Monday, April 21, 2014

Quick post about some milestones... a year ago today...

After the recent long blog entry posted a couple of days ago, I will keep this one short and sweet:

a year ago today we were wrapping up a wonderful week of celebrations:
- Isabella's adoption day was on the 17th
(we celebrated with family & friends on the 20th). 
- Isabella's baptism was on the 21st.

That was such a special week for us. We are just so incredibly blessed - and immensely grateful - for the gift of both of these children into our little family.


Mercer and Isabella went to the doctor for "well" visits.
Mercer is 123 1/2 cm tall (4'1 1/2") -- 93% of all 6 year olds.  He's 55 lbs - 87% in weight. 
Isabella is 30" tall - 69% - a little above average for her age.  Her weight is ~20 lbs (19.8 to be exact).  This is well below average (14%).

She went in for a 15 month appointment, but was almost 17 months at the time.  They adjust the percentages based on the real age based on the growth chart.  She's a petite little thing - still wearing 12 month clothes (but she needs 18 month old in length).  Short season is coming soon.  whew!

And - of note - she's just now hitting 20 lbs at 17 months.  Mercer was 20 lbs at 6 months of age & outgrew the infant car seat then!  Technically, Isabella could've still been in hers too, but we moved her over to a standard car seat awhile back.  Just thought that was interesting!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recent Travels

Mercer's school spring break was March 31 - April 4.

He had a "credit" for a drama class that needed to be used (from a cancelled drama class during his winter break).  He acted in another little play - this one was about woodland animals.  He seems to like this.  Hmmm... wonder if he has any acting in his future??

The next day, the kids and I headed up to North Carolina to pay a visit to my mom, grandparents, and extended family.  We - of course - did not get to see everyone that we wanted to see, but we did get to visit with a lot of folks.  

We paid a visit to the NC zoo.  Mom visited her old office and a bunch of her former co-workers.  I'm sure it was an odd experience for Mercer because EVERYONE there knew who he was and kept talking to him / calling him by name.  "My how you've grown, Mercer."  "You're so tall, Mercer!"  :)

Isabella captured a bunch of attention while there too - being adorable while cuddling with stuffed animals they had there and giving kisses to everyone.  Literally - everyone.  She leaned in to each of the ladies that mom worked with and doled out more kisses than we had ever seen her give!  It was really sweet!  

There was a new polar bear exhibit and children's area that we wanted to check out.  We were treated to a VIP experience!  

One of mom's former co-workers, Karen, took us into the zoo on a golf cart - stopping at some of the attractions along the way.  Mercer thought it was the coolest thing ever!  

We went through the animatronic bug exhibit.  We visited the gorillas and gorilla babies.  We visited the old playground and the new children's area (complete with dress-up areas and a new Mud Café).

Here are some pictures at the playground - including some at the ladybug that we got a cute picture of Mercer once. He's quite a bit bigger now, of course.  Isabella kept wanting to look at the ladybug up close.  Such a lover of animals and creatures!!

Mercer is really into taking photos with our phones.  Here's a goofy shot that Mercer took of me as we ran through a large vine sculpture.    

It is such a beautiful zoo!

The next day, we visited the most amazing children's museum..  We've been to quite a few - but this one was very different from any we had seen.... it featured a dozen or more "stations" for the kids to play in that allowed them to play make-believe and/or change activities: 
- there was a stage complete with a ticket booth, sound table, and lighting controls  (Mercer liked selling tickets)
- a reading room with bean bags on the floor
- a pet hospital / a nursery / a dentist's office with a reception desk and a life-sized operation game using giant kitchen tongs (there was a little girl who manned the reception desk pretty much the whole time we were there, answering the phone and telling us which station to go to / which "doctor" would see us)
- an area for little tots and babies
- a construction zone with an up-stairs and down-stairs / cut-aways in the walls so you can see what's inside, giant building blocks, blue prints, measuring tapes, etc
- an area called "Nonni's house" with a garden the kids could plant, a kitchen with 'fridge / food, a table they could set, front porch and rocking chairs, etc
- a giant art area
- a mock-up post office with mail truck and working (hand-crank) conveyor, packages to deliver (there was an older girl there who kept delivering letters and packages from a mail bag to the different mail boxes at each station)
- an area with real vehicles that the kids could climb into and play with the controls:  a fire truck, a police car, a race car, the nose of an airplane with a slide to get out
- a putt-putt golf area and tent with camping gear
- a mock-up train and city
- foam blocks for building large structures
- an outdoor children's garden complete with chickens and mud café of their own

