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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dinosaurs at the Children's Museum

Yesterday Evelyn went to the Omaha Children's Museum with Troy and me . . . mostly to see their dinosaur exhibit one last time. She saw this exhibit last summer, and I told her we could see it when we came to Nebraska in the winter. Naturally, Evelyn didn't forget!

We spent about an hour at the special exhibit. She dug for dinosaur bones with Daddy, played on the playground equipment (especially rock climbing), visited all of the different dinosaur robots, watched a bit of the movie, and talked to her favorite dinosaur, the T-Rex. Since she is so in to dinosaurs right now, Evelyn had tons of fun!

Let's not forget to mention that we had lunch at Runza on the way home. Every time Troy and Evelyn come back to Nebraska, they have to have a Runza sandwich. :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snow Fun!

Bellevue (Nebraska) had a lot of snow before we arrived, and Evelyn was itching to get outside and play in it. First, she ventured out with her Grandma Linda a couple of times on Wednesday, December 24th, to make snow angels and ride in the sled. Evelyn got spoiled both times after all that play outside, when Grandma Linda gave Evelyn hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Then, on Christmas Day, Evelyn had more fun in the snow with her Daddy and Uncle Matt. It wasn't warm enough to build a snowman, but Evelyn was still able to make plenty of snow angels and sled down the hill in the backyard. There were a couple of exciting moments . . . The sled went right over some snow angels, which was quite traumatic for Evelyn (until she made some more). Then, on one trip down the hill, Evelyn's sled went right past Troy (who was supposed to catch/stop her) and almost went over a steep, stony slope into the neighbor's yard. But all ended well - more hot chocolate!

The pictures below were taken on Christmas Day at Evelyn's Grandma and Grandpa Luster's house.

Evelyn's (Fifth) Christmas

Evelyn had a good combination of fun stuff and necessities as far as Christmas presents go. In Maryland, she got some fuzzy Crocs (purple!), a dance leotard (purple!), some dresses and leggings, plus a HUGE dinosaur puzzle.

Evelyn's family in Nebraska knows exactly what she likes: Thomas the train. Not only did she get some new cars and "destinations" for her train set at home, but she also got the feature-length movie "The Great Discovery." I'm not sure how many times she's already watched that movie . . . She also got a couple of music CDs she's been wanting and some princess sets, all courtesy of Disney. Lots of good stuff!

Julia's First Christmas

Julia made out pretty well for her first Christmas. Before leaving for Nebraska, we had a small present-opening at our house in Maryland. Julia got two small noise-making toys plus something she's always wanted: a new stroller! Well, maybe this is something I wanted for Julia, but just the same, she'll be the one riding in it. The stroller is a nicer umbrella-style, perfect for wandering aimlessly around airports.

In Nebraska, Julia got a few more shake, rattle, and roll toys, plus a new shopping cart cover. Now, I wonder what Julia will do with her Christmas money from her grandparents and great-grandparents? Hmmm . . . I'm sure we'll find something . . .

Evelyn's Gingerbread House

As part of Evelyn's preschool holiday party festivities (way back on Friday, December 19th), the kids made gingerbread houses. Well, the houses were really made from graham crackers, but that's okay. I'm glad I was able to join in on the fun because Evelyn needed help spreading the frosting for the base of her house and building the walls and roof of her house. When it came to decorating her house, however, Evelyn needed no help. She was a pro.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adventure in Chicago

In the days leading up to our trip to Nebraska, we closely watched Chicago's weather forecast. The closer we got to Tuesday the 23rd, the more worried we became. As it turns out, rightfully so.

We girls were on American Airlines flights (using up frequent flyer miles), and Troy was on United flights (cheapest tickets). Even though we had completely different intineraries, we were all flying out of Baltimore, making a connection at Chicago O'Hare, and ending up in Omaha. We were scheduled to land within 20 minutes of each other in Omaha.

Our adventure began at 3:30 a.m., when we left our home. We girls left Baltimore only 15 minutes after our scheduled 6:00 departure. Julia slept most of the flight, and Evelyn watched DVDs and napped a bit. We landed in Chicago around 8:20, which gave us two and a half hours to mess around before catching our plane to Omaha. With plenty of time to kill, we headed over to the United section of O'Hare and met Troy as he got off his plane. We could only chat for a few minutes because Troy had a shorter connection time with quite a ways to walk.

