Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Whole Hand!

My pumpkin pie turns 5!

Laying it on thick, I received many I Love You, Mommy's as DeeDee’s birthday approached. She is a master manipulator and I say that with both chuckles under my breath and concern. At 5 she can snow most of her friends and extended family, trick her sister into giving her pretty much whatever she wants and be the most persuasive child and the sweetest child I’ve ever known. No doubt this trait will be an asset at some point in life, but for now Pat and I try to be acutely aware of what is going on as much as we can. So far she has not sold us waterfront property in the desert...yet.

At first, she really was set on having another princess party, a basic reenactment of last years celebration, but with a bit of coaxing, together, we chose to host a “chef” party and have it at Devi’s Birthday Bistro...aka our kitchen. This decision did not come without a bit of bargaining. The negotiation eventually lead to her one requirement - a fairy cake. Easy enough...Done!

The budding chefs

With the theme decided and envisioning herself as the future hostess, Devi told me countless times how she would help her guests during the party, making sure they each had a flower on their piece of cake, explaining her willingness to share and that she would consult an adult if anyone needed assistance while cooking. The conversation was darling, though I doubted any of these things would actually happen when the time came. Devi is so consumed by doing everything the right way.

Both girls made a tour of the house on the morning of the party, mouth agape, to find bright crepe paper streamers and ginormous cut outs of sprinkled cupcakes decorating the walls of the two main celebration rooms that mysteriously arrived during the night. Our easeled chalkboard served as our sidewalk sign, positioned at the front door welcoming guests to Devi’s Birthday Bistro.

Chef hats were decorated while we awaited the arrival of all the guests. It was fun to see how creative the girls of this age group are starting to get as they added their names and drew pictures of themselves along with creative scribbling all produced in their favorite colored markers. I need not have to explain which colors those might be for most, except for Treya, whose favorite hue is black.

Spreading the dough into a 6 inch circle

With sufficiently clean hands, the eight epicureans, dressed in the pink cupcake aprons I made, found a spot around the table to make our first recipe - fresh fruit kabobs. Each chef skewered fruit of their choice onto coffee straws; one for themselves and one for their mothers. Devi just ate her fruit - her favorite food group - a craving she can not deny.

Entrees were next, as we created individual pizzas using Grand muffins for the crust. The table was a swirl of creativity as each girl patted and stretched their skin out to the edges of the circles I provided showing the correct size for our dough. Sauced and cheesy, eight very different topped pizzas, some heavily loaded and others sparse, were ready for baking in no time, which allowed us time to play a couple of games. Blind folded mini marshmallow scooping, proved to be frustrating for neat-nick Devi as she watched the guests play, upset that so many marshmallows were missing the appropriate bowl and landing on the floor. Treya just figured those were fair game and would grab them up and stuff them into her mouth. Her cheeks filled with sugary fluff was the signal that perhaps this game was beyond her comprehension. A poster sized Devi, holding an empty plate provided the task of our next game as each blindfolded girl taped a cupcake to, what they thought was an appropriate spot. The winner, was a friend who had a hard time not peaking!

The slightly bigger than life size "place the cupcake on the plate" results.

Amazing how much more lunch actually goes in the mouth when they make it themselves! Everyone raved about their own recipe and ate heartily, refueling the budding chefs to tackle our last task - decorating cake pops! Relatively easy to make, I had the doughy balls “sticked” and ready to be decorated. Each girl helped me twist the cake pop into the molten candy melt and gently tap off the excess drippings. Then they were free to decorate to their hearts content with various kinds of their favorite candy with gummy bears, chocolate covered raisins and Runts leading the way. Styrofoam served as our hardening rack and later the masterpieces were bagged in cellophane to take home.

We ended the party with a robust round of the Birthday song and encouraged Devi, the perfectionist, as she blew each candle out, one at a time, to ensure that they were sufficiently extinguished. To heck with the wish, she feels strongly that some tasks should be completed in a particular fashion - birthday candles being one of them. Completely out of breath, she invited the girls to help blow out the last candle, which brought an immediate gush of wind getting the job done and spurring shouts of celebratory hoorays.

Cake pops before decorations

Devi deep in concentration decorating her cake pop

The kids' creations

Sister chefs

The Old Spaghetti factory was Dev’s dinner of choice this year, celebrated on the 15th with just our family of four. At the ripe old age of 5, Dev decided that pokey blanket no longer needs to ride in the car, but rather can wait on her bed for use only at night time. Instead, she insisted on carrying a purse with the essentials (two fairy dolls) to dinner, which is really funny when you consider I never have carried a purse, but somehow she has decided that this is what grown up girls do.

Mysteriously, a real bicycle was found in our living room when we returned, the gift that she not so subtly had been hinting about for months, since growing big enough to practice on the one at preschool during recess. The nasty weather required an indoor test drive, as she skillfully maneuvered the “glitter” bike around the kitchen island several times, ringing her bell from Oma, several times to alert the rest of us to get out of the way.

