Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Caleb's sixth birthday was Saturday.  And, yes, if you're keeping track, all three of our children have January birthdays.  Convenient, no?

 On Friday, Claire and I took frosted cookies to his class to celebrate with his friends.  They sang "Happy Birthday" in English and Spanish and then he made a wish and blew out the candles.

He wished, or so he told me, to go to his favorite restaurant with his family to celebrate turning 6.  Luckily for him, that was precisely what was in store.

 Cafe Ole is a Mediterranean tapas/mezze restaurant just a few blocks from our house.  We have been there several times and each time we walk or drive by the boys ask when we're going again.  They love the food, especially Caleb, and I suspect this visit for their birthdays will not be our last before heading East.

 After dinner we stopped for ice cream cones and then went home to open the presents that have been sitting in our living room for weeks.  The boys have been really patient, but they were so happy to finally tear into their loot.  Grandparents sent lots of games, books, and a Snuggie for each of them and Caleb was thrilled with each item.

 With the arrival of Claire, we have been talking a lot about what it was like when the boys were born.  Caleb in particular is curious about everything surrounding his birth and babyhood.  He loves to hear stories about how he was a terrible sleeper, but also couldn't stay awake long enough to eat 2 ounces of formula.  He wanted to know which room at the hospital he was born in and if he and Claire had the same doctor.  I distinctly remember being handed his car seat with him snugly strapped in getting ready to be discharged from the hospital and thinking, "That's it?  You're just going to let me have him?  Do I need to sign something or take a class or...?"  But, no, he was ours as much then as he is now and hooray for that.

 Caleb is smart and sensitive.  He loves music and has a great memory for lyrics.  He sings and hums all the time and often makes up his own songs.  He loves to read and be read to.  He loves to laugh and play games and make jokes.  He is uber-inquisitive and never runs out of questions.  He is adventurous in all things, especially food and will eat just about anything.
 Caleb is a fun older brother.  He likes to play with (read, sometimes drive crazy) Isaac.  He loves things that go fast, and he loves to go fast too.  He would play Wii non-stop if allowed, but also enjoys jumping and running and is turning into quite the little sports adept.  On Sunday afternoons he loves to curl up on the couch next to his dad and watch the big game (football, basketball, etc.).

In many ways, Caleb is an ideal first child.  He is helpful and generous.  He is fun-loving and friendly.  He is responsible and well-behaved.  And, perhaps most importantly, he is a very patient guinea pig and forgiving of our parenting mistakes.  We could not have imagined what the future would bring that day in the hospital when we walked out with him, but we couldn't be happier with how it has unfolded and are excited to see what happens next.

More Claire

Yes, this is another Claire-centered post, 
but grandparents and aunts and uncles are far away and always clamoring for more photos.
 Yes, this is the same background as in the last post.  It's my bed and she and I spend a lot of time there.

 She is starting to smile a bit, but I haven't successfully caught one with the camera yet.

 I love the frog feet on this sleeper.

 Long, long fingers.

First restaurant outing. What do you think, does she look like her dad?  (Note to self, get some pictures of mommy and baby.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Isaac!

Isaac turned 4 last Sunday.  We took cupcakes to his class and then opened a few presents to mark the occasion.  Isaac is a wonderful little boy.  He is sensitive and funny.  He is thoughtful and smart.  He loves to laugh and do art projects.  He has a short attention span for movies and video games, but can play cards and board games endlessly.  He LOVES stuffed animals and Hot Wheels and his toy airplanes.  He loves new clothes, especially pajamas.  He is a great big brother and a pretty accommodating little brother, too.

Isaac loves to help in the kitchen.  
He likes to add the ingredients, mix and then sit in front of the oven watching whatever we've made bake.  He likes to dance and listen to music and has recently become obsessed with "West Side Story."  He walks around the house saying "Bernardo" and singing "America."  He loves to read stories and his current favorite book is "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig."

Isaac really enjoys school, especially his friends in his class.  He loves science and art and music.  He gets excited by almost anything and is very observant of the world and people around him.  He talks all the time and only seems to have one volume -- he cannot whisper to save his life.

He loves to run and jump and play and his enthusiasm for life is infectious.  His favorite colors are red and orange and his favorite food is still oatmeal (but he will happily eat a donut if necessary). We feel lucky and blessed every day that Isaac is a member of our family and look forward to being a part of his future.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Family Game Night

Last night we played one of the new board games the boys were given for Christmas.  They have recently begun to appreciate the fun that can be had through mediums other than electronic entertainments so we are trying to capitalize on this new found interest.  I am not completely opposed to Wii and the like, as long as they don't play constantly and still make time for books and puzzles and the myriad toys lining the walls of their bedroom.   
The boys really enjoyed Monopoly Junior and I imagine we'll play this game often.
Claire enjoyed family game night too, though her participation 
was somewhat limited.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yes Sir, That's Our Baby

I have 5 free minutes.  All the kids are sleeping and I will be too, very soon.  But, in the meantime, a few pictures of our sweet baby Claire.

 First smile, well almost a smile anyway.

 Still at the hospital and enjoying the quiet before the storm.

 Me and the 3 (YOWZAH!) kids.

 Going home from the hospital and wearing real clothes for the first time.  Our house is a veritable explosion of pink and we all love it!

 Doting Big Brother #1.

 Doting Big Brother #2.

 Eyes wide open!

 Pretty girl.

 First storybook.


She has been ours for 6 days and we are all in love.  
We already can't imagine our little family without her.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Claire Elise
January 9, 2012
7 lbs. 15 ounces and 20 3/4 inches

We have been blessed by the arrival of our baby girl.  She is perfect in every way and everyone's favorite already.  She beat the doctor into the world so the delivery room was a bit chaotic, but otherwise she has been calm and happy and the only real concern we have is that her older, doting brothers will smother her with love.

