Thursday, December 29, 2016

6 Years Later

6 years ago, this little nugget entered our lives.
She was scared and sad and covered head to toe in pink.

Now she lights up a room, is a kind, old soul, and wears shark pajamas.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday Snapshot

This is when Abigail found out that the Millennium
Falcon is also Santa's favorite ship from Star Wars.  Who knew?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving: Thankful for Family and My Amazing Kids

She gets more beautiful
and more clever every day

Time with Uncle Dean

We love Uncle Dean and Aunt Emily

Monday, November 14, 2016

He would eat the marshmallow

Larry and I are big fans of the Stanford marshmallow experiment.
Abigail once, at the age of 2, held a donut on a 12 minute car ride home on the promise that she would be allowed to eat the whole thing if she could wait until she got home to eat it but would only be allowed half if she ate it in the car.

Joseph, however, he would eat the marshmallow.  Then find a way to sneak another.  And if he couldn't be sneaky, he would find a way to sweet-talk the psychologist into a 2nd anyhow.  That is just the kind of boy he is.

So, when we heard from his Montessori teacher that he was beyond meticulous on an art project recently, that he was so patient with himself and so perfectionist that he re-did it 3 times to get it just the way he wanted, we were elated!  The boy isn't a wrecking ball 100% of the time! He can be patient!

I present to you the Painted Noodle Turkey:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Abigail's First Hike on Old Rag Mountain

Lar and I recently had the chance to go for a hike.  There is a massive 10 mile hike we want to do in Shenandoah, and also there is Old Rag, which we haven't done yet in 2016.  (Where did summer go?) But when Abigail expressed interest in going with us, we eagerly chose to hike with her on a shorter hike than go without her.  You have to nurture things like love of hiking and Broadway early!

So, we went on Old Rag on a crisp fall day, the leaves were just slightly past their peak and the temperature was somewhere in-between "I need two layers and I need only one."  Abigail only complained once around lunch time "when are we going to get there?" but when given the chance to turn around, she eagerly said that she wanted to keep going.  

We ended up going the first 3 miles up to what we call The First Break Spot, the big bald outlook before the all-rock scramble continues across the top.  (It took Abigail 1:40 to do this.) The 3 miles down from there were harder than I could have imagined.  Abigail declared "I agree with Mama.  I like going up better than down.  When you go up, the rocks help you but when you go down the rocks roll and try to trip you."  Preach it, girl.  (Wait until she has 40 year old knees!)

For lunch, we spent a leisurely half hour enjoying the view and greeting the other hikers coming past.  Abigail was by far the youngest.  Abigail loved eating Slim Jims and sipping "chicken breast soup" (broth) from a Thermos.  Larry and I loved giving her 100% of our attention for hours and hearing her stories from the world of 2nd grade.  ("We tried to spy on them at recess, but things didn't turn out as planned!" she said of the 2nd grade version of the Mean Girls.)

It was her idea to bring binoculars

We love her so much!

mmmm, hot broth on a cool hike

Where she is standing is rolling and steep.
This spot makes Larry hella' nervous, but what a great picture!

Standing on a spot that made Baba feel more comfortable.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Changing Peer Group: Sunday Snapshot

Abigail's peer group at her birthday party 3 years ago and her current peer group at her party today.  The composition has changed so much.

(Sunglasses were added to help protect the anonymity of the kids who do not belong to me.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Joseph, approaching 4 years old

This is an update about Joseph.  He is attending Montessori School and thriving.  He is learning about the big world around him and his place within it.  He can name major landmarks (there's nothing cuter than hearing him say "Mount Rushmore") and he is learning discipline, focus, and pride in his learning.  We are so proud of him.

He has conversations with us.  His conversations and speech are developing and he speaks long sentences that contain abstract things like his thoughts, wishes, or jokes.  He is a witty little guy and we love talking with him.  He no longer wants Abigail to be his voice for him.

Joseph wants to do the things the rest of us do.  Yesterday, he ran in his first race, a tot-trot of about 100 yards at the Go For Bo event.  He had a bib-number and everything.  (Do NOT call it a bib to him; bibs are for babies!)  Feeling whiny about having to wear a number, he clung to Larry's leg as the tots lined up.  He clung as the announcer said "On your marks."  But as the announcer said "Get Set," Joseph jumped off of Lar's leg in a 180 degree pounce and assumed a ready position.  He took off at "Go!" as though he was being chased by a lion.  I only had one shot at a picture and it really doesn't do his intensity or his speed or his sheer joy justice.

As Abigail is getting older and doing a few more things that he can't yet, we try to do special things with him.  His favorite special thing?  Going out for sushi with his favorite grown-ups in his life.  Last Sunday night he had sushi with Lar and me while Abigail had a sleep over with her grandparents.  Today, while Abigail was at a birthday party, Joseph went for sushi with my mother and me.  I ordered 4 rolls for he and I to split.  He ate a California while I ate a tuna roll.  Then we started sharing the salmon skin and smoked salmon rolls.  As we got down to the last 2 pieces of smoked salmon roll, he grabbed them and put them on his plate to lay claim to them.  Then, as we approached the last two pieces of the salmon skin roll, he wrapped his arms around the ends of the sushi-boat-plate and slid it away from me and more towards him.  All-in-all, he ate 11 pieces and was pretty proud of himself.  My mom and I laughed and laughed at him and how intense he is when he eats sushi!

