Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday, Alice!!

Not last weekend but the one before, my parents and brother came down to help Alice celebrate her 2nd birthday. We thought it was a fine opportunity to spend the day at one of our favorite places in the world - the happiest place on earth!
Alice loves all things Mickey and Minnie (or "Bickey" and "'Nie Mouse"), Pooh, princess, parades, and Disney, so we planned a day that would include all her favorites.

Of course she demanded to ride the carousel as soon as she saw it, but lately she's started crying and climbing off her horse as soon as she sits down. We compromised, and she rode backwards, hugging me with her head on my shoulder for the duration of the ride. 

She was also hesitant about the Casey Jr. Circus Train at first and we looked like the kind of parents I hate, forcibly restraining her in the "Monkey" cage until she settled down. But then she loved it, of course! She was much more keen to ride the Storybook Land Canal Boats and we even got to ride her namesake. 
She got to visit Mickey's and Minnie's houses for the first time and was pretty impressed. And of course she loved giving her good pals a big hug! She is so funny with the characters. She approaches quietly and a bit shyly, but then just walks straight in for a hug and does not let go. Like, we can't peel her off. I think she would literally sit there and embrace them all day if we let her.  
This was one of our first big outings where we were confident that we could find something on any menu that she would actually eat. We got her a slice of BBQ chicken pizza for lunch and were so, so happy that she ate it and liked it. Yay! Actually, we were pretty shocked that she ate almost the entire thing, save for the crust and maybe an inch of pizza at the top. That's a lot of pizza for such a little two-year old!
After lunch, we stopped by Pixie Hollow so Alice could meet Tinkerbell and some of her fairy friends. When Fawn asked Alice what her name was, Alice replied appropriately and Fawn actually understood - even despite the silent 'L!' I think that was one of, if not the very first time that's ever happened. It was certainly the first time I've seen it! We've been working very hard on "What's your name?" and "How old are you?" I was SO proud!
"What's your name? Alice?!"
Alice thought Tink's wings were pretty awesome.
Alice loves meeting and hugging her favorite characters. I think it weirds her out though when they turn her around for the photo ops. She gets that confused look on her face (above left), like "why are the paparazzi interrupting my hugs and conversations...?" And if we're really lucky, she'll give us her ridiculous, on-cue "smile. She much prefers if we leave her alone and surreptitiously snap photos of her just hanging out and hugging her friends.

As we left Pixie Hollow, we were totally lucky to run into someone with a huge bunch of Alice's very favorite things: balloons! So we reunited her with her old friend from Disney World and she spent the rest of the day bopping that guy on everyone's heads.
The whole gang with the very happy birthday girl. Bop bop bop bop.
And just moments later, the lovely Cinderella swept along, surely rushing off to somewhere very important. She picked Alice out of the crowd and they had quite the little moment.
Towards the mid-afternoon, we thought we might convince Alice to take a stroller nap so we headed on a long walk over to the Disneyland Hotel for a drink at Trader Sam's Tiki Bar. No dice on the nap, but we all enjoyed a snack while the adults sipped some fancy tropical drinks (I had a delicious Skipper Sipper!). We sat out on the patio and made friends with this little feral kitty who is probably a distant (or not-so-distant) relation of Eli and Marceline's. He sat in the bushes and on the patio right next to our table for a good long while, and we had plenty of opportunity to compare his facial and tail markings to our own little Disneyland bush cats.
After our little sit-down, we headed back to the park to catch the first run of the Soundsational Parade. Jon puts this on the YouTubes and Alice plays along with her maracas, egg shaker, xylophone, and a little mouse castanet I brought back from Norway. When she wants to watch it, she asks us to put it on by singing the chorus "Hey! Hey! Hey!" We brought along her castanet and egg shaker so she could get into the groove in real-life. And boy, did she love it. 
Mickey plays the drums!
Afterwards, we rushed over to the Princess Fantasy Faire so Alice could meet some real princesses. The bigger kids used the queue time to ride Star Tours, so Alice and I waited alone, but it wasn't long until she made friends with this littler princess. I don't think they spoke the same language (such as it were) but they had a great time running around, sitting in various places, and poking each other. Alice was pretty enamored with this bigger girl in her fancy Rapunzel dress!
And she was REALLY enamored by the real princesses. Though she heard quite a lot of The Princess and the Frog in utero, this was her first time actually meeting Tiana. You'd think they've known each other their whole lives...
She also had a grand time with Ariel. After the world's longest hug/snuggle, Alice got down to the business of showing off her bellybutton.

