Sunday, June 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Quinn

Summer is here - and boy has it come on fast this year! June is moving at break-neck speed towards July and I have yet to write my baby boy a 1-year birthday post! And I was doing so well with those monthly things... sigh. So instead of writing that post NOW I'll write a post about his first birthday party - because there are lots of fun pictures of that.

We held the party the week after Quinn's actual birthday on May 16th. There were some family conflicts on the 8th, it was the day before Mother's Day and we just weren't all that ready yet. Having it the next weekend worked out beautifully as everyone was able to make it AND we got really awesome weather. What a nice change to not be planning a party while worrying about snow emergencies.

Ma-Ma and Yeh-Yeh drove up for the occasion and there was full representation from the Masterson/Furtado side. All three of my first cousins were here with their kids! That was particularly awesome - we hadn't all been together since my Grandmother's funeral and I hardly remember anything about the weeks surrounding that event. I hadn't seen their kids in a LONG time either - they've all grown up so much. Lily really enjoyed spending time with all of her older cousins - she spent a lot of time hanging out with Ryan and Emily, the oldest of the gang. I'm only sad that we weren't smart enough to try getting all of them together for a group cousins time!

A couple of days before the party I happened upon the copy of "What to Expect the First Year" that my health insurance company had sent me when Quinn was born. So I decided to flip to the "Twelfth Month" section to see what it had to say. Turns out there's a big subsection titled "THE FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY". I found the following advice there:

  • "Keep the invites light" - hmmm so maybe, in their opinion, 40 people was a bit many?
  • "Ditto the decor" - well that one was easy since I'm WAY not together enough to have a theme or anything.  Just some balloons scattered around the apartment.  Cool - now I can pretend I did that on purpose
  • "Time it right" - I put in SOME effort here, but they say to keep it short "an hour and half at the most" and well I knew we'd have folks here much longer than that.  
  • "Let her eat cake: but make sure it's not the kind of cake she shouldn't eat" - we had a yummy cake from Lyndell's with about 2 inches of thick yummy frosting.  Take that WTETFY!
  • "Don't send in the clowns" - (no organized party games or performers) - again, my lack of organization skills along with my steadfast belief that baby/toddler birthday parties should be simple, fun affairs kept me in their good graces.
  • "Don't command a performance"  - here's where they tell you not to expect your one year old to take their first steps AT THE PARTY.  Really? Do people expect that? 
  • "Record it for posterity" - here's where I get self-referential, or recursive, or something

So despite pretty much failing on the whole "first birthday party" thing according to the good folks at WTETFY we had a pretty freaking awesome time.  Quinn had a blast and was never "over-stimulated" or "over-tired" or "spending much of his celebration in tears" (all things that WTETFY was very concerned would happen).  I guess we squeaked by since we omitted the clowns - PHEW!  He loved all the attention and charmed everyone in sight.  He also loved the cake.  And now.. pictures (also, more here)

Ma-Ma and Grammy showing off the spread.  As usual we had a mix of yummy stuff: grinders from Fall River, dumplings, chicken wings, salads, some yummy pork dish that Gordon created, and on and on...

Quinn - looking kind of like he should be the photo near "keep invites light" in WTETFY.  I swear he had a MUCH better time than this photo would lead you to believe.  But he's still cute even when looking slightly concerned about something.

The First Birthday Cake (contains no unsweetened fresh whipped cream, carrots or bananas.. oops)

Too interested in the cake to notice the big birthday kiss from Uncle Eric

Still. Eating. Cake.

Post-party, getting a ride in his new wagon from Jeh Jeh

Birthday boy and his big sister

Back at home, going through the birthday loot together.  Note that Lily is wearing his brand new Thomas rain coat.  She wore it for the next two days or so - Quinn seemed oblivious happy to share.

Happy Birthday Baby Boy!!

