Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Play Time

One of the cool things about having two kids is it gives you a whole new perspective on how children behave at certain ages.  The stages are the same, but how the child acts within those stages can be very different.  Ela skipped crawling, for example, but crawled up and down stairs for a long time.  Lily, on the other hand, crawled until she figured out that walking meant she could hold things.  Now, she only wants to walk up and down steps, too.
The girls are very much alike in many ways, but their differences stand out more to me because I see them all the time.  The place I see these differences the best is when they are playing.  I learn so much about the girls from play time in general, but especially when they play pretend.  I have been reveling for awhile now in the joy of hearing Ela tell me what she is playing when she pretends.  Lily has just entered the phase where I can tell she is playing pretend, but dont always know the story.  It's a very exciting step for her. 
Ela's pretend games focus almost exclusively on animals.  The monkey is hurt, the dog is hungry, the elephant is scared, and she is there to save the day.  She is sweet and caring to her animal friends.  Lily is similarly sweet and caring, but her friends are babies.  She holds them, covers them with blankets, plays peekaboo with them, and takes them endlessly in and out of the stroller she got for Christmas.  She says good night to them when she goes to bed.  It is something of a relief to me that they differ in this way because it means that they don't have one favorite toy that they fight over.  Lily's favorites are all babies, and Ela wants the animals.  Only rarely do they fight over one of them, and it usually doesn't last. 
The other thing I've noticed about the girls is that Lily's play seems much more realistic than Ela's ever was.  When Lily plays in their kitchen, a spoon is always a spoon.  With Ela, the spoon was almost never a spoon.  Instead it was a worm, or a wand, or medicine.  Lily plays with the things as they are, Ela assigns roles to toys depending on what is going on in her mind.  It's very interesting to me. 
Another exciting step for the girls is watching them start to play together.  Lily has been interested in playing with Ela for awhile, but Ela has generally opposed this idea.  She has actually become convinced that whatever she wants to play with, Lily is trying to steal from her, even when Lily is halfway across the room completely engrossed in something else.  Lately, though, she has opened to the idea that they could have fun together.  So far, this is only true in the car, but it's a start.  I enlisted her help one afternoon to try to keep Lily awake until we got home so she could have a good nap.  Once Ela understood how to do it, she made it her priority in the car during almost every trip.  She asks Lily what animals say or where her nose is, she plays peekaboo, and the giggling is priceless. 
Some of this pleasantness has transfered to how they interact in the house.  Now when Lily gets a bonk and is crying, Ela tries making funny faces at her to cheer her up.   Sometimes it even works!  Similarly, Lily will pat Ela's back when she's sad, or give her a kiss, though that usually doesn't make her feel much better.  I am so excited to see them at least try to get along.  We should have a lot of fun as they get to know each other. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New Year!

Yes, I'm back.  Sorry about the long silence.  The end of last year was busy to say the least.  October began with a family reunion in Ohio, followed immediately by Zack's visit home.  I spent my time during those two weeks trying to enjoy every minute with him, with a great deal of success.  When he left, it was suddenly Halloween.  Then I think I blinked and missed most of November.  Suddenly it was Thanksgiving and I was running an 8K and then eating delicious food.  Then there was Christmas to prepare for, which was complicated by trying to send something Zack would appreciate (mission accomplished) and the process of trying to make things both special and even for two little girls who don't really need anything.  By the time I got all that sorted, it really was Christmas, and I was playing bells and enjoying family and eating even MORE good food.  So now it's a new year, and we're counting down the weeks until we get to see Zack again.  And to distract ourselves in the mean time, I've got a few things planned to keep us busy.
First up is the somewhat ambitious New Year's Resolution I've set for myself.  My goal is to run 500 miles before the end of the year.  I figure now that I've started running, I need a solid goal to keep me going.  That, combined with the occasional 5k or something that looks interesting, should do the trick.  I have attempted to talk Zack into joining me, and while he readily agreed that 9ish miles a week was nothing for the moment, he's not sure that he can keep it up once he moves to the ship, so time will tell. It may or may not be the year of 1000 miles for us.  So far, we're both on schedule.
At the moment, my folks are off having fun, so Ela, Lily and I are house sitting.  I'm also helping out at the church where Mom works, covering for her a little bit.  It's my good deed for the month.  Ela is becoming a pretty decent dog letter outer.  Since Mom has a tendency to cook for me when she's home, I find myself suddenly much busier than usual.  :-)
Once Mom and Dad get back, my room mommy duties will be heating up for a little while.  There's teacher appreciation, followed by a Valentine's party I agreed to help with, and then the biggest fundraiser of the year for preschool.  Before we know it, there will be birthdays to plan and homecomings (don't know yet exactly which order, but we'll sort it out).
So things will still be going awfully fast, but I am going to try to get back into the habit of writing.   I hope to post some pictures of my girls before they become unrecognizable.  Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Busy Weekends...

