Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hannah skins the cat

I sent this video to a few of you on Tuesday, but I decided I needed to post it to the blog anyway because it's so awesome! Hannah just started a new session of gymnastics at HoppinTots and our usual 9:20 class was PACKED this time around, and a lot of the kids were new and younger (the class is for 2-3 year olds which is a pretty big gap). All of a sudden Hannah is too old for that class, so this week I took her to the one at 10:10 which has only four kids, all of whom are closer to Hannah's age and abilities.  It doesn't work as well with our schedule since I usually do our grocery shopping after gymnastics and a later class seriously cuts into my ability to lollygag around Whole Foods, but after this week, I'm convinced that it's worth the slight crimp in my schedule.

Since there are fewer kids, when Hannah pulled her toes up to the bar she was hanging from, Ms. Candace was right there showing her how to skin the cat. She only needed to be shown once; she spent the rest of the class skinning the cat over and over again. So awesome. Check it out.

(For some reason, the embed code that I am pasting in is not converting to a video once the post is published so you'll have to click the link. If, like me, you're hesitant to watch videos, please know that this one is all of 8 seconds. Literally.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Early spring photo shoot at Cylburn Arboretum

All this warm weather is making me feel claustrophobic with our city life and desperate for more green space than the 4x8 plot between our sidewalk and the street and the window boxes. Since there's nothing we can do to get a yard right now, I decided that we should treat Cylburn Arboretum as our backyard. It's close and it's awesome. Wide open space, trees, fields of flowers, walking trails....And yeah, you can hear I-83 from parts of it, but it still rocks.

Since we're between music class sessions, I took Hannah to Cylburn for some fresh air on Thursday. It was pushing 80 that morning and the daffodils were in full bloom. Good thing I brought my camera!

We got about 3 feet from the parking lot when Hannah spotted a lone daffodil. She sat down beside it and spent the next 10 minutes assuring it that everything was okay. She's got a very big heart. Eventually I convinced her that the daffodil would be okay if we left it for a bit to explore life beyond the parking lot.

The only thing better than a lone daffodil is a whole maze of them. Hannah wove her way in and out of the plants being careful not to step on any and then cheered for herself when she made it to the other side. She also struck a few poses while in the maze that I happened to catch.

We headed for a trail then and instead of taking the Circle trail, the easy trail that meanders around the perimeter of the park, we accidentally ended up on some crazy trail that went straight down for a long time and then around a bit. I was starting to get worried (and tired and hungry) so when I spotted a narrow trail heading back up, I took it.  When I didn't see the park at the top of each crest, I worried more. Then I saw a discarded bath tub and I really started to worry. I'm pretty sure the park would have picked that up...Then there was a fork in the path, and I followed my keen sense of direction and kept cruising with Hannah on my shoulders and sweat starting to trickle, and up ahead I saw gates...This was cause for more concern, but when we got closer, I saw that they were gates to the park. Hooray! We made it back! Note to self: do not take random trails when alone with a young child. These are adventures better had when Daddy is there with his big, strong shoulders that are better for child carrying than my own.

After all that we plopped down in the first patch of grass that we found to have a snack. Then we climbed a few trees.

Hannah pulled a flower off the tree and carried it back to the lone daffodil on our way out. We spent another 15 minutes introducing the two flowers and assuring them that they would be the best of friends.

We went back to Cylburn on Saturday after nap time, and the pink flower was nowhere to be seen. Luckily Hannah didn't notice that it was missing. She did notice the lone daffodil again and we sat there for another 15 minutes and played with all the baby ladybugs (they looked like ladybugs in the larval stage--who knows if that's what they were or not but there were a ton). The bugs kept Hannah very entertained while we waited for Brody and Addison, and after they got there, there was no stopping the kids. Brody is like a treadmill for Hannah inspiring her to run everywhere and run fast. It's fantastic. I wish I'd taken pictures of the three of them running around together, but I left the camera at home that time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hannah rides a horse

Saturday was such a fun day! We took Hannah to this beautiful farm just outside of Harper's Ferry where Amy's mom and sister board a horse and spend most of their free time. It was probably the coldest day of the week, but sunny and clear and just plain amazing. 

