Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We have a swimmer!

Meredith has been "swimming" since she was about 10 months old - we started Mommy and me swim lessons the summer before she was 1 - but she has never really been a fan. She liked the water, but try to get her to do anything UNDER the water and she was out! Last summer we could hardly even get her to go into the big pool all summer, although she had a blast in the little inflatable pools. We still took mommy and me lessons last summer but it was pretty disasterous and we even stopped going before the season ended.

This year, I decided she would probably do better without me and signed her up for a two week class with Miss Suzy. I was really encouraged the few weeks before swimming lessons as we tried out Gigi's pool because she was loving being in the water again! Of course, she loved being in it with a swim ring, but I felt we had already made progress. Then swimming lessons started. She was excited. I dropped her off and she didn't even flinch that I was leaving her in a stranger's backyard, so Jillian and I went to the park without worry while we waited on her.

When we returned, I found a very sullen Meredith in the lounge chair. She wouldn't talk to me or smile. A friend of Meredith's was in her class and he said, "She is mad because she just screamed the whole time." Oh. That is when Miss Suzy laid it out for me - she wasn't going to be able to teach her or the other kids anything if Meredith just screamed, so she told us we could come back on Day 2 and hope that it turned out better - but she even sent me back home with the money I paid "in case." That was tough.

I went home and obsessed - I called another swim teacher to see if she could switch teachers. I got her advice. I called Miss Suzy and got her advice. Then we went to Gigi's house. Gigi made Meredith a swim chart with stickers and I took a no-nonsense approach making her go underwater more times than I could count. Then I prayed and prayed. And I had Meredith pray and pray. Day 2, I dropped off a crying little girl, but when I went nervously back to pick her up - there she was with a sucker (the true sign she did great). Turns out, the tears turned off right after I left! We had a few more rough days when she didn't want to do as much jumping off the side as Miss Suzie would have liked, but we went to Gigi's practically every day to keep practicing. I was amazed by her progress and confidence growth!

The last day, we were invited in to watch the end of her lessons and it was so fun to watch all of the kids - especially Meredith, who had turned from a screamer into a swimmer!
Meredith and her friend Marc ready to show us some jumps into the water
"You watchin, Mama?"

Ok, terrible picture - but look at my little girl (yes, the one that screamed so much she almost got kicked out of lessons) jumping off the diving board!!
And then she swam all the way to the side underwater to Miss Suzy
So comfortable in her surroundings, she had time to pose before jumping in for more!
There she goes!
Doing her airplane float
I am so proud of her for pushing through her fear and working so hard! It looks like she is a little proud too!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I love that there is a day to celebrate Dads. Especially since I not only have a great one of my own, but because God has blessed me with an amazing Daddy for my beautiful girls. He is kind, he is patient (especially when I am not), he knows how to have lots of fun, he can throw an amazing dance party, he loves us, and he works hard for us every day. One of the things that I have loved most about Neal as a Daddy is seeing how much he has thrown himself into being the center of Meredith's world (and I know this list will expand to include things that he does specifically for Jillian pretty soon!) He takes a Meercat to work with him every day because she decided he needed to. He got up on stage at a big dance recital in an 80s outfit. He gets talked into letting her stay up late to watch baseball games. So when Meredith decided she he needed a Star Wars lunchbox to take with him to work, I knew he would take that in stride!

She actually set out to get him Star Wars underwear "because he loves that movie" (I guess her underwear has characters from her favorite shows and movies, why shouldn't his, right?) Sadly, Target did not have Star Wars underwear. But when she saw the lunch box, she knew that was a great alternative! And since, he actually does take his lunch to work quite a bit, and usually uses a grocery sack, I didn't think it was that bad of an idea. Of course, I had to grill her, begging her not to tell what we had gotten him. When we saw him after buying it she yelled "Daddy, guess what we got at Target?" I reminded her not to tell, to which she replied "I wasn't going to tell him about his present, I wanted to tell him about the other stuff we got." Come to find out, only a few minutes later, when I was out of earshot, she told him all about it in a whispered voice, even when reminded her it was supposed to be a surprise. Oh well!

Someday, I hope she can look at this picture and remember back to the days he took this with him to work and know that it shows how much he truly loves her and know that not all dads would do the things he does for her.

Neal, we are so blessed to have you in our lives and as the Daddy in our house - your three girls love you tremendously!

