How Old is Hallie?

Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

How Old is Lea?

Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

Friday, December 31, 2010

Lea's First Haircut

Just in time for the New Year (well, Tuesday, but I am only getting around to blogging about it now), Lea had her very first haircut.  Things were getting pretty gnarly in the back of Lea's head and she was working on a fine mullet that we had to shear in the bud, so to speak.  See the Christmas post a couple of posts back for a clear image of what I mean.

Haircuts can be, well, hairy things to which to subject kids.  Particularly kids like Lea who don't really like others (doctors, hairdressers, etc) getting into her personal space. 

Our strategy?  Use Hallie as a model.  Hallie had been asking to get her hair cut since at least Thanksgiving.  Pretty much every day, Hallie would say something like, "Let's go see Whit-mee (Whitney) to get my hair cut shorter."  [When I asked her what kind of style she'd like, she responded, "One with scissors."  Too cute].

Anyway, Hallie really likes Whitney and enjoys getting her hair cut.

When Lea saw how happy was during her haircut, she realized that she'd be fine too.  Lea loves to do anything that Hallie does.

So the haircut itself could not have gone more smoothly:

It was only later on, while I was watching the kids during Sharon's haircut, and had to tell Lea to stop doing something or another that was going to get her in trouble/hurt/make everyone around her go crazy (as is wont to happen when she screeches in the shrillest tone you can imagine) that she melted down.

While Lea's awfully cute even when she's crying uncontrollably, we think that she looks a whole lot cuter when she's happy.  So does her new hairdo:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Frosty the Snowman

Our kids are obsessed with the big guy with the corn cob pipe.  Thanks to Aunt Laura, Uncle Bryan and the Levy and McGrath cousins, we were able to build a monument to him in our back yard.   

Alas, the 12 inches of snow that fell on Philadelphia on Boxing Day was of the dry, powdery variety and it was none too great for snowman construction.  But thanks to a spray bottle of water, Sharon was able to do a much better job with Frosty than she was with the gingerbread house.

The kids thought that it was great fun to build a snowman and helped place his button eyes and corn cob pipe:

While the final product might have been one huge snowball smaller than initially planned, we think he turned out quite nicely.

Hallie was all concerned that he'd melt by this morning and kept checking on his status last night, but we are happy to report that he was still standing by the time the kids woke up today. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Our kids woke up a bit later than most kids on Christmas morning.  On the one hand, I really appreciated this because it gave me time to clean up the mess that the reindeer had left on the front stoop from their none-too-neat carrot eating.  On the other hand, we were saddened that this late awakening was because Hallie had been up coughing for most of the night.  This, plus the fact that Hallie was burning up with a fever, worries us that Christmas-New Years 2010/11 may turn out to be a little bit too much like Christmas-New Years 2009/10.  (Fortunately, regular breathing treatments and tylenol seem to be doing the trick so far.  We are monitoring her respiratory rate, [40 and above is worrisome; Hallie's been staying at about 33-34 breaths per minute] fever, and hydration and so far she's not getting any worse.)

Anyway, the onset of this crud meant that Hallie was a bit more subdued than she likely would have been, particularly given her excitement level of the days leading up to Christmas. 

But that did not stop her from exclaiming, "There are presents in my stocking!" when she saw the following sight:
And indeed there were, and lots and lots of presents under the tree, too.  And cookies that had been munched and chocolate milk that had been slurped, and carrots strewn around all outside our house.  There was also a lovely note from Santa on cute reindeer stationary that read as follows:

