Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bula! Part 3 (Thursday through Saturday)

Thanksgiving at Hard Rock Fiji

Lilly & Jon at the Westin Pool

Lilly, Baby, & Jon at the Westin lounge

Our Fam

Thursday morning we went to breakfast, then Jon took Lilly to pool while I packed up. We got her last free Shangri-La kids meal lunch, before hopping in a taxi for the next resort, the Westin on Denarau Island. Lilly slept on the way, it took about an hour to get there.

Denarau Island is about 15 minutes from Nadi, the biggest nearby town and where the International Airport is. We decided to transfer to that hotel for the last two nights for a few reasons: 1) I couldn't commit to 7 nights at one hotel because I was scared if we didn't like one, then we'd be stuck there the whole time. 2) Our flight was leaving at 10 am on Saturday, and I thought it would be easier to get to the airport from there. 3) Lilly loves variety, and I thought having a few different experiences would be more fun. 4) The Westin is a 5 star hotel, and we got a great deal on Expedia, so I couldn't pass it up. 5) It shares amenities with the Sheraton & the Sheraton Villas, so we got 3 resorts worth of activities & pools & restaurants. And 6) Denarau Island has 5 nice hotels right near each other with a free "bula bus" that transports you to all the local resorts, plus a port with restaurants, so we'd have plenty to do even if we were tired of the beach by the end of the trip.

As we arrived at the Westin, it is visually a beautiful hotel. It was redone a couple years back. We were given some kind of tropical drink during our check in, and the room itself was gorgeous - very "Fijian" - but with the luxury touches of a nice hotel. The bed itself was so soft, even Lilly decided to take a nice nap on it. (She was probably missing her crib at the Shangri-La though, which had a baby feather bed.)

However, we definitely preferred the Shangri-La in other aspects. The Westin, while very nice, felt a tiny bit less friendly, and a little less kid-friendly. There was less for Lilly to do, although we still had a great time for the couple days we were there. We also had ants in our room, which was a little disappointing.

But back to the trip: After settling into our room at the new hotel, we went for a walk to view the Sofitel and Sheraton hotels. Then we sat at the hotel lounge and drank local beer "Fiji Bitter" and "Fiji Gold" and Lilly ate a fruit kebab, while we listened to a local Fiji band. It started raining, so we went to Port Denarau for dinner on Thursday night, on the Bula Bus. The Bula bus is an open vehicle, with a festive atmosphere by everyone on it, and Lilly loved looking out the open sides and waving at everyone we passed by. The 2 year old next to us stuck her foot out and lost her shoe so we're glad Lilly didn't get any ideas!

We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving partially on Thursday (although in the US it was Wednesday) and partially on Friday (US Thursday); so for dinner on Thursday we ate at the Hard Rock Fiji. It tasted like real American menu items, and was delicious. The food in Fiji was pretty good, and NZ food is nice and fresh, but it was so nice to eat at a "chain" restaurant again where none of the flavors really surprised us. I can't really adequately describe it, but I'll just say it was our favorite meal - nachos as an appetizer, a veggie burger for me, ribs & brisket for Jon, and surprise surprise, chicken fingers and french fries for Lilly. But even the ketchup was regular US style ketchup, not the sweet "tomato sauce" ketchup that we get in NZ. Anyways, Lilly was in a great mood during dinner, and all the girls who worked in the restaurant made such a fuss over her.

We woke up on Friday morning, and ate at the free buffet breakfast at the resort. It's amazing what a presentation they put out! Although the Shangri-La buffet breakfast was impressive, it was nice for a change of pace, and the Westin even had champagne for mimosa's. After breakfast we put our swimsuits on in time for it to start raining; so we jumped on the Bula Bus and went to tour the other hotels - the Radisson and the Sheraton (who happened to have a bunch of musicians playing when we got off the bus). By this time the sun was out again, so we went to the pool. We ran into friends of ours from the Shangri-La who have a 1 year old little girl, and later on we ran into other friends who have 2 kids from the Shangri-La. It was such a funny experience to "know" people in Fiji! We also kept bumping into a few Americans who we had met at breakfast, throughout the day.

