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July 2015

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    Unfortunately Canad Day went under celebrate this year.  We spent the morning at the pool, but I spent the afternoon on the couch with the flu.

  • We started the 4th of July off with a bang!  James and Gus ran the 1-mile (1.609 km) fun run, and I ran the firecracker 4-miler (6.437 km).  After a relaxed afternoon on the back deck, we joined our neighbours for their annual party, complete with dinner and a wonderful view of our town’s fireworks.
  • Gus and Calina finished up their second week of swim lessons.  Wow!  What a difference being in the pool every day made for these little fish.  By the end of the month, Gus was swimming, jumping off the diving board and going down the water slides, all on his own!
  • James organized pick-up soccer games for the month, and had fun with Gus & Calina and the other players that joined in.
  • Gus attended a week long, morning camp at Trailside Nature Center.  His program was all about dinosaurs and the seasons.  He had a great week, and is looking forward to going again next summer.
  • Calina attended a week long, one hour/day sports camp, where she played soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and t-ball.
  • We enjoyed many lunches and dinners outside at the picnic table.  Even though it’s extra work to get everything out there, I love eating outside in the summer!
  • We have a pool on our back deck, and significant amounts of time were spent swimming there.  James purchased a larger, round pool early this month when our smaller, rectangular one couldn’t be patched up any more.
  •  Gus, Calina and I have had lots of fun doing various science experiments and other activities this month.  Erupting volcanoes, pollinating flowers, making lemonade, creating a rainbow in a jar, making tie-dye shirts, blowing up balloons with a chemical reaction, mixing up glow in the dark jello, growing crystals, sewing dolls and building structures out of spaghetti and marshmallows.
  • This all tied in nicely with Gus’ recent desire to be a scientist.  Reading about Peter Park in Spiderman sparked his interest.
  • We spent two nights camping with friends at Bass River State Forest.  Check out Becca’s blog for more details.  A few days afterwards we discovered a tiny tick in Gus’ hair.  Based on how it looked, it had been feeding for 3-5 days.  Ewwww!  We removed the tick and sent it away for testing.  Thankfully the results came back negative for lyme disease.
  • We had heard good things about the Bergan County Zoo, so we had to see it for ourselves.  The kids and I made the hour long drive, and had a great time at this little, but impressive zoo.  The train and carousel rides as well as the amazing playground, certainly helped make our day extra fun.
  • The whole family enjoyed an afternoon at Dinosaur Field Station.  We got up close to life size animatronic dinosaurs.  Calina and Rebecca were a little nervous at first, but warmed up to these huge creatures quite quickly.  We watched a presentation where we met a ‘real’ T-Rex, dug for dinosaur bones, clicked together LaQ tiles and made origami dinosaurs.  It was a really fun afternoon.
  • Two years ago, for Gus’ 4th birthday, Silly Billy the Lizard Guy came to our house to show us his very cool reptiles.  We were thrilled to see him again this month at Thomas & Elena’s birthday party.
  • We kept ourselves entertained for an hour or so one afternoon with a game of blowing.  With the bumpers up, and a green dinosaur ball ramp, all three kids had fun rolling balls and knocking down pins.
  • At book club this month we discussed A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar.
  • James had a conference in Princeton for the last week of the month.  We dropped him off at the train on Monday morning and drove down to pick him up on Friday afternoon.  Since the VanBodegom Family lives in Princeton, we spent the afternoon and evening with them.  We swam for hours and enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean dinner prepared by Annu.  We left far too late because it was hard to say good-bye.
  • All month long we enjoyed some treats from our small garden.  The green beans and yellow cherry tomatoes were the most plentiful, and the few peas we got were delicious.  As the month drew to a close, my front flower beds looked terrible from neglect.  They were overgrown with weeds and suffering from a lack of water.  The only thing impressive iwas the climbing morning glory, which we started from seed on Earth Day in April.

