Sunday, June 29, 2008

Goodbye, Atlanta

This weekend was Moving Weekend. We drove from Atlanta to Little Rock yesterday after a Saturday morning brunch with John, Lisa, and Wesley. Two potty accidents caused a short delay while we ran a [very small] load of Gabi's laundry and mopped the kitchen. Then we had two poopy diapers to change before we got on the road... plus some rearranging to make everything fit in the car. The trip was uneventful, and we arrived at Lolo and Lola's house at 1:30 AM. Today we started the long process of unpacking and cleaning the new house.

Ready to ship the girls to their Grandparents so I can pack

I printed and mailed 200 copies of a picture with our new address. Here are the rejected poses from my photo shoot for the moving card. If you didn't recieve one, it's because I don't have your snail mail address. Send it my way and I'll get you a card in the mail. Although the next image isn't the best picture, I did think it was funny.

Making Faces

Sweet Girls

Helping Pack

The Suitcase Drum

Tonight after the evening church service, Christ the King held the annual 4th of July party. We enjoyed great food and fellowship before the firework display. I met many of the moms in the Terra Firma group ("Young Adults" in their 20s and 30s) and talked about their playgroup, Bible study, book club, and even learned about a women's gym (with childcare!) where they work out. Gabi made a friend named Isabel (another "Bella"), and Isabel has a sister named Evelyn who is only five days younger than Annabelle! Most of the other kids Gabi's age were running around or on the playground, but I did meet some other babies. Eleanor is only a month older than Annabelle, and she has lots of older siblings. Three-month-old Elizabeth ("Ellie") and her two-year-old sister Abigail just moved to Little Rock two weeks ago from Houston, TX.

Happy Baby (with Wild Hair)

Annabelle and Wesley
Michael's high school best friend, who also lives in the Atlanta area, has a son just a month and a half older than Annabelle. We will miss Wesley and his family and all our other Atlanta friends -- especially the DeKalb Playgroup.

Bella (at 9 months) and Wesley (10 months)

Musical Duo

Gabi's World of Animals Puzzle
Gabi has a fantastic book with pictures of our old house, friends, and city as well as pictures of our new house, friends, and city. It has really helped prepare Gabi for the move. The book is also a great memory album, where we can record Gabi's favorite things at this age. We had a hard time selecting one favorite activity for her. She likes music, stickers, games, books, puzzles, drawing, and more. As you can see here, she is very advanced in working with puzzles.

Piecing Together Africa

Naming the North American Animals

For the past two weeks, Gabi has been in panties with almost no accidents. If it weren't for the accidents as we were trying to leave town yesterday, I would have called her potty trained. She's been doing very well (outside of naptime and nighttime). At least I have hope that she'll be ready to go to school this fall, where children are required to be fully potty trained.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Decatur Art Festival

The girls and I arrived at the annual Decatur Arts Festival just as her friends were leaving. We said hi to Martin before he left, and I intended to post a group picture, but I just inadvertently deleted it, so you'll have to wait until I get access to my computer before I can upload it again. Oops. I will say that everyone except Gabi was smiling, a theme you may notice for most of the day. It was quite hot outside, I will admit. I also don't have a picture here of Dawn Kinney Martin's art, so perhaps I'll add one later as well.

Gabi happy to get lunch

Happy baby Bella

The Doors of Decatur around the gazebo

Our favorite door (with the wheel)

Jimmy Langford's copper art (and Gabriella's tongue)

"It matches!"
Gabi noticed that Phillip J. Skoczen's business card matches one of his flower paintings.

Gabi's favorite festival activity, the sandbox

Gabi requested a garden photo

Day 2 of the Art Festival, and more of the same --
Gabi is too hot to smile, and Bella is happy to be outside

Jimmy Langford's metal fish

Gabi sharing her frozen lemonade

Bella posing with Phillip J. Skoczen's birds

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

End of the Year

Preschool End-of-the-Year Party
On Gabi's last day at Holy Trinity Parish Preschool, the school hosted a picnic on the playground to say goodbye to our friends and celebrate the end of the year.

