Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dinosaur Train Birthday Party

Dash turned 5 while we were on our California vacation. We finally got to have his big party last weekend. He had been asking for a "Dinosaur Train" party all year, ever since he had his Pirate Party (click back there to also read about his birth and see pictures of him growing up). He actually had been asking for a dinosaur party, and it was my idea to make it a Dinosaur Train party - since he likes trains, too, and we could get a big, trackless train for the kids to ride just like we did for Tornado's 4th birthday. I was actually basing it off the children's book by Deb Lund. Months after we started talking about a Dinosaur Train party (me thinking how creative I was being)...we see a commercial for the NEW Dinosaur Train television show on PBS (which is now, of course, his favorite show). Seems like I was not the only one who thought this idea needed to be expounded upon.

I only found out the week of the party that we weren't going to be able to have our "train." I was suuuper bummed (even though, of course, it was fine without it). This guy didn't think our land was smooth enough or the roads in front of our house were safe enough. :(
I had all of the decorations put up by the time Dash woke up from his nap on party day. He made me feel like every second of effort was fully worth it. He walked around the room several times, very slowly, stopping at every little detail, examining it and admiring it. I don't know what it is about little kids and dinosaurs. He is obsessed. Tornado always loved them, too, but Dash loves them even more. I don't know if an hour goes by in our day in which there is not some mention of dinosaurs - a book he wants me to read to him, a dinosaur fact he wants to share with me, a sighting of him playing with his dinosaurs, or the sound of dinosaur roars coming out of his mouth.

Cute story about my little sister Tracy from when she LOVED dinosaurs, too: awhile back, I found a cassette tape she (now age 28) had recorded when she was 9 or 10, and I was around 16. She was interviewing me, asking me questions about a boy I liked and things like, "What do you think is the best thing about yourself?" She said, "The best thing about me is I know a lot about dinosaurs." I love it.

The Decorations and Food
(You can't tell what this's fossil ice.)
I found a dinosaur ice cube tray from Online Science Mall.
party favor bags, which included a dino glider, Dinosaur Train/dinosaur/train stickers, dinosaur pencil, dinosaur fact cards, Magic Color scratch dinosaur ornament, dinosaur pinball game, and a Yummy Earth sucker...(you know - really important stuff)...bags tied with train material cut into strips

Party activities:
painting wooden dinosaurs or trains (my nieces, Clara and Grace)
My 3 kids (that's Tornado, with my nephew Owen) were wearing Dinosaur Train t-shirts, which I ordered from They have all sorts of character and specialty t-shirts, and they have the BEST customer service.
Apparently, all I REALLY needed as an activity: invite a bunch of 5 year olds, throw in some inflatable dinosaurs and wide-open spaces, and you've got yourself a party.
This is almost the whole kid crew (minus a few little ones). They had to run around our 1.25 acres and find "dinosaur eggs." Most of them contained dinosaur stickers, but there were several that contained money or a dinosaur puzzle.
Owen was one of the lucky money finders.
Ryan had dug a pit in the backyard, filled it with sand, and buried a bunch of plaster of paris dinosaur bones at different levels in the sand. The kids had to really dig to find them. We ordered these plastic molds from Discount School Supply (one of my favorite online stores). $16.49 for 6 complete mold sets. In hindsight, I think we could have made the pit long and narrow so the kids could be more in a line; there was a bit of a problem with flying sand.
"Shiny" herself
The paleontologists even brushed off their dinosaur bones and worked at piecing together the skeletons.
Happy birthday, my fabulous, smart, creative, energetic, inquisitive, tender-hearted, compassionate, loveable boy.

This blog post is dedicated to my husband, my mother, my father, my brother Matt, and my sister-in-law, Michele. I could not have done it without your help. Please forgive me for rushing you around an hour or two before the party started. And thank you, Tracy, for the Kroger errand.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tornado is a Soccer Star

Last Saturday, Tornado started playing soccer. That might not seem like a big deal. Most kids play soccer or t-ball or basketball or something. It's a big deal for us, though. First of all, he has just never really been interested in playing sports. It's not something that comes naturally to him, and I'm not a parent who ever felt like there was something my kid HAD to be interested in. He's just always preferred to take art classes or something, which was fine by us.