…Erin

Rebecca 18 months

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Mommy & Daddy kept mentioning that they wanted to bottle up my cuteness. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m running out! Some of my recent cute things were, when I blew on food that was hot, or when I spat while brushing my teeth. There was also my frequent requests to go on the “weeee” (swing) and “sigh”(slide). Maybe it was my fascination with nighttime that they wanted to remember. I loved going “ow-tie” (outside) into the “daw” (dark) to see the “moon” and “tar” (stars), so much that I would wake around midnight and ask to see all these things. Perhaps it was my keen ear and eye for planes in the sky. I was quick to locate them and point them out to everyone. Hmmm! I’m not quite sure. Could it have been the siren sound I made? “We-ewe-we-ewe-we-ewe”
At my recent doctor appointment I weighed in at 20 pounds 5 ounces and measured 32 inches tall. Speaking of growing, I sprouted six new teeth in the past month. Needless to say I had some tough times. And that is likely why “new-nos” (noodles) are my favourite food – soft and easy to chew with swollen, sore gums. Speaking of sore, Mommy loved to put my hair into adoarable pigtails, but everytime I saw her coming with the comb, I said “ouch”, shook my head ‘no’ and ran away. She was really quite gentle, but I saw Calina do this all the time, so I did it too. I took an interest in the potty. I enjoyed sitting on it, fully clothed, and stuffing toilet paper between my legs into the bowl. I started saying my name – “Beba”, and I also constructed two, two-word phrases, that I used regularly: “I know” and “hi puppy”. I also used a very definite head nod along with a casual “yeah” to show my agreement or approval. My favourite book was “La La La” (Moo, Baa, La La La) by Sandra Boynton.
I spent a lot of time at the community pool this month and quite enjoyed the water, as long as I could touch bottom. I was even comfortable enough to blow bubbles once in a while. Otherwise, I passed the month with a trip to Insectropolis where I saw a tarantula, giant millipede, hissihg cockroach and a scorpian up close. The animals and performers at the Zerbini Family CIrcus captured my attention so much that I very contently sat through the show. We checked out the Bergan County Zoo, where I loved seeing the animals, and enjoyed riding the train and carousel. But really, the highlight was two nights of camping at Bass River State Forest, where I was free to pick and eat blueberries all weekend long
…Becca

Calina 3 years 11 months

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– Since I didn’t enjoy having my hair brushed, and I awoke most mornings with, what we called, a rat’s nest at the back of my head, Mom gave me an ultimatum – either I let her comb my hair every morning and put it into pony tails or I get it cut off.  I happily agreed to a hair cut and now I have a cute bob for the summer.

– Sporting my new due, I attended my neighbour, Sienna’s, 7th birthday party.  The spa themed party was super cool.  I had my hair curled, make up done and nails painted.

– I stopped eating all fruit.  This isn’t so cool because I don’t eat many veggies either.  I have Mom totally stressed out.

– I had some “invisible friends” that I spoke with on occasion.  It was really cute when I talked to them because I turned to look at them, nodded my head, and then verbally acknowledged what they had said to me.

– By the end of last summer I was quite a little fish – swimming, putting my face in the water – but when I returned to the pool this summer, my skills were rusty and I was hesitant.  But two weeks of daily swim lessons, and a pair of new goggles, helped get my skills and fish status back.

– It had been a few years since my last trip to Toy R Us, and I didn’t understand what this store was all about, so when I entered the store I exclaimed “WOW! The toy aisle is the first aisle inside the door!”

– I could be labeled as a hypochondriac.  In the spring I endured a cough for several weeks, which went away and then came back again, but that was months ago.  Recently, I had an instant where I had a big cough, reminiscent of my cough in the spring.  For days, maybe even weeks, afterwards, I would warn people to stay away or not share my drink/food because they were “going to get my sickness!”

– Rebecca is now 18 months old, and I have finally fallen into my role as a wonderful big sister.  I loved to hold her hand and help her walk, gave her kisses and hugs, and at times, played nicely with her.

– Mom has been attempting to keep Gus and I entertained, stimulated and busy this summer.  We’ve done some fun science experiments, for which I was always eager to participate.  I think blowing up balloons with a chemical reaction has been my favourite thus far.

Notable quote: “I’m training on it”  – about not wearing pull-ups to bed.

Highlights of the month:

– A day at the Avon-by-sea beach playing in the sand and surf.

