Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween=More Free Fun

As promised, we hit up another free fall festival last weekend.  Several of the activities and games were duplicates of the festival we went to the week before, but toddlers don't know the difference.  What I'm going to do to entertain my children when they're old enough to mutter (cue whiny voice) "We already did this, moooooom!" is beyond me.

More candy (though I was a bit more liberal in accepting it this time around)

More petting zoos (only this one was much better monitored.  No traumatized barn yard babies this time around)

More games.

And more bounce houses.

But this festival did have a few things that the previous one lacked.  

Like Hudson, who missed out on the last one.  (Not that he really cared.)

And face painting...

One of my sons chose a manly rainbow to sport on his cheek.  

The other son had no idea what was going on.

And for the locomotive lovers in the family, there was a kiddy train that took you on a thrilling ride around a football field.  It's a tossup which was more exhilerating: the field train ride or the parking lot hay ride from last week.  But again, toddlers don't really know the difference.  I do love toddlers for that very reason.

This is how exhilarated I was:

But then I reigned in my excitement and got ready for the ride of my life, while Mr. Congeniality treated the whole thing like a parade and waved at all the onlookers.

Another free perk that I enjoy at large gatherings like this one is what I fondly refer to as "Who's Kid Is This?"  It's when you let your child whose skin color is different from yours run freely in a large crowd.  Hang back not too far but far enough to watch people's faces as a seemingly parentless child roams about.  Concerned bystanders rarely assume that said child is in fact quite monitored (albeit by a mother with a somewhat twisted sense of humor).  This game can also be enjoyed at the grocery store or Target.

I'd also like to make a note to self that inviting along your professional photographer friend is a great idea when doing fun things with your kids.  Then you might actually get quality shots of them, which is entirely too difficult to do while carrying an overflowing bag (because you refuse to pay money for a real diaper bag with zippers) and wearing an infant on your front.


Then there's also the possibility of actually being in a picture or two.  Now there is legitimate photographic proof that I am in fact part of this family.  

So Halloween Part II was a wild success.  I am certainly getting my money out of the $17 total I spent on the boy's costumes. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Prelude to Halloween

We've made it our goal to hit up as much free Halloween festivities as possible.  Fall festivals, pumpkin patches, neighborhood parties--they're all on our agenda o' fun.  Because, realistically speaking, this is probably the last time in a long time that we'll be in the States during this time of year.  Unless of course Halloween starts to sweep China, which my friend Rachel did encounter when a group of Chinese kids surprised her at her door trick-or-treating.  Unaware that China even knows about Halloween and unprepared with candy, she gave them dinner rolls.

Dinner rolls, however, have not been a part of our kiddos' Halloween thus far.  Instead, we kicked things off by taking our little dinosaur/dragon (we're not really sure exactly what the costume is supposed to be) and frog to a local church's fall festival.  We were accompanied by our neighbor friends Mickey Mouse and Darth Maul.

This festival was pure madness.  A perfect amalgamation of games, bounce houses, petting zoos, hay rides, candy, and sno-cones.  Pretty much a toddler's dream world.

We figured the most appropriate place for a little frog to start his evening was at one of the many bounce houses.  And bounce he did.

And then back for more.

Then we moved on to games.  Sam was more interested in the fish illustrations and running away with the game pieces than the treat that came out on the other side of the fishing pole.  That may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I refused the treats as often as I could without him noticing. Yes, I am that kind of mom.

The petting zoo was an anarchist version of Animal Farm.  No one was marshaling the entrance to the pen so there were dozens of toddlers crammed inside with all the animals.  Bunnies were nearly stepped on, and I saw one little boy try to beat up a goose.  Let's just say it was a good thing no PETA activists were there.

Our kids, thankfully, didn't terrorize Old McDonald's furry, feathery, and wooly friends.  Not that I would put it past them.  I just think Micah was too scared of the screaming piglet. 

But Daddy the bovine whisperer stepped in to rescue him, so Sam the Brave could pet it as well.  

Thoroughly doused in hand sanitizer, we moved on to the highlight of the evening: a scenic hay ride through the parking lot.  

You might be wondering why Sam isn't in any of the above hay ride pictures.  Sam loves all thing wheels and sings Andrew Peterson's "Tractor, Tractor" song incessantly throughout the day.  So when the tractor pulled up, while all the other kids gravitated toward the trailer, Sam went the opposite way.

We're pretty sure touching a real, live tractor captivated him more than the views of the highway.

We brought our tired & happy buddies home that night with promises of more Halloween to come.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

90 Years Young

Yet another evidence of grace that we've experienced because of our delayed return to China is the fact that I got to attend my grandfather's 90th birthday shindig last week.  My mom's family all gathered to celebrate this man:

My mom, dad, Aunt Donna, and Grandad drove from Austin to meet my Aunt Barbara, Grandma, and two of my Grandad's good friends at a seafood restaurant in Houston.  I can't even remember the last time we were all together.  

The restaurant staff decorated our table with Mardi Gras beads that all ended up in my bag to take home to the buddies who did not tag along for the 6 hour round trip.  They have been sporting their bling ever since.

Even Hudson sported his blue suede shoes for the special occasion.

If you are ever in doubt as to how to provide entertainment for a 90th birthday bash, just bring along a little baby.  Pass him from guest to guest, and you're guaranteed smiles all around.  

My grandfather has probably spent more of his life up in the air flying planes that down on the ground. One of my favorite moments of the evening was when we went around the table sharing old flying stories & adventures.  My mom framed a picture for him of a plane he used to fly.  

When you're 90, you definitely are able to have your cake and eat it too.  Don't get in his way!

My favorite memories of my grandad are the pizazz he always added to our Christmas Eve celebration. Year after year, he would show up an hour late with the most eccentric gifts wrapped in trash bags.   Surely he was late because he was sifting through his garage collection of Home Shopping Network purchases he had made throughout the year.  My brother once received a fingerprint kit when he was 15 years old.  Then he aged 10 years by receiving a briefcase the very next year.  My mom has a canister of about 50 mini-pocket knives in the pantry, thanks to Grandad.  In fact, sharp objects were often a hot commodity at Christmas gatherings.   You never knew what kind of randomness might accompany you home after Christmas Eve with Grandad!

Despite the late night and the monsoon we had to drive through to get there, these moments with family was definitely worthwhile.  

(And as a side note plea for help to all my photography in the world do I tackle a low-light situation like a restaurant?  Must I resort to an external flash?  Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated!!)