Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Woohoo! I managed to post about Thanksgiving before Christmas is upon us!

Thanksgiving was just as it should be this year, full of lots of friends and family. We even got an early start on Thanksgiving, celebrating with my Mom and Heather and Terry and Zak on the weekend just prior to Thanksgiving.

Aunt Heather has many talents, but one of my favorites is making my girls laugh! Elizabeth loved playing peekaboo through Heather's hair.

Thanksgiving can be a bit of a nondisjunction of holidays, because it tends to be the beginning of the Christmas season as well as a holiday in itself. Vanessa decides to add Easter into the mix, by discovering her egg basket and pulling it out its storage place.

Now it's time for Aunt Heather to give Vanessa the giggles!

And Uncle Zak gets some good goofy giggles from Elizabeth too!

Grandma gets a big Elizabeth grin with a rubber ducky toy.

Ah, this picture is mostly to remind myself to bring a CAMERA to Thanksgiving, for Pete's sake. This picture was taken with my phone, alas, the resolution is not so great. On Thanksgiving Day, we joined James's parents and Brian and Joanna (and their dog Kyra and new dog Winston) for our big meal. Oh, and if you are wondering who Vanessa invited to the table (and carried all the way down the stairs and into the dining room), that's Nana's doll from when she was little!

Just after Thanksgiving, it was time to put up the Christmas tree. I don't think Daddy could have done it half as quickly without help from his little elves.

We were so fortunate to have a visit from our friends Janet, Ryan, Peter, and new baby Evan. I tried to take some pics of Ryan and Evan, but the red-eye was beyond touching up. But this picture of Janet and Peter is very cute, isn't it? Peter and Evan are such little sweethearts.

Can you believe that they were sharing a turn on the piano for a few minutes? See, I told you Peter is a sweetheart.

I was a week or two late with my every-three-months-with-special-doll pictures. Well, here is Vanessa at three years and three months, and Elizabeth at 18 months with their special dolls from Grammy Dee.

Elizabeth just had her 18 month appointment today. (Again a little late, but just you wait, I'm going to be much more prompt about things now that I won't be taking classes until the fall!) She weighed 23 pounds 10 ounces and she was 32 inches tall. She had an ear infection so she was given a short reprieve from her shots. For Vanessa on the other hand, our trip was a bit of a dis-appointment -- I decided to let her have the H1N1 vaccine. Ouch!

Elizabeth is doing just great developmentally -- I think my favorite skill of hers is singing, because I think she has a better memory for tune than I do, and a pretty good memory for lyrics too! The other day when I sang "Frere jacques, frere jacques" for the first time to her, Elizabeth sang out the next line "Here I am" from "Where is Thumb-kin?," which shares the same melody. And she has a good visual memory too -- when she saw the word "National" today, she pointed and said "Nana," because it starts with the same letters, I guess.

Here is Vanessa holding her Miss Dee doll.

Vanessa's new skills include being able to write letters in small spaces (she was practicing putting a few of the simpler letters inside the squares on a crossword puzzle), and writing her name and a few other words. She's finally breaking out of her "must only color with purple" phase, and just in time, because our purple paint is almost gone and our purple markers are exhausted. Vanessa has been working on her enunciation -- she can say her hard G and K sounds now and is better about her double consonants in words like "spoon" and "school."

Vanessa can now enter a password and log in to an account that James set up for her on our laptop, change her account picture icon, open up MS Paint and do some drawings, open up MS Word and type some names, and log off. She calls this "checking her email." Ah, Vanessa, how dangerous you will be soon...

The girls' great-grandmother Grandma Lou sent some light-up snowman ornaments for the Christmas tree. Elizabeth and Vanessa were both excited the minute they opened the package, and that was only just because they found the bubble wrap... they could hardly believe their luck when they discovered that there were also ornaments inside!

Now how does Grandma Lou know that red is Elizabeth's favorite color and Vanessa loves blue and purple best? I guess grandmas just make that kind of stuff their business.