– Visiting Insectropolis where I touched a tarantula, a scorpion, a giant millipede and a hissing cockroach.

– Celebrating the 4th of July at our neighbours and staying up late to watch the fireworks.

– Camping at Bass River State Forest with friends, and canoeing down the Wading river.

– Visiting the Bergen County Zoo.

Camping – Bass River State Forest

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I can finally check ‘blueberry picking in the Pine Barrens’ off my list of things to do from my Good Night New Jersey book.  I spent two nights camping at Bass River State Forest along with the Nesheiwat and Friedman families – a total of six adults and six children – and boy did we have a great time!  We arrived Friday afternoon to find large, open sites surrounded by blueberry plants, which were loaded with berries, ripe for the picking.  I made it my mission to pick and eat as many as I could!  The sandy ground made the perfect place for us kids to dig and play, which we did a lot of.  When we weren’t digging, we could be found at the swing set across from our site.  The first night we had our usual meal of tin-foil dinners, and we followed it up with s’mores made in waffle cones and popcorn cooked on the fire.  Since the bugs weren’t too bad, we were happy to hunt for daddy long legs and play until dark with glow sticks.  While I was drifting off to sleep I could hear Monte telling scary stories, and then Layla, Dylan, Sean, Gus and Calina telling their own ghost stories in the kids play tent.  Excited about what day two would bring, I awoke at 5:30 and was unwilling to go back to sleep.  Mom and I passed the first few hours of the day walking around the camp ground and playing at the playground.  After our egg-wrap breakfast, Mommy & I saw Holly, George & Sean, Daddy, Gus & Calina off on their afternoon-long canoe trip down the Wading river, at which point, we decided to spend a few hours at the beach with Katie, Layla & Dylan.  Upon waking from a big nap, I was happy to hear all about the canoe trip down the shady, shallow, winding river, where they played on a rope swing and surfed in the current.  Returning to our site for chili dinner, the big kids where delighted to meet our new back-site neighbours who had children their age.  This gaggle of kids ran together and played hard all evening.  While camping made Calina generous with unprompted compliments and love, it made Gus exhausted and over-tired which resulted in a bedtime meltdown, and a serious case of the grumpies on Sunday morning.  Luckily I started my day at 5:30 again – so I was able to enjoy the quiet of the morning with a long drive.  After breakfast we packed up and said our good-byes.  All grumpiness aside, we had a lot of fun camping with friends in the Pine Barrens.

… Becca

June 2015

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Since we’re already into August, I think I’ve procrastinated long enough on this June blog.  June was a super busy month, and here’s how it went down… (Sorry!  I feel like I’m torturing you!)

1st – After picking Gus & Calina up at school, the kids and I make the trip to Princeton to visit with friends, Annu, Willem, Luuk and Aanya for the afternoon.  Sharing in their wonderful company make the hour long drive so worth while.

3rd – Gus & Calina’s final Spanish class was celebrated with a fiesta.  We’ll all miss seeing Ms. Claudia this summer.

4th – Gus’ final martial arts class of the session, which meant that he had his skills challenge.  He did very well and achieved the rank of ‘2nd degree white’.  To celebrate we all went out for Asian food at our favourite buffet.

5th – Donuts with Dad is the way father’s day is celebrated at school. Gus & Calina were delighted to take James to school with them for a few hours in the morning, where they played various activities together and snacked on an assortment of food.

6th – This gorgeous Saturday was the annual Newcomers Family Picnic.  A catered lunch was provided, and the Party Maniacs kept the children entertained with face painting, balloon swords and other various activities, so the adults were able to relax and chat with one another.

7th – I ran my first 5K!  My long legged friend Tammy kept me company every step of the way, and we finished in under 30 minutes! Several other friends also ran the race, so we gather afterwards for a post-race celebration, which included an impressive spread of food and cocktails.  It was here that Gus set up his equivalent of a lemonade stand (which he’s been desperate to do from some time).  Seated along the sidewalk, he showed off his dead mosquito specimen, and read from a book – for a small fee, or no fee at all to those without money.  An entrepreneur in the making.  Following lengthy afternoon naps, we joined much of our town for a community cookout hosted by the fire department.  When we arrived the lineup for food was very long, so we shared pizza with friends at a near-by restaurant and then returned to the festivities and took our turns throwing balls at the dunk tank.

