Thursday, July 28, 2016

Happy Retirement, Mom!

My mom has officially retired after 26 years of dedicated service to the local school district, and we couldn't be happier for her. 

Mom's school hosted a lovely reception for her
I say "official" now because even though the big celebration was at the end of the school year in May, she still worked summer school, so really, she's only been done for a short time. Regardless, I'm sure retirement won't really sink in until school starts again in the fall...for everyone else.

For what was surely the first time ever, I didn't listen to my mother when she said that it was "no big deal," and packed up the girls for a trip to Kansas City for the festivities. I'm so glad we did because it was wonderful to celebrate and honor Mom. Plus, it was a great opportunity to introduce Lena to so many family and friends, including her uncles, aunt, and cousins.

Speaking of honoring my mom, I would be remiss if I didn't thank everyone who sent cards to "shower" her with good wishes. She was both surprised and touched.

The card shower was displayed in umbrellas

Congratulations, Mom! We wish you many adventures in this next chapter of life...and hopefully a few extra trips to Memphis as well.

Seattle "Vacation"

Much to our surprise, we are nearly six years into what we thought was a two-year stint in Memphis. We are really enjoying living here...with one exception. Tennessee is far away from family. We can at least get to Kansas City in a day's drive, but getting to Seattle is much more challenging.

Therefore, when Jon found out about a class he had to take for work being held in Seattle, we quickly decided that the girls and I would tag along and turn it into an opportunity to visit family. So, last month, Lena got to take her first plane ride, and we left behind the heat and humidity for a taste of a Pacific Northwest summer. It was a great time...I'm just not sure we packed enough warm and water-proof clothes.

Elsa's doll, Tom, also made the trip
We spent the first week of our two-week stay with family. Our grand plans of hanging out at the lake were thwarted by rain and cold, but we did get to introduce the girls to the ocean and the beach, which they loved. While we are very fortunate that we are able to take time off to see family, those trips can't really be considered vacations, so it was nice to sort of merge the two for our second week when we headed into the city.

Jon's class was in downtown Seattle, so the night prior, we moved into our hotel home for the week. Each morning, he ventured out on public transportation while the girls and I found something to occupy our time until meeting up again in the afternoon. No doubt one of the highlights for Elsa was getting to have scrambled eggs at the hotel's complimentary breakfast every day.

We kept things pretty low-key on the first day by walking to a nearby park. There was a lot to do with swings, slides, and a sandbox; and it was nice to be able to play outside without it being oppressively hot. For lunch, Elsa enjoyed her first real taste of teriyaki chicken, and following that treat, we headed back to the hotel for naptime.

That night we went out to dinner with one of Jon's co-workers for another one of our Seattle must-haves: salmon at Ivar's. We capped off the evening with a stroll through the Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront, feeling like the combination of tourist/local that we were.

The next day, the girls and I met the cousins at Remlinger Farms. Everyone had a blast riding rides (over and over and over), but the big hit was the pony ride. I was so proud of Elsa because she's come a long way from her first pony ride experience that ended in tears before it even started.

Elsa atop Bumbleberry the pony
We met at a friend's house for dinner, and then continued that trend the following day by meeting another friend at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. We are rather partial to the Memphis Zoo (especially considering we live five minutes away), but the ambiance of Point Defiance can't be beat. We got to feed the budgies and ride the carousel, too, which are definitely special treats. With all of the activity and fresh air, I was not the least surprised that both girls promptly fell asleep in the car on the way back to Seattle.

Location, location, location!
Thursday we were on our own, so the girls and I headed downtown to the Pacific Science Center, or as Elsa likes to call it, the science museum. We had fun checking out the naked mole rats, but the highlight--for me, at least--was the butterfly house. The most memorable part for Elsa, however, was the seagull that tried to take our lunch while we picnicked outside.

In an attempt to have as much seafood as possible while we were close to the ocean, we went out for sushi when Jon finished with his class that evening. Elsa ate as much shrimp as she possibly could, or as much as we would order for her. This girl has expensive taste.

We capped off our "vacation" the following day by stopping at Green Lake on our way out of town (after enjoying teriyaki yet again). Even though the water was cold, Elsa wanted to dip her toes in the lake, and Jon obliged.

Gratuitous cute photo to prove Lena was there, too
So, not a vacation in the truest sense, but we'll take what we can get. Maybe next time Jon and I can sneak in a little getaway sans can dream, right?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Elsa is THREE!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a "threenager" on our hands.

I fully recognize that term as the trendy buzzword that it is, but I also acknowledge that there is some truth to it. I had no idea toddlers could be so bi-polar. One minute they're red-faced and wailing over something that seems trivial only to suddenly break out into maniacal laughter. Lest you miss the transition, Elsa is quick to proclaim, "I'm happy again!"

