Monday, December 22, 2014

Goggles, Dragons and a Cheerleader

The house is silent, I have a cup of tea next to me and nothing on the agenda today except a trip to the gym and to be home with the little ones.  Lilly's last day of school was Friday, so we're looking forward to 2 weeks of lazy mornings and lounging by the fire.  There's something special about having Lilly, Jack and Hannah all home during Lilly's normal school time.  Yes, we always get our late afternoons together but in our house, mornings are the best part of the day.  Everyone is well rested and happy.  Their little faces light up when they ask if they can play in the basement before breakfast and I don't have to hurry them along to eat and get dressed and get in the car for school.

More and more, I am able to step back and watch the three little ones playing together.  Yes, they ask me to help them with dress ups or run to me when a toy has been taken or someone isn't playing nicely, but as they get bigger, their favorite times are spent playing with each other, and that makes me smile.  I love overhearing little snippets of conversations; like last night, when Lilly put on her night gown (which was a gift from Gigi and Papa and is an all time favorite) and was so excited to be wearing it to bed after a few weeks hiatus.  She was twirling around in her bedroom and Jack said to her, "ooooh Lilly, you look like a princess!"  So genuine and so sweet.  Lilly's face lit up and she laughed.  "Jack, I'm not a princess, I'm just wearing a dress to bed!"

The three of them love playing pretend games.  There are lots of house and school games that go on.  Lilly is usually Mom, Jack is Dad, and Hannah is the baby.  When they play these games, they take them seriously.  I heard Jack trying to get Lilly to listen to him yesterday while they were playing, and when she wasn't responding to "Mom," he quickly switched to, "Amelia!"  To which Lilly responded, "Yes, Jim?"  And then they'll tell Hannah it's time to lie down and take a nap, at which point Hannah throws herself on the ground, head on a pillow as fast as she can and pretends to snore (with her eyes wide open).  They have a basement full of toys and games, and nine times out of ten, you will find them down there playing dress ups or house or setting up an elaborate tea party, complete with stuffed animals, dolls and trucks, so that all participating members are happy.

a very fierce dragon
The swing set, even in the middle of winter, is also a favorite.  Even if they can be out the back for half an hour, their days are better--as are mine after they they have played outside in the fresh air, running and jumping and singing and screaming to their little hearts' content.  Lilly keeps an eye on Hannah, helping her onto the swing, pushing her while reminding her to hold on, making sure that Hannah makes it up to the top of their lookout tower when the bus drops children home from school. Jack loves pretending that he's Jim, so his favorite game at the moment is to carry firewood up to the top of the playground to "build a fire."  He gets Lilly to help, and Lilly includes Hannah, letting her carry wood over to the swing set but taking it from her before she tries to climb up the rope ladder with it.  I have a few mini heart attacks each day watching these three while trying to let them play by themselves.

Hannah's favorite dress up: goggles.
Lilly has been coughing a lot the past few days, so we brought our friend The Nebby back out to help loosen up that cough.  This has quickly turned into a team activity.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Let our two week Christmas vacation begin!!

Good thing we have an extra nebby mask.  It's a dragon.
While Lilly is using the nebby, Hannah asks for her "goggles" so she can use the nebby too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Off to School

Yesterday morning, Jack and I went to visit "Lilly's school."  It's really only Lilly's school for one more week before it becomes Lilly & Jack's school, and I still can't believe it.  After Christmas, I'll be dropping them both off every day. No matter how many people tell me that "he's definitely ready" and "he's going to love school," it still makes my heart hurt that we've reached another big milestone.

When we went to visit yesterday, we walked around to all the different classrooms, and Kathleen, the director of the school who is absolutely amazing, gave Jack different Montessori work to do in each room.  He screwed and unscrewed screws into a wooden block, with a real screwdriver.  He put together the pieces of a flashlight, complete with batteries, and got to shine the finished product all over the classroom.  He unlocked padlocks with real keys that he had to match with the correct lock.  He used a little spoon to move marbles from one bowl to another.  He strung Christmas beads onto pipe cleaners.  He matched colored tiles and told Kathleen the names of all the colors.  At one point, Kathleen put one of each color tile on one table and the matching color on a table on the other side of the room.  She sat down with Jack at one table and asked him to walk over to the other table, find the orange tile and bring it back.  So, Jack wandered off and brought the orange tile back.  Kathleen then asked him to go and bring back the yellow one, which he did.  Then she asked him to get the pink one.  This one was taking a bit longer than the other two, and when we looked over, we saw why.  Jack had caught on that he was going to have to get these tiles one by one, so he put them in a big pile, brought them all back to the table and handed Kathleen the pink one.  We started laughing, and Kathleen said it's clear that he has inherited some of Lilly's organizing and planning traits!

