Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter and too many pictures!

I didn't get any good pictures of us having Easter brunch with James's parents, and still I have an abnormally large number of pictures to post from Easter time. I blame the excessive charm of our recent visitors.

Here is baby Lilly and her mommy Kim! James and I were super excited to meet Lilly for the first time. Look at her strong little legs! She's only four months old. We definitely been missing Kim and Stacey since we've moved up to nothern VA from Blacksburg.

Here's Lilly with her daddy Stacey. Lilly has such gorgeous blue eyes.

Elizabeth was a little shy, but she can sense another mommy, I think!

Vanessa shows off her big sister skills. She knows just how gently to hug a baby!

Our grown-up friend Vanessa and her daughter Samantha visited us for a little Easter egg hunt and a night on the town. We've been admiring Samantha on her blog for months, but this was the first time we got to meet her. If possible, she's even cuter in person! I think this picture is funny because everyone is looking in different directions! But I think it's cool because it has James and his daughter, as well as grown-up Vanessa and her daughter. I can't quite put into words how grateful I am to grown-up Vanessa and our friend Dean to give us a great excuse to get out of the house AT NIGHT WITHOUT CHILDREN. James and I haven't done that in more than a year! And now seems a great time to mention that I have the best in-laws I could ever have wished for -- because of course they watched Vanessa and Elizabeth for us.

All Vanessa could say while we were taking this picture was, "Dean, Dean, Dean."

Our Vanessa's not so sure about sharing her friend Dean with Samantha. Soon Samantha will be wanting Dean to read books to her too... I'm not sure what will happen the next time we get together!

Vanessa was excited about her Easter basket and her egg hunt. Daddy had put 5 different types of Vanessa's favorite snacks in them. She talked about her yummy snacks for days!

The little ones enjoyed their egg hunt too -- although instead of looking for them throughout the room, they just looked through their baskets. Elizabeth ate all of her own yummy snacks and then moved on to Samantha's.

Ooh, shiny egg.

Shiny, and full of yummy snacks. I can't blame them, that does make for interesting eggs!

And another picture of Vanessa cuddling with Dean!

"No, Mr. Owl, look this way!" Elizabeth's new obsession is our garden owl. It does, after all, have a spinny head. I'd say she spent upwards of 20 minutes playing with it the other day.

Daddy and his little sweethearts!

My cousin Mollie visited us recently for a fun few days. I very much enjoyed going shopping with her, which is saying something, because shopping and I usually don't mix too well! I'm glad Kalena came along, not just because she's great company, but because of her shopping expertise!

Mollie was just awesome with the girls. I think she did a better job of putting Vanessa to bed than I usually do. And by the end of her visit, both girls were completely enamoured with her.

Mollie and Aunt Heather taught Vanessa a fun game -- throwing tissue paper and hiding Vanessa under it!

My Dad and sister Hannah came to visit. Hannah was so sweet with both girls, gentle with Elizabeth and wacky and playful with Vanessa.

Hannah indulged the girls in some time on the swing.

My Dad spent some time showing Elizabeth all of the wonders in her backyard.

What could be more fun than bouncing on the bed with the help of Aunt Heather?

How about, bouncing on the bed with the help of Aunt Heather AND Aunt Hannah, dressed in a tunnel.

Vanessa enjoyed Heather's and Hannah's Mexican hat dance. Vanessa is tipping Heather a plastic muffin.

My girls love their Uncle Terry. And I love that he entertains them so well and gives me so much of a break! Elizabeth has become fascinated with all the sticks and leaves and flowers in the back yard, and Uncle Terry spent lots of time helping her explore them.

Elizabeth is showing signs that she is starting to enter toddlerhood rather than babyhood. For example, she's walks most of the time now. She can crawl up the stairs, and, much to my surprise, she can climb up on child-sized chairs and stand on them. Today she brought me her socks and shoes and then begged at the door to go out and play. She also really likes to put socks inside various shoes that she finds around the house. Her word recognition is rapidly increasing, and she can say a few words, including "mama," "dada," "uh-oh," "echo," and I'm pretty sure she also says "shoe." When I gave her a plastic O today and said "O," she looked at the writing on her pajama shirt and pointed out the "O" on it.

Vanessa, meanwhile, is rapidly leaving toddlerhood. She has been making me laugh so much lately, even though sometimes I shouldn't! Here is a recent conversation I had with her:
me: "Vanessa, Mommy's going to eat your French toast." (this so Vanessa would stop playing and recognize lunch time)
Vanessa: "Mommy, if you eat my French toast, I'm going to eat you up."

Here's another one with Daddy that she had while visiting Daddy at his school, George Mason University. They were passing the student life center that had an interesting drawing that looked a bit like a banana but was geared more towards family planning. :)

Vanessa: "Daddy, I see something!"
Daddy: "You see something all right."
Vanessa: "Daddy, I SEE something!"

This conversation was a bit of a stalemate, and only became more complicated when Vanessa later saw graffiti (adult pictures and words) in the men's room. I knew that reading would get her in trouble one of these days...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A walk to lake Accotink and other adventures

My sister Heather and I walked the girls down to Lake Accotink a week and a half ago. It was one of those extremely marvelous trips that really deserved a blog entry all to itself, but, as always I'm running behind on my posts so I have some newer pictures to post today too.

