Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Julia's 12-Month Checkup

Julia went in for her 12-month checkup last Friday. I'm sure everyone is waiting on pins and needles for her height and weight measurements, so here they are: 23 pounds, 1 ounce and 30 1/4 inches long. Since her last checkup in January, she has gained 1 pound, 12 ounces, and she has grown nearly two inches. Let's not forget about comparing Julia's measurements to Evelyn's. Julia is only half an inch longer than Evelyn was at 12 months, but she weighs four more pounds than Evelyn did. When you add four pounds to a baby that is/was the same length, it's no wonder Julia has such juicy legs!

There was one area of concern for the doctor - Julia's gross motor skills. At this age, she should be pulling herself up to standing, standing without assistance and cruising (walking along furniture). Julia just recently started to creep and scoot along the floor, so it will be a little while before she starts the age-appropriate gross motor skills.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day Out with Thomas - Baltimore

We headed up to Baltimore this afternoon. First we met Kat and Ross for lunch at Panera (at the Inner Harbor). Yummy food and great company. :)

Then we went to the B&O Railroad Museum for Day Out with Thomas. This is the third time Evelyn has seen Thomas. The previous two times were in Texas and Nebraska. Today's venue was bigger, and there were a few more activities for Evelyn to participate in.

After checking in at the admissions area, she went to the "Imagination Station" area inside the roundhouse. She colored for a little bit before deciding it was time to move on. Since we know our way around the museum, and we had an hour and a half before our train ride, we headed outside. Evelyn's first stop there was the bounce house. She spent nearly ten minutes jumping around in there. In the meantime, Troy and Julia waited in the breezy shade of the food pavillion.
Next, Evelyn got two tattoos - Thomas and Rosie. Then she made a spinning painting. We just had to get a picture with Sir Topham Hatt, so we went back inside the roundhouse. The line wasn't too long, and Evelyn was simply giddy with excitement to be standing next to the controller of the Island of Sodor.
Evelyn wanted to get a video of Thomas leaving the station, so we headed outside to watch the 2:30 train depart. Evelyn waved and blew on her wooden train whistle. In other words, she and Thomas talked to each other. By this time, the sun and heat of the day was catching up to Evelyn, so she settled down in front of some Thomas videos back inside the roundhouse (while sipping water).

It wasn't long before we heard the announcement for us to board our 3:15 train. As we walked along the raised passenger platform, I had a chance to get a great picture of Evelyn standing in front of Thomas. It's so fun to watch her excitement over being so close to one of her favorite engines. I was only able to buy two tickets (long computer story), so Troy stayed back with Julia while I rode the train with Evelyn. She noticed right away that we were on a MARC coach, which made the trip that much more special.
After our 25-minute train ride, we met up with Troy and Julia in the food pavillion. We snacked and then headed to the gift shop, our last stop of the day. It's a Day Out with Thomas tradition to get a souvenir car. She got a caboose in Texas (2007) and a tank car in Nebraska in (2008). She couldn't wait to see what kind of car she would get this year . . . It was a passenger car! Just perfect for tagging along behind Annie and Clarabel (Thomas' coaches).

Let's not forget about our little Sunshine. She deserves that nickname after today's excursion. Julia only had a 30-minute nap in the car during the drive up to Baltimore. Even though it was past 4:00 - her afternoon nap time - in the following picture, she was still all smiles.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Goings-On

Julia went to her first swimming lesson this morning at the Germantown Recreation Center. I had the honor of playing with Julia in the water. At first she acted like she couldn't quite figure out why we were sitting in cool (but not cold, thank goodness) water with a bunch of other little people. After doing the warm-up activity in the super-shallow area, the class moved to the three-foot area and did fun activities like songs, front floats and back floats. I would consider the lesson a success because Julia never cried.

After lunch, we all headed over to a nearby garden center to load up on annual flowers for our front yard. We had a 25%-off coupon for our total purchase, and it's amazing what $50 will do for the front area of a townhouse. Simply amazing. I wish I had taken before and after pictures because the comparison is like night and day. Anyway - We found some stepping stones to make a path in the narrow area where we walk to turn on the faucet (no more trekking through mud and leaves and weeds). We bought imaptiens (Troy's favorite ) to put in the shady spots. For sunny annuals, we got purple ageratums, pink asters, pinkish-purple dianthus and yellow snapdragons. Finally, to make the transformation complete, we got mulch, which really made the grass, bushes and flowers pop. I will probably post a picture after a month or so, when the flowers have had a chance to fill in.

