Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Isabella's 1 year old stats + December happenings...

Isabella went in early December for her 1 year appointment.  She was almost 13 months old, but here's how she stacked up against the growth chart: 
30" high / 69 % compared to other kids her age
19 lbs, 2 oz / 14 % comparatively
18" in head circumference / 63% comparatively

December was busy... not quite sure how it all got done (well, not everything DID get done, but we squeezed in what all we could)!

I had several girl's nights / get-togethers to celebrate the holiday.  (Here's a pic with my old Bible study group where we drew on our heads - well, on top of plates on our heads).  We also went to one together as a family at our neighbor's across the street, but trying to keep up with both kids did not afford us the opportunity to take any pictures.  Todd had a growler guy's night this month too -- not really a Christmas party per se, but their version of one minus the decorations and white elephant gift exchanges.

There has been sadness and somberness overshadowing this holiday due to an upcoming job loss that I will be experiencing in the new year, in the recent passing of Todd's dad in New Jersey, and to the passing of one of our close neighbors earlier this year who was like a family member.  It was hard to get in the mood, but the parties did help a little to bring about some holiday cheer.  

Mercer was excited about Christmas too and his genuine excitement every morning to find our elf, Fred, was cute.  We received these photos via a north pole email.  (Fred apparently checked in on the kids while they were sleeping while we were in North Carolina just days before Christmas.)  Mercer did say he thought it would be funny if Fred was on his head~

Mercer wrote a sweet letter to God as well as a letter to Santa.  Translations included as well.

Dear God,
I am thankful for

Jesus (with a G)
Soso (a stuffed-animal dog)
sss (??
for you


Dear Santa
I have been Good.
Please bring
real ship
toy ship
doll ship for Isabella
mom – monkey
dad – monkey

We squeezed in a quick visit to Santa Claus up on the Square before we hit the road for our trip to NC and NJ.  Isabella did NOT like sitting in the old guy's lap.  She's been having a separation anxiety thing going on the past month or two.  Typical of her age.  But, as soon as we picked her up, she smiled at him... batted her eyes... and tucked her head into my shoulder.  She was flirting with him!

Mercer loves to act goofy for the camera as seen in this series of pics of him (and Isabella) in front of the Marietta Square tree.  Love these pictures of him - they totally capture his personality!!

At the beginning and the end of the trip, we visited family in North Carolina.  Here are a couple of photos with my mom.  (Isabella immediately went for her glasses!)

Some of the family members came over to hang out & catch up one afternoon.  We always try to do something with the group to make memories. Last year, it was the mustaches.  This year -- gnarly teeth!

Almost everyone partook and had a good laugh~

Isabella made her first trip to the zoo.  Pretty much any animal she sees, she calls "kit cat."  (I was holding her up once at our kitchen window and a cat ran by, I pointed it out.  Sometimes she points out of an empty window and says the same thing too!)  Isabella saw Lion (kit cats) and Gorilla (kit cats).  There was a mama gorilla with a baby on it's back that made an appearance at the front of the window which she seemed to engage in and enjoy.

At the zoo, Mercer liked the Chimpanzees the best - as they flipped around, swung from trees, and tumbled on the ground.  He walked around acting like a chimp for awhile.

The NC zoo is a really beautiful zoo with lots of rock out-croppings that are perfect for climbing.  (As well as a lot of sculptures that are great for climbing too.)

We try to go as often as we can when in the area. 
We have taken several photos of Mercer in front of this Rhino sculpture.  Now, Isabella is included in this photo op.

We visited my grandma and grandpa at their house several times.  Mercer and Isabella entertained their great-grandparents by pulling out the toys in their living room and destroying the room... then cleaning things up.   Here's a shot that Mercer actually took!

Interesting... Isabella took 1 unassisted step at Grandma & Grandpa's house.  The next time she was there, she did it again!  Not sure why she's only ventured out at their house, but I'm really glad that they got to see it - twice!

We visited my aunt Becky and uncle Tony too.  Isabella LOVES dogs... and she was really excited to be there!

Thankfully, we had great weather on our way up to and back from NJ.  Unlike the previous two trips - this trip was without incidence!!  The clear weather and the beautiful scenery through the Shenandoah Valley and in the Amish areas of Pennsylvania made the drive pretty relaxing, actually!  (This is not our photo, but one I pulled from the web.  It is exactly the sort of vista that is experienced along highway 81 for several hours of the drive!)

Isabella got to play with a dog, Wonka, that Jim and Becki brought.  She would hug on him and grab him (instead of gently petting him). He would just sit there & take it.  Good dog!  She enjoyed playing with toy dogs too.  In fact, one of her favorite things was a tiny fluffy dog that barked and panted that Aunt Tonia gave her.  

Isabella - for some reason - would smack Rose Marie when she saw here.  We think that it has something to do with Tonia plotting Isabella against her grandmother.  (Sort of like the movie Steel Magnolias where the one character told the little boy that Wheezer was a bad woman.  The boy would cry and hit her when he saw her!)  Thankfully Rose Marie did not take it personally!  

