Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trains Rule, of Course

This is probably total overkill after the last post, but I wanted to take some time to rave about the Griffith park train experience.

Tim has been wanting to check it out for months and for some reason we designated it as a 'special' outing for their birthday. Our plan was to head over for a day trip to the park, but the morning was filled by their Open House preschool event (I will hold off and rave about that later).

So, we headed out more towards the noon hour, directions in hand. I have to laugh because this was my first trip to Griffith park and in my mind it seems miles and miles away, as if we had to plan to get there. In reality it is a thirty five minute drive (sans traffic) and we ended up stopping to eat in Pasadena to let the boys get a little more nap time in their seats.

There are so many things I loved about the place we visited (there are two train parks and we went to the northern one).


It is FREE to enter and use. The only pay part is the tiny train ride that circles the park. The trains are old and huge and accessible for the most part. There is a sense of Time there, walking through all the tracks and rusty parts and slightly smelly old cabs. The passenger car we walked through had real moulding and glass etched windows and hard wood floors.

It had the boys running full tilt back and forth until Owen tried to put his mouth on the window sill and I had to draw the line. History aside, that is just gross.

We took a ride on the tiny train and I think both boys like it, we just had to work a bit on keeping them in their seats. They finally settled in for a bit next to their Daddy and proceeded to point out all the trains we were passing.


The added bonus was once we got off, watching the train from the inside of the park seemed just as fun to them. I loved how all the families riding made a point to wave back at us as they passed, at least the first time round.

Tim pointed out that the conductor of the train was wearing a hat quite similar to Owen's, we did not find Mace's in time but he was not too fond of wearing it anyway, preferring his sun hat instead.

If you are close enough to make the trip, I think it is one of the best places we have been for small children. There is grass to run in, exhibits to see, it is fenced in and safe for the most part (because, really, what can be called safe to any two year old). There is a model train set up with tunnels and mountains, the glass low enough for even our smallish kids.

Okay, one weird thing. When we made our way into the indoor area, I noted twin girls about 3 or so with their parents. They were just getting ready to go, so we just waved. Then I turned to a small train and saw a set of boy/girls twins toddling about, we had a minute to talk to the parents. 17 monthers. Only a minute to talk because theirs discovered the stairs. Which made me remember those months when stairs were scary. Glad those are over. Then at the train window, I noticed two taller boys with the same profile and their Dad and I laughed because that meant 4 sets of twins all in one spot at one time, and not a Twin Club in site. Great minds must think alike?

All in all, it was a fun and pretty quick trip.

We stayed about 2 hours, were home by 430 in time for dinner and opening my sister's amazing gift to the boys with plenty of time for them to play with it. But, that is another post topic, one that deserves it's own spot light. More on that soon.

Here is a good link, like I said, we did the Northern park but have plans to hit up the Southern one soon. That is the one with a mile of track to wind through. Yay.

And we will not be saving a return trip for a special occasion, or maybe we will be making Wednesday a special occasion just to get out there again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Birthday :: Check

Lord, I am tired. Bone weary. But the past week has been one of the loveliest ever. Those boys of ours, we gave them quite a time, running them to and fro and here and there. I doubt a post could cover it so I will use all the pictures as fodder for multiple posts in the upcoming week. We had the pleasure of a visiting Gramma, all the way from Portland. And she loved it just as much as they did.
Trolley Rides
We had our first ride on the local trolley prefaced by a stop at the train depot where the commuter train awed them both as it roared in. We had presents, introduced slowly which the boys quickly learned held some enticing new play things. They got the hang of presents really fast.
The Day

Saturday we had a visit to their new preschool, slated to start in September. And then a momentous trip to Griffith Train park, a wonderland of rusting yet beautiful old locomotives and a train ride on the mini train made famous by the Jerk.(Pictures to come, I promise, Gramma).

And then we finished up their birthday week with a party. I had mentioned in a few posts that I had a lingering guilt due to my avoidance of a one year birthday. I wanted to take the time to make a party happen but I also wanted to avoid any stress, the kind that ramps up as expectations and plans and guest lists grow and grow.