I really do have things to write about.  The trick lately is finding the time to write them down.  Fitzgerald said something clever about that, and he was totally right.  Anyway, a quick summary of what I've missed:
Two weeks ago, the girls and I went to Atlanta for a Mommy night out opportunity: My sister volunteers with March of Dimes down there, and had promised to fill a table at their first ever fund raising dinner and auction.   She was short a few seats, so we drove down to help her out by eating crazy good food and bidding on really cool stuff.  It was a real sacrifice... especially since the money was going to such a good cause...
Anyway, there was a silent auction while we all enjoyed wine and other adult beverages and some lovely cheeses.  I bid on a packaged that included tickets to a puppet show, zoo, and museum with IMAX because I thought Ela would enjoy it.  I actually won, too!  So that was pretty cool, and now I have lots of new reasons to visit my sister.
And the food, people, oh the food... March of Dimes had gotten four local chefs to each do one course using local materials.  I didn't think to start taking pictures until the third course because I rarely get the chance to eat food that is worth photographing.  As much as I'd like to be, I'm not really a foody.  Anway, the first course had eggplant croutons that were super good.  The second course had grits and a chicken croquette.  I don't even like grits, but these were amazing!  The chicken might have been my favorite part of the meal, except it was all too good to pick.  Here's course 3: duck, endive, and apple sauce with a pecan chip thingy (remember how I said I'm not a foody?).  Soooo good.
 The fourth course was dessert: a yam spice cake with carmel/chocolate mouse and a little bit of what turned out to be pear gelato I think (it wasn't on the description).  Tell me you aren't hungry just looking at it...
 The things they auctioned live were a little out of my price range unless I wanted to give Zack heart failure later, but it was fun to be there, eat and talk to other adults without trying to coax food into one child while trying to keep the other satisfied with the amount on her plate.  And let's not forget the super yummy food. 

Anyway... This weekend was equally busy, even though we actually stayed home for a change.  Friday, we took the girls to a little carnival.  I learned something very important: my girls LOVE rides.  We started them on this:
 The ponies rock and the carts go around the little track.  That's it.  Ela giggled so hysterically that I had to get video.  It was funny.  Lily didn't want to get out when the ride ended.  That was small beans, though.  From there, we hit a bouncy house, and then a rocket that also just went around and around.  Then Ela spotted The Hurler.  
The Hurler is one of those rides that spins in several directions at once, so you get super dizzy.  I actually like these rides, too.  It's fun to spin, right?  Anyway, Ela insisted she wanted to go on it.  I showed her that she was not yet the requisite 42 inches to get on.  But then I saw that kids 40 inches and up could go with an adult.
Uh Oh.
Ela is 40 inches.  Can you believe that?  I couldn't.  We got out our tickets and on we went.  I was terrified that she'd hate it and come out crying.  I hadn't been on a ride like that myself in 6 or 7 years, so I was also mildly worried I might be sick.  Good thing my stomach was empty.  But Ela loved it.  She laughed, squealed, and wanted to go again the minute it was over.  Lily, by the way, was totally offended that she couldn't go too.  Neither girl wanted to leave when we were done.  I made mental notes to not take them near an amusement park until they were both 42 inches tall.

