Friday, February 29, 2008

A few of my favorite, February things

The only thing worse than February in southern Ohio is February in southern Ohio during a leap year. The leap year option adds just one more day of dreary gray, bitterly cold weather to muddle through.

I've been done with the cold and gloom for weeks now, and even Alena and Alivia are hopefully awaiting warmer weather as they sport flip flops and painted toenails around the house pretending that it's warm outside too.

We can't have too much more cold ahead, can we? I'm optimistic than in another four weeks we'll at least be able to leave the house without mittens and hats. Let's hope.

In the meantime, I've tried to pass the February days appreciating what's inside rather than out, and basking in the warm glow of the little things that make me smile. I've compiled a list of my top ten picks.

10. Wine.
I've spent February sampling new picks from Jungle Jim's amazing wine department. Each time the girls and I do our weekend grocery shopping I pick up a bottle I've not tasted before and look forward to experiencing it over the course of the next week. The girls too have adopted their wine-drinking-at-dinner ritual that includes the unleaded varietal.

9. Alena's writing practice.
I'd venture to say at the beginning of the month you couldn't have read a single "letter" Alena wrote. She's spent our time indoors improving her control of a pencil and has made wonderful progress.

8. Alena and Alivia's new sunglasses.
A trip to Walmart with dad and the two conned him into new sunglasses. You can't see them sporting their new shades without feeling a little less February.

7. Cashmere Mafia.
The writer's strike denied me of the one thing February has going for it, not much else to do but watch TV. I have been sucked into this new "smutty" drama as Jason would describe it, and it's given me something to look forward to on Wednesday nights.

6. Before bath time dancing.
Each night after dinner and before bath time we take requests for songs the girls want to hear. The scene always plays out the same ... dancing, striping down for baths and more dancing (this time naked). They are free and fantastic. Alysse has even gotten into the act during this last week shaking her little baby booty.

5. The democratic primary.
I'm a sucker for an election. Period. This one has proven to be an even greater fix for my political addiction than originally expected. And proof March holds the potential for greater things - the Ohio primary election.

4. Trace's amazing eyes.
Each time Trace sees something for the first time that he finds particularly interesting his eyes double in size. It's as though opening them a bit further, allows him to better take in the new lesson. Wednesday it was banging a hard, plastic ball on the bottom of a metal bucket. He instantly fell in love the racket the two produced and his eyes grew the size of the balls we were playing with.

3. Alysse's demonstrated use of ordinary objects.
This month has seen an explosion in Alysse's interaction with the world around her. She now throws objects in the trash can, "talks" on toy telephones and has made attempts at wearing Alena and Alivia's costume high heels. She's become a little person of the world.

2. Stories before bed.
Each night after baths, Alena and/or Alivia get to make a book selection for storytime before bed. We grant the task to the one who behaved especially well during the day or made a simple gesture worth rewarding ... some days we even have two "book pickers." They then pick the "book reader" (either mom or dad) and we have storytime before snuggling under the covers. I love this part of the day.

1. Alivia's nightly cheek rub.
The little pixie and I have amassed quite a nightime ritual for tucking her in each night. There are shadow puppets, big kisses, nice kisses and hugs involved. My favorite part, though, is something she started all on her own. As I'm bent over after the nice kiss and finishing our long hug, she puts her little palm on my cheek and gives it a gentle rub. Her hand is incredibly soft and the gentleness of her touch is heartwarming. I've come to look forward to this every night and it's definitely been my favorite thing of February.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A three-ring, multi-sensory experience

We loaded up and headed down to Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena this morning for a 10:30 a.m. performance of Bellobration, one of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey's trio of touring productions. It was a great experience. The kids loved it, we too thought it was a great show.

The company deserves kudos for its all-access preshow opportunity. One hour prior to the performance's start, all ticket holders are able to step inside the three rings to check out costumes, see an elephant up-close and various other vignettes from the event. It was a great chance for the girls to be a part of the circus.

Sitting in my seat, though, the most striking aspect of the production wasn't the animals, the trapeze artists or the clowns. While there were so many things to enjoy and admire, most impressive was the way the performance appealed to each and every one of a child's senses.

Sight. What about the circus doesn't evoke a child's sight? Glittering costumes, magnificent animals and tricks galore. You go to SEE the circus, after all.

