Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holiday Highlights

Yet another very tardy and almost outdated blog post, but I'm sure that's no surprise to all you faithful readers who actually still check this blog every so often!

I have promised myself that I will carve out time for this a little more often, and make it more routine and not so overwhelming for myself. As scattered as my posts have been over the past couple of years, I'm still glad that I have at least a small archive of the happenings in our household, so that Sophie and Jack have something to read and look back on when they're older. And looking back myself, it amazes me to see how much things have changed over such a short time. We are entering a whole new phase of life with Jack's growing independence.

Here are some of the highlights from our Christmas Season...

Sophie participated in our church Christmas Pageant as one of many 4 year old sheep. The children have worked on learning the songs and memorizing bible verses since early September, and it was thrilling to watch it all come together. Jack didn't make the age cut-off for the pageant, but he too learned the music and surprised his pre-school teachers by requesting, "Angels We Have Heard on High" during music time!

Here's Sophie in action.

The Loomis Family annual gingerbread decorating party was another favorite. The Loomis's never disappoint with the amazing array of candy that can be used for the house as well as the fact that Lorraine makes the cookie houses and icing all from scratch, and has assembled on for each child before they arrive.

This was the first year that Sophie was more focused on actually decorating the house than sneaking candy. She worked on her house for more than an hour, covering every possible space with a different type of candy. Jack on the other hand, was much more focused eating the candy in his bowl. All was well in his world until he shoved a handful of shredded wheat in his mouth (intended to be used for a thatched roof), which threw him for a major loop.

Sophie and I enjoyed lots of baking and some fun crafts this year. She definitely has a love for art and creativity. She especially enjoyed adding her own special touch to our frosted sugar cookies.

Having traveled to North Carolina last Christmas, we were content to stay put this year and have Oma join us for a few days. The kids always love it when there's a grandparent in the house and it made it extra special this year.

After several weeks of build up and excitement about Santa, Sophie gleefully ran into our room Christmas morning and declared, "Santa has come!". When we asked how she knew this, she confessed to glancing over the balcony on the way to our room and seeing that our stockings were filled. Interestlingly enough, she was content to hang out in our room for awhile until Jack woke up so they could venture downstairs together. She did end up popping down before him since he slept unusually late, but she was suprisingly patient.

The first thing they both did upon arriving at the fireplace was check out whether or not Santa had eaten the cookies they left out. There were several crumbs and cookie parts left on the plate, which Jack proceeded to chow down on without any urgency to open his stocking

It was hilarious to watch the different "styles" of the kids in opening their gifts. Sophie ripped into to everything quickly, barely glancing at the item before moving it to the coffee table where she lined up her loot and admired it. Jack was only interested in his new train set and still had gifts under the tree a week later because of this.

After a relaxed morning and our delicious traditional breakfast of egg casserole, we hosted a few of our neighborhood friends for a mid-day casual get-together. It has become sort of a tradition for those of us around on the holidays to share some part of it together, and it was lots of fun for the kids to see each other and exchange stories about what Santa brought for each of them. We have been blessed to be surrounded by such great families with children at similar ages who we can spend time with on a regular basis.

We capped off our Christmas with a trip to Stone Mountain Christmas on the 26th with Uncle Matt, Aunt Kori, Colin and Will. It was a bit cold but the kids enjoyed watching a few short Christmas productions, seeing part of Polar Express in 4D and a train ride around the mountain complete with Christmas lights and music.

The fact that Christmas and New Years both fell on Friday this year made for an especially relaxing and fun week for our family. Eric was able to take the week off between the 2 holidays, which allowed us to enjoy time at home with the kids, with no real agenda. Sometimes being at home like that is the best gift of all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving the Pre-school Way


Sophie kicked off her week at school with a Thanksgiving party. There is limited space for parking at VCLC, so each class gets to celebrate separately. Sophie's party time is 9:30, so you can only imagine how fun it is for a bunch of 5 year olds to get sugared up on cake and juice as they're just starting their day. Though I suppose it's a better alternative to a full turkey feast to send the kids into a food coma.

The kids marched into the party room with these adorable Indian vests made out of brown paper bags and were also adorned colorful jewelry and a headdress. After working on a craft, they enjoyed a beautifully decorated cake - complete with fondant leaves and all.

