Monday, October 26, 2009

California Dreamin' - part 1

Last week Olivia and I got back from a fun filled week in California, visiting my Aunt. My Mom was already out there with a couple of her friends and the day they left we arrived. Olivia and I had been looking forward to going on this trip for awhile but we were sad to be leaving Todd behind. Aside from him not being able to vacation with us I also happened to be away during our 5th wedding anniversary! I know...bad wife. He was a really good sport about it though because he knew that Olivia would have a great time.

I was a little nervous about traveling with Olivia alone, but it turned out to be quite easy. Aside from one short delay things went as planned and she was quite good. It is definitely easier having an extra pair of hands, but at least I know I can do it. We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon into San Jose which is about 40 minutes from where my Aunt lives, in Aptos, CA. We were pretty tired so we just went back to her house and relaxed. Of course one of the first things I had to do was step onto her patio and enjoy the amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.

We all went to bed fairly early because we had big plans the next day and we needed to catch up on our sleep. The next morning we headed to Monterey for a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We made a couple of stops on the way. First, we pulled over to an area on the side of the road that was just covered with sea lions. I guess it is just an area that they like to congregate and rest. It was amazing to see so many sea lions in one place. They were very loud and quite smelly too, but super fascinating!

After that we stopped at an amazing produce stand. There are so many fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown around the area where my Aunt lives. There are produce stands everywhere and the fruits and veggies are super cheap. Olivia was in heaven since those are her two favorite things to eat! She was immediately drawn to the strawberries. Who wouldn't be...don't they look yummy?

Next we arrived at the aquarium. This is Olivia's second time at the aquarium. We have visited my Aunt three times so far, once for each year she has lived in California. She was still pretty young when we took her last year and all she wanted to do was push the stroller around. This year was a little better, but her attention span was still quite short. We did see some amazing things and I think that each year we go she will start to appreciate it more and more.

She really enjoyed the kid area. It allowed her to get hands on with some of the exhibits and do a little water play as well. She was out of her mind with all there was to do. So many buttons to push and levers to pull. I think she was more interested in the interactive stuff than the actual fish...and there were some pretty amazing fish. They currently are featuring a fascinating seahorse exhibit. I never knew there were so many different types of sea horses. And in case you did not know...the males are the ones that carry and deliver the babies. Now I like that idea!

There was one area of the aquarium that Olivia absolutely loved last year, and I knew she would love it again this year...the water wall. Every 20 seconds or so a huge wave of water rushes over a glass wall above your head, giving you the feeling of being caught it a huge wave. It is really amazing. I think she stood in that area for a good 20 minutes last year and she is still talking about how that was her favorite part of her aquarium visit this year. I have to admit...it is pretty cool.

It was a fun day but pretty exhausting for Olivia. She immediately fell asleep in the car on the way home. The next morning we woke up and took a drive to see an area that monarch butterflies flock to during this time of year. After a short walk into the forest you look up and see a sky full of butterflies. They are hanging from the trees in hundreds. I have never seen anything like it. While we were looking at the butterflies a little preschool class came along. The tour guide told the kids to have a seat on the bench while he talked to them about the butterflies. Well Olivia made herself at home and decided to join the preschool class. I turn around and there she is sitting with all of the kids, looking up at the sky through her binoculars, try to see the butterflies. It was beyond funny!

Afterwards we stopped at a beautiful overlook to watch some of the surfers. It was another beautiful day and everyone was out enjoying the weather. It had been quite cold and rainy before we arrived so we were thrilled to have warm, sunny weather when we landed in California. All of our days were nice except our last day. We were very lucky! Olivia would not have cared about the weather but I was relieved because we would not have been able to do most of what we did if it was raining. She still would have had a blast just spending time with her Great Aunt Sue-Sue. They get along so well and Olivia just loves it when she comes to visit or when we are lucky enough to visit her.

If there was one thing Olivia was looking forward to the most during our trip it was going to the beach! (Another reason I was praying for good weather.) Well on the day we choose to hit the beach it was not only nice and sunny but it was quite warm too. I brought her bathing suit along just in case and I am glad I did. She was so excited she could hardly contain herself. The second her feet hit the sand it was like she was at home. She ran right for the water and I think she would have dove right in if I didn't stop her.

Although it was warm outside the water was like ice. It was OK to dip your feet in but after awhile they would go a bit numb. Olivia did not seem to mind the temp of the water, until a wave knocked her down and soaked her. After that she decided to stick to playing in the sand. We built sandcastles for the longest time. She was so happy just digging in that sand. She is definitely a beach baby...loves the ocean and the sand.

I tried to convince her to come back down by the water with me but she was not too sure about that idea. After awhile I talked her into it and she slowly eased her way back to the edge. Well wouldn't you know it...within minutes she was practically trying to drag me back in. Each time a wave would crash she would get more and more excited. Before I knew it she was over her fear of falling and was throwing herself down in the water. The frigid water did not bother her at all. I on the other hand, had started losing the feeling in my feet. She was having the best time and that was all that mattered. We were sad to have to pack up and leave the beach that day, but I know that she had more fun than she ever imagined. I cannot wait to take her back next year and do it again.

