Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sierra's Growth & Development

Every week or so, I write about the activities Sierra does from day to day. We go to the park, we visit Disney, we laugh at home, we play with toys, we read, and we take pictures when we are out and about. All of these things are fun to see and do, but, the most amazing part about watching Sierra grow are the things that she shows us about what's going on inside her brain.

Since Sierra was 6 months old, she has been practicing her reading through the Dr. Titzer My Baby Can Read program. Twice a day she watches her learning videos, we interact with her while reviewing her word and picture books, and we browse her flashcards twice a day. On April 6th, Sierra will be 16 months old and finally done with the series of 6 lessons. The results? She can recognize and identify nearly 80 words, and can speak about 15 words.

However, the words she is learning are not the words she has learned to speak. She points to the words she sees written on paper, but has not learned how to shape the words with her speach. The common words she speaks are the words she loves such as mommy, daddy, milk, duck, bear, bunny, Bow-wow-wow, and kicking. These are all the things she cherishes most, but only a few are in her reading cards. I imagine around 18 months she will experience the language boom and start shaping all the words with sound.

A fun game we play is to spread out 50 cards on the floor, all with different words written on them, and ask her to pick the card that says any particular word such as "hippopotomus" , "toy car", or "shaking" and she will find it and pick it up. She can do that with all 80 of the words she knows. Every time it amazes Victor and I as if it was her first time doing it.

We are so happy Sierra loves to read. We think by loving books, she will be interested in learning and studying throughout her life and the skills she learns now will make it easier for her to learn when she enters school. For example, Sierra loves her books so much, the first thing we do after she wakes up is to pick out 4 or 5 books she wants to read. Then we go into our bedroom, have a glass of milk and a whole banana in bed and read our stories.

Sierra's favorite books include: "Clifford the Big Red Dog", Sandra Boynton's "Blue Hat, Green Hat", "From Horns to Toes", and the "The Going To Bed Book". She also loves a cute book called, "Goodnight Gorilla," about a gorilla who lets all his friends out of the zoo to sleep in the zookeeper's house one night. "Goodnight Duckling "and her Body Board Books and Animal Board Books are also tops on her list. In her board books, we ask Sierra where the words we say are, and she points to the written word time after time. Very exciting for Victor and I.

As Sierra explores her world, we have watched her learn from repetition. We bought her a musical piano book, "Elmo Plays Piano", and she can already identify songs that she knows from the melody. "Row, Row, Row your boat" as well as, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," are the songs she plays repeatedly. And the ones she dances to most often. When I say dancing, I mean, Sierra smiles real big, bends her knees and bounces! She likes Oscar from the Sesame Street book and will play his song, "Where is Oscar" to the melody of, "Frere Jacque" over and over again. Amazingly, if Sierra accidentally hits the wrong button, she has learned to stop the song and hit the button she wanted to play in the first place. How she learned there was a "Stop" button, I will never know. I didn't even know there was a stop button.

Sierra is a very calm little girl and is very focused. If she sees anything out of place on the floor like a piece of paper or a cheerio, or a leaf, she will walk over, pick it up and give it to me. She seems very deliberate in her actions and often times thinks about things before she actually takes action. For example, when Morpheus was alive, she would often try to play in his water dish. Repeatedly Victor and I would tell her, No. She would test us and play in the dish anyway for several times. Then, we noticed she would stop before the dish and look at us. Then she would shake her head, no, and walk past the dish. I was amazed and surprised at how quickly she learned to decide not to play in the dish.

She is also very physical and loves to climb on top of anything! Her favorite activity is climbing on top of the bench outside and walking from one side to the other. She always looks so happy once she has walked from one side to the other. She is also very fond of climbing on top of her block set to be able to reach the piano and play the keys. Recently, she learned if she pulled her block set over by the door, she could lean over and climb outside. So, now we have to keep our back door closed unless we are watching her all the time. Also, Sierra has learned how to open all the interior doors of our house by turning the handle and pushing or pulling the door.

We are finally entering the phase of having to spell out activities and things that Sierra understands. For example, Sierra loves bathtime, and we have to spell B-A-T-H if we don't want her to get too excited before it's time to bathe. The same is true for Cookie. We give her one animal cookie with her 5:00 milk and if we say, "Cookie", she runs to the kitchen where the cookies are. I am certain that Sierra knows way more than we give her credit for.

