Monday, July 28, 2008

one five year old, three parties, and one Artoga camp week; part III: the birthday parties

The Cake

So remember, in the birthday post, I mentioned that Magdalena doesn't eat cake? Well that doesn't mean that she didn't want a fabulous cake. We saw this crazy castle cake in a magazine, Cookie Magazine (which is a bit precious for me, I mean, I don't think I fit the movie star/rock star/super model mom demographic) and decided that we needed to do a castle cake for the Five Year Birthday. Well let's just say I do not think I will ever bake a cake out of a magazine again, only out of cookbooks, but the end result was really fun and pretty wonderful.

the family birthday crew, with about 1/4 of me

The Sunday after Magdalena's birthday and Artoga, we had our extended family birthday. It was lovely and we got to honor our newly minted five year old and I got to revel in the glory that is family. This is why we moved here. I know you, all two of you, folks who read this blog might get bored by the constant parade of family events but really, that is why we are here! That is why I drug my oh-so-incredible mountain man/desert rat of a husband here to the swamp. Family. And the fact that there are other Barnas' within driving distance is, well, icing on the cake.

I didn't get a good photo of them, I will have to another day, but Magdalena, Augustus and Frida are all wearing shirts made by Aunt Su-su. Suzanne has surpassed all crafty expectations and showed up with custom shirts for each child. Magdalena's has pink bandanna butterflies across the bottom, and one big one on the back, Frida's has flying lady bugs, and Augustus' has leaping frogs and a gecko. They are amazing and the babes love them, they each had to put theirs on immediately.

Magdalena, ready to blow out five candles
So everybody swam and played and frolicked while I wrestled the cake into some semblance of a castle, after it crumbled, broke and hemorrhaged into a 1000 little pieces. Nothing a bit, ok, a lot of frosting, sprinkles and candy couldn't fix, with some structural support from Suzanne.

a beautiful bamboo purse, a gorgeous collaborative piece from Aunt Su-su and Tito Chuchi

the homeschool/library crew, Jen with Soren, Jaya, Magdalena, Lulu, Ellie, Sage, Dominic, Rose, and Franco, with Kimberly, Annabelle outside the frame, listening to Henry's story

The Friday after Magdalena finished Artoga, we had her third and final birthday party. The party was for her to celebrate with her friends, to celebrate their friendships, their growing relationships, each other. We are so so blessed to have such an amazing crew of families to raise our children with. These mamas inspire, encourage and exhilarate me. I am a better mama through my friendships with them.

Henry, spinning a tall tale

While waiting for me to get the party lunch together, Jen did story time in French (unfortunately, I only caught a second of that, I'd like a repeat performance one day when I can sit and watch:) , then Rose read a birthday book that Dominic wanted to share with Magdalena for her birthday, then the children took turns telling their own stories, and Henry was captivating to his audience.

the gorgeous mamas and babes, Kimberly and Annabelle, Jen and Soren

Dominic and his monkey plate

post pool pre-lunch festivities, and Magdalena in her birthday Lily

Let the beach fun begin!

pure heaven, happiness, running and jumping and squealing and splashing

one smashing success, wonderful day, party, birthday, and celebration.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

one five year old, three parties, and one Artoga camp week; part II: Artoga

Artoga. Doesn't that just say it all? I discovered Artoga last year when a mama on a list I'm on sent a link and I remember thinking I had discovered Nirvana for children. Bridget is the brains, the beauty and brilliance behind Artoga, it is her baby, and they are thriving! The children are treated with love and respect, they are given the opportunity to create, they are held accountable (a skit or story or book or dance must have a beginning, a middle and an end) to the creative muse, they are given the space to be children and be free while also being guided to explore Calder's wire circus figures and mobiles and learn what it means to make art. The theme for the week that Magdalena and Allie went was Asanas, Artists and Authors. The overarching event was the creating of a circus to be performed for family and friends at the end of the week.

