Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Christmas Travels

We made our annual whirlwind trip up the East Coast... luckily without incident. (Amazing considering there was snow on the ground from South Carolina all the way up to New Jersey). Our first stop was in North Carolina to visit my family members.

My mom hosted the Nunn family party. My mom's parents were there, as were my aunt, two uncles, and their families. It was a house-full of folks, for sure! Mercer got a train comprised of alphabet and color blocks. He enjoyed building it and pushing it around.

Last year, Mercer was fascinated by the bows that were used to decorate the packages. This year, he seemed to be into the wrapping paper. At one point, he grabbed some large pieces of wrap and started squealing / waving them around. Aunt Sandra is pictured in back. Here, my mom is bringing out a stack of presents. Ho Ho Ho...

While in NC, we also visited my dad's mother at her nursing home. My aunt and uncle happened to be visiting while we were there, so we got to catch up with them too! He was very entertaining / the center of attention while we were there. Also, when we were in the parking lot - about to enter - we were greeted by a "Mercer!" from one of the nurses. That was pretty cool!

We continued our journey north and stayed overnight in DC (well, technically, a suburb of DC in Maryland). Todd's brother and sister-in-law live there as well as nephew N8 (Nate) and Marley. They had approximately 20" of snow a few days before we got there. We were supposed to go to a holiday talent show at Nate's school, but it was cancelled. Instead, Todd's brother Jimmy brought the talent to the evening by playing guitar. Mercer tried to keep up by strumming along too... this was his first experience with a guitar. He was fascinated!

Our journey continued northward still to NJ to where Todd's parents live. Todd's sister and 5 children stayed there in the house with us, so it was pretty chaotic! Todd's brother Bobby and his son live in the area and didn't come over 'til Christmas morning. Todd's brother Jimmy and family came up from DC later that day. There was definitely a house full of adults and children (from ages 22 months to 18 years). Here's Mercer "slaying" Jim as his son Nate looks on.

Santa Claus came to visit on Christmas morning. When Mercer came down, he went right for a battery-powered Thomas the Train running on a track that was pulling a musical caboose. Mercer was pretty excited. He got a number of presents from the family as well, however, he was more impressed with the wrapping paper at times.

Todd says that one of the highlights of the trip was taking Mercer to the Train Store in his hometown. It's in the basement of a building and has several rooms that you progress through. When we got to the room with 6 or 7 trains running, Mercer started squealing.... then started screaming at the top of his voice, "Oooh Oh Oh Oooh Oooh Oh Ohhhh Oooooh" He just couldn't contain himself. It was hilarious to us and to all of the people that were there.

One of Mercer's highlights of the trip was learning how to slide down stairs. He would crawl up and slide down -- over and over and over and over again! (here with his cousin Ryan while Ryan's mom, Tonia, watches the two)

On our way back from NJ to NC, we got to stop and have lunch with my step sister in Roanoke. On our way back from NC to GA, we got to stop and have lunch with my friend from college, Cindy, have Mercer run around and play with her sons' toys. It was a great break for Mercer to run around and for us to catch up. Actually - that was key - stopping ever 4 hours or so for a 1 - 2 hour break.

We made it home on Monday night - after 10 days of travel. We had to go to work on Tuesday morning. We enjoyed seeing our family and friends, but are so glad to be home! Mercer did pretty well in the car for the most part, but there were definitely times that he wasn't that thrilled about being confined.

On Sunday between VA and NC, the odometer turned over 100,000 miles on the Prius! We got the car just over 5 years ago. We don't think the car could make this trip again... not because of age or mileage, but because every square inch of it was jammed packed!

We have sent out - in our Christmas cards - notices that we're hoping to adopt again in 2010. That's another reason why the car will be too small on future trips!! We'll post a link and additional information about the future adoption.

2009 has been a great year for our family. We hope that you "and yours" have a blessed, fulfilling, fun, and healthy year ahead in 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry christmas!

We're in NJ right now. Made it up through the few inches of snow in NC... the twenty inches of snow in DC... and the foot +/- of snow between DC and NJ. Amazingly, we saw very few accidents on the road -- but some of the ones we saw were bizarre.

