Friday, August 30, 2013

Stone Mountain, and Visiting With Baby Ada

Today Elyse and I went back to Stone Mountain for one last time before she returns to preschool (five days a week this year!) next Tuesday. We didn't ride the train this time, but we did take the Skyride up to the top of the mountain and walked around for about an hour.

The view of the lawn and Memorial Hall from a cable car coming up the mountain:

In this picture you can also see the reflecting pool (and its fountains) that's under the carving, the train tracks, and the hotel. If you look really closely, you can see the red car going down as we were going up in the blue one. That little touch of light color amidst the trees about two-thirds of the way up is, I think, Mount Carmel Christian Church in Stone Mountain (the city, not the park).

Here's a shot of the red cable car nearing the top of the mountain:

Elyse did a little ballet dance performance at the top of the mountain:

I'm not sure what she's doing here; possibly pretending to hold someone's hand:

These are my two new favorite pictures of Elyse:

After we left Stone Mountain, we went to Granny and Pa's house because my cousin (first cousin once removed, to be exact) Lauren was coming over with her almost-six-months-old baby Ada, and Elyse loves babies:

(Elyse and Ada are, I believe, first cousins twice removed, in case anyone is keeping score.)

After Lauren and Ada left, Elyse said to me, "Daddy, I love babies." Then she shook her head and said very sadly, "But they leave."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stone Mountain with Daddy and Elyse

Elyse doesn't start school (the Threes class at Bethesda) until after Labor Day, so we've had a lot of time together, just me and her. Yesterday we took advantage of our time and went to Stone Mountain to get in one more non-weekend train ride. (At this point, the Stone Mountain train still runs on Fridays as well as on the weekends; after Labor Day, the train runs just on weekends.)

The first train ride is at 11:00, and I had intended to get there early enough to ride the first one, or maybe the second run at 11:40, but Elyse had other ideas. So, after laying on the sofa and watching "Busytown Mysteries" for half an hour, we finally headed out at 11:00. We did get there in time to buy some candy (a pre-train tradition) and get on for the 12:20 trip around the mountain.

After the train ride, we rode the Skyride to the top of the mountain and walked around for a while, shared a bag of potato chips and a bottle of water, and then went back down. I'd intended to leave the park at 2:15 so we could go straight to Jessica's school to pick her up, but we didn't even get on the Skyride to go down until 2:20. After a bathroom stop, we were in the car and headed out at 2:35. I was afraid we'd end up parked halfway down the street at Jessica's school, the last car in a long, long line, but when we got there at 3:07 we were only a car or two farther back than where we usually end up when we get there right at 3:00. (Apparently cars don't arrive in sudden droves right after 3:00 as I'd feared, or else Fridays are slower.) By 3:35 we had Jessica in the car and were on the way home.

Here are some pictures from the time Elyse and I spent together at Stone Mountain:

Relaxing on the train, eating a Hershey's Kiss:

One view from atop the mountain:

"Daddy, I'm so tired!":

Not so tired after all:

Outside, climbing on a guard rail:

Other Mountain visitors:

Playing with the Souvenir Pennies machine while waiting to catch the Skyride back down:

The view of the lawn and the Crossroads area from a Skyride cable car coming down the mountain:

Friday, August 23, 2013

She's Not Real

This morning, the first thing Elyse told me about was how last night she had to be left alone in her bedroom for a while as Mommy read to Jessica before bedtime. (I was at school at the time for the first night of my Java Programming class.) She said she wanted someone to rub her back, but Mommy couldn't do it, so she cuddled up with Tiny Baby instead.

"Did Tiny Baby rub your back?" I asked.

"No," Elyse said. "She's not real and she can't rub me."

She's not real and she can't rub me. If you've ever wondered how much of her play and make-believe Elyse actually believes, I think that gives a pretty good answer.

Poor Elyse.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

School Update and Recent Portraits

Jessica's been in school for a full week now, and it's going pretty well. She still has some anxiety about the end-of-the-day procedures, and I think she cries sometimes during the day, but there are also a lot of things she's very excited about. Like her new friends, Alanni and Hannah, and a couple of other girls too. She even has good things to say about school lunch (sometimes, anyway).

The day before school started last week, I took a whole mess of pictures of the girls and a couple of myself, too. Here are some of the best of them:

(Note the purple bubble wrap, or "poppers" as she calls it. It's one of Elyse's hobbies.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Senior Citizen Portraits

When I was first learning about commercial portrait photography, I saw lots of references to "senior portraits" on the blogs of photographers I liked. At first I didn't realize they were talking about portrait sessions with high school seniors; I thought that they were referring to pictures of senior citizens. It's an assumption that makes sense, I think, when you realize that most of the time when you see references to seniors--the senior discount at the Kuntry Kitchen buffet, for example, or seniors' shopping day at Kroger--it does refer to those who are old enough for full membership in the AARP. Nobody who ever describes themselves as having a "senior moment" is likening themselves to an eighteen-year-old.

Well, I've never done a "senior portrait" session, but today I did a senior portrait session at an assisted living facility not too far from where I live. I hope I captured some images of these men and women at this stage in their lives that will mean something to their families for many years to come.