Sierra is a very loving child and will give kisses to those she knows very freely. Victor and I both get kisses on the cheek in the morning and whenever we ask for a kiss. She is learning how to blow kisses and will kiss her hand and throw them to us if we are far away. Another way Sierra shows her love is to share her food with her animal friends as well as her Mommy, Daddy and Gigi. Even though everything she sees is, "Mine." or "Me-me," Sierra will give freely of anything she has in her possession. If we ask her to give us her toy, she is more than happy to hand it to us, but will turn around after about 5 seconds to take it back or to give it to someone else.

Just this past St. Patrick's Day, Sierra graduated from calling me Ma-Ma, to Mommy. I was delighted and surprised at the transition and now I adore hearing it everytime she speaks it, which is quite often lately. One of my favorite things Sierra does is grab my leg and say, Mommy. It warms my heart each and every time to know such a darling little girl is my daughter and loves me so.

Other fun things Sierra has learned include, how to blink, jump and twirl when she dances. We often play the, "Up and Down" game and laugh when we go faster and faster. Hide-and-seek is a fun game Sierra enjoys too. There are a few favorite spots in our house where Sierra can disappear at any moments notice. Her favorite part about hiding is to surprise us by jumping out and smiling!

Sierra loves her Jeep stroller that plays all the fun songs that she can sing and laugh to. She will honk the horn and play the music every step of our walks. Being outside is very calming to her and she can walk or ride and just listen and look at all the sights and sounds. We love listening to the woodpecker just outside our house that pecks on the trees every morning and late afternoon.

Physically, Sierra has leveled out in her growth. She is in the 75% weight category now (as opposed to 95% from birth to 1year). And, her height is still in the 90% percentile. She wears size 18 month clothes and size 6 shoes. Her weight is almost 25 lbs and she is 31-1/2" tall.

I'm sure I've missed several stories about her learning, but every day she amazes us in so many ways. I'll write again soon to tell you about other amazing discoveries.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Visiting the Park Downtown...

Instead of going to the park around the corner from our house, we took Sierra to the park downtown. They have beautiful white and black swans, all sorts of birds and lots of ducks! Below are several photos from our day at the park. Enjoy!

Sierra Loves Horses!

Sierra loves horses! This includes the merry-go-round at downtown Disney, her stuffed animal horse she cuddles with, her Mommy's collection of horses she had as a child and which now grace Sierra's room, and the horse statue that sits outside on our porch.

Sierra would point at the horse from the deck and say, "Ooh, ooh," trying to tell us she wanted a ride. It looked like just the right size, so Daddy picked her up and let her "ride" the horse for a short while.

Sierra absolutely loved the horse and wanted to stay on it all day long!

We loved seeing the big smile on her face!

And, riding her horse with her baby bunny was the best of all.

What's an M&M?

Sierra is still not sure what an M&M is after visiting the M&M Store. For now, they are super life sized characters that are fun to take pictures with.

Perhaps on Easter Day when we have our Easter Egg Hunt, Sierra will find out.

Breakfast at Sierra's

This is the story of having breakfast at Sierra's with her Daddy. This story is set in Florida, not New York, and yes, Sierra is a rising socialite, but not the way the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" depicts. And, most importantly, Sierra only has eyes for one man...her Daddy.
For breakfast, Daddy is serving Oatmeal and raisins, one of Sierra's favorites. And, there is a side of veggie & fruit juice since Sierra has been showing us her stubborn side and has refused to eat any thing that remotely resembles a vegetable.

Today, we decided to see how she fairs using a spoon to feed herself. Afterall, she has been watching us feed her using a spoon for nearly a year now. Our big question is, will she use the spoon properly or not?

Spring Has Sprung!

The cold snap has ended and the sun has come out. So we decided to go outside and wait for Gigi to show up this morning. As we wait, Sierra notices the birds are singing and the squirrels are frolicking. It's a beautiful Spring morning.

Sierra stands at the end of our brick path with a pretty pink flower in hand. She often smells it because she has learned how to "smell." She is dressed in pink, and loves looking at the trees, collecting leaves and watching the squirrels jump from tree to tree and run across the telephone lines.

We sit patiently at the end of the walk hoping for Gigi to arrive soon...

Daddy loves his little girl and when offered to wear her pink daisy, of course he says, YES!

Finally, Gigi arrives and Sierra is so happy to see her. She offers her the pink daisy with love.

Gigi accepts the flower and is happy to have arrived. The two will spend the day together having fun reading, playing outside, and learning new things. We love having Gigi come visit every week and spend time with our sweet little Sierra Grace. Thanks Mom!

Learning to Feed the Fish

Sierra has been very interested in our Anniversary Fountain her Daddy made for her Mommy one anniversary years ago. But, in the past few weeks, Sierra has noticed the bright orange colored fish in the fountain's pond.

