We had some local plans, but Reese didn't feel well in the morning and everybody was feeling homebodyish anyway, so a lazy Easter Sunday at home, it was! A warm one, too. I hid the basket of goodies outside for the first time ever (because I hadn't put it together the night before and suddenly appearing on the table or couch after the kids were already awake would be a) tricky and b) anticlimactic) and I was afraid the chocolate would melt. Hiding it was fun, though, and I think that will be a new part of our annual traditions. Staying home - or at least close to home - might be, too. :o)
My parents had given us one adult and two child tickets for Peter and the Wolf at the Kennedy Center on Feb 14th, so Reese and I chose to be the ones to hang back in RVA and had a great mother-son day together. This kiddo has been mama's boy from day one and thrives on one-on-one time and being able to call more of the shots. Middle children so rarely get to inhabit that role - they were never an only child with their parents' undivided attention, and their time as the baby of the family ends when the next child arrives. He and I need more dates.
For this outing, he chose:
♥ a trip through the car wash - the one with the big rollers, not the touchless
kind ♥ a chocolate-banana smoothie
♥ mall pizza for lunch
♥ time at the play area in Short Pump Town Center (land of his infancy)
♥ time in the toy store downstairs
♥ hanging out at the train depot at SPTC
♥ buying a spinny LED toy at Target
♥ 5 Guys for dinner
*and* filled up with the satisfaction of somebody saying "yes" so much to him, he patiently tolerated me running some (quick) errands of my own.
While we gallivanted around the Far West End, we also spread our Lovable Project valentines. You can read about the project and our involvement in these entries:
Not usually a big fan of the place, but they have REAL Necco conversation hearts. Not blue raspberry flavored, not sparkly, not Brach's adulteration of the confection. The real deal, taste-of-my-childhood, hard-as-rocks, minty, chalky little hearts with puzzling sayings stamped on them. I can die happy now. (Look, the horrid blue raspberry debacle was that bad, seriously.)
The kids were over the moon to get to explore the candy racks, can you tell?
Xander and I were running some errands a couple of days ago and it occurred to me that soon he will stop that adorable flap-flap-flap toddler gait and that it will be gone forever! He is officially no longer a baby, even if he'll always be *my* baby. I think if you're old enough to pretend to be a baby, you're probably not a baby any more. Hard to believe that the tiny baby who smiled at us the night of his birth and only just turned one is now a little boy!
One of my favorite things about this age is the appreciativeness two-year-olds have for the world. They have few expectations and take great delight in everything. Everything is still fresh and new, but now they have the ability to tell you about it. "Mom, look! Christmas lights!" Or this exchange from last Saturday:
X: Where going?
J: We're going to Williamsburg.
D: Or, as I like to call it, "The magical land of Williamsburg, where history comes alive!"
Adam reflected today that on Luke's birthday, he had no way at all of knowing what was in his presents, no expectations of what the packaging might contain, and each revelation (most having something to do with trains) was met with rhapsodies of pleasure. Christmas will be extra-fun this year for our families because of these kids who live so fully in the moment!
Xander has been working hard at growing up, probably in an effort to keep up with two older brothers, whom he adores. He and Griff are SO precious together. Xander is devoted to Griff, who returns the adoration and often reads to him or walks hand-in-hand with him. They are the sweetest brothers ever, with a special connection since Xander's birth. Reese and Xander have recently become buddies and often invite each other to join in some game or building project; watching their relationship develop is interesting and rewarding. Unlike his brothers, who were each more attached to one parent at this age, he focuses pretty evenly on both parents. He asks for "mommy snuggles" and "daddy snuggles" all the time, although one recent development is that he'll playfully tell me "yuck!" and wipe his face after I kiss him. Where did he learn that?
As social as ever, he greets people everywhere he goes and usually enjoys hamming it up. He and Luke are still best buds and I love hearing them talk together from the back seat of the car - usually something like this:
X: Luke, look! Big truck!
