Friday, March 11, 2016

Espen's Science Birthday Party

 Seeing as we're already in birthday mode, I thought I'd show you some pictures from the kids' birthday parties that both happened over the last few months. First up is Espen's science birthday party!

The theme of my life right now seems to be that I need to learn how to simplify things. I'm just too tired and grumpy to be really fun right now! So Espen's party was definitely a bit scaled back in a lot of ways.

To start with, instead of designing all of the invitations and party decor myself (or with the help of design savvy friends), I came across this fully printable, science party kit from Paper and Cake. The design was much closer to what I had in mind than anything I was able to find online (a lot of what I saw seemed to imply that you either have to be mad or nerdy to like science, which is honestly kind of lame), and I liked that it was such a complete package that I ponied up the cash and thanked my lucky stars that we have a decent printer.

The Birthday Boy himself liked his party, so that's a win. 

We kept the decorations really simple, and didn't really do much beyond this banner and a few signs here and there. In the past, we have always done helium balloons as decorations and party favors, but Espen and his friends just seemed a little too old for that this year (sniff, sniff). The kit comes with a million billion cute things you can cut out and make decorations from, but we just didn't feel the need for a 90 minute party for a gang of kindergarteners. As long as there is cake and friends, they're happy!

Goodness, this picture is awful, but it does show you what the banner looks like!

Bacteria blobs: jello and sprinkled in petri dishes.

While we kept our party decor simple, we did put some thought and effort into the food, including all the hokey names on the little labels. I tracked down some food-safe petri dishes (like these ones on Amazon, except I found them a little cheaper locally) and filled them with jello. Then we added sprinkles while the jello was still setting, so the colors bled and left a kind of cool, bacteria growth-looking effect. These were definitely the hit of the party!

Rice Crispy Clones.We just cut them as similarly sized as we could, and that made them cloney as could be. 

Our family also loves rice crispy treats, so we whipped up a quick pan of those, and they were gone before we knew it. I may, or may not have had a lot to do with that!

Purple protons: grapes. We removed the stalks so they would be easier to grab and look more sciency. 

I always like to add a lighter, healthier option, so we went with a bowl full of grapes. The kids didn't eat a ton of them, but the grown ups at the party (lead by the two pregnant ladies and Gwen) polished them off pretty quickly. I didn't get a picture, but we also had a bowl of popcorn (Molecular Munchies!) to counteract all of the sweet stuff. 

That's an Erlenmeyer flask! Apparently. 

Espen is really into citrus flavors these days, so I made him a lemon cake with layers of fresh strawberry jam (homemade, you guys!) and covered the whole thing in whipped cream. Then I babbled some instructions at Nick, who deftly drew this Erlenmeyer flask design and decorated it with sprinkles. You should know at this point, that one of my best friends in the whole world is the most incredible cake decorator, so I always feel like a complete idiot when I post pictures of anything I bake, but I'm going to declare this cake a success anyway. It was cute, fun, on theme and completely delicious, so I was very happy with it. 

Taking a break from the partying for cake and snacks.

 At 12 kids, this was the biggest birthday party we have thrown to date, and while Espen and his friends definitely loved it, it was kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they needed zero entertainment and were happy to just play and run around for the duration of the party. On the other hand, 90 minutes of rampaging five and six year-olds is enough to bring anyone to their knees! We had planned to do some fun science experiments with the kids, but quickly decided that it would be too hard to try to gather 12 kids and hold their attention long enough for anything other than cake and presents. So I think we'll keep activities like that to smaller parties in the future!

So many kids! Espen got a Lego kit as a gift, and everyone wanted to help build it.
So they all took turns placing one brick at a time!

Thanks for coming to Espen's laboratory!

When it was time to go home, we rounded everything off with party favors. My favorite part of those were these test tubes (These are similar, but again, I found them much, much cheaper locally). You can't really tell from the picture, but they're actually pretty tiny. So tiny, in fact, that the jelly beans I had planned to put in them wouldn't fit, and we had to go with M&M Minis instead. I love how they look, and also like that the kids got to take home something they could play with and reuse once the candy was gone.

