Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving -- Part One

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving week! I still can't believe that it's over and we're on our way to Christmas.

We'd been planning for months to go spend Thanksgiving in Texas with my family. Then awhile back, my Dad called and said that he was able to get some rooms at a really nice hotel in Dallas, using his points and would we be interested in stopping off there first?! What a wonderfully fun time and great way to start off our week! We got up super-early on Sunday morning and headed down to Dallas! The kids were so good on the trip and we made it to Dallas by lunchtime. :) Our first stop was the mall -- it was too early to check into our hotel and the kids need to run off some energy. We got met up with Mimi & Grandad, got some lunch, checked out the Lego Store and rode the carousel.

I loved watching all of them on the carousel, but I especially loved watching Charlotte. She was a bit unsure at first, but once it got going, she was soaking it up! She looked quite proud of herself up there!

I didn't take any more picture that day -- I forgot and left my camera at the hotel. But, after checking in and unloading our gear, we explored the hotel. Then, we headed out for some dinner at my favorite mexican food place -- El Fenix. I think Matt's now a big fan (we left with a bag of chips for the road home, which we're now rationing) and it's a good thing since it's a family favorite spot -- my parents have been eating there for 35+ years.

We got some good sleep that night and woke up the next morning bright and early. Since Matt had stayed up working on a paper the night before, we let him sleep in while the rest of us went downstairs for breakfast. I have to mention the breakfast -- it was the most expensive breakfast I've ever had at the point in time. We'd gotten an upgrade with my parents membership so we were on the executive level, which generally gives you breakfast there. Well, they were renovating the breakfast area up there, so we got free breakfast at the restaurant downstairs. Did I mention this was a really nice hotel (The Intercontinental)?? Well, that morning breakfast cost $80 -- and that was just for my parents and the kids since Matt was sleeping and I was still full from stuffing myself on mexican the night before. Thank goodness it was free! :)

Our next stop that day was the Galleria. Thankfully, we were staying just a mile down the road so it was a quick trip. The kids had been anticipating going ice skating, so that was our first stop. We were there early and it wasn't busy at all! Yay! Matt wanted to be the one to go with them, so Charlotte and I hung out and watched from the sidelines.

Harrison pretty much hated it from the first moment he set foot on the ice. He did not like falling or not having control over his feet! But, we'd shelled out some good money to do this, so we made him give it a try before quitting.

Madeleine, on the other hand, took to it right away. She was unsteady at first, but kept on going, determined to master it! And, she did!

After only about 15 minutes on the ice, they had to clean it and the kids had to sit out for a bit. Matt gave Harrison a pep-talk and he was ready to give it another try.

This time it was much better. I think he did a total of around 5 laps before calling it quits. I was pretty proud of him for giving it a try. Later, he told me that he "loved" ice skating, so we'll be doing it again soon.

And, Madeleine spent over 2 hours on the ice that day! She was a natural at it and gained confidence with each lap. I can't wait to take her back! By the time she was finished she was exhausted, but even exhaustion and blisters could not dampen her spirit.

After all that work it was time for lunch! We found a spot at another of my favorites -- La Madeleine's where Matt and I shared my favorite fat-free ceasar salad and a croque monsieur. Yummy! Seriously, this is one of my most favorite places to eat.

While Harrison ran out some energy at the play area, Matt and I took Madeleine and a sleeping Charlotte to The American Girl Store.

After weeks of pouring over the catalogue she had a good idea of which girl she wanted. I really wanted her to have at least an idea of what she would choose, because I had a feeling the store would be overwhelming. She'd chosen Kanani, the doll of the year, and was thrilled with her. I had my doubts about her choice (surf gear? hawaiian clothes?) but she's still very happy with her doll. I would have thought that she'd want one of the little blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls (or one that looks like her), but Matt brought up the interesting point: she's a product of the school that we've chosen to put her in and she's surrounded by diversity. She doesn't see color or ethnicity and she chose the doll because that's what she liked. That made my heart melt.

Madeleine and I could have spent hours in there looking around and I was just as enthralled with it as she was -- oh the things they make for dolls! We had such fun looking! While Matt took the kids back to the hotel, Madeleine and I had afternoon tea that the Bistro upstairs.

We must have chosen a really good time, or just gotten lucky, because it wasn't busy at all! It was very nice and casual and they took such good care of us. We ordered our tea -- hot chocolate for Madeleine -- and had the best time talking and laughing. They even brought her doll her own cup and saucer with real drink in it! They also gave us a craft to do while we waited for our goodies -- we made party hats for the doll.

This was our tea tray. It was yummy, although we didn't even eat half of it. We were to busy admiring all of the fun things around us.