We'll do a big Christmas blog, but there are some things that we've been wanting to post. We joined a church this month: Marietta First Presbyterian (up on the square). We tried out several churches trying to find a good fit between Greek Orthodox and Baptist. The "Presby" seems like a good middle-ground. We've been visiting their contemporary service off-and-on since the beginning of the year.

Mercer is 22 months old (as of yesterday) and he's doing great at eating messy food by himself. We've been stalling for awhile on the yogurt / applesauce / spaghetti with red sauce / etc - but he's about 80 - 90% accurate with each spoonful. NOT BAD! (we have pulled the bibs back out - funny how those go in phases).

We think he's teething again (2 year molars). He's drooling a ton... keeps gnawing on his pacifier at the side / back of his mouth... chews on a lot. Problem is - we can't see inside his mouth all the way at the back to tell if anything's popped through or not.

He's becoming SO independent - constantly saying "I do it"

We both still LOVE the open palms when he says "where?" Also, he thinks he's tricking us sometimes by turning the light on / off. When the light goes off he says "where?" with his hands up in the air.

He's very helpful, as he enjoys throwing things away... putting things in the sink... sweeping... and clearing the table (hands us his dishes when he's done).

He talks so much (repeats much of we say now). And - he's answering questions now. Did you have fun at school today? "No" with a big grin on his face. (Sometimes he says yes.) Do you want milk? "OK"

He's addicted to movies now, sadly. We got a DVD player for the car for our 10-hr Thanksgiving trip and the 15+ hour CHristmas trip. (Trip times are 1-way). He knows to pick up the remote and say "movie." He picks up phones, puts to his ear and says "hello."

He's been an absolute joy and this is SUCH A GREAT AGE!!!!
We're planning on doing this again next year. Check back at this blog for updates in early January on our 2010 adoption info.

Have a great holiday, all! Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas & birthday activities

We attended the Marietta tree lighting for the first time since we've lived here. The celebration wasn't QUITE as big as the one in NY city, but it was close! : - ) there were school choirs performing and a count-down 'til the lights were flicked on. Santa made an appearance -- which was nice considering his busy schedule. We were able to knock off a few shots of Mercer in front of the big tree. This photo (with the blue & red ornament) has to be one of our favorites, but it's a touch blurry. It's hard to shoot photos of this little guy in action, as he just doesn't sit still.

Todd's mom, Rose Marie, came for a visit last weekend. She came for the Christmas Tour of Homes in Marietta - oh yeah - and to see Mercer. She was talking in this pic... or singing Christmas carols? I think I've been to the Tour of Homes every year we've lived here... 10 years!?! I believe that she enjoyed the tour. In my opinion - the highlight this year was of an estate that wasn't on tour but was open to the public because they hosted the tea room (the dining venue) in this 10,000 sf house that's been abandoned for 2 years. The house, Ivy Grove, is at the top of our street / across the street from our "little" houses and I've wondered for YEARS what it was like. It was a grand manor built in the 1850s - and at one time - had 1800 acres in the estate. Unfortunately, the man who lived there passed several years ago and the house is tied up in court trying to figure out what to do with it. It needs a ton of work, but the bones of the house are amazing! I'd love for someone to buy it / fix it up AND keep all of the land around it. (We're afraid that the remaining estate around it will be sold and "developer" homes will go in around it.

After a long day of touring homes, Rose Marie watched Mercer for us while we went out to a nice dinner and to a Cirque-du-Soliel-style show called Cavalia. (This was my birthday outing, as we're both Cirque "junkies.") It's a show that has horses and acrobatics. I don't think it was as elegant as Cirque shows we've seen, but Todd thought it was more relaxing in that there wasn't as much going on that you constantly had to follow visually. There were times when the horses were able to just meander across the stage and drink water from a pool they had - which reminded us of our days camping on Cumberland Island just a week before Mercer's adoption. Then there were times when the performers did some edge-of-your-seat tricks with the horses. If anyone's a horse lover and likes Cirque shows - it's definitely worth seeing. http://www.cavalia.net/