As we headed back to the American Airlines terminal, we girls stopped at the play area so Evelyn could run around and have fun for about 45 mintues. According to our boarding passes, our plane was to start boarding at 9:40 for the 10:10 flight, and we arrived at our gate at about 9:45. I couldn't help but notice there wasn't a plane already at our gate - first bad sign. While waiting, I visited with an older couple, Evelyn laid down on her coat on the floor, and I pushed Julia back and forth, trying to console her fussiness. The schedule board at our gate then showed the departure at 10:20 - second bad sign. I chatted a bit longer with the fellow Omaha-bound people, but when the departure changed to 10:40, I had to say good-bye. Julia needed to be fed, and pronto.

We girls found some chairs to camp out in. Evelyn continued laying on the floor while I fed Julia. Not having any idea what time it was (day? night?), Julia started fussing again. I figured the poor girl was tired, so I stood and held her and bounced her while reading Evelyn one of her magazines (multitasking is my middle name). All the while checking the departure board near us - which told me the flight would be at 10:50 . . . 11:00 . . . 11:05 . . . 11:10. I don't think anyone knew when our flight was leaving.

Shortly after 11:00, they announced that our planewas boarding, so we jumped up and headed to the gate. It was snowing pretty heavily at that point, but I figured somebody must have a plan to get our plane out of there before the weather got too bad. (Did I mention that the afternoon Omaha flight had already been cancelled?) Should I stop and buy lunch for Evelyn and me? No - not if we'll be in Omaha by 1:00 and especially since they're boarding the plane right now. So we girls boarded the plane and settled into our seats . . . for a LONG wait.

I'll share the details of our three-hour wait on the plane at the gate later if you want to hear them, but the gist of it is we couldn't leave because of heavy snow showers. Julia was able to have her lunch because I had more than enough baby necessities. I gave Evelyn the last two granola bars and orange juice. Myself? I decided to go on a one-day diet. Eating is over-rated, right?

Meanwhile, even though Troy's plane originally was delayed due to mechanical problems, he took off around 11:00 (right before the weather got really bad) and landed in Omaha around 12:30. He was only about an hour late overall.

Thankfully our plane was able to leave around 2:00, during a quiet spell in the weather. We landed in Omaha around 3:30, tired, hungry, and cranky. But we made it, albeit four hours late. Every once in a while I need to be reminded why I prefer nonstop flights when traveling with children. I got that reminder yesterday. Now, what does January 5th in Chicago have in store for us?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bubble Bath

Julia has gained more control over her legs while sitting in her bubble bath, so these pictures don't show her legs floating (like I had mentioned previously). But these are still some cute pictures of the baby in her inflatable ducky bath tub!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Julia's First Little Gym Experience

This morning Julia and I headed over to the Little Gym for a parent/child play date. Even though Julia isn't in a class right now, she can go to this open-gym event since Evelyn is a member.

True, Julia can't do much in the way of moving. But she sure enjoyed playing with the hand-held jingle bells! Even though she would've liked to sit and play (i.e. chew) with the bells the entire time she was there, I made Julia have a couple of minutes of tummy time. There was so much going on around her (other babies playing with their moms and dads) that she didn't mind her tummy time as much as she usually does.

This is an activity that the Little Gym hosts twice a month. Maybe going to this, combined with Julia's gymnastics class that will start the end of January, will help the little bug start rolling or crawling.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nutcracker Ballet

This afternoon Evelyn and I saw a Nutcracker ballet performance put on by the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre. This is a dance studio that emphasizes authentic performances instead of recitals, and they put on two shows a year. I had looked into this ballet studio for Evelyn, but the creative movement class didn't work with Evelyn's preschool schedule.

Last year, Evelyn and I went to see the ballet in Fort Worth, where we had front-row seats. Evelyn could look into the orchestra pit to see the musicians playing their instruments, and you can't beat watching the ballet from the front row! This year's show was more low-key, but still good. Even though there wasn't an orchestra pit, the costumes were amazing. Oh, and you can't beat fake snow falling during Waltz of the Snowflakes!

To help prepare a three-year-old for the Nutcracker ballet (last year), I bought Evelyn a Nutcracker picture book by Susan Jeffers and a CD with the music. The book is perfect - fabulous illustrations and the story line is the basic Nutcracker tale. This year's ballet had some new characters and a few twists, but Evelyn still seemed to understand what was going on.