Camping: Harold Parker State Forest

Keeping with the tradition of our new and improved "extreme Happy Hours" we decided to take it on the road and try a group camping trip.  We started planning awhile ago and by go-time had 6 families comprised of 12 adults and 11 children.  We decided on Harold Parker State Forest because it's pretty low commitment.  It's located in Andover, only about 30 minutes from Somerville and the state forest is pretty much right in the middle of civilization - very easy to pop out in the morning for a Dunkin Donuts run or whatever.
All this beauty - just a short drive away

The trip started out for us with the usual level of "argh! why is it so damn hard to leave the house" followed by a nice dose of "crap! why did google maps recalculate the destination and send us to the middle of nowhere North Andover when it transferred my link to the iphone."  But once we got through the hurricane that is me trying to pack for any trip never mind one during which I need to LIVE OUTSIDE and after we determined that navigating by the sun and stars would have been far more effective than trusting in the combination of google and our iphones we arrived at the campsite ready to go.   The upside of getting completely lost trying to get there is that we felt like we had gone much farther from home then we actually did.

We had sites that were located right next to each other - except for the poor couple that somehow ended up with us on either side of them.  We used one site as the main "group site" and mostly ate/hung out there.  I was definitely nervous about the trip before we left, but it turned out SO. AWESOME.  The six families worked together pretty much perfectly.  Elizabeth and Bob are "camping at music festival veterans" and came equipped with a screen house, pop up kitchen area and other fun camping toys.  Bob played his steel guitar for us - and boy is he good at that.

Bob and his awesome steel guitar

Gordon manned the grill and kept the food moving along.  Lauren and Roger brought S'mores and kept the kids entertained with some fishing.

 Lauren with Jane, Ella and Zoe

Stephanie kept the kids entertained with plays and stories and a ton of other child-entertaining talents that I do not possess while Joe kept the rest of us entertained with his dry? quirky? sense of humor.  Ted went hiking with Quinn on his back, Wyatt in the Bjorn and little girls holding on to either hand, while Kristi kept us snacking with a bunch of yummy lunch goodies.

 Ted and Wyatt

Al brought along a kayak and took the girls for rides on the lake and went out each morning to forage for Dunkin Donuts coffee to go with the scones I brought along.   It was teamwork and community child-wrangling at its finest.

Al and Marlena in the kayak

Marlena entertaining Lily and Gail with tomato puppets

One of my favorite moments of the trip was on Saturday morning - Quinn fell asleep at his morning nap time on Ted's back in the hiking backpack.  I transferred him to the Ergo and sat down on Gail's cool anti-gravity chair.  He decided to keep sleeping for nearly two hours.  Pretty much everyone else had gone off to hang at the beach area and play in the water, so I was there alone.  I lay back with him on my chest, looked up at the trees above me and just enjoyed the stillness.  It was so wonderful to feel the weight of his no-longer-so-tiny body lying on my chest and the cuddliness of his pudgy arms and legs.  I listened to his breathing, closed my eyes and tried to hold on to the moment as long as I could. 

We also managed to have great sleep karma while we were there.  We set up our 9'x9' tent and it fit our air mattress, Q's pack and play and Lily's pea pod travel tent.  So we were all in the same tent, but everyone had their own separate sleeping area.  (I know - we weren't exactly "roughing it", right?)  Last time we went camping - when Lily was about 18 months old - sleeping was somewhat of a nightmare.  I'm convinced that bringing the pack and play this time was the magic that we needed. We'll test that theory when we go camping again at the end of July (stay tuned!  ooo how exciting....)

So let's see - what else happened..  We were visited by a family of geese - not very shy geese.  At one point Lily was sitting in her camp chair by a tree and the geese got between her and the rest of us.  It was a little creepy, like they had some nefarious plan - so I ran over to rescue her.

Stay away from my babies!

We ate a lot, played a lot and lounged around a lot.  Lily and I went for a walk in the "Pointless Forest" with her dog Arrow.  We were careful not to fall in any holes and did manage to find the Rock Man - but sadly he was asleep.  We listened to a concert/puppet show about recycling.  We sat around the fire at night once the kids were asleep.

