Give us this day our Daily Bread...... after you have a slice of this bread, you'll definitely be going down on your knees and thanking the gods. It's a Banana Muesli Bread, recipe courtesy of Baking Bites (hers is actually Blueberry Muesli Bread, but I substituted 1 ripe banana for the cup of blueberries, which probably gave it a moister, denser consistency than the original). I caught Alfie last night staring morosely into the cupboard, desperate for "a little something to nibble on" with his tea (which he also takes daily; actually more like 7 times a day), and this loaf of moist, chewy yumminess was the result.
This photo was inspired by tomorrow's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more daily things, click here.
With three children in the house (and two of them twins), sibling rivalry is inevitable. It's rampant. And it's exhausting to referee. I don't keep a tally of how many birthday parties and playdates each child has, or buy presents to make up for any shortfalls, but I do what I can to even things out, keep the accusations of favoritism at bay and generally preserve
my sanity domestic harmony. I've become an expert at dividing things into three and pouring equal amounts of juice into a fat mug, a tall, skinny tumbler and a commemorative sippy cup shaped like Buzz Lightyear's head. I've thickened my hide and overcome shame to ask the guy at Trader Joe's if we could possibly have an extra balloon for the sibling who stayed at home. I've managed to sound convincing when I say that two extra blueberries one cereal bowl are the same as an extra blue horseshoe Lucky Charms marshmallow in another.
But these ungrateful kids, they still keep complaining. No matter how much we try, they will scrutinize our best intentions and put our every action through infrared scanners, searching for any hint of "You love him more". This quest for fairness reached new levels of absurdity the other day when I poured out glasses of milk for my 3 kids. Jammy inspected his glass, looked over at his siblings' glasses and whined,
Their milk has more bubbles than mine. It's not faiiiiiiir!
Fair? Oh please, kids. I've had it with fair. I happen to have a litany of grievances that make your rants about bubbles disappear into thin air. But do I complain? Well, actually, in this post, yes:
Is it fair that your social life is ten times more active than mine?
Is it fair that I have to find wrinkles and acne at the same time?
Is it fair that I gain five pounds just by looking at cheesecake while my friend Peach can inhale two cups of rice every time she eats burn it off by the time she walks away from the table?
I could go on and on. But I'm a grownup, and I have to replace those questions with some others:
It's not fair that Alfie and I can make babies practically just by hugging each other, while other couples try for years and years without sucess;
It's not fair that I can jump out of bed in the mornings while Alfie has to inject himself twice a week just so he doesn't feel like he's been run over by a bus;
It's not fair that all you have to worry about is how many Starbust Chews you got in your Halloween buckets, when other kids worry about how many meals they're going to eat that day.
Sorry, kids, life doesn't always divide the good stuff into nice, equal parts. I don't expect my kids to quit competing with each other entirely -- they are kids, after all -- but it would be nice if they stopped squabbling once in a while and realized how lucky they are, and how we love them all. Maybe if I threaten to give all their milk bubbles to the starving kids in Africa they'll shape up. Maybe I need to let them resolve things on their own more often. Or maybe I need to sneak in more hugs and kisses here and there while siblings are in the bathroom or otherwise occupied, to make each kid feel special. Or maybe I ought to do all three. Would that be fair?
This weekend I took The Pea to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and I have to agree with everyone who thinks the book is far superior to the movie. But I enjoyed it anyway, mostly because I have a soft spot for Pierce Brosnan, Kevin McKidd, and Greek mythology. The stories of Zeus and Poseidon, Jason and the Argonauts, Perseus and Medusa were very real to me when I was The Pea's age, and I would have embraced the notion that the ancient gods are alive and well today. Besides, with modern-day Olympians breaking speed records, defying gravity and generally doing things mere mortals would be crazy to try, it's not hard to believe there are demigods running around Vancouver right this very minute!
