Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Road Trip, Pt. 1: Atlanta

I'd like to take a few days now and share all the fun we had on our road trip this summer! The trip was centered around my annual family reunion in Cleveland, so that was how we decided when we would go and generally set our course, though the timing ended up being slightly stressful. We signed a lease on our new house and gave notice to vacate at our old house just a couple of weeks before we left, so by our road trip departure date our house was largely in boxes (and entirely in shambles) and we knew we had the worst parts of moving waiting for us upon our return. But, we tried to put that out of our minds and hit the road!

Last year, we took an eastern course up to Cleveland, with stops in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. This year, we stayed further west as we made our way north, and our first stop was Atlanta, Georgia. We left early in the morning on July 31 and drove five hours to Atlanta, arriving in time for a midday Braves game at Turner Field!

We're off!

Crossing over into our first state!

You may remember it is Eric's goal to see a regular-season baseball game played in all 30 Major League Baseball Stadium. During our New York years, we made pretty decent progress on that list, and we checked off a few more during our midwestern road trip when Ellie was a baby. But since then, our efforts have been at a standstill, so it was good to get things going again! Turner Field brought Eric's stadium count up to 20, mine to 16, Ellie's to five and E.J.'s to two (he has some catching up to do!). We're making progress!

At Turner Field

Upon arrival, we snapped some pictures outside and then went inside as they were singing the National Anthem. We were pretty hungry, so first on our agenda was finding a shady spot to eat some hot dogs. (It was HOT.)

These kids are ready for some baseball!

The kids and Hank Aaron's number

They were PSYCHED for those hot dogs.

Eric and I enjoyed some tasty burgers!

Ellie taking good care of her little brother

Then, we let the kids burn off some of their five-hours-in-the-car energy in the kids' play area. They had a great time playing on the miniature baseball fields!

What a natural!

Ellie's at the plate!

It's outta here! Home run!

E.J. in the outfield

E.J. gets some pretty good height, there!

This wasn't in the kids' area, but Ellie wanted to take a picture with the "Statue of Liverty." She has been really fixated on going to New York City to see it (for the second time, since the first time she wasn't even six months old yet). She's even saving her coins to pay for a plane ticket!

Then, we took a quick family photo out by the field just in time before a rain delay!

Enjoying a day at the ballpark!

You can see the 1996 Olympic torch in the distance from the stands!

When the rain cleared, we found some empty seats in the shade and sat for a while. There were lots of empty rows in front of us, so the kids just ran around and played, and we relaxed and actually watched some baseball. To our surprise, we made it through all nine innings of the game, including the rain delay! We certainly did not anticipate that with two small kids in tow.

Pulling back the tarp! Let's play ball!

E.J. keeping us on our toes

Enjoying the game

Home run!

Ellie's reaction to the fireworks

Father and son

After the game, kids were allowed to run the bases, so we joined the loooooooooooong line for that. As we waited, Homer the Brave came around to greet the kids.

HIgh fives for Homer

Eventually, we were led out onto the field. The kids were lined up to run the bases while the adults were ushered up into the stands. It wasn't especially well-executed, and parents were still trying to walk to a good viewing spot as their kids were running, causing pileups and lots of screaming from Turner Field employees, but oh well. Ellie ran like a pro and we were so proud of her! When she finished, they gave her a certificate to mark the occasion and a t-shirt.

Down on the field before Ellie ran the bases

Go, Ellie!

She LOVED it.

Sporting her new shirt

VIDEO: Ellie running the bases at Turner Field. (Sorry for the shakiness! As I mentioned, we were being rushed along through the stands as she was running, so I did the best I could! Just look for her little pink dress!)

And that was it for the baseball game! We were staying in a hotel just across the street, so we ran back there (the rain had returned as the kids ran the bases!), checked in and then went to get dinner at Gus's Fried Chicken. We ate at Gus's in Memphis on our midwestern road trip and loved it, so when we saw there was one in Atlanta, we had to have it! We planned to dine in but the service as terrible, so we ended up ordering to go (also terrible). The food, however, was tasty, and we made it into a picnic on our hotel room floor.

Hotel picnic dinner!

And, on the way to Gus's, we were able to drive past the torch from the 1996 Olympics!

What a way to get us in the spirit for this year's games in Rio!

After dinner we got the kids to bed and then retired ourselves after unwinding with a little wine. We had a one-bedroom hotel suite, so the kids shared the bedroom and Eric and I slept on the World's Worst Sleeper Sofa in the living room. Our sleep was interrupted at 5:00 a.m. when the fire alarm went off because a hotel employee burned the toast for breakfast, but luckily, the kids slept right on through it. Phew! That was lucky!

When we woke up, we had some breakfast at the hotel then packed up and checked out. We were departing Atlanta that day, but decided to make a quick stop at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library on our way out. We enjoyed the museum, and a particular highlight was the replica Oval Office.

The kids at the Presidential Library museum

Our "future president" (or so says her shirt) in the replica Oval Office

The library above the museum

Carter's Nobel Peace Prize

Outside the library

And that was it for Atlanta! Next stop: Cumberland Falls, Kentucky!

To see more pictures from Atlanta, check out our Shutterfly share site here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ellie's First Day of VPK

Today was Ellie's first day of school!

Ellie's first day of pre-kindergarten!

Ellie was very excited to start school this year. I worried a little about how it would go, as she was really hung up on her class from last year: "But I just like my Busy Bees Class! I like my Busy Bees teachers! I like my Busy Bees friends!" So, we've been talking up this new year and new class as being for four-year-olds. See, last year, she was three, so she was a Busy Bee. Now she's four, so she's a jaguar.