They high-fived...
And Ariel tried to teach her how to make a fish face...
And then Alice made herself comfy by sprawling all over Ariel's lap. Naturally.
I would have figured that these characters see bajillions of cute kids every day, but they always seem extra fond of Alice. I thought it was just me being an overly proud mama, but I have it from a few different reliable sources that they really are as smitten with her as they seem. Which is good, because she's pretty smitten with them!

We caught the second run of the Soundsational Parade, because Alice loves it just that much. We thought she might enjoy it better with a front-row seat, but she was a little subdued having been woken up from a tasty stroller nap. She fell asleep in line for the Jungle Cruise and slept through the whole boat ride, including the gunfire and then the transfer to her stroller. So of course we woke her up to watch the parade!
But it was worth it. She loves the parade.
And so did we, because of it.
For dinner, Alice enjoyed an enchilada with beans and rice. Again, so proud. 

Alice loves it's a small world.
We hit up it's a small world, which Alice really loves. We made it out just in time for the "The Magic, The Memories and You!" show, which is projected on the small world facade. It's a very fun show with some really cool techniques. And then we headed over to grab a spot on Main Street to watch the fireworks! Alice enjoys fireworks and always watches them wide-eyed and silent. This time, she was so tired, she rested her cheek on my cheek and her head got heavier and heavier and heavier until the full weight of her body was resting on my face. I finally had to hand her over to my mom, who said afterwards it was the best fireworks experience she's ever had. Aw. 
Jon, Alice, and I were all pretty tuckered after that, so we headed out and left the big kids to watch Fantasmic! and close down the park. Alice didn't even make it out the gates before she fell asleep. Here she is, already dreaming of fireworks and flowers.

The next day was her actual birthday, and we surprised her with a doorway curtain of festive streamers. She calls them "pay-puhrs" or "wee-mers."Adorbs. 
One buddy guy.
Alice's new favorite breakfast is Greek yogurt with a little bit of honey and she was pretty stoked to have it in a coffee cup. We were out of bowls...
Birthday breakfast.
Before her party guests arrived, Alice changed into the little dress I whipped up just for her birthday. So cute!
Playing games with Grandpa Mustache.
Mmmmmm, sprinkles!
Alice loved the cupcakes with sprinkles and the candles, but was a little leery of the fire once they were lit. She wouldn't get anywhere near enough to blow them out, so her dad had to help. It's a good thing she's too young to understand about making a wish, because I'm pretty sure they don't come true if someone else blows out your candles!
Alice is a pretty dainty girl and is usually reluctant to touch food that is too wet, sticky, or messy. She was hesitant to pick up the whole cupcake, but did not hesitate to scoop the whipped cream frosting off the top!
Her dad finally gave her a hand...
And then she got the hang of it!
And then she got to open some fun presents! 
A beach bucket set!
Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! She likes the Bloogs and the Zong.
She made Grandma wear her new hat. So silly!
She's got the unwrapping thing down.
Grandma helps her open a card...
...with socks inside! Fun!!
She likes her owl socks!
And Auntie Shantje even got to join the fun, via iPad. 
And then her grandparents surprised her with one last present, a Minnie Mouse suitcase just her size! She was so excited she had to take it on a few trips around the house!

And then we went outside to play with her new bubbles. The girl loves bubbles. 
All told, it was a lot of fun for this little birthday girl and we all had a great time making her birthday special. I can't believe how much she's grown up since her last birthday, I can't wait to see what she's like in another year! Happy Birthday, sweet Alice!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

While Erin’s Been Away

Good morning, little giraffe. Apologies for the grain. Bad light + iPhone front cam.

Erin’s been way far away for the past week—as in other side of the Atlantic far away—doing all kinds of indescribably awesome things. Alice and I have been up to a few adventures of our own. Much smaller, Alice-sized adventures.

The teary goodbyes by the stars

Before Erin left, I made up a list of all of the things Alice and I could do to keep ourselves busy throughout the days. Because I’d be the solo parent for multiple days on end, I wanted a deep bullpen of activities we could look forward to, and not have to think things up on the fly, or when Alice was melting down. And hey, it really did the trick. We’ve had a remarkably easy, and very fun week together. I was pretty sure we’d be fine here on our own, but you just never know how a toddler will be this week...or next.

The first couple of days were spent near home, running things as usual, and preparing for my parents to arrive to give me a break. They were here helping for a few days and got some quality, uninterrupted Alice time, and didn’t have to share her with anyone else. That’s rare the way we usually all get together.

I looked after this guy while the grandparents took Alice on a little walk. The bed in this house is a bit smaller than the ones at his home.