The most interesting part about attending the Nutcracker this year was how well Evelyn picked up on the dancers' specific poses and movements. Since she's been taking ballet for a year and a half, now, she knew quite a few of the positions and techniques. During intermission, Evelyn made up her own dance, consisting of passes, arabesques, and reverences.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Julia's Been Up To

No, Julia still won't roll over, but she can do other cute baby things. When she has a toy in her hand, she likes to hammer it on the floor or the table. If she wants to take a break from playing with her toys, Julia will simply clap her hands.

Julia has abandoned the monster-yell, thank goodness. Now she's trying out different sounds like "hey" or "baba." Sometimes at the dinner table, it's a contest to see who talks more: Evelyn or Julia. (And sometimes we don't know what either of them is talking about!)

When it comes to reading books, Julia likes to turn the pages herself, thank you very much. At times there's a struggle between Julia and Evelyn to turn the pages of a board book - thankfully board books are sturdy! Finally, Julia has taking a liking to her Baby Einstein videos (as pictured below). Her favorites right now are Baby Galileo and World Animals.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Floating

For the past week and a half, Julia has played during her bath time. She loves splashing around in the water and curiously watches the bubbles collect on her hands and arms. But there is one problem with sitting in sudsy water: her legs float. Julia is such a little chunk that if there is too much water in the ducky tub, her legs float, and she can't sit. It is cute to see her little toes poking up through the bubbles in her bath. However, I lower the level of the water by draining some of it, and then Julia is able to sit and play comfortably. (One of these days I'll remember to bring the camera with me for Julia's bath time, and then I can post a picture.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Customers!

When we moved to Maryland almost a year ago, Evelyn wanted to feed squirrels. I bought some plain, unsalted peanuts, tossed a few onto the deck, and we waited. And waited . . . and waited. The only reason those peanuts finally disappeared was because we got tired of looking at them and threw them away.

This morning I noticed a lot of squirrel activity in the back yard. Since I still had those peanuts from January, I thought I'd put some on the deck to see if we could get any takers. I tried this in the morning, while Evelyn was at preschool, to see if any critters would come before getting Evelyn excited about it. This time the squirrels found our peanuts - they were gone in less than ten minutes.

While Evelyn ate her post-preschool snack at the kitchen table this afternoon, every now and then she would shout, "Customers!" That's her way of saying squirrels were eating our peanuts. Evelyn was just as captivated with the squirrels on our deck as she is watching TV - that's saying something!

As a side note, I know at least one of these squirrels isn't new to the game of begging from humans. Shortly after the peanut supply ran out, it was tapping at our sliding glass door with its paws.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Early December Update

Not too much has been going on in the Luster household this past week. Well, I've been sick, then got better, then sick, then better. And Julia had a horrible diaper rash that is MUCH better now.

Troy and Evelyn put together a wish-list of Christmas goodies, and since I've recently been feeling better, Evelyn and I have been baking and making yummy treats. Last Thursday we made what Troy calls Christmas brownies (layered mint brownies). I don't think they'll last very long because they are so irresistible. Yesterday we made peanut butter bon bons. I made smaller bon bons this year so we have more (44!). Today Evelyn and I are working on frosted sugar cookies. We made the dough and baked the cookies this morning, and we'll frost and decorate them after her nap this afternoon. We plan to make fudge and Russian tea cakes either Monday or Tuesday.

It's much more fun making Christmas sweets this year since we're all together as a family. I can't help reflecting back to last December, when Troy was already in Maryland for his new job (living in a big, empty townhouse all by himself) and Evelyn and I were still in Dallas. The holiday season is just so much better when we're together!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Makes Julia Laugh?

The answer to that question: Evelyn! Check out the video - Evelyn hides behind the kitchen counter, then runs out and "peeps" at Julia.

video

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Welcome to Crazy Town

. . . one of Troy's favorite quotes when things get crazy and hectic. That's how we would describe supper tonight. Here are some snippets from this evening as we ate dinner at home.

Evelyn - "Look! I'm a flying dancer!" as she flapped her arms wildly.
Troy - "You almost stuck your elbow in your food. This is why we don't fly at supper."
Troy - "Now you made Mommy cry because you weren't being a good girl at the table." (You can probably guess that the real reason for my tears was because I was laughing so much.)

Julia - She dropped her rattle onto the floor and resorted to chewing/gumming the edge of the table.

Evelyn - After Troy asked several times for her to eat her supper, Evelyn slumped back in her chair and crossed her eyes.