9th – My final duties as hostess for the Newcomers Club were completed with our end-of-year dinner.  Approximately 50 ladies turned out for the delicious Mexican Fiesta, which was catered by a local restaurant.  Sangria and mojitos flowed freely all evening, which encouraged many to stay and enjoy the beautiful weather late into the night.

10th – Gus had been asking to ride his scooter to school for months.  I was much too nervous to let him, and said no and stalled for months.  So on the very last day of school, I got enough nerve up to let him ride.  We had a big discussion about what the rules were, and what the consequence would be if he got too far ahead of me, or wasn’t following the rules.  Well, he did a great job and was super safe.  And I, watching him happily scooter away, a short distance ahead of me, bawled my eyes out.  He has just gotten so big, and so independent, but at the same time, the world seemed like such a huge, crazy place for my baby boy.

11th – In the morning we attended Calina’s end of year chapel service, where her class sang “If I were a butterfly”, and that afternoon, we attended Gus’ pre-school graduation.  Again, I was in tears watching my little man receive his diploma.  Afterwards we joined the Crawford family and took our graduates out for dinner to celebrate.

12th – Since this was the first official day of summer, I had to start it off right, so of course we went strawberry picking.  It was late in the season, and the berries weren’t plentiful, but the kids were happy to pick, and what we did get were delicious.  Becca was thrilled by finding berries and ate whatever she picked.  We took a few minutes before we departed the farm to visit the resident pot bellied pigs and, while I was getting the girls buckled into the van, Gus had a blast running through the sprinklers that were set up to water plants.

13th – The library kicked off their summer reading program with a touch-a-truck day.  The kids had fun sitting in and looking at the fire truck, the Hummer, and  the vintage VW Bug.

14th – Gus attended his friend Maddie’s horse back riding birthday party.  The children each had the opportunity to ride a and groom a horse and ride in a horse-drawn wagon.  We also had our first dinner of the summer at the pool!  Always such a treat to enjoy the evening at the pool.

15th – James departed for a two week work trip to Prague, Czech Republic.

17th – A girls night out, while James was away, was a perfect opportunity to take a break from the otherwise 24/7 parenting job.  Five of us got together at the Red Cadillac for delicious margaritas and Mexican food.

Week of the 15th – we hit up a different playground for five days in row.  It was fun getting to some playground we do go to very often.

22nd – Taking three children to the beach on my own is likely my biggest success of the summer!  Avon-by-the-sea came highly recommended by many people as a great and easy beach to go to with children.  With our wagon loaded, we made our way to the beach and set ourselves up close to the water.  In a designated swimming area and with the watchful eyes of the lifeguards, Gus played happily in the waves and couldn’t get enough of the water.  Calina and Rebecca played mostly in the sand, but Calina got her feet wet a few times, but only while holding my hand.  We enjoyed lunch at the Pavilion and called it a day. Calina & Rebecca were asleep within minutes of our hour-long drive home.

25th – We met up with Holly & Sean to visit Insectropolis, a bug museum, in Toms River.  The kids had a wonderful time exploring the small museum and seeing the many displays of bugs, both living and not.  The highlight of the visit was certainly the touch demonstration where they were able to learn about and touch a hissing cockroach, a giant millipede, a scorpion and a tarantula.  Afterwards we had a picnic lunch at the Riverwood playground.

26th – Attending the Zerbini Family Circus has become a summer tradition, with this being 4th year.  As usual, the kids delighted in watching the animals, jugglers and acrobats, and I was impressed with how interested Rebecca was.  Afterwards, at home we discover that James had returned from Prague!  After 11 nights away, we were all super happy to have him home.

30th – Fujiyama is a Japanese restaurant with sushi and habachi grills.  We tried it for our first time after hearing from friends how fun it was.  We certainly weren’t disappointed!  We were all seated around a large rectangular grill, and the chef cooked our meal in front of us.  He was quite impressive wielding his utensil and having bursts of flames rise of form the grill.  Gus was most impressed and had decided that his birthday meal will be at this restaurant.

