Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ladybug Girl

On one of the mornings that Hannah didn't want to go to camp/school, I bribed her by telling her that if she went to school without crying and had as much fun as possible, then I would take her to the bookstore after picking her up and let her pick out any book she wanted. I had a hard time coming up with a bribe I could feel good about--typical suggestions/ideas have to do with TV time and sweets. I'm not into portraying either of those as rewards or special things to be coveted, but books, books we can covet. So after picking her up that day we went to the The Children's Bookstore and took our time exploring all options.

We looked at a lot of books, some of which I was not a fan of and managed to steer Hannah away from. Eventually she spied Ladybug Girl and loved the sparkly wings on the cover. I scanned the rave reviews on the back cover and, with the bookshop employees promising it to be a good one, headed for the register. Usually I read a book prior to buying it, but we'd been in there for a looooong time and read a lot of books by the time we found this one so I did something I don't normally do and put my trust in others. Lucky for us it worked out--Ladybug Girl is awesome. I love her, and I love this book!! I couldn't have picked a more perfect book for the occasion. I have plans to write a nice inscription about her growing up and being brave and going to school on the inside cover, but so far that hasn't happened. Oh, and she loves the book too; it's not just me.

Since Hannah loves dress up, wanting the costume was the next logical step. She's a little young for these delayed gratification bribes, but I tried another one anyway and told her that if she went to school every day and did her best to have fun then she could have the costume on the last day. We sat down together and ordered the wings and antenna and also a red tutu and since that brought my Amazon total to $18, I splurged on Ladybug Girl at the Beach to nudge my total up into the free shipping zone. (I wasn't about to drop $30 on a pair of boots.)

Hannah eagerly tore open the box when it arrived and then raced upstairs to put on the ladybug dress that Grammy bought her at the beginning of the summer, then back downstairs to slide the tutu beneath that. I helped her with the wings and antenna, and she posed proudly for pictures (wielding a bamboo stick that her and Eric pulled from a hiking adventure the previous day).

The next day she put on her costume immediately upon waking (this time with a random t-shirt instead of the dress), and we drove up to Loch Raven Reservoir for a hike. She walked around the reservoir collecting duck feathers and eating the tuna wrap I packed for her lunch.

Then we headed for a trail. An inchworm was dangling in front of us from an invisible thread, and Hannah was mesmerized. She ended up carrying around that inchworm for the next 45 minutes. We didn't get very far on our hike since she just stared at her hand the whole time, and when she finally dropped it and we couldn't find it, holy crap, all hell broke loose.

You can't see it very well in the above pic because my overall photography skills are slim to none in spite of that being one of my college majors, but it's there if you look really, really closely.

A couple of days later Hannah wrangled one of the antennae free from the headband, and that was pretty much the end of the costume. Eric doesn't have any black electrical tape in his arsenal of fix-it gear...We'll locate some eventually and be back in business.

In the meantime, she is still loving the books and now has four thanks to Grannah and Granpah who bought her Ladybug Girl and Bingo and Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy (this one is her favorite). She also has the Ladybug Girl doll thanks to Grammy, and I believe the coveted boots will a birthday present from Grammy.

Yay for grandparents who love to fully indulge their only granddaughter on her whims! Especially when those whims happen to actually be pretty cool. If you've got a little girl and haven't yet discovered the Ladybug Girl books, I highly recommend checking them out.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hannah's off to Montessori in the fall!

The exhaustion has quadrupled since Thursday and is making it so that functioning function on any kind of a normal level is downright unbearable. I've also started in with that annoying eating thing that happened the first time around where I get dizzy if I don't keep eat constantly, but most foods are super unappealing to me, thus making it impossible to ingest enough calories to keep from getting dizzy. Fun!

I'm pushing through it tonight anyway and will attempt to finally cross "blog about Montessori" off my to do list. It's the one blog post I keep procrastinating on, probably because I know it's going to be a big one. Maybe it wouldn't be so unwieldy if I'd broken it into little pieces like I meant to, starting back in the spring when Eric and I went to the open house and fell in love and applied on the spot, or maybe starting when I got Hannah's acceptance letter in the mail and sent back the signed contract, or maybe even starting when when I found out that we'd gotten financial aid (yay!!), but all those moments when un-blogged. Then we signed up Hannah for one of the 2-week summer camp sessions with the goal of making her adjustment easier in the fall. The camp meet-and-greet was back in the beginning of June, and since there weren't a ton of parents there, I whippped out my cell phone and went a little mamarazzi in anticipation of this very belated post.