Lilly seemed a little tired at the pool, and we started walking back to get some lunch for her. I was carrying her, and all of a sudden I looked over and she was sound asleep on my shoulder! We brought her back for a nap on her Westin "Heavenly Bed." Since none of us had lunch, after her nap we went back on the Bula Bus to the port and ate at a cute pizzaria. It was our first pizza experience in 6 months of eating "normal" pizza - it tasted like US style pizza. (Our last time having US pizza was in Charlottesville the night before we left, at Christians with Leslie & Jamie!) NZ pizza is ok, but it's generally made with lots of random toppings, a "large" is the size of a "small," the sauce is sweet, and it's usually made with "tasty" (a.k.a. cheddar) cheese. Anyways, it was delicious and a wonderful second "Thanksgiving Dinner." Lilly loved it too, and even ate tons of raw carrots off our salad.

Friday night, we went to the touchlighting and fire dancing show, which was a free 15 minute show at the hotel. Lilly absolutely loved it, and as we left she kept signing "fire" and twisting her arms the way the guys did who were throwing their fire sticks. This girl gets all the experiences in life!

Saturday morning we woke up early, ate at our last free buffet for awhile (surprisingly we didn't gain weight on the trip!) and got in a cab for the airport. When we walked inside with our 3 huge suitcases, 2 carryons, a stroller, and a little princess, we spotted the longest line ever for our flight. Disappointed, we started making our way over. Then one of the airline employees spotted us and told us to go in the short "business class" line to check in. (We almost considered upgrading while we were there, by the way, as it wasn't too much! But decided against it.) But they checked in all our extra heavy luggage without any weight penalties (max is 20 kg per person; ours were 30 kg per person - oops!). Then we got in the even longer line to go through customs and security. After standing for 2 minutes, a guy came up to us and told us to follow him. He brought us to the front of the customs line, then to the front of the security line, then helped carry our bags all the way our gate! At this point we were kind of embarrassed about bypassing any wait and having so much help, not to mention Jon was out of cash! Jon, being the American that he is, said to the guy "Is there an atm nearby? It'd like to give you something for helping us." (Because seriously, he probably saved us an hour, and a few tantrums.) The guy said there wasn't, but thanked us for letting him help us, and walked away. We felt kind of bad, and figured that he was a little disappointed for not getting a tip; but then 30 minutes later when the flight started to board, the guy came back and found us, and put us ahead of everyone again for getting us on the plane. He walked us all the way onto the plane, carrying our bags and helping us shut down our stroller, meanwhile knowing we didn't have any cash. This is typical of the friendliness that comes from Fiji - and a HUGE thanks to Miss Lilly Lou for being so adorable and getting us the extra help!

The flight itself was noneventful; we had lunch on the plane and Lilly at all my fruit, before falling asleep for the next 2 hours or so. We arrived in NZ and were escorted to the front of the customs & immigrations lines. Whoever said traveling with children is hard, has obviously not flown with a Little Princess!

All-in-all, the trip was great. Lilly had a wonderful time in all the different situations. She was an easy traveler. There were a few tantrums along the way of course, but it's hard being 2 sometimes. I'm shocked now thinking back that she ate out & behaved in restaurants for almost every meal for an entire week! (Although now we're so broke we won't be eating out ever again...) As always when we travel with her, we fell in love with her all over again, and it was so amazing spending a week of nonstop fun with our little girl. Jon & I had a great time too; it was nice being at resorts that had so much for both children and adults to do. It was also nice getting home on a Saturday, so that we had all day Sunday to unpack and relax; much less stressful.
Thanks for reading all about our Fiji adventures with a toddler! I'm sure it's a little over-inclusive, but it will be nice for us to look back on our trip and remember the highlights! Bula!

Bula! Part 2 (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Lilly playing her drum in the town.
Lilly & her favorite babysitter at the kids club.

Lilly trying on the grass skirt that she made at the kids club

Daddy & Lilly on the way to the kids club. Isn't Lilly's princess backpack the cutest?

Lilly & one of the villagers.

Lilly & I were given flower lei's in the village.

Lilly & her musician friends in the town; the guy in the middle was the head of the kids club, and also our tour guide. He also managed, the day before, to put two french braids in Lilly's hair.

Lilly on the far right, being held by one of the Fijian women during the cultural performance.

Lilly & me at the firewalk.

Jon, Lilly & I with our new friends at the firewalk.

Our last picture at the Shangri-La. Outside breakfast, of course.

Missy Moo and her Mommy

Princess & her daddy.