After trying to make sugar cookies at a friend's house with some success, I thought I would try it out at home as one of our snowed-in activities. Only now with practice, Elizabeth and Vanessa were even faster with cutting out the cookies and even trickier to keep up with. I'll get ahead of you girls one of these years, just you wait...

Here is one picture of some of the snow that fell on our back yard this Saturday. Snow was still falling, and I think about 3 more inches of snow fell than is pictured here. I like this picture because it shows the lovely snow gumdrops that our little round backyard tables made! Right now I can hear the plow going past in our street, three days after all of this. I'm very thankful that we and everyone we know is safe and not stuck anywhere because of all this snow. Instead, it just makes for outdoor fun! The girls and I plan to attempt a snowman tomorrow. We'll see if we make it into our snow clothes and outside before someone needs to use the potty...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mollie's wedding (and related adventures)

I have two posts to get through before Christmas... let's see if I can do it!

When we traveled to the Eastern Shore just before Thanksgiving to see Mollie and Fred's wedding, we stayed in Virginia Beach. I decided to start this post with the pictures from our adventure on the day after the wedding -- we visited the beach and the aquarium in Virginia Beach. I'll save pics of Mollie and Fred for this post's big finish.

We saw turtles, sharks, and fish. Many of them about as big or bigger than Elizabeth!

Last time we saw one of these steam tornado demonstrations (possibly actually a waterspout demo), Vanessa refused to touch it and Elizabeth was the one who was interested in it. Funny how things change for no apparent reason.

Elizabeth was feeling brave enough to try to touch a ray.

Both girls loved the seal exhibit outside the aquarium. I think I could watch seals for hours, myself!

Later on the beach, the girls spent some time digging in the sand and making sand castles (really sand piles with bits of sticks in them).

Not sure why Daddy and Elizabeth were headed in opposite directions in this picture. Looks like they're running from each other! Actually, probably James is headed to check on Vanessa and Elizabeth is running to find me, I imagine.

Now Elizabeth and Daddy are holding hands. We saw a surfer accompanied by a speedboat. I think Elizabeth may have been watching them in this picture.

I just like the composition in this picture. I think this may have been just before or after I convinced Vanessa to touch the icy water with her toes.

There's something very peaceful about this picture, I think.

Vanessa is showing Elizabeth a shark or ray egg case that we found.

OK, now on to the wedding pictures from the previous day:

Bubbles. In some young hearts, the best part about weddings. By the way, Vanessa plays "getting married" quite often now (mostly involving finding some kind of bouquet). So apparently she really enjoyed Mollie's!

Uncle Zak helps Vanessa take some pictures with the cameras that Mollie and Fred distributed for the purpose of filling out their photo album. I bet they had no idea that some of their pictures would be taken by a toddler...

Fred and Mollie and Mollie's folks. Happy wedding!

Have I mentioned the joy of bubbles? Yay!

Thank you Uncle Terry for watching my girls! There were times during the reception when someone would ask, "Where's Vanessa?" or "Where's Elizabeth" and I would have absolutely no idea. Thank goodness Terry had things under control!

I thought I'd end with a picture of the happy couple dancing. What a beautiful bride!

Monday, November 02, 2009


We had a very lovely October. The leaves changed beautifully and the weather stayed warm for the most part. We've had lots of opportunity to play outside, and we've had fun with Vanessa's school and we've seen lots of family and friends.

I think Vanessa has grown 3/4 of an inch this month. And she looks so grown up with her fancy hair ties. This was my first attempt EVER at putting up her hair, so no laughing. She wanted one of each of the six colors of hair ties I had, and it was a bit of a challenge to find enough space for all of them.

We had a great time at Clifton Day. I think one of the highlights for the girls was feeding the pony. The pony ate right from their little hands!

Later, we met up with Brian, Joanna, and Kyra. A great day, all around!

Here's another picture of the girls feeding the animals. I think this is Elizabeth's first experience with a cow. She must think they're all this size!