Here are some of my favorites from that session:

* * *

As I look at these portraits and reflect on my experiences at the assisted living home, I find myself a little melancholy. I know--it's just the way life works, even with all its beauty and wonder: people get old.

But there's something poignant about knowing that that woman up there, the last one in the sequence, however old she is now, was once this age:

And if she's anything like me, she sometimes finds it hard to believe she isn't still that age, that so many years have gone by without her realizing it, without her giving her permission.

She can't remember it, I'm sure, any more than any of us can, but not so long ago she was this age:

It goes so fast, doesn't it? That beautifully-smiling lady is probably forty years older than me, so she surely knows it even better than I do. There are so many wonderful things about this life we human beings have, but sometimes, when you think about how quickly things go by, when you have the shocked realization that some of your cherished memories are now three or four decades old, you can't help but feel a little sad.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Not-Camp-Out Night

A couple of months ago we bought a tent at Target; our intention was to do a camp out in the back yard, something Jessica's experience with the Girl Scouts has made her interested in. Tonight we were going to give it a try, or at least the girls were (the tent is big, but wouldn't really be comfortable for all four of us).

Jessica and Elyse were very excited, and all wound up. They brought a whole host of supplies into the tent: a couple of dolls, a water cup, the Halloween scarf with bats and jack-o-lanterns on it, some colored pencils, and Elyse's ukulele, among other things. They wanted to jump on the queen-size inflatable mattress, and it took quite a bit of doing to convince them they couldn't. They wanted to sing camp-out songs of their own devising, which they did--very loudly.

What they didn't want to do was sleep. Even long after the sun went down, they were still wound up, despite the fact that their Mommy was lying between them barely able to stay awake. There were frequent visits back into the house. Unfortunately, at some point there was a pretty bad tantrum from Jessica.

So, in the end, everyone slept inside, in the usual beds. Elyse was asleep by 9:45 or so, very late for her, and after reading a chapter in our Junie B. Jones book with me in the living room, Jessica was asleep by 10:30, also very late. Anna had been sleeping off and on in the tent, and was asleep in her own bed by 10:00.

It was a worthwhile experiment, but what it proved to us is that the girls are not quite ready for such an exciting adventure yet. We'll keep the tent up for a while so we can play in it, but I don't think we're going to try actually sleeping in it again this year.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jessica Starts First Grade

Today, everything changes, even if only a little bit. Today, Jessica starts first grade in Mrs. Elrod's class at J.C. Magill Elementary School.

How did she go so quickly from being this little baby, curled up against her Daddy's chest:

to being this little girl, ready for school?

At the end of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, right before we learn that Christopher Robin is about to start school, the Narrator tells us it's time to say good-bye, and Pooh says, "Oh no, please can't we go back to page one and do it all over again?"

That's how I feel.

* * *

Update, later in the morning: The first-day drop-off is over, and it went fine. Jessica is a little nervous, but also excited, which is exactly how I feel. As we were walking up the sidewalk toward the front of the school, she said, "I can't believe I'm starting a new school!"

There were a lot of parents dropping off kids this morning, of course, but today is the only day they allow that; starting tomorrow, I'll be dropping her off in the car rider lane, which will probably over all be easier, but in some ways harder too.

Here are some pictures from this morning:

(The note she's clutching to her belly is a Hello note she wrote, in case she doesn't feel up to saying hello to her teacher. If you don't know why she might feel that way, look up "selective mutism"--Jessica has it.)

* * *

Another update, at the end of the day: Getting her there this morning went pretty smoothly, but picking Jessica up this afternoon did not. All the car riders are taken to the gym when school is over, which I didn't know (though it wouldn't have affected what I needed to do to pick her up, but I do wish we'd known so we could have prepared her for that). I waited forty-five minutes in the car pool line to pick her up--though I arrived at 3:00, so twenty of those minutes were prior to the official end-time of school--and when I got to the front of the line, she wasn't there. They couldn't find her. Hearing that was among the scariest things I've gone through since the circumstances surrounding her birth and her six days in the NICU.

It turned out that Jessica was in the gym, just where she was supposed to be, but when they called her car-rider number (63), and then later her name, she was too shy or scared or timid (I can't tell which) to come forward. As best I can tell, she was in a corner of the gym crying when they found her. It breaks my heart to think about.

But she got over it more quickly than I did, as is usually the case. She told me lots of stories about the first-day exploits of her classmates (Hannah had to go to the principal's office six times!), at least some of which are probably based in some sort of truth.

I think tomorrow will go better. It can't go worse!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Stone Mountain Butterfly Adventures

This afternoon we went to Stone Mountain to visit the Butterfly Adventures exhibit (which ends this weekend). We met Mommy at the Moe's in Lilburn for an early supper (she came straight from work), and then went to the park.

Here are ten pictures from our time there:

This is what Butterfly Adventures looks like on the inside:

Jessica, trying to entice a butterfly onto her nectar stick (which is actually a cotton swab):

Visiting with the butterflies:

The girls playing in the sandbox outside of the exhibit:

It's become a tradition that whenever we go to Stone Mountain, we go to the candy store and buy about five dollars worth of candy:

And then we sit outside and eat it:

Elyse, looking contemplative: