Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Natalie!

If the mess that was left was any indication of the amount of fun that was had, I think it's safe to say that Natalie's seventh birthday party was a success.

But let's back up and begin Natalie's special day from the top.  We tried to capture a before-she-left-for-school picture in her new birthday outfit but Nat's a blinker and couldn't seem to keep her eyes open in spite of the flash.  This was as good as we could get:

Love that toothless smile!

Natalie begged me to come to school for lunch.  She didn't want me to bring McDonald's or anything fun like that, she wanted me to eat the school lunch with her.  It was pizza day.  Her teacher let her invite Emma to come from the classroom next door to eat with us as well.  She wore her birthday crown with pride and passed out fruit roll-ups to her classmates.

She desired a "late night" party.  We don't do sleepovers so this was the next best thing.  We called it a pajama party.  The guests wore their favorite Pjs and stayed until 9:00 p.m. (It was co-ed, too! :))

The invites.  I made blue pajamas for the boys.

Nat put on her pajamas as soon as she got home from school and checked the clock every 10 minutes until 6:00 finally arrived.  

We played a bit of bingo while we waited for all of the guests to arrive.

Then it was pizza time.  With lots of soda, too.

I made a big comfy bed using our hide-a-bed mattress right in the middle of the family room floor.

Then we played a few games.  This is a pajama party version of pin the tail on the donkey.  The kids took turns placing a piece on the bedtime scene.

One team did slightly better than the other...

Then we divided the kids into four teams and they had to race to put the king-size pillow in the pillowcase.  Very funny to watch but some kids thought it was hard work and were done with this game after two rounds. :)

So we opened presents and then posed for a group photo.

The guests: Emma, Lauryn, Kennedy, Makenna, Ava, Kelly, Natalie, Sophie, Hayla, Maddy, Sienna, Carson, Diego, Adam, Lydia and Chloe.

Time for cupcakes.  Make a wish, Natty!

These were the "extra" cupcakes.  The cute pajama party themed cupcakes wouldn't hold the all-important seven candles.

See what I mean?

The kids loved eating everything on top but most of them stopped once they got to the cake.

Now it was time for the main event: watching Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The kids loaded up on candy and popcorn and more soda.

There was a pillow fight of considerable size when the movie ended.

And just in case they hadn't had enough sugar, we sent them home with sugar cereal in a personalized bowl for the next day's breakfast. :)

Oh so much fun!  Worth the mess, every bit of it.

Happy birthday, Natalie!  I couldn't possibly love you more.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gold Medalist!

 Alyssa is a Level 7 Bars State Champion!
She earned the gold at her state meet with a score of 9.3

 She placed 3rd on vault with an 8.925 and tied for 7th on floor with a 9.35  She shared seventh place with a friend of the Childers family, Lakely, who is standing next to her on the right.

She scored 8.775 on beam with a fall on her full turn.  Darn that fall or she may have won the all-around, too.  Instead she ended up 4th all-around with a season high 36.35.

 We couldn't be any more proud and our jumping and screaming in the stands may have been an indication of our excitement. :)  Way to go for the gold, Lys!

What's that you say?  You want to see the winning routine?  Well, OK.

And her floor routine too, just for fun. :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Own March Madness

March Madness is in full swing and Caleb is living every minute of it.  (And yes, I meant living even though loving would also be appropriate here.)  He carefully watches his bracket and keeps it up-to-date.  He's currently in 3rd place in our family tournament.  Jon says he votes too much with his heart.  I agree.

He's been playing a lot more backyard hoops, too.  Sometimes Hunter joins him, but mostly he reenacts games all on his own, complete with full commentation.  I hear the play-by-play even with the windows and doors shut.  It's his happy place.

I am envious of him.  I wish I could so easily escape to my own world where nothing else matters and I always win.  I have been in turmoil; my own personal March Madness.

Last Thursday, suddenly and almost inexplicably, my job was taken from me.  Poor communication, lies and accusations for others' actions have left me to cry bitter tears.  Lots of them.  Why I am made to carry the load of blame is an injustice I will never understand.

I've spent three years building a highly competitive program.  I have 6 state champions under my belt.  How is it that my talents are not valued?  Even the uproar of outraged parents, those whom I have diligently served, could do nothing to reverse the situation--though their respect and support has helped soothe my wounds.  Still, it feels that my own good name, hard work and dedication have been marred.  So unfair!

