Jude and Vivienne turned three on Wednesday and we celebrated with some of their preschool friends today. They are growing into such funny, interesting little people. I’m really enjoying those rare moments when I’m able to give one child my full attention and really see who they are at this moment in time. It doesn’t happen often enough, but I’m committed to creating more space for it somehow.
Over the past year Vivi has talked quite a bit about growing up. She seems eager to be “big” and to be able to do things that big kids and adults get to do. It’s not inconsistent with who she is. She potty trained herself last summer in no time at all, she’s even out of diapers at night. She told me tonight that she doesn’t want guard rails on her twin bed anymore because she isn’t going to fall out (and she’s probably right). She’s fiercely independent and fiercely stubborn and strong-willed. She’s emotional and passionate, but completely unafraid. She loves all things “girly” and while I don’t usually believe that the word means something in particular, she makes a very clear distinction between girl things and boy things (and we don’t know where she gets it). She loves princesses and unicorns, pink, purple, and “turquoise blue” (which really means Frozen/Elsa blue). I put her in white athletic socks one weekend to go sledding, since hers weren’t warm enough, and she cried that they were, “boy socks.” She almost refused to put on her snow pants because they’re black. Every morning she asks to wear a “twirly dress” to school, and she complains if the one I pull out isn’t twirly enough.
In some ways she’s less of a snuggler than her brothers, but lately she’s been craving more physical affection and I wonder if we don’t give her enough because her independence leads us to believe that she’s fine being left alone. Sometimes she still asks to go up in the carrier, and when that happens I know that we haven’t cuddled her enough. She’s bright and chatty and dramatic. Her teacher tells us that she has amazing recall. She can “read” books to you after having them read to her just once, and she knows a million songs by heart (and she sings constantly). She loves creating art of all kinds, loves collecting treasures in nature (her coat pockets are always full), and can sit and work with meticulous focus for an hour or two on beads at school or cooking projects, like decorating cupcakes. Recently she told me that she wants to be big so that she can cook.
Jude is such an easygoing child. He’s kind and thoughtful and funny. He loves the slapstick and scatological humor of Jonah’s friends at school. Lately he’ll tell you that his name is Captain Underpants and he usually says it in a silly, character voice. He loves building toys: Legos, Magformers, the marble run, and is quite good at dreaming up and constructing his creations. He likes dress up and playing pretend, and he and Vivi make wonderful playmates in that regard. He’s the kind of child who sometimes gets overshadowed by the loudness and drama of Vivi and Jonah, but when you take the time to kneel down and look him in the eye and talk to him, he says the most adorable things that melt my heart every time. During the photo shoot above, he was watching birds out the window in the birdbath, and commented that they weren’t getting very clean because the water was probably dirty. He made a face as he said it, (he’s also very expressive, but again, you can miss it in our house) and it was such a cute observation. He says things like that all the time if you really listen. He potty trained only in the last month or so but is doing great, and will likely be out of pull-ups at night very soon. He’s incredibly proud of his achievement.
He’s a snuggle bug, and ends up in our bed most every night (whereas Vivi is perfectly fine on her own). In recent months he’s been asking for Mama K’s arm (he likes to sleep on her upper arm or shoulder). He’s a Mama K devotee to the very end. He tells us that he loves us multiple times throughout the day just because. Sometimes in the middle of the night, half asleep, he’ll say, “Mama D? I love you.” He loves school, and is consistently the easiest to drop off (the other two still sometimes get clingy or even teary at drop off). He’s eager to run in and play with his friends and take advantage of all that preschool has to offer. He’s less devoted to the idea of growing up as quickly as possible, and whenever I implore them not to grow up too fast, he often reassures me (with a hand held just a few feet in the air) “I’m only going to get this big.”
When I asked them what kind of a birthday party they wanted, Jude asked for Dragons Love Tacos (a favorite picture book) and Vivi wanted princesses, so I settled on a, “dragons and princesses love tacos” theme. I did a quick Google image search and found a picture of a princess hugging a dragon, and did a freehand sketch of it and then painted it in with the kids’ water colors. I had to make a few modifications because Vivi wanted it to look like Elsa. And of course I added the bag from Taco Cave.
I used it on their invitations, and then got to work figuring out how far I should take this theme. Usually I phone in birthdays to some extent, but this felt like such a cute theme that I wanted to do something creative. My friend Tanya at Cakes on Hudson convinced me to do something more challenging than usual with the cakes (I’m generally terrible at cake decorating; Jonah wanted red letters on his last one and it looked like something out of a horror movie). It was her idea for me to make a dragon cake, so then I had to come up with some sort of princess cake for Viv. Here’s where I landed:
I’m really happy with how they turned out considering how awful I usually am at this. I used this and this tutorial for the dragon, if you’re interested in replicating it. The princess cake was inspired by little more than Frozen (that’s a dollar-store tiara on top) but I was thrilled to find the blue rock candy in the cake decorating aisle of the grocery store because I knew that Vivi would think that it looked like ice crystals (she did).
I made two party favor crafts: princess crowns and dragon masks (from here and here respectively). Once I got the template right the crowns went quickly and were kind of fun to make. The masks seemed to drag on forever. I could have reduced the work and made half as many of each, but I don’t believe in “dragons for boys, princesses for girls” and I couldn’t anticipate which guests would prefer which, so I made ten of each. It made for a lot of late nights. They were cute though.
I think that the kids had a lot of fun playing with friends. Vivi in particular has been begging for a play date lately, getting really wrapped up in the injustice that Jonah has them from time to time. It was nice to have some of their friends over and we enjoyed their friends’ parents, which is a bonus since we’re still searching for our tribe here.
Oh, and I didn’t serve actual tacos, but we did have taco string lights (which are glowing to my right at this very moment, and a part of me wants to keep them there awhile).
Vivi and Jude thought that the lights were terribly amusing, and took them into the living room this morning and plugged them in and pretended to eat them.
I think that they had a great birthday. I don’t know that I’d do quite this much work again, since I’m certain that three-year-olds would be happy with fifty-cent favors from the party store, but I also acknowledge that some of this (OK, maybe a lot of it) is more about me than it is about them. I’m somewhat relieved that it’s over, since I had real concern about having taken on more than I could handle.
Next up: learning to sew. I’m taking a class next week, and if all goes well Vivi will have a new skirt (which hopefully won’t resemble the awful shorts I made in seventh grade home economics). Stay tuned.