On Nana's birthday, Vanessa and Elizabeth got to hang out even more with Uncle Brian, Joanna, and Kyra. The girls are definitely enjoying having their uncle and soon-to-be-aunt living nearby. Aunt Kalena and Uncle John were also up for Nana's birthday. It was wonderful to see them too!

Vanessa and her Nana. Happy birthday Nana!

Elizabeth tasted her first chocolate cake, and... liked it!

For Halloween, Vanessa wanted to be Cinderella. So of course, Elizabeth did too! I happened to have this light blue dance costume on hand because I had bought it for Vanessa's dance class. Elizabeth decided it was close enough! The girls had some serious practicing to do in their costumes before Halloween.

They had to practice all their ballet moves.

Especially those arabesques! I don't know if you can tell that Vanessa's heel is reflective, but both girls' feet were completely covered in glitter by the time they finished dancing. Vanessa's dress shedded glitter all over the house. A few days later when Elizabeth danced on the mat (out of costume), she kept checking to see if her feet were getting shiny.

This is really kind of a private joke -- I'm using a lot of SQL in my database class right now. Vanessa inadvertantly combined these letters while trying to group together purple letters. Purple, by the way, is Vanessa's new favorite color. I think changing favorite colors is just a tactic to get all new clothes...

Silly girl number 1.

Silly girl number 2!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Singing and telling stories

Elizabeth and Vanessa have been singing, singing, singing. I think preschool helps with the singing -- I often hear Vanessa sing "Wheels on the Bus" because they practice that one at school.

Elizabeth on the other hand has been singing "Happy birthday to you," I think because of Nana's recent birthday. Vanessa meanwhile has been playing the Happy Birthday tune on the piano (she has stickers for the letters of the notes on the piano keys to help her out). Elizabeth's other favorite parts of songs to sing are "Row, row, row your boat," "ashes, ashes, we all fall down," "moon, moon, moon," and "up above the." Incidentally, she calls stars "up above the"s.

Vanessa wrote and illustrated a new story today. Here is what she told me to write: "Stegosaurus dived into the water. He got out of the water and then he jumped! And then he turned around and scratched to make these lines."

Vanessa is here with me and she says she wants to write more. Here is what she wants to type (with only a very little bit of spelling help from me):


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Remembering Jessica

My sister-in-law Jessica passed away a year ago this month. I think about her quite often. One of the most painful things about losing her is the loss of that illusion that I had since I was young, that death is too far away to worry about. The truth is that loved ones can be lost and that grief can be very real.

On the other hand, this reminds me to love life and be happy NOW, because you never know what might happen. And that the parts of my loved ones' lives that I have already shared are true gifts, never to be taken for granted.

I miss my sister, but I am so humbled and grateful to have been a part of her life. What an amazing mommy and truly outstanding friend!

October is breast-cancer awareness month, go out and make a difference!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Elizabeth wows us!

The other day, James said he felt like he's been away for a week and Elizabeth grew up while he wasn't watching. I feel the same way -- it's like I turned my back and all of a sudden she's a toddler! Since I was so good about trying to use this blog as a "baby book" for Vanessa to keep track of her milestones, I will also try to keep up with Elizabeth's. Elizabeth is now 16 months old.

Elizabeth speaks in full sentences now -- not all the time, but a few times a day. Today for example, she said, "I need help" and "I'm running," and other memorable sentences have been "I see bubbles," and "I want to read book." She says ALL kinds of words, including "fountain" and "arabesque." One of her favorite words is "match" when she finds things that do, and she starts counting "one..." when she sees many things that are alike. She knows, says, and signs all her colors and she knows most of her letters. When we read "Where's Spot?" she says "No" when I point to the word "No," and she can identify the word "up" in another book.

She hugs and pretends to feed dolls and LOVES to stack duplos, drive matchbox cars and make toy airplanes fly. She loves playing dress-up, especially with shoes. She can help clean up and especially enjoys sweeping. One of her relatively new skills is blowing her nose -- I just wish she wouldn't blow her nose and then practice one of her other skills, cleaning the table (with the same tissue, argh).