Daddy has been trying very hard to get to work early so he can get home earlier. I'm loving the extra help while I prepare dinner (on those days I manage to plan dinner). The girls are loving it too, of course! Elizabeth and Vanessa LOVE playing piano with their Daddy. They leap up on his lap as soon as he sits down. Vanessa has been working on playing a real sheet music piece with a repeating sequence of three notes in it. Elizabeth likes to push all the buttons that play rhythms or change the sound of the notes. Elizabeth has started signing "music" (she prefers the arm-wavy kinds of signs like "music," "cold," "all done," "potty," and "where.")

Everybody tackle Daddy! I think this must be a favorite game dating back to caveman times.

Elizabeth's favorite occupation at the moment is going around the house and emptying all the drawers and cabinets. Here she is emptying all of Vanessa's pants out of her pants drawer. I think part of the reason she does this is that she sees Vanessa doing it first! The nice thing about Vanessa right now is that she usually will put the clothes back in the drawer after tossing them all out to choose one to wear. Elizabeth is at the stage where she is able to put things places, but not necessarily in useful places. For example, she has put her rattle in the kitchen trash and likes to drop toys through the gate to watch them bounce downstairs. But she also does help when we're cleaning up the legos or putting the plastic food back in the toy shopping cart. And although she makes a mess, emptying all the drawers does keep her content when I am busy!

The girls do have a cold, I think, although Vanessa seems to be just about over hers. I don't know, it's so tricky to tell. The girls have been pretty much sick with colds since November, so I'm not sure I remember exactly how they behave when they're healthy. :) But in any case, I feel like cold season is over and I'm feeling more up for visiting friends. Here's Vanessa being reunited with her friend Abigail. Awww...

And Abigail and Vanessa playing the way they most like to play together, jumping!

Abigail's little sister Isabelle is just a couple of months older than Elizabeth. I think Elizabeth is going to really enjoy having playgroups with someone her own age!

I've decided that perhaps one of the reasons that Elizabeth keeps emptying the drawer with all the markers in it is that she really wants to draw just like her big sister. So I decided that's just what washable markers are for! Elizabeth is getting the hang of it, sort of!

Other than occasionally trying to tackle Elizabeth on the hard kitchen floor (tackling is how Vanessa shows her love), Vanessa really is being such a sweet and helpful big sister. She's even sort of grasping that mysterious concept of taking turns.

And she really does look out for Elizabeth. Here she's "feeding her" some water.

On one of my mornings when I escaped to go for a weekly run, I came back to find that Vanessa and Daddy had been busy constructing towers. Vanessa helped make the tower so high!

Later, the tower became a house just the right size for Vanessa.

Elizabeth is always trying to put on her sister's clothes. Here she is trying to wear one of Vanessa's socks.

Elizabeth now officially has four teeth. I think three of them are visible in this picture. I always think that teeth really make a kid look so much more grown up.

Have I mentioned how much I like warmer weather? Ahh. Here we are out on the swings. Elizabeth seems to like them almost as much as Vanessa does.

While James was cleaning up the yard, he found a little toad! Vanessa was pretty impressed. Now in our yard we've seen a toad, an oppossum, a fox, chipmunks, black squirrels and gray squirrels, and all kinds of birds, including a pileated woodpecker.

And Elizabeth was also impressed!

Have I mentioned that Vanessa uses tackling to show her love? Here she is getting her Aunt Heather, before we set off on our walk to the lake.

I tried to time our walk just right so that we would see the passenger train go under the bridge that is on the way to the lake. It comes under the bridge at 1:50 PM on weekdays, but you'd never find that in any train schedule! We got to the bridge a few minutes early, so we took the girls out of the stroller for a rest and a little snack.
When we started to hear the train coming in the distance, Vanessa noticed a bright red cardinal flying around inside the covered bridge, unable to find his way out. Vanessa's solution to this was to run as fast as she could toward the cardinal, with her quick footsteps clanging on the metal bridge. Remarkably, it worked, and the cardinal found an escape route just before Vanessa reached him! Then the train started thundering toward us. The whole bridge reverberated when the train came and the echoes bounced off the sides of the gap that the bridge spans. The noise was tremendous! When the train came close and blew its whistle, a bald eagle lifted off from his perch and soared a little further away. The man in the picture above confirmed that it was a bald eagle and snapped a picture of it. Elizabeth and Vanessa were in awe of the train as it disappeared into the distance. A lady with her dog was passing by and gave the girls an extra excitement to meet a friendly dog.

We saw three deer, a doe and two fawns a little farther along our path to the lake. We saw the bald eagle again, this time actually diving to the surface of the lake to catch something! And the girls saw a fisherman land a fish of some kind. Oh, and we walked through a flock of Canada geese. One of the geese was making a point of honking and hissing and chasing the other geese. We saw another train rumble over a different bridge, one that overlooks the lake. This time it was a freight train with 51 cars according to Aunt Heather's count.

Most times when I go to the lake, we head to the playground. I'm so glad that this time we opted to play in the sand on the little beach. Aunt Heather built sand castles and Vanessa added some windows and a door. Elizabeth found some very interesting sticks to explore. Vanessa used a long stick to tap the surface of the lake and make ripples. Elizabeth walked very fast all over the sand, holding onto Heather's or my finger. Vanessa enjoyed chasing Heather or being chased as fast as she could.

Elizabeth stayed awake during our entire journey. Vanessa on the other hand, fell fast asleep on the ride home.