Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vacation Rides

We just returned from a fabulous 4 night, 5 night adventure in Orlando, Florida with Opa, Mae, Cousin Tori, Aunt Kristal and Uncle Chris. We steered clear of most things Disney this time down but still had a blast at Sea World, which was walking distance from our hotel. I have much to write about the trip, but I'm starting with one of the most pleasant surprises for me which was the rides at Sea World. In Shamu's Happy Harbor there were several kiddie rides that both of the girls could go on as long as Erik or I went with them. I was quite impressed with the girls! Maddie even cried whenever she had to get off and would start chanting "ride ride". Here are a few pictures:

This happy crab went up in the air and then dropped us down:


Maddie and I spun ourselves silly:


Yeah, A successful trip on the carousel!:


Erik and I even got to do a little roller coaster riding of our own on Kraken and the new coaster, Manta. Much fun!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

In all of the hustle and bustle, may we remember the true meaning of Christmas, happy birthday Jesus!

Anna and her homemade nativity

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Parties Abound

We are so blessed to have such wonderful friends and to have many opportunities to celebrate with them this Christmas season. Here are a few of the pics of the girls in their Christmas outfits.

Off to a Christmas brunch Redecorating the tree

Maddie Anna

Let it Snow Let it Snow

...And the rest of 2009

July scrapbook page

August scrapbook page

Sept/Oct Scrapbook page

October scrapbook page

November scrapbook pagea

November scrapbook pageb

Sunday, December 20, 2009

June 2009

In June we went on our annual trip to Virginia Beach with my dad and family. Maddie had a great time digging in the sand under her tent and Anna loved playing in the waves (when they weren't trying to knock her over). Every morning we enjoyed taking a stroll up to the boardwalk; one day we rented a big bike with cousin Jamie. I was so surprised that Maddie didn't try to jump out :).

June scrapbook pagea

We also started a garden in June of peppers and tomatoes. Our garden spot didn't get enough sunlight and so it was August before we were able to get something large enough to take off the vine. I still had green peppers in November!

Oma also came to visit. We had a fun-filled weekend of taking the girls to a Durham Bulls Game and attending Adelaide's second birthday party at Marbles Kids Museum.

June scrapbook pageb

Thursday, December 17, 2009

May 2009

The month started with Erik heading to Las Vegas for a week to attend/speak at IBM Impact. The girls and I were invited to tag along but the plane ride alone scared me off :).

Erik and John also went to the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals where the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes. The Penguins then went on to win the Stanley Cup. It has been a good year for Pittsburgh fans.

The Saturday after Erik's 30th birthday we had a party at our house to celebrate this new decade. Keeping with tradition, we had banana splits rather than birthday cake.

May scrapbook pagea

Writing long thoughts in my scrapbook has never been my strong suit and so much of this page sits empty. Hopefully I'll get to it soon. The pictures are from Mother's Day.

May scrapbook pageb

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

April 2009

Happy First Birthday, Madelyn! The first year of Maddie's life went by so quick as I tried to keep up with Anna as well. We celebrated Maddie with a family party and a trip to the Marbles Children's Museum. Maddie loved her cupcake and dove right in. It is so funny to look back to when Maddie had only a little bit of hair.

April Scrapbook Page

During Easter, it has been my family's long-standing tradition to go to Ponte Vedra, Florida. We enjoyed playing on the beach and looking for Easter eggs.

Mimi joined us for our neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. Anna had fun with her friends and rode a pony.

April Scrapbook Page

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

March 2009

In March we drove up to Columbia, Maryland where we stayed with Opa to celebrate his 60th birthday. We also got to spend time with Cousin Tori, Aunt Kristal and Uncle Chris who drove down from Connecticut. The girls always love playing with their cousin.

We also welcomed a new cousin into the family with the birth of Rainey Amelia Pratt on March 13th.

March 2009 scrapbook page

Our picture tradition has become getting the girls pictures taken before Easter. This worked out perfect to get pictures for Maddie's first birthday as well. While the pictures are cute, there was some behind the scenes madness to get them both smiling and cooperating for the picture :).

