06 February 2018

Fall Fun in NY and NC in October 2017

We drove up to New York for a long weekend to kick off the month of October and ended the month with lots of Halloween festivities.

Rose's selfie October 2017 at 3.5 years
Farm visit in upstate NY October 2017

Girls on the bus at the farm
Indoor playground fun in NY
Because we dove back on a weekday, we came upon a lot of traffic in DC. Normally, when we travel on Sundays we leave NY between 1-2 am and get around DC by 8am. This time, the traffic started around Baltimore and we were bumper to bumper by 7am. Instead of staying in the car, we decided to drive into the city for the morning and check out the National Mall. It was a warm October day and the girls alternated between the stroller and running around.

They passed out before we could get lunch, so we took food to go and got home in time for dinner.

Walking around the National Mall on a nice October day

Girls passed out in the stroller as we order Shake Shack to go
In October, the girls' school had their semi-annual picnic. We look forward to the potluck lunch where the classrooms display the children's projects. Rose had a huge portfolio of 6 months of work. They had done lessons on the body, planets, super heroes, and so much more. Zoe's projects were also displayed, but because she had transitioned to her new class that month, she didn't have as much to show.
Rose and Zoe showing Rose's display at school
In October, Rose finished out her soccer season. After her amazing debut the first week, she struggled a little bit with getting involved in the game. There was one team in particular that had a few boys who were pretty aggressive. Rose ran off the field crying in her second game and it took a few more games for her to get back in the action. She was wonderful at participating in the practice and did a good job running around during the games. She just wasn't that into pushing her way through to get the ball. The final game included a celebration at the end to recognize each child's participation and a potluck lunch.
Rose celebrating the end of the season with her team
The second half of October was all about Halloween. We painted pumpkins, carved pumpkins, attended some Halloween parties, read Halloween stories, and went trick or treating.  The final weekend of the month I was lucky enough to be asked to present at a conference at the Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte. Colin and the girls came with me and we all enjoyed the waterpark (as much as two parents can while somewhat tethered to two toddlers) during the evening of the first day. There was a trick-or-treating event at the lodge that evening, so the girls wore their costumes and got candy along a set of stations. While I presented at the conference, Colin took the girls back to the water park, and after we had lunch we went back for a little more fun. It was enjoyable, but we were all a bit limited in what we could do. I think we'd all have a little more fun in a few more years when we could ride the bigger slides together.

Painting mini pumpkins

Rose and Zoe's painted pumpkin creations

Arriving at the Great Wolf Lodge in October 2017

Rose in her peaock costume at Great Wolf Lodge

Zoe having her snack at the Great Wolf Lodge waterpark

Enjoying our stay at Great Wolf Lodge

Carving our 2017 pumpkins

Our creations L-R are Colin, Rose, Zoe, and Nicolle

Smiling for the camera after the Halloween walk at school
Zoe reading 5 Little Pumpkins

Ready to go trick or treating

Rose reads 5 Little Pumpkins

Zoe helping to read 5 Little Pumpkins

19 January 2018

September Updates

I have so many pictures and videos on my phone from the past few months that these updates are going to be my photo and video dumps.

On September 9, 2017 Miss Zoe turned 2. In regular Miller fashion, we celebrated on her birthday at the pool with cake, and then again a week later with her grandparents at the pool with cake again, and then a few weeks later in New York with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, with a cupcake. Zoe was a trooper celebrating her big day by going to Rose's soccer game and then mommy's soccer game. She seemed to enjoy herself at both games, and we celebrated by going out to lunch and having cake at the pool after naps.

Happy 2nd Birthday to Miss Zoe!

Rose and Zoe posing on Zoe's 2nd Birthday

Birthday cake at the pool on Zoe's actual birthday

Rose continued with her soccer league. The first week was here shining game of the season. Unfortunately, week 2 she played a team where aggressive boys knocked her down. She did an excellent job participating in the 30 minute practice before the games, but it took most of the season for her to get back to participating in the game. I don't think she scored any more goals, but she and Zoe both enjoyed our Saturday morning routine of going to Rose's soccer game. On a few occasions I would help out if there was only one coach, taking the players who were not in the game to the side to play sharks and minnows.

