Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pictures from Gemma's Birthday

Gemma was decked out in her favorite dress for her birthday celebration, wearing some of her new jewelry.

Here she is early on at the party, wearing her crown. Each guest got to make her or his own crown out of fun-foam and jewels, affixed with Zots.

Rowan was our body paint artist. Here she is giving Safi a tattoo.

We were quite blessed to have free entertainment in the park on Gemma's birthday. Here is the local Madison aerial dance troope, Cycropia practicing for an upcoming performance.

Here are a majority of the youthful party-goers.

Welcome to Being Four Gemma Rose!

Well, I "think" I will love this blogging thing once I'm into it. It's now nearly a week past Gemma's birthday and I have finally found a moment to post about the event. How anyone does this everyday is beyond me!

Anyway, I can hardly believe this little gal is 4 years old. Four seems like a real "passage" birthday from baby and toddlerhood into the land of being a "big girl." Her physical features have changed, no physical needs are shfiting, her way of seeing the world is so much more complex. She's an amazing little fireball.

We have a picture taken six days after her birth, 4 years ago today, that sits here on my desk. It's one of Rowan holding her, with me supporting Gemma's head, so their faces are side-by-side. Rowan is wearing a big "proud sister" smile with her soul-ful blue eyes peering out at anyone viewing the picture. Gemma, with her tiny, apple-sized head and her little 3 lbs+ self, looks out with her intense and wise blue eyes. While each girl has made her growth in these last four years, their eyes still hold their soulfulness, wisdom and magic.

Gemma's birthday "celebration" (her term for her party..and it really does say it all) was pure magic. This little girl loves people and knows how to maneuver amongst them with an ease that still stuns me. While I can do it now and really enjoy it, extrovert that I am, I know I didn't have the awarness of how to do is so well as a small child. She amazes me with her social dextarity.

We held the celebration at a park in our neighborhood, one of our favorites with ancient trees that have seen many celebrations well before Gemma's time and will hopefully see many to come, a gazebo, perfect for a self-proclaimed princess and play structures extrordinaire.

By luck or fate, we had "live" entertainment for the festivities..and I don't mean the yellow jacket bees which seem quite unruley this year (they had the good graces to stay away on G's celebration day). Two performance groups were in the park that day, preparing for the Orton Park Festival, held this past weekend. One was Cycropia, an aerial dance troope (you can check them out at http://www.cycropia.org/) spectacular to watch and perfect for our acrobatic ballerina daughter. The other was a local band called The Reptil Palace Orchestra (http://beeftone.com/rpo/) which is like some wild East European/Balkan rock band..totally funky stuff. The lead singer and trumpet player was very pregnant a bit more than 4 years ago, when they were performing for a friend's 50th birthday and she was totally taken with meeting Gemma and seeing me dance with Gemma in the sling. So how awesome to have them providing "background" music during Gemma's celebration.

Gemma was torn about whether to make this a "drop and go" party, meaning that her friends would be dropped off by the parents for a pre-determined amount of time and Jani and I would be managing a multitude of energetic 4 and 5 year olds or whether this was to be a family party. She finally settled on "family stay", but then after the invites had gone out changed her mind. We had to work through many feelings on this one and were a bit nervous that she'd balk as everyone arrived, but the worries were for naught. She was in her glory. We were happy to have it be a big ole' gathering of the masses, as we adore the parents of Gemma's friends (most are long-term friends and chosen family). So the day was as much about Gemma's celebration as bearing witness to the wonderful connections amongst our adult and child friends.

Gemma's theme, Ariel. Of course, how could we have possible have a princess-feee event? Each attendee got to create a fun-foam crown to wear during the party. Us "wise-women" mothers and goddess mothers decided we would place jewels on our "third eye" points and we wore those rather then crowns. We all figured that given the intensity of our collective children, tapping into our inner third-eye wisdom would be a very smart move (-:

Rowan offered to do body art on any takers. She'd been practicing on all of us for weeks. I was quite thrilled to see several voluteers at her "station" receiving hand-done artistry on their faces, hands and arms.