– With a very full tummy, I went to book club to discuss “The Omnivores Dilemma”.

May 2015

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May always feels like the unofficial start to summer.  This month was jammed packed with activity and fun.

– We started the month off with a surprise road trip!  After soccer on Saturday morning, we loaded the kids into the van and told them we were going to find a new restaurant for lunch.  An hour and a half later, we were in Reading PA eating lunch at a very scummy Chinese restaurant.  During lunch we revealed that we were actually going to see the Wild Kratts Live!  Gus and Calina are big fans of Chris & Martin’s television show and were thrilled with the surprise.  The show that afternoon was great and we all enjoyed seeing the creature powers come to life on the stage.  That night we stayed in a hotel, swam in the pool and had dinner out.  The next morning after another swim, we visited a near-by park before we headed home.

– We arrived home Sunday afternoon and celebrated my 36th birthday with a barbeque dinner and chocolate cake.

– Monday mid-afternoon, the kids and I were packed and about to leave for the Turtle Back Zoo, when surprisingly, James joined us!  He played hookie for the afternoon, and we all had fun seeing the animals, which we hadn’t seen since December.

– I joined both Gus & Calina at school for Mother’s Day teas.  These are sweet celebrations where we share snacks and drinks, and I was presented with special crafts.  Each class also had special Mother’s Day songs.

– On Mother’s day I planted flowers in the front flower beds, and we built an enclosure for our garden.  What started out simply planting a few seeds for Earth Day turned into a small garden.  The past few summers we’ve tried growing a few plants, but the deer always eat the plants not long after they are established.  This year James decided that we could build a deer/rabbit/squirrel proof garden.  Equipped with chicken wire, wood and staple guns, we built an enclosure which is 8’L x 4’W x 4’H.  A small raised bed sits at one end, and pots and garden boxes fill the rest of the space.

– Mid-May could have been called “inch worn mania”.  Teeny, tiny green inch worms were everywhere and Gus and Calina couldn’t get enough of them.

– A warm and sunny Friday afternoon we visited Sandy Hook, a barrier peninsula within view of the Manhattan skyline at the north end of the Jersey Shore.  James took a call during the hour long drive, and was able to join us for the fun.  Since we visited during a cool time of the year, the beach was almost empty, but we did encounter a lot of wind.  We spent some time playing in the sand, and touching our feet in the ocean, and then decided to check out some other parts of the area, including a drive through Fort Handcock.  After a few hours by the ocean, I had a desire to eat fish.  We ventured to near-by Sea Bright and had a delicious dinner at the Sea Bright Fish Company.

– James and I had a very rare lunch date one Saturday afternoon.  Kelly is a nice young lady that came to us through a friend’s recommendation when I was looking for a babysitter.  She visited with us so we could meet each other and she could meet the kids.  When it was obvious that things were going really well, James & I jumped at the opportunity to have lunch out together.  Old Havana served up excellent Cuban sandwiches that day.  We look forward to having Kelly back in the future so we can go out again.

– We also had the very good fortune of meeting Jenny, our cleaning lady’s daughter.  She is a lovely young lady who is going through to be a nurse, and after moments of being in our house, my children had fallen totally in love with her.  She has been helping us out with some occasional babysitting, which has made our lives so much easier!

– Our little friend Alice turned 3, and Gus, Calina & I were so happy to help her celebrate.  Her Sophia The First themed party was so much fun and so beautifully decorated by her talented mom, Tammy.

– Since we often feel squishy in our van when we are traveling, we are now the proud owners of a Thule, which proved to be the perfect addition during our Memorial Day weekend camping trip.

– Gus and his fellow Sunday school friends sang “I’ve got the joy” one Sunday in church.  Singing children always melts my heart.

– A warm sunny Sunday evening was spent sharing dinner at the Nesheiwat’s along with the Friedman’s.  We always have so much fun when we get together with these two families.