Dear Hallie  and Lea,
Merry Christmas! The elves and I had a great time this year getting ready for Christmas and we were probably as excited as you two were when the big day finally arrived.  I got Rudolph and his friends harnessed up for the ride and we were thrilled to dash across the sky and land at your house in Philadelphia.  We were so happy when we heard that you guys were going to celebrate Christmas at home with your mommy, your mama, your cat Zenny, and your grammy.   It’s wonderful that you were able to pick and decorate your very first live tree.
News travels fast to us at the North Pole and we were so happy to hear about all the great things the two of you have done this year.  Hallie:  You became such a big, independent girl, almost overnight.  You got potty trained, began drinking milk out of a cup, and learned how to write your own name and read lots and lots of new words.  You also turned into such a great older sister who is always looking out for little Lea.  And Lea: you became a toddler this year.  You learned how to walk, gave up the bottle, began talking really well, and can do lots of things for yourself.  You are a great sister for Hallie and a wonderful mommy to all of your sweet little dolls.  Your family and teachers are really proud of both of you.  Here at the North Pole we had no doubt that you guys were nice and deserved to get those cameras that you told me you wanted the other day.  We also left you a few other trinkets and sweets in your stockings to make your Christmas extra special.
And speaking of treats:  thank you SO MUCH for the cookies and milk.  How did you guys know that chocolate milk is my favorite?  And Rudolph and the other reindeer enjoyed munching on those carrots you left them.  They get awfully hungry pulling my sleigh and really needed that snack.  They apologize for the mess they made, though.  They were in an awful rush to eat them because we have a lot of houses to visit still tonight. 
And that reminds me that I must be off now too.  Have a very merry Christmas! 

Hallie and Lea were both thrilled to rip open Santa's special wrapping paper:

Both of them spent a lot of the rest of the day (and the day after and the day after that) taking pictures of anything and everything.  They were constantly telling me, Sharon, Grammy, and our cat Zen to say "cheese" and took lots of pictures of parts of our bodies, the floor, the ceiling, and their own limbs (knees and toes and not just fingers).  They also took pictures of some of their favorite playthings.  Here, Lea has posed her babies for a shot:

And we have some very good pictures of Kai Lan that have been uploaded to my computer:

Lea even tried to teach her babies to use the camera, too:

Speaking of babies, the girls got lots of new ones from their grammy and us.  Hallie got a Baby Alive who constantly exclaims "I'm hungry" and likes to eat bananas (and hence hardly resembles her new owner; fortunately Lea takes care of this baby much of the time).  And Lea got a baby who likes to coo who came with a very cute outfit but who, like all the other residents of our baby nursery, has been stripped down to her birthday suit by the girls.  Lea also received a baby for the bath and a special tub and all the relevant accompaniments.  She had a great time washing and cleaning her bath baby this afternoon.  Finally, the girls got a new cradle for their babies.  This has led to some interesting "games" of tug of war around here and we've surmised that, even though Hallie usually ignores her babies, now that Lea is so very interested in them, her own curiosity (or is it desire to remain the alpha kid?) has been piqued.  Suffice it to say that we will be working on the concept of sharing in the new year.

The kids also got a lot of ornaments.  Hallie's included were Lucy and Charlie Brown, Dora and Diego, and a Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham ornament (this is currently one of Hallie's favorite books).  Lea stash included Linus and Snoopy, Cookie Monster and Elmo, and a dancing Snoopy and Woodstock ornament. We are glad to be able to keep up the tradition of getting them ornaments that will one day be hung with care on their very own trees.

In addition to all of this, Lea received a puzzle and Hallie received a dragon puppet from their good friend Eliza Grace.  Both girls really enjoyed playing with these gifts.

Sadly, we never made it over to the ICN at Pennsylvania Hospital with cookies and the girls as we had initially planned.  I could have run the cookies over before the big snow began but I suspect that the staff would have been disappointed if we had not had Hallie in tow.  But I also imagine that they would prefer that they, and especially their wee charges, be spared whatever crud is colonizing Hallie.  So we've revised the plans a bit and hope to get over there some time between now and the New Year.

We also have not gotten outside to play in the snow (this is not to be confused with getting outside to shovel the snow; I've had plenty of opportunity to do that).  One clear indication that Hallie is, so to speak, under the weather, is that she has not asked to go outside and build a snowman even once over the past 24 hours.  Another clear indication that something is amiss is that she is asking to go to bed quite early (even when dosed with albuterol not that long before bedtime).  Hopefully she'll improve soon and we'll at least be able to get out to see the snow if not actually play in it before it melts away by this weekend.  If not, I suspect there will be some more opportunities to do so this season.

I hope everyone out there who celebrates Christmas had a super holiday and that everyone is staying safe and warm.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

We Believe!