He and Abigail continue to be best friends.  They have their own imaginary world, their own games where they already know the rules that have been pre-established and evolved together in their world.  They have their own jokes and even their own language for things.  They are an amazing duo and are better together than apart so often.  

Fall Pumpkin Patch Tradition

This morning, we decided to make the most of this gorgeous fall weather and spend some family time at a working farm that was doing a low-key version of the sometimes over-blown fall festival.  We had a favorite pumpkin patch farm in Pennsylvania, but the 10 hour round-trip seemed like too much for a great festival.  We chose a local farm with plenty to do for kids approximately under 8 or 9 years old.  They weren't overwhelmed with too many people or too much to do but they were dirty, exhausted and happy 2.5 hours later.
We found the Great Pumpkin!  Jos was SO excited.

A family pic in a tree house that we will not be
using for our Christmas card, so, therefore
you can see it now.

Joseph, pining after the tractor driver.

So much dust in the hay barn

Joseph's uncles nicknamed him Badger for his strength
but I think Abigail gets the toughness award here!

Joseph drove the pumpkins from the car to the porch using
his awesome tractor.  

The enormous piles of sand filled with dump truck, back hoe, and excavator toys made it worth the price of admission for both of my kids.  They also loved picking out their pumpkins, petting animals, and swinging in a hay barn.  They were fascinated by the free-range chickens, in love with the fresh popcorn, and delighted that their grandparents could once again join us in the fun.  Joseph liked the hay ride and would like to grow up to be the tractor driver.  

Happy fall, y'all.  It is my favorite time of the year!!
(Can I pull off "y'all"?  I've been south of the Mason Dixon line for about 16 years.  It doesn't really roll of my tongue, but maybe I can get away with it in print?)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

New Milestone!!

Today my big boy had his first real haircut.  

I miss my floppy headed Muppet!  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Summer of Swimming

Last night was our official last night of summer vacation: today is just a weekend and Monday Lar and I will start back to work while the kids do a week of "day camp."

This summer was jam-packed with stuff to do, places to go, and really enjoyable days at home.  We originally planned to have Joseph spend approximately half his time in day care, but he only went one full week (the same week Abigail did sports camp) because, for the first summer since joining our family, he was delightful to have at home!  So, our little family of 4 got to have lots of fun quality time together all summer long.

We did some amazing things and went to some wonderful places, but the biggest growth in both kids this summer was in the area of swimming.  We put the kids in 8 once-per-week swimming classes in the spring.  Joseph never progressed past the lesson in which he had to pour a small cup of water on his own arms and head.  Abigail was floating for 10 seconds and doing 20 "bobs" off of the bottom of the pool.  By the time we went to the lake house at the end of June, Abigail was a strong doggie-paddler and Joseph was independent in the water using his life jacket.  Abigail spent the week at the lake jumping off the dock and swimming with her life jacket.

When we got home from the lake, Abigail wanted to try to swim without her jacket.  She began swimming under water first, but within days was doing a rough freestyle.  Now, she swims as gracefully as a mermaid and is darn good at freestyle and breaststroke.  She can also do a bit of backstroke, has dabbled with butterfly, and can do flips under water.

Joseph witnessed his sister shedding her life jacket and the elated responses from us and he naturally wanted to ditch the life jacket too.  This was first accomplished by him being sneaky.  He asked if he could swim without his jacket and I told him no.  (He was sitting on the steps of our pool.)  So, he swung himself onto the side of the pool, held on for a second, took a deep breath and let go.  He sunk and I grabbed him up out of the water where he sputtered and wiped the water off his face and proudly declared "See!  I don't sink.  I float!"  That made me laugh pretty hard at his interpretation of what had just happened.  But his can-do attitude was enough motivation for Lar and me to start to teach him how to swim.  He can now swim underwater well enough to retrieve dive sticks and dive rings on the bottom of the pool.  He can swim on top of the water if we are there to help him when he needs to get his breath in a sloppy freestyle and he can go about 10 or 11 feet on one breath.

We are SO proud of the kids and their swimming this summer!






Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Living in a No-Grown-Up World

My ineffable thoughts have been churning away in my head, coming together over a few weeks into something more solid. Something more expressible.  Something more.  And throughout this process I contemplated if I would blog this and decided that there was a very good reason to do so.  At the end of every calendar year, I take all of the entries for the past year and have them published in a book.  A real, tangible, on-the-shelf book as a future gift to my children.  They will have stories of their childhood, documentation of things we have done together, proof that I was trying my hardest because who knows what will become of these intangible bits and bytes on the web.  And, with entries like this, they may have something to draw on if/when they are parents themselves.

