Wednesday, April 28, 2010

never ending fun

Whew! We have been busy lately. Lots of family activities and outdoor fun. Last month, Olivia's cousin, Christopher came home from leave from the Marines. He has not been home in a few years so the last time he saw Olivia she was just a baby. We were looking forward to introducing him to her again and letting them spend some time together while he was home. Little did we know that they would immediately become best friends. She took to Christopher unlike anything I have seen. She just lit up when he was around. Not only did she enjoy spending time with him but he truly enjoyed spending time with her as well. Every time they were together she would want him to play silly games and he would happily oblige.

Christopher came over to say good-bye before heading off for his last tour with the Marines. Another of Olivia's cousins, and Christopher's brother, Jordan came along. Within minutes she had them playing all sorts of goofy games. There was no shortage of giggles, squeals and screams. I have never seen a child so sweaty and exhausted, but most importantly truly happy. She was sad to see him so go, but we were all happy to hear he would be coming home again for a long weekend at the end of May.

Another exciting development in Olivia's world is the addition of her new, fancy swing set in our backyard. After MANY man hours and lots of help from our family friend, Dennis the thousand piece monstrosity was standing tall and ready to be tackled by a rowdy three year old. I am pretty sure that my husband will not be putting another one of these together again in his lifetime. But he did a great job and I know that Olivia will get countless hours of fun out of her new toy. She is most looking forward to inviting some of her little friends over to play.

Right now we are working to teach her how to swing by herself. For so long now we have pushed her on the swings but I think it is time to start learning the "pumping action" so she can do it on her own. She is catching on, but I think it will still be a bit longer before Mom and Dad are no longer needed to get "way up high". She has quickly mastered all of the other elements of her swing set, which is not surprising considering all of the time we have spent on other swing sets at the parks.

Our constant fun of late continued with a super fun birthday party for Olivia's cousin Brendan last weekend. It was at this new ice/sports area in town, Canlan Ice Sports. But there was no ice skating taking place at this party. Nope...it was a party full of bouncy houses!!! One of the ice arenas was full of about 9 different blow up monstrosities. From the second we stepped into the wide open space the child just exploded with energy and went wild. She ran from one bouncy house to the other, hardly stopping to catch her breath. She did stop at one point, turned to me and said, "Mommy...this party is FANTASTIC!!!". Olivia is still talking about Brendan's birthday party from last year at Gymnastics in Motion. I thought it would be hard to top that, but apparently all it takes it a room full of bouncy houses and very few rules to follow. It was a huge success with Olivia and I think we will be going back ourselves for more bouncy house fun in the near future.

This past weekend we also packed in our first trip to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo for the season. Olivia had been counting the days until the zoo opened, but we were afraid to tell her that we might not be able to make it because of the weather. It was a wash-out of a weekend. It rained on and off for most of it. Because Saturday was packed with a swim lesson and birthday party, Sunday was our only chance to go. The forecast was rain for most of the day and when we broke that news to Olivia the tears started flowing immediately. There was no way I was going to deny her a trip to the zoo that she had so been looking for to, so we got dressed and rushed over hoping to squeeze in some time before the rain started.

We decided to take in the African Veldt first. It is the newest part of our zoo and the part I believe has the best animals. It actually turned out to be a great day to hit the zoo. Because the weather was sketchy not many people were there, and because it was cooler more of the animals were out and quite active. We got some crazy close views of the male and female lions. The monkey's desperately wanted some of the popcorn we brought with us, and there was a leopard that was sitting right up against the fence staring right into our eyes. Just as we were heading over to see the giraffes the rain started, and it kept coming down. So our trip to the zoo was short lived but fun while it lasted. I have no doubt that we will be going numerous times this year and I am really looking forward to it. It is one of Olivia's favorite activities and she seems to enjoy it more each year. I think she is learning to appreciate the animals more now and seems interested in learning more about them.

With Spring here it reminds me that Olivia is just about done with her second year of school! I cannot believe how much my little girl has grown during these two years at Three Rivers Montessori. She has learned SO much this year...not just knowledge but better social skills and problem solving. Her Spanish is amazing! She has even started to throw Spanish words in her normal conversations. It is pretty impressive. She is back in swimming lessons, this time at the Carroll Natatorium. I think we outgrew the Y. The cool thing about the Carroll Natatorium is that they place your child base on their ability, not just their age. Olivia is pretty confident in the water and has learned a lot over the past few years. I am thinking that she will start swimming without a floating device this year. And as if Olivia is not busy enough she will be showing off her tap dancing skills in her second Northeast School of Dance dance recital this summer. She has been working hard all year and is itching to get back up on the "big stage" to perform for everyone. I am now teaching at the dance studio too so it is going to be an extra special recital this year. So much to look forward to...stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

a sad loss

Recently our family was dealt a devastating loss. A few weeks ago Todd's father, Villamor, passed away. He had been dealing with numerous health problems during the past 6 months or so, but his passing was still quite a shock. It was a difficult time for all of us, especially Todd, but he immediately stepped up and helped his Mom with all of the arrangements. The biggest task was notifying all of the out of town family members. It was so comforting knowing that so many family members were able to drop everything and come into town.

This was the first big loss for our family since Olivia was born. We were immediately faced with the challenge of how to explain the loss of her G.P. (all of the grand kids called their grandfather, G.P., for grandpa). She saw him in the hospital before he passed away so she knew he was sick. We simply explained to her that because G.P. was sick and not able to get better he had to go live with God in Heaven. We explained that the doctors were not able to make him better so God took him to Heaven so he could be happy and healthy forever. She seemed to understand it as much as a three year old could possibly understand losing a loved one. She does seem to understand that he is no longer here, but we will see how she reacts in the upcoming months when we visit his parent's house. We have told her that anytime she wants to talk to her G.P. all she needs to do is look up to the sky to say hi or tell him that she misses him. I have already caught her talking to him a few times. It is very sweet and I know she will miss him very much.