Evelyn - "Since I wore make-up today, my dance class was a make-up class." (Translation of sorts: Evelyn put on shimmer eye shadow this morning. She also went to a make-up class for her missed dance class on Thursday, due to Thanksgiving. Apparently that means the theme for today's class was make-up, but not in the sense of catching up on a missed class.)

Evelyn - "Is there any dessert?"
Valerie - "You can have some Oreo cookies."
Evelyn - "I can?! Oh, boy!" and she finished the rest of her supper in less than a minute.

And now, the grand finale from Julia - She's been slowly working her way through a baby food jar of green beans. As the picture below shows, Julia is no closer to liking her green beans now than she was a week ago.

Welcome to Crazy Town!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ellicott City & Santa Claus

This morning we headed to Ellicott City, Maryland to check out the B & O Railroad Museum. The Ellicott City Station Museum is much smaller than the museum in Baltimore, but we still managed to spend nearly two hours there. Plus (in our opinion) the Ellicott City Station is in a much better area with several quaint shops within walking distance.

Right now the Holiday Festival of Trains is going on. There were four different model train layouts to watch, plus Santa Claus was there. We knew this would be right up Evelyn's alley - she had lots of fun watching model trains and visiting with Santa. A bonus: we won't have to fight crowds at the mall to see Santa this year.

The first model layout we saw replicated the first 13 miles of commercial railroad track in the country - from Baltimore to Ellicott Mills around 1830. The next model layout we saw was a multi-level O-scale setup. Evelyn enjoyed this one so much she went back a second time to see it all again. When she saw the third model, she was overjoyed to see a Chessie locomotive plus some Chessie freight cars. Finally, the fourth model layout we saw was the G-scale Thomas.

On our way out (through the gift shop, of course!), Troy spotted a wooden Chessie box car that would work with her Thomas set at home. Naturally, we couldn't leave without one. All in all, a wonderful, train-filled outing for our little girl!
Evelyn standing in front of a B & O caboose. We walked through it, pretending we were engineers.

Evelyn watching the Thomas model trains. She saw several characters she knew: Thomas, James, Percy, Trevor, Harold, Toby, Duck and Diesel, not to mention the freight cars and coaches the engines were hauling.Evelyn lived up to her "Chatterbox" title when visiting with Santa. When prompted, she gave her wish list: Thomas stuff, rollerblades, and Cinderella stuff. She went on to tell Santa what yummy corn casserole she made for Thanksgiving - "The best corn casserole, ever!"

Julia lasted less than a minute with Santa. Troy passed her off to him, and she looked at me like, "What in the world is going on? Who is this guy?" Julia then looked back at Santa (which is when I took the picture) and started to cry. We rescued her before it became too traumatic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Maryland

We broke tradition this year and didn't make it to Illinois for Thanksgiving. Even though we missed out on the extended family gathering, we made a yummy dinner that tasted a lot like Thanksgiving in Pike County.

I made the dough for Joyce's butterhorn rolls Tuesday evening - it chilled in the refrigerator overnight, then I made and baked the rolls Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon I made raspberry/applesauce Jello, and that evening Evelyn helped me with the pumpkin pie.

First thing this morning, we put the turkey in the oven. A few hours later we all started on the casseroles - Evelyn made her corn casserole, Troy helped with the green bean casserole, and I made the sweet potato casserole. Everything was ready before our intended 1:00 dinner time, but Julia insisted on eating her cereal before we had our meal. So, after a slight delay, we sat down to a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Evelyn's favorites this year - butterhorn rolls and corn casserole. I think she had some turkey, but not much. Evelyn and I are off to see the movie "Bolt" this afternoon, and we'll enjoy the pumpkin pie later.



Friday, November 21, 2008

Dinner Last Night

Yesterday Julia and Evelyn had their flu shots. I considered not even telling Evelyn why we were going to the doctor's, to let it be a complete surprise, but then I thought she might really freak out on me. So yesterday morning I told her I had some good news and some bad news: we were eating supper at IHOP, but she was going to the doctor's office after dance to get a shot. I told her we would go to IHOP if she was brave. If you know Evelyn, you know how much she loves eating at that place. She kept asking me if it was okay to cry when she got the shot, and I said that it was.

Well, the shot for Evelyn was just as traumatic as I thought it would be. She sat on my lap, and I had to wrap my legs around hers and hold her arms down. (Good thing I lift weights - she's strong!) She cried before, during, and after the shot. Julia, on the other hand, only whimpered slightly as if to say, "What was that?"