On the day of the meet-and-greet, Hannah walked right into the classroom, headed straight for the shelves, and immediately engaged herself in an activity. For those of you who aren't familiar with Montessori, one of their philosophies is that all activities/toys should be placed on height-appropriate open shelves and in a progressive order so that the child can see the activities (since seeing them makes them interesting as opposed to putting them in bins or boxes where they go ignored) and move down the line from one activity to the next. Hannah picked up a little metal paint pallet first and placed the accompanying rainbow-colored puff balls in the circular spots where the paint goes. Then she moved on to the empty shaker (like the kind you'd find at a pizza joint full of either garlic, red pepper, or Parmesan) and began filling the holes with the accompanying plastic green sword toothpicks which dangled nicely once all were in. A lot of the activities at the toddler age emphasize the pincher grip to ready them for holding a pencil.

On the next book shelf over she found various bowls full of various trinkets, and she got a kick out of mixing them all into one bowl. Ms. Beth showed then showed her how to sort them, an activity she indulged in for a bit but quickly lost interest in.

On the other side of the shelves Hannah found a 5-gallon water jug and a basket of ping-pong balls and got to work filling the jug.

Dot painting ended up being a favorite activity of Hannah's during camp, and she came home with a ton of really great paintings made with these little bingo markers.

Cooking is another of her favorite activities so when she found the fruit and little glasses she began baking a "vegetable pie" using the shelves as an oven. I attempted to cut out this little boy from the photo in case his mama didn't appreciate him being on the internet, but I probably should have just left him in the shot since his half-face is probably worse than just posting an anonymous photo of someone else's child.

Here she is doing some more sorting, this time according to her own set of Hannah principles.

I scoped out this old-school vanity with its super old-school phone before Hannah did and wondered how she'd react to the Victorian phone and if she'd have any idea what it was.

She did. I guess its intuitive or some sort of cosmic knowledge available to all people. She didn't play with it much though preferring instead to look at herself in the mirror.

After the meet-and-greet we headed outside to explore the playground. There are two of those little plastic play houses and a plethora of plastic cars and trikes that captivated her so much so that she hardly even played with the playground part of it.

I love that this place is an old restored farm house and took a few outdoor shots so you could see how idyllic the setting is. This was one of our big selling points and one of the reasons I'm glad we didn't get into the public charter Montessori. Sure, free would have been incredibly awesome, and the school itself seemed great from the open house I attended, but it is in a really blighted neighborhood so the view from the playground (through the chain link fence) is of row upon row of boarded up row homes. Since we live in the city, I was pretty desperate to find Hannah a school located outside the concrete jungle. This private Montessori isn't fair from us at all, but it's far enough to smell and sound and look like the country.

This is another view from the playground, this time of the breezeway that leads to the individual classrooms.

This is the front of the school taken from the parking lot.

And finally, Hannah running around the little grassy knoll in the parking lot swinging around the sticks she found.


We had a really fun morning, and she had a fun 2 weeks at a camp at the end of June. I had to send Grammy with her on her first day because I had to teach, but Hannah adjusted quickly so Grammy was able to hang out in her car with a book. I tried to go in on day two in case Hannah still needed some adjustment time and also because I wanted to meet the teacher, but her teacher's aid met us at the door and after a nice greeting, she quickly swept Hannah away while I walked back to the car feeling a little forlorn. Their philosophy is that it is easier for the kids if they leave the parents rather than the parent leaving them. I get that, but I was still a little bummed.

Camp was for 2 hours every morning for 2 weeks. This is a lot for Hannah considering she has never in her life had to wake up and do the same thing every day of the week in her entire almost 3 years of existence. It was also a lot more time away from me than she's used to, and as a result, there were some mornings when she didn't want to go. On a few days, I bribed her (this is how we ended up with  a Ladybug Girl obsession but that's another blog post). I used the car pool option the rest of the days and let her assistant teacher help her out of her car seat and then help her back in at the end of the morning.  At the end of the day, the teaching assistant always raved about how engaged Hannah was all the time and how well she did. After a few days she asked if Hannah was enrolled in the fall and was relieved when I said yes commenting that Hannah is definitely ready. That was nice to hear! Hopefully she'll be ready for the primary program in the fall and will adjust to being gone every morning quickly.