It was a little challenging with Quinn on the trip because of his age.  He was nearly walking and doing a ton of cruising so he was all over the place.  He got so dirty crawling around in the dirt and rocks all day.  He spent most of his time in search of food and scavenged it whenever he could.  He discovered cup holders on camp chairs and thinks they are the coolest invention ever (I sort of agree).  He soon learned to check all the camp chairs for half-eaten apples and other goodies that may have been left behind in the cup holders.  I think he ate like 3 apples this way.  Eventually I gave up trying to keep him (or the food he was eating) clean and focused instead on just keeping him out of harm's way (I'm looking at you geese!)  The work was totally worth it though - he had a great time.

More.... apple....

More... scone....

Before we knew it Sunday morning had arrived and it was time to head back to the 'Ville.  We all had such a great time - I think the consensus is that we'll definitely be doing this again as a group next summer - and maybe even in the fall.  Bring on the outdoors!

Jane and Elizabeth

Just as we were packing up in the morning on Sunday Lily suffered a fall from a climbing structure on the playground there.  She hit her chin on the way down and bit her lip pretty badly. There was a lot of blood and some tears, but she was okay.

Nothing like a fat lip to give you some camping cred

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Hour: June 18, 2010

This week's Happy Hour was brought to us by Abby, Ben, Ruby and Eva.  We had another great day weather-wise for another fantastic backyard party.  Again - am very jealous of all these awesome Somerville backyards.  Ben&Abby have a great patio area, terrific garden space and a hammock under grapevines.  What more can you ask for?

This Happy Hour was extra cool for me because I got to send Gordon, Lily and Quinn home afterward while I stayed behind to drink Pimms and lemonade and talk about The Happiness Project with my super-fly book club ladies.  Abby was a hostess-extraordinaire for tackling two events back to back like that.  The most amusing part for me was Eva's reaction to me sticking around after every one else had left.  I was helping her, Ruby and Ben clean up the yard while Abby prepped the book club drinks.  Eva kept asking me things like "where are Lily and Quinn?", "Why are you still here?" "Will you be here tomorrow?"  I did contemplate just spending the night there in the backyard under the grape vines... Apparently I remained a topic of conversation when Eva woke up the next day.

The little ladies enjoying a nice backyard dinner: 
2 Katas, Eva, Ruby and Zoe

Getting a ride in the hammock: Ella, Lily, Kata and Marlena

Ted and Wyatt (the newest playgroup member)

More Hammock Time:  Ella, Kata & Lily

Quinn getting into things -
and a nice view of the backyard garden

Monday, June 14, 2010

More Toronto: Lots of Cousins

Gordon has a pretty big family. If we just focus on his Mom's side for now - his Mom has four sisters and one brother. They all have at least one child. So he's got nine first cousins, to my three. (Of course my first cousins are ALSO my second cousins... so there's that - I'll let you think about that one for a bit. Here's a hint though: it's totally "ok" - and not icky weird).

And of course now the cousins are getting married and having kids. Gordon's grandmother, Pau Pau, currently has 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren (and one more on the way!). During the weekend of Mabel's wedding she was surrounded by 8 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. It's such a rare treat for us to have (nearly) everyone in one place so Fred and Julie graciously hosted us all over their house the day after the wedding for a huge chaotic cousin playdate. Mabel and Von were sweet enough to put off their honeymoon for a day or two and came to hang out as well. (SUCH a good idea - if we were getting married again I'd totally schedule a little more post-wedding time to see family and friends before jetting off).

Lily was super thrilled to get to spend some quality time with Mabel. And by quality time I mean time spent hanging on her every word (literally, hanging):

Quinn managed to log some time with the newlyweds too though:

Idela (Kevin's wife) with their two boys, Leroy and Rosario:

Later that day there was a Chinese banquet. Lily was pretty psyched about that affair because it meant that she got to see Mabel in her beautiful red Chinese dress again and could log some more time chasing Owen around.