It was the perfect afternoon. We add a few things to our American Girl collection before leaving and looked around even more. It was so wonderful to have a few hours to devote just to my Madeleine and make these special memories with her.

That evening, we explored the hotel more and ate (more food!) at Fuddruckers. Charlotte discovered that she like ice cream that night too! I think our Braums trips are about to get more interesting. :)

The next morning we headed down to breakfast at the hotel again. With Matt and I also eating, we topped the amount spent the morning before. Our breakfast total the morning was......$150. Yes, $150. Crazy!! And, it really wasn't that much food, it was just one of those super-expensive places, which we were only eating at because it was FREE. And, yes, the food was yummy!

After breakfast, Mimi & Grandad headed on down to Temple and Matt and I took the kids to the Dallas World Aquarium. We wanted to wait and travel while Charlotte was sleeping and this was a perfect place to spend the morning.

The kids got to feed the monkeys...

We saw an albino crocodile that was the biggest thing I've ever seen! Seriously HUGE! Harrison was mezmerized.

It was such a neat place. You start at the top and wander through a rainforest down towards the aquarium part. We saw lots of creepy spiders and snakes, monkeys and flamingos, gators and tropical birds up top.

The bottom part was filled with areas of fish from different parts of the world grouped in areas that look like their natural habitat. The jellyfish in the dark and seahorses were some of our favorites.

Then we found the shark tunnel. It was awesome! We sat in the tunnel and watch all kinds of sharks and stingrays swim over us. Harrison and Madeleine were quick to point out a hammerhead shark which we've only ever seen in books.

But, this guy was my personal favorite. It looks like he's smiling...

We found other wild animals on our way out and went outside to see the penguins.

By the time we left, the kids were exhausted and ready for a quick car nap before waking up to see cousins!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Madeleine Girl

We recently had our fall parent/teacher conference at Madeleine's school. I always look forward to this time, because while I know that we have an amazing little girl, it's always nice to have someone else brag on her. :)

Second grade has been a bit of an eye-opener to us. For the first time, she has nightly homework. And, while most nights it's only a 2-5 minute math sheet, there have been nights that she's had almost an hour by the time we do a reading book/response (20ish minutes), math homework, (5 minutes) and then our spelling words (30 minutes). This is most often on Thursday nights since spelling tests are on Fridays. The spelling tests have gotten HARD this year with her having to both spell the word right and also put it in the right catagory. We get 20 words on Mondays and another 20 on Thursdays to learn. Yikes! The first couple of tests were tough for her, but she quickly found her stride and was back to her "A" game! Mrs. L said that this was normal for most kids.

We found out that Madeleine is in both the highest reading and math classes this year. They've been doing ability grouping in literacy since kindergarten, but this is the first year for math. She's excelling in both. We got to see her report card at the conference and I was so proud of her -- mostly "E's" and a few "V's." This year they get a letter grade -- E=Excellent (95-100%) and V=Very good (90-94%).

Mrs. L. told us that she'd given her reading class which is the highest literacy class their first reading/writing prompt a few weeks earlier. She said this was the first time that any of the kids had seen anything like this and they expect them to struggle with it. Well, our Madeleine got the ONLY "E" in the whole 2nd grade. Mrs. L said she did amazing on it! It's no surprise because she writes all the time and her teacher even commented on that. She'd brought her chapter book she's writing to show the class a few weeks earlier.

We didn't meet with her math teacher, Mrs. S, this time. But, we know she's doing great in there! She got a 97% on their end of quarter test. :)

Madeleine never has to "move her card" and her teacher said she's a model student, she wishes she had a class full of her, etc, etc. :) I love hearing all of it!

This year, Madeleine is doing "art club" again. She loves the days she gets to stay late and make all kinds of fun crafty things. It's fun to watch her grow and develop into her own person and see her talents coming out.

Madeleine is so well liked by everyone in her classes. I love the days when I get to take her to school -- all the kids run up and hug her. One day last week we were early and they were just lining up to go to class. She didn't want me to walk her up -- sniff, sniff-- but, as they were leaving, I saw her let another little girl in front of her in line. Then the little girl turned around and hugged Madeleine. Madeleine's school is full of diversity -- with a lot of the kids there being from lower-income/lower-class families. And, I love love love that Madeleine doesn't see any of that. She only sees her friends and who they are never what they have. I pray that she will forever be this way and I feel so convicted that we made the right choice to drive the extra distance to get her not only a stellar academic education, but also these experiences that will stay with her as she grows.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Preschool Pumpkin Patch

Harrison's preschool class went to the pumpkin patch a couple of weeks ago and Charlotte and I were able to tag along that day too! It was an awesome pumpkin patch/corn maze and one we'll definitely be visiting again! I'm so thankful that we were able to go to; it was so fun for me to see Harrison interacting with his friends and his teachers.
It was an absolutely bea-u-ti-ful day that day! It was at the end of their season (I think the owner said they had only 2 more days of being open) but there were still a lot of pumpkins and we had the place to ourselves, which was even more perfect. The kids were able to run around and play with the different pumpkins -- or gourds as Harrison pointed out.

