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January 31, 2014

Stream of Consciousness



This week was the letter “A” at preschool.  Baby A was taking a picture of herself, wearing an Alabama sweatshirt.  She drew a picture of an airplane, and she colored pictures of an astronaut and an alligator that I printed from the computer.

Baby B found apples and avocados from the grocery store sale paper.  She also thought about “ants”, but we knew it would be tough to find a picture of ants in a magazine.  I remembered seeing fingerprint ants once upon a time.  A quick Pinterest search reminded me what to do.

The girls were tickled to play with the ink pad, and I let them use my pen (which is always a big deal to them!) to draw the legs and faces.  [Our ants all had smiling faces, of course.]

As we were constructing our ants, we talked about them having three parts to their bodies…

…this led us to think about our book on butterflies and moths…and our book on bees…both of which detail the parts of an insect’s body…

…that conversation turned to bees and ants both living in colonies…

...and that morphed into a conversation about the 13 original colonies of the United States.

I think about this all the time, how one thing leads to another.  I just love being able to follow the girls’ minds and spark their interests.  Never underestimate the power of a preschooler’s brain!

January 26, 2014

They Grow with a Little Help from my Friends and Family



I realized it early on, the tendency I have to look at my children as BABIES, more fragile, more vulnerable, and less capable than they really are.  It’s sometimes a wakeup call when I see my friends’ children of the same age.  Hey, they are BIG KIDS!  Hmmm…my girls are the same age…so wait a minute!  Are my BABIES that big, TOO???

And along those same lines, it’s happened a time or two, at least, when my friends and family members have gently prompted me to allow the girls a new privilege, to challenge them in some new way.  Most of the time, I just didn’t realize my BABIES could / should be doing something more.

I remember the holiday, just before my sweet cherubs turned two.  We went to Grandma Linda’s house for lunch, and I cut the girls’ food into small pieces and put it on the trays of their highchairs for them to feed themselves.  I was proud that they were eating the same “big people food” we were.  Grandma Linda was proud, too, I’m sure…”but do they need spoons?” she asked.  In honesty, I’d given the girls spoons a month or so prior to that, but they made a HUGE mess.  I tabled that endeavor, vowing to revisit cutlery “when they were older”.

A week or so later, a lovely package arrived at our door, containing the cutest plates and matching plastic forks and spoons.

It was the subtle prompt I needed to turn them loose with utensils…and low and behold, they mastered it really quickly!

Grandma Linda prompted me again recently, when she gave the girls weaving looms for Christmas.  I have very fond memories of making potholders when I was a kid…but I remember being much older than five.  I was so appreciative of the thought, of course, but I worried it would be one of those “for when you’re older” gifts we put back for a while.

The girls couldn’t wait to dig into their new goodies, though, so I acquiesced.  And you know what?  THEY DID IT!!!  I am still doing the edges for them, but they’ve got the weaving down pat.  Think again, Mommy!

For their birthday, Aunt Alison sent the girls two new games, one being “Trouble”.  The girls wanted to play right away…but I feared it would be far over their heads.

They proved me wrong…again…as we’ve played countless games over the past two weeks.  There’s counting, of course, but there’s also considerable strategy, and the girls have picked that up really quickly.  While the game moves really fast, there’s the potential for lots of disappointment.  The girls have learned to take it in stride…and that, my friends, is HUGE!  (Daddy had this game when he was growing up, called – in Serbian – “Don’t Get Mad, Man!”  That’s a fitting title, and one we say often, as we vie to send each others' pieces back behind the starting line.)

Yet again, I’ve been shown that my BABIES are much more capable, much more mature, than what I sometimes give them credit for.  Thanks, Friends and Family, for that extra little push I need now and again to take off the baby pink-colored glasses.

January 18, 2014

So How's the Whole iPad Thing Working for You???



You may remember how much I struggled through most of last year with the decision about introducing technology to the girls.  I am really proud of our non-battery-operated toys, our numerous sets of building blocks, half a million books, and my girls’ art supply fetish.  While I certainly didn’t want them to fall behind the technology curve, I had strongly mixed feelings about interjecting something so “charged” into our Zen-like mix.

I bit the bullet on Labor Day weekend, though, buying the girls each an iPad mini.  I downloaded a handful of educational apps, and set a 30-minute limit for screen time per day.  That first week, I wasn’t exactly regretting my decision, but I did see a lot of my apprehensions at play.  The girls seemed to wake up thinking about their iPads.  How long until we can play with our iPads?  Can we have iPad time now?” I heard at least 20 times a day there for a bit.