Second, he has sensory processing issues galore, and it's truly not possible for him to just sign up for any team. At least not easily and without many situations to deal with.
I heard about Community Connections a couple of years ago. This is a local, volunteer, non-profit organization that allows kids with special needs to take part in soccer, dance, drama, and football. I was excited about it, but at the time, Tornado was not interested. I think that seeing his brother play soccer this year caught his attention, and he said he WAS interested this year when I casually asked him about it.

From their website: TOP Soccer provides children the opportunity to participate in an organized soccer program in a safe, positive environment. The program is designed to give everyone a chance to play, and to foster the values of teamwork, pride, and accomplishment within each player.
He kept happily waving at us during his practice.

I took him to buy soccer cleats, shin guard socks, and shorts, which were not required or necessary, but we wanted him to feel like a real soccer player. He looked awesome, and he loved it. I think it is important to "look the part."

It might look like he missed that ball, but he was actually kicking a different ball.

There were a lot of kids taking part in the program. They will have several weeks of practice, and on the final Saturday, they will have a game. During practice, the kids all kind of buddy up with volunteers, who appeared to be highschool football players and college soccer players. It truly melted my heart to see these big guys teaching our kids. Tornado's buddy was very sweet to him, always putting his arm around him or giving him "five."

My eyes filled with tears on many occasions during the day. First of all - just thinking about my first born child and how much I love him. And seeing him so excited and doing so well participating. (Great, my eyes are flooding right now, as I type this.) There were the other kids, too. Like a little boy going through the "tunnel" at the end, while pushing his walker...

He was super excited about the tunnel at the end of practice. He knew all about this because he does it for his brother at his games. I was so happy for him.

I have no idea if he'll be so peaceful and cooperative at the next practice. (Most likely he will, but these kinds of things are not easily predicted with him.) It's hard to explain what I mean by that. If you know him personally, you know what I mean. If you have a child with sensory issues, you know what I mean. He had a great time, though, and I hope I see this smile on his face again this Saturday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

California Vacation: Day 9

#'s 99-126

holy experience

I became very busy before I got my last vacation post finished. 2 days after we returned from California, I headed up to Chicago with my sister Cary (so fun!). The following weekend, we went to St. Louis for my niece's very cute birthday. (We loved being there with her for that.) I was, also, in the meantime, getting ready for Dash's 5th birthday party, which was the following weekend.

I now look forward to no major packing or planning in the near future. I planned on just relaxing today, catching up on my blog. (Decided to enroll Sissy in dance classes today, though, so I was busier than I thought I would be...had to purchase ballet slippers and tap shoes - that was actually ridiculously fun for me - and then take her to class.)

What better way to get back to blogging than to continue my list of 1,000 gifts because I have certainly had lots of excitement packed into a 2 month period. A few things on my mind right now: my dad for doing such a great job of taking care of our dogs while we were on vacation, friends, family, and even acquaintances who take the time to RSVP, go out and purchase a gift, wrap that gift, then drive to your house for a party - that's time they are choosing to designate toward you, and that means the world to me, and my husband for taking the time to clear new 4-wheeler trails for the boys.

Now, back to my vacation...

Our last morning we spent packing, tidying up our apartment, and trying to eat up what was left in the fridge, etc. Ugh, it is so depressing to throw away good food. (It's also depressing to throw away a whole, perfectly-good bottle of water before going through security at the airport - only to walk 30 feet and have to purchase another bottle. Oh! But what we WERE thankful for: we were cutting it close to get on our flight in time because the lines were so long to check our luggage, and then we saw the lines to go through security were so long. However, they ushered us to the elevator because we had a stroller with us, and we got to bypass a HUGE portion of the crowd. We said we were going to make sure we always had a stroller with us at the airport, even when our kids had awkwardly outgrown them.)

Before we left, we went up on the roof of our apartment building to enjoy our last ocean views of the trip.

I wasn't really ready to leave California. There were still so many things on my "to-do" list. So many more fun kid spots. So many more restaurants. I wasn't quite ready to get back to the daily routine. And I would seriously move to California tomorrow if my husband would only go with me. :)
We felt very fortunate that we were able to enjoy good weather all week. (You know, besides making my boys traipse through the snow in Crocs.) No big rainstorms or anything to put a damper on our fun.
It was really nice to be able to walk around L.A. this time, rather than waddle with aching feet, like I did last time. (Pregnant with Sis 3 1/2 years ago - this photo DOES NOT really do my belly's...ahem, "size" justice...there were worse pictures, but I - in all my vanity...just...couldn'
I'm so grateful for our trip, in general. I'm thankful that I have a husband who will take me on my trips around the country. (And thank you, to people who gave us Christmas money/birthday money, which helped finance the trip.) I'm glad that my kids are pretty good travelers. No, they weren't perfectly behaved - I'm not going to lie and give you the impression we were skipping along with smiles on our faces the ENTIRE week. For example, they always fought over who was going to push the stroller. It was relentless and ridiculous. Such a thing to fight over.
Dash said, "Look! I'm a surfer!"

