05 September 2017

June 2017 Update

It seems unbelievable that the summer has come and gone. In reviewing the pictures and videos from June, July and August, I'd have to say that I see such big changes in Zoe. She has fully transformed to a toddler this summer. In looking at some of these pictures and videos from early June, she is so much older and more mature just 3 months later.

Zoe at 21 months

I'll start with a brief recap of June. During the month, the weather was relatively cool for that time of year. We were able to enjoy a lot of time outdoors before the oppressive heat of summer. The pool was delayed a few weeks in opening, so we had to wait until June to start our weekends of swimming. This year, both Rose and Zoe could play in the water with minimal assistance. Without a floatie, Zoe could touch the kiddie area of the pool only near the steps. Thankfully, she would keep her floatie on most of the time.

Thursday nights in June were all about listening to live music at one of the outdoor shopping plazas/movie theater. The area would be blocked off to cars and they would often have a "bounce house," face painting, bubbles, cotton candy, and sometimes popcorn. What more could a kid ask for? On one occasion, a chiropractor advertising his business brought dress-up props. Rose was in her element.
Rose with her face painted and props 3 yrs 4 months

We managed a trip to the beach in June before the pool opened. My favorite part of the day is around dinner, when everyone leaves and you have the beach mostly to yourselves. 

With the nice weather, we made our usual day trips to either Pullen Park or the Durham Museum of Life & Sciences. With the Durham museum now open Sunday mornings, it's a great time to go with not many crowds. We've been going about once a month all summer, mainly because I'm obsessed with seeing the 4 wolf pups (born in April) grow. We've been lucky to catch a glimpse of them every time we go, though they aren't the easiest to catch on video or pictures. The museum has hired a biologist to talk about the wolves, and they do an amazing job providing updates on their blog and Facebook page.

Girls swinging at Pullen Park with daddy

To wrap up the month and as part of a visit with my parents, we drove about an hour west of the Raleigh area to check out a berry festival at a farm the last weekend of the month. We picked blackberries and blueberries, got to enjoy some sweet ice cream treats, rode the tractor, and had a nice outing with my parents. It was a very nice wrap up to a month filled with many local activities, and in preparation for a long week of travel to start the month of July.

Family picture at Millstone Creek Orchard

Rose rocking on the porch at Millstone Creek Orchard

23 July 2017

May Adventures

Perhaps doing a monthly post of pictures will get me closer to catching up. May can be categorized by grant writing for me and several weekend and day trips for us all.

Thankfully, the girls are mostly agreeable during car rides.

Not to mention they are stylish

May started out like a lion and ended like a lamb for me. The first two weeks I did a lot of travel for work and my "volunteerism" as new President of the Raleigh Dietetic Association. These trips also fell in the last two weeks of writing a fairly large federal grant.

I did my usual Monday-Thursday trip to Asheville the first week of the month, and had about 24 hours to unpack, work a full day, and pack for the family to head back west. Saturday was a transition meeting of the Dietetics board in Charlotte, and we decided to bring the girls so they could see my parent's new place about 1.5 hours west of Charlotte. While Colin drove the 4 hours west (past Charlotte), I worked on writing a grant. When I drove the 1.5 hours back east to Charlotte myself Saturday morning, I used speech-to-text to continue putting ideas on paper for the grant. I couldn't muster any more energy on the grant driving back to my parent's Saturday night, but did get up early Sunday to work while the girls slept in. I used the 4 hour drive back to work once again. It turned out to be a productive weekend, and I was grateful my family was willing to all help me multi-task. We also did spend a nice Sunday together between breakfast and traveling back home after dinner.

Rose running at the Carl Sandburg Home Historic Site, Flat Rock, NC

A typical sight of Zoe chewing her left middle finger

Rose and Zoe playing in the water at Dupont State Forest, NC

Since the grant was due mid-May, we just did a quick day-trip to the beach for Mother's Day.

