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. 

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.