Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I have grown increasingly Scrooge-like and anti-Christmas in the past years (I'm guessing I inherited this from my dad), but I made an effort this year to identify those parts of the holiday that I enjoy and embrace them while simultaneously allowing myself to let go of the parts I don't like without letting my overly guilty conscience get the better of me. I know I'll ruffle a few feathers by saying this, but I haven't considered myself Christian for a long time so the whole nativity story doesn't do it for me (please no comments on that--I'll just send you to this site for my defense).  Without the religion aspect of it, the holiday quickly turns into a big commercial blowout, and I hate shopping and crowds and junking up the house with stuff we don't need or want and junking up other's people's houses with stuff they don't need or want...Gift giving is great if you've got an awesome idea for someone and if you can obtain said idea without facing crowded parking lots and stores, both of which seriously try my very low-patience level, but without a great idea, it's just stressful.  So I'm not into it. Earlier this month I ordered a few things for Hannah, Clay, and my mom from Amazon (I hate supporting the big guys, but man do I love online shopping).  Eric and I bought ourselves a new mattress back in November as our present, and I don't exchange gifts with most of the other adults in my life.

Enough griping! Here's what I LOVE about Christmas:

1. Decorations!! Especially the really kitschy kind with lots and lots of lights! One of my favorite holiday memories from childhood is piling into my dad's car and cruising around Hagerstown admiring the lights and decorations.  As an adult, walking down to 34th's Street  multiple times each year has become a favorite tradition. I'm thinking we should pull a page out of their book next year and get our own house all Hampden-ed out.  I might try to make it to the store tomorrow to stock up on discounted lights so we can join the club next year.

2. Holiday crafts. We started a new tradition this year: making ornaments! Every year we'll make a different ornament to give out to family and friends. This year we made ducks out of dough because I have a duck cookie cutter...I'll try to acquire a new cookie cutter each year, but in the meantime, it's a ducky Christmas!  Here's the lot of them minus three: Grammy's, Clay's, and ours (which I forgot to take off the tree before taking the picture).  That reggae style one in the middle with yellow and green stripes is Eric's doing...I'm hoping to get Hannah to add her own style to it before we give it away, but although she loved this project, she's over it now.

3. Quality time with family and friends. We're bummed because Uncle Joel and Uncle Justin couldn't make it to Baltimore for the holidays this year, but at least we've got Grannah and Granpah!  Since shopping isn't my thing, I offered the gift of QT and took everyone to the aquarium for the day.  We cruised around the exhibits at a nice pace, watching the octopus pull itself around it's tank on pink tentacles and the puffins paddle around their tank with their cute orange feet.

We did it up to the fullest extent, including getting our pics taken in front of the blue screen which we never, ever do. I don't know if I'm allowed to post that pic here or not, but I'm thinking (hoping) that since the Copyright is visible, it's fine....

This visit was made even cooler by the fact that, for the first time EVER, we got to see the three toed tree sloth that lives on the fourth floor in the Amazon exhibit.  He ambled across the netting on the ceiling and then shimmied, very slowly, down a tree.  I always assumed that he didn't really exist, that maybe the sign explaining who and what he was was just false advertising, but nope, he's there! He's just a good hider, I guess.

Like I said, our timing was perfect. After we finished looking at that section of the aquarium, we had 15 minutes until the dolphin show. Getting there 15 minutes early, coupled with the fact that the aquarium was wonderfully empty, meant we got awesome seats at the dolphin show--the best ever--front and center!

After the dolphin show we mosied through the jellyfish exhibit and then made our way to the Polar Express 4D mini film.  The 4D thing is so cool!!! Hannah especially loved the snow machine that kicked on in the theater.

We were starving after that so we stopped at the cafe for lunch before heading to the Australia exhibit in time to watch the archer fish get fed grasshoppers off a stick. The feeding of the archer fish is probably my favorite part of the aquarium, and I never get tired of seeing it even though I've seen it a kabillion times by now.

I managed to get through another Christmas without setting foot near a mall or any other kind of store--wohooo! Lights, holiday crafts, and quality time with loved ones--this is my kind of holiday!!! 