I have so much more to share about our trip but I think it will have to wait until the next post. We were so busy during the first half of our trip that Olivia started to get a little worn out. She was not getting as much sleep as she was used to and it was starting to show. There were a few melt downs and difficult times, but after a long nap and a good night's sleep she was like a whole new child. You get so wrapped up in trying to show them a good time that you forget that their little bodies cannot handle as much as we can. Sometimes she just wanted to lay low and relax at the house. But she was definitely enjoying herself and I was enjoying seeing her so happy. More to come...


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Olivia's BFF

Do you remember your best friend when you were a kid? Do you remember writing notes in school and signing them, "Your BFF!" (Best-Friend-Forever). Do you remember wanting to be with your best friend constantly? Well, all of that is just getting started with Olivia...at the age of two (almost three). Yes, she has her very first BFF! Her name is Laurel and attends Three Rivers Montessori as well.

Olivia and Laurel met last year. They were in the same toddler classroom. They were quite young when they first met...not even two. At that age children really have no interest in making friends. They much rather play on their own and get quite annoyed when someone else tries to interfere. Towards the end of their first year of school they started spending more time together. Olivia would talk about Laurel and things they did in class. It was clear she was taking a liking to her. As the summer approached we talked to Laurel's parents about getting the kids together during the break. Well things came up and before we knew it the summer was over and we never made any plans. Both girls were moving up into new classrooms this year and I secretly hoped they would be in the same class. That did not happen, but we did finally make plans with Laurel's parents a few months ago and got the girls together.

They came over to our house for a cookout. The weather did not cooperate so we ended up staying inside all night. That did not matter to the girls because they were beyond excited to be playing together. I think they ran around and played with each other for two straight hours. There was a lot of high pitch screaming going on, as well as a ton of giggling! The best part was that they really seemed to enjoy spending time together. Both were exhausted by the end of the night, but the first thing out of Olivia's mouth when Laurel left was, "I want to play with Laurel again sometime!". We really hit it off with Laurel's parents too, so we knew that play dates would be happening on a regular basis.

Now that the school year is in full swing I am sort of glad that they are not in the same class. Many times each week they see each other on the playground and it makes their time together that much more special. I have a feeling that if they spent every day together in class they would quickly tire of one another. Now when Olivia sees Laurel at school she gets super excited and she can't wait to tell me when I pick her up. She usually tells me that Laurel is her "best friend". A few weeks ago we had another play date, this time at Laurel's house. It was a low key night of pizza and conversation. The girls were busy with toys and the adults were able to get a little bit of actual conversation in while occasionally checking to see what they were up to.

They get along quite well and aside from the occasional disagreement they play great with each other. They seem to be interested in the same things and have very little problem sharing toys. That is pretty good considering their age. I just love how much they laugh when they are together. They just seem to click. It is fascinating to me that they have picked each other out of all of the children at school. They have many other friends, but they seem to be drawn to each other more than anyone else. It just melts my heart. Laurel may be the first of many friends for Olivia , but she will always be Olivia's first BFF!

Olivia is enjoying school so much right now. She is thriving in her new classroom and seems to be learning quite a bit. I get occasional updates from her teacher, Ms. Laura, but I recently received an e-mail from her that made me beam with pride. Here is what she said...

"She is wonderful! She is very observant and pays the closest attention to new lessons! She works from the minute she leaves line until it is time to go outside! Truly a Montessori child!Thank you for sharing her with us!"

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to know how well she is doing. Each day she amazes me by sharing something with me I did not know she knew. Today in the car she informed me that she saw Asia and Europe on the map. Now I knew they were doing a unit on geography, but I had no idea she actually knew the names of some of the continents! She plays pretend school at home so I get an idea of how things work in her classroom. I am so impressed with how focused and into it she is. I hope that her love for learning continues. For now I am just grateful that I am able to send her to this school and give her this experience.

A few weeks ago they had school pictures. Now Olivia NEVER gets dressed up to go to school but that day was a special occasion. I hope that her pictures turned out well. If not I have these to look back on...
Finally, we have some big news to share. Olivia is officially sleeping in a "big girl" bed at home, and I am pleased to say that the transition was a piece of cake! I had a feeling it would be since she had been sleeping in a bed at my Mom's and the babysitters', but you just never know. Last weekend we picked up the bed from our family friend, Cindy. It is an antique bed that her daughter slept in as a child. Since it is no longer being used she thought it would look great in Olivia's room. I have to admit it fit the theme of her room perfectly!

We made a big deal out of going to bed on Sunday night with the hope that her fabulous sleeping habits would not go out the window now that the crib was gone. She piled as many stuffed animals as she could into the bed and plopped herself in the middle. Each night this week she has slept without a problem and so far has followed our "no getting out of bed" rule. We did not want her to think that she could just get out and walk around the house now that the crib rails were gone. She has stayed in the bed and called for us when she needs something. Once again I am so very proud of her and feel so grateful to have such an amazing child.
Next week Olivia and I will be flying to California to meet up with my Mom and stay with Olivia's Aunt Sue Sue. The sad part is that we will be leaving Todd at home. This will be the longest amount of time away from Olivia for him and I will be away during our 5 year anniversary. I know...bad wife, but it is the only time we could have take the trip. Olivia is super excited and I am super nervous about getting on a plane by myself with her. Pray for me!