She loves to be just like her big sister, whom she recently learned to call "Sessa" (previously "Yah-yah"). She really loves Vanessa's preschool and I think she would love to go. She also misses tagging along to Vanessa's dance class... I can tell because when she sees a picture of a ballerina, she says, "dance class, go!" and gets up to leave!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preschool, Mickey, Shamu, and Radars

I decided to take Vanessa Halloween costume shopping in an effort to give mommy some more free time. In a mild upset, she chose Cinderella over what I thought was a lock in Ariel. Here she models her costume for Nana in preparation for her visit to Disney World.

Vanessa has also started school! She goes to school literally a half a mile a way, so Sarah and Elizabeth can drop her off and pick her up in a stroller. Vanessa goes back and forth about being excited about school and not wanting to do it. Usually if we remind her that you have to be 3 to go to school she gets excited about it.

Elizabeth on the other hand loves school and its hard for Sarah to pull her away. She wants to be just like her older sister. Here they hang out after school on the playground.

Switching gears here, as part of my transition to new responsibilities at work, I signed up for a Basic Radar Concepts course in Orlando, Florida. It's an introductory radar course offered by Georgia Tech. I figured that since I'd be in Orlando for three days, I might as well extend my stay, bring the family, and visit some famous theme park in the area.

We stayed at the Disney All-Star Music resort. Because we were going during their "offseason", we got a great deal of $69 a night. Here we are riding the free bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios).

No sooner had we walked into Hollywood Studios than a Block Party Parade broke out. Vanessa decided she needed an aerial view of the festivities.

One thing about Florida during the summer/fall is that you should expect some form of rain every day and lots of sun, very little in between. Here you can see that as one smart soul heads for cover, our girls head on out to play.

They really liked playing in really warm rain. I enjoyed a nice sheltered view.

Here is a perfect example of the difficulty of taking pictures of our girls. Right now they look absolutely soaking wet and miserable outside Mickey's hat.

Just 30 seconds later they look so happy! I don't know what Sarah did to elicit that response.

Day 2 of Disney took us to the Animal Kingdom. Here the girls enjoy the tram ride from our car to the front gates.

This was my first trip to the Animal Kingdom since it had been built more recently than I had visited. As you can see, this day's weather was much more typical for Florida in the summer.

Animal Kingdom is sort of a combination zoo and theme park. Here we are on the way to check out some birds.

While waiting for our safari ride, we walked through one of the animal exhibits. We spent a good time here looking at the fish and the hippo (not appearing in this picture).

Here we are on the safari ride. This was really cool. You basically are on a Jurassic Park style ride through the wildlife reserve.

Here the girls check out some elephants. Elizabeth loves elephants.

After getting off the safari, we stumbled upon some drums. My girls are never one to pass up playing some music, so we took a break for a brief jam session.

Walking a little bit down the road, I saw a small sign that said Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger. I knew that Vanessa was just fine with meeting larger than life characters as she had previously tackled the Chick-fil-a cow. She was SO excited to meet Pooh et al. Elizabeth was a bit more tenative.

Vanessa actually smiled for the camera here. Elizabeth is still a bit unsure.

She seemed to like Eeyore a bit more. Here she gets in some peek-a-boo with him.

Once again, Vanessa snuggled up close. Elizabeth was still keeping her distance.

I think of these three, Vanessa was most excited to see Tigger.

Elizabeth also warmed up to Tigger. I suspect she'll inherit Vanessa's Tigger costume for Halloween, so this was a good meeting for her.

One thing Disney does well are their variants of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Here Vanessa demonstrates that she knows how to make her Triceratops go up and down.

Tuesday was the first day of my class, so Sarah took the girls to the pool at the hotel and headed out to Epcot later in the day. I think they spent most of their time in the water fountains. I headed over to Epcot for dinner, but we spent the least amount of time there. It's a bit much for the youngins.

