Sunday, October 31, 2010

Last Minute Halloween

We've never done much with Halloween in the past. We don't have too much against the holiday, we've just never made much of a priority of dressing up our kids and sending them out for days' worth of sugar highs. And, oddly, we've never lived anyplace where trick or treating was a big deal. In our neighborhood now there are hundreds and hundreds of kids out but they only go to businesses.

This year the kids suddenly "discovered" Halloween and just last night started talking up the complex costumes they were hoping to wear today. We decided that a bit of holiday fun was in order so we came up with some last-minute costumes.

A very scary ghoul:

This picture does not do justice to my amazing face-painting skills. At Joseph's direction he had red and yellow eyes, a green mouth, and black face.

A fairy princess:

The dress is courtesy of Aunt Laura and, again, you can't really see Margaret's very sweet and glittery face here. She was so excited to wear a whole face-full of real makeup and wants to go to church like this tomorrow for All Saint's Day.

And a sad dirty bum:

He was sad that Eric wouldn't let him play with the dirt longer but he cheered up once he realized that we were going for a walk to get candy. William was completely unfazed by Joseph's face but completely freaked out when our baker donned a clown hat and tie and tried to give him a cookie.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Six years have sure flown by.

Joseph is a pretty low-key birthday guy. Margaret just lives for the hype and anticipation but Joseph gets pretty overwhelmed by it. We opted last year to skip a party and lots of presents and take a fun family outing instead and we liked it so much that I think we'll make it a tradition. We have plans for a boat ride around Manhattan for this Friday and Joseph is very excited.

For today we let Joseph choose the menu and we were extremely relieved when he asked for cheese fondue. We also had banana splits which I guess is another Joseph tradition. For breakfast he requested blueberry scones with scrambled eggs and lunch was supposed to be the hot dog truck in the park which had to be postponed due to rain (what is it with rain on this kid's birthday?).

Joseph was also the recipient of books and a book rack:

This is a great gift for him because he often wakes up slowly in the morning and prefers to sit quietly in bed reading rather than having breakfast with us. We're fine with this habit and it's nice for him to have books at hand since there is no way to fit a nightstand near his bed.

Our only other plans for the day were to play Joseph's new games and read his new books. This was especially the extent of our plans when Joseph's wheelchair all but fell apart on the way to church this morning. He was fitted for a new chair back in June and we were expecting delivery next month. We've been nervously watching his tires deteriorate and this morning was the last straw. I called the wheelchair company in what I figured would be a futile attempt to speed up the new chair process and just minutes after Eric finished duct-taping Joseph's tire the delivery guy called up and said that, in fact, Joseph's new chair was on his truck and would we like it today?

Joseph doesn't pose well but here are a couple of shots . . . The changes are subtle but important.

You can see, maybe, that the wheels are the same size but the seat is higher. You might notice that his old seat is flopped forward. We've had trouble with that seat for about three years and it's really compromised Joseph's efficiency. The new seat is very, very solid. The new chair also has permanent rather than removable handles. They are lower and, therefore, less comfortable for the pusher but it's great to realize how seldom Joseph needs us to push him these days. On the rare occasion that he needs help up a hill, Margaret is all-too-glad to give him a boost and these new handles are much better for her. They will also make it easy for Joseph to use a backpack if he wants.

The new chair is considerably wider which is an adjustment for everyone. Joseph says it is "easier to wheel, but harder to jump." The "anti-tippers" on the back can be raised much higher on this chair which will be a good way to transition Joseph towards having a chair without that safety mechanism. Down the road he will want to be able to jump curbs and even negotiate small steps on his own and he'll need excellent backwards balancing skills for that.

Otherwise, the chair is very similar--it was even made by the same company. It should last him at least three years and we're all very glad to not have to worry about it falling apart in the middle of an outing. And, one last shot--Joseph is asking me, "Is this a good pose?" Uh . . .

Margaret did have a birthday this year.

Margaret did, in fact, turn four almost a month ago. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had plans to go to our small, local zoo. Unfortunately we sort of had a housing crisis dumped on us first thing in the morning and much of the day--and much of the four weeks since--was given over to dealing with an ugly situation. I won't go on and on here but things on that front are quiet at the moment and we are hopeful that we will be happily living in our little apartment here at least until next summer. But we'll see.

I think that Margaret's birthday, from her perspective, was still really fun. Her favorite food is "Porkacheese" (Portuguese--it took us a while to figure that out) which is abundant in our neighborhood so we got takeout from a place nearby and had friends join us for an impromptu birthday party that evening. For Margaret, it's all about the party so she was all too happy that she had a second party with my brother and sister and their spouses just a few days later.

The celebrating continued in that Margaret got birthday money this year. She's gotten birthday money every year, of course, but usually the money is spent solely at the discretion of her parents and it never really occurs to her to have an opinion. This year, though Margaret has almost no concept of what a monetary transaction entails, she was very concerned about her birthday money and how it would be used. After quietly discouraging her from running out and buying the first cheap knick-knack she could lay her hands on, it was settled that the one thing she really wanted was a doll she could dress up. My brief doll-shopping experience has revealed that specially-made doll clothes can add up right quick and I had to admit, honestly, that I am not up for making doll clothes. I was glad to find a good-quality baby doll that was sized to wear newborn baby clothes. We ordered the doll together and it arrived on the Big Brown Truck last week.

Margaret is just smitten with this doll. She named her Lila for reasons unknown to us and has taken possession of all her own newborn wardrobe which I'd saved in case we ever have another daughter. Lila is the first one dressed every morning and gets changed several times a day including into a nightgown for bed. Lila has her own "crib" (the laundry basket lined with blankets) but prefers to sleep snuggled next to Margaret. She's been to the grocery store, to church, and to a Toyota dealership and often joins us at the table. Margaret insists that I take lots of pictures of her and her baby. Here are a couple--first Margaret and Lila doing a dry run in their holiday attire, and then the two of them in more everyday clothes:

Part of Margaret's birthday present was a book rack for her top bunk which I had a lot of fun making for her. I only today got it hung on the wall--shame on me! But I've spent most of the time since she opened it thinking we might move any week. So now Margaret's pink fortress is all set up for her on the top bunk. A friend asked to see some pictures of how we rigged up a canopy for her so I tried to get a few shots but the light in the kids' room is just awful for photography.

Her book selection and flower lamp:

Margaret's bunk from "outside". The fabric is just a "tapestry" from Target. I sewed little plastic rings to four corners (I think they might be stitch markers for knitting) and left a long side hanging. Then I screwed four hooks into the ceiling and just hung it that way.

This is the foot of her bed looking up. Her doll house lives at the foot of her bed as well. Since it's a twin-size bed and she's only four there is still plenty of room for her to sleep. She loves her own space up there and since her brothers can't (yet) get up to the top bunk it's a good retreat when she's feeling frazzled. Which is often.

So, there are some of the birthday highlights. We did finally get in our zoo trip the week after her birthday and we are all looking forward to what our little four-year-old has in store for us this year.