Sunday, February 28, 2010

Check This Out

It took some trying yesterday and today, but now Ella can ride her bike all the way down the street with no training wheels. We are so proud of Ella--she was always positive about trying again and again, never discouraged by the scrapes and falls. Ella's thoughts about her accomplishment, "That just came out of nowhere--now I can ride without training wheels!"
And check out little Evil Knievel--"No hands, Mommy!". Jack is now master of his Big Wheels, riding up and down the street at least a dozen times. I love seeing him in the background of the picture of Ella above, just pedaling away. Too cute.

A Playdate

Even Gator gets playdates. Bodie, the sweet dog who convinced us we needed a puppy of our own years ago, was at our house for the weekend while the Browns were away for Aunt Dana's wedding. Gator and Bodie get along great and we enjoyed having this sweet, happy puppy around. We're going to miss him.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sweet Feet

Remember this poor, sweet little toe of Ella's? The one that looked like hamburger meat after she smashed it nearly two years ago, the one we worried would never grow a toenail again? Well now that sweet little toe is the one with the toenail that we can't trim often enough. It literally grows about 5 times faster than all of the other toenails. I'm not complaining--we are truly thankful for that toenail. We're glad to drop "poor" from the list of adjectives to describe Ella's toes. I think I'll replace it with "pink". I love these sweet pink little toes...

Bare Trees

We are definitely ready to see some green on the trees, enjoy some warmer temps, and spend some more time outside. Bring on Spring!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pinky Swear

It is Ella's new thing to pinky swear on just about everything. I've had to pinky swear, or refuse to pinky swear, on dozens of things over the past few weeks. Today when Ella came home from school with this picture for Aunt Jacqui I had to pinky swear that I wouldn't send it to her because Ella wants to save it for Jacqui's wedding. If that weren't over six months from now, I probably would've kept this solemn oath, but I didn't want Aunt Jacqui to have to wait that long to find out just how excited Ella is to be the flower girl in her wedding (plus, I didn't say anything about not posting it on the blog, right?). Regardless, shhh! Don't mention this to Ella--pinky swear on it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Creative Juices

Jack had them flowing tonight coming up with pictures made out of shapes on our magnetic board. Usually Ella and Jack use the templates that came with the set, but tonight Jack was quickly coming up with ideas of his own. He started off with, not surprisingly, a picture of Anakin and Count Dooku in a light saber battle, but he moved on to some landscapes and underwater scenes, complete with an 8-legged octopus. I was truly impressed with how cleverly and quickly he picked each shape to create the picture he envisioned. Every time he finished one, he ran up to me and said, "Mommy, mommy, take a picture." Obviously, he was very proud of his creations, too.

She's a Maniac

Inspired by some Olympic ice dancing (I swear we didn't watch Fame), Ella felt the need to break out the old ballet recital tutu, some leg warmers, and her walkman and do some serious dancing.
and she's dancing like she's never danced before...
Don't the walkman (I'm not sure what to call it--it's not an mp3 player, it only plays a select group of songs) and old school headphones just round out that 80's look. This actually does sort of look like an old video of me dancing with a friend in 2nd grade.

Becoming My Mother

Now, Nonni, you might be a little concerned about this post--not to worry, I think you'll find this to be about as sweet as I did.

We were all snuggling in bed this morning, talking and laughing (something I was trying to savor every moment of, all the while sadly wondering at what age the kids'll stop crawling in to bed with us in the mornings) when Jack said to me, "When you laugh you sound like Nonni." Then Ella chimed in, "And that's a good thing." Jack nodded and smiled in agreement. I think they miss you and your laugh, Nonni.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

High Society

After a morning of Vivaldi at the Charlotte Symphony (one of their Lollipops shows, aimed at the kids) and lunch in the city, Jonathan and Jack headed to a Davidson basketball game while Ella and I were off to a high tea to celebrate Ilse's birthday. The symphony, tea, and intellectuals playing basketball--it sounds like a serious day of culture to me. OK, so maybe we weren't exactly rubbing elbows with high society, but it was a lot of fun.

The sweet and quiet birthday girl.
Baden was about to head out the door with his dad for a trip to the indoor pool, but he decided to stick around and take in some princess activities once Ella showed up.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sharing the Love

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Fun

For some reason I didn't even know we had a chance of snow this weekend until yesterday. But, lo and behold, it started snowing last night and just kept snowing and snowing. This morning we awoke to a beautiful blue sky and about 4 inches of powdery snow covering the ground. It was so pleasant outside, not chilly or really windy, and the snow was so amenable to building snowmen, making snowballs, and sledding that we stayed out to play for a good 2 1/2 hours. It was the perfect day of wintery fun.

Making huge snowballs for snowmen was no problem with this fluffy snow once the sun hit it. Ella tried to help our new next-door neighbor, Gunner, roll this one up a hill into his backyard.

Every once in a while there would be a little wind and all of the snow on the tree branches would make it seem like it was snowing once again.

Snow seems to be the only thing that brings out all of the kids in our neighborhood for some play in the Winter. Savannah, who just moved here from Utah, was nice enough to share her real sled with Ella, Jack, and another neighbor, Jenna.

Jenna and Ella's Snow Princess (a.k.a. Don King Snowman)

Gator LOVED the snow, especially eating it...

Ah yeah--sledding Southern style, with the boogie board

Time for another endeavor in huge snowball rolling. This time, however, it was destined to be a throne fit for two princesses.

Jack had a chaise lounge built for him...