Magdalena, post make-up, getting ready for the performance

When I first arrived on Thursday for the afternoon performance, Magdalena was sitting on the floor, waiting to have her face painted. She hadn't seen me yet and I just wanted to watch her, I just wanted to be a fly on the wall. What is she like when she's not with me? How does she interact? It was so interesting to watch her and Allie, the differences are striking. While Magdalena was sitting there waiting, she was playing a game, watching the activities, and a big girl whom she adores walked by and I heard Magdalena say "Do you want to play with me?" and I saw her face light up and her friend sat down and they did their thing for a bit. Watching Allie was like watching a hired party hand. She was everywhere and with everyone, at once.

Magdalena as Stunt Girl and Allie as The Clown

Some people are born entertainers, and others, well, maybe they'll blossom into it, or maybe not, but they're not there yet, let's just say. Allie was such a perfect clown, laughing, running around, playing pretend pie-in-the-face with a pie tin full of cotton, clowning with the crowd, hamming it up.
Magdalena as Cinderella Stunt Girl

Magdalena, however, had a preternatural stillness to her, she walked and performed as if she were walking on a cloud, oblivious to the audience, doing her forward somersaults/trying-to-be-front-handsprings as if she were the only person in the room. It was, for me, a rather bizarre experience and I tried to find out what it was like for her, but didn't get very far with my inquiries. She was certainly beautiful, and graceful in her awkwardness and other-worldiness.

And just to say, I thought the fact that she wore the Disney princess dress every day all day was telling. I guess it wasn't a novelty to the other children there, but to Magdalena, that dress was pure spun gold. We don't really "do" Disney or movie or TV show tie-ins. As a matter of fact, the first exchange of words between Magdalena and Allie went something like this, as Magdalena spied a Disney princess on Allie's Crocs, "You have a Dis-e-ney Princess! My mama doesn't like Dis-e-ney, so we don't do Dis-e-ney, only Pixar." To which Allie responded, my mama doesn't like Disney either. At that moment, I knew, oh this girl has a mama after my own heart. *

the post-performance treat at 31 Flavors

After the show Eleanor, Allie, Abuela, Magdalena, Augustus and I went out for a celebratory ice cream treat at the Duncan Doughnuts/31 Flavors spot, a totally random restaurant combo that had me craving ice cream on a glazed doughnut, and hung out and got messy with it. It was Augustus and Magdalena's first double dip cone experience and judging from the outcome, the last for a long time also. I'm still trying to get the chocolate out of Augustus' favorite gecko shirt.

On Friday, when I picked Magdalena up from her last day of Artoga camp, which was oh-so-hard to leave, there were some children staying for after camp care, and Magdalena wanted to stay and play one last game. We left after about an hour and went straight to Abuela's house for some downtime on the beach, that late afternoon sun and breeze that is the best I mean the best the best the best time to be on the beach. It was glorious and the children were in heaven, again.

Augustus in Pure Joy mode

The days like this one, this random Friday when Jeanna and Dave were off celebrating 16 years of marriage and Frida was with us and Anthony and Suzanne happen to be at Abuela's house for some hang out time with mom and Abuela is there and we all end up on the beach, in chairs, watching our children frolic, sitting just beyond the tide mark, totally relaxing, Anthony in fine fishing form, I All this and a bag of chips. Augustus was perfecting his jumping that day, jumping jumping jumping. And Frida is almost there, she's still got that 1-2 jump, not quite both feet in tandem, but she's so close, just a jump away.

Frida, excruciatingly cute

Magdalena decompressing from a week of 8 hour a day stimulus, running playing jumping swimming, with Frida and the jumping boy.

Anthony, aka, Tito Chuchi, with a catch of a sea trout, a lovely fish that makes a fisherman like Anthony oh. so. happy.

*uh, yeah, I should probably put a disclaimer here that while I don't really "do" Disney, that doesn't mean we won't be going there this fall. For three days I believe. With an open mind and an expectation of fun. One does not say no to an Abuela who offers, nor does one deny, on some personal principle, one's daughter an event that she is so excited to share with said Abuela. One would have to be a heartless ogre to do that.

one five year old, three parties, and one Artoga camp week; part I: the Birthday

So July 16th, my firstborn turned 5 years old. Any mama who has crossed that milestone might agree with me when I say it is a surreal experience, humbling, wild, woolly and just plain old incredible. Who knew? Who knew who she'd be, 5 years ago, as she came slipping and squirting into this world? Who knew who she'd be, 5 years ago at 6:30-something in the morning when she arrived, perfect and calm, with a face I'd always known? Who knew she'd be so divine, so wonderful, so gorgeous, so perfect for us? Maybe heaven knew, and that's how she came to us.

