Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Painting Party In the Trees

Monday was Beatrice's 3rd birthday party. Her birthday is today, but with all of the other festivities happening, I decided to celebrate with our friends at the first of the week. 

Let me just say that I hate hosting parties. I get very stressed out about little details and have a hard time making decisions. I procrastinate prepping until the last minute and make myself crazy with finishing everything. The whole thing makes me anxious, but I would never dream of not throwing my girl a party. So I did, and it was great.

Beatrice is really into painting so I had the brilliant plan of having a painting party under the shade tree in our yard. I bought little wooden birdhouses at the craft store and bought little palettes of paint for each child. I also ordered painting smocks the kids could wear during the party and take home as favors. 

The kids were into the painting for about, oh, 10 minutes. Then they were over it. In my mind, they would be happily occupied with creating their birdhouse masterpieces for hours so I didn't plan any other activities. Party fail. We spent the duration of the party eating, opening gifts, and watching the kids run around the yard.

If you haven't guessed it, it was a costume party. There was Ariel, Cinderella, Merida, Mary's Little Lamb, Batman, Captain America, and a munchkin ballerina. 

Originally I wanted to have the party inside, but I decided it probably wasn't a great idea to have a bunch of kids with paint inside my house. So, I got up early (I watched the sun come up over the Pacific!) to make the outdoors a little more special. I hung 15 pale pink balloons from the tree limbs at different heights. I weighted them with gum balls so they would hang low. Beatrice loved them. I did too. 

The party was at lunchtime so I made hot ham and cheese sandwiches, pesto orzo salad, pineapple, and cupcakes. It was yummy and easy. 

A few things didn't pan out like I imagined, but Beatrice and her friends had fun so in the end, those things didn't matter. I'm glad our girl got to celebrate turning the big 3 with her friends. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why We Don't Celebrate Halloween

A couple of weeks ago, JD and I carved a pumpkin with the girls. It was the first one any of us had ever carved and we had a lot of fun doing it. We were all really proud of our first creation, but I felt compelled to learn about the history of jack o lanterns. My family never celebrated Halloween growing up so I knew very little about the holiday and its historical beginnings.

Later that night, I googled and found out jack o lanterns originated in Irish folklore. There was a guy named Stingy Jack who was a rotten scoundrel and played dirty tricks on everyone, including the devil. The devil made a deal with him that he wouldn't let him into hell if Stingy Jack let him out of a trap. When he died, true to his promise, the devil didn't let Jack in hell, but tossed him a burning ember from hell to light his way in eternity between heaven and hell. Legend has it that Stingy Jack put his ember in a hollowed out gourd, or pumpkin, and that every Halloween, his spirit can be found lingering about jack o lanterns. Read more here.

After I read that, I threw away our carved pumpkin. I know that we carved it totally innocent of what jack o lanterns represent, but JD and I were not comfortable having something on our porch that had affiliations with satanic folklore. I live my life in the Light of God's Truth and make efforts to avoid dark things in this world. I don't want to have anything to do with the devil or hell's fire, even if it is just a silly fairy tale. We have new pumpkins now, all faceless and flameless and we love them just as much as the first one we carved.

After learning about the historical beginnings of jack o lanterns, I researched the origins of Halloween next. I wanted to know for myself what the holiday was all about since I never celebrated it as a kid. What I read really sealed the deal for our decision to not celebrate. Much like the jack o lantern, Halloween's origins are deeply rooted in paganism and satanic folklore. Here's a short history:

Around 2,000 years ago, the Celts, who lived in what is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France, had a festival commemorating the end of the year. Their New Year was November 1, and this festival was called Samhain, pronounced sow-en. The end of their year signaled the end of summer, the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of a long, hard winter that often caused many deaths of animals and people. Weaker livestock were often killed and eaten during this holiday, since most likely, they would not survive the winter anyway. Because of this, and the cruel winter to come, this time of year signified death to the Pagan Celtics. They believed the night before the New Year, that the wall between the living and the dead was open, allowing spirits of the dead, both good and bad, to mingle among the living. Some of these spirits were thought to possess living people, cause trouble, ruin crops, or to search for passage to the afterlife.