Sound. The music throughout the entire show was great. Upbeat, contemporary and appealing to the audience. It made you want to dance in your seat.

Taste. Popcorn, cotton candy, no explanation needed. Christmas for a child's tastebuds.

Smell. As Alena and Alivia took in a pretty close encounter with an Asian elephant during the preshow event, Alena commented to Jason that the elephant needed a bath. Apparently he didn't smell quite as great as she thought he should.

Touch. Now this is the one I thought was missing ... a bit disappointing, I thought, considering all the other sense bases had been covered. Until, confetti came shooting out into the crowd. Wonderful, colorful bits floating through the air and eventually landing on the audience after everyone under 12 had waved their hands in the air trying to grab a bit.

A great experience for all the senses, a terrific chance to spend time together doing something a bit out of the ordinary. Smiles, fun and pointing fingers. Wonderful.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You've come a long way, babies

Not wanting Trace and Alysse to get four shots each along with their birthday gifts, we held off on their one-year check-up visits to the pediatrician a week. Today was the day, which promised shots, crying and the typical "can he/she walk?" questions.

The visit lived up to our expectations, minus shots (the crying was delivered even sans shots). Given that each have had varying levels of fever over the last couple of days, Dr. Thind suggested we return some time in the next few weeks for the shot giving.

Trace tipped the scale at 21 pounds, seven ounces and Alysse weighed in at 22 pounds even. Hello, you little porkers, you've more than tripled your birth weight thanks to your voracious eating habits.

Their first visit to Dr. Thind's office was February 28, 2007. At that time Trace weighed five pounds, 12 ounces and Alysse weighed six pounds, four ounces. Plotting their stats on the growth chart, she informed us Trace was in the fifth percentile and Alysse was near the tenth percentile.

Over the course of the year they've obviously made strides. Moving from their original low percentiles steadily in the right direction. At their six month check-ups, the doctor reported they were no longer considered "premature babies" in comparison to their peers.

Today's visit taught us that Trace is now slightly above the 25th percentile in weight and Alysse is around the 35th percentile. While still not the 75th percentile babies we had with Alena and Alivia's weights, considering our starting points, I'd say we've come a long way.

In other findings, we also learned both have head circumferences well above the 50th percentile. As head circumference is directly related to brain growth, I suppose we should be less worried with waistlines and more pleased with our little bobblehead-sized brains.

Both sad and wonderful

As Alena lay belly down on the living room floor looking through a newspaper flyer, feet swishing through the air, I couldn't help but notice they are the feet of a girl.

Where did your baby feet go? There's not the slightest hint of those small, chubby baby feet you learned to walk upon. Those pudgy, kissable parts have been replaced by long, lean running, jumping, dancing wonders.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Fancy Nancy" meets our toilet

Should a two-year-old spend a bit more time than needed in the bathroom for a mid-dinner potty break, this may be the outcome.

Although, she might be on to something here. Change the look of your toilet and bathroom, while also providing a little something to look at while taking care of business at the same time.

While the "Fancy Nancy" stickers were meant to be used in the sticker book she toted along to the potty, I suppose she thought the toilet was in greater need of them.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oreo power

If you give a baby an oreo, this is what results. In her hair, on her socks. Everywhere. Delish.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Snow much fun

An inch or two of snow makes little girls giddy with thoughts of playing outside in it. While I despise the cold and little snow we've had this year, I find myself secretly wishing for a big dump of the white stuff just to watch them squeal and flop around in a decent accumulation.

This evening dad brought out the sled and snow disc and they had a ball until it was time to call it quits since little cheeks and noses were getting too red. Oh, to be a kid again and enjoy the frigid, burning sensation of cold, wet, snow-covered hands and feet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy birthday to you, and to you

Can it really be that you are one? Have we really had 365 days together already? It seems more like 365 minutes. At the same time, I can't remember my life without you.

Could we rewind? Do it all over again? Given a second go around maybe I'd remember more and worry less, knowing that two makes the time go twice as quickly.

There are so many things to celebrate on this day. Your arrivals, in all their miraculous glory. Your milestones, each a magnificent day to celebrate on its own. Your smiles, a reason in themselves to get up no matter how sleepless the night. Your love, so wonderfully abundant and amazingly selfless.