Allie and Magdalena, 6:30am, decorating the cupcakes I made for her to take to Artoga

Her birthday arrived smack dab in the middle of her much anticipated week of Artoga camp. A week-long camp that is just what it sounds like and more: a week of art, yoga, theater, writing, playing, pretending, creating, forging ahead, making new friends and keeping up with old. Her breakfast request was doughnuts from the tortuous doughnut shop at the end of our street, I convinced her to make it doughnuts, sliced apple and mozzarella cheese. While Ethan was out getting the doughnuts I tried to stuff her and Allie, her dear buddy and sleepover date, as full of apples and cheese as I could, with moderate success.
Bridget, the Empress of Artoga, laughed on the phone with me that afternoon when I called to see how the birthday had gone. She said, "I asked Magdalena if she was going to have a cupcake and she said no, the cupcakes are for everybody else. I don't eat cake, just frosting, could you open this for me? And then she proceeded to eat a bowl (it really wasn't a big bowl, come on now) of icing that I opened for her. You sent her with a bowl of icing?" Uh, yeah, wouldn't you?

Augustus with Abuela, doing serious outdoor craft with collected treasures and home-made paste

My mom and Jeanna came over, bright and early on Wednesday morning, to help me with the transformation of the bedroom that would be Magdalena's main "gift" for her birthday. I was puzzled and a bit troubled as her birthday loomed. What would be The Gift this year? What did we need? What did she want? Wait a minute...something's not we need more stuff? I was thinking a bicycle, but we have been remiss in getting her going on a bike, so would we use it? I was thinking other large-type "big" birthday presents and nothing was really connecting.

Then I had an inspiration. Eleanor, Allie's mama, was transforming their living space by clearing out, organizing, recreating space and rediscovering toys through purging of "too much stuff". So...I thought why not make Magdalena's gift be an event, a site-specific installation, if you will, that is the room she share's with Augustus? We are trying to downsize, yet I'm always getting more stuff. We have a tiny house and we are overflowing with "stuff". Stuff that is broken, stuff that is outgrown, stuff that is plastic, stuff that is unnecessary, stuff that is unsightly, not aesthetically pleasing or of particularly good quality. Stuff I want out. So that was it. I began the transformation slowly, doing a bit of purging here, a bit of rearranging there, nothing too earth-shattering.

The birthday dawned, Aunt Su-su (oh God bless that Aunt Su-su, without her, none of this would have been half as successful) picked up Allie and Magdalena for Artoga at 7:30am and off they went and, well, I believe I said, Release the Hounds! What followed was about 8 hours of sustained activity the likes of which I haven't seen in years, well, actually, since I was last nesting! I hung shelves, I hung pegs, I got rid of two pieces of furniture, one from the room one from the closet, I hung hooks, Jeanna hung curtains, well, first took down broken closet doors, hung an expensive curtain mistake from Target, bought fabulous sage sheers from the thrift store, then hung them, ran errands and worked like mad until she had to go to work.

Abuela, my mama, worked like the retired teacher she is and took Frida and Augustus off my hands all day, and I mean all day, she was tireless! And she did totally cool stuff with them, she took them on a long long exploration walk, collecting treasures, and then putting them in the double stroller for a nap. She and Augustus braved the mosquito farm that is our backyard and did crafts for hours, hours I tell you, whilst I scurried and worked feverishly to get the room done. I framed Magdalena's first wet-on-wet pink watercolor, from when she was two years old, and her most recent self-portrait in which she appears to be a ravenous green, pink and orange reptile with a pink heart (which she says "is my first right heart") and a large pink doughnut-shaped belly button. I hung her fairy bower, which we've had for at least a year, and hung three butterflies in the bower so now it is her magical butterfly bower.