She watches the fish from the deck up above and wanted to see them up close. So, Mommy took her by her hand and sat by the fountain to show her the fish. Sierra was very excited and wanted to touch the fish. Instead of touching the fish, we decided to feed them by scattering fish food over the pond.

What an exciting day feeding the fish.

On such a pretty day with the breeze blowing, we opened up the doors to the house and spent the afternoon on our porch watching the birds and wildlife play outside.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Disney Village Fun...

Sunday afternoon we took a short drive to the village to see what was going on. As always we found fun with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet...
There was also lots of fun on the carosel.
This time Sierra rode a big white horse that moved up and down. She was all smiles on her beautiful horse and held on tight as the horses began to move.
And in the Princess castle where the Bibbity Bobity Boutique was located.
There were so many sights and sounds, Sierra was in total awe of everything around her.
By late afternoon, we strolled by the stuffed animal area and Sierra had a wild extravaganza! She loved Stitch and many of the other friends.
Daddy stopped at a Disney shop and discovered a funny pen toy that was perfect for tickling!
I love the moments when Sierra and her Daddy laugh and have their private moments together. It does a mommy's heart good knowing how they both love each other so much! Below is a video showing Daddy-daughter fun & laughs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Memorium of Morpheus (2005 - 2010)

Morpheus was the best dog we have ever had. He was protective, obedient, strong, and loving. All he ever wanted was a scratch on the head and to go for a walk. If I had to describe his temperment in one word, I'd choose, "gentle."
He was born on January 6, 2005 and lived a very comfortable life. His original owner was moving and couldn't give him the care he needed, so we decided to at least go and look at him to see if he would fit into our family. We brought our other dog, Achilles, to see if they were a friendly match. Upon my first glance without even considering how Achilles felt, I knew we were not going home alone. He was the cutest puppy with beautiful golden eyes, and I instantly fell in love with him. Thank goodness he and Achilles liked each other too!

Once settled at home, we learned Morpheus was a calmer version of Achilles with a very solid build. As a puppy I recall hearing the loud "thump" on the floor when he would fall down to go to sleep! With such huge paws, we knew he would be a big, German rottweiler. And, we were right...At maturity, he weighed 125 lbs and stood about 36 inches.

We were lucky with Morpheus since he was not much into chewing on furniture or shoes, he didn't howl at nighttime to keep us up, and he was pretty much house trained when we got him. He seemed obedient from the start, although we did enroll him in puppy training (or should I say, parent training)! We installed an invisible fence around the yard and he always kept close to home.
One of the cutest things about Morpheus was his two types of barking. He would give his "mean" growling bark to all passers by and leave the impression our home was very well protected from the street. However, inside Morpheus always used his "nice" bark to communicate with us, which sounded like,"Woo, woo, woo!" with his tail wagging and butt shaking as the sounds left his mouth. It always made us smile no matter what we were doing. We would often hear his bark at feeding time or if he just wanted to get our attention.

When I became pregnant, Morphues was the first to know. Instinctively, he became much more protective of me and the house. He would lay on the floor beside my side of the bed as we drifted off to sleep. With Sierra due soon, we were concerned about how he would react to her presence. Would he feel threatened? Jealous? Would he bark or bite at her? Our worries were irrational and soon Morpheus showed us how silly our thoughts were...
He was the most gentle, loving, protective dog even over our newborn daughter, whom was monopolizing our time with him and infringing on his attention. No matter what the reason, if Sierra was crying, Morpheus was first on the scene at a discreet distance, as if saying to us..."Get your act together and care for this child. She's going to be my best friend when she gets older!"

We saw many signs of Morpheus bonding with Sierra - especially at feeding time. When Sierra would have a meal, Morpheus was right at her feet under the high chair for any donations that may happen to fall from her tray.

Morpheus would give her sweet, gentle kisses and never more than one at a time. Anticipating puppy kisses, Sierra would push out her hand and turn her head whenever she became face to face with him - always with a big wide smile on her face and giving us a giggle or two. Often times, Sierra would put her head down on his back or belly if she needed to rest. Morpheus was always willing to accomodate her.

In Morpheus' short life, he became Victor and my best friend and companion and Sierra grew to love him too. We were one big happy family!

Learning the news of his lymphatic cancer was devastating and the thought of losing him was unimaginable. We are thankful that he had us as a family. Throughout this memorium are some great moments in our lives with Morpheus.

Victor stated our feelings about Morpheus so perfectly when he said: "Morpheus will be the dog we compare all of our future dogs to, for the rest of our lives."