I figured we would invite all the little ones we know and that did not seem like a big number. But along with them come their parents. And then a few more friends, child less but always so great. And then the fam, ah, the fam. Their numbers dwarf the kids. Not really, but there is quite a few family members. So, it looked like 10 or so kids and then lots of good natured adults.

I had fun with the preparations. The sandwich rings were ordered from Claro's, a great little local deli, we can highly recommend them if you need food and are nearby.
Omi and Gramma got in the kitchen and made their signature dishes, hot salsa and gaucamole and tuna stuffed sweet peppers. Mmmm.

That gave me time to make my favorite cupcakes using a recipe that is not too sweet but very delicious. And I had time to try my first real buttercream icing, using SK's simple instructions. And 23 tablespoons of butter. Yum.

And then I tried my hand at coloring and rolling out fondant to dress up the little cakes. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to color and roll fondant. I found it in a prepared package in the cake decorating aisle, added a bit of blue food gel, kneaded it in (with gloves) and cut the shapes with a biscuit cutter. I really like how these came out. And I really like the buttercream icing. Though a few of the kids did not and kept bringing me their cupcakes to wipe them off. I swear I did not eat it. Really.

Favors and stuff
We had a generous giving of presents which the boys were on in a heart beat. Luckily they opened the Thomas stuff first and every other bag paled after those were out. Uncle Alon scored a yard sale find of a classic Hot Wheels track that was a big hit, boys and girls alike.
hot wheels

We met some new little ones, had fun with some old friends and survived the chaos that is 12 little ones under 4 running amok.

A party project I loved was the photo time line where I printed one photo for each month (I mixed some of them up, but whatever, it was all okay).
Party Decor
I loved walking through the year and seeing just how much has changed and so did our friends.

Party Decor
It was fun and would have been easy if my hard drive had not crashed on Friday night (and I had not obsessively tried to gather the photos anyway). I am going to have to save those prints as I am not really sure if I can access any others. (Note to self :: Back up is essential).

A party project that got a lot of laughs was the home made pinata. I contemplated making a truck, then found a brilliant idea. A rock.
Rock pinata

A pinata shaped like a rock. And so that is what we did, my reasoning that they were just going to whack the crap out of it and that they are 2 and cannot be embarrassed yet. It got quite a few laughs and sent our kids into a sugar coma due to the Skittles mini bags.

We had favor buckets filled with bracelets and magnifying glasses and kazoos.

I wish I had audio of the sound of 12 kazoos being 'played' at one time.

We had a little bit of singing, crowns intact.
caking it

We had a little bit of climbing, waiting out the sugar high in the backyard with our friend Zac.
Sugar rush

And we had a little bit of beer with friends as we all laughed at the zany antics of our now two year old boys.
post party

We had a good time. And I think I finally assuaged my whole guilt issue with this party. Now, if I can just get through my 'working' Mama guilt, I think we will all be just fine.

Upcoming events

:: A blow-by-blow account of the train park experience with full recommendations for the locals.

:: Featured artist of the week, my amazing sister and her amazing gift to the boys that blew our minds.

You can get a sneak peek and see all the pictures here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Working It Out

I was going to write their birth story this week. But those words will not seem to flow, the memory of that day is still messy, scary and jumbled in my mind.

Two years ago on a Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. I met our boys for the first time. Our nurse brought them to me and handed me two small boys, perfect and healthy.

Oddly enough that same nurse and I do yoga together every Tuesday and Thursday night, she lives about 5 miles from us and still asks about the boys.

I cannot seem to write about that day 2 years ago but I do want to write about another aspect of motherhood.

A conversation was generated with a few other Mama and non Mama friends regarding motherhood and the preparation for it. I often feel like I had no time to prep. So much of my pregnancy time was devoted specifically to delaying the act of becoming a Mama, keeping them in until it was safe for them to come out.

