Monday, July 30, 2007

Swimming Lesson

Today was Mark's first swimming lesson. As I already said many times, we are really centrally located and close to everything. This everything includes 2 swimming pools - an outdoor one at Lake Johnson and an indoor one at Pullen Park. These are public pools and better yet, they host all sorts of swim programs, including a program for very little kids. Last week Melanie and I signed our little ones up for an 8-session Parent & Child class. This class is for kids 6-18 months.

Today's lesson almost didn't happen since it was raining. But fortunately, strong rain passed quickly leaving just some sprinkles behind. So the pool stayed open. Oh, when getting Mark ready for the pool, we realized that the swimming diapers that we bought for him were girl diapers, the pink Dora the Explorer creation. Oops! Didn't matter much anyway since he was wearing cool sports trunks over the diaper. Other than Olivia and Mark, there were 3 more kids there - a 6-month old girl, a 10-month old boy Justin, and another boy that looked like he was about a year old. Chris was taking pictures and I got to go into the water and swim with Mark.
Of course, the entire lesson was held at the shallow end of the pool. We all got into the water and played some games with kids - twirling them around, jumping up and down, letting them swim a bit on their backs, and even practicing some passes. It was great fun, at least for me. I don't think that Mark was enjoying it all that much - usually very smily and giggly, he stayed dead-serious and pouty. But then he never likes anything on the first try. And he wasn't crying or trying to get out either. 30 minutes was plenty because the day was not very warm and the sun was hidden behind the dark heavy clouds all the time.

Tomorrow is the 2nd lesson, weather permitting. Hopefully it'll be warmer and Mark will enjoy the whole experience a bit more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two Weeks

What can happen in just two short weeks? It seems that today is very much the same as yesterday, yet so many things happen... We're continuing renovating our house. This time it's Mark's room and the living room that are being taken care of. Mark's room had a window that was overlooking the living room, actually, mostly just the popcorn on the living room ceiling. Very stupid idea... Well, the window is no longer there, replaced with a wall. And by the way, there's no popcorn on the ceilings either. Good riddance! Also, the living room is painted, including the fireplace. It's a lot brighter now. I'll post the pictures as soon as the furniture is put in proper places. For now, there's still some minor painting to do, also - hanging ceiling fans, updating furniture, getting some kind of rug, etc, etc.

Last weekend we went to the Yates Mill. It's a historic mill about 15-minute drive from our house. There used to be dozens of mills in the area just like this one, water-powered, milling corn and wheat. But this one is the only one left. So now they have a small park and an excellent museum. And you can go on a very interesting tour of the mill. Better yet, once in a while they actually get the water-wheel cranking and mill some corn! That's what we went to see. I wish I didn't forget to take my camera - the day was excellent and I would had snapped plenty of pix of the mill and the water-snakes.

What else? Of course, Mark is doing a lot of growing up. He's 5 and 1/2 months old already! Last week he learned a lot of new things. For example, when Chris or I hold him with one hand and try to get a drink of water or juice with another, he reaches for a cup, grabs it, and tries to drink out of it. Same thing with food - gotta watch him now. He also rolls from his back to his side, pulls his feet to his mouth, and does tons of other little adorable things. When laying on his tummy, Mark now doesn't just look straight, but turns his head sideway to look at me and Chris. I think, he also started noticing Xander. Also, Mark is really getting a hang of this jumper toy - he can stay in it for quite a while and jumps up and down. When we go out, look out all you girls and old ladies. Mark is a horrible flirt! He can be hungry, tired, cranky, but the moment he catches you paying attention to him, he'll give you the most charming big smile! Oh, all the cooing and admiring he gets from everyone! If I only had a dollar for each time he was caled cute and adorable or complemented on his eyes (still blue) or his smile (still toothless)! Finally, today we had the most exciting thing happen - when I pulled Mark to sitting, he continued sitting for several seconds practically with no help from me! And he seems to like it! Next thing we know, he'll be sitting by himself.

Oh, and also two more things. I bought and read the last Harry Potter book. It was great; too bad there will be no more of HP. And Xander is going through is annual craze - he walks around the house, mewing and trying to escape. He actually ran out a couple of times, but then came back. When he escapes, he stays in the yard. We tried to lure him back once or twice, but he hisses, yells, and even tries to attack us - very scary! So we just let him get over it and then he comes to the front door quite subdued and waits to be let in. Can someone explain this cat to me? It's not even spring-time!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mark is 5 Months Old!