Professional Styling

Meredith and I took a trip to the grocery store after breakfast yesterday and came home to find that Daddy had gotten Jillian's hair done for the day. I am thinking I need to take a few lessons from Daddy!
Now don't fault him, he wasn't going for pure style, he was thinking function, people! He hates it when she walks around with her hair in her eyes.
And maybe he was trying to keep her neck cool? I just wonder how he got her to sit still this long. I have to pin her down to get one ponytail in!
Look at all those ponytails! Took me a little while to get them all down!

This actually warmed my heart, thinking of a day almost exactly 3 years ago when Daddy first started his career as a hair styler for his girls...

Seriously, the date on this picture is June 16th, 2007 and the date on the ones of Jillian is June 19th, 2010 - how crazy that Neal has a desire to make his little girls look so beautiful mid June 3 years apart!
I do think his skill has improved! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The end of staycation week

Friday was the last big day of our staycation - we headed out to Fort Worth, first to the museum for a quick visit. Meredith was super happy just to do some grocery shopping and Jillian truly enjoyed it for the first time too, since this was our first trip there since she was walking. They both had a blast! Then we headed to the Stockyards to see the Longhorn Cattle Drive. Meredith planned out her outfit accordingly that morning, which included cowgirl boots and a hat. Both girls loved watching the longhorns as much as they loved the horses the night before. Plus there were all the cowboys on their horses too!
I think this is the closest Jillian had been to a horse and she loved it! She was a little scared when it would whiny, but then she would just laugh and laugh!
The highlight of the stockyards for both girls were the mechanical rides - they were everywhere, if only we had an endless supply of quarters!
This one was probably their favorite - it was on super-speed and it looked like it could possibly cause shaken baby syndrome, but again, they thought it was great!
All smiles after her ride - she was ready for more!

After all the rides we did a little window shopping and then had lunch. This fun little cow was on our shopping path and Meredith couldn't resist asking for a picture.

While walking around, Meredith and Jillian couldn't help but show their love for the country music playing...

So, even though that was technically the end of our staycation, we still had the whole weekend to spend together, so we took the opportunity to hit up a few pools with family and dear friends throughout the weekend. When the alarm went off this morning, we definitely weren't ready for Neal to head back to work (and I think he was dreading it just a bit too!) but we were so grateful for the time together. Really, my favorite moments of the week were watching how much Jillian bonded with him. She has always loved him, of course, but if I am in the room, I am who she wants to be with (if I leave, then of course, she turns off the act for me and becomes his best friend) - that is until this week. After all of our fun together, I really felt like she was just as happy with him as she always is with me, if not more. I really couldn't have asked for more! Just loved it all!

Racing through Thursday

The girls stayed with Gigi overnight on Wednesday night, so Thursday morning, Neal and I headed to a movie and lunch before getting our girls and heading to the horse races.
Meredith loved watching the horses in their stables and as they got ready for the races. She and Daddy would pick their favorite - we are thinking of taking her back, this time with money for betting because her favorite horse won 2 of the 3 races (and I think the other one came in second!)
Jillian was pretty much in heaven watching the horses walk around.
There was lots and lots of waving to the horses going on.
Look at this happy girl!
Both girls loved watching the horses actually run the track too, but it was even more fun to watch them leave the track and walk right by us!
The girls getting ready to pick another favorite horse
Love this picture of my sweet girl and her daddy
The girls had a blast walking around together - they are such sweet sisters.
Meredith wanted to watch the last race from the chairs with me, so Daddy took Jillian up the fence to watch up close.
Meredith and I joined them just as the horses ran by so Jillian could wave to them all and watch Meredith's favorite win!

When Wednesday rolled aroud...

...we first headed out to the Levitt Pavilion where we had gone to see David Chicken the week before. This week, The Boogers (or as Meredith called them, "The Burgers"), a kid's rock and roll band was playing.

Both girls loved spending so much time with their Daddy this week! I didn't mind having him around either!
Time for some pre-concert dancing...never too early to warm up!
Jillian did her fair share of boggy-ing too...this picture doesn't really show that, but it does display how cute she is! :)
The music was actually right up Neal's ally and it looks like Meredith approved too. She was really excited to go dance right by the stage.
Jillian was content to watch from back with us...
...and take a break with a snack of popcorn

The concert was nice and warm, so we took a picnic lunch over to a friend's house for a good time swimming - perfect way to make sure we had two tuckered little ones!

That evening, we took the girls to Gigi's so Neal and I could head to a Ranger's game with friends. It was nice to have some time just the two of us and the weather was just perfect for a baseball game!