Did I mention the temperature was over 90 degrees today?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Amazing Customer Service

I was wowed by the incredible customer service I experienced during our trip back home today. It all started when we dropped off our rental car at Enterprise. The guy who checked in the car was super-friendly at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m., and he helped me unload our luggage. The shuttle driver was also very helpful and friendly.

I am always pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the security lines at Denver International Airport. The security workers know what they're doing, and they offer helpful advice before you realize you need help. For example, I was looking around to find the special line for families of children that have food and/or liquid in their carry-on baggage (read: Julia's jar of baby food). Before I knew it, someone directed me to the correct line. I should also mention the help with collapsing and opening the stroller for the xray conveyor belt - much appreciated when my hands are full.

After we made it through security, our next stop was breakfast. Evelyn had pancakes on the brain, and our only option was a sit-down place. I figured I would get everything I truly needed for both girls at a place like that (as opposed to McDonald's), and I was right. The waitress provided me with every little extra thing I requested, and she never acted like it was out of the ordinary.

I need to write to Southwest Airlines to commend one of their flight attendants. Overall, we girls had very pleasant experiences flying Southwest for this trip - (decent-sized) snacks, drinks and friendly staff. But today was even better. I needed to make Julia's cereal, so I rang for a flight attendant to bring some water. When she came back with the water, it was almost as if she could read my mind: How in the world am I going to make cereal in this cramped space and keep Julia from making a huge mess? The flight attendant said, "I have grandkids, and I know how to make baby cereal. Give me the container and the cereal, and I'll be right back." That's exactly what happened - in just moments, the flight attendant returned with perfectly-made cereal.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Behind the Scenes

Evelyn had a chance to go behind the scenes today. The first stop was the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Even though we visited this museum Friday afternoon, Evelyn requested to go back because she hadn't seen everything she wanted to. No problem, since Uncle Eric has a membership that we borrowed. After checking out the space exhibits, we headed to the dinosaur area. When we walked past the laboratory, we were lucky enough to see a scientist cleaning a fossil. Not only that, but the window was open so that we could talk with the scientist. He told us about the ankylosaurus plate fossil he was cleaning. Since Evelyn loves dinosaurs, she knew exactly what the guy was talking about. She even got to touch the fossil. Very cool for a little girl who loves dinosaurs.

The next stop was the RTD maintenance facility. Evelyn's Uncle Eric works for the Denver transportation district, so he managed to make an appointment to tour the yards where the light-rail trains are serviced and cleaned. This is also the place where they "live," and Evelyn was able to see some of the trains leave for shifts. She helped move a switch to change the direction of the tracks the trains travel on. She walked through the engine wash area - I don't think Evelyn was as nervous as I was that the whole thing would start spinning and spraying while we were in there. Great stuff for our Train Girl.

Julia's Real Birthday

Today marks the day when sweet little Julia Carolyn Luster came into the world. Most of the weekend was devoted to Julia's birthday, so not much happened in the way of a celebration today. Julia mostly tagged along with Evelyn on her Denver adventures. But she was able to visit with Uncle Eric and Aunt Heather shortly before bedtime. Happy birthday Sweet Babes!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Julia's First Birthday Party

Originally, Julia's birthday party was scheduled for Saturday evening. Since the weather was predicted to be sloppy and wet and cold all day Saturday (which is what ended up happening), we postponed the party. It was a good thing, too, because this afternoon it was sunny and warm. Just perfect for a birthday barbecue.

Julia entertained her guests while they ate lunch. Then it was time for cake. I made two birthday cakes - a cut-out number one and a baby cake. The baby cake was strictly for Julia to play with or eat, and it had candles that spelled her name. After Evelyn helped Julia blow out her candles, it was time to dig in! Well . . . it turns out that Julia gets the prize for cleanest cake-eating baby. She grabbed the cake with her entire hand, but Julia didn't get what she expected. She didn't know quite what to do with the squishy cube. After a few more attempts of poking at the cake with her index fingers, she gave up and decided it was nap time.