Take, for example, the god of speed. I'm not talking about Hermes, or even Nike; as far as I'm concerned, that honor belongs to Apollo -- Apolo Anton Ohno, that is. World-class speed skater, World Champion, Olympic Champion and Dancing with the Stars Champion? You bet he's a god! With the Winter Olympic games just about halfway through, Ohno has become my family's undisputed Favorite Hero of Vancouver XXI (or Vancouver κα´, since we're talking Ancient Greek, not Ancient Roman). Apolo Ohno now has seven medals over three Olympic games, making him the most decorated US Winter Olympian ever -- and for all you party-poopers who say only two of those are gold, I say, Watch short track skating and you'll see what it took to get those medals . It's so volatile, a gold-medal position can turn into a last-place finish in seconds (and vice versa). We've been Tivo'ing every single minute of NBC's Olympics coverage, and somehow we always find ourselves fast-forwarding to short track skating. It's easily the most exciting winter sport, and it's all because of Apolo Ohno and his edge-of-your-seat-pee-in-your-pants performances.
Part of Apolo's appeal is that he doesn't look like your typical speed skater. His red bandana and goatee give him a laid back look, more like a skateboarder or a member of a garage band. But an athlete who wears those skintight superhero suits? Nah. Seeing him warm up before a race, you wouldn't think he was a serious threat at all. While the other skaters seem full of nervous energy, Apolo looks detached, calm to the point of boredom. For God's sake, all he does is yawn!
Even when the race has started, he hangs back, content to stay in 3rd or 4th place for an agonizingly long time. Does he know how tense he's making his audience? Does he know that everyone watching is muttering, "Pass, pass, pass! Do it now or you'll be too late!"? Then, just as I'm about to draw blood from my nails digging into Alfie's arm, the thought seems to occur to him that the race is about to end, and he'd better get going -- and in a matter of seconds, you see him scuttle to the front, like it took no effort whatsoever. You feel stupid for even doubting that he could do it. Then, with 2 or 3 laps to go (and me already emotionally drained), the real excitement begins. People start bumping into each other and taking each other down (That's when I start the screaming and Alfie begs me to shut up before the neighbors call the cops). But somehow Apolo Ohno manages to find a way to hang in there. When he slipped in the 1,000 meter final and fell into last place, I thought he was done for -- I honestly don't even know how he stayed up -- then with less than a lap to go, he skated the sprint of his life, passing two Canadians to get the bronze. The buildup of tension, the release... if my kids weren't watching the race with me I'd say it was almost orgasmic.
The only part of Apolo that isn't godlike? He doesn't seem proud at all. He seems like a genuine nice guy who's delighted to get a medal, whatever the color. When it comes to heroes, you don't get more inspiring than Apolo Anton Ohno, and when he skates in the 500 meters and the 5,000 meter relay we'll be cheering him on and praying to the gods for his victory.
It's amazing how much planning and preparation goes into every facet of hosting an Olympic games. Even the medalists' flower bouquets aren't just something the Olympic Committee picked up at your local florist; the two florists who eventually received the contract -- all the way back in 2008! -- pitched 23 designs before they went with this one. Every flower and leaf has special significance. Everything was carefully selected to minimize the risk of allergic reactions or injury (in case the athlete wants to throw them into the crowd), and maximize the bouquet's life. The bouquet is obviously designed to commemorate and preserve athletes' memories of the ultimate experience in their lives: winning an Olympic medal.
None of this matters one iota to my son. When we were watching one of the medal ceremonies, 3Po turned to us and declared, "I don't want to work really, really hard for years and years just so I can win a stick of broccoli!".
Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more cuddly things, click here.
In retrospect, I suppose Valentine's Day was NOT the right time to do what I did. But it started out innocently enough. Our alarm clock broke a couple of days ago and we were planning to go out on a day trip the next day (President's Day), so we needed to get up early. I took my phone upstairs with me and placed it on my bedside table so I could check the time when I woke up the next day. I was first in bed, and I couldn't resist checking my email one last time before going to bed... well, one thing led to another and before you know it Alfie had joined me in bed, all ready to celebrate Valentine's Day -- and there I was, fully immersed in Twitter and Facebook.