X: Over there!
L: Oh, I see it!
They also tell each other jokes all the time and recently seem to be making plans together. I keep imagining them as teenagers. Not sure whether to look forward to those days or cower in fear. They're both devastatingly charming and mischievous. Look out!
Xan has way more adults in his social circle than his brothers had at his age, and I enjoy seeing how important these people are to him. He looks forward to seeing the teachers at the preschool, especially Anna, Kara, and Page (who, I'll admit, are some of my favorite people, too). He greets our friends, he asks to go visit Aunt Johannah and Brody. It's great to see that he has a sense of himself as part of a bigger community. Part of his community is also the places we go - this kid also has a greater knowledge of stores and restaurants than his brothers had, and knows exactly where he wants to go. He recently gave me a very detailed order for a burger with pickles and ketchup from 5 Guys.
His cognitive skills never cease to amaze me. While he's not using as advanced pronouns and syntax as his buddy Luke, he is able to string together an enormous amount of content and tells me long, complex things, makes intricate requests, and tells detailed stories. He's always been an impressive communicator and doesn't show signs of slowing down. It's so much fun! He's always asking me what things are and then repeating it back to me, or asking me "what mean?" He's also into building things lately - machines made of tinker toys, tall stacks of blocks - and loves to doodle. His fine motor coordination is awesome. His sense of imagination is also surprising to me. He loves to pretend he's a puppy, and often tells me that he's changing the poopy diapers on small toys, which requires a tiny piece of toilet paper to use as a wipe.
His favorite books are still the tales of Curious George, which we read nightly with him and Reese, after which Xander hops up, gives me a kiss and a hug, and then pads out the door to find Daddy for a song and tuck-in. Not quite as adorable: he still wakes up multiple times a night. Oof! Someday everybody will get to sleep all night, right? On the up side, he's been night weaned for a long time. He shows no signs of being ready to give up mommy milk entirely, though.
He's the most adventurous eater of the three boys, a trait which I hope he maintains, but which I fear will fade; already he's hitting the two-year-old dinnertime pickiness. He loves baby yoga and sings a lot - either made up sing-song tunes with lyrics of his own devising, or standards like "twinkle, twinkle, little star," "row, row, row your boat," "happy birthday," or "jingle bells". He frequently mushes songs together, with amusing results.
I could probably go on forever about this kid, he's a lot of fun. I asked him what we would do for his birthday, and he told me "cupcakes", so we made sure to have some for him today, complete with M&Ms and brothers to help him blow out the candles:
Parting shot: a look back at 4-month old Xander giggles:
Luke is TWO! If you dont' know who Luke is, read here, here, here, here, here, or here There are lots of adorable Luke & Xander pics in those posts, so even if you know all about Luke, you really should go peek. I'll wait.
No, seriously, go look. There are no children in the history of the world as adorable as these boys. Go.
Ok, On with the birthday wishes. I can't believe the babies are two already. Luke is an amazing kid, he has these fun sparkly eyes and a great sense of humor (even if it does run to the poop side a bit lately). I love how he and Xander are best friends in a way that I never knew possible at such a young age.
His parents claim that he has a crush on me, and honestly, I kinda like it that way. I like being a cool auntie of sorts. You can come play trains at our house any day, kiddo.
Luke amazes me. His language is off the charts, people. I mean, he's been using baby word combos forever, and now he's using these super-long, grammatically correct sentences - like pronouns, correct verb tenses, the whole nine yards. It's amazing. And defying all of those stereotypes about some kids being physically advanced and some being verbally advanced, he's got the physical thing down, too. You should see his yoga moves and pitching arm.
To celebrate the day, some of my favorite shots of Lukey boy from the past year...happy birthday, baby!