She did take satisfaction in knowing that Isabella loved her lasagna and Nana's coffee cookie recipe.  Isabella has (you can see here) her 3 teeth now, by the way. 

Rose Marie stole hugs from Isabella when she got a chance and got to make iced sugar cookies with Mercer.  She did get some grandchild love! 

Both kids enjoyed the musical stylings of Uncle Jim.  Mercer grabbed his harmonica and played along. 

We took a walk through the town where Mercer got to see some snow on the ground!  (Granted, it was piled up at the edge of a parking lot, but he enjoyed it none-the-less.)  We made a stop at the train store and stayed for awhile warming up and being entertained by the excited 5 year old and 1 year old!  

Mountain Lakes really is a beautiful town - being designed as a resort town for NYC 100 years ago.  We do enjoy looking at the historic homes and buildings.  

Todd and I went to a candle light Christmas Eve service in an old stone building erected in 1913.  One of the church members and the choir retold the story of the night Jesus was born.  That was followed by Christmas carols and cutting out the lights/ holding candles / singing Silent Night.  It was quite powerful.  Although we had a brisk 20 degree walk there and back - we are glad we went!

Christmas morning, Isabella got into opening gifts and playing with / eating wrapping paper.  She also got in on the action of a little Christmas day wrestling with daddy.  Mercer had a blast racing remote control cars with the older kids as well as playing cards with the whole gang.  Tonia gave Mercer several decks of cards with kids games on them.  Crazy 8s, Old Maid, Go Fish.  Uno made the cut too and proved to be a hit with the whole gang.  Todd and Mercer learned that Rose Marie cheats at cards and Mercer even called her a "Sore Lizard!"  : - ) 

Mercer had purchased gifts this year at his school's holiday festival (with money we sent in).  He bought me a horse necklace in a hat-shaped box, Todd a screwdriver set and some Florida Seminole napkins, grandpa in Florida a pair of sunglasses, a pen for grandma in Florida, an ornament for grandma in New Jersey, a bracelet for grandma in North Carolina, and an Alabama fly swatter for "Uncle Orie" across the street.  He got Isabella a light-up wand, a night light, a headband (seen here), and some colorful hair extensions!  (Don't know if he told the volunteer mom who helped him shop that his sister was just barely 1.)

The hair extensions made an appearance in New Jersey.  Rose Marie wore one.  Isabella was able to wear one put on the back of her hair so she couldn't pull it out.  But the older cousins really got into them -- braiding them and wearing them in their beards!!  

The children definitely spread a lot of holiday cheer; 

there was a lot of laughter in Todd's childhood home.  

We were gone for 10 days.  We rented a mini-van because we have more stuff to travel with now that there are 2 kids + carting back and forth a stack of Christmas presents.  We spent basically 4 of the 10 days in the van and put 1960 miles on it.  We are back at home and glad to have rested our heads on our own pillows!  But, all-in-all we had a nice trip, made a lot of memories, and are glad that we went.

Here are a few random photos to end the Christmas blog.  These were taken at our house before we hit the road.  

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Friday, December 13, 2013

November was a busy busy month!

Before and after Isabella's "birthday week," we took several trips - near and far~

Mid-November, we went on a farm tour.  It has been awhile since we've done one, but we wanted to go to this one because this tour was on a portion of the farm that we have been buying fruit and veggies from through our CSA membership all summer.  The farmer, Mitch, provided hay-rides along the back of this tractor.  We got to wander around some of the fields and pick some carrots as well.  Obviously Isabella is too young to take it all in (although she has eaten a lot of the veggies from the CSA as mushed up baby-food).  But - the real reason to cram in a visit on an already busy weekend - to expose Mercer to the farm.  He was mostly interested in the tractor and running. 

The third week of November, I had a conference for work... the same conference I was at in California when Isabella was born.  This year, the conference was held in Philadelphia, PA -- only about 1 1/2 hours from Todd's sister, Tonia.  All of us packed up and hopped on a plane (Isabella's first trip.)  Tonia and Rose Marie met us at the airport, we all went to lunch, checked into a hotel, then they took the kids back to her house so that Todd could go to the conference too. 

It's always good to go to the conference, get new information about the green building industry, but also being able to share the experience with Todd (who could also use the continuing education credits) was pretty cool!  It consisted of some long days and nights (one evening, 
Hillary Clinton addressed our group about the importance of energy conservation in buildings).

Here are some goofy "public art" pictures I subjected Todd into posing for / I posed for just outside the conference center.  It was 7:30 am.  There was no one around that we knew (hopefully!)