March Scrapbook Page

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking Back

FEBRUARY: This month started off well as Erik and John headed to Tampa, Florida to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers win Superbowl XLIII. Anna has a Steeler cheerleading outfit and a toddler terrible towel given to her by Uncle John - she was ready for the game.

For Valentine's Day, the girls painted a mug for me at Klaystation. It sits on my desk holding my pens and I love seeing how small their hands are. Erik and I must have been on the same page, for the girls made him a card with their hand/footprints.

February 2009a

February 2009b

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

From the Beginning..2009

I have set a new goal for myself and that is to have a scrapbook of the year ready each Christmas as a "present" to our family. I have always enjoyed scrapbooking (my collection starts in 1988 when I glued a bunch of pictures and memorabilia on white sheets of paper from a trip) but I wouldn't call scrapbooking a hobby for me - my hobby is more of creating family memories. This year I chose to do my scrapbook with a page or two per month rather than focus on each occasion as I normally do.
Last night my husband and I sat down to look at this year's scrapbook and what a joy it was to do it together and remember what this past year has held for us. We also have lots of family and friends in and out of our house during the Christmas season and I think it will be fun for them as well. So here it starts (pardon my lack of photography skills to put the pages on here and envision them side by side :))...

JANUARY: We rang in the New Year in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with Oma (Erik's mom), Uncle Chris, Aunt Kristal and Cousin Tori. It was so cute watching Anna with her apple juice saying "cheers" (of course she celebrated the New Year around 8pm on New Years Eve). We had just finished up a wonderful week celebrating Christmas, going to the Ripley's Aquarium, outlet shopping, building sandcastles on the beach and floating in the lazy river (brrrrrrr!)

After a great experience with Anna sleeping in a big girl bed on vacation, we came home and bought Anna a new big girl bed (or two as in the case of the bunk beds). I was very reluctant to get bunk beds because of the stunts my brother and I use to do on his but these were adorable and a great price. The ladder has never come out of the closet so I'm not even sure that the girls know someone is allowed to sleep on the top; eventually we will separate the two beds so that Maddie will have a big girl bed of her own.

January 2009a

Over MLK weekend two of my girl cousins came to visit with their little ones. Despite our 10 years in age gap, combined we have 5 little ones under the age of 5 so it is so much fun to see them play together.

We also had a couple rounds of snow this past January. It is nice being home with the girls and not feeling the pressure of having to get to the office when there is snow and ice on the ground. Anna had a few short trips outside to walk around and play with Daddy. I loved seeing the trail of little shoeprints as she walked around the yard. Maddie didn't make it out to play in the snow this year, but there's always hope for next year.

January 2009b

More adventures to come...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Give this Christmas Away

What if December looked different this year? What if we all just give this Christmas away?

There's a song on the new Veggie Tales movie, Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving that is inspiring our family this Christmas season. I pray that it too may "spur [you] on toward love and good deeds".

'A' is for Advent

For the month of December our "school" time is going to take on a different look and center on teaching the girls about the true reason for Christmas, Jesus. Each day we will be using our advent calendar to review the letters of the alphabet and learn more about the Christmas story. For example, we'll start with A. With the letter 'A' we'll be learning more about the angels in the Christmas story such as Gabriel. We'll be making an angel craft and adding the angel to our nativity set. We will also talk a little about advent. Next we'll review the letter 'M' and talk about Mary, the manger, and the phrase 'Merry Christmas'. 'C' is for City of Bethlehem and of course Christmas cookies! Etc. etc.

My prayer is that as the girls grow up they will appreciate the traditions of Christmas but realize we do it to celebrate God's perfect Gift to us.

A few resources I found helpful:

A is for Angel, a Christmas alphabet book.

The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in our Family Traditions by Lisa Whelchel

Printable Christmas activities by First-School

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Growing Girls

The girls had their checkups yesterday, Maddie 18 months and Anna 3 year. Everything went well and the girls are growing fast.

