Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hello, summer vacation!

Here's Kiddo, ready for her last day of first grade:

I made her stand in the same place I had her stand for her first day of first grade:

(For the record, she's grown 2 inches and gained 3 pounds since last summer, and also lost another four teeth - all on top - and has a mouthful of new, gigantic, wonky, adult teeth coming in...)

She's excited about the upcoming summer vacation, with the trips and activities we have planned and the playdates that are already being lined up (seriously, the first one is this afternoon after school, and we have another one tomorrow!).  She's also very sad that school is ending for the year.  She was revved up something fierce this morning and went from tears in the bathroom while I was doing her hair to a giddy, spinning-spinning-spinning dance out in the driveway while waiting for the bus...

(Yes, that is a caribiner chock-full of Silly Bandz on a lanyard around her neck.  This is apparently the preferred method of bringing one's Silly Bandz to school.  Considering that some of them are small enough to be constricting on Kiddo's relatively toothpickesque arms, I was all for the carabiner-lanyard style of bracelet wearing.)

Last year at this time, I was a bit nervous as we were starting our first summer without any services.  It was our first summer without OT, without PT.  This year, I'm not quite as worried.  I just have to be sure to stay on top of things with lots of daily, added sensory input as needed.  We'll do lots of swimming, walking, biking, playing, gardening, running around.  Also lots of lazing about, quiet, relaxing and settling down.  I'll be picking up her pressure vest from the classroom today.  We've got a deck of yoga cards (which are an admittedly poor substitute for the yoga that her amazing, incredible, words-cannot-adequately-describe-how-awesome-she-is aide has done with her every day at school this year), her BodySox and a container of Theraputty.

Bring it on, summer - I think I'm ready for you! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Operation Seven Candles

We had Kiddo's birthday party here at the house on Saturday.  Kiddo is a *huge* fan of Kim Possible (she's done all the Kim Possible missions at Epcot, which are a highlight for her of every trip we take to Walt Disney World), and after checking the pricing at just about every venue in the area from renting a lodge at a nearby park (as we did for the past two years) to doing the party someplace like Chuck E. Cheese or the zoo, we decided we'd host a Secret Agent themed party here at our house.  This would not only save serious money (we couldn't justify spending upwards of $300 or even more on a child's birthday party lasting less than 2 hours in duration), but would enable Kiddo to invite as many friends as she wanted.  She wanted to invite her entire class, plus her Daisy troop, plus a couple other friends who are neither classmates nor fellow Daisies.

The invitation looked like this:

(the code key was on the back of the sheet, so you're looking at the front and back of the invite side-by-side above) and they were delivered in plain, manila envelopes.  31 children were invited, 27 RSVPed that they'd be accepting the mission and 25 actually attended (had some last minute cancellations due to illness, as is par for the course when one is talking about an invite list full of germmongers kids...).

Kiddo was collected bright and early Saturday morning by her grandparents, who kept her occupied and away from the setting-up process so as not to spoil any of the activities.  They delivered her home just in time to wash up and start greeting her guests.  We totally lucked out with the weather, as the entire weekend's weather basically ranged from "steady downpour" to "torrential thunderstorm" with the exception of one, 10 hour window, that being, thankfully, Saturday from midmorning through evening, thereby giving us glorious sun and warm temperatures for the Operation.

The itinerary went as follows:

- Registration at Mission HQ: Give decoded password, sign Secret Agent photo ID card which I made ahead of time, using the Secret Agent Code Name the kids gave when RSVPing:

Kiddo and the girls all pretty much chose flower or animal names for their Code Names - Sunflower, Lilac, Pony, Sassy Cat.  The boys went for comic book character or more scary type names - Spiderman, Hammerhead, Fear Ripper, Ghost.  After checking in (and obtaining a phone number for each Agent's grown-up, just in case), the kids headed to the back yard, where Hubby had a CD of Secret Agent theme music playing on the lanai.  (He'd made the CD using various songs - Mission Impossible theme, Kim Possible theme, James Bond theme, Dragnet theme, Hawaii 5-0 theme, Scooby Doo theme, etc....)  Once all the Secret Agents had arrived, we split them up randomly into three teams.

- Secret Agent Training: Egg on spoon relay race, limbo pole. We were going to do a ring toss as well but scratched that at the last minute due to time constraints and lack of anything handy with which to pound in the ring toss stakes.

- Mission: Master of Disguise:  A costume relay race.  Each team had a disguise comprised of 4 elements: shirt (one of Hubby's old button-down, long sleeved shirts), pants (old gym shorts/pajama bottom shorts of Hubby's and mine), a lei (from Kiddo's rather extensive lei collection) and eyewear (sunglasses, pirate's eyepatch, novelty glasses).  We would've done hats or other headwear, but there were issues with children catching/spreading head lice at birthday parties last fall that involved dressing up, so we opted to not take the risk of being the first head lice party of 2010 (I mean, we don't think any of the kids had lice; we were just erring on the side of caution).  The first Secret Agent on each team had to put on the disguise, run down to the other end of the yard and back, then take off the disguise, which the next Secret Agent then had to put on, etc.  This game was particularly hilarious to watch for us adults and the kids were all cracking up as well.

