Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Elizabeth's 3rd birthday, Melanie's wedding, and more

I was pretty sure I would have more time to post on the blog after I had graduated, but somehow we've been just as busy. Here is a picture of some reading time with Grandma that must have been taken sometime in April!

Here is a picture of Elizabeth when Grace came to visit and brought the dress that Elizabeth loves to wear best when we visit Grace's house!

The girls playing dresss up with Grace. Ah, the joy of dresses!

We've recently been harvesting the carrots that we are pictured planting here. Yep, I need to keep up better with our pics!

Vanessa decided one day to dress up like her daddy, complete with glasses, hat, button-up shirt, and belt.

This picture is from Easter. (Hey, at least it's not from as far back as Christmas!) You can see some plastic eggs with special treats, Elizabeth's new Totoro book, and some Winnie the Pooh Duplos that were some of their surprises that morning.

Aunt Heather and Uncle Terry brought some triple color-changing cars. They change one color when they get cold, and they change a third color when they get hot.

They pretty much played with these cars for an hour or so! In fact, they liked them so much that I decided to include cars like these as part of Elizabeth's birthday party later.

Just some cozy bedtime storytime with Daddy!

How cool is it to open a present bigger than yourself? Thanks Grandma K and Grandpa K, for this dollhouse castle!

Elizabeth spends some time with her Grandpa on her birthday. Elizabeth has been getting very particular about making sure she gets enough Grandpa hugs lately.

Hannah was super helpful in getting my house ready for a party, and here she is pushing little ones in the swing during the party. Is it really possible for someone to be so helpful and fun in just one person? I can't wait to see Hannah again when she visits soon!

So, those color changing cars are making a reappearance in this picture. I got lots more of them! Bridget is rolling one down the big ramp, while Sabi rolls one down the little ramp and Keren waits for a turn. My dad made a couple of awesome improvised ramps at the last second because I decided I wanted some.

Elizabeth said she wanted a strawberry shortcake, so she got one! Made by me and decorated by Nana. Elizabeth did a great job blowing out the candle!

Paige and Caroline enjoy some cake!

Just some simple marker time with Paige and Tess as the party started to wrap up.

Well, actually, it was unwrapping time! Many birthday parties wait until afterwards to open presents to limit the chaos a little, but actually, I think it was pretty fun to do it this way, and I know Elizabeth liked it too!

Aunt Joanna was able to make it to the party too! And here are Vanessa and Nana, of course!

Uncle Zak giving a superman back ride! It's a good thing Zak has so much energy because Elizabeth never seemed to tire of this excitement! I seem to remember Aunt Heather also giving a good number of adventurous back rides to Vanessa and Elizabeth that day.

Vanessa gets a back ride from Grandpa K.

A big family picture! James, Mary, Zak, my Dad, Hannah, and me across the back, with Vanessa, Donna, and Elizabeth across the front.

Fast forward a month or so to Melanie's wedding in Michigan! Here are Grandpa, Aunt Kalena, Uncle John, and Angelique.

Grandma Lou and Grandpa Phil arrived by horse and carriage! So sweet.

Here are Brian and his Grandpa, seeming to enjoy the music and stunningly beautiful weather that day.

Elizabeth couldn't be happier to see her Grandpa!

Vanessa gets a hug from Uncle Brian!

Here are James's Great-Uncle Gordon and Great-Aunt Jean.

Cousin Cynthia with her boyfriend Mike.

Time for a Mommy and Elizabeth cuddle!

Melanie and Derek, the happy couple!

I and the girls got a lift back to the reception in the horse-drawn carriage. What a treat!

A little daddy-daughter dance time!

Vanessa is dancing near the very young ring bearer Landon and his daddy, cousin Philip. What a cute and well-behaved ring bearer Landon was!

A very sweet daddy-daughter dance!

Vanessa danced many of the dances with her second cousin McKenna, the flower girl.

Me, Elizabeth, McKenna, and Vanessa!

Here are James's cousin Matthew and his daughter Clare.

Elizabeth also had a turn dancing with McKenna!

And she had a turn dancing with Aunt Joanna!

On our way back from Michigan, we stopped for a couple of nights at Niagara Falls. Here we are with the falls in the background.

My turn to take a picture! Everyone say Niagara Falls! We also went behind the falls through the tunnels, and enjoyed a closer and mistier view of the falls.