It's the first time I've ever taken my phone to bed and Alfie, who has never been a fan of smart phones and 24/7 email access in the first place, was, to say the least, peeved. Luckily, it takes more than an internet-enabled phone to get between Alfie, me and the only V-Day activity we were able to enjoy without the kids, but the (text) message is clear: tweeting in bed is not a turn-on. Who needs an excuse like "honey, I have a headache" when you've got "just one last tweet!"?
Like I said, dumb thing to do on Valentine's -- but I know several couples who take their laptops to bed the way others take books or magazines to bed. Before this little incident our bed was for two things only (okay, three if you count snuggling with the kids on Sunday mornings), and the only kinds of electronic gadgets welcome in our bed do not have internet access.... ;-) Do you tweet in bed? Does your spouse? Do they care? Or do you have rules about the kinds of gadgets that belong in your bed?
This post was inspired by the Silicon Valley Moms Blog's February book club selection: The Mominatrix's Guide to Sex by Kristen Chase. I received a complimentary copy of the book to read; for more SV Moms Book Club posts, click here.
I love baking cookies, but until recently I've never been fond of baking cutout cookies. I've always found them to be too much effort, the results too uneven, the taste too bland. For lazy bakers like me, bar cookies like lemon squares or heath toffee bars are the only way to go: just dump your whole bowl of batter into a pan and cut into squares! Even drop cookies are easier because you don't have to keep rolling out the dough. Sure, drop cookies and bar cookies are inherently less uniform than cutout cookies (less cookie-cutter perfect, if you will!), but I figure you can always
distract people from their ugliness jazz up their looks with pretty packaging. With so many other options available, why bother with cutout cookies?
Here are some interesting things we learned at last Friday's Winter Olypmics Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver:
* India, a country with 1.1 billion people, only sent three athletes to the winter games. What's up with that? It's no use saying that India doesn't have any snow; neither do Ethiopia or Senegal, and they still managed to come up with one athlete each to compete in these games. What, don't they have ice rinks in New Delhi? Or aren't there any rich Indian kids who go to boarding school in Switzerland and ski?
* I was planning to include Iran (with 4 athletes) in the list of countries with no snow and more athletes than Inda, but I found out it does actually snow in Iran; some of their mountains have snow all year round!
* Hong Kong is one of the most densely-populated areas in the entire planet, with almost 16,000 people per square mile (compare that with Canada's 10 people per square mile). One square mile is like, nothing! I'd say Palo Alto's downtown area is about one square mile, and the thought of having 16,000 warm bodies squished there makes me want to run away and join Cirque du Soleil (which is based in Canada).
And here are some interesting "facts" we noticed all on our own:
* Team USA had the best headgear-- love thoseNordic-inspired knit caps! -- although Mongolia's lone athlete comes a close second, with her bongga, silvery fur hat.
* Speaking of bongga, that's exactly how I would describe the opening ceremonies. I was impressed by how they incorporated technology to come up with such creative and entertaining production numbers. Our favorite section, hands down, was the part where they made the entire stage look like a bunch of whales swimming across the ocean. Magnificent! I have to commend the organizers of the event for not even trying to compete with the human-body extravaganza of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies; instead, they dared to be different and did their own thing.
* Winter Olympians are extraordinarily good-looking! Seriously, the women look like models (check out Lindsey Vonn, Gretchen Bleiler, Lindsey Jacobellis, and the entire Swedish female delegation) and the men are all total hunks (except maybe Shaun White, but I suspect a lot of girls find his goofy dude appeal much sexier than the typical male model hunky type) . Alfie thinks it's because winter sports have a high financial barrier to entry, so for the most part it's the richer kids who get into these sports -- and the gene pool tends to be decidedly better-looking vwhen you have more money. I think he has a point, although I'd say the cameras also focus more on the better-looking athletes.