Having to hold our sobbing daughters has perhaps been the hardest part.  How do we help them understand a situation that we as grown adults can't comprehend?  I've used up countless cell phone minutes as I've fielded texts and phone calls from those who know and love me best and pledge their undying support.  Still, it hurts.

I listen to Caleb in his backyard world, living out his March Madness while I sit at the table highlighting a conference talk on forgiveness.

I want a happy place.  And some chocolate, too.  That would be nice.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who Stole the Cookies From the Cookie Jar?

They weren't actually cookies and there was no cookie jar involved, but there was definitely a thief.

Yesterday was Tia's birthday.  Before I continue with my story of cookie theft, perhaps I should introduce you to her.

This is Tia:

But that's not her real name.  It's the one that was given to her by some of her gymnasts when she and her husband came to the US from China about 10 years ago, because her Chinese name was too difficult to pronounce.  We love Tia.  She spends more time with our oldest daughter than we do.  Maybe that's an exaggeration but suffice it to say that she sees her a lot.

Tia and her husband, Chen, have invested much in Alyssa.  They care for her and are committed to helping her reach her potential.  They love my daughter which is exactly what any parent wants, right?  They are patient when she is less than focused or slow to make corrections plus they have super impressive resumes which include being former Chinese National Team members.  Tia was on her way to the Olympics before an injury ended her career.

Tia's limited english does not prevent her from being a gymnastics coach extraordinaire.

Chen is currently in China tending to a very ill father which gave us even more reason to want to make Tia's birthday special.  I made some cute cupcakes to take to the gym for a mini party.  And because I'm always sensitive to Alyssa's gluten-free diet, I also made a batch of scotcheroos.

Caleb came home first and was greeted by sugary scents wafting through the house.  He immediately began drooling over the frosting bowl offering, "If you're done with that, I'd be happy to eat the rest of the frosting for you."

I took pity on him and let him finish the cupcake I had sampled, then I loaded a plate with frosted graham crackers.  (I'm sure if left to his own devices, Caleb would forego the cracker for a giant spoon but it somehow seemed slightly less disgusting to put the spoonfuls of frosting on a graham cracker first.)  He ate several frosting sandwiches while he hovered over the sink, letting the thin, not-yet-set pink frosting slop through his fingers.

Then he spotted the pan of scotcheroos. "What? scotcheroos, too? mmmmm"

Again, I took pity on the salivating teen and let him indulge.  I then cut up half of the 9x13 pan and transferred them to a Tupperware for the transport to the gym.  I turned to Caleb and said, "I do not want to come home to find this pan empty.  Do you understand?  You may have one or two more but I don't want you eating this whole pan."

"You mean I have to share?"

"That's exactly what I mean.  And besides, it's the only of these treats that Alyssa can eat."

Well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next.  That's right, I came home to a pan holding nothing but a few milk chocolate crumbs.

"Ca-leb! I specifically told you not to eat this whole pan!"

"I didn't.  I only ate like, four.  Dad ate them."

Of course, Jon wasn't home to defend himself so though I was feeling quite perturbed, and knowing Jon likes his scotcheroos as much as the rest of us, I decided I'd wait to verify Caleb's story before making it more of an argument.

The kids were in bed before I got a chance to ask Jon for his version.  He was adamant that he only got one--the last one.  So that made Caleb a cookie thief and a liar!  I started thinking about what his punishment should be.

I took it up with Caleb first thing this morning.  He again declared his innocence, insisting he didn't eat more than four and was just as perplexed as to who the real thief could be.  I was moments away from imposing a sentence when I suddenly remembered seeing the girls near the pan amidst the home-from-school, off-to-the-gym rush.  Then the image of Natalie holding her gym snack in a ziploc bag flashed through my mind.  There had been a scotcheroo inside.  Could it be the girls were just as guilty?  Well, not just as guilty but at least somewhat as guilty?  

I'm quite positive that Caleb's "four" servings were cut significantly larger than a typical serving, but in the end, I didn't have enough evidence to convict him.  I've decided on an acquittal, though I doubt I'll ever leave him home alone with the scotcheroos again.