To celebrate, Mom and Dad had some ice-cream and then took the birthday boy to the beach. The ride was longer than we expected which meant a lot of crying and screaming from Mark. So many firsts - touching the sand, washing off little tootsies in the warm ocean, flying over the beach like a seagull... Mom and Dad stuffed their faces (don't they always?...) on BBQ, shrimp sandwich, hush puppies, and fresh fried zuccinies. Yumm!

And on the way home, taking the long road, we saw lots of farms, corn and tobacco fields, and big cows.

Friday, July 06, 2007

4th of July

This 4th of July we stayed home and celebrated 1 year anniversary of discovering that I was pregnant. Yes, the Independence Day 2006 was very memorable indeed!

We do not have a grill and our yard is a mess this year. So instead of a traditional hamburgers and hotdogs, we decided to get a bit sophisticated. Ok, so it was my decision and Chris had to once again get over his dream of a big juicy steak... Instead, I made a seafood boil. It sounded very Cape Cod and fancy, but turned out to be simple and quick and absolutely delicious. Here it is on the picture. For seafood I used shrimp and clams, but all kinds of seafood and fish can be used in it. The more, the merrier (also, more expensive).

I also made cole-slaw (with a mix of napa, red, and savoy cabbage and red onion and dressing made with Italian dressing, pickled jalapenos, and Dijon mustard). It was lots better than gooey mayo-bloated cole-slaw and it got even better after chilling in the fridge overnight. Then I made a Key Lime pie and an upside-down peach pie. And to round up a meal, I made real lemonade, squeezing lemons and adding slices of orange and some cherries (that's how they make it at our Farmers' Market).

In the afternoon we went to the State Fairgrounds for the 4th of July celebration. We got there early and just walked around. NC State Agricultural Commission was giving out slices of cold, juicy and perfectly ripe watermelons (free, while supplies last). Watermelon and soft-served ice-cream! Later that night we (and the rest of Raleigh citizens) drove to the fireworks which were very good.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Duke Gardens

Saturday was uneventful - shopping, shopping, house chores, some more shopping. The bright spot was going to the Farmers' Market and to the Quail Ridge bookstore. Today we decided to get outside and explore. And so we went to Durham to see Duke Gardens.

It is a very beautiful place (not Durham, which is mostly a dump). The university campus looks very dignified, stately, expensive. I suspect that all the buildings there are actually pretty new. Or maybe the new buildings are carefully matched to the old architecture. Either way, it is very impressive. But back to the gardens. They are very large, with plenty of twisting paths and walkways running in all directions. We actually got a bit lost there after a while. Parking is free on Sundays and there are a lot of children, dogs, and adults that looks prosperous, well-educated, and happy. But the gardens are big enough and have enough benches, lawns, and secret little benches here and there that even with all the picnicking-running-playing-picture-snapping-sunning activity there is a sense of privacy, if not detachment.

We strolled through the rose garden, under the gazebo at the entrance to the terrace garden, up and down the terrace garden itself, around its beautiful water-lilly covered pond. Then we walked around the big lawn and found a nice wooden bench in the shade of a still-blooming magnolia tree. There we sat quietly, people watching while listening to the music and bells from the Duke Cathedral. Then we walked slowly out of the gardens and to the cathedral itself. Returning to the gardens, we got a bit lost. Some of the smaller paths, the most intriguing-looking ones, we could not take - they are not stroller-friendly. But we passed by many such detours, past a small pond and a creek, and into the Asian Collection. Finally we walked through a small wooden gate and found ourselves back in the Rose Garden. It was unexpected - passing by a Japanese stone lantern hidden in a grove of bamboo, past a pagoda-like wooden pavilion, and emerging almost in the center of a fragrant rose circle. It was a bit like Alice-in-Wonderland.

The rest of the day was a lot less exciting - just cooking, cleaning, laundry, diapers, getting last-minute groceries, a couple of new toys for Mark, looking for a high-chair... And tomorrow is Monday again - back to work. What a shame, really!!! Where's my winning lottery ticket?!

New Things that Mark Can Do

1. Mark LOVES carrots. Here he is, enjoying a big mouthful of sweet carrots. So now he eats rice cereal, peas, carrots and drinks milk and water (out of a sippy cup).

2. Mark can TOUCH HIS TOES. Hooray, he's noticing his feet now and grabs and holds his toes. He doesn't chew on them yet. I guess it's because he's so busy with carrots, peas and other foodstuff.

3. Mark learned to MANIPULATE his parents. In the evenings we sometimes go on a walk, all three of us. He knows exactly how to cry to make us take him out of the stroller and carry just the way he likes it.