Here's the entire Chen family - our gracious hosts for the weekend:

Fred looking slightly less energetic than his son Owen:

and then chilling at the end of the night with Lily:

That last picture reminds me of another Lily story from the weekend. While planning for the trip I had to get Lily a number of dresses for all the different events. I found the dress she wore to the wedding at a local children's boutique. It's this adorable Tea Collection dress from their "West Africa" collection. Lily's not all that into having her picture taken, so of course I don't have a good one to show you. Anyway, she hated the dress - hated it. She hated it because it's white and light pink and she absolutely hates wearing the color white - refuses in fact to wear it. It doesn't matter if a shirt or pants has tons of color on it - if the background is white then it's a no go.

At first I was going to return the dress and go get her another one. But then I realized that... well she's 3. And while I want her to express her sense of style and yadda yadda yadda - I also am pretty busy and didn't have time to get all that returning and re-buying done before the trip. Instead I decided to use the opportunity to talk about compromise. I bought her a hot pink shrug to lessen the affront of the white dress and let her choose her own dress from the Tea Collection web site to wear to the Chinese banquet. The dress she chose is the one she's wearing in the picture with Fred. And if you can't really see it there, it's this one. All in all the dress saga worked out pretty well. She wore the dress I bought her to the wedding and was really excited to wear her dress choice to the Chinese banquet. I have to say that I think she did a pretty good job picking one out.

OK well sorry for that side-bar - clearly I'm not posting here enough so the stories are getting all jumbled together. The point of this post is to say that we love our Canadian cousins: Fred & Julie, Kevin & Idela, Mabel & Von, Justin, Matt, and Leslie and are so glad that we got to spend time with them. We hope someone else gets married soon so we can do it again! Oh - and next time guys? let's make sure we get a big cousins picture taken. And also: Gabe & Que, Emma and Evan - you need to be there too!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy Hour: June 11, 2010

[ed note: we had another happy hour before this one at our place - but sadly we have NO PICTURES of it.  I wish we did because it was nuts.  There were easily over 50 people here.  The place looked like we had thrown a kegger for pre-schoolers.  We needed a shovel to get through the mound of toys strewn across the playroom floor.  Boy do these kids know how to party]

Bob, Elizabeth, Cyrus and Jane have a lovely home with a great back yard - perfect for a summer Happy Hour Playgroup.  Lily, Quinn and I embarked on an adventure to get there - we took the bus!  I often forget how convenient the bus can be - it picks us up pretty much outside our front door.  And that route takes us about 2 blocks from our destination - perfection.  I put Quinn in the Ergo on my back, took Lily by the hand and off we went.  It was Q's first bus ride and he really seemed to enjoy it.  When we got to our stop I put him back on my back and we walked about 3 minutes to the  gathering.  By the time we arrived he was fast asleep.

Quinn got in a little 30 minute snooze at the beginning of the party.  Gordon met us there a little later and pulled out his trusty camera.  There were a lot of fun photo opportunities in the awesome back yard.  I'm slowly falling in love with these little urban gardens all our friends seem to have!  Bob & Elizabeth had the grill going and lots of yummy munchies spread out for us. Cyrus and Jane were great hosts and did a fabulous job sharing their toys and cool space with everyone.  The kids got into some bead necklaces and gave the event a little Mardi Gras type flair.  At the end of the night Bob pulled out his excellent steel guitar and played some music for us - he rocks.  You'll have to wait for the camping post to see/hear him in action though.  In the meantime here are my favorite pictures from the evening.

it's easy to see why Gordon enjoys photographing Sylvie so much

Lily checking out her acquisitions

getting ready to play catch (I think)

Diana and Lily S showing off their stunts

more upside down Lily S. (see also here)

Quinn hanging out with Al

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mabel's Wedding

In late April we had the pleasure of traveling to Toronto for Gordon's cousin Mabel's wedding. I absolutely LOVE visiting Gordon's family in Toronto. His Grandmother (Pau Pau) lives there along with one of his Aunts and three of his cousins: Fred, Mabel and Kevin.  Every time we go up there to visit they all treat us extremely well.  And I just love love love Toronto - what a fantastic city!