Our year has been a test, a privilege and a joy. The beginning an exhausted blur of diapers, bottles and learning. The middle a settling in of sorts, as we got to know each other and figure out who needed what and when. The end a whole new lesson in allowing your first attempts at independence and my letting go of the notion that you would both remain completely dependent.

We've made it, and in honor of our first year together, I'm making birthday wishes for each of you.

Alysse, may you always be the spunky little spitfire your mama loves so deeply. You're a rare find in a person who will touch each and every life that welcomes you in. You're filled with love, fiest and laughter, don't let life rob you of any of the three.

Trace, my baby boy, may you never lose your sparkle. A gift of which I'm undeserving, you are my heart walking amidst the world. May you grow to be strong, while always remembering to be tender.

So, happy birthday and cheers to the year ahead. We've got talking, potty training and so much more to look forward to.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cel-e-brate good times

Although still a few days shy of officially turning one, we celebrated Trace and Alysse's milestone Saturday with our families. There were presents, more presents, pizza and the always anticipated birthday cake.

The pair received many great gifts, a couple of which I believe completed our collection of the entire Laugh & Learn line by Fisher Price. If there was ever a house which could produce a "best of" toy list, we've got it. The Fisher Price cookie jar with shape cut-outs seems to be Alysse's favorite gift and Trace has quite a fondness for the tool set he received.

Alysse was thrilled with the "Happy Birthday" singing, while Trace refused to sit in his highchair to enjoy cake and ice cream. Perhaps he'll be a bit more tolerant of our more intimate party of six on Tuesday when we celebrate their "real" birthday. Has it really been a year?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ahhh, finally

After eight days of feeling under the weather - really under the weather - Trace finally had the sparkle back in his eyes today. I can't say that he's completely back to normal, but he's more himself than he's been in over a week. Thank goodness.

His appetite is also on the mend, this being the first day that he's eaten anywhere near his usual quantity since last Tuesday.

The one thing that's definitely not yet returned? His walking. While he managed a few steps on his own tonight, the last couple days have been nothing but a return to cruising around furniture and holding on to walls for support and balance. And before the last few days, he spent four or five days not even making it to his feet.

With any lucky, the walking with follow shortly after the sparkling.

Alena, you're the greatest

What started off being what I thought was going to be a "bad Alena day," turned out to be a pretty good one. For one reason or another my little queen of sass spent the first hour or so of the day doing anything and everything possible to get under my skin and cause ruckus after ruckus with her siblings. It was as though she was trying to agitate everyone around her.

We had a major turn around, however, at 10 o'clock when Trace and Alysse went down for their naps. Things always slow down for a bit around this time, and today that was just what Alena needed.

A perfect time for doing "big girl" things, we spent our baby-free hour addressing the valentines for Alena's classmates. I drew ruled and dashed lines on the envelopes just like that paper used when you first learn to form letters while putting lead to paper. After making the letters of each classmate's name in dashed form, Alena then wrote the names on the envelopes, stuffing and sealing each one.

She did a fantastic job writing each of her friends' names and was thrilled to be addressing her cards herself. Through each of the eleven names and envelopes, she stayed focused and careful. Very proud of herself and the terrific job she had done, it set a different tone for the rest of the day and she proved to be more helpful and less aggressive.

During bath time, she said to me, "You're the greatest mom in the world."

Not that she's got any other moms to compare me to, it was the greatest thing she could have possibly said to me. And while I don't tell her nearly enough, I think she's the greatest too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Anything you can do ...

Alysse is off. Walking, that is.

For the last week or so, she's been making it significant distances with her chubby little legs toddling along. Trouble comes for her when she approaches an object on the floor, as she pays no attention to what's lying ahead and therefore proceeds full-steam ahead before tripping and falling.

Music also poses a distraction and set-back in her walking attempts as she tries to dance to the music while walking. Not something she's yet got the experience under her belt to attempt. But, she's doing it.

In addition to her new walking skill, she's added several other tidbits to her repertoire. She can balance a sippy cup behind her on the chair while eating (see photo below, which is all of her own doing), she can hold a telephone to her ear to listen and talk, and she tries her darnedest to put hats and headbands on her head.

It's amazing to watch her from one day to the next taking in what Alena and Alivia do with everyday objects and trying to do the same things herself. Through watching their play she's learned the use and purpose of many things and does her best to mimic the older girls. Her reactions to successes clearly show that she knows when she's "got it."