Arriving at Rose's soccer game
One of the weeks mommy helped coach
Team photo day

This year, September was fairly warm. We managed a beach trip when it didn't interfere with Rose's or my soccer games, enjoyed the Durham Museum, started our Sunday morning walks to the playground, and enjoyed every last little bit of the pool we could. After Labor Day, the pool was only open on weekends, and we made sure to go if the weather cooperated.

Zoe playing in the water at the Durham Museum

Rose climbing the rocks at the Durham Museum

It's difficult to capture videos now that Zoe has entered the age where she wants to hold the phones and becomes obsessed with technology. Rose went through a similar phase and seems to have outgrown it. If you don't know "Zoe-speak" at 20 seconds in, she says "Zoe broke it" referring to the ripped pages.

Our Sunday walks to the park are about a mile each way on a paved greenway and trail. We usually bring both backpack carriers, for the occasional times the girls want to be carried. Here's a snapshot of a typical walk with Zoe wanting to hold Darwin's leash.

Rose resting on a tree stump during our walk

Girls posing on our walk

Being silly for a photo

 Our two year old swinging before going down the slide at the playground
August and September were also filled with birthday parties for Rose and Zoe's classmates. We enjoyed spending time with their friend's families, and the girls especially enjoyed Miss Olivia's 4th fairy birthday party. The girls got faces painted by a fairy at the party and enjoyed lots of indoor and outdoor toys while wearing their fairy dresses

Posing with the fairy face-painter

Zoe loved the bubble wand, which ended up all over her dress

Rose is loving her friend's 4th birthday party

You can expect more photo and video dumps for October - January with fall activities transitioning to holiday activities and lots of snow during the start of 2018!!

12 November 2017

End of Summer 2017 Adventures and an Eclipse

During the month of August, we continued with our weekend and weekday trips to the pool. There were a few weekends that were not unbearably hot and we spent a day at a park or museum. We also made it to a concert in the park that's adjacent to our neighborhood. The big event and travel for us in August was taking a long weekend to go see the eclipse of 2017 in Greenville, SC! Rose also started soccer in August. Rose turned 3.5 in August and Zoe approached her 2nd birthday. Both girls grew like weeds all summer and it's been fun to have them be more self-sufficient and be able to communicate.

Zoe's eating her favorite peanut butter crackers at the pool

Zoe smiles when she wants to.
She loves to see the camera herself.
Rose and Zoe are running in Bond Park. 

One of the many concerts we have listened to at the ampitheatre in the park

Lunch time at Pullen Park in Raleigh,
after going on the carousel and train and before heading home.

The first of back-to-back birthday parties at an indoor playground.
To see the Eclipse in Greenville, we spent the weekend at my parent's place in the mountains of Western NC. On Saturday we made our way to a Renaissance Festival at a farm after going to a farmers' market. The girls enjoyed getting their face (Rose) and arm (Zoe) painted, seeing the costumes, and playing on the slides and in the creek. Rose also enjoyed feeding some goats. We spent the middle part of the day driving the Blue Ridge Parkway while the girls napped and ended our day with dinner and music in Asheville.
Rose's Hello Kitty face paint

Zoe getting her arm painted

On Sunday, we made our way to Charlotte (2 hours away) to get my brother at the airport. Instead of going straight back to the cabin after lunch, we decided to walk around a small museum, called Discovery Place Nature for a little bit. The exhibits were just right for the girls and it was nice to be in a small museum with the short amount of time we had before the girls would need a nap.

Spending a few hours at a museum in Charlotte where Zoe's a bug:

Monday was Eclipse day! I was really nervous about finding a place to go to see the eclipse, especially as we left Tryon for Greenville around mid-day. We had to pack everything (including Darwin) and it was a hot August Day. I was cranky with the heat and with the stress of packing what we needed to be accessible. Thankfully, we found a science/technology elementary school that was hosting a watching party through Facebook. We headed straight there and found some shade by 1p or so. In the hour or two before complete darkness, the girls enjoyed the splash pad, we ate some moon pies, we watched the moon change through our viewing glasses and through a shadow box, and we listened to some of the music from the DJ. I was most grateful for shade and bathrooms. Even just sitting in the shade I was sweating! 

Rose was really into the Eclipse, which made it more exciting for us. She did a great job looking through her glasses - which were ridiculously hard to purchase before the event. I was grateful for a friend who got some in the week leading up to our trip. The elementary school staff were giving them out at the viewing party, but we would have waited in a long line in the heat to get them.