There are several historic homes south of Cary Street, just a few minutes from where we live. Wilton House, a colonial plantation home on the river, hosted a holiday open house today; Griff and Xander and I went to check it out. Ok, really, we didn't go for the house, we went for the puppet show. I was hoping to get a peek at the house, too, but that will have to wait for another day. The boys loved Barefoot Puppets' "Little Red and the Gingerbread Man", a mashup of two familiar tales. (Yes, I've been watching Glee too much, I use the word "mashup" no less than three times per day. You wanna make something of it?) The audience, which consisted mostly of preschoolers and their mothers, went wild for the silly show. We had run into Amy and her daughter Afton (pictured above) there, and I think you can tell how captivated Afton was.
Griff and Xander and I enjoyed making holiday crafts after the show.
Between GardenFest and the open house, I think the 2009 Holiday Season is officially open! The advent calendar goes up on Tuesday. :o)
1. By playing with the menus on my camera, I discovered how to take photos in black & white (rather than remove their color in post-processing).
2. Family trip to Starbucks. Not really a rare occurrence, but it happened, so I'm telling you.
3. Bowling. First time I've gone in...um...huh...not sure how long. A decade or more? Can't be possible, but I suspect that's the case. Kids' first time, obviously. Griff and Reese were both huge fans, Xander got in on the action, everybody was totally happy through 7 frames and were fine through the 10th, so it seems one game is the perfect length for us. Griff wants his birthday party there in January.
4. Ran into Griff's friend Logan and his family at the bowling alley. Happy birthday, Logan!
5. Lusted after bowling shoes. I'm not sure why they're cool. They're certainly not terribly comfortable. Yet I want to steal them every time. Why is that? (And no, I won't ever steal them, I have a super-sensitive ethical gag reflex.)
5. Ditched the black and white settings an went for VIVID COLOR at the illumination night of Lewis Ginter's GardenFest of Lights. The RVA Hoop Lovers put on a show before and after the countdown and we really enjoyed the effects of their LED hoops.
6. We froze our butts off at GardenFest! Why do we always go on the first truly freezing night of the year? Had a great time nevertheless.
7. All of these photos were taken on fully-manual. This could not have
happened at all a year ago or even half a year ago. I'm pretty proud.
And, erm, modest. Ha.
So, we were supposed to go to Sean & Jessa's house in Charlottesville today for a big family Thanksgiving dinner. I was in charge of most of the pies and half of the beer as well as the cut veggies/fruit for kids. Well, Sunday night Griff threw up, with repeat performances Monday morning and evening, and his stomach hurt through Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening I had a horrible attack of nausea on my way home from my book group - that's really unusual for me outside of pregnancy and ONE stomach bug I've had in the last 30+ years.
I'm a stickler about full disclosure when it comes to contagious illness of any sort - or even allergies. I think people hanging out with us deserve to know what the score is, what the reason is for symptoms they can see as well as the nature of any concerning symptoms they can't see that might be spread to them. Then they can decide whether or not they want to keep company with us. A runny nose might not seem like a big deal, but it is to the mother of a child who's super-prone to respiratory infections, or a pregnant woman, or the mother of a newborn. When we get to big nasties like flu or stomach bugs, I take it to the next level and batten the hatches. Quarantine. Yay. Not much fun for us but I just plain don't think it's ok to expose people to that level of illness. So, were we safe for Thanksgiving dinner? I wouldn't want to hang out with us with that level of uncertainty. When might it strike again? Griff seemed fine by Thursday, but was I totally in the clear? Was somebody else brewing? I couldn't accept the possibility of exposing my one-year-old nephew and eight-week-old niece, and their mothers agreed, better to be safe than sorry.
