Wednesday, July 30, 2014

(Thanksgiving and) Christmas (and New Year's) in July

No, we're not actually celebrating Christmas in July... I'm just finally posting about last holiday season this July! 

Nonna and Pa (my parents) came to spend Thanksgiving with us last year.

Family photos!  Missing Grant and Lindsey, though...

While they were here, we had some family photos taken, went to the movies -- to see Frozen on the day it opened, before it became THE (kids') movie of the year -- made a trip to the Museum of Science, and ate lots of wonderful Thanksgiving food, of course.  I'm sure we did more than that, but that's all I can remember.  Just one more reason why I really ought to post more regularly on here...

The girls had SO much fun with Nonna and Pa during Thanksgiving break!

Thanksgiving dinner, including the highlights, turkey and pumpkin pie

Nonna and Pa's visit also coincided with the Great Haircutting of 2013.  The what, you ask?

Well, Ramona, who had never had her hair cut at all, EVER, decided that she wanted to cut off pretty much all of her hair, so that she could donate it to Locks of Love.  Hair donation was something that had been mentioned to her offhand, probably six months prior.  Someone had commented on its length and said that it was almost long enough to donate (most places require 10-12 inches minimum).  Ramona of course wanted to know what that meant, and why people donate their hair, so we explained that you can cut your hair and send it away to be made into wigs for kids who don't have any hair because they're sick.  Well, Ramona was sold.  She wanted to donate her hair.  And so began her at-least-once-a-week inquiry as to whether her hair was long enough to donate yet.  By Thanksgiving, it definitely was.

Before, during, and after.  Such a difference!  Oh, and Amelia got a haircut, too.

Now, I'm not normally very sentimental about hair, and have been known to make fun of people who get emotional about getting their hair cut...  (I mean, it's just hair!  It grows back, geez.)  I was a little sad, though, to see Ramona's gorgeous golden spirals go.  After all, those baby curls will not grow back!  But any lingering doubt I may have had about chopping off all that beautiful hair was far outweighed by how proud I was of my sweet three-year-old, adamant about doing what she could to help another child in need.   

The four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas always seems to fly by, and last year was no exception.  What did we do?  Well...

...Louisa had her half-birthday...

18 months old!

...We took the girls to Stone Zoo for Zoolights...

At Zoolights, the girls met a reindeer and admired the lights...

...and visited with Santa, of course!

...We picked out a tree from the local Boys and Girls Club and decorated it...

It was Louisa's year to put the star on the tree

...Ramona went to a barnyard babies event at our neighborhood library...

Oh, this child loves animals... Just as enamored with the rooster and pig as she was with the puppies and kittens!

...The girls performed in their respective school concerts...

Poor Amelia, doomed to a lifetime of being relegated to the back row... and Ramona got to hold her class stuffed animal during their performance

...We enjoyed the first snowfall(s) of the season...


...We celebrated with friends at various holiday parties...

Holiday party animals

...And otherwise got into the Christmas spirit! 

December = lots of Christmas prep!

We were supposed to travel to Nashville to spend Christmas at Chad's sister's house with his side of the family, but between me being out of work and them prepping to put their house on the market, we decided the trip just wasn't in the cards for us, and so we prepared to spend Christmas in Boston for the first time since 2007, and for the first time EVER with just our little family.

Luckily, we didn't celebrate the holiday entirely alone, as Grandma and Grandpa (Chad's parents) very graciously changed their travel plans so that they could spend a few days with us before Christmas, before continuing on to Nashville on Christmas Eve. 

Aquarium fun with Grandma and Grandpa... The stingray touch tank was everyone's favorite part.

Top: Baking cookies and opening presents with Grandma and Grandpa
Bottom: Amelia and Ramona got scooters.  Louisa was upset she did not... But she was happy to borrow Ramona's until her newly-ordered scooter arrived a few days later!