That final week of grant writing meant very little sleep, and once everything was turned in, it meant catching up on rest and neglected work and home life, and cleaning/organizing my home and home office. Our neighborhood pool took a long time to open due to new permitting requirements put in place by the county, so we enjoyed our hikes to the playground and listening to live music that was available often. Once I was able to pay attention, I noticed how much Zoe grew during the month. She has completely transformed to a toddler and has developed her vocabulary in both English and Spanish. We dealt with some food allergy issues at school in April and May and had to go for testing in June (more about that later). She had done so well without major reactions from October to April.
Zoe has completely transformed from a baby to a toddler
Zoe singing the alphabet

Zoe talking and counting. Video was cut off before fighting began.

I think we were all very grateful for a long weekend of rest and relaxation for the Memorial Day holiday. We were able to join my parents and brother for a trip to Myrtle Beach and stayed in a resort that had a shuttle to the beach and nice outdoor pools, a lazy river, and a splash pad. The weather was amazing all weekend and we couldn't have asked for a better trip.

Daddy has a lot of patience with Rose playing paddleball

Zoe works on her soccer skills at the beach with her uncle

All in all, we had an enjoyable month (mostly the second half for me) with two trips to the beach, one to the mountains, and many trips to the parks and outdoor music venues all month. Stay tuned for a recap of June, which offered some nice weather for going to the beach and the opening of the pool!

02 June 2017

April 2017 Fun

Wow, the girls are growing so fast and I can't keep up with documenting it all. April came and went, and writing a federal grant meant mommy didn't have much of a work-life balance for most of April and May. We did manage quite a few outings in April during the early part of grant writing. Zoe's now a talking machine, and it seemed like both girls grew a lot physically and developmentally in the past few weeks.

During our weekends in April, we visited a farm, went to the local parks and museums, had some Easter fun, and managed a couple of beach trips.

I'll let photos and videos share many of our adventures.

Hiking from home to the Bond Park Playground in early April
Enjoying a school picnic and display of art projects

Zoe yelling to the ducks at Pullen Park in Raleigh

Zoe at 19.5 Months
Zoe brushing her teeth before heading off to school
Rose at 3 years, 2.5 months

One of Rose's favorite dresses to wear to school

Playing in the water at the Durham Museum of Life and Sciences

Zoe yelling to the pigs ("piggies!") at Reverence Farms in Saxapahaw, NC
our 2017 Piedmont Farm Tour highlight

Hayride through Reverence Farms on the Piedmont Farm Tour
Taking a break from farm tour activities to swing
Our friends and neighbors hosted an Easter egg hunt in their yard, and it was so nice to walk up the street and have the neighborhood kids find Easter eggs. Some eggs had chocolate, which was very exciting for Rose. Zoe enjoyed opening the eggs and finding out what was inside each one.

Easter weekend we rented a condo in Myrtle Beach with my parents. It was nice to spend the weekend at the pool and the beach. The weather was mid-upper 70s, but the ocean was still a little cool. The girls enjoyed floating in the lazy river, and playing in the shallow pool in the condo complex. We had another egg hunt in the condo. Zoe was more interested in seeing what was in each egg rather than collecting a bunch of eggs.

Rose enjoying the beach part 1

Rose enjoying the beach part 2

Floating in the lazy river in Myrtle Beach, SC
Easter egg hunt in Myrtle Beach, SC

Zoe opening her Easter eggs
Fun in the rain after school

Fun at home, dressing up and singing "Let it Go"

First Fort Fisher beach trip of the year

Taking the Ft. Fisher ferry to get some ice cream

Stay tuned for our May update with more pictures and videos. I'm particularly fond of one with Zoe singing the alphabet. 

08 April 2017

Zoe is 18 Months...Well Technically She's 19 Months

We've certainly hit a sweet spot in our lives with Miss Zoe reaching 18 months. Her vocabulary is picking up by the day, and even if she doesn't have the words to tell you want she wants, she can generally communicate very well. Because she speaks English and home and Spanish at school, she often alternates between the two languages. I often know what she is saying (yesterday she told me we were putting on her "zapatos" or shoes), but sometimes she will point to something outside and say what she's pointing at and I have no idea (is it a tree, a bird, the deck, the weather, the sun, and is it in English or Spanish?). She loves singing the songs we used to sing at storytime with Mr. Keith when she was a baby, and also loves the songs they sing in Spanish at school. She has the sweetest little voice and she continues to be a little shy. She loves saying "dada," "mama," "Rose," and "ra-ra" (for Darwin and any dog she sees). She also loves pointing to the pictures of children in her class and telling me their names, but she refuses to say "Zoe." When she points at her picture, she usually says "dada" or "Rose" and starts laughing, knowing she is refusing to say her name.

