Gigi stuck around for me to take a few photos, at the price of 3 m&m's. Well worth it for a few current photos of the babes together. So far she still adores him. We'll see how that pans out once he starts pulling her hair and taking her toys.
Back when I thought Marcos was weird and before I was willing to be his friend much less his wife, I asked him one day what he wanted to do for a living, and when he said "computers" the red pencil of my mind slowly drew a line through his name.
But I think I'm warming up to technology. (And I warmed up to Marcos a long time ago).
Our friends just started doing a "culture night" every few weeks, which is a chance for us to get together, potluck some new ethnic digs, and teach the littles about countries they hopefully will get to in person someday. The other night we hosted and I chose to do Hawaii, for obvious reasons. When it was time for me to talk about some of the best things about Hawaii, in a jiffy I was able to pull up youtube videos that brought molten lava flows into our home, and breaching humpback whales. The glee on the little's faces when the whale breached was priceless. Claps, and hoorahs, and can we watch it agains. I so loved the internet that night.
And so I've been wanting to share a few of the videos that have made me laugh/cry/want to change the world lately. I hope you will enjoy them too.
To be inspired to absolutely want to change the world click here.
To have your heart caught in your throat click here.
It's been a while since I've tried to catch Giovanna on paper, so I thought I'd tell you a little about what she is like now, just a few months shy of three (three!) years old.
Gigi likes to be read to. She is not quite at the place where she can spend oodles of time alone with books, but she likes them in the company of adults, and she loves books with busy pictures. She loves Richard Scarry books, classics like Curious George and Madeline, and books about the natural world. She has a thing for astronauts and outer space, the human body, reggae music, world landmarks, and good art.
Gigi is still a solo player, even in the company of good friends. She loves people, and parties, and thrives with our busy social calendar, but will typically still play by herself in a room of toys and other children. That said, making connections with others is important to her. She hugs as a greeting, high fives on the way out, and likes to tell us when she has shared with a friend ("I shared with her, mommy!"). She can be shy around adults she does not know, but warms up quickly when people show kind interest in her. At church and in our neighborhood, on the other hand, she thinks she owns the place. She steps up to the microphone every month to share her testimony completely by herself, and when we pull in our driveway and the older kids are playing in the yard or the street, she spills out of the car with a loud, "Hi guys!" and walks over to show them some article of her clothing she is sure they will love. She loves having two grandmas here. In our Kindermusik classes and at our coop preschool, I have observed how she can have a calming effect on a group of children. She is still two and can be wiggly, silly and totally out to lunch, but she has a stereotypical "girl" aura around her - fairly well behaved, mellow, responsive to adult instructions, etc. I value manners and I value respect, but we'll have to make sure she is well equipped with sufficient moxy and communication tools to assert herself as she grows older!
Our biggest challenge socially so far is personal space - other children, her age and older, have a habit of crowding around her and trying to pick her up. We've practiced it so many times that now, without any prompting from me, she'll whirl around, furrow her brows and say, "I need some space, please!"
Giovanna has become very helpful with Orion, and likes to put his binkie back in his mouth when it falls out, fetch me a burp cloth, the wipees and a new nappie, and throw his dirty nappies in the trash. She is also becoming more independent and helpful around the house. The other night I was straightening up the living room in preparation for a dessert night with friends, and Gigi walked in and said, "I want to help clean up. How can I help organize?" This morning she asked the same question, and answered it herself by starting to put away her design blocks. This is especially helpful because lately there has been a lot of mess, as she has rediscovered the tupperware cupboard and is starting to push a chair over to the sink to get herself something to drink when she is thirsty. This whole independence thing is such a two-edged sword - I love that she can use the potty, get herself a drink, pull on her clothes by herself, etc. but it also means that her silence in the next room could be part of some well-intended mischief. And of course with independence comes power struggle, which is something we are unfortunately very good at. (I love this age. I love this age. I love this age. I love this age).
And to wrap it up, some quotables:
Gigi spins around the kitchen floor, and falls down, hitting her head on the floor.
G: We need pointe shoes! And we need a helmet!
G: Woohoo skadoo!
M: Where did you learn that?
G: Wrinkles nose. In high school.
Gigi is eating a banana for lunch.
G: When I take a bite of this banana, there is this thing sticking up in the middle. What is it, mommy?
M: Uhh... (trying quickly to come up with an answer that won't deter her from finishing it).
G: Is it potassium?
M: Yep, it's potassium! She happily finishes the banana. Whew!
Each holiday is more and more fun with Giovanna. Especially since we have started her coop preschool, life has been festive because we can always count on a holiday celebration with her preschool buddies.
This week I made oodles of banana cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting for her preschool party and a few other events...
Gigi drew Valentines art for her friends and I took down her dictation for love messages, and dressed up her pictures a bit with recycled calendar pages from last year...
And Gigi had a great time at her coop preschool Valentines party. They learned about the letter S and played games, made Valentines hats, ate treats and exchanged Valentines. Coop preschool has been a great stepping stone for me, because everything is so small scale - holidays are not overwhelming when you only have six littles to make cupcakes and Valentines for!