The room was transformed. It was magic. Magic I tell you. It is magical, the bedroom, since that day, and we have been keeping it neat to boot. And Magdalena, well, if she could have actually done a standing front flip, she would have. She was so excited and loved it so so soooo much. She said, mama, that was a lot of work for one day! No doubt! I finished, literally, vacuuming up plaster and sawdust, just before Aunt Su-su pulled into the driveway with the girls.

Magdalena under the butterfly bower, in love with the "new" room.

Now everything is done in the bower. She closes it around the bed, reads and listens to stories with Augustus in the bower, brushes her hair in the bower, snuggles and pretends, plays and creates. All from a bit of creative energy from us, with a minimum of conspicuous consumerism. Magdalena spent hours discovering all the changes, with exclamations of delight and thanks.

Magdalena, in all her five year old glory, about to blow out candles stuck in the homemade ice cream because she doesn't like cake, remember?

Wearing her birthday crown, made and finished that morning for this birthday.

Opening her one "present" from Ethan and I, two gorgeous play silks.

So it was a smashing success, in the end. Now I'm just wondering, honestly, how to keep up that level of energy, that level of sustained activity, all the time. Or, maybe not so much, but a little.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Train Stop Shirt Dress GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!

Oh I'm addicted! These giveaways are all over the place! I do hope I win, if you link to it, can't you just see Magdalena in this dress?

Train Stop Shirt Dress GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!

fingers are crossed!

Friday, July 18, 2008

fabulous 4th

the family gathers to celebrate Independence Day

So let's see...Oh yeah, I'm almost caught up. It's only the 18th and I'm just now blogging about the 4th. It was that month hiatus that threw me. Anyhoo, as I was uploading these photos I was thinking, how shocking, another post about family and the beach and love and blessings. Is there more?

Well, sometimes there is Augustus yelling "NOOOO" at Frida, or Ree-ta as he calls her, and then they go into their three stooges routine with straight-arm whapping each other and hair pulling and head bonking and while it isn't really appropriate or loving behavior, sometimes I must say it is comical.

Sometimes I am less than a model of patience, understanding and speaking in a calm manner or loving tone, but since we don't have any photos of all that, we'll just stick with documenting and blogging about the glory of it all, not the gory details.

Aunt Tammy playing in the tidal pools with Augustus, Magdalena and a little buddy

Jeanna and Dave of the hat brigade, maxin' and relaxin' beach pool style.

pool time with the babes.

Magdalena would spend every second of every day in the pool if she could. I know she loves the beach and playing in the sand and the waves and the little tidal pools, but I think she only remembers how much she loves swimming in the pool because that is all she talks about. When are we going to the pool? Can we go to the pool now? I want to go to the pool. Get the picture? But can you blame her? To go from not being able to swim, to swimming, real staying-under-water-as-long-as-you-can, jumping in from the side, getting thrown by papa or me, doing under-water flips, retrieving dive sticks from the bottom Swimming! What freedom! What joy! I love watching her swim, it's the stuff summers are made of.

poolside with Uncle Neil

I think Augustus and Magdalena are the most fortunate children in the world. They have their abuela here, they have two sets of Aunties and Uncles living right here in Jax, and then they have Aunt Tammy and Uncle Neil close enough to see relatively often. Aunt Tammy and Uncle Neil come in town and immediately get most favored Aunt and Uncle status due to their exotic nature and scarce sightings and, need I mention, incredible goodies that seem to accompany them with each visit.

watching the fireworks with Uncle Neil

getting crafty with Aunt Tammy

Just in case you ever happen upon a craft that you just can't justify making yourself, like, oh, playing with yarn and glue, and you just must make that craft, then follow Tammy's lead and just get crafty with the little ones! And in case there isn't enough glue, remember, glue or paste, rather, is just flour and water! A cup, some flour and water, pieces of yarn and about a sticky 30 minutes later and you have your cups. Being that this is Florida and we used homemade paste, the cups took longer than planned to dry but turned out rather darling.

