Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat 2013!

Weeks ago, Oliver told me he wanted to be a washing machine for Halloween. I love a challenge! Joanna was nominated to be the dryer.

I knew I'd make the costumes out of boxes, but I went online for more ideas. There were a few photos of people dressed as washers & dryers, but no info on how to make them. From the photos, I took away the idea of covering the kids in clothes. In the end, I needed two boxes, a roll of wrapping paper (any kind, as long as the back is plain white), tape, modelling clay, a Sharpie, some plastic pie or round cake covers, glue, blue food coloring, miscellaneous small boxes/bottles, dryer sheets, ribbon, and clothes.

Andrew brought home two boxes from work. They were Starbucks boxes from the coffee they provide in the break room. They were the perfect size for our kids. The smaller the person, the smaller the box! I pulled open one flap on top to serve as the panel for the appliances. I completely cut off the bottom of the box, and then I cut a hole out of the top of each. I took random leftover wrapping paper and wrapped the appliances inside-out. Double-sided tape helped keep things looking nice.

I couldn't find any extra knobs at hardware stores and craft stores, so I finally made my own out of modelling clay. It took about 5 minutes to make the knobs at 15 minutes to bake them, so it really wasn't that hard nor time consuming. I used a Sharpie to write in details for the dials, like "hot, warm, cold." Other than the modelling clay and ribbon, the only thing I had to go out and buy were the plastic pie covers. The kind I got had a plastic bottom and top that locked together. I stuck clothes in one and hot-glued it to the front of the "dryer." For the washer, I mixed Elmer's glue and a drop of blue food coloring. I poured it into one of the pie covers about halfway up. I poured some glue on top of that to look like foam, but it dried mostly clear.

I purchased ribbon from the discount section of Michael's. I got some for $1! I poked 4 holes in the top of each costume around the opening, kind of like the corners of a square. I took the end of a ribbon and poked it through the top of one hole and knotted it a couple of times on the bottom. I strung the ribbon across diagonally to another corner hole, cut the ribbon to size (Oliver had to stand in his so I could measure it to fit), and then I stuck it in the hole and knotted it. I repeated it again the other way, so each costume had two pieces of ribbon that formed an X. Their body went into the front of the X, and each arm went through a side of the X.

If the costumes had been for adults, I could have gotten away with using a regular dryer-sheet box. Our costumes were small, so one wouldn't fit. I dug around for a random box that I could use (I ended up using a Tobasco box cut down to size). I printed out a Bounce logo on printer paper and wrapped it around the box. I stuck a dryer sheet coming out of it. Oliver had a random bottle for some toy, and I put a Tide logo on it. I hot-glued the items to the washer & dryer and called it good!

The weather forecast was cold, so the kids needed hats. I decided to loosely sew on some undies and socks to their hats. I also sewed a dryer sheet onto Jo's hat. It looked so funny and cute! I decided that Oliver needed something extra on his hat, too, so I sewed on some cotton balls to look like soap bubbles. My mom tinted some blue (using just a little blue food dye in a ziploc bag).

Here are the kids in their finished costumes, ready to trick-or-treat!

I thought Jo would hate wearing her costume, but she loved it! She toddled off from house to house, gathering candy. She probably walked a full quarter mile by herself!

They are so funny.

Oliver had the time of his life. He loved his costume, and he also loved everything about trick-or-treating. He enjoyed ringing the doorbells and saying trick-or-treat and, of course, getting candy. He couldn't stop smiling!

The best part is that Oliver could use them as toys when we got home! I cut the ribbon off and let him go to town.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Fourth Birthday, Oliver!

Our little guy turned four today! I feel abnormally emotional about it. Oliver is such a good kid, and he amazes me every single day. Things were so difficult when he was a baby. He cried and screamed basically nonstop for his first year. It was an impossible time, and I still don't know how we made it through that period. Shortly after his third birthday, Oliver went through a violent streak. He shoved kids around. We were at a loss how to handle those situations and dealt with them as best we could.

Now, here he is. Four years old. He is so sweet, thoughtful, and sensitive. He is always concerned for others and talks a lot about what other people are up to. He tells me how Jo is feeling and what she needs. He tells me about what stages different kids are going through, like how Paisley is really little and how, soon, Grace will start needing him to break off small pieces of food so she can eat.

