How Old is Hallie?

Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

How Old is Lea?

Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bear Cubs Wrestling

We are so grateful that our girls (mostly) adore one another.  They are the age at this point where they play together regularly rather than parallel play.  Sometimes they'll make up games (they do a considerable amount of pretend playing which often involves riffing off of a theme, be it a beloved fairy tale like "The Three Little Pigs" or "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" or "Little Red Riding Hood" or a favorite television show like Ni-Hao Kai Lan or Peppa Pig).  They will assume various roles (and assign other roles to us and to Zen the cat, who participates -- sort of -- in a cheerfully bewildered feline manner) and act stuff out, using all of the millions of plastic manipulatives we own and the physical space of our home as props.  They also really enjoy reading books together:  Hallie will really be reading and Lea will pretend to be reading (she does so in a totally cute manner:  she loudly declaims the entire story that she has made up -- which is more or less based upon the pictures she sees in the book she's grabbed, which is inevitably a favorite of her older sister's -- and expects Zen, to whom she does most of her reading, to listen attentively).  We love it that books are probably our kids' favorite toys (which is saying something since we essentially live in an exceptionally poorly organized toy store).

But the games that our kids especially enjoys are really physical and sensory.  They love to race and chase each other through our pop up gymboree tunnel (one of the best $35 purchases I ever made); roll around inside of it or inside of their Princess Castle Tent with a gazillion balls or stuffed animals; or wrestle with one another like bear cubs. 

The other night I took a series of pictures of them doing just that.  It's this series (or the series of shots I wish I had gotten) which is probably going to convince us of the absolute necessity of upgrading to a D-SLR camera (note to those few -- I think we're down to one -- people who still buy us holiday gifts:  please contribute to our camera fund instead!  Especially if you want pictures of your littlest grand daughters!)  Anyway, I took lots of pictures and none of them came out great and my pathetic editing skills did not improve them at all but hopefully the joy that these two girls felt shines right through:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

'Before' and 'After': The Fifth Edition

Hallie had a relatively low key fifth birthday:  as she does most every Saturday, she spent the morning at hippotherapy in West Chester.  Indeed, most of the afternoon was spent at a fun birthday party, just not her own (ironically perhaps, it was for twins born a day after Hallie who are enrolled in her preschool class).  Hallie seemed to be okay with not having a big party on her big day and is eagerly awaiting her turn to host an assorted bunch of crazy (in the best possible way) five year olds which will come in a couple of weeks.

But even if we didn't have her party today, we both knew that we needed to celebrate Hallie in one particular way:  we needed to bring Hallie over to the Pennsylvania Hospital Intensive Care Nursery to see some of her first friends.

At first, Hallie was appropriately shy (a word that she has begun to use quite recently, and with great effect).  Even though Hallie read the signs on the walls and knew that she was in the 'nursery', she had no idea why we were schlepping her there.  Those developmental visits to the ICN ended way long ago (too long ago.  Note to NICU professionals reading our blog:  consider following up kids through at least age five or the onset of elementary school.  Hallie was discharged at age 2 corrected with little notation of her delays/disorders.  We are savvy and well-educated and have sufficient insurance to have hunted down referrals to developmental pediatricians and gotten Hallie into oodles of therapy.  The results of these interventions are very clear, as I shall show below.  But not everyone has the resources we do and some people optimistically take 'discharged at 2 corrected' to mean 'caught up by 2 corrected' and are blindsided by the problems that arise down the road.  End of speech, sound of getting down from soapbox).

But then Sharon had the brilliant idea of using Hallie's favorite literary form, of all things the 'knock-knock' joke, to help break the ice.   Soon Hallie was regaling the nurses with the sort of inane, meaningless, and absolutely hilarious 'knock-knock' jokes that are the fare of typically developing five year olds everywhere (or at least among her peers at the YCCA). 
 Hallie's joke telling was incredible, but even more incredible were the peals of hysterical laughter that she emitted at her own jokes.  I am hoping that the nurses would tell the parents in the ICN who were hovered around the isolettes of their extremely premature babies that the funny five year old to whom they were listening resided, sometimes in a rather precarious state, in the ICN's nurseries (she was a resident in three out of four of them) for 121 days, often hooked up to various life-saving machines and devices, and was never expected to turn out like this at all. 