Some things I love about this style of teaching/this school:
  • Classes consist of three ages. When Hannah starts in September, she'll be one of the youngest kids in the classroom having just turned 3 and will be in that class until she is 6. The 6-year-olds will have the opportunity to develop leadership skills and help with younger children in the classroom, and the younger children will benefit from being able to learn from other children rather than from adults, which often increases learning. There is a big emphasis on working with a variety of age groups so that even in middle school, they will do projects that involve the primary school children, though obviously the activities that each grade does will differ according to age/skill.
  • A French teacher comes around to the classroom for French lessons. It is very important to me that Hannah be exposed to other languages early on in life so this is a big plus.
  • There is no emphasis on sharing. It has always seemed unnatural to me when at playdates another mom would make their child share something with Hannah just because Hannah wanted it. I mean, I don't advocate for being selfish, but I don't think a child should have to give up something just because another child wants it.  Learning patience and turn taking is important to me. At Montessori, a child who is engaged with an activity does not have to share that activity. When the first child is finished with it, another child may pick it up and play.
  • I think the biggest appeal to me is the self-paced learning style. Prior to finding this school I was contemplating home schooling Hannah in a curriculum-free/life-learning environment. I didn't really want to home school, but I wanted to make sure she had the learning experience that I believe in, and if that was the only way to make that happen, so be it. Thankfully, there's Montessori. Here, children engage in a variety of age-appropriate activities at their own pace and spend as much or as little time on each activity as they want. The idea is that children learn better and remember more when they choose to learn it. I read one story of a home-schooled life-learning child who got really into chemistry as an adolescent and stuck with it until learning everything in a college textbook. He never picked it up again, but swears he remembers all of it as an adult. Rather than follow a strict curriculum in which you sit at a desk and learn what you are told to learn in just the amount that you are allowed to learn it, these kids move freely about the room and engage in whatever activities interest them. The teachers, or guides as they're called at Montessori, are trained to help facilitate deeper learning with each activity.
  • Finally, the whole no-desk thing is incredibly appealing to me. As someone who finds it unbearably difficult to sit still for long periods of time chained to a desk (thank goodness I don't have to!!), I didn't want to force Hannah into that sedentary lifestyle. She's as active as her parents, and I think she'd have a hard time sitting on her butt all day long while teachers lecture from a chalkboard and try to cram as much rote memorizing into her little head as possible. 
 Hannah isn't even a student yet, and I have a lot more reading up to do on the subject so I'm sure I'm missing a ton, but these are the initial things that attracted me to this style of learning. Now, if you'll excuse me, it is way past this pregnant lady's bedtime.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hannah gets a fish

Many, many moons ago, on the evening of HonFest while Hannah was camping with her dad and the neighbors, a little girl who lives around the corner and absolutely loves Hannah called on the phone and asked me if she could bring over a fish for Hannah because she had already won three that day at HonFest. I said no as gently as possible explaining that fish are a pain to clean up after and they smell terrible if you don't clean up after them. She then launched into a detailed explanation of how to clean out the fish bowl beginning with removing the the fish and placing it in a separate container. It was a super detailed, step-by-step explanation and quite exhausting to sit through. I protested a few more times and wondered where her mother was while her daughter was pushing an unwanted fish on us. I was trying to do school work, taking full advantage of having the night off from parenting and here I was sitting on the phone listening to a 10-year-old prattle on incessantly about how easy it is to take care of a fish. Eventually I gave up and told her to bring over the fish. I filled a vase with water and dumped in the fish along with some flakes of food.

When Hannah home a found a fish on the table she was thrilled, as I expected. We carried the fish around in that vase for a few days, moving it from room to room depending on where she was. She talked to it and even tried to pet it.

The following Monday I stopped off at Shannon's to pick up her fish bowl since Atticus' fish had just croaked. It was shorter than the vase, but rounded and seemed like a great place for a fish to spend what I hoped would be a short life.  Eric totally rejected the bowl and insisted that we give the fish a fighting chance. He came home from the pet store with this 2.5 gallon tank with a filter. This miniature getup was $50.  Insane!
(Sorry about the picture quality--I suck at taking pics in the dining room--my camera hates that lighting unless I change the white balance and I always forget to do that.)

