Sunday, April 28, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
I love children’s birthday parties!
On Saturday, Derek & Griffin turned 6, and my friend Alicia (their mom) asked if I would help direct the games for their party that afternoon.
Our friend Amy was out of town on women’s retreat, so I picked up her two youngest kids Noah and Aislynn to bring them to the party. Their aunt Andrea was watching them at their house. Noah is 9 and wasn’t originally on the guest list, but Todd (the birthday boys’ dad) had sad a couple kids had called in sick unable to attend the party, so I brought Noah along too since he has no problem getting along with kids younger than him. Noah is so sweet and tenderhearted, he asked three times if he was really invited when I asked him if he wanted to come too. For a kid that is normally the most distracted and slow to get ready to go anywhere, that kid changed clothes faster than I have ever seen him do it any other time.
We arrived at the party, and I wished Derek a Happy Birthday and promptly asked Griffin why he was at Derek’s party. I love that Todd and Alicia (more Todd’s influence) have raised these kids with such jocularity, so a joke like that didn’t result in tears.
There were three other kids at the party: only child Emma, and brothers Caden (6) and Coleton (4). Emma’s parents were there, but the mom of the other boys wasn’t able to stay for the party. We also had Alicia’s parents Steve & Joann visiting from New York.
I got started with “Pin the Tail on Perry,” a Phineas & Ferb spin-off of the traditional game. I have never seen a whole episode of this show, but I have learned an impressive amount about this show from the kids I hang out with and watch periodically. This game included cardboard Agent P eyes blindfolds instead of requiring us to use a bandana. However, the seal over the eyes wasn’t perfect, so all the kids got suspiciously close to the target spot by just tilting their heads back. After we had let the first kid go, we realized it was too late to change process, so lesson learned for next year. Emma ended up winning.
Then we moved onto some variant of Bingo with monsters. This apparently referenced another T.V. show because the kids knew these monsters by name. Spaces were called to mark off by rolling two paper-fold-yourself dice: one with the BINGO letters (plus a wild) and another with the six different monsters represented. Noah won the first round. A couple kids cleared their boards in defeat before we could announce that we’d keep going for 2nd, 3rd, etc. places (Todd and Alicia had a lot of prizes). So we played again. Emma has the potential of being a professional gambler. She was jones-ing for another win. Every roll was “I just need [“G” and “Cy(clops)”].
Then we brought out the cakes. Derek’s was a Captain America cake, and Griffin’s…I can’t remember. It might have been baseball themed. Both were white cakes, but Derek’s had strawberry filling and Griffin’s had raspberry. I made sure we got pictures of just the cakes and then the boys with their cakes before I started cutting into them. Todd loaded the ice cream while I did the cakes. Since I didn’t have any kids coming home with me, I let every kid have a piece of each cake if they wanted it. I don’t normally try to sugar kids up, I just rationalized that I’d burn off their energy later. Even with feeding the adults, we didn’t cut more than halfway into each cake. The most phenomenal statement of the day came from Noah, “I’m full.” All of Amy’s kids are ravenous eaters, but Noah probably out-eats the other three and is still pretty lanky. I’ve never heard him admit defeat to more food before. So now I know the formula: one scoop of ice cream and two pieces of cake.
We let the kids run around for awhile so that we could clean up the food. It took some maneuvering, but I am pretty impressed with how I got the cakes non-precariously into Todd & Alicia’s fridge.
Then we brought the kids back to the table to watch the boys open presents. I have finally come to the realization that I don’t need to buy presents for every kid’s birthday party. I hate shopping, and I never know what they want, and if I did, a grandparent is probably already getting it for them. And parents don’t want more needless toys around. So I just like to help out with the party and occasionally throw kids up in the air and catch them.
When that was done, we took the kids out to the empty field adjacent to Todd & Alicia’s property to play kickball. Coleton wasn’t playing, so I split the kids into two teams of three and then put Emma’s dad and myself each on a team. For the most part, the kids did pretty well kicking from my pitches. Except Emma, who I later learned has never been exposed to sports. Every encounter was a meltdown moment, from kicking to base-running. Because the other kids were all pretty patient it was easy to coach her through next steps, but she did not like getting tagged out and that resulted in running over to mom. We finally got her on board with running to each base in the proper order, and each arrival was met with an out-of-breath choking through tears. Noah was a solid kicker and even beaned me square in the face all the way out past second base.
The kids made it through two innings and then were all clamoring for shade, so we took them back to Todd & Alicia’s backyard (they have a huge covered semi-enclosed patio with fans that stays really cool.
That was the end of official activities, so the kids just played from that point. Todd and Alicia have a huge yard with a lot of cool things to entertain kids. They played with their party favors, the boys’ presents (including a rocket launcher that resulted in Todd doing some roof retrieval), and over at the goldfish pond. Emma and Caden & Coleton left soon thereafter. At one point, Derek came running up to me to report that Aislynn had said “D*mn.” I called her over in a lecturing voice only to see her arrive in sobbing tears proclaiming that it was an accident. For as rough-and-tumble as she is with her brothers, she turns sensitive and feels remorse pretty quickly if she really knows she’s done something wrong. She’s a pretty open book, so I know it authentic because she will still claim it’s an accident but tries to pull off the cutesy “I was just kidding” if she doesn’t feel remorseful. So I made sure she knew that I still loved her, wanted her to speak better words, and we decided “Oh shoot” or “Aw shucks” would be a better choice the next time she’s going to blurt something out.
