Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tree Time!

Well, since it was a week until Christmas, it was probably time for us to get a tree! So, into the car we all went!
Over the hill and to our favorite local farm, same one where we got our pumpkins! And into their greenhouse, shed -type building. And, well, since it WAS only a week until Christmas, the picking were slightly thinned! But, we knew what we were looking for......and we found it!

While Daddy paid for our lovely tree, the kids and I checked out some of the other Christmas stuff! Colin had his eye on this tractor the whole time we were looking for a tree!

Bean got in on the tractor action too!

She also had some fun with the "tree scene"!
(I have no idea why, but this picture cracks me up)

By then we were ready to load up the tree! Always fun to watch!
(Oh, and check out the accommodating snow flurries! Just special for our tree picking day!)

So, we got home, the kids played in our 1/2" of snow and Daddy got the tree in the stand and put up in the dining room. Then we ate lunch and put the kiddos down for nap. While they were sleeping Daddy put up the lights and tinsel (YAY!!!) and I made some cookies. After nap, the kids helped us put the ornaments on!

This train was a big hit. Surprise, right?

All in all, not a bad little tree, huh?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookie Fun

The weekend before Christmas we were quite busy! On Saturday, Grammy and Papa Frank came down for the day with cookies on their agenda! But first, on Friday after nap, the kids and I cheated our way into some sugar cookie dough:

I rolled and cut after the kids went to bed that night. Sadly, one pack only made about 14 LARGE cookies, so Michael had to run out and get another cheater cookie dough mix for me on Saturday! I swear, I bake all my other cookies from scratch, but I CANNOT get sugar cookies to work for me. So, I let that one kind slide and use good old Mrs. Crocker. Thanks to all my friends for that recommendation!

So, on Saturday, the kids were QUITE excited to see Grammy and Papa! We played for a while before hitting the cookie assembly line. The kids were eager to show their grandparents their Elefun game, trains, dolls, and ballet dancing!

We did the original cookie batch with Grammy and Papa! Green, red, and white icing and lots and lots of sprinkles!

Uncle D and Aunt Cedes came over near lunch time and we had a very nice lunch and visit. By then the second batch of cookies was cool and ready to go. C&G were quite happy to climb back up on the assembly line with Uncle D and Aunt Cedes this time too!

Oh, and somewhere in here, Gillian found time to make a lovely foam gingerbread house with Grammy. They worked so carefully and beautifully! The house is perfect!

So, a nice visit with our family and some cookies in the freezer (minus the few that got munched at lunch!)! I think this a good tradition to keep around for a while!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Around the World at Preschool!

Last Friday the kiddos had their last day of school before Christmas and they celebrated with a little party (and invited their parents). They had a nifty little "Christmas Around the World" theme and each classroom was decorated as a different country (England, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, and Mexico) and the teacher in each room told about the traditions of each different country while we visited. Ok, so this was a bit much (and a bit boring) for the 2 year olds, but I enjoyed it and the kids got a stamp in each room, so it worked out!

Gillian wanted to wear a fancy dress and so she did! This was actually LAST year's dress and it fits her much better this year. It's a 24 months, but it must run HUGE. The bloomers that match it STILL don't fit her waist, too big!

Here are the kids listening to stories about other countries. Their favorite part was learning about the pickle ornaments that German families hide on their trees as a game on Christmas. Grammy has a pickle for her tree, so maybe we'll try to find it this year!

After our long journey around the world, we came back to Miss Heather's room for cookies and punch! YUM!

We had a very nice time at the party and the kids had fun too, I think! I know they love school and pretty much anything that comes along with it! We can't wait to get back after the New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Adventure....with TRAINS!

Last weekend GraGra and Papa Greg came to visit for some shopping and a big adventure! So, Saturday morning GraGra, Papa, and I hit the mall and other places and Daddy stayed home with the little troops. We didn't really shop all that long and we were back in plenty of time for Daddy and I to enjoy a night out at our favorite Thai place and Giant Eagle (yes, we're lame).

Anyway, on Sunday morning we were up bright and early to surprise the kiddos with a TRAIN ride and trip into the city to see the PPG Christmas displays! We previously had been just telling the kids we were going on an adventure, so all morning Colin kept telling us "This is a great adventure!"

We got off the train downtown and walked a few blocks to PPG Place. The kids enjoyed the huge Christmas tree in the square!

This was the kids' attempt at a picture with GraGra. This is as close together as they would get. Goofballs.

We visited the Wintergarden where they have this lovely tree and some model trains and a ton of community made gingerbread houses.

Colin was smitten with the trains. He walked loop after loop after loop just watching the trains go. His favorite part was watching this steam-y come out of the tunnel, time after time.

Happy, train-loving boy.

I don't seem to have a picture of Gillian, but she enjoyed herself as well. She checked out the trains and the gingerbread houses. Then she hung out with GraGra and played with a water bottle and had some crackers. She was visiting with Uncle Willis and Leah, who had joined us for the morning too. Then both kiddos got Daddy to take them outside to see the dinosaur statues.