Elsa is quick to proclaim a lot of things these days. She speaks extremely well...and a lot. But we love it. Not only is it infinitely more interesting for me to have someone to talk to at home, but it's also rather entertaining. Jon and I share a lot of glances with raised eyebrows about the things that come out of her mouth. The girl even tells jokes. I'll spare you the specifics, as I'm sure anything she says is much more hilarious to Jon and me, but rest assured that you're guaranteed at least a chuckle in her presence.

The biggest change this year has been Elsa's promotion to Big Sister. So far, she gets glowing remarks on her performance review. She truly loves her little sister, and it melts my heart to see them smiling and laughing at each other. I am so excited to watch this relationship develop.

Elsa's world is definitely expanding. Technically in preschool three days a week this year, she has been learning so much. Fortunately she is very forthcoming with the details of her day, which I cherish because I know the answer to "How was school?" will become "Fine" before I know it. In addition to school, we've rounded out our routine with playgroup and Kindermusik class. So, basically, we play a lot, which is great.

Once again, Elsa requested chocolate cake for her birthday, and we were happy to oblige. We kicked off the festivities with a birthday party at the park with her (and our) friends, complete with a face painter. We lucked out on the weather, as it was a beautiful day and so much fun.

Flowers on one side, a dinosaur on the other
Elsa's official birthday was on a work day, so it fell to me to make her favorite breakfast of scrambled eggs. She is still talking about how the "first batch was yucky, but the second batch was much better, like Daddy's." (I don't like eggs and had never made them before--the things we do for love.) Next, we met Dad downtown for lunch before heading to playgroup. Of course, we squeezed in the annual sheep photo shoot because it wouldn't be a birthday without it.

Enough with the sheep, people!
We rounded out the day with shrimp for dinner (which I also don't like--seriously, whose child is this?) followed by cake and ice cream. The birthday girl also got to talk/FaceTime with family and open presents, all of which made Elsa feel so special.

The celebration continues until the end of this month when Elsa gets to go to ballet camp. While she loves riding her bike and digging in the dirt, she is a ballerina in a pretty dress at heart. I'm not sure who is more excited for her performance.

I'm confident that Elsa enjoyed her special day, especially since she woke up the next morning asking, "Is it still my birthday?" That, to me, is proof of a successful birthday.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Welcome, Lena!

And then there were four.

In the wee hours of the morning of Tuesday, January 19, 2016, we welcomed Miss Lena Rose into our family (although true to fashion, she was Baby Girl for several days before we settled on a name).

We have spent the past several days/weeks settling into life as a family of four. Jon is coming to terms with being the primary source of testosterone in a house full of women. While he is already terrified of the teenage years, like the husband of a friend who also has two girls pointed out, he is man enough for the whole family.

I just read what I posted shortly after Elsa was born, and many of those sentiments are still true. Since then, however, we have learned a lot about being parents of a newborn (namely that we don't know what we're doing 99% of the time). Surprisingly, though, we have forgotten just as diapers have to be changed on a regular basis and babies like to be swaddled. We joke at the common sentiment we've heard a lot lately that people don't remember when their babies were so small, but there is an element of truth to it. Elsa has always been petite, but since Lena has entered the picture, Big Sister seems like a giant.

Jon claims that so far, Lena is much more chill than Elsa was, only crying when she needs something (primarily food). That may be true, but I think we are more laid-back as parents this time around. Even if we wanted to worry and feel insecure about every little detail, we wouldn't have the time or the energy because our darling 2 1/2-year-old still commands much of our attention.

Speaking of Elsa, she is doing quite well in her new role as Big Sister. She loves to hug and kiss Lena and is a good helper at diaper changing time. In addition, Lena's swing, bouncy chair, and car seat have been thoroughly tested and "made ready" for her use by her eager older sister. Sometimes Elsa isn't fully aware of her own strength when loving on her little sister, but as the second-born, Lena has to toughen up, and quickly.

So far, being the mother of two tiny humans is going much as I anticipated. Yes, it is often chaotic and messy and stressful, but overall, it has been a much easier transition going from one child to two than it was making the leap from zero to one. We have already adapted to a kid-centered lifestyle, so scheduling around naps and feedings and diaper changes has not been the shock to the system that it was last time. I am already accustomed to being late nearly everywhere I go, and I know that accomplishing anything more than the most essential tasks is sheer luck. And while they may not be the most intellectually-stimulating conversations, it is very nice to have someone to talk to during the day while we're at home; Elsa is quite the chatterbox, after all.

One thing we didn't expect--but are extremely grateful for--is the outpouring of support we have received from family and friends. It has been such a blessing to have so much help...and so much delicious food! We can't even begin to thank those who have provided for us during this time of great joy and great change, but it is our humble hope that we can repay the favor someday.

As I read over this post, I realize that I have written very little about our sweet Lena Rose. Uncharacteristically, I don't feel guilty about that at all. I cherish the snuggles and love to gaze upon her tiny little face as she sleeps, but I know that it only gets better from here. I am excited to get acquainted with her and the personality that will continue to emerge, but I know that will take time.

Meanwhile, just look at this face: