Thursday, January 29, 2009

Momma's Big Girl

Maybe it's the fact that Olivia's 3rd birthday is a few days away. Or maybe it's because we've been visiting pre-schools the last few days. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the neat little girl that Olivia is becoming and I see a lot of me in her. Not so much in her outward appearance; more so in her personality and behaviors. She is definitely a momma's girl in those respects. She woke up this morning before Nate, which is a true rarity. When I went in to get her, she asked me, "Momma, will you rest with me?" So I crawled in to her toddler bed for some morning cuddles and per her request, eskimo kisses. As we lay there together, I began to think of how much like me she is. We both love to sleep in. If Olivia could sleep all day, nestled among her blankets and her Elmos, she would be in heaven. She's slow to wake up. She loves her tv programs. She's bright and independent. Bossy, yet gentle when she needs to be. Yesterday morning, Nate woke up grumpy. As he and I were sitting at the foot of her bed, she started making funny faces at Nate to cheer him up. When that didn't work, she took her hand and began to rub his cheek, saying, "It's OK Nate. I know it's hard to wake up." When that didn't work, she did the mother of all kind gestures in her little world: offered up her Elmo. She sure does love her baby brother. Oftentimes I'll go in after a nap to find his crib littered with Olivia's things, like her sippy cup, her favorite blanket, the random stuffed animal, or even Fuzzy Elmo. I think she must toss these items into his crib when he's having a hard time falling asleep. And, like her mother, Olivia has a special knack for buttering up daddy when she wants something. She'll go to him and with the cutest little head tilt, say something like, "I'll get you some Coke, ok "fweetheart?" She tries to make us think she only has us in mind but she's as transparent as a window pane. It's so hard to resist her.

She's fearless, outgoing, imaginative and artistic. It's so hard to believe that she's turning 3. In some ways, it seems like forever ago she was born. I think that's because I can't fathom what life was like before kids. And in some ways, it seems like just yesterday we were waiting to meet her. I think that's a reflection of how fast they grow up and reinforces that time does fly when you're having fun. Three years ago seems like a blink of an eye. Where will we be three years from now? Olivia will be in kindergarten and Nate will be 4 1/2, maybe we'll be in a different state or possibly a different country. What an interesting journey it has been. I'm so proud of my firstborn and feel blessed to have her with us as we meet head on all the challenges and adventures that life will bring. Our little Livy is growing up. She says it best...when I tuck them in for the night, right before I close the door, I say "goodnight babies." I hear her voice correcting me in the darkness. "I'm not a baby. I'm a big girl." Goodnight, big girl. Momma loves you sooo much.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Playing in the Poconos

If you've ever read a bridal magazine you probably remember the advertisements in the back for the honeymoon spot in the Poconos that has a champagne glass shaped bathtub. Totally cheesy. Until yesterday, that was all I knew of the Poconos. We decided to take the kids on a Sunday drive in search of some snow to play in and ended up in the Poconos.

We drove through Jim Thorpe, PA, a really interesting little town with a downtown full of rowhouses that are in the victorian style. Many of these have been converted into store fronts. As we drove down the windy narrow road that takes you through the town, we also saw a monument to the Molly Maguire executions. Jim Thorpe was apparently a heavy coal-mining town staffed largely by Irish immigrants. These Molly Maguires were something of a union and had some pretty direct methods of making their bosses pay for injustices like making them work in unsafe environments. At some point, one of the big bosses hired the Pinkertons to come in and kill the Molly Maguires.

We continued driving and eventually found a state park that had a nicely groomed trail for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. We loaded the kiddos into the sled and took a nice little hike. Charlie had fun playing in the snow too.

After a few minutes of riding on the sled, Livy decided she wanted to walk "like a big girl."
This was a really cool place where the water running down the rocks had frozen.

Playing in the snow is never complete until you make a snow angel.

So that was our big Sunday drive. It was nice to get out and see some new scenery and have some good old fashioned fun.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What an Adventure!

George called me last Friday with a surprise: he had purchased reduced-cost vouchers at work for the Adventure Aquarium. We decided not to tell Livy exactly where it was we were going the next day, though we knew it would be a big hit.

The first thing we saw was 2 hippos happily lounging. If you look closely, you'll notice that the hippo in the foreground is actually laying his head on another hippo that is submerged.

Then it was on to shark school. The kids were most interested in climbing in the big shark mouth.
We also got to see a caribbean exhibit with my favorite: seahorses. Then it was on to get Olivia's face painted. Here is our "Mermaid Princess."

There were also some hands-on exhibits that Olivia went wild for. She got to touch sharks, jellyfish and sting rays. I think she would have liked to do that all day long. After lunch, we went outside and saw the African penguins and seals. Here's Nate trying to get a better view of the penguins.