P.S. I've got tons of pics from this morning that I'll upload and share later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Early Christmas celebration

In spite of Christmas still being a few days away, Hannah has already done quite a bit of present opening starting the second weekend in December when we brought up the kitchen (still in the box) that Grammy had brought with her over Thanksgiving and asked Eric to hide and put together sometime before our early Christmas celebration.  We changed our minds last minute though and decided that we didn't want to host and would be driving to Hagerstown instead to let Chip do the honor. Mom requested we give Hannah her present early so that all the pots and pans and plastic food that Chip and Erica and Mom got her would make sense. I took a video of Hannah being presented with her gift, prior to Eric putting it together, and another of her playing with the finished product with Amy, but while Eric was putting it together, Hannah decided she didn't want to wear pants, and I wasn't paying attention to the pantslessness when I took that second video, so it became unshareable--which is a total bummer because it's super cute. Unfortunately, I didn't realize she was pantsless until after I uploaded it to YouTube (because it's the first thing my mom noticed and pointed out), and I can't figure out how to delete a video from there, but I did find a new editing program and one of the pre-set options is to to turn your video into a cartoon. I don't like how it looks, but it does make it so you can't see the pantslessness which means it is now shareable.  Second, unfortunately: YouTube is taking forever to make the changes so I can't share the link yet.

Hannah played with her kitchen all week, putting her breakfast in the oven instead of eating it and stealing carrots while I was mid-chop and stashing them in the microwave. Every morning when she came downstairs she said, "Mom, I have kitchen!"

On Saturday we drove to Chip's for our early Christmas celebration. We got Clay a little Thomas the Train plow thingy, some extension tracks for his train set, and a book. Us "grown ups" spent most of the day tinkering with the train track, trying to create the most awesomest track and use every single piece.

Hannah couldn't play with her presents because it was a bunch of small pieces that we didn't want to lose so in addition to using the train set as a distraction, we played with this crazy dinosaur that roars and shoots darts. Grammy got it for Clay. It didn't work as a great distraction though because it freaked out Hannah. She kept her distance. She likes dinosaurs, but not mean ones, and this one has teeth and moves on its own.

All that play time made us tired so we curled up in Clay's little bed and pretended to sleep.

Then it was back to the train! This last track we made was definitely the awesomest.

It was freezing outside that day, but we ventured out for a short burst of fresh air anyway.

It was a really nice, relaxing day, and although we love hosting, we really loved being able to just play and lay on the couch until the food was ready and then lay on the couch some more afterwards.  So far, this holiday is shaping up to be pretty laid back which is right up my alley!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Conversations with Hannah: naked topics

Last night Eric was surprised to open the shower curtain and see Hannah leaned against the toilet, quietly waiting for him. Being his modest self, he grabbed a towel to cover himself.

Hannah (very seriously): "Dad, do you like your penis?"
Dad: "Yeah, it's okay."
Hannah: "Alright. Go ahead."

Satisfied with this answer, she turned around abruptly and walked out of the bathroom leaving Eric to dry off alone.

The accompanying photos are totally unrelated (obviously), but since they're of daddy/daughter QT and since this post is lacking anything fun to look at, I'm sneaking them in.

Tonight after dinner Eric grabbed a broom and began to sweep up the copious amounts of glitter that Hannah and I spewed all over the floor during our arts and crafts session this afternoon. Hannah immediately grabbed her broom and began to help. It was cute, so I went mamarazzi and snapped a few blurry but flash-free shots. Without further adieu: The Sweep Sequence.

Pause to investigate belly button and determine whether or not it needs swept.
Forget sweeping, let's make like a witch and get out of here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Conversations with Hannah: checking for mean dinosaurs

This morning I dressed Hannah in the living room because Amy was sprawled out on the couch waking up slowly, and Hannah is pretty much refusing to be separated from Amy. Once dressed, I brushed as much of her hair as she would let me and was trying to get her to sit down so I could put on her shoes when she pulled down her pants and underwear and bent over like she was looking for something in her pants.  I asked what she was doing, and she looked up at me and said:

"Umm. Just checking. Mean dinosaurs in my butt."

Amy and I cracked up laughing and she lit up, obviously pleased with her ability to entertain us with silly anecdotes about mean dinosaurs in her butt.  Over dinner tonight we discussed whether checking for mean dinosaurs was her intent when she pulled her pants down, or if maybe she didn't actually know what she was doing (or how to answer the question) and came up with that on the spot when questioned.

If I could have a super power, it would be the power to be omniscient and always know what's going on in the heads of the characters that share this story with me.  I think Hannah's head would be a fascinating place to be.  Also my cat's head, if only so that I could look out of her eyes and see where she goes when she's out gallivanting around the neighborhood.  I met the woman who lives on the corner the other day and she told me that she feeds my cat breakfast every morning (she didn't know it was my cat and once she found out, she asked if that was okay). Who else feeds my cat breakfast?? And where does she go when it rains and she refuses to come inside? I want to know these things.

