A few Christmas highlights

Monday, December 30, 2013

So, at Christmas, I came down with an annoying virus that I guiltily passed on to Avienne, which we then passed on to my sister's two youngest boys and then my brother-in-law. It was absolutely no fun, and honestly stole a lot of joy out of our Christmas plans and celebrations. All the scrumptious food my mom and sister whipped up for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was wasted on my useless tastebuds. I was in bed by 8:00 every night with aches and terrible congestion, and up all night nursing my sick, congested babe. And, all the grand plans I had to play games and watch movies and get tons of knitting done never had a chance to materialize. 

But, I was surrounded by family all week, and Avienne is such a cuddlebug when she's not feeling well, so it wasn't all a waste. Plus, we got to see snow! We never see snow on Christmas, and that was honestly, a treat. Back in Austin, we're still on the mend over here, trying to shake some persistent coughs and a few lingering sniffles, but getting out for fresh air as much as possible (especially since it's about 50-degrees warmer here). There hasn't been much time to play with all our Christmas gifts between long naps, and trips outside, so we're looking forward to recovering soon for discovering and enjoying all our new toys.  It wasn't the Christmas we dreamt it would be, but it's one that won't soon be forgotten. Now, we're really looking forward to a healthy 2014! 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week in 2013"

Cinquante-deux :: Sledding in a sea of snow.

Lots of firsts happeend last week for this little girl. We were in Kansas during a couple of days of snowfall, and Avienne had the pleasure of experiencing the cold powder for the first time. Too bad my baby is such a Texas girl - she was mostly OK being bundled up in snow gear, but she just couldn't stand to keep her mittens on. When she discovered how cold the snow was, she seemed to be done with it all. So, I grabbed this sled from my sister's garage and pulled her around the front yard for a bit while the boys shoveled the driveway. She cracked a few smiles, but as you can see, wasn't interested in the whole thing for a too long. She got sick the very next day (thanks to her mama), so I have a feeling that might have had something to do with it, too. Either way, we grabbed a few good photos of her in the sea of snow, and I love having a picture of one of Avienne's "firsts" for the very last "picture of the week" in 2013.

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013"

Cinquante-et-un :: Road-tripper at a pit-stop

We set off on Friday night to visit my sister and her family in Kansas for the holidays. After a blown tire forced us to stay overnight a little closer to home than we expected, we set off the next day refreshed and eager to hit the road. We made it there in almost no time, despite the wintry weather and all the mini pit-stops we had to make for this little gal. Traveling in a car with Avienne wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I don't think we'll be doing it again anytime soon. Having an active baby strapped to a carseat for a few hours at a time seems a bit like torture, so if we do decide to do some road-tripping again, I think we'll wait until she's a little older and at least big enough to sit facing forward. 

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013"

Cinquante :: Breakfast baby.

Holy smokes, I can't believe we're already at week 50! Although it feels like I've kept up relatively well with this project, I'm a bit ashamed to say I didn't take the camera out once this past week. Of course, I always have my phone ready to snap a shot, and this (as well as last) week's post is thanks to that trusty contraption. I don't know if I've learned to capture more and better moments like I'd hoped I'd learn when I first started this project, but I'm happy I'll have this cherished collection of weekly memories to look back on when it's all said and done. These little, normal moments of our lives - playing in the park, running in the backyard, or eating breakfast, I'm learning, are what really make up our small existence. And, they're just as important to capture as the milestones we all look forward to witnessing.

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.

O Tannenbaum

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A few weekends ago, we drove out to Elgin Christmas Tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree. They have really lovely pre-cut trees like many of the tree stands in town do, but we went all the way out there to cut our own. This is the first time any of us had ever cut down any sort of tree, so we didn't really know what to expect. Of course, it turned out to be a really fun experience at the pitturesque farm just east of Austin.

A tractor pulled us out to the impressive tree garden to wander about in search of the perfect one to bring home. I was a little sad at first because, although the trees were all kinds of gorgeous, my favorite kind of Christmas tree (Douglas Fir) could only be purchased pre-cut. But, there were so many other beauties to choose from and I was kind of excited to discover other types of trees.

