Monday, September 22, 2008

Sisters in September

With all the changes going on around here, we've been mostly staying around the house and the neighborhood this week, trying to establish some structure and routines. Even still, life is never dull around here...

Vanessa and Elizabeth have been practicing being gentle with each other. Elizabeth has been grabbing at things, and sometimes Vanessa's hair gets in the way a little, but Vanessa seems pretty tolerant of that so far.

Vanessa covers up her sister's belly button. She takes good care of Elizabeth.

Vanessa still doesn't nap, so we try to compensate by having an early bedtime for her at 7:30. She used to cry for a few minutes in her room at 7:30 and then fall asleep. It wasn't the best way to do bedtime, but it sort of worked. But as any parent knows, kids keep learning how to foil us! Vanessa grew tall enough to reach her doorknob and figured out how to open her door. So, I had to come up with a new way to help her cope with the early bedtime. I developed a typewritten list of 15 individual steps in our bedtime routine, complete with clip art for Vanessa to follow. I had to pull from my teaching background to get that organized. We rehearsed the routine during the day, and added the motivation of stickers on a few points. It's helped significantly, but we still have trouble with bedtime from time to time if Vanessa gets an accidental nap in the car or stroller.
The bedtime routine itself has become much easier no matter what, though. Here Vanessa shows how she can do a good job brushing her teeth. And I know she likes her routine -- the other evening I asked if she wanted a snack, and she said "5!" and stood on the 5 on her rug. Having a snack is number 5 in her list.

"See how clean my teeth are, Daddy!" Vanessa's getting four new teeth in at once, so she's finally starting to catch up to her peers a little in tooth count. She'll have 16 all together soon.

You might guess from these above pictures that putting pajamas on is one of the trickier steps in the routine. Since Vanessa has stopped wearing diapers, I think she has mentally extended that freedom to freedom from clothing... but she's gradually learning to like clothes a little better. The cool weather helps, I think!

Speaking of cool weather, we're starting to get something of a fall harvest. Here are some pumpkins and other veggies from our garden.

A closer look of the pumpkins, plus one of four of our acorn squashes. The acorn squash tasted awesome. I can't wait to see if the pumpkins taste just as great. Plus, the beets in this picture were fantastic too. Vanessa loves beets and it was hard for me to share them with her!

Carrots! Vanessa loves carrots, but I ate both of these. Sorry, Vanessa, I have a weakness for fresh carrots! Also visible in this picture are some onions, green beans, two kinds of potatoes plus a sweet potato, a cucumber, and some tomatoes. Needless to say, I've been a happy vegetarian lately.

We've had a visit from friends Brian and Chariti, with their baby Sarah, just a couple of days older than Vanessa. Elizabeth seemed to enjoy the interaction with someone her own age! We definitely enjoyed talking with parents going through some of the same things we're going through: the joys of watching babies discovering their environment, learning to roll over, etc. Elizabeth has rolled over a couple of times now.

Aunt Heather and Uncle Terry had the chance to stop by. They always do such a great job of entertaining our girls!

Speaking of amazing aunts and uncles, I just wanted to mention, as sort of a response to Jessica's comment on my last post and as an outpouring of my feelings in general lately:

Elizabeth and Vanessa have an amazing aunt Jessica! When I first met Jessa, I was awed by the way she handled any little interruptions or transgressions with such a smooth voice and calm head. I adopted the mental phrase "infinite patience" as sort of a mantra, an ideal to aspire to as a mom. She and Jake have developed such great parenting techniques for motivating their kids, and any time I've had a chance to see them I've eagerly tried to absorb as much as I can. Jessa and Jake are not only great parents, and the strongest people I know, but they're also a great aunt and uncle. Jessa and Jake do such a great job of keeping up with our blog, and flattering us with posting comments, that often times I felt that I wanted to post specifically just to communicate with them! And posting a comment on your birthday, after a week of being in and out of the hospital, Jessa, thank you!

Here's Vanessa's 24-month picture with her Miss Dee doll.

I thought I might try to do the same thing with Elizabeth -- take a picture every three months with a special doll. I missed her newborn picture, but here's a 3-month picture with a bunny from Nana Two (our friend Geri).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New developments

Things have been changing here at the Maxteds!