* Somebody is going to get fired for that Olympic torch malfunction!
Yesterday I made some heart-shaped chocolate shortbread for a party we hosted. I saved a couple of cookies for the kids and Alfie to eat on Valentine's Day, but Alfie couldn't resist breaking off a piece to nibble on. I thought the remaining cookie, while no longer perfect, would make an interesting cover for a Valentine's Day card. Just think of all the messages one could write inside!
* You've broken my heart
* You've got a piece of my heart
* I'm eating my heart out for you
* You're a sweet heart
Can you think of any others?
Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more broken things, click here. Happy Valentine's Day!
UPDATE: OMG how could I forget? It's the perfect photo for "broken".... and the one photo I wish I never had. Jammy broke his arm last week in a skin-crawling accident: he fell about 6 feet to the ground and landed on his back with his arm bent underneath it. He broke both the radius and the ulna right below his wrist. Now this really did break my heart.
I love Jammy's teacher. She is a warm nurturing soul who realizes that kindergarten can be stressful and scary, full of unrealistic expectations -- unless a teacher is willing and able to provide lots of reassurance and praise. For the parents, that is.
Last week she was bursting to tell me about the Really Great Thing Jammy had done in class. Apparently, the class had recently completed an activity where they had to sort out all the animals in the Chinese zodiac (rat, ox, tiger, horse, rooster, monkey, dog, pig, rabbit, dragon, snake, goat) into two groups. Each kid could use any criteria they wanted to define the groups. All the other kids used the kind of criteria that you'd expect from 5 and 6 year olds: Big/Small, Feathers/No feathers, Two feet/Four feet, that sort of thing.
Jammy's sorting criteria?
1) Poops fertilizer
2) Does not poop fertilizer
And this is why I love Jammy's teacher. She must have known that Alfie and I would immediately be impressed by the awesome lateral thinking displayed by our son, leaving us convinced that the workings of his mind go far beyond any normal boy (I didn't even realize he knew what fertilizer was!). I'm sure she has a story like that for every parent in her class, but we lapped up the proof of his brilliance just the same. It's not like we've been worried that he'd fail kindergarten or anything, but given that his older sister entered kindergarten already reading at the second grade level while he's still struggling to sound out consonant blends, her little anecdote was a great reminder that everyone's mind works in different ways and everyone is good at something. Thanks, Mrs. D, for telling us that lovely story, and in effect, telling us Your son is doing great. He'll be just fine.
For every "Best of" list, you can bet there's going to be a "Worst of" counterpart. For instance, right on the heels of this year's Oscar nomination list comes the Golden Raspberry Foundation's Razzie award list, with nominations for worst actress, worst actor, worst picture and so on. I agree that some of those movies should never have seen the light of day -- Land of the Lost, get lost! -- but one man's meat is another man's poison, and there are many times when critics and I don't see eye to eye. I have to admit I've watched and enjoyed more than a few movies that have made it onto one or more "Worst of 2009" lists floating around in cyberspace. Here are five of them:
1) Angels and Demons
The Da Vinci Code was one of those books that I just couldn't put down (as in, I read it in the shower with one arm outstretched, holding the book, and the other arm awkwardly soaping my body), and I enjoyed everything they were able to cram into the movie. I yearned to immerse myself in more of Professor Langdon's adventures, so how could I not watch Angels and Demons? True, all that rushing around the Eternal City looking for clues, trying to prevent murders felt like a rehash of the original movie, but I pretended the first movie had never happened (and strictly speaking, it never had, since Angels and Demons is actually a prequel to the Da Vinci Code), so I still managed to enjoy all the thrills and chills.