There was something I read this week that made me feel a bad as a Mama, not the one I am now but the one I wished I had been at the beginning. I had to think about the why of that and realized how internalized I had made that little something that I had just read. It was in no way meant to make anyone feel bad, but it was just the perfect picture it presented and how glaringly un-perfect it made me feel.

It made me want to share something here. I know when I post here it is about my life but those are just slices, glimpses. And sometimes I get comments from people asking how I do it all....that they do not know how it all gets done.

Truth is, it doesn't. The house is not always in order, in fact as I write this I am laying in sand and laundry and cars the boys left on our bed. The toy room is not organized, the door casings are not finished and the pocket door to our hall bathroom has no hardware on it and has not for 3 years. The kitchen is full of dirty dishes, our backyard sliding door gets stuck everyday because it needs to be replaced but but we cannot justify the cost right now even at wholesale price. There are too many shoes piled at the front door, most mysteriously without mates.
Brekky with Opa

The boys hair is rarely combed, sometimes I pretend not to hear them fighting so I can read one more blog post, I stay up too late, their room is nowhere near 'done' and they are almost two and I think I should read to them more and practice their numbers and letters with more consistency...which is hard because all they want to do is play in the sand and water our plants.
Parallel Play

I also know how to take pictures that obscure all these real life details. I am not ashamed of them, it is just that I choose to edit the mess so I do not have to see it in the glaring light.

My Mamahood life is messy, full of grit and sand, broken toys and too much plastic, but then my life has always been a bit messy.
'Water' Play

So as year two comes to a close, I want to remember and I want you all reading to know it is far from perfect. It is cluttered and disorganized, full of plain pasta and food discarded on the floor, occasionally partially chewed. It is up and down, exhausting and sometimes bewildering.
Piano PLay

But I would not change a moment of it. Question my approach? Yes. Learn from my mistakes? Of course. But remember that it is okay as it is, they are perfect as they are and so am I. Always working on that one.

That is the joy of it though. The possibility that we might finish the house projects, bring the garden to fruition and de-clutter our lives. All the while being gifted with the special and precious charge of raising some of the most wonderful and challenging children I have ever met.

But, Tim, seriously? The pocket door needs its hardware. Stat.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Crafting In Order

This week was a nice week for crafting completion. There were a few projects started that I wanted to focus on finishing, there were a few new ideas that sprung forth spontaneously.

I had a great time with the birthday banner though it was a bit labor intensive. First, I gathered my favorite pieces of fabric from the stash. I love the idea of using some cherished pieces and incorporating inherited bits and using them in a fashion that allowed for display. I particularly love this Marimekko scrap from the box of de-stash I scored from the lovely Jennifer at JC Handmade.

Loved it so much I used it for five or so pennants.

Once I had my pieces I cut them into triangles, used a light linen blend in a shocking blue for the back,

sewed them and turned them, ironed on the felt letters and used a 99 cent spool of ribbon to join them.

I love the slight overlap in the pennants, it kept the banner from becoming too long.

The birthday banner is going to become a tradition, used for each person as their special day comes around. With our huge family, that will be quite often so I am totally pleased that I finally cut precious pieces to be included. The personalized banner with O and M's name is just waiting for its uniting ribbon.

I hung the banner to get an idea of the fit and it was up when the boys finished their nap.

I get the greatest feeling when they find delight, and, oh my, were they delighted. It seems like I am batting a thousand with the making for them.

The hats rarely come off their heads, now the banner might actually magically teach them to read. Or at least help them realize the significance of their special day.

The other project is a bit egocentric, but I saw some of the cutest birthday crowns lately and really wanted to finish off the whole hat making theme with a set for the boys.

They could not be simpler, just some felt, blanket stitch and elastic hidden by fabric. I am planning on adding an initial to the front, but will hold off on any bling. Tim is already fed up with the whole tutu thing. Better not push my luck.


I might run of out hat mojo here as the test fit on the boys did not go well. Might have been the felt, or the totally large and ostentatious presence a crown has when you barely reach 2.5 feet. If I can just get them on when the cake/open flame time comes, well I will be happy. With our family luck, I can foresee the boys flinging them at the burning candles and the eco-friendly post consumer waste felt going up in petro flames. If this does happen, I promise I will get it in a picture.

