When I first had Emma I added the tag “A whole new world” on this blog because I was so amazed by how much things changed when that little baby entered my life. When I added the tag I thought I might use it for a year, maybe two, and then I would settle into this parenting gig and the tag would just become “My world” instead of a whole new one.

Yeah, so I was wrong. Being a parent is like going spelunking. You go from room to room, cave to cave, hole to hole, and just when you think there can’t be anymore of the cave to see, you crawl through a little crevice in the rock and a new and glorious cavern opens up to you. (FWIW – I have only been caving once and hated it – parenting is a lot more fun.)

William and Emma have become (always were really) such delightful wonderful creatures. Full disclosure – Will is still going through a tough time sometimes related to being just-barely-four. He gets very emotional and very angry about nothing and everything all at the same time and sometimes all we can do is hold him and let him cry. I am convinced we are at the tail-end of this phase though – and the moments in between the tough ones are just wonderful. He is full of humor and love and delights in every little thing he learns from day to day.

Emma has become such a big girl. She is genuinely helpful to me around the house, really enjoys being a good older sister and helping her brother – especially when he is having a hard time, and she is generally a lot of fun to be with. She doesn’t like being asked to speak in French, but every once in a while she will come out with a phrase or a song and Mike and I sneak a look to each other across the table, in complete astonishment at what she is learning when we aren’t around. One day at the park her brother was being picked on by another boy and as they were leaving Emma turned to the boy and admonished him in French to stop messing with her brother. I wish I had been there to see his face.

Both kids genuinely love each other, despite those moments when they don’t. Both seem happiest when the whole family, including Jo, our au pair, are all hanging out together.

Parenting can be such an endurance test – especially with little ones – it can sometimes feel like you are just putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the day with as few tears as possible. Recently I have felt like our family unit has moved into a new phase along with the kids. We are enjoying each other more than ever and are relating as much more of a group, making decisions together about where to go and what to do, as opposed to Mom and Dad telling the little ones what the plans are. Things feel fresh and new in a way they haven’t for a while – I am so excited about the adventures we will have together in the coming years!

It feels like Spring in our house in so many ways.

This weekend – three weeks after he turned four – we took the training wheels off William’s bike. It was one year earlier than we did with Emma, but he had been tearing around on the training wheels for a while and something about the way he rode made us feel like he might be able to handle riding on two wheels. So we strapped on the gyrowheel and he took off. At first he was frustrated but after about four tries he was able to ride by himself and eventually the battery on the gyrowheel died and then he was REALLY riding by himself. This was taken in the park on the day after the wheels came off:

Massanutten 2012Let’s be honest here Moms and Dads: a vacation with kids can be…well…hit or miss. I know we all love our kidlets to pieces and can’t WAIT until those few weeks out of the year that we get to hang out with them and eat, drink and be merry. But still, one of the first things I learned as a new mom was that vacationing with kids is a hella lotta work. There’s the preparation, the packing of bags, the packing of the car, the DRIVE there (how did we survive car trips over 90 minutes without DVD players back in the day? Seriously. How.) And once you arrive it has been my experience that quite often the expectations for the time together are so high that there is no where to go but down. Still, we take lots of pictures and hope we forget parts that were less than perfect.

My family went on vacation last week. And we had FUN. Serious fun. The kind of fun that makes you love being a parent.Massanutten 2012

I don’t know if it is because the kids are a little older, or if it is because I didn’t think too much about the trip before we left, but it was awesome. As vacations go, this one was right up at the top of the list.

We spent the week at the Massanutten Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Emma took ski class three of the days and I think can now qualify as a full-fledged SKIER. By the end of the week she was dragging me around the mountain telling me which runs she wanted to do. Massanutten 2012

William took one short ski class, mostly because he was tired of being left out of all the skiing fun, and did really well for his first time plus got to practice his flirting techniques.

We spent a couple of nights at the Massanutten Water Park, which I was leery of at first, but which turned out to be some of the most fun I have had in a long time. On one of the rainy days we went to Luray Caverns, a spot Mike and I hadn’t visited in a few decades. William was non-plussed but Emma was amazed and both did a great job during the mile trek through the underworld.

Massanutten 2012

The weather was warm enough that we got in a hike and a few walks and the kids had some fun digging in a stream near the house we stayed in. The kids discovered the movie Bambi right before we left and watched it at least six times during the course of the week, no exaggeration, and we let them.

It helped that every morning and every evening Bambi’s real-life cousins gathered in the woods outside the house, lingering until they were scared away by the delighted shrieks of the resident pre-schoolers. Massanutten 2012

We had friends join us for the first few days of the trip, which could be part of why it all went so well. Having friends around made it more fun for everyone and allowed us to enjoy each other without feeling like we had to. In the end, this was the kind of vacation you are extra-sad to come home from. It was packed with laughter and new adventures without being exhausting or overly scheduled.

We got unpacked and cleaned up yesterday, and I am already looking forward to our next trip!Massanutten 2012

For anyone with an iPhone – check out the newest feature of the Google Search mobile app for your phone – Google Goggles!

What a great way to teach kids about the world around them. Not to mention getting help with finding a cool spot for date night!

I used to think that Valentine’s Day was a grown-up holiday and anything we did to celebrate it as kids was just practice for the REAL celebration of the day that would happen in the future – when we were grown ups. Then I grew up and decided that Valentine’s Day really just causes me more trouble than it is worth (whether single or coupled).

Now I think I have come to some peace about Valentine’s Day. It is clear to me that it is a holiday concocted by the greeting card industry that as a grown up I am ok not participating in. But it is also a day that is super fun for kids – and a great opportunity to teach them to “shower the people you love with love”. I have some issues with the generally accepted concept of romantic love (that is for another post perhaps), but I am all about loving each other in a true sense and not being afraid to express it.

So – this year the kids made a list of all of their family members and spent an afternoon creating Valentine’s Day cards for them. The cutest part was that they were very clear that each card was for a specific person. No “one-card-fits-all” for these kids. They were deliberate in their art and each person got exactly the card the kids wanted them to get.

Aunt Emily and Aunt Lexi posted their cards on Facebook – one right after the other, which was funny:
Valentine's Day via Facebook

The kids made chocolate-covered heart-shaped rice crispy treats on-a-stick for their classmates and they seemed to be a big hit:
Valentine's Day

Next year I want to try these cute stained glass Valentine cards.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all those you love!

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