A brother and siter team (teenager and pre-teen..children of a dear friend), ran the Ariel's Ocean Game. Despite the windy day, we'd manage to hang a sheet between two trees (aka the Ocean) with Angeliah and Isaac positioned behind. The little ones tossed a fishing line into the ocean to have the hook baited with prizes, including beanbag replicas of Ariel or the Starfish from Finding Nemo or a whale (how great it is to find a clearance sale of these little items last June!).

Next it was on to cake, fruit and the ever-popular goldfish crackers..what else would Ariel eat? Present-openning came next. Gemma was a very gracious recipent of her gifts, giving each guest a thank-you hug after opening the gift. My, my, my do her loved ones know her well. Gifts ranged from a Wisconsin cheerleaders outfit (we have season tickets to the Women's Volleyball games..POINT WISCONSIN), to a tinkerbelle outfit, pink fluffy stuff galore!!..the pink quotient went way up post birthday party!! The celebration drew to a close with the Ariel pinata and time to play on the playstructures.

We went out to diinner at Applebees because the thought of food prep after sucha busy day was more than I wanted to wrap my mnd around. Gemma was clear to inform the hostess that it was her celebration day and that she wanted the wait staff to sing for her. No problem with "this" child asking for what she wants. They were more than happy to oblige. She sat there with a huge grin on her face throughout the vocals.

We are truly blessed to have this lovely child and her wonderful big sister in our lives. As much as she can grey our hairs and frazzle our nerves with her firey spirit, I don't think I'd want it anyother way.

Happy Birthday G-Force!

Love, Mama D

Monday, August 22, 2005

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Wow, our summer is whirling by with nearly the speed, twists and turns of the 26 tornadoes that broke out across our state last Thursday, albeit with far less drama and devastation than the real twisters.

We spent the first two weeks in August enjoying ourselves thoroughly. We had had grand plans of spending a week with the girls someplace and then venturing off on our own to the dessert southwest to celebrate our 15th Anniversary. With the hectic summer we've had though, sticking close to home had quite a bit of appeal.

Our first adventure was to the Bristol Renassaince Faire, which was a huge hit all around. It's been about 10 years since we've gone and they've added fairy folk and other winged creatures, a huge hit with Gemma Rose. Whenever she'd see a winged creature, she'd take off running to catch up with the magical one to introduce herself and comment on the fairy's costume. She was also quite taken with the queen, commenting that her favorite part of the day was the queen's formal feast. Rowan was taken with the crafts, the physical challenge games offered to kids of all ages and with watching the jousting. The lude washer woman show was quite fun for her too, all except for the "talk about boy body parts." (-: Jani and I enjoyed going, both to see the magic in the eyes of our girls and as a fond remembrance of a place we'd been to pre-kids. In comparison, the two trips are dramatically different experiences, but equally magical.

We touched base at home long enough to enjoy an afternoon swimming with friends, whose daughter, one of our most beloved babysitters, is heading to Arizona State for school this fall. We will miss her fun-loving, competent energy and the great art projects she liked to do with the girls.

Then it was off to the Wisconsin Dells. If you've never been to or heard of the Dells, its an incredibly beautiful area of land and water that over time has become one of the world's largest tourist traps. I recall 20 or more years ago swearing up and down that I would "never" go to the Wisconsin Dells in the summer time..but alas, "nver" is a long time. The girls, especially Rowan, have been itching to go to the Dells and partake in their many water/amusement parks. So, we were off to three days of fun. It really was enjoyable for a short dose, I suspose rather like I would view DisneyWorld, fun for a short visit and then its time to get the heck out of there.

We stayed at Camelot, a castle-loking hotel, complete with a mini indoor and outdoor waterpark. Gemma was ecstatic with the notion of staying in a "real" castle. The next days were spent hitting the infamous Dells attractions like the amphibious duck rides in and out of the Wisconsin River, a day spent at Family Land/Mt Olympus, playing in the water rides and rollercoasters. The Pegasus Rollercoaster was a huge hit with Rowan, who coerced Jani and I into riding it NINE times. Jani wins the "Super Mother Award" for riding it the greatest number of times with her, including a stretch of five rides right in a row.

Our trip ended with a boat ride on the Upper Dells where we walked through Witch's Gulch, truly one of the most spiritual and beautiful plces I've ever been. But somehow the mood was broken by the consentation stand at the end of the walk. Seeing flourescent lighting up ahead, I knew in that moment I was done with the Dells.