Thanks for coming!

Then we bagged them up with a few other sciency little things, like glow sticks and little maze toys and a few other bits and pieces and slapped on a quick laboratory label and called it a party!

As I mentioned earlier, it was definitely a lot simpler than the parties I have thrown in the past, but I am learning that turning myself into a complete stress ball over these things isn't always the best thing. I do sort of regret not taking more and better pictures, but at the same time I don't regret that not picking up the camera meant that I was a much more present mom for Espen's party. My family loves it when I make an effort to make their birthday special, but they don't love it if it means that I'm grumpy and preoccupied for days before the party. So I'm learning to find that good balance!

Most importantly, Espen got to have a fun party with a lot (a lot!) of his friends and enjoy the special day he'd been looking forward to and planning since his last birthday. And, almost as importantly, we're off the hook until Gwen turns four in November - when she has decided she wants a Superman party!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gwen is three

Miss Gwenyth Josephine also had a birthday a while back, but because I was in the depths of despair/morning sickness at the time, she didn't get her annual birthday picture post. So here it is today!





Oh, our Gweny! It's hard to even put into word what this little person means to our family: she is happy, funny, silly, busy, outraged, indignant, stubborn, and ever so independent. She jumps up and down when she's excited or happy. She throws herself on the floor with despair when we tell her "no". She is constantly making up songs and likes to perform them while running around the kitchen table at full tilt. She loves to make her big brother laugh. She is either giving everyone hugs and telling them how much she loves them, or refusing kisses and shutting herself in her room to be alone. Everything is done with passion and determination. And we love her so much.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Espen is six

Growing up before our very eyes:







People always talk about how kids grow up so fast, and how childhood is so short, and they do, and it is. But at the same time I just can't believe that this funny, thoughtful, kind and crazy kid has only been with us for six short years. Was there really a time when Espen wasn't part of our family? There must have been less laundry and more leaving the house after 7:30 at night, which sounds nice, but there would also have been less bedtime stories, spontaneous snuggles, helpless giggles and philosophical pondering from a busy little brain that always wants to know. Espen, thank you for bringing so much to our family, we are so happy you're ours.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Find this happy print (and others like it) at Alexa Z Design.
It's mid-February, and one of the busiest times of the year for our family between Valentine's Day (with all that entails now that we have two kids in school!), Espen's birthday and a three-day weekend, so naturally what I want to write about today is New Year's Resolutions. What, we're not still doing those? Psha.

I only made two resolutions this year, and they are as follows:

1. Make the world a little better. 
It is possible that it was just me (although I really don't think so), but didn't the second half of 2015 seem like a really dark and troubled time for the world? And I'm not just talking about Donald Trump running for office (ba-dum ching). Between the situation in Syria and the middle east, the global refugee crisis and terrorist attacks and all of the rhetoric and hate speech, I began to wonder what sort of a world is this to be bringing a new baby into. What sort of a world is this to be raising our little family in? I've already had to explain war, refugees, homelessness and the fact that some people aren't safe for children to be around to my sweet five year-old, and it hurts my heart to think about all of the hard conversations we have ahead of us. I so want the world to be the beautiful place filled with kind and generous people that my kids naturally assume that it is!
Then the thought occurred to me that if I want to see a change in the world, then I have to be that change. I can't wish that other people are going to be kind and generous without being those things myself. How can I expect other people to stand up for the things that are good and right in this world if I'm not willing to do that myself? 
So this year (and hopefully for many, many years to come), I'm going to try to reach out more, give more, do more to make this world a little more like the world I want for my children, your children and everyone's children. 

