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March 2015

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March certainly came in like a lion.  In the first week, we had three days where the school closed because of snow.  After the kids destroyed the house on the first day, I was quick to fill the subsequent snow days with play dates.  This was an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends Layla & Dylan, Marie & Elise, Benjamin & Oliver and Nate & Cal.

For the rest of the month…

– Calina attended Steven’s 4th birthday party at gymnastics studio and Gus joined Vivian at Screamin’ Parties for her 5th birthday.

– We built new shelving in the play room to help keep the (ridiculous amount of) toys more organized, and to keep toys that aren’t safe for Rebecca out of her reach.

– I was a guest reader in Gus’ class and selected Creepy Carrots and Dr. Suess’ Hop On Pop to read to the class.  I was surprised and delighted when Gus sat down next to me in the classroom, picked up Hop On Pop and HE read it to the class!

– To help pass the long winter days, we had an after school/lunch play date with Alice & Alana one day,and Brendan another day, and enjoyed pizza lunch and jumping at Pump It Up with Michael and Nate.

– Gus & Calina’s school hosted a family fun night, that was exactly that – fun!  Local author, Laura Sassi, read us her sweet book ‘Goodnight Ark’ and then husband and wife music duo, Presley & Melody, kept the kids hopping with their interactive music show.  We followed up all this fun with pizza dinner at our favourite restaurant.

– Since it only happens once ever hundred years, friends Colette & Tom, took advantage of Pi day (March 14, 2015 = 3.1415 = pi) and St. Patrick’s day and threw an amazing “Pi-rish” party.  The whole family attended and enjoyed a delicious spread of shepherd’s pi, chicken pot pi, pizza pi and an assortment of homemade pi for dessert.  The adults were able to enjoy relaxed conversation because The Jam Cats entertained the children with fun music, instruments and dancing.

– The highlight of the month was our visitors.  Gram Berny, Aunt Tina, Aunt Carla, Abby, Isla & Sam spent five full days with us, and we had so much fun.  Together we enjoyed outings to Trailside play ground and science center, Imagine That!!! children’s museum and The Rainforest Café.  There was also lots of time at home playing in the back yard, playing with toys and sharing meals together.  St. Patrick’s day fell during their stay, so sharing the excitement of Lucky the Leprechaun’s visit was even more fun with two extra children around.  The kids found gold coins in their shoes, green milk and juice at breakfast and a snack of green Rice Krispy shamrock treats.  Having six extra people in our house makes is a busy place, but we really enjoy their annual visit, and we miss all the noise, excitement and their company when we have to say goodbye.

– The Papermill Playhouse was the destination of Gus & Calina’s school trip this year.  They saw the popular story, “The Rainbow Fish” brought to life on stage by four actors, and I was happy to attend with Calina and see the show too.  Although Gus & Calina enjoyed the show, I think riding on the school bus was really the highlight of the day.

– Twice a year Gus & Calina’s school hosts a chapel service.  The Spring/Easter service was adorable!  Calina’s class sang “Spring is Near” and Gus’ class sang a fun (new to me) version of “This Little Light of Mine”, at the end, after Pastor Carol told the Easter story, all classes joined together and sang “Easter Time” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”.

– We celebrated Gus’ 5 1/2 birthday, complete with pulled pork sandwiches and decorated chocolate dipped pretzels for dessert.

– The 5th Annual Colin Maher Easter Egg Hunt, was our community egg hunt of choice this year.  This fundraising event helps raise awareness and money for the fight against Ewing sarcoma cancer.  Gus & Calina, along with a mob of children, had fun time collecting plastic eggs that were filled with candy.  Afterwards Calina had her face painted, while Gus purchased ticket for his first ever raffle.  Gus thoughtfully viewed each of the gift baskets, and decided that all five of his tickets should go into the draw for a candy basket.  I explained to Gus that he might not win the basket, and it would go home with someone else.  He seemed okay with that, but I was still very nervous about the probable disappointment.  Much to his delight, we WON!!  He was so excited, but surprisingly saved his basket for a whole week and shared it with family on Easter weekend.

