Lent & Easter

Let's back it up all the way to Fat Tuesday, when I made crawfish etouffee and king cake. 



And then Ash Wednesday, when I made lentil soup and soft pretzels. 


We also celebrated the Annunciation with waffles for dinner. (I added more whipped cream after taking this picture, ha!)


The first half of March was dominated by Claire's birthday and the second half of March was taken over by a peg doll painting project. A group of friends from church got together to make a last supper scene, along with the three Marys who found Jesus' empty tomb. 


I was assigned St. Andrew and St. Mary Magdalene. I got an HBO subscription to watch Big Little Lies and The Young Pope while I spent many evening hours painting these guys.


The finished product! When we got together on Palm Sunday afternoon for the exchange party, I told Adam I would be back in like two hours, around 3:00 pm....and I actually got home at 6:15. He knows by now to add a couple hours to whatever time I give him when I'm going out with friends!











The first week of April, Claire was off from preschool and catechesis on spring break. The highlight of the week was going to see the famed cherry trees at the University of Washington. We went on a whim on a rare sunny afternoon and I am still so surprised that the whole outing went so well. Visitor parking was very far away from the quad, I didn't bring the double stroller, and I didn't know exactly how to get to the quad. The quad was much more crowded that I was expecting, so it was challenging to keep an eye on all three girls running around while pushing an empty stroller and trying to snap pictures. I kept thinking that at some point things were going to go south (would I remember where we parked? would Claire be able to walk up the big hill to the parking lot?) but strangely they never did. It was a great afternoon, except for the nagging worry that things were going to go terribly wrong at any minute...


On Holy Thursday, Claire and Maggie had their last little dance and gymnastics class of the year. They just did the two middle sessions, from mid-November to mid-April. I know they will miss going, but I will not miss having a late afternoon activity that requires me to have dinner ready to go beforehand. Parents watched the gymnastics portion from a second story viewing area above the gym - Betsy wanted to climb down the stairs so very, very much and it was quite challenging to prevent her from doing so. Claire liked the gymnastics portion better, while Maggie preferred dance. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the future! Next school year, I'm hoping to put them in more formal swimming lessons - they enjoy the summer lessons at the local pool, but I think they'll need something more structured to really be able to swim independently anytime soon.


I made hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday. We dyed eggs when my parents arrived that afternoon. We had movie night that evening, enjoying pizza and The Miracle Maker.



We finished our traditional confetti eggs on Saturday morning, except we fill them with Fruity Pebbles instead.


And then we spent a sunny afternoon at the zoo, along with the rest of Seattle.




Easter baskets all set up! The girls each got an Easter book, a stuffed animal, and something from the Janod (a French toy company) sale on Amazon - pull along ducks for Betsy and circus and farm story boxes for Claire and Maggie.


We were thrilled to have made it through Easter Sunday Mass in one piece, with a very active 14-month-old and Adam helping out the children's choir.


The girls' dresses are from Janie & Jack and mine is from Kohl's. I can't believe we actually got a family picture with everyone looking at the camera!





Hunting for eggs back home, getting all the grown-ups with confetti, and enjoying lots of candy.



For Easter lunch, I pretty much copied the menu at Mel's Kitchen Cafe - sweet baked ham, cheesy potatoes, roasted asparagus, honey lime fruit salad, and carrot cake. We are still enjoying the leftovers, which is awesome, because after dinner tonight I am going to pick up my sister from the airport!


Five Years With Claire

At five years old, Claire...


Is forty-four inches tall and weighs forty-four pounds. Probably the only time in her life those numbers will be exactly the same!

Loves preschool so much that she says she'd like to stay there forever. Her favorite activity there is art - the first hour of preschool is spent in "activity time" - the children are free to play wherever they'd like and work on the day's art project. Claire often spends the whole hour carefully crafting her latest masterpiece. She also enjoys going to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which she calls "church preschool." She seems to spend most of her time there doing art too!

Prefers gymnastics to dance. This winter, Claire and Maggie having been taking a class that's thirty minutes of dance and thirty minutes of gymnastics. Maggie says she prefers dance, while Claire says the opposite. She is very close to learning how to do a cartwheel. She is really excited about swimming lessons this summer and playing CYO soccer next fall - she has no fear in the water and she loves to run.

