Sunday, February 27, 2011

Goodbye February

February was overall crazy, a mixture of tears and happy days. My father-in-law came on February 12th for a week. It was so much fun having him here. God has blessed me with such a wonderful family through my marriage to H1. I love all of them dearly and treasure my friendship with them. Dad H is so much fun to have around. He spends lots of time singing with H3 and playing games with her. She adores him and woke up each morning looking for him. The following Saturday H1 drove him to D.C. and Dad boarded a plane to Australia to visit from friends for three weeks. We’ll be picking him up March 12th.

Two of the days while Dad H was here, H3 and I were in West Point watching a friend’s daughters so she and her hubby could have a night together. They have three beautiful daughters and H3 has so much fun playing with them. At the moment she can only pronounce the youngest one’s name, so all three girls are named “Julie” to her, but it doesn’t seem to bother the girls. They are great with her and include her in all their activities as best as possible.

Last Monday H1 had the day off for President’s Day. After a shopping trip to get dress pants for H1, the three of us went for a nature stroll in the Chesapeake area. H1 had found a couple park trails online and we decided to check them out. H3 was quite trouper. She made it almost a mile.

After the trail, we stopped at a city park on the way back and let H3 expend the last bit of her energy. We hadn’t been to this park before, and apparently it just reopened. Someone burned down part of it earlier last year and the play area had been closed for a while. The city opened it again a couple weeks ago. It’s the largest park we’ve seen by far and seems to have just about everything, from a skate park, basketball court, and soccer fields, to lots of playground equipment, swings, a sand pit, and a climbing wall. We’ll definitely be heading back here. It was a funny day though. Most of the day was in the 70s, but while we were walking back out to the car a cold wind hit. The air turned frigid and dropped 20 degrees within seconds. I’m not kidding. As we pulled out of the park, we watched a crowd exit as well, many exclaiming over the weather change. That’s Virginia for you though. One day will be 70 and the next day 40.

Friday and Saturday all three of us headed to West Point again, this time to help our friends, Dean and Robyn, move. I baked my cousin’s Farmer Casserole for the occasion, along with a coffee cake and an apple pie. Some friends from their church also brought snacks, so it was nice to have all the food for breaks while we worked. Four others joined in the moving efforts, besides myself, H1, Dean and Robyn.

Our families have helped each other move several times since we all met 5 years ago. It’s hard work for all of us, but I think it’s a neat testimony to friendship. They have come out of their way to help us each time when we’ve moved, driving long distances to see us to the other end, and I’m glad we’ve been able to reciprocate. Isn’t that what friendship is? You pray together, laugh together, cry together, give a little, and sometimes receive. You eat and share jokes, and giggle over late night tea and games after the kids are in bed.

Another friend invited us over for lunch today after church. She has five kids, four boys and one girl. Two of the boys are teenagers and play on the worship team with H1. They had a good time hanging out while Nicole and I chatted and played with the younger ones. H3 ran around from toy to toy, unable to figure out what to look at first. Then the youngest three took naps before we had a delicious turkey that Nicole baked. H1 had a migraine, so we finally headed back after 5:00. The poor guy promptly fell asleep when we got back!

Tomorrow I substitute up at the high school and that will close out the month of February for us!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Shapes and lower case letters

Minus a shopping trip yesterday, this week we’ve been hanging around the house. Most days we still take our ¼ mile walk to the Post Office. H3 learned to say “Post Office” pretty early in her young life and it’s fun to see her get so excited about something simple. I’m pretty sure I can thank the PO too for teaching her numbers and letters before I’d even thought about doing so. We started taking these walks when she was 9 months old, and as soon as she could walk, she would toddle along with me. The boxes have always fascinated her and there’s a couple that are always open, just so she can put stuff in. Ahhh, the benefits of being in a small town. Everyone knows your name. Sarah is our wonderful POA and H3 loves seeing her. It was one day when H3 was running around the building that I noticed her jabbering was no longer intelligible. She was actually saying the numbers and letters she was passing by!

By the time I’ve started working with her specifically on her letters and numbers, it’s mainly the challenge of expanding on what she already knows. H3 is a sponge. I rarely have to tell her something more than once and she gets it. At this point she loves learning and any time I get out her flashcards or books she starts squealing for joy. This week we worked a lot on shapes and numbers.

I pulled out her shape pages that I printed off of the Fisher Price website.

Since I don’t have flashcards with lowercase letters only on them, I decided to do some myself on note cards. H3 seems to like them just as well, even without the pictures, and will flip through them and name each letter.

More of her regular flashcards.

More on shapes with play dough. The hexagon is still her favorite. Though she would rather have them all, we just take out one color of play dough at a time. She asks me to cut specific shapes and once I have all of them done, I’ll ask her to point to each one as I say it.

I thought this was too cute so I had to take a picture. I’ve left my cheesehead out since the game and have let her play with it. Wednesday, I was making bread dough in the kitchen and H3 brought it in and put it on the kitchen table. Then, she started putting her little people in the corners and a few in the middle and told them “night night, sleep tight”! I’ve seen her tuck in her baby dolls, but this was a first.