Our boat trip ended up being canceled on Tuesday afternoon due to rain, so when Lilly woke up from her nap we hit "Happy Hour" at a bar near the pool. We ended up talking to a few other couples with kids Lilly's age, and the girls all played together. We then headed over to dinner at an Asian-style restaurant. Lilly loved her vegetarian eggrolls, but was less impressed with the chicken and broccoli. Luckily Lilly always gets what she wants, and convinced the waitress to find a piece of regular sandwich bread for her to munch on while we ate. Afterwards, we hit up the disco again, and Lilly loved dancing - she could actually keep up with some of the dance steps they were teaching.

Wednesday, Lilly went to the kids club for the morning, and participated in boat racing in the pool, followed by making grass skirts. Meanwhile, Jon & I played tennis and went to the "adults only" pool for a little while. We picked her up at noon, got her lunch, and then hopped in a bus to go on an afternoon tour. She fell asleep during the driving tour of the local neighborhood (the school, hospital, & villages), and then we stopped in the nearby town for some shopping. In the one air conditioned shop, Lilly was serenaded by a few musicians; she had the best time singing and dancing. Then we went to a "eco park" where they had animals. At the beginning, they took out snakes and iguanas for the kids to hold and pet. Unfortunately, even while we showed Lilly how to gently pet the iguana, she decided to grab it from daddy and squeeze its head tightly. After a 10 seconds we were able to pry her hands off him, and he, looking relieved and fortunately unhurt by the incident, was handed back to the person in charge. Lilly, however, then realized she wasn't supposed to do that, and burst into tears. She calmed down after a minute, and we reminded her that she needed to be gentle with animals, but we all declined to hold the snakes!

The last part of the tour was visiting a local village. The women there were so friendly and loved Miss Lilly, and they sang and danced and gave us some local food to eat, and some "Kava" to drink. Not really sure what Kava is, but it looks like muddy water and burns the tongue a little, although it's not alcohol, supposedly.

That night we went to a "Firewalking" and cultural show/dinner. Lilly loved the firewalking, or at least, she loved the ceremony. They had stadium type seating in a decent sized arena, and Lilly walked from our end all the way to the other side, stopping at each couple people to say hi and wave and blow kisses, before walking all the way back. She did this about 3 times, and everyone loved her. Then we had the dinner, and she surprised us by eating vegetables (peas, carrots & corn), and then she got up on stage for the end part of the concert. This was our last night at Shangri-La and it was definitely worth it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bula! Part 1 (Saturday through Tuesday)

Lilly's swim outfit
Lilly got painted at the kids club - two tattoos on her arms, a flower on her cheek, and fake eyebrows! (Kind of scary!)

Lilly with the kids choir behind her.

Lilly & Jon about to ride a bike

Lilly & I at breakfast

Lilly dancing at the kids disco

Happy Family

Bula - it means hello/welcome in Fiji. You hear it everywhere, starting when you get off the plane, and every Fijian person that you pass at the resort says it enthusiastically. Especially to Lilly, of course. And everyone knows Lilly's name, by day 3 - because that is just who she is, and who they are.

The Resort - Shangri-La's Fijian Resort, about an hour from the Nadi airport. We decided to stay closeby, instead of taking a boat or plane to one of the more remote islands. While the outlying islands sound amazing (Vomo comes with its own free babysitter per child the entire time!), we thought 1) Lilly would do better with as little travel as possible (it's a 3 hour flight from Auckland; but if you go to the other islands you have to take a helicopter or extra flight or boatride); 2) price; and 3) the activities and amenities of the larger resorts, especially Shangri-La (which is THE largest resort in Fiji) are right up our alley. Lilly likes diversity and action! Oh and 4) is that this resort has a free kids club we can use as much or as little as we want, and all meals for Lilly are included, and all breakfasts for us. And expedia had a great deal giving us 20% off the stay. We're SOLD!

The trip has been great so far. The flight was relatively easy - it was 30 minutes late taking off, but the time was made up during the flight so we only arrived 5 minutes late. Lilly got us through customs easily - they quickly put us in the "traveling with infants" line; the other line looked about an hour or more long! The transportation was a little tricky. We had only made arrangments (via the resort itself) the night before; so there was a little confusion, but we were originally supposed to be on a coach/bus, and after waiting a little under an hour, they put us in a station wagon - which aside from the wait, ended up being better b/c that car passed every other car on the road - which I'm assuming the bus wouldn't have been able to do.