Yesterday, Vanessa learned how to take her diaper off. I think I might have actually given her a little hint in how to do it, and I was thinking that it was probably a mistake to do so, but... she hasn't worn a diaper since! She taught herself to use the potty over the past two days. I tried to put a diaper on her for bedtime at least, but she promptly removed it on her own after I closed her door, so, well, I guess we're diaper-free from now on. I might be calling it too early, but I don't think so... Vanessa seems determined.

This was after Vanessa's first day at preschool! Well, I had taken her a few times to the preschool to get her acclimated to the teachers and the new environment, and it was only for two hours (just on Mondays). But this was the first time I left her there by herself. No tears, just looking for me a little. I love her preschool and I think that it is just the right amount of time there for now. I also love that it gives me some free time early in the week before my assignments are due for my classes!

In any case, Vanessa has done a whole lot of growing up in two days.

Elizabeth, in the meantime, has started chuckling! Well, just one belly laugh yesterday. Oh, so funny to hear a full-fledged laugh from her. What a big girl. And she scoots all over the place on her back. I start her down at the bottom of her crib to give her plenty of runway during the night. Sometimes I find her up at the top of her crib and facing the other way.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Vanessa is two years old!

James here posting as Sarah. We've had a VERY busy couple of weeks, hence the delay in posting pictures. So first off, Vanessa is now 2 years old. At her 2 year old check-up, she was 27 lbs 2 ozs and 34.5 inches tall. Elizabeth is doing great and loves to be held facing outward and standing. We're going to have to start watching her more closely as she's really close to turning over in her crib.

Have we mentioned that Elizabeth is smiling a lot now and Vanessa LOVES her sister? Pretty much everytime Vanessa sees someone holding Elizabeth she has to run over, give her a hug, a kiss, and pat her tummy.
A couple of weekends ago we went to the Maryland Renaissance Fair. I can't believe I got through 4 years of a nerd school like TJ without going, but we had a great time and ate lots of great food. Vanessa was very excited about riding a pony.
I think she enjoyed it, what do you think?

Lately Vanessa has been requesting that Daddy play and sing songs with her. She doesn't have a good enough ear yet to hear how nasally I sound, but for the time being it's a lot of fun.
We spend a lot of time trying to capture Elizabeth smiling. She loves her Mommy very much, but always wants to make sure she's seeing what is going on.
We bought a Sesame Street puzzle for Vanessa seeing what she would do with it. It says it was for 3 and up, but that didn't stop her from putting it together. ;)
We had Vanessa's 2 year birthday party on the day before. She had lots of guests over. One of her favorite presents was this Elmo balloon that Nana bought for her. When ever you hit it, you hear Elmo sing Happy Birthday. Vanessa set it off at least 10 times on her birthday. We didn't have the heart to take it away from her then, but I don't ever want to hear that Elmo song again. ;)
Grandma came over for Vanessa's birthday and helped Elizabeth play the piano for the first time. I like the potential for musicians in this family.
Here's a picture of all the people at the party. My poor friend Johnny was the only male represented here. I think he's telling a story about Vanessa and his dog Riley.
Grandpa's birthday was August 29th, Vanessa's the 31st, and mine on September 2nd. Vanessa insisted that she wear a party hat and that the other two birthday boys wear hats too. What a great picture!
Daddy loves his little girl so much. Of course, now that she's two, she's a big girl.
Nana enjoyed rocking Elizabeth to sleep during the party.
Elizabeth did wear a hat for a little bit, granted, she was asleep.

Vanessa decided to put a bow on her head for an alternative hat.
Vanessa wasn't quite sure what to do with all the candles. Her parents helped her out a little bit.
Johnny and Liz decided that bringing Riley to the party would have been a bit of a distraction, so they brought the next best thing, a giant whale balloon. Vanessa was giving the whale hugs throughout the party.
Vanessa's Grandma (Sarah's Mom) brought a felt board with felt face pieces to assemble. Vanessa was very particular about where things should go.
We resurrected the baby bouncer for Elizabeth. She seems to like it pretty well, though she'll eventually get bored and start to eat it. Vanessa tells us that she isn't too big and that she fits too. Of course when Vanessa sits in the bouncer it almost sags to the floor.