Julia didn't get around to opening her presents until after her supper and bath time. Somehow everyone knew that Julia is a little bookworm because she made out with eight books. As you can see in the picture below, it didn't take long for Julia to dive into her books.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Julia's Birthday Dinner

The family headed over to Ted's Montana Grill in downtown Denver for Julia's first birthday dinner. There were enough of us to book a reservation (thank goodness, especially on a Saturday evening) - Troy came in earlier this afternoon for his cancer research conference, Grandma Linda and Grandpa Phil drove in this afternoon from Nebraska, and of course Uncle Eric and Aunt Heather came along since they live in Denver.

As I'm sure you can imagine, Julia didn't partake in any of the yummy beef or bison burgers, but the rest of us did! We each got different toppings on our burgers, which made for a delicious mess. At the end of the meal, Julia got a complimentary birthday dessert: a HUGE snickerdoodle cookie with vanilla bean ice cream. She shivered after taking her first bite of ice cream, but after the initial shock (of taste? of coldness?), she had several more bites.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Major Snow Day in Denver

The snowstorm that was predicted for the Denver area came to fruition, big-time. All day it snowed, rained and slushed. What do I mean by "slushed" you ask? Big potato chip sized clumps of slushy snow fell from the sky. If you were outside during a bout of that weather, you got completely soaked. (It happened to us a couple of times today.) We girls found fun, indoor activities to do since it was so yucky outside.

First we headed to the local library (with my brother's library card) to check out some books. As luck would have it, we happened to be there when a preschool story time was going on, so Evelyn joined in. Following Julia's morning nap and everyone's lunch, we headed to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (again, using Eric's membership card). Julia let us spend two hours there, and we took in the children's discovery area (dinosaurs for Evelyn!) and a temporary weather exhibit (hurricanes and tornadoes for Evelyn!).

We ended the day by having dinner with Eric and Heather at their place. Evelyn and I "broke in" to their house earlier this morning to start a pot roast in their crock pot, so by 7:00, dinner was served with very little effort. It looks like tomorrow will be full of more snowy/rainy weather, so we'll just have to wait and see what we will do in the way of sight-seeing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flight to Denver

The trip today from Baltimore to Denver went well. What I mean is that our flight was on time, and there weren't any problems acquiring our rental car (Toyota minivan - fun stuff). The girls painted a different picture, especially with Julia.

Let's start with the good news first. It was Evelyn's best flight. Considering this flight was a little over four hours long, that's saying something. She only had problems with her ears bothering her during the first 20 minutes of the flight. After that, she was fine. She ate her McDonald's lunch, then she colored, watched a Thomas video on the portable DVD player and finally colored some more. Oh, let's not forget the trip to the bathroom. It was a tight fit, but we got all three of us in the airplane bathroom so Evelyn could use the facility.

Julia, on the other hand, had the worst flight ever. At this age, she likes being held, but she reaches a time limit for how long she wants to be held. Four hours is MUCH too long for the little Sunshine. The last hour of the flight was just horrible, with Julia writhing and crying in my lap. She was also very tired, I'm sure. She only had a short cat-nap in the car on the ride from our house to the Baltimore airport this morning. After hitting the road in our rental, it didn't take long for Julia to fall asleep in her car seat.

I wonder what the trip home will bring . . .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter 2009

When Evelyn woke up this morning, she found that the Easter Bunny had left some yummy chocolate treats for her - including a chocolate bunny in her bedroom. It didn't take long for Evelyn to find the 16 eggs (with chocolate candies inside) that were hidden all around the house.

Evelyn proudly wore her Easter dress to church this morning. Both girls posed for pictures after we got home, and thankfully they both were in a good mood.

Since time got away from us last week, we didn't have a chance to dye Easter eggs until today. We put Julia down for her morning nap, and then the three of us colored eggs in the kitchen. Troy used a clear crayon to draw and write on the eggs, and Evelyn supervised the intensity of the eggs' colors.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Horrible Table Manners

Tonight Evelyn pointed out that Julia has bad table manners. Horrible, to be exact.