Today is the big day and our kids have been gearing up for it for a very long time.  Just one short year ago, I wrote this post about our concern that Hallie wasn't yet able to understand the wonder and joy of Christmas.  What a difference a year (lots of social maturity, and a whole bunch of very good therapy) make(s)!  This year, Hallie has been infused with the holiday spirit pretty much since Thanksgiving.   Both kids were thrilled to light the menorah every night for Hanukkah (and collect their presents and eat their chocolate coins) and sat around singing the songs they learned in school (Hallie even corrected my made-up lyrics to "Oh Hanukkah!" and was amazed at how badly I knew the song).  And Lea was and is all about wishing everyone around her a "Happy Hanukkah"!  Hallie still refuses to try potato latkes (explaining to her that these are a close, rounder and flatter cousin to her beloved french fries does not really help) but I suppose there's always next year.  After all, Hanukkah is all about miracles involving oil, so I don't see why we can't hold out for Hallie to eat a potato pancake bathed in olive oil.

Just as Hanukkah drew to a close, Sharon and I procured our very first live tree.  Even though we did not quite make it to the Christmas tree farm to which we envisioned traveling, I think heading down to the guys who sell trees at the corner of our block is nearly as good.  It also spared us shivering in the cold while weighing the architectural merits of one six-footer versus another and the harrowing drive back (likely an hour and a half) with a tree strapped to the roof of our SUV.  The girls did not seem to mind missing out on either of these experiences.

Hallie was a bit upset, though, when Sharon dragged the tree through our front door.  She lay on the couch pouting and when Sharon asked her what was wrong, she replied, "I'm upset mama!  Our tree has no lights!"  Apparently she thought we'd gotten the cheaper, less flashy model, and that simply would not do.  No worries:  we had taken care of that problem in advance and had procured some colored LEDs at Target and the tree was winking and shining in no time. 

The kids were even more ecstatic the following week when we decorated the tree with ornaments.  Our collection, which includes many ornaments that passed down to Sharon from her family, has a nice over-representation of preschool-friendly characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  Hallie kept exclaiming things like, "Look, there's Mickey and Pluto!" and "I see a Nutcracker!" (they 'study' the ballet, The Nutcracker, at preschool each year, so Hallie is familiar with the music and the characters).  Both kids wanted to help hang the ornaments on the tree and our biggest challenge was slowing them down, not keeping their interest.

Apparently, the kids have been discussing their trees at school.  According to one report (we have a lot of, school), Hallie went over to her friends and said, with feeling, "My tree is THIS tall" (as she demonstrated by getting up on her tip toes and reaching for the sky).  "And it has Rudolph on top!" 

Rudolph is an odd choice for a tree topper, but Hallie said this with such resolve that our spy (Miss Anne) was tempted to believe her.  And, indeed, Rudolph's existence as a tree topper can be confirmed:

Anyway, over the past week, the anticipation in this house has been tremendous.  First, there was ChristmaHannuKwanzika, which we celebrated last Sunday with the cousins who are off to Disney World tomorrow.  Then there was Wednesday night's Holiday Concert and Pot Luck at the YCCA Preschool.  The kids had been practicing all of their holiday songs at home for that event, which went swimmingly.  I hope to add pictures and description of both later on in a separate post.

But then, yesterday, after we picked up the kids from school for the last time this year,  we decided to get the girls back into their holiday dresses and head off to Macy's to visit Dicken's Village and Santa Land.   

The kids thought the life-sized rendition of the Dickens story (which was written in 1843.  The village has been put up each year since 1985 in Center City Philadelphia) was pretty cool, even if a bit scary (it's peopled by ethereal ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and these ghosts, and the graveyards where they shake their chains and such, are pretty realistic seeming in a haunted house sort of way). 

But the lines were long and we forgot to bring snacks, so Lea was a bit cranky by the time she got to Santa's lap.  Hallie, however, was excited to see the big guy and jumped up and down.  She also happily told him that she'd been a good girl and that she wanted him to bring her a pink camera.  He said he'd see what he could do about that.

Of course, the picture we took still has that old reindeer-caught-in-the-headlights quality to it:

Maybe one year we'll get both of them smiling.  At least they were fine getting up on Santa's lap and both of them were looking at the camera.

Hallie has taken this Santa thing very seriously.  For the past three weeks or so, all I have needed to do is warn her that Santa is watching over her like a hawk right now and is checking his list twice.  So if she wants that camera...  It's worked like a charm.  I am not sure what happens tomorrow, though!  I am sure that I am in good company on that one...