– Gus is quick with elaborate stories, fibs and outright lies lately.

– Gus is thrilled to be the proud owner of two loose teeth!  His bottom two middle are both, very slightly loose.  I think it will be quite a while before the actually fall out, but they wiggle enough to keep him happy.

Rebecca 14 months

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In many ways I’m still a baby – I nap twice a day and I only crawl, have two teeth and a few words – but in my thoughts I’m very much a big kid.  I wanted to do everything Gus & Calina did, especially play Lego.  I knew the Lego table was suppose to off-limits for me, but I loved to sneak to the table and touch all those little pieces.  After watching my siblings closely, I realized that a loud voice and crying was one way to show my displeasure when I didn’t get my way, and I used this tactic with some frequency and at times, some success.  Everyone else in the family bushes their teeth at the sink in the bathroom, but I’m usually left on the floor to complete this task.  Of my own volition, I climbed onto the toilet seat, onto the back of the toilet and onto the counter in two of the bathrooms, which allowed me to obtain a toothbrush and scrub my teeth like a big person.  I also took to standing up on my own, and continually tried to put on shirts over my head.  Another thing that I did with purpose was pull Calina’s hair.  It just always ended up in my tight fist whenever she was near.  Were you aware that all animals make the same sound?  Every time I saw an animal in a book or in real life, I was sure to make a distinctive, low growling sound – I knew what I was talking about!  As you can see, I’m well on my way to being a big kid!  The best part of this past month was having Gram, Aunt Tina, Aunt Carla, Abby, Isla and Sam visit us for five full days!  I really enjoyed this special time with family, and the fun outings that we went on.  The Imagine That!!! Children’s museum is a really cool place, where I was able to explore many of the exhibits and see so many new things.  Surrounded by jungle décor, animatronic animals and fish, The Rain Forest Café sure captured my attention and kept me entertained during lunch.  Otherwise, this month I enjoyed attending the New Jersey Symphony’s No-Shush Matinée, Family Fun Night at Gus & Calina’s school and a “Pi-rish” party hosted by friends.  I was happy to dress in green for St. Patrick’s day and have my friend Cal over for a play date.     …Becca

February 2015

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– We started the month off by joining fans and non-fans at the Therien’s for their annual Super Bowl Party.  In the days leading up to this event, Gus came home from school knowing that the New England Patriots were playing against the Seattle Seahawks, and that he would be cheering for the Seahawks.  James and I are not football fans, so we were happy to at least know who was playing, but we were surprised at how passionately this topic was discussed at school.  Gus and Calina made little Seahawk flags to wave at the party and Gus was sure to dress in green and blue for the event.  As always, we had a great time at the party.  I don’t think James and I even looked at a TV screen the entire evening, but thoroughly enjoyed catching up with other non-game-watching friends, while we enjoyed the extensive variety of food.

– A week before Valentine’s Day, the kids and I attended the Newcomers Valentine’s party held at the community center.  They had lots of fun playing with the other children, making crafts and free-choicing on the kid friendly assortment of foods on the buffet table.

– As one of the three hostesses for our Newcomers club, I was involved with planning the February dinner meeting.  We selected a local Italian Bistro that offered a pre-selected menu served family style.  The night was a success, with 27 ladies in attendance and everyone seemed to enjoy their meal.

– Gus & Calina celebrated Valentine’s Day at school with festive parties in their classes.

– Although February is a short month, it always feels so long, and this year was no exception.  With three days off school as snow days, two planned school closure days, and a few sick days for Gus,  it felt liked we were spending too much time stuck at home.  To break out of the rut, we spent an afternoon at Trailside Nature Center, a morning at Kidz Village and a morning at Pump It Up.  These fun activities seemed to give everyone a little lift.  We also had several play dates with friends!

– We made the most of all the snow that fell this month by getting outside regularly to slide in the back yard.  The small mound that resulted from the driveway being plowed was just enough of a hill to keep the kids entertained.  Also, with enough cold weather, the creek froze solid which made for a fun play space for Gus & Calina.

