Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Wow, I have sure posted a lot this year.  When I realized I had 99 posts, I figured I had better write something today to push me to the 100th one.  That is more than I've posted in the last couple years put together.  I guess having two kids and moving gave me a lot to write about, and now that I'm not teaching I have the time to actually do it. 

I'm not going to go over my past year, since a good proportion of people that will ever read this get my Christmas letter, but I am looking forward to  a more stable 2014 for sure. I am needing some babies to fill the void that spunky little Eli is leaving, as he quickly grows; luckily I am getting two nieces this year in January and June.  Hopefully that does the trick.  There are also lots of big birthdays in my family this year, with my grandpa, mother, mother-in-law and myself all celebrating ones that end in 5 or 0.  Not in love with mine, but I've still got 10+ months to get used to it.

I'm glad that I've had the last few months to have some time to spend working on my physical self-which I plan to keep focusing on for a few more months until I am firmly into my new habits.  Theo decided his resolution would also be "healthy eating" (and getting less time outs).  It think he needs to work on not crying when he wants something (it works for Eli, so he thinks he should do it to).  Theo thinks dada's resolution should be getting home early once the new road is finished (he drives through some construction every day, and I tend to complain about the time he gets home).  Finally, Theo has given Eli the instruction to work on growing up as his resolution.  So he's more fun to play with. I think he's growing up just quickly enough.

Have a blessed 2014! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Elijah: 15 months

15 months
Weight:  23 lbs 13 oz, not much gain these months, as to be expected as you started walking.
Length:  31 inches
Size:  You are in 18-24 month, and 24 month/2T clothes regularly now.  You look so cute in jeans, sweaters, and winter hats.
Hair:  Blonde!  And in desperate need of a hair cut, but I hate to let that happen.
Eyes:  Brown, slightly lighter than Theo's; more like dada's.
Food:  About the same here, though you continue to be low on iron so we are working harder to get more into your diet.  You love cereal, and bring a box to me about 4 times a day (we need more high cabinets).  Vegetables are best from a pouch, whole milk is best out of a straw, and cheese is best in a stick.  You are now up to 8 teeth, and unfortunately you love to use them to bite mama (no one else though). 
Sleeping:  You just recently moved into the one nap a day phase, so we are trying to get that schedule down.  You still will only nap in your stroller, which is so frustrating.  And you cry when you have to go to bed at night, but only for a minute or two.  Theo shares his room with you, and keeps an eye on you all night.
Likes:  Being a little helper is your primary means of play.  Sweeping the floor, trying to walk the dog, and wanting to help in the kitchen takes up a lot of your time.  You also love to make any toy that has music play as much as possible.  And you give great hugs, whether to the baby dolls, Coriander, or mama.  You recently started "reading" to yourself, and particularly love a dump truck page in Little Blue Truck.  You are also right on cue for the clinging-to-mama stage, which you seem to have entered recently.
Language:  Like your brother was at first (and your parents still) you are a quiet one.  You say "dadadada," and you "hiss" for Kiki, but that is about it.  You did try out "mama" the other day, so I know you can do it if you want.  Recently, you learned to shake your head "no" at things, and you are still excellent at signing "more please".  Waving good-bye is also a new skill, and you continue to be a good clapper when something delights you.

I can't believe your next update will be 1 and a half!  Where is the time going?

Some photos from the last few months:

12.5 months
13 months

13.5 months
14 months

14.5 months

15 months

Friday, December 20, 2013

A NOVA/DC Christmas: Part 2

On the day of Brian's office parties, we went ahead and hit up some more holiday attractions in DC.

First, needing to kill some time while Brian was working, he dropped us off at the train so we could take it into Union Station.  It was my first time using the stroller on the train with both kids, and it was really simple.  No problems at all.  When we got there, we window shopped for a while, listened to the choir that was singing in the entrance, and got to the main attraction- their holiday train set up.  Even though it didn't involve any Thomas or Chuggington characters, Theo was still very excited by it.  He circled the display several times, finding new details each time.  He could have stayed a lot longer, but we needed to head out.

We ran into Santa and Mrs. Claus again at Brian's Christmas parties.  We had actually saw Santa the day before out our church party also.  Theo was pretty apprehensive both times, and didn't actually talk to Santa either time.  Eli, surprisingly, didn't mind and sat for a nice photo.

Next we headed back to the National Christmas Tree to take in their train set-up and check out the state Christmas trees.  This set-up blew away the small one at Union Station, and had everything imaginable.  Theo could barely contain himself, and of course, did not want to leave.