The snow might be gone by tomorrow, but we definitely took advantage of this beautiful snowy day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Concert

The 4-year-old classes from Jack's school put on an adorable Valentine's Day concert, just as Ella's class did last year. While the songs were the same last year, the show was just as good the second time around. This year I got a seat in the front row and--what luck!--I actually picked the right side. Jack was right in front of me. I got to hear every sweet little word he sang and watch every hand motion, jump, and hip shake. He kept shyly looking over at me, but obviously very happy to see me there. It was a very cute show and one I was very glad I didn't miss.

Impact of Art

This little sketch of Ella's lovable snowmen has brought more excitement and opportunities into our world than I ever imagined would come from winning The Mint Museum's holiday art contest. She was honored at The Mint Museum, of course, receiving a gift and her artwork framed beautifully. She had her picture in The Charlotte Observer recognizing this win. She was on her school's news and then highlighted at an area principal's meeting. She has been congratulated and hugged by many supportive friends and family who either received the holiday card from The Mint Museum, saw her in the newspaper, or heard the story straight from Ella that she "won The Mint Museum". And, best of all, she has built up a surge of confidence in her own ability to express herself through art.

Just when we thought the snowstorm of attention was over, we received this note (along with several calls from Ella's principal and music teacher) from Ella's school yesterday:

Congratulations! Your child has been chosen to represent [her school] at a special presentation for the Arts and Science Council, because of their outstanding achievement in the Arts. Your child's tremendous skill, and ability to communicate through the Arts has made a profound impact on [her school] and we are delighted to extend this opportunity to your child so they can inspire members of the larger Charlotte community.
At this presentation, [the principal] will speak about the impact of the Arts from a principal's perspective, and will use your child as a shining example of what children are capable of in the Arts.

So, yesterday Ella accompanied her principal, music teacher, a very talented pianist in 4th grade, and an "amazing" (per Ella) artist in 5th grade on a special field trip to The Charlotte Observer's offices in uptown. The principal spoke to a group of over 100 Observer employees on the value of Arts education and then called on each student to introduce him/herself and give an example of their accomplishments in the Arts. The principal told me she called on Ella last because she knew Ella would seal the deal. Ella introduced herself in the microphone (something she was very excited about having done) and then answered questions about the medium and techniques she used for her snowmen picture. "Then someone asked me if I had anything else to add, and I said 'No', and that was the funny part." She liked making everyone laugh. I had sent Ella to school with several copies of her snowmen card and she was apparently passing them out to Observer employees at the end of the presentation. And I've been told (by Ella) that she needs another snowmen card sent in with her on Monday because her new friend, the 4th grader, really wanted one, too.

To me, an opportunity like this for Ella--one to bond with her principal and music teacher at the beginning of her elementary school career, meet inspiring and hard-working older students, and speak in front of a large group of people--speaks less about Ella's artwork and more about the incredible person Ella is. Ella is a confident and positive person. She'll talk to just about anyone and, although she doesn't seek it out, has no problem having the attention on her. I believe that her principal asked Ella to accompany her to this presentation because she knew Ella could handle this kind of situation with good manners, relevant answers, and a smile. Jonathan spoke on the phone with Ella's music teacher and he couldn't say enough about what a wonderful kid she is. I was corresponding with Ella's principal via email to work out the logistics and she wrote at the end of an email (and I love this): P.S. I adore Ella :-). Jonathan and I couldn't be more proud or thrilled with how well Ella has taken to school. She's thriving! What an incredible kid. I never even considered how much I'd admire my own 5-year-old. I think I've mentioned this before, but the one line in Lost in Translation that I actually connected with was when Bill Murray said something to the effect of "your kids are the most amazing people you'll ever meet."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

100th Day of School

Ella has been a kindergartener for 100 days of school. Not really hard to believe when I think about how far she's come since that first day of school. Ella has gotten perfect scores on each of her two report cards, just last night she read a 50-page (easy reader) book to us, and she has no problem counting to 100 and beyond. As part of the 100th day of school celebration Ella had to count out 100 things to bring in to school (we did seashells because we have a ton of them from our trips to Florida) and make a shirt with 100 things attached to it. Ella and I tried to get fancy with our 100 things shirt and made a pearl necklace shirt kind of like a $50 one I'd seen at crewcuts. Ella counted out the beads and helped me string them and sew the strings on to the shirt. Then I tied a few bows, glued it all on to the shirt with some textile glue, and—voilĂ !—Ella had a fancy new shirt for her 100th day of school with 100 beads. Happy 100 days of school, Ella! We're so proud of all you've accomplished in those 100 days.
Our inspiration shirt.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ladies Night

After a New Year's Eve party and an entire weekend in the mountains with Ella being outnumbered 6 to 1, boys to girls, Ella was happy to have some girl time. We had our friends, the Miners, over tonight and their sweet girls, Cate and Grace. The girls dressed up like princesses, played with baby dolls, and put on some dance shows. Jack wore his knight outfit most of the night and, as Ella did among all those boys, had a fun time getting in the mix, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Three Day Weekend

The sun is shining, the sky is clear, and the temperature has creeped up into the 40's. These are the makings of a 'snow day' in Charlotte. I suppose there were some slick roads out there in our area this morning and I am glad our school district is erring on the safe side, but without the snowmen, sledding, and hot cocoa it really didn't feel like much of a snow day. We'd already gotten our snow play out of our systems on Saturday and were happy to see the sun shining in the sky again after a couple of days of overcast. Today was just a fun day to hang around together in what has turned out to be our third 3-day weekend in a row.

Ella looks so long to me in these photos--am I just failing to notice how her shape is slowly turning into that of a kid? Bye, bye sweet round belly.

Ice skating on our back patio, one spot of our yard that doesn't seem to get any sunshine in the Winter.