The newness eventually wore off, though.  One afternoon, a couple of weeks in, the girls were playing exceptionally well.  It reached the time when I would normally acquiesce their iPads…and they were still engrossed in their pretend play.  I didn’t dare interrupt them.  It was after supper that night when someone remembered in alarm, “Hey!  We didn’t play with our iPads today!

Now, more than four months in, the girls play with their iPads probably 4 or 5 days a week.  There are occasions when they might watch something on TV (usually from the Animal Planet), and they know that counts as their screen time for the day.  Other days, we just get wrapped up in whatever else we’re doing.  The girls still relish their technology time, but it’s become not such a big deal.

With the balance of our days safely in check, I can tell you there are things I LOVE about the girls and their iPads.  I love the fun apps they have for phonics and math.  I love the amazing pictures they can explore on their astronomy and wild life apps.  I love the functionality of the maps.  And I love how much fun the girls have taking pictures and videos.

Far beyond that, though, the girls are diving into technology, not afraid to figure things out…and I REALLY love that!  That’s exactly why I wanted to get iPads for them, so they could begin to develop an intuition about computer logic, and not be intimidated by technological things they don’t know.

The girls love to play with the camera on their iPads, and a big source of entertainment is taking new pictures for their backgrounds.  It amazes me that they figured that out so quickly, as THEY CANNOT READ to navigate the systems.  They both got there so easily through trial and error!  It wasn’t long before they learned how to take screen shots of virtually anything…even within an app…and save that as a background.  And HOW did they learn the word “screenshot”???

I love to see the girls working together, too.  Hey, Sissy, can you show me how you did that?  Hey, Sissy, can you help me on my iPad?  I can’t figure this out.

Like many things into which it took me a while to make the plunge (like baby gates and preschool and big kid beds, to name a few), I’m so glad I took the leap and turned the girls on to technology when I did.  It hasn’t hindered their love of blocks and books and puzzles, and it’s challenged and engaged them on a whole new level.

January 13, 2014

FIFTH Birthday Party...The Sweetest Confections!

For the past couple of years, I've surprised the girls with the details of their birthday parties.  They've known they would have a party at some point following their birthday, but they didn't know when or where.  This year I asked them if they wanted to be surprised again, and they both emphatically agreed that they did.

As we got closer to their birthday, though, they started to get really curious.  "Is my party today, Mommy?"  "Will you at least tell us the theme?"  [Theme???  I am afraid I may have set the bar already!  Yikes!!!]  I reminded them they told me they wanted to be surprised, and I refused to give them any hints.

On Thursday they returned to preschool for the first time since the holidays, as the prior Tuesday was a Snow Day.  I got away with setting butter out to soften on Wednesday night, telling the girls they would be taking goodies for their birthday snack to school with them.  That was true.  ;)

I had invited all their classmates, as well as a couple of other friends (two sets of twins) who were available on Thursday afternoon at 2:00.  I hadn't told any of the parents that the girls' party was a secret, so I wasn't surprised when the beans got spilled at school.

[Thursday night I emailed the preschool teacher to say I hope the party immediately following school hadn't been too big of a distraction.  I know A&B were raring to go when I got to school.  B saw me pass the door and SCREAMED, "Mommy's here!!!!!"  Oops!]

I loaded up the girls (in the sleeting snow!) and took them to the yogurt shop.  They were tickled to see their daddy waiting for them in the parking lot.  That was a surprise!  We walked in to the party room, and I loved the look on their faces upon seeing the decorations.  I wish I had it on video!

They quickly found their place behind the A&B Sweet Shoppe photo booth.





They checked out all the decorations...




...and of the paint-your-own-frame craft table, they asked, "Is this for US?!!!"



Shortly thereafter, Miss Jennifer came to lend an extra set of hands.  The girls didn't greet her very warmly, unfortunately, but I explained they were still a little shell-shocked.  It didn't take them long to log some hugs from one of their first and sweetest friends, though!





All the kiddos had a great time playing around with the ice cream props...and it was pretty stinkin' cute, to boot!  Here they are with our sweet friends, A&E.



After a little run-around time, it was time for candles and cupcakes, which B had been eagerly anticipating!






It warmed my heart how all the kiddos gathered around A&B while we sung, first to A...


...and then to B...





...and a hearty cha-cha-cha was added to the end of each rendition by their eager friends.

Then it was cupcake time!







Following cupcakes, all the kiddos lined up for yogurt.  Our girls usually get vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit, but I let them pick their own toppings since it was their special day.  Both chose "birthday cake" yogurt, which was fitting, indeed.