Speaking of the ground transportation, there were police checks about 3 times on the way to the resort. I wasn't sure what this was about (as an American I niavely assumed it was an alcohol/drunk driving check, or seatbelt check!); it turns out, as the driver explained, there had been a coup of the government a few years back (which we knew) and there was an interim government (which we kind of knew) and the day before, the interim government threw out some bill that made certain Fijians very mad (which we didn't know); this resulted in anticipated potential violence that the enhanced police presence was supposed to assist. A little scary driving to the resort in darkness, not really sure what was going on. Oh, and right after this political unrest was explained to us, we witnessed a huge fire ahead, an entire mountain looked like it was on fire. Of course I silently freak out; Jon asks the driver why the island is engulfed in flames; it turns out that they are burning the land on purpose to clear it, to make room for growing new things. Oh. Yeah, we're those ignorant Americans who are fearful of everything.

Anyways, Lilly had fallen asleep in the car, which was great, because when we arrived at the resort, she was in a great mood, although a little drowsy still. From the time we pulled up past the front gate, people were shouting Bula! at us again and again. When we got out of the car, everyone was so friendly and in love with Lilly (of course) and while Jon checked in, two guys started an impromtu concert with a couple guitars, serenading Lilly (we were the only people in the lobby); they started with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and BaBa Black Sheep (which makes sense, because they have the same tune, so easy to play!) and then started with some authentic (I'm assuming?) Fiji music. Lilly was still a little sleepy so she didn't feel like getting down to dance; but she didn't want to leave them either. I held her and we danced for 20 minutes; meanwhile we were offered fresh sweet pineapple juice. First impressions? Wonderful.

We settled into our room and then made it down to dinner at the buffet. Of course we had a million "Bula's" on the way, and when we sat down we happened to be in front of two other guys on guitars, and Lilly danced and clapped. What a hard life she leads!

The next day, Sunday, we had our (free) huge breakfast buffet, then went to the pool. Then in the afternoon, we decided to switch rooms (ours didn't come with a bathtub; we ended up upgrading not only to a room with a tub, but a 1st floor room that leads right onto the beach; although the original room would have been fine if it hadn't been for Lilly's fear of showers - every room has an amazing view of the ocean). Our new room is huge, it's considered a "family room" and had two couches, a kingsize bed, a big bathroom with a tub and separate shower, and plenty of room for her crib. It's also so nice to be able to walk right outside the porch to the grass & beach. It's a little further from all the "action" but the walk isn't that bad. The furthest thing from us happens to be the kid's club.
We tried out the kid's club Sunday afternoon after Lilly's nap. I dropped her off halfway through the afternoon session, and within 5 minutes of being there, she had her arms painted with hearts and flowers. It was actually adorable; they asked if she wanted her arm painted, and she held it out. She paitently waited while they painted it; she then looked at it approvingly, and put her other arm out, ready for them to start that arm too! (The other kids only had one arm painted; but I guess Miss Lilly is a little spoiled!) An hour later when we picked her up, she had huge black fake eyebrows pained on, and a flower on her cheek. A little scary looking, but adorable - and we could tell she wasn't upset the whole time we were gone, or else she wouldn't have let them paint her face. Meanwhile, while Lilly was at the kids club, we were packing up the old room and unpacking it in the new room. We picked her up from the kids club and went to a "children's choir" which turned out to be 20 kids/young adults from Fiji singing Christian songs. Lilly loved it, and somehow managed to sing along - how does she know these songs?! She also danced and for the last 10 minutes stood with them, teasing one girl who kept wanting to pick her up - Lilly would walk over to her and then run away, over and over. But she had a great time. ;) We went to dinner at the buffet right after.

Monday, we had breakfast at the buffet and then went for a bike ride for about 20 minutes. It was Lilly's first real bike ride, aside from riding around our driveway; she actually liked getting on it, but decided after 10 minutes she wasn't as enthusiastic. The kids seats were a little worn and not so comfortable I think, but she liked it, until she was ready to get off! It was very hot, and as we walked back to the room, we stopped in a shop to buy some sand toys for Lilly. Her face was bright red, although she hadn't gotten much sun - but it was incredibly humid & hot outside. When we left the shop, she wanted to get down and walk herself. She took a few steps, and all of a sudden fell backwards, completely flat as a board - it was almost like she fainted from the heat except she didn't lose consciousness - I think she was just dizzy. She still does fall sometimes when she walks, but always falls on her behind; this time she completely fell back and hit her head hard on the pavement. She started screaming, and I picked her up and held her tight, hoping she was ok... and then I felt the back of her head and she had a HUGE eggsized bump on the back. She couldn't calm down, and we had no idea to do. Of course, this was her 3rd or so serious head injury, which we shouldn't be surprised about considering her dad's occupation (it's bad luck for us, I think). We were all terrified; Lilly and I were both crying and Jon looked in shock. It's one thing to treat a patient, but when it's your own daughter and you're at a resort in the middle of nowhere Fiji, it's very scary to figure out what's going on.