Today Sophie came home with this handmade "turkey", that was supposed to be her snack at school. She was so proud of her handiwork that she opted to bring it home so I could take a picture of it rather than eating it like the rest of the kids! It's still sitting on the counter waiting for praise from Daddy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trick or Treat Trot

Oftentimes when I head out for one of my Saturday morning runs with Liz in preparation for our 1/2 marathon, Sophie begs to tag along. My usual response is along the lines of..."One day you'll be able to keep up with Mommy and Liz, but trust me, you'll get tired quickly today so you need to stay home with Daddy. Trust Me." Now I just might have to eat those words seeing as how I could barely keep up with Sophie and Kiki during their first trick or treating extravaganza. If you hadn't already figured it out, Sophie dressed as "Dora the Explorer", and she really played the part..."Doorbell, Candy, RUN!".

In the past, we've gathered with our EastGate friends for a Halloween parade so the kids could show off their costumes, followed by a casual pizza party for all the families. Don't get me wrong - even without trick or treating the candy supply was plentiful (thank goodness the kids always seem to forget about it after a few days and it gradually makes its way to Eric's office). This year, despite the very cold weather and a steady mist, we took the plunge.
While Eric lagged behind with Jack, Sophie and Kiki took the lead and literally ran from house to house. Did I mention that EastGate is an extremely hilly neighborhood? I am still wondering who gave them the idea that trick or treating is akin to a competitive sporting event, but at least they worked hard for all that candy. After only 2 blocks, Sophie's bucket was overflowing (which made me ask, "Did they hand you the candy, or did they let you grab it?").

Turns out that Jack's slow pace was partly due to the fact that he consumed each piece of candy as he collected it. That's what happens when you leave Daddy in charge for a few short minutes! And of course explains why Jack had no more than 2 lollipops and a pack of M&Ms in his bucket.

We happily called it a day after those 2 short, fast blocks of trick or treating and headed to The Dekels for pizza and were quite appreciative of that extra hour for Daylight Savings. And still successfully dodging Jack's first sentence of each day..."Mommy, can I have a treat?"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

School Days

I find it funny that whenever I ask Sophie about her day at school, her typical response is, "All we did was work". While she generally seems like she enjoys her day, she is quick to point out that play time at school is few and far between. Nonetheless, she is always eager to start her homework. This is likely in part due to the fact that Jack doesn't get homework, and I suppose this minor difference gives her a sense of importance.

Her homework as of late has involved tracing and/or copying various letters and numbers in order to really master the technique of proper handwriting. Today, before even venturing into her "real" homework, Sophie asked if she could make a tracing page for herself. She proceeded to make dashes for every letter of the alphabet and numbers 1-10, and then traced them all. Granted she needs some work on the 6 and the 9!

Soon after this little project was complete, she set out to organize herself for the next...a stamp page that she's been working on for days. I love how all the stamps and crayons are lined up just so. This is clearly a trait that was passed down from Eric. While I love neatness and organization, there is something a tad more OCD about the way she (and he) like to line things up.

You can see from the picture that soon there will be no room left for any more stamping, coloring, etc. But Sophie views this as a work in progress and I love her enthusiasm in setting out to create the perfect masterpiece...which will likely end up taped to the kitchen wall or hanging from the mantle if she has anything to say about it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Litchfield Beach 2009

Our Beach vacation has come and gone, and we are finally getting settled into our fall routine. I wouldn't exactly call it a restful week with 4 families living under one roof (7 kids altogether, including 2 babies), but we enjoyed spending time with our friends. The kids had a blast, and we were able to spend a lot more time at the beach this year as opposed to splitting equal time between the beach and pool.

Given that we rented the same house last year, it was nice to have the familiarity of the house and the local surroundings (like Starbucks!). We were able to incorporate our separate guy and girl excursions, but we decided to get these out of the way earlier in the week. So, after a great day at the beach on Sunday, the Dads headed out to play golf on Monday and us Moms enjoyed a shopping/lunch/spa day on Tuesday.