Augustus' cup

extended clan Barnas

So I have mentioned what a wonderful Aunt and Uncle Tammy and Neil are, but I haven't mentioned what wonderful people they are. Our family just feels more special when they are here, they are such a lovely addition. They're funny, beautiful, smart and loving and we're always thinking of an excuse to get them here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Augustus, Magdalena, Hana

It seems there has been a theme running through my summer travels, and it is that of old friends, reconnections, and second generations. On the big road trip, my children played with the children of my oldest friends, and one new friend. Down in Flagler Beach, the same. And then last week in Amelia Island, once again, I had the distinct joy and pleasure of watching Magdalena and Augustus play with children of dear friends.

Hana, Augustus and Magdalena playing at the brilliant playground/giant sand box at Sliders Restaurant on Fernandina Beach.

Hana and Leo are the children of two of my oldest Jacksonville friends from my post New York days, if you know what I mean. Ahem. Anyhoo, I was Hana's "nanny" when she was a baby. She was the first baby I held for more than a minute. I knew Hana almost like my own. I knew she liked to fall asleep in the Snugli while I vacuumed. I knew she wanted to be in my arms the entire time I was with her. I learned what babies smell like. I learned how babies feel, their skin, their peach fuzz hair. I learned so much from Hana, and also from her mother. Kimmie was a home birth mama, a no-bottle mama, a cloth diaper mama. She and her man Joe had different ideas of a perfect meal, a night at home, and where the t.v. should go, so I should say I also learned from her and Joe that marriage and love and life and family won't always look like a mirror image of single life, just with more people, but a constant give and take. The art of compromise and surrender and, the occasional -oh, that's fine, I don't need to wear a bindi tonight, honey, devil-may-care attitude and optimism.

Augustus and Hana, whom he, by the way, adores

Augustus doing his best flounder interpretation, Magdalena, Leo above, and Hana

Amelia Island is an oasis of entitlement and I felt a spell of "affluenza" trying to take hold while I was there, but I caught it in time with plenty of vitamin C, the mantra that "more is decidedly not better", sheer pleasure and enjoyment of the perfectly imperfect diamond trio in my engagement ring that does not require it's own zip code, the happy realization that I Will Never Be too rich or too thin, because really, if I was, I'd have a nanny and a maid and a cook. Then who would bake bread with my children? Who would roll them in the sheets and play "what's that lump?" while the beds are being made? Who would teach them to fold the cloth napkins?

Those are my blessings. Those are my moments to cherish and remember and get aggravated over in the moment when really what I want to do is actually make the bed, and then lighten up and get with it because these moments of mine, they are only for now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

unexpected joy and dress up with Tito Chuchi

Kelly and Adrianne

My phone rang on Thursday, I believe, and what I heard but no way, two Atlanta girls from back in the day were Florida bound and oh yes we had to hook up. So off Augustus, Magdalena and I went to Flagler Beach/Palm Coast for a mini random roadtrip reunion with Adrianne and Kelly from the Bridgetown Grill days. But things are just a little different these days, uh, yeah. It was a bit like the Southern Tour Roadtrip, redux. Once again, me hanging out with two old friends who I used to, how shall we say ..., go out on the town with, but now who I stay home and watch our children hang out with. What a difference a day or actually 10-13 years makes.

Kelly getting some Barnas love

Magdalena, Sophia, Jacob, Augustus

It was one of those classic Florida beach days. We move in our regular heard of turtles fashion out of the house around 11am, stop by the grocery store for lunch for the beach, finally get to the beach, set up camp, start swimming and generally playing and having a lovely time when all of a sudden, I turned around and out of nowhere these huge black clouds were upon us. Not fifteen minutes before Kelly and Adrianne were commenting on how this was by far the hottest sunniest day since they' d been there and then BAM! the wind picks up and the sand starts to blow. I say, well, let's just start to consolidate our stuff so if we have to bolt we'll be ready and by the time I finished that sentence, we were bolting. Three beach chairs, two coolers, beach blanket, towels, boogie boards, beach toys four children and three mamas and all in less than ten minutes up the stairs to the boardwalk and barely in the car when the torrential rain starts. Classic. We'd been at the beach maybe an hour.

