Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sand, surf, and sun

We spent a week in Florida starting on Christmas Eve. The weather was beautiful - not too hot, mostly sunny, and low humidity. Grace had a great time on the beach and in the pool almost every day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A baby doll?

Every time Grace saw Santa this holiday season she told him she wanted three things: 1) a baby doll, 2) a car, and 3) a Thomas train. Well, Santa arrived at our house on Saturday night and among her presents, were all three of these things. But, as you can see from the pictures, her favorite toys were the vehicles! (Notice the poor baby doll sitting all alone by the tree!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

To the North Pole and back

Last night Grace put on her new reindeer PJs and we rode The Polar Express to the North Pole (with Dawson, Kellie, Kyle, and Kellie's mom) for the second year in a row. (View last year's excursion here.) I think that qualifies this as a tradition, but I hesitate to say that out loud because the tickets are next to impossible to come by. We got lucky both years now, but I am optimistic and figure our luck won't run out until Grace can't hear the sleigh bell ring any more. (In case you are not familiar with the story, those that don't believe in Santa can no longer hear the bell.)

Chris Van Allsburg wrote the Caldecott Award winning book, The Polar Express in 1985 and Tom Hanks gave his voice to the characters in a 2004 movie version which garnered numerous awards including 3 Oscar nominations. The Polar Express is a seasonal favorite for families all over the country. And while reading the story or viewing the film can make for special holiday traditions, nothing compares to the magic of an actual train ride in your pajamas. On the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad the magical excursion to the North Pole is really a ride from Akron to Peninsula where the story is read aloud, elves sing Christmas carols, and everyone drinks hot chocolate while we wait to greet that jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus.Our trip this year started in the late afternoon so on the ride to the North Pole we could see the trees and buildings outside the train windows.Grace and Dawson shared popcorn and kept an eye on the other kids in our train car.Grace got a little silly with her name tag.......visited with Santa's elves.....and took very good care of her 2009 Polar Express ornament. In the movie vesrsion of The Polar Express, the conductor artisically punches holes in the kids' boarding tickets in the shape of their intials. Our conductor did the same!
When we got close to the North Pole, the kids used paper towels to wipe the windows so we could all see the elves, reindeer, and lights outside. Santa boarded the train at the North Pole and eventually made his way through the train cars and visited with each child, giving them all their own bells from his sleigh. Last night, Santa was even signing autographs!As soon as Santa picked Grace up she said, "Baby doll!" He didn't even ask her what she wanted, but by now, she knows she is supposed to tell him what she hopes is under the tree as a special present for her.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Opening presents

I think I am more excited about Christmas this year than Grace is! We are lucky to have so many friends and family that have been so generous that Grace has been able to open and enjoy some presents already. I try not to overindulge and I hope that she is learning to appreciate what she has. By opening presents a little early I think she has more time to play with and appreciate each one.

This morning we had a little time to relax together so I let her open a LeapFrog Clickstart cordless keyboard. You "connect" it to your TV and the television becomes the computer monitor. It comes with 4 games (each with two different levels) and it teaches colors, numbers, letters, and keyboarding and mouse skills. We tried it out right away and I can see that it is just a little bit above her level, but she was able to play some of the games to a limited extent. And she was very proud of herself when she saw something happen on the screen (like paint splashing, fruit dropping into baskets, etc.) The best part is when I walked away to let her do it on her own, I heard her saying, "Mommy, I got a G (or an H, P, W, S....). The game showed the letter, said its name and sound, and put up a picture that started with that letter on the screen as she touched the keyboard. I know Grace just repeating what she heard, but some of those were letters we haven't even talked about yet. I was impressed.

C'mon Mom. Let's go try it out!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Preschool performance

Once again a high school event at work coincided with an event at Grace's preschool (the other time was October 30th for Halloween). Today, it was the high school swing choir and a preschool holiday performance. So I slipped out of work to go see my girl perform with her friends. All I can say is "hysterical"! I was shocked to find that there were about 40-50 adults present, some equipped with some serious photography and video paraphernalia! Then they added ALL the preschoolers into the same classroom until there were close to 80 people packed in like sardines! I thought I got lucky to be in the front row, but that quickly became the 5th row when the kids sat on the floor in front. And, they didn't really sit, so you will see their little heads popping up in the video clips.Each group had a theme....even the infants performed (with the help of their caregivers, of course!) You can see these little elves peeking through the window into the doubt looking for their moms and dads in the crowd.Then came the little toddlers all dressed up as reindeer.Grace's group (what they call Discovery Preschool) was supposed to dress in red or white on top for their peppermint stick theme, which was the topic of the rhyme in this video. I have to laugh at how Grace is just staring into the crowd and then does her own thing by wandering around....that's my Grace! She has her own agenda.