There is a clinic at the resort that was to open a half hour later, so we went to wait there; it was either that or go to a clinic in the nearby town. The managment heard about Lilly's accident and immediately came and stayed with us the entire time; they even called the doctor to make sure he would hurry. She wouldn't tolerate ice and hated when we touched it, and cried for a good 30 minutes. At one point the management called a resort van to bring Jon to the room so he could get his cell phone, and so he could pick up Lilly's dvd player to see if that would calm her down. Meanwhile, I sat in the clinic lobby and sang song after song to Lilly, trying to calm her down. A few minutes before Jon got back, after singing "it's a small world" for the 8th time, Lilly started to catch her breath and listen; a minute later I sat her down next to me and we sang "Slippery Fish" (her favorite action song from school) and she started doing the signs with me. The two managers and two clinic receptions were all smiling and clapping with Lilly then; we were all so relieved that she seemed to be feeling a little better. We have her Panadol (Tylenol) then, and the doctor came and checked her out. Aside from being really sensitive when he felt her head, and not wanting to "look into the light" that he shined in her eyes, she was feeling better. It helped that daddy had her DVD player there by then, and Elmo was singing her hurt away. The doctor said to watch for the major bad signs: vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, bleeding out the ears, etc, and absent those, she would be fine. We kept her up for 3 1/2 hours after her accident, and she seemed to be ok, watching Elmo, and finally we put her down for a nap in the late afternoon. By the time she woke up, she felt much better. We went to the pool and she charmed everyone.

After arriving at the pool, we realized that we forgot the towel passes; not to worry, Jon took Lilly up with him to the towel area and the person working there said "Lilly!" and all of a sudden Jon had 3 towels. How does everyone know her?

We had plans last night to have a babysitter and go out to dinner, and almost canceled because of Lilly's accident. But she seemed to feel ok in the pool, then went to a "fire lighting" ceremony and dancing the whole time, and then ate a decent dinner (and threw what she didn't want, so we knew she was back to normal!). So we kept our babysitter, although we only left her for an hour for our dinner. We ate at one of the nicer restaurants (which doesn't have a kids menu, but everywhere here kids are technically "welcome"). Ironically, the two table near us both had kids Lilly's age, and the kids were AWFUL! One of the kids screamed and tantrumed so loudly the entire time; then the other kid at the other table got up and started running around screaming, and the first kid's parents let her out too and the two of them were insane running and screaming and going crazy. And a third toddler around the same age, from at table inside the restaurant, started climbing through windows and running past everyone as well. It was pure chaos. I have to say, as a mom, the noise and craziness didn't bother me (Lilly has been crazy enough at times when we take her out); but as Jon pointed out, I would have left for a little while with Lilly to calm her down, if it had been her being nutso. A couple times when we've been out to eat and she's a crazy lady, I'll even leave with her and Jon gets our food packed up. My personal reasoning is b/c other people don't always have tolerance; but also if we're taking Lilly out for a late dinner to somewhere that she has to behave, and she's high strung, it's not completely nice to HER to put her in such an uncomfortable situation. But either way, we smiled at the kids last night, just grateful that ours was hanging out with her nice Fijian babysitter. Even so, we were back right after dinner.

We decided to let her stay up late and took her to the "Kids Disco" that goes on from 7:30 to 9 at the resort bar/club. The kids were having a great time, dancing and playing games; there was a dj that really kept their attention. Lilly got there just for the last 30 minutes or so, but joined in quickly, watching and dancing and singing, she had a great time. I've actually never seen some of the moves she did last night - the one where she kicks her leg and then points her finger in a "John Travolta" like move was especially inspiring. Where does she pick this stuff up?