Rose and Zoe had learned about the eclipse at school, and Rose kept giving us updates on what she saw. Zoe was more interested in maintaining her schedule, which should have included lunch and a nap. She managed to stay engaged with all the excitement despite being a bit "hangry".

The full eclipse was pretty amazing. In the few minutes just before it turned to dusk, our surroundings looked "chalky" with a tinge of almost grey. The temperature was noticeably cooler for the few minutes of complete elipse and for some of the minutes before and after. During the total eclipse, the stars came out, we could see the ring around the moon, we could hear crickets, and it looked like dusk at 2:30pm. It was so cool and an experience I hope to never forget. As we left Greenville for Raleigh, we started making plans to visit upstate NY/Burlington for the 2024 eclipse!

Because we hadn't eaten a good lunch and we didn't really know where to go in Greenville, post-eclipse was a bit of a disaster. We waited too long to be seated at a restaurant and ultimately gave up after almost 45 minutes because the girls were getting too cranky. We knew it would take a long time to get home as well. We had enough snacks that held everyone over as we slowly made our way home, and the girls napped. The four-hour trip took about 6-7 hours with a stop for dinner near Charlotte. It was close to midnight before we arrived home. Thankfully, the girls slept for most of the ride after dinner.

Finding food and shade at an Elementary school Eclipse viewing party in Greenville, SC

Rose would check on the sun's progress often during the hour we watched

It was difficult to capture the eclipse in a camera. I didn't bother trying to get the ring.

A glimpse of the total eclipse from Greenville, SC on August 21, 2017

Because we traveled to see the Eclipse, Rose missed the first soccer game of her career. While soccer runs in our veins, an eclipse is a pretty rare and memorable event worth missing soccer to see. Rose made up for it by being an attentive participant in the practice and scoring two goals in her game that followed the practice session. That first game we attended was pretty chaotic. Kids were picking up the ball all the time and clearly didn't know what to do. We were proud of Rose's ability to pay attention and participate. There were a few games after that first one where the other team was aggressive and we struggled through those with Rose. I'll admit, it is challenging to tell your child not to take things from people or push or hit and then try to teach them to be aggressive in sports.  
Rose's first soccer practice, held for 30 minutes before her first 30 minute game.
We missed the first week because of the Eclipse, so she had to wait for a shirt.
Rose scores a goal in her first soccer game

I finally captured some video footage of Zoe talking and singing. If she notices she's being recorded, she immediately runs to grab the camera. I'm surprised she let me take video of her singing. We did have a few outtakes before capturing this longer video. The teachers at Zoe's school say that her Spanish is very good. It's amazing to me that she can switch between English and Spanish so easily. I love getting to learn the songs she sings at school and I'm also glad that Rose is my translator. While I can speak and understand Spanish, understanding toddler Spanish without context is sometimes difficult. Rose often translates for us because she knows the songs, expressions, and/or words that Zoe has picked up at school.

Lots of singing at bedtime

Stay tuned for Miss Zoe's 2nd Birthday and more September updates!

26 October 2017

July Adventures

July in North Carolina is dog-breath weather, so we try to plan a trip north during the month. This year, we made our way up to upstate New York to visit family for July 4th week. The girls had a great time playing with their cousins, especially Isabella who is just about 3 years older than Rose. Rose adores her cousin and Zoe wants to be part of the action too.

As usual, we left overnight, between 1-2am. This time we decided to pop into NYC to visit with friends who were about to move to California. We made such good time that we were in Manhattan by 9-9:30am. With time to kill, Colin walked around the highline with the girls and we found a playground for the girls to stretch their legs. I'll admit it wasn't the best experience for me. Darwin wasn't allowed on the highline or in the playground, so one of us had to hang out with him. It wasn't too hot, but it was humid and we didn't want to leave him in the car.

On the Highline before Darwin and I got kicked out
Girls playing in lower Manhattan

After a somewhat chaotic lunch, we made our way upstate to the Albany area. The girls took their much-needed naps and I drove part of the way so Colin could rest. We are always pretty tired when we arrive on these 12 hour driving trips. We don't want to just drive through on the way up and often make a stop or two to stretch our legs and/or explore. 

