Monday, September 26, 2011

Dani - Three Years

Watching your children grow is a bizarre process.  You barely notice it.  Nothing feels that different til you look back.  Suddenly you wonder to yourself "was she ever that short?!" or "when did her hair get so long!?"

Dani's third birthday has hit me square in the face.

This year we went a bit simpler with her birthday.  She requested a yellow/orange, pink, and purple cake this year.  She wouldn't give me much more of a direction than that so I went with a castle cake and otherwise didn't have any sort of theme.  Dani picked out pink plates and cups, made a colorful paper chain as decoration, chose items for the little red gift bags she wanted for her friends, and requested pink and vanilla ice cream.  We had it on the 24th - a Saturday.

The cake didn't really turn out how I wanted, those Dani and everyone else at the party was very taken with it.  The children enjoyed themselves.  So did the adults.  I was stressed!  After having been up til 6am finishing the cake....I was basically dead by evening and took a 4 hour nap after everyone else cleared out.

Our house, by the way, is now overflowing with toys!  A toy cash register from Grandma was the big hit this year.  She's also really digging Hi Ho Cherry-O and asks to play it at least 6 times a day!

Today was her actual birthday.  We took a short trip to my mother's house with my aunt, Bonnie.  We cooked pizza and had cupcakes while playing a board game or two.  It was a pretty quiet day.

Brand new

At 1
At 2
Where has the time gone?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Maps & Paper Chains

It's times like these I think to myself "how do people expect children not to learn?!"   Every single day my daughter is asking me questions.  Each of these questions is an opportunity to connect, to learn, to just have to take it and run.

Monday afternoon we met up with our friends in the town of Ashland, VA.  We parked and crossed the train tracks that run down the middle of the main street, grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant, and waited for some trains to go by.  After we finished eating we went next door to the library to play with the large assortment of wooden trains they have there and look for some books.  Eventually we found our way to a small local park and it was when we were leaving that the topic of family relationships came up.  Dani asked me about her friend's grandmother and then her own grandparents.  I explained how each grandparent was related to her which led to her asking where her father's mother, Grandma Mary, lived.

My Mother-In-Law lives in West Fargo, ND.  My husband was born and raised in the town of Cassleton which is about 20 miles outside Fargo.  I told Dani about it and she wanted to know where "Koda" was (North Dakota) so I said we'd look when we got home.  When we got inside, out came the road atlas and a large map of the world my aunt had handed down to us.  Dani enjoyed asking me what all the countries were, looking at flags, and pointing to where all our family lived.  :)  When she pointed to a large blue-colored country and asked what it was I said "Greenland" and she replied "No, Mama!  That's blue!" lol

The other hit of the day was cutting paper and making paper chains to decorate for Dani's upcoming 3rd birthday.  She picked out pink, purple, orange, green, and blue for her paper chain.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Summer Vacation - Nags Head, NC

Nags Head, North Carolina is my absolute favorite vacation spot.  I fondly remember trips there from my childhood.  Honestly, I don't think we really went there more then 2 or 3 times...but it's one of those places that really sticks with you.  On this particular occasion it had been 10 years almost to the day since I'd been there.  The situation was virtually the same, except this time I was an adult, married, with 2 small children of my own.

We left home on Friday in the afternoon.  We lucked out because both kids napped for the first few hours of driving.  Both of them travel really well, I can't complain, but 3 or 4 hours in the car is rough with any small child.

Path over the dunes by the hotel
I'm forever in my wonderful aunt's debt!  Bonnie vacations in Nags Head every September  and adores my children, so she insisted upon getting us a room for 2 nights in her hotel.  Were it not for her, we probably wouldn't have gotten to do this at all....or would have at least had to get a room a ways away from the beach.  Even in the off-season, rooms aren't cheap!

The hotel was just on the backside of the dune so we immediately got to go walking on the beach after chucking our bags in the room and checking out the view from Bonnie's 5th-floor balcony.

No surprise, Dani was taken with the huge waves.  She and Aaron played in them for probably an hour before heading back in to get cleaned up and ready for dinner.

She's wet because a wave knocked her over

Day 2 brought bubbles on the balcony and shopping before a full-fledged beach excursion.

Two of my favorite places to visit while in Nags Head is Jockey's Ridge State Park and Kitty Hawk Kites.  Because it was a hot and very sunny day, we put off the trip to the Dunes til later that evening, but the Kite Store was a nice air conditioned distraction.

I picked up a reasonably priced basic kite for $12 and then a lovely cooperative board game called Mermaid Island (for Dani's upcoming 3rd birthday) from Peaceable Kingdom.  After checking out there, we headed for the local Sweet Frog location and enjoyed some frozen yogurt before hitting the beach.

Outside the Kite Shop

I literally PUT the kite into the air.  No running or help required.  It was that easy.

Recent storms stirred up a lot of impressive shells

Building castles

Oscar had this vacation thing down

I must say, taking 2 small children to the beach is exhausting!  Getting them and all the various paraphernalia that children require there and back again damn near killed us both!