And the last was really more of a deconstruction. Years ago I knitted a Veronik Avery pattern, a lace pattern tank.

It was a miserable failure, wider than long, too much lace panel reveal, the only fail I have ever knitted from this woman. I put it away (for years) not sure why, it was not like I was hoping to grow as wide as I am tall (short?). But I pulled it out the other day, tried it on one last time and set to frogging. It is the same yarn I used for the sweet little faerie dress. And now that I know that I have a use for the yarn (you know, to make more sweet little faerie dresses for you mamas with pretty girls) it gave me the impetus to clip seams and get to pulling out the yarn.

And it was the first time I used the knitty knoddy I had Tim craft for me some time ago.

Knitty knoddy, you ask? Google it. Sure is fun to say and use also.

So, I feel a little adrift, having finished the majority of handmades for their birthday. There still is the pinata to look forward to making, ever do that with your Mom when you were little? We did every year. I was thinking of a truck or other moving vehicle, but then in a search I found the brilliant idea of making a pinata rock. Just a big ol' rock for them to smash to bits. Because they just smash it, you know? So, a rock it is.

I guess I could just sit down and stitch on my 'Bama skirt a bit. Or make one of these. I already have the perfect fabric in my stash (remember the white and green fabric you doled out, Lori? How good, right?). And I want one really bad after the dress success.

And I have to clean. Oh, I have to clean. That has been sorely neglected in light of all the working and crafting and, uh, ignoring. So I guess I should go do that. Ugh.

Have a good weekend, all. And if anyone has a good reference for where to find heirloom melon seeds, I am looking. Gotta' get the garden going now that the raised beds are done. Pictures to come.

(Patricia, there a few pictures of the invite up with a few notes if you would like to see more).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mama Update

This space has been woefully lacking in the news of Mamahood lately, more accurately, in the news of the twins. I have not meant to leave them out rather it seems like so much is happening that there is only time for so much to get squeezed in.

And then what do I say? How can I encapsulate in these posts all that our daily lives have become? They have to be some of the loveliest people I have ever known. Sure, they can be cranky and screechy and a little mean spirited at times. Sure, there are days when the word ‘hang up the towel’ sounds like the best idea ever.
Suited Up

But those memories do no stick. The ones that do are ones the good ones…

Lately we have watching the mythical twin bond develop between the boys. Their new camaraderie is evident hourly. They never were ones to snuggle, share or even acknowledge each other. There were always so many hands to hold them that competition for affection did not present itself. I admit I wondered whether they were ever going to like each other.

About a month ago they started and it has gone from there. All day long I hear Mace calling ‘Owie Owie Owie’ if they are separated for some time. He seeks him out eagerly to share things or just know where O is in the house. He calls Owen’s name so much that Owen has started to refer to himself in the third person, a habit I find delightful. When he climbed into the car solo he announced “Owie Up!” and I witnessed him in the hall the other day studying his foot and declaring “Owie’s toes!”. Oh, how I love the third person in his case.

Now there is so much talking, mimicking and sentencing, words that we are literally unable to decipher on Mason’s part because of his rapid fire delivery. And the explosion of empathy and compassion, that has to be my favorite. When one is sad, the other offers comfort. Quite a lot of the time, actually. They bring each other bits of food and share better than ever before.

We are still referees, but the knock down/drag outs are no longer happening. It really makes me feel good, to see their bond. I have learned that it is not something to push or promote, it just had to come on it’s own.

I think sometimes my accounting of being a Mama is less present here because I am so present in the role itself. Where I used to need to work it out, now it just seems to fit. It took some time, some tailoring to get the fit right, but now that I have it, I no longer seem to need to process it as often. By no means is it easy, I find a daily challenge in the role. But it is comfortable and doubt rarely creeps in, guilt does not rear it’s head.