Both Troy and I knew we would go out for supper no matter what - that was the light at the end of the tunnel for Evelyn. Julia's nap and feeding schedule were right on track for us to go to a restaurant . . . or so I thought. Julia cried and cried during the 15-minute drive to IHOP. Considering how bad the car drive was, I thought Troy and I would have to take turns holding Julia while the other one ate. But once we got there, she was a complete angel. She sat in her high chair, chewing on and playing with the various toys I had brought along. We were all able to enjoy our breakfast/dinner. The drive home, however, brought back the fussy Julia. We're just thankful that Julia was quiet - even smiling! - for Evelyn's reward supper.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Julia is 7 Months Old!

Where has the time gone? I cannot believe I'm saying Julia is seven months old already! I don't know if it's because Julia is the second child, but things seem to go by faster with her. Well, some things, like her age and her size. Mobility, on the other hand, seems to be pretty far off. Julia still hates tummy time, and she doesn't roll over. But she loves to bite and chew - thus the following pictures. She's working on a "biter biscuit." As you can tell from the pictures, she didn't get much in her tummy, but Julia sure had fun gumming and gnawing on that cookie!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Julia's Schedule

Julia has become very predictable with her feedings and naps. So much so that I dare call it a schedule. Since there was no need for her to have a schedule (i.e. day care), it has taken awhile to settle into this routine. But now we can almost set our clocks by what Julia does:
7:30 - Wakes up
8:00 - Eats cereal, then milk
8:30 - Play time!
9:30 - Nap
10:30 - Wakes up, play time!
12:30 - Eats cereal (and veggies?), then milk
1:30 - Nap
4:00 - Wakes up, takes a bottle
4:30 - Play time!
6:30 - Eats cereal (maybe veggies), then milk
7:00 - Play time!
8:15 - Bed time

Not long ago Julia ate six times a day and once or twice at night. Now her feedings are more spread out, and she sleeps through the night. Our sweet baby is growing up!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Julia and the Red Balloon

Somehow Julia figured out how to hold on to the tied end of a balloon this evening. As she waved the balloon around, she would giggle and laugh whenever it bounced off her head or the bed. Enjoy the clip!
video

Monday, November 10, 2008

Julia's 6-Month Checkup

Julia is closer to 7 months than 6 months, but we finally made it to her checkup. True to form, Julia is still in the 95th percentile with her height and weight. She is 27 inches long, and she weighs 19 pounds, 5 ounces. Julia's weight is exactly two pounds heavier than at her 4-month checkup, so it seems that her weight gain is leveling out at a pound a month. Since she measured so large at both her 2-month and 4-month checkups, it's actually good that Julia is consistent with those big numbers.

Julia's 6-month measurements compared with Evelyn's 6-month measurements: same length, but Julia is nearly five pounds heavier. Evelyn didn't weigh more than 19 pounds until her 1-year checkup!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Evelyn the Super-Speller

Like I mentioned yesterday, Evelyn (creatively) spelled her first word earlier this week. This evening during supper and her bath, she was on a roll. She spelled the following words:
Mommy - MME
Daddy - DDE
Julia - she couldn't get past the J . . .
Gordon - GRDN
Thomas - TMS
Lucille - LZL
comb - KM
The amazing thing about tonight's spelling bee was that Evelyn did all of this in her head. She wasn't writing on paper. Just like most of her other milestones, Evelyn has figured out something new, and she's practically an expert at it. Well, in her own 4-year-old way.

Oven-Roasted Chicken

Lately I've been experimenting with baking boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Whenever a recipe calls for cooked chicken (such as chicken salad), I prefer to use flavorful chicken. My experimenting finally paid off. The recipe I came up with today yielded tender, moist chicken. It would probably also make a great dinner entree.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (or chicken seasoning)
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Evenly sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Place chicken in shallow baking dish. Pour chicken broth into dish, being careful not to rinse seasonings from chicken. Drop bay leaf in liquid. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

Beautiful Autumn

Just as I suspected, autumn is gorgeous here. The trees are so much more colorful than in Texas and even Nebraska. In addition to the usual yellows and browns we're accustomed to, there are brilliant shades of orange and red. During the past few weeks, whenever we're out driving, Evelyn will say (at least once), "Maryland sure is pretty in the fall!"

