Saturday, May 27, 2017

Clara's Moana 6th Birthday Party

I feel like I started out the year strong, updating this blog each week, and now here we are almost at the end of May and I am over a month behind.  My other New Year's Resolutions are similarly in shambles.  Time to refocus and recommit!

Anyway, I have some catching up to do and I'm going to start with Clara's recent birthday party, since I have pictures developed from that day that I can share.  

Since both our girls are Moana-obsessed (like most little girls in America I would say), we went with a loose Moana/Luau theme.  Which turned out to be super easy since the party supply store had loads of cheap luau decorations.  I picked up inexpensive grass skirts and flower leis for each guest, along with a plastic coconut shaped cup with a lid and straw that were on sale.  They got to dress up and use their cups and then take everything home as their party favors instead of a bag of candy and other little toys that just get thrown in the trash.  

Scheduling was tricky because there were so many conflicts with a school open house, a school carnival, a classmate with a birthday party, and a day trip to Yosemite all in the same week (aka, all reasons why this blog has been put on the backburner).  So we ended up doing her party the day before her actual birthday, on a Thursday afternoon from 4-6.  Which worked out because we fed everybody dinner and then parents were prompt picking their girls up since we were all going to the open house that evening.  

The favorite activity?  Maybe just free dancing to the Moana soundtrack.  We knew a couple of guests were going to be late thanks to afternoon art classes and soccer practices so we just got started with dressing up and dancing.  Clara got a Moana dress-up dress that she is pretty pleased about.  It's not as cute as the one from the Disney store, but we went with this because it's a one-piece instead of a two piece, having the considerable advantages of being both more modest AND easier for the girls to dress-up in (and clean-up afterwards - one less thing to hang in the closet).  She never even saw the Disney store version, so she is perfectly content with this version.

If you haven't seen Moana, Clara is standing on the arm of the couch pretending its this giant rock in the ocean that Moana stands on when facing down Teh-ka, the lava monster.  She isn't normally allowed to stand on the furniture like this.  

The girl Clara was spinning with is her friend Annalisa.  She is in Clara's Kindergarten class, but she is also the only other Kindergartener in Spanish class and she is doing swim team with Clara this summer.  She is really a sweetheart.

Rose got right in on all the fun.  She refused to wear her grass hula skirt that she had been wearing for days prior to the party because once she saw Clara's Moana dress, Rose's grass skirt wasn't going to cut it.  She was in tears until Daddy put together this special ensemble for her and told her it was "another Moana skirt".  The flower necklace turned into a flower crown was Rose's idea though.  

Once the other friends started arriving, we did a craft, painting rocks with green and blue glittery paint so that they could each have a "heart of Tafiti".  Then we played "Who Stole the Heart of Tafiti" (basically "button button, who's got the button?" with a rock that I had painted earlier.  The girls loved guessing which one in the circle was "Maui" and had stolen the heart.  

Musical chairs was a huge hit because we just played more Moana soundtrack for the girls.  They were all singing their hearts out along with the music as they skipped around the chairs.  Rose was SUPER into it and you could see the gears spinning in her head as she strategically eyed each chair she passed, making sure she didn't miss an opportunity to grab one of the remaining seats before they were taken.  She cried every time she got out and cheered every time she got to play again.    

After games we ate dinner - just slow cooker hawaiian pulled pork sandwiches (made with crushed pineapple - they were only so-so; it was an experiment), pineapple chicken fried rice (fail - it wasn't very good - I need to figure out how to make fried rice better), and carrots, cucumber slices, pineapple spears, grapes, and "ocean punch" (a party punch made with blue hawaiian punch, 7-up, and pineapple juice).  I thought the table turned out really cute.  I just used a plastic tablecloth for easy cleanup and taped a tiki hut type grass skirt around the table, which made it look fancy.  Then I made a centerpiece with a couple of pineapples, some mangoes and kiwi.  And the girls loved their coconut cups.

Presents are always a big hit at kid birthday parties, both for the birthday girl and the kids giving the gifts.  They always crowd around, so excited about the whole process.  It was really cute and Paul and I were especially pleased and impressed that Clara took the time to read each card out loud.  She's become such a good little reader!

Then it was time for cupcakes and candles before parents started showing up.  I was experimenting with cupcake flavors and found a vanilla/white cupcake that I love - the search for a perfect chocolate and yellow cupcake continue though.  I made a bunch, figuring that way I wouldn't have to bake again that night to have some to take to school the next day.  The only fancy thing I did was to color half of the frosting blue and leave the other half white, then put both in a piping bag so that the frosting was piped on in blue and white swirls.  I told Clara they were ocean cupcakes (blue water and white foamy waves) and she was thrilled about that.  I totally skipped the seashell shaped chocolates and graham cracker "sand" crumbs that were in my inspiration cupcakes from Pinterest, but I don't feel bad about it one bit.  I'm cutting myself major mom-slack these days and honestly, I think my family appreciates it since I'm not as stressed about silly little things.

And that was pretty much it!  The day of her birthday was nuts with balloons in the morning, taking cupcakes and juice boxes to school, and the school carnival (in sweltering heat) in the afternoon.  We ended the day with opening her family presents.  