I must admit that when the 15th came, her actual birthday, I found myself to be rather nostalgic, becoming teary eyed at the realization of her maturity and growth. When first united, she held up no fingers - now five! A whole hand! Where did that time go? She is most definitely not a baby any more, but rather a budding delightfully witty and smart child who willingly calls me momma. When one talks about gifts at birthday times, I am the one that was somehow received this prize. Devi, I love you so much. I love that you are not perfect and that we are learning together how to reveal your most wonderful qualities and understand and express those that need molding in other ways. You are a delight....a shining star...who brings joy and laughter, challenges and tenderness. Though I don’t want to rush through even a single minute, my mind can’t help but wander as I watch you mature into such a fine compassionate young lady. We love you, DeeDee!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life's Tricks and Treats

Treya's first trip to the pumpkin patch - The Double R Ranch

Much in the same way a weary traveler is jolted to attention on a moving sidewalk at the airport, so am I when ripping the September page from my desk calendar. Even “falling back” with daylight savings time does not slow the accelerated pace we seem to set in motion from October 1 to the end of the year. This is nothing new for Pat, Devi or myself as we coordinate and plan our way through our normal day by day obligations AND Diwali, Halloween, birthdays, Thanksgiving - usually spent in Mexico, and then preparing for Christmas. It is exhausting even to type it.

Poor Treya must be confused beyond belief as the house mysteriously changes during the night and she awakens to a different motif. I think this has literally happened three times in the course of the past week going from Diwali decor to Halloween decorations - including finding a big hairy spider hanging above the kids’ chairs at the kitchen island, to now Devi’s birthday, bright with crepe paper streamers. We are doing our best to bring Trey up to speed, but I've caught her singing the birthday song next to a pumpkin, and saying happy Diwali on Halloween. She looked at me like I had lost my marbles when I encouraged her to plunge her hand into the ooey gooey insides of a pumpkin. The pause and wrinkled brow she gave while trying to process the words had me in stitches, and it took much cajoling to get her to explore the inside of that pumpkin. In the end, she did, but had to have a towel in her lap at all times to continually wipe off her hands.

The King, The Queen, Rapunzel & Nymph

These new experiences and her responses give reason to stop and pause. What an incredible amount of trust she has put in me as her mother and Pat and Devi. Trey is constantly surveying every situation and trying to read our reactions through words, body language and facial expression, then respond in ways she deems appropriate. We take this trust so much for granted, I think in most instances our expectations of her are way too high, which leads to frustration on everyone’s part. I often just assume that Treya will accept things or experience them in the same way that Devi did at the same age, which couldn’t be farther from reality. Devi has always been much more outgoing and laid back about new situations while Treya to be more reserved and hesitant.

I forget that she has only been in this country for eleven months and so much of our daily lives are still filled with “firsts” for her. While Treya’s need to feel like a contributor is huge, her reluctance to try new things is equally as limiting, creating her two extremes. We have to be so careful, because Treya, in an effort to be helpful, will attempt to assist in ways that are not safe, especially in the kitchen. If I am cooking and she knows what utensil I will need next, she will silently attempt to bring it to me or complete the task herself, regardless if it is chopping with a knife, or retrieving a hot pan. Granted she handles the items correctly, having “worked” in the kitchen at the orphanage, her behavior is obviously not appropriate or her age. When corrected she becomes so confused, not realizing we are correcting for unsafe behavior, not that the way that she attempted to complete a task was incorrect.

With the evolution of trust also comes the opening of one’s heart–mine and Treya’s. Call it attachment or bonding, it is a connecting of souls, a gradual process uncontrolled by conscious thought. It is not saying the words I Love You, or blowing kisses or even going through the motions of seeking out cuddles when one needs TLC after a bump or bruise. Stealing a quote from Sleepless in Seattle, “ is a million little tiny things, that when you add them all up, they mean we are suppose to be together. I knew it the first time I saw her. It was like...magic. For the past eleven months, we’ve been peeling away the layers of onion skin protecting our hearts and slowly letting the other in. It is so hard to put into words what is happening or how it is happening, but our relationship becomes more and more natural every day. The process is not always easy to navigate, but the rewards are undeniable.

So on to Halloween. Back to the Double R Ranch we each selected our pumpkin, where the beginning stages of planning their jack-o-lantern faces began. Then we attended a Harvest Party at the YMCA where Pat and I won the adult costume contest a few days before the 31st. Whoot! (Amazing what one can make with an old discarded women's bathrobe). By that time, Trey had mastered the words trick-or-treat adding much enthusiasm when she realized that candy is doled out when you say it loud enough. Devi, the oldest of our group of kids, led the pack around the neighborhood in her "I am experienced and will take care of you" way, where once again our Rapunzel and Nymph were spoiled rotten by our gift bag giving neighbors. We ended our evening with delirious children wielding full buckets of sweets. Treya was announcing "night-night" as we rounded the corner to our home front. Now a week later, we've still not made even a small dent in the amount of candy in our house which seems to whisper to me "I'm here" in the middle of the night. So far I've managed to avoid the temptation!