Weight: 36.5 pounds
Height: 38 inches

Weight: 26 pounds (75%)
Height: 33.75 inches (83%)

A new screening for us was Anna's eye exam. Anna had to stand 20 feet away from a sign and tell the nurse what symbols she saw. There were a few problems with this: 1) Anna didn't know what all of the symbols were 2) Anna doesn't talk to people she doesn't know. Eventually we made it through and Anna passed but I could tell the nurse was getting frustrated with Anna and with Maddie who was naked, in my arms, fussing. Needless to say it was a fun doctor appointment :).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hands On

I am really into handprints these days and they are showing up in a lot of my "projects". Here is our family center with our whiteboard and our family handprints.

Our family handprints and whiteboard

And here is the Thanksgiving card for the grandparents. I used the same craft paint from above.

Thanksgiving Card

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CBS, CBS, What we do at CBS...

... we learn about God's love, God's love, we learn about God's love every day!

This morning Anna and her friends came onstage during our CBS (Community Bible Study) lesson to sing for us the songs they had been learning about God.

Every Thursday I am blessed to have time to go to church to study the book of Luke with other ladies and to know that my children are being well cared for and are learning about God. Each week the girls bring home a coloring paper with their memory verse and information about the bible story they are learning about to put on the refrigerator. Anna's age also does a craft. Here she is with her lion mask to remind her of the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den and how "nothing is impossible with God".

Anna's Lion Mask

I highly recommend checking it out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our Mountain Getaway

This fall we decided to take a trip to the mountains with some wonderful friends. We rented a house, packed up the car and off we went. (Yes, there was more planning involved including a planning meeting, but you get the idea). The house we rented was up on a mountain in Boone which was a little over 3 hour drive from Raleigh (perfect!). I was pleasantly surprised by all of the nice grocery stores and "stuff" everywhere that we could get to from our house in about 15 minutes (note to self, I didn't need to pack so much stuff in the car for fear of never seeing civilization). The first night, Thursday, we spent with just our family to have some time together and get a lay of the land.

Anna must have been super excited to be on vacation for she woke up every morning with the sun. Here are a few pictures of her and her daddy's time on the porch watching the sun come up.

Anna at sunrise in the NC Mountains - just woke up Sunrise in the NC Mountains

On Friday we went to Blowing Rock and found a great playground for the girls to play on. They were decorating for Christmas and it made the little town seem so perfect. Two other great spots we found in Blowing Rock were Kojay's Cafe and Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream (yum!)

IMG_1104 Anna at the playground in Blowing Rock

Friday night our friends arrived and we enjoyed a spaghetti dinner together. Saturday we headed to Grandfather Mountain and spent some time at the little zoo (bears, cougars, deer, eagles) and then went up to the Mile High Bridge.

IMG_1191 Anna on the Grandfather Mtn swinging bridge

On Sunday we feasted over breakfast at Dan'l Boone Inn and then went to another fabulous playground in Boone.

Playground Playground

On Monday, we made one final stop in Blowing Rock to play on the playground before heading home.

It was a wonderful trip with so many memories created that I will remember forever. I am so thankful for good (and fun!!) friends.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Tot Clock

It is been almost a year now since Anna stopped napping. There were a variety of factors involved including a move to a big girl bed from the crib and taking away the pacifier which Anna used heavily to lull herself to sleep. The other factor was my doing - when Anna napped, she wasn't able to fall asleep until 10ish. The rule in our house has always been that during naptime, Anna has to go into her room and play. Anna's time in her room usually lasted about 20-40 minutes depending on how interested she was in a particular toy that day. Inevitably though she would get bored and start fussing or call out that she had to go potty and naptime was over for fear of her waking Maddie. A month and a half ago Anna was down to 20 minutes in her room and Maddie was sleeping 45 minutes a day and our naptime "schedule" was starting to take a toll on me. Enter My Tot Clock...

This clock has many features, but the appeal to me was that I could set a nap duration time and in theory Anna had to stay in her room that entire duration. The clock uses colors to cue her whether it is time for "sleep" or to be awake. It took a few days, but Anna will now stay in her room and play until her clock turns yellow (I have even extending the duration a little :-/). It really helps me to know how long Anna will be in her room.