The girls are looking out of the window in our hotel room to see how the falls glowed at night.

We stopped by my friends Sara and Lee's house in Pennsylvania on the way back from Niagara Falls. Here is their littlest daughter Adalyn carrying around a grown-up purse. My girls had so much fun running around in all the lovely open spaces in the house.

Elizabeth standing in front of some of the riding toys she tried out while we were there.

I was so glad that Vanessa and Aryana got along like two kids who have been friends for a long time (which I guess they have!) We went to a theme park called Dutch Wonderland the following day, where all the girls enjoyed merry-go-rounds, sky rides, train rides, and even roller coasters for the bigger girls. Pictures to follow if I can get around to posting some!

So here is one thing that has been keeping us super busy lately -- home renovations! We hired some contractors to help us tear up the carpet in the basement, and had our shower retiled upstairs. We are glad to get rid of that old carpet and tile, and we are enjoying our new spaces! We've also been repainting all our rooms, and the girls room is bright pink now!

The girls are in Spanish camp this week, and I am pleased to say that they are enjoying it (although they are definitely worn out quite a bit each day). Grandma just visited and helped entertain the worn out girls on some very hot days good for playing inside. She brought new 18-inch dolls and hand-made doll clothes which the girls have been enjoying immensely.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Disney, Jake's wedding, and more!

So, it's finally spring break from my class, and now I have time to post about something that happened three months ago! Hopefully I can remember. James helped out by posting all these pics and some of the comments. If you are interested in what we have been doing in February, look at the next "older" post -- somehow I got these last two posts out of order.

Road trip day 2. Downtown Disney. Playing at T-Rex.

Moving on to the Lego Store at Downtown Disney.Road trip day 3. At the Magic Kingdom. Time to meet Daisy duck

We decided to buy autograph books for the girls this time. They were fascinated by the different signatures that the characters used (and so were James and I actually -- the characters each have to be so consistent, quick, and artful).

Then onto Mickey Mouse! Elizabeth wasn't quite ready to meet Mickey yet, because she had her mind set on playing on the playground first, but she met him later in a different costume. Vanessa was ready though!
How DO they sign with those big gloves?

Here is Elizabeth contentedly hiding at the playground.
Then to meet Pooh and Tigger!

What big smiles! You can tell that the girls really adore these characters.

But the best is yet to come, the princesses!

Elizabeth was in such awe of Sleeping Beauty, her favorite princess.

Vanessa and Elizabeth were so excited to pose with the princesses.
And best of all, to give hugs!

Vanessa's favorite is Cinderella, if you can't tell by her great big grin!

They also had such a sweet time with Belle!
What nice hugs! The girls afterwards kept asking me, "Why do the princesses keep calling us 'princess'?" Hard to explain...

Here is the weird pic where the diffraction erases part of our heads and about half of the man walking behind me.
This was our Christmas card photo. My mom's presence not only improves the picture above by adding her cheerful smile, but also eliminates the diffraction issues. If you didn't get one of these, we have lost your address!

Vanessa keeps asking me: "Why is Minnie Mouse so beautiful?" Truly, why? Such beauty is seldom found in mice.

The girls are getting ready for a parade at Hollywood Studios. Parades usually mean ice cream, as the girls well know.

This Mr. Potato Head costume was my favorite. I can't imagine how uncomfortable it is though, especially to walk in those oversized shoes. The costume wearer is kind of my new hero.
There is a playground there from "Honey I Shrunk the Kids." All the giant stuff making us feel small is kind of lost on our girls, but they enjoyed playing on it just the same.
They played in these caves with their Daddy for what seemed to me like half an hour! I was so glad to see their faces when they surfaced to the light!
Sitting in a dog footprint. Luckily, that is the only giant dog artifact the designers decided to include in this exhibit.
Vanessa loved stomping on these vine stumps, which make different bell tones when you step on them.
Elizabeth remembers not wanting to slide down this slide, but for Vanessa, it's just a little slide! Now Elizabeth doesn't mind going down slides, so next time we visit Disney, she'll tackle this one and more!

They really enjoyed riding the gi-ant.

Here Vanessa is meeting with Mickey again. Do you think he remembers her?
Maybe he signed her book twice, I'll have to check.
Elizabeth was feeling brave enough to meet him now.
Well, I have to admit, Mickey, you do look pretty good in that sparkly hat.