We tried to see Santa as he was visiting the Marietta Square this year. We waited in line, got to go into his workshop, plopped Mercer up on his lap... but this year, Mercer wanted nothing to do with him! All he wanted to do was to get away from this strange man. Quite a bit different from the previous year where he was curious about who the ol' guy was! Santa didn't seem offended and gave him a candy cane - which Mercer sort of played with / clutched. Thankfully he doesn't know about candy yet (still). But, that didn't really soothe him. This last shot (with Santa looking at him) is my favorite! Don't worry - it's not making it to the Christmas card!

We did ONE final thing this week -- went to see the Lights of Life (a chiropractic college here in town that always has a huge light display throughout their campus that you drive through). They have little houses too with different holiday scenes that you walk up to and watch the characters inside. This year, they had a little petting zoo too! (Mercer was somewhat apprehensive of the baby goat!) Notice how he's leaning back to get away... funny instinct!
We have several Christmas parties this weekend to go to. I'm sure we'll be blogging about more holiday events next week! Have a nice weekend. - Candice

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The holiday season has begun

We went to Florida to visit my dad, step-mom, and the rest of the gang in Orlando over the Thanksgiving holiday. All of "the kids" were there (Charlie's children Michelle / Melissa / Freddie / Brad... my step-siblings). Unfortunately, I went to get the camera after the photo-op had passed. Some of their children were there too -- including Kyle (who visited us the week prior in Atlanta) and his sister, Kaitlin.

We spent a lot of time outdoors on Thanksgiving -- in the back yard, in the surrounding woods, by a fire pit, and by the koi pond. Mercer enjoyed feeding the fish. (Their pond has a little ledge around it that served as a good stopping-point for Mercer. He didn't seem to try to go into the pond like he does as ours.) We were able to get some nice photos of him and my dad ("grandpa") by the pond. Also, I mentioned how he turns his hands over / palms up when he says WHERE? Todd snapped a shot of him doing this by the koi pond. This is another "first" - him talking with his hands!

Dad and Charlie used to be volunteer fire-fighters. Dad used to collect fire engines (toys, antiques, etc). He had lots of things for Mercer to play with. I thought this was interesting... he had 2 perfectly good (noisy & lighted) fire trucks to play with, but he spotted a fire truck up on the ledge that was about 4' long... and Mercer kept pointing at that one. It starts young: wanting what you don't have. Ugh!

They also had a little scoot around toy for him to ride on. He "walked" it a lot moving it side-by-side instead of riding, but by the end of the day - he had it figured out more. Charlie's in the background... but again... I didn't take enough photos of everyone while there.

We stayed in a hotel this year and they had a little playground, a nature walk, and a pool - but it was just too chilly for the pool. We did not partake in any of the Disney Parks, although I imagine that we will check them out on future visits to Orlando!

This week, at home, we went to an Advent Festival that was being held at the church we've been visiting. We tried to get Mercer's face-painted, but he wouldn't sit still... he fought it as he thought he was being held down and tortured! SO, we moved onto a cake walk - which panned out well. He and I walked in circles 'til the music stopped and the square we were standing on was a winner - first try! We opted not for a cake, but for a plate full of gingerbread cookies. Mercer seemed to enjoy them. Here's a shot of a "scrunched-up" face that he makes sometimes & he thinks is hilarious. We think that it's funny, actually. Oh - he's going to be such a card!

The only other activity we did at the festival was draw on a Christmas card for a shut-in member of the church. (I added the Christmas message, but Mercer had fun playing with markers.) It was our first time to attend this festival. I'm sure we'll visit it again in years to come.

Have a great week.


Monday, November 23, 2009

lots of father / son time this weekend...