– The US Marine Corps visited near-by Orange Avenue School as part of Fleet Week. James and the kids biked to the school to see the three aircrafts which had landed there – MV-22 Osprey, a CH-46E Sea Knight, and a UH-1Y Huey.  Although they couldn’t see the planes up-close, they did enjoy seeing them from a distance, especially when they departed.

– Memorial Day weekend was spent camping at Jenny Jump State Forest.  We had a wonderful time, and I’ll fill in all the details in another blog post.

– I had two girls night out this month!  One evening six ladies got together at our local Irish pub, Kilkenny House, for drinks and dessert.  Later in the month, five ladies, we took a coach service into Jersey City to have dinner and drinks at the beautiful Liberty House.  I also enjoyed an evening out for book club, where we discussed “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt.

– One morning before school, Gus decided that he wanted fresh mashed strawberries for his toast.  James helped him quickly make up a single jar of freezer jam, which turned out to be a delicious treat.

– Gus’ pre-school graduation trip was a train trip to a neighbouring town, three stops west of our town.  Once they arrived at their destination, the group divided into two – one going to the ice cream shop and the other going to a crafting shop – and after a short while they swapped.  I was able to attend with Gus and had fun watching him interact with his classmates and enjoyed seeing the delight on all their faces as they took in all the simple excitement of sharing this adventure together.

– Two days after the graduation trip, James and I took Gus to his kindergarten orientation.  The morning consisted of James and I sitting in the ‘café-gymna-torium’ listening to speeches by the principal, kindergarten teacher and PTA representative, while Gus was off touring the school with his soon-to-be school mates.  He was thrilled to check out his new school, and seemed most impressed by the library.

– Our final adventure of the month was taking the kids to Greek Fest.  It was a super hot Sunday afternoon, but the kids still happily jumped in the bouncy house and rode the train.  We all sipped on cool lemonade, but really, the real reason we went was for the food.  James and I dearly miss the amazing La Porte Grecque restaurant that we lived beside in Montréal and often long for their food.  We hadn’t had Greek food in quite some time, so we happily ate souvlaki on pitas topped with generous amounts of tzatziki.  The baklava was sold out by the time we were ready for dessert, but we certainly enjoyed other sweet treats.  When it was time to depart, dark clouds had rolled in, thunder was sounding and big fat rain drops were falling – heavily.  We hopped on our bikes and raced for home, getting drenched, but the kids enjoyed the novelty of getting caught in the pouring rain.

Quick highlights:

– We participated in screen-free week where the kids had no tablets or television, and we all survived very nicely.

– G&C often play “secret agents, who do work in the night”.

– Ugh!  Potty talk seems to be at an all time high in our house.

– Gus lost his first tooth.  He had to hide it from the Tooth Fairy so he could take it to school and show his classmates first.  When she was able to take it, she left behind $1.

– To my heart’s delight, Gus has fallen in love with listening to Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café podcasts.  We are frequently listening to these in the van, and I smile every time he asks if we can “listen to the stories”.

– We are encouraging the kids to tell each other this, and it’s so cute when they actually do, rather than running to us for mediation: “I know you are trying to hurt my feelings, but I love you anyway”.

– Our Green Card application was finally submitted!  It’s bitter-sweet.  I’m so happy the process is finally over (fingers crossed) as it has taken James a tremendous amount of work over the past 2 years to compile the required paperwork, and I’m thrilled what this will (most likely) mean in terms of security for residing here, but at the same time, we aren’t sure where this puts us for a return to Canada.  Only time will tell what our next major step is, but at the current time, having this load off our shoulder is good.