 Minutes after her arrival.

 With her very smitten Daddy.

 The only presentable photo of Mommy and baby from the delivery room.  
Claire's lightning fast arrival sent everything and everyone into a tailspin and decent photo ops were limited.
 First bath -- she was not amused.

Claire and her big brothers.  We are a very happy family.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Most Important Meal of the Day

When I was growing up, nearly every morning my mom was up making us a hot breakfast before sending us out into the world to expand our young and already well-nourished minds.  I definitely did not truly appreciate her efforts until I had kids of my own to feed and get off to school.  I'm not really a morning person so thus far I have opted, mostly, for cold cereal, which my kids love.  


But, they are the SLOWEST cereal eaters on the planet which means we have to get up extra early for them to finish eating and still have sufficient time to get dressed, brush teeth, put on/find shoes and make it to school on time.  The best days are when we have leftover waffles or pancakes from the weekend or day before and they eat one in the car on the way -- we're never late those days.  However, they get bored with that after awhile and I feel guilty about not making fresh eggs and bacon or french toast or hot oatmeal.  And, on days when breakfast is a pop tart?  Well, let's just pretend we never have days like that.

I am convinced there is a better way.  I just know someone out there has found the perfect solution to this morning dilemma that is not going to force me to rise pre-dawn to assuage my guilt, but still fill their tummies with something other than pure, refined sugar.

So blogging universe I am coming to you seeking wisdom and brilliance or at least affirmation (please say it ain't so) that there is no short-cut on this one.  

What's your school day breakfast routine?  Are you up with or before the sun every morning over a griddle making free-hand pancake shapes of dinosaurs and Mickey like my mom was?  Do you go the cold cereal route too?  Have you found some happy medium?  Do you have some go-to portable but nutritious foods that are quick and easy (and can be made ahead of time) that your kiddos just can't get enough of?  Is there a miracle muffin or granola recipe out there that I just haven't happened upon yet? 

Please enlighten me.  I'll be eternally grateful and my kids will love you forever.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Babymoon, sort of

We had some free hotel nights to use before they expired and some good friends in West Virginia we haven't seen in too long, so we took a quick road trip right after Christmas.  Our first stop was Pittsburgh.  We had just over 24 hours in Pittsburgh and we could easily have stayed for 3 times that long.  There was plenty to do, especially for kids.  Upon arrival we went directly to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and were greeted with a very impressive dinosaur display, including a few skeletons personally acquired by Carnegie himself.
This is just a portion of the dinosaurs on display.
While walking around, we found some very fierce beasts.
 1 of 2 complete T-Rex skeletons.
The museum also has lots of interactive activities for all ages, 
including digging for fossils,
 bug themed puzzles,
dinosaur footprints for climbing into,
 a huge box of odds and ends where kids can make their own collections and put them on display for other kids (Caleb gathered an entire box of plastic frogs and Isaac opted to go digging for shells),
 and a huge gallery dedicated to native peoples of North America where we learned about Eskimos and made flour from corn.
In addition, there was a massive display of minerals and precious metals, a temporary exhibit showcasing all of Madeline Albright's pins (it's huge!), and a gallery dedicated to Egypt.  Your admission ticket also gets you into the Carnegie Museum of Art.  Our guys were pretty worn out by the time we made it there, but we did manage to see that they have at least one work by every major artist of the last 600 years including several modern art installations (not my favorite) and some excellent photography exhibits.
The next day we rode the Monongahela Incline.  Built in 1870 is the oldest continuously operating inclined railway in the United States. 
 Pittsburgh is built on a series of hills and at one point there were 11 of these railways.  Only 2 exist now, but they operate almost non-stop everyday.  
Our boys are lovers of all modes of transportation so despite a very dreary, rainy morning, they were thrilled to take a short ride up and down the hill.
 It's hard to see, but just in front of the football stadium you might be able to make out a circular tract of land jutting out into the water.  
This is "The Point" and marks the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers where they form the Ohio River.
 They're smiling, but it was raining and they were not
exactly pleased to be posing for this photo.
They're reward for being such good sports was a visit to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.  It was a pretty great reward, actually.  We only had a couple of hours, but easily could have stayed all day and gone back again and again.
 This is the gravity room where the floor is at a 25 degree angle, this picture was very difficult to capture as they kept falling forward.
 Museum fun.
This room was fabulous and full of all kinds of physics experiments.
 Not surprisingly, they're favorite part was the rocket launcher area.  First, you had to make your own rocket (with some serious parental assistance) and then you went over to these air launcher things and went crazy.
 Dragging them away was tough.
Our last stop before leaving was to press pennies.  It was a four step process and after exerting some serious brute force, turned your penny into a ridged oval keepsake from your museum visit.
 From Pittsburgh we made the short drive to Morgantown, West Virginia, to see our dear friends Heather and Carlos and their adorable boys.  We were with them for just a few hours, but it was wonderful to catch up.  They are our dearest friends from Peru and we have seen them hardly at all since leaving Lima.  Now, they are permanently back in the US and we are heading to China so this was our last chance for the foreseeable future.  That is one of the difficulties of this lifestyle.  You make friends and then you inevitably head to different continents and crossing paths again, sometimes ever, becomes very challenging.
The morning we left for DC we met them for breakfast at this fabulous diner.  The pancakes were amazing and it was the perfect end to our Babymoon.   
Does it count as a Babymoon if you take your other kids along?  
Probably not, but it was a good trip nevertheless.

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