My kids were having fun playing with the birthday boys, so I just stayed to hang out & talk with Todd, Alicia, Steve & Joann. I figured Andrea would appreciate the break. We ended up ordering pizza, so Alicia picked up the pizza while I went out for some paper plates from the dollar store. It was hard to get the kids to stop playing and eat, but they finally did. We had a small incident where Aislynn ran up to say that Noah fell and “wasn’t kidding this time.” I ran over to find that he had fallen through the jungle gym and was lying in the fetal position on the grass. I lifted it off him and he was able to crawl out. I checked his visual tracking and overall mobility, and he appeared fine, so he got right back to playing.
The party started at 2p, and was scheduled to end at 4p. We ended up going home around 7:30p. Now that’s a happenin’ 6th birthday party!
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
When we pulled into Fresno, I had energy. After unpacking and distributing kids, I headed home and started moving. I committed to sub in a Spades group that evening. Laundry was put in baskets ready to run a couple loads through. Car was cleaned out. Did a little yard work.
Spades was fun, except that there were seven of us subs, so I didn't get to see a lot of the regulars I was hoping to. We play 12 hands of Spades (in three rounds of four hands) in a night. First round, pretty low score. Second round, awesome score. Then, on hand 3 of round 3, the fatigue started to set in. I barely made it to the end.
I stuck around (we were playing at Amy's house) to hold Krissy for a little while, and Amy and I talked a little more about the trip after everyone else left.
As I started to drive home, I remembered I had nothing "easy" in my fridge for a quick breakfast the next morning, so I forced myself to make a stop at FoodMaxx for some milk and toaster waffles.
I came home and crashed.
I woke up and showered.
Easter was wonderful. My Fresno church abandoned their Sunrise service this year (maybe taking the hint that I hadn't attended once in my ten years of being here). They inserted a brunch in between the two morning services, pulling 1st service back to 8a from normal 9a, and making both services shorter. Marie Callendar quiche, apple turnovers, strawberries, cereal and orange juice. Made that FoodMaxx stop totally unnecessary. Oh well.
It turns out we had a two-part Easter musical. I had thought it was all on Palm Sunday and I had missed it being in Mexico, so that was a pleasant surprise. I was a little antsy listening to the mini-sermon that followed, but I think that was due to over-stimulation from the trip and trying to get back to regular life.
I went over to Craig & Sarah's for Easter lunch. They have a very laid back home, so much so that they know if they don't see me for awhile, I'm upstairs taking a nap. They also had his parents, her mom, her sister & bro-in-law & 2 kids, and Katie & her family from Modesto over for the afternoon, along with their three kids (Bailey 13, Matt 11 and Torin 2). And Darrin, a church friend of Matt's, had been dropped off to spend the night. Awesome mix of people.
Craig put his slack line up, and a few of us tried it. I haven't been on one since Bijan's 2nd birthday in August, and Craig's is a bit higher off the ground. I was expecting the overhead guide rope to be taut, so when I slipped off the slack line and hung on to the rope, I was very surprised to get the wind knocked out of me as my back slammed into the dirt instead of doing some in-air acrobatics.
Craig had a pile of dirt in the front yard. Best thing in the world for boys, he told me. Matt and Torin had been playing in it for three days, and now Darrin was enjoying it too.
Craig BBQ'd tri-tip and asparagus, and Sarah cooked pilaf and green beans on the stove. Three desserts: Shelly's (Craig's mom) banana pudding pie, Amy's (Sarah's sister) lemon cheesecake with gingersnap crust, and Sarah's peach pie. All delicious, but I think I liked the lemon dessert the best.
When Torin needed to go down for his nap, Craig carried him past me to show that even Uncle Karl thinks naps are a good idea. Melts my heart to hear Torin say "Unctle Tarl."
Katie's family got back on the road to Modesto, Amy's family and the parents all left, so it was just Craig, Sarah, their kids, Katie and me. Craig showed me some new things he had been doing on his property (he and Sarah just purchased this huge lot a year and a half ago). Some lightning showed up in the distance, promising more rain, so Craig pulled in or covered tools and equipment. We talked about playing a game of Settlers of Catan, but the lightning show became more fascinating. Katie, Craig & I climbed up on his turn style of pull-up bars he had built out by the chicken coop. They lightning was still pretty far off, so we figured we were safe for awhile.
We all talked for awhile longer, Katie left around 9 and I left around 10. I was glad I had taken Monday off work as well.
Now Monday morning, I have finally turned on my computer to catch up on life. 100+ work e-mails have poured in, I received an "A" on the seminary paper I turned in last week, I learned that Fred went into and was released from the hospital, and I'm slowly working through bills and e-mails.
I kept a shorthand journal of the week in Mexico. Now I will attempt to turn it into one of my traditional travel journals, but we'll see how that goes. I filled up about 3 pages of a composition notebook each day just in my bullet point reminders. Some highlights from the trip:
- Enjoying God make me eat a "never" in working with junior high students
- Being lauded as an awesome driver in the eyes of the kids (and even adults) in swerving across two lanes of traffic to make our exit when the caravan didn't properly plan space for me to get back over, changing positions from caboose to lead car as we exited the freeway.
- Learning to be flexible through the MANY glitches in our construction efforts to transform some dilapidated bathrooms into showers at the church we were helping
- Getting to know our junior pastor Lee & his wife Bri better and being even more excited about them overseeing the youth in our church.
- Being blessed and prayed over by the pastor and his wife after a week of serving with them
- Getting pulled over by la policia due to a misunderstanding of traffic signals in Mexico and ALMOST having to go down to the Mexico police station.
- Feeling enriched and spiritually strengthened from a dynamic chapel speaker that had a gift for reaching both adults and junior high students
- Getting flagged for 2nd stage inspection (full car x-ray only, not bag search) coming back across the border
- Seeing my parents and sister on the last leg of the trip home
- Maintaining my 100% return-rate on children entrusted to my care