Saturday, we took it a bit easy as I got ready for an afternoon 5k.  That's right, I ran a 5k.  I can hardly believe it myself.  The run was called the Pink Shamrock and took me around downtown Raleigh.  It started at 4:00, so I left Mom with the girls during quiet time and went down by myself.  They met me at the finish line when I was done.  I finished in 36 minutes 31.8 seconds precisely.  That works out to 11 minutes and 47 seconds per mile.  I was super proud!  Now that 8k on Thanksgiving doesn't look quite as scary...

Sunday we checked out the International Festival downtown again.  We timed it so we could eat dinner from around the world.  All Ela would eat was this:
 Which is Dutch, by the way.  I couldn't pronounce the name, but it had chocolate sprinkles, and that was all that mattered to her.  The rest of us had a much more balanced, if not entirely healthy, meal from the Phillipines, Columbia, France, Turkey and Vietnam.  Yum.  Ela decided to try the chocolate cake from France, too... Then we checked out the booths.  There were informative ones, such as this one on Columbia:
And also places where you could buy things.  All us adult girls got henna tattoos.  Ela got a balloon animal.  It was a good time all around. 

Next weekend, we're off to Ohio for a little family fun.  So there will be more to say, and I'll get better at carving out time to say it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Abingdon, VA

Last weekend, I tossed the kiddos in the car and we headed out to get in some quality time with Zack's folks. The destination: Abingdon, Virginia, home to the Virginia Creeper Trail. The plan was to bike it and take in some of the beautiful mountain scenery. We stopped in Boone on the way up to visit with some friends, but still arrived in Abingdon in time to check out some fishies and eat dinner before bed. 
We headed out the next morning to ride the trail. 
Grandpa took on the challenge of hauling the kiddos.  That adds somewhere between 50-60 lbs of weight, not counting the trailer, but the route is mostly downhill, so it didn't become an issue. 
And of course we stopped along the way to check out the scenery.  Ela loved watching the water and wanted to stop over and over again.  Lily just wanted out of her helmet. 
We stopped for lunch about 7 miles from Damascus (our final destination) and then booked it the last leg.  The bad thing about riding with kiddos: the grown ups are tired at the end of the ride, but the kids have done nothing but sit all day.  Ela was ready to wiggle so we took her to check out some trains.
She was sad that they didn't move, but she enjoyed climbing around in them. 
Grandpa was having so much fun with the girls that he volunteered to take them for the evening so Grandma and I could go see a show.  Tarzan was playing at the Barter Theater, so after dinner we headed out.  I enjoyed the break from my little sillies. 
We headed back to Winston after breakfast the next morning.  It was a lovely trip.  I bet it would be really amazing as the leaves change, and I hope we get to go back some time and ride again. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ela Goes to Preschool

I really don't know where I went last month, sorry about that.  We're rolling into the fall routine now, so I should get back to the blog a bit more now.  I wanted to post a picture with this, but my camera is being uncooperative so I'll have to settle for some stories about Ela's grand return to preschool.
Preschool started Wednesday, but we've been building up to it for weeks now.  I had a parent meeting a few weeks ago, and when I was telling Ela about it, I asked her if she was excited about being a frog this year (that's her class name).  She replied, "Yes! I'll be a good frog.  I'll go ribbit! Ribbit!"  I nearly fell over laughing.
Last week, there was a room visit day, and Ela had  fun looking at all the new toys in the room.  She seemed less interested in the kids than I expected, but on the way home, all she could talk about was how she wanted Kate to come play at her house.  We haven't ever done a playdate with anyone who couldn't just walk over, so I'm looking forward to setting that up. 
This year, Ela's class gets to use the carpool at preschool, meaning parents just drop them off and teachers walk them in at the beginning of the day.  At the end of the day, the teacher brings them out to the car too.  The parent never has to leave the car, which for me and Lily, is awesome!  The school has a great system, so it all runs very smoothly.  Today when her teacher brought Ela out, she told me that Ela likes to eat lunch.  I had to double check and make sure she was bringing me the right child, since Ela doesn't eat... ever.  What we figured out was that she doesn't really eat much, she just really likes sitting at the table with the kids, and she's always the last one done. 
I know Ela's enjoying preschool because she sings on the way there.  Ela is not a performer by nature, but she'll sing to herself when she's happy.  On the way to school lately, she's been singing "This Old Man."  I've been impressed by her counting ability as the verses go on, but she doesn't really know all the words, so she makes some up.  Her version goes something like this (I'll start with a middle verse to give you the idea with the counting):
This old man
He played five
He played knick knack on his lunchbox
with a (mumblemumble mumble) BONE
This old man went rolling home.
This old man
He played .... one two three four five six...
He played six
He played knick knack on his carseat
with a (mumbledybumble) BONE
This old man went rolling home.
If she's having half as much fun in the class as she is getting to and from it, then I'm happy. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Zack Update

