Saturday, July 27, 2013


Auntie Seen turned the big 3-0 in the beginning of June, wrapping up the family birthday cluster I mentioned in the last post. To honor the milestone, Matt decided to throw Serene a surprise thirtieth birthday party, and conspired with the women of the family to pull it off. Serene loves surprises, and no one deserved a party more than Serene did after this past year, so it was a fitting way to turn the page on the last year and begin the next chapter of life.

Matt had suspected that Serene had uncovered our covert operation in the works - I had been asking Serene about birthday plans and pestering her about a celebratory girl's night and so had another girlfriend, so we had played it real cool (CIA tradecraft, basically), and Serene hadn't given me any sly smiles or pointed eye contact, but Matt wasn't sure.  But when Serene left their house for their "dinner date" with her hair still wet, he realized that this surprise party was indeed going to live up to it's name. Instead of driving to the restaurant, Matt pulled into a nearby parking lot where Serene was surprised with this:
Balloons and banners and signs and smiling friends and family!


Happy 30th Birthday Serene!

After the surprise, we all headed up the hill to Matt and Serene's for pizza, pool time, and party.

The kiddos love swimming

And we all love Serene!

The best surprisers, by far, were Matt and Serene's friends J and S, who came down from Phoenix for the party, and brought the colorful and shiny Dia de los Muertos banner (very Tucson), lots and lots of sangria, and this crazy horse head mask, which J wore when Serene pulled up. Tragically, I don't have any pictures of the horse head mask, but us girls had fun playing with the banner.

The birthday girl
This is 30.

And this is where I should try and explain how I broke S's sangria drink dispenser trying to clean up after the party and how Serene and I almost peed our pants writing a sangria-fueled apology note filled with flowery language and illustrations, because it's my favorite memory of the entire party, but you probably had to be there. Because wine.

Happy 30th Birthday Serene - I am seriously so blessed to call one of my best friends and favorite people ever family. Celebrating your 30th was a blast. Maybe now that we're both in our 30s, we'll start acting like mature, rational grown-ups when we're together...? 

From 22 Signs You've Found Your Best Friend Forever:

18. Despite being intelligent as individuals, you’re truly harebrained collectively.

I can think of no truer way to describe our friendship. So I guess that grown-up thing is unlikely.

Maybe 40.

Luh ooooooooo.

Release the Picaken!

So in our family three birthdays cluster in a four day span - J, BB, and Auntie Seen's birthday celebrations are all back-to-back, which means a concentration of celebration! Months (just looked at the date - more than a year?) before the birthday cluster, I was reading The Very Worst Missionary blog, and Jamie the VWM told the tale of bakin' a picaken.  

What's a picaken, you ask? 

Why, it's a pie baked into a cake, obvi. 

Which is just the sort of kooky, excessive thing my husband loves, which is why I was completely unsurprised when, after reading the links I sent him, he declared that he, too, wanted a picaken for his birthday.

If you want to learn how to bake a picaken, read Jamie's hilarious posts here and here, in which she explains how picaken takes over her life during her own family birthday cluster.

I made J a mini-picaken, due to the copious amounts of refined sugar we were sure to consume during the birthday cluster. (Self control? I'm sorry, what?)

First, I baked a mini cherry pie. Then I whipped up some chocolate cake batter. And then I crammed the mini pie in on top of the cake batter.

Yup, that happened.

Then, more cake batter.

And after a jaunt in the oven, 

Sadly, my picaken sank in the middle and cracked, but, you know, when you're baking hybrid dessert monstrosity and then you decide to adjust the recipes yourself to do it in an arbitrary miniature form, you get what you ask for. 

But you know what else I got? 

A happy husband. 

Happy Birthday J!



And I have to admit, when I ate my piece(s), I didn't taste any sunken center. All I tasted was picaken - and that kooky sucker was delicious.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tucson's Finest

We are lucky enough to pal around with some of Tucson's finest...

oh, and their parent's too. Ba da, Chhh! I'm here all week, folks!

But seriously, a friend of ours is a firefighter, and his wife coordinated a tour of the firehouse for our playgroup (dare I say, Tucson's Finest Playgroup?).  It was so interesting and educational (for me, too!); plus, BB got to wear his fireman costume, and the kiddos all took home little fireman hats - so win win win.

BB in the drivers seat with Ryan the Fireman and Paramedic educating him.
(BB was a little cautious about climbing into the fire engine, but it was cute to see him up there.)