– For book club this month we read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.  It was a fun read, and gave us lots to discuss.

– We had a lovely lunch/afternoon play date when friends Willem, Luuk and Aanya brought their Mommy Annu, and Amichai (grandmother) to visit.  It had been a few years since I had last seen Amichai, and I was delighted to see her again.

– Calina turned 3 1/2 years old, which meant a small celebration was required.  Gus thoughtfully picked out a red velvet cake that we all enjoyed for dessert, but only after Calina blew out her 3.5 candles.

– Each year Gus & Calina’s school hosts a family art night.  This year the children decorated small canvases with bleeding tissue paper, which resulted in very pretty finished products.  Afterwards we all enjoyed dinner at our favourite pizza restaurant.

– Our church hosted their first family movie night.  Gus and Calina excitedly dressed in their pajamas and departed with their bean-bag chairs and homemade popcorn for sharing.  They joined the others at the church Fellowship Hall to watch Monster’s University.  They arrived home sleepy and excited about such a fun evening.

– To close out the month, the kids and I met up with the Friedman’s to attend the NJ Symphony No-Shush Matinée.  Although the show was presented to capture the attention of children, we are still a long way from sitting quietly to listen to the symphony.  I’m still happy the kids had the chance to see and hear a symphony play.

– Multiple conversations happening simultaneously is a common occurrence around our dinner table.  So everyone has a chance to talk and actually be heard, we instituted a ‘talking-disc’.  A plastic plate or bowl, handed from person to person surprisingly helps to keep some calm at the table.  Calina is quick to remind someone if they are talking out of turn.

– Gus loves playing Angry Birds on the iPad.  To make this an activity everyone could be involved in and play together, we brought Angry Birds to life.  James constructed a catapult, and we all built structures on which we  strategically placed Little People figurines.  Each of us had a turn to launch our ‘birds’ and try to knock down the structures, and using varying amount of resistance (more or less elastics) the kids were able to aim closer or further away.

Rebecca 13 months

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I was a happy baby this month, but was most happy when I was precariously perched on top of a table or chair playing, the closer to the edge the better. I was still a voracious climber, and realized that I could push stools around to help me climb onto other things, or simply to access objects out of my reach. This past month, I did some toddling around behind push toys, and on a few occasions, ever so briefly, walked while holding onto someones hands. Books became my latest passion. Before going to bed for naps and the night, I requested as many books as Mommy would read to me. The top picks were ‘Old McDonald’s Farm’, ‘Busy Kitties’ and anything that had pictures of real animals. I was sure to give my index finger a workout each day as I insistently pointed out lights, fans, windows and whatever else seemed fascinating, accompanied with little grunts. My words were few (mama/dada) and non-specific, but I communicated very clearly with squeals. There was my high-pitched happy squeal for delight, my rapid panicked squeal for the moments I was in trouble, and my low-growly angry squeal to show my displeasure. Milk – It does a body good – but I had no interest in drinking the variety that comes from cows. As soon as it touched my lips, warm or cold, I made animated displays of spitting it out. It’s a good thing that I still nursed five times a day. The toys that regularly caught my interest were Calina’s crowns. Maybe it was because they are pretty and sparkly or maybe it was to help manage my hair that has gotten quite long and unruly. Much time was spent outside enjoying the snow – sledding at the hill in Unami park and down the snow pile in our backyard. To help pass the long winter days, Mom has been trying to get us out of the house. We spent an afternoon at Trailside Nature Center, and mornings at Kidzvillage and Pump-it-up. Although these adventures were great, I think my best outting was a play date with my friend Austin. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and we were like two peas in a pod babbling, pointing and crawling around together.


Calina 3 1/2 years!

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– Recently, I’m very generous with cuddles (even with people I only know casually), kisses and “I love yous”.

– One night at dinner, while playing a game of ‘what’s the opposite’, I did quite well.  I was even able to get some of the tricky ones that Daddy was trying to stump me with.