Samhain was considered a magical holiday, and there are many stories about what the Celtics practiced and believed during this festival. Some say the spirits that were unleashed were those that had died in that year, and offerings of food and drink were left to aid the spirits, or to ward them away. Other versions say the Celts dressed up in outlandish costumes and roamed the neighborhoods making noise to scare the spirits away. Many thought they could predict the future and communicate with spirits as well during this time. Some think the heavily structured life of the Pagan Celtics was abandoned during Samhain, and people did unusual things, such as moving horses to different fields, moving gates and fences, women dressing as men, and vice versa, and other trickeries now associated with Halloween. Another belief is that the Celtics honoured, celebrated, and feasted the dead during Samhain. A sacred, central bonfire was always lit to honor the Pagan gods, and some accounts say that individual home fires were extinguished during Samhain, either to make their homes unattractive to roving spirits, or for their home fires to be lit following the festival from the sacred bonfire. Fortunes were told, and marked stones thrown into the fire. If a person's stone was not found after the bonfire went out, it was believed that person would die during the next year. Some Celts wore costumes of animal skulls and skins during Samhain. Faeries were believed to roam the land during Samhain, dressed as beggars asking for food door to door. Those that gave food to the faeries were rewarded, while those that did not were punished by the faeries. This is reported to be the first origin of the modern "trick or treat" practice. Read more here.

Now, I know that 99.9% of people that dress their kids up and go trick or treating are not summoning up evil spirits or acknowledging any sort of satanic ritual like the Pagan Celtics did in the first Halloween celebrations. They just want free candy and to see their kids dressed up like super heroes. I get it (heck, I want to participate just for the free candy!), but for us, we cannot participate in something that has origins in paganism and worship to false gods. Not when we're raising our kids to lead godly lives and stay away from dark things of this world.

JD and I decided long ago that our kids wouldn't celebrate Halloween. We will go to pumpkin patches and harvest festivals and have costume birthday parties, but we will not trick or treat and participate in traditional Halloween festivities. We have always felt comfortable that our kids would not be missing out on anything if we opted out of this holiday and even if they do, we are comfortable saying no to something we believe is not for them.

When I started this blog, I never wanted to get very personal. I wanted to write about my kids, my interests, and have a creative outlet for, well, writing. Over the years, I have gotten personal from time to time and while it's been met mostly with support and kind gestures from readers, sometimes I've received some pretty ugly criticism. It's caused me to not want to write about the personal beliefs my family has. If I don't put it out there, I won't get any negativity, kwim?

Anyway, I feel really compelled to write about Halloween and why we choose not to celebrate it. Mostly because practically everyone we know does celebrate and is probably wondering why we don't. Also, I want to express our beliefs for our family. Most of our friends and family celebrate Halloween and we don't think they are evil or horrible people. We love them and respect their decisions to celebrate however they see fit. Most of all, we do not judge anyone's beliefs or decision to participate. We realize not everyone has the same convictions and we aren't here to conform anyone to believe like we do. I just wanted to give a little insight to why we do not celebrate.

Happy Halloween! Just kidding ;)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

I hate pacifiers. Loathe them in fact. Before both of our girls were born, I vowed that they would never use one. Within their first days of life however, that vow went out the window. Sleep trumps all silly pre-baby vows and I begrudgingly encouraged full paci-addictions for both of my girls. They were instant paci-holics too. They didn't just use them during grumpy times or sleep times, they used them all of the times. It bothered me, but I let it happen. I couldn't wait until the day that I weaned them from those suckers (pun intended) once and for all.

I cannot explain why I hate pacifiers so much. I have not had any bad experiences with them that scarred me for life. I have never read any horrifying studies on pacifier use. I don't really have a reason, I just hate them. So getting rid of them has been a bit of an exciting thing for me. My poor paci-loving girls. 

Weaning Beatrice from the paci was relatively easy. It took about a day or 2 for her to get over wanting/needing it to fall asleep. Weaning Penelope has been completely different. I waited until after we returned home from our latest trip to Tennessee to begin the process. Homegirl fought me on that stupid piece of rubber for 9 days. 9 days of crying nearly all day. 9 days of zero naps. 9 days of near insanity for me.

My girls are stubborn, that's for sure, but their mama is more stubborn. As much as I wanted the crying to stop, I was not giving in and giving her back the paci. If anything, the more she cried for it, the more I was driven to stand my ground. Does that make me a bad mommy? Finally, she stopped crying and resumed her nap schedule. The paci war is over and life can go back to normal.

Of course, if we ever have another baby I vow to never give it a pacifier. Those things are my mortal enemies and even though I have won the battle twice now, I don't want to fight it ever again.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekday Adventure: Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch

Last year when we first moved here, I begged JD to take us to Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch. It is the pumpkin patch to the stars. Heidi Klum was there a few weeks ago along with a bunch of other celebrities and their kids. It never worked out last year, so this year I was determined to go.

My friend and I took a drive to West Hollywood this morning to check it out. We wore our best fall outfits, we psyched our kids up about the fun activities, and we just knew we'd see a celebrity. It was going to be so much fun.