Our last stop was the holiday market set-up near the National Portrait Museum.  We got some great empanadas and Theo picked out a new hat for himself.  His head really needs to stop growing so fast!  It was a nice end to a festive day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Living Nativity: Dale City/Woodbridge, VA

As we have moved around in the last decade, it is always important to us to come up with new (if temporary) traditions in our new towns.  Tonight, I think I found another Christmas one.  I heard about a living nativity put on by The Worship Center on the grounds of the Hylton Memorial Chapel, just down the road from us in Dale City.  It runs tonight through Saturday, from 6:30-9:00 pm.

It was just a short drive away, and the searchlight and line of cars led us right to it.  We waited in traffic for a good twenty minutes or so, but it was worth it.  Since it you drive through, it is perfect to take the kids to in their pajamas (and they may even fall asleep on the ride home).

From their website:  "The DRIVE-THRU Living Nativity features multiple scenes staged on the grassy field along Golansky Boulevard. They include the shepherds in the field watching their flocks, the inn in Bethlehem where Mary and Joseph were turned away, and the manager scene featuring the Holy Family, the announcing angel high in the sky, the Magi, live camels, donkeys, sheep, chickens and many townspeople. All characters are played by church members and friends."

Here are pics from the beginning in the end, but there is a whole lot more in the middle.

They do take donations, and you can park across from the scene and watch more after driving through.  We loved it, though it prompted about a hundred questions from Theo (why do the camels have blankets, why do they have a hole in their blanket, why are they brown, why do they have a hump?...).  He is at such a fun age.

On the way there, I was asking Theo about Jesus's connection to Christmas, and he said that Jesus was born on the first Christmas.  And that he came down, but he went back up.  And that sometimes, he comes back down for a slice of Birthday cake each Christmas and then goes back up.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Annual New York City at Christmastime (with young children)

For five out of the last six years (all except when I was 7 months pregnant), I have enjoyed visiting New York City each December.  We only go for a short day, but it is always a great trip and gets us all in the holiday spirit.  This year we went a little earlier in the month, and were rewarded with much less traffic (normally it is backed up outside the Lincoln Tunnel)  and no line at all at F.A.O. Schwartz (even though we know the secret to skipping the line is bringing a stroller).  We normally keep it simple, with walking around Central Park (sometimes taking a ride on the Carousel or a trip into the Central Park Zoo if time allows and they are open), through the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, to Rockefeller Center to view the tree and finding the huge nutcrackers nearby, and viewing the gorgeous storefronts on 5th Avenue.  We normally grab a bite to eat wherever we happen to be when we get hungry, and enjoy hot chocolate when we get chilly.  And the trip is not complete until we get sugared almonds from a street vendor (even if I have to jump out of the car at a stop light to do so).

These are some of our favorite photos over the last few years:

Climbing Rocks in Central Park (a good way to stretch our legs after the long car ride)
This year we found a train on water!
Always Theo's Favorite Part

Store Front Windows
Theo in awe of the Thomas and Chuggington selection at the toy store.
 *This year there was a neat laser light show taking place every four minutes at Saks 5th Avenue.  We ended up watching several times, and it delighted a tired (fussing) Eli and enraptured Theodore.  Something not to miss if you're walking by Rockefeller Center anyway.*

There are so many beautiful store windows.

With the Rockefeller tree 2012


At Central Park Zoo

Enjoying the singing doorman.

With the Rockefeller tree 2011.

Our first ever trip was a bit easier, since it was before we had kids, back in 2008.  You can read about that one here: 2008.

And Theo's first trip was in 2010, where we visited one of NYC's best museums.  You can read about that one here: 2010.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A NOVA/DC Christmas: Part 1

So far, we've been packing in the Christmas activities before Brian leaves us for a week to travel to Germany.  Even though the week started out in the sixties, we have been getting in the holiday spirit and enjoying the mild weather.  This week included a Tiny Tots Christmas concert, a visit to Zoolights, and attending the National Tree Lighting in DC. 

Forest Park High School puts on an instrumental concert designed for the youngest kids, Tiny Tots.  Theo's pre-school went together as a field trip, and we had a pretty good time.  The students dressed up as Disney princess characters, and there was even an appearance by Elmo and the cheese (Sponge-bob is still unknown to Theo).  They basically picked theme songs to different kids shows/movies to play, and put up a picture on screen for each selection.  Different characters would come out and dance through the aisles for the songs.  Theo actually wasn't familiar with a lot of them, but he did have the biggest smile cross his face when they started the Sesame Street song a few pieces in.  And he is still talking about them playing the Superman song.  At the end, the director had each of the different instrumental sections play so the kids could learn about the instruments, and the kids all came out into the audience so the tots could see the instruments up close.  Eli really enjoyed the music and clapped throughout the show.  Afterward though, we unfortunately left in tears because Theo thought he would be picking out his own instrument to take home/play, and really wanted to see the little drums (which were on the stage).  It was a good experience though nonetheless.
We then headed up to Zoolights at about 6:30 during their FONZ members week.  Normally, the Zoolights are free, but require a $20 parking fee, and $10 fee for members.  However, this week they were giving out free parking to members as well as free tickets for the carousel and the zoo tubing.  The lights basically stretch from the visit center (where you can find a train set exhibit and lion themed gingerbread houses) all the way to the kids farm along Olmstead Walk.  Not many outside animals are actually visible, but several of the houses along the way (small mammal, great apes, and invertebrates) are open for the night.  And the lights were awesome.  We especially loved to stop and watch the lights dance to the music shows by the lions exhibit and further along past the elephant trail.  Theo liked naming all the animals he found in the lights, Eli seemed in awe of everything, and I really liked getting to actually ride the carousel since Brian was with us for once to spot the kids.  Unfortunately, we were not watching the time and did not get the $3 a person train ride in down by the kids farm.  We got there in time to see the last run, and had a pretty upset three year old again.  But, we promised he would get a chance to ride a real train soon.

