Drive-in Movie Birthday

box car drive-in movie birthday

Sugar and Spice turned nine a couple of weeks ago, and we had the most fun and relaxing birthday party yet! With box cars and a drive-in movie, I have to say that it was the easiest birthday festivity we’ve pulled off, and the cheapest too!

The girls and I love planning their birthday, and we always try to figure out something fun and different. We’ve had a Birds and Butterflies dress-up party, a Cowgirl horsey birthday with pony rides at the stable, a Bollywood party with Indian food and Bollywood dancing, and a tropical birthday inspired by our trip to Costa Rica, with bathing suits, watersports and Central American food.

This year was the first year that it was kids only, and we wanted to do something crafty, kid-centric and great for girls and boys. The girls’ idea was a drive-in movie party!

box car drive-in movie birthday

box car drive-in movie birthday

We made up invitations that included tickets for the movie, snacks and food. The girls insisted on veggie dogs, since they once saw a documentary on hotdogs and haven’t eaten one since.

To prepare, I bought those little red and white paper bags for popcorn, some big boxes, veggie dogs and buns, and a few bags of candy for the girls to divide up. That was it!

box car drive-in movie birthday

When the kids arrived, we paired them up. Their task was to make a car out of a box. I gave them some leftover paper plates and cups, and my mom kindly drive around and found paints for them to decorate. The kids went nuts. I thought it would take them 1/2 hour or so, but at 1 1/2 hours, I had to make them stop crafting. Too much fun!

box car drive-in movie birthday

We made a little concession, and the kids used their hotdog and drink tickets to get a meal to eat in their cars.

box car drive-in movie birthday

Then after supper, the kids grabbed their cars and we had box car drag races on the front lawn. Hilarious! Half of the cars were destroyed, but no one cared. It was super fun.

box car drive-in movie birthday

Then they drive their cars upstairs to the family room and we out on an ancient movie we thought few of them would have seen… Robin Hood, the old Disney animated musical. Definitely a great choice.

box car drive-in movie birthday

The kids got to spend their candy and popcorn tickets when I came around with bags of snacks, and they munched their way through the movie.

box car drive-in movie birthday

Post movie, we had cupcakes, and then the kids went home. Our girls had chosen to accept donations for Vulnerable Children Society instead of presents, and I’m proud to say they raised almost $300 from their generous guests! How great was that! (Thank you thank you parents!)

box car drive-in movie birthday

A very Happy 9th Birthday to my sweet girls. I’m looking forward to a fun and eventful year together!

Natural Christmas Decorations

Other families may be taking their Christmas decorations down, but I’m just starting to enjoy ours! We started decorating two week a later than usual this year, so that means I get to keep my decorations up for an extra two weeks, right?


Most years I just haul out the same boxes of decorations, and out them up in the same places. But some of those decorations are 15 years old! So by his year, I decided to start from scratch, with the exception of the tree. And I really like the more natural look.

The girls and I went out scrounging for branches in hydro right-of-ways, and filled up the window boxes with boughs, and tied some branches together for a clutch on the door. The girls collected pine ones from a big Ponderosa pine tree, as well, and we filled a big jar in the kitchen.

We cut down the Russian sage in the front garden, and made a sort of wreath in the dining room. And the extra Christmas tree branches, we tied into a clutch in the hall.

The Russian sage and the tree boughs have an added benefit of making everything smell fresher in this old house. And it just feels lighter and greener than usual. I think we’ll decorate the same spontaneous way next year!










Updating Lifebooks with an Open Adoption


Yesterday, I took two hours and rewrote the girls’ story, pre-Canada.

The last time I wrote the lifebooks, I did it for three year olds. Then, I focused on the details that were meaningful at the time: what they ate in the orphanage, who their friends were, and the little that we knew about their family.

What a difference almost 5 years and several trips to Ethiopia does make. Of course now I’m writing it for almost 8-year-olds, but the level of detail is so much higher. I don’t think I could tell the girls as much as we do know, if we didn’t have an open adoption and I haven’t been to visit their family. The story is so much more complete… And make sense when you have multiple viewpoints. I’ve spoken to the orphanage, the adoption agency, their caregivers, their family, and even included little details from things I have learned while traveling.