Our flight home seemed (and was) much longer. Trips home, without the expectation, always feel that way. Plus, our return stopover was in Atlanta this time. We felt like noooo as we watched the plane on the monitor pass Arkansas...just so we could turn around and go back to Arkansas.

We were thankful to Googie for picking us up from the airport so late. It was very sweet: Sissy was so excited about seeing her and was calling her name as she ran down the long hallway...that she fell flat on her face. Delta lost one of our suitcases, which felt a little weird. However, it was hand delivered to us the next day, which I thought was awesome.
We had to get used to Central Time again. I'm thankful for sleep and for naps. I'm thankful that (despite the horrible behavior of my lovely child that resulted in his time-out on the stairs) children always look so beautiful and endearing while they sleep. I mean, seriously, this particular night, he was behaving atrociously. Clearly, it was because he was so tired (well, AND he's also very stubborn) because he fell asleep on the steps right away. Little stinker.
I am truly someone who needs to travel. I somehow missed out on the housewife gene, despite the fact that is exactly who I am and actually who I really want to be. I have to work at feeling content at home everyday. I have to remind myself occasionally that every wise woman buildeth her house. (Proverbs 14:1) I love the refreshing feeling of being home at the end of a journey when I am able to appreciate more fully the gifts around me.

And I am thankful for the little feet running into my house and the little fists that proudly raise up a handful of flowers picked outside. (Even the dandelions and the wilting camellias that had already dropped to the ground.) Those are the sort of moments which remind me that my job as a mom might just be a little more purposeful than I sometimes feel.

Friday, April 2, 2010

California Vacation: Day 8

Newsroom Cafe, Robertson Boulevard, The Bonnie Hunt Show, the Beach, and Planet Raw Monday was our last full day. While we were driving to brunch, we got a glimpse of the Hollywood sign. The boys knew what it was, and they had wanted to see it. They recognized it from the Looney Tunes movie and from Tom & Jerry, etc.

We ate lunch at Newsroom Cafe.

Weeks before our trip, we would talk about what we were going to order at the restaurants. (Yes, I looked at menus online almost daily, leading up to the trip.) Tornado had immediately declared he wanted to order "soy drumsticks." (Sissy always said "pink icecream.") I have no idea where he got this idea, if he's had them before maybe, or if he just thought regular drumsticks looked fun?? I knew we HAD to find them somewhere, though. I asked on a vegan message board where I could find soy drumstix, and someone told me they had them at Newsroom. They were, indeed, a hit.
Check out the size of the pancake that was served to Dash. We had no idea it was going to be that big. Everyone else had tastes, but he ate a LOT of it.

Sissy said, "Take a picture of my food, too."
After we ate, we did a little window shopping as we walked down Robertson Boulevard, where Newsroom Cafe is located.
I was feeling the need for a little Mommy alone time, and my husband was lovely enough to provide it. I got a ticket to The Bonnie Hunt Show, and Ryan took the kids back to play on the beach.

I had a lot of fun watching the talk show taping. I've mentioned before how much I like going to these (I've been to Regis & Kelly, Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Letterman, Jane Pauley, Dr. Phil, and Jay Leno.). It's free, and it's interesting to see what goes on "behind the scenes." And you get to see "celebrities," which is a bit of silly fun.

I like Bonnie Hunt. The first guest was...wait for it...THE FONZ. (giggles, squeals) Henry Winkler seemed like a very sweet man. He was promoting the next volume of his Hank Zipzer children's book series (And I got a free copy!). The next guest was...wait for it...THE SANDMAN (from Spider-Man 3) - Thomas Hayden Church. More affectionately known to me as Lowell from Wings. I was addicted to Wings during the summer of 1995. I remember coming home between shifts at Stoby's and watching it. I had a bit of a crush on Lowell, with his little cap on. The Henry Winkler episode aired last week, and missed getting to see if I made the cut. The Thomas Hayden Church segment is going to air Monday, I think.