We kept up that promise by taking the metro into the city for the National Christmas Tree Lighting.  We just barely caught the train we needed (literally walked right up, boarded, and it left).  Theo was so excited, and kept telling everyone he knows all about trains.  He kept asking about the people in the other "coaches" and checking the map.  It was the highlight of his night.  Once we arrived, we still had a bit of a hike and had to go through the security process (I wish people would actually read about the restricted items so it went quicker).  I was very worried we would lose our seats (we actually had seated tickets, we were very lucky in the ticket lottery) if we weren't in them by 4:30, but we got there by about 4:40 and were able to find empty rows in the back section.  We could have brought a stroller and sat by an aisle, but I had decided to wear Eli instead and it was probably good because all the rain made for a bit of a muddy walk.
Eli's first subway ride (I think?)

 After being in the sixties and sunny all week, Friday was full of a light rain all day long.  I was just thankful it was a light rain.  We settled in and enjoyed the pre-show music and were excited for the show to commence.  By the time the tree was lit by the first family just after 5, Theo was sleeping soundly on my lap.  That kid can just sleep anywhere.  Eli did well snacking throughout the show, and somehow even with a pre-schooler sleeping on my lap, and a toddler on Brian's, it felt like a date from back in our pre-kids day.  Perhaps just the adventure of doing something new and the craziness of sitting in the rain to do it.  Brian remarked that we missed out on chilly, rainy football seasons since we went to college in AZ, and that games would have been more like this.  We enjoyed Mrs. Obama reading the Night Before Christmas with Abby from Sesame Street (this show is such a huge, unexpected part of my life) and Christmas music song by Aretha Franklin and James Taylor among others, but left about twenty minutes too early when the kids were getting too cold.  Theo, who always awakens from naps like a bear, cried loudly that he was so cold as we left the grounds of the Ellipse.  However, a quick stop into a Cosi for a nice hot chocolate and cookie saved the day, and he was just as excited for his metro ride back home.  All in all, I was very nervous about getting there through the crowds and regular traffic with two kids, but the metro was not crowded and we had a good time.  Even in the rain.

You can watch the ceremony here if you have any interest in it.  I don't think we made it into any camera shots. And we just couldn't get photos with the rain and our hands full.

But we'll be headed back down that way sometime in the next weeks to get a better look at all the state trees and maybe even visit Santa if we haven't run into him at a holiday party... see Christmas Part 2 coming up.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Tree Farms: Old Stone Farm and Evergreen Acres

When we were little, my family almost always bought a real Christmas tree.  We picked it up from the stand the local men's group had in town, and somehow got it home each year.  Keeping in that tradition, Brian and I have always bought real Christmas trees each year we've been married.  In Arizona that meant going to a stand in the nearest shopping mall, and even in Delaware we shopped at the local Lion's Club that was so close we could just walk the tree home if we wanted.  But starting in 2011, we decided to start going to local tree farms in search of our Christmas centerpiece.  On the recommendation from someone at our church, we found a beautiful little tree farm, Old Stone Farm, in nearby Landenberg, PA.  This farm featured rolling hills full of trees, as well as some goats, horses, and small animals to visit.  I have such vivid memories of going last year to pick out Eli's first tree, as it was a beautiful but foggy day.  I highly recommend this farm if you are near enough.

Looking for a similar place here, we passed up some of the more touristy tree farms and instead went to Evergreen Acres in Nokesville, Virginia.  Though only a short drive away, I was surprised by how quickly we got into the country.  After passing lots of cattle farms, we pulled up at Evergreen Acres.  While Theo helped himself to the free cider, we checked out the map and learned about the three types of trees they offered (white pine, scotch pine, and Norway spruce).  We looked around for awhile, before finding our perfect, fat little tree.  The wagon ride to and from the far field, and sitting on all the tractors seemed to be the highlights for the boys.  It was great, though I wish I had brought gloves because we apparently picked the most prickly tree ever.