The first picture below was taken of the tree in our backyard. The yellow leaves give our kitchen quite a glow. The second picture was taken at Sugarloaf Mountain a few weeks ago. As usual with landscape photographs, the pictures don't do justice to the beauty of the colorful trees.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Evelyn's First Written Word

I was so excited when Evelyn sounded out and wrote her first word yesterday!!! She was drawing a picture for a friend named Kaitlyn, and she wanted to write the friend's name on the picture. She said Kaitlyn's names a couple of times, then said it must start with a K. She wrote a K. She said Kaitlyn a few more times, concluded that the next letter must be L, and she wrote an L. Evelyn asked for help with the next letter. I switched roles from mommy to teacher and asked her which letter she thought would come next. After saying the friend's name a few more times, she decided N must be last. She looked at her paper, pointed to the letters she wrote (KLN), and proudly announced, "Kaitlyn!"

Reflecting back on some of my master's degree courses, I know that Evelyn is right on track with her pre-writing skills. The phonics program at her preschool is definitely sinking in, so she can not only write her letters, but she can also correctly match sounds with letters. Most beginning writers use only consonants, filling in the vowels comes later, so she's right on track there. We're all so proud of our little Peanut! I wonder what she'll write next . . .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Election day! At 2:10 this afternoon, the whole family headed to our polling place - the elementary school Evelyn will attend next fall - to cast our votes. Julia accompanied Troy, and Evelyn helped me. In order to keep Evelyn from wandering around and getting her nose into other people's business, I had Evelyn do the actual voting; in other words, tapping the kiosk screen. Everyone left with "I Voted" stickers on their shirts, even the girls. From the time we walked into the school to the time we left, it took us 40 minutes. From what we've heard around here, that's not too much of a wait.

We are making Julia take on some new, older baby responsibilities. The biggest of these is sleeping in her crib for day-time naps. Previously, she has been napping in her bouncy seat. That was a guaranteed way to help her get to sleep without crying. But we all know she'll outgrow that bouncy seat before long, plus she needs to learn to put herself to sleep. The past four days have been a little tough for Julia, but she has been sleeping in her crib for her naps. Hopefully a week from now I'll be reporting that she's going down for her naps with little or no fussing.

Some other 6-month-old routines and activities that have gone more smoothly are sleeping through the night (a whole week, now!) eating rice cereal (Julia loves it made with formula - who would've guessed?), sitting up completely on her own, playing in her exersaucer, and riding in the bigger car seat.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A New Place to Hike

What?!? We hiked somewhere besides Sugarloaf Mountain? Yes, it's true. We went on an adventure and headed to the Catoctin Mountains, a few miles north of Frederick, Maryland. There are two parks there, but since the national park had several areas closed for "security reasons" today (?), we visited Cunningham Falls State Park. I read online that the state park has the tallest waterfall in Maryland (78 feet), so that was our goal for the day.

When we started our hike, we had two trails to choose from to get to the waterfall: an easy one or a difficult one. Since we've tackled a seriously tricky trail on Sugarloaf Mountain, we went with the challenging trail to get to the falls. In our opinion, it wasn't all that challenging. But it was very scenic, and hardly anyone else was on the trail. That always makes for a nice hike. Here's a picture of Evelyn, our trail guide for the day, helping us find the yellow rectangles on trees that marked the Cliff Trail.
After traversing through the forest, we made it to Cunningham Falls. Evelyn was excited to see the waterfall, but Troy and I were a little disappointed. When you visit a waterfall in autumn, there's not much water, and that's a bit of a downer. Troy and I have seen some impressive waterfalls in Yellowstone, so this Maryland waterfall paled in comparison. We will come back in the spring, when snow-melt will (hopefully) make this waterfall bigger and better.

Wherever there's a waterfall, there's bound to be a stream close by. It didn't take long for Evelyn to be drawn to the stream at the base of the waterfall. After letting Evelyn play for a bit, we headed back to the trailhead and parking lot via a different route - the easy Falls Trail. It was a scenic hike, but not as adventurous as the Cliff Trail.
After hiking for over an hour and a half, we found a picnic area that was perfect for eating snacks and playing hide-and-seek. Evelyn had a blast running through the crunchy leaves on the ground while trying to hide and escape from Troy. We're glad we took advantage of today's beautiful weather and explored a new park.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween!

Trick-or-treating was great this year! The weather was as good as we could hope for - upper 50s, no wind, no rain. I put a long-sleeved t-shirt under Evelyn's Dorothy dress, and she was quite comfortable. Evelyn got several comments on her shoes - those sparkly red ones glistened in the night.

