Thursday, May 28, 2009

If wishes were horses...

I wish I were a better writer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Every 5 year old should have a bachelor/ette party

The past few months the girls have been begging us to try some new foods and to eat with their hands. While the two were not related I thought that combined they would make for a good, new experience. As a result, I started looking around for a Morrocan restaurant. I asked a few friends and as it turned out one of them had recently dined at such a place in San Francisco, El Mansour. She wanted to eat there again, and started recruiting people to join us.

Tonight was the night that we could all make it, so we piled in cars and met up in the city. The girls were thrilled with the concept, and excited that the day was here. Upon arrival we were immediately seated at a low table surrounded by low couches and "tuffets". While I should have seen the disaster coming, I did not. Tuffets plus two 5 year olds equals one very "active" dinner
with many reminders that we were indeed in a restaurant and needed to behave accordingly. Overall, IMHO, other than expanding our dining space to include the vacant tables next to us, they were pretty good, especially for such a prolonged dinner.

The start of the experience began with handwashing where they bring out a large brass tureen and pitcher and pour nice warm water over your hands. The girls thought this step was great, and lots of fun. Sam even required a solo washing. Soon after came the bread which was passed around between every course. Better grab extra though, because this is what you use to pick up your food, and they don't leave any on the table. The bread was followed each time by something new, soup, a veggie platter with uniquely cooked and spiced treats, some sort of puff pastry appetizer that Riley devoured, the main course, belly dancing, and dessert which was more puff pastry yumminess and fried bananas. The girls seemed to enjoy most, if not all of the food.

The belly dancing, however, is where the bachelorette party started. The dancer came out, did a short dance then brought Riley up to dance with her. Sam refused, but held on tightly to the scarf the dancer gave her. Riley did a great job copying everything that the dancer did,
and had me in tears of glee throughout. She was so serious about the whole thing, and was really paying attention to what the dancer was showing her. After her turn was done, the dancer moved on to other tables to dance with their occupants. At this point I was pretty sure
we were all done. Nothing could be further from the truth.

After performing for each table, she made her way back towards the kitchen where the manager put a dollar in her shirt strap giving everyone a clue as to how they should tip her. Members of our party gave the girls dollars for the dancer, which I thought was really nice...until they
delivered them. I mistakenly assumed (I know, I know) that they would hand her the dollars, she would say thank you, and they would sit back down. Oh noooooo. She held out her waistband and let them tuck the dollars in. They were very entertained by it all. I, however, was mortified. My girls had unknowingly had their first bachelorette party.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

The life cycle of a yellow dinosaur cake

Once upon a time there was a woman that had some sense of sanity, that's gone now. That woman would be me. About 4 months ago Valerie, my Goddaughter, requested a dinosaur cake for her birthday. Not just any dinosaur cake, but a yellow dinosaur cake. This is the story of that cake.

Month one, contemplate the many ways of creating a yellow dinosaur cake. 3D solution comes to mind, rejected as ridiculous.

Month two, contemplation continues. 2D solution formulated, 3D version continues to inject itself into the forefront of thought.

Month three, out damn spot. 3D idea not cooperating.

Month four, give into idea, acknowledge plans in back of head, begin formulating exactly how to achieve the vision.

Week of May 11th:
Collect all ingredients. The list was impressive, so I thought I'd share.
25 cups of flour, approximately 6lbs
22.5 tsp Baking Powder
7 tsp Salt
38 sticks of butter (yes, you read that right)
15.75 cups Granulated Sugar
20 cups Powdered Sugar (approximately 6 lbs)
17 tbsp Vanilla Extract
13.5 cups Whole Milk
16 tbsp Heavy Cream
18 Large Eggs
5 lbs Fondant
and a partridge in a pear tree (just checking to see if you're still reading.)

All of these were used over the course of 3 days to make nine 10x13 cakes which were then stacked using buttercream in between the layers to make one very large cake. The challenge here was using a very old, inconsistent oven. The cakes go in, get rotated halfway through, then come out. During this process I would check the thermometer in the oven and I was getting readings ranging from 300 degrees F to 360 (it was supposed to be 350 throughout.) This meant that I got 2 cakes which seemed to come out fine, 4 which were underdone in the middle (and rather dense), and 3 that were a bit overdone, but not too bad. Despite all this, the easy part was done.

Once I had them stacked, I began the carving. It was kind of like giving yourself a haircut. A little more off this side, oops, now a little more off that side. Why is one foot the size of mine, and the other 3 are the size of a 9 month old? How exactly do you carve a curving tail? I ended up with something that looked more like lizard roadkill than a dinosaur. Perhaps this was just because it didn't even come close to the picture in my head.

Once it was carved, it had to be coated with buttercream so the fondant would stick. Then the kneading of color into the fondant, rolling of the fondant, and application commenced. This process went okay, only created 2 holes, and sort of patched those. Details were added and the whole thing was slipped into my refridgerator on the wonderful board that Andrea got for this purpose (acquisition was not easy.)