Shhhh.... it's later that night, at the Hollywood Studios firework show. Elizabeth has no idea (yet) about the loud noises, flame bursts, explosions, and music that are about to happen.

James liked these signs, and thinks "Really, really tippy top secret" should be added to the security clearance system in the US government workings.

Lightning McQueen and Mater! Who would have thought you could actually meet a car? And a truck? Awesome.
Here's a better shot of Mater.
I can't completely describe the Christmas light display at Hollywood Studios.
It was like nothing I had ever seen, and I dare anyone with a grinchy feeling to walk through all these lights, music, and tiny falling bubbles that seem like snowflakes without emerging with a distinctively positive Christmas spirit.

Chip and Dale. I'm not sure Vanessa really knew who they were, but she was excited to meet them anyway.
Here's Vanessa meeting Snow White!
I think Vanessa might be excited to show off her Superman shirt in this picture.
I love this picture, because the girls have nearly identical smiles! And I love the color composition too. Lots of bright colors!
Hug time! Elizabeth also got a very red ruby kiss on her forehead, but I don't seem to have a picture of it (partly because I didn't notice it for a while!)

Who is best at waiting in lines? The girls, their Daddy, or me? From this picture, I guess you could say the girls are probably better than me!

This time, we were waiting for Jasmine. Jasmine had some beautiful jewels on her crown and costume. Elizabeth was mesmerized.
Yay for Jasmine!
Donald Duck was the goofiest one of the characters. He played around with the girls by balancing their autograph books on his nose! They thought that was so, so silly.
And it worked to get some great smiles!
Completely exhausted. When they sleep in a pile like this, they remind me of puppies!
Universal studios was our last full day at a theme park. Two words. Harry Potter!

After traveling through Hogsmeade, we actually got to go IN Hogwarts! It has lovely talking paintings and some close-up tours of the classrooms and halls. There was a roller coaster ride (well, and part movie ride, kind of a combination) at the end of it. Our wait wasn't too long for the roller coaster, but I wouldn't have minded it being a little longer of a wait so we could have had a little more time to look around the castle!
We HAD to stop and get our picture taken with Spiderman. I mean, SO cool, right?

Vanessa found a tall rock she wanted to climb up on to enjoy the view. Time to climb down now, Vanessa... (I guess she did ride on several roller coasters at Disney, so no wonder she isn't worried about a little height!)

She could also get a good view from the Dumbo ride on our last morning at the Magic Kingdom. Grandma was more than happy to ride along.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was perfectly happy to "ride" in the stationary Dumbo car that was there for photo ops.
What could this look of pure joy and excitement be about?
Meeting none other than Ariel, of course! Just look at Elizabeth's face too, such excitement! It's those looks that keep parents coming back to Disney, I think...

Awe, simply awe.

And that hug was the last princess hug of Disney (and maybe even the best!).

We spent the rest of Christmas at James's Grandma Lou and Grandpa Phil's house in Lakeland. The girls got candy canes in their stockings!

Ooh, and money. It was actually pretty cool to let the girls pick out toys at Disney for their own Christmas presents with their Christmas money. I was surprised at how much they enjoyed buying things! (They get any joy from shopping from their father, as James will concur.)

What cool presents they opened! James's parents were so kind in carrying our presents back to Virginia so we could have a little more space in our van, because our trip was not yet half way over.

Vanessa is showing off a new Christmas ornament.

Elizabeth took up Grandpa Phil's offer to go pick a tangerine from the tree in the back yard. She pulled so hard, she nearly fell over.

But oh! Her joy at really picking the tangerine, and then opening and tasting it, too! What a cool experience.

And she loved sitting in Grandma Lou's lap, too!

SO many interesting things to see at their great-grandparents' house. Elizabeth loved the little figurines of Christmas trees and ice skaters.

Here is a family picture of James's mom's side of the family (a few missing, but a pretty good number of them!). That's Cynthia on the floor, and her mom Kathy to her right.

One of the other great things at this house is all the wonderful Christmas decorations that make noise! The girls' favorite was Frosty, who sang songs and twirled a short string of lights, and took off and replaced his hat.

There is nothing like an open, carpeted floor for dancing around in brand new dresses!

Our next stop was Atlanta. We saw many, many sharks and rays. One of the rays was doing somersaults in the water.

Here are 2 of the whale sharks that the aquarium hosts and rightfully boast about -- these sharks are huge!