Gabi on the HTPP playground

Us with Ester Bee and her dad Mike (of Homestar Runner fame)

Martin sharing his ice cream with Gabi

Gabi's teachers, Jaumekia and Tomeka

Gabi and Martin took turns pushing each other around

Meconium Cup
Emory has an annual softball match between the Pediatric department and the OB/GYN department. This year, Michael had to work all night, but the girls and I went to cheer on the team.

Gabi and Sophia were both infants when their dads started this program

Kourtney and Dave's son, Jack Braden

Sophia fixing her mom's hair

Piedmont Park
Michael's team for the month of May had a picnic at Piedmont Park to celebrate the end of the year.

Michael and Anita (far right) were on rotation together often this year

Daddy and Annabelle at Piedmont Park

Bella standing on Daddy's chest

Gabi playing with Addie

Michael imitating Lay's pregnant belly

Friday, June 20, 2008

Springtime Goodbyes

We are now living in an empty house. We packed up everything except a few essentials for the week, and the pod left today. If you're in Atlanta, give us a call. Armed with our Georgia Aquarium passes and our swimsuits, we are ready to enjoy our last week here.

My computer is packed and gone, but I did upload some pictures so I can post via Michael's laptop this week. I'm still trying to finish up our photographic documentation of May.

Decatur Concerts on the Square
The girls and I enjoyed picnic lunches around the gazebo in downtown Decatur on Wednesday afternoons.

Sisters enjoy listening to music and being outdoors

Silly Bella would rather eat wood chips than applesauce

Atlanta Braves Baseball
Cheering on the Braves at Turner Field is a wonderful family outing. Daddy follows the team closely throughout the season. This Spring, we've been enjoying our chance to watch live baseball.

Bella likes being outside and people-watching

Mom and the girls enjoy family time and getting out of the house
(and maybe some ballpark treats)

Gabi likes the Tomahawk Chop and individualized parental attention

Going-Away Moms' Night for Amie and Melissa
The playgroup moms threw a party for Amie and me since we are both moving away from Atlanta. These friends have been absolutely amazing, and I will truly miss each one of them.

Amie and Melissa celebrating our wonderful friends here in Atlanta

Is this quilt for me, or do I have to give it to Gabi?

Our quilts with all the playgroup kids' names and handprints (or footprints)

Kristin, Leslie Jo, Maura, Debbie, Marti, Kristen, Barbara, Lisa
Rebecca, Melissa, and Amie

And some more pictures of Bella's game of peek-a-boo because she is so cute when she hides and smiles, and then when she peeks and laughs. :)

Where's Bella? Peek-a-boo!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hidden Achievement

Today is our five-year anniversary! It was also Michael's penultimate call in Atlanta, and he was so busy last night that he didn't get any rest. So we celebrated by letting him sleep and then attending our church going-away party at the rectory. With all these changes going on, it seems appropriate to reflect on the most amazing changes in our lives: our children's development.

Annabelle learns and develops so quickly that we really focus on her every new achievement. Sometimes it seems that Gabi isn't reaching as many new milestones, but she is actually learning impressive new skills very fast as well. Here's a run-down on the recent advancements for each of our girls:

Gabi can hold a pencil or crayon correctly and is learning to write letters. She can spell and write her own name (even if it isn't fully legible just yet)! At the end of May, we took the girls for a portrait session and bribed Gabi to cooperate and smile. We gave her the option of ice cream, a smoothie, or pasta. She selected pasta, so we went to an Italian restaurant. (Can you figure out which one?) Gabi drew these pictures on the kids' menu:

Gabi's Brave

Gabi drew the red in this picture all on her own and told us it was a Brave. Wow! It definitely looks like an Indian headdress to me, although the logo for the Atlanta Braves is actually a Tomahawk, so I'm not sure where she saw this.

We were so impressed that Michael drew a smiley-face for her as if he was grading the picture and giving her top marks. Michael then verbally spelled "Braves" so Gabi could write the word below her picture. Can you find all the letters?

Gabi's Tito (Tagalog/Filipino for "uncle")

Next, she wanted to write "Tito" and draw a picture of him. This drawing of Tito was the most advanced I've seen from Gabi, including a head with smiley-face (at least she says he is smiling) and a body with arms and legs. She colored in the body and it was perfect.

