Thursday, May 27, 2010

Identity Crisis

Sam hasn’t been much of a talker. I’m guessing that the fact that her sister and mom never really shut up hasn’t really helped her express herself verbally. But, as time goes on she’s speaking more and more. She most definitely has the words “No” and “Mine” down, that’s for sure.

One of the things she seems to not quite “get” is her own name. She is a pro at saying everyone else’s… Addi is “Ah-ee!”, her daddy is “Jay” and I am “Mommy,” but ask her who she is and she is stumped. She only calls herself “Ah-ee.” Not Sam, not I, not me. Just Addi. Having self-recognition is one of the milestones they look for at her age, so I try to correct her as much as possible and tell her she’s Sami. Plus, do we really need two Addi’s in this house? I think not.

Since being home from California, I’ve noticed Sam verbalizing a lot more than before. She repeats everything Addi says and speaks much more clearly. On Saturday we were getting ready to go to the park and I could have sworn I heard Sam say, “Boss.” I stopped and said, “What did you say, Sam?” and she said, “Addi ‘da boss!” and pointed to her sister.  After laughing I quickly explained to her that no, mommy and daddy were the bosses, not Addi, and when I asked her to tell Jay who the boss was she quickly said, “Mommy.” Awesome.

At the park we met Jenny, Ron, Jill and Ryan for a picnic. After we got settled I told Jenny that Sam had learned something new, then said, “Sam, tell Jenny who’s the boss!” She got a cute grin on her face and said, “Me!”

Of course.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Samantha's Trip

Just like Addi, we loved spending so much undivided time with Samantha. Over the past month she really seems to have lost the "baby" side and more and more is turning into her own independent person, so it was really amazing to just see how her mind turns, day after day.  Before we left, Jay asked if I thought Sam would do OK for eight days, away from all of her dolls, and I figured we'd be so busy she would hardly miss them.  However, I really wasn't surprised when I found her on the second day of vacation, patting a toy shark and gum wrapper to sleep.  She really should go into the daycare business someday.

Even though a lot of the bigger parts of the trip (like SeaWorld and Disneyland) were geared more towards Addi, I know that in her own way Sam had a blast too. I think it’s pretty obvious from these pictures, she’ll remember this trip for the rest of her life.

She'll remember eating Pringles poolside...
And Teddy Grahams at Disneyland...
Diet Coke at a local ice cream shop...
Fish crackers with her cousin at SeaWorld (Irony at it's best)..
Chocolate milk on the pier...
And orange after orange after orange in the condo.
OK, OK... she probably won't remember it.  But those memories are burned into my brain for life.

Addison's Trip

Our trip to California was huge for Addison. Once we told her we were heading there, she started packing. Seriously, she had things set aside a month in advance, arguing with us any time we tried to pull something out of her “Sabrina’s House” pile.

Spending eight uninterrupted days with both girls was great, but it was totally awesome spending so much time with Addi. She is so full of energy and stories and ideas and random nonsense… Like how she married Spongebob in a ceremony under the sea, then he was tragically eaten by a crocodile.

No one said she was normal.  But the look on random people's faces when she told them that story... PRICELESS.

A lot of our trip revolved around doing stuff we knew Addi would like, mostly because unlike past vacations, there's a decent chance she will actually remember parts of this one.  Some of the highlights for Addi...

She and Sabrina (and her dad) got to feed dolphins at SeaWorld...
She met her favorite princesses at Disneyland (and STILL can't believe Cinderella knew her name)...
She got to be the assistant captain on a boat ride - and totally blew me away with how big she was...
She managed to have a blast, even after no nap...
And she made me feel like the luckiest person on earth, just spinning in circles with her.

Toes in the sand...

A trip to the coast isn't complete without spending some serious time in the sand.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Settling In...

Once we got settled in we started checking out our home for the next week. Besides being on the water, there was a huge pool, koi pond, putting green, waterfall, and tons of beautiful landscaping. The fish were just insane and the girls absolutely loved to feed them.
The pool was heated to 80 but it was only about 62 degrees outside… too cool for swimming for Sam and I but Addi talked Jay into a quick swim. Luckily they had a HUGE hot tub that wasn’t overly hot and both girls loved going in. We got in there almost every day on vacation.
We chose southern California as our vacation spot because it was pretty close to Jay’s brother Adam and my brother Lee, so we spent as much time with them as we could. They all came to our place on Sunday and we spent some quality time together.