The result: unexpected totally-alone Thanksgiving Day for our little family of 5. I think maybe Dan and I had one alone Turkey Day when he was in residency, but other than that and one or two years we hosted, we've always traveled. Dan and I put together a menu on Wednesday night and I had the pleasure (seriously, I enjoyed it) of being that last-minute cranberry sauce shopper. Thursday I brined a chicken - no need for a huge turkey, and hey, side bonus of quicker brine and cook time! - while we all went for a walk. I had been eyeing some beautyberries that were begging for macros and it was the most beautiful day we'd had in a long time. Gorgeous sun, short-sleeve or long-sleeve temperatures, yellow ginko leaves all over the ground and a few last red maple leaves clinging to their branches. The boys had a great time playing and biking in the lot next to the berry bush, I was content in my photo groove, we got a ton of family pictures, and everybody loved the walk. Back home, we put together pumpkin pie and a Thanksgiving tree with leaves we collected and a strip of paper for each of us naming one thing we're grateful for. Dinner proceded at its own pace, without need to accommodate anyone's schedule or tastes but our own. Everybody ate the foods and treats they liked and left the rest.
Honestly, I think it was the best Thanksgiving ever. And of course, I've made a flickr set for it. Sneak peek below.
Halloween snuck up on us this year. The flu caused a delay in paying forward our boo-ing, and it also resulted in skipping our annual pumpkin patch trip and opting for a wagon ride with two relatively healthy kids (Reese, Xander) to the church around the corner instead. Those two succumbed to the flu a couple of days later, and by Friday we had front steps full of non-jack-o-lantern-ed pumpkins and at least one or two people who might still be contagious. The pediatrician nixed soccer games and parties (bummer, we missed my nephew Caeden's first birthday) but approved low-contact, not-too-energetic trick-or-treating so long as the kids felt up to it.
Well, by Saturday I think the only person who was really feeling fine was Griff. Dan was recouperating but wiped out from a bad week. I was coming out of the flu but starting to hit sinus infection symptoms. Xander was still sick, and Reese, although relatively healthy, isn't the biggest extrovert and generally doesn't care a whole lot about holiday observances just yet. So, yeah, hard to build up a head of steam for preparing for the night.
4pm rolled around and I finally got a burst of motivation, hauled the pumpkins in and some window decorations out, and Griff and I did some whirlwind Halloweening of the house. I don't think we did too badly, especially considering that I did almost all the pumpkin-hollowing and most of the carving on 2 regular-sized and 4 mini pumpkins. FYI: mini pumpkins and one of those cheapie carving kits are perfect for kids. Also, check out this sky! Nearly-full moon, and we saw bats! Perfect.
We shoved dinner into the kids (protein before treats) and attempted costuming them; only Griff wanted to wear a costume, with Reese donning his traditional "bone jammies" and Xander accepting twice-handed-down bat long johns. Seasonally appropriate, at least. Reese chose to stay home with me to greet trick-or-treaters and Dan popped Xander into a sling and headed out with Griff. They tackled about two blocks of our neighborhood, saw tons of friends on the sidewalks, and Reese and I hustled to keep our treasure chest full of candy, pencils, and glow bracelets for the 50ish kids that visited our door.
(PSA: whatever you do, don't bite glow bracelets. The stuff inside makes lovely paint but burns your mouth like fire. If, for some reason (insanity, enuii, being four years old) you choose not to heed this warning, wash your mouth out and then drink milk. Don't drink anything fizzy. Trust me.)
Reese and I had a lovely time staying in and welcoming back the TOTing contingent of the family. Only having one trick-or-treater in the house made for a small but respectable haul. Generous Griff agreed that all candy could be "group" candy and showed off the booty to his brothers. Xander couldn't get over all the pretty candies and asked "what's this one?" repeatedly. Reese and Griff also made some new discoveries. This is one of Dan's and my favorite parts of the night - the joy of learning about candy you've never seen before. (DumDums with a tootsie center? Who knew?)
So, ravages of influenza virus or no, we managed to salvage a pretty nice night! Now hopefully we can rejoin society soon!
More photos of Reese and Xander selecting pumpkins, flickering jack-o-lanterns, and cute costumed kids over here.