This morning we went to breakfast, then Jon played golf while Lilly went to the kids club for an hour. I peeked in to see how she was doing, and she seemed to be fine; but she saw me so I felt bad escaping. (I also had nothing to do, with Jon playing golf.) I took Lilly with the kids club to the "field trip" to the beach, looking for shells. While we were there, two huge crabs ran past the kids. There were about 8 kids under the age of 6 with 1 adult, so I'm glad I was there for that part! I can't imagine Lilly making the walk by herself. But she had a good time, and afterwards we got some ice cream and water - I wanted to make sure today she was better hydrated and cooler than yesterday! We then picked up her lunch (the free kids lunches are like a "kids meal" style - today we picked out coconut encrusted fish sticks and french fries, with a banana), and then put her to sleep. It started raining while we were out, so I'm not sure if we're going on a boat ride we have scheduled for this afternoon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lilly Hates School


She loves it. Here are her school pictures...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good Surprises

Every once in a while, we all need a good surprise - big or little - to lift us up. Today Lilly received a package in the mail from her friend Emma back home. We opened it and... it was a calendar featuring beautiful pictures of children (who happen to have Down syndrome), including the gorgeous Miss Emma in June (she's the bottom left)! Thank you Emma (& her mommy) for brightening our day! If you're interested in ordering the 2009 Inspire calendar, go to

On the first page of the calendar is a "Down Syndrome Creed" which I thought was worth posting here. It has an unknown author.

My face may be different
but my feelings the same.
I laugh and I cry
and take pride in my gains.
I was sent here among you
to teach and to love
as God in the heavens
looks down from above.
To Him I'm no different,
His love knows no bounds;
It's those here among you,
in cities and towns
that judge me by standards
that man has imparted,
but this family I've chosen
will help me get started.
For I'm one of the children,
so special and few,
that came here to learn
the same lessons as you.
That love is acceptance,
it must come from the heart;
we all have the same purpose,
though not the same start.
The Lord gave me life
to live and embrace,
and I'll do it as you do,
but at my own pace.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Little Gemini

For a few years when I was younger, I loved astrology. I can remember being in high school and my best friend Lindsay and I would spend hours reading about different signs. It was one of those things that I didn't take too seriously; but at the same time, I was intrigued. I don't think I've read much about astrology in 10 years or so.

Until now.

I've been trying to get some insight into my daughter. Is she the way she is because she's an only child, because she has enhanced chromosomes, or because she is a Princess? Because she takes after her mommy, or her daddy, or her absolute hero, Elmo? Is she half sweet and half, um, not-as-sweet, because she is in her wonderful and terrible two's? Probably a little of all, and a little of none - she's pretty much always been her own person.

If you asked me yesterday, I would have told you that she was driving me crazy. In fact, I wrote a blog about it, but decided not to post (it was definitely the end of a long day, and her mommy was at her limits a little as well). In this blog that I didn't post, I described at length the "flop and drop" - her version of a tantrum. When she wants to go somewhere and we try to stop her, she flops and drops. When it's time to go into her classroom and she doesn't want to go, she flops and drops. When she doesn't want to go to bed, she flops and drops. When we're out shopping and she doesn't want to sit in the stroller, she flops and drops. It's half adorable and half infuriating - especially because sometimes she's so overdramatic that she throws her head backwards and hits the floor. (She gets even more mad when she's sitting on the soft bed and does this move - because when she falls back in true "drama queen" style, she anticipates getting hurt - and when she doesn't, she gets even more frustrated.) We've gotten to be pretty good at anticipating when this is going to happen, and catching her before she hurts herself; but the real problem is that she's 2, she wants to explore, she wants her own way, and she will completely protest if she doesn't get her way. So yesterday, if you had asked me about my beautiful precious daughter, I would have said: Lilly is driving me crazy!!!

Lilly must have sensed this. Because this morning, she woke up in a wonderful mood. She was sweet and funny and chatty and adorable. She sat patiently while we got her dressed, and let me put her hair in pigtails. We ran to the bank and she charmed everyone. She went to school easily, and sat on the potty when she got there. We went to the park and she played nicely on the swing, laughing the whole time. We sang the ABC's (which usually she *hates* - don't know why!), and after she had "one more turn" on the swing, I told her it was time to get off and go back in the car - and she hopped off and jumped in my arms. She was pure magic today. She had music therapy, and charmed the class with her dancing and participation. She was an angel.

I can't help thinking - who is this child and what has she done with my daughter??!!

But then I remembered... she's a Gemini. She's the twins; the split personality. She is half completely charming and half tempermental. The following is a list of traits for a Gemini - she is absolutely the person described below:

Characteristics considered positive

Characteristics considered negative
fickle/ inconsistent
playing of mind games

Ideal Careers
Architect, archaeologist, comedian, teacher, model, playwright, diplomat, public speaker, singer, author, psychologist, poet, musician, journalist, lawyer, movie writer or director, debater/politician.

