Monday, September 28, 2009

Riverbanks Zoo

We were all excited to take advantage of Ella's first Teacher Workday, our first opportunity in a month for a weekday excursion. Brooke and her boys were up for an adventure, too, so we all headed down to Columbia for a fun day at the Riverbanks Zoo. Some highlights from the day:

Ella wanted to say hello to the "Ella-phants" first thing.

Ella and Jack danced and sang "I like to move it, move it..." for the lemurs, hoping they would join in like in Madagascar. Noah doesn't know what to think of his silly friends.

The siamangs put on a loud and raucous show for us, swinging through the trees and tight-rope walking, all the while hootin' and hollerin'. Where to next, Ella and Miles?

A zoo trip isn't complete without a ride on the carousel.

No strollers on this trip--Griffin's one of the gang!

We've been to this zoo 8 times or more, but for the first time we finally checked out the lush botanical gardens just a short tram ride away.
Check out Brooke's gorgeous pictures from the gardens at her blog.

Miles and Ella were in sync, building more special memories together at this zoo.

Jack and Noah, in true 4-year-old form, headed straight for the big bin full of dirt at the play garden. Jack's arms, legs, and face were covered with soil by the time he was done.

Ms. Williams and Mr. Brown taught us all the ABCs.

Thanks for the fun day, guys! Great idea, Brooke!

I ♥ Faces: Blue

This week's theme at I ♥ Faces is 'Blue'. The color blue must be featured in the photo, but there can also be a blue expression. What kind of mom whips out the camera when her son is so obviously in anguish? Well, apparently, me, of course. But, I couldn't help myself. Jack's sweet little sideways moan is one of his signature looks and I just had to capture it for posterity's sake. This photo was taken back in June after a long, busy day and Jack was sad because we woke him from a well-deserved nap to eat dinner. His blue Superman pajamas seemed like the perfect juxtaposition to his sad, endearing look. This is my, courtesy of Five for Fighting, "It's not easy to be me" shot of my sweet, super Jack.

Check out the other "blue" entries this week and join the fun at I ♥ Faces.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Tickets to a show at the Children's Theatre of Charlotte brought us to uptown this evening. We always enjoy CTC productions, but today's show was a far cry from the minimalist (in cast, costumes, and props) preschool shows performed in a cozy theater that we have attended in the past. Today, for the first time, we headed up to the 550-seat theater for a grand production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. What a fantastic show! The talent, stage design, costumes, and live orchestra were incredibly impressive. We were all captivated to the very end of this over 2-hour musical. Heading to Imaginon for a Children's Theatre show is definitely one of Ella's and Jack's favorite things to do, but this show was a treat for Jonathan and me, too.

When in uptown, and especially when near Seventh Street, Ella and Jack also love eating at Brixx (home of their favorite buttery noodles in town--we prefer the pizza and beer) and running around Seventh Street Station, hitting every single light bar to hear the resulting giggle, gong, or crash. You can see the kids in these pictures, slapping these 30-odd-foot tall interactive "light fins" that are part of a work of art called Touch My Building. They light up and make a sound when hit just right. This never fails to amuse.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Love This Face

I love this sweet, expressive face.
"More pictures, Mom? Really?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baden's Backyard

Last week Ella completed her first real homework assignment, a 4-page 'All About Me' report. This report introduced her class to Ella's family, her favorite activities, and the things she loves most. The report also, of course, just had to include nearly a page dedicated to Baden. Ella's words on the subject, as dictated to me: This is a picture of me and my friend. My friend is named Baden. He is my best, best friend. I love Baden so much. We have been friends since I was 2 years old. Sometimes I come over to Baden’s house and we play in his backyard.

Now that Ella and Baden are on different school schedules, it has been harder and harder to get together. We've all missed seeing Baden and his family. Fortunately, Baden's parents invited us over for a cookout this weekend in Baden's (now renown) backyard. There was lots of running, eating, wrestling, more running, and a whole lot of fun.

Jack in stealth mode, ready to get in on the chase at a moment's notice...

This is Jonathan's new favorite game, ladderball (a.k.a. Polish horseshoes, blongo ball). He's getting pretty good at it, too.

Ella and Jack both tried out standing on the skateboard. Jack was actually pretty good at it, sporting a real skateboard stance. I'm not ready to go out and buy him one just yet, but his balance was pretty impressive.

Look how sweaty and worn out these kids look after a night of outdoor fun. Even exhausted, the kids still took a good 15 minutes (or more) for their goodbyes, not wanting the fun to come to an end. Jack, Baden, Ella, and Ilse really have become the best of friends.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Post by Jonathan
After weeks of doing rain dances, anxiously watching the weather channel, and hoping that our neighborhood would get hit with at least one good rainstorm this summer, my wishes finally came true. Unfortunately, the skies opened up about 15 minutes after I put up our tent and unloaded the car for the weekend’s YMCA Father/Child camping trip.