Today was a very low-key sort of day.  The kids were thrilled to see their grammy, who came to town this afternoon, to mark the official opening of Christmas Celebration 2010. 

We broke open the Gingerbread House kit for the occasion.  Hallie, who has been enthralled with the Hansel and Gretel story of late (though, as in most Hallie-authored rewrites of fairy tales, the witch turns out to be friend, not threat).  And one of the parents at school had put together kits for all of the pre-k kids (like Hallie) to make their own mini gingerbread houses, so she'd actually had a bit of practice in building such structures already.

At first things went pretty well for Sharon, who, as a Registered Architect, was put in charge of the project:

 The kids watched the process and sampled the candy.  Hallie announced that she was very hungry and proceeded to eat most of the bowl of Ghiradelli's Chocolate Chips that you see below:

But you'll note Lea's worried look in this next shot.  She knew that the roof did not meet code:

Even this was a Design-Build project, you'll note that our finished product looks nothing like the one on the front of the box.  Our architect assures us that it is not her fault:

This activity was followed up by much watching of Frosty the Snowman and a snack buffet for dinner.  Then it was time for bed.  But not quite.  First the girls needed their Christmas Eve present from us--new Christmas jammies. 

Hallie was overjoyed to open her Frosty jammies wrapped in a Frosty box covered with Frosty paper.
Lea, taking her cues from her big sister, got into the paper-wrapping spirit too.

(Aside: Note Lea's amazing hair in this shot.  We have scheduled her first haircut, which will take place on Tuesday, none too soon:

Once the kids were in their new jammies, we all ran outside to sprinkle the magic reindeer food that Hallie's teachers had sent home with her this year.  Hallie was thrilled to do this, because the sparkles would help guide Rudolph's nose to our house:

And then it was off to bed right away.  I have never seen Hallie move upstairs to bed quite so quickly as she did tonight.  And she began to heavy breathe right away--not because she was anxious (or at least we think this wasn't the reason) but because she was trying to will herself to go to sleep immediately.  She had confirmed with Sharon that she needed to be asleep for Santa to come and that Christmas would have to wait until morning.  (We had added this last proviso because, after all, this warning seemed prudent). 

And so it was.  The stockings were hung by the bookcase with care in the hopes that Old Saint Nick would be there:

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Fabulous Festivus to all, and to all a Good Night!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ralph's World, 2010

One of our kids' favorite artists is Ralph Covert, of Ralph's World fame.  A rocker-turned-dad, Ralph's music is witty and easy on adult ears as well as fun for kids.  We discovered his music nearly a year and a half ago, when Hallie came home singing what she called the "lemonade song" (Happy Lemons) and then performed another, "Surfin' in My Imagination," which has become the song that Lea now most frequently requests by name.

Anyway, the kids were thrilled that we got ticket to the World Cafe Live Peanut Butter and Jams concert at which Ralph was performing.  They were accompanied by cousins Hannah and Adam, who had a blast, as well as by their friends Taylor (Renee's and Kim's little girl) and Mia and Sebastian, who are two of our friends' Carmen and Vicky's grandchildren.  

Hallie was excited to wear her guitar dress to the concert:

She had a great time dancing to the music, though it turns out that she was a bit scared about performing on stage (she went up with her little friends and a bunch of other kids when Ralph invited them to join him but was a bit put off by the whole thing).

That did not stop her from joining a kiddie conga line when invited by the little boy (standing behind her) who had his eyes on Hallie for the entire concert.

And it certainly did not keep her from dancing with abandon with her big cousin Hannah:

But it did mean that she kept looking to us for reassurance, which translated itself into snuggling into our arms.  Here, Sharon is holding both Lea and Hallie, whilst Renee is holding Taylor, who has somehow managed to fall asleep:

While Lea appears to be asleep in the above photo, she is not really dozing off.  Indeed, she popped up and began to dance and sing (through her binkie) when Ralph played the "Ringmaster Song" (the title track of The Rhyming Circus).

And Hallie, as usual, was excited to meet and greet Ralph in person, both before and after the concert.

A great time was had by all and Adam, in particular, has been converted to a groupie of cult rocker Ralph Covert.