We suggested that she add hair, and now her beautiful drawing is hidden behind much hair. Man, Tito -- you need a haircut! Gabi then drew a shape for Tito and told us it was a heart. (We couldn't guess what shape it was, so she drew another one.) How much can you find in this picture?

Getting dressed
Gabi is also improving in many other areas. They might not seem like "milestones" because these skills develop over time, but I can see her advance as she masters each new part of these more complex tasks. For instance, she can now use her finger like a shoehorn to help get her foot in a shoe if the back bends in. Since she can already thread the velcro strap through the loop and then bend it back to velcro it on, now she just needs to learn how to determine which shoe goes on which foot.

She can button the buttons on her dress (if they are in the front, of course), but snaps still require more strength than her little fingers have. Gabi can hang her clothes on the hangers, and she enjoys bringing me hangers when I am folding laundry and then hanging up the clothes on the rack. She likes to pick out her clothes -- and Annabelle's, and mine -- in the morning. Soon, Gabi will be self-sufficient in getting dressed!

Big Sister
Gabi is actually very helpful with Annabelle, bringing me diapers, giving her food (without prompting, so not necessarily when -- or in the amounts -- that I desire), cleaning up Bella's spit-up, and offering her toys. Sometimes the "help" isn't as welcome to Bella as Gabi thinks it ought to be. For instance, big sister's hugs are usually interpreted as strangulation. It's hard to be the big sister and not understand that it isn't very nice to grab a baby's hand (a little too tight), whether it be to play Ring Around the Rosie, or to teach her how to toss a ball, or to redirect her away from something you don't want her touching.

Gabi wants to hold Bella's hand

Gabi often wants to play with whatever Bella is playing with,
but she has to learn not to snatch toys or push Bella out of her way.

Nighttime is most difficult for me because I'm supposed to put them in bed and leave the room, so I'm not around to remind Gabi of the rules. Bella will be almost asleep, and Gabi will start talking or singing, which wakes Bella up. They will laugh at each other for awhile, and Bella will pull up on her crib. At this point, either Bella gets too tired to know what to do next or Gabi gets out of bed to tell Bella to lie down (and then pushes her, which makes her knock her head against the rails on the back of the crib). I know Gabi is just trying to be the big sister in control, but sometimes it is dangerous and often it is distinctly not helpful. Other times it is very cute, though.

Gabi talking to Bella and singing her lullabies

Potty Training
The sticker chart for potty training is proving very motivational, and we actually had a fantastic day today -- dry all day (except for naptime) in panties! Maybe there is hope... She was very excited when I pulled out the panties, and I told her that she could wear them because she has been getting so many stickers (which she gets for using the toilet). She proudly told Daddy this later in the evening.

I think I previously mentioned Gabi's academic abilities, at which point Gabi could reliably count to 13 and then name various -teens in random order. Now she will count the -teens in the correct order, although she does skip some. (She doesn't always skip the same ones, but usually 14 or 15 is missing.) She generally stops at 19, sometimes 20. Yesterday she asked me what came after 20, so I gave her 21. She asked what came next, so I prompted her with 22. Then she recognized the pattern and counted through the 20s! I will say, however, that she can't just count abstractly. She has to have something to count (be it fingers or stickers or stairs, whatever.)

Games (visuo-spacial and turn-taking)
Gabi excels in putting puzzles together. Her newest puzzle is a 50-piece map of the world (with animals!), so she is learning the continents. (I give her all the pieces for approximately one continent at a time, hence dividing the puzzle into seven more workable sections.) We bought that puzzle because Gabi can put together her 30-piece Noah's Ark puzzle all by herself. Gabi's newest game is Cranium's Cariboo, and she can do both the Beginner and Advanced versions. Of course, the most important skill for board games at this age is learning turn-taking, which she definitely understands.