One other thing that I’ve been working with H3 on again is sign language. H1’s sister, Mercy, blessed us with a baby signing curriculum on DVD when H3 was several months old. I’ve shown those videos to her regularly and have worked with her on specific signs. This summer Sean, the health director at MSC (my boss) gave me a detailed book on sign language for adults. He signs and he told me that this book was very well done as far as being able to read and learn to sign correctly. I’m working to teach H3 some of the signs from the books now, since she’s learned almost all of the ones from the DVD set—60-80 signs in total. Most she can sign to me, but a few of the more complicated ones I will sign to her and she will tell me what the sign means. Signing has proved very helpful, especially with some of the words that she has a harder time pronouncing. We’ve always taught her to say the word and sign it at the same time, and this way we’ve been able to understand her better.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Sipping Chai

There is something beautifully relaxing about sipping chai tea. It doesn't matter what's going on around the house, even complete chaos, but one sip brings a smile to my face and an instant happy feeling. It's probably the memories that go along with the taste and the first chai sitting at a tea house in Salem, VA, celebrating the upcoming wedding of a wonderful friend, and many hours with Robyn at her house and at Panera, sipping our tea and discussing everything in the world from children and heartbreaks to dog hair, hatred of skinny jeans, needing new haircuts, and wondering what on earth God is up to in our lives. Lots of hours with my hubby, drinking our tea and staring out the window and strategizing on how to survive the next week or month. It's just a simple tea, but it has memories.

I wish I had more pictures for this week, but I didn't keep my camera on hand, unfortunately. H3 and I spent a lot of time working on the lower case letters of the alphabet, and I think it's safe to say that she knows them now, with the exception of confusion with "p" and "q" and "d" and "b", which I think is typical of trying to learn letters. We spend a lot of time with flashcards and Dr. Seuss books!

Friday evening one of my college roommates, Amber, came over. She had called on Thursday and asked if we had any plans for the weekend, which we didn't, so she said "I was thinking of inviting myself over and sending you out on a date Friday night." Such a sweetheart! H1 and I have had very few dates since H3 was born, only 3 in 2010 that I can think of. Amber arrived at 5pm and H1 and I headed out the door for dinner and just walking around, browsing in shops and chatting. It's amazing how relaxing just walking around can be without a 2 year old! H3 is a delight, of course, but a leisurly dinner and just walking through a store for fun are out of the question with her in tow! Amber was spending the night, so after we got home she and I stayed up late and watched a movie, then I made cinnamon scones in the morning. H1 went out for a while on his own to browse and relax, so Amber and I played with H3, working on some shape and letter games with her and reading stories. After she was tucked in for her nap, we watched another movie and Amber graded papers (she's a teacher) while I made Valentine's Day cards. It was a delightful afternoon.

I can't end this post without saying something about the Super Bowl. I have been a Packer's fan since 1996, which is the first time I ever paid attention to a football game. I was at a youth group Super Bowl party and remember having a blast. Since then, the Packer's have been my favorite team. Last night was great, watching them win again. H1 is a NY Giants fan, and since they obviously weren't playing, he decided to be a gentlemen and join me in cheering for my team. Yes, I have a cheesehead. Yes, I wore it during the game, except for a little while when H3 stole it, as you can see!

She enjoyed playing hide and seek behind it!

Sitting on Daddy's lap and trying to balance her cheesehead, which was a little big.

I also got word this week that Bethany, my other college roommate who is now a teacher in Texas, will be flying in to visit us in March! We flew out to Washington to see her two years ago, back when she was still living there with her folks (having just returned from 2 years in Guatemala and trying to decide where to go next). Facebook has been wonderful for keeping up with my friends from college and from previous residences, but nothing beats getting to catch up in person. I'm really looking forward to her visit!

This is one week that I'm looking forward too, even with a possibilit of snow on Thursday and Friday to chase away my Spring 50's weathers. Blessings!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Food and Fun

I would just like to start off by saying that it's 70 outside today, in February. Granted, it's supposed to be in the 20's tonight, but for right now it is a glorious 70. It's been raining off and on, so the ground is gross and muddy and not good for playing, but I have opened the windows and we are enjoying a lovely breeze!

H3 and I have been running on errands a lot lately, but are still squeezing in some learning time and fun time. A couple days ago I pulled my stepstool over to the sink and took out a couple bowls, filling one with ice cubes. I let her play with the ice cubes first, and talked with her about how they were cold and slippery. She kept repeating and signing "cold". So cute! Then, we filled one bowl with warm water and watched the ice cubes melt.

This morning H1 poked me around 5:00 and said he couldn't sleep and was going for a walk. I'm not much of an early riser, or at least not if you're talking about anything before 7:00, so I told him fine and went back to sleep. I got up at 6:45 as usual to go make breakfast and had a surprise waiting for me. After taking a 2 mile walk, H1 decided to make cinnamon/pumpkin pancakes! They were amazing, no syrup or toppings needed! H3 still ate hers with a bit of syrup, but I had mine plain. We had 3 leftover pancakes by the time we finished. Many thanks to my sweet hubby!

Later in the morning, after bathing our Beagle, I started on some spritz cookies for the basketball team. There are 3 more games in the middle school season, and then H1 will be done coaching for a couple weeks, I think, before baseball begins. He'll probably tutor during that break time. Anyways, here's a look at the cookies.

While I was working on the cookies, H3 was working on some of her word puzzles. We talked about the letters while the cookies baked. The thing I like most about this puzzle is that all the letters are lower case, which is what I've been working on with her.

Last but not least, lunch time! Though H3 is still really picky, I'm trying to eat healthy during the day. Today's lunch was leftovers from the night before last: black bean quesadillas. We have just enough leftovers to make one more for me today, so I was pretty excited. Growing up, we ate a lot of Mexican food and beans have always been a favorite for me. After my college internship in Guatemala 7 years ago, I couldn't get enough of black beans and still love making things with them.
I've heard about a brownie recipe using black beans. I'll have to try it and see if it's any good. If it is, I'll post it!