Staycation Tuesday

I was pretty excited for Tuesday on our Staycation for different reasons than all the other days - and most noteably because Neal declared it my vacation day! I ended up opting for only a half day so that I could join the rest of the fam in the afternoon, but I sure loved my relaxing morning!

First, Neal planned to take Meredith to a movie. Movies are not something Meredith is ever excited about - she thinks they are too loud and might be scary, but since Neal loves movies (since he was a Radio/Television/Film major in college, it is not a stretch to say the guy literally majored in movies!) he is hopeful he can get her over this phobia. We didn't talk up the morning's activity much, he just told her it was a surprise and they could eat M&Ms! So they dropped Jillian off with Bubbie and headed to the theater. As soon as they go there, he could tell she was getting nervous and then once they were in the lobby, she started clutching Pinky for dear life and looked terrified. Luckily, they hadn't bought tickets and he had a back-up plan. So, they abandoned the movies and headed to Founder's Plaza in Grapevine to watch the planes take-off and land. They talked about where all the planes might be going, what might be inside the UPS plane (she decided it was full of Peanut Butter, I believe!), and picked lots of flowers! After that, they headed back to Arlington to hit the mall play area, the carousel, and the food court for a snack. Even though it wasn't what Neal originally planned, I don't think Meredith could have planned anything better.

When I joined back up with my family, we headed to Putt-Putt. This was probably the activity Meredith was the most excited for! Both girls were really excited to see all the life-sized animal statues and just being outside. Meredith tried out her hand at miniature golf, but got a little frustrated with all the obstacles, we tried to talk her through it, telling her to just "bounce" it off the sides. She got really excited and said "I can bounce it!" Then picked up the ball and threw it onto the green. Oh well. Even though she wasn't really playing, Jillian was pretty excited to steal all of our golf balls.
Future golf pro!
Good thing we weren't taking this game seriously - the balls never stayed where we hit them very long!
Meredith taking us literally when we suggested we "bounce" the ball.
Meredith was excited to pose in her zebra dress with the zebra. Jillian was not. Maybe she was wishing she had a zebra dress on.

Next we headed inside for ice cream and then to play lots and lots of games! We won enough tickets to get a green stuffed monkey and two lolli-pops. I was feeling kind of bad that all of it was really for Meredith, but I felt better about it (and worse about my parenting skills) when Jillian stole one of them from Meredith, popped it in her mouth and wouldn't give it up!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kicking off Hanks Family Staycation

This week Neal took off the whole week from work so we could have some family fun! We have so much stuff planned that Meredith is really excited about, but the first thing that she couldn't wait for, was building a tent with Daddy! They did this the last time he took a few days off and it obviously made a big impression!
Jillian loved playing in the tent and chowing down on the chocolate chip cookies the girls helped me make as a special treat for the tent. I known she will be excited when she gets to join them all night!
Hard to believe this silly face couldn't let herself fall asleep and just wanted to climb on Daddy instead of settling down huh?
Ahhh - success!

After waking up (stiff back for Daddy and all!) we all headed to the Pantego Firestation with our playgroup for a tour. Since Meredith had a period of time when she was planning to be a firefighter when she grew up and since she is slightly obsessed with what happens if there is a fire, I was excited to take her on the tour. I didn't realize how interesting it would be for us too! The firefighters were great and the kids seemed to have a blast!

Meredith and Rachel held hands pretty much throughout the tour - and listening to the firefighters talk about all the tools on the truck was no exception.
You are never too busy learning about firetrucks to break into ring-around-the-rosie, right?
The kids got to help dress one of the mommies in firegear - here they are showing off how strong they are so they could hold all the heavy equipment!
Wow, they actually passed out this large pokey tool to preschoolers.
Jackie all dressed as a firefighter. They wanted to show the kids not to be scared of firefighters in their gear if they ever needed one to help them. Luckily, even Jillian, just waved and smiled to her the whole time.
Super brave Jillian with Daddy
Meredith driving the truck
And trying on the super-heavy hat!

We headed home for lunch and naps to recharge for a trip to Chuck E Cheese. Meredith, as always, had a blast and Neal was rocking some of the games winning some major tickets for her! The most fun for me this time was watching Jillian. This was the first time we had been there since she was really walking, so I let her down and she would run from game to game, pushing buttons - and then head to the rides and throw her leg up to jump on - even when it was the incredibly tall rocking horse ride - she just climbed up all the steps all by herself to get to the top! What an adventurous little girl we have! After dinner and games, we then got to go cheer Daddy on at his softball game. For such a busy day, we were all ready to come home for baths and bed to get ready for more fun tomorrow!