Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Monkeying Around

Yep, we've got a theme going here. Monkeys are showing up everywhere in our house (even on the girls' jammies). Just look at these two monkeys hugging on each other...

...and practicing yoga.

Head Over Heels

Try to picture this in your mind because I have no photo evidence...

Anna Claire is already in her crib for nap time. Mallory is in the glider/rocker looking at a book. I turn my back for one second to put the wipes back on the dresser. When I turn back around to get Mallory she is not in the glider anymore.

After a split second of utter confusion, I spot her feet sticking up out of the laundry hamper. I realize she has somehow taken a nosedive from the glider into the laundry hamper (which sit side-by-side in a cramped corner of the nursery) and rush over to her, expecting her to start screaming her head off any second. I grab her by the feet, yank her out, and maneuver her, upside down, back into the glider.

She is laughing; so is Anna Claire. By this time, so am I.

Have I already mentioned that these girls are wearing me out? I love it!

Anna Claire and the Purple Crayon

Surely, you're familiar with the story Harold and the Purple Crayon. Well, here’s our version…

I am trying to get the girls to play a little more independently giving me some time to fold laundry, get supper in the oven, etc. So, today the girls were happily (and safely) playing together in the playroom while I folded laundry. I’d say in a ten-minute time span, I checked on them twice because they were soooo quiet. About five minutes later, Mallory came out into the living room. I helped her start playing with their new dollhouse and ran to take a quick peek at Anna Claire. No worries, she was happily playing (but I can’t remember right now what she was playing with). I went back out into the living room with Mallory and five minutes later Anna Claire walks into the living room…
She had two chunks of purple crayon in her mouth and the accompanying purple lips and tongue. She politely spit out the crayon in my hand and I cleaned up her face (thankfully, Santa brought washable crayons). And would you look at that face. Do you think she knew she was in trouble?

After more playtime it was time to head back to the nursery for a diaper change. Holy cow!...the shock and awe I experienced upon entering the nursery I cannot describe. The first thing I saw was purple crayon on the door to their room, then I saw purple on the side of the armoire, then Anna Claire’s crib, then the glider, Mallory’s crib, the dresser, the wall…. Today I am still finding purple crayon markings here and there on the path she took, evidently, from the playroom, to the nursery, down the hallway, and into the living room.

Anna Claire kept pointing to her artwork saying, "mess, mess." After letting her know it was not appropriate to draw on walls and furniture, I had her help me clean up her mess. Anyone who knows Anna Claire should not be fooled by the look on her face - she loves cleaning!

Needless to say, the crayons have been hidden away out of the reach of little hands and will only be allowed with adult supervision. So much for independent playtime!

Have I mentioned that these girls are

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We're Not Done Yet...

Since Aunt Hollis, Uncle Jess, and Cousin Brennan were in NC for the holidays, we all got together last night to exchange gifts and have dinner at Grandmom's house. The girls got a sliding board/climber which they already love. It was quite cold last night, but the girls got to take a few quick turns going down the slide. Of course, Anna Claire could not go down the slide with out monk-monk.

The girls also got vacuum cleaners, puzzles, a mixer & blender they can use in their new kitchen, and lots of other cool toys! One of the best presents the girls got was the news that they are getting a baby GIRL cousin. Finally!

Christmas Day...

...was a whirlwind.

First, we went to Granny and Papa's to open presents. I was most excited about the girls' new table and chairs for the play room, but all they wanted to play with were the punch balloons!

Next, we all headed over to Aunt Pam and Uncle Ronnie's for a quick gift exchange. We didn't get to stay long, but the girls' had fun playing with all their cousins' boy toys. They are fascinated by tools and trucks!

After that, we headed over to Grandmom's house for Christmas dinner and time with Walter's family.

Once we got home, Granny and Papa came over to see what the girls got from Santa.

Needless to say, we were all in bed super early Christmas night! We took what looks like a million pictures, so here's a collage or three (trying something new) of just a few shots from Christmas day since it would take forever to upload all these pictures individually. Sorry they're so small - click on the pic to enlarge...
I am exhausted all over again just looking at these photos, but I do have to brag about just how great the girls did on such a busy day. They rolled with the punches, ate great, napped well, looked cute, played hard, and had a Very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Morning...

