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!

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.