On Valentines morning Tutu came over and made a big waffle breakfast for us to eat as a family. We made eggs and sausage, and had juice and homemade berry sauce and whipped cream to kick off our special day.
After breakfast, we opened a few gifts - cards, chocolates and flowers, of course! The highlight was Gigi's new play-doh and tools set, which has already seen lots of love. It was the gift we had pulled from under the tree at Christmas time, and I'm glad we waited - it is a great toy and really deserves its own holiday.
She is a very thankful girl.
On Valentines Evening Marcos and I did something that we haven't done in, oh, a few years. We went on a DATE at a nice local restaurant called Squids. We do a lot together as a family and frankly, I enjoy having Gigi along because she is such a love magnet, but it was amazing being able to talk about upcoming plans, how we wanted our life to work out, and process situations we are facing, without her constant interruptions. It was so dreamy, and we are indebted to the world's funnest grandmas who kept Gigi busy and happy at home while we were gone.
I am thankful that holidays and seasons mark the passage of time, and endow each year with the ebb and flow of joy and anticipation.
During both of my pregnancies, my thoughts about the future have always included a plan for carving out time for myself. I just think it's that important. When I was pregnant with Giovanna, I checked out the local La Leche League meetings, joined a Chapel Hill meet up, and started going to park days with my friends to get a feel for what socialization feels like within the scope of kiddo friendly time. I ended up working half time throughout Gigi's first few years which provided a comfortable balance between being present for Gigi at home, and growing myself as a professional.
This time around, I made the decision not to work after Orion was born, and so I was challenged to think of something that would be a meaningful use of time, and help me maintain ties to the world outside of my home. And so I pulled a bit of a crazy. I signed up to be a volunteer coach for the Girls On The Run program at our local elementary school, and I am coming up on my 3rd week of coaching. I am sooo thankful for our two moms who have made it possible for me to do this in the afternoons!
Girls On The Run is a 12-week after school program for 8-12 year old girls, and although we work towards preparing the girls to run a 5K at the end of the 12 weeks, there is a very important educational component to the program. We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, and along with warm ups and work outs, the other coaches and I teach one topic each day that is focused on empowering the girls to live intentional, positive and happy lives. For example, one of last week's topics was positive vs. negative self-talk, and in the future we will be covering topics such as media messages, living with gratitude, bullying, expressing emotions in a healthy way, body image, etc. As a volunteer coach, I have been impressed with how well-greased this machine is - each of us coaches bring something unique to the group, but the curriculum is well established and extremely easy to follow. So far, I have been nothing but happy with the great group of girls we work with, and the challenge of engaging them in conversations that may give them the power to live intentionally through the challenging years they will face in Middle School.
And although I hope the girls benefit from this program, I am certain that I am the one getting the most out of this volunteer opportunity. Even on days when I am exhausted, the act of tucking Gigi in for her nap, tanking up the baby and putting him down, and then taking off to coach and mentor these girls feels like I am moonlighting as a superhero.
The other day I met a perfect stranger and she needed a loud obnoxious activity table, which I just happened to have in storage, and I needed a bumbo seat, which she just happened to have in storage, so we met up a few hours later and exchanged kiddo paraphernalia.
I think he likes it! Orion just made 3 months, and he is so strong and eager to be a big boy.
I'm a bit behind on the blog posts, but there are a few things I wanted to touch on before marching forward with life.
So, back to Christmas Day. For all that I had built up in my mind about how Christmas morning would be, it ended up being really anticlimactic. When I went to get Gigi from her bed I told her, "It's Christmas morning! Do you know what that means?!!!" and she responded very enthusiastically about how we were going to see our friends that day. Nothing about presents, whatsoever. And that was a pretty good glimpse into how the morning would run.
As soon as Gigi opened one or two presents, Marcos and I strategically pulled some of the presents we had given her out from under the tree, to hide back up in our closet for Valentine's Day. Her attention was just so all over the place, that forcing her to get through opening all of them was more effort than it was worth. She was very appreciative, but she is still at the age where gifts are not the most magical part of the Christmas season. All she needed was one new toy and then she was off skipping away with her treasure. Present opening continued that afternoon, and a few days later, and I think we finally got to our stockings by New Years Eve. I know that sometime in the future her life will be all about the presents, and that I should be grateful that spending time with her friends is more interesting to her.
I know that I'm biased because he is my son, but Orion is just so beautiful. We want to nibble him all day long.
My mom drove over from her place in the morning, and after the first round of present opening, we had a big brunch that we had prepared the night before so that our morning would be low key - breakfast casserole, sweet breads and fruit. Gigi received the one thing she had asked for - gummi bears to share with her preschool friends - and she had to sample them to make sure they were tasty. Not wanting to suppress any generous thought, I gave Santa permission to buy her the gummi bears. Over the next week or two she was very diligent to share them with any friends she played with.
After our brunch we went to visit the Vanderwalkers for post-brunch and sleepy Christmas afternoon talk time, and then had a ham and scalloped potatoes dinner with our friends the Hills in Raleigh. You know, Gigi has it right - people really are the most important thing about the holidays!