I have blogged several times about Addi's adoration of Sabrina.  The girls have almost 20 cousins and to Addi, Sabrina hung the stars.  Needless to say, she was beyond excited to get to see her.  I almost cried when we were sitting in the hot tub...  Addi and Sabrina were on the stairs and Addi quietly told Sabrina, "I miss you so much, all the time." 

There are no words at times like that. 

Condo Sweet Condo

In addition to Jay’s many talents – grilling, cooking anything, and being an amazing dad – he also has a hidden talent. He’s great at planning vacations. He curls up with the laptop and within a few hours has a trip all figured out. Then, he’ll spend 10 additional nights making sure he got it right, usually setting on his original plan.

One of his many skills is picking out our accommodations. And it’s only taken eight years of us being together for me to finally relax and just trust that he knows what he’s doing. On our first trip to California in 2006 he found us a cheap hotel in Hollywood and I have to admit, I was fairly certain pimps and ho’s would be shacking up in the room next door. Turns out we stayed at the hotel where they host a ton of Oscar parties, is attached to the Kodak Theatre, and was nothing short of breathtaking. All for $80 bucks a night. Last New Year’s we headed to Key West with several friends to stay in a house Jay found on the net, and a house on the water with two kitchens, a pool and hot tub seemed a little too good to be true. We are all still thanking Jay for finding THAT one.

So, when Jay showed me the pictures of our condo on the beach in Oceanside, CA, I was 100% sure he found us another gem. Just don’t tell him that, I don’t want him to get cocky. Once we were handed the keys and walked in, I had to give him a pat on the back.

Pretty sweet, huh.

More to come on our trip...

Monday, May 17, 2010


The Ralphs have been unplugged for the past 10 days or so.  Even though we took our laptop with us on vacation, we really tried to just enjoy our time together, doing things TOGETHER.  I have tons of stories and thousands of memories and I fully intend on documenting the highlights here (partially for you all to read but MOSTLY for me to remember!).

Until then, here are a few glimpes of what we did and how we spent our time...

We walked.  A lot.  This is a rare picture of Jay without a kid on his shoulders.  Walking along the San Diego coast.

We spent a LOT of time just hanging out.  Literally.  Sam sat in this swing for hours on multiple occasions.  Can you blame her?  The view is killer.  This is the park less than a mile down the coast from our condo. 

We soaked up as much sun and family time as we could.  These cousins sure do love each other.  Here, they are at Sea World.
And, we spent some much needed time together as a family.  Unfortunately this is a rare family shot, taken in our condo by Adam.  Shout out to Jay for booking this awesome place for us.  Great job.
Now, I am going to attempt to get back on Illinois time and go to bed.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Packing our bags

I know that the earth rotates around the sun at the same speed every day, no matter what is going on.  That said, the past few months have been beyond hectic.  Work, kids, sickness, surgery... Everytime I blink it seems a few days have gone by and with it, valuable time I could be spending with Jay and the kids.  I think what we need is some quality time as a family.

So, Saturday morning we are hopping on a plane and heading to California for eight days.  Some time visiting family, some time in the sand, a trip to Disneyland, and some family bonding.  We can't wait!

Stay tuned for more on our adventure!  I'm taking bets on which of my kids pees on the beach first.

Why we love our two year olds...

When I was pregnant with Samantha I joined, just like I had when I was pregnant with Addison. It was a great place to go for the random questions that come up and a great place to obsess over every stretch mark, bump, or twinge in my belly. The group eventually moved to a private board, then another board, then Facebook... And now, two years later I have several women I call my true friends, some I've met in real life and some I can only hope to meet one day.
Now, over two years later our babies are turning two. One of my friends sent me a link to this article and as I read it I couldn’t help laughing at so many points. Our kids are definitely their own people!