Our sweet beautiful Zoe at 

Zoe loves wearing sunglasses
She's also started talking in short sentences. It started with commands like, "dada, sit, dada, sit" or "mama, ouch, mama, ouch" (when I comb her hair), but she'll often say things like "I don't know," and "dada/mama/etc at home." The "h" is a bit difficult to say, it's more like "ome" instead of home.  

Running and yelling at the ducks

The other really amazing thing Zoe started doing at 18 months is putting her coat on by herself. She definitely learned how to put her arms into the holes in her jacket when it's laid properly for her and flip the jacket over her head from older kids (and her sister) at school. She's proving to be very independent and always wants to put on her own coat. She tries to put on her own shoes, but still needs a bit of help. If only we could get her to help put a diaper on, and not try to peel it off all the time we'll be all set.

This mild winter meant lots of outdoor play.
Here at the neighborhood playground in

Zoe doing exercise
On the topic of diapers, Zoe has also started showing interest in sitting on the potty. I don't have any expectation that she will start using it soon or that she'll be potty trained quickly. Rose always sits on the potty before taking a bath and Zoe likes to do the same. She will sit there for a bit, sometimes she'll pee, most times she won't. Her favorite thing to do is to wipe herself with toilet paper, put the paper in the toilet, and flush. I'm following her lead with the potty and supporting her interest by explaining how we go potty in the toilet (and dogs go on the grass) when those opportunities present themselves. We continue to cloth diaper at all times except for a disposable at night. While I don't want to rush Zoe, I will certainly celebrate when we no longer have to wash, dry, stuff, and put away diapers twice a week.

Zoe sitting on the potty

Rose and Zoe jumping on the couch

At this stage of toddler-hood, we are starting to see a lot of Zoe's personality show. She's extremely independent and can play by herself for fairly long lengths of time as long as a caregiver is not too far away. She occasionally will need a hug, or check in break from play, but often goes back to her activities. Some of her favorite things to do include: taking apart and putting together puzzles, stacking blocks and cups, pushing the stroller or shopping cart around the house, and playing in the toy kitchen areas. She's still a little young to play pretend with Rose, and most times Rose takes dolls away from Zoe, but Zoe does like to care for her babies when she's free to do so. Zoe also loves to dance. She's got some amazing dance moves - check out the videos!

Zoe's got killer moves

More dance moves, brushing teeth, and "all done"

Zoe's a very agreeable child for the most part. She finds it fun to pull of the snaps or velcro on her diapers, but does help me put the diaper back on sometimes when I ask. She likes to play when getting dressed, and toddlers don't ever care if you are in a rush. The one major struggle we have at this age, which we also experienced with Rose, is her refusal to sit in her car seat. I often have to try and make it a game. When that doesn't work, bribery usually does. Sometimes I can bribe with a book, or her pacifier, and if neither of those work, food is always a good motivator.

When mommy's away for work, daddy recruits sparring partners
I had wanted to start decreasing Zoe's reliance on a pacifier for naps and bedtime, but most of her teeth are finally starting to come in. She has 4 prominent teeth (top two and bottom two center) and she has a top and bottom molar that are both mostly out on her left side. In the past week or two, I've noticed a top and bottom molar on her right side coming in, and some whites of the teeth under her gums starting to show towards the front of her mouth. I'd say she probably has 9 teeth that are exposed, with at least another 2-3 coming in. The doctor keeps telling us that having teeth come in late is a good thing. Zoe's teacher mentioned that teeth that come in later tend to be stronger. I don't know if that's an old wives tale, but I hope Zoe gets most of her teeth quickly so we can get over teething and have her better able to eat the foods we eat.