Late Thursday night, a guest arrived at our house. My step sister Michelle (pictured on the blog on Sept 5 2008 - adoption day) has a son, Kyle, who recently graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. That's where Mercer was born. We hooked up with Kyle that first week while we were out there (pictured on the blog in early March 2008). Kyle was passing through Atlanta and hung out with Todd / Mercer on Friday as they attended a Thanksgiving program at daycare. Kyle said that he had fun watching the kids -- although attending a daycare Thanksgiving program can't be at the top of his list of things to do while in Atlanta for the day!! The older kids sang songs. Some kids did karate demonstrations and ballet demonstrations (these are extracurricular things that they do at the daycare in after-school care). The guys had a Thanksgiving lunch and chased Mercer across the church gymnasium where the event was located. The daycare asked that everyone bring in a white t-shirt so they could make shredded tie-dyed t-shirts so the kids look like Indians. (In case you're wonder what Mercer is wearing over his sweater!) Todd caught Mercer "running in the wind?!" He's not sure what he was doing, but thought it was funny.

Saturday, Mercer and Todd got to spend more time together while I was working on some things here at the house. They went to the Botanical Gardens to visit a train exhibition. It appears that it was captivating for Mercer and the other toddlers there. The Botanical Gardens also had a ride-on train that Mercer had fun climbing on & playing with.

Mercer is trying out new facial expressions as well as doing other things that makes us wonder about his personality. Will he be a shy kid
(NOPE)? Will he be a ham and call to the center of attention (PROBABLY)? He can crinkle his mouth up - sort of snarl. He can pull his cheeks in and pucker like a fish. He can pull he mouth into a tight circle when he's surprised and say "ohhhhh." (Probably what he's saying in this picture below) He also has a devious look already. Yikes! Sometimes he struts when he walks. He has no inhibitions when it comes to dancing in public... or blowing kisses to ladies when we are leaving a store or a restaurant. His personality is definitely coming through! I think I've already mentioned how he turns his palms in the air when he says "where?" That cracks us up and I think he does it to egg us on.

My step-mother's sister, Judy, passed away this weekend. My memories of her are of a vibrant, fun-loving, spunky lady. I wish we would have gotten the chance to see her this week while we're down in Florida for Thanksgiving... and introduce her to Mercer. I'm glad that we're going to be down there this week so that Mercer can bring a ray of sunshine to their family... as they'll need it right now. I was talking with someone recently about how happy Mercer makes Todd and me (of course!) but also how much we love watching other people's reactions to him / how he can bring joy to others.

Monday night, Todd and I went to a lecture downtown at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue to see Nobel Peace Prize and Academy Award Winner - Vice President Al Gore. He is promoting a new book called "Our Choice" and - although I'm in the green building business - I learned of some of the background / history that has been leading up to the climate issue. I've heard about over-population before... but did not know that our population has quadrupled in the past 100 years. We're over 6 billion now, but trends indicate that population growth will top off around 9 billion due to education of women across the world / careers / improvement in healthcare (where 100 years ago - infant and child mortality was high so people had larger families to counteract this).

He talked about how 100 years ago, ores were being smelted to make metals -- but now with technology, materials are being created at the molecular level (many contain chemicals that are not natural to the earth). He talked about the amount of fuel that is used to power our country (energy consumption for buildings being higher than that of automobiles -- which I knew through my work) and how the burning of coal - the primary energy source - emits more CO2 emissions than any other type of fuel.

It was interesting to learn that installing 100 square miles (10 miles X 10 miles) of solar panels in the middle of the desert would meet the needs of the entire country. Obviously getting those panels out there and getting a super energy grid to serve that is a huge under-taking... but it would allow our country clean energy for powering buildings into infinitum. There was a pretty simple opening statement made by Eizenstat (who hosted the lecture and introduced VP Gore)... we're borrowing money from China to buy fuel from the Middle East so that we can burn it here in the US - creating emissions and CO2. It is a little mind-boggling thinking about the subsidies that make (unclean) fuel and energy so cheap and prohibits us from implementing the clean energy systems. Speaking of China (and India)... those countries "strive" to live the life of what we have here in the US -- which is frightening due to their population levels. (We were recently surpassed as the most consumptive / polluting country by China.) But he said that China is actually putting into place the structure to be the largest solar and wind-power consumer within their 5-year plan. They've planted 2.5 X the number of trees as all of the other countries in the rest of the world combined. They realize that they are having a huge impact and are doing more than I realized to counteract that impact.