The highlight our trip does not really have anything to do with the conference or our work.  Exploring the  Barnes Family art collection inside of these monolithic walls was fantastic!  Barnes collected pieces for close to 40 years -- amassing the largest collection of Renoir paintings, a great number of Matisse drawings and paintings, as well as others by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Cezanne.  He even collected antiquities and mixed them into his more modern collection.  I had not seen paintings by Soutine in person - someone who one of our favorite (living) painters studied under.  I was not familiar with Prendergast, but was really drawn to his work.   The collection rivaled some of the famous museums we visited in France.... but it's relatively close to home.  I'm SOOO glad we made time to visit!  Thanks to Tonia for letting us miss our first train and catch a later train so we could finish walking the museum (as if she had a choice!!)    http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/about-collection

We went to the 30th Street station and tried to figure out how to make it to NJ.  The place was bustling... there was no clear place to buy the tickets we needed.  We had to ask someone at a different train system's ticket window, then buy them from a machine.  Thankfully the woman at the ticket window said "you will not know which track to go to until 10 minutes before the train is to take off; watch that board"  It was one of those boards that clicks as the numbers turn over.  The air was full of sounds of passengers talking, people making announcements over the intercom, and the constant clicking of the train board.  We are happy that we did not have to navigate this crazy "system" with the kids in tow.  If we had to do it again, we would be fine, but glad we did this our first time solo!!)

Mercer and Isabella both gave us great receptions once we met back up with them, although Isabella had grown pretty fond of Tonia and seemed a little torn who to go to!  Both kids enjoyed playing with their cousins.  Isabella loved terrorizing the dogs as well.  

Tonia and Rose Marie found a solution for containing her~  put her in a giant Rubbermaid tub so she could look at the dog while contained! 

Both of Todd's brothers came -- bringing two more of Mercer and Isabella's cousins (9 of the 10 were present).  One of Todd's cousins came for the weekend too.  It was quite a reunion under the one roof. While everyone was gathered together, we celebrated Rose Marie's birthday.  I think she's only 39 years old.  (or that's what she was "holding" at a few years ago~)

We had a great time with everyone, but once we made it back home - we realized that it was nice to put our heads on our own pillows.  We were only at home for a couple of days before it was time to leave again and head to Florida. 

We go to my dad's every other Thanksgiving. For many of the family members down there, this was the first time they were seeing / meeting Isabella (aside from dad and Charlie, of course). 

The family gathered on Thanksgiving day, but one was asked to leave.  My step-brother, Brad, was "not behaving" according to Mercer "and he had to go."  A little life lesson for the 5 year old:  behave or you are asked to leave!

One thing that was great, however:  Mercer making cookies with his cousin, Kaitlin.  He actually stayed engaged and helped through the whole process (I think because she let him eat chocolate chips throughout the prep work).  It was cute to watch her with him! 

Also it was really sweet to watch my other step-brother, Freddy, hold / sway / dance around the living room with baby Isabella.  He really loved her!  Charlie enjoyed dressing Isabella up.  (She DOES love jewelry) 

In fact, the day after Thanksgiving, we took Mercer to Universal Studios - Islands of Adventure theme park.  Dad and Charlie watched Isabella.  First thing they did... broke out a stash of costume jewelry!  Oh boy!!

We visited the LEGO theme park when we were down in Orlando 2 years ago -- when Mercer was 3 years old.  Charlie graciously offered to watch the baby so we could take Mercer to a theme park this year as well (and not have to drag the baby around everywhere).  Good call!  She would have enjoyed the people watching, however, she would not have enjoyed sitting around while everyone else got to go on rides.  The weather actually was a bit chilly and there were some babies there that were not adequately prepped for cool Florida weather / seemed miserable.  Next time we are down there, we will take Isabella to a park.  (I imagine Disney will be in our future at some point?)

Todd and I thoroughly enjoyed the cool 4D roller coasters with a lot of computer-animated scenes and bursts of flames / real warmth during explosions.  We thought the Spider Man ride was a lot of fun and Mercer seemed to like it.  As soon as he got off, he puffed out his chest and yelled "that was awesome!"  We waited in line for a Harry Potter ride because Mercer was just the exact height as the board said you had to be to get in... but we lost sight of how young he is for his height!  Once we boarded and started to ride, both Todd and I realized that it was too much for the poor little guy.  Again - we thought it was great - but there were some things that we were afraid of was going to be scary.  As soon as he got off of that 4D ride, he stormed off saying "Why did you take me on that ride?!"  We should not have taken him.  For future reference -- we need to research the theme parks + rides BEFORE we go!  He admitted, too, that the Spider Man ride was a little scary. 

We made it over to the Dr. Seuss area which he liked the best.  Agreed... it was cute and MUCH more his speed.  He likes super heroes and rough-and-tumble boy stuff, but it is heart-warming to know that deep down inside, he's still a Mickey Mouse club-house / Dr. Seuss kid!  There were a couple of things that he wanted to do over-and-over again in the Dr. Seuss area. 

It was a LONG day, but we made the most of it.  We are grateful that we had the opportunity to spend the time with him and just "let go" and play all day!!