Zoe fearlessly touching the horse

I can't really complain about Zoe's eating. She loves having half a banana every morning right when she wakes up and doesn't like waiting too long for breakfast. She almost always eats well at school, and does a good job eating at home. We've offered much more juice with Zoe than we did with Rose, but thankfully they both still drink kefir milk without problems. At school, they have two good snacks and a healthy cooked from fresh foods lunch every day, so it's nice that we only have to cook meals for everyone for dinner. The girls both often have yogurt with granola before bed. Sometimes if dinner is late, and/or if they ate really well, we skip yogurt. But, when we have more time, they rarely refuse the pre-bed snack. During yogurt time, we read a few books. When the yogurt is done, the girls brush their teeth and go to bed. Zoe would prefer to go to bed between 7-7:30, but we are often keeping her up until 7:30-8 because of how long it takes to complete the evening routine. Many times we will take Zoe to bed and finish yogurt and/or books with Rose.

Zoe's first flight. Visiting family in NY in February
Zoe is the queen of beauty sleep. She basically tells us she wants to go to bed around 7pm each night. Most times she goes to bed at 7:45, and we often have to wake her up at 7am for school. I think she wakes up before that, but puts the pacifier in her mouth and goes back to sleep. At school, Zoe only takes a nap from 1-3pm. With this Monday-Friday routine, she starts showing how tired she is by the end of the week. On the weekends she wants a morning nap by 9 or 10am that typically lasts about an hour, and then still takes a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoons. Even if she sleeps 4 hours on a Saturday, and gets up from her nap at 5pm, she's still ready to go back to bed by 7:30pm. Last week she was more tired than usual a few days after her doctor's wellness visit. It could have been lingering symptoms from a vaccine, or perhaps a result of so many new teeth coming in. She was so tired at school that they had to put her down for a nap at 10am and she slept in the room while all the children played. After a two hour nap, she had lunch, played a little bit, and then still took another 2 hour nap in the afternoon.
Zoe cuddling with her new fofinho (fluffy) at grandma's house

At her 18.5 month wellness visit, Zoe checked in at 31.5 inches tall and 23 lbs, 12.8 ounces. She's right about the 40th percentile for height and for weight. Her noggin measured 48.5 cm, which is the 92nd percentile. She's got a growing brain that needs to be accommodated! Actually, Zoe fussed for the height and head circumference measurements, so I can't really trust the numbers this time around. I will say that she can still barely fit into 18 month clothes. The 18-24 month clothes fit pretty well and she's also fitting some 24 month clothes well. I don't think she's tall, but I don't think she's very short either. Zoe's eyes remain blue, her hair brown with blond highlights, and her skin fair (and still a bit sensitive). Cold, dry air seems to make her a little rashy, and we still occasionally notice her skin react to various sensitivities. She seems to get red with a lot of dairy, and if food sits on her skin for a bit. If she scratches at area, it also gets red and rashy. It's rare for the rashes to appear anywhere but her face and neck.

This age (18-19 months) is one of my favorites, and I'm trying to enjoy as much of it as I can. I'm glad the weather is turning to spring so we can take more hikes around the lake and to the playground. Both girls can walk most of the way, and occasionally want to be carried in the backpack. It's a slow, leisure walk, but it is among my favorite weekend morning activities. We get to check out the boats, ducks, fish, etc. in the water. Occasionally there are dogs retrieving in the water too. There are often people playing or kite/drone flying in the open field. The girls enjoy picking up sticks and rocks, and stepping in puddles or rustling leaves. The morning outing allows me to slow down, which has become so important for me recently. 

Hiking around the lake with our walking sticks

07 February 2017

Happy 3rd Birthday to Miss Rose

Happy Birthday to our curious, intelligent, caring, beautiful daughter Rose Estelle Miller. 