the crew awaiting our dinner feast

But as with all things, perfection was the order of the day. We went back to the house, had lunch inside sans sand, which was lovely of course, hung out, played games, talked and then it cleared up so we decided to go back and arrived back at the beach at the time that I had originally planned on leaving, around three pm, which is personally right around my favorite time to arrive at the beach to begin with to enjoy those long stretching shadows and the afternoon breeze with the sun at our backs. Which was exactly what we did. We built sand castles, Magdalena had her first wipe-out on a boogie board, Augustus fell for Kelly, Sophie was the master of burials in the sand (which I did for the first time, get buried in the sand that is, and it is strangely relaxing, I assumed it would drive me crazy. Who knew?). We hung out on the beach until almost sunset, 7:30 or so, then found the most amazing restaurant in Flagler Beach, I promise. Kelly, like a true restaurateur, ordered specials for the table and there was food to be had by all and food to feed me, my two littles and Tita for two days almost. Quite lovely. Quite unexpected. Quite perfect.

Magdalena dressing up with Tito Chuchi

A few days after we returned home, on one of our decompress-and-go-nowhere-days, we had a lovely visit from Tito Chuchi. We were having our first craft night for the mamas and abuela and auntie, without children, and Aunt Susu had forgotten her knitting so Anthony had a perfect excuse to stop by. It was so awesome. M. and A. and Frida all danced and dressed up and played and M. kept saying, mama! Tito Chuchi is here to play with us, not talk to you. Well ok then. But maybe in the midst of all the spinning and tying on of capes there can be a little conversation, just maybe.

Augustus, so proud with his first match box car, a la MaryBeth, our favorite New York Auntie

Magdalena and Augustus, in their natural state. Totally fabulous

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

summer solstice a la Tita Jeanna

the Solstice table

It really is a shame I didn't get any good shots of the revelers dancing in a circle, rosemary wands in hand, singing the Hail Mary, around the Traveling Virgin. You'll just have to take my word for it, it was spectacular.

For so many reasons, the evening was what it was: a spontaneous, eclectic, celebration of family, friends, the earth, Mary, ritual, community, religious traditions. For reasons like: because my sister is my mother's daughter and is a hostess without parallel; because we love any excuse for a gathering/party/celebration; because we are Catholic and do love our rituals; because Jeanna is a perfect Master of Ceremonies; because it was her birthday week and she had the Traveling Virgin (the most beautiful statue of Mary I have ever seen not in a church that travels from house to house in a pale blue wooden box with an opalescent cross on top) and we had to include her; because ushering summer is a celebration in itself, isn't it?

As we were cooking and gathering, the babes in suits and birthday suits got the party going with a raucous swim. Children do not need to be directed to have fun. It truly is their nature. Must. Find. Way. Back. ...or I can just follow them, how simple!

Kimberly, Henry, Frida, Allie, Magdalena, Augustus, Ellie and Lulu, Black-eyed Susans and summer love

How did we get here? I remember when I first moved here and was ready to walk up to any mom who looked relatively cool on the street and try to get her phone number. (I actually did that once, to a group of women at a splash park. But that was an exercise in humility and, well, we'll just talk about that another time. Ahem.) And then I saw them. THEM. First I saw Kimberly with her three, then Mandy and Jen together with Kimberly and god knows how many children. And I said to Jeanna, who are those mamas? They're my tribe, those are my people. And heaven heard my prayer. And here we are, not quite a year plus one rockin' homeschool group later, up to our elbows in amazing families and mamas and babes and big kids and newborns and papas. Celebrating solstice. Celebrating abundance, as Jeanna says. Celebrating life and family and the joy of being in community.

Augustus, still for but a split second

and Magdalena, taking her time

The children were in the pool, they were out of the pool. In the pool, out of the pool. We were eating outside, swatting away flies under the oaks and Spanish moss, then we were eating again. We were laughing, and laughing some more. We jumped over a candle, wrote down our most fervent wishes for the next six months until winter, danced around the Virgin, said our wishes out loud, burned the paper they were written on to send the prayers to Heaven, laughed some more, and finished with yummy cake and brownies. I drove home with drowsy babes, late, full of love and appreciation, contemplating - as I am want to do - how glorious we have it these days.