Being at the beach was lovely, however.  My husband, Aaron, has only been to the ocean probably one other time in his entire life.  He was born and raised near Fargo, North Dakota.  Beaches are NOT something they have out there!  Dani, needless to say, had a blast!  Oscar mainly slept, but that's just fine for a 3-month-old.  I mostly took photos and helped Dani look for shells and rocks in the sand.  I packed knitting and several books to read, but I didn't really get much of an opportunity to either knit or read.

By the time we were done playing in the waves and had drug all the stuff back to the hotel, Aaron and I were ready to collapse!  We ended up putting off the Dunes til the next day.

The Dune from afar

Arrrgh!  Pirate baby.  Yep, I forgot his hat.
Putting off going to the Dunes til day 3 (our final day) was a mistake.  We ended up going at noon, I wasn't prepared at all, and it was just too sunny for the littles.  Oscar was probably the biggest obstacle on that venture.  At 3-months-old he already weighs at least 16lbs!  It's a lot to carry...particularly UP a very LARGE sand dune.  In the end, we didn't go beyond the wooden observation deck.  I really wish we'd been up for it the night before!  At dusk it would have been perfect.  Oh well, there is always next year.

We ended up leaving for home a lot earlier on Sunday than we had expected.  Dani was tired and missing home.  She really didn't understand the whole hotel thing.  Nighttime was not fun.  She had a really hard time falling asleep in a strange place (something she definitely got from me!) and our laptops refused to play the DVD's I'd brought along for downtime in the hotel room.  The 2nd night we borrowed Bonnie's laptop which would play them, which was a lifesaver!  Again, the kids napped in the car for most of the way home.  I did too!  When I woke up I had a headache from hell and we stopped for a pretty terrible lunch at Denny's before making the last hour of the trip.

In all, it was a great little vacation.  The sleep issue was something of a bummer, but I imagine another year will make a world of difference on that front.  :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Day In Nature - The Beach

Labor Day weekend we packed the kids up and headed to my parents' house near the Potomac River in Westmoreland County.  I admittedly have a very love/hate relationship with the beach because of living there for nearly 12 years myself....but now that the children are getting older the beach can be a lot of fun.

Dani is really starting to notice nature more and more.  Finding acorns and leaves in our yard, feathers in parking lots, shells at the beach.  The best thing the world for her right now is an empty pail she can collect bits of nature in!

Sandcastles are finally something she can enjoy making as well!  She had a wonderful time slowly filling up a large bucket with damp sand and getting her father to help flip them over.  Grandpa also got in on the action while the rest of us sat close by in the edge of the river chatting and playing with the babies.  Dani is also extremely social these days and instantly made friends on the water's edge and recruited other young kids to build with her.

After a few hours of playing in the sand we went out on the boat and headed for what the locals call "Sharks' Tooth Island".  You actually can find sharks teeth there, though they aren't the fresh white teeth most people are used to.  They are ancient black teeth from ages ago that get washed ashore.  My sister-in-law, Jessica, is particularly adept at spotting them...meanwhile I have little luck with it myself.  Aaron did, however, find two teeth after she told him what to look for (he assumed they were white at first).

Oscar, thankfully, doesn't mind his life jacket (which ALL of the children wear at all times when on a boat that is underway).  He napped most of the trip til we got to the island where he enjoyed some jacket-free time while he nursed and then sat on Grandpa while the rest of us combed the beach.  He is very fond of my father, it seems.  My father is pretty funny looking it's no surprise.  lol
There were lots of gulls on the island.

Dani enjoyed looking at the bird tracks in the sand as well as making tracks of her own.  She looked for rocks and shells, mostly and it was a special treat when we found what we have always referred to as "Phospors".

They're actually a creature called Ctenophora or "Comb Jellies".  They're little balls of jelly similar to a Stinging Nettle or Jelly Fish, but without the venom or tentacles.  They also light up at night when you touch them.  We've been finding them in the river my entire life, but until now I never knew what they were actually called.  Gotta love Google!

An oyster shell.
 The trip, all in all, was very enjoyable for everyone.  

Onward to adventure!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Mommy, why do people pee?"

And this is how unschooling works.

Dani is a few weeks shy of her 3rd birthday.  If you've ever had a toddler, I don't need to tell you how insanely curious these creatures are.  She wants to know everything, she wants to do everything "by myself", and she wants it all to happen now.

This past Monday I heard "Mommy, why do people pee?" from the backseat as we drove home after lunch at a Mexican restaurant (our power was back on, but there was no food in the house yet).  I gave her a simple short explanation and told her we'd look into it more when we got home. 

Once we got home I nursed Oscar while my laptop started up and then looked up a simple diagram of what the human digestive system looks like.  I showed Dani and we talked about what the different things did.  Then, we traced Dani onto a large sheet of finger painting paper and I drew in some of the organs so she could color it in and add stickers.