- a pizza café with menus and bistro seating for the adults

and.... the area that Mercer spent the most time:  a mock-up grocery store with (pictorial lists), shopping cart, and cash register

Afterwards, we visited with Aunt Sandra -- stalking her at work then checking back in with her 'til after she was off work.  Unfortunately, I did not get pictures, but we hung out and had dinner together.

We visited with great-grandma and great-grandpa several times while we were there.  The kids love going through the stash of toys that their second-cousins played with when they were younger.  Grandma brought out a stuffed bunny to show Isabella.  She took it from grandma and gave it to grandpa.  Grandma seemed to get offended... but in a funny way.  It was cute!

We were also able to visit with Aunt Becky who was recovering from hip surgery & Uncle Tony.  Isabella was smitten with the dogs.  Mercer had fun riding on the "mule."  

And - we finally made it out to Aunt Francis and Uncle David's new house that was built by his own hands!  We got to play ball in the back yard there, so the kids had a good time there as well.

As mentioned, there were some people that we did not get to see.  We had a "leisurely" spring break trip planned - but we filled it up doing some fun things with the kids while visiting only some of the family.  (PS - had to get a picture of the tree that came down in the ice storm.... it was actually 3 large trees that had grown out of a similar base.  And it was huge.  It will be weird not seeing the tree there anymore.) 

Finally, here's a picture of mom playing "hall ball" with Mercer (while carrying Isabella).  Mercer absolutely loves hall ball + kicking the ball outdoors + throwing balls.... anything active~

Any trip to North Carolina wouldn't be complete without visiting my friend, Cindy, in Greenville.  Unfortunately, this will be one of the last times we get to visit with her for awhile, as she and her boys are moving to Germany in a couple of months.  Her husband just went over to begin his 2-3 year contract to work overseas.  

One of the things I'm going to miss (aside from having a spectacular place to let Mercer run around and burn off energy) is how awesome her boys are with him.  Mercer was always genuinely happy when around them because he feels included in their activities.  He feels like one of them -- just like their brother.  They are great boys!

Hmmm.... somehow.... we need to figure out a way to visit them over there!  (we've never been to Germany~)

The following week, Mercer was back in school.  There was a family wedding down in Florida and since I had the time at home -- figured why not -- let's take a bus down there & visit.  (OK - my first inclination was to take a plane because I did not want to drive the 8-9 hour drive by myself with a baby... but... when pricing that out, I ventured over to the Megabus website and scored $19 round trip tickets for each of us!  I couldn't drive 1/2 of the way there for that price!)  It was a tough trip mainly because Isabella wanted to get out of her car seat... and because there was no place to change a diaper.  I had to wait 'til we were at a stop, then lay her down in a pair of seats that was unoccupied... and change her there)  On the way down, we had a 1 hour layover at UF in Gainsville.  Here's a cool sculpture we found when wandering part of the campus.... kind of looks like that tree that fell in mom's yard!  I would TOTALLY take the Megabus to a destination either by myself or with older children.  But - not young.  Not again!

My step-sister Michelle's son, Kyle, was marrying a woman named Amanda.  The wedding was in a lovely Catholic church in Orlando. 

The night before, we went to dinner and at the Italian restaurant, there was an opera-sounding singer.  Isabella started to yodel / sing along with the music over the intercom.  Well, she sort of did the same thing with the soloists during the wedding!  Luckily, we were in the very back row and I hope that the bride / groom could hear!  She and I spent most of the service in the cry room at the back of the church so that we did not disturb the happy couple. 

Isabella enjoyed exploring the grounds of the church.  (And I loved visiting the grotto.)