So, it's Friday night and I had hoped to be hanging out six blocks down with a bunch of friends, drinking wine and learning how to make beaded jewelry. Instead, Dan got called into the hospital and will probably be there most of the night. Griff, sporting a fever of 102.2, appears to have succumbed to the flu that decimated his class last week (TEN kids out on Monday alone! Thirty in the whole first grade!). So now I get to stop worrying about when it will hit us, and start wondering how many of us will get hit at once, how bad it will get, and how long it will take to run its course. Yay. Plus, no soccer game or Spooky Saturday fun tomorrow.
Then my brother Todd posted this on Facebook. If any of the characters look familiar, it's because he cast himself and his sibs in the JibJab ecard. I make a smokin' Bride of Frankenstein, don't you think? Too bad Frankenstein is my brother Kyle. Ewwww.
Enjoy! And happy week before Halloween!
Last year we went to Carter Mountain twice; the first time was on my birthday, and the second was a couple of weeks later, and on that second trip we ran into friends and ended up sitting on the hillside, enjoying some wine and apple cider donuts, chatting while the kids all enjoyed themselves and got covered in red Virginia clay dust. It was such an idyllic situation that I decided then and there that my new birthday tradition would be to throw an annual picnic at the orchard (preferably NOT on a harvest festival day, so crowded!), invite people who rock, and spend an afternoon soaking up the company of good friends, letting the kids run, eating delicious things, enjoying blue October skies, and picking apples.
We got it all but the blue skies. (Dan says the month's motto should be "October: You never know." I'm offended on October's behalf.) I planned things at the last minute and scheduled our picnic for a weekday, and that day turned out to be cloudy and FREEZING cold, but we still had a lovely gathering of Charlottesville and Richmond friends, huddled together for warmth and sharing extra clothing (THANK YOU to the friends who loaned my pitifully underprepared family jackets and jeans). We eschewed our packed cold sandwiches in favor of barbecue, warm donuts, and hot cider before heading into the Jonagold trees.
A few photo highlights are below and the rest are in the apples & sunshine album. The kids were especially fun to watch - it turned into a reunion of the beach bunch. This group really enjoys each other, it's so sweet. And LOOK! Reese got into the group-photo action, of his own accord! I've never seen a better bunch of Virginia clay-stained thumbs.
Dan Hardy - snuggly Sara & Jess
Adam Short - birthday cake circle
all others by yours truly or as noted in album
So the mud pit turned out to be the final hurrah of a patio-less back yard. I couldn't take it any more, and with a mini family gathering on the 4th looming, I really, really wanted to be able to put the table and chairs on a decent and relatively level surface. Not to mention the whole vanity of the situation. Welcome to my bog? Not so much.
Dan had Friday the 3rd off and I spent all day - I mean, ALL day - loosening dirt and snipping small roots and cursing at big ones. Ok, all day except the hour or so when I got really distracted by fig branches that needed pruning, and then got annoyed at all the dead wood in the fig tree, and just had to prune all of it out, and assign tasks to woodchoppers and debris haulers and such. But mostly all day. I came in at 9pm with a clean sidewalk and a patio that was perhaps five-sevenths of the way done. Disappointing. And stiff, and sore. Ow. Headed back outside at 8am on the fourth and banged it out in an hour, right down to moving some indoor plants outside for the summer and giving some of them new pots to live in.
Oh, and I'm EATEN UP by mosquitoes.
And we didn't even eat outside on the 4th! But at least the patio is done. Sortof. It's an amateur job, eventually it will need redoing, and Reese seems determined to dig it up again. Hopefully I can get some mosses to start growing and lock the rocks into place (not to mention covering up the dirt, NO MORE MUD!).
And yes, you know I set up a tripod and took progress photos. You wouldn't expect anything else, right? (Argh, stupid zoom lens, I left the tripod in place overnight but accidentally zoomed a little before putting away the camera at night, so the morning ones don't match up.)
This was it for fireworks for us that day - we opted to share some sparklers (kindly given to us by our next-door neighbor, Mary, how did she know I was wishing for some) and then put the kids to bed. Perhaps next year we'll head to the Carillon for the big show.