… Erin

Rebecca 17 months

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I started the month with a few hesitant steps and I ended the month walking more than I was crawling.  I still walked like a cowboy who had been riding all day, but I was walking – getting faster, and was quite pleased with myself.  Since my steps were more confident, I spent even more time pushing “baby” around in their strollers.  I also spent quite a lot of time pushing “cah” (cars) around on the floor.  My interest in books continued to grow.  Mom is such a sucker for children’s books, that my asking for more and more books at bedtime usually meant that I listened to more and more.  Afterwards, I would take a few favourites into bed with me, lay down and read more on my own.  Anything with animals, especially puppies, was of particular interest.  All my reading of animal books has me saying a few animal sounds – sheep “baa”, cows “moo”, dogs “oooo”, cats “oww” and pigs make a cute grunting sound.  When it wasn’t books I was asking for, it was gadgets – the phone, the fob for the van, the camera and especially “pah” (i-pad) – anything with buttons.  The “pah” was most certainly my preferred gadget, and my swiping ability was already quite advanced and I knew exactly where my games were.  Mommy’s a little concerned with my obsession.  My love of reading and gadgets, the ear piercing screech I produced when I didn’t get my way, my very physical body, my curious nature and my slow teething process (the 4th just appeared this month) had me developing more similarly to Gus than to Calina.  Only time will tell, and likely I’ll end up being, just like me.  When Gus and Calina were being funny, I got a huge, big belly laugh going on.  I adored hanging out with them, and loved to sit on them and bounce, and I was always greatly disappointed when they played Lego and I was excluded.  Since I wanted to be just like the big kids, I did a great job of feeding myself with forks and spoons, even with my morning Cheerios and milk.  Two other super adorable things I started recently were: putting my little index finger to my mouth and hushing – just like the old lady in “Goodnight Moon”, and clapping along with audience while listening to Stuart McLean podcasts.  Daddy served up melted cheese on crackers one afternoon for my snack, after waiting a few minutes for it to cool, I asked Daddy, with my signs and sounds “is it hot?”.  He was so impressed with my checking back in with him.  Speaking of my “daddy-dadadada”, he traveled to Prague for work this month and I missed my  SO much.  I loved seeing him on Skype every day and gave him big waves and blew him lots of kisses. Along with Greek Fest, a community picnic and going to the pool, I also took time to go strawberry picking.  I didn’t heed the “do not eat until you pay” rule. I was a serious berry hunter, and devoured what I found.  Over Memorial Day weekend, we camped at Jenny Jump State Forest for two nights and ventured to the Lakota Wolf Preserve where I was thrilled to see the beautiful “puppy”.  And to close out the month, I spent a day at Avon-by-the-sea.  I was not interested in being in the ocean, but I happily played in the sand.    … Becca

Calina 3 years 10 months

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– I enjoyed practicing martial arts with Gus.

– My classmate Annalise celebrated her 4th birthday with a princess tea party.  Only the girls from our class attended and the six of us had a really nice time together.  We played in the horn on the unicorn, decorated crowns, dined on pizza and cupcakes.

– I had a new bedtime routine, and it went something like this… put on pajamas, brush teeth, read stories, say prayers, get tucked into bed and receive a kiss goodnight.  5 minutes later I arrived back downstairs and stated I’m not tired.  Mom or Dad took me back upstairs, tucked me into their bed with a big pile of books and turn on the reading lamp.  Moments later, I was passed out.

– I closed out my first year of preschool with a chapel service.  My class sang “If I were a butterfly”.  I will miss my teachers from this year, but I’m already excited about new teachers in the fall.

– Highlights of the month: Camping at Jenny Jump State Forest for two nights, attending Greek Fest, the Newcomers Family picnic, Strawberry picking at Melick’s and returning to the Orange Avenue Pool.

Favourite mispronunciation: “guhn-tah” for going to.

… Calina

Camping – Jenny Jump State Forest

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In the days leading up to our camping weekend, I felt totally over whelmed by the amount of stuff our family of five needed to spend two nights in the bush.  I found myself longing for the days when James & I packed backpacks or a few barrels for weekends of camping or canoeing.  Would we be able to squeeze all this stuff into the van?  Would the new Thule provide enough extra space?

We departed Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend for the one hour drive to Jenny Jump State Forest – a quiet, small and simple campground.  Once we set up and settled in, we checked out the playground and washrooms.  The recycling toilets, which are essentially glorified latrines, were of great interest to the kids.  (There’s now water, so we don’t have to flush?  Everything just falls into this deep hole?  What if I fall in?) We soon discovered that hundreds of fuzzy caterpillars were taking up residence on the exterior of the washroom and the playground, basking in the warmth of the afternoon sun.  Since it was the end of May, inch worms were still propelling themselves from the trees, and the road that led back to our campsite was also a through-way for millipedes.  To my disgust (I don’t love caterpillars) and the kids delight, we were surrounded by many crawly critters. Otherwise, we only encounter a few ticks and one snake.