Our house was a short 2 block walk from the beach, which took anywhere from 2 minutes (walking solo with one's own towel or chair) to 15 minutes (walking as a group with 5 preschoolers, 2 strollers, coolers packed with snacks, lunch and beverages for all ages, an inflatable baby pool, and a wagon loaded to the hilt with chairs, kites, towels, and even a portable potty!). You get the picture right?! Total chaos!! But once we made it, we enjoyed it immensely. We tried to time our beach trips with low tide, which left a cool, rather large pool of water for the kids to play in away from the actual ocean.

All of the kids at the beach...

Given that Sophie and Jack have been to the beach on four separate trips this summer, they both enjoyed jumping the waves and playing in the water. This was the first time that Sophie was actually able to fully swim in the ocean once we walked out far enough past the breaking waves. She was also very interested in collecting shells, and she found this amazing conch seen below.

Another highlight for both kids was having 2 babies around. For some reason, they both really love babies and were captivated by them much of the time. Last year Jack was the youngest, and the only boy, so it's nice for him that he could hold his own a little more with the older girls while at the same time, spending some quality time with the 2 youngest. Before we know it, Jake and Bella will be keeping up with the rest of them, and I think Jack is glad to have another boy around!

We continued our tradition of each couple preparing a meal for the rest of the gang one night, usually after the kids were sound asleep so we could reward ourselves with a more relaxing meal. Towards the end of the week, we indulged in a gourmet meal prepared by a chef in our very own beach rental. We weren't going to let anything get in the way of our evening, so we wore the kids out all day at the beach, let them make their own individuals pizzas which they had chowed down on by 5:30 and put them to bed a little earlier than usual.

The chef and his partner arrived at 7, and wondered how the house could possible be so quiet with 7 kids around. Appetizers of scallops over risotto and crostini topped with lump crab meat were served at 8. After we were seated, we enjoyed a wedge salad, surf and turf featuring sea bass and Filet Mignon, and we topped off our evening with bananas foster (Liz is likely cringing at this part) and chocolate covered strawberries. Needless to say, this was the best meal of the week!

Here's a picture that Crystal took of me and Eric the night of our special dinner...

And all of the adults ...

Jack and Kiki (the 2 early birds) enjoyed breakfast together most mornings.

After another fun day at the beach on Friday, we were all pretty much ready to call it a week and go home to catch up on our sleep! By Friday, most of us had the beginnings of a cold or some other ailment, so it was time to pack it in. It certainly was a great way to end the summer and kick off the new school year!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mommy's Helper

Tomorrow we head out for our second annual family vacation to Litchfield Beach with the Dekel, James and Monroe families. Woo-hoo!!

After a somewhat last minute trip to Hilton Head last weekend to help Eric's mom unpack and settle into her new place, and with this being the first week of school for the kids, I've been somewhat crazed these last few days and have been scrambling to get things done. Our suitcase from last weekend isn't even fully unpacked (why bother since it only needs to be repacked, right?).

Laundry seems to be something I can never keep up with anymore. Just ask Eric how many times he's run out of pants to wear to work and jeans to wear on casual Friday. It always ends up that there are plenty of whatever it is he doesn't actually need that day.

My "system" if you will is to take a load from the dryer and plop it on the couch to be folded. By the end of yesterday, I had done several loads but had not folded more than a few items due to various distractions - such as Jack stripping himself from head to toe (diaper and all) during "nap time", and peeing all over his crib. Pretty ironic that I had just been chatting with Liz about potty training and switching him to a big boy bed, don't you think? Is this sign that he's ready for both or neither one?!

Anyway, Sophie decided that she wanted to "participate" in vacation prep last night, so when Eric and I were tag teaming Jack at bedtime, she took it upon herself to sort and fold the laundry. It was a sweet gesture and she was quite proud. Every item had it's own little pile and some piles were weighted down with various construction vehicles and trains.

Here's the view from the upstairs hallway...

And my little helping basking in the midst of her masterpiece.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Off They Go...First Day of School

Today was the much anticipated first day of school. Sophie began Pre-Kindergarten and Jack had his first day as a Panda in the 2 year old class. It's hard to tell which of us was more excited about starting our new fall routine! While they both attended a few weeks of summer camps at Vinings Creative Learning Center, this is a new school for us this year.