2) Marley and Me
I'm not a dog lover, I don't think fart jokes are funny, I think Jennifer Aniston movies are silly, and I can't look at Owen Wilson's nose without wincing and wondering why he doesn't get it fixed. So why in the world did I find myself glued to my seat, unable even to go to the bathroom? When Marley, the main characters' big, dumb, stinky, loyal, lovable dog, finally kicked the bucket after 15 years of living with them, I wept like he was my own kids' dog (and we don't even have a dog).
3) The Ugly Truth
Critics trashed this movie because they say it's nothing but a string of romantic cliches, but I say that's what makes it so much fun to watch. Independent feminist who secretly just wants a man? Cynical, misogynist ladies man finally falling for the one woman who won't have him? Mutual hatred masking mutual attraction? A couple falling in love without even having sex first? It's like the Mills and Boon romances I swooned over when I was a teenager! I wasn't looking for anything too serious anyway, so I really enjoyed reliving my girlish notions of love and cheering when the boy got the girl. In fact, the only thing I didn't enjoy was Scottish Gerard Butler faking an American accent.
4) Whatever Works
I was completely shocked to see that Yahoo critics gave this movie a C+. I suppose it's because no one in the audience could stand the main character, a bad-tempered, self-centered, social misfit named Boris Yellnikoff who makes Oscar the Grouch look sweet. He's constantly complaining about having to share the same universe with a bunch of idiots (i.e. the rest of humanity) and insulting everyone he comes in contact with, yet somehow he ends up happy and fulfilled, with all his old friends, a bunch of new ones and a girlfriend to boot. I loved watching Larry David star as Boris -- this role is almost identical to the one he plays on his TV series, Curb Your Enthusiasm, which always leaves Alfie and me in stitches. Maybe the real reason people don't like it is that the insights into human character sometimes hit a little too close to home -- come on, admit it, aren't there times that you feel just like Boris, except you're just too scared/diplomatic/socially conditioned to admit it?
5) Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
Transformers 2 actually leads this year's Razzie contenders, with 7 nominations, but it was also a huge moneymaker so someone must have enjoyed it. I'm siding with the majority and thumbing my nose up at the critics. Yes, they put in every kind of action scene imaginable. Yes, the whole thing was absurd. But how is Transformers 2 any more absurd than, say, Sandra Bullock's breakout movie, 1994's Speed? At least in Transformers 2 it's pretty clear that we're in fantasy land. Anyway, it's not about the storyline anyway, it's about the eye candy. Stick to enjoying the eye candy -- both robotic (love, love, love that sound the Transformers make when they transform!) and human (I'm not a teenage male but even I think Megan Fox is hot) -- and you'll have a grand time with this movie!
Okay, maybe these movies won't win any Oscars. Truthfully, I knew that even while I was enjoying them. I guess I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to movies; it's rare that I find a movie so bad that I will walk out of a movie theatre right in the middle of it. But anyone can make the best out of a bad movie -- just suspend disbelief and lower your expectations. The babysitter is paid for, there's a perfectly good bucket of popcorn on my lap, so why not make an effort? At the very least, you can have fun trashing the movie while you watch it.
When I visit a scenic place like the Philippines' Boracay Island, I often wonder how the people who live here can take it. Do they ever get tired of looking around them? Do they drink in their surroundings the way visitors do?
I wonder if they realize you can probably count on one hand the number of places in the world where the sea is this kind of crystal blue. Or that you won't find sand this white or this powdery-fine anywhere.
Do they know that what is just an average sunset for them is an experience that inspires other people to write sonnets and paint pictures? Do they know that people pay a lot of money just to see it?
Do they know how lucky they are to live in a place filled with so much beauty? Perhaps living with it every day dulls their appreciation. Or more likely, in a country where over half the population lives on an average of $2 per day, the harsh realities of everyday life, filled with poverty and hardship, saps their strength and fills their attention until there's no time left to appreciate what's around them.