Talking, the unusual, teaching, learning, different things in life, having multiple projects all going at once, traveling, making jokes, jet-setting

Feeling tied down, losing, being wrong, being in a bad situation, mental inaction, being alone, not getting credit for one's successes

So, while I can't say that I totally believe in "astrology," this is too completely accurate about Miss Lilly Lou to be wrong. My little Gemini.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Who is Lilly? 28 1/2 months version

It's so hard writing about Lilly because she changes week to week. Of course she's always gorgeous, adorable, manipulative, sweet, hilarious, and the Best Thing About My Day. And so much more than that.

But what she likes, and her latest "tricks," seem to change faster than I can record them. Two months ago she couldn't get enough of reading Madeline and watching High School Musical. A month ago she was obsessed with the book "Pajama Time" and the movie "Annie." And now it's a book about the animals in the jungle (that Aunt Janie & Uncle Mike gave her!) and the movie High School Musical 2. Same with her favorite foods - she only ate crackers & rock melon two months ago, only ate bread & apples a month ago, and this month she's actually eating actual food. This week alone she's tried a variety of raw vegetables - yellow pepper, cauliflour, carrots (we realized finally that she didn't like cooked veggies - just like her mommy used to hate them!), and now loves pears, grapes, pizza (especially the crust, just like her mommy!), risotto, and spaghetti. She's been a full time walker for the past month or so, which is amazing to watch, although towards bedtime she's exhausted and walks like a drunken sailor. She is still dancing all the time, with new hilarious moves that we love to watch. She's pooping every day on the potty (TMI?) and is peeing as often as we put her on - and is signing "potty" about half the time to let us know she has to go. We're waiting until Christmas break to completely potty train her, as she'll be home from school for 3 weeks; she'll be 2 1/2 then.

She's still really popular at school, and she loves her friends as much as they love her. She gives them huge hugs when she leaves at the end of the day, and kisses her favorite friends. She's become clingy when I drop her off though; but loves it once she starts playing.

She's drinking out of a sippy cup or straw most of the day, but at night she drinks water out of a big girl cup when she brushes her teeth. She's nice about us letting us have "our turn" with brushing her teeth, but only for about 15 seconds - but she brushes them well on her own.

She has a kid-sized table and chairs that we bought last month, and loves getting a puzzle or play dough or a snack and sitting down in her chair. She also has her first tea set and loves "pouring" me tea, and we "Cheers."

She also has a comfy chair that she sits in while watching Sesame Street. When she's done watching TV, she goes over to it, turns it off, signs "all done" and walks away.

Two days ago I wanted to see the election results (which were on around 5 or 6 pm NZ time). I turned on CNN (our TV is NEVER on by the way except if Lilly is watching one of her shows, so it was the first time she's really seen something non-kids on the TV). Lilly was watching an elmo DVD in the dining room on her portable DVD player (don't judge!) while eating dinner. She saw me watching the other TV, and wanted to go with me to watch. Just then, Barack Obama started his speech (and let me also mention, living in NZ, we were not really exposed to the election as much, especially since we don't watch tv here), but watching him I got tears in my eyes - it's been said a million times, but what a historic moment. It's also the first presidential election of Lilly's life. So I explained to her that he was just elected president, and she got down, walked to the TV, and started kissing his face. Already a little emotional, this melted my heart. And then she sat on my lap and watched the entire speech, getting up a few more times to kiss him more. (And when it was over, she went right back to dinner & Elmo!)

Her Baby (a baby Cabbage Patch doll that Audrey gave her) is still her favorite thing to play with, and she loves putting her to sleep, feeding her, hugging her and giving her kisses, and reading her books. Sometimes Baby is bad and she pats her a little too hard when putting her to bed!

When she's tired at night, she loves her story (or two) being read to her, and then reads it once or twice back to us in her own variation of English, babble, and sign. Then goes to turn off the light, turns her own cd player on for her nighttime classical music, and walks to her crib, patting the mattress. She's ready to go to sleep!

For Halloween, it wasn't a big holiday here. We had her boyfriends (twins her age) and their little sister, who is almost 1, over for a Halloween party. But Lilly didn't want to get dressed up. For the first time, she didn't want to be a princess! I gave her the options between Cinderella and Belle, and she refused. And cried and cried. Finally I gave her a Twix to bribe her to get the dress on - except - well - any good mom would realize that she'd get chocolate all over the dress. Oops! But at least she was happy finally!