When the grandparents loaded up the RV and left the driveway Monday, it was just me and Alice again. By this point, I had more things on my list than days left, so we just started ticking them off.

My list:
  • The zoo
  • Our music class on Wednesdays
  • Make cookies (we both enjoy cookies to an unhealthy level...I can keep her at bay, but I’m a lost cause)
  • Travel Town
  • Bike rides
  • The park
  • Bubbles in the back yard
Tuesday morning, we loaded up and went to the zoo. But first we made a stop at Snookie’s Cookies. I’d conceded we probably wouldn’t have time to make the cookies, so this would have to do. We saw all of our favorites—the neeks, tigers, giraffes, snow leopards (my fav.), and all the monkeys we could find! We attempted a ride on the carousel, well I bought three carousel tokens in anticipation. Alice kept saying leh-perd, leh-perd as shopped the selection of animal saddles. Just as last time, when she instantly regretted her giraffe selection, she could not have been more displeased with her snow leopard choice.

Eating a little cookie by the water fountain at the zoo, up close with Billy the elephant, studying this rattle snake, and one crocodile sleeping with his snack!

Days were tricky to juggle. Our activities were bite sized and we timed them to fit between meals, naps, and the Skype-ing we did with Erin every day at noon. It’s been a mad dash to get home to answer the video phone every day, but neither of us would miss it for the world, it just took a little bit of planning and hustling.

Wednesday was an even bigger day. We went to our rec. center music class in the morning. Alice is really into drumming and these colored squares of silk right now. It’s practically the only thing she talks about all week in between. She remembers which color she had at the last class, and even what color I had. She’s starting to pick up on the little songs and games quite a bit now. I sing her little cues during the day and she knows what happens next. That’s just the coolest thing to see happen. 

We rushed home to talk with mama after class, had lunch, and then hopped back into the car to go and visit my coworkers in the office. I don’t seem to make it out there very often (can’t imagine why?!), but this time there was another reason to visit: the Van Nuys airport public observation/play area. My company’s offices are directly adjacent to the Van Nuys airport—something that was never wasted on me when I made that daily commute. I’d spend breaks and lunches out at the fence watching the activity. It was pretty great. 

The Van Nuys airport is the busiest general aviation airport in the world, and the 25th busiest airport in the world by number of takeoffs and landings. The quantity and variety of aircraft at this airport is really unmatched any place. Sit in this park for ten minutes, and you’ll see ten different airplanes, helicopters, or corporate jets moving in a nearly endless parade. This airport is one of the few remaining that really appreciates its heritage and fosters good will toward the next generation. Enter, the public observation area. Complete with covered picnic areas, benches, an accurate airport diagram painted on the ground for the kiddies to run on, and for the big kids to see just where taxiway bravo is, historical displays, and they pipe in the live air traffic control communications so you can follow along with what you’re seeing, or about to see if you pay attention to it all closely enough.

Alice holding short of the world famous runway one six right, on her takeoff roll, and playing with the airport vehicle cutouts.
This is how close the action is. Here’s the fence, then a service road, then the main eastern taxiway toward the runway. Alice got to learn just how loud corporate jets are up close. I was afraid this might have freaked her out to the point of meltdown, but she was easily redirected to the play areas, and happy as a clam again. We’ll bring hearing protection next time!

And finally, this morning I learned the Play Me, I’m Yours public piano installation all around LA was in its final day before they pick them all up again. I’ve been meaning to make it out to at least one of the thirty painted pianos while they were on display, but like many things, time slipped away. But this was our chance. We were on a adventure hot streak this week, so I found one we could bike to this morning. And since we went early in the morning, we had the whole thing to ourselves! Alice had a look of confusion about it. Like, “why is this outside?” and “I can just go up to it and play it?” Alice is a pretty shy girl out in public and generally respects obvious boundaries, like of course dad would tell me not to touch that. I urged and helped her up onto the bench and off she went. Plink, plink, plink.

We only made it to one piano, but this guy did something really cool. Here’s the Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition on all thirty of them and cut it together.

So that’s been our week so far. We’re in the homestretch of Erin’s trip and the grandparents are back to help us to the finish line. It’s been a fun time just me and her. While I think Erin would half way like to hear that we’re lost without her, I’m sure she’s so much happier to hear that we’re fully functioning people having and actually pretty good time here passing the time until she returns.

Final score:

  • The zoo
  • Our music class on Wednesdays
  • Make cookies (kinda)
  • Travel Town (maybe next time)
  • Bike rides
  • The park
  • Bubbles in the back yard

P.S. Alice loves Simon’s Cat’s new kitten friend.