The vocabulary Gabi knows (after dinner: "Mommy, are you sated?") and the sentences that she constructs are among her most incredible talents. For many months, Gabi was asking "what" questions or "which [of these two options]" questions, but last month she hit the highly-anticipated "why" stage. Three-year-olds are also notoriously literal. When I call Annabelle a "fuss bucket," Gabi tells me that Bella is not a bucket. When I ask Bella a question ("Why are you fussing?"), Gabi reminds me that Bella can't talk yet. And she likes to have her world in order. When we are out late (as we often are, because bedtime around here is not very strict) and the street lights come on before we head home, Gabi will tell me that I left the lights on.

Today she finished her first potty sticker chart, so when she next sat on the potty she told me, "There are still more stickers, but we don't have any more spots for them, but that's okay; I'll just get candy. I get one piece of candy, right, Mommy?" I especially enjoy her longer narratives recounting what we did during the day, and also the times when she "reads" a book to Annabelle or her doll Asha. Her memory is incredible. Yesterday when we were reading a book with a space shuttle in it, Gabi asked me where you go in a space shuttle. I told her you ride a space shuttle to get to the moon, to which Gabi responded, "Do you know the book about the mouse going to the moon?" I didn't. She said the book was at school. (And today when I couldn't remember what we were talking about, I asked her which book from school she told me about yesterday, and she told me. So you can thank her excellent memory for this story.)

Gabi does love to read.
Her new book is more interesting that our neighbor's new baby, Astrid.

First, let me say that feeding Annabelle requires aiming at a moving target. Our little wiggle worm loves to shake her head; she shakes her head to show excitement or general happiness, or just to move every bit of her body because she loves being in motion. She also loves watching her big sister, so her head is always turning to follow Gabi girl, who runs around and climbs behind the high chair and plays peek-a-boo.

Early this week, while I was feeding Annabelle, I called "Bella!" to get her attention. Annabelle repeated, "Bella." (Well, according to Gabi girl, what she said was "Lella," which is probably more accurate.) Thursday night when Daddy left the room, Bella said, "bada," which I interpreted as "Dada" (you know we parents like to think our children are saying real words). Over the past week I have noticed that Bella will start talking to me with consonant-and-vowel syllables, especially when she is tired or things are quiet. I am so happy that she is babbling now!

Bella's musical table

Social Skills
This week Bella began pointing to the object of her attention, and she also started handing me objects. It is fun to watch these more social skills emerge. In the bath tub, she likes to dip-and-pour with a cup, and then hand the cup to me as if to say, "Your turn!" Bella's favorite bathtime toys are the cups. She always scoops up water and then tries to drink it. She's pretty good at it, actually, so I have to watch her or she'll get a mouthful of yucky bath water. Ick!

Bella has been extra fussy the past few days, and just as I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong, today I found her second tooth. So she now has her two front bottom teeth, and she definitely uses them to bite. She likes being able to catch the soft baby spoons in her mouth when I'm trying to pull it out. She has a lot more teething to go, but Michael and I no longer think that her "gumming" our fingers is a fun game.

Bella excited to discover peeled apples (and hence juice!) in this teether-feeding thingy

Bella's pincer grasp comes in handy, as she is very interested in table foods these days. She was so excited when I gave her cooked peas and carrots. Graham crackers (without honey, naturally) are a wonderful diversion for while I am cooking or attending to Gabi or quickly shoving dinner in my own mouth; one cracker takes longer to eat than a handful of cheerios, although I'm not sure which is messier, a graham cracker or a banana. Drinking out of a regular cup can also result in a mess, so I limit that to water (and, if she's not in the bath tub, I help her).

Bella racing Noah for the last Cheerio

Crawling, etc.
Now that Bella is crawling in the regular hands-and-knees position, she is extremely fast. She crawls right over any little "barriers" I set up as well as past all the "baby toy" distractions I surround her with. Gabi is especially annoyed with this, as Bella wants to check out (and eat) whatever Gabi is playing with.

Bella standing up backwards in the stroller
while I'm trying to push her around the zoo

Of course, Bella is also clapping, pulling up and trying to stand, and generally finding trouble. :) And, yes, playing peek-a-boo!

Where's Bella? Peek-a-boo!

Playing peek-a-boo with the shower curtain.
How do you like Bella's bed-head hairdo?