The reception was a lot of fun!  It was at an event space that occupied part of a historic house, but had some additions done to it. 

The area in which the dinner was held was truly magical! 

The walls could change colors.  There were ornate chandeliers.  Sparkly table cloths.  The groom looked like a prince in his dress blues.  The bride looked like a princess.  It was beautiful.  

Here's a shot of Michelle dancing with Kyle. 

Isabella looked like a little princess too and was actually the only child there.  She made a ton of friends saying hi to everyone, and flirting before she passed out for the evening. 

Something tragic happened days before we headed down.  My step-brother, Freddie, lost his second child last week.  His first son, Shane, died approximately 18 - 20 years ago.  Chad - age 27 - had a heart attack last week, then a stroke in the hospital.  A clot had gone to his brain and caused a great deal of damage.  They pulled him off of life support... a very heart-wrenching and tough decision.  Chad left behind a baby girl, Raelynn, who is just a few weeks old.  

I am grateful that this did not happen before Raelynn's birth... that he got to experience the joy of holding his baby girl and feeling the pure bliss of being a father.  Obviously, his girlfriend, Sherri, has to be scared as a new mom and going through this without him.  His funeral was last Sunday. 

My other step-sister, Melissa, said something that I thought was touching:  Shane will be greeting Chad up in Heaven. 

Isabella and I were not at the funeral because our return trip home was on Saturday / I looked at changing it, but we couldn't make it work.  There were over 100 people there, however, which is a great testament to the friendships and loved ones that he had.  Isabella and I were able to spend a lot of time with Freddie leading up to the funeral, however. 

We also got to spend some time with Sherri and meet the sweet baby girl. 

This was such a tragedy.  He will, undoubtedly, be watching over sweet Raelynn from up above.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ordinary things...

We never did post any photos of Mercer playing basketball from this winter.  It's been over for a little over a month now since his season ended, but didn't fit in with any of the other posts.  We'll put it here under "ordinary things."  This was the 2nd year he played.  He somehow regressed on his dribbling and carried the ball a lot while running.  (but everyone else did too).  One of the coaches did pull us aside and said he had a natural ability that you can't teach -- his defense and really going after the ball.  I guess that's not so ordinary, but...

A friend has a blog and posted recently about some ordinary things her children did that she did not want to forget.  Great idea!

Some I may have mentioned in other posts, but again - don't want to forget these things:

- Isabella squeezing stuffed animals or dolls and smiling / squealing.
- Mercer talking in higher pitch when he's looking after his sister.
- Isabella likes to have her hair spritzed and brushed (more so than Mercer ever did)
- Mercer wanting to go into the Little Free Library box on our street to go pick out a book to read (then reading it that night because he's so excited about having a new book in the house)
- Isabella and I going to the square and playing at the fountain with the water that is blowing over the edge
- Mercer asking me to come to lunch with him at his school.  (and then "growling" with other boys at the girls at the next table over and giggling)
- Isabella throwing things on the ground THEN saying "uh oh"
- Watching Mercer tirelessly running around with ANY kid on a playground.  He gets more energy just because there are other kids out there.
- Isabella leaning in to go "mmmmmwah"  to give a kiss (or blowing kisses with her hand)

- Mercer singing to the frog sculpture at a nearby park.  (for some reason, the camera phone images are polarized again~)

- Isabella getting excited when I come into the room in the mornings

- Mercer still (at 6) watching sweet little innocent TV shows like Mickey Mouse Club House (especially while Isabella is awake).  He likes the action-hero stuff, but still gets a little scared. :)
- Putting Isabella to sleep while rocking her
- Checking in on Mercer while he's asleep
- Isabella using her little pinchers to pick stuff up.  Such concentration!

- The kids playing in the push-wagon (Mercer pushing Isabella, Isabella crawling in it and waiting on someone to push her, and Isabella pushing Mercer in it)
- going on family hikes (Mercer likes this picture where you can't really see him because he's far ahead of the rest of us)
- Mercer wanting to do experiments / cook in the kitchen (I know I've already mentioned "I have a good idea")
- baby time at the library
- letterboxing with Mercer when he (sometimes) still excited to do it