It seemed to do the trick! She still was a bit apprehensive about new everything, but we went to orientation last Thursday and as soon as she saw her classroom, a few old friends, and all the fun new things in her room, she was ready to go. She is going four days a week this year instead of two, and just judging by the teacher's orientation talk and the decor around the classroom, the focus is going to be on preparation for kindergarten, much more so than last year. I'd be lying if I said tears didn't come to my eyes a bit when the teacher mentioned kindergarten next year, because HOW?!?!

This big four-year-old is ready for her Jaguars class!

This morning, we got up and ready (she reverted back to singing the "Daniel Tiger school song" to remind herself of everything she needed to do before school), then walked to school.

I love that we can walk now!

When we got to her classroom, she went right in and barely even looked back. No goodbye hug or anything! She was ready, and went right over to find her cubby for her lunch box.

So grown up!

Of course, it was also a "first day" for E.J.: I decided to start going to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Bible study on Mondays, and the church offers nursery care for E.J. Not only that, they extend the nursery care for an additional two hours after the moms' programming is over, so you can go run errands or do whatever you want kid-free for a little while. Today was the first day I took advantage of that! That meant that E.J. had to bring his lunch to school, too, which meant he got a note in his lunch box just like Ellie and took a backpack with him like a real little school boy.

Lunches packed and ready for the school day!

First day of MOPS nursery!

So, after Ellie was happily in her classroom, we dragged crying E.J. out (I think he thought he was going into her classroom with her and was very upset when that was not the case, poor thing), cheered him up and sent him off to his room. Then, I hit the grocery store for the most serene shopping trip I have experienced in years.

Eric and I went together to pick both kids up at 1:00, and both were in great spirits! E.J. loved his note in his lunch box and made sure to show it to all his friends. Ellie said she had a good day and was excited to show us the "kissing hand" she made. She said she played picnic with her friends and sang songs. Overall, it was a great success!

Ellie at the end of her first day!

And so begins another year! I'm very proud of my little schoolgirl (and sort-of school boy) and I'm thrilled she's so excited about school. We're off to a great start!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Batter Up

I love this picture of E.J. with his baseball bat birth record (the bat is the same length E.J. was when he was born)! I hope we can get one of these every year.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our July 2016

I've recapped most of our month in July now: our St. Petersburg visit, Venice visit and E.J.'s birthday party were the major highlights (plus the beginning of our road trip, which is next up on the docket!). But, we did have some smaller fun events tucked in between the big things, too!

When we got back from all our July Fourth travels, we did a little belated birthday celebration for E.J. at home, complete with some of his favorite foods for dinner (hot dogs, baked beans and corn on the cob) and gifts from his family: a stuffed Spot (from The Good Dinosaur) from Ellie, and a big Millennium Falcon playset from Eric and me.

He loves corn on the cob!

Checking out the cool new toy!

E.J. also had his two-year well-visit with the pediatrician, and I am pleased to report that he is now in the 18th percentile for height (at 33.5" tall) and all the way up in the 11th percentile for weight (weighing in at a chunky 23 pounds, 6 ounces)! So basically, he's a beast compared to his former self. He also thought the toe-prick for his iron follow-up tickled and was very brave for his shot. He's such a grown-up!

Big boy!

On a related note, E.J. graduated from his high chair to a booster seat at the table:

So fancy!

Speaking of growing up, E.J. isn't the only one in our family with a July birthday! We also celebrated my birthday in a lovely extended fashion. I received a few early birthday gifts, including a beautiful personalized necklace from my babies and a great robe from Heather in Japan (plus kimonos for the kids!):

Thanks, Aunt Heather!

On my actual birthday, I received an amazing gift (a Cricut cutting machine, thanks to very generous family members!), ate a delicious spice cake, and spent the night at the zoo with my favorite people.

My birthday cake and Ariel-wrapped gift!

Night at the Zoo

We also did some crafting at storytime...


...enjoyed the July Little Learners event at MOSH...

Trying to manipulate blocks with astronaut gloves on

My Gym fun

Painting with "fishing rods"

...cooled off in the southbank riverfront fountains...

E.J. knows how to beat the heat!

...and tie-dyed shirts and painted Ellie's face at the Jax Moms Blog Park Hop in Hemming Park. (We actually had a terrible experience with the face-painter but Ellie looked cute anyway!)

Pretty kitty!

Eric and Ellie had a date day to see The Secret Life of Pets  in the theater.

Daddy-daughter date!

I also took the kids to a summer movie in the theater (Curious George). This was E.J.'s second movie theater experience and he did much better this time around! He loved it!

Happy movie-goers!

One evening when we were out walking in San Marco Square, we stopped by the fire station so E.J. could visit the fire truck and a very kind fireman came out to talk to the kids. He let them get in the truck and look at all the gear and even let them work the hose! They loved it, and Ellie now wants to be an astronaut, mama and firefighter when she grows up.

Thanks to this nice firefighter!


Eric spent a couple of days in Denver for his final interview for his NEW JOB (HOORAY), and while he was away, my mom came to hang out with the kids and me. We went to the beach, the splash park (when Eric got back) and the playground and had a very nice visit!

Ellie at the beach

What a beach bum.

Shipwreck Island at Adventure Landing, followed by lunch at TacoLu 

 Bike riding at the playground

In the playground tunnel with my Ellie

And of course, Eric returned from his interview with GREAT NEWS that required some champagne celebration!

Cheers to Eric's new job!

What a great July!