Why we love our two year olds

Despite having what I consider expertise in the area (and being prepared for the worst), I still marvel at the way toddlers are equipped, at such a young age, to develop a mind completely of their own. So I do the only thing I can do: Try to maintain my sense of humor -- and my sanity -- by seeing her behavior in a new light. For instance:
  • When she takes a running leap and lands on top of me, she is questioning whether she will always be able to lean on me. And because I always want her to know the answer is yes, I tolerate it.
  • When she yells "No!" and points her finger, returning the glare she undoubtedly learned from me, she is asserting herself. I couldn't be more relieved. I hope she will maintain that perseverance right into her teen years, when she can use it on any boy who dares to try to get fresh with her. And into her adult years, when her stubbornness will be called "determination."
  • When she attempts to stick a bobby pin she's found into the light socket, she is exploring her world and trying to discover how things work. Perhaps she'll be an engineer one day.
  • When she draws on the walls with a purple crayon, she is expressing her creativity. I try to think of her as an artist in training. And even more important, she is learning the value of leaving her mark on the world.
  • When she breaks my favorite lamp and flashes her award-winning smile just as I am coming toward her, she is practicing her people skills. Perhaps she'll be a great politician (though I hope she'd be the rare kind who maintains integrity).
  • When she tries to stuff the kitten into her brother's lunchbox, she is experimenting with spatial concepts.
  • When she wrestles with her brother over a toy, calling "Mine!" loud enough to be heard down the street, she is being bold and going for what she wants. I just hope that in the future, if she doesn't get her way, her solution won't be to bite in retaliation.
  • When she climbs our chain-link fence with bare feet, she is proving that no challenge is too difficult for her to meet. And when I discover her playing in the yard of the neighbors who live behind us, she is reaching beyond her own little world, refusing to be provincial.
  • When she lies on top of her 7-month-old sister, crushing the baby with enthusiastic hugs and kisses, she is unabashedly wearing her heart on her sleeve.
  • When she insists I read The Little Engine That Could to her again, for the seventh time in a row, she is teaching me patience.
  • When she dumps macaroni all over the kitchen floor, stops to acknowledge my "No!" by turning briefly to look at me, and then goes right back to what she was doing, she is showing her ability to follow through with a task.
  • When she gets tickled over something I take for granted -- the toast popping up from the toaster when it's browned, for instance -- she is blessing me unaware. How many times have I longed to see the world through the eyes of a child once again? Thanks to her, I can.
  • When I catch her trying to eat the cat's food, she is proving that she will not be a picky eater -- and that she has survival skills, which may come in handy later in life (especially if she ends up on some reality TV show).
  • When she gleefully rips off her dry diaper, throws it in the sink, and races for the toilet, then refuses to sit on it, she is exercising her prerogative to change her mind.
  • When I call her name and she immediately breaks into a sprint in the other direction, she is listening to her own inner voice and refusing to be a conformist.
  • When she suddenly decides to throw a tantrum in the middle of a restaurant, she is teaching me humility. And that leftovers reheated later at home usually taste just as good as food served fresh.
  • When she steps into my enormous shoes, which swallow her tiny feet, and clumsily tries to walk in them, she makes me reflect upon my great responsibility to provide a good role model for her to follow.
  • And when she stands on the kitchen table with no pants on, refusing to even put on a diaper, and dances... well, I can only think the worst about that. So I try not to read too much into it, because I am choosing to remain positive.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Proof

I can't be the only one who thinks she looks a tad creepy...


This weekend the girls and I went to get our haircut. Sam has great hair - it's blond, it's straight, and it has this cute little flip at the ends that I find adorable. Even at the end of the day, it still can look respectable if you run a comb through it.  A quick trim and she's good for a few months.
Addi is a different story. Her hair, like her personality, is a little on the wild side. Most days she resembles a feral animal of some sort, even when we try hard to make her look presentable. It doesn’t help that most days she refuses to let me pull it back in any way. And if it looks OK when she leaves the house, it still appears as if something crawled up in there and made a nest by day’s end.

A "good" hair day... notice the syrup smeared in
I asked Addi how she liked her hair and she (as she pushed it out of her eyes for the 100th time) said, “I want short hair like you, Mommy!”

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