The Kaylors came on Vanessa's birthday to hang out on Labor Day weekend. Here Hannah, Grandma K., and Grandpa K. read a book to Vanessa. The next day the lot of them went down to DC while I got a break to play games with my work buddies. Here Vanessa demonstrates that she can reach the water in the fountain at the Sculpture Garden.
Vanessa seemed to have enjoyed it. But Elizabeth is awake....

Aunt Hannah got built into a set of waffle bricks at the Building Museum in DC.
Vanessa really enjoyed the wide open spaces of the Building Musuem to play and run around. Of course I'm not sure what message we're sending as parents when we let Vanessa chase her Grandpa around with a toy drill gun...
Vanessa decided to assume ownership of the Waffle House for awhile.
Vanessa really loved playing with her Aunt Hannah.

One last action shot of our little "big" girl.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Kaylor reunion pictures

My wonderful family has given me so many great pictures from the Kaylor Reunion a few weeks ago. Here are just a few of those pictures:

The whole big family! We're all waving at the camera to encourage Vanessa to look in that general direction. It was a great idea in theory... although Vanessa didn't actually look at the camera, I think the waving makes for a nice picture!

The fellows in the back are my Uncle Bob, my brother Zak, my Dad and his Dad (Papa), my cousin Brett, and Tasha's husband Mark. The ladies in the front are Donna (Grandma K), my sister Heather, me and Elizabeth and Vanessa, my sister Hannah, my great-grandma Phyllis (Oma), my aunt Teri, and my cousins Tasha and Danielle.

Most of the pictures that I have for posting are of Elizabeth being held, rather than Vanessa being held. There are two main reasons for this: 1)Vanessa's definitely getting to that stage where she's not too fond of being held or holding still for pictures, and 2) she spent a good portion of the reunion bouncing on the trampoline!
Here are my cousin Tasha and Elizabeth looking just beautiful.

Grandma K and Grampa K were a considerable help to me in keeping track of Elizabeth and Vanessa during the reuion. Here's Grandma K greeting Elizabeth at our house, before heading over to Teri & Bob's.

Here's Grampa K and Elizabeth enjoying the lovely back yard at my aunt Teri's.

Vanessa found great glee in bouncing on the trampoline! The glee was kind of catching, actually.

Another nice picture of Elizabeth and Grampa K. Grampa K seemed to have this magic way of holding Elizabeth so that she stayed content for long periods of time. (And now that I think about it, I think it might be partly because he held her outwards. She really does seem to like watching the world go by.)

Some of the lovely ladies at the reunion -- Hannah, Donna, and Danielle.

Heather and Terry were also a terrific help in running around after Vanessa and keeping Elizabeth happy. Vanessa and Elizabeth love them both so much! I actually had some time to snack and socialize. I was especially glad to chat with my cousin Tasha, whom I hadn't seen in far too long! Here are Heather, Elizabeth, me, and Tasha.

What a joy to see the great-grandparents at the reunion! Oma Phyllis brought marvelous hand-made Christmas stockings for the girls and myself. Here's a picture of Phyllis and Elizabeth.

And here's Elizabeth taking a peek at her great-grandfather.

As I've mentioned, Vanessa absolutely adored playing on the trampoline! Here, Vanessa's aunts Heather and Hannah are trying to encourage her to play Duck-Duck Goose for the first time.

Vanessa sort of caught on to the rules. She definitely understood the running around in circles part at least!

The outdoor game of choice at the reunion was Ladder Ball. It was a Kaylor reunion after all, so of course it had games! I actually had a minute to enjoy a toss or two. Much fun was had by all.

Here are the Kaylor siblings, plus Elizabeth and Vanessa. Although they aren't in this picture, Jake and Jessica and their daughters Katelyn, Jadyn, and Bryn were definitely in our hearts and minds on this day. It is hard sometimes that Texas is so far away. Tonight again, I'm definitely thinking of you, my brave family in Texas!

Here are a bunch of Kaylor cousins!

Here's my aunt Teri holding Elizabeth. We were very grateful that Teri and Bob were able to host a reunion at their home. We enjoyed seeing our extended family very much!

I thought I'd close with a picture of Vanessa and her uncle Zak, one of the few times that Vanessa held still during the reunion. Maybe it's because he pretended to put Play-doh in his ear, or maybe it was all that bouncing on the trampoline, but Vanessa just loves her uncle Zak.