After the corn maze.

Finishing the Hale Bale Tunnel.

I love this pic of some of the kids with the teachers. Harrison has been so blessed with the BEST teachers this year! In fact, I think Mrs. Julie is one of his top 5 favorite people these days (and I agree with him).

We did a fun tractor ride around the farm.

We had a picnic lunch and then they got to pick out a pumpkin to take home. It was such a wonderful day!

Thankful Thursday

Today, I'm thankful for my girls.

They are each so different, not only because of their ages, but their personalities at this point are not at all the same. But, they love each other so much. Madeleine is like a little mommy to Charlotte, taking the time to read to her or teach her something new. And, Charlotte love her big sis -- I hear all day long "where sissy?" It's easy to tell that Charlotte's world is much better the moment her sissy gets home from school!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let's Go Drive the Car

One of Charlotte's favorite new things to do is "drive" the car. Every time I open the garage door, she make a bee-line for the car and tries to open the door. And as soon as that door is open she's in there pretending to drive. I've started to let her do this while I load up the car which makes her so happy! However, she has a complete meltdown every time she has to get back in her carseat.

More to Be Thankful For

Today is one of those days that I'm feeling so very blessed. No real reason in particular, just one of those days that's reminded me of how good my life is right now:

Charlotte took a good nap today. The laundry is *almost* caught up. Matt will be home in time for dinner tonight. :) Harrison had a great day at preschool. I had a good chat with a good friend on the phone. There is a light at the end of the Ph.D school tunnel, a very dim light, but for the first time ever, a light. We've spend the day warm & cozy in our home while the rain has poured outside. And the list could go on and on. It's just one of those ordinary days where I'm reminded of how blessed I am.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trick or Treat 2011

We had a great Halloween this year! The kids have been counting down the days for weeks and were sooo excited when the big day arrived! I actually had to hide Harrison's costume to keep him from wearing it out before Halloween even arrived! :)

Harrison was SpiderMan this year -- but only as a "bad" version of SpiderMan. He did NOT want to be any kind of a "good guy."
Madeleine was a ladybug. We found the wings and then I made her a black and red tutu (which is all bunched up in this pic).

Charlotte wore the ol' Hershey Kiss costume. Each kiddo has worn this costume and it's one of my favorites!

We did a lot of houses this year. We walked across the course behind the house and then trick-or-treated our way home. We were about 4 houses from home and Harrison told me, "Wow, mommy, this is starting to get really fun!" Ha! I'm not sure what he thought those first 20 houses or so, but at least I know he enjoyed the last few. ;)

When we got home, they all broke in to the candy. And, Madeleine and Harrison had a great time handing out our candy to the other trick-or-treaters. The constantly ringing doorbell confused Charlotte, but as long as she was eating candy, she wasn't too bothered!!

We ended the evening with some skyping with Mimi & Grandad. This is the first time for Charlotte to skype with us and she was enthralled by it! She sat happily in my lap in front of the computer and babbled on and on. If anyone else even tried to get close, she shoved them out of the way and pulled the computer closer to her. When it was time to end, Matt had to carry her away kicking and screaming.

We had a great Halloween! But, I'm also thankful it's over and we can start looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas! Yay!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Thankful Month

Today is November 1st. I've been waiting on this day to get here for so long! I love the months of November and December. November means my favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving. I like that we focus an entire month on being thankful, and it's followed by a month that focuses on giving. Sometimes it's easier to give after remembering all that we've been given, right?

So, in honor of this month of Thanksgiving, I've decided to be thankful for one specific thing each day. Some days I may share them, others I'll keep to myself. I'm working on a fun project with the kids (and a little behind -- hoping to start tomorrow) that will help them to think about all that we've been blessed with this month, too.

So, today, I'm thankful that I'm able to live my dream of being a stay-at-home mommy. It means that I have a husband that not only supports, but encourages this choice. It means that I get to share in so many of my children's experiences. I'm thankful that this fulfills me in a way that I know that nothing else ever could. I wake up each morning excited about the day and I go to bed at night exhausted, knowing that I've given everything I have to taking care of my family.