– A recent fall, which resulted in scraped knees, developed into a week of complaining, and self prescribed bandage applications.

– I loved going sledding at Unami Park just after a recent snowfall.  I was nervous, but after a few runs with Mommy or Monte, I was brave enough to go on my own.

– Although I really enjoying being at school, in the morning, I love to kick up a stink about going to school (“I don’t want to go to school!  I want to stay home with you!”) and then it continues at drop off with a series of dramatic displays until my teacher, Ms. Karen, scoops me onto her lap and we settle into an activity.  It’s not separation anxiety, it’s mostly that I get some extra attention with this ritual.  Also, I know that on the mornings I don’t go to school, I get one-on-one time with Mommy while Becca is sleeping and Gus is at school.  It’s just part of being a middle child.  I do what I can to get attention.

– So, Rebecca has been around for a year now, and I’m REALLY aware that she isn’t going anywhere, and I’ve casually started to voice my opinion about this.  For example, while sitting at the table one night with Mommy, finishing up dinner, I said “I wish we had no baby. Wouldn’t it be nice if our family was only two adults and two kids?”

– When I grow up, I wan to be a mailman.

– “I love Daddy the best, except when I get bumped, then I love Mommy the best.”

– When Mommy told me that I had turned three and a half, I replied, with my head cocked slightly to the side, and a perplexed look on my face, “But I don’t feel 3 /12″.  Since this news sank in, I’ve been very excited about my new age, and about how fast I can run and how high I can jump now.

– Since our family always loves a good excuse to eat cake, we celebrated my half birthday with a red velvet cake that Gus lovingly picked out and surprised me with.

… Calina

Valentine’s Day

James and I were never ones to celebrate Valentine’s day and considered it nothing more than a Hallmark holiday.  We didn’t need one special day to show our love – or buy over priced chocolates and flowers.  But now that we have children, it’s fun to celebrate all the holidays, no matter what we use to think.  And since our days often pass with regular routine and not much focus – we read, we craft, we play, we build with Lego – these holidays help to add some focus.  This week was about Valentine and hearts.

We started our Valentine celebrations last weekend when we attended the Newcomers children’s Valentine’s party.  The kids had a great time consuming ridiculous amounts of junk food, dancing and crafting.  Throughout the week we worked on simple homemade Valentine’s to share with their classmates, read Valentine stories, made Valentine’s for the birds and various heart shaped treats for ourselves.  Wednesday was Calina’s class party and Thursday was Gus’.  They each arrived home with bags brimming with Valentine’s and assorted treats, as well as sweet Valentine’s they had made for James and I.  Today was a low-key day at home, but each meal included hearts – heart shaped pancakes for breakfast (yesterday too), heart shaped pizza for lunch and heart shaped cheese ravioli for dinner.

Here’s how our Valentine’s week ‘shaped’ up…

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January 2015

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After our two week Christmas vacation, January was a quiet month as we returned to our regular routine.  Falling back into routine was pretty tough and arriving late to school every day for the first week back was our indicator that we needed to pull our socks up.

– Gus helped his friend Colin celebrate his 6th birthday with a morning of bowling.  This party allowed Gus to reconnect with a few friends that he attended school with last year.  A few weeks later, Gus helped Michael celebrate his 5th birthday by jumping the morning away at Screamin’ Parties.

– Mid-month we started teaching Gus to read.  We picked up the level one set of “Now I’m Reading” from the library, and excitedly got started.  These books focused on short-vowel sounds with simple word and sentences.  Gus worked diligently through at least one book a day, sounding out words, practicing letter sounds and READING!  I was thrilled as he put sounds together and figured out words, and I could see how excited and proud he was of himself.  After finishing that set, we started on the “Bob Books Sight Words Collection”.