Beforehand, we had decided to look for a "small" tree, but in the end, our perfect tree was a little taller than we'd expected, at nearly 7 feet. We found it after a pretty long search - deciding on a few others first, only to discover they were really dried up or missing big chunks of their leaves. Gui set off cutting it down, giving me a [very short] turn at the saw, while Avienne romped about, kicking tree stumps and cheering her papa on.

I have to hand it to the farm, they really have the whole system down to a science. As soon as we deboarded the trailer with our tree tagged and named, someone handled the whole process of shaking our tree down, shaving down the trunk and netting it for transport. We paid, tied it to the car roof, grabbed a sausage wrap (or two), and were on our way home in no time.

We kept it simple this year and threw on all of last year's decorations, minus a topper. I had huge plans for buying a big, shiny star topper, but waited too long to decide on one. Next year! I'm just happy to wake up to a freshly-cut tree, a few strewn lights and three little stockings hung nearby. Christmas is coming!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013."

Quarante-neuf :: Looking like a teenager, helping us trim the tree.

This year, Christmastime has been so much more interactive than last year, and I'm loving it. She can help us with the tree, put up decorations (although, she's mostly not interested), drink hot cocoa and dance to Christmas tunes with us instead of watching us have all the fun. It's been great, and I'm pretty stoked to see how she reacts to Christmas morning and all the excitement of opening gifts and eating good food with family. It really feels like it's her first Christmas all over again. 

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013."

Quarante-huit :: Showing the swings some love

It's been a while since Avienne wanted to swing during a regular trip to the park. She usually looks at them, then dismisses them quickly for rock-throwing or running up slides. But, last week, she gave the swings more than a second look and decided she needed to see for herself if they were still as fun as before. She couldn't stop smiling, and we stayed swinging for a good while before heading home. I could have stayed there pushing her all day just to watch her giggle and glow with every push.

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013."

Quarante-sept :: Enjoying a quick read before the day starts 

Avienne has started to climb pretty much anything she can. Beds are still a little too high for her, but she will climb just about any chair or footstool she comes across. Lately, I've noticed her grabbing a book and climbing into this chair while I pick out her clothes for the day or tidy up her room in the morning. It's really cute to watch her sit still for a rare moment and just read herself a story. She's always been into reading, but recently, she's started grabbing books or magazines or even junk mail, pointing to the words and pretending to read. I sure hope she enjoys books and stories this much in a few years when she will undoubtedly be tempted by iPads and the internet. 

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.


Monday, November 18, 2013

"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013."

Quarante-cinq :: Digging up rocks and dumping them in her lap - a new discovery.

We were at the park again for a birthday party this past Sunday, and Avienne was most interested in playing with rocks than slides or swings.  Once she discovered an abandoned shovel, she spent a good while shoveling rocks onto her lap, clearing them off, then shoveling them back on.  I love watching her discover something totally new to her, learning a new concept and developing new skills - she's just soaking it all up, all the time.  I hope she's always intrigued by new discoveries and willing to entertain new experiences.  It's what life is all about, and something that I really have to work at being better at, myself.  Becoming a mama gives me so much to reflect on about my own life and goals, and man, am I really grateful for that.

Linking up with Jodi's 52 Project.


"A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013."

Quarante-cinq :: My very own park stair master.

Park days are some of the funnest.  The weather was so good for a couple of weeks, that we couldn't resist spending all our free time outside.  Sunshine is nice and all, but I live for some gloomy days. I think Avienne is right there with me - so long as it means she gets to hit up her favorite park and climb these stairs about a zillion times.  We're in a bit of a heat wave right now (90 degrees in November yesterday!), and I'm hoping it passes soon, so we can get back to park days.  And hot chocolate.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

↑  Headed to school. (This girl does not like backpacks!)

Before she was born, Gui and I talked about sending Avienne to preschool when she was the right age.  We were certain we would send her to a French immersion school so she would be exposed to French as much as possible while we're living in the US, but the school we want send her to accepts students age 2 and older.  In fact, all of the schools we looked into start accepting children at age 2, but we were hoping to get Avienne started sooner than that.  She seems to be happiest when she's around other kids (what kid isn't?) and there's no denying the benefits of children learning to socialize with peers early in life.  I was starting to see Avienne becoming bored with our routines, and I honestly, started feeling a little inadequate in terms of teaching her new things and keeping her interest.  