Wants to be a singer when she grows up. She says her husband is going to be a singer too and I will have to watch her kids while they're performing. Her favorite songs are "Fight Song" and "Try Everything" from Zootopia. She likes to rock out in the car and calls it her "singing practice."

Has a very long attention span for reading aloud and audio books. After Claire and Maggie are tucked into bed at night, we read them a chapter book aloud. Most of the time, Maggie falls asleep before the chapter's over, but Claire always sits in rapt attention. We're currently working our way through the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. She doesn't do quiet time very often these days because she goes to afternoon preschool, but her quiet activity of choice would definitely be coloring while listening to the audio book version of Little House in the Big Woods or Farmer Boy.

Sleeps in a twin bed and no longer wears pull-ups at night. After we've tucked her in and closed the door, she usually comes out a few minutes later asking for a drink of water. She is probably the most likely of our children to be up in the middle of the night, whether it's because she needs to use the bathroom or she just says she "can't sleep" and needs to be tucked back in. She sleeps eleven hours a night on average and only naps very occasionally on car trips.

Is afraid of being alone. For example, this afternoon Maggie fell asleep in the car on the way home from preschool. We left her sleeping (in the closed garage with the van doors open, of course) and I went in to put Betsy down for her nap. I asked Claire to go use the potty, but she insisted on quietly sitting in the nursery while I got Betsy down and then insisted that I come with her into the bathroom.

Loves to make what she calls "paper dolls" - people or animals printed off the computer, colored, and cut out. She is usually playing in her imaginary world with those, dolls or stuffed animals, and figurines of some sort. Her and Maggie play so well together. I mean, they occasionally fight, of course, but they're really just the best of friends. 

Doesn't play with Betsy much, because Betsy pretty much just manages to mess up whatever imaginary game her big sisters have going on. But they have super cute moments together every so often. Claire has a lot of simple board books memorized, so sometimes Betsy will bring one over for Claire to "read" to her (or we'll ask Claire to do that to keep Betsy from fussing while we finish preparing/cleaning up a meal). Betsy woke up with very crazy hair this morning (she had pigtails in yesterday and her hair just remained sticking straight up after the hair ties were removed) so, unprompted, Claire grabbed the brush and detangling spray to tame her baby sister's locks while Betsy just sat there patiently.

Happily helps out with small tasks most of the time, like grabbing a new diaper out of the linen closet or putting some clean towels away in the bathroom. However, she almost always makes the biggest production out of cleaning up the toys. If she's not moving at the most glacial pace ever recorded, she is complaining about how "it's just SUCH a big mess" and "she's just SO tired." Maggie sometimes joins in the protestations, but she's much more likely to start tidying without complaint and actually accomplish something without fifty thousand reminders to stay on task.

Usually has cereal for breakfast these days, although she also likes scrambled eggs and frozen waffles. She can pour the cereal and milk herself - we have a small pitcher for the girls to use. Her favorite lunch is a snack plate with cheese, ham, and crackers. She also really likes tuna sandwiches, but thinks peanut butter and jelly is just okay.  Her favorite dinners are your typical kid things like pizza, hamburgers, and tacos, although she is happy with pretty much any meat as long as it's accompanied by ketchup. She now prefers vanilla ice cream to chocolate and she loves to go out to eat just as much as her parents.

Looks forward to watching a couple episodes of Clifford when we get home from preschool. She also enjoys watching "Julie's Greenroom" but is officially over Daniel Tiger. We instituted Friday family movie night back in the fall - it's been a mix of classics and new releases. She thought Moana was too scary, but really, really loved Sing.

Rarely makes a fuss about saying prayers or going to Mass. We're trying to get her more actively pay attention during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, with pretty decent success. She surprised us by her interest in the passion play during the Palm Sunday Mass.

Is definitely a perfectionist. She gets very frustrated when she can't make something (usually art of some kind) match the idea she had in her head. Adam and I both remember crying in elementary school art class for the same reason, so we certainly know where she gets it from.


 We're very excited to see what life has in store for Claire this year!


Claire's Fifth Birthday

Claire turned five on March 13th! On her actual birthday, she got to bring in her "all about me" poster to preschool and explain it to the class during circle time.



She really wanted to bring in those soft sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles from the grocery store as her treat to share with her classmates. Easy enough!


On Friday afternoon, we threw a Little Mermaid themed party at home for eighteen little friends. We invited the other five girls from her preschool class and four friends from church, but when they all have at least one younger sibling, it turns into a very big party rather quickly!