2. Make the time to play with my kids.
I have to admit that this one actually kind of sprang from a twinge of jealousy: if you were to ask any of my kids who is the fun parent, and who is the boring parent, then hands down, every time, they would say that my husband is the fun one. Which makes me the boring one. And guys, I'm not boring! I'm not! I'm just... busy. Although I'm here with the kids more or less 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I generally spend most of that time either trying to clean our put away our belongings, making or shopping for food or trying to eke out a little time for myself where I can clear my head and just breathe for 10 minutes. On top of all of the regular "home and family" stuff, being pregnant just makes me tired too! And so I find myself dodging requests from tiny people to play dollhouse or build Doc McStuffins' clinic or play Minecraft or boardgames, just so I can get to the end of the day feeling like I have accomplished something. 
To be honest, I don't feel like it's my job as my children's mom to entertain them and keep them happy at all times, and in all things and in all places. I believe in teaching them to be happy in their own company, and to be creative enough to make their own fun without me having to do it for them. I believe in the virtues of being bored and having to problem solve their way out of it. But I also believe in spending time with the kids to create memories, build relationships, take opportunities to teach and just have fun together! And nothing in this world makes those little faces shine brighter than when I take the time to play with them (and put away my stupid phone).
I've already discovered that it doesn't take much. Sometimes it's enough to make a game out of getting them out of the bathtub, and sometimes 20 minutes of building Lego is all they really want. I spent five minutes making a puzzle with Gwen earlier this week, and she was happy as a clam (why are clams so happy?) after that. I let Espen teach me how to play Minecraft on the iPad (so not my thing!) a little while ago, and he still talks about it daily. I'm really learning that it takes so little, but means so much, so I'm planning to make this a longterm habit too. 

Like the quote at the top of this post says, being happy isn't something you stumble across by chance, or are dealt by fate. It's a choice and and an action and a habit. So I'm choosing to make a few small changes that I know will make a difference for me. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Thursday morning in January

The usual suspects.

I typically try to avoid writing blog posts that start with "ohmygosh, guys, I'm so sorry it's been so long since my last post", because let's be honest, that would be roughly every other post around these parts, but...

Ohmygosh, guys, I'm so sorry it's been so long since my last post!

These are my top three reasons for being a bad, bad blogger of late:

  1. Time Between two young kids, school, karate and everything that needs to happen in a day, I've just found it tough to find the time and the head space to sit down, have something worthwhile to say and then say it (hopefully in a way that will be interesting to someone other than me and my immediate family). 
  2. The Holidays Friend, I don't know about you, but the holiday season really took it out of me this year. Between hosting Thanksgiving and spending Christmas with family at a cabin (both of which were lovely and fun and exactly what we wanted to do!), I feel like I haven't had an extra ounce of energy to spare since about Halloween.Which, of course probably has something to do with reason number three:
  3. I'm pregnant! Yup, we discovered in mid November that there is another little North baby on the way, and are all completely delighted. Maybe especially the kids, (which is saying something seeing as this little person is already as loved and wanted by his or her parents as anyone could hope to be) who have been doing happy dances and making plans since we told them. But as delightful and exciting as a new baby is, there are a lot of weeks and months of feeling sick and exhausted to slog through before we get to the fun part of actually meeting our tiny little human. Morning sickness is typically pretty tough for me (although not as bad as some ladies I know, who end up in the hospital or on bedrest because they can't keep anything down), and so I've been pretty useless since about Thanksgiving onwards. But we're getting close to the second trimester, so I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that I'll start feeling like a human being again soon.
Another change that has come about is that Gwen started preschool this week. I realize that this might not seem like the most earth shattering of events, but it does mean that I get just over two hours to myself twice a week when both kids are in school. This is momentous! It will only last until the end of May, and then not again until we ship our new little sproutlet off to preschool in about 3-4 years time, so I'm going to enjoy it while I can. In fact, I am enjoying it right at this very moment! And, I should add, so is Gwen, who instantly loved both preschool and her teacher with a fiery passion from the very moment she walked in the door. 

So, hopefully I'll be back next week! There's lots I want to tell you about, a few things I want to show you and one or two things I'd like to ask you about. But before all of that: how was your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa*/Winter Solstice/Three Kings Day?

*If you celebrate Kwanzaa, you are hereby morally obligated to tell me all about it, because I've never met anyone who does, and I genuinely want to know.