Tuesday, September 29, 2015

a (semi-) Pinteresty second birthday party.

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Fine. FINE. I did it. I threw my daughter a Frozen birthday party. I went against my pre-parenting anti-mass-marketing philosophy and indulged in Rowan's love for all things Elsa.

BUT, here's the caveat: It was only barely recognizable as a Frozen birthday party. The Pinterest ideas, they were a-plenty (and a-dorable), but I did my best to keep it low-key. It helped that (a) Rowan's only two, and her standards for "birthday party" aren't too high, and (b) we only invited family, so there wasn't a horde of children to entertain - i.e., no games or entertainment to plan. Just a few decorations on the walls, food and drinks for all, and we were good to go.

Not gonna lie, though...I did love the few Pinteresty things I did incorporate. J.J.'s assertion: "I'm not sure why you fought the Frozen theme at all. Our whole house is already Frozen colors." Truth. In fact, pretty much the only decoration I bought was a spool of turquoise metallic mesh ribbon, which we draped across the ceiling and mantle:  

I suspended a turquoise paper lantern (leftover from our wedding) in the middle of the mesh ribbon, primarily to disguise the fourteen layers of painter's tape I had to use to keep everything attached to the ceiling. We used paper streamers for last year's birthday party, and it turns out paper sticks to the ceiling with painter's tape much better than mesh ribbon. The whole thing fell down a couple times the night before the party. Ah, well. Rowan's assessment of the decorations, when I told her it looked like Elsa's ice palace: "Yeah! Like Elsa! And it's sparkly!" Thumbs up for easily-pleased two-year-olds.

I also filled four mason jars (which I already owned) with iridescent shreds and made little snowflake wands to put in them. My sister-in-law, a much craftier soul than I, owns a magical Cricut that allows her to cut out any shape she wants. She made vinyl snowflakes that we stuck on the windows, and also some cardstock snowflakes, which I used for the wands. Oh, and she made that kick-ass Elsa decoration (seen below), which Rowan is obsessed with.

As for food, we picked up pizzas for dinner (pizza is Rowie's favorite), and had some snacks out beforehand - fruit, veggies, crackers, pretzels, and a few different dips (all to be served on Frozen-themed plates, of course). I also served donut holes - partially because they could double as "snowballs," and partially because donut holes - and pickles, because the birthday girl looooooves pickles.

When she saw all the food laid out, she squealed and said, "Rowie pickles!"

Oh, and...I made "Elsa juice" (blue Hawaiian Punch + Sprite). It was a surprisingly big hit, but I think that's mostly because I forgot to tell my sisters that there was beer in the fridge.

And then there was the cake. Holy moly, my mother-in-law hit this one right out of the park. She mentioned awhile back that she wanted to make an Anna and Elsa cake for Rowan's birthday, and I envisioned a little cake with a picture of Anna and Elsa on it. Instead, THIS is what we got:

UNREAL, right?! She even drew frosting flowers on Anna's skirt, and there were little sugar crystals all over it. Plus, it was delicious. Oh, AND there were little cupcakes that went all around the base of the cake (I didn't get a good shot of those, but you can see them in the picture below) that were decorated with blue sprinkles and little Olaf stickers. We strayed from the Frozen theme and served the cake on Spiderman plates...mostly because I had forgotten to get dessert plates, and when I went back to the store, they didn't have any Frozen ones left, but also because Rowan adores Spiderman.

Rowan was extra-sweet when everyone sang Happy Birthday to her - she reached for me and wanted to hold hands. She did the same thing on her actual birthday when we sang to her - held my hand - and it just made me melt (Frozen pun unintended), because I can pretty much guarantee that she'll never want to hold Mama's hand during a rendition of Happy Birthday again...she'll be too old and independent. I'll soak up that kind of love as long as she's giving it.

All in all, a very happy birthday party for a very happy girl. My family was so wonderful and generous and loving to Rowie, and I'm so lucky that they're all chill and fun to be around. I did have a tough moment later that night. We were giving Rowan her bath and chatting about her party - we were talking about everyone who came, Gramma and Aunt Mari and Baby Emmett and Grandpa, and she paused and said, "No Obee. Obee busy?" I flashed right back to my mom holding Rowan in her lap during Rowie's first birthday party, playing with her new toys, and I just didn't know what to tell my girl about why her Obee wasn't there. 

The blessing, though, was that I made it through the actual party without dwelling too much on my mom's absence. I was grateful for a house full of family and a girl full of joy. Plus, we partied pretty hard, as evidenced by this picture:

Yep, that's Anna and Elsa, straight from popping out of the cake, still covered in frosting and doing god knows what with that sharp knife. Good thing the birthday girl was in bed before these shenanigans started.

One last thing...we finally let Rowan watch the actual Frozen movie this weekend (special thanks to Aunt Amanda, who hooked us up with the DVD!). She played with toys during the whole thing and lost interest for a little while about three-quarters of the way through (though she came back strong for the ending), but her tiny mind was blown when she first saw her heroines on the big(ger than an iPad) screen:

My favorite smile of hers - sheer pleasure. Also of note: the tiny Frozen figurines in her hands.
When "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" started. *mind blown*

And so this concludes the ridiculously detail-intensive series on Rowan's second birthday. For now. Until I find some other pictures from the weekend that I feel compelled to overshare. /FIN

Monday, September 28, 2015

and just like that, she's two.