The girls' "big" Christmas present this year was a "retro" play kitchen. I was worried at first that they may be too young, but the kitchen has been a bigger hit than I ever imagined! I am so glad Santa brought it for them.The girls also got lots of books, art supplies, and plenty of other fun things!Here's Mallory checking out all the pretend food, pots, pans, and dishes. They love all the play food. Who knew monkeys liked lemons?The girls also got baby dolls and doll cradles. Do you see the monkey in Anna Claire's cradle?It didn't take Mallory long at all to crawl into her doll cradle. Anna Claire finally got her monkey. She may not completely understand the concept of Santa, but she sure knew that "ho-ho" was bringing her a "monk-monk" for Christmas - and he did! She has been waiting for a monkey of her own (just like cousin Dylan's) for months. I don't think she has let that monkey out of her sight for five minutes since Christmas morning.
Check out those monkey bedroom slippers!

Christmas Eve...

On Christmas Eve, we all headed over to GiGi's for dinner and presents. The biggest hit - GiGi's piano! Anna Claire and Mallory loved banging on the keys.

The girls' got cute clothes and baby dolls and lots of other goodies. They were so cute and super well-behaved and had fun playing with their aunts, uncles, and cousins. We dressed the girls in their jammies before we left so they could head straight to bed as soon as we got home...didn't want to take any chances Santa might skip our house if the girls were too late getting to bed!Before going to bed, the girls had to say good night to the Christmas tree... ...and kiss their favorite ornaments good night.
One last shot of the girls in their Christmas jammies before heading off to bed to wait for Santa!

Still no luck getting the girls to look at the camera.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

This morning, I got to open my Christmas [eve] present from Walter, Anna Claire, and Mallory - a new Nikon D3000. I LOVE it, and I've been trying to learn how to use it in time for tonight, so I thought I'd share a picture of our tree and a few of the girls' favorite ornaments (the ones they pull off the tree most frequently!) since Anna Claire and Mallory are napping and I can't practice on them.

Our tree...
I did put ornaments on the bottom of the tree. I just thought it was too unrealistic to expect the girls to be "hands-off." Instead, I placed some of their very own Hallmark Keepsake ornaments on the bottom and we have been teaching them to be gentle and touch with only one finger. Anna Claire has done great; Mallory - not so much. ;-)

This is Mallory's newest ornament. She is quite the budding artist. She loves drawing with crayons and sidewalk chalk.
This is Anna Claire's newest ornament - a monkey. She loves monkeys. If you ask her what Santa is bringing her for Christmas, she says, "monk-monk!" I can't wait to see her face tomorrow morning!
This is just a random ornament I practiced on, but both girls love it - they pretend to drink cocoa from Santa's mug.
They also love our Micky Mouse ornament, golden retriever ornament, rubber duckie ornaments and their silver bells. They have to kiss all their ornaments good night and wave bye-bye to the tree. We did put all the glass/nicer ornaments high enough on the tree so the girls can't reach them. Overall, I have been very pleased with their Christmas tree etiquette! Now, I'm off to practice some more with my new camera and get a few more things done before the girls wake up from their nap.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And the Fun Has Only Just Begun

Here's our "official" family holiday picture taken at the family Christmas party (thanks, Grandmom) Sunday night, which was the official kick-off for all the holiday fun coming our way! Last night we had a family dinner (thanks, again, Grandmom) in which the girls ate more spaghetti than I have ever seen them consume - and they love spaghetti. Anna Claire and Mallory also got to open a few early Christmas gifts. No surprise that all Mallory wanted to play with was cousin Brennan's new lawn mower and all Anna Clarie wanted to play with was Mallory's new Wow, Wow Wubzy doll (not even sure how to spell that!).

I wish I could say we were back to our normal routine today, but the girls had their eighteen month well-baby visit this morning - I mean this afternoon. More on that later. My tension headache is too huge to allow me to go there right now!

The Crazy Thing Is I Was Watching Her the Entire Time...

...but she had her back to me! I was sitting in the chair reading to Anna Claire and Mallory was standing a few feet in front of me watching the TV. My eyes were on her back the entire time, but I had no idea she had my lipstick or how or when she snuck it out of the bathroom. Imagine my surprise when she turned around and I saw this... Another note on her sneakiness...Mallory made it on TOP of the kitchen table for the first time two nights ago (she hasn't done it since). It happened in a flash, too. She is so fast. I did NOT pause long enough to get a photo of that, but we were all right there in the kitchen together thank goodness. As soon as I realized where she was headed it took me three steps to get across the kitchen floor. In that short amount of time she was already sitting atop the table!