Final stats:
Wt. of cake before carving - 32 lbs
Wt. of completed cake - 30lbs
Happiness of one 3 year old - total.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

The best Mother's Day present ever (even if it was a little early)

While in Disneyland this past week we got the girls cupcakes (more expensive and less tasty than Kara's or Sprinkles) for their birthday. The cupcakes came complete with little Minnie Mouse rings that the girls just loved. Riley wore hers all day. Sam was a little "busier" with her ring. It was on her finger, off her finger, carried tightly in her fist, and yes, left on tables, benches, rides, etc. This is probably because Minnie Mouse is her favorite character. She just couldn't stop looking at it.

At the end of the day, we made a stop by the little potties in the child care center. It was here that Sam discovered her beloved Minnie ring was missing. All day she had been a little under the weather, and none of us had had much sleep the last two days, so she (and the rest of us) were just exhausted. Upon discovering the loss Sam just crumpled into a sad little heap on the floor and cried. As I was trying to comfort her and assure her that we would try to find the ring Riley walked up. Very sweetly, she took off her Minnie Mouse ring and presented it to Sam saying, "Here Sam, you can have my Minnie Ring". She then gave Sam a very gentle and loving pat on the shoulder. Sam responded with, "That's ok Riley, that's your ring, you should keep it." At this moment in time I could not keep the tears out of my eyes. Thankfully they didn't notice.

I could not have been more proud of my girls. This was definitely better than any Mother's Day gift I could hope to receive.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Twin thoughts

With the girls 5th birthday fast approaching I've had some deep moments of reflection, regret, happiness, sorrow, joy, and general contemplation. 5 years ago I had no idea what I was in for, and I now know that unless you've experienced it yourself you can't come close to understanding what it's like to have two totally unique individuals growing up in your home that just happen to have the same birth date. Wondering if I'm doing the right thing often keeps me up late at night, and in this case caused me to get out of bed at 2:00 A.M. to record some of these thoughts, incoherent as they may be.

When they were first born, and even to present day, I had many people tell me how much alike they looked. I never saw that. To me they always looked very different, starting with their weight. They were born a whopping 2 lbs. apart. Sam was 5 lbs 5 oz while Riley was 7 lbs 7 oz. Until this year they maintained that weight difference within half a pound. For the first time they are the same weight and height, but I think that this is about to change again. They were both blonde but Riley had a nice head of hair while Sam was nearly bald. They both had riveting blue eyes but Riley's were a deep cerulean blue while Sam's were more of a penetrating steel blue. The list of visual differences goes on and on. I could understand other people's confusion though, they didn't know them like I did.
The differences go beyond appearances though. I can see them across a playground and know by the way they run which one it is. More importantly though, I know who they are with my eyes closed. I know when they creep into my bed in the morning which one it is that has curled up on my left and which one on my right by the way they snuggle. I know whose hand I'm holding just by the feel. I can pat a tushie or rub a tummy in the dark and know just who it belongs to. I can tell the difference by the bend of their ear, the curve in their nose, or the line of their lips. They're unique from the shape and feel of their heads down to their cute little toes, one set chubby, one long and thin.

The way they interact with the world around them is also very different and ever changing. I could never say one is dominant, aggressive, outgoing, quiet, shy, or withdrawn. I can clearly say that they each carry these traits within them, and they come out at the most unexpected times. One moment one of them will walk right up to a new person and say, "Hello. Do you want to play with me?" The next day it will be the other one to perform this miracle of childhood. Is that to say they're interchangeable on any given day? Never. Even with the same act, they handle it very differently. One will generally jump right into the center of any social situation and soak up the energy of the moment, the other is more comtemplative, will observe and evaluate before making the same leap. Other times Mommy's coat tails are not quite big enough to hide behind. Many of my friends have come up with cute monikers to describe the differences. I've been unable to do so. Thier names seem sufficient and we often use them to describe something such as, "That's so Riley" or "That's a Sam-ism" I know this is a no-no in the electronic world.

The most challenging part of this whole journey was not learning these things about a child, but learning them about two people who just happen to be the same developmental age at the same time. It's very different than learning it about one child at a time, not to lesson that experience by any means. Having raised a single child, the unique difficulties (and joys) of having two simultaneously have become clear. With one child there is a focus, a purpose, a challenge. With two children the focus is often split, the purpose unclear as it shifts from one to the other, and the challenges are exponentially multiplied. Trying to help them each grow as individuals, give them each the attention that they need, and teaching them how to live together yet be strong when they are apart have all become parts of this wild trip. For those of you with multiples you know that it stems from the first days trying to meet their individual needs for food, sleep, and clean diapers to learning to clap, crawl, walk, and use the potty to preparing them to face the world as individuals. Teaching them to share, to empathize and to sympathize with others but usually starting with their sibling who also didn't understand these concepts and had to learn. The big question that applies to any parent however, is, "Have I learned more from them than they learned from me?" My answer would have to be a resounding, "Yes!" They have taught me so much about who I am, and what's important to me. I thought I knew this already, but I have found that there is still much to learn.

As any parent out there, I can't yet tell if I'm having any level of success in encouraging them to follow their own path, or if they are the successful ones in making me believe that I have any control over it at all. I can only hope that together all of us will come out of this roller coaster ride of childhood with satisfaction, eagerness, and anticipation for the next adventure.

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