And while we missed the extra catching-up with our extended family that we usually get at Christmastime, it was kind of nice to be in town for the holiday, seeing our neighbors at church on Christmas Eve and waking up in our own house on Christmas morning... I'm not saying that we'll skip the big family holiday again anytime soon, but it's nice to realize that Christmas is just as meaningful when the celebration is smaller and quieter. 

Christmas Eve: before church and after Santa's visit
Christmas morning!!!

Just the cutest little Christmas diaper and leg warmer set ever!

We wrapped up the holiday season -- and the year! -- with a little New Year's celebration at home.  We dressed up, ate cupcakes, and let the girls stay up late watching movies, waiting to see the ball drop midnight. 

New Year's Eve and naps on New Year's Day

Ramona was the only one who actually made it.  (Louisa was down for the count around 10, and poor Amelia just couldn't keep her eyes open after 11:30... so close!)

Happy New Year, more than half a year late!  But hey, at least I'll be posting pictures taken this year from here on out.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Autumn 2013 Recap

I love it when spring finally arrives after an enduring, relentless winter, and I love the long hours of sunlight and warmth that summer brings, but I don't think that any season can match autumn in New England. 

And the quintessential New England autumn activity?  Apple-picking, of course!  Last year, our friends Jim and Thomas joined us at Tougas, our favorite pick-your-own-fruit farm.  We managed to come home with our fair share of Macs, Empires, and Cortlands, in spite of the incredible number of apples consumed by all while picking.

We love Tougas!
Hanging out with Thomas

Apples, apples, everywhere!  Love that Louisa is double-fisting them.

We went apple-picking at the end of September, so I was hesitant to get pumpkins at the same time, unsure whether they would last until Halloween.  We knew we likely wouldn't make it back out to Tougas, though, so we went ahead and picked pumpkins, too!  (And they DID make it to Halloween.) 

Pumpkin pickers

And no trip to Tougas is complete without visiting the goats.  Always a fun destination!

Feeding the goats

Most of our family lives pretty far away: Colorado, upstate NY, Tennessee-now-Pennsylvania... further than you want to (or can!) drive for a weekend trip.  The one exception is my uncle, aunt, and two youngest cousins (middle-schoolers) who live in Connecticut.  We try to make it down there a couple of times a year for a visit, which usually involves a sporting event, excellent food, some video-gaming, and a couple of hours relaxing on their deck.  They have a fenced-in back yard (ah, the benefits of suburbia!) and two dogs that the girls adore.  Always a fun trip!  We caught an 8th grade football game while we were there in October.  Dressed in their Broncos gear, of course, the girls had fun cheering for Timmy, number 90.

Louisa says "touchdown" and needs a nap toward the end of the game...

October also included one of our regularly-scheduled visits from Nonna (my mom).  We are so lucky that she's able to make it out here as often as she does.  When she returns to Colorado, the girls always want to know when she'll be here next.  Usually, the next trip is already planned, so it's easy to answer them!

At the playground with Nonna, post-swim lessons

Nonna's October visit included a trip to the circus.  The real circus, too -- not the little circus that is set up at Government Center every year.  (We actually love the Big Apple Circus, which is great for little kids, but I think a real circus needs elephants and lions.)  The girls loved it.  Even if they don't look particularly excited in this picture...

Autumn also brings one of my favorite Charlestown holiday events: Halloween.  I don't really care much for Halloween itself, but I love the way that our square mile of Boston celebrates it.  It's one of only a couple of days out of the year where a bunch of the streets are blocked off, and the whole neighborhood gets together, giving it a fun, block party feel.  Plus, I really enjoy all of the candy.  And having the girls collect it for me.  :)

Pumpkin guts!  Amelia is not a huge fan, Louisa was a little confused by the whole thing, and Ramona mostly just played with the seeds

Halloween carnival at the community garden: games, crafts, and pony rides

Costumes, jack-o-lanterns, friends, candy... HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Another fun fall event?  Nothing like a rolling rally!  We didn't watch much of the Sox's season last year, but we were happy to celebrate their World Series victory with a parade, and headed down to North Point Park to view it -- as did MANY other people.  Luckily, we ran into some friends there, which made waiting for the arrival of the duck boats much more enjoyable. 