On the way home, we got raw/nutmilk shakes at Planet Raw in Santa Monica. I wish we could have eaten a full meal here. The menu looked so fun. I had really wanted to make it to a raw restaurant, but we just ran out of time. Getting sad...trip was coming to an end the next day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

California Vacation: Day 7

Animal Acres, The Getty Center, and Real Food Daily
Los Angeles is this great city with a seemingly endless list of things to do, yet it's surrounded by such beautiful, diverse habitat: ocean, mountain, forest, desert, etc. That is one of the reasons I love it so much. See all of the cars (and smog)? They are the reasons I have not been able to convince Ryan to move there.
Sunday, we drove to Acton, which is about 45 minutes from L.A. That is where Animal Acres farm sanctuary is located.

They were having a special event/open house to kick off the start of a new season. I had envisioned a peaceful picnic on the lawn before we played with the was anything but peaceful. Not 15 seconds after we sat down on the grass and spread out our food, we were invaded by this chicken. I kept trying to throw a chip off in the other direction, but she was fast and persistent.
We quickly picked up our stuff (not easy with several plates) and moved to these chairs. Mrs. Hen was joined by her chicken friends, and they were all relentless. It was annoying. We were cramming down our food as quickly as we could because they would fly up and try to eat it right out of our hands. In defense of the little boogers, it IS their home, and we were merely guests.
Besides, I would much rather have one meal interrupted by these critters than to have them stuffed into cages like these for their whole lives. Please consider buying (if you're going to buy them) local eggs from a small, family farm or organic, cage-free eggs from the store. :)

lots of animals to pet and play with
The pigs (hogs?) were huge. One of them got spooked when several people were around it, and it suddenly took off without warning. Its hip barely bumped Tornado, but they are so big, it completely knocked him off his feet. (could have been bad if it stepped on him)
I love pigs, though. We were watching an Animal Planet show on pigs in our lodge, and they were so incredible. Pigs are SO smart, so sweet, and so trainable. They were picking letters out of a pile with their mouths IN ORDER, spelling words.
The turkeys were sweet and gentle.
Doesn't this dude (or girl, I don't know) have the most incredible hair?
The kids were thrilled about the bouncy house at the Animal Acres event. We had to (literally) drag the two little ones away, kicking and screaming. (It's getting toward the end of the week, and the irregularity of their naptimes is starting to take its toll.)
This is what it looks like on the outskirts of Los Angeles (on the way back from Acton).
We stopped at The Getty Center (an art museum and more) on the way back. It's so cool! (Look at this picture.) You have to park at the bottom of this hill (mountain?), and a (driverless) tram takes you to the museum at the top. The building is amazing, and the views are stunning. (I really need to pull out my thesaurus. I feel like I keep saying "good" and "amazing" and "cool" and "delicious" while describing my trip.
Sissy was pretty "ho-hum" about the art until we passed this piece. She audibly gasped and wanted out of her stroller. She immediately went into dance mode again.
There was a huge Leonardo da Vinci exhibit while we were there. We talk a lot about artists at home, but Dash's class recently did a "Marvelous Masterpieces" unit at school. He learned a lot about different artists so it felt very relevant to him. He recognized "Irises" by Vincent van Gogh, who he knows as the guy who cut off part of his ear.

And this one is Monet's...I forget the name of it...The Seine at "something"?
the garden area
another view
We walked through the museum, around the gardens, and played in the Family Room (where there are different interactive kids' exhibits) until closing time. I would like to come back another time when we can look at everything. The kids have had pretty good behavior all week, but like I mentioned earlier, they were a little on edge this particular day. They kept fighting over who got to push the stroller during this outing, and it was driving me a little batty.
When Sissy saw this 18th century replica bed in the Family Room, she said, "Ohhh! I can have this bed when I'm a princess!" I loved this little enclosed reading nook; I want to do something just like this in my living room if we ever build another house.
The kids decorated masks in the Family room.
Later... while we were waiting on our table at Real Food Daily, we walked around the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
See - Tornado ordered mashed potatoes and gravy again (AND a club sandwich).
I was disappointed in my ordering choice at RFD. I got the burrito, which I thought was going to be more like an enchilada covered in sauce. But really it was just like a burrito I eat all of the time at home. It was huge, and I didn't eat much of it (getting to the end of our trip, and I'm starting to feel a little full). I think Ryan made the better choice above. I like Real Food Daily (we ate here a couple of times on our last CA vacation); it's in a great location in Santa Monica.