Evelyn lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, so she made quite a haul with candy. There are two reasons why our Germantown neighborhood is much better than where we lived in Dallas: townhomes and more porch lights. When you live in an area saturated with townhouses like we do here, it doesn't take long to get loads of candy. Plus, a lot more homes had their porch lights on than where we used to live.

Julia did get dressed up in her pea pod costume for the excursion through the neighborhood. After about 50 minutes of walking, she insisted on going home, where she changed back into her festive purple witch outfit. After Evelyn got back with Troy, Julia helped go through the loot in the candy bucket. Evelyn's favorite? Skittles. Julia's favorite? Crinkling a bag of M&Ms.

Angry Pug

video

Here's a video of Julia's latest thing, which we call "angry pug." She scrunches her face up and breathes loudly through her nose. I've been trying for over a week to get this on video, and she finally cooperated this morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

I had planned to help Evelyn carve her pumpkin tonight, but she couldn't wait. So we made that our craft of the morning.

This year, we got pumpkin carving software on a CD, so Evelyn designed her own jack-o-lantern by choosing the eyes, nose, and mouth. (She is currently of the opinion that a pumpkin must be turned into a jack-o-lantern with a face.) We used the pumpkin that was already hollowed-out from Sunday's party, so today's project went pretty quickly.

Evelyn helped me tape the pattern onto the pumpkin, then we traced the pattern with the puncher. Evelyn watched me carve out the eyes and the nose, but then she lost interest while I worked on the mouth. Attention spans of four-year-olds are short, so I'm glad we made an easy face. The finished product looks pretty cute!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From Evelyn

Yesterday, Evelyn grabbed the camera to take pictures around the house. She's been doing this for at least a year, now. The usual subjects of her photographs are her toys, the floor, furniture, the wall, and Julia.

After taking a picture of herself, she said, "We should put this on the blog!" So here it is:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Party

Whew! Last night was the Halloween party, and we all survived. It's funny how weeks of planning and preparation result in an hour-and-a-half frenzy of fun and excitement.

All 13 of the little friends who RSVP'ed came. Some showed up after we had taken the group picture, and some were too shy to get in the picture.

After decorating treat bags and taking a picture of the kids, we headed outside for a bone hunt. Fifty bones were scattered around the front yard, and every single bone was found. The prize? One lollipop for each discovered bone. After playing a round of tossing candy in the pumpkin (easy for some, a bit challenging for others), the kids enjoyed hot dogs, chips, apples, and juice boxes.

Then the fun really got started. The kids played a cupcake walk game - they danced around to the music, when the music stopped, they stood on a number, and if their number was called, they got a cupcake. Now, this was a party with mostly 3- and 4-year-olds, so you know we played until everyone got a cupcake. The last game of the night was pin the nose on the pumpkin. The party wrapped up with announcing winners for the costume contest, guessing the amount of M&Ms in a cup, and guessing how much the pumpkin weighed.

The funniest comment came from a dad at the end of the party. He told me I should consider becoming a teacher. Too funny!

I think everyone had a fun time, and before we knew it, the party was over. Even though Julia hung out upstairs in the kitchen helping with the food prep all evening, having 30+ people in her house tuckered her out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Update

So many cute and funny things lately, but let's see if I can remember any of them . . .

I asked for Evelyn's help choosing pumpkins at the grocery store by crawling on the pallets and moving the pumpkins around. I knew she'd had enough when she went into a scarecrow pose - stood in the middle of the pumpkins, arms out-stretched, head hanging limply to the side. A younger couple got quite a chuckle out of seeing her and told Evelyn she made a very good scarecrow.

At Julia's 6-month portrait session at Target, Evelyn made her laugh and laugh. How? Simply by throwing a stuffed animal into the air. I can't wait to get those pictures back - it was a really good photo session.

Julia has settled into a daily routine of napping in the morning, eating cereal early afternoon, napping in the afternoon, and eating more cereal following supper-time. She is also getting the hang of swallowing cereal better. I don't have to re-scoop as many bites into her mouth.

Below, pictures taken tonight while making biscuits for supper. One girl thoroughly bored (or making up a new yoga pose?), one thoroughly enjoying herself. When Troy saw what we were up to, he quietly slipped out of the kitchen. What fun is making biscuits from scratch if you can't get messy? :)