Then we all walked over to Market Square for some lunch. Well, everyone except Colin had lunch. He ordered mac n' cheese (a favorite) and didn't eat a singe bite. G managed to eat a bite or two of her lunch and some of GraGra's lunch, so she wasn't quite as bad. But Colin was quite miserable at lunch. I think he was just plain old exhausted at this point.

So after lunch, back a few blocks, and back on the train. Such happy train riders.

We finally made it back to our park-n-ride spot and in the 15 minutes back to the house, BOTH kids were asleep in the car! They NEVER sleep in the car. I think it's been at least 18 months since they last did that! I guess our Big Adventure wore them out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Program Meltdown, Colin Style

After our St. Nick adventures we headed off to preschool for the school's special Christmas program. They only offered the program on Tuesday and Wednesday, and since our school day is Friday, they offered parents the chance to bring their kids in and stay with them through the program. Since we are always looking for a morning adventure, we said SURE. We were the only Friday students to do so though!

We joined Miss Heather, the kids' regular teacher, and her Tuesday/Thursday class (and our friend Xavier) on their way through the sanctuary. We visited five or six "stops" and listened to the shepherds, angel, Wise Men, and Mary as they told us their portions of the Nativity story.

C&G enjoyed the shepherds' herd:

And the Wise Men's words (that's Xavier playing the part of Wise Man #3):

They did a nice job of listening to each portion of the story and saying Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus at the end. The minister who spoke to them at the last stop totally lost them though; I surely hope he's not the Youth Minister!

When we made it back to the lobby, Miss Heather was ready to take her class to the Muscle Room (their gymnasium), and I told my kiddos it was time to head home, Colin had a fit. He yelled and cried and generally let it be known that HE WAS NOT HAPPY and HE DID NOT WANT TO GO HOME. He wanted to STAY. Miss Heather told me that he's unhappy every class day when they say it's time to go home! Oh poor boy! I totally understood why he was upset. But still! A fit in front of the teacher is not a welcome thing!
Eh, well, we all survived.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Tuesday, December 6th was the Feast of St. Nicholas, or Belsnickel. Daddy always celebrated Belsnickel when he was little by leaving out his shoes or boots for St. Nicholas to leave a treat (if he was good) or some coal (if he was bad). So the night before I had C&G find their snow boots (that we hadn't even WORN yet!) and set them for St. Nick. If he brought them treats, then they were hanging out on the Nice List, and if he brought them coal, then they needed to work on getting off the Naughty List!

So, let's see what Good Ol' St. Nick brought!?!?
A beautiful Cinderella ornament for Gillian!

And a cool Thomas ornament for Colin!

Huh. They must on the Nice List after all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Seeing Santa

A few weekends ago, before the Nutcracker and dinosaurs actually, we went to Daddy's work's Christmas Party for Kids. It's an annual tradition; they offer crafts, cookies and milk, balloon animals, and SANTA. It's a very nice little set up. We learned after last year to get there very early to have an "early" number for Santa!

While we WERE early we had probably a twenty minute wait before we were called to see The Big Guy. So we did a craft or two (Gillian was WAY into that), got two balloon Rudolphs (very much appreciated), and we saw RUDOLPH. Colin was slightly enamored with the red-nosed reindeer. He stalked him around the room, staring, and talking a mile a minute. Finally Rudolph got close enough for Colin to talk to him and get a picture taken. I know it doesn't look like it, but, I promise, Colin L-O-V-E-D this guy!

Then we got called to see Santa (this thing is uber-organized, that's how engineers roll). I think they forgot to call the numbers after us for a while, because there weren't any people behind us, so we could take our time with Santa!

Now, they don't look like HAPPY children. BUT, they don't look like TERRIFIED children either. Colin just sat there staring straight ahead and reciting what he had put on his Christmas list. Santa kept nodding, so I THINK he heard him. I think G remembered to tell him a thing or two too, but they were both so quiet that I can't be SURE. There were no tears, anyway, and C&G SAID they talked to Santa. So, we'll take it as a SUCCESS!

Then we had some cookies and milk (for G) and Cheetos and milk (for C) with our friends Ian, Julia, and AJ! Fun morning!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Girls' Afternoon at the Ballet

So the same afternoon that the boys went to the dinosaur museum, Gillian and I went to see the Nutcracker! The Pittsburgh Ballet does a lovely version of the Nutcracker yearly, but the tickets are WAY expensive and I think it's a bit much for a three year old. However, I found a local ballet school that was doing their annual showing at a nearby high school, and at a reasonable cost, so I got Bean and I tickets. I even scored us third row seats!

Gillian's fun started when I let her pick which of her THREE fancy Christmas dresses she wanted to wear for the afternoon. She's been DYING to wear one! She chose the "jeweled" one and was pleased as punch to put it on. She was even more excited when I put on MY dress. (Apparently my daily yoga pants aren't up to her fashion standards.) I even got out her special bell necklace that Grammy gave her and let her wear it for the first time.