Rose loves being a ham

At 3 years old, she far exceeds her milestones. She can "read" many books on her own (including telling us the author), knows her colors, can identify many numbers and letters, knows so many songs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, can dress herself (including putting on her own coat), and has fantastic coordination. She knows what she wants and has a difficult time if she's not allowed to have what she wants (mostly when she's tired or hungry). She has started showing us more affection towards Zoe, and continues to improve at being patient when asking Zoe to share. The past few weeks have felt like Rose is passing out of the "terrible 2's." I hear there are "frustrating 3's" but we have hit a smooth spot right now. Our morning routine has been better since I've started easing up on rushing everyone out the door. Rose cannot be rushed. On the days she needs a little more time, Colin takes Zoe to school and I work a little bit until Rose is ready to go. It works out much better for us all. When we have a break in our routine, day care drop offs revert back to Rose clinging to mommy. But for the past few weeks, our routine has been consistent and Rose has been happy to say goodbye.

We haven't been to Rose's 3 year doctor's appointment yet, but everyone who sees us tells us they notice how she has slimmed out and gotten taller. Her 2.5 month appointment ended up being just before Christmas (closer to 3 than 2.5) and she has jumped to the 40th percentile for height and 47th percentile for weight (up from the 15-20th percentile).

Rose's wingspan is that of a crow (at NC Zoo in January)

Here is a little more about Miss Rose on her 3rd birthday:
1. Her favorite movie is Frozen and she loves Elsa and Anna, though she recognizes that Elsa is not being very nice during several parts of the movie.
2. She loves having her nails painted and loves many accessories. She's currently not into wearing a watch, but does like her necklace and bracelet. Sometimes she wants a ponytail (totozinho) and a headband, other times she wants her hair down.
3. She continues to be a very good eater and could eat anything Avo makes every day (especially soup and cod).
4. While we had her carseat forward facing for awhile, she's back to wanting her seat facing the same way that Zoe's faces. We often notice that she lets Zoe take the lead in play and follows what Zoe does.
5. We mostly get glowing reports that Rose is well behaved at school. We occasionally have a rough week where she struggles with following the routine and listening. A group of 4 children just moved up to the 3 year old classroom, and she seems more calm, a better sleeper, and better listener as the oldest child that remained in the 2.5-3 year old group. There are 7 children in her class, and two others will turn 3 in March. I expect she will move up with these two other children closer to April.
6. Her best friend at school seems to be Violet, but she seems to like all the children in her class. For her birthday party, she created her guest list of about 9 children from school and three from our neighborhood.
7. If given a cell phone, Rose usually finds videos of children playing with dolls on YouTube. She has about 5-6 dolls at home and is very good at playing pretend with them. If left to play independently, she could spend hours changing her babies, feeding them, putting them to bed, etc.

Having fun with friends at her birthday party at the bounce house
While some days (or times within the day) at this age can be difficult, I love to see Rose develop into a confident and mature toddler. I recognize some of the challenges come when I get frustrated or when I'm in a rush, and I work to be a patient parent.

16 January 2017

A Christmas Holiday Recap

When I arrived back home from my January work trip last week, I was tired. It was late, I had a few long days with productive, but exhausting meetings, my to-do list in several areas of my life was too long, Colin kept the girls up so they could see me before they went to bed, and Zoe had a bad rash that was going to need medical attention in the morning. After a good night's sleep and recovering (to some extent) from the most recent trip, I realized that feeling so drained may have been a result of so much travel over the past 10 weeks. I'm still feeling a little drained after a 3-day weekend, but it was good to get more things checked off the to-do list.

Between November 7 and January 11, I've spent almost 6500 miles in the car. The bulk of those miles came from trips up to the northeast for both Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years.  And while sitting or driving the car is one aspect of travel that can be difficult, I find the packing, unpacking, and recovering from the trips to be the hardest. My monthly travel for work is the easy packing since it is just me. But trips up north require thoughts about the weather, holiday outfits, activities we might do, and making sure things like clothes, diapers, snacks, food, beverages, and activities are available for the 12 hour trip. Most of that planning and packing falls to me since I get to rest in the car (or entertain in the backseat) while Colin does the bulk of the driving.

In between all these trips, which took place just about every other week, we tried enjoying some holiday events in or around home. We enjoyed a holiday potluck with Portuguese friends, gingerbread house making with our friends and neighbors, tried making Aunt June's famous cookies as a family of 4, and checked out a few holiday light displays and shows. We capped off our holiday fun with the annual Pullen Park Express, which is a fun evening of endless rides on the carousel, holiday crafts, a train ride around the park, and the girl's first (and only) time meeting Santa.