If anything, I feel a bit of melancholy as I write about my latest recollections. I know it just keeps going, growing, changing and moving away. I know pr-school looms, independence develops further. I think that is why I commit to taking photos daily, not to freeze or capture or print, just to help me recall.

The 30 days project for them has flown by and I have been a bit lax about keeping it all straight. Still, here is a recap of the last few weeks…all pretty much with the lens focused on the boys.

So many other things go on each day, but it is good to capture a ‘twin’ moment of the day. And to think, two years ago they were jostling for space in a too small womb while their Mama focused only on keeping them exactly where they were. It almost seems unreal that these unruly gorgeous little boys once fit in that space. The conundrum of parenting really is Time and where it went. And I guess, where it is taking us all.

There are still questions and considerations. The co-sleep or not. And I am not talking about the two of them in with us. We are seriously considering moving them to a double bed. They slept from 7 until 6 most nights at the cabin with nary a peep. This is a rare thing for them and we are thinking that they really loved being that close. We will just have to see.

Love you, boys. I always love you so very very much.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter :: Enjoyed

I have to say, that was the best Easter I have had in years. Well, it is the first Easter I have had in years. Once my younger brothers grew out of egg hunting, the day became less of a gathering time. It had always been one of my favorite religious holidays. Though I not longer actively practice in the Church I love the idea of a risen Jesus, and the incorporation of the rebirth, such an ancient belief, into our modern day, well, it all made for a good holiday for me.


Now, we are back to Easter due to the boys and it is awesome. Our little Kayda also celebrated her birthday yesterday and we had a gathering of two huge families with bunches of kids and candy and confetti eggs.
Confetti Eggs

All over at my sister's in law's house, so we were totally off the hook for any prep. Now that is a good holiday. There was flying and racing and eating and hugging. And cake.
kayda = one

Mmmmmm, lots of cake.

I knew I wanted to have a little something special for the boys to wear so a few weeks ago I pulled out a languishing project, the little vests I started last summer, and did some finishing.
Candy Faces

The great thing about cotton is you can block the dickens out of it to get it to grow a bit to fit your growing boys. I am so glad I remembered them....they came out just as I hoped. Since we are in conservation mode here, I paired it with some khakis and Easter shoes found for a song at the resale shop. We are not a button down and tie family but this had them looking neat and presentable while still feeling comfortable. (And looking pretty darn cute, I must say...pat on own back)

Me and my Boys

The vests were an improvised pattern, just knit in the round with a row or two of garter stitch in blue, divided for a V neck and finished on the shoulders with a single crochet stitch. The collar is always a little tricky on V necks...I hoped for the best. It barely fit over Mason's head (I tend to bind off a little too tightly), but we got it on. Whew. (I might attempt a pattern if anyone is interested. Interested?)

Speaking of finishing, I did finish my Easter dress, hemmed the sleeves that morning, actually. Finishing is really the bane of my crafting, so hard not to lose steam when little knick-knacky stuff needs to be done. I truly love this dress and I can report that I have never been so comfortable dressed up. I went with a shorter skirt after reading Heather Ross' recommendation regarding hem lines. It hit right at knee cap and with a pair of heels, well, I felt pretty damn good.
Easter shoes

Of course, I could not find a picture of me standing up in the dress. Here is me kneeling as I feed the boy more 'nie-nie' (their word for candy).

Dress :: Worn

The pattern is from Weekend Sewing, it was well written and easy to follow and I still cannot believe it turned into something wearable. I guess there is a little bit of leap when it comes to sewing clothes, hoping it will be just right, be as imagined. This has really boosted my confidence in sewing myself clothes and now there are just too many patterns to count, all crowding into my imaginary queue, clamoring to be made.

But first, these went out today.

Invites to a party for a few special little boys who will be ticking off another year gone by. I am so very happy that I did these, especially after shrugging off a party last year. And I think I will pick up a few extra patients in the next weeks to go to the 'order food from Claro's' fund so I can focus on making instead of feeding...I love to cook but the food we had yesterday was spectacular and I need an excuse to eat it again.

Hope if you Easter, it was good and lovely.