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Rowan's birthday weekend = complete, and completely awesome. And apparently worthy of more than one post, since I took ten flajillion pictures that ALL MUST BE SEEN. (Kidding, I won't post all of them. Maybe three percent. So, still two to three blog posts.)

To start her birthday, my girl slept the latest she's ever slept before - 8:10 a.m.; and no, I will not round down to 8:00 a.m., because this is a small miracle in our household. J.J. and I actually woke her up, fearing that she wouldn't nap that afternoon otherwise. We rubbed her back and sang Happy Birthday, and she was seventeen emotions at once: tired, happy, confused, excited, proud...adorable.

After a quick breakfast of her favorite oatmeal, Rowan and J.J. (who had the day off) went to "The Kroger" to get birthday balloons, and we took some sweet pictures in the backyard, just like last year. Rowan was...let's say more toddlery about the photo shoot this year. Less cooperative, more apt to wander away shouting NO NO NO. It lasted about four minutes, but we got some good ones in those four minutes.

Then we took off for Rowan's birthday adventure: a ride on the "blue bus" - the University of Michigan commuter bus line. This was J.J.'s idea, and it was perfect for Rowie. (No surprise here...J.J. is the best gift-idea person ever.) She loves vehicles, especially the blue bus, and she's been talking about the blue bus ride she took during Art Fair ever since July. The wonderful thing about newly-two-year-olds is that the ride itself is the exciting part - no need for a fancy destination. There's a happy little metaphor in there for you. 

We had to switch busses at one point, and Rowan made J.J. help Curious George walk down the sidewalk, which was so cute. The funny thing is, she doesn't even have a huge attachment to this particular Curious George doll, but she was insistent that he come with us on our trip, and she clutched him close the entire time.

After our blue bus ride, we went back home to open presents from Rowan's California cousins (which were awesome, awesome presents), and my dad stopped by to play with the birthday girl. Is there anything sweeter than Rowan pretending the grooming glove from her new horse is actually Elsa's glove, and Grandpa singing "Let It Go" to his granddaughter while brushing the horse's mane? If there is anything sweeter, please. Show me.

Thankfully, sleeping in didn't disrupt Rowan's nap - which I had to photograph, because she fell asleep cuddling a green dish towel from the kitchen. ??? Toddlers can be awesome.

Green Dish Towel, snuggled right between Rowan and Baby Grace
(who is named after one of our friend's new little baby girls).

When she woke up, the three of us headed to Island Park, which is next to the apartment complex where J.J. and I lived for the first six years we were together. There's a river, a few bridges, a huge climbing structure, swings, and plenty of dirt, rocks, and trees.

Rowan was convinced the ducks wanted to share "just one Cheddar
Bunny." The ducks were totally grossed out when they tried it.

Pretending to be Elsa in the Ice Palace. Not pictured: ice-shooting sound effects.

I tried to take some pictures of Rowie with her birthday balloons on one of the bridges, but she was absolutely NOT in a picture mood, and the wind made getting a decent shot of both Rowan and the balloons impossible. We did end up with a funny series, though, when Rowan pulled the balloon bunch down on herself and disappeared, and then the wind almost blew the whole bunch over the railings...

And J.J. made me pose with the balloons, too, so I could understand firsthand why Rowan was uncooperative. They were right; I felt like a tool. BUT BALLOON PICTURES. SO CUTE. (WITH BABIES. NOT THIRTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLDS.)

J.J.'s mom joined us for a birthday dinner at Noodles & Co., which is Rowan's favorite non-pizza restaurant. She would have preferred pizza, but since that was the menu for her birthday party on Sunday, we tried to vary it up. By offering her a different combo of carbs, cheese, and red sauce. Oh, well, she loved it - and then we got to go home for cake. 

Rowan was super excited for the cake. Somewhere in between her baby cousin's birthday in early May and her older cousin's birthday in late July, she gained comprehension of the whole "birthday cake" schema: sit down, everyone sings, make a wish, blow out the candles, eat up. She and J.J.'s mom made and decorated the cake together, and Rowan was so proud of the frosting (she chose yellow), the rainbow sprinkles, and the two dozen candles she poked into it. And even though we practically had to convince her to touch her cupcake on her first birthday, she had apparently spent her second year of life preparing to dive in to this cake: 

My lucky girl got to open a present from Gramma after we devoured the cake: a balance bike, the Velo Twista. We headed right outside to test it out, and it. was. love.

Rowan has five? six? different riding toys in our garage, but this is her favorite, bar none. There aren't any pedals, which is great since (a) her legs are too short to reach most pedals, and (b) she doesn't quite have the gross motor skills to pedal yet. Instead, she uses a combination of pushing with her feet and coasting while balancing to make it go. When she gets a little better at it, we can adjust the back wheels so that she has to rely more on her balance. Rumor has it that kids end up transitioning directly from balance bikes like this one (which is also height-adjustable, so it'll still work for her as she gets taller) to a two-wheeler without training wheels.

