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!