Hannah greeted the chickens and Roger, the wild turkey, first.
Then she fed Leroy, the fainting goat.  He's a very timid animal who ran to the corner to hide when we came in and only ventured out a teeny tiny bit to nibble feed from Hannah's hand. Once she took a few too many steps into his corner and he jumped up behind the chicken pen (the wooden thing on the left side of the pic below) and tried to make a great escape. She backed up then, and he came back down. (The chicken family in this pen are called the Walter's. They're a special breed, and that's why they hang out with the goat instead of running around the yard with their chicken cousins.)

From the Leroy's pen, I was watching the dogs run around the yard and was overcome with an amazing sense of serenity and peace for the upmteenth time that day so I snapped a few scenery shots in an effort to capture the feeling. I forgot my polarizing filter and it was pretty dang sunny, so most of my outdoor pics are super contrasty, but even with that I think you can get a pretty good idea of how idyllic this place is.

From Leroy's we headed down the path to where one of the horse fields is. (The goat pen is the little building on the left in the background, and you can see the barn in the middle and the house off to the right.)

Four horses live in the herd in this field; this one is Rain. This is probably Hannah's first up close and personal encounter with a horse.

And this is Desi, Janet's and Sharon's horse. We brought lots of carrots to feed the horses, much to the horses delight.

Here's another scenery shot, this time with Sharon walking Rain out of the field and up to the barn to get saddled. Rain is older, smaller, and easier than Desi so she was elected to circle our little munchkin around and around the pen while Desi, who came along for the walk, stood outside happily chowing down on grass.

While in the barn saddling up Rain, one of the other horse owners stopped by and said she was suprised that Hannah was so comfortable with the horses. Apparently most little kids get intimidated when they get that close to an animal that big. That makes sense, but the idea that Hannah might be afraid never even occurred to me, and it didn't seem to occur to her either. She climbed right into the saddle and sat quite there quite comfortably while Janet led her and Rain around and around and around the pen.

Before long she was using one hand to wave. I braced myself for, "Look mom! No hands!!"  but the little dare devil demostrated an iota of caution and kept at least one hand holding on for the duration.

She was loving life up there; it took us a while to coax her to take a break.

Eventually she decided to let daddy have a turn at riding. She hopped off the horse and beelined for the comfort of Amy's lap.

Rain is trained English style which reminded Eric of the horseback riding lessons he took as a kid. 

I took a turn too, but I wasn't feeling too brave and have extremely limited horse riding experience (limited to the one excursion we took while in Zion) so I let Janet lead me around the ring. I felt kinda silly doing that and am therefore not going to post any of the pics, but I'm glad I did it because it gave me a better appreciation for what Hannah's riding accomplishment. Just looking at a horse doesn't give you as much of a sense of how big they are as actually being on one does. I got up there and was slightly unnerved by how far off the ground I was, and I'm not afraid of heights.

I hopped off pretty quickly because Hannah started asking for another turn the second we pulled her off. Here she is again practicing her Miss America wave (yeah right!! I hope not!!).

Somehow we talked her into getting off again and giving Amy a turn.

But that didn't last long. Fortunately, Amy didn't seem to mind sharing her turn, and it was definitely a safer ride for Hannah who insisted on riding with one hand.

A brief moment with two hands holding on!

Back in the barn, Hannah helped brush Rain.

Then Sharon had a suprise for Hannah: a horse of her very own to take home! She loves it. She named it Desi, which, developmentally is a huge step for her since it's the first thing she's actually given a name to, and she did it without being coaxed. She sleeps with Desi and carries it around the house and rides it and talks to it and even feeds it carrots. It's a big hit.

When it was time to walk Rain back to the field, Hannah helped Sharon walk her.