- Mission: Mystery Sounds: Hubby made a CD of mystery sounds (coins dropping, horse hooves galloping, siren wailing, paper being crumpled up, etc) and each Secret Agent was given a sheet to write down their answers as he played the sounds one by one.  This was a good way to settle down a bit after all the running around and activity.  We also went through the better part of a case of water and a case of Capri Sun juice pouches by this point, given the sun and heat.  This led to a rather lengthy line for the bathroom, too...

 - Mission: 7 Candles: The birthday cake.  Given Kiddo's food intolerances and the food allergies of some of her friends, we've always baked her cake at home ourselves.  Kiddo requested half chocolate, half vanilla for her cake, so Hubby baked one 9x13" chocolate cake and one 9x13" white cake, set them out side by side (trimmed to match in height) and frosted them together with white frosting.  We ordered a cake topper from the same online company we've ordered her cake toppers from for the past 3 years, this year starring Kiddo's favorite, Kim Possible -

I wound up organizing a quick game of "Telephone" to keep the kids seated and quiet while Hubby was getting the cake set in the kitchen.  It takes a surprisingly long time for 25 Secret Agents to pass along the message "the cake is chocolate and vanilla" which was helpful since they were all very, very excited about the upcoming sugar rush.  (Yes, I know this was "Operation 7 Candles" but the cake had eight - one for good luck/to grow on, of course!)  We used "trick sparkler" candles, which did relight twice but weren't very sparkler-y.  It turned out to be okay that they only relit twice, because otherwise there might have been a riot.  Cake was enthusiastically consumed and then we moved on to

- Mission: Prize Hunt:  For goody bags/favors for the party, we found these spy kits online.  We made three clues, the first printed backwards so it would need to be read in a mirror, the second in invisible ink, the third written in the same code used for the secret password on the invitation.  Hubby, being the genius that he is, thought of hiding the clues in balloons (which he'd been blowing up at the time) so we did that, and I labeled them CLUE 1, 2 and 3 respectively.  We explained to the Secret Agents that they'd need to hunt to find their favors, and handed each team one balloon.  Once they'd all solved their clues, they put them together and learned that the favors were hidden down low, outside in the back yard.  Out they went.  It took them a surprisingly long time to find the large box containing the spy kits, given that it was hidden in mostly plain sight in the patio stairwell.  We didn't actually distribute the spy kits right when they found them, though, because we had one more mission for the kids -

- Mission: Target Practice: The three teams lined up on the front lawn and were each given water balloons to try to toss into chalk circle targets drawn in the driveway.  Amazingly enough, no children took the opportunity to hurl water balloons at each other, so the only person who got at all wet in this mission was me, by dint of standing on the other side of the driveway to take pictures and thereby having water balloons bursting about my ankles from time to time.  (I was wearing my fantabulous, new Lands' End flip flops, so no harm, no foul.)

By this point in the party, the parents had begun arriving to collect their Secret Agents, so we then moved on to

- Awarding of Secret Agent Stars which were those star stickers your teacher had back in elementary school, affixed to their ID badge and handed to them along with their spy kit favors.

I'd love to share pictures of all the fun, but I haven't permission from any of the 25 Secret Agents' parents to do so online, so unless you're one of my Facebook friends (I've got an album up over there), I'm afraid you're out of luck at this point.  I can and will, however, share with you a few shots of Kiddo and myself decked out in some of the mustaches from her spy kit:

We tried taking a family portrait using the timer on the camera as well, but it didn't come out that great as it turns out we were too far away from the camera -

So, there you have it.  Operation Seven Candles - a smashing, Secret Agenty success!  (Even if my plan didn't win the birthday party contest thrown by a group of organic food companies - yes, I'm still a tiny bit bitter since they included my idea as #3 on their list.)  Now all that's left is for Kiddo to write eleventy million thank you notes.....  I also owe a heartfelt THANK YOU to my friends Andy (aka The Creative Junkie - if you aren't a loyal reader of her blog already, you should be, she's fantabulous) and Freyda.  Andy lent us four tables so that we didn't have to rent any, and Frey stayed for the duration of the party and helped out with containing the chaos managing the missions.  Your assistance was most appreciated, ladies!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wordful Wednesday - some serious awesomeness for Heather's Hobbity Hooves

Last summer, I was shopping at our local Lands' End Inlet store and I happened upon a display of flip-flops.  As faithful readers may recall, I have feet issues.  To wit: unevenly sized, misshapen, Hobbity, rhino hoof feet issues.  The first thing I noticed was that these particular flip-flops didn't have the dreaded "between the toes thong" which automatically would rule them out for Heather's Hobbity Hooves.  WIth my feet being two different sizes, walking in flip-flops with the between-the-toes thong becomes an instant game of How Fast Will Heather Stumble and Fall? and as I barely can keep our house stocked with sufficient quantities of bandages for the kid's various boo-boos, adding the cost of bandages for Flip Flop Fumbles by me (with my considerably larger surface area for skinning-n-scraping) would be just too much.  I don't think banks loan money to folks for first aid supplies or general klutziness.