Next it was time for a little "Mama Alone Time" to celebrate my and Jani's 15 years together. The girls stayed with Jani's folks in Freeport, IL for four days. Jani's folks have spent many years living in Papua, Indonesia, just coming home for short visits. They're back in the United States permanantly now (or so they say) so it has been just great to get the girls reconnected with them. I think Grandma, in particular, was excited to have the girls around, with no other cousins in a vacinity. They had a fun-filled week, playing at the park, minature golfing, helping Grandpa paint a picnic table and having their aunt's cat walk through the wet paint (they're still talking about that event) and building an awesome sheet fort, using a quilting frame in Grandma's livingroom. Grandma and Grandpa were pretty exhausted by the end of the week, though they said they had a lot of fun. The princess Gemma only seemed to give Grandma a run for her money a couple of times. At one point, Grandma asked her to do something and Gemma started to complain and ask for her mommies. Grandma told her mommies weren't there and she needed to do what Grandma had asked. Hands on hips for emphasis, Gemma replied "its my body and I'm in charge of it." I think they managed though just fine.

After dropping the girls off for their Grandparents Vacation, we headed into Chicago. We met Madison friends in the Loop for lunch and then headed up to the Lincoln Park area to the guest house where we'd made reservations. We'd found this place through Purple Roofs, so we'd hoped that we didn't get any weird vibes about being a alesbian couple. The hostess was great; very warm and friendly. Our short encounters with the other guests, typically at breakfast were very sweet.

Our next days were spent making tracks all over Chicago, generally on foot, in a trolley or sometimes a cab. We had dinner our first night in a fabulous Thai restaurant I'd remembered from 20 years ago when a college roommate had moved to the Windy City. We hung out for quite a bit of time after that in a coffee shop, sitting side-by-side reading our books. I can hardly tell you how long its been since I've sat uninterupted, reading a book, drinking coffee. Typically any pleasure reading I manage to do is after the kids are in bed, though I'm usually exhausted myself and read for only a short bit before my eyes tell me its time to stop.

We enjoyed an architectural boat tour on the Chicago river, very imformative and interesting. We spent time, including lunch, in Milenium Park and then shopped the Miracle Mile, something I haven't done in about 20 years. Of course the greatest benefactors of our shopping expedition were those two girls of ours. Our day ended with a lake cruise in the evening, complete with a fireworks display.

Navy Pier was our destination the next day, including taking in a theater production with their Shakespeare theater guild. Jani said while we were in Chicago she really wanted Chicago-style pizza, so that was our dinner at one of Chicago's infamous pizza places. Tasty stuff. Given Rowan's dairy allergy and the high calories, carb and fat content of pizza, not much of it gets consumed around here, so even though it was simple food, it was a big treat.

Again that day, any time our feet grew weary, we'd park ourselves in a coffee shop to read. This felt completely decident. (-:

Our last day we ventured to the Adler Planetarium, the only museum on the Chicago Museum Campus that neither of us had visited. We loved it for both our own enjoyment and felt that it would be a great place to bring the girls.

All in all, the time in Chicago was great reconnection time for us both.

The girls were more than happy to see us return to Freeport where we spent another couple of nights hanging out with family.

Last week brought us back into reality. Jani is back to school, spending time in the homeless shelters and various inexpensive hotels, finding new homeless families to get them registered for school. I had to travel out of town for work last week, driving home on Thursday, dodging some of the 26 tornadoes. We had the good sense to pull of the road and hang tight for awhile, but it was a stressful trip.

I think the girls, while they had a great time, are glad to be home, to sleep in their own beds, eat off of their own dishes and not restaurant food and play with their own toys. They've been quite the homebodies since we've gotten home, preferring to hang out with each other at home than go off on an adventure. Ms. Gemma is still dealing with the "vcation hangover" coupled with birthday excitement, so she's been a bit of a handful, especially at bedtime. Hopefully, as we get past the birthday extravoganza and into a regular routine, she can turn her intensity dial down a few notches. Ms. Rowan, our child more capable of going with the flow, is settled back in well.