I could not get enough of all the littles lined up for toppings!!!


Despite what had to be quite the sugar buzz, all the kiddos were excited to paint their frames.  (I primed the frames in white, which allowed them to use [virtually] no-mess paint pens...score!!!)


The afternoon concluded with a lot more playing...and a lot more pictures, of course...although some had to be bribed to cheese for the camera.  HA!


It was such a great celebration for our sweet A&B!  I just can't believe what BIG KIDS they are...


...our little family is so very blessed!!!


January 12, 2014

FIFTH Birthday Play-by-Play

Here's my annual birthday play-by-play, my attempt to capture that wonderfully special moment in time, the day when we celebrate our girls' birthday.  Following this day, I usually take a camera detox for a couple of days, as it doesn't leave my side on birthday-day.  Even just a week now removed, I love to look back at exactly how we spent our time.

This post actually starts on Saturday night, January 4th.  We were expecting some pretty nasty winter weather on the girls' birthday, January 5th, so we began our celebration a bit early, with a very special dinner at Yuki.

Saturday afternoon I was out and about, running a bit late heading back home.  I called to let Hubby know I was on my way, and I asked to speak with the girls.  What a moment it was for me when I told them to go upstairs and get dressed.  I told them they could have their choice of two sweaters and a turtleneck, to be paired with sweater leggings and boots.  I was so proud to see they had followed my directions exactly when I got home!

The trip to Yuki (our favorite sushi place) was a special one.  The girls had been asking to go there for a long time, and they were so excited!  


They tried ika karage for the first time...and loved it...and they ate their edamame without me "opening" it for them.  For supper I ordered them each a plate of teriyaki shrimp (as opposed to them splitting a dish, as always before), and they devoured it all!


They were tickled (and we were touched) when our server brought two bowls of green tea ice cream.  The girls were on Cloud 9!


The girls hit the bed hard Saturday night, and they were so excited when they got up on Sunday.  "Mommy!  It's my birthday!  I'm FIVE!"  And all day long I got to hear my precious babies wish each other "Happy Birthday, Sissy!"

Here are my famous first-thing-in-the-morning pictures.  Baby B was obliging...



...but Baby A, not so much.  I can't say I blame her, though!








When the girls came downstairs, they did allow me my early-morning-birthday-snuggles picture...and how sweet it is!


I gave them the cards from Aunt GG they'd received in the mail on Saturday...


...and they opened the packages from Aunt Alison...new games!!!


They opened a couple of new books and some pattern cards from Mommy and Daddy, too, and they played with those while Mommy made breakfast.


The girls requested French toast with homemade blueberry syrup.  They loved it!  (And these messy pictures reminded me of what they used to look like eating blueberries, when they were about two!)


Much of the rest of the morning was spent playing our new games.  The girls really love the "Trouble" game.  I thought it would be over their heads, but they proved me wrong.  And to add icing to the cake, Hubby had a similar game when he was growing up, so he's had a great time playing, as well.


The girls got dressed in their new shirts, and before lunch they wanted to work some more on their woven potholders.


Not long after we sat down to an "appetizer" lunch...something a little fun and different...and Aunt S and Aunt K stopped by.  We didn't mind the sweet interruption, though!  Aunt S made them the most amazing shoulder bags for their birthday.  The girls showed off some of their new spoils, and we ended the visit with shooting some hoops in the basement.


After lunch, the girls put together these adorable craft kits.


And then they indulged me in a few more birthday pictures.  Here's one of my favorites, where they were both laughing.


The girls were playing so well, they didn't realize they had one more present to open.  Late in the afternoon, I told them I had something else for them.  Their eyes lit up with surprise.  I cautioned them that the gift was fragile, and had them sit on the couch side by side.


Baby A got hers open first...


...and Baby B joined her shortly thereafter.


I got the girls keyboards for their iPads, and I downloaded a number of new learning apps for them.  They were SO happy!

Before supper, we posed for a few more pictures...



And then we enjoyed our traditional birthday supper -- baked shrimp scampi with mushrooms.  It's a good thing that's what I had planned, as A asked me earlier in the day, "You have to make that shrimp and mushroom thingy, Mommy!"

After supper we read a couple of our new books while dessert finished baking.


And at last, the girls got to blow out their birthday candles...first Baby A...



...followed approximately two minutes later by Baby B...



The happiest of birthdays to my precious baby girls!  I love to see you grow and change...but it's hard to believe you're FIVE!
 
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