Finally, he talked about nuclear energy and how much "cleaner" it is during production -- but the problem of "what to do with the waste" hasn't been solved yet. I thought I'd close with that because as I've shamelessly put photos of Mercer throughout this whole recounting of the lecture, I am reminded that I don't want to leave it up to him and his generation to figure out how to clean up after our generation! Instead - consider reducing your energy consumption in your homes and buildings. VP Gore said that all Americans should weatherize their homes as a star
ting point. If interested, my company has a huge resource of weatherization tips (for free) at http://www.southface.org/web/resources&services/publications/factsheets/sf_factsheet-menu.htm that you can check out & implement in your homes... many of the strategies, Todd & I did on our own home, but there's still more we can do. We're chipping away at it. I know most of you come to the blog to see pics of our little guy, but, sometimes I'm energized or moved by something I've recently learned. I really don't want to be preachy - rather share what I've learned to those who may be interested. It's not a political issue... it's a global issue that we're in with the other large countries... and it's not about us - it's about all of the little guys just like Mercer!

Have a Happy (and safe) Thanksgiving holiday! We are thankful for YOU all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A few things that we haven't blogged about before...

When Mercer & I went to NC, he got to feed a giraffe. There's a new platform built at the NC Zoo and the zookeepers have limbs that people can hold and feed through the railing. Mercer held the branch (with my help of course) but he was face-to-face with a sideways-chewing animal. He wasn't scared at all. He was quite fascinated. [ The picture at the bottom of this web page of the man feeding the giraffe isn't accurate of what Mercer & I did... an (apparently) taller giraffe was feeding at the platform and you could directly feed it through the railing instead -- about 1' away! It was probably more interesting for me, honestly http://www.nczoo.org/animals/giraffe/keepercorner.html ]

Mercer is now clearing the table. When he's finished eating his food, he puts his utensil on his plate and hands it to Todd or myself. He also says "all done." He also hands us his bottle when he's finished. Sometimes, he'll bring it into the kitchen and try to put it in the sink. Occasionally he gets it in there.

Every now & then, we try foods with nuts in them. I think that the recommendation is that he gets nuts when he's 2 years old, but he wants to eat our food a lot of times, so -- we've tried it a couple of times (once with almonds and then several times this week with macadamia nuts, as it was in a pasta dish we made a big batch of. So far, so good. No reaction / no allergies that we can see.)

One more thing about food... here are some pictures of him eating black beans. We went to a restaurant last night where he wanted to feed himself - as he's insisting on more and more. He would eat some spoon-fuls of the beans, but he would also pick beans out of the bowl with his fingers one-by-one and eat them that way too. We didn't take a camera with us to the restaurant, so we brought him back home to continue (after all, playing in the restaurant then occasionally eating a bean makes for a long meal). He wasn't happy when we left the restaurant because he wasn't finished, so we set him back up at home. Check out the residue of his handy-work all across his face! He seems proud of it, actually.

Finally, the daycare has been trying Mercer out in the Toddler room every now and then. We're not sure when they're officially going to move him over, but it will be sometime in December we think. He will still get to play a lot, but they'll also start teaching him things in that room.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

long time no post.

Forgot to update the blog readers... Mercer took 2nd in the Inhabitot Halloween costume contest! He won his (future) little sister some swag (2nd place was an alpaca hat & booties set)... and he also gets a t-shirt for himself. Thanks for voting if you were able to. It was actually kind of fun to do / to hit up people I haven't talked to in awhile and to get to catch up with folks. In fact, I'm having lunch with someone next week who I haven't seen in 3 years because of emailing her about / asking for her vote for his costume. It was a way to reconnect with some people. Cool!