Amy's and Hannah's self portrait on the iPhone using the  CamWow app. The two are totally inseparable.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The holiday spirit: Hampden style

We got festive this weekend and set up our tree. I got home from acupuncture in time to help put the ornaments on the tree (meaning I missed the whole part where you dig out the tree and accessories and piece it together--shucks) and take a picture of Hannah topping it off with a star.

On Sunday we donned our ugly sweaters (ugly dress in Hannah's case--thank you Shannon for that sweet thrift store find!) and walked down the street to the annual Mayor's Christmas Parade.

We met Atticus (and his parents) at the corner of our street and Falls and then walked the parade route up to Brody's and Addison's (and parents') ugly sweater party.

Hannah loved waving at all the Miss this and Miss that who ride around perched on the back of convertibles, and she was also pretty into the giant snowman balloon.

We kept our coats zipped up pretty tight the whole way to Erin's and Ryan's, but unzipped them with pride when we found ourselves among friendly faces and fellow ugly sweater wearers.

Brody was pretty psyched to see "Baby Hannah" as he referred to her, but I didn't manage to get any pics of them playing together. Addison totally grew up in the few months since we'd seen her last so her and Hannah (only 4ish months apart) hung out more than they previously did.

Hannah loved the snowman hat that Jessica gave her but was not a fan of having that strap tucked under her chin.  She found it more comfortable when worn across her forehead.

Is it me or is there something strangely super hot about ugly sweaters?? No? Just me?? I love these ladies!!! 

Of course a family shot of us decked out in ugly holiday clothing was imperative. Eric really did well with his. It's this sweatshirt with a snowy winter scene and a bunch of black streaks all over it. Random and weird.  Hannah loved her dress; I don't think she got that wearing it was a joke, but that's okay. She will someday.

I'm bummed because I didn't get to see any of the awesome dancing groups that I saw last year. After we went inside to pee, we didn't make it back out again. Hannah went down to the basement and spied Brody's train table ("He's so lucky!" she said), and getting her out of the house after that proved impossible. Fortunately, she was so thrilled with the train that she didn't require attention so even though I missed the rest of the parade, I got some much-needed QT with good friends, and it wasn't long before Hannah was joined by her friends and got a little QT of her own.

I guess we're officially into the holiday season now, which is fun in some ways and not fun in others. I'm trying to just focus on the fun and discard the parts I don't like.  Each year, that gets a little easier...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hannah's first visit to the symphony!

We skipped our regular Friday morning swim this week and went to the Meyerhoff instead to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Prokofiev alongside a Cinderella puppet show. They have four family concerts each season performed on a Saturday morning every other month (next up in February is LIFE: A Journey Through Time).  They take each of these family concerts and break it down even farther to tailor it to specific age groups which they perform on the Wednesday and Friday before the Saturday concert. Tiny Tots is the shortest program at 35 minutes and is tailored to kids in pre-k and kindergarten; Hannah might be a bit young by their standards, but I figured if she can sit through an hour of Dora, she'd last at the symphony for 35 minutes.

I was right. She sat, riveted, on the edge of her seat throughout the whole show. It probably helps that we pulled a Cinderella book out of a hand-me-down bag a couple months ago, and it's quickly become one of her favorite books (though not mine since it's the Disney version based on the movie and therefore poorly written).  She also has a book out of the library right now called Musical Max, and at the end, Max becomes the conductor of an orchestra.

We got lucky too: we spotted two of Hannah's neighborhood pals as soon as we walked in, Julia and Sophia, so we had company.  After the show I snapped a pic of the girls looking quite mature and cultured in their theater seats.

I really wanted some sort of monumental first-time-at-the-symphony pic, but the place was a certified madhouse with school groups swarming everywhere, and I wasn't sure what the most monumental backdrop would be anyway since I couldn't very well put her in front of the building and then stand back far enough for anyone to be able to tell what the building is and still recognize Hannah as anything more than a speck.  I ended up sneaking us back into the lobby after the show (they diverted us out the back door) and just taking a pic in front of the their holiday decorations.  It's not really the backdrop I was hoping for, but it's better than nothing.  Quite serious looking isn't she?
The Hannah's-first-visit-to-the-symphony picture.