Wednesday marked the arrival of Nana to Orlando. She arrived around lunchtime and took the girls to the Magic Kingdom while I was in class.

By the time I got out of class, I found the girls playing in Ariel's grotto.

Think Elizabeth likes the water?

I decided to give Nana and Sarah a break and take Vanessa to meet her favorite little mermaid.

I think she's a bit excited and happy to be sitting next to someone special.

Ariel was very nice. Vanessa was hopping up and down so much it was difficult to get her to sit for a photo.

Elizabeth loved the extra time with Nana.

This is my favorite picture we got there. We're all smiling, looking at the camera, and you can tell where we are. Good job Disney photographer!

On Thursday, Grandma Lou drove over from Lakeland and took the girls to Magic Kingdom while I continued to get firehosed with radar range equations and electronic countermeasures. Vanessa sure loves her Nana.

Apparently Sarah couldn't get the girls away from these cactus statues of Goofy et al in Mickey's backyard.

One thing I really like about Disney is that they let you bring in your own food and drinks if you want. Sarah and the girls took full advantage of this. Just don't try to take those crackers away from Vanessa.

Vanessa enjoyed taking the family for a spin in tea cups from Alice in Wonderland. She insisted on doing the spinning all by herself.

The girls loved all the playgrounds at Walt Disney World.

Vanessa and Elizabeth loved chasing each other in a nice shaded area.

Right near by were there of the princesses. Here we are with Princess Aurora, aka Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty. Vanessa was a bit shy and insisted that Daddy sit with her.

That shyness completly disappeared when we met Cinderella.

Very excited. VERY excited.

By the time we had gotten to Belle, Vanessa was willing to be more open. After telling Belle her name, she also tells her how old she is. Belle shows her that there are many ways to sign three.

Vanessa really enjoyed her visit to the princesses. They were very polite, kind, and patient.

Here the girls wear their matching outfit while in line for the Jungle Cruise. Aren't they cute?

They do love each other so much.

My cousin Cynthia and her daughter McKenna drove over to see the electric parade with us. Here Grandma Lou is laughing as Vanessa decided to eat her ice cream like a cat. It was pretty silly.

On Friday we headed back to Hollywood Studios to see what we missed. Vanessa was a bit scared of the bad guy. That hasn't stopped her from continuing to ask to see him everytime we scan through these pictures.

This was part of the same Jedi Academy show. Basically they pull 12 children from the audience, put them in Jedi robes, give them a lightsaber, teach them how to swing it, and then each in turn gets to fight Darth Vader. Then they get a Padawan diploma. The family in front of us had seen the show six times because their two daughters had already gotten chosen but their son hadn't. Good thing this wasn't around when I was kid, I would have driven my parents nuts.

We finally found Mickey hiding out in the Animation gallery. The girls were very excited to meet him. This might end up being our Christmas card photo this year.

Nana agreed to get in one picture to prove to her coworkers she was at Disney and not just playing golf.

On Saturday we went to Sea World. It's hard to see, but here Vanessa and I are feeding the Dolphins. She LOVED this.

I think Elizabeth liked Sea World even more than Vanessa. She loved watching the rays and sharks whenever she got a chance.

Finally, on our last day in Florida, we went to the Magic Kingdom one last time. I had taken Vanessa on Goofy's Barnstormer the first time, but Mommy loves roller coasters. Here you can see them just coming around the bend.

Finally, on our way out we ran into Jasmine and Aladdin. Vanessa was so excited she couldn't contain herself.

I love this picture because she looks terrified. In reality, she's doing her smile combined with overstimulation because she's so excited. Overall the girls were amazing and definitely encouraged their parents to take them again in a couple of years.
I also highly recommend that Basic Radar Concepts course if you're looking to learn about radars. The professor who taught the class was one the best presenters I've seen, and trust me, I've sat through several degrees worth of college classes at this point in my life. ;)