I love this picture of the penguins. You'll see them all posted in front of the door waiting patiently for their next feeding, which wasn't for another 75 minutes. They were super cute.
At last, it was time to go. The kids were tired and overstimulated. Olivia was not happy about this, as you can see.

The crying continued 30 minutes into our drive home. Willing to do anything to make her happy, George pulls into a McDonald's to buy her a cone. Much to our dismay, he was told, "Sorry, we have no ice cream today." Hearing this, Olivia begins to scream louder. "Don't worry" he tells her. "There'll be another McDonald's right up the road." Sure enough, a few blocks away, he pulls in and attempts to order a cone. "We don't have any ice cream today" was the answer again. What's the deal? It drops below 40 in Philly and no one makes ice cream? She's somewhat comforted by the apple pie and the crying stops. Eventually the car falls silent as both kids begin to nap. The day at the aquarium was definitely an adventure!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

On the Run

Planning to leave for our drive down to Florida on Saturday the 20th, we became concerned when the weather reports were predicting huge snow storms in the northeast. By Friday morning we had decided to leave that afternoon instead, trying to get far enough south of the storm to be safe. I spent the morning packing while George finished up at work and by 1pm, in the middle of almost freezing rain, we packed up the kids, the car, and the dog and got on the road. We weren't sure how far we'd make it the first day. The first part of the drive went pretty quickly. It wasn't long before we were in NJ, then Maryland, then heading towards DC. We hit DC traffic around 7pm which was brutal. We kept ourselves entertained by debating whether or not the first lady should reserve a paycheck. My vote: yes. George was getting aggravated with my "bra-burning" attitude and said the first wrong thing they did was give "us" the right to vote. "It's all been down-hill from there" he said. It's was quite the heated discussion (all in good fun, of course) and helped to pass the time while we crept through our nation's capital. I don't remember much of NC but I started driving around 10pm. The kids were sleeping by then and we were getting closer to Myrtle Beach so we decided to just press on to SC. We had a hotel reservation for Saturday night, so we checked in to the same place around 2am with plans to see our friend Frank after some much needed rest. We met Frank for breakfast at a local joint with the saltiest pork products we'd ever had and after hanging out at Frank's house for a while, decided to take the kids to the beach. This was Nate's first time at the ocean, and Olivia's first time since she was a baby. They had a ball! We got so many cute pictures of them playing.

Nate dipping his toes in the Atlantic for the first time.

Olivia dug herself a hole and surrounded it with sticks.

Nate saw how much fun she was having and decided to roll around in the sand too.

Astute observers may have noticed that Nate has on a different outfit than in the first pictures. Well, we were playing in the surf and a 2 inch wave came up, caught Nate off guard, and he fell down and got drenched. What happened next was so cute that I wish I could post the pictures: I took the wet clothes off him and he began to run around naked on the beach. Livy, seeing how much fun he was having, decided she should strip too. She took off her pants and went about her business, naked from the waist down. They played like this for about 15 minutes, until I was able to corral Nate and get him dressed. When we got back to the hotel and started looking through all the naked pictures, I realized that I actually caught Nate peeing in the sand. It was the funniest picture. Frank said he was telling Nate, "write your name in the sand!"

It's a sad thing that a mommy has to think twice about sharing innocent naked baby pictures online. I'm worried that either I'll get charged with child pornography, or even worse, some sicko will find the pictures and get off on them. Anyways, we had a great time on our Myrtle Beach stopover and headed for Florida on Sunday morning.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wow! I can't believe it's 2009 already. 2008 brought yet another cross-country move for us so this time of year always makes me wonder what's in store for the next 360-something days ahead. Whatever happens, we'll embrace it with the same "the only thing constant is change" and "bloom where you're planted" attitude.

As for resolutions, I haven't really made any, but I do have a few things I'd like to accomplish in the new year. First, I need to resume my elimination diet (no corn or soy) which should be easier now that I'm living close to a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I see a new gastroenterologist in March who specializes in Eosinophilic Esophagitis so I want to make sure I've been corn and soy free so he can order another eotaxin-3 test to see what kind of progress I've made. The one I had done in September (when I wasn't on my diet) was off the charts. Normal is 17 or below and I scored a 278. Clearly, this is something I need to pay close attention to. My second goal is to finish my application for Irish citizenship by descent and submit it to the consulate in NYC by the end of January. I've been working on acquiring all the required documentation for the last few months so it will be a relief to get it completed. It has been an interesting process though. If we end up with a transfer to Ireland, being a citizen of Ireland would make it much easier to work in the EU.

We had a wonderful Christmas in Florida. After 5 years of either rainy Christmases in Seattle, or really cold Christmases in Montana, we really enjoyed wearing shorts at Christmastime. Keep checking back for pics and antecdotes from our road trip down the East Coast. Have a very Happy New Year!