Not much going on here this week, so I figured it was time to give a Zack update. There's not much new there, either. He's still working very hard.  He had a little stomach trouble, but it's clearing up now. I suspect it was stress. Whatever the case, I'm glad he's feeling better.

Zack has been working on a graduate school class in his "free time" and he just got his first paper back with an A on it, so that's good. It's not a paced course, but he's hoping to get through it before he gets back. He's also been visiting the gym regularly, getting buff. He's got some workout buddies, so he's learning new routines and getting to be a faster runner.

So that's the news from Zack. He sends his thanks for the various care packages people have sent. He likes getting pictures and happy thoughts from home. Thanks to everyone who is thinking about him!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Road Tripping

Apparently, my mom and I are gluttons for punishment, so last week, we decided to drive to Moline, IL with the girls to visit my great-aunt, among other people. It's a 16 hour drive, and we did entertain the notion of flying, but have you seen plane ticket prices recently? Ugh. The girls did really well on our trip to Pittsburgh, so we decided to see how far we could get them.
We started out Thursday afternoon, hoping they'd nap, and rolled merrily along until dinner time. We learned that Ela travels a lot like this:
And Lily travels a lot like this:
We stopped for dinner that night and then rolled on until we ran out of steam. The next day, we got up with the girls, and continued. We stopped in Effingham to visit one of Mom's cousins, which was a lot of fun. Then it was back in the car and we arrived in Moline in time to have a nice dinner with Aunt Margaret and my dad, who was in the city on business.
Saturday, we had a very fun day. We went swimming at the pool in the morning, then we went out for lunch at a lovely place owned by a friend of ours called Lagomarcino's. We got lucky and our friend was there, so we had a nice chat, too.
We had a little time, so we went down to the John Deere Pavilion to see the tractors, and instead we hit the jackpot. John Deere is celebrating it's 175th year, and they were having a "Farm Day", complete with animals...
...some of which wanted to eat the girls's skirts. But really, it was the very best petting zoo I've ever seen.
There were also games. Ela is still talking about milking a cow.
It was super fun.
After another lovely visit with some old friends, we headed back to my aunt's for another lovely dinner. The next day we went to see one more friend, had lunch with my aunt, and headed back onto the road. We drove until we hit Lawrenceville, where we stopped to visit Zack's Aunt, Uncle and cousins and have a quick dinner. Here are the girls with their second cousins. 
It was quick, but nice. We drove again until Lily ran out of steam, woke up a from a dead sleep and screamed until we stopped the car. So now we know exactly how far she can go before she's done. And it's really freakin far for a fourteen month old.
We had breakfast Monday morning with one more friend, and then it was back on the road for the day. We managed to make it to Winston in time to celebrate Zack's Dad's birthday with him and have another lovely dinner.

The girls liked the ice cream the best. After dinner it was a short drive home.   The whole trip went really fast, and we were busy non-stop.  It was actually a very good time.  I was really glad we could see so many people in such a short time.  And I'm also really glad the girls travel well.  I suspect it will come in very handy in the next several years.