All dressed up for a holiday dinner
Girls enjoying their fancy, sparkly silver shoes
Scheduling and actually doing activities with two toddlers is no easy feat. They did surprisingly well in their holiday outfits, but we spent more time entertaining them and chasing them around the holiday dinner than talking to anyone. Colin spent a long time building gingerbread houses, only to have Zoe eat part of one and Darwin completely demolish (ie - eat) our neighbor's house. The clean up for any food activity is always a challenge and I wonder if it is worth it. But, I know it is. While Zoe is still too young to follow some of the rules, I see Rose focus and take pride in her work. And watching Zoe naively eat a gingerbread house is endearing. I sometimes catch myself all wound up in a type A personality, and it seems we all have different triggers. I am constantly grateful for a husband who is much more relaxed and doesn't seem to mind spending an entire afternoon putting together gingerbread houses that will all be demolished either during decoration, or shortly thereafter.

Gingerbread house decorating (or eating if you are Zoe)
Rose likes to organize mommy's cookies - perhaps picking up on some type A organizing skills
I've never been too eager to have the girls meet Santa. It seems cruel to force kids to sit on the lap of a stranger so we adults can take a picture. We gave Rose the option to meet him and she said she wanted to, so we went for it. She was completely into it this year, but we made the mistake of trying to have Zoe sit with Mrs. Claus for the picture, an experience that petrified her. When we got to Santa we didn't bother trying to see if Zoe wanted to sit with him. Even Rose was a little reluctant to sit on his lap, until they got to talking about the movie Frozen.
Our friend Lucas and his family joined us at the Pullen Park Express
Rose hamming it up on the carousel
Zoe enjoying her ride on the carousel with mommy
Ready for the train ride

First time meeting Santa

While traveling 12 hours is not ideal, we continue to make it bearable by leaving between 1-2am after a few hours of sleep. It helps if we can have the car packed early so we can go to bed shortly after the girls do. They typically sleep for the first 5-6 hours, and are fairly content in the car for most of the morning. We have been able to make pretty good time on our recent trips. Unfortunately, during the Christmas trip, I battled a sore lower back, which has been hurting on an off since starting the trip.

Rose alternates between sleeping and playing in the car
Zoe could sleep for most of the drive
While visiting family, we were able to engage in some new and some regular activities. There was some snow on the ground in New York, so the girls got to try sledding down Colin's parent's front lawn on Christmas Day. We also checked out a museum in Albany that has a free carousel. We rode it about 3 times. In Rhode Island, we checked out the awesome Boston Children's Museum and managed to make a trip down to the beach. It was a little too cold for me, but Rose enjoyed playing in the sand.
All smiles waiting for the carousel ride in NY

The girls loved spending time with their entire family over the Christmas-New Year's trip. Rose looks up to her 6-year-old cousin Isabella, and is exhausted after a day of playing together. Both Rose and Zoe love the attention from their aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I always feel like I've gained 10 pounds when we get back, but there is so much comfort in being surrounded by family and food during the holidays. I also like getting a quick glimpse of winter and then heading back to our warmer weather. Though Colin and Zoe managed to catch a bug during the week, it was short-lived for both of them. My back was (and continues to be) a major bummer, though I hope some rehab and massages (Merry Christmas to me!) will be the fix I need.
Opening presents in New York on Christmas Eve
Rose posing with presents on Christmas morning

Girls opening presents on Christmas morning
I'm glad we were able to enjoy some holiday fun and visit with family to celebrate the season, but I'll admit that I am very grateful to have a few weeks with minimal travel and scheduled events on my calendar. It felt good to take down the tree and Christmas decorations this year. For me, it was the promise of a less hectic schedule ahead. We've started to get back on track with our diet (except for a few lingering sweets). Now, I'm hoping the weather can cooperate so we can enjoy some walks to the park as a family on the weekends and I can get back to some regular exercise.

I hope you were all able to enjoy the comfort and joy in your family/friends this holiday season and that your New Year is off to a tremendous start.