Claire and Maggie helped make the four layer vanilla cake with frosting in Claire's favorite colors. 



We borrowed a few kids' tables from friends and moved most of the living room furniture (arm chairs, toy cubbies, coffee table, sewing desk) into our room. We also cleared out almost all the toys out of the playroom, just to make clean up easier.


Claire is really into making what she calls "paper dolls" lately and requested that as the party craft. We just printed a bunch of Little Mermaid characters out on card stock, cut them out, and gave everyone a pack of crayons to take home as part of their favor.


The other part of the favor was a pail and shovel from the dollar store. We figured it kind of went with the mermaid/ocean/beach theme, would hopefully actually be useful in the summer, and the kids could use them to store their candy from the pinata.


Although Claire wanted the decorations to be like "the Little Mermaid ride from Disney World," we just stuck with streamers, tissue paper pompoms, and purple tablecloths.



When the guests began arriving at 4:00 pm, we had them sit down to color their paper dolls. (Some of the younger siblings weren't interested and headed to the playroom instead.)


Around 4:40, we went out into the garage to do the pinata. (It was pouring rain, unfortunately, so it had to be indoors.) Everyone got a chance to whack at it with no luck, so then they each got a chance to pull a string. The one older sibling in attendance eventually figured out which was the magic string and revealed the candy inside. Claire picked her two favorite kinds - M&Ms and gummy bears.



We came back inside for a dinner of Claire's choosing - pizza, bell peppers, baby carrots, strawberries, grapes, and lemonade.


And, of course, birthday cake for dessert! Here's everyone singing to Claire:

Betsy enjoyed it so much that she was licking her plate.


 It was about 5:40 when everyone had finished their cake. We weren't quite sure how long things would take, so we didn't have anything formally planned until the party ended at 6:00. We ended up herding the kids back into the garage to play "freeze dance" with a couple Little Mermaid songs and then coming back inside to open presents. In the future, I would have a different, calmer party game planned - something like "Pin the Fin on Flounder." I'd also come up with a better strategy for opening presents so that it's less chaotic. Ideally, while the kids were busy with that game, I would have had Adam move all the tables out of the way so that there would have been space to sit in a circle in the living room, that way all the kids could easily see Claire unwrapping her gifts.


Claire had a great time, though, and overall I think things went pretty well for inviting 18 children over. I wanted this just be a simple party at home and while I feel like I mostly achieved that, I was surprised by how much it cost! Here was our budget breakdown:

Pizza delivery - $60
Disposable plates, cups, forks, napkins - $60
Pinata and candy - $40
Favors -  $40
Invitations - $20
Ariel figurines - $20
Instagram photos - $8
Card stock - $8
Total - $256

That's actually a smidge more expensive than her fourth birthday party, which we had a little jumping place for preschoolers. Maggie had her party there too, but it was even cheaper because we won the party package in the parish school's auction. In the future, I think we need to keep parties at home smaller, either inviting less families overall or inviting just the child that is the birthday girl's age, once our kids are old enough for that. Both to save money and to keep things like chaotic! And I will definitely be looking for auction deals again - I know they had a few other party packages last year.



On Saturday, Claire and Maggie had horseback riding lessons at our town's farm park. We try to sign them up twice a year - once in the fall and once in the spring. Now that she's five, Claire moved up to the next level and got to learn how to trot! Adam took Claire in the morning and Maggie in the afternoon, while I stayed home to play board games with the other sister.

My parents visited for the weekend. As always, it was so great to have them here for Claire's big day. Because it's so tricky to drive through the mountains in the winter, we hadn't seen them since Christmas!



When putting Claire's little birthday slideshow together, we realized that we didn't have any pictures of just the three of us together, so we forced Claire into posing with us. 


On Sunday, I took Claire and Maggie to see the Cinderella ballet. It was a special one-hour production for preschoolers, put on by the same ballet company that we saw perform the Nutcracker. We met up with my friend Libby and her daughter, Paige. All the girls loved it and really enjoyed getting to meet the characters after the show. Here they are with Cinderella and her fairy godmother:


After the ballet, we picked up some fancy cupcakes to celebrate Betsy's baptism day.


A great way to end the weekend! Until October, now we officially have a one year old, a three year old, and a five year old.