So I get why women wake up at dawn to pick Boracay's white sand beach bare of seashells, or send their men to hack off a piece of coral off Boracay's coast. And I get why a villager in Kenya would agree to work for a poacher and help him trap elephants, or why a farmer in Brazil decides to slash and burn sections of the Amazon rainforest. Because whether he appreciates the beauty of the things he is destroying or not, he appreciates the survival of his family even more. I don't condone it, but I get it.
If we in the developed world stopped collecting ivory jewelry or rare seashells, or if we were less dependent on livestock that required large areas of open (and around the Amazon, deforested) cattle, maybe the poachers and exporters and importers would have to find some other way to make money. And they'd stop recruiting poor people to do their dirty work. And if the developed world could help these people develop some other, sustainable kind of livelihood, they wouldn't have to choose between feeding their family and destroying the environment. Until then, they'll just have to go about the business of staying alive, without any regard to their surroundings, without stopping to smell the roses or see the sunsets.
Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more averages, click here.
Over the years I've gotten used to the surprised looks I get when people realize that my kids are mine (i.e., Oh, they're calling her mama, she isn't the nanny!). For the longest time I've blamed it on Alfie's Caucasian genes , but nowadays everyone tells me The Pea looks just like me, only fairer (and the boys have my coloring anyway). Since that excuse doesn't work so well anymore, I'm looking for another one : maybe it's because my kids are usually much better dressed than I am.
This morning, Jammy's teacher told me she saw his jacket hanging on a hook outside the classroom yesterday. It wasn't there anymore, and I panicked. I love that jacket; it's an aviator jacket with a sherpa collar and cuffs, distressed leather and tons of cool patches scattered all over. It's one of the few identical things that 3Po and Jammy are willing to wear at the same time, and if one gets lost there goes the twin look. Besides, I paid a lot for that jacket (okay, I got it on sale but it was still a splurge)!
I rushed over to the lost and found and breathed a sigh of relief when I found it. Not a big deal after all, but afterwards I got to thinking about how nice that jacket was. And how I don't have a jacket as nice as that. My winter coat is a fake sherpa coat that I got from Old Navy for about $20. It's thick and fleecy and comfy, but I have a sneaking suspicion it makes me look a bit dumpy. I do have some decent clothes, but when I'm racing around in the morning I usually just pull on some yoga pants and a shirt (sometimes straight from the bottom of the laundry basket because I couldn't be bothered to fold it and put it away), hoping the outfit will inspire me to work out and figuring no one is going to care what I look like.
Maybe I've been living in casual California for too long. When we were in Manila it really hit me how nicely everyone dressed, and I.. well, I wore my usual tees and yoga pants or jeans. Women wore leggings and skirts and dresses. There wasn't a single sweatpant or oversized tshirt to be seen. Sure, people wore jeans and tees, but the jeans were nicely pressed and the tees were fitted. People wore accessories like bracelets and earrings and pendants. I don't mean that everyone wore expensive clothing, but most people obviously took the time and effort to look decent. Even people who didn't look like they had much money went around the shopping malls in stylish flip-flops, while I stomped around looking like a clown in my scruffy Mary Jane Crocs.
Whatever the reason, I know this is something I need to work on. Saying that people don't care what I look like is no excuse. I know Alfie cares what I look like. I know my kids do too (I love it when they look at me and exclaim, delightedly, "Mama, you look nice!"). And deep down, I think people do care what other people look like. Not on a personal level, but I think people do form opinions about other people based on how they present themselves. If two candidates present themselves at a job interview, all else being equal, who is going to make the more favorable impression: the one dressed smartly and professionally, or the one in a wrinkled suit? Why else to seasoned travelers advise people to dress nicely if they're hoping to get upgraded on their next flight? Besides, I feel more confident when I dress nicely, which affects how I deal with other people and how they deal with me.
There have been times when I've felt really guilty about making 3Po and Jammy share practically everything. They share clothes, closet space, toys, time with mom and dad, even birthday parties. I suppose I could throw separate parties for each of them (and one of these years I swear I will) but they always want the same kind of party and invite the same people. So I guess
laziness practicality wins, and I always end up throwing one party instead of two.
