Sunday, February 27, 2011

On(Off) the road adventure

Many posts back I may have mentioned my husband's love of trail riding.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term "trail riding" it means taking a hopefully four wheel drive vehicle off road through marked trails down winding dirt roads, over rocks, through mud, and across streams to sightsee in the great outdoors.   Ever since Matt's love of "riding the trails" began I have never been able to go on one of these rides because I was either pregnant or home with a baby.  Now that Lily is old enough Matt talked me into taking the girls with us on a family-friendly ride with several other friends with children.  The ride started in Sylacauga, AL and ended at Mt. Cheaha, about 45 miles off road along a mountain ridge through the Talladega National Forest. Keep in mind that this is an all day type of thing meaning a four year old and a two year old strapped in a car-seat for hours and hours while we drive around in the woods.  I have to tell you I was a little skeptical and a little more nervous.  So to compensate I packed every snack and toy I could think of that might help to survive the trip.

We left early on a very cold Saturday morning.  It was lightly snowing outside but thankfully we were heading south and it was supposed to warm up a bit.

The trip down was great.   Hannah and Lily always think it is exciting when they get to ride in Daddy's truck but we had a long day ahead of us and I still wasn't sure how things were going to go. 

**I should probably put a disclaimer here before I show the rest of my pictures.  This is what the window directly in front of me looked like and photographing around it was sometimes a little difficult.  It has been this way for about a year now and I am hoping that it will be fixed before we do this again....Oh Maaaaaatttt my favorite husband are you reading this?**

We made the trip with two other families and really enjoyed our time with them.

We spent the day going downhill, uphill, over streams and rocks, and around curvy, winding dirt trails...

and I have to say I really enjoyed it all.  It was nice to be outside on a cool winter's day in the middle of the woods exploring these trails.

I also loved driving through the woods filled with browns and grays of the trees, leaves and ground and then suddenly being surprised at the pops of color you could find.

But what really this trip worth it - besides the family time of course - were the views.

Even on a cloudy overcast day the views were great and Hannah's "wow" at such a site was really nice.

As for the car ride, I was completely amazed at how great Hannah and Lily did in the car for 9 hours.  The snacks and toys came in handy on the ride home but for the most part my girls enjoyed looking out the window...

showing me "abstract drawings" of everything they saw...

exploring in the woods...

and picnicking on Daddy's tailgate...

We stopped several times throughout the day to stretch our legs and pose for a few pictures in some of our favorite spots.

Toward the end of the trip Lily started telling me that her belly button was hurting.  After hearing this a couple of times I got a little worried that she might not feel so great and so we left the group and took a shortcut back to the main road.  We were all tired and ready to get home but thankfully even the ride back to Birmingham was a nice one full of some "ready to get out of this car" kind of silliness.

Matt was already talking about our next adventure on the way home so I am sure we will be on(off) the road again soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sharing the Love

I hope you all had Valentine's Day filled with lots of love and lots of fun!  Our day was full of both and the fun included class party duties for both Hannah and Lily at school.

I was in charge of cupcakes for Hannah's party and so this little face...

and these little hands....

helped me to prepare candy cane toppers...

for these little cupcakes...

We also made our own valentine's for classmates.  In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day I saw a ton of handmade valentine's that I wanted to try.  I ended up, like last year, borrowing our idea from Skip to My Lou...

They were a little more work than I thought they were going to be but it was for a good cause.
Matt was actually out of town for Valentine's Day :( and so Hannah and Lily were filled in for their dad.  They are pretty cute valentines if you ask me...

 They are also pretty funny Valentines...

and are always reminding me that I must be on my toes when I am alone for several days by myself with them.  They each got a new pony for a little Valentine's Day surprise and Hannah requested that, since she sat so nicely for the above pictures, I take some photos of her friends too.  The things I do for my pictures.

From left to right that's Toola Roola, Flip (the cat), Sweetie Belle, and Pinkie Pie.  Sweetie Belle and Pinkie Pie are the newest members of our family.  They need their hair brushed I know.

Happy day after Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Celebrations and Page Turners

I thought I would mention that Matt and I are celebrating seven years of married life this week!  Matt came home with these on our anniversary and they have been adding a little cheer to our kitchen ever since.

I also want to wish Matt's dad a happy, happy birthday.  He so graciously agreed seven years ago to share his birthday with our wedding day.

Ok, so from anniversaries and birthdays to books.  We have been hitting the local libraries lately and have managed to find some really great books.  So good, in fact, that I thought I would share what we are reading.

We have been talking and doing a little planning for our spring garden and so we decided to take a trip to the library at The Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  There we found the book How Groundhog's Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry.

It is a great story about a groundhog who, after being caught by a squirrel taking things from the squirrel's garden, learns how to plant his very own garden.  Hannah loved this book so much that we read it every night for about two weeks.  I actually brought this book with me the other day to read to Hannah's class.  I was the Mystery Reader at her school, which means that I surprised her and her classmates by coming to school and reading to them.  It was so much fun seeing the look on Hannah's face when I walked through her classroom door and she loved sharing this book with her friends.

(I should probably mention that it was also pajama day at school.) I brought along a planted lima bean for each child so that they could watch a plant start to grow at home.  Our little bean is really growing...

The illustrations in this book are beautiful and Hannah especially loved the pages describing insects...

and the pages illustrating different veggies from little sprout to ready to pick.

Every time we read the book we had to stop at these pages and name each insect or each vegetable and exactly what was occurring.  It is a good thing the groundhog saw his shadow this year because I think this little one is ready to garden!

Next up is the book The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader.

It is a Caldecott winner and we chose this book in anticipation of one of our recent snow days.  It is a great book about what animals do during the winter, whether it is hibernate, migrate or just stay put.

This is a fun book because Hannah really notices now which animals are around when we take walks....crows, squirrels, cardinals, etc.  It is also fun to talk about who is sleeping under the ground in our very own backyard.

Lastly, one of our very favorite books that we happened upon at the library is Can You Hear It?.  (sorry for the bad picture but it is in a plastic sleeve)

I love this book so much that I am thinking about buying it for our home library.  Can You Hear It? is a "listen and look" book that was put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The book shows 13 pictures and each image corresponds with a piece of music on the CD that comes with the book. So for instance, Hannah and Lily looked at a Japanese print of a bee hovering over flowers while listening to The Flight of the Bumblebee. 

Each image has guided questions and a CD track number that told us exactly what sounds to listen for in the music.  It really is great!

Ok, so I feel a little like the guy from Reading Rainbow (one of my very favorite shows growing up by the way) but these are some of our very favorites right now and I wanted to remember what types of books I am reading to Hannah and Lily. We would love to know what you are reading too so let us know if you have a suggestion for what we should check out on our next library visit.