Clara was beyond thrilled with her Moana books and necklace from Grandpa and Grandma Nash, her ukulele and music books from Grandma Cece and Grandpa Russ, a new outfit with tiny wedge sandals from Renita & Judy and my grandparents, and a drawing book and flower press from Mom & Dad and Rose.  Then we had dinner at one of our favorite sushi places where Clara opened all her cards and was beyond thrilled with the servers came and sang to her.  Our servers were totally enamored with her and kept asking, as if surprised, "She like sushi?"  Which she confirmed by expertly using her chopsticks to snag her favorites (she likes it all pretty much, but I the fried softshell crab and the eel are probably her particular favorites).  

It was a great birthday!  We can't believe she is SIX!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Break 2017

For Spring Break this year, we stayed put and Jennie brought her family out to stay with us.  It was so fun and we loved having the Horne's here to visit and explore with us!  They got here on Saturday and the girls were in heaven playing together and sleeping in the same room.  All five of the big girls slept in Clara and Rose's bedroom and that first night it took a long, long time to get them to sleep.  But really after that first difficult night they went down pretty easily the rest of the time.  

Sunday was General Conference and we made cinnamon rolls for breakfast and enjoyed watching conference together as much as we could.  We also took a bit of a break to go over to a local outdoor space with lots of trees and take pictures of the cousins together in the cute shirts and jean shorts that Grandma Cece had picked out for them.  It's no easy feat getting a decent picture of the seven of them all at once, especially with the twins who are just barely 2, but I'm happy with what we ended up with.  Mom - You will have to let me know which ones you like best and what size and I will print these for you.  

We spent Monday at Alameda State Memorial Beach, which I love despite the fact that it doesn't have waves and isn't really a normal beach.  It actually hardly had water this day because the tide was so far out!  But that was a great thing for the girls because they could just splash in the puddles as much as they wanted and at least the weather was perfect for flying kites.  Each of them took turns flying the two kites that we had brought with us.  Clara, especially, loved that activity and spent a long time doing it.  Eventually, we waded way far out until the adults were up to our mid-calves and the girls were about to lay down in the water and "swim" around and they loved that too.

On Tuesday we drove over to Sausalito to go visit Muir Woods.  I love that place.  It's so peaceful and gorgeous there.  We've actually only ever done the main, mostly flat, trail and didn't vary our approach this time since we had all seven girls and knew someone would have to push the stroller back down the flat main trail with the twins in it.  But the upper portion of the trail was fun with the five older girls and Clara spotted something like 8 or 9 banana slugs.  

We picnicked again, like we had at the beach, and it was a good thing because the girls were all complaining about being starving when we finally stopped for food.  Honestly, one of the things I really enjoyed about having Jennie out here was just the act of pulling everything together in the morning and packing lunch with her, talking over what the girls might like, while the girls played so well together in our house.  Anyway, everybody enjoyed sandwiches and chips and berries and juice boxes.

When we weren't off exploring, the girls had a wonderful time just hanging out around the house.  They did Cosmic Yoga together, played dress up, colored, jumped on the trampoline, played with the chickens, sang and danced their little hearts out, and just generally played well together.  One night we even hired two girls from our ward to come babysit all 7 girls while us grown-ups went out to eat in Walnut Creek.  The girls enjoyed watching Moana with the babysitters and the adults enjoyed a nice meal and conversation without having to coax any reluctant eaters!

Since Monday and Tuesday were bigger days with the beach and Muir Woods, we stayed closer to home on Wednesday and just went to Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek which has these fun turf-covered Jack & Jill hills for the girls to play on.  Then we hit up Chik-Fil-A for lunch and did ice cream at Lourdes for a treat in the evening.

We knew that Thursday and Friday were likely to be wet days so we saved the museums for those days of the vacation.  First we went to the Bay Area Children's Museum in Sausalito.  Jennie & Ryan have a pass to Thanksgiving Point in Utah that gets them into hundreds of other museums around the country, so we all got in without paying, which was awesome.  I loved that the museum was set up in refurbished army buildings just below Golden Gate Bridge.  The toddler outdoor area was a big hit with Rose, Adelaide, Kaitlyn and Brigette.  I think they would have stayed there all day if we had let them.

But the girls also liked the jungle/rain forest room and the painting room.  And there was another outdoor play space that they enjoyed playing on after eating lunch.  

On Friday we decided to check out the Chabot Space & Science Center.  It's not the greatest for the younger set like our group, but the girls still had fun looking at pictures (even if none of them could stand still long enough for me to read the fascinating information to them about black holes and stars and rockets).  There was a dark room with purple dots of light that made you feel like you were floating through space (I mean, if you used your imagination) and the girls loved that.  There was also a cheesy movie in the planetarium that the girls seemed to enjoy that was about two kids who build a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and fly past each of the planets in our solar system.  

After the museum we hit up Fenton's for lunch and ice cream sundaes.  Unfortunately, there was a meltdown that happened here that spoiled the fun a bit, but mostly the girls did really well the whole week.

Jennie & her family ended up staying Saturday too because of bad weather and we went to the farmer's market and head cake for the twins' birthday, but I don't have any pictures from that day.  

It was a wonderful spring break and we are so glad that Jennie & Ryan decided to come out and visit us!  Our girls are still talking about how much they miss their cousins!