One of the many reasons that I love camping, is that James takes over the job of cooking!  Sure, I still grocery shop, prep and pack everything, but once we arrive, the meals are only for my eating pleasure.  Friday night was tinfoil dinners cooked on the campfire with s’mores (our new cheater recipe was Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies to replace graham crackers and chocolate) or pie iron cherry ‘cheesecake’ pies for dessert.  Saturday was homemade chili with rice.

Last summer when all of us went camping, we brought two tents, so Rebecca & I slept in one, while James, Gus & Calina slept in the other.  This year we brought our large tent and opted to sleep all five of us together.  Becca was the first to go to sleep, and once she was settled, Gus and Calina snuggled in.  With busy days, lots of fresh air, and later than usual bedtimes, everyone slept through the night – both nights.  Gus and Claina were up at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning – an hour earlier than usual, and were happy to play around the campsite until breakfast.

Sunday we ventured to the Lakota Wolf Preserve, where we had a great time learning about and seeing these beautiful animals up close.  The preserve is also home to a pair of bob cats and pair of foxes.  Gus listened very intently to the presentations and was quick to ask a few of his many questions.  We stopped for a picnic lunch and ice cream on the way back to our site.  That afternoon we went for a short hike so we could cast Gus’ fishing rod into a pond.

The next morning consisted of breakfast and packing up.  Although camping with little ones is a lot of work, we trust that these adventures are building a respect for nature and a love of camping  in their tiny hearts.  We feel that our efforts are not lost on them, when we hear Gus & Calina say things like…

“This is the best day ever”.  “This is the best meal ever”.  “There aren’t many toys, but it’s still lots of fun!’

… Erin

Rebecca 16 months

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It only took me this long, but I am finally night weaned! Daddy comforted me through my regular nightly wakings for a few nights and the job was done, which made Mom wonder why she hadn’t done this months ago. I enjoy the comfort of my crib and I’m happy to sleep and play in there, but my desire to climb was too much one morning after my nap. Thankfully, Dad spied me on the video monitor balancing on my tummy on the end of the crib. Moments after my rescue, the mattress was lowered to the floor, and there is no way that I’ll be climbing out again. The other things I learned to climb recently were the bar stools at our kitchen counter and the ladder that leads into Layla & Dylan’s tree house. Since crawling was still my preferred means of movement, my little hands, feet and knees were home to many slivers from the back deck and woodchips at the playground. On occasion I would walk holding onto someone’s hand, but a step and a half is the farthest I ventured on my own. My communication skills exploded this month! Ten new words and six new signs were added to my repertoire, which is making me quite conversational and easy to understand, well, as long as you are Mom or Dad. My parroting of words and sounds I hear will only help improve my vocabulary. I love “bee” (birds) and I regularly asked to look out my window so I could see them, and the music from Calina’s music box is very soothing for me at bedtime, so I created a sign so Mom would wind it up before I went to bed. The other thing that erupted in my mouth this month was another tooth. Yes, my third tooth finally made it’s inaugural appearance. Otherwise, my hair was long enough to wear in adorable pig tails and I tried my hand at painting, which wasn’t of any interest to me.
We ventured to Reading, PA this month to see the Wild Kratts Live. The town was nothing to write home about, but Martin & Chris put on a great performance and I showed my appreciation by clapping along with the audience. That night was my first time staying in a hotel, which didn’t cause me to lose a moment of sleep. Dad played hookie one Monday afternoon, and we all went to the zoo together. My favourite part was seeing all the budgie “bees” up close. Visiting Sandy Hook beach was my first visit to the Jersey shore. A sunny but very windy and cool Friday afternoon allowed us about an hour of playing in the sand before we sought a less windy part of this barrier spit. We made sure to take the time to drive past the light house and through Fort Handcock before departing.
… Becca

Here is Becca on the morning of her 16 month birthday.  This is the most solo walking she has done thus far.

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