In less than a week, Eric had determined that 2.5 gallons was not enough space for this goldfish and decided to act on a long-term dream of his to have a big fish tank. (This is not a dream he had ever made me aware of.) He got on Craig's List that night (what we should have done the first time) and found this 38 gallon tank for $75.  He left the house at 9:30 at night and drove to Anne Arundel county to pick it up. Excited much??

Of course, once we got a bigger tank, we needed to fill it...We now have four goldfish: OG (the original and first fish), Pig (who is either OG's best friend or arch nemesis--I am having a hard time interpreting fish behavior but the two are always together), Hercules (a little round fish with tiger-colored splotches and bulging eyes), and Midnight (also round with bulging eyes but black in color).  We also have an algae eater who is unnamed so far--he just moved in yesterday.

The reason I didn't want the OG fish is because I once owned a beta fish and found that cleaning its vase every week was annoying, and then it died and that was super gross. I'm not good with dead things. I also fish-sat for Shannon once while she was in Greece for 3 weeks (we were roommates then) and all of her fish ate each other while she was gone. I'd come home and find a headless one or a stomachless one floating at the top and then I'd have to find someone to scoop it out because there was no way I was going near that gnarliness. It was seriously gross.

Those experiences convinced me that fish ownership is not my thing. Sure they're nice to watch and I love the atmosphere of having them, but I don't want any part in taking care of them. Fortunately, I don't have to! I get to sit back and study the relationship between OG and Piggy and enjoy the atmosphere and do none of the work, and when one dies, I will be avoiding that room until it is properly disposed of. This is totally Eric's thing, and he's excited about it and loving have full responsibility.

So we're a fish family now. A goldfish family.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Alright, it's been more than a week since I threatened to bombard and overwhelm you with blog posts and obviously, there has been no bombardment. I spent less time than anticipated on the computer while in Michigan last week (probably a good thing), and I've been more exhausted than usual. I don't know if it's from finally being finished with class and having the time to allow myself to be tired, or if it's from traveling all the way to Michigan and back BY CAR, or if it's because I'm pregnant.  That was pretty fast, eh? I am obviously what you would call a fertile myrtle...

I had a feeling I was preggo about 2 weeks ago when all the signs started presenting themselves, but I assumed that it was too early for there to be signs and that there must be some other reason for the excess peeing and eating and the heightened sense of smell and the frequent spells of dizziness when I haven't consumed enough calories and the incredibly vivid though seemingly meaningless dreams (I don't usually dream) and the EXHAUSTION because there are tons of possible explanations for each of those things, right? Anyway, I also assumed I was ovulating during the power outage, and since Eric and I were definitely not knocking boots during those days when the house exceeded 100 degrees, I thought there was a good chance that I wouldn't get pregnant on my first month with no goalie in place. All of those assumptions were wrong. The signs were indeed pregnancy signs and who knows when I dropped an egg, but obviously there was a spermy there to greet it when it dropped.

This time around I know exactly when my last period was so there's no question about how far along I am. Using that strange method that doctors in this country use (where you count the first day of your last period as day 1), I hit 6 weeks tomorrow.

Hannah is happy though not completely clear about what's going on and is insistent that this baby be a sister...We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to power through this exhaustion this week because I have at least 5 posts that are waiting to be posted and a ton of pics for each, and the backlog is starting to really stress me out, so maybe this will be the week I overwhelm you.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

This year's family reunion

My class is over; my grades are submitted--wohoooo!!! Catching up on blog posts is next up on my hit list of things to accomplish so expect constant blogging this week. My goal is to blog so much that it's my readers who have to play catch up.

My self-diagnosed mini case of OCD insists upon chronological order so next up after the daddy/daughter/neighbors camping trip is this year's family reunion which was on June 16...almost a whole month ago. We all take turns hosting, and this year my aunt Pam volunteered. This is a pretty easy drive for us so we just made it a day trip.

I don't have a lot of stories for the pics since we pretty much just hung out and ate like we do every year, but I feel the need to start by explaining the fighting sticks in the first pic. Eric should really have some sort of toy man nickname because prior to us pulling out of Bemore on any sort of a day trip, he fills the trunk with as many toys as he can squeeze in. Lately he's really into these fighting sticks he has so he threw them in before we left for the family reunion, and once at my aunt's, they were the first thing picked up. Clay loved them, and I'm pretty sure Chip did too.