Here's another picture of a whale shark from the side.
There was a traveling mermaid show in town, and the mermaids got in the water with the sharks to do their show. Very intriguing.

The girls loved the little photo op characters at the aquarium.

Especially the mermaid, I think.

Here's the whole crew (I must have been taking this picture).

These belugas were playing with a big green rectangular blanket.
The belugas came up so close to the glass. I think there were also some seals in this tank. You can see one right near Vanessa's head, swimming upside down.

Here's one beluga seemingly reaching out to touch Vanessa's hands with a flipper.

Me and Elizabeth watching the tail of a whale!

I think this is another shot of the belugas.

And here is one coming up nose-to-nose with Vanessa!

This was a great, big, colorful tank full of coral reef fish. We could have watched for an hour, I think.
Back at the hotel, there were many Christmas trees set up to earn money for certain charities. Vanessa loved the purple one, of course.

On to Texas! The girls were SO excited to play with their cousins. Here they check out the Zhu Zhu pets that Jadyn and Bryn got for Christmas.

Jadyn was very kind to share her new ipod with Vanessa!

Elizabeth LOVED the bunk beds. She especially loved being tall enough to touch the ceiling!

Trampoline, trampoline, trampoline! Pure joy, encapsulated in a toy.

James lifts Elizabeth for a slam dunk!

Vanessa and Bryn pose on the back of Katelyn's truck. Did I say Katelyn's truck???? Yes, she has a truck!!! Too cool.

Zak attempts to keep Bryn from making a basket. Zak, I hope you're prepared to defend against a girl with some serious b-ball skills!

Gotta get my picture with the truck! Well, OK, and I'll share with my daughters and my mom too.

Elizabeth, is, you guessed it, back on the trampoline!! This time, playing with the leaves.

Mary and Elizabeth have some quality coloring time together at the hotel in Texas.

Here are Vanessa and Daddy just before the wedding. I love this picture, what a cute kiss!

And such a sweet hug! Now there is a little girl who loves her Daddy!

Vanessa loves her Uncle Zak too!

"Mommy, Uncle Zak is crazy!" Vanessa always tells me. Child, you don't know the half of it... (just kidding, little bro!)

Now for some Elizabeth and Daddy resting time.

Hmmm.... time to do some thinking. I wonder which part of the wedding she is thinking about? I don't know, but she was definitely paying attention, because weddings are now a big part of playtime for us at home!

Time for some tickles from mommy!

I sure do love my Elizabeth.

Now for the star of the show, Britni! A beautiful bride, and quite funny too! I was so glad to be able to see this wedding! After so many stops and trips, how lucky we made it all the way there and got to be a part of it all.

Officially married! Welcome to the family, Britni!

And here is the family you get, Britni! I hope you enjoy being a part of it. We enjoy you!

Here's even more of my family, featuring my Dad's side of the family this time, and plus Katelyn, Jadyn, and Bryn.

You thought she was in for it with the new family, but now she's REALLY in for it!

Well, they both got it!

On the way home, now, and our last big stop. Memphis, to see Grammy Dee, James's Dad's mother. We really enjoyed staying in her home and visiting Aunt Lynn's house, where this picture was taken. The girls remember the magnets and the rocks best from Aunt Lynn's. I remember the company (well, and also the magnets and rocks, they were cool!)!

Here's James's family in Tennessee. Always a treat to visit with them!

After we got back home, Elizabeth had a bit of a cold and was actually napping (which she pretty much only does when she is sick). So, Vanessa was allowed to go out in the snow in the back yard alone for a few minutes. I think she was especially happy to be allowed to bring her umbrella!


This picture is a little out of place, but too much trouble to change it -- this is a picture of the Mr. Potato Heads that the girls created at one of the Disney stores. They had a blast playing with them.

And, for my birthday, my Dad and Hannah came to babysit the girls while James and I went to a show! What a gift, truly. The girls had fun and so did we! Thanks Dad!

So, that was our crazy, crazy trip. Thanks James for planning it all out, Mom for providing transportation, food, help, camera work, and more, thanks to James's parents for lugging gifts and for child care along the way, and thanks to Britni for marrying my brother and giving us a really, really good reason to visit Texas. Thanks for all the family members along the way for putting up with us, feeding us, entertaining us and taking care of us. What an amazing experience.