She knows when she's being ornery, when she's being silly and when she's being grown up. Regardless of her intentions, she's an absolute delight to take in. So smiley, so sweet.

This little one is a trip ... I can't wait to see where she takes us.

What to do with a snow day

Preschool was cancelled today, despite Alena's protest and desire to go even without teachers or classmates. We had a whole day stuck inside with snow, ice and cold weather lingering outside the door. What to do?

Let's do some laundry catch up. Alivia loves to load the washing machine with the help of a step stool. The button pushing with resulting beeps adds an even greater allure to the task. Finally, there's the water which "pees" onto the clothes in the washing machine.

Watching the clothes spin 'round and 'round, the water pour in and the bubbles develop takes on new life when observing with preschoolers. Yep, there go your "underwears" again.

And, since it wasn't only preschool that was missed today, but swim day which comes only once a month, we compensated with our own indoor swim party. As much as I'd like to take credit for this wonderfully insane idea, the girls owe Brad and Claire splashes for a wonderfully fantastic break from the winter blahs.

Basement, wading pool, several trips down the stairs with a bucket full of warm water and we had a pool party. The only thing missing was the sun.

Alysse loved the bathing suits, splashing and not-so-typical Tuesday afternoon. Alena demonstrated that she can completely submerge her face in the water and calls it doing the mud puddle (coincidence?). Alivia loved it all.

Trace, feeling better, but still in recovery mode from his ear infection and a nasty bout with the flu wanted nothing to do with the craziness. Although wearing his sporty little swim trunks, he found it safer to sit poolside wrapped in a towel.

Friday, February 8, 2008

39 1/2 healthy, smiling teeth

Alena has 20 teeth and Alivia has 19 1/2. One of Alivia's last two-year molars is working its way in, but isn't quite there just yet. All 39 1/2 look good. We know all of this because they braved their first dentist visits this morning.

After watching me get my teeth cleaned from a distance of about two inches, they each took a turn in the chair and let the hygienist put her little round handled mirror in their mouths and count their teeth.

They both crawled into the chair willingly and had a great experience during their first visit. Beth, our hygienist, deserves much credit for their bravery, as she answered each of their 1.75 million questions asked while she was cleaning my teeth, and let them take part in the whole process. They tasted the toothpaste she used to clean my teeth, examined each of the tools she used and even assisted by handing her a tool or two. She was great with them.

They each have an August appointment for visit number two. An attempt will be made to clean their teeth at this appointment if they are so inclined. We'll see how it goes, but today, they left smiling with their new toothbrushes and Snow White tattoos the dentist helped them pick out.

Pure sadness

Trace has been battling an ear infection. What we all hope is only an ear infection. He's been feeling punky since Tuesday. We made a trip to the pediatrician's office on Wednesday and started taking an antibiotic Wednesday night for an infected right ear.

However, two days into the medicine and he's not showing any great improvement. Still has fever, is still terribly lethargic and has eaten less in the last three days than he normally consumes in one sitting. He hasn't taken a step in two days. Unless he's being held and cuddled, he's crying.

Poor little buckaroo. When I had to put him down to get Alysse out of her highchair and changed yesterday after lunch, he spent the entire time crying to be held. Have you ever seen a sadder face?

You're breaking my heart little guy. I hate that you've felt so bad, and there seems to be nothing I can do to make it any better. All mom wants is for you to get better.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Not so super Tuesday

We managed to get out the door on time, and didn't even have to have that last few minutes of maddening rush to beat the clock. Raincoats, check. Boots, check. Stroller in the back? Check.

Alena's three-year-old preschool class at the East Butler County Family YMCA starts at 9:15 a.m. If we're pulling out of the garage by 9:00 a.m., that gives us just enough time to get there (it's a hop, skip and a jump from the house); get everyone unloaded and two of the four situated in the stroller; and parade into the building and to her classroom. Typically we've even got a couple minutes to spare before Miss Jen opens the classroom door.


That would be unless your three-year-old is so preoccupied with what a man and his two kids are doing as they walk into the YMCA, that she walks right off of the sidewalk and into the county's biggest mud puddle.

Now, if she had simply veered off track and into a puddle, we would have had wet boots, and we've had worse. There was no "simply" to this little accident.