Oliver has a really incredible memory, and, sometimes, it's a little eerie. He seems to remember everything. He'll tell me about last Halloween, for example, or about the time he flew on the airplane with Grandma Colleen (last winter). Random things come up all the time, and I'm left thinking, "He can't possibly really remember that!"

He was a little slow to start talking, but now he talks all the time. Sometimes, the things he says are (accidentally?) profound. For example, I told him today how he's getting so much bigger. This is what he had to say to me:
Mom, I'm getting bigger now. I can do lots of things all by myself. You can't do everything for me anymore, but sometimes, I still need your help. You're my best helper.

He pays a lot of attention to how people are feeling, and he doesn't forget if someone got sick or hurt. I had eczema on a finger that lasted for three months, and he was constantly checking on it. Today, he noticed a nick on Colleen's finger, and he wouldn't let her go before he inspected it. If a random baby cries in the store, he tries to figure out what might be bothering him or her, like if the baby is tired or sad or mad. Which reminds me: Oliver loves babies! He enjoyed spending time with his baby cousin, Sawyer, and mixing up bottles. As Sawyer got older, he enjoyed handing him toddler puffs, one at a time. He is so gentle with little babies, and he walks around with his dolls all the time and kisses them. His stuffed animal, Monkey, is no longer just Monkey. Monkey is "Baby Monkey."

Oliver still enjoys cooking all the time. He wants to make something, always. At his birthday party last weekend, Grandma Colleen gave him an Easy Bake Oven. Oliver has used it twice now. He mixes the batter all by himself, pours it into the pan, pushes it into the oven (using the pusher and with his oven mitts on), sets the timer, and then pushes the pan into the cooling zone. He mixes up the frosting, frosts the cookie, and then shares it with everyone else. He grinds and brews coffee, makes smoothies, helps with dinner, and pours his own cereal & milk in the morning. When he's not cooking, he's usually helping around the house. He still loves doing dishes and laundry.

He also tries to be more of a parental figure to Jo. When he thinks I'm not looking, he'll find a treat in the kitchen and offer it to Jo. He'll tell her, "If you go pee-pee in the potty, you can have this cracker." When she goes potty, he insists on taking it to the bathroom and flushing it.

Sometimes, he tries to act like a parent to Andrew and me. If he sees me with scissors, he reminds me to be careful. He'll tell me not to use certain things (like scissors) around Jo. He's always reminding us to be careful or letting us know how we all need to dress for the weather. He won't let Andrew go to work without first packing him a lunch. "Wait, Dad! I have to pack you a lunch!"

He spends more time away from home now. He's not in preschool yet, but he does go to Chinese school, a preschooler cooking class, and a sports class once a week. He is always very happy to spend time with grandparents, away from Andrew and me. He wants to know that he can handle himself without us. In that way, he is very independent, just like his mama!

It would be so easy to see and treat Oliver as a much older child, but then he does something that reminds me he's just a little kid. Right now, his beloved stuffed animal is missing (more on that story another day soon), and he's devastated. He sometimes acts like a little kid around people he doesn't know very well, too. If someone he doesn't know tries to talk to him, he'll often turn to me and say, "I don't want her to talk to me!"

He's started to get into some things that are a little more typical of a boy his age. He loves trains and is a huge fan of Thomas & Friends. He also is playing on the iPad again. He used to play Angry Birds but eventually lost interest. Now, he's really into a couple of games by Disney: "Where's My Water?" and "Where's My Water 2?" He also plays, "Subway Surfer" with Andrew every night before bed. He still has never seen a full movie, but I'm thinking about taking him to the theater sometime soon.

Oliver is finally eating more and has gained a decent amount of weight this year. He's officially at 38 pounds! His tastes are expanding, and he'll eat veggies now. I no longer have to hide them in his food! I'd say his favorite foods are pasta, yogurt, chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, Parmesan cheese, fish sticks, and peanut butter & jelly. For whatever reason, he doesn't like pizza. Even when he doesn't like something, he's (almost) always willing to take a few bites.

When it comes down to it, Oliver is really just a good kid, and a kid who wants to be able to do everything for himself. He's very focused on self-improvement and caring for others, as well as learning how things work. I love him so much, and I am so proud of him.