Congrats, Red Sox!

And that was our autumn in summary.  I leave you with a few pictures from a random evening at the Monument...

Cute girls!  Not sure where Amelia was.

...and some of my fall favorites from my phone.

More to follow soon!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

School Days, Part Two

I promise to go back and post photos and updates from fall/winter/spring, but since I just posted about the beginning of the girls' school years, I thought it might make sense to post about their end-of-the-school-year events next.

Ramona's last day was June 6th.  At the annual moving-up ceremony, her class sang "This Little Light of Mine," and were super cute.

After the other classes sang their songs, the entire school sang the (preschool) song of the year: "Let It Go".  It was hysterical.  My apologies for the shakiness of the video, but I couldn't stop laughing!  I'm not sure which I liked best: the kids who were shouting the words at the tops of their lungs, or the kids who were covering their ears and cringing through the song.  It made for some darn good entertainment.

Oh, that little girl in the front middle making the exuberant arm gestures throughout the song is not Ramona, but another girl in the same dress!  Ramona is toward the back and the right. 

Ramona's last day of preschool -- June 6, 2014

The ceremony was followed-up with a lunch party back at school and lots of goodbye hugs. 

Ramona loves Miss Jessica!  We'll all miss her next year.

So glad that Ramona will be back there in the fall!


At the other end of the date-of-the-last-day-of-school spectrum was Amelia, whose last day was just last Wednesday (June 25).  Don't feel too bad for her, though.  Her last two and a half weeks of school included: no homework and no spelling tests, not one but two field trips (one to the swan boats in the Public Garden and one to the zoo), field day, kindergarten graduation, a holiday (Bunker Hill Day), a school-wide talent show, a school dance (I am NOT kidding -- hers included the kindergarten through second grade students), and a couple of early dismissals. 

Field trip to Stone Zoo

Posing with some of her artwork and after her very first school dance!

Add a handful of birthday parties and other end-of-the-year get-togethers, and you've got yourself a pretty fun month of June!

I was happy that my start date for my new job was scheduled for the middle of June, because it allowed me to attend more of these activities than I might otherwise have been able to.  I had a great time chaperoning the field trip to the zoo -- it's so much fun to watch Amelia interact with her peers in situations I don't normally get to see -- and was very impressed by the kindergarten graduation program. 

Kindergarten graduation performance and ceremony

The kindergarten classes sang FOUR entire songs -- complete with hand gestures and including "Fifty Nifty United States" (which I remember 5th graders singing when I was in elementary school) -- and had worked very hard to learn them all.

I didn't get much of the last song... My phone ran out of storage, and I was frantically trying to delete things during the first part!  But here's the end:

The singing was followed by the distribution of their "diplomas," and then cake for all. 

So proud of our little kindergarten grad! 

Last day of kindergarten!  Where did the year go???

With her teachers, Mrs. K and Mrs. Quigg, and a picture she drew of them  :)

Or, as she likes to call herself now, our first-grader.  :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

School Days, Part One

As we wrap up the 2013-14 school year (Ramona has been on break for over two weeks, but Amelia's last day was yesterday -- ah, the difference between private and public school!), here are some pictures from the girls' respective first days of school...
All ready for KINDERGARTEN!

This was a BIG year for Amelia.  Kindergarten is so much more structured and academic than preschool is -- or than kindergarten used to be, for that matter.  They actually had weekly spelling tests during the second half of the year! 

Photo with her sisters, who seem less than thrilled...

At the beginning of the year, Amelia could identify all letters, and could write all of the uppercase letters, and most of the lowercase letters.  She could spell her name and a handful of common short words, and knew what sounds most of the letters made, but was just beginning to sound out simple three- and four-letter words.  She could identify most numbers between 1 and 20, but could only write a couple of them. 

On the long (two-and-a-half-block) walk to her new school

And now?