This year was different, because we were in the Philippines on their actual birthday. On the 30th they were having a grand old time riding the rapids and rafting under waterfalls in Pagsanjan and celebrating with their cousins with a Filipino-fried chicken lunch. That night they blew out the candles on the yummiest chocolate birthday cakes ever. But they also wanted to invite their friends to a party, so this weekend we invited a few of their friends for a late birthday celebration. They're really into Bakugan right now, so we decided to have a Bakugan-themed birthday party. Here's how we did it:
We were lucky to get Bakugan-themed invites at Toys'R'Us on clearance. In addition, I created a custom Evite with a Bakugan image in the background.
Did you know that Costco prints out 12x18 photos for only $2.99? I downloaded some wallpapers from the Bakugan website and created birthday posters for 3Po and Jammy (they each chose their own design and I added the words "Happy Birthday 3Po" and "Happy Birthday Jammy"). I hung up a Bakugan playmat that we had given to Jammy as a birthday present and festooned the rest of the house with red, black and yellow streamers, and that was it. With those colors, the house did remind me of the German flag, but the kids loved the festive atmosphere.
I baked round sugar cookies and pre-frosted them in Bakugan colors so the kids could decorate them like Bakugans as a craft activity (okay, they looked nothing like Bakugans but the kids had fun anyway). I also bought sippy cups with paper inserts (from Oriental Trading) that the kids could color and personalize, and to go with the Bakugan theme I created custom Bakugan inserts for them to color.
I didn't think it would be a good idea to play the actual Bakugan game at the party (for one thing, I don't really know how to play it, and for another, not all the kids own Bakugans and I wasn't about to buy each kid the 3 Bakugans each that are needed to play the game!). So we took down 3Po's Hotwheels downhill racing track and let the Bakugans race/roll down the track instead. We held a knockout championship, complete with a match chart, and the game was a huge hit!
The boys and their guests probably would have been happy to keep on racing their Bakugans for the next hour, but I run a tight ship, and I had three other games planned: Pin the Bakugan on the Hand (the Bakugan-themed version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, with another $2.99 Costco Bakugan photo enlargement and some printed Bakugan ball stickers), Pass the Bakugan (like Pass the Parcel but the kids passed a plastic ball that I told them to pretend was a Bakugan) and Pabitin, a traditional Filipino party game that has the kids jumping up to grab prizes that are tied to a wooden frame.
I thought of taking the Bakugan theme one step further by serving meatballs, but reluctantly admitted that most kids probably wouldn't eat them, so I went with the old standby: cheese pizza. Again, God bless Toys'R'Us for putting all their Bakugan partyware on clearance at just the time we held the party; I was able to get Bakugan-themed plates and tablecloth for a fraction of their usual cost.
Dessert, of course, was ice cream cake that I got at safeway. We stuck lollipops and gumballs on them (again, I thought of piping Bakugan designs with royal icing on each of the lollipops and gumballs -- that's what watching too many episodes of Ace of Cakes and the Food Network Birthday Cake Challenge does to you -- but abandoned the idea) and put a little Bakugan plastic figurine in the center. For once, 3Po and Jammy had their own cakes, and their smiles lit up the whole room.
I gave each kid a lollipop, a cookie, a set of stickers (I created custom name stickers for each guest and printed them out on mailing labels) and some random cheap toy favors that I had bought for one of their past parties and never got around to using. Each kid also got to take home the Bakugan they had been racing with (since there were only 6 guests, I thought I'd "splurge" a little!)
I think everyone enjoyed the party, and although the house was overrun by eight excited boys (the entire party was held inside our tiny home), I didn't feel too stressed out before or during the party.
So 3Po and Jammy managed to get two birthday celebrations after all, even though one was a month late. Well, better late than never!