If you’re not familiar with lifebooks, the point is to facilitate your child’s understanding of their life before they came to you. Lifebooks are not about the adoption process… There about the child’s life, and what is important to them. We all know how children forget details as they grow, and so the lifebook is a concrete reminder of where they came from. It also helps prevent magical thinking and filling in the gaps.

When people hear that I have a life book for the girls, they often ask about format. But the format is very simple. I just chose a pretty page layout, put a picture at the top of each page, and wrote little paragraphs of the story along the bottom. Some wonderful tips I got about lifebooks are:

  • Tell the story in the parent’s voice to the child directly. Use the second person.
  • Tell them what we don’t know, so that they don’t fill in the gaps,
  • Frame the story chronologically, and fill in details as they grow. It’s also important to include ages, but dates are not as important.
  • Include as many pictures as you can. But don’t put in people that aren’t the real people. They may fantasize that a random Ethiopian is indeed their mother/uncle/friend. So for pages that don’t have family members or real people, a drawing or a background picture is a better choice.
  • What I don’t do is include the official documents of their adoption. This is recommended for children who need concrete evidence of their adoption and their legitimacy in the family. However, my girls always remember through the process of stories. So for them, the more storybook approach is more relevant.

    To celebrate the new lifebook, we all laid on the bed last night and read through one of the copies. The girls were engaged and interested, and the language is easy enough that they could even read parts of it themselves. One of my daughters is very uncomfortable with feelings, so she pretty much jumped on the bed the whole time. But she said she enjoyed herself afterwards, and thanked me with a big hug. The other one craves for information and pictures, so she sat quietly, reading along with me. Funny how twins are so different, even if they share the same story.

    Oh, about the twin thing. I actually have exactly the same book for each of my twins. They really do have the same story… There are only a couple of details that are individual. So I just change the name on the cover. I do have a copy for each, printed and slid into plastic sleeves. That way, they can play with their own book, as much as they like, without worrying about damaging it. They each keep it in their “private” suitcase under the bed, and haul it out whenever they like. We also make a routine of dragging it out every few months, and reading it through. It’s a wonderful conversation starter.

    I would love to know how often people update their lifebooks. After all, their life pre-adoption doesn’t change… But sometimes, especially in open adoptions, our understanding does. And of course, there is a language development as they grow.

    Have any of you dear readers updated your lifebooks?

    Galleria: Mornings of Creative Journaling


    Every morning since the girls came home almost 5 years ago, they take out their journals,and draw, color, paste, and write anything that they want.

    I have their journals, hard covered sketchbooks, from way back to when we were living in a hotel in Ethiopia. It’s amazing to see their drawings and interests over time. The thousand pieces of paper that they create do go in the recycling, or are sent to my grandmother. But the sketchbooks we keep. So they do their most precious work inside.


    Back in preschool, I remember getting the funniest report card home. Everything was meeting expectations, except that the girls apparently could not color in coloring books. The teacher wrote a little note… “Must use coloring books to learn to color inside the lines.” So we got a coloring sheet out, and asked the girls to color inside the lines. They looked confused, but sure enough, colored inside the lines perfectly. It wasn’t that they couldn’t… It was that they didn’t feel that they needed to. The coloring books we had been given as gifts went back on the shelf.


    I love it that my daughters have learned to color outside the lines. As a professor, I know that people who succeed in business and entrepreneurial endeavors today know the power of creativity. Unfortunately, coloring books and all sorts of other schooling that we put our kids through eraces this innate expression. So I make sure that our daughters have that free time and blank pages to explore their interest every morning after breakfast.

    I have to say there is a self-serving side to this as well. Since they can amuse themselves for literally hours in their journals, Saturday morning journaling allows me to sleep in! Which is one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made! :-).

    Enjoy some of their most recent drawings from this weekend. There is a whole story behind the all girl high school with animals that attend to learn to control their superpowers, and work with each other. But we’ll have to leave that until they start writing the stories themselves…