When her foot left the sidewalk, it landed about four inches down in an area that is still nothing but mud from a recent expansion the YMCA completed. I'm sure when warmer weather breaks, they will landscape and grass the area, for now though, it's nothing but a mud pit. Add to the mud pit what seems like inches of rain that fell here this morning and it's a stinking mess. A pig's dream come true.

Alena's more diva than pig, though. So as I picked her up out of the mess, hands full of mud, pants wet from ankle to upper thigh and muddy water up the sleeves of her raincoat, she started crying. The sight of her muddy, wet little hands brought the tears and cries full force.

"It's okay," I said. "We can wash your hands. Let's go into the bathroom and get you cleaned up. There's no reason to cry."

It was a blessing that the mirrors in the bathroom are too high for her to see into. If the muddy hands upset her, the whole sight of her would have sent her into hysterics.

We keep a spare change of clothes in her backpack, so we had dry pants. While her coat sleeves and the sweater she had on underneath were both wet, the little shirt she was wearing managed to stay dry. But the socks, they were so wet I could have wrung them out, and a spare pair was not to be found in the backpack.

"Okay, let's put your boots back on and get you to your class. Then, I'll run out to the car and see if I have a clean pair of socks in my emergency bag," I explained to her.

Thank God for the emergency bag. Yes, everyone with kids should have one. On more than one occasion it's been a lifesaver. Spare clothes, diapers, washcloths and ... socks. Clean, very dry socks.

Yet another trip into the building and she was clean and dry. Matching? Well, not exactly with the piece-mealed outfit we threw together. But dry.

All this before 10 a.m. I'm just hoping the day's a bit more super for my candidate of choice than it has been for Alena.

*Note: In posting this, I regret I didn't take a second to photograph Alena in all her muddy glory. It would have added a great deal to the written story; however, in the heat of the escapade, I didn't think to document the sight. However, Alivia did pose for a picture outside Alena's classroom after the dry socks had been delivered, modeling her rain gear that she managed to keep out of the mud.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A perfect weekend for ...

a lunch out. The last time I actually dined out in a restaurant was just a few days shy of a year ago. The last time Alena and Alivia had dinner served to them by anyone other than a relative was approximately October 2006.

Scary, yes, I know. But, let's get real, who wants to be sitting at the table next to our dinner circus when they are trying to enjoy an evening out? Needless to say, the experience was definitely beyond their memories. So, we had two little girls who had no concept of a waiter/waitress, plates brought to you at your table or a check for your meal.

We've been planning for weeks a chance to get out, just the four of us, and enjoy a meal in a "fancy" restaurant. Jason suggested Olive Garden. Fancy enough for a two- and three-year-old. Abundant breadsticks, pizza and noodles ... any kid's perfect meal. Throw in an ice cream sundae for desert and I don't think they could have been any happier.

We enjoyed Saturday's lunch explaining how the hostess seats you at a table, why a bus boy clears the table and watching our two eat off "big" silverware (this opposed to the preschool-sized forks and spoons they eat each meal with at home).

They couldn't have been any better during our hour plus meal, enjoying their food (salad included) and the commotion around them.

A perfect weekend for ...

taking in a little sculpture. Ice sculptures, that is.

Hamilton's IceFest was held this weekend with an "Animal Kingdom in Ice" theme. This biennial event features ice sculptures created by Olympic, international and local ice carvers, along with demonstrations, competitions and other events.

Alivia found the sculptures especially to her liking, given this year's theme. There was a giraffe, elephant, weiner dog and even an owl for her to admire (and touch).

Trace and Alysse were more interested in eating and sleeping than actually appreciating the carved blocks of ice, but braved the cool weather for their first IceFest visit.

A perfect weekend for ...

a vagabond Super Bowl party. What else can you say about this crew?

They enjoyed pizza, Fritos and football dip. Some of them enjoyed eating these Super Bowl party treats wearing tutus, butterfly wings and sequins.

While dad could have done without some of the elaborate costumes at his football party, he was happy to eat his Super Bowl snacks off of plates that didn't have a big Hello Kitty face staring up at him, which did make their appearance during 2006's big game (and he did have someone who's just as excited as he is about his TV to watch with this year).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Walk this way

Footage of our little guy strutting around. If you're not already smiling because it's Friday afternoon, this ought to do it. I've watched it a dozen times and it still makes me laugh.