Mercer got to go to his first high school football game. Our friends, Scott & Shelli, have 2 sons who play - but one of them was out because of a knee injury. Supposedly, this was "THE" game to be at. ESPN was there... skydivers (there's a shot of the last skydiver pulling a "Ya'll VS Us" sign behind him)... the chick-fil-a cow was there... and therefree mini-footballs for the folks in the stands... and fireworks - lots of fireworks. (every time the football team scored a touch-down, the crowd would boom (which frightened Mercer) and fireworks would go off (which he was a little leary about as well). This happened 5 times - as they beat the opposing team 35-0!

Mercer stayed up WAY later than his bedtime, but did really well because of all of the activity going on. He enjoyed the band that was playing in the bleachers just a short distance from us. He kept calling it "noise." He danced a little bit too - which cracked up some of the people in the stand. (Luckily, the band members were focused and weren't distracted from his dance moves.) He had a blast running up and down the ramp at the side of the bleachers. His heavy footsteps were so loud on the metal ramp -- he thought that was hilarious. The ramp is probably where he spent most of his time. Up and down. Down and up. He enjoyed hitting these white noise-sticks that were also given away as well as chewing on / throwing the mini plastic football that he got at the game. Honestly, I didn't see much of the game, but had a good time none-the-less. (This is "aunt" Shelli).

The next day, we went to an art festival. Mercer didn't do so well there. Guess we found out that if you keep him up several hours past his bedtime - that the following day - he's not much in the mood to do anything!

Here's a shot of Mercer playing ball with Scott. (You can't really see either, but it's included because of the beautiful scenery!). Also, here's a shot of the whole gang (Shelli, Tucker, Scott, and Hayden) in front of their house. The two teenage boys are huge now -- towering over their parents. (Shelli said that this will happen to us, too, with Mercer much more quickly than we will expect.) We met them all about 10 years ago when the boys were 5 & 7. Times have changed, for sure!

Also to add -- Mercer just started doing something funny. Yesterday, Todd went to work and Mercer said "daddy," then put both of his hands in the air and turned his palms up, saying "gone?" He did something similar this morning doing the same thing with his hands saying "where?" I do think that we do this sometimes when asking a question and he's picked it up. It's pretty cute.

Another thing that was funny... we turned on the t.v. onto animal planet last night. There was a herd of elephants on the screen and Mercer kept saying in a low voice: "wow," "wow," "wow," "wow," "wow," it went on and on. He was pretty excited! We cracked up. Simple things. Good times. : - )

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

some halloween fun...

the image on the last blog - the one where mercer is chasing the gazelle - i ended up posting on a website regarding a green halloween costume contest. i thought... what the heck... his costume, the cords, the shoes were all 2nd-hand from a consignment sale. that's green. i didn't expect him to be one of the finalists. if you haven't gotten the message already, check out this link.

if you feel so inclined, cast a vote (click on the word "votes" if it lets you... we hear that there have been some problems with the hyperlink). kind of cool to see him on the website! : - )

it rained on halloween, but we still stuck it through a neighborhood party in the intermittent storms... several impromptu "under the umbrella" conversations were had with neighbors. By the time we left and went trick-or-treating, the rain mostly had passed. We had pre-arranged the delivery of healthy treats at several of the neighbors houses so that Mercer could get the trick-or-treat experience without being introduced to candy just yet. (a good compromise, we think). Several of his favorite treats were bestowed upon him and he was thrilled. Annie's cheddar bunnies (like goldfish), raisins, and organic kid's granola bar snacks. By the time he reached the last house that we were taking him to, he handed our neighbor his bucket -- as to say put something inside!! He definitely got the hang of it!

this picture is of Mercer on the way to the party decked out in his lion costume. (my thrift-store "moon shoes" are in the foreground - i was an astronaut-in-training) We didn't work on the phrase, but he did get the hang of "roar" thankfully that evening!

Oh - and he said another sentence that night "I want that."

He did get "play" with candy that night and had no interest in eating it. (He was interested in opening a 2nd box of raisins that evening, as seen here.) Dumping out the bowl of treats we had and putting it back into the bowl. He likes to do this with other things... taking them out of their containers... putting them back in... taking them out... putting them back in. It's been interesting to watch his development.