After doing each activity, Jack's face lit up.  Each time, he realized that he had accomplished something and he was proud, he made me so proud.  It is unusual for me to have time with Jack by himself, so to be able to see his determination and concentration and pure joy at the place where he will be going to school in January was really special.  I won't forget our morning there, and when I spend the drive home from his first morning drop off in tears, I am going to remember how happy he was yesterday.  It won't make me miss him any less, and it probably won't make the tears stop, but I will know deep down that it is time for my little boy to learn and discover and grow in this wonderful environment that has nurtured Lilly for the last two and a half years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Countdown to Christmas

I love December.  And I especially love December through the eyes of children.  December means Advent calendars and Christmas trees and snow globes.  It means Jingle Bells and Dominick the Donkey playing on repeat. The Fisher Price Nativity Scene becomes a toy that is played with daily while Santa hats and reindeer antlers joined our dress ups this month.  The cold weather is here to stay, and the little ones are eagerly anticipating the first real snow.  We had a coating the other morning, but just enough to cover the grass and make us wish there were a few more inches for snowmen and snow angels.  Everyone has practiced wearing all their snow gear around the house, so we are ready to go when the real thing arrives.

We cut down our Christmas tree a couple of weeks ago.  This is the third time we've piled into the car and driven up to Easton to the find the tree that is just right for us, and it has quickly become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  This year, Lilly had opinions regarding which trees we should or shouldn't cut down (imagine that!), Jack loved running between all the Christmas trees, jumping in the puddles of mud and hiding (while tripping over every tree stump in sight), and Hannah was Hannah.  She tried to balance on the tree stumps, she learned to say "tree stump" and she ran around chasing the other two, making sure she was a part of everything they were doing.

We have quickly learned that our new neighborhood loves holidays.  I thought everyone put out a lot of Halloween decorations, but those decorations paled in comparison to Christmas.  Lights on every house, every fence, every tree.  And not just a few lights.  Lights covering every square inch of available foliage.  And these lights were all up when we arrived back in Connecticut the Saturday after Thanksgiving!  Needless to say, Lilly and Jack wanted to know when we were going to decorate our house like "everyone else in the neighborhood."  We had every intention of decorating our house with some lights, but soon learned that we had to buy 10 times the number of lights we originally envisioned.  Jim spent hours one day putting up all the lights and wreaths and pine garland, making us officially ready for Christmas.  Although Jack and Lilly would still like a blow up Santa for the yard.  And all his reindeer.  And maybe a giant snow globe too.  Santa arrives by firetruck in the cul-de-sac tomorrow, followed by a neighborhood party.  Last week, I had my neighborhood ladies gift exchange, with some lovely moms who I know, and plenty that I didn't.  Next week, Jim and I have a neighborhood holiday party with all the couples.  Lots and lots of celebrating going on here at the moment, and we're excited to be a part of it.

It was Lilly's snack week at school this week.  We made a few Christmasy snacks, including a tree out of cheese cubes and grapes.  And then finished off the week with our grand finale: mozzarella snowmen.
I'm teaching a lot at the moment, and while I love teaching these classes, I'm ready for a break.  I'm ready to have my weekends back.  I miss our Saturday mornings full of coffee and music and lounging by the fire (although I still get to do plenty of that when I come home).  I miss starting off my weekend with a spinning class.  But I'm in the home stretch--in fact, this weekend is my last full weekend of teaching until the end of January.  I'll be ready for some time at home.  I will be spending the beginning of 2015 soaking up these three little ones (and Jim, of course) and appreciating how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love every day.

A family photo after we found our tree