over a week seemed trying. I feel a little lame saying that, knowing some readers do more kids on their own for more days on a regular basis, but for me this was hard. Poppy continued to not sleep well, and we all go our first taste of good old-fashioned hard-core crying-it-out so I could get some sleep and function the next day. Single parents have no back-up. That said, by the end of the week I really had my game on, probably adrenaline-fueled, and plus I need to shout out a thank-you to those who invited us over to play, eat and visit (and those to whom I invited myself.)

Ed kept his beard, my one non-negotiable condition of the trip, and while the girls and I loved kissing and rubbing it, Poppy was not a fan. It took her awhile to warm back up to him. Oh, and for those who care, the hunt was all he hoped for - great weather, major hiking, several dead animals, blood stained clothes, blistered feet, etc.

Phew, the church Halloween party is over. My friend Shanna and I are the activities committee co-chairs and Halloween is definitely our biggest party, followed closely by Christmas. Halloween just has a lot of little parts, all of which need their own supplies and staff. But it pulled together fabulously: trick-or-treating, cupcake walk, 2-and-under room (with balloons and fly swatters, love it), doughnuts and cider, pumpkin carving contest, ring toss, beanbag toss, pumpkin bowling, disk drop (plinko), story time, and new this year a photo booth set up in the foyer. People's costumes were fabulous and now is as good a time as any to show you ours: Ed and I were in togas, and there is Queen Hazel, Mary Poppins and of course our Poppy the Poppy. So glad that's over. But no time to rest - we are already working on the Christmas party.

Phew, our family photos are in and they turned out well. Thank you Alia! I will do another post soon to show you a few more, but here is a sneak peek:Cute, right?

Phew. Now on to November!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saturday, Part II: Photo Shoot

After a rip-roaring morning at Butler's Orchard, we spent the afternoon getting ready for our family photo shoot with Alia Cardwell. It was a stressful afternoon, to say the least.

The kids all needed a bath and I was way anal about their hair (especially Ginger's) drying properly. Ed and I had stayed up very late the night before figuring out what we would wear (more on that below), and I needed to hem the jeans I was wearing. Which took a lot longer than expected, to get them just right. Meanwhile, Ed had "put Poppy down for a nap" which meant he had laid down with her and fallen asleep. We were running behind!

We got the girls dressed and rushed our showers. I was recovering from a nasty case of pink eye, and worried about that, plus I was planning to blow out my hair carefully with a round brush, you know, like I do once every two years for a photo shoot, but there was just no time so I blowed it carefully straight and hoped for the best. It was a warm afternoon and I was sweating from heat and stress and then had to put on a sweater and apply make-up, trying to not be too pink.

Photo shoots stress me out. Everyone has to look good, including me (I would much rather be behind-the-camera stylist.) And you have to be there on time. And everyone has to relax, smile and behave. It's a lot to ask. While getting ready, on the way there, and during the shoot, I just kept repeating my new mantra. Which I'll tell you about in another post.

Styling the family for a shoot is tricky. I didn't have a plan, and I didn't have a lot of time when we booked Alia, only about a week and a half. So I turned to Tea Collection, which has lovely children's clothes and, unlike many lines, you can buy the same things from size 0 to 12 yrs old. So while I'm not usually matchy-matchy I thought it would be cute and easy to get the girls matching dresses, just this once. And it was cute. Hazel wore jeans under hers, Ginger wore tights and boots and Poppy went bare-legged with Robeez.
However, I don't think we'll do it again. I didn't anticipate the nightmare it posed for me and Ed. If all three girls matched, then Ed and I needed to coordinate with them. But all the time I didn't want to be matchy (you know, like the denim-and-white pictures.) Plus I have wardrobe issues right now anyway, from my special post-baby body. We spent a few hours Friday night trying to figure it out. Very tricky. In the end, there was just a lot of blue, which we all look good in, but it might be too much. Won't know until I see the pictures.

Working with Alia was wonderful. We did the shoot on Theodore Roosevelt Island, with lots of leaves, bridges, and cobblestones as background. She was professional, adaptive, and definitely knew how to work with children, sensitive to their attention spans, and prepared with a goody bag and an awesome barking puppy puppet which caught Poppy's attention and made her smile over and over.She also incorporated my requests, which we had discussed previously and included candids, kid shots and hiding me as much as possible in the family poses. Ed and I feel strongly about sending a whole family picture in Christmas cards (we HATE getting pictures of just people's kids), but that is in direct contrast to me self-consciously not wanting to be in any pictures this year. But I sucked it up, sacrificing vanity for the team, and we shall see.

Of course, Ed always looks good - has he even changed in 10 years? And Poppy couldn't be more perfect with her bald head and sexy legs.
We also got some couples shots, and some of Ed running around playing tag with the girls. On our way back to the cars I was holding Poppy and walking and talking with Alia when I had a thought and asked her to take a picture of us for Poppy's baby book. I don't have a single picture of us together and I'm so happy she complied. Hope I remembered to hold my chin up.

I think the pictures will be great. I hope. I'm a little afraid. But mostly I am so glad it's over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, Part I: Butler's Orchard

I know I waxed ambitious in my October post about all the wonderful things to do in the fall. Truth is, we haven't done and probably won't do most of those this year. Ed is working like crazy, also about to go on his hunting trip, and I don't totally have the three-kids-on-my-own thing down yet.