Gillian did not stop talking the.whole.way.there. It was pretty funny for to her be the chatterbox. She's usually quieter than her brother! We got there about 20 minutes before 2:00 the show and the lobby was packed. The theater wasn't open yet, so we wandered about, used the potty, and admired all the other little girls in their pretty dresses. Finally it was about 1:58 and the doors weren't open yet! Um, hello? They did finally let us in but the show didn't start until about 2:20. Not my favorite part of the day, especially when we're skipping nap! G was very good, she played with her seat, her necklace, and checked out the program. But she wanted to know when the SHOW WAS GOING TO START!

We grabbed a quick self-portrait. Not too bad!

Once the show started Gillian was very interested in what was going on. I should have read up on my Nutcracker as I struggled with the details in spots, but we got the general idea. She got the whole broken Nutcracker part and wanted to know why Clara's brother was so bad. Ha. Towards the end of the first act Bean started to get antsy and wanted to know if it was over yet. Thankfully it wasn't too long until intermission. We stretched our legs and hit the potty again. Then Gillian wanted to check out the oversized Nutcrackers in the lobby for a bit.

We waited our turn and took a quick picture!
Gillian was REALLY into those big Nutcrackers!

Thankfully the second act was a bit shorter than the first! And Gillian saw her favorite part of the whole show! Before the Chinese dancers came on, a giant Chinese dragon came across the stage (with about 40 little feet under it) and floated about for about 30 seconds. The rest of the show, G wanted to know when it was coming back!! Glad she found something she liked!

All in all, I think G had a good time. For a while after the show, she wouldn't talk about it. And she told us that, "I don't want to talk about it." But finally, about 10 days later, she FINALLY started pretending ballet dancing! YES! I will say, it was so nice to spend a day with my little girlie. We definitely need to do that more often!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Boys and Dinosaurs


Last weekend Colin and I took a trip into the city to go to the "Dino" museum - better known to adults as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - while Lea and Gillian went to see The Nutcracker performed by a local youth ballet company. I wasn't really sure how well this trip was going to go, as Colin doesn't seem to have a huge interest in dinosaurs, certainly nothing approaching his overwhelming love of trains. My fear was that the museum wouldn't hold his attention, especially since this museum isn't really as interactive as say the Children's Museum or the Carnegie Science Center. But, he seemed excited as we left the house, so I hoped that everything would go well.

On of the big draws for Colin was the opportunity to ride in the "blue car" (the little Saturn that I drive to and from work everyday). As we don't have two sets of car seats, and moving the ones we have is something of a pain to move, they don't often (ever) get to ride in it (I think that Gillian did once while Colin was in the hospital). So, Colin was pretty excited as we piled into the car to head into the city. He's quite the little chatter box. I don't think that he stopped talking once during the entire ride into the city. He was especially excited when we "sneaked-up" on "his" city as we rounded a curve on Carson St. and the city skyline sprang into view.

Upon arriving at the museum, a security guard informed us that we couldn't carry our backpacks with us through the museum, so, Colin and I had to get some change so that we could put our backpacks into a pay locker in the coat room. After stowing our gear, we set out to find the dinos.

When you first enter the dinosaur exhibit at CMNH, there's a series of displays about the prehistoric world. These displays have large globes with the configurations of the continents in different time periods projected on the insides. At the bases of these globes are informational plaques and touch-screen computers. These, I think, ended up being the highlights of the museum for Colin. The computers weren't limited to the continents either, each of the dinosaurs had a computer that would give extended information about each dinosaur. Here's Colin using one.


For each dinosaur, the computer would present a screen where it showed the dinosaur as if it were alive (that is, covered with skin), it would then fade-in the skeleton as set-up in the museum. Colin loved this. He said that he was "emailing pictures of those dinos."


Colin did like the big long-neck dinosaurs - especially their long tails.


One of the tails went over the pathway that we walked on. Colin thought that this was pretty cool because the tail was "like a bridge". We did eventually move on to the other dinos. I was excited because they have a very nice T-Rex exhibit. Colin posed for a photo with the beast:


We did see some other things beyond the dinos as well. We went through the Polar World exhibit which includes at lot of stuff about the Inuit, including a life-size model igloo. Colin thought that was pretty cool, and we decided that we would try to build one some day. We also went through part of the Carnegie Museum of Art.

I was interested to see what he thought about the art museum part because we have little book about a trip to an art gallery that Colin and Gillian really seem to enjoy: Miffy at the Gallery. Colin did appear to be interested (at least initially) in the gallery. We saw a mobile (I would guess that it was a Calder, but I'll admit that I didn't get the chance to check), and a Monet (Water Lilies, a personal favorite), and a bunch of photos of Pittsburgh. After about 20 minutes, though, he was ready to move on.

Colin was starting to get tired (we did skip his nap), so we took one last swing through the dinos. Colin wanted to take some pictures of the dinos himself, so I helped and we took this one:


We also snapped a self portrait:


What a cheezer. Anyway, we had a great day.