When we got there, it was not as awesome as I imagined it would be. I think I was expecting it to be a true pumpkin patch. In Tennessee, the patches are on actual farms with acres and acres of pumpkins, rides, and activities. Mr. Bones is the size of a small parking lot.

Despite its size, there were fun things for the kids to do. There was a bounce house, a giant slide, petting zoo, and hay maze. We were practically the only ones there (no celebrities, boo) so our kids pretty much had the run of the place. It was great for us mamas to not worry about our little ones getting lost.

We don't celebrate Halloween and steer clear of scary things in general so our girls are not accustomed to seeing images of ghosts and skeletons and vampires. Mr. Bones is full of giant paintings and pictures of scary stuff. I didn't know this until we got there or else we wouldn't have come. Beatrice was totally freaked out and kept burying her face in my leg. Thankfully her friend kept her mind off of it. He actually said, "Beatrice, if we get scared, we can pray to God." I love him. 

The kids had fun and we did too. I think my expectations were a little high, but all in all it was a really nice (tiny) pumpkin patch with just enough stuff for the kids to do. I'm glad I finally got to check it out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finding Fall

Ever since I returned from Tennessee, the temperatures here in Southern California have been hot and muggy. I've been burning my fall scented candle, but it's not cutting it. I need more fall.

We took a walk the other night and I decided to look a little harder for the signs of my 2nd favorite season. And you know what, I found some!

Fallen leaves.

Pine cones.

Colors of the season.

And when all else fails, buy pumpkins and gourds for your dining room table.

Not the most traditional symbols of fall (except for the basket full of pumpkins and gourds), but they will do.

Other scenes from fall happened today at the nearby harvest festival.

Fall is all around, if you look for it. Happy fall, y'all!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekday Adventure: Disneyland!

Today, we did the one attraction that we have been wanting to do since we moved to Southern California. We went to Disneyland! JD took the day off and we headed to Anaheim to celebrate Beatrice's birthday a few weeks early.

We got there about 30 minutes after the park opened. We should have gotten there an hour earlier. It was packed. The girls ate 50% of their snacks while we waited (and waited and waited and waited) to buy our tickets.

Speaking of tickets, see that bad boy up there? I lost it within 10 seconds of JD handing it to me. Somehow I dropped it at the ticket window and didn't realize it until we were in line to enter the park. Thankfully, I found it and my husband didn't lecture me too much on the importance of keeping up with expensive pieces of paper.

Once we got in, it was pretty overwhelming. Aside from being packed with people, there was so much to see, touch, and smell. It was sensory overload. Beatrice kept asking to get out of the stroller, but JD and I told her she had to stay put until we figured out where to start. We decided to go for the castle.

Beatrice is really into princesses. Cinderella used to be her favorite, but now Ariel is her number one girl. Guess who we saw as soon as we got to the castle...

I cried when Beatrice got to meet her. She was so happy and grown up the way she walked right up to her and started talking. They talked for 5 solid minutes about the benefits of being a human versus a mermaid (although Beatrice told her she prefers when she's a mermaid), about how Flounder can be a guppy sometimes, and other important princess topics. JD and I just stood back, snapping a million pictures (and crying), letting her have her moment. It was one of my favorite parenting moments to date.

Cinderella was right around the corner.

The rest of the day was spent riding rides, eating, and walking 100,000 miles. Speaking of rides, my kids were afraid of every single moving thing we put them on. I take that back. They enjoyed the carousel and train ride, but every other moving ride sent them clamoring into our laps in fits of terror. And being the awesome parents that we are, we just kept making them ride stuff.  

In our defense, we weren't taking them on any scary or dangerous rides. Just little kid rides through Pinnochio's storybook and such, but man those rides are weird. All of them felt like being in a psychedelic trip. I've never taken a psychedelic trip before, but I imagine it would be a lot like the Winnie the Pooh ride at Disneyland. The strange animated mannequins, flashing lights, and jerky movements of the cars freaked them out. And after we promised that the next ride wouldn't be scary at all, something else would totally freak them out. Disneyland wasn't the happiest place on earth for my kids.

Like I said, the train and the carousel were the only rides that did not produce tears from our children.

The other the thing Beatrice totally loved was the characters. She didn't know who half of them were, but if there was a furry figure, she wanted to hug them.

Disney wore us out. By the end of the day, this is what we looked like:

My feet ache, we spent way too much money, and we scared the crap out of our girls repeatedly, but it was such a happy day. I'm so glad we finally adventured at Disneyland!