When we finally pried her off her new bike, my sweet two-year-old took a bubble bath, snuggled for stories, and went to bed. And J.J. and I collapsed on the couch and congratulated ourselves on surviving another year of parenthood relatively intact.

Who knows what Rowan's third year of life will bring, but no doubt there will be adventures, craziness, and love. And balloon photo shoots, because I'm all about picture traditions, and because awwww:

Rowan Sophia, 9.25.14. Age one.
Rowan Sophia, 9.25.15. Age two.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

dear baby, now you're you.

Dear Baby,

Two years ago today, I wrote about how excited I was to meet you, and about all the things I couldn't wait for you to experience - the marrow-of-life things, the experiences that might sort of slip by, but that still add up to a solid foundation that states, "You're doing this right." One of the many things I love about you is that you've opened my eyes to a million new marrow-of-life moments, both of your own and of mine - ones that have come my way courtesy of you.

You help me live deeply, too, to continue in the Thoreau theme. In general, the things I do - well, I love having done them. Painting a room? No fun. Having painted? Ahhh. I love having cleaned, I love having weeded, I love having cooked. But with you, I love the moment. I live the moment.

I'm feeling a little too verklempt to really discuss the fact that you turn two years old tomorrow. (Also tired...you woke up last night with a horrible cold and only wanted Mama, so I slept from 3:30-4:30 a.m. That's it.) Instead, I'll let some photos do the talking - photos of you living deeply, just in this past week.

Warm autumn wind catching your umbrella and taking you by surprise.

Swinging with your eyes closed...a new adrenaline rush.

Blowing dandelion fluff ("Like blowing happy birthday candles, Mama!").

Riding a tractor on our return trip to Three Cedars Farm. You got your first
bee sting, but you told me through your tears that the tractor "poked" you.
I'm letting you believe it was the tractor so you aren't afraid of bees. :)

A look of supreme pleasure as you wait for a train ride to start.

Brushing donut sugar off your pudgy hands (photo courtesy of Stephanie!).

Burrowing into a bagel, wearing your new favorite skirt (made with love by
Gramma) and your new favorite polka-dot tights (or "biiiig socks," as you call them)
(actually, you say a hard "K" sound in place of the first "S" of socks, soooo...).

Thank you, Baby, for being you. I'm so glad I know you now. You are Rowan, and here's one of our favorite games:

   Mama: Rowan, I love you soooo...

   Rowan: MUCH!
   Mama: And every...
   Rowan: DAY!
   Mama: And all...
   Rowan: DA TIME!
   Mama: Because you're...
   Rowan: MY BABY!

Again, Thoreau: "Living is so dear." Especially with you. Happy almost birthday, Rowan.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

yes, Michigan! (but mostly donuts and cider.)

Truth: The frigid, gray weather that comprises at least five out of twelve Michigan months is the worrrst. Uncalled for. Enough to make you hightail it to a state with a more temperate climate, to a city that isn't overcast for literally more than half the days of the year.


Also truth: Spring, summer, and especially fall are glorious here. The weather these past couple weeks has been perfection - cool mornings, hot afternoons, and sunny skies. J.J. and I know better than to waste beautiful autumn weekend days inside, and we plan to take Rowan on an unofficial donut tour of the Ann Arbor area this year. You know. For her sake. For donut research. 

So we trekked out to Three Cedars Farm in Northville today, and we had such a good time. This place is unbelievable - dozens of mini-attractions (a wooden train, silo slides, farm animals, a corn box, toddler-sized tractors) that are all free. FREE. J.J. and I were (cynically) blown away that we could have experienced everything we did today without paying a dime, if we wanted. (We did pay some dimes for donuts and cider, of course, but even those were totally reasonably priced.) Rowan's tiny mind was blown, too, by all the fun stuff to do.

I really had to restrain myself from swan-diving into this corn box.

She wanted to take all the tractors home with her. Alllll the tractors.

Taking flight from a giant hay bale.

There were real pigs, too, but this one was more ride-able.

She loved hopping from car to car on the wooden train, driving it, and ringing the conductor's bell.

Here's the cheesy smile she flashed every time I asked her smile for the camera.

The donuts and cider didn't disappoint. There was a long line (no surprise, since it was sunny and 70 degrees on a Sunday afternoon), but it moved quickly. This lucky girl was thrilled.

And the cute rocking chairs outside of the Cider & Donut Hut were perfect for snuggling:

That's a happy yell :)

{Edit: Found the pic below from last year's cold, wet trip to the same place with my new-mom group! Look how leeeetle!}

Since Three Cedars Farm doesn't charge you to enter (although it does have some attractions - a train ride, hay rides, corn maze - that cost a few dollars per person), it was basically like stumbling on a beautiful, fall-themed public playground. I'm pretty sure J.J. plans on bringing Rowie back every weekend until the snow flies. 

I don't think she'll mind.

Happy Sunday, everyone. Hope your weekend was restful, sunny, and providing of donuts and cider. We're gearing up for a week of birthday celebrations around here!


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