Lilly loves so many things - airplanes, cars, bikes, dogs, cats, bugs (especially firefly's!), birds, rain, the wind, drawing with a pen, closing drawers, opening doors, and reaching her hand into a bag of potato chips (or crackers or cookies). She's discovered youtube with her mommy, and we find Elmo clips and most recently, the Charlie Brown Halloween special, which she loved. She loves getting undressed, and helps me get her dressed (for example, she trades off her cracker or toy to the other hand when I have to put that arm in the shirt!). She also tries to put on her socks and shoes, but is better at taking them off. She loves brushing my hair and hers, and when we do peek a boo games, putting a cloth over our head and then pulling it off, she looks at me seriously, and wipes the hair out of my eyes, before starting the game again.

She signs "sorry" when she gets overexcited and "accidentally" whacks us upside the head! And then signs "nice" and rubs our face sweetly to make up for it. She says Ta (which in NZ means thank you) any time you give her something. When she has something she shouldn't, and I say "ta" and put my hand out, she gives it to me. She knows right from wrong. (Except she didn't know not to put a carrot in the toilet. And then her daddy didn't know not to flush it. I need to give them both lessons!)

When we pull into the parking lot of her music class, she signs "music." When we get to a grocery store, she knows she can manipulate mommy into buying her potato chips or cookies, if I forget to bring a better snack. She knows mommy is a pushover and tries not to take advantage of it more than she *has* to. She knows daddy is her partner in crime, and she can count on going to bed later if he's in charge! She loves her parents but wishes they were cooler - she rolls her eyes when daddy sings too loud or mommy tries to dance like her.

She hates bathtime - sometimes - because she doesn't want to sit down in the tub. She likes bathtime more if mommy or daddy puts on a swimsuit and gets in with her. She doesn't like getting her hair washed unless she's *really* distracted by mommy's silly songs. She hates showers more than she hates baths - we tried showers twice with her because we thought, if she wanted to stand during the bath, maybe she would prefer a shower? Except, the only time she liked the shower was when she sat down in it! Otherwise we had to sing the "Hokie Pokie" to get her clean and get her to stick her body parts under the shower water!

Lilly has a great life. She is exposed to so much - last weekend she went to the Circus on Saturday and the zoo on Sunday. The week before, her grandpa (pawpaw) and cousin Tristan (age 7) were here for 10 days, and she went to the aquarium, Waiheke Island, Coromandel Peninsula (including going on a mine train and somewhat of a water-amusement park area), and Sheep World. She loves staying in nice hotels whenever she travels, and makes herself at home. She knows how to eat in a restaurant - first we get the drinks (usually either a cold milk in her sippy cup, or water in a glass with a straw, or a "fluffy"), then we wait awhile for the food while mommy gives her fruit or crackers, and then the food arrives and she immediately signs potty, and one of us then spends the next 10 minutes in the bathroom with her - she knows how to get out of sitting at the table! :) And after eating, she usually wants to go for a walk while the other parent pays. It's not always the most relaxing dining experience ever, but she's been out to eat enough times that she knows how to behave for the most part, and I'm not terrified of bringing her to a nice place to eat.

She loves going to church, and knows the routine there as well. She sits well until the homily, when she thinks its her turn to preach to the congregation, so she starts speaking in her loudest voice, so then we usually go outside for 10 minutes. We come back in, and she stands with us when she's supposed to stand, and sits and plays when it's a quieter time. She holds hands during the "Lords Prayer" and then shakes hands with everyone around her during the "Sign of Peace." She waves at other children sitting near her, and during the last 10 minutes tries to make her getaway by running from the side where we're sitting, all the way around the church to the front doors and outside. We follow her, and she usually turns around to come back to our seats. Because she knows its where she's supposed to be. Afterwards, she knows that she gets a cookie with the other kids, while the parents drink coffee.

She loves saying "No" - I can no longer ask her a hypothetical question like "Should we get you ready for school?" Because she'll totally say "no!" And most of the time it's in a playful way, and she laughs. She has the best sense of humor, and is constantly making us laugh. And she knows if one of us has had a bad day, she knows to put her arms around us and give us a big hug or kiss.

Lilly is a good girl, a smart girl, and a beautiful girl. She's my favorite person - and my role model. I love watching her grow up and develop new skills and interests. So that's my Lilly at 28 1/2 months!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Introducing... Matthew Christopher Ilardi!

My sister Christine & her husband Chris had their baby last week, Matthew Christopher Ilardi! Many congrats to their new little family! He is so handsome!

End of October - Happy Halloween!

Mid October - Dad & Tristan's visit