This visit we spent all of our time in Markham, where Pau Pau, Baat Yee (Aunt Erica, mother of the bride), Fred (brother of the bride) and Mabel (bride) live.  We arrived on Friday night and went immediately to a family dinner.  G's Aunts from Ottawa and Newfoundland also came along with more cousins from New York and Newfoundland.  Sadly his Uncle and cousin who currently live in Europe couldn't make it due to the volcanic ash/air travel debacle.  G's brother and family wre also unable to attend due to work obligations. We were all bummed that they couldn't be there with us.

The wedding was held in Toronto at Palais Royale - a really beautiful venue.  It is located on the shore of Lake Ontario which makes for some really great views.  Here are some outside pictures taken just after the ceremony:
Lily and I with the Siu girls, Idela and Leslie
(I love how I am STILL the shortest person)

Pau Pau and her daughters

G and Q

Both kids had a great time at the wedding. G and I also had a blast, but I was again reminded of how unglamorous motherhood can be. The ceremony got kicked off a little late so Quinn was kind of hungry and had a hard time sitting through it. Immediately after Yeh-Yeh took him and made sure he got lots of the yummy hors d'oeuvres that were being passed around (and they WERE yummy - the food was great). Despite his best efforts though Quinn slowly began to melt down and just wanted to nurse. So I took him into the bathroom which was sufficiently swanky with a good couch. I proceeded to untie my halter dress to nurse him crossing my fingers that none of the gorgeous young women attending the wedding would stroll in to find me sitting there in a state of total "not put togetherness".

Instead of nursing as usual, Q decides to give me a little nip - which was odd for him. So I pulled him away for a minute and asked him what was up. He then proceeded to spit a mouthful of chewed up hamburger that he had been storing in his cheeks into my hand. He smiled at me gratefully and got back to the business of nursing in earnest. I guess he had been saving it just in case something better didn't come along - and then it totally did. So now I'm sitting there, in a swanky bathroom, surrounded by cute, put-together girls with my halter dress undone and a pile of chewed up meat in my hand. Ah - motherhood. Thank goodness the baby is cute, so most people don't really notice me.

Quinn partied so hard he lost a shoe
Also: Thanks Auntie Corinne for finding this cool shirt for me to wear!

Eventually though, Quinn crashed - and was lucky enough to find two adoring grandparents who were very happy to give him a comfy place to sleep:

Lily, on the other hand, kept going until we finally dragged her out. I can't even describe how much fun she had. Lily's always been a big fan of cousin Mabel. Last time we were in Toronto (when she was about 18 months old) she would only refer to her as "My Mabel". But I think the sight of Mabel in a beautiful dress surrounded by pretty girls in hot pink dresses was almost too much for her. She was completely mesmerized by the bridesmaids and soon they all knew her. When she wasn't busy chasing her little cousin Owen around outside she was making friends with the other guests and getting them to dance with her. She latched on to one woman in particular, her new friend Jen:

For a few weeks after the our trip Lily changed her usual princess game in which we play "Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine and Ursula" to playing "Mabel and Von". Sometimes I got to be Mabel, sometimes she did. She would hang out in her playroom and then announce to me that she was "at her wedding". One day I asked her to do something with me and she replied "I can't Mommy. It's my wedding today and I'm very busy." Well, alright-y then. As most kids her age do she explored marrying Mommy, Daddy and Quinn, but was never all that put out when we told her she couldn't marry her family. "Well I'll just marry Von then", she'd say.

One night, Gordon was giving her a bath and I was in the bedroom. I overheard this conversation:
Lily: Daddy, I'm a breastmaid
G: a what?
Lily: a breastmaid
G: umm... a milkmaid?
G: like Mommy has? a BREASTmaid?
Lily: No, not like Mommy, a BREASTMaid - like the girls in the pink dresses
Lily: yeah yeah a Bridesmaid. My name is Michelle.

Thank you Mabel and Von for throwing an awesome wedding, for inviting us to celebrate with you and for giving Lily some new imagination game material! The princesses were really wearing me thin. Although it was a fun little stage when she would tell strangers at the park that her name was "Michelle".

[Oh and for any family who are interested, Gordon's full set of photos from the wedding weekend are here]