But the weather was great last weekend and we wanted to do something. We decided to check out Butler's Orchard in Germantown, MD because we'd never been there. Pick-your-own apples was over but they had a fall Pumpkin Festival that sounded perfect.

We got there early and first perused the Farm Market. We bought local apples (four kinds), potatoes, artisan cheese, cherry butter and WOW, my new FAVORITE fall treat, apple cider slushies. They were sooo good I am considering going back (about 45 minute drive) just for another slushie. Though I guess I could make my own. How would you do that? Pour cider in the ice cream machine? Or semi-freeze cider in the freezer and then blend it? Hmm...

Then we drove about 1/4 mile up the road to the Pumpkin Festival which was fabulous. Big slides, hay loft, corn maze, hay rides, crafts, farm animals. Our kids' favorites were the moon bounce...the corn bins...and the rubber duckie derby. Ed and I got a bit competitive at these until I got excited and smashed my finger in one of the pumps. What can I say, I've got skillz.And YAY, Poppy is old enough for the backpack now!!! She was a champ and finally fell asleep against Ed's back. We got ice cream cones on the way back to the car and - horror! - Ginger's fell on the ground. Of all the Hickmans for this to happen to, she is the worst, and threw a mother screaming tantrum for almost a half hour. This is our life. But we tried to salvage the morning by playing singing games and eating apples on the drive home. Gala is still my favorite.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Crazy Box

About 6 or 7 months ago, in my third trimester, I started to panic. What was I going to do with three girls, and one of them a round-the-clock newborn?

So one day I took down all my cute toddler activity books, which had been gathering dust on the bookshelf. Started flipping through. Started jotting down page numbers. Of course all those books have lovely, adorable, developmentally appropriate, clever and oh-so-cute ideas. But I was looking very specifically for activities that require minimal-to-no adult instruction or supervision. Basically, things I can set the girls up with, and leave the room to nurse/pee/cry/collapse/stare blankly at the wall wondering what I came in here for/etc. You know, the usual.

The list became fairly long, so over the next few weeks I compiled them and typed them up into a booklet. While I was at it, also made a list of supplies needed for the activities and started collecting them into a plastic bin. I even unearthed my label maker and put everything in labeled bags and containers.While I was at it, I kept wondering, "Am I wasting my time? Will they go for it?" Most of the activities seemed appealing, but we had never done them before, so you never know.

I finished the box before Poppy was born, and kept it in my closet even after we came home. I wanted to put off needing it as long as possible, but I was also afraid to find out if my work was in vain. Because it embodied a hope, something to turn to when all else fails, and I couldn't quite face it being a failure, too.

But things got desperate and I got over that. Broke it out one afternoon while I was making dinner. The girls were intrigued. Excited. Almost every day they asked for a new activity, but I limited it to the most difficult time of day - late afternoon, while making dinner. Because that's the CRAZY time of day. When they're driving me CRAZY. When I do not have time or energy to think up an activity or hunt down supplies. I need it typed up, in a booklet, with labeled bags of everything I need, ready to go.
Sharpening Pencils

Using tongs to move pom poms into ice cube trays

Hole punching

Moving colored water with eye droppers

Scrubbing coins with a toothbrush

These days, Hazel usually has homework in the afternoon, and we copy it so Ginger can do it too. We've done most of the Crazy Box activities so the novelty has worn off. But there are still some favorites they request on occasion so we keep it close by.

The Crazy Box: an idea that actually worked.Making paper clip chains

Friday, October 01, 2010


Today when I pulled into the parking lot at Ginger's preschool, a pumpkin stand had been set up at one end. A chilly thrill went up my spine, and that was only partly due to the 59-degree weather. It's October.

I'm pretty sure October is the best month. And that is saying something because it's not even birthday month. It starts off right each year with General Conference, which is both spritually and emotionally recharging. It also happens to give us a Sunday off of the normal church schedule, which we really need right now for Poppy's naps.

October is the perfect weather month. Yesterday it was warm and muggy. Today it is crisp and cool; fleece weather. Sweater weather. Fall clothes are my FAVORITE. Unfortunately my post-baby body isn't quite ready for my fall wardrobe, but I am currently ignoring that issue and focusing on how fun the girls are to dress - jeans, cords, tights, sweaters, clogs, skirts. Fabulous. Perfect weather also means lots of outdoor activities - more even than in the summer, when it's just too unbearably hot to actually do anything. That means Cox Farms, RenFest, apple picking, bike riding, playdates at the park, and eating al fresco.

Both girls have school field trips later this month - Hazel is going to the Reston Zoo and Ginger is going to the Potomac Vegetable Farms. And don't forget the blessed extra hour of sleep you get each October (spring forward, fall back.)

Also. While still being fall, October signals the time for me to start thinking about the holidays. We're working on Halloween costumes and the church Halloween party (unfortunately no other trick-or-treating for us this year; it's on a Sunday and we feel not Sabbath-appropriate.) Thanksgiving menus are showing up in my cooking mags and drool, drool. And Christmas, well it's just the right time to start making lists and working on a few small projects, with a "restful December" my goal.

I want to put on a pot of soup and go on a long walk. I want to buy a corduroy jacket. I want to make apple dumplings. I want to watch Ed and the girls play in the leaves...from my perch in the hammock.

And I've got the two best October words for you: candy corn.
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