Sophie and I got to have a Mommy-Daughter date yesterday in order to prepare for the big day. After we rounded up some necessary school supplies and grabbed some lunch, Sophie picked out a new backpack, some fall clothes and even a blender for the smoothies she's been asking me to make for weeks (I guess she's expecting she'll need some energy drinks after all that hard work). But the highlight of the outing for her was choosing 2 bottles of flashy nailpolish for a mani/pedi.

Both kids enjoyed their day. I have to admit I shed a little tear when Jack jumped out of the car to be walked to his classroom. In some ways I can't believe that he's old enough for pre-school. As long as I've waited for this in some ways, it's bittersweet for me to watch him enter this new phase.

As for Sophie, who I have proudly yet possibly prematurely labeled as a lover of learning, there may need to be a little transition time from summer fun to more structured school-time. When asked about her first day, she replied, "It really wasn't that fun...all we did was learn". To which I replied, "Isn't that the point?". When she went into more detailed description of what the day involved, it seemed that what she really meant was that while she enjoyed her time at school, there was little time for free play and unstructured learning. I'm hoping that she latches on quickly to the new structure and more academic element that VCLC will offer.

Her teacher Ms. Onsager certainly earned fast points with Sophie. Unable to find the snack I packed for Sophie, she gave her an extra breakfast bar that they probably kept on hand for this very reason. After locating the snack I packed, she let her have that too, which Sophie (who most of you know is also a lover of food!) thought was pretty great.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Catching Up...Hot Fun in the Summertime

Where do I even begin? We've had a busy and fun summer, which has once again led to me slacking off on the blogging.

I've decided that this will be one of several posts from our summer fun in order to give each experience the credit that it is due! So stay tuned...

One of our biggest milestones this summer is that Sophie is officially swimming independently. After a mere four lessons with Miss Michelle (which involved a lot of reluctance and tears might I add), she's truly able to hold her own in the water. Ironically, she cried her way through a few lessons, all-the-while doing exactly what Miss Michelle had intended for her to do. Seems like it was more an issue of control, and Sophie simply didn't want someone else calling the shots. The one thing she was vehemently opposed to was diving off the diving board. One day as Sophie began her lesson, she made it very clear that she didn't want to do the diving board. Miss Michelle quickly reassured her that it wasn't even on the agenda. Before we knew it, Miss Michelle turned the diving board dilemma into a bit of a game, and Sophie not only jumped off, but asked to do it again and again.

While it was definitely one of my harder moments in motherhood, we persevered and the outcome has proven to be wonderful.

We've ventured to the pool many a time this summer. Given that we have a lot have friends in the same boat, wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to let the kids practice their swimming, we've brought lunch and ordered pizza for dinner at the pool too many times to even count. This explains why every time we go to the pool, no matter the time of day, Jack exclaims, "Where's the Pizza?, or "I'm ready for my lunch". Here's a look at how he passed time time while Sophie learned to swim.

Stay tuned for more on our summer escapades!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Right now, I hear nothing but the click of the keyboard as I type. It is the strangest thing for me to be home ALONE, typing away with absolutely no background noise. While I'm sure there have been a handful of other times since Sophie was born that I've been in my house alone, there truly are not enough to recall in the past 4+ years. Usually, I'm the one heading out to get some alone time whether the kids are home with Eric, or whether I've been forunate enough to have a babysitter give me a few hours reprieve.

Today was Jack's first day of summer camp at the preschool he will attend in the fall. We decided to send him for a few weeks this summer in order to gradullay acclimate him to his new routine. Sophie started the camp a few weeks ago and I strategically held Jack back until now so he would get used to seeing her go. While I have not had any reservations about his readiness, there WAS a big knot in my stomach as I approached the carpool lane this morning. We've been talking this up for awhile, and Jack seemed to be completely exctited for this new adventure. But you just never know what's really going to happen when it's time for action. Thankfully, he was completely fine, which will shock any babysitter we've ever had since he usually throws his entire body against the door leading out to the garage when we leave. I think he found comfort in knowing his big sister and several of our neighborhood friend would also be there with him.

It's strange for me to think that this is the first of many days that I will have some time to do all of those things that I've been putting off for so long due to the busyness of life with 2 small children. It's only a few days a week, and only a few hours, but this is still way more time than I've ever had.