After a good night's sleep, we were ready for the week's adventures. We started the week off with a trip to Lake George on Colin's parent's boat. The girls enjoyed it except when Isabella and Rose bumped heads. Thankfully, that was towards the end of the day. Zoe in her usual fashion took a nice nap on the boat after lunch. The day was beautiful and we enjoyed some lunch and swimming off the docks of one of the islands in the lake.

A couple days later, we were back at the lake with the whole family to enjoy July 4th. We spent a few hours at the "beach." Maybe I'm spoiled having grown up in RI, but most of the beaches I've been to on lakes are just not really my kind of beaches. I enjoy taking the boat on the lake, anchoring, and swimming in the lake. But, there is something about walking into the lake from the beach that just doesn't appeal to me. The girls had fun swimming in the lake on July 4th and I enjoyed taking a kayak out on the water.

Because the fireworks are always late and we didn't really know the set up for viewing them in person, we decided to let Rose stay up to watch them on the TV. She seemed to enjoy watching them and we didn't have to worry about traffic, parking, and how loud they might be.

Lunch spot on one of the islands in Lake George, NY

The three Miller girl cousins in their July 4th attire at Lake George

The other highlights of the week included a cousins trip to the town pool and the girl cousins having a movie night at Aunt Karen's house. The weather was very nice most of the week, but the pool was a bit too cold for me. Even the girls didn't last too long in the water. Everyone was pretty excited when the ice cream truck came. 

Zoe is our very messy eater
You can tell Rose loved her ice cream
The Miller ladies making silly faces
We all enjoyed movie night at Aunt Karen's house. The girls had a nice set up on the papasan cushion with some snacks. At one point they were all on the cushion, but I think they lost interest in the movie towards the end. I can't remember now, but I think they watched Frozen, which they've seen too many times. We decided we'd have to watch Moana the next time. I got to go "shopping" in Aunt Karen's closet and found almost a whole new wardrobe. Woohoo! Thanks Aunt Karen!!

Girls watching Frozen during movie night at Aunt Karen's
I addition to visiting family, we wated to take a family trip somewhere we've never been. We decided to head up to Quebec City for a night towards the end of the week in NY. I really wanted to go for 2 nights, but it just would have been too much. We left the house around 4am Thursday morning and arrived in Quebec City by 8am (after a stop or two). It was too early to check in to the hotel, but they did let us park the car in the garage so we didn't have to worry about meters or parking. I usually spend lots of time researching places we are going, but I hadn't had time to look into Quebec City beyond asking people for suggestions and researching a hotel. I knew a few main tourist sights to see, but figured we could just walk around and explore. 

We really struggled navigating the city on that first day. Yelp was our go-to for food and the first place we went didn't accept credit cards so we had to move on. We found another pastry shop and had our first chocolate filled danish of the two days. As we walked towards the more downtown area, we also managed to get cash from an ATM so we could be prepared for another cash-only food venue. Our biggest mistake came when I thought we should explore the touristy hotel Chateau Frontenac. Navigating narrow streets with a double stroller was a challenge and it was uphill the entire way. We also happened to be there during the start of a 10-day music festival, so some areas were blocked off. And, to top it off, there was a lot of construction. When we finally made it close to the top of the hill (the Chateau), Zoe had fallen asleep and Rose was getting pretty cranky. I can't even remember what we had for lunch - it obviously was not nearly as memorable as the hills and frustrating construction detours. As we walked from the Chateau up the hill to the Citadel, Rose also fell asleep. Poor Colin pushed both sleeping girls (think "dead weight") up the grassy hill because we couldn't find any paved paths, only to find the Citadel blocked off for construction (which we didn't realize at the time).

This was the tipping point for us both. It was after lunch at this point so we decided to make our way back to the hotel so we could check in, ditch the stroller, get some quality maps, and try exploring again. Going back to the hotel was so much easier because it was downhill and we went directly back (instead of trying to find sites to see along the way). As we arrived the girls woke up and we got checked in. While the morning had been tiring for us, it was good the girls slept because they were in much better spirits for the afternoon. 

After walking uphill for what felt like hours, we reached the top.

Rose and Zoe enjoyed riding uphill. I guess it was comfortable enough for them.

We set out again, this time with the two backpack carriers and a small bag with diapers and a few changes of clothes for the girls. We decided to take the bus to the lower downtown area. Though the bus also had issues getting us to the destination, we weren't hot, sweaty, and tired during the process. Since we were having a relatively early dinner, we made our way to Cochon Dingue Champlain, a restaurant that came highly reviewed by Yelp and a Canadian friend. The food was just okay, but perhaps we didn't order the best items on the menu. We did get to sit outside and enjoy the evening.