The girl can straight-up READ, and has been able to for at least six months.  She is undaunted by the length of words and the length of books, sounding out four- and five-syllable words with a speed that amazes me and tackling (picture) books of all lengths, from 20 pages to 60 pages.  And she WANTS to read.  All.  The.  Time.  (It's awesome.)    

Finding her nametag and meeting her teacher

She knows dozens of "sight words," and can indeed identify them instantly.  She can write complete sentences, including proper capitalization and correct punctuation (most of the time).  She knows the difference between long and short vowel sounds, and understands the role of the silent "e".   

Getting settled in her new classroom... with some old friends!

And her math skills!  Amelia can now count past one hundred -- by ones, by tens, by fives -- and can write out all of the numbers.  She can read a math problem and then solve it using pictures and numbers.  She can add one-digit numbers to one-digit numbers, to make either more one-digit numbers or (small) two-digit numbers.  She can also subtract one-digit numbers from other one-digit numbers and (small) two-digit numbers. 

It's seriously incredible.  Thank goodness for awesome teachers! 

Ramona has had a great school year, too. 

SO happy to be going to school!

At not quite four, she has another year of preschool after this one, so for this pre-pre-kindergarten year, we had her in school just three mornings a week.  She may have been happier going four or five mornings a week, though, since she was always bummed on the days that Amelia got to go to school but she didn't!  Next year.  :)

Note that everyone seems more cheerful for Ramona's first day than they were for Amelia's.

She has grown up so much this year.  Where she might have had difficulty transitioning between activities at the beginning of the year (read: moving from an activity she was enjoying to one that she was less enthusiastic about), by the end of the year she was cheerfully picking up with her friends and getting ready for the next task. 
Walking the Freedom Trail to school... and peeking in the window upon arrival

Ramona has also made some "academic" advances this year, moving from circling her name upon arriving at class, to filling in two or three missing letters in her name, to writing out her whole name.  She can also now identify most letters, write about half of her uppercase letters pretty successfully, and tell you what sounds most letters make.  She can count past 20, can identify several numbers, and can even write a few of them, but still needs help with identifying and writing most numbers.   

All signed in and ready to begin her day!

Ramona will be returning to the same preschool next year, moving up to the (pre-kindergarten) Sea Turtle class, along with a handful of her current classmates, to join several kids from other classrooms.  And she'll have the same teachers that Amelia had last year, which we are thrilled about because they are so wonderful. 

Looking at these pictures from their respective first days of school reminds me of just how different these two girls are...

Amelia was super excited about her first day of kindergarten, but she was also REALLY nervous, and cried a little bit as we were dropping her off.  (You'll notice that she's not really smiling in the pictures of her in her classroom.)  To be fair, it was kind of a zoo.  There were 22 kids in her class, plus 2 parents apiece for most of them, and many youngers siblings... Add in two teachers she didn't know and a new school, and it was just a little bit too much for my sensitive little girl!  After we got her set up with some familiar faces at her table and gave her a couple of hugs, she was completely fine -- in fact, at bedtime that night, she whispered to me that she couldn't wait to go back to school the next day -- but it's a pretty accurate depiction of how Amelia often reacts to something new: reserved, a bit cautious, and in need of gentle coaxing and reassurances.

Ramona, on the other hand... I don't think that shy will ever be a word used to describe her!  She trotted all the way to school on her first day, giggling the whole time, so pleased both to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones.  After she got all signed in, she hugged us goodbye, but never gave us a second glance as we left.  Again, to be fair, Ramona had attended the same school for a semester last year, and even had one of her old teachers again, but even so...  She has no problem asserting herself in a roomful of people she doesn't know, and will chat up anyone -- the crossing guard, the guy ahead of us in line at Dunkin Donuts, the kid on the neighboring swing at the playground -- about anything -- her current favorite toy, the book she read last night, what she ate for breakfast, her cats...  The possibilities are endless. 

They are definitely different kids, but they do share the same attitude toward school: both LOVE it, and I hope they continue to enjoy it for a long, long time... Though hopefully not on our dime after college!  :)