What, you may ask, do I plan to do with this time? Sadly, I am looking forward to cleaning out closets, organizing my photos that have been piling up for over a year, finally ironing the clothes that once filled a small laundry basket and now fill a whole closet! I'm sure I'll think of more exciting things to do with these snipits of time, but for now I'm totally content to just catch up with life a little.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Minor Victory

Today marked the beginning of a new era (well, hopefully) in the life of my non-vegetable eating little boy, Jack Balzuweit. Most of you will think this is completely silly and possibly not worthy of the blog, but seeing as how I am a dietitian and take pride in exposing my kids to a healthy diet, I can't help but get little excited over the fact that Jack FINALLY ate a cucumber slice. More than one, actually. While he has willingly tried and repeatedly rejected one vegetable after another (including cucumbers), I have continued to put them on his plate at every meal. He has been known to feign interest in vegetable crudites in order to use them as a vessel to deliver whatever "dip" is being offered. Despite his picky eating habits, he loves hummus and guacamole. We offer this regularly at our house, and while Jack favors chips for his dipping, I finally smartened up and have only given him the vegetables lately. Not only did he chew and swallow that cucumber...he even declared it as "Mmmmmm, Yummy"! While cucumbers are certainly not a dream vegetable in the eyes of a dietitian, it's a start and I am hopeful.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Good Start to Summer

We kicked off the summer with a quick jaunt to Hilton Head Island this past weekend. We were only there for 3 nights, which was quite a tease, but after several weeks of rain showers and cloudy days in Atlanta, even just a couple of sunny beach days was enough to renew our spirits and whet the appetite for the months of summer fun ahead.

We arrived Thursday evening and quickly settled into our condo just in time for Sophie and Jack to burn some energy from the drive before hitting the sack. They got to enjoy their very first sleepover, which required multiple trips into the room to remind them not to talk to each other. Sophie was sweetly playing into all of Jack's manipulative requests for water, more lullabyes and who knows what else. She really was trying to help but finally realized that it was futile and that Daddy was all business about getting them both to fall asleep.

Story Time

The following morning we hit the beach. They have both had several opportunities to enjoy the beach on a variety of trips we've taken, but this was the first time they were compatible enough to play together. It was also the first time that Eric and I could actually sit down for a few minutes and enjoy ourselves without constantly chasing them down or worrying about some of the things that go along with having toddlers on the beach. It gave us hope that it will only get easier (until the teenage years of course).

Jack was quite enthusisatic in the ocean, which was a change from the last time we were at the beach in September. After he got his feet wet and studied the pattern of the waves breaking, he sat right down and let the water rush over him. Stubborn as he sometimes is, he refused to let us hold his hand, so all I could do was just spot him from behind. We had to let him take a couple of hits from the waves to help him understand the respect the ocean commands. After the water washed over his head the first time, he was slightly stunned, but not upset. He just stood up and said "All Clean".

The real reason for our trip was to check out Eric's Mom's new home, located about 30 minutes off the island in Bluffton, South Carolina. She will be retiring there in the early fall after working for Airbus for more than 25 years. Lucky for us, she chose a beautiful place in a brand new development that has many amenities catering to young families.

After seeing Barbara's beautiful home-to-be, we headed to the pool area, the highlight of which was a lazy river which brought you under a spectacular waterfall that the kids loved. Sophie was able to independently "swim" through the river with her water wings, and as much as Jack loved it, he clung pretty tightly to one of us as we went along, opening his mouth each time we went under the waterfall. We enjoyed lunch by the pool and had a great time. We went to the beack again later that afternoon, which wasn't quite as relaxing as the first time since it was low tide with more room for Jack to run away. He kept saying "I'll be right back". I wanted to believe him of course, but you just never know, so it was an active afternoon for both of us.

Another highlight of our weekend was visiting with our friends The Kuenkels. Christa and Rainer used to live near us in Virginia, and they have a beautiful home in Hilton Head where they have moved for retirement. We spent some time at there place on Friday afternoon, and the kids were delighted to be able to feed turtles from the dock of the back yard. I've never seen so many turtles in one place. This picture is a little murky, but if you look closely, you can see a bunch.

It was great to see The Kuenkels and we look forward to more time with them since we will be visiting more often in the future. And thanks again for a delicious meal!!

If only every weekend could be like this! Our only complaint was that it was too short.