The Hull boys (Tom, Hayden, and Ryan), Ella, Jack, and I had planned to meet for what would have been my second YMCA camping event, and all looked good Saturday afternoon. The rain had held off all day, the Gator game was set to record, and the kids were excited to once again sleep under the stars with their Dad. But, Mother Nature had other plans for us.

After trying to wait the storm out for about 30 minutes, the event director finally called off the weekend and planned to reschedule. That left the Dads with the task of packing the gear in a downpour while the kids pretty much ran around unsupervised. As you can imagine, everything was soaked to its core, including Ella and Jack.

On a positive note, we did reconnect with Mac, Ella’s best friend from daycare. These two haven’t seen each other since she was 2, but they picked up right where they left off and didn’t miss a beat.

A bath, some hot chocolate, and dinner got the kids back to normal in no time, so the night was saved. I do think Trish and Gator were a little disappointed though to have the raucous crowd return home so soon after leaving. Here’s to next time….

Friday, September 18, 2009

Three Weeks In

Ella is now three full weeks in to kindergarten and she is thriving. We are amazed with how well she has adapted to all of the changes and challenges of kindergarten. The long day doesn't seem to wear her out a bit and she's very excited about her school work. Ella loves all of the "specials" classes she has--art, media center, music, computers, and gym. Every Friday is "Spirit Day" and Ella was thrilled to wear her school t-shirt today to show her spirit. She loves her school!

Today, for the first time, I joined Ella for lunch at her school. It's wonderful to see how thrilled she is to have me there. She introduced me to a few of her friends, told me all about how the whole lunch process works, and caught me up on what they'd already done that day (including showing me the song and dance they had learned that morning in music class). I can't tell you how invaluable this glimpse into Ella's day has been for me. Hopefully a few more lunches and some volunteer time at Ella's school and I'll really start to understand Ella's day, who she's talking about in her stories, and what kind of work her class is doing. The completed work that gets sent home once a week and Ella's random stories really make it hard to piece it all together. I have come to understand, however, that Ella's loving kindergarten and her new school, making new friends, and growing in leaps and bounds.

Here are a few of the assignments that have come home with her.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I ♥ Faces: Contemplative and Pets

I love this picture of Ella. This picture is the next best thing to having her stand right in front of me. I can see the softness of her skin and just want to reach out and touch her cheek. Ella loves this picture of herself, too, probably because it's so pink. Her dress and kerchief are pink, of course, but she's so peachy-pink, too. And every time she sees me putting on lipstick and asks for some herself, I tell her that I'm just trying to get my lips to look like hers are naturally, so pink. Ella got this look from me--staring off into the distance, almost trance-like thinking of who knows what. I always say she's in "El-la land" (as opposed to la-la land) when I see this wistful look.

It is also Pet's week over at I ♥ Faces. I feel guilty not posting a picture of our first-born child, Gator, but this puppy is just too cute. We went with my parents and my sister and her family to a guide dog training facility to help socialize puppies. We sat on the floor and cuddled, pet, and played with the sweet puppies. Look at all of the loving hands on this puppy. He has quite a contemplative look, too.

Check out all of the other thought-provoking entries, or enter yourself, at I ♥ Faces. It's always so much fun to review and showcase your favorite shots. And there's no better way to be inspired than to peruse the entries and winners each week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Return on Investment

We finally decided to buy some hair clippers today after realizing that, 1) our ROI would be realized in under two haircuts, 2) Jack gets his hair cut about twice as often as Ella, and 3) Jonathan did a better job cutting Jack's hair while we were at Tracy's house using her clippers than the last two haircuts he'd received by a "stylist". Jack sat perfectly still, Jonathan did a great job giving Jack a trim, and we know we got our money's worth. Only problem now is that Jonathan's giving me a hard time for not cutting his hair...I'm sorry, but nothing good can come of that...

A Sunday Stroll

Today we headed to the greenway to enjoy the beautiful weather and a nice stroll together. Our plan for this year (and I'm hoping by "writing" this down I'll be more accountable for making this happen) is to have an active family outing each weekend, something deliberate, planned, and for the four (sometimes five) of us. We hope to do some hiking, biking, and maybe actually get our kayaks to the lake finally. After today I feel even more encouraged that we will be able to make this work because we did about a 2.5 mile walk and had no whining or complaining (seriously, it usually takes about a block or two for Jack to break into the "I tired from walking" whines). All it took was a few snack breaks, some sticks, and some beautiful scenery to keep them going.

This is Jack walking with canes "like an old man".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Summer's Reprise

We spent our evening playing on a playground in the hot sun while a Jimmy Buffett tribute band played at the amphitheatre nearby. It felt like a relaxing Summer night once again. Honestly, though, I'm looking forward to the shorter days and cooler nights to come. I love the Autumn in Charlotte.

I got dizzy just watching Ella spin on this contraption. Later in the evening, Jack got on and Ella grabbed the bar and ran in circles to spin him on it. Before we new it she was holding on for dear life as her body was fully horizontal spinning around and around with Jack. It was hilarious (because she didn't get hurt, of course).