The hard thing, the really damn difficult thing, is the loss of grownups in my world.  I have been a parent for five and a half years and at first there was a slight drop off in the number and types of activities to which I was invited. Then, after bringing Joseph home, a precipitous drop happened.  At first, I thought that people were just giving us space, but the invites to attend adult functions, both casual and formal, dried up. We are more than willing to hire baby-sitters and get some adult time with others, but the invites aren't there. When we try to initiate, we end up disappointed.  

We know a few wonderful families with kids and sometimes have the pleasure of hanging out together, adults and kids and chaos, and that does provide a modicum of adult time and some fun for us and the kids.  But this doesn't happen often.  And I still really miss the people I used to hang out with: the ones who don't have kids/ don't want kids/ whose kids have grown and I feel so isolated from.  Some very important relationships to me have atrophied in the presence of my kids.  I have put in efforts to revive them, but they are not met with what used to be.  It seems that People With Kids and People Without Kids are two non-overlapping circles of a Venn diagram.

I found this on the Web.  It seems mostly true for me.
I don't want them to remember me tired, but if they do,
and this is why, then that will be okay.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quick Charleston Vacation

We lived in Mount Pleasant, SC for over a decade before Abigail entered our lives.  Then we moved to Virginia to be closer to family.  It has been 4 years since we lived in Mt. P,  and 3 years since we last visited.  We just returned from a wonderful little trip, Joseph's first to Charleston (which, if you didn't see, was Travel + Leisure's #1 Best City in the World, so I guess that we've seen all that the world has to offer, right?)

We were lucky enough to stay with some old family friends during our visit.  Joseph mourned them deeply tonight, crying buckets because he missed his new friends so much!

These two besties, waiting to get into the Aquarium.

Joseph LOVED the shark

Joseph took this pic of Lar and me.  

Shell hunting with Baba as the storm comes in

Good thing we moved:  Joseph HATES the heat and humidity!!
Abigail pet the sharks for so long that the worker at the petting tank
called downstairs for a shark tooth for Abigail to take home!

Our dear friend with two happy kids who love her!!

Abigail always wears a wet suit so her tan lines are amazing!

He wanted so badly to see a lighthouse.
It was his first time in the ocean.

At my favorite park in Mt. P

She kicked me hard right after this shot as she crash
landed, but it was worth it!

Seriously, the boy was a puddle for 4 days.

Splashing in the famous pineapple fountain

He put down quite a bit of sushi.  Then he named his new stuffed seal from the aquarium "Sushi."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Smith Mountain Lake Vacation

The past week my parents, my brother and awesome SIL, and our little family rented a lake house on Smith Mountain Lake.

view from our dock to
our house
A few SML facts for the uninitiated:
  • man made lake with 500 miles of shoreline nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • it is the cleanest body of water on the east of the USA
  • it is where the movie What About Bob was filmed

We couldn't have ordered more perfect weather for the week.  Our only sprinkles were on Tuesday morning and it just provided a great time for Abigail to get some fishing done.  (She caught 5.)

The growth we got to see in the kids this week was incredible.  Joseph started the week very content to be a landlubber and stay dry.  But, following his intrepid sister's lead (and learning to trust his life jacket), he was exploring and swimming and kayaking and having a blast in the water by midweek.
Joseph, staying dry, fishing for family members

Joseph is trying out a little bit of water
but mostly staying dry

Another fun, dry activity is buying ice cream
from the ice cream boat man

Joseph gets a little braver and leaves land

A little chutzpah assistance from Baba

"I 'loat!  I don't 'ink!!!"

We also rented a small speed boat for half of the week.  Abigail loved to go tubing (so did Grandma!) and Joseph just loved riding on the boat.  He didn't want to tube, even with his beloved Mama, although I was the only one with whom he even tentatively thought about climbing on.

Jos loved riding the boat and watching the water

Abigail had some fun tubing with her Baba

Joseph liked riding the boat, even when he wasn't
conscious of riding it!

I think that it was a hard week for my brother and SIL because they are used to a calm, quiet house and my kids were Wound. Up.  all week.  But, they really are an Awesome aunt and uncle when it comes to playing with the kids, Abigail in particular because she is at such a fun age.  They spent hours and hours running down the dock and jumping/ diving into the lake with her.  They invented specialty jumps together (such as the Abi-dactyl and the Twist).  I think of all 8 of us, Abigail probably had the most fun.

She loved doing anything in the water

My dad, a new smart phone user,
took a lot of pics and he has a
side view of this event I need to
get from him and post

Our happy water girl after her 200th jump

So, between the continual development of Abigail's emerging swimming skills, and her bravery to jump off docks and ride on tubes pulled by speed boats, it really was a joy to watch Abigail's growth this week!

Me with the kids on the night
we rode the boat to a
restaurant for dinner

I can't imagine ever doing a beach vacation when we can do a lake vacation.  The water is so clean and fresh and not salty.  You can affordably get a great house right on the lake, not several streets back.  There is shade.  You get your own private dock to use for the week.  AND, it is in the mountains, so there is also a chance for great hiking, which was my favorite part of the week.  Larry and I took Abigail on the hike up Sharp Top.  It was Abigail's biggest hike yet, with rock scrambles and a 360o view from the top, which she loved.

Part way up our Sharp Top Hike

She loved the view and her new hydration back pack