– Over the holidays, Gus was hooked on the How To Train Your Dragon game “Rise of Berk”.  Gus was eager to build and improve his Viking village, which made James realize that Gus might enjoy playing SimCity.  Well, he doesn’t just enjoy it, he’s totally addicted to it.  He navigates through the game quite well, playing mayor to the various cities he builds.  It’s fun to listen to him as he learns about city requirements and planning.  There is much talk about taxes, residential density, sewage treatment plants, water supply, electricity sources, health and safety etc.

– By mid January, both Gus and Calina were registered for school in the fall.  Calina will attend pre-K4 five mornings a week and Gus will attend 1/2 day kindergarten 5 days a week.  This will allow some one-on-one time with Rebecca (when she won’t be napping) so I’ll be looking for some classes for her and I to take then too – swimming? music?

– The 19th was a holiday for Martin Luther King Junior Day.  Our community hosted ‘a day of service’ where people of all ages could get involved to help/reach out to others.  Various work stations were set up around the church hall, and we let the kids choose which activities they wanted to do.  We packed lunches for school students that would be distributed by the food bank.  As well, Gus & Calina made book marks for veterans, created Valentine Day cards for patients at the sick children’s hospital, coloured pictures for soldiers and decorated place mats for Meals On Wheels recipients.  It was a lot of fun, and gave us the opportunity to talk to G&C about community service, and helping people, no matter who they are.

– We celebrated Rebecca’s 1st Birthday!  The past year has flown by so quickly, but every day has been brighter because of her infections, continuous smile, happiness and silly faces.

– I enjoyed Holly’s holiday brunch in December so much that I wanted to do something similar.  So, I hosted Katie, Layla & Dyaln and Holly & Sean for a New Year kick off brunch/play date.  The kids played really nicely, which allowed us Mom’s to catch up on each other’s holidays, while we stuffed ourselves with baked French toast, coconut chocolate chip muffins, egg and veggie bites and fruit.  Hanging out with these two ladies and their children always makes me so happy!

– The last week of January’s forecast called for a huge blizzard to hit – Blizzard Juno – which would dump up to two feet of snow.  I was excited, since it’s been a while since we’ve had a good winter storm.  Before the snow even started to fall, school was already cancelled for the next day, state offices were closed, driving bands were in effect.  We awoke the morning of the 27th to a HUGE disappointment.  Yes, we had received snow over night, but maybe an inch or two.  Juno was a no show for us.  We took full advantage of the fresh snow and met the Nesheiwat and Friedman families for a little sledding.  We had a fabulous time!  The hill we went to wasn’t huge, but perfect for young children, and I even felt comfortable taking Rebecca on the slid with me.  Nobody complained about the cool weather and everyone happily shared and traded sleds for the hour and a half we were at the park.

– We returned home from sledding to start preparations for Daddy James’ birthday party.  Here’s how James summed up his birthday…”Erin threw together a decent lasagna, meaning no squash or flax or sweet potato or eggplant this time, at my special request. We had upside-down apple cake, and the kids were excited to decorate the house with hand-drawn snowflakes, whack a dragon piñata, squish little dragons into the cake, help blow out my one candle, and open their gifts for me. It was strangely similar to Rebecca’s birthday the week before, right down to the Happy Birthday banner, and much more festive than same time last year, though my gift last year was as of yet unsurpassed.”

– I hosted 15 ladies for our Newcomers Club monthly board meeting on a Wednesday evening.

– We closed out the month with a lunch play date at Annu & Diederik’s house.  Our little friends Willem and Luuk were so excited to introduce us to their sweet 8 week old sister, Aanya.  During our visit, Willem and Gus were playing, not paying close enough attention, Gus turned around and was hit in the nose with a toy that Willem had in his hand.  This accident resulted in Gus having a mild bloody nose, and the two boys continued to play as they always do – giddily and rambunctiously.  Once home, Gus recounted the story to James.  When James asked Gus what he learned from that situations, Gus’ reply was “Don’t turn your back on Willem”.

Conversation with Gus on the drive to school one morning:

Gus – “Mom, when are you going to grow another baby?”

Mom – “Oh, Gus, I don’t think we will.  We’re all done having babies.”