I bought the clock for naptime, so I was surprised when the first night that we had the clock and the clock turned blue to signal sleep time, Anna ushered us out of her room because she was ready to go to bed. She understood the colors and what they meant and did her best to comply. Anna also enjoys the stories and music that play to help her fall asleep (there is also white noise as well). We have stopped listening to the story before bed - it was a little to fairyish for us but there are other stories that can be ordered.

I also feel like Anna is sleeping in a little later since when she wakes up, she knows if she should go back to sleep or stay awake. Anna doesn't always wait until her clock is yellow to call out to us but if the clock is still blue she will usually play for awhile until the clock turns yellow. It is a little like brainwashing - Anna says things in normal conversation like "daddy's clock is yellow?" but the clock has helped our family. The clock traveled with us on vacation and was even a comfort to a little friend of ours who was having trouble going to sleep in a strange room; she liked the bedtime music and seeing the blue light on the clock.

A few other features of the clock that we have not used yet is a discipline duration (programmable time for timeouts) and a positive duration (which you might said to have them read books for a period of time, etc).

I have been asked by several friends if I would recommend them purchasing it. If the price was lower, I was say definitely but when you are talking about a $50 + S&H clock that may or may not work for your child, it is a gamble. I am also a little hesitant to recommend it to Anna's friends who are 3+ because they aren't as enchanted by it. For example this morning Anna woke up before her clock turned blue and when I told her she needed to stay in her room until it turned yellow she said "mommy push it to turn it yellow". I'm guessing some friends would even turn it yellow themselves, though Anna hasn't quite caught on to that yet. So, in summary, this clock is a great tool but I think the biggest key to extending kid's sleep times is parent consistency.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Festivities

This year with Halloween falling on a Saturday, we had a weekend fun of festivities. On Friday the girls and I joined some friends at the local library for Halloween Hoot. This is similar to Rhyme Time at the library except all of the songs and books are about Halloween. The kids then parade through the library in their costumes and receive treats.

Halloween Hoot

On Friday night, our family went to the Bay Leaf Baptist Fall Festival. I was not prepared for how big of an event this would be. I heard one guy compare it to the State Fair. They had bouncy houses, a huge slide, hotdogs, fried funnel cake dipped in chocolate on a stick (oh yeah!), nachos, cotton candy, hayrides, bible-story themed games..... and it was free to the public. Just as many free events though, the gym was packed. Here's Maddie taking a break from the action on a giant pumpkin.

Bayleaf Fall Festival

On Saturday night we went to a friend's house for some pre-treating snacks and then Anna and I went with our friends to neighbors' houses while Erik and Maddie returned home to give out candy. It was absolutely adorable watching the girls go up to the houses and get their candy. It was such a change from last year - they have grown so much.

Getting Ready Trick or Treating

And finally, here's a trip down Halloween memory lane:

2008 Halloween Night
2007 Happy Halloween
2006 Anna wide awake!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Love Tinkerbell and Elmo

Anna & Maddie

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Dollhouse, Completed

The dollhouse that Anna received for her birthday was very special to me, for it belong to me as a little girl.


It started as 100's of tiny pieces in a box and eventually made it to this stage of completion with only one room done (that was "my" room :)). This is how we picked it up from my mom's house this summer and we have been working hard on it ever since. The dollhouse needed paint, flooring, wallpaper and some trimwork.

Anna's Dollhouse (before)

The night before Anna's birthday we snuck into her room after she went to sleep and put the finished dollhouse in there. We added some new furniture and wrapped up a set of dolls. The next morning when Anna woke up she immediately went to play with her dollhouse.

Here's the dollhouse after Mimi added a few finishing touches including hanging mirrors, paintings and setting the dining room table.

Dollhouse, completed

The addition of the dollhouse to Anna's room means we do not play in there as often for there are many pieces that are not age-appropriate for Maddie but it gives Anna something special to do during naptime. I'm sure this will be a treasure for years to come.