First thing, Dani added "green poop comin' out" and asked me to color in the stomach and esophagus pink with green stomach acid. She added food stickers from her activity book and then we drew in some food bits in the intestines.  I'm unsure what the green bit is under the arm though.  Obviously I kept it pretty simple here.

Aaron commented that he didn't learn that sort of thing til 5th grade.  I did the body-tracing and added in the organs when I was in 1st grade.  I remember them hanging on the bedroom door of the room my brother and I shared at the time.

Immediately after hanging this tracing on the wall Dani asked me to draw another one for her.  The second one was smaller on a sheet of 8 x 11 paper we had stacked on the art shelf.  She decided that one was her Daddy and colored it in.  The information seems to have stuck too!  The next day she talked about "food going in my body, and my belly, and poop comin' out" while pointing to the appropriate areas of her body.  She also talked to Aaron about chewing up her food and it going into her stomach while she helped him cook some dinner.

This particular happening has really showed me the power of unschooling.  I didn't think we'd be doing anything of the sort til she was at least another few years older!  But here we are....she's asking questions and we are doing our best to explore the answers with her.  She has no shortage of questions, I might add!  Dani had so much fun coloring in the very basic digestive system that I think I might cut out another tracing and some of the other organs she can stick on.  I also found some skeleton coloring pages online that she would probably enjoy.  Coloring is a favorite activity at the moment.  So is painting which I need to put out supplies for more often.

In other news....Oscar has decided he doesn't like to stay in one place.  He's not quite 3-months-old and already seems determined to wiggle and claw his way around on the carpet however slow a process it may be.  I give it a month before he's actually crawling. 

He is also very interested in Mama had better get sewing!

With the weather cooling down a bit now nature walks with both kiddos seems to be in the near future.  Oscar is digging the wrap so I'll wear him and take Dani around the neighborhood to collect things in nature.  Now seems like a good time to make some felted treasure bowls which I saw recently in Amanda's copy of The Rhythm of Family.  Gotta get knitting too!

Damn these children are amazing sometimes....<3

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stormy Weather

It's really hard to take photos in a hurricane.  It's a shame though, because Dani had a wonderful time playing in the rain!

Mother nature is having a field day with our neck of the woods, as of late.  First an earthquake on Tuesday (which is almost unheard of in Virginia) and now hurricane Irene passing through on the weekend.

Saturday for us brought a lot of wind and rain.  Oddly enough, nothing was damaged in our yard.  I thought for sure at least one of the many old trees that surround our house on all sides would have at least dropped some large branches on us....but they didn't.  Many of the other trees in the area came down though, sadly.

As of 2:30-ish on Saturday our power went out.  I was napping on the bed with the kids while Aaron ran out to the store.  We really weren't thinking the storm would do much in our area so we didn't really plan for a long-term power outage.  Later we had to make another trip to get some snacks that didn't require opening the fridge or cooking.  I also thought to grab an activity book for Dani while we were out.

I have to say, the Funky Sticker Backpack was a real lifesaver!  It kept Dani busy the whole weekend!  I was pleased with the variety of activities and themes it included.  Some were "girly", but most of them were gender neutral or even "boyish" (in some people's opinions).  We set her up by a window while it was still light and after dark we lit all the candles we could dig up and continued playing and coloring by flashlight.  At which point I did some experimenting with make-shift oil lamps...

Between these two tutorials I came up with a couple different types of lamp.  The first using a baby food jar, yarn, and some wire.  My favorite was made with nothing but tin foil, a strip of old t-shirt, and olive oil.  Just shape the foil into a shape something like a Genie's lamp and lay in the wick.  It works great and is truly the easiest type of lamp to throw together in an emergency!

 After awhile Dani and Oscar started getting tired out.  We played with shadows in bed for a bit and then read storybooks by flashlight til they both fell asleep.

The camera's flash was the most light we'd had all night!

Power was still off this morning and it was doubtful it would come back on anytime soon so we headed out for food and then took the contents of our fridge with us to see my good friend Amanda from Not My Expectations.  The girls had a great time and so did the littles!

We had a tea party on a lovely stump table and chairs

Dani and E

Oscar enjoyed the Storch Leo I borrowed

A in the Girasol

Surprisingly, the power IS back on now.  I much say I'm surprised....we had been told it wouldn't be on before tomorrow night.  I must say I've had enough wild weather for quite some time!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mother of Two

I had the baby.  He's almost 2-months-old.

Oscar Kiel Harrison S. born June 7th 2011 born at home weighing 10lbs.8oz.

I'm just starting to get back into the swing of things.  It's hard sometimes being home alone with two small children.  Frustration runs high for me.  The baby is easy, but sometimes the needs of a toddler and a newborn don't mesh well.  It's wonderful to not be pregnant anymore, but it's an adjustment to be doing things again.  Being pregnant makes me lazy.  My lack of mobility is so bad that I just had to sit for a couple now I have to remind myself to just get up and do stuff instead of putting it off til later.  My mantra at the moment is "if it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now".  I'm working on it.

Dani loves Oscar....sometimes a little too much.
So, back to blogging....I hope.  lol