When it comes to Cheerios, Julia feeds herself very well. The problems lie in what Julia does when the Cheerios are in her mouth. She chews with her mouth open. She talks when she has food in her mouth. And sometimes she lets out the biggest burps. In Evelyn's book, all of this adds up to poor table manners.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Avocado Hummus

This evening Troy and I made a new kind of hummus. We prefer to make our own hummus, and we're always looking for new recipes to try. Using avocado instead of tahini turned out better than we thought it would. Here's the recipe:

1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
16 ounces chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Blend all ingredients until creamy

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baby Chatterbox

Julia is very social when she wakes up in the morning. She runs through her repertoire of baby signs, usually in this order: more, milk, all done. Julia makes the signs, and then she waits for whoever is getting her dressed to say the words aloud.

Julia is also trying to "say" some new baby signs - diaper and eat. The only problem is that she makes these signs on whoever is holding her. The baby sign for diaper is patting the hip. So when I pat my hip and say "diaper," Julia pats my hip, not hers. The baby sign for eat is tapping your mouth with your fingers. When Julia makes this sign, she taps my mouth with her fingers. She has the right idea, so we praise her anyway.

Baby J also enjoys clapping for people. While watching Evelyn at gymnastics yesterday and dance today, Julia would clap whenever I would cheer.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Then and Now

Our neighbors to the north have the most beautiful spring-blooming tree in their backyard. Last year, we just had to take some pictures with that tree in the background. We took this picture on April 5th last year . . . when I was 39 weeks pregnant.

April 5th was another gorgeous day this year, and the neighbor's tree was in bloom again. This time around, I thought it would be cute to have the girls in the picture. Evelyn doesn't look that much different, but just look at the baby!

Cherry Blossoms

Today's weather was absolutely perfect for going to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. It was sunny, there was a light wind, and the temperature got up to 70 degrees. As I'm sure you can imagine, we weren't the only ones who thought it was a great day for sight-seeing . . . It was a little crowded (okay, big-time crowded) on the Metro, and walking around the Tidal Basin got tricky at times, but we managed.

Last year we visited the cherry blossoms as a family of three, and Troy and I had a pretty good idea of where to go within a preschooler's range of walking. Adding Julia to the mix only meant trying not to bump into people with her stroller. Evelyn can walk a lot farther than most kids her age, so we knew we would be fine with wandering around for several hours.

We rode the Metro to the Smithsonian stop, where we fought our way through a throng of runners who had just finished a race. We managed to find Kat and Ross amid the chaos, and off we went. The six of us meandered over to the Tidal Basin by way of the Washington Monument. We just took our time walking around the water, taking in the sights. Thankfully Julia fell asleep in the stroller for her morning nap. Once we got to the Jefferson Memorial, we had to go inside to see the president's statue. Well, not all of us went - Troy continued to push Julia in the stroller to help keep her asleep.

Next we headed back to the north side of the basin, where all the food vendors were. We brought our big picnic blanket along, and we all ate our lunch in the shade of the Japanese cherry trees. I think we spent close to two hours there, resting and eating. As I'm sure you would guess, after Evelyn ate, she ran around like a crazy nut, and Ross joined in. Julia played and ate, played and ate. She also explored an ice pop, but not for long - it was too cold!

The weather (and scenery!) was so nice, we could've stayed forever. But, after having some ice cream treats, it was time to head back. Hopefully we'll get picture-perfect weather when we come back next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Advanced Gymnastics

Today was the third day (and the third week) Evelyn attended her advanced gymnastics class. She was invited to join this class because of both her upper body strength and her intense concentration when learning new skills.

The first two weeks were a bit frustrating for Evelyn. She is the newest student in the class, and therefore she can't execute some of the moves and skills as well as the other girls (yet!). We have been talking with Evelyn about how she needs to learn new, difficult things to get better. She has also been practicing floor exercises at home. If we only had a balance beam and a bar at home, she would be practicing those skills, too.

Below are some pictures of Evelyn doing her seal stretch and bridge. Amazing flexibility, for sure!