Gus – “But there is one more seat in the van for another baby.  And since it takes a long time to grow a baby, Becca would be a big kid by then.”

Hmmm, it’s hard to argue with good reason.

Rebecca’s 1st Birthday

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Wow! That was fast! One year old already. Gus and Calina were so excited about my special day, more so than I was. Gus arrived in my bedroom first thing in the morning with his gift for me, already unwrapped! It was a very cool blue dinosaur. Just after lunch, Calina sat beside me and opened the thoughtful gift she had for me – a board book all about reptiles! With such helpful siblings, I may never have to open my own gifts. To mark this momentous occasion I invited my friend Anne over for a morning play date. We had a lovely time playing toys and snacking on banana muffins. That evening, for my family celebration, we dined on chicken pot pie with biscuit topping and homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing. While Mom and Dad were trying to get a quintessential photo of their birthday girl with her cake, the corner of my face collided with the Mom’s masterpiece. It was traumatic, and huge tears fell from my eyes. Afterwards, I was sitting in my high chair, when the cake was placed in front of me again, I started to bawl! I wanted nothing to do with this must-have-birthday dessert. I wailed while everyone merrily sang happy birthday! It was my party after all. Once the cake was cut, and I was nestled onto Mom’s lap I was finally able to recover from this cake debacle, and enjoy the delicious sweet treat.  It turned out to be a lovely day.  I also received many thoughtful gifts, cards, phone calls and Facebook messages. I don’t think anyone forgot my birthday! I sure did feel special. Thanks so all my family and friends that made my first year so very wonderful.

Love, Becca

Rebecca 12 months

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And just like that, I’m one year old! During the last 365 days I: ensured Mom didn’t have more than 5 consecutive hours of sleep and gained 10 pounds, 5 ounces and grew 9 1/4 inches to finish off the year weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces and measuring 28 3/4 inches tall. In the past month I: sprouted my first tooth, fell in love with clementines and tried peanut butter. To accompany my ample babble I started using a few signs regularly. Pointing to the lights to indicate their location, and signing spin when looking at the fan where the latest additions. I also realized that shaking my head “no” was pretty fun. I was sure to clearly speak my mind with an assertive squeal if Gus tried to move me around. I was very capable and more than happy to move myself around. And move I did, as I learned to climb up and slip down the little slide, discovered how to climb onto the couches, realized I could hoisted myself onto low beds and tables. I was delighted by every opportunity to play along with Gus & Calina, but was quite content to play and explore on my own. Another time when I enjoyed engaging with others, was when I was eating. I was eager to share my food, and insisted on doing so until the food was consumed by someone else. In the year ahead I will: continue to brighten the world with my beautiful smile and practice my many funny faces.
The notable events this month, besides Christmas vacation, were a chilly day at the playground where I excitedly crawled through tunnels, and participating in our community’s day of service for Martin Luther King day.


Calina 3 years 5 months

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Half of the month was spent in Canada, celebrating the holidays with family.  At times, it takes Calina a while to warm up to people, even people she knows well, but over the holidays, she was very social and generous with hugs and conversation with everyone.

Being three, and having an older brother, made the magic of Christmas very real for Calina this year.  She was very aware of all that was going on and was very much caught up in the excitement.  She was excited about gifts, but not greedy.

Calina is becoming much more adventurous with food, which is wonderful!  But sometimes her choices are quite strange, like a hard boiled egg, peanut butter, and ketchup pocket.

Rebecca sprouted her first tooth just after Christmas, and Calina has been so excited to share this news, with everyone!

Making crafts is one of Calina’s favourite activities.  Without an adequate supply of toilet paper rolls in her over-flowing craft box, she thoughtfully unrolled a full roll of toilet paper just to get the supply she needed.

Jumping on over-sized inflatables is really fun.  Classmate Richie’s 4th birthday party was at Screamin’ Parties, and the whole class had a great time celebrating with him.

“Tootsies” = feet

After passing gas: “Oh!  Ducks!  Nobody invited the ducks.”


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