The one bright spot during all of this sadness was the time we spent with distant family while they were in town for the funeral. Aunts, cousins, nephews, grandchildren...so many were able to be here to say good bye. It gave Todd a chance to catch up with some family members he had not seen in years and Olivia was able to meet some of her family for the very first time. It was so wonderful to see everyone, we just wish it could have been under better circumstances. With it being such a rare occasion for all of us to be together we had to take some family pictures.

Below we are standing with three of Todd's Aunts and two of his Cousins.
And of course we had to take a photo with all of the grandchildren. This is the first time they have all been together since Olivia and her cousin Ella were born. As you can tell it is impossible to get everyone to cooperate and look at the camera at the same time when you are dealing with such a wide range of ages!
This is a family photo of everyone that was in town for the funeral. It includes all of Villamor's children and their spouses, all of his grandchildren, three of his sisters and two of his nephews. Pretty impressive. He also has three brothers that were unable to attend.
Now that the chaos of the past week is over we now are dealing with the reality of no longer having Todd's Dad around. It will be strange not seeing him each time we go to his parent's house for a visit. Thankfully we have tons of wonderful memories that we will carry with us and be sure that Olivia always remembers. He was a kind and generous man and we will all miss him terribly.

As our emotionally draining week came to an end we prepared to celebrate Easter with Olivia. Olivia started talking about Easter egg hunts weeks before the holiday and she knew exactly what she wanted in her basket this year. During a recent trip to Meijer she spotted a Dora bath toy that she just had to have. We are not the type of parents to just buy her things because she says she wants them. We usually wait until there is a good reason to reward her with a toy. Easter was the perfect excuse to justify getting her the bath toy. Well Olivia's curiosity got the best of her and she spotted her Easter basket a day early. At that point we had no choice but to give it to her. There was no chance she was going to wait another day. Even though she blew the surprise she did still want to act surprised. She sat downstairs with her eyes covered and saying, "I'm ready for my Easter basket!". Little stinker.

She was of course thrilled with her Dora mermaid bath toy, as well as the 3D sidewalk chalk and the jelly beans. She is going through a Dora phase right now. Elmo is no longer the apple of her eye. He has been pushed aside for more "grown up" commercialized characters. No matter how much you try to shelter your child from all of the TV shows and the never ending line of commercial products that go with those shows, they always seem to become attached.

Our Easter was packed from morning till night. We started by sleeping in a bit...delightful. After getting dressed in our Sunday's best we headed for church. Most Sundays Olivia attends Sunday school. There is no Sunday school on Easter so Olivia sat with us during the service. Having her spend the hour with us made me realize how young she still is. She does not yet have the patience to sit quietly for that long. I am looking forward to sending her back to Sunday school next week!

After church we stopped at my Mom's so she could give Olivia her Easter basket. It was full of fun little Easter things as well as a cute little spring dress and some adorable Hello Kitty pajamas. She opened everything at lightening speed so she could get on with her first Easter egg hunt. She quickly found all of her eggs and opened them all to reveal money and candy. Nothing makes Olivia happier!

video

Our next stop was our annual Easter lunch at the Fortes, close family friends of ours. They have us over each year and they treat Olivia like one of their very own grand kids. They include her in their Easter egg hunt and they always give her wonderful Easter basket. This year only one of their grand kids was there so it was a much more low key Easter egg hunt. That did not matter to Olivia, she still had a great time finding her eggs. To make things even better the weather was fantastic that day. It turned out to be just a perfect day but we were all exhausted by the end of it. Not just from Easter but from the whole week.

Things are starting to get back to normal now. Olivia is on Spring Break this week so she is spending a little more time at Mama Kay's than she normally would. I am sure she is enjoying just playing and not having as many structured activities. We did have a few fun school activities prior to Spring Break. There was International Night, which Todd and I were not able to attend last year. We were out of town but Olivia took her Nana and we heard it was quite an event. Each year the school picks a handful of countries to feature and each classroom decorates and makes food for the country they chose. Olivia's classroom was South Africa. The kids do crafts and learn about the country prior to the event. It was a fun night and the food was fantastic!

The week leading up to Spring Break was spirit week. Monday was crazy hair day. It is not hard for Olivia to participate in this task. Last year we teased her hair and made it really wild but it ended up looking just like it does on any given day. This year I put it up in four pony tails. She was excited to show off her crazy hair 'do.

Tuesday was favorite team or school t-shirt day. Olivia showed off her school t-shirt and her colts jacket that day. Wednesday was rainbow day. Each class was asked to wear a different color. Olivia was thrilled to find out that her class had red...her absolute favorite color! And the day she was most looking forward to was Thursday...pajama day! It was the last day of school before the break and all of the kids could wear their jammies. They also had a spring party to kick off the season and the upcoming break from school. It was a fun week for her and one she looks forward to each year.

So as you can tell we have been pretty busy lately. With the nicer weather we have been spending quite a bit of time outdoors. Olivia has lots of big plans this season. There is a new addition to our backyard that Olivia is just dying to break in. You will have to wait to see what I am talking about. In the meantime I have lots of yard work that I need to tackle. It always seems a bit overwhelming at the start of the season. Oh well, it will get done. But with everything that we have been dealing with lately we are hoping that this spring/summer is, if nothing else...uneventful.