For their second act, Grace's class sang and danced to a song called, "Snowflake, Snowflake". I know she knows the words because she has been singing them at home all week. But, I didn't see her mouth move at all during this song! She does do the dance, though, along with move around the group to check out her classmates, her teachers, the CD player.... This video gives you a better idea of how much activity was going on all at once in the room - just one big, happy family!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2 year Blogoversary

How did someone who has never kept a diary or journal manage to keep an online blog going for two years? Don't ask me....I don't have the answer. But today marks 2 years since I started this blog on December 17, 2007. Over 350 posts later here we are, with no end in sight. For now, I plan to keep it going. It's great way to allow my parents, family, and friends (especially those who don't live close to us) to see Grace on a regular basis and it is becoming a history - a "Life Book" - for Grace to see someday.
I know there are a lot of people that read the blog, but don't comment. So, in honor of my 2-year blogoversary, if you are out there "lurking" (and I am glad you are!) leave a little love today in the comment section!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas flowers

If you have a poinsettia in your home or office or gave one as a gift this Christmas season, the chances are pretty good it came from Guatemala. According to industry statistics, Guatemala is the top grower of poinsettias in the world, producing 60 million poinsettias annually (80% of the production in the world). The poinsettia, known as pascua in Guatemala, is native to Guatemala and is in bloom from October through March. It can be found in the wild but it is also cultivated in gardens and, like in the United States, it is an integral part of Christmas decorations.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mean girls

I love that Grace is able to tell me things. She clearly and regularly expresses what she wants and doesn't want. If you catch her when she is in the mood, she will talk and talk. But the best part about all this talking is that she can tell me what goes on at school. Sometimes I ask her about her classmates at school or what they did that day. Well, for the last week, she has been telling me about one little girl that is not very nice. When I ask her if this girl is her friend she replies, "No Mommy. Maddie not nice." And I ask her why or what Maddie does she says, "Maddie pushing" with this disgusted look on her little face. This makes me so upset. How can anyone be mean to my sweet little angel? But the reality is, kids can be mean to each other and this (unfortunately) won't be the last time she encounters other kids who are bullies. You can bet I talked to the teachers, who denied seeing any pushing going on. But then last Friday Grace got bitten and when I asked her who did it she told me without hesitation, "Maddie!". Uhhhh! I told her (and will keep telling her) that if anyone is mean to her at school she should move away and go play with another friend. When we had this little talk she listened so closely as if she was really in need of a strategy to help in this situation. I wish I could be with her all day to guide her, but some of these things are social experiences she is going to have to work out on her own. But, really, she is 2 1/2. I never imagined it would start this early!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Run, run as fast as you can... can't catch the gingerbread man!Yesterday, Grace invited her friends Mayna and Dawson (and their moms!) over for brunch, playtime, and cookie decorating. I set up a table and chairs we borrowed from Kellie and Dawson as a place for the girls to eat and do their craft.Grace was funny....she got dressed in a cute holiday dress and red tights but instead of shoes she wanted to wear her slippers! When we were ready to get messy, the girls wore matching snowmen aprons. We started with pre-baked gingerbread men and then let the kids have fun getting creative and decorating them with "paint", icing, and some small candies. They seemed to have a great time!
Great tripod grip, Dawson!
The "paint" was an experiment that worked out pretty well. The recipe was 1 tablespoon of corn syrup mixed with a few drops of food coloring. Using new paint brushes, each girl had a paper cup with her own color and then switched for their second cookies.They also used icing tubes as the "glue" for their decorations.We decided to save Grace's finished cookies to leave out for Santa. Isn't he lucky? He gets to eat the masterpieces she created!
One other thing....I didn't do a Thanksgiving post on the blog this year. Everyone knows I am most thankful for Grace, but the truth is, I have so many things to be thankful for that there was no way I could list them all in one blog post. Today, though, I was reminded how grateful I am that I met two amazing, like-minded women - Aimee and Kellie - through our daughters. They are wonderful moms and successful career women, who are both easy-going, fun to be around, and people I hope to have as friends for a very long time. We have a great time whenever we get together and it feels like we have known each other forever. AND they both love taking photos as much as I do. I have them to thank for the great pictures of the girls today. For more great photos check out their blogs here and here.