Since I don't have stories for all the shots, I'll just use captions.
Hannah watching Clay and Chip sword fight.

The scene as viewed from afar.

Kim and baby Mason.

Yard scene--here's how we play.

Chatting ladies scene.

Aunt Erica and Mason.

Devon and Clay tearing it up on the bean bag toss.

Clay kindly helping up Uncle Eric after Eric play fell.

Hannah....doing nothing other than looking intense and adorable.
Bubbles! Grammy, ever-so-kind-and-wise, brought a goodie bag for the toddlers which included bubbles.
This is too much for a caption: when I was a kid, my favorite thing to do when I stayed with my aunt and uncle was to search the driveway for lucky beans. I should be the luckiest lady alive considering how many of those things I collected, and I suppose in many ways, I am. Anyway, I was really excited to share that past time with Hannah. Of course, for the first 4 or hours, she had no interest in looking for these lucky beans, no matter how excited I was. Eventually I gave up and decided to go with Clay, and of course then she sang a different tune. She carried the green bucket Grammy brought, and Clay pulled the little red wagon, and we marched our procession down the gravel driveway looking for lucky beans. I never knew it as a kid, but apparently they're seeds from a cigar tree. I have no clue if that's the real name of the tree--my uncle Bob said that's what people call it because it drops these long brown pods (full of lucky beans) that look kind of like flattened cigars.

We loaded up the wagon and bucket and then headed back to the yard to inspect our booty.

Counting lucky beans with aunt Pam.

Okay, I know this isn't a quality pic, but it totally makes me laugh so I'm sharing in case it makes anyone else laugh too.

Jason and Kim take in interest in sword fighting.

Clay takes over to defend Kim's honor.

In addition to sword fighting, bean bag tossing, bubble blowing, and lucky-bean looking, we did some exploring in the forested area that is part of my aunt and uncle's property. I was bringing up the rear in this group and liked how the others looked in front of me. I think I have a thing for pics of people walking away. I don't know why I have that thing, but I know I take a lot of pics like this.

So, we took off  in the woods and as soon as we were 3 feet in, Devon looked at me and said, "I think we're lost," and he was serious so I couldn't laugh, but I really wanted to. I assured him that we were fine and then I made sure I stayed close and also that Chip didn't get too far ahead which he did at one point and it clearly made Devon nervous--I don't think he liked the idea of being lost in the woods with just me, and really, that's a valid worry. I wouldn't want to be lost in the woods with me either.

Punching balloons were also in the Grammy goodie bag.

Chipster and Mason (who is giggling at the faces Kim is making).

Counting lucky beans with uncle Donny.

Mason spent the entire morning trying to get someone to play the bean bag toss with him and finally, aunt Pam acquiesced.

For never having family reunions growing up, we are totally rocking at it now. I think this was our sixth year...maybe? I'm sure someone will correct me. Anyway, it was another great day with the fam, the kind of day that makes me wish we all lived just a little bit closer so we could do it more than just once a year.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Daddy, daughter, and neighbors go camping

I finally talked Eric into guest blogging about his camping trip with Hannah and the neighbors in western Maryland (I think Green Ridge State Park???). I'm obsessed with chronological order so I'm holding all the posts until this one gets covered, and, as usual, I am incredibly back logged on the posting. This was the same weekend as HonFest so...second weekend in June I think? I stayed home and worked on my class the ENTIRE time. I got a lot done, and it was kind of neat to be alone in the house...It's been about 3 years since that's happened. It was a little freaky though because the neighbors on both sides of us went along so I was the only person in a three row home radius. This is akin to feeling like being stranded on a desert island for a city slicker like myself.

Enough of my blathering: let's give a warm welcome to Eric!! (Clapping and cheers from the crowd.)

Hi. Here's our campsite.
Running around barefoot and playing with Baby Zoey.
Down low....too slow.
John the Chef.
Hammock time with MC.
Lots of off roading adventures and late night storytelling was involved as well.
There was also a huge black cow that was wondering around an empty campsite. It stuck its head in Hannah's window and tried to eat her snacks. We all had a blast and are looking forward to many more camping adventures. Cheerio.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen! I hope you enjoyed your very first, very brief blog post by Eric. If I wrote like him, I probably wouldn't be so behind on posting. Heck, I could probably even find time to blog almost daily. It's amazing how difficult I tend to make my life, especially when compared to how simply Eric lives his.