Nursing Home Trick-or-Treat

Colleen came with the kids and me to go trick-or-treating at a nearby nursing home with MOMS Club. The residents were happy to see all the kids in their costumes, and the kids were excited to trick-or-treat! Oliver went around the room with Colleen and trick-or-treated with everyone. He was a little ham and just had the best time. Joanna liked the candy and trick-or-treating, but she wasn't sure what to make of the residents at the nursing home. She started to cry a couple of times, so we ended up hanging back quite a bit.

After trick-or-treating, Colleen treated us to lunch and then took us to Gigi's Cupcakes as a special birthday surprise for Oliver. We each got a Halloween cupcake! Joanna got a red velvet mummy. See her hand in this next photo? That's her pulling the cupcake down. The moment after this photo was taken, it landed with a big splat on the floor.

I got a wedding cake skeleton. It was the perfect cupcake.

Grandma Colleen got a chocolate chip monster cupcake, and Oliver ended up with some sort of chocolate werewolf. The cupcakes look fantastic, and they tasted just as good as they look!

It was a day of sweets for the birthday boy. Earlier in the day, he got monkey pancakes for breakfast. Pancakes, trick-or-treating, cupcakes... and now tomorrow is Halloween! Well, I suppose it's OK to go overboard once a year, right?!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Birthday Party at Boo at the Zoo!

Every year, the Denver Zoo holds an event called "Boo at the Zoo," where kids get to go dressed up and trick-or-treat. We decided to have the kids' party at the zoo this year during "Boo at the Zoo." It was so fun (and so exhausting). I think this was my favorite birthday party that we've thrown for the kids yet! And because we weren't allowed to bring in any outside food (with the exception of birthday cake), it was also the easiest party yet.

Oliver helped me bake cakes on Saturday. We made a chocolate round cake, and we made yellow cake pops, which I formed into pumpkins. The cake pops held up better than previous ones because I used a little extra frosting in them, but they were still pretty challenging. Out of a whole box of cake mix, I think we ended up with 20 usable ones.

Here's the spider cake we made! Joanna loves spiders (and monsters and pumpkins and dinosaurs). A few months back, I spotted a spiderweb cake on Pinterest. It was just a photo, but it was enough!

I searched high and low for a pumpkin cake pop tutorial and finally found one. Mine didn't turn out as nicely as the one I found, but too bad!

And I filled little goody bags with goodies and monster hats.

The next morning, we ran around like mad trying to get everyone dressed and ready to go. Oliver dressed up in his chef explorer costume, I was Lady Justice, and Joanna was Amelia Earhart. The costumes were great for a couple of hours, but then it got too warm outside for all of the layers. We had to ditch our costumes by the end of the day.

Parking at the zoo was a total... zoo! We ended up starting the party about half an hour late because people couldn't get there. Most had to park at the nearby museum or City Park and then hoof it over to the zoo. Oliver and Jo's Grandma Colleen & Grandpa Paul came dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2. They were basically celebrities! Everyone wanted their photo.

Oliver was excited to see everyone, but he was most excited that Baby Grace came.

The kids got to meet and pet some animals at the party.

And then we ate cake! Some of these photos came from friends & family. Thanks, friends & family!

Oliver really got into presents this year! Also, he seemed to fully grasp the concept that they were given to him by his friends. He tells me that Dominic gave him Thomas the Train!

Some more photos from friends:

There was a giant, talking pumpkin at the zoo! It was operated by a lady with an iPad, so it was really interactive. It would answer the kids and comment on their costumes. Very cool! Well, it was also terrifying for some children.

The animals were celebrating Halloween, too!

Each kid at the party got a token to ride the train or carousel. I'm pretty sure everyone chose the train. Oliver and Dominic were very eager to get on the train!

It was such a full, fun, and exhausting day! We had a great time, and it was really fantastic that the zoo handled basically everything. Oh, and on our way out, Paul & Colleen (err, Thing 1 and Thing 2) were stopped by Fox 31 News and interviewed about their experience at the zoo! Jo was in the interview, too, but not in costume. Unfortunately, it didn't air because of the World Series game, but I thought it was too cool!