Yikes! I've got to keep a close eye on this one!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wrestle Mania

The girls caught their second wind the other night before bath time and decided that a little horseplay was in order. They giggled and ran around and fell down, rolled around on the floor, and hugged & kissed on each other forever. So cute!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Building the Reading Brain

I've been wanting to share some of my research for a while. I love this book, as an educator and a parent. The research in this book is fascinating - at least it is to me, but then I spend every day searching for ways to improve literacy instruction. As someone with a background in middle-level literacy, I found the information on how the brain develops its capacity for language from preK-grade 3 invaluable as an educator and parent. If you are interested in reading the book, though, just remember it was written with educators in mind - not parents. I hope this doesn't bore you; some you probably already know. I've pretty much quoted some of the chapter 3 highlights directly from the authors...

The Language Explosion: 1 to 2 Years

From 1 year on, children develop language skills rapidly. At about 18 months, vocabulary explodes with children adding a new word to their vocabulary at the astounding rate of one word every two hours [!] or so (Koralek & Collins, 1997). Their receptive vocabulary - the words they understand - grows even more rapidly (Eliot, 1999)....This period of rapidly expanding language development coincides with the time when synapse formation and metabolic activity are at their highest in the cortex (Eliot,1999).

Talk, Talk, Talk

...children of the most talkative mothers had 33 more words in their vocabulary at 16 months than did the children of mothers who were the least talkative. At 20 months, the difference was 131 words, and at 24 months, 295. (Huttenlocher, Haight, Bryk, Seltzer, & Lyons, 1991).

The Single Most Important Intervention

...reading aloud to children is the single most important intervention for developing their literacy skills. The research is clear - children who are read to from an early age are more successful at learning to read....First, it increases their vocabulary and helps them become familiar with language patterns. Repetition increases the strength of neural connections. Reading the same book to children repeatedly - which they love - serves to reinforce familiar words. Children often become so familiar with the vocabulary of a favorite story they can "read" it with an adult or pretend to read it to a sibling or to one of their dolls or stuffed animals.

A second benefit of reading to children is that the child acquires familiarity with the reading process. The pre-reading child has much to learn about print....The benefit of reading to a child is further enhanced when the reader involves the child by asking him or her to point to or name pictures of persons or objects, points out objects in the story that are present in the child's own environment, encourages the child to retell the story, or otherwise involves the child in some type of discussion.

The Nursery Rhyme Effect

When two sounds are similar, they excite the same cells and their connections. As these sounds are heard repeatedly, the neural connections become stronger and the sounds become more easily recognized or familiar. In this way, the brain also begins to distinguish between sounds that are alike and those that are different. This is a process essential to phonemic awareness [conscious understanding that words are made of individual sounds from speech and that these sounds are representative of the alphabet]....The repetition of sounds set to rhythm is a common memory strategy nearly everyone uses, and one of the best ways to develop word processing skills in the young is through nursery rhymes and simple songs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In case you are interested...Wolfe, P. & Nevills, P. Building the Reading Brain, PreK-3. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, California. 2004.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Pictures

I say it every time: I am not going back to Portrait Innovations. Even though we do always get some good shots of the girls, it's just so stressful - mostly for me. The drive is not fun, the photographers aren't always good with babies, and I think I'm over the whole studio portrait "style." I'd love some more artistic photographs next time.

Yesterday we went to have Anna Claire and Mallory's picture taken for our Christmas cards. The girls were just not in the mood to sit still and smile. And who can really blame them? They are 18 months old (today!) and constantly on the go. They weren't incredibly fussy or anything - just not exactly cooperative. Mallory's pigtails were a mess, and we're finally able to get Anna Claire to keep a bow in her hair, but I forgot to put the grippy tape on the bow she is wearing in the picture, so it was constantly sliding around her head.

My goal was to get just one good shot of both of them together and smiling that we could use on our Christmas card. Well...

These are just a few of the (unedited) pictures. Shots of the girls individually turned out much better than those of them together, so we may go that way again this year with the Christmas cards. Maybe I'm just too picky looking for the perfect picture. My girls are beautiful in all these photos!

When the time rolls around to have their two-year-old pictures taken, someone please talk me out of going to Portrait Innovations.