After dinner, we took a boat ride across the St. Lawrence River to Levis on the commuter ferry. I accidentally gave the operator my roundtrip tickets and we had to get assistance from the staff before we got off to be sure we could get back on to come back. Thankfully we did get on the return boat and arrived safely back in Quebec. From the boat we could see this elevator car that traveled from the lower part of the city to the upper part. We made our way over to the elevator, called the Funiculare, and decided to take a ride up to where whe had been earlier. 

The Chateau Frontenac and Quebec City from the St. Lawrence River

Trying to get a picture of the girls on the boat
We made our way back to the hotel from the upper city at a more leisurely pace and both girls eventually ended up in the backpacks. We came across a couple of the concert stages as we walked back and got to hear some of the music. If we had not been up since 4am, I might have considered staying out a little longer, but we were all pretty tired. 

Thankfully, both girls fell asleep pretty easily. I had requested a room with 2 beds, but they only had a room with one bed and a pack n play. I was surprised at how excited Rose was to sleep in the pack and pay we brought and it was good that each girl slept well in their respective cribs.

The second day in Quebec City was overcast and raining early in the day. With a better idea of the city's layout, we set out on foot again without the stroller after breakfast in the hotel. We made our way first to the Citadel, which we found out was completely closed for renovations. From this area we were able to walk along the extension areas of the Citadel - first to the riverview and then along the giant wall. The girls enjoyed checking out all the "tunnels," the cannons, and all the sights that interest toddlers.

Trying to get a family photo with Rose not wanting to cooperate

A sweet photo of the girls exploring Quebec City
Checking out the cannons and the wall leading to the Citdel
We left Quebec City after lunch so the girls could nap on the drive back to the US and made our way to the Vermont border to cross. We had planned to meet up with some of my college friends before we got stuck at the border for almost 2 hours. The girls woke up near the start of those two hours and I was grateful we had brought pastries from Quebec back with us. Even before we dug into the pastries, the girls were doing surprisingly well for how long they were confined in their seats. We managed to get to Burlington, Vermont much later than planned. Colin grabbed burritos at the food truck next door to the brewery where we met my friends. The girls preferred eating the popcorn at the brewery. We just had to go with the flow. When you have toddlers who are going to be out past their bedtime and are eating way later than their dinner should have been after they just had some pastries at dinner time, you do whatever you can to maintain peace including allowing the watching of electronic devices. It obviously ended up being a very quick and rushed get-together, but it was still nice to see my friends. We got the girls in their pajamas and drove the two hours back to New York, arriving after midnight. 

We basically just had one day (Saturday) to recover before driving back home, and of course I/we planned a birthday gathering for Colin on that final day. I surprised Colin by inviting his friends and was glad that a few were able to come. Colin's not a big fan of celebrating his birthday, but I know he enjoyed getting to see some friends. When we visit family, it's always difficult to fit in some time with others. We did plan the birthday early enough so we could try to get to bed at a reasonable time. Of course we can never get to bed before 10p, which makes 1am come too quickly.

Somehow we usually manage to have a good ride home. Our goal is to get south of DC before our first stop. On the ideal trip, we make it to Richmond, VA where there is a Whole Foods in a residential/commercial mixed complex. We have breakfast, change the girls out of pajamas, and go play on the playground for a little bit before getting back in the car to drive the 3 hours home. We've made it home by 1-2p before even with the stop. On the way home, the girls are so tired from all the fun that they usually will sleep most of the mid-late morning. 

Girls are passed out in their carseats during the drive home to NC

While the end of the trip was busy and hectic, the first half was relatively relaxing. Overall, we had a nice time with our friends and family and enjoyed exploring a new city. The girls did get a stamp on their passport thanks to the border patrol agent at the New York crossing going to Quebec. The Vermont agent said they don't stamp the passport for land crossings, so they only got one.

The rest of July was relatively uneventful. We spent most of our weekends going to the pool to stay cool. We also celebrated two birthdays - my mom's mid-month and Colin's towards the end of the month.
Colin gets serenaded by his ladies for his birthday
Stay tuned for August updates, which included lots more trips to the pool and going to school birthday parties.