So, I started searching around for alternatives to French immersion, and stumbled upon a Chinese immersion school that allows children to start at 18 months.  Avienne just turned 16 months, but the director met with us and after a trial class, she offered to enroll her right away instead of waiting a couple months.  Kids can go for as few as 2 hours a week, but we want to expose Avienne to the language as much as possible without burning her out, so we opted to start by enrolling her for 4 hours a week.  

I know it seems a little out of the ordinary to send Avienne to a Chinese immersion school when neither Gui nor I speak Chinese, but we see only positives to exposing her to a third language.  She just finished up her second week at the preschool (8 hours total immersion), and we already see that she can understand much of what her teacher says and can respond to "hello," "goodbye," and "thank you" in Chinese. 

But, as is with many first-time preschoolers, the hardest part is leaving her for those two hours.  Apart from when she's sleeping, Avienne has never been more than a couple of hours away from me (or Gui), and she's never been left with anyone but family when she has been away from us.  So, dropping her off at school has been a huge transition for both of us.  We have already seen some improvement, but I think it will be a pretty slow process. She loves being at the school and cheerfully marches through the doors and down the hallway, but she cries the moment we step into the classroom.  The last two days have been the hardest for me (and probably for her, too), but I know she is well taken care of.  She is the youngest in her class, but there are never more than 4 students, so she takes up quite a bit of attention right now.  I've tried to keep up a routine when leaving, but I really have no idea if it helps at all.

Avienne is waitlisted for a full-time French preschool when she turns 2, but our plan is to keep up with Chinese on a part-time basis so her exposure to it now will not be wasted. I think once she is able to go without missing me, we'll start to see more evidence of language comprehension. It astonishes me to see older students at the school speaking and responding to Chinese with ease - even babes as young as two!

Does your child go to preschool? I would love to hear any tips or advice on how to make preschool transitioning any easier.


Monday, November 4, 2013

A portrait of Avienne once a week, every week, in 2013.

Quarante-quatre :: Dancing at a Dia de los Muertos parade

We got a little more than we expected when we attended this parade last week.  There was music and dancing and kids aplenty, and we were all pretty excited to be celebrating in true Austin fashion.  While we were standing together listening to the drums and watching the oversized skeletal bride and groom dance around, a little boy standing in front of us turned around and out of nowhere, shoved Avienne down onto the grass.  I hardly knew how to react, but my heart was racing so fast. The boy's dad, who was standing just next to him, didn't see it happen, so when I told him what his son had done, he asked him to apologize, and apologized to us, as well. Avienne was, of course, fine - just crying and probably a little confused, but she got over it quickly.  It certainly bothered me more than her, and I could feel myself shaking out of anger and feeling so unprepared. 

As aware as I am that Avienne will likely encounter this type of behavior many times as a child, before this incident, I had never thought about how I would and should react when it happens. Gui and I had a long conversation about it afterwards, and I think the whole thing helped us both put things into perspective when it comes to protecting Avienne and teaching her how to behave and deal with others.  There are obviously, still so many lessons I have yet to learn as a mama, but I'm counting on there being more occasions to teach me sooner than I'd like.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Everyone here is sound asleep after a late night of trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, but I'm up looking through the pictures we took of Avienne's first real introduction to a Halloween tradition.  We had a blast showing her how to walk up to houses, knock on the door and ask for treats. She's at such a fun age now, and she's starting to become so independent, that I can barely remember how little our sweet little pea was one short year ago.  A few times tonight, she wanted to step inside and make herself at home, and other times, she wanted to trade the candy she had in her bag for the candy in someone's bowl. It was really funny to see her go through the ropes and point at houses whose doors she wanted to knock on.

Our friends came over with their kids to spend the evening with us, too.  It's so nice to have a big kid around to show Avienne and the other littler babes how it's done. By the end of the night, Avienne was signing "thank you" automatically after she grabbed some candy from a bowl, which made my mama heart feel pretty darn good.  Her learning process these days is sometimes so tangible.

We spent the better part of the evening out, and were all pretty worn down by the time we reached home base again. I'm not sure how, but it is so very exhausting to walk around the block and ask for candy. We had a few trick-or-treaters come by our place, too, but not nearly as many as we anticipated.  Which, of course, means that we now have way too many bucketfulls of candy lying around the house.

I sure hope y'all enjoyed Halloween, too!

TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.