Anyhow, there I stood, perusing the display of non-between-the-toes-thonged flip-flops.  As I gazed and pondered, another shopper walked by, and she had a pair of the same flip-flops on her feet, so I asked her if she liked them (because, you know, I'm like that with the whole "randomly yet politely accost strangers in public and strike up a conversation" and all).  Her response was instantaneous and enthusiastic.  She loved them.  Lived in them.  Most comfortable flip-flops she'd ever owned.  Now, she wasn't some Skinny-Minnie, petite little thing, either.  She looked to be about my age and was taller than I am, so this wasn't a case of someone walking around in their size 4 shoes or anything.  We chatted a bit further as she kept extolling the virtues of these flip-flops above all others she had ever worn, and commiserated with me about the discomfort that comes with most other flip-flops out there in the world.

Well, I decided at this point that if there was a pair in my size, and being on sale at the Inlet as they were, it was Meant to Be for Heather's Hobbity Hooves to find themselves shod in a pair of these flip-flops.  I looked through the display, and lo and behold, there was one pair in my size.  Snatching them up, I slipped off my trusty Birks and tried them on.  They.  Were.  Heavenly.  I walked them right over to the register, paid and wore them out of the store.

One year later, they remain my most favorite flip-flops, ever.  They've worn well, held up to the torment that comes with shoeing my Hobbity Hooves, and have generally been a delight.  As such a delight, I wear them all the time now that the weather is warm enough to put away my ample supply of woolly socks and clogs.  I've even worn them to the grocery store - they're that comfy.  My Birks don't know what to do with themselves, with all this rest they've been getting.

I wear them so often that I hardly even notice they're on, which is exactly what happened one day last week when I busted out my roller and paint tray and got to painting the living room walls.  (We're just finishing up Paintathon 2010, more on that in another post.)  I have a pair of "painting shoes" - those being a pair of mint green bedroom slippers that I wear just when I'm on the drop cloth and painting, then kick off before stepping onto clean floors so as not to track paint everywhere.  (Have I mentioned I'm a klutz?  And that if there is wet paint within 100 yards of my body, I will find a way to get it all over my body and step in it, too?)  Well, on this particular morning, I waved goodbye to Kiddo as the bus pulled away, headed back inside, picked up my roller, poured a tray of paint and began rolling away to the musical accompaniment of my Pandora Radio 80s station.

It was several moments later (well, one White Wedding and a Reflex later, at least) that I went to roll a particularly spattery load of paint, and felt it splash all over me.  No big whoop, since I had.....................


Oh.  No.

I hadn't.  I hadn't put on my painty slippers.  I was still wearing my flip-flops.  My beloved flip-flops, which now had a glob of paint right smack dab in the middle of the top strap.


I immediately abandoned my roller and rushed to the laundry room to try to minimize the damage.  I scrubbed and I scrubbed and I Oxicleaned and scrubbed some more, but there still remained traces of Soft Linen paint in a satin finish on my flip-flop.  I was devastated.

So devastated that I immediately took to my computer to bemoan my idiocy to the world.  I tweeted about ruining my flip-flops by painting in them, I whined on Facebook.  After wrapping up my internet whinefest, I put on my painty slippers and got back to the task at hand.

A little while later, I was back at my computer and saw a tweet to me from someone at Lands' End.  They'd read my tweet (!) and tweeted back:

Your painting efforts impressed us let us treat you to a new pair of soon to be your fave Lands End flip-flops!


I exchanged a few tweets and then emails with a lovely woman at Lands' End with an equally lovely name (shout out to Raija - you rock!) and before you know it, Lands' End sent me these beauties which just arrived this evening, a week to the day of my painting mishap:

Aren't they fantabulous?  Yes, yes they are.  Fantabulous and comfy and definitely my favorite flip-flop footwear.

Here's one in action on a HHH:

(Yes, I know, it's not a pretty picture.  I clearly stated I have horrible feet.  The "scratched-til-it-bled" mosquito bite, half-assed attempt at a self-pedi to help hide my damaged big toenail and glimpse of pink flamingo-n-palm-tree jammies just add to the overall beauty, too, don't they?)

Now, I've been a loyal Lands' End customer and fan for years.  I've never had an issue with their customer service or returns on the very few occasions that I've had to return something.  I have contacted their customer service either online or by phone with questions about sizes, etc several times over the years and their customer service reps have always been friendly, helpful and professional.  I've always found the quality of their merchandise to be excellent (for example, despite her best efforts, Kiddo is unable to destroy any of their Super-Ts, be they long- or short-sleeved) and they have sales often enough that it is rare for me to ever have to pay full price for any of their stuff.  All that aside, how completely awesome is it that they sent me a free, new pair of flip-flops after I was scatterbrained and klutzy enough to spatter paint on a pair through my own sheer idiocy?

Lands' End, thanks!!!  I was already a fan, now I'm absolutely a fan for life!

I wonder what would happen if I tweeted about the scratches on my Sienna.............