And on that note, I leave you with the 'before' and 'after' shots.  Here's one of Hallie during the first week of her life:

And here's Hallie (and Lea) with one of Hallie's primaries, Corinne:

And, finally, here's one of Hallie with her very first friend, Ellen, who was the first ICN staff member whom we officially met, and who has, indeed, remained a close person in Hallie's life:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friends on Steps

Last night we ate dinner with our friends Uri, Shira, and Eran.  Eran goes to school with Hallie and Lea and is approximately halfway between our two girls, age wise (he's about 3.5).  Eran made a very strong first impression on the kids:  from the moment he started school at the YCCA this fall, we've been hearing about him.  Hence we felt very happy/lucky to have begun to make good friends with him and his family this past winter. 

Anyway, we were over at their house last night for a very fine dinner composed mostly of their yummy and fresh CSA (farm share) produce. 

The kids had a great time wrestling around like bear cubs (Hallie insisted that we bring her pink pop up princess castle and it was a real hit with Eran, as she predicted).  They tore the place apart as only they can do (Uri and Shira insisted that most of the mess was Eran's and predated our visit but I've met our kids before and have seen their amazing handiwork, particularly in relatively new environments replete with unfamiliar toys that!). 

We also inaugurated Hallie's birthday season, which began at school with mini cups of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and party hats for the Rainbows (Hallie's group at school).  All of the kids were still wearing them and talking about the ice cream when I got there at pick up time.  Sadly, no one took pictures of this, but Hallie declaimed it, and the ice cream, to be the favorite part of her day yesterday. 

Then, after a nice healthy dinner, we got out a small ice cream cake (half chocolate for Hallie and half vanilla for Eran, who despises chocolate) and sang and blew out candles again.  Hallie was very pleased, to say the least.  And she can now blow out five candles quite quickly, completely unassisted (this is a major change for her).  Being the really dreadful parents that we are, we have no pictures of this, either.

I might put some candles in Hallie's toast this morning.  Perhaps I can get pictures of that!

Memorial Day Weekend

We spent Memorial Day weekend hanging out with our friends Sheila, Brett, and Alex.

First, we took in the school carnival.  Hallie and Alex were thrilled to go on some pretty grown up rides without adult companionship.  Here they are getting ready to be swung wildly:

Brett did have to accompany them on their spin on the tornado:

And, likewise, Brett was there for the ride on the "Scrambler."  This only makes sense since, as you will note, we cannot even see Hallie's face over the bar (though you might be able to make out the hair on the top of her head if you look real closely):

Lea, meanwhile, could only ride on one ride by herself:

Sharon and I took turns taking Lea on the two rides that she could go on while accompanied by an adult (a pretty innocuous dinosaur ride and one other the identity of which now escapes me) but she was far from satisfied by these experiences.  She wanted to do it all, and particularly the fast, scary rides.  Both kids love roller coasters, speed, and height.  I am 100% certain that they do not get this from me (astute observers will note that it was Brett taking them on these rides, whilst I was manning the iPhone camera).

I did manage to sort of deflect Lea's ire at not being able to operate her own bumper car by taking her over to some of the game booths where we could win prizes.  Strategically, we decided to play a game which everyone won.  There's really nothing quite like shelling out six dollars for a dollar store ball to placate a two year old's tantrum. 

Amazingly, I did win Hallie a prize on my first shot a wack-a-mole.  This was not something that I could replicate so yes, of course, we ended up shelling out lots of money for another prize for Lea.

Suffice it to say that the kids had a great time (even with Lea's confinement to solid ground for much of the time) and we have just what we need out of the experience:  more balls and more stuffed creatures to which we must tend.

Anyway, here's a cute shot of all the kids on Alex's front porch: 

And here's one of Lea standing in the green grass.  Doesn't her hair look really red?  During the winter she seemed to be turning into a brunette, but now that she's out in the sun a lot, her red hair has returned.
Anyway, the girls really love spending time with their friend Alex and hope to do it again very soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Gorgeous Girls

I really enjoy having one-on-one time with each of the kids. This is something that really is only possible when I am done teaching for the semester since our childcare tends to coincide with my teaching schedule; right now the kids go to preschool three days a week and our nanny takes care of them on the fourth day (which is also a therapy-heavy day for Hallie). But having Laura watch the kids on Tuesdays has enabled me to schedule appointments and such of various sorts for one or another kid on Tuesdays and not have to schlep both of them all over the place. So, while the idea of having alone time with each of the kids overlap with appointments might sound a tad bit pathetic (and certainly less obviously fun than alone time spent at a music class or playground or what have you), our kids are used to attending lots of appointments for all of the obvious reasons and hence are quite good at refashioning the mundane into something fun.  You can see this very clearly from these pictures:

Here's Hallie on a pizza 'date' with mama after an evaluation at Penn:

And here's Lea hanging out waiting for her new hair-do:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Making Magic

Lea loves to do "magic" tricks.  Take a look for yourself; isn't she cute?