We met the other two horses in the herd then. I forget this one's name, but I liked how Eric was with it so I snapped a shot.
By this point it was creeping toward 1:00, and Hannah had been up since 5:30, and we were all starving so we were trying to usher Hannah into the car but she refused to leave. We gave in and let her stay with Sharon and Janet as she requested, and Eric, Amy, and I headed out to a nearby organic market to bring back sandwiches. It ended up being closed on Saturdays so we drove back and found Hannah and company in the house warming up by the fire. They'd walked down by the river, and Hannah had found two little eggs that Sharon presumed were from the Walter's chickens. Hannah washed the dirt off them in the river, and then carried them around the rest of the day. (Eric fried them for her for breakfast the next morning and she scarfed them down faster than I've ever seen her eat anything.) Trying to get her out of the house was far worse than trying to get her to leave yard earlier. She sat down on the dog's bed and insisted that she could just sleep there. Later when we talked about her favorite parts of the day, the fire gets a mention (even today she brought up the fire, and it took me a minute to figure out what fire she was talking about).

She was so smitten with this farm that it makes me want to try harder to get her out of the city and into a place with a yard where we can have animals (and maybe a fire place!). Maybe some day...In the meantime, Roger extended an open invitation to us to come back whenever.  Gobble, gobble! 
We are so lucky to have Amy, Janet, and Sharon in our lives and so grateful to them for sharing their little piece of awesomeness with us!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Swim lessons, round 2

Hannah has been getting increasingly good at swimming lately so we decided the time was right to put her back in swim lessons.  The ones she took at 7 months were nice and all, but not worth the money to repeat. I was talking to one of the lifeguards on duty last Friday during our weekly swim, he told me that the 2- to 3-year-olds in his class weren't doing what she was doing and that if I did put her in classes I should put her in the next class up, ideally with her friend, Ella, who swims with us every Friday. Ella is 4.

I picked up the swim lesson schedule after that but didn't like any of the available times and neither did Ella's mom. There's a note on the bottom that says you can create your own class if you've got  a group of at least three. Since we're just two, we opted to fork out the extra dough for semi-private lessons. We figured it was worth it to have the class at a time that's convenient for us, and worst case scenario, we'd determine that it wasn't actually worth and not do another session. 

It's totally worth it though.  Eric happened to take off work today so he got to witness the awesomeness along with me. We're sold. She got so much attention with it only being her and Ella in the class, and she did amazing! Lamont, her teacher (we requested him because he's been there a lot on Fridays when we're there so the girls are familiar with him--he's the one I talked to the previous week about lessons), said that she surprised him as well.

Lamont let them keep their floaties on at first and worked with them on reaching and pulling back and forth across the pull, then kicking with straight legs, and even putting their faces in the water while swimming! It was so cool. Hannah is used to jumping in and totally submerging, so her face gets wet constantly, but she's never put her face in while swimming. Eric and I sat on the stairs at the end of the pool and watched with big, cheesy grins on our faces. Every time Hannah made it to one wall, she'd turn toward us and yell, "Mom! I did it!" and we'd cheer and clap. We were so proud!! I forgot my camera, but Ella's mom took some pics with her phone and sent them to me. Some are blurry, but I figure they're better than nothing!
Here are the girls reaching and pulling across the pool.

The next lesson was to kick and pull on their backs.
I wish this one were more clear!

Ella swallowed some water while kicking across the pool and took a break toward the end so Hannah got some personalized attention. Here she is trying to trust that Lamont has her. She was a little freaked out, but she perservered.

Toward the end, Lamont was trying to teach Hannah how to push herself up off the bottom in case of an emergency. She didn't quite grasp that concept, and instead tried to swim and keep herself up. Apparently most kids that age naturally sink; he was shocked when she tried to swim instead. He said that given his experience with kids her age, she did far better than he expected.

I'm so glad that Eric had off work today because it was seriously awesome and really fun to watch, and there's no way I could have possibly explained it to him (or to you, for that matter!). At least now there's no question that we are both on board with this and that it's totally worth the money.

DETAILS (since I got a few questions)

  • We take swim class at our gym, the Maryland Athletic Club, Harbor East. (BTW: If you've been considering joining a gym, they've got a special right now where if you say I brought you, your monthly fee is only $69!!! And they'll drop my monthly fee to $69 too!! That's an awesome deal for a gym in Baltimore, especially one as nice as this. And the kids room is $25/month for one kid, up to 2 hours a day.)
  • Regular classes (minimum of three kids, maximum of four) are $80 for six 30-minute sessions. You can gather your own group of three and pick a time convenient to you too (we just didn't have a third kid).
  • Semi-private lessons (two kids) is $105 for six 30-minute sessions.