Tucson's Finest Playgroupers learning about fire-fighting gear from the brave and selfless. 

Another friend (also known as the best neighbor ever) is a police officer in the area, and he was kind enough to bring over the police cruiser just to give BB a chance to check it out. BB got to turn on the flashing lights and the spot light and everything! Such a cool educational experience for him (and again, for me too!). 

Thank you to the civil servants we are blessed to call friends for these learning opportunities!


Safari explorers at the zoo for a buddy's birthday

Brave BB touching a snake at the zoo

Both wearing rescue packs and grins

Pirate SS digging for...booty?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Calling All Pin Pals to BB's 4th Birthday!

My Barking Baby turned 4 years old a few several weeks ago. FOUR. How did that happen? 

BB will be starting preschool in four weeks. I had two mid-conversation burst-into-tears episodes just trying to get him registered for preschool, so I can't imagine what a mess I will be when I drop him off for the first day of preschool. Away. From me. Doing things that I won't know every detail of every minute about. Weird.
BB can't wait.
Yesterday I asked him if he was nervous to go to preschool, and he gave me a confused (and somewhat pitying) look and shook his head, no. Oh, Mama.

But back to turning four...

At his four year check-up, BB measured to be of average height......of a 5 1/2-year-old. My big boy is BIG.  Tall, to be exact. After years of teetering on the edge of the weight growth chart, it was fun to hear:
43 inches tall - 95th percentile
40 pounds - 90th percentile

We celebrated BB's fourth birthday with a party at the bowling alley.

Calling All Pin Pals to BB's 4th Birthday Party!

Our party guests - the fam, including cousins B and K of course, and his two besties Little C and E and their fams, and B & M, who are some of BB's (and my) fave grownups. 
(Ignore B and Auntie's Seen's sarcastic enthusiasm for photos - giving them attention will only encourage them.)

BB asked for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and anticipated his "chocolate chocolate cake" anytime his birthday party was mentioned.

BB had a little behind-the-scenes help from Daddy blowing out his candles.

Bowling with help from Daddy

When BB went bowling for the second time, around Christmas time, he cheered and clapped on each person's turn - his enthusiasm was so genuine and precious. At his birthday party, BB traded cheering in for dancing - BB used the bowling alley as his own personal dance floor while his ball rolled toward the pins. Here are some shots of him gettin' down:

Ever since we decided to do a simple, bowling birthday party, I have been dreaming of taking a photo of BB with his cousins and best friends, grinning, overjoyed to be with his favorite people, so that I could blow it up and hang it in his bedroom.

Can someone please tell me what I was thinking? HOW? How did I think that it was actually possible to take a perfect, smiling, posed photo of five kids, including a 5-year-old, a barely-almost-four-year-old, and a 3-year-old? What a rookie idea.

This is the best I got. 

What can I say? I'm a dreamer.

I love this daddy-daughter bowling photo - Uncle M and B have almost the exact same bowling "form" in it!

BFF Dr. A came! She is, after all, Little C's mommy.

BB opened gifts
Candyland from E and Z, which he had just played for the first time with them.

Here he is opening our gift, homemade aprons. The boys love to play with toy food and a toy grill, and BB has been watching cooking shows with J. A few weeks ago, he told me, "Okay mama, we're makin' wunch. The timer is stawting now - let's do dis!"  A little too many cooking shows, apparently. Whenever he helps me cook, I put him in my extra apron, which is a flowery, ruffled one, and at his cousin's he wants to wear a pink one, so I decided it was time to make some boy aprons for my little chefs-in-training. BB, SS, and I actually picked the fabric together, and BB had been waiting and waiting for his birthday so that he could see his apron.

Dinosaurs and sharks - that, my friends, is a boy apron. 
(SS's had doggies on it, as he has a fondness for pups.)

Auntie Shawna got him a backpack filled with hiking gear, including this hat with a light on it, which BB became obsessed with.

He also received his first small Lego set, a pirate ship, from Team P.

And then it was back to bowling. BB and I bowled together,

and danced together.

Even SS gave it a go - check out his overjoyed expression:

And then SS managed to PICK UP BOWLING BALL!!! J caught it before it smashed SS's tiny toes, praise the Lord.

Back at our house, cuddling precious brand-new baby K, who slept through the entire bowling birthday party.

Team P and Team Barking Baby boys all together

Happy 4th Birthday BB.
Do you know how much I love yoooooouuuuu?